Scenes and Legends (10)

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CHAPTER XXX.

"Rise, honest muse, and sing the man of Ross."—POPE.


IN the letter in which Junius accuses the Duke of Grafton of having sold a patent place in the collection of customs to one Mr. Hine, he informs the reader that the person employed by his Grace in negotiating the business, was "George Ross, the Scotch Agent and worthy confidant of Lord Mansfield.  And no sale by the candle," he adds, "was ever conducted with greater formality."  Now, slight as this notice is, there is something in it sufficiently tangible for the imagination to lay hold of.  If the reader thinks of the Scotch Agent at all, he probably thinks of him as one of those convenient creatures so necessary to the practical statesman, whose merit does not consist more in their being ingenious in a great degree, than in their being honest in a small one.  So mixed a thing is poor human nature, however, that though the statement of Junius has never been fairly controverted, no possible estimate of character could be more unjust.  The Scotch Agent, whatever may have been the nature of his services to the Duke of Grafton, was in reality a high-minded, and, what is more, a truly patriotic man; so good a person indeed, that, in a period of political heats and animosities like the present, his story, fairly told, may teach us a lesson of charity and moderation.  I wish I could transport the reader to where his portrait hangs, side by side with that of his friend the Lord Chief-Justice, in the drawing-room of Cromarty House.  The air of dignified benevolence impressed on the features of the handsome old man, with his grey hair curling round his temples, would secure a fair hearing for him from even the sturdiest of the class who hate their neighbours for the good of their country.  Besides, the very presence of the noble-looking lawyer, so much more like the Murray eulogized by Pope and Lyttelton, than the Mansfield denounced by Junius, would of itself serve as a sort of guarantee for the honour of his friend.

    George Ross was the son of a petty proprietor of Easter-Ross, and succeeded, on the death of his father, to the few barren acres on which, for a century or two before, the family had been ingenious enough to live.  But he possessed besides what was more valuable than twenty such patrimonies—an untiring energy of disposition, based on a substratum of sound good sense; and, what was scarcely less important than either, ambition enough to turn his capacity of employment to the best account.  Ross-shire, a century ago, was no place for such a man; and as the only road to preferment at this period was the road that led south, George Ross left, when very young, his mother's cottage for England, where he spent nearly fifty years amongst statesmen and courtiers, and in the enjoyment of the friendship of such men as President Forbes and Lord Mansfield.  At length he returned, when an old greyheaded man, to rank amongst the greatest capitalists and proprietors of the county; and purchased, with other lesser properties in the neighbourhood, the whole estate of Cromarty.  Perhaps he had come to rest him ere he died; but there seems to be no such thing as changing one's natural bent when confirmed by the habits of half a lifetime; and the energies of the Scotch Agent, now that they had gained him fortune and influence, were as little disposed to fall asleep as they had been forty years before.  As it was no longer necessary, however, that they should be employed on his own account, he gave them full scope in behalf of his poorer neighbours.  The country around him lay dead.  There were no manufactories, no knowledge of agriculture, no consciousness that matters were ill, and consequently no desire of making them better; and the Herculean task imposed upon himself by the Scotch Agent, now considerably turned of sixty, was to animate and revolutionize the whole.  And such was his statesmanlike sagacity in developing the hitherto undiscovered resources of the country, joined to a high-minded zeal that could sow liberally, in the hope of a late harvest for others to reap, that he fully succeeded.

    He first established in the town an extensive manufactory of hempen cloth, which has ever since employed about two hundred persons within its walls, and fully twice that number without.  He next built an ale brewery, which, at the time of its erection, was by far the largest in the north of Scotland.  He then furnished the town at a great expense with an excellent harbour, and set on foot a trade in pork, which, for the last thirty years, has been carried on by the people of the place to an extent of from about fifteen to twenty thousand pounds annually.  He set himself, too, to initiate his tenantry in the art of rearing wheat; and finding them wofully unwilling to become wiser on the subject, he tried the force of example, by taking an extensive farm under his own management, and conducting it on the most approved principles of modern agriculture.  He established a nail and spade manufactory; brought women from England to instruct the young girls in the art of working lace; provided houses for the poor; presented the town with a neat substantial building, the upper part of which still serves for a council-room and court-house, and the lower as a prison; and built for the accommodation of the poor Highlanders, who came thronging into the town to work on his lands and his manufactories, a handsome Gaelic chapel.  He built for his own residence an elegant house of hewn stone; surrounded it with pleasure-grounds designed in the best style of the art; planted many hundred acres of the less improvable parts of his property, and laid open the hitherto scarcely accessible beauties of the hill of Cromarty, by crossing and recrossing it with well-nigh as many walks as there are veins in the human body.  He was proud of his exquisite landscapes, and of his own skill in heightening their beauty, and fully determined, he said, if he but lived long enough, to make Cromarty worth an Englishman's while coming all the way from London to see.

    When Oscar fell asleep, says the old Irish bard, it was impossible to awaken him before his time except by cutting off one of his fingers, or flinging a rock at his head; and wo to the poor man who disturbed him!  The Agent found it every whit as difficult to awaken a sleeping country, and in some respects almost as unsafe.  I am afraid human nature is nearly the same thing in the people that it is in their rulers, and that both are alike disposed to prefer the man who flatters them to the man who merely does them good.  George Ross was by no means the most popular of proprietors—he disturbed old prejudices, and unfixed old habits.  The farmers thought it hard that they should have to break up their irregular maplike patches of land, divided from each other by little strips and corners not yet reclaimed from the waste, into awkward-looking rectangular fields; and that they durst no longer fasten their horses to the plough by the tail—a piece of natural harness evidently formed for the purpose.  The town's-people deemed the hempen manufactory unwholesome, and found that the English lacewomen, who to a certainty were tea-drinkers, and even not very hostile, it was said, to gin, were in a fair way of teaching their pupils something more than the more weaving of lace.  What could be more heathenish, too, than the little temple covered with cockleshells which the laird had just reared on a solitary corner of the hill; but the temple they soon sent spinning over the cliff into the sea, a downward journey of a hundred yards.  And then his odious pork trade!  There was no prevailing on the people to rear pigs for him, and so he had to build a range of offices in an out-of-the-way nook of his lands, which he stocked with hordes of these animals, that he might rear them for himself.  The herds increased in size and number, and, voracious beyond calculation, almost occasioned a famine.  Even the great wealth of the speculatist proved insufficient to supply them with the necessary food, and the very keepers were in danger of being eaten alive.  The poor animals seemed departing from their very nature, for they became long, and lank, and bony as the griffins of heraldry, until they looked more like race-horses than pigs; and as they descended with every ebb in huge droves to browse on the sea-weed, or delve for shell-fish among the pebbles, there was no lack of music befitting their condition, when the large rock-crab revenged with his nippers on their lips the injuries inflicted on him by their teeth.  Now, all this formed a fine subject for joking to people who indulged in a half-Jewish dislike of the pig, and who could not guess that the pork trade was one day to pay the rents of half the widows' cottages in the country.  But no one could be more open than George Ross to that species of ridicule which the men who see further than their neighbours, and look more to the advantage of others than to their own, cannot fail to encounter.  He was a worker in the dark, and that at no slight expense; for though all his many projects were ultimately found to be benefits conferred on his country, not one of them proved remunerative to himself.  But he seems to have known mankind too well to have expected a very great deal from their gratitude; though, on one occasion at least, his patience gave way.

