Catherine G. (Catherine George) Ward.

The cottage on the cliff: a sea-side story online

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Authoress of — The Rose of Claremont, — The Mysterious Marriages-
Family Portraits, fife. Sfc. fife.


" The devil a puritan that be is, or any thing constantly but a time-pleaser;

an affectioiied ass, tiiat cons state without book : The best persuaded of

himself, crammed, as he thinks, with excellencies, that it is his ground of faith ;

and on that vice in him will my revenge find notable cause to work."


UonDon :

Piinteil by C. Tlavnei, 13, Duke Street, Lincolu's-lnn-FioMs.


Paternoster Row,



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" Proteus
I am sorry, I must never trust thee more,
But count llie world a stranger for thy sake.
The piivate wound is deepest: O time, most curst,
'Mongst all foes, that a friend should be the worst !"

In a beautiful, sequestered, and delightfully romantic
part of the sea-coast, which is bounded on the north
and east by the German Ocean, within a mile and a
half distant of the east side of Cromer, which has of
late years become the resort of the most fashionable
company at the bathing seasons, and situated on a
cliff of considerable height, projected a ruinous old
\ building, known by the name of the Cottage on the

Cliff: for it was certainly ruinous about the period at
which this history commences, though it has since un-
dergone some necessary repairs, before it could be
found habitable for its present possessor. Captain Sin-
gleton, and in its altered state we will endeavour to
convey both that and Gp.ptain Singleton to the atten
tion of our readers ; whose extraordinary disposition,


and whose singular habitude of manners, befitted him
alone to become the inmate of so solitary a place ; for
no human being else could have lived in this rude and
uncultivated part of the sea-coast, which, either in
winter or summer, was subject to the approach of the
most violent tempests, on whicli many a ship-wrecked
mariner had been destined to breathe his last sigh, and
many a portly vessel had been dashed to fragments on
the rocks ; yet there was no place which afforded such
picturesque scenery to the eye of the traveller, nor
any situation on the Norfolk coast which held forth so
many attractions to the invalid who was desirous of
mingling pursuits of pleasure with the hope also of a
speedy restoration to health.

Yet such were not the hopes, such were not the mo-
tives, which had guided Captain Singleton, and his
daughter, a beautiful girl, apparently about seventeen
years of age, to the Cliffs of Cromer, who was a man
of such reserved, gloomy, austere, and retired habits,
that no one ventured to enquire into his circumstances,
or seemed solicitous or anxious to court an acquaint-
ance which he himself appeared sedulously to avoid, and
proudly to disdain : it is not to be wondered, there-
fore, that Captain Singleton had but few associates,
his family consisting only of himself, his daughter,
and two domestics, a male and female, and these
formed the whole of his establishment.

Still another personage was occasionally applied to
when his assistance was thought necessary, uvid this
was a man of some consequence in the town of Cro-
mer ; for he had acquired wealth by his hardy occupa-
tion ; having formerly been a fisherman so successful
in his voyages and trading on the coast, that it had


long since enabled him to retire, and live with ease
and competency on his fruitful gains.

He alone seemed to be on terms of familiar intimacy
with Captain Singleton and his family ; it is not that
a congeniality of soul or sentiment had driven these
two personages together by sympathy or friendship,
for Peter Blust, which was the name of the fisher,
united to the character of a rough seaman, habits by
no means similar to those of the highly finished gen-
tleman and scholar, both of which Captain Singleton
confessedly was; still it was certain that he very fre-
quently visited at the house of Peter, and that their
acquaintance began in a very few days after he had
landed at the Cliffs of Cromer, in the following man-
ner : he had in vain sought for a retired residence on
that part of the coast least subject to the approach of
the new comers, who daily visited Cromer at the usual
period of sea-bathing, and, in one of his solitary walks
by the sea-side, he espied the habitation of the fisher.
It was a singularly beautiful, wild and romantic spot,
and though it was a large, square and handsome built
house, of modern architecture, yet it might be said,
that it was rising from the white bosom of the ocean,
in the midst of the most flowery fields and pastures ;
still on every side, the wide expanse was bounded by
the sea-coast, which it so efi'ectually commanded a
prospect of, that all vessels were seen, going to and
fro, that sailed in and out of the harbour of Cromer.

