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Crotchet Castle

sheet into the pool; the pool boiled and bubbled at the base of the fall, but
through the greater part of its extent, lay calm, deep, and black, as if the cataract
had plunged through it to an unimaginable depth, without disturbing its eternal
repose. At the opposite extremity of the pool, the rocks almost met at their
summits, the trees of the opposite banks intermingled their leaves, and another
cataract plunged from the pool into a chasm, on which the sunbeams never
gleamed. High above, on both sides, the steep woody slopes of the dingle
soared into the sky; and from a fissure in the rock, on which the little path
terminated, a single gnarled and twisted oak stretched itself over the pool,
forming a fork with its boughs at a short distance from the rock. Miss Susannah
often sat on the rock, with her feet resting on this tree; in time, she made her seat
on the tree itself, with her feet hanging over the abyss; and at length, she
accustomed herself to lie along upon its trunk, with her side on the mossy bole of
the fork, and an arm round one of the branches. From this position a portion of
the sky and the woods was reflected in the pool, which, from its bank, was but a
mass of darkness. The first time she reclined in this manner, her heart beat
audibly; in time she lay down as calmly as on the mountain heather; the
perception of the sublime was probably heightened by an intermingled sense of
danger; and perhaps that indifference to life, which early disappointment forces
upon sensitive minds, was necessary to the first experiment. There was, in the
novelty and strangeness of the position, an excitement which never wholly
passed away, but which became gradually subordinate to the influence, at once
tranquillising and elevating, of the mingled eternity of motion, sound, and
One sultry noon, she descended into this retreat with a mind more than usually
disturbed by reflections on the past. She lay in her favourite position, sometimes
gazing on the cataract; looking sometimes up the steep sylvan acclivities, into the
narrow space of the cloudless ether; sometimes down into the abyss of the pool,
and the deep bright-blue reflections that opened another immensity below her.
The distressing recollections of the morning, the world and all its littlenesses,
faded from her thoughts like a dream; but her wounded and wearied spirit drank
in too deeply the tranquillising power of the place, and she dropped asleep upon
the tree like a ship-boy on the mast.
At this moment Mr. Chainmail emerged into daylight, on a projection of the
opposite rock, having struck down through the woods in search of
unsophisticated scenery. The scene he discovered filled him with delight: he
seated himself on the rock, and fell into one of his romantic reveries; when
suddenly the semblance of a black hat and feather caught his eye among the
foliage of the projecting oak. He started up, shifted his position, and got a
glimpse of a blue gown. It was his lady of the lake, his enchantress of the ruined
castle, divided from him by a barrier which, at a few yards below, he could almost
overleap, yet unapproachable but by a circuit perhaps of many hours. He
watched with intense anxiety. To listen if she breathed was out of the question:
the noses of a dean and chapter would have been soundless in the roar of the
torrent. From her extreme stillness, she appeared to sleep: yet what creature, not
desperate, would go wilfully to sleep in such a place? Was she asleep, then?