Scenes and Legends (7)

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CHAPTER XXI.


"They said they were an hungry; sigh'd forth proverbs—
 That hunger broke stone walls; that dogs must eat;
 That meat was made for mouths ; that the gods sent not
 Corn for the rich men only:—with these shreds
 They vented their complainings."—C
ORIOLANUS.


THE autumn and winter of the year 1740 were, like the black years which succeeded the Revolution, long remembered all over Scotland, and more especially to the north of the Grampians.  One evening late in the summer of this year, crops of rich promise were waving on every field, and the farmer anticipated an early harvest; next morning, a chill dense fog had settled on the whole country, and when it cleared up, the half-filled ears drooped on their stalks, and the long-pointed leaves slanted towards the soil, as if scathed by fire.  The sun looked out with accustomed heat and brilliancy, and a light breeze from the south rolled away every lingering wreath of vapour; there succeeded pleasant days and mild evenings: but the hope of the season was blasted; the sun only bleached and shrivelled the produce of the fields, and the breeze rustled through unproductive straw.  Harvest came on, but it brought with it little of the labour and none of the joy of other harvests.  The husbandman, instead of carousing with his reapers, brooded in the recesses of his cottage over the ruin which awaited him; and the poor craftsman, though he had already secured his ordinary store of fish, launched his boat a second time to provide against the impending famine.

    Towards the close of autumn not an ounce of meal was to be had in the market; and the housewives of Cromarty began to discover that the appetites of their children had become appallingly voracious.  The poor things could not be made to understand why they were getting so much less to eat than usual, and the monotonous cry of "Bread, mammy, bread!" was to be heard in every house.  Groups of the inhabitants might be seen on the beach below the town watching the receding tide, in the expectation of picking up a few shell-fish; and the shelves and ledges of the hill were well-nigh stripped by them of their dulce and tangle: but with all their industry they throve but ill.   Their eyes receded, and their cheekbones stuck out; they became sallow, and lank of jaw, and melancholy; and their talk was all about the price of corn, bad times, and a failing trade.  Poor people! it was well for both themselves and the Government, that politics had not yet come into fashion; for had they lived and been subjected to such misery eighty years later, they would have become Radicals to a man: they would have set themselves to reform the State; and, as they were very hungry, no moderate reform would have served.

    The winter was neither severe nor protracted, but to the people of Cromarty it was a season of much suffering; and with the first month of spring there came down upon them whole shoals of beggars from the upper part of the country, to implore the assistance which they were, alas! unable to render them, and to share with them in the spoils of the sea.  The unfortunate paupers, mostly elderly men and women, were so modest and unobtrusive, so unlike common beggars in their costume, which in most instances was entire and neat, and so much more miserable in aspect, for they were wasted by famine, that the hearts of the people of the town bled for them.  It is recorded of a farmer of the parish, whose crops did not suffer quite so much as those of his neighbours, that he prepared every morning a pot of gruel, and dealt it out by measure to the famishing strangers—giving to each the full of a small ladle.  There was a widow gentlewoman, too, of the town, who imparted to them much of her little, and yet, like the widow of Zarephath, found enough in what remained.  On a morning of this spring, she saw a thin volume of smoke rising from beside the wall of a corn-yard, which long before had been emptied of its last stack; and approaching it, she found that it proceeded from a little fire, surrounded by four old women, who were anxiously watching a small pot suspended over the fire by a pin fixed in the wall.  Curiosity induced her to raise the lid; and as she stretched out her hand the women looked up imploringly in her face.  The little pot she found about half filled with fish entrails, which had been picked up on dunghills and the shore; her heart smote her, and hastening home for a cake of bread, she divided it among the women.  And never till her dying day did she forget the look which they gave her when, breaking the cake, she doled out a portion to each.

    Towards the end of the month of February, when the sufferings of the people seemed almost to have reached their acme, a Mr. Gordon, one of the most considerable merchants of the town, set out to the country, armed with a warrant from the Sheriff, and backed by a small party in quest of meal.  The old laws of the sheriffdom, though still unrepealed, were well-nigh exploded, but what was lacking in authority was made up by force; and so, when Mr. Gordon entered their houses to ransack the girnals and meal-chests, there were many attempts made at concealment, but none at open resistance.  The magistrate found one ingenious gudewife buried in a mountainous heap of bedclothes; the gudeman, it was said, had gone for the howdie; but one of the party mistrusting the story, raised the edge of a blanket, and lo! two sacks were discovered lying quietly by her side.  She was known ever after by the name of "the pocks' mither."  The meal procured by the party was carefully portioned out, a quantity deemed sufficient for the farmer and his household being left with him, and the remainder, which was paid for by Mr. Gordon, was carried to town, and sold out to the people in pounds and half-pounds.

    In the midst of the general distress, a small sloop from the village of Gourac entered the Firth, to take in a lading of meal, which, by dint of grievous pinching and hoarding, had been scraped together by some of the farmers of Easter Ross.  The vessel was the property of a Mr. Matthew Simpson, who acted as skipper and supercargo; and she lay on the sands of Nigg, the creek or inlet to which, in the foregoing chapter, I have had occasion to refer.  Twice every twenty-four hours was she stranded on the bottom of the inlet, and the wicker carts, laden with sacks, could be seen from the shore of Cromarty driving up to her side;—it was evident, too, that she floated heavier every tide; and many were the execrations vented by the half-starved town's-people against Simpson and the farmers.  Plans innumerable were formed among them for seizing on the vessel and disposing of her cargo; but their schemes fell to the ground, for there was none of them bold or skilful enough to take the lead in such an enterprise; and, in all such emergencies, a party without a leader is a body without a soul.  Meanwhile the sloop left the creek deeply laden, and threw out her anchors opposite the town, where she lay waiting a fair wind.

    Towards the evening of the 9th of April 1741, a shopkeeper of Cromarty was half sitting, half reclining, on his counter, humming a tune, and beating time with his ellwand on the point of his shoe.  He was a spruce, dapper, little personage, of great flexibility of countenance, full of trick and intrigue, and much noted among his simple town's-folk for a lawyer-like ingenuity.  He was, withal, a man of considerable courage when contemplating a distant danger, but somewhat of a coward when it came near.  His various correspondents addressed him by the name of Mr. Alexander Ross—the town's-people called him Silken Sawney.  On an opposite angle of the counter sat Donald Sandison, a tall, robust, red-haired man, who wrought in wood, but whose shop, from the miserable depression of trade, had been shut up for the last two months.  He had resided at Edinburgh about five years before; and when there, with another man at Cromarty named Bain, had the satisfaction of escorting the notorious Porteous from the Tolbooth to the Grass-market; and had been much edified, for he was in at the death, by the earnest remonstrances and dying ejaculations of that worthy.  A few days afterwards, however, he found his services to the commonwealth on this occasion so ill appreciated, that he deemed it prudent to quit the metropolis for the place of his nativity.  No one had ever heard him boast of the exploit; but Bain, who was a tailor, was not so prudent, and so the story came out.

    "Weel, Sandison, what are we gaup to do wi' the meal ship?" said the shopkeeper, laying down his ellwand, and sitting up erect.

    "Do wi' the ship?" replied the mechanic, scratching his head with a half-perplexed, half-humorous expression; "man, I dinna weel ken.  It's bad enough to see a' yon meal going down the Firth, an' folk at hame dying o' hunger!"

    "But, Sandison," rejoined the wily shopkeeper, "if it does a' go down the Firth, I'm just thinking it will be nobodie's wyte but your ain."

    "How that, man?" rejoined Sandison.

    "I'll tell you how that, an' in your ain words too.  Whig as ye are, ye say that all men are no born alike.  Some come intil the world to do just what they're bid, an' go just where they're bid, and say just what they hear their neebours saying; while ithers, again, come into it to think baith for themsels an' the folk round them.—Is that no your own sentiment?"

    "Weel, an' is it no true?"

    "Ay, an' I'll gie you a proof o't.  What takes the town's-folk to your shop when any thrawart matter comes in their way that they canna redd up o' themselves?  And why do they ask your advice before entering into a law-plea? or whether they should try the fishing? or whether the strange minister gibed a gude discoorse; you're no a lawyer, nor a boatman, nor a divine.  Why do they call for you to lay a tulzie when you're no a magistrate? and why do folk that quarrel wi' everybody else, take care an' no quarrel wi' you?  Just because they ken that you were born wi' a bigger mind an' a bolder heart than themsels—born a gentleman, as it were, in spite o' your hamely birth an' your serge coat; an' now that the puir folk are starving, an' a shipful o' meal going down the Firth, you slink awn from your proper natural office o' leader, an' just let them starve on."

    "Sawney," said the mechanic, "ye have such a natural turn for flattery, that ye fleech without hope o' fee or bountith.  But even allowing that I am a clever enough chiel to make an onslaught on the shipman's meal (a man wi' mair wit, I'm fear'd, would be hungrier than ony o' us afore he would think o't), I may hesitate a wee in going first in the ploy.  I have a wife an' twa bairnies.  Were there naething to fear but the stroke o' a cutlass, or the flash o' a musket, I widna buckle hesitate, maybe; but the law's a rather bad thing in these quiet times; an' I daresay 'twould be better to want cravat an' nightcap a' thegither than to hae the ane o' brown hemp an' the idler o' white cotton."

    "Hoot, man, ye're thinking o' Jock Porteous—we can surely get the meal without hanging onybodie.  Hunger breaks through stone walls, an' our apology will be written on the verra face o' the affair.  Besides, we're no going to steal the meal; we're only going to sell it out on behalf o' the inhabitants, as Mr. Gordon did the meal o' the parish.  An' as for risk—gang ye first, and here's my hand I'll go second:—if I had only your brow, I would willingly go first mysel."

    But why record the whole dialogue?  Sandison, though characteristically wary, was, in reality, little averse from the scheme: he entered into it and, after fully digesting it with the wily shopkeeper, set out to impart it to some of the bolder townsmen  "Now baud ye in readiness," said he to the man of silk as he quitted his shop; "I shall call ye up at midnight."

