Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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198               Glimpses of Our Ancestors.
trees are left pretty much to themselves to grow in peace and quiet, with only the sun and the breeze to keep them company.
But at the time we are about to refer to—some 38 years ago—they had another visitor: a poor idiot boy was their constant frequenter, and would wander about among them all the day. Being perfectly harmless, to himself and to others, his mother was in the habit of giving him his day's food, and with this he wandered forth, hiding himself in the woods all the day long, amusing himself in his own unintelligible way, and returning home at night mumbling forth his adventures in his own gibberish, which few could understand and nobody ever paid attention to. So, when, after his usual rambles, one evening he came home to his mother with a scared face and an agitated manner, and made strange motions with his hand across his throat and uttered something in his imperfect language about " man—man dead," " man in the wood," and pulled at her dress as though he wished her to go somewhere with him, she paid no more heed to him than she had a hundred times before, when he had returned home after seeing a pig killed—a sight, it seems, of which he had a peculiar horror; and it was her belief that a spectacle of this kind had caused the terror under which the boy was now evidently labouring. So no attention was paid to his gestures and mumblings, and the next day he was allowed to go out again upon his rambles; but still, day after day, it was remarked that he went in the direction of Costell's Wood; and from time to time, too, on coming home to his mother, he returned to the old subject, only with some variation in his tale, and, instead of its being "man dead," "man in the wood," it was now "birds—birds peck man's eyes" "dogs— dogs eat man," and other strange expressions of this kind.
At length a neighbour, who had noticed the boy's visits to the wood, and had heard him utter some of his strange expressions, took the trouble to follow him in one of his -rambles, and having got over the gate and entered the wood some twenty or thirty yards from the road, following in the
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