Chapter 6
24 July. Whitby.--Lucy met me at the station, looking sweeter and lovlier 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.
In 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 the breeze.
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.
The 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 widens.
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