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one quality by which man is brought to trust his
fellow-man, it is the formula of the Mutual
Alliance that must exist if society is to go on,
the defence-work raised up against and between
each and all. Without it society would fall to
pieces like a tower of uncemented bricks, but
with it, as too inconsiderately supreme, we
should degenerate into mere frantic savages
executing unlimited revenge against the
perpetual offenders of our self-love. In this, as in
all things, the tutissimus medium, the golden
mean, the middle of the road, is so much the
wiser manner of walking! Extravagances and
extremes only lead one into the ditch; and
ditches are not pleasant either as promenades or


THERE is a small outlying hamlet in my
parochial charge, about two miles from my
vicarage, with a population of about two
hundred souls, inhabiting a kind of plateau shut in
by lofty hills and skirted by the sea. These
rural and simple-hearted people, secluded by
their remote place of abode from the access of
the surrounding world, present a striking
picture of old and Celtic England such as it
existed two or three hundred years ago. A notion
of their solitude and simplicity may be gathered
from the fact, that whereas they have no village
postman or office, their only mode of intercourse
with the outer life of their kind is accomplished
through the weekly or other visit of their
clergyman. He carries their letters, which
contain the short but simple annals of the poor,
and he receives and returns their weekly and
laborious literary compositions to edify and
instruct their distant and more civilised
correspondents. The address on each letter is often
such as to baffle all ordinary curiosity, and
unless deciphered by the skill of the experts of
the post-office, must often furnish hieroglyphics
for the study of the Postmaster-General as
obscure, if not so antique, as the legends on a
pyramid or Rosetta stone. A visit to a distant
market-town is an achievement to render a man
an authority or an oracle among his brethren,
and one who has accomplished that journey
twice or thrice is ever regarded as a daring
traveller, and consulted about foreign countries
with a feeling of habitual respect.

They have amongst them no farrier for their
cattle, no medical man for themselves, no
beerhouse, no shop; a man who travels for a
distant town supplies them with tea by the ounce,
or sugar in smaller quantities still. Not a
newspaper is taken in throughout the hamlet,
although they are occasionally astonished and
delighted by the arrival from some almost
forgotten friend in Canada of an ancient copy of
the Toronto Gazette. This publication they
pore over to weariness, and on a Sunday they
will worry the clergyman with questions about
Transatlantic places and names of which he is
obliged to confess himself utterly ignorant: a
confession which consciously lowers him in their
veneration and respect. An ancient dame once
exhibited her prayer-book, very nearly worn
out, printed in the reign of George the Second,
and very much thumbed at the page from which
she still assiduously prayed for the welfare of
Prince Frederick, without one misgiving that
she violated the article of our Church which
forbids prayer for the dead.

Among the singular traits of character which
are developed amid these, whom I may designate
in the German phrase as my mossy parishioners,
there is one which I should define, in their
extreme simplicity, as exuberant belief, or rather
faith in excess. I do not, however, intend by
this term any kind of religious peculiarity of
tenet or creed, but only a prostration of the
intellect before certain old traditionary and
inherited impulses of the human mind. They share
and they embrace those instinctive tendencies
of their Celtic nature which in all ages have led
their race to cherish a credence in the existence
and power of witches, fairies, and the force of
charms and spells. It is well known that all
such supernatural influences on ordinary life are
singularly congenial to the ancient and the
modern Cornish mind. I do not exaggerate
when I affirm, at all events my own persuasion,
that two-thirds of the total inhabitants of the
Tamar side implicitly believe in the power of
the Mal Occhio, as the Italians name it, or the
Evil Eye. Is this incredible in a day when the
spasms and raps and bad spelling of a familiar
spirit are received with acquiescent belief in
polished communities and even in intellectual
London? The old notion that a wizard or a
witch so became by a nefarious bargain with
the enemy of man, and by a surrender of his
soul to his ultimate grasp, although still held in
many a nook of our western valleys, and by the
crooning dame at her solitary hearth, appears to
have been exchanged in my hamlet of
Holacombe (for such is its name) for a persuasion
that these choosers of the slain inherit their
faculty from their birth. Whispers of forbidden
ties between their parents, and of monstrous
and unhallowed alliances of which these children
are the issue, largely prevail in this village.
There it is held that the witch, like the poet, is
so born. I have been gravely assured that there
are well-known marks which distinguish the ill-
wishers from all beside. These are black spots
under the tongue: in number five, diagonally
placed: "Like those, sir, which are always
found in the feet of swine," and which, according
to the belief of my poor people, and which,
as a Scriptural authority, I was supposed unable
to deny, were first made in the unclean animals
by the entrance of the demons into the ancestral
herd at Gadara. A peculiar kind of eyeball,
sometimes bright and clear, and at others covered
with a filmy gauze, like a gipsy's eye, as it is
said, by night; or a double pupil, ringed twice;
or a larger eye on the left than on the right
side; these are held to be tokens of evil omen,
and accounted to indicate demoniac power, and
certain it is that a peculiar glare or glance of