Scenes and Legends (4)

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CHAPTER XI.


"Give us, for our abstractions, solid facts—
     For our disputes, plain pictures."—W
ORDSWORTH.


RELIGION never operates on the human mind without stamping upon it the more prominent traits of its own character, and very rarely without being impressed in turn (if I may so speak) with some of the peculiar traits of every individual mind on which it acts.  Like a chemical test applied to a heterogeneous mixture, it meets much that it must necessarily repel, and much also with which it combines.  And we find it not only accommodating itself in this way to the peculiarities of character, but, in many instances, even adding a new force to these.  In the mind of the deep thinker it is moulded into a sublime and living philosophy, and he cannot subsist under its influence without thinking more deeply, and becoming more truly a philosopher than before.  And what does it prove to the ignorant and credulous man?—no superstition certainly, and yet so exceedingly akin in some of its effects to superstition, that we find it lending, as if it were really such, an indirect sanction to at least the less heterodox of his superstitious beliefs—the wonders of Revelation moulding themselves into a kind of corroborate evidences of whatever else of the supernatural he had previously credited.  It imparts a higher tone of ecstasy to the raptures of the enthusiast—furnishes the visionary with his brightest dreams—gives a more intense gaiety to the joyous—a deeper gravity to the serious—and not unfrequently a darker gloom to the melancholy.  Like the most fervent of its apostles, and in much the same degree, it becomes all things to all men.  And if this hold true in individual character, its truth is not less strikingly apparent in the character of an age or country.  The schoolmaster of Cromarty and the elder of Nigg belonged each to a numerous class; and the brief notices of these men which I have introduced into the foregoing chapter, may properly enough be regarded rather as national than individual in their character.  No one who has perused the more popular writings of the Covenanters—Naphtali, the Hind let Loose, the Tracts of Peter Walker, and the older editions of the Scots Worthies—will fail of recognising, in my quotation from Morrison, the self-same spirit which animated the writers of these volumes, or be disposed to question the propriety of classing Donald Roy with our Cargills, Pedens, and Rutherfords.

    The aspect of religion, when thus amalgamated with the enthusiasm or the superstitions of a country, is always in accordance with the direction which that enthusiasm has taken, or with the peculiar cast of these superstitions, or with the nature of the circumstances and events by which they were modified or produced.  These last (circumstances and events) must be regarded as primary agents in this process of amalgamation; and they may be divided into three distinct classes.  In the first are great political convulsions, which agitate and unsettle the minds of whole communities.  In every period of the history of every country, there exists a certain quantum of superstition and enthusiasm—a certain proportion of the men who see visions and dream dreams; but in times of quiet, when every visionary has his own distinct province assigned to him by some little chance peculiar to himself, the quantum is variously directed; and thus, flowing in a thousand obscure channels, it can have no marked effect on the body of a people.  But it is not thus in times of convulsion, when all men look one way, are interested in the same events, and direct their energies on the same objects.  The quantum, swollen in bulk by the workings of these storms of the people, flows also in one channel; and thus, to a force increased in all its details, there is added a collective impetus.  Hence its overmastering power.  No one acquainted with English history need be reminded of those times of the Commonwealth, in which, through an atmosphere of lightning and tempest, whole hordes of visionaries gazed on what they deemed a still brighter, but more placid future, and called each one on his own little sect to rejoice in the prospect.  And the first French Revolution was productive of similar effects.  I need not refer to the singular interest elicited in our own country among the humbler people by the wild predictions of Brothers, or to the many soberer dreamers who were led, by the general excitement and portentous events of the period, to interpret amiss a surer word of prophecy.  No one intimate enough with human nature to recognise its impulses and passions in their various disguises of belief and opinion, can be ignorant that there is a superstition of scepticism as surely as of credulity, or fail of identifying the wild infidelity of the French Commonwealth with the almost equally wild fanaticism of the English one.

    The second class of circumstances includes famine, pestilence, and persecution; and, in particular, the effects of the last are strikingly singular.  In the others, the mind, unsettled by suffering and terror, ceases to deduce the evils which are overwhelming it from the old fixed causes which govern the universe, and sends out imagination in quest of the new.  Demons are abroad—death itself becomes a living spirit, voices of lamentation are heard in the air—spectres seen on the earth.  In such circumstances, however, the very prostration of the mind sets limits to its delusions; the inventive powers are rather passive than active; but it is not so in seasons of persecution, when our fellow-creature—man—is the visible cause of the evils to which we are subjected, and the combative principle, maddened by oppression, is roused into an almost preternatural activity.  Hence, and from the energy of excitement and the melancholy of suffering, the persecuted enthusiast becomes more enthusiastical, and the superstitions of the credulous assume a darker aspect.  Even the true religion seems impressed with a new character.  As Solomon has well expressed it—"wise men become mad;" and, seen through the medium of their disturbed imaginations, the common traits of character and of circumstance are exaggerated into the supernatural.  The oppression which is grinding them to the earth, assumes for their destruction a visible form, and a miraculous control over the laws of nature.  The evil spirit is no longer formidable merely from his power of biassing the will, and obliterating the better feelings of the heart; for, assuming a still more terrible character, and a real and tangible shape, he assails them in their hiding-places—the cavern and the desert.  Even their human enemies, charmed against the stroke of sword and bullet, are rendered invulnerable by the same power.  And there are miracles wrought also in their behalf.  Their places of hiding are discovered by the persecutor; but a sudden blindness falls on him, and he cannot avail himself of the discovery.  They are pursued on the hill-side by a troop of horse; but, when exhausted in the flight, a thick cloud is dropped over them, and they escape.  The enemy is removed by judgments sudden and fearful.  Their curse becomes terribly potent.  There is a power given them of reading the inmost thoughts of the heart; they have visions of the distant—revelations of the future.  These, however, are but the traits of a comparatively sober enthusiasm, which persecution cannot altogether goad into madness.  In some of the wilder instances we see even the moral principle unsettled.  The Huguenots of Languedoc, when driven to their mountains by the intolerance of Louis XIV., were headed by two leaders, a young man whom they named David, and a prophetess whom they termed the Great Mary.  These leaders exercised over them a despotic authority; and, when any of them proved refractory, they were condemned by the prophetess without form of trial, and put to death by their infatuated companions.  A few years after the battle of Bothwell Bridge, a small party of Covenanters, of whom the greater part, says Walker, "were serious and very gracious souls, though they then stumbled and fell," assembled in a moor near Stirling, and burned their Bibles.  Is it not probable that the terrible feuds which convulsed Jerusalem during the siege of Titus, aggravating in a tenfold degree the horrors of war and famine, were in part the effects of a similar frenzy?

    The third class of circumstances is of a quieter, but not less influential character.  When a false religion gives place in any country to the true, there is commonly a mass of what may be termed neutral superstitions which survive the change.  Thor and Woden are dethroned and forgotten, but the witch, the fairy, and the seer, the ghost of the departed, and the wraith of the dying, the spirits of the moor and the forest, of the sea, and the river, remain as potent as before  The great national colossuses of heathenism are prostrated before the genius of Christianity; but the little idols of the household can be vanquished by only philosophy and the arts.  For religion, as has been already remarked, instead of militating against the minor superstitions, lends them, in at least the darker ages, the support of what seems a corroborative evidence.  And as, from natural causes, they must still be receiving fresh accessions of strength in every country in which they have taken root, and which remains unvisited by the arts, the testimony of the heathen fathers regarding them is confirmed by what is deemed the experience of the Christian children.  The visions of the seer are as distinct as ever, the witch as malignant, the spectre as terrible.  Enthusiasm and superstition go hand in hand together as before, and under the supposed sanction of a surer creed.  The one works miracles, the other inspires a belief in them; the one predicts, the other traces the prediction to its fulfilment; the one calls up the spirits of the dead, the other sees them appear, even when uncalled.

    From a peculiar circumstance in the past state of this country, its traditional history presents us both with the appearance assumed by superstition when thus connected with religion, and the very similar aspect which it bears when left to itself.  The country had its two distinct tribes of people, believers in nearly the same superstitions, but as unlike as can well be imagined in their degree of religious feeling.  No pagan of the past ages differed more in this respect from the Christians of the present, than the clansmen of the Highland host did from the poor Covenanters, on whom they were turned loose by the Archbishop of St. Andrews.  And yet neither Peden nor Cargill, nor any of the other prophets of the Covenant, were favoured with clearer revelations of the future than some of the Highland seers.  What was deemed prophecy in the one class, was reckoned indeed merely the second-sight in the other; but there seems to be little danger of error in referring what are so evidently the same effects to the same causes.  Donald Roy's vision of the foundering boat, and of the woman perishing in the snow, is quite in character with the visions of the seers.  Peden was forty miles from Bothwell Bridge on the day of the battle; but he saw his friends "fleeing and falling before the enemy, with the hanging and hashing, and the blood running like water."  "Oh the monzies! the monzies!" he exclaimed on another occasion, when foretelling a bloody invasion of the French which was to depopulate the country, "See how they run! see how they run! they are at our firesides, slaying men, women, and children."  "Be not afraid," said Bruce of Anwoth, in a sermon preached on the day the battle of Killiecrankie was stricken; "be not afraid, I see the enemy scattered, and Claverhouse no longer a terror to God's people.  This day I see him killed—lying a corpse!"  But there is no lack of such instances, nor of the stories of second-sight with which they may be so clearly identified.  The Tracts of Peter Walker, and the Lives of the Scots Worthies, abound with the former; some very striking specimens of the latter may be found in Pepys' Correspondence with Lord Rea.

    Kenneth Ore, a Highlander of Ross-shire, who lived some time in the seventeenth century, may be regarded as the Peden of the class whom I have described as superstitious without religion.  It is said, that when serving as a field labourer with a wealthy clansman, who resided somewhere near Brahan Castle, he made himself so formidable to the clansman's wife by his shrewd sarcastic humour, that she resolved on destroying him by poison.  With this design, she mixed a preparation of noxious herbs with his food, when he was one day employed in digging turf in a solitary morass, and brought it to him in a pitcher.  She found him lying asleep on one of those conical fairy hillocks which abound in some parts of the Highlands; and her courage failing her, instead of awakening him, she set down the pitcher by his side, and returned home.  He awoke shortly after, and, seeing the food, would have begun his repast, but feeling something press coldly against his heart, he opened his waistcoat, and found a beautiful smooth stone, resembling a pearl, but much larger, which had apparently been dropped into his breast while he slept.  He gazed at it in admiration, and became conscious as he gazed that a strange faculty of seeing the future as distinctly as the present, and men's real designs and motives as clearly as their actions, was miraculously imparted to him.  And it was well for him that he should have become so knowing at such a crisis; for the first secret knowing he became acquainted with was that of the treachery practised against him by his mistress.  But he derived little advantage from the faculty ever after, for he led, it is said till extreme old age, an unsettled, unhappy kind of life—wandering from place to place, a prophet only of evil, or of little trifling events, fitted to attract notice when they occurred, merely from the circumstance of their having been foretold.

