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When we arrived at Prestbury, we had so gained on the enemy” and exceeded our expectations, that we agreed to shut off steam and examine the Church. The only point we noticed was the amusing ugliness of the "gargoyles," and therefore quitted the Churchyard, finding on the other side a specimen of those almost extinct " free sittings,” I mean the stocks. The sight called to our recollection those amusing pictures by Hogarth representing "Hudibras in the stocks," and we could quite understand how comfortable he must have been, for the bar was rather thin and wedge shaped, so as in no wise to accommodate the human frame. All I can say is, they did not look inviting enough to rest upon, but we went through the village and past the Manor House, where we were entertained with the dissonant cries of numerous peacocks.
We soon turned off the high road, and crossing some fields arrived at the Rifle Butts. While we stopped here to rest, we saw that we were not far from the top, and therefore took it leisurely; but on arousing ourselves from a short doze the question was “ There's the top. Granted, but query the way to it.” Echo answered "make it.” Following this sage advice we turned into the extensive Queen's Wood, where I may hint the botanist could "pick and choose between.” The first start off was very nice. The shade refreshed us, the flowers and lichens on the trees employed us, and the way soon began to puzzle us. We had agreed to make
crow line” to the top, and this involved us in some of the very closest brushwood I ever came across. The closeness seemed to increase and to be almost a barrier to further progress; but “labor omnia vincit," and with tattered garments, and well scratched hands and faces, we emerged on a "plateau,” beneath the cliffs.
We numbered a geologist amongst us, and were therefore soon told off in search of specimens. A small hammer had a good deal to say to some fine corals and “spiny echini,” to mention two of the riches yielded to our search. We gradually worked upwards until some one mentioned that we had the sun on our backs, which was threatening to convert us speedily into boiled lobsters. This startling piece of information caused us to make tracks towards the three trees before mentioned. Imagine our chagrin at finding they were miserable dwarfed beeches, which had been the cause of many vain wishes to reach our present position. Round these trees lay a small ring, which we afterwards found was the remains of a wall built to protect the trees from sweeping winds which revel on the top.
One of our companions more energetic than the rest kept wandering about, and soon cried out on finding the noble specimen
of a Roman Camp there situate. This roused us all, and we took possession in skirmishing order, one after the other. With wonder we surveyed this lasting monument of the first conquerors of Britain, and attempted to picture to ourselves the activity and stir there must have been, when the Romans first raised those yet high mounds to entrench themselves against the attacks of the savage natives. Even at the present time these walls would be a very fair obstacle to anybody armed only with Jonathan's " artillery.” The small ring of stones in the midst of the camp is only coeval with, and for the same purpose as that surrounding the trees outside.
For the adventurous there is a cave about midway up, and in a corner of the cliff above the two ponds which lie at its base. I never was in it, but have heard from a party who attempted the exploration without candles, that, after proceeding where no ray of outer light penetrated, they arrived at a steep descent which they estimated to be about ten yards, but whether the passage
continued further than this I could not ascertain, the party having decided that “prudence was the better part of valour," and beaten a retreat.
Just outside the camp are the traces of an extinct race-course, now only used as a place for horse exercise, but people can remember when it was still in vogue.
We sat down on one of these huge walls to dine “al fresco," and also to enjoy the scene below as dessert, when the heavier part of the repast was finished. The air was for a wonder clear. Malvern with its guardian hills—Tewkesbury with its ancient Abbey and glittering Severn, the background of hills stretching far away into the blue distance, including a glimpse of Scerid Tawr, the most distant Welsh mountain-Chosen, or more correctly Churchdown Hill
, twinned by Robin's Wood Hill, with Leckhampton as a worthy finish to this magnificent panorama-all lay beneath or in front of us.
To examine this took some time, and we then held a debate as to our next move, which was decided to be along the cliff top. In about half-an-hour's cool walk we arrived at some large quarries, and saw a tall mass in the midst, detached and standing not unlike a sugar loaf. There is a tragic story connected with this rock, which we learnt some time afterwards, and which I will attempt to narrate as told to us. Two Ravens in days of yore were wont to build on the summit, and the crag being perfectly inaccessible from below, the birds enjoyed many a calm and comfortable nest up aloft. However, one winter, more severe than usual with its frost, proved to be their worst enemy by causing a portion of the cliff to fall, and so exposed a way to the top. In the usual time they built, but some body one day walked off with their eggs this insult, on their return home, they resented by a single croak, and departed with a philosophic determination never to return;—they kept this resolution, but the crag is still yclept Ravenscrag.'
