42 THE PRINCESS AND CURDIE.
" They do say," said another, " that she has lived in the old house over there ever since the little princess left it. They say too that the housekeeper knows all about it, and is hand and glove with the old witch, I don't doubt they have many a nice airing together on broomsticks. But I don't doubt either it's all nonsense, and there's no such person at all."
"When our cow died," said another, "she was seen going round and round the cowhouse the same night. To be sure she left a fine calf behind her—I mean the cow did, not the witch. I wonder she didn't kill that too, for she'll be a far finer cow than ever her mother was."
" My old woman came upon her one night, not long before the water broke out in the mine, sitting on a stone on the hill-side with a whole congregation of cobs about her. When they saw my wife they all scampered off as fast as they could run, and where the witch was sitting there was nothing to be seen but a withered bracken bush. I make no doubt myself she was putting them up to it"
And so they went on with one foolish tale after another, while Peter put in a word now and then, and Curdie diligently held his peace. But his silence at last drew attention upon it, and one of them said,—
" Come, young Curdie, what are you thinking of ? n