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ploughing the farm at the Keeve, have we Trehernes, faythers and sons, been going down to the sea in ships. Men and boys, for generations, have we been occupying our business in the great waters, and lived from the time we were born, a'most to our graves, amid the wonders of the deep. Most on us, too, have meet our graves there. Three grown men only of us all have been carr'd to the old Botreaux churchyard, or had the prayers read o'er 'em."
"That's the worst of thee calling," chimed in Jack Philp. "It must be oncommon cold lying down at the bottom of the sea, upon the sand and shells, with the waves washing over one, and the weeds twining around, and the great fish a-swimming about and looking at one. I must own that I shud like to be tucked in comfortable in a coffin, and have made my old dummun promise that I shud be laid in a four-wall grave, snug and cosy-like."
"Sure thee doesn't think that it matters where our poor bones be put to, maister Philp," says dame Rosevear. "Thee doesn't believe that the speret ever comes back to 'em. I never troubles my head much with sich doctrines. I thinks very much like old saxton Will. When Irish Kitty threatened to haunt 'im if he didn't bury her under the ould yewtree, he tould the parson o' it. Well,' said the parson, I ain't afraid; are you?' 'No,' says Will, I ben't afeard; for if her goeth to a good place, her won't want to come back; and if her goeth to the bad one, they won't let her.'
"Natheless," answered the pilot, "it would be a comfort to know that I should ha'e to lie at last in the ould ground at Botreaux, with the winds from the furzy down blowing over it, and the sun lighting upon the turf, and the waves rippling agin the rocks nigh at hand. God knows, though, whether my cheeld will ever be able to tell where his fayther lieth. It is curious, though, that one of the few on us who did die in his bed, was my great-great-granfa'r, who was drove ashore on a piece of timber when the ship was wrecked, that was bringing the holy bells for the ould church of Botreaux."
"Tell us the tale, man!" cried miller Hugh; "I've heard 'un many a time from thee and thy fayther, but I'd like to hear 'un again. It's as good as a sarment any day-better than Parson Lanxon's, anyhow."
There was a general murmur of assent.
"Well," commenced the pilot, thus appealed to, "you know the townfolk at Boscastle many years agone were mad almost because there were no bells in Botreaux church, and it went to their hearts like, to hear them at Tintagel a-ringing and stramming at all times, while they had none to chime 'em to church or toll 'em to their graves, or send out a hearty peal at their weddings or feasting days; so they sent to some place far away, and had a fine set cast, and they were blessed by the pope or bishop, or some holy man. Now it so happened one Sunday, when the folks was all sauntering about on the cliffs arter church, that 'twas said how the ship with the bells was in sight, and that Pilot Treherne had gone aboard her. So the people thronged out like a fair, and sat about the rocks to watch the vessel; and the young 'uns whispered to their sweethearts that there would be a merry peal now at their wedding, and the old 'uns thought how there would be a decent toll now at their buryings. Well, the ship came fairly along the coast; the wind was free, and the sea smooth as glass. They had made Willapark Point, and the bells of Tintagel was ringing out loud and strong. This made the pilot so glad that he said, Thank God for our good voyage. 'Thank the ship and the canvass,' said the captain; thank God ashore.'
We must thank Him at sea as well as on land,' said the pilot. 'No, thank the good timbers and a fair wind,' roared the captain, and he cussed and swore and blasphemed quite awful. Scarce had he spoke the words when great black clouds lowered in the sky, and the wind rose into a squall, and the waves tossed and tumbled towards the shore. The ship was took aback, and would not answer the helm, and kept drifting in and in on the rocks; then a sea struck her, and drove her
right on the cliff of the Black Pit. She went to pieces instantly almost; and afore the people could look around, the spars was floating on the waters; and they thought that, with the beat of the surf and the roar of the winds, they heard the bells chiming out quite loud and solemn-like. Some of 'em climbed round the point to see if any one was saved, and there they see'd a man houlding on by a plank-'twas my great-great-granfa'r the pilot. He was nigh gone; and when he came to hisself, the first words he spoke was, 'How sweet the bells be ringing!' and 'twas tould that on his deathbed he said that he heard the holy bells ringing him home."
There was a short pause after this legend. Old Truscott breaks it. They do say now that of rough days, and in the heavy storms, the bells be heard clanging and booming whisht and mournful, and that if a man goeth on one of the holy nights to Willapark Point, the bells will tell 'un his fortune for the year."
