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Title: The Pirate - Andrew Lang Edition
Author: Scott, Walter, Sir, 1771-1832
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber's note:

      [oe] represents the oe-ligature.


        Nothing in him----
        But doth suffer a sea-change.


Bibliophile Edition

  This Edition of the Works of Sir Walter Scott,
  Bart, is limited to One Thousand Numbered and
  Signed Sets, of which this is

              Number ...

                    University Library Association


Bibliophile Edition

The Waverley Novels

With New Introductions, Notes and Glossaries by Andrew Lang






University Library Association

Copyright, 1893
By Estes & Lauriat

Andrew Lang Edition.



    MORDAUNT IN YELLOWLEY'S COTTAGE.            _Frontispiece_
    THE SWORD DANCE                                        234


    MINNA ON THE CLIFF                                     103
    THE PIRATE'S COUNCIL                                   208
    MINNA TAKING THE PISTOL                                250


The circumstances in which "The Pirate" was composed have for the Editor
a peculiar interest. He has many times scribbled at the old bureau in
Chiefswood whereon Sir Walter worked at his novel, and sat in summer
weather beneath the great tree on the lawn where Erskine used to read
the fresh chapters to Lockhart and his wife, while the burn murmured by
from the Rhymer's Glen. So little altered is the cottage of Chiefswood
by the addition of a gabled wing in the same red stone as the older
portion, so charmed a quiet has the place, in the shelter of Eildon
Hill, that there one can readily beget the golden time again, and think
oneself back into the day when Mustard and Spice, running down the shady
glen, might herald the coming of the Sheriff himself. Happy hours and
gone: like that summer of 1821, whereof Lockhart speaks with an emotion
the more touching because it is so rare,--

    the first of several seasons, which will ever dwell on my memory
    as the happiest of my life. We were near enough Abbotsford to
    partake as often as we liked of its brilliant society; yet could
    do so without being exposed to the worry and exhaustion of spirit
    which the daily reception of new visitors entailed upon all the
    society except Sir Walter himself. But, in truth, even he was not
    always proof against the annoyances connected with such a style of
    open-house-keeping. Even his temper sank sometimes under the
    solemn applause of learned dulness, the vapid raptures of painted
    and periwigged dowagers the horse-leech avidity with which
    underbred foreigners urged their questions, and the pompous
    simpers of condescending magnates. When sore beset in this way, he
    would every now and then discover that he had some very particular
    business to attend to on an outlying part of his estate, and,
    craving the indulgence of his guests overnight, appear at the
    cabin in the glen before its inhabitants were astir in the
    morning. The clatter of Sibyl Grey's hoofs, the yelping of Mustard
    and Spice, and his own joyous shout of _reveillée_ under our
    window, were the signal that he had burst his bonds, and meant for
    that day to take his ease in his inn.... After breakfast he would
    take possession of a dressing-room upstairs, and write a chapter
    of "The Pirate"; and then, having made up and dispatched his
    parcel for Mr. Ballantyne, away to join Purdie where the foresters
    were at work....

    The constant and eager delight with which Erskine watched the
    progress of the tale has left a deep impression on my memory: and
    indeed I heard so many of its chapters first read from the MS. by
    him, that I can never open the book now without thinking I hear
    his voice. Sir Walter used to give him at breakfast the pages he
    had written that morning, and very commonly, while he was again at
    work in his study, Erskine would walk over to Chiefswood, that he
    might have the pleasure of reading them aloud to my wife and me
    under our favourite tree.[1]

"The tree is living yet!" This long quotation from a book but too little
read in general may be excused for its interest, as bearing on the
composition of "The Pirate," in the early autumn of 1821. In "The
Pirate" Scott fell back on his recollections of the Orcades, as seen by
him in a tour with the Commissioners of Light Houses, in August 1814,
immediately after the publication of "Waverley." They were accompanied
by Mr. Stevenson, the celebrated engineer, "a most gentlemanlike and
modest man, and well known by his scientific skill."[2] It is understood
that Mr. Stevenson also kept a diary, and that it is to be published by
the care of his distinguished grandson, Mr. Robert Louis Stevenson,
author of "Kidnapped," "The Master of Ballantrae," and other novels in
which Scott would have recognised a not alien genius.

Sir Walter's Diary, read in company with "The Pirate," offers a most
curious study of his art in composition. It may be said that he scarcely
noted a natural feature, a monument, a custom, a superstition, or a
legend in Zetland and Orkney which he did not weave into the magic web
of his romance. In the Diary all those matters appear as very ordinary;
in "The Pirate" they are transfigured in the light of fancy. History
gives Scott the career of Gow and his betrothal to an island lady:
observation gives him a few headlands, Picts' houses, ruined towers, and
old stone monuments, and his characters gather about these, in rhythmic
array, like the dancers in the sword-dance. We may conceive that
Cleveland, like Gow, was originally meant to die, and that Minna, like
Margaret in the ballad of Clerk Saunders, was to recover her troth from
the hand of her dead lover. But, if Scott intended this, he was
good-natured, and relented.

Taking the incidents in the Diary in company with the novel, we find, in
the very first page of "The Pirate," mention of the roost, or rost, of
Sumburgh, the running current of tidal water, which he hated so, because
it made him so sea-sick. "All the landsmen sicker than sick, and our
Viceroy, Stevenson, qualmish. It is proposed to have a light on Sumburgh
Head. Fitful Head is higher, but is to the west, from which quarter few
vessels come." As for Sumburgh Head, Scott climbed it, rolled down a
rock from the summit, and found it "a fine situation to compose an ode
to the Genius of Sumburgh Head, or an Elegy upon a Cormorant--or to have
written or spoken madness of any kind in prose or poetry. But I gave
vent to my excited feelings in a more simple way, and, sitting gently
down on the steep green slope which led to the beach, I e'en slid down a
few hundred feet, and found the exercise quite an adequate vent to my

Sir Walter was certainly not what he found Mrs. Hemans, "too poetical."

In the first chapter, his Giffords, Scotts (of Scotstarvet, the
Fifeshire house, not of the Border clan), and Mouats are the very gentry
who entertained him on his tour. His "plantie cruives," in the novel,
had been noted in the Diary (Lockhart, iv. 193). "Pate Stewart," the
oppressive Earl, is chronicled at length in "the Diary." "His huge tower
remains wild and desolate--its chambers filled with sand, and its rifted
walls and dismantled battlements giving unrestrained access to the
roaring sea-blast." So Scott wrote in his last review for the
"Quarterly," a criticism of Pitcairn's "Scotch Criminal Trials" (1831).
The Trows, or Drows, the fairy dwarfs he studied on the spot, and
connects the name with Dwerg, though _Trolls_ seem rather to be their
spiritual and linguistic ancestors. The affair of the clergyman who was
taken for a Pecht, or Pict, actually occurred during the tour, and Mr.
Stevenson, who had met the poor Pecht before, was able to clear his
character.[3] In the same place the Kraken is mentioned: he had been
visible for nearly a fortnight, but no sailor dared go near him.

  He lay in the offing a fortnight or more,
  But the devil a Zetlander put from the shore.
  If your Grace thinks I'm writing the thing that is not,
  You may ask at a namesake of ours, Mr. Scott,

Sir Walter wrote to the Duke of Buccleugh. He paid a visit to an old
lady, who, like Norna, and Æolus in the Odyssey, kept the winds in a
bag, and could sell a fair breeze. "She was a miserable figure, upwards
of ninety, she told me, and dried up like a mummy. A sort of
clay-coloured cloak, folded over her head, corresponded in colour to her
corpse-like complexion. Fine light-blue eyes, and nose and chin that
almost met, and a ghastly expression of cunning gave her quite the
effect of Hecate. She told us she remembered _Gow the Pirate_, betrothed
to a Miss Gordon,"--so here are the germs of Norna, Cleveland, and
Minna, all sown in good ground, to bear fruit in seven years
(1814-1821). Triptolemus Yellowley is entirely derived from the Diary,
and is an anachronism. The Lowland Scots factors and ploughs were only
coming in while Scott was in the isles. He himself saw the absurd little
mills (vol. i. ch. xi.), and the one stilted plough which needed two
women to open the furrows, a feebler plough than the Virgilian specimens
which one still remarks in Tuscany. "When this precious machine was in
motion, it was dragged by four little bullocks, yoked abreast, and as
many ponies harnessed, or rather strung, to the plough by ropes and
thongs of raw hide.... An antiquary might be of opinion that this was
the very model of the original plough invented by Triptolemus," son of
the Eleusinian king, who sheltered Demeter in her wanderings. The
sword-dance was not danced for Scott's entertainment, but he heard of
the Pupa dancers, and got a copy of the accompanying chant, and was
presented with examples of the flint and bronze Celts which Norna
treasured. All over the world, as in Zetland, they were regarded as
"thunder stones." (Diary; Lockhart, iv. 220.) The bridal of Norna, by
clasping of hands through Odin's stone ring, was still practised as a
form of betrothal. (Lockhart, iv. 252.) Some island people were
despised, as by Magnus Troil, as "poor sneaks" who ate limpets, "the
last of human meannesses." The "wells," or smooth wave-currents, were
also noted, and the _Garland_ of the whalers often alluded to in the
tale. The Stones of Stennis were visited, and the Dwarfie Stone of Hoy,
where Norna, like some Eskimo Angekok, met her familiar demon. Scott
held that the stone "probably was meant as the temple of some northern
edition of the _dii Manes_. They conceive that the dwarf may be seen
sometimes sitting at the door of his abode, but he vanishes on a nearer
approach." The dwelling of Norna, a Pict's house, with an overhanging
story, "shaped like a dice-box," is the ancient Castle of Mousa.[4] The
strange incantation of Norna, the dropping of molten lead into water, is
also described. Usually the lead was poured through the wards of a key.
In affections of the heart, like Minna's, a triangular stone, probably a
neolithic arrow-head, was usually employed as an amulet. (Lockhart, iv.
208.) Even the story of the pirate's insolent answer to the Provost is
adapted from a recent occurrence. Two whalers were accused of stealing a
sheep. The first denied the charge, but said he had seen the animal
carried off by "a fellow with a red nose and a black wig. Don't you
think he was like his honour, Tom?" "By God, Jack, I believe it was the
very man." (Diary; Lockhart, iv. 222; "The Pirate," vol. ii. ch. xiv.)
The goldless Northern Ophir was also visited--in brief, Scott scarcely
made a remark on his tour which he did not manage to transmute into the
rare metal of his romance. It is no wonder that the Orcadians at once
detected his authorship. A trifling anecdote of the cruise has recently
been published. Scott presented a lady in the isles with a piano, which,
it seems, is still capable of producing a melancholy jingling tune.[5]

Lockhart says, as to the reception of "The Pirate" (Dec. 1821): "The
wild freshness of the atmosphere of this splendid romance, the beautiful
contrast of Minna and Brenda, and the exquisitely drawn character of
Captain Cleveland, found the reception which they deserved." "The wild
freshness of the atmosphere" is indeed magically transfused, and
breathes across the pages as it blows over the Fitful Head, the
skerries, the desolate moors, the plain of the Standing Stones of
Stennis. The air is keen and salt and fragrant of the sea. Yet Sydney
Smith was greatly disappointed. "I am afraid this novel will depend upon
the former reputation of the author, and will add nothing to it. It may
sell, and another may half sell, but that is all, unless he comes out
with something vigorous, and redeems himself. I do not blame him for
writing himself out, if he knows he is doing so, and has done his
_best_, and his _all_. If the native land of Scotland will supply no
more scenes and characters, for he is always best in Scotland, though he
was very good in England the (time) he was there; but pray, wherever the
scene is laid, no more Meg Merrilies and Dominie Sampsons--very good the
first and second times, but now quite worn out, and always recurring."
("Archibald Constable," iii. 69.)

It was Smith's grammar that gave out, and produced no apodosis to his
phrase. Scott could not write himself out, before his brain was affected
by disease. Had his age been miraculously prolonged, with health, it
could never be said that "all the stories have been told," and he would
have delighted mankind unceasingly.

Scott himself was a little nettled by the criticisms of Norna as a
replica of Meg Merrilies. She is, indeed, "something distinct from the
Dumfriesshire gipsy"--in truth, she rather resembles the Ulrica of
"Ivanhoe." Like her, she is haunted by the memory of an awful crime, an
insane version of a mere accident; like her, she is a votaress of the
dead gods of the older world, Thor and Odin, and the spirits of the
tempest. Scott's imagination lived so much in the past that the ancient
creeds never ceased to allure him: like Heine, he felt the fascination
of the banished deities, not of Greece, but of the North. Thus Norna,
crazed by her terrible mischance, dwells among them, worships the Red
Beard, as outlying descendants of the Aztecs yet retain some faith in
their old monstrous Pantheon. Even Minna keeps, in her girlish
enthusiasm, some touch of Freydis in the saga of Eric the Red: for her
the old gods and the old years are not wholly exiled and impotent. All
this is most characteristic of the antiquary and the poet in Scott, who
lingers fondly over what has been, and stirs the last faint embers of
fallen fires. It is of a piece with the harmless Jacobitism of his
festivals, when they sang

  Here's to the King, boys!
  Ye ken wha I mean, boys.

In the singularly feeble and provincial vulgarities which Borrow
launches, in the appendix to "Lavengro," against the memory of Scott,
the charge of reviving Catholicism is the most bitter. That rowdy
evangelist might as well have charged Scott with a desire to restore the
worship of Odin, and to sacrifice human victims on the stone altar of
Stennis. He saw in Orkney the ruined fanes of the Norse deities, as at
Melrose of the Virgin, and his loyal heart could feel for all that was
old and lost, for all into which men had put their hearts and faiths,
had made, and had unmade, in the secular quest for the divine. Like a
later poet, he might have said:--

  Not as their friend or child I speak,
    But as on some far Northern strand,
  Thinking of his own gods, a Greek
    In pity and mournful awe might stand
  Beside some fallen Runic stone,
    For both were gods, and both are gone.

And surely no creed is more savage, cruel, and worthy of death than
Borrow's belief in a God who "knew where to strike," and deliberately
struck Scott by inducing Robinson to speculate in hops, and so bring
down his Edinburgh associate, Constable, and with him Sir Walter! Such
was the religion which Borrow expressed in the style of a writer in a
fourth-rate country newspaper. We might prefer the frank Heathenism of
the Red Beard to the religion of the author of "The Bible in Spain."

There is no denying that Scott had in his imagination a certain mould of
romance, into which his ideas, when he wrote most naturally, and most
for his own pleasure, were apt to run. It is one of the charms of "The
Pirate" that here he is manifestly writing for his own pleasure, with a
certain boyish eagerness. Had we but the plot of one of the tales which
he told, as a lad, to his friend Irving, we might find that it turned on
a romantic mystery, a clue in the hands of some witch or wise woman, of
some one who was always appearing in the nick of time, was always round
the corner when anything was to be heard. This is a standing
characteristic of the tales: now it is Edie Ochiltree, now
Flibbertigibbet, now Meg Merrilies, now Norna, who holds the thread of
the plot, but these characters are all well differentiated. Again, he
had types, especially the pedantic type, which attracted him, but they
vary as much as Yellowley and Dugald Dalgetty, the Antiquary, and
Dominie Sampson. Yellowley is rather more repressed than some of Scott's
bores; but then he is not the only bore, for Claud Halcro, with all his
merits, is a professed proser. Swift had exactly described the
character, the episodical narrator, in a passage parallel to one in
Theophrastus. In writing to Morritt, Scott says (November 1818): "I
sympathise with you for the _dole_ you are _dreeing_ under the
inflictions of your honest proser. Of all the boring machines ever
devised, your regular and determined story-teller is the most peremptory
and powerful in his operations."

"With what perfect placidity he submitted to be bored even by bores of
the first water!" says Lockhart. The species is one which we all have
many opportunities of studying, but it may be admitted that Scott
produced his studies of bores with a certain complacency. Yet they are
all different bores, and the gay, kind _scald_ Halcro is very unlike
Master Mumblasen or Dominie Sampson.

For a hero Mordaunt may be called almost sprightly and individual. His
mysterious father occasionally suggests the influence of Byron,
occasionally of Mrs. Radcliffe. The Udaller is as individual and genial
as Dandie Dinmont himself; or, again, he is the Cedric of Thule, though
much more sympathetic than Cedric to most readers. His affection for his
daughters is characteristic and deserved. Many a pair of sisters, blonde
and brune, have we met in fiction since Minna and Brenda, but none have
been their peers, and, like Mordaunt in early years, we know not to
which of them our hearts are given. They are "L'Allegro" and "Il
Penseroso" of the North, and it is probable that all men would fall in
love with Minna if they had the chance, and marry Brenda, if they could.
Minna is, indeed, the ideal youth of poetry, and Brenda of the practical
life. The innocent illusions of Minna, her love of all that is old, her
championship of the forlorn cause, her beauty, her tenderness, her
truth, her passionate waywardness of sorrow, make her one of Scott's
most original and delightful heroines. She believes and trembles not,
like Bertram in "Rokeby." Brenda trembles, but does not believe in
Norna's magic, and in the spirits of ancient saga. As for Cleveland,
Scott managed to avoid Byron's Lara-like pirates, and produced a
freebooter as sympathetic as any _hostis humani generis_ can be, while
"Frederick Altamont" (Thackeray borrowed the name for his romantic
crossing-sweeper) has a place among the Marischals and Bucklaws of
romance. Scott's minute studies in Dryden come to the aid of his local
observations, and so, out of not very promising materials, and out of
the contrast of Lowland Scot and Orcadian, the romance is spun. Probably
the "psychological analysis" which most interested the author is the
double consciousness of Norna, the occasional intrusions of the rational
self on her dreams of supernatural powers. That double consciousness,
indeed, exists in all of us: occasionally the self in which we believe
has a vision of the real underlying self, and shudders from the sight,
like the pair "who met themselves" in the celebrated drawing.

"The Pirate" can scarcely be placed in the front rank of Scott's novels,
but it has a high and peculiar place in the second, and probably will
always be among the special favourites of those who, being young, are
fortunate enough not to be critical.

Scott's novels at this time came forth so frequently that the lumbering
"Quarterlies" toiled after them in vain. They adopted the plan of
reviewing them in batches, and the "Quarterly" may be said to have
omitted "The Pirate" altogether. About this time Gifford began to find
that the person who spoke of a "dark dialect of Anglified Erse" was not
a competent critic, and Mr. Senior noticed several of the tales in a
more judicious manner. As to "The Pirate," the "Edinburgh Review"
found "the character and story of Mertoun at once commonplace and
extravagant." Cleveland disappoints "by turning out so much better
than we had expected, and yet substantially so ill." "Nothing can
be more beautiful than the description of the sisters." "Norna is
a new incarnation of Meg Merrilies, and palpably the same in the
spirit ... but far above the rank of a mere imitated or borrowed
character." "The work, on the whole, opens up a new world to our
curiosity, and affords another proof of the extreme pliability,
as well as vigour, of the author's genius."

                                                          ANDREW LANG.
  _August 1893._


[1] Lockhart, vi. 388-393. Erskine died before Scott, slain by a silly
piece of gossip, and Mr. Skene says: "I never saw Sir Walter so much
affected by any event, and at the funeral, which he attended, he was
quite unable to suppress his feelings, but wept like a child." His
correspondence with Scott fell into the hands of a lady, who, seeing
that it revealed the secret of Scott's authorship, most unfortunately
burned all the letters. (Journal, i. 416.)

[2] Scott's Diary, July 29, 1814. Lockhart, vi. 183.

[3] See Author's Note No. I.

[4] Diary; Lockhart, iv. 223.

[5] "Atalanta," December 1892.


  "Quoth he, there was a ship."

This brief preface may begin like the tale of the Ancient Mariner, since
it was on shipboard that the author acquired the very moderate degree of
local knowledge and information, both of people and scenery, which he
has endeavoured to embody in the romance of the Pirate.

In the summer and autumn of 1814, the author was invited to join a party
of Commissioners for the Northern Light-House Service, who proposed
making a voyage round the coast of Scotland, and through its various
groups of islands, chiefly for the purpose of seeing the condition of
the many lighthouses under their direction,--edifices so important,
whether regarding them as benevolent or political institutions. Among
the commissioners who manage this important public concern, the sheriff
of each county of Scotland which borders on the sea, holds ex-officio a
place at the Board. These gentlemen act in every respect gratuitously,
but have the use of an armed yacht, well found and fitted up, when they
choose to visit the lighthouses. An excellent engineer, Mr. Robert
Stevenson, is attached to the Board, to afford the benefit of his
professional advice. The author accompanied this expedition as a guest;
for Selkirkshire, though it calls him Sheriff, has not, like the kingdom
of Bohemia in Corporal Trim's story, a seaport in its circuit, nor its
magistrate, of course, any place at the Board of Commissioners,--a
circumstance of little consequence where all were old and intimate
friends, bred to the same profession, and disposed to accommodate each
other in every possible manner.

The nature of the important business which was the principal purpose of
the voyage, was connected with the amusement of visiting the leading
objects of a traveller's curiosity; for the wild cape, or formidable
shelve, which requires to be marked out by a lighthouse, is generally at
no great distance from the most magnificent scenery of rocks, caves, and
billows. Our time, too, was at our own disposal, and, as most of us were
freshwater sailors, we could at any time make a fair wind out of a foul
one, and run before the gale in quest of some object of curiosity which
lay under our lee.

With these purposes of public utility and some personal amusement in
view, we left the port of Leith on the 26th July, 1814, ran along the
east coast of Scotland, viewing its different curiosities, stood over to
Zetland and Orkney, where we were some time detained by the wonders of a
country which displayed so much that was new to us; and having seen what
was curious in the Ultima Thule of the ancients, where the sun hardly
thought it worth while to go to bed, since his rising was at this season
so early, we doubled the extreme northern termination of Scotland, and
took a rapid survey of the Hebrides, where we found many kind friends.
There, that our little expedition might not want the dignity of danger,
we were favoured with a distant glimpse of what was said to be an
American cruiser, and had opportunity to consider what a pretty figure
we should have made had the voyage ended in our being carried captive
to the United States. After visiting the romantic shores of Morven, and
the vicinity of Oban, we made a run to the coast of Ireland, and visited
the Giant's Causeway, that we might compare it with Staffa, which we had
surveyed in our course. At length, about the middle of September, we
ended our voyage in the Clyde, at the port of Greenock.

And thus terminated our pleasant tour, to which our equipment gave
unusual facilities, as the ship's company could form a strong boat's
crew, independent of those who might be left on board the vessel, which
permitted us the freedom to land wherever our curiosity carried us. Let
me add, while reviewing for a moment a sunny portion of my life, that
among the six or seven friends who performed this voyage together, some
of them doubtless of different tastes and pursuits, and remaining for
several weeks on board a small vessel, there never occurred the
slightest dispute or disagreement, each seeming anxious to submit his
own particular wishes to those of his friends. By this mutual
accommodation all the purposes of our little expedition were obtained,
while for a time we might have adopted the lines of Allan Cunningham's
fine sea-song,

  "The world of waters was our home,
  And merry men were we!"

But sorrow mixes her memorials with the purest remembrances of pleasure.
On returning from the voyage which had proved so satisfactory, I found
that fate had deprived her country most unexpectedly of a lady,
qualified to adorn the high rank which she held, and who had long
admitted me to a share of her friendship. The subsequent loss of one of
those comrades who made up the party, and he the most intimate friend I
had in the world, casts also its shade on recollections which, but for
these embitterments, would be otherwise so pleasing.

I may here briefly observe, that my business in this voyage, so far as I
could be said to have any, was to endeavour to discover some localities
which might be useful in the "Lord of the Isles," a poem with which I
was then threatening the public, and was afterwards printed without
attaining remarkable success. But as at the same time the anonymous
novel of "Waverley" was making its way to popularity, I already augured
the possibility of a second effort in this department of literature, and
I saw much in the wild islands of the Orkneys and Zetland, which I
judged might be made in the highest degree interesting, should these
isles ever become the scene of a narrative of fictitious events. I
learned the history of Gow the pirate from an old sibyl, (the subject of
a note, p. 326 of this volume,) whose principal subsistence was by a
trade in favourable winds, which she sold to mariners at Stromness.
Nothing could be more interesting than the kindness and hospitality of
the gentlemen of Zetland, which was to me the more affecting, as several
of them had been friends and correspondents of my father.

I was induced to go a generation or two farther back, to find materials
from which I might trace the features of the old Norwegian Udaller, the
Scottish gentry having in general occupied the place of that primitive
race, and their language and peculiarities of manner having entirely
disappeared. The only difference now to be observed betwixt the gentry
of these islands, and those of Scotland in general, is, that the wealth
and property is more equally divided among our more northern countrymen,
and that there exists among the resident proprietors no men of very
great wealth, whose display of its luxuries might render the others
discontented with their own lot. From the same cause of general
equality of fortunes, and the cheapness of living, which is its natural
consequence, I found the officers of a veteran regiment who had
maintained the garrison at Fort Charlotte, in Lerwick, discomposed at
the idea of being recalled from a country where their pay, however
inadequate to the expenses of a capital, was fully adequate to their
wants, and it was singular to hear natives of merry England herself
regretting their approaching departure from the melancholy isles of the
Ultima Thule.

Such are the trivial particulars attending the origin of that
publication, which took place several years later than the agreeable
journey from which it took its rise.

The state of manners which I have introduced in the romance, was
necessarily in a great degree imaginary, though founded in some measure
on slight hints, which, showing what was, seemed to give reasonable
indication of what must once have been, the tone of the society in these
sequestered but interesting islands.

In one respect I was judged somewhat hastily, perhaps, when the
character of Norna was pronounced by the critics a mere copy of Meg
Merrilees. That I had fallen short of what I wished and desired to
express is unquestionable, otherwise my object could not have been so
widely mistaken; nor can I yet think that any person who will take the
trouble of reading the Pirate with some attention, can fail to trace in
Norna,--the victim of remorse and insanity, and the dupe of her own
imposture, her mind, too, flooded with all the wild literature and
extravagant superstitions of the north,--something distinct from the
Dumfries-shire gipsy, whose pretensions to supernatural powers are not
beyond those of a Norwood prophetess. The foundations of such a
character may be perhaps traced, though it be too true that the
necessary superstructure cannot have been raised upon them, otherwise
these remarks would have been unnecessary. There is also great
improbability in the statement of Norna's possessing power and
opportunity to impress on others that belief in her supernatural gifts
which distracted her own mind. Yet, amid a very credulous and ignorant
population, it is astonishing what success may be attained by an
impostor, who is, at the same time, an enthusiast. It is such as to
remind us of the couplet which assures us that

  "The pleasure is as great
  In being cheated as to cheat."

Indeed, as I have observed elsewhere, the professed explanation of a
tale, where appearances or incidents of a supernatural character are
referred to natural causes, has often, in the winding up of the story, a
degree of improbability almost equal to an absolute goblin narrative.
Even the genius of Mrs. Radcliffe could not always surmount this

    _1st May, 1831._


The purpose of the following Narrative is to give a detailed and
accurate account of certain remarkable incidents which took place in the
Orkney Islands, concerning which the more imperfect traditions and
mutilated records of the country only tell us the following erroneous

In the month of January, 1724-5, a vessel, called the Revenge, bearing
twenty large guns, and six smaller, commanded by JOHN GOW, or GOFFE, or
SMITH, came to the Orkney Islands, and was discovered to be a pirate, by
various acts of insolence and villainy committed by the crew. These were
for some time submitted to, the inhabitants of these remote islands not
possessing arms nor means of resistance; and so bold was the Captain of
these banditti, that he not only came ashore, and gave dancing parties
in the village of Stromness, but before his real character was
discovered, engaged the affections, and received the troth-plight, of a
young lady possessed of some property. A patriotic individual, JAMES
FEA, younger of Clestron, formed the plan of securing the buccanier,
which he effected by a mixture of courage and address, in consequence
chiefly of Gow's vessel having gone on shore near the harbour of
Calfsound, on the Island of Eda, not far distant from a house then
inhabited by Mr. FEA. In the various stratagems by which Mr. FEA
contrived finally, at the peril of his life, (they being well armed and
desperate,) to make the whole pirates his prisoners, he was much aided
by Mr. JAMES LAING, the grandfather of the late MALCOLM LAING, Esq., the
acute and ingenious historian of Scotland during the 17th century.

Gow, and others of his crew, suffered, by sentence of the High Court of
Admiralty, the punishment their crimes had long deserved. He conducted
himself with great audacity when before the Court; and, from an account
of the matter by an eye-witness, seems to have been subjected to some
unusual severities, in order to compel him to plead. The words are
these: "JOHN GOW would not plead, for which he was brought to the bar,
and the Judge ordered that his thumbs should be squeezed by two men,
with a whip-cord, till it did break; and then it should be doubled, till
it did again break, and then laid threefold, and that the executioners
should pull with their whole strength; which sentence Gow endured with a
great deal of boldness." The next morning, (27th May, 1725,) when he had
seen the terrible preparations for pressing him to death, his courage
gave way, and he told the Marshal of Court, that he would not have given
so much trouble, had he been assured of not being hanged in chains. He
was then tried, condemned, and executed, with others of his crew.

It is said, that the lady whose affections GOW had engaged, went up to
London to see him before his death, and that, arriving too late, she had
the courage to request a sight of his dead body; and then, touching the
hand of the corpse, she formally resumed the troth-plight which she had
bestowed. Without going through this ceremony, she could not, according
to the superstition of the country, have escaped a visit from the ghost
of her departed lover, in the event of her bestowing upon any living
suitor the faith which she had plighted to the dead. This part of the
legend may serve as a curious commentary on the fine Scottish ballad,
which begins,

  "There came a ghost to Margaret's door," &c.(_a_)[6]

The common account of this incident farther bears, that Mr. FEA, the
spirited individual by whose exertions GOW'S career of iniquity was cut
short, was so far from receiving any reward from Government, that he
could not obtain even countenance enough to protect him against a
variety of sham suits, raised against him by Newgate solicitors, who
acted in the name of GOW, and others of the pirate crew; and the various
expenses, vexatious prosecutions, and other legal consequences, in which
his gallant exploit involved him, utterly ruined his fortune, and his
family; making his memory a notable example to all who shall in future
take pirates on their own authority.

It is to be supposed, for the honour of GEORGE the First's Government,
that the last circumstance, as well as the dates, and other particulars
of the commonly received story, are inaccurate, since they will be found
totally irreconcilable with the following veracious narrative, compiled
from materials to which he himself alone has had access, by

                                               THE AUTHOR OF WAVERLEY.


[6] See Editor's Notes at the end of the Volume. Wherever a similar
reference occurs, the reader will understand that the same direction



  The storm had ceased its wintry roar,
    Hoarse dash the billows of the sea;
  But who on Thule's desert shore,
    Cries, Have I burnt my harp for thee?


That long, narrow, and irregular island, usually called the mainland of
Zetland, because it is by far the largest of that Archipelago,
terminates, as is well known to the mariners who navigate the stormy
seas which surround the Thule of the ancients, in a cliff of immense
height, entitled Sumburgh-Head, which presents its bare scalp and naked
sides to the weight of a tremendous surge, forming the extreme point of
the isle to the south-east. This lofty promontory is constantly exposed
to the current of a strong and furious tide, which, setting in betwixt
the Orkney and Zetland Islands, and running with force only inferior to
that of the Pentland Frith, takes its name from the headland we have
mentioned, and is called the Roost of Sumburgh; _roost_ being the phrase
assigned in those isles to currents of this description.

On the land side, the promontory is covered with short grass, and slopes
steeply down to a little isthmus, upon which the sea has encroached in
creeks, which, advancing from either side of the island, gradually work
their way forward, and seem as if in a short time they would form a
junction, and altogether insulate Sumburgh-Head, when what is now a
cape, will become a lonely mountain islet, severed from the mainland, of
which it is at present the terminating extremity.

Man, however, had in former days considered this as a remote or unlikely
event; for a Norwegian chief of other times, or, as other accounts said,
and as the name of Jarlshof seemed to imply, an ancient Earl of the
Orkneys had selected this neck of land as the place for establishing a
mansion-house. It has been long entirely deserted, and the vestiges only
can be discerned with difficulty; for the loose sand, borne on the
tempestuous gales of those stormy regions, has overblown, and almost
buried, the ruins of the buildings; but in the end of the seventeenth
century, a part of the Earl's mansion was still entire and habitable. It
was a rude building of rough stone, with nothing about it to gratify the
eye, or to excite the imagination; a large old-fashioned narrow house,
with a very steep roof, covered with flags composed of grey sandstone,
would perhaps convey the best idea of the place to a modern reader. The
windows were few, very small in size, and distributed up and down the
building with utter contempt of regularity. Against the main structure
had rested, in former times, certain smaller co-partments of the
mansion-house, containing offices, or subordinate apartments, necessary
for the accommodation of the Earl's retainers and menials. But these had
become ruinous; and the rafters had been taken down for fire-wood, or
for other purposes; the walls had given way in many places; and, to
complete the devastation, the sand had already drifted amongst the
ruins, and filled up what had been once the chambers they contained, to
the depth of two or three feet.

Amid this desolation, the inhabitants of Jarlshof had contrived, by
constant labour and attention, to keep in order a few roods of land,
which had been enclosed as a garden, and which, sheltered by the walls
of the house itself, from the relentless sea-blast, produced such
vegetables as the climate could bring forth, or rather as the sea-gale
would permit to grow; for these islands experience even less of the
rigour of cold than is encountered on the mainland of Scotland; but,
unsheltered by a wall of some sort or other, it is scarce possible to
raise even the most ordinary culinary vegetables; and as for shrubs or
trees, they are entirely out of the question, such is the force of the
sweeping sea-blast.

At a short distance from the mansion, and near to the sea-beach, just
where the creek forms a sort of imperfect harbour, in which lay three or
four fishing-boats, there were a few most wretched cottages for the
inhabitants and tenants of the township of Jarlshof, who held the whole
district of the landlord upon such terms as were in those days usually
granted to persons of this description, and which, of course, were hard
enough. The landlord himself resided upon an estate which he possessed
in a more eligible situation, in a different part of the island, and
seldom visited his possessions at Sumburgh-Head. He was an honest, plain
Zetland gentleman, somewhat passionate, the necessary result of being
surrounded by dependents; and somewhat over-convivial in his habits, the
consequence, perhaps, of having too much time at his disposal; but
frank-tempered and generous to his people, and kind and hospitable to
strangers. He was descended also of an old and noble Norwegian family; a
circumstance which rendered him dearer to the lower orders, most of whom
are of the same race; while the lairds, or proprietors, are generally of
Scottish extraction, who, at that early period, were still considered as
strangers and intruders. Magnus Troil, who deduced his descent from the
very Earl who was supposed to have founded Jarlshof, was peculiarly of
this opinion.

The present inhabitants of Jarlshof had experienced, on several
occasions, the kindness and good will of the proprietor of the
territory. When Mr. Mertoun--such was the name of the present inhabitant
of the old mansion--first arrived in Zetland, some years before the
story commences, he had been received at the house of Mr. Troil with
that warm and cordial hospitality for which the islands are
distinguished. No one asked him whence he came, where he was going, what
was his purpose in visiting so remote a corner of the empire, or what
was likely to be the term of his stay. He arrived a perfect stranger,
yet was instantly overpowered by a succession of invitations; and in
each house which he visited, he found a home as long as he chose to
accept it, and lived as one of the family, unnoticed and unnoticing,
until he thought proper to remove to some other dwelling. This apparent
indifference to the rank, character, and qualities of their guest, did
not arise from apathy on the part of his kind hosts, for the islanders
had their full share of natural curiosity; but their delicacy deemed it
would be an infringement upon the laws of hospitality, to ask questions
which their guest might have found it difficult or unpleasing to answer;
and instead of endeavouring, as is usual in other countries, to wring
out of Mr. Mertoun such communications as he might find it agreeable to
withhold, the considerate Zetlanders contented themselves with eagerly
gathering up such scraps of information as could be collected in the
course of conversation.

But the rock in an Arabian desert is not more reluctant to afford water,
than Mr. Basil Mertoun was niggard in imparting his confidence, even
incidentally; and certainly the politeness of the gentry of Thule was
never put to a more severe test than when they felt that good-breeding
enjoined them to abstain from enquiring into the situation of so
mysterious a personage.

All that was actually known of him was easily summed up. Mr. Mertoun had
come to Lerwick, then rising into some importance, but not yet
acknowledged as the principal town of the island, in a Dutch vessel,
accompanied only by his son, a handsome boy of about fourteen years old.
His own age might exceed forty. The Dutch skipper introduced him to some
of the very good friends with whom he used to barter gin and gingerbread
for little Zetland bullocks, smoked geese, and stockings of lambs-wool;
and although Meinheer could only say, that "Meinheer Mertoun hab bay his
bassage like one gentlemans, and hab given a Kreitz-dollar beside to the
crew," this introduction served to establish the Dutchman's passenger in
a respectable circle of acquaintances, which gradually enlarged, as it
appeared that the stranger was a man of considerable acquirements.

This discovery was made almost _per force_; for Mertoun was as unwilling
to speak upon general subjects, as upon his own affairs. But he was
sometimes led into discussions, which showed, as it were in spite of
himself, the scholar and the man of the world; and, at other times, as
if in requital of the hospitality which he experienced, he seemed to
compel himself, against his fixed nature, to enter into the society of
those around him, especially when it assumed the grave, melancholy, or
satirical cast, which best suited the temper of his own mind. Upon such
occasions, the Zetlanders were universally of opinion that he must have
had an excellent education, neglected only in one striking particular,
namely, that Mr. Mertoun scarce knew the stem of a ship from the stern;
and in the management of a boat, a cow could not be more ignorant. It
seemed astonishing such gross ignorance of the most necessary art of
life (in the Zetland Isles at least) should subsist along with his
accomplishments in other respects; but so it was.

Unless called forth in the manner we have mentioned, the habits of Basil
Mertoun were retired and gloomy. From loud mirth he instantly fled; and
even the moderated cheerfulness of a friendly party, had the invariable
effect of throwing him into deeper dejection than even his usual
demeanour indicated.

Women are always particularly desirous of investigating mystery, and of
alleviating melancholy, especially when these circumstances are united
in a handsome man about the prime of life. It is possible, therefore,
that amongst the fair-haired and blue-eyed daughters of Thule, this
mysterious and pensive stranger might have found some one to take upon
herself the task of consolation, had he shown any willingness to accept
such kindly offices; but, far from doing so, he seemed even to shun the
presence of the sex, to which in our distresses, whether of mind or
body, we generally apply for pity and comfort.

To these peculiarities Mr. Mertoun added another, which was particularly
disagreeable to his host and principal patron, Magnus Troil. This
magnate of Zetland, descended by the father's side, as we have already
said, from an ancient Norwegian family, by the marriage of its
representative with a Danish lady, held the devout opinion that a cup of
Geneva or Nantz was specific against all cares and afflictions whatever.
These were remedies to which Mr. Mertoun never applied; his drink was
water, and water alone, and no persuasion or entreaties could induce him
to taste any stronger beverage than was afforded by the pure spring. Now
this Magnus Troil could not tolerate; it was a defiance to the ancient
northern laws of conviviality, which, for his own part, he had so
rigidly observed, that although he was wont to assert that he had never
in his life gone to bed drunk, (that is, in his own sense of the word,)
it would have been impossible to prove that he had ever resigned himself
to slumber in a state of actual and absolute sobriety. It may be
therefore asked, What did this stranger bring into society to compensate
the displeasure given by his austere and abstemious habits? He had, in
the first place, that manner and self-importance which mark a person of
some consequence: and although it was conjectured that he could not be
rich, yet it was certainly known by his expenditure that neither was he
absolutely poor. He had, besides, some powers of conversation, when, as
we have already hinted, he chose to exert them, and his misanthropy or
aversion to the business and intercourse of ordinary life, was often
expressed in an antithetical manner, which passed for wit, when better
was not to be had. Above all, Mr. Mertoun's secret seemed impenetrable,
and his presence had all the interest of a riddle, which men love to
read over and over, because they cannot find out the meaning of it.

Notwithstanding these recommendations, Mertoun differed in so many
material points from his host, that after he had been for some time a
guest at his principal residence, Magnus Troil was agreeably surprised
when, one evening after they had sat two hours in absolute silence,
drinking brandy and water,--that is, Magnus drinking the alcohol, and
Mertoun the element,--the guest asked his host's permission to occupy,
as his tenant, this deserted mansion of Jarlshof, at the extremity of
the territory called Dunrossness, and situated just beneath
Sumburgh-Head. "I shall be handsomely rid of him," quoth Magnus to
himself, "and his kill-joy visage will never again stop the bottle in
its round. His departure will ruin me in lemons, however, for his mere
look was quite sufficient to sour a whole ocean of punch."

Yet the kind-hearted Zetlander generously and disinterestedly
remonstrated with Mr. Mertoun on the solitude and inconveniences to
which he was about to subject himself. "There were scarcely," he said,
"even the most necessary articles of furniture in the old house--there
was no society within many miles--for provisions, the principal article
of food would be sour sillocks, and his only company gulls and

"My good friend," replied Mertoun, "if you could have named a
circumstance which would render the residence more eligible to me than
any other, it is that there would be neither human luxury nor human
society near the place of my retreat; a shelter from the weather for my
own head, and for the boy's, is all I seek for. So name your rent, Mr.
Troil, and let me be your tenant at Jarlshof."

"Rent?" answered the Zetlander; "why, no great rent for an old house
which no one has lived in since my mother's time--God rest her!--and as
for shelter, the old walls are thick enough, and will bear many a bang
yet. But, Heaven love you, Mr. Mertoun, think what you are purposing.
For one of us to live at Jarlshof, were a wild scheme enough; but you,
who are from another country, whether English, Scotch, or Irish, no one
can tell"----

"Nor does it greatly matter," said Mertoun, somewhat abruptly.

"Not a herring's scale," answered the Laird; "only that I like you the
better for being no Scot, as I trust you are not one. Hither they have
come like the clack-geese--every chamberlain has brought over a flock of
his own name, and his own hatching, for what I know, and here they roost
for ever--catch them returning to their own barren Highlands or
Lowlands, when once they have tasted our Zetland beef, and seen our
bonny _voes_ and lochs. No, sir," (here Magnus proceeded with great
animation, sipping from time to time the half-diluted spirit, which at
the same time animated his resentment against the intruders, and enabled
him to endure the mortifying reflection which it suggested,)--"No, sir,
the ancient days and the genuine manners of these Islands are no more;
for our ancient possessors,--our Patersons, our Feas, our
Schlagbrenners, our Thorbiorns, have given place to Giffords, Scotts,
Mouats, men whose names bespeak them or their ancestors strangers to the
soil which we the Troils have inhabited long before the days of
Turf-Einar, who first taught these Isles the mystery of burning peat for
fuel, and who has been handed down to a grateful posterity by a name
which records the discovery."

This was a subject upon which the potentate of Jarlshof was usually very
diffuse, and Mertoun saw him enter upon it with pleasure, because he
knew he should not be called upon to contribute any aid to the
conversation, and might therefore indulge his own saturnine humour while
the Norwegian Zetlander declaimed on the change of times and
inhabitants. But just as Magnus had arrived at the melancholy
conclusion, "how probable it was, that in another century scarce a
_merk_--scarce even an _ure_ of land, would be in the possession of the
Norse inhabitants, the true Udallers[7] of Zetland," he recollected the
circumstances of his guest, and stopped suddenly short. "I do not say
all this," he added, interrupting himself, "as if I were unwilling that
you should settle on my estate, Mr. Mertoun--But for Jarlshof--the place
is a wild one--Come from where you will, I warrant you will say, like
other travellers, you came from a better climate than ours, for so say
you all. And yet you think of a retreat, which the very natives run away
from. Will you not take your glass?"--(This was to be considered as
interjectional,)--"then here's to you."

"My good sir," answered Mertoun, "I am indifferent to climate; if there
is but air enough to fill my lungs, I care not if it be the breath of
Arabia or of Lapland."

"Air enough you may have," answered Magnus, "no lack of that--somewhat
damp, strangers allege it to be, but we know a corrective for
that--Here's to you, Mr. Mertoun--You must learn to _do so_, and to
smoke a pipe; and then, as you say, you will find the air of Zetland
equal to that of Arabia. But have you seen Jarlshof?"

The stranger intimated that he had not.

"Then," replied Magnus, "you have no idea of your undertaking. If you
think it a comfortable roadstead like this, with the house situated on
the side of an inland voe,[8] that brings the herrings up to your door,
you are mistaken, my heart. At Jarlshof you will see nought but the wild
waves tumbling on the bare rocks, and the Roost of Sumburgh running at
the rate of fifteen knots an-hour."

"I shall see nothing at least of the current of human passions," replied

"You will hear nothing but the clanging and screaming of scarts,
sheer-waters, and seagulls, from daybreak till sunset."

"I will compound, my friend," replied the stranger, "so that I do not
hear the chattering of women's tongues."

"Ah," said the Norman, "that is because you hear just now my little
Minna and Brenda singing in the garden with your Mordaunt. Now, I would
rather listen to their little voices, than the skylark which I once
heard in Caithness, or the nightingale that I have read of.--What will
the girls do for want of their playmate Mordaunt?"

"They will shift for themselves," answered Mertoun; "younger or elder
they will find playmates or dupes.--But the question is, Mr. Troil, will
you let to me, as your tenant, this old mansion of Jarlshof?"

"Gladly, since you make it your option to live in a spot so desolate."

"And as for the rent?" continued Mertoun.

"The rent?" replied Magnus; "hum--why, you must have the bit of _plantie
cruive_,[9] which they once called a garden, and a right in the
_scathold_, and a sixpenny merk of land, that the tenants may fish for
you;--eight _lispunds_[10] of butter, and eight shillings sterling
yearly, is not too much?"

Mr. Mertoun agreed to terms so moderate, and from thenceforward resided
chiefly at the solitary mansion which we have described in the beginning
of this chapter, conforming not only without complaint, but, as it
seemed, with a sullen pleasure, to all the privations which so wild and
desolate a situation necessarily imposed on its inhabitant.


[7] The Udallers are the _allodial_ possessors of Zetland, who hold
their possessions under the old Norwegian law, instead of the feudal
tenures introduced among them from Scotland.

[8] Salt-water lake.

[9] Patch of ground for vegetables. The liberal custom of the country
permits any person, who has occasion for such a convenience, to select
out of the unenclosed moorland a small patch, which he surrounds with a
drystone wall, and cultivates as a kailyard, till he exhausts the soil
with cropping, and then he deserts it, and encloses another. This
liberty is so far from inferring an invasion of the right of proprietor
and tenant, that the last degree of contempt is inferred of an
avaricious man, when a Zetlander says he would not hold a _plantie
cruive_ of him.

[10] A lispund is about thirty pounds English, and the value is averaged
by Dr. Edmonston at ten shillings sterling.


  'Tis not alone the scene--the man, Anselmo,
  The man finds sympathies in these wild wastes,
  And roughly tumbling seas, which fairer views
  And smoother waves deny him.

                                            _Ancient Arama._

The few inhabitants of the township of Jarlshof had at first heard with
alarm, that a person of rank superior to their own was come to reside in
the ruinous tenement, which they still called the Castle. In those days
(for the present times are greatly altered for the better) the presence
of a superior, in such a situation, was almost certain to be attended
with additional burdens and exactions, for which, under one pretext or
another, feudal customs furnished a thousand apologies. By each of
these, a part of the tenants' hard-won and precarious profits was
diverted for the use of their powerful neighbour and superior, the
tacksman, as he was called. But the sub-tenants speedily found that no
oppression of this kind was to be apprehended at the hands of Basil
Mertoun. His own means, whether large or small, were at least fully
adequate to his expenses, which, so far as regarded his habits of life,
were of the most frugal description. The luxuries of a few books, and
some philosophical instruments, with which he was supplied from London
as occasion offered, seemed to indicate a degree of wealth unusual in
those islands; but, on the other hand, the table and the accommodations
at Jarlshof, did not exceed what was maintained by a Zetland proprietor
of the most inferior description.

The tenants of the hamlet troubled themselves very little about the
quality of their superior, as soon as they found that their situation
was rather to be mended than rendered worse by his presence; and, once
relieved from the apprehension of his tyrannizing over them, they laid
their heads together to make the most of him by various petty tricks of
overcharge and extortion, which for a while the stranger submitted to
with the most philosophic indifference. An incident, however, occurred,
which put his character in a new light, and effectually checked all
future efforts at extravagant imposition.

A dispute arose in the kitchen of the Castle betwixt an old governante,
who acted as housekeeper to Mr. Mertoun, and Sweyn Erickson, as good a
Zetlander as ever rowed a boat to the _haaf_ fishing;[11] which dispute,
as is usual in such cases, was maintained with such increasing heat and
vociferation as to reach the ears of the master, (as he was called,)
who, secluded in a solitary turret, was deeply employed in examining the
contents of a new package of books from London, which, after long
expectation, had found its way to Hull, from thence by a whaling vessel
to Lerwick, and so to Jarlshof. With more than the usual thrill of
indignation which indolent people always feel when roused into action on
some unpleasant occasion, Mertoun descended to the scene of contest, and
so suddenly, peremptorily, and strictly, enquired into the cause of
dispute, that the parties, notwithstanding every evasion which they
attempted, became unable to disguise from him, that their difference
respected the several interests to which the honest governante, and no
less honest fisherman, were respectively entitled, in an overcharge of
about one hundred per cent on a bargain of rock-cod, purchased by the
former from the latter, for the use of the family at Jarlshof.

When this was fairly ascertained and confessed, Mr. Mertoun stood
looking upon the culprits with eyes in which the utmost scorn seemed to
contend with awakening passion. "Hark you, ye old hag," said he at
length to the housekeeper, "avoid my house this instant! and know that I
dismiss you, not for being a liar, a thief, and an ungrateful
quean,--for these are qualities as proper to you as your name of
woman,--but for daring, in my house, to scold above your breath.--And
for you, you rascal, who suppose you may cheat a stranger as you would
_flinch_[12] a whale, know that I am well acquainted with the rights
which, by delegation from your master, Magnus Troil, I can exercise over
you, if I will. Provoke me to a certain pitch, and you shall learn, to
your cost, I can break your rest as easily as you can interrupt my
leisure. I know the meaning of _scat_, and _wattle_, and _hawkhen_, and
_hagalef_,(_b_) and every other exaction, by which your lords, in
ancient and modern days, have wrung your withers; nor is there one of
you that shall not rue the day that you could not be content with
robbing me of my money, but must also break in on my leisure with your
atrocious northern clamour, that rivals in discord the screaming of a
flight of Arctic gulls."

Nothing better occurred to Sweyn, in answer to this objurgation, than
the preferring a humble request that his honour would be pleased to
keep the cod-fish without payment, and say no more about the matter; but
by this time Mr. Mertoun had worked up his passions into an ungovernable
rage, and with one hand he threw the money at the fisherman's head,
while with the other he pelted him out of the apartment with his own
fish, which he finally flung out of doors after him.

There was so much of appalling and tyrannic fury in the stranger's
manner on this occasion, that Sweyn neither stopped to collect the money
nor take back his commodity, but fled at a precipitate rate to the small
hamlet, to tell his comrades that if they provoked Master Mertoun any
farther, he would turn an absolute Pate Stewart[13] on their hand, and
head and hang without either judgment or mercy.

Hither also came the discarded housekeeper, to consult with her
neighbours and kindred (for she too was a native of the village) what
she should do to regain the desirable situation from which she had been
so suddenly expelled. The old Ranzellaar of the village, who had the
voice most potential in the deliberations of the township, after hearing
what had happened, pronounced that Sweyn Erickson had gone too far in
raising the market upon Mr. Mertoun; and that whatever pretext the
tacksman might assume for thus giving way to his anger, the real
grievance must have been the charging the rock cod-fish at a penny
instead of a half-penny a-pound; he therefore exhorted all the community
never to raise their exactions in future beyond the proportion of
threepence upon the shilling, at which rate their master at the Castle
could not reasonably be expected to grumble, since, as he was disposed
to do them no harm, it was reasonable to think that, in a moderate way,
he had no objection to do them good. "And three upon twelve," said the
experienced Ranzellaar, "is a decent and moderate profit, and will bring
with it God's blessing and Saint Ronald's."

Proceeding upon the tariff thus judiciously recommended to them, the
inhabitants of Jarlshof cheated Mertoun in future only to the moderate
extent of twenty-five per cent; a rate to which all nabobs,
army-contractors, speculators in the funds, and others, whom recent and
rapid success has enabled to settle in the country upon a great scale,
ought to submit, as very reasonable treatment at the hand of their
rustic neighbours. Mertoun at least seemed of that opinion, for he gave
himself no farther trouble upon the subject of his household expenses.

The conscript fathers of Jarlshof, having settled their own matters,
took next under their consideration the case of Swertha, the banished
matron who had been expelled from the Castle, whom, as an experienced
and useful ally, they were highly desirous to restore to her office of
housekeeper, should that be found possible. But as their wisdom here
failed them, Swertha, in despair, had recourse to the good offices of
Mordaunt Mertoun, with whom she had acquired some favour by her
knowledge in old Norwegian ballads, and dismal tales concerning the
Trows or Drows, (the dwarfs of the Scalds,) with whom superstitious eld
had peopled many a lonely cavern and brown dale in Dunrossness, as in
every other district of Zetland. "Swertha," said the youth, "I can do
but little for you, but you may do something for yourself. My father's
passion resembles the fury of those ancient champions, those Berserkars,
you sing songs about."

"Ay, ay, fish of my heart," replied the old woman, with a pathetic
whine; "the Berserkars(_c_) were champions who lived before the blessed
days of Saint Olave, and who used to run like madmen on swords, and
spears, and harpoons, and muskets, and snap them all into pieces, as a
finner[14] would go through a herring-net, and then, when the fury went
off, they were as weak and unstable as water."[15]

"That's the very thing, Swertha," said Mordaunt. "Now, my father never
likes to think of his passion after it is over, and is so much of a
Berserkar, that, let him be desperate as he will to-day, he will not
care about it to-morrow. Therefore, he has not filled up your place in
the household at the Castle, and not a mouthful of warm food has been
dressed there since you went away, and not a morsel of bread baked, but
we have lived just upon whatever cold thing came to hand. Now, Swertha,
I will be your warrant, that if you go boldly up to the Castle, and
enter upon the discharge of your duties as usual, you will never hear a
single word from him."

Swertha hesitated at first to obey this bold counsel. She said, "to her
thinking, Mr. Mertoun, when he was angry, looked more like a fiend than
any Berserkar of them all; that the fire flashed from his eyes, and the
foam flew from his lips; and that it would be a plain tempting of
Providence to put herself again in such a venture."

But, on the encouragement which she received from the son, she
determined at length once more to face the parent; and, dressing herself
in her ordinary household attire, for so Mordaunt particularly
recommended, she slipped into the Castle, and presently resuming the
various and numerous occupations which devolved on her, seemed as deeply
engaged in household cares as if she had never been out of office.

The first day of her return to her duty, Swertha made no appearance in
presence of her master, but trusted that after his three days' diet on
cold meat, a hot dish, dressed with the best of her simple skill, might
introduce her favourably to his recollection. When Mordaunt had reported
that his father had taken no notice of this change of diet, and when she
herself observed that in passing and repassing him occasionally, her
appearance produced no effect upon her singular master, she began to
imagine that the whole affair had escaped Mr. Mertoun's memory, and was
active in her duty as usual. Neither was she convinced of the contrary
until one day, when, happening somewhat to elevate her tone in a dispute
with the other maid-servant, her master, who at that time passed the
place of contest, eyed her with a strong glance, and pronounced the
single word, _Remember!_ in a tone which taught Swertha the government
of her tongue for many weeks after.

If Mertoun was whimsical in his mode of governing his household, he
seemed no less so in his plan of educating his son. He showed the youth
but few symptoms of parental affection; yet, in his ordinary state of
mind, the improvement of Mordaunt's education seemed to be the utmost
object of his life. He had both books and information sufficient to
discharge the task of tutor in the ordinary branches of knowledge; and
in this capacity was regular, calm, and strict, not to say severe, in
exacting from his pupil the attention necessary for his profiting. But
in the perusal of history, to which their attention was frequently
turned, as well as in the study of classic authors, there often occurred
facts or sentiments which produced an instant effect upon Mertoun's
mind, and brought on him suddenly what Swertha, Sweyn, and even
Mordaunt, came to distinguish by the name of his dark hour. He was
aware, in the usual case, of its approach, and retreated to an inner
apartment, into which he never permitted even Mordaunt to enter. Here he
would abide in seclusion for days, and even weeks, only coming out at
uncertain times, to take such food as they had taken care to leave
within his reach, which he used in wonderfully small quantities. At
other times, and especially during the winter solstice, when almost
every person spends the gloomy time within doors in feasting and
merriment, this unhappy man would wrap himself in a dark-coloured
sea-cloak, and wander out along the stormy beach, or upon the desolate
heath, indulging his own gloomy and wayward reveries under the inclement
sky, the rather that he was then most sure to wander unencountered and

As Mordaunt grew older, he learned to note the particular signs which
preceded these fits of gloomy despondency, and to direct such
precautions as might ensure his unfortunate parent from ill-timed
interruption, (which had always the effect of driving him to fury,)
while, at the same time, full provision was made for his subsistence.
Mordaunt perceived that at such periods the melancholy fit of his father
was greatly prolonged, if he chanced to present himself to his eyes
while the dark hour was upon him. Out of respect, therefore, to his
parent, as well as to indulge the love of active exercise and of
amusement natural to his period of life, Mordaunt used often to absent
himself altogether from the mansion of Jarlshof, and even from the
district, secure that his father, if the dark hour passed away in his
absence, would be little inclined to enquire how his son had disposed of
his leisure, so that he was sure he had not watched his own weak
moments; that being the subject on which he entertained the utmost

At such times, therefore, all the sources of amusement which the country
afforded, were open to the younger Mertoun, who, in these intervals of
his education, had an opportunity to give full scope to the energies of
a bold, active, and daring character. He was often engaged with the
youth of the hamlet in those desperate sports, to which the "dreadful
trade of the samphire-gatherer" is like a walk upon level ground--often
joined those midnight excursions upon the face of the giddy cliffs, to
secure the eggs or the young of the sea-fowl; and in these daring
adventures displayed an address, presence of mind, and activity, which,
in one so young, and not a native of the country, astonished the oldest

At other times, Mordaunt accompanied Sweyn and other fishermen in their
long and perilous expeditions to the distant and deep sea, learning
under their direction the management of the boat, in which they equal,
or exceed, perhaps, any natives of the British empire. This exercise had
charms for Mordaunt, independently of the fishing alone.