Captain Singleton stopped and gazed with unspeak-
able satisfaction at the lovely scenery which every
where surrounded this enchanting spot ; so remote, so
solitary, and yet so boundless and rich in nature's
pleasing variety. Some of the finest milch cows he


had ever seen were feeding in the pasture, and being
milking-tirae, two young maidens appeared with their
milking-pails, followed by a peasant youth, who occa-
sionally assisted them in their employment.

" Haste ye, Anne," cried one of them, as she ti"ipt
along with her pail, and gaily chaunting the fag end
of a merry ditty, " haste ye, and get in the milking be-
fore the supper, Anne ; for do you know that Miss
Jessy has promised Walter and I that we shall go
and see the wake to-night in the village ?"

" Wake in the village ! is the wench mad ?" ex-
claimed the youth, " why, that wont be till after mid-
night, and 'tis a likely matter that old master will let
any of us be out after dark ; no, no ! 'tis safe bind,
safe find, at Herring Dale, I promise you. Wake, in-
deed ! you had better say your prayers, like all good
maids, and let such vagaries alone ; for what does it
matter what Miss Jessy says ? pretty soul, she is main
kind to be sure ! but old master is as stubborn as a
rock ; you might as well talk to the winds, as per-
suade him to any thing."

" I don't care for old master one brass farthing,"
cried the spirited maiden, snapping her finger in the
youth's face, '• and you are as cross-grained a soul as
ever lived, Davy; but I shall go to the wake for all
you, or old master either !"

" You had better mind your milking, and say no-
thing about it, Anne," retorted Davy, " for you are
just as like to go to the wake as I am to a harvest

The approach of Captain Singleton very soon put
an end to any further controversy between them, and
he enquired of the youth if he knew of any habitation


, or cottage which was unoccupied round the sea-coast.
To which Davy replied, —

"No, your honour, none that would be fitting for
such a gentleman as you to live in ; there is, indeed,
an old tumble-down sort of an house on the top of the
cliff, that has had no mortal soul in it for this many a
long year ; and good reason why, because they say it
was haunted by a spirit, which had no harm in it nei-
ther, for it was only a young lady, who sung sweetly,
and then vanished away again. So you see. Sir, last
year my master, who is a bold man, and who neither
fears ghosts nor spirits of any kind whatever, hearing
that the Cottage on the Cliff was to be pulled down
and sold, goes to the owner, who has since died at sea,
and purchased it ; but he was bravely taken in, and
swore outrageously, for it is all a ruin. Sir. It it as
rotten as a pear ; there is not a whole plank about it,
and whoever goes into it is sure to have it tumble
about his ears, so master never goes near it. Lord
bless you. Sir, it is not strong enough to bear the body
of a sea-gull !"

" So much the better," cried Captain Singleton,
" then the sea-gull and I must shortly be acquainted ;
or in other words, my honest friend, as this Cottage
on the Cliff seems wholly useless to your master, I will
make it useful to me ; and will either become a tenant
or a purchaser of it, just as he pleases."

" You, Sir, live in the Cottage on the Cliff!" cried
David, staring with the utmost astonishment, " you
are jesting. Sir !"

" Why, truly, friend, I do not look like a man who
is much given to jesting," answered Captain Singleton,
*^ I therefore wish to make proposals about this cottage


to your master, which if he is inclined to accept, we
will conclude the bargain immediately."

David very easily discovered that Captain Single-
ton was neither a jesting man, nor one to be jested
with, and consequently set about obeying his orders
with the utmost alacrity, by shewing him the shortest
way he could think of to the habitation of the fisher.


" Rather rejoicing to see another merry,
Than merry at any thing which profess'd
To make him rejoice. A gentleman of all
Temperance ; but leave we him to his events,
With a prayer that they may prove prosperous."

