Page:The Partisan (revised).djvu/191
THE WITCH'S WELCOME.
light grey, and had a vicious twinkle, that did not accord with the wretched and decayed aspect of her other features. Her forehead was small, and clustered with grisly hair of mixed white and black, disordered and unbound, but still short, and with the appearance of having but lately undergone clipping at the extremities. These features, repulsive in themselves, were greatly heightened in their offensive expression by the severe mouth and sharp chin below them. The upper lip was flat, undeveloped entirely, while the lower was thrust forth in a thick curl, and, closely rising and clinging to the other, somewhat lifted her glance into a sort of insolent authority, which, sometimes accompanying aroused feeling, or an elevated mood of mind, might look like dignified superiority. The dress which she wore was of the poorest sort, the commonest white homespun of the country, probably her own manufacture, and so indifferently made, that it hung about her like a sack, and gave a full view of the bronzed and skinny neck and bosom, which a regard to her appearance might have prompted her to conceal. Beside her a couple of cats of mammoth size kept up a drowsy hum, entirely undisturbed by the yelping of the cur, which, from his little kennel at one end of the hovel, maintained a continuous clamour at the approach of Humphries. The old woman simply turned her head, for a moment, to the entrance, took the pipe from her mouth, and discharging the volume of smoke which followed it, cried harshly to the dog, as if in encouragement. Her call was answered by Humphries, who, rapping at the door, spoke civilly to the inmate.
"Now open the door, good woman. We are friends, who would speak with you. We have been caught in the storm, and want you to give us house-room till it's over."
"Friends ye may be, and ye may not. Down by the dry branch, and through the old road to mother Blonay's, is no walk that friends often take; and if ye be travellers, go ye on, for there's no accommodation for ye, and but little here ye would eat. It's a poor country y'are in, strangers, and nothing short of Dorchester, or it may be Rantowle's, will serve your turn for a tavern."
"Now, out upon you, mother! would you keep a shut door upon us, and the rain still pouring?" cried Humphries, sharply.