Lying Prophets

Language: English
Published: 1 month ago
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Away beyond the village stands a white cottage with the sea lapping at low cliffs beneath it. Plum and apple orchards slope upward behind this building, and already, upon the former trees, there trembles a snowy gauze where blossom buds are breaking. Higher yet, dark plowed fields, with hedges whereon grow straight elms, cover the undulations of a great hill even to its windy crest, and below, at the water line, lies Newlyn—a village of gray stone and blue, with slate roofs now shining silver-bright under morning sunlight and easterly wind. Smoke softens every outline; red-brick walls and tanned sails bring warmth and color through the blue vapor of many chimneys; a sun-flash glitters at this point and that, denoting here a conservatory, there a studio. Enter this hive and you shall find a network of narrow stone streets; a flutter of flannel underwear, or blue stockings, and tawny garments drying upon lines; little windows, some with rows of oranges and ginger-beer bottles in them; little shops; little doors, at which cluster little children and many cats, the latter mostly tortoise-shell and white. Infants watch their elders playing marbles in the roadway, and the cats stretch lazy bodies on the mats, made of old fishing-net, which lie at every cottage door. Newlyn stands on slight elevations above the sea level, and at one point the road bends downward, breaks and fringes the tide, leading among broken iron, rusty anchors, and dismantled fishing-boats, past an ancient buoy whose sides now serve the purposes of advertisement and tell of prayer-meetings, cheap tea, and so forth. Hard by, the mighty blocks of the old breakwater stand, their fabric dating from the reign of James I., and taking the place of one still older. But the old breakwater is no more than a rialto for ancient gossips now; and far beyond it new piers stretch encircling arms of granite round a new harbor, southward of which the lighthouse stands and winks his sleepless golden eye from dusk to dawn. Within this harbor, when the fishing fleet is at home, lie jungles of stout masts, row upon row, with here and there a sail, carrying on the color of the plowed fields above the village, and elsewhere, scraps of flaming bunting flashing like flowers in a reed bed. Behind the masts, along the barbican, the cottages stand close and thick, then clamber and straggle up the acclivities behind, decreasing in their numbers as they ascend. Smoke trails inland on the wind—black as a thin crepe veil, from the funnel of a coal "tramp" about to leave the harbor, blue from the dry wood burning on a hundred cottage hearths. A smell of fish—where great split pollocks hang drying in the sun—of tar and tan and twine—where nets and cordage lie spread upon low walls and open spaces—gives to Newlyn an odor all its own; but aloft, above the village air, spring is dancing, sweet-scented, light-footed in the hedgerows, through the woods and on the wild moors which stretch inland away. There the gold of the gorse flames in many a sudden sheet and splash over the wastes whereon last year's ling-bloom, all sere and gray, makes a sad-colored world....