    The town in the course of years had so entirely marched to the west, that, as I have already had occasion to remark, the town's cross came at length to be fairly left behind, with a hawthorn hedge on the one side and a garden fence on the other; and when the Agent had completed the house which was to serve as council-room and prison to the place, the cross was taken down from its stand of more than two centuries, and placed in front of the new building.  That people might the better remember the circumstance, there was a showy procession got up; healths were drunk beside the cross in the Agent's best wine, and not a little of his crystal broken against it; and the evening terminated in a ball.  It so happened, however, through some cross chance, that, though all the gentility of the place were to be invited, three young men, who deemed themselves as genteel as the best of their neighbours, were passed over—the foreman of the hemp manufactory had received no invitation, nor the clever superintendent of the nail-work, nor yet the spruce clerk of the brewery; and as they were all men of spirit, it so happened that, during the very next night, the cross was taken down from its new pedestal, broken into three pieces, and carried still further to the west, to an open space where four lanes met; and there it was found in the morning—the pieces piled over each other, and surrounded by a profusion of broken ale-bottles.  The Agent was amazingly angry—angrier, indeed, than even those who best knew him had deemed him capable of becoming; and in the course of the day the town's crier went through the streets proclaiming a reward of ten pounds in hand, and a free room in Mr. Ross's new buildings for life, to any one who would give such information as might lead to the conviction of the offenders.

    In one of his walks a few days after, the Agent met with a poor miserable-looking Highland woman, who had been picking a few withered sticks out of one of his hedges, and whose hands and clothes seemed torn by the thorns.  "Poor old creature!" he said, as she dropped her courtesy in passing; "you must go to my manager and tell him I have ordered you a barrel of coals.  And stay—you are hungry; call at my house in passing, and the servants will find you something to take home with you."  The poor woman blessed him, and looked up hesitatingly in his face.  She had never betrayed any one, she said; but his honour was so good a gentleman—so very good a gentleman; and so she thought she had best tell him all she knew about the breaking of the cross.  She lived in a little garret over the room of Jamie Banks the nailer; and having slept scarcely any all the night in which the cross was taken down, for the weather was bitterly cold, and her bedclothes very thin, she could hear weighty footsteps traversing the streets till near morning, when the house-door opened and in came Jamie with a tottering unequal step, and disturbed the whole family by stumbling over a stool into his wife's washing tub.  Besides, she had next day overheard his wife rating him for staying out to so untimeous an hour, and his remark in reply, that she would do well to keep quiet unless she wished to see him hanged.  This was the sort of due the affair required, and in following it up, the unlucky nailer was apprehended and examined; but it was found, that, through a singular lapse of memory, he had forgotten every circumstance connected with the night in question, except that he had been in the very best company, and one of the happiest men in the world.

    Jamie Banks was decidedly the most eccentric man of his day in at least one parish; full of small wit and little conceits, and famous for a faculty of invention fertile enough to have served a poet.  On one occasion when the gill of whisky had risen to three-halfpence in Cromarty, and could still be bought for a penny in Avouch, he had prevailed on a party of his acquaintance to accompany him to the latter place, that they might drink themselves rich on the strength of the old proverb; and as they actually effected a saving of two shillings in spending six, it was clear, he said, that had not their money failed them, they would have made fortunes apiece.  Alas for the littleness of that great passion, the love of fame!  I have observed that the tradespeople among whom one meets with most instances of eccentricity, are those whose shops, being places of general resort, furnish them with space enough on which to achieve a humble notoriety, by rendering themselves unlike everybody else.  To secure to Jamie Banks due leisure for recollection, he was committed to jail.

    He was sitting one evening beside the prison fire with one of his neighbours and the jailer, and had risen to exclude the chill night air by drawing a curtain over the open barred window of the apartment, when a man suddenly started from behind the wall outside, and discharged a large stone with tremendous force at his head.  The missile almost brushed his ear as it sung past, and, rebounding from the opposite wall, rolled along the floor.  "That maun be Rob Williamson!" exclaimed Jamie, "wanting to keep me quiet; out, neebour Jonathan, an' after him."  Neebour Jonathan, an active young fellow, sprang to the door, caught the sounds of retreating footsteps as he turned the gate, and dashing after like a greyhound, succeeded in laying hold of the coat-skirts of Rob Williamson, as he strained onwards through the gate of the hemp manufactory.  He was immediately secured and lodged in another apartment of the prison; and in the morning Jamie Banks was found to have recovered his memory.

    He had finished working, he said, on the evening after the ball, and was just putting on his coat preparatory to leaving the shop, when the superintendent called him into his writing-room, where he found three persons sitting at a table half covered with bottles.  Rob Williamson, the weaver, was one of them; the other two were the clerk of the brewery and the foreman of the hemp manufactory; and they were all arguing together on some point of divinity.  The superintendent cleared a seat for him beside himself, and filled his glass thrice in succession, by way of making up for the time he had lost—nothing could be more untrue than that the superintendent was proud!  They then all began to speak about morals and Mr. Ross; the clerk was certain that, what with his harbour and his piggery, and his heathen temples and his lacewomen, he would not leave a rag of morality in the place; and Rob was quite as sure he was no friend to the gospel.  He a builder of Gaelic kirks, forsooth! had he not, yesterday, put up a Polish Dagon of a cross, and made the silly mason bodies worship it for the sake o' a dram?  And then, how common ale-drinking had become in the place since he had built his brewery—in his young days they drank naething but gin;—and what would their grandfathers have said to a whigmaleerie of a ball!  "I sipped and listened," continued Jamie, "and thought the time couldna have been better spent at an elder's meeting in the kirk; and as the night wore later, the conversation became more edifying still, until at length all the bottles were emptied, when we sallied out in a body, to imitate the old reformers by breaking the cross.  'We may suffer, Jamie, for what we have done,' said Rob to me, as we parted for the night; 'but remember it was duty, Jamie—it was duty.  We have been testifying wi' our hands, an' when the hour o' trial comes, we manna be slow in testifying wi' our tongues too.'  He wasna slack, the deceitfu' bodie!" concluded Jamie, "in trying to stop mine."  And thus closed the evidence.  The Agent was no vindictive man; he dismissed his two superintendents and the clerk, to find for themselves a more indulgent master; but the services of Jamie Banks he still retained, and the first employment which he found for him after his release, was the fashioning of four iron bars for the repair of the cross.

    The Agent, in the closing scene of his life, was destined to experience the unhappiness of blighted hope.  He had an only son, a weak and very obstinate young man, who, without intellect enough to appreciate his well-calculated schemes, and yet conceit enough to sit in judgment on them, was ever showing his spirit by opposing a sort of selfish nonsense, that aped the semblance of common sense, to the expansive and benevolent philosophy of his father.  But the old man bore patiently with his conceit and folly.  Like the great bulk of the class who attain to wealth and influence through their own exertions, he was anxiously ambitious to live in his posterity, and be the founder of a family; and he knew it was quite as much according to the nature of things, that a fool might be the father, as that he should be the son, of a wise man.  He secured, therefore, his lands to his posterity by the law of entail; did all that education and example could do for the young man; and succeeded in getting him married to a sweet amiable Englishwoman, the daughter of a bishop.  But, alas! his precautions and the hopes in which he indulged, proved equally vain.  The young man, only a few months after his marriage, was piqued when at table by some remark of his father regarding his mode of carving—some slight allusion, it is said, to the maxim, that little men cannot afford to neglect little matters; and rising with much apparent coolness from beside his wife, he stepped into an adjoining room, and there blew out his brains with a pistol.  The stain of his blood may still be seen in two large brownish-coloured blotches on the floor.