    There was a time of evil, he said, coming over the Highlands, when all things would appear fair and promising, and yet be both bad in themselves, and the beginnings of what would prove worse.  A road would be opened among the hills from sea to sea, and a bridge built over every stream; but the people would be degenerating as their country was growing better; there would be ministers among them without grace, and maidens without shame; and the clans would have become so heartless, that they would flee out of their country before an army of sheep.  Moss and muir would be converted into corn-land, and yet hunger press as sorely on the poor as ever.  Darker days would follow, for there would arise a terrible persecution, during which a ford in the river Oickel, at the head of the Dornoch Firth, would render a passage over the dead bodies of men, attired in the plaid and bonnet; and on the hill of Finnbheim, in Sutherlandshire, a raven would drink her full of human blood three times a day for three successive days.  The greater part of this prophecy belongs to the future; but almost all his minor ones are said to have met their fulfilment.  He predicted, it is affirmed, that there would be dram-shops at the end of almost every furrow; that a cow would calve on the top of the old tower of Fairburn; that a fox would rear a litter of cubs on the hearth-stone of Castle Downie; that another animal of the same species, but white as snow, would be killed on the western coast of Sutherlandshire; that a wild deer would be taken alive at Fortrose Point; that a rivulet in Western Ross would be dried up in winter; and that there would be a deaf Seaforth.  But it would be much easier to prove that these events have really taken place than that they have been foretold.  Some of his other prophecies are nearly as equivocal, it has been remarked, as the responses of the old oracles, and true merely in the letter, or in some hidden meaning capable of being elicited by only the events which they anticipated.  He predicted, it is said, that the ancient Chanonry of Ross, which is still standing, would fall "full of Mackenzies;" and as the floor of the building has been used, for time immemorial, as a burying-place by several powerful families of this name, it is supposed that the prophecy cannot fail, in this way, of meeting its accomplishment.  He predicted, too, that a huge natural arch near the Storhead of Assynt would be thrown down, and with so terrible a crash that the cattle of Led-more, a proprietor who lived twenty miles inland, would break from their fastenings at the noise.  It so happened, however, says the story, that some of Led-more's cattle, which were grazing on the lands of another proprietor, were housed within a few hundred yards of the arch when it fell.  The prophet, shortly before his death, is said to have flung the white stone into a lake near Brahan, uttering as his last prediction, that it would be found many years after, when all his prophecies would be fulfilled, by a lame humpbacked mendicant.

    There is a superstitious belief which, in the extent to which it has been received, ranks next in place to that enthusiasm which inspired the visionary and the prophet; and it was alike common in the past age to the Highlander and the Presbyterian.  I allude to the belief that evil spirits have a power of assuming visible forms, in which to tempt and affright the good, and sometimes destroy the bad—a belief as old, at least, as the days of St. Dunstan, perhaps much older.  For it seems probable that Satan is merely a successor in the class of stories which illustrates this belief to the infernal deities; indeed, in some of our more ancient Scottish traditions, nearly the old designation of one of these is retained.  The victims of Flowden were summoned at the Cross of Edinburgh in the name of Petcock, i.e., Pluto.  There is but one story of this class which I at present remember in the writings of Walker—that of Peden in the cave of Galloway; the author of Waverley, however, in referring to the story, attests the prevalence of the belief.  The autobiographies of Methodists of the last century abound with such; they form, too, in this part of the country (for the story of Donald Roy and the dog is but one of a thousand) the most numerous class of our traditions.  Out of this multitudinous class I shall select, by way of specimen, two stories which belong to the low country party, and two others peculiar to the Highlands.

    Not much more than thirty years ago, a Cromarty fisherman of staid, serious character, who had been visiting a friend in the upper part of the parish, was returning home after nightfall by the Inverness road.  The night was still and calm, and a thick mantle of dull yellowish clouds, which descended on every side from the centre to the horizon, so obscured the light of the moon, though at full, that beyond the hedges which bounded the road all objects seemed blended together without colour or outline.  The fisherman was pacing along in one of his happiest moods; his mind occupied by serious thoughts, tempered by the feelings of a genial devotion, when the stillness was suddenly broken by a combination of the most discordant sounds he had ever heard.  At first he supposed that a pack of hounds had opened in full cry in the field beside him; and then, for the sounds sunk as suddenly as they had risen, that they were ranging the moors on the opposite side of the hill.  Anon there was a fresh burst, as if the whole pack were baying at him through the hedge.  He thrust his hand into his pocket, and drew out a handful of crumbs, the residue of his last sea stock; but as he held them out to the supposed dogs, instead of open throats and glaring eyes, he saw only the appearance of a man, and the sounds ceased.  "Ah!" thought he, "here is the keeper of the pack;—I am safe."  He resumed his walk homewards, the figure keeping pace with him as he went, until, reaching a gap in the hedge, he saw it turning towards the road.  He paused to await its coming up; but what was his astonishment and horror to see it growing taller and taller as it neared the gap, and then, dropping on all fours, assume the form of a horse.  He hurried onwards; the horse hurried too.  He stood still; the horse likewise stood.  He walked at his ordinary pace; the horse walked also, taking step for step with him, without either outstripping him or falling behind.  It seemed an ugly misshapen animal, bristling all over with black shaggy hair, and lame of a foot.  It accompanied him until he reached the gate of a burying-ground, which lies about two hundred yards outside the town; where he was blinded for a moment by what seemed an intensely bright flash of lightning; and, on recovering his sight, he found that he was alone.  There is a much older but very similar story told of a man of Ferindonald, who, when on a night journey, is said to have encountered the evil one in five different shapes, and to have lost his senses through fright a few hours after; but this story, unlike the one related, could be rationally enough accounted for, by supposing the man to have lost his senses a few hours before.

    The parishes of Cullicuden and Kiltearn are situated on opposite sides of the bay of Cromarty; and their respective manses, at the beginning of the last century, nearly fronted each other; the waters of the bay flowing between.  Their clergymen, at that period, were much famed for the sanctity of their lives, and their diligence in the duties of their profession; and, from the similarity of their characters, they became strongly attached.  They were both hard students; and, for at least two hours after midnight, the lights in their closet windows would be seen as if twinkling at each other across the Firth.  When the light of the one was extinguished, the other regarded it as a signal to retire to rest.  "But, how now," thought the minister of Kiltearn, as one night, in answer to the accustomed sign, he dropped the extinguisher on his candle, "how now are the sleeping watchmen sleeping to fulfil their duties?  Would it not be better that, like sentinels, we should relieve each other by turns?  There would then be at all times within the bounds appointed us, open eyes and a praying heart."  He imparted the thought to his friend; and ever after, as long as they lived, the one minister never retired to bed until the casement of the other had given evidence that he had risen to relieve him.  A few years after this arrangement had taken place, a parishioner of Cullicuden, who had been detained by business till a late hour in some of the neighbouring parishes, was walking homeward over the solitary Maolbuoy, when be was joined by a stranger gentleman, who seemed journeying in the same direction, and entered with him into conversation.  He found him to be one of the most intelligent, amusing men he had ever met with.  He seemed to know everything; and though he was evidently no friend to the Church, he did nothing worse than laugh at it.  The man of Cullicuden felt more than half inclined to laugh at it too, and more than half convinced by the ludicrous stories of the stranger, that its observances were merely good jokes.  In this mood they reached the extreme edge of the Maolbuoy, where it borders on Cullicuden, when the stranger made a full stop.  "Our road runs this way," said the man.  "Ah!" replied the stranger, "but I cannot accompany you: see you that?" pointing, as he spoke, to a faint twinkling light on the opposite side of the bay—"The watchman is stationed there, and I dare not come a step further."  It was only from this confession that the Cullicuden man learned the true character of his companion.

    The merely superstitious stories of this class are generally of a wilder and more imaginative cast than those which have sprung up within the pale of the Church; and the chief actor in them is presented to us in a more imposing attitude, and in some instances bears rather a better character.  Somewhat less than a century ago (I am wretchedly uncertain in my dates), the ancient castle of Ardvrock in Assynt was tenanted by a dowager lady—a wicked old woman, who had a singular knack of setting the people in her neighbourhood together by the ears.  A gentleman who lived with his wife at a little distance from the castle, was lucky enough to escape for the first few years; but on the birth of a child his jealousy was awakened by some insinuations dropped by the old lady, and he taxed his wife with infidelity, and even threatened to destroy the infant.  The poor woman in her distress wrote to two of her brothers, who resided in a distant part of the country; and in a few days after they both alighted at her gate.  They remonstrated with her husband, but to no effect.  "We have but one resource," said the younger brother, who had been a traveller, and had spent some years in Italy; "let us pass this evening in the manner we have passed so many happy ones before, and visit to-morrow the old lady of Ardvrock.  I will confront her with perhaps as clever a person as herself; and whatever else may come of our visit, we shall at least arrive at the truth."  On the morrow they accordingly set out for the castle—a grey, whinstone building, standing partly on a low moory promontory, and partly out of a narrow strip of lake which occupies a deep hollow between two hills.  The lady received them with much seeming kindness, and replied to their inquiries on the point which mainly interested them with much apparent candour.  "You can have no objection," said the younger brother to her, "that we put the matter to the proof, by calling in a mutual acquaintance?"  She replied in the negative.  The party were seated in the low-browed hall of the castle, a large, rude chamber, roofed and floored with stone, and furnished with a row of narrow, unglazed windows, which opened to the lake.  The day was calm, and the sun riding overhead in a deep blue sky, unspecked by a cloud.  The younger brother rose from his seat on the reply of the lady, and bending towards the floor, began to write upon it with his finger, and to mutter in a strange language; and as he wrote and muttered, the waters of the lake began to heave and swell, and a deep fleece of vapour, that rose from the surface like an exhalation, to spread over the face of the heavens.  At length a tall black figure, as indistinct as the shadow of a man by moonlight, was seen standing beside the wall.  "Now," said the brother to the husband, "put your questions to that, but make haste;" and the latter, as bidden, inquired of the spectre, in a brief tremulous whisper, whether his wife had been faithful to him.  The figure replied in the affirmative: as it spoke, a huge wave from the lake came dashing against the wall of the castle, breaking in at the hall windows; a tremendous storm of wind and hail burst upon the roof and the turrets, and the floor seemed to sink and rise beneath their feet like the deck of a ship in a tempest.  "He will not away from us without his bountith," said the brother to the lady, "whom can you best spare?"  She tottered to the door, and as she opened it, a little orphan girl, one of the household, came rushing into the hall, as if scared by the tempest.  The lady pointed to the girl: "No, not the orphan!" exclaimed the appearance; "I dare not take her."  Another immense wave from the lake came rushing in at the windows, half filling the apartment, and the whole building seemed toppling over.  "Then take the old witch herself!" shouted out the elder brother, pointing to the lady—"take her."—"She is mine already," said the shadow, "but her term is hardly out yet; I take with me, however, one whom your sister will miss more."  It disappeared as it spoke, without, as it seemed, accomplishing its threat; but the party, on their return home, found that the infant, whose birth had been rendered the occasion of so much disquiet, had died at the very time the spectre vanished.  It is said, too, that for five years after the grain produced in Assynt was black and shrivelled, and that the herrings forsook the lochs.  At the end of that period the castle of Ardvrock was consumed by fire, kindled no one knew how; and luckily, as it would seem, for the country, the wicked lady perished in the flames; for after her death things went on in their natural course—the corn ripened as before, and the herrings returned to the lochs.