Captain Singleton entered the apartment into
which he was conducted by David, with the air of a
man who, though he had been accustomed to cere-
mony, was not fond of it, and when he beheld the old
fisherman seated at a table, plentifully supplied with
his favourite geneva, and regaling himself with pipes
and tobacco, he hesitated to advance, fearful of being
considered an intrusive visitor ; but never had he
viewed a countenance more conciliating, or a set of
features on which nature had stamped the seal of bra-
very and humanity so forcibly as on those of the hardy


seaman, whom Captain Singleton immediately ad-
dressed on the subject of his visit, and offering some
slight apology for the abruptness of his appearance
there ; to which Peter replied, —

" Why, as to that. Sir, you are welcome once and
welcome twice, as the saying is ; as in the first place
you are coming to serve me, for it will be doing me a
service to take a tumble-down crazy house off my
hands ; and in the next place you are welcome be-
cause you are a stranger, and entitled to the rights of
hospitality. I am an old seaman. Sir, whom Provi-
dence has protected from many a hard gale and rough
sea, and though I don't like new faces, shiver my top-
sails, if I don't see that in your's I like better than ever
I beheld in my life ! Come, will you please to take
some grog ? but mayhap you may choose to have a
morsel of something to eat first, and if that is the case,
why, sit down and make yourself free and welcome.
Davy, go and tell my girls to get the supper ready,
and send it in immediately."

So rapid had been the speech of the fisher, that it
was not till after David had departed that Captain
Singleton could find means to edge in a word, and, al-
though to professions, of almost every kind, he had an
aversion, yet here was a cordial drop, so genuine and
pure in its kind, that he had no power or inclination
to refuse it, and without further ceremony drew a
chair close to the table at which the fisher was sitting,
and helped himself to a glass of water, which so ex-
ceedingly astonished Peter, that he exclaimed, —

" Shiver my top-sails ! that cock wont fight, Cap-
tain. I never drink water myself when I can get
brandy, and don^t like to see my friends do so, when

c. c


there is plenty of something better in the house to offer
them." On which Captain Singleton mildly replied, —

" But if your friends should prefer water to any
thing- else, would you not be kind enough to indulge
them, Mr. Blust, as I am inclined to think you will
me, when 1 assure you that I prefer water to any other

" Why, as to that you may please yourself, though
you don't happen to please me," gruffly replied Peter,
at the same moment that he took an additional whiff
at his pipe, "if you don't drink, why, I expect you to
eat, that is all, and so the one must make up for the
other. Here, girls ! — Jess — Olive ! why don't you
make haste with the supper ?"

" I beg you will not hurry them," cried Captain
Singleton, perceiving that impatience was now strongly
blended in the countenance of his host, who had also
raised his voice to a higher key, " I positively will
leave your house this moment if you use any ceremony
on my account."

" Shiver my top-sails ! if I let you though, before
you have made a hearty good supper," cried Peter,
and David announcing that it was quite ready, the
fisher arose and led the way to another apartment,
where a table was set out with a profusion of the most
delicate meat pasties, and every thing that could
tempt the appetite to partake of. There were only
two covers, however, placed, which intimated that no
other guests would be present, at which the fisher
glancing his eyes slyly at David, observed, that his
girls were yet chickens, and were shy ones.

" So, Captain, you will excuse them to-night," eried
he, '' in time they will be used to see you, and then


they will talk to you ; but the little devils are now
gone to their roost, I suppose. Husseys, how I love
thei%! they are a couple of the finest chicks that were
ever hatched, Captain. There's my Jessy, with her
laughing blue eyes, sets my anchor afloat whenever I
am a cup too low ; and there's my Olive, with her
beautiful black ones, when I am apt to be a little
boisterous and rough, tempers me to mildness by a
tear, which, when I see it trickling down her fair face,
makes me as quiet and as harmless as the dove ; so,
shiver my top-sails ! they have me both ways ; one
takes me by storm, and the other subdues me by her
softness, and makes me submit without any violence
at all."

To all this eloquence, pronounced on the merits of
his daughters. Captain Singleton advanced not a syl-
lable ; nay, at the very mention of the name of a fe-
male he seemed to start with involuntary horror, a
cloud of sorrow passed over his brow, and a struggling
sigh was checked in its progress by an expression of
fixed and unchangeable hatred, which, though reason
tempered somewhat of its asperity, had not yet faded
on his recollection ; but this emotion was not per-
ceived by the fisher, or if perceived, attributed to any
other cause than the existing one which Captain Sin-
gleton had exhibited ; in a few minutes, however, he
recovered his self-possession, and suddenly changed
the channel of the fisher's favourite topic, by adverting
to the business which brought him there, namely, to
become a tenant or purchaser of the Cottage on the

" Are you willing that 1 should become a purchaser
of this cottage ?" added he, " or will you receive me


only as the tenant ; if so, name your terms, and I will
freely give them to you."