    It was impossible that so sad an event should have occurred in this part of the country fifty years ago, without exciting as marked an interest in the supernatural world as in our own.  For weeks before, strange unearthly sounds had been heard after nightfall from among the woods of the hill.  The forester, when returning homewards in the stillness of evening, had felt the blood curdling round his heart, as low moans, and faint mutterings, and long hollow echoes, came sounding along the pathways, which then winded through the thick wood like vaulted passages through an Egyptian cemetery; and boys of the town who bad lingered among the thickets of the lower slopes until after sunset, engaged in digging sweet-knots or pignuts, were set a-scampering by harsh sudden screams and loud whistlings, continued in one unvaried note for minutes together.  On the evening that preceded the commission of the rash act, a party of school-boys had set out for the hill to select from among the young firs some of the straightest and most slender, for fishing-rods; and aware that the forester might have serious objections to any such appropriation of his master's property, they lingered among the rocks below till the evening had set in; when they stole up the hill-side, and applied themselves to the work of choosing and cutting down, in a beautiful little avenue which leads from the edge of the precipices into the recesses of the wood.  All at once there arose, as if from the rock-edge, a combination of the most fearful sounds they had ever heard—it seemed as if every bull in the country had congregated in one little spot, and were bellowing together in horrid concert.  The little fellows looked at one another, and then, as if moved by some general impulse—for they were too panic-struck to speak—they darted off together like a shoal of minnows startled from some river-side by a shadow on the bank.  The terrible sounds waxed louder and louder, like the sounds of the dread horn which appalled Wallace at midnight in the deserted fortress, after the death of Faudon; and, long ere they had reached the town, the weaker members of the party began to fall behind.  One little fellow, on finding himself left alone, began to scream in utter terror, scarce less loudly than the mysterious bellower in the wood; but he was waited for by a bold, hardy boy—a grandchild and name-son of old Sandy Wright the boatman—who had not even relinquished his rod, and who afterwards did his country no dishonour when, in like fashion, he grasped his pike at the landing in Egypt.  To him I owe the story.  He used to say, it was not until he had reached with his companions the old chapel of St. Regulus, a full mile from the avenue, that the sounds entirely ceased.  They were probably occasioned by some wandering bittern, of that species whose cry is said by naturalists to resemble the interrupted bellowings of a bull, but so much louder that it may be distinctly heard at a mile's distance.

    George Ross survived his son for several years, and he continued, though a sadder and graver man, to busy himself with all his various speculations as before.  It was observed, however, that he seemed to care less than formerly for whatever was exclusively his own—for his fine house and his beautiful lands —and that he chiefly employed himself in maturing his several projects for the good of his country-folk.  Time at length began to set his seal on his labours, by discovering their value; though not until death had first affixed his to the character of the wise and benevolent projector.  He died full of years and honour, mourned by the poor, and regretted by every one; and even those who had opposed his innovations with the warmest zeal, were content to remember him, with all the others, as "the good laird."


 
CHAPTER XXXI.


"Friends, No-man kills me; No-man in the hour
 Of sleep oppresses me with fraudful power.
 If no man hurt thee, but the hand divine
 Inflict disease, it fits thee to resign,"—O
DYSSEY.


SOME of the wildest and finest pieces of scenery in the neighbourhood of Cromarty, must be sought for in an upper corner of the parish, where it abuts on the one hand on the parish of Rosemarkie, and on the other on the Moray Firth.  We may saunter in this direction over a lonely shore, overhung by picturesque crags of yellow sandstone, and roughened by so fantastic an arrangement of strata, that one might almost imagine the riblike bands, which project from the beach, portions of the skeleton of some huge antediluvian monster.  No place can be more solitary, but no solitude more cheerful.  The natural rampart, that rises more than a hundred yards over the shore, as if to shut us out from the world, sweeps towards the uplands in long grassy slopes and green mossy knolls;—or juts out into abrupt and weathered crags, crusted with lichens and festooned with ivy;—or recedes into bosky hollows, roughened by the sloethorn, the wild-rose, and the juniper.  On the one hand, there is a profusion of the loveliest light and shadow—the softest colours and the most pleasing forms; on the other, the wide extent of the Moray Firth stretches out to the dim horizon, with all its veinlike currents and its undulating lines of coast; while before us we see far in the distance the blue vista of the great Caledonian valley, with its double wall of jagged and serrated hills; and directly in the opening the grey diminished spires of Inverness.  We saunter onwards towards the west, over the pebbles and the shells, till where a mossy streamlet comes brattling from the hill; and see, on turning a sudden angle, the bank cleft to its base, as if to yield the waters a passage.  'Tis the entrance to a deeply-secluded dell, of exquisite though savage beauty; one of those hidden recesses of nature, in which she gratefully reserves the choicest of her sweets for the more zealous of her admirers; and mingles for them in her kindliest mood all that expands and delights the heart in the contemplation of the wild and beautiful, with all that gratifies it in the enjoyment of a happy novelty, in which pleasure comes so unlooked for, that neither hope nor imagination has had time to strip it of a single charm.

    We enter this singular recess along the bed of the stream, and find ourselves shut out, when we have advanced only a few paces, from well-nigh the entire face of nature and the whole works of man.  A line of mural precipices rises on either hand—here advancing in gigantic columns, like those of an Egyptian portico—there receding into deep solitary recesses tapestried with ivy, and darkened by birch and hazel.  The cliffs vary their outline at every step, as if assuming in succession all the various combinations of form which constitute the wild and the picturesque; and the pale yellow hue of the stone seems, when brightened by the sun, the very tint a painter would choose to heighten the effect of his shades, or to contrast most delicately with the luxuriant profusion of bushes and flowers that waves over every shelve and cranny.  A colony of swallows have built from time immemorial in the hollows of one of the loftiest precipices; the fox and the badger harbour in the clefts of the steeper and more inaccessible banks.  As we proceed, the dell becomes wilder and more deeply wooded, the stream frets and toils at our feet—here leaping over an opposing ridge, there struggling in a pool, yonder escaping to the light from under some broken fragment of cliff—there is a richer profusion of flowers; a thicker mantling of ivy and honeysuckle;—and, after passing a semicircular inflection of the bank, which, waving from summit to base with birch and hawthorn, seems suited to remind one of some vast amphitheatre on the morning of a triumph, we find the passage shut up by a perpendicular wall of rock about thirty feet in height, over which the stream precipitates itself in a slender column of foam into a dark mossy basin.  The long arms of an intermingled clump of birches and hazels stretch half-way across, trebling with their shade the apparent depth of the pool, and heightening in an equal ratio the whole flicker of the cascade, and the effect of the little bright patches of foam which, flung from the rock, incessantly revolve on the eddy.

