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Title: The Cruise of the Betsey - or, A Summer Ramble Among the Fossiliferous Deposits of the Hebrides. With Rambles of a Geologist or, Ten Thousand Miles Over the Fossiliferous Deposits of Scotland
Author: Miller, Hugh, 1802-1856
Language: English
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A Summer Ramble Among the Fossiliferous Deposits of the Hebrides.




Ten Thousand Miles Over the Fossiliferous
Deposits of Scotland.



Author of "The Old Red Sandstone," "Footprints of the Creator,"
"My Schools and Schoolmasters," "The Testimony of the Rocks," Etc.

Gould and Lincoln,
59 Washington Street.
New York: Sheldon and Company.
Cincinnati: Geo. S. Blanchard.

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1858, by
Gould and Lincoln,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of

Authorized Edition.

By a special arrangement with the late Hugh Miller, Gould And Lincoln
became the authorized American publishers of his works. By a similar
arrangement made with the family since his decease, they will also
publish his POSTHUMOUS WORKS, of which the present volume is the first.

Electrotyped by W. F. Draper, Andover, Mass.

Printed by Geo. C. Rand & Avery, Boston.


Naturalists of every class know too well how HUGH MILLER died--the
victim of an overworked brain; and how that bright and vigorous spirit
was abruptly quenched forever.

During the month of May (1857) Mrs. Miller came to Malvern, after
recovering from the first shock of bereavement, in search of health and
repose, and evidently hoping to do justice, on her recovery, to the
literary remains of her husband. Unhappily the excitement and anxiety
naturally attaching to a revision of her husband's works proved over
much for one suffering under such recent trial, and from an affection of
the brain and spine which ensued; and, in consequence, Mrs. Miller has
been forbidden, for the present, to engage in any work of mental labor.

Under these circumstances, and at Mrs. Miller's request, I have
undertaken the editing of "The Cruise of the Betsey, or a Summer Ramble
among the Fossiliferous Deposits of the Hebrides," as well as "The
Rambles of a Geologist," hitherto unpublished, save as a series of
articles in the "Witness" newspaper. The style and arguments of HUGH
MILLER are so peculiarly his own, that I have not presumed to alter the
text, and have merely corrected some statements incidental to the
condition of geological knowledge at the time this work was penned. "The
Cruise of the Betsey" was written for that well-known paper the
"Witness" during the period when a disputation productive of much bitter
feeling waged between the Free and Established Churches of Scotland; but
as the Disruption and its history possesses little interest to a large
class of the readers of this work, who will rejoice to follow their
favorite author among the isles and rocks of the "bonnie land," I have
expunged _some_ passages, which I am assured the author would have
omitted had he lived to reprint this interesting narrative of his
geological rambles. HUGH MILLER battled nobly for his faith while
living. The sword is in the scabbard: let it rest!







     Preparation--Departure--Recent and Ancient Monstrosities--A Free
     Church Yacht--Down the Clyde--Jura--Prof. Walker's
     Experiment--Whirlpool near Scarba--Geological Character of the
     Western Highlands--An Illustration--Different Ages of Outer and
     Inner Hebrides--Mt. Blanc and the Himalayas "mere
     upstarts"--Esdaile Quarries--Oban--A Section through Conglomerate
     and Slate examined--McDougal's Dog-stone--Power of the Ocean to
     move Rocks--Sound of Mull--The Betsey--The Minister's
     Cabin--Village of Tobermory--The "Florida," a Wreck of the
     Invincible Armada--Geologic Exploration and Discovery--At Anchor. 15


     The Minister's Larder--No Harbor--Eigg Shoes--_Tormentilla
     erecta_--For the _Witness'_ Sake--Eilean Chaisteil--Appearance of
     Eigg--Chapel of St. Donan--Shell-sand--Origin of Secondary
     Calcareous Rock suggested--Exploration of Eigg--Pitchstone Veins--A
     Bone Cave--Massacre at Eigg--Grouping of Human Bones in the
     Cave--Relics--The Horse's Tooth--A Copper Sewing Needle--Teeth
     found--Man a worse Animal than his Teeth show him to have been
     designed for--Story of the Massacre--Another Version--Scuir of
     Eigg--The Scuir a Giant's Causeway--Character of the
     Columns--Remains of a Prostrate Forest.                           31


     Structure of the Scuir--A stray Column--The Piazza--A buried Pine
     Forest the Foundation of the Scuir--Geological Poachers in a Fossil
     Preserve--_Pinites Eiggensis_--Its Description--Witham's
     Experiments on Fossil Pine of Eigg--Rings of the Pine--Ascent of
     the Scuir--Appearance of the Top--White Pitchstone--Mr. Greig's
     Discovery of Pumice--A Sunset Scene--The Manse and the Yacht--The
     Minister's Story--A Cottage Repast--American Timber drifted to the
     Hebrides--Agency of the Gulf Stream--The Minister's Sheep.        49


     An Excursion--The Chain of Crosses--Bay of Laig--Island of
     Rum--Description of the Island--Superstitions banished by pure
     Religion--Fossil Shells--Remarkable Oyster Bed--New species of
     Belemnite--Oölitic Shells--White Sandstone Precipices--Gigantic
     Petrified Mushrooms--"Christabel" in Stone--Musical Sand--_Jabel
     Nakous_, or Mountain of the Bell--Experiments of Travellers at
     _Jabel Nakous_--Welsted's Account--_Reg-Rawan_, or the Moving
     Sand--The Musical Sounds inexplicable--Article on the subject in
     the North British Review.                                         66


     Trap-dykes--"Cotton Apples"--Alternation of Lacustrine with Marine
     Remains--Analogy from the Beds of Esk--Aspect of the Island on its
     narrow Front--The Puffin--Ru Stoir--Development of Old Red
     Sandstone--Striking Columnar character of Ru Stoir--Discovery of
     Reptilian Remains--John Stewart's wonder at the Bones in the
     Stones--Description of the Bones--"Dragons, Gorgons, and
     Chimeras"--Exploration and Discovery pursued--The Midway
     Shieling--A Celtic Welcome--Return to the Yacht--"Array of Fossils
     new to Scotch Geology"--A Geologist's Toast--Hoffman and his
     Fossil.                                                           85


     Something for Non-geologists--Man Destructive--A Better and Last
     Creation coming--A Rainy Sabbath--The Meeting House--The
     Congregation--The Sermon in Gaelic--The Old Wondrous Story--The
     Drunken Minister of Eigg--Presbyterianism without Life--Dr.
     Johnson's Account of the Conversion of the People of Rum--Romanism
     at Eigg--The Two Boys--The Freebooter of Eigg--Voyage resumed--The
     Homeless Minister--Harbor of Isle Ornsay--Interesting Gneiss
     Deposit--A Norwegian Keep--Gneiss at Knock--Curious
     Chemistry--Sea-cliffs beyond Portsea--The Goblin Luidag--Scenery of
     Skye.                                                            105


     Exploration resumed--Geology of Rasay--An Illustration--The Storr
     of Skye--From Portree to Holm--Discovery of Fossils--An Island
     Rain--Sir R. Murchison--Labor of Drawing a Geological Line--Three
     Edinburgh Gentlemen--_Prosopolepsia_--Wrong Surmises corrected--The
     Mail Gig--The Portree Postmaster--Isle Ornsay--An Old
     Acquaintance--Reminiscences--A Run for Rum--"Semi-fossil
     Madeira"--Idling on Deck--Prognostics of a Storm--Description of
     the Gale--Loch Scresort--The Minister's lost _Sou-wester_--The Free
     Church Gathering--The weary Minister.                            123


     Geology of Rum--Its curious Character illustrated--Rum famous for
     Bloodstones--Red Sandstones--"Scratchings" in the Rocks--A
     Geological Inscription without a Key--The Lizard--Vitality broken
     into two--Illustrations--Speculation--Scuir More--Ascent of the
     Scuir--The Bloodstones--An Illustrative Set of the Gem--M'Culloch's
     Pebble--A Chemical Problem--The solitary Shepherd's House--Sheep
     _versus_ Men--The Depopulation of Rum--A Haul of Trout--Rum Mode of
     catching Trout--At Anchor in the Bay of Glenelg.                 139


     Kyles of Skye--A Gneiss District--Kyle Rhea--A Boiling Tide--A
     "Take" of Sillocks--The Betsey's "Paces"--In the Bay at
     Broadford--Rain--Island of Pabba--Description of the Island--Its
     Geological Structure--Astrea--Polypifers--_Gryphoea
     incurva_--Three Groups of Fossils in the Lias of Skye--Abundance of
     the Petrifactions of Pabba--Scenery--Pabba a "piece of smooth,
     level England"--Fossil Shells of Pabba--- Voyage resumed--Kyle
     Akin--Ruins of Castle Maoil--A "Thornback" Dinner--The Bunch of
     Deep Sea Tangle--The Caileach Stone--Kelp Furnaces--Escape of the
     Betsey from sinking.                                             159


     Isle Orusay--The Sabbath--A Sailor-minister's Sermon for
     Sailors--The Scuir Sermon--Loch Carron--Groups of Moraines--A sheep
     District--The Editor of the _Witness_ and the Establishment
     Clergyman--Dingwall--Conon-side revisited--The Pond and its
     Changes--New Faces.--The Stonemason's Mark--The Burying-ground of
     Urquhart--An old Acquaintance--Property Qualification for Voting in
     Scotland--Montgerald Sandstone Quarries--Geological Science in
     Cromarty--The Danes at Cromarty--The Danish Professor and the "Old
     Red Sandstone"--Harmonizing Tendencies of Science.               178


     Ichthyolite Beds--An interesting Discovery--Two Storeys of Organic
     Remains in the Old Red Sandstone--Ancient Ocean of Lower Old
     Red--Two great Catastrophes--Ancient Fish Scales--Their skilful
     Mechanism displayed by examples--Bone Lips--Arts of the Slater and
     Tiler as old as Old Red Sandstone--Jet Trinkets--Flint
     Arrow-heads--Vitrified Forts of Scotland--Style of grouping Lower
     Old Red Fossils--Illustration from Cromarty Fishing
     Phenomena--Singular Remains of Holoptychius--Ramble with Mr. Robert
     Dick--Color of the Planet Mars--Tombs never dreamed of by
     Hervey--Skeleton of the Bruce--Gigantic Holoptychius--"Coal money
     Currency"--Upper Boundary of Lower Old Red--Every one may add to
     the Store of Geological Facts--Discoveries of Messrs. Dick and
     Peach.                                                           192


     Ichthyolite Beds of Clune and Lethenbarn--Limestone
     Quarry--Destruction of Urns and Sarcophagi in the
     Lime-kiln--Nodules opened--Beautiful coloring of the
     Remains--Patrick Duff's Description--New Genus of Morayshire
     Ichthyolite described--Form and size of the Nodules or Stone
     Coffins--Illustration from Mrs. Marshall's Cements--Forest of
     Darnaway--The Hill of Berries--Sluie--Elgin--Outliers of the Weald
     and the Oölite--Description of the Weald at Linksfield--Mr. Duff's
     _Lepidotus minor_--Eccentric Types of Fish Scales--Visit to the
     Sandstones of Scat-Craig--Fine suit of Fossils at Scat-Craig--True
     graveyard Bones, not mere Impressions--Varieties of pattern--The
     Diker's "Carved Flowers"--_Stagonolepis_, a new Genus--Termination
     of the Ramble.                                                   212



     Supplementary--Isolated Reptile Remains in Eigg--Small Isles
     revisited--The Betsey again--Storm bound--Tacking--Becalmed--Medusæ
     caught and described--Rain--A Shoal of Porpoises--Change of
     Weather--The bed-ridden Woman--The Poor Law Act for
     Scotland--Geological Excursion--Basaltic Columns--Oölitic
     Beds--Abundance of Organic Remains--Hybodus Teeth--Discovery of
     reptile Remains _in situ_--Musical Sand of Laig
     re-examined--Explanation suggested--Sail for Isle Ornsay--Anchored
     Clouds--A Leak sprung--Peril of the Betsey--At work with Pump and
     Pails--Safe in Harbor--Return to Edinburgh.                      233




     Embarkation--A foundered Vessel--Lateness of the Harvest dependent
     on the Geological character of the Soil--A Granite Harvest and an
     Old Red Harvest--Cottages of Redstone and of Granite--Arable Soil
     of Scotland the result of a Geological Grinding Agency--Locality of
     the Famine of 1846--Mr. Longmuir's Fossils--Geology necessary to a
     Theologian--Popularizers of Science when dangerous--"Constitution
     of Man," and "Vestiges of Creation"--Atop of the Banff Coach--A
     Geologist's Field Equipment--The trespassing "Stirk"--Silurian
     Schists inlaid with Old Red--Bay of Gamrie, how
     formed--Gardenstone--Geological Free-masonry illustrated--How to
     break an Ichthyolite Nodule--An old Rhyme mended--A raised
     Beach--Fossil Shells--Scotland under Water at the time of the
     Boulder-clays.                                                   255


     Character of the Rocks near Gardenstone--A Defunct Father-lasher--A
     Geological Inference--Village of Gardenstone--The drunken
     Scot--Gardenstone Inn--Lord Gardenstone--A Tempest threatened--The
     Author's Ghost Story--The Lady in Green--Her Appearance and
     Tricks--The Rescued Children--The murdered Peddler and his
     Pack--Where the Green Dress came from--Village of Macduff--Peculiar
     Appearance of the Beach at the Mouth of the Deveron--Dr. Emslie's
     Fossils--_Pterichthys quadratus_--Argillaceous Deposits of
     Blackpots--Pipe-laying in Scotland--Fossils of Blackpots Clay--Mr.
     Longmuir's Description of them--Blackpots Deposit a Re-formation of
     a Liasic Patch--Period of its Formation.                         270


     From Blackpots to Portsoy--Character of the Coast--Burn of
     Boyne--Fever Phantoms--Graphic Granite--Maupertuis and the Runic
     Inscription--Explanation of the _quo modo_ of Graphic
     Granite--Portsoy Inn--Serpentine Beds--Portsoy Serpentine
     unrivalled for small ornaments--Description of it--Significance of
     the term _serpentine_--Elizabeth Bond and her "Letters"--From
     Portsoy to Cullen--Attritive Power of the Ocean illustrated--The
     Equinoctial--From Cullen to Fochabers--The Old Red again--The old
     Pensioner--Fochabers--Mr. Joss, the learned Mail-guard--The Editor
     a sort of Coach-guard--On the Coach to Elgin--Geology of
     Banffshire--Irregular paging of the Geologic Leaves--Geologic Map
     of the County like Joseph's Coat--Striking Illustration.         291


     Yellow-hued Houses of Elgin--Geology of the Country indicated by
     the coloring of the Stone Houses--Fossils of Old Red north of the
     Grampians different from those of Old Red south--Geologic
     Formations at Linksfield difficult to be understood--Ganoid Scales
     of the Wealden--Sudden Reaction, from complex to simple, in the
     Scales of Fishes--Pore-covered Scales--Extraordinary amount of
     Design exhibited in Ancient Ganoid Scales--Holoptychius Scale
     illustrated by Cromwell's "fluted pot"--Patrick Duff's Geological
     Collection--Elgin Museum--Fishes of the Ganges--Armature of Ancient
     Fishes--Compensatory Defences--- The Hermit-crab--Spines of the
     Pimelodi--Ride to Campbelton--Theories of the formation of
     Ardersier and Fortrose Promontories--Tradition of their
     construction by the Wizard, Michael Scott--A Region of Legendary
     Lore.                                                            307


     Rosemarkie and its Scaurs--Kaes' Craig--A Jackdaw
     Settlement--"Rosemarkie Kaes" and "Cromarty Cooties"--"The Danes,"
     a Group of Excavations--At Home in Cromarty--The Boulder-clay of
     Cromarty "begins to tell its story"--One of its marked Scenic
     Peculiarities--Hints to Landscape Painters--"Samuel's Well"--A
     Chain of Bogs geologically accounted for--Another Scenic
     Peculiarity--"_Ha-has_ of Nature's digging"--The Author's earliest
     Field of Hard Labor--Picturesque Cliff of Boulder-clay--Scratchings
     on the Sandstone--Invariable Characteristic of true
     Boulder-clay--Scratchings on Pebbles in the line of the longer
     axis--Illustration from the Boulder-clay of Banff.               324


     Organisms of the Boulder-clay not unequivocal--First Impressions of
     the Boulder-clay--Difficulty of accounting for its barrenness of
     Remains--Sir Charles Lyell's reasoning--A Fact to the
     contrary--Human Skull dug from a Clay-bank--The Author's Change of
     Belief respecting Organic Remains of the Boulder-clay--Shells from
     the Clay at Wick--Questions respecting them settled--Conclusions
     confirmed by Mr. Dick's Discoveries at Thurso--Sir John Sinclair's
     Discovery of Boulder-clay Shells in 1802--Comminution of the Shells
     illustrated--_Cyprina islandica_--Its Preservation in larger
     Proportions than those of other Shells accounted for--Boulder-clays
     of Scotland reformed during the existing Geological Epoch--Scotland
     in the Period of the Boulder-clay "merely three detached groups of
     Islands"--Evidence of the Subsidence of the Land in
     Scotland--Confirmed by Rev. Mr. Cumming's conclusion--High-lying
     Granite Boulders--Marks of a succeeding elevatory
     Period--Scandinavia now rising--Autobiography of a Boulder
     desirable--A Story of the Supernatural.                          336


     Relation of the deep red stone of Cromarty to the Ichthyolite Beds
     of the System--Ruins of a Fossil-charged Bed--Journey to Avoch--Red
     Dye of the Boulder-clay distinct from the substance
     itself--Variation of Coloring in the Boulder-clay Red Sandstone
     accounted for--Hard-pan how formed--A reformed Garden--An ancient
     Battle-field--Antiquity of Geologic and Human History
     compared--Burn of Killein--Observation made in boyhood
     confirmed--Fossil-nodules--Fine Specimen of _Coccosteus
     decipiens_--Blank strata of Old Red--New View respecting the Rocks
     of Black Isle--A Trip up Moray and Dingwall Friths--Altered color
     of the Boulder-clay--Up the Auldgrande River--Scenery of the great
     Conglomerate--Graphic Description--Laidlaw's Boulder--_Vaccinium
     myrtillus_--Profusion of Travelled Boulders--The Boulder _Clach
     Malloch_--Its zones of Animal and Vegetable life.                355


     Imaginary Autobiography of the _Clach Malloch_ Boulder--Its
     Creation--Its Long Night of unsummed Centuries--Laid open to light
     on a desert Island--Surrounded by an Arctic Vegetation--Undermined
     by the rising Sea--Locked up and floated off on an Ice-field--At
     rest on the Sea-bottom--Another Night of unsummed Years--The
     Boulder raised again above the waves by the rising of the
     Land--Beholds an Altered Country--Pine Forests and Mammals--Another
     Period of Ages passes--The Boulder again floated off by an
     Iceberg--Finally at rest on the Shore of Cromarty Bay--Time and
     Occasion of naming it--Strange Phenomena accounted for by
     Earthquakes--How the Boulder of Petty Bay was moved--The Boulder of
     Auldgrande--The old Highland Paupers--The little Parsi Girl--Her
     Letter to her Papa--But one Human Nature on Earth--Journey
     resumed--Conon Burying Ground--An aged Couple--Gossip.           375


     The Great Conglomerate--Its Undulatory and Rectilinear
     Members--Knock Farril and its Vitrified Fort--The old Highlanders
     an observant race--The Vein of Silver--Summit of Knock Farril--Mode
     of accounting for the Luxuriance of Herbage in the ancient Scottish
     Fortalices--The green Graves of Culloden--Theories respecting the
     Vitrification of the Hill-forts--Combined Theories of Williams and
     Mackenzie probably give the correct account--The Author's
     Explanation--Transformations of Fused Rocks--Strathpetlier--The
     Spa--Permanent Odoriferous Qualities of an ancient Sea-bottom
     converted into Rock--Mineral Springs of the Spa--Infusion of the
     powdered rock a substitute--Belemnite Water--The lively young
     Lady's Comments--A befogged Country seen from a
     hill-top--Ben-Wevis--Journey to Evanton--A Geologist's
     Night-mare--The Route Home--Ruins of Craig house--Incompatibility
     of Tea and Ghosts--End of the Tour.                              393


     Recovered Health--Journey to the Orkneys--Aboard the Steamer at
     Wick--Mr. Bremner--Masonry of the Harbor of Wick--The greatest
     Blunders result from good Rules misapplied--Mr. Bremner's Theory
     about sea-washed Masonry--Singular Fracture of the Rock near
     Wick--The Author's mode of accounting for it--"Simple but not
     obvious" Thinking--Mr. Bremner's mode of making stone Erections
     under Water--His exploits in raising foundered Vessels--Aspect of
     the Orkneys--The ungracious Schoolmaster--In the Frith of
     Kirkwall--Cathedral of St Magnus--Appearance of Kirkwall--Its
     "perished suppers"--Its ancient Palaces--Blunder of the Scotch
     Aristocracy--The patronate Wedge--Breaking Ground in Orkney--Minute
     Gregarious Coccosteus--True Position of the Coccosteus' Eyes--Ruins
     of one of Cromwell's Forts--Antiquities of Orkney--The
     Cathedral--Its Sculptures--The Mysterious Cell--Prospect from the
     Tower--Its Chimes--Ruins of Castle Patrick.                      414


     The Bishop's Palace at Orkney--Haco the Norwegian--Icelandic
     Chronicle respecting his Expedition to Scotland--His Death--Removal
     of his Remain to Norway--Why Norwegian Invasion
     ceased--Straw-plaiting--The Lassies of Orkney--Orkney Type of
     Countenance--Celtic and Scandinavian--An accomplished
     Antiquary--Old Manuscripts--An old Tune book--Manuscript Letter of
     Mary Queen of Scots--Letters of General Monck--The fearless
     Covenanter--Cave of the Rebels--Why the tragedy of "Gustavus Vasa"
     was prohibited--Quarry of Pickoquoy--Its Fossil Shells--Journey to
     Stromness--Scenery--Birth-place of Malcolm, the Poet--His
     History--One of his Poems--His Brother a Free Church Minister--New
     Scenery.                                                         437


     Hills of Orkney--Their Geologic Composition--Scene of Scott's
     "Pirate"--Stromness--Geology of the District--"Seeking
     beasts"--Conglomerate in contact with Granite--A palæozoic Hudson's
     Bay--Thickness of Conglomerate of Orkney--Oldest Vertebrate yet
     discovered in Orkney--Its Size--Figure of a characteristic plate of
     the Asterolepis--Peculiarity of Old Red Fishes--Length of the
     Asterolepis--A rich Ichthyolite Bed--Arrangement of the
     Layers--Queries as to the Cause of it--Minerals--An abandoned
     Mine--A lost Vessel--Kelp for Iodine--A dangerous Coast--Incidents
     of Shipwreck--Hospitality--Stromness Museum--Diplopterus mistaken
     for Dipterus--Their Resemblances and Differences--Visit to a
     remarkable Stack--Paring the Soil for Fuel, and consequent
     Barrenness--Description of the Stack--Wave-formed Caves--Height to
     which the Surf rises.                                            457


     Detached Fossils--Remains of the Pterichthys--Terminal Bones of the
     Coccosteus, etc., preserved--Internal Skeleton of Coccosteus--The
     shipwrecked Sailor in the Cave--Bishop Grahame--His Character, as
     drawn by Baillie--His Successor--Ruins of the Bishop's
     Country-house--Sub-aërial Formation of Sandstone--Formation near
     New Kaye--Inference from such Formation--Tour resumed--Loch of
     Stennis--Waters of the Loch fresh, brackish, and salt--Vegetation
     varied accordingly--Change produced in the Flounder by fresh
     water--The Standing Stones, second only to Stonehenge--Their
     Purpose--Their Appearance and Situation--Diameter of the
     Circle--What the Antiquaries say of it--Reference to it in the
     "Pirate"--Dr. Hibbert's Account.                                 476


     On Horseback--A pared Moor--Small Landholders--Absorption of small
     holdings in England and Scotland--Division of Land favorable to
     Civil and Religious Rights--Favorable to social Elevation--An
     inland Parish--The Landsman and Lobster--Wild Flowers of
     Orkney--Law of Compensation illustrated by the Tobacco
     Plant--Poverty tends to Productiveness--Illustrated in
     Ireland--Profusion of Ichthyolites--Orkney a land of Defunct
     Fishes--Sandwick--A Collection of Coccostean Flags--A Quarry full
     of Heads of Dipteri--The Bergil, or Striped Wrasse--Its Resemblance
     to the Dipterus--Poverty of the Flora of the Lower Old Red--No true
     Coniferous Wood in the Orkney Flagstones--Departure for Hoy--The
     intelligent Boatman--Story of the Orkney Fisherman.              492


     Hoy--Unique Scenery--The Dwarfie Stone of Hoy--Sir Walter Scott's
     Account of it--Its Associations--Inscription of Names--George
     Buchanan's Consolation--The mythic Carbuncle of the Hill of Hoy--No
     Fossils at Hoy--Striking Profile of Sir Walter Scott on the Hill of
     Hoy--Sir Walter, and Shetland and Orkney--Originals of two
     Characters in "The Pirate"--Bessie Millie--Garden of Gow, the
     "Pirate"--Childhood's Scene of Byron's "Torquil"--The Author's
     Introduction to his Sister--A German Visitor--German and Scotch
     Sabbath-keeping habits contrasted--Mr. Watt's Specimens of Fossil
     Remains--The only new Organism found in Orkney--Back to
     Kirkwall--to Wick--Vedder's Ode to Orkney.                      507



     Preparation--Departure--Recent and Ancient Monstrosities--A Free
     Church Yacht--Down the Clyde--Jura--Prof. Walker's
     Experiment--Whirlpool near Scarba--Geological Character of the
     Western Highlands--An Illustration--Different Ages of Outer and
     Inner Hebrides--Mt. Blanc and the Himalayas "mere
     upstarts"--Esdaile Quarries--Oban--A Section through Conglomerate
     and Slate examined--M'Dougal's Dog-stone--Power of the Ocean to
     move Rocks--Sound of Mull--The Betsey--The Minister's
     Cabin--Village of Tobermory--The "Florida," a Wreck of the
     Invincible Armada--Geologic Exploration and Discovery--At Anchor.

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

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

       "Merrily down we drop
 Below the church, below the tower,
       Below the light house top,"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


     The Minister's Larder--No Harbor--Eigg Shoes--_Tormentilla
     erecta_--For the _Witness'_ Sake--Eilean Chaisteil--Appearance of
     Eigg--Chapel of St. Donan--Shell-sand--Origin of Secondary
     Calcareous Rock suggested--Exploration of Eigg--Pitchstone Veins--A
     Bone Cave--Massacre at Eigg--Grouping of Human Bones in the
     Cave--Relics--The Horse's Tooth--A Copper Sewing Needle--Teeth
     found--Man a worse Animal than his Teeth show him to have been
     designed for--Story of the Massacre--Another Version--Scuir of
     Eigg--The Scuir a Giant's Causeway--Character of the
     Columns--Remains of a Prostrate Forest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


     Structure of the Scuir--A stray Column--The Piazza--A buried Pine
     Forest the Foundation of the Scuir--Geological Poachers in a Fossil
     Preserve--_Pinites Eiggensis_--Its Description--Witham's
     Experiments on Fossil Pine of Eigg--Rings of the Pine--Ascent of
     the Scuir--Appearance of the Top--White Pitchstone--Mr. Greig's
     Discovery of Pumice--A Sunset Scene--The Manse and the Yacht--The
     Minister's Story--A Cottage Repast--American Timber drifted to the
     Hebrides--Agency of the Gulf Stream--The Minister's Sheep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


     An Excursion--The Chain of Crosses--Bay of Laig--Island of
     Rum--Description of the Island--Superstitions banished by pure
     Religion--Fossil Shells--Remarkable Oyster Bed--New species of
     Belemnite--Oölitic Shells--White Sandstone Precipices--Gigantic
     Petrified Mushrooms--"Christabel" in Stone--Musical Sand--_Jabel
     Nakous_, or Mountain of the Bell--Experiments of Travellers at
     _Jabel Nakous_--Welsted's Account--_Reg-Rawan_, or the Moving
     Sand--The Musical Sounds inexplicable--Article on the subject in
     the North British Review.

There had been rain during the night; and when I first got on deck, a
little after seven, a low stratum of mist, that completely enveloped the
Scuir, and truncated both the eminence on which it stands and the
opposite height, stretched like a ruler across the flat valley which
indents so deeply the middle of the island. But the fogs melted away as
the morning rose, and ere our breakfast was satisfactorily discussed,
the last thin wreath had disappeared from around the columned front of
the rock-tower of Eigg, and a powerful sun looked down on moist slopes
and dank hollows, from which there arose in the calm a hazy vapor, that,
while it softened the lower features of the landscape, left the bold
outline relieved against a clear sky. Accompanied by our attendant of
the previous day, bearing bag and hammer, we set out a little before
eleven for the north-western side of the island, by a road which winds
along the central hollow. My friend showed me as we went, that on the
edge of an eminence, on which the traveller journeying westwards catches
the last glimpse of the chapel of St. Donan, there had once been a rude
cross erected, and another rude cross on an eminence on which he catches
the last glimpse of the first; and that there had thus been a chain of
stations formed from sea to sea, like the sights of a land-surveyor,
from one of which a second could be seen, and a third from the second,
till, last of all, the emphatically holy point of the island,--the
burial-place of the old Culdee,--came full in view. The unsteady
devotion, that journeyed, fancy-bound, along the heights, to gloat over
a dead man's bones, had its clue to carry it on in a straight line. Its
trail was on the ground; it glided snake-like from cross to cross, in
quest of dust; and, without its finger-posts to guide it, would have
wandered devious. It is surely a better devotion that, instead of thus
creeping over the earth to a mouldy sepulchre, can at once launch into
the sky, secure of finding Him who once arose from one. In less than an
hour we were descending on the Bay of Laig, a semi-circular indentation
of the coast, about a mile in length, and, where it opens to the main
sea, nearly two miles in breadth; with the noble island of Rum rising
high in front, like some vast breakwater; and a meniscus of
comparatively level land, walled in behind by a semi-circular rampart of
continuous precipice, sweeping round its shores. There are few finer
scenes in the Hebrides than that furnished by this island bay and its
picturesque accompaniments,--none that break more unexpectedly on the
traveller who descends upon it from the east; and rarely has it been
seen, to greater advantage than on the delicate day, so soft, and yet so
sunshiny and clear, on which I paid it my first visit.

The island of Rum, with its abrupt sea-wall of rock, and its
steep-pointed hills, that attain, immediately over the sea, an elevation
of more than two thousand feet, loomed bold and high in the offing, some
five miles away, but apparently much nearer. The four tall summits of
the island rose clear against the sky like a group of pyramids; its
lower slopes and precipices, variegated and relieved by graceful
alternations of light and shadow, and resting on their blue basement of
sea, stood out with equal distinctness; but the entire middle space from
end to end was hidden in a long horizontal stratum of gray cloud, edged
atop with a lacing of silver. Such was the aspect of the noble
breakwater in front. Fully two-thirds of the semi-circular rampart of
rock which shuts in the crescent-shaped plain directly opposite lay in
deep shadow; but the sun shone softly on the plain itself, brightening
up many a dingy cottage, and many a green patch of corn; and the bay
below stretched out, sparkling in the light. There is no part of the
island so thickly inhabited as this flat meniscus. It is composed almost
entirely of Oölitic rocks, and bears atop, especially where an ancient
oyster-bed of great depth forms the subsoil, a kindly and fertile mould.
The cottages lie in groups; and, save where a few bogs, which it would
be no very difficult matter to drain, interpose their rough shag of dark
green, and break the continuity, the plain around them waves with corn.
Lying fair, green and populous within the sweep of its inaccessible
rampart of rock, at least twice as lofty as the ramparts of Babylon of
old, it reminds one of the suburbs of some ancient city lying embosomed,
with all its dwellings and fields, within some roomy crescent of the
city wall. We passed, ere we entered on the level, a steep-sided narrow
dell, through which a small stream finds its way from the higher
grounds, and which terminates at the upper end in an abrupt precipice,
and a lofty but very slim cascade. "One of the few superstitions that
still linger on the island," said my friend the minister, "is associated
with that wild hollow. It is believed that shortly before a death takes
place among the inhabitants, a tall withered female may be seen in the
twilight, just yonder where the rocks open, washing a shroud in the
stream. John, there, will perhaps tell you how she was spoken to on one
occasion, by an over-bold, over-inquisitive islander, curious to know
whose shroud she was preparing; and how she more than satisfied his
curiosity, by telling him it was his own. It is a not uninteresting
fact," added the minister, "that my poor people, since they have become
more earnest about their religion, think very little about ghosts and
spectres: their faith in the realities of the unseen world seems to have
banished from their minds much of their old belief in its phantoms."

In the rude fences that separate from each other the little farms in
this plain, we find frequent fragments of the oyster bed, hardened into
a tolerably compact limestone. It is seen to most advantage, however, in
some of the deeper cuttings in the fields, where the surrounding matrix
exists merely as an incoherent shale; and the shells may be picked out
as entire as when they lay, ages before, in the mud, which we still see
retaining around them its original color. They are small, thin,
triangular, much resembling in form some specimens of the _Ostrea
deltoidea_, but greatly less in size. The nearest resembling shell in
Sowerby is the _Ostrea acuminata_,--an oyster of the clay that underlies
the great Oölite of Bath. Few of the shells exceed an inch and a half in
length, and the majority fall short of an inch. What they lack in bulk,
however, they make up in number. They are massed as thickly together, to
the depth of several feet, as shells on the heap at the door of a
Newhaven fisherman, and extend over many acres. Where they lie open we
can still detect the triangular disc of the hinge, with the single
impression of the abductor muscle; and the foliaceous character of the
shell remains in most instances as distinct as if it had undergone no
mineral change. I have seen nowhere in Scotland, among the secondary
formations, so unequivocal an oyster-bed; nor do such beds seem to be at
all common in formations older than the Tertiary in England, though the
oyster itself is sufficiently so. We find Mantell stating, in his
recent work ("Medals of Creation"), after first describing an immense
oyster bed of the London Basin, that underlies the city (for what is now
London was once an oyster-bed), that in the chalk below, though it
contains several species of Ostrea, the shells are diffused
promiscuously throughout the general mass. Leaving, however, these
oysters of the Oölite, which never net inclosed nor drag disturbed,
though they must have formed the food of many an extinct order of
fish,--mayhap reptile,--we pass on in a south-western direction,
descending in the geological scale as we go, until we reach the southern
side of the Bay of Laig. And there, far below tide-mark, we find a
dark-colored argillaceous shale of the Lias, greatly obscured by
boulders of trap,--the only deposit of the Liasic formation in the

A line of trap-hills that rises along the shore seems as if it had
strewed half its materials over the beach. The rugged blocks lie thick
as stones in a causeway, down to the line of low ebb,--memorials of a
time when the surf dashed against the shattered bases of the trap-hills,
now elevated considerably beyond its reach; and we can catch but partial
glimpses of the shale below. Wherever access to it can be had, we find
it richly fossiliferous; but its organisms, with the exception of its
Belemnites, are very imperfectly preserved. I dug up from under the
trap-blocks some of the common Liasic Ammonites of the north-eastern
coast of Scotland, a few of the septa of a large Nautilus, broken pieces
of wood, and half-effaced casts of what seems a branched coral; but only
minute portions of the shells have been converted into stone; here and
there a few chambers in the whorls of an Ammonite or Nautilus, though
the outline of the entire organism lies impressed in the shale; and the
ligneous and polyparious fossils we find in a still greater state of
decay. The Belemnite alone, as is common with this robust fossil,--so
often the sole survivor of its many contemporaries,--has preserved its
structure entire. I disinterred from the shale good specimens of the
Belemnite _sulcatus_ and Belemnite _elongatus_, and found, detached on
the surface of the bed, a fragment of a singularly large Belemnite, a
full inch and a quarter in diameter, the species of which I could not

Returning by the track we came, we reach the bottom of the bay, which we
find much obscured with sand and shingle; and pass northwards along its
side, under a range of low sandstone precipices, with interposing grassy
slopes, in which the fertile Oölitic meniscus descends to the beach. The
sandstone, white and soft, and occurring in thick beds, much resembles
that of the Oölite of Sutherland. We detect in it few traces of fossils;
now and then a carbonaceous marking, and now and then what seems a thin
vein of coal, but which proves to be merely the bark of some woody stem,
converted into a glossy bituminous lignite, like that of Brora. But in
beds of a blue clay, intercalated with the sandstone, we find fossils in
abundance, of a character less obscure. We spent a full half-hour in
picking out shells from the bottom of a long dock-like hollow among the
rocks, in which a bed of clay has yielded to the waves, while the strata
on either side stand up over it like low wharfs on the opposite side of
a river. The shells, though exceedingly fragile,--for they partake of
the nature of the clayey matrix in which they are imbedded,--rise as
entire as when they had died among the mud, years, mayhap ages, ere the
sandstone had been deposited over them; and we were enabled at once to
detect their extreme dissimilarity, as a group, to the shells of the
Liasic deposit we had so lately quitted. We did not find in this bed a
single Ammonite, Belemnite, or Nautilus; but chalky Bivalves, resembling
our existing Tellina, in vast abundance, mixed with what seem to be a
small Buccinum and a minute Trochus, with numerous rather equivocal
fragments of a shell resembling an Oiliva. So thickly do they lie
clustered together in this deposit, that in some patches where the
sad-colored argillaceous ground is washed bare by the sea, it seems
marbled with them into a light gray tint. The group more nearly
resembles in type a recent one than any I have yet seen in a secondary
deposit, except perhaps in the Weald of Moray, where we find in one of
the layers a Planorbis scarce distinguishable from those of our ponds
and ditches, mingled with a Paludina that seems as nearly modelled after
the existing form. From the absence of the more characteristic shells of
the Oölite, I am inclined to deem the deposit one of estuary origin. Its
clays were probably thrown down, like the silts of so many of our
rivers, in some shallow bay, where the waters of a descending stream
mingled with those of the sea, and where, though shells nearly akin to
our existing periwinkles and whelks congregate thickly, the Belemnite,
seared by the brackish water, never plied its semi-cartilaginous fins,
or the Nautilus or Ammonite hoisted its membranaceous sail.

We pass on towards the north. A thick bed of an extremely soft white
sandstone presents here, for nearly half a mile together, its front to
the waves, and exhibits, under the incessant wear of the surf, many
singularly grotesque combinations of form. The low precipices,
undermined at the base, beetle over like the sides of stranded vessels.
One of the projecting promontories we find hollowed through and through
by a tall rugged archway; while the outer pier of the arch,--if pier we
may term it,--worn to a skeleton, and jutting outwards with a knee-like
angle, presents the appearance of a thin ungainly leg and splay foot,
advanced, as if in awkward courtesy, to the breakers. But in a winter
or two, judging from its present degree of attenuation, and the yielding
nature of its material, which resembles a damaged mass of arrow-root,
consolidated by lying in the leaky hold of a vessel, its persevering
courtesies will be over, and pier and archway must lie in shapeless
fragments on the beach. Wherever the surf has broken into the upper
surface of this sandstone bed, and worn it down to nearly the level of
the shore, what seem a number of double ramparts, fronting each other,
and separated by deep square ditches exactly parallel in the sides,
traverse the irregular level in every direction. The ditches vary in
width from one to twelve feet; and the ramparts, rising from three to
six feet over them, are perpendicular as the walls of houses, where they
front each other, and descend on the opposite sides in irregular slopes.
The iron block, with square groove and projecting ears, that receives
the bar of a railway, and connects it with the stone below, represents
not inadequately a section of one of these ditches, with its ramparts.
They form here the sole remains of dykes of an earthy trap, which,
though at one time in a state of such high fusion that they converted
the portions of soft sandstone in immediate contact with them into the
consistence of quartz rock, have long since mouldered away, leaving but
the hollow rectilinear rents which they had occupied, surmounted by the
indurated walls which they had baked. Some of the most curious
appearances, however, connected with the sandstone, though they occur
chiefly in an upper bed, are exhibited by what seem fields of petrified
mushrooms, of a gigantic size, that spread out in some places for
hundreds of yards under the high-water level. These apparent mushrooms
stand on thick squat stems, from a foot to eighteen inches in height;
the heads are round like those of toad-stools, and vary from one foot to
nearly two yards in diameter. In some specimens we find two heads
joined together in a form resembling a squat figure of _eight_, of what
printers term the Egyptian type, or, to borrow the illustration of
M'Culloch, "like the ancient military projectile known by the name of
double-headed shot;" in other specimens three heads have coalesced in a
trefoil shape, or rather in a shape like that of an ace of clubs
divested of the stem. By much the greater number, however, are
spherical. They are composed of concretionary masses, consolidated, like
the walls of the dykes, though under some different process, into a hard
siliceous stone, that has resisted those disintegrating influences of
the weather and the surf, under which the yielding matrix in which they
were embedded has worn from around them. Here and there we find them
lying detached on the beach, like huge shot, compared with which the
greenstone balls of Mons Meg are but marbles for children to play with;
in other cases they project from the mural front of rampart-like
precipices, as if they had been showered into them by the ordnance of
some besieging battery, and had stuck fast in the mason-work. Abbotsford
has been described as a romance in stone and lime; we have here, on the
shores of Laig, what seems a wild but agreeable tale, of the extravagant
cast of "Christabel," or the "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner," fretted
into sandstone. But by far the most curious part of the story remains to
be told.

The hollows and fissures of the lower sandstone bed we find filled with
a fine quartzose sand, which, from its pure white color, and the
clearness with which the minute particles reflect the light, reminds one
of accumulations of potato-flour drying in the sun. It is formed almost
entirely of disintegrated particles of the soft sandstone; and as we at
first find it occurring in mere handfuls, that seem as if they had been
detached from the mass during the last few tides, we begin to marvel to
what quarter the missing materials of the many hundred cubic yards of
rock, ground down along the shore in this bed during the last century or
two, have been conveyed away. As we pass on northwards, however, we see
the white sand occurring in much larger quantities,--here heaped up in
little bent-covered hillocks above the reach of the tide,--there
stretching out in level, ripple-marked wastes into the waves,--yonder
rising in flat narrow spits among the shallows. At length we reach a
small, irregularly-formed bay, a few hundred feet across, floored with
it from side to side; and see it, on the one hand, descending deep into
the sea, that exhibits over its whiteness a lighter tint of green, and,
on the other, encroaching on the land, in the form of drifted banks,
covered with the plants common to our tracts of sandy downs. The
sandstone bed that has been worn down to form it contains no fossils,
save here and there a carbonaceous stem; but in an underlying harder
stratum we occasionally find a few shells; and, with a specimen in my
hand charged with a group of bivalves resembling the existing conchifera
of our sandy beaches, I was turning aside this sand of the Oölite, so
curiously reduced to its original state, and marking how nearly the
recent shells that lay embedded in it resembled the extinct ones that
had lain in it so long before, when I became aware of a peculiar sound
that it yielded to the tread, as my companions paced over it. I struck
it obliquely with my foot, where the surface lay dry and incoherent in
the sun, and the sound elicited was a shrill, sonorous note, somewhat
resembling that produced by a waxed thread, when tightened between the
teeth and the hand, and tipped by the nail of the forefinger. I walked
over it, striking it obliquely at each step, and with every blow the
shrill note was repeated. My companions joined me; and we performed a
concert, in which, if we could boast of but little variety in the tones
produced, we might at least challenge all Europe for an instrument of
the kind which produced them. It seemed less wonderful that there should
be music in the granite of Memnon, than in the loose Oölitic sand of the
Bay of Laig. As we marched over the drier tracts, an incessant _woo_,
_woo_, _woo_, rose from the surface, that might be heard in the calm
some twenty or thirty yards away; and we found that where a damp
semi-coherent stratum lay at the depth of three or four inches beneath,
and all was dry and incoherent above, the tones were loudest and
sharpest, and most easily evoked by the foot. Our discovery,--for I
trust I may regard it as such,--adds a third locality to two previously
known ones, in which what may be termed the musical sand,--no unmeet
counterpart to the "singing water" of the tale,--has now been found. And
as the island of Eigg is considerably more accessible than _Jabel
Nakous_, in Arabia Petræa, or _Reg-Rawan_, in the neighborhood of Cabul,
there must be facilities presented through the discovery which did not
exist hitherto, for examining the phenomenon in acoustics which it
exhibits,--a phenomenon, it may be added, which some of our greatest
masters of the science have confessed their inability to explain.

_Jabel Nakous_, or the "Mountain of the Bell," is situated about three
miles from the shores of the Gulf of Suez, in that land of wonders which
witnessed for forty years the journeyings of the Israelites, and in
which the granite peaks of Sinai and Horeb overlook an arid wilderness
of rock and sand. It had been known for many ages by the wild Arab of
the desert, that there rose at times from this hill a strange,
inexplicable music. As he leads his camel past in the heat of the day, a
sound like the first low tones of an Æolian harp stirs the hot
breezeless air. It swells louder and louder in progressive undulations,
till at length the dry baked earth seems to vibrate under foot, and the
startled animal snorts and rears, and struggles to break away. According
to the Arabian account of the phenomenon, says Sir David Brewster, in
his "Letters on Natural Magic," there is a convent miraculously
preserved in the bowels of the hill; and the sounds are said to be those
of the "_Nakous_, a long metallic ruler, suspended horizontally, which
the priest strikes with a hammer, for the purpose of assembling the
monks to prayer." There exists a tradition that on one occasion a
wandering Greek saw the mountain open, and that, entering by the gap, he
descended into the subterranean convent, where he found beautiful
gardens and fountains of delicious water, and brought with him to the
upper world, on his return, fragments of consecrated bread. The first
European traveller who visited _Jabel Nakous_, says Sir David, was M.
Seetzen, a German. He journeyed for several hours over arid sands, and
under ranges of precipices inscribed by mysterious characters, that
tell, haply, of the wanderings of Israel under Moses. And reaching,
about noon, the base of the musical fountain, he found it composed of a
white friable sandstone, and presenting on two of its sides sandy
declivities. He watched beside it for an hour and a quarter, and then
heard, for the first time, a low undulating sound, somewhat resembling
that of a humming top, which rose and fell, and ceased and began, and
then ceased again; and in an hour and three quarters after, when in the
act of climbing along the declivity, he heard the sound yet louder and
more prolonged. It seemed as if issuing from under his knees, beneath
which the sand, disturbed by his efforts, was sliding downwards along
the surface of the rock. Concluding that the sliding sand was the cause
of the sounds, not an effect of the vibrations which they occasioned, he
climbed to the top of one of the declivities, and, sliding downwards,
exerted himself with hands and feet to set the sand in motion. The
effect produced far exceeded his expectations; the incoherent sand
rolled under and around in a vast sheet; and so loud was the noise
produced, that "the earth seemed to tremble beneath him to such a
degree, that he states he should certainly have been afraid if he had
been ignorant of the cause." At the time Sir David Brewster wrote
(1832), the only other European who had visited _Jabel Nakous_ was Mr.
Gray, of University College, Oxford. This gentleman describes the noises
he heard, but which he was unable to trace to their producing cause, as
"beginning with a low continuous murmuring sound, which seemed to rise
beneath his feet," but "which gradually changed into pulsations as it
became louder, so as to resemble the striking of a clock, and became so
strong at the end of five minutes _as to detach the sand_." The Mountain
of the Bell has been since carefully explored by Lieutenant J. Welsted,
of the Indian navy; and the reader may see it exhibited in a fine
lithograph, in his travels, as a vast irregularly conical mass of broken
stone, somewhat resembling one of our Highland cairns, though, of
course, on a scale immensely more huge, with a steep, angular slope of
sand resting in a hollow in one of its sides, and rising to nearly its
apex. "It forms," says Lieutenant Welsted, "one of a ridge of low,
calcareous hills, at a distance of three and a half miles from the
beach, to which a sandy plain, extending with a gentle rise to their
base, connects them. Its height, about four hundred feet, as well as the
material of which it is composed,--a light-colored friable
sandstone,--is about the same as the rest of the chain; but an inclined
plane of almost impalpable sand rises at an angle of forty degrees with
the horizon, and is bounded by a semi-circle of rocks, presenting
broken, abrupt, and pinnacled forms, and extending to the base of this
remarkable hill. Although their shape and arrangement in some respects
may be said to resemble a whispering gallery, yet I determined by
experiment that their irregular surface renders them but ill adapted for
the production of an echo. Seated at a rock at the base of the sloping
eminence, I directed one of the Bedouins to ascend; and it was not until
he had reached some distance that I perceived the sand in motion,
rolling down the hill to the depth of a foot. It did not, however,
descend in one continued stream; but, as the Arab scrambled up, it
spread out laterally and upwards, until a considerable portion of the
surface was in motion. At their commencement the sounds might be
compared to the faint strains of an Æolian harp when its strings first
catch the breeze: as the sand became more violently agitated by the
increased velocity of the descent, the noise more nearly resembled that
produced by drawing the moistened fingers over glass. As it reached the
base, the reverberations attained the loudness of distant thunder,
causing the rock on which we were seated to vibrate; and our
camels,--animals not easily frightened,--became so alarmed that it was
with difficulty their drivers could restrain them."

"The hill of _Reg-Rawan_ or the 'Moving Sand,'" says the late Sir
Alexander Burnes, by whom the place was visited in the autumn of 1837,
and who has recorded his visit in a brief paper, illustrated by a rude
lithographic view, in the "Journal of the Asiatic Society" for 1838, "is
about forty miles north of Cabul, towards Hindu-kush, and near the base
of the mountains." It rises to the height of about four hundred feet, in
an angle formed by the junction of two ridges of hills; and a sheet of
sand, "pure as that of the sea-shore," and which slopes in an angle of
forty degrees, reclines against it from base to summit. As represented
in the lithograph, there projects over the steep sandy slope on each
side, as in the "Mountain of the Bell," still steeper barriers of rock;
and we are told by Sir Alexander, that though "the mountains here are
generally composed of granite or mica, at _Reg-Rawan_ there is sandstone
and lime." The situation of the sand is curious, he adds: it is seen
from a great distance; and as there is none other in the neighborhood,
"it might almost be imagined, from its appearance, that the hill had
been cut in two, and that the sand had gushed forth as from a sand-bag."
"When set in motion by a body of people who slide down it, a sound is
emitted. On the first trial we distinctly heard two loud hollow sounds,
such as would be given by a large drum;"--"there is an echo in the
place; and the inhabitants have a belief that the sounds are only heard
on Friday, when the saint of _Reg-Rawan_, who is interred hard by,
permits." The phenomenon, like the resembling one in Arabia, seems to
have attracted attention among the inhabitants of the country at an
early period; and the notice of an eastern annalist, the Emperor Baber,
who flourished late in the fifteenth century, and, like Cæsar, conquered
and recorded his conquests, still survives. He describes it as the
_Khwaja Reg-Rawan_, "a small hill, in which there is a line of sandy
ground reaching from the top to the bottom," from which there "issues in
the summer season the sound of drums and nagarets." In connection with
the fact that the musical sand of Eigg is composed of a disintegrated
sandstone of the Oölite, it is not quite unworthy of notice that
sandstone and lime enter into the composition of the hill of
_Reg-Rawan_,--that the district in which the hill is situated is not a
sandy one,--and that its slope of sonorous sand seems as if it had
issued from its side. These various circumstances, taken together, lead
to the inference that the sand may have originated in the decomposition
of the rock beneath. It is further noticeable, that the _Jabel Nakous_
is composed of a white friable sandstone, resembling that of the white
friable bed of the Bay of Laig, and that it belongs to nearly the same
geological era. I owe to the kindness of Dr. Wilson of Bombay, two
specimens which he picked up in Arabia Petræa, of spines of Cidarites of
the mace-formed type so common in the Chalk and Oölite, but so rare in
the older formations. Dr. Wilson informs me that they are of frequent
occurrence in the desert of Arabia Petræa, where they are termed by the
Arabs petrified olives; that nummulites are also abundant in the
district; and that the various secondary rocks he examined in his route
through it seem to belong to the Cretaceous group. It appears not
improbable, therefore, that all the sonorous sand in the world yet
discovered is formed, like that of Eigg, of disintegrated sandstone; and
at least two-thirds of it of the disintegrated sandstone of secondary
formations, newer than the Lias. But how it should be at all sonorous,
whatever its age or origin, seems yet to be discovered. There are few
substances that appear worse suited than sand to communicate to the
atmosphere those vibratory undulations that are the producing causes of
sound: the grains, even when sonorous individually, seem, from their
inevitable contact with each other, to exist under the influence of that
simple law in acoustics which arrests the tones of the ringing glass or
struck bell, immediately as they are but touched by some foreign body,
such as the hand or finger. The one grain, ever in contact with several
other grains, is a glass or bell on which the hand always rests. And the
difficulty has been felt and acknowledged. Sir John Herschel, in
referring to the phenomenon of the _Jabel Nakous_, in his "Treatise on
Sound," in the "Encyclopædia Metropolitana," describes it as to him
"utterly inexplicable;" and Sir David Brewster, whom I had the pleasure
of meeting in December last, assured me it was not less a puzzle to him
than to Sir John. An eastern traveller, who attributes its production
to "a reduplication of impulse setting air in vibration in a focus of
echo," means, I suppose, saying nearly the same thing as the two
philosophers, and merely conveys his meaning in a less simple style.

I have not yet procured what I expect to procure soon,--sand enough from
the musical bay at Laig to enable me to make its sonorous qualities the
subject of experiment at home. It seems doubtful whether a small
quantity set in motion on an artificial slope will serve to evolve the
phenomena which have rendered the Mountain of the Bell so famous.
Lieutenant Welsted informs us, that when his Bedouin first set the sand
in motion, there was scarce any perceptible sound heard;--it was rolling
downwards for many yards around him to the depth of a foot, ere the
music arose; and it is questionable whether the effect could be elicited
with some fifty or sixty pounds weight of the sand of Eigg, on a slope
of but at most a few feet, which it took many hundred weight of sand of
_Jabel Nakous_, and a slope of many yards, to produce. But in the
stillness of a close room, it is just possible that it may. I have,
however, little doubt, that from small quantities the sound evoked by
the foot on the shore may be reproduced: enough will lie within the
reach of experiment to demonstrate the strange difference which exists
between this sonorous sand of the Oölite, and the common unsonorous sand
of our sea-beaches; and it is certainly worth while examining into the
nature and producing causes of a phenomenon so curious in itself, and
which has been characterized by one of the most distinguished of living
philosophers as "the most celebrated of all the acoustic wonders which
the natural world presents to us." In the forthcoming number of the
"North British Review,"--which appears on Monday first,[1]--the reader
will find the sonorous sand of Eigg referred to, in an article the
authorship of which will scarcely be mistaken. "We have here," says the
writer, after first describing the sounds of _Jabel Nakous_, and then
referring to those of Eigg, "the phenomenon in its simple state,
disembarrassed from reflecting rocks, from a hard bed beneath, and from
cracks and cavities that might be supposed to admit the sand; and
indicating as its cause, either the accumulated vibration of the air
when struck by the driven sand, or the accumulated sounds occasioned by
the mutual impact of the particles of sand against each other. If a
musket-ball passing through the air emits a whistling note, each
individual particle of sand must do the same, however faint be the note
which it yields; and the accumulation of these infinitesimal vibrations
must constitute an audible sound, varying with the number and velocity
of moving particles. In like manner, if two plates of silex or quartz,
which are but large crystals of sand, give out a musical sound when
mutually struck, the impact or collision of two minute crystals or
particles of sand must do the same, in however inferior a degree; and
the union of all these sounds, though singly imperceptible, may
constitute the musical notes of the Bell Mountain, or the lesser sounds
of the trodden sea-beach at Eigg."

Here is a vigorous effort made to unlock the difficulty. I should,
however, have mentioned to the philosophic writer,--what I inadvertently
failed to do,--that the sounds elicited from the sand of Eigg seem as
directly evoked by the slant blow dealt it by the foot, as the sounds
similarly evoked from a highly waxed floor, or a board strewed over with
ground rosin. The sharp shrill note follows the stroke, altogether
independently of the grains driven into the air. My omission may serve
to show how much safer it is for those minds of the observant order,
that serve as hands and eyes to the reflective ones, to prefer incurring
the risk of being even tediously minute in their descriptions, to the
danger of being inadequately brief in them. But, alas! for purposes of
exact science, rarely are verbal descriptions otherwise than inadequate.
Let us look, for example, at the various accounts given us of _Jabel
Nakous_. There are strange sounds heard proceeding from a hill in
Arabia, and various travellers set themselves to describe them. The
tones are those of the convent _Nakous_, says the wild Arab;--there must
be a convent buried under the hill. More like the sounds of a
humming-top, remarks a phlegmatic German traveller. Not quite like them,
says an English one in an Oxford gown;--they resemble rather the
striking of a clock. Nay, listen just a little longer and more
carefully, says a second Englishman, with epaulettes on his shoulder:
"the sounds at their commencement may be compared to the faint strains
of an Æolian harp when its strings first catch the breeze," but anon, as
the agitation of the sand increases, they "more nearly resemble those
produced by drawing the moistened fingers over glass." Not at all,
exclaims the warlike Zahor Ed-din Muhammed Baber, twirling his whiskers:
"I know a similar hill in the country towards Hindu-kush: it is the
sound of drums and nagarets that issues from the sand." All we really
know of this often-described music of the desert, after reading all the
descriptions, is, that its tones bear certain analogies to certain other
tones,--analogies that seem stronger in one direction to one ear, and
stronger in another direction to an ear differently constituted, but
which do not exactly resemble any other sounds in nature. The strange
music of _Jabel Nakous_, as a combination of tones, is essentially


     Trap-Dykes--"Cotton Apples"--Alternation of Lacustrine with Marine
     Remains--Analogy from the Beds of Esk--Aspect of the Island on its
     narrow Front--The Puffin--Ru-Stoir--Development of Old Red
     Sandstone--Striking Columnar character of Ru-Stoir--Discovery of
     Reptilian Remains--John Stewart's wonder at the Bones in the
     Stones--Description of the Bones--"Dragons, Gorgons, and
     Chimeras"--Exploration and Discovery pursued--The Midway
     Shieling--A Celtic Welcome--Return of the Yacht--"Array of Fossils
     new to Scotch Geology"--A Geologist's Toast--Hoffman and his

We leave behind us the musical sand, and reach the point of the
promontory which forms the northern extremity of the Bay of Laig.
Wherever the beach has been swept bare, we see it floored with
trap-dykes worn down to the level, but in most places accumulations of
huge blocks of various composition cover it up, concealing the nature of
the rock beneath. The long semi-circular wall of precipice which,
sweeping inwards at the bottom of the bay, leaves to the inhabitants
between its base and the beach their fertile meniscus of land, here
abuts upon the coast. We see its dark forehead many hundred feet
overhead, and the grassy platform beneath, now narrowed to a mere talus,
sweeping upwards to its base from the shore,--steep, broken, lined thick
with horizontal pathways, mottled over with ponderous masses of rock.

Among the blocks that load the beach, and render our onward progress
difficult and laborious, we detect occasional fragments of an
amygdaloidal basalt, charged with a white zeolite, consisting of
crystals so extremely slender that the balls, with their light fibrous
contents, remind us of cotton apples divested of the seeds. There
occur, though more rarely, masses of a hard white sandstone, abounding
in vegetable impressions, which, from their sculptured markings,
recalled to memory the Sigillaria of the Coal Measures. Here and there,
too, we find fragments of a calcareous stone, so largely charged with
compressed shells, chiefly bivalves, that it may be regarded as a shell
breccia. There occur, besides, slabs of fibrous limestone, exactly
resembling the limestone of the ichthyolite beds of the Lower Old Red;
and blocks of a hard gray stone, of silky lustre in the fresh fracture,
thickly speckled with carbonaceous markings. These fragmentary
masses,--all of them, at least, except the fibrous limestone, which
occurs in mere plank-like bands,--represent distinct beds, of which this
part of the island is composed, and which present their edges, like
courses of ashlar in a building, in the splendid section that stretches
from the tall brow of the precipice to the beach; though in the slopes
of the talus, where the lower beds appear in but occasional protrusions
and land-slips, we find some difficulty in tracing their order of

Near the base of the slope, where the soil has been undermined and the
rock laid bare by the waves, there occur beds of a bituminous black
shale,--resembling the dark shales so common in the Coal Measures,--that
seem to be of fresh water or estuary origin. Their fossils, though
numerous, are ill preserved; but we detect in them scales and plates of
fishes, at least two species of minute bivalves, one of which very much
resembles a Cyclas; and in some of the fragments, shells of Cypris lie
embedded in considerable abundance. After all that has been said and
written by way of accounting for those alternations of lacustrine with
marine remains, which are of such frequent occurrence in the various
formations, secondary and tertiary, from the Coal Measures downwards, it
does seem strange enough that the estuary, or fresh-water lake, should
so often in the old geologic periods have changed places with the sea.
It is comparatively easy to conceive that the inner Hebrides should have
once existed as a broad ocean sound, bounded on one or either side by
Oölitic islands, from which streams descended, sweeping with them, to
the marine depths, productions, animal and vegetable, of the land. But
it is less easy to conceive, that in that sound, the area covered by the
ocean one year should have been covered by a fresh-water lake in perhaps
the next, and then by the ocean again a few years after. And yet among
the Oölitic deposits of the Hebrides evidence seems to exist that
changes of this nature actually took place. I am not inclined to found
much on the apparently fresh-water character of the bituminous shales of
Eigg;--the embedded fossils are all too obscure to be admitted in
evidence; but there can exist no doubt that fresh water, or at least
estuary formations, do occur among the marine Oölites of the Hebrides.
Sir R. Murchison, one of the most cautious, as he is certainly one of
the most distinguished, of living geologists, found in a northern
district of Skye, in 1826, a deposit containing Cyclas, Paludina,
Neritina,--all shells of unequivocally fresh-water origin,--which must
have been formed, he concludes, in either a lake or estuary. What had
been sea at one period had been estuary or lake at another. In every
case, however, in which these intercalated deposits are restricted to
single strata of no great thickness, it is perhaps safer to refer their
formation to the agency of temporary land-floods, than to that of
violent changes of level, now elevating and now depressing the surface.
There occur, for instance, among the marine Oölites of Brora,--the
discovery of Mr. Robertson, of Inverugie,--two strata containing
fresh-water fossils in abundance; but the one stratum is little more
than an inch in thickness,--the other little more than a foot; and it
seems considerably more probable, that such deposits should have owed
their existence to extraordinary land-floods, like those which in 1829
devastated the province of Moray, and covered over whole miles of marine
beach with the spoils of land and river, than that a sea-bottom should
have been elevated for their production, into a fresh-water lake, and
then let down into a sea-bottom again. We find it recorded in the
"Shepherd's Calendar," that after the thaw which followed the great
snow-storm of 1794, there were found on a part of the sands of the
Solway Frith known as the Beds of Esk, where the tide disgorges much of
what is thrown into it by the rivers, "one thousand eight hundred and
forty sheep, nine black cattle, three horses, two men, one woman,
forty-five dogs, and one hundred and eighty hares, beside a number of
meaner animals." A similar storm in an earlier time, with a soft
sea-bottom prepared to receive and retain its spoils, would have formed
a fresh-water stratum intercalated in a marine deposit.

Rounding the promontory, we lose sight of the Bay of Laig, and find the
narrow front of the island that now presents itself exhibiting the
appearance of a huge bastion. The green talus slopes upwards, as its
basement, for full three hundred feet; and a noble wall of perpendicular
rock, that towers over and beyond for at least four hundred feet more,
forms the rampart. Save towards the sea, the view is of but limited
extent; we see it restricted, on the landward side, to the bold face of
the bastion; and in a narrow and broken dell that runs nearly parallel
to the shore for a few hundred yards between the top of the talus and
the base of the rampart,--a true covered way,--we see but the rampart
alone. But the dizzy front of black basalt, dark as night, save where a
broad belt of light-colored sandstone traverses it in an angular
direction, like a white sash thrown across a funeral robe,--the
fantastic peaks and turrets in which the rock terminates atop,--the
masses of broken ruins, roughened with moss and lichen, that have fallen
from above, and lie scattered at its base,--the extreme loneliness of
the place, for we have left behind us every trace of the human
family,--and the expanse of solitary sea which it commands,--all
conspire to render the scene a profoundly imposing one. It is one of
those scenes in which a man feels that he is little, and that nature is
great. There is no precipice in the island in which the puffin so
delights to build as among the dark pinnacles overhead, or around which
the silence is so frequently broken by the harsh scream of the eagle.
The sun had got far adown the sky ere we had reached the covered way at
the base of the rock. All lay dark below; and the red light atop, half
absorbed by the dingy hues of the stone, shone with a gleam so faint and
melancholy, that it served but to deepen the effect of the shadows.

The puffin, a comparatively rare bird in the inner Hebrides, builds, I
was told, in great numbers in the continuous line of precipice which,
after sweeping for a full mile round the Bay of Laig, forms the
pinnacled rampart here, and then, turning another angle of the island,
runs on parallel to the coast for about six miles more. In former times
the puffin furnished the islanders, as in St. Kilda, with a staple
article of food, in those hungry months of summer in which the stores of
the old crop had begun to fail, and the new crop had not yet ripened;
and the people of Eigg, taught by their necessities, were bold cragsmen.
But men do not peril life and limb for the mere sake of a meal, save
when they cannot help it; and the introduction of the potato has done
much to put out the practice of climbing for the bird, except among a
few young lads, who find excitement enough in the work to pursue it for
its own sake, as an amusement. I found among the islanders what was
said to be a piece of the natural history of the puffin, sufficiently
apocryphal to remind one of the famous passage in the history of the
barnacle, which traced the lineage of the bird to one of the
pedunculated cirripedes, and the lineage of the cirripede to a log of
wood. The puffin feeds its young, say the islanders, on an oily scum of
the sea, which renders it such an unwieldy mass of fat, that about the
time when it should be beginning to fly, it becomes unable to get out of
its hole. The parent bird, not in the least puzzled, however, treats the
case medicinally, and,--like mothers of another two-legged genus, who,
when their daughters get over stout, put them through a course of
reducing acids to bring them down,--feeds it on sorrel leaves for
several days together, till, like a boxer under training, it gets
thinned to the proper weight, and becomes able, not only to get out of
its cell, but also to employ its wings.

We pass through the hollow, and, reaching the farther edge of the
bastion, towards the east, see a new range of prospect opening before
us. There is first a long unbroken wall of precipice,--a continuation of
the tall rampart overhead,--relieved along its irregular upper line by
the blue sky. We mark the talus widening at its base, and expanding, as
on the shores of the Bay of Laig, into an irregular grassy platform,
that, sinking midway into a ditch-like hollow, rises again towards the
sea, and presents to the waves a perpendicular precipice of redstone.
The sinking sun shone brightly this evening; and the warm hues of the
precipice, which bears the name of _Ru-Stoir_,--the Red
Head,--strikingly contrasted with the pale and dark tints of the
alternating basalts and sandstones in the taller cliff behind. The
ditch-like hollow, which seems to indicate the line of a fault, cuts off
this red headland from all the other rocks of the island, from which it
appears to differ as considerably in texture as in hue. It consists
mainly of thick beds of a pale red stone, which M'Culloch regarded as a
trap, and which, intercalated with here and there a thin band of shale,
and presenting not a few of the mineralogical appearances of what
geologists of the school of the late Mr. Cunningham term Primary Old Red
Sandstone, in some cases has been laid down as a deposit of Old Red
proper, abutting in the line of a fault on the neighboring Oölites and
basalts. In the geological map which I carried with me,--not one of high
authority however,--I found it actually colored as a patch of this
ancient system. The Old Red Sandstone is largely developed in the
neighboring island of Rum, in the line of which the _Ru-Stoir_ seems to
have a more direct bearing than any of the other deposits of Eigg; and
yet the conclusion regarding this red headland merely adds one proof
more to the many furnished already, of the inadequacy of mineralogical
testimony, when taken in evidence regarding the eras of the geologist.
The hard red beds of _Ru-Stoir_ belong, as I was fortunate enough this
evening to ascertain, not to the ages of the Coccosteus and Pterichthys,
but to the far later ages of the Plesiosaurus and the fossil crocodile.
I found them associated with more reptilian remains, of a character more
unequivocal than have been yet exhibited by any other deposit in

What first strikes the eye, in approaching the _Ru-Stoir_ from the west,
is the columnar character of the stone. The precipices rise immediately
over the sea, in rude colonnades of from thirty to fifty feet in height;
single pillars, that have fallen from their places in the line, and
exhibit a tenacity rare among the trap-rocks,--for they occur in
unbroken lengths of from ten to twelve feet,--lie scattered below; and
in several places where the waves have joined issue with the precipices
in the line on which the base of the columns rest, and swept away the
supporting foundation, the colonnades open into roomy caverns, that
resound to the dash of the sea. Wherever the spray lashes, the pale red
hue of the stone prevails, and the angles of the polygonal shafts are
rounded; while higher up all is sharp-edged, and the unweathered surface
is covered by a gray coat of lichens. The tenacity of the prostrate
columns first drew my attention. The builder scant of materials would
have experienced no difficulty in finding among them sufficient lintels
for apertures from eight to twelve feet in width. I was next struck with
the peculiar composition of the stone; it much rather resembles an
altered sandstone, in at least the weathered specimens, than a trap, and
yet there seemed nothing to indicate that it was an _Old Red_ Sandstone.
Its columnar structure bore evidence to the action of great heat; and
its pale red color was exactly that which the Oölitic sandstones of the
island, with their slight ochreous tinge, would assume in a common fire.
And so I set myself to look for fossils. In the columnar stone itself I
expected none, as none occur in vast beds of the unaltered sandstones,
out of some one of which I supposed it might possibly have been formed;
and none I found: but in a rolled block of altered shale of a much
deeper red than the general mass, and much more resembling Old Red
Sandstone, I succeeded in detecting several shells, identical with those
of the deposit of blue clay described in a former chapter. There
occurred in it the small univalve resembling a Trochus, together with
the oblong bivalve, somewhat like a Tellina; and, spread thickly
throughout the block, lay fragments of coprolitic matter, and the scales
and teeth of fishes. Night was coming on, and the tide had risen on the
beach; but I hammered lustily, and laid open in the dark red shale a
vertebral joint, a rib, and a parallelogramical fragment of solid bone,
none of which could have belonged to any fish. It was an interesting
moment for the curtain to drop over the promontory of _Ru-Stoir_; I had
thus already found in connection with it well nigh as many reptilian
remains as had been found in all Scotland before,--for there could exist
no doubt that the bones I laid open were such; and still more
interesting discoveries promised to await the coming morning, and a less
hasty survey. We found a hospitable meal awaiting us at a picturesque
old two-story house, with, what is rare in the island, a clump of trees
beside it, which rises on the northern angle of the Oölitic meniscus;
and after our day's hard work in the fresh sea-air, we did ample justice
to the viands. Dark night had long set in ere we reached our vessel.

Next day was Saturday; and it behooved my friend, the minister,--as
scrupulously careful in his pulpit preparations for the islanders of
Eigg as if his congregation were an Edinburgh one,--to remain on board,
and study his discourse for the morrow. I found, however, no unmeet
companion for my excursion in his trusty mate John Stewart. John had not
very much English, and I had no Gaelic; but we contrived to understand
one another wonderfully well; and ere evening I had taught him to be
quite as expert in hunting dead crocodiles as myself. We reached the
_Ru-Stoir_, and set hard to work with hammer and chisel. The fragments
of red shale were strewed thickly along the shore for at least three
quarters of a mile; wherever the red columnar rock appeared, there lay
the shale, in water-worn blocks, more or less indurated; but the beach
was covered over with shingle and detached masses of rock, and we could
nowhere find it _in situ_. A winter storm powerful enough to wash the
beach bare might do much to assist the explorer. There is a piece of
shore on the eastern coast of Scotland, on which for years together I
used to pick up nodular masses of lime containing fish of the Old Red
Sandstone; but nowhere in the neighborhood could I find the ichthyolite
bed in which they had originally formed. The storm of a single night
swept the beach; and in the morning the ichthyolites lay revealed _in
situ_ under a stratum of shingle which I had a hundred times examined,
but which, though scarce a foot in thickness, had concealed from me the
ichthyolite bed for five twelvemonths together!

Wherever the altered shale of _Ru-Stoir_ has been thrown high on the
beach, and exposed to the influences of the weather, we find it fretted
over with minute organisms, mostly the scales, plates, bones, and teeth
of fishes. The organisms, as is frequently the case, seem
indestructible, while the hard matrix in which they are embedded has
weathered from around them. Some of the scales present the rhomboidal
outline, and closely resemble those of the _Lepidotus Minor_ of the
Weald; others approximate in shape to an isosceles triangle. The teeth
are of various forms: some of them, evidently palatal, are mere blunted
protuberances glittering with enamel,--some of them present the usual
slim, thorn-like type common in the teeth of the existing fish of our
coasts,--some again are squat and angular, and rest on rectilinear
bases, prolonged considerably on each side of the body of the tooth,
like the rim of a hat or the flat head of a scupper nail. Of the
occipital plates, some present a smooth enamelled surface, while some
are thickly tuberculated,--each tubercle bearing a minute depression in
its apex, like a crater on the summit of a rounded hill. We find
reptilian bones in abundance,--a thing new to Scotch geology,--and in a
state of keeping peculiarly fine. They not a little puzzled John
Stewart: he could not resist the evidence of his senses: they were
bones, he said, real bones,--there could be no doubt of that: _there_
were the joints of a backbone, with the hole the brain-marrow had
passed through; and _there_ were shank-bones and ribs, and fishes'
teeth; but how, he wondered, had they all got into the very heart of the
hard red stones? He had seen what was called wood, he said, dug out of
the side of the Scuir, without being quite certain whether it was wood
or no; but there could be no uncertainty here. I laid open numerous
vertebræ of various forms,--some with long spinous processes rising over
the body or _centrum_ of the bone,--which I found in every instance,
unlike that of the Ichthyosaurus, only moderately concave on the
articulating faces; in others the spinous process seemed altogether
wanting. Only two of the number bore any mark of the suture which
unites, in most reptiles, the annular process to the centrum; in the
others both centrum and process seemed anchylosed, as in quadrupeds,
into one bone; and there remained no scar to show that the suture had
ever existed. In some specimens the ribs seem to have been articulated
to the sides of the centrum; in others there is a transverse process,
but no marks of articulation. Some of the vertebræ are evidently dorsal,
some cervical, one apparently caudal; and almost all agree in showing in
front two little eyelets, to which the great descending artery seems to
have sent out blood-vessels in pairs. The more entire ribs I was lucky
enough to disinter have, as in those of crocodileans, double heads; and
a part of a fibula, about four inches in length, seems also to belong to
this ancient family. A large proportion of the other bones are evidently
Plesiosaurian. I found the head of the flat humerus so characteristic of
the extinct order to which the Plesiosaurus has been assigned, and two
digital bones of the paddle, that, from their comparatively slender and
slightly curved form, so unlike the digitals of its cogener the
Ichthyosaurus, could have belonged evidently to no other reptile. I
observed, too, in the slightly curved articulations of not a few of the
vertebræ, the gentle convexity in the concave centre, which, if not
peculiar to the Plesiosaurus, is at least held to distinguish it from
most of its contemporaries. Among the various nondescript organisms of
the shale, I laid open a smooth angular bone, hollowed something like a
grocer's scoop; a three-pronged caltrop-looking bone, that seems to have
formed part of a pelvic arch; another angular bone, much massier than
the first, regarding the probable position of which I could not form a
conjecture, but which some of my geological friends deem cerebral; an
extremely dense bone, imperfect at each end, which presents the
appearance of a cylinder slightly flattened; and various curious
fragments, which, with what our Scotch museums have not yet
acquired,--entire reptilian fossils for the purposes of
comparison,--might, I doubt not, be easily assigned to their proper
places. It was in vain that, leaving John to collect the scattered
pieces of shale in which the bones occurred, I set myself again and
again to discover the bed from which they had been detached. The tide
had fallen, and a range of skerries lay temptingly off, scarce a hundred
yards from the water's edge: the shale beds might be among them, with
Plesiosauri and crocodiles stretching entire; and fain would I have swum
off to them, as I had done oftener than once elsewhere, with my hammer
in my teeth, and with shirt and drawers in my hat; but a tall brown
forest of kelp and tangle in which even a seal might drown, rose thick
and perilous round both shore and skerries; a slight swell was felting
the long fronds together; and I deemed it better, on the whole, that the
discoveries I had already made should be recorded, than that they should
be lost to geology, mayhap for a whole age, in the attempt to extend

The water, beautifully transparent, permitted the eye to penetrate into
its green depths for many fathoms around, though every object
presented, through the agitated surface, an uncertain and fluctuating
outline. I could see, however, the pink-colored urchin warping himself
up, by his many cables, along the steep rock-sides; the green crab
stalking along the gravelly bottom; a scull of small rock-cod darting
hither and thither among the tangle-roots; and a few large medusæ slowly
flapping their continuous fins of gelatine in the opener spaces, a few
inches under the surface. Many curious families had their
representatives within the patch of sea which the eye commanded; but the
strange creatures that had once inhabited it by thousands, and whose
bones still lay sepulchred on its shores, had none. How strange, that
the identical sea heaving around stack and skerry in this remote corner
of the Hebrides should have once been thronged by reptile shapes more
strange than poet ever imagined,--dragons, gorgons and chimeras! Perhaps
of all the extinct reptiles, the Plesiosaurus was the most
extraordinary. An English geologist has described it, grotesquely
enough, and yet most happily, as a snake _threaded_ through a tortoise.
And here on this very spot, must these monstrous dragons have disported
and fed; here must they have raised their little reptile heads and long
swan-like necks over the surface, to watch an antagonist or select a
victim; here must they have warred and wedded, and pursued all the
various instincts of their unknown natures. A strange story, surely,
considering it is a true one! I may mention in the passing, that some of
the fragments of the shale in which the remains are embedded have been
baked by the intense heat into an exceedingly hard, dark-colored stone,
somewhat resembling basalt. I must add further, that I by no means
determine the rock with which we find it associated to be in reality an
altered sandstone. Such is the appearance which it presents where
weathered; but its general aspect is that of a porphyritic trap. Be it
what it may, the fact is not at all affected, that the shores, wherever
it occurs on this tract of insular coast, are strewed with reptilian
remains of the Oölite.

The day passed pleasantly in the work of exploration and discovery; the
sun had already declined far in the west; and, bearing with us our
better fossils, we set out, on our return, by the opposite route to that
along the Bay of Laig, which we had now thrice walked over. The grassy
talus so often mentioned continues to run on the eastern side of the
island for about six miles, between the sea and the inaccessible rampart
of precipice behind. It varies in breadth from about two to four hundred
yards; the rampart rises over it from three to five hundred feet; and a
noble expanse of sea, closed in the distance by a still nobler curtain
of blue hills, spreads away from its base: and it was along this grassy
talus that our homeward road lay. Let the Edinburgh reader imagine the
fine walk under Salisbury Crags lengthened some twenty times,--the line
of precipices above heightened some five or six times,--the gravelly
slope at the base not much increased in altitude, but developed
transversely into a green undulating belt of hilly pasture, with here
and there a sunny slope level enough for the plough, and here and there
a rough wilderness of detached crags and broken banks; let him further
imagine the sea sweeping around the base of this talus, with the nearest
opposite land--bold, bare and undulating atop--some six or eight miles
distant; and he will have no very inadequate idea of the peculiar and
striking scenery through which, this evening, our homeward route lay. I
have scarce ever walked over a more solitary tract. The sea shuts it in
on the one hand, and the rampart of rocks on the other; there occurs
along its entire length no other human dwelling than a lonely summer
shieling; for full one-half the way we saw no trace of man; and the
wildness of the few cattle which we occasionally startled in the
hollows showed us that man was no very frequent visitor among them.
About half an hour before sunset we reached the midway shieling.

Rarely have I seen a more interesting spot, or one that, from its utter
loneliness, so impressed the imagination. The shieling, a rude
low-roofed erection of turf and stone, with a door in the centre some
five feet in height or so, but with no window, rose on the grassy slope
immediately in front of the vast continuous rampart. A slim pillar of
smoke ascends from the roof, in the calm, faint and blue within the
shadow of the precipice, but it caught the sunlight in its ascent, and
blushed, ere it melted into the ether, a ruddy brown. A streamlet came
pouring from above in a long white thread, that maintained its
continuity unbroken for at least two-thirds of the way; and then,
untwisting into a shower of detached drops, that pattered loud and
vehemently in a rocky recess, it again gathered itself up into a lively
little stream, and, sweeping past the shieling, expanded in front into a
circular pond, at which a few milch cows were leisurely slaking their
thirst. The whole grassy talus, with a strip mayhap a hundred yards
wide, of deep green sea, lay within the shadow of the tall rampart; but
the red light fell, for many a mile beyond, on the glassy surface; and
the distant Cuchullin Hills, so dark at other times, had all their
prominent slopes and jutting precipices tipped with bronze; while here
and there a mist streak, converted into bright flame, stretched along
their peaks or rested on their sides. Save the lonely shieling, not a
human dwelling was in sight. An island girl of eighteen, more than
merely good-looking, though much embrowned by the sun, had come to the
door to see who the unwonted visitors might be, and recognized in John
Stewart an old acquaintance. John informed her in her own language that
I was Mr. Swanson's sworn friend, and not a _Moderate_, but one of their
own people, and that I had fasted all day, and had come for a drink of
milk. The name of her minister proved a strongly recommendatory one: I
have not yet seen the true Celtic interjection of welcome,--the kindly
"O o o,"--attempted on paper; but I had a very agreeable specimen of it
on this occasion, _viva voce_. And as she set herself to prepare for us
a rich bowl of mingled milk and cream, John and I entered the shieling.
There was a turf fire at the one end, at which there sat two little
girls, engaged in keeping up the blaze under a large pot, but sadly
diverted from their work by our entrance; while the other end was
occupied by a bed of dry straw, spread on the floor from wall to wall,
and fenced off at the foot by a line of stones. The middle space was
occupied by the utensils and produce of the dairy,--flat wooden vessels
of milk, a butter-churn, and a tub half-filled with curd; while a few
cheeses, soft from the press, lay on a shelf above. The little girls
were but occasional visitors, who had come, out of a juvenile frolic, to
pass the night in the place; but I was informed by John that the
shieling had two other inmates, young women, like the one so hospitably
engaged in our behalf, who were out at the milking, and that they lived
here all alone for several months every year, when the pasturage was at
its best, employed in making butter and cheese for their master, worthy
Mr. M'Donald of Keill. They must often feel lonely when night has closed
darkly over mountain and sea, or in those dreary days of mist and rain
so common in the Hebrides, when nought may be seen save the few
shapeless crags that stud the nearer hillocks around them, and nought
heard save the moaning of the wind in the precipices above, or the
measured dash of the wave on the wild beach below. And yet they would do
ill to exchange their solitary life and rude shieling for the village
dwellings and gregarious habits of the females who ply their rural
labors in bands among the rich fields of the Lowlands, or for the
unwholesome backroom and weary task-work of the city seamstress. The
sunlight was fading from the higher hill-tops of Skye and Glenelg as we
bade farewell to the lonely shieling and the hospitable island girl.

The evening deepened as we hurried southwards along the scarce visible
pathway, or paused for a few seconds to examine some shattered block,
bulky as a Highland cottage, that had fallen from the precipice above.
Now that the whole landscape lay equally in shadow, one of the more
picturesque peculiarities of the continuous rampart came out more
strongly as a feature of the scene than when a strip of shade rested
along the face of the rock, imparting to it a retiring character, and
all was sunshine beyond. A thick bed of white sandstone, as continuous
as the rampart itself, runs nearly horizontally about midway in the
precipice for mile after mile, and, standing out in strong contrast with
the dark-colored trap above and below, reminds one of a belt of white
hewn work in a basalt house front, or rather,--for there occurs above a
second continuous strip, of an olive hue, the color assumed, on
weathering by a bed of amygdaloid,--of a piece of dingy old-fashioned
furniture, inlaid with one stringed belt of bleached holly, and another
of faded green-wood. At some of the more accessible points I climbed to
the line of white belting, and found it to consist of the same soft
quartzy sandstone that in the Bay of Laig furnishes the musical sand.
Lower down there occur, alternating with the trap, beds of shale and of
blue clay, but they are lost mostly in the talus. Ill adapted to resist
the frosts and rains of winter, their exposed edges have mouldered into
a loose soil, now thickly covered over with herbage; and, but for the
circumstance that we occasionally find them laid bare by a water-course,
we would scarce be aware of their existence at all. The shale exhibits
everywhere, as on the opposite side of the _Ru-Stoir_, faint
impressions of a minute shell resembling a Cyclas, and ill-preserved
fragments of fish-scales. The blue clay I found at one spot where the
pathway had cut deep into the hill-side, richly charged with bivalves of
the species I had seen so abundant in the resembling clay of the Bay of
Laig; but the closing twilight prevented me from ascertaining whether it
also contained the characteristic univalves of the deposit, and whether
its shells,--for they seem identical with those of the altered shales of
the _Ru-Stoir_,--might not be associated, like these, with reptilian
remains. Night fell fast, and the streaks of mist that had mottled the
hills at sunset began to spread gray over the heavens in a continuous
curtain; but there was light enough left to show me that the trap became
more columnar as we neared our journey's end. One especial jutting in
the rock presented in the gloom the appearance of an ancient portico,
with pediment and cornice, such as the traveller sees on the hill-sides
of Petræa in front of some old tomb; but it may possibly appear less
architectural by day. At length, passing from under the long line of
rampart, just as the stars that had begun to twinkle over it were
disappearing, one after one, in the thickening vapor, we reached the
little bay of Kildonan, and found the boat waiting us on the beach. My
friend the minister, as I entered the cabin, gathered up his notes from
the table, and gave orders for the tea-kettle; and I spread out before
him--a happy man--an array of fossils new to Scotch Geology. No one not
an enthusiastic geologist or a zealous Roman Catholic can really know
how vast an amount of interest may attach to a few old bones. Has the
reader ever heard how fossil relics once saved the dwelling of a monk,
in a time of great general calamity, when all his other relics proved of
no avail whatever?

Thomas Campbell, when asked for a toast in a society of authors, gave
the memory of Napoleon Bonaparte; significantly adding, "he once hung a
bookseller." On a nearly similar principle I would be disposed to
propose among geologists a grateful bumper in honor of the revolutionary
army that besieged Maestricht. That city, some seventy-five or eighty
years ago, had its zealous naturalist in the person of M. Hoffmann, a
diligent excavator in the quarries of St. Peter's mountain, long
celebrated for its extraordinary fossils. Geology, as a science, had no
existence at the time; but Hoffmann was doing, in a quiet way, all he
could to give it a beginning;--he was transferring from the rock to his
cabinet, shells, and corals, and crustacea, and the teeth and scales of
fishes, with now and then the vertebræ, and now and then the limb-bone,
of a reptile. And as he honestly remunerated all the workmen he
employed, and did no manner of harm to any one, no one heeded him. On
one eventful morning, however, his friends the quarriers laid bare a
most extraordinary fossil,--the occipital plates of an enormous saurian,
with jaws four and a half feet long, bristling over with teeth, like
_chevaux de frise_; and after Hoffmann, who got the block in which it
lay embedded, cut out entire, and transferred to his house, had spent
week after week in painfully relieving it from the mass, all Maestricht
began to speak of it as something really wonderful. There is a cathedral
on St. Peter's mountain,--the mountain itself is church-land; and the
lazy canon, awakened by the general talk, laid claim to poor Hoffmann's
wonderful fossil as _his_ property. He was lord of the manor, he said,
and the mountain and all that it contained belonged to him. Hoffmann
defended his fossil as he best could in an expensive lawsuit; but the
judges found the law clean against him; the huge reptile head was
declared to be "treasure trove" escheat to the lord of the manor; and
Hoffmann, half broken-hearted, with but his labor and the lawyer's bills
for his pains, saw it transferred by rude hands from its place in his
museum, to the residence of the grasping churchman. The huge fossil head
experienced the fate of Dr. Chalmer's two hundred churches. Hoffmann was
a philosopher, however, and he continued to observe and collect as
before; but he never found such another fossil; and at length, in the
midst of his ingenious labors, the vital energies failed within him, and
he broke down and died. The useless canon lived on. The French
Revolution broke out; the republican army invested Maestricht; the
batteries were opened; and shot and shell fell thick on the devoted
city. But in one especial quarter there alighted neither shot nor shell.
All was safe around the canon's house. Ordinary relics would have
availed him nothing in the circumstances,--no, not "the three kings of
Cologne," had he possessed the three kings entire, or the jaw-bones of
the "eleven thousand virgins;" but there was virtue in the jaw-bones of
the Mosasaurus, and safety in their neighborhood. The French _savans_,
like all the other _savans_ of Europe, had heard of Hoffmann's fossil,
and the French artillery had been directed to play wide of the place
where it lay. Maestricht surrendered; the fossil was found secreted in a
vault, and sent away to the _Jardin des Plantes_ at Paris, maugre the
canon, to delight there the heart of Cuvier; and the French, generously
addressing themselves to the heirs of Hoffmann as its legitimate owners,
made over to them a considerable sum of money as its price. They
reversed the finding of the Maestricht judges; and all save the monks of
St. Peter's have acquiesced in the justice of the decision.


     Something for Non-geologists--Man Destructive--A Better and Last
     Creation coming--A Rainy Sabbath--The Meeting House--The
     Congregation--The Sermon in Gaelic--The Old Wondrous Story--The
     Drunken Minister of Eigg--Presbyterianism without Life--Dr.
     Johnson's Account of the Conversion of the People of Rum--Romanism
     at Eigg--The Two Boys--The Freebooter of Eigg--Voyage Resumed--The
     Homeless Minister--Harbor of Isle Ornsay--Interesting Gneiss
     Deposit--A Norwegian Keep--Gneiss at Knock--Curious
     Chemistry--Sea-cliffs beyond Portsea--The Goblin Luidag--Scenery of

I reckon among my readers a class of non-geologists, who think my
geological chapters would be less dull if I left out the geology; and
another class of semi-geologists, who say there was decidedly too much
geology in my last. With the present chapter, as there threatens to be
an utter lack of science in the earlier half of it, and very little, if
any, in the latter half, I trust both classes may be in some degree
satisfied. It will bear reference to but the existing system of
things,--assuredly not the last of the consecutive creations,--and to a
species of animal that, save in the celebrated Guadaloupe specimens, has
not yet been found locked up in stone. There have been much of violence
and suffering in the old immature stages of being,--much, from the era
of the Holoptychius, with its sharp murderous teeth and strong armor of
bone, down to that of the cannibal Ichthyosaurus, that bears the broken
remains of its own kind in its bowels,--much, again, from the times of
the crocodile of the Oölite, down to the times of the fossil hyena and
gigantic shark of the Tertiary. Nor, I fear, have matters greatly
improved in that latest-born creation in the series, that recognizes as
its delegated lord the first tenant of earth accountable to his Maker.
But there is a better and a last creation coming, in which man shall
re-appear, not to oppress and devour his fellow-men, and in which there
shall be no such wrongs perpetrated as it is my present purpose to
record,--"new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."
Well sung the Ayrshire ploughman, when musing on the great truth that
the present scene of being "is surely not the last,"--a truth
corroborated since his day by the analogies of a new science,--

 "The poor, oppressed, honest man,
   Had never sure been born,
 Had not there been some recompense
   To comfort those that mourn."