" Avast there, Captain !" cried the fisher, " a word
or two to that bargain, if you please. Shiver my top-
sails ! do you think I have a mind to be hanged for
your sake ? Me, Peter Blust, who has weathered the
tempest these thirty years without a rope-yarn being
put about his neck, though he has handled many a one
with his hands. Bethink you that I am going to do a
dirty action at last in my old days, and die like a dog,
Captain ?"

" You must speak more plainly. Sir, or I cannot
understand you," cried Captain Singleton, with a
slight colouring mounting to his cheek, and a more
than usual sparkling of his eye; " I came hither to
offer you a fair proposal, like an honest man, and as
an honest man I wish to depart."

" Well, and who the devil hinders you ?" vocife-
rated Peter, " if you are so self-willed, and must
needs fire before you are fired at. I say, if I sell you
the old crazy house that stands on the top of the cliff
I shall be a scoundrel, that is all."

" And why so ?" demanded Captain Singleton, ** is
it not your own ? Has any one else a right to dispose
of it?"

To which Peter immediately answered, " You may
go and ask that of the spirit that walks there every
night when the wind is easterly, and the sea-gulls, that
have roosted there for above this twelvemonth. To
be plain with you. Captain, I have been nicely taken
in by the fellow that sold me this confounded old wa-
ter-butt : I thought it would have made my girls a nice
bit of a summer-house, when the weather was fine, so


I gave him the shiners for it as freely as I would have
blowed a seaman's whistle ; but, shiver my top-sails !
when I came to look at it, it was not worth a rotten
rope's yarn ! the chimneys are all blown down, and it
is nothing better than a sheer hulk ! so I have let it
tumble to pieces, inch by inch, this many a long year,
for the devil himself could not find a hole to put his
nose in, when the weather is stormy ; saving all this,
Captain, it is haunted : ghosts dance it there by moon-
light, as merrily as maidens do at a gossip's wedding.
Now, I say. Captain, if I were to take money of you
for this crazy old Cottage on the CliiF, I should de-
serve to be hanged ; for if you were to sleep there
only one night I am apt to think it would be your last,
that's all."

The rough but genuine sincerity with which this
oration was delivered, so perfectly convinced Captain
Singleton of the integrity and well-meaning intentions
of the honest fisher, that he exclaimed, — " Mr. Blust,
I see clearly that you are an honest man, and would
scorn to make a dupe of the inexperienced but con-
fiding stranger, while I, believe me, would equally dis-
dain to flatter one whom I thought unworthily of: thus
far we understand each other ; I think well of you,
and you have no reason to think ill of me ; but these
are not times, my dear Sir, to trust men either by looks
or words, actions alone must become vouchers for their
credit. Suppose then I were to deposit a sum of mo-
ney in your hands, sufficient to defray the expence of
putting this cottage in repair for the reception of my
family, or that I am willing to take it in the ruinous
condition which you have represented it to be, would
you still have any objection to part with it ?"


" Shiver my top-sails ! no, Captain," cried Peter,
" if you are so fond of crazy vessels, take it and wel-
come, and repair it how you will, and when you will;
I will have nothing to do with that part of the busi-
ness : I will only receive a third part of what I gave
the tapster for it at the first, and that I am almost
ashamed of doing, only 1 know that you are too proud
to accept of it on any other terms."

" Too just I hope I am, Mr. Blust," cried Captain
Singleton, " to wish to possess myself of any man's
property, however small, without paying for the va-
lue." On these words a sum was offered to the fisher,
which he accepted, and Captain Singleton became the
owner of the Cottage on the Cliff, which, after being
duly inspected by several workmen, was pronounced
only fit for the tenants of the air, by which it was so
infested, that they could hardly find means of ap-
proaching the interior, without disturbing thousands
from their nests, which they had built there so long, in
no danger or fear of being molested by their mortal
enemy, rapacious man ! It was also overshadowed with
moss and ivy, so that where the windows had once
been, was now scarcely perceptible ; but this the Cap-
tain insisted should not be removed, as he loved to see
both moss and ivy creep along the walls. It had four
chambers above, which had been sleeping rooms, and
the same number below ; but so mutilated in their ap-
pearance, that it was impossible to define what sort of
colour or ornaments had once been bestowed on them.