    The hour of midnight arrived, and a party of about thirty men, their faces blackened, and their persons enveloped, some in women's cloaks, some in their own proper vestments turned inside out, marched down the lane which, passing the shopkeeper's door, led to the beach.  They were headed by a tall active-looking man, wrapped up in a seaman's greatcoat.  No one, in the uncertain gloom of midnight, could have identified his sooty features with those of the peaceable mechanic Sandison; but there was light enough to show the but-ends of two pistols stuck in the leathern belt which clasped his middle, and that there hung by his side an enormous basket-hilted broadsword.  Stopping short at the domicile of the shopkeeper, he tapped gently against a window—no one made answer.  He tapped again.  Wha's there?" exclaimed a shrill female voice from within.  "Sawney, man, Sawney, wauken up!"—Oh, Sawney's frae hame!" rejoined the voice; "there came an express for him ance errand, just i' the gloaming', an' he's awa to the sheriffdom to see his sick mither."—"Daidlin' deceitfa' body!" exclaimed Sandison; "wha could hae reckoned on this!  But it were shame, lads, to turn back now that we hae gane sae far; an' besides, if ill comes o' the venture, he canna escape.  An' now, shave yourself to be men, an' keep as free frae fear or anger as if ye were in the parish kirk.  Launch down the yawls ane by ane, and dinna let their keels skreigh alang the stanes; an' be sure an' put in the spile plugs, that we mayna swamp by the way.  Let ilk rower muffle his oar wi' his neckcloth, just i' the clamp; an', for gudesake, skaith nane o' the crew.  Willie, Minna forget the nails an' the hammer; Bernard, man, bring up the rear."  The cool resolution of the leader seemed imparted to his followers; and, in a few minutes after, they were portioned into three boats, which, with celerity and in silence, glided towards the meal sloop.

    The first was piloted by Sandison.  It contained nearly two-thirds of the whole party; and when the other two boats prepared to moor close to the vessel, one on each side, and their crews, as they had been instructed, remained at their respective posts, Sandison steered under the stern, and laying hold of the taffrail, leaped aboard.  He was followed by about twelve of his companions, and the boat then dropped alongside.  Every manoeuvre had been planned with the utmost deliberation and care.  One of Sandison's apprentices nailed down the forecastle hatchway, and thus imprisoned the crew; the others opened the hold, unslung the tackling on each side, and immediately commenced lowering the meal-sacks into their boats; while Sandison himself, accompanied by a neighbour, groped his way down the cabin stairs to secure the master.  Simpson, a large powerful man, had got out of bed, alarmed by the trampling on deck, and, with no other covering than his shirt, was cautiously climbing the stairs, when, coming in sudden contact with the descending mechanic, he lost footing, and rolled down the steps he had ascended, drawing the other along with him.  "Murder, murder, thieves!" he roared out; and a desperate struggle ensued on the floor of the cabin.  The place was pitch dark, and when the other Cromarty man rushed into the fray, he received, all unwittingly, from his Herculean leader, who had half wrested himself out of the grasp of Simpson, a blow that sent him reeling against the vessel's side.  Again the combatants closed in an iron grapple, and rolled over the floor.  But the mechanic proved the more powerful; he rose over his antagonist, and then flinging himself upon him, the basket-hilt of the broad-sword dashed full against his breast.  "Oh, oh, oh!" he exclaimed; "mercy, hae mercy—onything but the sweet life;" and coiling himself up like a huge snake, he lay passive under the grasp of the mechanic, who, kneeling by his side, drew a pistol, which he had taken the precaution to load with powder only, and discharged it right above his face; disclosing to him for a moment the blackened features that frowned over him, and a whole group of dingy faces that now thronged the cabin stairs.  Meanwhile the work proceeded; the sloop gradually lightened as the boats became heavier, and at length a signal from the deck informed Sandison that the object of the expedition was accomplished.  Before liberating Simpson, however, the Cromarty men forced him upon his knees, and extorted an oath from him that he should not again return to the north of Scotland for meal.

    Before morning, about sixty large sacks, the lading of the three boats, were lodged in a cellar, possessed, says my authority, by Mr. James Babson, a meal and corn merchant of Cromarty; but James, though fully authorized by all his neighbours to dole out the contents to the inhabitants, and account to Simpson for the money, prudently lodged his key under the door, and set out for the country on some pretext of business.  In the meanwhile Simpson applied to the Sheriff of the county, a warrant was granted him, the meal was seized in behalf of the proper owner; and the pacific Mr. Donald Sandison was appointed, on the recommendation of the Sheriff, to stand sentry over it.  On the following day, a posse of law-officers from the ancient burgh of Tain, the farmers and farm-servants of Easter-Ross, and Simpson and the sailors, were to come, it was said, to transport his charge from the cellar to the vessel.  Sandison, with a half-ludicrous, half-melancholy expression of face, took up his station before the door; and enveloped in his greatcoat, but encumbered with neither pistols nor broadsword, he stalked up and down before it until morning.

    About two hours after sunrise, four large boats, crowded with people, were seen approaching the town, and, in a few minutes after, seven-eighths of the whole inhabitants, men, women, and children, armed with stones and bludgeons, were drawn out on the beach to oppose their landing.  Such an assemblage!  There were the parish schoolboys, active little fellows, that could hit to a hair's-breadth; and there the town apprentices of all denominations, stripped of their jackets, and with their aprons puffed out before them with well-selected pebbles.  There, too, were the women of the place, ranged tier beyond tier, from the water's edge to the houses behind, and of all ages and aspects, from the girl that had not yet left school, to the crone that had hobbled from her cottage assisted by her crutch.  The lanes were occupied by full-grown men, who, armed with bludgeons, reserved themselves for the final charge, and now crouched behind their wives and sisters to avoid being seen from the boats.  A few young lads, choice spirits of the place, had climbed up to the ridges of the low cottages, which at that time presented, in this part of the town, a line parallel to the beach.  Some of them were armed with pistols, some with satchels full of stones; and farther up the lanes there was a second party of women, who meditated an attack on Rabson's cellar.  Dire was the combination of sound.  The boys shouted, the girls shrieked, the apprentices, tapping their fingers against their throats, bleated like sheep in mockery of the farmers, the women yelled out their defiance in one continuous howl, interrupted occasionally by the hoarse exclamations and loud huzzas of the men.  The boats advanced by inches.  After every few strokes, the rowers would pause over their oars, and wrench themselves half round to reconnoitre the myriads of waving arms and threatening faces which thronged the beach.  As they creeped onwards, a few stones flung from slings by some of the boys went whizzing over their heads,  "Now pull hard, and at once!" shouted out Simpson; "we have to deal with but women and children, and shall disperse them before they have fired half a broadside."  The rowers bent them to their oars, the boats started shorewards like arrows from the string, there arose a shout from the assembled multitude, which the distant hills echoed back to them in low thunder, and a shower of stones from the boys, the apprentices, the women—from the shore, the lanes, the the cottage roofs, the chimney tops, came hailing down upon them thick and ceaseless, rattling, pattering, crashing, like the débris of a mountain rolled over its precipices by an earthquake.  The water was beaten into foam as if lashed by a hurricane.  Every individual of the four crews disappeared in an instant; the oars swung loose on the gunwales, or slipped overboard.  At length, however, the boats, propelled partly by the wind, partly by the force of the missiles, drifted from the shore; and melancholy was the appearance of the people within, when, after the stones began to fall short, they gathered themselves up, and looked cautiously over the sides.  There were broken and contused heads among them beyond all reach of reckoning; and one poor man of Easter-Ross, who had been marked out by a young fellow named Junior, the best Slinger in town, had carried two good eyes with him into the conflict, and only one out of it.  They rowed slowly to the other side, and the victors could see them, until they landed, unfolding neckcloths and handkerchiefs, and binding up heads and limbs.

    The attack on the boats had no sooner commenced, than the female party, who had been stationed in the lanes, proceeded to Rabson's cellar.  "We maun hae meal!" said the women to Sandison, who was lounging before the door with his arms folded in his greatcoat, and a little black tobacco-pipe in his mouth.  "Puff," replied the mechanic, shooting a huge burst of smoke into the face of the fairest of the speakers.  "We faun hae meal!" reiterated the women.  "Puff—weel neebours—puff—I manna betray trust, ye ken—puff; an' what else am I stationed here for, but just to keep the meal frae you?—puff, puff."  "But we maun hae't, an' we will hae't, an' we sall hae't, whether you will or no!" shrieked out a virago armed with a huge axe, which the mechanic at once recognised as his own, and who dealt, as she spoke, a tremendous blow on the door.  "Gudesake, Jess!" said the mechanic, losing in his fear for his favourite tool somewhat of his self-possession; "Gudesake, Jess, keep the edge frae the nails!"  Stepping back a few paces, he leisurely knocked out the ashes of his pipe against his thumb-nail; and with the remark, that "strong han' (force) was a masterful' argument; and that one puir working man, who hadna got his night's rest, was no match for a score o' idle queans," he relinquished his post, and took sanctuary in his own dwelling.   In less than half an hour after, the whole contents of the cellar had disappeared.  There was a hale old woman, a pauper of the place, who did not claim her customary goupens for two whole years thereafter; and a shoemaker named Millar was not seen purchasing an ounce of meal for a much longer time.

    Ninety years after the year of the meal mob, and when every one who had either shared in it or remembered it were sleeping in their graves, I was amusing myself, one wet day, in turning over some old papers stored up in the drawers of a moth-eaten scrutoire, which had once belonged to Donald Sandison, when a small parcel of manuscripts, wrapped up with a piece of tape, which had once been red, attracted my notice.  The first manuscript I drew out bore date 1742, and was entitled, "Representation, Condescendence, and Interlocutors, in the process of Matthew Simpson against the Cromarty men."  It contained a grievous complaint made by the town's-folk to the Right Hon. Lord Balmerino.  "Simpson was a person of a rancorous and very litigious spirit," urged the paper; "and it was surely not a little unreasonable in him to expect, as he did in the suit, that the people of a whole country-side, indubitably innocent of every act of violence alleged against them, should be compelled to undertake a weary pilgrimage to Edinburgh to answer to his charges, when, from the circumstances of the case, anything they could have to depone anent the spulzie, would yield exactly the same result, whether deponed at Edinburgh, Cromarty, or Japan."  It went on to show that the people were miserably depressed by poverty; and that, if compelled to set out on such a journey, they would have to beg by the way; while their wives and children would be reduced to starvation at home, without even the resource of begging itself, seeing that all their neighbours were as wretchedly poor as themselves.  Next in order in the parcel followed the statements of Mr. Matthew Simpson, addressed also to his Lordship.  He had been robbed, he affirmed, by the men of the north three several times; twice by the people, and once by the lawyers; and having lost in this way a great deal of money, he could not well afford to lose more.  It was stated, further, by the master, that Edinburgh could not be farther from Cromarty than Cromarty from Edinburgh; and that it was quite as reasonable, and fully as safe for the weaker party, that the conspirators should have to defend themselves in the metropolis, as that he, the prosecutor, should have to assail them in the village.  Both manuscripts seemed redolent of that old school of Scotch law in which joke was so frequently called in to the assistance of argument, and dry technicalities relieved by dry humour.  A third paper of the parcel bore date 1750, and was entitled, "Discharge from Matthew Simpson to Donald Sandison and others."  The fourth and last was a piece of barbarous rhyme, dignified, however, with the name of poetry, and which, after describing mealmongers as "damned rascals," and "the worst of all men," assured them, with a proper contempt for both the law of the land and the doctrine of purgatory, that there is an executive power vested in the people, which enables them to take summary justice on their oppressors, and that the "devil gets villains as soon as they are dead."

