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In the short story The Blood-Stained Pavement, Rathole is a fishing village in Cornwall where Joyce had gone to sketch. The village is very old and had supposedly been almost totally destroyed when it was attacked by Spanish troops in the fifteenth century. The Polharwith Arms inn is said to be the only building which survived the assault and is the oldest building in the village. Joyce describes the village as picturesque, but perhaps too much so. perhaps. According to her, there is too much of the atmosphere of “Ye Olde Cornish Tea House” about it. "It has shops with bobbed-headed girls in smocks doing hand-illuminated mottoes on parchment. It is pretty and it is quaint, but it is very self-consciously so."

Despite the artificiality of the atmosphere, Joyce experienced events which haunted her thereafter--events which had a smiling, bright surface and a hidden gruesomeness underneath. It also led her to paint a picture which had the same atmosphere--an ordinary painting which if one looked more closely, a sinister atmosphere would creep in.

Real world counterpart[]

The village of Rathole is believed to be based on a real Cornish village, Mousehole.