The garden appeared to be the only thing that re-
tained a vestage of having possessed objects which
once had the power of inviting the eye, and regulating
the sense, for here and there a tuft of violets still


bloomed, amidst the nauseous weeds which had so
long been permitted to dwell beside them. There was
a cowslip-bed which sent forth its sweets in spite of
the reptiles which crawled over them ; but the most
striking object in view from this obsolete and solitary
habitation, were the white cliffs which surrounded it,
so stupendous, and beautifully wild and romantic in
appearance, that Captain Singleton as he contem-
plated the ocean that rolled beneath them, declared
that he considered the prospect from the Cottage the
most enviable in the world ; " For here," uttered he,
turning towards Peter, who often accompanied him to
this solitary spot while the repairs were going forward
in the most active preparation, " here I have only the
elements to contend with, which is far better than to
be at enmity with man. He is more turbulent than
the ocean, and I would sooner listen to the howling
winds that pour through my casements, than be the
sport of more furious passions in the breast of my fel-
low-creatures. The waves are stilled, the winds are
hushed, by the power of the Infinite Being who rules
over them ; but when is the violence of the warring pas-
sions controuled in the human bosom ? answer me that.
You, Mr. Blust, have never been doomed to bleed under
their raging influence — I have ; forgive me, if the re-
collection of past injuries wrings from my heart a bit-
terness of spirit, which twenty years have not been
able to extinguish or quench from my feverish breast."
The fisher wanted but little of human discernment,
with which he was tolerably gifted, to perceive that
the man before him groaned under a burthen of into-
lerable anguish, and that he now sought retirement
merely to conceal the sorrows of a wounded heart ;


bat froa wkat sovroe these sorrow* sprung:, or by
wlmt kud iTii wiimwIwi' iaflicteil Peter could not de-
it vas rerr anlLkely that be ever would as-
Ae secret malady which seemed so deeply to
kave takes root is ike mind of Captain Singleton : yet
vas SBiiMalepK^paisity in the disposition o{ the
to feel for the unhappy and the oppressed, and
MK iKTpsnition to relieve them, whenever he con-
tken to be the objects of want or penury. He
OTerAewia^ pw'se, as well as an overnowin^
kart. in the cause of humamty, and that he never

required it ; but in the case of
ke ooidd do nothing but what was
presented ia the vsaal fens of civility and urbanity of
r, ol crcd to a straB^^- landing on the coast.
w, k vas eTidoit, that he did not want ; and,
fhn«~h Peter was a laan of all others the least jH^Mie
to easpicaaa, or evea curiosity, y^ he was anxious to
learm Ae hibtmy of tke recluse : aad there were cer-
taia tnes, abo, whaa he saspected that all was not
right in the aftdrs oi the Captain, and that some mo-
tiv« of extraocdmary naport had iadaced hiia to poT"
^ase the Cottle oa the Cliff wado- circuastaaces of
so ■ystenoas a aatare, aad to sake a recluse both of
Us Waati^ daagh^H*, Ibr beautiful Miss
nafeeaedfy was, of whom the fisher had
aaly oaoe malialillj eao^t a a^t ; but the i»ce of
Agadn, onee sees, coald aot be easily for«:ott^i : they
w«re fe a tai e b wUck strwc^ <^c^ly o^ ^^ ^^^ glance
of the braider, and l iro ito d their expression on the

to plead for, rather thaa deaiaad.

Agatha was mdeed iiufhiil belav the siiddle or


ordinary f ize of wo<i>eii, but so beaxttifblJj i
ber small and delicate shape;, tfcat die ng;fct kare bees
a Bodel fi)r tiie Ktataarr ; lier UjbIk being^ jast of sadk
sofficient fnlaesi, as to cooTej Ae idea of tibe
perfect loreliaeas of wooms, vitkoat etd^r
or Tolgarity bein^ attarbed to ft : she bad iiidrrd the

Online LibraryCatherine G. (Catherine George) WardThe cottage on the cliff: a sea-side story → online text (page 1 of 51)