National Geographic : 1964 Jun
Trousers and skirts hiked up, departing visitors tread the stone causeway to Mara zion, ahead of the returning tide. provided its own pirates at times; there were some outstanding local families in the trade. So much for pirates. What about ghosts, I asked Lord St. Levan, and skeletons, and clanking figures dragging chains? But there are no ghosts. Apparently the sea air does not agree with them. There was a mysterious skeleton once. When alterations were being made to the chapel in 1820, an old doorway was discov ered, blocked with masonry. "When this was cleared away," Lord St. Levan told me, "a flight of stone steps was found leading to a sort of vault which might once have been a hermit's cell. In this were the skeletons of two men. There was nothing to identify them. The bones might have been interred there, or the men may have been left there to die. One had been a very tall man. That is all we know with certainty." Local tradition says one skeleton might be that of the knight Sir John Arundell, who was an exceptionally tall man. Sir John, says his tory, was killed in battle on the beach in front of St. Michael's Mount in 1473, fighting for the king against the rebellious Earl of Oxford -the same who seized the Mount and its castle by entering with his soldiers disguised as pilgrims. Newlyweds Seek St. Michael's Chair Lady St. Levan joined us for a walk on the terraces and to the church. Like her husband, Lady St. Levan-a lively, vivacious woman -is a born aristocrat. She was formerly the Honourable Clementina Gwendolen Catha rine Nicolson, only daughter of Lord Carnock and sister of Sir Harold Nicolson, the famous writer and critic. Rearing a family of three sons and two daughters has not interfered with her ca pacity for public work. She is a Justice of the Peace, as is her husband. Festivities connected with the 300th anniversary of the St. Aubyns' direct connection with the Mount had been keeping her very busy. We encountered groups of visitors as we strolled, for this was one of the several days a week on which the Mount is open to the public. One group was peering up at the relic on the chapel tower which is called St. Mi chael's Chair. 896 "I hope they don't start trying to climb into it," my host remarked. "That can be difficult. There is an old yarn that, if a newly married couple comes here, whichever of them can climb into it first will be the head of the house hold for life." I had heard a rather horrible story of a wife who was so keen to be the first into the chair that it killed her. She did not even wait for the bells in the tower to stop pealing, and their heavy reverberations shook her out of the lofty perch.