At this time, the old Norwegian sagas were much remembered, and often
rehearsed, by the fishermen, who still preserved among themselves the
ancient Norse tongue, which was the speech of their forefathers. In the
dark romance of those Scandinavian tales, lay much that was captivating
to a youthful ear; and the classic fables of antiquity were rivalled at
least, if not excelled, in Mordaunt's opinion, by the strange legends of
Berserkars, of Sea-kings, of dwarfs, giants, and sorcerers, which he
heard from the native Zetlanders. Often the scenes around him were
assigned as the localities of the wild poems, which, half recited, half
chanted by voices as hoarse, if not so loud, as the waves over which
they floated, pointed out the very bay on which they sailed as the scene
of a bloody sea-fight; the scarce-seen heap of stones that bristled over
the projecting cape, as the dun, or castle, of some potent earl or noted
pirate; the distant and solitary grey stone on the lonely moor, as
marking the grave of a hero; the wild cavern, up which the sea rolled in
heavy, broad, and unbroken billows, as the dwelling of some noted

The ocean also had its mysteries, the effect of which was aided by the
dim twilight, through which it was imperfectly seen for more than half
the year. Its bottomless depths and secret caves contained, according to
the account of Sweyn and others, skilled in legendary lore, such wonders
as modern navigators reject with disdain. In the quiet moonlight bay,
where the waves came rippling to the shore, upon a bed of smooth sand
intermingled with shells, the mermaid was still seen to glide along the
waters, and, mingling her voice with the sighing breeze, was often heard
to sing of subterranean wonders, or to chant prophecies of future
events. The kraken, that hugest of living things, was still supposed to
cumber the recesses of the Northern Ocean; and often, when some fog-bank
covered the sea at a distance, the eye of the experienced boatman saw
the horns of the monstrous leviathan welking and waving amidst the
wreaths of mist, and bore away with all press of oar and sail, lest the
sudden suction, occasioned by the sinking of the monstrous mass to the
bottom, should drag within the grasp of its multifarious feelers his own
frail skiff. The sea-snake was also known, which, arising out of the
depths of ocean, stretches to the skies his enormous neck, covered with
a mane like that of a war-horse, and with its broad glittering eyes,
raised mast-head high, looks out, as it seems, for plunder or for

Many prodigious stories of these marine monsters, and of many others
less known, were then universally received among the Zetlanders, whose
descendants have not as yet by any means abandoned faith in them.[18]

Such legends are, indeed, everywhere current amongst the vulgar; but
the imagination is far more powerfully affected by them on the deep and
dangerous seas of the north, amidst precipices and headlands, many
hundred feet in height,--amid perilous straits, and currents, and
eddies,--long sunken reefs of rock, over which the vivid ocean foams and
boils,--dark caverns, to whose extremities neither man nor skiff has
ever ventured,--lonely, and often uninhabited isles,--and occasionally
the ruins of ancient northern fastnesses, dimly seen by the feeble light
of the Arctic winter. To Mordaunt, who had much of romance in his
disposition, these superstitions formed a pleasing and interesting
exercise of the imagination, while, half doubting, half inclined to
believe, he listened to the tales chanted concerning these wonders of
nature, and creatures of credulous belief, told in the rude but
energetic language of the ancient Scalds.

But there wanted not softer and lighter amusement, that might seem
better suited to Mordaunt's age, than the wild tales and rude exercises
which we have already mentioned. The season of winter, when, from the
shortness of the daylight, labour becomes impossible, is in Zetland the
time of revel, feasting, and merriment. Whatever the fisherman has been
able to acquire during summer, was expended, and often wasted, in
maintaining the mirth and hospitality of his hearth during this period;
while the landholders and gentlemen of the island gave double loose to
their convivial and hospitable dispositions, thronged their houses with
guests, and drove away the rigour of the season with jest, glee, and
song, the dance, and the wine-cup.

Amid the revels of this merry, though rigorous season, no youth added
more spirit to the dance, or glee to the revel, than the young stranger,
Mordaunt Mertoun. When his father's state of mind permitted, or indeed
required, his absence, he wandered from house to house a welcome guest
whereever he came, and lent his willing voice to the song, and his foot
to the dance. A boat, or, if the weather, as was often the case,
permitted not that convenience, one of the numerous ponies, which,
straying in hordes about the extensive moors, may be said to be at any
man's command who can catch them, conveyed him from the mansion of one
hospitable Zetlander to that of another. None excelled him in performing
the warlike sword-dance, a species of amusement which had been derived
from the habits of the ancient Norsemen. He could play upon the _gue_,
and upon the common violin, the melancholy and pathetic tunes peculiar
to the country; and with great spirit and execution could relieve their
monotony with the livelier airs of the North of Scotland. When a party
set forth as maskers, or, as they are called in Scotland, _guizards_, to
visit some neighbouring Laird, or rich Udaller, it augured well of the
expedition if Mordaunt Mertoun could be prevailed upon to undertake the
office of _skudler_, or leader of the band. Upon these occasions, full
of fun and frolic, he led his retinue from house to house, bringing
mirth where he went, and leaving regret when he departed. Mordaunt
became thus generally known and beloved as generally, through most of
the houses composing the patriarchal community of the Main Isle; but his
visits were most frequently and most willingly paid at the mansion of
his father's landlord and protector, Magnus Troil.

It was not entirely the hearty and sincere welcome of the worthy old
Magnate, nor the sense that he was in effect his father's patron, which
occasioned these frequent visits. The hand of welcome was indeed
received as eagerly as it was sincerely given, while the ancient
Udaller, raising himself in his huge chair, whereof the inside was lined
with well-dressed sealskins, and the outside composed of massive oak,
carved by the rude graving-tool of some Hamburgh carpenter, shouted
forth his welcome in a tone, which might, in ancient times, have hailed
the return of _Ioul_, the highest festival of the Goths. There was metal
yet more attractive, and younger hearts, whose welcome, if less loud,
was as sincere as that of the jolly Udaller. But this is matter which
ought not to be discussed at the conclusion of a chapter.


[11] _i. e._ The deep-sea fishing, in distinction to that which is
practised along shore.

[12] The operation of slicing the blubber from the bones of the whale,
is called, technically, _flinching_.

[13] Meaning, probably, Patrick Stewart, Earl of Orkney, executed for
tyranny and oppression practised on the inhabitants of those remote
islands, in the beginning of the seventeenth century.

[14] _Finner_, small whale.

[15] The sagas of the Scalds are full of descriptions of these
champions, and do not permit us to doubt that the Berserkars, so called
from fighting without armour, used some physical means of working
themselves into a frenzy, during which they possessed the strength and
energy of madness. The Indian warriors are well known to do the same by
dint of opium and bang.

[16] Fatal accidents, however, sometimes occur. When I visited the Fair
Isle in 1814, a poor lad of fourteen had been killed by a fall from the
rocks about a fortnight before our arrival. The accident happened almost
within sight of his mother, who was casting peats at no great distance.
The body fell into the sea, and was seen no more. But the islanders
account this an honourable mode of death; and as the children begin the
practice of climbing very early, fewer accidents occur than might be

[17] Note I.--Norse Fragments.

[18] Note II.--Monsters of the Northern Seas.


  "O, Bessy Bell and Mary Gray,
    They were twa bonnie lasses;
  They biggit a house on yon burn-brae,
    And theekit it ower wi' rashes.

  Fair Bessy Bell I looed yestreen,
    And thought I ne'er could alter;
  But Mary Gray's twa pawky een
    Have garr'd my fancy falter."(_d_)

                                               _Scots Song._

We have already mentioned Minna and Brenda, the daughters of Magnus
Troil. Their mother had been dead for many years, and they were now two
beautiful girls, the eldest only eighteen, which might be a year or two
younger than Mordaunt Mertoun, the second about seventeen.--They were
the joy of their father's heart, and the light of his old eyes; and
although indulged to a degree which might have endangered his comfort
and their own, they repaid his affection with a love, into which even
blind indulgence had not introduced slight regard, or feminine caprice.
The difference of their tempers and of their complexions was singularly
striking, although combined, as is usual, with a certain degree of
family resemblance.

The mother of these maidens had been a Scottish lady from the Highlands
of Sutherland, the orphan of a noble chief, who, driven from his own
country during the feuds of the seventeenth century, had found shelter
in those peaceful islands, which, amidst poverty and seclusion, were
thus far happy, that they remained unvexed by discord, and unstained by
civil broil. The father (his name was Saint Clair) pined for his native
glen, his feudal tower, his clansmen, and his fallen authority, and died
not long after his arrival in Zetland. The beauty of his orphan
daughter, despite her Scottish lineage, melted the stout heart of Magnus
Troil. He sued and was listened to, and she became his bride; but dying
in the fifth year of their union, left him to mourn his brief period of
domestic happiness.

From her mother, Minna inherited the stately form and dark eyes, the
raven locks and finely-pencilled brows, which showed she was, on one
side at least, a stranger to the blood of Thule. Her cheek,--

  "O call it fair, not pale!"

was so slightly and delicately tinged with the rose, that many thought
the lily had an undue proportion in her complexion. But in that
predominance of the paler flower, there was nothing sickly or languid;
it was the true natural colour of health, and corresponded in a peculiar
degree with features, which seemed calculated to express a contemplative
and high-minded character. When Minna Troil heard a tale of woe or of
injustice, it was then her blood rushed to her cheeks, and showed
plainly how warm it beat, notwithstanding the generally serious,
composed, and retiring disposition, which her countenance and demeanour
seemed to exhibit. If strangers sometimes conceived that these fine
features were clouded by melancholy, for which her age and situation
could scarce have given occasion, they were soon satisfied, upon
further acquaintance, that the placid, mild quietude of her disposition,
and the mental energy of a character which was but little interested in
ordinary and trivial occurrences, was the real cause of her gravity; and
most men, when they knew that her melancholy had no ground in real
sorrow, and was only the aspiration of a soul bent on more important
objects than those by which she was surrounded, might have wished her
whatever could add to her happiness, but could scarce have desired that,
graceful as she was in her natural and unaffected seriousness, she
should change that deportment for one more gay. In short,
notwithstanding our wish to have avoided that hackneyed simile of an
angel, we cannot avoid saying there was something in the serious beauty
of her aspect, in the measured, yet graceful ease of her motions, in the
music of her voice, and the serene purity of her eye, that seemed as if
Minna Troil belonged naturally to some higher and better sphere, and was
only the chance visitant of a world that was not worthy of her.

The scarcely less beautiful, equally lovely, and equally innocent
Brenda, was of a complexion as differing from her sister, as they
differed in character, taste, and expression. Her profuse locks were of
that paly brown which receives from the passing sunbeam a tinge of gold,
but darkens again when the ray has passed from it. Her eye, her mouth,
the beautiful row of teeth, which in her innocent vivacity were
frequently disclosed; the fresh, yet not too bright glow of a healthy
complexion, tinging a skin like the drifted snow, spoke her genuine
Scandinavian descent. A fairy form, less tall than that of Minna, but
still more finely moulded into symmetry--a careless, and almost
childish lightness of step--an eye that seemed to look on every object
with pleasure, from a natural and serene cheerfulness of disposition,
attracted even more general admiration than the charms of her sister,
though perhaps that which Minna did excite might be of a more intense as
well as more reverential character.

The dispositions of these lovely sisters were not less different than
their complexions. In the kindly affections, neither could be said to
excel the other, so much were they attached to their father and to each
other. But the cheerfulness of Brenda mixed itself with the every-day
business of life, and seemed inexhaustible in its profusion. The less
buoyant spirit of her sister appeared to bring to society a contented
wish to be interested and pleased with what was going forward, but was
rather placidly carried along with the stream of mirth and pleasure,
than disposed to aid its progress by any efforts of her own. She endured
mirth, rather than enjoyed it; and the pleasures in which she most
delighted, were those of a graver and more solitary cast. The knowledge
which is derived from books was beyond her reach. Zetland afforded few
opportunities, in those days, of studying the lessons, bequeathed

  "By dead men to their kind;"

and Magnus Troil, such as we have described him, was not a person within
whose mansion the means of such knowledge were to be acquired. But the
book of nature was before Minna, that noblest of volumes, where we are
ever called to wonder and to admire, even when we cannot understand.
The plants of those wild regions, the shells on the shores, and the
long list of feathered clans which haunt their cliffs and eyries, were
as well known to Minna Troil as to the most experienced fowlers. Her
powers of observation were wonderful, and little interrupted by other
tones of feeling. The information which she acquired by habits of
patient attention, was indelibly riveted in a naturally powerful memory.
She had also a high feeling for the solitary and melancholy grandeur of
the scenes in which she was placed. The ocean, in all its varied forms
of sublimity and terror--the tremendous cliffs that resound to the
ceaseless roar of the billows, and the clang of the sea-fowl, had for
Minna a charm in almost every state in which the changing seasons
exhibited them. With the enthusiastic feelings proper to the romantic
race from which her mother descended, the love of natural objects was to
her a passion capable not only of occupying, but at times of agitating,
her mind. Scenes upon which her sister looked with a sense of transient
awe or emotion, which vanished on her return from witnessing them,
continued long to fill Minna's imagination, not only in solitude, and in
the silence of the night, but in the hours of society. So that sometimes
when she sat like a beautiful statue, a present member of the domestic
circle, her thoughts were far absent, wandering on the wild sea-shore,
and among the yet wilder mountains of her native isles. And yet, when
recalled to conversation, and mingling in it with interest, there were
few to whom her friends were more indebted for enhancing its enjoyments;
and although something in her manners claimed deference (notwithstanding
her early youth) as well as affection, even her gay, lovely, and
amiable sister was not more generally beloved than the more retired and
pensive Minna.

Indeed, the two lovely sisters were not only the delight of their
friends, but the pride of those islands, where the inhabitants of a
certain rank were blended, by the remoteness of their situation and the
general hospitality of their habits, into one friendly community. A
wandering poet and parcel-musician, who, after going through various
fortunes, had returned to end his days as he could in his native
islands, had celebrated the daughters of Magnus in a poem, which he
entitled Night and Day; and in his description of Minna, might almost be
thought to have anticipated, though only in a rude outline, the
exquisite lines of Lord Byron,--

  "She walks in beauty, like the night
    Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
  And all that's best of dark and bright
    Meet in her aspect, and her eyes:
  Thus mellow'd to that tender light
    Which heaven to gaudy day denies."

Their father loved the maidens both so well, that it might be difficult
to say which he loved best; saving that, perchance, he liked his graver
damsel better in the walk without doors, and his merry maiden better by
the fireside; that he more desired the society of Minna when he was sad,
and that of Brenda when he was mirthful; and, what was nearly the same
thing, preferred Minna before noon, and Brenda after the glass had
circulated in the evening.

But it was still more extraordinary, that the affections of Mordaunt
Mertoun seemed to hover with the same impartiality as those of their
father betwixt the two lovely sisters. From his boyhood, as we have
noticed, he had been a frequent inmate of the residence of Magnus at
Burgh-Westra, although it lay nearly twenty miles distant from Jarlshof.
The impassable character of the country betwixt these places, extending
over hills covered with loose and quaking bog, and frequently
intersected by the creeks or arms of the sea, which indent the island on
either side, as well as by fresh-water streams and lakes, rendered the
journey difficult, and even dangerous, in the dark season; yet, as soon
as the state of his father's mind warned him to absent himself,
Mordaunt, at every risk, and under every difficulty, was pretty sure to
be found the next day at Burgh-Westra, having achieved his journey in
less time than would have been employed perhaps by the most active

He was of course set down as a wooer of one of the daughters of Magnus,
by the public of Zetland; and when the old Udaller's great partiality to
the youth was considered, nobody doubted that he might aspire to the
hand of either of those distinguished beauties, with as large a share of
islets, rocky moorland, and shore-fishings, as might be the fitting
portion of a favoured child, and with the presumptive prospect of
possessing half the domains of the ancient house of Troil, when their
present owner should be no more. This seemed all a reasonable
speculation, and, in theory at least, better constructed than many that
are current through the world as unquestionable facts. But, alas! all
that sharpness of observation which could be applied to the conduct of
the parties, failed to determine the main point, to which of the young
persons, namely, the attentions of Mordaunt were peculiarly devoted. He
seemed, in general, to treat them as an affectionate and attached
brother might have treated two sisters, so equally dear to him that a
breath would have turned the scale of affection. Or if at any time,
which often happened, the one maiden appeared the more especial object
of his attention, it seemed only to be because circumstances called her
peculiar talents and disposition into more particular and immediate

Both the sisters were accomplished in the simple music of the north, and
Mordaunt, who was their assistant, and sometimes their preceptor, when
they were practising this delightful art, might be now seen assisting
Minna in the acquisition of those wild, solemn, and simple airs, to
which scalds and harpers sung of old the deeds of heroes, and presently
found equally active in teaching Brenda the more lively and complicated
music, which their father's affection caused to be brought from the
English or Scottish capital for the use of his daughters. And while
conversing with them, Mordaunt, who mingled a strain of deep and ardent
enthusiasm with the gay and ungovernable spirits of youth, was equally
ready to enter into the wild and poetical visions of Minna, or into the
lively and often humorous chat of her gayer sister. In short, so little
did he seem to attach himself to either damsel exclusively, that he was
sometimes heard to say, that Minna never looked so lovely, as when her
lighthearted sister had induced her, for the time, to forget her
habitual gravity; or Brenda so interesting, as when she sat listening, a
subdued and affected partaker of the deep pathos of her sister Minna.

The public of the mainland were, therefore, to use the hunter's phrase,
at fault in their farther conclusions, and could but determine, after
long vacillating betwixt the maidens, that the young man was positively
to marry one of them, but which of the two could only be determined when
his approaching manhood, or the interference of stout old Magnus, the
father, should teach Master Mordaunt Mertoun to know his own mind. "It
was a pretty thing, indeed," they usually concluded, "that he, no native
born, and possessed of no visible means of subsistence that is known to
any one, should presume to hesitate, or affect to have the power of
selection and choice, betwixt the two most distinguished beauties of
Zetland. If they were Magnus Troil, they would soon be at the bottom of
the matter"--and so forth. All which remarks were only whispered, for
the hasty disposition of the Udaller had too much of the old Norse fire
about it to render it safe for any one to become an unauthorized
intermeddler with his family affairs; and thus stood the relation of
Mordaunt Mertoun to the family of Mr. Troil of Burgh-Westra, when the
following incidents took place.


  This is no pilgrim's morning--yon grey mist
  Lies upon hill, and dale, and field, and forest,
  Like the dun wimple of a new-made widow;
  And, by my faith, although my heart be soft,
  I'd rather hear that widow weep and sigh,
  And tell the virtues of the dear departed,
  Than, when the tempest sends his voice abroad,
  Be subject to its fury.

                                      _The Double Nuptials._

The spring was far advanced, when, after a week spent in sport and
festivity at Burgh-Westra, Mordaunt Mertoun bade adieu to the family,
pleading the necessity of his return to Jarlshof. The proposal was
combated by the maidens, and more decidedly by Magnus himself: He saw no
occasion whatever for Mordaunt returning to Jarlshof. If his father
desired to see him, which, by the way, Magnus did not believe, Mr.
Mertoun had only to throw himself into the stern of Sweyn's boat, or
betake himself to a pony, if he liked a land journey better, and he
would see not only his son, but twenty folk besides, who would be most
happy to find that he had not lost the use of his tongue entirely during
his long solitude; "although I must own," added the worthy Udaller,
"that when he lived among us, nobody ever made less use of it."

Mordaunt acquiesced both in what respected his father's taciturnity, and
his dislike to general society; but suggested, at the same time, that
the first circumstance rendered his own immediate return more
necessary, as he was the usual channel of communication betwixt his
father and others; and that the second corroborated the same necessity,
since Mr. Mertoun's having no other society whatever seemed a weighty
reason why his son's should be restored to him without loss of time. As
to his father's coming to Burgh-Westra, "they might as well," he said,
"expect to see Sumburgh Cape come thither."

"And that would be a cumbrous guest," said Magnus. "But you will stop
for our dinner to-day? There are the families of Muness, Quendale,
Thorslivoe, and I know not who else, are expected; and, besides the
thirty that were in house this blessed night, we shall have as many more
as chamber and bower, and barn and boat-house, can furnish with beds, or
with barley-straw,--and you will leave all this behind you!"

"And the blithe dance at night," added Brenda, in a tone betwixt
reproach and vexation; "and the young men from the Isle of Paba that are
to dance the sword-dance, whom shall we find to match them, for the
honour of the Main?"

"There is many a merry dancer on the mainland, Brenda," replied
Mordaunt, "even if I should never rise on tiptoe again. And where good
dancers are found, Brenda Troil will always find the best partner. I
must trip it to-night through the Wastes of Dunrossness."

"Do not say so, Mordaunt," said Minna, who, during this conversation,
had been looking from the window something anxiously; "go not, to-day at
least, through the Wastes of Dunrossness."

"And why not to-day, Minna," said Mordaunt, laughing, "any more than

"O, the morning mist lies heavy upon yonder chain of isles, nor has it
permitted us since daybreak even a single glimpse of Fitful-head, the
lofty cape that concludes yon splendid range of mountains. The fowl are
winging their way to the shore, and the shelldrake seems, through the
mist, as large as the scart.[19] See, the very sheerwaters and bonxies
are making to the cliffs for shelter."

"And they will ride out a gale against a king's frigate," said her
father; "there is foul weather when they cut and run."

"Stay, then, with us," said Minna to her friend; "the storm will be
dreadful, yet it will be grand to see it from Burgh-Westra, if we have
no friend exposed to its fury. See, the air is close and sultry, though
the season is yet so early, and the day so calm, that not a windlestraw
moves on the heath. Stay with us, Mordaunt; the storm which these signs
announce will be a dreadful one."

"I must be gone the sooner," was the conclusion of Mordaunt, who could
not deny the signs, which had not escaped his own quick observation. "If
the storm be too fierce, I will abide for the night at Stourburgh."

"What!" said Magnus; "will you leave us for the new chamberlain's new
Scotch tacksman, who is to teach all us Zetland savages new ways? Take
your own gate, my lad, if that is the song you sing."

"Nay," said Mordaunt; "I had only some curiosity to see the new
implements he has brought."

"Ay, ay, ferlies make fools fain. I would like to know if his new plough
will bear against a Zetland rock?" answered Magnus.

"I must not pass Stourburgh on the journey," said the youth, deferring
to his patron's prejudice against innovation, "if this boding weather
bring on tempest; but if it only break in rain, as is most probable, I
am not likely to be melted in the wetting."

"It will not soften into rain alone," said Minna; "see how much heavier
the clouds fall every moment, and see these weather-gaws that streak the
lead-coloured mass with partial gleams of faded red and purple."

"I see them all," said Mordaunt; "but they only tell me I have no time
to tarry here. Adieu, Minna; I will send you the eagle's feathers, if an
eagle can be found on Fair-isle or Foulah. And fare thee well, my pretty
Brenda, and keep a thought for me, should the Paba men dance ever so

"Take care of yourself, since go you will," said both sisters, together.

Old Magnus scolded them formally for supposing there was any danger to
an active young fellow from a spring gale, whether by sea or land; yet
ended by giving his own caution also to Mordaunt, advising him seriously
to delay his journey, or at least to stop at Stourburgh. "For," said he,
"second thoughts are best; and as this Scottishman's howf lies right
under your lee, why, take any port in a storm. But do not be assured to
find the door on latch, let the storm blow ever so hard; there are such
matters as bolts and bars in Scotland,(_e_) though, thanks to Saint
Ronald, they are unknown here, save that great lock on the old Castle
of Scalloway, that all men run to see--may be they make part of this
man's improvements. But go, Mordaunt, since go you will. You should
drink a stirrup-cup now, were you three years older, but boys should
never drink, excepting after dinner; I will drink it for you, that good
customs may not be broken, or bad luck come of it. Here is your bonally,
my lad." And so saying, he quaffed a rummer glass of brandy with as much
impunity as if it had been spring-water. Thus regretted and cautioned on
all hands, Mordaunt took leave of the hospitable household, and looking
back at the comforts with which it was surrounded, and the dense smoke
that rolled upwards from its chimneys, he first recollected the
guestless and solitary desolation of Jarlshof, then compared with the
sullen and moody melancholy of his father's temper the warm kindness of
those whom he was leaving, and could not refrain from a sigh at the
thoughts which forced themselves on his imagination.

The signs of the tempest did not dishonour the predictions of Minna.
Mordaunt had not advanced three hours on his journey, before the wind,
which had been so deadly still in the morning, began at first to wail
and sigh, as if bemoaning beforehand the evils which it might perpetrate
in its fury, like a madman in the gloomy state of dejection which
precedes his fit of violence; then gradually increasing, the gale
howled, raged, and roared, with the full fury of a northern storm. It
was accompanied by showers of rain mixed with hail, that dashed with the
most unrelenting rage against the hills and rocks with which the
traveller was surrounded, distracting his attention, in spite of his
utmost exertions, and rendering it very difficult for him to keep the
direction of his journey in a country where there is neither road, nor
even the slightest track to direct the steps of the wanderer, and where
he is often interrupted by brooks as well as large pools of water,
lakes, and lagoons. All these inland waters were now lashed into sheets
of tumbling foam, much of which, carried off by the fury of the
whirlwind, was mingled with the gale, and transported far from the waves
of which it had lately made a part; while the salt relish of the drift
which was pelted against his face, showed Mordaunt that the spray of the
more distant ocean, disturbed to frenzy by the storm, was mingled with
that of the inland lakes and streams.

Amidst this hideous combustion of the elements, Mordaunt Mertoun
struggled forward as one to whom such elemental war was familiar, and
who regarded the exertions which it required to withstand its fury, but
as a mark of resolution and manhood. He felt even, as happens usually to
those who endure great hardships, that the exertion necessary to subdue
them, is in itself a kind of elevating triumph. To see and distinguish
his path when the cattle were driven from the hill, and the very fowls
from the firmament, was but the stronger proof of his own superiority.
"They shall not hear of me at Burgh-Westra," said he to himself, "as
they heard of old doited Ringan Ewenson's boat, that foundered betwixt
roadstead and key. I am more of a cragsman than to mind fire or water,
wave by sea, or quagmire by land." Thus he struggled on, buffeting with
the storm, supplying the want of the usual signs by which travellers
directed their progress, (for rock, mountain, and headland, were
shrouded in mist and darkness,) by the instinctive sagacity with which
long acquaintance with these wilds had taught him to mark every minute
object, which could serve in such circumstances to regulate his course.
Thus, we repeat, he struggled onward, occasionally standing still, or
even lying down, when the gust was most impetuous; making way against it
when it was somewhat lulled, by a rapid and bold advance even in its
very current; or, when this was impossible, by a movement resembling
that of a vessel working to windward by short tacks, but never yielding
one inch of the way which he had fought so hard to gain.

Yet, notwithstanding Mordaunt's experience and resolution, his situation
was sufficiently uncomfortable, and even precarious; not because his
sailor's jacket and trowsers, the common dress of young men through
these isles when on a journey, were thoroughly wet, for that might have
taken place within the same brief time, in any ordinary day, in this
watery climate; but the real danger was, that, notwithstanding his
utmost exertions, he made very slow way through brooks that were sending
their waters all abroad, through morasses drowned in double deluges of
moisture, which rendered all the ordinary passes more than usually
dangerous, and repeatedly obliged the traveller to perform a
considerable circuit, which in the usual case was unnecessary. Thus
repeatedly baffled, notwithstanding his youth and strength, Mordaunt,
after maintaining a dogged conflict with wind, rain, and the fatigue of
a prolonged journey, was truly happy, when, not without having been more
than once mistaken in his road, he at length found himself within sight
of the house of Stourburgh, or Harfra; for the names were indifferently
given to the residence of Mr. Triptolemus Yellowley, who was the chosen
missionary of the Chamberlain of Orkney and Zetland, a speculative
person, who designed, through the medium of Triptolemus, to introduce
into the _Ultima Thule_ of the Romans, a spirit of improvement, which at
that early period was scarce known to exist in Scotland itself.

At length, and with much difficulty, Mordaunt reached the house of this
worthy agriculturist, the only refuge from the relentless storm which he
could hope to meet with for several miles; and going straight to the
door, with the most undoubting confidence of instant admission, he was
not a little surprised to find it not merely latched, which the weather
might excuse, but even bolted, a thing which, as Magnus Troil has
already intimated, was almost unknown in the Archipelago. To knock, to
call, and finally to batter the door with staff and stones, were the
natural resources of the youth, who was rendered alike impatient by the
pelting of the storm, and by encountering such most unexpected and
unusual obstacles to instant admission. As he was suffered, however, for
many minutes to exhaust his impatience in noise and clamour, without
receiving any reply, we will employ them in informing the reader who
Triptolemus Yellowley was, and how he came by a name so singular.

Old Jasper Yellowley, the father of Triptolemus, (though born at the
foot of Roseberry-Topping,) had been _come over_ by a certain noble
Scottish Earl, who, proving too far north for canny Yorkshire, had
persuaded him to accept of a farm in the Mearns, where, it is
unnecessary to add, he found matters very different from what he had
expected. It was in vain that the stout farmer set manfully to work, to
counterbalance, by superior skill, the inconveniences arising from a
cold soil and a weeping climate. These might have been probably
overcome; but his neighbourhood to the Grampians exposed him eternally
to that species of visitation from the plaided gentry, who dwelt within
their skirts, which made young Norval a warrior and a hero, but only
converted Jasper Yellowley into a poor man. This was, indeed, balanced
in some sort by the impression which his ruddy cheek and robust form had
the fortune to make upon Miss Barbara Clinkscale, daughter to the
umquhile, and sister to the then existing, Clinkscale of that ilk.

This was thought a horrid and unnatural union in the neighbourhood,
considering that the house of Clinkscale had at least as great a share
of Scottish pride as of Scottish parsimony, and was amply endowed with
both. But Miss Babie had her handsome fortune of two thousand marks at
her own disposal, was a woman of spirit who had been _major_ and _sui
juris_, (as the writer who drew the contract assured her,) for full
twenty years; so she set consequences and commentaries alike at
defiance, and wedded the hearty Yorkshire yeoman. Her brother and her
more wealthy kinsmen drew off in disgust, and almost disowned their
degraded relative. But the house of Clinkscale was allied (like every
other family in Scotland at the time) to a set of relations who were not
so nice--tenth and sixteenth cousins, who not only acknowledged their
kinswoman Babie after her marriage with Yellowley but even condescended
to eat beans and bacon (though the latter was then the abomination of
the Scotch as much as of the Jews) with her husband, and would
willingly have cemented the friendship by borrowing a little cash from
him, had not his good lady (who understood trap as well as any woman in
the Mearns) put a negative on this advance to intimacy. Indeed she knew
how to make young Deilbelicket,(_f_) old Dougald Baresword, the Laird of
Bandybrawl, and others, pay for the hospitality which she did not think
proper to deny them, by rendering them useful in her negotiations with
the lighthanded lads beyond the Cairn, who, finding their late object of
plunder was now allied to "kend folks, and owned by them at kirk and
market," became satisfied, on a moderate yearly composition, to desist
from their depredations.

This eminent success reconciled Jasper to the dominion which his wife
began to assume over him; and which was much confirmed by her proving to
be--let me see--what is the prettiest mode of expressing it?--in the
family way. On this occasion, Mrs. Yellowley had a remarkable dream, as
is the usual practice of teeming mothers previous to the birth of an
illustrious offspring. She "was a-dreamed," as her husband expressed it,
that she was safely delivered of a plough, drawn by three yoke of
Angus-shire oxen; and being a mighty investigator into such portents,
she sat herself down with her gossips, to consider what the thing might
mean. Honest Jasper ventured, with much hesitation, to intimate his own
opinion, that the vision had reference rather to things past than things
future, and might have been occasioned by his wife's nerves having been
a little startled by meeting in the loan above the house his own great
plough with the six oxen, which were the pride of his heart. But the
good _cummers_[20] raised such a hue and cry against this exposition,
that Jasper was fain to put his fingers in his ears, and to run out of
the apartment.

"Hear to him," said an old whigamore carline--"hear to him, wi' his
owsen, that are as an idol to him, even as the calf of Bethel! Na,
na--it's nae pleugh of the flesh that the bonny lad-bairn--for a lad it
sall be--sall e'er striddle between the stilts o'--it's the pleugh of
the spirit--and I trust mysell to see him wag the head o' him in a
pu'pit; or, what's better, on a hill-side."

"Now the deil's in your whiggery," said the old Lady Glenprosing; "wad
ye hae our cummer's bonny lad-bairn wag the head aff his shouthers like
your godly Mess James Guthrie,(_g_) that ye hald such a clavering
about?--Na, na, he sall walk a mair siccar path, and be a dainty
curate--and say he should live to be a bishop, what the waur wad he be?"

The gauntlet thus fairly flung down by one sibyl, was caught up by
another, and the controversy between presbytery and episcopacy raged,
roared, or rather screamed, a round of cinnamon-water serving only like
oil to the flame, till Jasper entered with the plough-staff; and by the
awe of his presence, and the shame of misbehaving "before the stranger
man," imposed some conditions of silence upon the disputants.

I do not know whether it was impatience to give to the light a being
destined to such high and doubtful fates, or whether poor Dame Yellowley
was rather frightened at the hurly-burly which had taken place in her
presence, but she was taken suddenly ill; and, contrary to the formula
in such cases used and provided, was soon reported to be "a good deal
worse than was to be expected." She took the opportunity (having still
all her wits about her) to extract from her sympathetic husband two
promises; first, that he would christen the child, whose birth was like
to cost her so dear, by a name indicative of the vision with which she
had been favoured; and next, that he would educate him for the ministry.
The canny Yorkshireman, thinking she had a good title at present to
dictate in such matters, subscribed to all she required. A man-child was
accordingly born under these conditions, but the state of the mother did
not permit her for many days to enquire how far they had been complied
with. When she was in some degree convalescent, she was informed, that
as it was thought fit the child should be immediately christened, it had
received the name of Triptolemus; the Curate, who was a man of some
classical skill, conceiving that this epithet contained a handsome and
classical allusion to the visionary plough, with its triple yoke of
oxen. Mrs. Yellowley was not much delighted with the manner in which her
request had been complied with; but grumbling being to as little purpose
as in the celebrated case of Tristram Shandy, she e'en sat down
contented with the heathenish name, and endeavoured to counteract the
effects it might produce upon the taste and feelings of the nominee, by
such an education as might put him above the slightest thought of sacks,
coulters, stilts, mould-boards, or any thing connected with the servile
drudgery of the plough.

Jasper, sage Yorkshireman, smiled slyly in his sleeve, conceiving that
young Trippie was likely to prove a chip of the old block, and would
rather take after the jolly Yorkshire yeoman, than the gentle but
somewhat _aigre_ blood of the house of Clinkscale. He remarked, with
suppressed glee, that the tune which best answered the purpose of a
lullaby was the "Ploughman's Whistle," and the first words the infant
learned to stammer were the names of the oxen; moreover, that the "bern"
preferred home-brewed ale to Scotch twopenny, and never quitted hold of
the tankard with so much reluctance as when there had been, by some
manoeuvre of Jasper's own device, a double straik of malt allowed to the
brewing, above that which was sanctioned by the most liberal recipe, of
which his dame's household thrift admitted. Besides this, when no other
means could be fallen upon to divert an occasional fit of squalling, his
father observed that Trip could be always silenced by jingling a bridle
at his ear. From all which symptoms he used to swear in private, that
the boy would prove true Yorkshire, and mother and mother's kin would
have small share of him.

Meanwhile, and within a year after the birth of Triptolemus, Mrs.
Yellowley bore a daughter, named after herself Barbara, who, even in
earliest infancy, exhibited the pinched nose and thin lips by which the
Clinkscale family were distinguished amongst the inhabitants of the
Mearns; and as her childhood advanced, the readiness with which she
seized, and the tenacity wherewith she detained, the playthings of
Triptolemus, besides a desire to bite, pinch, and scratch, on slight, or
no provocation, were all considered by attentive observers as proofs,
that Miss Babie would prove "her mother over again." Malicious people
did not stick to say, that the acrimony of the Clinkscale blood had not,
on this occasion, been cooled and sweetened by that of Old England;
that young Deilbelicket was much about the house, and they could not but
think it odd that Mrs. Yellowley, who, as the whole world knew, gave
nothing for nothing, should be so uncommonly attentive to heap the
trencher, and to fill the caup, of an idle blackguard ne'er-do-weel. But
when folk had once looked upon the austere and awfully virtuous
countenance of Mrs. Yellowley, they did full justice to her propriety of
conduct, and Deilbelicket's delicacy of taste.

Meantime young Triptolemus, having received such instructions as the
Curate could give him, (for though Dame Yellowley adhered to the
persecuted remnant, her jolly husband, edified by the black gown and
prayer-book, still conformed to the church as by law established,) was,
in due process of time, sent to Saint Andrews to prosecute his studies.
He went, it is true; but with an eye turned back with sad remembrances
on his father's plough, his father's pancakes, and his father's ale, for
which the small-beer of the college, commonly there termed
"thorough-go-nimble," furnished a poor substitute. Yet he advanced in
his learning, being found, however, to show a particular favour to such
authors of antiquity as had made the improvement of the soil the object
of their researches. He endured the Bucolics of Virgil--the Georgics he
had by heart--but the Æneid he could not away with; and he was
particularly severe upon the celebrated line expressing a charge of
cavalry, because, as he understood the word _putrem_,[21] he opined that
the combatants, in their inconsiderate ardour, galloped over a
new-manured ploughed field. Cato, the Roman Censor was his favourite
among classical heroes and philosophers, not on account of the
strictness of his morals, but because of his treatise, _de Re Rustica_.
He had ever in his mouth the phrase of Cicero, _Jam neminem antepones
Catoni_. He thought well of Palladius, and of Terentius Varro, but
Columella was his pocket-companion. To these ancient worthies, he added
the more modern Tusser, Hartlib, and other writers on rural economics,
not forgetting the lucubrations of the Shepherd of Salisbury Plain, and
such of the better-informed Philomaths, who, instead of loading their
almanacks with vain predictions of political events, pretended to see
what seeds would grow and what would not, and direct the attention of
their readers to that course of cultivation from which the production of
good crops may be safely predicted; modest sages, in fine, who, careless
of the rise and downfall of empires, content themselves with pointing
out the fit seasons to reap and sow, with a fair guess at the weather
which each month will be likely to present; as, for example, that if
Heaven pleases, we shall have snow in January, and the author will stake
his reputation that July proves, on the whole, a month of sunshine. Now,
although the Rector of Saint Leonard's was greatly pleased, in general,
with the quiet, laborious, and studious bent of Triptolemus Yellowley,
and deemed him, in so far, worthy of a name of four syllables having a
Latin termination, yet he relished not, by any means, his exclusive
attention to his favourite authors. It savoured of the earth, he said,
if not of something worse, to have a man's mind always grovelling in
mould, stercorated or unstercorated; and he pointed out, but in vain,
history, and poetry, and divinity, as more elevating subjects of
occupation. Triptolemus Yellowley was obstinate in his own course: Of
the battle of Pharsalia, he thought not as it affected the freedom of
the world, but dwelt on the rich crop which the Emathian fields were
likely to produce the next season. In vernacular poetry, Triptolemus
could scarce be prevailed upon to read a single couplet, excepting old
Tusser, as aforesaid, whose Hundred Points of Good Husbandry he had got
by heart; and excepting also Piers Ploughman's Vision, which, charmed
with the title, he bought with avidity from a packman, but after reading
the two first pages, flung it into the fire as an impudent and misnamed
political libel. As to divinity, he summed that matter up by reminding
his instructors, that to labour the earth and win his bread with the
toil of his body and sweat of his brow, was the lot imposed upon fallen
man; and, for his part, he was resolved to discharge, to the best of his
abilities, a task so obviously necessary to existence, leaving others to
speculate as much as they would, upon the more recondite mysteries of

With a spirit so much narrowed and limited to the concerns of rural
life, it may be doubted whether the proficiency of Triptolemus in
learning, or the use he was like to make of his acquisitions, would have
much gratified the ambitious hope of his affectionate mother. It is
true, he expressed no reluctance to embrace the profession of a
clergyman, which suited well enough with the habitual personal indolence
which sometimes attaches to speculative dispositions. He had views, to
speak plainly, (I wish they were peculiar to himself,) of cultivating
the _glebe_ six days in the week, preaching on the seventh with due
regularity, and dining with some fat franklin or country laird, with
whom he could smoke a pipe and drink a tankard after dinner, and mix in
secret conference on the exhaustless subject,

  Quid faciat lætas segetes.

Now, this plan, besides that it indicated nothing of what was then
called the root of the matter, implied necessarily the possession of a
manse; and the possession of a manse inferred compliance with the
doctrines of prelacy, and other enormities of the time. There was some
question how far manse and glebe, stipend, both victual and money, might
have outbalanced the good lady's predisposition towards Presbytery; but
her zeal was not put to so severe a trial. She died before her son had
completed his studies, leaving her afflicted spouse just as disconsolate
as was to be expected. The first act of old Jasper's undivided
administration was to recall his son from Saint Andrews, in order to
obtain his assistance in his domestic labours. And here it might have
been supposed that our Triptolemus, summoned to carry into practice what
he had so fondly studied in theory, must have been, to use a simile
which _he_ would have thought lively, like a cow entering upon a clover
park. Alas, mistaken thoughts, and deceitful hopes of mankind!

A laughing philosopher, the Democritus of our day, once, in a moral
lecture, compared human life to a table pierced with a number of holes,
each of which has a pin made exactly to fit it, but which pins being
stuck in hastily, and without selection, chance leads inevitably to the
most awkward mistakes. "For how often do we see," the orator
pathetically concluded,--"how often, I say, do we see the round man
stuck into the three-cornered hole!" This new illustration of the
vagaries of fortune set every one present into convulsions of laughter,
excepting one fat alderman, who seemed to make the case his own, and
insisted that it was no jesting matter. To take up the simile, however,
which is an excellent one, it is plain that Triptolemus Yellowley had
been shaken out of the bag at least a hundred years too soon. If he had
come on the stage in our own time, that is, if he had flourished at any
time within these thirty or forty years, he could not have missed to
have held the office of vice-president of some eminent agricultural
society, and to have transacted all the business thereof under the
auspices of some noble duke or lord, who, as the matter might happen,
either knew, or did not know, the difference betwixt a horse and a cart,
and a cart-horse. He could not have missed such preferment, for he was
exceedingly learned in all those particulars, which, being of no
consequence in actual practice, go, of course, a great way to constitute
the character of a connoisseur in any art, and especially in
agriculture. But, alas! Triptolemus Yellowley had, as we already have
hinted, come into the world at least a century too soon; for, instead of
sitting in an arm-chair, with a hammer in his hand, and a bumper of port
before him, giving forth the toast,--"To breeding, in all its branches,"
his father planted him betwixt the stilts of a plough, and invited him
to guide the oxen, on whose beauties he would, in our day, have
descanted, and whose rumps he would not have goaded, but have carved.
Old Jasper complained, that although no one talked so well of common and
several, wheat and rape, fallow and lea, as his learned son, (whom he
always called Tolimus,) yet, "dang it," added the Seneca, "nought
thrives wi' un--nought thrives wi' un!" It was still worse, when Jasper,
becoming frail and ancient, was obliged, as happened in the course of a
few years, gradually to yield up the reins of government to the
academical neophyte.

As if Nature had meant him a spite, he had got one of the _dourest_ and
most intractable farms in the Mearns, to try conclusions withal, a place
which seemed to yield every thing but what the agriculturist wanted; for
there were plenty of thistles, which indicates dry land; and store of
fern, which is said to intimate deep land; and nettles, which show where
lime hath been applied; and deep furrows in the most unlikely spots,
which intimated that it had been cultivated in former days by the
Peghts, as popular tradition bore. There was also enough of stones to
keep the ground warm, according to the creed of some farmers, and great
abundance of springs to render it cool and sappy, according to the
theory of others. It was in vain that, acting alternately on these
opinions, poor Triptolemus endeavoured to avail himself of the supposed
capabilities of the soil. No kind of butter that might be churned could
be made to stick upon his own bread, any more than on that of poor
Tusser, whose Hundred Points of Good Husbandry, so useful to others of
his day, were never to himself worth as many pennies.[22]

In fact, excepting an hundred acres of infield, to which old Jasper had
early seen the necessity of limiting his labours, there was not a
corner of the farm fit for any thing but to break plough-graith, and
kill cattle. And then, as for the part which was really tilled with some
profit, the expense of the farming establishment of Triptolemus, and his
disposition to experiment, soon got rid of any good arising from the
cultivation of it. "The carles and the cart-avers," he confessed, with a
sigh, speaking of his farm-servants and horses, "make it all, and the
carles and cart-avers eat it all;" a conclusion which might sum up the
year-book of many a gentleman farmer.

Matters would have soon been brought to a close with Triptolemus in the
present day. He would have got a bank-credit, manoeuvred with
wind-bills, dashed out upon a large scale, and soon have seen his crop
and stock sequestered by the Sheriff; but in those days a man could not
ruin himself so easily. The whole Scottish tenantry stood upon the same
level flat of poverty, so that it was extremely difficult to find any
vantage ground, by climbing up to which a man might have an opportunity
of actually breaking his neck with some eclat. They were pretty much in
the situation of people, who, being totally without credit, may indeed
suffer from indigence, but cannot possibly become bankrupt. Besides,
notwithstanding the failure of Triptolemus's projects, there was to be
balanced against the expenditure which they occasioned, all the savings
which the extreme economy of his sister Barbara could effect; and in
truth her exertions were wonderful. She might have realized, if any one
could, the idea of the learned philosopher, who pronounced that sleeping
was a fancy, and eating but a habit, and who appeared to the world to
have renounced both, until it was unhappily discovered that he had an
intrigue with the cook-maid of the family, who indemnified him for his
privations by giving him private entrée to the pantry, and to a share of
her own couch. But no such deceptions were practised by Barbara
Yellowley. She was up early, and down late, and seemed, to her
over-watched and over-tasked maidens, to be as _wakerife_ as the cat
herself. Then, for eating, it appeared that the air was a banquet to
her, and she would fain have made it so to her retinue. Her brother,
who, besides being lazy in his person, was somewhat luxurious in his
appetite, would willingly now and then have tasted a mouthful of animal
food, were it but to know how his sheep were fed off; but a proposal to
eat a child could not have startled Mistress Barbara more; and, being of
a compliant and easy disposition, Triptolemus reconciled himself to the
necessity of a perpetual Lent, too happy when he could get a scrap of
butter to his oaten cake, or (as they lived on the banks of the Esk)
escape the daily necessity of eating salmon, whether in or out of
season, six days out of the seven.

But although Mrs. Barbara brought faithfully to the joint stock all
savings which her awful powers of economy accomplished to scrape
together, and although the dower of their mother was by degrees
expended, or nearly so, in aiding them upon extreme occasions, the term
at length approached when it seemed impossible that they could sustain
the conflict any longer against the evil star of Triptolemus, as he
called it himself, or the natural result of his absurd speculations, as
it was termed by others. Luckily at this sad crisis, a god jumped down
to their relief out of a machine. In plain English, the noble lord, who
owned their farm, arrived at his mansion-house in their neighbourhood,
with his coach and six and his running footmen, in the full splendour
of the seventeenth century.

This person of quality was the son of the nobleman who had brought the
ancient Jasper into the country from Yorkshire, and he was, like his
father, a fanciful and scheming man.[23] He had schemed well for
himself, however, amid the mutations of the time, having obtained, for a
certain period of years, the administration of the remote islands of
Orkney and Zetland, for payment of a certain rent, with the right of
making the most of whatever was the property or revenue of the crown in
these districts, under the title of Lord Chamberlain. Now, his lordship
had become possessed with a notion, in itself a very true one, that much
might be done to render this grant available, by improving the culture
of the crown lands, both in Orkney and Zetland; and then having some
acquaintance with our friend Triptolemus, he thought (rather less
happily) that he might prove a person capable of furthering his schemes.
He sent for him to the great Hallhouse, and was so much edified by the
way in which our friend laid down the law upon every given subject
relating to rural economy, that he lost no time in securing the
co-operation of so valuable an assistant, the first step being to
release him from his present unprofitable farm.

The terms were arranged much to the mind of Triptolemus, who had already
been taught, by many years' experience, a dark sort of notion, that
without undervaluing or doubting for a moment his own skill, it would be
quite as well that almost all the trouble and risk should be at the
expense of his employer. Indeed, the hopes of advantage which he held
out to his patron were so considerable, that the Lord Chamberlain
dropped every idea of admitting his dependent into any share of the
expected profits; for, rude as the arts of agriculture were in Scotland,
they were far superior to those known and practised in the regions of
Thule, and Triptolemus Yellowley conceived himself to be possessed of a
degree of insight into these mysteries, far superior to what was
possessed or practised even in the Mearns. The improvement, therefore,
which was to be expected, would bear a double proportion, and the Lord
Chamberlain was to reap all the profit, deducting a handsome salary for
his steward Yellowley, together with the accommodation of a house and
domestic farm, for the support of his family. Joy seized the heart of
Mistress Barbara, at hearing this happy termination of what threatened
to be so very bad an affair as the lease of Cauldacres.

"If we cannot," she said, "provide for our own house, when all is coming
in, and nothing going out, surely we must be worse than infidels!"

Triptolemus was a busy man for some time, huffing and puffing, and
eating and drinking in every changehouse, while he ordered and collected
together proper implements of agriculture, to be used by the natives of
these devoted islands, whose destinies were menaced with this formidable
change. Singular tools these would seem, if presented before a modern
agricultural society; but every thing is relative, nor could the heavy
cartload of timber, called the old Scots plough, seem less strange to a
Scottish farmer of this present day, than the corslets and casques of
the soldiers of Cortes might seem to a regiment of our own army. Yet the
latter conquered Mexico, and undoubtedly the former would have been a
splendid improvement on the state of agriculture in Thule.

We have never been able to learn why Triptolemus preferred fixing his
residence in Zetland, to becoming an inhabitant of the Orkneys. Perhaps
he thought the inhabitants of the latter Archipelago the more simple and
docile of the two kindred tribes; or perhaps he considered the situation
of the house and farm he himself was to occupy, (which was indeed a
tolerable one,) as preferable to that which he had it in his power to
have obtained upon Pomona (so the main island of the Orkneys is
entitled). At Harfra, or, as it was sometimes called, Stourburgh, from
the remains of a Pictish fort, which was almost close to the
mansion-house, the factor settled himself, in the plenitude of his
authority; determined to honour the name he bore by his exertions, in
precept and example, to civilize the Zetlanders, and improve their very
confined knowledge in the primary arts of human life.


[19] The cormorant; which may be seen frequently dashing in wild flight
along the roosts and tides of Zetland, and yet more often drawn up in
ranks on some ledge of rock, like a body of the Black Brunswickers in

[20] _i. e._ Gossips.

[21] Quadrupedumque putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum.

[22] This is admitted by the English agriculturist:--

  "My music since has been the plough,
    Entangled with some care among;
  The gain not great, the pain enough,
    Hath made me sing another song."

[23] GOVERNMENT OF ZETLAND.--At the period supposed, the Earls of Morton
held the islands of Orkney and Zetland, originally granted in 1643,
confirmed in 1707, and rendered absolute in 1742. This gave the family
much property and influence, which they usually exercised by factors,
named chamberlains. In 1766 this property was sold by the then Earl of
Morton to Sir Lawrence Dundas, by whose son, Lord Dundas, it is now


  The wind blew keen frae north and east;
    It blew upon the floor.
  Quo' our goodman to our goodwife,
    "Get up and bar the door."

  "My hand is in my housewife-skep,
    Goodman, as ye may see;
  If it shouldna be barr'd this hundred years,
    It's no be barr'd for me!"

                                                 _Old Song._

We can only hope that the gentle reader has not found the latter part of
the last chapter extremely tedious; but, at any rate, his impatience
will scarce equal that of young Mordaunt Mertoun, who, while the
lightning came flash after flash, while the wind, veering and shifting
from point to point, blew with all the fury of a hurricane, and while
the rain was dashed against him in deluges, stood hammering, calling,
and roaring at the door of the old Place of Harfra, impatient for
admittance, and at a loss to conceive any position of existing
circumstances, which could occasion the exclusion of a stranger,
especially during such horrible weather. At length, finding his noise
and vociferation were equally in vain, he fell back so far from the
front of the house, as was necessary to enable him to reconnoitre the
chimneys; and amidst "storm and shade," could discover, to the increase
of his dismay, that though noon, then the dinner hour of these islands,
was now nearly arrived, there was no smoke proceeding from the tunnels
of the vents to give any note of preparation within.

Mordaunt's wrathful impatience was now changed into sympathy and alarm;
for, so long accustomed to the exuberant hospitality of the Zetland
islands, he was immediately induced to suppose some strange and
unaccountable disaster had befallen the family; and forthwith set
himself to discover some place at which he could make forcible entry, in
order to ascertain the situation of the inmates, as much as to obtain
shelter from the still increasing storm. His present anxiety was,
however, as much thrown away as his late clamorous importunities for
admittance had been. Triptolemus and his sister had heard the whole
alarm without, and had already had a sharp dispute on the propriety of
opening the door.

Mrs. Baby, as we have described her, was no willing renderer of the
rites of hospitality. In their farm of Cauldacres, in the Mearns, she
had been the dread and abhorrence of all gaberlunzie men, and travelling
packmen, gipsies, long remembered beggars, and so forth; nor was there
one of them so wily, as she used to boast, as could ever say they had
heard the clink of her sneck. In Zetland, where the new settlers were
yet strangers to the extreme honesty and simplicity of all classes,
suspicion and fear joined with frugality in her desire to exclude all
wandering guests of uncertain character; and the second of these motives
had its effect on Triptolemus himself, who, though neither suspicious
nor penurious, knew good people were scarce, good farmers scarcer, and
had a reasonable share of that wisdom which looks towards
self-preservation as the first law of nature. These hints may serve as
a commentary on the following dialogue which took place betwixt the
brother and sister.

"Now, good be gracious to us," said Triptolemus, as he sat thumbing his
old school-copy of Virgil, "here is a pure day, for the bear seed!--Well
spoke the wise Mantuan--_ventis surgentibus_--and then the groans of the
mountains, and the long-resounding shores--but where's the woods, Baby?
tell me, I say, where we shall find the _nemorum murmur_, sister Baby,
in these new seats of ours?"

"What's your foolish will?" said Baby, popping her head from out of a
dark recess in the kitchen, where she was busy about some nameless deed
of housewifery.

Her brother, who had addressed himself to her more from habit than
intention, no sooner saw her bleak red nose, keen grey eyes, with the
sharp features thereunto conforming, shaded by the flaps of the loose
_toy_ which depended on each side of her eager face, than he bethought
himself that his query was likely to find little acceptation from her,
and therefore stood another volley before he would resume the topic.

"I say, Mr. Yellowley," said sister Baby, coming into the middle of the
room, "what for are ye crying on me, and me in the midst of my

"Nay, for nothing at all, Baby," answered Triptolemus, "saving that I
was saying to myself, that here we had the sea, and the wind, and the
rain, sufficient enough, but where's the wood? where's the wood, Baby,
answer me that?"

"The wood?" replied Baby--"Were I no to take better care of the wood
than you, brother, there would soon be no more wood about the town than
the barber's block that's on your own shoulders, Triptolemus. If ye be
thinking of the wreck-wood that the callants brought in yesterday, there
was six ounces of it gaed to boil your parritch this morning; though, I
trow, a carefu' man wad have ta'en drammock, if breakfast he behoved to
have, rather than waste baith meltith and fuel in the same morning."

"That is to say, Baby," replied Triptolemus, who was somewhat of a dry
joker in his way, "that when we have fire we are not to have food, and
when we have food we are not to have fire, these being too great
blessings to enjoy both in the same day! Good luck, you do not propose
we should starve with cold and starve with hunger _unico contextu_. But,
to tell you the truth, I could never away with raw oatmeal, slockened
with water, in all my life. Call it drammock, or crowdie, or just what
ye list, my vivers must thole fire and water."

"The mair gowk you," said Baby; "can ye not make your brose on the
Sunday, and sup them cauld on the Monday, since ye're sae dainty? Mony
is the fairer face than yours that has licked the lip after such a

"Mercy on us, sister!" said Triptolemus; "at this rate, it's a finished
field with me--I must unyoke the pleugh, and lie down to wait for the
dead-thraw. Here is that in this house wad hold all Zetland in meal for
a twelvemonth, and ye grudge a cogfu' of warm parritch to me, that has
sic a charge!"

"Whisht--haud your silly clavering tongue!" said Baby, looking round
with apprehension--"ye are a wise man to speak of what is in the house,
and a fitting man to have the charge of it!--Hark, as I live by bread,
I hear a tapping at the outer yett!"

"Go and open it then, Baby," said her brother, glad at any thing that
promised to interrupt the dispute.

"Go and open it, said he!" echoed Baby, half angry, half frightened, and
half triumphant at the superiority of her understanding over that of her
brother--"Go and open it, said he, indeed!--is it to lend robbers a
chance to take all that is in the house?"