    The other Highland story of this class is, if possible, of a still wilder character.

    The river Auldgrande, after pursuing a winding course through the mountainous parish of Kiltearn for about six miles, falls into the upper part of the Firth of Cromarty.  For a considerable distance it runs through a precipitous gulf of great depth, and so near do the sides approach each other, that herd-boys have been known to climb across on the trees, which, jutting out on either edge, interweave their branches over the centre.  In many places the river is wholly invisible: its voice, however, is ever lifted up in a wild, sepulchral wailing, that seems the lament of an imprisoned spirit.  In one part there is a bridge of undressed logs thrown over the chasm.  "And here," says the late Dr. Robertson in his statistical account of the parish, "the observer, if he can look down on the gulf below without any uneasy sensation, will be gratified by a view equally awful and astonishing.  The wildness of the steep and rugged rocks—the gloomy horror of the cliffs and caverns, inaccessible to mortal tread, and where the genial rays of the sun never yet penetrated—the waterfalls, which are heard pouring down in different places of the precipice, with sounds various in proportion to their distances—the hoarse and hollow murmuring of the river, which runs at the depth of one hundred and thirty feet below the surface of the earth—the fine groves of pines, which majestically climb the sides of a beautiful eminence that rises immediately from the brink of the chasm—all these objects cannot be contemplated without exciting emotions of wonder and admiration in the mind of every beholder."

    The house and lands of Balconie, a beautiful Highland property, lie within a few miles of the chasm.  There is a tradition that, about two centuries ago, the proprietor was married to a lady of very retired habits; who, though little known beyond her narrow circle of acquaintance, was regarded within that circle with a feeling of mingled fear and respect.  She was feeling singularly reserved, and it was said spent more of her waking hours in solitary rambles on the banks of the Auldgrande, in places where no one else would choose to be alone, than in the house of Balconie.  Of a sudden, however, she became more social, and seemed desirous to attach to herself, by acts of kindness and confidence, one of her own maids, a simple Highland girl; but there hung a mysterious wildness about her—a sort of atmosphere of dread and suspicion—which the change had not removed; and her new companion always felt oppressed, when left alone with her, by a strange sinking of the vital powers—a shrinking apparently of the very heart—as if she were in the presence of a creature of another world.  And after spending with her, on one occasion, a whole day, in which she had been more than usually agitated by this feeling, and her ill-mated companion more than ordinarily silent and melancholy, she accompanied her at her bidding, as the evening was coming on, to the banks of the Auldgrande.

    They reached the chasm just as the sun was sinking beneath the hill, and flinging his last gleam on the topmost boughs of the birches and hazels which then, as now, formed a screen over the opening.  All beneath was dark as midnight.  "Let us approach nearer the edge," said the lady, speaking for the first time since she had quitted the house.  "Not nearer, ma'am," said the terrified girl; "the sun is almost set, and strange sights have been seen in the gully after nightfall."  "Pshaw," said the lady, "how can you believe such stories? come, I will show you a path which leads to the water: it is one of the finest places in the world; I have seen it a thousand times, and must see it again to-night.  Come," she continued, grasping her by the arm, "I desire it much, and so down we must go."  "No, lady!" exclaimed the terrified girl, struggling to extricate herself, and not more startled by the proposal than by the almost fiendish expression of mingled anger and fear which now shaded the features of her mistress, "I shall swoon with terror and fall over."  "Nay, wretch, there is no escape!" replied the lady, in a voice heightened almost to a scream, as, with a strength that contrasted portentously with her delicate form, she dragged her, despite of her exertions, towards the chasm.  "Suffer me, ma'am, to accompany you," said a strong masculine voice from behind; "your surety, you may remember, must be a willing one."  A dark-looking man, in green, stood beside them; and the lady, quitting her grasp with an expression of passive despair, suffered the stranger to lead her towards the chasm.  She turned round on reaching the precipice, and, untying from her belt a bunch of household keys, flung them up the bank towards the girl; and then, taking what seemed to be a farewell look of the setting sun, for the whole had happened in so brief a space that the sun's upper disk still peeped over the hill, she disappeared with her companion behind the nearer edge of the gulf.  The keys struck, in falling, against a huge granitic boulder, and sinking into it as if it were a mass of melted wax, left an impression which is still pointed out to the curious visitor.  The girl stood rooted to the spot in utter amazement.

    On returning home, and communicating her strange story, the husband of the lady, accompanied by all the males of his household, rushed out towards the chasm; and its perilous edge became a scene of shouts, and cries, and the gleaming of torches.  But, though the search was prolonged for whole days by an eager and still increasing party, it proved fruitless.  There lay the ponderous boulder impressed by the keys; immediately beside it yawned the sheer descent of the chasm; a shrub, half uprooted, hung dangling from the brink; there was a faint line drawn along the green mould of the precipice a few yards lower down; and that was just all.  The river at this point is hidden by a projecting crag, but the Highlanders could hear it fretting and growling over the pointed rocks, like a wild beast in its den; and as they listened and thought of the lady, the blood curdled at their hearts.  At length the search was relinquished, and they returned to their homes to wonder, and surmise, and tax their memories, though in vain, for a parallel instance.  Months and years glided away, and the mystery was at length assigned its own little niche among the multitudinous events of the past.

    About ten years after, a middle-aged Highlander, the servant of a maiden lady who resided near the Auldgrande, was engaged one day in fishing in the river, a little below where it issues from the chasm.  He was a shrewd fellow, brave as a lion and kindly-natured withal, but not more than sufficiently honest; and his mistress, a stingy old woman, trusted him only when she could not help it.  He was more than usually successful this day in his fishing; and picking out some of the best of the fish for his agèd mother, who lived in the neighbourhood, he hid them under a bush, and then set out for his mistress with the rest.  "Are you quite sure, Donald," inquired the old lady as she turned over the contents of his basket, "that this is the whole of your fishing?—where have you hid the rest?"  "Not one more, lady, could I find in the burn."  "O Donald!" said the lady.  "No, lady," reiterated Donald, "devil a one!"  And then, when the lady's back was turned, off he went to the bush to bring away the fish appropriated to his mother.  But the whole had disappeared; and a faintly marked track, spangled with scales, remained to show that they had been dragged apparently by some animal along the grass in the direction of the chasm.

    The track went winding over grass and stone along the edge of the stream, and struck off, as the banks contracted and became more steep and precipitous, by a beaten path which ran along the edge of the crags at nearly the level of the water, and which, strangely enough, Donald had never seen before.  He pursued it, however, with the resolution of tracing the animal to its den.  The channel narrowed as he proceeded; the stream which, as he entered the chasm, was eddying beneath him in rings of a mossy brown, became one milky strip of white, and, in the language of the poet, "boiled, and wheeled, and foamed, and thundered through;" the precipices on either hand, beetled in some places so high over his head as to shut out the sky, while in others, where they receded, he could barely catch a glimpse of it through a thick screen of leaves and bushes, whose boughs meeting midway, seemed twisted together like pieces of basket work.  From the more than twilight gloom of the place, the track he pursued seemed almost lost, and he was quite on the eve of giving up the pursuit, when, turning an abrupt angle of the rock, he found the path terminate in an immense cavern.  As he entered, two gigantic dogs, which had been sleeping one on each side of the opening, rose lazily from their beds, and yawning as they turned up their slow heavy eyes to his face, they laid themselves down again.  A little further on there was a chair and table of iron apparently much corroded by the damps of the cavern.  Donald's fish, and a large mass of leaven prepared for baking, lay on the table; in the chair sat the lady of Balconie.

    Their astonishment was mutual.  "O Donald!" exclaimed the lady, "what brings you here?"  "I come in quest of my fish," said Donald, "but, O lady! what keeps you here?  Come away with me, and I will bring you home; and you will be lady of Balconied yet."  "No, no!" she replied, "that day is past; I am fixed to this seat, and all the Highlands could not raise me from it."  Donald looked hard at the iron chair; its ponderous legs rose direct out of the solid rock as if growing out of it, and a thick iron chain red with rust, that lay under it, communicated at the one end to a strong ring, and was fastened round the other to one of the lady's ankles.  "Besides," continued the lady, "look at these dogs.—Oh! why have you come here?  The fish you have denied to your mistress in the name of my jailer, and his they have become; but how are you yourself to escape!"  Donald looked at the dogs.  They had again risen from their beds, and were now eyeing him with a keen vigilant expression, very unlike that with which they had regarded him on his entrance.  He scratched his head.  "Deed, mem," he said, "I dinna weel ken;—I maun first durk the twa tykes, I'm thinking."  "No," said the lady, "there is but one way; be on the alert."  She laid hold of the mass of leaven which lay on the table, flung a piece to each of the dogs, and waved her hand for Donald to quit the cave.  Away he sprang; stood for a moment as he reached the path to bid farewell to the lady; and after a long and dangerous scramble among the precipices, for the way seemed narrower, and steeper, and more slippery than when he had passed by it to the cave, he emerged from the chasm just as the evening was beginning to darken into night.  And no one, since the adventure of Donald, has seen aught of the lady of Balconie.