"I have heard," chirped Jack Philp, "that a miller who don't live a hundred miles from the Rocky Valley, when he axed his lass if they were to be married that year, was tould to go and ax the bells. Dost thee know anything about that, Hugh Rosevear?"
Maybe it was so, maybe it was so; but he never went, for he see'd a summut in her eye which tould her mind truer than the bells, so he went to his bed instead."
"Tom Sloggett watched on the cliff one Christmas night," said Truscott, "and they do say heard a bell tolling for a burying. He was never his own agin, and died afore Easter."
"There is certainly some cursed spell about bells," burst forth Brazilian Dick, who had been moving uneasily and impatiently in his chair during the recital of the legend, and ever and anon cast furtive glances from face to face, and from one part of the room to another. "I was haunted by a bell once myself. It never left me for years, and ever came dinging and tolling some illluck upon me.'
Grace shuddered as the word "haunted" fell on her ear, with the woman's inst nct which ever associates supernatural visitation with crime and conscience. No one asked for the story, and yet Curgenven went on with it impulsively and determinedly, as if it were a relief, though an effort, to tell it. "This is how it happened: We were working -a queer crew of us-together in one of the far-away mines. There were Spaniards, and half-castes, and Yankees, and among the rest was a Portugee. He was a gaunt sallow fellow, who never laughed, and seldom spoke, but worked, and gambled, and drank with the viciousness of a devil. Well, before long we lit upon a lode-a real rich lode—and that made us madder than ever. Great lumps of gold ore fell down at every stroke of the pick, and we dug, and dug, till the sweat dropped through our shirts, and we could hardly stagger, and struck out quite wildly with our tools. Then we used to go altogether to the mouth of the mine and eat and drink, dice and sleep for a few hours till we were fit for work again. "Twas a sort of devil's life; but it had its joys too, wild as they were-and we rushed and reeled through it like madmen. It was not long afore we had got enough to make us all rich men; but still we went on, until we looked more like ghosts doing some doom than men. We always worked, you must know, with knives and pistols in our belts, for we were mortal afraid of one another, and had hid all our treasure together in an old pit, swearing across our daggers, after the Spanish fashion, that we would be true to our comradeship, and revenge to the death any breach of faith or trust. One evening as we came up from our work, and looked about, as we always did, to see that all were together, the Portugee was missing. Suspicion gleamed in every eye at once. All hurried to the hole; the best and most disposable part of our winnings was gone. A yell of vengeance was raised; the work was dropped, and we were soon hot in pursuit. On horseback, and fully armed, we started off; the Yankees ran on the track like bloodhounds, and we followed, tracing the fugitive
every night by his fires and the little bare spots where his horse had been tethered. At last the tracks ceased close by a deep thicket, with masses of rock rising here and there amid the brushwood and creepers. There were no paths through it, and the place seemed almost impenetrable. Here, however, we felt that our game was at bay, and we resolved to watch it closely. A camp was formed around, and each had his station. Mine was opposite a large rock, 'neath which was a dark hollow, covered by masses of overhanging foliage and tall grass. Night after night I kept my watch, fixing my eye on the opening; and ever there seemed to be an eye meeting and answering mine. At last there came on one of those storms-common in those countries - the rain fell in sheets, the thunder rolled, the lightning flashed fierce and lurid, and the wind swept in gusts over the thicket as though it would uproot it altogether. Yet my watch relaxed not. Still my eye was fixed on the same spot, and still seemed to see the same gleam. Towards morn, the foliage shook and moved, and a man, haggard, worn, and spectre-like, came forth and stood before me. It was the Portugee. I prepared for a fight; but there was no spirit of combat in him now. The eternal watch had subdued him, and he confessed that his soul had been cowed within him by the terror of the eye bent unceasingly and vengefully upon him, and that he chose death rather than endure it longer. Some were for hanging him by Lynch law, but the majority were against it; and we resolved to give him up to the authorities of the nearest city. As our decision was made known, his cheek blanched, his eye quailed, and his whole frame shuddered. We were in hopes then that he would try to buy life by revealing where the stolen treasure was; but the thought of some day recovering the gold was dearer to him than the chances of life, and he would not speak. So we bound and pinioned him, and carried him to the town, where, strangely enough, he was recognised as one who had done a foul murder, and been sought everywhere. There we left him in
VOL. LXXXIII.-NO. DVII.