    There is a natural connexion, it is said, between wild scenes and wild legends; and some of the traditions connected with this romantic and solitary dell illustrate the remark.  Till a comparatively late period, it was known at many a winter fireside as a favourite haunt of the fairies, the most poetical of all our old tribes of spectres, and at one time one of the most popular.  I have conversed with an old woman, one of the perished volumes of my library, who, when a very little girl, had seen myriads of them dancing as the sun was setting on the further edge of the dell; and with a still older man, who had the temerity to offer one of them a pinch of snuff at the foot of the cascade.  Nearly a mile from where the ravine opens to the sea, it assumes a gentler and more pastoral character; the sides, no longer precipitous, descend towards the stream in green sloping banks; and a beaten path, which runs between Cromarty and Rosemarkie, winds down the one side and ascends the other.  More than sixty years ago, one Donald Calder, a shopkeeper of Cromarty, was journeying by this path shortly after nightfall.  The moon, at full, had just risen, but there was a silvery mist sleeping on the lower grounds that obscured the light, and the dell in all its extent was so overcharged by the vapour, that it seemed an immense overflooded river winding through the landscape.  Donald had reached its further edge, and could hear the rush of the stream from the deep obscurity of the abyss below, when there rose from the opposite side a strain of the most delightful music he had ever heard.  He stood and listened: the words of a song of such simple beauty, that they seemed, without effort on his part, to stamp themselves on his memory, came wafted on the music, and the chorus, in which a thousand tiny voices seemed to join, was a familiar address to himself.  "He! Donald Calder! ho! Donald Calder!"  There are none of my Navity acquaintance, thought Donald, who sing like that; "Wha can it be?"  He descended into the cloud; but in passing the little stream the music ceased; and on reaching the spot on which the singers had seemed stationed, he saw only a bare bank sinking into a solitary moor, unvaried by either bush or hollow, or the slightest cover in which the musician could have lain concealed.  He had hardly time, however, to estimate the marvels of the case when the music again struck up, but on the opposite side of the dell, and apparently from the very knoll on which he had so lately listened to it; the conviction that it could not be other than supernatural overpowered him, and he hurried homewards under the influence of a terror so extreme, that, unfortunately for our knowledge of fairy literature, it had the effect of obliterating from his memory every part of the song except the chorus.  The sun rose as he reached Cromarty; and he found that, instead of having lingered at the edge of the dell for only a few minutes—and the time had seemed no longer—he had spent beside it the greater part of the night.

    Above the lower cascade the lofty precipitous banks of the dell recede into a long elliptical hollow, which terminates at the upper extremity in a perpendicular precipice, half cleft to its base by a narrow chasm, out of which the little stream comes bounding in one adventurous leap to the bottom.  A few birch and hazel bushes have anchored in the crannies of the rock, and darkened by their shade an immense rounded block of granite many tons in weight, which lies in front of the cascade.  Immediately beside the huge mass, on a level grassy spot, which occupies the space between the receding bank and the stream, there stood about a century ago a meal-mill.  It was a small and very rude erection, with an old-fashioned horizontal waterwheel, such as may still be met with in some places of the remote Highlands; and so inconsiderable was the power of the machinery, that a burly farmer of the parish, whose bonnet a waggish neighbour had thrown between the stones, succeeded in arresting the whole with his shoulder until he had rescued his Kilmarnock.  But the mill of Eathie was a celebrated mill notwithstanding.  No one resided near it, nor were there many men in the country who would venture to approach it an hour after sunset; and there were nights when, though deserted by the miller, its wheels would be heard revolving as busily as ever they had done by day, and when one who had courage enough to reconnoitre it from the edge of the dell, might see little twinkling lights crossing and recrossing the windows in irregular but hasty succession, as if a busy multitude were employed within.  On one occasion the miller, who had remained in it rather later than usual, was surprised to hear outside the neighing and champing of horses and the rattling of carts, and on going to the door he saw a long train of basket-woven vehicles laden with sacks, and drawn by shaggy little ponies of every diversity of form and colour.  The attendants were slim unearthly-looking creatures, about three feet in height, attired in grey, with red caps; and the whole seemed to have come out of a square opening in the opposite precipice.  Strange to relate, the nearer figures seemed to be as much frightened at seeing the miller as the miller was at seeing them; but, on one of them uttering a shrill scream, the carts moved backwards into the opening, which shut over them like the curtain of a theatre as the last disappeared.

    There lived in the adjoining parish of Rosemarkie, when the fame of the mill was at its highest, a wild unsettled fellow, named M'Kechan.  Had he been born among the aristocracy of the country, he might have passed for nothing worse than a young man of spirit; and after sowing his wild oats among gentlemen of the turf and of the fancy, he would naturally have settled down into the shrewd political landlord, who, if no builder of churches himself, would be willing enough to exert the privilege of giving clergymen, exclusively of his own choosing, to such churches as had been built already.  As a poor man, however, and the son of a poor man, Tam M'Kechan seemed to bid pretty fair for the gallows; nor could he plead ignorance that such was the general opinion.  He had been told so when a herd-boy; for it was no unusual matter for his master, a farmer of the parish, to find him stealing pease in the corner of one field, when the whole of his charge were ravaging the crops of another.  He had been told so too when a sailor, ere he had broken his indentures and run away, when once caught among the casks and packages in the hold, ascertaining where the Geneva and the sweetmeats were stowed.  And now that he was a drover and a horse-jockey, people, though they no longer told him so, for Tam had become dangerous, seemed as certain of the fact as ever.  With all his roguery, however, when not much in liquor he was by no means a very disagreeable companion; few could match him at a song or the bagpipe, and though rather noisy in his cups, and somewhat quarrelsome, his company was a good deal courted by the bolder spirits of the parish, and among the rest by the miller.  Tam had heard of the piebald horses and their ghostly attendants; but without more knowledge than fell to the share of his neighbours, he was a much greater sceptic, and after rallying the miller on his ingenuity and the prettiness of his fancy, he volunteered to spend a night at the mill, with no other companion than his pipes.

    Preparatory to the trial the miller invited one of his neighbours, the young farmer of Eathie, that they might pass the early part of the evening with Tam; but when, after an hour's hard drinking, they rose to leave the cottage, the farmer, a kind-hearted lad, who was besides warmly attached to the jockey's only sister, would fain have dissuaded him from the undertaking.  "I've been thinking, Tam," he said, "that flyte wi' the miller as ye may, ye would better let the good people alone;—or stay, sin' ye are sae bent on playing the fule, I'll e'en play it wi' you;—rax me my plaid; we'll trim up the fire in the killogie thegether; an' you will keep me in music."  "Nay, Jock Hossack," said Tam, "I faun keep my good music for the good people, it's rather late to flinch now; but come to the burn-edge wi' me the night, an' to the mill as early in the morning as ye may; an' hark ye, tak a double caulker wi' you."  He wrapt himself up closely in his plaid, took the pipes under his arm, and, accompanied by Jock and the miller, set out for the dell, into which, however, he insisted on descending alone.  Before leaving the bank, his companions could see that he had succeeded in lighting up a fire in the mill, which gleamed through every bore and opening, and could hear the shrill notes of a pibroch mingling with the dash of the cascade.

    The sun had risen high enough to look aslant into the dell, when Jock and the miller descended to the mill, and found the door lying wide open.  All was silent within; the fire had sunk into a heap of white ashes, though there was a bundle of fagots untouched beside it, and the stool on which Tam had been seated lay overturned in front.  But there were no traces of Tam, except that the miller picked up, beside the stool, a little flat-edged instrument, used by the unfortunate jockey in concealing the age of his horses by effacing the marks on their teeth, and that Jock Hossack found one of the drones of the pipes among the extinguished embers.  Weeks passed away and there was still nothing heard of Tam; and as every one seemed to think it would be in vain to seek for him anywhere but in the place where he had been lost, Jock Hossack, whose marriage was vexatiously delayed in consequence of his strange disappearance, came to the resolution of unravelling the mystery, if possible, by passing a night in the mill.

