Hugh Miller: Autobiography (8)

Home Up First Impressions Scenes and Legends Tales and Sketches The Betsey Leading Articles Miscellanea Main Index Site Search


[Previous Page]

    The one-roomed cottage which I shared with its three other inmates, did not present all the possible conveniences for study; but it had a little table in a corner, at which I contrived to write a good deal; and my book-shelf already exhibited from twenty to thirty volumes, picked up on Saturday evenings at the book-stalls of the city, and which were all accessions to my little library.  I, besides, got a few volumes to read from my friend William Ross, and a few more through my work-fellow Cha; and so my rate of acquirement in book-knowledge, if not equal to that of some former years, at least considerably exceeded what it had been in the previous season, which I had spent in the Highlands, and during which I had perused only three volumes—one of the three a slim volume of slim poems, by a lady, and the other, that rather curious than edifying work, "Presbyterian Eloquence Displayed."  The cheap literature had not yet been called into existence; and, without in the least undervaluing its advantages, it was, I daresay, better on the whole as a mental exercise, and greatly better in the provision which it made for the future, that I should have to urge my way through the works of our best writers in prose and verse—works which always made an impression on the, memory—than that I should have been engaged instead in picking up odds and ends of information from loose essays, the hasty productions of men too little vigorous, or too little at leisure, to impress upon their writings the stamp of their own individuality.  In quiet moonlight nights I found it exceedingly pleasant to saunter all alone through the Niddry woods.  Moonlight gives to even leafless groves the charms of full foliage, and conceals tameness of outline in a landscape.  I found it singularly agreeable, too, to listen, from a solitude so profound as that which a short walk secured to me, to the distant bells of the city ringing out, as the clock struck eight, the old curfew peal; and to mark, from under the interlacing boughs of a long-arched vista, the intermittent gleam of the Inchkeith light now brightening and now fading, as the lanthorn revolved.  In short, the winter passed not unpleasantly away: I had now nothing to annoy me in the work-shed; and my only serious care arose from my unlucky house in Leith, for which I found myself summoned one morning, by an officer-looking man, to pay nearly three pounds—the last instalment which I owed, I was told, as one of the heritors of the place, for its fine new church.  I must confess I was wicked enough to wish on this occasion that the property on the Coal-hill had been included in the judgment on the Musical Festival.  But shortly after, not less to my astonishment than delight, I was informed by Mr Veitch that he had at length found a purchaser for my house; and, after getting myself served heir to my father before the Court of the Canongate, and paying a large arrear of feu-duty to that venerable corporation, in which I had to recognise my feudal superior, I got myself as surely dissevered from the Coal-hill as paper and parchment could do it, and pocketed, in virtue of the transaction, a balance of about fifty pounds.  As nearly as I could calculate on what the property had cost us, from first to last, the composition which it paid was one of about five shillings in the pound.  And such was the concluding passage in the history of a legacy which threatened for a time to be the ruin of the family.  When I last passed along the Coal-hill, I saw my umquhile house existing as a bit of dingy wall, a single storey in height, and perforated by three narrow old-fashioned doors, jealously boarded up, and apparently, as in the days when it was mine, of no manner of use in the world.  I trust, however, it is no longer the positive mischief to its proprietor that it was to me.

    The busy season had now fairly commenced: wages were fast mounting up to the level of the former year, which they ultimately overtopped; and employment had become very abundant.  I found, however, that it might be well for me to return home for a few months.  The dust of the stone which I had been hewing for the last two years had begun to affect my lungs, as they had been affected in the last autumn of my apprenticeship, but much more severely; and I was too palpably sinking in flesh and strength to render it safe for me to encounter the consequences of another season of hard work as a stone-cutter.  From the stage of the malady at which I had already arrived, poor workmen, unable to do what I did, throw themselves loose from their employment, and sink in six or eight months into the grave—some at an earlier, some at a later period of life; but so general is the affection, that few of our Edinburgh stone-cutters pass their fortieth year unscathed, and not one out of every fifty of their number ever reaches his forty-fifth year.  I accordingly engaged my passage for the north in an Inverness sloop, and took leave of my few friends—of the excellent foreman of the Niddry squad, and of Cha and John Wilson, with both of whom, notwithstanding their opposite characters, I had become very intimate.  Among the rest, too, I took leave of a paternal cousin settled in Leith, the wife of a genial-hearted sailor, master of a now wholly obsolete type of vessel, one of the old Leith and London smacks, with a huge single mast, massive and tall as that of a frigate, and a main sail of a quarter of an acre.  I had received much kindness from my cousin, who, besides her relationship to my father, had been a contemporary and early friend of my mother's; and my welcome from the master her husband—one of the best-natured men I ever knew—used always to be one of the heartiest.  And after parting from Cousin Marshall, I mustered up resolution enough to call on yet another cousin.

    Cousin William, the eldest son of my Sutherlandshire aunt, had been for some years settled in Edinburgh, first as an upper clerk and manager—for, after his failure as a merchant he had to begin the world anew; and now, in the speculation year, he had succeeded in establishing a business for himself, which bore about it a hopeful and promising air so long as the over-genial season lasted, but fell, with many a more deeply-rooted establishment, in the tempest which followed.  On quitting the north, I had been charged with a letter for him by his father, which I knew, however, to be wholly recommendatory of myself, and so I had failed to deliver it.  Cousin William like Uncle James, had fully expected that I was to make my way in life in some one of the learned professions; and as his position—though, as the result unfortunately showed, a not very secure one—was considerably in advance of mine, I kept aloof from him, in the character of a poor relation, who was quite as proud as he was poor, and in the belief that his new friends, of whom, I understood, he had now well-nigh as many as before, would hold that the cousinship of a mere working man did him little credit.  He had learned from home, however, that I was in Edinburgh, and had made not a few ineffectual attempts to find me out, of which I had heard; and now, on forming my resolution to return to the north, I waited upon him at his rooms in Ambrose's Lodgings—at that time possessed of a sort of classical interest, as the famous Blackwood Club, with Christopher North at its head, used to meet in the hotel immediately below.  Cousin William had a warm heart, and received me with great kindness, though I had, of course, to submit to the scold which I deserved; and as some young friends were to look in upon him in the evening, he said, I had to do what I would fain have avoided, perform penance by waiting, on his express invitation, to meet with them.  They were, I ascertained, chiefly students of medicine and divinity, in attendance at the classes of the University, and not at all the formidable sort of persons I had feared to meet; and finding nothing very unattainable in their conversation, and as Cousin William made a dead set on me "to bring me out," I at length ventured to mingle in it, and found my reading stand me in some stead.  There was a meeting, we were told, that evening, in the apartment below, of the Blackwood Club.  The night I spent with my cousin was, if our information was correct, and the Noctes not a mere myth, one of the famous Noctes Ambrosianœ; and fain would I have seen, for but a moment, from some quiet corner, the men whose names fame had blown so widely; but I have ever been unlucky in the curiosity—though I have always strongly entertained it—which has the personal appearance of celebrated men for its object.  I had ere now several times lingered in Castle Street of a Saturday evening, opposite the house of Sir Walter Scott, in the hope of catching a glimpse of that great writer and genial man, but had never been successful.  I could fain, too, have seen Hogg (who at the time occasionally visited Edinburgh); with Jeffrey; old Dugald Stewart, who still lived; Delta, and Professor Wilson: but I quitted the place without seeing any of them; and ere I again returned to the capital, ten years after, death had been busy in the high places, and the greatest of their number was no longer to be seen.  In short, Dr M'Crie was the only man whose name promises to live, of whose personal appearance I was able to carry away with me at this time a distinct image.  Addison makes his Spectator remark, rather in joke than earnest, that "a reader seldom peruses a book with pleasure till he knows whether the writer of it be a black or a fair man, of a mild or choleric disposition, married or a bachelor, with other particulars of the like nature, that conduce very much to the right understanding of an author."  I am inclined to say nearly as much, without being the least in joke.  I think I understand an author all the better for knowing exactly how he looked.  I would have to regard the massive vehemence of the style of Chalmers as considerably less characteristic of the man, had it been dissociated from the broad chest and mighty structure of bone; and the warlike spirit which breathes, in a subdued but still very palpable form, in the historical writings of the elder M'Crie, strikes me as singularly in harmony with the military air of this Presbyterian minister of the type of Knox and Melville.  However theologians may settle the meaning of the text, it is one of the grand lessons of his writings, that such of the Churches of the Reformation as did not "take the sword, perished by the sword."

    I was accompanied to the vessel by my friend William Ross, from whom I, alas! parted for the last time; and, when stepping aboard, Cousin William, whom I had scarce expected to see, but who had snatched an hour from business, and walked down all the way to Leith to bid me farewell, came forward to grasp me by the hand.  I am not much disposed to quarrel with the pride of the working man, when according to Johnson and Chalmers, it is a defensive, not an aggressive pride; but it does at times lead him to be somewhat less than just to the better feelings of the men who occupy places in the scale a little higher than his own.  Cousin William, from whom I had kept so jealously aloof, had a heart of the finest water.  His after course was rough and unprosperous.  After the general crash of 1825-26, he struggled on in London for some six or eight years, in circumstances of great difficulty; and then, receiving some subordinate appointment in connexion with the Stipendiary Magistracy of the West Indies, he sailed for Jamaica—where, considerably turned of fifty at the time—he soon fell a victim to the climate.

    In my voyage north, I spent about half as many days on sea, between Leith Roads and the Sutors of Cromarty, as the Cunard steamers now spend in crossing the Atlantic.  I had taken a cabin passage, not caring to subject my weakened lungs to the exposure of a steerage one; but during the seven days of thick, foggy mornings, clear moonlight nights, and almost unbroken calms, both night and morning, in which we tided our slow way north, I was much in the forecastle with the men, seeing how sailors lived, and ascertaining what they were thinking about, and how.  We had rare narratives at nights—

Wonderful stories of battle and wreck,
That were told by the men of the watch.