"Robbers!" echoed Triptolemus, in his turn; "there are no more robbers
in this country than there are lambs at Yule. I tell you, as I have told
you an hundred times, there are no Highlandmen to harry us here. This is
a land of quiet and honesty. _O fortunati nimium!_"

"And what good is Saint Rinian to do ye, Tolimus?" said his sister,
mistaking the quotation for a Catholic invocation. "Besides, if there be
no Highlandmen, there may be as bad. I saw sax or seven as ill-looking
chields gang past the Place yesterday, as ever came frae beyont
Clochna-ben; ill-fa'red tools they had in their hands, whaaling knives
they ca'ed them, but they looked as like dirks and whingers as ae bit
airn can look like anither. There is nae honest men carry siccan tools."

Here the knocking and shouts of Mordaunt were very audible betwixt every
swell of the horrible blast which was careering without. The brother and
sister looked at each other in real perplexity and fear. "If they have
heard of the siller," said Baby, her very nose changing with terror from
red to blue, "we are but gane folk!"

"Who speaks now, when they should hold their tongue?" said Triptolemus.
"Go to the shot-window instantly, and see how many there are of them,
while I load the old Spanish-barrelled duck-gun--go as if you were
stepping on new-laid eggs."

Baby crept to the window, and reported that she saw only "one young
chield, clattering and roaring as gin he were daft. How many there might
be out of sight, she could not say."

"Out of sight!--nonsense," said Triptolemus, laying aside the ramrod
with which he was loading the piece, with a trembling hand. "I will
warrant them out of sight and hearing both--this is some poor fellow
catched in the tempest, wants the shelter of our roof, and a little
refreshment. Open the door, Baby, it's a Christian deed."

"But is it a Christian deed of him to come in at the window, then?" said
Baby, setting up a most doleful shriek, as Mordaunt Mertoun, who had
forced open one of the windows, leaped down into the apartment, dripping
with water like a river god. Triptolemus, in great tribulation,
presented the gun which he had not yet loaded, while the intruder
exclaimed, "Hold, hold--what the devil mean you by keeping your doors
bolted in weather like this, and levelling your gun at folk's heads as
you would at a sealgh's?"

"And who are you, friend, and what want you?" said Triptolemus, lowering
the but of his gun to the floor as he spoke, and so recovering his arms.

"What do I want!" said Mordaunt; "I want every thing--I want meat,
drink, and fire, a bed for the night, and a sheltie for to-morrow
morning to carry me to Jarlshof."

"And ye said there were nae caterans or sorners here?" said Baby to the
agriculturist, reproachfully. "Heard ye ever a breekless loon frae
Lochaber tell his mind and his errand mair deftly?--Come, come, friend,"
she added, addressing herself to Mordaunt, "put up your pipes and gang
your gate; this is the house of his lordship's factor, and no place of
reset for thiggers or sorners."

Mordaunt laughed in her face at the simplicity of the request. "Leave
built walls," he said, "and in such a tempest as this? What take you me
for?--a gannet or a scart do you think I am, that your clapping your
hands and skirling at me like a madwoman, should drive me from the
shelter into the storm?"

"And so you propose, young man," said Triptolemus, gravely, "to stay in
my house, _volens nolens_--that is, whether we will or no?"

"Will!" said Mordaunt; "what right have you to will any thing about it?
Do you not hear the thunder? Do you not hear the rain? Do you not see
the lightning? And do you not know this is the only house within I wot
not how many miles? Come, my good master and dame, this may be Scottish
jesting, but it sounds strange in Zetland ears. You have let out the
fire, too, and my teeth are dancing a jig in my head with cold; but I'll
soon put that to rights."

He seized the fire-tongs, raked together the embers upon the hearth,
broke up into life the gathering-peat, which the hostess had calculated
should have preserved the seeds of fire, without giving them forth, for
many hours; then casting his eye round, saw in a corner the stock of
drift-wood, which Mistress Baby had served forth by ounces, and
transferred two or three logs of it at once to the hearth, which,
conscious of such unwonted supply, began to transmit to the chimney
such a smoke as had not issued from the Place of Harfra for many a day.

While their uninvited guest was thus making himself at home, Baby kept
edging and jogging the factor to turn out the intruder. But for this
undertaking, Triptolemus Yellowley felt neither courage nor zeal, nor
did circumstances seem at all to warrant the favourable conclusion of
any fray into which he might enter with the young stranger. The sinewy
limbs and graceful form of Mordaunt Mertoun were seen to great advantage
in his simple sea-dress; and with his dark sparkling eye, finely formed
head, animated features, close curled dark hair, and bold, free looks,
the stranger formed a very strong contrast with the host on whom he had
intruded himself. Triptolemus was a short, clumsy, duck-legged disciple
of Ceres, whose bottle-nose, turned up and handsomely coppered at the
extremity, seemed to intimate something of an occasional treaty with
Bacchus. It was like to be no equal mellay betwixt persons of such
unequal form and strength; and the difference betwixt twenty and fifty
years was nothing in favour of the weaker party. Besides, the factor was
an honest good-natured fellow at bottom, and being soon satisfied that
his guest had no other views than those of obtaining refuge from the
storm, it would, despite his sister's instigations, have been his last
act to deny a boon so reasonable and necessary to a youth whose exterior
was so prepossessing. He stood, therefore, considering how he could most
gracefully glide into the character of the hospitable landlord, out of
that of the churlish defender of his domestic castle, against an
unauthorized intrusion, when Baby, who had stood appalled at the extreme
familiarity of the stranger's address and demeanour, now spoke up for

"My troth, lad," said she to Mordaunt, "ye are no blate, to light on at
that rate, and the best of wood, too--nane of your sharney peats, but
good aik timber, nae less maun serve ye!"

"You come lightly by it, dame," said Mordaunt, carelessly; "and you
should not grudge to the fire what the sea gives you for nothing. These
good ribs of oak did their last duty upon earth and ocean, when they
could hold no longer together under the brave hearts that manned the

"And that's true, too," said the old woman, softening--"this maun be
awsome weather by sea. Sit down and warm ye, since the sticks are

"Ay, ay," said Triptolemus, "it is a pleasure to see siccan a bonny
bleeze. I havena seen the like o't since I left Cauldacres."

"And shallna see the like o't again in a hurry," said Baby, "unless the
house take fire, or there suld be a coal-heugh found out."

"And wherefore should not there be a coal-heugh found out?" said the
factor, triumphantly--"I say, wherefore should not a coal-heugh be found
out in Zetland as well as in Fife, now that the Chamberlain has a
far-sighted and discreet man upon the spot to make the necessary
perquisitions? They are baith fishing-stations, I trow?"

"I tell you what it is, Tolemus Yellowley," answered his sister, who had
practical reasons to fear her brother's opening upon any false scent,
"if you promise my Lord sae mony of these bonnie-wallies, we'll no be
weel hafted here before we are found out and set a-trotting again. If
ane was to speak to ye about a gold mine, I ken weel wha would promise
he suld have Portugal pieces clinking in his pouch before the year gaed

"And why suld I not?" said Triptolemus--"maybe your head does not know
there is a land in Orkney called Ophir, or something very like it; and
wherefore might not Solomon, the wise King of the Jews, have sent
thither his ships and his servants for four hundred and fifty talents? I
trow he knew best where to go or send, and I hope you believe in your
Bible, Baby?"

Baby was silenced by an appeal to Scripture, however _mal à propos_, and
only answered by an inarticulate _humph_ of incredulity or scorn, while
her brother went on addressing Mordaunt.--"Yes, you shall all of you see
what a change shall coin introduce, even into such an unpropitious
country as yours. Ye have not heard of copper, I warrant, nor of
iron-stone, in these islands, neither?" Mordaunt said he had heard there
was copper near the Cliffs of Konigsburgh. "Ay, and a copper scum is
found on the Loch of Swana, too, young man. But the youngest of you,
doubtless, thinks himself a match for such as I am!"

Baby, who during all this while had been closely and accurately
reconnoitring the youth's person, now interposed in a manner by her
brother totally unexpected. "Ye had mair need, Mr. Yellowley, to give
the young man some dry clothes, and to see about getting something for
him to eat, than to sit there bleezing away with your lang tales, as if
the weather were not windy enow without your help; and maybe the lad
would drink some _bland_, or sic-like, if ye had the grace to ask him."

While Triptolemus looked astonished at such a proposal, considering the
quarter it came from, Mordaunt answered, he "should be very glad to
have dry clothes, but begged to be excused from drinking until he had
eaten somewhat."

Triptolemus accordingly conducted him into another apartment, and
accommodating him with a change of dress, left him to his arrangements,
while he himself returned to the kitchen, much puzzled to account for
his sister's unusual fit of hospitality. "She must be _fey_,"[24] he
said, "and in that case has not long to live, and though I fall heir to
her tocher-good, I am sorry for it; for she has held the house-gear well
together--drawn the girth over tight it may be now and then, but the
saddle sits the better."

When Triptolemus returned to the kitchen, he found his suspicions
confirmed; for his sister was in the desperate act of consigning to the
pot a smoked goose, which, with others of the same tribe, had long hung
in the large chimney, muttering to herself at the same time,--"It maun
be eaten sune or syne, and what for no by the puir callant?"

"What is this of it, sister?" said Triptolemus. "You have on the girdle
and the pot at ance. What day is this wi' you?"

"E'en such a day as the Israelites had beside the flesh-pots of Egypt,
billie Triptolemus; but ye little ken wha ye have in your house this
blessed day."

"Troth, and little do I ken," said Triptolemus, "as little as I would
ken the naig I never saw before. I would take the lad for a jagger,[25]
but he has rather ower good havings, and he has no pack."

"Ye ken as little as ane of your ain bits o' nowt, man," retorted sister
Baby; "if ye ken na him, do ye ken Tronda Dronsdaughter?"

"Tronda Dronsdaughter!" echoed Triptolemus--"how should I but ken her,
when I pay her twal pennies Scots by the day, for working in the house
here? I trow she works as if the things burned her fingers. I had better
give a Scots lass a groat of English siller."

"And that's the maist sensible word ye have said this blessed
morning.--Weel, but Tronda kens this lad weel, and she has often spoke
to me about him. They call his father the Silent Man of Sumburgh, and
they say he's uncanny."

"Hout, hout--nonsense, nonsense--they are aye at sic trash as that,"
said the brother, "when you want a day's wark out of them--they have
stepped ower the tangs, or they have met an uncanny body, or they have
turned about the boat against the sun, and then there's nought to be
done that day."

"Weel, weel, brother, ye are so wise," said Baby, "because ye knapped
Latin at Saint Andrews; and can your lair tell me, then, what the lad
has round his halse?"

"A Barcelona napkin, as wet as a dishclout, and I have just lent him one
of my own overlays," said Triptolemus.

"A Barcelona napkin!" said Baby, elevating her voice, and then suddenly
lowering it, as from apprehension of being overheard--"I say a gold

"A gold chain!" said Triptolemus.

"In troth is it, hinny; and how like you that? The folk say here, as
Tronda tells me, that the King of the Drows gave it to his father, the
Silent Man of Sumburgh."

"I wish you would speak sense, or be the silent woman," said
Triptolemus. "The upshot of it all is, then, that this lad is the rich
stranger's son, and that you are giving him the goose you were to keep
till Michaelmas!"

"Troth, brother, we maun do something for God's sake, and to make
friends; and the lad," added Baby, (for even she was not altogether
above the prejudices of her sex in favour of outward form,) "the lad has
a fair face of his ain."

"Ye would have let mony a fair face," said Triptolemus, "pass the door
pining, if it had not been for the gold chain."

"Nae doubt, nae doubt," replied Barbara; "ye wadna have me waste our
substance on every thigger or sorner that has the luck to come by the
door in a wet day? But this lad has a fair and a wide name in the
country, and Tronda says he is to be married to a daughter of the rich
Udaller, Magnus Troil, and the marriage-day is to be fixed whenever he
makes choice (set him up) between the twa lasses; and so it wad be as
much as our good name is worth, and our quiet forby, to let him sit
unserved, although he does come unsent for."

"The best reason in life," said Triptolemus, "for letting a man into a
house is, that you dare not bid him go by. However, since there is a man
of quality amongst them, I will let him know whom he has to do with, in
my person." Then advancing to the door, he exclaimed, "_Heus tibi,

"_Adsum_," answered the youth, entering the apartment.

"Hem!" said the erudite Triptolemus, "not altogether deficient in his
humanities, I see. I will try him further.--Canst thou aught of
husbandry, young gentleman?"

"Troth, sir, not I," answered Mordaunt; "I have been trained to plough
upon the sea, and to reap upon the crag."

"Plough the sea!" said Triptolemus; "that's a furrow requires small
harrowing; and for your harvest on the crag, I suppose you mean these
_scowries_, or whatever you call them. It is a sort of ingathering which
the Ranzelman should stop by the law; nothing more likely to break an
honest man's bones. I profess I cannot see the pleasure men propose by
dangling in a rope's-end betwixt earth and heaven. In my case, I had as
lief the other end of the rope were fastened to the gibbet; I should be
sure of not falling, at least."

"Now, I would only advise you to try it," replied Mordaunt. "Trust me,
the world has few grander sensations than when one is perched in midair
between a high-browed cliff and a roaring ocean, the rope by which you
are sustained seeming scarce stronger than a silken thread, and the
stone on which you have one foot steadied, affording such a breadth as
the kittywake might rest upon--to feel and know all this, with the full
confidence that your own agility of limb, and strength of head, can
bring you as safe off as if you had the wing of the gosshawk--this is
indeed being almost independent of the earth you tread on!"

Triptolemus stared at this enthusiastic description of an amusement
which had so few charms for him; and his sister, looking at the glancing
eye and elevated bearing of the young adventurer, answered, by
ejaculating, "My certie, lad, but ye are a brave chield!"

"A brave chield?" returned Yellowley,--"I say a brave goose, to be
flichtering and fleeing in the wind when he might abide upon _terra
firma_! But come, here's a goose that is more to the purpose, when once
it is well boiled. Get us trenchers and salt, Baby--but in truth it will
prove salt enough--a tasty morsel it is; but I think the Zetlanders be
the only folk in the world that think of running such risks to catch
geese, and then boiling them when they have done."

"To be sure," replied his sister, (it was the only word they had agreed
in that day,) "it would be an unco thing to bid ony gudewife in Angus or
a' the Mearns boil a goose, while there was sic things as spits in the
warld.--But wha's this neist!" she added, looking towards the entrance
with great indignation. "My certie, open doors, and dogs come in--and
wha opened the door to him?"

"I did, to be sure," replied Mordaunt; "you would not have a poor devil
stand beating your deaf door-cheeks in weather like this?--Here goes
something, though, to help the fire," he added, drawing out the sliding
bar of oak with which the door had been secured, and throwing it on the
hearth, whence it was snatched by Dame Baby in great wrath, she
exclaiming at the same time,--

"It's sea-borne timber, as there's little else here, and he dings it
about as if it were a fir-clog!--And who be you, an it please you?" she
added, turning to the stranger,--"a very hallanshaker loon, as ever
crossed my twa een!"

"I am a jagger, if it like your ladyship," replied the uninvited guest,
a stout vulgar, little man, who had indeed the humble appearance of a
pedlar, called _jagger_ in these islands--"never travelled in a waur
day, or was more willing to get to harbourage.--Heaven be praised for
fire and house-room!"

So saying, he drew a stool to the fire, and sat down without further
ceremony. Dame Baby stared "wild as grey gosshawk," and was meditating
how to express her indignation in something warmer than words, for which
the boiling pot seemed to offer a convenient hint, when an old
half-starved serving-woman--the Tronda already mentioned--the sharer of
Barbara's domestic cares, who had been as yet in some remote corner of
the mansion, now hobbled into the room, and broke out into exclamations
which indicated some new cause of alarm.

"O master!" and "O mistress!" were the only sounds she could for some
time articulate, and then followed them up with, "The best in the
house--the best in the house--set a' on the board, and a' will be little
aneugh--There is auld Norna of Fitful-head, the most fearful woman in
all the isles!"

"Where can she have been wandering?" said Mordaunt, not without some
apparent sympathy with the surprise, if not with the alarm, of the old
domestic; "but it is needless to ask--the worse the weather, the more
likely is she to be a traveller."

"What new tramper is this?" echoed the distracted Baby, whom the quick
succession of guests had driven wellnigh crazy with vexation. "I'll soon
settle her wandering, I sall warrant, if my brother has but the saul of
a man in him, or if there be a pair of jougs at Scalloway!"

"The iron was never forged on stithy that would hauld her," said the old
maid-servant. "She comes--she comes--God's sake speak her fair and
canny, or we will have a ravelled hasp on the yarn-windles!"

As she spoke, a woman, tall enough almost to touch the top of the door
with her cap, stepped into the room, signing the cross as she entered,
and pronouncing, with a solemn voice, "The blessing of God and Saint
Ronald on the open door, and their broad malison and mine upon
close-handed churls!"

"And wha are ye, that are sae bauld wi' your blessing and banning in
other folk's houses? What kind of country is this, that folk cannot sit
quiet for an hour, and serve Heaven, and keep their bit gear thegither,
without gangrel men and women coming thigging and sorning ane after
another, like a string of wild-geese?"

This speech, the understanding reader will easily saddle on Mistress
Baby, and what effects it might have produced on the last stranger, can
only be matter of conjecture; for the old servant and Mordaunt applied
themselves at once to the party addressed, in order to deprecate her
resentment; the former speaking to her some words of Norse, in a tone of
intercession, and Mordaunt saying in English, "They are strangers,
Norna, and know not your name or qualities; they are unacquainted, too,
with the ways of this country, and therefore we must hold them excused
for their lack of hospitality."

"I lack no hospitality, young man," said Triptolemus, "_miseris
succurrere disco_--the goose that was destined to roost in the chimney
till Michaelmas, is boiling in the pot for you; but if we had twenty
geese, I see we are like to find mouths to eat them every feather--this
must be amended."

"What must be amended, sordid slave?" said the stranger Norna, turning
at once upon him with an emphasis that made him start--"_What_ must be
amended? Bring hither, if thou wilt, thy new-fangled coulters, spades,
and harrows, alter the implements of our fathers from the ploughshare to
the mouse-trap; but know thou art in the land that was won of old by the
flaxen-haired Kempions of the North, and leave us their hospitality at
least, to show we come of what was once noble and generous. I say to you
beware--while Norna looks forth at the measureless waters, from the
crest of Fitful-head, something is yet left that resembles power of
defence. If the men of Thule have ceased to be champions, and to spread
the banquet for the raven, the women have not forgotten the arts that
lifted them of yore into queens and prophetesses."

The woman who pronounced this singular tirade, was as striking in
appearance as extravagantly lofty in her pretensions and in her
language. She might well have represented on the stage, so far as
features, voice, and stature, were concerned, the Bonduca or Boadicea of
the Britons, or the sage Velleda, Aurinia, or any other fated Pythoness,
who ever led to battle a tribe of the ancient Goths. Her features were
high and well formed, and would have been handsome, but for the ravages
of time and the effects of exposure to the severe weather of her
country. Age, and perhaps sorrow, had quenched, in some degree, the fire
of a dark-blue eye, whose hue almost approached to black, and had
sprinkled snow on such parts of her tresses as had escaped from under
her cap, and were dishevelled by the rigour of the storm. Her upper
garment, which dropped with water, was of a coarse dark-coloured stuff,
called wadmaal, then much used in the Zetland islands, as also in
Iceland and Norway. But as she threw this cloak back from her
shoulders, a short jacket, of dark-blue velvet, stamped with figures,
became visible, and the vest, which corresponded to it, was of crimson
colour, and embroidered with tarnished silver. Her girdle was plated
with silver ornaments, cut into the shape of planetary signs--her blue
apron was embroidered with similar devices, and covered a petticoat of
crimson cloth. Strong thick enduring shoes, of the half-dressed leather
of the country, were tied with straps like those of the Roman buskins,
over her scarlet stockings. She wore in her belt an ambiguous-looking
weapon, which might pass for a sacrificing knife, or dagger, as the
imagination of the spectator chose to assign to the wearer the character
of a priestess or of a sorceress. In her hand she held a staff, squared
on all sides, and engraved with Runic characters and figures, forming
one of those portable and perpetual calendars which were used among the
ancient natives of Scandinavia, and which, to a superstitious eye, might
have passed for a divining rod.

Such were the appearance, features, and attire, of Norna of the
Fitful-head, upon whom many of the inhabitants of the island looked with
observance, many with fear, and almost all with a sort of veneration.
Less pregnant circumstances of suspicion would, in any other part of
Scotland, have exposed her to the investigation of those cruel
inquisitors, who were then often invested with the delegated authority
of the Privy Council, for the purpose of persecuting, torturing, and
finally consigning to the flames, those who were accused of witchcraft
or sorcery. But superstitions of this nature pass through two stages ere
they become entirely obsolete. Those supposed to be possessed of
supernatural powers, are venerated in the earlier stages of society. As
religion and knowledge increase, they are first held in hatred and
horror, and are finally regarded as impostors. Scotland was in the
second state--the fear of witchcraft was great, and the hatred against
those suspected of it intense. Zetland was as yet a little world by
itself, where, among the lower and ruder classes, so much of the ancient
northern superstition remained, as cherished the original veneration for
those affecting supernatural knowledge, and power over the elements,
which made a constituent part of the ancient Scandinavian creed. At
least if the natives of Thule admitted that one class of magicians
performed their feats by their alliance with Satan, they devoutly
believed that others dealt with spirits of a different and less odious
class--the ancient Dwarfs, called, in Zetland, Trows, or Drows, the
modern fairies, and so forth.

Among those who were supposed to be in league with disembodied spirits,
this Norna, descended from, and representative of, a family, which had
long pretended to such gifts, was so eminent, that the name assigned to
her, which signifies one of those fatal sisters who weave the web of
human fate, had been conferred in honour of her supernatural powers. The
name by which she had been actually christened was carefully concealed
by herself and her parents; for to its discovery they superstitiously
annexed some fatal consequences. In those times, the doubt only
occurred, whether her supposed powers were acquired by lawful means. In
our days, it would have been questioned whether she was an impostor, or
whether her imagination was so deeply impressed with the mysteries of
her supposed art, that she might be in some degree a believer in her
own pretensions to supernatural knowledge. Certain it is, that she
performed her part with such undoubting confidence, and such striking
dignity of look and action, and evinced, at the same time, such strength
of language, and energy of purpose, that it would have been difficult
for the greatest sceptic to have doubted the reality of her enthusiasm,
though he might smile at the pretensions to which it gave rise.


[24] When a person changes his condition suddenly, as when a miser
becomes liberal, or a churl good-humoured, he is said, in Scotch, to be
_fey_; that is, predestined to speedy death, of which such mutations of
humour are received as a sure indication.

[25] A pedlar.


      ----If, by your art, you have
  Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them.


The storm had somewhat relaxed its rigour just before the entrance of
Norna, otherwise she must have found it impossible to travel during the
extremity of its fury. But she had hardly added herself so unexpectedly
to the party whom chance had assembled at the dwelling of Triptolemus
Yellowley, when the tempest suddenly resumed its former vehemence, and
raged around the building with a fury which made the inmates insensible
to any thing except the risk that the old mansion was about to fall
above their heads.

Mistress Baby gave vent to her fears in loud exclamations of "The Lord
guide us--this is surely the last day--what kind of a country of
guisards and gyre-carlines is this!--and you, ye fool carle," she added,
turning on her brother, (for all her passions had a touch of acidity in
them,) "to quit the bonny Mearns land to come here, where there is
naething but sturdy beggars and gaberlunzies within ane's house, and
Heaven's anger on the outside on't!"

"I tell you, sister Baby," answered the insulted agriculturist, "that
all shall be reformed and amended,--excepting," he added, betwixt his
teeth, "the scaulding humours of an ill-natured jaud, that can add
bitterness to the very storm!"

The old domestic and the pedlar meanwhile exhausted themselves in
entreaties to Norna, of which, as they were couched in the Norse
language, the master of the house understood nothing.

She listened to them with a haughty and unmoved air, and replied at
length aloud, and in English--"I will not. What if this house be strewed
in ruins before morning--where would be the world's want in the crazed
projector, and the niggardly pinch-commons, by which it is inhabited?
They will needs come to reform Zetland customs, let them try how they
like a Zetland storm.--You that would not perish, quit this house!"

The pedlar seized on his little knapsack, and began hastily to brace it
on his back; the old maid-servant cast her cloak about her shoulders,
and both seemed to be in the act of leaving the house as fast as they

Triptolemus Yellowley, somewhat commoved by these appearances, asked
Mordaunt, with a voice which faltered with apprehension, whether he
thought there was any, that is, so very much danger?

"I cannot tell," answered the youth, "I have scarce ever seen such a
storm. Norna can tell us better than any one when it will abate; for no
one in these islands can judge of the weather like her."

"And is that all thou thinkest Norna can do?" said the sibyl; "thou
shalt know her powers are not bounded within such a narrow space. Hear
me, Mordaunt, youth of a foreign land, but of a friendly heart--Dost
thou quit this doomed mansion with those who now prepare to leave it?"

"I do not--I will not, Norna," replied Mordaunt; "I know not your motive
for desiring me to remove, and I will not leave, upon these dark
threats, the house in which I have been kindly received in such a
tempest as this. If the owners are unaccustomed to our practice of
unlimited hospitality, I am the more obliged to them that they have
relaxed their usages, and opened their doors in my behalf."

"He is a brave lad," said Mistress Baby, whose superstitious feelings
had been daunted by the threats of the supposed sorceress, and who,
amidst her eager, narrow, and repining disposition, had, like all who
possess marked character, some sparks of higher feeling, which made her
sympathize with generous sentiments, though she thought it too expensive
to entertain them at her own cost--"He is a brave lad," she again
repeated, "and worthy of ten geese, if I had them to boil for him, or
roast either. I'll warrant him a gentleman's son, and no churl's blood."

"Hear me, young Mordaunt," said Norna, "and depart from this house. Fate
has high views on you--you shall not remain in this hovel to be crushed
amid its worthless ruins, with the relics of its more worthless
inhabitants, whose life is as little to the world as the vegetation of
the house-leek, which now grows on their thatch, and which shall soon be
crushed amongst their mangled limbs."

"I--I--I will go forth," said Yellowley, who, despite of his bearing
himself scholarly and wisely, was beginning to be terrified for the
issue of the adventure; for the house was old, and the walls rocked
formidably to the blast.

"To what purpose?" said his sister. "I trust the Prince of the power of
the air has not yet such-like power over those that are made in God's
image, that a good house should fall about our heads, because a randy
quean" (here she darted a fierce glance at the Pythoness) "should boast
us with her glamour, as if we were sae mony dogs to crouch at her

"I was only wanting," said Triptolemus, ashamed of his motion, "to look
at the bear-braird, which must be sair laid wi' this tempest; but if
this honest woman like to bide wi' us, I think it were best to let us a'
sit doun canny thegither, till it's working weather again."

"Honest woman!" echoed Baby--"Foul warlock thief!--Aroint ye, ye
limmer!" she added, addressing Norna directly; "out of an honest house,
or, shame fa' me, but I'll take the bittle[26] to you!"

Norna cast on her a look of supreme contempt; then, stepping to the
window, seemed engaged in deep contemplation of the heavens, while the
old maid-servant, Tronda, drawing close to her mistress, implored, for
the sake of all that was dear to man or woman, "Do not provoke Norna of
Fitful-head! You have no sic woman on the mainland of Scotland--she can
ride on one of these clouds as easily as man ever rode on a sheltie."

"I shall live to see her ride on the reek of a fat tar-barrel," said
Mistress Baby; "and that will be a fit pacing palfrey for her."

Again Norna regarded the enraged Mrs. Baby Yellowley with a look of that
unutterable scorn which her haughty features could so well express, and
moving to the window which looked to the north-west, from which quarter
the gale seemed at present to blow, she stood for some time with her
arms crossed, looking out upon the leaden-coloured sky, obscured as it
was by the thick drift, which, coming on in successive gusts of tempest,
left ever and anon sad and dreary intervals of expectation betwixt the
dying and the reviving blast.

Norna regarded this war of the elements as one to whom their strife was
familiar; yet the stern serenity of her features had in it a cast of
awe, and at the same time of authority, as the cabalist may be supposed
to look upon the spirit he has evoked, and which, though he knows how to
subject him to his spell, bears still an aspect appalling to flesh and
blood. The attendants stood by in different attitudes, expressive of
their various feelings. Mordaunt, though not indifferent to the risk in
which they stood, was more curious than alarmed. He had heard of Norna's
alleged power over the elements, and now expected an opportunity of
judging for himself of its reality. Triptolemus Yellowley was confounded
at what seemed to be far beyond the bounds of his philosophy; and, if
the truth must be spoken, the worthy agriculturist was greatly more
frightened than inquisitive. His sister was not in the least curious on
the subject; but it was difficult to say whether anger or fear
predominated in her sharp eyes and thin compressed lips. The pedlar and
old Tronda, confident that the house would never fall while the
redoubted Norna was beneath its roof, held themselves ready for a start
the instant she should take her departure.

Having looked on the sky for some time in a fixed attitude, and with the
most profound silence, Norna at once, yet with a slow and elevated
gesture, extended her staff of black oak towards that part of the
heavens from which the blast came hardest, and in the midst of its fury
chanted a Norwegian invocation, still preserved in the Island of Uist,
under the name of the Song of the Reimkennar, though some call it the
Song of the Tempest. The following is a free translation, it being
impossible to render literally many of the elliptical and metaphorical
terms of expression, peculiar to the ancient Northern poetry:--


  "Stern eagle of the far north-west,
  Thou that bearest in thy grasp the thunderbolt,
  Thou whose rushing pinions stir ocean to madness,
  Thou the destroyer of herds, thou the scatterer of navies,
  Thou the breaker down of towers,
  Amidst the scream of thy rage,
  Amidst the rushing of thy onward wings,
  Though thy scream be loud as the cry of a perishing nation,
  Though the rushing of thy wings be like the roar of ten thousand waves,
  Yet hear, in thine ire and thy haste,
  Hear thou the voice of the Reim-kennar.


  "Thou hast met the pine-trees of Drontheim,
  Their dark-green heads lie prostrate beside their uprooted stems;
  Thou hast met the rider of the ocean,
  The tall, the strong bark of the fearless rover,
  And she has struck to thee the topsail
  That she had not veiled to a royal armada;
  Thou hast met the tower that hears its crest among the clouds,
  The battled massive tower of the Jarl of former days,
  And the cope-stone of the turret
  Is lying upon its hospitable hearth;
  But thou too shalt stoop, proud compeller of clouds,
  When thou hearest the voice of the Reim-kennar.


  "There are verses that can stop the stag in the forest,
  Ay, and when the dark-coloured dog is opening on his track;
  There are verses can make the wild hawk pause on the wing,
  Like the falcon that wears the hood and the jesses,
  And who knows the shrill whistle of the fowler.
  Thou who canst mock at the scream of the drowning mariner,
  And the crash of the ravaged forest,
  And the groan of the overwhelmed crowds,
  When the church hath fallen in the moment of prayer,
  There are sounds which thou also must list,
  When they are chanted by the voice of the Reim-kennar.


  "Enough of woe hast thou wrought on the ocean,
  The widows wring their hands on the beach;
  Enough of woe hast thou wrought on the land,
  The husbandman folds his arms in despair;
  Cease thou the waving of thy pinions,
  Let the ocean repose in her dark strength;
  Cease thou the flashing of thine eye.
  Let the thunderbolt sleep in the armoury of Odin;
  Be thou still at my bidding, viewless racer of the north-western heaven,
  Sleep thou at the voice of Norna the Reim-kennar!"

We have said that Mordaunt was naturally fond of romantic poetry and
romantic situation; it is not therefore surprising that he listened with
interest to the wild address thus uttered to the wildest wind of the
compass, in a tone of such dauntless enthusiasm. But though he had heard
so much of the Runic rhyme and of the northern spell, in the country
where he had so long dwelt, he was not on this occasion so credulous as
to believe that the tempest, which had raged so lately, and which was
now beginning to decline, was subdued before the charmed verse of Norna.
Certain it was, that the blast seemed passing away, and the apprehended
danger was already over; but it was not improbable that this issue had
been for some time foreseen by the Pythoness, through signs of the
weather imperceptible to those who had not dwelt long in the country, or
had not bestowed on the meteorological phenomena the attention of a
strict and close observer. Of Norna's experience he had no doubt, and
that went a far way to explain what seemed supernatural in her
demeanour. Yet still the noble countenance, half-shaded by dishevelled
tresses, the air of majesty with which, in a tone of menace as well as
of command, she addressed the viewless spirit of the tempest, gave him a
strong inclination to believe in the ascendency of the occult arts over
the powers of nature; for, if a woman ever moved on earth to whom such
authority over the ordinary laws of the universe could belong, Norna of
Fitful-head, judging from bearing, figure, and face, was born to that
high destiny.

The rest of the company were less slow in receiving conviction. To
Tronda and the jagger none was necessary; they had long believed in the
full extent of Norna's authority over the elements. But Triptolemus and
his sister gazed at each other with wondering and alarmed looks,
especially when the wind began perceptibly to decline, as was remarkably
visible during the pauses which Norna made betwixt the strophes of her
incantation. A long silence followed the last verse, until Norna
resumed her chant, but with a changed and more soothing modulation of
voice and tune.

  "Eagle of the far north-western waters,
  Thou hast heard the voice of the Reim-kennar,
  Thou hast closed thy wide sails at her bidding,
  And folded them in peace by thy side.
  My blessing be on thy retiring path!
  When thou stoopest from thy place on high,
  Soft be thy slumbers in the caverns of the unknown ocean,
  Rest till destiny shall again awaken thee;
  Eagle of the north-west, thou hast heard the voice of the Reim-kennar!"

"A pretty sang that would be to keep the corn from shaking in har'st,"
whispered the agriculturist to his sister; "we must speak her fair,
Baby--she will maybe part with the secret for a hundred pund Scots."

"An hundred fules' heads!" replied Baby--"bid her five merks of ready
siller. I never knew a witch in my life but she was as poor as Job."

Norna turned towards them as if she had guessed their thoughts; it may
be that she did so. She passed them with a look of the most sovereign
contempt, and walking to the table on which the preparations for Mrs.
Barbara's frugal meal were already disposed, she filled a small wooden
quaigh from an earthen pitcher which contained bland, a subacid liquor
made out of the serous part of the milk. She broke a single morsel from
a barley-cake, and having eaten and drunk, returned towards the churlish
hosts. "I give you no thanks," she said, "for my refreshment, for you
bid me not welcome to it; and thanks bestowed on a churl are like the
dew of heaven on the cliffs of Foulah, where it finds nought that can
be refreshed by its influences. I give you no thanks," she said again,
but drawing from her pocket a leathern purse that seemed large and
heavy, she added, "I pay you with what you will value more than the
gratitude of the whole inhabitants of Hialtland. Say not that Norna of
Fitful-head hath eaten of your bread and drunk of your cup, and left you
sorrowing for the charge to which she hath put your house." So saying,
she laid on the table a small piece of antique gold coin, bearing the
rude and half-defaced effigies of some ancient northern king.

Triptolemus and his sister exclaimed against this liberality with
vehemence; the first protesting that he kept no public, and the other
exclaiming, "Is the carline mad? Heard ye ever of ony of the gentle
house of Clinkscale that gave meat for siller?"

"Or for love either?" muttered her brother; "haud to that, tittie."

"What are ye whittie-whattieing about, ye gowk?" said his gentle sister,
who suspected the tenor of his murmurs; "gie the ladie back her
bonnie-die there, and be blithe to be sae rid on't--it will be a
sclate-stane the morn, if not something worse."

The honest factor lifted the money to return it, yet could not help
being struck when he saw the impression, and his hand trembled as he
handed it to his sister.

"Yes," said the Pythoness again, as if she read the thoughts of the
astonished pair, "you have seen that coin before--beware how you use it!
It thrives not with the sordid or the mean-souled--it was won with
honourable danger, and must be expended with honourable liberality. The
treasure which lies under a cold hearth will one day, like the hidden
talent, bear witness against its avaricious possessors."

This last obscure intimation seemed to raise the alarm and the wonder of
Mrs. Baby and her brother to the uttermost. The latter tried to stammer
out something like an invitation to Norna to tarry with them all night,
or at least to take share of the "dinner," so he at first called it; but
looking at the company, and remembering the limited contents of the pot,
he corrected the phrase, and hoped she would take some part of the
"snack, which would be on the table ere a man could loose a pleugh."

"I eat not here--I sleep not here," replied Norna--"nay, I relieve you
not only of my own presence, but I will dismiss your unwelcome
guests.--Mordaunt," she added, addressing young Mertoun, "the dark fit
is past, and your father looks for you this evening."

"Do you return in that direction?" said Mordaunt. "I will but eat a
morsel, and give you my aid, good mother, on the road. The brooks must
be out, and the journey perilous."

"Our roads lie different," answered the Sibyl, "and Norna needs not
mortal arm to aid her on the way. I am summoned far to the east, by
those who know well how to smooth my passage.--For thee, Bryce
Snailsfoot," she continued, speaking to the pedlar, "speed thee on to
Sumburgh--the Roost will afford thee a gallant harvest, and worthy the
gathering in. Much goodly ware will ere now be seeking a new owner, and
the careful skipper will sleep still enough in the deep haaf, and care
not that bale and chest are dashing against the shores."

"Na, na, good mother," answered Snailsfoot, "I desire no man's life for
my private advantage, and am just grateful for the blessing of
Providence on my sma' trade. But doubtless one man's loss is another's
gain; and as these storms destroy a' thing on land, it is but fair they
suld send us something by sea. Sae, taking the freedom, like yoursell,
mother, to borrow a lump of barley-bread, and a draught of bland, I will
bid good-day, and thank you, to this good gentleman and lady, and e'en
go on my way to Jarlshof, as you advise."

"Ay," replied the Pythoness, "where the slaughter is, the eagles will be
gathered; and where the wreck is on the shore, the jagger is as busy to
purchase spoil as the shark to gorge upon the dead."

This rebuke, if it was intended for such, seemed above the comprehension
of the travelling merchant, who, bent upon gain, assumed the knapsack
and ellwand, and asked Mordaunt, with the familiarity permitted in a
wild country, whether he would not take company along with him?

"I wait to eat some dinner with Mr. Yellowley and Mrs. Baby," answered
the youth, "and will set forward in half an hour."

"Then I'll just take my piece in my hand," said the pedlar. Accordingly
he muttered a benediction, and, without more ceremony, helped himself to
what, in Mrs. Baby's covetous eyes, appeared to be two-thirds of the
bread, took a long pull at the jug of bland, seized on a handful of the
small fish called sillocks, which the domestic was just placing on the
board, and left the room without farther ceremony.

"My certie," said the despoiled Mrs. Baby, "there is the chapman's
drouth[27] and his hunger baith, as folk say! If the laws against
vagrants be executed this gate--It's no that I wad shut the door against
decent folk," she said, looking to Mordaunt, "more especially in such
judgment-weather. But I see the goose is dished, poor thing."

This she spoke in a tone of affection for the smoked goose, which,
though it had long been an inanimate inhabitant of her chimney, was far
more interesting to Mrs. Baby in that state, than when it screamed
amongst the clouds. Mordaunt laughed and took his seat, then turned to
look for Norna; but she had glided from the apartment during the
discussion with the pedlar.

"I am glad she is gane, the dour carline," said Mrs. Baby, "though she
has left that piece of gowd to be an everlasting shame to us."

"Whisht, mistress, for the love of heaven!" said Tronda Dronsdaughter;
"wha kens where she may be this moment?--we are no sure but she may hear
us, though we cannot see her."

Mistress Baby cast a startled eye around, and instantly recovering
herself, for she was naturally courageous as well as violent, said, "I
bade her aroint before, and I bid her aroint again, whether she sees me
or hears me, or whether she's ower the cairn and awa.--And you, ye silly
sumph," she said to poor Yellowley, "what do ye stand glowering there
for?--_You_ a Saunt Andrew's student!--_you_ studied lair and Latin
humanities, as ye ca' them, and daunted wi' the clavers of an auld
randie wife! Say your best college grace, man, and witch, or nae witch,
we'll eat our dinner, and defy her. And for the value of the gowden
piece, it shall never be said I pouched her siller. I will gie it to
some poor body--that is, I will test[28] upon it at my death, and keep
it for a purse-penny till that day comes, and that's no using it in the
way of spending siller. Say your best college grace, man, and let us eat
and drink in the meantime."

"Ye had muckle better say an _oraamus_ to Saint Ronald, and fling a
saxpence ower your left shouther, master," said Tronda.[29]

"That ye may pick it up, ye jaud," said the implacable Mistress Baby;
"it will be lang or ye win the worth of it ony other gate.--Sit down,
Triptolemus, and mindna the words of a daft wife."

"Daft or wise," replied Yellowley, very much disconcerted, "she kens
more than I would wish she kend. It was awfu' to see sic a wind fa' at
the voice of flesh and blood like oursells--and then yon about the
hearth-stane--I cannot but think"----

"If ye cannot but think," said Mrs. Baby, very sharply, "at least ye can
haud your tongue?"

The agriculturist made no reply, but sate down to their scanty meal, and
did the honours of it with unusual heartiness to his new guest, the
first of the intruders who had arrived, and the last who left them. The
sillocks speedily disappeared, and the smoked goose, with its
appendages, took wing so effectually, that Tronda, to whom the polishing
of the bones had been destined, found the task accomplished, or nearly
so, to her hand. After dinner, the host produced his bottle of brandy;
but Mordaunt, whose general habits were as abstinent almost as those of
his father, laid a very light tax upon this unusual exertion of

During the meal, they learned so much of young Mordaunt, and of his
father, that even Baby resisted his wish to reassume his wet garments,
and pressed him (at the risk of an expensive supper being added to the
charges of the day) to tarry with them till the next morning. But what
Norna had said excited the youth's wish to reach home, nor, however far
the hospitality of Stourburgh was extended in his behalf, did the house
present any particular temptations to induce him to remain there longer.
He therefore accepted the loan of the factor's clothes, promising to
return them, and send for his own; and took a civil leave of his host
and Mistress Baby, the latter of whom, however affected by the loss of
her goose, could not but think the cost well bestowed (since it was to
be expended at all) upon so handsome and cheerful a youth.


[26] The beetle with which the Scottish housewives used to perform the
office of the modern mangle, by beating newly-washed linen on a smooth
stone for the purpose, called the beetling-stone.

[27] The chapman's drouth, that is, the pedlar's thirst, is proverbial
in Scotland, because these pedestrian traders were in the use of
modestly asking only for a drink of water, when, in fact, they were
desirous of food.

[28] Test upon it, _i. e._, leave it in my will; a mode of bestowing
charity, to which many are partial as well as the good dame in the text.

[29] Although the Zetlanders were early reconciled to the reformed
faith, some ancient practices of Catholic superstition survived long
among them. In very stormy weather a fisher would vow an _oramus_ to
Saint Ronald, and acquitted himself of the obligation by throwing a
small piece of money in at the window of a ruinous chapel.


  She does no work by halves, yon raving ocean;
  Engulfing those she strangles, her wild womb
  Affords the mariners whom she hath dealt on,
  Their death at once, and sepulchre.

                                                 _Old Play._

There were ten "lang Scots miles" betwixt Stourburgh and Jarlshof; and
though the pedestrian did not number all the impediments which crossed
Tam o' Shanter's path,--for in a country where there are neither hedges
nor stone enclosures, there can be neither "slaps nor stiles,"--yet the
number and nature of the "mosses and waters" which he had to cross in
his peregrination, was fully sufficient to balance the account, and to
render his journey as toilsome and dangerous as Tam o' Shanter's
celebrated retreat from Ayr. Neither witch nor warlock crossed
Mordaunt's path, however. The length of the day was already
considerable, and he arrived safe at Jarlshof by eleven o'clock at
night. All was still and dark round the mansion, and it was not till he
had whistled twice or thrice beneath Swertha's window, that she replied
to the signal.

At the first sound, Swertha fell into an agreeable dream of a young
whale-fisher, who some forty years before used to make such a signal
beneath the window of her hut; at the second, she waked to remember that
Johnnie Fea had slept sound among the frozen waves of Greenland for this
many a year, and that she was Mr. Mertoun's governante at Jarlshof; at
the third, she arose and opened the window.

"Whae is that," she demanded, "at sic an hour of the night?"

"It is I," said the youth.

"And what for comena ye in? The door's on the latch, and there is a
gathering peat on the kitchen fire, and a spunk beside it--ye can light
your ain candle."

"All well," replied Mordaunt; "but I want to know how my father is?"

"Just in his ordinary, gude gentleman--asking for you, Maister Mordaunt;
ye are ower far and ower late in your walks, young gentleman."

"Then the dark hour has passed, Swertha?"

"In troth has it, Maister Mordaunt," answered the governante; "and your
father is very reasonably good-natured for him, poor gentleman. I spake
to him twice yesterday without his speaking first; and the first time he
answered me as civil as you could do, and the neist time he bade me no
plague him; and then, thought I, three times were aye canny, so I spake
to him again for luck's-sake, and he called me a chattering old devil;
but it was quite and clean in a civil sort of way."

"Enough, enough, Swertha," answered Mordaunt; "and now get up, and find
me something to eat, for I have dined but poorly."

"Then you have been at the new folk's at Stourburgh; for there is no
another house in a' the Isles but they wad hae gi'en ye the best share
of the best they had. Saw ye aught of Norna of the Fitful-head? She went
to Stourburgh this morning, and returned to the town at night."

"Returned!--then she is here? How could she travel three leagues and
better in so short a time?"

"Wha kens how she travels?" replied Swertha; "but I heard her tell the
Ranzelman wi' my ain lugs, that she intended that day to have gone on to
Burgh-Westra, to speak with Minna Troil, but she had seen that at
Stourburgh, (indeed she said at Harfra, for she never calls it by the
other name of Stourburgh,) that sent her back to our town. But gang your
ways round, and ye shall have plenty of supper--ours is nae toom pantry,
and still less a locked ane, though my master be a stranger, and no just
that tight in the upper rigging, as the Ranzelman says."

Mordaunt walked round to the kitchen accordingly, where Swertha's care
speedily accommodated him with a plentiful, though coarse meal, which
indemnified him for the scanty hospitality he had experienced at

In the morning, some feelings of fatigue made young Mertoun later than
usual in leaving his bed; so that, contrary to what was the ordinary
case, he found his father in the apartment where they eat, and which
served them indeed for every common purpose, save that of a bedchamber
or of a kitchen. The son greeted the father in mute reverence, and
waited until he should address him.

"You were absent yesterday, Mordaunt?" said his father. Mordaunt's
absence had lasted a week and more; but he had often observed that his
father never seemed to notice how time passed during the period when he
was affected with his sullen vapours. He assented to what the elder Mr.
Mertoun had said.

"And you were at Burgh-Westra, as I think?" continued his father.

"Yes, sir," replied Mordaunt.

The elder Mertoun was then silent for some time, and paced the floor in
deep silence, with an air of sombre reflection, which seemed as if he
were about to relapse into his moody fit. Suddenly turning to his son,
however, he observed, in the tone of a query, "Magnus Troil has two
daughters--they must be now young women; they are thought handsome, of

"Very generally, sir," answered Mordaunt, rather surprised to hear his
father making any enquiries about the individuals of a sex which he
usually thought so light of, a surprise which was much increased by the
next question, put as abruptly as the former.

"Which think you the handsomest?"

"I, sir?" replied his son with some wonder, but without
embarrassment--"I really am no judge--I never considered which was
absolutely the handsomest. They are both very pretty young women."

"You evade my question, Mordaunt; perhaps I have some very particular
reason for my wish to be acquainted with your taste in this matter. I am
not used to waste words for no purpose. I ask you again, which of Magnus
Troil's daughters you think most handsome?"

"Really, sir," replied Mordaunt--"but you only jest in asking me such a

"Young man," replied Mertoun, with eyes which began to roll and sparkle
with impatience, "I _never_ jest. I desire an answer to my question."

"Then, upon my word, sir," said Mordaunt, "it is not in my power to form
a judgment betwixt the young ladies--they are both very pretty, but by
no means like each other. Minna is dark-haired, and more grave than her
sister--more serious, but by no means either dull or sullen."

"Um," replied his father; "you have been gravely brought up, and this
Minna, I suppose, pleases you most?"

"No, sir, really I can give her no preference over her sister Brenda,
who is as gay as a lamb in a spring morning--less tall than her sister,
but so well formed, and so excellent a dancer"----

"That she is best qualified to amuse the young man, who has a dull home
and a moody father?" said Mr. Mertoun.

Nothing in his father's conduct had ever surprised Mordaunt so much as
the obstinacy with which he seemed to pursue a theme so foreign to his
general train of thought, and habits of conversation; but he contented
himself with answering once more, "that both the young ladies were
highly admirable, but he had never thought of them with the wish to do
either injustice, by ranking her lower than her sister--that others
would probably decide between them, as they happened to be partial to a
grave or a gay disposition, or to a dark or fair complexion; but that he
could see no excellent quality in the one that was not balanced by
something equally captivating in the other."

It is possible that even the coolness with which Mordaunt made this
explanation might not have satisfied his father concerning the subject
of investigation; but Swertha at this moment entered with breakfast, and
the youth, notwithstanding his late supper, engaged in that meal with an
air which satisfied Mertoun that he held it matter of more grave
importance than the conversation which they had just had, and that he
had nothing more to say upon the subject explanatory of the answers he
had already given. He shaded his brow with his hand, and looked long
fixedly upon the young man as he was busied with his morning meal. There
was neither abstraction nor a sense of being observed in any of his
motions; all was frank, natural, and open.

"He is fancy-free," muttered Mertoun to himself--"so young, so lively,
and so imaginative, so handsome and so attractive in face and person,
strange, that at his age, and in his circumstances, he should have
avoided the meshes which catch all the world beside!"

When the breakfast was over, the elder Mertoun, instead of proposing, as
usual, that his son, who awaited his commands, should betake himself to
one branch or other of his studies, assumed his hat and staff, and
desired that Mordaunt should accompany him to the top of the cliff,
called Sumburgh-head, and from thence look out upon the state of the
ocean, agitated as it must still be by the tempest of the preceding day.
Mordaunt was at the age when young men willingly exchange sedentary
pursuits for active exercise, and started up with alacrity to comply
with his father's desire; and in the course of a few minutes they were
mounting together the hill, which, ascending from the land side in a
long, steep, and grassy slope, sinks at once from the summit to the sea
in an abrupt and tremendous precipice.

The day was delightful; there was just so much motion in the air as to
disturb the little fleecy clouds which were scattered on the horizon,
and by floating them occasionally over the sun, to chequer the landscape
with that variety of light and shade which often gives to a bare and
unenclosed scene, for the time at least, a species of charm approaching
to the varieties of a cultivated and planted country. A thousand
flitting hues of light and shade played over the expanse of wild moor,
rocks, and inlets, which, as they climbed higher and higher, spread in
wide and wider circuit around them.

The elder Mertoun often paused and looked round upon the scene, and for
some time his son supposed that he halted to enjoy its beauties; but as
they ascended still higher up the hill, he remarked his shortened breath
and his uncertain and toilsome step, and became assured, with some
feelings of alarm, that his father's strength was, for the moment,
exhausted, and that he found the ascent more toilsome and fatiguing than
usual. To draw close to his side, and offer him in silence the
assistance of his arm, was an act of youthful deference to advanced age,
as well as of filial reverence; and Mertoun seemed at first so to
receive it, for he took in silence the advantage of the aid thus
afforded him.

It was but for two or three minutes, however, that the father availed
himself of his son's support. They had not ascended fifty yards farther,
ere he pushed Mordaunt suddenly, if not rudely, from him; and, as if
stung into exertion by some sudden recollection, began to mount the
acclivity with such long and quick steps, that Mordaunt, in his turn,
was obliged to exert himself to keep pace with him. He knew his father's
peculiarity of disposition; he was aware from many slight circumstances,
that he loved him not even while he took much pains with his education,
and while he seemed to be the sole object of his care upon earth. But
the conviction had never been more strongly or more powerfully forced
upon him than by the hasty churlishness with which Mertoun rejected from
a son that assistance, which most elderly men are willing to receive
from youths with whom they are but slightly connected, as a tribute
which it is alike graceful to yield and pleasing to receive. Mertoun,
however, did not seem to perceive the effect which his unkindness had
produced upon his son's feelings. He paused upon a sort of level terrace
which they had now attained, and addressed his son with an indifferent
tone, which seemed in some degree affected.

"Since you have so few inducements, Mordaunt, to remain in these wild
islands, I suppose you sometimes wish to look a little more abroad into
the world?"

"By my word, sir," replied Mordaunt, "I cannot say I ever have a thought
on such a subject."

"And why not, young man?" demanded his father; "it were but natural, I
think, at your age. At your age, the fair and varied breadth of Britain
could not gratify me, much less the compass of a sea-girdled peat-moss."

"I have never thought of leaving Zetland, sir," replied the son. "I am
happy here, and have friends. You yourself, sir, would miss me, unless

"Why, thou wouldst not persuade me," said his father, somewhat hastily,
"that you stay here, or desire to stay here, for the love of me?"

"Why should I not, sir?" answered Mordaunt, mildly; "it is my duty, and
I hope I have hitherto performed it."

"O ay," repeated Mertoun, in the same tone--"your duty--your duty. So it
is the duty of the dog to follow the groom that feeds him."

"And does he not do so, sir?" said Mordaunt.

"Ay," said his father, turning his head aside: "but he fawns only on
those who caress him."

"I hope, sir," replied Mordaunt, "I have not been found deficient?"

"Say no more on't--say no more on't," said Mertoun, abruptly, "we have
both done enough by each other--we must soon part--Let that be our
comfort--if our separation should require comfort."

"I shall be ready to obey your wishes," said Mordaunt, not altogether
displeased at what promised him an opportunity of looking farther abroad
into the world. "I presume it will be your pleasure that I commence my
travels with a season at the whale-fishing."

"Whale-fishing!" replied Mertoun; "that were a mode indeed of seeing the
world! but thou speakest but as thou hast learned. Enough of this for
the present. Tell me where you had shelter from the storm yesterday?"

"At Stourburgh, the house of the new factor from Scotland."

"A pedantic, fantastic, visionary schemer," said Mertoun--"and whom saw
you there?"

"His sister, sir," replied Mordaunt, "and old Norna of the Fitful-head."

"What! the mistress of the potent spell," answered Mertoun, with a
sneer--"she who can change the wind by pulling her curch on one side, as
King Erick used to do by turning his cap? The dame journeys far from
home--how fares she? Does she get rich by selling favourable winds to
those who are port-bound?"[30]

"I really do not know, sir," said Mordaunt, whom certain recollections
prevented from freely entering into his father's humour.

"You think the matter too serious to be jested with, or perhaps esteem
her merchandise too light to be cared after," continued Mertoun, in the
same sarcastic tone, which was the nearest approach he ever made to
cheerfulness; "but consider it more deeply. Every thing in the universe
is bought and sold, and why not wind, if the merchant can find
purchasers? The earth is rented, from its surface down to its most
central mines;--the fire, and the means of feeding it, are currently
bought and sold;--the wretches that sweep the boisterous ocean with
their nets, pay ransom for the privilege of being drowned in it. What
title has the air to be exempted from the universal course of traffic?
All above the earth, under the earth, and around the earth, has its
price, its sellers, and its purchasers. In many countries the priests
will sell you a portion of heaven--in all countries men are willing to
buy, in exchange for health, wealth, and peace of conscience, a full
allowance of hell. Why should not Norna pursue her traffic?"

"Nay, I know no reason against it," replied Mordaunt; "only I wish she
would part with the commodity in smaller quantities. Yesterday she was a
wholesale dealer--whoever treated with her had too good a pennyworth."

"It is even so," said his father, pausing on the verge of the wild
promontory which they had attained, where the huge precipice sinks
abruptly down on the wide and tempestuous ocean, "and the effects are
still visible."

The face of that lofty cape is composed of the soft and crumbling stone
called sand-flag, which gradually becomes decomposed, and yields to the
action of the atmosphere, and is split into large masses, that hang
loose upon the verge of the precipice, and, detached from it by the
violence of the tempests, often descend with great fury into the vexed
abyss which lashes the foot of the rock. Numbers of these huge fragments
lie strewed beneath the rocks from which they have fallen, and amongst
these the tide foams and rages with a fury peculiar to those latitudes.

At the period when Mertoun and his son looked from the verge of the
precipice, the wide sea still heaved and swelled with the agitation of
yesterday's storm, which had been far too violent in its effects on the
ocean to subside speedily. The tide therefore poured on the headland
with a fury deafening to the ear, and dizzying to the eye, threatening
instant destruction to whatever might be at the time involved in its
current. The sight of Nature, in her magnificence, or in her beauty, or
in her terrors, has at all times an overpowering interest, which even
habit cannot greatly weaken; and both father and son sat themselves down
on the cliff to look out upon that unbounded war of waters, which rolled
in their wrath to the foot of the precipice.

At once Mordaunt, whose eyes were sharper, and probably his attention
more alert, than that of his father, started up, and exclaimed, "God in
Heaven! there is a vessel in the Roost!"

Mertoun looked to the north-westward, and an object was visible amid the
rolling tide. "She shows no sail," he observed; and immediately added,
after looking at the object through his spy-glass, "She is dismasted,
and lies a sheer hulk upon the water."

"And is drifting on the Sumburgh-head," exclaimed Mordaunt, struck with
horror, "without the slightest means of weathering the cape!"

"She makes no effort," answered his father; "she is probably deserted by
her crew."

"And in such a day as yesterday," replied Mordaunt, "when no open boat
could live were she manned with the best men ever handled an oar--all
must have perished."

"It is most probable," said his father, with stern composure; "and one
day, sooner or later, all must have perished. What signifies whether the
fowler, whom nothing escapes, caught them up at one swoop from yonder
shattered deck, or whether he clutched them individually, as chance gave
them to his grasp? What signifies it?--the deck, the battlefield, are
scarce more fatal to us than our table and our bed; and we are saved
from the one, merely to drag out a heartless and wearisome existence,
till we perish at the other. Would the hour were come--that hour which
reason would teach us to wish for, were it not that nature has implanted
the fear of it so strongly within us! You wonder at such a reflection,
because life is yet new to you. Ere you have attained my age, it will be
the familiar companion of your thoughts."