 
CHAPTER XII.


Fu' mony a sehriek that waefu' nicht
    Raise fra the boisterous main,
An' vow'd was mony a bootless vow,
    An' praied war' praiers vaine.

An' sair-pyned widows moned forlorn
    For mony a wearie days,
An' maidens, ance o' blithsome mood,
    Tined heart and dwyned away.—O
LD BALLAD.


THE headland which skirts the northern entrance of the Firth is of a bolder character than even the southern one—abrupt, stern, and precipitous as that is.  It presents a loftier and more unbroken wall of rock; and where it bounds on the Moray Firth there is a savage magnificence in its cliffs and caves, and in the wild solitude of its beach, which we find nowhere equalled on the shores of the other.  It is more exposed, too, in the time of tempest.  The waves often rise, during the storms of winter, more than a hundred feet against its precipices, festooning them, even at that height, with wreaths of kelp and tangle; and for miles within the bay, we may hear, at such seasons, the savage uproar that maddens amid its cliffs and caverns coming booming over the lashings of the nearer waves like the roar of artillery.  There is a sublimity of desolation on its shores, the effects of a conflict maintained for ages, and on a scale so gigantic.  The isolated, spire-like crags that rise along its base, are so drilled and bored by the incessant lashings of the surf, and are ground down to shapes so fantastic, that they seem but the wasted skeletons of their former selves; and we find almost every natural fissure in the solid rock hollowed into an immense cavern, whose very ceiling, though the head turns as we look up to it, owes evidently its comparative smoothness to the action of the waves.

    One of the most remarkable of these recesses occupies what we may term the apex of a lofty promontory.  The entrance, unlike that of most of the others, is narrow and rugged, though of great height, but it widens within into a shadowy chamber, perplexed, like the nave of a cathedral, by uncertain cross lights, that come glimmering into it through two lesser openings which perforate the opposite sides of the promontory.  It is a strange ghostly-looking place; there is a sort of moonlight greenness in the twilight which forms its noon, and the denser shadows which rest along its sides; a blackness so profound that it mocks the eye, hangs over a lofty passage which leads from it, like a corridor, still deeper into the bowels of the hill; the light falls on a sprinkling of half-buried bones, the remains of animals that, in the depth of winter, have creeped into it for shelter and to die; and when the winds are up, and the hoarse roar of the waves comes reverberated from its inner recesses, it needs no over-active fancy to people its avenues with the shapes of beings long since departed from every gayer or softer scene, but which still rise uncalled to the imagination in those by-corners of nature which seem dedicated, like this cavern, to the wild, the desolate, and the solitary.

    A few hundred yards from where the headland terminates towards the south, there is a little rocky bay, which has been known for ages to the seafaring men of the town as the Cova- Green.  It is such a place as we are sometimes made acquainted with in the narratives of disastrous shipwrecks.  First, there is a broad semicircular strip of beach, with a wilderness of insulated piles of rock in front; and so steep and continuous is the wall of precipices which rises behind, that, though we may see directly overhead the grassy slopes of the hill, with here and there a few straggling firs, no human foot ever gained the nearer edge.  The bay of Cova-Green is a prison to which the sea presents the only outlet; and the numerous caves which open along its sides, like the arches of an amphitheatre, seem but its darker cells.  It is in truth a wild impressive place, full of beauty and terror, and with none of the squalidness of the mere dungeon about it.  There is a puny littleness in our brick and lime receptacles of misery and languor, which speaks as audibly of the feebleness of man as of his crimes or his inhumanity; but here all is great and magnificent—and there is much, too, that is pleasing.  Many of the higher cliffs which rise beyond the influence of the spray, are tapestried with ivy; we may see the heron watching on the ledges beside her bundle of withered twigs, or the blue hawk darting from her cell; there is life on every side of us—life in even the wild tumbling of the waves, and in the stream of pure water which, rushing from the higher edge of the precipice in a long white cord, gradually untwists itself by the way, and spatters ceaselessly among the stones over the entrance of one of the caves.  Nor does the scene want its old story to strengthen its hold on the imagination.

    Some time early in the reign of Queen Anne, a fishing yawl, after vainly labouring for hours to enter the Bay of Cromarty during a strong gale from the west, was forced at nightfall to relinquish the attempt, and take shelter in the Cova-Green.  The crew consisted of but two persons—an old fisherman and his son.  Both had been thoroughly drenched by the spray, and chilled by the piercing wind, which, accompanied by thick snow-showers, had blown all day through the opening from off the snowy top of Ben-Wevis; and it was with no ordinary satisfaction that, as they opened the bay on their last tack, they saw the red gleam of a fire flickering from one of the caves, and a boat drawn up on the beach.

    "It must be some of the Tarbat fishermen," said the old man, "wind-bound like ourselves; but wiser than us, in having made provision for it.  I'll feel willing enough to share their fare with them for the night."

    "But see," remarked the younger, "that there be no unwillingness on the other side.  I am much mistaken if that be not the boat of my cousins the Macinlas!  Hap what may, however, the night is getting worse, and we have no choice of quarters.  Hard up your helm, father, or we shall barely clear the Skerries—there now—every nail an anchor!"

    He leaped ashore, carrying with him the small hawser attached to the stem, known technically as the swing, which he wound securely round a jutting crag, and then stood for a few seconds until the old man, who moved but heavily along the thwarts, had come up to him.  All was comparatively calm under the lee of the precipices, but the wind was roaring fearfully in the woods above, and whistling amid the furze and ivy of the higher cliffs; and the two boatmen as they entered the cave could see the flakes of a thick snow-shower, that had just begun to descend, circling round and round in the eddy.

    The place was occupied by three men—two of them young, and rather ordinary-looking persons; the third, a greyheaded old man, apparently of great muscular strength, though long past his prime, and of a peculiarly sinister cast of countenance.  A keg of spirits, which was placed before them, served as a table.  There were little drinking-measures of tin on it; and the mask-like, stolid expressions of the two younger men, showed that they had been indulging freely.  The elder was comparatively sober.  A fire, composed mostly of fragments of wreck and drift wood, threw up its broad cheerful flame towards the roof; but so spacious was the cavern, that, except where here and there a whiter mass of stalactites, or bolder projection of cliff, stood out from the darkness, the light seemed lost in it.  A dense body of smoke, which stretched its blue level surface from side to side, and concealed the roof, went rolling onwards like an inverted river.  On the entrance of the fishermen, the three boatmen within started to their feet, and one of the younger, laying hold of the little cask, pitched it hurriedly into a dark corner of the cave.

    "Ay, ye do well to hide it, Gibbie!" exclaimed the savage-looking old man in a bitter ironical tone, as he recognised the intruders; "here are your good friends, William and Ernest Beth come to see if they cannot rob and maltreat us a second time.  Well! they had better try."

    There could not be a more luckless meeting.  For years before had the crew of the little fishing-yawl been regarded with the bitterest hatred by the temporary inmates of the cave; nor was old Eachen of Tarbat one of the class whose resentments may be safely slighted.  He had passed the first thirty years of his life among the buccaneers of South America; he had been engaged in its latter seasons among the smugglers, who even at this early period infested the eastern coasts of Scotland; and Eachen, of all his associates, whether smugglers or buccaneers, had ever been deemed one of the fiercest and most unscrupulous.  On his return from America the country was engaged in one of its long wars with Holland, and William Beth, the elder fisherman, who had served in the English fleet, was lying in a Dutch prison at the time, and a report had gone abroad that he was dead.  He had inherited some little property from his father in the neighbouring town—a house and a little field, which in his absence was held by an only sister; who, on the report of his death, was of course regarded as a village heiress, and whose affections, in that character, Eachen of Tarbat had succeeded in engaging.  They were married, but the marriage had turned out singularly ill; Eachen was dissipated and selfish, and of a harsh, cruel temper; and it was the fate of his poor wife, after giving birth to two boys, the younger inmates of the cave, to perish in the middle of her days, a care-worn, heartbroken creature.  Her brother William had returned from Holland shortly before, and on her death claimed and recovered his property from her husband; and from that hour Eachen of Tarbat had regarded him with the bitterest malice.  A second cause of dislike, too, had but lately occurred.  Ernest Beth, William's only son, and one of his cousins, the younger son of Eachen, had both fixed their affections on a lovely young girl, the toast of a neighbouring parish; and Ernest, a handsome and high-spirited young man, had proved the successful lover.  On returning with his mistress from a fair, only a few weeks previous to this evening, he had been waylaid and grossly insulted by his two cousins; and the insult he might perhaps have borne for the sake of what they seemed to forget—his relationship to their mother; but there was another whom they also insulted, and that he could not bear; and as they were mean enough to take odds against him on the occasion, he had beaten the two spiritless fellows that did so.

    The old fisherman had heard the ominous remark of the savage as if he heard it not.  "We have not met for many years, Eachen," he said—"not since the death of my poor sister, when we parted such ill friends; but we are shortlived creatures ourselves, surely our anger should be shortlived too.  I have come to crave from you a seat by your fire."

    "It was no wish of mine, William Beth," said Eachen, "that we should ever meet; but there is room enough for us all beside the fire."

    He resumed his seat; the two fishermen took their places fronting him, and for some time neither party exchanged a word.

    "This is but a gousty lodging-place," at length remarked the old fisherman, looking round him; "but I have seen worse, and I wish the folk at hame kept we were half sae snug."

    The remark seemed directed to no one in particular, and there was no reply.  In a second attempt he addressed himself to the old man.

    "It has vexed me, Eachen," he said, "that our young folk, were it but for my sister's sake, should not be on mair friendly terms; an' we ourselves too—why suld we be enemies?"  The old man, without deigning a reply, knit his grey shaggy brows, and looked doggedly at the fire.

    "Nay, now," continued the fisherman, "we are getting auld men now, Eachen, an' wald better bury our hard thoughts o' ane anither afore we come to be buried oursels."

