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The Mystery of Witch-Face Mountain and Other Stories   By: (1850-1922)

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THE MYSTERY OF WITCH FACE MOUNTAIN

CHARLES EGBERT CRADDOCK

THE MYSTERY OF WITCH FACE MOUNTAIN

AND OTHER STORIES

BY

CHARLES EGBERT CRADDOCK

BOSTON AND NEW YORK HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY The Riverside Press, Cambridge 1895

Copyright, 1895, BY MARY N. MURFREE.

All rights reserved.

The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., U. S. A.

Electrotyped and Printed by H. O. Houghton & Co.

CONTENTS.

PAGE THE MYSTERY OF WITCH FACE MOUNTAIN 1 TAKING THE BLUE RIBBON AT THE COUNTY FAIR 165 THE CASTING VOTE 200

THE MYSTERY OF WITCH FACE MOUNTAIN.

I.

The beetling crags that hang here and there above the gorge hold in their rugged rock sculpture no facial similitudes, no suggestions. The jagged outlines of shelving bluffs delineate no gigantic profile against the sky beyond. One might seek far and near, and scan the vast slope with alert and expectant gaze, and view naught of the semblance that from time immemorial has given the mountain its name. Yet the imagination needs but scant aid when suddenly the elusive simulacrum is revealed to the eye. In a certain slant of the diurnal light, even on bright nights at the full of the moon, sometimes in the uncanny electric flicker smitten from a storm cloud, a gigantic peaked sinister face is limned on the bare, sandy slope, so definite, with such fixity of lineament, that one is amazed that the perception of it came no earlier, and is startled when it disappears.

Disappearing as completely as a fancy, few there are who have ever seen it who have not climbed from the herder's trail across the narrow wayside stream and up the rugged mountain slopes to the spot where it became visible. There disappointment awaits the explorer. One finds a bare and sterile space, from which the hardy chickweed can scarcely gain the sustenance for timorous sproutings; a few outcropping rocks; a series of transverse gullies here and there, washed down to deep indentations; above the whole a stretch of burnt, broken timber that goes by the name of "fire scald," and is a relic of the fury of the fire which was "set out" in the woods with the mission to burn only the leaves and undergrowth, and which, in its undisciplined strength, transcended its instructions, as it were, and destroyed great trees. And this is all. But once more, at a coigne of vantage on the opposite side of the gorge, and the experience can be utilized in differentiating the elements that go to make up the weird presentment of a human countenance. It is the fire scald that suggests the great peaked brown hood; the oblong sandy stretch forms the pallid face; the ledges outline the nose and chin and brow; the eyes look out from the deep indentations where the slope is washed by the currents of the winter rains; and here and there the gullies draw heavy lines and wrinkles. And when the wind is fresh and the clouds scud before it, in the motion of their shadows the face will seem to mow at the observer, until the belief comes very readily that it is the exact counterpart of a witch's face.

Always the likeness is pointed out and insisted on by the denizens of Witch Face Mountain, as if they had had long and intimate acquaintance with that sort of unhallowed gentry, and were especially qualified to pronounce upon the resemblance.

"Ain't it jes' like 'em, now? Ain't it the very moral of a witch?" Constant Hite demanded, one gusty day, when the shadows were a flicker in the sun, and the face seemed animated by the malice of mockery or mirth, as he pointed it out to his companion with a sort of triumph in its splenetic contortions... Continue reading book >>




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