Mary Anerley by R D Blackmore Page 1 of 638

MARY ANERLEY


by R. D. Blackmore

1880

CHAPTER I

HEADSTRONG AND HEADLONG

Far from any house or hut, in the depth of dreary moor-land, a road, unfenced and almost unformed, descends to a rapid river. The crossing is called the "Seven Corpse Ford," because a large party of farmers, riding homeward from Middleton, banded together and perhaps well primed through fear of a famous highwayman, came down to this place on a foggy evening, after heavy rain-fall.

One of the company set before them what the power of the water was, but they laughed at him and spurred into it, and one alone spurred out of it. Whether taken with fright, or with too much courage, they laid hold of one another, and seven out of eight of them, all large farmers, and thoroughly understanding land, came never upon it alive again; and their bodies, being found upon the ridge that cast them up, gave a dismal name to a place that never was merry in the best of weather.

However, worse things than this had happened; and the country is not chary of its living, though apt to be scared of its dead; and so the ford came into use again, with a little attempt at improvement.

For those farmers being beyond recall, and their families hard to provide for, Richard Yordas, of Scargate Hall, the chief owner of the neighborhood, set a long heavy stone up on either brink, and stretched a strong chain between them, not only to mark out the course of the shallow, whose shelf is askew to the channel, but also that any one being washed away might fetch up, and feel how to save himself.

For the Tees is a violent water sometimes, and the safest way to cross it is to go on till you come to a good stone bridge. Now forty years after that sad destruction of brave but not well-guided men, and thirty years after the chain was fixed, that their sons might not go after them, another thing happened at "Seven Corpse Ford," worse than the drowning of the farmers.



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