    Silken Sawney, the first projector of the spulzie, did not escape in the process, though he contrived a few years after to save his coin by running the country.  He was the only person in Cromarty who, in the year 1745, assumed the white cockade; and no sooner had he appeared with it on the street than he was apprehended by a party of his neighbours, who were kings- men, and incarcerated in an alehouse.  A guard was mounted before the door, and, on the morrow, the poor man of silk was to be sent aboard a sloop of war then lying in the bay; but as his neighbours, when they took the precaution of mounting guard, did not think proper to call to memory that his apartment had a door of its own, which opened into a garden behind, he deemed it prudent, instead of waiting the result, to pass through it on a journey to the Highlands, and he never again returned to Cromarty.  The other conspirators suffered in proportion, not to what they had perpetrated, but to what they possessed.  A proprietor named Macculloch was stripped of his little patrimony, while some of his poorer companions escaped scot-free.  Sandison contrived to pay his portion of the fine, and made chairs and tables for forty years after.  He was deemed one of the most ingenious mechanics in the north of Scotland.  I have spent whole days in the house of his grandson, half buried in dusty volumes and moth-eaten drawings which had once been his; and derived my earliest knowledge of building from Palladio's First Book of Architecture, in the antique translation of Godfrey Richards, which, as the margins testified, he had studied with much care.  At a sale of household furniture, which took place in Cromarty about thirty years ago, the auctioneer, after examining a very handsome though somewhat old-fashioned table with minute attention, recommended it to the purchasers by assuring them, in a form of speech at least as old as the days of Erasmus, that it was certainly the workmanship of either the Devil or of Donald Sandison.


 
CHAPTER XXII.


    "Old sithes they had with the rumples set even,
And then into a tree fast driven;
And some had hatchets set on a pole—
Mischievous weapons, antic and droll.
    Each where they lifted tax and cess,
And did the lieges sore oppress,
And cocks and hens, and churns and cheese,
Did kill and eat when they could seize."


D
UGALD GRAHAM'S History of the Rebellion.


WITH the solitary exception mentioned in the previous chapter, the whole people of Cromarty were loyal to the house of Hanover.  They were all sound Protestants to the utmost of their ability, and never failed doing justice in a bumper to the "best in Christendom" but when the liquor was bad.  It was therefore with no feelings of complacency, that, in the autumn of 1745, they learned that the Pretender, after landing in the western Highlands, had set off with a gathering of Gaelic Roman Catholics to take London from the King.  They affirmed, however, that the redcoats were too numerous, and London too strong, to leave the enterprise a chance of success; and it was not until Cope had been set a-scampering, and the bayonets of England proved insufficient to defend it on the Scottish side, that they began to pity George Rex (poor man), and to talk about the downfall of the Kirk.  Their attention, however, was called off from all such minor matters to a circumstance connected with the outbreaking which directly affected themselves.  Parties of wild Highlanders, taking advantage of the defenceless state of the Lowlands, and the cause of the Pretender, went prowling about the country, robbing as the smith fought, "every man to his own hand;" and stories of their depredations began to pour into the town.  They were doing great skaith, it was said, to victual and drink, spulzieing women of their yarn, and men of their shoes and bonnets; as for money, there was luckily very little in the country.  Nor was it possible to conciliate them by any adaptation whatever of one's politics to the Jacobite code.  A man of Ferindonald, a genuine friend to the Stuart, had gone out to meet with them, and in the fulness of his heart, after perching himself on a hillock by the wayside, he continued to cry out, "You're welcome! you're welcome!" from their first appearance until they had come up to him.  "Welcomes or na welcomes," said a bareheaded, barefooted Highlander, as stooping down he seized him by the ankles; "welcomes or na welcomes, thoir dho do brougan." (Give me your shoes.)

    Every day brought a new story of the marauders;—a Navity tacksman, who had listened himself half crazy, and could speak or think of nothing else, was enough of himself to destroy the quiet of the whole parish.  Some buried casks of meal under their barn floors, others chests of plaiding and yarn.  The tacksman interred an immense girnal, containing five bolls of oatmeal, which escaped the rebels only to be devoured by the rats.  So thoroughly had he prepared himself for the worst, that, when week after week went by, and still no Highlanders, he seemed actually disappointed.  One morning, however, in the end of January 1746, he was called out to his cottage door to see something unusual on the hill of Eathie; a number of fairy-like figures seemed moving along the ridge, and then, as they descended in a dark compact body to the hollow beneath, there were seen to shoot out from them, at uncertain intervals, quick sudden flashes, like lightnings from a cloud.  "Och och!" exclaimed the tacksman, who well knew what the apparition indicated, "the longest day that e'er came, even came at last."  And away he went to reside, until the return of quieter times, in a solitary cave of the hill.

    The marauders entered the town about mid-day.  They were armed every one after his own fashion, some with dirks and broadswords, some with pistols and fowling-pieces, and not a few with scythes, pikes, and Lochaber-axes.  Some carried immense bunches of yarn, some webs of plaiting, some bundles of shirts and stockings.  Most of the men of the place, who would readily enough have joined issue with them at the cudgel, but bore no marked affection to broadsword and Lochaber-axes, had conveyed themselves out of the way, leaving their wives to settle with them as they best might.  They entered the better-looking houses by half-dozens, turned the furniture topsy-turvy, emptied chests and drawers, did wonderful execution on dried salmon and hung beef, and set ale-barrels abroach.  One poor woman, in attempting to rescue a bundle of yarn, had her cheek laid open by a fellow who dashed the muzzle of his pistol into her face; another was thrown down and robbed of her shoes.  There lived at this time one Nannie Miller, a matron of the place, who sold ale.  She was a large-boned, amazon-looking woman, about six feet in height, of immense strength, and no ordinary share of courage.  Two of the Highlanders entered her cottage, and with much good-nature (for they had had a long walk, she said) she set down before them a pint of her best ale and a basket of scones, with some dried fish.  They ate and drank, and then rose to spulzie but they were too few, as it proved, for the enterprise; for when one of them was engaged in ransacking a large meal-barrel, and the other in breaking open a chest, Nannie made a sudden onslaught, bundled the one fellow head-foremost into the barrel, and turning on his companion as he rushed in to the rescue, floored him with a single blow.  The day was all her own in a twinkling; the Highlanders fled, one of them half-choked by the meal, the other more than half-throttled by Nannie; but glad, notwithstanding, to get off so well.

    In the middle of the spulzie a sloop of war hove in sight, and a boat was seen shooting out to meet her from under the rocks of the hill.  Sail after sail was run out on her yards as soon as the boat touched her side, and she came careering up the Firth like an angry giant.  The Highlanders gathered in the street, and, according to old Dunbar,


Fu' loud in Ershe they begowt to clatter,
And rouped like revin and ruke.


One of them, who seemed to have drunk freely, was hacking with his broadsword at the rails of a wooden bridge, and swearing furiously at the ship; and a little girl, who chanced to be passing with a jug of milk, was so terrified that she fell and broke the jug.  "Poor sing, poor sing!" said the Highlander, as he raised her and wiped her face with the corner of his plaid, "hersel' widna hurt a pit o' you."  The party, in their retreat, took the road that passes towards the west, along the edge of the bay; and no sooner had the sloop cleared the intervening, headland, than she began to fire on them.  One of the bullets struck off a piece from a large granite boulder on the shore termed the Pindler, and in less than half a minute the Highlanders were scattered over the face of the hill.  They did not again return to Cromarty.  Though they fared better in their predatory excursions than most of their countrymen who accompanied the Prince, and transferred to their homes much of the "punishing" of the Lowlands, it was observed that in few instances did their gains enrich their descendants.  I once wrought in the same shed with an old mason, a native of the parish of Urquhart, who, in giving me a history of his early life, told me that his father had left at his death a considerable sum of money to himself and three brothers, and that not one of them was sober for two days together until they had squandered the whole.  "And no wonder," remarked another mason from the same parish, who was hewing beside him; "your father went out a-harrying in the Forty-Five, and muckle did he bring back with him, but it was ill gotten, and couldna last."

    As spring came on, a new set of stories began to pass current among the people of the town.  The Pretender had failed, it was said, in his enterprise, and was falling back on the Highlands.  But there was something anomalous in the stories; for it was affirmed that he was both running away and gaining all the battles.  This they could not understand; and when, early in March, Lord Louden entered the town at the head of sixteen hundred men, in full retreat before the rebels, they began to ask whether it was customary for one flying army to pursue another.  His Lordship dealt by them more hardly than even the marauders; for, after transporting his men across the ferry, he broke all their boats.  "It's a sair time for puir folk," said an old fisherman when witnessing the destruction of his skiff; "gain King, gain Pretender, waes me, I'm the loser gain wha like."