"Surely, sir," replied Mordaunt, "such distaste to life is not the
necessary consequence of advanced age?"

"To all who have sense to estimate that which it is really worth," said
Mertoun. "Those who, like Magnus Troil, possess so much of the animal
impulses about them, as to derive pleasure from sensual gratification,
may perhaps, like the animals, feel pleasure in mere existence."

Mordaunt liked neither the doctrine nor the example. He thought a man
who discharged his duties towards others as well as the good old
Udaller, had a better right to have the sun shine fair on his setting,
than that which he might derive from mere insensibility. But he let the
subject drop; for to dispute with his father, had always the effect of
irritating him; and again he adverted to the condition of the wreck.

The hulk, for it was little better, was now in the very midst of the
current, and drifting at a great rate towards the foot of the precipice,
upon whose verge they were placed. Yet it was a long while ere they had
a distinct view of the object which they had at first seen as a black
speck amongst the waters, and then, at a nearer distance, like a whale,
which now scarce shows its back-fin above the waves, now throws to view
its large black side. Now, however, they could more distinctly observe
the appearance of the ship, for the huge swelling waves which bore her
forward to the shore, heaved her alternately high upon the surface, and
then plunged her into the trough or furrow of the sea. She seemed a
vessel of two or three hundred tons, fitted up for defence, for they
could see her port-holes. She had been dismasted probably in the gale of
the preceding day, and lay water-logged on the waves, a prey to their
violence. It appeared certain, that the crew, finding themselves unable
either to direct the vessel's course, or to relieve her by pumping, had
taken to their boats, and left her to her fate. All apprehensions were
therefore unnecessary, so far as the immediate loss of human lives was
concerned; and yet it was not without a feeling of breathless awe that
Mordaunt and his father beheld the vessel--that rare masterpiece by
which human genius aspires to surmount the waves, and contend with the
winds, upon the point of falling a prey to them.

Onward she came, the large black hulk seeming larger at every fathom's
length. She came nearer, until she bestrode the summit of one tremendous
billow, which rolled on with her unbroken, till the wave and its burden
were precipitated against the rock, and then the triumph of the elements
over the work of human hands was at once completed. One wave, we have
said, made the wrecked vessel completely manifest in her whole bulk, as
it raised her, and bore her onward against the face of the precipice.
But when that wave receded from the foot of the rock, the ship had
ceased to exist; and the retiring billow only bore back a quantity of
beams, planks, casks, and similar objects, which swept out to the
offing, to be brought in again by the next wave, and again precipitated
upon the face of the rock.

It was at this moment that Mordaunt conceived he saw a man floating on a
plank or water-cask, which, drifting away from the main current, seemed
about to go ashore upon a small spot of sand, where the water was
shallow, and the waves broke more smoothly. To see the danger, and to
exclaim, "He lives, and may yet be saved!" was the first impulse of the
fearless Mordaunt. The next was, after one rapid glance at the front of
the cliff, to precipitate himself--such seemed the rapidity of his
movement--from the verge, and to commence, by means of slight fissures,
projections, and crevices in the rock, a descent, which, to a spectator,
appeared little else than an act of absolute insanity.

"Stop, I command you, rash boy!" said his father; "the attempt is death.
Stop, and take the safer path to the left." But Mordaunt was already
completely engaged in his perilous enterprise.

"Why should I prevent him?" said his father, checking his anxiety with
the stern and unfeeling philosophy whose principles he had adopted.
"Should he die now, full of generous and high feeling, eager in the
cause of humanity, happy in the exertion of his own conscious activity,
and youthful strength--should he die now, will he not escape
misanthropy, and remorse, and age, and the consciousness of decaying
powers, both of body and mind?--I will not look upon it however--I will
not--I cannot behold his young light so suddenly quenched."

He turned from the precipice accordingly, and hastening to the left for
more than a quarter of a mile, he proceeded towards a _riva_, or cleft
in the rock, containing a path, called Erick's Steps, neither safe,
indeed, nor easy, but the only one by which the inhabitants of Jarlshof
were wont, for any purpose, to seek access to the foot of the precipice.

But long ere Mertoun had reached even the upper end of the pass, his
adventurous and active son had accomplished his more desperate
enterprise. He had been in vain turned aside from the direct line of
descent, by the intervention of difficulties which he had not seen from
above--his route became only more circuitous, but could not be
interrupted. More than once, large fragments to which he was about to
intrust his weight, gave way before him, and thundered down into the
tormented ocean; and in one or two instances, such detached pieces of
rock rushed after him, as if to bear him headlong in their course. A
courageous heart, a steady eye, a tenacious hand, and a firm foot,
carried him through his desperate attempt; and in the space of seven
minutes, he stood at the bottom of the cliff, from the verge of which
he had achieved his perilous descent.

The place which he now occupied was the small projecting spot of stones,
sand, and gravel, that extended a little way into the sea, which on the
right hand lashed the very bottom of the precipice, and on the left, was
scarce divided from it by a small wave-worn portion of beach that
extended as far as the foot of the rent in the rocks called Erick's
Steps, by which Mordaunt's father proposed to descend.

When the vessel split and went to pieces, all was swallowed up in the
ocean, which had, after the first shock, been seen to float upon the
waves, excepting only a few pieces of wreck, casks, chests, and the
like, which a strong eddy, formed by the reflux of the waves, had
landed, or at least grounded, upon the shallow where Mordaunt now stood.
Amongst these, his eager eye discovered the object that had at first
engaged his attention, and which now, seen at nigher distance, proved to
be in truth a man, and in a most precarious state. His arms were still
wrapt with a close and convulsive grasp round the plank to which he had
clung in the moment of the shock, but sense and the power of motion were
fled; and, from the situation in which the plank lay, partly grounded
upon the beach, partly floating in the sea, there was every chance that
it might be again washed off shore, in which case death was inevitable.
Just as he had made himself aware of these circumstances, Mordaunt
beheld a huge wave advancing, and hastened to interpose his aid ere it
burst, aware that the reflux might probably sweep away the sufferer.

He rushed into the surf, and fastened on the body, with the same
tenacity, though under a different impulse, with that wherewith the
hound seizes his prey. The strength of the retiring wave proved even
greater than he had expected, and it was not without a struggle for his
own life, as well as for that of the stranger, that Mordaunt resisted
being swept off with the receding billow, when, though an adroit
swimmer, the strength of the tide must either have dashed him against
the rocks, or hurried him out to sea. He stood his ground, however, and
ere another such billow had returned, he drew up, upon the small slip of
dry sand, both the body of the stranger, and the plank to which he
continued firmly attached. But how to save and to recall the means of
ebbing life and strength, and how to remove into a place of greater
safety the sufferer, who was incapable of giving any assistance towards
his own preservation, were questions which Mordaunt asked himself
eagerly, but in vain.

He looked to the summit of the cliff on which he had left his father,
and shouted to him for his assistance; but his eye could not distinguish
his form, and his voice was only answered by the scream of the
sea-birds. He gazed again on the sufferer. A dress richly laced,
according to the fashion of the times, fine linen, and rings upon his
fingers, evinced he was a man of superior rank; and his features showed
youth and comeliness, notwithstanding they were pallid and disfigured.
He still breathed, but so feebly, that his respiration was almost
imperceptible, and life seemed to keep such slight hold of his frame,
that there was every reason to fear it would become altogether
extinguished, unless it were speedily reinforced. To loosen the
handkerchief from his neck, to raise him with his face towards the
breeze, to support him with his arms, was all that Mordaunt could do for
his assistance, whilst he anxiously looked for some one who might lend
his aid in dragging the unfortunate to a more safe situation.

At this moment he beheld a man advancing slowly and cautiously along the
beach. He was in hopes, at first, it was his father, but instantly
recollected that he had not had time to come round by the circuitous
descent, to which he must necessarily have recourse, and besides, he saw
that the man who approached him was shorter in stature.

As he came nearer, Mordaunt was at no loss to recognise the pedlar whom
the day before he had met with at Harfra, and who was known to him
before upon many occasions. He shouted as loud as he could, "Bryce,
hollo! Bryce, come hither!" But the merchant, intent upon picking up
some of the spoils of the wreck, and upon dragging them out of reach of
the tide, paid for some time little attention to his shouts.

When he did at length approach Mordaunt, it was not to lend him his aid,
but to remonstrate with him on his rashness in undertaking the
charitable office. "Are you mad?" said he; "you that have lived sae lang
in Zetland, to risk the saving of a drowning man? Wot ye not, if you
bring him to life again, he will be sure to do you some capital
injury?[31]--Come, Master Mordaunt, bear a hand to what's mair to the
purpose. Help me to get ane or twa of these kists ashore before any body
else comes, and we shall share, like good Christians, what God sends us,
and be thankful."

Mordaunt was indeed no stranger to this inhuman superstition, current at
a former period among the lower orders of the Zetlanders, and the more
generally adopted, perhaps, that it served as an apology for refusing
assistance to the unfortunate victims of shipwreck, while they made
plunder of their goods. At any rate, the opinion, that to save a
drowning man was to run the risk of future injury from him, formed a
strange contradiction in the character of these islanders; who,
hospitable, generous, and disinterested, on all other occasions, were
sometimes, nevertheless, induced by this superstition, to refuse their
aid in those mortal emergencies, which were so common upon their rocky
and stormy coasts. We are happy to add, that the exhortation and example
of the proprietors have eradicated even the traces of this inhuman
belief, of which there might be some observed within the memory of those
now alive. It is strange that the minds of men should have ever been
hardened towards those involved in a distress to which they themselves
were so constantly exposed; but perhaps the frequent sight and
consciousness of such danger tends to blunt the feelings to its
consequences, whether affecting ourselves or others.

Bryce was remarkably tenacious of this ancient belief; the more so,
perhaps, that the mounting of his pack depended less upon the warehouses
of Lerwick or Kirkwall, than on the consequences of such a north-western
gale as that of the day preceding; for which (being a man who, in his
own way, professed great devotion) he seldom failed to express his
grateful thanks to Heaven. It was indeed said of him, that if he had
spent the same time in assisting the wrecked seamen, which he had
employed in rifling their bales and boxes, he would have saved many
lives, and lost much linen. He paid no sort of attention to the
repeated entreaties of Mordaunt, although he was now upon the same slip
of sand with him. It was well known to Bryce as a place on which the
eddy was likely to land such spoils as the ocean disgorged; and to
improve the favourable moment, he occupied himself exclusively in
securing and appropriating whatever seemed most portable and of greatest
value. At length Mordaunt saw the honest pedlar fix his views upon a
strong sea-chest, framed of some Indian wood, well secured by brass
plates, and seeming to be of a foreign construction. The stout lock
resisted all Bryce's efforts to open it, until, with great composure, he
plucked from his pocket a very neat hammer and chisel, and began forcing
the hinges.

Incensed beyond patience at his assurance, Mordaunt caught up a wooden
stretcher which lay near him, and laying his charge softly on the sand,
approached Bryce with a menacing gesture, and exclaimed, "You
cold-blooded, inhuman rascal! either get up instantly and lend me your
assistance to recover this man, and bear him out of danger from the
surf, or I will not only beat you to a mummy on the spot, but inform
Magnus Troil of your thievery, that he may have you flogged till your
bones are bare, and then banish you from the Mainland!"

The lid of the chest had just sprung open as this rough address saluted
Bryce's ears, and the inside presented a tempting view of wearing
apparel for sea and land; shirts, plain and with lace ruffles, a silver
compass, a silver-hilted sword, and other valuable articles, which the
pedlar well knew to be such as stir in the trade. He was half-disposed
to start up, draw the sword, which was a cut-and-thrust, and "darraign
battaile," as Spenser says, rather than quit his prize, or brook
interruption. Being, though short, a stout square-made personage, and
not much past the prime of life, having besides the better weapon, he
might have given Mordaunt more trouble than his benevolent
knight-errantry deserved.

Already, as with vehemence he repeated his injunctions that Bryce should
forbear his plunder, and come to the assistance of the dying man, the
pedlar retorted with a voice of defiance, "Dinna swear, sir; dinna
swear, sir--I will endure no swearing in my presence; and if you lay a
finger on me, that am taking the lawful spoil of the Egyptians, I will
give ye a lesson ye shall remember from this day to Yule!"

Mordaunt would speedily have put the pedlar's courage to the test, but a
voice behind him suddenly said, "Forbear!" It was the voice of Norna of
the Fitful-head, who, during the heat of their altercation, had
approached them unobserved. "Forbear!" she repeated; "and, Bryce, do
thou render Mordaunt the assistance he requires. It shall avail thee
more, and it is I who say the word, than all that you could earn to-day

"It is se'enteen hundred linen," said the pedlar, giving a tweak to one
of the shirts, in that knowing manner with which matrons and judges
ascertain the texture of the loom;--"it's se'enteen hundred linen, and
as strong as an it were dowlas. Nevertheless, mother, your bidding is to
be done; and I would have done Mr. Mordaunt's bidding too," he added,
relaxing from his note of defiance into the deferential whining tone
with which he cajoled his customers, "if he hadna made use of profane
oaths, which made my very flesh grew, and caused me, in some sort, to
forget myself." He then took a flask from his pocket, and approached
the shipwrecked man. "It's the best of brandy," he said; "and if that
doesna cure him, I ken nought that will." So saying, he took a
preliminary gulp himself, as if to show the quality of the liquor, and
was about to put it to the man's mouth, when, suddenly withholding his
hand, he looked at Norna--"You ensure me against all risk of evil from
him, if I am to render him my help?--Ye ken yoursell what folk say,

For all other answer, Norna took the bottle from the pedlar's hand, and
began to chafe the temples and throat of the shipwrecked man; directing
Mordaunt how to hold his head, so as to afford him the means of
disgorging the sea-water which he had swallowed during his immersion.

The pedlar looked on inactive for a moment, and then said, "To be sure,
there is not the same risk in helping him, now he is out of the water,
and lying high and dry on the beach; and, to be sure, the principal
danger is to those that first touch him; and, to be sure, it is a
world's pity to see how these rings are pinching the puir creature's
swalled fingers--they make his hand as blue as a partan's back before
boiling." So saying, he seized one of the man's cold hands, which had
just, by a tremulous motion, indicated the return of life, and began his
charitable work of removing the rings, which seemed to be of some value.

"As you love your life, forbear," said Norna, sternly, "or I will lay
that on you which shall spoil your travels through the isles."

"Now, for mercy's sake, mother, say nae mair about it," said the pedlar,
"and I'll e'en do your pleasure in your ain way! I _did_ feel a
rheumatize in my back-spauld yestreen; and it wad be a sair thing for
the like of me to be debarred my quiet walk round the country, in the
way of trade--making the honest penny, and helping myself with what
Providence sends on our coasts."

"Peace, then," said the woman--"Peace, as thou wouldst not rue it; and
take this man on thy broad shoulders. His life is of value, and you will
be rewarded."

"I had muckle need," said the pedlar, pensively looking at the lidless
chest, and the other matters which strewed the sand; "for he has come
between me and as muckle spreacherie as wad hae made a man of me for the
rest of my life; and now it maun lie here till the next tide sweep it a'
doun the Roost, after them that aught it yesterday morning."

"Fear not," said Norna, "it will come to man's use. See, there come
carrion-crows, of scent as keen as thine own."

She spoke truly; for several of the people from the hamlet of Jarlshof
were now hastening along the beach, to have their share in the spoil.
The pedlar beheld them approach with a deep groan. "Ay, ay," he said,
"the folk of Jarlshof, they will make clean wark; they are kend for that
far and wide; they winna leave the value of a rotten ratlin; and what's
waur, there isna ane o' them has mense or sense eneugh to give thanks
for the mercies when they have gotten them. There is the auld Ranzelman,
Neil Ronaldson, that canna walk a mile to hear the minister, but he will
hirple ten if he hears of a ship embayed."

Norna, however, seemed to possess over him so complete an ascendency,
that he no longer hesitated to take the man, who now gave strong
symptoms of reviving existence, upon his shoulders; and, assisted by
Mordaunt, trudged along the sea-beach with his burden, without farther
remonstrance. Ere he was borne off, the stranger pointed to the chest,
and attempted to mutter something, to which Norna replied, "Enough. It
shall be secured."

Advancing towards the passage called Erick's Steps, by which they were
to ascend the cliffs, they met the people from Jarlshof hastening in the
opposite direction. Man and woman, as they passed, reverently made room
for Norna, and saluted her--not without an expression of fear upon some
of their faces. She passed them a few paces, and then turning back,
called aloud to the Ranzelman, who (though the practice was more common
than legal) was attending the rest of the hamlet upon this plundering
expedition. "Neil Ronaldson," she said, "mark my words. There stands
yonder a chest, from which the lid has been just prized off. Look it be
brought down to your own house at Jarlshof, just as it now is. Beware of
moving or touching the slightest article. He were better in his grave
that so much as looks at the contents. I speak not for nought, nor in
aught will I be disobeyed."

"Your pleasure shall be done, mother," said Ronaldson. "I warrant we
will not break bulk, since sic is your bidding."

Far behind the rest of the villagers, followed an old woman, talking to
herself, and cursing her own decrepitude, which kept her the last of the
party, yet pressing forward with all her might to get her share of the

When they met her, Mordaunt was astonished to recognise his father's old
housekeeper. "How now," he said, "Swertha, what make you so far from

"Just e'en daikering out to look after my auld master and your honour,"
replied Swertha, who felt like a criminal caught in the manner; for on
more occasions than one, Mr. Mertoun had intimated his high
disapprobation of such excursions as she was at present engaged in.

But Mordaunt was too much engaged with his own thoughts to take much
notice of her delinquency. "Have you seen my father?" he said.

"And that I have," replied Swertha--"The gude gentleman was ganging to
hirsel himsell doun Erick's Steps, whilk would have been the ending of
him, that is in no way a cragsman. Sae I e'en gat him wiled away
hame--and I was just seeking you that you may gang after him to the
hall-house, for to my thought he is far frae weel."

"My father unwell?" said Mordaunt, remembering the faintness he had
exhibited at the commencement of that morning's walk.

"Far frae weel--far frae weel," groaned out Swertha, with a piteous
shake of the head--"white o' the gills--white o' the gills--and him to
think of coming down the riva!"

"Return home, Mordaunt," said Norna, who was listening to what had
passed. "I will see all that is necessary done for this man's relief,
and you will find him at the Ranzelman's, when you list to enquire. You
cannot help him more than you already have done."

Mordaunt felt this was true, and, commanding Swertha to follow him
instantly, betook himself to the path homeward.

Swertha hobbled reluctantly after her young master in the same
direction, until she lost sight of him on his entering the cleft of the
rock; then instantly turned about, muttering to herself, "Haste home, in
good sooth?--haste home, and lose the best chance of getting a new
rokelay and owerlay that I have had these ten years? by my certie,
na--It's seldom sic rich godsends come on our shore--no since the Jenny
and James came ashore in King Charlie's time."

So saying, she mended her pace as well as she could, and, a willing mind
making amends for frail limbs, posted on with wonderful dispatch to put
in for her share of the spoil. She soon reached the beach, where the
Ranzelman, stuffing his own pouches all the while, was exhorting the
rest to part things fair, and be neighbourly, and to give to the auld
and helpless a share of what was going, which, he charitably remarked,
would bring a blessing on the shore, and send them "mair wrecks ere


[30] Note III.--Sale of Winds.

[31] Note IV.--Reluctance to Save Drowning Men.

[32] Note V.--Mair Wrecks ere Winter.


  He was a lovely youth, I guess;
  The panther in the wilderness
    Was not so fair as he;
  And when he chose to sport and play,
  No dolphin ever was so gay,
    Upon the tropic sea.


The light foot of Mordaunt Mertoun was not long of bearing him to
Jarlshof. He entered the house hastily, for what he himself had observed
that morning, corresponded in some degree with the ideas which Swertha's
tale was calculated to excite. He found his father, however, in the
inner apartment, reposing himself after his fatigue; and his first
question satisfied him that the good dame had practised a little
imposition to get rid of them both.

"Where is this dying man, whom you have so wisely ventured your own neck
to relieve?" said the elder Mertoun to the younger.

"Norna, sir," replied Mordaunt, "has taken him under her charge; she
understands such matters."

"And is quack as well as witch?" said the elder Mertoun. "With all my
heart--it is a trouble saved. But I hasted home, on Swertha's hint, to
look out for lint and bandages; for her speech was of broken bones."

Mordaunt kept silence, well knowing his father would not persevere in
his enquiries upon such a matter, and not willing either to prejudice
the old governante, or to excite his father to one of those excesses of
passion into which he was apt to burst, when, contrary to his wont, he
thought proper to correct the conduct of his domestic.

It was late in the day ere old Swertha returned from her expedition,
heartily fatigued, and bearing with her a bundle of some bulk,
containing, it would seem, her share of the spoil. Mordaunt instantly
sought her out, to charge her with the deceits she had practised on both
his father and himself; but the accused matron lacked not her reply.

"By her troth;" she said, "she thought it was time to bid Mr. Mertoun
gang hame and get bandages, when she had seen, with her ain twa een,
Mordaunt ganging down the cliff like a wild-cat--it was to be thought
broken bones would be the end, and lucky if bandages wad do any
good;--and, by her troth, she might weel tell Mordaunt his father was
puirly, and him looking sae white in the gills, (whilk, she wad die upon
it, was the very word she used,) and it was a thing that couldna be
denied by man at this very moment."

"But, Swertha," said Mordaunt, as soon as her clamorous defence gave him
time to speak in reply, "how came you, that should have been busy with
your housewifery and your spinning, to be out this morning at Erick's
Steps, in order to take all this unnecessary care of my father and
me?--And what is in that bundle, Swertha? for I fear, Swertha, you have
been transgressing the law, and have been out upon the wrecking system."

"Fair fa' your sonsy face, and the blessing of Saint Ronald upon you!"
said Swertha, in a tone betwixt coaxing and jesting; "would you keep a
puir body frae mending hersell, and sae muckle gear lying on the loose
sand for the lifting?--Hout, Maister Mordaunt, a ship ashore is a sight
to wile the minister out of his very pu'pit in the middle of his
preaching, muckle mair a puir auld ignorant wife frae her rock and her
tow. And little did I get for my day's wark--just some rags o' cambric
things, and a bit or twa of coorse claith, and sic like--the strong and
the hearty get a' thing in this warld."

"Yes, Swertha," replied Mordaunt, "and that is rather hard, as you must
have your share of punishment in this world and the next, for robbing
the poor mariners."

"Hout, callant, wha wad punish an auld wife like me for a wheen
duds?--Folk speak muckle black ill of Earl Patrick; but he was a freend
to the shore, and made wise laws against ony body helping vessels that
were like to gang on the breakers.[33]--And the mariners, I have heard
Bryce Jagger say, lose their right frae the time keel touches sand; and,
moreover, they are dead and gane, poor souls--dead and gane, and care
little about warld's wealth now--Nay, nae mair than the great Jarls and
Sea-kings, in the Norse days, did about the treasures that they buried
in the tombs and sepulchres auld langsyne. Did I ever tell you the sang,
Maister Mordaunt, how Olaf Tryguarson garr'd hide five gold crowns in
the same grave with him?"

"No, Swertha," said Mordaunt, who took pleasure in tormenting the
cunning old plunderer--"you never told me that; but I tell you, that the
stranger whom Norna has taken down to the town, will be well enough
to-morrow, to ask where you have hidden the goods that you have stolen
from the wreck."

"But wha will tell him a word about it, hinnie?" said Swertha, looking
slyly up in her young master's face--"The mair by token, since I maun
tell ye, that I have a bonny remnant of silk amang the lave, that will
make a dainty waistcoat to yoursell, the first merry-making ye gang to."

Mordaunt could no longer forbear laughing at the cunning with which the
old dame proposed to bribe off his evidence by imparting a portion of
her plunder; and, desiring her to get ready what provision she had made
for dinner, he returned to his father, whom he found still sitting in
the same place, and nearly in the same posture, in which he had left

When their hasty and frugal meal was finished, Mordaunt announced to his
father his purpose of going down to the town, or hamlet, to look after
the shipwrecked sailor.

The elder Mertoun assented with a nod.

"He must be ill accommodated there, sir," added his son,--a hint which
only produced another nod of assent. "He seemed, from his appearance,"
pursued Mordaunt, "to be of very good rank--and admitting these poor
people do their best to receive him, in his present weak state, yet"----

"I know what you would say," said his father, interrupting him; "we, you
think, ought to do something towards assisting him. Go to him, then--if
he lacks money, let him name the sum, and he shall have it; but, for
lodging the stranger here, and holding intercourse with him, I neither
can, nor will do so. I have retired to this farthest extremity of the
British isles, to avoid new friends, and new faces, and none such shall
intrude on me either their happiness or their misery. When you have
known the world half a score of years longer, your early friends will
have given you reason to remember them, and to avoid new ones for the
rest of your life. Go then--why do you stop?--rid the country of the
man--let me see no one about me but those vulgar countenances, the
extent and character of whose petty knavery I know, and can submit to,
as to an evil too trifling to cause irritation." He then threw his purse
to his son, and signed to him to depart with all speed.

Mordaunt was not long before he reached the village. In the dark abode
of Neil Ronaldson, the Ranzelman, he found the stranger seated by the
peat-fire, upon the very chest which had excited the cupidity of the
devout Bryce Snailsfoot, the pedlar. The Ranzelman himself was absent,
dividing, with all due impartiality, the spoils of the wrecked vessel
amongst the natives of the community; listening to and redressing their
complaints of inequality; and (if the matter in hand had not been, from
beginning to end, utterly unjust and indefensible) discharging the part
of a wise and prudent magistrate, in all the details. For at this time,
and probably until a much later period, the lower orders of the
islanders entertained an opinion, common to barbarians also in the same
situation, that whatever was cast on their shores, became their
indisputable property.

Margery Bimbister, the worthy spouse of the Ranzelman, was in the charge
of the house, and introduced Mordaunt to her guest, saying, with no
great ceremony, "This is the young tacksman--You will maybe tell him
your name, though you will not tell it to us. If it had not been for
his four quarters, it's but little you would have said to any body, sae
lang as life lasted."

The stranger arose, and shook Mordaunt by the hand; observing, he
understood that he had been the means of saving his life and his chest.
"The rest of the property," he said, "is, I see, walking the plank; for
they are as busy as the devil in a gale of wind."

"And what was the use of your seamanship, then," said Margery, "that you
couldna keep off the Sumburgh-head? It would have been lang ere
Sumburgh-head had come to you."

"Leave us for a moment, good Margery Bimbister," said Mordaunt; "I wish
to have some private conversation with this gentleman."

"Gentleman!" said Margery, with an emphasis; "not but the man is well
enough to look at," she added, again surveying him, "but I doubt if
there is muckle of the gentleman about him."

Mordaunt looked at the stranger, and was of a different opinion. He was
rather above the middle size, and formed handsomely as well as strongly.
Mordaunt's intercourse with society was not extensive; but he thought
his new acquaintance, to a bold sunburnt handsome countenance, which
seemed to have faced various climates, added the frank and open manners
of a sailor. He answered cheerfully the enquiries which Mordaunt made
after his health; and maintained that one night's rest would relieve him
from all the effects of the disaster he had sustained. But he spoke with
bitterness of the avarice and curiosity of the Ranzelman and his spouse.

"That chattering old woman," said the stranger, "has persecuted me the
whole day for the name of the ship. I think she might be contented with
the share she has had of it. I was the principal owner of the vessel
that was lost yonder, and they have left me nothing but my wearing
apparel. Is there no magistrate, or justice of the peace, in this wild
country, that would lend a hand to help one when he is among the

Mordaunt mentioned Magnus Troil, the principal proprietor, as well as
the Fowd, or provincial judge, of the district, as the person from whom
he was most likely to obtain redress; and regretted that his own youth,
and his father's situation as a retired stranger, should put it out of
their power to afford him the protection he required.

"Nay, for your part, you have done enough," said the sailor; "but if I
had five out of the forty brave fellows that are fishes' food by this
time, the devil a man would I ask to do me the right that I could do for

"Forty hands!" said Mordaunt; "you were well manned for the size of the

"Not so well as we needed to be. We mounted ten guns, besides chasers;
but our cruise on the main had thinned us of men, and lumbered us up
with goods. Six of our guns were in ballast--Hands! if I had had enough
of hands, we would never have miscarried so infernally. The people were
knocked up with working the pumps, and so took to their boats, and left
me with the vessel, to sink or swim. But the dogs had their pay, and I
can afford to pardon them--The boat swamped in the current--all were
lost--and here am I."

"You had come north about then, from the West Indies?" said Mordaunt.

"Ay, ay; the vessel was the Good Hope of Bristol, a letter of marque.
She had fine luck down on the Spanish main, both with commerce and
privateering, but the luck's ended with her now. My name is Clement
Cleveland, captain, and part owner, as I said before--I am a Bristol man
born--my father was well known on the Tollsell--old Clem Cleveland of
the College-green."

Mordaunt had no right to enquire farther, and yet it seemed to him as if
his own mind was but half satisfied. There was an affectation of
bluntness, a sort of defiance, in the manner of the stranger, for which
circumstances afforded no occasion. Captain Cleveland had suffered
injustice from the islanders, but from Mordaunt he had only received
kindness and protection; yet he seemed as if he involved all the
neighbourhood in the wrongs he complained of. Mordaunt looked down and
was silent, doubting whether it would be better to take his leave, or to
proceed farther in his offers of assistance. Cleveland seemed to guess
at his thoughts, for he immediately added, in a conciliating manner,--"I
am a plain man, Master Mertoun, for that I understand is your name; and
I am a ruined man to boot, and that does not mend one's good manners.
But you have done a kind and friendly part by me, and it may be I think
as much of it as if I thanked you more. And so before I leave this
place, I'll give you my fowlingpiece; she will put a hundred swan-shot
through a Dutchman's cap at eighty paces--she will carry ball too--I
have hit a wild bull within a hundred-and-fifty yards--but I have two
pieces that are as good, or better, so you may keep this for my sake."

"That would be to take my share of the wreck," answered Mordaunt,

"No such matter," said Cleveland, undoing a case which contained several
guns and pistols,--"you see I have saved my private arm-chest, as well
as my clothes--_that_ the tall old woman in the dark rigging managed for
me. And, between ourselves, it is worth all I have lost; for," he added,
lowering his voice, and looking round, "when I speak of being ruined in
the hearing of these landsharks, I do not mean ruined stock and block.
No, here is something will do more than shoot sea-fowl." So saying, he
pulled out a great ammunition-pouch marked swan-shot, and showed
Mordaunt, hastily, that it was full of Spanish pistoles and Portagues
(as the broad Portugal pieces were then called.) "No, no," he added,
with a smile, "I have ballast enough to trim the vessel again; and now,
will you take the piece?"

"Since you are willing to give it me," said Mordaunt, laughing, "with
all my heart. I was just going to ask you in my father's name," he
added, showing his purse, "whether you wanted any of that same ballast."

"Thanks, but you see I am provided--take my old acquaintance, and may
she serve you as well as she has served me; but you will never make so
good a voyage with her. You can shoot, I suppose?"

"Tolerably well," said Mordaunt, admiring the piece, which was a
beautiful Spanish-barrelled gun, inlaid with gold, small in the bore,
and of unusual length, such as is chiefly used for shooting sea-fowl,
and for ball-practice.

"With slugs," continued the donor, "never gun shot closer; and with
single ball, you may kill a seal two hundred yards at sea from the top
of the highest peak of this iron-bound coast of yours. But I tell you
again, that the old rattler will never do you the service she has done

"I shall not use her so dexterously, perhaps," said Mordaunt.

"Umph!--perhaps not," replied Cleveland; "but that is not the question.
What say you to shooting the man at the wheel, just as we run aboard of
a Spaniard? So the Don was taken aback, and we laid him athwart the
hawse, and carried her cutlass in hand; and worth the while she
was--stout brigantine--El Santo Francisco--bound for Porto Bello, with
gold and negroes. That little bit of lead was worth twenty thousand

"I have shot at no such game as yet," said Mordaunt.

"Well, all in good time; we cannot weigh till the tide makes. But you
are a tight, handsome, active young man. What is to ail you to take a
trip after some of this stuff?" laying his hand on the bag of gold.

"My father talks of my travelling soon," replied Mordaunt, who, born to
hold men-of-wars-men in great respect, felt flattered by this invitation
from one who appeared a thorough-bred seaman.

"I respect him for the thought," said the Captain; "and I will visit him
before I weigh anchor. I have a consort off these islands, and be cursed
to her. She'll find me out somewhere, though she parted company in the
bit of a squall, unless she is gone to Davy Jones too.--Well, she was
better found than we, and not so deep loaded--she must have weathered
it. We'll have a hammock slung for you aboard, and make a sailor and a
man of you in the same trip."

"I should like it well enough," said Mordaunt, who eagerly longed to
see more of the world than his lonely situation had hitherto permitted;
"but then my father must decide."

"Your father? pooh!" said Captain Cleveland;--"but you are very right,"
he added, checking himself; "Gad, I have lived so long at sea, that I
cannot imagine any body has a right to think except the captain and the
master. But you are very right. I will go up to the old gentleman this
instant, and speak to him myself. He lives in that handsome,
modern-looking building, I suppose, that I see a quarter of a mile off?"

"In that old half-ruined house," said Mordaunt, "he does indeed live;
but he will see no visitors."

"Then you must drive the point yourself, for I can't stay in this
latitude. Since your father is no magistrate, I must go to see this same
Magnus--how call you him?--who is not justice of peace, but something
else that will do the turn as well. These fellows have got two or three
things that I must and will have back--let them keep the rest and be
d----d to them. Will you give me a letter to him, just by way of

"It is scarce needful," said Mordaunt. "It is enough that you are
shipwrecked, and need his help;--but yet I may as well furnish you with
a letter of introduction."

"There," said the sailor, producing a writing-case from his chest, "are
your writing-tools.--Meantime, since bulk has been broken, I will nail
down the hatches, and make sure of the cargo."

While Mordaunt, accordingly, was engaged in writing to Magnus Troil a
letter, setting forth the circumstances in which Captain Cleveland had
been thrown upon their coast, the Captain, having first selected and
laid aside some wearing apparel and necessaries enough to fill a
knapsack, took in hand hammer and nails, employed himself in securing
the lid of his sea-chest, by fastening it down in a workmanlike manner,
and then added the corroborating security of a cord, twisted and knotted
with nautical dexterity. "I leave this in your charge," he said, "all
except this," showing the bag of gold, "and these," pointing to a
cutlass and pistols, "which may prevent all further risk of my parting
company with my Portagues."

"You will find no occasion for weapons in this country, Captain
Cleveland," replied Mordaunt; "a child might travel with a purse of gold
from Sumburgh-head to the Scaw of Unst, and no soul would injure him."

"And that's pretty boldly said, young gentleman, considering what is
going on without doors at this moment."

"O," replied Mordaunt, a little confused, "what comes on land with the
tide, they reckon their lawful property. One would think they had
studied under Sir Arthegal, who pronounces--

  'For equal right in equal things doth stand,
    And what the mighty sea hath once possess'd,
  And plucked quite from all possessors' hands,
    Or else by wrecks that wretches have distress'd,
  He may dispose, by his resistless might,
    As things at random left, to whom he list.'"

"I shall think the better of plays and ballads as long as I live, for
these very words," said Captain Cleveland; "and yet I have loved them
well enough in my day. But this is good doctrine, and more men than one
may trim their sails to such a breeze. What the sea sends is ours,
that's sure enough. However, in case that your good folks should think
the land as well as the sea may present them with waiffs and strays, I
will make bold to take my cutlass and pistols.--Will you cause my chest
to be secured in your own house till you hear from me, and use your
influence to procure me a guide to show me the way, and to carry my

"Will you go by sea or land?" said Mordaunt, in reply.

"By sea!" exclaimed Cleveland. "What--in one of these cockleshells, and
a cracked cockleshell, to boot? No, no--land, land, unless I knew my
crew, my vessel, and my voyage."

They parted accordingly, Captain Cleveland being supplied with a guide
to conduct him to Burgh-Westra, and his chest being carefully removed to
the mansion-house at Jarlshof.


[33] This was literally true.


  This is a gentle trader, and a prudent.
  He's no Autolycus, to blear your eye,
  With quips of worldly gauds and gamesomeness;
  But seasons all his glittering merchandise
  With wholesome doctrines, suited to the use,
  As men sauce goose with sage and rosemary.

                                                 _Old Play._

On the subsequent morning, Mordaunt, in answer to his father's
enquiries, began to give him some account of the shipwrecked mariner,
whom he had rescued from the waves. But he had not proceeded far in
recapitulating the particulars which Cleveland had communicated, when
Mr. Mertoun's looks became disturbed--he arose hastily, and, after
pacing twice or thrice across the room, he retired into the inner
chamber, to which he usually confined himself, while under the influence
of his mental malady. In the evening he re-appeared, without any traces
of his disorder; but it may be easily supposed that his son avoided
recurring to the subject which had affected him.

Mordaunt Mertoun was thus left without assistance, to form at his
leisure his own opinion respecting the new acquaintance which the sea
had sent him; and, upon the whole, he was himself surprised to find the
result less favourable to the stranger than he could well account for.
There seemed to Mordaunt to be a sort of repelling influence about the
man. True, he was a handsome man, of a frank and prepossessing manner,
but there was an assumption of superiority about him, which Mordaunt did
not quite so much like. Although he was so keen a sportsman as to be
delighted with his acquisition of the Spanish-barrelled gun, and
accordingly mounted and dismounted it with great interest, paying the
utmost attention to the most minute parts about the lock and ornaments,
yet he was, upon the whole, inclined to have some scruples about the
mode in which he had acquired it.

"I should not have accepted it," he thought; "perhaps Captain Cleveland
might give it me as a sort of payment for the trifling service I did
him; and yet it would have been churlish to refuse it in the way it was
offered. I wish he had looked more like a man whom one would have chosen
to be obliged to."

But a successful day's shooting reconciled him to his gun, and he became
assured, like most young sportsmen in similar circumstances, that all
other pieces were but pop-guns in comparison. But then, to be doomed to
shoot gulls and seals, when there were Frenchmen and Spaniards to be
come at--when there were ships to be boarded, and steersmen to be marked
off, seemed but a dull and contemptible destiny. His father had
mentioned his leaving these islands, and no other mode of occupation
occurred to his inexperience, save that of the sea, with which he had
been conversant from his infancy. His ambition had formerly aimed no
higher than at sharing the fatigues and dangers of a Greenland fishing
expedition; for it was in that scene that the Zetlanders laid most of
their perilous adventures. But war was again raging, the history of Sir
Francis Drake, Captain Morgan, and other bold adventurers, an account of
whose exploits he had purchased from Bryce Snailsfoot, had made much
impression on his mind, and the offer of Captain Cleveland to take him
to sea, frequently recurred to him, although the pleasure of such a
project was somewhat damped by a doubt, whether, in the long run, he
should not find many objections to his proposed commander. Thus much he
already saw, that he was opinionative, and might probably prove
arbitrary; and that, since even his kindness was mingled with an
assumption of superiority, his occasional displeasure might contain a
great deal more of that disagreeable ingredient than could be palatable
to those who sailed under him. And yet, after counting all risks, could
his father's consent be obtained, with what pleasure, he thought, would
he embark in quest of new scenes and strange adventures, in which he
proposed to himself to achieve such deeds as should be the theme of many
a tale to the lovely sisters of Burgh-Westra--tales at which Minna
should weep, and Brenda should smile, and both should marvel! And this
was to be the reward of his labours and his dangers; for the hearth of
Magnus Troil had a magnetic influence over his thoughts, and however
they might traverse amid his day-dreams, it was the point where they
finally settled.

There were times when Mordaunt thought of mentioning to his father the
conversation he had held with Captain Cleveland, and the seaman's
proposal to him; but the very short and general account which he had
given of that person's history, upon the morning after his departure
from the hamlet, had produced a sinister effect on Mr. Mertoun's mind,
and discouraged him from speaking farther on any subject connected with
it. It would be time enough, he thought, to mention Captain Cleveland's
proposal, when his consort should arrive, and when he should repeat his
offer in a more formal manner; and these he supposed events likely very
soon to happen.

But days grew to weeks, and weeks were numbered into months, and he
heard nothing from Cleveland; and only learned by an occasional visit
from Bryce Snailsfoot, that the Captain was residing at Burgh-Westra, as
one of the family. Mordaunt was somewhat surprised at this, although the
unlimited hospitality of the islands, which Magnus Troil, both from
fortune and disposition, carried to the utmost extent, made it almost a
matter of course that he should remain in the family until he disposed
of himself otherwise. Still it seemed strange he had not gone to some of
the northern isles to enquire after his consort; or that he did not
rather choose to make Lerwick his residence, where fishing vessels often
brought news from the coasts and ports of Scotland and Holland. Again,
why did he not send for the chest he had deposited at Jarlshof? and
still farther, Mordaunt thought it would have been but polite if the
stranger had sent him some sort of message in token of remembrance.

These subjects of reflection were connected with another still more
unpleasant, and more difficult to account for. Until the arrival of this
person, scarce a week had passed without bringing him some kind
greeting, or token of recollection, from Burgh-Westra; and pretences
were scarce ever wanting for maintaining a constant intercourse. Minna
wanted the words of a Norse ballad; or desired to have, for her various
collections, feathers, or eggs, or shells, or specimens of the rarer
sea-weeds; or Brenda sent a riddle to be resolved, or a song to be
learned; or the honest old Udaller,--in a rude manuscript, which might
have passed for an ancient Runic inscription,--sent his hearty greetings
to his good young friend, with a present of something to make good
cheer, and an earnest request he would come to Burgh-Westra as soon, and
stay there as long, as possible. These kindly tokens of remembrance were
often sent by special message; besides which, there was never a
passenger or a traveller, who crossed from the one mansion to the other,
who did not bring to Mordaunt some friendly greeting from the Udaller
and his family. Of late, this intercourse had become more and more
infrequent; and no messenger from Burgh-Westra had visited Jarlshof for
several weeks. Mordaunt both observed and felt this alteration, and it
dwelt on his mind, while he questioned Bryce as closely as pride and
prudence would permit, to ascertain, if possible, the cause of the
change. Yet he endeavoured to assume an indifferent air while he asked
the jagger whether there were no news in the country.

"Great news," the jagger replied; "and a gay mony of them. That
crackbrained carle, the new factor, is for making a change in the
_bismars_ and the _lispunds_;[34] and our worthy Fowd, Magnus Troil, has
sworn, that, sooner than change them for the still-yard, or aught else,
he'll fling Factor Yellowley from Brassa-craig."

"Is that all?" said Mordaunt, very little interested.

"All? and eneugh, I think," replied the pedlar. "How are folks to buy
and sell, if the weights are changed on them?"

"Very true," replied Mordaunt; "but have you heard of no strange vessels
on the coast?"

"Six Dutch doggers off Brassa; and, as I hear, a high-quartered galliot
thing, with a gaff mainsail, lying in Scalloway Bay. She will be from

"No ships of war, or sloops?"

"None," replied the pedlar, "since the Kite Tender sailed with the
impress men. If it was His will, and our men were out of her, I wish the
deep sea had her!"

"Were there no news at Burgh-Westra?--Were the family all well?"

"A' weel, and weel to do--out-taken, it may be, something ower muckle
daffing and laughing--dancing ilk night, they say, wi' the stranger
captain that's living there--him that was ashore on Sumburgh-head the
tother day,--less daffing served him then."

"Daffing! dancing every night!" said Mordaunt, not particularly well
satisfied--"Whom does Captain Cleveland dance with?"

"Ony body he likes, I fancy," said the jagger; "at ony rate, he gars a'
body yonder dance after his fiddle. But I ken little about it, for I am
no free in conscience to look upon thae flinging fancies. Folk should
mind that life is made but of rotten yarn."

"I fancy that it is to keep them in mind of that wholesome truth, that
you deal in such tender wares, Bryce," replied Mordaunt, dissatisfied as
well with the tenor of the reply, as with the affected scruples of the

"That's as muckle as to say, that I suld hae minded you was a flinger
and a fiddler yoursell, Maister Mordaunt; but I am an auld man, and maun
unburden my conscience. But ye will be for the dance, I sall warrant,
that's to be at Burgh-Westra, on John's Even, (_Saunt_ John's, as the
blinded creatures ca' him,) and nae doubt ye will be for some warldly
braws--hose, waistcoats, or sic like? I hae pieces frae Flanders."--With
that he placed his movable warehouse on the table, and began to unlock

"Dance!" repeated Mordaunt--"Dance on St. John's Even?--Were you desired
to bid me to it, Bryce?"

"Na--but ye ken weel eneugh ye wad be welcome, bidden or no bidden. This
captain--how ca' ye him?--is to be skudler, as they ca't--the first of
the gang, like."

"The devil take him!" said Mordaunt, in impatient surprise.

"A' in gude time," replied the jagger; "hurry no man's cattle--the devil
will hae his due, I warrant ye, or it winna be for lack of seeking. But
it's true I'm telling you, for a' ye stare like a wild-cat; and this
same captain,--I watna his name,--bought ane of the very waistcoats that
I am ganging to show ye--purple, wi' a gowd binding, and bonnily
broidered; and I have a piece for you, the neighbour of it, wi' a green
grund; and if ye mean to streek yoursell up beside him, ye maun e'en buy
it, for it's gowd that glances in the lasses' een now-a-days. See--look
till't," he added, displaying the pattern in various points of view;
"look till _it_ through the light, and till the light through
_it_--_wi'_ the grain, and _against_ the grain--it shows ony gate--cam
frae Antwerp a' the gate--four dollars is the price; and yon captain was
sae weel pleased that he flang down a twenty shilling Jacobus, and bade
me keep the change and be d----d!--poor silly profane creature, I pity

Without enquiring whether the pedlar bestowed his compassion on the
worldly imprudence or the religious deficiencies of Captain Cleveland,
Mordaunt turned from him, folded his arms, and paced the apartment,
muttering to himself, "Not asked--A stranger to be king of the
feast!"--Words which he repeated so earnestly, that Bryce caught a part
of their import.

"As for asking, I am almaist bauld to say, that ye will be asked,
Maister Mordaunt."

"Did they mention my name, then?" said Mordaunt.

"I canna preceesely say that," said Bryce Snailsfoot;--"but ye needna
turn away your head sae sourly, like a sealgh when he leaves the shore;
for, do you see, I heard distinctly that a' the revellers about are to
be there; and is't to be thought they would leave out you, an auld kend
freend, and the lightest foot at sic frolics (Heaven send you a better
praise in His ain gude time!) that ever flang at a fiddle-squeak,
between this and Unst? Sae I consider ye altogether the same as
invited--and ye had best provide yourself wi' a waistcoat, for brave and
brisk will every man be that's there--the Lord pity them!"

He thus continued to follow with his green glazen eyes the motions of
young Mordaunt Mertoun, who was pacing the room in a very pensive
manner, which the jagger probably misinterpreted, as he thought, like
Claudio, that if a man is sad, it must needs be because he lacks money.
Bryce, therefore, after another pause, thus accosted him. "Ye needna be
sad about the matter, Maister Mordaunt; for although I got the just
price of the article from the captain-man, yet I maun deal freendly wi'
you, as a kend freend and customer, and bring the price, as they say,
within your purse-mouth--or it's the same to me to let it lie ower till
Martinmas, or e'en to Candlemas. I am decent in the warld, Maister
Mordaunt--forbid that I should hurry ony body, far mair a freend that
has paid me siller afore now. Or I wad be content to swap the garment
for the value in feathers or sea-otters' skins, or ony kind of
peltrie--nane kens better than yoursell how to come by sic ware--and I
am sure I hae furnished you wi' the primest o' powder. I dinna ken if I
tell'd ye it was out o' the kist of Captain Plunket, that perished on
the Scaw of Unst, wi' the armed brig Mary, sax years syne. He was a
prime fowler himself, and luck it was that the kist came ashore dry. I
sell that to nane but gude marksmen. And so, I was saying, if ye had ony
wares ye liked to coup[35] for the waistcoat, I wad be ready to trock
wi' you, for assuredly ye will be wanted at Burgh-Westra, on Saint
John's Even; and ye wadna like to look waur than the Captain--that wadna
be setting."

"I will be there at least, whether wanted or not," said Mordaunt,
stopping short in his walk, and taking the waistcoat-piece hastily out
of the pedlar's hand; "and, as you say, will not disgrace them."

"Haud a care--haud a care, Maister Mordaunt," exclaimed the pedlar; "ye
handle it as it were a bale of coarse wadmaal--ye'll fray't to bits--ye
might weel say my ware is tender--and ye'll mind the price is four
dollars--Sall I put ye in my book for it?"

"No," said Mordaunt, hastily; and, taking out his purse, he flung down
the money.

"Grace to ye to wear the garment," said the joyous pedlar, "and to me
to guide the siller; and protect us from earthly vanities, and earthly
covetousness; and send you the white linen raiment, whilk is mair to be
desired than the muslins, and cambrics, and lawns, and silks of this
world; and send me the talents which avail more than much fine Spanish
gold, or Dutch dollars either--and--but God guide the callant, what for
is he wrapping the silk up that gate, like a wisp of hay?"

At this moment, old Swertha the housekeeper entered, to whom, as if
eager to get rid of the subject, Mordaunt threw his purchase, with
something like careless disdain; and, telling her to put it aside,
snatched his gun, which stood in the corner, threw his shooting
accoutrements about him, and, without noticing Bryce's attempt to enter
into conversation upon the "braw seal-skin, as saft as doe-leather,"
which made the sling and cover of his fowlingpiece, he left the
apartment abruptly.

The jagger, with those green, goggling, and gain-descrying kind of
optics, which we have already described, continued gazing for an instant
after the customer, who treated his wares with such irreverence.

Swertha also looked after him with some surprise. "The callant's in a
creel," quoth she.

"In a creel!" echoed the pedlar; "he will be as wowf as ever his father
was. To guide in that gate a bargain that cost him four dollars!--very,
very Fifish, as the east-country fisher-folk say."

"Four dollars for that green rag!" said Swertha, catching at the words
which the jagger had unwarily suffered to escape--"that was a bargain
indeed! I wonder whether he is the greater fule, or you the mair rogue,
Bryce Snailsfoot."

"I didna say it cost him preceesely four dollars," said Snailsfoot; "but
if it had, the lad's siller's his ain, I hope; and he is auld eneugh to
make his ain bargains. Mair by token the gudes are weel worth the money,
and mair."

"Mair by token," said Swertha, coolly, "I will see what his father
thinks about it."

"Ye'll no be sae ill-natured, Mrs. Swertha," said the jagger; "that will
be but cauld thanks for the bonny owerlay that I hae brought you a' the
way frae Lerwick."

"And a bonny price ye'll be setting on't," said Swertha; "for that's the
gate your good deeds end."

"Ye sall hae the fixing of the price yoursell; or it may lie ower till
ye're buying something for the house, or for your master, and it can
make a' ae count."

"Troth, and that's true, Bryce Snailsfoot, I am thinking we'll want some
napery sune--for it's no to be thought we can spin, and the like, as if
there was a mistress in the house; and sae we make nane at hame."

"And that's what I ca' walking by the word," said the jagger. "'Go unto
those that buy and sell;' there's muckle profit in that text."

"There is a pleasure in dealing wi' a discreet man, that can make profit
of ony thing," said Swertha; "and now that I take another look at that
daft callant's waistcoat piece, I think it _is_ honestly worth four


[34] These are weights of Norwegian origin, still used in Zetland.

[35] Barter.


    I have possessed the regulation of the weather and the
    distribution of the seasons. The sun has listened to my
    dictates, and passed from tropic to tropic by my direction;
    the clouds, at my command, have poured forth their waters.


Any sudden cause for anxious and mortifying reflection, which, in
advanced age, occasions sullen and pensive inactivity, stimulates youth
to eager and active exertion; as if, like the hurt deer, they
endeavoured to drown the pain of the shaft by the rapidity of motion.
When Mordaunt caught up his gun, and rushed out of the house of
Jarlshof, he walked on with great activity over waste and wild, without
any determined purpose, except that of escaping, if possible, from the
smart of his own irritation. His pride was effectually mortified by the
report of the jagger, which coincided exactly with some doubts he had
been led to entertain, by the long and unkind silence of his friends at

If the fortunes of Cæsar had doomed him, as the poet suggests, to have

  "But the best wrestler on the green,"

it is nevertheless to be presumed, that a foil from a rival, in that
rustic exercise, would have mortified him as much as a defeat from a
competitor, when he was struggling for the empery of the world. And even
so Mordaunt Mertoun, degraded in his own eyes from the height which he
had occupied as the chief amongst the youth of the island, felt vexed
and irritated, as well as humbled. The two beautiful sisters, also,
whose smiles all were so desirous of acquiring, with whom he had lived
on terms of such familiar affection, that, with the same ease and
innocence, there was unconsciously mixed a shade of deeper though
undefined tenderness than characterises fraternal love,--they also
seemed to have forgotten him. He could not be ignorant, that, in the
universal opinion of all Dunrossness, nay, of the whole Mainland, he
might have had every chance of being the favoured lover of either; and
now at once, and without any failure on his part, he was become so
little to them, that he had lost even the consequence of an ordinary
acquaintance. The old Udaller, too, whose hearty and sincere character
should have made him more constant in his friendships, seemed to have
been as fickle as his daughters, and poor Mordaunt had at once lost the
smiles of the fair, and the favour of the powerful. These were
uncomfortable reflections, and he doubled his pace, that he might
outstrip them if possible.

Without exactly reflecting upon the route which he pursued, Mordaunt
walked briskly on through a country where neither hedge, wall, nor
enclosure of any kind, interrupts the steps of the wanderer, until he
reached a very solitary spot, where, embosomed among steep heathy hills,
which sunk suddenly down on the verge of the water, lay one of those
small fresh-water lakes which are common in the Zetland isles, whose
outlets form the sources of the small brooks and rivulets by which the
country is watered, and serve to drive the little mills which
manufacture their grain.

It was a mild summer day; the beams of the sun, as is not uncommon in
Zetland, were moderated and shaded by a silvery haze, which filled the
atmosphere, and destroying the strong contrast of light and shade, gave
even to noon the sober livery of the evening twilight. The little lake,
not three-quarters of a mile in circuit, lay in profound quiet; its
surface undimpled, save when one of the numerous water-fowl, which
glided on its surface, dived for an instant under it. The depth of the
water gave the whole that cerulean tint of bluish green, which
occasioned its being called the Green Loch; and at present, it formed so
perfect a mirror to the bleak hills by which it was surrounded, and
which lay reflected on its bosom, that it was difficult to distinguish
the water from the land; nay, in the shadowy uncertainty occasioned by
the thin haze, a stranger could scarce have been sensible that a sheet
of water lay before him. A scene of more complete solitude, having all
its peculiarities heightened by the extreme serenity of the weather, the
quiet grey composed tone of the atmosphere, and the perfect silence of
the elements, could hardly be imagined. The very aquatic birds, who
frequented the spot in great numbers, forbore their usual flight and
screams, and floated in profound tranquillity upon the silent water.

Without taking any determined aim--without having any determined
purpose--without almost thinking what he was about, Mordaunt presented
his fowlingpiece, and fired across the lake. The large swan shot dimpled
its surface like a partial shower of hail--the hills took up the noise
of the report, and repeated it again, and again, and again, to all their
echoes; the water-fowl took to wing in eddying and confused wheel,
answering the echoes with a thousand varying screams, from the deep note
of the swabie, or swartback, to the querulous cry of the tirracke and

Mordaunt looked for a moment on the clamorous crowd with a feeling of
resentment, which he felt disposed at the moment to apply to all nature,
and all her objects, animate or inanimate, however little concerned with
the cause of his internal mortification.

"Ay, ay," he said, "wheel, dive, scream, and clamour as you will, and
all because you have seen a strange sight, and heard an unusual sound.
There is many a one like you in this round world. But you, at least,
shall learn," he added, as he reloaded his gun, "that strange sights and
strange sounds, ay, and strange acquaintances to boot, have sometimes a
little shade of danger connected with them.--But why should I wreak my
own vexation on these harmless sea-gulls?" he subjoined, after a
moment's pause; "they have nothing to do with the friends that have
forgotten me.--I loved them all so well,--and to be so soon given up for
the first stranger whom chance threw on the coast!"

As he stood resting upon his gun, and abandoning his mind to the course
of these unpleasant reflections, his meditations were unexpectedly
interrupted by some one touching his shoulder. He looked around, and saw
Norna of the Fitful-head, wrapped in her dark and ample mantle. She had
seen him from the brow of the hill, and had descended to the lake,
through a small ravine which concealed her, until she came with
noiseless step so close to him that he turned round at her touch.

Mordaunt Mertoun was by nature neither timorous nor credulous, and a
course of reading more extensive than usual had, in some degree,
fortified his mind against the attacks of superstition; but he would
have been an actual prodigy, if, living in Zetland in the end of the
seventeenth century, he had possessed the philosophy which did not exist
in Scotland generally, until at least two generations later. He doubted
in his own mind the extent, nay, the very existence, of Norna's
supernatural attributes, which was a high flight of incredulity in the
country where they were universally received; but still his incredulity
went no farther than doubts. She was unquestionably an extraordinary
woman, gifted with an energy above others, acting upon motives peculiar
to herself, and apparently independent of mere earthly considerations.
Impressed with these ideas, which he had imbibed from his youth, it was
not without something like alarm, that he beheld this mysterious female
standing on a sudden so close beside him, and looking upon him with such
sad and severe eyes, as those with which the Fatal Virgins, who,
according to northern mythology, were called the _Valkyriur_, or
"Choosers of the Slain," were supposed to regard the young champions
whom they selected to share the banquet of Odin.