Some of the crew had been voyagers in their time to distant parts of the world; and though no existence can be more monotonous than the every-day life of the seaman, the profession has always its bits of striking incident, that, when strung together, impart to it an air of interest which its ordinary details sadly want, and which lures but to disappoint the young lads of a romantic cast, who are led to make choice of it in its presumed character as a continued series of stirring events and exciting adventures.  What, however, struck me as curious in the narratives of my companions, was the large mixture of the supernatural which they almost always exhibited.  The story of Jack Grant the mate, given in an early chapter, may be regarded as not inadequately representative of the sailor stories which were told on deck and forecastle, along at least the northern coasts of Scotland, nearly thirty years later.  That life of peril which casts the seaman much at the mercy of every rough gale and lee-shore, and in which his calculations regarding ultimate results must be always very doubtful, has a strong tendency to render him superstitious.  He is more removed, too, than the landsman of his education and standing, from the influence of general opinion, and the mayhap over-sceptical teaching of the Press: and, as a consequence of their position and circumstances, I found, at this period, seamen of the generation to which I myself belonged as firm believers in wraiths, ghosts, and death-warnings, as the landward contemporaries of my grandfather had been sixty years before.  A series of well-written nautical tales had appeared shortly previous to this time in one of the metropolitan monthlies—the London Magazine, if I rightly remember; and I was now interested to find in one of the sailors' stories, the original of decidedly the best of their number—"The Doomed Man."  The author of the series—a Mr Hamilton, it was said, who afterwards became an Irvingite teacher, and grew too scrupulous to exercise in fiction a very pleasing pen, though he continued to employ, as a portrait-painter, a rather indifferent pencil—had evidently sought such opportunities of listening to sailors' stories as those on which I had at this time thrust myself.  Very curious materials for fiction may be found in this way by the littérateur.  It must be held that Sir Walter Scott was no incompetent judge of the capabilities, for the purposes of the novelist, of a piece of narrative; and yet we find him saying of the story told by a common sailor to his friend William Clerk, which he records in the "Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft," that "the tale, properly managed, might have made the fortune of a romancer."

    At times by day—for the sailors' stories were stories of the night—I found interesting companionship in the society of a young student of divinity, one of the passengers, who, though a lad of parts and acquirements, did not deem it beneath him to converse on literary subjects with a working man in pale moleskin, and with whom I did not again meet until many years after, when we were both actively engaged in prosecuting the same quarrel—he as one of the majority of the Presbytery of Auchterarder, and I as editor of the leading newspaper of the Non-Intrusion party.  Perhaps the respected Free Church minister of North Leith may be still able to call to memory—not, of course, the subjects, but the fact, of our discussions on literature and the belles-lettres at this time; and that, on asking me one morning whether I had not been, according to Burns "crooning to mysel'," when on deck during the previous evening, what seemed from the cadence to be verse, I ventured to submit to him, as my night's work, a few descriptive stanzas.  And, as forming in some sort a memorial of our voyage, and in order that my friendly critic may be enabled, after the lapse of considerably more than a quarter of a century, to review his judgment respecting them, I now submit them to the reader:—


Joy of the poet's soul, I court thy aid;
*             *              *             *              *              *
Around our vessel heaves the midnight wave;
The cheerless moon sinks in the western sky;
Reigns breezeless silence!—in her ocean cave
The mermaid rests, while her fond lover nigh,
Marks the pale star-beams as they fall from high,
Gilding with tremulous light her couch of sleep.
Why smile incred'lous? the rapt Muse's eye
Through earth's dark caves, o'er heaven's fair plains,
      can sweep,

Can range its hidden cell, where toils the unfathom'd

On ocean's craggy floor, beneath the shade
Of bushy rock-weed tangled, dusk, and brown,
She sees the wreck of founder'd vessel laid,
In slimy silence, many a fathom down
From where the star-beam trembles; o'er it thrown
Are heap'd the treasures men have died to gain,
And in sad mockery of the parting groan,
That bubbled 'mid the wild unpitying main,

Quick gushing o'er the bones, the restless tides complain.

Gloomy and wide rolls the sepulchral sea,
Grave of my kindred, of my sire the grave!
Perchance, where now he sleeps, a space for me
Is mark'd by Fate beneath the deep green wave.
It well may be!  Poor bosom, why dost heave
Thus wild?  Oh, many a care, troublous and dark,
On earth attends thee still; the mermaid's cave
Grief haunts not; sure 'twere pleasant there to mark,

Serene, at noontide hour, the sailor's passing barque.

Sure it were pleasant through the vasty deep,
When on its bosom plays the golden beam,
With headlong speed by bower and cave to sweep;
When flame the waters round with emerald gleam—
When, borne from high by tides and gales, the scream
Of sea-mew softened falls—when bright and gay
The crimson weeds, proud ocean's pendants, stream
From trophied wrecks and rock-towers darkly grey—

Through scenes so strangely fair 'twere pleasant, sure,
            to stray!

Why this strange thought?  If, in that ocean laid,
The ear would cease to hear, the eye to see,
Though sights and sounds like these circled my bed,
Wakeless and heavy would my slumbers be:
Though the mild soften'd sun-light beam'd on me
(If a dull heap of bones retained my name,
That bleach'd or blacken'd 'mid the wasteful sea),
Its radiance all unseen, its golden beam

In vain through coral groves or emerald roofs might

Yet dwells a spirit in this earthly frame
Which oceans cannot quench nor Time destroy;
A deathless, fadeless ray, a heavenly flame,
That pure shall rise when fails each base alloy
That earth instils, dark grief, or baseless joy:
Then shall the ocean's secrets meet its sight
For I do hold that happy souls enjoy
A vast all-reaching range of angel-flight,

From the fair source of day, even to the gates of

Now night's dark veil is rent; on yonder land,
That blue and distant rises o'er the main,
I see the purple sky of morn expand,
Scattering the gloom.  Then cease my feeble strain:
When darkness reign'd, thy whisperings soothed
      my pain—
The pain by weariness and languor bred.
But now my eyes shall greet a lovelier scene
Than fancy pictured: from his dark green bed

Soon shall the orb of day exalt his glorious head.

    I found my two uncles, Cousin George, and several other friends and relations, waiting for me on the Cromarty beach; and was soon as happy among them as a man suffering a good deal from debility, but not much from positive pain, could well be.  When again, about ten years after this time, I visited the south of Scotland, it was to receive the instructions necessary to qualify me for a bank accountant; and when I revisited it at a still later period, it was to undertake the management of a metropolitan newspaper.  In both these instances I mingled with a different sort of persons from those with whom I had come in contact in the years 1824-25.  And, in now taking leave of the lower class, I may be permitted to make a few general remarks regarding them.

    It is a curious change which has taken place in this country during the last hundred years.  Up till the times of the Rebellion of 1745, and a little later, it was its remoter provinces that formed its dangerous portions; and the effective strongholds from which its advance-guards of civilisation and good order gradually gained upon old anarchy and barbarism, were its great towns.  We are told by ecclesiastical historians, that in Rome, after the age of Constantine, the term villager (Pagus) came to be regarded as synonymous with heathen, from the circumstance that the worshippers of the gods were then chiefly to be found in remote country places; and we know that in Scotland the Reformation pursued a course exactly resembling that of Christianity itself in the old Roman world: it began in the larger and more influential towns; and it was in the remoter country districts that the displaced religion lingered longest, and found its most efficient champions and allies.  Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth, St. Andrews, Dundee, were all Protestant, and sent out their well-taught burghers to serve in the army of the Lords of the Congregation, when Huntly and Hamilton were arming their vassals to contend for the obsolete faith.  In a later age the accessible Lowlands were imbued with an evangelistic Presbyterianism, when the more mountainous and inaccessible provinces of the country were still in a condition to furnish, in what was known as the Highland Host, a dire instrument of persecution.  Even as late as the middle of the last century, "Sabbath," according to a popular writer, "never got aboon the Pass of Killiecrankie;" and the Stuarts, exiled for their adherence to Popery, continued to found almost their sole hopes of restoration on the swords of their co-religionists the Highlanders.  During the last hundred years, however, this old condition of matters has been strangely reversed; and it is in the great towns that Paganism now chiefly prevails.  In at least their lapsed classes—a rapidly increasing proportion of their population—it is those cities of our country which first caught the light of religion and learning, that have become pre-eminently its dark parts; just, if I may employ the comparison, as it is those portions of the moon which earliest receive the light when she is in her increscent state, and shine like a thread of silver in the deep blue of the heavens, that first become dark when she falls into the wane.