prison, and went back to the mine, sullen and desperate with our loss. Soon after, I went back to the town for supplies. There was a crowd gathered in the great square-a murderer was to be garotted that day. Curiosity kept me there. It was a great space lined by soldiers, and in the midst was a large pillar with a seat in front, and the iron band, which was to close round the neck of the culprit, hanging from it. Presently a low chanting was heard, and a procession appeared, moving slowly and solemnly. The priests were singing the service for the dead, and behind came the prisoner clad in a black serge gown, pale, and worn, and deathly. A confessor was beside him, praying and exhorting. It was the Portugee. On the procession moved towards the fatal chair. He was fixed in it; the priest had uttered his last benediction; the executioner behind was about to give the fatal turn, when the eye of the man turned, and fixed itself on me with a deadly glare. At the same moment a bell tolled, and the glance of the eye seemed to carry the boom right into my heart. In a moment it was all over; there was a contortion of the face, a quiver of the frame, and then all was still, and the eye glazed in death. For years after, that eye and the toll of that bell haunted me. When I was throwing the dice, or lifting the wine-cup, or standing in the dance, they would flash and boom upon me with a terrible spell; but this soon wore off, for we men of the world cannot afford to give in long to weak superstitions. I had almost forgotten it till your foolish story of the Botreaux bells brought back the memory."
This narrative, delivered as it was in fierce rapid tones, threw a chill over the party. Grace grew pale, and trembled at intervals; her mother sighed and groaned deeply; the rest were silent. The thing was too real, too dramatic for them.
There was little more conversation until supper came. That was the old story of huge joints, pies, puddings, cheeses, heaps of cake, jugs of cider and beer, and large hearty appetites. After it the elders again grouped around, and gradually fell into the
old grooves. Champion Truscott wrestled his matches o'er again; Dame Rosevear told anecdotes of a favourite cow; the pilot spoke of gales marvellous in their fierceness and intensity; old Hugh maundered over old traditions; and Jack Philp gave his only experience of ghosts telling how he was coming back one night by the churchyard; how he had there seen three parsons attired in surplices, and with books in their hands, walking round the grave of a man who had committed suicide; how he had been warned back; and how shortly afterwards he had seen a ball of fire pass three times round the church-tower and then disappear. This he supposed was the ceremony
of laying the ghost. Old Truscott told, as a counter-story to this, that Jack was returning on the occasion from a tithe-meeting, was found next morning under a haystack, and had been observed during the evening to run against the landlord's pig, and there and then take off his hat, with a polite bow, and say, "I beg pardon, your reverence." So that the ghostlaying was not received as authentic.
Meanwhile Grace had slipped away, so had Phil, and the absence of the Brazilian was considered such a relief that none inquired about it.
Thus the night wore on, and the hand was on the stroke of the hour which should usher in the Christmas
At the mill-dam head, leaning over a railing, were two figures looking down into the little pool beneath. The valley was all alight with moonbeams, the cascades flashed with silvery brightness, and the stars above had each a fellow in the pools below. The rocks cast a dark shadow on them, and ever and anon behind them flitted a stealthy shade; before them all was bright and clear.
Come, Grace," says Phil, "it is time now that thee shouldst speak out to me plain and free. I've been a true sweetheart to thee for two years-have loved and followed thee like a man; and sure thee wouldst not turn me off after so long a' prenticeship."
"Art tired then, Phil, of thy wooing, that thou art so pressing now, or hast thou grown jealous and mistrust ful? Sure I have not favoured any lad so much as I have thee. Canst not wait a while?"
"God forbid, Grace, that I should hurry thee; but there's a pleasant home for thee, and my mother's place empty, so why should I live the lonesome life any longer? Besides, there's that Brazilian chap sneaking around thee, and he means mischief, and I should like to have a right to stand up for thee like a man.'
"That means, Phil, that thou hast a grudge agin 'im, and would like to make a quarrel."
"No, no, I don't want to quarrel
with any man, most of all about thee; but he is cruel aggravating, and Í can't bear to see 'im always looking at thee with that keen false eye of his."