    Amid all the surmises and uncertainties of the town's-people, matters were fast drawing to a crisis with the Highlanders.  On the 15th of April a sloop from Lossiemouth entered the Firth, and brought intelligence that Duke William and his army had crossed the Spey, and were on the march for Inverness, then occupied by the rebels.  On the following morning nearly all the males of the place, and not a few of the women, had climbed the neighbouring hill to watch the progress of their march.  The weather was dull and unpleasant.  There was a cold breeze from the east, accompanied by a thick drizzling rain, and the hills of Moray and Inverness were girdled with wreaths of mist.  The lower grounds, which lie along the Firth, looked dim and blue through the haze, and the eye vainly commanded the whole tract of country which stretches between Inverness and Nairn.  A little after noon, however, the weather began to clear up, and a sailor, who had brought with him the ship-glass, thought he could discover something unusual on the moor of Culloden.  Every eye was turned in that direction.  Suddenly there rose a little dense cloud of smoke, as if a volcano had burst out on the moor; then succeeded the booming of cannon and the rattle of musketry.  "They are at it, God wi' the right!" shouted out Donald Sandison; "look, Sandy Wright, is the smoke no going the way o' Inverness?"  "It's but the easterly haar," said Sandy; "auld as I am, Donald, I could wish to be near enough to gae ae stroked for the king!"  The smoke continued to rise in clouds that went rolling towards the west, and the roar of cannon to rebound among the hills.  At length they could hear only the smart pattering of musketry, and the tide of battle seemed evidently sweeping towards Inverness.  The cloud passed from the moor; and when, at intervals, a fresh burst shot up through the haze, it seemed to rise from among the fields in the vicinity of the town.  Anon all was silence; and the people, after lingering till near nightfall, returned to their homes to tell that Duke William had beaten the rebels, and to drink healths to the King.  They spoke always of the Duke's army as "our folk," and his victory as "our victory."  I have heard an old woman of the place repeat a rude song, expressive of their triumph on this occasion, which she had learned from her nurse when almost an infant.  My memory has retained only one the verses, and a horrible verse it is:—


Lovat's head i' the pat,
    Horns and a' thegither,
We'll mak brose o' that,
    An' gie the swine their supper.


    In after years they thought less hardly of the cause of the Stuarts; and I have heard some of their old men relate stories of the poor people who suffered at this time, with a good deal of feeling.  There was a Highlander named Robertson, a man of rare wit and humour, who had been crippled of an arm at Culloden.  He used, in after years, to come to the place as a sort of travelling merchant, and always met with much kindness from them.  So much attached was he to the Prince that he would willingly have lost the other arm for him too.  Another Highlander, who had also been wounded on the moor, was a great favourite with them likewise.  On seeing the battle irretrievably lost, and further resistance unavailing, he was stealing warily out of the field, when two English dragoons came galloping up to him to cut him down.  He turned round, drew a pistol from his belt, shot the foremost through the body, and then hurled his weapon at the head of the other, who immediately drew rein and rode off.  The sword of the dying man wounded him in its descent in the fleshy part of the hand, between the thumb and the forefinger; and he retained the scar while he lived.  There was another Highlander who resided near Cassock, who had vowed, immediately after the battle of Preston, that he would neither cut nor comb the hair of his head until Charles Stuart was placed on the throne of his ancestors.  And be religiously observed his vow.  My grandfather saw him twenty years after the battle.  He was then a strange, grotesque-looking thing, not very unlike a huge cabbage set a-walking; for his hair stuck out nearly a foot on each side of his head, and was matted into a kind of felt.  But truce with such stories!  Fifty years ago they formed an endless series; but they have now nearly all passed away, or only live, if I may so express myself, in those echoes of the departed generations which still faintly reverberate among the quieter recesses of the present.  Of all the people who witnessed the smoke of Culloden from the hill of Cromarty I remember only three.

    About eighteen years ago, when quite a boy, I was brought by a relation to see a very old man then on his death-bed, who resided in a small cottage among the woods of the hill.  My kinsman for the twenty preceding years had lived with him on terms of the closest intimacy, and had been with him, about ten months before, when he met with an accident from a falling tree, by which he received so serious an injury that it proved the occasion of this his final illness.  A thick darkness, however, had settled over all the events of his latter life, and he remembered neither his acquaintance of twenty years nor the accident.  His daughter named the father of my friend, in the hope of awakening some early train of thought that might lead him into the more recent period; but his knowledge of even the father had commenced during the forty previous years, and his name sounded as strangely to him as that of his son.  "He is a great-grandchild," said the woman, "of your old friend Donald Roy, the Nigg elder."  "Of Donald Roy!—a great-grandchild of Donald Roy!" he exclaimed, holding out his hard withered hand; "oh, how glad I am to see him!  How kind it is of him," he added, "thus to visit a poor bedridden old man!  I have now lived in the world for more than a hundred years, and during my long sojourn have known few men I could compare with Donald Roy."

    The old man raised himself in his bed, for his strength had not yet quite failed him, and began to relate to my friend, in a full unbroken voice, some of the stories regarding the Nigg elder, which I have imparted to the reader in a former chapter.  His mind was full of the early past, and he seemed to see its events all the more clearly from the darkness of the intervening period—just as the stars may be discerned at noonday at the bottom of a deep mine, impenetrably gloomy in all its nearer recesses, when they are invisible from the summit of a hill.  He ran over the incidents of his early life.  He told how, in his thirtieth year, when the country resounded with the clash of arms, he had quitted his peaceful avocations as a gardener, and joined the army of the king.  He fought at Culloden, and saw the clans broken before the bayonets of Cumberland.  His heart bled, he said, for his countrymen.  They lay bleeding on the moor, or were scattered over it; and he saw the long swords of the horsemen plied incessantly in the pursuit.  Still more melancholy were his feelings, when, from a hill of Inverness-shire, he looked down on a wide extent of country, and saw the smoke of a hundred burning cottages ascending in the calm morning air.—He died a few weeks after our visit, aged a hundred years and ten months.  His death took place in winter—it was an open, boisterous winter, that bore heavy on the weak and aged; and in less than a month after, two very old men besides were also gathered to their fathers.  And they, too, had had a share in the Forty-five.

    The younger was a ship-boy at the time, and the ship in which he sailed was captured with a lading of Government stores, by a party of the rebels.  He was named Robertson, and there were several of the Robertsons of Struan among the party.  He was soon on excellent terms with them; and on one occasion, when rallying some of the Struan on their undertaking, he spoke of their leader as the Pretender.  "Beware, my boy," said an elderly Highlander, "and do not again repeat that word; there are men in the ship who, if they but heard you, would perhaps take your life for it; for remember we are not all Robertsons."  The other old man who died at this time, had been an officer, it was said, in the Prince's army; but he was a person of a distant, reserved cast of character; and there was little known of his history, except that he had been bred to the profession of medicine, and had been unfortunate through his adherence to the Prince.  It was remarked by the town's-people that his spirit and manners were superior to his condition.

    Among the old papers in Sandison's scrutoire, I found a curious version of the 137th Psalm, the production of some unfortunate Jacobite of this period.  It seems to have been written at Paris shortly after the failure of the enterprise, and when the Prince and his parity were in no favour at court; for the author, a man apparently of keen feelings, applies, with all the sorrowful energy of a wounded spirit, the curses denounced against Edom and Babylon to England and France.


PSALMS CXXXVII.


By the sad Seine we sat and wept
    When Scotland we thought on:
Reft of her brave and true, and all
    Her ancient spirit gone.

"Revenge," the sons of Gallia said,
    "Revenge your native land;
Already your insulting foes
    Crowd the Batavian strand."

How shall the sons of freedom e'er
    For foreign conquest fight?
How wield anew the luckless sword
    That fail'd in Scotland's right?

If thee, O Scotland! I forget
    Till fails my latest breath,
May foul dishonour stain my name,
    Be mine a coward's death!

May sad remorse for fancied guilt
    My future days employ,
If all thy sacred rights are not
    Above my chiefest joy!

Remember England's children, Lord,
    Who on Drumossie day,
Deaf to the voice of kindred love,
    "Raze, raze it quite," did say.

And thou, proud Gallia! faithless friend
    Whose ruin is not far,
Just Heaven on thy devoted head
    Pour all the woes of war!

When thou thy slaughter'd little ones
    And ravish'd dames shalt see,
Such help, such pity mayst thou have
    As Scotland had from thee.


 
CHAPTER XXIII.


Mop.—Is it true, think you?
Aut.—Very true;—why should I carry lies abroad?


W
INTERS TALE.


IN perusing in some of our older Gazetteers the half page devoted to Cromarty, we find that, among the natural curiosities of the place, there is a small cavern termed the Dropping-Cave, famous for its stalactites and its petrifying springs.  And though the progress of modern discovery has done much to lower the wonder, by rendering it merely one of thousands of the same class—for even among the cliffs of the hill in which the cavern is perforated, there is scarcely a spring that has not its border of coral-like petrifactions, and its moss and grass and nettle-stalks of marble—the Dropping-Cave may well be regarded as a curiosity still.  It is hollowed, a few feet over the beach, in the face of one of the low precipices which skirt the entrance of the bay.  From a crag which overhangs the opening there falls a perpetual drizzle, which, settling on the moss and lichens beneath, converts them into stone; and on entering the long narrow apartment within, there may be seen by the dim light of the entrance a series of springs, which filter through the solid rock above, descending in so continual a shower, that even in the sultriest days of midsummer, when the earth is parched and the grass has become brown and withered, we may hear the eternal drop pattering against the rough stones of the bottom, or tinkling in the recess within, like the string of a harp struck to ascertain its tone.  A stone flung into the interior, after rebounding from side to side of the rock, falls with a deep hollow plunge, as if thrown into the sea.  Had the Dropping-Cave been a cavern of Greece or Sicily, the classical mythology of these countries would have tenanted it with the goddess of rains and vapour.

    The walk to the cave is one of the most agreeable in the vicinity of the town, especially in a fine morning of midsummer, an hour or so after the sun has risen out of the Firth.  The path to it has been hollowed out of the hill-side by the feet of men and animals, and goes winding over rocks and stones—now in a hollow, now on a height, anon lost in the beach.  In one of the recesses which open into the hill, a clump of forest-trees has sprung up, and, lifting their boughs to the edge of the precipice above, cover its rough iron features as if with a veil while, from the shade below, a fine spring, dedicated in some remote age to "Our Ladye," comes bubbling to the light with as pure and copious a stream as in the days of the priest and the pilgrim.  We see the beach covered over with sea-shells and weeds, the cork buoys of the fishermen, and fragments of wrecks.  The air is full of fragrance.  Only look at yonder white patch in the hollow of the hill; 'tis a little city of flowers, a whole community of one species—the meadow-sweet.  The fisherman scents it over the water, as he rows homeward in the cool of the evening, a full half-mile from the shore.  And see how the hill rises above us, roughened with heath and fern and foxglove, and crested a-top with a dark wood of fir.  See how the beeches which have sprung up on the declivity recline in nearly the angle of the hill, so that their upper branches are only a few feet from the soil; reminding us, in the midst of warmth and beauty, of the rough winds of winter and the blasting influence of the spray.  The insect denizens of the heath and the wood are all on wing; see, there is the red bee, and there the blue butterfly, and yonder the burnet-moth with its wings of vermilion, and the large birdlike dragon-fly, and a thousand others besides, all beautiful and all happy.  And then the birds;—But why attempt a description?  The materials of thought and imagination are scattered profusely around us; the wood the cliffs and the spring—the flowers the insects and the birds--the shells the broken fragments of wreck and the distant sail—the sea the sky and the opposite land—are all tones of the great instrument Nature, which need only to be awakened by the mind to yield its sweet music.  And now we have reached the cave.