    It is mainly during the elapsed half of the present century that this change for the worse has taken place in the large towns of Scotland.  In the year 1824 it was greatly less than half accomplished; but it was fast going on; and I saw, partially at least, the processes in operation through which it has been effected.  The cities of the country have increased their population during the past fifty years greatly beyond the proportion of its rural districts—a result in part of the revolutions which have taken place in the agricultural system of the Lowlands, and of the clearances of the Highlands; and in part also of that extraordinary development of the manufactures and trade of the kingdom which the last two generations have witnessed.  Of the wilder Edinburgh mechanics with whom I formed at this time any acquaintance, less than one-fourth were natives of the place.  The others were mere settlers in it, who had removed mostly from country districts and small towns, in which they had been known, each by his own circle of neighbourhood, and had lived, in consequence, under the wholesome influence of public opinion.  In Edinburgh—grown too large at the time to permit men to know aught of their neighbours—they were set free from this wholesome influence, and, unless when under the guidance of higher principle, found themselves at liberty to do very much as they pleased.  And—with no general opinion to control—cliques and parties of their wilder spirits soon formed in their sheds and workshops a standard of opinion of their own, and found only too effectual means of compelling their weaker comrades to conform to it.  And hence a great deal of wild dissipation and profligacy, united, of course, to the inevitable improvidence.  And though dissipation and improvidence are quite compatible with intelligence in the first generation, they are sure always to part company from it in the second.  The family of the unsteady spendthrift workman is never a well-taught family.  It is reared up in ignorance; and, with evil example set before and around it, it almost necessarily takes its place among the lapsed classes.  In the third generation the descent is of course still greater and more hopeless than in the second.  There is a type of even physical degradation already manifesting itself in some of our large towns, especially among degraded females, which is scarce less marked than that exhibited by the negro, and which both my Edinburgh and Glasgow readers must have often remarked on the respective High Streets of these cities.  The features are generally bloated and overcharged, the profile lines usually concave, the complexion coarse and high, and the expression that of a dissipation and sensuality become chronic and inherent.  And how this class—constitutionally degraded, and with the moral sense, in most instances, utterly undeveloped and blind—are ever to be reclaimed, it is difficult to see.  The immigrant Irish form also a very appreciable element in the degradation of our large towns.  They are, however, pagans, not of the new, but of the old type: and are chiefly formidable from the squalid wretchedness of a physical character which they have transferred from their mud cabins into our streets and lanes, and from the course of ruinous competition into which they have entered with the unskilled labourers of the country, and which has had the effect of reducing our lowlier countrymen to a humbler level than they perhaps ever occupied before.  Meanwhile, this course of degradation is going on, in all our larger towns, in an ever-increasing ratio; and all that philanthropy and the Churches are doing to counteract it is but as the discharge of a few squirts on a conflagration.  It is, I fear, preparing terrible convulsions for the future.  When the dangerous classes of a country were located in its remote districts, as in Scotland in the early half of the last century, it was comparatively easy to deal with them: but the sans culottes of Paris in its First Revolution, placed side by side with its executive Government, proved very formidable indeed; nor is it, alas! very improbable that the ever-growing masses of our large towns, broken loose from the sanction of religion and morals, may yet terrible avenge on the upper classes and the churches of the country the indifferency with which they have been suffered to sink.

    I was informed by Cousin George, shortly after my arrival, that my old friend of the Doocot Cave, after keeping shop as a grocer for two years, had given up business, and gone to college to prepare himself for the Church.  He had just returned home, added George, after completing his first session, and had expressed a strong desire to meet with me.  His mother, too, had joined in the invitation—would I not take tea with them that evening?—and Cousin George had been asked to accompany me.  I demurred; but at length set out with George, and, after an interruption in our intercourse of about five years, spent the evening with my old friend.  And for years after we were inseparable companions, who, when living in the same neighbourhood, spent together almost every hour not given to private study or inevitable occupation, and who, when separated by distance, exchanged letters enough to fill volumes.  We had parted boys, and had now grown men; and for the first few weeks we took stock of each other's acquirements and experiences, and the measure of each other's calibre, with some little curiosity.  The mind of my friend had developed rather in a scientific than literary direction.  He afterwards carried away the first mathematical prize of his year at college, and the second in natural philosophy; and he had, I now found, great acuteness as a metaphysician, and no inconsiderable acquaintance with the antagonistic positions of the schools of Hume and Reid.  On the other hand, my opportunities of observation had been perhaps greater than his, and my acquaintance with men, and even with books, more extensive; and in the interchange of idea which we carried on, both were gainers; he occasionally picked up in our conversations a fact of which he had been previously ignorant; and I, mayhap, learned to look more closely than before at an argument.  I introduced him to the Eathie Lias, and assisted him in forming a small collection, which, ere he ultimately dissipated it, contained some curious fossils—among the others the second specimen of Pterichthys ever found; and he, in turn, was able to give me a few geological notions, which, though quite crude enough—for natural science was not taught at the university which he attended—I found of use in the arrangement of my facts—now become considerable enough to stand in need of those threads of theory without which large accumulations of fact refuse to hang together in the memory.  There was one special hypothesis which he had heard broached, and the utter improbability of which I was not yet geologist enough to detect, which for a time filled my whole imagination.  It had been said, he told me, that the ancient world, in which my fossils, animal and vegetable, had flourished and decayed—a world greatly older than that before the Flood—had been tenanted by rational, responsible beings, for whom, as for the race to which we ourselves belong, a resurrection and a day of final judgment had awaited.  But many thousands of years had elapsed since that day—emphatically the last to the Pre-Adamite race—had come and gone.  Of all the accountable creatures that had been summoned to its bar, bone had been gathered to its bone, so that not a vestige of the framework of their bodies occurred in the rocks or soils in which they had been originally inhumed; and, in consequence, only the remains of their irresponsible contemporaries, the inferior animals, and of the vegetable productions of their fields and forests, were now to be found.  The dream filled for a time my whole imagination; but though poetry might find ample footing on a hypothesis so suggestive and bold, I need scarce say that it has itself no foundation in science.  Man had no responsible predecessor on earth.  At the determined time, when his appointed habitation was completely fitted for him, he came and took possession of it; but the old geologic ages had been ages of immaturity—days whose work as a work of promise was "good," but not yet "very good," nor yet ripened for the appearance of a moral agent, whose nature it is to be a fellow-worker with the Creator in relation to even the physical and the material.  The planet, which we inhabit seems to have been prepared for man, and for man only.

    Partly through my friend, but in part also from the circumstance that I retained a measure of intimacy with such of my schoolfellows as had subsequently prosecuted their education at college, I was acquainted, during the later years in which I wrought as a mason, with a good many university-taught lads; and I sometimes could not avoid comparing them in my mind with working men of, as nearly as I could guess, the same original calibre.  I did not always find that general superiority on the side of the scholar which the scholar himself usually took for granted.  What he had specially studied he knew, save in rare and exceptional cases, better than the working man; but while the student had been mastering his Greek and Latin, and expatiating in Natural Philosophy and the Mathematics, the working man, if of an inquiring mind, had been doing something else; and it is at least a fact, that all the great readers of my acquaintance at this time—the men most extensively acquainted with English literature—were not the men who had received the classical education.  On the other hand, in framing, an argument, the advantage lay with the scholars.  In that common sense, however, which reasons but does not argue, and which enables men to pick their stepping prudently through the journey of life, I found that the classical education gave no superiority whatever; nor did it appear to form so fitting an introduction to the realities of business as that course of dealing with things tangible and actual in which the working man has to exercise his faculties, and from which he derives his experience.  One cause of the over-low estimate which the classical scholar so often forms of the intelligence of that class of the people to which our skilled mechanics belong, arises very much from the forwardness of a set of blockheads who are always sure to obtrude themselves upon his notice, and who come to be regarded by him as average specimens of their order.  I never yet knew a truly intelligent mechanic obtrusive.  Men of the stamp of my two uncles, and of my friend William Ross, never press themselves on the notice of the classes above them.  A minister newly settled in a charge for instance, often finds that it is the dolts of his flock that first force themselves upon his acquaintance.  I have heard the late Mr Stewart of Cromarty remark, that the humbler dunderheads of the parish had all introduced themselves to his acquaintance long ere he found out its clever fellows.  And hence often sad mistakes on the part of a clergyman in dealing with the people.  It seems never to strike him that there may be among them men of his own calibre, and, in certain practical departments, even better taught than he; and that this superior class is always sure to lead the others.  And in preaching down to the level of the men of humbler capacity, he fails often to preach to men of any capacity at all, and is of no use.  Some of the clerical contemporaries of Mr Stewart used to allege that, in exercising his admirable faculties in the theological field, he sometimes forgot to lower himself to his people, and so preached over their heads.  And at times, when they themselves came to occupy his pulpit, as occasionally happened, they addressed to the congregation sermons quite simple enough for even children to comprehend.  I taught at the time a class of boys in the Cromarty Sabbath-School, and invariably found on these occasions, that while the memories of my pupils were charged to the full with the striking thoughts and graphic illustrations of the very elaborate discourses deemed too high for them, they remembered of the very simple ones, specially lowered to suit narrow capacities, not a single word or note.  All the attempts at originating a cheap literature that have failed, have been attempts pitched too low; the higher toned efforts have usually succeeded.  If the writer of these chapters has been in any degree successful in addressing himself as a journalist to the Presbyterian people of Scotland, it has always been, not by writing down to them, but by doing his best on all occasions to write up to them.  He has ever thought of them as represented by his friend William, his uncles, and his Cousin George—by shrewd old John Fraser, and his reckless though very intelligent acquaintance Cha; and by addressing to them on every occasion as good sense and as solid information as he could possibly muster, he has at times succeeded in catching their ear, and perhaps, in some degree, in influencing their judgment.


Beware, Lorenzo, a slow, sudden death.—YOUNG.

THERE was one special subject which my friend in our quiet evening walks, used to urge seriously upon my attention.  He had thrown up, under strong religious impressions what promised to be so good a business, that in two years he had already saved money enough to meet the expenses of a college course of education.  And assuredly, never did man determine on entering the ministry with views more thoroughly disinterested than his.  Patronage ruled supreme in the Scottish Establishment at the time; and my friend had no influence and no patron; but he could not see his way clear to join with the Evangelical Dissenters or the Secession; and believing that the most important work on earth is the work of saving souls, he had entered on his new course in the full conviction that, if God had work for him of this high character to do, He would find him an opportunity of doing it.  And now, thoroughly in earnest, and as part of the special employment to which he had devoted himself, he set himself to press upon my attention the importance, in their personal bearing, of religious concerns.