    For the first few hours he found the evening wear heavily away; the only sounds that reached him were the loud monotonous dashing of the cascade, and the duller rush of the stream as it swept past the mill-wheel.  He piled up fuel on the fire till the flames rose half-way to the ceiling, and every beam and rafter stood out from the smoke as clearly as by day; and then yawning, as he thought how companionable a thing a good fire is, he longed for something to amuse him.  A sudden cry rose from the further gable, accompanied by a flutter of wings, and one of the miller's ducks, a fine plump bird came swooping down among the live embers.  "Poor bird!" said Jock, "from the fox to the fire; I had almost forgotten that I wanted my supper."  He dashed the duck against the floor—plucked and embowelled it—and then, suspending the carcass by a string before the fire, began to twirl it round and round to the heat.  The strong odoriferous fume had begun to fill the apartment, and the drippings to hiss and sputter among the embers, when a burst of music rose so suddenly from the green without, that Jock, who had been so engaged with the thoughts of his supper as almost to have forgotten the fairies, started half a yard from his seat.  "That maun be Tam's pipes," he said; and giving a twirl to the duck he rose to a window.  The moon, only a few days in her wane, was looking aslant into the dell, lighting the huge melancholy cliffs with their birches and hazels, and the white flickering descent of the cascade.  The little level green on the margin of the stream lay more in the shade; but Jock could see that it was crowded with figures marvellously diminutive in stature, and that nearly one-half of them were engaged in dancing.  It was enough for him, however, that the music was none of Tam's making; and, leaving the little creatures to gambol undisturbed, he returned to the fire.

He had hardly resumed his seat when a low tap was heard at the door, and shortly after a second and a third.  Jock sedulously turned his duck to the heat, and sat still.  He had no wish for visitors, and determined on admitting none.  The door, however, though firmly bolted, fell open of itself, and there entered one of the strangest-looking creatures he had ever seen.  The figure was that of a man, but it was little more than three feet in height; and though the face was as sallow and wrinkled as that of a person of eighty, the eye had the roguish sparkle and the limbs all the juvenile activity of fourteen.  "What's your name, man?" said the little thing, coming up to Jock, and peering into his face till its wild elfish features were within a few inches of his.  "What's your name?"  "Mysel' an' Mysel',"—i.e., myself—said Jock, with a policy similar to that resorted to by Ulysses in the cave of the giant.  "Ah, Mysel' an' Myself'!" rejoined the creature; "Mysel' an' Mysel'! and what's that you have got there, Myself' an' Mysel'?" touching the duck as it spoke with the tip of its finger, and then transferring part of the scalding gravy to the cheek of Jock.  Rather an unwarrantable liberty, thought the poor fellow, for so slight an acquaintance; the creature reiterated the question, and dabbed Jock's other cheek with a larger and still more scalding application of the gravy.  "What is it?" he exclaimed, losing in his anger all thought of consequences, and dashing the bird, with the full swing of his arm, against the face of his visitor, "It's that!"  The little creature, blinded and miserably burnt, screamed out in pain and terror till the roof rung again; the music ceased in a moment, and Jock Hossack had barely time to cover the fire with a fresh heap of fuel, which for a few seconds reduced the apartment to total darkness, when the crowd without came swarming like wasps to every door and window of the mill.  "Who did it, Sanachy—who did it?" was the query of a thousand voices at once.  "Oh, 'twas Myself' an' Myself'," said the creature; "'twas Myself' an' Myself'."  "And if it was yoursel' and yoursel', who, poor Sanachy," replied his companions, "can help that?"  They still, however, clustered round the mill; the flames began to rise in long pointed columns through the smoke, and Jock Hossack had just given himself up for lost, when a cock crew outside the building, and after a sudden breeze had moaned for a few seconds among the cliffs and the bushes, and then sunk in the lower recesses of the dell, he found himself alone.  He was married shortly after to the sister of the lost jockey, and never again saw the good people, or, what he regretted nearly as little, his unfortunate brother-in-law.  There were some, however, who affirmed, that the latter had returned from fairyland seven years after his mysterious disappearance, and supported the assertion by the fact, that there was one Thomas M'Kechan who suffered at Perth for sheep-stealing a few months after the expiry of the seventh year.

    One other tradition of the burn of Eathie, and I have done.  But I need run no risk of marring it in the telling.  More fortunate than most of its contemporaries, it has been preserved by the muse of one of those forgotten poets of our country, who, thinking more of their subjects than of themselves, "saved others' names and left their own unsung."  And I have but to avail myself of his ballad.


FAUSE JAMIE.

PART FIRST.


"Whar hae ye been, my dochter deir,
    I' the could an' the splashy weet ?
There's snow i' the faulds o' your silken hair,
    An' bluid on your bonny feet.

There's grief and fright, my dochter deir,
    I' the wand'rin' blink o' your ee;
An' ye've stayed arout i' the sleet an' the cauld
    The livelang nicht frae me."

"O mither deir! mak' ye my bed,
    For my heart it's flichtin' sair;
An' oh! gin I've vexed ye, mither deir,
    I'll never vex ye mair.

I've stayed arout the lang mirk nicht,
    I' the sleet an' the plashy rain;
But, mither deir, mak' ye my bed,
    An' I'll n'er gang out again.

An' oh, put by that maiden snood,
    What nane may evir see;
For Jamie's taken a richer joe,
    An' left but shame to me."

An' she has made her dochter's bed,
    An' her auld heart it was wae;
For as the long mirk hours gaed by,
    Her lassie wore away.

The dead wirk i' her bonny hause
    Was wirkin' a' that day an' nicht;
An' or the morning she was gane,
    Wi' the babe that nevir saw the licht.

The mither grat by her dochter's bed,
    An' she has cursed curses three:
That he wha wrought her deidly ill
    Ane happy man mocht never be.


FAUSE JAMIE.

PART SECOND.


There was licit i' the widow's lonesome shiel,
    An' licht i' the farmer's ha';
For the widow was sewin' her dochter's shroud,
    An' the bride's folk dancing' a'.

But aye or the tither reel was danced out,
    The wae bridegroom begoud to tire;
An' a spale on the candil turn'd to the bride,
    An' a coffin loup'd frae the fire.

An' whan to the kirkin' the twasome went
    Sae trig, i' the burrow's toune below,
Their first feet as they left the kirk
    Was the burial o' Jamie's joe

Jamie he labourt air an' late,
    An' mickle carit for pleugh an' kye
But laigher aye he sank i' the warl'
    As the weary years gaed by.

His puir gudewife was dowie an' wae
    His threesome bairns a grief to see—
The tane it was deaf, the tither blin',
    The third a lamiter like to be.

The burns were rennin' big wi' spate,
    Lentron win's blew gurly and snell;
Whan Jamie cam to Cromartie town
    Wi' a cart o' bear to sell.

"O why do ye daidle so late i' the toune,
    Jamie, it's time ye were boune to ride?"
It's because that I dinna like to gang,
    An' I kenna how to bide.

Pic-mirk nicht it's settin' in,
    The wife at hame sits dowie and wae;
An, Elder, I maunna bide i' the tonne,
    An' I kenna how to gae.

It saw'd on my rigs or the droucht cam on,
    It milk'd in my byre or my kye did dee;
It follows me aye wharevir I gang,
    An' I see it now though ye canna see."

"Gin it follows ye aye wharevir ye gang,
    There's anither Jamie that follows ye too;
An' gin that ye nevir wrangit the dead,
    The dead will nevir be mastir o' you."

Jamie he gripit the elder's han',
    An' syne he slackit the branks to ride,
An' doun be gied to the Eathie burn;
    But he nevir cam up on the ither side.

There's a maisterless colly at Jamie's door,
    Eerie it manes to the wife arin,
There's a gled an' a craw on the Eathie crag,
    And a broken corp at the fit o' the linn.


 
CHAPTER XXXII.


"―――He heard amazed, on every side
His church insulted, and her priests belied,
The laws reviled, the ruling powers abused,
The land derided, and her foes excused,
He heard and ponder'd. What to men so vile
Should be his language? For his threatening style
They were too many. If his speech were meek,
They would despise such vain attempts to speak
―――These were reformers of each different sort."—C
RABBE.