It was Sabbath, but the morning rose like a hypochondriac wrapped up in
his night-clothes,--gray in fog, and sad with rain. The higher grounds
of the island lay hid in clouds, far below the level of the central
hollow; and our whole prospect from the deck was limited to the nearer
slopes, dank, brown, and uninhabited, and to the rough black crags that
frown like sentinels over the beach. Now the rime thickened as the rain
pattered more loudly on the deck; and even the nearer stacks and
precipices showed as unsolid and spectral in the cloud as moonlight
shadows thrown on a ground of vapor; anon it cleared up for a few
hundred yards, as the shower lightened; and then there came in view,
partially at least, two objects that spoke of man,--a deserted boat
harbor, formed of loosely piled stone, at the upper extremity of a sandy
bay; and a roofless dwelling beside it, with two ruinous gables rising
over the broken walls. The entire scene suggested the idea of a land
with which man had done for ever;--the vapor-enveloped rocks,--the waste
of ebb-uncovered sand,--the deserted harbor,--the ruinous house,--the
melancholy rain-fretted tides eddying along the strip of brown tangle in
the foreground,--and, dim over all, the thick, slant lines of the
beating shower!--I know not that of themselves they would have furnished
materials enough for a finished picture in the style of Hogarth's "End
of all Things;" but right sure am I that in the hands of Bewick they
would have been grouped into a tasteful and poetic vignette. We set out
for church a little after eleven,--the minister encased in his
ample-skirted storm-jacket of oiled canvas, and protected atop by a
genuine _sou-wester_, of which the broad posterior rim eloped half a
yard down his back; and I closely wrapped up in my gray maud, which
proved, however, a rather indifferent protection against the penetrating
powers of a true Hebridean drizzle. The building in which the
congregation meets is a low dingy cottage of turf and stone, situated
nearly opposite to the manse windows. It had been built by my friend,
previous to the Disruption, at his own expense, for a Gaelic school, and
it now serves as a place of worship for the people.

We found the congregation already gathered, and that the very bad
morning had failed to lessen their numbers. There were a few of the male
parishioners keeping watch at the door, looking wistfully out through
the fog and rain for their minister; and at his approach nearly twenty
more came issuing from the place,--like carder bees from their nest of
dried grass and moss,--to gather round him, and shake him by the hand.
The islanders of Eigg are an active, middle-sized race, with
well-developed heads, acute intellects, and singularly warm feelings.
And on this occasion at least there could be no possibility of mistake
respecting the feelings with which they regarded their minister. Rarely
have I seen human countenances so eloquently vocal with veneration and
love. The gospel message, which my friend had been the first effectually
to bring home to their hearts,--the palpable fact of his sacrifice for
the sake of the high principles which he has taught,--his own kindly
disposition,--the many services which he has rendered them, for not only
has he been the minister, but also the sole medical man, of the Small
Isles, and the benefit of his practice they have enjoyed, in every
instance, without fee or reward,--his new life of hardship and danger,
maintained for their sakes amid sinking health and great
privation,--their frequent fears for his safety when stormy nights close
over the sea,--and they have seen his little vessel driven from her
anchorage, just as the evening has fallen,--all these are circumstances
that have concurred in giving him a strong hold on their affections.

The rude turf-building we found full from end to end, and all a-steam
with a particularly wet congregation, some of whom, neither very robust
nor young, had travelled in the soaking drizzle from the farther
extremities of the island. And, judging from the serious attention with
which they listened to the discourse, they must have deemed it full
value for all it cost them. I have never yet seen a congregation more
deeply impressed, or that seemed to follow the preacher more
intelligently; and I was quite sure, though ignorant of the language in
which my friend addressed them, that he preached to them neither heresy
nor nonsense. There was as little of the reverence of externals in the
place as can well be imagined: an uneven earthen floor,--turf-walls on
every side, and a turf-roof above,--two little windows of four panes
a-piece, adown which the rain-drops were coursing thick and fast,--a
pulpit grotesquely rude, that had never employed the bred
carpenter,--and a few ranges of seats of undressed deal, such were the
mere materialisms of this lowly church of the people; and yet here,
notwithstanding, was the living soul of a Christian
community,--understandings convinced of the truth of the gospel, and
hearts softened and impressed by its power.

My friend, at the conclusion of his discourse, gave a brief digest of
its contents in English, for the benefit of his one Saxon auditor; and I
found, as I had anticipated, that what had so moved the simple islanders
was just the old wondrous story, which, though repeated and re-repeated
times beyond number, from the days of the apostles till now, continues
to be as full of novelty and interest as ever,--"God so loved the world,
that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him
should not perish, but have everlasting life." The great truths which
had affected many of these poor people to tears, were exactly those
which, during the last eighteen hundred years, have been active in
effecting so many moral revolutions in the world, and which must
ultimately triumph over all error and all oppression. On this occasion,
as on many others, I had to regret my want of Gaelic. It was my
misfortune to miss being born to this ancient language, by barely a mile
of ferry. I first saw light on the southern shore of the Frith of
Cromarty, where the strait is narrowest, among an old established
Lowland community, marked by all the characteristics, physical and
mental, of the Lowlanders of the southern districts; whereas, had I been
born on the northern shore, I would have been brought up among a Celtic
tribe, and Gaelic would have been my earliest language. Thus distinct
was the line between the two races preserved, even after the
commencement of the present century.

In returning to the Betsey during the mid-day interval in the service,
we passed the ruinous two-gabled house beside the boat-harbor. During
the incumbency of my friend's predecessor, it had been the public-house
of the island, and the parish minister was by far its best customer. He
was in the practice of sitting in one of its dingy little rooms, day
after day, imbibing whisky and peat-reek; and his favorite boon
companion on these occasions was a Roman Catholic tenant who lived on
the opposite side of the island, and who, when drinking with the
minister, used regularly to fasten his horse beside the door, till at
length all the parish came to know that when the horse was standing
outside the minister was drinking within. In course of time, through the
natural gravitation operative in such cases, the poor incumbent became
utterly scandalous, and was libelled for drunkenness before the General
Assembly; but, as the island of Eigg lies remote from observation,
evidence was difficult to procure; and had not the infatuated man got
senselessly drunk one evening, when in Edinburgh on his trial, and
staggered, of all places in the world, into the General Assembly, he
would probably have died minister of Eigg. As the event happened,
however, the testimony thus unwittingly furnished in the face of the
Court that tried him was deemed conclusive;--he was summarily deposed
from his office, and my friend succeeded him. Presbyterianism without
the animating life is a poor shrunken thing: it never lies in state when
it is dead; for it has no body of fine forms, or trapping of imposing
ceremonies, to give it bulk or adornment: without the vitality of
evangelism it is nothing; and in this low and abject state my friend
found the Presbyterianism of Eigg. His predecessor had done it only
mischief; nor had it been by any means vigorous before. Rum is one of
the four islands of the parish; and all my readers must be familiar with
Dr. Johnson's celebrated account of the conversion to Protestantism of
the people of Rum. "The inhabitants," says the Doctor, in his "Journey
to the Western Islands," "are fifty-eight families, who continued
Papists for some time after the laird became a Protestant. Their
adherence to their old religion was strengthened by the countenance of
the laird's sister, a zealous Romanist; till one Sunday, as they were
going to mass under the conduct of their patroness, Maclean met them on
the way, gave one of them a blow on the head with a yellow stick,--I
suppose a cane, for which the Erse had no name, and drove them to the
kirk, from which they have never departed. Since the use of this method
of conversion, the inhabitants of Eigg and Canna who continue Papists
call the Protestantism of Rum the religion of the yellow stick." Now,
such was the kind of Protestantism that, since the days of Dr. Johnson,
had also been introduced, I know not by what means, into Eigg. It had
lived on the best possible terms with the Popery of the island; the
parish minister had soaked day after day in the public-house with a
Roman Catholic boon companion; and when a Papist man married a
Protestant woman, the woman, as a matter of course, became Papist also;
whereas, when it was the man who was a Protestant, and the woman a
Papist, the woman remained what she had been. Roman Catholicism was
quite content with terms, actual though not implied, of a kind so
decidedly advantageous; and the Roman Catholics used good-humoredly to
urge on their neighbors the Protestants, that, as it was palpable they
had no religion of any kind, they had better surely come over to them,
and have some. In short, all was harmony between the two Churches. My
friend labored hard, as a good and honest man ought, to impart to
Protestantism in his parish the animating life of the Reformation; and,
through the blessing of God, after years of anxious toil, he at length
fully succeeded.

I had got wet, and the day continued bad; and so, instead of returning
to the evening sermon, which began at six, I remained alone aboard of
the vessel. The rain ceased in little more than an hour after, and in
somewhat more than two hours I got up on deck to see whether the
congregation was not dispersing, and if it was not yet time to hang on
the kettle for our evening tea. The unexpected apparition of some one
aboard the Free Church yacht startled two ragged boys who were
manoeuvring a little boat a stone-cast away, under the rocky shores of
_Eilean Chaisteil_, and who, on catching a glimpse of me, flung
themselves below the thwarts for concealment. An oar dropped into the
water; there was a hasty arm and half a head thrust over the gunwale to
secure it; and then the urchin to whom they belonged again disappeared.
Meanwhile the boat drifted slowly away: first one little head would
appear for a moment over the gunwale, then another, as if reconnoitering
the enemy; but I still kept my place on deck; and at length, tired out,
the ragged little crew took to their oars, and rowed into a shallow bay
at the lower extremity of the glebe, with a cottage, in size and
appearance much resembling an ant-hill, peeping out at its inner
extremity among some stunted bushes. I had marked the place before, and
had been struck with the peculiarity of the choice that could have fixed
on it as a site for a dwelling: it is at once the most inconvenient and
picturesque on this side the island. A semi-circular line of columnar
precipices, that somewhat resembles an amphitheatre turned outside
in,--for the columns that overlook the area are quite as lofty as those
which should form the amphitheatre's outer wall,--sweeps round a little
bay, flat and sandy at half-tide, but bordered higher up by a dingy,
scarce passable beach of columnar fragments that have toppled from
above. Between the beach and the line of columns there is a bosky talus,
more thickly covered with brushwood than is at all common in the
Hebrides, and scarce more passable than the rough beach at its feet. And
at the bottom of this talus, with its one gable buried in the steep
ascent,--for there is scarce a foot-breadth of platform between the
slope and the beach,--and with the other gable projected to the
tide-line on rugged columnar masses, stands the cottage. The story of
the inmate,--the father of the two ragged boys,--is such a one as Crabbe
would have delighted to tell, and as he could have told better than any
one else.

He had been, after a sort, a freebooter in his time, but born an age or
two rather late; and the law had proved over strong for him. On at least
one occasion, perhaps oftener,--for his adventures are not all known in
Eigg,--he had been in prison for sheep-stealing. He had the dangerous
art of subsisting without the ostensible means, and came to be feared
and avoided by his neighbors as a man who lived on them without asking
their leave. With neither character nor a settled way of living, his
wits, I am afraid, must have been often whetted by his necessities: he
stole lest he should starve. For some time he had resided in the
adjacent island of Muck; but, proving a bad tenant, he had been ejected
by the agent of the landlord, I believe a very worthy man, who gave him
half a boll of meal to get quietly rid of him, and pulled down his
house, when he had left the island, to prevent his return. Betaking
himself, with his boys, to a boat, he set out in quest of some new
lodgment. He made his first attempt or two on the mainland, where he
strove to drive a trade in begging, but he was always recognized as the
convicted sheep-stealer, and driven back to the shore. At length, after
a miserable term of wandering, he landed in the winter season on Eigg,
where he had a grown-up son, a miller; and, erecting a wretched shed
with some spars and the old sail of a boat placed slantways against the
side of a rock, he squatted on the beach, determined, whether he lived
or died, to find a home on the island. The islanders were no strangers
to the character of the poor forlorn creature, and kept aloof from
him,--none of them, however, so much as his own son; and, for a time, my
friend the minister, aware that he had been the pest of every community
among which he had lived, stood aloof from him too, in the hope that at
length, wearied out, he might seek for himself a lodgment elsewhere.
There came on, however, a dreary night of sleet and rain, accompanied by
a fierce storm from the sea; and intelligence reached the manse late in
the evening, that the wretched sheep-stealer had been seized by sudden
illness, and was dying on the beach. There could be no room for further
hesitation in this case; and my friend the minister gave instant orders
that the poor creature should be carried to the manse. The party,
however, which he had sent to remove him found the task impracticable.
The night was pitch dark; and the road, dangerous with precipices, and
blocked up with rough masses of rock and stone, they found wholly
impassable with so helpless a burden. And so, administering some
cordials to the poor, hapless wretch, they had to leave him in the midst
of the storm, with the old wet sail flapping about his ears, and the
half-frozen rain pouring in upon him in torrents. He must have passed a
miserable night, but it could not have been a whit more miserable than
that passed by the minister in the manse. As the wild blast howled
around his comfortable dwelling, and shook the casements as if some hand
outside were assaying to open them, or as the rain pattered sharp and
thick on the panes, and the measured roar of the surf rose high over
every other sound, he could think of only the wretched creature exposed
to the fury of a tempest so terrible, as perchance wrestling in his
death agony in the darkness beside the breaking wave, or as already
stiffening on the shore. He was early astir next morning, and almost the
first person he met was the poor sheep-stealer, looking more like a
ghost than a living man. The miserable creature had mustered strength
enough to crawl up from the beach. My friend has often met better men
with less pleasure. He found a shelter for the poor outcast; he tended
him, prescribed for him, and, on his recovery, gave him leave to build
for himself the hovel at the foot of the crags. The islanders were aware
they had got but an indifferent neighbor through the transaction, though
none of them, with the exception of the poor creature's son, saw what
else their minister could have done in the circumstances. But the miller
could sustain no apology for the arrangement that had given him his
vagabond father as a neighbor; and oftener than once the site of the
rising hovel became a scene of noisy contention between parent and son.
Some of the islanders informed me that they had seen the son engaged in
pulling down the stones of the walls as fast as the father raised them
up; and, save for the interference of the minister, the hut,
notwithstanding the permission he gave, would scarce have been built.

On the morning of Monday we unloosed from our moorings, and set out with
a light variable breeze for Isle Ornsay, in Skye, where the wife and
family of Mr. Swanson resided, and from which he had now been absent for
a full month. The island diminished, and assumed its tint of diluting
blue, that waxed paler and paler hour after hour, as we left it slowly
behind us; and the Scuir, projected boldly from its steep hill-top,
resembled a sharp hatchet-edge presented to the sky. "Nowhere," said my
friend, "did I so thoroughly realize the Disruption of last year as at
this spot. I had just taken my last leave of the manse; Mrs. Swanson had
staid a day behind me in charge of a few remaining pieces of furniture,
and I was bearing some of the rest, and my little boy Bill, scarce five
years of age at the time, in the yacht with me to Skye. The little
fellow had not much liked to part from his mother, and the previous
unsettling of all sorts of things in the manse had bred in him thoughts
he had not quite words to express. The further change to the yacht, too,
he had deemed far from an agreeable one. But he had borne up, by way of
being very manly; and he seemed rather amused that papa should now have
to make his porridge for him, and to put him to bed, and that it was
John Stewart, the sailor, who was to be the servant girl. The passage,
however, was tedious and disagreeable; the wind blew a-head, and heart
and spirits failing poor Bill, and somewhat sea-sick to boot, he lay
down on the floor, and cried bitterly to be taken home. 'Alas, my boy!'
I said, 'you have no home now: your father is like the poor
sheep-stealer whom you saw on the shore of Eigg.' This view of matters
proved in no way consolatory to poor Bill. He continued his sad wail,
'Home, home, home!' until at length he fairly sobbed himself asleep; and
I never, on any other occasion, so felt the desolateness of my condition
as when the cry of my boy,--'Home, home, home!'--was ringing in my

We passed, on the one hand, Loch Nevis and Loch Hourn, two fine arms of
the sea that run far into the mainland, and open up noble vistas among
the mountains; and, on the other, the long undulating line of Sleat in
Skye, with its intermingled patches of woodland and arable on the coast,
and its mottled ranges of heath and rock above. Towards evening we
entered the harbor of Isle Ornsay, a quiet, well-sheltered bay, with a
rocky islet for a breakwater on the one side, and the rudiments of a
Highland village, containing a few good houses, on the other. Half a
dozen small vessels were riding at anchor, curtained round, half-mast
high, with herring nets; and a fleet of herring-boats lay moored beside
them a little nearer the shore. There had been tolerable takes for a few
nights in the neighboring sea, but the fish had again disappeared, and
the fishermen, whose worn-out tackle gave such evidence of a
long-continued run of ill-luck, as I had learned to interpret on the
east coast, looked gloomy and spiritless, and reported a deficient
fishery. I found Mrs. Swanson and her family located in one of the two
best houses in the village, with a neat enclosure in front, and a good
kitchen-garden behind. The following day I spent in exploring the rocks
of the district,--a primary region with regard to organic existence,
"without _form_ and void." From Isle Ornsay to the Point of Sleat, a
distance of thirteen miles, gneiss is the prevailing deposit; and in no
place in the district are the strata more varied and interesting than in
the neighborhood of Knockhouse, the residence of Mr. Elder, which I
found pleasingly situated at the bottom of a little open bay, skirted
with picturesque knolls partially wooded, that present to the surf
precipitous fronts of rock. One insulated eminence, a gun-shot from the
dwelling-house, that presents to the sea two mural fronts of precipice,
and sinks in steep grassy slopes on two sides more, bears atop a fine
old ruin. There is a blind-fronted massy keep, wrapped up in a mantle of
ivy, perched at the one end, where the precipice sinks steepest; while a
more ruinous though much more modern pile of building, perforated by a
double row of windows, occupies the rest of the area. The square keep
has lost its genealogy in the mists of the past, but a vague tradition
attributes its erection to the Norwegians. The more modern pile is said
to have been built about three centuries ago by a younger son of
M'Donald of the Isles; but it is added that, owing to the jealousy of
his elder brother, he was not permitted to complete or inhabit it. I
find it characteristic of most Highland traditions, that they contain
speeches: they constitute true oral specimens of that earliest and
rudest style of historic composition in which dialogue alternates with
narrative. "My wise brother is building a fine house," is the speech
preserved in this tradition as that of the elder son: "it is rather a
pity for himself that he should be building it on another man's lands."
The remark was repeated to the builder, says the story, and at once
arrested the progress of the work. Mr. Elder's boys showed me several
minute pieces of brass, somewhat resembling rust-eaten coin, that they
had dug out of the walls of the old keep; but the pieces bore no impress
of the dye, and seemed mere fragments of metal beaten thin by the

The gneiss at Knock is exceedingly various in its composition, and many
of its strata the geologist would fail to recognize as gneiss at all. We
find along the precipices its two unequivocal varieties, the schistose
and the granitic, passing not unfrequently, the former into a true mica
schist, the latter into a pale feldspathose rock, thickly pervaded by
needle-like crystals of tremolite, that, from the style of the grouping,
and the contrast existing between the dark green of the enclosed
mineral, and the pale flesh-color of the ground, frequently furnishes
specimens of great beauty. In some pieces the tremolite assumes the
common fan-like form; in some, the crystals, lying at nearly right
angles with each other, present the appearance of ancient characters
inlaid in the rock; in some they resemble the footprints of birds in a
thin layer of snow; and in one curious specimen picked up by Mr.
Swanson, in which a dark linear strip is covered transversely by
crystals that project thickly from both its sides, the appearance
presented is that of a minute stigmaria of the Coal Measures, with the
leaves, still bearing their original green color, bristling thick around
it. Mr. Elder showed me, intercalated among the gneiss strata of a
little ravine in the neighborhood of Isle Ornsay, a thin band of a
bluish-colored indurated clay, scarcely distinguishable, in the hand
specimen, from a weathered clay-stone, but unequivocally a stratum of
the rock. I have found the same stone existing, in a decomposed state,
as a very tenacious clay, among the gneiss strata of the hill of
Cromarty; and oftener than once had I amused myself in fashioning it,
with tolerable success, into such rude pieces of pottery as are
sometimes found in old sepulchral tumuli. Such are a few of the rocks
included in the general gneiss deposit of Sleat. If we are to hold, with
one of the most distinguished of living geologists, that the stratified
primary rocks are aqueous deposits altered by heat, to how various a
chemistry must they not have been subjected in this district! In one
stratum, so softened that all its particles were disengaged to enter
into new combinations, and yet not so softened but that it still
maintained its lines of division from the strata above and below, the
green tremolite was shooting its crystals into the pale homogeneous
mass; while in another stratum the quartz drew its atoms apart in masses
that assumed one especial form, the feldspar drew its atoms apart into
masses that assumed another and different form, and the glittering mica
built up its multitudinous layers between. Here the unctuous chlorite
constructed its soft felt; there the micaceous schist arranged its
undulating layers; yonder the dull clay hardened amid the intense heat,
but, when all else was changing, retained its structure unchanged.
Surely a curious chemistry, and conducted on an enormous scale!

It had been an essential part of my plan to explore the splendid section
of the Lower Oölite furnished by the line of sea-cliffs that, to the
north of the Portree, rise full seven hundred feet over the beach; and
on the morning of Wednesday I set out with this intention from Isle
Ornsay, to join the mail gig at Broadford, and pass on to Portree,--a
journey of rather more than thirty miles. I soon passed over the gneiss,
and entered on a wide deposit, extending from side to side of the
island, of what is generally laid down in our geological maps as Old Red
Sandstone, but which, in most of its beds, quite as much resembles a
quartz rock, and which, unlike any Old Red proper I have ever seen,
passes, by insensible gradations, into the gneiss.[2] Wherever it has
been laid bare in flat tables among the heath, we find it bearing those
mysterious scratches on a polished surface which we so commonly find
associated on the mainland with the boulder clay; but here, as in the
Hebrides generally, the boulder clay is wanting. To the tract of Red
Sandstone there succeeds a tract of Lias, which, also extending across
the island, forms by far the most largely-developed deposit of this
formation in Scotland. It occupies a flat dingy valley, about six miles
in length, and that varies from two to four miles in breadth. The dreary
interior is covered with mosses, and studded with inky pools, in which
the botanist finds a few rare plants, and which were dimpled, as I
passed them this morning, with countless eddies, formed by myriads of
small quick glancing trout, that seemed busily engaged in fly-catching.
The rock appears but rarely,--all is moss, marsh, and pool; but in a few
localities on the hill-sides, where some stream has cut into the slope,
and disintegrated the softer shales, the shepherd finds shells of
strange form strewed along the water-courses, or bleaching white among
the heath. The valley,--evidently a dangerous one to the night
traveller, from its bogs and its tarns,--is said to be haunted by a
spirit peculiar to itself,--a mischievous, eccentric, grotesque
creature, not unworthy, from the monstrosity of its form, of being
associated with the old monsters of the Lias. Luidag--for so the goblin
is called--has but one leg, terminating, like an ancient satyr's, in a
cloven foot; but it is furnished with two arms, bearing hard fists at
the end of them, with which it has been known to strike the benighted
traveller in the face, or to tumble him over into some dark pool. The
spectre may be seen at the close of evening hopping vigorously among the
distant bogs, like a felt ball on its electric platform; and when the
mist lies thick in the hollows, an occasional glimpse may be caught of
it even by day. But when I passed the way there was no fog: the light,
though softened by a thin film of cloud, fell equally over the heath,
revealing hill and hollow; and I was unlucky enough not to see this
goblin of the Liasic valley.

A deep indentation of the coast, which forms the bay of Broadford,
corresponds with the hollow of the valley. It is simply a portion of the
valley itself occupied by the sea; and we find the Lias, from its lower
to its upper beds, exposed in unbroken series along the beach. In the
middle of the opening lies the green level island of Pabba, altogether
composed of this formation, and which, differing, in consequence, both
in outline and color, from every neighboring island and hill, seems a
little bit of flat fertile England, laid down, as if for contrast's
sake, amid the wild rough Hebrides. Of Pabba and its wonders, however,
more anon. I explored a considerable range of shore along the bay; but
as I made it the subject of two after explorations ere I mastered its
deposits, I shall defer my description till a subsequent chapter. It was
late this evening ere the post-gig arrived from the south, and the night
and several hours of the following morning were spent in travelling to
Portree. I know not, however, that I could have seen some of the wildest
and most desolate tracts in Skye to greater advantage. There was light
enough to show the bold outlines of the hills,--lofty, abrupt,
pyramidal,--just such hills, both in form and grouping, as a profile in
black showed best; a low blue vapor slept in the calm over the marshes
at their feet; the sea, smooth as glass, reflected the dusk twilight
gleam in the north, revealing the narrow sounds and deep
mountain-girdled lochs along which we passed; gray crags gleamed dimly
on the sight; birch-feathered acclivities presented against sea and sky
their rough bristly edges; all was vast, dreamy, obscure, like one of
Martin's darker pictures: the land of the seer and the spectre could not
have been better seen. Morning broke dim and gray, while we were yet
several miles from Portree; and I reached the inn in time to see from my
bed-room windows the first rays of the rising sun gleaming on the


     Exploration resumed--Geology of Rasay--An Illustration--Storr of
     Skye--From Portree to Holm--Discovery of Fossils--An Island
     Rain--Sir R. Murchison--Labor of drawing a Geological Line--Three
     Edinburgh Gentlemen--_Prosopolepsia_--Wrong surmises corrected--The
     Mail Gig--The Portree Postmaster--Isle Ornsay--An Old
     Acquaintance--Reminiscences--A Run for Rum--"Semi-fossil
     Madeira"--Idling on Deck--Prognostics of a Storm--Description of
     the Gale--Loch Scresort--The Minister's lost _Sou-wester_--The Free
     Church Gathering--The weary Minister.

I breakfasted in the travellers' room with three gentlemen from
Edinburgh; and then, accompanied by a boy, whom I had engaged to carry
my bag, set out to explore. The morning was ominously hot and
breathless; and while the sea lay moveless in the calm, as a floor of
polished marble, mountain and rock, and distant island, seemed tremulous
all over, through a wavy medium of thick rising vapor. I judged from the
first that my course of exploration for the day was destined to
terminate abruptly; and as my arrangements with Mr. Swanson left me, for
this part of the country, no second day to calculate upon, I hurried
over deposits which in other circumstances I would have examined more
carefully,--content with a glance. Accustomed in most instances to take
long aims, as Cuddy Headrig did, when he steadied his musket on a rest
behind the hedge, and sent his ball through Laird Oliphant's forehead, I
had on this occasion to shoot flying; and so, selecting a large object
for a mark, that I might run the less risk of missing, I strove to
acquaint myself rather with the general structure of the district than
with the organisms of its various fossiliferous beds.

The long narrow island of Rasay lies parallel to the coast of Skye,
like a vessel laid along a wharf, but drawn out from it as if to suffer
another vessel of the same size to take her berth between; and on the
eastern shores of both Skye and Rasay we find the same Oölitic deposits
tilted up at nearly the same angle. The section presented on the eastern
coast of the one is nearly a duplicate of the section presented on the
eastern coast of the other. During one of the severer frosts of last
winter I passed along a shallow pond, studded along the sides with
boulder stones. It had been frozen over; and then, from the evaporation
so common in protracted frosts, the water had shrunk, and the sheet of
ice which had sunk down over the central portion of the pond exhibited
what a geologist would term very considerable marks of disturbance among
the boulders at the edges. Over one sharp-backed boulder there lay a
sheet tilted up like the lid of a chest half-raised; and over another
boulder immediately behind it there lay another uptilted sheet, like the
lid of a second half-open chest; and in both sheets, the edges, lying in
nearly parallel lines, presented a range of miniature cliffs to the
shore. Now, in the two uptilted ice-sheets of this pond I recognized a
model of the fundamental Oölitic deposits Rasay and Skye. The mainland
of Scotland had its representative in the crisp snow-covered shore of
the pond, with its belt of faded sedges; the place of Rasay was
indicated by the inner, that of Skye by the outer boulder; while the
ice-sheets, with their shoreward-turned line of cliffs, represented the
Oölitic beds, that turn to the mainland their dizzy range of precipices,
varying from six to eight hundred feet in height, and then, sloping
outwards and downwards, disappear under mountain wildernesses of
overlying trap. And it was along a portion of the range of cliff that
forms the outermost of the two uptilted lines, and which presents in
this district of Skye a frontage of nearly twenty continuous miles to
the long Sound of Rasay, that my to-day's course of exploration lay.
From the top of the cliff the surface slopes downwards for about two
miles into the interior, like the half-raised chest-lid of my
illustration sloping towards the hinges, or the uptilted ice-table of
the boulder sloping towards the centre of the pond; and the depression
behind forms a flat moory valley, full fifteen miles in length, occupied
by a chain of dark bogs and treeless lochans. A long line of trap-hills
rises over it, in one of which, considerably in advance of the others, I
recognized the Storr of Skye, famous among lovers of the picturesque for
its strange group of mingled pinnacles and towers; while directly
crossing into the valley from the Sound, and then running southwards for
about two miles along its bottom, is the noble sea-arm, Loch Portree, in
which, as indicated by the name (the King's Port) a Scottish king of the
olden time, in his voyage round his dominions, cast anchor. The opening
of the loch is singularly majestic;--the cliffs tower high on either
side in graceful magnificence: but from the peculiar inward slope of the
land, all within, as the loch reaches the line of the valley, becomes
tame and low, and a black dreary moor stretches from the flat terminal
basin into the interior. The opening of Loch Portree is a palace
gateway, erected in front of some homely suburb, that occupies the place
which the palace itself should have occupied.

There was, however, no such mixture of the homely and the magnificent in
the route I had selected to explore. It lay under the escarpment of the
cliff; and I purposed pursuing it from Portree to Holm, a distance of
about six miles, and then returning by the flat interior valley. On the
one hand rose a sloping rampart, full seven hundred feet in height,
striped longitudinally with alternating bands of white sandstone and
dark shale, and capped atop by a continuous coping of trap, that lacked
not massy tower, and overhanging turret, and projecting sentry-box;
while, on the other hand, spreading outwards in the calm from the line
of dark trap-rocks below, like a mirror from its carved frame of black
oak, lay the Sound of Rasay, with its noble background of island and
main rising bold on the east, and its long mountain vista opening to the
south. The first fossiliferous deposit which gave me occasion this
morning to use my hammer occurs near the opening of the loch, beside an
old Celtic burying-ground, in the form of a thick bed of hard sandstone,
charged with Belemnites,--a bed that must at one time have existed as a
widely-spread accumulation of sand,--the bottom, mayhap, of some
extensive bay of the Oölite, resembling the Loch Portree of the present
day, in which eddy tides deposited the sand swept along by the tidal
currents of some neighboring sound, and which swarmed as thickly with
Cephalopoda as the loch swarmed this day with minute purple-tinged
Medusæ. I found detached on the shore, immediately below this bed, a
piece of calcareous fissile sandstone, abounding in small sulcated
Terebratulæ, identical, apparently, with the Terebratula of a specimen
in my collection from the inferior Oölite of Yorkshire. A colony of this
delicate Brachiopod must have once lain moored near this spot, like a
fleet of long-prowed galleys at anchor, each one with its cable of many
strands extended earthwards from the single _dead-eye_ in its umbone.
For a full mile after rounding the northern boundary of the loch, we
find the immense escarpment composed from top to bottom exclusively of
trap; but then the Oölite again begins to appear, and about two miles
further on the section becomes truly magnificent,--one of the finest
sections of this formation exhibited anywhere in Britain, perhaps in the
world. In a ravine furrowed in the face of the declivity by the headlong
descent of a small stream, we may trace all the beds of the system in
succession, from the Cornbrash, an upper deposit of the Lower Oölite,
down to the Lias, the formation on which the Oölite rests. The only
modifying circumstance to the geologist is, that though the sandstone
beds run continuously along the cliff for miles together, distinct as
the white bands in a piece of onyx, the intervening beds of shale are
swarded over, save where we here and there see them laid bare in some
abrupter acclivity or deeper water-course. In the shale we find numerous
minute Ammonites, sorely weathered; in the sandstone, Belemnites, some
of them of great size; and dark carbonaceous markings, passing not
unfrequently into a glossy cubical coal. At the foot of the cliff I
picked up an ammonite of considerable size and well-marked
character,--the _Ammonites Murchisonæ_, first discovered on this coast
by Sir R. Murchison about fifteen years ago. It measures, when full
grown, from six to seven inches in diameter; the inner whorls, which are
broadly visible, are ribbed; whereas the two, and sometimes the three
outer ones, are smooth,--a marked characteristic of the species. My
specimen merely enabled me to examine the peculiarities of the shell
just a little more minutely than I could have done in the pages of
Sowerby; for such was its state of decay, that it fell to pieces in my
hands. I had now come full in view of the rocky island of Holm, when the
altered appearance of the heavens led me to deliberate, just as I was
warming in the work of exploration, whether, after all, it might not be
well to scale the cliffs, and strike directly on the inn. It was nearly
three o'clock; the sky had been gradually darkening since noon, as if
one thin covering of gauze after another had been drawn over it; hill
and island had first dimmed and then disappeared in the landscape; and
now the sun stood up right over the fast-contracting vista of the Sound,
round and lightless as the moon in a haze; and the downward
cataract-like streaming of the gray vapor on the horizon showed that
there the rain had already broken, and was descending in torrents. We
had been thirsty in the hot sun, and had found the springs few and
scanty; but the boy now assured me, in very broken English, that we were
to get a great deal more water than would be good for us, and that it
might be advisable to get out of its way. And so, climbing to the top of
the cliffs, along a water-course, we reached the ridge, just as the fog
came rolling downwards from the peaked brow of the Storr into the flat
moory valley, and the melancholy lochans roughened and darkened in the
rain. We were both particularly wet ere we reached Portree.

In exploring our Scotch formations, I have had frequent occasion, in
Ross, Sutherland, Caithness, and now once more in Skye, to pass over
ground described by Sir R. Murchison; and in every instance have I found
myself immensely his debtor. His descriptions possess the merit of being
true: they are simple outlines often, that leave much to be filled up by
after discovery; but, like those outlines of the skilful geographer that
fix the place of some island or strait, though they may not entirely
define it, they always indicate the exact position in the scale of the
formations to which they refer. They leave a good deal to be done in the
way of mapping out the interior of a deposit, if I may so speak; but
they leave nothing to be done in the way of ascertaining its place. The
work accomplished is _bona fide_ work,--actual, solid, not to be done
over again,--work such as could be achieved in only the school of Dr.
William Smith, the father of English Geology. I have found much to
admire, too, in the sections of Sir R. Murchison. His section of this
part of the coast, for example, strikes from the extreme northern part
of Skye to the island of Holm, thence to Scrapidale in Rasay, thence
along part of the coast of Scalpa, thence direct through the middle of
Pabba, and thence to the shore of the Bay of Laig. The line thus taken
includes, in regular sequence in the descending order, the whole Oölitic
deposits of the Hebrides, from the Cornbrash, with its overlying
fresh-water outliers of mayhap the Weald, down to where the Lower Lias
rests on the primary red sandstones of Sleat. It would have cost
M'Culloch less exploration to have written a volume than it must have
cost Sir R. Murchison to draw this single line; but the line once drawn,
is work done to the hands of all after explorers. I have followed
repeatedly in the track of another geologist, of, however, a very
different school, who explored, at a comparatively recent period, the
deposits of not a few of our Scotch counties. But his labors, in at
least the fossiliferous formations, seem to have accomplished nothing
for Geology,--I am afraid, even less than nothing. So far as they had
influence at all, it must have been to throw back the science. A
geologist who could have asserted only three years ago ("Geognostical
Account of Banffshire," 1842), that the Old Red Sandstone of Scotland
forms merely "a part of the great coal deposit," could have known
marvellously little of the fossils of the one system, and nothing
whatever of those of the other. Had he examined ere he decided, instead
of deciding without any intention of examining, he would have found
that, while both systems abound in organic remains, they do not possess,
in Scotland at least, a single species in common, and that even their
types of being, viewed in the group, are essentially distinct.

The three Edinburgh gentlemen whom I had met at breakfast were still in
the inn. One of them I had seen before, as one of the guests at a
Wesleyan soiree, though I saw he failed to remember that I had been
there as a guest too. The two other gentlemen were altogether strangers
to me. One of them,--a man on the right side of forty, and a superb
specimen of the powerful, six-feet two-inch Norman Celt,--I set down as
a scion of some old Highland family, who, as the broadsword had gone
out, carried on the internal wars of the country with the formidable
artillery of Statute and Decision. The other, a gentleman more advanced
in life, I predicated to be a Highland proprietor, the uncle of the
younger of the two,--a man whose name, as he had an air of business
about him, occurred, in all probability, in the Almanac, in the list of
Scotch advocates. Both were of course high Tories,--I was quite sure of
that,--zealous in behalf of the Establishment, though previous to the
Disruption they had not cared for it a pin's point,--and prepared to
justify the virtual suppression of the toleration laws in the case of
the Free Church. I was thus decidedly guilty of what old Dr. More calls
a _prosopolepsia_,--_i.e._ of the crime of judging men by their looks.
At dinner, however, we gradually ate ourselves into conversation: we
differed, and disputed, and agreed, and then differed, disputed and
agreed again. I found first, that my chance companions were really not
very high Tories; and then, that they were not Tories at all; and then,
that the younger of the two was very much a Whig, and the more advanced
in life,--strange as the fact might seem,--very considerably a
_Presbyterian_ Whig; and finally, that this latter gentleman, whom I had
set down as an intolerant Highland proprietor, was a respected writer to
the signet, a Free Church elder in Edinburgh; and that the other, his
equally intolerant nephew, was an Edinburgh advocate, of vigorous
talent, much an enemy of all oppression, and a brother contributor of my
own to one of the Quarterlies. Of all my surmisings regarding the
stranger gentlemen, only two points held true,--they were both
gentlemen of the law, and both had Celtic blood in their veins. The
evening passed pleasantly; and I can now recommend from experience, to
the hapless traveller who gets thoroughly wet thirty miles from a change
of dress, that some of the best things he can resort to in the
circumstances are, a warm room, a warm glass, and agreeable companions.

On the morrow I behooved to return to Isle Ornsay, to set out on the
following day, with my friend the minister, for Rum, where he purposed
preaching on the Sabbath. To have lost a day would have been to lose the
opportunity of exploring the island, perhaps forever; and, to make all
sure, I had taken a seat in the mail gig, from the postman who drives
it, ere going to bed, on the morning of my arrival; and now, when it
drove up, I went to take my place in it. The postmaster of the village,
a lean, hungry-looking man, interfered to prevent me. I had secured my
seat, I said, two days previous. Ah, but I had not secured it from him.
"I know nothing of you," I replied; "but I secured it from one who
deemed himself authorized to receive the fare; was he so?" "Yes." "Could
you have received it?" "No." "Show me a copy of your regulations." "I
have no copy of regulations; but I have given the place in the gig to
another." "Just so; and what say you, postman?" "That you took the place
from me, and that _he_ has no right to give a place to any one: I carry
the Portree letters to him, but he has nothing to do with the
passengers." A person present, the proprietor or stabler of the horse, I
believe, also interfered on the same side; but what Carlyle terms the
"gigmanity" of the postmaster was all at stake,--his whole influence in
the mail-gig of Portree; and so he argued, and threatened withal, and,
what was the more serious part of the business, the person he had given
the seat to had taken possession of the gig; and so we had to compound
the matter by carrying a passenger additional. The incident is scarce
worth relating; but the postmaster was so vehement and terrible, so
defiant of us all,--post, stabler, and simple passenger,--and so justly
impressed with the importance of being postmaster of Portree, that, as I
am in the way of describing rare specimens at any rate, I must refer to
him among the rest, as if he had been one of the minor carnivoræ of a
Skye deposit,--a cuttlefish, that preyed on the weaker molluscs, or a
hungry polypus, terrible among the animalculæ.

We drove heavily, and had to dismount and walk afoot over every steeper
acclivity; but I carried my hammer, and only grieved that in some one or
two localities the road should have been so level. I regretted it in
especial on the southern and eastern side of Loch Sligachan, where I
could see from my seat, as we drove past, the dark blue rocks in the
water-courses on each side the road, studded over with that
characteristic shell of the Lias, the _Gryphæa incurva_, and that the
dry-stone fences in the moor above exhibit fossils that might figure in
a museum. But we rattled by. At Broadford, twenty-five miles from
Portree, and nine miles from Isle Ornsay, I partook of a hospitable meal
in the house of an acquaintance; and in little more than two hours after
was with my friend the minister at Isle Ornsay. The night wore
pleasantly by. Mrs. Swanson, a niece of the late Dr. Smith of
Campbelton, so well known for his Celtic researches and his exquisite
translations of ancient Celtic poetry, I found deeply versed in the
legendary lore of the Highlands. The minister showed me a fine specimen
of Pterichthys which I had disinterred for him, out of my first
discovered fossiliferous deposit of the Old Red Sandstone, exactly
thirteen years before, and full seven years ere I had introduced the
creature to the notice of Agassiz. And the minister's daughter, a
little chubby girl of three summers, taking part in the general
entertainment, strove to make her Gaelic sound as like English as she
could, in my especial behalf. I remembered, as I listened to the
unintelligible prattle of the little thing, unprovided with a word of
English, that just eighteen years before, her father had had no Gaelic;
and wondered what he would have thought, could he have been told, when
he first sat down to study it, the story of his island charge in Eigg,
and his Free Church yacht the Betsey. Nineteen years before, we had been
engaged in beating over the Eathie Lias together, collecting Belemnites,
Ammonites, and fossil wood, and striving in friendly emulation the one
to surpass the other in the variety and excellence of our specimens. Our
leisure hours were snatched, at the time, from college studies by the
one, from the mallet by the other: there were few of them that we did
not spend together, and that we were not mutually the better for so
spending. I at least, owe much to these hours,--among other things,
views of theologic truth, that determined the side I have taken in our
ecclesiastical controversy. Our courses at an after period lay diverse;
the young minister had greatly more important business to pursue than
any which the geologic field furnishes; and so our amicable rivalry
ceased early. In the words in which an English poet addresses his
brother,--the clergyman who sat for the picture in the "Deserted
Village,"--my friend "entered on a sacred office, where the harvest is
great and the laborers are few, and left to me a field in which the
laborers are many, and the harvest scarce worth carrying away."

Next day at noon we weighed anchor, and stood out for Rum, a run of
about twenty-five miles. A kind friend had, we found, sent aboard in our
behalf two pieces of rare antiquity,--rare anywhere, but especially
rare in the lockers of the Betsey,--in the agreeable form of two bottles
of semi-fossil Madeira,--Madeira that had actually existed in the grape
exactly half a century before, at the time when Robespierre was
startling Paris from its propriety, by mutilating at the neck the busts
of other people, and multiplying casts and medals of his own; and we
found it, explored in moderation, no bad study for geologists,
especially in coarse weather, when they had got wet and somewhat
fatigued. It was like Landlord Boniface's ale, mild as milk, had
exchanged its distinctive flavor as Madeira for a better one, and filled
the cabin with fragrance every time the cork was drawn. Old observant
Homer must have smelt some such liquor somewhere, or he could never have
described so well the still more ancient and venerable wine with which
wily Ulysses beguiled one-eyed Polypheme:--

                       "Unmingled wine,
 Mellifluous, undecaying, and divine,
 Which now, some ages from his race concealed,
 The hoary sire in gratitude revealed....
 Scarce twenty measures from the living stream
 To cool one cup sufficed: the goblet crowned,
 Breathed aromatic fragrances around."

Winds were light and variable. As we reached the middle of the sound
opposite Armadale, there fell a dead calm; and the Betsey, more actively
idle than the ship manned by the Ancient Mariner, dropped sternwards
along the tide, to the dull music of the flapping sail. The minister
spent the day in the cabin, engaged with his discourse for the morrow;
and I, that he might suffer as little from interruption as possible,
_mis_-spent it upon the deck. I tried fishing with the yacht's set of
lines, but there were no fish to bite,--got into the boat, but there
were no neighboring islands to visit,--and sent half a dozen
pistol-bullets after a shoal of porpoises, which, coming from the Free
Church yacht, must have astonished the fat sleek fellows pretty
considerably, but did them, I am afraid, no serious damage. As the
evening began to close gloomy and gray, a tumbling swell came heaving in
right ahead from the west; and a bank of cloud, which had been gradually
rising higher and darker over the horizon in the same direction, first
changed its abrupt edge atop for a diffused and broken line, and then
spread itself over the central heavens. The calm was evidently not to be
a calm long; and the minister issued orders that the gaff-topsail should
be taken down, and the storm-jib bent; and that we should lower our
topmast, and have all tight and ready for a smart gale ahead. At half
past ten, however, the Betsey was still pitching to the swell, with not
a breath of wind to act on the diminished canvas, and with the solitary
circumstance in her favor, that the tide ran no longer against her, as
before. The cabin was full of all manner of creakings; the close lamp
swung to and fro over the head of my friend; and a refractory
Concordance, after having twice travelled from him along the entire
length of the table, flung itself pettishly upon the floor. I got into
my snug bed about eleven; and at twelve, the minister, after poring
sufficiently over his notes, and drawing the final score, turned into
his. In a brief hour after, on came the gale, in a style worthy of its
previous hours of preparation; and my friend,--his Saturday's work in
his ministerial capacity well over when he had completed his two
discourses,--had to begin the Sabbath morning early as the morning
itself began, by taking his stand at the helm, in his capacity of
skipper of the Betsey. With the prospect of the services of the Sabbath
before him, and after working all Saturday to boot, it was rather hard
to set him down to a midnight spell at the helm, but he could not be
wanted at such a time, as we had no other such helmsman aboard. The
gale, thickened with rain, came down, shrieking like a maniac, from off
the peaked hills of Rum, striking away the tops of the long ridgy
billows that had risen in the calm to indicate its approach, and then
carrying them in sheets of spray aslant the furrowed surface, like
snow-drift hurried across a frozen field. But the Betsey, with her
storm-jib set, and her mainsail reefed to the cross, kept her weather
bow bravely to the blast, and gained on it with every tack. She had been
the pleasure yacht, in her day, of a man of fortune, who had used, in
running south with her at times as far as Lisbon, to encounter, on not
worse terms than the stateliest of her neighbors in the voyage, the
swell of the Bay of Biscay; and she still kept true to her old
character, with but this drawback, that she had now got somewhat crazy
in her fastenings, and made rather more water in a heavy sea than her
one little pump could conveniently keep under. As the fitful gust struck
her headlong, as if it had been some invisible missile hurled at us from
off the hill-tops, she stooped her head lower and lower, like old
stately Hardyknute under the blow of the "King of Norse," till at length
the lee chain-plate rustled sharp through the foam; but, like a staunch
Free Churchwoman, the lowlier she bent, the more steadfastly did she
hold her head to the storm. The strength of the opposition served but to
speed her on all the more surely to the desired haven. At five o'clock
in the morning we cast anchor in Loch Scresort,--the only harbor of Rum
in which a vessel can moor,--within two hundred yards of the shore,
having, with the exception of the minister, gained no loss in the gale.
He, luckless man, had parted from his excellent _sou-wester_; a sudden
gust had seized it by the flap, and hurried it away far to the lee. He
had yielded it to the winds, as he had done the temporalities, but much
more unwillingly, and less as a free agent. Should any conscientious
mariner pick up any where in the Atlantic a serviceable ochre-colored
_sou-wester_, not at all the worse for the wear, I give him to wit that
he holds Free Church property, and that he is heartily welcome to hold
it, leaving it to himself to consider whether a benefaction to its full
value, deducting salvage, is not owing, in honor, to the Sustenation

It was ten o'clock ere the more fatigued aboard could muster resolution
enough to quit their beds a second time; and then it behooved the
minister to prepare for his Sabbath labors ashore. The gale still blew
in fierce gusts from the hills, and the rain pattered like small shot on
the deck. Loch Scresort, by no means one of our finer island lochs,
viewed under any circumstances, looked particularly dismal this morning.
It forms the opening of a dreary moorland valley, bounded on one of its
sides, to the mouth of the loch, by a homely ridge of Old Red Sandstone,
and on the other by a line of dark augitic hills, that attain, at the
distance of about a mile from the sea, an elevation of two thousand
feet. Along the slopes of the sandstone ridge I could discern, through
the haze, numerous green patches, that had once supported a dense
population, long since "cleared off" to the backwoods of America, but
not one inhabited dwelling; while along a black moory acclivity under
the hills on the other side I could see several groups of turf cottages,
with here and there a minute speck of raw-looking corn beside them,
that, judging from its color, seemed to have but a slight chance of
ripening. The hill-tops were lost in cloud and storm; and ever and anon,
as a heavier shower came sweeping down on the wind, the intervening
hollows closed up their gloomy vistas, and all was fog and rime to the
water's edge. Bad as the morning was, however, we could see the people
wending their way, in threes and fours, through the dark moor, to the
place of worship,--a black turf hovel, like the meeting-house in Eigg.
The appearance of the Betsey in the loch had been the gathering signal;
and the Free Church islanders,--three-fourths of the entire
population--had all come out to meet their minister.

On going ashore, we found the place nearly filled. My friend preached
two long energetic discourses, and then returned to the yacht, "a worn
and weary man." The studies of the previous day, and the fatigues of the
previous night, added to his pulpit duties, had so fairly prostrated his
strength, that the sternest teetotaller in the kingdom would scarce have
forbidden him a glass of our fifty-year-old Madeira. But even the
fifty-year-old Madeira proved no specific in the case. He was suffering
under excruciating headache, and had to stretch himself in his bed, with
eyes shut but sleepless, waiting till the fit should pass,--every pulse
that beat in his temples a throb of pain.


     Geology of Rum--Its curious Character illustrated--Rum famous for
     Bloodstones--Red Sandstones--"Scratchings" in the Rocks--A
     Geological Inscription without a Key--The Lizard--Vitality broken
     into two--Illustrations--Speculation--Scuir More--Ascent of the
     Scuir--The Bloodstones--An Illustrative Set of the Gem--M'Culloch's
     Pebble--A Chemical Problem--The solitary Shepherd's House--Sheep
     _versus_ Men--The Depopulation of Rum--A Haul of Trout--Rum Mode of
     catching Trout--At Anchor in the Bay of Glenelg.

The geology of the island of Rum is simple, but curious. Let the reader
take, if he can, from twelve to fifteen trap-hills, varying from one
thousand to two thousand three hundred feet in height; let him pack them
closely and squarely together, like rum-bottles in a case-basket; let
him surround them with a frame of Old Red Sandstone, measuring rather
more than seven miles on the side, in the way the basket surrounds the
bottles; then let him set them down in the sea a dozen miles off the
land,--and he shall have produced a second island of Rum, similar in
structure to the existing one. In the actual island, however, there is a
defect in the inclosing basket of sandstone: the basket, complete on
three of its sides, wants the fourth: and the side opposite to the gap
which the fourth should have occupied is thicker than the two other
sides put together. Where I now write there is an old dark-colored
picture on the wall before me. I take off one of the four bars of which
the frame is composed,--the end-bar,--and stick it on to the end-bar
opposite, and then the picture is fully framed on two of its sides, and
doubly framed on a third, but the fourth side lacks framing altogether.
And such is the geology of the island of Rum. We find the one loch of
the island,--that in which the Betsey lies at anchor,--and the long
withdrawing valley, of which the loch is merely a prolongation,
occurring in the double sandstone bar: it seems to mark--to return to my
illustration--the line in which the superadded piece of frame has been
stuck on to the frame proper. The origin of the island is illustrated by
its structure: it has left its story legibly written, and we have but to
run our eye over the characters and read. An extended sea-bottom,
composed of Old Red Sandstone, already tilted up by previous
convulsions, so that the strata presented their edges, tier beyond tier,
like roofing slate laid aslant on a floor, became a centre of Plutonic
activity. The molten trap broke through at various times, and presenting
various appearances, but in nearly the same centre; here existing as an
augitic rock, there as a syenite, yonder as a basalt or amygdaloid. At
one place it uptilted the sandstone; at another it overflowed it; the
dark central masses raised their heads above the surface, higher and
higher with every earthquake throe from beneath; till at length the
gigantic Ben More attained to its present altitude of two thousand three
hundred feet over the sea-level, and the sandstone, borne up from
beneath like floating sea-wrack on the back of a porpoise, reached in
long outside bands its elevation of from six to eight hundred. And such
is the piece of history, composed in silent but expressive language, and
inscribed in the old geological character, on the rocks of Rum.

The wind lowered and the rain ceased during the night, and the morning
of Monday was clear, bracing, and breezy. The island of Rum is chiefly
famous among mineralogists for its heliotropes or bloodstones; and we
proposed devoting the greater part of the day to an examination of the
hill of Scuir More, in which they occur, and which lies on the opposite
side of the island, about eight miles from the mooring ground of the
Betsey. Ere setting out, however, I found time enough, by rising some
two or three hours before breakfast, to explore the Red Sandstones on
the southern side of the loch. They lie in this bar of the frame,--to
return once more to my old illustration,--as if it had been cut out of a
piece of cross-grained deal, in which the annular bands, instead of
ranging lengthwise, ran diagonally from side to side; stratum leans over
stratum, dipping towards the west at an angle of about thirty degrees;
and as in a continuous line of more than seven miles there seem no
breaks or repetitions in the strata, the thickness of the deposit must
be enormous,--not less, I should suppose, than from six to eight
thousand feet. Like the Lower Old Red Sandstones of Cromarty and Moray,
the red arenaceous strata occur in thick beds, separated from each other
by bands of a grayish-colored stratified clay, on the planes of which I
could trace with great distinctness ripple markings; but in vain did I
explore their numerous folds for the plates, scales, and fucoid
impressions which abound in the gray argillaceous beds of the shores of
the Moray and Cromarty Friths. It would, however, be rash to pronounce
them non-fossiliferous, after the hasty search of a single
morning,--unpardonably so in one who had spent very many mornings in
putting to the question the gray stratified beds of Ross and Cromarty,
ere he succeeded in extorting from them the secret of their organic

We set out about half-past ten for Scuir More, through the Red Sandstone
valley in which Loch Scresort terminates, with one of Mr. Swanson's
people, a young active lad of twenty, for our guide. In passing upwards
for nearly a mile along the stream that falls into the upper part of the
loch, and lays bare the strata, we saw no change in the character of
the sandstone. Red arenaceous beds of great thickness alternate with
grayish-colored bands, composed of a ripple-marked micaceous slate and a
stratified clay. For a depth of full three thousand feet, and I know not
how much more,--for I lacked time to trace it further,--the deposit
presents no other variety: the thick red bed of at least a hundred yards
succeeds the thin gray band of from three to six feet, and is succeeded
by a similar gray band in turn. The ripple-marks I found as sharply
relieved in some of the folds as if the wavy undulations to which they
owed their origin had passed over them within the hour. The
comparatively small size of their alternating ridges and furrows give
evidence that the waters beneath which they had formed had been of no
very profound depth. In the upper part of the valley, which is bare,
trackless, and solitary, with a high monotonous sandstone ridge bounding
it on the one side, and a line of gloomy trap-hills rising over it on
the other, the edges of the strata, where they protrude through the
mingled heath and moss, exhibit the mysterious scratchings and
polishings now so generally connected with the glacial theory of
Agassiz. The scratchings run in nearly the line of the valley, which
exhibits no trace of moraines; and they seem to have been produced
rather by the operation of those extensively developed causes, whatever
their nature, that have at once left their mark on the sides and summits
of some of our highest hills, and the rocks and boulders of some of our
most extended plains, than by the agency of forces limited to the
locality. They testify, Agassiz would perhaps say, not regarding the
existence of some local glacier that descended from the higher grounds
into the valley, but respecting the existence of the great polar
glacier. I felt, however, in this bleak and solitary hollow, with the
grooved and polished platforms at my feet, stretching away amid the
heath, like flat tombstones in a graveyard, that I had arrived at one
geologic inscription to which I still wanted the key. The vesicular
structure of the traps on the one hand, identical with that of so many
of our modern lavas,--the ripple-markings of the arenaceous beds on the
other, indistinguishable from those of the sea-banks on our coasts,--the
upturned strata and the overlying trap,--told all their several stories
of fire, or wave, or terrible convulsion, and told them simply and
clearly; but here was a story not clearly told. It summoned up doubtful,
ever-shifting visions,--now of a vast ice continent, abutting on this
far isle of the Hebrides from the Pole, and trampling heavily over
it,--now of the wild rush of a turbid, mountain-high flood breaking in
from the west, and hurling athwart the torn surface, rocks, and stones,
and clay,--now of a dreary ocean rising high along the hills, and
bearing onward with its winds and currents, huge icebergs, that now
brushed the mountain-sides, and now grated along the bottom of the
submerged valleys. The inscription on the polished surfaces, with its
careless mixture of groove and scratch, is an inscription of very
various readings.

We passed along a transverse hollow, and then began to ascend a
hill-side, from the ridge of which the water sheds to the opposite shore
of the island, and on which we catch our first glimpse of Scuir More,
standing up over the sea, like a pyramid shorn of its top. A brown
lizard, nearly five inches in length, startled by our approach, ran
hurriedly across the path; and our guide, possessed by the general
Highland belief that the creature is poisonous, and injures cattle,
struck at it with a switch, and cut it in two immediately behind the
hinder legs. The upper half, containing all that anatomists regard as
the vitals, heart, brain, and viscera, all the main nerves, and all the
larger arteries, lay stunned by the blow, as if dead; nor did it
manifest any signs of vitality so long as we remained beside it; whereas
the lower half, as if the whole life of the animal had retired into
_it_, continued dancing upon the moss for a full minute after, like a
young eel scooped out of some stream, and thrown upon the bank; and then
lay wriggling and palpitating for about half a minute more. There are
few things more inexplicable in the province of the naturalist than the
phenomenon of what may be termed divided life,--vitality broken into
two, and yet continuing to exist as vitality in both the dissevered
pieces. We see in the nobler animals mere glimpses of the
phenomenon,--mere indications of it, doubtfully apparent for at most a
few minutes. The blood drawn from the human arm by the lancet continues
to live in the cup until it has cooled and begun to coagulate; and when
head and body have parted company under the guillotine, both exhibit for
a brief space such unequivocal signs of life, that the question arose in
France during the horrors of the Revolution, whether there might not be
some glimmering of consciousness attendant at the same time on the
fearfully opening and shutting eyes and mouth of the one, and the
beating heart and jerking neck of the other. The lower we descend in the
scale of being, the more striking the instances which we receive of this
divisibility of the vital principle. I have seen the two halves of the
heart of a ray pulsating for a full quarter of an hour after they had
been separated from the body and from each other. The blood circulates
in the hind leg of a frog for many minutes after the removal of the
heart, which meanwhile keeps up an independent motion of its own.
Vitality can be so divided in the earthworm, that, as demonstrated by
the experiments of Spalanzani, each of the severed parts carries life
enough away to set it up as an independent animal; while the polypus, a
creature of still more imperfect organization, and with the vivacious
principle more equally diffused over it, may be multiplied by its pieces
nearly as readily as a gooseberry bush by its slips. It was sufficiently
curious, however, to see, in the case of this brown lizard, the least
vital half of the creature so much more vivacious, apparently, than the
half which contained the heart and brain. It is not improbable, however,
that the presence of these organs had only the effect of rendering the
upper portion which contained them more capable of being thrown into a
state of insensibility. A blow dealt one of the vertebrata on the head
at once renders it insensible. It is after this mode the fisherman kills
the salmon captured in his wear, and a single blow, when well directed,
is always sufficient; but no single blow has the same effect on the
earthworm; and here it was vitality in the inferior portion of the
reptile,--the earthworm portion of it, if I may so speak,--that refused
to participate in the state of syncope into which the vitality of the
superior portion had been thrown. The nice and delicate vitality of the
brain seems to impart to the whole system in connection with it an
aptitude for dying suddenly,--a susceptibility of instant death, which
would be wanting without it. The heart of the rabbit continues to beat
regularly long after the brain has been removed by careful excision, if
respiration be artificially kept up; but if, instead of amputating the
head, the brain be crushed in its place by a sudden blow of a hammer,
the heart ceases its motion at once. And such seemed to be the principle
illustrated here. But why the agonized dancing on the sward of the
inferior part of the reptile?--why its after painful writhing and
wriggling? The young eel scooped from the stream, whose motions it
resembled, is impressed by terror, and can feel pain; was _it_ also
impressed by terror, or susceptible of suffering? We see in the case of
both exactly the same signs,--the dancing, the writhing, the wriggling;
but are we to interpret them after the same manner? In the small
red-headed earthworm divided by Spalanzani, that in three months got
upper extremities to its lower part, and lower extremities, in as many
weeks, to its upper part, the dividing blow must have dealt duplicate
feelings,--pain and terror to the portion below, and pain and terror to
the portion above,--so far, at least, as a creature so low in the scale
was susceptible of these feelings; but are we to hold that the leaping,
wriggling tail of the reptile possessed in any degree a similar
susceptibility? _I_ can propound the riddle, but who shall resolve it?
It may be added, that this brown lizard was the only recent saurian I
chanced to see in the Hebrides, and that, though large for its kind, its
whole bulk did not nearly equal that of a single vertebral joint of the
fossil saurians of Eigg. The reptile, since his deposition from the
first place in the scale of creation, has sunk sadly in those parts: the
ex-monarch has become a low plebeian.

We came down upon the coast through a swampy valley, terminating in the
interior in a frowning wall of basalt, and bounded on the south, where
it opens to the sea, by the Scuir More. The Scuir is a precipitous
mountain, that rises from twelve to fifteen hundred feet direct over the
beach. M'Culloch describes it as inaccessible, and states that it is
only among the debris at its base that its heliotropes can be procured;
but the distinguished mineralogist must have had considerably less skill
in climbing rocks than in describing them, as, indeed, some of his
descriptions, though generally very admirable, abundantly testify. I am
inclined to infer from his book, after having passed over much of the
ground which he describes, that he must have been a man of the type so
well hit off by Burns in his portrait of Captain Grose,--round, rosy,
short-legged, quick of eye but slow of foot, quite as indifferent a
climber as Bailie Nicol Jarvie, and disposed at times, like the elderly
gentleman drawn by Crabbe, to prefer the view at the hill-foot to the
prospect from its summit. I found little difficulty in scaling the sides
of Scuir More for a thousand feet upwards,--in one part by a route
rarely attempted before,--and in ensconcing myself among the
bloodstones. They occur in the amygdaloidal trap of which the upper part
of the hill is mainly composed, in great numbers, and occasionally in
bulky masses; but it is rare to find other than small specimens that
would be recognized as of value by the lapidary. The inclosing rock must
have been as thickly vesicular in its original state as the scoria of a
glass-house; and all the vesicles, large and small, like the retorts and
receivers of a laboratory, have been vessels in which some curious
chemical process has been carried on. Many of them we find filled with a
white semi-translucent or opaque chalcedony; many more with a pure green
earth, which, where exposed to the bleaching influences of the weather,
exhibits a fine verdigris hue, but which in the fresh fracture is
generally of an olive green, or of a brownish or reddish color. I have
never yet seen a rock in which this earth was so abundant as in the
amygdaloid of Scuir More. For yards together in some places we see it
projecting from the surface in round globules, that very much resemble
green peas, and that occur as thickly in the inclosing mass as pebbles
in an Old Red Sandstone conglomerate. The heliotrope has formed among it
in centres, to which the chalcedony seems to have been drawn, as if by
molecular attraction. We find a mass, varying from the size of a walnut
to that of a man's head, occupying some larger vesicle or crevice of the
amygdaloid, and all the smaller vesicles around it, for an inch or two,
filled with what we may venture to term satellite heliotropes, some of
them as minute as grains of wild mustard, and all of them more or less
earthy, generally in proportion to their distance from the first formed
heliotrope in the middle. No one can see them in their place in the
rock, with the abundant green earth all around, and the chalcedony, in
its uncolored state, filling up so many of the larger cavities, without
acquiescing in the conclusion respecting the origin of the gem first
suggested by Werner, and afterwards adopted and illustrated by
M'Culloch. The heliotrope is merely a chalcedony, stained in the forming
with an infusion of green earth, as the colored waters in the
apothecary's window are stained by the infusions, vegetable and mineral,
from which they derive their ornamental character. The red mottlings
which so heighten the beauty of the stone occur in comparatively few of
the specimens of Scuir More. They are minute jasperous formations,
independent of the inclosing mass; and, from their resemblance to
streaks and spots of blood, suggest the name by which the heliotrope is
popularly known. I succeeded in making up, among the crags, a set of
specimens curiously illustrative of the origin of the gem. One specimen
consists of white, uncolored chalcedony; a second, of a rich
verdigris-hued green earth; a third, of chalcedony barely tinged with
green; a fourth, of chalcedony tinged just a shade more deeply; a fifth,
tinged more deeply still; a sixth, of a deep green on one side, and
scarce at all colored on the other; and a seventh, dark and richly
toned,--a true bloodstone,--thickly streaked and mottled with red
jasper. In the chemical process that rendered the Scuir More a mountain
of gems there were two deteriorating circumstances, which operated to
the disadvantage of its larger heliotropes: the green earth, as if
insufficiently stirred in the mixing, has gathered, in many of them,
into minute soft globules, like air-bubbles in glass, that render them
valueless for the purposes of the lapidary, by filling them all over
with little cavities; and in not a few of the others, an infiltration of
lime, that refused to incorporate with the chalcedonic mass, exists in
thin glassy films and veins, that, from their comparative softness, have
a nearly similar effect with the impalpable green earth in roughing the
surface under the burnisher.

We find figured by M'Culloch, in his "Western Islands," the internal
cavity of a pebble of Scuir More, which he picked up on the beach below,
and which had been formed evidently within one of the larger vesicles of
the amygdaloid. He describes it as curiously illustrative of a various
chemistry; the outer crust is composed of a pale-zoned agate, inclosing
a cavity, from the upper side of which there depends a group of
chalcedonic stalactites, some of them, as in ancient spar caves,
reaching to the floor; and bearing on its under side a large crystal of
carbonate of lime, that the longer stalactites pass through. In the
vesicle in which this hollow pebble was formed three consecutive
processes must have gone on. First, a process of infiltration coated the
interior all around with layer after layer, now of one mineral
substance, now of another, as a plasterer coats over the sides and
ceiling of a room with successive layers of lime, putty, and stucco; and
had this process gone on, the whole cell would have been filled with a
pale-zoned agate. But it ceased, and a new process began. A chalcedonic
infiltration gradually entered from above; and, instead of coating over
the walls, roof, and floor, it hardened into a group of spear-like
stalactites, that lengthened by slow degrees, till some of them had
traversed the entire cavity from top to bottom. And then this second
process ceased like the first, and a third commenced. An infiltration
of lime took place; and the minute calcareous molecules, under the
influence of the law of crystallization, built themselves up on the
floor into a large smooth-sided rhomb, resembling a closed sarcophagus
resting in the middle of some Egyptian cemetery. And then, the limestone
crystal completed, there ensued no after change. As shown by some other
specimens, however, there was a yet farther process: a pure quartzose
deposition took place, that coated not a few of the calcareous rhombs
with sprigs of rock-crystal. I found in the Scuir More several cellular
agates in which similar processes had gone on,--none of them quite so
fine, however, as the one figured by M'Culloch; but there seemed no lack
of evidence regarding the strange and multifarious chemistry that had
been carried on in the vesicular cavities of this mountain, as in the
retorts of some vast laboratory. Here was a vesicle filled with green
earth,--there a vesicle filled with calcareous spar,--yonder a vesicle
crusted round on a thin chalcedonic shell with rock-crystal,--in one
cavity an agate had been elaborated, in another a heliotrope, in a third
a milk-white chalcedony, in a fourth a jasper. On what principle, and
under what direction, have results so various taken place in vesicles of
the same rock, that in many instances occur scarce half an inch apart?
Why, for instance, should that vesicle have elaborated only green earth,
and the vesicle separated from it by a partition barely a line in
thickness, have elaborated only chalcedony? Why should this chamber
contain only a quartzose compound of oxygen and silica, and that second
chamber beside it contain only a calcareous compound of lime and
carbonic acid? What law directed infiltrations so diverse to seek out
for themselves vesicles in such close neighborhood, and to keep, in so
many instances, each to his own vesicle? I can but state the
problem,--not solve it. The groups of heliotropes clustered each around
its bulky centrical mass seem to show that the principle of molecular
attraction may be operative in very dense mediæ,--in a hard amygdaloidal
trap even; and it seems not improbable, that to this law, which draws
atom to its kindred atom, as clansmen of old used to speed at the
mustering signal to their gathering place, the various chemistry of the
vesicles may owe its variety.

I shall attempt stating the chemical problem furnished by the vesicles
here in a mechanical form. Let us suppose that every vesicle was a
chamber furnished with a door, and that beside every door there watched,
as in the draught doors of our coal-pits, some one to open and shut it,
as circumstances might require. Let us suppose further, that for a
certain time an infusion of green earth pervaded the surrounding mass,
and percolated through it, and that every door was opened to receive a
portion of the infusion. We find that no vesicle wants its coating of
this earthy mineral. The coating received, however, one-half the doors
shut, while the other half remained agap, and filled with green earth
entirely. Next followed a series of alternate infusions of chalcedony,
jasper, and quartz; many doors opened and received some two or three
coatings, that form around the vesicles skull-like shells of agate, and
then shut; a few remained open, and became as entirely occupied with
agate as many of the previous ones had become filled with green earth.
Then an ample infusion of chalcedony pervaded the mass. Numerous doors
again opened; some took in a portion of the chalcedony, and then shut;
some remained open, and became filled with it; and many more that had
been previously filled by the green earth opened their doors again, and
the chalcedony pervading the green porous mass, converted it into
heliotrope. Then an infusion of lime took place. Doors opened, many of
which had been hitherto shut, save for a short time, when the green
earth infusion obtained, and became filled with lime; other doors
opened for a brief space, and received lime enough to form a few
crystals. Last of all, there was a pure quartzose infusion, and doors
opened, some for a longer time, some for a shorter, just as on previous
occasions. Now, by mechanical means of this character,--by such an
arrangement of successive infusions, and such a device of shutting and
opening of doors,--the phenomena exhibited by the vesicles could be
produced. There is no difficulty in working the problem mechanically, if
we be allowed to assume in our data successive infusions, well-fitted
doors, and watchful door-keepers; and if any one can work it
chemically,--certainly without door-keepers, but with such doors and
such infusions as he can show to have existed,--he shall have cleared up
the mystery of the Scuir More. I have given their various cargoes to all
its many vesicles by mechanical means, at no expense of ingenuity
whatever. Are there any of my readers prepared to give it to them by
means purely chemical?

There is a solitary house in the opening of the valley, over which the
Scuir More stands sentinel,--a house so solitary, that the entire
breadth of the island intervenes between it and the nearest human
dwelling. It is inhabited by a shepherd and his wife,--the sole
representatives in the valley of a numerous population, long since
expatriated to make way for a few flocks of sheep, but whose ranges of
little fields may still be seen green amid the heath on both sides, for
nearly a mile upwards from the opening. After descending along the
precipices of the Scuir, we struck across the valley, and, on scaling
the opposite slope sat down on the summit to rest us, about a hundred
yards over the house of the shepherd. He had seen us from below, when
engaged among the bloodstones, and had seen, withal, that we were not
coming his way; and, "on hospitable thoughts intent," he climbed to
where we sat, accompanied by his wife, she bearing a vast bowl of milk,
and he a basket of bread and cheese. And we found the refreshment most
seasonable, after our long hours of toil, and with a rough journey still
before us. It is an excellent circumstance, that hospitality grows best
where it is most needed. In the thick of men it dwindles and disappears,
like fruits in the thick of a wood; but where man is planted sparsely,
it blossoms and matures, like apples on a standard or espalier. It
flourishes where the inn and the lodging-house cannot exist, and dies
out where they thrive and multiply.

We reached the cross valley in the interior of the island about half an
hour before sunset. The evening was clear, calm, golden-tinted; even
wild heaths and rude rocks had assumed a flush of transient beauty; and
the emerald-green patches on the hill-sides, barred by the plough
lengthwise, diagonally, and transverse, had borrowed an aspect of soft
and velvety richness, from the mellowed light and the broadening
shadows. All was solitary. We could see among the deserted fields the
grass-grown foundations of cottages razed to the ground; but the valley,
more desolate than that which we had left, had not even its single
inhabited dwelling: it seemed as if man had done with it forever. The
island, eighteen years before, had been divested of its inhabitants,
amounting at the time to rather more than four hundred souls, to make
way for one sheep-farmer and eight thousand sheep. All the aborigines of
Rum crossed the Atlantic; and at the close of 1828, the entire
population consisted of but the sheep-farmer, and a few shepherds, his
servants; the island of Rum reckoned up scarce a single family at this
period for every five square miles of area which it contained. But
depopulation on so extreme a scale was found inconvenient; the place had
been rendered too thoroughly a desert for the comfort of the occupant;
and on the occasion of a clearing which took place shortly after in
Skye, he accommodated some ten or twelve of the ejected families with
sites for cottages, and pasturage for a few cows, on the bit of morass
beside Loch Scresort, on which I had seen their humble dwellings. But
the whole of the once-peopled interior remains a wilderness, without
inhabitant,--all the more lonely in its aspect from the circumstance
that the solitary valleys, with their plough-furrowed patches, and their
ruined heaps of stone, open upon shores every whit as solitary as
themselves, and that the wide untrodden sea stretches drearily around.
The armies of the insect world were sporting in the light this evening
by millions; a brown stream that runs through the valley yielded an
incessant popling sound, from the myriads of fish that were ceaselessly
leaping in the pools, beguiled by the quick glancing wings of green and
gold that fluttered over them; along a distant hill-side there ran what
seemed the ruins of a gray-stone fence, erected, says tradition, in a
remote age, to facilitate the hunting of the deer; there were fields on
which the heath and moss of the surrounding moorlands were fast
encroaching, that had borne many a successive harvest; and prostrate
cottages, that had been the scenes of christenings, and bridals, and
blythe new-year's days;--all seemed to bespeak the place a fitting
habitation for man, in which not only the necessaries, but also a few of
the luxuries of life, might be procured; but in the entire prospect not
a man nor a man's dwelling could the eye command. The landscape was one
without figures. I do not much like extermination carried out so
thoroughly and on system;--it seems bad policy; and I have not succeeded
in thinking any the better of it though assured by economists that there
are more than people enough in Scotland still. There are, I believe,
more than enough in our workhouses,--more than enough on our
pauper-rolls,--more than enough huddled up, disreputable, useless, and
unhappy, in the miasmatic alleys and typhoid courts of our large towns;
but I have yet to learn how arguments for local depopulation are to be
drawn from facts such as these. A brave and hardy people, favorably
placed for the development of all that is excellent in human nature,
form the glory and strength of a country;--a people sunk into an abyss
of degradation and misery, and in which it is the whole tendency of
external circumstances to sink them yet deeper, constitute its weakness
and its shame; and I cannot quite see on what principle the ominous
increase which is taking place among us in the worse class, is to form
our solace or apology for the wholesale expatriation of the better. It
did not seem as if the depopulation of Rum had tended much to any one's
advantage. The single sheep-farmer who had occupied the holdings of so
many had been unfortunate in his speculations, and had left the island:
the proprietor, his landlord, seemed to have been as little fortunate as
the tenant, for the island itself was in the market; and a report went
current at the time, that it was on the eve of being purchased by some
wealthy Englishman, who purposed converting it into a deer-forest. How
strange a cycle! Uninhabited originally save by wild animals, it became
at an early period a home of men, who, as the gray wall on the hill-side
testified, derived, in part at least, their sustenance from the chase.
They broke in from the waste the furrowed patches on the slopes of the
valleys,--they reared herds of cattle and flocks of sheep,--their number
increased to nearly five hundred souls,--they enjoyed the average
happiness of human creatures in the present imperfect state of
being,--they contributed their portion of hardy and vigorous manhood to
the armies of the country,--and a few of their more adventurous spirits,
impatient of the narrow bounds which confined them, and a course of
life little varied by incident, emigrated to America. Then came the
change of system so general in the Highlands; and the island lost all
its original inhabitants, on a wool and mutton speculation,--inhabitants,
the descendants of men who had chased the deer on its hills five hundred
years before, and who, though they recognized some wild island lord as
their superior, and did him service, had regarded the place as indisputably
their own. And now yet another change was on the eve of ensuing, and the
island was to return to its original state, as a home of wild animals,
where a few hunters from the mainland might enjoy the chase for a month or
two every twelvemonth, but which could form no permanent place of human
abode. Once more, a strange and surely most melancholy cycle!

There was light enough left, as we reached the upper part of Loch
Scresort, to show us a shoal of small silver-coated trout, leaping by
scores at the effluence of the little stream along which we had set out
in the morning on our expedition. There was a net stretched across where
the play was thickest; and we learned that the haul of the previous tide
had amounted to several hundreds. On reaching the Betsey, we found a
pail and basket laid against the companion-head,--the basket containing
about two dozen small trout,--the minister's unsolicited teind of the
morning draught; the pail filled with razor-fish of great size. The
people of my friend are far from wealthy; there is scarce any
circulating medium in Rum; and the cottars in Eigg contrive barely
enough to earn at the harvest in the Lowlands money sufficient to clear
with their landlord at rent-day. Their contributions for ecclesiastical
purposes make no great figure, therefore, in the lists of the
Sustentation Fund. But of what they have they give willingly and in a
kindly spirit; and if baskets of small trout, or pailfuls of spout-fish,
went current in the Free Church, there would, I am certain, be a per
centage of both the fish and the mollusc, derived from the Small Isles,
in the half-yearly sustentation dividends. We found the supply of
both,--especially as provisions were beginning to run short in the
lockers of the Betsey,--quite deserving of our gratitude. The razor-fish
had been brought us by the worthy catechist of the island. He had gone
to the ebb in our special behalf, and had spent a tide in laboriously
filling the pail with these "treasures hid in the sand;" thoroughly
aware, like the old exiled puritan, who eked out his meals in a time of
scarcity with the oysters of New England, that even the razor-fish,
under this head, is included in the promises. There is a peculiarity in
the razor-fish of Rum that I have not marked in the razor-fish of our
eastern coasts. The gills of the animal, instead of bearing the general
color of its other parts, like those of the oyster, are of a deep green
color, resembling, when examined by the microscope, the fringe of a
green curtain.

We were told by John Stewart, that the expatriated inhabitants of Rum
used to catch trout by a simple device of ancient standing, which
preceded the introduction of nets into the island, and which, it is
possible, may in other localities have not only preceded the use of the
net, but may have also suggested it: it had at least the appearance of
being a first beginning of invention in this direction. The islanders
gathered large quantities of heath, and then tying it loosely into
bundles, and stripping it of its softer leafage, they laid the bundles
across the stream on a little mound held down by stones, with the tops
of the heath turned upwards to the current. The water rose against the
mound for a foot or eighteen inches, and then murmured over and through,
occasioning an expansion among the hard elastic sprays. Next a party of
the islanders came down the stream, beating the banks and pools, and
sending a still thickening shoal of trout before them, that, on
reaching the miniature dam formed by the bundles, darted forward for
shelter, as if to a hollow bank, and stuck among the slim hard branches,
as they would in the meshes of a net. The stones were then hastily
thrown off,--the bundles pitched ashore,--the better fish, to the amount
not unfrequently of several scores, secured,--and the young fry returned
to the stream, to take care of themselves, and grow bigger. We fared
richly this evening, after our hard day's labor, on tea and trout; and
as the minister had to attend a meeting of the Presbytery of Skye on the
following Wednesday, we sailed next morning for Glenelg, whence he
purposed taking the steamer for Portree. Winds were light and baffling,
and the currents, like capricious friends, neutralized at one time the
assistance which they lent us at another. It was dark night ere we had
passed Isle Ornsay, and morning broke as we cast anchor in the Bay of
Glenelg. At ten o'clock the steamer heaved-to in the bay to land a few
passengers, and the minister went on board, leaving me in charge of the
Betsey, to follow him, when the tide set in, through the Kyles of Skye.


     Kyles of Skye--A Gneiss District--Kyle Rhea--A Boiling Tide--A
     "Take" of Sillocks--The Betsey's "Paces"--In the Bay at
     Broadford--Rain--Island of Pabba--Description of the Island--Its
     Geological Structure--Astrea--Polypifers--_Gryphæa incurva_--Three
     groups of Fossils in the Lias of Skye--Abundance of the
     Petrifactions of Pabba--Scenery--Pabba a "piece of smooth, level
     England"--Fossil Shells of Pabba--Voyage resumed--Kyle Akin--Ruins
     of Castle Maoil--A "Thornback" Dinner--The Bunch of Deep Sea
     Tangle--The Caileach Stone--Kelp Furnaces--Escape of the Betsey
     from sinking.

No sailing vessel attempts threading the Kyles of Skye from the south in
the face of an adverse tide. The currents of Kyle Rhea care little for
the wind-filled sail, and battle at times, on scarce unequal terms, with
the steam-propelled paddle. The Toward Castle this morning had such a
struggle to force her way inwards, as may be seen maintained at the door
of some place of public meeting during the heat of some agitating
controversy, when seat and passage within can hold no more, and a
disappointed crowd press eagerly for admission from without. Viewed from
the anchoring place at Glenelg, the opening of the Kyle presents the
appearance of the bottom of a landlocked bay;--the hills of Skye seem
leaning against those of the mainland: and the tide-buffeted steamer
looked this morning as if boring her way into the earth, like a
disinterred mole, only at a rate vastly slower. First, however, with a
progress resembling that of the minute-hand of a clock, the bows
disappeared amid the heath, then the midships, then the quarter-deck and
stern, and then, last of all, the red tip of the sun-brightened
union-jack that streamed gaudily behind. I had at least two hours
before me ere the Betsey might attempt weighing anchor; and, that they
might leave some mark, I went and spent them ashore in the opening of
Glenelg,--a gneiss district, nearly identical in structure with the
district of Knock and Isle Ornsay. The upper part of the valley is bare
and treeless, but not such its character where it opens to the sea; the
hills are richly wooded; and cottages, and cornfields, with here and
there a reach of the lively little river, peep out from among the trees.
A group of tall roofless buildings, with a strong wall in front, form
the central point in the landscape; these are the dismantled Berera
Barracks, built, like the line of forts in the great Caledonian
Valley,--Fort George, Fort Augustus, and Fort William,--to overawe the
Highlands at a time when the loyalty of the Highlander pointed to a king
beyond the water; but all use for them has long gone by, and they now
lie in dreary ruin,--mere sheltering places for the toad and the bat. I
found in a loose silt on the banks of the river, at some little distance
below tide-mark, a bed of shells and coral, which might belong, I at
first supposed, to some secondary formation, but which I ascertained, on
examination, to be a mere recent deposit, not so old by many centuries
as our last raised sea-beaches. There occurs in various localities on
these western coasts, especially on the shores of the island of Pabba, a
sprig coral, considerably larger in size than any I have elsewhere seen
in Scotland; and it was from its great abundance in this bed of silt
that I was at first led to deem the deposit an ancient one.

We weighed anchor about noon, and entered the opening of Kyle Rhea.
Vessel after vessel, to the number of eight or ten in all, had been
arriving in the course of the morning, and dropping anchor, nearer the
opening or farther away, each according to its sailing ability, to await
the turn of the tide; and we now found ourselves one of the components
of a little fleet, with some five or six vessels sweeping up the Kyle
before us, and some three or four driving on behind. Never, except
perhaps in a Highland river big in flood, have I seen such a tide. It
danced and wheeled, and came boiling in huge masses from the bottom; and
now our bows heaved abruptly round in one direction, and now they jerked
as suddenly round in another; and, though there blew a moderate breeze
at the time, the helm failed to keep the sails steadily full. But
whether our sheets bellied out, or flapped right in the wind's eye, on
we swept in the tideway, like a cork caught during a thunder shower in
one of the rapids of the High Street. At one point the Kyle is little
more than a quarter of a mile in breadth; and here, in the powerful eddy
which ran along the shore, we saw a group of small fishing-boats
pursuing a shoal of sillocks in a style that blent all the liveliness of
the chase with the specific interest of the angle. The shoal, restless
as the tides among which it disported, now rose in the boilings of one
eddy, now beat the water into foam amid the stiller dimplings of
another. The boats hurried from spot to spot wherever the quick
glittering scales appeared. For a few seconds, rods would be cast thick
and fast, as if employed in beating the water, and captured fish glanced
bright to the sun; and then the take would cease, and the play rise
elsewhere, and oars would flash out amain, as the little fleet again
dashed into the heart of the shoal. As the Kyle widened, the force of
the current diminished, and sail and helm again became things of
positive importance. The wind blew a-head, steady though not strong; and
the Betsey, with companions in the voyage against which to measure
herself, began to show her paces. First she passed one bulky vessel,
then another: she lay closer to the wind than any of her fellows, glided
more quickly through the water, turned in her stays like Lady Betty in
a minuet; and, ere we had reached Kyle Akin, the fleet in the middle of
which we had started were toiling far behind us, all save one vessel, a
stately brig; and just as we were going to pass her too, she cast
anchor, to await the change of the tide, which runs from the west during
flood at Kyle Akin, as it runs from the east through Kyle Rhea. The wind
had freshened; and as it was now within two hours of full sea, the force
of the current had somewhat abated; and so we kept on our course,
tacking in scant room, however, and making but little way. A few vessels
attempted following us, but, after an inefficient tack or two, they fell
back on the anchoring ground, leaving the Betsey to buffet the currents
alone. Tack followed tack sharp and quick in the narrows, with an
iron-bound coast on either hand. We had frequent and delicate turning:
now we lost fifty yards, now we gained a hundred. John Stewart held the
helm; and as none of us had ever sailed the way before, I had the
vessel's chart spread out on the companion-head before me, and told him
when to wear and when to hold on his way,--at what places we might run
up almost to the rock edge, and at what places it was safest to give the
land a good offing. Hurrah for the Free Church yacht Betsey! and hurrah
once more! We cleared the Kyle, leaving a whole fleet tide-bound behind
us; and, stretching out at one long tack into the open sea, bore, at the
next, right into the bay at Broadford, where we cast anchor for the
night, within two hundred yards of the shore. Provisions were running
short; and so I had to make a late dinner this evening on some of the
razor-fish of Rum, topped by a dish of tea. But there is always rather
more appetite than food in the country;--such, at least, is the common
result under the present mode of distribution: the hunger overlaps and
outstretches the provision; and there was comfort in the reflection,
that with the razor-fish on which to fall back, it overlapped it but by
a very little on this occasion in the cabin of the Betsey. The
steam-boat passed southwards next morning, and I was joined by my friend
the minister a little before breakfast.

The day was miserably bad: the rain continued pattering on the skylight,
now lighter, now heavier, till within an hour of sunset, when it ceased,
and a light breeze began to unroll the thick fogs from off the
landscape, volume after volume, like coverings from off a
mummy,--leaving exposed in the valley of the Lias a brown and cheerless
prospect of dark bogs and of debris-covered hills, streaked this evening
with downward lines of foam. The seaward view is more pleasing. The deep
russet of the interior we find bordered for miles along the edge of the
bay with a many-shaded fringe of green; and the smooth grassy island of
Pabba lies in the midst, a polished gem, all the more advantageously
displayed from the roughness of the surrounding setting. We took boat,
and explored the Lias in our immediate neighborhood till dusk. I had
spent several hours among its deposits when on my way to Portree, and
several hours more when on my journey across the country to the east
coast; but it may be well, for the sake of maintaining some continuity
of description, to throw together my various observations on the
formation, as if made at one time, and to connect them with my
exploration of Pabba, which took place on the following morning. The
rocks of Pabba belong to the upper part of the Lias; while the lower
part may be found leaning to the south, towards the Red Sandstones of
the Bay of Lucy. Taking what seems to be the natural order, I shall
begin with the base of the formation first.

In the general indentation of the coast, in the opening of which the
island of Pabba lies somewhat like a long green steam-boat at anchor,
there is included a smaller indentation, known as the Bay or Cove of
Lucy. The central space in the cove is soft and gravelly; but on both
its sides it is flanked by low rocks, that stretch out into the sea in
long rectilinear lines, like the foundations of dry-stone fences. On the
south side the rocks are red; on the north they are of a bluish-gray
color; their hues are as distinct as those of the colored patches in a
map; and they represent geological periods that lie widely apart. The
red rocks we find laid down in most of our maps as Old Red, though I am
disposed to regard them as of a much higher antiquity than even that
ancient system; while the bluish-gray rocks are decidedly Liasic.[3] The
cove between represents a deep ditch-like hollow, which occurs in Skye,
both in the interior and on the sea-shore, in the line of boundary
betwixt the Red Sandstone and the Lias; and it "seems to have
originated," says M'Culloch, "in the decomposition of the exposed parts
of the formations at their junction." "Hence," he adds, "from the
wearing of the materials at the surface, a cavity has been produced,
which becoming subsequently filled with rubbish, and generally covered
over with a vegetable soil of unusual depth, effectually prevents a view
of the contiguous parts." The first strata exposed on the northern side
are the oldest Liasic rocks anywhere seen in Scotland. They are composed
chiefly of greenish-colored fissile sandstones and calciferous grits, in
which we meet a few fossils, very imperfectly preserved. But the
organisms increase as we go on. We see in passing, near a picturesque
little cottage,--the only one on the shores of the bay,--a crag of a
singularly rough appearance, that projects mole-like from the sward upon
the beach, and then descending abruptly to the level of the other
strata, runs out in a long ragged line into the sea. The stratum, from
two to three feet in thickness, of which it is formed, seems wholly
built up of irregularly-formed rubbly concretions, just as some of the
garden-walls in the neighborhood of Edinburgh are built of the rough
scoria of our glass-houses; and we find, on examination, that every
seeming concretion in the bed is a perfectly formed coral of the genus
Astrea. We have arrived at an entire bed of corals, all of one species.
Their surfaces, wherever they have been washed by the sea, are of great
beauty: nothing can be more irregular than the outline of each mass, and
yet scarce anything more regular than the sculpturings on every part of
it. We find them fretted over with polygons, like those of a honeycomb,
only somewhat less mathematically exact, and the centre of every polygon
contains its many-rayed star. It is difficult to distinguish between
species in some of the divisions of corals: one Astrea, recent or
extinct, is sometimes found so exceedingly like another of some very
different formation or period, that the more modern might almost be
deemed a lineal descendant of the more ancient species. With an eye to
the fact, I brought with me some characteristic specimens of this
Astrea[4] of the Lower Lias, which I have ranged side by side with the
Astreæ of the Oölite I had found so abundant a twelvemonth before in the
neighborhood of Helmsdale. In some of the hand specimens, that present
merely a piece of polygonal surface, bounded by fractured sides, the
difference is not easily distinguishable: the polygonal depressions are
generally smaller in the Oölitic species, and shallower in the Liasic
one; but not unfrequently these differences disappear, and it is only
when compared in the entire unbroken coral that their specific
peculiarities acquire the necessary prominence. The Oölitic Astrea is of
much greater size than the Liasic one: it occurs not unfrequently in
masses of from two to three feet in diameter; and as its polygons are
tubes that converge to the footstalk on which it originally formed, it
presents in the average outline a fungous-like appearance; whereas in
the smaller Liasic coral, which rarely exceeds a foot in diameter, there
is no such general convergency of the tubes; and the form in one piece,
save that there is a certain degree of flatness common to all, bears no
resemblance to the form in another. Some of the recent Astreæ are of
great beauty when inhabited by the living zoöphites whose skeleton
framework they compose. Every polygonal star in the mass is the house of
a separate animal, that, when withdrawn into its cell, presents the
appearance of a minute flower, somewhat like a daisy stuck flat to the
surface, and that, when stretched out, resembles a small round tower,
with a garland of leaves bound round it atop for a cornice. The _Astrea
viridis_, a coral of the tropics, presents on a ground of velvety brown
myriads of deep green florets, that ever and anon start up from the
level in their tower-like shape, contract and expand their petals, and
then, shrinking back into their cells, straightway became florets again.
The Lower Lias presented in one of its opening scenes, in this part of
the world, appearances of similar beauty widely spread. For miles
together,--we know not how many,--the bottom of a clear shallow sea was
paved with living Astreæ: every irregular rock-like coral formed a
separate colony of polypora, that, when in motion, presented the
appearance of continuous masses of many-colored life, and when at rest,
the places they occupied were more thickly studded with the living
florets than the richest and most flowery piece of pasture the reader
ever saw, with its violets or its daisies. And mile beyond mile this
scene of beauty stretched on through the shallow depths of the Liasic
sea. The calcareous framework of most of the recent Astreæ are white;
but in the species referred to,--the _Astrea viridis_,--it is of a
dark-brown color. It is not unworthy of remark, in connection with these
facts, that the Oölitic Astrea of Helmsdale occurs as a white, or, when
darkest, as a cream-colored petrifaction; whereas the Liasic Astrea of
Skye is invariably of a deep earthy hue. The one was probably a white,
the other a dingy-colored coral.

