When they arrived at the quay, William Dawle told Wilkie and Henry that we would walk them the quarter of a mile into St Germans, which he described as a ‘Strap of a Town’, meaning one long high street.
It was nearly midnight when they arrived at the tavern and it was closed, so Wilkie started kicking the door until the Landlady looked out from the window above. She asked “what did the men want?” and Wilkie replied “a bed for the night” so the Landlady then asked “What sort of men were they that arrived at this time of night?” and William Dawle piped up and vouched that the two young men were gentlemen. The Landlady accepted this but then told them that they could not come in until she had checked that the sheets for the two beds were aired and Wilkie Collins was left to muse as to, what manner of place was Cornwall, that it only had one set of sheets for each bed!
But all was well and as they waited for the Landlady to open the door of the tavern, they bade farewell to William Dawle as he rowed the three mile back to Saltash. Wilkie Collins and henry Brandling entered the tavern to spend their first night in Cornwall.
Wilkie and Henry climbed aboard William’s boat once more to continue their journey to St Germans, which was a three mile row. Wilkie was worried that the two jugs of ale that William had consumed in the tavern in Saltash might have an adverse effect on William’s rowing but the opposite was true, now William rowed faster and at last stopped talking! Wilkie was able to enjoy his moonlit cruse to St Germans.
St Germans Church by Henry Brandling
Wilkie Collins and Henry Brandling returned to the tavern, where Water Boatman William Dawle informed them that the tide had changed and it was time to leave for St Germans.
But as they entered the passage way, their eyes beheld an incredible sight, the hall was full of woman who fell to their knees and started cleaning the boots of Collins and Brandling with the hems of their aprons.
Collins asked the women what they were doing and they explained that it was a tradition of Saltash that the women would clean the boots of strangers and I return, would recieve six pence of liquor. Collins wrote that he had never read this in any guide book before leaving but would include it in his book so that men of science could investigate its truth.
In July 1850 Wilkie Collins and illustrator Henry C Brandling took a train from London Paddington to alight at Plymouth station, not the one we arrive at now but the station in Devonport, which was bombed out in WW2. They walked down to the water to hire a Licenced Water Boatman to row them to St Germans. On arrival at the sea edge, they met William Dawle, the finest specimen of man Wilkie had ever set eyes on.