IN former times people knocked one another on the head for the sake of their masters—fellows whom they had made too great to care at all about them; in the present age they have become so much wiser, that they quarrel on their own behalf alone.  An entire people might be regarded in the past as an immense engine, with perhaps a single mind for its loving power; we may now compare every petty district to a magazine, stored like the warehouse of a watchmaker with little detached machines, each one furnished with a moving power of its own.  But though politics and party spirit change almost every ten years, human nature is always the same;—aspects vary, and circumstances alter, but the active principle, through all its windings and amid all its disguises, is ever consistent with itself.

    The people of Cromarty who lived ninety years ago were quite as unskilled in politics as their neighbours, and thought as little for themselves.  They were but the wheels and pinions of an immense engine; and regarding their governors as men sent into the world to rule—themselves, as men born to obey—they troubled their heads no more about the matter.  Even the two Rebellions had failed of converting them into politicians; for, viewing these in only their connexion with religion, they exulted in the successes of Hanover as those of Protestantism, and identified the cause of the Stuarts with Popery and persecution.  Their Whiggism was a Whiggism of the future world only; and the liberty of preparing themselves for heaven was the only liberty they deemed worth fighting for.

    Principles such as these, and the dominance of the Protestant interest, rendered the people of Cromarty, for two whole reigns, as quiet subjects as any in the kingdom.  In latter times, too, there was a circumstance which thoroughly attached them to the Government, by shutting out from among them the Radicalism of modern times for well-nigh a whole age.  The Scotch, early in the reign of George III., had risen high at court; Earl Bute had become Premier, and Mansfield Lord Chief-Justice; and the English, who would as lief have witnessed the return of William and his Normans, grumbled exceedingly.  The Premier managed his business like most other premiers;—the Chief-Justice conducted his rather better than most other chief-justices; but both gentlemen, says Smollett, had the misfortune of being born natives of North Britain and this circumstance was, in the opinion of the people, more than sufficient to counterbalance all the good qualities which human nature could possess."  Junius, and Wilkes, and Churchhill, and hundreds more, who, with as much ill-nature, but less wit, were forgotten as soon as the public ceased to be satisfied with ill-nature alone, opened in full cry against the King the Ministry, and the Scotch.  The hollo reached Cromarty, and the town's-folk were told, with all the rest of their countrymen, that they were proud, and poor, and dirty, and not very honest, and that they had sold their King; all this, too, as if they hadn't known the whole of it before.  Now it so happened, naturally enough I suppose, that they could bear to be dirty, but not to be told of it, and poor, but not to be twitted with their poverty, and that they could be quite as angry as either Junius or Churchhill, though they could not write letters like the one, nor make verses like the other.  And angry they were—desperately angry at Whiggism and the English, and devotedly attached to the King, poor man, who was suffering so much for his attachment to the Scotch.  Nothing could come amiss to them from so thorough a friend of their country; and when, on any occasion, they could not wholly defend his measures, they contented themselves with calling him an honest man.

    On came the ill-fated, ill-advised American War, and found the people of Cromarty as loyal as ever.  Washington, they said, was a rascal; Franklin, an ill-bred mechanic; and the people of the United States, rebels to a man.  There was a ballad, the composition of some provincial poet of this period, which narrated, in very rude verse, the tragical death of two brothers, natives of Ross-shire, who were killed unwittingly by their father, a soldier of the Republic; and this simple ballad did more for the cause of the King among the people of Cromarty, than all the arguments in Locke could have done for that of the Americans; there was not an old woman in either town or parish who did not thoroughly understand it.  The unfortunate father, Donald Munro, had emigrated to America, says the ballad, many years before; leaving his two infant sons with his brother, a farmer of Ross-shire.  The children had shot up into active young men, when the war broke out; and, unable to pay for their passage, had enlisted into a regiment destined for the colonies, in the hope of meeting with their father.  They landed in America; and finding themselves one evening, after a long and harassing march, within a few miles of the place where he resided, they set out together to pay him a visit; but in passing through a wood on their way, they were shot at from among the trees, and with so fatal an aim that the one was killed, and the other mortally wounded.  A stout elderly man, armed with a double-barrelled rifle, came pressing towards them through the bushes, as a fowler would to the game he had just knocked down.  It was their father, Donald Munro; and the ballad concludes with the ravings of his horror and despair on ascertaining the nature of his connexion with his victims, bleat with the wild expressions of his grief and remorse for having joined in so unnatural a rebellion.

    Even in this age, however, as if to show that there can be nothing completely perfect that has human nature in it, Cromarty had its one Whig—a person who affirmed that Franklin was a philosopher, and Washington a good man, and that the Americans were very much in the right.  Could anything be more preposterous?  The town's-folk lacked patience to reason with a fellow so amazingly absurd.  He was a slater, and his name was John Holm;—a name which became so proverbial in the place for folly, that, when any one talked very great nonsense, it was said of him that he talked like John Holm.  The very children, who had carried the phrase with them to the play-ground and the school, used to cut short the fudge of a comrade, or, at times, even some unpopular remark of the master, with a "Ho! ho! John Holm!"  John, however, held stiffly to his opinions, and the defence of Washington; and some of the graver town's-men, chafed by his pertinacity, were ill-natured enough to say that he was little better than Washington himself.  Curious as it may appear, he was, notwithstanding the modern tone of his politics, a rare and singular piece of antiquity;—one of that extinct class of mechanics described by Coleridge, "to whom every trade was an allegory, and had its own guardian saint."  He was a connecting link between two different worlds—the worlds of popular opinion and of popular mystery; and, strange as it may seem, both a herald of the Reform Bill, and a last relic of the age "in which" (to use the language of the writer just quoted) "the detail of each art was ennobled in the eyes of its professors, by being spiritually improved into symbols and mementos of all doctrines and all duties."  John had, besides, a strong turn for military architecture, and used to draw plans and construct models.  He was one evening descanting to an old campaigner on the admirable works at Fort George (a very recent erection at that time), and illustrating his descriptions with his stick on a hearth-stone strewed over with ashes, when by came the cat, and with one sweep of her tail demolished the entire plan.  "Oche, Donald!" said John, "it's all in vain;" a remark which, simple as it may seem, passed into a proverb.  When an adventure proved unsuccessful, or an effort unavailing, it was said to be "All in vain, like John Holm's plan of the fort."  But John's day was at hand.—We, the people, are excellent fellows in our way, but I must confess not very consistent.  I have seen the principles which we would hang a man for entertaining at the beginning of one year, becoming quite our own before the end of the next.

    The American War was followed by the French Revolution, and the crash of a falling throne awakened opinion all over Europe.  The young inquired whether men are not born equal; the old shook their heads, and asked what was to come next?  There were gentlemen of the place who began to remark that the tradesfolk no longer doffed to them their bonnets, and tradesfolk that the gentlemen no longer sent them their newspapers.  But the people got newspapers for themselves;—these, too, of a very different stamp from the ones they had been accustomed to; and a crop of young Whigs began to shoot up all over the place, like nettles in spring.  They could not break into the meanings of all the new, hard-shelled words they were meeting with—words ending in acy and archy; but no people could understand better that a king is only a kind of justice of the peace, who may be cashiered for misconduct just like any other magistrate; that all men are naturally equal; and that one whose grandfather had mended shoes, was every whit as well-born as one whose grandfather was the bastard of an emperor.  And seldom were there people more zealous or less selfish in their devotion than the new made politicians of Cromarty.  Their own concerns gave place, as they ought, to the more important business of the state; and they actually hurt their own heads, and sometimes, when the ale was bad, their own bellies, in drinking healths to the French.  Light after light gleamed upon them, like star after star in a frosty evening.  First of all, Paine's Rights of Man shone upon them through the medium of the newspapers, with the glitter of fifty constellations; then the Resolutions of the Liberty and Equality clubs of the south looked down upon them with the effulgence of fifty more; at length, up rose the scheme for the division of property, like the moon at full, and, flaring with portentous splendour, cast all the others into comparative obscurity.  The people looked round them at the parks which the modern scheme of agriculture had so conveniently fenced in with dikes and hedges; and spoke of the high price of potato-land and the coming Revolution.—A countryman went into one of the shops about this time, craving change for a pound- note.  "A pound-note!" exclaimed the shopkeeper, snapping his fingers; "a pound-note!—Man, I widna gie you tippence for't."