    Eachen fixed his keen scrutinizing glance on the speaker, there was a tremulous motion of the upper lip as he withdrew it, and a setting of the teeth; but the tone of his reply savoured more of sullen indifference than of passion.

    "William Beth," he said, "ye have tricked my boys out o' the bit property that suld have come to them by their mither; it's no so long since they barely escaped being murdered by your son.  What more want you?  But, mayhap, ye think it better that the time should be passed in making boss professions of good-will than employed in clearing off an old score."

    "Ay," hiccuped out the elder of the two sons, "the houses might come my way then; an', if Helen Henry were to lose her ae joe, the tither might hae the better chance."

    "Look ye, uncle," exclaimed the younger fisherman, "your threat might be spared.  Our little property was my grandfather's and of right descended to his only son.  As for the affair at the tryst, I dare either of my cousins to say the quarrel was of my seeking.  I have no wish to raise my hand against the sons or the husband of my aunt; but if forced to it, you will find that neither my father nor myself are wholly at your mercy."  He rose to his feet as he spoke.

    "Whisht, Ernest," said the old fisherman calmly, "sit down; your uncle maun hae ither thoughts.  It is now twenty years, Eachen," he continued, "since I was called to my sister's deathbed.  You cannot forget what passed there.  There had been grief and hunger beside that bed.  I'll no say you were willingly unkind.  Few folk are that but when they have some purpose to serve by it, and you could have none; but you laid no restraint on a harsh temper, and none on a craving habit, that forgets everything but itself, and sae my poor sister perished in the middle of her days, a wasted heart-broken thing.  I have nae wish to hurt you.  We baith passed our youth in a bad school, and I owre aften feel I havena unlearned a' my own lessons to wonder that you suldna have unlearned a' yours.  But we're getting old men, Eachen, why suld we die fools? and fools we maun die, if we die enemies."

    "You are likely in the right," said the stern old man.  But ye were aye a luckier man than me, William—luckier for this warld, I'm sure—maybe luckier for the next.  I had aye to seek, and that without finding, the good that came in your gate o' itsel'.  Now that age is coming upon us, ye get a snug rental frae the little house and croft, and I have naething; and ye have character and credit, but wha wald trust me, or wha cares for me?  Ye hae been made an elder o' the kirk, too, I hear, and I am still a reprobate; but we were a' born to be just what we are, an' sae we maun submit.  And your son, too, shares in your luck: he has heart and hand, and my whelps have neither; and the girl Henry, that' scouts that sot there, likes him; but what wonder of that!—William Beth, we needna quarrel; but for peace' sake let me alone—we have nothing in common, and friends we canna and winna be."

    "We had better," whispered Ernest to his father, "not sleep in the cave to-night."

    But why record the quarrels of this unfortunate evening?  An hour or two passed away in disagreeable bickering, during which the patience of even the old fisherman was well-nigh worn out, and that of Ernest had failed him altogether.  And at length they both quitted the cave, boisterous as the night was, and it was now stormier than ever; and heaving off their boat till she rode at the full length of her swing from the shore, they sheltered themselves under the sail.  The Macinlas returned next evening to Tarbat; but though the wind moderated during the day, the yawl of William Beth did not enter the Bay of Cromarty.  Weeks passed away during which the clergyman of the place corresponded regarding the missing fishermen with all the lower ports of the Firth, but they had disappeared as it seemed for ever; and Eachen Macinla, in the name of his sons, laid claim to their property, and entered a second time into possession of the house and the little field.

    Where the northern headland of the Firth sinks into the low sandy tract that nearly fronts the town of Cromarty, there is a narrow grassy terrace raised but a few yards over the level of the beach.  It is sheltered behind by a steep undulating bank—for though the rock here and there juts out, it is too rich in vegetation to be termed a precipice.  To the east, the coast retires into a semicircular rocky recess, terminating seawards in a lofty, dark-browed precipice, and bristling throughout all its extent with a countless multitude of crags that at every heave of the wave break the surface into a thousand eddies.  Towards the west, there is a broken and somewhat dreary waste of sand.  The terrace itself, however, is a sweet little spot, with its grassy slopes that recline towards the sun, partially covered with thickets of wild-rose and honeysuckle, and studded in their season with violets and daisies, and the delicate rock geranium.  Towards its eastern extremity, with the bank rising immediately behind, and an open space in front which seemed to have been cultivated at one time as a garden, there stood a picturesque little cottage.  It was that of the widow of William Beth.  Five years had now elapsed since the disappearance of her son and husband, and the cottage bore the marks of neglect and decay.  The door and window, bleached white by the sea winds, shook loosely to every breeze; clusters of chickweed luxuriated in the hollows of the thatch, or mantled over the eaves; and a honeysuckle, that had twisted itself round the chimney, lay withering in a tangled mass at the foot of the wall.  But the progress of decay was more marked in the widow than in her dwelling.  She had had to contend with grief and penury,—a grief not the less undermining in its effects from the circumstance of its being sometimes suspended by hope—a penury so extreme, that every succeeding day seemed as if won by some providential interference from absolute want.  And she was now, to all appearance, fast sinking in the struggle.  The autumn was well-nigh over; she had been weak and ailing for months before; and she had now become so feeble as to be confined for days together to her bed.  But happily, the poor solitary woman had at least one attached friend in the daughter of a farmer of the parish, a young and beautiful girl, who, though naturally of no melancholy temperament, seemed to derive almost all she enjoyed of pleasure from the society of the widow.

    Autumn we have said was near its close.  The weather had given indications of an early and severe winter; and the widow, whose worn-out and delicate frame was affected by every change of atmosphere, had for a few days been more than usually indisposed.  It was now long past noon, and she had but just risen.  The apartment, however, bore witness that her young friend had paid her the accustomed morning visit; the fire was blazing on a clean, comfortable-looking hearth, and every little piece of furniture was arranged with the most scrupulous care.  Her devotions were hardly over when the well-known tap and light foot of her friend Helen Henry were again heard at the door.

    "To-morrow, mother," said Helen, as she took her seat beside her, "is Ernest's birthday.  Is it not strange that, when our minds make pictures of the dead, it is always as they looked best, and kindliest, and most lifelike?  I have been seeing Ernest all day long, as when I saw him on his last birthday."

    "A my bairn!" said the widow, grasping her young friend by the hand, "I see that, sae lang as we continue to meet, our thoughts will be aye running the as way.  I had a strange dream last night, an' must tell it you.  You see yon rock to the east, in the middle o' the little bay, that now rises through the back draught o' the sea, like the hulk o' a ship, an' is now buried in a mountain o' foam.  I dreamed I was sitting on that rock, in what seemed a bonny simmer's morning.  The sun was glancin' on the water, an' I could see the white sand far down at the bottom, wig' the reflection o' the little waves aboon running over it in long curls o' gowd.  But there was no way of leaving the rock, for the deep waters were round an' round me; an' I saw the tide covering ae wee bittie after anther, till at last the whole was covered.  An' yet I had but little fear, for I remembered that baith Ernest an' William were in the sea afore me; an' I had the feeling that I could hae rest nowhere but wi' them.  The water at last closed o'er me, an' I sank frae aff the rock to the sand at the bottom.  But death seemed to have no power given him to hurt me, an' I walked as light as ever I had done on a gowany brae, through the green depths o' the sea.  I saw the silvery glitter o' the trout an' the salmon shining to the sun, far, far aboon me, like white pigeons i' the lift; and around me there were crimson star-fish, an' sea-flowers, and long trailing plants that waved in the tide like streamers; an' at length I came to a steep rock wig' a little cave like a tomb in it.  Here, I said, is the end o' my journey—William is here, an' Ernest.  An' as I looked into the cave, I saw there were bones in it, an' I prepared to take my place beside them.  But, as I stooped to enter, some one called on me, an', on looking up, there was William.  'Lillias,' he said, 'it is not night yet, nor is that your bed; you are to sleep, not with me, but, lang after this, with Ernest; haste you home, for he is waiting for you.'  'Oh, take me to him!' I said; an' then all at once I found mysel' on the shore dizzied and blinded wi' the bright sunshine for at the cave there was a darkness like that o' a simmer's gloaming; an' when I looked up for William, it was Ernest that stood before me, lifelike and handsome as ever; an' you were beside him."

    The day had been gloomy and lowering, and though there was little wind, a tremendous sea, that as the evening advanced rose higher and higher against the neighbouring precipice, had been rolling ashore since morning.  The wind now began to blow in long hollow gusts among the cliffs, and the rain to patter against the widow's casement.

    "It will be a storm from the sea," she said the scants an' gulls hae been flying landward sin' daybreak, an' I hae never seen the ground-swell come home heavier against the rocks.  Waes me for the puir sailors that maun bide under it a'!"

    "In the long stormy nights," said her companion, "I cannot sleep for thinking of them; though I have no one to bind me to them now.  Only look how the sea rages among the rocks as if it were a thing of life—that last wave rose to the crane's nest.  And look, yonder is a boat rounding the rock with only one man in it.  It dances on the surf as if it were a cork, and the little bit sail, so black and wet, seems scarcely bigger than a napkin.  Is it not bearing in for the boat-haven below?"

    "My poor old eyes," replied the widow, "are growing dim, an' surely no wonder; but yet I think I should ken that boatman.  Is it no Eachen Macula o' Tarbat?"

    "Hard-hearted old man!" exclaimed the maiden, "what can be taking him here?  Look how his skiff shoots in like an arrow on the long roll o' the surf!—and now she is high on the beach.  How cruel it was of him to rob you of your little property in the very first of your grief!  But see, he is so worn out that he can hardly walk over the rough stones.  Ah me, he is down!—wretched old man, I must run to his assistance; but no, he has risen again.  See, he is coming straight to the house; and now he is at the door."  In a moment after, Eachen entered the cottage.

    "I am perishing, Lillias," he said, "with cold and hunger, an' can gang nae farther—surely ye'll no shut your door on me in a night like this?"

    The poor widow had been taught in a far different school.  She relinquished to the worn-out boatman her seat by the fire, now hurriedly heaped with fresh fuel, and hastened to set before him the simple viands which her cottage afforded.

