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tion which he had quitted. From the darkness of its hue;

and its rolling silently over the soft grass, it could neither be seen nor heard, unless by any person who should happen to be in its immediate course, a circumstance little likely in that unfrequented tract of country, and at the hour of midnight. Such, however, was the hazardous nature of their enterprise, that its conductors did not for a moment relax in their precautions, not only peering around them in all directions as far as their timid light could steal into the darkness, but frequently stopping to listen. Nothing, however, was to be seen but the trunks of the trees, which, as they caught the faint glare of the lantern, seemed to be stepping forward out of the dense gloom that enshrouded them; and nothing was to be heard but the hoarse rustling of the wind, as it came by fits to agitate the boughs above them, and died away into a distant moaning as it swept the forest behind. Winning their way in this slow and suspicious manner, without a syllable being uttered

except the occasional « all safe!» of the leader they had reached the last glade that bordered upon the open country, when a low whistle was heard a-head of them, and the foremost of the two men halting, and brandishing the weapon with which he was provided, exclaimed in a loud whisper « Who's there?» « A friend!» was the reply. — «What's the word ? » continued the first speaker. — «Boscobel ! » answered the second, and at the same moment a man, disclosing himself from a clump of underwood, exclaimed, -« You are late, Whittaker. I have been whistling a duet with the wind this half hour, when I might have heard the

pop

ping of corks, and have emptied a flagon or two of Gascoigne wine. Who is that with the cart-Nat. Culpepper? »

« Ay, ay, Sir John; that's Nat. Culpepper, sure enough, and a steady old file he is. You may advance with the cart, Nat.; it's only Sir John. And as to our being late, I am an old soldier, and after so many night alarms as we have had, while engaged in this ticklish service, you would hardly wish me to hurry forward, when it was your own orders that I should be careful in acting the scout. »

« Right, old Truepenny!» cried Sir John; - don't I know you for a 'sly fox in an ambush, and a fearless dasher in an onset? But you have had no alarms tonight, my doughty serjeant; the black ghost has not again crossed your path, and you have heard no Scriptural ejaculations muttered from the bushes.»

« No, Sir John, we have started nothing as we came along but a mottled stag, who dashed

away

from us as fast as four legs could carry him; and we have seen nothing blacker than the night, which is pitchy enough

us,

who care not how dark it is while we are playing this secret game of neck or nothing.»

« Noa, noa, Sir John, » cried Culpepper, who had now come up with the cart, and who seemed by his aecent to be a north countryman, «I be pratty certain we sha' not see her to-night. «See her! » exclaimed Sir John; « you have made

up your mind, then, that 't was a woman whom we have more than once so strangely encountered in our secret expeditions. »

even for

« ’T were a woman's voice, I 'll take

my

Bible oath, cried Culpepper; « and I seed a bit of her black petticoat as she scudded away among the trees into the thick of the forest.—Dang it! d’ye think I don't know a woman from a will-o'-the-wisp?»

«I marked the figure myself, clearly enough, » continued Sir John, «and but that the sound of a pistol might have endangered a discovery of our enterprize, and brought all our necks into jeopardy, I would have tried whether the mumbling old Jezabel was as difficult to reach with powder and ball, as with our three pair of legs, which she so easily and so unaccountably distanced. However, I am prepared for her now; I hạve a cross-bow here, which will bring down its bird without blabbing; and be it hag or hobgoblin, witch or wizard, ghost or gossip, spy or spectre, the devil or the devil's dam, if I can but catch a glimpse of it, I 'll have a shot at its hide, and try whether it be made of flesh or flummery.»

« As to ghosts or goblins, » cried serjeant Whittaker, they 'll find they have got

the wrong sow by the ear, if they think to frighten e'er a one of us; but if it's a spy, we have a right to put him to death by the laws of war; and I vote for doing so, for if we have not his blood, he will have ours. »

«She wo' not venture to show hersel,» said Culpepper, « now we be just upon the

open

fields. » « According to the old adage,» replied Sir John, « we should not crow till we are fairly out of the wood; so we may as well move on as fast as we can, and make for Brambletye House.»

Anathema, maranatha! A curse light upon it, and upon all its sacrilegious inmates!» ejaculated a sepul-! chral voice, which seemed to be that of a female, and to proceed from a tangled cluster of underwood immediately upon their right.

« A murrain seize the pestilent jade! » cried Sir John, « there she is again!» and he instinctively discharged his cross-bow into the brake, whence the sound had appeared to issue. The arrow rattled among the branches, where there was a momentary silence, after which the same hollow and impressive voice ejaculated — « Ave Maria! Blessed be our lady of Ashurst! The arrow of the ungodly shall be turned aside. »

Whittaker ran towards the spot with his lantern, directing its light full upon the bushes; and Sir John, having drawn his rapier, followed close upon his heels, when, as they approached, a tall thin figure in black, apparently wearing the garb of a woman, was dimly visible, flitting from the covert towards another thicket at a little distance. Animated by the glimpse he had obtained, the impetuous Sir John hurried past his companion, and had just seen the figure glide, as he thought, into the brake before him, when he was suddenly left in total darkness; Whittaker, in the ardour of his pursuit, having stumbled over a root, and extinguished the light. Guided, however, by what he had already noticed, Sir John leaped fearlessly intoj the very midst of the tufted underwood, which he imagined the mysterious female to have entered, laying about him vigorously with his rapier, and cursing with no less vehemence the bow that had missed its object, the appari

tion that defied all their efforts for its apprehension, and the clumsy rascal who had lost the light at the very moment when it might have led to a discovery. After committing fearful devastation among the boughs and branches, he acceded to the request of Whittaker, who had now come up, that they should listen for a while in silence, as they might perhaps hear the sound of retreating footsteps. They did so, but all was silent as the grave. «Curse her!» cried Sir John, “I never heard her foot-fall when I was close upon her track, and it is not likely we should distinguish it when she has had time to make for the forest. »

A parley was now held, and as it was deemed useless to make any further attempts at discovery, surrounded as they were by total darkness, and on the immediate verge

of a trackless forest, they were unwillingly com-, pelled to rejoin Culpepper and the cart, both declaring. that they would rather it should prove

to be a supernatural visitant, or even a witch, than any lurking spy, who might have seen or heard enough to compromise their own safety, as well as the success of their perilous undertaking.

« She cannot know whither we are bound, at all events, » exclaimed Sir John, “and she has dogged us no further than the opening of the forest. »

« But you mentioned Brambletye House,» said Whittaker, « and she instantly fired off her usual curses upon its walls, and all within them. »

« Did I?» inquired Sir John; « a pize upon me! I was a fool for my pains; but we must go the quicker to work, and surprize the enemy, to prevent a surprize

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