    I was not unacquainted with the standard theology of the Scottish Church.  In the parish school, I had, indeed, acquired no ideas on the subject; and though I now hear a good deal said, chiefly with a controversial bearing, about the excellent religious influence of our parochial seminaries, I never knew any one who owed other than the merest smattering of theological knowledge to these institutions, and not a single individual who had ever derived from them any tincture, even the
slightest, of religious feeling.  In truth, during almost the whole of the last century, and for at least the first forty years of the present, the people of Scotland were, with all their faults, considerably more Christian than the larger part of their schoolmasters.  So far as I can remember, I carried in my memory from school only a single remark at all theological in its character, and it was of a kind suited rather to do harm than good.  In reading in the class one Saturday morning a portion of the Hundred and Nineteenth Psalm, I was told by the master that that ethical poem was a sort of alphabetical acrostic—a circumstance, he added, that accounted for its broken and inconsecutive character as a composition.  Chiefly, however, from the Sabbath-day catechizings to which I had been subjected during boyhood by my uncles, and latterly from the old divines, my Uncle Sandy's favourites, and from the teachings of the pulpit, I had acquired a considerable amount of religious knowledge.  I had thought, too, a good deal about some of the peculiar doctrines of Calvinism, in their character as abstruse positions—such as the doctrines of the Divine decrees, and of man's inability to assume the initiative in the work of his own conversion.  I had, besides, a great admiration of the Bible, especially of its narrative and poetical parts; and could scarce give strong enough expression to the contempt which I entertained for the vulgar and tasteless sceptics who, with Paine at their head, could speak of it as a weak or foolish book.  Further, reared in a family circle, some of whose members were habitually devout, and all of whom respected and stood up for religion, and were imbued with the stirring ecclesiastical traditions of their country, I felt that the religious aide in any quarrel had a sort of hereditary claim upon me.  I believe I may venture to say, that previous to this time I had never seen a religious man badgered for his religion, and much in a minority, without openly taking part with him; nor is it impossible that, in a time of trouble, I might have almost deserved the character given by old John Howie [109] to a rather notable "gentleman sometimes called Burley," who, "although he was by some reckoned none of the most religious," joined himself to the suffering party, and was "always zealous and honest-hearted."  And yet my religion was a strangely incongruous thing.  It took the form, in my mind, of a mass of indigested theology, with here and there a prominent point developed out of due proportion, from the circumstance that I had thought upon it for myself; and while entangled, if I may so speak, amid the recesses and under cover of the general chaotic mass, there harboured no inconsiderable amount of superstition, there rested over it the clouds of a dreary scepticism.  I have sometimes, in looking back on the doubts and questionings of this period, thought, and perhaps even spoken of myself as an infidel.  But an infidel I assuredly was not my belief was at least as real as my incredulity, and had, I am inclined to think, a much deeper seat in my mind.  But wavering between the two extremes—now a believer, and anon a sceptic—the belief usually exhibiting itself as a strongly-based instinct—the scepticism as the result of some intellectual process—I lived on for years in a sort of uneasy see-saw condition, without any middle ground between the two extremes, on which I could at once reason and believe.

    That middle ground I now succeeded in finding.  It is at once delicate and dangerous to speak of one's own spiritual condition, or of the emotional sentiments on which one's conclusions regarding it are often so doubtfully founded.  Egotism in the religious form is perhaps more tolerated than in any other; but it is not on that account less perilous to the egotist himself.  There need be, however, less delicacy in speaking of one's beliefs than of one's feelings; and I trust I need not hesitate to say, that I was led to see at this time, through the instrumentality of my friend, that my theologic system had previously wanted a central object, to which the heart, as certainly as the intellect, could attach itself; and that the true centre of an efficient Christianity is, as the name ought of itself to indicate, "the Word made Flesh."  Around this central sun of the Christian system—appreciated, however, not as a doctrine which is a mere abstraction, but as a Divine Person—so truly Man, that the affections of the human heart can lay hold upon Him, and so truly God, that the mind, through faith, can at all times and in all places be brought into direct contact with Him—all that is really religious takes its place in a subsidiary and subordinate relation.  I say subsidiary and subordinate.  The Divine Man is the great attractive centre, the sole gravitating point of a system which owes to Him all its coherency, and which would be but a chaos were He away.  It seems to be the existence of the human nature in this central and paramount object that imparts to Christianity, in its subjective character, its peculiar power of influencing and controlling the human mind.  There may be men who, through a peculiar idiosyncrasy of constitution, are capable of loving, after a sort, a mere abstract God, unseen and inconceivable; though, as shown by the air of sickly sentimentality borne by almost all that has been said and written on the subject, the feeling in its true form must be a very rare and exceptional one.  In all my experience of men, I never knew a genuine instance of it.  The love of an abstract God seems to be as little natural to the ordinary human constitution as the love of an abstract sun or planet.  And so it will be found, that in all the religions that have taken strong hold of the mind of man, the element of a vigorous humanity has mingled, in the character of its gods, with the theistic element.  The gods of classic mythology were simply powerful men set loose from the tyranny of the physical laws; and, in their purely human character, as warm friends and deadly enemies, they were both feared and loved.  And so the belief which bowed at their shrines ruled the old civilized world for many centuries.  In the great ancient mythologies of the East—Buddism and Brahmanism—both very influential forms of belief—we have the same elements, genuine humanity added to god-like power.  In the faith of the Moslem, the human character of the man Mahommed, elevated to an all-potential vicegerency in things sacred, gives great strength to what without it would be but a weak theism.  Literally it is Allah's supreme prophet that maintains for Allah himself a place in the Mahommedan mind.  Again, in Popery we find an excess of humanity scarce less great than in the classical mythology itself, and with nearly corresponding results.  Though the Virgin Mother takes, as queen of heaven, a first place in the scheme, and forms in that character a greatly more interesting goddess than any of the old ones who counselled Ulysses, or responded to the love of Anchises or of Endymion, she has to share her empire with the minor saints, and to recognise in them a host of rivals.  But undoubtedly to this popular element Popery owes not a little of its indomitable strength.  In, however, all these forms of religion whether inherently false from the beginning, or so overlaid in some after stage by the fictitious and the untrue as to have their original substratum of truth covered up by error and fable, there is such a want of coherency between the theistic and human elements, that we always find them undergoing a process of separation.  We see the human element ever laying hold on the popular mind, and there manifesting itself in the form of a vigorous superstition; and the theistic element, on the other hand, recognised by the cultivated intellect as the exclusive and only element, and elaborated into a sort of natural theology, usually rational enough in its propositions, but for any practical purpose always feeble and in efficient.  Such a separation of the two elements took place of old in the ages of the classical mythology; and hence the very opposite characters of the wild but genial and popular fables so exquisitely adorned by the poets, and the rational but uninfluential doctrines received by a select few from the philosophers.  Such a separation took place, too, in France in the latter half of the last century; and still on the European Continent generally do we find this separation represented by the asserters of a weak theism on the one hand, and of a superstitious saint, worship on the other.  In the false or corrupted religions, the two indispensable elements of Divinity and Humanity appear as if blended together by a mere mechanical process; and it is their natural tendency to separate, through a sort of subsidence on the part of the human element from the theistic one, as if from some lack of the necessary affinities.  In Christianity, on the other hand, when existing in its integrity as the religion of the New Testament, the union of the two elements is complete: it partakes of the nature, not of a mechanical, but of a chemical mixture; and its great central doctrine—the true Humanity and true Divinity of the Adorable Saviour—is a truth equally receivable by at once the humblest and the loftiest intellects.  Poor dying children possessed of but a few simple ideas, and men of the most robust intellects, such as the Chalmerses, Fosters, and Halls of the Christian Church, find themselves equally able to rest their salvation on the man "Christ, who is over all, God blessed for ever."  Of this fundamental truth of the two natures, that condensed enunciation of the gospel which forms the watchward of our faith, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," is a direct and palpable embodiment; and Christianity is but a mere name without it.

    I was impressed at this time by another very remarkable feature in the religion of Christ in its subjective character.  Kames, in his "Art of Thinking," illustrates, by a curious story, one of his observations on the "nature of man."  "Nothing is more common," he says, "than love converted into hatred; and we have seen instances of hatred converted into love."  And in exemplifying the remark, he relates his anecdote of "Unnion and Valentine."  Two English soldiers, who fought in the wars of Queen Anne—the one a petty officer, the other a private sentinel—had been friends and comrades for years; but, quarrelling in some love affair, they became bitter enemies.  The officer made an ungenerous use of his authority, and so annoyed and persecuted the sentinel as almost to fret him into madness; and he was frequently heard to say that he would die to be avenged of him.  Whole months were spent in the infliction of injuries on the one side, and in the venting of complaints on the other; when, in the midst of their mutual rage, they were both selected, as men of tried courage, to share in some desperate attack, which was, however, unsuccessful; and the officer, in the retreat, was disabled, and struck down by a shot in the thigh.  "Oh, Valentine! and will you leave me here to perish?" he exclaimed, as his old comrade rushed past him.  The poor injured man immediately returned; and, in the midst of a thick fire, bore off his wounded enemy to what seemed a place of safety, when he was struck by a chance ball, and fell dead under his burden.  The officer, immediately forgetting his wound, rose up, tearing his hair; and, throwing himself on the bleeding body, he cried, "Ah, Valentine! and was it for me, who have so barbarously used thee, that thou has died?  I will not live after thee."  He was not by any means to be forced from the corpse; but was removed with it bleeding in his arms, and attended with tears by all his comrades, who knew of his harshness to the deceased.  When brought to a tent, his wounds were dressed by force; but the next day, still calling on Valentine, and lamenting his cruelties to him, he died in the pangs of remorse and despair.

    This surely is a striking story; but the commonplace remark based upon it by the philosopher is greatly less so.  Men who have loved do often learn to hate the object of their affections; and men who have hated sometimes learn to love: but the portion of the anecdote specially worthy of remark appears to be that which, dwelling on the o'ermastering remorse and sorrow of the rescued soldier, shows how effectually his poor dead comrade had, by dying for him "while he was yet his enemy," "heaped coals of fire upon his head."  And such seems to be one of the leading principles on which, with a Divine adaptation to the heart of man, the scheme of Redemption has been framed.  The Saviour approved His love, "in that while we were yet sinners, He died for us."  There is an inexpressibly great power in this principle; and many a deeply-stirred heart has felt it to its core.  The theologians have perhaps too frequently dwelt on the Saviour's vicarious satisfaction for human sin in relation to the offended justice of the Father.  How, or on what principle, the Father was satisfied, I know not, and may never know.  The enunciation regarding vicarious satisfaction may be properly received in faith as a fact, but, I suspect, not properly reasoned upon until we shall be able to bring the moral sense of Deity, with its requirements, within the limits of a small and trivial logic.  But the thorough adaptation of the scheme to man's nature is greatly more appreciable, and lies fully within the reach of observation and experience.  And how thorough that adaptation is, all who have really looked at the matter ought to be competent to say.  Does an earthly priesthood, vested with alleged powers to interpose between God and man, always originate an ecclesiastical tyranny, which has the effect, in the end, of shutting up the mass of men from their Maker?—here is there a High Priest passed into the heavens—the only Priest whom the evangelistic Protestant recognises as really such—to whom, in his character of Mediator between God and man, all may apply, and before whom there need be felt none of that abject prostration of the spirit and understanding which man always experiences when he bends before the merely human priest.  Is self-righteousness the besetting infirmity of the religious man?—in the scheme of vicarious righteousness it finds no footing.  The self-approving Pharisee must be content to renounce his own merits, ere he can have part or lot in the fund of merit which alone avails; and yet without personal righteousness he can have no evidence whatever that he has an interest in the all-prevailing imputed righteousness.  But it is in the closing scene of life, when man's boasted virtues become so intangible in his estimation that they elude his grasp, and sins and shortcomings, little noted before, start up around him like spectres, that the scheme of Redemption appears worthy of the infinite wisdom and goodness of God, and when what the Saviour did and suffered seems of efficacy enough to blot out the guilt of every offence.  It is when the minor lights of comfort are extinguished that the Sun of Righteousness shines forth, and more than compensates for them all.

    The opinions which I formed at this time on this matter of prime importance I found no after occasion to alter or modify.  On the contrary, in passing from the subjective to the objective view, I have seen the doctrine of the union of the two natures greatly confirmed.  The truths of geology appear destined to exercise in the future no inconsiderable influence on natural theology; and with this especial doctrine they seem very much in accordance.  Of that long and stately march of creation with which the records of the stony science bring us acquainted, the distinguishing characteristic is progress.  There appears to have been a time when there existed on our planet only dead matter unconnected with vitality; and then a time in which plants and animals of a low order began to be, but in which even fishes, the humblest of the vertebrata, were so rare and exceptionable, that they occupied a scarce appreciable place in Nature.  Then came an age of fishes huge of size, and that to the peculiar ichthyic organization added certain well-marked characteristics of the reptilian class immediately above them.  And then, after a time, during which the reptile had occupied a place as inconspicuous as that occupied by the fish in the earlier periods of animal life, an age of reptiles of vast bulk and high standing was ushered in.  And when, in the lapse of untold ages, it also had passed away, there succeeded an age of great mammals.  Molluscs, fishes, reptiles, mammals, had each in succession their periods of vast extent; and then there came a period that differed even more, in the character of its master-existence, from any of these creations, than they, with their many vitalities, had differed from the previous inorganic period in which life had not yet begun to be.  The human period began—the period of a fellow-worker with God, created in God's own image.  The animal existences of the previous ages formed if I may so express myself, mere figures in the landscapes of the great garden which they inhabited.  Man, on the other hand, was placed in it to "keep and to dress it; " and such has been the effect of his labours, that they have altered and improved the face of whole continents.  Our globe, even as it might be seen from the moon, testifies, over its surface, to that unique nature of man, ushered in by any of the inferior animals, which renders him, in things physical and natural, a fellow-worker with the Creator who first produced it.  And of the identity of at least his intellect with that of his Maker, and, of consequence, of the integrity, of the revelation which declares that he was created in God's own image, we have direct evidence in his ability of not only conceiving of God's contrivances, but even of reproducing them; and this, not as a mere imitator, but as an original thinker.  He may occasionally borrow the principles of his contrivances from the works of the Original Designer, but much more frequently, in studying the works of the Original Designer does he discover in them the principles of his own contrivances.  He has not been an imitator: he has merely been exercising, with resembling results, the resembling mind, i.e., the mind made in the Divine image.  But the existing scene of things is not destined to be the last.  High as it is, it is too low and too imperfect to be regarded as God's finished work: it is merely one of the progressive dynasties; and Revelation and the implanted instincts of our nature alike teach us to anticipate a glorious terminal dynasty.  In the first dawn of being, simple vitality was united to matter: the vitality thus united became, in each succeeding period, of a higher and yet higher order; it was in succession the vitality of the mollusc, of the fish, of the reptile, of the sagacious mammal, and, finally, of responsible, immortal man, created in the image of God.  What is to be the next advance?  Is there to be merely a repetition of the past—an introduction a second time of "man made in the image of God?"  No!  The geologist, in the tables of stone which form his records, finds no example of dynasties once passed away again returning.  There has been no repetition of the dynasty of the fish—of the reptile—of the mammal.  The dynasty of the future is to have glorified man for its inhabitant; but it is to be the dynasty—the "kingdom"—not of glorified man made in the image of God, but of God himself in the form of man.  In the doctrine of the two natures, and in the further doctrine that the terminal dynasty is to be peculiarly the dynasty of Him in whom the natures are united, we find that required progression beyond which progress cannot go.  Creation and the Creator meet at one point, and in one person.  The long ascending line from dead matter to man has been a progress Godwards—not an asymptotical progress, but destined from the beginning to furnish a point of union; and, occupying that point as true God and true man, as Creator and created, we recognise the adorable Monarch of all the Future.  It is, as urged by the Apostle, the especial glory of our race, that it should have furnished that point of contact at which Godhead has united Himself, not to man only, but also, through man, to His own Universe—to the Universe of Matter and of Mind.

    I remained for several months in delicate and somewhat precarious health.  My lungs had received more serious injury than I had at first supposed; and it seemed at one time rather doubtful whether the severe mechanical irritation which had so fretted them that the air-passages seemed overcharged with matter and stone-dust, might not pass into the complaint which it stimulated, and become confirmed consumption.  Curiously enough, my comrades had told me in sober earnest—among the rest, Cha, a man of sense and observation—that I would pay the forfeit of my sobriety by being sooner affected than they by the stone-cutter's malady: "a good bouse" gave, they said, a wholesome fillip to the constitution, and "cleared the sulphur off the lungs;" and mine would suffer for want of the medicine which kept theirs clean.  I know not whether there was virtue in their remedy: it seems just possible that the shock given to the constitution by an overdose of strong drink may in certain cases be medicinal in its effects; but they were certainly not in error in their prediction.  Among the hewers of the party I was the first affected by the malady.  I still remember the rather pensive than sad feeling with which I used to contemplate, at this time, an early death, and the intense love of nature that drew me, day after day, to the beautiful scenery which surrounds my native town, and which I loved all the more from the consciousness that my eyes might so soon close upon it for ever.  "It is a pleasant thing to behold the sun."  Among my manuscripts—useless scraps of paper, to which, however, in their character as fossils of the past epochs of my life, I cannot help attaching an interest not at all in themselves—I find the mood represented by only a few almost infantile verses, addressed to a docile little girl of five years, my eldest sister by my mother's second marriage, and my frequent companion, during my illness, in my short walks.


            Sister Jeanie, haste, we'll go
        To whare the white-starred gowans grow,
        Wi' the puddock flower o' gowden hue,
The snaw-drap white and the bonny vi'let blue.

            Sister Jeanie, haste, we'll go
        To whare the blossomed lilacs grow—
        To whare the pine-tree, dark an' high,
Is pointing its tap at the cludless sky.

            Jeanie, mony a merry lay
        Is sung in the young-leaved woods to-day;
        Flits on light wing the dragon-flee,
An' hums on the flowrie the big red-bee.

            Down the burnie wirks its way
        Aneath the bending birken spray,
        An' wimples roun' the green moss-stane,
An' mourns, I kenna why, wi' a ceaseless mane.

            Jeanie, come; thy days o' play
        Wi' autumn-tide shall pass away;
        Sune shall these scenes, in darkness cast,
Be ravaged wild by the wild winter blast.

            Though to thee a spring shall rise,
        An' scenes as fair salute thine eyes;
        An' though, through many a cludless day,
My winsome Jean shall be heartsome and gay:

            He wha grasps thy little hand
        Nae langer at thy side shall stand,
        Nor o'er the flower-besprinkled brae
Lead thee the low'nest and the bonniest way.

            Dost thou see yon yard sae green,
        Spreckled wi' mony a mossy stane?
        A few short weeks o' pain shall fly,
An' asleep in that bed shall thy puir brither lie.

            Then thy mither's tears awhile
        May chide thy joy an' damp thy smile;
        But sune ilk grief shall wear awa',
And I'll be forgotten by ane an' by a'.

            Dinna think the thought is sad;
        Life vexed me aft, but this mak's glad:
        When cauld my heart and closed my ee',
Bonny shall the dreams o' my slumbers be.

