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222

THE COCPLED TRAVELLERS.

in watching them hang from the branches, suspended by their curved tail, to rifle the nests of the birds, or feed on the numerous insects round them, that Arthur, in alarm, stepped back to hold his father by the arm.

“I tell you what we must do, Arthur,” said Gerald ; “ we must be linked in couples, as the travellers on the Alps are ; then, if one makes a false step, there's a chance for his mate to draw him up.”

“No bad plan, Gerald," answered Arthur; “but we must take care to coaple with judgment. The prudent or brave must take charge of the rash or the timid. I will take papa ; Jack, his unlucky sister ; Hugh, Margaret, or, more correctly, Margaret must take Hugh; Wilkins will take charge of nurse ; and you, the neglected proposer of this wise measure, cannot profit by it, unless you will submit to be guided by Baldabella, who seems to trip along with her lively burthen unapprehensive of danger.”

Hugh preferred to walk unfettered; and Arthur had no fears for the native woman, whose firm and steady step showed that she had been accustomed to such rough and scrambling paths.

Arthur, who was the first of the line, now became uneasy, as, on looking before him, he remarked that, as far as the eye could reach, there appeared to be no termination to the mountain wilderness. He could have fancied that a labyrinth of broken, precipitous, lofty, and interminable rocks shut them completely from the world. It was a bewildering prospect, and even the strong heart of Arthur almost failed him, and his head whirled at the sight of such stupendous and uncertain difficulties.

A scream from Ruth recalled him to his immediate

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duties, and on turning round he saw her much-valued basket of poultry bound down the precipice over the bushes, till it rested on a lower ledge, some hundreds of feet beneath them, where it flew open, aud the fowls, uninjured by their involuntary flight, fluttered from their prison, and began calmly to peck about for food; while the little bantam cock proclaimed his liberty by shaking his plumes and uttering his conceited hoarse crow,

“They are settlers now, Ruth,” cried Gerald, laughing; "the first colonists—regular squatters. How astonished future travellers will be when they make the curious discovery: a species of bird remarkably like Gallus Barndoorii. What grand names they will bestow on them ! and write long papers, and puzzle ornithologists.”

But the patriarch of this new species was not allowed to squat among the aborigines with impunity; his triumphant notes were answered by a crow of defiance in a less familiar tone from a splendid cock pheasant, which pounced down on the new comer with a furious peck, that the true-trained English bird, notwithstanding his foreign ancestry, could not brook. The brave little bantam retaliated boldly, and a furious combat ensued, causing even the English heps to raise their heads from their pleasant feast, and appear somewhat interested in the event; while Ruth shrieked, “He'll kill him! Jack, honey! throw a stone at him! drive him off! Chuck! chuck !"

But though Ruth's familiar cry failed to separate the combatants à loutrance, the pleased hens recognized the well-known call, and responded to it by fluttering and scrambling up the mountain side, to

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