The Liasic bed of Astreæ existed long enough here to attain a thickness
of from two to three feet. Mass rose over mass,--the living upon the
dead,--till at length, by a deposit of mingled mud and sand,--the
effect, mayhap, of some change of currents, induced we know not
how,--the innumerable polypedes of the living surface were buried up and
killed, and then, for many yards, layer after layer of a calciferous
grit was piled over them. The fossils of the grit are few and ill
preserved; but we occasionally find in it a coral similar to the Astrea
of the bed below, and, a little higher up, in an impure limestone,
specimens, in rather indifferent keeping, of a genus of polypifer which
somewhat resembles the Turbinolia of the Mountain Limestone. It presents
in the cross section the same radiated structure as the _Turbinolia
fungites_, and nearly the same furrowed appearance in the longitudinal
one; but, seen in the larger specimens, we find that it was a branched
coral, with obtuse forky boughs, in each of which, it is probable, from
their general structure, there lived a single polype. It may have been
the resemblance which these bear, when seen in detached branches, to the
older Caryophyllia, taken in connection with the fact that the deposit
in which they occur rests on the ancient Red Sandstone of the district,
that led M'Culloch to question whether this fossiliferous formation had
not nearly as clear a claim to be regarded as an analogue of the
Carboniferous Limestone of England as of its Lias; and hence he
contented himself with terming it simply the Gryphite Limestone. Sir R.
Murchison, whose much more close and extensive acquaintance with fossils
enabled him to assign to the deposit its true place, was struck,
however, with the general resemblance of its polypifers to "those of the
Madreporite Limestone of the Carboniferous series." These polypifers
occur in only the lower Lias of Skye.[5] I found no corals in its higher
beds, though these are charged with other fossils, more characteristic
of the formation, in vast abundance. In not a few of the middle strata,
composed of a mud-colored fissile sandstone, the gryphites lie as
thickly as currants in a Christmas cake; and as they weather white,
while the stone in which they are embedded retains its dingy hue, they
somewhat remind one of the white-lead tears of the undertaker mottling a
hatchment of sable. In a fragment of the dark sandstone, six inches by
seven, which I brought with me, I reckon no fewer than twenty-two
gryphites; and it forms but an average specimen of the bed from which I
detached it. By far the most abundant species is that not inelegant
shell so characteristic of the formation, the _Gryphæa incurva_. We find
detached specimens scattered over the beach by hundreds, mixed up with
the remains of recent shells, as if the _Gryphæa incurva_ were a recent
shell too. They lie, bleached white by the weather, among the valves of
defunct oysters and dead buccinidæ; and, from their resemblance to lamps
cast in the classic model, remind one, in the corners where they have
accumulated most thickly, of the old magician's stock in trade, who
wiled away the lamp of Aladdin from Aladdin's simple wife. The _Gryphæa
obliquita_ and _Gryphæa M'Cullochii_ also occur among these middle
strata of the Lias, though much less frequently than the other. We,
besides, found in them at least two species of Pecten, with two species
of Terebratula,--the one smooth, the other sulcated; a bivalve
resembling a Donax; another bivalve, evidently a Gervillia, though
apparently of a species not yet described; and the ill-preserved rings
of large Ammonites, from ten inches to a foot in diameter. Towards the
bottom of the bay the fossils again become more rare, though they
re-appear once more in considerable abundance as we pass along its
northern side; but in order to acquaint ourselves with the upper
organisms of the formation, we have to take boat and explore the
northern shores of Pabba. The Lias of Skye has its three distinct groups
of fossils: its lower coraline group, in which the Astrea described is
most abundant; its middle group, in which the _Gryphæa incurva_ occurs
by millions; and its upper group, abounding in Ammonites, Nautili,
Pinnæ, and Serpulæ.

Friday made amends for the rains and fogs of its disagreeable
predecessor: the morning rose bright and beautiful, with just wind
enough to fill, and barely fill, the sail, hoisted high, with miser
economy, that not a breath might be lost; and, weighing anchor, and
shaking out all our canvass, we bore down on Pabba, to explore. This
island, so soft in outline and color, is formidably fenced round by
dangerous reefs; and, leaving the Betsey in charge of John Stewart and
his companion, to dodge on in the offing, I set out with the minister in
our little boat, and landed on the north-eastern side of the island,
beside a trap-dyke that served us as a pier. He would be a happy
geologist who, with a few thousands to spare, could call Pabba his own.
It contains less than a square mile of surface; and a walk of little
more than three miles and a half along the line where the waves break at
high water brings the traveller back to his starting point; and yet,
though thus limited in area, the petrifactions of its shores might of
themselves fill a museum. They rise by thousands and tens of thousands
on the exposed planes of its sea-washed strata, standing out in bold
relief, like sculpturings on ancient tombstones, at once mummies and
monuments,--the dead and the carved memorials of the dead. Every rock is
a tablet of hieroglyphics, with an ascertained alphabet; every rolled
pebble a casket with old pictorial records locked up within. Trap-dykes,
beyond comparison finer than those of the Water of Leith, which first
suggested to Hutton his theory, stand up like fences over the
sedimentary strata, or run out like moles far into the sea. The entire
island, too, so green, rich, and level, is itself a specimen
illustrative of the effect of geologic formation on scenery. We find its
nearest neighbor,--the steep, brown, barren island of Longa, which is
composed of the ancient Red Sandstone of the district,--differing as
thoroughly from it in aspect as a bit of granite differs from a bit of
clay-slate; and the whole prospect around, save the green Liasic strip
that lies along the bottom of the Bay of Broadford, exhibits, true to
its various components, Plutonic or sedimentary, a character of
picturesque roughness or bold sublimity. The only piece of smooth, level
England, contained in the entire landscape, is the fossil-mottled island
of Pabba. We were first struck, on landing this morning, by the great
number of Pinnæ embedded in the strata,--shells varying from five to ten
inches in length,--one species of the common flat type, exemplified in
the existing _Pinna sulcata_, and another nearly quadrangular, in the
cross section, like the _Pinna lanceolata_ of the Scarborough limestone.
The quadrangular species is more deeply crisped outside than the
flat one. Both species bear the longitudinal groove in the centre,
and when broken across, are found to contain numerous smaller
shells,--Terebratulæ of both the smooth and sulcated kinds, and a
species of minute smooth Pecten resembling the _Pecten demissus_, but
smaller. The Pinnæ, ere they became embedded in the original sea-bottom,
long since hardened into rock around them, were, we find, dead shells,
into which, as into the dead open shells of our existing beaches,
smaller shells were washed by the waves. Our recent Pinnæ are all
sedentary shells, some of them full two feet in length, fastened to
their places on their deep-sea floors by flowing silky byssi,--cables of
many strands,--of which beautiful pieces of dress, such as gloves and
hose, have been manufactured. An old French naturalist, the Abbe Le
Pluche, tells us that "the Pinna with its fleshy tongue" (foot),--a rude
inefficient looking implement for work so nice,--"spins such threads as
are more valuable than silk itself, and with which the most beautiful
stuffs that ever were seen have been made by Sicilian weavers." Gloves
made of the byssus of recent Pinnæ may be seen in the British Museum.
Associated with the numerous Pinnæ of Pabba we found a delicately-formed
Modiola, a small Ostrya, Plagiostoma, Terebratula, several species of
Pectens, a triangular univalve resembling a Trochus, innumerable groups
of Serpulæ, and the star-like joints of Pentacrinites. The Gryphæ are
also abundant, occurring in extensive beds; and Belemnites of various
species lie as thickly scattered over the rock as if they had been the
spindles of a whole kingdom thrown aside in consequence of some such
edict framed to put them down as that passed by the father of the
Sleeping Beauty. We find, among the detached masses of the beach,
specimens of Nautilus, which, though rarely perfect, are sufficiently so
to show the peculiarities of the shell; and numerous Ammonites project
in relief from almost every weathered plane of the strata. These last
shells, in the tract of shore which we examined, are chiefly of one
species,--the _Ammonites spinatus_,--one of which, considerably broken,
the reader may find figured in Sowerby's "Mineral Conchology," from a
specimen brought from Pabba sixteen years ago by Sir R. Murchison. It is
difficult to procure specimens tolerably complete. We find bits of outer
rings existing as limestone, with every rib sharply preserved, but the
rest of the fossil lost in the shale. I succeeded in finding but two
specimens that show the inner whorls. They are thickly ribbed; and the
chief peculiarity which they exhibit, not so directly indicated by Mr.
Sowerby's figure, is, that while the ribs of the outer whorl are broad
and deep, as in the _Ammonites obtusus_, they suddenly change their
character, and become numerous and narrow in the inner whorls, as in the
_Ammonites communis_.

The tide began to flow, and we had to quit our explorations, and return
to the Betsey. The little wind had become less, and all the canvas we
could hang out enabled us to draw but a sluggish furrow. The stern of
the Betsey "wrought no buttons" on this occasion; but she had a good
tide under her keel; and ere the dinner-hour we had passed through the
narrows of Kyle Akin. The village of this name was designed by the late
Lord M'Donald for a great seaport town; but it refused to grow; and it
has since become a gentleman in a small way, and does nothing. It forms,
however, a handsome group of houses, pleasantly situated on a flat green
tongue of land, on the Skye side, just within the opening of the Kyle;
and there rises on an eminence beyond it a fine old tower, rent open, as
if by an earthquake, from top to bottom, which forms one of the most
picturesque objects I have almost ever seen in a landscape. There are
bold hills all around, and rocky islands, with the ceaseless rush of
tides in front; while the cloven tower, rising high over the shore, is
seen, in threading the Kyles, whether from the south or north, relieved
dark against the sky, as the central object in the vista. We find it
thus described by the Messrs. Anderson of Inverness, in their excellent
"Guide Book,"--by far the best companion of the kind with which the
traveller who sets himself to explore our Scottish Highlands can be
provided. "Close to the village of Kyle Akin are the ruins of an old
square keep, called Castle Muel or Maoil, the walls of which are of a
remarkable thickness. It is said to have been built by the daughter of a
Norwegian king, married to a Mackinnon or Macdonald, for the purpose of
levying an impost on all vessels passing the Kyles, excepting, says the
tradition, those of her own country. For the more certain exaction of
this duty, she is reported to have caused a strong chain to be stretched
across from shore to shore; and the spot in the rocks to which the
terminal links were attached is still pointed out." It was high time for
us to be home. The dinner hour came; but, in meet illustration of the
profound remark of Trotty-Veck, not the dinner. We had been in a cold
Moderate district, whence there came no half-dozens of eggs, or whole
dozens of trout, or pailfuls of razor-fish, and in which hard
cabin-biscuit cost us sixpence per pound. And now our stores were
exhausted, and we had to dine as best we could, on our last half-ounce
of tea, sweetened by our last quarter of a pound of sugar. I had marked,
however, a dried thornback hanging among the rigging. It had been there
nearly three weeks before, when I came first aboard, and no one seemed
to know for how many weeks previous; for as it had come to be a sort of
fixture in the vessel, it could be looked at without being seen. But
necessity sharpens the discerning faculty, and on this pressing
occasion I was fortunate enough to see it. It was straightway taken
down, skinned, roasted, and eaten; and, though rather rich in
ammonia,--a substance better suited to form the food of the organisms
that do not unite sensation to vitality, than organisms so high in the
scale as the minister and his friend,--we came deliberately to the
opinion, that on the whole, we could scarce have dined so well on one of
Major Bellenden's jack-boots,--"so thick in the soles," according to
Jenny Dennison, "forby being tough in the upper leather." The tide
failed us opposite the opening of Loch Alsh; the wind, long dying, at
length died out into a dead calm; and we cast anchor in ten fathoms
water, to wait the ebbing current that was to carry us through Kyle

The ebb-tide set in about half an hour after sunset; and in weighing
anchor to float down the Kyle,--for we still lacked wind to sail down
it,--we brought up from below, on one of the anchor-flukes, an immense
bunch of deep-sea tangle, with huge soft fronds and long slender stems,
that had lain flat on the rocky bottom, and had here and there thrown
out roots along its length of stalk, to attach itself to the rock, in
the way the ivy attaches itself to the wall. Among the intricacies of
the true roots of the bunch, if one may speak of the true roots of an
alga, I reckoned from eighteen to twenty different forms of animal
life,--Flustræ, Sertulariæ, Serpulæ, Anomiæ, Modiolæ, Astarte, Annelida,
Crustacea, and Radiata. Among the Crustaceans I found a female crab of a
reddish-brown color, considerably smaller than the nail of my small
finger, but fully grown apparently, for the abdominal flap was loaded
with spawn; and among the Echinoderms, a brownish-yellow sea-urchin
about the size of a pistol-bullet, furnished with comparatively large
but thinly-set spines. There is a dangerous rock in the Kyle Rhea, the
Caileach stone, on which the Commissioners for the Northern Lighthouses
have stuck a bit of board about the size of a pot-lid, which, as it is
known to be there, and as no one ever sees it after sunset, is really
very effective, considering how little it must have cost the country, in
wrecking vessels. I saw one of its victims, the sloop of an honest
Methodist, in whose bottom the Caileach had knocked out a hole,
repairing at Isle Ornsay; and I was told, that if I wished to see more,
I had only just to wait a little. The honest Methodist, after looking
out in vain for the bit of board, was just stepping into the shrouds, to
try whether he could not see the rock on which the bit of board is
placed, when all at once his vessel found out both board and rock for
herself. We also had anxious looking out this evening for the bit of
board: one of us thought he saw it right a-head; and when some of the
others were trying to see it too, John Stewart succeeded in discovering
it half a pistol-shot astern. The evening was one of the loveliest. The
moon rose in cloudy majesty over the mountains of Glenelg, brightening
as it rose, till the boiling eddies around us curled on the darker
surface in pale circlets of light, and the shadow of the Betsey lay as
sharply defined on the brown patch of calm to the larboard as if it were
her portrait taken in black. Immediately at the water-edge, under a tall
dark hill, there were two smouldering fires, that now shot up a sudden
tongue of bright flame, and now dimmed into blood-red specks, and sent
thick strongly-scented trails of smoke athwart the surface of the Kyle.
We could hear, in the calm, voices from beside them, apparently those of
children; and learned that they indicated the places of two
kelp-furnaces,--things which have now become comparatively rare along
the coasts of the Hebrides. There was the low rush of tides all around,
and the distant voices from the shore, but no other sounds; and, dim in
the moonshine, we could see behind us several spectral-looking sails
threading their silent way through the narrows, like twilight ghosts
traversing some haunted corridor.

It was late ere we reached the opening of Isle Ornsay; and as it was
still a dead calm we had to tug in the Betsey to the anchoring ground
with a pair of long sweeps. The minister pointed to a low-lying rock on
the left-hand side of the opening,--a favorite haunt of the seal. "I
took farewell of the Betsey there last winter," he said. "The night had
worn late, and was pitch dark; we could see before us scarce the length
of our bowsprit; not a single light twinkled from the shore; and, in
taking the bay, we ran bump on the skerry, and stuck fast. The water
came rushing in, and covered over the cabin-floor. I had Mrs. Swanson
and my little daughter aboard with me, with one of our servant-maids who
had become attached to the family, and insisted on following us from
Eigg; and, of course, our first care was to get them ashore. We had to
land them on the bare uninhabited island yonder, and a dreary enough
place it was at midnight, in winter, with its rocks, bogs, and heath,
and with a rude sea tumbling over the skerries in front; but it had at
least the recommendation of being safe, and the sky, though black and
wild, was not stormy. I had brought two lanterns ashore: the servant
girl, with the child in her lap, sat beside one of them, in the shelter
of a rock; while my wife, with the other, went walking up and down along
a piece of level sward yonder, waving the light, to attract notice from
the opposite side of the bay. But though it was seen from the windows of
my own house by an attached relative, it was deemed merely a
singularly-distinct apparition of Will o' the Wisp, and so brought us no
assistance. Meanwhile we had carried out a kedge astern of the Betsey,
as the sea was flowing at the time, to keep her from beating in over the
rocks; and then, taking our few movables ashore, we hung on till the
tide rose, and, with our boat alongside ready for escape, succeeded in
warping her into deep water, with the intention of letting her sink
somewhere beyond the influence of the surf, which, without fail, would
have broken her up on the skerry in a few hours, had we suffered her to
remain there. But though, when on the rock, the tide had risen as freely
over the cabin sole inside as over the crags without, in the deep water
the Betsey gave no sign of sinking. I went down to the cabin; the water
was knee-high on the floor, dashing against bed and locker, but it rose
no higher;--the enormous leak had stopped, we knew not how; and, setting
ourselves to the pump, we had in an hour or two a clear ship. The Betsey
is clinker-built below. The elastic oak planks had yielded inwards to
the pressure of the rock, tearing out the fastenings, and admitted the
tide at wide yawning seams; but no sooner was the pressure removed, than
out they sprung again into their places, like bows when the strings are
slackened; and when the carpenter came to overhaul, he found he had
little else to do than to remove a split plank, and to supply a few
dozens of drawn nails."


     Isle Ornsay--The Sabbath--A Sailor-minister's Sermon for
     Sailors--The Scuir Sermon--Loch Carron--Groups of Moraines--A sheep
     District--The Editor of the _Witness_ and the Establishment
     Clergyman--Dingwall--Conon-side revisited--The Pond and its
     Changes--New Faces--The Stonemason's Mark--The Burying Ground of
     Urquhart--An old acquaintance--Property Qualification for Voting in
     Scotland--Montgerald Sandstone Quarries--Geological Science in
     Cromarty--The Danes at Cromarty--The Danish Professor and the "Old
     Red Sandstone"--Harmonizing tendencies of Science.

The anchoring ground at Isle Ornsay was crowded with coasting vessels
and fishing boats; and when the Sabbath came round, no inconsiderable
portion of my friend's congregation was composed of sailors and
fishermen. His text was appropriate,--"He bringeth them into their
desired haven;" and as his sea-craft and his theology were alike
excellent, there were no incongruities in his allegory, and no defects
in his mode of applying it, and the seamen were hugely delighted. John
Stewart, though less a master of English than of many other things, told
me he was able to follow the minister from beginning to end,--a thing he
had never done before at an English preaching. The sea portion of the
sermon, he said, was very plain: it was about the helm, and the sails,
and the anchor, and the chart, and the pilot,--about rocks, winds,
currents, and safe harborage; and by attending to this simpler part of
it, he was led into the parts that were less simple, and so succeeded in
comprehending the whole. I would fain see this unique discourse,
preached by a sailor minister to a sailor congregation, preserved in
some permanent form, with at least one other discourse,--of which I
found trace in the island of Eigg, after the lapse of more than a
twelvemonth,--that had been preached about the time of the Disruption,
full in sight of the Scuir, with its impregnable hill-fort, and in the
immediate neighborhood of the cave of Frances, with its heaps of dead
men's bones. One note stuck fast to the islanders. In times of peril and
alarm, said the minister, the ancient inhabitants of the island had two
essentially different kinds of places in which they sought security;
they had the deep, unwholesome cave, shut up from the light and the
breath of heaven, and the tall rock summit, with its impregnable fort,
on which the sun shone and the wind blew. Much hardship might no doubt
be encountered on the one, when the sky was black with tempest, and
rains beat, or snows descended; but it was found associated with no
story of real loss or disaster,--it had kept safe all who had committed
themselves to it; whereas, in the close atmosphere of the other there
was warmth, and, after a sort, comfort; and on one memorable day of
trouble the islanders had deemed it the preferable sheltering place of
the two. And there survived mouldering skeletons and a frightful
tradition, to tell the history of their choice. Places of refuge of
these very opposite kinds, said the minister, continuing his allegory,
are not peculiar to your island; never was there a day or a place of
trial in which they did not advance their opposite claims: they are
advancing them even now all over the world. The one kind you find
described by one great prophet as low-lying "refuges of lies," over
which the desolating "scourge must pass," and which the destroying
"waters must overflow;" while the true character of the other may be
learned from another great prophet, who was never weary of celebrating
his "rock and his fortress." "Wit succeeds more from being happily
addressed," says Goldsmith, "than even from its native poignancy." If
my friend's allegory does not please quite as well in print and in
English as it did when delivered _viva voce_ in Gaelic, it should be
remembered that it was addressed to an out-door congregation, whose
minds were filled with the consequences of the Disruption,--that the
bones of _Uamh Fraingh_ lay within a few hundred yards of them,--and
that the Scuir, with the sun shining bright on its summit, rose tall in
the background, scarce a mile away.

On Monday I spent several hours in reëxploring the Lias of Lucy Bay and
its neighborhood, and then walked on to Kyle-Akin, where I parted from
my friend Mr. Swanson, and took boat for Loch Carron. The greater part
of the following day was spent in crossing the country to the east coast
in the mail-gig, through long dreary glens, and a fierce storm of wind
and rain. In the lower portion of the valley occupied by the river
Carron, I saw at least two fine groups of moraines. One of these, about
a mile and a half above the parish manse, marks the place where a
glacier, that had once descended from a hollow amid the northern range
of hills, had furrowed up the gravel and earth before it in long ridges,
which we find running nearly parallel to the road; the other group,
which lies higher up the valley, and seems of considerably greater
extent, indicates where one of those river-like glaciers that fill up
long hollows, and impel their irresistible flood downwards, slow as the
hour-hand of a time-piece, had terminated towards the sea. I could but
glance at the appearances as the gig drove past, and point them out to a
fellow passenger, the Establishment minister of----, remarking, at the
same time, how much more dreary the prospect must have seemed than even
it did to-day, though the fog was thick and the drizzle disagreeable,
when the lateral hollows on each side were blocked up with ice, and
overhanging glaciers, that ploughed the rock bare in their descent,
glistened on the bleak hill-sides. I wore a gray maud over a coat of
rough russet, with waist-coat and trowsers of plaid; and the minister,
who must have taken me, I suppose, for a southland shepherd looking out
for a farm, gave me much information of a kind I might have found
valuable had such been my condition and business, regarding the various
districts through which we passed. On one high-lying farm, the grass, he
said, was short and thin, but sweet and wholesome, and the flocks throve
steadily, and were never thinned by disease; whereas on another farm,
that lay along the dank bottom of a valley, the herbage was rank and
rich, and the sheep fed and got heavy, but braxy at the close of autumn
fell upon them like a pestilence, and more than neutralized to the
farmer every advantage of the superior fertility of the soil. It was not
uninteresting, even for one not a sheep-farmer, to learn that the life
of the sheep is worth fewer years' purchase in one little track of
country than in another adjacent one; and that those differences in the
salubrity of particular spots which obtain in other parts of the world
in regard to our own species, and which make it death to linger on the
luxuriant river-side, while on the arid plain or elevated hill-top there
is health and safety, should exist in contiguous walks in the Highlands
of Scotland in reference to some of the inferior animals. The minister
and I became wonderfully good friends for the time. All the seats in the
gig, both back and front, had been occupied ere he had taken his
passage, and the postman had assigned him a miserable place on the
narrow elevated platform in the middle, where he had to coil himself up
like a hedgehog in its hole, sadly to the discomfort of limbs still
stout and strong, but stiffened by the long service of full seventy
years. And, as in the case made famous by Cowper, of the "softer sex"
and the old-fashioned iron-cushioned arm-chairs, the old man had, as
became his years, "'gan murmur." I contrived, by sitting on the edge of
the gig on the one side, and by getting the postman to take a similar
seat on the other, to find room for him in front; and there, feeling he
had not to do with savages, he became kindly and conversible. We beat
together over a wide range of topics;--the Scotch banks, and Sir Robert
Peel's intentions regarding them,--the periodical press of
Scotland,--the Edinburgh literati,--the Free Church even: he had been a
consistent Moderate all his days, and disliked renegades, he said; and
I, of course, disliked renegades too. We both remembered that, though
civilized nations give quarter to an enemy overpowered in open fight,
they are still in the habit of shooting deserters. In short, we agreed
on a great many different matters; and, by comparing notes, we made the
best we could of a tedious journey and a very bad day. At the inn at
Garve, a long stage from Dingwall, we alighted, and took the road
together, to straighten our stiffened limbs, while the post man was
engaged in changing horses. The minister stopped short in the middle of
a discussion. We are not on equal terms, he said: you know who I am, and
I don't know you: we did not start fair at the beginning, but let us
start fair now. Ah, we have agreed hitherto, I replied; but I know not
how we are to agree when you know who I am: are you sure you will not be
frightened? Frightened! said the minister sturdily; no, by no man. Then,
I am the Editor of the _Witness_. There was a momentary pause. "Well,"
said the minister, "it's all the same: I'm glad we should have met. Give
me, man, a shake of your hand." And so the conversation went on as
before till we parted at Dingwall,--the Establishment clergyman wet to
the skin, the Free Church editor in no better condition; but both,
mayhap, rather less out of conceit with the ride than if it had been
ridden alone.

I had intended passing at least two days in the neighborhood of
Dingwall, where I proposed renewing an acquaintance, broken off for
three-and-twenty years, with those bituminous shales of Strathpeffer in
which the celebrated mineral waters of the valley take their rise,--the
Old Red Conglomerate of Brahan, the vitrified fort of Knockferrel, the
ancient tower of Fairburn, above all, the pleasure-grounds of
Conon-side. I had spent the greater portion of my eighteenth and
nineteenth years in this part of the country; and I was curious to
ascertain to what extent the man in middle life would verify the
observations of the lad,--to recall early incidents, revisit remembered
scenes, return on old feelings, and see who were dead and who were alive
among the casual acquaintances of nearly a quarter of a century ago. The
morning of Wednesday rose dark with fog and rain, but the wind had
fallen; and as I could not afford to miss seeing Conon-side, I sallied
out under cover of an umbrella. I crossed the bridge, and reached the
pleasure-grounds of Conon-house. The river was big in flood: it was
exactly such a river Conon as I had lost sight of in the winter of 1821;
and I had to give up all hope of wading into its fords, as I used to do
early in the autumn of that year, and pick up the pearl muscles that lie
so thickly among the stones at the bottom. I saw, however, amid a
thicket of bushes by the river-side, a heap of broken shells, where some
herd-boy had been carrying on such a pearl fishery as I had sometimes
used to carry on in my own behalf so long before; and I felt it was just
something to see it. The flood eddied past, dark and heavy, sweeping
over bulwark and bank. The low-stemmed alders that rose on islet and
mound seemed shorn of half their trunks in the tide; here and there an
elastic branch bent to the current, and rose and bent again; and now a
tuft of withered heath came floating down, and now a soiled wreath of
foam. How vividly the past rose up before me!--boyish day-dreams
forgotten for twenty years,--the fossils of an early formation of mind,
produced at a period when the atmosphere of feeling was warmer than now,
and the immaturities of the mental kingdom grew rank and large, like the
ancient Cryptogamiæ, and bore no specific resemblance to the productions
of a present time. I had passed in the neighborhood the first season I
anywhere spent among strangers, at an age when home is not a country,
nor a province even, but simply a little spot of earth inhabited by
friends and relatives; and the rude verses, long forgotten, in which my
joy had found vent when on the eve of returning to that home,--a home
little more than twenty miles away,--came chiming as freshly into my
memory as if scarce a month had passed since I had composed them beside
the Conon.[6]

Three-and-twenty years form a large portion of the short life of
man,--one-third, as nearly as can be expressed in unbroken numbers, of
the entire term fixed by the psalmist, and full one-half, if we strike
off the twilight periods of childhood and immature youth, and of
senectitude weary of its toils. I found curious indications among the
grounds of Conon-side, of the time that had elapsed since I had last
seen them. There was a rectangular pond in a corner of a moor, near the
public road, inhabited by about a dozen voracious, frog-eating pike,
that I used frequently to visit. The water in the pond was exceedingly
limpid; and I could watch from the banks every motion of the hungry,
energetic inmates. And now I struck off from the river-side by a narrow
tangled pathway, to visit it once more. I could have found out the
place blindfold: there was a piece of flat brown heath that stretched
round its edges, and a mossy slope that rose at its upper side, at the
foot of which the taste of the proprietor had placed a rustic chair. The
spot, though itself bare and moory, was nearly surrounded by wood, and
looked like a clearing in an American forest. There were lines of
graceful larches on two of its sides, and a grove of vigorous beeches
that directly fronted the setting sun on a third; and I had often found
it a place of delightful resort, in which to saunter alone in the calm
summer evenings, after the work of the day was over. Such was the scene
as it existed in my recollection. I came up to it this day through
dripping trees, along a neglected pathway; and found, for the open space
and the rectangular pond, a gloomy patch of water in the middle of a
tangled thicket, that rose some ten or twelve feet over my head. What
had been bare heath a quarter of a century before had become a thick
wood; and I remembered, that when I had been last there, the open space
had just been planted with forest-trees, and that some of the taller
plants rose half-way to my knee. Human lifetimes, as now measured, are
not intended to witness both the seed-times and the harvests of
forests,--both the planting of the sapling, and the felling of the huge
tree into which it has grown; and so the incident impressed me strongly.
It reminded me of the sage Shalum in Addison's antediluvian tale, who
became wealthy by the sale of his great trees, two centuries after he
had planted them. I pursued my walk, to revisit another little patch of
water which I had found so very entertaining a volume three-and-twenty
years previous, that I could still recall many of its lessons; but the
hand of improvement had been busy among the fields of Conon-side; and
when I came up to the spot which it had occupied, I found but a piece
of level arable land, bearing a rank swathe of grass and clover.[7]

Not a single individual did I find on the farm who had been there twenty
years before. I entered into conversation with one of the ploughmen,
apparently a man of some intelligence; but he had come to the place only
a summer or two previous, and the names of most of his predecessors
sounded unfamiliar in his ears: he knew scarce anything of the old laird
or his times, and but little of the general history of the district. The
frequent change of servants incident to the large-farm system has done
scarce less to wear out the oral antiquities of the country than has
been done by its busy ploughs in obliterating antiquities of a more
material cast. The mythologic legend and traditionary story have shared
the same fate, through the influence of the one cause, which has been
experienced by the sepulchral tumulus and the ancient encampment under
the operations of the other. I saw in the pillars and archways of the
farm-steading some of the hewn stones bearing my own mark,--an anchor,
to which I used to attach a certain symbolical meaning; and I pointed
them out to the ploughman. I had hewn these stones, I said, in the days
of the old laird, the grandfather of the present proprietor. The
ploughman wondered how a man still in middle life could have such a
story to tell. I must surely have begun work early in the day, he
remarked, which was perhaps the best way for getting it soon over. I
remembered having seen similar markings on the hewn-work of ancient
castles, and of indulging in, I daresay, idle enough speculations
regarding what was doing at court and in the field, in Scotland and
elsewhere, when the old long-departed mechanics had been engaged in
their work. When this mark was affixed, I have said, all Scotland was
in mourning for the disaster at Flodden, and the folk in the work-shed
would have been, mayhap, engaged in discussing the supposed treachery of
Home, and in arguing whether the hapless James had fallen in battle, or
gone on a pilgrimage to merit absolution for the death of his father.
And when this other more modern mark was affixed, the Gowrie conspiracy
must have been the topic of the day, and the mechanics were probably
speculating,--at worst not more doubtfully than the historians have done
after them,--on the guilt or innocence of the Ruthvens. It now rose
curiously enough in memory, that I was employed in fashioning one of the
stones marked by the anchor,--a corner stone in a gate-pillar,--when one
of my brother apprentices entered the work-shed, laden with a bundle of
newly sharpened irons from the smithy, and said he had just been told by
the smith that the great Napoleon Bonaparte was dead. I returned to the
village of Conon Bridge, through the woods of Conon House. The day was
still very bad: the rain pattered thick on the leaves, and fell
incessantly in large drops on the pathways. There is a solitary,
picturesque burying-ground on a wooded hillock beside the river, with
thick dark woods all around it,--one of the two burying-grounds of the
parish of Urquhart,--which I would fain have visited, but the swollen
stream had risen high around, converting the hillock into an island, and
forbade access. I had spent many an hour among the tombs. They are few
and scattered, and of the true antique cast,--roughened with death's
heads, and cross-bones, and rudely sculptured armorial bearings; and on
a broken wall, that marked where the ancient chapel once had stood,
there might be seen, in the year 1821, a small, badly-cut sun-dial, with
its iron gnomon wasted to a saw-edged film, that contained more oxide
than metal. The only fossils described in my present chapter are fossils
of mind; and the reader will, I trust, bear with me should I produce
one fossil more of this somewhat equivocal class. It has no merit to
recommend it,--it is simply an organism of an immature intellectual
formation, in which, however, as in the Carboniferous period, there was
provision made for the necessities of an after time.[8] If a young man
born on the wrong side of the Tweed for _speaking_ English, is desirous
to acquire the ability of _writing_ it, he should by all means begin by
trying to write it in verse.

I passed, on my return to Dingwall, through the village of Conon Bridge;
and remembering that one of the masons who had hewn beside me in the
work-shed so many years before lived in the village at the time, I went
direct to the house he had inhabited, to see whether he might not be
there still. It was a low-roofed domicile beside the river, but in the
days of my old acquaintance it had presented an appearance of great
comfort and neatness; and as there now hung an air of neglect about it,
I inferred that it had found some other tenant. I inquired, however, at
the door, and was informed that Mr. ---- now lived higher up the street.
I would find him, it was added, in the best house on the right-hand
side,--the house with a hewn front, and a shop in it. He kept the shop,
and was the owner of the house, and had another house besides, and was
one of the elders of the Free Church in Urquhart. Such was the standing
of my old acquaintance the journeyman mason of twenty-three years ago.
He had been, when I knew him, a steady, industrious, religious
man,--with but one exception the only contributor to missionary and
Bible societies among a numerous party of workmen; and he was now
occupying a respectable place in his village, and was one of the voters
of the county. Let Chartism assert what it pleases on the one hand, and
Toryism what it may on the other, the property-qualification of the
Reform Bill is essentially a good one for such a country as Scotland. In
our cities it no doubt extends the political franchise to a fluctuating
class, ill hafted in society, who possess it one year and want it
another; but in our villages and smaller towns it hits very nearly the
right medium for forming a premium on steady industry and character, and
for securing that at least the mass of those who possess it should be
sober-minded men, with a stake in the general welfare. In running over
the histories of the various voters in one of our smaller towns, I found
that nearly one-half of the whole had, like my old comrade at Conon
Bridge, acquired for themselves, through steady and industrious habits,
the qualification from which they derive their vote. My companion failed
to recognize in the man turned of forty the smooth-cheeked stripling of
eighteen, with whom he had wrought so long before. I soon succeeded,
however, in making good my claim to his acquaintance. He had previously
established the identity of the editor of his newspaper with his quondam
fellow-workman, and a single link more was all the chain wanted. We
talked over old matters for half an hour. His wife, a staid respectable
matron, who, when I had been last in the district, was exactly such a
person as her eldest daughter, showed me an Encyclopædia, with colored
prints, which she wished to send, if she knew but how, to the Free
Church library. I walked with him through his garden, and saw trees
loaded with yellow-cheeked pippins, where I had once seen only
unproductive heath, that scantily covered a barren soil of ferruginous
sand, and unwillingly declining an invitation to wait tea,--for a
previous engagement interfered,--I took leave of the family, and
returned to Dingwall. The following morning was gloomy, and threatened
rain; and giving up my intention of exploring Strathpeffer, I took the
morning coach for Invergordon, and then walked to Cromarty, where I
arrived just in time for breakfast.

I marked, from the top of the coach, about two miles to the north-east
of Dingwall, beds of a deep gray sandstone, identical in color and
appearance with some of the gray sandstones of the Middle Old Red of
Forfarshire, and learned that quarries had lately been opened in these
beds near Montgerald. The Old Red Sandstone lies in immense development
on the flanks of Ben-Wevis; and it is just possible that the analogue of
the gray flagstones of Forfar may be found among its upper beds. If so,
the quarriers should be instructed to look hard for organic
remains,--the broad-headed Cephalaspis, so characteristic of the
formation, and the huge Crustacean, its contemporary, that disported in
plates large as those of the steel mail of the later ages of chivalry.
The geologists of Dingwall,--if Dingwall has yet got its
geologists,--might do well to attempt determining the point. I found the
science much in advance in Cromarty, especially among the ladies,--its
great patronizers and illustrators everywhere,--and, in not a few
localities, extensive contributors to its hoards of fact. Just as I
arrived, there was a pic-nic party of young people setting out for the
Lias of Shandwick. They spent the day among its richly fossiliferous
shales and limestones, and brought back with them in the evening,
Ammonites and Gryphites enough to store a museum. Cromarty had been
visited during the summer by geologists speaking a foreign tongue, but
thoroughly conversant with the occult yet common language of the rocks,
and deeply interested in the stories which the rocks told. The vessels
in which the Crown Prince of Denmark voyaged to the Faroe Isles had
been for some time in the bay; and the Danes, his companions, votaries
of the stony science, zealously plied chisel and hammer among the Old
Red Sandstones of the coast. A townsman informed me that he had seen a
Danish Professor hammering like the tutelary Thor of his country among
the nodules in which I had found the first Pterichthys and first
Diplacanthus ever disinterred; and that the Professor, ever and anon as
he laid open a specimen, brought it to a huge smooth boulder, on which
there lay a copy of the "Old Red Sandstone," to ascertain from the
descriptions and prints its family and name. Shall I confess that the
circumstance gratified me exceedingly? There are many elements of
Discord among mankind in the present time, both at home and abroad,--so
many, that I am afraid we need entertain no hope of seeing an end, in at
least our day, to controversy and war. And we should be all the better
pleased, therefore, to witness the increase of those links of
union,--such as the harmonizing bonds of a scientific sympathy,--the
tendency of which is to draw men together in a kindly spirit, and the
formation of which involves no sacrifice of principle, moral or
religious. I do not think that the foreigner, after geologizing in my
company, would have had any very vehement desire, in the event of a war,
to cut me down, or to knock me on the head. I am afraid this chapter
would require a long apology, and for a long apology space is wanting.
But there will be no egotism, and much geology, in my next.


     Ichthyolite Beds--An interesting Discovery--Two Storeys of Organic
     Remains in the Old Red Sandstone--Ancient Ocean of Lower Old
     Red--Two great Catastrophes--Ancient Fish Scales--Their skilful
     Mechanism displayed by examples--Bone Lips--Arts of the Slater and
     Tiler as old as Old Red Sandstone--Jet Trinkets--Flint
     Arrow-heads--Vitrified Forts of Scotland--Style of grouping Lower
     Old Red Fossils--Illustration from Cromarty Fishing
     Phenomena--Singular Remains of Holoptychius--Ramble with Mr. Robert
     Dick--Color of the Planet Mars--Tombs never dreamed of by
     Hervey--Skeleton of the Bruce--Gigantic Holoptychius--"Coal money
     Currency"--Upper Boundary of Lower Old Red--Every one may add to
     the Store of Geological Facts--Discoveries of Messrs. Dick and

I spent one long day in exploring the ichthyolite beds on both sides the
Cromarty Frith, and another long day in renewing my acquaintance with
the Liasic deposit at Shandwick. In beating over the Lias, though I
picked up a few good specimens, I acquired no new facts; but in
re-examining the Old Red Sandstone and its organisms I was rather more
successful. I succeeded in eliciting some curious points not yet
recorded, which, with the details of an interesting discovery made in
the far north in this formation, I may be perhaps able to weave into a
chapter somewhat more geological than my last.

Some of the readers of my little work on the Old Red Sandstone will
perhaps remember that I described the organisms of that ancient system
as occurring in the neighborhood of Cromarty mainly on one platform,
raised rather more than a hundred feet over the great Conglomerate; and
that on this platform, as if suddenly overtaken by some wide-spread
catastrophe, the ichthyolites lie by thousands and tens of thousands,
in every attitude of distortion and terror. We see the spiked wings of
the Pterichthys elevated to the full, as they had been erected in the
fatal moment of anger and alarm, and the bodies of the Cheirolepis and
Cheiracanthus bent head to tail, in the stiff posture into which they
had curled when the last pang was over. In various places in the
neighborhood the ichthyolites are found _in situ_ in their coffin-like
nodules, where it is impossible to trace the relation of the beds in
which they occur to the rocks above and below; and I had suspected for
years that in at least some of the localities, they could not have
belonged to the lower platform of death, but to some posterior
catastrophe that had strewed with carcasses some upper platform. I had
thought over the matter many a time and oft when I should have been
asleep,--for it is marvellous how questions of the kind grow upon a man;
and now, selecting as a hopeful scene of inquiry the splendid section
under the Northern Sutor, I set myself doggedly to determine whether the
Old Red Sandstone in this part of the country has not at least its two
storeys of organic remains, each of which had been equally a scene of
sudden mortality. I was entirely successful. The lower ichthyolite bed
occurs exactly one hundred and fourteen feet over the great
Conglomerate; and three hundred and eighteen feet higher up I found a
second ichthyolite bed, as rich in fossils as the first, with its thorny
Acanthodians twisted half round, as if still in the agony of
dissolution, and its Pterichthyes still extending their spear-like arms
in the attitude of defence. The discovery enabled me to assign to their
true places the various ichthyolite beds of the district. Those in the
immediate neighborhood of the town, and a bed which abuts on the Lias at
Eathie, belong to the upper platform; while those which appear in Eathie
Burn, and along the shores at Navity, belong to the lower. The chief
interest of the discovery, however, arises from the light which it
throws on the condition of the ancient ocean of the Lower Old Red, and
on the extreme precariousness of the tenure on which the existence of
its numerous denizens was held. In a section of little more than a
hundred yards there occur at least two platforms of violent
death,--platforms inscribed with unequivocal evidence of two great
catastrophes which over wide areas depopulated the seas. In the Old Red
Sandstone of Caithness there are many such platforms: storey rises over
storey; and the floor of each bears its closely-written record of
disaster and sudden extinction. Pompeii in this northern locality lies
over Herculaneum, and Anglano over both. We cease to wonder why the
higher order of animals should not have been introduced into a scene of
being that had so recently arisen out of chaos, and over which the reign
of death so frequently returned. In a somewhat different sense from that
indicated by the poet of the "Seasons,"

 "As yet the trembling _year_ was unconfirmed,
 And _winter_ oft at eve resumed the gale."

Lying detached in the stratified clay of the fish-beds, there occur in
abundance single plates and scales of ichthyolites, which, as they can
be removed entire, and viewed on both sides, illustrate points in the
mechanism of the creatures to which they belonged that cannot be so
clearly traced in the same remains when locked up in stone. There is a
vast deal of skilful carpentry exhibited--if carpentry I may term it--in
the coverings of these ancient ichthyolites. In the commoner fish of our
existing seas the scales are so thin and flexible,--mere films of
horn,--that there is no particularly nice fitting required in their
arrangement. The condition, too, through which portions of unprotected
skin may be presented to the water, as over and between the rays of the
fins, and on the snout and lips, obviates many a mechanical difficulty
of the earlier period, when it was a condition, as the remains
demonstrate, that no bit of naked skin, should be exposed, and when the
scales and plates were formed, not of thin horny films, but of solid
pieces of bone. Thin slates lie on the roof of a modern dwelling,
without any nice fitting;--they are scales of the modern construction:
but it required much nice fitting to make thick flagstones lie on the
roof of an ancient cathedral;--_they_, on the other hand, were scales of
the ancient type. Again, it requires no ingenuity whatever, to suffer
the hands and face to go naked,--and such is the condition of our
existing fish, with their soft skinny snouts and membranous fins; but to
cover the hands with flexible steel gauntlets, and the face with such an
iron mask as that worn by the mysterious prisoner of Louis XIV., would
require a very large amount of ingenuity indeed; and the ancient
ichthyolites of the Old Red were all masked and gauntleted. Now the
detached plates and scales of the stratified clay exhibit not a few of
the mechanical contrivances through which the bony coverings of these
fish were made to unite--as in coats of old armor--great strength with
great flexibility. The scales of the Osteolepis and Diplopterus I found
nicely bevelled atop and at one of the sides; so that where they
overlapped each other,--for at the joints not a needle-point could be
insinuated,--the thickness of the two scales equalled but the thickness
of one scale in the centre, and thus an equable covering was formed. I
brought with me some of these detached scales, and they now lie fitted
together on the table before me, like pieces of complicated hewn work
carefully arranged on the ground ere the workman transfers them to their
place on the wall. In the smaller-scaled fish, such as the
Cheiracanthus and Cheirolepis, a different principle obtained. The
minute glittering rhombs of bone were set thick on the skin, like those
small scales of metal sewed on leather, that formed an inferior kind of
armor still in use in eastern nations, and which was partially used in
our own country just ere the buff coat altogether superseded the coat of
mail. I found a beautiful piece of jaw in the clay, with the enamelled
tusks bristling on its brightly enamelled edge, like iron teeth in an
iron rake. Mr. Parkinson expresses some wonder, in his work on fossils,
that in a fine ichthyolite in the British Museum, not only the teeth
should have been preserved, but also the lips; but we now know enough of
the construction of the more ancient fish, to cease wondering. The lips
were formed of as solid bone as the teeth themselves, and had as fair a
chance of being preserved entire; just as the metallic rim of a toothed
wheel has as fair a chance of being preserved as the metallic teeth that
project from it. I was interested in marking the various modes of
attachment to the body of the animal which the detached scales exhibit.
The slater fastens on his slates with nails driven into the wood: the
tiler secures his tiles by means of a raised bar on the under side of
each, that locks into a corresponding bar of deal in the framework of
the roof. Now in some of the scales I found the art of the tiler
anticipated; there were bars raised on their inner sides, to lay hold of
the skin beneath; while in others it was the art of the slater that had
been anticipated,--the scales had been slates fastened down by long
nails driven in slantwise, which were, however, mere prolongations of
the scale itself. Great truths may be repeated until they become
truisms, and we fail to note what they in reality convey. The great
truth that all knowledge dwelt without beginning in the adorable Creator
must, I am afraid, have been thus common-placed in my mind; for at
first it struck me as wonderful that the humble arts of the tiler and
slater should have existed in perfection in the times of the Old Red

I had often remarked amid the fossiliferous limestones of the Lower Old
Red, minute specks and slender veins of a glossy bituminous substance
somewhat resembling jet, sufficiently hard to admit of a tolerable
polish, and which emitted in the fire a bright flame, I had remarked,
further, its apparent identity with a substance used by the ancient
inhabitants of the northern part of the country in the manufacture of
their rude ornaments, as occasionally found in sepulchral urns, such as
beads of an elliptical form, and flat parallelograms, perforated
edge-wise by some four or five holes a-piece; but I had failed hitherto
in detecting in the stone, portions of sufficient bulk for the formation
of either the beads or the parallelograms. On this visit to the
ichthyolite beds, however, I picked up a nodule that inclosed a mass of
the jet large enough to admit of being fashioned into trinkets of as
great bulk as any of the ancient ones I have yet seen, and a portion of
which I succeeded in actually forming into a parallelogram, that could
not have been distinguished from those of our old sepulchral urns. It is
interesting enough to think, that these fossiliferous beds, altogether
unknown to the people of the country for many centuries, and which, when
I first discovered them, some twelve or fourteen years ago, were equally
unknown to geologists, should have been resorted to for this substance,
perhaps thousands of years ago, by the savage aborigines of the
district. But our antiquities of the remoter class furnish us with
several such facts. It is comparatively of late years that we have
become acquainted with the yellow chalk-flints of Banffshire and
Aberdeen; though before the introduction of iron into the country they
seem to have been well known all over the north of Scotland. I have
never yet seen a stone arrow-head found in any of the northern
localities, that had not been fashioned out of this hard and splintery
substance,--a sufficient proof that our ancestors, ere they had formed
their first acquaintance with the metals, were intimately acquainted
with at least the mechanical properties of the chalk-flint, and knew
where in Scotland it was to be found. They were mineralogists enough,
too, as their stone battle-axes testify, to know that the best
tool-making rock is the axe-stone of Werner; and in some localities they
must have brought their supply of this rather rare mineral from great
distances. A history of those arts of savage life, as shown in the
relics of our earlier antiquities, which the course of discovery sereved
thoroughly to supplant, but which could not have been carried on without
a knowledge of substances and qualities afterwards lost, until
re-discovered by scientific curiosity, would form of itself an
exceedingly curious chapter. The art of the gun-flint maker (and it,
too, promises soon to pass into extinction) is unquestionably a curious
one, but not a whit more curious or more ingenious than the art
possessed by the rude inhabitants of our country eighteen hundred years
ago, of chipping arrow-heads with an astonishing degree of neatness out
of the same stubborn material. They found, however, that though flint
made a serviceable arrow-head, it was by much too brittle for an adze or
battle-axe; and sought elsewhere than among the Banffshire gravels for
the rock out of which these were to be wrought. Where they found it in
our northern provinces I have not yet ascertained. It is but a short
time since I came to know that they were beforehand with me in the
discovery of the bituminous jet of the Lower Old Red Sandstone, and were
excavators among its fossiliferous beds. The vitrified forts of the
north of Scotland give evidence of yet another of the obsolete arts.
Before the savage inhabitants of the country were ingenious enough to
know the uses of mortar, or were furnished with tools sufficiently hard
and solid to dress a bit of sandstone, they must have been acquainted
with the _chemical_ fact, that with the assistance of fluxes, a pile of
stones could be fused into a solid wall, and with the _mineralogical_
fact, that there are certain kinds of stones which yield much more
readily to the heat than others. The art of making vitrified forts was
the art of making ramparts of rock through a knowledge of the less
obstinate earths and the more powerful fluxes. I have been informed by
Mr. Patrick Duff of Elgin, that he found, in breaking open a vitrified
fragment detached from an ancient hill-fort, distinct impressions of the
serrated kelp-weed of our shores,--the identical flux which, in its
character as the kelp of commerce, was so extensively used in our
glass-houses only a few years ago.

I was struck, during my explorations at this time, as I had been often
before, by the style of grouping, if I may so speak, which obtains among
the Lower Old Red fossils. In no deposit with which I am acquainted,
however rich in remains, have all its ichthyolites been found lying
together. The collector finds some one or two species very numerous;
some two or three considerably less so, but not unfrequent; some one or
two more, perhaps, exceedingly rare; and a few, though abundant in other
localities, that never occur at all. In the Cromarty beds, for instance,
I never found a Holoptychius, and a Dipterus only once; the Diplopterus
is rare; the Glyptolepis not common; the Cheirolepis and Pterichthys
more so, but not very abundant; the Cheiracanthus and Diplacanthus, on
the other hand, are numerous; and the Osteolepis and Coccosteus more
numerous still. But in other deposits of the same formation, though a
similar style of grouping obtains, the proportions are reversed with
regard to species and genera: the fish rare in one locality abound in
another. In Banniskirk, for instance, the Dipterus is exceedingly
common, while the Osteolepis and Coccosteus are rare, and the
Cheiracanthus and Cheirolepis seem altogether awanting. Again, in the
Morayshire deposits, the Glyptolepis is abundant, and noble specimens of
the Lower Old Red Holoptychius--of which more anon--are to be found in
the neighborhood of Thurso, associated with remains of the Diplopterus,
Coccosteus, Dipterus, and Osteolepis. The fact may be deemed of some
little interest by the geologist, and may serve to inculcate caution, by
showing that it is not always safe to determine regarding the place or
age of subordinate formations from the per centage of certain fossils
which they may be found to contain, or from the fact that they should
want some certain organisms of the system to which they belong, and
possess others. These differences may and do exist in contemporary
deposits; and I had a striking example, on this occasion, of their
dependence on a simple law of instinct, which is as active in producing
the same kind of phenomena now as it seems to have been in the earlier
days of the Old Red Sandstone. The Cromarty and Moray Friths, mottled
with fishing boats (for the bustle of the herring fishers had just
begun), stretched out before me. A few hundred yards from the shore
there was a yawl lying at anchor, with an old fisherman and a few boys
angling from the stern for sillocks (the young of the coal-fish) and for
small rock-cod. A few miles higher up, where the Cromarty Frith expands
into a wide landlocked basin, with shallow sandy shores, there was a
second yawl engaged in fishing for flounders and small skate,--for such
are the kinds of fish that frequent the flat shallows of the basin. A
turbot-net lay drying in the sun: it served to remind me that some six
or eight miles away, in an opposite direction, there is a deep-sea bank,
on which turbot, halibut, and large skate are found. Numerous boats were
stretching down the Moray Frith, bound for the banks of a more distant
locality, frequented at this early stage of the herring fishing by
shoals of herrings, with their attendant dog-fish and cod; and I knew
that in yet another deep-sea range there lie haddock and whiting banks.
Almost every variety of existing fish in the two friths has its own
peculiar habitat; and were they to be destroyed by some sudden
catastrophe, and preserved by some geologic process, on the banks and
shoals which they frequent, there would occur exactly the same phenomena
of grouping in the fossiliferous contemporaneous deposits which they
would thus constitute, as we find exhibited by the deposits of the Lower
Old Red Sandstone.

The remains of Holoptychius occur, I have said, in the neighborhood of
Thurso. I must now add, that very singular remains they are,--full of
interest to the naturalist, and, in great part at least, new to Geology.
My readers, votaries of the stony science, must be acquainted with the
masterly paper of Mr. Sedgwick and Sir R. Murchison "On the Old Red
Sandstone of Caithness and the North of Scotland generally," which forms
part of the second volume (second series) of the "Transactions of the
Geological Society," and with the description which it furnishes, among
many others, of the rocks in the neighborhood of Thurso.
Calcareo-bituminous flags, grits, and shales, of which the paving
flagstones of Caithness may be regarded as the general type, occur on
the shores, in reefs, crags, and precipices; here stretching along the
coast in the form of flat, uneven bulwarks: there rising over it in
steep walls; yonder leaning to the surf, stratum against stratum, like
flights of stairs thrown down from their slant position to the level; in
some places severed by faults; in others cast about in every possible
direction, as if broken and contorted by a thousand antagonist
movements; but in their general bearing rising towards the east, until
the whole calcareo-bituminous schists of which this important member of
the system is composed disappear under the red sandstones of Dunnet
Head. Such, in effect, is the general description of Mr. Sedgwick and
Sir R. Murchison, of the rocks in the neighborhood of Thurso. It
indicates further, that in at least three localities in the range there
occur in the grits and shales, scales and impressions of fish. And such
was the ascertained geology of the deposit when taken up last year by an
ingenious tradesman of Thurso, Mr. Robert Dick, whose patient
explorations, concentrated mainly on the fossil remains of this deposit,
bid fair to add to our knowledge of the ichthyology of the Old Red
Sandstone. Let us accompany Mr. Dick in one of his exploratory rambles.
The various organisms which he disinterred I shall describe from
specimens before me, which I owe to his kindness,--the localities in
which he found them, from a minute and interesting description, for
which I am indebted to his pen.

Leaving behind us the town at the bottom of its deep bay, we set out to
explore a bluff-headed parallelogramical promontory, bounded by Thurso
Bay on the one hand, and Murkle Bay on the other, and which presents to
the open sea, in the space that stretches between, an undulating line of
iron-bound coast, exposed to the roll of the northern ocean. We pass two
stations in which the hard Caithness flagstones so well known in
commerce are jointed by saws wrought by machinery. As is common in the
Old Red Sandstone, in which scarce any stratum solid enough to be of
value to the workmen, whether for building or paving, contains good
specimens, we find but little to detain us in the dark coherent beds
from which the flags are quarried. Here and there a few glittering
scales occur; here and there a few coprolitic patches; here and there
the faint impression of a fucoid; but no organism sufficiently entire to
be transferred to the bag. As we proceed outwards, however, and the
fitful breeze comes laden with the keen freshness of the open sea, we
find among the hard dark strata in the immediate neighborhood of Thurso
Castle, a paler-colored bed of fine-grained semi-calcareous stone,
charged with remains in a state of coherency and keeping better fitted
to repay the labor of the specimen-collector. The inclosing matrix is
comparatively soft: when employed in the neighboring fences as a
building stone, we see it resolved by the skyey influences into
well-nigh its original mud; whereas the organisms which it contains are
composed of a hard, scarce destructible substance,--bone steeped in
bitumen; and the enamel on their outer surfaces is still as glossy and
bright as the japan on a _papier-maché_ tray fresh from the hands of the
workman. Their deep black, too, contrasts strongly with the pale hue of
the stone. They consist chiefly of scales, spines, dermal plates,
snouts, skull-caps, and vegetable impressions. A little farther on, in a
thick bed interposed between two faults, the same kind of remains occur
in the same abundance, largely mingled with scales and teeth of
Holoptychius, tuberculated plates, and coprolitic blotches; and further
on still, in a rubbly flagstone, near where a little stream comes
trotting merrily from the uplands to the sea, there occur
skull-plates,--at least one of which has been disinterred entire,--large
and massy as the helmets of ancient warriors. We have now reached the
outer point of the promontory, where the seaward wave, as it comes
rolling unbroken from the Pole, crosses, in nearing the shore, the
eastward sweep of the great Gulf-stream, and then casts itself headlong
on the rocks. The view has been extending with almost every step we have
taken, and it has now expanded into a wide and noble prospect of ocean
and bay, island and main, bold surf-skirted headlands, and green
retiring hollows. Yonder, on the one hand, are the Orkneys, rising dim
and blue over the foam-mottled currents of the Pentland Frith; and
yonder, on the other, the far-stretching promontory of Holborn Head,
with the line of coast that sweeps along the opposite side of the bay;
here sinking in abrupt flagstone precipices direct into the tide; there
receding in grassy banks formed of a dark blue diluvium. The fields and
dwellings of living men mingle in the landscape with old episcopal ruins
and ancient burying-grounds; and yonder, well-nigh in the opening of the
Frith, gleams ruddy to the sun,--a true blood-colored blush, when all
around is azure or pale,--the tall Red Sandstone precipices of Dunnet
Head. It has been suggested that the planet Mars may owe its red color
to the extensive development of some such formation as the Old Red
Sandstone of our own planet: the existing formation in Mars may, at the
present time, it is said, be a Red Sandstone formation. It seems much
more probable, however, that the red flush which characterizes the whole
of that planet,--its oceans as certainly as its continents,--should be
rather owing to some widely-diffused peculiarity of the surrounding
atmosphere, than to aught peculiar in the varied surface of land and
water which that atmosphere surrounds; but certainly the extensive
existence of such a red system might produce the effect. If the rocks
and soils of Dunnet Head formed average specimens of those of our globe
generally, we could look across the heavens at Mars with a disk vastly
more rubicund and fiery than his own. The earth, as seen from the moon,
would seem such a planet bathed in blood as the moon at its rising
frequently appears from the earth.

We have rounded the promontory. The beds exposed along the coast to the
lashings of the surf are of various texture and character,--here tough,
bituminous, and dark; there of a pale hue, and so hard that they ring to
the hammer like plates of cast iron; yonder soft, unctuous, and
green,--a kind of chloritic sandstone. And these very various powers of
resistance and degrees of hardness we find indicated by the rough
irregularities of the surface. The softer parts retire in long
trench-like hollows,--the harder stand out in sharp irregular ridges.
Fossils abound: the bituminous beds glitter bright with glossy
quadrangular scales, that look like sheets of black mica inclosed in
granite. We find jaws, teeth, tubercled plates, skull-caps, spines, and
fucoids,--"tombs among which to contemplate," says Mr. Dick, "of which
Hervey never dreamed." The condition of complete keeping in which we
discover some of these remains, even when exposed to the incessant dash
of the surf, seems truly wonderful. We see scales of Holoptychius
standing up in bold relief from the hard cherty rock that has worn from
around them, with all the tubercles and wavy ridges of their sculpture
entire. This state of keeping seems to be wholly owing to the curious
chemical change that has taken place in their substance. Ere the
skeleton of the Bruce, disinterred entire after the lapse of five
centuries, was recommitted to the tomb, there were such measures taken
to secure its preservation, that were it to be again disinterred even
after as many centuries more had passed, it might be found retaining
unbroken its gigantic proportions. There was molten pitch poured over
the bones in a state of sufficient fluidity to permeate all their
pores, and fill up the central hollows, and which, soon hardening around
them, formed a bituminous matrix, in which they may lie unchanged for
more than a thousand years. Now, exactly such was the process of keeping
to which nature resorted with these skeletons of the Old Red Sandstone.
The animal matter with which they were charged had been converted into a
hard black bitumen. Like the bones of the Bruce, they are bones steeped
in pitch; and so thoroughly is every pore and hollow still occupied,
that, when cast into the fire, they flamed like torches. In one of the
beds at which we have now arrived Mr. Dick found the occipital plates of
a Holoptychius of gigantic proportions. The frontal plates measured full
sixteen inches across, and from the nape of the neck to a little above
the place of the eyes, full eighteen; while a single plate belonging to
the lower part of the head measures thirteen and a half inches by seven
and a half. I have remarked, in my little work on the Old Red
Sandstone,--founding on a large amount of negative evidence, that a
mediocrity of size and bulk seems to have obtained among the fish of the
Lower Old Red, though in at least the Upper formation, a considerable
increase in both took place. A single piece of positive evidence,
however, outweighs whole volumes of a merely negative kind. From the
entire plate now in my possession, which is identical with one figured
in Mr. Noble of St. Madoes' specimen, and from the huge fragments of the
upper plates now before me, some of which are full five-eighth parts of
an inch in thickness, I am prepared to demonstrate that this
Holoptychius of the Lower Old Red must have been at least thrice the
size of the _Holoptychius Nobilissimus_ of Clashbennie.

Still we pass on, though with no difficulty, over the rough contorted
crags, worn by the surf into deep ruts and uneven ridges, gnarled
protuberances, and crater-like hollows. The fossiliferous beds are
still very numerous, and largely charged with remains. We see dermal
bones, spines, scales, and jaws, projecting in high relief from the
sea-worn surface of the ledges below, and from the weatherworn faces of
the precipices above; for an uneven wall of crags some thirty or forty
feet high, now runs along the shore. We have reached what seems a large
mole, that sloping downwards athwart the beach from the precipices, like
a huge boat-pier, runs far into the surf. We find it composed of a
siliceous bed, so intensely compact and hard, that it has preserved its
proportions entire, while every other rock has worn from around it. For
century after century have the storms of the fierce north-west sent
their long ocean-nursed waves to dash against it in foam; for century
after century have the never-ceasing currents of the Pentland chafed
against its steep sides, or eddied over its rough crest; and yet still
does it remain unwasted and unworn,--its abrupt wall retaining all its
former steepness, and every angular jutting all the original sharpness
of edge. As we advance the scenery becomes wilder and more broken: here
an irregular wall of rock projects from the crags towards the sea; there
a dock-like hollow, in which the water gleams green, intrudes from the
sea upon the crags; we pass a deep lime-encrusted cave, with which
tradition associates some wild legends, and which, from the supposed
resemblance of the hanging stalactites to the entrails of a large animal
wounded in the chase, bears the name of Pudding-Gno; and then, turning
an angle of the coast, we enter a solitary bay, that presents at its
upper extremity a flat expanse of sand. Our walk is still over
sepulchres charged with the remains of the long-departed. Scales of
Holoptychius abound, scattered like coin over the surface of the ledges.
It would seem--to borrow from Mr. Dick--as if some old lord of the
treasury, who flourished in the days of the coal-money currency, had
taken a squandering fit at Sanday Bay, and tossed the dingy contents of
his treasure-chest by shovelfuls upon the rocks. Mr. Dick found in this
locality some of his finest specimens, one of which--the inner side of
the skull-cap of a Holoptychius, with every plate occupying its proper
place, and the large angular holes through which the eyes looked out
still entire--I trust to be able by and by to present to the public in a
good engraving. There occur jaws, plates, scales spines,--the remains of
fucoids, too, of great size and in vast abundance. Mr. Dick has
disinterred from among the rocks of Sanday Bay flattened carbonaceous
stems four inches in diameter. We are still within an hour's walk of
Thurso; but in that brief hour how many marvels have we witnessed!--how
vast an amount of the vital mechanisms of a perished creation have we
not passed over! Our walk has been along ranges of sepulchres, greatly
more wonderful than those of Thebes or Petræa, and mayhap a thousand
times more ancient. There is no lack of life along the shores of the
solitary little bay. The shriek of the sparrow-hawk mingles from the
cliffs with the hoarse deep croak of the raven; the cormorant on some
wave-encircled ledge, hangs out his dark wing to the breeze; the spotted
diver, plying his vocation on the shallows beyond, dives and then
appears, and dives and appears again, and we see the silver glitter of
scales from his beak; and far away in the offing the sunlight falls on a
scull of seagulls, that flutter upwards, downwards, and athwart, now in
the air, thick as midges over some forest-brook in an evening of

But we again pass onwards, amid a wild ruinous scene of abrupt faults,
detached fragments of rocks, and reversed strata: again the ledges
assume their ordinary position and aspect, and we rise from lower to
higher and still higher beds in the formation,--for such, as I have
already remarked, is the general arrangement from west to east, along
the northern coast of Caithness, of the Old Red Sandstone. The great
Conglomerate base of the formation we find largely developed at Port
Skerry, just where the western boundary line of the county divides it
from the county of Sutherland; its thick upper coping of sandstone we
see forming the tall cliffs of Dunnet Head; and the greater part of the
space between, nearly twenty miles as the crow flies, is occupied
chiefly by the shales, grits, and flagstones, which we have found
charged so abundantly with the strangely-organized ichthyolites of the
second stage of vertebrate existence. In the twenty intervening miles
there are many breaks and faults, and so there may be, of course,
recurrences of the same strata, and re-appearances of the same beds;
but, after making large allowance for partial foldings and repetitions,
we must regard the development of this formation, with which the twenty
miles are occupied, as truly enormous. And yet it is but one of three
that occur in a single system. We reach the long flat bay of Dunnet, and
cross its waste of sands. The incoherent coils of the sand-worm lie
thick on the surface; and here a swarm of buzzing flies, disturbed by
the foot, rises in a cloud from some tuft of tangled sea-weed; and here
myriads of gray crustaceous sand-hoppers dart sidelong in the little
pools, or vault from the drier ridges a few inches into the air. Were
the trilobites of the Silurian system,--at one period, as their remains
testify, more than equally abundant,--creatures of similar habits? We
have at length arrived at the tall sandstone precipices of Dunnet, with
their broad decaying fronts of red and yellow; but in vain may we ply
hammer and chisel among them: not a scale, not a plate, not even the
stain of an imperfect fucoid appears. We have reached the upper boundary
of the Lower Old Red formation, and find it bordered by a desert devoid
of all trace of life. Some of the characteristic types of the formation
re-appear in the upper deposits; but though there is a reproduction of
the original works in their more characteristic passages, if I may so
speak, many of the readings are diverse, and the editions are all new.

It is one of the circumstances of peculiar interest with which Geology
at its present stage is invested, that there is no man of energy and
observation who may not rationally indulge in the hope of extending its
limits by adding to its facts. Mr. Dick, an intelligent tradesman of
Thurso, agreeably occupies his hours of leisure, for a few months, in
detaching from the rocks in his neighborhood their organic remains; and
thus succeeds in adding to the existing knowledge of palæozoic life, by
disinterring ichthyolites which even Agassiz himself would delight to
figure and describe. Several of the specimens in my possession, which I
owe to the kindness of Mr. Dick, are so decidedly unique, that they
would be regarded as strangers in the completest geological museums
extant. It is a not uncurious fact, that when the Thurso tradesman was
pursuing his labors of exploration among rocks beside the Pentland
Frith, a man of similar character was pursuing exactly similar labors,
with nearly similar results, among rocks of nearly the same era, that
bound, on the coast of Cornwall, the British Channel. When the one was
hammering in "Ready-money Cove," the other, at the opposite end of the
island, was disturbing the echoes of "Pudding-Gno;" and scales, plates,
spines, and occipital fragments of palæozoic fishes rewarded the labors
of both. In an article on the scientific meeting at York, which appeared
in "Chambers' Journal" in the November of last year, the reading public
were introduced to a singularly meritorious naturalist, Mr. Charles
Peach,[9] a private in the mounted guard (preventive service),
stationed on the southern coast of Cornwall, who has made several
interesting discoveries on the outer confines of the animal kingdom,
that have added considerably to the list of our British zoöphites and
echinodermata. The article, a finely-toned one, redolent of that
pleasing sympathy which Mr. Robert Chambers has ever evinced with
struggling merit, referred chiefly to Mr. Peach's labors as a
naturalist; but he is also well known in the geological field.


     Ichthyolite Beds of Clune and Lethenbarn--Limestone
     Quarry--Destruction of Urns and Sarcophagi in the
     Lime-kiln--Nodules opened--Beautiful coloring of the
     Remains--Patrick Duff's Description--New Genus of Morayshire
     Ichthyolite described--Form and size of the Nodules or Stone
     Coffins--Illustration from Mrs. Marshall's Cements--Forest of
     Darnaway--The Hill of Berries--Sluie--Elgin--Outliers of the Weald
     and the Oölite--Description of the Weald at Linksfield--Mr. Duff's
     _Lepidotus minor_--Eccentric Types of Fish Scales--Visit to the
     Sandstones of Scat-Craig--Fine suit of Fossils at Scat-Craig--True
     graveyard Bones, not mere Impressions--Varieties of pattern--The
     Diker's "Carved Flowers"--_Stagonolepis_, a new genus--Termination
     of the Ramble.

My term of furlough was fast drawing to a close. It was now Wednesday
the 14th August, and on Monday the 19th it behooved me to be seated at
my desk in Edinburgh. I took boat, and crossed the Moray Frith from
Cromarty to Nairn, and then walked on, in a very hot sun, over
Shakspeare's Moor to Boghole, with the intention of examining the
ichthyolite beds of Clune and Lethenbarn, and afterwards striking across
the country to Forres, through the forest of Darnaway, where the forest
abuts on the Findhorn, at the picturesque village of Sluie. When I had
last crossed the moor, exactly ten years before, it was in a tremendous
storm of rain and wind; and the dark platform of heath and bog, with its
old ruinous castle standing sentry over it, seemed greatly more worthy
of the genius of the dramatist, as cloud after cloud dashed over it,
like ocean waves breaking on some low volcanic island, than it did on
this clear, breathless afternoon, in the unclouded sunshine. But the
sublimity of the moor on which Macbeth met the witches depends in no
degree on that of the "heath near Forres," whether seen in foul weather
or fair; its topography bears relation to but the mind of Shakspeare;
and neither tile-draining nor the plough will ever lessen an inch of its

The limestone quarry of Clune has been opened on the edge of an
extensive moor, about three miles from the public road, where the
province of Moray sweeps upwards from the broad fertile belt of
corn-land that borders on the sea, to the brown and shaggy interior.
There is an old-fashioned bare-looking farm-house on the one side,
surrounded by a few uninclosed patches of corn; and the moorland, here
dark with heath, there gray with lichens, stretches away on the other.
The quarry itself is merely a piece of moor that has been trenched to
the depth of some five or six feet from the surface, and that presents,
at the line where the broken ground leans against the ground still
unbroken, a low uneven frontage, somewhat resembling that of a ruinous
stone-fence. It has been opened in the outcrop of an ichthyolite bed of
the Lower Old Red Sandstone, on which in this locality the thin moory
soil immediately rests, without the intervention of the common boulder
clay of the country; and the fish-enveloping nodules, which are composed
in this bed of a rich limestone, have been burnt, for a considerable
number of years, for the purposes of the agriculturist and builder.
There was a kiln smoking this evening beside the quarry; and a
few laborers were engaged with shovel and pickaxe in cutting into
the stratified clay of the unbroken ground, and throwing up its
spindle-shaped nodules on the bank, as materials for their next
burning. Antiquaries have often regretted that the sculptured marble
of Greece and Egypt,--classic urns, to whose keeping the ashes of
the dead had been consigned, and antique sarcophagi, roughened with
hieroglyphics,--should have been so often condemned to the lime-kiln by
the illiterate Copt or tasteless Mohammedan; and I could not help
experiencing a somewhat similar feeling here. The urns and sarcophagi,
many times more ancient than those of Greece and Egypt, and that told
still more wondrous stories, lay thickly ranged in this strange
catacomb,--so thickly, that there were quite enough for the lime-kiln
and the geologists too; but I found the kiln got all, and this at a time
when the collector finds scarce any fossils more difficult to procure
than those of the Lower Old Red Sandstone. I asked one of the laborers
whether he did not preserve some of the better specimens, in the hope of
finding an occasional purchaser. Not now, he said: he used to preserve
them in the days of Lady Cumming of Altyre; but since her ladyship's
death, no one in the neighborhood seemed to care for them, and strangers
rarely came the way.

The first nodule I laid open contained a tolerably well-preserved
Cheiracanthus; the second, an indifferent specimen of Glyptolepis; and
three others, in succession, remains of Coccosteus. Almost every nodule
of one especial layer near the top incloses its organism. The coloring
is frequently of great beauty. In the Cromarty, as in the Caithness,
Orkney, and Gamrie specimens, the animal matter with which the bones
were originally charged has been converted into a dark glossy bitumen,
and the plates and scales glitter from a ground of opaque gray, like
pieces of japan-work suspended against a rough-cast wall. But here, as
in the other Morayshire deposits, the plates and scales exist in nearly
their original condition, as bone that retains its white color in the
centre of the specimens, where its bulk is greatest, and is often
beautifully tinged at its thinner edges by the iron with which the stone
is impregnated. It is not rare to find some of the better preserved
fossils colored in a style that reminds one of the more gaudy fishes of
the tropics. We see the body of the ichthyolite, with its finely
arranged scales, of a pure snow-white. Along the edges, where the
original substance of the bone, combining with the oxide of the matrix,
has formed a phosphate of iron, there runs a delicately shaded band of
plum-blue; while the out-spread fins, charged still more largely with
the oxide, are of a deep red. The description of Mr. Patrick Duff, in
his "Geology of Moray," so redolent of the quiet enthusiasm of the true
fossil-hunter, especially applies to the ichthyolites of this quarry,
and to those of a neighboring opening in the same bed,--the quarry of
Lethenbarn. "The nodules," says Mr. Duff, "which in their external shape
resemble the stones used in the game of curling, but are elliptical
bodies instead of round, lie in the shale on their flat sides, in a line
with the dip. When taken out, they remind one of water-worn pebbles, or
rather boulders of a shore. A smart blow on the edge splits them along
on the major axis, and exposes the interesting inclosure. The practised
geologist knows well the thrilling interest attending the breaking up of
the nodule: the uninitiated cannot sympathize with it. There is no time
when a fossil looks so well as when first exposed. There is a clammy
moisture on the surface of the scales or plates, which brings out the
beautiful coloring, and adds brilliancy to the enamel. Exposure to the
weather soon dims the lustre; and even in a cabinet an old specimen is
easily known by its tarnished aspect."

I found at Clune no ichthyolite to which the geologists have not been
already introduced, or with which I had not been acquainted previously
in the Cromarty beds. The Lower Old Red of Morayshire furnishes,
however, at least one genus not yet figured nor described, and of which,
so far as I am aware, only a single specimen has yet been found. It
seems to have been a small delicately-formed fish; its head covered with
plates; its body with round scales of a size intermediate between those
of the Osteolepis and Cheiracanthus; its anterior dorsal fin placed, as
in the Dipterus, Diplopterus, and Glyptolepis, directly opposite to its
ventral fins; the enamelled surfaces of the minute scales were fretted
with microscopic undulating ridges, that radiated from the centre to the
circumference; similar furrows traversed the occipital plates; and the
fins, unfurnished with spines, were formed, as in the Dipterus and
Diplopterus, of thick-set, enamelled rays. The posterior fins and tail
of the creature were not preserved. I may mention, for the satisfaction
of the geologist, that I saw this unique fossil in the possession of the
late Lady Cumming of Altyre, a few weeks previous to the lamented death
of her ladyship; and that, on assuring her it was as new in relation to
the Cromarty and Caithness fish-beds as to those of Moray, she intimated
an intention of forthwith sending a drawing of it to Agassiz; but her
untimely decease in all probability interfered with the design, and I
have not since heard of this new genus of ichthyolite, or of her
ladyship's interesting specimen, hitherto apparently its only
representative and memorial. In the Morayshire, as in the Cromarty beds,
the limestone nodules take very generally the form of the fish which
they inclose: they are stone coffins, carefully moulded to express the
outline of the corpses within. Is the fish entire?--the nodule is of a
spindle form, broader at the head and narrower at the tail. Is it
slightly curved, in the attitude of violent death?--the nodule has also
its slight curve. Is it bent round, so that the extremities of the
creature meet?--the nodule, in conformity with the outline, is circular.
Is it disjointed and broken?--the nodule is correspondingly irregular.
In nine cases out of ten, the inclosing coffin, like that of an old
mummy, conforms to the outline of the organism which it incloses. It is
further worthy of remark, too, that a large fish forms generally a
large nodule, and a small fish a small one. Here, for instance, is a
nodule fifteen inches in length, here a nodule of only three inches, and
here a nodule of intermediate size, that measures eight inches. We find
that the large nodule contains a Cheirolepis thirteen inches in length,
the small one a Diplacanthus of but two and a half inches in length, and
the intermediate one a Cheiracanthus of seven inches. The size of the
fish evidently regulated that of the nodule. The coffin is generally as
good a fit in size as in form; and the bulk of the nodule bears almost
always a definite proportion to the amount of animal matter round which
it had formed. I was a good deal struck, a few weeks ago, in glancing
over a series of experiments conducted for a different purpose by a lady
of singular ingenuity,--Mrs. Marshall, the inventor and patentee of the
beautiful marble-looking plaster, _Intonacco_,--to find what seemed a
similar principle illustrated in the compositions of her various
cements. These are all formed of a basis of lime, mixed in certain
proportions with organic matter. The reader must be familiar with
cements of this kind long known among the people, and much used in the
repairing of broken pottery, such as a cement compounded of quicklime
made of oyster shells, mixed up with a glue made of skim-milk cheese,
and another cement made also of quicklime mixed up with the whites of
eggs. In Mrs. Marshall's cements, the organic matter is variously
compounded of both animal and vegetable substances, while the earth
generally employed is sulphate of lime; and the result is a
close-grained marble-like composition, considerably harder than the
sulphate in its original crystalline state. She had deposited, in one
set of her experiments, the calcareous earth, mixed up with sand, clay,
and other extraneous matters, on some of the commoner molluscs of our
shores; and universally found that the mass, incoherent everywhere
else, had acquired solidity wherever it had been permeated by the
animal matter of the molluscs. Each animal, in proportion to its size,
is found to retain, as in the fossiliferous spindles of the Old Red
Sandstone, its coherent nodule around it. One point in the natural
phenomenon, however, still remains unillustrated by the experiments of
Mrs. Marshall. We see in them the animal matter giving solidity to the
lime in immediate contact with it; but we do not see it possessing any
such affinity for it as to form, in an argillaceous compound, like that
of the ichthyolite beds, a centre of attraction powerful enough to draw
together the lime diffused throughout the mass. It still remains for the
geologic chemist to discover on what principle masses of animal matter
should form the attracting nuclei of limestone nodules.

The declining sun warned me that I had lingered rather longer than was
prudent among the ichthyolites of Clune; and so, striking in an eastern
direction across a flat moor, through which I found the schistose gneiss
of the district protruding in masses resembling half-buried boulders, I
entered the forest of Darnaway. There was no path, and much underwood,
and I enjoyed the luxury of steering my course, out of sight of road and
landmark, by the sun, and of being not sure at times whether I had skill
enough to play the part of the bush-ranger under his guidance. A sultry
day had clarified and cooled down into a clear, balmy evening; the slant
beam was falling red on a thousand tall trunks,--here gleaming along
some bosky vista, to which the white silky wood-moths, fluttering by
scores, and the midge and the mosquito dancing by myriads, imparted a
motty gold-dust atmosphere; there penetrating in straggling rays far
into some gloomy recess, and resting in patches of flame, amid the
darkness, on gnarled stem, or moss-cushioned stump, or gray beard-like
lichen. I dislodged, in passing through the underwood, many a tiny
tenant of the forest, that had a better right to harbor among its wild
raspberries and junipers than I had to disturb them,--velvety
night-moths, that had sat with folded wings under the leaves, awaiting
the twilight, and that now took short blind flights of some two or three
yards, to get out of my way,--and robust, well-conditioned spiders,
whose elastic, well-tightened lines snapped sharp before me as I pressed
through, and then curled up on the scarce perceptible breeze, like
broken strands of wool. But every man, however Whiggish in his
inclinations, entertains a secret respect for the powerful; and though I
passed within a few feet of a large wasps' nest, suspended to a jutting
bough of furze, the wasps I took especial care _not_ to disturb. I
pressed on, first through a broad belt of the forest, occupied mainly by
melancholy Scotch firs; next through an opening, in which I found an
American-looking village of mingled cottages, gardens, fields and wood;
and then through another broad forest-belt, in which the ground is more
varied with height and hollow than in the first, and in which I found
only forest trees, mostly oaks and beeches. I heard the roar of the
Findhorn before me, and premised I was soon to reach the river; but
whether I should pursue it upwards or downwards, in order to find the
ferry at Sluie, was more than I knew. There lay in my track a beautiful
hillock, that reclines on the one side to the setting sun, and sinks
sheer on the other, in a mural sandstone precipice, into the Findhorn.
The trees open over it, giving full access to the free air and the
sunshine; and I found it as thickly studded over with berries as if it
had been the special care of half a dozen gardeners. The red light fell
yet redder on the thickly inlaid cranberries and stone-brambles of the
slope, and here and there, though so late in the season, on a patch of
wild strawberries; while over all, dark, delicate blueberries, with
their flour-bedusted coats, were studded as profusely as if they had
been peppered over it by a hailstone cloud. I have seldom seen such a
school-boy's paradise, and I was just thinking what a rare discovery I
would have deemed it had I made it thirty years sooner, when I heard a
whooping in the wood, and four little girls, the eldest scarcely eleven,
came bounding up to the hillock, their lips and fingers already dyed
purple, and dropped themselves down among the berries with a shout. They
were sadly startled to find they had got a companion in so solitary a
recess; but I succeeded in convincing them that they were in no manner
of danger from him; and on asking whether there was any of them skilful
enough to show me the way to Sluie, they told me they all lived there,
and were on their way home from school, which they attended at the
village in the forest. Hours had elapsed since the master had _let them
go_, but in so fine an evening the berries wouldn't, and so they were
still in the wood. I accompanied them to Sluie, and was ferried over the
river in a salmon coble. There is no point where the Findhorn,
celebrated among our Scotch streams for the beauty of its scenery, is so
generally interesting as in the neighborhood of this village; forest and
river,--each a paragon in its kind,--uniting for several miles together
what is most choice and characteristic in the peculiar features of both.
In no locality is the surface of the great forest of Darnaway more
undulated, or its trees nobler; and nowhere does the river present a
livelier succession of eddying pools and rippling shallows, or fret
itself in sweeping on its zig-zag course, now to the one bank, now to
the other, against a more picturesque and imposing series of cliffs. But
to the geologist the locality possesses an interest peculiar to itself.
The precipices on both sides are charged with fossils of the Upper Old
Red Sandstone: they form part of a vast indurated graveyard, excavated
to the depth of an hundred feet by the ceaseless wear of the stream; and
when the waters are low, the teeth-plates and scales of ichthyolites,
all of them specifically different from those of Clune and Lethenbarn,
and most of them generically so, may be disinterred from the strata in
handfuls. But the closing evening left me neither light nor time for the
work of exploration. I heard the curfew in the woods from the yet
distant town, and dark night had set in long ere I reached Forres. On
the following morning I took a seat in one of the south coaches, and got
on to Elgin an hour before noon.

Elgin, one of the finest of our northern towns, occupies the centre of a
richly fossiliferous district, which wants only better sections to rank
it among the most interesting in the kingdom. An undulating platform of
Old Red Sandstone, in which we see, largely developed in one locality,
the lower formation of the Coccosteus, and in another, still more
largely, the upper formation of the _Holoptychius Nobilissimus_, forms,
if I may so speak, the foundation deposit of the district,--the true
geologic plane of the country; and, thickly scattered over this plane,
we find numerous detached knolls and patches of the Weald and the
Oölite, deposited like heaps of travelled soil, or of lime shot down by
the agriculturist on the surface of a field. The Old Red platform is
mottled by the outliers of a comparatively modern time: the sepulchral
mounds of later races, that lived and died during the reptile age of the
world, repose on the surface of an ancient burying-ground, charged with
remains of the long anterior age of the fish; and over all, as a general
covering, rest the red boulder-clay and the vegetable mould. Mr. Duff,
in his valuable "Sketch of the Geology of Moray," enumerates five
several localities in the neighborhood of Elgin in which there occur
outliers of the Weald; though, of course, in a country so flat, and in
which the diluvium lies deep, we cannot hold that all have been
discovered. And though the outliers of the Oölite have not yet been
ascertained to be equally numerous, they seem of greater extent; the
isolated masses detached from them by the denuding agencies lie thick
over extensive areas; and in working out the course of improvement which
has already rendered Elginshire the garden of the north, the ditcher at
one time touches on some bed of shale charged with the characteristic
Ammonites and Belemnites of the system, and at another on some
calcareous sandstone bed, abounding with its Pectens, its Plagiostoma,
and its Pinnæ. Some of these outliers, whether Wealden or Oölitic, are
externally of great beauty. They occur in the parish of Lhanbryde, about
three miles to the east of Elgin, in the form of green pyramidal
hillocks, mottled with trees, and at Linksfield, as a confluent group of
swelling grassy mounds. And from their insulated character, and the
abundance of organisms which they inclose, they serve to remind one of
those green pyramids of Central America in which the traveller finds
deposited the skeleton remains of extinct races. It has been suggested
by Mr. Duff, in his "Sketch,"--a suggestion which the late
Sutherlandshire discoveries of Mr. Robertson of Inverugie have tended to
confirm,--that the Oölite and Weald of Moray do not, in all probability,
represent consecutive formations: they seem to bear the same sort of
relation to each other as that mutually borne by the Mountain Limestone
and the Coal Measures. The one, of lacustrine or of estuary origin,
exhibits chiefly the productions of the land and its fresh waters; the
other, as decidedly of marine origin, is charged with the remains of
animals whose proper home was the sea. But the productions, though
dissimilar, were in all probability contemporary, just as the crabs and
periwinkles of the Frith of Forth are contemporary with the frogs and
lymnea of Flanders moss.

I had little time for exploration in the neighborhood of Elgin; but that
little, through the kindness of my friend Mr. Duff, I was enabled to
economize. We first visited together the outlier of the Weald at
Linksfield. It may be found rising in the landscape, a short mile below
the town, in the form of a green undulating hillock, half cut through by
a limestone quarry; and the section thus furnished is of great beauty.
The basis on which the hillock rests is formed of the well-marked
calcareous band in the Upper Old Red, known as the Cornstone, which we
find occurring here, as elsewhere, as a pale concretionary limestone of
considerable richness, though in some patches largely mixed with a green
argillaceous earth, and in others passing into a siliceous chert. Over
the pale-colored base, the section of the hillock is ribbed like an
onyx: for about forty feet, bands of gray, green, and blue clays
alternate with bands of cream-colored, light-green, and dark-blue
limestones; and over all there rests a band of the red boulder-clay,
capped by a thin layer of vegetable mould. It is a curious circumstance,
well fitted to impress on the geologist the necessity of cautious
induction, that the boulder-clay not only _overlies_, but also
_underlies_, this fresh-water deposit; a bed of unequivocally the same
origin and character with that at the top lying intercalated, as if
filling up two low flat vaults, between the upper surface of the
Cornstone and the lower band of the Weald. It would, however, be as
unsafe to infer that this intervening bed is older than the overlying
ones, as to infer that the rubbish which chokes up the vaulted dungeon
of an old castle is more ancient than the arch that stretches over it.
However introduced into the cavity which it occupies,--whether by
land-springs or otherwise,--we find it containing fragments of the green
and pale limestones that lie above, just as the rubbish of the castle
dungeon might be found to contain fragments of the castle itself. When
the bed of red boulder-clay was intercalated, the rocks of the overlying
Wealden were exactly the same sort of indurated substances that they are
now, and were yielding to the operations of some denuding agent. The
alternating clays and limestones of this outlier, each of which must
have been in turn an upper layer at the bottom of some lake or estuary,
are abundantly fossiliferous. In some the fresh-water character of the
deposit is well marked: Cyprides are so exceedingly numerous in some of
the bands, that they impart to the stone an Oölitic appearance; while
others of a dark-colored limestone we see strewed over, like the oozy
bottom of a modern lake, with specimens of what seem Paludina, Cyclas,
and Planorbus. Some of the other shells are more equivocal: a Mytilus or
Modiola, which abounds in some of the bands, may have been either a sea
or a fresh-water shell; and a small oyster and Astarte seem decidedly
marine. Remains of fish are very abundant,--scales, plates, teeth,
ichthyodorulites, and in some instances entire ichthyolites. I saw, in
the collection of Mr. Duff, a small but very entire specimen of
_Lepidotus minor_, with the fins spread out on the limestone, as in an
anatomical preparation, and almost every plate and scale in its place.
Some of his specimens of ichthyodorulites, too, are exceedingly
beautiful, and of great size, resembling jaws thickly set with teeth,
the apparent teeth being mere knobs ranged along the concave edge of the
bone, the surface of which we see gracefully fluted and enamelled. What
most struck me, however, in glancing over the drawers of Mr. Duff, was
the character of the Ganoid scales of this deposit. The Ganoid order in
the days of the Weald was growing old; and two new orders,--the Ctenoid
and Cycloid,--were on the eve of taking its place in creation. Hitherto
it had comprised at least two-thirds of all the fish that had existed
ever since the period in which fish first began; and almost every Ganoid
fish had its own peculiar pattern of scale. But it would now seem as if
well nigh all the simpler patterns were exhausted, and as if, in order
to give the variety which nature loves, forms of the most eccentric
types had to be resorted to. With scarce any exception save that
furnished by the scales of the _Lepidotus minor_, which are plain
lozenge-shaped plates, thickly japanned, the forms are strangely complex
and irregular, easily expressible by the pencil, but beyond the reach of
the pen. The remains of reptiles have been found occasionally, though
rarely, in this outlier of the Weald,--the vertebra of a Plesiosaurus,
the femur of some Chelonian reptile, and a large fluted tooth, supposed

I would fain have visited some of the neighboring outliers of the
Oölite, but time did not permit. Mr. Duff's collection, however, enabled
me to form a tolerably adequate estimate of their organic contents.
Viewed in the group, these present nearly the same aspect as the
organisms of the Upper Lias of Pabba. There is in the same abundance
large Pinnæ, and well-relieved Pectens, both ribbed and smooth; the same
abundance, too, of Belemnites and Ammonites of resembling type. Both the
Moray outliers and the Pabba deposit have their Terebratulæ, Gervilliæ,
Plagiostoma, Cardiadæ, their bright Ganoid scales, and their
imperfectly-preserved lignites. They belong apparently to nearly the
same period, and must have been formed in nearly similar
circumstances,--the one on the western, the other on the eastern coast
of a country then covered by the vegetation of the Oölite, and now
known, with reference to an antiquity of but yesterday, as the ancient
kingdom of Scotland. I saw among the Ammonites of these outliers at
least one species, which, I believe, has not yet been found elsewhere,
and which has been named, after Mr. Robertson of Inverugie, the
gentleman who first discovered it, _Ammonites Robertsoni_. Like most of
the genus to which it belongs, it is an exceedingly beautiful shell,
with all its whorls free and gracefully ribbed, and bearing on its back,
as its distinguishing specific peculiarity, a triple keel. I spent the
evening of this day in visiting, with Mr. Duff, the Upper Old Red
Sandstones of Scat-Craig. In Elginshire, as in Fife and elsewhere, the
Upper Old Red consists of three grand divisions,--a superior bed of pale
yellow sandstone, which furnishes the finest building-stone anywhere
found in the north of Scotland,--an intermediate calcareous bed, known
technically as the Cornstone,--and an inferior bed of sandstone,
chiefly, in this locality, of a grayish-red color, and generally very
incoherent in its structure. The three beds, as shown by the fossil
contents of the yellow sandstones above, and of the grayish-red
sandstones below, are members of the same formation,--a formation which,
in Scotland at least, does not possess an organism in common with the
Middle Old Red formation; that of the Cephalaspis, as developed in
Forfarshire, Stirling, and Ayr, or the Lower Old Red formation; that of
the Coccosteus, as developed in Caithness, Cromarty, Inverness, and
Banff shires, and in so many different localities in Moray. The
Sandstones at Scat-Craig belong to the grayish-red base of the Upper Old
Red formation. They lie about five miles south of Elgin, not far distant
from where the palæozoic deposits of the coast-side lean against the
great primary nucleus of the interior. We pass from the town, through
deep rich fields, carefully cultivated and well inclosed: the country,
as we advance on the moorlands, becomes more open; the homely cottage
takes the place of the neat villa; the brown heath, of the grassy lea;
and unfenced patches of corn here and there alternate with plantings of
dark sombre firs, in their mediocre youth. At length we near the
southern boundary of the landscape,--an undulating moory ridge,
partially planted; and see where a deep gap in the outline opens a way
to the upland districts of the province, a lively hill-stream descending
towards the east through the bed which it has scooped out for itself in
a soft red conglomerate. The section we have come to explore lies along
its course: it has been the grand excavator in the densely occupied
burial-ground over which it flows; but its labors have produced but a
shallow scratch after all,--a mere ditch, some ten or twelve feet deep,
in a deposit the entire depth of which is supposed greatly to exceed a
hundred fathoms. The shallow section, however, has been well wrought;
and its suit of fossils is one of the finest, both from the great
specific variety which they exhibit, and their excellent state of
keeping, that the Upper Old Red Sandstone has anywhere furnished.

