Page images

a thousand rags, and sent the fragments floating away behind it.

Below, the light accorded well with the wild fury of the elements,---now a long spell of doubtful shade darkening the headlands and the ocean into dim shadows, then a flood of bright moonshine suddenly revealing the waters in wild dance, and breaking the coast line of cliff and mountain into gigantic columns of jet and silver. The wind, which was from the sea, opposed by the lofty wall of precipice, rushed upwards, and bursting over the margin above with a force much increased by compression, in fierce gusts, often brought the travellers to a dead stand for several minutes together. The terrific howlings of the wind, as it rushed up those steeps, and the roar of the waters breaking in fury against the rocks below, together with the proximity of the pathway to the awful abysses, made the journey of our travellers, on that tempestuous night, as exciting and perilous, so far as we know, as any in the records of wild adventure. It was indeed a dreadful night, says the story, but it had no terrors for the aged priest, who sat through all in quiet unconcern on his brave little steed.

About half-way between Malinbeg and the One Man's Path, the footway touched the very verge of a beetling cliff, from which a good view of portions of the steeps farther on is obtained. When the tra

[ocr errors]



vellers neared the edge of the precipice, the wind unexpectedly ceased. “ Owen, my son," said the old man, “ this sudden calm bodes no good. I should not be surprised if we had a whirlwind up the precipices directly.” Owen shuddered, brave though he

“ True, Father, true for you : better let us go back from the edge and lie down for a little.” “ No need of hurry, Owen ; the gray pony is sure.

Just let us look over, and see if anything is going on below.” The moon was shining brightly at the moment. They moved to the extreme edge of the precipice. The priest pointing with his riding cane, spoke in a somewhat excited tone : “ Look! look! the whirl

! wind is under the One Man's Path. See that dark spot! It is lifting the water.” The phenomenon was not new to the veteran priest, neither was the clerk entirely unacquainted with it. It was one of those tornadoes that form at the base of those seacliffs. The clerk felt real alarm. “Let us go back !” he exclaimed—“ back at once! it may come this way, and if it do, woe betide us." “ Don't be afraid, Owen,” said the priest, “I have seen the like of this before now.

It seems as if all the wind from Traban to Carrigan Head was gathered into that little spot, whirling round and round, one part driving the other before it faster and faster every instant. Halloa ! it comes round this way; it did wild work,

[ocr errors]


I'm sure, on the other side of that precipice. See, it stops !--it is held for a moment between the rocks. Oh ! how it eddies on the surface of the water, trying to screw its way down through it; but it cannot,

; and therefore it lashes the water against the precipices. Ha ! now it rises. We must be alive, Owen, it may come upon us. See, there it goes up the steeps with the strength of ten thousand giants !' The effects of the phenomenon, as it ascended in a slanting direction, were almost too terrible to be grand. Rising at first like a dense cloud, it lifted a quantity of the water, which it dashed into thin spray on the rocks, and sent it here and there in shoots, or water-spouts, far up the steeps, leaving the sea below in a fury frightful to behold. On it came up the precipices, toppling crags of stone and heaps of gravel, displacing rocks, tearing out pieces of earth, sweeping plots of shingle, and sending the debris tumbling down in promiscuous confusion, accompanied by a deep rumbling noise, as if the whole mountain was going to pieces. The travellers withdrew quickly into the moor, keeping the while an eye on the course of the tornado. The clerk was sore afraid, and the priest himself now began to be anxious, for the tornado was coming towards them. He dismounted, and holding the bridle firmly in his hand, led the pony back still

[ocr errors]

farther into the moor. “Owen, can you find no place where we might lie down and hold by. That tornado is so strong that it will lift us off the earth like straws.” Owen could find nothing else to hold by than the scanty grass of the moor.

“ It will never do,” said the priest. The terrible whirlwind approached them steadily. They were crouching in its direct course. A pause, and the priest exclaimed, “ We are safe, thank God !” By one of those eccentric movements usual to those eddying winds, it stopped short, and taking a nearly contrary direction, it mounted up the steep side of Slieve League's loftiest peak, and spent itself among the heights.

Owen,” said the priest, as he rose from the ground and remounted his pony,

“ do not the angels guard us? The storm is over; that is the last kick of the dying giant.”

Nothing daunted, but, on the contrary, considerably animated by the terrible incidents of the last quarter of an hour, and a certain religious enthusiasm, they went forward on their difficult path, up a very steep ascent, culminating in the highest point of the mountain, and immediately struck upon the One Man's Path. It were hard to imagine a more perilous road for a horseman than this narrow edge between yawning abysses. The priest without hesitation rode his sure-footed pony out on the dizzy


[ocr errors]

footway, the clerk following behind. Presently the pony came to a dead stand, and turning its head over the awful precipice began to snort. The priest patted it on the neck to quiet it. Owen, did you hear any strange sound ?” “ The Lord preserve us!” was Owen's only reply. Both listened with breathless attention. A long deep groan, as of a man suffering intense pain, came floating up from below in the now calm air; and, after a brief interval, another, and then another. The priest dismounted, or rather slid from his horse. Owen, that is some poor Christian in sore distress, perhaps both of soul and body. There is a wreck below,—I can see the spars breaking the surface of the swells. Stay you here with the pony, and don't attempt to move till I return." “ For God's sake, Father, take care. Do you mean to throw yourself down the precipices ?” “ Don't be alarmed, my son ; when I was young I often traversed these steeps, for though they overhang the sea, they have hollows and rents. God often takes good out of evil ; I know every crevice and step down here, and what I did then for vanity, will enable me now, perhaps, to save a poor soul. True, it needs great strength of muscle as well as of nerve to scramble down this wild place, but though I'm old my feet are still used to the rocks, and I feel myself as strong this blessed night as I was forty

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »