The Cruise of the Betsey (1)

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THE CRUISE OF THE BETSEY

CHAPTER I.


THE pleasant month of July had again come round, and for full five weeks I was free.  Chisels and hammers, and the bag for specimens, were taken from their corner in the dark closet, and packed up with half a stone weight of a fine soft. Conservative Edinburgh newspaper, valuable for a quality of preserving old things entire.  And at noon on St Swithin's day (Monday the 15th), I was speeding down the Clyde in the Toward Castle steamer, for Tobermory in Mull.  In the previous season I had intended passing direct from the Oolitic deposits of the eastern coast of Scotland, to the Oolitic deposits of the Hebrides.  But the weeks glided all too quickly away among the ichthyolites of Caithness and Cromarty, and the shells and lignites of Sutherland and Ross.  My friend, too, the Rev. Mr Swanson of Small Isles, on whose assistance I had reckoned, was in the middle of his troubles at the time, with no longer a home in his parish, and not yet provided with one elsewhere; and I concluded he would have but little heart, at such a season, for breaking into rocks, or for passing from the too pressing monstrosities of an existing state of things, to the old lapidified monstrosities of the past.  And so my design on the Hebrides had to be postponed for a twelve-month.  But my friend, now afloat in his Free Church yacht, had got a home on the sea beside his island charge, which, if not very secure when nights were dark and winds loud, and the little vessel tilted high to the long roll of the Atlantic, lay at least beyond the reach of man's intolerance, and not beyond the protecting care of the Almighty.  He had written me that he would run down his vessel from Small Isles to meet me at Tobermory, and in consequence of the arrangement I was now on my way to Mull.

    St Swithin's day, so important in the calendar of our humbler meteorologists, had in this part of the country its alternate fits of sunshine and shower. We passed gaily along the green banks of the Clyde, with their rich flat fields glittering in moisture, and their lines of stately trees, that, as the light flashed out, threw their shadows over the grass. The river expanded into the estuary, the estuary into the open sea; we left behind us beacon, and obelisk, and rockperched castle;


                      Merrily down we drop
Below the church, below the tower,
       Below the lighthouse top;


and, as the evening fell, we were ploughing the outer reaches of the Frith, with the ridgy table-land of Ayrshire stretching away green on the one side, and the serrated peaks of Arran rising dark and high on the other.  At sunrise next morning our boat lay, unloading a portion of her cargo, in one of the ports of Islay, and we could see the Irish coast resting on the horizon to the south and west, like a long undulating bank of thin blue cloud; with the island of Rachrin—famous for the asylum it had afforded the Bruce when there was no home for him in Scotland—presenting in front its mass of darker azure.  On and away!  We swept past Islay, with its low fertile hills of mica-schist and slate; and Jura, with its flat dreary moors, and its far-seen gigantic paps, on one of which, in the last age, Professor Walker of Edinburgh set water a-boil with six degrees of heat less than he found necessary for the purpose on the plain below.  The Professor describes the view from the summit, which includes in its wide circle at once the Isle of Skye and the Isle of Alan, as singularly noble and imposing: two such prospects more, he says, would bring under the eye the whole island of Great Britain, from the Pentland Frith to the English Channel.  We sped past Jura.  Then came the Gulf of Coryvrekin, with the bare mountain island of Scarba overlooking the fierce, far-famed whirlpool that we could see from the deck breaking in long lines of foam, and sending out its waves in wide rings on every side, when not a speck of white was visible elsewhere in the expanse of sea around us.  And then came an opener space, studded with smaller islands,—mere hill-tops rising out of the sea, with here and there insulated groups of pointed rocks, the skeletons of perished hills, amid which the tides chafed and fretted, as if labouring to complete on the broken remains their work of denudation and ruin.

    The disposition of land and water on this coast suggests the idea that the Western Highlands, from the line in the interior whence the rivers descend to the Atlantic, with the islands beyond to the outer Hebrides, are all parts of one great mountainous plain, inclined slantways into the sea.  First, the long withdrawing valleys of the main land, with their brown mossy streams, change their character as they dip beneath the sea-level, and become salt-water lochs.  The lines of hills that rise over them jut out as promontories, till cut off by some transverse valley, lowered still more deeply into the brine, and that exists as a kyle, minch, or sound swept twice every tide by powerful currents.  The sea deepens as the plain slopes downward; mountain-chains stand up out of the water as larger islands, single mountains as smaller ones, lower eminences as mere groups of pointed rocks; till at length, as we pass outwards, all trace of the submerged land disappears, and the wide ocean stretches out and away its unfathomable depths.  The model of some alpine country raised in plaster on a flat board, and tilted slantways at a low angle into a basin of water, would exhibit on a minute scale an appearance exactly similar to that presented by the western coast of Scotland and the Hebrides.  The water would rise along the hollows, longitudinal and transverse, forming sounds and lochs, and surround, island-like, the more deeply submerged eminences.  But an examination of the geology of the coast, with its promontories and islands, communicates a different idea.  These islands and promontories prove to be of very various ages and origin.  The outer Hebrides may have existed as the inner skeleton of some ancient country contemporary with the main land, and that bore on its upper soils the productions of perished creations, at a time when by much the larger portion of the inner Hebrides,—Skye, and Mull, and the Small Isles,—existed as part of the bottom of a wide sound, inhabited by the Cephalopoda and Enaliosaurians of the Lias and the Oolite.  Judging from its components, the Long Island, like the Lammermoors and the Grampians, may have been smiling to the sun when the Alps and the Himalaya Mountains lay buried in the abyss; whereas the greater part of Skye and Mull must have been, like these vast mountain-chains of the Continent, an oozy seafloor, over which the ligneous productions of the neighbouring lands, washed down by the streams, grew heavy and sank, and on which the belemnite dropped its spindle and the ammonite its shell.  The idea imparted of old Scotland to the geologist here,—of Scotland, proudly, aristocratically, supereminently old,—for it can call Mont Blanc a mere upstart, and Dhawalageri, with its twenty-eight thousand feet of elevation, a heady fellow of yesterday,—is not that of a land settling down by the head like a foundering vessel, but of a land whose hills and islands, like its great aristocratic families, have arisen from the level in very various ages, and under the operation of circumstances essentially diverse.

    We left behind us the islands of Lunga, Luing, and Seil, and entered the narrow Sound of Kerrera, with its border of Old Red conglomerate resting on the clay-slate of the district.  We had passed Esdaile near enough to see the workmen employed in the quarries of the island so extensively known in commerce for their roofing slate, and several small vessels beside them, engaged in loading; and now we had got a step higher in the geological scale, and could mark from the deck the peculiar character of the conglomerate, which, in cliffs washed by the sea, when the binding matrix is softer than the pebbles which it encloses, roughens, instead of being polished, by the action of the waves, and which, along the eastern side of the Sound here, seems as if formed of cannon-shot of all sizes embedded in cement.  The Sound terminates in the beautiful bay of Oban, so quiet and sheltered, with its two island breakwaters in front,—its semicircular sweep of hill behind,—its long white-walled village, bent like a bow, to conform to the inflection of the shore,—its mural precipices behind, tapestried with ivy,—its rich patches of green pasture,—its bosky dingles of shrub and tree,—and, perched on the seaward promontory, its old, time-eaten keep.  "In one part of the harbour of Oban," says Dr James Anderson, in his "Practical Treatise on Peat Moss," (1794), "where the depth of the sea is about twenty fathoms, the bottom is found to consist of quick peat, which affords no safe anchorage."  I made inquiry at the captain of the steamer regarding this submerged deposit, but he had never heard of it.  There are, however, many such on the coasts of both Britain and Ireland.  We staid at Oban for several hours, waiting the arrival of the Fort-William steamer; and, taking out hammer and chisel from my bag, I stepped ashore to question my ancient acquaintance the Old Red conglomerate, and was fortunate enough to meet on the pier-head, as I landed, one of the best of companions for assisting in such work, Mr Colin Elder of Isle Ornsay,—the gentleman who had so kindly furnished my friend Mr Swanson with an asylum for his family, when there was no longer a home for them in Small Isles.  "You are much in luck," he said, after our first greeting: one of the villagers, in improving his garden, has just made a cut for some fifteen or twenty yards along the face of the precipice behind the village, and laid open the line of junction between the conglomerate and the clay-slate.  Let us go and see it."

    I found several things worthy of notice in the chance section to which I was thus introduced.  The conglomerate lies unconformably along the edges of the slate strata, which present under it an appearance exactly similar to that which they exhibit under the rolled stones and shingle of the neighbouring shore, where we find them laid bare beside the harbour for several hundred yards.  And, mixed with the pebbles of various character and origin of which the conglomerate is mainly composed, we see detached masses of the slate, that still exhibit on their edges the identical lines of fracture characteristic of the rock, which they received, when torn from the mass below, myriads of ages before.  In the incalculably remote period in which the conglomerate base of the Old Red Sandstone was formed, the clay-slate of this district had been exactly the same sort of rock that it is now.  Some long anterior convulsion had upturned its strata; and the sweep of water, mingled with broken fragments of stone, had worn smooth the exposed edges, just as a similar agency wears the edges exposed at the present time.  Quarries might have been opened in this rock, as now, for a roofing slate, had there been quarriers to open them, or houses to roof over: it was in every respect as ancient a looking stone then as in the present late age of the world.  There are no sermons that seem stranger or more impressive to one who has acquired just a little of the language in which they are preached, than those which, according to the poet, are to be found in stones: a bit of fractured slate, embedded among a mass of rounded pebbles, proves voluble with idea of a kind almost too large for the mind of man to grasp.  The eternity that hath passed is an ocean without a further shore, and a finite conception may in vain attempt to span it over.  But from the beach, strewed with wrecks, on which we stand to contemplate it, we see far out towards the cloudy horizon many a dim islet and many a pinnacled rock, the sepulchres of successive eras,—the monuments of consecutive creations: the entire prospect is studded over with these landmarks of a hoar antiquity, which, measuring out space from space, constitute the vast whole a province of time; nor can the eye reach to the open shoreless infinitude beyond, in which only God existed: and—as in a sea-scene in nature, in which headland stretches dim and blue beyond headland, and islet beyond islet, the distance seems not lessened, but increased, by the crowded objects—we borrow a larger, not a smaller idea of the distant eternity, from the vastness of the measured periods that occur between.

    Over the lower bed of conglomerate, which here, as on the east coast, is of great thickness, we find a bed of gray stratified clay, containing a few calcareo-argillaceous nodules.  The conglomerate cliffs to the north of the village present appearances highly interesting to the geologist.  Rising in a long wall within the pleasure-grounds of Dunolly Castle, we find them wooded atop and at the base; while immediately at their feet there stretches out a grassy lawn, traversed by the road from the village to the castle, which sinks with a gradual slope into the existing sea-beach, but which ages ago must have been a sea-beach itself.  We see the bases of the precipices hollowed and worn, with all their rents and crevices widened into eaves; and mark, at a picturesque angle of the rock, what must have been once an insulated sea-stack, some thirty or forty feet in height, standing up from amid the rank grass, as at one time it stood up from amid the waves.  Tufts of fern and sprays of ivy bristle from its sides, once roughened by the serrated kelp-weed and the tangle.  The Highlanders call it M'Dougall's Dog-stone, and say that the old chieftains of Lorne made use of it as a post to which to fasten their dogs,—animals wild and gigantic as themselves,—when the hunters were gathering to rendezvous, and the impatient beagles struggled to break away and begin the chase on their own behalf.  It owes its existence as a stack—for the precipice in which it was once included has receded from around it for yards—to an immense boulder in its base,—by far the largest stone I ever saw in an Old Red conglomerate.  The mass is of a rudely rhomboidal form, and measures nearly twelve feet in the line of its largest diagonal.  A second huge pebble in the same detached spire measures four feet by about three.  Both have their edges much rounded, as if, ere their deposition in the conglomerate, they had been long exposed to the wear of the sea; and both are composed of an earthy amygdaloidal trap.  I have stated elsewhere ["Old Red Sandstone," Chapter XII.], that I had scarce ever seen a stone in the Old Red conglomerate which I could not raise from the ground; and ere I said so I had examined no inconsiderable extent of this deposit, chiefly, however, along the eastern coast of Scotland, where its larger pebbles rarely exceed two hundredweight.  How account for the occurrence of pebbles of so gigantic a size here?  We can but guess at a solution, and that very vaguely.  The islands of Mull and Kerrera form, in the present state of things, inner and outer breakwaters between what is now the coast of Oban and the waves of the Atlantic; but Mull, in the times of even the Oolite, must have existed as a mere sea-bottom; and Kerrera, composed mainly of trap, which has brought with it to the surface patches of the conglomerate, must, when the conglomerate was in forming, have been a mere sea-bottom also.  Is it not possible, that when the breakwaters were not, the Atlantic was; and that its tempests, which in the present time can transport vast rocks for hundreds of yards along the exposed coasts of Shetland and Orkney, may have been the agent here in the transport of these huge pebbles of the Old Red conglomerate?  "Rocks that two or three men could not lift," say the Messrs Anderson of Inverness, in describing the storms of Orkney, "are washed about even on the tops of cliffs which are between sixty and a hundred feet above the surface of the sea when smooth; and detached masses of rock, of an enormous size, are well known to have been carried a considerable distance between low and high-water mark."  "A little way from the Brough," says Dr Patrick Neill, in his 'Tour through Orkney and Shetland,' "we saw the prodigious effects of a late winter storm: many great stones, one of them of several tons weight, had been tossed up a precipice twenty or thirty feet high, and laid fairly on the green sward."  There is something farther worthy of notice in the stone of which the two boulders of the Dog-stack are composed.  No species of rock occurs more abundantly in the embedded pebbles of this ancient conglomerate than rocks of the trap family.  We find in it trap-porphyries, greenstones, clinkstones, basalts, and amygdaloids, largely mingled with fragments of the granitic, clay-slate, and quartz rocks.  The Plutonic agencies must have been active in the locality for periods amazingly protracted; and many of the masses protruded at a very early time seem identical in their composition with rocks of the trap family, which in other parts of the country we find referred to much later eras.  There occur in this deposit rolled pebbles of a basalt which in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh would be deemed considerably more modern than the times of the Mountain Limestone, and in the Isle of Skye, considerably more modern than the times of the Oolite.

    The sun-light was showering its last slant rays on island and loch, and then retreating upwards along the higher hills, chased by the shadows, as our boat quitted the bay of Oban, and stretched northwards, along the end of green Lismore, for the Sound of Mull.  We had just enough of day left as we reached mid sea, to show us the gray fronts of the three ancient castles,—which at this point may be at once seen from the deck,—Dunolly, Duart, and Dunstaffnage; and enough left us as we entered the Sound, to show, and barely show, the Lady Rock, famous in tradition, and made classic by the pen of Campbell, raising its black back amid the tides, like a belated porpoise.  And then twilight deepened into night, and we went snorting through the Strait with a stream of green light curling off from either bow in the calm, towards the high dim land, that seemed standing up on both sides like tall hedges over a green lane.  We entered the Bay of Tobermory about midnight, and cast anchor amid a group of little vessels.  An exceedingly small boat shot out from the side of a yacht of rather diminutive proportions, but tantly rigged for her size, and bearing an outrigger astern.  The water this evening was full of phosphoric matter, and it gleamed and sparkled around the little boat like a northern aurora around a dark cloudlet.  There was just light enough to show that the oars were plied by a sailor-like man in a Guernsey frock, and that another sailor-like man,—the skipper, mayhap,—attired in a cap and pea-jacket, stood in the stern.  The man in the Guernsey frock was John Stewart, sole mate and half the crew of the Free Church yacht Betsey; and the skipper-like man in the pea jacket was my friend the minister of the Protestants of Small Isles.  In five minutes more I was sitting with Mr Elder beside the little iron stove in the cabin of the Betsey; and the minister, divested of his cap and jacket, but still looking the veritable skipper to admiration, was busied in making us a rather late tea.

    The cabin,—my home for the greater part of the three following weeks, and that of my friend for the greater part of the previous twelvemonth,—I found to be an apartment about twice the size of a common bed, and just lofty enough under the beams to permit a man of five feet eleven to stand erect in his nightcap.  A large table, lashed to the floor, furnished with tiers of drawers of all sorts and sizes, and bearing a writing desk bound to it a-top, occupied the middle space, leaving just room enough for a person to pass between its edges and the narrow coffin-like beds in the sides, and space enough at its fore-end for two seats in front of the stove.  A jealously-barred skylight opened above; and there depended from it this evening a close lanthorn-looking lamp, sufficiently valuable, no doubt, in foul weather, but dreary and dim on the occasions when all one really wished from it was light.  The peculiar furniture of the place gave evidence to the mixed nature of my friend's employment.  A well-thumbed chart of the Western Islands lay across an equally well-thumbed volume of Henry's "Commentary."  There was a Polyglot and a spy-glass in one corner, and a copy of Calvin's "Institutes," with the latest edition of "The Coaster's Sailing Directions," in another; while in an adjoining state-room, nearly large enough to accommodate an arm-chair, if the chair could have but contrived to get into it, I caught a glimpse of my friend's printing -press and his case of types, canopied overhead by the blue ancient of the vessel, bearing in stately six-inch letters of white bunting, the legend, "FREE CHURCH YACHT."  A door opened which communicated with the forecastle; and John Stewart, stooping very much to accommodate himself to the low-roofed passage, thrust in a plate of fresh herrings, splendidly toasted, to give substantiality and relish to our tea.  The little rude forecastle, a considerably smaller apartment than the cabin, was all a-glow with the bright fire in the coppers, itself invisible: we could see the chain-cable dangling from the hatchway to the floor, and John Stewart's companion, a powerful-looking, handsome young man, with broad bare breast, and in his shirt sleeves, squatted full in front of the blaze, like the household goblin described by Milton, or the "Christmas Present" of Dickens.  Mr Elder left us for the steamer, in which he prosecuted his voyage next morning to Skye; and we tumbled in, each to his narrow bed,—comfortable enough sort of resting-places, though not over soft; and slept so soundly, that we failed to mark Mr. Elder's return for a few seconds, a little after daybreak.  I found at my bedside, when I awoke, a fragment of rock which he had brought from the shore, charged with Liasic fossils; and a note he had written, to say that the deposit to which it belonged occurred in the trap immediately above the village-mill; and further, to call my attention to a house near the middle of the village, built of a mouldering red sandstone which had been found in situ in digging the foundations.  I had but little time for the work of exploration in Mull, and the information thus kindly rendered enabled me to economize it.

    The village of Tobermory resembles that of Oban.  A quiet bay has its secure island-breakwater in front; a line of tall, well-built houses, not in the least rural in their aspect, but that seem rather as if they had been transported from the centre of some stately city entire and at once, sweeps round its inner inflection like a bent bow; and an amphitheatre of mingled rock and wood rises behind.  With all its beauty, however, there hangs about the village an air of melancholy.  Like some of the other western-coast villages, it seems not to have grown piecemeal, as a village ought, but to have been made wholesale, as Frankenstein made his man; and to be ever asking, and never more incessantly than when it is at its quietest, why it should have been made at all?  The remains of the Florida, a gallant Spanish ship, lie off its shores, a wreck of the Invincible Armada, "deep whelmed," according to Thomson,


                                                         What time,
Snatched sudden by the vengeful blast,
The scattered vessels drove, and on blind shelve,
And pointed rock that marks th' indented shore,
Relentless dashed, where loud the northern main
Howls through the fractured Caledonian isles.


Macculloch relates, that there was an attempt made, rather more than a century ago, to weigh up the Florida, which ended in the weighing up of merely a few of her guns, some of them of iron greatly corroded; and that, on scraping them, they became so hot under the hand that they could not be touched, but that they lost this curious property after a few hours' exposure to the air.  There have since been repeated instances elsewhere, he adds, of the same phenomenon, and chemistry has lent its solution of the principles on which it occurs; but in the year 1740, ere the riddle was read, it must have been deemed a thoroughly magical one by the simple islanders of Mull.  It would seem as if the guns, heated in the contest with Drake, Hawkins, and Frobisher, had again kindled, under some supernatural influence, with the intense glow of the lost battle.

    The morning was showery; but it cleared up a little after ten, and we landed to explore.  We found the mill a little to the south of the village, where a small stream descends, all foam and uproar, from the higher grounds along a rocky channel half-hidden by brushwood; and the Liasic bed occurs in an exposed front directly over it, coped by a thick bed of amygdaloidal trap.  The organisms are numerous; and, when we dig into the bank beyond the reach of the weathering influences, we find them delicately preserved, though after a fashion that renders difficult their safe removal.  Originally the bed must have existed as a brown argillaceous mud, somewhat resembling that which forms in the course of years under a scalp of muscles; and it has hardened into a mere silt-like clay, in which the fossils occur, not as petrifactions, but as shells in a state of decay, except in some rare cases in which a calcareous nodule has formed within or around them.  Viewed in the group, they seem of an intermediate character between the shells of the Lias and Oolite.  One of the first fossils I disinterred was the Gryphæa obliquata,—a shell characteristic of the Liasic formation; and the fossil immediately after, the Pholadomya æqualis,—a shell of the Oolitic one.  There occurs in great numbers a species of small Pecten,—some of the specimens scarce larger than a herring scale; a minute Ostrea, a sulcated Terebratula, an Isocardia, a Pullastra, and groups of broken serpulæ in vast abundance.  The deposit has also its three species of Ammonite, existing as mere impressions in the clay; and at least two species of Belemnite,—one of the two somewhat resembling the Belemnites abbreviatus, but smaller and rather more elongated; while the other, of a spindle form, diminishing at both ends, reminds one of the Belemnites minimus of the Gault.  The Red Sandstone in the centre of the village occurs detached, like this Liasic bed, amid the prevailing trap, and may be seen in situ beside the southern gable of the tall, deserted-looking house at the hill-foot, that has been built of it.  It is a soft, coarse-grained, mouldering stone, ill fitted for the purposes of the architect; and more nearly resembles the New Red Sandstone of England and Dumfriesshire than any other rock I have yet seen in the north of Scotland. I failed to detect in it aught organic.

    We weighed anchor about two o'clock, and beat gallantly out the Sound, in the fare of an intermittent baffling wind and a heavy swell from the sea.  I would fain have approached nearer the precipices of Ardnamurchan, to trace along their inaccessible fronts the strange reticulations of trap figured by Macculloch; but prudence and the skipper forbade our trusting even the docile little Betsey on one of the most formidable lee shores in Scotland, in winds so light and variable, and with the swell so high.  We could hear the deep roar of the surf for miles, and see its undulating strip of white flickering under stack and cliff.  The scenery here seems rich in legendary association.  At one tack we bore into Bloody Bay, on the Mull coast,—the scene of a naval battle between two island chiefs; at another, we approached, on the mainland, a cave inaccessible save from the sea, long the haunt of a ruthless Highland pirate.  Ere we rounded the headland of Ardnamurchan, the slant light of evening was gleaming athwart the green acclivities of Mull, barring them with long horizontal lines of shadow, where the trap terraces rise step beyond step, in the characteristic stair-like arrangement to which the rock owes its name; and the sun set as we were bearing down in one long tack on the Small Isles.  We passed the Isle of Muck, with its one low hill; saw the pyramidal mountains of Rum looming tall in the offing; and then, running along the Isle of Eigg, with its colossal Scuir rising between us and the sky, as if it were a piece of Babylonian wall, or of the great wall of China, only vastly larger, set down on the ridge of a mountain, we entered the channel which separates the island from one of its dependencies, Eilean Chaisteil, and cast anchor in the tideway about fifty yards from the rocks.  We were now at home,—the only home which the proprietor of the island permits to the islanders' minister; and, after getting warm and comfortable over the stove and a cup of tea, we did what all sensible men do in their own homes when the night wears late,—got into bed.


 
CHAPTER II.


WE had rich tea this morning.  The minister was among his people; and our first evidence of the fact came in the agreeable form of three bottles of fine fresh cream from the shore.  Then followed an ample baking of nice oaten cakes.  The material out of which the cakes were manufactured had been sent from the minister's store aboard,—for oatmeal in Eigg is rather a scarce commodity in the middle of July; but they had borrowed a crispness and flavour from the island, that the meal, left to its own resources, could scarcely have communicated; and the golden-coloured cylinder of fresh butter which accompanied them was all the island's own.  There was an ample supply of eggs too, as one not quite a conjuror might have expected from a country bearing such a name,—eggs with the milk in them; and, with cream, butter, oaten cakes, eggs, and tea, all of the best, and with sharp-set sea air appetites to boot, we fared sumptuously.  There is properly no harbour in the island.  We lay in a narrow channel, through which, twice every twenty-four hours, the tides sweep powerfully in one direction, and then as powerfully in the direction opposite; and our anchors had a trick of getting foul, and canting stock downwards in the loose sand, which, with pointed rocks all around us, over which the currents ran races, seemed a very shrewd sort of trick indeed.  But a kedge and halser, stretched thwartwise to a neighbouring crag, and jambed fast in a crevice, served in moderate weather to keep us tolerably right.  In the severer seasons, however, the kedge is found inadequate, and the minister has to hoist sail and make out for the open sea, as if served with a sudden summons of ejectment.

    Among the various things brought aboard this morning, there was a pair of island shoes for the minister's cabin use, that struck my fancy not a little.  They were all around of a deep madder-red colour, soles, welts, and uppers; and, though somewhat resembling in form the little yawl of the Betsey, were sewed not unskilfully with thongs; and their peculiar style of tie seemed of a kind suited to furnish with new idea a fashionable shoemaker of the metropolis.  They were altogether the production of Eigg, from the skin out of which they had been cut, with the lime that had prepared it for the tan, and the root by which the tan had been furnished, down to the last on which they had been moulded, and the artizan that had cast them off, a pair of finished shoes.  There are few trees, and, of course, no bark to spare, in the island; but the islanders find a substitute in the astringent lobiferous root of the Tormentilla erecta, which they dig out for the purpose among the heath, at no inconsiderable expense of time and trouble.  I was informed by John Stewart, an adept in all the multifarious arts of the island, from the tanning of leather and the tilling of land, to the building of a house or the working of a ship, that the infusion of root had to be thrice changed for every skin, and that it took a man nearly a day to gather roots enough for a single infusion.  I was further informed that it was not unusual for the owner of a skin to give it to some neighbour to tan, and that, the process finished, it was divided equally between them, the time and trouble bestowed on it by the one being deemed equivalent to the property held in it by the other.  I wished to call a pair of these primitive-looking shoes my own, and no sooner was the wish expressed than straightway one islander furnished me with leather, and another set to work upon the shoes.  When I came to speak of remuneration, however, the islanders shook their heads.  "No, no, not from the Witness: there are not many that take our part, and the Witness does."  I hold the shoes, therefore, as my first retainer, determined, on all occasions of just quarrel, to make common cause with the poor islanders.
 

A yawl of this era.


    The view from the anchoring ground presents some very striking features.  Between us and the sea lies Eilean Chaisteil, a rocky trap islet, about half a mile in length by a few hundred yards in breadth; poor in pastures, but peculiarly rich in sea-weed, of which John Stewart used, he informed me, to make finer kelp, ere the trade was put down by act of Parliament, than could be made elsewhere in Eigg.  This islet bore, in the remote past, its rude fort or dun, long since sunk into a few grassy mounds; and hence its name.  On the landward side rises the island of Eigg proper, resembling in outline two wedges placed point to point on a board.  The centre is occupied by a deep angular gap, from which the ground slopes upward on both sides, till, attaining its extreme height at the opposite ends of the island, it drops suddenly on the sea.  In the northern rising ground the wedge-like outline is complete; in the southern one it is somewhat modified by the gigantic Scuir, which rises direct on the apex of the height, i.e., the thick part of the wedge; and which, seen bows-on from this point of view, resembles some vast donjonkeep, taller from base to summit, by about a hundred feet, than the dome of St Paul's.  The upper slopes of the island are brown and moory, and present little on which the eye may rest, save a few trap terraces with rudely columnar fronts; its middle space is mottled with patches of green, and studded with dingy cottages, each of which this morning, just a little before the breakfast hour, had its own blue cloudlet of smoke diffused around it; while along the beach, patches of level sand, alternated with tracts of green bank, or both, give place to stately ranges of basaltic columns, or dingy groups of detached rocks.  Immediately in front of the central hollow, as if skilfully introduced to relieve the tamest part of the prospect, a noble wall of semicircular columns rises some eighty or a hundred feet over the shore; and on a green slope, directly above, we see the picturesque ruins of the Chapel of St Donan, one of the disciples of Columba, and the Culdee saint and apostle of the island.

    One of the things that first struck me, as I got on deck this morning, was the extreme whiteness of the sand.  I could see it gleaming bright through the transparent green of the sea, three fathoms below our keel, and, in a little flat bay directly opposite, it presented almost the appearance of pulverized chalk.  A stronger contrast to the dingy trap-rocks around which it lies could scarce be produced, had contrast for effect's sake been the object.  On landing on the exposed shelf to which we had fastened our halser, I found the origin of the sand interestingly exhibited.  The hollows of the rock, a rough trachyte, with a surface like that of a steel rasp, were filled with handfuls of broken shells thrown up by the surf from the sea-banks beyond; fragments of echini, bits of the valves of razor-fish, the island cyprina, mactridæ, buccinidæ, and fractured periwinkles, lay heaped together in vast abundance.  In hollow after hollow, as I passed shorewards, I found the fragments more and more comminuted, just as, in passing along the successive vats of a paper-mill, one finds the linen rags more and more disintegrated by the cylinders; and immediately beyond the inner edge of the shelf, which is of considerable extent, lies the flat bay, the ultimate recipient of the whole, filled to the depth of several feet, and to the extent of several hundred yards, with a pure shell-sand, the greater part of which had been thus washed ashore in handfuls, and ground down by the blended agency of the trachyte and the surf.  Once formed, however, in this way it began to receive accessions from the exuviæ of animals that love such localities,—the deep arenaceous bed and soft sandbeach; and these now form no inconsiderable proportion of the entire mass.  I found the deposit thickly inhabited by spatangi, razor-fish, gapers, and large well-conditioned cockles, which seemed to have no idea whatever that they were living amid the debris of a charnel-house.  Such has been the origin here of a bed of shell-sand, consisting of many thousand tons, and of which at least eighty per cent. was once associated with animal life.  And such, I doubt not, is the history of many a calcareous rock in the later secondary formations.  There are strata not a few of the Cretaceous and Oolitic groups, that would be found—could we but trace their beginnings with a certainty and clearness equal to that with which we can unravel the story of this deposit—to be, like it, elaborations from dead matter, made through the agency of animal secretion.

    We set out on our first exploratory ramble in Eigg an hour before noon.  The day was bracing and breezy, and a clear sun looked cheerily down on island, and strait, and blue open sea.  We rowed southwards in our little boat through the channel of Eilean Chaisteil, along the trap-rocks of the island, and landed under the two pitchstone veins of Eigg, so generally known among mineralogists, and of which specimens may be found in so many cabinets.  They occur in an earthy, greenish-black amygdaloid, which forms a range of sea-cliffs varying in height from thirty to fifty feet, and that, from their sad hue and dull fracture, seem to absorb the light; while the veins themselves, bright and glistening, glitter in the sun, as if they were streams of water traversing the face of the rock.  The first impression they imparted, in viewing them from the boat, was, that the inclosing mass was a pitch cauldron, rather of the roughest and largest, and much begrimed by soot, that had cracked to the heat, and that the fluid pitch was forcing its way outward through the rents.  The veins expand and contract, here diminishing to a strip a few inches across, there widening into a comparatively broad belt some two or three feet over; and, as well described by M'Culloch, we find the inclosed pitch-stone changing in colour, and assuming a lighter or darker hue, as it nears the edge or recedes from it.  In the centre it is of a dull olive green, passing gradually into blue, which in turn deepens into black; and it is exactly at the point of contact with the earthy amygdaloid that the black is most intense, and the fracture of the stone glassiest and brightest.  I was lucky enough to detach a specimen, which, though scarce four inches across, exhibits the three colours characteristic of the vein,—its bar of olive green on the one side, of intense black on the other, and of blue, like that of imperfectly fused bottle-glass, in the centre.  This curious rock,—so nearly akin in composition and appearance to obsidian,—a mineral which, in its dense form, closely resembles the coarse dark-coloured glass of which common bottles are made, and which, in its lighter form, exists as pumice,—constitutes one of the links that connect the trap with the unequivocally volcanic rocks.  The one mineral may be seen beside smoking crater, as in the Lipari Isles, passing into pumice; while the other may be converted into a substance almost identical with pumice by the chemist.  "It is stated by the Honourable George Knox of Dublin," says Mr Robert Allan, in his valuable mineralogical work, "that the pitchstone of Newry, on being exposed to a high temperature, loses its bitumen and water, and is converted into a light substance in every respect resembling pumice."  But of pumice in connection with the pitchstones of Eigg, more anon.

    Leaving our boat to return to the Betsey at John Stewart's leisure, and taking with us his companion to assist us in carrying such specimens as we might procure, we passed westwards for a few hundred yards under the crags, and came abreast of a dark angular opening at the base of the precipice, scarce two feet in height, and in front of which there lies a little sluggish, ankle-deep pool, half-mud, half-water, and matted over with grass and rushes.  Along the mural face of the rock of earthy amygdaloid there runs a nearly vertical line, which in one of the stratified rocks one might perhaps term the line of a fault, but which in a trap-rock may merely indicate where two semi-molten masses had pressed against each other without uniting,—just as currents of cooling lead poured by the plumber from the opposite ends of a groove, sometimes meet and press together, so as to make a close, polished joint, without running into one piece.  The little angular opening forms the lower termination of the line, which, hollowing inwards, recedes near the bottom into a shallow cave, roughened with tufts of fern and bunches of long silky grass, here and there enlivened by the delicate flowers of the lesser rock-geranium.  A shower of drops patters from above among the weeds and rushes of the little pool.  My friend the minister stopped short.  "There," he said, pointing to the hollow, "you will find such a bone-cave as you never saw before.  Within that opening there lie the remains of an entire race, palpably destroyed, as geologists in so many other cases are content merely to imagine, by one great catastrophe.  That is the famous cave of Frances (Uamla Fhraing), in which the whole people of Eigg were smoked to death by the M'Leods."

    We struck a light, and, worming ourselves through the narrow entrance, gained the interior,—a true rock gallery, vastly more roomy and lofty than one could have anticipated from the mean vestibule placed in front of it.  Its extreme length we found to be two hundred and sixty feet; its extreme breadth twenty-seven feet; its height, where the roof rises highest, from eighteen to twenty feet.  The cave seems to have owed its origin to two distinct causes.  The trap-rocks on each side of the vertical fault-like crevice which separates them are greatly decomposed, as if by the moisture percolating from above; and directly in the line of the crevice must the surf have charged, wave after wave, for ages ere the last upheaval of the land.  When the dog-stone at Dunolly existed as a sea-stack, skirted with algæ, the breakers on this shore must have dashed every tide through the narrow opening of the cavern, and scooped out by handfuls the decomposing trap within.  The process of decomposition, and consequent enlargement, is still going on inside, but there is no longer an agent to sweep away the disintegrated fragments.  Where the roof rises highest, the floor is blocked up with accumulations of bulky decaying masses, that have dropped from above; and it is covered over its entire area by a stratum of earthy rubbish, which has fallen from the sides and ceiling in such abundance, that it covers up the straw beds of the perished islanders, which still exist beneath as a brown mouldering felt, to the depth of from five to eight inches.  Never yet was tragedy enacted on a gloomier theatre.  An uncertain twilight glimmers gray at the entrance, from the narrow vestibule; but all within, for full two hundred feet, is black as with Egyptian darkness.  As we passed onward with our one feeble light, along the dark mouldering walls and roof which absorbed every straggling ray that reached them, and over the dingy floor, roppy and damp, the place called to recollection that hall in Roman story, hung and carpeted with black, into which Domitian once thrust his senate in a frolic, to read their own names on the coffin-lids placed against the wall.  The darkness seemed to press upon us from every side, as if it were a dense jetty fluid, out of which our light had scooped a pailful or two, and that was rushing in to supply the vacuum; and the only objects we saw distinctly visible were each other's heads and faces, and the lighter parts of our dress.

    The floor, for about a hundred feet inwards from the narrow vestibule, resembles that of a charnel-house.  At almost every step we come upon heaps of human bones grouped together, as the Psalmist so graphically describes, "as when one cutteth and cleaveth wood upon the earth."  They are of a brownish, earthy hue, here and there tinged with green; the skulls, with the exception of a few broken fragments, have disappeared; for travellers in the Hebrides have of late years been numerous and curious; and many a museum,—that at Abbotsford among the rest,—exhibits, in a grinning skull, its memorial of the Massacre at Eigg.  We find, too, further marks of visitors in the single bones separated from the heaps and scattered over the area; but enough still remains to show, in the general disposition of the remains, that the hapless islanders died under the walls in families, each little group separated by a few feet from the others.  Here and there the remains of a detached skeleton may be seen, as if some robust islander, restless in his agony, had stalked out into the middle space ere he fell; but the social arrangement is the general one.  And beneath every heap we find, at the depth, as has been said, of a few inches, the remains of the straw-bed upon which the family had lain, largely mixed with the smaller bones of the human frame, ribs and vertebræ, and hand and feet bones; occasionally, too, with fragments of unglazed pottery, and various other implements of a rude housewifery.  The minister found for me, under one family heap, the pieces of a half-burned, unglazed earthen jar, with a narrow mouth, that, like the sepulchral urns of our ancient tumuli, had been moulded by the hand without the assistance of the potter's wheel; and to one of the fragments there stuck a minute pellet of gray hair.  From under another heap he disinterred the handle-stave of a child's wooden porringer (bicker), perforated by a hole still bearing the mark of the cord that had bung it to the wall; and beside the stave lay a few of the larger, less destructible bones of the child, with what for a time puzzled us both not a little,—one of the grinders of a horse.  Certain it was, no horse could have got there to have dropped a tooth,—a foal of a week old could not have pressed itself through the opening; and how the single grinder, evidently no recent introduction into the cave, could have got mixed up in the straw with the human bones, seemed an enigma somewhat of the class to which the reel in the bottle belongs.  I found in Edinburgh an unexpected commentator on the mystery, in the person of my little boy,—an experimental philosopher in his second year.  I had spread out on the floor the curiosities of Eigg,—among the rest, the relics or the cave, including the pieces of earthen jar, and the fragment of the porringer; but the horse's tooth seemed to be the only real curiosity among them in the eyes of little Bill.  He laid instant hold of it; and, appropriating it as a toy, continued playing with it till he fell asleep.  I have now little doubt that it was first brought into the cave by the poor child amid whose mouldering remains Mr. Swanson found it.  The little pellet of gray hair spoke of feeble old age involved in this wholesale massacre with the vigorous manhood of the island; and here was a story of unsuspecting infancy amusing itself on the eve of destruction with its toys.  Alas for man!  "Should not I spare Nineveh, that great city," said God to the angry prophet, "wherein are more than six thousand score persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left?"  God's image must have been sadly defaced in the murderers of the poor inoffensive children of Eigg, ere they could have heard their feeble wailings, raised, no doubt, when the stifling atmosphere within began first to thicken, and yet ruthlessly persist in their work of indiscriminate destruction.

    Various curious things have from time to time been picked up from under the bones.  An islander found among them, shortly before our visit, a sewing needle of copper, little more than an inch in length; fragments of Eigg shoes, of the kind still made in the island, are of comparatively common occurrence; and Mr James Wilson relates, in the singularly graphic and powerful description of Uamh Fraingh which occurs in his "Voyage round the Coasts of Scotland" (1841), that a sailor, when he was there, disinterred, by turning up a flat stone, a "buck-tooth" and a piece of money,—the latter a rusty copper coin, apparently of the times of Mary of Scotland.  I also found a few teeth: they were sticking fast in a fragment of jaw; and, taking it for granted, as I suppose I may, that the dentology of the murderous M'Leods outside the cave must have very much resembled that of the murdered M'Donalds within, very harmless-looking teeth they were for being those of an animal so maliciously mischievous as man.  I have found in the Old Red Sandstone the strong-based tusks of the semi-reptile Holoptychius; I have chiselled out of the limestone of the Coal Measures the sharp, dagger-like incisors of the Megalichthys; I have picked up in the Lias and Oolite the cruel spikes of the crocodile and the Ichthyosaurus; I have seen the trenchant, saw-edged teeth of gigantic Cestracions and Squalidæ that had been disinterred from the Chalk and the London Clay; and I have felt, as I examined them, that there could be no possibility of mistake regarding the nature of the creatures to which they had belonged; they were teeth made for hacking, tearing, mangling,—for amputating limbs at a bite, and laying open bulky bodies with a crunch: but I could find no such evidence in the human jaw, with its three inoffensive-looking grinders, that the animal it had belonged to,—far more ruthless and cruel than reptile-fish, crocodiles, or sharks,—was of such a nature that it could destroy creatures of even its own kind by hundreds at a time, when not in the least incited by hunger, and with no ultimate intention of eating them.  Man must surely have become an immensely worse animal than his teeth show him to have been designed for: his teeth give no evidence regarding his real character.  Who, for instance, could gather from the dentology of the M'Leods the passage in their history to which the cave of Francis bears evidence?

    We quitted the cave, with its stagnant damp atmosphere and its mouldy unwholesome smells, to breathe the fresh sea-air on the beach without.  Its story, as recorded by Sir Walter in his "Tales of a Grandfather," and by Mr Wilson in his "Voyage," must be familiar to the reader; and I learned from my friend, versant in all the various island traditions regarding it, that the less I inquired into its history on the spot, the more was I likely to feel satisfied that I knew something about it.  There seem to have been no chroniclers in this part of the Hebrides in the rude age of the unglazed pipkin and the copper needle; and many years seem to have elapsed ere the story of their hapless possessors was committed to writing: and so we find it existing in various and somewhat conflicting editions.  "Some hundred years ago," says Mr Wilson, "a few of the M'Leods landed in Eigg from Skye, where, having greatly misconducted themselves, the Eiggites strapped them to their own boats, which they sent adrift into the ocean.  They were, however, rescued by some clansmen; and soon after, a strong body of the M'Leods set sail from Skye, to revenge themselves on Eigg.  The natives of the latter island feeling they were not of sufficient force to offer resistance, went and hid themselves (men, women, and children) in this secret cave, which is narrow, but of great subterranean length, with an exceedingly small entrance.  It opens from the broken face of a steep bank along the shore; and, as the whole coast is cavernous, their particular retreat would have been sought for in vain by strangers.  So the Skye-men finding the island uninhabited, presumed the natives had fled, and satisfied their revengeful feelings by ransacking and pillaging the empty houses.  Probably the moveables were of no great value.  They then took their departure and left the island, when the sight of a solitary human being among the cliffs awakened their suspicion, and induced them to return.  Unfortunately a slight sprinkling of snow had fallen, and the footsteps of an individual were traced to the mouth of the cave.  Not having been there ourselves at the period alluded to, we cannot speak with certainty as to the nature of the parley which ensued, or the terms offered by either party; but we know that those were not the days of protocols.  The ultimatum was unsatisfactory to the Skye-men, who immediately proceeded to 'adjust the preliminaries' in their own way, which adjustment consisted in carrying a vast collection of heather, ferns, and other combustibles, and making a huge fire just in the very entrance of the Uamh Fhraing, which they kept up for a length of time; and thus, by 'one fell smoke,' they smothered the entire population of the island."

    Such is Mr Wilson's version of the story, which, in all its leading circumstances, agrees with that of Sir Walter.  According, however, to at least one of the Eigg versions, it was the M'Leod himself who had landed on the island, driven there by a storm.  The islanders, at feud with the M'Leods at the time, inhospitably rose upon him, as he bivouacked on the shores of the Bay of Laig; and in a fray, in which his party had the worse, his back was broken, and he was forced off half-dead to sea.  Several months after, on his partial recovery, he returned, crook-backed and infirm, to wreak his vengeance on the inhabitants, all of whom, warned of his coming by the array of his galleys in the offing, hid themselves in the cave, in which, however, they were ultimately betrayed—as narrated by Sir Walter and Mr Wilson—by the track of some footpaths in a sprinkling of snow; and the implacable chieftain, giving orders, on the discovery, to unroof the houses in the neighbourhood, raised high a pile of rafters against the opening, and set it on fire.  And there he stood in front of the blaze, hump-backed and grim, till the wild hollow cry from the rock within had sunk into silence, and there lived not a single islander of Eigg, man, woman, or child.  The fact that their remains should have been left to moulder in the cave is proof enough of itself that none survived to bury the dead.  I am inclined to believe, from the appearance of the place, that smoke could scarcely have been the real agent of destruction: then, as now, it would have taken a great deal of pure smoke to smother a Highlander.  It may be perhaps deemed more probable, that the huge fire of rafter and roof-tree piled close against the opening, and rising high over it, would draw out the oxygen within as its proper food, till at length all would be exhausted; and life would go out for want of it, like the flame of a candle under an upturned jar.  Sir Walter refers the date of the event to some time "about the close of the sixteenth century;" and the coin of Queen Mary, mentioned by Mr Wilson, points at a period at least not much earlier: but the exact time of its occurrence is so uncertain, that a Roman Catholic priest of the Hebrides, in lately showing his people what a very bad thing Protestantism is, instanced, as a specimen of its average morality, the affair of the cave.  The Protestant M'Leods of Skye, he said, full of hatred in their hearts, had murdered wholesale their wretched brethren the Protestant M'Donalds of Eigg, and sent them off to perdition before their time.

    Quitting the beach, we ascended the breezy hill-side on our way to the Scuir,—an object so often and so well described, that it might be perhaps prudent, instead of attempting one description more, to present the reader with some of the already existing ones.  "The Scuir of Eigg," says Professor Jamieson, in his "Mineralogy of the Western Islands," "is perfectly mural, and extends for upwards of a mile and a-half, and rises to a height of several hundred feet.  It is entirely columnar, and the columns rise in successive ranges until they reach the summit, where, from their great height, they appear, when viewed from below, diminutive.  Staffa is an object of the greatest beauty and regularity; the pillars are as distinct as if they had been reared by the hand of art; but it has not the extent or sublimity of the Scuir of Eigg.  The one may be compared with the greatest exertions of human power; the other is characteristic of the wildest and most inimitable works of nature."  "The height of this extraordinary object is considerable," says M'Culloch, dashing off his sketch with a still bolder hand; "yet its powerful effect arises rather from its peculiar form, and the commanding elevation which it occupies, than from its positive altitude.  Viewed in one direction, it presents a long irregular wall, crowning the summit of the highest hill, while in the other it resembles a huge tower.  Thus it forms no natural combination of outline with the surrounding land, and hence acquires that independence in the general landscape which increases its apparent magnitude, and produces that imposing effect which it displays.  From the peculiar position of the Scuir, it must also inevitably be viewed from a low station.  Hence it every-where towers high above the spectator; while, like other objects on the mountain outline, its apparent dimensions are magnified, and its dark mass defined on the sky so as to produce all the additional effects arising from strong oppositions of light and shadow.  The height of this rock is sufficient in this stormy country frequently to arrest the passage of the clouds, so as to be further productive of the most brilliant effects in landscape.  Often they may be seen hovering on its summit, and adding ideal dimensions to the lofty face, or, when it is viewed on the extremity, conveying the impression of a tower the height of which is such as to lie in the regions of the clouds.  Occasionally they sweep along the base, leaving its huge and black mass involved in additional gloom, and resembling the castle of some Arabian enchanter, built on the clouds, and suspended in air."  It might be perhaps deemed somewhat invidious to deal with pictures such as these in the style the connoisseur in the "Vicar of Wakefield" dealt with the old painting, when, seizing a brush, he daubed it over with brown varnish, and then asked the spectators whether he had not greatly improved the tone of the colouring.  And yet it is just possible, that in the case of at least M'Culloch's picture, the brown varnish might do no manner of harm.  But a homelier sketch, traced out on almost the same leading lines, with just a little less of the aerial in it, may have nearly the same subduing effect; I have, besides, a few curious touches to lay in, which seem hitherto to have escaped observation and the pencil; and in these several circumstances must lie my apology for adding one sketch more to the sketches existing already.

The Scuir of Eigg

    The Scuir of Eigg, then, is a veritable Giant's Causeway, like that on the coast of Antrim, taken and magnified rather more than twenty times in height, and some five or six times in breadth, and then placed on the ridge of a hill nearly nine hundred feet high.  Viewed sideways, it assumes, as described by M'Culloch, the form of a perpendicular but ruinous rampart, much gapped above, that runs for about a mile and a quarter along the top of a lofty sloping talus.  Viewed endways, it resembles a tall massy tower,—such a tower as my friend Mr D. O. Hill would delight to draw, and give delight by drawing,—a tower three hundred feet in breadth by four hundred and seventy feet in height, perched on the apex of a pyramid, like a statue on a pedestal.  This strange causeway is columnar from end to end; but the columns, from their great altitude and deficient breadth, seem mere rodded shafts in the Gothic style: they rather resemble bundles of rods than well-proportioned pillars.  Few of them exceed eighteen inches in diameter, and many of them fall short of half a foot; but, though lost in the general mass of the Scuir as independent columns, when we view it at an angle sufficiently large to take in its entire bulk, they yet impart to it that graceful linear effect which we see brought out in tasteful pencil-sketches and good line-engravings.  We approached it this day from the shore in the direction in which the eminence it stands upon assumes the pyramidal form, and itself the tower-like outline.  The acclivity is barren and stony,—a true desert foreground, like those of Thebes and Palmyra; and the huge square shadow of the tower stretched dark and cold athwart it.  The sun shone out clearly.  One half the immense bulk before us, with its delicate vertical lining, lay from top to bottom in deep shade, massive and gray; one half presented its many-sided columns to the light, here and there gleaming with tints of extreme brightness, where the pitch-stones presented their glassy planes to the sun; its general outline, whether pencilled by the lighter or darker tints, stood out sharp and clear; and a stratum of white fleecy clouds floated slowly amid the delicious blue behind it.  But the minuter details I must reserve for my next chapter.  One fact, however, anticipated just a little out of its order, may heighten the interest of the reader.  There are massive buildings,—bridges of noble span, and harbours that abut far into the waves,—founded on wooden piles; and this hugest of hill-forts we find founded on wooden piles also.  It is built on what a Scotch architect would perhaps term a pile-brander of the Pinites Eiggensis, an ancient tree of the Oolite.  The gigantic Scuir of Eigg rests on the remains of a prostrate forest.


 
CHAPTER III.


AS we climbed the hill-side, and the Shinar-like tower before us rose higher over the horizon at each step we took, till it seemed pointing at the middle sky, we could mark peculiarities in its structure which escape notice in the distance.   We found it composed of various beds, each of which would make a Giant's Causeway entire, piled over each other like storeys in a building, and divided into columns, vertical, or nearly so, in every instance except in one bed near the base, in which the pillars incline to a side, as if losing footing under the superincumbent weight.  Innumerable polygonal fragments,—single stones of the building, lie scattered over the slope, composed, like almost all the rest of the Scuir, of a peculiar and very beautiful stone, unlike any other in Scotland,—a dark pitchstone-porphyry, which, inclosing crystals of glassy feldspar, resembles in the hand-specimen a mass of black sealing-wax, with numerous pieces of white bugle stuck into it.   Some of the detached polygons are of considerable size; few of them larger and bulkier, however, than a piece of column of this characteristic porphyry, about ten feet in length by two feet in diameter, which lies a full mile away from any of the others, in the line of the old burying-ground, and distant from it only a few hundred yards.   It seems to have been carried there by man: we find its bearing from the Scuir lying nearly at right angles with the direction of the drift-boulders of the western coast, which are, besides, of rare occurrence in the Hebrides: nor has it a single neighbour; and it seems not improbable, as a tradition of the island testifies, that it was removed thus far for the purpose of marking some place of sepulture, and that the catastrophe of the cave arrested its progress after by far the longer and rougher portion of the way had been passed.  The dry armbones of the charnel-house in the rock may have been tugging around it when the galleys of the M'Leod hove in sight.  The traditional history of Eigg, said my friend the minister, compared with that of some of the neighbouring islands, presents a decapitated aspect: the M'Leods cut it off by the neck.  Most of the present inhabitants can tell which of their ancestors, grandfather or great-grandfather, or great-great-grandfather, first settled in the place, and where they came from; and, with the exception of a few vague legends about St Donan and his grave, which were preserved apparently among the people of the other Small Isles, the island has no early traditional history.

    We had now reached the Scuir.  There occur, intercalated with the columnar beds, a few bands of a buff-coloured non-columnar trap, described by M'Culloch as of a texture intermediate between a greenstone and a basalt, and which, while the pitchstone around it seems nearly indestructible, has weathered so freely as to form horizontal grooves along the face of the rock from two to five yards in depth.  One of these runs for several hundred feet along the base of the Scuir, just at the top of the talus, and greatly resembles a piazza lacking the outer pillars.  It is from ten to twelve feet in height, by from fifteen to twenty in depth; the columns of the pitchstone-bed immediately above it seem perilously hanging in mid air; and along their sides there trickles, in even the driest summer weather,—for the Scuir is a condenser on an immense scale,—minute runnels of water, that patter ceaselessly in front of the long deep hollow, like rain from the eaves of a cottage during a thunder-shower.  Inside, however, all is dry, and the floor is covered to the depth of several inches with the dung of sheep and cattle, that find, in this singular mountain-piazza, a place of shelter.  We had brought a pickaxe with us; and the dry and dusty floor, composed mainly of a gritty conglomerate, formed the scene of our labours.  It is richly fossiliferous, though the organisms have no specific variety; and never certainly have I found the remains of former creations in a scene in which they more powerfully addressed themselves to the imagination.  A stratum of peat-moss, mixed with fresh-water shells, and resting on a layer of vegetable mould, from which the stumps and roots of trees still protruded, was once found in Italy buried beneath an ancient tesselated pavement; and the whole gave curious evidence of a kind fitted to picture to the imagination a back-ground vista of antiquity, all the more remotely ancient in aspect from the venerable age of the object in front.  Dry ground covered by wood, a lake, a morass, and then dry ground again, had all taken precedence, on the site of the tesselated pavement, in this instance, of an old Roman villa.  But what was antiquity in connection with a Roman villa, to antiquity in connection with the Scuir of Eigg?  Under the old foundations of this huge wall we find the remains of a pine-forest, that, long ere a single bed of the porphyry had burst from beneath, had sprung up and decayed on hill and beside stream in some nameless land,—had then been swept to the sea,—had been entombed deep at the bottom in a grit of the Oolite,—had been heaved up to the surface, and high over it, by volcanic agencies working from beneath,—and had finally been built upon, as moles are built upon piles, by the architect that had laid down the masonry of the gigantic Scuir in one fiery layer after another.  The mountain-wall of Eigg, with its dizzy elevation of four hundred and seventy feet, is a wall founded on piles of pine laid crossways; and, strange as the fact may seem, one has but to dig into the floor of this deep-hewn piazza, to be convinced that at least it is a fact.

    Just at this interesting stage, however, our explorations bade fair to be interrupted.  Our man who carried the pickaxe had lingered behind us for a few hundred yards, in earnest conversation with an islander; and he now came up, breathless and in hot haste, to say that the islander, a Roman Catholic tacksman in the neighbourhood, had peremptorily warned him that the Scuir of Eigg was the property of Dr M'Pherson of Aberdeen, not ours, and that the Doctor would be very angry at any man who meddled with it.  "That message," said my friend, laughing, but looking just a little sad through the laugh, "would scarce have been sent us when I was minister of the Establishment here; but it seems allowable in the case of a poor Dissenter, and is no bad specimen of the thousand little ways in which the Roman Catholic population of the island try to annoy me, now that they see my back to the wall."  I was tickled with the idea of a fossil preserve, which coupled itself in my mind, through a trick of the associative faculty, with the idea of a great fossil act for the British empire, framed on the principles of the game-laws; and, just wondering what sort of disreputable vagabonds geological poachers would become under its deteriorating influence, I laid hold of the pickaxe, and broke into the stonefast floor.  And thence I succeeded in abstracting,—feloniously, I dare say, though the crime has not yet got into the statute-book,—some six or eight pieces of the Pinites Eiggensis, amounting in all to about half a cubic foot of that very ancient wood—value unknown.  I trust, should the case come to a serious bearing, the members of the London Geological Society will generously subscribe half-a-crown a-piece to assist me in feeing counsel.  There are more interests than mine at stake in the affair.  If I be cast and committed,—I, who have poached over only a few miserable districts in Scotland,—pray, what will become of some of them,—the Lyells, Bucklands, Murchisons, and Sedgwicks,—who have poached over whole continents?

    We were successful in procuring several good specimens of the Eigg pine, at a depth, in the conglomerate, of from eight to eighteen inches.  Some of the upper pieces we found in contact with the decomposing trap out of which the hollow piazza above had been scooped; but the greater number, as my set of specimens abundantly testify, lay imbedded in the original Oolitic grit in which they had been locked up, in, I doubt not, their present fossil state, ere their upheaval, through Plutonic agency, from their deep-sea bottom.  The annual rings of the wood, which are quite as small as in a slow-growing Baltic pine, are distinctly visible in all the better pieces I this day transferred to my bag.  In one fragment I reckon sixteen rings in half an inch, and fifteen in the same space in another.  The trees to which they belonged seem to have grown on some exposed hill-side, where, in the course of half a century, little more than from two to three inches were, added to their diameter.  The Pinites Eiggensis, or Eigg pine, was first introduced to the notice of the scientific world by the late Mr Witham, in whose interesting work on "The Internal Structure of Fossil Vegetables" the reader may find it figured and described.  The specimen in which he studied its peculiarities "was found," he says, "at the base of the magnificent mural escarpment named the Scuir of Eigg, not, however, in situ, but among fragments of rocks of the Oolitic series."  The authors of the "Fossil Flora," where it is also figured, describe it as differing very considerably in structure from any of the coniferæ of the Coal Measures.  "Its medullary rays," say Messrs Lindley and Hutton, "appear to be more numerous, and frequently are not continued through one zone of wood to another, but more generally terminate at the concentric circles.  It abounds also in turpentine vessels, or lacunæ, of various sizes, the sides of which are distinctly defined."  Viewed through the microscope, in transparent slips, longitudinal and transverse, it presents, within the space of a few lines, objects fitted to fill the mind with wonder.  We find the minutest cells, glands, fibres, of the original wood preserved uninjured.  There still are those medullary rays entire that communicated between the pith and the outside,—there still the ring of thickened cells that indicated the yearly check which the growth received when winter came on,—there the polygonal reticulations of the cross section, without a single broken mesh,—there, too, the elongated cells in the longitudinal one, each filled with minute glands that take the form of double circles,—there also, of larger size and less regular form, the lacunæ in which the turpentine lay: every nicely organized speck, invisible to the naked eye, we find in as perfect a state of keeping in the incalculably ancient pile-work on which the gigantic Scuir is founded, as in the living pines that flourish green on our hillsides.  A network, compared with which that of the finest lace ever worn by the fair reader would seem a network of cable, has preserved entire, for untold ages, the most delicate peculiarities of its pattern.  There is not a mesh broken, nor a circular dot away!

    The experiments of Mr Witham on the Eigg fossil furnish an interesting example of the light which a single, apparently simple, discovery may throw on whole departments of fact.  He sliced his specimen longitudinally and across, fastened the slices on glass, ground them down till they became semi-transparent, and then, examining them under reflected light by the microscope, marked and recorded the specific peculiarities of their structure.  And we now know, in consequence, that the ancient Eigg pine, to which the detached fragment picked up at the base of the Scuir belonged,—a pine alike different from those of the earlier carboniferous period and those which exist contemporary with ourselves,—was, some three creations ago, an exceedingly common tree in the country now called Scotland—as much so perhaps, as the Scotch fir is at the present day.  The fossil-trees found in such abundance in the neighbourhood of Helmsdale that they are burnt for lime,—the fossil-wood of Eathie in Cromartyshire, and that of Shandwick in Ross,—all belong to the Pinites Eiggensis.  It seems to have been a straight and stately tree, in most instances, as in the Eigg specimens, of slow growth.  One of the trunks I saw near Navidale measured two feet in diameter, but a full century had passed ere it attained to a bulk so considerable; and a splendid specimen in my collection from the same locality, which measures twenty-one inches, exhibits even more than a hundred annual rings.  In one of my specimens, and one only, the rings are of great breadth.  They differ from those of all the others in the proportion in which I have seen the annual rings of a young vigorous fir that had sprung up in some rich moist hollow, differ from the annual rings of trees of the same species that had grown in the shallow hard soil of exposed hill-sides.  And this one specimen furnishes curious evidence that the often-marked but little understood law, which gives us our better and worse seasons in alternate groups, various in number and uncertain in their time of recurrence, obtained as early as the age of the Oolite.  The rings follow each other in groups of lesser and larger breadth.  One group of four rings measures an inch and a quarter across, while an adjoining group of five rings measures only five-eighth parts; and in a breadth of six inches there occur five of these alternate groups.  For some four or five years together, when this pine was a living tree, the springs were late and cold, and the summers cloudy and chill, as in that group of seasons which intervened between 1835 and 1841; and then for four or five years more springs were early and summers genial, as in the after group of 1842, 1843, and 1844.  An arrangement in nature,—first observed, as we learn from Bacon, by the people of the low countries, and which has since formed the basis of meteoric tables, and of predictions, and elaborate cycles of the weather,—bound together the twelvemonths of the Oolitic period in alternate bundles of better and worse: vegetation throve vigorously during the summers of one group, and languished in those of another in a state of partial development.

    Sending away our man shipwards, laden with a bag of fossil-wood, we ascended by a steep broken ravine to the top of the Scuir.  The columns, as we pass on towards the west, diminish in size, and assume in many of the beds considerable variety of direction and form.  In one bed they belly over with a curve, like the ribs of some wrecked vessel from which the planking has been torn away; in another they project in a straight line, like muskets planted slantways on the ground to receive a charge of cavalry; in others the inclination is inwards, like that of ranges of stakes placed in front of a seadyke, to break the violence of the waves; while in yet others they present, as in the eastern portion of the Scuir, the common vertical direction.  The ribbed appearance of every crag and cliff imparts to the scene a peculiar character: every larger mass of light and shadow is corded with minute stripes; and the feeling experienced among the more shattered peaks, and in the more broken recesses, seems nearer akin to that which it is the tendency of some magnificent ruin to excite, than that which awakens amid the sublime of nature.  We feel as if the pillared rocks around us were like the Cyclopean walls of Southern Italy,—the erections of some old gigantic race passed from the earth for ever.  The feeling must have been experienced on former occasions amid the innumerable pillars of the Scuir; for we find M'Culloch, in his description, ingeniously analyzing it.  "The resemblance to architecture here is much increased," he says, "by the columnar structure, which is sufficiently distinguishable even from a distance, and produces a strong effect of artificial regularity when seen near at hand.  To this vague association in the mind of the efforts of art with the magnitude of nature, is owing much of that sublimity of character which the Scuir presents.  The sense of power is a fertile source of the sublime; and as the appearance of power exerted, no less than that of simplicity, is necessary to confer this character on architecture, so the mind, insensibly transferring the operations of nature to the efforts of art where they approximate in character, becomes impressed with a feeling rarely excited by her more ordinary forms, where these are even more stupendous."

    The top of the Scuir, more especially towards its eastern termination, resembles that of some vast mole not yet levelled over by the workmen; the pavement has not yet been laid down; and there are deep gaps in the masonry, that run transversely from side to side, still to fill up.  Along one of these ditch-like gaps, which serves to insulate the eastern and highest portion of the Scuir from all its other portions, we find fragments of a rude wall of uncemented stones, the remains of an ancient hill-fort; which, with its natural rampart of rock on three of its four sides, more than a hundred yards in sheer descent, and with its deep ditch and rude wall on the fourth, must have formed one of the most inaccessible in the kingdom.  The masses of pitchstone atop, though so intensely black within, are weathered on the surface into almost a pure white; and we found lying detached among them, fragments of common amygdaloid and basalt, and minute slaty pieces of chalcedony that bad formed apparently in fissures of the trap.  We would have scrutinized more narrowly at the time had we expected to find anything more rare; but I did not know, until full four months after, that aught more rare was to be found.  Had we examined somewhat more carefully, we might possibly have done what Mr Woronzow Greig did on the Scuir about eighteen years previous,—picked up on it a piece of bona fide Scotch pumice.  This gentleman, well known through his exertions in statistical science, and for his love of science in general, and whose tastes and acquirements are not unworthy the son of Mrs Somerville, has kindly informed me by letter regarding his curious discovery.  "I visited the island of Eigg," he says, "in 1825 or 1826, for the purpose of shooting, and remained in it several days; and as there was a great scarcity of game, I amused myself in my wanderings by looking about for natural curiosities.  I knew little about Geology at the time, but, collecting whatever struck my eye as uncommon, I picked up from the sides of the Scuir, among various other things, a bit of fossil-wood, and, nearly at the summit of the eminence, a piece of pumice of a deep brownish-black colour, and very porous, the pores being large and round, and the substance which divided them of a uniform thickness.  This last specimen I gave to Mr Lyell, who said that it could not originally have belonged to Eigg, though it might possibly have been washed there by the sea,—a suggestion, however, with which its place on the top of the Scuir seems ill to accord.  I may add, that I have since procured a larger specimen from the same place."  This seems a curious fact, when we take into account the identity, in their mineral components, of the pumice and obsidian of the recent volcanoes; and that pitchstone, the obsidian of the trap-rocks, is resolvable into a pumice by the art of the chemist.  If pumice was to be found anywhere in Scotland, we might a priori expect to find it in connection with by far the largest mass of pitchstone in the kingdom.  It is just possible, however, that Mr Greig's two specimens may not date farther back, in at least their existing state, than the days of the hill-fort.  Powerful fires would have been required to render the exposed summit of the Scuir at all comfortable; there is a deep peat-moss in its immediate neighbourhood, that would have furnished the necessary fuel; the wind must have often been sufficiently high on the summit to fan the embers into an intense white heat; and if it was heat but half as intense as that which was employed in fusing into one mass the thick vitrified ramparts of Craig Phadrig and Knock Ferril, on the east coast, it could scarce have failed to anticipate the experiment of the Hon. Mr Knox of Dublin, by converting some of the numerous pitchstone fragments that lie scattered about, "into a light substance in every respect resembling pumice."