The shade was drawing nearer now, hung close o'er them, and was reflected in the pool beneath, though they saw it not.
"Come then, Grace, dear," again insinuated Phil, passing his arms lightly round the girl's waist; " say the word, when shall the wedding be; thy fayther favours me, thy mother loves me well, and 'tis but a step from the farm to the mill."
"Go ask the bells, Phil; 'tis Christmas night. They perhaps may tell thee."
"I would sooner hear it from thy lips, or see it in thy face; but if it meet thy fancy, I wull go to the cliff -'tis but a walk this fine nightand I shall be thinking of thee as the Christmas morn breaks."
"Well, then, go along, Phil; and that thou mayest not play the same trick as fayther did, thou shalt bring me a bunch of sea-pink, gathered off the brink."
"I won't deceive thee, lass, and thou wilt meet me to-morrow at the chapel by the Keeve?"
Yes, yes; good-night, Phil." As she spoke, he saw in the young girl's face that which made his heart leap with a joy that needed no token from the bells. Gently he drew her to
wards him, gave one fervent honest kiss, and then bounded across the little stream on his way to the Willapark Head.
The dark shade writhed and turned around them now, and then glided away like a serpent from an Eden.
Gaily did Phil then breast the steep, going forward on his mission with a heart as bold and true as knight ever went forth with to a deed of "derring do." Grace watched the figure of her lover from her casement, and ever as it moved saw another shadow following, and tracking his, creeping stealthily behind, yet never nearing it. A strange dread crept over her, and long long she strained her eyes into the darkness, her heart beating with a new fear.
Phil has passed by the grey old church now, with its loose stone wall and its mossy gravestones, and has looked to the bell-less tower, and half wished there was a chime there to ring forth a joy-peal on his wedding-day. He is standing at the edge of the black pit; the deep chasm yawns beneath, the dark black walls descend in steep veined precipices to the depth below, and their shadows cast a sullen heavy gloom on the waters. It is the only dark spot around. The waves beyond are sparkling brightly, and dimpling in the light wind. He looks on them for a while, half hoping to hear a ghostly peal borne over them; but there is no sound save that of the surf amid the rocks and caverns. He turns again to the pit, and a slight chill passes over him as his eye falls on its grave-like darkness. He is stooping now to gather the sea-pink in a little nook in the cliff. The shadow has followed him steadily, and is now winding and creeping behind him. As he rises, it rises, leaps upon him, and a bright blade flashes in the air. A slight stoop has saved him; it passes over. turns, clutches at the danger, and has the Brazilian by the throat.
Their eyes meet, and the men feel that the struggle is one of life and death. They are on the edge of the cliff now; the grass is dry and slippery; each feels that a move is destruction. Sternly and silently they hold their grip, their eyes fixed, and their feet firm. Phil's skill avails him little; the Brazilian is more at home in such strife. The moments are hours. They scarce drew breath. Suddenly the Brazilian, desperate and wild, puts forth his strength in one fierce effort to draw his foe towards the cliff. The men totterthey overhang the dark chasm. Phil is foremost, and he sees the dark waters glooming beneath. Suddenly a wild gust is borne over the waters, and on it there comes the toll of a bell. The Tintagel clock is chiming the midnight hour. The eye of the Brazilian turns for a moment-the powerful arm of his opponent seizes the vantage, and the next he is hurled with a resistless heave over the precipice. Fiercely he clings to his foe; both men fall, but Phil has grasped the grass and earth by the edge; the Brazilian falls down, down into the blackness of the pit. There is no crash, no splash, but the silence of death. Long and desperately Phil struggles; it is for life. Again and again his knee is on the cliff; again it slips; his hold is failing the darkness of the rock seems closing on him a death-knell clangs at his heart. One more brave effort-one more stout grasp at the sod, and he has won the bank; he has struggled back into life. A perspiration bursts from every pore, a dizziness floats around him, and a sickness as that of death. The Tintagel bells burst out with a merry chime, and strike on him as a mockery as he looks on the dark hell beneath. The Christmas morn has begun; he grasps a handful of the flowers, and thus sadly and heavily does he greet the tokens he had sought and won, whilst the Black Pit looms as a dark doom before him.
The little stream of the rocky valley did not act its tiny turbulence throughout its whole course. It had
a gentler existence and softer intercourse with meadows and orchards and copses. It was not always a