    The Dropping-Cave ninety years ago was a place of considerable interest; but the continuous shower which converted into stone the plants and mosses on which it fell, and the dark recess which no one had attempted to penetrate, and of whose extent imagination had formed a thousand surmises, constituted some of merely the minor circumstances that had rendered it such.  Superstition had busied herself for ages before in making it a scene of wonders.  Boatmen, when sailing along the shore in the night-time, had been startled by the apparition of a faint blue light, which seemed glimmering from its entrance: on other occasions than the one referred to in a former chapter, the mermaid had been seen sitting on a rock a few yards before it, singing a low melancholy song, and combing her long yellow hair with her fingers; and a man who had been engaged in fishing crabs among the rocks, and was returning late in the evening by the way of the cave, almost shared the fate of its moss and lichens, when, on looking up, he saw an old grey-headed man, with a beard that descended to his girdle, sitting in the opening, and gazing wistfully on the sea.

    I find some of these circumstances of terror embodied in verse by the provincial poet whom I have quoted in an early chapter as an authority regarding the Cromarty tradition of Wallace; and now, as then, I will avail myself of his description:—


   —"When round the lonely shore
The vex'd waves toil's with deaf'ning roar,
And Midnight, from her lazy wain,
Heard wild winds roar and tides complain,
And groaning woods and shrieking sprites;—
Strange sounds from thence, and fearful lights,
Had caught the sailor's ear and eye,
As drove his storm-press'd vessel by.
    More fearful still, Tradition told
Of that dread cave a story old—
So very old, ages had pass's
Since he who made had told it last.
'Twas thus it ran:—Of strange array
An agèd man, whose locks of grey,
Like hill stream, flow'd his shoulders o'er.
For three long days on that lone shore
Sat moveless as the rocks around,
Moaning in low unearthly sound;
But whence he came, or why he stay's,
None knew, and none to ask essay'd.
At length a lad drew near and spoke,
Craving reply.  The figure shook
Like mirror's shape on dimpling brook,
Or shadow flung on eddying smoke—
And the boy fled. The third day pass'd—
Fierce how'd at night the angry blast
Brushing the waves; wild shrieks of death
Were heard these bristling cliffs beneath,
And cries for aid.  The morning light
Gleam'd on a scene of wild affright.
Where yawns the cave, the rugged shore
With many a Corse lay cover'd o'er,
And many a gorgeous fragment show's
How fair the bark the storm subdued."


    There was a Cromarty mechanic of the last age, named Willie Millar, who used to relate a wonderful adventure which befell him in the cave.  Willie was a man of fertile invention, fond of a good story, and zealous in the improvement of bad ones; but his zeal was evil spoken of—the reformations he effected in this way being regarded as little better than sinful, and his finest inventions as downright lying.  There was a smithy in the place, which, when he had become old and useless, was his favourite resort.  He would take up his seat on the forge each evening, regularly as the evening came, and relate to a group of delighted but too incredulous youngsters, some new passage in his wonderful autobiography; which, though it seemed long enough to stretch beyond the flood, received new accessions every night.  So little, indeed, had he in common with the small-minded class who, possessed of only a limited number of narratives and ideas, go over and over these as the hands of a clock pass continually over the same figures, that, with but one exception in favour of the adventure of the cave, he hardly ever told the same story twice.

    There was a tradition current in Cromarty, that a town's-man had once passed through the Dropping-Cave, until he heard a pair of tongs rattle over his head on the hearth of a farmhouse of Navity, a district of the parish which lies fully three miles from the opening; and Willie, who was, it seems, as hard of belief in such matters as if he himself had never drawn on the credulity of others, resolved on testing the story by exploring the cave.  He sewed sprigs of rowan and wych-elm in the hem of his waistcoat, thrust a Bible into one pocket and a bottle of gin into the other, and providing himself with a torch, and a staff of buckthorn which had been cut at the full of the moon, and dressed without the assistance of iron or steel, he set out for the cave on a morning of midsummer.  It was evening ere he returned—his torch burnt out, and his clothes stained with mould and slime, and soaked with water.

    After lighting the torch, he said, and taking a firm grasp of the staff, he plunged fearlessly into the gloom before him.  The cavern narrowed and lowered as he proceeded; the floor, which was of a white stone resembling marble, was hollowed into cisterns, filled with a water so exceedingly pure that it sparkled to the light like spirits in crystal, and from the roof there depended clusters of richly embossed icicles of white stone, like those which, during a severe frost, hang at the edge of a waterfall.  The springs from above trickled along their channelled sides, and then tinkled into the cisterns, like rain from the eaves of a cottage after a thunder-shower.  Perhaps he looked too curiously around him when remarking all this; for so it was, that at the ninth and last cistern he missed his footing, and, falling forwards shattered his bottle of gin against the side of the cave.  The liquor ran into a little hollow of the marble, and, unwilling to lose what he regarded as very valuable, and what certainly had cost him some trouble and suffering to procure (for he had rowed half way across the Firth for it in terror of the customhouse and a cockling sea), he stooped down and drank till his breath failed him.  Never was there better Nantz; and, pausing to recover himself, he stooped and drank, again and again.  There were strange appearances when he rose.  A circular rainbow had formed round his torch; there was a blue mist gathering in the hollows of the cave; the very roof and sides began to heave and reel, as if the living rock were a Flushing lugger riding on the ground-swell; and there was a low humming noise that came sounding from the interior, like that of bees in a hawthorn thicket on an evening of midsummer.  Willie, however, had become much less timorous than at first, and, though he could not well account for the fact, much less disposed to wonder.  And so on he went.

    He found the cavern widen, and the roof rose so high that the light reached only the snowy icicles which hung meteor-like over his head.  The walls were formed of white stone, ridged and furrowed like pieces of drapery, and all before and around him there sparkled myriads of crystals, like dewdrops in a spring morning.  The sound of his footsteps was echoed on either hand by a multitude of openings, in which the momentary gleam of his torch was reflected, as he passed, on sheets of water and ribs of rock, and which led, like so many arched corridors, still deeper into the bowels of the hill.  Nor, independently of the continuous humming noise, were all the sounds of the cave those of echo.  At one time he could hear the wind moaning through the trees of the wood above, and the scream of a hawk as if pouncing on its prey; then there was the deafening blast of a smith's bellows, and the clang of hammers on an anvil; and anon a deep hollow noise resembling the growling of a wild beast.  All seemed terribly wild and unnatural; a breeze came moaning along the cave, and shook the marble drapery of the sides, as if it were formed of gauze or linen; the entire cave seemed turning round like the cylinder of an engine, till the floor stood upright and the adventurer fell heavily against it; and as the torch hissed and sputtered in the water, he could see by its expiring gleam that a full score of dark figures, as undefined as shadows by moonlight, were flitting around him in the blue mist which now came rolling in dense clouds from the interior.  In a moment more all was darkness, and he lay insensible amid the chill damps of the cave.

    The rest of the adventure wonderfully resembled a dream.  On returning to consciousness, he found that the gloom around him had given place to a dim red twilight, which flickered along the sides and roof like the reflection of a distant fire.  He rose, and grasping his staff staggered forward.  "It is sunlight," thought he, "I shall find an opening among the rocks of Eathie, and return home over the hill."  Instead, however, of the expected outlet, he found the passage terminate in a wonderful apartment, so vast in extent, that though an immense fire of pine-trees, whole and unbroken from root to branch, threw up a red wavering sheet of flame many yards in height, he could see in some places neither the walls nor the roof.  A cataract, like that of Foyers during the long-continued rains of an open winter, descended in thunder from one of the sides, and presenting its broad undulating front of foam to the red gleam of the fire, again escaped into darkness through a wide broken-edged gulf at the bottom.  The floor of the apartment appeared to be thickly strewed with human bones, half-burned and blood-stained, and gnawed as if by cannibals; and directly in front of the fire there was a low tomblike erection of dark-coloured stone, full twenty yards in length, and roughened with grotesque hieroglyphics, like those of a Runic obelisk.  An enormous mace of iron, crusted with rust and blood, reclined against the upper end; while a bugle of gold hung by a chain of the same metal from a column at the bottom.  Willie seized the bugle, and winded a blast till the wide apartment shook with the din; the waters of the cataract disappeared, as if arrested at their source; and the ponderous cover of the tombs began to heave and crackle, and pass slowly over the edge, as if assailed by the terrific strength of some newly-awakened giant below.  Willie again winded the bugle; the cover heaved upwards, disclosing a corner of the chasm beneath; and a hand covered with blood, and of such fearful magnitude as to resemble only the conceptions of Egyptian sculpture, was slowly stretched from the darkness towards the handle of the mace.  Willie's resolution gave way, and, flinging down the horn, he rushed hurriedly towards the passage.  A yell of blended grief and indignation burst from the tomb, as the immense cover again settled over it; the cataract came dashing from its precipice with a heavier volume than before; and a furious hurricane of mingled wind and spray that rushed howling from the interior, well-nigh dashed the adventurer against the sides of the rock.  He succeeded, however, in gaining the passage, sick at heart and nearly petrified with terror; a state of imperfect consciousness succeeded, like that of a feverish dream, in which he retained a sort of half conviction that he was lingering in the damps and darkness of the cave, obstinately and yet unwillingly; and, on fully regaining his recollection, he found himself lying across the ninth cistern, with the fragments of the broken bottle on the one side, and his buckthorn staff on the other.  He could hear from the opening the dash of the advancing waves against the rocks, and on leaping to the beach below, found that his exploratory journey had occupied him a whole day.

