The Nebuly Coat

J. Meade Falkner
Sir George Farquhar, Baronet, builder of railway-stations, and institutes,
and churches, author, antiquarian, and senior partner of Farquhar and
Farquhar, leant back in his office chair and turned it sideways to give
more point to his remarks. Before him stood an understudy, whom he
was sending to superintend the restoration work at Cullerne Minster.
"Well, good-bye, Westray; keep your eyes open, and don't forget that
you have an important job before you. The church is too big to hide its
light under a bushel, and this
Society-for-the-Conservation-of-National-Inheritances has made up its
mind to advertise itself at our expense. Ignoramuses who don't know an
aumbry from an abacus, charlatans, amateur faddists, they will abuse
our work. Good, bad, or indifferent, it's all one to them; they are
pledged to abuse it."
His voice rang with a fine professional contempt, but he sobered
himself and came back to business.
"The south transept roof and the choir vaulting will want careful
watching. There is some old trouble, too, in the central tower; and I
should like later on to underpin the main crossing piers, but there is no
money. For the moment I have said nothing about the tower; it is no
use raising doubts that one can't set at rest; and I don't know how we
are going to make ends meet, even with the little that it is proposed to
do now. If funds come in, we must tackle the tower; but transept and
choir-vaults are more pressing, and there is no risk from the bells,
because the cage is so rotten that they haven't been rung for years.
"You must do your best. It isn't a very profitable stewardship, so try to

give as good an account of it as you can. We shan't make a penny out
of it, but the church is too well known to play fast-and-loose with. I
have written to the parson--a foolish old fellow, who is no more fit than
a lady's-maid to be trusted with such a church as Cullerne--to say you
are coming to-morrow, and will put in an appearance at the church in
the afternoon, in case he wishes to see you. The man is an ass, but he is
legal guardian of the place, and has not done badly in collecting money
for the restoration; so we must bear with him."
Cullerne Wharf of the Ordnance maps, or plain Cullerne as known to
the countryside, lies two miles from the coast to-day; but it was once
much nearer, and figures in history as a seaport of repute, having sent
six ships to fight the Armada, and four to withstand the Dutch a century
later. But in fulness of time the estuary of the Cull silted up, and a bar
formed at the harbour mouth; so that sea-borne commerce was driven
to seek other havens. Then the Cull narrowed its channel, and instead
of spreading itself out prodigally as heretofore on this side or on that,
shrunk to the limits of a well-ordered stream, and this none of the
greatest. The burghers, seeing that their livelihood in the port was gone,
reflected that they might yet save something by reclaiming the
salt-marshes, and built a stone dyke to keep the sea from getting in,
with a sluice in the midst of it to let the Cull out. Thus were formed the
low-lying meadows called Cullerne Flat, where the Freemen have a
right to pasture sheep, and where as good-tasting mutton is bred as on
any pre-sale on the other side of the Channel. But the sea has not given
up its rights without a struggle, for with a south-east wind and
spring-tide the waves beat sometimes over the top of the dyke; and
sometimes the Cull forgets its good behaviour, and after heavy rainfalls
inland breaks all bonds, as in the days of yore. Then anyone looking
out from upper windows in Cullerne town would think the little place
had moved back once more to the seaboard; for the meadows are under
water, and the line of the dyke is scarcely broad enough to make a
division in the view, between the inland lake and the open sea beyond.
The main line of the Great Southern Railway passes seven miles to the

north of this derelict port, and converse with the outer world was kept
up for many years by carriers' carts, which journeyed to and fro
between the town and the wayside station of Cullerne Road. But
by-and-by deputations of the Corporation of Cullerne, properly
introduced by Sir Joseph Carew, the talented and widely-respected
member for that ancient borough, persuaded the railway company that
better communication was needed, and a branch-line was made, on
which the service was scarcely less primitive than
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