Page:True stories of girl heroines.djvu/382
338 True Stories of Girl Heroines
land, not far from the margin of the cliffs. The old woman went out by night to gather herbs and simples, and these she brewed over the fire by day, muttering her strange incantations the while.
Although she was known as a Black Witch in her own neighbourhood, there were many persons who bought her wares, and found them excellent for sprains, rheumatics, and the like. But nobody visited in a friendly way at the lonely hut save certain wild and fierce-looking men, who always came at night, and were generally laden with packs of merchandise, which they hid away in some secret hiding-place beneath the floor of the cottage.
This much Jessy knew from peeping through the crevices in the floor of the upper room where she slept. She was never permitted to be present when these men came. She was sent to bed up the rickety ladder ; and the ladder was invariably re- moved, so that she could not get down if she would, the bolt in the trapdoor by which she reached her attic being always drawn by the grandmother.
As the child grew to girlhood, she began to under- stand very well the nature of these visits from seafaring men. They brought smuggled goods to be concealed beneath the witch's hut, well knowing that nobody would willingly run the risk of being cursed or overlooked by the old woman. Moreover, Jessy had reason to believe that the cottage masked