    The adventure of Willie Millar formed at one time one of the most popular traditions of Cromarty.  It was current among the children not more than eighteen years ago, when the cave was explored a second time, but with a very different result, by a boy of the school in which the writer of these legends had the misfortune of being regarded as the greatest dunce and truant of his time.  The character of Willie forms the best possible commentary on his story—the character of the boy may perhaps throw some little light on his.  When in his twelfth year, he was by far the most inquisitive little fellow in the place.  His curiosity was insatiable.  He had broken his toys when a child, that he might see how they were constructed; and a watch which the owner had thoughtlessly placed within his reach, narrowly escaped sharing a similar fate. He dissected frogs and mice in the hope of discovering the seat of life; and when one day found dibbling at the edge of a spring, he said he was trying to penetrate to the source of water.  His schoolmaster nicknamed him "The Senachie," for the stories with which he beguiled his class-fellows of their tasks were without end or number; the neighbours called him Philosopher for he could point out the star of the pole, with the Great Bear that continually walks round it: and he used to affirm that there might be people in the moon, and that the huge earth is only a planet.  Having heard the legend of Willie Millar, he set out one day to explore the cave; and when he returned he had to tell that the legend was a mere legend, and that the cave, though not without its wonders, owed, like the great ones of the earth, much of its celebrity to the fears and the ignorance of mankind.

    In climbing into the vestibule of the recess, his eye was attracted by a piece of beautiful lacework, gemmed by the damps of the place, and that stretched over a hollow in one of the sides.  It was not, however, a work of magic, but merely the web of a field-spider, that from its acquaintance with lines and angles, seemed to have discovered a royal road to geometry.  The petrifying spring next attracted his notice.  He saw the mosses hardening into limestone the stems already congealed, and the upper shoots dying that they might become immortal.  And there came into his mind the story of one Niobe, of whom he had read in a school-book, that, like the springs of the cave, wept herself into stone, and the story too of the half-man half-marble prince of the Arabian tale.  "Strange," thought the boy, "that these puny dwarfs of the vegetable kingdom should become rock and abide for ever, when its very giants, the chestnut trees of Etna and the cedars of Lebanon, moulder away in the deep solitude of their forests, and become dust for nothing."  Lighting his torch, he proceeded to examine the cavern.  A few paces brought him to the first cistern.  He found the white table of marble in which it is hollowed raised knee-height over the floor, and the surface fretted into little cavities by the continual dropping, like the surface of a thawing snow-wreath when beaten by a heavy shower.  As he strided over the ledge, a drop from above extinguished his torch;— he groped his way back and rekindled it.  He had seen the first cistern described by the adventurer; and of course all the others, with the immense apartment, the cataract, the tomb, the iron mace, and the golden bugle, lay in the darkness beyond.  But, alas! when he again stepped forward, instead of the eight other hollows he found the floor covered with one continuous pool, over which there rose fast-contracting walls and a descending roof; and though he pressed onward amid the water that splashed below, and the water that fell from above—for his curiosity was unquenchable, and his clothes of a kind which could not be made worse—it was only to find the rock closing hopelessly before him, after his shoulders had at once pressed against the opposite sides, and the icicles had passed through his hair.  There was no possibility of turning round, and so, creeping backwards like a crab, he reached the first cistern, and in a moment after stood in the lighted part of the cave.  His feelings on the occasion were less melancholy than those of the traveller, who, when standing beside the two fountains of the Nile, "began in his sorrow to treat the inquiry concerning its source as the effort of a distempered fancy."  But next to the pleasure of erecting a system, is the pleasure of pulling one down; and he felt it might be so even with regard to a piece of traditionary history.  Besides, there was a newly-fledged thought which had come fluttering round him for the first time, that more than half consoled him under his disappointment.  He remembered that when a child no story used to please him that was not both marvellous and true—that a fact was as nothing to him disunited from the wonderful, nor the wonderful disunited from fact.  But the marvels of his childhood had been melting away, one after one—the ghost, and the wraith, and the fairy had all disappeared; and the wide world seemed to spread out before him a tame and barren region, where truth dwelt in the forms of commonplace, and in these only.  He now felt for the first time that it was far otherwise; and that so craving an instinct, instead of perishing for lack of sustenance, would be fed as abundantly in the future by philosophy and the arts, as it had been in the past by active imaginations and a superstitious credulity.

    The path which, immediately after losing itself on the beach where it passes the cave, rises by a kind of natural stair to the top of the precipices, continues to ascend till it reaches a spring of limpid water, which comes gushing out of the side of a bank covered with moss and daisies: and which for more than a century has been known to the town's-people by the name of Fiddler's Well.  Its waters are said to be medicinal, and there is a pretty tradition still extant of the circumstance through which their virtues were first discovered, and to which the spring owes its name.

    Two young men of the place, who were much attached to each other, were seized at nearly the same time by consumption.  In one the progress of the disease was rapid—he died two short months after he was attacked by it; while the other, though wasted almost to a shadow, had yet strength enough left to follow the corpse of his companion to the grave.  The name of the survivor was Fiddler—a name still common among the seafaring men of the town.  On the evening of the interment he felt oppressed and unhappy; his imagination was haunted by a thousand feverish shapes of open graves with bones mouldering round their edges, and of coffins with the lids displaced; and after he had fallen asleep, the images, which were still the same, became more ghastly and horrible.  Towards morning, however, they had all vanished; and he dreamed that he was walking alone by the seashore in a clear and beautiful day of summer.  Suddenly, as he thought, some person stepped up behind, and whispered in his ear, in the voice of his deceased companion, "Go on, Willie; I shall meet you at Stormy."  There is a rock in the neighbourhood of Fiddler's Well, so called from the violence with which the sea beats against it when the wind blows strongly from the east.  On hearing the voice he turned round, and seeing no one, he went on, as he thought, to the place named, in the hope of meeting his friend, and sat down on a bank to wait his coming; but he waited long—lonely and dejected; and then remembering that he for whom he waited was dead, he burst into tears.  At this moment a large field-bee came humming from the west, and began to fly round his head.  He raised his hand to brush it away; it widened its circle, and then came humming into his ear as before.  He raised his hand a second time, but the bee would not be scared off; it hummed ceaselessly round and round him, until at length its murmurings seemed to be fashioned into words, articulated in the voice of his deceased companion—"Dig, Willie, and drink!" it said; "Dig, Willie, and drink!"  He accordingly set himself to dig, and no sooner had he torn a sod out of the bank than a spring of clear water gushed from the hollow; and the bee taking a wider circle, and humming in a voice of triumph that seemed to emulate the sound of a distant trumpet, flew away.  He looked after it, but as he looked the images of his dream began to mingle with those of the waking world; the scenery of the hill seemed obscured by a dark cloud, in the centre of which there glimmered a faint light; the rocks, the sea, the long declivity, faded into the cloud; and turning round he saw only a dark apartment, and the faint beams of morning shining in at a window.  He rose, and after digging the well, drank of the water and recovered.  And its virtues are still celebrated; for though the water be only simple water, it must be drunk in the morning, and as it gushes from the bank; and with pure air, exercise, and early rising for its auxiliaries, it continues to work cures.


 
CHAPTER XXIV.


    "Fechtam memorate blodæam,
Fechtam terribilem."—D
RUMMOND'S Polemo Middinia.

"Tulzies lang-remember'd an' bluidy,
Terrible tulzies."—Muckle-VenneI Translation.


IT is well for human happiness in the ruder ages, that cowardice is rarely or never the characteristic of a people who have either no laws, or laws that cannot protect them; for, in the more unsettled stages of society, personal courage is a necessary policy, and no one is less safe than he who attempts to escape danger by running away.  During the early part of the last century, Cromarty was well-nigh as rude a village of the kingdom as any it contained.  The statute-book had found its way into the place at a much remoter period, but its authority had not yet travelled so far; and so the inhabitants were left to protect themselves by their personal courage and address, in the way their ancestors had done for centuries before.  It was partly a consequence of the necessity, and partly from the circumstance that two or three families of the place were deeply imbued for several generations with a warlike spirit, which seemed born with them, that for years, both before and after the Rebellion, the prowess of the people, as exhibited in their quarrels with folk of the neighbouring districts, was celebrated all over the country.  True it was, they had quailed before the rebels, but then the best soldiers of the crown had done the same.  On one occasion two of them, brothers of the name of Duff—gigantic fellows of six feet and a half—had stood back to back for an entire hour in the throng of a Redcastle market, defending themselves against half the cudgels of Strathglass.  On another, at the funeral of a town's-man, who was interred in the burial-ground of Kilmuir, a party of them had fought with the people of the parish, and defeated them in their own territories.  On a third, after a battle which lasted for several hours, they had beaten off the men of Rosemarkie and Avoch from a peat-moss in an unappropriated moor; and this latter victory they celebrated in a song, in which it was humorously proposed that, as their antagonists had been overpowered by the men of the parish, they should, in their next encounter, try their chance of war with the women.  In short, their frays at weddings, funerals, and markets, were multiplied beyond number, until at length the cry of "Hiloa!  Help for Cromarty!" had become as formidable as the war-cry of any of the neighbouring clans.

    But there are principles which are good or evil according to the direction in which they operate; and of this class is that warlike principle whose operations I am attempting to describe.  It was well for the people of Cromarty that, when there was no law powerful enough to protect them, they had courage enough to protect themselves; and particularly well at a period when the neighbouring Highlanders were still united by the ties of clanship into formidable bodies, ready to assert to a man the real or pretended rights of any individual of their number.  It was not well, however, that these men of Cromarty should have broken the heads of half the men of Kilmuir, for merely insisting on a prescriptive right of carrying the corpse of a native to the churchyard when it had entered the limits of their own parish, and such was the sole occasion of the quarrel; or that, after appropriating to themselves, much at the expense of justice, the moss of the Maolbuoy Common, they should have deemed it legitimate sport to insult, in bad rhyme, the poor people whom they had deprived of their winter's fuel, and who were starving for want of it.  Occasionally, however, they avenged on themselves the wrongs done to their neighbours; for, though no tribe of men could be more firmly united at a market or tryst, where an injury done to any one of them was regarded as an injury done to every one, they were not quite so friendly when in town, where their interests were separate, and not unfrequently at variance.  Their necessities abroad had taught them how to fight, and their resentments at home often engaged them in repeating the lesson.  Their very enjoyments had caught hold of it, and Martinmas and the New-Year were not more the festivals of good ale than of broken heads.  The lesson, sufficiently vexatious at any time, except when conned in its proper school, became peculiarly a misfortune to them upon the change which began to take place in the northern counties about the year 1740, when the law of Edinburgh—as it was termed by a Strathcarron freebooter—arrived at the ancient burgh of Tain, and took up its seat there, much to the terror and annoyance of the neighbouring districts.