It was, indeed, reckoned unlucky, to say the least, to meet with Norna
suddenly alone, and in a place remote from witnesses; and she was
supposed, on such occasions, to have been usually a prophetess of evil,
as well as an omen of misfortune, to those who had such a rencontre.
There were few or none of the islanders, however familiarized with her
occasional appearance in society, that would not have trembled to meet
her on the solitary banks of the Green Loch.

"I bring you no evil, Mordaunt Mertoun," she said, reading perhaps
something of this superstitious feeling in the looks of the young man.
"Evil from me you never felt, and never will."

"Nor do I fear any," said Mordaunt, exerting himself to throw aside an
apprehension which he felt to be unmanly. "Why should I, mother? You
have been ever my friend."

"Yet, Mordaunt, thou art not of our region; but to none of Zetland
blood, no, not even to those who sit around the hearth-stone of Magnus
Troil, the noble descendants of the ancient Jarls of Orkney, am I more a
well-wisher, than I am to thee, thou kind and brave-hearted boy. When I
hung around thy neck that gifted chain, which all in our isles know was
wrought by no earthly artist, but by the Drows,[36] in the secret
recesses of their caverns, thou wert then but fifteen years old; yet thy
foot had been on the Maiden-skerrie of Northmaven, known before but to
the webbed sole of the swartback, and thy skiff had been in the deepest
cavern of Brinnastir, where the _haaf-fish_[37] had before slumbered in
dark obscurity. Therefore I gave thee that noble gift; and well thou
knowest, that since that day, every eye in these isles has looked on
thee as a son, or as a brother, endowed beyond other youths, and the
favoured of those whose hour of power is when the night meets with the

"Alas! mother," said Mordaunt, "your kind gift may have given me favour,
but it has not been able to keep it for me, or I have not been able to
keep it for myself.--What matters it? I shall learn to set as little by
others as they do by me. My father says that I shall soon leave these
islands, and therefore, Mother Norna, I will return to you your fairy
gift, that it may bring more lasting luck to some other than it has done
to me."

"Despise not the gift of the nameless race," said Norna, frowning; then
suddenly changing her tone of displeasure to that of mournful solemnity,
she added,--"Despise them not, but, O Mordaunt, court them not! Sit down
on that grey stone--thou art the son of my adoption, and I will doff, as
far as I may, those attributes that sever me from the common mass of
humanity, and speak with you as a parent with a child."

There was a tremulous tone of grief which mingled with the loftiness of
her language and carriage, and was calculated to excite sympathy, as
well as to attract attention. Mordaunt sat down on the rock which she
pointed out, a fragment which, with many others that lay scattered
around, had been torn by some winter storm from the precipice at the
foot of which it lay, upon the very verge of the water. Norna took her
own seat on a stone at about three feet distance, adjusted her mantle so
that little more than her forehead, her eyes, and a single lock of her
grey hair, were seen from beneath the shade of her dark wadmaal cloak,
and then proceeded in a tone in which the imaginary consequence and
importance so often assumed by lunacy, seemed to contend against the
deep workings of some extraordinary and deeply-rooted mental affliction.

"I was not always," she said, "that which I now am. I was not always the
wise, the powerful, the commanding, before whom the young stand abashed,
and the old uncover their grey heads. There was a time when my
appearance did not silence mirth, when I sympathized with human passion,
and had my own share in human joy or sorrow. It was a time of
helplessness--it was a time of folly--it was a time of idle and
unfruitful laughter--it was a time of causeless and senseless
tears;--and yet, with its follies, and its sorrows, and its weaknesses,
what would Norna of Fitful-head give to be again the unmarked and happy
maiden that she was in her early days! Hear me, Mordaunt, and bear with
me; for you hear me utter complaints which have never sounded in mortal
ears, and which in mortal ears shall never sound again. I will be what I
ought," she continued, starting up and extending her lean and withered
arm, "the queen and protectress of these wild and neglected isles,--I
will be her whose foot the wave wets not, save by her permission; ay,
even though its rage be at its wildest madness--whose robe the whirlwind
respects, when it rends the house-rigging from the roof-tree. Bear me
witness, Mordaunt Mertoun,--you heard my words at Harfra--you saw the
tempest sink before them--Speak, bear me witness!"

To have contradicted her in this strain of high-toned enthusiasm, would
have been cruel and unavailing, even had Mordaunt been more decidedly
convinced than he was, that an insane woman, not one of supernatural
power, stood before him.

"I heard you sing," he replied, "and I saw the tempest abate."

"Abate?" exclaimed Norna, striking the ground impatiently with her staff
of black oak; "thou speakest it but half--it sunk at once--sunk in
shorter space than the child that is hushed to silence by the
nurse.--Enough, you know my power--but you know not--mortal man knows
not, and never shall know, the price which I paid to attain it. No,
Mordaunt, never for the widest sway that the ancient Norsemen boasted,
when their banners waved victorious from Bergen to Palestine--never, for
all that the round world contains, do thou barter thy peace of mind for
such greatness as Norna's." She resumed her seat upon the rock, drew the
mantle over her face, rested her head upon her hands, and by the
convulsive motion which agitated her bosom, appeared to be weeping

"Good Norna," said Mordaunt, and paused, scarce knowing what to say that
might console the unhappy woman--"Good Norna," he again resumed, "if
there be aught in your mind that troubles it, were you not best to go to
the worthy minister at Dunrossness? Men say you have not for many years
been in a Christian congregation--that cannot be well, or right. You are
yourself well known as a healer of bodily disease; but when the mind is
sick, we should draw to the Physician of our souls."

Norna had raised her person slowly from the stooping posture in which
she sat; but at length she started up on her feet, threw back her
mantle, extended her arm, and while her lip foamed, and her eye
sparkled, exclaimed in a tone resembling a scream,--"Me did you
speak--me did you bid seek out a priest!--would you kill the good man
with horror?--Me in a Christian congregation!--Would you have the roof
to fall on the sackless assembly, and mingle their blood with their
worship? I--I seek to the good Physician!--Would you have the fiend
claim his prey openly before God and man?"

The extreme agitation of the unhappy speaker naturally led Mordaunt to
the conclusion, which was generally adopted and accredited in that
superstitious country and period. "Wretched woman," he said, "if indeed
thou hast leagued thyself with the Powers of Evil, why should you not
seek even yet for repentance? But do as thou wilt, I cannot, dare not,
as a Christian, abide longer with you; and take again your gift," he
said, offering back the chain. "Good can never come of it, if indeed
evil hath not come already."

"Be still and hear me, thou foolish boy," said Norna, calmly, as if she
had been restored to reason by the alarm and horror which she perceived
in Mordaunt's countenance;--"hear me, I say. I am not of those who have
leagued themselves with the Enemy of Mankind, or derive skill or power
from his ministry. And although the unearthly powers _were_ propitiated
by a sacrifice which human tongue can never utter, yet, God knows, my
guilt in that offering was no more than that of the blind man who falls
from the precipice which he could neither see nor shun. O, leave me
not--shun me not--in this hour of weakness! Remain with me till the
temptation be passed, or I will plunge myself into that lake, and rid
myself at once of my power and my wretchedness!"

Mordaunt, who had always looked up to this singular woman with a sort of
affection, occasioned no doubt by the early kindness and distinction
which she had shown to him, was readily induced to reassume his seat,
and listen to what she had further to say, in hopes that she would
gradually overcome the violence of her agitation. It was not long ere
she seemed to have gained the victory her companion expected, for she
addressed him in her usual steady and authoritative manner.

"It was not of myself, Mordaunt, that I purposed to speak, when I beheld
you from the summit of yonder grey rock, and came down the path to meet
with you. My fortunes are fixed beyond change, be it for weal or for
woe. For myself I have ceased to feel much; but for those whom she
loves, Norna of the Fitful-head has still those feelings which link her
to her kind. Mark me. There is an eagle, the noblest that builds in
these airy precipices, and into that eagle's nest there has crept an
adder--wilt thou lend thy aid to crush the reptile, and to save the
noble brood of the lord of the north sky?"

"You must speak more plainly, Norna," said Mordaunt, "if you would have
me understand or answer you. I am no guesser of riddles."

"In plain language, then, you know well the family of Burgh-Westra--the
lovely daughters of the generous old Udaller, Magnus Troil,--Minna and
Brenda, I mean? You know them, and you love them?"

"I have known them, mother," replied Mordaunt, "and I have loved
them--none knows it better than yourself."

"To know them once," said Norna, emphatically, "is to know them always.
To love them once, is to love them for ever."

"To have loved them once, is to wish them well for ever," replied the
youth; "but it is nothing more. To be plain with you, Norna, the family
at Burgh-Westra have of late totally neglected me. But show me the means
of serving them, I will convince you how much I have remembered old
kindness, how little I resent late coldness."

"It is well spoken, and I will put your purpose to the proof," replied
Norna. "Magnus Troil has taken a serpent into his bosom--his lovely
daughters are delivered up to the machinations of a villain."

"You mean the stranger, Cleveland?" said Mordaunt.

"The stranger who so calls himself," replied Norna--"the same whom we
found flung ashore, like a waste heap of sea-weed, at the foot of the
Sumburgh-cape. I felt that within me, that would have prompted me to let
him lie till the tide floated him off, as it had floated him on shore. I
repent me I gave not way to it."

"But," said Mordaunt, "I cannot repent that I did my duty as a Christian
man. And what right have I to wish otherwise? If Minna, Brenda, Magnus,
and the rest, like that stranger better than me, I have no title to be
offended; nay, I might well be laughed at for bringing myself into

"It is well, and I trust they merit thy unselfish friendship."

"But I cannot perceive," said Mordaunt, "in what you can propose that I
should serve them. I have but just learned by Bryce the jagger, that
this Captain Cleveland is all in all with the ladies at Burgh-Westra,
and with the Udaller himself. I would like ill to intrude myself where I
am not welcome, or to place my home-bred merit in comparison with
Captain Cleveland's. He can tell them of battles, when I can only speak
of birds' nests--can speak of shooting Frenchmen, when I can only tell
of shooting seals--he wears gay clothes, and bears a brave countenance;
I am plainly dressed, and plainly nurtured. Such gay gallants as he can
noose the hearts of those he lives with, as the fowler nooses the
guillemot with his rod and line."

"You do wrong to yourself," replied Norna, "wrong to yourself, and
greater wrong to Minna and Brenda. And trust not the reports of
Bryce--he is like the greedy chaffer-whale, that will change his course
and dive for the most petty coin which a fisher can cast at him. Certain
it is, that if you have been lessened in the opinion of Magnus Troil,
that sordid fellow hath had some share in it. But let him count his
vantage, for my eye is upon him."

"And why, mother," said Mordaunt, "do you not tell to Magnus what you
have told to me?"

"Because," replied Norna, "they who wax wise in their own conceit must
be taught a bitter lesson by experience. It was but yesterday that I
spoke with Magnus, and what was his reply?--'Good Norna, you grow old.'
And this was spoken by one bounden to me by so many and such close
ties--by the descendant of the ancient Norse earls--this was from Magnus
Troil to me; and it was said in behalf of one, whom the sea flung forth
as wreck-weed! Since he despises the counsel of the aged, he shall be
taught by that of the young; and well that he is not left to his own
folly. Go, therefore, to Burgh-Westra, as usual, upon the Baptist's

"I have had no invitation," said Mordaunt; "I am not wanted, not wished
for, not thought of--perhaps I shall not be acknowledged if I go
thither; and yet, mother, to confess the truth, thither I had thought to

"It was a good thought, and to be cherished," replied Norna; "we seek
our friends when they are sick in health, why not when they are sick in
mind, and surfeited with prosperity? Do not fail to go--it may be, we
shall meet there. Meanwhile our roads lie different. Farewell, and speak
not of this meeting."

They parted, and Mordaunt remained standing by the lake, with his eyes
fixed on Norna, until her tall dark form became invisible among the
windings of the valley down which she wandered, and Mordaunt returned to
his father's mansion, determined to follow counsel which coincided so
well with his own wishes.


[36] The Drows, or Trows, the legitimate successors of the northern
_duergar_, and somewhat allied to the fairies, reside, like them, in the
interior of green hills and caverns, and are most powerful at midnight.
They are curious artificers in iron, as well as in the precious metals,
and are sometimes propitious to mortals, but more frequently capricious
and malevolent. Among the common people of Zetland, their existence
still forms an article of universal belief. In the neighbouring isles of
Feroe, they are called Foddenskencand, or subterranean people; and Lucas
Jacobson Debes,(_h_) well acquainted with their nature, assures us that
they inhabit those places which are polluted with the effusion of blood,
or the practice of any crying sin. They have a government, which seems
to be monarchical.

[37] The larger seal, or sea-calf, which seeks the most solitary
recesses for its abode. See Dr. EDMONSTONE'S _Zetland_, vol. ii., p.


          ----All your ancient customs,
  And long-descended usages, I'll change.
  Ye shall not eat, nor drink, nor speak, nor move,
  Think, look, or walk, as ye were wont to do.
  Even your marriage-beds shall know mutation;
  The bride shall have the stock, the groom the wall;
  For all old practice will I turn and change,
  And call it reformation--marry will I!

                             _'Tis Even that we're at Odds._

The festal day approached, and still no invitation arrived for that
guest, without whom, but a little space since, no feast could have been
held in the island; while, on the other hand, such reports as reached
them on every side spoke highly of the favour which Captain Cleveland
enjoyed in the good graces of the old Udaller of Burgh-Westra. Swertha
and the Ranzelman shook their heads at these mutations, and reminded
Mordaunt, by many a half-hint and innuendo, that he had incurred this
eclipse by being so imprudently active to secure the safety of the
stranger, when he lay at the mercy of the next wave beneath the cliffs
of Sumburgh-head. "It is best to let saut water take its gate," said
Swertha; "luck never came of crossing it."

"In troth," said the Ranzelman, "they are wise folks that let wave and
withy haud their ain--luck never came of a half-drowned man, or a
half-hanged ane either. Who was't shot Will Paterson off the Noss?--the
Dutchman that he saved from sinking, I trow. To fling a drowning man a
plank or a tow, may be the part of a Christian; but I say, keep hands
aff him, if ye wad live and thrive free frae his danger."

"Ye are a wise man, Ranzelman, and a worthy," echoed Swertha, with a
groan, "and ken how and whan to help a neighbour, as well as ony man
that ever drew a net."

"In troth, I have seen length of days," answered the Ranzelman, "and I
have heard what the auld folk said to each other anent sic matters; and
nae man in Zetland shall go farther than I will in any Christian service
to a man on firm land; but if he cry 'Help!' out of the saut waves,
that's another story."

"And yet, to think of this lad Cleveland standing in our Maister
Mordaunt's light," said Swertha, "and with Magnus Troil, that thought
him the flower of the island but on Whitsunday last, and Magnus, too,
that's both held (when he's fresh, honest man) the wisest and wealthiest
of Zetland!"

"He canna win by it," said the Ranzelman, with a look of the deepest
sagacity. "There's whiles, Swertha, that the wisest of us (as I am sure
I humbly confess mysell not to be) may be little better than gulls, and
can no more win by doing deeds of folly than I can step over
Sumburgh-head. It has been my own case once or twice in my life. But we
shall see soon what ill is to come of all this, for good there cannot

And Swertha answered, with the same tone of prophetic wisdom, "Na, na,
gude can never come on it, and that is ower truly said."

These doleful predictions, repeated from time to time, had some effect
upon Mordaunt. He did not indeed suppose, that the charitable action of
relieving a drowning man had subjected him, as a necessary and fatal
consequence, to the unpleasant circumstances in which he was placed; yet
he felt as if a sort of spell were drawn around him, of which he neither
understood the nature nor the extent;--that some power, in short, beyond
his own control, was acting upon his destiny, and, as it seemed, with no
friendly influence. His curiosity, as well as his anxiety, was highly
excited, and he continued determined, at all events, to make his
appearance at the approaching festival, when he was impressed with the
belief that something uncommon was necessarily to take place, which
should determine his future views and prospects in life.

As the elder Mertoun was at this time in his ordinary state of health,
it became necessary that his son should intimate to him his intended
visit to Burgh-Westra. He did so; and his father desired to know the
especial reason of his going thither at this particular time.

"It is a time of merry-making," replied the youth, "and all the country
are assembled."

"And you are doubtless impatient to add another fool to the
number.--Go--but beware how you walk in the path which you are about to
tread--a fall from the cliffs of Foulah were not more fatal."

"May I ask the reason of your caution, sir?" replied Mordaunt, breaking
through the reserve which ordinarily subsisted betwixt him and his
singular parent.

"Magnus Troil," said the elder Mertoun, "has two daughters--you are of
the age when men look upon such gauds with eyes of affection, that they
may afterwards learn to curse the day that first opened their eyes upon
heaven! I bid you beware of them; for, as sure as that death and sin
came into the world by woman, so sure are their soft words, and softer
looks, the utter destruction and ruin of all who put faith in them."

Mordaunt had sometimes observed his father's marked dislike to the
female sex, but had never before heard him give vent to it in terms so
determined and precise. He replied, that the daughters of Magnus Troil
were no more to him than any other females in the islands; "they were
even of less importance," he said, "for they had broken off their
friendship with him, without assigning any cause."

"And you go to seek the renewal of it?" answered his father. "Silly
moth, that hast once escaped the taper without singeing thy wings, are
you not contented with the safe obscurity of these wilds, but must
hasten back to the flame, which is sure at length to consume thee? But
why should I waste arguments in deterring thee from thy inevitable
fate?--Go where thy destiny calls thee."

On the succeeding day, which was the eve of the great festival, Mordaunt
set forth on his road to Burgh-Westra, pondering alternately on the
injunctions of Norna--on the ominous words of his father--on the
inauspicious auguries of Swertha and the Ranzelman of Jarlshof--and not
without experiencing that gloom with which so many concurring
circumstances of ill omen combined to oppress his mind.

"It bodes me but a cold reception at Burgh-Westra," said he; "but my
stay shall be the shorter. I will but find out whether they have been
deceived by this seafaring stranger, or whether they have acted out of
pure caprice of temper, and love of change of company. If the first be
the case, I will vindicate my character, and let Captain Cleveland look
to himself;--if the latter, why, then, good-night to Burgh-Westra and
all its inmates."

As he mentally meditated this last alternative, hurt pride, and a return
of fondness for those to whom he supposed he was bidding farewell for
ever, brought a tear into his eye, which he dashed off hastily and
indignantly, as, mending his pace, he continued on his journey.

The weather being now serene and undisturbed, Mordaunt made his way with
an ease that formed a striking contrast to the difficulties which he had
encountered when he last travelled the same route; yet there was a less
pleasing subject for comparison, within his own mind.

"My breast," he said to himself, "was then against the wind, but my
heart within was serene and happy. I would I had now the same careless
feelings, were they to be bought by battling with the severest storm
that ever blew across these lonely hills!"

With such thoughts, he arrived about noon at Harfra, the habitation, as
the reader may remember, of the ingenious Mr. Yellowley. Our traveller
had, upon the present occasion, taken care to be quite independent of
the niggardly hospitality of this mansion, which was now become infamous
on that account through the whole island, by bringing with him, in his
small knapsack, such provisions as might have sufficed for a longer
journey. In courtesy, however, or rather, perhaps, to get rid of his own
disquieting thoughts, Mordaunt did not fail to call at the mansion,
which he found in singular commotion. Triptolemus himself, invested
with a pair of large jack-boots, went clattering up and down stairs,
screaming out questions to his sister and his serving-woman Tronda, who
replied with shriller and more complicated screeches. At length, Mrs.
Baby herself made her appearance, her venerable person endued with what
was then called a joseph, an ample garment, which had once been green,
but now, betwixt stains and patches, had become like the vesture of the
patriarch whose name it bore--a garment of divers colours. A
steeple-crowned hat, the purchase of some long-past moment, in which
vanity had got the better of avarice, with a feather which had stood as
much wind and rain as if it had been part of a seamew's wing, made up
her equipment, save that in her hand she held a silver-mounted whip of
antique fashion. This attire, as well as an air of determined bustle in
the gait and appearance of Mrs. Barbara Yellowley, seemed to bespeak
that she was prepared to take a journey, and cared not, as the saying
goes, who knew that such was her determination.

She was the first that observed Mordaunt on his arrival, and she greeted
him with a degree of mingled emotion. "Be good to us!" she exclaimed,
"if here is not the canty callant that wears yon thing about his neck,
and that snapped up our goose as light as if it had been a
sandie-lavrock!" The admiration of the gold chain, which had formerly
made so deep an impression on her mind, was marked in the first part of
her speech, the recollection of the untimely fate of the smoked goose
was commemorated in the second clause. "I will lay the burden of my
life," she instantly added, "that he is ganging our gate."

"I am bound for Burgh-Westra, Mrs. Yellowley," said Mordaunt.

"And blithe will we be of your company," she added--"it's early day to
eat; but if you liked a barley scone and a drink of bland--natheless, it
is ill travelling on a full stomach, besides quelling your appetite for
the feast that is biding you this day; for all sort of prodigality there
will doubtless be."

Mordaunt produced his own stores, and, explaining that he did not love
to be burdensome to them on this second occasion, invited them to
partake of the provisions he had to offer. Poor Triptolemus, who seldom
saw half so good a dinner as his guest's luncheon, threw himself upon
the good cheer, like Sancho on the scum of Camacho's kettle, and even
the lady herself could not resist the temptation, though she gave way to
it with more moderation, and with something like a sense of shame. "She
had let the fire out," she said, "for it was a pity wasting fuel in so
cold a country, and so she had not thought of getting any thing ready,
as they were to set out so soon; and so she could not but say, that the
young gentleman's _nacket_ looked very good; and besides, she had some
curiosity to see whether the folks in that country cured their beef in
the same way they did in the north of Scotland." Under which combined
considerations, Dame Baby made a hearty experiment on the refreshments
which thus unexpectedly presented themselves.

When their extemporary repast was finished, the factor became solicitous
to take the road; and now Mordaunt discovered, that the alacrity with
which he had been received by Mistress Baby was not altogether
disinterested. Neither she nor the learned Triptolemus felt much
disposed to commit themselves to the wilds of Zetland, without the
assistance of a guide; and although they could have commanded the aid of
one of their own labouring folks, yet the cautious agriculturist
observed, that it would be losing at least one day's work; and his
sister multiplied his apprehensions by echoing back, "One day's
work?--ye may weel say twenty--for, set ane of their noses within the
smell of a kail-pot, and their lugs within the sound of a fiddle, and
whistle them back if ye can!"

Now the fortunate arrival of Mordaunt, in the very nick of time, not to
mention the good cheer which he brought with him, made him as welcome as
any one could possibly be to a threshold, which, on all ordinary
occasions, abhorred the passage of a guest; nor was Mr. Yellowley
altogether insensible of the pleasure he promised himself in detailing
his plans of improvement to his young companion, and enjoying what his
fate seldom assigned him--the company of a patient and admiring

As the factor and his sister were to prosecute their journey on
horseback, it only remained to mount their guide and companion; a thing
easily accomplished, where there are such numbers of shaggy,
long-backed, short-legged ponies, running wild upon the extensive moors,
which are the common pasturage for the cattle of every township, where
shelties, geese, swine, goats, sheep, and little Zetland cows, are
turned out promiscuously, and often in numbers which can obtain but
precarious subsistence from the niggard vegetation. There is, indeed, a
right of individual property in all these animals, which are branded or
tattooed by each owner with his own peculiar mark; but when any
passenger has occasional use for a pony, he never scruples to lay hold
of the first which he can catch, puts on a halter, and, having rode him
as far as he finds convenient, turns the animal loose to find his way
back again as he best can--a matter in which the ponies are sufficiently

Although this general exercise of property was one of the enormities
which in due time the factor intended to abolish, yet, like a wise man,
he scrupled not, in the meantime, to avail himself of so general a
practice, which, he condescended to allow, was particularly convenient
for those who (as chanced to be his own present case) had no ponies of
their own on which their neighbours could retaliate. Three shelties,
therefore, were procured from the hill--little shagged animals, more
resembling wild bears than any thing of the horse tribe, yet possessed
of no small degree of strength and spirit, and able to endure as much
fatigue and indifferent usage as any creatures in the world.

Two of these horses were already provided and fully accoutred for the
journey. One of them, destined to bear the fair person of Mistress Baby,
was decorated with a huge side-saddle of venerable antiquity--a mass, as
it were, of cushion and padding, from which depended, on all sides, a
housing of ancient tapestry, which, having been originally intended for
a horse of ordinary size, covered up the diminutive palfrey over which
it was spread, from the ears to the tail, and from the shoulder to the
fetlock, leaving nothing visible but its head, which looked fiercely out
from these enfoldments, like the heraldic representation of a lion
looking out of a bush. Mordaunt gallantly lifted up the fair Mistress
Yellowley, and at the expense of very slight exertion, placed her upon
the summit of her mountainous saddle. It is probable, that, on feeling
herself thus squired and attended upon, and experiencing the long
unwonted consciousness that she was attired in her best array, some
thoughts dawned upon Mistress Baby's mind, which checkered, for an
instant, those habitual ideas about thrift, that formed the daily and
all-engrossing occupation of her soul. She glanced her eye upon her
faded joseph, and on the long housings of her saddle, as she observed,
with a smile, to Mordaunt, that "travelling was a pleasant thing in fine
weather and agreeable company, if," she added, glancing a look at a
place where the embroidery was somewhat frayed and tattered, "it was not
sae wasteful to ane's horse-furniture."

Meanwhile, her brother stepped stoutly to his steed; and as he chose,
notwithstanding the serenity of the weather, to throw a long red cloak
over his other garments, his pony was even more completely enveloped in
drapery than that of his sister. It happened, moreover, to be an animal
of an high and contumacious spirit, bouncing and curvetting occasionally
under the weight of Triptolemus, with a vivacity which, notwithstanding
his Yorkshire descent, rather deranged him in the saddle; gambols which,
as the palfrey itself was not visible, except upon the strictest
inspection, had, at a little distance, an effect as if they were the
voluntary movements of the cloaked cavalier, without the assistance of
any other legs than those with which nature had provided him; and, to
any who had viewed Triptolemus under such a persuasion, the gravity, and
even distress, announced in his countenance, must have made a ridiculous
contrast to the vivacious caprioles with which he piaffed along the

Mordaunt kept up with this worthy couple, mounted, according to the
simplicity of the time and country, on the first and readiest pony which
they had been able to press into the service, with no other accoutrement
of any kind than the halter which served to guide him; while Mr.
Yellowley, seeing with pleasure his guide thus readily provided with a
steed, privately resolved, that this rude custom of helping travellers
to horses, without leave of the proprietor, should not be abated in
Zetland, until he came to possess a herd of ponies belonging in property
to himself, and exposed to suffer in the way of retaliation.

But to other uses or abuses of the country, Triptolemus Yellowley showed
himself less tolerant. Long and wearisome were the discourses he held
with Mordaunt, or (to speak much more correctly) the harangues which he
inflicted upon him, concerning the changes which his own advent in these
isles was about to occasion. Unskilled as he was in the modern arts by
which an estate may be improved to such a high degree that it shall
altogether slip through the proprietor's fingers, Triptolemus had at
least the zeal, if not the knowledge, of a whole agricultural society in
his own person; nor was he surpassed by any who has followed him, in
that noble spirit which scorns to balance profit against outlay, but
holds the glory of effecting a great change on the face of the land, to
be, like virtue, in a great degree its own reward.

No part of the wild and mountainous region over which Mordaunt guided
him, but what suggested to his active imagination some scheme of
improvement and alteration. He would make a road through yon scarce
passable glen, where at present nothing but the sure-footed creatures on
which they were mounted could tread with any safety. He would substitute
better houses for the skeoes, or sheds built of dry stones, in which the
inhabitants cured or manufactured their fish--they should brew good ale
instead of bland--they should plant forests where tree never grew, and
find mines of treasure where a Danish skilling was accounted a coin of a
most respectable denomination. All these mutations, with many others,
did the worthy factor resolve upon, speaking at the same time with the
utmost confidence of the countenance and assistance which he was to
receive from the higher classes, and especially from Magnus Troil.

"I will impart some of my ideas to the poor man," he said, "before we
are both many hours older; and you will mark how grateful he will be to
the instructor who brings him knowledge, which is better than wealth."

"I would not have you build too strongly on that," said Mordaunt, by way
of caution; "Magnus Troil's boat is kittle to trim--he likes his own
ways, and his country-ways, and you will as soon teach your sheltie to
dive like a sealgh, as bring Magnus to take a Scottish fashion in the
place of a Norse one; and yet, if he is steady to his old customs, he
may perhaps be as changeable as another in his old friendships."

"_Heus, tu inepte!_" said the scholar of Saint Andrews, "steady or
unsteady, what can it matter?--am not I here in point of trust, and in
point of power? and shall a Fowd, by which barbarous appellative this
Magnus Troil still calls himself, presume to measure judgment and weigh
reasons with me, who represent the full dignity of the Chamberlain of
the islands of Orkney and Zetland?"

"Still," said Mordaunt, "I would advise you not to advance too rashly
upon his prejudices. Magnus Troil, from the hour of his birth to this
day, never saw a greater man than himself, and it is difficult to bridle
an old horse for the first time. Besides, he has at no time in his life
been a patient listener to long explanations, so it is possible that he
may quarrel with your purposed reformation, before you can convince him
of its advantages."

"How mean you, young man?" said the factor. "Is there one who dwells in
these islands, who is so wretchedly blind as not to be sensible of their
deplorable defects? Can a man," he added, rising into enthusiasm as he
spoke, "or even a beast, look at that thing there, which they have the
impudence to call a corn-mill,[38] without trembling to think that corn
should be intrusted to such a miserable molendinary? The wretches are
obliged to have at least fifty in each parish, each trundling away upon
its paltry mill-stone, under the thatch of a roof no bigger than a
bee-skep, instead of a noble and seemly baron's mill, of which you would
hear the clack through the haill country, and that casts the meal
through the mill-eye by forpits at a time!"

"Ay, ay, brother," said his sister, "that's spoken like your wise sell.
The mair cost the mair honour--that's your word ever mair. Can it no
creep into your wise head, man, that ilka body grinds their ain nievefu'
of meal in this country, without plaguing themsells about barons' mills,
and thirls, and sucken, and the like trade? How mony a time have I
heard you bell-the-cat with auld Edie Netherstane, the miller at
Grindleburn, and wi' his very knave too, about in-town and out-town
multures--lock, gowpen, and knaveship,(_i_) and a' the lave o't; and now
naething less will serve you than to bring in the very same fashery on a
wheen puir bodies, that big ilk ane a mill for themselves, sic as it

"Dinna tell me of gowpen and knaveship!" exclaimed the indignant
agriculturist; "better pay the half of the grist to the miller, to have
the rest grund in a Christian manner, than put good grain into a bairn's
whirligig. Look at it for a moment, Baby--Bide still, ye cursed imp!"
This interjection was applied to his pony, which began to be extremely
impatient, while its rider interrupted his journey, to point out
all the weak points of the Zetland mill--"Look at it, I say--it's
just one degree better than a hand-quern--it has neither wheel nor
trindle--neither cog nor happer--Bide still, there's a canny
beast--it canna grind a bickerfu' of meal in a quarter of an hour,
and that will be mair like a mash for horse than a meltith for man's
use--Wherefore--Bide still, I say--wherefore--wherefore--The deil's in
the beast, and nae good, I think!"

As he uttered the last words, the shelty, which had pranced and
curvetted for some time with much impatience, at length got its head
betwixt its legs, and at once canted its rider into the little rivulet,
which served to drive the depreciated engine he was surveying; then
emancipating itself from the folds of the cloak, fled back towards its
own wilderness, neighing in scorn, and flinging out its heels at every
five yards.

Laughing heartily at his disaster, Mordaunt helped the old man to arise;
while his sister sarcastically congratulated him on having fallen rather
into the shallows of a Zetland rivulet than the depths of a Scottish
mill-pond. Disdaining to reply to this sarcasm, Triptolemus, so soon as
he had recovered his legs, shaken his ears, and found that the folds of
his cloak had saved him from being much wet in the scanty streamlet,
exclaimed aloud, "I will have cussers from Lanarkshire--brood mares from
Ayrshire--I will not have one of these cursed abortions left on the
islands, to break honest folk's necks--I say, Baby, I will rid the land
of them."

"Ye had better wring your ain cloak, Triptolemus," answered Baby.

Mordaunt meanwhile was employed in catching another pony, from a herd
which strayed at some distance; and, having made a halter out of twisted
rushes, he seated the dismayed agriculturist in safety upon a more
quiet, though less active steed, than that which he had at first

But Mr. Yellowley's fall had operated as a considerable sedative upon
his spirits, and, for the full space of five miles' travel, he said
scarce a word, leaving full course to the melancholy aspirations and
lamentations which his sister Baby bestowed on the old bridle, which the
pony had carried off in its flight, and which, she observed, after
having lasted for eighteen years come Martinmas, might now be considered
as a castaway thing. Finding she had thus the field to herself, the old
lady launched forth into a lecture upon economy, according to her own
idea of that virtue, which seemed to include a system of privations,
which, though observed with the sole purpose of saving money, might, if
undertaken upon other principles, have ranked high in the history of a
religious ascetic.

She was but little interrupted by Mordaunt, who, conscious he was now on
the eve of approaching Burgh-Westra, employed himself rather in the task
of anticipating the nature of the reception he was about to meet with
there from two beautiful young women, than with the prosing of an old
one, however wisely she might prove that small-beer was more wholesome
than strong ale, and that if her brother had bruised his ankle bone in
his tumble, cumfrey and butter was better to bring him round again, than
all the doctor's drugs in the world.

But now the dreary moorlands, over which their path had hitherto lain,
were exchanged for a more pleasant prospect, opening on a salt-water
lake, or arm of the sea, which ran up far inland, and was surrounded by
flat and fertile ground, producing crops better than the experienced eye
of Triptolemus Yellowley had as yet witnessed in Zetland. In the midst
of this Goshen stood the mansion of Burgh-Westra, screened from the
north and east by a ridge of heathy hills which lay behind it, and
commanding an interesting prospect of the lake and its parent ocean, as
well as the islands, and more distant mountains. From the mansion
itself, as well as from almost every cottage in the adjacent hamlet,
arose such a rich cloud of vapoury smoke, as showed, that the
preparations for the festival were not confined to the principal
residence of Magnus himself, but extended through the whole vicinage.

"My certie," said Mrs. Baby Yellowley, "ane wad think the haill town was
on fire! The very hill-side smells of their wastefulness, and a hungry
heart wad scarce seek better kitchen[39] to a barley scone, than just
to waft it in the reek that's rising out of yon lums."


[38] Note VI.--Zetland Corn-mills.

[39] What is eat by way of relish to dry bread is called _kitchen_ in
Scotland, as cheese, dried fish, or the like relishing morsels.


            ----Thou hast described
  A hot friend cooling. Ever note, Lucilius,
  When love begins to sicken and decay,
  It useth an enforced ceremony.
  There are no tricks in plain and simple faith.

                                             _Julius Cæsar._

If the smell which was wafted from the chimneys of Burgh-Westra up to
the barren hills by which the mansion was surrounded, could, as Mistress
Barbara opined, have refreshed the hungry, the noise which proceeded
from thence might have given hearing to the deaf. It was a medley of all
sounds, and all connected with jollity and kind welcome. Nor were the
sights associated with them less animating.

Troops of friends were seen in the act of arriving--their dispersed
ponies flying to the moors in every direction, to recover their own
pastures in the best way they could;--such, as we have already said,
being the usual mode of discharging the cavalry which had been levied
for a day's service. At a small but commodious harbour, connected with
the house and hamlet, those visitors were landing from their boats, who,
living in distant islands, and along the coast, had preferred making
their journey by sea. Mordaunt and his companions might see each party
pausing frequently to greet each other, and strolling on successively to
the house, whose ever open gate received them alternately in such
numbers, that it seemed the extent of the mansion, though suited to the
opulence and hospitality of the owner, was scarce, on this occasion,
sufficient for the guests.

Among the confused sounds of mirth and welcome which arose at the
entrance of each new company, Mordaunt thought he could distinguish the
loud laugh and hearty salutation of the Sire of the mansion, and began
to feel more deeply than before, the anxious doubt, whether that cordial
reception, which was distributed so freely to all others, would be on
this occasion extended to him. As they came on, they heard the voluntary
scrapings and bravura effusions of the gallant fiddlers, who impatiently
flung already from their bows those sounds with which they were to
animate the evening. The clamour of the cook's assistants, and the loud
scolding tones of the cook himself, were also to be heard--sounds of
dissonance at any other time, but which, subdued with others, and by
certain happy associations, form no disagreeable part of the full chorus
which always precedes a rural feast.

Meanwhile, the guests advanced, each full of their own thoughts.
Mordaunt's we have already noticed. Baby was wrapt up in the melancholy
grief and surprise excited by the positive conviction, that so much
victuals had been cooked at once as were necessary to feed all the
mouths which were clamouring around her--an enormity of expense, which,
though she was no way concerned in bearing it, affected her nerves, as
the beholding a massacre would touch those of the most indifferent
spectator, however well assured of his own personal safety. She
sickened, in short, at the sight of so much extravagance, like
Abyssinian Bruce, when he saw the luckless minstrels of Gondar hacked to
pieces by the order of Ras Michael. As for her brother, they being now
arrived where the rude and antique instruments of Zetland agriculture
lay scattered in the usual confusion of a Scottish barn-yard, his
thoughts were at once engrossed in the deficiencies of the one-stilted
plough--of the _twiscar_, with which they dig peats--of the sledges, on
which they transport commodities--of all and every thing, in short, in
which the usages of the islands differed from those of the mainland of
Scotland. The sight of these imperfect instruments stirred the blood of
Triptolemus Yellowley, as that of the bold warrior rises at seeing the
arms and insignia of the enemy he is about to combat; and, faithful to
his high emprise, he thought less of the hunger which his journey had
occasioned, although about to be satisfied by such a dinner as rarely
fell to his lot, than upon the task which he had undertaken, of
civilizing the manners, and improving the cultivation, of Zetland.

"_Jacta est alea_," he muttered to himself; "this very day shall prove
whether the Zetlanders are worthy of our labours, or whether their minds
are as incapable of cultivation as their peat-mosses. Yet let us be
cautious, and watch the soft time of speech. I feel, by my own
experience, that it were best to let the body, in its present state,
take the place of the mind. A mouthful of that same roast-beef, which
smells so delicately, will form an apt introduction to my grand plan for
improving the breed of stock."

By this time the visitors had reached the low but ample front of Magnus
Troil's residence, which seemed of various dates, with large and
ill-imagined additions, hastily adapted to the original building, as the
increasing estate, or enlarged family, of successive proprietors,
appeared to each to demand. Beneath a low, broad, and large porch,
supported by two huge carved posts, once the head-ornaments of vessels
which had found shipwreck upon the coast, stood Magnus himself, intent
on the hospitable toil of receiving and welcoming the numerous guests
who successively approached. His strong portly figure was well adapted
to the dress which he wore--a blue coat of an antique cut, lined with
scarlet, and laced and looped with gold down the seams and button-holes,
and along the ample cuffs. Strong and masculine features, rendered ruddy
and brown by frequent exposure to severe weather--a quantity of most
venerable silver hair, which fell in unshorn profusion from under his
gold-laced hat, and was carelessly tied with a ribbon behind, expressed
at once his advanced age, his hasty, yet well-conditioned temper, and
his robust constitution. As our travellers approached him, a shade of
displeasure seemed to cross his brow, and to interrupt for an instant
the honest and hearty burst of hilarity with which he had been in the
act of greeting all prior arrivals. When he approached Triptolemus
Yellowley, he drew himself up, so as to mix, as it were, some share of
the stately importance of the opulent Udaller with the welcome afforded
by the frank and hospitable landlord.

"You are welcome, Mr. Yellowley," was his address to the factor; "you
are welcome to Westra--the wind has blown you on a rough coast, and we
that are the natives must be kind to you as we can. This, I believe, is
your sister--Mistress Barbara Yellowley, permit me the honour of a
neighbourly salute."--And so saying, with a daring and self-devoted
courtesy, which would find no equal in our degenerate days, he actually
ventured to salute the withered cheek of the spinster, who relaxed so
much of her usual peevishness of expression, as to receive the courtesy
with something which approached to a smile. He then looked full at
Mordaunt Mertoun, and without offering his hand, said, in a tone
somewhat broken by suppressed agitation, "You too are welcome, Master

"Did I not think so," said Mordaunt, naturally offended by the coldness
of his host's manner, "I had not been here--and it is not yet too late
to turn back."

"Young man," replied Magnus, "you know better than most, that from these
doors no man can turn, without an offence to their owner. I pray you,
disturb not my guests by your ill-timed scruples. When Magnus Troil says
welcome, all are welcome who are within hearing of his voice, and it is
an indifferent loud one.--Walk on, my worthy guests, and let us see what
cheer my lasses can make you within doors."

So saying, and taking care to make his manner so general to the whole
party, that Mordaunt should not be able to appropriate any particular
portion of the welcome to himself, nor yet to complain of being excluded
from all share in it, the Udaller ushered the guests into his house,
where two large outer rooms, which, on the present occasion, served the
purpose of a modern saloon, were already crowded with guests of every

The furniture was sufficiently simple, and had a character peculiar to
the situation of those stormy islands. Magnus Troil was, indeed, like
most of the higher class of Zetland proprietors, a friend to the
distressed traveller, whether by sea or land, and had repeatedly exerted
his whole authority in protecting the property and persons of
shipwrecked mariners; yet so frequent were wrecks upon that tremendous
coast, and so many unappropriated articles were constantly flung ashore,
that the interior of the house bore sufficient witness to the ravages of
the ocean, and to the exercise of those rights which the lawyers term
_Flotsome and Jetsome_. The chairs, which were arranged around the
walls, were such as are used in cabins, and many of them were of foreign
construction; the mirrors and cabinets, which were placed against the
walls for ornament or convenience, had, it was plain from their form,
been constructed for ship-board, and one or two of the latter were of
strange and unknown wood. Even the partition which separated the two
apartments, seemed constructed out of the bulkhead of some large vessel,
clumsily adapted to the service which it at present performed, by the
labour of some native joiner. To a stranger, these evident marks and
tokens of human misery might, at the first glance, form a contrast with
the scene of mirth with which they were now associated; but the
association was so familiar to the natives, that it did not for a moment
interrupt the course of their glee.

To the younger part of these revellers the presence of Mordaunt was like
a fresh charm of enjoyment. All came around him to marvel at his
absence, and all, by their repeated enquiries, plainly showed that they
conceived it had been entirely voluntary on his side. The youth felt
that this general acceptation relieved his anxiety on one painful point.
Whatever prejudice the family of Burgh-Westra might have adopted
respecting him, it must be of a private nature; and at least he had not
the additional pain of finding that he was depreciated in the eyes of
society at large; and his vindication, when he found opportunity to make
one, would not require to be extended beyond the circle of a single
family. This was consoling; though his heart still throbbed with anxiety
at the thought of meeting with his estranged, but still beloved friends.
Laying the excuse of his absence on his father's state of health, he
made his way through the various groups of friends and guests, each of
whom seemed willing to detain him as long as possible, and having, by
presenting them to one or two families of consequence, got rid of his
travelling companions, who at first stuck fast as burs, he reached at
length the door of a small apartment, which, opening from one of the
large exterior rooms we have mentioned, Minna and Brenda had been
permitted to fit up after their own taste, and to call their peculiar

Mordaunt had contributed no small share of the invention and mechanical
execution employed in fitting up this favourite apartment, and in
disposing its ornaments. It was, indeed, during his last residence at
Burgh-Westra, as free to his entrance and occupation, as to its proper
mistresses. But now, so much were times altered, that he remained with
his finger on the latch, uncertain whether he should take the freedom to
draw it, until Brenda's voice pronounced the words, "Come in, then," in
the tone of one who is interrupted by an unwelcome disturber, who is to
be heard and dispatched with all the speed possible.

At this signal Mertoun entered the fanciful cabinet of the sisters,
which by the addition of many ornaments, including some articles of
considerable value, had been fitted up for the approaching festival. The
daughters of Magnus, at the moment of Mordaunt's entrance, were seated
in deep consultation with the stranger Cleveland, and with a little
slight-made old man, whose eye retained all the vivacity of spirit,
which had supported him under the thousand vicissitudes of a changeful
and precarious life, and which, accompanying him in his old age,
rendered his grey hairs less awfully reverend perhaps, but not less
beloved, than would a more grave and less imaginative expression of
countenance and character. There was even a penetrating shrewdness
mingled in the look of curiosity, with which, as he stepped for an
instant aside, he seemed to watch the meeting of Mordaunt with the two
lovely sisters.

The reception the youth met with resembled, in general character, that
which he had experienced from Magnus himself; but the maidens could not
so well cover their sense of the change of circumstances under which
they met. Both blushed, as, rising, and without extending the hand, far
less offering the cheek, as the fashion of the times permitted, and
almost exacted, they paid to Mordaunt the salutation due to an ordinary
acquaintance. But the blush of the elder was one of those transient
evidences of flitting emotion, that vanish as fast as the passing
thought which excites them. In an instant she stood before the youth
calm and cold, returning, with guarded and cautious courtesy, the usual
civilities, which, with a faltering voice, Mordaunt endeavoured to
present to her. The emotion of Brenda bore, externally at least, a
deeper and more agitating character. Her blush extended over every part
of her beautiful skin which her dress permitted to be visible, including
her slender neck, and the upper region of a finely formed bosom.
Neither did she even attempt to reply to what share of his confused
compliment Mordaunt addressed to her in particular, but regarded him
with eyes, in which displeasure was evidently mingled with feelings of
regret, and recollections of former times. Mordaunt felt, as it were,
assured upon the instant, that the regard of Minna was extinguished, but
that it might be yet possible to recover that of the milder Brenda; and
such is the waywardness of human fancy, that though he had never
hitherto made any distinct difference betwixt these two beautiful and
interesting girls, the favour of her, which seemed most absolutely
withdrawn, became at the moment the most interesting in his eyes.

He was disturbed in these hasty reflections by Cleveland, who advanced,
with military frankness, to pay his compliments to his preserver, having
only delayed long enough to permit the exchange of the ordinary
salutation betwixt the visitor and the ladies of the family. He made his
approach with so good a grace, that it was impossible for Mordaunt,
although he dated his loss of favour at Burgh-Westra from this
stranger's appearance on the coast, and domestication in the family, to
do less than return his advances as courtesy demanded, accept his thanks
with an appearance of satisfaction, and hope that his time had past
pleasantly since their last meeting.

Cleveland was about to answer, when he was anticipated by the little old
man, formerly noticed, who now thrusting himself forward, and seizing
Mordaunt's hand, kissed him on the forehead; and then at the same time
echoed and answered his question--"How passes time at Burgh-Westra? Was
it you that asked it, my prince of the cliff and of the scaur? How
should it pass, but with all the wings that beauty and joy can add to
help its flight!"

"And wit and song, too, my good old friend," said Mordaunt,
half-serious, half-jesting, as he shook the old man cordially by the
hand.--"These cannot be wanting, where Claud Halcro comes!"

"Jeer me not, Mordaunt, my good lad," replied the old man; "When your
foot is as slow as mine, your wit frozen, and your song out of tune"----

"How can you belie yourself, my good master?" answered Mordaunt, who was
not unwilling to avail himself of his old friend's peculiarities to
introduce something like conversation, break the awkwardness of this
singular meeting, and gain time for observation, ere requiring an
explanation of the change of conduct which the family seemed to have
adopted towards him. "Say not so," he continued. "Time, my old friend,
lays his hand lightly on the bard. Have I not heard you say, the poet
partakes the immortality of his song? and surely the great English poet,
you used to tell us of, was elder than yourself when he pulled the
bow-oar among all the wits of London."

This alluded to a story which was, as the French term it, Halcro's
_cheval de bataille_, and any allusion to which was certain at once to
place him in the saddle, and to push his hobby-horse into full career.

His laughing eye kindled with a sort of enthusiasm, which the ordinary
folk of this world might have called crazed, while he dashed into the
subject which he best loved to talk upon. "Alas, alas, my dear Mordaunt
Mertoun--silver is silver, and waxes not dim by use--and pewter is
pewter, and grows the longer the duller. It is not for poor Claud Halcro
to name himself in the same twelvemonth with the immortal John Dryden.
True it is, as I may have told you before, that I have seen that great
man, nay I have been in the Wits' Coffeehouse, as it was then called,
and had once a pinch out of his own very snuff-box. I must have told you
all how it happened, but here is Captain Cleveland who never heard
it.--I lodged, you must know, in Russel Street--I question not but you
know Russel Street, Covent Garden, Captain Cleveland?"

"I should know its latitude pretty well, Mr. Halcro," said the Captain,
smiling; "but I believe you mentioned the circumstance yesterday, and
besides we have the day's duty in hand--you must play us this song which
we are to study."

"It will not serve the turn now," said Halcro, "we must think of
something that will take in our dear Mordaunt, the first voice in the
island, whether for a part or solo. I will never be he will touch a
string to you, unless Mordaunt Mertoun is to help us out.--What say you,
my fairest Night?--what think you, my sweet Dawn of Day?" he added,
addressing the young women, upon whom, as we have said elsewhere, he had
long before bestowed these allegorical names.

"Mr. Mordaunt Mertoun," said Minna, "has come too late to be of our band
on this occasion--it is our misfortune, but it cannot be helped."

"How? what?" said Halcro, hastily--"too late--and you have practised
together all your lives? take my word, my bonny lasses, that old tunes
are sweetest, and old friends surest. Mr. Cleveland has a fine bass,
that must be allowed; but I would have you trust for the first effect to
one of the twenty fine airs you can sing where Mordaunt's tenor joins so
well with your own witchery--here is my lovely Day approves of the
change in her heart."

"You were never in your life more mistaken, father Halcro," said Brenda,
her cheeks again reddening, more with displeasure, it seemed, than with

"Nay, but how is this?" said the old man, pausing, and looking at them
alternately. "What have we got here?--a cloudy night and a red
morning?--that betokens rough weather.--What means all this, young
women?--where lies the offence?--In me, I fear; for the blame is always
laid upon the oldest when young folk like you go by the ears."

"The blame is not with you, father Halcro," said Minna, rising, and
taking her sister by the arm, "if indeed there be blame anywhere."

"I should fear then, Minna," said Mordaunt, endeavouring to soften his
tone into one of indifferent pleasantry, "that the new comer has brought
the offence along with him."

"When no offence is taken," replied Minna, with her usual gravity, "it
matters not by whom such may have been offered."

"Is it possible, Minna!" exclaimed Mordaunt, "and is it you who speak
thus to me?--And you too, Brenda, can you too judge so hardly of me, yet
without permitting me one moment of honest and frank explanation?"

"Those who should know best," answered Brenda, in a low but decisive
tone of voice, "have told us their pleasure, and it must be
done.--Sister, I think we have staid too long here, and shall be wanted
elsewhere--Mr. Mertoun will excuse us on so busy a day."

The sisters linked their arms together. Halcro in vain endeavoured to
stop them, making, at the same time, a theatrical gesture, and

  "Now, Day and Night, but this is wondrous strange!"

Then turned to Mordaunt Mertoun, and added--"The girls are possessed
with the spirit of mutability, showing, as our master Spenser well
saith, that

  'Among all living creatures, more or lesse,
  Change still doth reign, and keep the greater sway.'

Captain Cleveland," he continued, "know you any thing that has happened
to put these two juvenile Graces out of tune?"

"He will lose his reckoning," answered Cleveland, "that spends time in
enquiring why the wind shifts a point, or why a woman changes her mind.
Were I Mr. Mordaunt, I would not ask the proud wenches another question
on such a subject."

"It is a friendly advice, Captain Cleveland," replied Mordaunt, "and I
will not hold it the less so that it has been given unasked. Allow me to
enquire if you are yourself as indifferent to the opinion of your female
friends, as it seems you would have me to be?"

"Who, I?" said the Captain, with an air of frank indifference, "I never
thought twice upon such a subject. I never saw a woman worth thinking
twice about after the anchor was a-peak--on shore it is another thing;
and I will laugh, sing, dance, and make love, if they like it, with
twenty girls, were they but half so pretty as those who have left us,
and make them heartily welcome to change their course in the sound of a
boatswain's whistle. It will be odds but I wear as fast as they can."

A patient is seldom pleased with that sort of consolation which is
founded on holding light the malady of which he complains; and Mordaunt
felt disposed to be offended with Captain Cleveland, both for taking
notice of his embarrassment, and intruding upon him his own opinion; and
he replied, therefore, somewhat sharply, "that Captain Cleveland's
sentiments were only suited to such as had the art to become universal
favourites wherever chance happened to throw them, and who could not
lose in one place more than their merit was sure to gain for them in

This was spoken ironically; but there was, to confess the truth, a
superior knowledge of the world, and a consciousness of external merit
at least, about the man, which rendered his interference doubly
disagreeable. As Sir Lucius O'Trigger says, there was an air of success
about Captain Cleveland which was mighty provoking. Young, handsome, and
well assured, his air of nautical bluntness sat naturally and easily
upon him, and was perhaps particularly well fitted to the simple manners
of the remote country in which he found himself; and where, even in the
best families, a greater degree of refinement might have rendered his
conversation rather less acceptable. He was contented, in the present
instance, to smile good-humouredly at the obvious discontent of Mordaunt
Mertoun, and replied, "You are angry with me, my good friend, but you
cannot make me angry with you. The fair hands of all the pretty women I
ever saw in my life would never have fished me up out of the Roost of
Sumburgh. So, pray, do not quarrel with me; for here is Mr. Halcro
witness that I have struck both jack and topsail, and should you fire a
broadside into me, cannot return a single shot."

"Ay, ay," said Halcro, "you must be friends with Captain Cleveland,
Mordaunt. Never quarrel with your friend, because a woman is whimsical.
Why, man, if they kept one humour, how the devil could we make so many
songs on them as we do? Even old Dryden himself, glorious old John,
could have said little about a girl that was always of one mind--as well
write verses upon a mill-pond. It is your tides and your roosts, and
your currents and eddies, that come and go, and ebb and flow, (by
Heaven! I run into rhyme when I so much as think upon them,) that smile
one day, rage the next, flatter and devour, delight and ruin us, and so
forth--it is these that give the real soul of poetry. Did you never hear
my Adieu to the Lass of Northmaven--that was poor Bet Stimbister, whom I
call Mary for the sound's sake, as I call myself Hacon after my great
ancestor Hacon Goldemund, or Haco with the golden mouth, who came to the
island with Harold Harfager, and was his chief Scald?--Well, but where
was I?--O ay--poor Bet Stimbister, she (and partly some debt) was the
cause of my leaving the isles of Hialtland, (better so called than
Shetland, or Zetland even,) and taking to the broad world. I have had a
tramp of it since that time--I have battled my way through the world,
Captain, as a man of mold may, that has a light head, a light purse, and
a heart as light as them both--fought my way, and paid my way--that is,
either with money or wit--have seen kings changed and deposed as you
would turn a tenant out of a scathold--knew all the wits of the age, and
especially the glorious John Dryden--what man in the islands can say as
much, barring lying?--I had a pinch out of his own snuff-box--I will
tell you how I came by such promotion."

"But the song, Mr. Halcro," said Captain Cleveland.

"The song?" answered Halcro, seizing the Captain by the button,--for he
was too much accustomed to have his audience escape from him during
recitation, not to put in practice all the usual means of
prevention,--"The song? Why I gave a copy of it, with fifteen others, to
the immortal John. You shall hear it--you shall hear them all, if you
will but stand still a moment; and you too, my dear boy, Mordaunt
Mertoun, I have scarce heard a word from your mouth these six months,
and now you are running away from me." So saying, he secured him with
his other hand.

"Nay, now he has got us both in tow," said the seaman, "there is nothing
for it but hearing him out, though he spins as tough a yarn as ever an
old man-of-war's-man twisted on the watch at midnight."

"Nay, now, be silent, be silent, and let one of us speak at once," said
the poet, imperatively; while Cleveland and Mordaunt, looking at each
other with a ludicrous expression of resignation to their fate, waited
in submission for the well-known and inevitable tale. "I will tell you
all about it," continued Halcro. "I was knocked about the world like
other young fellows, doing this, that, and t'other for a livelihood;
for, thank God, I could turn my hand to any thing--but loving still the
Muses as much as if the ungrateful jades had found me, like so many
blockheads, in my own coach and six. However, I held out till my cousin,
old Lawrence Linkletter, died, and left me the bit of an island yonder;
although, by the way, Cultmalindie was as near to him as I was; but
Lawrence loved wit, though he had little of his own. Well, he left me
the wee bit island--it is as barren as Parnassus itself. What then?--I
have a penny to spend, a penny to keep my purse, a penny to give to the
poor--ay, and a bed and a bottle for a friend, as you shall know, boys,
if you will go back with me when this merriment is over.--But where was
I in my story?"

"Near port, I hope," answered Cleveland; but Halcro was too determined a
narrator to be interrupted by the broadest hint.

"O ay," he resumed, with the self-satisfied air of one who has recovered
the thread of a story, "I was in my old lodgings in Russel Street, with
old Timothy Thimblethwaite, the Master Fashioner, then the best-known
man about town. He made for all the wits, and for the dull boobies of
fortune besides, and made the one pay for the other. He never denied a
wit credit save in jest, or for the sake of getting a repartee; and he
was in correspondence with all that was worth knowing about town. He had
letters from Crowne, and Tate, and Prior, and Tom Brown, and all the
famous fellows of the time, with such pellets of wit, that there was no
reading them without laughing ready to die, and all ending with craving
a further term for payment."

"I should have thought the tailor would have found that jest rather
serious," said Mordaunt.