    There was a young man of the place, the son of a shopkeeper, who had been marked from his earliest boyhood by a smart precocity of intellect, and the boldness of his opinions; his name (for I must not forget that, to borrow one of Johnson's figures, I am walking over ashes the fires of which are not yet extinguished) I shall conceal.  He was one of those persons who, like the stormy petrel of the tropics, come abroad when the seas begin to rise, and the heavens to darken; and who find their proper element in a wild mixture of all the four elements jumbled into one.  He read the newspapers, and, it was said, wrote for them; he corresponded, too, with the Jacobin clubs of the south, and strove to form similar clubs at home; but the people were not yet sufficiently ripe.  No one could say that he was disobliging or ill-tempered; on the contrary, he was a favourite with, at least, his humbler town's-men for being much the reverse of both; but he was poor and clever, and alike impatient of poverty, and of seeing the wealth of the country in the hands of duller men than himself; and so the man who was unfortunate enough to be born to a thousand pounds a year had little chance of finding him either well-tempered or obliging.  He had stept into the ferry-boat one morning, and the ferrymen had set themselves to their oars, when a neighbouring proprietor came down to the beach, and called on them to return and take him aboard.  "Get on!" shouted the Democrat, "and let the fellow wait;—'tis I who have hired you this time."  "O Sir! it's a gentleman," said one of the ferrymen, propelling the boat sternwards, as he spoke, by a back stroke of the oar.  "Gentleman!" exclaimed the Democrat, seizing the boat-hook and pushing lustily in a contrary direction—"Gentleman truly!—we are all gentlemen, or shall be so very soon."  The proprietor, meanwhile, made a dash at the rudder, and held fast, but with such good-will did the other ply the boathook, that ere he had made good a lodgment he was drenched to the armpits.  "Nothing like being accustomed to hardship in time," muttered the Democrat, as, glancing his eye contemptuously on the dripping vestments of the proprietor, he laid down the pole and quietly resumed his seat.

    There were about a dozen young men in the place who were so excited by the newspaper accounts of the superb processions of their south-country friends, that they resolved on having a procession of their own.  They procured a long pole with a Kilmarnock cap fixed to the one end of it, which they termed the cap of liberty, and a large square of cotton, striped blue, white, and red, which they called the tricolor of independence.  In the middle stripe there were inscribed in huge Roman capitals, the words Liberty and Equality; and a stuffed cormorant, intended to represent an eagle, was perched on the top of the staff.  They got a shipmaster of the place prevailed on to join with them.  He was a frank, hearty sailor, who saw nothing unfair in the anticipated division of property, and hated a pressgang as he hated the devil.  "But how," said he, "will we manage, after all hands have been served out, should a few of us take a bouse and melt our portions? just divide again, I suppose?"  "Highly probable," replied the revolutionists; "but we have not yet fully determined on that."  "I see, I see," rejoined the sailor; everything can't be done at once."  On the day of the procession he brought with him his crew attired in their best, and with all the ship flags mounted on poles.  The revolutionists demurred.  "To be sure," they said, "nothing could be finer; but then the flags were British flags."  "And—it," said the master, "would you have me bring French flags?"  It was no time, however, to dispute the point; and the procession moved on, followed by all the children of the place.  It reached an eminence directly above the links; and drawing up beside an immense pile of brushwood, and a few empty tar-barrels, its leader planted the tree of liberty amid shouts, and music, and the shooting of muskets, on the very spot on which the town gallows had been planted about two centuries before.  No one, however, so much as thought of the circumstance; for people were too thoroughly excited to employ themselves with anything but the future; besides, a very little ingenuity could have made it serve the purpose of either party.  After planting the tree, the brushwood was fired, and a cask of whisky produced, out of which the republicans drank healths to liberty and the French.  "The French! the French!" exclaimed the shipmaster.  "Well,—them, I don't care though I do; here's health to the French; may they and I live long enough to speak to one another through twelve-pounders!"  All the boys and all the sailors huzzah; the republicans said nothing, but thought they had got rather a queer ally.  The evening, however, passed off in capital style; and, ere the crowd dispersed, they had burnt two fishing-boats, a salmon Coble, and almost all the paling of the neighbouring fields and gardens.

    The day of the procession was also that of a Redcastle market; at that time one of the chief cattle fairs of the north.  It was largely attended on this occasion by Highlanders from the neighbouring straths, many of whom had fought for the Prince, and remembered the atrocities of Cumberland; it was attended, too, by parties of drovers from England and the southern counties of Scotland, all of them brimful of the modern doctrines, and scarcely more loyal than the Highlanders themselves; it was attended, besides, by a Cromarty salmon-fisher, George Cossack, a man of immense personal strength and high spirit, now a little past his prime perhaps, but so much a politician of the old school, that he would have willingly fought for his namesake the King with any two men at the fair.  But he was no match for everybody, and everybody to-day seemed to hold but one opinion.  "Awful' expensive government this of ours," said an East-Lothian drover; "we maun just try whether we canna manage it mair cheaply for ourselves."  "Ay, and what a blockhead of a king have we got!" said an Englishman; "not fit, as Tom Paine says, for a country constable; but, poor wretch, we must turn him about his business, and see whether he can't work like ourselves."  "Och, but he's a limmer anyhow, and a creat plack whig!" remarked an old Highlander, "and has nae right till ta crown.  Na, na, Charlie my king!"  Poor George was almost broken-hearted by the abuse poured out against his sovereign on every side of him; but what could he do?  He would look first at one speaker, then at another, and repress his rising wrath by the consideration, that there was little wit in being angry with about three thousand people at once.  He had driven a bargain with two Englishmen, and on going in to drink with them, according to custom, was shown into a room which chanced at the time, unlike every other room in the house, to be unoccupied.  The Englishmen seated themselves at the table; George cautiously fastened the door, and took his place fronting them.  "Now, gentlemen," said he, filling the glasses, "permit me to propose a toast:—Health and prosperity to George the Third."  He drank off his glass, and set it down before him.  One of the Englishmen, a bit of a wag in his way, looked at him with a droll, quizzical expression, and took up his.  "Health and prosperity," he said, "to George the herd."—Well, young man," remarked George, "he is, as you say, a herd, and a very excellent one;—allow me, however, to wish him a less unruly charge."  "Health and prosperity," shouted out the other, "to George the —".  This was unbearable: George sprang from his seat, and repaid the insult with a blow on the ear, which drove both man and glass to the floor.  Up rose the other Englishman—up rose, too, the fallen one, and fell together upon George; but the cause of the king was never yet better supported.  Down they both went, the one over the other, and down they went a second, and a third, and a fourth time; till at length, convinced that nothing could be more imprudent than their attempts to rise, they lay just where they fell.  George departed, after discharging the reckoning, leaving them to congratulate one another on their liberalism and their wit; and reached Cromarty as the last gleam of the Jacobin bonfire was dancing on the chimney-tops, to learn that there was scarcely more loyalty among his town's-men than at the market, and that his favourite salmon-coble had perished among the flames about two hours before.  I remember George —a shrewd, clear-headed man of eighty-two, full of anecdote and remark; and I have derived not a few of my best traditions from him.  But he is gone, and well-nigh forgotten; and when the sexton of some future age shall shovel up his huge bones, the men who come to gaze on them may descant, as they turn them over, on modern degeneracy and the might of their fathers, but who among them all will know that they belonged to the last of the loyalists!