    Subsequent to this unfortunate event, a lawyer named Macculloch fixed his place of residence among the people of Cromarty, that he might live by their quarrels; and, under the eye of this sagacious personage, the stroke of a cudgel became as potent as that of the wand of a magician.  Houses, and gardens, and corn-furrows vanished before it.  Law was not yet sold at a determined price.  It was administered by men who, having spent the early part of their lives amid feuds and bickerings, were still more characterized by the leanings of the partisan than the impartiality of the judge; and, under these men, the very statute-book itself became a thing of predilections and antipathies; for while in some instances justice, and a great deal more, cost almost nothing, in others it was altogether beyond price.  Macculloch, however, who dealt it out by retail, rendered it sufficiently expensive, even when at the cheapest.  Fines and imprisonments, and accounts which his poor clients could not read, but which they were compelled to pay, were only the minor consequences of his skill; for on one occasion he contrived that almost half the folk of the town should be cited, either as pannels or witnesses, to the circuit court of Inverness; where, through the wrong-headedness of a jury, and the obstinacy of a judge, a good town's-man and powerful combatant, who would willingly harm no one, but fight with anybody, ran a very considerable risk of being sent to the plantations.  The people were distressed beyond measure, and their old antagonists of Kilmuir and Rosemarkie fully avenged.

    In course of time, however, they became better acquainted with law; and their knowledge of the lawyer (which, like every other species of knowledge, was progressive), while it procured him in its first stages much employment, prevented him latterly from being employed at all.  He was one of the most active of village attorneys.  No one was better acquainted with the whole art of recovering a debt, or of entering on the possession of a legacy—of reclaiming property, or of conveying it; but it was ultimately discovered that his own particular interests could not always be identified with those of the people who employed him; and that the same lawsuit might be gained by him and lost by his client.  It was one thing, too, for Macculloch to recover a debt, and quite another for the person to whom it had been due.  In cases of the latter description he was an adept in the art of promising.  Day after day would he fix his term of settlement; though the violation of the promise of yesterday proved only a prelude to the violation of that of to-clay, and though both were found to be typical of the promise which was to be passed on the morrow.  He had determined, it was obvious, to render his profession as lucrative as possible; but somehow or other—it could only be through an excess of skill—he completely overshot the mark.  No one would, at length, believe his promises, or trust to his professions; his great skill began to border in its effects, as these regarded himself, on the opposite extreme; and he was on the eve of being starved out of the place, when Sir George Mackenzie, the proprietor, made choice of him as his factor, and intrusted to him the sole management of all his concerns.

    Sir George in his younger days had been, like his grandfather the Earl, a stirring, active man of business.  He was a stanch Tory, and on the downfall of Oxford, and the coming in of the Whigs, he continued to fret away the energies of his character, in a fruitless, splenetic opposition; until at length losing in the contest, he became, from being one of the most active, one of the most indolent men in the country.  He drank hard, lived grossly, and seemed indifferent to everything.  And never were there two persons better suited to each other than the lawyer and Sir George.  The lawyer was always happiest in his calculations when his books were open to the inspection of no one but himself; and the laird, though he had a habit of reckoning over the bottle, commonly fell asleep before the amount was cast up.  But an untoward destiny proved too hard for Macculloch in even this office.  Apathetical as Sir George was deemed, there was one of his feelings which had survived the wreck of all the others;—that one a rooted aversion to the town of Cromarty, and in particular to that part of the country adjacent which was his own property.  No one—least of all himself—could assign any cause for the dislike, but it existed and grew stronger every day: and the consequences were ruinous to Macculloch; for in a few years after he had appointed him to the factorship, he disposed of all his lands to a Mr. William Urquhart of Meldrum—a transaction which is said to have had the effect of converting his antipathy into regret.  The factor set himself to seek out for another master; and in a manner agreeable to his character.  He professed much satisfaction that the estate should have passed into the hands of so excellent a gentleman as Mr. Urquhart; and proposed to some of the town's-folk that they should eat to his prosperity in a public dinner, and light up a constellation of bonfires on the heights which overlook the bay.  The proposal took; the dinner was attended by a party of the more respectable inhabitants of the place, and the bonfires by all the children.

    A sister of Sir George's, the Lady Margaret, who a few years before had shared in the hopes of her attainted cousin, Lord Cromartie, and had witnessed, with no common sensations of grief, the disastrous termination of the enterprise in which he had been led to engage, was at this time the only tenant of Cromarty Castle.  She had resided in the house of Lord George previous to his attainder, but on that event she had come to Cromarty to live with her brother.  His low habits of intemperance proved to her a fruitful source of vexation; but how was the feeling deepened when, in about a week after he had set out on a hasty journey, the purpose of which he refused to explain, she received a letter from him, informing her that he had sold all his lands!  She saw, in a step so rash and unadvised, the final ruin of her family, and felt with peculiar bitterness that she had no longer a home.  Leaning over a window of the castle, she was indulging in the feelings which her circumstances suggested, and looking with an unavailing but natural regret on the fields and hamlets that had so soon become the property of a stranger, when Macculloch and his followers came marching out on the lawn below from the adjoining wood, and began to pile on a little eminence in front of the castle the materials of a bonfire.  It seemed, from the effect produced on the poor lady, that, in order entirely to overpower her, it was only necessary she should be shown that the circumstance which was so full of distress to her, was an occasion of rejoicing to others.  For a few seconds she seemed stupified by the shouts and exaltations of the party below; and then, clasping her hands upon her breast, she burst into tears and hurried to her apartment.  As the evening darkened into night, the light of the huge fire without was reflected through a window on the curtains of her bed.  She requested her attendant to shut it out; but the wild shouts of Macculloch followers, which were echoed until an hour after midnight by the turrets above and the vaults below, could not be excluded.  In the morning Lady Margaret was in a high fever, and in a few days after she was dead.

    The first to welcome the new laird to his property was Macculloch the factor.  Urquhart of Meldrum, or Captain Urquhart, as he was termed, had made his money on sea—some said as a gallant officer in the Spanish service, some as the master of a privateer, or even, it was whispered, as a pirate.  He was a rough unpolished man, fond of a rude joke, and disposed to seek his companions among farmers and mechanics, rather than among the people of a higher sphere.  But, with all his rudeness, he was shrewd and intelligent, and qualified, by a peculiar tact, to be a judge of men.  When Macculloch was shown into his room, he neither returned his bow nor motioned him to a seat, though the lawyer, no way daunted, proceeded to address him in a long train of compliments and congratulations.  "Humph!" replied the Captain.  "Ah!" thought the lawyer, "you will at least hear reason."  He proceeded to state, that as he had been intrusted with the sole management of Sir George's affairs, he was better acquainted than any one else with the resources of the estate and the character of the tenants; and that, should Mr. Urquhart please to continue him in his office, he would convince him he was the fittest person to occupy it to his advantage.  "Humph!" replied the Captain; "for how many years, Sir lawyer, have you been factor to Mackenzie?"  "For about five," was the reply.  And was he not a good master?"  "Yes, sir, rather good, certainly—but his unfortunate habits."  "His habits!—he drank grog, did he not? and served it out for himself?  So do I.  Mark me, Sir factor!  You are a—mean rascal, and shall never finger a penny of mine.  You found in Mackenzie a good simple fellow, who employed you when no one else would; but no sooner had he unshipped himself than you hoisted colours for me,——you, whom, I suppose, you could tie up to the yard-arm for somewhat less than a bred hangman would tie up a thief for;—ay, that you would!  I have heard of your dinner, sir, and your bonfires, and of the death of Lady Margaret (had you another bonfire for that?) and now tell you once for all, that I despise you as one of the meanest——rascals that ever turned tail on a friend in distress.  Off, sir—there is the door!"  Such was the reward of Macculloch.  In a few years after, he had sunk into poverty and contempt; one instance of many, that rascality, however profitable in the degree, may be carried to a ruinous extreme, and that he who sets out with a determination of cheating every one, may at length prove too cunning for even himself.

    The people of the town, not excepting some of those who had shouted round the bonfires and sat down to the dinner, were much gratified by the result of Macculloch application ; and for some time the laird was so popular that there was no party in opposition to him. An incident soon occurred, however, which had the effect of uniting nine-tenths of the whole parish into a confederacy, so powerful and determined, that it contended with him in a lawsuit for three whole years.

    The patronage of the church of Cromarty, on the attainder of Lord George Mackenzie, in whom it had been vested, devolved upon the Crown.  It was claimed, however, by Captain Urquhart, and the Crown, unacquainted with the extent of many of the privileges derived to it by the general forfeiture of the late Rebellion, and of this privilege among the others, seemed no way inclined to dispute with him the claim.  He therefore nominated to the parish, on the first vacancy, a Mr. Simpson of Meldrum as a proper minister.  This Meldrum was a property of Mrs. Urquharts, and the chief qualification of Mr. Simpson arose from the circumstance of his having been born on it.  The Captain was himself a Papist, and had not set a foot within the church of Cromarty since he had come to the estate; his wife was an Episcopalian, and, more liberal than her husband, she had on one occasion attended it in honour of the wedding of a favourite maid.  The people of the town, in the opinion that the presentation could not be in worse hands, and dissatisfied with the presentee, rejected the latter on the ground that Captain Urquhart was not the legitimate patron; and, binding themselves by contract, they subscribed a considerable sum that they might join issue with him in a lawsuit.  They were, besides, assisted by the neighbouring parishes; and, after a tedious litigation, the suit was decided in their favour; but not until they had expended upon it, as I have frequently heard affirmed with much exultation, the then enormous sum of five hundred pounds.  They received from the Crown their choice of a minister.