So great is the incoherency of the matrix, that we can dig into it with
our chisels, unassisted by the hammer. It reminds us of the loose
gravelly soil of an ancient graveyard, partially consolidated by a
night's frost,--a resemblance still further borne out by the condition
and appearance of its organic contents. The numerous bones disseminated
throughout the mass do not exist, as in so many of the Upper Old Red
Sandstone rocks, as mere films or impressions, but in their original
forms, retaining bulk as well as surface: they are true graveyard bones,
which may be detached entire from the inclosing mass, and of which, were
we sufficiently well acquainted with the anatomy of the long-perished
races to which they belonged, entire skeletons might be reconstructed.
I succeeded in disinterring, during my short stay, an occipital plate of
great beauty, fretted on its outer surface by numerous tubercles,
confluent on its anterior part, and surrounded on its posterior portion,
where they stand detached, by punctulated markings. I found also a fine
scale of _Holoptychius Nobilissimus_, and a small tooth, bent somewhat
like a nail that had been drawn out of its place by two opposite
wrenches, and from the internal structure of which Professor Owen has
bestowed on the animal to which it belonged the generic name Dendrodus.
I have ascertained, however, through the indispensable assistance of Mr.
George Sanderson, that the genus Holoptychius of Agassiz, named from a
peculiarity in the sculpture of the scale, is the identical genus
Dendrodus of Professor Owen, named from a peculiarity in the structure
of the teeth. Those teeth of the genus Holoptychius, whether of the
Lower or Upper Old Red, that belong to the second or _reptile_ row with
which the creature's jaws were furnished, present in the cross section
the appearance of numerous branches, like those of trees, radiating from
a centre like spokes from the nave of a wheel; and their arborescent
aspect suggested to the Professor the name Dendrodus. It seems truly
wonderful, when one but considers it, to what minute and obscure
ramifications the variety of pattern, specific and generic, which nature
so loves to preserve, is found to descend. We see great diversity of
mode and style in the architecture of a city built of brick; but while
the houses are different, the bricks are always the same. It is not so
in nature. The bricks are as dissimilar as the houses. We find, for
instance, those differences, specific and generic, that obtain among
fishes, both recent and extinct, descending to even the microscopic
structure of their teeth. There is more variety of pattern,--in most
cases of very elegant pattern,--in the sliced fragments of the teeth of
the ichthyolites of a single formation, than in the carved blocks of an
extensive calico-print yard. Each species has its own distinct pattern,
as if in all the individuals of which it consisted the same block had
been employed to stamp it; each genus has its own general _type_ of
pattern, as if the same inventive idea, variously altered and modified,
had been wrought upon in all. In the genus Dendrodus, for instance, it
is the generic type, that from a central nave there should radiate,
spoke-like, a number of leafy branches; but in the several species, the
branches, if I may so express myself, belong to different shrubs, and
present dissimilar outlines. There are no repetitions of earlier
patterns to be found among the generically different ichthyolites of
other formations. We see in the world of fashion old modes of ornament
continually reviving: the range of invention seems limited; and we find
it revolving, in consequence, in an irregular, ever-returning cycle. But
Infinite resource did not need to travel in a circle, and so we find no
return or doublings in its course. It has appeared to me, that an
argument against the transmutation of species, were any such needed,
might be founded on those inherent peculiarities of structure that are
ascertained thus to pervade the entire texture of the framework of
animals. If we find one building differing from another merely in
external form, we have no difficulty in conceiving how, by additions and
alterations, they might be made to present a uniform appearance;
transmutation, development, progression,--if one may use such
terms,--seem possible in such circumstances. But if the buildings differ
from each other, not only in external form, but also in every brick and
beam, bolt and nail, no mere scheme of external alteration can induce a
real resemblance. Every brick must be taken down, and every beam and
belt removed. The problem cannot be wrought by the remodelling of an old
house: there is no other mode of solving it save by the erection of a
new one.

Among the singularly interesting Old Red fossils of Mr. Duff's
collection I saw the impression of a large ichthyolite from the superior
yellow sandstone of the Upper Old Red, which had been brought him by a
country diker only a few days before. In breaking open a building stone,
the diker had found the inside of it, he said, covered over with
curiously carved flowers; and, knowing that Mr. Duff had a turn for
curiosities, he had brought the flowers to him. The supposed flowers are
the sculpturings on the scales of the ichthyolite; and, true to the
analogy of the diker, on at least a first glance, they may be held to
resemble the rather equivocal florets of a cheap wall-paper, or of an
ornamental tile. The specimen exhibits the impressions of four rows of
oblong rectangular scales. One row contains seven of these, and another
eight. Each scale averages about an inch and a quarter in length, by
about three quarters of an inch in breadth; and the parallelogramical
field which it presents is occupied by a curious piece of carving. By a
sort of pictorial illusion, the device appears as if in motion: it would
seem as if a sudden explosion had taken place in the middle of the
field, and as if the numerous dislodged fragments, propelled all around
by the central force, were hurrying to the sides. But these seeming
fragments were not elevations in the original scale, but depressions.
They almost seem as if they had been indented into it, in the way one
sees the first heavy drops of a thunder shower indented into a platform
of damp sea sand; and this last peculiarity of appearance seems to have
suggested the name which this sole representative of an extinct genus
has received during the course of the last few weeks from Agassiz. An
Elgin gentleman forwarded to Neufchatel a singularly fine calotype of
the fossil, taken by Mr. Adamson of Edinburgh, with a full-size drawing
of a few of the scales; and from the calotype and the drawing the
naturalist has decided that the genus is entirely new, and that
henceforth it shall bear the descriptive name of Stagonolepis, or
drop-scale. As I looked for the first time on this broken fragment of an
ichthyolite,--the sole representative and record of an entire genus of
creatures that had been once called into existence to fulfil some wise
purpose of the Creator long since accomplished,--I bethought me of
Rogers's noble lines on the Torso,--

 "And dost thou still, thou mass of breathing stone,
 (Thy giant limbs to night and chaos hurled)
 Still sit as on the fragment of a world,
 Surviving all?"

Here, however, was a still more wonderful Torso than that of the
dismembered Hercules, which so awakened the enthusiasm of the poet.
Strange peculiarities of being,--singular habits, curious instincts, the
history of a race from the period when the all-producing Word had spoken
the first individuals into being, until, in circumstances unfitted for
their longer existence, or in some great annihilating catastrophe, the
last individuals perished,--were all associated with this piece of
sculptured stone; but, like some ancient inscription of the desert,
written in an unknown character and dead tongue, its dark meanings were
fast locked up, and no inhabitant of earth possessed the key. Does that
key anywhere exist, save in the keeping of Him who knows all and
produced all, and to whom there is neither past nor future? Or is there
a record of creation kept by those higher intelligences,--the first-born
of spiritual natures,--whose existence stretches far into the eternity
that has gone by, and who possess, as their inheritance, the whole of
the eternity to come? We may be at least assured, that nothing can be
too low for angels to remember, that was not too low for God to create.

I took coach for Edinburgh on the following morning; for with my visit
to Scat-Craig terminated the explorations of my Summer Ramble. During
the summer of the present year I have found time to follow up some of
the discoveries of the last. In the course of a hasty visit to the
island of Eigg, I succeeded in finding _in situ_ reptile remains of the
kind which I had found along the shores in the previous season, in
detached water-rolled masses. The deposit in which they occur lies deep
in the Oölite. In some parts of the island there rest over it
alternations of beds of trap and sedimentary strata, to the height of
more than a thousand feet; but in the line of coast which intervenes
between the farm-house of Keill and the picturesque shieling described
in my fifth chapter, it has been laid bare by the sea immediately under
the cliffs, and we may see it jutting out at a low angle from among the
shingle and rolled stones of the beach for several hundred feet
together, charged everywhere with the teeth, plates, and scales of
Ganoid fishes, and somewhat more sparingly, with the ribs, vertebræ, and
digital bones of saurians. But a full description of this interesting
deposit, as its discovery belongs to the Summer Ramble of a year, the
ramblings of which are not yet completed, must await some future time.



     Supplementary--Isolated reptile Remains in Eigg--Small Isles
     revisited--The Betsey again--Storm bound--Tacking--Becalmed--Medusæ
     caught and described--Rain--A Shoal of Porpoises--Change of
     Weather--The bed-ridden Woman--The Poor Law Act for
     Scotland--Geological Excursion--Basaltic Columns--Oölitic
     Beds--Abundance of Organic Remains--Hybodus Teeth--Discovery of
     reptile Remains _in situ_--Musical Sand of Laig
     re-examined--Explanation suggested--Sail for Isle Ornsay--Anchored
     Clouds--A Leak sprung--Peril of the Betsey--At work with Pump and
     Pails--Safe in Harbor--Return to Edinburgh.

It is told of the "Spectator," on his own high authority, that having
"read the controversies of some great men concerning the antiquities of
Egypt, he made a voyage to Grand Cairo, on purpose to take the measure
of a pyramid, and that, so soon as he had set himself right in that
particular, he returned to his native country with great satisfaction."
My love of knowledge has not carried me altogether so far, chiefly, I
dare say, because my voyaging opportunities have not been quite so
great. Ever since my ramble of last year, however, I have felt, I am
afraid, a not less interest in the geologic antiquities of Small Isles
than that cherished by "Spectator" with respect to the comparatively
modern antiquities of Egypt; and as, in a late journey to these islands
the object of my visit involved but a single point, nearly as insulated
as the dimensions of a pyramid, I think I cannot do better than shelter
myself under the authority of the short-faced gentleman who wrote
articles in the reign of Queen Anne. I had found in Eigg, in
considerable abundance and fine keeping, reptile remains of the Oölite;
but they had occurred in merely rolled masses, scattered along the
beach. I had not discovered the bed in which they had been originally
deposited, and could neither tell its place in the system, nor its
relation to the other rocks of the island. The discovery was but a
half-discovery,--the half of a broken medal, with the date on the
missing portion. And so, immediately after the rising of the General
Assembly in June last [1845], I set out to revisit Small Isles,
accompanied by my friend Mr. Swanson, with the determination of
acquainting myself with the burial-place of the old Oölitic reptiles, if
it lay anywhere open to the light.

We found the Betsey riding in the anchoring ground at Isle Ornsay, in
her foul-weather dishabille, with her topmast struck and in the yard,
and her cordage and sides exhibiting in their weathered aspect the
influence of the bleaching rains and winds of the previous winter. She
was at once in an undress and getting old, and, as seen from the shore
through rain and spray,--for the weather was coarse and boisterous,--she
had apparently gained as little in her good looks from either
circumstance as most other ladies do. We lay storm-bound for three days
at Isle Ornsay, watching from the window of Mr. Swanson's dwelling the
incessant showers sweeping down the loch. On the morning of Saturday,
the gale, though still blowing right ahead, had moderated; the minister
was anxious to visit this island charge, after his absence of several
weeks from them at the Assembly; and I, more than half afraid that my
term of furlough might expire ere I had reached my proposed scene of
exploration, was as anxious as he; and so we both resolved, come what
might, on doggedly beating our way adown the Sound of Sleat to Small
Isles. If the wind does not fail us, said my friend, we have little
more than a day's work before us, and shall get into Eigg about
midnight. We had but one of our seamen aboard, for John Stewart was
engaged with his potato crop at home; but the minister was content, in
the emergency, to rank his passenger as an able-bodied seaman; and so,
hoisting sail and anchor, we got under way, and, clearing the loch,
struck out into the Sound.

We tacked in long reaches for several hours, now opening up in
succession the deep withdrawing lochs of the mainland, now clearing
promontory after promontory in the island district of Sleat. In a few
hours we had left a bulky schooner, that had quitted Isle Ornsay at the
same time, full five miles behind us; but as the sun began to decline,
the wind began to sink; and about seven o'clock, when we were nearly
abreast of the rocky point of Sleat, and about half-way advanced in our
voyage, it had died into a calm; and for full twenty hours thereafter
there was no more sailing for the Betsey. We saw the sun set, and the
clouds gather, and the pelting rain come down, and nightfall, and
morning break, and the noon-tide hour pass by, and still were we
floating idly in the calm. I employed the few hours of the Saturday
evening that intervened between the time of our arrest and nightfall, in
fishing from our little boat for medusæ with a bucket. They had risen by
myriads from the bottom as the wind fell, and were mottling the green
depths of the water below and around far as the eye could reach. Among
the commoner kinds,--the kind with the four purple rings on the area of
its flat bell, which ever vibrates without sound, and the kind with the
fringe of dingy brown, and the long stinging tails, of which I have
sometimes borne from my swimming excursions the nettle-like smart for
hours,--there were at least two species of more unusual occurrence, both
of them very minute. The one, scarcely larger than a shilling, bore the
common umbiliferous form, but had its area inscribed by a pretty
orange-colored wheel; the other, still more minute, and which presented
in the water the appearance of a small hazel-nut of a brownish-yellow
hue, I was disposed to set down as a species of beroe. On getting one
caught, however, and transferred to a bowl, I found that the
brownish-colored, melon-shaped mass, though ribbed like the beroe, did
not represent the true outline of the animal; it formed merely the
centre of a transparent gelatinous bell, which, though scarce visible in
even the bowl, proved a most efficient instrument of motion. Such were
its contractile powers, that its sides nearly closed at every stroke,
behind the opaque orbicular centre, like the legs of a vigorous swimmer;
and the animal, unlike its more bulky congeners,--that, despite their
slow but persevering flappings, seemed greatly at the mercy of the tide,
and progressed all one way,--shot, as it willed, backwards, forwards, or
athwart. As the evening closed, and the depths beneath presented a
dingier and yet dingier green, until at length all had become black, the
distinctive colors of the acelpha,--the purple, the orange, and the
brown,--faded and disappeared, and the creatures hung out, instead,
their pale phosphoric lights, like the lanterns of a fleet hoisted high
to prevent collision in the darkness. Now they gleamed dim and
indistinct as they drifted undisturbed through the upper depths, and now
they flamed out bright and green, like beaten torches, as the tide
dashed them against the vessel's sides. I bethought me of the gorgeous
description of Coleridge, and felt all its beauty:--

 "They moved in tracks of shining white,
 And when they reared, the elfish light
   Fell off in hoary flakes.
 Within the shadow of the ship
   I watched their rich attire,--
 Blue, glassy green, and velvet black:
 They curled, and swam, and every track
   Was a flash of golden fire."

A crew of three, when there are watches to set, divides wofully ill. As
there was, however, nothing to do in the calm, we decided that our first
watch should consist of our single seaman, and the second of the
minister and his friend. The clouds, which had been thickening for
hours, now broke in torrents of rain, and old Alister got into his
water-proof oil-skin and souwester, and we into our beds. The seams of
the Betsey's deck had opened so sadly during the past winter, as to be
no longer water-tight, and the little cabin resounded drearily in the
darkness, like some dropping cave, to the ceaseless patter of the
leakage. We continued to sleep, however, somewhat longer than we
ought,--for Alister had been unwilling to waken the minister; but we at
length got up, and, relieving watch the first from the tedium of being
rained upon and doing nothing, watch the second was set to do nothing
and be rained upon in turn. We had drifted during the night-time on a
kindly tide, considerably nearer our island, which we could now see
looming blue and indistinct through the haze some seven or eight miles
away. The rain ceased a little before nine, and the clouds rose,
revealing the surrounding lands, island and main,--Rum, with its abrupt
mountain-peaks,--the dark Cuchullins of Skye,--and, far to the
south-east, where Inverness bounds on Argyllshire, some of the tallest
hills in Scotland,--among the rest, the dimly-seen Ben-Wevis. But long
wreaths of pale gray cloud lay lazily under their summits, like shrouds
half drawn from off the features of the dead, to be again spread over
them, and we concluded that the dry weather had not yet come. A little
before noon we were surrounded for miles by an immense but
thinly-spread shoal of porpoises, passing in pairs to the south, to
prosecute, on their own behalf, the herring fishing in Lochfine or
Gareloch; and for a full hour the whole sea, otherwise so silent, became
vocal with long-breathed blowings, as if all the steam-tenders of all
the railways in Britain were careering around us; and we could see
slender jets of spray rising in the air on every side, and glossy black
backs and pointed fins, that looked as if they had been fashioned out of
Kilkenny marble, wheeling heavily along the surface. The clouds again
began to close as the shoal passed, but we could now hear in the
stillness the measured sound of oars, drawn vigorously against the
gunwale in the direction of the island of Eigg, still about five miles
distant, though the boat from which they rose had not yet come in sight.
"Some of my poor people," said the minister, "coming to tug us ashore!"
We were boarded in rather more than half an hour after,--for the sounds
in the dead calm had preceded the boat by miles,--by four active young
men, who seemed wonderfully glad to see their pastor; and then, amid the
thickening showers, which had recommenced heavy as during the night,
they set themselves to tow us into the harbor. The poor fellows had a
long and fatiguing pull, and were thoroughly drenched ere, about six
o'clock in the evening, we had got up to our anchoring ground, and
moored, as usual, in the open tideway between _Eilan Chasteil_ and the
main island. There was still time enough for an evening discourse, and
the minister, getting out of his damp clothes, went ashore and preached.

The evening of Sunday closed in fog and rain, and in fog and rain the
morning of Monday arose. The ceaseless patter made dull music on deck
and skylight above, and the slower drip, drip, through the leaky beams,
drearily beat time within. The roof of my bed was luckily water-tight;
and I could look out from my snuggery of blankets on the desolations of
the leakage, like Bacon's philosopher surveying a tempest from the
shore. But the minister was somewhat less fortunate, and had no little
trouble in diverting an ill-conditioned drop that had made a dead set at
his pillow. I was now a full week from Edinburgh, and had seen and done
nothing; and, were another week to pass after the same manner,--as, for
aught that appeared, might well happen,--I might just go home again, as
I had come, with my labor for my pains. In the course of the afternoon,
however, the weather unexpectedly cleared up, and we set out somewhat
impatiently through the wet grass, to visit a cave a few hundred yards
to the west of _Naomh Fraingh_, in which it had been said the
Protestants of the island might meet for the purposes of religious
worship, were they to be ejected from the cottage erected by Mr.
Swanson, in which they had worshipped hitherto. We reëxamined, in the
passing, the pitch stone dike mentioned in a former chapter, and the
charnel cave of Frances; but I found nothing to add to my former
descriptions, and little to modify, save that perhaps the cave appeared
less dark, in at least the outer half of its area, than it had seemed to
me in the former year, when examined by torch-light, and that the
straggling twilight, as it fell on the ropy sides, green with moss and
mould, and on the damp bone-strewn floor, overmantled with a still
darker crust, like that of a stagnant pool, seemed also to wear its tint
of melancholy greenness, as if transmitted through a depth of sea-water.
The cavern we had come to examine we found to be a noble arched opening
in a dingy-colored precipice of augitic trap,--a cave roomy and lofty as
the nave of a cathedral, and ever resounding to the dash of the sea; but
though it could have amply accommodated a congregation of at least five
hundred, we found the way far too long and difficult for at least the
weak and the elderly, and in some places inaccessible at full flood; and
so we at once decided against the accommodation which it offered. But
its shelter will, I trust, scarce be needed.

On our return to the Betsey, we passed through a straggling group of
cottages on the hill-side, one of which, the most dilapidated and
smallest of the number, the minister entered, to visit a poor old woman,
who had been bed-ridden for ten years. Scarce ever before had I seen so
miserable a hovel. It was hardly larger than the cabin of the Betsey,
and a thousand times less comfortable. The walls and roof, formed of
damp grass-grown turf, with a few layers of unconnected stone in the
basement tiers, seemed to constitute one continuous hillock, sloping
upwards from foundation to ridge, like one of the lesser moraines of
Agassiz, save where the fabric here and there bellied outwards or
inwards, in perilous dilapidation, that seemed but awaiting the first
breeze. The low chinky door opened direct into the one wretched
apartment of the hovel, which we found lighted chiefly by holes in the
roof. The back of the sick woman's bed was so placed at the edge of the
opening, that it had formed at one time a sort of partition to the
portion of the apartment, some five or six feet square, which contained
the fire-place; but the boarding that had rendered it such had long
since fallen away, and it now presented merely a naked rickety frame to
the current of cold air from without. Within a foot of the bed-ridden
woman's head there was a hole in the turf-wall, which was, we saw,
usually stuffed with a bundle of rags, but which lay open as we entered,
and which furnished a downward peep of sea and shore, and the rocky
_Eilan Chasteil_, with the minister's yacht riding in the channel hard
by. The little hole in the wall had formed the poor creature's only
communication with the face of the external world for ten weary years.
She lay under a dingy coverlet, which, whatever its original hue, had
come to differ nothing in color from the graveyard earth, which must so
soon better supply its place. What perhaps first struck the eye was the
strange flatness of the bed-clothes, considering that a human body lay
below: there seemed scarce bulk enough under them for a human skeleton.
The light of the opening fell on the corpse-like features of the
woman,--sallow, sharp, bearing at once the stamp of disease and of
famine; and yet it was evident, notwithstanding, that they had once been
agreeable,--not unlike those of her daughter, a good-looking girl of
eighteen, who, when we entered, was sitting beside the fire. Neither
mother nor daughter had any English; but it was not difficult to
determine, from the welcome with which the minister was greeted from the
sick-bed, feeble as the tones were, that he was no unfrequent visitor.
He prayed beside the poor creature, and, on coming away, slipped
something into her hand. I learned that not during the ten years in
which she had been bed-ridden had she received a single farthing from
the proprietor, nor, indeed, had any of the poor of the island, and that
the parish had no session-funds. I saw her husband a few days after,--an
old worn-out man, with famine written legibly in his hollow cheek and
eye, and on the shrivelled frame, that seemed lost in his tattered
dress; and he reiterated the same sad story. They had no means of
living, he said, save through the charity of their poor neighbors, who
had so little to spare; for the parish or the proprietor had never given
them anything. He had once, he added, two fine boys, both sailors, who
had helped them; but the one had perished in a storm off the Mull of
Cantyre, and the other had died of fever when on a West India voyage;
and though their poor girl was very dutiful, and staid in their crazy
hut to take care of them in their helpless old age, what other could she
do in a place like Eigg than just share with them their sufferings? It
has been recently decided by the British Parliament, that in cases of
this kind the starving poor shall not be permitted to enter the law
courts of the country, there to sue for a pittance to support life,
until an intermediate newly-erected court, alien to the Constitution,
before which they must plead at their own expense, shall have first
given them permission to prosecute their claims. And I doubt not that
many of the English gentlemen whose votes swelled the majority, and made
it such, are really humane men, friendly to an equal-handed justice, and
who hold it to be the peculiar glory of the Constitution, as well shown
by De Lolme, that it has not one statute-book for the poor, and another
for the rich, but the same law and the same administration of law for
all. They surely could not have seen that the principle of their Poor
Law Act for Scotland sets the pauper beyond the pale of the Constitution
in the first instance, that he may be starved in the second. The
suffering paupers of this miserable island cottage would have all their
wants fully satisfied in the grave, long ere they could establish at
their own expense, at Edinburgh, their claim to enter a court of law. I
know not a fitter case for the interposition of our lately formed
"Scottish Association for the Protection of the Poor" than that of this
miserable family; and it is but one of many which the island of Eigg
will be found to furnish.

After a week's weary waiting, settled weather came at last; and the
morning of Tuesday rose bright and fair. My friend, whose absence at the
General Assembly had accumulated a considerable amount of ministerial
labor on his hands, had to employ the day professionally; and as John
Stewart was still engaged with his potato crop, I was necessitated to
sally out on my first geological excursion alone. In passing
vessel-wards, on the previous year, from the _Ru Stoir_ to the
farm-house of Keill, along the escarpment under the cliffs, I had
examined the shores somewhat too cursorily during the one-half of my
journey, and the closing evening had prevented me from exploring them
during the other half at all; and I now set myself leisurely to retrace
the way backwards from the farm-house to the _Stoir_. I descended to the
bottom of the cliffs, along the pathway which runs between Keill and the
solitary midway shieling formerly described, and found that the basaltic
columns over head, which had seemed so picturesque in the twilight, lost
none of their beauty when viewed by day. They occur in forms the most
beautiful and fantastic; here grouped beside some blind opening in the
precipice, like pillars cut round the opening of a tomb, on some
rock-front in Petræa; there running in long colonnades, or rising into
tall porticoes; yonder radiating in straight lines from some common
centre, resembling huge pieces of fan-work, or bending out in bold
curves over some shaded chasm, like rows of crooked oaks projecting from
the steep sides of some dark ravine. The various beds of which the
cliffs are composed, as courses of ashlar compose a wall, are of very
different degrees of solidity: some are of hard porphyritic or basaltic
trap; some of soft Oölitic sandstone or shale. Where the columns rest on
a soft stratum, their foundations have in many places given way, and
whole porticoes and colonnades hang perilously forward in tottering
ruin, separated from the living rock behind by deep chasms. I saw one of
these chasms, some five or six feet in width, and many yards in length,
that descended to a depth which the eye could not penetrate; and another
partially filled up with earth and stones, through which, along a dark
opening not much larger than a chimney-vent, the boys of the island find
a long descending passage to the foot of the precipice, and emerge into
light on the edge of the grassy talus half-way down the hill. It
reminded me of the tunnel in the rock through which Imlac opened up a
way of escape to Rasselas from the happy valley,--the "subterranean
passage," begun "where the summit hung over the middle part," and that
"issued out behind the prominence."

From the commencement of the range of cliffs, on half-way to the
shieling, I found the shore so thickly covered up by masses of trap, the
debris of the precipices above, that I could scarce determine the nature
of the bottom on which they rested. I now, however, reached a part of
the beach where the Oölitic beds are laid bare in thin party-colored
strata, and at once found something to engage me. Organisms in vast
abundance, chiefly shells and fragmentary portions of fishes, lie
closely packed in their folds. One limestone bed, occurring in a dark
shale, seems almost entirely composed of a species of small oyster; and
some two or three other thin beds, of what appears to be either a
species of small Mytilus or Avicula, mixed up with a few shells
resembling large Paludina, and a few more of the gaper family, so
closely resembling existing species, that John Stewart and Alister at
once challenged them as _smurslin_, the Hebridean name for a well-known
shell in these parts,--the _Mya truncata_. The remains of
fishes,--chiefly Ganoid scales and the teeth of Placoids,--lie scattered
among the shells in amazing abundance. On the surface of a single
fragment, about nine inches by five, which I detached from one of the
beds, and which now lies before me, I reckon no fewer than twenty-five
teeth, and twenty-two on the area of another. They are of very various
forms,--some of them squat and round, like ill-formed small
shot,--others spiky and sharp, not unlike flooring nails,--some straight
as needles, some bent like the beak of a hawk,--some, like the palatal
teeth of the Acrodus of the Lias, resemble small leeches; some, bearing
a series of points ranged on a common base, like masts on the hull of a
vessel, the tallest in the centre, belong to the genus Hybodus. There is
a palpable approximation in the teeth of the leech-like form to the
teeth with the numerous points. Some of the specimens show the same
plicated structure common to both; and on some of the leech backs, if I
may so speak, there are protuberant knobs, that indicate the places of
the spiky points on the hybodent teeth. I have got three of each kind
slit up by Mr. George Sanderson, and the internal structure appears to
be the same. A dense body of bone is traversed by what seem innumerable
roots, resembling those of woody shrubs laid bare along the sides of
some forest stream. Each internal opening sends off on every side its
myriads of close-laid filaments; and nowhere do they lie so thickly as
in the line of the enamel, forming, from the regularity with which they
are arranged, a sort of framing to the whole section. It is probable
that the Hybodus,--a genus of shark which became extinct some time about
the beginning of the chalk,--united, like the shark of Port Jackson, a
crushing apparatus of palatal teeth to its lines of cutting ones. Among
the other remains of these beds I found a dense fragment of bone,
apparently reptilian, and a curious dermal plate punctulated with
thick-set depressions, bounded on one side by a smooth band, and
altogether closely resembling some saddler's thimble that had been cut
open and straightened.

Following the beds downwards along the beach, I found that one of the
lowest which the tide permitted me to examine,--a bed colored with a
tinge of red,--was formed of a denser limestone than any of the others,
and composed chiefly of vast numbers of small univalves resembling
Neritæ. It was in exactly such a rock I had found, in the previous year,
the reptile remains; and I now set myself, with no little eagerness, to
examine it. One of the first pieces I tore up contained a well-preserved
Plesiosaurian vertebra; a second contained a vertebra and a rib; and,
shortly after, I disinterred a large portion of a pelvis. I had at
length found, beyond doubt, the reptile remains _in situ_. The bed in
which they occur is laid bare here for several hundred feet along the
beach, jutting out at a low angle among boulders and gravel, and the
reptile remains we find embedded chiefly in its under side. It lies low
in the Oölite. All the stratified rocks of the island, with the
exception of a small Liasic patch, belong to the Lower Oölite, and the
reptile-bed occurs deep in the base of the system,--low in its relation
to the nether division, in which it is included. I found it nowhere
rising to the level of high-water mark. It forms one of the foundation
tiers of the island, which, as the latter rises over the sea in some
places to the height of about fourteen hundred feet, its upper peaks and
ridges must overlie the bones, making allowance for the dip, to the
depth of at least sixteen hundred. Even at the close of the Oölitic
period this sepulchral stratum must have been a profoundly ancient one.
In working it out, I found two fine specimens of fish jaws, still
retaining their ranges of teeth;--ichthyodorulites,--occipital plates of
various forms, either reptile or ichthyic,--Ganoid scales, of nearly the
same varieties of pattern as those in the Weald of Morayshire,--and the
vertebræ and ribs, with the digital, pelvic, and limb-bones, of
saurians. It is not unworthy of remark, that in none of the beds of this
deposit did I find any of the more characteristic shells of the
system,--Ammonites, Belemnites, Gryphites, or Nautili.

I explored the shores of the island on to the _Ru Stoir_, and thence to
the Bay of Laig; but though I found detached masses of the reptile bed
occurring in abundance, indicating that its place lay not far beyond the
fall of ebb, in no other locality save the one described did I find it
laid bare. I spent some time beside the Bay of Laig in reëxamining the
musical sand, in the hope of determining the peculiarities on which its
sonorous qualities depended. But I examined, and cross-examined it in
vain. I merely succeeded in ascertaining, in addition to my previous
observations, that the loudest sounds are elicited by drawing the hand
slowly through the incoherent mass, in a segment of a circle, at the
full stretch of the arm, and that the vibrations which produce them
communicate a peculiar titillating sensation to the hand or foot by
which they are elicited, extending in the foot to the knee, and in the
hand to the elbow. When we pass the wet finger along the edge of an
ale-glass partially filled with water, we see the vibrations thickly
wrinkling the surface: the undulations which, communicated to the air,
produce sound, render themselves, when communicated to the water,
visible to the eye; and the titillating feeling seems but a modification
of the same phenomenon acting on the nerves and fluids of the leg or
arm. It appears to be produced by the wrinklings of the vibrations, if I
may so speak, passing along sentient channels. The sounds will
ultimately be found dependent, I am of opinion, though I cannot yet
explain the principle, on the purely quartzose character of the sand,
and the friction of the incoherent upper strata against under strata
coherent and damp. I remained ten days in the island, and went over all
my former ground, but succeeded in making no further discoveries.

On the morning of Wednesday, June 25th, we set sail for Isle Ornsay,
with a smart breeze from the north-west. The lower and upper sky was
tolerably clear, and the sun looked cheerily down on the deep blue of
the sea; but along the higher ridges of the land there lay long level
strata of what the meteorologists distinguish as parasitic clouds. When
every other patch of vapor in the landscape was in motion, scudding
shorewards from the Atlantic before the still-increasing gale, there
rested along both the Scuir of Eigg and the tall opposite ridge of the
island, and along the steep peaks of Rum, clouds that seemed as if
anchored, each on its own mountain-summit, and over which the gale
failed to exert any propelling power. They were stationary in the middle
of the rushing current, when all else was speeding before it. It has
been shown that these parasitic clouds are mere local condensations of
strata of damp air passing along the mountain-summits, and rendered
visible but to the extent in which the summits affect the temperature.
Instead of being stationary, they are ever-forming and ever-dissipating
clouds,--clouds that form a few yards in advance of the condensing hill,
and that dissipate a few yards after they have quitted it. I had nothing
to do on deck, for we had been joined at Eigg by John Stewart; and so,
after watching the appearance of the stationary clouds for some little
time, I went below, and, throwing myself into the minister's large
chair, took up a book. The gale meanwhile freshened, and freshened yet
more; and the Betsey leaned over till her lee chain-plate lay along in
the water. There was the usual combination of sounds beneath and around
me,--the mixture of guggle, clunk, and splash,--of low, continuous rush,
and bluff, loud blow, which forms in such circumstances the voyager's
concert. I soon became aware, however, of yet another species of sound,
which I did not like half so well,--a sound as of the washing of a
shallow current over a rough surface; and, on the minister coming below,
I asked him, tolerably well prepared for his answer, what it might
mean. "It means," he said, "that we have sprung a leak, and a rather bad
one; but we are only some six or eight miles from the Point of Sleat,
and must soon catch the land." He returned on deck, and I resumed my
book. Presently, however, the rush became greatly louder; some other
weak patch in the Betsey's upper works had given way, and anon the water
came washing up from the lee side along the edge of the cabin floor. I
got upon deck to see how matters stood with us; and the minister, easing
off the vessel for a few points, gave instant orders to shorten sail, in
the hope of getting her upper works out of the water, and then to unship
the companion ladder, beneath which a hatch communicated with the low
strip of hold under the cabin, and to bring aft the pails. We lowered
our foresail; furled up the mainsail half-mast high; John Stewart took
his station at the pump; old Alister and I, furnished with pails, took
ours, the one at the foot, the other at the head, of the companion, to
hand up and throw over; a young girl, a passenger from Eigg to the
mainland, lent her assistance, and got wofully drenched in the work;
while the minister, retaining his station at the helm, steered right on.
But the gale had so increased, that, notwithstanding our diminished
breadth of sail, the Betsey, straining hard in the rough sea, still lay
in to the gunwale; and the water, pouring in through a hundred opening
chinks in her upper works, rose, despite of our exertions, high over
plank, and beam, and cabin-floor, and went dashing against beds and
lockers. She was evidently filling, and bade fair to terminate all her
voyagings by a short trip to the bottom. Old Alister, a seaman of thirty
years' standing, whose station at the bottom of the cabin stairs enabled
him to see how fast the water was gaining on the Betsey, but not how the
Betsey was gaining on the land, was by no means the least anxious among
us. Twenty years previous he had seen a vessel go down in exactly
similar circumstances, and in nearly the same place, and the
reminiscence, in the circumstances, seemed rather an uncomfortable one.
It had been a bad evening, he said, and the vessel he sailed in, and a
sloop, her companion, were pressing hard to gain the land. The sloop had
sprung a leak, and was straining, as if for life and death, under a
press of canvas. He saw her outsail the vessel to which he belonged,
but, when a few shots a-head she gave a sudden lurch, and disappeared
from the surface instantaneously as a vanishing spectre, and neither
sloop nor crew were ever more heard of.

There are, I am convinced, few deaths less painful than some of those
untimely and violent ones at which we are most disposed to shudder. We
wrought so hard at pail and pump,--the occasion, too, was one of so much
excitement, and tended so thoroughly to awaken our energies,--that I was
conscious, during the whole time, of an exhilaration of spirits rather
pleasurable than otherwise. My fancy was active, and active, strange as
the fact may seem, chiefly with ludicrous objects. Sailors tell
regarding the flying Dutchman, that he was a hard-headed captain of
Amsterdam, who, in a bad night and head wind, when all the other vessels
of his fleet were falling back on the port they had recently quitted,
obstinately swore that, rather than follow their example, he would keep
beating about till the day of judgment. And the Dutch captain, says the
story, was just taken at his word, and is beating about still. When
matters were at the worst with us, we got under the lea of the point of
Sleat. The promontory interposed between us and the roll of the sea; the
wind gradually took off; and, after having seen the water gaining fast
and steadily on us for considerably more than an hour, we, in turn,
began to gain on the water. It came ebbing out of drawers and beds, and
sunk downwards along pannels and table-legs,--a second retiring deluge;
and we entered Isle Ornsay with the cabin-floor all visible, and less
than two feet water in the hold. On the following morning, taking leave
of my friend the minister, I set off, on my return homewards, by the
Skye steamer, and reached Edinburgh on the evening of Saturday.








     Embarkation--A foundered Vessel--Lateness of the Harvest dependent
     on the Geological character of the Soil--A Granite Harvest and an
     Old Red Harvest--Cottages of Redstone and of Granite--Arable Soil
     of Scotland the result of a Geological Grinding Agency--Locality of
     the Famine of 1846--Mr. Longmuir's Fossils--Geology necessary to a
     Theologian--Popularizers of Science when dangerous--"Constitution
     of Man," and "Vestiges of Creation"--Atop of the Banff Coach--A
     Geologist's Field Equipment--The trespassing "Stirk"--Silurian
     Schists inlaid with Old Red--Bay of Gamrie how
     formed--Gardenstone--Geological Free-masonry illustrated--How to
     break an Ichthyolite Nodule--An old Rhyme mended--A raised
     Beach--Fossil Shells--Scotland under water at the time of the
     Boulder Clays.

From circumstances that in no way call for explanation, my usual
exploratory ramble was thrown this year (1847) from the middle of July
into the middle of September; and I embarked at Granton for the north
just as the night began to count hour against hour with the day. The
weather was fine, and the voyage pleasant. I saw by the way, however, at
least one melancholy memorial of a hurricane which had swept the eastern
coasts of the island about a fortnight before, and filled the provincial
newspapers with paragraphs of disaster. Nearly opposite where the Red
Head lifts its mural front of Old Red Sandstone a hundred yards over the
beach, the steamer passed a foundered vessel, lying about a mile and a
half off the land, with but her topmast and the point of her peak over
the surface. Her vane, still at the mast-head, was drooping in the calm;
and its shadow, with that of the fresh-colored _spar_ to which it was
attached, white atop and yellow beneath, formed a well-defined
undulatory strip on the water, that seemed as if ever in the process of
being rolled up, and yet still retained its length unshortened. Every
recession of the swell showed a patch of mainsail attached to the peak:
the sail had been hoisted to its full stretch when the vessel went down.
And thus, though no one survived to tell the story of her disaster,
enough remained to show that she had sprung a leak when straining in the
gale, and that, when staggering under a press of canvas towards the
still distant shore, where, by stranding her, the crew had hoped to save
at least their lives, she had disappeared with a sudden lurch, and all
aboard had perished. I remembered having read, among other memorabilia
of the hurricane, without greatly thinking of the matter, that "a large
sloop had foundered off the Red Head,--name unknown." But the minute
portion of the wreck which I saw rising over the surface, to certify,
like some frail memorial in a churchyard, that the dead lay beneath, had
an eloquence in it which the words wanted, and at once sent the
imagination back to deal with the stern realities of the disaster, and
the feelings abroad to expatiate over saddened hearths and melancholy
homesteads, where for many a long day the hapless perished would be
missed and mourned, but where the true story of their fate, though too
surely guessed at, would never be known.

The harvest had been early; and on to the village of Stonehaven, and a
mile or two beyond, where the fossiliferous deposits end and the primary
begin, the country presented from the deck only a wide expanse of
stubble. Every farm-steading we passed had its piled stack-yard; and the
fields were bare. But the line of demarcation between the Old Red
Sandstone and the granitic districts formed also a separating line
between an earlier and later harvest; the fields of the less kindly
subsoil derived from the primary rocks were, I could see, still speckled
with sheaves; and, where the land lay high, or the exposure was
unfavorable, there were reapers at work. All along in the course of my
journey northward from Aberdeen I continued to find the country covered
with shocks, and laborers employed among them; until, crossing the Spey,
I entered on the fossiliferous districts of Moray; and then, as in the
south, the champaign again showed a bare breadth of stubble, with here
and there a ploughman engaged in turning it down. The traveller bids
farewell at Stonehaven to not only the Old Red Sandstone and the
early-harvest districts, but also to the rich wheat-lands of the
country, and does not again fairly enter upon them until, after
travelling nearly a hundred miles, he passes from Banffshire into the
province of Moray. He leaves behind him at the same line the
wheat-fields and the cottages built of red stone, to find only barley
and oats, and here and there a plot of rye, associated with cottages of
granite and gneiss, hyperstene and mica schist; but on crossing the
Spey, the red cottages reäppear, and fields of rich wheat-land spread
out around them, as in the south. The circumstance is not unworthy the
notice of the geologist. It is but a tedious process through which the
minute lichen, settling on a surface of naked stone, forms in the course
of ages a soil for plants of greater bulk and a higher order; and had
Scotland been left to the exclusive operation of this slow agent, it
would be still a rocky desert, with perhaps here and there a strip of
alluvial meadow by the side of a stream, and here and there an insulated
patch of rich soil among the hollows of the crags. It might possess a
few gardens for the spade, but no fields for the plough. We owe our
arable land to that comparatively modern geologic agent, whatever its
character, that crushed, as in a mill, the upper parts of the
surface-rocks of the kingdom, and then overlaid them with their own
debris and rubbish to the depth of from one to forty yards. This debris,
existing in one locality as a boulder-clay more or less finely
comminuted, in another as a grossly pounded gravel, forms, with few
exceptions, that subsoil of the country on which the existing vegetation
first found root; and, being composed mainly of the formations on which
it more immediately rests, it partakes of their character,--bearing a
comparatively lean and hungry aspect over the primary rocks, and a
greatly more fertile one over those deposits in which the organic
matters of earlier creations lie diffused. Saxon industry has done much
for the primary districts of Aberdeen and Banffshires, though it has
failed to neutralize altogether the effects of causes which date as
early as the times of the Old Red Sandstone; but in the Highlands, which
belong almost exclusively to the non-fossiliferous formations, and which
were, on at least the western coasts, but imperfectly subjected to that
grinding process to which we owe our subsoils, the poor Celt has
permitted the consequences of the original difference to exhibit
themselves in full. If we except the islands of the Inner Hebrides, the
famine of 1846 was restricted in Scotland to the primary districts.

I made it my first business, on landing in Aberdeen, to wait on my
friend Mr. Longmuir, that I might compare with him a few geological
notes, and benefit by his knowledge of the surrounding country. I was,
however, unlucky enough to find that he had gone, a few days before, on
a journey, from which he had not yet returned; but, through the kindness
of Mrs. Longmuir, to whom I took the liberty of introducing myself, I
was made free of his stone-room, and held half an hour's conversation
with his Scotch fossils of the Chalk. These had been found, as the
readers of the _Witness_ must remember from his interesting paper on the
subject, on the hill of Dudwick, in the neighborhood of Ellon, and were
chiefly impressions--some of them of singular distinctness and
beauty--in yellow flint. I saw among them several specimens of the
Inoceramus, a thin-shelled, ponderously-hinged conchifer, characteristic
of the Cretaceous group, but which has no living representative; with
numerous flints, traversed by rough-edged, bifurcated hollows, in which
branched sponges had once lain; a well-preserved Pecten; the impressions
of spines of Echini of at least two distinct species; and the
nicely-marked impression of part of a Cidaris, with the balls on which
the sockets of the club-like spines had been fitted existing in the
print as spherical moulds, in which shot might be cast, and with the
central ligamentary depression, which in the actual fossil exists but as
a minute cavity, projecting into the centre of each hollow sphere, like
the wooden fusee into the centre of a bomb-shell. This latter cast, fine
and sharp as that of a medal taken in sulphur, seems sufficient of
itself to establish two distinct points: in the first place, that the
siliceous matter of which the flint is composed, though now so hard and
rigid, must, in its original condition, have been as impressible as wax
softened to receive the stamp of the seal; and, in the next, that though
it was thus yielding in its character, it could not have greatly shrunk
in the process of hardening. I looked with no little interest on these
remains of a Scotch formation now so entirely broken up, that, like
those ruined cities of the East which exist but as mere lines of
wrought material barring the face of the desert, there has not "been
left one stone of it upon another," but of which the fragments, though
widely scattered, bear imprinted upon them, like the stamped bricks of
Babylon, the story of its original condition, and a record of its
_founders_. All Mr. Longmuir's Cretaceous fossils from the hill of
Dudwick are of flint,--a substance not easily ground down by the
denuding agencies.

I found several other curious fossils in Mr. Longmuir's collection.
Greatly more interesting, however, than any of the specimens which it
contains, is the general fact, that it should be the collection of a
Free Church minister, sedulously attentive to the proper duties of his
office, but who has yet found time enough to render himself an
accomplished geologist; and whose week-day lectures on the science
attract crowds, who receive from them, in many instances, their first
knowledge of the strange revolutions of which our globe has been the
subject, blent with the teachings of a wholesome theology. The present
age, above all that has gone before, is peculiarly the age of physical
science; and of all the physical sciences, not excepting astronomy
itself, geology, though it be a fact worthy of notice, that not one of
our truly accomplished geologists is an infidel, is the science of which
infidelity has most largely availed itself. And as the theologian in a
metaphysical age,--when skepticism, conforming to the character of the
time, disseminated its doctrines in the form of nicely abstract
speculations,--had, in order that the enemy might be met in his own
field, to become a skilful metaphysician, he must now, in like manner,
address himself to the tangibilities of natural history and geology, if
he would avoid the danger and disgrace of having his flank turned by
every sciolist in these walks whom he may chance to encounter. It is
those identical bastions and outworks that are _now_ attacked, which
must be _now_ defended; not those which were attacked some eighty or a
hundred years ago. And as he who succeeds in first mixing up fresh and
curious truths, either with the objections by which religion is assailed
or the arguments by which it is defended, imparts to his cause all the
interest which naturally attaches to these truths, and leaves to his
opponent, who passes over them after him as at second hand, a subject
divested of the fire-edge of novelty, I can deem Mr. Longmuir well and
not unprofessionally employed, in connecting with a sound creed the
picturesque marvels of one of the most popular of the sciences, and by
this means introducing them to his people, linked, from the first, with
right associations. According to the old fiction, the look of the
basilisk did not kill unless the creature saw before it was seen;--its
mere _return_ glance was harmless; and there is a class of thoroughly
dangerous writers who in this respect resemble the basilisk. It is
perilous to give them a first look of the public. They are formidable
simply as the earliest popularizers of some interesting science, or the
first promulgators of some class of curious little-known facts, with
which they mix up their special contributions of error,--often the only
portion of their writings that really belongs to themselves. Nor is it
at all so easy to _counteract_ as to _confute_ them. A masterly
confutation of the part of their works truly their own may, from its
subject, be a very unreadable book: it can have but the insinuated
poison to deal with, unmixed with the palatable pabulum in which the
poison has been conveyed; and mere treatises on poisons, whether moral
or medical, are rarely works of a very delectable order. It seems to be
on this principle that there exists no confutation of the "Constitution
of Man" in which the ordinary reader finds amusement to carry him
through; whereas the work itself, full of curious miscellaneous
information, is eminently readable; and that the "Vestiges of
Creation,"--a treatise as entertaining as the "Arabian Nights,"--bids
fair, not from the amount of error which it contains, but from the
amount of fresh and interestingly told truth with which the error is
mingled, to live and do mischief when the various solidly-scientific
replies which it has called forth are laid upon the shelf. Both the
"Constitution" and the "Vestiges" had the advantage, so essential to the
basilisk, of taking the first glance of the public on their respective
subjects; whereas their confutators have been able to render them back
but mere _return_ glances. The only efficiently counteractive mode of
looking down the danger, in cases of this kind, is the mode adopted by
Mr. Longmuir.

There was a smart frost next morning; and, for a few hours, my seat on
the top of the Banff coach, by which I travelled across the country to
where the Gamrie and Banff roads part company, was considerably more
cool than agreeable. But the keen morning improved into a brilliant day,
with an atmosphere transparent as if there had been no atmosphere at
all, through which the distant objects looked out as sharp of outline,
and in as well-defined light and shadow, as if they had occupied the
background, not of a Scotch, but of an Italian landscape. A few
speck-like sails, far away on the intensely blue sea, which opened upon
us in a stretch of many leagues, as we surmounted the moory ridge over
Macduff, gleamed to the sun with a radiance bright as that of the sparks
of a furnace blown to a white heat. The land, uneven of surface, and
open, and abutting in bold promontories on the frith, still bore the
sunny hue of harvest, and seemed as if stippled over with shocks from
the ridgy hill summits, to where ranges of giddy cliffs flung their
shadows across the beach. I struck off for Gamrie by a path that runs
eastward, nearly parallel to the shore,--which at one or two points it
overlooks from dark-colored cliffs of grauwacke slate,--to the fishing
village of Gardenstone. My dress was the usual fatigue suit of russet,
in which I find I can work amid the soil of ravines and quarries with
not only the best effect, but with even the least possible sacrifice of
appearance: the shabbiest of all suits is a good suit spoiled. My
hammer-shaft projected from my pocket; a knapsack, with a few changes of
linen, slung suspended from my shoulders; a strong cotton umbrella
occupied my better hand; and a gray maud, buckled shepherd-fashion
aslant the chest, completed my equipment. There were few travellers on
the road, which forked off on the hill-side a short mile away, into two
branches, like a huge letter Y, leaving me uncertain which branch to
choose; and I made up my mind to have the point settled by a woman of
middle age, marked by a hard, _manly_ countenance, who was coming up
towards me, bound apparently for the Banff or Macduff market, and
stooping under a load of dairy produce. She too, apparently, had her
purpose to serve or point to settle; for as we met, she was the first to
stand; and, sharply scanning my appearance and aspect at a glance, she
abruptly addressed me. "Honest man," she said, "do you see yon house wi'
the chimla?" "That house with the farm-steadings and stacks beside it?"
I replied. "Yes." "Then I'd be obleeged if ye wald just stap in as ye'r
gaing east the gate, and tell _our_ folk that the stirk has gat fra her
tether, an' 'ill brak on the wat clover. Tell them to sen' for her
_that_ minute." I undertook the commission; and, passing the endangered
stirk, that seemed luxuriating, undisturbed by any presentiment of
impending peril, amid the rich swathe of a late clover crop, still damp
with the dews of the morning frost, I tapped at the door of the
farm-house, and delivered my message to a young good-looking girl, in
nearly the words of the woman:--"The gude-wife bade me tell _them_," I
said, "to send that instant for the stirk, for she had gat fra her
tether, and would brak on the wat clover." The girl blushed just a very
little, and thanked me; and then, after obliging me, in turn, by laying
down for me my proper route,--for I had left the question of the forked
road to be determined at the farm-house,--she set off at high speed, to
rescue the unconscious stirk. A walk of rather less than two hours
brought me abreast of the Bay of Gamrie,--a picturesque indentation of
the coast, in the formation of which the agency of the old denuding
forces, operating on deposits of unequal solidity, may be distinctly
traced. The surrounding country is composed chiefly of Silurian schists,
in which there is deeply inlaid a detached strip of mouldering Old Red
Sandstone, considerably more than twenty miles in length, and that
varies from two to three miles in breadth. It seems to have been let
down into the more ancient formation,--like the keystone of a bridge
into the ringstones of the arch when the work is in the act of being
completed,--during some of those terrible convulsions which cracked and
rent the earth's crust, as if it had been an earthen pipkin brought to a
red heat and then plunged into cold water. Its consequent occurrence in
a lower tier of the geological edifice than that to which it originally
belonged has saved it from the great denudation which has swept from the
surface of the surrounding country the tier composed of its contemporary
beds and strata, and laid bare the grauwacke on which this upper tier
rested. But where it presents its narrow end to the sea, as the older
houses in our more ancient Scottish villages present their gables to the
street, the waves of the German Ocean, by incessantly charging against
it, propelled by the tempests of the stormy north, have hollowed it
into the Bay of Gamrie, and left the more solid grauwacke standing out
in bold promontories on either side, as the headlands of Gamrie and

In passing downwards on the fishing village of Gardenstone, mainly in
the hope of procuring a guide to the ichthyolite beds, I saw a laborer
at work with a pickaxe, in a little craggy ravine, about a hundred yards
to the left of the path, and two gentlemen standing beside him. I paused
for a moment, to ascertain whether the latter were not brother-workers
in the geologic field. "Hilloa!--here,"--shouted out the stouter of the
two gentlemen, as if, by some _clairvoyant_ faculty, he had dived into
my secret thought; "come here." I went down into the ravine, and found
the laborer engaged in disinterring ichthyolitic nodules out of a bed of
gray stratified clay, identical in its composition with that of the
Cromarty fish-beds; and a heap of freshly-broken nodules, speckled with
the organic remains of the Lower Old Red Sandstone,--chiefly occipital
plates and scales,--lay beside him. "Know you aught of these?" said the
stouter gentleman, pointing to the heap. "A little," I replied; "but
your specimens are none of the finest. Here, however, is a dorsal plate
of Coccosteus; and here a scattered group of scales of Osteolepis; and
here the occipital plates of _Cheirolepis Cummingiæ_; and here the spine
of the anterior dorsal of _Diplacanthus striatus_." My reading of the
fossils was at once recognized, like the mystic sign of the freemason,
as establishing for me a place among the geologic brotherhood; and the
stout gentleman producing a spirit-flask and a glass, I pledged him and
his companion in a bumper. "Was I not sure?" he said, addressing his
friend: "I knew by the cut of his jib, notwithstanding his shepherd's
plaid, that he was a wanderer of the scientific cast." We discussed the
peculiarities of the deposit, which, in its mineralogical character, and
generically in that of its organic contents, resembles, I found, the
fish-beds of Cromarty (though, curiously enough, the intervening
contemporary deposits of Moray and the western parts of Banffshire
differ widely, in at least their chemistry, from both); and we were
right good friends ere we parted. To men who travel for amusement,
incident is incident, however trivial in itself, and always worth
something. I showed the younger of the two geologists my mode of
breaking open an ichthyolitic nodule, so as to secure the best possible
section of the fish. "Ah," he said, as he marked a style of handling the
hammer which, save for the fifteen years' previous practice of the
operative mason, would be perhaps less complete,--"Ah, you must have
broken open a great many." His own knowledge of the formation and its
ichthyolites had been chiefly derived, he added, from a certain little
treatise on the "Old Red Sandstone," rather popular than scientific,
which he named. I of course claimed no acquaintance with the work; and
the conversation went on.

The ill luck of my new friends, who had been toiling among the nodules
for hours without finding an ichthyolite worth transferring to their
bag, showed me that, without excavating more deeply than my time
allowed, I had no chance of finding good specimens. But, well content to
have ascertained that the ichthyolite bed of Gamrie is identical in its
composition, and, generically at least, in its organisms, with the beds
with which I was best acquainted, I rose to come away. The object which
I next proposed to myself was, to determine whether, as at Eathie and
Cromarty, the fossils here appear not only on the hill-side, but also
crop out along the shore. On taking leave, however, of the geologists, I
was reminded by the younger of what I might have otherwise
forgotten,--a raised beach in the immediate neighborhood (first
described by Mr. Prestwich, in his paper on the Gamrie ichthyolites),
which contains shells of the existing species at a higher level than
elsewhere,--so far as is yet known,--on the east coast of Scotland. And,
kindly conducting me till he had brought me full within view of it, we
parted. The ichthyolites which I had just been laying open occur on the
verge of that Strathbogie district in which the Church controversy raged
so hot and high; and by a common enough trick of the associative
faculty, they now recalled to my mind a stanza which memory had somehow
caught when the battle was at the fiercest. It formed part of a satiric
address, published in an Aberdeen newspaper, to the not very respectable
non-intrusionists who had smoked tobacco and drank whisky in the parish
church at Culsalmond, on the day of a certain forced settlement there,
specially recorded by the clerks of the Justiciary Court.

 "Tobacco and whisky cost siller,
   And meal is but scanty at hame;
 But gang to the stane-mason M----r,
   Wi' Old Red Sandstone fish he'll fill your wame."

Rather a dislocated line that last, I thought, and too much in the style
in which Zachary Boyd sings "Pharaoh and the Pascal." And as it is wrong
to leave the beast of even an enemy in the ditch, however long its ears,
I must just try and set it on its legs. Would it not run better thus?

 "Tobacco and whisky cost siller,
   An' meal is but scanty at hame;
 But gang to the stane-mason M----r,"
   He'll pang wi' ichth'ólites your wame,--
 Wi' _fish_!! as Agassiz has ca'ed 'em,
   In Greek, like themsel's, _hard_ an' _odd_,
 That were baked in stane pies afore Adam
   Gaed names to the haddocks and cod.

Bad enough as rhyme, I suspect; but conclusive as evidence to prove
that the animal spirits, under the influence of the bracing walk, the
fine day, and the agreeable recounter at the fish-beds,--not forgetting
the half-gill bumper,--had mounted very considerably above their
ordinary level at the editorial desk.

The raised beach may be found on the slopes of a grass-covered eminence,
once the site of an ancient hill-fort, and which still exhibits, along
the rim-like edge of the flat area atop, scattered fragments of the
vitrified walls. A general covering of turf restricted my examination of
the shells to one point, where a land-slip on a small scale had laid the
deposit bare; but I at least saw enough to convince me that the debris
of the shell-fish used of old as food by the garrison had not been
mistaken for the remains of a raised beach,--a mistake which in other
localities has occurred, I have reason to believe, oftener than once.
The shells, some of them exceedingly minute, and not of edible species,
occur in layers in a siliceous stratified sand, overlaid by a bed of
bluish-colored silt. I picked out of the sand two entire specimens of a
full-grown Fusus, little more than half an inch in length,--the _Fusus
turricola_; and the greater number of the fragments that lay bleaching
at the foot of the broken slope, in a state of chalky friability, seemed
to be fragments of those smaller bivalves, belonging to the genera
_Donax_, _Venus_, and _Mactra_, that are so common on flat sandy shores.
But when the sea washed over these shells, they could have been the
denizens of at least no _flat_ shore. The descent on which they occur
sinks downwards to the existing beach, over which it is elevated at this
point two hundred and thirty feet, at an angle with the horizon of from
thirty-five to forty degrees. Were the land to be now submerged to where
they appear on the hill-side, the bay of Gamrie, as abrupt in its
slopes as the upper part of Loch Lomond or the sides of Loch Ness,
would possess a depth of forty fathoms water at little more than a
hundred yards from the shore. I may add, that I could trace at this
height no marks of such a continuous terrace around the sides of the bay
as the waves would have infallibly excavated in the diluvium, had the
sea stood at a level so high, or, according to the more prevalent view,
had the land stood at a level so low, for any considerable time; though
the green banks which sweep around the upper part of the inflection,
unscarred by the defacing plough, would scarce have failed to retain
some mark of where the surges had broken, had the surges been long
there. Whatever may in this special case be the fact, however, I cannot
doubt that in the comparatively modern period of the boulder clays,
Scotland lay buried under water to a depth at least five times as great
as the space between this ancient sea-beach and the existing tide-line.


     Character of the Rocks near Gardenstone--A Defunct Father-lasher--A
     Geological Inference--Village of Gardenstone--The drunken
     Scot--Gardenstone Inn--Lord Gardenstone--A Tempest threatened--The
     Author's Ghost Story--The Lady in Green--Her Appearance and
     Tricks--The Rescued Children--The murdered Peddler and his
     Pack--Where the Green Dress came from--Village of Macduff--Peculiar
     Appearance of the Beach at the Mouth of the Deveron--Dr. Emslie's
     Fossils--_Pterichthys quadratus_--Argillaceous Deposit of
     Blackpots--Pipe-laying in Scotland--Fossils of Blackpots Clay--Mr.
     Longmuir's Description of them--Blackpots Deposit a Re-formation of
     a Liasic Patch--Period of its Formation.

I lingered on the hill-side considerably longer than I ought; and then,
hurrying downwards to the beach, passed eastwards under a range of
abrupt, mouldering precipices of red sandstone, to the village. From the
lie of the strata, which, instead of inclining coastwise, dip towards
the interior of the country, and present in the descent seawards the
outcrop of lower and yet lower deposits of the formation, I found it
would be in vain to look for the ichthyolite beds along the shore. They
may possibly be found, however, though I lacked time to ascertain the
fact, along the sides of a deep ravine, which occurs near an old
ecclesiastical edifice of gray stone, perched, nest-like, half-way up
the bank, on a green hummock that overlooks the sea. The rocks, laid
bare by the tide, belong to the bed of coarse-grained red sandstone,
varying from eighty to a hundred and fifty feet in thickness, which lies
between the lower fish-bed and the great conglomerate, and which, in not
a few of its strata, passes itself into a species of conglomerate,
different only from that which it overlies, in being more finely
comminuted. The continuity of this bed, like that of the deposit on
which it rests, is very remarkable. I have found it occurring at many
various points, over an area at least ten thousand square miles in
extent, and bearing always the same well-marked character of a more
thoroughly ground-down conglomerate than the great conglomerate on which
it reposes. The underlying bed is composed of broken fragments of the
rocks below, crushed, as if by some imperfect rudimentary process, like
that which in a mill merely breaks the grain; whereas, in the bed above,
a portion of the previously-crushed materials seems to have been
subjected to some further attritive process, like that through which, in
the mill, the broken grain is ground down into meal or flour.

As I passed onwards, I saw, amid a heap of drift-weed stranded high on
the beach by the previous tide, a defunct father-lasher, with the two
defensive spines which project from its opercles stuck fast into little
cubes of cork, that had floated its head above water, as the
tyro-swimmer floats himself upon bladders; and my previous acquaintance
with the habits of a fishing village enabled me at once to determine why
and how it had perished. Though almost never used as food on the eastern
coast of Scotland, it had been inconsiderate enough to take the
fisherman's bait, as if it had been worthy of being eaten; and he had
avenged himself for the trouble it had cost him, by mounting it on cork,
and sending it off, to wander between wind and water, like the Flying
Dutchman, until it died. Was there ever on earth a creature save man
that could have played a fellow-mortal a trick at once so ingeniously
and gratuitously cruel? Or what would be the proper inference, were I to
find one of the many-thorned ichthyolites of the Lower Old Red Sandstone
with the spines of its pectorals similarly fixed on cubes of
lignite?--that there had existed in these early ages not merely
_physical death_, but also _moral evil_; and that the being who
perpetrated the evil could not only inflict it simply for the sake of
the pleasure he found in it, and without prospect of advantage to
himself, but also by so adroitly reversing, fiend-like, the purposes of
the benevolent Designer, that the weapons given for the defence of a
poor harmless creature should be converted into the instruments of its
destruction. It was not without meaning that it was forbidden by the law
of Moses to seethe a kid in its mother's milk.

A steep bulwark in front, against which the tide lashes twice every
twenty-four hours,--an abrupt hill behind,--a few rows of squalid
cottages built of red sandstone, much wasted by the keen sea-winds,--a
wilderness of dunghills and ruinous pig-styes,--women seated at the
doors, employed in baiting lines or mending nets,--groups of men
lounging lazily at some gable-end fronting the sea,--herds of ragged
children playing in the lanes,--such are the components of the fishing
village of Gardenstone. From the identity of name, I had associated the
place with that Lord Gardenstone of the Court of Sessions who published,
late in the last century, a volume of "Miscellanies in Prose and Verse,"
containing, among other clever things, a series of tart criticisms on
English plays, transcribed, it was stated in the preface, from the
margins and fly-leaves of the books of a "small library kept open by his
Lordship" for the amusement of travellers at the inn of some village in
his immediate neighborhood; and taking it for granted, somehow, that
Gardenstone was the village, I was looking around me for the inn, in the
hope that where his Lordship had opened a library I might find a dinner.
But failing to discern it, I addressed myself on the subject to an
elderly man in a pack-sheet apron, who stood all alone, looking out upon
the sea, like Napoleon, in the print, from a projection of the bulwark.
He turned round, and showed, by an unmistakable expression of eye and
feature, that he was what the servant girl in "Guy Mannering"
characterizes as "very particularly drunk,"--not stupidly, but happily,
funnily, conceitedly drunk, and full of all manner of high thoughts of
himself. "It'll be an awfu' coorse nicht," he said, "fra the sea." "Very
likely," I replied, reiterating my query in a form that indicated some
little confidence of receiving the needed information; "I daresay you
could point me out the public-house here?" "Aweel, I wat, that I can;
but what's that?" pointing to the straps of my knapsack;--"are ye a
sodger on the Queen's account, or ye'r ain?" "On my own, to be sure; but
have ye a public-house here?" "Ay, twa; ye'll be a traveller?" "O yes,
great traveller, and very hungry: have I passed the best public-house?"
"Ay; and ye'll hae come a gude stap the day?" A woman came up, with
spectacles on nose, and a piece of white seam-work in her hand; and,
cutting short the dialogue by addressing myself to her, she at once
directed me to the public-house. "Hoot, gude-wife," I heard the man say,
as I turned down the street, "we suld ha'e gotten mair oot o' him. He's
a great traveller yon, an' has a gude Scots tongue in his head."

Travellers, save when, during the herring season, an occasional
fish-curer comes the way, rarely bait at the Gardenstone inn; and in the
little low-browed room, with its windows in the thatch, into which, as
her best, the land-lady ushered me, I certainly found nothing to
identify the _locale_ with that chosen by the literary lawyer for his
open library. But, according to Ferguson, though "learning was scant,
provision was good;" and I dined sumptuously on an immense platter of
fried flounders. There was a little bit of cold pork added to the fare;
but, aware from previous experience of the pisciverous habits of the
swine of a fishing village, I did what I knew the defunct pig must have
very frequently done before me,--satisfied a keenly-whetted appetite on
fish exclusively. I need hardly remind the reader that Lord
Gardenstone's inn was not that of Gardenstone, but that of
Laurence-kirk,--the thriving village which it was the special ambition
of this law-lord of the last century to create; and which, did it
produce only its famed snuff-boxes, with the invisible hinges, would be
rather a more valuable boon to the country than that secured to it by
those law-lords of our own days, who at one fell blow disestablished the
national religion of Scotland, and broke off the only handle by which
their friends the politicians could hope to _manage_ the country's old
vigorous Presbyterianism. Meanwhile it was becoming apparent that the
man with the apron had as shrewdly anticipated the character of the
coming night as if he had been soberer. The sun, ere its setting,
disappeared in a thick leaden haze, which enveloped the whole heavens;
and twilight seemed posting on to night a full hour before its time. I
settled a very moderate bill, and set off under the cliffs at a round
pace, in the hope of scaling the hill, and gaining the high road atop
which leads to Macduff, ere the darkness closed. I had, however,
miscalculated my distance; I, besides, lost some little time in the
opening of the deep ravine to which I have already referred as that in
which possibly the fish-beds may be found cropping out; and I had got
but a little beyond the gray ecclesiastical ruin, with its lonely
burying-ground, when the tempest broke and the night fell.

One of the last objects which I saw, as I turned to take a farewell look
of the bay of Gamrie, was the magnificent promontory of Troup Head,
outlined in black on a ground of deep gray, with its two terminal stacks
standing apart in the sea. And straightway, through one of those tricks
of association so powerful in raising, as if from the dead, buried
memories of things of which the mind has been oblivious for years, there
started up in recollection the details of an ancient ghost-story, of
which I had not thought before for perhaps a quarter of a century. It
had been touched, I suppose, in its obscure, unnoted corner, as Ithuriel
touched the toad, by the apparition of the insulated stacks of Troup,
seen dimly in the thickening twilight over the solitary burying-ground.
For it so chances that one of the main incidents of the story bears
reference to an insulated sea-stack; and it is connected altogether,
though I cannot fix its special locality, with this part of the coast.
The story had been long in my mother's family, into which it had been
originally brought by a great-grandfather of the writer, who quitted
some of the seaport villages of Banffshire for the northern side of the
Moray Frith, about the year 1718; and, when pushing on in the darkness,
straining as I best could, to maintain a sorely-tried umbrella against
the capricious struggles of the tempest, that now tatooed furiously upon
its back as if it were a kettle-drum, and now got underneath its stout
ribs, and threatened to send it up aloft like a balloon, and anon
twisted it from side to side, and strove to turn it inside out, like a
Kilmarnock night-cap,--I employed myself in arranging in my mind the
details of the narrative, as they had been communicated to me half an
age before by a female relative.

The opening of the story, though it existed long ere the times of Sir
Walter Scott or the Waverly novels, bears some resemblance to the
opening in the "Monastery," of the story of the White Lady of Avenel.
The wife of a Banffshire proprietor of the minor class had been about
six months dead, when one of her husband's ploughmen, returning on
horseback from the smithy, in the twilight of an autumn evening, was
accosted, on the banks of a small stream, by a stranger lady, tall and
slim, and wholly attired in green, with her face wrapped up in the hood
of her mantle, who requested to be taken up behind him on the horse, and
carried across. There was something in the tones of her voice that
seemed to thrill through his very bones, and to insinuate itself, in the
form of a chill fluid, between his skull and the scalp. The request,
too, appeared a strange one; for the rivulet was small and low, and
could present no serious bar to the progress of the most timid
traveller. But the man, unwilling ungallantly to offend a lady, turned
his horse to the bank, and she sprang up lightly behind him. She was,
however, a personage that could be better seen than felt; she came in
contact with the ploughman's back, he said, as if she had been an
ill-filled sack of wool; and when, on reaching the opposite side of the
streamlet, she leaped down as slightly as she had mounted, and he turned
fearfully round to catch a second glimpse of her, it was in the
conviction that she was a creature considerably less earthly in her
texture than himself. She had opened, with two pale, thin arms, the
enveloping hood, exhibiting a face equally pale and thin, which seemed
marked, however, by the roguish, half-humorous expression of one who had
just succeeded in playing off a good joke. "My dead mistress!!"
exclaimed the ploughman. "Yes, John, _your mistress_," replied the
ghost. "But ride home, my bonny man, for it's growing late: you and I
will be better acquainted ere long." John accordingly rode home and told
his story.

Next evening, about the same hour, as two of the laird's servant-maids
were engaged in washing in an out-house, there came a slight tap to the
door. "Come in," said one of the maids; and the lady entered, dressed,
as on the previous night, in green. She swept past them to the inner
part of the washing-room; and, seating herself on a low bench, from
which, ere her death, she used occasionally to superintend their
employment, she began to question them, as if still in the body, about
the progress of their work. The girls, however, were greatly too
frightened to make any reply. She then visited an old woman who had
nursed the laird, and to whom she used to show, ere her departure,
greatly more kindness than her husband. And she now seemed as much
interested in her welfare as ever. She inquired whether the laird was
kind to her, and looking round her little smoky cottage, regretted she
should be so indifferently lodged, and that her cupboard, which was
rather of the emptiest at the time, should not be more amply furnished.
For nearly a twelvemonth after, scarce a day passed in which she was not
seen by some of the domestics; never, however, except on one occasion,
after the sun had risen, or before it had set. The maids could see her,
in the gray of the morning flitting like a shadow round their beds, or
peering in upon them at night through the dark window-panes, or at
half-open doors. In the evening she would glide into the kitchen or some
of the out-houses,--one of the most familiar and least dignified of her
class that ever held intercourse with mankind,--and inquire of the girls
how they had been employed during the day; often, however, without
obtaining an answer, though from a cause different from that which had
at first tied their tongues. For they had become so regardless of her
presence, viewing her simply as a troublesome mistress, who had no
longer any claim to be heeded, that when she entered, and they had
dropped their conversation, under the impression that their visitor was
a creature of flesh and blood like themselves, they would again resume
it, remarking that the entrant was "only the green lady." Though always
cadaverously pale, and miserable looking, she affected a joyous
disposition, and was frequently heard to laugh, even when invisible. At
one time, when provoked by the studied silence of a servant girl, she
flung a pillow at her head, which the girl caught up and returned; at
another, she presented her first acquaintance, the ploughman, with what
seemed to be a handful of silver coin, which he transferred to his
pocket, but which, on hearing her laugh, he drew out, and found to be
merely a handful of slate shivers. On yet another occasion, the man,
when passing on horseback through a clump of wood, was repeatedly struck
from behind the trees by little pellets of turf; and, on riding into the
thicket, he found that his assailant was the green lady. To her husband
she never appeared; but he frequently heard the tones of her voice
echoing from the lower apartments, and the faint peal of her cold,
unnatural laugh.

One day at noon, a year after her first appearance, the old nurse was
surprised to see her enter the cottage; as all her previous visits had
been made early in the morning or late in the evening; whereas
now,--though the day was dark and lowering, and a storm of wind and rain
had just broken out,--still it _was_ day. "Mammie," she said, "I cannot
open the heart of the laird, and I have nothing of my own to give you;
but I think I can do something for you now. Go straight to the White
House [that of a neighboring proprietor], and tell the folk there to set
out with all the speed of man and horse for the black rock in the sea,
at the foot of the crags, or they'll rue it dearly to their dying day.
Their bairns, foolish things, have gone out to the rock, and the tide
has flowed around them; and, if no help reach them soon, they'll be all
scattered like sea-ware on the shore ere the fall of the sea. But if you
go and tell your story at the White House, mammie, the bairns will be
safe for an hour to come, and there will be something done by their
mother to better you, for the news." The woman went, as directed, and
told her story; and the father of the children set out on horseback in
hot haste for the rock,--a low, insulated skerry, which, lying on a
solitary part of the beach, far below the line of flood, was shut out
from the view of the inhabited country by a wall of precipices, and
covered every tide by several feet of water. On reaching the edge of the
cliffs, he saw the black rock, as the woman had described, surrounded by
the sea, and the children clinging to its higher crags. But, though the
waves were fast rising, his attempts to ride out through the surf to the
poor little things were frustrated by their cries, which so frightened
his horse as to render it unmanageable; and so he had to gallop on to
the nearest fishing village for a boat. So much time was unavoidably
lost in consequence, that nearly the whole beach was covered by the sea,
and the surf had begun to lash the feet of the precipices behind; but
until the boat arrived, not a single wave dashed over the black rock;
though immediately after the last of the children had been rescued, an
immense wreath of foam rose twice a man's height over its topmost

The old nurse, on her return to the cottage, found the green lady
sitting beside the fire. "Mammie," she said, "you have made friends to
yourself to-day, who will be kinder to you than your foster-son. I must
now leave you. My time is out, and you'll be all left to yourselves; but
I'll have no rest, mammie, for many a twelvemonth to come. Ten years
ago, a travelling peddler broke into our garden in the fruit season, and
I sent out our old ploughman, who is now in Ireland, to drive him away.
It was on a Sunday, and everybody else was in church. The men struggled
and fought, and the peddler was killed. But though I at first thought of
bringing the case before the laird, when I saw the dead man's pack, with
its silks and its velvets, and this unhappy piece of green satin
(shaking her dress), my foolish heart beguiled me, and I made the
ploughman bury the peddler's body under our ash tree, in the corner of
our garden, and we divided his goods and money between us. You must bid
the laird raise his bones, and carry them to the churchyard; and the
gold, which you will find in the little bowl under the tapestry in my
room, must be sent to a poor old widow, the peddler's mother, who lives
on the shore of Leith. I must now away to Ireland to the ploughman; and
I'll be e'en less welcome to him, mammie, than at the laird's; but the
hungry blood cries loud against us both,--him and me,--and we must
suffer together. Take care you look not after me till I have passed the
knowe." She glided away, as she spoke, in a gleam of light; and when the
old woman had withdrawn her hand from her eyes, dazzled by the sudden
brightness, she saw only a large black gray-hound crossing the moor. And
the green lady was never afterwards seen in Scotland. The little hoard
of gold pieces, however, stored in a concealed recess of her former
apartment, and the mouldering ruins of the peddler under the ash tree,
gave evidence to the truth of her narrative. The story was hardly wild
enough for a night so drear and a road so lonely; its ghost-heroine was
but a homely ghost-heroine, too little aware that the same familiarity
which, according to the proverb, breeds contempt when exercised by the
denizens of this world, produces similar effects when too much indulged
in by the inhabitants of another. But the arrangement and restoration of
the details of the tradition,--for they had been scattered in my mind
like the fragments of a broken fossil,--furnished me with so much
amusement, when struggling with the storm, as to shorten by at least
one-half the seven miles which intervene between Gamrie and Macduff.
Instead, however, of pressing on to Banff, as I had at first intended,
I baited for the night at a snug little inn in the latter village, which
I reached just wet enough to enjoy the luxury of a strong clear fire of
Newcastle coal.

Mrs. Longmuir had furnished me with a note of introduction to Dr. Emslie
of Banff, an intelligent geologist, familiar with the deposits of the
district; and, walking on to his place of residence next morning, in a
rain as heavy as that of the previous night, I made it my first business
to wait on him, and deliver the note. Ere, however, crossing the
Deveron, which flows between Banff and Macduff, I paused for a few
minutes in the rain, to mark the peculiar appearance presented by the
beach where the river disembogues into the frith. Occurring as a
rectangular spit in the line of the shore, with the expanded stream
widening into an estuary on its upper side, and the open sea on the
lower, it marks the scene of an obstinate contest between antagonist
forces,--the powerful sweep of the torrent, and the not less powerful
waves of the stormy north-east; and exists, in consequence, as a long
gravelly prism, which presents as steep an angle of descent to the waves
on the one side as to the current on the other. It is a true river bar,
beaten in from its proper place in the sea by the violence of the surf,
and fairly stranded. Dr. Emslie obligingly submitted to my inspection
his set of Gamrie fossils, containing several good specimens of
Pterichthys and Coccosteus, undistinguishable, like those I had seen on
the previous day, in their state of keeping, and the character of the
nodular matrices in which they lie, from my old acquaintance the
Cephalaspians of Cromarty. The animal matter which the bony plates and
scales originally contained has been converted, in both the Gamrie and
Cromarty ichthyolites, into a jet-black bitumen; and in both, the
inclosing nodules consist of a smoke-colored argillaceous limestone,
which formed around the organisms in a bed of stratified clay, and at
once exhibits, in consequence, the rectilinear lines of the
stratification, mechanical in their origin, and the radiating ones of
the sub-crystalline concretion, purely a trick of the chemistry of the
deposit. A Pterichthys in Dr. Emslie's collection struck me as different
in its proportions from any I had previously seen, though, from its
state of rather imperfect preservation, I hesitated to pronounce
absolutely upon the fact. I cannot now doubt, however, that it belonged
to a species not figured nor described at the time; but which, under the
name of _Pterichthys quadratus_, forms in part the subject of a still
unpublished memoir, in which Sir Philip Egerton, our first British
authority on fossil fish, has done me the honor to associate my humble
name with his own; and which will have the effect of reducing to the
ranks of the Pterichthyan genus the supposed genera _Pamphractus_ and
_Homothorax_. A second set of fossils, which Dr. Emslie had derived from
his tile-works at Blackpots, proved, I found, identical with those of
the Eathie Lias. As this Banffshire deposit had formed a subject of
considerable discussion and difference among geologists, I was curious
to examine it; and the Doctor, though the day was still none of the
best, kindly walked out with me, to bring under my notice appearances
which, in the haste of a first examination, I might possibly overlook,
and to show me yet another set of fossils which he kept at the works. He
informed me, as we went, that the Grauwacke (Lower Silurian) deposits of
the district, hitherto deemed so barren, had recently yielded their
organisms in a slate quarry at Gamrie-head; and that they belong to that
ancient family of the Pennatularia which, in this northern kingdom,
seems to have taken precedence of all the others. Judging from what now
appears, the Graptolite must be regarded as the first settler who
squatted for a living in that deep-sea area of undefined boundary
occupied at the present time by the bold wave-worn headlands and blue
hills of Scotland; and this new Banffshire locality not only greatly
extends the range of the fossil in reference to the kingdom, but also
establishes, in a general way, the fossiliferous identity of the Lower
Silurian deposits to the north of the Grampians with that of
Peebles-shire and Galloway in the south,--so far as I know, the only
other two Scottish districts in which this organism has been found.

The argillaceous deposit of Blackpots occupies, in the form of a green
swelling bank, a promontory rather soft than bold in its contour, that
projects far into the sea, and forms, when tipped with its slim column
of smoke from the tile-kiln, a pleasing feature in the landscape. I had
set it down on the previous day, when it first caught my eye from the
lofty cliffs of Gamrie-head, at the distance of some ten or twelve
miles, as different in character from all the other features of the
prospect. The country generally is moulded on a framework of primary
rock, and presents headlands of hard, sharp outline, to the attrition of
the waves; whereas this single headland in the midst,--soft-lined,
undulatory, and plump,--seems suited to remind one of Burns's young Kirk
Alloway beauty disporting amid the thin old ladies that joined with her
in the dance. And it _is_ a greatly younger beauty than the Cambrian and
mica-schist protuberances that encroach on the sea on either side of it.
The sheds and kilns of a tile-work occupy the flat terminal point of the
promontory; and as the clay is valuable, in this tile-draining age, for
the facility with which it can be moulded into pipe-tiles (a purpose
which the ordinary clays of the north of Scotland, composed chiefly of
re-formations of the Old Red Sandstone, are what is technically termed
too _short_ to serve), it is gradually retreating inland before the
persevering spade and mattock of the laborer. The deposit has already
been drawn out into many hundred miles of cylindrical pipes, and is
destined to be drawn out into many thousands more,--such being one of
the strange metamorphoses effected in the geologic formations, now that
that curious animal the Bimana has come upon the stage; and at length it
will have no existence in the country, save as an immense system of
veins and arteries underlying the vegetable mould. Will these veins and
arteries, I marvel, form, in their turn, the _fossils_ of another
period, when a higher platform than that into which they have been laid
will be occupied to the full by plants and animals specifically
different from those of the present scene of things,--the existences of
a happier and more finished creation? My business to-day, however, was
with the fossils which the deposit now contains,--not with those which
it may ultimately form.

The Blackpots clay is of a dark-bluish or greenish-gray color, and so
adhesive, that I now felt, when walking among it, after the softening
rains of the previous night and morning, as if I had got into a bed of
bird-lime. It is thinly charged with rolled pebbles, septaria, and
pieces of a bituminous shale, containing broken Belemnites, and
sorely-flattened Ammonites, that exist as thin films of a white chalky
lime. The pebbles, like those of the boulder-clay of the northern side
of the Moray Frith, are chiefly of the primary rocks and older
sandstones, and were probably in the neighborhood, in their present
rolled form, long ere the re-formation of the inclosing mass; while the
shale and the septaria are, as shown by their fossils, decidedly Liasic.
I detected among the conchifers a well-marked species of our northern
Lias, figured by Sowerby from Eathie specimens,--the _Plagiostoma
concentrica_; and among the Cephalopoda, though considerably broken,
the _Belemnite elongatus_ and _Belemnite lanceolata_, with the _Ammonite
Koenigi_ (_mutabilis_),--all Eathie shells. I, besides, found in the
bank a piece of a peculiar-looking quartzose sandstone, traversed by
hard jaspedeous veins of a brownish-gray color, which I have never
found, in Scotland at least, save associated with the Lias of our
north-eastern coasts. Further, my attention was directed by Dr. Emslie
to a fine Lignite in his collection, which had once formed some eighteen
inches or two feet of the trunk of a straight slender pine,--probably
the _Pinites Eiggensis_,--in which, as in most woods of the Lias and
Oölite, the annual rings are as strongly marked as in the existing firs
or larches of our hill-sides.[11] The Blackpots deposit is evidently a
re-formation of a Liasic patch, identical, both in mineralogical
character and in its organic remains, with the lower beds of the Eathie
Lias; while the fragments of shale which it contains belong chiefly to
an upper Liasic bed. So rich is the dark-colored tenacious argil of the
Inferior Lias of Eathie, that the geologist who walks over it when it is
still moist with the receding tide would do well to look to his
footing;--the mixture of soap and grease spread by the ship-carpenter
on his launch-slips, to facilitate the progress of his vessel seawards,
is not more treacherous to the tread: while the Upper Liasic deposit
which rests over it is composed of a dark slaty shale, largely charged
with bitumen. And of a Liasic deposit of this compound character,
consisting in larger part of an inferior argillaceous bed, and in lesser
part of a superior one of dark shale, the tile-clay of Blackpots has
been formed.

I had next to determine whether aught remained to indicate the period of
its re-formation. The tile-works at the point of the promontory rest on
a bed of shell-sand, composed exclusively, like the sand so abundant on
the western coast of Scotland, of fragments of existing shells. These,
however, are so fresh and firm, that, though the stratum which they form
seems to underlie the clay at its edges, I cannot regard them as older
than the most modern of our ancient sea-margins. They formed, in all
probability, in the days of the old coast line, a white shelly beach,
under such a precipitous front of the dark clay as argillaceous deposits
almost always present to the undermining wear of the waves. On the
recession of the sea, however, to its present line, the abrupt, steep
front, loosened by the frosts and washed by the rains, would of course
gradually moulder down over them into a slope; and there would thus be
communicated to the shelly stratum, at least at its edges, an underlying
character. The true period of the re-formation of the deposit was, I can
have no doubt, that of the boulder-clay. I observed that the septaria
and larger masses of shale which the bed contains, bear, on
roughly-polished surfaces, in the line of their larger axes, the
mysterious groovings and scratchings of this period,--marks which I have
never yet known to fail in their chronological evidence. It may be
mentioned, too, simply as a fact, though one of less value than the
other, that the deposit occurs in its larger development exactly where,
in the average, the boulder-clays also are most largely developed,--a
little over that line where the waves for so many ages charged against
the coast, ere the last upheaval of the land or the recession of the sea
sent them back to their present margin. There had probably existed to
the west or north-west of the deposit, perhaps in the middle of the open
bay formed by the promontory on which it rests,--for the small
proportion of other than Liasic materials which it contains serves to
show that it could be derived from no great distance,--an outlier of the
Lower Lias. The icebergs of the cold glacial period, propelled along the
submerged land by some arctic current, or caught up by the gulf-stream,
gradually grated it down, as a mason's laborer grates down the surface
of the sandstone slab which he is engaged in polishing; and the
comminuted debris, borne eastwards by the current, was cast down here.
It has been stated that no Liasic remains have been found in the
boulder-clays of Scotland. They are certainly rare in the boulder-clays
of the northern shores of the Moray Frith; for there the nearest Lias,
bearing in a western direction from the clay, is that of Applecross, on
the other side of the island; and the materials of the boulder-deposits
of the north have invariably been derived in the line, westerly in its
general bearing, of the grooves and scratches of the iceberg era. But on
the southern shore of the frith, where that westerly line passed athwart
the Liasic beds of our eastern coast, organisms of the Lias are
comparatively common in the boulder-clays; and here, at Blackpots, we
find an extensive deposit of the same period formed of Liasic materials
almost exclusively. Fragments of still more modern rocks occur in the
boulder-clays of Caithness. My friend Mr. Robert Dick, of Thurso, to
whose persevering labors and interesting discoveries in the Old Red
Sandstone of his locality I have had frequent occasion to refer, has
detected in a blue boulder-clay, scooped into precipitous banks by the
river Thorsa, fragments both of chalk-flints and a characteristic
conglomerate of the Oölite. He has, besides, found it mottled from top
to bottom, a full hundred feet over the sea-level, and about two miles
inland, with comminuted fragments of existing shells. But of this more


     From Blackpots to Portsoy--Character of the Coast--Burn of
     Boyne--Fever Phantoms--Graphic Granite--Maupertuis and the Runic
     Inscription--Explanation of the _quo modo_ of Graphic
     Granite--Portsoy Inn--Serpentine Beds--Portsoy Serpentine
     unrivalled for small ornaments--Description of it--Significance of
     the term _serpentine_--Elizabeth Bond and her "Letters"--From
     Portsoy to Cullen--Attritive Power of the Ocean illustrated--The
     Equinoctial--From Cullen to Fochabers--The Old Red again--The old
     Pensioner--Fochabers--Mr. Joss, the learned Mail-guard--The Editor
     a sort of Coach-guard--On the Coach to Elgin--Geology of
     Banffshire--Irregular paging of the Geologic Leaves--Geologic Map
     of the County like Joseph's Coat--Striking Illustration.

I parted from Dr. Emslie, and walked on along the shore to Portsoy,--for
three-fourths of the way over the prevailing grauwacke of the county,
and for the remaining fourth over mica schist, primary limestone,
hornblende slate, granitic and quartz veins, and the various other
kindred rocks of a primary district. The day was still gloomy and gray,
and ill suited to improve homely scenery; nor is this portion of the
Banff coast nearly so striking as that which I had travelled over the
day before. It has, however, its spots of a redeeming character,--rocky
recesses on the shore, half-beach, half-sward, rich in wild-flowers and
shells,--where one could saunter in a calm sunny morning, with one's
_bairns_ about one, very delightfully; and the interior is here and
there agreeably undulated by diluvial hillocks, that, when the sun falls
low in the evening, must chequer the landscape with many a pleasing
alternation of light and shadow. The Burn of Boyne,--which separates,
about two miles from Portsoy, a grauwacke from a mica-schist
district,--with its bare, open valley, its steep limestone banks, and
its gray, melancholy castle, long since roofless and windowless, and
surrounded by a few stunted trees, bears a deserted and solitary
shagginess about it, that struck me as wildly agreeable. It is such a
valley as one might expect to meet a ghost in, in some still, dewy
evening, as gloamin was darkening into uncertainty the outlines of the
ancient ruin, and the newly-kindled stars looked down upon the stream.

It so happened, however, that my only story connected with either ruin
or valley was as little a ghost story as might be. I remember that, when
lying ill of fever on one occasion,--indisposed enough to see apparition
after apparition flitting across the bed-curtains, like the figures of a
magic lantern posting along the darkened wall, and yet self-possessed
enough to know that they were but mere pictures in the eye, and to watch
them as they rose,--I set myself to determine whether they were in any
degree amenable to the will, or connected by the ordinary associative
links of the metaphysician. Fixing my mind on a certain object, I strove
to call it up in the character, not of an image of the conceptive
faculty, but of a fever-vision on the retina. The image which I pictured
to myself was that of a death's head, yellow and grim, and lighted up,
as if from within, amid the darkness of a burial vault. But the death's
head obstinately refused to rise. I had no control, I found, over the
fever imagery. And the picture that rose instead, uncalled and
unexpected, was that of a coal-fire burning brightly in a grate, with a
huge tea-kettle steaming cheerily over it.

