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SIR COSMO DIG BY.

CHAPTER I.

TREASURE-TRO VE.

In western climes there is a town,
To those who dwell therein well-known.

But although the dwellers therein happen to stand in this predicament, it may perhaps be as well to enter, for the reader's sake, into some little explanation, especially as several of the strange events recorded in this history seem to have taken their rise from the peculiar features and accidents of the neighbourhood. This cluster of homesteads is commonly denominated Abertâf. Commercially speaking, the place is of no importance. For notwithstanding its charming situation and fine river, the inhabitants make light of the blessings of civilisation, and contrive to remain, in most things, a couple of centuries at least behind their

age.

VOL. I.

B

But if Abertâf contain little to interest the merchant or the political economist, it abounds with attractions of no mean order for admirers of the picturesque. Situated near the mouth of a large river, it is yet defended from the sea breezes by a chain of lofty barren heights, which, furnishing through a narrow cleft an issue to the waters of the Taf, continue to stretch along the coast like a vast rampart. Through this gap, which affords the inhabitants a glimpse of the ocean, the tide enters to fill, not the sandy channel of the Tâf only, but likewise that large semi-circular basin which extends from the roots of Sir John's Hill to the range of precipices along which runs the sea, front of the town. The ruins of its huge castle, perched upon piles of rocks, at whose cavernous base the waves foam and thunder at high water, constitute a sort of Acropolis under the shelter and protection of which the place appears to have grown up. What noble family inhabited in past ages its spacious halls and lofty towers, it boots not now to inquire. Their only successor is the owl, which, nestled in the thick drapery of ivy that wraps round the old turrets and bastions, and seems to keep them warm in hard weather, hoots and screams at night over the subjacent buildings, filling the ear of the belated school-boy or peasant with dread. From this point a few straggling streets branch off, some descending from the castle moat towards the bottom of a valley enlivened by a rattling stream, while others occupy the slope of a low range of hills stretching inland till it plunges into the roots of the mountains. Near this latter point, at a considerable distance from the habitations, stands the church, surrounded by a grove of ancient and gigantic yew trees. Between these two edifices, the church and the castle, flows the tiny stream of business which constitutes the vitality of Abertâf.

Extending eastward from the town, along the summit of the cliffs, runs a beautiful bye-road, affording at intervals views of the river and the ocean through breaks in the briery fence, or between the trunks of the trees, which flourish luxuriantly along the very brink of the precipice, and intermingling their boughs with others on the opposite side of the road, convert it into a kind of leafy arcade. This being at once cool and breezy in summer, and in winter sheltered, has been chosen for the public walk, where lovers stroll by moonlight, and where, when a gleam of sunshine breaks forth, in autumn or spring, you may behold the elders of the place, the very three-legged figures with which dipos non-plussed the philosophy of the Sphinx, parading up and down, discussing the crops, or the weather, or the theory of ghosts and apparitions, a topic most popular in that part of her Majesty's dominions. At the distance of about a mile, and a little before you reach the slip leading down to Summer's Well, a narrow, rough, and stony road, forming in winter the bed of a torrent, branches off from the main track, and ascends obliquely up the precipitous face of the mountain. After proceeding some way in this direction, you arrive at a small farm-house, now in ruins, and blackened by smoke, but which, at the period when our tale commences, looked neat and comfortable. Nor did the reality bely appearances. At one end stretched a long irregular garden, filled at the proper season with beds of peas and beans, parsnips, leaks, turnips, and potatoes, thick tufts of thyme, marjoram, penny-royal, basil, balm gentle, with whatever else a rustic kitchen requires. Large apple and pear trees, seldom pruned, shaded the paths; and along the cliff that formed a kind of wall at the back of the grounds, a screen of hop plants rose in rude imitation of the vine. The extreme beauty and luxuriance of this vegetation might be traced to a cause near at hand. This was a transparent perennial spring, which, protected by an overhanging mossy ledge, burst from the living rock, and found its way through several diminutive grassy conduits into the road.

The house itself, which stood a little back from the public way, presented a rude but cheerful aspect. A substantial stone wall projecting at either end like wings, with low drooping eaves, whose line of continuity was broken by three attic windows, suggested the idea of extreme snugness, more particularly when the eye rested on the broad flagstone in front of the door, chalked with fanciful patterns, and sprinkled with bright yellow sand, or stole through the open window between myrtles or geraniums into the large and pretty parlour, where the shining old fashioned oak furniture, including a most massive eight-day clock, bespoke the descent of the proprietor from ancestors who possessed a due sense of rustic gentility. A neat angular penthouse, supporting a matting of honey-suckle, which creeping up on both sides of the doorway, mingled its flowers and its sweetness there, protected the master from the rain or sun as often as he thought proper to smoke the pipe of peace on his own open threshold. As is the fashion of the country, the whole of the façade and the walls of continuation were kept dazzling white, and accordingly offered an agreeable contrast with the verdure of the trees, and dark red of the rocks forming the back ground, against which it stood in bold relief.

Tom Bennet, to whom this warm habitation belonged in fee-simple, though professedly a farmer, and holding a considerable quantity of land, had

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