    Urquhart, whose obstinacy, sufficiently marked at any time had been roused by the struggle into one of its most determined attitudes, resisted the claims of the people until the last; and, when he could no longer dictate to them as a patron, he set himself to try whether he could not influence them as a landlord.  A day was fixed for the parishioners to meet in the church, that they might avail themselves of the gift of the Crown by making choice of a minister; and, before it arrived, the Captain made the round of his estate, visiting his tenants and dependants, and every one whom he had either obliged, or had the power of obliging, with the intention of forming a party to vote for Mr. Simpson.  All his influence, however, proved insufficient to accomplish his object.  His tenants preserved either a moody silence when he urged them to come into his plans, or replied to his arguments, which savoured sadly of temporal interests, in rude homilies about liberty of conscience and the rights of the people.  Urquhart was not naturally a very patient man; he had been trained, too, in a rough school; and, long before he had accomplished the purposed round, he had got into one of his worst moods.  His arguments had been converted into threats, and his threats met by sturdy defiance.  In the evening of this vexatious day he stood in front of the steadings of Roderick Ross of the Hill, a plain decent farmer, much beloved by the poor for the readiness with which be imparted to them of his substance, and not a little respected by Urquhart himself for his rough strong sense and sterling honesty.  A grey, weather-wasted headstone still marks out his grave; but of the cottage which he inhabited, of his garden fence, and the large gnarled elms which sprung out of it, of his barns, his cow-houses, and his sheep-folds, there is not a single vestige.  They occupied, eighty years ago, the middle of one of the parks which are laid out on the hill of Cromarty where it overlooks the town—the third park in the upper range from the eastern corner.  In rainy seasons, the spring which supplied his well comes bursting out from among the furrows.  Roderick came from the barn to meet the laird; and, after the customary greeting, was informed of the cause of his visit.  The merits of the case he had discussed at mill and smithy with every farmer on the estate; and, with his usual bluntness, he now inquired at the laird what interest he, a Papist, could have in the concerns of a Protestant church.  "For observe, Captain," said he, "if ye ettle at serving us wi' a minister, sound after your way o' belief, I maun in conscience gie you a' the hinderance I can, as the man must be an unsound Papisher to me; an' if, what's mair likely, ye only wuss to oblige the Gallant Simpson wi' a glebe, stipend, an' manse, without meddling wi' ony religion, it's surely my part to oppose ye baith;—you, for making God's kirk meat an' drink to a hireling; him, for taking it on sic terms."  The Captain, though he used to admire Roderick's natural logic, regarded it with a very different feeling when he found it brandished against himself.  "Roderick," said he, and he swore a deadly oath, "you shall either vote for Mr. Simpson or quit your farm at Whitsunday first."  "You at least gie me my choice," said the honest farmer, and turning abruptly from him he stalked into the barn.

    Roderick left his plough in the furrow on the day fixed for the meeting, and went into the house to prepare for it, by dressing himself in his best clothes.  His wife had learned the result of his conference with the laird, and, in her opinion, the argument of threatened ejection was a more powerful one than any that could be advanced by the opposite party.  Repeatedly did she urge it, but to no effect; Roderick was stubborn as an old Covenanter.  She watched, however, her opportunity; and when he went in to dress, which he always did in a small apartment formed by an outjet of the cottage, she followed him, as if once more to repeat what she had so often repeated already, but in reality with a very different intention.  She suffered him to throw off his clothes, piece by piece, without the slightest attempt to prevent him; but at the moment when his head and arms were involved in the intricacies of a stout linen shirt, she snatched up his holiday bonnet, coat, and waistcoat, together with the articles of dress he had just relinquished, and rushing out of the apartment with them, shut and bolted the door behind her.  To place against it every article of furniture which the outer room afforded, was the work of the first minute; and to advise her liege lord to betake himself to the bed which his prison contained until the kirk should have skailed, was her employment in the second.  Roderick was not to be baulked so.  There was a window in the apartment, which, had the walls been of stone, would scarcely have afforded passage to an ordinary-sized cat, but luckily they were of turf.  Into this opening he insinuated first his head, next his shoulders, and wriggling from side to side until the whole wall heaved with the commotion, he wormed himself into liberty; and then set off for the church of Cromarty, without bonnet, coat, or waistcoat.  An angry man was Roderick; and the anger, which he well knew would gain him nothing if wreaked on the gudewife, was boiling up against the Captain and Mr. Simpson.  He entered the church, and in a moment every eye in it was turned on him.  The schoolmaster, a thin serious-looking person, sat in the precentor's desk, with his writing materials before him, to take down the names of the voters, hundreds of whom thronged the body of the church.  Captain Urquhart, in an attitude between sitting and standing, occupied one of the opposite pews; about half a dozen of his servants lounged behind him.  He was a formidable-looking, dark-complexioned, square-shouldered man, of about fifty; and over his harsh weather-beaten features, which were in some little degree the reverse of engaging at any time, the occasion of the meeting seemed to have flung a darker expression than was common to them.  As Roderick advanced, he started up as if to reconnoitre so terrible an apparition.  Roderick's shirt and breeches were stained by the damp mouldy turf of the window, his face had not escaped, and, instead of being marked by its usual expression of quiet good-nature, bore a portentous ferocity of aspect, which seemed to indicate a man not rashly to be meddled with.  "In the name of wonder, what brings you here in such plight?" was the question put to him by an acquaintance in the aisle.  "I come here," said Roderick, in a voice sufficiently audible all over the building, "to gie my vote as a free member o' this kirk in the election o' this day; an' as for the particular plight," lowering his tone into a whisper, "speer about that at the gudewife."—"And whom do you vote for?" said the schoolmaster, "for the time is up;—there are two candidates, Simpson and Henderson."  "For honest Mr. Henderson," said the farmer; "an' ill be his luck this day wha votes for ae Roman out o' the fear o' anither, or lets the luve o' warld's gear stan' atween him an' his conscience."  The Captain grasped his stick; Roderick clenched his fist.  "Look ye, Captain," he continued, "after flinging awa, for the sake o' the puir kirk, the bonny rigs o' Driemonorie, an' I ken I have done it, ye need think to daunt me wi' a kent.  Come out, Captain, yoursel, or ony twa o' your gang, an' in this quarrel I shall bide the warst.  Nay, man, glower as ye list; I'm no obliged to be feart though ye choose to be angry."  The shout of "No Popish patron!—no Popish patron!" which shook the very roof that stretched over the heads of the hundreds who joined in it, served as a kind of chorus to this fearless defiance.  The Captain suffered his stick to slip through his fingers until the knob rested on his palm, and then, striding over the pew, he walked out of church.  In less than half an hour after, the popular candidate was declared duly elected, and at Whitsunday first Roderick was ejected from his farm.  His character, however, as a man of probity and a skilful farmer, was so well established throughout the country, that he suffered less on the occasion than almost any other person would have done.  He died many years after, the tacksman of Peddieston, possessed of ingear and outgear, and of a very considerable sum of money, with which he had the temerity to intrust a newfangled kind of money-borrower, termed a bank.

    After all they had achieved and suffered on this occasion, the people of Cromarty were unfortunate in their minister.  He was a person of considerable talent, and an amiable disposition; and beloved by every class of his parishioners.  The young spoke well of him for his good-nature; the old for the deference which he paid to the opinions of his lay advisers.  He was, besides, deeply read in theology, and acquainted with the various workings of religion in the various constitutions of mind.  But of all his friends and advisers, there were none sufficiently acquainted with his character to give him the advice which he most needed.  He was naturally amiable and unassuming, and when he became a convert to Christianity, scarcely any change took place in his external conduct.  He continued to act from principle in the manner he had previously acted from the natural bent of his disposition.  For the first few years he was much impressed by a sense of the importance of spiritual concerns, and he became a minister of the church that he might press their importance upon others; but there are ebbs and flows of the mind in its moral as certainly as in its intellectual operations; and that flow of zeal which characterizes the young convert is very often succeeded by a temporary ebb, during which he sinks into comparative indifference.  It was thus with Henderson.  His first impressions became faint, and he continued to walk the round of his duties, rather from their having become matters of custom to him, and that it was necessary for him to maintain the character of being consistent, than from a due sense of their importance.  He continued, too, to instruct his people by delineations of character and expositions of doctrine; but his knowledge of the first was the result of studies which he had ceased to prosecute, and in which he himself had been both the student and the thing studied, and the efficacy of the latter was neutralized by their having become to him less the objects of serious belief than of metaphysical speculation.  His peculiar character, too, with all its seeming advantages of natural constitution, was perhaps as much exposed to evil as others of a less amiable stamp.  There are passions and dispositions so unequivocally bad, that even indifference itself is roused to oppose them; but when the current of nature and the course of duty seem to run parallel, we suffer ourselves to be borne away by the stream, and are seldom sufficiently watchful to ascertain whether the parallelism be alike exact in every stage of our progress.  Henderson's character precluded both suspicion and advice.  What were the feelings of his people, when, on summoning the elders of the church, he told them, that, having formed an improper connexion with a girl of the place, he had become a disgrace to the order to which he belonged!  He was expelled from his office, and after remaining in town until a neighbouring clergyman had dealt to him the censures of the Church, from the pulpit which he himself had lately occupied, and in presence of a congregation that had once listened to him with pleasure, and now beheld him with tears, he went away, no one knew whither, and was never again seen in Cromarty.

    About twenty years after, a young lad, a native of the place, was journeying after nightfall between Elgin and Banff, when he was joined by two persons who were travelling in the same direction, and entered into conversation with them.  One of them seemed to be a plain country farmer; the other was evidently a man of education and breeding.  The farmer, with a curiosity deemed characteristic of Scotchmen of a certain class, questioned him about the occasion of his journey, and his place of residence.  The other seemed less curious; but no sooner hadhe learned that he was a native of Cromarty, than he became the more inquisitive of the two; and his numberless inquiries regarding the people of the town, showed that at some period he had been intimately acquainted with them.  But many of those after whom he inquired had been long dead, or had removed from the place years before.  The lad whose curiosity was excited, was mustering up courage to ask him whether he had not at some time or other resided in Cromarty, when the stranger, hastily seizing his hand with the cordiality of an old friend, bade him farewell, and turning off at a cross-road, left him to the company of the farmer.  "Who is that gentleman?" was his first question.  "The Mr. Henderson," was the reply, "who was at one time minister of Cromarty."  The lad learned further, that he supported himself as a country schoolmaster, and was a devout, excellent man, charitable and tender to others, but severe to himself beyond the precedents of Reformed Churches.  "I wish," said the farmer, "you had seen him by day;—he has the grey locks and bent frame of old age though he is not yet turned of fifty.  There is a hill in a solitary part of the country, near his school, on which he frequently spends the long winter nights in prayer and meditation; and a little below its summit there is a path which runs quite round, and which can be seen a full mile away, that has been hollowed out by his feet."



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