In traversing the bare height which, rising on the western side of the
valley of the Boyne, owes its comparatively bold relief in the landscape
to the firmness of the primary rock which composes it, I picked up a
piece of graphic granite, bearing its inlaid characters of dark quartz
on a ground of cream-colored feldspar. This variety, however, though
occasionally found in rolled boulders in the neighborhood of Portsoy, is
not the graphic granite for which the locality is famous, and which
occurs in a vein in the mica schist of the eminence I was now
traversing, about a mile to the east of the town. The prevailing ground
of the granite of the vein is a flesh-colored feldspar; and the
thickly-marked quartzose characters with which it is set, greatly
smaller and paler than in the cream-colored stone, bear less the antique
Hebraic look, and would scarce deceive even the most credulous
antiquary. Antiquarians, however, _have_ been sometimes deceived by
weathered specimens of this graphic rock, in which the characters were
of considerable size, and restricted to thin veins, covering the surface
of a schistose groundwork. Maupertuis, during his famous journey to
Lapland, undertaken in 1737, to establish, from actual measurement, that
the degrees of latitude are longer towards the pole than at the equator,
and which demonstrated, of consequence, the true figure of the earth,
travelled thirty leagues out of his way, through a wild country covered
with snow, to examine an ancient monument, of which, he says, "the Fins
and Laplanders frequently spoke, as containing in its inscription the
knowledge of everything of which they were ignorant." He found it on the
side of a mountain, buried in snow; and ascertained, after kindling a
great fire around it, in order to lay it bare, that it was a stone of
irregular form, composed of various layers of unequal hardness, and that
the characters, which were rather more than an inch in length, were
written on "a layer of a species of flint," chiefly in two lines, with a
few scattered signs beneath, while the rest of the mass was composed of
a rock more soft and foliated. Graphic granite, it may be mentioned,
generally occurs, not in masses, but in veins and layers. The
inscription had been described in a previously published dissertation of
immense erudition, as Runic; but a Runic scholar of the party found he
could make nothing of it. The philosopher himself was struck by the
frequent repetition of characters of nearly the same form on the stone;
but he was ingenious enough to get over the difficulty, by remembering
that in our notation, after the Arabic manner, characters shaped exactly
alike may be very frequently repeated,--nay, as in some of the lines of
the Lapland inscription, may succeed each other, as in the sums I. II.
III. IIII. or X. XX. XXX.,--and yet very distinct and definite ideas
attach to them all. Still, however, he could not, he says, venture on
authoritatively deciding whether the inscription was a work of man or a
sport of nature. He stood between his two conclusions, like our
Edinburgh antiquarians between the two fossil Maries of Gueldres; and,
richer in eloquence than most of the philosophers his contemporaries,
was quite prepared, in his uncertainty, to give gilded mounting and a
purple pall to both.

"Should it be no other than a sport of nature," he concludes, "the
reputation which the stone bears in this country deserves that we should
have given a description of it. If, on the other hand, what is on it be
an inscription, though it certainly does not possess the beauty of the
sculpture of Greece or Rome, it very possibly has the advantage of being
the oldest in the universe. The country in which it is found is
inhabited only by a race of men who live like beasts in the forests. We
cannot imagine that they can have ever had any memorable event to
transmit to posterity, nor, if ever they had had, that they could have
invented the means. Nor can it be conceived that this country, with its
present aspect, ever possessed more civilized inhabitants. The rigor of
the climate and the barrenness of the land have destined it for the
retreat of a few miserable wretches, who know no other. It seems,
therefore, that the inscription must have been cut at a period when the
country was situated in a different climate, and before some one of
those great revolutions which, we cannot doubt, have taken place on our
globe. The position that the earth's axis holds at present with respect
to the ecliptic, occasions Lapland to receive the sun's rays very
obliquely: it is therefore condemned to a long winter, adverse to man,
as well as to all the productions of nature. No great movement,
possibly, in the heavens was necessary, however, to cause all its
misfortunes. These regions may formerly have been those on which the sun
shone most favorably; the polar circles may have been what now the
tropics are, and the torrid zone have filled the place occupied by the
temperate." Pretty well, Monsieur, for a philosopher! The various
attempts made to unriddle the real history of graphic granite are,
however, scarce less curious than the speculations connected with what
may be termed its romance. It seems to be generally held, since the days
of old Hutton, who, in his "Theory of the Earth," discussed the subject
with his usual ingenuity, that the feldspathic basis of the stone first
crystallized, leaving interstices between the crystals, partaking of a
certain regularity of form,--a consequence of the regularity of the
crystals themselves,--and of a certain irregularity from the eccentric
dispositions which these manifest in their position and relations to
each other; and that these interstices, being afterwards filled up with
quartz, form the characters of the rock,--characters partaking enough of
the first element of _regularity_ to present their peculiar graphic
appearance, and enough of the second element of _irregularity_ to
exhibit forms of an alphabet-like variety of outline. The chemist,
however, in cross-questioning the explanation, has his puzzle to
propound regarding it. Quartz, he says, being considerably less fusible
than feldspar, would naturally consolidate first, and so would give form
to the more fusible substance, instead of deriving form from it. On what
principle, then, is it that, reversing its ordinary character, it should
have been the last of the two substances to consolidate in the graphic
granite?--a query to which there seems to be no direct reply, but which
as little affects the fact that it _was_ the substance which last
consolidated, and which took form from the other, as the decision of the
learned Strasburgers, which determined the impossibility of the long
nose in Slawkenbergius's Tale, affected the actual existence of that
remarkable feature. "It happens _to be_, notwithstanding your
objection," said the controversialists on the pro-nose side of the
question. "But it _ought not_," replied their opponents.

The rain again returned as I was engaged in examining the graphic
granite of the Portsoy vein; the breeze from the sea heightened into a
gale, that soon fringed the coast with a broad border of foam; and I
entered the town, which looked but indifferently well in its gray
dishabille of haze and spray, tolerably wet and worn, with but the
prospect before me of being weather-bound for the rest of the day. I
found an old-fashioned inn, kept by somewhat old-fashioned people, who
had lately come from the country to "open a public;" and ensconced
myself by the fireside, in a huge many-windowed room, that must have
witnessed the county dinners of at least a century ago. Soon wearying,
however, of hearing the rain beating mad-like ratans upon the panes, and
availing myself of a comparatively "lucid interval," I sallied out,
wrapped up in my plaid, to examine the serpentine beds in the
neighborhood, which produce what is so extensively known as the Portsoy
marble. The _beds_ or _veins_ of this substance,--for it is still a moot
point whether they occur here as mere insulated masses of contemporary
origin with the primary formations which surround them, or as Plutonic
dykes injected into fissures at a later period,--are of very
considerable extent, one of them measuring about twenty-five yards
across, and another considerably more than a quarter of a mile; and, had
they but the solidity of the true marbles, they would scarce fail to be
regarded as valuable quarries of a highly ornamental stone, admirably
suited for the interior decorations of the architect. But they are
unluckily what the quarrier would term rubbly,--traversed by an infinity
of cracks and fissures; and it is rare indeed to find a continuous mass
out of which a chimney-jamb or lintel could be fashioned. The serpentine
was wrought here considerably more than a century and a half ago, and
exported to France for the magnificent Palace of Versailles; which,
though regarded by the French nation, says Voltaire, as "a favorite
without merit," Louis the Fourteenth persisted at the time in lavishly
beautifying, and looked as for abroad as Portsoy for materials with
which to adorn it. I have, however, seen it stated that the greater part
of a ship's cargo, brought afterwards to Paris on speculation, was
suffered to lie unwrought for years in the stone-dealer's yard, and was
ultimately disposed of as rubbish,--a consequence, probably, of its
unfitness, from its shaky texture, for ornamental purposes on a large
scale, though for ornaments of the smaller kind, such as boxes, vases,
and plates, it has been pronounced unrivalled. "At Zöblitz, in Upper
Saxony," says Professor Jamieson, "several hundred people are employed
in quarrying, cutting, turning, and polishing the serpentine which
occurs in that neighborhood; and the various articles into which it is
manufactured are carried all over Germany. The serpentine of Portsoy,"
he adds, "is, however, far superior to that of Zöblitz, in color,
hardness, and transparency, and, when cut, is very beautiful."

It is really a pretty stone; and, bad as the evening was, it was by no
means one of the worst of evenings for seeing it to advantage _in situ_,
or among the rolled pebbles on the shore. The varnish-like gloss of the
wet imparted to the undressed masses all the effect of polish, and
brought out in their proper variegations of color, every cloud, streak,
and vein. Viewed in the mass, the general hue is green; so much so, that
an insulated stack, which stands abreast of one of the beds, a
stone-cast in the sea, has greatly the appearance, at a little distance,
of an immense mass of verdigris. But red, gray, and brown are also
prevailing colors in the rock; occasional veins and blotches of white
give lightness to the darker portions; and veins of hematitic and deep
umbry tints, variety to the portions that are lighter. The greens vary
from the palest olive to the deepest black-green of the mineralogist;
the reds and browns, from blood-red to dark chocolate, and from
wood-brown to brownish-black; and, thus various in shade, they occur in
almost every possible variety of combination and form,--dotted, spotted,
clouded, veined,--so that each separate pebble on the shore seems the
representative of a rock different from the rocks represented by almost
all the others. Though not much of a mineralogist, I could have spent
considerably more time than the weather permitted me to employ this
evening, in admiring the beauties of this beach of _marbles_, or
rather,--as the real name, derived from those gorgeous, many-colored
cloudings, that impart a terrible splendor to the skins of the snake and
viper family, is not only the more correct, but also the more poetical
of the two,--this beach of _serpentines_. I had, however, to compromise
matters between the fierce wind and rain and the pretty rocks and
pebbles, by adjourning to the workshop of the Portsoy lapidary, Mr.
Clark, and examining under cover his polished specimens, of which I
purchased for a few shillings a characteristic and elegant little set.
Portsoy is peculiarly rich in minerals; and hence it reckons among its
mechanics of the ordinary class, what perhaps no other village in
Scotland of the same size and population possesses,--a skilful lapidary.
Mr. Clark's collection of the graphic granites, serpentines, and talcose
and mica schists, of the district, with their associated minerals, such
as schorl, talc, asbestos, amianthus, mountain cork, steatite, and
schiller spar, will be found eminently worthy a visit by the passing

I made several inquiries in the village, though not, as it proved, in
the right direction, regarding a poor old lady, several years dead, of
whom I had known a very little considerably more than a quarter of a
century before, and whose grave I would have visited, bad as the night
was, had I met any one who could have pointed it out to me. But
ungrateful Portsoy seemed to have forgotten poor Miss Bond, who, in all
her printed letters and little stories, so rarely forgot _it_. Have any
of my readers ever seen the work (in two slim volumes), "Letters of a
Village Governess," published in 1814 by Elizabeth Bond, and dedicated
to Sir Walter Scott? If not, and should they chance to see, as I lately
did, a copy on a stall (with uncut leaves, alas! and selling dog cheap),
they might possibly do worse things than buy it.[12]

With better weather I could have spent a day or two very agreeably in
Portsoy and its neighborhood; but the rain dashed unceasingly, and made
exploration under the cover of the umbrella somewhat resemble that of a
sea-bottom under cover of the diving-bell. I could see but little at a
time, and the little imperfectly. Miss Bond, in her "Letters," refers,
in her light, pleasing style, to what in more favorable circumstances
_might_ be seen. "My troop of _light infantry_," she says, "keeps me so
well employed here during the day, that the silence and repose of the
evening is very delightful. In fine weather I walk by the sea-side, and
scramble among the rugged rocks, many of which are inaccessible to human
feet, forming a fine retreat for foxes. These animals often may be seen
from the heights, sporting with their cubs in perfect safety. This day I
went to see the works of an old _virtuoso_, who turns in marble, or
rather granite [serpentine] all kinds of chimney-piece ornaments, rings,
ear-rings, etc. Several specimens of his work, which must have cost him
a vast deal of trouble, I thought very beautiful. It was in this
neighborhood that the celebrated Ferguson spent so much of his time. The
globular stones on the gate of Durn are still to be seen, on which he
mapped out the figuring of the terrestrial and celestial globes. I was
told it was forbidden ground to approach the premises of Durn; but I
could not resist the temptation of visiting the spot where the young
philosopher had shown such early proofs of his genius; and I accordingly
paid the forfeit of an _impertinent_, for the gentleman who resides
there caught the prowler, and in genteel terms bade her go about her
business, and never return. How ungracious! She was doing no harm."

The morning arose as gloomily as the evening had fallen; and I walked on
in the rain to Cullen, fully disposed to sympathize by the way with the
"hardy Byron,"--he of the "Narrative,"--who, from his ill-luck in
weather, went among his sailors by the name of "Foul-weather Jack." In
the sandy bay of Cullen, where the road, after inflecting inland for
some five or six miles, comes again upon the sea, I found the surf
charging home in long white lines six waves deep,--

 "Each stepping where his comrade stood,
 The instant that he fell."

The appearance was such as to impart no inadequate idea of the vast
attritive power of ocean in wearing down the land. When pausing for a
little abreast of the fishing village, partially sheltered by an old
boat, to mark the fierce turmoil, it suddenly occurred to me,--as the
tempest weltered around reef and skerry, and roared wildly, mile after
mile, along the beach,--that the day and night were now just equal, and
that it was the customary equinoctial storm that had broken out to
accompany me on my journey. And so, calculating on a few days more of
it, instead of waiting on in the hope of a fair afternoon to examine the
outlier of Old Red which occurs in the neighborhood of Cullen, I was
content to see at a distance its mural-sided cliffs rising like broken
walls through the flat sand; and, taking the road for Fochabers, with
the intention of leaving exploration till fairer weather set in, I
resolved on posting straight on, to join my relatives on the opposite
side of the Frith. The deep-red color of the boulder-clay, as exhibited
by the way-side, in the water-courses and the water,--for every runnel
was tumbling down big and turbid with the rains,--intimated, when, after
leaving Cullen some six or seven miles behind me, I passed from a bare
moory region of quartz rock into a region of woods and fields, that I
was again upon my ancient acquaintance, the Old Red Sandstone. And the
section furnished by the Burn of Tynet showed me shortly after that the
intimation was a correct one, and how generally it may be laid down as a
rule, that at least the more impalpable portions of the boulder-clay are
derived from the rocks on which it rests. The ichthyolite beds appear in
the course of the burn. They have furnished several good
specimens,--among the others, the specimen of Coccosteus figured by Mr.
Patrick Duff in his "Sketches of the Geology of Moray;" and they are,
besides, curious, as being the first to exhibit to the traveller who
explores from Gamrie westwards, that peculiar style of coloring which
characterizes the Old Red ichthyolites of the shires of Moray and Nairn,
and which differs so strikingly from the more sombre style exhibited by
the other ichthyolites of Banffshire, with those of Cromarty, Ross,
Caithness, and Orkney. Instead of bearing, like these, one uniform hue,
as if deeply shaded with Indian ink, they are gorgeously attired,
especially when newly laid open, in white, red, purple, and blue. The
day, however, was ill-suited for fishing Pterichthyes and Osteolepi out
of the Tynet: the red water was roaring from bank to brae; here eddying
along the half-submerged furze,--there tearing down the boulder-days in
raw, red land-slips; and so, casting but one eager glance at the bed
where the fish lay, I travelled on, and entered the tall woods to the
east of Fochabers. The rain ceased for a time; and I met in the woods an
old pensioner, who had been evidently weather-bound in some
public-house, and had now taken the opportunity of the fair interval to
stagger to his dwelling. He was eminently, exuberantly happy,--there
could not be two opinions on that head,--full of all manner of bright
sunshiny thoughts and imaginations, rendered just a little tremulous and
uncertain by the _summer-heat_ exhalations of the imbibed moisture, like
distant objects in a hot noonday landscape in July seen through volumes
of rising vapor; and a sheep's head and trotters, which he carried under
his arm, was, I saw, to serve as a peace-offering to his wife at home.
True, he had been taking a dram, but he was mindful of the family for
all that. He confronted me with the air of an old acquaintance; gave the
military salute; and then, laying hold of a corner of my plaid with his
thumb and forefinger,--"I know you," he said, "I know _your kind_ well;
ye're a Highland-Donald. Od, I've seen ye in the _thick o't_. Ye're
_reugh_ fellows when ye're bluid's up!" He had taken me for a grenadier
of the 42d; and I lacked the moral courage to undeceive him. I met
nothing further on my way worthy of record, save and except a sheep's
trotter, dropped by the old pensioner in one of his zig-zaggings to the
extreme left; but having no particular use for the trotter at the time
and in the circumstances, I left it to benefit the next passer-by. I
finished my journey of eighteen miles in capital style, and was within
five minutes' walk of Fochabers when the horn of the mail-guard was
sounding up the street. And, entering the village, I found the vehicle
standing opposite the inn door, minus the horses.

The _insides_ and _outsides_ were sitting down to dinner together as I
entered the inn; and I felt, after my long walk, that it would be rather
an agreeable matter to join with them. But in the hope of meeting my old
friend Mr. Joss, I requested to be shown, not into the passengers' room,
but into that of the coachman and guard; and with them I dined. It so
chanced, however, that Mr. Joss was not _out_ that day; and the man in
the red long coat was a stranger whom I had never seen before. I
inquired of him regarding Mr. Joss,--one of perhaps the most remarkable
mail-guards in Europe. I have at least never heard of another who, like
him, amuses his leisure on the coach-top with the "Principia" of Newton,
and understands it. And the man, drawing his inference from the interest
in Mr. Joss which my queries evinced, asked me whether I myself was not
a coach-guard. "No," I rather thoughtlessly replied, "I am not a
coach-guard." Half a minute's consideration, however, led me to doubt
whether I had given the right answer. "I am not sure," I said to
myself, on second thoughts, "but the man has cut pretty fairly on the
point;--I daresay _I am_ a sort of coach-guard. I have to mount my
twice-a-week coach in all weathers, like any mail-guard among them all;
I have to start at the appointed hour, whether the vehicle be empty or
full; I have to keep a sharp eye on the opposition coaches; I am
responsible, like any other mail-guard, for all the parcels carried,
however little I may have had to do with the making of them up; I have
always to keep my blunderbuss full charged to the muzzle,--not wishing
harm to any one, but bound in duty to let drive at all and sundry who
would make war upon the passengers, or attempt running the conveyance
off the road; and, finally, as my friend Mr. Joss takes the "Principia"
to _his_ coach-top, I take pockets full of fossils to the top of mine,
and amuse myself in fine days by working out, as I best can, the
problems which they furnish. Yes, I rather think _I am_ a coach-guard."
And so, taking my seat beside my red-coated brother, who had guessed the
true nature of my occupation so much more shrewdly than myself, I rode
on to Elgin, where I passed the night.

It is difficult to arrange in the mind the geologic formations of
Banffshire in their character as a series of deposits. The pages of the
stony record which the county composes, like those of an
unskilfully-folded pamphlet, have been strangely mixed together, so that
page last succeeds in some places to page first, and, of the
intermediate pages, some appear at the beginning of the work, and some
at the end. It is not until we reach the western confines of the county,
some two or three miles short of the river Spey, its terminal boundary
in this direction, that we find the beds comparatively little disturbed,
and arranged chronologically in their original places. In the eastern
and southern parts of the shire, rocks widely separated by the date of
their formation have been set down side by side in patches,
occasionally of but inconsiderable extent. Now the traveller passes over
a district of grauwacke, now over a re-formation of the Lias; anon he
finds himself on a primary limestone,--gneiss, syenite, clay-slate, or
quartz-rock; and yet anon amid the fossils of some outlier of the Old
Red. The geological map of the county is, like Joseph's coat, of many
colors. I remember seeing, when a boy, more years ago than I am inclined
to specify, some workmen engaged in pulling down what had been a
house-painter's shop, a full century before. The painter had been in the
somewhat slovenly habit of cleaning his brushes by rubbing them against
a hard-cast wall, which was covered, in consequence, by a many-colored
layer of paint, a full half-inch in thickness, and as hard as a stone.
Taking a little bit home with me, I polished it by rubbing the upper
surface smooth; and, lo! a geological map. The _strata_ of variously
hued pigment, spread originally over the surface of the hard-cast wall,
were cut open, by the _denudation_ of the grindstone, into all manner of
fantastic forms, and seemed thrown into all sorts of strange
neighborhoods. The _map_ lacked merely the additional perplexity of a
few bold _faults_, with here and there a decided _dike_, in order to
render it on a small scale a sort of miniature transcript of the geology
of Banff; and I have very frequently found my thoughts reverting to it,
in connection with deposits of this broken character. On a rough
_hard-cast_ basis of granite I have laid down in imagination, as if by
way of priming, coat after coat of the primary rocks,--gneiss, and
stratified hornblend, and mica-schist, and quartz-rock, and day-slate;
and then, after breaking the coatings well up, and rubbing them well
down, and so spoiling and crumpling up the work as to make their
original order considerably a puzzle, I have begun anew to paint over
the rough surface with thick coatings of grauwacke and grauwacke-slate.
When this part of the operation was completed, I have again begun
to break up and grind down,--here letting a tract of grauwacke
sink into the broken primary,--there wearing it off the surface
altogether,--yonder elevating the original granitic _hard-cast_ till it
rose over all the coatings, Primary and Palæozoic. And then I have begun
to paint yet a third time with thick Old Red Sandstone pigment; and yet
again to break up and wear down,--here to insert a tenon of the Old Red
deep into a mortise of the grauwacke, as at Gamrie,--there to dovetail
it into the clay-slate, as at Tomantoul,--yonder, after laying it across
the upturned quartz-rock, as at Cullen, to rub by much the greater part
of it away again, leaving but mere remainder-patches and fragments, to
mark where it had been. Lastly, if I had none of the superior Palæozoic
or Secondary formations to deal with, I have brushed over the whole, by
way of finish, with the variously-derived coatings of the superficial
deposits; and thus, as I have said, I have often completed, in idea,
after the chance suggestion of the old painter's shop, my portable
models of the geology of disturbed districts like the Banffshire one.
The deposits of Moray are greatly less broken. Denudation has partially
worn them down; but they seem to have almost wholly escaped the previous
crumpling process.


     Yellow-hued Houses Of Elgin--Geology of the Country indicated by
     the coloring of the Stone Houses--Fossils of Old Red north of the
     Grampians different from those of Old Red south--Geologic
     Formations at Linksfield difficult to be understood--Ganoid Scales
     of the Wealden--Sudden Reaction, from complex to simple, in the
     Scales of Fishes--Pore-covered Scales--Extraordinary amount of
     Design exhibited in Ancient Ganoid Scales--Holoptychius Scale
     illustrated by Cromwell's "fluted pot"--Patrick Duff's Geological
     Collection--Elgin Museum--Fishes of the Ganges--Armature of Ancient
     Fishes--Compensatory Defences--The Hermit-crab--Spines of the
     Pimelodi--Ride to Campbelton--Theories of the formation of
     Ardersier and Fortrose Promontories--Tradition of their
     construction by the Wizard, Michael Scott--A Region of Legendary

The prevailing yellow hue of the Elgin houses strikes the eye of the
geologist who has travelled northwards from the Frith of Forth. He takes
leave of a similar stone at Cupar-Fife,--a warmly-tinted yellow
sandstone, peculiarly well-suited for giving effect to architectural
ornament; and after passing along the deep-red sandstone houses of the
shires of Angus and Kincardine, and the gneiss, granite, hyperstene, and
mica-schist houses of Aberdeen and Banff shires, he again finds houses
of a deep red on crossing the Spey, and houses of a warm yellow tint on
reaching Elgin,--geologically the Cupar-Fife of the north. And the story
that the colored buildings tell him is, that he has been passing, though
by a somewhat circuitous route of a hundred and fifty miles, over an
anticlinal geological section,--_down_ in the scale till he reached
Aberdeen and had gone a little beyond it, and then _up_ again, until at
Elgin he arrives at the same superior yellow bed of Old Red Sandstone
which he had quitted at Cupar-Fife. Both beds contain the same
organisms. The Holoptychius of Dura Den, near Cupar, must have sprung
from the same original as the Holoptychius of the Hospital and
Bishop-Mill quarries near Elgin; and it seems not improbable that the
two beds, thus identical in their character and contents, may have
existed, ere the upheaval of the Grampians broke their continuity, as an
extended deposit, at the bottom of the same sea. But with this last and
newest of the formations of the Old Red Sandstone the identity of the
deposits to the south and north ceases. The strata which in the south
overlie the yellow bed of the Holoptychius represent the Carboniferous
period, the overlying strata in the north represent the Oölitic one. On
the one side the miner sinks his shaft, and finds a true coal, composed
of the Stigmaria, Calamites, Club-mosses, Ferns, and Araucarians of the
Palæozoic era; he sinks his shaft on the other side, and finds but thin
seams of an imperfect lignite, composed of the Cycadeæ, Pines,
Sphenopteri, and Clathraria of the Secondary period. The flora which
found its subsoil in the Old Red Sandstone north of the Grampians,
belonged to a scene of things so much more modern than the flora which
found its subsoil in the Old Red Sandstone of the south, that all its
productions were green and flourishing, waving beside lake, river, and
sea, at a time when the productions of the other were locked up, as now,
in sand and shale, lime and clay,--the dead mummies of ages long

Another thoroughly wet morning! varied only from the morning of the
preceding day by the absence of wind, and the greater weight of the
persevering vertical rain, that leaped upwards in myriads of little
dancing pyramids from the surface of every pool. I walked out under
cover of my umbrella, to renew my acquaintance with the outlier of the
Weald at Linksfield, and ascertain what sort of section it now presented
under the quarrying operations of the limeburners. There was, however,
little to be seen; the bands of green and blue clays, alternating with
strata of fossiliferous limestone, and layers of a gray shade, thickly
charged with minute shells of Cypris, were sadly blurred this morning by
the trail of numerous slips from above, which had fallen during the
rains, and softened into mud as they rushed downwards athwart the face
of the quarry: and the arched band of boulder-clay which so mysteriously
underlies the deposit was, save in a few parts, wholly covered up by the
debris. The occurrence of the clay here as an inferior bed, with but the
cornstone of the Old Red beneath, and all the beds of the Weald resting
over it, forms a riddle somewhat difficult of solution; but it is
palpably not reading it aright to regard the deposit, with at least one
geologist who has written on the subject, as older than the rocks above.
It is, on the contrary, as a vast amount of various and unequivocal
evidence demonstrates, incalculably more modern; nay, we find proof of
the fact here in that very bed which has been instanced as rendering it
doubtful; the clay of which the interpolation is composed is found to
contain fragments, not only of the cornstone on which it rests, but also
of the Wealden limestone and shales which it underlies. It forms the
mere filling up of a flat-roofed cavern, or rather of two flat-roofed
caverns,--for the limestone roof dipped in the centre to the cornstone
floor,--which, previous to the times of the boulder-clay, had lain open
in what was then, as now, an old-world deposit, charged with long
extinct organisms, but which, during the iceberg period, was penetrated
and occupied by the clay, as run lime penetrates and occupies the
interstices of a dry-stone wall. It was no day for gathering fossils. I
saw a few ganoid scales, washed by the rain from the investing rubbish,
glittering on fragments of the limestone, with a few of the
characteristic shells of the deposit, chiefly Unionidæ; but nothing
worth bringing away. The adhesive clay of the Weald, widely scattered
by the workmen, and wrought into mortar by the beating rains, made it a
matter of some difficulty for the struggling foot to retain the shoe,
and, sticking to my soles by pounds at a time, rendered me obnoxious to
the old English nickname of "rough-footed Scot." And so, after
traversing the heaps, somewhat like a fly in treacle, I had to yield to
the rain above and the mud beneath, and to return to do in Elgin what
cannot be done equally well in almost any other town of its size in
Scotland,--pursue my geological inquiries under cover.

On this, as on other occasions, I was struck by the complex and very
various forms assumed by the ganoid scales of the Wealden. Throughout
the Oölitic system generally, including the Lias, there obtains a
singular complexity of type in these little glittering tiles of
enamelled bone, which contrasts strongly with the greatly more simple
style which obtained among the ganoids of the Palæozoic period. In many
of these last, as in the Coelacanth family, including the genera
Holoptychius, Asterolepis, and Glyptolepis, in all their many species,
with at least one genus of Dipterians, the genus Dipterus, the external
outline and arrangement of scale was as simple as in any of the Cycloid
family of the present time. Like slates on a roof, each single scale
covered two, and was covered by two in turn; and the only point of
difference which existed in relation to the _laying down_ of these massy
_slates_ of _bone_, and the laying down of the very thin ones of _horn_
which cover fish such as the carp or salmon, was, that in the massier
_slates_, the sides, or _cover_,--nicely bevelled, in order to preserve
an equability of thickness throughout,--were so adjusted, that two
scales at their edges, where they lay the one over the other, were not
thicker than one scale at its centre. Even in the other ganoids, their
contemporaries, such as the Osteolepis and Diplopterus, where the
scales were ranged more in the tile fashion, side by side, there was,
with much ingenious carpentry in the fitting, a general simplicity of
form. It would almost appear, however, that ere the ganoid order reached
the times of the Weald, the simple forms had been exhausted, and that
nature, abhorring repetition, and ever stamping upon the scales some
specific characteristic of the creature that bore them, was obliged to
have recourse to forms of a more complex and involved outline. These
latter-day scales send out nail-like spikes laterally and atop, to lay
hold upon their neighbors, and exhibit in their undersides grooves that
accommodated the nails sent out, in turn, by their neighbors, to lay
hold upon _them_. Their forms, too, are indescribably various and
fantastic. It seems curious enough, that immediately after this
extremely _artificial_ state of things, if I may so speak, the two
prevailing orders of the fish of the present day, the Cycloids and
Ctenoids, should have been ushered upon the scene, and more than the
original simplicity of scale restored. There took place a sudden
reäction, from the fantastic and the complex to the simple and the

It is further worthy of notice, that though many of the ganoid scales of
the Secondary systems, including those of the Wealden, glitter as
brightly in burnished enamel as the more splendent scales of the Old Red
Sandstone and Coal Measures, there is a curious peculiarity exhibited in
the structure of many of the older scales of the highly enamelled class,
which, so far as I have yet seen, does not extend beyond the Palæozoic
period. The outer layer of the scale, which lies over a middle layer of
a cellular cancellated structure, and corresponds, apparently, with that
scarf-skin which in the human subject overlies the _rete mucosum_, is
thickly set over with microscopic pores, funnel-shaped in the transverse
section, and which, examined by a good glass, in the horizontal one
resemble the puncturings of a sieve. The Megalichthys of the Coal
Measures, with its various carboniferous congeners, with the genera
Diplopterus, Dipterus, and Osteolepis of the Old Red Sandstone,--all
brilliantly enamelled fish,--are thickly pore-covered. But whatever
purpose these pores may have served, it seems in the Secondary period to
have been otherwise accomplished, if, indeed, it continued to exist. It
is a curious circumstance, that in no case do the pores seem to pass
_through_ the scale. Whatever their use, they existed merely as
communications between the cells of the middle cancellated layer and the
surface. In a fish of the Chalk,--_Macropoma Mantelli_,--the exposed
fields of the scales are covered over with apparently hollow, elongated
cylinders, as the little tubes in a shower-bath cover their round field
of tin, save that they lie in a greatly flatter angle than the tubes;
but I know not that, like the pores of the Dipterians and the
Megalichthys, they communicated between the interior of the scale and
its external surface. Their structure is at any rate palpably different,
and they bear no such resemblance to the pores of the human skin as that
which the Palæozoic pores present.

The amount of design exhibited in the scales of some of the more ancient
ganoids,--design obvious enough to be clearly read,--is very
extraordinary. A single scale of _Holoptychius Nobilissimus_,--fast
locked up in its red sandstone rock,--laid by, as it were, for
ever,--will be seen, if we but set ourselves to unravel its texture, to
form such an instance of nice adaptation of means to an end as might of
itself be sufficient to confound the atheist. Let me attempt placing one
of these scales before the reader, in its character as a flat counter of
bone, of a nearly circular form, an inch and a half in diameter, and an
eighth-part of an inch in thickness; and then ask him to bethink
himself of the various means by which he would impart to it the greatest
possible degree of strength. The human skull consists of two tables of
solid bone, an inner and an outer, with a spongy cellular substance
interposed between them, termed the _diploe_; and such is the effect of
this arrangement, that the blow which would fracture a continuous wall
of bone has its force broken by the spongy intermediate layer, and
merely injures the outer table, leaving not unfrequently the inner one,
which more especially protects the brain, wholly unharmed. Now, such
also was the arrangement in the scale of the _Holoptychius
Nobilissimus_. It consisted of its two well-marked tables of solid bone,
corresponding in their dermal character, the outer to the cuticle, the
inner to the true skin, and the intermediate cellular layer to the _rete
mucosum_; but bearing an unmistakable analogy also, as a mechanical
contrivance, to the two plates and the _diploe_ of the human skull. To
the strengthening principle of the two tables, however, there were two
other principles added. Cromwell, when commissioning for a new helmet,
his old one being, as he expresses it, "ill set," ordered his friend to
send him a "_fluted pot_," _i.e._, a helmet ridged and furrowed on the
surface, and suited to break, by its protuberant lines, the force of a
blow, so that the vibrations of the stroke would reach the body of the
metal deadened and flat. Now, the outer table of the scale of the
Holoptychius was a "fluted pot." The alternate ridges and furrows which
ornamented its surface served a purpose exactly similar with that of the
flutes and fillets of Cromwell's helmet. The inner table was
strengthened on a different but not less effective principle. The human
stomach consists of three coats; and two of these, the outermost or
peritoneal coat, and the middle or muscular coat, are so arranged, that
the fibres of the one cross at nearly right angles those of the other.
The violence which would tear the compact sides of this important organ
along the fibres of the outer coat, would be checked by the transverse
arrangement of the fibres of the middle coat, and _vice versa_. We find
the cotton manufacturer weaving some of his stronger fabrics on a
similar plan;--they also are made to consist of two _coats_; and what is
technically termed the _tear_ of the upper is so disposed that it lies
at an angle of forty-five degrees with the _tear_ of the coat which lies
underneath. Now, the inner table of the scale of the Holoptychius was
composed, on this principle, of various layers or coats, arranged the
one over the other, so that the fibres of each lay at right angles
with the fibres of the others in immediate contact with it. In
the inner table of one scale I reckon nine of these alternating,
variously-disposed layers; so that any application of violence, which,
in the language of the lath-splitter, would _run lengthwise along the
grain_ of four of them, would be checked by the _cross grain_ in five.
In other words, the line of the _tear_ in five of the layers was ranged
at right angles with the line of the _tear_ in four. There were thus in
a single scale, in order to secure the greatest possible amount of
strength,--and who can say what other purposes may have been secured
besides?--three distinct principles embodied,--the principle of the two
tables and _diploe_ of the human skull,--the principle of the variously
arranged coats of the human stomach,--and the principle of Oliver
Cromwell's "fluted pot." There have been elaborate treatises written on
those ornate flooring-tiles of the classical and middle ages, that are
occasionally dug up by the antiquary amid monastic ruins, or on the
sites of old Roman stations. But did any of them ever tell a story half
so instructive or so strange as that told by the incalculably more
ancient ganoid _tiles_ of the Palæozoic and Secondary periods?

I called, on my way back from Linksfield, upon my old friend Mr. Patrick
Duff, and was introduced once more to his exquisite collection, with its
unique ichthyolites of at least two genera of fishes of the Old
Red,--the _Stagonolepis_ and _Placothorax_ of Agassiz,--which up to the
present time are to be seen nowhere else; and various other fine
specimens of rare species, which, having sat for their portraits, have
their forms preserved in the great work of the naturalist of Neufchatel.
He showed me, with some triumph, one of his later acquisitions,--a fine
specimen of Holoptychius from the upper yellow sandstone of Bishop-Mill,
which exhibits the dorsal ridge covered with a line of large overlapping
scales, not at all unlike those overlapping plates which cover the tail
of the lobster; for which, by the way, they were mistaken by the workman
who first laid the fossil open. I examined, too, with some interest,
fragments of a gigantic species of Pterichthys, belonging to an inferior
division of the same Upper Old Red formation as the yellow stone,
designated by Agassiz _Pterichthys major_, which must have attained to
at least thrice the size, linearly, of even its bulkier congeners of the
Lower formation of the Coccosteus. After examining many a drawer,
stored, from the deposits of the neighborhood, with characteristic
fossils of the Lias, the Weald, and the Oölite, and of the Upper and
Lower Old Red, we set out together to expatiate amid the treasures of
the Town Museum.

Among other recent additions to the Museum, there is an interesting set
of the fishes of the Ganges, the donation of a gentleman long resident
in India, to which Mr. Duff called my attention, as illustrative, in
some of the specimens, of the more characteristic ichthyolites of the
Old Red Sandstone. One numerous family, the Pimelodi, abundantly
represented in the Gangetic region, in not only the rivers, but also the
ponds, tanks, and estuaries of the district, is certainly worthy the
careful study of the geologist. It approaches nearer, in some of its
more strongly-marked genera, to the Coccosteus of the Lower Old Red,
than any other tribe of existing fishes which I have yet seen. The body
of the Pimelodus, from the anterior dorsal downwards, is as naked as
that of the eel; whereas the head, and in several of the species the
back, is armed with strong plates of naked bone, curiously fretted, as
in many of the ichthyolites of the Lower, and more especially of the
Upper Old Red Sandstone, into ridges of confluent tubercles, that
radiate from the centre to the edges of the plates. The dorsal plate,
too, when detached, as in many of the species, from the plates of the
head, bears upon its inner side a strong central ridge, that deepens as
it descends, till it abruptly terminates a little short of the
termination of the plate, exactly as in the dorsal plate of Coccosteus,
which sunk its central ridge deep into the back of the animal. The point
of resemblance to be mainly noticed, however, is the contrast furnished
by the powerful armature of the head and back, with the unprotected
nakedness of the posterior portions of the creature;--a point specially
noticeable in the Coccosteus, and apparent also, though in a lesser
degree, in some of the other genera of the Old Red, such as the
Pterichthyes and Asterolepides. From the snout of the Coccosteus down to
the posterior termination of the dorsal plate, the creature was cased in
strong armor, the plates of which remain as freshly preserved in the
ancient rocks of the country as those of the Pimelodi of the Ganges on
the shelves of the Elgin Museum; but from the pointed termination of the
plate immediately over the dorsal fin, to the tail, comprising more
than one half the entire length of the animal, all seems to have been
exposed, without the protection of even a scale, and there survives in
the better specimens only the internal skeleton of the fish and the
ray-bones of the fins. It was armed, like a French dragoon, with a
strong helmet and a short cuirass; and so we find its remains in the
state in which those of some of the soldiers of Napoleon's old guard,
that had been committed unstripped to the earth, may be dug up in the
future on the fatal field of Borodino, or along the banks of the Dwina
or the Wap. The cuirass lies still attached to the helmet, but we find
only the naked skeleton attached to the cuirass. The Pterichthys to its
strong helmet and cuirass added a posterior armature of comparatively
feeble scales, as if, while its upper parts were shielded with plate
armor, a lighter covering of ring or scale armor sufficed for the less
vital parts beneath. In the Asterolepis the arrangement was somewhat
similar, save that the plated cuirass was wanting: it was a strongly
helmed warrior in slight scale armor; for the disproportion between the
strength of the plated head-piece and that of the scaly coat was still
greater than in the Pterichthys. The occipital star-covered plates are,
in some of the larger specimens, fully three-quarters of an inch in
thickness, whereas the thickness of the delicately-fretted scales rarely
exceeds a line.

Why this disproportion between the strength of the armature in different
parts of the same fish should have obtained, as in Pterichthys and
Asterolepis, or why, while one portion of the animal was strongly armed,
another portion should have been left, as in Coccosteus, wholly exposed,
cannot of course be determined by the mere geologist. His rocks present
him with but the fact of the disproportion, without accounting for it.
But the natural history of existing fish, in which, as in the Pimelodi,
there may be detected a similar peculiarity of armature, may perhaps
throw some light on the mystery. In Hamilton's "Fishes of the Ganges" I
find but little reference made to the instincts and habits of the
animals described: their deep-river haunts lie, in many cases, beyond
the reach of observation; and of the observations actually made, the
descriptive naturalist, intent often on mere peculiarities of structure,
is not unfrequently too careless. Hamilton describes the habitats of the
various Indian species of Pimelodi, whether brackish estuaries, ponds,
or rivers, but not their characteristic instincts. Of the Silurus,
however, a genus of the same great family, I read elsewhere that some of
the species, such as the _Silurus glanis_, being unwieldy in their
motions, do not pursue their prey, which consists of small fishes, but
lie concealed among the mud, and seize on the chance stragglers that
come their way. And of the _Pimelodus gulio_, a little, strongly-helmed
fish, with a naked body, I was informed by Mr. Duff, on the authority of
the gentleman who had presented the specimens to the Museum, that it
burrowed in the holes of muddy banks, from which it shot out its armed
head, and arrested, as they passed, the minute animals on which it
preyed. The animal world is full of such compensatory defences: there is
a half-suit of armor given to shield half the body, and a wise instinct
to protect the rest. The _Pholas crispata_ cannot shut its valves so as
to protect its anterior parts, without raising them from off those parts
which lie behind: like the Irishman in the haunted house, who attempted
lengthening his blanket by cutting strips from the top and sewing them
on to the bottom, it loses at the one end what it gains at the other;
but, hemmed round by the solid walls of the recess which it is its
nature to hollow out for itself in shale or stone, the anterior parts,
though uncovered by the shell, are not exposed. By closing its valves
anteriorly, it shuts the door of its little house, made like that of the
coney-folk of Scripture, in the rock; and then, of the entire cell in
which it dwells so secure, what is not shut door is impregnable wall.
The remark of Paley, that the "human animal is the only one which is
naked, and the only one which can clothe itself," is by no means quite
correct. One half the hermit crab is as naked as the "human animal," and
even less fitted for exposure; for it consists of a thin-skinned, soft,
unmuscular bag, filled with delicate viscera; but not even the human
animal is more skilful in clothing himself in the spoils of other
animals than the hermit crab in wrapping up its naked bag in the strong
shell of some dead fusus or buccinum, which it carries about with it in
all its peregrinations, as at once clothes, armor, and house. Nature
arms its front, and it is itself wise enough to arm its rear. Now, it
seems not improbable that the half-armed Coccosteus, a heavy fish,
indifferently furnished with fins, may have burrowed, like the recent
_Silurus glanis_ or _Pimelodus gulio_, in a thick mud,--of the existence
of which in vast quantity, during the times of the Old Red Sandstone,
the dark Caithness flagstones, the fetid breccia of Strathpeffer, and
the gray stratified clays of Cromarty, Moray, and Banff, unequivocally
testify; and that it may have thus not only succeeded in capturing many
of its light-winged contemporaries, which it would have vainly pursued
in open sea, but may have been enabled also to present to its enemies,
when assailed in turn, only its armed portions, and to protect its
unarmed parts in its burrow. It is further worthy of notice, that many
of the Pimelodi are furnished with spines, not, like those
ichthyodorulites which occur so frequently in the older Secondary and
Palæozoic divisions, unfinished in appearance at their lower extremity,
as if, like the spines of the ancient Acanthodi, or those of the recent
dog-fish (_Spinax acanthias_), they had been simply embedded in the
flesh, but bearing, like the wings of the Pterichthys, an articulated
aspect. Those of the _Pimelodus rita_ and _Pimelodus gagata_ are of
singular beauty; and when the creatures have no further use for them,
and the mud of the Ganges has been consolidated into shale or baked into
flagstone around them, they will make very exquisite fossils. A correct
drawing of the plates and spines of some of the members of the Pimelodi
family, with a portion of the internal skeletons, arranged in their
proper places, but divested of those more destructible parts to which
they are attached, would serve admirably to show what strange forms fish
not greatly removed from the ordinary type may assume in the fossil
state, and might throw some light on the extraordinary appearance
assumed, as ichthyolites, by the old family of the Cephalaspians.

The geological department of the Elgin Museum is not yet very complete.
The private collections of the locality, by forestalling, greatly
restrict the supply from the rich deposits in the neighborhood, and have
an unquestioned right to do so. The Museum contains, however, several
interesting organisms. I saw, among the others, a specimen of
Diplopterus, that showed the form and position of the fins of this
rather rare ichthyolite much better than any of the Morayshire specimens
portrayed by Agassiz in his great work; and beside it, one of the two
specimens of _Pterichthys oblongus_ which he figures, and on which he
establishes the species. The other individual,--a Cromarty
specimen,--graces my little collection. The gloomy day passed pleasantly
in deciphering, with so accomplished a geologist as Mr. Duff, these
curious hieroglyphics of the old world, that tell such wonderful
stories, and in comparing _viva voce_, as we were wont to do long years
before in lengthy epistles, our respective notions regarding the true
key for laying open their more occult meanings. And, after sharing with
him in his family dinner, I again took my seat on the mail, as a chill,
raw evening was falling, and rode on, some six or eight and twenty
miles, to Campbelton. The rain pattered drearily through the night on my
bed-room window; and as frequent exposure to the wet had begun to tell
on a constitution not altogether so strong as it had once been, I
awakened oftener than was quite comfortable, to hear it. The morning,
however, was dry, though gray and sunless; and, taking an early
breakfast at the inn, I traversed the flat gravelly points of Ardersier
and Fortrose, that, projecting like moles far into the Frith, narrow the
intervening ferry to considerably less than one-third the width which it
would present were they away. The origin of these long detrital
promontories, which form, when viewed from the heights on either side,
so peculiar a feature in the landscape, and which, were they directly
opposite, instead of being set down a mile awry, would shut up the
opening altogether, has not yet been satisfactorily accounted for. One
special theory assigns their formation to the agency of the descending
tide, striking in zig-gig style, in consequence of some peculiarity of
the coast-line or of the bottom, from side to side of the Frith, and
depositing a long trail of sand and gravel, at nearly right angles with
the beach, first on the one shore and then on the other. But why the
tide, which runs in various zig-zag crossings in the course of the
Frith, should have the effect here, and nowhere else, of raising two
vast mounds, each a full mile and a quarter in length, with an average
breadth of from two to five furlongs, is by no means very apparent.
Certainly the present tides of the Frith could not have formed them, nor
could they have been elevated to their present average height of ten or
twelve feet over the flood-line in a sea standing at the existing level.
If they in reality originated in this cause, it must have been ere the
latter upheavals of the land or recessions of the sea, when the great
Caledonian Valley existed as a narrow ocean sound, swept by powerful
currents. Upon another and entirely different hypothesis, these flat
promontories have been regarded as the remains, levelled by the waves,
and gapped direct in the middle by the tide, of a vast transverse morain
of the great valley, belonging to the same glacial age as the lateral
morains some ten or fifteen miles higher up, that extend from the
immediate neighborhood of Inverness to the mansion-house of Dochfour.
But this hypothesis, like the other, is not without its difficulties.
Why, for instance, should the promontories be a mile awry? There is,
however, yet another mode of accounting for their formation, which I am
not in the least disposed to criticise.

They were constructed, says tradition, through the agency of the
arch-wizard Michael Scott. Michael had called up the hosts of Faery to
erect the cathedral of Elgin and the chanonry kirk of Fortrose, which
they completed from foundation to ridge, each in a single
night,--committing, in their hurry, merely the slight mistake of
locating the building intended for Elgin in Fortrose, and that intended
for Fortrose in Elgin; but, their work over and done, and when the
magician had no further use for them, they absolutely refused to be
_laid_; and, like a _posse_ of Irish laborers thrown out of a job, came
thronging round him, clamoring for more employment. Fearing lest he
should be torn in pieces,--a catastrophe which has not unfrequently
happened in such circumstances in the olden time, and of which those
recent philanthropists who engage themselves in finding work for the
unemployed may have perhaps entertained some little dread in our own
days,--he got rid of them for the time by setting them off in a body to
run a mound across the Moray Frith from Fortrose to Ardersier. Toiling
hard in the evening of a moonlight night, they had proceeded greatly
more than two-thirds towards the completion of the undertaking, when a
luckless Highlander passing by bade God-speed the work, and, by thus
breaking the charm, arrested at once and forever the construction of the
mound, and saved the navigation of Inverness.

I stood for a few seconds at the Burn of Rosemarkie undecided whether I
should take the Scarfs-Craig road,--a break-neck path which runs
eastwards along the cliffs, and which, though the rougher, is the more
direct Cromarty line of the two,--or the considerably better though
longer line of the White Bog, which strikes upwards along the burn in a
westerly direction, and joins the Cromarty and Inverness highway on the
moor of the Maolbuie. I had got into a part of the country where every
little locality, and every more striking feature in the landscape, has
its associated tradition; and the pause of a few moments at the two
roads recalled to my memory the details of a ghost-story, long regarded
in the district in which it was best known as one of the most authentic
of its class, but which seems by no means inexplicable on natural


     Rosemarkie and its Scaurs--Kaes' Craig--A Jackdaw
     Settlement--"Rosemarkie Kaes" and "Cromarty Cooties"--"The Danes,"
     a Group of Excavations--At Home in Cromarty--The Boulder-clay of
     Cromarty "begins to tell its story"--One of its marked Scenic
     Peculiarities--Hints to Landscape Painters--"Samuel's Well"--A
     Chain of Bogs geologically accounted for--Another Scenic
     Peculiarity--"_Ha-has_ of Nature's digging"--The Author's earliest
     Field of Hard Labor--Picturesque Cliff of Boulder-clay--Scratchings
     on the Sandstone--Invariable Characteristic of true
     Boulder-clay--Scratchings on Pebbles in the line of the longer
     axis--Illustration from the Boulder-clay of Banff.

Rosemarkie, with its long narrow valley and its red abrupt _scaurs_,[14]
is chiefly interesting to the geologist for its vast beds of the
boulder-clay. I am acquainted with no other locality in the kingdom
where this deposit is hollowed into ravines so profound, or presents
precipices so imposing and lofty. The clay lies thickly over most part
of the Black Isle and the peninsula of Easter Ross,--both soft sandstone
districts,--bearing everywhere an obvious relation, as a deposit, to
both the form and the conditions of exposure of the existing land,--just
as the accumulated snow of a long-lying snow-storm, exposed to the
drifting wind, bears relation to the heights and hollows of the tracts
which it covers. On the higher eminences the clay forms a comparatively
thin stratum, and in not a few instances it has been wholly worn away;
while on the lower grounds, immediately over the old coast line, and in
the sides of hollow valleys,--exactly such places as we might expect to
see the snow occupying most deeply after a night of drift,--we find it
accumulated in vast beds of from eighty to an hundred feet in thickness.
One of these occurs in the opening of the narrow valley along which my
course this morning lay, and is known far and wide,--for it forms a
marked feature in the landscape, and harbors in its recesses a countless
multitude of jackdaws,--as the "Kaes' Craig of Rosemarkie." It presents
the appearance of a hill that had been cut sheer through the middle from
top to base, and exhibits in its abrupt front a broad red perpendicular
section of at least a hundred feet in height, barred transversely by
thin layers of sand, and scored vertically by the slow action of the
rains. Originally it must have stretched its vanished limb across the
opening like some huge snow-wreath accumulated athwart a frozen rivulet;
but the incessant sweep of the stream that runs through the valley has
long since amputated and carried it away; and so only half the hill now
remains. The Kaes' Craig resembles in form a lofty chalk cliff, square,
massy, abrupt, with no sloping fillet of vegetation bound across its
brow, but precipitous direct from the hill-top. The little ancient
village of Rosemarkie stretches away from its base on the opposite side
of the stream; and on its summit and along its sides, groups of
chattering jackdaws, each one of them as reflective and philosophic as
the individual immortalized by Cowper, look down high over the chimneys
into the streets. The clay presents here, more than in almost any other
locality with which I am acquainted, the character of a stratified
deposit; and the numerous bands of sand by which the cliff is
horizontally streaked from top to bottom we find hollowed, as we
approach, into a multitude of circular openings, like shot-holes in an
old tower, which form breeding-places for the daw and the sand-martin.
The biped inhabitants of the cliff are greatly more numerous than the
biped inhabitants of the quiet little hamlet below; and on Fortrose
fair-days, when, in virtue of an old feud, the Rosemarkie boys were wont
to engage in formidable bickers with the boys of Cromarty, I remember,
as one of the invading belligerents, that, in bandying names with them
in the fray, we delighted to bestow upon them, as their hereditary
sobriquet, given, of course, in allusion to their feathered neighbors,
the designation of the "_Rosemarkie kaes_." Cromarty, however, is
two-thirds surrounded by the waters of a frith abounding in sea-fowl;
and the little fellows of Rosemarkie, indignant at being classed with
their _kaes_, used to designate us with hearty emphasis, in turn, as the
"_Cromarty cooties_," _i.e._, coots.

A little higher up the valley, on the western side, there occurs in the
clay what may be termed a _group_ of excavations, composing a piece of
scenery ruinously broken and dreary, and that bears a specific character
of its own which scarce any other deposit could have exhibited. The
excavations are of considerable depth and extent,--hollows out of which
the materials of pyramids might have been taken. The precipitous sides
are fretted by jutting ridges and receding inflections, that present in
abundance their diversified alternations of light and shadow. The steep
descents form cycloid curves, that flatten at their bases, and over
which the ferruginous stratum of mould atop projects like a cornice.
Between neighboring excavations there stand up dividing walls, tall and
thin as those of our city buildings, and in some cases broken at their
upper edges into rows of sharp pinnacles or inaccessible turf-coped
turrets; while at the bottom of the hollows, washed by the runnels
which, in the slow lapse of years, have been the architects of the
whole, we find cairn-like accumulations of water-rolled stones,--the
disengaged pebbles and boulders of the deposit. The boulders and pebbles
project also from the steep sides, at all heights and of all sizes,
like the primary masses inclosed in our ancient conglomerates, when
exhibited in wave-worn precipices,--forcing upon the mind the conclusion
that the boulder-clay is itself but an unconsolidated conglomerate of
the later periods, which occupies nearly the same relative position to
the existing vegetable mould, with all its recent productions, that the
great conglomerate of the Old Red Sandstone occupies in relation to the
lower ichthyolite beds of that system, with their numerous extinct
organisms. But its buried stones are fretted with hieroglyphic
inscriptions, in the form of strange scratchings and polishings,
grooves, ridges, and furrows,--always associated with the
boulder-clays,--which those of the more ancient conglomerates want, and
which, though difficult to read, seem at length to be yielding up the
story which they record. Of this, however, more anon. Viewed by
moonlight, when the pale red of the clay where the beam falls direct is
relieved by the intense shadows, these excavations of the valley of
Rosemarkie form scenes of strange and ghostly wildness: the projecting,
buttress-like angles,--the broken walls,--the curved inflections,--the
pointed pinnacles,--the turrets, with their masses of projecting
coping,--the utter lack of vegetation, save where the heath and the
furze rustle far above,--all combine to form assemblages of dreary
ruins, amid which, in the solitude of night, one almost expects to see
spirits walk. These excavations have been designated, from time
immemorial, by the neighboring town's-people, as "the Danes;" but
whether the name be, as is most probable, merely a corruption of an
appropriate enough Saxon word, "the dens," or derived, as a vague
tradition is said to testify, from the ages of Danish invasion, it is
not quite the part of the geologist to determine. It may be worth
mentioning, however, from its bearing on the point, that there are two
excavations in the boulder-clay near Cromarty, one of which has been
long known by the name of "the Morial's Den," while the other, greatly
smaller in size, rejoices in the double diminutive of "the Little
Dennie." For an hour or so the Danes proved agreeable though somewhat
silent companions; and then, climbing the opposite side of the valley, I
gained the high road, and, walking on to Cromarty, found myself once
more among "the old familiar faces."

In a few days the storm blew by; and as the prolonged rains had cleared
out the deep ravines of the district, and given to the boulder-clay in
which they are scooped a freshness in its section analogous to fresh
fracture in rocks of harder consistency, I availed myself of the
facilities afforded me in consequence, for exploring it once more. It
has long constituted one of the hardest of the many riddles with which
our Scottish deposits exercise the patience and ingenuity of the
geologist. I remember a time when, after passing a day under its barren
_scaurs_, or hid in its precipitous ravines, I used to feel in the
evening as if I had been travelling under the cloud of night, and had
seen nothing. It was a morose and taciturn companion, and had no
speculation in it. I might stand in front of its curved precipices, red,
yellow or gray, according to the prevailing average color of the rocks
on which it rests, and mark their water-rolled boulders, of all
qualities and sizes, sticking out in bold relief from the surface, like
the rock-like protuberances that roughen the rustic basements of the
architect, from the line of the wall; but I had no _open sesame_ to form
vistas through them into the recesses of the past. I saw merely the
stiff pastry matrix of which they are composed, and the inclosed
pebbles. But the boulder-clay has of late become more sociable; and,
though with much hesitancy and irresolution, like old Mr. Spectator on
the first formal opening of his mouth,--a consequence, doubtless, in
both cases of previous habits of silence long indulged,--it begins to
tell its story. And a most curious story it is.

The morning was clear, but just a little chill; and a soft covering of
snow, that had fallen during the storm on the flat summit of Ben-Wevis,
and showed its extreme tenuity by the paleness of its tint of watery
blue, was still distinctly visible at the distance of full twenty miles.
The sun, low in the sky,--for the hour was early,--cast its slant rays
athwart the prospect, giving to each nearer bank and hillock, and to the
more distant protuberances on the mountain-sides, those well-defined
accompaniments of shadow that serve by throwing the minor features of a
landscape upon the eye in bold relief, to impart to it an air of higher
finish and more careful filling up than it ever bears under a more
vertical light. I took the road which, leading westward from the town
towards Invergordon Ferry, skirts the Frith on the one hand, and runs
immediately under the noble escarpment of green bank formed by the old
coast line on the other. Fully two-thirds of the entire height of the
rampart here, which rises in all about a hundred feet over the
sea-level, is formed of the boulder-clay; and I am acquainted with no
locality in which the deposit presents more strongly, for at least the
first half mile, one of its marked scenic peculiarities. It is furrowed
vertically on the slope, as if by enormous flutings in the more antique
Doric style; and the ridges by which these are separated,--each from a
hundred to a hundred and fifty feet in length, and from five-and-twenty
to thirty feet in average height,--resemble those burial mounds with
which the sexton frets the churchyard turf; with this difference,
however, that they seem the burial mounds of giants, tall and bulky as
those that of old warred against the gods. They are striking enough to
have caught the eye of the children of the place, and are known among
them as the Giants' Graves. I could fain have taken their portrait in a
calotype this morning, as they lay against the green bank,--their feet
to the shore, and their heads on the top of the escarpment,--like
patients on a reclining bed, and strongly marked, each by its broad bar
of yellow light and of dark shadow, like the ebon and ivory buttresses
of the poet. This little vignette, I would have said to the landscape
painter, represents the boulder-clay, after its precipitous banks--worn
down, by the frosts and rains of centuries, into parallel runnels, that
gradually widened into these hollow grooves--had sunk into the angle of
inclination at which the disintegrating agents ceased to operate, and
the green sward covered all up. You must be studying these peculiarities
of aspect more than ever you studied them before. There is a time coming
when the connoisseur will as rigidly demand the specific character of
the various geologic rocks and deposits in your hills, _scaurs_, and
precipices, as he now demands specific character in your shrubs and

It is worthy the notice of the young geologist, who has just set himself
to study the various effects produced on the surface of a country by the
deposits which lie under it, that for about a quarter of a mile or so,
the base of the escarpment here is bordered by a line of bogs, that bear
in the driest weather their mantling of green. They are fed with a
perennial supply of water, by a range of deep-seated springs, that come
bursting out from under the boulder-clay; and one of their number, which
bears I know not why, the name of Samuel's Well, and yields its equable
flow at an equable temperature, summer and winter, into a stone trough
by the way-side, is not a little prized by the town's-people, and the
seamen that cast anchor in the opposite roadstead, for the lightness and
purity of its water. What is specially worthy of notice in the case is,
the very definite beginning and ending of the chain of bogs. All is dry
at the base of the escarpment, up to the point at which they commence;
and then all is equally dry at the point at which they terminate. And of
exactly the same extent,--beginning where the bogs begin, and ending
where they end,--we may trace an ancient stratum of pure sand,--of
considerable thickness, intercalated between the base of the clay and
the superior surface of the Old Red Sandstone. It is through this
permeable sand that the profoundly seated springs find their way to the
surface,--for the clay is impermeable; and where it comes in contact
with the rock on either side of the arenaceous stratum, the bogs cease.
The chain of green bogs is a consequence of the stratum of permeable
sand. I have in vain sought this ancient layer of sand,--decidedly of
the same era with the argillaceous bed which overlies it,--for aught
organic. A single shell, so unequivocally of the period of the
boulder-clay as to occur at the base of the deposit, would be worth, I
have said, whole drawerfuls of fossils furnished by the better-known
deposits. But I have since seen in abundance shells of the boulder-clay.

There is another scenic peculiarity of the clay, which the neighborhood
of Cromarty finely illustrates, and of which my walk this morning
furnished numerous striking instances. The Giants' Graves--to borrow
from the children of the place--occur on the steep slopes of the old
coast line, or in the sides of ravines, where the clay, as I have said,
had once presented a precipitous front, but had been gradually moulded,
under the attritive influences of the elements, into series of
alternating ridges and furrows, which, when they had flattened into the
proper angle, the green sward covered up from further waste. But the
deep dells and narrow ravines in which many ranges of these graves occur
are themselves peculiarities of the deposit. Wherever the boulder-clay
lies thick and continuous, as in the parish of Cromarty, on a sloping
table-land, every minute streamlet cuts its way to the solid rock at the
bottom, and runs through a deep dell, either softened into beauty by the
disintegrating process, or with all its precipices standing up raw and
abrupt over the stream. Four of these ravines, known as the "Old Chapel
Burn," the "Ladies' Walk," the "Morial's Den," and the "Red Burn," each
of them cutting the escarpment of the ancient coast line from top to
base, and winding far into the interior, occur in little more than a
mile's space; and they lie still more thickly farther to the west. These
dells of the boulder clay, in their lower windings,--for they become
shallower and tamer as they ascend, till they terminate in the uplands
in mere _drains_, such as a ditcher might excavate at the rate of a
shilling or two per yard,--are eminently picturesque. On those gentler
slopes where the vegetable mould has had time and space to accumulate,
we find not a few of the finest and tallest trees of the district. There
is a bosky luxuriance in their more sheltered hollows, well known to the
schoolboy what time the fern begins to pale its fronds, for their store
of hips, sloes, and brambles; and red over the foliage we may see, ever
and anon as we wend upwards, the abrupt frontage of some precipitous
_scaur_, suited to remind the geologist, from its square form and flat
breadth of surface, of the cliffs of the chalk. When viewed from the
sea, at the distance of a few miles, these ravines seem to divide the
sloping tracts in which they occur into large irregular fields, laid out
considerably more in accordance with the principles of the landscape
gardener than the stiffly squared rectilinear fields of the
agriculturist. They are _ha-has_ of Nature's digging; and their bottom
and sides in this part of the country we still find occupied in a few
cases--though in many more they have been ravaged by the wasteful
axe--by noble forest-_hedges_, tall enough to overtop, in at least their
middle reaches, the tracts of table-land which they divide.

I passed, a little farther on, the quarry of Old Red Sandstone, with a
huge bank of boulder-clay resting over it, in which I first experienced
the evils of hard labor, and first set myself to lessen their weight by
becoming an observer of geological phenomena. It had been deserted
apparently for many years; and the debris of the clay partially covered
up, in a sloping talus, the frontage of rock beneath. Old Red Sandstone
and boulder-clay, a broad bar of each!--such was the compound problem
which the excavation propounded to me when I first plied the tool in
it,--a problem equally dark at the time in both its parts. I have since
got on a very little way with the Old Red portion of the task; but alas
for the boulder-clay portion of it! A bar of impenetrable shadow has
rested long and obstinately over the newer deposit; and I scarce know
whether the light which is at length beginning to play on its pebbly
front be that of the sun or of a delusive meteor. But courage, patient
hearts! the boulder-clay will one day yield up _its_ secret too. Still
further on by a few hundred yards, I could have again found use for the
calotype, in transferring to paper the likeness of a protuberant
picturesque cliff, which, like the Giants' Graves, could have belonged,
of all our Scotch deposits, to only the boulder-clay. It stands out, on
the steep acclivity of a furze-covered bank, abrupt as a precipice of
solid rock, and yet seamed by the rain into numerous divergent channels,
with pyramidal peaks between; and, combining the perpendicularity of a
true cliff with the water-scooped furrows of a yielding clay, it
presents a peculiarity of aspect which strikes, by its grotesqueness,
eyes little accustomed to detect the picturesque in landscape. I
remember standing to gaze upon it when a mere child; and the fisher
children of the neighboring town still tell that "_it has been
prophesied_" it will one day fall, "and kill a man and a horse on the
road below,"--a legend which shows it must have attracted _their_ notice

I selected as the special scene of exploration this morning, a deep
ravine of the boulder-clay, which had been recently deepened still more
by the waters of a mill-pond, that had burst during a thunder-shower,
and, after scooping out for themselves a bed in the clay some twelve or
fifteen feet deep, where there had been formerly merely a shallow drain,
had then tumbled into the ravine, and bared it to the rock. The
sandstones of the district, soft and not very durable, show the
scratched and polished surfaces but indifferently well, and, when
exposed to the weather, soon lose them; but in the bottom of the runnel
by which the ravine is swept I found them exceedingly well marked,--the
polish as decided as the soft red stone could receive, and the lines of
scratching running in their general bearing due east and west, at nearly
right angles with the course of the stream. Wherever the rock had been
laid bare during the last few months, _there_ were the markings;
wherever it had been laid bare for a few twelvemonths, they were gone. I
next marked a circumstance which has now for several years been
attracting my attention, and which I have found an invariable
characteristic of the true boulder-clay. Not only do the rocks on which
the deposit rests bear the scratched and polished surfaces, but in every
instance the fragments of stone which it incloses bear the scratchings
also, if from their character capable of receiving and retaining such
markings, and neither of too coarse a grain nor of too hard a quality.
If of limestone, or of a coherent shale, or of a close, finely-grained
sandstone, or of a yielding trap, they are scratched and
polished,--invariably on one, most commonly on both their sides; and it
is a noticeable circumstance, that the lines of the scratchings occur,
in at least nine cases out of every ten, in the lines of their longer
axes. When decidedly oblong or spindle-shaped, the scratchings run
lengthwise, preserving in most cases, on the under and upper sides, when
both surfaces are scratched, a parallelism singularly exact; whereas,
when of a broader form, so that the length and breadth nearly
approximate,--though the lines generally find out the longer axis, and
run in that direction,--they are less exact in their parallelism, and
are occasionally traversed by cross furrows. Of such certain occurrence
is this longitudinal lining on the softer and finer-grained pebbles of
the boulder-clay, that I have come to regard it as that special
characteristic of the deposit on which I can most surely rely for
purposes of identification. I am never quite certain of the boulder-clay
when I do not detect it, nor doubtful of the true character of the
deposit when I do. When examining, for instance, the accumulation of
broken Liasic materials in the neighborhood of Banff, I made it my first
care to ascertain whether the bank inclosed fragments of stone or shale
bearing the longitudinal markings; and felt satisfied, on finding that
it did, that I had discovered the period of its re-formation.


     Organisms of the Boulder-clay not unequivocal--First Impressions of
     the Boulder-clay--Difficulty of accounting for its barrenness of
     Remains--Sir Charles Lyell's reasoning--A Fact to the
     contrary--Human Skull dug from a Clay-bank--The Author's Change of
     Belief respecting Organic Remains of the Boulder-clay--Shells from
     the Clay at Wick--Questions respecting them settled--Conclusions
     confirmed by Mr. Dick's Discoveries at Thurso--Sir John Sinclair's
     Discovery of Boulder-clay Shells in 1802--Comminution of the Shells
     illustrated--_Cyprina islandica_--Its Preservation in larger
     Proportions than those of other Shells accounted for--Boulder-clays
     of Scotland reformed during the existing Geological Epoch--Scotland
     in the Period of the Boulder-clay "merely three detached groups of
     Islands"--Evidence of the Subsidence of the Land in
     Scotland--Confirmed by Rev. Mr. Cumming's conclusion--High-lying
     Granite Boulders--Marks of a succeeding elevatory
     Period--Scandinavia now rising--Autobiography of a Boulder
     desirable--A Story of the Supernatural.

For the greater part of a quarter of a century I had been finding
organisms in abundance in the boulder-clay, but never anything organic
that unequivocally belonged to its own period. I had ascertained that it
contains in Ross and Cromarty nodules of the Old Red Sandstone, which
bear inside, like so many stone coffins, their well laid out skeletons
of the dead; but then the markings on their surface told me that when
the boulder-clay was in the course of deposition, they had been exactly
the same kind of nodules that they are now. In Moray, it incloses, I had
found, organisms of the Lias; but _they_ also testify that they present
an appearance in no degree more ancient at the present time than they
did when first enveloped by the clay. In East and West Lothian too, and
in the neighborhood of Edinburgh, I had detected in it occasional
organisms of the Mountain Limestone and the Coal Measures; but these,
not less surely than its Liasic fossils in Moray, and its Old Red
ichthyolites in Cromarty and Ross, belonged to an incalculably more
ancient state of things than itself; and--like those shrivelled
manuscripts of Pompeii or Herculaneum, which, whatever else they may
record, cannot be expected to tell aught of the catastrophe that buried
them up--they throw no light whatever on the deposit in which they
occur. I at length came to regard the boulder-clay--for it is difficult
to keep the mind in a purely blank state on any subject on which one
thinks a good deal--as representative of a chaotic period of death and
darkness, introductory, mayhap, to the existing scene of things.

After, however, I had begun to mark the invariable connection of the
clay, as a deposit, with the dressed surfaces on which it rests, and the
longitudinal linings of the pebbles and boulders which it incloses, and
to associate it, in consequence, with an ice-charged sea and the Great
Gulf Stream, it seemed to me extremely difficult to assign a reason why
it should be thus barren of remains. Sir Charles Lyell states, in his
"Elements," that the "stranding of ice-islands in the bays of Iceland
since 1835 has driven away the fish for several successive seasons, and
thereby caused a famine among the inhabitants of the country;" and he
argues from the fact, "that a sea habitually infested with melting ice,
which would chill and freshen the water, might render the same
uninhabitable by marine mollusca." But then, on the other hand, it is
equally a fact that half a million of seals have been killed in a single
season on the meadow-ice a little to the north of Newfoundland, and that
many millions of cod, besides other fish, are captured yearly on the
shores of that island, though grooved and furrowed by ice-floes almost
every spring. Of the seal family it is specially recorded by
naturalists, that many of the species "are from choice inhabitants of
the margins of the frozen seas towards both poles; and, of course, in
localities in which many such animals live, some must occasionally die."
And though the grinding process would certainly have disjointed, and
might probably have worn down and partially mutilated, the bones of the
amphibious carnivora of the boulder period, it seems not in the least
probable, judging from the fragments of loose-grained sandstone and soft
shale which it has spared, that it would have wholly destroyed them. So
it happened, however, that from North Berwick to the Ord Hill of
Caithness, I had never found in the boulder-clay the slightest trace of
an organism that could be held to belong to itself; and as it seems
natural to build on negative evidence, if very extensive, considerably
more than mere negative evidence, whatever the circumstances, will
carry, I became somewhat skeptical regarding the very existence of
boulder-fossils,--a skepticism which the worse than doubtful character
of several supposed discoveries in the deposit served considerably to
strengthen. The clay forms, when cut by a water-course, or assailed on
the coast by some unusually high tide, a perpendicular precipice, which
in the course of years slopes into a talus; and as it exhibits in most
instances no marks of stratification, the clay of the talus--a mere
re-formation of fragments detached by the frosts and rains from the
exposed frontage--can rarely be distinguished from that of the original
deposit. Now, in these consolidated slopes it is not unusual to find
remains, animal and vegetable, of no very remote antiquity. I have seen
a human skull dug out of the reclining base of a clay-bank once a
precipice, fully six feet from under the surface. It might have been
deemed the skull of some long-lived contemporary of Enoch,--one of the
accursed race, mayhap,

 "Who sinned and died before the avenging flood."

But, alas! the laborer dug a little further, and struck his pickaxe
against an old rybat that lay deeper still. There could be no mistaking
the character of the champfered edge, that still bore the marks of the
tool, nor that of the square perforation for the lock-bolt; and a rising
theory, that would have referred the boulder-clay to a period in which
the polar ice, set loose by the waters of the Noachian deluge, came
floating southwards over the foundered land, straightway stumbled
against it, and fell. Both rybat and skull had come from an ancient
burying-ground, that occupies a projecting angle of the table-land
above. I must now state, however, that my skepticism has thoroughly
given way; and that, slowly yielding to the force of positive evidence,
I have become as assured a believer in the _comminuted recent shells_ of
the boulder-clay as in the belemnites of the Oölite and Lias, or the
ganoid ichthyolites of the Old Red Sandstone.

I had marked, when at Wick, on several occasions, a thick boulder-clay
deposit occupying the southern side of the harbor, and forming an
elevated platform, on which the higher parts of Pulteneytown are built;
but I had noted little else regarding it than that it bears the average
dark-gray color of the flagstones of the district, and that some of the
granitic boulders which protrude from its top and sides are of vast
size. On my last visit, however, rather more than two years ago, when
sauntering along its base, after a very wet morning, awaiting the Orkney
steamer, I was surprised to find, where a small slip had taken place
during the rain, that it was mottled over with minute fragments of
shells. These I examined, and found, so far as, in their extremely
broken condition, I dared determine the point, that they belonged in
such large proportion to one species,--the _Cyprina islandica_ of Dr.
Fleming,--that I could detect among them only a single fragment of any
other shell,--the pillar, apparently, of a large specimen of _Purpura
lapillus_. Both shells belong to that class of old existences,--long
descended, without the pride of ancient descent,--which link on the
extinct to the recent scenes of being. _Cyprina islandica_ and _Purpura
lapillus_ not only exist as living molluscs in the British seas, but
they occur also as crag-shells, side by side with the dead races that
have no place in the present fauna. At this time, however, I could but
think of them simply in their character as recent molluscs; and as it
seemed quite startling enough to find them in a deposit which I had once
deemed representative of a period of death, and still continued to
regard as obstinately unfossiliferous, I next set myself to determine
whether it really _was_ the boulder-clay in which they occurred. Almost
the first pebble which I disengaged from the mass, however, settled the
point, by furnishing the evidence on which for several years past I have
been accustomed to settle it;--it bore in the line of its longer axis,
on a polished surface, the freshly-marked grooves and scratchings of the
iceberg era. Still, however, I had my doubts, not regarding the deposit,
but the shells. Might they not belong merely to the talus of this bank
of boulder-clay?--a re-formation, in all probability, not _more_ ancient
than the elevation of the most recent of the old coast lines,--perhaps
greatly less so. Meeting with an intelligent citizen of Wick, Mr. John
Cleghorn, I requested him to keep a vigilant eye on the shells, and to
ascertain for me, when opportunity offered, whether they occurred deep
in the deposit, or were restricted to merely the base of its exposed
front. On my return from Orkney, he kindly brought me a small collection
of fragments, exclusively, so far as I could judge, of _Cyprina
islandica_, picked up in fresh sections of the clay; at the same time
expressing his belief that they really belonged to the deposit as such,
and were not accidental introductions into it from the adjacent shore.
And at this point for nearly two years the matter rested, when my
attention was again called to it by finding, in the publication of Mr.
Keith Johnston's admirable Geological Map of the British Islands, edited
by Professor Edward Forbes, that other eyes than mine had detected
shells in the boulder-clay of Caithness. "Cliffs of Pleistocene," says
the Professor, in one of his notes attached to the map, "occur at Wick,
containing boreal shells, especially _Astarte borealis_."

I had seen the boulder-clay characteristically developed in the
neighborhood of Thurso; but, during a rather hurried visit, had lacked
time to examine it. The omission mattered the less, however, as my
friend Mr. Robert Dick is resident in the locality; and there are few
men who examine more carefully or more perseveringly than he, or who can
enjoy with higher relish the sweets of scientific research. I wrote him
regarding Professor Forbes's decision on the boulder-clay of Wick and
its shells; urging him to ascertain whether the boulder-clay of Thurso
had not its shells also. And almost by return of post I received from
him, in reply, a little packet of comminuted shells, dug out of a
deposit of the boulder-clay, laid open by the river Thorsa, a full mile
from the sea, and from eighty to a hundred feet over its level. He had
detected minute fragments of shell in the clay about a twelvemonth
before; but a skepticism somewhat similar to my own, added to the dread
of being deceived by mere surface shells, recently derived from the
shore in the character _of_ shell-sand, or of the edible species carried
inland for food, and then transferred from the ash-pit to the fields,
had not only prevented him from following up the discovery, but even
from thinking of it as such. But he eagerly followed it up now, by
visiting every bank of the boulder-clay in his locality within twenty
miles of Thurso, and found them all charged, from top to bottom, with
comminuted shells, however great their distance from the sea, or their
elevation over it. The fragments lie thick along the course of the
Thorsa, where the encroaching stream is scooping out the clay for the
first time since its deposition, and laying bare the scratched and
furrowed pebbles. They occur, too, in the depths of solitary ravines far
amid the moors, and underlie heath, and moss, and vegetable mould, on
the exposed hill-sides. The farm-house of Dalemore, twelve miles from
Thurso as the crow flies, and rather more than thirteen miles from Wick,
occupies, as nearly as may be, the centre of the county; and yet there,
as on the sea-shore, the boulder-clay is charged with its fragments of
marine shells. Though so barren elsewhere on the east coast of Scotland,
the clay is everywhere in Caithness a shell-bearing deposit; and no
sooner had Mr. Dick determined the fact for himself, at the expense of
many a fatiguing journey, and many an hour's hard digging, than he found
that it had been ascertained long before, though, from the very
inadequate style in which it had been recorded, science had in scarce
any degree benefited by the discovery. In 1802 the late Sir John
Sinclair, distinguished for his enlightened zeal in developing the
agricultural resources of the country, and for originating its
statistics, employed a mineralogical surveyor to explore the underground
treasures of the district; and the surveyor's journal he had printed
under the title of "Minutes and Observations drawn up in the course of a
Mineralogical Survey of the County of Caithness, ann. 1802, by John
Busby, Edinburgh." Now, in this journal there are frequent references
made to the occurrence of marine shells in the blue clay. Mr. Dick has
copied for me the two following entries,--for the work itself I have
never seen:--"1802, Sept. 7th.--Surveyed down the river [Thorsa] to
Geize; found blue clay-marl, _intermixed with marine shells_ in great
abundance." "Sept. 12th.--Set off this morning for Dalemore. Bored for
shell-marl in the 'grass-park;' found it in one of the quagmires, but to
no great extent. Bored for shell-marl in the 'house-park.' Surveyed by
the side of the river, and found blue clay-marl in great plenty,
_intermixed with marine shells, such as those found at Geize_. This
place is supposed to be about twenty miles from the sea; and is one
instance, among many in Caithness, of _the ocean's covering the inland
country at some former period of time_."

The state of keeping in which the boulder-shells of Caithness occur is
exactly what, on the iceberg theory, might be premised. The ponderous
ice-rafts that went grating over the deep-sea bottom, grinding down its
rocks into clay, and deeply furrowing its pebbles, must have borne
heavily on its comparatively fragile shells. If rocks and pebbles did
not escape, the shells must have fared but hardly. And very hardly they
have fared: the rather unpleasant casualty of being crushed to death
must have been a greatly more common one in those days than in even the
present age of railways and machinery. The reader, by passing half a
bushel of the common shells of our shores through a barley-mill, as a
preliminary operation in the process, and by next subjecting the broken
fragments thus obtained to the attritive influence of the waves on some
storm-beaten beach for a twelvemonth or two, as a finishing operation,
may produce, when he pleases, exactly such a water-worn shelly debris as
mottles the blue boulder-clays of Caithness. The proportion borne by the
fragments of one species of shell to that of all the others is very
extraordinary. The _Cyprina islandica_ is still by no means a rare
mollusc on our Scottish shores, and may, on an exposed coast, after a
storm, be picked up by dozens, attached to the roots of the deep-sea
tangle. It is greatly less abundant, however, than such shells as
_Purpura lapillus_, _Mytilus edule_, _Cardium edule_, _Littorina
littorea_, and several others; whereas in the boulder-clay it is, in the
proportion of at least ten to one, more abundant than all the others put
together. The great strength of the shell, however, may have in part led
to this result; as I find that its stronger and massier portions,--those
of the umbo and hinge-joint,--are exceedingly numerous in proportion to
its slimmer and weaker fragments. "The _Cyprina islandica_," says Dr.
Fleming, in his "British Animals," "is the largest British bivalve
shell, measuring sometimes thirteen inches in circumference, and,
exclusively of the animal, weighing upwards of nine ounces." Now, in a
collection of fragments of Cyprina sent me by Mr. Dick, disinterred from
the boulder-clay in various localities in the neighborhood of Thurso,
and weighing in all about four ounces, I have detected the broken
remains of no fewer than _sixteen_ hinge joints. And on the same
principle through which the stronger fragments of Cyprina were preserved
in so much larger proportion than the weaker ones, may Cyprina
itself have been preserved in much larger proportion than its
more fragile neighbors. Occasionally, however,--escaped, as if by
accident,--characteristic fragments are found of shells by no means
very strong,--such as _Mytilus_, _Tellina_, and _Astarte_. Among the
univalves I can distinguish _Dentalium entale_, _Purpura lapillus_,
_Turritella terebra_, and _Littorina littorea_, all existing shells, but
all common also to at least the later deposits of the Crag. And among
the bivalves Mr. Dick enumerates,--besides the prevailing _Cyprina
islandica_,--_Venus casina_, _Cardium edule_, _Cardium echinatum_,
_Mytilus edule_, _Astarte danmoniensis_ (_sulcata_), and _Astarte
compressa_, with a _Mactra_, _Artemis_, and _Tellina_.[15] All the
determined species here, with the exception of _Mytilus edule_, have,
with many others, been found by the Rev. Mr. Cumming in the
boulder-clays of the Isle of Man; and all of them are living shells at
the present day on our Scottish coasts. It seems scarce possible to fix
the age of a deposit so broken in its organisms, on the principle that
would first seek to determine its per centage of extinct shells as the
data on which to found. One has to search sedulously and long ere a
fragment turns up sufficiently entire for the purpose of specific
identification, even when it belongs to a well-known living shell; and
did the clay contain some six or eight per cent. of the extinct in a
similarly broken condition (and there is no evidence that it contains a
single per cent. of extinct shells), I know not how, in the
circumstances, the fact could ever be determined. A lifetime might be
devoted to the task of fixing their real proportion, and yet be devoted
to it in vain. All that at present can be said is, that, judging from
what appears, the boulder-clays of Caithness, and with them the
boulder-clays of Scotland generally, and of the Isle of Man,--for they
are all palpably connected with the same iceberg phenomena, and occur
along the same zone in reference to the sea-level,--were formed during
the _existing_ geological epoch.

These details may appear tediously minute; but let the reader mark how
very much they involve. The occurrence of recent shells largely diffused
throughout the boulder-clays of Caithness, at all heights and distances
from the sea at which the clay itself occurs, and not only connected
with the iceberg phenomena by the closest juxtaposition, but also
testifying distinctly to its agency by the extremely comminuted state in
which we find them, tell us, not only according to old John Busby, "that
the ocean covered the inland country at some former period of time," but
that it covered it to a great height at a time geologically recent, when
our seas were inhabited by exactly the same mollusca as inhabit them
now, and so far as yet appears, by none others. I have not yet detected
the boulder-clay at more than from six to eight hundred feet over the
level of the sea; but the travelled boulders I have often found at more
than a thousand feet over it; and Dr. John Fleming, the correctness of
whose observations few men acquainted with the character of his
researches or of his mind will be disposed to challenge, has informed me
that he has detected the dressed and polished surfaces at least four
hundred feet higher. There occurs a greenstone boulder, of from twelve
to fourteen tons weight, says Mr. M'Laren, in his "Geology of Fife and
the Lothians," on the south side of Black Hill (one of the Pentland
range), at about fourteen hundred feet over the sea. Now fourteen or
fifteen hundred feet, taken as the extreme height of the dressings,
though they are said to occur greatly higher, would serve to submerge in
the iceberg ocean almost the whole agricultural region of Scotland. The
common hazel (_Corylus avellana_) ceases to grow in the latitude of the
Grampians, at from one thousand two hundred to one thousand five hundred
feet over the sea level; the common bracken (_Pteris aquilina_) at about
the same height; and corn is never successfully cultivated at a greater
altitude. Where the hazel and bracken cease to grow, it is in vain to
attempt growing corn.[16] In the period of the boulder-clay, then, when
the existing shells of our coasts lived in those inland sounds and
friths of the country that now exist as broad plains or fertile valleys,
the sub-aërial superficies of Scotland was restricted to what are now
its barren and mossy regions, and formed, instead of one continuous
land, merely three detached groups of islands,--the small Cheviot and
Hartfell group,--the greatly larger Grampian and Ben Nevis group,--and a
group intermediate in size, extending from Mealfourvonny, on the
northern shores of Loch Ness, to the Maiden Paps of Caithness.

The more ancient boulder-clays of Scotland seem to have been formed when
the land was undergoing a slow process of subsidence, or, as I should
perhaps rather say, when a very considerable area of the earth's
surface, including the sea-bottom, as well as the eminences that rose
over it, was the subject of a gradual depression; for little or no
alteration appears to have taken place at the time in the _relative_
levels of the higher and lower portions of the sinking area: the
features of the land in the northern part of the kingdom, from the
southern flanks of the Grampians to the Pentland Frith, seemed to have
been fixed in nearly the existing forms many ages before, at the close,
apparently, of the Oölitic period, and at a still earlier age in the
Lammermuir district, to the south. And so the sea around our shores must
have deepened in the ratio in which the hills sank. The evidence of this
process of subsidence is of a character tolerably satisfactory. The
dressed surfaces occur in Scotland, most certainly, as I have already
stated on the authority of Dr. Fleming, at the height of fourteen
hundred feet over the present sea-level; it has been even said, at
fully twice that height, on the lofty flanks of Schehallion,--a
statement, however, which I have had hitherto no opportunity of
verifying. They may be found, too, equally well marked, under the
existing high-water line; and it is obviously impossible that the
dressing process could have been going on at the higher and lower levels
at the same time. When the icebergs were grating along the more elevated
rocks, the low-lying ones must have been buried under from three to
seven hundred fathoms of water,--a depth from three to seven times
greater, be it remembered, than that at which the most ponderous iceberg
could possibly have grounded, or have in any degree affected the bottom.
The dressing process, then, must have been a bit-and-bit process,
carried on during either a period of elevation, in which the rising land
was subjected, zone after zone, to the sweep of the armed ice from its
higher levels _downwards_, or during a period of subsidence, in which it
was subjected to the ice, zone after zone, from its lower levels
_upwards_. And that it was the lower, not the higher levels, that were
first dressed, appears evident from the circumstance, that though on
these lower levels we find the rocks covered up by continuous beds of
the boulder-clay, varying generally from twenty to a hundred feet in
thickness, they are, notwithstanding, as completely dressed under the
clay as on the heights above. Had it been a rising land that was
subjected to the attrition of the icebergs, the debris and dressings of
the higher rocks would have protected the lower from the attrition; and
so the thick accumulation of boulder-clay which overlies the old coast
line, for instance, would have rested, not on dressed, but on undressed
surfaces. The barer rocks of the lower levels might of course exhibit
their scratchings and polishings, like those of the higher; but wherever
these scratchings and polishings occurred in the inferior zones, no
thick protecting stratum of boulder-clay would be found overlying them;
and, _vice versa_, wherever in these zones there occurred thick beds of
boulder-clay, there would be detected on the rock beneath no scratchings
and polishings. In order to _dress_ the entire surface of a country from
the sea-line and under it to the tops of its hills, and at the same time
to cover up extensive portions of its low-lying rocks with vast deposits
of clay, it seems a necessary condition of the process that it should be
carried on piece-meal from the lower level upwards,--not from the higher

It interested me much to find, that while from one set of appearances I
had been inferring the gradual subsidence of the land during the period
of the boulder-clay, the Rev. Mr. Cumming of King William's College had
arrived, from the consideration of quite a different class of phenomena,
at a similar conclusion. "It appears to me highly probable," I find him
remarking, in his lately published "Isle of man," "that at the
commencement of the boulder period there was a gradual sinking of this
area [that of the island]. Successively, therefore, the points at
different degrees of elevation were brought within the influence of the
sea, and exposed to the rake of the tides, charged with masses of ice
which had been floated off from the surrounding shores, and bearing on
their under surfaces, mud, gravel, and fragments of hard rock." Mr.
Cumming goes on to describe, in his volume, some curious appearances,
which seem to bear direct on this point, in connection with a boss of a
peculiarly-compounded granite, which occurs in the southern part of the
island, about seven hundred feet over the level of the sea. There rise
on the western side of the boss two hills, one of which attains to the
elevation of nearly seven hundred, and the other of nearly eight hundred
feet over it; and yet both hills to their summits are mottled over with
granite boulders, furnished by the comparatively low-lying boss. One of
these travelled masses, fully two tons in weight, lies not sixty feet
from the summit of the loftier hill, at an altitude of nearly fifteen
hundred feet over the sea. Now, it seems extremely difficult to conceive
of any other agency than that of a rising sea or of a subsiding land,
through which these masses could have been rolled up the steep slopes of
the hills. Had the boulder period been a period of elevation, or merely
a stationary period, during which the land neither rose nor sank, the
travelled boulders would not now be found resting at higher levels than
that of the parent rock whence they were derived. We occasionally meet
on our shores, after violent storms from the sea, stones that have been
rolled from their place at low ebb to nearly the line of flood; but we
always find that it was by the waves of the rising, not of the falling
tide, that their transport was effected. For whatever removals of the
kind take place during an ebbing sea are invariably in an opposite
direction;--they are removals, not from lower to higher levels, but from
higher to lower.

The upper subsoils of Scotland bear frequent mark of the elevatory
period which succeeded this period of depression. The boulder-clay has
its numerous intercalated arenaceous and gravelly beds, which belong
evidently to its own era; but the numerous surface-beds of stratified
sand and gravel by which in so many localities it is overlaid belong
evidently to a later time. When, after possibly a long protracted
period, the land again began to rise, or the sea to fall, the superior
portions of the boulder-clay must have been exposed to the action of the
tides and waves; and the same process of separation of parts must have
taken place on a large scale, which one occasionally sees taking place
in the present time on a comparatively small one, in ravines of the same
clay swept by a streamlet. After every shower, the stream comes down
red and turbid with the finer and more argillaceous portions of the
deposit; minute accumulations of sand are swept to the gorge of the
ravine, or cast down in ripple-marked patches in its deeper pools; beds
of pebbles and gravel are heaped up in every inflection of its banks;
and boulders are laid bare along its sides. Now, a separation, by a sort
of washing process of an analogous character, must have taken place in
the materials of the more exposed portions of the boulder-clay, during
the gradual emergence of the land; and hence, apparently, those
extensive beds of sand and gravel which in so many parts of the kingdom
exist, in relation to the clay, as a superior or upper subsoil; hence,
too, occasional beds of a purer clay than that beneath, divested of a
considerable portion of its arenaceous components, and of almost all its
pebbles and boulders. This _washed_ clay,--a re-formation of the boulder
deposit, cast down, mostly in insulated beds in quiet localities, where
the absence of currents suffered the purer particles held in suspension
by the water to settle,--forms, in Scotland at least, with, of course,
the exception of the ancient fire-clays of the Coal Measures, the true
brick and tile clays of the agriculturist and architect.