    The day after the procession came on, pregnant with mystery and conjecture.  Rider after rider entered the town, and assembled in front of the council-house;—the town's officer was sent for, together with the sergeant of a small recruiting party that barracked in one of the neighbouring lanes; they then entered the hall, and made fast the doors.  The country gentlemen, it was said, had come in to put down the revolutionists.  Shortly after, two of the soldiers and a constable glided into the house of the young democrat, and producing a warrant for his apprehension, and the seizure of all his papers, hurried him away to the hall—the soldiers, with their bayonets fixed, guarding him on either side, books and the constable, laden with a hamper of book and papers, bringing up the rear.  In they all went, and the door closed as before.  The curiosity of the town's-people was now awakened in right earnest, and an immense crowd gathered in front of the council-house; but they could see or hear nothing.  At length the door opened, and the sergeant came out; he looked round about him, and beckoned on George Hossack.  "George," he said, "one of the London smacks has just entered the bay; you must board her and seize on all the parcels addressed to * * * * the Jacobin merchant; there is an information lodged that he is getting a supply of pikes from London for arming the town's-people.  Take the customhouse boatmen with you; and bring whatever you find to the hall.  And, hark ye, we must see and get up an effigy of the blackguard Tom Paine; —try and procure some oakum and train-oil, and I'll furnish powder enough to blow him to Paris."  Away went George, delighted with the commission, and returned in about an hour after, accompanied by some boatmen bearing two boxes large enough to contain pistols and pike-heads for all the men of the place.  They were admitted into the hall, where they found the bench occupied by the town and county gentlemen—the soldiers ranged in the area in front, and the Republican, nothing abashed, standing at the bar.  He had baffled all his judges, and had given them so much more wit and argument than they wanted, that they had ceased questioning him, and were now employed in turning over his papers.  A letter written in cipher had been found on his person, and a gentleman, somewhat skilled in such matters, was examining it with much interest, while his more immediate neighbours were looking over his shoulders.  "Bring forward the boxes, George," said one of the gentlemen.  George placed them both on the large table fronting the bench, and proceeded to uncord them.  The first he opened was filled with gingerbread, the other with girls' dolls and boys' whistles, and an endless variety of trinkets and toys of a similar class.  Some of the elderly gentlemen took snuff and looked at one another;—the younger laughed outright.  "Have you deciphered that scrawl, Pointzfield?" inquired one of the more serious, with a view of restoring the court to its gravity.  "Yes," said Pointzfield dryly enough, "I rather think I have."—"Treasonable of course," remarked the other.  "No, not quite that now," rejoined the other, "whatever it might have been fifty years ago.  It is merely a copy in shorthand of the old Jacobitical ballad, the Sow's Tail to Geordie."  A titter ran along the bench as before, and the court broke up after determining that the Democrat should be sent to the jail of Tain to abide further trial, and that Paine should be burnt in effigy at the expense of the county.  Paine was accordingly burnt; and all the children were gratified with a second procession and a second bonfire, quite as showy in their way as those of the preceding evening.  The prisoner was escorted to Tain by a party of soldiers; and on his release, which took place shortly after, he quitted the country for London, where he became the editor of a newspaper on the popular side, which he conducted for many years with much spirit and some ability.  Meanwhile the revolutionary cause languished for lack of a leader; and, on the declaration of war with France, sunk entirely amid the stormy ebullitions of a feeling still more popular than the Republican one.

    There are some passions and employments of the human mind which give it a sceptical bias, and others, apparently of a very similar nature, which incline it to credulity.  So long as the revolutionary spirit stalked abroad, it seemed as if every other spirit stayed at home.  The spectre slept quietly in its churchyard, and the wraith in its pool; the dead-light was hooded by an extinguisher, and the witch minded her own business without interfering with that of her neighbours.  On the breaking out of the war, however, there came on a season of omens and prodigies, and the whole supernatural world seemed starting into as full activity as the fears and hopes of the community.  Armies were seen fighting in the air, amid the waving of banners and the frequent flashing of cannon and the whole northern sky appeared for three nights together as if deluged with blood.  In the vicinity of Inverness, shadowy bands of armed men were descried at twilight marching across the fields—at times half enveloped in smoke, at times levelling their arms as if for the charge.  There was an ominously warlike spirit, too, among the children, which the elderly people did not at all like;—they went about, just as before the American war, with their mimic drums and fifes, and their muskets and halberts of elder, disturbing the whole country with uncouth music, and their zeal against the French.  Then came the tug of war; trade sank; and many of the mechanics of the place flung aside their tools and entered either the army or navy.  Party spirit died; the Whigs forgot everything but that they were Britons; and when orders came that such of the males of the place as volunteered their services should be embodied into a kind of domestic militia, old men of seventy and upwards, some of whom had fought at Culloden, and striplings of fifteen, who had not yet left school, came to the house of their future colonel, begging to be enrolled and furnished with arms.  In less than two days every man in the town and parish was a soldier.  Then came the stories of our great sea victories: the glare of illuminations and bonfires; the general anxiety when the intelligence first arrived that a battle had been fought, and the general sadness when it was ascertained that a town's-man had fallen.  When the news of Duncan's victory came to the town, a little girl, who had a brother a sailor, ran more than three miles into the country, to a field in which her mother was employed in digging potatoes, and falling down at her feet, had just breath enough left to say, "Hither, mither, the Dutch are beaten, and Sandy's safe."  The report of a threatened invasion knit the people still more firmly together, and they began to hate the French, not merely as national, but also as personal enemies.  And thus they continued to feel, till at length the battle of Waterloo, by terminating the war, reduced them to the necessity of seeking, as before, their enemies at home.

    For more than twenty years the words Whig and Tory had well-nigh gone out; and the younger town's-men were for some time rather doubtful about their meaning.  At length, however, they learned that the Whigs meant the people, and the Tories those who wished to live by them, and yet call them names.  The town's-people, therefore, became Whigs to a man, execrated the Holy Alliance and the massacre at Manchester, drank healths to Queen Caroline and Henry Brougham; and though they petitioned against Catholic emancipation—for, like most Scotch folks, they had too thorough a respect for their grandfathers to be wholly consistent—they were yet shrewd enough to inquire whether any one had ever boasted of his country because the great statesmen opposed to that measure were his countrymen.  The Reform Bill, however, set them all right again, by turning them full in the wake of their old leaders; and yet, no sooner was Whiggism intrusted with the keys of office, than they began to make discoveries which had the effect of considerably modifying the tone of their politics.  They began to discover—will it be believed?—that all men are not born equal, and that there exists an aristocracy in the very economy of nature.  It was not merely the choice of his countrymen that made Washington a great general, or Franklin a profound statesman.  They have also begun to discover, that a good Whig may be a bad man; nay, that one may be at once Whig and Tory—a Tory to his servants and dependants, a Whig to his superiors and his country.  For my own part, I am a Whig —a born Whig; but no similarity of political principle will ever lead me to put any confidence in the man to whom I could not intrust my private concerns; and as for the Whiggism that horsewhipped the pool woman who was picking a few withered sticks out of its hedge, it may wear the laurel leaf and the blue ribbon in any way it pleases, but I assure it—it won't be of my party.

 


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