Lucy met me at the station,
looking sweeter and lovelier than ever, and we drove up to the house at the Crescent
in which they have rooms. This is a lovely place. The little river, the Esk, runs
through a deep valley, which broadens out as it comes near the harbour. A great
viaduct runs across, with high piers, through which the view seems somehow further
away than it really is. The valley is beautifully green, and it is so steep that
when you are on the high land on either side you look right across it, unless
you are near enough to see down. The houses of the old town--the side away from
us, are all red-roofed, and seem piled up one over the other anyhow, like the
pictures we see of Nuremberg. Right over the town is the ruin of Whitby Abbey,
which was sacked by the Danes, and which is the scene of part of "Marmion,"
where the girl was built up in the wall. It is a most noble ruin, of immense size,
and full of beautiful and romantic bits. There is a legend that a white lady is
seen in one of the windows. Between it and the town there is another church, the
parish one, round which is a big graveyard, all full of tombstones. This is to
my mind the nicest spot in Whitby, for it lies right over the town, and has a
full view of the harbour and all up the bay to where the headland called Kettleness
stretches out into the sea. It descends so steeply over the harbour that part
of the bank has fallen away, and some of the graves have been destroyed.
one place part of the stonework of the graves stretches out over the sandy pathway
far below. There are walks, with seats beside them, through the churchyard, and
people go and sit there all day long looking at the beautiful view and enjoying
I shall come and sit here often myself and work. Indeed, I am
writing now, with my book on my knee, and listening to the talk of three old men
who are sitting beside me. They seem to do nothing all day but sit here and talk.
harbour lies below me, with, on the far side, one long granite wall stretching
out into the sea, with a curve outwards at the end of it, in the middle of which
is a lighthouse. A heavy seawall runs along outside of it. On the near side, the
seawall makes an elbow crooked inversely, and its end too has a lighthouse. Between
the two piers there is a narrow opening into the harbour, which then suddenly
It is nice at high water, but when the tide is out it shoals away
to nothing, and there is merely the stream of the Esk, running between banks of
sand, with rocks here and there. Outside the harbour on this side there rises
for about half a mile a great reef, the sharp of which runs straight out from
behind the south lighthouse. At the end of it is a buoy with a bell, which swings
in bad weather, and sends in a mournful sound on the wind.
They have a legend
here that when a ship is lost bells are heard out at sea. I must ask the old man
about this. He is coming this way . . .
He is a funny old man. He must be
awfully old, for his face is gnarled and twisted like the bark of a tree. He tells
me that he is nearly a hundred, and that he was a sailor in the Greenland fishing
fleet when Waterloo was fought. He is, I am afraid, a very sceptical person, for
when I asked him about the bells at sea and the White Lady at the abbey he said
"I wouldn't fash masel' about them, miss. Them things
be all wore out. Mind, I don't say that they never was, but I do say that they
wasn't in my time. They be all very well for comers and trippers, an' the like,
but not for a nice young lady like you. Them feet-folks from York and Leeds that
be always eatin' cured herrin's and drinkin' tea an' lookin' out to buy cheap
jet would creed aught. I wonder masel' who'd be bothered tellin' lies to them,
even the newspapers, which is full of fool-talk."
I thought he would
be a good person to learn interesting things from, so I asked him if he would
mind telling me something about the whale fishing in the old days. He was just
settling himself to begin when the clock struck six, whereupon he laboured to
get up, and said,
"I must gang ageeanwards home now, miss. My grand-daughter
doesn't like to be kept waitin' when the tea is ready, for it takes me time to
crammle aboon the grees, for there be a many of 'em, and miss, I lack belly-timber
sairly by the clock."
He hobbled away, and I could see him hurrying,
as well as he could, down the steps. The steps are a great feature on the place.
They lead from the town to the church, there are hundreds of them, I do not know
how many, and they wind up in a delicate curve. The slope is so gentle that a
horse could easily walk up and down them.
I think they must originally have
had something to do with the abbey. I shall go home too. Lucy went out, visiting
with her mother, and as they were only duty calls, I did not go.