It is to these superior beds that all the recent shells yet found above
the existing sea-level in Scotland, from the Dornoch Frith and beyond
it, to beyond the Frith of Forth, seem to belong. Their period is much
less remote than that of the shells of the boulder-clay, and they rarely
occur in the same comminuted condition. They existed, it would appear,
not during the chill twilight period, when the land was in a state of
subsidence, but during the after period of cheerful dawn, when hill-top
after hill-top was emerging from the deep, and the close of each passing
century witnessed a broader area of dry land in what is now Scotland,
than the close of the century which had gone before. Scandinavia is
similarly rising at the present day, and presents with every succeeding
age a more extended breadth of surface. Many of the boulder-stones seem
to have been cast down where they now lie, during this latter time. When
they occur, as in many instances, high on bare hill-tops, from five to
fifteen hundred feet over the sea-level, with neither gravel nor
boulder-clay beside them, we of course cannot fix their period. They may
have been dropped by ice-floes or shore-ice, where we now find them, at
the commencement of the period of elevation, after the clay had been
formed; or they may have been deposited by more ponderous icebergs
during its formation, when the land was yet sinking, though during the
subsequent rise the clay may have been washed from around them to lower
levels. The boulders, however, which we find scattered over the plains
and less elevated hill-sides, with beds of the washed gravel or sand
interposed between them and the clay, must have been cast down where
they lie, during the elevatory ages. For, had they been washed out of
the clay, they would have lain, not _over_ the greatly lighter sands and
gravels, but _under_ them. Would that they could write their own
histories! The autobiography of a single boulder, with notes on the
various floras which had sprung up around it, and the various classes of
birds, beasts, and insects by which it had been visited, would be worth
nine-tenths of all the autobiographies ever published, and a moiety of
the remainder to boot.

A few hundred yards from the opening of this dell of the boulder-clay,
in which I have so long detained the reader, there is a wooded
inflection of the bank, formed by the old coast line, in which there
stood, about two centuries ago, a meal-mill, with the cottage of the
miller, and which was once known as the scene of one of those
supernaturalities that belong to the times of the witch and the fairy.
The upper anchoring-place of the bay lies nearly opposite the
inflection. A shipmaster, who had moored his vessel in this part of the
roadstead, some time in the latter days of the first Charles, was one
fine evening sitting alone on deck, awaiting the return of his seamen,
who had gone ashore, and amusing himself in watching the lights that
twinkled from the scattered farm-houses, and in listening, in the
extreme stillness of the calm, to the distant lowing of cattle, or the
abrupt bark of the herdsman's dog. As the hour wore later, the sounds
ceased, and the lights disappeared,--all but one solitary taper, that
twinkled from the window of the miller's cottage. At length, however, it
also disappeared, and all was dark around the shores of the bay, as a
belt of black velvet. Suddenly a hissing noise was heard overhead; the
shipmaster looked up, and saw what seemed to be one of those meteors
known as falling stars, slanting athwart the heavens in the direction of
the cottage, and increasing in size and brilliancy as it neared the
earth, until the wooded ridge and the shore could be seen as distinctly
from the ship-deck as by day. A dog howled piteously from one of the
out-houses,--an owl whooped from the wood. The meteor descended until it
almost touched the roof, when a cock crew from within; its progress
seemed instantly arrested; it stood still, rose about the height of a
ship's mast, and then began again to descend. The cock crew a second
time; it rose as before; and, after mounting considerably higher than at
first, again sank in the line of the cottage, to be again arrested by
the crowing of the cock. It mounted yet a third time, rising higher
still; and, in its last descent, had almost touched the roof, when the
faint clap of wings was heard as if whispered over the water, followed
by a still louder note of defiance from the cock. The meteor rose with a
bound, and, continuing to ascend until it seemed lost among the stars,
did not again appear. Next night, however, at the same hour, the same
scene was repeated in all its circumstances: the meteor descended, the
dog howled, the owl whooped, the cock crew. On the following morning the
shipmaster visited the miller's, and, curious to ascertain how the
cottage would fare when the cock was away, he purchased the bird; and,
sailing from the bay before nightfall, did not return until about a
month after.

On his voyage inwards, he had no sooner doubled an intervening headland,
than he stepped forward to the bows to take a peep at the cottage: it
had vanished. As he approached the anchoring ground, he could discern a
heap of blackened stones occupying the place where it had stood; and he
was informed on going ashore, that it had been burnt to the ground, no
one knew how, on the very night he had quitted the bay. He had it
re-built and furnished, says the story, deeming himself what one of the
old schoolmen perhaps term the _occasional_ cause of the disaster. He
also returned the cock,--probably a not less important benefit,--and no
after accident befel the cottage. About fifteen years ago there was a
human skeleton dug up near the scene of the tradition, with the skull,
and the bones of the legs and feet, lying close together, as if the body
had been huddled up twofold in a hole; and this discovery led to that of
the story, which, though at one time often repeated and extensively
believed, had been suffered to sleep in the memories of a few elderly
people for nearly sixty years.


     Relation of the deep red stone of Cromarty to the Ichthyolite Beds
     of the System--Ruins of a Fossil-charged Bed--Journey to Avoch--Red
     Dye of the Boulder-clay distinct from the substance
     itself--Variation of Coloring in the Boulder-clay Red Sandstone
     accounted for--Hard-pan how formed--A reformed Garden--An ancient
     Battle-field--Antiquity of Geologic and Human History
     compared--Burn of Killein--Observation made in boyhood
     confirmed--Fossil-nodules--Fine Specimen of _Coccosteus
     decipiens_--Blank strata of Old Red--New View respecting the Rocks
     of Black Isle--A Trip up Moray and Dingwall Friths--Altered color
     of the Boulder-clay--Up the Auldgrande River--Scenery of the great
     Conglomerate--Graphic Description--Laidlaw's Boulder--_Vaccinium
     myrtillus_--Profusion of Travelled Boulders--The Boulder _Clach
     Malloch_--Its zones of Animal and Vegetable Life.

The ravine excavated by the mill-dam showed me what I had never so well
seen before,--the exact relation borne by the deep red stone of the
Cromarty quarries to the ichthyolite beds of the system. It occupies the
same place, and belongs to the same period, as those superior beds of
the Lower Old Red Sandstone which are so largely developed in the cliffs
of Dunnet Head in Caithness, and of Tarbet Ness in Ross-shire, and which
were at one time regarded as forming, north of the Grampians, the
analogue of the New Red Sandstone. I paced it across the strata this
morning, in the line of the ravine, and found its thickness over the
upper fish-beds, though I was far from reaching its superior layers,
which are buried here in the sea, to be rather more than five hundred
feet. The fossiliferous beds occur a few hundred yards below the
dwelling-house of Rose Farm. They are not quite uncovered in the ravine;
but we find their places indicated by heaps of gray argillaceous shale,
mingled with their characteristic ichthyolitic nodules, in one of which
I found a small specimen of Cheiracanthus. The projecting edge of some
fossil-charged bed had been struck, mayhap, by an iceberg, and dashed
into ruins, just as the subsiding land had brought the spot within reach
of the attritive ice; and the broken heap thus detached had been shortly
afterwards covered up, without mixture of any other deposit, by the red
boulder-clay. On the previous day I had detected the fish-beds in
another new locality,--one of the ravines of the lawn of Cromarty
House,--where the gray shale, concealed by a covering of soil and sward
for centuries, had been laid bare during the storm by a swollen runnel,
and a small nodule, inclosing a characteristic plate of Pterichthys,
washed out. And my next object in to-day's journey, after exploring this
ravine of the boulder-clay, was to ascertain whether the beds did not
also occur in a ravine of the parish of Avoch, some eight or nine miles
away, which, when lying a-bed one night in Edinburgh, I remembered
having crossed when a boy, at a point which lies considerably out of the
ordinary route of the traveller. I had remarked on this occasion, as the
resuscitated recollection intimated, that the precipices of the Avoch
ravine bore, at the unfrequented point, the peculiar aspect which I
learned many years after to associate with the ichthyolitic member of
the system; and I was now quite as curious to test the truth of a sort
of vignette landscape, transferred to the mind at an immature period of
life, and preserved in it for full thirty years, as desirous to extend
my knowledge of the fossiliferous beds of a system to the elucidation of
which I had peculiarly devoted myself.

As the traveller reaches the flat moory uplands of the parish, where the
water stagnates amid heath and moss over a thin layer of peaty soil, he
finds the underlying boulder-clay, as shown in the chance sections,
spotted and streaked with patches of a grayish-white. There is the same
mixture of arenaceous and aluminous particles in the white as in the red
portions of the mass; for, as we see so frequently exemplified in the
spots and streaks of the Red Sandstone formations, whether Old or New,
the coloring matter has been discharged without any accompanying change
of composition in the substance which it pervaded;--evidence enough that
the red dye must be something distinct from the substance itself, just
as the dye of a handkerchief is a thing distinct from the silk or cotton
yarn of which the handkerchief has been woven. The stagnant water above,
acidulated by its various vegetable solutions, seems to have been in
some way connected with these appearances. In every case in which a
crack through the clay gives access to the oozing moisture, we see the
sides bleached, for several feet downwards, to nearly the color of
pipe-clay; we find the surface, too, when it has been divested of the
vegetable soil, presenting for yards together the appearance of sheets
of half-bleached linen: the red ground of the clay has been acted upon
by the percolating fluid, as the red ground of a Bandanna handkerchief
is acted upon through the openings in the perforated lead, by the
discharging chloride of lime. The peculiar chemistry through which these
changes are effected might be found, carefully studied, to throw much
light on similar phenomena in the older formations. There are quarries
in the New Red Sandstone in which almost every mass of stone presents a
different shade of color from that of its neighboring mass, and quarries
in the Old Red the strata of which we find streaked and spotted like
pieces of calico. And their variegated aspect seems to have been
communicated, in every instance, not during deposition, nor after they
had been hardened into stone but when, like the boulder-clay, they
existed in an intermediate state. Be it remarked, too, that the red clay
here,--evidently derived from the abrasion of the red rocks beneath,--is
in dye and composition almost identical with the substance on which, as
an unconsolidated sandstone, the bleaching influences, whatever their
character, had operated in the Palæozoic period, so many long ages
before;--it is a repetition of the ancient experiment in the Old Red,
that we now see going on in the boulder-clay. It is further worthy of
notice, that the bleached lines of the clay exhibit, viewed
horizontally, when the overlying vegetable mould has been removed, and
the whitened surface in immediate contact with it paired off, a
polygonal arrangement, like that assumed by the cracks in the bottom of
clayey pools dried up in summer by the heat of the sun. Can these
possibly indicate the ancient rents and fissures of the boulder-clay,
formed, immediately after the upheaval of the land, in the first process
of drying, and remaining afterwards open enough to receive what the
uncracked portions of the surface excluded,--the acidulated bleaching

The kind of ferruginous pavement of the boulder-clay known to the
agriculturist as _pan_, which may be found extending in some cases its
iron cover over whole districts,--sealing them down to barrenness, as
the iron and brass sealed down the stump of Nebuchadnezzar's tree,--is,
like the white strips and blotches of the deposit, worthy the careful
notice of the geologist. It serves to throw some light on the origin of
those continuous bands of clayey or arenaceous ironstone, which in the
older formations in which vegetable matter abounds, whether Oölitic or
Carboniferous, are of such common occurrence. The _pan_ is a stony
stratum, scarcely less indurated in some localities than sandstone of
the average hardness, that rests like a pavement on the surface of the
boulder-clay, and that generally bears atop a thin layer of sterile
soil, darkened by a russet covering of stunted heath. The binding cement
of the _pan_ is, as I have said, ferruginous, and seems to have been
derived from the vegetable covering above. Of all plants, the heaths are
found to contain most iron. Nor is it difficult to conceive how, in
comparatively flat tracts of heathy moor, where the surface water sinks
to the stiff subsoil, and on which one generation of plants after
another has been growing and decaying for many centuries, the minute
metallic particles, disengaged in the process of decomposition, and
carried down by the rains to the impermeable clay, should, by
accumulating there, bind the layer on which they rest, as is the nature
of ferruginous oxide, into a continuous stony crust. Wherever this _pan_
occurs, we find the superincumbent soil doomed to barrenness,--arid and
sun-baked during the summer and autumn months, and, from the same cause,
overcharged with moisture in winter and spring. My friend Mr. Swanson,
when schoolmaster of Nigg, found a large garden attached to the
school-house so inveterately sterile as to be scarce worth cultivation;
a thin stratum of mould rested on a hard impermeable pavement of _pan_,
through which not a single root could penetrate to the tenacious but not
unkindly subsoil below. He set himself to work in his leisure hours, and
bit by bit laid bare and broke up the pavement. The upper mould, long
divorced from the clay on which it had once rested, was again united to
it; the piece of ground began gradually to alter its character for the
better; and when I last passed the way, I found it, though in a state of
sad neglect, covered by a richer vegetation than it had ever borne under
the more careful management of my friend. This ferruginous pavement of
the boulder-clay may be deemed of interest to the geologist, as a
curious instance of deposition in a dense medium, and as illustrative
of the changes which may be effected on previously existing strata,
through the agency of an overlying vegetation.

I passed, on my way, through the ancient battle-field to which I have
incidentally referred in the story of the Miller of Resolis.[17] Modern
improvement has not yet marred it by the plough; and so it still bears
on its brown surface many a swelling tumulus and flat oblong mound,
and--where the high road of the district passes along its eastern
edge--the huge gray cairn, raised, says tradition, over the body of an
ancient Pictish king. But the contest of which it was the scene belongs
to a profoundly dark period, ere the gray dawn of Scottish history
began. As shown by the remains of ancient art occasionally dug up on the
moor, it was a conflict of the times of the stone battle-axe, the flint
arrow-head, and the unglazed sepulchral urn, unindebted for aught of its
symmetry to the turning-lathe,--times when there were heroes in
abundance, but no scribes. And the cairn, about a hundred feet in length
and breadth, by about twenty in height, with its long hoary hair of
overgrown lichen waving in the breeze, and the trailing club-moss
shooting upwards from its base along its sides, bears in its every
lineament full mark of its great age. It is a mound striding across the
stream of centuries, to connect the past with the present. And yet,
after all, what a mere matter of yesterday its extreme antiquity is! My
explorations this morning bore reference to but the later eras of the
geologist; the portion of the geologic volume which I was attempting to
decipher and translate formed the few terminal paragraphs of its
concluding chapter. And yet the _finis_ had been added to them for
thousands of years ere this latter antiquity began. The boulder-clay had
been formed and deposited; the land, in rising over the waves, had had
many a huge pebble washed out of its last formed red stratum, or dropped
upon it by ice-floes from above; and these pebbles lay mottling the
surface of this barren moor for mile after mile, bleaching pale to the
rains and the sun, as the meagre and mossy soil received, in the lapse
of centuries, its slow accessions of organic matter, and darkened around
them. And then, for a few brief hours, the heath, no longer solitary,
became a wild scene of savage warfare,--of waving arms and threatening
faces,--and of human lives violently spilled, gushing forth in blood;
and, when all was over, the old weathered boulders were heaped up above
the slain, and there began a new antiquity in relation to the pile in
its gathered state, that bore reference to man's short lifetime, and to
the recent introduction of the species. The child of a few summers
speaks of the events of last year as long gone by; while his father
advanced into middle life, regards them as still fresh and recent.

I reached the Burn of Killein,--the scene of my purposed
explorations,--where it bisects the Inverness road; and struck down the
rocky ravine, in the line of the descending strata and the falling
streamlet, towards the point at which I had crossed it so many years
before. First I passed along a thick bed of yellow stone,--next over a
bed of stratified clay. "The little boy," I said, "took correct note of
what he saw, though without special aim at the time, and as much under
the guidance of a mere observative instinct as Dame Quickly, when she
took note of the sea-coal fire, the round table, the parcel-gilt goblet,
and goodwife Keech's dish of prawns dressed in vinegar, as adjuncts of
her interview with old Sir John when he promised to marry her. These
are unequivocally the ichthyolitic beds, whether they contain
ichthyolites or no." The first nodule I laid open presented inside
merely a pale oblong patch in the centre, which I examined in vain with
the lens, though convinced of its organic origin, for a single scale.
Proceeding farther down the stream, I picked a nodule out of a second
and lower bed, which contained more evidently its organism,--a
finely-reticulated fragment, that at first sight reminded me of some
delicate festinella of the Silurian system. It proved, however, to be
part of the tail of a Cheiracanthus, exhibiting--what is rarely
shown--the interior surfaces of those minute rectangular scales which in
this genus lie over the caudal fin, ranged in right lines. A second
nodule presented me with the spines of _Diplacanthus striatus_; and
still farther down the stream,--for the beds are numerous here, and
occupy in vertical extent very considerable space in the system,--I
detected a stratum of bulky nodules charged with fragments of
Coccosteus, belonging chiefly to two species,--_Coccosteus decipiens_
and _Coccosteus cuspidatus_. All the specimens bore conclusive evidence
regarding the geologic place and character of the beds in which they
occur; and in one of the number, a specimen of _Coccosteus decipiens_,
sufficiently fine to be transferred to my knapsack, and which now
occupies its corner in my little collection, the head exhibits all its
plates in their proper order, and the large dorsal plate, though
dissociated from the nail-like attachment of the nape, presents its
characteristic breadth entire. It was the plates of this species, first
found in the flagstones of Caithness, which were taken for those of a
fresh-water tortoise; and hence apparently its specific name,
_decipiens_;--it is the _deceiving_ Coccosteus. I disinterred, in the
course of my explorations, as many nodules as lay within reach,--now and
then longing for a pickaxe, and a companion robust and persevering
enough to employ it with effect; and after seeing all that was to be
seen in the bed of the stream and the precipices, I retraced my steps up
the dell to the highway. And then, striking off across the moor to the
north,--ascending in the system as I climbed the eminence, which forms
here the central ridge of the old Maolbuie Common,--I spent some little
time in a quarry of pale red sandstone, known, from the moory height on
which it has been opened, as the quarry of the Maolbuie. But here, as
elsewhere, the folds of that upper division of the Lower Old Red in
which it has been excavated contain nothing organic. Why this should be
so universally the case,--for in Caithness, Orkney, Cromarty, and Ross,
wherever, in short, this member of the system is unequivocally
developed, it is invariably barren of remains,--cannot, I suspect, be
very satisfactorily explained. Fossils occur both over and under it, in
rocks that seem as little favorable to their preservation; but during
that intervening period which its blank strata represent, at least the
_species_ of all the ichthyolites of the system seem to have changed,
and, so far as is yet known, the _genus_ Coccosteus died out entirely.

The Black Isle has been elaborately described in the last Statistical
Account of the Parish of Avoch as comprising at least the analogues of
three vast geologic systems. The Great Conglomerate, and the thick bed
of coarse sandstone of corresponding character that lies over it,
compose all which is not primary rock of that south-eastern ridge of the
district which forms the shores of the Moray Frith; and _they_ are
represented in the Account as Old Red Sandstone proper. Then, next in
order,--forming the base of a parallel ridge,--come those sandstone and
argillaceous bands to which the ichthyolite beds belong; and these
though at the time the work appeared their existence in the locality
could be but guessed at, are described as representatives of the Coal
Measures. Last of all there occur those superior sandstones of the Lower
Old Red formation in which the quarry of the Maolbuie has been opened,
and which are largely developed in the central or _backbone_ ridge of
the district. "And these," says the writer, "we have little hesitation
in assigning to the _New_ Red, or variegated Sandstone formation." I
remember that some thirteen years ago,--in part misled by authority, and
in part really afraid to represent beds of such an enormous aggregate
thickness as all belonging to one inconsiderable formation,--for such
was the character of the Old Red Sandstone at the time,--I ventured,
though hesitatingly, and with less of detail, on a somewhat similar
statement regarding the sandstone deposits of the parish of Cromarty.
But true it is, notwithstanding, that the stratified rocks of the Black
Isle are composed generally, not of the analogues of three systems, but
of merely a fractional portion of a single system,--a fact previously
established in other parts of the district, and which my discovery of
this day in the Burn of Killein served yet farther to confirm in
relation to that middle portion of the tract in which the parish of
Avoch is situated. The geologic records, unlike the Sybilline books,
grow in volume and number as one pauses and hesitates over them;
demanding, however, with every addition to their bulk, a larger and yet
larger sum of epochs and of ages.

The sun had got low in the western sky, and I had at least some eight or
nine miles of rough road still before me; but the day had been a happy
and not unsuccessful one, and so its hard work had failed to fatigue.
The shadows, however, were falling brown and deep on the bleak Maolbuie,
as I passed, on my return, the solitary cairn; and it was dark night
long ere I reached Cromarty. Next morning I quitted the town for the
upper reaches of the Frith, to examine yet further the superficial
deposits and travelled boulders of the district.

I landed at Invergordon a little after noon, from the Leith steamer,
that, on its way to the upper ports of the Moray and Dingwall Friths,
stops at Cromarty for passengers every Wednesday; and then passing
direct through the village, I took the western road which winds along
the shore towards Strathpeffer, skirting on the right the ancient
province of the Munroes. The day was clear and genial; and the
wide-spreading woods of this part of the country, a little touched by
their autumnal tints of brown and yellow, gave a warmth of hue to the
landscape, which at an earlier season it wanted. A few slim streaks of
semi-transparent mist, that barred the distant hill-peaks, and a few
towering piles of intensely white cloud, that shot across the deep blue
of the heavens, gave warning that the earlier part of the day was to be
in all probability the better part of it, and that the harvest of
observation which it was ultimately to yield might be found to depend on
the prompt use made of the passing hour. What first attracts the
attention of the geologist, in journeying westwards, is the altered
color of the boulder-clay, as exhibited in ditches by the way-side, or
along the shore. It no longer presents that characteristic red
tint,--borrowed from the red sandstone beneath,--so prevalent over the
Black Isle, and in Easter Ross generally; but is of a cold leaden hue,
not unlike that which it wears above the Coal Measures of the south, or
over the flagstones of Caithness. The altered color here is evidently a
consequence of the large development, in Ferindonald and Strathpeffer,
of the ichthyolitic members of the Old Red, existing chiefly as fetid
bituminous breccias and dark-colored sandstones: the boulder-clay of
the locality forms the dressings, not of red, but of blackish-gray
rocks; and, as almost everywhere else in Scotland, its trail lies to the
east of the strata, from which it was detached in the character of an
impalpable mud by the age-protracted grindings of the denuding agent. It
abounds in masses of bituminous breccia, some of which, of great size,
seem to have been drifted direct from the valley of Strathpeffer, and
are identical in structure and composition with the rock in which the
mineral springs of the Strath have their rise, and to which they owe
their peculiar qualities.

After walking on for about eight miles, through noble woods and a lovely
country, I struck from off the high road at the pretty little village of
Evanton, and pursued the course of the river Auldgrande, first through
intermingled fields and patches of copsewood, and then through a thick
fir wood, to where the bed of the stream contracts from a
boulder-strewed bottom of ample breadth, to a gloomy fissure, so deep
and dark, that in many places the water cannot be seen, and so narrow,
that the trees which shoot out from the opposite sides interlace their
branches atop. Large banks of the gray boulder-clay, laid open by the
river, and charged with fragments of dingy sandstone and dark-colored
breccia, testify, along the lower reaches of the stream, to the near
neighborhood of the ichthyolitic member of the Old Red; but where the
banks contract, we find only its lowest member, the Great Conglomerate.
This last is by far the most picturesque member of the system,--abrupt
and bold of outline in its hills, and mural in its precipices. And
nowhere does it exhibit a wilder or more characteristic beauty than at
the tall narrow portal of the Auldgrande, where the river,--after
wailing for miles in a pent-up channel, narrow as one of the lanes of
old Edinburgh, and hemmed in by walls quite as perpendicular, and
nearly twice as lofty,--suddenly expands, first into a deep brown pool,
and then into a broad tumbling stream, that, as if permanently affected
in temper by the strict severity of the discipline to which its early
life had been subjected, frets and chafes in all its after course, till
it loses itself in the sea. The banks, ere we reach the opening of the
chasm, have become steep, and wild, and densely wooded; and there stand
out on either hand, giant crags, that plant their iron feet in the
stream; here girdled with belts of rank succulent shrubs, that love the
damp shade and the frequent drizzle of the spray; and there hollow and
bare, with their round pebbles sticking out from the partially
decomposed surface, like the piled-up skulls in the great underground
cemetery of the Parisians. Massy trees, with their green fantastic roots
rising high over the scanty soil, and forming many a labyrinthine recess
for the frog, the toad, and the newt, stretch forth their gnarled arms
athwart the stream. In front of the opening, with but a black deep pool
between, there lies a midway bank of huge stones. Of these, not a few of
the more angular masses still bear, though sorely worn by the torrent,
the mark of the blasting iron, and were evidently tumbled into the chasm
from the fields above. But in the chasm there was no rest for them, and
so the arrowy rush of the water in the confined channel swept them down
till they dropped where they now lie, just where the widening bottom
first served to dissipate the force of the current. And over the sullen
pool in front we may see the stern pillars of the portal rising from
eighty to a hundred feet in height, and scarce twelve feet apart, like
the massive obelisks of some Egyptian temple; while, in gloomy vista
within, projection starts out beyond projection, like column beyond
column in some narrow avenue of approach to Luxor or Carnac. The
precipices are green, with some moss or byssus, that like the miner,
chooses a subterranean habitat,--for here the rays of the sun never
fall; the dead, mossy water beneath, from which the cliffs rise so
abruptly, bears the hue of molten pitch; the trees, fast anchored in the
rock, shoot out their branches across the opening, to form a thick
tangled roof, at the height of a hundred and fifty feet overhead; while
from the recesses within, where the eye fails to penetrate, there issues
a combination of the strangest and wildest sounds ever yet produced by
water: there is the deafening rush of the torrent, blent as if with the
clang of hammers, the roar of vast bellows, and the confused gabble of a
thousand voices. The sun, hastening to its setting, shone red, yet
mellow, through the foliage of the wooded banks on the west, where, high
above, they first curve from the sloping level of the fields, to bend
over the stream; or fell more direct on the jutting cliffs and bosky
dingles opposite, burnishing them as if with gold and fire; but all was
coldly-hued at the bottom, where the torrent foamed gray and chill under
the brown shadow of the banks; and where the narrow portal opened an
untrodden way into the mysterious recesses beyond, the shadow deepened
almost into blackness. The scene lacked but a ghost to render it
perfect. An apparition walking from within like the genius in one of
Goldsmith's essays "along the surface of the water," would have
completed it at once.

Laying hold of an overhanging branch, I warped myself upwards from the
bed of the stream along the face of a precipice, and, reaching its
sloping top, forced my way to the wood above, over a steep bank covered
with tangled underwood, and a slim succulent herbage, that sickened for
want of the sun. The yellow light was streaming through many a shaggy
vista, as, threading my way along the narrow ravine as near the steep
edge as the brokenness of the ground permitted, I reached a huge mass
of travelled rock, that had been dropped in the old boulder period
within a yard's length of the brink. It is composed of a characteristic
granitic gneiss of a pale flesh-color, streaked with black, that, in the
hand specimen, can scarce be distinguished from a true granite, but
which, viewed in the mass, presents, in the arrangement of its intensely
dark mica, evident marks of stratification, and which is remarkable,
among other things, for furnishing almost all the very large boulders of
this part of the country. Unlike many of the granitic gneisses, it is a
fine solid stone, and would cut well. When I had last the pleasure of
spending a few hours with the late Mr. William Laidlaw, the trusted
friend of Sir Walter Scott, he intimated to me his intention,--pointing
to a boulder of this species of gneiss,--of having it cut into two
oblong pedestals, with which he purposed flanking the entrance to the
mansion-house of the chief of the Rosses,--the gentleman whose property
he at that time superintended. It was, he said, both in appearance and
history, the most remarkable stone on the lands of Balnagown; and so he
was desirous that it should be exhibited at Balnagown Castle to the best
advantage. But as he fell shortly after into infirm health, and resigned
his situation, I know not that he ever carried his purpose into effect.
The boulder here, beside the chasm, measures about twelve feet in length
and breadth, by from five to six in height, and contains from eight to
nine hundred cubic feet of stone. On its upper table-like surface I
found a few patches of moss and lichen, and a slim reddening tuft of the
_Vaccinium myrtillus_, still bearing, late as was the season, its
half-dozen blaeberries. This pretty little plant occurs in great
profusion along the steep edges of the Auldgrande, where its delicate
bushes, springing up amid long heath and ling, and crimsoned by the
autumnal tinge, gave a peculiar warmth and richness this evening to
those bosky spots under the brown trees, or in immediate contact with
the dark chasm on which the sunlight fell most strongly; and on all the
more perilous projections, I found the dark berries still shrivelling on
their stems. Thirty years earlier I would scarce have left them there;
and the more perilous the crag on which they had grown, the more
deliciously would they have eaten. But every period of life has its own
playthings; and I was now chiefly engaged with the deep chasm and the
huge boulder. Chasm and boulder had come to have greatly more of
interest to me than the delicate berries, or than even that sovereign
dispeller of ennui and low spirits, an adventurous scramble among the

In what state did the chasm exist when the huge boulder,--detached,
mayhap, at the close of a severe frost, from some island of the
archipelago that is now the northern Highlands of Scotland,--was
suffered to drop beside it, from some vast ice-floe drifting eastwards
on the tide? In all probability merely as a fault in the Conglomerate,
similar to many of those faults which in the Coal Measures of the
southern districts we find occupied by continuous dikes of trap. But in
this northern region, where the trap-rocks are unknown, it must have
been filled up with the boulder-clay, or with some still more ancient
accumulation of debris. And when the land had risen, and the streams,
swollen into rivers, flowed along the hollows which they now occupy, the
loose rubbish would in the lapse of ages gradually wash downwards to the
sea, as the stones thrown from the fields above were washed downwards in
a later time; and thus the deep fissure would ultimately be cleared out.
The boulder-stones lie thickly in this neighborhood, and over the
eastern half of Ross-shire, and the Black Isle generally; though for
the last century they have been gradually disappearing from the more
cultivated tracts on which there were fences or farm-steadings to be
built, or where they obstructed the course of the plough. We found them
occurring in every conceivable situation,--high on hill-sides, where the
shepherd crouches beside them for shelter in a shower,--deep in the open
sea, where they entangle the nets of the fisherman,--on inland moors,
where in some remote age they were painfully rolled together, to form
the Druidical circle or Picts'-house,--or on the margin of the coast,
where they had been piled over one another at a later time, as
protecting bulwarks against the encroachments of the waves. They lie
strewed more sparingly over extended plains, or on exposed heights, than
in hollows sheltered from the west by high land, where the current, when
it dashed high on the hill-sides, must have been diverted from its
easterly course, and revolved in whirling eddies. On the top of the fine
bluff hill of Fyrish, which I so admired to-day, each time I caught a
glimpse of its purple front through the woods, and which shows how noble
a mountain the Old Red Sandstone may produce, the boulders lie but
sparsely. I especially marked, however, when last on its summit, a
ponderous traveller of a vividly green hornblende, resting on a bed of
pale yellow sandstone, fully a thousand feet over the present high-water
level. But towards the east, in what a seaman would term the _bight_ of
the hill, the boulders have accumulated in vast numbers. They lie so
closely piled along the course of the river Alness, about half a mile
above the village, that it is with difficulty the waters, when in flood,
can force their passage through. For here, apparently, when the tide
swept along the hill-side, many an ice-floe, detained in the shelter by
the revolving eddy, dashed together in rude collision, and shook their
stony burdens to the bottom. Immediately to the east of the low
promontory on which the town of Cromarty is built there is another
extensive accumulation of boulders, some of them of great size. They
occupy exactly the place to which I have oftener than once seen the
drift-ice of the upper part of the Cromarty Frith, set loose by a thaw,
and then carried seawards by the retreating tide, forced back by a
violent storm from, the east, and the fragments ground against each
other into powder. And here, I doubt not, of old, when the sea stood
greatly higher than now, and the ice-floes were immensely larger and
more numerous than those formed, in the existing circumstances, in the
upper shallows of the Frith, would the fierce north-east have charged
home with similar effect, and the broken masses have divested themselves
of their boulders.

The Highland chieftain of one of our old Gaelic traditions conversed
with a boulder-stone, and told to it the story which he had sworn never
to tell to man. I too, after a sort, have conversed with boulder-stones,
not, however, to tell them any story of mine, but to urge them to tell
theirs to me. But, lacking the fine ear of Hans Anderson, the Danish
poet, who can hear flowers and butterflies talk, and understand the
language of birds, I have as yet succeeded in extracting from them no
such articulate reply

 "As Memnon's image, long renowned of old
 By fabling Nilus, to the quivering touch
 Of Titan's ray, with each repulsive string
 Consenting, sounded through the warbling air."

And yet, who can doubt that, were they a little more communicative,
their stories of movement in the past, with the additional circumstances
connected with the places which they have occupied ever since they gave
over travelling, would be exceedingly curious ones? Among the boulder
group to the east of Cromarty, the most ponderous individual stands so
exactly on the low-water line of our great Lammas tides, that though its
shoreward edge may be reached dry-shod from four to six times every
twelvemonth, no one has ever succeeded in walking dry shod round it. I
have seen a strong breeze from the west, prolonged for a few days,
prevent its drying, when the Lammas stream was at its point of lowest
ebb, by from a foot to eighteen inches,--an indication, apparently, that
to that height the waters of the Atlantic may be heaped up against our
shores by the impulsion of the wind. And the recurrence, during at least
the last century, of certain ebbs each season, which, when no disturbing
atmospheric phenomena interfere with their operation, are sure to lay it
dry, demonstrate, that during that period no change, even the most
minute, has taken place on our coasts, in the relative levels of sea and
shore. The waves have considerably encroached, during even the last
half-century, on the shores immediately opposite; but it must have been,
as the stone shows, simply by the attrition of the waves, and the
consequent lowering of the beach,--not through any rise in the ocean, or
any depression of the land.

The huge boulder here has been known for ages as the _Clach Malloch_, or
accursed stone, from the circumstance, says tradition, that a boat was
once wrecked upon it during a storm, and the boatmen drowned. Though
little more than seven feet in height, by about twelve in length, and
some eight or nine in breadth, its situation on the extreme line of ebb
imparts a peculiar character to the various productions, animal and
vegetable, which we find adhering to it. They occur in zones, just as on
lofty hills the botanist finds his agricultural, moorland, and alpine
zones rising in succession as he ascends, the one over the other. At its
base, where the tide rarely falls, we find two varieties of _Lobularia
digitata_, dead man's hand, the orange colored and the pale, with a
species of sertularia; and the characteristic vegetable is the
rough-stemmed tangle, or cuvy. In the zone immediately above the lowest,
these productions disappear; the characteristic animal, if animal it be,
is a flat yellow sponge,--the _Halichondria papillaris_,--remarkable
chiefly for its sharp siliceous spicula and its strong phosphoric smell;
and the characteristic vegetable is the smooth-stemmed tangle, or
queener. In yet another zone we find the common limpet and the vesicular
kelp-weed; and the small gray balanus and serrated kelp-weed form the
productions of the top. We may see exactly the same zones occurring in
broad belts along the shore,--each zone indicative of a certain
overlying depth of water; but it seems curious enough to find them all
existing in succession on one boulder. Of the boulder and its story,
however, more in my next.


     Imaginary Autobiography of the _Clach Malloch_ Boulder--Its
     Creation--Its long night of unsummed Centuries--Laid open to light
     on a desert Island--Surrounded by an Arctic Vegetation--Undermined
     by the rising Sea--Locked up and floated off on an Ice-field--At
     rest on the Sea-bottom--Another Night of unsummed Years--The
     Boulder raised again above the waves by the rising of the
     Land--Beholds an altered Country--Pine Forests and Mammals--Another
     Period of Ages passes--The Boulder again floated off by an
     Iceberg--Finally at rest on the Shore of Cromarty Bay--Time and
     Occasion of naming it--Strange Phenomena accounted for by
     Earthquakes--How the Boulder of Petty Bay was moved--The Boulder of
     Auldgrande--The old Highland Paupers--The little Parsi Girl--Her
     Letter to her Papa--But one Human Nature on Earth--Journey
     resumed--Conon Burying Ground--An aged Couple--Gossip.

The natural, and, if I may so speak, topographical, history of the
_Clach Malloch_,--including, of course, its zoölogy and botany, with
notes of those atmospheric effects on the tides, and of that stability
for ages of the existing sea-level, which it indicates,--would of itself
form one very interesting chapter: its geological history would furnish
another. It would probably tell, if it once fairly broke silence and
became autobiographical, first of a feverish dream of intense molten
heat and overpowering pressure; and then of a busy time, in which the
free molecules, as at once the materials and the artisans of the mass,
began to build, each according to its nature, under the superintendence
of a curious chemistry,--here forming sheets of black mica, there rhombs
of a dark-green hornblende and a flesh-colored feldspar, yonder
amorphous masses of a translucent quartz. It would add further, that at
length, when the slow process was over, and the entire space had been
occupied to the full by plate, molecule, and crystal, the red fiery
twilight of the dream deepened into more than midnight gloom, and a
chill unconscious night descended on the sleeper. The vast Palæozoic
period passes by,--the scarce less protracted Secondary ages come to a
close,--the Eocene, Miocene, Pliocene epochs are ushered in and
terminate,--races begin and end,--families and orders are born and die;
but the dead, or those whose deep slumber admits not of dreams, take no
note of time; and so it would tell how its long night of unsummed
centuries seemed, like the long night of the grave, compressed into a

The marble silence is suddenly broken by the rush of an avalanche, that
tears away the superincumbent masses, rolling them into the sea; and the
ponderous block, laid open to the light, finds itself on the bleak shore
of a desert island of the northern Scottish archipelago, with a wintry
scene of snow-covered peaks behind, and an ice-mottled ocean before. The
winter passes, the cold severe spring comes on, and day after day the
field-ice goes floating by,--now gray in shadow, now bright in the sun.
At length vegetation, long repressed, bursts forth, but in no profuse
luxuriance. A few dwarf birches unfold their leaves amid the rocks; a
few sub-arctic willows hang out their catkins beside the swampy runnels;
the golden potentilla opens its bright flowers on slopes where the
evergreen _Empetrum nigrum_ slowly ripens its glossy crow-berries; and
from where the sea-spray dashes at full tide along the beach, to where
the snow gleams at midsummer on the mountain-summits, the thin short
sward is dotted by the minute cruciform stars of the scurvy-grass, and
the crimson blossoms of the sea-pink. Not a few of the plants of our
existing sea-shores and of our loftier hill-tops are still identical in
species; but wide zones of rich herbage, with many a fertile field and
many a stately tree, intervene between the bare marine belts and the
bleak insulated eminences; and thus the alpine, notwithstanding its
identity with the littoral flora, has been long divorced from it; but in
this early time the divorce had not yet taken place, nor for ages
thereafter; and the same plants that sprang around the sea-margin rose
also along the middle slopes to the mountain-summits. The landscape is
treeless and bare, and a hoary lichen whitens the moors, and waves, as
the years pass by, in pale tufts, from the disinterred stone, now
covered with weather-stains, green and gray, and standing out in bold
and yet bolder relief from the steep hill-side as the pulverizing frosts
and washing rains bear away the lesser masses from around it. The sea is
slowly rising, and the land, in proportion, narrowing its flatter
margins, and yielding up its wider valleys to the tide; the low green
island of one century forms the half-tide skerry, darkened with algæ, of
another, and in yet a third exists but as a deep-sea rock. As its summit
disappears, groups of hills, detached from the land, become islands,
skerries, deep-sea rocks, in turn. At length the waves at full wash
within a few yards of the granitic block. And now, yielding to the
undermining influences, just as a blinding snow-shower is darkening the
heavens, it comes thundering down the steep into the sea, where it lies
immediately beneath the high-water line, surrounded by a wide float of
pulverized ice, broken by the waves. A keen frost sets in; the
half-fluid mass around is bound up for many acres into a solid raft,
that clasps fast in its rigid embrace the rocky fragment; a stream-tide,
heightened by a strong gale from the west, rises high on the beach; the
consolidated ice-field moves, floats, is detached from the shore, creeps
slowly outwards into the offing, bearing atop the boulder; and,
finally, caught by the easterly current, it drifts away into the open
ocean. And then, far from its original bed in the rock, amid the
jerkings of a cockling sea, the mass breaks through the supporting
float, and settles far beneath, amid the green and silent twilight of
the bottom, where its mosses and lichens yield their place to stony
encrustations of deep purple, and to miniature thickets of arboraceous

The many-colored Acalephæ float by; the many-armed Sepiadæ shoot over;
while shells that love the profounder depths,--the black Modiola and
delicate Anomia,--anchor along the sides of the mass; and where thickets
of the deep-sea tangle spread out their long, streamer-like fronds to
the tide, the strong Cyprina and many-ribbed Astarte shelter by scores
amid the reticulations of the short woody stems and thick-set roots. A
sudden darkness comes on, like that which fell upon Sinbad when the
gigantic roc descended upon him; the sea-surface is fully sixty fathoms
over head; but even at this great depth an enormous iceberg grates
heavily against the bottom, crushing into fragments in its course,
Cyprina, Modiola, Astarte, with many a hapless mollusc besides; and
furrows into deep grooves the very rocks on which they lie. It passes
away; and, after many an unsummed year has also passed, there comes
another change. The period of depression and of the boulder-clay is
over. The water has shallowed as the sea-line gradually sank, or the
land was propelled upwards by some elevatory process from below; and
each time the tide falls, the huge boulder now raises over the waters
its broad forehead, already hung round with flowing tresses of brown
sea-weed, and looks at the adjacent coast. The country has strangely
altered its features: it exists no longer as a broken archipelago,
scantily covered by a semi-arctic vegetation, but as a continuous land,
still whitened, where the great valleys open to the sea, by the pale
gleam of local glaciers, and snow-streaked on its loftier hill-tops. But
vast forests of dark pine sweep along its hill-sides or selvage its
shores; and the sheltered hollows are enlivened by the lighter green of
the oak, the ash, and the elm. Human foot has not yet imprinted its
sward; but its brute inhabitants have become numerous. The cream-colored
coat of the wild bull,--a speck of white relieved against a ground of
dingy green,--may be seen far amid the pines, and the long howl of the
wolf heard from the nearer thickets. The gigantic elk raises himself
from his lair, and tosses his ponderous horns at the sound; while the
beaver, in some sequestered dell traversed by a streamlet, plunges
alarmed into his deep coffer-dam, and, rising through the submerged
opening of his cell, shelters safely within, beyond reach of pursuit.
The great transverse valleys of the country, from its eastern to its
western coasts, are still occupied by the sea,--they exist as broad
ocean-sounds; and many of the detached hills rise around its shores as
islands. The northern Sutor forms a bluff high island, for the plains of
Easter Ross are still submerged; and the Black Isle is in reality what
in later times it is merely in name,--a sea-encircled district, holding
a midway place between where the Sound of the great Caledonian Valley
and the Sounds of the Valleys of the Conon and Carron open into the
German Ocean. Though the climate has greatly softened, it is still, as
the local glaciers testify, ungenial and severe. Winter protracts his
stay through the later months of spring; and still, as of old, vast
floats of ice, detached from the glaciers, or formed in the lakes and
shallower estuaries of the interior, come drifting down the Sounds every
season, and disappear in the open sea, or lie stranded along the shores.

Ages have again passed: the huge boulder, from the further sinking of
the waters, lies dry throughout the neaps, and is covered only at the
height of each stream-tide; there is a float of ice stranded on the
beach, which consolidates around it during the neap, and is floated off
by the stream; and the boulder, borne in its midst, as of old, again
sets out a voyaging. It has reached the narrow opening of the Sutors,
swept downwards by the strong ebb current, when a violent storm from the
north-east sets in; and, constrained by antagonist forces,--the sweep of
the tide on the one hand, and the roll of the waves on the other,--the
ice-raft deflects into the little bay that lies to the east of the
promontory now occupied by the town of Cromarty. And there it tosses,
with a hundred more jostling in rude collision; and at length bursting
apart, the _Clach Malloch_, its journeyings forever over, settles on its
final resting-place. In a period long posterior it saw the ultimate
elevation of the land. Who shall dare say how much more it witnessed, or
decide that it did not form the centre of a rich forest vegetation, and
that the ivy did not cling round it, and the wild rose shed its petals
over it, when the Dingwall, Moray, and Dornoch Friths existed as
sub-aërial valleys, traversed by streams that now enter the sea far
apart, but then gathered themselves into one vast river, that, after it
had received the tributary waters of the Shin and the Conon, the Ness
and the Beauly, the Helmsdale, the Brora, the Findhorn, and the Spey,
rolled on through the flat secondary formations of the outer Moray
Frith,--Lias, and Oölite, and Greensand, and Chalk,--to fall into a gulf
of the Northern Ocean which intervened between the coasts of Scotland
and Norway, but closed nearly opposite the mouth of the Tyne, leaving a
broad level plain to connect the coasts of England with those of the
Continent! Be this as it may, the present sea-coast became at length the
common boundary of land and sea. And the boulder continued to exist for
centuries still later as a nameless stone, on which the tall gray heron
rested moveless and ghost-like in the evenings, and the seal at mid-day
basked lazily in the sun. And then there came a night of fierce tempest,
in which the agonizing cry of drowning men was heard along the shore.
When the morning broke, there lay strewed around a few bloated corpses,
and the fragments of a broken wreck; and amid wild execrations and loud
sorrow the boulder received its name. Such is the probable history,
briefly told, because touched at merely a few detached points, of the
huge _Clach Malloch_. The incident of the second voyage here is of
course altogether imaginary, in relation to at least this special
boulder; but it is to second voyages only that all our positive evidence
testifies in the history of its class. The boulders of the St. Lawrence,
so well described by Sir Charles Lyell, voyage by thousands every
year;[18] and there are few of my northern readers who have not heard of
the short trip taken nearly half a century ago by the boulder of Petty
Bay, in the neighborhood of Culloden.

A Highland minister of the last century, in describing, for Sir John
Sinclair's Statistical Account, a large sepulchral cairn in his parish,
attributed its formation to an _earthquake_! Earthquakes, in these
latter times, are introduced, like the heathen gods of old, to bring
authors out of difficulties. I do not think, however,--and I have the
authority of the old critic for at least half the opinion,--that either
gods or earthquakes should be resorted to by poets or geologists,
without special occasion: they ought never to be called in except as a
last resort, when there is no way of getting on without them. And I am
afraid there have been few more gratuitous invocations of the earthquake
than on a certain occasion, some five years ago, when it was employed by
the inmate of a north-country manse, at once to account for the removal
of the boulder-stone of Petty Bay, and to annihilate at a blow the
geology of the Free Church editor of the _Witness_. I had briefly stated
in one of my papers, in referring to this curious incident, that the
boulder of the bay had been "borne nearly three hundred yards outwards
into the sea by an enclasping mass of ice, in the course of a single
tide." "Not at all," said the northern clergyman; "the cause assigned is
wholly insufficient to produce such an effect. All the ice ever formed
in the bay would be insufficient to remove such a boulder a distance,
not of three hundred, but even of _three_ yards." The removal of the
stone "_is referrible to an_ EARTHQUAKE!" The country, it would seem,
took a sudden lurch, and the stone tumbled off. It fell athwart the flat
surface of the bay, as a soup tureen sometimes falls athwart the table
of a storm-beset steamer, vastly to the discomfort of the passengers,
and again caught the ground as the land righted. Ingenious, certainly!
It does appear a little wonderful, however, that in a shock so
tremendous nothing should have fallen off except the stone. In an
earthquake on an equally great scale, in the present unsettled state of
society, endowed clergymen would, I am afraid, be in some danger of
falling out of their charges.

The boulder beside the Auldgrande has not only, like the _Clach
Malloch_, a geologic history of its own, but, what some may deem of
perhaps equal authority, a _mythologic_ history also. The inaccessible
chasm, impervious to the sun, and ever resounding the wild howl of the
tortured water, was too remarkable an object to have escaped the notice
of the old imaginative Celts; and they have married it, as was their
wont, to a set of stories quite as wild as itself. And the boulder,
occupying a nearly central position in its course, just where the dell
is deepest, and narrowest, and blackest, and where the stream bellows
far underground in its wildest combination of tones, marks out the spot
where the more extraordinary incidents have happened, and the stranger
sights have been seen. Immediately beside the stone there is what seems
to be the beginning of a path leading down to the water; but it stops
abruptly at a tree,--the last in the descent,--and the green and dewy
rock sinks beyond for more than a hundred feet, perpendicular as a wall.
It was at the abrupt termination of this path that a Highlander once saw
a beautiful child smiling and stretching out its little hand to him, as
it hung half in air by a slender twig. But he well knew that it was no
child, but an evil spirit, and that if he gave it the assistance which
it seemed to crave, he would be pulled headlong into the chasm, and
never heard of more. And the boulder still bears, it is said, on its
side,--though I failed this evening to detect the mark,--the stamp,
strangely impressed, of the household keys of Balconie.[19]

The sun had now got as low upon the hill, and the ravine had grown as
dark, as when, so long before, the lady of Balconie took her last walk
along the sides of the Auldgrande; and I struck up for the little alpine
bridge of a few undressed logs, which has been here thrown across the
chasm, at the height of a hundred and thirty feet over the water. As I
pressed through the thick underwood, I startled a strange-looking
apparition in one of the open spaces beside the gulf, where, as shown by
the profusion of plants of _vaccinium_, the blaeberries had greatly
abounded in their season. It was that of an extremely old woman,
cadaverously pale and miserable looking, with dotage glistening in her
inexpressive, rheum-distilling eyes, and attired in a blue cloak, that
had been homely when at its best, and was now exceedingly tattered. She
had been poking with her crutch among the bushes, as if looking for
berries; but my approach had alarmed her; and she stood muttering in
Gaelic what seemed, from the tones and repetition, to be a few
deprecatory sentences. I addressed her in English, and inquired what
could have brought to a place so wild and lonely, one so feeble and
helpless. "Poor object!" she muttered in reply,--"poor object!--very
hungry;" but her scanty English could carry her no further. I slipped
into her hand a small piece of silver, for which she overwhelmed me with
thanks and blessings; and, bringing her to one of the broader avenues,
traversed by a road which leads out of the wood, I saw her fairly
entered upon the path in the right direction, and then, retracing my
steps crossed the log-bridge. The old woman,--little, I should suppose
from her appearance, under ninety,--was I doubt not, one of our
ill-provided Highland paupers, that starve under a law which, while it
has dried up the genial streams of voluntary charity in the country and
presses hard upon the means of the humbler classes, alleviates little,
if at all, the sufferings of the extreme poor. Amid present suffering
and privation there had apparently mingled in her dotage some dream of
early enjoyment,--a dream of the days when she had plucked berries, a
little herd-girl, on the banks of the Auldgrande; and the vision seemed
to have sent her out, far advanced in her second childhood, to poke
among the bushes with her crutch.

My old friend the minister of Alness,--uninstalled at the time in his
new dwelling,--was residing in a house scarce half a mile from the
chasm, to which he had removed from the parish manse at the Disruption;
and, availing myself of an invitation of long standing, I climbed the
acclivity on which it stands, to pass the night with him. I found,
however, that with part of his family, he had gone to spend a few weeks
beside the mineral springs of Strathpeffer, in the hope of recruiting a
constitution greatly weakened by excessive labor, and that the entire
household at home consisted of but two of the young ladies his
daughters, and their ward, the little Buchubai Hormazdji.

And who, asks the reader, is this Buchubai Hormazdji? A little Parsi
girl, in her eighth year, the daughter of a Christian convert from the
ancient faith of Zoroaster, who now labors in the Free Church Mission at
Bombay. Buchubai, his only child, was on his conversion, forcibly taken
from him by his relatives, but restored again by a British court of law;
and he had secured her safety by sending her to Europe, a voyage of many
thousand miles, with a lady, the wife of one of our Indian missionaries,
to whom she had become attached, as her second but true mamma, and with
whose sisters I now found her. The little girl, sadly in want of a
companion this evening, was content, for lack of a better, to accept of
me as a playfellow; and she showed me all her rich eastern dresses, and
all her toys, and a very fine emerald, set in the oriental fashion,
which, when she was in full costume, sparkled from her embroidered
tiara. I found her exceedingly like little girls at home, save that she
seemed more than ordinarily observant and intelligent,--a consequence
mayhap, of that early development, physical and mental, which
characterizes her race. She submitted to me, too, when I had got very
much into her confidence, a letter she had written to her papa from
Strathpeffer, which was to be sent him by the next Indian mail. And as
it may serve to show that the style of little girls whose fathers were
fire-worshippers for three thousand years and more differs in no
perceptible quality from the style of little girls whose fathers in
considerably less than three thousand were Pagans, Papists, and
Protestants by turns, besides passing through the various intermediate
forms of belief, I must, after pledging the reader to strict secrecy,
submit it to his perusal:--

"My dearest Papa,--I hope you are quite well. I am visiting mamma at
present at Strathpeffer. She is much better now than when she was
travelling. Mamma's sisters give their love to you, and mamma, and Mr.
and Mrs. F. also. They all ask you to pray for them, and they will pray
also. There are a great many at water here for sick people to drink out
of. The smell of the water is not at all nice. I sometimes drink it.
Give my dearest love to Narsion Skishadre, and tell her that I will
write to her.--Dearest papa," etc.

It was a simple thought, which required no reach of mind whatever to
grasp,--and yet an hour spent with little Buchubai made it tell upon me
more powerfully than ever before,--that there is in reality but one
human nature on the face of the earth. Had I simply read of Buchubai
Hormazdji corresponding with her father Hormazdji Pestonji, and sending
her dear love to her old companion Narsion Skishadre, the names so
specifically different from those which we ourselves employ in
designating our country folk, would probably have led me, through a
false association, to regard the parties to which they attach as
scarcely less specifically different from our country folk themselves. I
suspect we are misled by associations of this kind when we descant on
the peculiarities of race as interposing insurmountable barriers to the
progress of improvement, physical or mental. We overlook, amid the
diversities of form, color, and language, the specific identity of the
human family. The Celt, for instance, wants, it is said, those powers of
sustained application which so remarkably distinguish the Saxon; and so
we agree on the expediency of getting rid of our poor Highlanders by
expatriation as soon as possible, and of converting their country into
sheep-walks and hunting-parks. It would be surely well to have
philosophy enough to remember what, simply through the exercise of a
wise faith, the Christian missionary never forgets, that the
peculiarities of race are not specific and ineradicable, but mere
induced habits and idiosyncracies engrafted on the stock of a common
nature by accident of circumstance or development; and that, as they
have been wrought into the original tissue through the protracted
operation of one set of causes, the operation of another and different
set, wisely and perseveringly directed, could scarce fail to unravel and
work them out again. They form no part of the inherent design of man's
nature, but have merely stuck to it in its transmissive passage
downwards and require to be brushed off. There was a time, some four
thousand years ago, when Celt and Saxon were represented by but one man
and his wife, with their children and their children's wives; and some
sixteen or seventeen centuries earlier all the varieties of the
species,--Caucasian and Negro, Mongolian and Malay,--lay close packed up
in the world's single family. In short, Buchubai's amusing prattle
proved to me this evening no bad commentary on St. Paul's sublime
enunciation to the Athenians, that God has "made of one blood all
nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth." I was amused to
find that the little girl, who listened intently as I described to the
young ladies all I had seen and knew of the Auldgrande, had never before
heard of a ghost, and could form no conception of one now. The ladies
explained, described, defined; carefully guarding all they said,
however, by stern disclaimers against the ghost theory altogether, but
apparently to little purpose. At length Buchubai exclaimed, that she now
knew what they meant, and that she herself had seen a great many ghosts
in India. On explanation, however, her ghosts, though quite frightful
enough, turned out to be not at all spiritual: they were things of
common occurrence in the land she had come from,--exposed bodies of the

Next morning--as the white clouds and thin mist-streaks of the preceding
day had fairly foretold--was close and wet; and the long trail of vapor
which rises from the chasm of the Auldgrande in such weather, and is
known to the people of the neighborhood as the "smoke of the lady's
baking," hung, snake-like, over the river. About two o'clock the rain
ceased, hesitatingly and doubtfully, however, as if it did not quite
know its own mind; and there arose no breeze to shake the dank grass, or
to dissipate the thin mist-wreath that continued to float over the river
under a sky of deep gray. But the ladies, with Buchubai, impatient to
join their friends at Strathpeffer, determined on journeying
notwithstanding; and, availing myself of their company and their
vehicle, I travelled on with them to Dingwall, where we parted. I had
purposed exploring the gray dingy sandstones and fetid breccias
developed along the shores on the northern side of the bay, about two
miles from the town, and on the sloping acclivities between the
mansion-houses of Tulloch and Fowlis; but the day was still unfavorable,
and the sections seemed untemptingly indifferent; besides, I could
entertain no doubt that the dingy beds here are identical in place with
those of Cadboll on the coast of Easter Ross, which they closely
resemble, and which alternate with the lower ichthyolitic beds of the
Old Red Sandstone; and so, for the present at least, I gave up my
intention of exploring them.

In the evening, the sun, far gone down towards its place of setting,
burst forth in great beauty; and, under the influence of a kindly breeze
from the west, just strong enough to shake the wet leaves, the sky flung
off its thick mantle of gray. I sauntered out along the high-road, in
the direction of my old haunts at Conon-side, with, however, no
intention of walking so far. But the reaches of the river, a little in
flood, shone temptingly through the dank foliage, and the cottages under
the Conon woods glittered clear on their sweeping hill-side, "looking
cheerily out" into the landscape; and so I wandered on and on, over the
bridge, and along the river, and through the pleasure grounds of
Conon-house, till I found myself in the old solitary burying-ground
beside the Conon, which, when last in this part of the country, I was
prevented from visiting by the swollen waters. The rich yellow light
streamed through the interstices of the tall hedge of forest-trees that
encircles the eminence, once an island, and fell in fantastic patches on
the gray tombstone and the graves. The ruinous little chapel in the
corner, whose walls a quarter of a century before I had distinctly
traced, had sunk into a green mound; and there remained over the sward
but the arch-stone of a Gothic window, with a portion of the moulded
transom attached, to indicate the character and style of the vanished
building. The old dial-stone, with the wasted gnomon, has also
disappeared; and the few bright-colored _throch-stanes_, raw from the
chisel, that had been added of late years to the group of older
standing, did not quite make up for what time in the same period had
withdrawn. One of the newer inscriptions, however, recorded a curious
fact. When I had resided in this part of the country so long before,
there was an aged couple in the neighborhood, who had lived together, it
was said, as man and wife, for more than sixty years: and now, here was
their tombstone and epitaph. They had lived on long after my departure;
and when, as the seasons passed, men and women whose births and baptisms
had taken place since their wedding-day were falling around them well
stricken in years, death seemed to have forgotten _them_; and when he
came at last, their united ages made up well nigh two centuries. The
wife had seen her ninety-sixth and the husband his hundred and second
birthday. It does not transcend the skill of the actuary to say how many
thousand women must die under ninety-six for every one that reaches it,
and how many tens of thousands of men must die under a hundred and two
for every man who attains to an age so extraordinary; but he would
require to get beyond his tables in order to reckon up the chances
against the woman destined to attain to ninety-six being courted and
married in early life by the man born to attain to a hundred and two.

After enjoying a magnificent sunset on the banks of the Conon, just
where the scenery, exquisite throughout, is most delightful, I returned
through the woods, and spent half an hour by the way in the cottage of a
kindly-hearted woman, now considerably advanced in years, whom I had
known, when she was in middle life, as the wife of one of the Conon-side
hinds, and who not unfrequently, when I was toiling at the mallet in the
burning sun, hot and thirsty, and rather loosely knit for my work, had
brought me--all she had to offer at the time--a draught of fresh whey.
At first she seemed to have wholly forgotten both her kindness and the
object of it. She well remembered my master, and another Cromarty man
who had been grievously injured, when undermining an old building, by
the sudden fall of the erection; but she could bethink her of no third
Cromarty man whatever. "Eh, sirs!" she at length exclaimed, "I daresay
ye'll be just the sma' prentice laddie. Weel, what will young folk no
come out o'? They were amaist a' stout big men at the wark except
yoursel'; an' you're now stouter and bigger than maist o' them. Eh,
sirs!--an' are ye still a mason?" "No; I have not wrought as a mason for
the last fourteen years; but I have to work hard enough for all that."
"Weel, weel, it's our appointed lot; an' if we have but health an'
strength, an' the wark to do, why should we repine?" Once fairly entered
on our talk together, we gossipped on till the night fell, giving and
receiving information regarding our old acquaintances of a quarter of a
century before; of whom we found that no inconsiderable proportion had
already sunk in the stream in which eventually we must all disappear.
And then, taking leave of the kindly old woman, I walked on in the dark
to Dingwall, where I spent the night. I could fain have called by the
way on my old friend and brother-workman, Mr. Urquhart,--of a very
numerous party of mechanics employed at Conon-side in the year 1821 the
only individual now resident in this part of the country; but the
lateness of the hour forbade. Next morning I returned by the Conon road,
as far as the noble old bridge which strides across the stream at the
village, and which has done so much to banish the water-wraith from the
fords; and then striking off to the right, I crossed, by a path
comparatively little frequented, the insulated group of hills which
separates the valley of the Conon from that of the Peffer. The day was
mild and pleasant, and the atmosphere clear; but the higher hills again
exhibited their ominous belts of vapor, and there had been a slight
frost during the night,--at this autumnal season the almost certain
precursor of rain.


     The Great Conglomerate--Its Undulatory and Rectilinear
     Members--Knock Farril and its Vitrified Fort--The old Highlanders
     an observant race--The Vein of Silver--Summit of Knock Farril--Mode
     of accounting for the Luxuriance of Herbage in the ancient Scottish
     Fortalices--The green Graves of Culloden--Theories respecting the
     Vitrification of the Hill-forts--Combined Theories of Williams and
     Mackenzie probably give the correct account--The Author's
     Explanation--Transformations of Fused Rocks--Strathpeffer--The
     Spa--Permanent Odoriferous Qualities of an ancient Sea-bottom
     converted into Rock--Mineral Springs of the Spa--Infusion of the
     powdered rock a substitute--Belemnite Water--The lively young
     Lady's Comments--A befogged Country seen from a
     hill-top--Ben-Wevis--Journey to Evanton--A Geologist's
     Night-mare--The Route Home--Ruins of Craighouse--Incompatibility of
     Tea and Ghosts--End of the Tour.

I was once more on the Great Conglomerate,--here, as elsewhere, a
picturesque, boldly-featured deposit, traversed by narrow, mural-sided
valleys, and tempested by bluff abrupt eminences. Its hills are greatly
less confluent than those of most of the other sedimentary formations of
Scotland; and their insulated summits, recommended by their steep sides
and limited areas to the old savage Vaubans of the Highlands, furnished,
ere the historic eras began, sites for not a few of the ancient
hill-forts of the country. The vitrified fort of Craig Phadrig, of the
Ord Hill of Kessock, and of Knock Farril,--two of the number, the first
and last, being the most celebrated erections of their kind in the north
of Scotland,--were all formed on hills of the Great Conglomerate. The
Conglomerate exists here as a sort of miniature Highlands, set down at
the northern side of a large angular bay of Palæozoic rock, which
indents the _true_ Highlands of the country, and which exhibits in its
central area a prolongation of the long moory ridge of the Black Isle,
formed, as I have already had occasion to remark, of an _upper_ deposit
of the same lower division of the Old Red,--a deposit as noticeable for
affecting a confluent, rectilinear character in its elevations, as the
Conglomerate is remarkable for exhibiting a detached and undulatory one.
Exactly the same features are presented by the same deposits in the
neighborhood of Inverness; the _undulatory_ Conglomerate composing, to
the north and west of the town, the picturesque wavy ridge comprising
the twin-eminences of Munlochy Bay, the Ord Hill of Kessock, Craig
Phadrig, and the fir-covered hill beyond in the line of the Great
Valley; while on the south and east the _rectilinear_ ichthyolitic
member of the system, with the arenaceous beds that lie over it, form
the continuous straight-lined ridge which runs on from beyond the moor
of the Leys to beyond the moor of Culloden. There is a pretty little
loch in this dwarf Highlands of the Brahan district, into which the old
Celtic prophet Kenneth Ore, when, like Prospero, he relinquished his
art, buried "deep beyond plummet sound" the magic stone in which he was
wont to see the distant and the future. And with the loch it contains a
narrow, hermit-like dell, bearing but a single row of fields, and these
of small size, along its flat bottom, and whose steep gray sides of
rustic Conglomerate resemble Cyclopean walls. It, besides, includes
among its hills the steep hill of Knock Farril, which, rising bluff and
bold immediately over the southern slopes of Strathpeffer, adds so
greatly to the beauty of the valley, and bears atop perhaps the finest
specimen of the vitrified fort in Scotland; and the bold frontage of
cliff presented by the group to the west, over the pleasure grounds of
Brahan, is, though on no very large scale, one of the most
characteristic of the Conglomerate formation which can be seen
anywhere. It is formed of exactly such cliffs as the landscape gardener
would make if he could,--cliffs with their rude prominent pebbles
breaking the light over every square foot of surface, and furnishing
footing, by their innumerable projections, to many a green tuft of moss,
and many a sweet little flower. Some of the masses, too, that have
rolled down from the precipices among the Brahan woods far below, and
stand up, like the ruins of cottages, amid the trees, are of singular
beauty,--worth all the imitation-ruins ever erected, and obnoxious to
none of the disparaging associations which the mere show and
make-believe of the artificial are sure always to awaken.

Whatever exhibited an aspect in any degree extraordinary was sure to
attract the notice of the old Highlanders,--an acutely observant race,
however slightly developed their reflective powers; and the great
natural objects which excited their attention we always find associated
with some traditionary story. It is said that in the Conglomerate cliffs
above Brahan, a retainer of the Mackenzie, one of the smiths of the
tribe, discovered a rich vein of silver, which he wrought by stealth,
until he had filled one of the apartments of his cottage with bars and
ingots. But the treasure, it is added, was betrayed by his own
unfortunate vanity, to his chief, who hanged him in order to serve
himself his heir; and no one since his death has proved ingenious enough
to convert the rude rock into silver. Years had, I found, wrought their
changes amid the miniature Highlands of the Conglomerate. The sapplings
of the straggling wood on the banks of Loch Ousy,--the pleasant little
lake, or lochan rather, of this upland region,--that I remembered having
seen scarce taller than myself, had shot into vigorous treehood; and the
steep slopes of Knock Farril, which I had left covered with their dark
screen of pine, were now thickly mottled over with half-decayed stumps,
and bore that peculiarly barren aspect which tracts cleared of their
wood so frequently assume in their transition state, when the plants
that flourished in the shade have died out in consequence of the
exposure, and plants that love the open air and the unbroken sunshine
have not yet sprung up in their place. I found the southern acclivities
of the hill covered with scattered masses of vitrified stone, that had
fallen from the fortalice atop; and would recommend to the collector in
quest of a characteristic specimen, that instead of laboring, to the
general detriment of the pile, in detaching one from the walls above, he
should set himself to seek one here. The blocks, uninjured by the
hammer, exhibit, in most cases, the angular character of the original
fragments better than those forcibly detached from the mass, and
preserve in fine keeping those hollower interstices which were but
partially filled with the molten matter, and which, when shattered by a
blow, break through and lose their character.

One may spend an hour very agreeably on the green summit of Knock
Farril. And at almost all seasons of the year a green summit it
is,--greener considerably than any other hill-top in this part of the
country. The more succulent grasses spring up rich and strong within the
walls, here and there roughened by tufts of nettles, tall and rank, and
somewhat perilous of approach,--witnesses, say the botanists, that man
had once a dwelling in the immediate neighborhood. The green luxuriance
which characterizes so many of the more ancient fortalices of Scotland
seems satisfactorily accounted for by Dr. Fleming, in his "Zoölogy of
the Bass." "The summits and sides of those hills which were occupied by
our ancestors as _hill-forts_," says the naturalist, "usually exhibit a
far richer herbage than corresponding heights in the neighborhood with
the mineral soil derived from the same source. It is to be kept in view,
that these positions of strength were at the same time occupied as
_hill-folds_, into which, during the threatened or actual invasion of
the district by a hostile tribe, the cattle were driven, especially
during the night, as to places of safety, and sent out to pasture in the
neighborhood during the day. And the droppings of these collected herds
would, as takes place in analogous cases at present, speedily improve
the soil to such an extent as to induce a permanent fertility." The
further instance adduced by the Doctor, in showing through what
protracted periods causes transitory in themselves may remain palpably
influential in their effects, is curiously suggestive of the old
metaphysical idea, that as every effect has its cause, "recurring from
cause to cause up to the abyss of eternity, so every cause has also its
effects, linked forward in succession to the end of time." On the bleak
moor of Culloden the graves of the slain still exist as patches of green
sward, surrounded by a brown groundwork of stunted heather. The animal
matter,--once the nerves, muscles, and sinews of brave men,--which
originated the change, must have been wholly dissipated ages ago. But
the effect once produced has so decidedly maintained itself, that it
remains not less distinctly stamped upon the heath in the present day
than it could have been in the middle of the last century, only a few
years after the battle had been stricken.

The vitrification of the rampart which on every side incloses the grassy
area has been more variously, but less satisfactorily, accounted for
than the green luxuriance within. It was held by Pennant to be an effect
of volcanic fire, and that the walls of this and all our other vitrified
strongholds are simply the crater-rims of extinct volcanoes,--a
hypothesis wholly as untenable in reference to the hill-forts as to the
lime-kilns of the country: the vitrified forts are as little volcanic as
the vitrified kilns. Williams, the author of the "Mineral Kingdom," and
one of our earlier British geologists, after deciding, on data which his
peculiar pursuits enabled him to collect and weigh, that they are _not_
volcanic, broached the theory, still prevalent, as their name testifies,
that they are artificial structures, in which vitrescency was designedly
induced, in order to cement into solid masses accumulations of loose
materials. Lord Woodhouselee advocated an opposite view. Resting on the
fact that the vitrification is but of partial occurrence, be held that
it had been produced, not of design by the builders of the forts, but in
the process of their demolition by a besieging enemy, who, finding, as
he premised, a large portion of the ramparts composed of wood, had
succeeded in setting them on fire. This hypothesis, however, seems quite
as untenable as that of Pennant. Fires not unfrequently occur in cities,
among crowded groups of houses, where walls of stone are surrounded by a
much greater profusion of dry woodwork than could possibly have entered
into the composition of the ramparts of a hill-fort; but who ever saw,
after a city fire, masses of wall from eight to ten feet in thickness
fused throughout? The sandstone columns of the aisles of the Old
Greyfriars in Edinburgh, surrounded by the woodwork of the galleries,
the flooring, the seating, and the roof, were wasted, during the fire
which destroyed the pile, into mere skeletons of their former selves;
but though originally not more than three feet in diameter, they
exhibited no marks of vitrescency. And it does not seem in the least
probable that the stonework of the Knock Farril rampart could, if
surrounded by wood at all, have been surrounded by an amount equally
great, in proportion to its mass, as that which enveloped the
aisle-columns of the Old Greyfriars.

The late Sir George Mackenzie of Coul adopted yet a fourth view. He
held that the vitrification is simply an effect of the ancient
beacon-fires kindled to warn the country of an invading enemy. But how
account, on this hypothesis, for ramparts continuous, as in the case of
Knock Farril, all round the hill? A powerful fire long kept up might
well fuse a heap of loose stones into a solid mass; the bonfire lighted
on the summit of Arthur Seat in 1842, to welcome the Queen on her first
visit to Scotland, particularly fused numerous detached fragments of
basalt, and imparted, in some spots to the depth of about half an inch,
a vesicular structure to the solid rock beneath. But no fire, however
powerful, could have constructed a rampart running without break for
several hundred feet round an insulated hill-top. "To be satisfied,"
said Sir George, "of the reason why the signal-fires should be kindled
on or beside a heap of stones, we have only to imagine a gale of wind to
have arisen when a fire was kindled on the bare ground. The fuel would
be blown about and dispersed, to the great annoyance of those who
attended. The plan for obviating the inconvenience thus occasioned which
would occur most naturally and readily would be to raise a heap of
stones, on either side of which the fire might be placed to windward;
and to account for the vitrification appearing all round the area, it is
only necessary to allow the inhabitants of the country to have had a
system of signals. A fire at one end might denote something different
from a fire at the other, or in some intermediate part. On some
occasions two or more fires might be necessary, and sometimes a fire
along the whole line. It cannot be doubted," he adds, "that the rampart
was originally formed with as much regularity as the nature of the
materials would allow, both in order to render it more durable, and to
make it serve the purposes of defence." This, I am afraid, is still
very unsatisfactory. A fire lighted along the entire line of a wall
inclosing nearly an acre of area could not be other than a very
attenuated, wire-drawn line of fire indeed, and could never possess
strength enough to melt the ponderous mass of rampart beneath, as if it
had been formed of wax or resin. A thousand loads of wood piled in a
ring round the summit of Knock Farril, and set at once into a blaze,
would wholly fail to affect the broad rampart below; and long ere even a
thousand, or half a thousand, loads could have been cut down, collected,
and fired, an invading enemy would have found time enough to moor his
fleet and land his forces, and possess himself of the lower country.
Again, the unbroken continuity of the vitrified line militates against
the signal-system theory. Fire trod so closely upon the heels of fire,
that the vitrescency induced by the one fire impinged on and mingled
with the vitrescency induced by the others beside it. There is no other
mode of accounting for the continuity of the fusion; and how could
definite meanings possibly be attached to the various parts of a line so
minutely graduated, that the centre of the fire kindled on any one
graduation could be scarce ten feet apart from the centre of the fire
kindled on any of its two neighboring graduations? Even by day, the
exact compartment which a fire occupied could not be distinguished, at
the distance of half a mile, from its neighboring compartments, and not
at all by night, at any distance, from even the compartments farthest
removed from it. Who, for instance, at the distance of a dozen miles or
so, could tell whether the flame that shone out in the darkness, when
all other objects around it were invisible, was kindled on the east or
west end of an eminence little more than a hundred yards in length? Nay,
who could determine,--for such is the requirement of the
hypothesis,--whether it rose from a compartment of the summit a hundred
feet distant from its west or east end, or from a compartment merely
ninety or a hundred and ten feet distant from it? The supposed signal
system, added to the mere beacon hypothesis, is palpably untenable.

The theory of Williams, however, which is, I am inclined to think, the
true one in the main, seems capable of being considerably modified and
improved by the hypothesis of Sir George. The hill-fort,--palpably the
most primitive form of fortalice or stronghold originated in a
mountainous country,--seems to constitute man's first essay towards
neutralizing, by the art of fortification, the advantages of superior
force on the side of an assailing enemy. It was found, on the discovery
of New Zealand, that the savage inhabitants had already learned to erect
exactly such hill-forts amid the fastnesses of that country as those
which were erected two thousand years earlier by the Scottish aborigines
amid the fastnesses of our own. Nothing seems more probable, therefore,
than that the forts of eminences such as Craig Phadrig and Knock Farril,
originally mere inclosures of loose, uncemented stones, may belong to a
period not less ancient than that of the first barbarous wars of
Scotland, when, though tribe battled with tribe in fierce warfare, like
the red men of the West with their brethren ere the European had landed
on their shores, navigation was yet in so immature a state in Northern
Europe as to secure to them an exemption from foreign invasion. In an
after age, however, when the roving Vikings had become formidable, many
of the eminences originally selected, from _their inaccessibility_, as
sites for hill-forts, would come to be chosen, from _their prominence in
the landscape_, as stations for beacon-fires. And of course the
previously erected ramparts, higher always than the inclosed areas,
would furnish on such hills the conspicuous points from which the fires
could be best seen. Let us suppose, then, that the rampart-crested
eminence of Knock Farril, seen on every side for many miles, has become
in the age of northern invasion one of the beacon-posts of the district,
and that large fires, abundantly supplied with fuel by the woods of a
forest-covered country, and blown at times into intense heat by the
strong winds so frequent in that upper stratum of air into which the
summit penetrates, have been kindled some six or eight times on some
prominent point of the rampart, raised, mayhap, many centuries before.
At first the heat has failed to tell on the stubborn quartz and feldspar
which forms the preponderating material of the gneisses, granites,
quartz rocks, and coarse conglomerate sandstones on which it has been
brought to operate; but each fire throws down into the interstices a
considerable amount of the fixed salt of the wood, till at length the
heap has become charged with a strong flux; and then one powerful fire
more, fanned to a white heat by a keen, dry breeze, reduces the whole
into a semi-fluid mass. The same effects have been produced on the
materials of the rampart by the beacon-fires and the alkali, that were
produced, according to Pliny, by the fires and the soda of the
Phoenician merchants storm-bound on the sands of the river Belus. But
the state of civilization in Scotland at the time is not such as to
permit of the discovery being followed up by similar results. The
semi-savage guardians of the beacon wonder at the _accident_, as they
well may; but those happy accidents in which the higher order of
discoveries originate occur in only the ages of cultivated minds; and so
they do not acquire from it the art of manufacturing glass. It could not
fail being perceived, however, by intellects at all human, that the
consolidation which the fires of one week, or month, or year, as the
case happened, had effected on one portion of the wall, might be
produced by the fires of another week, or month, or year, on another
portion of it; that, in short, a loose incoherent rampart, easy of
demolition, might be converted, through the newly-discovered process,
into a rampart as solid and indestructible as the rock on which it
rested. And so, in course of time, simply by shifting the beacon-fires,
and bringing them to bear in succession on every part of the wall, Knock
Farril, with many a similar eminence in the country, comes to exhibit
its completely vitrified fort where there had been but a loosely-piled
hill-fort before. It in no degree militates against this compound
theory,--borrowed in part from Williams and in part from Sir
George,--that there are detached vitrified masses to be found on
eminences evidently never occupied by hill-forts; or that there are
hill-forts on other eminences only partially fused, or hill-forts on
many of the less commanding sites that bear about them no marks of fire
at all. Nothing can be more probable than that in the first class of
cases we have eminences that had been selected as beacon-stations, which
had not previously been occupied by hill-forts; and in the last,
eminences that had been occupied by hill-forts which, from their want of
prominence in the general landscape, had not been selected as
beacon-stations. And in the intermediate class of cases we have probably
ramparts that were only partially vitrified, because some want of fuel
in the neighborhood had starved the customary fires, or because fires
had to be less frequently kindled upon them than on the more important
stations; or, finally, because these hill-forts, from some disadvantage
of situation, were no longer used as places of strength, and so the
beacon-keepers had no motive to attempt consolidating them throughout by
the piecemeal application of the vitrifying agent. But the old Highland
mode of accounting for the present appearance of Knock Farril and its
vitrified remains is perhaps, after all, quite as good in its way as any
of the modes suggested by the philosophers.[20]

I spent some time, agreeably enough, beside the rude rampart of Knock
Farril, in marking the various appearances exhibited by the fused and
semi-fused materials of which it is composed,--the granites, gneisses,
mica-schists, hornblendes, clay-slates, and red sandstones of the
locality. One piece of rock, containing much lime, I found resolved into
a yellow opaque substance, not unlike the coarse earthenware used in the
making of ginger-beer bottles; but though it had been so completely
molten that it had dropped into a hollow beneath in long viscid trails,
it did not contain a single air-vesicle; while another specimen,
apparently a piece of fused mica-schist, was so filled with air-cells,
that the dividing partitions were scarcely the tenth of a line in
thickness. I found bits of schistose gneiss resolved into green glass;
the Old Red Sandstone basis of the Conglomerate, which forms the hill,
into a semi-metallic scoria, like that of an iron-smelter's furnace;
mica into a gray, waxy-looking stone, that scratched glass; and pure
white quartz into porcellanic trails of white, that ran in one instance
along the face of a darker-colored rock below, like streaks of cream
along the sides of a burnt china jug. In one mass of pale large-grained
granite I found that the feldspar, though it had acquired a vitreous
gloss on the surface, still retained its peculiar rhomboidal cleavage;
while the less stubborn quartz around it had become scarce less
vesicular and light than a piece of pumice. On some of the other masses
there was impressed, as if by a seal, the stamp of pieces of charcoal;
and so sharply was the impression retained, that I could detect on the
vitreous surface the mark of the yearly growths, and even of the
medullary rays, of the wood. In breaking open some of the others, I
detected fragments of the charcoal itself, which, hermetically locked up
in the rock, had retained all its original carbon. These last reminded
me of specimens not unfrequent among the trap-rocks of the Carboniferous
and Oölitic systems. From an intrusive overlying wacke in the
neighborhood of Linlithgow I have derived for my collection pieces of
carbonized wood in so complete a state of keeping, that under the
microscope they exhibit unbroken all the characteristic reticulations of
the coniferæ of the Coal Measures.

I descended the hill, and, after joining my friends at
Strathpeffer,--Buchubai Hormazdji among the rest,--visited the Spa, in
the company of my old friend the minister of Alness. The thorough
identity of the powerful effluvium that fills the pump-room with that of
a muddy sea-bottom laid bare in warm weather by the tide, is to the
dweller on the sea-coast very striking. It _is_ identity,--not mere
resemblance. In most cases the organic substances undergo great changes
in the bowels of the earth. The animal matter of the Caithness
ichthyolites exists, for instance, as a hard, black, insoluble bitumen,
which I have used oftener than once as sealing-wax; the vegetable mould
of the Coal Measures has been converted into a fire-clay, so altered in
the organic pabulum, animal and vegetable, whence it derived its
fertility, that, even when laid open for years to the meliorating
effects of the weather and the visits of the winged seeds, it will not
be found bearing a single spike or leaf of green. But here, in smell, at
least, that ancient mud, swum over by the Diplopterus and the
Diplacanthus, and in which the Coccosteus and Pterichthys burrowed, has
undergone no change. The soft ooze has become solid rock, but its
odoriferous qualities have remained unaltered. I next visited an
excavation a few hundred yards on the upper side of the pump-room, in
which the gray fetid breccia of the Strath has been quarried for
dyke-building, and examined the rock with some degree of care, without,
however, detecting in it a single plate or scale. Lying over that
Conglomerate member of the system which, rising high in the Knock Farril
range, forms the southern boundary of the valley, it occupies the place
of the lower ichthyolitic bed, so rich in organisms in various other
parts of the country; but here the bed, after it had been deposited in
thin horizontal laminæ, and had hardened into stone, seems to have been
broken up, by some violent movement, into minute sharp-edged fragments,
that, without wear or attrition, were again consolidated into the
breccia which it now forms. And its ichthyolites, if not previously
absorbed, were probably destroyed in the convulsion. Detached scales and
spines, however, if carefully sought for in the various openings of the
valley, might still be found in the original laminæ of the fragments.
They must have been amazingly abundant in it once; for so largely
saturated is the rock with the organic matter into which they have been
resolved, that, when struck by the hammer, the impalpable dust set loose
sensibly affects the organs of taste, and appeals very strongly to those
of smell. It is through this saturated rock that the mineral springs
take their course. Even the surface-waters of the valley, as they pass
over it contract in a perceptible degree its peculiar taste and odor.
With a little more time to spare, I would fain have made this breccia of
the Old Red the subject of a few simple experiments. I would have ground
it into powder, and tried upon it the effect both of cold and hot
infusion. Portions of the water are sometimes carried in casks and
bottles, for the use of invalids, to a considerable distance; but it is
quite possible that a little of the _rock_, to which the water owes its
qualities, might, when treated in this way, have all the effects of a
considerable quantity of the _spring_. It might be of some interest,
too, to ascertain its qualities when crushed, as a soil, or its effect
on other soils; whether, for instance, like the old sterile soils of the
Carboniferous period, it has lost, through its rock-change, the
fertilizing properties which it once possessed; or whether it still
retains them, like some of the coprolitic beds of the Oölite and
Greensand, and might not, in consequence, be employed as a manure. A
course of such experiments could scarce fail to furnish with agreeable
occupation some of the numerous annual visitants of the Spa, who have to
linger long, with but little to engage them, waiting for what, if it
once fairly leave a man, returns slowly, when it returns at all.

In mentioning at the dinner-table of my friend my scheme of infusing
rock in order to produce Spa water, I referred to the circumstance that
the Belemnite of our Liasic deposits, when ground into powder, imparts
to boiling water a peculiar taste and smell, and that the infusion,
taken in very small quantities, sensibly affects both palate and
stomach. And I suggested that Belemnite water, deemed sovereign of old,
when the Belemnite was regarded as a thunderbolt, in the cure of
bewitched cattle, might be in reality medicinal, and that the ancient
superstition might thus embody, as ancient superstitions not
unfrequently do, a nucleus of fact. The charm, I said, might amount to
no more than simply the administration of a medicine to sick cattle,
that did harm in no case, and good at times. The lively comment of one
of the young ladies on the remark amused us all. If an infusion of stone
had cured, in the last age, cattle that were bewitched, the Strathpeffer
water, she argued, which was, it seems, but an infusion of stone, might
cure cattle that were sick now; and so, though the biped patients of
the Strath could scarce fail to decrease when they knew that its infused
stone contained but the strainings of old mud, and the juices of dead
unsalted fish, it was gratifying to think that the poor Spa might still
continue to retain its patients, though of a lower order. The pump-room
would be converted into a rustic, straw-thatched shed, to which long
trains of sick cattle, affected by weak nerves and dyspepsia, would come
streaming along the roads every morning and evening, to drink and gather

The following morning was wet and lowering, and a flat ceiling of gray
cloud stretched across the valley, from the summit of the Knock Farril
ridge of hills on the one side, to the lower flanks of Ben-Wevis on the
other. I had purposed ascending this latter mountain,--the giant of the
north-eastern coast, and one of the loftiest of our second-class
Scottish hills anywhere,--to ascertain the extreme upper line at which
travelled boulders occur in this part of the country. But it was no
morning for wading knee-deep through the trackless heather; and after
waiting on, in the hope the weather might clear up, watching at a window
the poorer invalids at the Spa, as they dragged themselves through the
rain to the water, I lost patience, and sallied out, beplaided and
umbrellaed, to see from the top of Knock Farril how the country looked
in a fog. At first, however, I saw much fog, but little country; but as
the day wore on, the flat mist-ceiling rose together, till it rested on
but the distant hills, and the more prominent features of the landscape
began to stand out amid the more general gray, like the stronger lines
and masses in a half-finished drawing, boldly dashed off in the neutral
tint of the artist. The portions of the prospect generically distinct
are, notwithstanding its great extent and variety, but few; and the
partial veil of haze, by glazing down its distracting multiplicity of
minor points, served to bring them out all the more distinctly. There
is, first stretching far in a southern and eastern direction along the
landscape, the rectilinear ridge of the Black Isle,--not quite the sort
of line a painter would introduce into a composition, but true to
geologic character. More in the foreground, in the same direction, there
spreads a troubled cockling sea of the Great Conglomerate. Turning to
the north and west, the deep valley of Strathpeffer, with its expanse of
rich level fields, and in the midst its old baronial castle, surrounded
by coeval trees of vast bulk, lies so immediately at the foot of the
eminence, that I could hear in the calm the rush of the little stream,
swollen to thrice its usual bulk by the rains of the night. Beyond rose
the thick-set Ben-Wevis,--a true gneiss mountain, with breadth enough of
shoulders, and amplitude enough of base, to serve a mountain thrice as
tall, but which, like all its cogeners of this ancient formation, was
arrested in its second stage of growth, so that many of the slimmer
granitic and porphyritic hills of the country look down upon it, as
Agamemnon, according to Homer, looked down upon Ulysses.

 "Broad is his breast, his shoulders larger spread,
 Though great Atrides overtops his head."

All around, as if topling, wave-like, over the outer edges of the
comparatively flat area of Palæozoic rock which composes the middle
ground of the landscape, rose a multitude of primary hill-peaks, barely
discernible in the haze; while the long withdrawing Dingwall Frith,
stretching on towards the open sea for full twenty miles, and flanked on
either side by ridges of sandstone, but guarded at the opening by two
squat granitic columns, completed the prospect, by adding to its last
great feature. All was gloomy and chill; and as I turned me down the
descent, the thick wetting drizzle again came on; and the mist-wreaths,
after creeping upwards along the hill-side, began again to creep down.
When I had first visited the valley, more than a quarter of a century
before, it was on a hot breathless day of early summer, in which, though
the trees in fresh leaf seemed drooping in the sunshine, and the
succulent luxuriance of the fields lay aslant, half-prostrated by the
fierce heat, the rich blue of Ben-Wevis, far above, was thickly streaked
with snow, on which it was luxury even to look. It gave one iced
fancies, wherewithal to slake, amid the bright glow of summer, the
thirst in the mind. The recollection came strongly upon me, as the fog
from the hill-top closed dark behind, like that sung by the old blind
Englishman, which

        "O'er the marish glides,
And gathers ground fast at the lab'rer's heel,
Homeward returning."

But the contrast had nothing sad in it; and it was pleasant to feel that
it had not. I had resigned many a baseless hope and many an idle desire
since I had spent a vacant day amid the sunshine, now gazing on the
broad placid features of the snow-streaked mountain; and now sauntering
under the tall ancient woods, or along the heath-covered slopes of the
valley; but in relation to never-tiring, inexhaustible nature, the heart
was no fresher at that time than it was now. I had grown no older in my
feelings or in my capacity of enjoyment; and what then was there to

I rode down the Strath in an omnibus which plies between the Spa and
Dingwall, and then walked on to the village of Evanton, which I reached
about an hour after nightfall, somewhat in the circumstances of the
"damp stranger," who gave Beau Brummel the cold. There were, however, no
Beau Brummels in the quiet village inn in which I passed the night, and
so the effects of the damp were wholly confined to myself. I was soundly
pummelled during the night by a frightful female, who first assumed the
appearance of the miserable pauper woman whom I had seen beside the
Auldgrande, and then became the Lady of Balconie; and, though
sufficiently indignant, and much inclined to resist, I could stir
neither hand nor foot, but lay passively on my back, jambed fast behind
the huge gneiss boulder and the edge of the gulf. And yet, by a strange
duality of perception, I was conscious all the while that, having got
wet on the previous day, I was now suffering from an attack of
nightmare: and held that it would be no very serious matter even should
the lady tumble me into the gulf, seeing that all would be well again
when I awoke in the morning. Dreams of this character, in which
consciousness bears reference at once to the fictitious events of the
vision and the real circumstances of the sleeper, must occupy, I am
inclined to think, very little time,--single moments, mayhap, poised
midway between the sleeping and waking state. Next day (Sunday) I
attended the Free Church in the parish, where I found a numerous and
attentive congregation,--descendants, in large part, of the old devout
Munroes of Ferindonald,--and heard a good solid discourse. And on the
following morning I crossed the sea at what is known as the Fowlis
Ferry, to explore, on my homeward route, the rocks laid bare along the
shore in the upper reaches of the Frith.