We next struck a path across the wold in the direction of Winchcomb, but keeping too much to the South we hit the stream which flows down the gully between some quarries; on our way thither we noticed, what has often occurred to us since, the numerous small mounds scattered all about. They seem to be mere clumps of springing turf, but how they came there we could never make out. I wonder if it was an outbreak of “Alpine small pox,” or must we consider them as fairies' graves. In the stream we noticed collections of something remarkably red and not unlike blood; we touched one of them with a stick and it immediately disappeared, and on repeating the process on another, a similar result was obtained, but the first one had re-appeared. On examination they turned out to be composed of a multitude of small worms, such are commonly seen in rain water if kept a long time, and these immediately buried themselves in the mud on any molestation. Leaving this spot we went to a clump of trees not far off, and found ourselves at a very nice little Chapel. There are some few cottages near, and these in conjunction with the usual Gloucestershire Manor House, constitute Postlip village. The Manor House has been bereft of its glory and is now in the possession of three or four families of tenants, and although a fine specimen of Elizabethan architecture, has not much to boast of in the way of internal decoration, with the exception, however, of one or two fine chimney pieces. The principal attraction is the Chapel, now used as a barn and general lumber shed. The chancel roof is gone, and a fine young tree revels there unchecked, growing from the north wall. The chancel arch is worth seeing if admittance can be obtained, if not the south door is in itself a treat in Norman work. The chancel arch is in the same style, and together they will repay any trouble for a visit to this secluded spot.
From here we had a lovely view down the valley, towards Winchcomb, which is distant about a mile and a half, or rather less, but we had no time to visit it. Subsequently, however, I made two or three excursions there, and once to that famous castle Sudeley, where there are the remains of a chapel in the perpendicular style. This time we had had a long walk and therefore retraced our steps to the gully, and thence a very tiring mile of wold brought us to the Roman encampment again. We determined not to have a repetition of Queen's wood, and therefore turned towards the left, or east side, and this we found was the proper way. In the proper season the egg collector could make some fair sport here, as the place is not much disturbed; for example, I may mention that by chance, while going up one afternoon, we found in a hole in a stone wall a starling's nest full of gaping young ones, and half way up in a bank a robin's nest-these seemed thrust before us, as we found them without any intention to get eggs, and we often noticed hawks and wood pigeons issue from the wood, while not far off there used to be carrion crows, and a multitude of jackdaws inhabit the cliffs
“Supper brings the crows home," so they say, and we made haste in order to reach the Boarding House for our tea, arriving in time to deposit our curiosities in their various receptacles before "feeding time” came. We beg to apologise to H. T. C. and our readers, for our inadvertence in
inverting the order of this and the preceding walk.- Edd. 'Chelt,'
Gunnar of Lithend.
Continued from p. 329, Vol. II. And now we are really on the threshold of our story. Our preface has extended to a somewhat disproportionate length, but we hope it will have somewhat prepared our readers better to understand and appreciate the strange characters to whom they are about to be introduced.
First comes our hero. Gunnar, the son of Hamond, dwelt at Lithend, the end that is of the “lithe " or fertile slope between the fells and the plain of Rangrivervale, at the south-east of the island, where there is a level space of unusual extent for Iceland, between Hecla and the sea. Here is the portrait of this Norse hero as translated by Mr. Dasent.--"He was a tall man in growth, and a strong man-best skilled in arms of all men.
He could cut, or thrust, or shoot, if he chose, as well with his left as with his right hand, and he smote so swiftly with his sword that three seemed to flash through the air at once. He was the best shot with the bow of all men, and never missed his mark. He could leap more than his own height with all his war gear, and as far backwards as forwards. He could swim like a seal, and there was no game in which it was any good for anyone to strive with him. He was handsome of feature and fair-skinned. His nose was straight, and a little turned up at the end. He was blue eyed and bright eyed, and ruddy cheeked. His hair thick, and of good hue, and hanging down in comely curls. The most courteous of men was he, of sturdy frame and strong will, bountiful and gentle, a fast friend, but hard to please when making them.” To this we may add that Gunnar was a Skald, and was distinguished for his gifts as an improvisatore in the harsh, allegorical, Icelandic school of poetry.
Here then is our Norse Ajax. The portrait is as vivid as words. can make it, and Gunnar, the peerless, stands out from the Saga writer's canvas as fresh and life-like as any of the Greek warriors described by Homer. And yet what a difference between the Saga and the Iliad. Homer never gives you a formal introduction to his heroes. He prefers to pourtray them indirectly, by hints and flying touches—by their own words and acts, or by the words of other actors in his plot. It is only a pen-writer, and not a very clever prose writer who gives you a description of his chief character in set terms. Such qualities as are necessary to the story are most naturally and artistically delineated by the progress of the story itself, and it is useless to burden the reader's memory with a list of personal merits or demerits which have no effect whatever upon the flow of the narrative. And notice those two exquisite local touches, the swimming like a seal, and the nez retrousse. What a distance we are from Athena, with her classic people; and from Achilles, who is indeed "swift of foot," but of whose swimming powers nothing is said. Homer has heard of seals as the uncouth, unsavoury cattle of Proteus, but he would hardly use them as a standard of comparison for his hearers.
Gunnar's first exploit speaks well for his courage and generosity. Unna, his kinswoman, had been forced to separate from her husband, Hrut, who had been laid under a spell by the wicked queen Gunnhilda, and was doomed never to be happy in his love. When a divorce took place, the husband was bound by law to restore the wife's dower, but Icelandic law, though it delayed, by no means superseded the appeal to arms. Mord, Unna's father, was an old man; Hrut was young and strong, and an expert swordsman to boot. So the dowry was not repaid, and did not seem likely to be, until some time after her father's death, Unna threw herself upon Gunnar's compassion and besought him to be her champion. . We need not write at great length how Gunnar, disguised as a pedlar, found his way into Hrut's hall; learned there from Hrut's own lips the mystic form of words in which he was to