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Crotchet Castle

13.
The Lake--The Ruin
Or vieni, Amore, e qua meco t'assetta.
ORLANDO INNAMORATO.
MR. CHAINMAIL. Would it not be a fine thing, Captain, you being picturesque,
and I poetical; you being for the lights and shadows of the present, and I for
those of the past; if we were to go together over the ground which was travelled
in the twelfth century by Giraldus de Barri, when he accompanied Archbishop
Baldwin to preach the crusade?
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Nothing, in my present frame of mind, could be more
agreeable to me.
MR. CHAINMAIL. We would provide ourselves with his Itinerarium; compare
what has been, with what is; contemplate in their decay the castles and abbeys,
which he saw in their strength and splendour; and, while you were sketching their
remains, I would dispassionately inquire what has been gained by the change.
CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Be it so.
But the scheme was no sooner arranged, than the Captain was summoned to
London by a letter on business, which he did not expect to detain him long. Mr.
Chainmail, who, like the Captain, was fascinated with the inn and the scenery,
determined to await his companion's return; and, having furnished him with a list
of books, which he was to bring with him from London, took leave of him, and
began to pass his days like the heroes of Ariosto, who
- tutto il giorno, al bel oprar intenti,
Saliron balze, e traversar torrenti.
One day Mr. Chainmail traced upwards the course of a mountain stream to a
spot where a small waterfall threw itself over a slab of perpendicular rock, which
seemed to bar his farther progress. On a nearer view, he discovered a flight of
steps, roughly hewn in the rock, on one side of the fall. Ascending these steps,
he entered a narrow winding pass, between high and naked rocks, that afforded
only space for a rough footpath, carved on one side, at some height above the
torrent.
The pass opened on a lake, from which the stream issued, and which lay like a
dark mirror, set in a gigantic frame of mountain precipices. Fragments of rock lay
scattered on the edge of the lake, some half-buried in the water: Mr. Chainmail
scrambled some way over these fragments, till the base of a rock sinking
abruptly in the water, effectually barred his progress. He sat down on a large
smooth stone; the faint murmur of the stream he had quitted, the occasional
flapping of the wings of the heron, and at long intervals, the solitary springing of a
trout, were the only sounds that came to his ear. The sun shone brightly half-way
down the opposite rocks, presenting, on their irregular faces, strong masses of
light and shade. Suddenly he heard the dash of a paddle, and, turning his eyes,
saw a solitary and beautiful girl gliding over the lake in a coracle: she was
proceeding from the vicinity of the point he had quitted, towards the upper end of
the lake. Her apparel was rustic, but there was in its style something more
recherchee, in its arrangement something more of elegance and precision, than
was common to the mountain peasant girl. It had more of the contadina of the
 
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