    It was now evening, and rarely have I witnessed a finer.  The sun had declined half-way adown the western sky, and for many yards the shadow of the gigantic Scuir lay dark beneath us along the descending slope.  All the rest of the island, spread out at our feet as in a map, was basking in yellow sunshine; and with its one dark shadow thrown from its one mountain-elevated wall of rock, it seemed some immense fantastical dial, with its gnomon rising tall in the midst.  Far below, perched on the apex of the shadow, and half lost in the line of the penumbra, we could see two indistinct specks of black, with a dim halo around each,—specks that elongated as we arose, and contracted as we sat, and went gliding along the line as we walked.  The shadows of two gnats disporting on the edge of an ordinary gnomon would have seemed vastly more important, in proportion, on the figured plane of the dial, than these, our ghostly representatives, did here.  The sea, spangled in the wake of the sun with quick glancing light, stretched out its blue plain around us; and we could see included in the wide prospect, on the one hand, at once the hill-chains of Morven and Kintail, with the many intervening lochs and bold jutting headlands that give variety to the mainland; and, on the other, the variously-complexioned Hebrides, from the Isle of Skye to Uist and Barra, and from Uist and Barra to Tiree and Mull.  The contiguous Small Isles, Muck and Rum, lay moored immediately beside us, like vessels of the same convoy that in some secure roadstead drop anchor within hail of each other.  I could willingly have lingered on the top of the Scuir until after sunset; but the minister, who ever and anon, during the day, had been conning over some notes jotted on a paper of wonderfully scant dimensions, reminded me that this was the evening of his week-day discourse, and that we were more than a particularly rough mile from the place of meeting, and within half an hour of the time.  I took one last look of the scene ere we commenced our descent.  There,—in the middle of the ample parish glebe, that looked richer and greener in the light of the declining sun than at any former period during the day,—rose the snug parish manse; and yonder,—in an open island channel, with a strip of dark rocks fringing the land within, and another dark strip fringing the barren Eilean Chaisteil outside,—lay the Betsey, looking wonderfully diminutive, but evidently a little thing of high spirit, tant-masted, with a smart rake aft, and a spruce outrigger astern, and flaunting her triangular flag of blue in the sun.  I pointed first to the manse, and then to the yacht. The minister shook his head.

    "'Tis a time of strange changes," he said: "I thought to have lived and died in that house, and found a quiet grave in the burying-ground yonder beside the ruin; but my path was a clear though a rugged one; and from almost the moment that it opened up to me, I saw what I had to expect.  It has been said that I might have lain by here in this out-of-the-way corner, and suffered the Church question to run its course, without quitting my hold of the Establishment.  And so I perhaps might.  It is easy securing one's own safety, in even the worst of times, if one look no higher; and I, as I had no opportunity of mixing in the contest, or of declaring my views respecting it, might be regarded as an unpledged man.  But the principles of the Evangelical party were my principles; and it would have been consistent with neither honour nor religion to have hung back in the day of battle, and suffered the men with whom in heart I was at one to pay the whole forfeit of our common quarrel.  So I attended the Convocation, and pledged myself to stand or fall with my brethren.  On my return I called my people together, and told them how the case stood, and that in May next I bade fair to be a dependent for a home on the proprietor of Eigg.  And so they petitioned the proprietor that he might give me leave to build a house among them,—exactly the same sort of favour granted to the Roman Catholics of the island.  But month after month passed, and they got no reply to their petition; and I was left in suspense, not knowing whether I was to have a home among them or no.  I did feel the case a somewhat hard one.  The father of Dr M'Pherson of Eigg had been, like myself, a humble Scotch minister; and the Doctor, however indifferent to his people's wishes in such a matter, might have just thought that a man in his father's station in life, with a wife and family dependent on him, was placed by his silence in cruel circumstances of uncertainty.  Ere the Disruption took place, however, I came to know pretty conclusively what I had to expect.  The Doctor's factor came to Eigg, and, as I was informed, told the islanders that it was not likely the Doctor would permit a third place of worship on the island: the Roman Catholics had one, and the Establishment had a kind of one, and there was to be no more.  The factor, an active messenger-at-arms, useful in raising rents in these parts, has always been understood to speak the mind of his master; but the congregation took heart in the emergency, and sent off a second petition to Dr. M'Pherson, a week or so previous to the Disruption.  Ere it received an answer, the Disruption took place; and, laying the whole circumstances before my brethren in Edinburgh, who, like myself, interpreted the silence of the Doctor into a refusal, I suggested to them the scheme of the Betsey, as the only scheme through which I could keep up unbroken my connection with my people.  So the trial is now over; and here we are, and yonder is the Betsey."

    We descended the Scuir together for the place of meeting, and entered, by the way, the cottage of a worthy islander, much attached to his minister.  "We are both very hungry," said my friend: "we have been out among the rocks since breakfast time, and are wonderfully disposed to eat.  Do not put yourself about, but give us anything you have at hand."  There was a bowl of rich milk brought us, and a splendid platter of mashed potatoes, and we dined like princes.  I observed for the first time in the interior of this cottage, what I had frequent occasion to remark afterwards, that much of the wood used in buildings in the smaller and outer islands of the Hebrides must have drifted across the Atlantic, borne eastwards and northwards by the great gulf-stream.  Many of the beams and boards, sorely drilled by the Teredo navalis, are of American timber, that from time to time has been cast upon the shore,—a portion of it apparently from timber-laden vessels unfortunate in their voyage, but a portion of it also, with root and branch still attached, bearing mark of having been swept to the sea by Transatlantic rivers.  Nuts and seeds of tropical plants are occasionally picked up on the beach.  My friend gave me a bean or nut of the Dolichos urens, or cow-itch shrub of the West Indies, which an islander had found on the shore some time in the previous year, and given to one of the manse children as a toy; and I attach some little interest to it, as a curiosity of the same class with the large canes and the fragment of carved wood found floating near the shores of Madeira by the brother-in-law of Columbus, and which, among other similar pieces of circumstantial evidence, led the great navigator to infer the existence of a western continent.  Curiosities of this kind seem still more common in the northern than in the western islands of Scotland.  "Large exotic nuts or seeds," says Dr Patrick Neill, in his interesting "Tour," quoted in a former chapter, "which in Orkney are known by the name of Molucca beans, are occasionally found among the rejectamenta of the sea, especially after westerly winds. There are two kinds commonly found: the larger (of which the fishermen very generally make snuff-boxes) seem to be seeds from the great pod of the Mimosa scandens of the West Indies; the smaller seeds, from the pod of the Dolichos urens, also a native of the same region.  It is probable that the currents of the ocean, and particularly that great current which issues from the Gulf of Florida, and is hence denominated the Gulf Stream, aid very much in transporting across the mighty Atlantic these American products.  They are generally quite fresh and entire, and afford an additional proof how impervious to moisture, and how imperishable, nuts and seeds generally are."

    The evening was fast falling ere the minister closed his discourse; and we had but just light enough left, on reaching the Betsey, to show us that there lay a dead sheep on the deck.  It had been sent aboard to be killed by the minister's factotum, John Stewart; but John was at the evening preaching at the time, and the poor sheep, in its attempts to set itself free, had got itself involved among the cords, and strangled itself.  "Alas, alas!" exclaimed the minister, "thus ends our hope of fresh mutton for the present, and my hapless speculation as a sheep-farmer for ever more."  I learned from him afterwards, over our tea, that shortly previous to the Convocation he had got his glebe,—one of the largest in Scotland,—well stocked with sheep and cattle, which he had to sell, immediately on the Disruption, in miserably bad condition, at a loss of nearly fifty per cent.  He had a few sheep, however, that would not sell at all, and that remained on the glebe in consequence, until his successor entered into possession.  And he, honest man, straightway impounded them, and got them incarcerated in a dark, dirty hole, somewhat in the way Giant Despair incarcerated the pilgrims,—a thing he had quite a legal right to do, seeing that the mile-long glebe, with its many acres of luxuriant pasture, was now as much his property as it had been Mr Swanson's a few months before, and seeing Mr Swanson's few sheep had no right to crop his grass.  But a worthy neighbour interfered,—Mr M'Donald of Keil, the principal tenant in the island.  Mr M'Donald,—a practical commentator on the law of kindness,—was sorely scandalized by what he deemed the new minister's gratuitous unkindness to a brother in calamity; and, relieving the sheep, he brought them to his own farm, where he found them board and lodging on my friend's behalf, till they could be used up at leisure.  And it was one of the last of this unfortunate lot that now contrived to escape from us by anticipating John Stewart.  "A black beginning makes a black ending," said Gouffing Jock, an ancient border shepherd, when his only sheep, a black ewe, the sole survivor of a flock smothered in a snow-storm, was worried to death by his dogs.  Then, taking down his broad sword, he added, "Come awa, my auld friend; thou and I maun e'en stock Bowerhope-Lawance mair!"  Less warlike than Gouffing Jock, we were content to repeat over the dead, on this occasion, simply the first portion of his speech; and then, betaking ourselves to our cabin, we forgot all our sorrows over our tea.



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