I found but little by the way: black patches of bitumen in the sandstone
of one of the beds, with a bed of stratified clay, inclosing nodules, in
which, however, I succeeded in detecting nothing organic; and a few
fragments of clay-slate locked up in the Red Sandstone, sharp and
unworn at their edges, as if derived from no great distance, though
there be now no clay-slate in the eastern half of Ross; but though the
rocks here belong evidently to the ichthyolitic member of the Old Red,
not a single fish, not a "nibble" even, repaid the patient search of
half a day. I, however, passed some time agreeably enough among the
ruins of Craighouse. When I had last seen, many years before, this old
castle,[21] the upper stories were accessible; but they were now no
longer so. Time, and the little herdboys who occasionally shelter in its
vaults, had been busy in the interval; and, by breaking off a few
projecting corners by which the climber had held, and by effacing a few
notches into which he had thrust his toe-points, they had rendered what
had been merely difficult impracticable. I remarked that the huge
kitchen chimney of the building,--a deep hollow recess which stretches
across the entire gable, and in which, it is said, two thrashers once
plied the flail for a whole winter,--bore less of the stain of recent
smoke than it used to exhibit twenty years before; and inferred that
there would be fewer wraith-lights seen from the castle at nights than
in those days of _evil spirits_ and illicit stills, when the cottars in
the neighborhood sent more smuggled whiskey to market than any equal
number of the inhabitants of almost any other district in the north. It
has been long alleged that there existed a close connection between the
more ghostly spirits of the country and its distilled ones. "How do you
account," said a north country minister of the last age (the late Rev.
Mr. M'Bean of Alves) to a sagacious old elder of his Session, "for the
almost total disappearance of the ghosts and fairies that used to be so
common in your young days?" "Tak my word for 't, minister," replied the
shrewd old man, "it's a' owing to the _tea_; when the _tea_ cam in, the
ghaists an' fairies gaed out. Weel do I mind when at a' our neeborly
meetings,--bridals, christenings, lyke-wakes, an' the like,--we
entertained ane anither wi' rich nappy ale; an' whan the verra dowiest
o' us used to get warm i' the face, an' a little confused in the head,
an' weel fit to see amaist onything whan on the muirs on our way hame.
But the tea has put out the nappy; an' I have remarked, that by losing
the nappy we lost baith ghaists an' fairies."

Quitting the ruin, I walked on along the shore, tracing the sandstone as
I went, as it rises from lower to higher beds; and where it ceases to
crop out at the surface, and gravel and the red boulder-clays take the
place of rock, I struck up the hill, and, traversing the parishes of
Resolis and Cromarty, got home early in the evening. I had seen and done
scarcely half what I had intended seeing or doing: alas, that in
reference to every walk which I have yet attempted to tread, this
special statement should be so invariably true to fact!--alas, that all
my full purposes, should be coupled with but half realizations! But I
had at least the satisfaction, that though I had accomplished little, I
had enjoyed much; and it is something, though not all, nor nearly all,
that, since time is passing, it should pass happily. In my next chapter
I shall enter on my tour to Orkney. It dates one year earlier (1846)
than the tour with which I have already occupied so many chapters; but I
have thus inverted the order of _time_, by placing it last, that I may
be able so to preserve the order of _space_ as to render the tract
travelled over in my narrative continuous from Edinburgh to the northern
extremity of Pomona.


     Recovered Health--Journey to the Orkneys--Aboard the Steamer at
     Wick--Mr. Bremner--Masonry of the Harbor of Wick--The greatest
     Blunders result from good Rules misapplied--Mr. Bremner's Theory
     about sea-washed Masonry--Singular Fracture of the Rock near
     Wick--The Author's mode of accounting for it--"Simple but not
     obvious" Thinking--Mr. Bremner's mode of making stone Erections
     under Water--His exploits in raising foundered Vessels--Aspect of
     the Orkneys--- The ungracious Schoolmaster--In the Frith of
     Kirkwall--Cathedral of St. Magnus--Appearance of Kirkwall--Its
     "perished suppers"--Its ancient Palaces--Blunder of the Scotch
     Aristocracy--The patronate Wedge--Breaking Ground in Orkney--Minute
     gregarious Coccosteus--True Position of the Coccosteus' Eyes--Ruins
     of one of Cromwell's Forts--Antiquities of Orkney--The
     Cathedral--Its Sculptures--The Mysterious Cell--Prospect from the
     Tower--Its Chimes--Ruins of Castle Patrick.

A twelvemonth had gone by since a lingering indisposition, which bore
heavily on the springs of life, compelled me to postpone a
long-projected journey to the Orkneys, and led me to visit, instead,
rich level England, with its well-kept roads and smooth railways, along
which the enfeebled invalid can travel far without fatigue. I had now
got greatly stronger; and, if not quite up to my old thirty miles per
day, nor altogether so bold a cragsman as I had been only a few years
before, I was at least vigorous enough to enjoy a middling long walk,
and to breast a tolerably steep hill. And so I resolved on at least
glancing over, if not exploring, the fossiliferous deposits of the
Orkneys, trusting that an eye somewhat practised in the formations
mainly developed in these islands might enable me to make some amends
for seeing comparatively little, by seeing well. I took coach at
Invergordon for Wick early in the morning of Friday; and, after a weary
ride, in a bleak gusty day, that sent the dust of the road whirling
about the ears of the sorely-tossed "outsides," with whom I had taken my
chance, I alighted in Wick, at the inn-door, a little after six o'clock
in the evening. The following morning was wet and dreary; and a tumbling
sea, raised by the wind of the previous day and night, came rolling into
the bay; but the waves bore with them no steamer; and when, some five
hours after the expected time, she also came rolling in, her darkened
and weather-beaten sides and rigging gave evidence that her passage from
the south had been no holiday trip. Impatient, however, of looking out
upon the sea for hours, from under dripping eaves, and through the
dimmed panes of streaming windows, I got aboard with about half-a-dozen
other passengers; and while the Wick goods were in the course of being
transferred to two large boats alongside, we lay tossing in the open
bay. The work of raising box and package was superintended by a tall
elderly gentleman from the shore, peculiarly Scotch in his
appearance,--the steam company's agent for this part of the country.

"That," said an acquaintance, pointing to the agent, "is a very
extraordinary man,--in his own special walk, one of the most
original-minded, and at the same time most thoroughly practical, you
perhaps ever saw. That is Mr. Bremner of Wick, known now all over
Britain for his success in raising foundered vessels, when every one
else gives them up. In the lifting of vast weights, or the overcoming
the _vis inertiæ_ of the hugest bodies, nothing ever baffles Mr.
Bremner. But come, I must introduce you to him. He takes an interest in
your peculiar science, and is familiar with your geological writings."

I was accordingly introduced to Mr. Bremner, and passed, in his company
the half-hour which we spent in the bay, in a way that made me wish the
time doubled. I had been struck by the peculiar style of masonry
employed in the harbor of Wick, and by its rock-like strength. The gray
ponderous stones of the flagstone series of which it is built, instead
of being placed on their flatter beds, like common ashlar in a building,
or horizontal strata in a quarry, are raised on end, like staves in a
pail or barrel, so that at some little distance the work looks as if
formed of upright piles or beams jambed fast together. I had learned
that Mr. Bremner had been the builder, and adverted to the peculiarity
of his style of building. "You have given a vertical tilt to your
strata," I said: "most men would have preferred the horizontal position.
It used to be regarded as one of the standing rules of my old
profession, that the 'broad bed of a stone' is the best, and should be
always laid 'below.'" "A good rule for the land," replied Mr. Bremner,
"but no good rule for the sea. The greatest blunders are almost always
perpetrated through the misapplication of good rules. On a coast like
ours, where boulders of a ton weight are rolled about with every storm
like pebbles, these stones, if placed on what a workman would term their
best beds, would be scattered along the shore like sea-wrack, by the
gales of a single winter. In setting aside the prejudice," continued Mr.
Bremner, "that what is indisputably the best bed for a stone on dry land
is also the best bed in the water on an exposed coast, I reasoned
thus:--The surf that dashes along the beach in times of tempest, and
that forms the enemy with which I have to contend, is not simply water,
with an onward impetus communicated to it by the wind and tide, and a
reäctive impetus in the opposite direction,--the effect of the backward
rebound, and of its own weight, when raised by these propelling forces
above its average level of surface. True, it is all this; but it is also
something more. As its white breadth of foam indicates, it is a subtile
mixture of water and _air_, with a powerful _upward_ action,--a
consequence of the air struggling to effect its escape; and this upward
action must be taken into account in our calculations, as certainly as
the other and more generally recognized actions. In striking against a
piece of building, this subtile mixture dashes through the interstices
into the interior of the masonry, and, filling up all its cavities, has
by its upward action, a tendency to _set the work afloat_. And the
broader the beds of the stones, of course the more extensive are the
surfaces which it has to act upon. One of these flat flags, ten feet by
four, and a foot in thickness, would present to this upheaving force, if
placed on end, a superficies of but _four_ square feet; whereas, if
placed on its broader base, it would present to it a superficies of
_forty_ square feet. Obviously, then, with regard to this aërial
upheaving force, that acts upon the masonry in a direction in which no
precautions are usually adopted to bind it fast,--for the existence of
the force itself is not taken into account,--the greater bed of the
stone must be just ten times over a worse bed than its lesser one; and
on a tempestuous foam-encircled coast such as ours, this aërial
upheaving force is in reality, though the builder may not know it, one
of the most formidable forces with which he had to deal. And so, on
these principles, I ventured to set my stones on end,--on what was
deemed their _worst_, not their _best_ beds,--wedging them all fast
together, like staves in an anker; and there, to the scandal of all the
old rules, are they fast wedged still, firm as a rock." It was no
ordinary man that could have originated such reasonings on such a
subject, or that could have thrown himself so boldly, and to such
practical effect, on the conclusions to which they led.

Mr. Bremner adverted, in the course of our conversation, to a singular
appearance among the rocks a little to the east and south of the town
of Wick, that had not, he said, attracted the notice it deserved. The
solid rock had been fractured by some tremendous blow, dealt to it
externally at a considerable height over the sea-level, and its detached
masses scattered about like the stones of an ill-built harbor broken up
by a storm. The force, whatever its nature, had been enormously great.
Blocks of some thirty or forty tons weight had been torn from out the
solid strata, and piled up in ruinous heaps, as if the compact precipice
had been a piece of loose brickwork, or had been driven into each other,
as if, instead of being composed of perhaps the hardest and toughest
sedimentary rock in the country, they had been formed of sun-dried clay.
"I brought," continued Mr. Bremner, "one of your itinerant geological
lecturers to the spot, to get his opinion; but he could say nothing
about the appearance: it was not in his books." "I suspect," I replied,
"the phenomenon lies quite as much within your own province as within
that of the geological lecturer. It is in all probability an
illustration, on a large scale, of those floating forces with which you
operate on your foundered vessels, joined to the forces, laterally
exerted, by which you drag them towards the shore. When the sea stood
higher, or the land lower, in the eras of the raised beaches, along what
is now Caithness, the abrupt mural precipices by which your coast here
is skirted must have secured a very considerable depth of water up to
the very edge of the land;--your coast-line must have resembled the side
of a mole or wharf: and in that glacial period to which the thick
deposit of boulder-clay immediately over your harbor yonder belongs,
icebergs of very considerable size must not unfrequently have brushed
the brows of your precipices. An iceberg from eighty to a hundred feet
in thickness, and perhaps half a square mile in area, could not, in
this old state of things, have come in contact with these cliffs without
first catching the ground outside; and such an iceberg, propelled by a
fierce storm from the north-east, could not fail to lend the cliff with
which it came in collision a tremendous blow. You will find that your
shattered precipice marks, in all probability, the scene of a collision
of this character: some hard-headed iceberg must have set itself to run
down the land, and got wrecked upon it for its pains." My theory, though
made somewhat in the dark,--for I had no opportunity of seeing the
broken precipice until after my return from Orkney,--seemed to satisfy
Mr. Bremner; nor, on a careful survey of the phenomenon, the solution of
which it attempted, did I find occasion to modify or give it up.

With just knowledge enough of Mr. Bremner's peculiar province to
appreciate his views, I was much impressed by their broad and practical
simplicity; and bethought me, as we conversed, that the character of the
thinking, which, according to Addison, forms the staple of all writings
of genius, and which he defines as "simple but not obvious," is a
character which equally applies to _all_ good thinking, whatever its
special department. Power rarely resides in ingenious complexities: it
seems to eschew in every walk the elaborately attenuated and razor-edged
mode of thinking,--the thinking akin to that of the old metaphysical
poets,--and to select the broad and massive style. Hercules, in all the
representations of him which I have yet seen, is the _broad_ Hercules. I
was greatly struck by some of Mr. Bremner's views on deep-sea founding.
He showed me how, by a series of simple, but certainly not obvious
contrivances, which had a strong air of practicability about them, he
could lay down his erection, course by course, inshore, in a floating
caisson of peculiar construction, beginning a little beyond the low-ebb
line, and warping out his work piecemeal, as it sank, till it had
reached its proper place, in, if necessary, from ten to twelve fathoms
water, where, on a bottom previously prepared for it by the diving-bell,
he had means to make it take the ground exactly at the required line.
The difficulty and vast expense of building altogether by the bell would
be obviated, he said, by the contrivance, and a solidity given to the
work otherwise impossible in the circumstances: the stones could be laid
in his floating caisson with a care as deliberate as on the land. Some
of the anecdotes which he communicated to me on this occasion, connected
with his numerous achievements in weighing up foundered vessels, or in
floating off wrecked or stranded ones, were of singular interest; and I
regretted that they should not be recorded in an autobiographical
memoir. Not a few of them were humorously told, and curiously
illustrative of that general ignorance regarding the "strength of
materials" in which the scientific world has been too strangely suffered
to lie, in this the world's most mechanical age; so that what ought to
be questions of strict calculation are subjected to the guessings of a
mere common sense, far from adequate, in many cases, to their proper
resolution. "I once raised a vessel," said Mr. Bremner,--"a large
collier, chock-full of coal,--which an English projector had actually
engaged to raise with huge bags of India rubber, inflated with air. But
the bags, of course taxed far beyond their strength, collapsed or burst;
and so, when I succeeded in bringing the vessel up, through the
employment of more adequate means, I got not only ship and cargo, but
also a great deal of good India rubber to boot." Only a few months after
I enjoyed the pleasure of this interview with the Brindley of Scotland,
he was called south, to the achievement of his greatest feat in at least
one special department,--a feat generally recognized and appreciated as
the most herculean of its kind ever performed,--the raising and warping
off of the Great Britain steamer from her perilous bed in the sand of an
exposed bay on the coast of Ireland. I was conscious of a feeling of
sadness as, in parting with Mr. Bremner, I reflected, that a man so
singularly gifted should have been suffered to reach a period of life
very considerably advanced, in employments little suited to exert his
extraordinary faculties, and which persons of the ordinary type could
have performed as well. Napoleon,--himself possessed of great
genius,--could have estimated more adequately than our British rulers
the value of such a man. Had Mr. Bremner been born a Frenchman, he would
not now be the mere agent of a steam company, in a third-rate seaport

The rain had ceased, but the evening was gloomy and chill; and the
Orcades, which, on clearing the Caithness coast, came as fully in view
as the haze permitted, were enveloped in an undress of cloud and spray,
that showed off their flat low features to no advantage at all. The
bold, picturesque Hebrides look well in any weather; but the level
Orkney Islands, impressed everywhere, on at least their eastern coasts,
by the comparatively tame character borne by the Old Red flagstones,
when undisturbed by trap or the primary rocks, demand the full-dress
auxiliaries of bright sun and clear sky, to render their charms patent.
Then, however, in their sleek coats of emerald and purple, and
surrounded by their blue sparkling sounds and seas, with here a long
dark wall of rock, that casts its shadow over the breaking waves, and
there a light fringe of sand and broken shells, they are, as I
afterwards ascertained, not without their genuine beauties. But had they
shared in the history of the neighboring Shetland group, that, according
to some of the older historians, were suffered to lie uninhabited for
centuries after their first discovery, I would rather have been
disposed to marvel this evening, not that they had been unappropriated
so long, but that they had been appropriated at all. The late member for
Orkney, not yet unseated by his Shetland opponent, was one of the
passengers in the steamboat; and, with an elderly man, an ambitious
schoolmaster, strongly marked by the peculiarities of the genuine
dominie, who had introduced himself to him as a brother voyager, he was
pacing the quarter-deck, evidently doing his best to exert, under an
unintermittent hot-water _douche_ of queries, the patient courtesy of a
Member of Parliament on a visit to his constituency. At length, however,
the troubler quitted him, and took his stand immediately beside me; and,
too sanguinely concluding that I might take the same kind of liberty
with the schoolmaster that the schoolmaster had taken with the Member, I
addressed to him a simple query in turn. But I had mistaken my man; the
schoolmaster permitted to unknown passengers in humble russet no such
sort of familiarities as those permitted by the Member; and so I met
with a prompt rebuff, that at once set me down. I was evidently a big,
forward lad, who had taken a liberty with the master. It is, I suspect,
scarce possible for a man, unless naturally very superior, to live among
boys for some twenty or thirty years, exerting over them all the while a
despotic authority, without contracting those peculiarities of character
which the master-spirits,--our Scots, Lambs, and Goldsmiths,--have
embalmed with such exquisite truth in our literature, and which have
hitherto militated against the practical realization of those
unexceptionable abstractions in behalf of the status and standing of the
teacher of youth which have been originated by men less in the habit of
looking about them than the poets. It is worth while remarking how
invariably the strong common sense of the Scotch people has run every
scheme under water that, confounding the character of the "village
schoolmaster" with that of the "village clergyman," would demand from
the schoolmaster the clergyman's work.

We crossed the opening of the Pentland Frith, with its white surges and
dark boiling eddies, and saw its twin lighthouses rising tall and
ghostly amid the fog on our lee. We then skirted the shores of South
Ronaldshay, of Burra, of Copinshay, and of Deerness; and, after doubling
Moul Head, and threading the sound which separates Shapinshay from the
Mainland, we entered the Frith of Kirkwall, and caught, amid the
uncertain light of the closing evening, our earliest glimpse of the
ancient Cathedral of St. Magnus. It seems at first sight as if standing
solitary, a huge hermit-like erection, at the bottom of a low bay,--for
its humbler companions do not make themselves visible until we have
entered the harbor by a mile or two more, when we begin to find that it
occupies, not an uninhabited tract of shore, but the middle of a gray
straggling town, nearly a mile in length. We had just light enough to
show us, on landing, that the main thoroughfare of the place, very
narrow and very crooked, had been laid out, ere the country beyond had
got highways, or the proprietors carts and carriages, with an exclusive
eye to the necessities of the foot-passenger,--that many of the older
houses presented, as is common in our northern towns, their gables to
the street, and had narrow slips of closes running down along their
fronts,--and that as we receded from the harbor, a goodly portion of
their number bore about them an air of respectability, long maintained,
but now apparently touched by decay. I saw, in advance of one of the
buildings, several vigorous-looking planes, about forty feet in height,
which, fenced by tall houses in front and rear, and flanked by the
tortuosities of the street, had apparently forgotten that they were in
Orkney, and had grown quite as well as the planes of public
thoroughfares grow elsewhere. After an abortive attempt or two made in
other quarters, I was successful in procuring lodgings for a few days in
the house of a respectable widow lady of the place, where I found
comfort and quiet on very moderate terms. The cast of faded gentility
which attached to so many of the older houses of Kirkwall,--remnants of
a time when the wealthier Udallers of the Orkneys used to repair to
their capital at the close of autumn, to while away in each other's
society their dreary winters,--reminded me of the poet Malcolm's "Sketch
of the Borough,"--a portrait for which Kirkwall is known to have
sat,--and of the great revolution effected in its evening parties, when
"tea and turn-out" yielded its place to "tea and turn-in." But the
churchyard of the place, which I had seen, as I passed along, glimmering
with all its tombstones in the uncertain light, was all that remained to
represent those "great men of the burgh," who, according to the poet,
used to "pop in on its card and dancing assemblies, about the eleventh
hour, resplendent in top-boots and scarlet vests," or of its
"suppression-of-vice sisterhood of moral old maids," who kept all their
neighbors right by the terror of their tongues. I was somewhat in a
mood, after my chill and hungry voyage, to recall with a hankering of
regret the vision of its departed suppers, so luxuriously described in
the "Sketch,"--suppers at which "large rounds of boiled beef smothered
in cabbage, smoked geese, mutton hams, roasts of pork, and dishes of
dog-fish and of Welsh rabbits melted in their own fat, were diluted by
copious draughts of strong home-brewed ale, and etherealized by gigantic
bowls of rum punch." But the past, which is not ours, who, alas, can
recall! And, after discussing a juicy steak and a modest cup of tea, I
found I could regard with the indifferency of a philosopher, the
perished suppers of Kirkwall.

I quitted my lodgings for church next morning about three-quarters of an
hour ere the service commenced; and, finding the doors shut, sauntered
up the hill that rises immediately over the town. The thick gloomy
weather had passed with the night; and a still, bright, clear-eyed
Sabbath looked cheerily down on green isle and blue sea. I was quite
unprepared by any previous description, for the imposing assemblage of
ancient buildings which Kirkwall presents full in the foreground, when
viewed from the road which ascends along this hilly slope to the
uplands. So thickly are they massed together, that, seen from one
special point of view, they seem a portion of some magnificent city in
ruins,--some such city though in a widely different style of
architecture, as Palmyra or Baalbec. The Cathedral of St. Magnus rises
on the right, the castle-palace of Earl Patrick Stuart on the left, the
bishop's palace in the space between; and all three occupy sites so
contiguous, that a distance of some two or three hundred yards abreast
gives the proper angle for taking in the whole group at a glance. I know
no such group elsewhere in Scotland. The church and palace of Linlithgow
are in such close proximity, that, seen together, relieved against the
blue gleam of their lake, they form one magnificent pile; but we have
here a taller, and, notwithstanding its Saxon plainness, a nobler
church, than that of the southern burgh, and at least one palace more.
And the associations connected with the church, and at least one of the
palaces ascend to a remoter and more picturesque antiquity. The
castle-palace of Earl Patrick dates from but the time of James the
Sixth; but in the palace of the bishop, old grim Haco died, after his
defeat at Largs, "of grief," says Buchanan, "for the loss of his army,
and of a valiant youth his relation;" and in the ancient Cathedral, his
body, previous to its removal to Norway, was interred for a winter. The
church and palace belong to the obscure dawn of the national history,
and were Norwegian for centuries before they were Scotch.

As I was coming down the hill at a snail's pace, I was overtaken by a
countryman on his way to church. "Ye'll hae come," he said, addressing
me, "wi' the great man last night?" "I came in the steamer," I replied,
"with your Member, Mr. Dundas." "O, aye," rejoined the man; "but I'm no
sure he'll be our Member next time. The Voluntaries yonder, ye see,"
jerking his head, as he spoke, in the direction of the United Secession
chapel of the place, "are awfu' strong and unco radical; and the Free
Kirk folk will soon be as bad as them. But I belong to the
Establishment; and I side wi' Dundas." The aristocracy of Scotland
committed, I am afraid, a sad blunder when they attempted strengthening
their influence as a class by seizing hold of the Church patronages.
They have fared somewhat like those sailors of Ulysses who, in seeking
to appropriate their master's wealth, let out the winds upon themselves;
and there is now, in consequence, a perilous voyage and an uncertain
landing before them. It was the patronate wedge that struck from off the
Scottish Establishment at least nine-tenths of the Dissenters of the
kingdom,--its Secession bodies, its Relief body, and, finally, its Free
Church denomination,--comprising in their aggregate amount a great and
influential majority of the Scotch people. Our older Dissenters,--a
circumstance inevitable to their position as such,--have been thrown
into the movement party: the Free Church, in her present transition
state, sits loose to all the various political sections of the country;
but her natural tendency is towards the movement party also; and
already, in consequence, do our Scottish aristocracy possess greatly
less political influence in the kingdom of which they own almost all
the soil, than that wielded by their brethren the Irish and English
aristocracy in their respective divisions of the empire. Were the
representation of England and Ireland as liberal as that of Scotland,
and as little influenced by the aristocracy, Conservatism, on the
passing of the Reform Bill, might have taken leave of office for
evermore. And yet neither the English nor Irish are naturally so
Conservative as the Scotch. The patronate wedge, like that appropriated
by Achan, has been disastrous to the people, for it has lost to them the
great benefits of a religious Establishment, and very great these are;
but it threatens, as in the case of the sons of Carmi of old, to work
more serious evil to those by whom it was originally coveted,--"evil to
themselves and all their house." As I approached the Free Church, a
squat, sun-burned, carnal-minded "old wee wifie," who seemed passing
towards the Secession place of worship, after looking wistfully at my
gray maud, and concluding for certain that I could not be other than a
Southland drover, came up to me, and asked, in a cautious whisper, "Will
ye be wantin' a coo?" I replied in the negative; and the wee wifie,
after casting a jealous glance at a group of grave-featured Free Church
folk in our immediate neighborhood, who would scarce have tolerated
Sabbath trading in a Seceder, tucked up her little blue cloak over her
head, and hied away to the chapel.

In the Free Church pulpit I recognized an old friend, to whom I
introduced myself at the close of the service, and by whom I was
introduced, in turn, to several intelligent members of his session, to
whose kindness I owed, on the following day, introductions to some of
the less accessible curiosities of the place. I rose betimes on the
morning of Monday, that I might have leisure enough before me to see
them all, and broke my first ground in Orkney as a geologist in a quarry
a few hundred yards to the south and east of the town. It is strange
enough how frequently the explorer in the Old Red finds himself
restricted in a locality to well nigh a single organism,--an effect,
probably, of some gregarious instinct in the ancient fishes of this
formation, similar to that which characterizes so many of the fishes of
the present time, or of some peculiarity in their constitution, which
made each choose for itself a peculiar habitat. In this quarry, though
abounding in broken remains, I found scarce a single fragment which did
not belong to an exceedingly minute species of Coccosteus, of which my
first specimen had been sent me a few years before by Mr. Robert Dick,
from the neighborhood of Thurso, and which I at that time, judging from
its general proportions, had set down as the young of the _Coccosteus
cuspidatus_. Its apparent gregariousness, too, quite as marked at Thurso
as in this quarry, had assisted, on the strength of an obvious enough
analogy, in leading to the conclusion. There are several species of the
existing fish, well known on our coasts, that, though solitary when
fully grown, are gregarious when young. The coal-fish, which as the
sillock of a few inches in length congregates by thousands, but as the
colum-saw of from two and a half to three feet is a solitary fish, forms
a familiar instance; and I had inferred that the Coccosteus, found
solitary, in most instances, when at its full size, had, like the
coal-fish, congregated in shoals when in a state of immaturity. But a
more careful examination of the specimens leads me to conclude that this
minute gregarious Coccosteus, so abundant in this locality that its
fragments thickly speckle the strata for hundreds of yards together--(in
one instance I found the dorsal plates of four individuals crowded into
a piece of flag barely six inches square)--was in reality a distinct
species. Though not more than one-fourth the size, measured linearly, of
the _Coccosteus decipiens_, its plates exhibit as many of those lines
of increment which gave to the occipital buckler of the creature its
tortoise-like appearance, and through which plates of the buckler
species were at first mistaken for those of a Chelonian, as are
exhibited by plates of the larger kinds, with an area ten times as
great; its tubercles, too, some of them of microscopic size, are as
numerous;--evidences, I think,--when we take into account that in the
bulkier species the lines and tubercles increased in number with the
growth of the plates, and that, once formed, they seem never to have
been affected by the subsequent enlargement of the creature,--that this
ichthyolite was not an _immature_, but really a _miniature_ Coccosteus.
We may see on the plates of the full-grown Coccosteus, as on the shells
of bivalves, such as _Cardium echinatum_, or on those of spiral
univalves, such as _Buccinum undatum_, the diminutive markings which
they bore when the creature was young; and on the plates of this species
we may detect a regular gradation of tubercles from the microscopic to
the minute, as we may see on the plates of the larger kinds a regular
gradation from the minute to the fall-sized. The average length of the
dwarf Coccosteus of Thurso and Kirkwall, taken from the snout to the
pointed termination of the dorsal plate, ranges from one and a-half to
two inches; its entire length from head to tail probably from three to
four. It was from one of Mr. Dick's specimens of this species that I
first determined the true position of the eyes of the Coccosteus,--a
position which some of my lately-found ichthyolites conclusively
demonstrate, and which Agassiz, in his restoration, deceived by
ill-preserved specimens, has fixed at a point considerably more lateral
and posterior, and where eyes would have been of greatly less use to the
animal. About a field's breadth below this quarry of the _Coccosteus
minor_,--if I may take the liberty of extemporizing a name, until such
time as some person better qualified furnishes the creature with a more
characteristic one,--there are the remains, consisting of fosse and
rampart, with a single cannon lying red and honeycombed amid the ruins,
of one of Cromwell's forts, built to protect the town against the
assaults of an enemy from the sea. In the few and stormy years during
which this ablest of British governors ruled over Scotland, he seems to
have exercised a singularly vigilant eye. The claims on his protection
of even the remote Kirkwall did not escape him.

The antiquities of the burgh next engaged me; and, as became its dignity
and importance, I began with the Cathedral, a building imposing enough
to rank among the most impressive of its class anywhere, but whose
peculiar _setting_ in this remote northern country, joined to the
associations of its early history with the Scandinavian Rollos, Sigurds,
Einars, and Hacos of our dingier chronicles, serve greatly to enhance
its interest. It is a noble pile, built of a dark-tinted Old Red
Sandstone,--a stone which, though by much too sombre for adequately
developing the elegancies of the Grecian or Roman architecture, to which
a light delicate tone of color seems indispensable, harmonizes well with
the massier and less florid styles of the Gothic. The round arch of that
ancient Norman school which was at one time so generally recognized as
Saxon, prevails in the edifice, and marks out its older portions. A few
of the arches present on their ringstones those characteristic toothed
and zig-zag ornaments that are of not unfamiliar occurrence on the round
squat doorways of the older parish churches of England; but by much the
greater number exhibit merely a few rude mouldings, that bend over
ponderous columns and massive capitals, unfretted by the tool of the
carver. Though of colossal magnificence, the exterior of the edifice
yields in effect, as in all true Gothic buildings,--for the Gothic is
greatest in what the Grecian is least,--to the sombre sublimity of the
interior. The nave, flanked by the dim deep aisles, and by a double row
of smooth-stemmed gigantic columns, supporting each a double tier of
ponderous arches, and the transepts, with their three tiers of small
Norman windows, and their bold semi-circular arcs, demurely gay with
toothed or angular carvings, that speak of the days of Rolf and
Torfeinar, are singularly fine,--far superior to aught else of the kind
in Scotland; and a happy accident has added greatly to their effect. A
rare Byssus,--the _Byssus aeruginosa_ of Linnæus,--the _Leprasia
aeruginosa_ of modern botanists,--one of those gloomy vegetables of the
damp cave and dark mine whose true habitat is rather under than upon the
earth, has crept over arch, and column, and broad bare wall, and given
to well nigh the entire interior of the building a close-fitted lining
of dark velvety green, which, like the Attic rust of an ancient medal,
forms an appropriate covering to the sculpturings which it enwraps
without concealing, and harmonizes with at once the dim light and the
antique architecture. Where the sun streamed upon it, high over head,
through the narrow windows above, it reminded me of a pall of rich green
velvet. It seems subject, on some of the lower mouldings and damper
recesses, especially amid the tombs and in the aisles, to a decomposing
mildew, which eats into it in fantastic map-like lines of mingled black
and gray, so resembling Runic fret-work, that I had some difficulty in
convincing myself that the tracery which it forms,--singularly
appropriate to the architecture,--was not the effect of design. The
choir and chancel of the edifice, which at the time of my visit were
still employed as the parish church of Kirkwall, and had become a "world
too wide" for the shrunken congregation, are more modern and ornate than
the nave and transepts; and the round arch gives place, in at least
their windows, to the pointed one. But the unique consistency of the
pile is scarce at all disturbed by this mixture of styles. It is truly
wonderful how completely the forgotten architects of the darker ages
contrived to avoid those gross offences against good taste and artistic
feeling into which their successors of a greatly more enlightened time
are continually falling. Instead of idly courting ornament for its own
sake, they must have had as their proposed object the production of some
definite effect, or the development of some special sentiment. It was
perhaps well for them, too, that they were not so overladen as our
modern architects with the _learning_ of their profession. Extensive
knowledge requires great judgment to guide it. If that high genius which
can impart its own homogeneous character to very various materials be
wanting, the more multifarious a man's ideas become, the more is he in
danger of straining after a heterogeneous patch-work excellence, which
is but excellence in its components, and deformity as a whole. Every new
vista opened up to him on what has been produced in his art elsewhere
presents to him merely a new avenue of error. His mind becomes a mere
damaged kaleidoscope, full of little broken pieces of the fair and the
exquisite, but devoid of that nicely reflective machinery which can
alone cast the fragments into shapes of a chaste and harmonious beauty.

Judging from the sculptures of St. Magnus, the stone-cutter seems to
have had but an indifferent command of his trade in Orkney, when there
was a good deal known about it elsewhere. And yet the rudeness of his
work here, much in keeping with the ponderous simplicity of the
architecture, serves but to link on the pile to a more venerable
antiquity, and speaks less of the inartificial than of the remote. I saw
a grotesque hatchment high up among the arches, that, with the uncouth
carvings below, served to throw some light on the introduction into
ecclesiastical edifices of those ludicrous sculptures that seem so
incongruously foreign to the proper use and character of such places.
The painter had set himself, with, I doubt not, fair moral intent, to
exhibit a skeleton wrapped up in a winding-sheet; but, like the unlucky
artist immortalized by Gifford, who proposed painting a lion, but
produced merely a dog, his skill had failed in seconding his intentions,
and, instead of achieving a Death in a shroud, he had achieved but a
monkey grinning in a towel. His contemporaries, however, unlike those of
Gifford's artist, do not seem to have found out the mistake, and so the
betowelled monkey has come to hold a conspicuous place among the
solemnities of the Cathedral. It does not seem difficult to conceive how
unintentional ludicrosities of this nature, introduced into
ecclesiastical erections in ages too little critical to distinguish
between what the workman had purposed doing and what he had done, might
come to be regarded, in a less earnest but more knowing age, as
precedents for the introduction of the intentionally comic and
grotesque. Innocent accidental monkeys in towels may have thus served to
usher into serious neighborhoods monkeys in towels that were such with
malice _prepense_.

I was shown an opening in the masonry, rather more than a man's height
from the floor, that marked where a square narrow cell, formed in the
thickness of the wall, had been laid open a few years before. And in the
cell there was found depending from the middle of the roof a rusty iron
chain, with a bit of barley-bread attached. What could the chain and bit
of bread have meant? Had they dangled in the remote past over some
northern Ugolino? or did they form in their dark narrow cell, without
air-hole or outlet, merely some of the reserve terrors of the
Cathedral, efficient in bending to the authority of the Church the
rebellious monk or refractory nun? Ere quitting the building, I scaled
the great tower,--considerably less tall, it is said, than its
predecessor, which was destroyed by lightning about two hundred years
ago, but quite tall enough to command an extensive, and, though bare,
not unimpressive prospect. Two arms of the sea, that cut so deeply into
the mainland on its opposite sides as to narrow it into a flat neck
little more than a mile and a half in breadth, stretch away in long
vista, the one to the south, and the other to the north; and so
immediately is the Cathedral perched on the isthmus between, as to be
nearly equally conspicuous from both. It forms in each, to the
inward-bound vessel, the terminal object in the landscape. There was not
much to admire in the town immediately beneath, with its roofs of gray
slate,--almost the only parts of it visible from this point of
view,--and its bare treeless suburbs; nor yet in the tract of mingled
hill and moor on either hand, into which the island expands from the
narrow neck, like the two ends of a sand-glass; but the long withdrawing
ocean-avenues between, that seemed approaching from south and north to
kiss the feet of the proud Cathedral,--avenues here and there enlivened
on their ground of deep blue by a sail, and fringed on the lee--for the
wind blew freshly in the clear sunshine--with their border of dazzling
white, were objects worth while climbing the tower to see. Ere my
descent, my guide hammered out of the tower-bells, on my special behalf,
somewhat, I daresay, to the astonishment of the burghers below, a set of
chimes handed down entire, in all the notes, from the times of the
monks, from which also the four fine bells of the Cathedral have
descended as an heirloom to the burgh. The chimes would have delighted
the heart of old Lisle Bowles, the poet of

 "Well-tun'd bell's enchanting harmony."

I could, however, have preferred listening to their music, though it
seemed really very sweet, a few hundred yards further away; and the
quiet clerical poet,--the restorer of the Sonnet in England, would, I
doubt not, have been of the same mind. The oft-recurring tones of those
bells that ring throughout his verse, and to which Byron wickedly
proposed adding a _cap_, form but an ingredient of the poetry in which
he describes them; and they are represented always as distant tones,
that, while they mingle with the softer harmonies of nature, never
overpower them.

 "How sweet the tuneful bells responsive peal!

       *     *     *     *     *

 And, hark! with lessening cadence now they fall,
   And now, along the white and level tide
   They fling their melancholy music wide!
 Bidding me many a tender thought recall
 Of happy hours departed, and those years
   When, from an antique tower, ere life's fair prime,
   The mournful mazes of their mingling chime
 First wak'd my wondering childhood into tears!"

From the Cathedral I passed to the mansion of Old Earl Patrick,--a
stately ruin, in the more ornate castellated style of the sixteenth
century. It stands in the middle of a dense thicket of what are _trying_
to be trees, and have so far succeeded, that they conceal, on one of the
sides, the lower story of the building, and rise over the _spring_ of
the large richly-decorated turrets. These last form so much nearer the
base of the edifice than is common in our old castles, that they exhibit
the appearance rather of hanging towers than of turrets,--of towers with
their foundations cut away. The projecting windows, with their deep
mouldings, square mullions, and cruciform shot-holes, are rich
specimens of their peculiar style; and, with the double-windowed turrets
with which they range, they communicate a sort of _high-relief_ effect
to the entire erection, "the exterior proportions and ornaments of
which," says Sir Walter Scott, in his Journal, "are very handsome."
Though a roofless and broken ruin, with the rank grass waving on its
walls, it is still a piece of very solid masonry, and must have been
rather stiff working as a quarry. Some painstaking burgher had, I found,
made a desperate attempt on one of the huge chimney lintels of the great
hall of the erection,--an apartment which Sir Walter greatly admired,
and in which he lays the scene in the "Pirate" between Cleveland and
Jack Bunce, but the lintel, a curious example of what, in the exercise
of a little Irish liberty, is sometimes termed a _rectilinear arch_,
defied his utmost efforts; and, after half-picking out the keystone, he
had to give it up in despair. The bishop's palace, of which a handsome
old tower still remains tolerably entire, also served for a quarry in
its day; and I was scarce sufficiently distressed to learn, that on
almost the last occasion on which it had been wrought for this purpose,
one of the two men engaged in the employment suffered a stone, which he
had loosed out of the wall, to drop on the head of his companion, who
stood watching for it below, and killed him on the spot.


     The Bishop's Palace at Orkney--Haco the Norwegian--Icelandic
     Chronicle respecting his Expedition to Scotland--His Death--Removal
     of his Remains to Norway--Why Norwegian Invasion
     ceased--Straw-plaiting--The Lassies of Orkney--Orkney Type of
     Countenance--Celtic and Scandinavian--An accomplished
     Antiquary--Old Manuscripts--An old Tune-book--Manuscript Letter of
     Mary Queen of Scots--Letters of General Monck--The fearless
     Covenanter--Cave of the Rebels--Why the tragedy of "Gustavus Vasa"
     was prohibited--Quarry of Pickoquoy--Its Fossil Shells--Journey to
     Stromness--Scenery--Birth-place of Malcolm, the Poet--His
     History--One of his Poems--His Brother a Free Church Minister--New

The "upper story" of the bishop's palace, in which grim old Haco
died,--thanks to the economic burghers who converted the stately ruin
into a quarry,--has wholly disappeared. Though the death of this last of
the Norwegian invaders does not date more than ten years previous to the
birth of the Bruce, it seems to belong, notwithstanding, to a different
and greatly more ancient period of Scottish history; as if it came under
the influence of a sort of aërial perspective, similar to that which
makes a neighboring hill in a fog appear as remote as a distant mountain
when the atmosphere is clearer. Our national wars with the English were
rendered familiar to our country folk of the last age, and for centuries
before by the old Scotch "_Makkaris,_" Barbour and Blind Harry, and in
our own times by the glowing narratives of Sir Walter Scott,--magicians
who, unlike those ancient sorcerers that used to darken the air with
their incantations, possessed the rare power of dissipating the mists
and vapors of the historic atmosphere, and rendering it transparent. But
we had no such chroniclers of the time, though only half an age further
removed into the past,

 "When Norse and Danish galleys plied
 Their oars within the Frith of Clyde,
 And floated Haco's banner trim
 Above Norweyan warriors grim,
 Savage of heart and large of limb."

And hence the thick haze in which it is enveloped. Curiously enough,
however, this period, during which the wild Scot had to contend with the
still wilder wanderers of Scandinavia in fierce combats that he was too
little skilful to record, and which appears so obscure and remote to his
descendants, presents a phase comparatively near, and an outline
proportionally sharp and well-defined to the intelligent peasantry of
Iceland. _Their_ Barbours and Blind Harries came a few ages sooner than
ours, and the fog, in consequence, rose earlier; and so, while Scotch
antiquaries of no mean standing can say almost nothing about the
expedition or death-bed of Haco, even the humbler Icelanders, taught
from their Sagas in the long winter nights, can tell how, harassed by
anxiety and fatigue, the monarch sickened, and recovered, and sickened
again; and how, dying in the bishop's palace, his body was interred for
a winter in the Cathedral, and then borne in spring to the burying-place
of his ancestors in Norway. The only clear vista on the death of Haco
which now exists is that presented by an Icelandic chronicler: to which,
as it seems so little known even in Orkney that the burying-place of the
monarch is still occasionally sought for in the Cathedral, I must
introduce the reader. I quote from an extract containing the account of
Haco's expedition against Scotland, which was translated from the
original Icelandic by the Rev. James Johnstone, chaplain to his
Britannic Majesty's Envoy Extraordinary at the court of Denmark, and
appeared in the "Edinburgh Magazine" for 1787.

"King Haco," says the chronicler, "now in the seven and fortieth year of
his reign, had spent the summer in watchfulness and anxiety. Being often
called to deliberate with his captains, he had enjoyed little rest; and
when he arrived at Kirkwall, he was confined to his bed by his disorder.
Having lain for some nights, the illness abated, and he was on foot for
three days. On the first day he walked about in his apartments; on the
second he attended at the bishop's chapel to hear mass; and on the third
he went to Magnus Church, and walked round the shrine of St. Magnus,
Earl of Orkney. He then ordered a bath to be prepared, and got himself
shaved. Some nights after, he relapsed, and took again to his bed.
During his sickness he ordered the Bible and Latin authors to be read to
him. But finding his spirits were too much fatigued by reflecting on
what he had heard, he desired Norwegian books might be read to him night
and day: first the lives of saints; and, when they were ended, he made
his attendants read the Chronicles of our Kings, from Holden the Black,
and so of all the Norwegian monarchs in succession, one after the other.
The king still found his disorder increasing. He therefore took into
consideration the pay to be given to his troops, and commanded that a
merk of fine silver should be given to each courtier, and half a merk to
each of the masters of the lights, chamberlain, and other attendants on
his person. He ordered all the silver-plate belonging to his table to be
weighed, and to be distributed if his standard silver fell short....
King Haco received extreme unction on the night before the festival of
St. Lucia. Thorgisl, Bishop of Stravanger, Gilbert, Bishop of Hainar,
Henry, Bishop of Orkney, Albert Thorleif and many other learned men,
were present; and, before the unction, all present bade the king
farewell with a kiss.... The festival of the Virgin St. Lucia happened
on a Thursday; and on the Saturday after, the king's disorder increased
to such a degree, that he lost the use of his speech; and at midnight
Almighty God called King Haco out of this mortal life. This was matter
of great grief to all those who attended, and to most of those who heard
of the event. The following barons were present at the death of the
king:--Briniolf Johnson, Erling Alfson, John Drottning, Ronald Urka, and
some domestics who had been near the king's person during his illness.
Immediately on the decease of the king, bishops and learned men were
sent for to sing mass.... On Sunday the royal corpse was carried to the
upper hall, and laid on a bier. The body was clothed in a rich garb,
with a garland on its head, and dressed out as became a crowned monarch.
The masters of the lights stood with tapers in their hands, and the
whole hall was illuminated. All the people came to see the body, which
appeared beautiful and animated; and the king's countenance was as fair
and ruddy as while he was alive. It was some alleviation of the deep
sorrow of the beholders to see the corpse of their departed sovereign so
decorated. High mass was then sung for the deceased. The nobility kept
watch by the body during the night. On Monday the remains of King Haco
were carried to St. Magnus Church, where they lay in state that night.
On Tuesday the royal corpse was put in a coffin, and buried in the choir
of St. Magnus Church, near the steps leading to the shrine of St.
Magnus, Earl of Orkney. The tomb was then closed, and a canopy was
spread over it. It was also determined that watch should be kept over
the king's grave all winter. At Christmas the bishop and Andrew Plytt
furnished entertainments, as the king had directed; and good presents
were given to all the soldiers. King Haco had given orders that his
remains should be carried east to Norway, and buried near his fathers
and relatives. Towards the end of winter, therefore, that great vessel
which he had in the west was launched, and soon got ready. On Ash
Wednesday the corpse of King Haco was taken out of the ground: this
happened the third of the nones of March. The courtiers followed the
corpse to Skalpeid, where the ship lay, and which was chiefly under the
direction of the Bishop Thorgisl and Andrew Plytt. They put to sea on
the first Saturday in Lent; but, meeting with hard weather, they steered
for Silavog. From this place they wrote letters to Prince Magnus,
acquainting him with the news, and then sailed for Bergen. They arrived
at Laxavog before the festival of St. Benedict. On that day Prince
Magnus rowed out to meet the corpse. The ship was brought near to the
king's palace, and the body was carried up to a summer-house. Next
morning the corpse was removed to Christ's Church, and was attended by
Prince Magnus, the two queens, the courtiers, and the town's people. The
body was then interred in the choir of Christ's Church; and Prince
Magnus addressed a long and gracious speech to those who attended the
funeral procession. All the multitude present were much affected, and
expressed great sorrow of mind."

So far the Icelandic chronicle. Each age has as certainly its own mode
of telling its stories as of adjusting its dress or setting its cap; and
the mode of this northern historian is somewhat prolix. I am not sure,
however, whether I would not prefer the simple minuteness with which he
dwells on every little circumstance, to that dissertative style of
history characteristic of a more reflective age, that for series of
facts substitutes bundles of theories. Cowper well describes the
historians of this latter school, and shows how, on selecting some
little-known personage of a remote time as their hero,

 "They disentangle from the puzzled skein
 In which obscurity has wrapped them up,
 The threads of politic and shrewd design
 That ran through all his purposes, and charge
 His mind with meanings that he never had,
 Or, having, kept concealed."

I have seen it elaborately argued by a writer of this class, that those
wasting incursions of the Northmen which must have been such terrible
plagues to the southern and western countries of Europe, ceased in
consequence of their conversion to Christianity; for that, under the
humanizing influence of religion, they staid at home, and cultivated the
arts of peace. But the hypothesis is, I fear, not very tenable.
Christianity, in even a purer form than that in which it first found its
way among the ancient Scandinavians, and when at least as generally
recognized nationally as it ever was by the subjects of Haco, has failed
to put down the trade of aggressive war. It did not prevent honest,
obstinate George the Third from warring with the Americans or the
French: it only led him to enjoin a day of thanksgiving when his troops
had slaughtered a great many of the enemy, and to ordain a fast when the
enemy had slaughtered, in turn, a great many of his troops. And Haco,
who, though he preferred the lives of the saints, and even of his
ancestors, who could not have been very great saints, to the Scriptures,
seems, for a king, to have been a not undevout man in his way, and yet
appears to have had as few compunctions visitings on the score of his
Scottish war as George the Third on that of the French or the American
one. Christianity, too, ere his invasion of Scotland, had been for a
considerable time established in his dominions, and ought, were the
theory a true one, to have operated sooner. The Cathedral of St. Magnus,
when he walked round the shrine of its patron saint, was at least a
century old. The true secret of the cessation of Norwegian invasion
seems to have been the consolidation, under vigorous princes, of the
countries which had lain open to it,--a circumstance which, in the later
attempts of the invaders, led to results similar to those which broke
the heart of tough old Haco, in the bishop's palace at Kirkwall.

From the ruins I passed to the town, and spent a not uninstructive
half-hour in sauntering along the streets in the quiet of the evening,
acquainting myself with the general aspect of the people. I marked, as
one of the peculiar features of the place, groups of tidily-dressed
young women, engaged at the close-heads with their straw plait,--the
prevailing manufacture of the town,--and enjoying at the same time the
fresh air and an easy chat. The special contribution made by the lassies
of Orkney to the dress of their female neighbors all over the empire,
has led to much tasteful dressing among themselves. Orkney, on its gala,
days, is a land of ladies. What seems to be the typical countenance of
these islands unites an aquiline but not prominent nose to an oval face.
In the ordinary Scotch and English countenance, when the nose is
aquiline it is also prominent, and the face is thin and angular, as if
the additional height of the central feature had been given it at the
expense of the cheeks, and of lateral shavings from off the chin. The
hard Duke-of-Wellington face is illustrative of this type. But in the
aquiline type of Orkney the countenance is softer and fuller, and, in at
least the female face, the general contour greatly more handsome. Dr.
Kombst, in his ethnographic map of Britain and Ireland, gives to the
coast of Caithness and the Shetland Islands a purely Scandinavian
people, but to the Orkneys a mixed race, which he designates the
Scandinavian-Gaelic. I would be inclined, however,--preferring rather to
found on those traits of person and character that are still patent,
than on the unauthenticated statements of uncertain history,--to regard
the people as essentially one from the northern extremity of Shetland to
the Ord Hill of Caithness. Beyond the Ord Hill, and on to the northern
shores of the Frith of Cromarty, we find, though unnoted on the map, a
different race,--a race strongly marked by the Celtic lineaments, and
speaking the Gaelic tongue. On the southern side of the Frith, and
extending on to the Bay of Munlochy, the purely Scandinavian race again
occurs. The sailors of the Danish fleet which four years ago accompanied
the Crown Prince in his expedition to the Faroe Islands were astonished
when, on landing at Cromarty, they recognized in the people the familiar
cast of countenance and feature that marked their country folk and
relatives at home; and found that they were simply Scandinavians like
themselves, who, having forgotten their Danish, spoke Scotch instead.
Rather more than a mile to the west of the fishing village of Avoch
there commences a Celtic district, which stretches on from Munlochy to
the river Nairne; beyond which the Scandinavian and Teutonic-Scandinavian
border that fringes the eastern coast of Scotland extends unbroken
southwards through Moray, Banff, and Aberdeen, on to Forfar, Fife, the
Lothians, and the Mearns. These two intercalated patches of Celtic people
in the northern tract,--that extending from the Ord Hill to the Cromarty
Frith, and that extending from the Bay of Munlochy to the Nairne,--still
retaining, as they do, after the lapse of ages, a sharp distinctness of
boundary in respect of language, character, and personal appearance, are
surely great curiosities. The writer of these chapters was born on the
extreme edge of one of these patches, scarce a mile distant from a
Gaelic-speaking population; and yet, though his humble ancestors were
located on the spot for centuries, he can find trace among them of but one
Celtic name; and their language was exclusively the Lowland Scotch. For
many ages the two races, like oil and water, refused to mix.

I spent the evening very agreeably with one of the Free Church elders of
the place, Mr. George Petrie, an accomplished antiquary; and found that
his love of the antique, joined to an official connection with the
county, had cast into his keeping a number of curious old papers of the
sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries,--not in the least
connected, some of them, with the legal and civic records of the place,
but which had somehow stuck around these, in their course of
transmission from one age to another, as a float of brushwood in a river
occasionally brings down along with it, entangled in its folds, uprooted
plants and aquatic weeds, that would otherwise have disappeared in the
cataracts and eddies of the upper reaches of the stream. Dead as they
seemed, spotted with mildew, and fretted by the moth, I found them
curiously charged with what had once been intellect and emotion, hopes
and fears, stern business and light amusement. I saw, among the other
manuscripts, a thin slip of a book, filled with jottings, in the antique
square-headed style of notation, of old Scotch tunes, apparently the
work of some musical county-clerk of Orkney in the seventeenth century;
but the paper, in a miserable state of decay, was blotted crimson and
yellow with the rotting damps, and the ink so faded, that the notation
of scarce any single piece in the collection seemed legible throughout.
Less valuable and more modern, though curious from their eccentricity,
there lay, in company with the music, several pieces of verse, addressed
by some Orcadian Claud Halcro of the last age, to some local patron, in
a vein of compliment rich and stiff as a piece of ancient brocade. A
peremptory letter, bearing the autograph signature of Mary Queen of
Scots, to Torquil McLeod of Dunvegan, who had been on the eve, it would
seem, of marrying a daughter of Donald of the Isles, gave the Skye
chieftain, "to wit" that, as he was of the blood royal of Scotland, he
could form no matrimonial alliance without the royal permission,--a
permission which, in the case in point, was not to be granted. It served
to show that the woman who so ill liked to be thwarted in her own amours
could, in her character as the Queen, deal despotically enough with the
love affairs of other people. Side by side with the letter of Mary there
were several not less peremptory documents of the times of the
Commonwealth, addressed to the Sheriff of Orkney and Shetland, in the
name of his Highness the Lord Protector, and that bore the signature of
George Monck. I found them to consist chiefly of dunning letters,--such
letters as those duns write who have victorious armies at their
back,--for large sums of money, the assessments laid on the Orkneys by
Cromwell. Another series of letters, some ten or twelve years later in
their date, form portions of the history of a worthy covenanting
minister, the Rev. Alexander Smith of Colvine, banished to North
Ronaldshay from the extreme south of Scotland, for the offence of
preaching the gospel, and holding meetings for social worship in his own
house; and, as if to demonstrate his incorrigibility, one of the
series,--a letter under his own hand, addressed from his island prison
to the Sheriff-Depute in Kirkwall,--showed him as determined and
persevering in the offence as ever. It was written immediately after his
arrival. "The poor inhabitants," says the writer, "so many as I have
yet seen, have received me with much joy. _I intend, if the Lord will,
to preach Christ to them next Lord's day_, without the least mixture of
anything that may smell of sedition or rebellion. If I be farther
troubled for yt, I resolve to suffer with meekness and patience." The
Galloway minister must have been an honest man. Deeming preaching his
true vocation,--a vocation from the exercise of which he dared not
cease, lest he should render himself obnoxious to the woe referred to by
the apostle,--he yet could not steal a march on even the Sheriff, whose
professional duty it was to prevent him from doing _his_; and so he
fairly warned him that he proposed breaking the law. The next set of
papers in the collection dated after the Revolution, and were full
charged with an enthusiastic Jacobitisin, which seems to have been a
prevalent sentiment in Orkney from the death of Queen Anne, until the
disastrous defeat at Culloden quenched in blood the hopes of the party.
There is a deep cave still shown on the shores of Westray, within sight
of the forlorn Patmos of the poor Covenanter, in which, when the sun got
on the Whig side of the hedge, twelve gentlemen, who had been engaged in
the rebellion of 1745, concealed themselves for a whole winter. So
perseveringly were they sought after, that during the whole time they
dared not once light a fire, nor attempt fishing from the rocks to
supply themselves with food; and, though they escaped the search, they
never, it is said, completely recovered the horrors of their term of
dreary seclusion, but bore about with them, in broken constitutions, the
effects of the hardships to which they had been subjected. They must
have had full time and opportunity, during that miserable winter, for
testing the justice of the policy that had sent poor Smith into exile,
from his snug southern parish in the Presbytery of Dumfries, to the
remotest island of the Orkneys. The great lesson taught in Providence
during the seventeenth and part of the eighteenth century to our
Scottish country folk seems to have been the lesson of toleration; and
as they were slow, stubborn scholars, the lash was very frequently and
very severely applied. One of the Jacobite papers of Mr. Petrie's
collection,--a triumphal poem on the victory of Gladsmuir,--which, if
less poetical than the Ode of Hamilton of Bangour on the same subject,
is in no degree less curious,--serves to throw very decided light on a
passage in literary history which puzzled Dr. Johnson, and which scarce
any one would think of going to Orkney to settle.

Johnson states, in his Life of the poet Thomson, that the "first
operation" of the act passed in 1739 "for licensing plays" was the
"prohibition of 'Gustavus Vasa,' a tragedy of Mr. Brook." "Why such a
work should be obstructed," he adds, "it is hard to discover." We learn
elsewhere,--from the compiler of the "Modern Universal History," if I
remember aright,--that "so popular did the prohibitory order of the Lord
Chamberlain render the play," that, "on its publication the same year,
not less than a thousand pounds were the clear produce." It was not,
however, until more than sixty years after, when both Johnson and Brook
were in their graves, that it was deemed safe to license it for the
stage. Now, the fact that a drama, in itself as little dangerous as
"Cato" or "Douglas," should have been prohibited by the Government of
the day, in the first instance, and should have brought the author, on
its publication, so large a sum in the second, can be accounted for only
by a reference to the keen partisanship of the period, and the peculiar
circumstances of parties. The Jacobites, taught by the rebellion of 1715
at once the value of the Highlands and the incompetency of the
Chevalier St. George as a leader, had begun to fix their hopes on the
Chevalier's son, Charles Edward, at that time a young but promising lad;
and, with the tragedy of Brook before them, neither they, nor the
English Government of the day could have failed to see the foreigner
George the Second typified--unintentionally, surely, on the part of
Brook, who was a "Prince of Wales" Whig--in the foreigner Christiern
the Second, the Scotch Highlanders in the Mountaineers of Dalecarlia,
and the young Prince in Gustavus. In the Jacobite manuscript of Mr.
Petrie's collection, the parallelism is broadly traced; nor is it in the
least probable, as the poem is a piece of sad mediocrity throughout,
that it is a parallelism which was originated by its writer. It must
have been that of his party; and led, I doubt not, five years before, to
the prohibition of Brook's tragedy, and to the singular success which
attended its publication. The passage in the manuscript suggestive of
this view takes the form of an address to the victorious prince, and
runs as follows:--

 "Meanwhile, unguarded youth, thou stoodst alone;
 The cruel Tyrant urged his Armie on;
 But Truth and Goodness were the Best of Arms;
 And, fearless Prince, Thou smil'd at Threatened harms.
 Thus, Glorious Vasa worked in Swedish mines,--
 Thus, Helpless, Saw his Enemy's Designs,--
 Till, roused, his Hardy Highlanders arose,
 And poured Destruction on their foreign foes."

I rose betimes next morning, and crossed the Peerie [little] Sea, a
shallow prolongation of the Bay of Kirkwall, cut off from the main sea
by an artificial mound, to the quarry of Pickoquoy, somewhat notable,
only a few years ago, as the sole locality in which shells had been
detected in the Old Red Sandstone of Scotland. But these have since been
found in the neighborhood of Thurso, by Mr. Robert Dick, associated
with bones and plates of the Asterolepis, and by Mr. William Watt on the
opposite side of the Mainland of Orkney, at Marwick Head. So far as has
yet been ascertained, they are all of one species, and more nearly
resemble a small Cyclas than any other shell. They are, however, more
deeply sulcated in concentric lines, drawn, as if by a pair of
compasses, from the umbone, and somewhat resembling those of the genus
Astarte, than any species of Cyclas with which I am acquainted. In all
the specimens I have yet seen, it appears to be rather a thick dark
epidermis that survives, than the shell which it covered; nay, it seems
not impossible that to its thick epidermis, originally an essentially
different substance from that which composed the calcareous case, the
shell may have owed its preservation as a fossil; while other shells,
its contemporaries, from the circumstance of their having been
unfurnished with any such covering, may have failed to leave any trace
of their existence behind them. It seems at least difficult to conceive
of a sea inhabited by many genera of fishes, each divided into several
species, and yet furnished with but one species of shell. I found the
quarry of Pickoquoy,--a deep excavation only a few yards beyond the
high-water mark, and some two or three yards under the high-water
level,--deserted by the quarrymen, and filled to the brim by the
overflowing of a small stream. I succeeded, however, in detecting its
shells _in situ_. They seem restricted chiefly to a single stratum,
scarcely half an inch in thickness, and lie, not thinly scattered over
the platform which they occupy, but impinging on each other, like all
the gregarious shells, in thickly-set groups and clusters. There occur
among them occasional scales of Dipteri; and on some of the fragments of
rock long exposed around the quarry-mouth to the weather I found them
assuming a pale nacreous gloss,--an effect, it is not improbable, of
their still retaining, attached to the epidermis, a thin film of the
original shell. The world's history must be vastly more voluminous now,
and greatly more varied in its contents, than when the stratum which
they occupy formed the upper layer of a muddy sea-bottom, and they
opened their valves by myriads, to prey on the organic atoms which
formed their food, or shut them again, startled by the shadow of the
Dipterus, as he descended from the upper depths of the water to prey
upon them in turn. The palate of this ancient ganoid is furnished with a
curious dental apparatus, formed apparenly, like that of the recent
wolf-fish, for the purpose of crushing shells.

About mid-day I set out by the mail-gig for Stromness. For the first few
miles the road winds through a bare solitary valley, overlooked by
ungainly heath-covered hills of no great altitude, though quite tall
enough to prevent the traveller from seeing anything but themselves. As
he passes on, the valley opens in front on an arm of the sea, over which
the range of hills on the right abruptly terminates, while that on the
left deflects into a line nearly parallel to the shore, leaving a
comparatively level strip of moory land, rather more than a mile in
breadth, between the steeper acclivities and the beach. A tall naked
house rises between the road and the sea. Two low islands immediately
behind it, only a few acres in extent,--one of them bearing a small ruin
on its apex,--give a little variety to the central point in the prospect
which the naked house forms; but the arm of the sea, bordered, at the
time I passed, by a broad brown selvage of sea-weed, is as tame and flat
as a Dutch lake; the background beyond, a long monotonous ridge, is bare
and treeless; and in front lies the brown moory plain, bordered by the
dull line of hills and darkened by scattered stacks of peat.

The scene is not at all such a one as a poet would, for its own sake,
delight to fancy; and yet, in the recollection of at least one very
pleasing poet, its hills, and islands, and blue arm of the sea, its
brown moory plain, and tall naked house rising in the midst, must have
been surrounded by a sunlit atmosphere of love and desire, bright enough
to impart to even its tamest features a glow of exquisiteness and
beauty. Malcolm the poet was born, and spent his years of boyhood and
early youth, in the tall naked house; and the surrounding landscape is
that to which he refers in his "Tales of Flood and Field," as rising in
imagination before him, bright in the red gleam of the setting sun,
when, on the steep slopes of the Pyrenees, the "silent stars of night
were twinkling high over his head," and the "tents of the soldiery
glimmering pale through the gloom." The tall house is the manse of the
parish of Frith and Stennis; and the poet was the son of the Rev. John
Malcolm, its minister. Here, when yet a mere lad, dreaming, in the quiet
obscurity of an Orkney parish, far removed from the seat of war and the
literary circles, of poetic celebrity and military renown, he addressed
a letter to the Duke of Kent, the father of our Sovereign Lady the
reigning Monarch, expressing an ardent wish to obtain a commission in
the army then engaged in the Peninsula. The letter was such as to excite
the interest of his Royal Highness, who replied to it by return of post,
requesting the writer to proceed forthwith to London; for which he
immediately set out, and was received by the Duke with courtesy and
kindness. He was instructed by him to take ship for Spain, in which he
arrived as volunteer; and, joining the army, engaged at the time in the
siege of St. Sebastian, under General Graham, he was promoted shortly
after, through the influence of his generous patron, to a lieutenancy in
the 42d Highlanders. He served in that distinguished regiment on to the
closing campaign of the Pyrenees; but received at the battle of Toulouse
a wound so severe as to render him ever after incapable of active bodily
exertion; and so he had to retire from the army on half-pay, and a
pension honorably earned. The history of his career as a soldier he has
told with singular interest, in one of the earlier volumes of
"Constable's Miscellany;" and his poems abound in snatches of
description painfully true, drawn from his experience of the military
life,--of scenes of stern misery and grim desolation, of injuries
received, and of sufferings inflicted,--that must have contrasted sadly
in his mind, in their character as gross realities, with the dreamy
visions of conquest and glory in which he had indulged at an earlier
time. The ruin of St. Sebastian, complete enough, and attended with
circumstances of the horrible extreme enough, to appal men long
acquainted with the trade of war, must have powerfully impressed an
imaginative susceptible lad, fresh from the domesticities of a rural
manse, in whose quiet neighborhood the voice of battle had not been
heard for centuries, and surrounded by a simple people, remarkable for
the respect which they bear to human life. In all probability, the power
evinced in his description of the siege, and of the utter desolation in
which it terminated, is in part owing to the fresh impressibility of his
mind at the time. Such, at least, was my feeling regarding it, as I
caught myself muttering some of its more graphic passages, and saw, from
the degree of alarm evinced by the boy who drove the mail-gig, that the
sounds were not quite lost in the rattle of that somewhat rickety
vehicle, and that he had come to entertain serious doubts respecting the
sanity of his passenger:--

 "Sebastian, when I saw thee last,
   It was in Desolation's day,
 As through thy voiceless streets I passed,
   Thy piles in heaps of rubbish lay;
 The roofless fragments of each wall
 Bore many a dent of shell and ball;
 With blood were all thy gateways red,
 And thou,--a city of the dead!

   With fire and sword thy walks were swept:
 Exploded mines thy streets had heaped
 In hills of rubbish; they had been
 Traversed by gabion and fascine,
 With cannon lowering in the rear
 In dark array,--a deadly tier,--
 Whose thunder-clouds, with fiery breath,
 Sent far around their iron death;
 The bursting shell, in fragments flung
 Athwart the skies, at midnight sung,
 Or, on its airy pathway sent,
 Its meteors sweep the firmament.
 Thy castle, towering o'er the shore,
 Keeled on its rock amidst the roar
 Of thousand thunders, for it stood
 In circle of a fiery flood;
 And crumbling masses fiercely sent
 From its high frowning battlement,
 Smote by the shot and whistling shell,
 With groan and crash in ruin fell.
   Through desert streets the mourner passed,
 Midst-walls that spectral shadows east,
 Like some fair spirit wailing o'er
 The failed scenes it loved of yore;
 No human voice was heard to bless
 That place of waste and loneliness.

   I saw at eve the night-bird fly,
 And vulture dimly flitting by,
 To revel o'er each morsel stolen
 From the cold corse, all black and swoln
 That on the shattered ramparts lay,
 Of him who perished yesterday,--
 Of him whose pestilential steam
 Rose reeking on the morning beam,--
 Whose fearful fragments, nearly gone,
 Were blackening from the bleaching bone.

   The house-dog bounded o'er each scene
 Where cisterns had so lately been:
 Away in frantic haste he sprung,
 And sought to cool his burning tongue.
 He howled, and to his famished cry
 The dreary echoes gave reply;
 And owlet's dirge, through shadows dim,
 Rolled back in sad response to him."

The father was succeeded in his parish by the brother of Malcolm,--a
gentleman to whom, during my stay in Orkney, I took the liberty of
introducing myself in his snug little Free Church manse at the head of
the bay, and in whose possession I found the only portrait of the poet
which exists. It is that of a handsome and interesting looking _young_
man, though taken not many years before his death; for, like the greater
number of his class, he did not live to be an old one, dying under
forty. His brother the clergyman kindly accompanied me to two quarries
in the neighborhood of his new domicil, which I found, like almost all
the dry-stone fences of the district, speckled with scales, occipital
plates, and gill-covers, of Osteolepides and Dipteri, but containing no
entire ichthyolites. He had taken his side in the Church controversy, he
told me, firmly, but quietly; and when the Disruption came, and he found
it necessary to quit the old manse, which had been a home to his family
for well nigh two generations, and in which both he and his brother had
been born, he scarce knew what his people were to do, nor in what
proportion he was to have followers among them. Somewhat to his
surprise, however, they came out with him almost to a man; so that his
successor in the parish church had sometimes, he understood, to preach
to congregations scarcely exceeding half a dozen. I had learned
elsewhere how thoroughly Mr. Malcolm was loved and respected by his
parishioners; and that unconsciousness on his own part of the strength
of their affection and esteem, which his statement evinced, formed, I
thought, a very pleasing trait, and one that harmonized well with the
finely-toned unobtrusiveness and unconscious elegance which
characterized the genius of his deceased brother. A little beyond the
Free Church manse the road ascends between stone walls, abounding in
fragments of ichthyolites, weathered blue by exposure to the sun and
wind; and the top of the eminence forms the water-shed in this part of
the Mainland, and introduces the traveller to a scene entirely new. The
prospect is of considerable extent; and, what seems strange in Orkney,
nowhere presents the traveller,--though it contains its large inland
lake,--with a glimpse of the sea.


     Hills of Orkney--Their Geologic Composition--Scene of Scott's
     "Pirate"--Stromness--Geology of the District--"Seeking
     beasts"--Conglomerate in contact with Granite--A palæozoic Hudson's
     Bay--Thickness of Conglomerate of Orkney--Oldest Vertebrate yet
     discovered in Orkney--Its Size--Figure of a characteristic plate of
     the Asterolepis--Peculiarity of Old Red Fishes--Length of the
     Asterolepis--A rich Ichthyolite Bed--Arrangement of the
     Layers--Queries as to the Cause of it--Minerals--An abandoned
     Mine--A lost Vessel--Kelp for Iodine--A dangerous Coast--Incidents
     of Shipwreck--Hospitality--Stromness Museum--Diplopterus mistaken
     for Dipterus--Their Resemblances and Differences--Visit to a
     remarkable Stack--Paring the Soil for Fuel, and consequent
     Barrenness--Description of the Stack--Wave-formed Caves--Height to
     which the Surf rises.

The Orkneys, like the mainland of Scotland, exhibit their higher hills
and precipices on their western coasts: the Ward Hill of Hoy attains to
an elevation of sixteen hundred feet; and there are some of the
precipices which skirt the island of which it forms so conspicuous a
feature, that rise sheer over the breakers from eight hundred to a
thousand. Unlike, however, the arrangement on the mainland, it is the
newer rocks that attain to the higher elevations; the heights of Hoy are
composed of that arenaceous upper member of the Lower Old Red
Sandstone,--the last formed of the Palæozoic deposits of Orkney,--which
overlies the ichthyolitic flagstones and shales of Caithness at Dunnet
Head, and the ichthyolitic nodular beds of Inverness, Ross, and
Cromarty, at Culloden, Tarbet Ness, within the Northern Sutor, and along
the bleak ridge of the Maolbuie. It is simply a tall upper story of the
formation, erected along the western line of coast in the Orkneys, which
the eastern line wholly wants. Its screen of hills forms a noble
background to the prospect which opens on the traveller as he ascends
the eminence beyond the Free Church manse of Frith and Stennis. A large
lake, bare and treeless, like all the other lakes and lochs of Orkney,
but picturesque of outline, and divided into an upper and lower sheet of
water by two low, long promontories, that jut out from opposite sides,
and so nearly meet as to be connected by a threadlike line of road, half
mound, half bridge, occupies the middle distance. There are moory hills
and a few cottages in front; and on the promontories, conspicuous in the
landscape, from the relief furnished by the blue ground of the
surrounding waters, stand the tall stones of Stennis,--one group on the
northern promontory, the other on the south. A gray old-fashioned house,
of no very imposing appearance, rises between the road and the lake. It
is the house of Stennis, or Turmister, in which Scott places some of the
concluding scenes of the "Pirate," and from which he makes Cleveland and
his fantastic admirer Jack Bunce witness the final engagement, in the
bay of Stromness, between the Halcyon sloop of war and the savage Goffe.
Nor does it matter anything that neither sea nor vessels can be seen
from the house of Turmister: the fact which would be so fatal to a
dishonest historian tells with no effect against the honest "_maker_,"
responsible for but the management of his tale.

I got on to Stromness; and finding, after making myself comfortable in
my inn, that I had a fine bright evening still before me, longer by some
three or four degrees of north latitude than the July evenings of
Edinburgh, I set out, hammer in hand, to explore. Stromness is a long,
narrow, irregular strip of a town, fairly thrust by a steep hill into
the sea, on which it encroaches in a broken line of wharf-like bulwarks,
along which, at high water, vessels of a hundred tons burden float so
immediately beside the houses, that their pennants on gala days wave
over the chimney tops. The steep hill forms part of a granitic axis,
about six miles in length by a mile in breadth, which forms the backbone
of the district, and against which the Great Conglomerate and lower
schists of the Old Red are upturned at a rather high angle. It is
wrapped round in some places by a thin caul of the stratified primary
rocks. Immediately over the town, on the brow of the eminence, where the
granitic axis had been laid bare in digging a foundation for the Free
Church manse, I saw numerous masses of schistose-gneiss, passing in some
of the beds into a coarse-grained mica-schist, and a lustrous
hornblendic slate, that had been quarried from over it, and which may be
still seen built up into the garden-wall of the erection. I walked out
towards the west, to examine the junction of the granite and the Great
Conglomerate, where it is laid bare by the sea, little more than a
quarter of a mile outside the town. There was a horde of noisy urchins a
little beyond the inn, who, having seen me alight from the mail-gig, had
determined in their own minds that I was engaged in the political
canvass going forward at the time, but had not quite ascertained my
side. They now divided into two parties; and when the one, as I passed,
set up a "Hurra for Dundas," the other met them from the opposite side
of the street, with a counter cry of "Anderson forever." Immediately
after clearing the houses, I was accosted by a man from the country.
"Ye'll be seeking beasts," he said: "what price are cattle gi'en the
noo?" "Yes, seeking _beasts_," I replied, "but very old ones: I have
come to hammer your rocks for petrified fish." "I see, I see," said the
man; "I took ye by ye'er gray plaid for a drover; but I ken something
about the stane fish too; there's lots o' them in the quarries at

I found the great Conglomerate in immediate contact with the granite,
which is a ternary of the usual components, somewhat intermediate in
color between that of Peterhead and Aberdeen, and which at this point
bears none of the caul of stratified primary rock by which it is
overlaid on the brow of the hill. When the great Conglomerate, which is
mainly composed of it here, was in the act of forming, this granite must
have been one of the surface rocks of the locality, and in no respect a
different stone from what it is now. The widely-spread Conglomerate base
of the Old Red Sandstone, which presents, over an area of so many
thousand square miles, such an identity of character, that specimens
taken from the neighborhood of Lerwick, in Shetland, can scarce be
distinguished from specimens detached from the hills which rise over the
great Caledonian Valley, contains in various places, as under the
Northern Sutor, for instance, and along the shores of Navity, fragments
of rock which have not been detected _in situ_ in the districts in which
they occur as agglomerated pebbles. In general, however, we find it
composed of the debris of those very granites and gneisses which, as in
the case of the granitic axis here, were forced through it, and through
the overlying deposits, by deep-seated convulsions, long posterior in
date to its formation. It appears to have been formed in a vast oceanic
basin of primary rock,--a Palæozoic Hudson's or Baffin's Bay,--partially
surrounded, mayhap, by bare primary continents, swept by numerous
streams, rapid and headlong, and charged with the broken debris of the
inhospitable regions which they drained. The graptolite-bearing
grauwacke of Banffshire seems to have been the only fossiliferous rock
that occurred throughout the extent of this ancient northern basin. The
Conglomerate of Orkney, like that of Moray and Ross, varies from fifty
to a hundred yards in thickness. It is not overlaid in this section by
the thick bed of coarse-grained sandstone, so well-marked a member of
the formation at Cromarty, Nigg, and Gamrie, and along the northern
shores of the Beauly Frith; but at once passes into those gray
bituminous flagstones so immensely developed in Caithness and the
Orkneys. I traced the formation upwards this evening, walking along the
edges of the upheaved strata, from where the Conglomerate leans against
the granite, till where it merges into the gray flagstones, and then
pursued these from older and lower to newer and higher layers, anxious
to ascertain at what distance over the base the more ancient organisms
of the system first appear, and what their character and kind. And
little more than a hundred _yards_ over the granite, and somewhat less
than a hundred _feet_ over the upper stratum of the great Conglomerate,
I found what I sought,--a well-marked bone, perhaps the oldest
vertebrate remain yet discovered in Orkney, embedded in a light
grayish-colored layer of hard flag.

What, asks the reader, was the character of the ancient denizen of the
Palæozoic basin of which it had formed a part? Was it a large or small
fish, or of a high or low order? Not certainly of a low order, and by no
means of a small size. The organism in the rock was a specimen of that
curious nail-shaped bone of the Asterolepis which occurs as a central
ridge in the single plate that occupies in this genus the wide curve of
the under jaw, and as it was fully five inches in length from head to
point, the plate to which it belonged must have measured ten inches
across, and the frontal occipital buckler with which it was associated,
one foot two inches in length (not including the three accessory plates
at the nape), by ten inches in breadth. And if built, as it probably
was, in the same massy proportions as its brother Coelacanths the
Holoptychius or Glyptolepis, the individual to which the nail-shaped
bone belonged must have been, judging from the size of the corresponding
parts in these ichthyolites, at least twice as large an animal as the
splendid Clashbennie Holoptychius of the Upper Old Red, now in the
British Museum. The bulkiest icthyolites yet found in any of the
divisions of the Old Red system are of the genus Asterolepis; and to
this genus, and to evidently an individual of no inconsiderable size,
this oldest of the organisms of the Orkney belonged. I was so interested
in the fact, that before leaving this part of the country, I brought Dr.
Garson, Stromness, and Mr. William Watt, jun., Skaill, both very
intelligent palæontologists, to mark the place and character of the
fossil, that they might be able to point it out to geological visitors
in the future, or, if they preferred removing it to their town Museum,
to indicate to them the stratum in which it had lain. For the present, I
merely request the reader to mark, in the passing, that the most ancient
organic remain yet found in the Old Red of this part of the country,
nay, judging from its place, one of the most ancient yet found in
Scotland,--so far as I know, absolutely the _most_ ancient,--belonged to
a ganoid as bulky as a large porpoise, and which, as shown by its teeth
and jaws, possessed that peculiar organization which characterized the
reptile fish of the Upper Devonian and Carboniferous periods. As there
are, however, no calculations more doubtful or more to be suspected than
those on which the size and bulk of the extinct animals are determined
from some surviving fragment of their remains,--plate or bone,--I must
attempt laying before the scientific reader at least a portion of the
data on which I found.


This figure represents not inadequately one of the most characteristic
plates of the Asterolepis. A very considerable fragment of what seems to
be the same plate has been figured by Agassiz from a cast of one of the
huge specimens of Professor Asmus ("Old Red," Table 32, Fig. 13); but
as no evidence regarding its true place had turned up at the time it was
supposed by the naturalist to form part of the opercular covering of the
animal. It belonged, however, to a different portion of the head. In
almost all the fish that appear at our tables the space which occurs
within the arched sweep of the lower jaws is mainly occupied by a
complicated osseous mechanism, known to anatomists as the hyoid bone and
branchiostegous rays; and which serves both to support the branchial
arches and the branchiostegous membrane. Now, in the fish of the Old Red
Sandstone, if we except some of the Acanthodians, we find no trace of
this piece of mechanism: the arched space is covered over with dermal
plates of bone, as a window is filled up with panes. Three plates,
resembling very considerably the three divisions of a pointed Gothic
window, furnished with a single central mullion, divided atop into two
branches, occupied the space in the genera Osteolepis and Diplopterus;
and two plates resembling the divisions of a pointed Gothic window,
whose single central mullion does _not_ branch atop, filled it up in the
genera Holoptychius and Glyptolepis. In the genus Asterolepis this
arch-shaped space was occupied, as I have said, by a single plate,--that
represented in the wood-cut; and the nail-shaped bone rose on its
internal surface along the centre,--the nail-head resting immediately
beneath the centre of the arch, and the nail-point bordering on the
isthmus below, at which the two shoulder-bones terminated. Now, in all
the specimens which I have yet examined, the form and proportions of
this plate are such that it can be very nearly inscribed in a
semi-circle, of which the length of the nail is the radius. A nail five
inches in length must have belonged to a plate ten inches in its longer
diameter. I have ascertained further, that this longer diameter was
equal to the shorter diameter of the creature's frontal buckler,
measured across about two thirds of its entire length from the nape; and
that a transverse diameter of ten inches at this point was associated in
the buckler with a longitudinal diameter of fourteen inches from the
nape to the snout. Thus five inches along the nail represent fourteen
inches along the occipital shield. The proportion, however, which the
latter bore to the entire body in this genus has still to be determined.
The corresponding frontal shield in the Coccosteus was equal to about
one-fifth the creature's entire length, and in the Osteolepis and
Diplopterus, to nearly one-seventh its length; while the length of the
_Glyptolepis leptopterus_, a fish of the same family as the Asterolepis,
was about five and a half times that of its occipital shield. If the
Asterolepis was formed in the proportions of the Diplopterus, the
ancient individual to which this nail-like bone belonged must have been
about eight feet two inches in length; but if moulded, as it more
probably was, in the proportions of the Glyptolepis, only six feet five
inches. All the Coelacanths, however, were exceedingly massive in
proportion to their length; they were fish built in the square,
muscular, thick-set, Dirk-Hatterick and Balfour-of-Burley style; and of
the Russian specimens, some of the larger bones must have belonged to
individuals of from twice to thrice the length of the Stromness one.

Passing upwards along the strata, step by step, as along a fallen stair,
each stratum presenting a nearly perpendicular front, but losing, in the
downward slant of the _tread_, as a carpenter would say, the height
attained in the _rise_, I came, about a quarter of a mile farther to the
west, and several hundred feet higher in the formation, upon a fissile
dark-colored bed, largely charged with ichthyolites. The fish I found
ranged in three layers,--the lower layer consisting almost exclusively
of Dipterians, chiefly Osteolepides; the middle layer, of Acanthodians,
of the genera Cheiracanthus and Diplacanthus; and the upper layer, of
Cephalaspides, mostly of one species, the _Coccosteus decipiens_. I
found exactly the same arrangement in a bed considerably higher in the
system, which occurs a full mile farther on,--the Dipterians at the
bottom, the Acanthodians in the middle, and the Cephalaspides atop; and
was informed by Mr. William Watt, a competent authority in the case,
that the arrangement is comparatively a common one in the quarries of
Orkney. How account for the phenomenon? How account for the three
storeys, and the apportionment of the floors, like those of a great
city, each to its own specific class of society? Why should the first
floor be occupied by Osteolepides, the second by Cheiracanthi and their
congeners, and the third by Coccostei? Was the arrangement an effect of
normal differences in the constitutions of the several families,
operated upon by some deleterious gas or mineral poison, which, though
it eventually destroyed the whole, did not so simultaneously, but
consecutively,--the families of weakest constitution first, and the
strongest last? Or were they exterminated by some disease, that seized
upon the families, not at once, but in succession? Or did they visit the
locality serially, as the haddock now visits our coasts in spring, and
the herring towards the close of summer; and were then killed off,
whether by poison or disease, as they came? These are questions which
may never be conclusively answered. It is well, however, to observe, as
a curious geological fact, that peculiar arrangement of the fossils by
which they are suggested, and to record the various instances in which
it occurs. The minerals which I remarked among the schists here as most
abundant are a kind of black ironstone, exceedingly tough and hard,
occurring in detached masses, and a variety of bright pyrites
disseminated among the darker flagstones, either as irregularly-formed,
brassy-looking concretions of small size, or spread out on their
surfaces in thin leaf-like films, that resemble, in some of the
specimens, the icy-foliage with which a severe frost encrusts a
window-pane. Still further on I came upon a vein of galena; but a
miner's excavation in the solid rock, a little above high-water mark,
quite as dark and nearly as narrow as a fox-earth, showed me that it had
been known long before, and, as the workings seemed to have been
deserted for ages, known to but little purpose. The crystals of ore,
small and thinly scattered, are embedded in a matrix of barytes,
stromnite, and other kindred minerals, and the thickness of the entire
vein is not very considerable. I have since learned, from the
"Statistical Account of the Parish of Sandwick," that the workings of
the mine penetrate into the rock for about a hundred yards, but that it
has been long abandoned, "as a speculation which would not pay."

I observed scattered over the beach, in the neighborhood of the lead
mine, considerable quantities of the hard chalk of England; and, judging
there could be no deposits of the hard chalk in this neighborhood, I
addressed myself on my way back, to a kelp-burner engaged in wrapping up
his fire for the night with a thick covering of weed, to ascertain how
it had come there. "Ah, master," he replied, "that chalk is all that
remains of a fine large English vessel, that was knocked to pieces here
a few years ago. She was ballasted with the chalk; and as it is a light
sort of stone, the surf has washed it ashore from that low reef in the
middle of the tideway where she struck and broke up. Most of the
sailors, poor fellows, lie in the old churchyard, beside the broken ruin
yonder. It is a deadly shore this to seafaring-men." I had understood
that the kelp-trade was wholly at an end in Orkney; and, remarking that
the sea-weed which he employed was chiefly of one kind,--the long brown
fronds of tang dried in the sun,--I inquired of him to what purpose the
substance was now employed, seeing that barilla and the carbonate of
soda had supplanted it in the manufacture of soap and glass, and why he
was so particular in selecting his weed. "It's some valuable medicine,"
he said, "that's made of the kelp now: I forget its name; but it's used
for bad sores and cancer; and we must be particular in our weed, for
it's not every kind of weed that has the medicine in't. There's most of
it, we're told, in the leaves of the tang." "Is the name of the drug," I
asked, "iodine?" "Ay, that must be just it," he replied,--"iodine; but
it doesn't make such a demand for kelp as the glass and the soap." I
afterwards learned that the kelp-burner's character of this strip of
coast, as peculiarly fatal to the mariner, was borne out by many a sad
casualty, too largely charged with the wild and the horrible to be
lightly forgotten. The respected Free Church clergyman of Stromness, Mr.
Learmonth, informed me that, ere the Disruption, while yet minister of
the parish, there were on one sad occasion eight dead bodies carried of
a Sabbath morning to his manse door. Some of the incidents connected
with these terrible shipwrecks, as related with much graphic effect by a
boatman who carried me across the sound, on an exploratory ramble to the
island of Hoy, struck me as of a character considerably beyond the reach
of the mere dealer in fiction. The master of one hapless vessel, a young
man, had brought his wife and only child with him on the voyage destined
to terminate so mournfully; and when the vessel first struck, he had
rushed down to the cabin to bring them both on deck, as their only
chance of safety. He had, however, unthinkingly shut the cabin-door
after him; a second tremendous blow, as not unfrequently happens in
such cases, so affected the framework of the sides and deck, that the
door was jammed fast in its frame. And long ere it could be cut
open,--for no human hand could unfasten it,--the vessel had filled to
the beams, and neither the master nor his wife and child were ever seen
more. In another ship, wrecked within a cable-length of the beach, the
mate, a man of Herculean proportions, and a skilful swimmer, stripped
and leaped overboard, not doubting his ability to reach the shore. But
he had failed to remark what in such circumstances is too often
forgotten, that the element on which he flung himself, beaten into foam
against the shallows, was, according to Mr. Bremner's shrewd definition,
not water, but a mixture of water and air, specifically lighter than the
human body; and so at the shore, though so close at hand, he never
arrived, disappearing almost at the vessel's side. "The ground was
rough," said my informant, "and the sea ran mountains high; and I can
scarce tell you how I shuddered on finding, long ere his corpse was
thrown up, his two eyes detached from their sockets, staring from a
wreath of sea-weed." There is in this last circumstance, horrible enough
surely for the wildest German tale ever written, a unique singularity,
which removes it beyond the reach of invention.

At my inn I found a pressing invitation awaiting me from the Free Church
manse, which I was urged to make my home so long as I remained in that
part of the country. A geologist, however, fairly possessed by the
enthusiasm without which weak man can accomplish nothing,--whether he be
a deer-stalker or mammoth-fancier, or angle for live salmon or dead
Pterichthyes,--has a trick of forgetting the right times of dining and
taking tea, and of throwing the burden of his bodily requirements on
early extempore breakfasts and late suppers; and so reporting myself a
man of irregular habits and bad hours, whose movements could not in the
least be depended upon, I had to decline the hospitality which would
fain have adopted me as its guest, notwithstanding the badness of the
character that, in common honesty, I had to certify as my own. Next
morning I breakfasted at the manse, and was introduced by Mr. Learmonth
to two gentlemen of the place, who had been kindly invited to meet with
me, and who, from their acquaintance with the geology of the district
enabled me to make the best use of my time, by cutting direct on those
cliffs and quarries in the neighborhood in which organic remains had
been detected, instead of wearily re-discovering them for myself. There
is a small but interesting museum in Stromness, rich in the fossils of
the locality; and I began the geologic business of the day by devoting
an hour to the examination of its organisms, chiefly ichthyolites. I saw
among them several good specimens of the genus Pterichthys, and of what
is elsewhere one of the rarer genera of the Dipterians,--the
Diplopterus. A well-marked individual of the latter genus had, I found,
been misnamed Dipterus by some geological visitor who had recently come
the way,--a mistake which, as in both ichthyolites the fins are
similarly placed, occasionally occurs, but which may be easily avoided,
when the specimens are in a tolerable state of preservation, by taking
note of a few well-marked characteristics by which the genera are
distinguished. In both Dipterus and Diplopterus the bright enamel of the
scales was thickly punctulated by microscopic points,--the exterior
terminations of funnel-shaped openings, that communicated between the
surface and the cells of the middle table of the scale; but the form of
the scales themselves was different,--that of the Dipterus being nearly
circular, and that of the Diplopterus, save on the dorsal ridge,
rhomboidal. Again, the lateral line of the Diplopterus was a raised
line, running as a ridge along the scales; whereas that of the Dipterus
was a depressed one, existing as a furrow. Their heads, too, were
covered by an entirely dissimilar arrangement of plates. The rounded
snout-plate of the Diplopterus was suddenly contracted to nearly
one-half its breadth by two semi-circular inflections, which formed the
orbits of the eyes; full in the centre, a little above these, a minute,
lozenge-shaped plate seemed as if inlaid in the larger one, the
analogue, apparently, of the anterior frontal; and over all there
expanded a broad plate, the superior frontal, half divided vertically by
a line drawn downwards from the nape, which, however, stopped short in
the middle; and fretted transversely by two small but deeply-indented
rectangular marks, which, crossing from the central to two lateral
plates, assumed the semblance of connecting pins. The snout of the
Dipterus was less round; it bore no mark of the eye-orbits; and the
frontal buckler, broader in proportion to its length than that of the
Diplopterus, consisted of many more plates. I may here mention that the
frontal buckler of Diplopterus has not yet been figured nor described;
whereas that of Dipterus, though unknown as such, has been given to the
world as the occipital covering of a supposed Cephalaspian,--the
Polyphractus. Polyphractus is, however, in reality a synonym for
Dipterus,--the one name being derived from a peculiarity of the animal's
fins: the other, from the great number of its occipital plates. There is
no science founded on mere observation that can be altogether free, in
its earlier stages, from mistakes of this character,--mistakes to which
the palæontologist, however skilful, is peculiarly liable. The teeth of
the two genera were essentially different. Those of the Dipterus,
exclusively palatal, were blunt and squat, and ranged in two
rectangular patches;[22] while those of the Diplopterus bristled along
its jaws and were slender and sharp. Their tails, too, though both
heterocercal, were diverse in their type. In each, an angular strip of
gradually-diminishing scales,--a prolongation of the scaly coat which
protected the body, and which covered here a prolongation of the
vertebral column,--ran on to the extreme termination of the upper lobe;
but there was in the Diplopterus a greatly larger development of fin on
the superior or dorsal side of the scaly strip than on that of the
Dipterus. If the caudal fin of the Osteolepis be divided longitudinally
into six equal parts, it will be found that one of these occurs on the
upper side of the vertebral prolongation, and five on the under; in the
caudal fin of the Diplopterus so divided, rather more than _two_ parts
will be found to occur on the upper side, and rather less than four on
the under; while in the caudal fin of the Dipterus the development seems
to have been restricted to the under side exclusively; at least, in none
of the many individuals which I have examined have I found any trace of
caudal rays on the upper side. These are minute and somewhat trivial
particulars; but the geologist may find them of use; and the
non-geologist may be disposed to extend to them some little degree of
tolerance, when he considers that they distinguished two largely
developed genera of animals, to which the Author of all did not deem it
unworthy his wisdom to impart, in the act of creation, certain marked
points of resemblance, and other certain points of dissimilarity.

