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The Coastguardsman’s Yarn
by [?]


Several summers ago I happened to be spending a few weeks at W–, a small fishing village on the Welsh coast. A beautiful little place it was, nestling in a break of the cliffs which rose majestically above it on either side and stretched in gaunt rugged walls seaward.

The beautiful bay, with its sunset lights behind the grand headland, with its deep caves and tumbled rocks, and above all its blue waters, lying sometimes calm and motionless, and at others dashing furiously at the foot of the cliffs, was enough to attract any lover of nature.

And dull little place as it was, with its one tiny inn and its handful of natives, the time I spent there, with my easel and paint-brush, was one of the most enjoyable of my life.

But beautiful as the view was from the land, I found the view from the sea still more attractive, and in order to gratify my tastes in this respect, I took pains to get myself into the good graces of one or two of the fishermen, a few of whom could speak English, and many times accompanied them on their fishing cruises in the bay, where, while they toiled at the nets, I sat and drank in the thousand beauties of the coast, or worked eagerly with my brush to commit them to canvas.

The expedition I liked best was towards the southern headland of the bay, where the cliffs were tallest and steepest and where, to add to the other attractions of the view, stood, perched like an eagle’s nest on the edge of the crag, the ruins of an old castle.

By old, I do not mean Roman or even Norman. Indeed in that sense it was comparatively modern; for the building, what was left of it, looked more like one of those Tudor manor-houses which dot the country still, than a fortress. And yet, that it had been fortified was plain enough even still. On the side towards the sea it needed no protection; indeed looking up at it from below, it seemed almost to overhang its precipitous foundation. But on the land side there remained traces of a moat, and loop-holes in the walls, and a massive gate.

It was scarcely to be called a picturesque ruin, except inasmuch as every ruin is picturesque. Its bare walls rose gaunt and black out of the ground, not out of a heap of tumbled moss-grown masonry, or covered over with ivy. There were very few signs of decay about the place, ruinous as it was, and very little examination was enough to show that it had suffered not from old age, or from the cannon of an enemy, but from fire.

No one about could tell me its story, and the mystery of the place only added to its charm. Indeed I was quite glad to discover that it had not even a name, and that the country folk would as soon have thought of crossing the old moat after nightfall as they would have done of stepping over the edge of the cliff. The only thing I could learn about it, in fact, was that it was haunted, and that the one little turret which still retained a roof, and over which the only ivy visible tried to creep, was railed the Lady Tower, and was the “most haunted” spot of all.

I could not believe that the one corner of the old ruin where there still remained a sign of life and verdure, could be infested by any very terrible ghost. Still I am not quite sure whether I should have enjoyed a solitary night’s rest there, and to have suggested the thing to the natives of W– would have been enough to secure my incarceration as a raving lunatic. So I did not. But by daytime I added myself one more to the spirits that haunted the place, and yielded myself up completely to its fascination.