    At length, however, my constitution threw off the malady; though—as I still occasionally feel—the organ affected never quite regained its former vigour; and I began to experience the quiet but exquisite enjoyment of the convalescent.  After long and depressing illness, youth itself appears to return with returning health; and it seems to be one of the compensating provisions, that while men of robust constitution and rigid organization get gradually old in their spirits and obtuse in their feelings, the class that have to endure being many times sick have the solace of being also many times young.  The reduced and weakened frame becomes as susceptible of the emotional as in tender and delicate youth.  I know not that I ever spent three happier months than the autumnal months of this year, when gradually picking up flesh and strength amid my old haunts, the woods and caves.  My friend had left me early in July for Aberdeen, where he had gone to prosecute his studies under the eye of a tutor, one Mr Duncan, whom he described to me in his letters as perhaps the most deeply learned man he had ever seen.  "You may ask him a common question," said my friend, "without getting an answer—for he has considerably more than the average absentness of the great scholar about him; but if you inquire of him the state of any one controversy ever agitated in the Church or the world, he will give it you at once, with, if you please, all the arguments on both sides."  The trait struck me at the time as one of some mark; and I thought of it many years after, when fame had blown the name of my friend's tutor pretty widely as Dr Duncan, Hebrew Professor in our Free Church College, and one of the most profoundly learned of Orientalists.  Though separated, however, from my friend, I found a quiet pleasure in following up, in my solitary walks, the views which his conversations had suggested; and in a copy of verses, the production of this time, which, with all their poverty and stiffness, please me as true, and as representative of the convalescent feeling, I find direct reference to the beliefs which he had laboured to instil.  My verses are written in a sort of metre which, in the hands of Collins became flexible and exquisitely poetic, and which in those of Kirke White is at least pleasing, but of which we find poor enough specimens in the "Anthologies" of Southey, and which perhaps no one so limited in his metrical vocabulary, and so defective in his musical ear, as the writer of these chapters, should ever have attempted.


No star of golden influence hailed the birth
Of him who, all unknown and lonely, pours,
        As fails the light of eve,
        His pensive, artless song;
Yea, those who mark out honour, ease, wealth, fame,
As man's sole joys, shall find no joy in him;
        Yet of far nobler kind
        His silent pleasures prove.
For not unmarked by him the ways of men;
Nor yet to him the ample page unknown,
        Where, traced by Nature's hand,
        Is many a pleasing line.
Oh ! when the world's dull children bend the knee,
Meanly obsequious, to some mortal god,
        It yields no vulgar joy
        Alone to stand aloof;
Or when they jostle on wealth's crowded road,
And swells the tumult on the breeze, 'tis sweet,
        Thoughtful, at length reclined,
        To list the wrathful hum.
What though the weakly gay affect to scorn
The loitering dreamer of life's darkest shade,
        Stingless the jeer, whose voice
        Comes from the erroneous path.
Scorner, of all thy toils the end declare!
If pleasure, pleasure comes uncalled, to cheer
        The haunts of him who spends
        His hours in quiet thought.
And happier he who can repress desire,
Than they who seldom mourn a thwarted wish;
        The vassals they of fate—
        The unbending conqueror he,
And thou, blest Muse, though rudely strung thy lyre,
Its tones can guile the dark and lonesome day—
        Can smooth the wrinkled brow,
        And dry the sorrowing tear.
Thine many a bliss—oh, many a solace thine!
By thee up-held, the soul asserts her throne,
        The chastened passions sleep,
        And dove-eyed Peace prevails.
And thou, fair Hope! when other comforts fail—
When night's thick mists descend—thy beacon flames,
        Till glow the dark clouds round
        With beams of promised bliss.
Thou failest not, when, mute the soothing lyre,
Lives thy unfading solace: sweet to raise
        Thy eye, O quiet Hope.
        And greet a friend in heaven!
A friend, a brother, one whose awful throne
In holy fear heaven's mightiest sons approach:
        Man's heart to feel for man—
        To save him God's great power!
Conqueror of death, joy of the accepted soul,
Oh, wonders raise no doubt when told of thee!
        Thy way past finding out,
        Thy love, can tongue declare?
Cheered by thy smile, Peace dwells amid the storm;
Held by thy hand, the floods assail in vain;
        With grief is blent a joy,
        And beams the vault of death.

    Passing, in one of my walks this autumn, the cave in which I used to spend in boyhood so many happy hours with Finlay, I found it smoking, as of old, with a huge fire, and occupied by a wilder and more careless party than even my truant schoolfellows.  It had been discovered and appropriated by a band of gipsies, who, attracted by the soot-stains on its roof and sides, and concluding that it had been inhabited by the gipsies of other days, had without consulting factor or landlord, at once entered upon possession, as the proper successors of its former occupants.  They were a savage party, with a good deal of the true gipsy blood in them, but not without mixture of a broken-down class of apparently British descent; and one of their women was purely Irish.  From what I had previously heard about gipsies, I was not prepared for a mixture of this kind; but I found it pretty general, and ascertained that at least one of the ways in which it had taken place was exemplified by the case of the one Irish woman.  Her gipsy husband had served as a soldier, and had married her when in the army.  I have been always exceedingly curious to see man in his rude elements—to study him as the savage whether among the degraded classes of our own country, or, as exhibited in the writings of travellers and voyagers, in his aboriginal state; and I now did not hesitate to visit the gipsies, and to spend not unfrequently an hour or two in their company.  They at first seemed jealous of me as a spy; but finding me inoffensive, and that I did not bewray counsel, they came at length to recognise me as the "quiet, sickly lad," and to chatter as freely in my presence as in that of the other pitchers with ears, which they used to fabricate out of tin by the dozen and the score, and the manufacture of which, with the making of horn spoons, formed the main branch of business carried on in the cave.  I saw in these visits curious glimpses of gipsy life.  I could trust only to what I actually witnessed: what was told me could on no occasion be believed; for never were there lies more gross and monstrous than those of the gipsies; but even the lying formed of itself a peculiar trait.  I have never heard lying elsewhere that set all probability so utterly at defiance—a consequence, in part, of their recklessly venturing, like unskilful authors, to expatiate in walks of invention over which their experience did not extend.  On one occasion an old gipsy woman, after pronouncing my malady consumption, prescribed for me as an infallible remedy, raw parsley minced small and made up into balls with fresh butter; but seeing, I suppose, from my manner, that I lacked the necessary belief in her specific, she went on to say, that she had derived her knowledge of such matters from her mother, one of the most "skeely women that ever lived."  Her mother, she said, had once healed a lord's son of a grievous hurt in half a minute, after all the English doctors had shown they could do nothing for him.  His eye had been struck out of its socket by a blow, and hung half-way down his cheek; and though the doctors could of course return it to its place, it refused to stick, always falling out again.  Her mother, however, at once understood the case; and, making a little slit at the back of the young man's neck she got hold of the end of a sinew, and pulling in the dislodged orb at a tug, she made all tight by running a knot on the controlling ligament, and so kept the eye in its place.  And, save that the young lord continued to squint a little, he was well at once.  The peculiar anatomy on which this invention was framed must have, of course, resembled that of a wax-doll with winking eyes; but it did well enough for the woman; and, having no character for truth to maintain, she did not hesitate to build on it.  On asking her whether she ever attended church, she at once replied, "O yes, at one time very often.  I am the daughter of a minister—a natural daughter, you know: my father was the most powerful preacher in all the south, and I always went to hear him."  In about an hour after, however, forgetting her extemporary sally, and the reverend character with which she had invested her sire, she spoke of him, in another equally palpable invention, as the greatest "king of the gipsies" that the gipsies ever had.  Even the children had caught this habit of monstrous mendacity.  There was one of the boys of the band, considerably under twelve, who could extemporize lying narratives by the hour, and seemed always delighted to get a listener; and a little girl, younger still, who "lisped in fiction, for the fiction came."  There were two things that used to strike me as peculiar among these gipsies—a Hindu type of head, small of size, but with a considerable fulness of forehead, especially along the medial line, in the region, as the phrenologist would perhaps say, of individuality and comparison; and a singular posture assumed by the elderly females of the tribe in squatting before their fires, in which the elbow rested on the knees brought close together, the chin on the palms, and the entire figure (somewhat resembling in attitude a Mexican mummy) assumed an outlandish appearance, that reminded me of some of the more grotesque sculptures of Egypt and Hindustan.  The peculiar type of head was derived, I doubt not, from an ancestry originally different from that of the settled races of the country; nor is it impossible that the peculiar position—unlike any I have ever seen Scottish females assume—was also of foreign origin.

