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The Devil's Ditch

Near Byard's Leap [1] in Lincolnshire is a place called the Devil's Ditch [2], which was made in this manner a very long time ago:

There was a man who wanted to make a road, and while he was considering what to do, someone came to him and said, "Take your horse and ride quickly from the place where you would have the road begin to the place where you would have it end. But beware that you do not turn round or look back."

So one night the man took his horse and rode quickly over the ground where he wished the road to be, and as he went on, the road was made behind him.

But just before he reached the end he turned round and looked back. Now in the place where he turned round is a ditch called the Devil's Ditch, and it can never be filled up. As often as they try to fill it during the day, so often is it dug out again during the night.

[Addy 1895, p. 26-27]
  1. Byard's Leap is a small hamlet west of Cranwell in Lincolnshire, and associated with various legends.
  2. The deep Devil's Ditch is an embankment near Newmarket, and runs for about 10 km in a rather straight line, and is about 30 m wide. It is believed to be around 1450 years old. The highest section of the embankment is almost 20 m above the ditch.


A Dream of Heaven

A girl called Ann Brown who had been very ill fell into a trance, and it was believed that she was dead. When her body had been laid out for ten hours her mother went into the room where she lay to kiss her, and thought that she felt her daughter's breath warm upon her cheek. Then she fetched the clergyman, and he took a small piece of looking-glass and held it over her mouth to see whether it was steamed by her breath. In this way he found that the girl lived. So he called all the family into the room and told them to stand round the bed. He sat at the head of the bed and took one of the girl's hands into his own, and after a while she opened her eyes, and gave three groans.

Then the clergyman said to her, "Now tell us -"

So after a while the girl opened her eyes and said, "I have been all the way to heaven, and the first to meet me was the devil, who held in his hand a black book, and the letters in it were written in crimson. The devil asked me to write my name in the book, and follow him. But I said "Get away from here, Satan," and went further on my way.

Next I saw an angel dressed in pure white. He took my hand and led me on a path as soft as down and as white as snow, until we came to the gate of heaven. And over the gate was written "Look, the lamb." As we came near to the gate it flew open, and the Lord came out and took me in.

Then the Lord led me to a place which was full of girls like me, and after that he took me into another place which was full of soldiers that had spears and bayonets, and the bayonets had seals on them.

After this another angel came and took me away from the Lord and led me into another place, which was full of infants singing. I saw the throne of God, which was all bright and shining, but they would not let me see God himself.

After I had seen the throne, the Lord came to me again, and took my hand and said, "It is God's wish that you go back to the earth for a little while longer."

Then I said to the Lord, "Let me stay here."

But the Lord answered, "You have served me faithfully from a child, and it is my desire that you go back to the world."

[Addy 1895, p. 14-15. From Eckington in Derbyshire]


Emma of the Lake District

When Emma's father died, she and her widowed mother found themselves deprived at one stroke of nearly all the comforts that she had enjoyed while Emma's father's lived.

Thirty pounds a year was all that remained to her mother. Emma wanted to support herself by humble servitude instead of depending on the bounty of friends.

Her mother opposed that Emma should og to service, and said that she herself would beg, borrow, and almost steal, rather than Emma should be compelled to work. Her mother's entreaties, however, only strenghtened Emma's resolution not to be a burden to her mother, who had all her days been used to tasteful elegance.

One day Emma set out with an aching heart to be a servant in a gentleman's family among the lakes. Time rolled on, and repeated letters from Emma and her mistress, assured the mother that all was well and that Emma was healthy and happy. At length Emma sent the joyful message that she would come over on Whitsun Sunday morning and spend the week with her.

Emma packed up a small bundle of necessaries in a handkerchief, put her wages in her bosom, and set out to see and cheer her mother. The morning was unusually fine, and she amused herself with the bright and varied view till the road, that was descending a steep hill, led her into a richly romantic valley. A copse of wood overhung the road, a huge rock formed the fence on that side next the wood, and seemed like a natural wall. Over the rock fell, in three or four unequal cascades, the stream of a brook which might be heard tumbling through the wood to a considerable distance. Close to the place where the water left the wood, one part of the rock shot up to a considerable height. It reminded her of the ruins of an old castle. From a fissure in the rock grew the stump of an old oak. Its branches had apparently been lopped by the wind, except one, which, bending down almost to the stream, had escaped its ravages by its humble situation. On a large stone, in this romantic spot, Emma sat down to rest herself for a while, and slake her thirst at the stream.

Sam the cow-lad at Emma's master's had ascertained that she had that day received her wages and was gone to her mother's, at once resolved to rob the girl of her hard earned money. By a short-cut over the hills he sought to meet her in this secluded spot. While Emma was looking forward to meeting her mother again, Sam came up and commanded her to deliver up her money. She entreated him to leave her a little for a present to her mother, but the cow-lad refused to leave her a farthing.

He had secured the booty and Emma was preparing to continue her journey, when he saw that unless he killed her too, he would probably be caught and punished for his crime. In an instant the lovely, young, and innocent Emma fell a corpse at the feet of the wretch, who quickly fled in fear. Nothing much could be undone by now, he saw.

The day passed on as if nothing had happened. Noon came to the widow's cottage but no Emma arrived. As the evening drew on, the worried mother set out to meet her daughter. The sun was sinking among evening tints that threw a dazzling lustre over all the scene when she reached the vale where her murdered daughter lay. The moment she discovered her, she bent over her lifeless body.

It may become hazardous and even dangerous to live all alone. Neighbours close by give confidence and help to one another on occasion, but often some future restraints too. Still, it is one of the human riches to have a lot of good neighbours. There can be ample mutual protection in it too.

[Armistead 1890, p. 68-71. 'Emma; or, the Murdered Maid. A Tragedy of the Lake District. Retold]

The quite damp and windy Lake District in North West England is famous for its lakes and its mountains, and is a popular holiday destination, even though hill fog is common.

The Lake District's links with a wealth of artists and writers. However, as you stroll around sight-seeing, admiring sceneries, rustic fields and farms and lakes and whatever, have you eyes to see that life is better than things, and that the quality of life matters too? That a decent human is more valuable than a snail, and more valuable than sundown sceneries, poetry, stone castles, and so on? As for criminals, their case is different.

And what is the greatest art for a human? It is producing analogous replica (not clones) of oneself in the long art of living. In other words, begetting and rearing sound and decent people on earth is the highest attainment and highest art too, actually. We humans do well to respect good life accordingly, and not only the lives of humans, but also of gentle cats, docile cows, and further.

Besides, if you have a sense of beauty, you can encounter it many times, in persons, places and situations, even dangers.

Speaking of value, biological value is significant too: A healthy sheep may be of greater value than a stone church, and we should recognise it when sight-seeing too, and adjust our values and programmes and ways of vacation accordingly, for example. Some do.

Few things matter more nowadays than raising the value of a good life, ranking it up, raising its value, since many conform ones strive to get a piece of the cake (affluence) by submitting to those who strive and stress to get rich(er) by reducing the quality of soil and plants for commercial gains, and of animals and humans by making their "turfs" dwindle, and produce "out of tune" with their natural flows. Dumb exploitation is a key to what is going on. It makes thriving shrivel. There are many forms of robbery, really, and we do not have to like it.

[For more: Wikipedia, s.v. "The Corporation".]



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