On a certain portion of the English coast, lying sufficiently convenient to that of France to have given rise to whispers of smuggling in the days gone by, there is a bleak plateau of land, rising high above the sea. It is a venturesome feat to walk close to its edge and gaze down the perpendicular cliffs to the beach below--enough to make a strong man dizzy. A small beach just there, called the Half-moon from its shape, nearly closed in by the projecting rocks, and accessible only from the sea at high water; at low water a very narrow path leads from it round the left projection of rock. It was a peculiar place altogether, this spot; and it is necessary to make it pretty clear to the imagination of those who read the story connected with it. The Half-moon itself was never under water, for the tide did not reach it, but the narrow path winding round to the left was; and that rendered the half-circular beach unapproachable by land at intervals in the four-and twenty hours. A few rude steps shelved down from this Half-moon to a small strip of lower beach underneath, whose ends were lost in the sea. The projecting rocks on either side, forming as may be said the corners of the Half-moon, went right into the sea. Those on your right hand (standing face to the sea) cut off all communication with the shore beyond, for a depth of water touched them always. Those on the left extended less far out, and the narrow path winding round them was dry when the tide was down. It thus arose that the Half-moon could be gained by this one narrow path only, or by a boat from the sea.
For all practical purposes it might just as well have been unattainable. Not once in a month--nay, it might be said, not once in twelve months--would any human being stray thither. Not only was there no end to be answered in going to it, but the place was said to be haunted; and the simple villagers around would sooner have spent the night watching in the church's vaults than have ventured to the Half-moon beach between sundown and cockcrow. The most superstitious race of men on the earth's surface are sailors; and fishermen partake of the peculiarity.
Turning round on the plateau now--it is called the plateau just as the beach below is called the Half-moon--with our backs to the sea, we look inland It is only the plateau that is high; the coast itself and the lands around lie rather low. On the left hand (remember that our hands have been reversed) a long line of dreary coast stretches onwards, not a habitation to be seen; on the right lies the village--Coastdown. Fishermen's huts are built on the side and top of the cliffs, not there so perpendicular; small cottages dot the low-lying grass lands; and an opening in the one poor street (if it can be called such) of the village, shows the real useable beach and the few fishing craft moored to it.
Standing still on the plateau, our backs to the sea, the eye falls on a landscape of cultivated plains, extending out for miles and miles. The only house near to the plateau is exactly opposite to it--a large redbrick house built in a dell. It may be a quarter of a mile distant from the edge of the plateau where we stand, but the gradual descent of the grassy land causes it to look very much nearer. This is the Red Court Farm. It is a low, long house, rather than a high one, and has been built on the site of an ancient castle, signs of whose ruins may be seen still. The plateau itself is but as wide as about a good stone's throw; and on its lower part, not far from where it joins the lands of the Red Court Farm, and the descent is rather abrupt, rises a dilapidated circular stone wall, breast high, with a narrow opening where the door used to be. This is called the Round Tower, and is supposed to have been the watch-tower of the castle.