    As the night darkened, the storm increased.  The wind roared among the rocks like the rattling of a thousand carriages over a paved street; and there were times when, after a sudden pause, the blast struck the cottage as if it were a huge missile flung against it, and pressed on its roof and walls till the very floor rocked, and the rafters strained and quivered like the beams of a stranded vessel.  There was a ceaseless patter of mingled rain and snow—now lower, now louder; and the fearful thunderings of the waves as they raged among the pointed crags, were mingled with the hoarse roll of the stones along the beach.  The old man sat beside the fire fronting the widow and her companion, with his head reclined nearly as low as his knee, and his hands covering his face.  There was no attempt at conversation.  He seemed to shudder every time the blast yelled along the roof, and as a fiercer gust burst open the door, there was a half-muttered ejaculation.

    "Heaven itsel' hae mercy on them! for what can man do in a night like this?"

    "It is black as pitch!" exclaimed the maiden, who had risen to draw the bolt, "and the drift flees so thick that it feels to the hand like a solid snow-wreath.  And, oh, how it lightens!"

    "Heaven itsel' hae mercy on them!" again ejaculated the old man.  "My two boys," said he, addressing the widow, "are at the far Firth; an' how can an open boat live in a night like this!"

    There seemed something magical in the communication something that awakened all the sympathies of the poor bereaved woman; and she felt she could forgive him every unkindness.

    "Waes me!" she exclaimed, "it was in such a night as this, an' scarcely sae wild, that my Ernest perished."

    The old man groaned and wrung his hands.

    In one of the pauses of the hurricane there was a gun heard from the sea, and shortly after a second.  "Some pair vessel in distress," said the widow, but, alas! where can succour come frae in sae terrible a night.  There is help only in Ane!  Waes me! would we no better light up a blaze on the floor, an', dearest Helen, draw off the cover frae the window?  My puir Ernest has told me that my light has aften showed him his bearings frae the deadly bed o' Dunskaith.  That last gun," for a third was now heard booming over the mingled roar of the sea and the wind, "cam frae the very rock edge.  Waes me! maun they perish, an' sae near?" Helen hastily lighted a bundle of mire-fir, that threw up its red sputtering blaze halfway to the roof, and dropping the covering, continued to wave it opposite the window.  Guns were still heard at measured intervals, but apparently from a safer offing; and the last, as it sounded faintly against the wind, came evidently from the interior of the bay.

    "She has escaped," said the old man it's a feeble hand that canna do good when the heart is willing;—but what has mine been doing a' life lang?"  He looked at the widow and shuddered.

    Towards morning the wind fell, and the moon in her last quarter rose red and glaring out of the Firth, lighting the melancholy roll of the waves, and the broad white belt of surf that skirted the shore.  The old fisherman left the cottage, and sauntered along the beach.  It was heaped with huge wreaths of kelp and tangle, uprooted by the storm, and in the hollow of the rocky bay lay the scattered fragments of a boat.  Eachen stooped to pick up a piece of the wreck, in the fearful expectation of finding some known mark by which to recognise it; when the light fell full on the swollen face of a corpse, that seemed staring at him from out a wreath of sea-weed.  It was that of his eldest son; and the body of the younger, fearfully gashed and mangled by the rocks, lay a few yards further to the east.

    The morning was as pleasant as the night had been boisterous; and, except that the distant hills were covered with snow, and that a heavy swell continued to roll in from the sea, there remained scarce any trace of the recent tempest.  Every hollow of the neighbouring hill had its little runnel, formed by the rains of the previous night, that now splashed and glistened to the sun.  The bushes round the cottage were well-nigh divested of their leaves; but their red berries—hips and haws, and the juicy fruit of the honeysuckle—gleamed cheerfully to the light, and a warm steam of vapour, like that of a May morning, rose from the roof and the little mossy platform in front.  But the scene seemed to have something more than merely its beauty to recommend it to a young man, drawn apparently to the spot, with many others, by the fate of the two unfortunate fishermen, and who now stood gazing on the rocks, and the hill, and the cottage, as a lover on the features of his mistress.  The bodies had been carried to an old storehouse, which may still be seen, a short mile to the west; and the crowds that, during the early part of the morning, had been perambulating the beach, gazing at the wreck, and discussing the various probabilities of the accident, had gradually dispersed.  But this solitary individual, whom no one knew, remained behind.  He was a tall and somewhat swarthy, though very handsome man, of about seven-and-twenty, with a slight sear on the left cheek; and his dress, which was plain and neat, was distinguished from that of the common seaman by three narrow strips of gold lace on the upper part of one of the sleeves.  He had twice stepped towards the cottage door, and twice drawn back, as if influenced by some unaccountable feeling—timidity, perhaps, or bashfulness; and yet the bearing of the man gave little indication of either.  But at length, as if he had gathered heart, he raised the latch and went in.

    The widow, who had had many visitors that morning, seemed to be scarcely aware of his entrance; she was sitting on a low seat beside the fire, her face covered with her hands, while the tremulous rocking motion of her body showed that she was still brooding over the distresses of the previous night.  Her companion, who, without undressing, had thrown herself across the bed, was fast asleep.  The stranger seated himself beside the fire, which seemed dying amid its ashes, and, turning sedulously from the light of the window, laid his hand gently on the widow's shoulder.  She started and looked up.

    "I have strange news for you," he said.  "You have long mourned for your husband and your son; but though the old man has been dead for years, your son Ernest is still alive, and is now in the harbour of Cromarty.  He is lieutenant of the vessel whose guns you must have heard during the night."

    The poor woman seemed to have lost all power of reply.

    "I am a friend of Ernest's," continued the stranger, "and have come to prepare you to meet with him.  It is now five years since his father and he were blown off to sea by a strong gale from the land.  They drove before it for four days, when they were picked up by an armed vessel cruising in the North Sea, and which soon after sailed for the coast of Spanish America.  The poor old man sank under the fatigues he had undergone; though Ernest, better able from his youth to endure hardship, was little affected by them.  He accompanied us on our Spanish expedition—indeed, he had no choice, for we touched at no British port after meeting with him; and through good fortune, and what his companions call merit, he has risen to be the second man aboard; and has now brought home with him gold enough from the Spaniards to make his old mother comfortable.  He saw your light yester evening, and steered by it to the roadstead, blessing you all the way.  Tell me, for he anxiously wished me to inquire of you, whether Helen Henry is yet unmarried?"

    "It is Ernest—it is Ernest himself!" exclaimed the maiden, as she started from the widow's bed.  In a moment after he had locked her in his arms.

    It was ill before evening with old Eachen Macinla.  The fatigues of the previous day, the grief and horror of the following night, had prostrated his energies bodily and mental; and he now lay tossing in a waste apartment of the storehouse in the delirium of fever.  The bodies of his two sons occupied the floor below.  He muttered unceasingly in his ravings, of William and Ernest Beth.  They were standing beside him, he said, and every time he attempted to pray for his poor boys and himself, the stern old man laid his cold swollen hand on his lips.

    "Why trouble me?" be exclaimed.  "Why stare with your white dead eyes on me?  Away, old man! the little black shells are sticking in your grey hairs; away to your place!  Was it I who raised the wind or the sea?—was it I—was it I?  Aha!—no—no—you were asleep—you were fast asleep, and could not see me cut the swing; and, besides, it was only a piece of rope.  Keep away—touch me not!  I am a freeman, and will plead for my life.  Please your honour, I did not murder these two men; I only cut the rope that fastened their boat to the land.  Ha! ha! ha! he has ordered them away, and they have both left me unscathed."  At this moment Ernest Beth entered the apartment, and approached the bed.  The miserable old man raised himself on his elbow, and, regarding him with a horrid stare, shrieked out—"Here is Ernest Beth come for me a second time!" and, sinking back on the pillow, instantly expired.


 
CHAPTER XIII.


"The silent earth
 Of what it holds shall speak, and every grave
 Be as a volume, shut, yet capable
 Of yielding its contents to ear and eye."—W
ORDSWORTH.


IN the woods to the east of Cromarty, occupying the summit of a green insulated eminence, is the ancient burying-ground and chapel of St. Regulus.  Bounding the south there is a deep narrow ravine, through which there runs a small tinkling streamlet, whose voice, scarcely heard during the droughts of summer, becomes hoarser and louder towards the close of autumn.  The sides of the eminence are covered with wood, which, overtopping the summit, forms a wall of foliage that encloses the burying-ground except on the east, where a little opening affords a view of the northern Sutor over the tops of trees which have not climbed high enough to complete the fence.  In this burying-ground the dead of a few of the more ancient families of the town and parish are still interred; but by far the greater part of it is occupied by nameless tenants, whose descendants are unknown, and, whose bones have mouldered undisturbed for centuries.  The surface is covered by a short yellow moss, which is gradually encroaching on the low flat stones of the dead, blotting out the unheeded memorials which tell us that the inhabitants of this solitary spot were once men, and that they are now dust—that they lived, and that they died, and that they shall live again.

    Nearly about the middle of the burying-ground there is a low flat stone, over which time is silently drawing the green veil of oblivion.  It bears date 1690, and testifies, in a rude inscription, that it covers the remains of Paul Feddes and his son John, with those of their respective wives.  Concerning Paul, tradition is silent; of John Feddes, his son, an interesting anecdote is still preserved.  Some time early in the eighteenth century, or rather perhaps about the close of the seventeenth, he became enamoured of Jean Gallie, one of the wealthiest and most beautiful young women of her day in this part of the country.  The attachment was not mutual; for Jean's affections were already fixed on a young man, who, both in fortune and elegance of manners, was superior, beyond comparison, to the tall red-haired boatman, whose chief merit lay in a kind brave heart, a clear head, and a strong arm.  John, though by no means a dissipated man, had been accustomed to regard money as merely the price of independence, and he had sacrificed but little to the graces.  His love-suit succeeded as might have been expected; the advances he made were treated with contempt; and the day was fixed on which his mistress was to be married to his rival.  He became profoundly melancholy; and late on the evening which preceded the marriage-day, he was seen traversing the woods which surrounded the old castle; frequently stopping as he went, and, by wild and singular gestures, giving evidence of an unsettled mind.  In the morning after he was nowhere to be found.  His disappearance, with the frightful conjectures to which it gave rise, threw a gloom over the spirits of the town's-folk, and affected the gaiety of the marriage party; it was remembered, even amid the festivities of the bridal, that John Feddes had had a kind warm heart; and it was in no enviable frame that the bride, as her maidens conducted her to her chamber, caught a glimpse of several twinkling lights that were moving beneath the brow of the distant Sutor.  She could not ask the cause of an appearance so unusual; her fears too surely suggested that her unfortunate lover had destroyed himself, and that his friends and kinsfolk kept that night a painful vigil in searching after the body.  But the search was in vain, though every copse and cavern, and the base of every precipice within several miles of the town, were visited; and though, during the succeeding winter, every wreath of sea-weed which the night-storms had rolled upon the beach, was approached with a fearful yet solicitous feeling scarcely ever associated with bunches of sea-weed before.  Years passed away, and, except by a few friends, the kind enterprising boatman was forgotten.