    I have witnessed scenes among these gipsies, of which the author of the "Jolly Beggars" might have made rare use, but which formed a sort of materials that I lacked the special ability rightly to employ.  It was reported on one occasion that a marriage ceremony and wedding were to take place in the cave and I sauntered the way, in the hope of ascertaining how its inmates contrived to do for themselves what of course no clergyman could venture to do for them—seeing that, of the parties to be united, the bridegroom might have already as many wives living as "Peter Bell," and the bride as many husbands.  A gipsy marriage had taken place a few years previous in a cave near Rosemarkie.  An old male gipsy, possessed of the rare accomplishment of reading, had half-read, half-spelled the English marriage-service to the young couple, and the ceremony was deemed complete at its close.  And I now expected to witness something similar.  In an opening in the wood above, I encountered two very drunk gipsies, and saw the first-fruits of the coming merriment.  One of the two was an uncouth-looking monster, sallow-skinned, flat-faced, round-shouldered, long and thinly limbed, at least six feet two inches in height, and, from his strange misproportions, he might have passed for seven feet any day, were it not that his trousers, made for a much shorter man, and rising to the middle of his calfless leg, gave him much the appearance of a big boy walking on stilts.  The boys of the place called him "Giant Grimbo;" while his companion, a tight dapper little fellow, who always showed off a compact, well-rounded leg in corduroy inexpressibles, they had learned to distinguish as "Billy Breeches."  The giant, who carried a bagpipe, had broken down ere I came up with them; and now, sitting on the grass, he was droning out in fitful blasts a diabolical music, to which Billy Breeches was dancing; but, just as I passed, Billy also gave way, after wasting an infinity of exertion in keeping erect; and, falling over the prostrate musician, I could hear the bag groaning out its soul as he pressed against it, in a lengthened melancholious squeal.  I found the cave bearing an aspect of more than ordinary picturesqueness.  It had its two fires, and its double portion of smoke, that went rolling out in the calm like an inverted river; for it clung close to the roof, as if by a reversed gravitation, and turned its foaming surface downwards.  At the one fire an old gipsy woman was engaged in baking oaten cakes; and a great pot, that dispensed through the cave the savoury odour of unlucky poultry cut short in the middle of their days, and of hapless hares destroyed without the game licence, depended over the other.  An ass, the common property of the tribe, stood meditating in the foreground; two urchins, of about from ten to twelve years a-piece—wretchedly supplied in the article of clothing—for the one, provided with only a pair of tattered trousers, was naked from the waist upwards, and the other, furnished with only a dilapidated jacket, was naked from the waist downwards—were engaged in picking up fuel for the fire, still further in front; a few of the ordinary inmates of the place lounged under cover of the smoke, apparently in a mood not in the least busy; and on a couch of dried fern sat evidently the central figure of the group, a young, sparkling-eyed brunette, more than ordinarily marked by the Hindu peculiarities of head and feature, and attended by a savage-looking fellow of about twenty, dark as a mulatto, and with a profusion of long flexible hair, black as jet, hanging down to his eyes, and clustering about his cheeks and neck.  These were, I ascertained, the bride and bridegroom.  The bride was engaged in sewing a cap—the bridegroom in watching the progress of the work.  I observed that the party, who were less communicative than usual, seemed to regard me in the light of an intruder.  An elderly tinker, the father of the bride, grey as a leafless thorn in winter, but still stalwart and strong, sat admiring a bit of spelter of about a pound weight.  It was gold, he said, or, as he pronounced the word, "guild," which had been found in an old cairn, and was of immense value, "for it was peer guild and that was the best o' guild;" but if I pleased, he would sell it to me, a very great bargain.  I was engaged with some difficulty in declining the offer, when we were interrupted by the sounds of the bagpipe.  Giant Grimbo and Billy Breeches had succeeded in regaining their feet, and were seen staggering towards the cave.  "Where's the whisky, Billy?" inquired the proprietor of the gold, addressing himself to the man of the small clothes.  "Whisky!" said Billy, "ask Grimbo."  "Where's the whisky, Grimbo?" reiterated the tinker.  "Whisky!" replied Grimbo, "Whisky!" and yet again, after a pause and a hiccup, "Whisky!"  "Ye confounded blacks!" said the tinker springing to his feet with an agility wonderful for an age so advanced as his, "Have you drunk it all?  But take that, Grimbo," he added, planting a blow full on the side of the giant's head, which prostrated his vast length along the floor of the cave.  "And take that, Billy," he iterated, dealing such another blow to the shorter man, which sent him right athwart his prostrate comrade.  And then, turning to me, he remarked with perfect coolness, "That, master, I call smart hitting."  "Honest lad," whispered one of the women immediately after, "it will be a reugh time wi' us here the nicht: you had just better be stepping your ways."  I had already begun to think so without prompting; and so, taking my leave of the gipsies, I failed being, as I had proposed, one of the witnesses of the wedding.

    There is a sort of grotesque humour in scenes of the kind described, that has charms for artists and authors of a particular class—some of them men of broad sympathies and great genius; and hence, through their representations, literary and pictorial, the ludicrous point of view has come to be the conventional, and ordinary one.  And yet it is a sad enough merriment, after all, that has for its subject a degradation so extreme.  I never knew a gipsy that seemed to possess a moral sense—a degree of Pariahism which has been reached by only one other class in the country, and that a small one—the descendants of degraded females in our large towns.  An education in Scotland, however secular in its character, always casts a certain amount of enlightenment on the conscience; a home, however humble, whose inmates win their bread by honest industry, has a similar effect; but in the peculiar walks in which for generations there has been no education of any kind, or in which bread has been the wages of infamy, the moral sense seems so wholly obliterated, that there appears to survive nothing in the mind to which the missionary or the moralist can appeal.  It seems scarce possible for a man to know even a very little of these classes, without learning, in consequence, to respect honest labour, and even secular knowledge, as at least the second-best things, in their moral bearing and influence, that can exist among a people.


For such is the flaw or the depth of the plan
In the make of that wonderful creature called man,
No two virtues, whatever relation they claim,
Nor even two different shades of the same,
Though like as was ever twin-brother to brother,
Possessing the one shall imply you've the other.—B

DURING my period of convalescence, I amused myself in hewing for my uncles, from an original design, an ornate dial-stone; and the dial-stone still exists, to show that my skill as a stonecutter rose somewhat above the average of the profession in those parts of the country in which it ranks highest.  Gradually as I recovered health and strength, little jobs came dropping in.  I executed sculptured tablets in a style not common in the north of Scotland; introduced into the churchyards of the locality a better type of tombstone than had obtained in them before, save, mayhap, at a very early period; distanced all my competitors in the art of inscription-cutting; and at length found that, without exposing my weakened lungs to the rough tear and wear, to which the ordinary stone-cutter must subject himself, I could live.  I deemed it an advantage, too, rather than the reverse, that my new branch of employment brought me not unfrequently for a few days into country districts sufficiently distant from home to present me with new fields of observation, and to open up new tracts of inquiry.  Sometimes I spent half a week in a farm-house in the neighbourhood of some country churchyard—sometimes I lodged in a village—oftener than once I sheltered beside some gentleman's seat, where the august shadow of lairdship lay heavy on society; and in this way I came to see and know a good deal of the Scottish people, in their many-coloured aspects, of which otherwise I might have remained ignorant.  At times, too, on some dusty cottage shelf I succeeded in picking up a rare book, or, what was not less welcome, got a curious tradition from the cottager; or there lay within the reach of an evening walk some interesting piece of antiquity, or some rock-section, which I found it profitable to visit.  A solitary burying-ground, too, situated, as country burying-grounds usually are, in some pleasant spot, and surrounded by its groups of ancient trees, formed a much more delightful scene of labour than a dusty work-shed, or some open area in a busy town; and altogether I found my new mode of life a quiet and happy one.  Nor, with all its tranquillity, was it a sort of life in which the intellect was in any great danger of falling asleep.  There was scarce a locality in which new game might not be started, that, in running down, kept the faculties in full play.  Let me exemplify by describing the courses of inquiry, physical and metaphysical, which opened up to me, when spending a few days, first in the burying-ground of Kirkmichael, and next in the churchyard of Nigg.

    I have elsewhere somewhat fancifully described the ruinous chapel and solitary grave-yard of Kirkmichael as lying on the sweep of a gentle declivity, within a few yards of a flat sea-beach, so little exposed to the winds, that it would seem as if "ocean muffled its waves in approaching this field of the dead."  And so the two vegetations—that of the land and of the sea—undisturbed by the surf, which on opener coasts prevents the growth of either along the upper littoral line, where the waves beat heaviest, here meet and mingle, each encroaching for a little way on the province of the other.  And at meal-times, and when returning homewards in the evening along the shore, it furnished me with amusement enough to mark the character of the several plants of both floras that thus meet and cross each other, and the appearances which they assume when inhabitating each other's province.  On the side of the land, beds of thrift, with its gay flowers the sea-pinks, occupied great prominent cushions, that stood up like little islets amid the flowing sea, and were covered over by salt water stream-tides to the depth of from eighteen inches to two feet.  With these there occasionally mingled spikes of the sea-lavender; and now and then, though more rarely, a sea-aster, that might be seen raising above the calm surface its composite flowers, with their bright yellow staminal pods, and their pale purple petals.  Far beyond, however, even the cushions of thrift, I could trace the fleshy, jointed stems of the glass-wort, rising out of the mud, but becoming diminutive and branchless as I followed them downwards, till at depths where they must have been frequently swum over by the young coal-fish and the flounder, they appeared as mere fleshy spikes, scarce an inch in height, and then ceased.  On the side of the sea it was the various fucoids that rose highest along the beach; the serrated focus barely met the salt-wort; but the bladder-bearing fucus (fucus nodosus [110]) mingled its brown fronds not unfrequently with the crimson flowers of the thrift, [111] and the vesicular fucus (fucus vesiculosus) rose higher still, to enter into strange companionship with the sea-side plantains and the common scurvy-grass.  Green enteromorpha [112] of two species—E. compressa and E. intestinalis—I also found abundant along the edges of the thrift-beds; and it struck me as curious at the time, that while most of the land plants which had thus descended beyond the sea-level were of the high dicotyledonous division, the sea-weeds with which they mingled their leaves and seed-vessels were low in their standing—fuci and enteromorpha—plants at least not higher than their kindred cryptogamia, the lichens and mosses of the land.  Far beyond, in the outer reaches of the bay, where land-plants never approached, there were meadows of a submarine vegetation, of (for the sea) a comparatively high character.  Their numerous plants (zostera marina) had true roots, and true leaves and true flowers; and their spikes ripened amid the salt waters towards the close of autumn, round white seeds, that, like many of the seeds of the land, had their sugar and starch.  But these plants kept far aloof, in their green depths, from their cogeners the monocotyledons of the terrestrial flora.  It was merely the low Fucaceœ [113] and Confervœ [114] of the sea that I found meeting and mixing with the descending dicotyledons of the land.  I felt a good deal of interest in marking, about this time, how certain belts of marine vegetation occurred on a vast boulder situated in the neighbourhood of Cromarty, on the extreme line of the ebb of spring-tides.  I detected the various species ranged in zones, just as on lofty hills the botanist finds his agricultural moorland, and alpine zones rising in succession the one over the other.  At the base of the huge mass, at a level to which the tide rarely falls, the characteristic vegetable is the rough-stemmed tangle—Laminaria digitata.  In the zone immediately above the lowest, the prevailing vegetable is the smooth-stemmed tangle—Laminaria saccharina.  Higher still there occurs a zone of the serrated fucus—F. serratus—blent with another familiar fucus—F. nodosus.  Then comes a yet higher zone of Fucus vesiculosus; and higher still, a few scattered tufts of Fucus canaliculatus; [115] and then, as on lofty mountains that rise above the line of perpetual snow, vegetation ceases, and the boulder presents a round bald head, that rises over the surface after the first few hours of ebb have passed.  But far beyond its base, where the sea never falls, green meadows of zostera flourish in the depths of the water, where they unfold their colourless flowers, unfurnished with petals, and ripen their farinaceous seeds, that, wherever they rise to the surface, seem very susceptible of frost.  I have seen the shores strewed with a line of green zostera, with its spikes charged with seed, after a smart October frost, that had been coincident with the ebb of a low spring-tide, had nipt its rectilinear fronds and flexible stems.

