Library of Alexandria
Trevorrick River was but a little stream to have fretted so deep a cleft between the hills as that which sloped from the main road of Tregols parish to the sea. From the source to the engulfing sands was barely a mile, and the twinkling waters, if full and fierce in winter, showed a summer fear of their own broad stepping-stones. Nevertheless the sharp declivities, the juttings of rock, even the shelves and crags and walls of Dark Head, had been formed by the gnawing of this tiny but persistent flow. The valley ran east and west. The sun, rising beyond St. Cadic Mill, poured its noon warmth over Hember and sank behind the sheltered plateau on which stood the old home of the Rosevears. The dying beams, however, could not reach the deep-set windows of Wastralls, for the crest of Dark Head reared itself between the farmstead and the harsh threat of the Atlantic. The house lay in a fold of land, hidden equally from those who moved upon the face of the waters, and those who might be said, though their habitations were at a distance, to neighbour it. As a refuge in troublous times, the position had its value, and there were indications that this shelf of rock had been, many centuries ago, the nest of some wild brood. Upon their heels had followed as descendants or conquerors—the script is too nearly obliterated to be read—men who in their own strong person represented the law. The gate-posts of Wastralls were crowned with the egg-shaped stones which indicated that it was a manor-house, and that its owner had the right to dispense justice. Within the house, and occupying a space from wall to wall, was the ancient Justice Room; but its stately uses had long been abated, its irrevocable decisions had lost their force, in the autumn of its days it had become a lumber-room and more lately a bedchamber. A century ago, from the mill at the head of the valley to the Wreckers' Hut on the foreshore, Trevorrick had been the property of one man. Of peasant stock, how Freathy Rosevear came by land and money was matter of surmise. 'He had gone out one morning a poor man, and had come home rich.' Little need, however, to invent tales of hidden treasure, witchcraft, divination, when the caves in Morwen Cove made so safe a store-house: when the Wreckers' Hut stood behind the teeth of the Mad Rip: when the lanes that converged upon the towns—the towns in which queer commodities could always be sold—were so deep and secret. Whatever the sources of his income, as fortunes went, in that remote district, Freathy Rosevear was accounted wealthy. He was also a man to take the eye. Big, florid, fair, he might have stepped out of a Holbein canvas, and tales of his unusual strength were told and retold of a winter's evening in the cottages. Did his wife complain the store of wreck was running low? Forthwith he had gone out, caught the first of the homing donkeys, and carried it, load and all, into her presence, with "A fardel for my Lady"—so the story.