    In the meantime it was discovered, both by herself and the neighbours, that Jean Gallie was unfortunate in her husband.  He had, prior to his marriage, when one of the gayest and most dashing young fellows in the village, formed habits of idleness and intemperance which he could not, or would not shake off; and Jean had to learn that a very gallant lover may prove a very indifferent husband, and that a very fine fellow may care for no one but himself.  He was selfish and careless in the last degree; and unfortunately, as his carelessness was of the active kind, he engaged in extensive business, to the details of which he paid no attention, but amused himself with wild vague speculations, which, joined to his habits of intemperance, stripped him in the course of a few years of all the property which had belonged to himself and his wife.  In proportion as his means decreased he became more worthless, and more selfishly bent on the gratification of his appetites; and he had squandered almost his last shilling, when, after a violent fit of intemperance, he was seized by a fever, which in a few days terminated in death.  And thus, five years after the disappearance of John Feddes, Jean Gallie found herself a poor widow, with scarce any means of subsistence, and without one pleasing thought connected with the memory of her husband.

    A few days after the interment, a Cromarty vessel was lying at anchor, before sunrise, near the mouth of the Spey.  The master, who had been one of Feddes's most intimate friends, was seated near the stern, employed in angling for cod and ling.  Between his vessel and the shore, a boat appeared in the grey light of morning, stretching along the beach under a tight, well-trimmed sail.  She had passed him nearly half a mile, when the helmsman slackened the sheet, which had been close-hauled, and suddenly changing the tack, bore away right before the wind.  In a few minutes the boat dashed alongside.  All the crew, except the helmsman, had been lying asleep upon the beams, and now started up alarmed by the shock.  "How, skipper," said one of the men, rubbing his eyes, "how, in the name of wonder, have we gone so far out of our course?  What brings us here?"  "You come from Cromarty," said the skipper, directing his speech to the master, who, starting at the sound from his seat, flung himself half over the gunwale to catch a glimpse of the speaker.  "John Feddes," he exclaimed, "by all that is miraculous!"  "You come from Cromarty, do you not?" reiterated the skipper; "Ah, Willie Mouat! is that you?"

    The friends were soon seated in the snug little cabin of the vessel; and John, apparently the less curious of the two, entered, at the others' request, into a detail of the particulars of his life for the five preceding years.  "You know, Mouat," he said, "how I felt and what I suffered for the last six months I was in Cromarty.  Early in that period I had formed the determination of quitting my native country for ever; but I was a weak foolish fellow, and so I continued to linger, like an unhappy ghost, week after week, and month after month, hoping against hope, until the night which preceded the wedding-day of Jean Gallie.  Captain Robinson was then on the coast unloading a cargo of Hollands.  I had made it my business to see him; and after some little conversation, for we were old acquaintance, I broached to him my intention of leaving Scotland.  It is well, said he; for friendship sake I will give you a passage to Flushing, and, if it suits your inclination, a berth in the privateer I am now fitting out for cruising along the coast of Spanish America.  I find the free trade doesn't suit me; it has no scope.  I considered his proposals, and liked them hugely.  There was, indeed, some risk of being knocked on the head in the cruising affair, but that weighed little with me; I really believe that, at the time, I would as lief have run to a blow as avoided one;—so I closed with him, and the night and hour were fixed when he should land his boat for me in the hope of the Sutors.  The evening came, and I felt impatient to be gone.  You wonder how I could leave so many excellent friends without so much as bidding them farewell.  I have since wondered at it myself; but my mind was filled, at the time, with one engrossing object, and I could think of nothing else.  Positively, I was mad.  I remember passing Jean's house on that evening, and catching a glimpse of her through the window.  She was so engaged in preparing a piece of dress, which I suppose was to be worn on the ensuing day, that she didn't observe me.  I can't tell you how I felt—indeed, I do not know; for I have scarcely any recollection of what I did or thought until a few hours after, when I found myself aboard Robinson's lugger, spanking down the Firth.  It is now five years since, and, in that time, I have both given and received some hard blows, and have been both poor and rich.  Little more than a month ago, I left Flushing for Banff, where I intend taking up my abode, and where I am now on the eve of purchasing a snug little property."  "Nay," said Mouat, "you must come to Cromarty."  "To Cromarty! no, that will scarcely do."  "But hear me, Feddes—Jean Gallie is a widow."  There was a long pause.  "Well, poor young thing," said John at length with a sigh, "I should feel sorry for that; I trust she is in easy circumstances?"  "You shall hear."

    The reader has already anticipated Mouat's narrative.  During the recital of the first part of it, John, who had thrown himself on the back of his chair, continued rocking backwards and forwards with the best counterfeited indifference in the world.  It was evident that Jean Gallie was nothing to him.  As the story proceeded, he drew himself up leisurely, and with firmness, until he sat bolt upright, and the motion ceased.  Mouat described the selfishness of Jean's husband, and his disgusting intemperance.  He spoke of the confusion of his affairs.  He hinted at his cruelty to Jean when he squandered all.  John could act no longer—he clenched his fist and sprang from his seat.  "Sit down, man," said Mouat, "and hear me out—the fellow is dead."—And the poor widow?" said John.  "Is, I believe, nearly destitute; you have heard of the box of broad-pieces left her by her father?—she has few of them now."  "Well, if she hasn't, I have; that's all.  When do you sail for Cromarty?"  "To-morrow, my dear fellow, and you go along with me; do you not?"

    Almost any one could supply the concluding part of my narrative.  Soon after John had arrived at his native town, Jean Gallie became the wife of one who, in almost every point of character, was the reverse of her first husband; and she lived long and happily with him.  Here the novelist would stop; but I write from the burying-ground of St. Regulus, and the tombstone of my ancestor is at my feet.  Yet why should it be told that John Feddes experienced the misery of living too long—that, in his ninetieth year, he found himself almost alone in the world? for, of his children, some had wandered into foreign parts, where they either died or forgot their father, and some he saw carried to the grave.  One of his daughters remained with him, and outlived him.  She was the widow of a bold enterprising man, who lay buried with his two brothers, one of whom had sailed round the world with Anson, in the depths of the ocean; and her orphan child, who, of a similar character, shared, nearly fifty years after, a similar fate, was the father of the writer.

    A very few paces from the burying round of John Feddes, there is a large rude stone reared on two shapeless balusters, and inscribed with a brief record of the four last generations of the Lindsays of Cromarty—an old family now extinct.  In its early days this family was one of the most affluent in the burgh, and had its friendships and marriages among the aristocracy of the country; but it gradually sank as it became older, and, in the year 1729, its last scion was a little ragged boy of about ten years of age, who lived with his widow mother in one of the rooms of a huge dilapidated house at the foot of the Chapel hill.  Dilapidated as it was, it formed the sole remnant of all the possessions of the Lindsays.  Andrew, for so the boy was called, was a high-spirited, unlucky little fellow, too careless of the school and of his book to be much a favourite with the schoolmaster, but exceedingly popular among his playfellows, and the projector of half the pieces of petty mischief with which they annoyed the village.    But, about the end of the year 1731, his character became the subject of a change, which, after unfixing almost all its old traits, and producing a temporary chaos, set, at length, much better ones in their places.  He broke off from his old companions, grew thoughtful and melancholy, and fond of solitude, read much in his Bible, took long journeys to hear the sermons of the more celebrated ministers of other parishes, and became the constant and attentive auditor of the clergyman of his own.  He felt comfortless and unhappy.  Like the hero of that most popular of all allegories, the Pilgrim's Progress, "he stood clothed in rags, with his face from his own house, a book in his hand, and a burden on his back.  And opening the book, he read thereon, and, as he read, he wept and trembled, and, not being able to contain himself, he broke out into a lamentable cry, saying, What shall I do?"  Indeed, the whole history of Andrew Lindsay, from the time of his conversion to his death, is so exact a counterpart of the journey of Christian, from the day on which he quitted the City of Destruction until he had entered the river, that, in tracing his course, I shall occasionally refer to the allegory; regarding it as the well-known chart of an imperfectly known country.  All other allegories are mere mediums of instruction, and owe their chief merit to their transparency as such; but it is not thus with the dream of Bunyan, which, through its intrinsic interest alone, has become more generally known than even the truths which are couched under it.

    Some time in the year 1732, a pious Scottish clergyman who resided in England—a Mr. Davidson of Denham, in Essex, visited some of his friends who lived in Cromarty.  He was crossing the Firth at this time on a Sabbath morning, to attend the celebration of the Supper in a neighbouring church, when a person pointed out to him a thoughtful-looking little boy, who sat at the other end of the boat.  "It is Andrew Lindsay," said the person, "a poor young thing seeking anxiously after the truth."  "I had no opportunity of conversing with him," says Mr. Davidson in his printed tract, "but I could not observe without thankfulness a poor child, on a cold morning, crossing the sea to hear the Word, without shoe or stocking, or anything to cover his head from the inclemency of the weather."  He saw him again when in church—his eyes fixed steadfastly on the preacher, and the expression of his countenance varying with the tone of the discourse.  Feeling much interested in him, he had no sooner returned to Cromarty than he waited upon him at his mother's, and succeeded in engaging him in a long and interesting conversation, which he has recorded at considerable length.

    "How did it happen, my little fellow," said he, "that you went so far from home last week to hear sermon, when the season was so cold, and you had neither shoes nor stockings?"  The boy replied in a bashful, unassuming manner, That he was in that state of nature which is contrasted by our Saviour with that better state of grace, the denizens of which can alone inherit the kingdom of heaven.  But, though conscious that such was the case, he was quite unaffected, he said, by a sense of his danger.  He was anxious, therefore, to pursue those means by which such a sense might be awakened in him; and the Word preached was one of these.  For how, he continued, unless I be oppressed by the weight of the evil which rests upon me, and the woe and misery which it must necessarily entail in the future, how can I value or seek after the only Saviour?"  "But what," said Mr. Davidson, "if God himself has engaged to work this affecting sense of sin in the heart?"—"Has he so promised?" eagerly inquired the boy.  The clergyman took out his Bible, and read to him the remarkable text in John, in which our Saviour intimates the coming of the Spirit to convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.  Andrew's countenance brightened as he listened, and, losing his timidity in the excitement of the moment, he took the book out of Mr. Davidson's hand, and, for several minutes, contemplated the passage in silence.

