If we are to begin our travels in Sussex with the best, then Midhurst is the starting point, for no other spot has so much to offer: a quiet country town, gabled and venerable, unmodernised and unambitious, with a river, a Tudor ruin, a park of deer, heather commons, immense woods, and the Downs only three miles distant. Moreover, Midhurst is also the centre of a very useful little railway system, which, having only a single line in each direction, while serving the traveller, never annoys him by disfiguring the country or letting loose upon it crowds of vandals. Single lines always mean thinly populated country. As a pedestrian poet has sung:—
My heart leaps up when I behold
A single railway line;
For then I know the wood and wold
Are almost wholly mine.
And Midhurst being on no great high road is nearly always quiet. Nothing ever hurries there. The people live their own lives, passing along their few narrow streets and the one broad one, under the projecting eaves of timbered houses, unrecking of London and the world. Sussex has no more contented town.
The church, which belongs really to St. Mary Magdalen, but is popularly credited to St. Denis, was never very interesting, but is less so now that the Montagu tomb has been moved to Easebourne. Twenty years ago, I remember, an old house opposite the church was rumoured to harbour a pig-faced lady. I never had sight of her, but as to her existence and her cast of feature no one was in the least doubt. Pig-faced ladies (once so common) seem to have gone out, just as the day of Spring-heeled Jack is over. Sussex once had her Spring-heeled Jacks, too, in some profusion.
Cowdray Park is gained from the High Street, just below the Angel Inn, by a causeway through water meadows of the Rother. The house is now but a shell, never having been rebuilt since the fire which ate out its heart in 1793: yet a beautiful shell, heavily draped in rich green ivy that before