Highways and Byways in Sussex - online book

An illustrated appreciation, of the most interesting districts in Sussex.

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" HE "
stations. Ladies also play golf where, when first I knew it, one could walk unharmed. A change that is to be regretted is the exile to the unromantic neighbourhood of the Dyke Station of the Queen of the Gipsies, a swarthy ringletted lady of peculiarly comfortable exterior who, splendid (yet a little sinister) in a scarlet shawl and ponderous gold jewels, used once to emerge from a tent beside the Dyke inn and allot husbands fair or dark. She was an astute reader of her fellows, with an eye too searching to be deceived by the removal of tell-tale rings. A lucky shot in respect to a future ducal husband of a young lady now a duchess, of the accuracy of which she was careful to remind you, increased her reputation tenfold in recent years. Her name is Lee, and of her title of Queen of the Gipsies there is, I believe, somejustification.
Sussex abounds in evidences of the Devil's whimsical handi­work, although in ordinary conversation Sussex rustics are careful not to speak his name. They say " he." Mr. Parish, in his Dictionary of the Sussex Dialect, gives an example of the avoidance of the dread name: " * In the Down there's a golden calf buried; people know very well where it is —I could show you the place any day.' 'Then why don't they dig it up ? ' Oh, it's not allowed : he wouldn't let them.' ' Has any one ever tried ?' ' Oh yes, but it's never there when you look ; he moves it away.'" His punchbowl may be seen here, his footprints there; but the greatest of his enterprises was certainly the Dyke. His purpose was to submerge or silence the irritating churches of the Weald, by digging a ditch that should let in the sea. He began one night from the North side, at Saddlescombe, and was working very well until he caught sight of the beams of a candle which an old woman had placed in her window. Being a Devil of Sussex rather than of Miltonic invention, he was not clever, and taking the candle light for the break of dawn, he fled and never resumed the labour. That is the very infirm legend that is told and sold at the Dyke,
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