    "Do you ever pray?" inquired Mr. Davidson; Andrew shut the book, and, hanging down his head, timidly replied in the negative.  "What! not pray!  Do you go so far from home to attend sermons, and yet not bow the knee to God in prayer?"—"Ah!" he answered, "I do bow the knee perhaps six or seven times a day, but I cannot call that praying to God—I want the spirit of prayer; I often ask I hardly know what, and with scarce any desire to receive; and often, when a half sense of my condition has compelled me to kneel, a vicious wandering imagination carries me away, and I rise again, not knowing what I have said."—"Oh!" rejoined the clergyman, "only persist.  But tell me, was it your ordinary practice, in past years, to attend sermons as you do now?"  "No, sir, quite the reverse; once or twice in a season, perhaps, I went to church, but I used to quit it through weariness ere the service was half completed."—"And how do you account for the change ?"  "I cannot account for it: I only know, that formerly I had no heart to go and hear of God at any time, and that now I dare not keep away."  Mr. Davidson then inquired whether he had ever conversed on these matters with Mr. Gordon, the minister of the parish; but was asked with much simplicity, in return, what Mr. Gordon would think of a poor boy like him presuming to call on him?  "I have many doubts and uncertainties," said he, "but I am afraid to ask any one to solve them.  Once, indeed, but only once, I plucked up resolution enough to inquire of a friend how I might glorify God.  He bade me obey God's commandments, for that was the way to glorify Him, and I now see the value of the advice; but I see, also, that only through faith in Jesus Christ can fallen man acquire an ability to profit by it."

    "This last answer, so much above his years," says Mr. Davidson, "occasioned my asking him how he had become so intimately acquainted with these truths?  He modestly answered, 'I hear Mr. Gordon preach,' as if he had said, My knowledge bears no proportion to the advantages I enjoy."  And thus ended the conference; for, after exhorting him to be much in secret prayer, and to testify to the world the excellence of what he sought after, by being a diligent scholar and a dutiful son, Mr. Davidson bade him farewell.  The poor little fellow was wandering, at this period, over that middle space which lies between the devoted city and the wicket gate; struggling at times in the deep mire of the slough, at times journeying beside the hanging hill.  He had received, however, the roll from Evangelist, and saw the shining light of the wicket becoming clearer and brighter as he advanced.

    About half a year from the time of this conversation, Mr. Davidson had again occasion to visit Cromarty; he called on Andrew, and was struck, in the moment he saw him, by a remarkable change in his appearance.  Formerly, the expression of his countenance, though interesting, was profoundly melancholy; it was now lighted up by a quiet tranquil joy; and, though modest and unassuming as before, he was less timid.  He had passed the wicket.  He felt he had become one of the family of God; and found a new principle implanted within him, which so operated on his affections, that he now hated the evil he had previously loved, and was enamoured of the good he had formerly rejected.  Standing, as Bacon has beautifully expressed it, on the "vantage ground of truth," he could overlook the windings of the track on which he had lately journeyed, not knowing whither he went.  "I see," said he to Mr. Davidson, "that the very bent of my mind was contrary to God—especially to the way of salvation by Christ—and that I could no more get rid of this disposition through any effort of my own, than I could pull the sun out of the heavens.  I see, too, that not only were all my ordinary actions tainted by sin, but that even my religious duties were sins also.  And yet, out of these actions and duties, was I accumulating to myself a righteousness which I meant to barter for the favour of God; and, though he was at much pains with me in scattering the hoard in which I trusted, yet, after every fresh dispersal, would I set myself to gather anew."—When passing the wicket, he had been shot at from the castle.  He was conscious that a power, detached from his mind, had been operating upon it; for, as it fluctuated on its natural balance between gaiety and depression, he had felt this power weighing it into despair as it sunk towards the lower extreme, and urging it into presumption as it ascended towards the upper.  He had seen, also, the rarities at the house of the Interpreter.  Religion had communicated to him the art of thinking.  It first inspired him with a belief in God, and an anxious desire to know what was his character; and, as he read his Bible, and heard sermons, his mental faculties, like the wheels of a newly-completed engine, felt for the first time the impulse of a moving power, and began to revolve.  It next stirred him up to stand sentinel over the various workings of his mind, and, as he stood and pondered, he became a skilful metaphysician, without so much as knowing the name of the science.  As a last step in the process, it brought him acquainted with those countless analogies by which the natural world is rendered the best of all commentaries on the moral.  "I am unable," said he to his friend the clergyman, "to describe the state of my soul as I see it, but I am somewhat helped to conceive of it by the springs which rise by the wayside, as I pass westward from the town, along the edge of the bay.  They contain only a scanty supply of water, and are matted over with grass and weeds; but even now in August, when the fierce heat has dried up all the larger pools, that scanty supply does not fail them.  On disentangling the weeds I see the water sparkling beneath.  It is thus, I trust, with my heart.  The life of God is often veiled in it by the rank luxuriance of evil thoughts, but, when a new manifestation draws these aside, I can catch a glimpse of what they conceal.  I can hope, too, that as the love of Christ is unchangeable, this element of life will continue to spring up in my soul, however dry and and the atmosphere which surrounds it."

    Bunyan has described a green pleasant valley, besprinkled with lilies, which lies between the palace of the virgins and the valley of the shadow of death.  "It is blessed," says he, "with an exceedingly fertile soil, and there have been many labouring men who have been fortunate enough to get estates in it."  Andrew was one of these.  He was humble and unobtrusive, and but little confident in himself—a true freeman of the valley of humiliation.  Though no longer the leader of his school-fellows—for he had now so little influence among them, that he could not prevail on so much as one of them to follow him—he was much happier than before.  Leaving them at their wild games, he would retire to his solitudes, and there hold converse with the Deity in prayer, or seek out in meditation some of the countless parallelisms of the two great works which had been spread out before him—Creation and the Bible.  He was no longer a leader even to himself.  "I have been taught," said he, "by experience, that my heart is too stubborn a thing for my own management, and so have given it up to the management of Christ."  Mr. Davidson saw him, for the last time, about the beginning of the year 1740, when he complained to him of being exposed to many sore temptations.  He had met with wild beasts, and had to contend with giants—he had been astonished amid the gloom of the dark valley, and bewildered in the mists of the enchanted ground.  The interesting little tract from which I have drawn nearly all the materials of my memoir, and which at the time of its first appearance passed through several editions, and was printed more recently at Edinburgh by the publishers for the Sabbath-schools, concludes with a brief notice of this conference.  The rest of Andrew's story may be told in a few words.  He lived virtuously and happily, supporting himself by the labour of his hands, without either seeking after wealth or attaining to it; he bore a good name, though not a celebrated one, and lived respected, and died regretted.  It is recorded on his tombstone, in an epitaph whose only merit is its truth, that "he was truly pious from a child—his whole life and conversation agreeable thereto;" and that his death took place in 1769, in the fiftieth year of his age.

    I am aware that, in thus tracing the course of my townsman, I lay myself open to a charge of fanaticism.  I shall venture, however, on committing myself still further.

    One night, towards the close of last autumn, I visited the old chapel of St. Regulus.  The moon, nearly at full, was riding high overhead in a troubled sky, pouring its light by fits, as the clouds passed, on the grey ruins, and the mossy, tilt-like hillocks, which had been raised ages before over the beds of the sleepers.  The deep, dark shadows of the tombs seemed stamped upon the sward, forming, as one might imagine, a kind of general epitaph on the dead, but inscribed, like the handwriting on the wall, in the characters of a strange tongue.  A low breeze was creeping through the long withered grass at my feet; a shower of yellow leaves came rustling, from time to time, from an old gnarled elm that shot out its branches over the burying-ground—and, after twinkling for a few seconds in their descent, silently took up their places among the rest of the departed; the rush of the stream sounded hoarse and mournful from the bottom of the ravine, like a voice from the depths of the sepulchre; there was a low, monotonous murmur, the mingled utterance of a thousand sounds of earth, air, and water, each one inaudible in itself; and, at intervals, the deep, hollow roar of waves came echoing from the caves of the distant promontory, a certain presage of coming tempest.  I was much impressed by the melancholy of the scene.  I reckoned the tombs one by one.  I pronounced the names of the tenants.  I called to remembrance the various narratives of their loves and their animosities, their joys and their sorrows.  I felt, and there was a painful intensity in the feeling, that the gates of death had indeed closed over them, and shut them out from the world for ever.  I contrasted the many centuries which had rolled away ere they had been called into existence, and the age which had passed since their departure, with the little brief space between—that space in which the Jordan of their hopes and fears had leaped from its source, and after winding through the cares, and toils, and disappointments of life, had fallen into the Dead Sea of the grave; and as I mused and pondered—as the flood of thought came rushing over me—my heart seemed dying within me, for I felt that, as one of this hapless race, vanity of vanity was written on all my pursuits and all my enjoyments, and that death, as a curse, was denounced against me.  But there was one tomb which I had not reckoned, one name which I had not pronounced, one story which I had not remembered.  I had not thought of the tomb, the name, the story of that sleeper of hope, who had lived in the world as if he were not of the world, and had died in the full belief that because God was his friend, death could not be his enemy.  My eye at length rested on the burial-ground of the Lindsays, and the feeling of deep despondency which had weighed on my spirits was dissipated as if by a charm.  I saw time as the dark vestibule of eternity;—the gate of death which separates the porch from the main building, seemed to revolve on its hinges, and light broke in as it opened; for the hall beyond was not a place of gloom and horror, nor strewed, as I had imagined, with the bones of dead men.  I felt that the sleeper below had, indeed, lived well; the world had passed from him as from the others, but he had wisely fixed his affections, not on the transitory things of the world, but on objects as immortal as his own soul; and as I mused on his life and his death, on the quiet and comfort of the one, and the high joy of the other, I wondered how it was that men could deem it wisdom to pursue an opposite course.—I could not, at that time, regard Lindsay as a fanatic, nor am I ashamed to confess that I have not since changed my opinion.



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