From the Museum, accompanied by one of the gentlemen to whom Mr.
Learmonth had introduced me at breakfast, and who obligingly undertook
to act as my guide on the occasion, I set out to visit a remarkable
stack on the sea-coast, about four miles north and west of Stromness. We
scaled together the steep granitic hill immediately over the town, and
then cut on the stack, straight as the bird flies, across a trackless
common, bare and stony, and miserably pared by the _flaughter_ spade.
The landed proprietors in this part of the mainland are very numerous,
and their properties small; and there are vast breadths of undivided
common that encircle their little estates, as the Atlantic encircles the
Orkneys. But the state in which I found the unappropriated parts of the
district had in no degree the effect of making me an opponent of
appropriation or the landholders. Our country, had it been left as a
whole to all its people, as the Communist desiderates, would ere now be
of exceedingly little value to any portion of them. The soil of the
Orkney commons has been so repeatedly pared off and carried away for
fuel, that there are now wide tracts on which there is no more soil to
pare, and which present, for the original covering of peaty mould, a
continuous surface of pale boulder-clay, here and there mottled by
detached tufts of scraggy heath, and here and there roughened by
projections of the underlying rock. All is unredeemable barrenness. On
the other hand, wherever a bit of private property appears, though in
the immediate neighborhood of these ruined wastes, the surface is
swarded over, and the soil is the better, not the worse, for the
services which it has rendered to man in the past. Whatever the Chartist
and the Leveller may think of the matter, it is, I find, virtually on
behalf of the many that the soil has been appropriated by the few. After
passing from off the tract of moor which overlies the granitic axis of
the district, to a tract equally moory which spreads over the gray
flagstones, I marked, more especially in the hollows and ravines, where
minute springs ooze from the rock, vast quantities of bog-iron embedded
in the soil, and presenting greatly the appearance of the scoria of a
smith's forge. The apparent scoria here is simply a reproduction of the
iron of the underlying flagstones, transferred, through the agency of
water, to that stratum of vegetable mould and boulder-clay which
represents the recent period.

I found the stack which I had been brought to see forming the
picturesque centre of a bold tract of rock scenery. It stands out from
the land as a tall insulated tower, about two hundred feet in height,
sorely worn at its base by the breakers that ceaselessly fret against
its sides, but considerably broader atop, where it bears a flat cover of
sward on the same level with the tops of the precipices which in the
lapse of ages have receded from around it. Like the sward-crested
hammock left by a party of laborers, to mark the depth to which they
have cut in removing a bank or digging a pond, it remains to indicate
how the attrition of the surf has told upon the iron-bound coast;
demonstrating that lines of precipices hard as iron, and of giddy
elevation, are in full retreat before the dogged perseverance of an
assailant that, though baffled in each single attack, ever returns to
the charge, and gains by an aggregation of infinitesimals,--the result
of the whole. From the edge of a steep promontory that commands an
inflection of the coast, and of the wall of rock which sweeps round it,
I watched for a few seconds the sea,--greatly heightened at the time by
the setting in of the flood-tide,--as it broke, surge after surge,
against the base of the tall dark precipices; and marked how it
accomplished its work of disintegration. The flagstone deposit here
abounds in vertical cracks and flaws; and in the line of each of the
many fissures which these form the waves have opened up a cave; so that
for hundreds of yards together the precipices seem as if founded on
arch-divided piers, and remind one of those ancient prints or drawings
of Old London Bridge in which a range of tall sombre buildings is
represented as rising high over a line of arches; or of rows of lofty
houses in those cities of southern Europe in which the dwellings
fronting the streets are perforated beneath by lines of squat piazzas,
and present above a dingy and windowless breadth of wall. In course of
time the piers attenuate and give way; the undermined precipices topple
down, parting from the solid mass behind in those vertical lines by
which they are traversed at nearly right angles with their line of
stratification; the perpendicular front which they had covered comes to
be presented, in consequence, to the sea; its faults and cracks
gradually widen into caves, as those of the fallen front had gradually
widened at an earlier period; in the lapse of centuries, it too,
resigning its place, topples over headlong, an undermined mass; the
surge dashes white and furious where the dense rock had rested before;
and thus, in its slow but irresistible march, the sea gains upon the
land. In the peculiar disposition and character of the prevailing strata
of Orkney, as certainly as in the power of the tides which sweep athwart
its coasts, and the wide extent of sea which, stretching around it,
gives the waves scope to gather bulk and momentum, may be found the
secret of the extraordinary height to which the surf sometimes rises
against its walls of rock. During the fiercer tempests, masses of foam
shoot upwards against the precipices, like inverted cataracts, fully two
hundred feet over the ordinary tide-level, and, washing away the looser
soil from their summits, leaves in its place patches of slaty gravel,
resembling that of a common sea-beach. Rocks less perpendicular,
however great the violence of the wind and sea, would fail to project
upwards bodies of surf to a height so extraordinary. But the low angle
at which the strata lie, and the rectangularity maintained in relation
to their line of bed by the fissures which traverse them, give to the
Orkney precipices,--remarkable for their perpendicularity and their
mural aspect,--exactly the angle against which the waves, as broken
masses of foam, beat up to their greatest possible altitude. On a tract
of iron-bound coast that skirts the entrance of the Cromarty Frith I
have seen the surf rise, during violent gales from the north-west
especially, against one rectangular rock, known as the White Rock, fully
an hundred feet; while against scarcely any of the other precipices,
more sloping, though equally exposed, did it rise more than half that


     Detached Fossils--Remains of the Pterichthys--Terminal Bones of the
     Coccosteus, etc., preserved--Internal Skeleton of Coccosteus--The
     shipwrecked Sailor in the Cave--Bishop Grahame--His Character, as
     drawn by Baillie--His Successor--Ruins of the Bishop's
     Country-house--Sub-aërial Formation of Sandstone--Formation near
     New Kaye--Inference from such Formation--Tour resumed--Loch of
     Stennis--Waters of the Loch fresh, brackish, and salt--Vegetation
     varied accordingly--Change produced in the Flounder by fresh
     water--The Standing Stones, second only to Stonehenge--Their
     purpose--Their Appearance and Situation--Diameter of the
     Circle--What the Antiquaries say of it--Reference to it in the
     "Pirate"--Dr. Hibbert's Account.

We returned to Stromness along the edge of the cliffs gradually
descending from higher to lower ranges of prepices, and ever and anon
detecting ichthyolite beds in the weathered and partially decomposed
strata. As the rock moulders into an incoherent clay, the fossils which
it envelops become not unfrequently wholly detached from it, so that, on
a smart blow dealt by the hammer, they leap out entire, resembling, from
the degree of compression which they exhibit, those mimic fishes carved
out of plates of ivory or of mother-of-pearl, which are used as counters
in some of the games of China or the East Indies. The material of which
they are composed, a brittle jet, though better suited than the stone to
resist the disintegrating influences, is in most cases greatly too
fragile for preservation. One may, however, acquire from the fragments a
knowledge of certain minute points in the structure of the ancient
animals to which they belonged, respecting which specimens of a more
robust texture give no evidence. The plates of Coccosteus sometimes
spring out as unbroken as when they covered the living animal, and, if
the necessary skill be not wanting, may be set up in their original
order. And I possess specimens of the head of Dipterus in which the
nearly circular gill-covers may be examined on both surfaces, interior
and exterior, and in which the cranial portion shows not only the
enamelled plates of the frontal buckler, but also the strange mechanism
of the palatal teeth, with the intervening cavities that had lodged both
the brain and the occipital part of the spine. The fossils on the top of
the cliffs here are chiefly Dipterians of the two closely allied genera,
Diplopterus and Osteolepis.

A little farther on, I found, on a hill-side in which extensive
slate-quarries had once been wrought, the remains of Pterichthys
existing as mere patches, from which the color had been discharged, but
in which the almost human-like outline of both body and arms were still
distinctly traceable; and farther on still, where the steep wall of
cliffs sinks into a line of grassy banks, I saw in yet another quarry,
ichthyolites of all the three great ganoid families so characteristic of
the Old Red,--Cephalaspians, Dipterians, and Acanthodians,--ranged in
the three-storied order to which I have already referred as so
inexplicable. The specimens, however, though numerous, are not fine.
They are resolved into a brittle bituminous coal, resembling hard pitch
or black wax, which is always considerably less tenacious than the
matrix in which they are inclosed; and so, when laid open by the hammer,
they usually split through the middle of the plates and scales, instead
of parting from the stone at their surfaces, and resemble, in
consequence, those dark, shadow-like profiles taken in Indian ink by the
limner, which exhibit a correct outline, but no details. We find,
however, in some of the genera, portions of the animal preserved that
are rarely seen in a state of keeping equally perfect in the
ichthyolites of Cromarty, Moray, or Banff,--those terminal bones of the
Coccosteos, for instance, that were prolonged beyond the plates by which
the head and upper parts of the body were covered. Wherever the
ichthyolites are inclosed in nodules, as in the more southerly counties
over which the deposit extends, the nodule terminates, in almost every
case, with the massier portions of the organism; for the thinner parts,
too inconsiderable to have served as attractive nuclei to the stony
matter when the concretion was forming, were left outside its pale, and
so have been lost; whereas, in the northern districts of the deposit,
where the fossils, as in Caithness and Orkney, occur in flagstone, these
slimmer parts, when the general state of keeping is tolerably good, lie
spread out on the planes of the slabs, entire often in their minutest
rays and articulations. The numerous Coccostei of this quarry exhibit,
attached to their upper plates, their long vertebral columns, of many
joints, that, depending from the broad dorsal shields of the
ichthyolite, remind one of those skeleton fishes one sometimes sees on
the shores of a fishing village, in which the bared backbone joints on,
cord-like, to the broad plates of the skull. None of the other fishes of
the Old Red Sandstone possessed an internal skeleton so decidedly
osseous as that of the Coccosteus, and none of them presented externally
so large an extent of naked skin,--provisions which probably went
together. For about three-fifths of the entire length of the animal the
surface was unprotected by dermal plates; and the muscles must have
found the fulcrums on which they acted in the internal skeleton
exclusively. And hence a necessity for greater strength in their
interior framework than in that of fishes as strongly fenced round
externally by scales or plates as the coleoptera by their elytrine, or
the crustacea by their shells. Even in the Coccosteus, however, the
ossification was by no means complete; and the analogies of the skeleton
seem to have allied it rather with the skeletons of the sturgeon family
than with the skeletons of the sharks or rays. The processes of the
vertebræ were greatly more solid in their substance than the vertebræ
themselves,--a condition which in the sharks and rays is always
reversed; and they frequently survive, each with its little sprig of
bone, formed like the letter Y, that attached it to its centrum,
projecting from it, in specimens from which the vertebral column itself
has wholly disappeared. I found frequent traces, during my exploratory
labors in Orkney, of the dorsal and ventral fins of this ichthyolite;
but no trace whatever of the pectorals or of the caudal fin. There seem
to have been no pectorals; and the tail, as I have always had occasion
to remark, was apparently a mere point, unfurnished with rays.

In descending from the cliffs upon the quarries, my companion pointed to
an angular notch in the rock-edge, apparently the upper termination of
one of the numerous vertical cracks by which the precipices are
traversed, and which in so many cases on the Orkney coast have been
hollowed by the waves into long open coves or deep caverns. It was up
there, he said, that about twelve years ago the sole survivor of a
ship's crew contrived to scramble, four days after his vessel had been
dashed to fragments against the rocks below, and when it was judged that
all on board had perished. The vessel was wrecked on a Wednesday. She
had been marked, when in the offing, standing for the bay of Stromness;
but the storm was violent, and the shore a lee one; and as it was seen
from the beach that she could scarce weather the headland yonder, a
number of people gathered along the cliffs, furnished with ropes, to
render to the crew whatever assistance might be possible in the
circumstances. Human help, however, was to avail them nothing. Their
vessel, a fine schooner, when within forty yards of the promontory, was
seized broadside by an enormous wave, and dashed against the cliff, as
one might dash a glass-phial against a stone-wall. One blow completed
the work of destruction; she went rolling in entire from keel to
mast-head, and returned, on the recoil of the broken surge, a mass of
shapeless fragments, that continued to dance idly amid the foam, or were
scattered along the beach. But of the poor men, whom the spectators had
seen but a few seconds before running wildly about the deck, there
remained not a trace; and the saddened spectators returned to their
homes to say that all had perished. Four days after,--on the morning of
the following Sabbath,--the sole survivor of the crew, saved, as if by
miracle, climbed up the precipice, and presented himself to a group of
astonished and terrified country people, who could scarce regard him as
a creature of this world. The fissure, which at the top of the cliff
forms but a mere angular inflection, is hollowed below into a low-roofed
cave of profound depth, into the farther extremity of which the tide
hardly ever penetrates. It is floored by a narrow strip of shingly
beach; and on this bit of beach, far within the cave, the sailor found
himself, half a minute after the vessel had struck and gone to pieces,
washed in, he knew not how. Two pillows and a few dozen red herrings,
which had been swept in along with him, served him for bed and board; a
tin cover enabled him to catch enough of the fresh-water droppings of
the roof to quench his thirst; several large fragments of wreck that had
been jammed fast athwart the opening of the cave broke the violence of
the wind and sea; and in that doleful prison, day after day, he saw the
tides sink and rise, and lay, when the surf rolled high at the fall of
the tide, in utter darkness even at mid-day, as the waves outside rose
to the roof, and inclosed him in a chamber as entirely cut off from the
external atmosphere as that of a diving bell. He was oppressed in the
darkness, every time the waves came rolling in and compressed his
modicum of air, by a sensation of extreme heat,--an effect of the
condensation; and then, in the interval of recession, and consequent
expansion, by a sudden chill. At low ebb he had to work hard in clearing
away the accumulations of stone and gravel which had been rolled in by
the previous tide, and threatened to bury him up altogether. At length
he succeeded, after many a fruitless attempt, in gaining an upper ledge
that overhung his prison-mouth; and, by a path on which a goat would
scarce have found footing, he scrambled to the top. His name was
Johnstone; and the cave is still known as "Johnstone's Cave." Such was
the narrative of my companion.

A little farther on, the undulating bank, into which the cliffs sink,
projects into the sea as a flat green promontory, edged with hills of
indurated sand, and topped by a picturesque ruin, that forms a pleasing
object in the landscape. The ruin is that of a country residence of the
bishops of Orkney during the disturbed and unhappy reign of Scotch
Episcopacy, and bears on a flat tablet of weathered sandstone the
initials of its founder, Bishop George Grahame, and the date of its
erection, 1633. With a green cultivated oasis immediately around it, and
a fine open sound, overlooked by the bold, picturesque cliffs of Hoy, in
front, it must have been, for at least half the year, an agreeable, and,
as its remains testify, a not uncomfortable habitation. But I greatly
fear Scottish clergymen of the Establishment, whether Presbyterian or
Episcopalian, when obnoxious, from their position or their tenets, to
the great bulk of the Scottish people, have not been left, since at
least the Reformation, to enjoy either quiet or happy lives, however
extrinsically favorable the circumstances in which they may have been
placed. Bishop Grahame, only five years after the date of the erection,
was tried before the famous General Assembly of 1638; and, being
convicted of having "all the ordinar faults of a bishop," he was
deposed, and ordered within a limited time "to give tokens of
repentance, under paine of excommunication." "He was a curler on the ice
on the Sabbath day," says Baillie,--"a setter of tacks to his sones and
grandsones, to the prejudice of the Church; he oversaw adulterie;
slighted charming; neglected preaching and doing of anie good; and held
portions of ministers' stipends for building his cathedral." The
concluding portion of his life, after his deposition, was spent in
obscurity; nor did his successor in the bishoprick, subsequent to the
reëstablishment of Episcopacy at the Restoration,--Bishop
Honeyman,--close his days more happily. He was struck in the arm by the
bullet which the zealot Mitchell had intended for Archbishop Sharp; and
the shattered bone never healed; "for, though he lived some years
after," says Burnet, "_they_ were forced to lay open the wound every
year, for an exfoliation;" and his life was eventually shortened by his
sufferings. All seemed comfortable enough, and quite quiet enough, in
the bishop's country-house to-day. There were two cows quietly chewing
the cud in what apparently had been the dignitary's sitting-room, and
patiently awaiting the services of a young woman who was approaching at
some little distance with a pail. A large gray cat, that had been
sunning herself in a sheltered corner of the court-yard, started up at
our approach, and disappeared through a slit hole. The sun, now gone far
down the sky, shone brightly on shattered gable-tops, and roofless,
rough-edged walls, revealing many a flaw and chasm in the yielding
masonry; and their shadows fell with picturesque effect on the loose
litter, rude implements, and gapped dry-stone fence, of the neglected
farm-yard which surrounds the building.

I have said that the flat promontory occupied by the ruin is edged by
hills of indurated sand. Existing in some places as a continuous bed of
a soft gritty sandstone, scooped wave-like a-top, and varying from five
to eight feet in thickness, they form a curious example of a sub-aërial
formation,--the sand of which they are composed having been all blown
from the sea-beach, and consolidated by the action of moisture on a
calcareous mixture of comminuted shells, which forms from twenty to
twenty-five per cent. of their entire mass. I found that the sections of
the bed laid open by the encroachments of the sea, were scarce less
regularly stratified than those of a subaqueous deposit, and that it was
hollowed, where most exposed to the weather, into a number of spherical
cells, which gave to those parts of the surface where they lay thickest,
somewhat the aspect of a rude Runic fret-work,--an appearance not
uncommon in weathered sandstones. With more time to spare, I could fain
have studied the deposit more carefully, in the hope of detecting a few
peculiarities of structure sufficient to distinguish sub-aërially-formed
from subaqueously-deposited beds of stone. Sandstones of sub-aërial
formation are of no very unfrequent occurrence among the recent
deposits. On the coast of Cornwall there are cliffs of considerable
height that extend for several miles, and have attained a degree of
solidity sufficient to serve the commoner purposes of the architect,
which at one time existed as accumulations of blown sand. "It is around
the promontory of New Kaye," says Dr. Paris, in an interesting memoir on
the subject, "that the most extensive formation of sandstone takes
place. Here it may be seen in different stages of induration, from a
state in which it is too friable to be detached from the rock upon which
it reposes, to a hardness so considerable, that it requires a violent
blow from a sledge-hammer to break it. Buildings are here constructed of
it; the church of Cranstock is entirely built with it; and it is also
employed for various articles of domestic and agricultural uses. The
geologist who has previously examined the celebrated specimen from
Guadaloupe will be struck with the great analogy which it bears to this
formation." Now, as vast tracts of the earth's surface,--in some parts
of the world, as in Northern Africa, millions of square miles
together,--are at present overlaid by accumulations of sand, which have
this tendency to consolidate and become lasting sub-aërial formations,
destined to occupy a place among the future strata of the globe, it
seems impossible but that also in the old geologic periods there must
have been, as now, sand-wastes and sub-aërial formations. And as the
representatives of these may still exist in some of our sandstone
quarries, it might be well to be possessed of a knowledge of the
peculiarities by which they are to be distinguished from deposits of
subaqueous origin. In order that I might have an opportunity of studying
these peculiarities where they are to be seen more extensively developed
than elsewhere on the eastern coast of Scotland, I here formed the
intention of spending a day, on my return south, among the sand-wastes
of Moray,--a purpose which I afterwards carried into effect. But of that
more anon.

On the following morning, availing myself of a kind invitation, through
Dr. Garson, from his brother, a Free Church minister resident in an
inland district of the Mainland, in convenient neighborhood with the
northern coasts of the island, and with several quarries, I set out
from Stromness, taking in my way the Loch and Standing Stones of
Stennis, which I had previously seen from but my seat in the mail-gig as
I passed. Mr. Learmonth, who had to visit some of his people in this
direction, accompanied me for several miles along the shores of the
loch, and lightened the journey by his interesting snatches of local
history, suggested by the various objects that lay along our
road,--buildings, tumuli, ancient battle-fields, and standing stones.
The loch itself, an expansive sheet of water fourteen miles in
circumference, I contemplated with much interest, and longed for an
opportunity of studying its natural history. Two promontories,--those
occupied by the Standing Stones, shoot out from the opposite sides, and
approach so near as to be connected by a rustic bridge. They divide the
loch into two nearly equal parts, the lower of which gives access to the
sea, and is salt in its nether reaches and brackish in its upper ones,
while the higher is merely brackish in its nether reaches, and fresh
enough in its upper ones to be potable. The shores of both were strewed,
at the time I passed, by a line of wrack, consisting, for the first few
miles, from where the lower loch opens to the sea, of only marine
plants, then of marine plants mixed with those of fresh-water growth,
and then, in the upper sheet of water, of lacustrine plants exclusively.
And the fauna of the loch, like its flora, is, I was led to understand,
of the same mixed character; the marine and fresh-water animals having
each their own reaches, with certain debatable tracts between, in which
each expatiates with more or less freedom, according to its nature and
constitution,--some of the sea-fishes advancing far on the fresh water,
and others, among the proper denizens of the lake, encroaching far on
the salt. The common fresh-water eel strikes out, I was told, farthest
into the sea-water; in which, indeed, reversing the habits of the
salmon, it is known in various places to deposit its spawn; it seeks,
too, impatient of a low temperature, to escape from the cold of winter,
by taking refuge in water brackish enough in a climate such as ours to
resist the influence of frost. Of the marine fishes; on the other hand,
I found that the flounder got greatly higher than any of the others,
inhabiting reaches of the lake almost entirely fresh. A memoir on the
Loch of Stennis and its productions, animal and vegetable, such as a
Gilbert White of Selborne could produce, would be at once a very
valuable and very curious document. By dividing it into reaches, in
which the average saltness of the water was carefully ascertained, and
its productions noted, with the various modifications which these
underwent as they receded upwards or downwards from their proper habitat
towards the line at which they could no longer exist, much information
might be acquired, of a kind important to the naturalist, and not
without its use to the geological student. I have had an opportunity
elsewhere of observing a curious change which fresh-water induces on the
flounder. In the brackish water of an estuary it becomes, without
diminishing in general size, thicker and more fleshy than when in its
legitimate habitat the sea; but the flesh loses in quality what it gains
in quantity;--it is flabby and insipid, and the margin-fin lacks always
its delicious strip of transparent fat. I fain wish that some
intelligent resident on the shores of Stennis would set himself
carefully to examine its productions, and that then, after registering
his observations for a few years, he would favor the world with its
natural history.

The Standing Stones,--second in Britain of their kind, to only those of
Stonehenge,--occur in two groups; the smaller group (composed, however,
of the taller stones) on the southern promontory; the larger on the
northern one. Rude and shapeless, and bearing no other impress of the
designing faculty than that they are stuck endwise in the earth, and
form, as a whole, regular figures on the sward, there is yet a sublime
solemnity about them, unsurpassed in effect by any ruin I have yet seen,
however grand in its design or imposing in its proportions. Their very
rudeness, associated with their ponderous bulk and weight, adds to their
impressiveness. When there is art and taste enough in a country to hew
an ornate column, no one marvels that there should also be mechanical
skill enough in it to set it up on end; but the men who tore from the
quarry these vast slabs, some of them eighteen feet in height over the
soil, and raised them where they now stand, must have been ignorant
savages, unacquainted with machinery, and unfurnished, apparently, with
a single tool. And what, when contemplating their handiwork, we have to
subtract in idea from their minds, we add, by an involuntary process, to
their bodies: we come to regard the feats which they have accomplished
as performed by a power not mechanical, but gigantic. The consideration,
too, that these remains,--eldest of the works of man in this
country,--should have so long survived all definite tradition of the
purposes which they were raised to serve, so that we now merely know
regarding them that they were religious in their uses,--products of that
ineradicable instinct of man's nature which leads him in so many various
ways to attempt conciliating the Powers of another world,--serves
greatly to heighten their effect. History at the time of their erection
had no existence in these islands: the age, though it sought, through
the medium of strange, unknown rites, to communicate with Heaven, was
not knowing enough to communicate, through the medium of alphabet or
symbol, with posterity. The appearance of the obelisks, too, harmonizes
well with their great antiquity and the obscurity of their origin. For
about a man's height from the ground they are covered thick by the
shorter lichens,--chiefly the gray-stone parmelia,--here and there
embroidered by golden-hued patches of the yellow parmelia of the wall;
but their heads and shoulders, raised beyond the reach alike of the
herd-boy and of his herd, are covered by an extraordinary profusion of a
flowing beard-like lichen of unusual length,--the lichen _calicarus_
(or, according to modern botanists, _Ramalina scopulorum_), in which
they look like an assemblage of ancient Druids, mysteriously stern and
invincibly silent and shaggy as the bard of Gray, when

 "Loose his beard and hoary hair
 Streamed like a meteor on the troubled air."

The day was perhaps too sunny and clear for seeing the Standing Stones
to the best possible advantage. They could not be better placed than on
their flat promontories, surrounded by the broad plane of an extensive
lake, in a waste, lonely, treeless country, that presents no bold,
competing features to divert attention from them as the great central
objects of the landscape; but the gray of the morning, or an atmosphere
of fog and vapor, would have associated better with the mystic obscurity
of their history, their shaggy forms, and their livid tints, than the
glare of a cloudless sun, that brought out in hard, clear relief their
rude outlines, and gave to each its sharp dark patch of shadow.
Gray-colored objects, when tall and imposing, but of irregular form, are
seen always to most advantage in an uncertain light,--in fog or
frost-rime, or under a scowling sky, or, as Parnell well expresses it,
"amid the living gleams of night." They appeal, if I may so express
myself, to the sentiment of the ghostly and the spectral, and demand at
least a partial envelopment of the obscure. Burns, with the true tact of
the genuine poet, develops the sentiment almost instinctively in an
exquisite stanza in one of his less-known songs, "The Posey,"--

 "The hawthorn I will pu', _wi' its locks o' siller gray_,
 Where, _like an aged man, it stands at break o' day_."

Scott, too, in describing these very stones, chooses the early morning
as the time in which to exhibit them, when they "stood in the gray light
of the dawning, like the phantom forms of antediluvian giants, who,
shrouded in the habiliments of the dead, come to revisit, by the pale
light, the earth which they had plagued with their oppression, and
polluted by their sins, till they brought down upon it the vengeance of
long-suffering heaven." On another occasion, he introduces them as
"glimmering, a grayish white, in the rising sun, and projecting far to
the westward their long gigantic shadows." And Malcolm, in the exercise
of a similar faculty with that of Burns and of Scott, surrounds them, in
his description, with a somewhat similar atmosphere of partial dimness
and obscurity:--

 "The hoary rocks, of giant size,
 That o'er the land in circles rise,
 Of which tradition may not tell,
 Fit circles for the wizard's spell,
 Seen far _amidst the scowling storm_,
 Seem each a tall and phantom form,
 _As hurrying vapors o'er them flee,_
 Frowning in grim security,
 While, like a dread voice from the past,
 Around them moans the autumnal blast."

There exist curious analogies between the earlier stages of society and
the more immature periods of life,--between the savage and the child;
and the huge circle of Stennis seems suggestive of one of these. It is
considerably more than four hundred feet in diameter, and the stones
which compose it, varying from three to fourteen feet in height, must
have been originally from thirty-five to forty in number, though only
sixteen now remain erect. A mound and fosse, still distinctly
traceable, run round the whole; and there are several mysterious-looking
tumuli outside, bulky enough to remind one of the lesser morains of the
geologist. But the circle, notwithstanding its imposing magnitude, is
but a huge child's house, after all,--one of those circles of stones
which children lay down on their village green, and then, in the
exercise of that imaginative faculty which distinguishes between the
young of the human animal and those of every other creature, convert, by
a sort of conventionalism, into a church or dwelling-house, within which
they seat themselves, and enact their imitations of their seniors,
whether domestic or ecclesiastical. The circle of Stennis was a circle,
say the antiquaries, devoted to the sun. The group of stones on the
southern promontory of the lake formed but a half-circle, and it was a
half-circle dedicated to the moon. To the circular sun the great rude
children of an immature age of the world had laid down a circle of
stones on the one promontory; to the moon, in her half-orbed state, they
had laid down a half-circle on the other; and in propitiating these
material deities, to whose standing in the old Scandinavian worship the
names of our _Sun_day and _Mon_day still testify, they employed in their
respective inclosures, in the exercise of a wild unregulated fancy,
uncouth irrational rites, the extremeness of whose folly was in some
measure concealed by the horrid exquisiteness of their cruelty. We are
still in the nonage of the species, and see human society sowing its
wild oats in a thousand various ways, very absurdly often, and often
very wickedly; but matters seem to have been greatly worse when, in an
age still more immature, the grimly-bearded, six-feet children of Orkney
were laying down their stone-circles on the green. Sir Walter, in the
parting scene between Cleveland and Minna Troil, which he describes as
having taken place amid the lesser group of stones, refers to an immense
slab "lying flat and prostrate in the middle of the others, supported
by short pillars, of which some relics are still visible," and which is
regarded as the sacrificial stone of the erection. "It is a current
belief," says Dr. Hibbert, in an elaborate paper in the "Transactions of
the Scottish Antiquaries," that upon this stone a victim of royal birth
was immolated. Halfdan the Long-legged, the son of Harold the
Fair-haired, in punishment for the aggressions of Orkney, had made an
unexpected descent upon its coasts, and acquired possession of the
Jarldom. In the autumn succeeding Halfdan was retorted upon, and, after
an inglorious contest, betook himself to a place of concealment, from
which he was the following morning unlodged, and instantly doomed to the
Asæ. Einar, the Jarl of Orkney, with his sword carved the captive's back
into the form of an eagle, the spine being longitudinally divided, and
the ribs being separated by a transverse cut as far as the loins. He
then extracted the lungs, and dedicated them to Odin for a perpetuity of
victory, singing a wild song,--'I am revenged for the slaughter of
Rognvalld: this have the Nornæ decreed. In my fiording the pillar of the
people has fallen. Build up the cairn, ye active youths, for victory is
with us. From the stones of the sea-shore will I pay the Long-legged a
hard seat.' There is certainly no trace to be detected, in this dark
story, of a golden age of the world: the golden age is, I would fain
hope, an age yet to come. There at least exists no evidence that it is
an age gone by. It will be the full-grown _manly_ age of the world when
the race, as such, shall have attained to their years of discretion.
They are at present in their froward boyhood, playing at the mischievous
games of war, and diplomacy, and stock-gambling, and site-refusing, and
it is not quite agreeable for quiet honest people to be living amongst
them. But there would be nothing gained by going back to that more
infantine state of society in which the Jarl Einar carved into a red
eagle the back of Halfdan the Long-legged.


     On Horseback--A pared Moor--Small Landholders--Absorption of small
     holdings in England and Scotland--Division of Land favorable to
     Civil and Religious Rights--Favorable to social Elevation--An
     inland Parish--The Landsman and Lobster--Wild Flowers of
     Orkney--Law of Compensation illustrated by the Tobacco
     Plant--Poverty tends to Productiveness--Illustrated in
     Ireland--Profusion of Ichthyolites--Orkney a land of Defunct
     Fishes--Sandwick--A Collection of Coccostean Flags--A Quarry full
     of Heads of Dipteri--The Bergil, or Striped Wrasse--Its Resemblance
     to the Dipterus--Poverty of the Flora of the Lower Old Red--No true
     Coniferous Wood in the Orkney Flagstones--Departure for Hoy--The
     intelligent Boatman--Story of the Orkney Fisherman.

While yet lingering amid the Standing Stones, I was joined by Mr.
Garson, who had obligingly ridden a good many miles to meet me, and now
insisted that I should mount and ride in turn, while he walked by my
side, that I might be fresh, he said, for the exploratory ramble of the
evening. I could have ventured more readily on taking the command of a
vessel than of a horse, and with fewer fears of mutiny; but mount I did;
and the horse, a discreet animal, finding he was to have matters very
much his own way, got upon honor with me, and exerted himself to such
purpose that we did not fall greatly more than a hundred yards behind
Mr. Garson. We traversed in our journey a long dreary moor, so entirely
ruined, like those which I had seen on the previous day, by belonging to
everybody in general, as to be no longer of the slightest use to anybody
in particular. The soil seems to have been naturally poor; but it must
have taken a good deal of spoiling to render it the sterile, verdureless
waste it is now; for even where it had been poorest, I found that in the
island-like appropriated patches by which it is studded, it at least
bears, what it has long ceased to bear elsewhere, a continuous covering
of green sward. But if disposed to quarrel with the commons of Orkney, I
found in close neighborhood with them that with which I could have no
quarrel,--numerous small properties farmed by the proprietors, and
forming, in most instances, farms by no means very large. There are
parishes in this part of the mainland divided among from sixty to eighty

A nearly similar state of things seems to have obtained in Scotland
about the beginning of the eighteenth century, and for the greater part
of the previous one. I am acquainted with old churchyards in the north
of Scotland that contain the burying-grounds of from six to ten landed
proprietors, whose lands are now merged into single properties. And, in
reading the biographies of our old covenanting ministers, I have often
remarked as curious, and as bearing in the same line, that no
inconsiderable proportion of their number were able to retire, in times
of persecution, to their own little estates. It was during the
disastrous wars of the French Revolution,--wars from the effects of
which Great Britain will, I fear, never fully recover,--that the smaller
holdings were finally absorbed. About twenty years ere the war began,
the lands of England were parcelled out among no fewer than two hundred
and fifty thousand families; before the peace of 1815, they had fallen
into the hands of thirty-two thousand. In less than half a century, that
base of actual proprietorship on which the landed interest of any
country must ever find its surest standing, had contracted in England to
less than one-seventh its former extent. In Scotland the absorption of
the great bulk of the lesser properties seems to have taken place
somewhat earlier; but in it also the revolutionary war appears to have
given them the final blow; and the more extensive proprietors of the
kingdom are assuredly all the less secure in consequence of their
extinction. They were the smaller stones in the wall, that gave firmness
in the setting to the larger, and jammed them fast within those safe
limits determined by the line and plummet, which it is ever perilous to
overhang. Very extensive territorial properties, wherever they exist,
create almost necessarily--human nature being what it is--a species of
despotism more oppressive than even that of great unrepresentative
governments. It used to be remarked on the Continent, that there was
always less liberty in petty principalities, where the eye of the ruler
was ever on his subjects, than under the absolute monarchies.[23] And in
a country such as ours, the accumulation of landed property in the hands
of comparatively a few individuals has the effect often of bringing the
territorial privileges of the great landowner into a state of
antagonism with the civil and religious rights of the people, that
cannot be other than perilous to the landowner himself. In a district
divided, like Orkney, among many owners, a whole country-side could not
be shut up against its people by some ungenerous or intolerant
proprietor,--greatly at his own risk and to his own hurt,--as in the
case of Glen Tilt or the Grampians; nor, when met for purposes of public
worship, could the population of a parish be chased from off its bare
moors, at his instance, by the constable or the sheriff-officer, to
worship God agreeably to their consciences amid the mire of a
cross-road, or on the bare sea-beach uncovered by the ebb of the tide.
The smaller properties of the country, too, served admirably as
stepping-stones, by which the proprietors or their children, when
possessed of energy and intellect, could mount to a higher walk of
society. Here beside me, for instance, was my friend Mr. Garson, a
useful and much-esteemed minister of religion in his native district;
while his brother, a medical man of superior parts, was fast rising into
extensive practice in the neighboring town. They had been prepared for
their respective professions by a classical education; and yet the
stepping-stone to positions in society at once so important and so
respectable was simply one of the smaller holdings of Orkney, derived to
them as the descendants of one of the old Scandinavian Udallers, and
which fell short, I was informed, of a hundred a-year.

Mr. Garson's dwelling, to which I was welcomed with much hospitality by
his mother and sisters, occupies the middle of an inclined hollow or
basin, so entirely surrounded by low, moory hills, that at no
point,--though the radius of the prospect averages from four to six
miles,--does it command a view of the sea. I scarce expected being
introduced in Orkney to a scene in which the traveller could so
thoroughly forget that he was on an island. Of the parish of Harray,
which borders on Mr. Garson's property, no part touches the sea-coast;
and the people of the parish are represented by their neighbors, who
pride themselves upon their skill as sailors and boatmen, as a race of
lubberly landsmen, unacquainted with nautical matters, and ignorant of
the ocean and its productions. A Harray man is represented, in one of
their stories, as entering into a compact of mutual forbearance with a
lobster,--to him a monster of unknown powers and formidable
proportions,--which he had at first attempted to capture, but which had
shown fight, and had nearly captured him in turn. "Weel, weel, let a-be
for let a-be," he is made to say; "if thou does na clutch me in thy
grips, I'se no clutch thee in mine." It is to this primitive parish that
David Vedder, the sailor-poet of Orkney, refers, in his "Orcadian
Sketches," as "celebrated over the whole archipelago for the
peculiarities of its inhabitants, their singular manners and habits,
their uncouth appearance, and homely address. Being the most landward
district in Pomona," he adds, "and consequently having little
intercourse with strangers, it has become the stronghold of many ancient
customs and superstitions, which modern innovation has pushed off from
their pedestals in almost all the other parts of the island. The
permanency of its population, too, is mightily in favor of 'old use and
wont,' as it is almost entirely divided amongst a class of men yelept
_pickie_, or petty lairds, each ploughing his own fields and reaping his
own crops, much in the manner their great-great-grandfathers did in the
days of Earl Patrick. And such is the respect which they entertain for
their hereditary beliefs, that many of them are said still to cast a
lingering look, not unmixed with reverence, on certain spots held sacred
by their Scandinavian ancestors."

After an early dinner I set out for the barony of Birsay, in the
northern extremity of the mainland, accompanied by Mr. Garson, and
passed for several miles over a somewhat dreary country, bare, sterile,
and brown, studded by cold, broad, treeless lakes, and thinly mottled by
groups of gray, diminutive cottages, that do not look as if there was
much of either plenty or comfort inside. But after surmounting the hills
that form the northern side of the interior basin, I was sensible of a
sudden improvement on the face of the country. Where the land slopes
towards the sea, the shaggy heath gives place to a green luxuriant
herbage; and the frequent patches of corn seem to rejoice in a more
genial soil. The lower slopes of Orkney are singularly rich in wild
flowers,--richer by many degrees than the fat loamy meadows of England.
They resemble gaudy pieces of carpeting, as abundant in petals as in
leaves: their luxuriant blow of red and white, blue and yellow, seems as
if competing, in the extent of surface which it occupies, with their
general ground of green. I have remarked a somewhat similar luxuriance
of wild flowers in the more sheltered hollows of the bleak north-western
coasts of Scotland. There is little that is rare to be found among these
last, save that a few Alpine plants may be here and there recognized as
occurring at a lower level than elsewhere in Britain; but the vast
profusion of blossoms borne by species common to the greater part of the
kingdom imparts to them an apparently novel character. We may detect, I
am inclined to think, in this singular profusion, both in Orkney and the
bleaker districts of the mainland of Scotland, the operation of a law
not less influential in the animal than in the vegetable world, which,
when hardship presses upon the life of the individual shrub or
quadruped, so as to threaten its vitality, renders it fruitful in behalf
of its species. I have seen the principle strikingly exemplified in the
common tobacco plant, when reared in a northern country in the open air.
Year after year it continued to degenerate, and to exhibit a smaller
leaf and a shorter stem, until the successors of what in the first year
of trial had been vigorous plants of from three to four feet in height,
had in the sixth or eighth become mere weeds of scarce as many inches.
But while the more flourishing, and as yet undegenerate plant, had
merely borne a-top a few florets, which produced a small quantity of
exceedingly minute seeds, the stunted weed, its descendant, was so
thickly covered over in its season with its pale yellow bells, as to
present the appearance of a nosegay; and the seeds produced were not
only bulkier in the mass, but also individually of much greater size.
The tobacco had grown productive in proportion as it had degenerated and
become poor. In the common scurvy grass, too, remarkable, with some
other plants, as I have already had occasion to mention, for taking its
place among both the productions of our Alpine heights and of our
sea-shores, it will be found that in proportion as its habitat proves
ungenial, and its stems and leaves become dwarfish and thin, its little
white cruciform flowers increase, till, in localities where it barely
exists, as if on the edge of extinction, we find the entire plant
forming a dense bundle of seed-vessels, each charged to the full with
seed. And in the gay meadows of Orkney, crowded with a vegetation that
approaches its northern limit of production, we detect what seems to be
the same principle, chronically operative; and hence, it would seem,
their extraordinary gaiety. Their richly-blossoming plants are the poor
productive _Irish_ of the vegetable world;[24] for Doubleday seems to
be quite in the right in holding that the law extends to not only the
inferior animals, but to our own species also. The lean, ill-fed sow and
rabbit rear, it has been long known, a greatly more numerous progeny
than the same animals when well cared for and fat; and every horse and
cattle breeder knows, that to over-feed his animals proves a sure mode
of rendering them sterile. The sheep, if tolerably well pastured,
brings forth only a single lamb at a birth; but if half-starved and
lean, the chances are that it may bring forth two or three. And so it is
also with the greatly higher human race. Place them in circumstances of
degradation and hardship so extreme as almost to threaten their
existence as individuals, and they increase, as if in behalf of the
species, with a rapidity without precedent in circumstances of greater
comfort. The aristocratic families of a country are continually running
out; and it requires frequent creations to keep up the House of Lords;
while our poor people seem increasing in some districts in almost the
mathematical ratio. The county of Sutherland is already more populous
than it was previous to the great clearings. In Skye, though fully
two-thirds of the population emigrated early in the latter half of the
last century, a single generation had scarce passed ere the gap was
completely filled; and miserable Ireland, had the human family no other
breeding-place or nursery, would of itself be sufficient in a very few
ages to people the world.

We returned, taking in our way the cliffs of Marwick Head, in which I
detected a few scattered plates and scales, and which, like nine-tenths
of the rocks of Orkney, belong to the great flagstone division of the
formation. I found the dry-stone fences on Mr. Garson's property still
richer in detached fossil fragments than the cliffs; but there are few
erections in the island that do not inclose in their walls portions of
the organic. We find ichthyolite remains in the flagstones laid bare
along the way-side,--in every heap of road-metal,--in the bottom of
every stream,--in almost every cottage and fence. Orkney is a land of
defunct fishes, and contains in its rocky folds more individuals of the
waning ganoid family than are now to be found in all the existing seas,
lakes, and rivers of the world. I enjoyed in a snug upper room a
delectable night's rest, after a day of prime exercise, prolonged till
it just touched on toil, and again experienced, on looking out in the
morning on the wide flat basin around, a feeling somewhat akin to
wonder, that Orkney should possess a scene at once so extensive and so
exclusively inland.

Towards mid-day I walked on to the parish manse of Sandwick, armed with
a letter of introduction to its inmate, the Rev. Charles Clouston,--a
gentleman whose descriptions of the Orkneys, in the very complete and
tastefully written Guide-Book of the Messrs. Anderson of Inverness, and
of his own parish in the "Statistical Account of Scotland," had, both
from the high literary ability and the amount of scientific acquirement
which they exhibit, rendered me desirous to see. I was politely
received, though my visit must have been, as I afterwards ascertained,
at a rather inconvenient time. It was now late in the week, and the
coming Sabbath was that of the communion in the parish; but Mr. Clouston
obligingly devoted to me at least an hour, and I found it a very
profitable one. He showed me a collection of flags, with which he
intended constructing a grotto, and which contained numerous specimens
of Coccosteus, that he had exposed to the weather, to bring out the fine
blue efflorescence,--a phosphate of iron which forms on the surface of
the plates. They reminded me, from their peculiar style of coloring, and
the grotesqueness of their forms, of the blue figuring on pieces of
buff-colored china, and seemed to be chiefly of one species, very
abundant in Orkney, the _Coccosteus decipiens_. We next walked out to
see a quarry in the neighborhood of the manse, remarkable for containing
in immense abundance the heads of Dipteri,--many of them in a good state
of keeping, with all the multitudinous plates to which they owe their
pseudo-name, Polyphractus, in their original places, and bearing unworn
and untarnished their minute carvings and delicate enamel, but existing
in every case as mere detached heads. I found three of them lying in one
little slaty fragment of two and a half inches by four, which I brought
along with me. Mr. Clouston had never seen the curious arrangement of
palatal plates and teeth which distinguishes the Dipterus; and, drawing
his attention to it in an ill-preserved specimen which I found in the
coping of his glebe-wall, I restored, in a rude pencil sketch, the two
angular patches of teeth that radiate from the elegant dart-head in the
centre of the palate, with the rhomboidal plate behind. "We have a fish,
not uncommon on the rocky coasts of this part of the country," he
said,--"the Bergil or Striped Wrasse (_Labras Balanus_),--which bears
exactly such patches of angular teeth in its palate. They adhere
strongly together; and, when found in our old Picts' houses, which
occasionally happens, they have been regarded by some of our local
antiquaries as artificial,--an opinion which I have had to correct,
though it seems not improbable that, from their gem-like appearance,
they may have been used in a rude age as ornaments. I think I can show
you one disinterred here some years ago." It interested me to find, from
Mr. Clouston's specimens that the palatal grinders of this recent fish
of Orkney very nearly resemble those of its _Dipterus_ of the Old Red
Sandstone. The group is of nearly the same size in the modern as in the
ancient fish, and presents the same angular form; but the individual
teeth are more strongly set in the Bergil than in the Dipterus, and
radiate less regularly from the inner rectangular point of the angle to
its base outside. I could fain have procured an Orkney Bergil, in order
to determine the general pattern of its palatal dentition with what is
very peculiar in the more ancient fish,--the form of the lower jaw; and
to ascertain farther, from the contents of the stomach, the species of
shell-fish or crustaceans on which it feeds; but, though by no means
rare in Orkney, where it is occasionally used as food, I was unable,
during my short stay, to possess myself of a specimen.

Mr. Clouston had, I found, chiefly directed his palæontological
inquiries on the vegetable remains of the flagstones, as the department
of the science in which, in relation to Orkney, most remained to be
done; and his collection of these is the most considerable in the number
of its specimens that I have yet seen. It, however, serves but to show
how very extreme is the poverty of the flora of the Lower Old Red
Sandstone. The numerous fishes of the period seem to have inhabited a
sea little more various in its vegetation than in its molluscs. Among
the specimens of Mr. Clouston's collection I could detect but two
species of plants,--an imperfectly preserved vegetable, more nearly
resembling a club-moss than aught I have seen, and a smooth-stemmed
fucoid, existing as a mere coaly film on the stone, and distinguished
chiefly from the other by its sharp-edged, well-defined outline, and
from the circumstance that its stems continue to retain the same
diameter for a considerable distance, and this, too, after throwing off
at acute angles numerous branches, nearly equal in bulk to the parent
trunk. In a specimen about two and a half feet in length, which I owe to
the kindness of Mr. Dick of Thurso, there are stems continuous
throughout, that, though they ramify into from six to eight branches in
that space, are quite as thick atop as at bottom. They are the remains,
in all probability, of a long flexible fucoid, like those fucoids of the
intertropical seas that, streaming slantwise in the tide, rise not
unfrequently to the surface in fifteen and twenty fathoms water. I saw
among Mr. Clouston's specimens no such lignite as the fragment of true
coniferous wood which I had found at Cromarty a few years previous, and
which, it would seem, is still unique among the fossils of the Old Red
Sandstone. In the chart of the Pacific attached to the better editions
of "Cook's Voyages," there are several entries along the track of the
great navigator that indicate where, in mid-ocean, trees, or fragments
of trees, had been picked up. The entries, however, are but few, though
they belong to all the three voyages together: if I remember aright,
there are only five entries in all,--two in the Northern and three in
the Southern Pacific. The floating tree, at a great distance from land,
is of rare occurrence in even the present scene of things, though the
breadth of land be great, and trees numerous; and in the times of the
Old Red Sandstone, when probably the breadth of land was _not_ great,
and trees _not_ numerous, it seems to have been of rarer occurrence
still. But it is at least something to know that in this early age of
the world trees there were.

I walked on to Stromness, and on the following morning, that of
Saturday, took boat for Hoy,--skirting, on my passage out, the eastern
and southern shores of the intervening island of Græmsay, and, on the
passage back again, its western and northern shores. The boatman, an
intelligent man,--one of the teachers, as I afterwards ascertained, in
the Free Church Sabbath-school,--lightened the way by his narratives of
storm and wreck, and not a few interesting snatches of natural history.
There is no member of the commoner professions with whom I better like
to meet than with a sensible fisherman, who makes a right use of his
eyes. The history of fishes is still very much what the history of
almost all animals was little more than half a century ago,--a matter of
mere external description, heavy often and dry, and of classification
founded exclusively on anatomical details. We have still a very great
deal to learn regarding the character, habits and instincts of these
denizens of the deep,--much, in short, respecting that faculty which is
in them through which their natures are harmonized to the inexorable
laws, and they continue to live wisely and securely, in consequence,
within their own element, when man, with all his reasoning ability, is
playing strange vagaries in his;--a species of knowledge this, by the
way, which constitutes by far the most valuable part,--the _mental_
department of natural history; and the notes of the intelligent
fisherman, gleaned from actual observation, have frequently enabled me
to fill portions of the wide hiatus in the history of fishes which it
ought of right to occupy. In passing, as we toiled along the Græmsay
coast, the ruins of a solitary cottage, the boatman furnished us with a
few details of the history and character of its last inmate, an Orkney
fisherman, that would have furnished admirable materials for one of the
darker sketches of Crabbe. He was, he said, a resolute, unsocial man,
not devoid of a dash of reckless humor, and remarkable for an
extraordinary degree of bodily strength, which he continued to retain
unbroken to an age considerably advanced, and which, as he rarely
admitted of a companion in his voyages, enabled him to work his little
skiff alone, in weather when even better equipped vessels had enough ado
to keep the sea. He had been married in early life to a
religiously-disposed woman, a member of some dissenting body; but,
living with him in the little island of Græmsay, separated by the sea
from any place of worship, he rarely permitted her to see the inside of
a church. At one time, on the occasion of a communion Sabbath in the
neighboring parish of Stromness, he seemed to yield to her entreaties,
and got ready his yawl, apparently with the design of bringing her
across the Sound to the town. They had, however, no sooner quitted the
shore than he sailed off to a green little Ogygia of a holm in the
neighborhood, on which, reversing the old mythologic story of Calypso
and Ulysses, he incarcerated the poor woman for the rest of the day till
evening. I could see, from the broad grin with which the boatman greeted
this part of the recital, that there was, unluckily, almost fun enough
in the trick to neutralize the sense of its barbarity. The unsocial
fisherman lived on, dreaded and disliked, and yet, when his skiff was
seen boldly keeping the sea in the face of a freshening gale, when every
other was making for port, or stretching out from the land as some
stormy evening was falling, not a little admired also. At length, on a
night of fearful tempest, the skiff was marked approaching the coast,
full on an iron-bound promontory, where there could be no safe landing.
The helm, from the steadiness of her course, seemed fast lashed, and,
dimly discernible in the uncertain light, the solitary boatman could be
seen sitting erect at the bows, as if looking out for the shore. But as
his little bark came shooting inwards on the long roll of a wave, it was
found that there was no speculation in his stony glance: the
misanthropic fisherman was a cold and rigid corpse. He had died at sea,
as English juries emphatically express themselves in such cases, under
"the visitation of God."


     Hoy--Unique Scenery--The Dwarfie Stone of Hoy--Sir Walter Scott's
     Account of it--Its Associations--Inscription of Names--George
     Buchanan's Consolation--The mythic Carbuncle of the Hill of Hoy--No
     Fossils at Hoy--Striking Profile of Sir Walter Scott on the Hill of
     Hoy--Sir Walter, and Shetland and Orkney--Originals of two
     Characters in "The Pirate"--Bessie Millie--Garden of Gow, the
     "Pirate"--Childhood's Scene of Byron's "Torquil"--The Author's
     Introduction to his Sister--A German Visitor--German and Scotch
     Sabbath-keeping habits contrasted--Mr. Watt's Specimens of Fossil
     Remains--The only new Organism found in Orkney--Back to
     Kirkwall--to Wick--Vedder's Ode to Orkney.

We landed at Hoy, on a rocky stretch of shore, composed of the gray
flagstones of the district. They spread out here in front of the tall
hills composed of the overlying sandstone, in a green undulating
platform, resembling a somewhat uneven esplanade spread out in front of
a steep rampart. With the upper deposit a new style of scenery
commences, unique in these islands: the hills, bold and abrupt, rise
from fourteen to sixteen hundred feet over the sea-level; and the
valleys by which they are traversed,--no mere shallow inflections of the
general surface, like most of the other valleys of Orkney,--are of
profound depth, precipitous, imposing, and solitary. The sudden change
from the soft, low, and comparatively tame, to the bold, stern, and
high, serves admirably to show how much the character of a landscape may
depend on the formation which composes it. A walk of somewhat less than
two miles brought me into the depths of a brown, shaggy valley, so
profoundly solitary, that it does not contain a single human habitation,
nor, with one interesting exception, a single trace of the hand of man.
As the traveller approaches by a path somewhat elevated, in order to
avoid the peaty bogs of the bottom, along the slopes of the northern
side of the dell, he sees, amid the heath below, what at first seems to
be a rhomboidal piece of pavement of pale Old Red Sandstone, bearing
atop a few stunted tufts of vegetation. There are no neighboring objects
of a known character by which to estimate its size; the precipitous
hill-front behind is more than a thousand feet in height: the greatly
taller Ward Hill of Hoy, which frowns over it on the opposite side, is
at least five hundred feet higher; and, dwarfed by these giants, it
seems a mere pavior's flag, mayhap some five or six feet square, by from
eighteen inches to two feet in depth. It is only on approaching it
within a few yards that we find it to be an enormous stone, nearly
thirty feet in length by almost fifteen feet in breadth, and in some
places, though it thins, wedge-like, towards one of the edges, more than
six feet in thickness,--forming altogether such a mass as the quarrier
would detach from the solid rock to form the architrave of some vast
gateway, or the pediment of some colossal statue. A cave-like
excavation, nearly three feet square, and rather more than seven feet in
depth, opens on its gray and lichened side. The excavation is widened
within, along the opposite walls, into two uncomfortably short beds,
very much resembling those of the cabin of a small coasting vessel. One
of the two is furnished with a protecting ledge and a pillow of stone,
hewn out of the solid mass, while the other, which is some five or six
inches shorter than its neighbor, and presents altogether more the
appearance of a place of penance than of repose, lacks both cushion and
ledge. An aperture, which seems to have been originally of a circular
form, and about two and a half feet in diameter, but which some unlucky
herd-boy, apparently in the want of better employment, has considerably
mutilated and widened, opens at the inner excavation of the extremity
to the roof, as the hatch of a vessel opens from the hold to the deck;
for it is by far too wide in proportion to the size of the apartment to
be regarded as a chimney. A gray, rudely-hewn block of sandstone, which,
though greatly too ponderous to be moved by any man of the ordinary
strength, seems to have served the purpose of a door, lies prostrate
beside the opening in front. And such is the famous Dwarfie Stone of
Hoy, as firmly fixed in our literature by the genius of Sir Walter
Scott, as in this wild valley by its ponderous weight and breadth of
base, and regarding which--for it shares in the general obscurity of the
other ancient remains of Orkney--the antiquary can do little more than
repeat, somewhat incredulously, what tradition tells him, viz., that it
was the work, many ages ago, of an ugly, malignant goblin, half-earth
half-air,--the Elfin Trolld,--a personage, it is said, that even within
the last century, used occasionally to be seen flitting about in its

I was fortunate in a fine breezy day, clear and sunshiny, save where the
shadows of a few dense piled-up clouds swept dark athwart the landscape.
In the secluded recesses of the valley all was hot, heavy and still;
though now and then a fitful snatch of a breeze, the mere fragment of
some broken gust that seemed to have lost its way, tossed for a moment
the white cannach of the bogs, or raised spirally into the air, for a
few yards, the light beards of some seeding thistle, and straightway let
them down again. Suddenly, however, about noon, a shower broke thick and
heavy against the dark sides and gray scalp of the Ward Hill, and came
sweeping down the valley. I did what Norna of the Fitful Head had,
according to the novelist, done before me in similar circumstances,
crept for shelter into the larger bed of the cell, which, though rather
scant, taken fairly lengthwise, for a man of five feet eleven, I found,
by stretching myself diagonally from corner to corner, no very
uncomfortable lounging-place in a thunder-shower. Some provident
herd-boy had spread it over, apparently months before, with a littering
of heath and fern, which now formed a dry, springy conch; and as I lay
wrapped up in my plaid, listening to the rain-drops as they pattered
thick and heavy atop, or slanted through the broken hatchway to the
vacant bed on the opposite side of the excavation, I called up the wild
narrative of Norna, and felt all its poetry. The opening passage of the
story is, however, not poetry, but good prose, in which the curious
visitor might give expression to his own conjectures, if ingenious
enough either to form or to express them so well. "With my eyes fixed on
the smaller bed," the sorceress is made to say, "I wearied myself with
conjectures regarding the origin and purpose of my singular place of
refuge. Had it been really the work of that powerful Trolld to whom the
poetry of the Scalds referred it? or was it the tomb of some
Scandinavian chief, interred with his arms and his wealth, perhaps also
with his immolated wife, that what he loved best in life might not in
death be divided from him? or was it the abode of penance chosen by some
devoted anchorite of later days? or the idle work of some wandering
mechanic, whom chance, and whim, and leisure, had thrust upon such an
undertaking?" What follows this sober passage is the work of the poet.
"Sleep," continues Norna, "had gradually crept upon me among my
lucubrations, when I was startled from my slumbers by a second clap of
thunder, and when I awoke, I saw through the dim light which the upper
aperture admitted, the unshapely and indistinct form of Trolld the
dwarf, seated opposite to me on the lesser couch, which his square and
misshapen bulk seemed absolutely to fill up. I was startled, but not
affrighted; for the blood of the ancient race of Lochlin was warm in my
veins. He spoke, and his words were of Norse,--so old, that few save my
father, or I myself could have comprehended their import,--such language
as was spoken in these islands ere Olave planted his cross on the ruins
of heathenism. His meaning was dark also, and obscure, like that which
the pagan priests were wont to deliver, in the name of their idols, to
the tribes that assembled at the _Helgafels_.... I answered him in
nearly the same strain, for the spirit of the ancient Scalds of our race
was upon me; and far from fearing the phantom with whom I sat cooped
within so narrow a space, I felt the impulse of that high courage which
thrust the ancient champions and Druidesses upon contests with the
invisible world, when they thought that the earth no longer contained
enemies worthy to be subdued by them.... The Demon scowled at me as if
at once incensed and overawed; and then, coiling himself up in a thick
and sulphurous vapor, he disappeared from his place. I did not till that
moment feel the influence of fright, but then it seized me. I rushed
into the open air, where the tempest had passed away, and all was pure
and serene." Shall I dare confess, that I could fain have passed some
stormy night all alone in this solitary cell, were it but to enjoy the
luxury of listening, amid the darkness, to the clashing rain and the
roar of the wind high among the cliffs, or to detect the brushing sound
of hasty footsteps in the wild rustle of the heath, or the moan of
unhappy spirits in the low roar of the distant sea. Or, mayhap,--again
to borrow from the poet,--as midnight was passing into morning,

 "To ponder o'er some mystic lay,
 Till the wild tale had all its sway;
 And in the bittern's distant shriek
 I heard unearthly voices speak,
 Or thought the wizard priest was come
 To claim again his ancient home!
 And bade my busy fancy range
 To frame him fitting shape and strange;
 Till from the dream my brow I cleared,
 And smiled to think that I had feared."

The Dwarfie Stone has been a good deal undervalued by some writers, such
as the historian of Orkney, Mr. Barry; and, considered simply as a work
of art or labor, it certainly does not stand high. When tracing, as I
lay a-bed, the marks of the tool, which, in the harder portions of the
stone, are still distinctly visible, I just thought how that, armed with
pick and chisel, and working as I was once accustomed to work, I could
complete such another excavation to order in some three weeks or a
month. But then, I could not make my excavation a thousand years old,
nor envelop its origin in the sun-gilt vapors of a poetic obscurity, nor
connect it with the supernatural, through the influences of wild ancient
traditions, nor yet encircle it with a classic halo, borrowed from the
undying inventions of an exquisite literary genius. A half-worn pewter
spoon, stamped on the back with the word _London_, which was found in a
miserable hut on the banks of the Awatska by some British sailors, at
once excited in their minds a thousand tender remembrances of their
country. And it would, I suspect, be rather a poor criticism, and
scarcely suited to grapple with the true phenomena of the case, that,
wholly overlooking the magical influences of the associative faculty,
would concentrate itself simply on either the-workmanship or the
materials of the spoon. Nor is the Dwarfie Stone to be correctly
estimated, independently of the suggestive principle, on the rules of
the mere quarrier who sells stones by the cubic foot, or of the mere
contractor for hewn work who dresses them by the square one.

The pillow I found lettered over with the names of visitors; but the
stone,--an exceedingly compact red sandstone,--had resisted the
imperfect tools at the command of the traveller,--usually a nail or
knife; and so there were but two of the names decipherable,--that of an
"H. Ross, 1735," and that of a "P. FOLSTER, 1830." The rain still
pattered heavily overhead; and with my geological chisel and hammer I
did, to beguile the time, what I very rarely do,--added my name to the
others, in characters which, if both they and the Dwarfie Stone get but
fair play, will be distinctly legible two centuries hence. In what state
will the world then exist, or what sort of ideas will fill the head of
the man who, when the rock has well-nigh yielded up its charge, will
decipher the name for the last time, and inquire, mayhap, regarding the
individual whom it now designates, as I did this morning, when I asked,
"Who was this H. Ross, and who this P. Folster?" I remember when it
would have saddened me to think that there would in all probability be
as little response in the one case as in the other; but as men rise in
years they become more indifferent than in early youth to "that life
which wits inherit after death," and are content to labor on and be
obscure. They learn, too, if I may judge from experience, to pursue
science more exclusively for its own sake, with less, mayhap, of
enthusiasm to carry them on, but with what is at least as strong to take
its place as a moving force, that wind and bottom of formed habit
through which what were at first acts of the will pass into easy
half-instinctive promptings of the disposition. In order to acquaint
myself with the fossiliferous deposits of Scotland, I have travelled,
hammer in hand, during the last nine years, over fully ten thousand
miles; nor has the work been in the least one of dry labor,--not more so
than that of the angler, or grouse-shooter, or deer-stalker: it has
occupied the mere leisure interstices of a somewhat busy life, and has
served to relieve its toils. I have succeeded, however, in
accomplishing but little: besides, what is discovery to-day will be but
rudimentary fact to the tyro-geologists of the future. But if much has
not been done, I have at least the consolation of George Buchanan, when,
according to Melvill, "fand sitting in his chair, teiching his young man
that servit him in his chalmer to spell a, b, ab; e, b, eb. 'Better
this,' quoth he, 'nor stelling sheipe.'"

The sun broke out in great beauty after the shower, glistening on a
thousand minute runnels that came streaming down the precipices, and
revealing, through the thin vapory haze, the horizontal lines of strata
that bar the hill-sides, like courses of ashlar in a building. I failed,
however, to detect, amid the general many-pointed glitter by which the
blue gauze-like mist was bespangled, the light of the great carbuncle
for which the Ward Hill has long been famous,--that wondrous gem,
according to Sir Walter, "that, though it gleams ruddy as a furnace to
them that view it from beneath, ever becomes invisible to him whose
daring foot scales the precipices whence it darts its splendor." The
Hill of Hoy is, however, not the only one in the kingdom that, according
to tradition, bears a jewel in its forehead. The "great diamond" of the
Northern Sutor was at one time scarce less famous than the carbuncle of
the Ward Hill. "I have been oftener than once interrogated on the western
coast of Scotland regarding the diamond rock of Cromarty; and have been
told, by an old campaigner who fought under Abercrombie, that he has
listened to the familiar story of its diamond amid the sand wastes of
Egypt." But the diamond has long since disappeared; and we now see only
the rock. Unlike the carbuncle of Hoy, it was never seen by day; though
often, says the legend, the benighted boatmen has gazed, from amid the
darkness, as he came rowing along the shore, on its clear beacon-like
flame, which, streaming from the precipice, threw a fiery strip across
the water; and often have the mariners of other countries inquired
whether the light which they saw so high among the cliffs, right over
their mast, did not proceed from the shrine of some saint or the cell of
some hermit. At length an ingenious ship-captain determined on marking
its place, brought with him from England a few balls of chalk, and took
aim at it in the night-time with one of his great guns. Ere he had
fired, however, it vanished, as if suddenly withdrawn by some guardian
hand; and its place in the rock front has ever since remained as
undistinguishable, whether by night or by day, as the scaurs and clefts
around it. The marvels of the present time abide examination more
patiently. It seems difficult enough to conceive, for instance, that the
upper deposit of the Lower Old Red in this locality, out of which the
mountains of Hoy have been scooped, once overlaid the flag stones of all
Orkney, and stretched on and away to Dunnet Head, Tarbet Ness, and the
Black Isle; and yet such is the story, variously authenticated, to which
their nearly horizontal strata, and their abrupt precipices lend their
testimony. In no case has this superior deposit of the formation of the
Coccosteus been known to furnish a single fossil; nor did it yield me on
this occasion, among the Hills of Hoy, what it had denied me everywhere
else on every former one. Sly search, however, was by no means either
very prolonged or very careful.

I found I had still several hours of day-light before me; and these I
spent, after my return on a rough tumbling sea to Stromness, in a second
survey of the coast, westwards from the granitic axis of the island, to
the bishop's palace, and the ichthyolitic quarry beyond. From this point
of view the high terminal Hill of Hoy, towards the west, presents what
is really a striking profile of Sir Walter Scott, sculptured in the rock
front by the storms of ages, on so immense a scale, that the Colossus of
Rhodes, Pharos and all, would scarce have furnished materials enough to
supply it with a nose. There are such asperities in the outline as one
might expect in that of a rudely modelled bust, the work of a master,
from which, in his fiery haste, he had not detached the superfluous
clay; but these interfere in no degree with the fidelity, I had almost
said spirit, of the likeness. It seems well, as it must have waited for
thousands of years ere it became the portrait it now is, that the human
profile, which it preceded so long, and without which it would have
lacked the element of individual truth, should have been that of Sir
Walter. Amid scenes so heightened in interest by his genius as those of
Orkney, he is entitled to a monument. To the critical student of the
philosophy and history of poetic invention it is not uninstructive to
observe how completely the novelist has appropriated and brought within
the compass of one fiction, in defiance of all those lower probabilities
which the lawyer who pleaded before a jury court would be compelled to
respect, almost every interesting scene and object in both the Shetland
and Orkney islands. There was but little intercourse in those days
between the two northern archipelagos. It is not yet thirty years since
they communicated with each other, chiefly through the port of Leith,
where their regular traders used to meet monthly; but it was necessary,
for purposes of effect, that the dreary sublimities of Shetland should
be wrought up into the same piece of rich tissue with the imposing
antiquities of Orkney,--Sumburgh Head and Roost with the ancient
Cathedral of St. Magnus and the earl's palace, and Fitful Head and the
sand-enveloped kirk of St. Ringan with the Standing Stones of Stennis
and the Dwarfie Stone of Hoy; and so the little jury-court probabilities
have been sacrificed without scruple, and that higher truth of
character, and that exquisite portraiture of external nature, which give
such reality to fiction, and make it sink into the mind more deeply than
historic fact, have been substituted instead. But such,--considerably to
the annoyance of the lesser critics,--has been ever the practice of the
greater poets. The lesser critics are all critics of the jury-court
cast; while all the great masters of fiction, with Shakspeare at their
head, have been asserters of that higher truth which is not letter, but
spirit, and contemners of the mere judicial probabilities. And so they
have been continually fretting the little men with their extravagances,
and they ever will. What were said to be the originals of two of Sir
Walter's characters in the "Pirate" were living in the neighborhood of
Stromness only a few years ago. An old woman who resided immediately
over the town, in a little cottage, of which there now remains only the
roofless walls, and of whom the sailors, weather-bound in the port, used
occasionally to purchase a wind, furnished him with the first conception
of his Norna of the Fitful Head; and an eccentric shopkeeper of the
place, who to his dying day used to designate the "Pirate," with much
bitterness, as a "lying book," and its author as a "wicked lying man,"
is said to have suggested the character of Bryce Snailsfoot the peddler.
To the sorceress Sir Walter himself refers in one of his notes. "At the
village of Stromness, on the Orkney main island, called Pomona, lived,"
he says, "in 1814, an aged dame called Bessie Millie, who helped out her
subsistence by selling favorable winds to mariners. Her dwelling and
appearance were not unbecoming her pretensions: her house, which was on
the brow of the steep hill on which Stromness is founded, was only
accessible by a series of dirty and precipitous lanes, and, for
exposure, might have been the abode of Æolus himself, in whose
commodities the inhabitant dealt. She herself was, as she told us,
nearly one hundred years old, withered and dried up like a mummy. A
clay-colored kerchief, folded round her head, corresponded in color to
her corpse-like complexion. Two light-blue eyes that gleamed with a
lustre like that of insanity, an utterance of astonishing rapidity, a
nose and chin that almost met together, and a ghastly expression of
cunning, gave her the effect of Hecate. She remembered Gow the pirate,
who had been a native of these islands, in which he closed his career.
Such was Bessie Millie, to whom the mariners paid a sort of tribute,
with a feeling betwixt jest and earnest."

On the opposite side of Stromness, where the arm of the sea, which forms
the harbor, is about a quarter of a mile in width, there is, immediately
over the shore, a small square patch of ground, apparently a
_planticruive_, or garden, surrounded by a tall dry-stone fence. It is
all that survives--for the old dwelling-house to which it was attached
was pulled down several years ago--of the patrimony of Gow the "Pirate;"
and is not a little interesting, as having formed the central nucleus
round which,--like those bits of thread or wire on which the richly
saturated fluids of the chemist solidify and crystallize,--the entire
fiction of the novelist aggregated and condensed under the influence of
forces operative only in minds of genius. A white, tall, old-fashioned
house, conspicuous on the hill-side, looks out across the bay towards
the square inclosure, which it directly fronts. And it is surely a
curious coincidence, that while in one of these two erections, only a
few hundred yards apart, one of the heroes of Scott saw the light, the
other should have proved the scene of the childhood of one of the heroes
of Byron,

 "Torquil, the nursling of the northern seas."

The reader will remember, that in Byron's poem of "The Island," one of
the younger leaders of the mutineers is described as a native of these
northern isles. He is drawn by the poet, amid the wild luxuriance of an
island of the Pacific, as

           "The blue-eyed northern child,
 Of isles more known to man, but scarce less wild,--
 The fair-haired offspring of the Orcades,
 Where roars the Pentland with his whirling seas,--
 Rocked in his cradle by the roaring wind,
 The tempest-born in body and in mind,--
 His young eyes, opening on the ocean foam,--
 Had from that moment deemed the deep his home."

Judging from what I learned of his real history, which is well known in
Stromness, I found reason to conclude that he had been a hapless young
man, of a kindly, genial nature; and greatly "more sinned against than
sinning," in the unfortunate affair of the mutiny with which his name is
now associated, and for his presumed share in which, untried and
unconvicted, he was cruelly left to perish in chains amid the horrors of
a shipwreck. I had the honor of being introduced on the following day to
his sister, a lady far advanced in life, but over whose erect form and
handsome features the years seemed to have passed lightly, and whom I
met at the Free Church of Stromness, to which, at the Disruption, she
had followed her respected minister. It seemed a fact as curiously
compounded as some of those pictures of the last age in which the thin
unsubstantialities of allegory mingled with the tangibilities of the
real and the material, that the sister of one of Byron's heroes should
be an attached member of the Free Church.

On my return to the inn, I found in the public room a young German of
some one or two and twenty, who, in making the tour of Scotland, had
extended his journey into Orkney. My specimens, which had begun to
accumulate in the room, on chimney-piece and window-sill, had attracted
his notice, and led us into conversation. He spoke English well, but not
fluently,--in the style of one who had been more accustomed to read than
to converse in it; and he seemed at least as familiar with two of our
great British authors,--Shakspeare and Sir Walter Scott,--as most of the
better-informed British themselves. It was chiefly the descriptions of
Sir Walter in the "Pirate" that had led him into Orkney. He had already
visited the Cathedral of St. Magnus and the Stones of Stennis; and on
the morrow he intended visiting the Dwarfie Stone; though I ventured to
suggest that, as a broad sound lay between Stromness and Hoy, and as the
morrow was the Sabbath, he might find some difficulty in doing that. His
circle of acquirement was, I found, rather literary than scientific. It
seemed, however, to be that of a really accomplished young man, greatly
better founded in his scholarship than most of our young Scotchmen on
quitting the national universities; and I felt, as we conversed
together, chiefly on English literature and general politics, how much
poorer a figure I would have cut in his country than he cut in mine. I
found, on coming down from my room next morning to a rather late
breakfast, that he had been out among the Stromness fishermen, and had
returned somewhat chafed. Not a single boatman could he find in a
populous seaport town that would undertake to carry him to the Dwarfie
Stone on the Sabbath,--a fact, to their credit, which it is but simple
justice to state. I saw him afterwards in the Free Church, listening
attentively to a thoroughly earnest and excellent discourse, by the
Disruption minister of the parish, Mr. Learmonth; and in the course of
the evening he dropped in for a short time to the Free Church
Sabbath-school, where he took his seat beside one of the teachers, as if
curious to ascertain more in detail the character of the instruction
which had operated so influentially on the boatmen, and which he had
seen telling from the pulpit with such evident effect. What would not
his country now give,--now, while drifting loose from all its old
moorings, full on the perils of a lee shore,--for the anchor of a faith
equally steadfast! He was a Lutheran, he told me; but, as is too common
in Germany, his actual beliefs appeared to be very considerably at
variance with his hereditary creed. The creed was a tolerably sound one,
but the living belief regarding it seemed to do little more than take
cognizance of what he deemed the fact of its death.

I had carried with me a letter of introduction to Mr. William Watt, to
whom I have already had occasion to refer as an intelligent geologist;
but the letter I had no opportunity of delivering. Mr. Watt had learned,
however, of my being in the neighborhood, and kindly walked into
Stromness, some six or eight miles, on the morning of Monday, to meet
with me, bringing me a few of his rarer specimens. One of the number,--a
minute ichthyolite, about three inches in length,--I was at first
disposed to set down as new, but I have since come to regard it as
simply an imperfectly-preserved specimen of a Cromarty and Morayshire
species,--the _Glyptolepis microlepidotus_; though its state of keeping
is such as to render either conclusion an uncertainty. Another of the
specimens was that of a fish, still comparatively rare, first figured in
the first edition of my little volume on the "Old Red Sandstone," from
the earliest found specimen, at a time while it was yet unfurnished with
a name, but which has since had a place assigned to it in the genus
Diplacanthus, as the species longispinus. The scales, when examined by
the glass, remind one, from their pectinated character, of shells
covering the walls of a grotto,--a peculiarity to which, when showing my
specimen to Agassiz, while it had yet no duplicate, I directed his
attention, and which led him to extemporize for it, on the spot, the
generic name Ostralepis, or shell-scale. On studying it more leisurely,
however, in the process of assigning to it a place in his great work,
where the reader may now find it figured (Table XIV., fig. 8), the
naturalist found reason to rank it among the Diplacanthi. Mr. Watt's
specimen exhibited the outline of the head more completely than mine;
but the Orkney ichthyolites rarely present the microscopic minutiæ; and
the shell-like aspect of the scales was shown in but one little patch,
where they had left their impressions on the stone. His other specimens
consisted of single plates of a variety of Coccosteus, undistinguishable
in their form and proportions from those of the _Coccosteus decipiens_,
but which exceeded by about one-third the average size of the
corresponding parts in that species; and of a rib-like bone, that
belonged apparently to what few of the ichthyolites of the Lower Old Red
seem to have possessed,--an osseous internal skeleton. This last
organism was the only one I saw in Orkney with which I had not been
previously acquainted, or which I could regard as new, though possibly
enough it may have formed part, not of an undiscovered genus, but of the
known genus Asterolepis, of whose inner framework, judging from the
Russian specimens at least, portions must have been bony. After parting
from Mr. Watt, I travelled on to Kirkwall, which, after a leisurely
journey, I reached late in the evening, and on the following morning
took the steamer for Wick. I brought away with me, if not many rare
specimens or many new geological facts, at least a few pleasing
recollections of an interesting country and a hospitable people. In the
previous chapter I indulged in a brief quotation from Mr. David Vedder,
the sailor-poet of Orkney, and I shall make no apology for availing
myself in the present, of the vigorous, well-turned stanzas in which he
portrays some of those peculiar features by which the land of his
nativity may be best recognized and most characteristically remembered.


 Land of the whirlpool,--torrent,--foam,
   Where oceans meet in madd'ning shock;
 The beetling cliff,--the shelving holm,--
   The dark insidious rock.
 Land of the bleak, the treeless moor,--
   The sterile mountain, sered and riven,--
 The shapeless cairn, the ruined tower,
   Scathed by the bolts of heaven,--
 The yawning gulf,--the treacherous sand,--
 love thee still, MY NATIVE LAND.

 Land of the dark, the Runic rhyme,--
   The mystic ring,--the cavern hoar,--
 The Scandinavian seer, sublime
   In legendary lore.
 Land of a thousand sea-kings' graves,--
   Those tameless spirits of the past,
 Fierce as their subject arctic waves,
   Or hyperborean blast,--
 Though polar billows round thee foam,
 I love thee!--thou wert once my home.

 With glowing heart and island lyre,
   Ah! would some native bard arise
 To sing, with all a poet's fire,
   Thy stern sublimities,--
 The roaring flood,--the rushing stream,--
   The promontory wild and bare,--
 The pyramid, where sea-birds scream,
   Aloft in middle air,--
 The Druid temple on the heath,
 Old even beyond tradition's birth.

 Though I have roamed through verdant glades,
   In cloudless climes, 'neath azure skies,
 Or plucked from beauteous orient meads,
   Flowers of celestial dies,--
 Though I have laved in limpid streams,
   That murmur over golden sands,
 Or basked amid the fulgid beams
   That flame o'er fairer lands,
 Or stretched me in the sparry grot,--
 My country! THOU wert ne'er forgot.



[1] March 31, 1845.

[2] Professor Nicol of Aberdeen believes the Red Sandstones of the West
Highlands are of Devonian age, and the quartzite and limestone of Lower
Carboniferous.--_See Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society,
February 1857._--W.S.

[3] Sir R. Murchison considers these rocks Silurian. See "Quarterly
Journal" of the Geological Society, Anniversary Address.

[4] Probably one of the Isastrea of Edwards.

[5] See a paper by the Rev. P.B. Brodie, on Lias Corals, "Edinburgh New
Philosophic Journal," April, 1857.

[6] The verses here referred to are introduced into "My Schools and
Schoolmasters," chapter tenth.

[7] For a description of this pond see "My Schools and Schoolmasters,"
chapter tenth.

[8] These remarks refer to the poem "On Seeing a Sun-Dial in a
Churchyard," which was introduced here when these chapters were first
published in the "Witness," but, having been afterwards inserted in the
tenth chapter of "My Schools and Schoolmasters," is not here reproduced.

[9] Mr. Peach has discovered fossils in the Durness limestone, which
rests above the quartzite rock of the west of Scotland, that covers the
Red Sandstone long believed to be OLD RED. The fossils are very

[10] This second title hears reference to the extent of the author's
geologic excursions in Scotland, during the nine years from 1840 to 1848

[11] Since the above was written, I have seen an interesting paper in
"Hogg's Weekly Instructor," in which the Rev. Mr. Longmuir of Aberdeen
describes a visit to the Lias clay at Blackpots. Mr. Longmuir seems to
have given more time to his researches than I found it agreeable, in a
very indifferent day to devote to mine; and his list of fossils is
considerably longer. Their evidence, however, runs in exactly the same
tract with that of the shorter list. He had been told at Banff that the
clay contained "petrified tangles;" and the first organism shown him by
the workmen, on his arrival at the deposit, were some of the "tangles"
in question. "These" he goes on to say, "we found, as may have already
been anticipated, to be pieces of Belemnites, well known on the other
side of the Frith as 'thunderbolts,' and esteemed of sovereign efficacy
in the cure of bewitched cattle." Though still wide of the mark, there
is here an evident descent from the supernatural to the physical, from
the superstitious to the true. "Satisfied that we had a mass of Lias
clay before us, we set vigorously to work, in order either to find
additional characteristic fossils, or obtain data on which to form a
conjecture as to the history of this out-of-the-way deposit; and our
labor was not without its reward. We shall now present a brief account
of the specimens we picked up. Observing a number of stones of different
sizes, that had been thrown out, as they were struck, by the workman's
shovel, we immediately commenced, and, like an inquisitor of old,
knocked our victims on the head, that they might reveal their secrets;
or, like a Roman haruspex, examined their interior,--not, however, to
obtain a knowledge of the future, but only to take a peep into the past.
1. Here, then, we take up, not a regular Lias lime nodule, but what
appears to have formed part of one; and the first blow has laid open
part of a whorl of an Ammonite, which, when complete, must have measured
three or four inches in diameter, and it is perfectly assimilated to the
calcareous matrix. 2. Here is a mass of indurated clay; and a gentle
blow has exposed part of two Ammonites, smaller than the former, but
their shells are white and powdery like chalk. 3. Another fragment is
laid open; and there, quite unmistakably, lie the umbo and greater
portion of the _Plagiostoma concentricum_. 4. Another fragment of a
granular gritty structure presents a considerable portion of the
interior of one of the shells of a Pecten, but whether the attached
fragment is part of one of its ears, or of the other valve turned
backward, is not so easily determined. 5. Here is a piece of Belemnite
in limestone, and the fracture in the fossil presents the usual
glistening planes of cleavage. 6. Next we take up a piece of distinctly
laminated Lias, with Ammonites as thick as they can lie on the pages of
this black book of natural history. 7. Once more we strike, and we have
the cast and part of the shell of another bivalve; but the valves have
been jerked off each other, and have suffered a severe compound
fracture; nevertheless we can have little hesitation in pronouncing it a
species of _unio_. 8. Here is another piece of limestone, with its small
fragment of another shell, of very delicate texture, with finely marked
traverse striæ. We are unwilling to decide on such slight evidence, but
feel inclined to refer it to some species of Plagiostoma. 9. Here is a
piece of pyrites, not quite so large as the first, and so vegetable-like
in its markings, that it might be mistaken for part of a branch of a
tree. This is also characteristic of the Lias; for when the shales are
deeply impregnated with bitumen and pyrites, they undergo a slow
combustion when heaped up with faggots and set on fire; and in the
cliffs of the Yorkshire coast, after rainy weather, they sometimes
spontaneously ignite, and continue to burn for several months. 10. As we
passed through the works, on our way to the clay, we observed a sort of
reservoir, into which the clay, after being freed from its impurities,
had been run in a liquid state; the water had evaporated, and the drying
clay had cracked in every direction. Here we find its counterpart in
this large mass of stone; only the clay here, mixed with a portion of
lime is petrified, and the fissures filled up with carbonate of lime;
thus forming the septaria, or cement stone. We have dressed a specimen
of it for our guide, who has a friend that will polish it, when the dark
Lias will be strikingly contrasted with the white lime, and form rather
a pretty piece of natural mosaic. 11. Coming to a simple piece of
machinery for removing fragments of shale and stone from the clay, we
examined some of the bits so rejected, and found what we had no doubt
were fish-scales. 12. We have yet to notice certain long slender bodies,
outwardly brown, but inwardly nearly black, resembling whip-cord in
size. Are we to regard these as specimens of a fucus, perhaps the
_filum_, or allied to it, which is known in some places by the
appropriate name of sea-laces? 13. Passing on to the office, we were
shown a chop of wood that had been found in the clay, and was destined
for the Banff Museum. It is about eighteen inches in length, and half as
much in breadth; and although evidently water-worn, yet we could count
between twenty-five and thirty concentric rings on one of its ends,
which not only enabled us to form some conjecture of its age previous to
its overthrow, but also justified us in referring it to the coniferæ of
the _vorwelt_, or ancient world."

Mr. Longmuir makes the following shrewd remarks, in answering the
question, "Whether have we here a mass of Lias clay, as originally
deposited, or has it resulted from the breaking up of Lias-shale?" "The
former alternative," says Mr. Longmuir, "we have heard, has been
maintained; but we are inclined to adopt the latter, and that for the
following reasons: 1. This clay, judging from other localities, is not
_in situ_, but has every appearance of having been precipitated into a
basin in the gneiss on which it rests, having apparently under it,
although it is impossible to say to what extent, a bed of comminuted
shells. 2. The fossils are all fragmentary and water-worn. This is
especially the case with regard to the Belemnites, the pieces averaging
from one to two inches in length, no workman having ever found a
complete specimen, such as occurs in the Lias-shale at Cromarty, in
which they may be found nine inches in length. 3. But perhaps the most
satisfactory proof, and one that in itself may be deemed sufficient, is
the frequent occurrence of pieces of Lias-shale, with their embedded
Ammonites; which clearly show that the Lias had been broken up, tossed
about in some violent agitation of the sea, and churned into clay, just
as some denudating process of a similar nature swept away the chalk of
Aberdeenshire, leaving on many of its hills and plains the water-worn
flints, with the characteristic fossils of the Cretaceous formation."

[12] A description of Miss Bond and of her "Letters" here referred to,
is given in the fifth chapter of "My Schools and Schoolmasters."

[13] The story here referred to is narrated in "Scenes and Legends of
the North of Scotland," chap. XXV.

[14] _Scaur_, Scotice, a precipice of clay. There is no single English
word that conveys exactly the same idea.

[15] Mr. Dick has since disinterred from out the boulder-clays of the
Burn of Freswick, _Patella vulgata_, _Buccinum undatum_, _Fesus
antiquus_, _Rostellaria_, _Pes pelicana_, a _Natica_, _Lutraria_, and

[16] That similarity of condition in which the hazel and the harder
cerealia thrive was noted by our north-country farmers of the old
School, long ere it had been recorded by the botanist. Hence such
remarks, familiarized into proverbs, as "A good _nut_ year's a good
_ait_ year;" or, "As the _nut_ fills the _ait_ fills."

[17] For this story, see "Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland,"
chap. XXV.

[18] "In the River St. Lawrence," says Sir Charles Lyell, "the loose ice
accumulates on the shoals during the winter, at which season the water
is low. The separate fragments of ice are readily frozen together in a
climate where the temperature is sometimes thirty degrees below zero,
and boulders become entangled with them; so that in the spring, when the
river rises on the melting of the snow, the rocks are floated off,
frequently conveying away the boulders to great distances. A single
block of granite, fifteen feet long by ten feet both in width and
height, and which could not contain less than fifteen hundred cubic feet
of stone, was in this way moved down the river several hundred yards,
during the late survey in 1837. Heavy anchors of ships, lying on the
shore, have in like manner been closed in and removed. In October 1836,
wooden stakes were driven several feet into the ground, at one point on
the banks of the St. Lawrence, at high-water mark, and over them were
piled many boulders as large as the united force of six men could roll.
The year after, all the boulders had disappeared, and others had
arrived, and the stakes had been drawn out and carried away by the
ice."--'Elements,' first edition, p. 138.

[19] The story of the Lady of Balconie and her keys is narrated in
"Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland." chap. XI.

[20] This mode is described in a traditionary story regarding a gigantic
tribe of _Fions_, narrated in "Scenes and Legends of the North of
Scotland," chap. IV.

[21] See "My Schools and Schoolmasters," chap XI.

[22] I can entertain no doubt that the angular groups of palatal teeth
figured by Agassiz and the Russian geologists as those of a supposed
Placoid termed the Ctenodus, are in reality groups of the palatal teeth
of Dipterus. In some of my specimens the frontal buckler of Polyphractus
is connected with the gill-covers and scales of Dipterus, and bears in
its palate what cannot he distinguished from the teeth of Ctenodus. The
three genera resolve themselves into one.

[23] There is a very admirable remark to this effect in the "Travelling
Memorandums" of the late Lord Gardenstone, which, as the work has been
long out of print, and is now scarce, may be new to many of my readers:
"It is certain, and demonstrated by the experience of ages and nations,"
says his Lordship, in referring to the old principalities of France,
"that the government of petty princes is less favorable to the security
and interests of society than the government of monarchs, who possess
great and extensive territories. The race of great monarchs cannot
possibly preserve a safe and undisturbed state of government, without
many delegations of power and office to men of approved abilities and
practical knowledge, who are subject to complaint during their
administration, and responsible when it is at an end; or yet without an
established system of laws and regulations; so that no inconsiderable
degree of security and liberty to the subject is almost inseparable
from, and essential to, the subsistence and duration of a great
monarchy. But it is easy for petty princes to practise an arbitrary and
irregular exercise of power, by which their people are reduced to a
condition of miserable slavery. Indeed, very few of them, in the course
of ages, are capable of conceiving any other means of maintaining the
ostentatious state, the luxurious and indolent pride, which they mistake
for greatness. I heartily wish that this observation and censure may
not, in some instances, be applicable to great landed proprietors in
some parts of Britain."--Travelling Memorandums, vol. i. p. 123. 1792.

[24] The exciting effects of a poor soil, or climate, or of severe
usage, on the productive powers of various vegetable species, have been
long and often remarked. Flavel describes, in one of his ingenious
emblems, illustrative of the influence of affliction on the Christian,
an orchard tree, which had been beaten with sticks and stones, till it
presented a sorely stunted and mutilated appearance; but which, while
the fairer and more vigorous trees around it were rich in only leaves,
was laden with fruit,--a direct consequence, it is shown, of the hard
treatment to which it had been subjected. I have heard it told in a
northern village, as a curious anecdote, that a large pear tree, which
during a vigorous existence of nearly fifty years, had borne scarce a
single pear, had, when in a state of decay, and for a few years previous
to its death, borne immense crops of from two to three bolls each
season. And the skilful gardener not unfrequently avails himself of the
principle on which both phenomena seem to have occurred,--that exhibited
in the beaten and that in the decaying tree,--in rendering his barren
plants fruitful. He has recourse to it even when merely desirous of
ascertaining the variety of pear or apple which some thriving sapling,
slow in bearing, is yet to produce. Selecting some bough which may be
conveniently lopped away without destroying the symmetry of the tree, he
draws his knife across the bark, and inflicts on it a wound, from which,
though death may not ensue for some two or three twelvemonths, it cannot
ultimately recover. Next spring the wounded branch is found to bear its
bunches of blossoms; the blossoms set into fruit; and while in the other
portions of the plant all is vigorous and barren as before, the dying
part of it, as if sobered by the near prospect of dissolution, is found
fulfilling the proper end of its existence. Soil and climate, too,
exert, it has been often remarked, a similar influence. In the united
parishes of Kirkmichael and Culicuden, in the immediate neighborhood of
Cromarty, much of the soil is cold and poor, and the exposure ungenial;
and "in most parts, where hardwood has been planted," says the Rev. Mr.
Sage of Resolis, in his "Statistical Account," "it is stinted in its
growth, and bark-bound. Comparatively young trees of ash," he shrewdly
adds, "_are covered with seed_,--_an almost infallible sign that their
natural growth is checked_. The leaves, too, fall off about the
beginning of September."






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 Valuable School Books. Works for Sabbath Schools.

 Memoir of Amos Lawrence.

 Poetical Works of Milton, Cowpar, Scott. Elegant Miniature Volumes.

 Arvine's Cyolopædia of Anecdotes.

 Ripley's Notes on Gospels, Acts, and Romans.

 Sprague's European Celebrities. Marsh's Camel and the Hallig.

 Roget's Thesaurus of English Words.

 Hackett's Notes on Acts. M'Whorter's Yahveh Christ.

 Siebold and Stannius's Comparative Anatomy. Marco's Geological Map, U.S.

 Religious and Miscellaneous Works.

 Works in the various Departments of Literature, Science and Art.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Cruise of the Betsey - or, A Summer Ramble Among the Fossiliferous Deposits of the Hebrides. With Rambles of a Geologist or, Ten Thousand Miles Over the Fossiliferous Deposits of Scotland" ***

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