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During the severe winter of 1813, two Woodmen were employed in clearing the brush-wood from some extensive woods in a remote village, situated on the coast of a north-eastern county of our island. The morning had scarcely dawned when they repaired to their labour; a deep snow, which had fallen during the night, covered the ground, and the storm still continued to render all objects indistinct, while the violence and keenness of the blast obliged the poor men to defend their faces as well as they could with their hats from it's freezing influence. The wind had so much drifted the snow in the path they had usually taken, to the part of the woods where they were engaged in their occupation, that finding it impassable, they were obliged to take a more circuitous, and nearly unfrequented way to the spot. They proceeded along a narrow foot-way (only wide enough to admit them singly), with that cheerly alacrity which health and labour give to the spirits, although poverty may frown on the individual, like the storm that must be encountered to preserve existence.
As they entered the wood, the intricacy of the path obliged them to proceed more slow and cautiously, the one who led the way singing, as he proceeded, a rustic ditty, to which the blast,“ ever and anon” sweeping through the woods, seemed to form the chorus, as it mingled with the strain.
The song suddenly ceased! the Woodman stood a moment in the attitude of observation, then impetuously rushed forward, aiming a blow with his hatchet at some object, and exclaiming, at the same moment, “ Ah! ye thief, I have nicked ye at last, I think ;" but, in the eagerness of his advance, he stumbled over the root of a tree and fell to the ground. His companion had reached the spot ere he had recovered his feet," What ails thee, William?” he inquired ;
Why, man,--art thou crazy ? I sees nothing, not I;
what thief art talking of, hey?"-"Why the fox, to
turkies that I reckoned on to pay the docter for Bessy, and the rent for my little plot come Lady-day; I'ze sure, Roger, I saw the sly thief, and I warrant ye
shall find some of my turkies there,"-pointing to a heap of dry leaves and snow, which the eddying wind seemed to have driven together. He stooped, in expectation of finding some remains of his lost treasure, but recoiled, as if horrorstruck, as he cleared the leaves from a human hand the voracious animal he had disturbed had began to devour.
“O Roger; man! it is not my turkies,” he exclaimed, “ there is Murder been done : Lord, save us, poor sinners !”—“Murder !” retorted Roger, in a more dauntless tone, “ Murder ! how can that be, and we so often about the woods, hey?" His courage, however, seemed also to fail him, as, further removing the leaves and snow, he discovered that it was really a human form that lay stretched before him,--not indeed with the horrid ghastliness of a violent death, but, as it were, in the placid stillness of profound sleep; and though death had in reality laid his blanching hand upon the cheek, the poor men were too much frightened, and the light was too imperfect for them at the moment, accurately to ascertain the fact of dissolution, although a recollection of the half-devoured hand might have been sufficient for them to judge it must be so. They stood a few moments silent, and irresolute what to do, whether to leave the body as they had found it, or endeavour to remove it to the village. “Well, Roger," at length observed William, (who, though at first thrown off his guard, possessed a large portion of that acuteness and native good sense often very conspicuous in the most untutored minds), “ Well, Roger, I see you think as I do, that we had better go to parson Albury and the 'Squire, and tell them what we have found; for you know, if we was to remove this poor creature, mayhap it may get us an ill name; there is no knowing what evil tongues will say.” Roger entirely agreed in opinion with his fellow-workman, and they agreed to repair to the Rectory, as soon as it was likely the family would be risen; in the meantime, totally incapable of commencing their usual labour, they returned to the cottage of William, to await the proper time of seeing Mr. Albury. Nor could they have taken a more judicious step, their worthy pastor being a man whose ear was ever open to the voice of distress, whose heart was ever prompt to execute the offices of humanity, however painful to his feelings, or difficult of accomplishment
He listened with lively interest to the relation of the dismayed villagers, and commended their prudence in not attempting to remove the body. He accompanied them instantly to the 'Squire's, but as that gentleman was from home, the good man fixed upon surgeon of the village as a proper person ; and attended by the two men and some labourers, with a vehicle in which to deposit the body for removal, and some restoratives, if found necessary, they repaired to the spot in anxious haste,- for Mr. Albury had much lamented that so long a time had elapsed since the discovery; from the respect and scruples of the poor men not to disturb him.
The snow-storm had ceased, and the mists were clearing before the cheerful beams of a wintry sun, when the party arrived at the wood. The body had