    But what, it may be asked, was the bearing of all this observation?  I by no means saw its entire bearing at the time: I simply observed and recorded, because I found it pleasant to observe and record.  And yet one of the wild dreams of Maillet [116] in his Telliamed had given a certain degree of unity, and a certain definite direction, to my gleanings of fact on the subject, which they would not have otherwise possessed.  It was held by this fanciful writer, that the vegetation of the land had been derived originally from that of the ocean.  "In a word," we find him saying, "do not herbs, plants, roots, grains, and all of this kind that the earth produces and nourishes, come from the sea?  Is it not at least natural to think so, since we are certain that all our habitable lands came originally from the sea?  Besides, in small islands far from the Continent, which have appeared a few ages ago at most, and where it is manifest that never any men had been, we find shrubs, herbs, and roots.  Now, you must be forced to own that either those productions owed their origin to the sea, or to a new creation, which is absurd."  And then Maillet goes on to show, after a manner which—now that algæology has become a science—must be regarded as at least curious, that the plants of the sea, though not so well developed as those of the land, are really very much of the same nature.  "The fishermen of Marseilles find daily," he says, "in their nets, and among their fish, plants of a hundred kinds, with their fruits still upon them; and though these fruits are not so large nor so well nourished as those of our earth, yet their species is in no other respects dubious.  There they find clusters of white and black grapes, peach-trees, pear-trees, prune-trees, apple-trees, and all sorts of flowers."  Such was the sort of wild fable invented in a tract of natural science in which I found it of interest to acquaint myself with the truth.  I have since seen the extraordinary vision of Maillet revived, first by Oken, and then by the author of the "Vestiges of Creation;" and when, in grappling with some of the views and statements of the latter writer, I set myself to write the chapter of my little work which deals with this special hypothesis, I found that I had in some sort studied in the school in which the education necessary to its production was most thoroughly to be acquired.  Had the ingenious author of the "Vestiges" taken lessons for but a short time at the same form, he would scarce have thought of reviving in those latter ages the dream of Oken and Maillet.  A knowledge of the facts would to a certainty have protected him against the reproduction of the hypothesis.

    The lesson at Nigg was of a more curious kind, though, mayhap, less certainly conclusive in its bearings.  The house of the proprietor of Nigg bordered on the burying-ground.  I was engaged in cutting an inscription on the tombstone of his wife, recently dead; and a poor idiot, who found his living in the kitchen, and to whom the deceased had shown kindness, used to come every day to the churchyard, to sit beside me, and jabber in broken expressions his grief.  I was struck with the extremeness of his idiocy; he manifested even more than the ordinary inability of his class to deal with figures, for he could scarce tell whether nature has furnished him with one head or with two; and no power of education could have taught him to count his fingers.  He was equally defective, too, in the mechanical.  Angus could not be got into trousers; and the contrivance of the button remained a mystery which he was never able to comprehend.  And so he wore a large blue gown, like that of a beadsman, which slipped over his head, and was bound by a belt round his middle, with a stout woollen shirt underneath.  But, though unacquainted with the mystery of the button, there were mysteries of another kind with which he seemed to have a most perfect acquaintance: Angus—always a faithful attendant at church—was a great critic in sermons; nor was it every preacher that satisfied him; and such was his imitative turn, that he himself could preach by the hour, in the manner—so far at least as voice and gesture went —of all the popular ministers of the district.  There was, however rather a paucity of idea in his discourses: in his more energetic passages, when he struck the book and stamped with his foot, he usually iterated, in sonorous Gaelic—"The wicked, the wicked, O wretches the wicked!" while a passage of a less depreciatory character served him for setting off his middle tones and his pathos.  But that for which his character was chiefly remarkable was an instinctive, fox-like cunning, that seemed to lie at its very basis—a cunning which co-existed, however, with perfect honesty, and a devoted attachment to his patron the proprietor.

    The town of Cromarty had its poor imbecile man of quite a different stamp.  Jock Gordon had been, it was said, "like other people" till his fourteenth year, when a severe attack of illness left him bankrupt in both mind and body.  He rose from his bed lame of a foot and hand, his one side shrunken and nerveless, the one lobe of his brain apparently inoperative, and with less than half his former energy and intellect; not at all an idiot, however, though somewhat more helpless—the poor mutilated fragment of a reasoning man.  Among his other failings, he stuttered lamentably.  He became an inmate of the kitchen of Cromarty House; and learned to run, or, I should rather say, to limp, errands—for he had risen from the fever that ruined him to run no more—with great fidelity and success.  He was fond of church-going, of reading good little books, and, notwithstanding his sad stutter, of singing.  During the day, he might be heard, as he hobbled along the streets on business, "singing in into himself," as the children used to say, in a low unvaried under-tone, somewhat resembling the humming of a bee; but when night fell, the whole town heard him.  He was no patronizer of modern poets or composers.  "There was a ship, and a ship, of fame," and "Death and the Fair Lady," were his especial favourites; and he could repeat the "Gosport Tragedy," and the "Babes in the Wood," from beginning to end.  Sometimes he stuttered in the notes, and then they lengthened on and on into a never ending quaver that our first-rate singers might have envied.  Sometimes there was a sudden break—Jock had been consulting the pocket in which he stored his bread; but no sooner was his mouth half-cleared than he began again.  In middle-life, however, a great calamity overtook Jock.  His patron, the occupant of Cromarty House, quitted the country for France: Jock was left without occupation or ailment; and the streets heard no more of his songs.  He grew lank and thin, and stuttered and limped more painfully than before, and was in the last stage of privation and distress; when the benevolent proprietor of Nigg, who resided half the year in a town house in Cromarty, took pity upon him, and introduced him to his kitchen.  And in a few days Jock was singing and limping errands with as much energy as ever.  But the time at length came when his new benefactor had to quit his house in town for his seat in the country; and it behoved Jock to take temporary leave of Cromarty, and follow him.  And then the poor imbecile man of the town-kitchen had, of course, to measure himself against his formidable rival the vigorous idiot of the country one.

    On Jock's advent at Nigg—which had taken place a few weeks previous to my engagement in the burying-ground of the parish—the character of Angus seemed to dilate in energy and power.  He repaired to the churchyard with spade and pickaxe, and began digging a grave.  It was a grave, he said, for wicked Jock Gordon; and Jock, whether he thought it or no, had come to Nigg, he added, only to be buried.  Jock, however, was not to be dislodged so; and Angus, professing sudden friendship for him, gave expression to the magnanimous resolution, that he would not only tolerate Jock, but also be very kind to him, and show him the place where he kept all his money.  He had lots of money, he said, which he had hidden in a dike; but he would show the place to Jock Gordon—to poor cripple Jock Gordon: he would show him the very hole, and Jock would get it all.  And so he brought Jock to the hole—a cavity, in a turf-wall in the neighbouring wood—and, taking care that his own way of retreat was clear, he bade him insinuate his hand.  No sooner had he done so, however, than there issued forth from between his fingers a cloud of wasps, of the variety so abundant in the north country, that build their nests in earthy banks and old mole-hills; and poor Jock, ill fitted for retreat in any sudden emergency, was stung within an inch of his life.  Angus returned in high glee, preaching about "wicked Jock Gordon, whom the very wasps wouldn't let alone;" but though he pretended no further friendship for a few days after, he again drew to him in apparent kindness; and on the following Saturday, on Jock being despatched to a neighbouring smithy with a sheep's head to singe, Angus volunteered his services to show him the way.

    Angus went trotting before; Jock came limping behind: the fields were open and bare; the dwellings few and far between; and after having passed, in about an hour's walking, half-a-dozen little hamlets, Jock began to marvel exceedingly that there should be no sign of the smith's shop.  "Poor foolish Jock Gordon!" ejaculated Angus, quickening his trot into a canter; "what does he know about carrying sheep's heads to the smithy?"  Jock laboured hard to keep up with his guide; quavering and semi-quavering, as his breath served—for Jock always began to sing, when in solitary places, after nightfall, as a protection against ghosts.  At length the daylight died entirely away, and he could only learn from Angus that the smithy was further off than ever; and, to add to his trouble and perplexity, the roughness of the ground showed him that they were wandering from the road.  First they went toiling athwart what seemed an endless range of fields, separated from one another by deep ditches and fences of stone; then they crossed over a dreary moor, bristling with furze and sloe-thorn; then over a waste of bogs and quagmires; then across a track of newly ploughed land; and then they entered a second wood.  At length, after a miserable night's wandering, day broke upon the two forlorn satyrs; and Jock found himself in a strange country, with a long narrow lake in front and a wood behind.  He had wandered after his guide into the remote parish of Tarbet.

[Next Page]


[Home] [Up] [First Impressions] [Scenes and Legends] [Tales and Sketches] [The Betsey] [Leading Articles] [Miscellanea] [Main Index] [Site Search]

Correspondence should be sent to