"Not a bit--not a bit," replied his eulogist, "Tim Thimblethwaite (he
was a Cumberland-man by birth) had the soul of a prince--ay, and died
with the fortune of one; for woe betide the custard-gorged alderman that
came under Tim's goose, after he had got one of those letters--egad, he
was sure to pay the kain! Why, Thimblethwaite was thought to be the
original of little Tom Bibber, in glorious John's comedy of the Wild
Gallant; and I know that he has trusted, ay, and lent John money to boot
out of his own pocket, at a time when all his fine court friends blew
cold enough. He trusted me too, and I have been two months on the score
at a time for my upper room. To be sure, I was obliging in his way--not
that I exactly could shape or sew, nor would that have been decorous for
a gentleman of good descent; but I--eh, eh--I drew bills--summed up the

"Carried home the clothes of the wits and aldermen, and got lodging for
your labour?" interrupted Cleveland.

"No, no--damn it, no," replied Halcro; "no such thing--you put me out in
my story--where was I?"

"Nay, the devil help you to the latitude," said the Captain, extricating
his button from the gripe of the unmerciful bard's finger and thumb,
"for I have no time to take an observation." So saying, he bolted from
the room.

"A silly, ill-bred, conceited fool," said Halcro, looking after him;
"with as little manners as wit in his empty coxcomb. I wonder what
Magnus and these silly wenches can see in him--he tells such damnable
long-winded stories, too, about his adventures and sea-fights--every
second word a lie, I doubt not. Mordaunt, my dear boy, take example by
that man--that is, take warning by him--never tell long stories about
yourself. You are sometimes given to talk too much about your own
exploits on crags and skerries, and the like, which only breaks
conversation, and prevents other folk from being heard. Now I see you
are impatient to hear out what I was saying--Stop, whereabouts was I?"

"I fear we must put it off, Mr. Halcro, until after dinner," said
Mordaunt, who also meditated his escape, though desirous of effecting it
with more delicacy towards his old acquaintance than Captain Cleveland
had thought it necessary to use.

"Nay, my dear boy," said Halcro, seeing himself about to be utterly
deserted, "do not you leave me too--never take so bad an example as to
set light by old acquaintance, Mordaunt. I have wandered many a weary
step in my day; but they were always lightened when I could get hold of
the arm of an old friend like yourself."

So saying, he quitted the youth's coat, and sliding his hand gently
under his arm, grappled him more effectually; to which Mordaunt
submitted, a little moved by the poet's observation upon the unkindness
of old acquaintances, under which he himself was an immediate sufferer.
But when Halcro renewed his formidable question, "Whereabouts was I?"
Mordaunt, preferring his poetry to his prose, reminded him of the song
which he said he had written upon his first leaving Zetland,--a song to
which, indeed, the enquirer was no stranger, but which, as it must be
new to the reader, we shall here insert as a favourable specimen of the
poetical powers of this tuneful descendant of Haco the Golden-mouthed;
for, in the opinion of many tolerable judges, he held a respectable rank
among the inditers of madrigals of the period, and was as well qualified
to give immortality to his Nancies of the hills or dales, as many a
gentle sonnetteer of wit and pleasure about town. He was something of a
musician also, and on the present occasion seized upon a sort of lute,
and, quitting his victim, prepared the instrument for an accompaniment,
speaking all the while that he might lose no time.

"I learned the lute," he said, "from the same man who taught honest
Shadwell--plump Tom, as they used to call him--somewhat roughly treated
by the glorious John, you remember--Mordaunt, you remember--

  'Methinks I see the new Arion sail,
  The lute still trembling underneath thy nail;
  At thy well sharpen'd thumb, from shore to shore,
  The trebles squeak for fear, the basses roar.'

Come, I am indifferently in tune now--what was it to be?--ay, I
remember--nay, The Lass of Northmaven is the ditty--poor Bet Stimbister!
I have called her Mary in the verses. Betsy does well for an English
song; but Mary is more natural here." So saying, after a short prelude,
he sung, with a tolerable voice and some taste, the following verses:


  Farewell to Northmaven,
    Grey Hillswicke, farewell!
  To the calms of thy haven,
    The storms on thy fell--
  To each breeze that can vary
    The mood of thy main,
  And to thee, bonny Mary!
    We meet not again.

  Farewell the wild ferry,
    Which Hacon could brave,
  When the peaks of the Skerry
    Were white in the wave.
  There's a maid may look over
    These wild waves in vain--
  For the skiff of her lover--
    He comes not again.

  The vows thou hast broke,
    On the wild currents fling them;
  On the quicksand and rock
    Let the mermaidens sing them.
  New sweetness they'll give her
    Bewildering strain;
  But there's one who will never
    Believe them again.

  O were there an island,
    Though ever so wild,
  Where woman could smile, and
    No man be beguiled--
  Too tempting a snare
    To poor mortals were given,
  And the hope would fix there,
    That should anchor on heaven!

"I see you are softened, my young friend," said Halcro, when he had
finished his song; "so are most who hear that same ditty. Words and
music both mine own; and, without saying much of the wit of it, there is
a sort of eh--eh--simplicity and truth about it, which gets its way to
most folk's heart. Even your father cannot resist it--and he has a heart
as impenetrable to poetry and song as Apollo himself could draw an arrow
against. But then he has had some ill luck in his time with the
women-folk, as is plain from his owing them such a grudge--Ay, ay, there
the charm lies--none of us but has felt the same sore in our day. But
come, my dear boy, they are mustering in the hall, men and women
both--plagues as they are, we should get on ill without them--but
before we go, only mark the last turn--

  'And the hope would fix there,'--

that is, in the supposed island--a place which neither was nor will be--

  'That should anchor on heaven.'

Now you see, my good young man, there are here none of your heathenish
rants, which Rochester, Etheridge, and these wild fellows, used to
string together. A parson might sing the song, and his clerk bear the
burden--but there is the confounded bell--we must go now--but never
mind--we'll get into a quiet corner at night, and I'll tell you all
about it."


  Full in the midst the polish'd table shines,
  And the bright goblets, rich with generous wines;
  Now each partakes the feast, the wine prepares,
  Portions the food, and each the portion shares;
  Nor till the rage of thirst and hunger ceased,
  To the high host approach'd the sagacious guest.


The hospitable profusion of Magnus Troil's board, the number of guests
who feasted in the hall, the much greater number of retainers,
attendants, humble friends, and domestics of every possible description,
who revelled without, with the multitude of the still poorer, and less
honoured assistants, who came from every hamlet or township within
twenty miles round, to share the bounty of the munificent Udaller, were
such as altogether astonished Triptolemus Yellowley, and made him
internally doubt whether it would be prudent in him at this time, and
amid the full glow of his hospitality, to propose to the host who
presided over such a splendid banquet, a radical change in the whole
customs and usages of his country.

True, the sagacious Triptolemus felt conscious that he possessed in his
own person wisdom far superior to that of all the assembled feasters, to
say nothing of the landlord, against whose prudence the very extent of
his hospitality formed, in Yellowley's opinion, sufficient evidence. But
yet the Amphitryon with whom one dines, holds, for the time at least,
an influence over the minds of his most distinguished guests; and if the
dinner be in good style and the wines of the right quality, it is
humbling to see that neither art nor wisdom, scarce external rank
itself, can assume their natural and wonted superiority over the
distributor of these good things, until coffee has been brought in.
Triptolemus felt the full weight of this temporary superiority, yet he
was desirous to do something that might vindicate the vaunts he had made
to his sister and his fellow-traveller, and he stole a look at them from
time to time, to mark whether he was not sinking in their esteem from
postponing his promised lecture on the enormities of Zetland.

But Mrs. Barbara was busily engaged in noting and registering the waste
incurred in such an entertainment as she had probably never before
looked upon, and in admiring the host's indifference to, and the guests'
absolute negligence of, those rules of civility in which her youth had
been brought up. The feasters desired to be helped from a dish which was
unbroken, and might have figured at supper, with as much freedom as if
it had undergone the ravages of half-a-dozen guests; and no one seemed
to care--the landlord himself least of all--whether those dishes only
were consumed, which, from their nature, were incapable of
re-appearance, or whether the assault was extended to the substantial
rounds of beef, pasties, and so forth, which, by the rules of good
housewifery, were destined to stand two attacks, and which, therefore,
according to Mrs. Barbara's ideas of politeness, ought not to have been
annihilated by the guests upon the first onset, but spared, like Outis
in the cave of Polyphemus, to be devoured the last. Lost in the
meditations to which these breaches of convivial discipline gave rise,
and in the contemplation of an ideal larder of cold meat which she could
have saved out of the wreck of roast, boiled, and baked, sufficient to
have supplied her cupboard for at least a twelvemonth, Mrs. Barbara
cared very little whether or not her brother supported in its extent the
character which he had calculated upon assuming.

Mordaunt Mertoun also was conversant with far other thoughts, than those
which regarded the proposed reformer of Zetland enormities. His seat was
betwixt two blithe maidens of Thule, who, not taking scorn that he had
upon other occasions given preference to the daughters of the Udaller,
were glad of the chance which assigned to them the attentions of so
distinguished a gallant, who, as being their squire at the feast, might
in all probability become their partner in the subsequent dance. But,
whilst rendering to his fair neighbours all the usual attentions which
society required, Mordaunt kept up a covert, but accurate and close
observation, upon his estranged friends, Minna and Brenda. The Udaller
himself had a share of his attention; but in him he could remark
nothing, except the usual tone of hearty and somewhat boisterous
hospitality, with which he was accustomed to animate the banquet upon
all such occasions of general festivity. But in the differing mien of
the two maidens there was much more room for painful remark.

Captain Cleveland sat betwixt the sisters, was sedulous in his
attentions to both, and Mordaunt was so placed, that he could observe
all, and hear a great deal, of what passed between them. But Cleveland's
peculiar regard seemed devoted to the elder sister. Of this the younger
was perhaps conscious, for more than once her eye glanced towards
Mordaunt, and, as he thought, with something in it which resembled
regret for the interruption of their intercourse, and a sad remembrance
of former and more friendly times; while Minna was exclusively engrossed
by the attentions of her neighbour; and that it should be so, filled
Mordaunt with surprise and resentment.

Minna, the serious, the prudent, the reserved, whose countenance and
manners indicated so much elevation of character--Minna, the lover of
solitude, and of those paths of knowledge in which men walk best without
company--the enemy of light mirth, the friend of musing melancholy, and
the frequenter of fountain-heads and pathless glens--she whose character
seemed, in short, the very reverse of that which might be captivated by
the bold, coarse, and daring gallantry of such a man as this Captain
Cleveland, gave, nevertheless, her eye and ear to him, as he sat beside
her at table, with an interest and a graciousness of attention, which,
to Mordaunt, who well knew how to judge of her feelings by her manner,
intimated a degree of the highest favour. He observed this, and his
heart rose against the favourite by whom he had been thus superseded, as
well as against Minna's indiscreet departure from her own character.

"What is there about the man," he said within himself, "more than the
bold and daring assumption of importance which is derived from success
in petty enterprises, and the exercise of petty despotism over a ship's
crew?--His very language is more professional than is used by the
superior officers of the British navy; and the wit which has excited so
many smiles, seems to me such as Minna would not formerly have endured
for an instant. Even Brenda seems less taken with his gallantry than
Minna, whom it should have suited so little."

Mordaunt was doubly mistaken in these his angry speculations. In the
first place, with an eye which was, in some respects, that of a rival,
he criticised far too severely the manners and behaviour of Captain
Cleveland. They were unpolished, certainly; which was of the less
consequence in a country inhabited by so plain and simple a race as the
ancient Zetlanders. On the other hand, there was an open, naval
frankness in Cleveland's bearing--much natural shrewdness--some
appropriate humour--an undoubting confidence in himself--and that
enterprising hardihood of disposition, which, without any other
recommendable quality, very often leads to success with the fair sex.
But Mordaunt was farther mistaken, in supposing that Cleveland was
likely to be disagreeable to Minna Troil, on account of the opposition
of their characters in so many material particulars. Had his knowledge
of the world been a little more extensive, he might have observed, that
as unions are often formed betwixt couples differing in complexion and
stature, they take place still more frequently betwixt persons totally
differing in feelings, in taste, in pursuits, and in understanding; and
it would not be saying, perhaps, too much, to aver, that two-thirds of
the marriages around us have been contracted betwixt persons, who,
judging _a priori_, we should have thought had scarce any charms for
each other.

A moral and primary cause might be easily assigned for these anomalies,
in the wise dispensations of Providence, that the general balance of
wit, wisdom, and amiable qualities of all kinds, should be kept up
through society at large. For, what a world were it, if the wise were to
intermarry only with the wise, the learned with the learned, the amiable
with the amiable, nay, even the handsome with the handsome? and, is it
not evident, that the degraded castes of the foolish, the ignorant, the
brutal, and the deformed, (comprehending, by the way, far the greater
portion of mankind,) must, when condemned to exclusive intercourse with
each other, become gradually as much brutalized in person and
disposition as so many ourang-outangs? When, therefore, we see the
"gentle joined to the rude," we may lament the fate of the suffering
individual, but we must not the less admire the mysterious disposition
of that wise Providence which thus balances the moral good and evil of
life;--which secures for a family, unhappy in the dispositions of one
parent, a share of better and sweeter blood, transmitted from the other,
and preserves to the offspring the affectionate care and protection of
at least one of those from whom it is naturally due. Without the
frequent occurrence of such alliances and unions--mis-sorted as they
seem at first sight--the world could not be that for which Eternal
Wisdom has designed it--a place of mixed good and evil--a place of trial
at once, and of suffering, where even the worst ills are checkered with
something that renders them tolerable to humble and patient minds, and
where the best blessings carry with them a necessary alloy of
embittering depreciation.

When, indeed, we look a little closer on the causes of those unexpected
and ill-suited attachments, we have occasion to acknowledge, that the
means by which they are produced do not infer that complete departure
from, or inconsistency with, the character of the parties, which we
might expect when the result alone is contemplated. The wise purposes
which Providence appears to have had in view, by permitting such
intermixture of dispositions, tempers, and understandings, in the
married state, are not accomplished by any mysterious impulse by which,
in contradiction to the ordinary laws of nature, men or women are urged
to an union with those whom the world see to be unsuitable to them. The
freedom of will is permitted to us in the occurrences of ordinary life,
as in our moral conduct; and in the former as well as the latter case,
is often the means of misguiding those who possess it. Thus it usually
happens, more especially to the enthusiastic and imaginative, that,
having formed a picture of admiration in their own mind, they too often
deceive themselves by some faint resemblance in some existing being,
whom their fancy, as speedily as gratuitously, invests with all the
attributes necessary to complete the _beau ideal_ of mental perfection.
No one, perhaps, even in the happiest marriage, with an object really
beloved, ever discovered by experience all the qualities he expected to
possess; but in far too many cases, he finds he has practised a much
higher degree of mental deception, and has erected his airy castle of
felicity upon some rainbow, which owed its very existence only to the
peculiar state of the atmosphere.

Thus, Mordaunt, if better acquainted with life, and with the course of
human things, would have been little surprised that such a man as
Cleveland, handsome, bold, and animated,--a man who had obviously lived
in danger, and who spoke of it as sport, should have been invested, by a
girl of Minna's fanciful disposition, with an extensive share of those
qualities, which, in her active imagination, were held to fill up the
accomplishments of a heroic character. The plain bluntness of his
manner, if remote from courtesy, appeared at least as widely different
from deceit; and, unfashioned as he seemed by forms, he had enough both
of natural sense, and natural good-breeding, to support the delusion he
had created, at least as far as externals were concerned. It is scarce
necessary to add, that these observations apply exclusively to what are
called love-matches; for when either party fix their attachment upon the
substantial comforts of a rental, or a jointure, they cannot be
disappointed in the acquisition, although they may be cruelly so in
their over-estimation of the happiness it was to afford, or in having
too slightly anticipated the disadvantages with which it was to be

Having a certain partiality for the dark Beauty whom we have described,
we have willingly dedicated this digression, in order to account for a
line of conduct which we allow to seem absolutely unnatural in such a
narrative as the present, though the most common event in ordinary life;
namely, in Minna's appearing to have over-estimated the taste, talent,
and ability of a handsome young man, who was dedicating to her his whole
time and attention, and whose homage rendered her the envy of almost all
the other young women of that numerous party. Perhaps, if our fair
readers will take the trouble to consult their own bosoms, they will be
disposed to allow, that the distinguished good taste exhibited by any
individual, who, when his attentions would be agreeable to a whole
circle of rivals, selects _one_ as their individual object, entitles
him, on the footing of reciprocity, if on no other, to a large share of
that individual's favourable, and even partial, esteem. At any rate, if
the character shall, after all, be deemed inconsistent and unnatural, it
concerns not us, who record the facts as we find them, and pretend no
privilege for bringing closer to nature those incidents which may seem
to diverge from it; or for reducing to consistence that most
inconsistent of all created things--the heart of a beautiful and admired

Necessity, which teaches all the liberal arts, can render us also adepts
in dissimulation; and Mordaunt, though a novice, failed not to profit in
her school. It was manifest, that, in order to observe the demeanour of
those on whom his attention was fixed, he must needs put constraint on
his own, and appear, at least, so much engaged with the damsels betwixt
whom he sat, that Minna and Brenda should suppose him indifferent to
what was passing around him. The ready cheerfulness of Maddie and Clara
Groatsettars, who were esteemed considerable fortunes in the island, and
were at this moment too happy in feeling themselves seated somewhat
beyond the sphere of vigilance influenced by their aunt, the good old
Lady Glowrowrum, met and requited the attempts which Mordaunt made to be
lively and entertaining; and they were soon engaged in a gay
conversation, to which, as usual on such occasions, the gentleman
contributed wit, or what passes for such, and the ladies their prompt
laughter and liberal applause. But, amidst this seeming mirth, Mordaunt
failed not, from time to time, as covertly as he might, to observe the
conduct of the two daughters of Magnus; and still it appeared as if the
elder, wrapt up in the conversation of Cleveland, did not cast away a
thought on the rest of the company; and as if Brenda, more openly as she
conceived his attention withdrawn from her, looked with an expression
both anxious and melancholy towards the group of which he himself formed
a part. He was much moved by the diffidence, as well as the trouble,
which her looks seemed to convey, and tacitly formed the resolution of
seeking a more full explanation with her in the course of the evening.
Norna, he remembered, had stated that these two amiable young women were
in danger, the nature of which she left unexplained, but which he
suspected to arise out of their mistaking the character of this daring
and all-engrossing stranger; and he secretly resolved, that, if
possible, he would be the means of detecting Cleveland, and of saving
his early friends.

As he revolved these thoughts, his attention to the Miss Groatsettars
gradually diminished, and perhaps he might altogether have forgotten the
necessity of his appearing an uninterested spectator of what was
passing, had not the signal been given for the ladies retiring from
table. Minna, with a native grace, and somewhat of stateliness in her
manner, bent her head to the company in general, with a kinder and more
particular expression as her eye reached Cleveland. Brenda, with the
blush which attended her slightest personal exertion when exposed to the
eyes of others, hurried through the same departing salutation with an
embarrassment which almost amounted to awkwardness, but which her youth
and timidity rendered at once natural and interesting. Again Mordaunt
thought that her eye distinguished him amidst the numerous company. For
the first time he ventured to encounter and to return the glance; and
the consciousness that he had done so doubled the glow of Brenda's
countenance, while something resembling displeasure was blended with her

When the ladies had retired, the men betook themselves to the deep and
serious drinking, which, according to the fashion of the times, preceded
the evening exercise of the dance. Old Magnus himself, by precept and
example, exhorted them "to make the best use of their time, since the
ladies would soon summon them to shake their feet." At the same time
giving the signal to a grey-headed domestic, who stood behind him in the
dress of a Dantzic skipper, and who added to many other occupations that
of butler, "Eric Scambester," he said, "has the good ship the Jolly
Mariner of Canton, got her cargo on board?"

"Chokeful loaded," answered the Ganymede of Burgh-Westra, "with good
Nantz, Jamaica sugar, Portugal lemons, not to mention nutmeg and toast,
and water taken in from the Shellicoat spring."

Loud and long laughed the guests at this stated and regular jest betwixt
the Udaller and his butler, which always served as a preface to the
introduction of a punch-bowl of enormous size, the gift of the captain
of one of the Honourable East India Company's vessels, which, bound from
China homeward, had been driven north-about by stress of weather into
Lerwick-bay, and had there contrived to get rid of part of the cargo,
without very scrupulously reckoning for the King's duties.

Magnus Troil, having been a large customer, besides otherwise obliging
Captain Coolie, had been remunerated, on the departure of the ship, with
this splendid vehicle of conviviality, at the very sight of which, as
old Eric Scambester bent under its weight, a murmur of applause ran
through the company. The good old toasts dedicated to the prosperity of
Zetland, were then honoured with flowing bumpers. "Death to the head
that never wears hair!" was a sentiment quaffed to the success of the
fishing, as proposed by the sonorous voice of the Udaller. Claud Halcro
proposed with general applause, "The health of their worthy landmaster,
the sweet sister meat-mistresses; health to man, death to fish, and
growth to the produce of the ground." The same recurring sentiment was
proposed more concisely by a whiteheaded compeer of Magnus Troil, in the
words, "God open the mouth of the grey fish, and keep his hand about the

Full opportunity was afforded to all to honour these interesting toasts.
Those nearest the capacious Mediterranean of punch, were accommodated by
the Udaller with their portions, dispensed in huge rummer glasses by his
own hospitable hand, whilst they who sat at a greater distance
replenished their cups by means of a rich silver flagon, facetiously
called the Pinnace; which, filled occasionally at the bowl, served to
dispense its liquid treasures to the more remote parts of the table, and
occasioned many right merry jests on its frequent voyages. The commerce
of the Zetlanders with foreign vessels, and homeward-bound West
Indiamen, had early served to introduce among them the general use of
the generous beverage, with which the Jolly Mariner of Canton was
loaded; nor was there a man in the archipelago of Thule more skilled in
combining its rich ingredients, than old Eric Scambester, who indeed was
known far and wide through the isles by the name of the Punch-maker,
after the fashion of the ancient Norwegians, who conferred on Rollo the
Walker, and other heroes of their strain, epithets expressive of the
feats of strength or dexterity in which they excelled all other men.

The good liquor was not slow in performing its office of exhilaration,
and, as the revel advanced, some ancient Norse drinking-songs were sung
with great effect by the guests, tending to show, that if, from want of
exercise, the martial virtues of their ancestors had decayed among the
Zetlanders, they could still actively and intensely enjoy so much of the
pleasures of Valhalla as consisted in quaffing the oceans of mead and
brown ale, which were promised by Odin to those who should share his
Scandinavian paradise. At length, excited by the cup and song, the
diffident grew bold, and the modest loquacious--all became desirous of
talking, and none were willing to listen--each man mounted his own
special hobby-horse, and began eagerly to call on his neighbours to
witness his agility. Amongst others, the little bard, who had now got
next to our friend Mordaunt Mertoun, evinced a positive determination to
commence and conclude, in all its longitude and latitude, the story of
his introduction to glorious John Dryden; and Triptolemus Yellowley, as
his spirits arose, shaking off a feeling of involuntary awe, with which
he was impressed by the opulence indicated in all he saw around him, as
well as by the respect paid to Magnus Troil by the assembled guests,
began to broach, to the astonished and somewhat offended Udaller, some
of those projects for ameliorating the islands, which he had boasted of
to his fellow-travellers upon their journey of the morning.

But the innovations which he suggested, and the reception which they met
with at the hand of Magnus Troil, must be told in the next Chapter.


[40] See Hibbert's Description of the Zetland Islands, p. 470.


  We'll keep our customs--what is law itself,
  But old establish'd custom? What religion,
  (I mean, with one-half of the men that use it,)
  Save the good use and wont that carries them
  To worship how and where their fathers worshipp'd?
  All things resolve in custom--we'll keep ours.

                                                 _Old Play._

We left the company of Magnus Troil engaged in high wassail and revelry.
Mordaunt, who, like his father, shunned the festive cup, did not partake
in the cheerfulness which the ship diffused among the guests as they
unloaded it, and the pinnace, as it circumnavigated the table. But, in
low spirits as he seemed, he was the more meet prey for the
story-telling Halcro, who had fixed upon him, as in a favourable state
to play the part of listener, with something of the same instinct that
directs the hooded crow to the sick sheep among the flock, which will
most patiently suffer itself to be made a prey of. Joyfully did the poet
avail himself of the advantages afforded by Mordaunt's absence of mind,
and unwillingness to exert himself in measures of active defence. With
the unfailing dexterity peculiar to prosers, he contrived to dribble out
his tale to double its usual length, by the exercise of the privilege of
unlimited digressions; so that the story, like a horse on the _grand
pas_, seemed to be advancing with rapidity, while, in reality, it scarce
was progressive at the rate of a yard in the quarter of an hour. At
length, however, he had discussed, in all its various bearings and
relations, the history of his friendly landlord, the master fashioner in
Russel Street, including a short sketch of five of his relations, and
anecdotes of three of his principal rivals, together with some general
observations upon the dress and fashion of the period; and having
marched thus far through the environs and outworks of his story, he
arrived at the body of the place, for so the Wits' Coffeehouse might be
termed. He paused on the threshold, however, to explain the nature of
his landlord's right occasionally to intrude himself into this
well-known temple of the Muses.

"It consisted," said Halcro, "in the two principal points, of bearing
and forbearing; for my friend Thimblethwaite was a person of wit
himself, and never quarrelled with any jest which the wags who
frequented that house were flinging about, like squibs and crackers on a
rejoicing night; and then, though some of the wits--ay, and I daresay
the greater number, might have had some dealings with him in the way of
trade, he never was the person to put any man of genius in unpleasant
remembrance of such trifles. And though, my dear young Master Mordaunt,
you may think this is but ordinary civility, because in this country it
happens seldom that there is either much borrowing or lending, and
because, praised be Heaven, there are neither bailiffs nor
sheriff-officers to take a poor fellow by the neck, and because there
are no prisons to put him into when they have done so, yet, let me tell
you, that such a lamblike forbearance as that of my poor, dear, deceased
landlord, Thimblethwaite, is truly uncommon within the London bills of
mortality. I could tell you of such things that have happened even to
myself, as well as others, with these cursed London tradesmen, as would
make your hair stand on end.--But what the devil has put old Magnus into
such note? he shouts as if he were trying his voice against a north-west
gale of wind."

Loud indeed was the roar of the old Udaller, as, worn out of patience by
the schemes of improvement which the factor was now undauntedly pressing
upon his consideration, he answered him, (to use an Ossianic phrase,)
like a wave upon a rock,

"Trees, Sir Factor--talk not to me of trees! I care not though there
never be one on the island, tall enough to hang a coxcomb upon. We will
have no trees but those that rise in our havens--the good trees that
have yards for boughs, and standing-rigging for leaves."

"But touching the draining of the lake of Braebaster, whereof I spoke to
you, Master Magnus Troil," said the persevering agriculturist, "whilk I
opine would be of so much consequence, there are two ways--down the
Linklater glen, or by the Scalmester burn. Now, having taken the level
of both"----

"There is a third way, Master Yellowley," answered the landlord.

"I profess I can see none," replied Triptolemus, with as much good faith
as a joker could desire in the subject of his wit, "in respect that the
hill called Braebaster on the south, and ane high bank on the north, of
whilk I cannot carry the name rightly in my head"----

"Do not tell us of hills and banks, Master Yellowley--there is a third
way of draining the loch, and it is the only way that shall be tried in
my day. You say my Lord Chamberlain and I are the joint proprietors--so
be it--let each of us start an equal proportion of brandy, lime-juice,
and sugar, into the loch--a ship's cargo or two will do the job--let us
assemble all the jolly Udallers of the country, and in twenty-four hours
you shall see dry ground where the loch of Braebaster now is."

A loud laugh of applause, which for a time actually silenced
Triptolemus, attended a jest so very well suited to time and place--a
jolly toast was given--a merry song was sung--the ship unloaded her
sweets--the pinnace made its genial rounds--the duet betwixt Magnus and
Triptolemus, which had attracted the attention of the whole company from
its superior vehemence, now once more sunk, and merged into the general
hum of the convivial table, and the poet Halcro again resumed his
usurped possession of the ear of Mordaunt Mertoun.

"Whereabouts was I?" he said, with a tone which expressed to his weary
listener more plainly than words could, how much of his desultory tale
yet remained to be told. "O, I remember--we were just at the door of the
Wits' Coffeehouse--it was set up by one"----

"Nay, but, my dear Master Halcro," said his hearer, somewhat
impatiently, "I am desirous to hear of your meeting with Dryden."

"What, with glorious John?--true--ay--where was I? At the Wits'
Coffeehouse--Well, in at the door we got--the waiters, and so forth,
staring at me; for as to Thimblethwaite, honest fellow, his was a
well-known face.--I can tell you a story about that"----

"Nay, but John Dryden?" said Mordaunt, in a tone which deprecated
further digression.

"Ay, ay, glorious John--where was I?--Well, as we stood close by the
bar, where one fellow sat grinding of coffee, and another putting up
tobacco into penny parcels--a pipe and a dish cost just a penny--then
and there it was that I had the first peep of him. One Dennis sat near
him, who"----

"Nay, but John Dryden--what like was he?" demanded Mordaunt.

"Like a little fat old man, with his own grey hair, and in a
full-trimmed black suit, that sat close as a glove. Honest
Thimblethwaite let no one but himself shape for glorious John, and he
had a slashing hand at a sleeve, I promise you--But there is no getting
a mouthful of common sense spoken here--d----n that Scotchman, he and
old Magnus are at it again!"

It was very true; and although the interruption did not resemble a
thunder-clap, to which the former stentorian exclamation of the Udaller
might have been likened, it was a close and clamorous dispute,
maintained by question, answer, retort, and repartee, as closely huddled
upon each other as the sounds which announce from a distance a close and
sustained fire of musketry.

"Hear reason, sir?" said the Udaller; "we will hear reason, and speak
reason too; and if reason fall short, you shall have rhyme to boot.--Ha,
my little friend Halcro!"

Though cut off in the middle of his best story, (if that could be said
to have a middle, which had neither beginning nor end,) the bard
bristled up at the summons, like a corps of light infantry when ordered
up to the support of the grenadiers, looked smart, slapped the table
with his hand, and denoted his becoming readiness to back his hospitable
landlord, as becomes a well-entertained guest. Triptolemus was a little
daunted at this reinforcement of his adversary; he paused, like a
cautious general, in the sweeping attack which he had commenced on the
peculiar usages of Zetland, and spoke not again until the Udaller poked
him with the insulting query, "Where is your reason now, Master
Yellowley, that you were deafening me with a moment since?"

"Be but patient, worthy sir," replied the agriculturist; "what on earth
can you or any other man say in defence of that thing you call a plough,
in this blinded country? Why, even the savage Highlandmen, in Caithness
and Sutherland, can make more work, and better, with their gascromh, or
whatever they call it."

"But what ails you at it, sir?" said the Udaller; "let me hear your
objections to it. It tills our land, and what would ye more?"

"It hath but one handle or stilt," replied Triptolemus.

"And who the devil," said the poet, aiming at something smart, "would
wish to need a pair of stilts, if he can manage to walk with a single

"Or tell me," said Magnus Troil, "how it were possible for Neil of
Lupness, that lost one arm by his fall from the crag of Nekbreckan, to
manage a plough with two handles?"

"The harness is of raw seal-skin," said Triptolemus.

"It will save dressed leather," answered Magnus Troil.

"It is drawn by four wretched bullocks," said the agriculturist, "that
are yoked breast-fashion; and two women must follow this unhappy
instrument, and complete the furrows with a couple of shovels."

"Drink about, Master Yellowley," said the Udaller; "and, as you say in
Scotland, 'never fash your thumb.' Our cattle are too high-spirited to
let one go before the other; our men are too gentle and well-nurtured to
take the working-field without the women's company; our ploughs till our
land--our land bears us barley; we brew our ale, eat our bread, and make
strangers welcome to their share of it. Here's to you, Master

This was said in a tone meant to be decisive of the question; and,
accordingly, Halcro whispered to Mordaunt, "That has settled the matter,
and now we will get on with glorious John.--There he sat in his suit of
full-trimmed black; two years due was the bill, as mine honest landlord
afterwards told me,--and such an eye in his head!--none of your burning,
blighting, falcon eyes, which we poets are apt to make a rout
about,--but a soft, full, thoughtful, yet penetrating glance--never saw
the like of it in my life, unless it were little Stephen Kleancogg's,
the fiddler, at Papastow, who"----

"Nay, but John Dryden?" said Mordaunt, who, for want of better
amusement, had begun to take a sort of pleasure in keeping the old
gentleman to his narrative, as men herd in a restiff sheep, when they
wish to catch him. He returned to his theme, with his usual phrase of
"Ay, true--glorious John--Well, sir, he cast his eye, such as I have
described it, on mine landlord, and 'Honest Tim,' said he, 'what hast
thou got here?' and all the wits, and lords, and gentlemen, that used to
crowd round him, like the wenches round a pedlar at a fair, they made
way for us, and up we came to the fireside, where he had his own
established chair,--I have heard it was carried to the balcony in
summer, but it was by the fireside when I saw it,--so up came Tim
Thimblethwaite, through the midst of them, as bold as a lion, and I
followed with a small parcel under my arm, which I had taken up partly
to oblige my landlord, as the shop porter was not in the way, and partly
that I might be thought to have something to do there, for you are to
think there was no admittance at the Wits' for strangers who had no
business there.--I have heard that Sir Charles Sedley said a good thing
about that"----

"Nay, but you forget glorious John," said Mordaunt.

"Ay, glorious you may well call him. They talk of their Blackmore, and
Shadwell, and such like,--not fit to tie the latchets of John's
shoes--'Well,' he said to my landlord, 'what have you got there?' and
he, bowing, I warrant, lower than he would to a duke, said he had made
bold to come and show him the stuff which Lady Elizabeth had chose for
her nightgown.--'And which of your geese is that, Tim, who has got it
tucked under his wing?'--'He is an Orkney goose, if it please you, Mr.
Dryden,' said Tim, who had wit at will, 'and he hath brought you a copy
of verses for your honour to look at.'--'Is he amphibious?' said
glorious John, taking the paper,--and methought I could rather have
faced a battery of cannon than the crackle it gave as it opened, though
he did not speak in a way to dash one neither;--and then he looked at
the verses, and he was pleased to say, in a very encouraging way indeed,
with a sort of good-humoured smile on his face, and certainly for a fat
elderly gentleman,--for I would not compare it to Minna's smile, or
Brenda's,--he had the pleasantest smile I ever saw,--'Why, Tim,' he
said, 'this goose of yours will prove a swan on your hands.' With that
he smiled a little, and they all laughed, and none louder than those who
stood too far off to hear the jest; for every one knew when he smiled
there was something worth laughing at, and so took it upon trust; and
the word passed through among the young Templars, and the wits, and the
smarts, and there was nothing but question on question who we were; and
one French fellow was trying to tell them it was only Monsieur Tim
Thimblethwaite; but he made such work with his Dumbletate and
Timbletate, that I thought his explanation would have lasted"----

"As long as your own story," thought Mordaunt; but the narrative was at
length finally cut short, by the strong and decided voice of the

"I will hear no more on it, Mr. Factor!" he exclaimed.

"At least let me say something about the breed of horses," said
Yellowley, in rather a cry-mercy tone of voice. "Your horses, my dear
sir, resemble cats in size, and tigers in devilry!"

"For their size," said Magnus, "they are the easier for us to get off
and on them--[as Triptolemus experienced this morning, thought Mordaunt
to himself]--and, as for their devilry, let no one mount them that
cannot manage them."

A twinge of self-conviction, on the part of the agriculturist, prevented
him from reply. He darted a deprecatory glance at Mordaunt, as if for
the purpose of imploring secrecy respecting his tumble; and the Udaller,
who saw his advantage, although he was not aware of the cause, pursued
it with the high and stern tone proper to one who had all his life been
unaccustomed to meet with, and unapt to endure, opposition.

"By the blood of Saint Magnus the Martyr," he said, "but you are a fine
fellow, Master Factor Yellowley! You come to us from a strange land,
understanding neither our laws, nor our manners, nor our language, and
you propose to become governor of the country, and that we should all be
your slaves!"

"My pupils, worthy sir, my pupils!" said Yellowley, "and that only for
your own proper advantage."

"We are too old to go to school," said the Zetlander. "I tell you once
more, we will sow and reap our grain as our fathers did--we will eat
what God sends us, with our doors open to the stranger, even as theirs
were open. If there is aught imperfect in our practice, we will amend it
in time and season; but the blessed Baptist's holyday was made for light
hearts and quick heels. He that speaks a word more of reason, as you
call it, or any thing that looks like it, shall swallow a pint of
sea-water--he shall, by this hand!--and so fill up the good ship, the
Jolly Mariner of Canton, once more, for the benefit of those that will
stick by her; and let the rest have a fling with the fiddlers, who have
been summoning us this hour. I will warrant every wench is on tiptoe by
this time. Come, Mr. Yellowley, no unkindness, man--why, man, thou
feelest the rolling of the Jolly Mariner still"--(for, in truth, honest
Triptolemus showed a little unsteadiness of motion, as he rose to attend
his host)--"but never mind, we shall have thee find thy land-legs to
reel it with yonder bonny belles. Come along, Triptolemus--let me
grapple thee fast, lest thou _trip_, old Triptolemus--ha, ha, ha!"

So saying, the portly though weatherbeaten hulk of the Udaller sailed
off like a man-of-war that had braved a hundred gales, having his guest
in tow like a recent prize. The greater part of the revellers followed
their leader with loud jubilee, although there were several stanch
topers, who, taking the option left them by the Udaller, remained behind
to relieve the Jolly Mariner of a fresh cargo, amidst many a pledge to
the health of their absent landlord, and to the prosperity of his
roof-tree, with whatsoever other wishes of kindness could be devised, as
an apology for another pint-bumper of noble punch.

The rest soon thronged the dancing-room, an apartment which partook of
the simplicity of the time and of the country. Drawing-rooms and saloons
were then unknown in Scotland, save in the houses of the nobility, and
of course absolutely so in Zetland; but a long, low, anomalous
store-room, sometimes used for the depositation of merchandise,
sometimes for putting aside lumber, and a thousand other purposes, was
well known to all the youth of Dunrossness, and of many a district
besides, as the scene of the merry dance, which was sustained with so
much glee when Magnus Troil gave his frequent feasts.

The first appearance of this ball-room might have shocked a fashionable
party, assembled for the quadrille or the waltz. Low as we have stated
the apartment to be, it was but imperfectly illuminated by lamps,
candles, ship-lanterns, and a variety of other _candelabra_, which
served to throw a dusky light upon the floor, and upon the heaps of
merchandise and miscellaneous articles which were piled around; some of
them stores for the winter; some, goods destined for exportation; some,
the tribute of Neptune, paid at the expense of shipwrecked vessels,
whose owners were unknown; some, articles of barter received by the
proprietor, who, like most others at the period, was somewhat of a
merchant as well as a landholder, in exchange for the fish, and other
articles, the produce of his estate. All these, with the chests, boxes,
casks, &c., which contained them, had been drawn aside, and piled one
above the other, in order to give room for the dancers, who, light and
lively as if they had occupied the most splendid saloon in the parish of
St. James's, executed their national dances with equal grace and

The group of old men who looked on, bore no inconsiderable resemblance
to a party of aged tritons, engaged in beholding the sports of the
sea-nymphs; so hard a look had most of them acquired by contending with
the elements, and so much did the shaggy hair and beards, which many of
them cultivated after the ancient Norwegian fashion, give their heads
the character of these supposed natives of the deep. The young people,
on the other hand, were uncommonly handsome, tall, well-made, and
shapely; the men with long fair hair, and, until broken by the weather,
a fresh ruddy complexion, which, in the females, was softened into a
bloom of infinite delicacy. Their natural good ear for music qualified
them to second to the utmost the exertions of a band, whose strains were
by no means contemptible; while the elders, who stood around or sat
quiet upon the old sea-chests, which served for chairs, criticised the
dancers, as they compared their execution with their own exertions in
former days; or, warmed by the cup and flagon, which continued to
circulate among them, snapped their fingers, and beat time with their
feet to the music.

Mordaunt looked upon this scene of universal mirth with the painful
recollection, that he, thrust aside from his pre-eminence, no longer
exercised the important duties of chief of the dancers, or office of
leader of the revels, which had been assigned to the stranger Cleveland.
Anxious, however, to suppress the feelings of his own disappointment,
which he felt it was neither wise to entertain nor manly to display, he
approached his fair neighbours, to whom he had been so acceptable at
table, with the purpose of inviting one of them to become his partner in
the dance. But the awfully ancient old lady, even the Lady Glowrowrum,
who had only tolerated the exuberance of her nieces' mirth during the
time of dinner, because her situation rendered it then impossible for
her to interfere, was not disposed to permit the apprehended renewal of
the intimacy implied in Mertoun's invitation. She therefore took upon
herself, in the name of her two nieces, who sat pouting beside her in
displeased silence, to inform Mordaunt, after thanking him for his
civility, that the hands of her nieces were engaged for that evening;
and, as he continued to watch the party at a little distance, he had an
opportunity of being convinced that the alleged engagement was a mere
apology to get rid of him, when he saw the two good-humoured sisters
join the dance, under the auspices of the next young men who asked their
hands. Incensed at so marked a slight, and unwilling to expose himself
to another, Mordaunt Mertoun drew back from the circle of dancers,
shrouded himself amongst the mass of inferior persons who crowded into
the bottom of the room as spectators, and there, concealed from the
observation of others, digested his own mortification as well as he
could--that is to say, very ill--and with all the philosophy of his
age--that is to say, with none at all.


  A torch for me--let wantons, light of heart,
  Tickle the useless rushes with their heels:
  For I am proverb'd with a grandsire phrase--
  I'll be a candle-holder, and look on.

                                         _Romeo and Juliet._

The youth, says the moralist Johnson, cares not for the boy's
hobbyhorse, nor the man for the youth's mistress; and therefore the
distress of Mordaunt Mertoun, when excluded from the merry dance, may
seem trifling to many of my readers, who would, nevertheless, think they
did well to be angry if deposed from their usual place in an assembly of
a different kind. There lacked not amusement, however, for those whom
the dance did not suit, or who were not happy enough to find partners to
their liking. Halcro, now completely in his element, had assembled round
him an audience, to whom he was declaiming his poetry with all the
enthusiasm of glorious John himself, and receiving in return the usual
degree of applause allowed to minstrels who recite their own rhymes--so
long at least as the author is within hearing of the criticism. Halcro's
poetry might indeed have interested the antiquary as well as the admirer
of the Muses, for several of his pieces were translations or imitations
from the Scaldic sagas, which continued to be sung by the fishermen of
those islands even until a very late period; insomuch, that when Gray's
poems first found their way to Orkney, the old people recognised at
once, in the ode of the "Fatal Sisters," the Runic rhymes which had
amused or terrified their infancy under the title of the "Magicians,"
and which the fishers of North Ronaldshaw, and other remote isles, used
still to sing when asked for a Norse ditty.[41]

Half listening, half lost in his own reflections, Mordaunt Mertoun stood
near the door of the apartment, and in the outer ring of the little
circle formed around old Halcro, while the bard chanted to a low, wild,
monotonous air, varied only by the efforts of the singer to give
interest and emphasis to particular passages, the following imitation of
a Northern war-song:


  The sun is rising dimly red,
  The wind is wailing low and dread;
  From his cliff the eagle sallies,
  Leaves the wolf his darksome valleys;
  In the midst the ravens hover,
  Peep the wild-dogs from the cover,
  Screaming, croaking, baying, yelling,
  Each in his wild accents telling,
  "Soon we feast on dead and dying,
  Fair-hair'd Harold's flag is flying."

  Many a crest in air is streaming,
  Many a helmet darkly gleaming,
  Many an arm the axe uprears,
  Doom'd to hew the wood of spears.
  All along the crowded ranks,
  Horses neigh and armour clanks;
  Chiefs are shouting, clarions ringing,
  Louder still the bard is singing,
  "Gather, footmen,--gather, horsemen,
  To the field, ye valiant Norsemen!

  "Halt ye not for food or slumber,
  View not vantage, count not number;
  Jolly reapers, forward still;
  Grow the crop on vale or hill,
  Thick or scatter'd, stiff or lithe,
  It shall down before the scythe.
  Forward with your sickles bright,
  Reap the harvest of the fight--
  Onward, footmen,--onward, horsemen,
  To the charge, ye gallant Norsemen!

  "Fatal Choosers of the Slaughter,
  O'er you hovers Odin's daughter;
  Hear the voice she spreads before ye,--
  Victory, and wealth, and glory;
  Or old Valhalla's roaring hail,
  Her ever-circling mead and ale,
  Where for eternity unite
  The joys of wassail and of fight.
  Headlong forward, foot and horsemen,
  Charge and fight, and die like Norsemen!"

"The poor unhappy blinded heathens!" said Triptolemus, with a sigh deep
enough for a groan; "they speak of their eternal cups of ale, and I
question if they kend how to manage a croft land of grain!"

"The cleverer fellows they, neighbour Yellowley," answered the poet, "if
they made ale without barley."

"Barley!--alack-a-day!" replied the more accurate agriculturist, "who
ever heard of barley in these parts? Bear, my dearest friend, bear is
all they have, and wonderment it is to me that they ever see an awn of
it. Ye scart the land with a bit thing ye ca' a pleugh--ye might as weel
give it a ritt with the teeth of a redding-kame. O, to see the sock, and
the heel, and the sole-clout of a real steady Scottish pleugh, with a
chield like a Samson between the stilts, laying a weight on them would
keep down a mountain; twa stately owsen, and as many broad-breasted
horse in the traces, going through soil and till, and leaving a fur in
the ground would carry off water like a causeyed syver! They that have
seen a sight like that, have seen something to crack about in another
sort, than those unhappy auld-warld stories of war and slaughter, of
which the land has seen even but too mickle, for a' your singing and
soughing awa in praise of such bloodthirsty doings, Master Claud

"It is a heresy," said the animated little poet, bridling and drawing
himself up, as if the whole defence of the Orcadian Archipelago rested
on his single arm--"It is a heresy so much as to name one's native
country, if a man is not prepared when and how to defend himself--ay,
and to annoy another. The time has been, that if we made not good ale
and aquavitæ, we knew well enough where to find that which was ready
made to our hand; but now the descendants of Sea-kings, and Champions,
and Berserkars, are become as incapable of using their swords, as if
they were so many women. Ye may praise them for a strong pull on an oar,
or a sure foot on a skerry; but what else could glorious John himself
say of ye, my good Hialtlanders, that any man would listen to?"

"Spoken like an angel, most noble poet," said Cleveland, who, during an
interval of the dance, stood near the party in which this conversation
was held. "The old champions you talked to us about yesternight, were
the men to make a harp ring--gallant fellows, that were friends to the
sea, and enemies to all that sailed on it. Their ships, I suppose, were
clumsy enough; but if it is true that they went upon the account as far
as the Levant, I scarce believe that ever better fellows unloosed a

"Ay," replied Halcro, "there you spoke them right. In those days none
could call their life and means of living their own, unless they dwelt
twenty miles out of sight of the blue sea. Why, they had public prayers
put up in every church in Europe, for deliverance from the ire of the
Northmen. In France and England, ay, and in Scotland too, for as high as
they hold their head now-a-days, there was not a bay or a haven, but it
was freer to our forefathers than to the poor devils of natives; and now
we cannot, forsooth, so much as grow our own barley without Scottish
help"--(here he darted a sarcastic glance at the factor)--"I would I saw
the time we were to measure arms with them again!"

"Spoken like a hero once more," said Cleveland.

"Ah!" continued the little bard, "I would it were possible to see our
barks, once the water-dragons of the world, swimming with the black
raven standard waving at the topmast, and their decks glimmering with
arms, instead of being heaped up with stockfish--winning with our
fearless hands what the niggard soil denies--paying back all old scorn
and modern injury--reaping where we never sowed, and felling what we
never planted--living and laughing through the world, and smiling when
we were summoned to quit it!"

So spoke Claud Halcro, in no serious, or at least most certainly in no
sober mood, his brain (never the most stable) whizzing under the
influence of fifty well-remembered sagas, besides five bumpers of
usquebaugh and brandy; and Cleveland, between jest and earnest, clapped
him on the shoulder, and again repeated, "Spoken like a hero!"

"Spoken like a fool, I think," said Magnus Troil, whose attention had
been also attracted by the vehemence of the little bard--"where would
you cruize upon, or against whom?--we are all subjects of one realm, I
trow, and I would have you to remember, that your voyage may bring up at
Execution-dock.--I like not the Scots--no offence, Mr. Yellowley--that
is, I would like them well enough if they would stay quiet in their own
land, and leave us at peace with our own people, and manners, and
fashions; and if they would but abide there till I went to harry them
like a mad old Berserkar, I would leave them in peace till the day of
judgment. With what the sea sends us, and the land lends us, as the
proverb says, and a set of honest neighbourly folks to help us to
consume it, so help me, Saint Magnus, as I think we are even but too

"I know what war is," said an old man, "and I would as soon sail through
Sumburgh-roost in a cockle-shell, or in a worse loom, as I would venture
there again."

"And, pray, what wars knew your valour?" said Halcro, who, though
forbearing to contradict his landlord from a sense of respect, was not a
whit inclined to abandon his argument to any meaner authority.

"I was pressed," answered the old Triton, "to serve under Montrose, when
he came here about the sixteen hundred and fifty-one, and carried a sort
of us off, will ye nill ye, to get our throats cut in the wilds of
Strathnavern[42](_k_)--I shall never forget it--we had been hard put to
it for victuals--what would I have given for a luncheon of Burgh-Westra
beef--ay, or a mess of sour sillocks?--When our Highlandmen brought in a
dainty drove of kyloes, much ceremony there was not, for we shot and
felled, and flayed, and roasted, and broiled, as it came to every man's
hand; till, just as our beards were at the greasiest, we heard--God
preserve us--a tramp of horse, then twa or three drapping shots,--then
came a full salvo,--and then, when the officers were crying on us to
stand, and maist of us looking which way we might run away, down they
broke, horse and foot, with old John Urry, or Hurry,[43] or whatever
they called him--he hurried us that day, and worried us to boot--and we
began to fall as thick as the stots that we were felling five minutes

"And Montrose," said the soft voice of the graceful Minna; "what became
of Montrose, or how looked he?"

"Like a lion with the hunters before him," answered the old gentleman;
"but I looked not twice his way, for my own lay right over the hill."

"And so you left him?" said Minna, in a tone of the deepest contempt.

"It was no fault of mine, Mistress Minna," answered the old man,
somewhat out of countenance; "but I was there with no choice of my own;
and, besides, what good could I have done?--all the rest were running
like sheep, and why should I have staid?"

"You might have died with him," said Minna.

"And lived with him to all eternity, in immortal verse!" added Claud

"I thank you, Mistress Minna," replied the plain-dealing Zetlander; "and
I thank you, my old friend Claud;--but I would rather drink both your
healths in this good bicker of ale, like a living man as I am, than that
you should be making songs in my honour, for having died forty or fifty
years agone. But what signified it,--run or fight, 'twas all one;--they
took Montrose, poor fellow, for all his doughty deeds, and they took me
that did no doughty deeds at all; and they hanged him, poor man, and as
for me"----

"I trust in Heaven they flogged and pickled you," said Cleveland, worn
out of patience with the dull narrative of the peaceful Zetlander's
poltroonery, of which he seemed so wondrous little ashamed.

"Flog horses, and pickle beef," said Magnus; "Why, you have not the
vanity to think, that, with all your quarterdeck airs, you will make
poor old neighbour Haagen ashamed that he was not killed some scores of
years since? You have looked on death yourself, my doughty young friend,
but it was with the eyes of a young man who wishes to be thought of; but
we are a peaceful people,--peaceful, that is, as long as any one should
be peaceful, and that is till some one has the impudence to wrong us, or
our neighbours; and then, perhaps, they may not find our northern blood
much cooler in our veins than was that of the old Scandinavians that
gave us our names and lineage.--Get ye along, get ye along to the
sword-dance,[44] that the strangers that are amongst us may see that our
hands and our weapons are not altogether unacquainted even yet."

A dozen cutlasses, selected hastily from an old arm-chest, and whose
rusted hue bespoke how seldom they left the sheath, armed the same
number of young Zetlanders, with whom mingled six maidens, led by Minna
Troil; and the minstrelsy instantly commenced a tune appropriate to the
ancient Norwegian war-dance, the evolutions of which are perhaps still
practised in those remote islands.


The first movement was graceful and majestic, the youths holding their
swords erect, and without much gesture; but the tune, and the
corresponding motions of the dancers, became gradually more and more
rapid,--they clashed their swords together, in measured time, with a
spirit which gave the exercise a dangerous appearance in the eye of the
spectator, though the firmness, justice, and accuracy, with which the
dancers kept time with the stroke of their weapons, did, in truth,
ensure its safety. The most singular part of the exhibition was the
courage exhibited by the female performers, who now, surrounded by the
swordsmen, seemed like the Sabine maidens in the hands of their Roman
lovers; now, moving under the arch of steel which the young men had
formed, by crossing their weapons over the heads of their fair partners,
resembled the band of Amazons when they first joined in the Pyrrhic
dance with the followers of Theseus. But by far the most striking and
appropriate figure was that of Minna Troil, whom Halcro had long
since entitled the Queen of Swords, and who, indeed, moved amidst the
swordsmen with an air, which seemed to hold all the drawn blades as the
proper accompaniments of her person, and the implements of her pleasure.
And when the mazes of the dance became more intricate, when the close
and continuous clash of the weapons made some of her companions shrink,
and show signs of fear, her cheek, her lip, and her eye, seemed rather
to announce, that, at the moment when the weapons flashed fastest, and
rung sharpest around her, she was most completely self-possessed, and in
her own element. Last of all, when the music had ceased, and she
remained for an instant upon the floor by herself, as the rule of the
dance required, the swordsmen and maidens, who departed from around her,
seemed the guards and the train of some princess, who, dismissed by her
signal, were leaving her for a time to solitude. Her own look and
attitude, wrapped, as she probably was, in some vision of the
imagination, corresponded admirably with the ideal dignity which the
spectators ascribed to her; but, almost immediately recollecting
herself, she blushed, as if conscious she had been, though but for an
instant, the object of undivided attention, and gave her hand gracefully
to Cleveland, who, though he had not joined in the dance, assumed the
duty of conducting her to her seat.

As they passed, Mordaunt Mertoun might observe that Cleveland whispered
into Minna's ear, and that her brief reply was accompanied with even
more discomposure of countenance than she had manifested when
encountering the gaze of the whole assembly. Mordaunt's suspicions were
strongly awakened by what he observed, for he knew Minna's character
well, and with what equanimity and indifference she was in the custom of
receiving the usual compliments and gallantries with which her beauty
and her situation rendered her sufficiently familiar.

"Can it be possible she really loves this stranger?" was the unpleasant
thought that instantly shot across Mordaunt's mind;--"And if she does,
what is my interest in the matter?" was the second; and which was
quickly followed by the reflection, that though he claimed no interest
at any time but as a friend, and though that interest was now withdrawn,
he was still, in consideration of their former intimacy, entitled both
to be sorry and angry at her for throwing away her affections on one he
judged unworthy of her. In this process of reasoning, it is probable
that a little mortified vanity, or some indescribable shade of selfish
regret, might be endeavouring to assume the disguise of disinterested
generosity; but there is so much of base alloy in our very best
(unassisted) thoughts, that it is melancholy work to criticise too
closely the motives of our most worthy actions; at least we would
recommend to every one to let those of his neighbours pass current,
however narrowly he may examine the purity of his own.

The sword-dance was succeeded by various other specimens of the same
exercise, and by songs, to which the singers lent their whole soul,
while the audience were sure, as occasion offered, to unite in some
favourite chorus. It is upon such occasions that music, though of a
simple and even rude character, finds its natural empire over the
generous bosom, and produces that strong excitement which cannot be
attained by the most learned compositions of the first masters, which
are caviare to the common ear, although, doubtless, they afford a
delight, exquisite in its kind, to those whose natural capacity and
education have enabled them to comprehend and relish those difficult and
complicated combinations of harmony.

It was about midnight when a knocking at the door of the mansion, with
the sound of the _Gue_ and the _Langspiel_, announced, by their tinkling
chime, the arrival of fresh revellers, to whom, according to the
hospitable custom of the country, the apartments were instantly thrown


[41] See Note I.--Norse Fragments.

[42] Montrose, in his last and ill-advised attempt to invade Scotland,
augmented his small army of Danes and Scottish Royalists, by some bands
of raw troops, hastily levied, or rather pressed into his service, in
the Orkney and Zetland Isles, who, having little heart either to the
cause or manner of service, behaved but indifferently when they came
into action.

[43] Here, as afterwards remarked in the text, the Zetlander's memory
deceived him grossly. Sir John Urry, a brave soldier of fortune, was at
that time in Montrose's army, and made prisoner along with him. He had
changed so often that the mistake is pardonable. After the action, he
was executed by the Covenanters; and

  "Wind-changing Warwick then could change no more"

Strachan commanded the body by which Montrose was routed.

[44] Note VII.--The Sword-Dance.(_l_)


  --------My mind misgives,
  Some consequence, yet hanging in the stars,
  Shall bitterly begin his fearful date
  With this night's revels.

                                         _Romeo and Juliet._

The new-comers were, according to the frequent custom of such frolickers
all over the world, disguised in a sort of masquing habits, and designed
to represent the Tritons and Mermaids, with whom ancient tradition and
popular belief have peopled the northern seas. The former, called by
Zetlanders of that time, Shoupeltins, were represented by young men
grotesquely habited, with false hair, and beards made of flax, and
chaplets composed of sea-ware interwoven with shells, and other marine
productions, with which also were decorated their light-blue or greenish
mantles of wadmaal, repeatedly before-mentioned. They had fish-spears,
and other emblems of their assumed quality, amongst which the classical
taste of Claud Halcro, by whom the masque was arranged, had not
forgotten the conch-shells, which were stoutly and hoarsely winded, from
time to time, by one or two of the aquatic deities, to the great
annoyance of all who stood near them.

