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the herbage, to which the humidity of the place gave peculiar luxuriance.
“ What a lovely, wild, and interesting spot!" exclaimed Amherst.
“What a noble watering place," cried Cleaver; “ here is water enough to supply a whole navy; but what the deuce are these copper coins laid here for ?"
“ Judging from these fragments of a cross,” said his companion,
" this must be some holy well. I have heard that suxh offerings are still made by the superstitious vulgar to springs once blessed by saints of former days, and ever since supposed to be peculiarly gifted, even although popery has ceased to protect them.”
Having reached the brow of the crags, a very cheerless prospect presented itself to their eyes. The downs, extending for several miles along the summit of the rocks, and rising in elevation as they retreated inland, displayed a barren surface of irregularly-blown sand heaps, covered with patches of wiry bent grass. Beyond all this a bold promontory arose to the westward, its green head exhibiting traces of ancient fortifications; and, farther still, the eye was carried
over an extensive low and sterile plain, yet more unprofitable than the ground around them. Not a house, nor even hovel, was to be descried. What appearance the country, lying beyond the ridge about a mile to the south, might wear, they had no opportunity of knowing; but, as Cleaver expressed it, what they did see looked sufficiently “ glum," and damped all hopes of a snug supper. They hesitated for some time what to do. At length, as the sun had already sunk behind the huge bulk of the distant western mountains, and the sea and its coasts were beginning to melt into obscurity,-after wandering from knoll to knoll, without gaining any additional information, they finally resolved to postpone all further attempts to explore till to-morrow, and to return to spend the night on board.
As they were slowly preparing to descend into the ravine, O'Gollochar, who was immediately behind them, suddenly exclaimed, in accents of astonishment, “ Sweet Vargin Mary, Master dear! what sort of a cratur is that down yonder below ?”
They threw their eyes hastily in the direction he pointed, and perceived, in the indistinctness of twilight, a little human figure, apparently a female, seated upon the shaft of the fallen cross, then about fifty yards below them. The stories they had heard of the popular superstitions of Scotland instantly crossed their minds; but whatever influence these might have had upon their attendant, whose native soil is sufficiently prolific in such belief to have given him an early tincture of it, the gentlemen laughed at such weaknesses.
“ Holloa you there!" shouted Cleaver, “ can you guide us to any hostel, where we may be victualled and moored for the night? You shall be well paid for your pilotage.”
The creature was sitting as if occupied in raising water from the spring. It started up at the sound, stretched its tiny arms abroad, as if in alarm, and running with the rapidity of thought three times round the circle of the well, suddenly disappeared.
Amherst, roused by curiosity from the mo. mentary surprise this singular apparition had thrown him into, rushed impetuously down the hollow to discover where it had concealed itself.
He carefully examined every nook-he looked into every crevice where a human being might have been secreted, all the way from the spring down to the very bottom of the ravine, where it opened upon the strand, but he could not perceive the least vestige of the object of his search. Surprised and disappointed, he stood for some minutes wrapt in silent astonishment, until he was joined by Cleaver, whose obesity of person, ill calculated for such rapid movements, had permitted him to follow but slowly.
“ Why, Amherst, my boy,” cried the captain, puffing and blowing as he spoke," why, Amherst, you must surely have the legs of a goat, or a roebuck, to enable you to bound over slippery stones and rugged rocks in this sort of way. I, for my part, who did not run quite so fast, shook my carcase to pieces, and had two or three times nearly broken my legs in my attempt to overtake you. But who the devil was that person we saw ?
The devil, indeed!” cried O'Gollochar, with a face as pale as death.
“ Strange!” said Amherst, after recovering himself, “ very strange indeed! where can she have hid herself ?"
“ She certainly did not pass out this way,” said Cleaver; “ for before I started to follow you in this same break-neck, mad-cap chace, I kept my eye so fixed upon the bottom of the ravine here, that I must have seen a rat or a weasel, if it had escaped in this direction.”
“ She could not have scaled these walls of rock," said Amherst.
“ Not unless she can walk like a fly with her head down,” replied Cleaver.
“ By the hill of Howth, she's a fairy or a witch," cried O'Gollochar; “ I'll take my oath, I saw her vanish in a flash of fire."
“ Nay, Cornelius," said his master, your eyes have added to the mysterious circumstances of this extraordinary personage, who is certainly mysterious enough in herself, without any such flaming addition. But if we may judge of her by the seat she had chosen, she could not very well be a slave of the Devil, whose servants are supposed to flee at the very sign of the cross."
“ Och, don't talk about that ould jontleman, dear master,” cried O’Gollochar, crossing himself