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Bible, sculptured in marble, with the following brief inscription beneath =
Of William COWPER, Esquire.
Born in Hertfordshire 1732,
In the churchyard are several ancient tombstones (though we could not discover amongst them any quaint epitaphs). Some of these tombstones, though nearly three centuries old, have the lettering upon them as sharp and clear as when first cut; moss and lichen have, truly, filled the incised words, but they are only the more legible for this. Many a modern monumental inscription of less than half their age is hardly to be read now. So careful were the men of old, not only of their work but of the material they used; it was not with them the universal cry of cheapness, but of quality. Of its kind the work done was as good as it could be for the price paid. We know better now ; we do it as badly as may be, in order to secure the more profit.
But the most interesting thing in the churchyard is St. Withburga's Well. Withburga, it may be remembered (I write this, though we had to hunt the fact up), was the daughter of Annas, King of the East Anglians. She became a nun, and after leading a pious life, like the rest of mankind and womankind, good or bad, died, and was buried at this spot, temporarily in a wooden coffin, till a marble one could be procured. Upon exhuming the body for reinterment in the latter, it was found to be uncorrupted ; there
A DESECRATED TOMB.
upon Withburga was made a saint, and her relics, according to ancient tradition, worked many miracles and marvellous cures. Pilgrims began to flock to the place where her body rested, and the church became prosperous. So valuable indeed did this precious possession become, that the monks of Ely came and piously stole it for their Abbey, for there was a keen competition for relics in those days, and the strongest took from the weakest, all for the glory of God—and more especially for their own profit. However, in this case, though the church was robbed of the saintly relic, from out the desecrated tomb a spring of clear water issued, and this well also performed wonderful miracles and possessed the merit that it would not be appropriated by other envious monks. And is the well and spring not there to this day to prove the truth of the tradition? Above the well is an inscription ; we copied as much of this as we could, for the first part of it was hidden with ivy, which threatens in time to cover the whole. Here follows all that we could make out :
youngest daughter of
who died A.D. 654.
Stole this precious Relique
and translated it to Ely Cathedral,
We decided to drive from East Dereham to Thetford, baiting at Watton. A long and hard day's • It's just
work it proved to be, as the way beyond Watton led us through a very desolate and wild country, the little-traversed road being hilly and rough. The thunder overnight had unfortunately unsettled the weather, the sky was overcast, and had a stormy look. The wind blew fresh, and drove the great masses of blue-grey vapour rapidly along overhead : now and then a gleam of watery sunshine would burst forth, then all would be grey and cheerless again. : What sort of a day are we going to have ?' we asked of the ostler. That individual looked wisely around, then glanced at the weathercock. possible it may turn to rain,' he replied, “and it's possible it may keep fine,' which was a very safe opinion, if not a very definite one. may you be going ?' remarked a farmer who was standing by and had overheard our question. We did not see the point of the query, but told him our proposed stage. Well,' was the comforting rejoinder, “if it do rain, you'll have the full benefit of it, for it is an open country, and there bain't much shelter.'
The country at first was open, with wide tilled fields and few trees; an uninteresting land some people might consider it, but we are not of those who can travel from Dan to Beersheba, and cry, “'Tis all barren.”' Though the land was cultivated, farmhouses and cottages were conspicuous by their absence; where the inhabitants hid themselves we could not understand. The only structure we observed for some time was a windmill and miller's house by the wayside. The miller was manifestly
A GAY WINDMILL.
proud of his mill, and had an eye for colour, for he had painted his sails a bright red, and the fan sail behind red, yellow, and blue, and the colours were really a relief to the monotony of the grey sky and brown fields. Anything is better than the gloomy black tar which farmers use so much on their wooden out-buildings.
The country kept much of the same character to Shipdham, a very pretty village with a picturesque, homely hostelry, that almost tempted us to make a halt there, but we had a long stage before us, and did not care to linger by the way. The church as we passed looked interesting, but we had seen so many of late that we did not feel in the mood just then for further church-viewing; the tower of this we noticed was crowned by a curious sort of double cupola, quite unique in its way, an ancient wooden erection covered with lead, that by its quaint originality lent an interest to the structure. Nowadays, when church architects strive to be original they fail lamentably, and produce freaks in building rather than anything really novel or effective. The old mediæval builder often managed to combine quaintness with seriousness; we seem never to be able to achieve either, and are seldom happy in our religious edifices unless we imitate old models. Passing by some pretty cottages, each with its own tiny flower-filled garden, we reached once more the open country.
Our road now led us through a level pastoral land, with nothing remarkable to notice on the way. Soon after leaving Shipdham we came to a ford, with a wooden footbridge by the side for the benefit of pedestrians. These fords are becoming, like the old ferry-boats, very rare, but like them they are exceedingly picturesque, if at times inconvenient after heavy rain. Strange though it may appear, I know of one ford in Middlesex, within a drive of populous Kensington, crossing which upon one occasion we had the water above the axles of the phaeton, and had nearly to turn back in consequence.
I saw an artist sketching this very spot some days after, and anyone seeing the picture would hardly credit that it could possibly be so near to the mighty Babylon ; but in truth some of the most unsophisticated places are to be found well within twenty miles of town. I know of a certain most picturesque and quaint country hostelry, two-storied, low and rambling, with red-tiled lichen-stained roof and great stacks of chimneys, that might be anywhere far away in the distant shires, and yet this delightful old inn, with its old-fashioned rooms, its bedchambers with their old-time four-posters and leaded lattice windows, is an easy day's drive from the bustling Charing Cross. And oh! how great is the contrast, from the modern palatial hotels there, where on touching the electric bell you can have everything but comfort, to the little unpretending rural inn which is comfort itself!
Arriving at Watton we drove up to the Crown, where we found excellent quarters both for 'man and beast.' Close to this little one-streeted town is Wayland or Wailing Wood, in which, according to tradition, once upon a time' (how I like that