The Nereids and Water-nymphs who attended on this occasion, displayed,
as usual, a little more taste and ornament than was to be seen amongst
their male attendants. Fantastic garments of green silk, and other
materials of superior cost and fashion, had been contrived, so as to
imitate their idea of the inhabitants of the waters, and, at the same
time, to show the shape and features of the fair wearers to the best
advantage. The bracelets and shells, which adorned the neck, arms, and
ankles of the pretty Mermaidens, were, in some cases, intermixed with
real pearls; and the appearance, upon the whole, was such as might have
done no discredit to the court of Amphitrite, especially when the long
bright locks, blue eyes, fair complexions, and pleasing features of the
maidens of Thule, were taken into consideration. We do not indeed
pretend to aver, that any of these seeming Mermaids had so accurately
imitated the real siren, as commentators have supposed those attendant
on Cleopatra did, who, adopting the fish's train of their original, were
able, nevertheless, to make their "bends," or "ends," (said commentators
cannot tell which,) "adornings."[45] Indeed, had they not left their
extremities in their natural state, it would have been impossible for
the Zetland sirens to have executed the very pretty dance, with which
they rewarded the company for the ready admission which had been granted
to them.

It was soon discovered that these masquers were no strangers, but a part
of the guests, who, stealing out a little time before, had thus
disguised themselves, in order to give variety to the mirth of the
evening. The muse of Claud Halcro, always active on such occasions, had
supplied them with an appropriate song, of which we may give the
following specimen. The song was alternate betwixt a Nereid or Mermaid,
and a Merman or Triton--the males and females on either part forming a
semi-chorus, which accompanied and bore burden to the principal singer.



  Fathoms deep beneath the wave,
    Stringing beads of glistering pearl,
  Singing the achievements brave
    Of many an old Norwegian earl;
  Dwelling where the tempest's raving
    Falls as light upon our ear,
  As the sigh of lover, craving
    Pity from his lady dear,
  Children of wild Thule, we,
  From the deep caves of the sea,
  As the lark springs from the lea,
  Hither come, to share your glee.



  From reining of the water-horse,
    That bounded till the waves were foaming,
  Watching the infant tempest's course,
    Chasing the sea-snake in his roaming;
  From winding charge-notes on the shell,
    When the huge whale and sword-fish duel,
  Or tolling shroudless seamen's knell,
    When the winds and waves are cruel;
  Children of wild Thule, we
  Have plough'd such furrows on the sea
  As the steer draws on the lea,
  And hither we come to share your glee.



  We heard you in our twilight caves,
    A hundred fathom deep below,
  For notes of joy can pierce the waves,
    That drown each sound of war and woe.
  Those who dwell beneath the sea
    Love the sons of Thule well;
  Thus, to aid your mirth, bring we
    Dance, and song, and sounding shell.
  Children of dark Thule, know,
  Those who dwell by haaf and voe,
  Where your daring shallops row,
  Come to share the festal show.

The final chorus was borne by the whole voices, excepting those carrying
the conch-shells, who had been trained to blow them in a sort of rude
accompaniment, which had a good effect. The poetry, as well as the
performance of the masquers, received great applause from all who
pretended to be judges of such matters; but above all, from Triptolemus
Yellowley, who, his ear having caught the agricultural sounds of plough
and furrow, and his brain being so well drenched that it could only
construe the words in their most literal acceptation, declared roundly,
and called Mordaunt to bear witness, that, though it was a shame to
waste so much good lint as went to form the Tritons' beards and
periwigs, the song contained the only words of common sense which he had
heard all that long day.

But Mordaunt had no time to answer the appeal, being engaged in
attending with the utmost vigilance to the motions of one of the female
masquers, who had given him a private signal as they entered, which
induced him, though uncertain who she might prove to be, to expect some
communication from her of importance. The siren who had so boldly
touched his arm, and had accompanied the gesture with an expression of
eye which bespoke his attention, was disguised with a good deal more
care than her sister-masquers, her mantle being loose, and wide enough
to conceal her shape completely, and her face hidden beneath a silk
mask. He observed that she gradually detached herself from the rest of
the masquers, and at length placed herself, as if for the advantage of
the air, near the door of a chamber which remained open, looked
earnestly at him again, and then taking an opportunity, when the
attention of the company was fixed upon the rest of her party, she left
the apartment.

Mordaunt did not hesitate instantly to follow his mysterious guide, for
such we may term the masquer, as she paused to let him see the direction
she was about to take, and then walked swiftly towards the shore of the
voe, or salt-water lake, now lying full before them, its small
summer-waves glistening and rippling under the influence of a broad
moonlight, which, added to the strong twilight of those regions during
the summer solstice, left no reason to regret the absence of the sun,
the path of whose setting was still visible on the waves of the west,
while the horizon on the east side was already beginning to glimmer with
the lights of dawn.

Mordaunt had therefore no difficulty in keeping sight of his disguised
guide, as she tripped it over height and hollow to the sea-side, and,
winding among the rocks, led the way to the spot where his own labours,
during the time of his former intimacy at Burgh-Westra, had constructed
a sheltered and solitary seat, where the daughters of Magnus were
accustomed to spend, when the weather was suitable, a good deal of their
time. Here, then, was to be the place of explanation; for the masquer
stopped, and, after a moment's hesitation, sat down on the rustic
settle. But, from the lips of whom was he to receive it? Norna had first
occurred to him; but her tall figure and slow majestic step were
entirely different from the size and gait of the more fairy-formed
siren, who had preceded him with as light a trip as if she had been a
real Nereid, who, having remained too late upon the shore, was, under
the dread of Amphitrite's displeasure, hastening to regain her native
element. Since it was not Norna, it could be only, he thought, Brenda,
who thus singled him out; and when she had seated herself upon the
bench, and taken the mask from her face, Brenda it accordingly proved to
be. Mordaunt had certainly done nothing to make him dread her presence;
and yet, such is the influence of bashfulness over the ingenuous youth
of both sexes, that he experienced all the embarrassment of one who
finds himself unexpectedly placed before a person who is justly offended
with him. Brenda felt no less embarrassment; but as she had sought this
interview, and was sensible it must be a brief one, she was compelled,
in spite of herself, to begin the conversation.

"Mordaunt," she said, with a hesitating voice; then correcting herself,
she proceeded--"You must be surprised, Mr. Mertoun, that I should have
taken this uncommon freedom."

"It was not till this morning, Brenda," replied Mordaunt, "that any mark
of friendship or intimacy from you or from your sister could have
surprised me. I am far more astonished that you should shun me without
reason for so many hours, than that you should now allow me an
interview. In the name of Heaven, Brenda, in what have I offended you?
or why are we on these unusual terms?"

"May it not be enough to say," replied Brenda, looking downward, "that
it is my father's pleasure?"

"No, it is not enough," returned Mertoun. "Your father cannot have so
suddenly altered his whole thoughts of me, and his whole actions towards
me, without acting under the influence of some strong delusion. I ask
you but to explain of what nature it is; for I will be contented to be
lower in your esteem than the meanest hind in these islands, if I cannot
show that his change of opinion is only grounded upon some infamous
deception, or some extraordinary mistake."

"It may be so," said Brenda--"I hope it is so--that I do hope it is so,
my desire to see you thus in private may well prove to you. But it is
difficult--in short, it is impossible for me to explain to you the cause
of my father's resentment. Norna has spoken with him concerning it
boldly, and I fear they parted in displeasure; and you well know no
light matter could cause that."

"I have observed," said Mordaunt, "that your father is most attentive to
Norna's counsel, and more complaisant to her peculiarities than to those
of others--this I have observed, though he is no willing believer in the
supernatural qualities to which she lays claim."

"They are related distantly," answered Brenda, "and were friends in
youth--nay, as I have heard, it was once supposed they would have been
married; but Norna's peculiarities showed themselves immediately on her
father's death, and there was an end of that matter, if ever there was
any thing in it. But it is certain my father regards her with much
interest; and it is, I fear, a sign how deeply his prejudices respecting
you must be rooted, since they have in some degree quarrelled on your

"Now, blessings upon you, Brenda, that you have called them prejudices,"
said Mertoun, warmly and hastily--"a thousand blessings on you! You were
ever gentle-hearted--you could not have maintained even the show of
unkindness long."

"It was indeed but a show," said Brenda, softening gradually into the
familiar tone in which they had conversed from infancy; "I could never
think, Mordaunt,--never, that is, seriously believe, that you could say
aught unkind of Minna or of me."

"And who dares to say I have?" said Mordaunt, giving way to the natural
impetuosity of his disposition--"Who dares to say that I have, and
ventures at the same time to hope that I will suffer his tongue to
remain in safety betwixt his jaws? By Saint Magnus the Martyr, I will
feed the hawks with it!"

"Nay, now," said Brenda, "your anger only terrifies me, and will force
me to leave you."

"Leave me," said he, "without telling me either the calumny, or the name
of the villainous calumniator!"

"O, there are more than one," answered Brenda, "that have possessed my
father with an opinion--which I cannot myself tell you--but there are
more than one who say"----

"Were they hundreds, Brenda, I will do no less to them than I have
said--Sacred Martyr!--to accuse me of speaking unkindly of those whom I
most respected and valued under Heaven--I will back to the apartment
this instant, and your father shall do me right before all the world."

"Do not go, for the love of Heaven!" said Brenda; "do not go, as you
would not render me the most unhappy wretch in existence!"

"Tell me then, at least, if I guess aright," said Mordaunt, "when I name
this Cleveland for one of those who have slandered me?"

"No, no," said Brenda, vehemently, "you run from one error into another
more dangerous. You say you are my friend:--I am willing to be
yours:--be but still for a moment, and hear what I have to say;--our
interview has lasted but too long already, and every additional moment
brings additional danger with it."

"Tell me, then," said Mertoun, much softened by the poor girl's extreme
apprehension and distress, "what it is that you require of me; and
believe me, it is impossible for you to ask aught that I will not do my
very uttermost to comply with."

"Well, then--this Captain," said Brenda, "this Cleveland"----

"I knew it, by Heaven!" said Mordaunt; "my mind assured me that that
fellow was, in one way or other, at the bottom of all this mischief and

"If you cannot be silent, and patient, for an instant," replied Brenda,
"I must instantly quit you: what I meant to say had no relation to you,
but to another,--in one word, to my sister Minna. I have nothing to say
concerning her dislike to you, but an anxious tale to tell concerning
his attention to her."

"It is obvious, striking, and marked," said Mordaunt; "and, unless my
eyes deceive me, it is received as welcome, if, indeed, it is not

"That is the very cause of my fear," said Brenda. "I, too, was struck
with the external appearance, frank manners, and romantic conversation
of this man."

"His appearance!" said Mordaunt; "he is stout and well-featured enough,
to be sure; but, as old Sinclair of Quendale said to the Spanish
admiral, 'Farcie on his face! I have seen many a fairer hang on the
Borough-moor.'--From his manners, he might be captain of a privateer;
and by his conversation, the trumpeter to his own puppetshow; for he
speaks of little else than his own exploits."

"You are mistaken," answered Brenda; "he speaks but too well on all that
he has seen and learned; besides, he has really been in many distant
countries, and in many gallant actions, and he can tell them with as
much spirit as modesty. You would think you saw the flash and heard the
report of the guns. And he has other tones of talking too--about the
delightful trees and fruits of distant climates; and how the people wear
no dress, through the whole year, half so warm as our summer gowns, and,
indeed, put on little except cambric and muslin."

"Upon my word, Brenda, he does seem to understand the business of
amusing young ladies," replied Mordaunt.

"He does, indeed," said Brenda, with great simplicity. "I assure you
that, at first, I liked him better than Minna did; and yet, though she
is so much cleverer than I am, I know more of the world than she does;
for I have seen more of cities, having been once at Kirkwall; besides
that I was thrice at Lerwick, when the Dutch ships were there, and so I
should not be very easily deceived in people."

"And pray, Brenda," said Mertoun, "what was it that made you think less
favourably of this young fellow, who seems to be so captivating?"

"Why," said Brenda, after a moment's reflection, "at first he was much
livelier; and the stories he told were not quite so melancholy, or so
terrible; and he laughed and danced more."

"And, perhaps, at that time, danced oftener with Brenda than with her
sister?" added Mordaunt.

"No--I am not sure of that," said Brenda; "and yet, to speak plain, I
could have no suspicion of him at all while he was attending quite
equally to us both; for you know that then he could have been no more to
us than yourself, Mordaunt Mertoun, or young Swaraster, or any other
young man in the islands."

"But, why then," said Mordaunt, "should you not see him, with patience,
become acquainted with your sister?--He is wealthy, or seems to be so at
least. You say he is accomplished and pleasant;--what else would you
desire in a lover for Minna?"

"Mordaunt, you forget who we are," said the maiden, assuming an air of
consequence, which sat as gracefully upon her simplicity, as did the
different tone in which she had spoken hitherto. "This is a little world
of ours, this Zetland, inferior, perhaps, in soil and climate to other
parts of the earth, at least so strangers say; but it is our own little
world, and we, the daughters of Magnus Troil, hold a first rank in it.
It would I think, little become us, who are descended from Sea-kings
and Jarls, to throw ourselves away upon a stranger, who comes to our
coast, like the eider-duck in spring, from we know not whence, and may
leave it in autumn, to go we know not where."

"And who may yet entice a Zetland golden-eye to accompany his
migration," said Mertoun.

"I will hear nothing light on such a subject," replied Brenda,
indignantly; "Minna, like myself, is the daughter of Magnus Troil, the
friend of strangers, but the Father of Hialtland. He gives them the
hospitality they need; but let not the proudest of them think that they
can, at their pleasure, ally with his house."

She said this in a tone of considerable warmth, which she instantly
softened, as she added, "No, Mordaunt, do not suppose that Minna Troil
is capable of so far forgetting what she owes to her father and her
father's blood, as to think of marrying this Cleveland; but she may lend
an ear to him so long as to destroy her future happiness. She has that
sort of mind, into which some feelings sink deeply;--you remember how
Ulla Storlson used to go, day by day, to the top of Vossdale-head, to
look for her lover's ship that was never to return? When I think of her
slow step, her pale cheek, her eye, that grew dimmer and dimmer, like
the lamp that is half extinguished for lack of oil,--when I remember the
fluttered look, of something like hope, with which she ascended the
cliff at morning, and the deep dead despair which sat on her forehead
when she returned,--when I think on all this, can you wonder that I fear
for Minna, whose heart is formed to entertain, with such deep-rooted
fidelity, any affection that may be implanted in it?"

"I do not wonder," said Mordaunt, eagerly sympathizing with the poor
girl; for, besides the tremulous expression of her voice, the light
could almost show him the tear which trembled in her eye, as she drew
the picture to which her fancy had assimilated her sister,--"I do not
wonder that you should feel and fear whatever the purest affection can
dictate; and if you can but point out to me in what I can serve your
sisterly love, you shall find me as ready to venture my life, if
necessary, as I have been to go out on the crag to get you the eggs of
the guillemot; and, believe me, that whatever has been told to your
father or yourself, of my entertaining the slightest thoughts of
disrespect or unkindness, is as false as a fiend could devise."

"I believe it," said Brenda, giving him her hand; "I believe it, and my
bosom is lighter, now I have renewed my confidence in so old a friend.
How you can aid us, I know not; but it was by the advice, I may say by
the commands, of Norna, that I have ventured to make this communication;
and I almost wonder," she added, as she looked around her, "that I have
had courage to carry me through it. At present you know all that I can
tell you of the risk in which my sister stands. Look after this
Cleveland--beware how you quarrel with him, since you must so surely
come by the worst with an experienced soldier."

"I do not exactly understand," said the youth, "how that should so
surely be. This I know, that with the good limbs and good heart that God
hath given me, ay, and with a good cause to boot--I am little afraid of
any quarrel which Cleveland can fix upon me."

"Then, if not for your own sake, for Minna's sake," said Brenda--"for
my father's--for mine--for all our sakes, avoid any strife with him, but
be contented to watch him, and, if possible, to discover who he is, and
what are his intentions towards us. He has talked of going to Orkney, to
enquire after the consort with whom he sailed; but day after day, and
week after week passes, and he goes not; and while he keeps my father
company over the bottle, and tells Minna romantic stories of foreign
people, and distant wars, in wild and unknown regions, the time glides
on, and the stranger, of whom we know nothing except that he is one,
becomes gradually closer and more inseparably intimate in our
society.--And now, farewell. Norna hopes to make your peace with my
father, and entreats you not to leave Burgh-Westra to-morrow, however
cold he and my sister may appear towards you. I too," she said,
stretching her hand towards him, "must wear a face of cold friendship as
towards an unwelcome visitor, but at heart we are still Brenda and
Mordaunt. And now separate quickly, for we must not be seen together."

She stretched her hand to him, but withdrew it in some slight confusion,
laughing and blushing, when, by a natural impulse, he was about to press
it to his lips. He endeavoured for a moment to detain her, for the
interview had for him a degree of fascination, which, as often as he had
before been alone with Brenda, he had never experienced. But she
extricated herself from him, and again signing an adieu, and pointing
out to him a path different from that which she was herself about to
take, tripped towards the house, and was soon hidden from his view by
the acclivity.

Mordaunt stood gazing after her in a state of mind, to which, as yet,
he had been a stranger. The dubious neutral ground between love and
friendship may be long and safely trodden, until he who stands upon it
is suddenly called upon to recognise the authority of the one or the
other power; and then it most frequently happens, that the party who for
years supposed himself only a friend, finds himself at once transformed
into a lover. That such a change in Mordaunt's feelings should take
place from this date, although he himself was unable exactly to
distinguish its nature, was to be expected. He found himself at once
received, with the most unsuspicious frankness, into the confidence of a
beautiful and fascinating young woman, by whom he had, so short a time
before, imagined himself despised and disliked; and, if any thing could
make a change, in itself so surprising and so pleasing, yet more
intoxicating, it was the guileless and open-hearted simplicity of
Brenda, that cast an enchantment over every thing which she did or said.
The scene, too, might have had its effect, though there was little
occasion for its aid. But a fair face looks yet fairer under the light
of the moon, and a sweet voice sounds yet sweeter among the whispering
sounds of a summer night. Mordaunt, therefore, who had by this time
returned to the house, was disposed to listen with unusual patience and
complacency to the enthusiastic declamation pronounced upon moonlight by
Claud Halcro, whose ecstasies had been awakened on the subject by a
short turn in the open air, undertaken to qualify the vapours of the
good liquor, which he had not spared during the festival.

"The sun, my boy," he said, "is every wretched labourer's
day-lantern--it comes glaring yonder out of the east, to summon up a
whole world to labour and to misery; whereas the merry moon lights all
of us to mirth and to love."

"And to madness, or she is much belied," said Mordaunt, by way of saying

"Let it be so," answered Halcro, "so she does not turn us
melancholy-mad.--My dear young friend, the folks of this painstaking
world are far too anxious about possessing all their wits, or having
them, as they say, about them. At least I know I have been often called
half-witted, and I am sure I have gone through the world as well as if I
had double the quantity. But stop--where was I? O, touching and
concerning the moon--why, man, she is the very soul of love and poetry.
I question if there was ever a true lover in existence who had not got
at least as far as 'O thou,' in a sonnet in her praise."

"The moon," said the factor, who was now beginning to speak very thick,
"ripens corn, at least the old folk said so--and she fills nuts also,
whilk is of less matter--_sparge nuces, pueri_."

"A fine, a fine," said the Udaller, who was now in his altitudes; "the
factor speaks Greek--by the bones of my holy namesake, Saint Magnus, he
shall drink off the yawl full of punch, unless he gives us a song on the

"Too much water drowned the miller," answered Triptolemus. "My brain has
more need of draining than of being drenched with more liquor."

"Sing, then," said the despotic landlord, "for no one shall speak any
other language here, save honest Norse, jolly Dutch, or Danske, or broad
Scots, at the least of it. So, Eric Scambester, produce the yawl, and
fill it to the brim, as a charge for demurrage."

Ere the vessel could reach the agriculturist, he, seeing it under way,
and steering towards him by short tacks, (for Scambester himself was by
this time not over steady in his course,) made a desperate effort, and
began to sing, or rather to croak forth, a Yorkshire harvest-home
ballad, which his father used to sing when he was a little mellow, and
which went to the tune of "Hey Dobbin, away with the waggon." The rueful
aspect of the singer, and the desperately discordant tones of his voice,
formed so delightful a contrast with the jollity of the words and tune,
that honest Triptolemus afforded the same sort of amusement which a
reveller might give, by appearing on a festival-day in the holyday-coat
of his grandfather. The jest concluded the evening, for even the mighty
and strong-headed Magnus himself had confessed the influence of the
sleepy god. The guests went off as they best might, each to his separate
crib and resting place, and in a short time the mansion, which was of
late so noisy, was hushed into perfect silence.


[45] See some admirable discussion on this passage, in the Variorum


  They man their boats, and all the young men arm,
  With whatsoever might the monsters harm;
  Pikes, halberds, spits, and darts, that wound afar,
  The tools of peace, and implements of war.
  Now was the time for vigorous lads to show
  What love or honour could incite them to;--
  A goodly theatre, where rocks are round
  With reverend age and lovely lasses crown'd.

                             _Battle of the Summer Islands._

The morning which succeeds such a feast as that of Magnus Troil, usually
lacks a little of the zest which seasoned the revels of the preceding
day, as the fashionable reader may have observed at a public breakfast
during the race-week in a country town; for, in what is called the best
society, these lingering moments are usually spent by the company, each
apart in their own dressing-rooms. At Burgh-Westra, it will readily be
believed, no such space for retirement was afforded; and the lasses,
with their paler cheeks, the elder dames, with many a wink and yawn,
were compelled to meet with their male companions (headaches and all)
just three hours after they had parted from each other.

Eric Scambester had done all that man could do to supply the full means
of diverting the ennui of the morning meal. The board groaned with
rounds of hung beef, made after the fashion of Zetland--with
pasties--with baked meats--with fish, dressed and cured in every
possible manner; nay, with the foreign delicacies of tea, coffee, and
chocolate; for, as we have already had occasion to remark, the situation
of these islands made them early acquainted with various articles of
foreign luxury, which were, as yet, but little known in Scotland, where,
at a much later period than that we write of, one pound of green tea was
dressed like cabbage, and another converted into a vegetable sauce for
salt beef, by the ignorance of the good housewives to whom they had been
sent as rare presents.

Besides these preparations, the table exhibited whatever mighty potions
are resorted to by _bons vivans_, under the facetious name of a "hair of
the dog that bit you." There was the potent Irish Usquebaugh--right
Nantz--genuine Schiedamm--Aquavitæ from Caithness--and Golden Wasser
from Hamburgh; there was rum of formidable antiquity, and cordials from
the Leeward Islands. After these details, it were needless to mention
the stout home-brewed ale--the German mum, and Schwartz beer--and still
more would it be beneath our dignity to dwell upon the innumerable sorts
of pottage and flummery, together with the bland, and various
preparations of milk, for those who preferred thinner potations.

No wonder that the sight of so much good cheer awakened the appetite and
raised the spirits of the fatigued revellers. The young men began
immediately to seek out their partners of the preceding evening, and to
renew the small talk which had driven the night so merrily away; while
Magnus, with his stout old Norse kindred, encouraged, by precept and
example, those of elder days and graver mood, to a substantial
flirtation with the good things before them. Still, however, there was
a long period to be filled up before dinner; for the most protracted
breakfast cannot well last above an hour; and it was to be feared that
Claud Halcro meditated the occupation of this vacant morning with a
formidable recitation of his own verses, besides telling, at its full
length, the whole history of his introduction to glorious John Dryden.
But fortune relieved the guests of Burgh-Westra from this threatened
infliction, by sending them means of amusement peculiarly suited to
their taste and habits.

Most of the guests were using their toothpicks, some were beginning to
talk of what was to be done next, when, with haste in his step, fire in
his eye, and a harpoon in his hand, Eric Scambester came to announce to
the company, that there was a whale on shore, or nearly so, at the
throat of the voe! Then you might have seen such a joyous, boisterous,
and universal bustle, as only the love of sport, so deeply implanted in
our nature, can possibly inspire. A set of country squires, about to
beat for the first woodcocks of the season, were a comparison as petty,
in respect to the glee, as in regard to the importance of the object;
the battue, upon a strong cover in Ettrick Forest, for the destruction
of the foxes;(_m_) the insurrection of the sportsmen of the Lennox, when
one of the Duke's deer gets out from Inch-Mirran; nay, the joyous rally
of the fox-chase itself, with all its blithe accompaniments of hound and
horn, fall infinitely short of the animation with which the gallant sons
of Thule set off to encounter the monster, whom the sea had sent for
their amusement at so opportune a conjuncture.

The multifarious stores of Burgh-Westra were rummaged hastily for all
sorts of arms, which could be used on such an occasion. Harpoons,
swords, pikes, and halberds, fell to the lot of some; others contented
themselves with hay-forks, spits, and whatever else could be found, that
was at once long and sharp. Thus hastily equipped, one division, under
the command of Captain Cleveland, hastened to man the boats which lay in
the little haven, while the rest of the party hurried by land to the
scene of action.

Poor Triptolemus was interrupted in a plan, which he, too, had formed
against the patience of the Zetlanders, and which was to have consisted
in a lecture upon the agriculture, and the capabilities of the country,
by this sudden hubbub, which put an end at once to Halcro's poetry, and
to his no less formidable prose. It may be easily imagined, that he took
very little interest in the sport which was so suddenly substituted for
his lucubrations, and he would not even have deigned to have looked upon
the active scene which was about to take place, had he not been
stimulated thereunto by the exhortations of Mistress Baby. "Pit yoursell
forward, man," said that provident person, "pit yoursell forward--wha
kens whare a blessing may light?--they say that a' men share and share
equals-aquals in the creature's ulzie, and a pint o't wad be worth
siller, to light the cruise in the lang dark nights that they speak of.
Pit yoursell forward, man--there's a graip to ye--faint heart never wan
fair lady--wha kens but what, when it's fresh, it may eat weel eneugh,
and spare butter?"

What zeal was added to Triptolemus's motions, by the prospect of eating
fresh train-oil, instead of butter, we know not; but, as better might
not be, he brandished the rural implement (a stable-fork) with which he
was armed, and went down to wage battle with the whale.

The situation in which the enemy's ill fate had placed him, was
particularly favourable to the enterprise of the islanders. A tide of
unusual height had carried the animal over a large bar of sand, into the
voe or creek in which he was now lying. So soon as he found the water
ebbing, he became sensible of his danger, and had made desperate efforts
to get over the shallow water, where the waves broke on the bar; but
hitherto he had rather injured than mended his condition, having got
himself partly aground, and lying therefore particularly exposed to the
meditated attack. At this moment the enemy came down upon him. The front
ranks consisted of the young and hardy, armed in the miscellaneous
manner we have described; while, to witness and animate their efforts,
the young women, and the elderly persons of both sexes, took their place
among the rocks, which overhung the scene of action.

As the boats had to double a little headland, ere they opened the mouth
of the voe, those who came by land to the shores of the inlet, had time
to make the necessary reconnoissances upon the force and situation of
the enemy, on whom they were about to commence a simultaneous attack by
land and sea.

This duty, the stout-hearted and experienced general, for so the Udaller
might be termed, would intrust to no eyes but his own; and, indeed, his
external appearance, and his sage conduct, rendered him alike qualified
for the command which he enjoyed. His gold-laced hat was exchanged for a
bearskin cap, his suit of blue broadcloth, with its scarlet lining, and
loops, and frogs of bullion, had given place to a red flannel jacket,
with buttons of black horn, over which he wore a seal-skin shirt
curiously seamed and plaited on the bosom, such as are used by the
Esquimaux, and sometimes by the Greenland whale-fishers. Sea-boots of a
formidable size completed his dress, and in his hand he held a large
whaling-knife, which he brandished, as if impatient to employ it in the
operation of _flinching_ the huge animal which lay before them,--that
is, the act of separating its flesh from its bones. Upon closer
examination, however, he was obliged to confess, that the sport to which
he had conducted his friends, however much it corresponded with the
magnificent scale of his hospitality, was likely to be attended with its
own peculiar dangers and difficulties.

The animal, upwards of sixty feet in length, was lying perfectly still,
in a deep part of the voe into which it had weltered, and where it
seemed to await the return of tide, of which it was probably assured by
instinct. A council of experienced harpooners was instantly called, and
it was agreed that an effort should be made to noose the tail of this
torpid leviathan, by casting a cable around it, to be made fast by
anchors to the shore, and thus to secure against his escape, in case the
tide should make before they were able to dispatch him. Three boats were
destined to this delicate piece of service, one of which the Udaller
himself proposed to command, while Cleveland and Mertoun were to direct
the two others. This being decided, they sat down on the strand, waiting
with impatience until the naval part of the force should arrive in the
voe. It was during this interval, that Triptolemus Yellowley, after
measuring with his eyes the extraordinary size of the whale, observed,
that in his poor mind, "A wain with six owsen, or with sixty owsen
either, if they were the owsen of the country, could not drag siccan a
huge creature from the water, where it was now lying, to the sea-beach."

Trifling as this remark may seem to the reader, it was connected with a
subject which always fired the blood of the old Udaller, who, glancing
upon Triptolemus a quick and stern look, asked him what the devil it
signified, supposing a hundred oxen could not drag the whale upon the
beach? Mr. Yellowley, though not much liking the tone with which the
question was put, felt that his dignity and his profit compelled him to
answer as follows:--"Nay, sir--you know yoursell, Master Magnus Troil,
and every one knows that knows any thing, that whales of siccan size as
may not be masterfully dragged on shore by the instrumentality of one
wain with six owsen, are the right and property of the Admiral, who is
at this time the same noble lord who is, moreover, Chamberlain of these

"And I tell you, Mr. Triptolemus Yellowley," said the Udaller, "as I
would tell your master if he were here, that every man who risks his
life to bring that fish ashore, shall have an equal share and partition,
according to our ancient and loveable Norse custom and wont; nay, if
there is so much as a woman looking on, that will but touch the cable,
she will be partner with us; ay, and more than all that, if she will but
say there is a reason for it, we will assign a portion to the babe that
is unborn."(_n_)

The strict principle of equity, which dictated this last arrangement,
occasioned laughter among the men, and some slight confusion among the
women. The factor, however, thought it shame to be so easily daunted.
"_Suum cuique tribuito_," said he; "I will stand for my lord's right and
my own."

"Will you?" replied Magnus; "then, by the Martyr's bones, you shall have
no law of partition but that of God and Saint Olave, which we had before
either factor, or treasurer, or chamberlain were heard of!--All shall
share that lend a hand, and never a one else. So you, Master Factor,
shall be busy as well as other folk, and think yourself lucky to share
like other folk. Jump into that boat," (for the boats had by this time
pulled round the headland,) "and you, my lads, make way for the factor
in the stern-sheets--he shall be the first man this blessed day that
shall strike the fish."

The loud authoritative voice, and the habit of absolute command inferred
in the Udaller's whole manner, together with the conscious want of
favourers and backers amongst the rest of the company, rendered it
difficult for Triptolemus to evade compliance, although he was thus
about to be placed in a situation equally novel and perilous. He was
still, however, hesitating, and attempting an explanation, with a voice
in which anger was qualified by fear, and both thinly disguised under an
attempt to be jocular, and to represent the whole as a jest, when he
heard the voice of Baby maundering in his ear,--"Wad he lose his share
of the ulzie, and the lang Zetland winter coming on, when the lightest
day in December is not so clear as a moonless night in the Mearns?"

This domestic instigation, in addition to those of fear of the Udaller,
and shame to seem less courageous than others, so inflamed the
agriculturist's spirits, that he shook his _graip_ aloft, and entered
the boat with the air of Neptune himself, carrying on high his trident.

The three boats destined for this perilous service, now approached the
dark mass, which lay like an islet in the deepest part of the voe, and
suffered them to approach without showing any sign of animation.
Silently, and with such precaution as the extreme delicacy of the
operation required, the intrepid adventurers, after the failure of their
first attempt, and the expenditure of considerable time, succeeded in
casting a cable around the body of the torpid monster, and in carrying
the ends of it ashore, when an hundred hands were instantly employed in
securing them. But ere this was accomplished, the tide began to make
fast, and the Udaller informed his assistants, that either the fish must
be killed, or at least greatly wounded, ere the depth of water on the
bar was sufficient to float him; or that he was not unlikely to escape
from their joint prowess.

"Wherefore," said he, "we must set to work, and the factor shall have
the honour to make the first throw."

The valiant Triptolemus caught the word; and it is necessary to say that
the patience of the whale, in suffering himself to be noosed without
resistance, had abated his terrors, and very much lowered the creature
in his opinion. He protested the fish had no more wit, and scarcely more
activity, than a black snail; and, influenced by this undue contempt of
the adversary, he waited neither for a further signal, nor a better
weapon, nor a more suitable position, but, rising in his energy, hurled
his graip with all his force against the unfortunate monster. The boats
had not yet retreated from him to the distance necessary to ensure
safety, when this injudicious commencement of the war took place.

Magnus Troil, who had only jested with the factor, and had reserved the
launching the first spear against the whale to some much more skilful
hand, had just time to exclaim, "Mind yourselves, lads, or we are all
swamped!" when the monster, roused at once from inactivity by the blow
of the factor's missile, blew, with a noise resembling the explosion of
a steam-engine, a huge shower of water into the air, and at the same
time began to lash the waves with his tail in every direction. The boat
in which Magnus presided received the shower of brine which the animal
spouted aloft; and the adventurous Triptolemus, who had a full share of
the immersion, was so much astonished and terrified by the consequences
of his own valorous deed, that he tumbled backwards amongst the feet of
the people, who, too busy to attend to him, were actively engaged in
getting the boat into shoal water, out of the whale's reach. Here he lay
for some minutes, trampled on by the feet of the boatmen, until they lay
on their oars to bale, when the Udaller ordered them to pull to shore,
and land this spare hand, who had commenced the fishing so

While this was doing, the other boats had also pulled off to safer
distance, and now, from these as well as from the shore, the unfortunate
native of the deep was overwhelmed by all kinds of missiles,--harpoons
and spears flew against him on all sides--guns were fired, and each
various means of annoyance plied which could excite him to exhaust his
strength in useless rage. When the animal found that he was locked in by
shallows on all sides, and became sensible, at the same time, of the
strain of the cable on his body, the convulsive efforts which he made to
escape, accompanied with sounds resembling deep and loud groans, would
have moved the compassion of all but a practised whale-fisher. The
repeated showers which he spouted into the air began now to be mingled
with blood, and the waves which surrounded him assumed the same crimson
appearance. Meantime the attempts of the assailants were redoubled; but
Mordaunt Mertoun and Cleveland, in particular, exerted themselves to the
uttermost, contending who should display most courage in approaching the
monster, so tremendous in its agonies, and should inflict the most deep
and deadly wounds upon its huge bulk.

The contest seemed at last pretty well over; for although the animal
continued from time to time to make frantic exertions for liberty, yet
its strength appeared so much exhausted, that, even with the assistance
of the tide, which had now risen considerably, it was thought it could
scarcely extricate itself.

Magnus gave the signal to venture nearer to the whale, calling out at
the same time, "Close in, lads, he is not half so mad now--The Factor
may look for a winter's oil for the two lamps at Harfra--Pull close in,

Ere his orders could be obeyed, the other two boats had anticipated his
purpose; and Mordaunt Mertoun, eager to distinguish himself above
Cleveland, had, with the whole strength he possessed, plunged a
half-pike into the body of the animal. But the leviathan, like a nation
whose resources appear totally exhausted by previous losses and
calamities, collected his whole remaining force for an effort, which
proved at once desperate and successful. The wound, last received, had
probably reached through his external defences of blubber, and attained
some very sensitive part of the system; for he roared aloud, as he sent
to the sky a mingled sheet of brine and blood, and snapping the strong
cable like a twig, overset Mertoun's boat with a blow of his tail, shot
himself, by a mighty effort, over the bar, upon which the tide had now
risen considerably, and made out to sea, carrying with him a whole grove
of the implements which had been planted in his body, and leaving behind
him, on the waters, a dark red trace of his course.

"There goes to sea your cruise of oil, Master Yellowley," said Magnus,
"and you must consume mutton suet, or go to bed in the dark."

"_Operam et oleum perdidi_," muttered Triptolemus; "but if they catch me
whale-fishing again, I will consent that the fish shall swallow me as he
did Jonah."

"But where is Mordaunt Mertoun all this while?" exclaimed Claud Halcro;
and it was instantly perceived that the youth, who had been stunned when
his boat was stove, was unable to swim to shore as the other sailors
did, and now floated senseless upon the waves.

We have noticed the strange and inhuman prejudice, which rendered the
Zetlanders of that period unwilling to assist those whom they saw in the
act of drowning, though that is the calamity to which the islanders are
most frequently exposed. Three men, however, soared above this
superstition. The first was Claud Halcro, who threw himself from a small
rock headlong into the waves, forgetting, as he himself afterwards
stated, that he could not swim, and, if possessed of the harp of Arion,
had no dolphins in attendance. The first plunge which the poet made in
deep water, reminding him of these deficiencies, he was fain to cling to
the rock from which he had dived, and was at length glad to regain the
shore, at the expense of a ducking.

Magnus Troil, whose honest heart forgot his late coolness towards
Mordaunt, when he saw the youth's danger, would instantly have brought
him more effectual aid, but Eric Scambester held him fast.

"Hout, sir--hout," exclaimed that faithful attendant--"Captain Cleveland
has a grip of Mr. Mordaunt--just let the twa strangers help ilk other,
and stand by the upshot. The light of the country is not to be quenched
for the like of them. Bide still, sir, I say--Bredness Voe is not a bowl
of punch, that a man can be fished out of like a toast with a long

This sage remonstrance would have been altogether lost upon Magnus, had
he not observed that Cleveland had in fact jumped out of the boat, and
swum to Mertoun's assistance, and was keeping him afloat till the boat
came to the aid of both. As soon as the immediate danger which called so
loudly for assistance was thus ended, the honest Udaller's desire to
render aid terminated also; and recollecting the cause of offence which
he had, or thought he had, against Mordaunt Mertoun, he shook off his
butler's hold, and turning round scornfully from the beach, called Eric
an old fool for supposing that he cared whether the young fellow sank or

Still, however, amid his assumed indifference, Magnus could not help
peeping over the heads of the circle, which, surrounding Mordaunt as
soon as he was brought on shore, were charitably employed in
endeavouring to recall him to life; and he was not able to attain the
appearance of absolute unconcern, until the young man sat up on the
beach, and showed plainly that the accident had been attended with no
material consequences. It was then first that, cursing the assistants
for not giving the lad a glass of brandy, he walked sullenly away, as
if totally unconcerned in his fate.

The women, always accurate in observing the telltale emotions of each
other, failed not to remark, that when the sisters of Burgh-Westra saw
Mordaunt immersed in the waves, Minna grew as pale as death, while
Brenda uttered successive shrieks of terror. But though there were some
nods, winks, and hints that auld acquaintance were not easily forgot, it
was, on the whole, candidly admitted, that less than such marks of
interest could scarce have been expected, when they saw the companion of
their early youth in the act of perishing before their eyes.

Whatever interest Mordaunt's condition excited while it seemed perilous,
began to abate as he recovered himself; and when his senses were fully
restored, only Claud Halcro, with two or three others, were standing by
him. About ten paces off stood Cleveland--his hair and clothes dropping
water, and his features wearing so peculiar an expression, as
immediately to arrest the attention of Mordaunt. There was a suppressed
smile on his cheek, and a look of pride in his eye, that implied
liberation from a painful restraint, and something resembling gratified
scorn. Claud Halcro hastened to intimate to Mordaunt, that he owed his
life to Cleveland; and the youth, rising from the ground, and losing all
other feelings in those of gratitude, stepped forward with his hand
stretched out, to offer his warmest thanks to his preserver. But he
stopped short in surprise, as Cleveland, retreating a pace or two,
folded his arms on his breast, and declined to accept his proffered
hand. He drew back in turn, and gazed with astonishment at the
ungracious manner, and almost insulting look, with which Cleveland, who
had formerly rather expressed a frank cordiality, or at least openness
of bearing, now, after having thus rendered him a most important
service, chose to receive his thanks.

"It is enough," said Cleveland, observing his surprise, "and it is
unnecessary to say more about it. I have paid back my debt, and we are
now equal."

"You are more than equal with me, Captain Cleveland," answered Mertoun,
"because you endangered your life to do for me what I did for you
without the slightest risk;--besides," he added, trying to give the
discourse a more pleasant turn, "I have your rifle-gun to boot."

"Cowards only count danger for any point of the game," said Cleveland.
"Danger has been my consort for life, and sailed with me on a thousand
worse voyages;--and for rifles, I have enough of my own, and you may
see, when you will, which can use them best."

There was something in the tone with which this was said, that struck
Mordaunt strongly; it was miching malicho, as Hamlet says, and meant
mischief. Cleveland saw his surprise, came close up to him, and spoke in
a low tone of voice:--"Hark ye, my young brother. There is a custom
among us gentlemen of fortune, that when we follow the same chase, and
take the wind out of each other's sails, we think sixty yards of the
sea-beach, and a brace of rifles, are no bad way of making our odds

"I do not understand you, Captain Cleveland," said Mordaunt.

"I do not suppose you do,--I did not suppose you would," said the
Captain; and, turning on his heel, with a smile that resembled a sneer,
Mordaunt saw him mingle with the guests, and very soon beheld him at
the side of Minna, who was talking to him with animated features, that
seemed to thank him for his gallant and generous conduct.

"If it were not for Brenda," thought Mordaunt, "I almost wish he had
left me in the voe, for no one seems to care whether I am alive or
dead.--Two rifles and sixty yards of sea-beach--is that what he points
at?--It may come,--but not on the day he has saved my life with risk of
his own."

While he was thus musing, Eric Scambester was whispering to Halcro, "If
these two lads do not do each other a mischief, there is no faith in
freits. Master Mordaunt saves Cleveland,--well.--Cleveland, in requital,
has turned all the sunshine of Burgh-Westra to his own side of the
house; and think what it is to lose favour in such a house as this,
where the punch-kettle is never allowed to cool! Well, now that
Cleveland in his turn has been such a fool as to fish Mordaunt out of
the voe, see if he does not give him sour sillocks for stock-fish."

"Pshaw, pshaw!" replied the poet, "that is all old women's fancies, my
friend Eric; for what says glorious Dryden--sainted John,--

  'The yellow gall that in your bosom floats,
  Engenders all these melancholy thoughts.'"

"Saint John, or Saint James either, may be mistaken in the matter," said
Eric; "for I think neither of them lived in Zetland. I only say, that if
there is faith in old saws, these two lads will do each other a
mischief; and if they do, I trust it will light on Mordaunt Mertoun."

"And why, Eric Scambester," said Halcro, hastily and angrily, "should
you wish ill to that poor young man, that is worth fifty of the other?"

"Let every one roose the ford as he finds it," replied Eric; "Master
Mordaunt is all for wan water, like his old dog-fish of a father; now
Captain Cleveland, d'ye see, takes his glass, like an honest fellow and
a gentleman."

"Rightly reasoned, and in thine own division," said Halcro; and breaking
off their conversation, took his way back to Burgh-Westra, to which the
guests of Magnus were now returning, discussing as they went, with much
animation, the various incidents of their attack upon the whale, and not
a little scandalized that it should have baffled all their exertions.

"I hope Captain Donderdrecht of the Eintracht of Rotterdam will never
hear of it," said Magnus; "he would swear, donner and blitzen, we were
only fit to fish flounders."[46]


[46] The contest about the whale will remind the poetical reader of
Waller's Battle of the Summer Islands.


  And helter-skelter have I rode to thee,
  And tidings do I bring, and lucky joys,
  And golden times, and happy news of price.

                                           _Ancient Pistol._

Fortune, who seems at times to bear a conscience, owed the hospitable
Udaller some amends, and accordingly repaid to Burgh-Westra the
disappointment occasioned by the unsuccessful whale-fishing, by sending
thither, on the evening of the day in which that incident happened, no
less a person than the jagger, or travelling merchant, as he styled
himself, Bryce Snailsfoot, who arrived in great pomp, himself on one
pony, and his pack of goods, swelled to nearly double its usual size,
forming the burden of another, which was led by a bare-headed
bare-legged boy.

As Bryce announced himself the bearer of important news, he was
introduced to the dining apartment, where (for that primitive age was no
respecter of persons) he was permitted to sit down at a side-table, and
amply supplied with provisions and good liquor; while the attentive
hospitality of Magnus permitted no questions to be put to him, until,
his hunger and thirst appeased, he announced, with the sense of
importance attached to distant travels, that he had just yesterday
arrived at Lerwick from Kirkwall, the capital of Orkney, and would have
been here yesterday, but it blew hard off the Fitful-head.

"We had no wind here," said Magnus.

"There is somebody has not been sleeping, then," said the pedlar, "and
her name begins with N; but Heaven is above all."

"But the news from Orkney, Bryce, instead of croaking about a capful of

"Such news," replied Bryce, "as has not been heard this thirty
years--not since Cromwell's time."

"There is not another Revolution, is there?" said Halcro; "King James
has not come back, as blithe as King Charlie did, has he?"

"It's news," replied the pedlar, "that are worth twenty kings, and
kingdoms to boot of them; for what good did the evolutions ever do us?
and I dare say we have seen a dozen, great and sma'."

"Are any Indiamen come north about?" said Magnus Troil.

"Ye are nearer the mark, Fowd," said the jagger; "but it is nae
Indiaman, but a gallant armed vessel, chokeful of merchandise, that they
part with so easy that a decent man like my sell can afford to give the
country the best pennyworths you ever saw; and that you will say, when I
open that pack, for I count to carry it back another sort lighter than
when I brought it here."

"Ay, ay, Bryce," said the Udaller, "you must have had good bargains if
you sell cheap; but what ship was it?"

"Cannot justly say--I spoke to nobody but the captain, who was a
discreet man; but she had been down on the Spanish Main, for she has
silks and satins, and tobacco, I warrant you, and wine, and no lack of
sugar, and bonny-wallies baith of silver and gowd, and a bonnie
dredging of gold dust into the bargain."

"What like was she?" said Cleveland, who seemed to give much attention.

"A stout ship," said the itinerant merchant, "schooner-rigged, sails
like a dolphin, they say, carries twelve guns, and is pierced for

"Did you hear the captain's name?" said Cleveland, speaking rather lower
than his usual tone.

"I just ca'd him the Captain," replied Bryce Snailsfoot; "for I make it
a rule never to ask questions of them I deal with in the way of trade;
for there is many an honest captain, begging your pardon, Captain
Cleveland, that does not care to have his name tacked to his title; and
as lang as we ken what bargains we are making, what signifies it wha we
are making them wi', ye ken?"

"Bryce Snailsfoot is a cautious man," said the Udaller, laughing; "he
knows a fool may ask more questions than a wise man cares to answer."

"I have dealt with the fair traders in my day," replied Snailsfoot, "and
I ken nae use in blurting braid out with a man's name at every moment;
but I will uphold this gentleman to be a gallant commander--ay, and a
kind one too; for every one of his crew is as brave in apparel as
himself nearly--the very foremast-men have their silken scarfs; I have
seen many a lady wear a warse, and think hersell nae sma' drink--and for
siller buttons, and buckles, and the lave of sic vanities, there is nae
end of them."

"Idiots!" muttered Cleveland between his teeth; and then added, "I
suppose they are often ashore, to show all their bravery to the lasses
of Kirkwall?"

"Ne'er a bit of that are they. The Captain will scarce let them stir
ashore without the boatswain go in the boat--as rough a tarpaulin as
ever swabb'd a deck--and you may as weel catch a cat without her claws,
as him without his cutlass and his double brace of pistols about him;
every man stands as much in awe of him as of the commander himsell."

"That must be Hawkins, or the devil," said Cleveland.

"Aweel, Captain," replied the jagger, "be he the tane or the tither, or
a wee bit o' baith, mind it is you that give him these names, and not

"Why, Captain Cleveland," said the Udaller, "this may prove the very
consort you spoke of."

"They must have had some good luck, then," said Cleveland, "to put them
in better plight than when I left them.--Did they speak of having lost
their consort, pedlar?"

"In troth did they," said Bryce; "that is, they said something about a
partner that had gone down to Davie Jones in these seas."

"And did you tell them what you knew of her?" said the Udaller.

"And wha the deevil wad hae been the fule, then," said the pedlar, "that
I suld say sae? When they kend what came of the ship, the next question
wad have been about the cargo,--and ye wad not have had me bring down an
armed vessel on the coast, to harrie the poor folk about a wheen rags of
duds that the sea flung upon their shores?"

"Besides, what might have been found in your own pack, you scoundrel!"
said Magnus Troil; an observation which produced a loud laugh. The
Udaller could not help joining in the hilarity which applauded his jest;
but instantly composing his countenance, he said, in an unusually grave
tone, "You may laugh, my friends; but this is a matter which brings both
a curse and a shame on the country; and till we learn to regard the
rights of them that suffer by the winds and waves, we shall deserve to
be oppressed and hag-ridden, as we have been and are, by the superior
strength of the strangers who rule us."

The company hung their heads at the rebuke of Magnus Troil. Perhaps
some, even of the better class, might be conscience-struck on their own
account; and all of them were sensible that the appetite for plunder, on
the part of the tenants and inferiors, was not at all times restrained
with sufficient strictness. But Cleveland made answer gaily, "If these
honest fellows be my comrades, I will answer for them that they will
never trouble the country about a parcel of chests, hammocks, and such
trumpery, that the Roost may have washed ashore out of my poor sloop.
What signifies to them whether the trash went to Bryce Snailsfoot, or to
the bottom, or to the devil? So unbuckle thy pack, Bryce, and show the
ladies thy cargo, and perhaps we may see something that will please

"It cannot be his consort," said Brenda, in a whisper to her sister; "he
would have shown more joy at her appearance."

"It must be the vessel," answered Minna; "I saw his eye glisten at the
thought of being again united to the partner of his dangers."

"Perhaps it glistened," said her sister, still apart, "at the thought of
leaving Zetland; it is difficult to guess the thought of the heart from
the glance of the eye."

"Judge not, at least, unkindly of a friend's thought," said Minna; "and
then, Brenda, if you are mistaken, the fault rests not with you."

During this dialogue, Bryce Snailsfoot was busied in uncoiling the
carefully arranged cordage of his pack, which amounted to six good yards
of dressed seal-skin, curiously complicated and secured by all manner of
knots and buckles. He was considerably interrupted in the task by the
Udaller and others, who pressed him with questions respecting the
stranger vessel.

"Were the officers often ashore? and how were they received by the
people of Kirkwall?" said Magnus Troil.

"Excellently well," answered Bryce Snailsfoot; "and the Captain and one
or two of his men had been at some of the vanities and dances which went
forward in the town; but there had been some word about customs, or
king's duties, or the like, and some of the higher folk, that took upon
them as magistrates, or the like, had had words with the Captain, and he
refused to satisfy them; and then it is like he was more coldly looked
on, and he spoke of carrying the ship round to Stromness, or the
Langhope, for she lay under the guns of the battery at Kirkwall. But he"
(Bryce) "thought she wad bide at Kirkwall till the summer-fair was over,
for all that."

"The Orkney gentry," said Magnus Troil, "are always in a hurry to draw
the Scotch collar tighter round their own necks. Is it not enough that
we must pay _scat_ and _wattle,_ which were all the public dues under
our old Norse government; but must they come over us with king's dues
and customs besides? It is the part of an honest man to resist these
things. I have done so all my life, and will do so to the end of it."

There was a loud jubilee and shout of applause among the guests, who
were (some of them at least) better pleased with Magnus Troil's
latitudinarian principles with respect to the public revenue, (which
were extremely natural to those living in so secluded a situation, and
subjected to many additional exactions,) than they had been with the
rigour of his judgment on the subject of wrecked goods. But Minna's
inexperienced feelings carried her farther than her father, while she
whispered to Brenda, not unheard by Cleveland, that the tame spirit of
the Orcadians had missed every chance which late incidents had given
them to emancipate these islands from the Scottish yoke.

"Why," she said, "should we not, under so many changes as late times
have introduced, have seized the opportunity to shake off an allegiance
which is not justly due from us, and to return to the protection of
Denmark, our parent country? Why should we yet hesitate to do this, but
that the gentry of Orkney have mixed families and friendship so much
with our invaders, that they have become dead to the throb of the heroic
Norse blood, which they derived from their ancestors?"

The latter part of this patriotic speech happened to reach the
astonished ears of our friend Triptolemus, who, having a sincere
devotion for the Protestant succession, and the Revolution as
established, was surprised into the ejaculation, "As the old cock crows
the young cock learns--hen I should say, mistress, and I crave your
pardon if I say any thing amiss in either gender. But it is a happy
country where the father declares against the king's customs, and the
daughter against the king's crown! and, in my judgment, it can end in
naething but trees and tows."

"Trees are scarce among us," said Magnus; "and for ropes, we need them
for our rigging, and cannot spare them to be shirt-collars."

"And whoever," said the Captain, "takes umbrage at what this young lady
says, had better keep his ears and tongue for a safer employment than
such an adventure."

"Ay, ay," said Triptolemus, "it helps the matter much to speak truths,
whilk are as unwelcome to a proud stomach as wet clover to a cow's, in a
land where lads are ready to draw the whittle if a lassie but looks
awry. But what manners are to be expected in a country where folk call a
pleugh-sock a markal?"

"Hark ye, Master Yellowley," said the Captain, smiling, "I hope my
manners are not among those abuses which you come hither to reform; any
experiment on them may be dangerous."

"As well as difficult," said Triptolemus, dryly; "but fear nothing,
Captain Cleveland, from my remonstrances. My labours regard the men and
things of the earth, and not the men and things of the sea,--you are not
of my element."

"Let us be friends, then, old clod-compeller," said the Captain.

"Clod-compeller!" said the agriculturist, bethinking himself of the
lore of his earlier days; "Clod-compeller _pro_ cloud-compeller,
[Greek: Nephelêgeréta Zeus](_o_)--_Græcum est_,--in which voyage came
you by that phrase?"

"I have travelled books as well as seas in my day," said the Captain;
"but my last voyages have been of a sort to make me forget my early
cruizes through classic knowledge.--But come here, Bryce,--hast cast off
the lashing?--Come all hands, and let us see if he has aught in his
cargo that is worth looking upon."

With a proud, and, at the same time, a wily smile, did the crafty pedlar
display a collection of wares far superior to those which usually filled
his packages, and, in particular, some stuffs and embroideries, of such
beauty and curiosity, fringed, flowered, and worked, with such art and
magnificence, upon foreign and arabesque patterns, that the sight might
have dazzled a far more brilliant company than the simple race of Thule.
All beheld and admired, while Mistress Baby Yellowley, holding up her
hands, protested it was a sin even to look upon such extravagance, and
worse than murder so much as to ask the price of them.

Others, however, were more courageous; and the prices demanded by the
merchant, if they were not, as he himself declared, something just more
than nothing--short only of an absolute free gift of his wares, were
nevertheless so moderate, as to show that he himself must have made an
easy acquisition of the goods, judging by the rate at which he offered
to part with them. Accordingly, the cheapness of the articles created a
rapid sale; for in Zetland, as well as elsewhere, wise folk buy more
from the prudential desire to secure a good bargain, than from any real
occasion for the purchase. The Lady Glowrowrum bought seven petticoats
and twelve stomachers on this sole principle, and other matrons present
rivalled her in this sagacious species of economy. The Udaller was also
a considerable purchaser; but the principal customer for whatever could
please the eye of beauty, was the gallant Captain Cleveland, who
rummaged the jagger's stores in selecting presents for the ladies of the
party, in which Minna and Brenda Troil were especially remembered.

"I fear," said Magnus Troil, "that the young women are to consider these
pretty presents as keepsakes, and that all this liberality is only a
sure sign we are soon to lose you?"

This question seemed to embarrass him to whom it was put.

"I scarce know," he said with some hesitation, "whether this vessel is
my consort or no--I must take a trip to Kirkwall to make sure of that
matter, and then I hope to return to Dunrossness to bid you all

"In that case," said the Udaller, after a moment's pause, "I think I may
carry you thither. I should be at the Kirkwall fair, to settle with the
merchants I have consigned my fish to, and I have often promised Minna
and Brenda that they should see the fair. Perhaps also your consort, or
these strangers, whoever they be, may have some merchandise that will
suit me. I love to see my rigging-loft well stocked with goods, almost
as much as to see it full of dancers. We will go to Orkney in my own
brig, and I can offer you a hammock, if you will."

The offer seemed so acceptable to Cleveland, that, after pouring himself
forth in thanks, he seemed determined to mark his joy by exhausting
Bryce Snailsfoot's treasures in liberality to the company. The contents
of a purse of gold were transferred to the jagger, with a facility and
indifference on the part of its former owner which argued either the
greatest profusion, or consciousness of superior and inexhaustible
wealth; so that Baby whispered to her brother, that, "if he could afford
to fling away money at this rate, the lad had made a better voyage in a
broken ship, than all the skippers of Dundee had made in their haill
anes for a twelvemonth past."

But the angry feeling in which she made this remark was much mollified,
when Cleveland, whose object it seemed that evening to be, to buy golden
opinions of all sorts of men, approached her with a garment somewhat
resembling in shape the Scottish plaid, but woven of a sort of wool so
soft, that it felt to the touch as if it were composed of eider-down.
"This," he said, "was a part of a Spanish lady's dress, called a
_mantilla_; as it would exactly fit the size of Mrs. Baby Yellowley, and
was very well suited for the fogs of the climate of Zetland, he
entreated her to wear it for his sake." The lady, with as much
condescending sweetness as her countenance was able to express, not only
consented to receive this mark of gallantry, but permitted the donor to
arrange the mantilla upon her projecting and bony shoulder-blades,
where, said Claud Halcro, "it hung, for all the world, as if it had been
stretched betwixt a couple of cloak-pins."

While the Captain was performing this piece of courtesy, much to the
entertainment of the company, which, it may be presumed, was his
principal object from the beginning, Mordaunt Mertoun made purchase of a
small golden chaplet, with the private intention of presenting it to
Brenda, when he should find an opportunity. The price was fixed, and the
article laid aside. Claud Halcro also showed some desire of possessing a
silver box of antique shape, for depositing tobacco, which he was in the
habit of using in considerable quantity. But the bard seldom had current
coin in promptitude, and, indeed, in his wandering way of life, had
little occasion for any; and Bryce, on the other hand, his having been
hitherto a ready-money trade, protested, that his very moderate profits
upon such rare and choice articles, would not allow of his affording
credit to the purchaser. Mordaunt gathered the import of this
conversation from the mode in which they whispered together, while the
bard seemed to advance a wishful finger towards the box in question, and
the cautious pedlar detained it with the weight of his whole hand, as if
he had been afraid it would literally make itself wings, and fly into
Claud Halcro's pocket. Mordaunt Mertoun at this moment, desirous to
gratify an old acquaintance, laid the price of the box on the table, and
said he would not permit Master Halcro to purchase that box, as he had
settled in his own mind to make him a present of it.

"I cannot think of robbing you, my dear young friend," said the poet;
"but the truth is, that that same box does remind me strangely of
glorious John's, out of which I had the honour to take a pinch at the
Wits' Coffeehouse, for which I think more highly of my right-hand finger
and thumb than any other part of my body; only you must allow me to pay
you back the price when my Urkaster stock-fish come to market."

"Settle that as you like betwixt you," said the jagger, taking up
Mordaunt's money; "the box is bought and sold."

"And how dare you sell over again," said Captain Cleveland, suddenly
interfering, "what you already have sold to me?"

All were surprised at this interjection, which was hastily made, as
Cleveland, having turned from Mistress Baby, had become suddenly, and,
as it seemed, not without emotion, aware what articles Bryce Snailsfoot
was now disposing of. To this short and fierce question, the jagger,
afraid to contradict a customer of his description, answered only by
stammering, that the "Lord knew he meant nae offence."

"How, sir! no offence!" said the seaman, "and dispose of my property?"
extending his hand at the same time to the box and chaplet; "restore the
young gentleman's money, and learn to keep your course on the meridian
of honesty."

The jagger, confused and reluctant, pulled out his leathern pouch to
repay to Mordaunt the money he had just deposited in it; but the youth
was not to be so satisfied.

"The articles," he said, "were bought and sold--these were your own
words, Bryce Snailsfoot, in Master Halcro's hearing; and I will suffer
neither you nor any other to deprive me of my property."

"_Your_ property, young man?" said Cleveland; "It is mine,--I spoke to
Bryce respecting them an instant before I turned from the table."

"I--I--I had not just heard distinctly," said Bryce, evidently unwilling
to offend either party.

"Come, come," said the Udaller, "we will have no quarrelling about
baubles; we shall be summoned presently to the rigging-loft,"--so he
used to call the apartment used as a ball-room,--"and we must all go in
good-humour. The things shall remain with Bryce for to-night, and
to-morrow I will myself settle whom they shall belong to."

The laws of the Udaller in his own house were absolute as those of the
Medes. The two young men, regarding each other with looks of sullen
displeasure, drew off in different directions.

It is seldom that the second day of a prolonged festival equals the
first. The spirits, as well as the limbs, are jaded, and unequal to the
renewed expenditure of animation and exertion; and the dance at
Burgh-Westra was sustained with much less mirth than on the preceding
evening. It was yet an hour from midnight, when even the reluctant
Magnus Troil, after regretting the degeneracy of the times, and wishing
he could transfuse into the modern Hialtlanders some of the vigour which
still animated his own frame, found himself compelled to give the signal
for general retreat.

Just as this took place, Halcro, leading Mordaunt Mertoun a little
aside, said he had a message to him from Captain Cleveland.

"A message!" said Mordaunt, his heart beating somewhat thick as he
spoke--"A challenge, I suppose?"

"A challenge!" repeated Halcro; "who ever heard of a challenge in our
quiet islands? Do you think that I look like a carrier of challenges,
and to you of all men living?--I am none of those fighting fools, as
glorious John calls them; and it was not quite a message I had to
deliver--only thus far--this Captain Cleveland, I find, hath set his
heart upon having these articles you looked at."

"He shall not have them, I swear to you," replied Mordaunt Mertoun.

"Nay, but hear me," said Halcro; "it seems that, by the marks or arms
that are upon them, he knows that they were formerly his property. Now,
were you to give me the box, as you promised, I fairly tell you, I
should give the man back his own."

"And Brenda might do the like," thought Mordaunt to himself, and
instantly replied aloud, "I have thought better of it, my friend.
Captain Cleveland shall have the toys he sets such store by, but it is
on one sole condition."

"Nay, you will spoil all with your conditions," said Halcro; "for, as
glorious John says, conditions are but"----

"Hear me, I say, with patience.--My condition is, that he keeps the toys
in exchange for the rifle-gun I accepted from him, which will leave no
obligation between us on either side."

"I see where you would be--this is Sebastian and Dorax all over. Well,
you may let the jagger know he is to deliver the things to Cleveland--I
think he is mad to have them--and I will let Cleveland know the
conditions annexed, otherwise honest Bryce might come by two payments
instead of one; and I believe his conscience would not choke upon it."

With these words, Halcro went to seek out Cleveland, while Mordaunt,
observing Snailsfoot, who, as a sort of privileged person, had thrust
himself into the crowd at the bottom of the dancing-room, went up to
him, and gave him directions to deliver the disputed articles to
Cleveland as soon as he had an opportunity.

"Ye are in the right, Maister Mordaunt," said the jagger; "ye are a
prudent and a sensible lad--a calm answer turneth away wrath--and
mysell, I sall be willing to please you in ony trifling matters in my
sma' way; for, between the Udaller of Burgh-Westra and Captain
Cleveland, a man is, as it were, atween the deil and the deep sea; and
it was like that the Udaller, in the end, would have taken your part in
the dispute, for he is a man that loves justice."

"Which apparently you care very little about, Master Snailsfoot," said
Mordaunt, "otherwise there could have been no dispute whatever, the
right being so clearly on my side, if you had pleased to bear witness
according to the dictates of truth."

"Maister Mordaunt," said the jagger, "I must own there was, as it were,
a colouring or shadow of justice on your side; but then, the justice
that I meddle with, is only justice in the way of trade, to have an
ellwand of due length, if it be not something worn out with leaning on
it in my lang and painful journeys, and to buy and sell by just weight
and measure, twenty-four merks to the lispund; but I have nothing to do,
to do justice betwixt man and man, like a Fowd or a Lawright-man at a
lawting lang syne."

"No one asked you to do so, but only to give evidence according to your
conscience," replied Mordaunt, not greatly pleased either with the part
the jagger had acted during the dispute, or the construction which he
seemed to put on his own motives for yielding up the point.

But Bryce Snailsfoot wanted not his answer; "My conscience," he said,
"Maister Mordaunt, is as tender as ony man's in my degree; but she is
something of a timorsome nature, cannot abide angry folk, and can never
speak above her breath, when there is aught of a fray going forward.
Indeed, she hath at all times a small and low voice."

"Which you are not much in the habit of listening to," said Mordaunt.

"There is that on your ain breast that proves the contrary," said Bryce,

"In my breast?" said Mordaunt, somewhat angrily,--"what know I of you?"

"I said _on_ your breast, Maister Mordaunt, and not _in_ it. I am sure
nae eye that looks on that waistcoat upon your own gallant brisket, but
will say, that the merchant who sold such a piece for four dollars had
justice and conscience, and a kind heart to a customer to the boot of a'
that; sae ye shouldna be sae thrawart wi' me for having spared the
breath of my mouth in a fool's quarrel."

"I thrawart!" said Mordaunt; "pooh, you silly man! I have no quarrel
with you."

"I am glad of it," said the travelling merchant; "I will quarrel with no
man, with my will--least of all with an old customer; and if you will
walk by my advice, you will quarrel nane with Captain Cleveland. He is
like one of yon cutters and slashers that have come into Kirkwall, that
think as little of slicing a man, as we do of flinching a whale--it's
their trade to fight, and they live by it; and they have the advantage
of the like of you, that only take it up at your own hand, and in the
way of pastime, when you hae nothing better to do."

The company had now almost all dispersed; and Mordaunt, laughing at the
jagger's caution, bade him good-night, and went to his own place of
repose, which had been assigned to him by Eric Scambester, (who acted
the part of chamberlain as well as butler,) in a small room, or rather
closet, in one of the outhouses, furnished for the occasion with the
hammock of a sailor.


  I pass like night from land to land,
    I have strange power of speech;
  So soon as e'er his face I see,
  I know the man that must hear me,
    To him my tale I teach.

                  COLERIDGE'S _Rime of the Ancient Mariner_.

The daughters of Magnus Troil shared the same bed, in a chamber which
had been that of their parents before the death of their mother. Magnus,
who suffered grievously under that dispensation of Providence, had
become disgusted with the apartment. The nuptial chamber was abandoned
to the pledges of his bereaved affection, of whom the eldest was at that
period only four years old, or thereabouts; and, having been their
nursery in infancy, continued, though now tricked and adorned according
to the best fashion of the islands, and the taste of the lovely sisters
themselves, to be their sleeping-room, or, in the old Norse dialect,
their bower.

It had been for many years the scene of the most intimate confidence, if
that could be called confidence, where, in truth, there was nothing to
be confided; where neither sister had a secret; and where every thought
that had birth in the bosom of the one, was, without either hesitation
or doubt, confided to the other as spontaneously as it had arisen. But,
since Cleveland abode in the mansion of Burgh-Westra, each of the lovely
sisters had entertained thoughts which are not lightly or easily
communicated, unless she who listens to them has previously assured
herself that the confidence will be kindly received. Minna had noticed
what other and less interested observers had been unable to perceive,
that Cleveland, namely, held a lower rank in Brenda's opinion than in
her own; and Brenda, on her side, thought that Minna had hastily and
unjustly joined in the prejudices which had been excited against
Mordaunt Mertoun in the mind of their father. Each was sensible that she
was no longer the same to her sister; and this conviction was a painful
addition to other painful apprehensions which they supposed they had to
struggle with. Their manner towards each other was, in outward
appearances, and in all the little cares by which affection can be
expressed, even more assiduously kind than before, as if both, conscious
that their internal reserve was a breach of their sisterly union, strove
to atone for it by double assiduity in those external marks of
affection, which, at other times, when there was nothing to hide, might
be omitted without inferring any consequences.

On the night referred to in particular, the sisters felt more especially
the decay of the confidence which used to exist betwixt them. The
proposed voyage to Kirkwall, and that at the time of the fair, when
persons of every degree in these islands repair thither, either for
business or amusement, was likely to be an important incident in lives
usually so simple and uniform as theirs; and, a few months ago, Minna
and Brenda would have been awake half the night, anticipating, in their
talk with each other, all that was likely to happen on so momentous an
occasion. But now the subject was just mentioned, and suffered to drop,
as if the topic was likely to produce a difference betwixt them, or to
call forth a more open display of their several opinions than either was
willing to make to the other.

Yet such was their natural openness and gentleness of disposition, that
each sister imputed to herself the fault that there was aught like
estrangement existing between them; and when, having finished their
devotions, and betaken themselves to their common couch, they folded
each other in their arms, and exchanged a sisterly kiss, and a sisterly
good-night, they seemed mutually to ask pardon, and to exchange
forgiveness, although neither said a word of offence, either offered or
received; and both were soon plunged in that light and yet profound
repose, which is only enjoyed when sleep sinks down on the eyes of youth
and innocence.

On the night to which the story relates, both sisters were visited by
dreams, which, though varied by the moods and habits of the sleepers,
bore yet a strange general resemblance to each other.

Minna dreamed that she was in one of the most lonely recesses of the
beach, called Swartaster, where the incessant operation of the waves,
indenting a calcarious rock, has formed a deep _halier_, which, in the
language of the island, means a subterranean cavern, into which the tide
ebbs and flows. Many of these run to an extraordinary and unascertained
depth under ground, and are the secure retreat of cormorants and seals,
which it is neither easy nor safe to pursue to their extreme recesses.
Amongst these, this halier of Swartaster was accounted peculiarly
inaccessible, and shunned both by fowlers and by seamen, on account of
sharp angles and turnings in the cave itself, as well as the sunken
rocks which rendered it very dangerous for skiffs or boats to advance
far into it, especially if there was the usual swell of an island tide.
From the dark-browed mouth of this cavern, it seemed to Minna, in her
dream, that she beheld a mermaid issue, not in the classical dress of a
Nereid, as in Claud Halcro's mask of the preceding evening, but with
comb and glass in hand, according to popular belief, and lashing the
waves with that long scaly train, which, in the traditions of the
country, forms so frightful a contrast with the fair face, long tresses,
and displayed bosom, of a human and earthly female, of surpassing
beauty. She seemed to beckon to Minna, while her wild notes rang sadly
in her ear, and denounced, in prophetic sounds, calamity and woe.

The vision of Brenda was of a different description, yet equally
melancholy. She sat, as she thought, in her favourite bower, surrounded
by her father and a party of his most beloved friends, amongst whom
Mordaunt Mertoun was not forgotten. She was required to sing; and she
strove to entertain them with a lively ditty, in which she was accounted
eminently successful, and which she sung with such simple, yet natural
humour, as seldom failed to produce shouts of laughter and applause,
while all who could, or who could not sing, were irresistibly compelled
to lend their voices to the chorus. But, on this occasion, it seemed as
if her own voice refused all its usual duty, and as if, while she felt
herself unable to express the words of the well-known air, it assumed,
in her own despite, the deep tones and wild and melancholy notes of
Norna of Fitful-head, for the purpose of chanting some wild Runic rhyme,
resembling those sung by the heathen priests of old, when the victim
(too often human) was bound to the fatal altar of Odin or of Thor.

At length the two sisters at once started from sleep, and, uttering a
low scream of fear, clasped themselves in each other's arms. For their
fancy had not altogether played them false; the sounds, which had
suggested their dreams, were real, and sung within their apartment. They
knew the voice well, indeed, and yet, knowing to whom it belonged, their
surprise and fear were scarce the less, when they saw the well-known
Norna of Fitful-head, seated by the chimney of the apartment, which,
during the summer season, contained an iron lamp well trimmed, and, in
winter, a fire of wood or of turf.

She was wrapped in her long and ample garment of wadmaal, and moved her
body slowly to and fro over the pale flame of the lamp, as she sung
lines to the following purport, in a slow, sad, and almost an unearthly

  "For leagues along the watery way,
    Through gulf and stream my course has been;
  The billows know my Runic lay,
    And smooth their crests to silent green.

  "The billows know my Runic lay,--
    The gulf grows smooth, the stream is still;
  But human hearts, more wild than they,
    Know but the rule of wayward will.

  "One hour is mine, in all the year,
    To tell my woes,--and one alone;
  When gleams this magic lamp, 'tis here,--
    When dies the mystic light, 'tis gone.

  "Daughters of northern Magnus, hail!
    The lamp is lit, the flame is clear,--
  To you I come to tell my tale,
    Awake, arise, my tale to hear!"

Norna was well known to the daughters of Troil, but it was not without
emotion, although varied by their respective dispositions, that they
beheld her so unexpectedly, and at such an hour. Their opinions with
respect to the supernatural attributes to which she pretended, were
extremely different.

Minna, with an unusual intensity of imagination, although superior in
talent to her sister, was more apt to listen to, and delight in, every
tale of wonder, and was at all times more willing to admit impressions
which gave her fancy scope and exercise, without minutely examining
their reality. Brenda, on the other hand, had, in her gaiety, a slight
propensity to satire, and was often tempted to laugh at the very
circumstances upon which Minna founded her imaginative dreams; and, like
all who love the ludicrous, she did not readily suffer herself to be
imposed upon, or overawed, by pompous pretensions of any kind whatever.
But, as her nerves were weaker and more irritable than those of her
sister, she often paid involuntary homage, by her fears, to ideas which
her reason disowned; and hence, Claud Halcro used to say, in reference
to many of the traditionary superstitions around Burgh-Westra, that
Minna believed them without trembling, and that Brenda trembled without
believing them. In our own more enlightened days, there are few whose
undoubting mind and native courage have not felt Minna's high wrought
tone of enthusiasm; and perhaps still fewer, who have not, at one time
or other, felt, like Brenda, their nerves confess the influence of
terrors which their reason disowned and despised.

Under the power of such different feelings, Minna, when the first moment
of surprise was over, prepared to spring from her bed, and go to greet
Norna, who, she doubted not, had come on some errand fraught with fate;
while Brenda, who only beheld in her a woman partially deranged in her
understanding, and who yet, from the extravagance of her claims,
regarded her as an undefined object of awe, or rather terror, detained
her sister by an eager and terrified grasp, while she whispered in her
ear an anxious entreaty that she would call for assistance. But the soul
of Minna was too highly wrought up by the crisis at which her fate
seemed to have arrived, to permit her to follow the dictates of her
sister's fears; and, extricating herself from Brenda's hold, she hastily
threw on a loose nightgown, and, stepping boldly across the apartment,
while her heart throbbed rather with high excitement than with fear, she
thus addressed her singular visitor:

"Norna, if your mission regards us, as your words seem to express, there
is one of us, at least, who will receive its import with reverence, but
without fear."

"Norna, dear Norna," said the tremulous voice of Brenda,--who, feeling
no safety in the bed after Minna quitted it, had followed her, as
fugitives crowd into the rear of an advancing army, because they dare
not remain behind, and who now stood half concealed by her sister, and
holding fast by the skirts of her gown,--"Norna, dear Norna," said she,
"whatever you are to say, let it be to-morrow. I will call Euphane Fea,
the housekeeper, and she will find you a bed for the night."

"No bed for me!" said their nocturnal visitor; "no closing of the eyes
for me! They have watched as shelf and stack appeared and disappeared
betwixt Burgh-Westra and Orkney--they have seen the Man of Hoy sink
into the sea, and the Peak of Hengcliff arise from it, and yet they have
not tasted of slumber; nor must they slumber now till my task is ended.
Sit down, then, Minna, and thou, silly trembler, sit down, while I trim
my lamp--Don your clothes, for the tale is long, and ere 'tis done, ye
will shiver with worse than cold."

"For Heaven's sake, then, put it off till daylight, dear Norna!" said
Brenda; "the dawn cannot be far distant; and if you are to tell us of
any thing frightful, let it be by daylight, and not by the dim glimmer
of that blue lamp!"

"Patience, fool!" said their uninvited guest. "Not by daylight should
Norna tell a tale that might blot the sun out of heaven, and blight the
hopes of the hundred boats that will leave this shore ere noon, to
commence their deep-sea fishing,--ay, and of the hundred families that
will await their return. The demon, whom the sounds will not fail to
awaken, must shake his dark wings over a shipless and a boatless sea, as
he rushes from his mountain to drink the accents of horror he loves so
well to listen to."

"Have pity on Brenda's fears, good Norna," said the elder sister, "and
at least postpone this frightful communication to another place and

"Maiden, no!" replied Norna, sternly; "it must be told while that lamp
yet burns. Mine is no daylight tale--by that lamp it must be told, which
is framed out of the gibbet-irons of the cruel Lord of Wodensvoe, who
murdered his brother; and has for its nourishment--but be that
nameless--enough that its food never came either from the fish or from
the fruit!--See, it waxes dim and dimmer, nor must my tale last longer
than its flame endureth. Sit ye down there, while I sit here opposite
to you, and place the lamp betwixt us; for within the sphere of its
light the demon dares not venture."

The sisters obeyed, Minna casting a slow awestruck, yet determined look
all around, as if to see the Being, who, according to the doubtful words
of Norna, hovered in their neighbourhood; while Brenda's fears were
mingled with some share both of anger and of impatience. Norna paid no
attention to either, but began her story in the following words:--

"Ye know, my daughters, that your blood is allied to mine, but in what
degree ye know not; for there was early hostility betwixt your grandsire
and him who had the misfortune to call me daughter.--Let me term him by
his Christian name of Erland, for that which marks our relation I dare
not bestow. Your grandsire Olave, was the brother of Erland. But when
the wide Udal possessions of their father Rolfe Troil, the most rich and
well estated of any who descended from the old Norse stock, were divided
betwixt the brothers, the Fowd gave to Erland his father's lands in
Orkney, and reserved for Olave those of Hialtland. Discord arose between
the brethren; for Erland held that he was wronged; and when the
Lawting,[47] with the Raddmen and Lawright-men, confirmed the
division, he went in wrath to Orkney, cursing Hialtland and its
inhabitants--cursing his brother and his blood.

"But the love of the rock and of the mountain still wrought on Erland's
mind, and he fixed his dwelling not on the soft hills of Ophir, or the
green plains of Gramesey, but in the wild and mountainous Isle of Hoy,
whose summit rises to the sky like the cliffs of Foulah and of
Feroe.[48] He knew,--that unhappy Erland,--whatever of legendary lore
Scald and Bard had left behind them; and to teach me that knowledge,
which was to cost us both so dear, was the chief occupation of his old
age. I learned to visit each lonely barrow--each lofty cairn--to tell
its appropriate tale, and to soothe with rhymes in his praise the spirit
of the stern warrior who dwelt within. I knew where the sacrifices were
made of yore to Thor and to Odin, on what stones the blood of the
victims flowed--where stood the dark-browed priest--where the crested
chiefs, who consulted the will of the idol--where the more distant crowd
of inferior worshippers, who looked on in awe or in terror. The places
most shunned by the timid peasants had no terrors for me; I dared walk
in the fairy circle, and sleep by the magic spring.

"But, for my misfortune, I was chiefly fond to linger about the Dwarfie
Stone, as it is called, a relic of antiquity, which strangers look on
with curiosity, and the natives with awe. It is a huge fragment of rock,
which lies in a broken and rude valley, full of stones and precipices,
in the recesses of the Ward-hill of Hoy. The inside of the rock has two
couches, hewn by no earthly hand, and having a small passage between
them. The doorway is now open to the weather; but beside it lies a
large stone, which, adapted to grooves still visible in the entrance,
once had served to open and to close this extraordinary dwelling, which
Trolld, a dwarf famous in the northern Sagas, is said to have framed for
his own favourite residence. The lonely shepherd avoids the place; for
at sunrise, high noon, or sunset, the misshapen form of the necromantic
owner may sometimes still be seen sitting by the Dwarfie Stone.[49] I
feared not the apparition, for, Minna, my heart was as bold, and my hand
was as innocent, as yours. In my childish courage, I was even but too
presumptuous, and the thirst after things unattainable led me, like our
primitive mother, to desire increase of knowledge, even by prohibited
means. I longed to possess the power of the Voluspæ and divining women
of our ancient race; to wield, like them, command over the elements; and
to summon the ghosts of deceased heroes from their caverns, that they
might recite their daring deeds, and impart to me their hidden
treasures. Often when watching by the Dwarfie Stone, with mine eyes
fixed on the Ward-hill, which rises above that gloomy valley, I have
distinguished, among the dark rocks, that wonderful carbuncle,[50](_p_)
which gleams ruddy as a furnace to them who view it from beneath, but
has ever become invisible to him whose daring foot has scaled the
precipices from which it darts its splendour. My vain and youthful bosom
burned to investigate these and an hundred other mysteries, which the
Sagas that I perused, or learned from Erland, rather indicated than
explained; and in my daring mood, I called on the Lord of the Dwarfie
Stone to aid me in attaining knowledge inaccessible to mere mortals."

"And the evil spirit heard your summons?" said Minna, her blood curdling
as she listened.

"Hush," said Norna, lowering her voice, "vex him not with reproach--he
is with us--he hears us even now."

Brenda started from her seat.--"I will to Euphane Fea's chamber," she
said, "and leave you, Minna and Norna, to finish your stories of
hobgoblins and of dwarfs at your own leisure; I care not for them at any
time, but I will not endure them at midnight, and by this pale

She was accordingly in the act of leaving the room, when her sister
detained her.

"Is this the courage," she said, "of her, that disbelieves whatever the
history of our fathers tells us of supernatural prodigy? What Norna has
to tell concerns the fate, perhaps, of our father and his house;--if I
can listen to it, trusting that God and my innocence will protect me
from all that is malignant, you, Brenda, who believe not in such
influence, have surely no cause to tremble. Credit me, that for the
guiltless there is no fear."

"There may be no danger," said Brenda, unable to suppress her natural
turn for humour, "but, as the old jest book says, there is much fear.
However, Minna, I will stay with you;--the rather," she added, in a
whisper, "that I am loath to leave you alone with this frightful woman,
and that I have a dark staircase and long passage betwixt and Euphane
Fea, else I would have her here ere I were five minutes older."

"Call no one hither, maiden, upon peril of thy life," said Norna, "and
interrupt not my tale again; for it cannot and must not be told after
that charmed light has ceased to burn."

"And I thank heaven," said Brenda to herself, "that the oil burns low in
the cruize! I am sorely tempted to lend it a puff, but then Norna would
be alone with us in the dark, and that would be worse."

So saying, she submitted to her fate, and sat down, determined to listen
with all the equanimity which she could command to the remaining part of
Norna's tale, which went on as follows:--

"It happened on a hot summer day, and just about the hour of noon,"
continued Norna, "as I sat by the Dwarfie Stone, with my eyes fixed on
the Ward-hill, whence the mysterious and ever-burning carbuncle shed its
rays more brightly than usual, and repined in my heart at the restricted
bounds of human knowledge, that at length I could not help exclaiming,
in the words of an ancient Saga,

  'Dwellers of the mountain, rise,
  Trolld the powerful, Haims the wise!
  Ye who taught weak woman's tongue
  Words that sway the wise and strong,--
  Ye who taught weak woman's hand
  How to wield the magic wand,
  And wake the gales on Foulah's steep,
  Or lull wild Sumburgh's waves to sleep!--
  Still are ye yet?--Not yours the power
  Ye knew in Odin's mightier hour.
  What are ye now but empty names,
  Powerful Trolld, sagacious Haims,
  That, lightly spoken, lightly heard,
  Float on the air like thistle's beard?'

"I had scarce uttered these words," proceeded Norna, "ere the sky, which
had been till then unusually clear, grew so suddenly dark around me,
that it seemed more like midnight than noon. A single flash of
lightning showed me at once the desolate landscape of heath, morass,
mountain, and precipice, which lay around; a single clap of thunder
wakened all the echoes of the Ward-hill, which continued so long to
repeat the sound, that it seemed some rock, rent by the thunderbolt from
the summit, was rolling over cliff and precipice into the valley.
Immediately after, fell a burst of rain so violent, that I was fain to
shun its pelting, by creeping into the interior of the mysterious stone.

"I seated myself on the larger stone couch, which is cut at the farther
end of the cavity, and, with my eyes fixed on the smaller bed, wearied
myself with conjectures respecting 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? I tell you the thoughts that then floated through my brain,
that ye may know that what ensued was not the vision of a prejudiced or
prepossessed imagination, but an apparition, as certain as it was awful.

"Sleep had gradually crept on me, amidst 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 the 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_.[51] This was the import,--

          'A thousand winters dark have flown,
          Since o'er the threshold of my Stone
          A votaress pass'd, my power to own.
                Visitor bold
                Of the mansion of Trolld,
                    Maiden haughty of heart,
                Who hast hither presumed,--
                Ungifted, undoom'd,
                    Thou shalt not depart;
                The power thou dost covet
                    O'er tempest and wave,
                Shall be thine, thou proud maiden,
                    By beach and by cave,--
  By stack[52] and by skerry,[53] by noup[54] and by voe,[55]
  By air[56] and by wick,[57] and by helyer[58] and gio,[59]
  And by every wild shore which the northern winds know,
          And the northern tides lave.
  But though this shall be given thee, thou desperately brave,
  I doom thee that never the gift thou shalt have,
          Till thou reave thy life's giver
          Of the gift which he gave.'

"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. Therefore did I
answer him thus:--

  'Dark are thy words, and severe,
    Thou dweller in the stone;
  But trembling and fear
    To her are unknown,
  Who hath sought thee here,
    In thy dwelling lone.
  Come what comes soever,
    The worst I can endure;
  Life is but a short fever,
    And Death is the cure.'

"The Demon scowled at me, as if at once incensed and overawed; and then
coiling himself up in a thick and sulphureous vapour, 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. After a moment's
breathless pause, I hasted home, musing by the way on the words of the
phantom, which I could not, as often happens, recall so distinctly to
memory at the time, as I have been able to do since.

"It may seem strange that such an apparition should, in time, have
glided from my mind, like a vision of the night--but so it was. I
brought myself to believe it the work of fancy--I thought I had lived
too much in solitude, and had given way too much to the feelings
inspired by my favourite studies. I abandoned them for a time, and I
mixed with the youth of my age. I was upon a visit at Kirkwall when I
learned to know your father, whom business had brought thither. He
easily found access to the relation with whom I lived, who was anxious
to compose, if possible, the feud which divided our families. Your
father, maidens, has been rather hardened than changed by years--he had
the same manly form, the same old Norse frankness of manner and of
heart, the same upright courage and honesty of disposition, with more of
the gentle ingenuousness of youth, an eager desire to please, a
willingness to be pleased, and a vivacity of spirits which survives not
our early years. But though he was thus worthy of love, and though
Erland wrote to me, authorizing his attachment, there was another--a
stranger, Minna, a fatal stranger--full of arts unknown to us, and
graces which to the plain manners of your father were unknown. Yes, he
walked, indeed, among us like a being of another and of a superior
race.--Ye look on me as if it were strange that I should have had
attractions for such a lover; but I present nothing that can remind you
that Norna of the Fitful-head was once admired and loved as Ulla
Troil--the change betwixt the animated body and the corpse after
disease, is scarce more awful and absolute than I have sustained, while
I yet linger on earth. Look on me, maidens--look on me by this
glimmering light--Can ye believe that these haggard and weather-wasted
features--these eyes, which have been almost converted to stone, by
looking upon sights of terror--these locks, that, mingled with grey, now
stream out, the shattered pennons of a sinking vessel--that these, and
she to whom they belong, could once be the objects of fond
affection?--But the waning lamp sinks fast, and let it sink while I tell
my infamy.--We loved in secret, we met in secret, till I gave the last
proof of fatal and of guilty passion!--And now beam out, thou magic
glimmer--shine out a little space, thou flame so powerful even in thy
feebleness--bid him who hovers near us, keep his dark pinions aloof from
the circle thou dost illuminate--live but a little till the worst be
told, and then sink when thou wilt into darkness, as black as my guilt
and sorrow!"

While she spoke thus, she drew together the remaining nutriment of the
lamp, and trimmed its decaying flame; then again, with a hollow voice,
and in broken sentences, pursued her narrative.

"I must waste little time in words. My love was discovered, but not my
guilt. Erland came to Pomona in anger, and transported me to our
solitary dwelling in Hoy. He commanded me to see my lover no more, and
to receive Magnus, in whom he was willing to forgive the offences of his
father, as my future husband. Alas, I no longer deserved his
attachment--my only wish was to escape from my father's dwelling, to
conceal my shame in my lover's arms. Let me do him justice--he was
faithful--too, too faithful--his perfidy would have bereft me of my
senses; but the fatal consequences of his fidelity have done me a
tenfold injury."

She paused, and then resumed, with the wild tone of insanity, "It has
made me the powerful and the despairing Sovereign of the Seas and

She paused a second time after this wild exclamation, and resumed her
narrative in a more composed manner.

"My lover came in secret to Hoy, to concert measures for my flight, and
I agreed to meet him, that we might fix the time when his vessel should
come into the Sound. I left the house at midnight."

Here she appeared to gasp with agony, and went on with her tale by
broken and interrupted sentences. "I left the house at midnight--I had
to pass my father's door, and I perceived it was open--I thought he
watched us; and, that the sound of my steps might not break his
slumbers, I closed the fatal door--a light and trivial action--but, God
in Heaven! what were the consequences!--At morn, the room was full of
suffocating vapour--my father was dead--dead through my act--dead
through my disobedience--dead through my infamy! All that follows is
mist and darkness--a choking, suffocating, stifling mist envelopes all
that I said and did, all that was said and done, until I became assured
that my doom was accomplished, and walked forth the calm and terrible
being you now behold me--the Queen of the Elements--the sharer in the
power of those beings to whom man and his passions give such sport as
the tortures of the dog-fish afford the fisherman, when he pierces his
eyes with thorns, and turns him once more into his native element, to
traverse the waves in blindness and agony.[60] No, maidens, she whom you
see before you is impassive to the follies of which your minds are the
sport. I am she that have made the offering--I am she that bereaved the
giver of the gift of life which he gave me--the dark saying has been
interpreted by my deed, and I am taken from humanity, to be something
pre-eminently powerful, pre-eminently wretched!"

As she spoke thus, the light, which had been long quivering, leaped high
for an instant, and seemed about to expire, when Norna, interrupting
herself, said hastily, "No more now--he comes--he comes--Enough that ye
know me, and the right I have to advise and command you.--Approach now,
proud Spirit! if thou wilt."

So saying, she extinguished the lamp, and passed out of the apartment
with her usual loftiness of step, as Minna could observe from its
measured cadence.


[47] The Lawting was the Comitia, or Supreme Court, of the country,
being retained both in Orkney and Zetland, and presenting, in its
constitution, the rude origin of a parliament.

[48] And from which hill of Hoy, at midsummer, the sun may be seen, it
is said, at midnight. So says the geographer Bleau, although, according
to Dr. Wallace, it cannot be the true body of the sun which is visible,
but only its image refracted through some watery cloud upon the horizon.

[49] Note VIII.--The Dwarfie Stone.

[50] Note IX.--Carbuncle on the Ward-hill.

[51] Or consecrated mountain, used by the Scandinavian priests for the
purposes of their idol-worship.

[52] _Stack._ A precipitous rock, rising out of the sea.

[53] _Skerry._ A flat insulated rock, not subject to the overflowing of
the sea.

[54] _Noup._ A round-headed eminence.

[55] _Voe._ A creek, or inlet of the sea.

[56] _Air._ An open sea-beach.

[57] _Wick._ An open bay.

[58] _Helyer._ A cavern into which the tide flows.

[59] _Gio._ A deep ravine which admits the sea.

[60] This cruelty is practised by some fishers, out of a vindictive
hatred to these ravenous fishes.


  Is all the counsel that we two have shared--
  The sisters' vows, the hours that we have spent,
  When we have chid the hasty-footed time
  For parting us--O, and is all forgot?

                                  _Midsummer-Night's Dream._

The attention of Minna was powerfully arrested by this tale of terror,
which accorded with and explained many broken hints respecting Norna,
which she had heard from her father and other near relations, and she
was for a time so lost in surprise, not unmingled with horror, that she
did not even attempt to speak to her sister Brenda. When, at length, she
called her by her name, she received no answer, and, on touching her
hand, she found it cold as ice. Alarmed to the uttermost, she threw open
the lattice and the window-shutters, and admitted at once the free air
and the pale glimmer of the hyperborean summer night. She then became
sensible that her sister was in a swoon. All thoughts concerning Norna,
her frightful tale, and her mysterious connexion with the invisible
world, at once vanished from Minna's thoughts, and she hastily ran to
the apartment of the old housekeeper, to summon her aid, without
reflecting for a moment what sights she might encounter in the long dark
passages which she had to traverse.

The old woman hastened to Brenda's assistance, and instantly applied
such remedies as her experience suggested; but the poor girl's nervous
system had been so much agitated by the horrible tale she had just
heard, that, when recovered from her swoon, her utmost endeavours to
compose her mind could not prevent her falling into a hysterical fit of
some duration. This also was subdued by the experience of old Euphane
Fea, who was well versed in all the simple pharmacy used by the natives
of Zetland, and who, after administering a composing draught, distilled
from simples and wild flowers, at length saw her patient resigned to
sleep. Minna stretched herself beside her sister, kissed her cheek, and
courted slumber in her turn; but the more she invoked it, the farther it
seemed to fly from her eyelids; and if at times she was disposed to sink
into repose, the voice of the involuntary parricide seemed again to
sound in her ears, and startled her into consciousness.

The early morning hour at which they were accustomed to rise, found the
state of the sisters different from what might have been expected. A
sound sleep had restored the spirit of Brenda's lightsome eye, and the
rose on her laughing cheek; the transient indisposition of the preceding
night having left as little trouble on her look, as the fantastic
terrors of Norna's tale had been able to impress on her imagination. The
looks of Minna, on the contrary, were melancholy, downcast, and
apparently exhausted by watching and anxiety. They said at first little
to each other, as if afraid of touching a subject so fraught with
emotion as the scene of the preceding night. It was not until they had
performed together their devotions, as usual, that Brenda, while lacing
Minna's boddice, (for they rendered the services of the toilet to each
other reciprocally,) became aware of the paleness of her sister's
looks; and having ascertained, by a glance at the mirror, that her own
did not wear the same dejection, she kissed Minna's cheek, and said
affectionately, "Claud Halcro was right, my dearest sister, when his
poetical folly gave us these names of Night and Day."

"And wherefore should you say so now?" said Minna.

"Because we each are bravest in the season that we take our name from: I
was frightened wellnigh to death, by hearing those things last night,
which you endured with courageous firmness; and now, when it is broad
light, I can think of them with composure, while you look as pale as a
spirit who is surprised by sunrise."

"You are lucky, Brenda," said her sister, gravely, "who can so soon
forget such a tale of wonder and horror."

"The horror," said Brenda, "is never to be forgotten, unless one could
hope that the unfortunate woman's excited imagination, which shows
itself so active in conjuring up apparitions, may have fixed on her an
imaginary crime."

"You believe nothing, then," said Minna, "of her interview at the
Dwarfie Stone, that wondrous place, of which so many tales are told, and
which, for so many centuries, has been reverenced as the work of a
demon, and as his abode?"

"I believe," said Brenda, "that our unhappy relative is no
impostor,--and therefore I believe that she was at the Dwarfie Stone
during a thunderstorm, that she sought shelter in it, and that, during a
swoon, or during sleep perhaps, some dream visited her, concerned with
the popular traditions with which she was so conversant; but I cannot
easily believe more."

"And yet the event," said Minna, "corresponded to the dark intimations
of the vision."

"Pardon me," said Brenda, "I rather think the dream would never have
been put into shape, or perhaps remembered at all, but for the event.
She told us herself she had nearly forgot the vision, till after her
father's dreadful death,--and who shall warrant how much of what she
then supposed herself to remember was not the creation of her own fancy,
disordered as it naturally was by the horrid accident? Had she really
seen and conversed with a necromantic dwarf, she was likely to remember
the conversation long enough--at least I am sure I should."

"Brenda," replied Minna, "you have heard the good minister of the
Cross-Kirk say, that human wisdom was worse than folly, when it was
applied to mysteries beyond its comprehension; and that, if we believed
no more than we could understand, we should resist the evidence of our
senses, which presented us, at every turn, circumstances as certain as
they were unintelligible."

"You are too learned yourself, sister," answered Brenda, "to need the
assistance of the good minister of Cross-Kirk; but I think his doctrine
only related to the mysteries of our religion, which it is our duty to
receive without investigation or doubt--but in things occurring in
common life, as God has bestowed reason upon us, we cannot act wrong in
employing it. But you, my dear Minna, have a warmer fancy than mine, and
are willing to receive all those wonderful stories for truth, because
you love to think of sorcerers, and dwarfs, and water-spirits, and
would like much to have a little trow, or fairy, as the Scotch call
them, with a green coat, and a pair of wings as brilliant as the hues of
the starling's neck, specially to attend on you."

"It would spare you at least the trouble of lacing my boddice," said
Minna, "and of lacing it wrong, too; for in the heat of your argument
you have missed two eyelet-holes."

"That error shall be presently mended," said Brenda; "and then, as one
of our friends might say, I will haul tight and belay--but you draw your
breath so deeply, that it will be a difficult matter."

"I only sighed," said Minna, in some confusion, "to think how soon you
can trifle with and ridicule the misfortunes of this extraordinary

"I do not ridicule them, God knows!" replied Brenda, somewhat angrily;
"it is you, Minna, who turn all I say in truth and kindness, to
something harsh or wicked. I look on Norna as a woman of very
extraordinary abilities, which are very often united with a strong cast
of insanity; and I consider her as better skilled in the signs of the
weather than any woman in Zetland. But that she has any power over the
elements, I no more believe, than I do in the nursery stories of King
Erick, who could make the wind blow from the point he set his cap to."

Minna, somewhat nettled with the obstinate incredulity of her sister,
replied sharply, "And yet, Brenda, this woman--half-mad woman, and the
veriest impostor--is the person by whom you choose to be advised in the
matter next your own heart at this moment!"

"I do not know what you mean," said Brenda, colouring deeply, and
shifting to get away from her sister. But as she was now undergoing the
ceremony of being laced in her turn, her sister had the means of holding
her fast by the silken string with which she was fastening the boddice,
and, tapping her on the neck, which expressed, by its sudden writhe, and
sudden change to a scarlet hue, as much pettish confusion as she had
desired to provoke, she added, more mildly, "Is it not strange, Brenda,
that, used as we have been by the stranger Mordaunt Mertoun, whose
assurance has brought him uninvited to a house where his presence is so
unacceptable, you should still look or think of him with favour? Surely,
that you do so should be a proof to you, that there are such things as
spells in the country, and that you yourself labour under them. It is
not for nought that Mordaunt wears a chain of elfin gold--look to it,
Brenda, and be wise in time."

"I have nothing to do with Mordaunt Mertoun," answered Brenda, hastily,
"nor do I know or care what he or any other young man wears about his
neck. I could see all the gold chains of all the bailies of Edinburgh,
that Lady Glowrowrum speaks so much of, without falling in fancy with
one of the wearers." And, having thus complied with the female rule of
pleading not guilty in general to such an indictment, she immediately
resumed, in a different tone, "But, to say the truth, Minna, I think
you, and all of you, have judged far too hastily about this young friend
of ours, who has been so long our most intimate companion. Mind,
Mordaunt Mertoun is no more to me than he is to you--who best know how
little difference he made betwixt us; and that, chain or no chain, he
lived with us like a brother with two sisters; and yet you can turn him
off at once, because a wandering seaman, of whom we know nothing, and a
peddling jagger, whom we do know to be a thief, a cheat, and a liar,
speak words and carry tales in his disfavour! I do not believe he ever
said he could have his choice of either of us, and only waited to see
which was to have Burgh-Westra and Bredness Voe--I do not believe he
ever spoke such a word, or harboured such a thought, as that of making a
choice between us."

"Perhaps," said Minna, coldly, "you may have had reason to know that his
choice was already determined."

"I will not endure this!" said Brenda, giving way to her natural
vivacity, and springing from between her sister's hands; then turning
round and facing her, while her glowing cheek was rivalled in the
deepness of its crimson, by as much of her neck and bosom as the upper
part of the half-laced boddice permitted to be visible,--"Even from you,
Minna," she said, "I will not endure this! You know that all my life I
have spoken the truth, and that I love the truth; and I tell you, that
Mordaunt Mertoun never in his life made distinction betwixt you and me,

Here some feeling of consciousness stopped her short, and her sister
replied, with a smile, "Until _when_, Brenda? Methinks, your love of
truth seems choked with the sentence you were bringing out."

"Until you ceased to do him the justice he deserves," said Brenda,
firmly, "since I must speak out. I have little doubt that he will not
long throw away his friendship on you, who hold it so lightly."

"Be it so," said Minna; "you are secure from my rivalry, either in his
friendship or love. But bethink you better, Brenda--this is no scandal
of Cleveland's--Cleveland is incapable of slander--no falsehood of Bryce
Snailsfoot--not one of our friends or acquaintance but says it has been
the common talk of the island, that the daughters of Magnus Troil were
patiently awaiting the choice of the nameless and birthless stranger,
Mordaunt Mertoun. Is it fitting that this should be said of us, the
descendants of a Norwegian Jarl, and the daughters of the first Udaller
in Zetland? or, would it be modest or maidenly to submit to it
unresented, were we the meanest lasses that ever lifted a milk-pail?"

"The tongues of fools are no reproach," replied Brenda, warmly; "I will
never quit my own thoughts of an innocent friend for the gossip of the
island, which can put the worst meaning on the most innocent actions."

"Hear but what our friends say," repeated Minna; "hear but the Lady
Glowrowrum; hear but Maddie and Clara Groatsettar."

"If I were to hear Lady Glowrowrum," said Brenda, steadily, "I should
listen to the worst tongue in Zetland; and as for Maddie and Clara
Groatsettar, they were both blithe enough to get Mordaunt to sit betwixt
them at dinner the day before yesterday, as you might have observed
yourself, but that your ear was better engaged."

"Your eyes, at least, have been but indifferently engaged, Brenda,"
retorted the elder sister, "since they were fixed on a young man, whom
all the world but yourself believes to have talked of us with the most
insolent presumption; and even if he be innocently charged, Lady
Glowrowrum says it is unmaidenly and bold of you even to look in the
direction where he sits, knowing it must confirm such reports."

"I will look which way I please," said Brenda, growing still warmer;
"Lady Glowrowrum shall neither rule my thoughts, nor my words, nor my
eyes. I hold Mordaunt Mertoun to be innocent,--I will look at him as
such,--I will speak of him as such; and if I did not speak to him also,
and behave to him as usual, it is in obedience to my father, and not for
what Lady Glowrowrum, and all her nieces, had she twenty instead of two,
could think, wink, nod, or tattle, about the matter that concerns them

"Alas! Brenda," answered Minna, with calmness, "this vivacity is more
than is required for the defence of the character of a mere
friend!--Beware--He who ruined Norna's peace for ever, was a stranger,
admitted to her affections against the will of her family."

"He was a stranger," replied Brenda, with emphasis, "not only in birth,
but in manners. She had not been bred up with him from her youth,--she
had not known the gentleness, the frankness, of his disposition, by an
intimacy of many years. He was indeed a stranger, in character, temper,
birth, manners, and morals,--some wandering adventurer, perhaps, whom
chance or tempest had thrown upon the islands, and who knew how to mask
a false heart with a frank brow. My good sister, take home your own
warning. There are other strangers at Burgh-Westra besides this poor
Mordaunt Mertoun."

Minna seemed for a moment overwhelmed with the rapidity with which her
sister retorted her suspicion and her caution. But her natural
loftiness of disposition enabled her to reply with assumed composure.

"Were I to treat you, Brenda, with the want of confidence you show
towards me, I might reply that Cleveland is no more to me than Mordaunt
was; or than young Swartaster, or Lawrence Ericson, or any other
favourite guest of my father's, now is. But I scorn to deceive you, or
to disguise my thoughts.--I love Clement Cleveland."

"Do not say so, my dearest sister," said Brenda, abandoning at once the
air of acrimony with which the conversation had been latterly conducted,
and throwing her arms round her sister's neck, with looks, and with a
tone, of the most earnest affection,--"do not say so, I implore you! I
will renounce Mordaunt Mertoun,--I will swear never to speak to him
again; but do not repeat that you love this Cleveland!"

"And why should I not repeat," said Minna, disengaging herself gently
from her sister's grasp, "a sentiment in which I glory? The boldness,
the strength and energy, of his character, to which command is natural,
and fear unknown,--these very properties, which alarm you for my
happiness, are the qualities which ensure it. Remember, Brenda, that
when your foot loved the calm smooth sea-beach of the summer sea, mine
ever delighted in the summit of the precipice, when the waves are in

"And it is even that which I dread," said Brenda; "it is even that
adventurous disposition which now is urging you to the brink of a
precipice more dangerous than ever was washed by a spring-tide. This
man,--do not frown, I will say no slander of him,--but is he not, even
in your own partial judgment, stern and overbearing? accustomed, as you
say, to command; but, for that very reason, commanding where he has no
right to do so, and leading whom it would most become him to follow?
rushing on danger, rather for its own sake, than for any other object?
And can you think of being yoked with a spirit so unsettled and stormy,
whose life has hitherto been led in scenes of death and peril, and who,
even while sitting by your side, cannot disguise his impatience again to
engage in them? A lover, methinks, should love his mistress better than
his own life; but yours, my dear Minna, loves her less than the pleasure
of inflicting death on others."

"And it is even for that I love him," said Minna. "I am a daughter of
the old dames of Norway, who could send their lovers to battle with a
smile, and slay them, with their own hands, if they returned with
dishonour. My lover must scorn the mockeries by which our degraded race
strive for distinction, or must practise them only in sport, and in
earnest of nobler dangers. No whale-striking, bird-nesting favourite for
me; my lover must be a Sea-king, or what else modern times may give that
draws near to that lofty character."

"Alas, my sister!" said Brenda, "it is now that I must in earnest begin
to believe the force of spells and of charms. You remember the Spanish
story which you took from me long since, because I said, in your
admiration of the chivalry of the olden times of Scandinavia, you
rivalled the extravagance of the hero.--Ah, Minna, your colour shows
that your conscience checks you, and reminds you of the book I mean;--is
it more wise, think you, to mistake a windmill for a giant, or the
commander of a paltry corsair for a Kiempe, or a Vi-king?"

Minna did indeed colour with anger at this insinuation, of which,
perhaps, she felt in some degree the truth.

"You have a right," she said, "to insult me, because you are possessed
of my secret."

Brenda's soft heart could not resist this charge of unkindness; she
adjured her sister to pardon her, and the natural gentleness of Minna's
feelings could not resist her entreaties.

"We are unhappy," she said, as she dried her sister's tears, "that we
cannot see with the same eyes--let us not make each other more so by
mutual insult and unkindness. You have my secret--it will not, perhaps,
long be one, for my father shall have the confidence to which he is
entitled, so soon as certain circumstances will permit me to offer it.
Meantime, I repeat, you have my secret, and I more than suspect that I
have yours in exchange, though you refuse to own it."

"How, Minna!" said Brenda; "would you have me acknowledge for any one
such feelings as you allude to, ere he has said the least word that
could justify such a confession?"

"Surely not; but a hidden fire may be distinguished by heat as well as

"You understand these signs, Minna," said Brenda, hanging down her head,
and in vain endeavouring to suppress the temptation to repartee which
her sister's remark offered; "but I can only say, that, if ever I love
at all, it shall not be until I have been asked to do so once or twice
at least, which has not yet chanced to me. But do not let us renew our
quarrel, and rather let us think why Norna should have told us that
horrible tale, and to what she expects it should lead."

"It must have been as a caution," replied Minna--"a caution which our
situation, and, I will not deny it, which mine in particular, might seem
to her to call for;--but I am alike strong in my own innocence, and in
the honour of Cleveland."

Brenda would fain have replied, that she did not confide so absolutely
in the latter security as in the first; but she was prudent, and,
forbearing to awaken the former painful discussion, only replied, "It is
strange that Norna should have said nothing more of her lover. Surely he
could not desert her in the extremity of misery to which he had reduced

"There may be agonies of distress," said Minna, after a pause, "in which
the mind is so much jarred, that it ceases to be responsive even to the
feelings which have most engrossed it;--her sorrow for her lover may
have been swallowed up in horror and despair."

"Or he might have fled from the islands, in fear of our father's
vengeance," replied Brenda.

"If for fear, or faintness of heart," said Minna, looking upwards, "he
was capable of flying from the ruin which he had occasioned, I trust he
has long ere this sustained the punishment which Heaven reserves for the
most base and dastardly of traitors and of cowards.--Come, sister, we
are ere this expected at the breakfast board."

And they went thither, arm in arm, with much more of confidence than had
lately subsisted between them; the little quarrel which had taken place
having served the purpose of a _bourasque_, or sudden squall, which
dispels mists and vapours, and leaves fair weather behind it.

On their way to the breakfast apartment, they agreed that it was
unnecessary, and might be imprudent, to communicate to their father the
circumstance of the nocturnal visit, or to let him observe that they now
knew more than formerly of the melancholy history of Norna.


Note I., p. 22.--NORSE FRAGMENTS.

Near the conclusion of Chapter II, it is noticed that the old Norwegian
sagas were preserved and often repeated by the fishermen of Orkney and
Zetland, while that language was not yet quite forgotten. Mr. Baikie of
Tankerness, a most respectable inhabitant of Kirkwall, and an Orkney
proprietor, assured me of the following curious fact.

A clergyman, who was not long deceased, remembered well when some
remnants of the Norse were still spoken in the island called North
Ronaldshaw. When Gray's Ode, entitled the "Fatal Sisters," was first
published, or at least first reached that remote island, the reverend
gentleman had the well-judged curiosity to read it to some of the old
persons of the isle, as a poem which regarded the history of their own
country. They listened with great attention to the preliminary

  "Now the storm begins to lour,
    Haste the loom of hell prepare,
  Iron sleet of arrowry shower
    Hurtles in the darken'd air."

But when they had heard a verse or two more, they interrupted the
reader, telling him they knew the song well in the Norse language, and
had often sung it to him when he asked them for an old song. They called
it the Magicians, or the Enchantresses. It would have been singular news
to the elegant translator, when executing his version from the text of
Bartholine, to have learned that the Norse original was still preserved
by tradition in a remote corner of the British dominions. The
circumstances will probably justify what is said in the text concerning
the traditions of the inhabitants of those remote isles, at the
beginning of the eighteenth century.

Even yet, though the Norse language is entirely disused, except in so
far as particular words and phrases are still retained, these fishers of
the Ultima Thule are a generation much attached to these ancient
legends. Of this the author learned a singular instance.

About twenty years ago, a missionary clergyman had taken the resolution
of traversing those wild islands, where he supposed there might be a
lack of religious instruction, which he believed himself capable of
supplying. After being some days at sea in an open boat, he arrived at
North Ronaldshaw, where his appearance excited great speculation. He was
a very little man, dark-complexioned, and from the fatigue he had
sustained in removing from one island to another, appeared before them
ill-dressed and unshaved; so that the inhabitants set him down as one of
the Ancient Picts, or, as they call them with the usual strong guttural,
Peghts. How they might have received the poor preacher in this
character, was at least dubious; and the schoolmaster of the parish, who
had given quarters to the fatigued traveller, set off to consult with
Mr. S----, the able and ingenious engineer of the Scottish Light-House
Service, who chanced to be on the island. As his skill and knowledge
were in the highest repute, it was conceived that Mr. S---- could decide
at once whether the stranger was a Peght, or ought to be treated as
such. Mr. S---- was so good-natured as to attend the summons, with the
view of rendering the preacher some service. The poor missionary, who
had watched for three nights, was now fast asleep, little dreaming what
odious suspicions were current respecting him. The inhabitants were
assembled round the door. Mr. S----, understanding the traveller's
condition, declined disturbing him, upon which the islanders produced a
pair of very little uncouth-looking boots, with prodigiously thick
soles, and appealed to him whether it was possible such articles of
raiment could belong to any one but a Peght. Mr. S----, finding the
prejudices of the natives so strong, was induced to enter the sleeping
apartment of the traveller, and was surprised to recognise in the
supposed Peght a person whom he had known in his worldly profession of
an Edinburgh shopkeeper, before he had assumed his present vocation. Of
course he was enabled to refute all suspicions of Peghtism.


I have said, in the text, that the wondrous tales told by Pontoppidan,
the Archbishop of Upsal, still find believers in the Northern
Archipelago. It is in vain they are cancelled even in the later editions
of Guthrie's Grammar, of which instructive work they used to form the
chapter far most attractive to juvenile readers. But the same causes
which probably gave birth to the legends concerning mermaids,
sea-snakes, krakens, and other marvellous inhabitants of the Northern
Ocean, are still afloat in those climates where they took their rise.
They had their origin probably from the eagerness of curiosity
manifested by our elegant poetess, Mrs. Hemans:

  "What hidest thou in thy treasure-caves and cells,
  Thou ever-sounding and mysterious Sea?"

The additional mystic gloom which rests on these northern billows for
half the year, joined to the imperfect glance obtained of occasional
objects, encourage the timid or the fanciful to give way to imagination,
and frequently to shape out a distinct story from some object half seen
and imperfectly examined. Thus, some years since, a large object was
observed in the beautiful Bay of Scalloway in Zetland, so much in vulgar
opinion resembling the kraken, that though it might be distinguished for
several days, if the exchange of darkness to twilight can be termed so,
yet the hardy boatmen shuddered to approach it, for fear of being drawn
down by the suction supposed to attend its sinking. It was probably the
hull of some vessel which had foundered at sea.

The belief in mermaids, so fanciful and pleasing in itself, is ever and
anon refreshed by a strange tale from the remote shores of some solitary

The author heard a mariner of some reputation in his class vouch for
having seen the celebrated sea-serpent. It appeared, so far as could be
guessed, to be about a hundred feet long, with the wild mane and fiery
eyes which old writers ascribe to the monster; but it is not unlikely
the spectator might, in the doubtful light, be deceived by the
appearance of a good Norway log floating on the waves. I have only to
add, that the remains of an animal, supposed to belong to this latter
species, were driven on shore in the Zetland Isles, within the
recollection of man. Part of the bones were sent to London, and
pronounced by Sir Joseph Banks to be those of a basking shark; yet it
would seem that an animal so well known, ought to have been immediately
distinguished by the northern fishermen.

Note III., p. 104.--SALE OF WINDS.

The King of Sweden, the same Eric quoted by Mordaunt, "was," says Olaus
Magnus, "in his time held second to none in the magical art; and he was
so familiar with the evil spirits whom he worshipped, that what way
soever he turned his cap, the wind would presently blow that way. For
this he was called Windycap." _Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus.
Romæ, 1555._ It is well known that the Laplanders derive a profitable
trade in selling _winds_, but it is perhaps less notorious, that within
these few years such a commodity might be purchased on British ground,
where it was likely to be in great request. At the village of Stromness,
on the Orkney main island, called Pomona, lived, in 1814, an aged dame,
called Bessie Millie, who helped out her subsistence by selling
favourable winds to mariners. He was a venturous master of a vessel who
left the roadstead of Stromness without paying his offering to
propitiate Bessie Millie; her fee was extremely moderate, being exactly
sixpence, for which, as she explained herself, she boiled her kettle and
gave the bark advantage of her prayers, for she disclaimed all unlawful
arts. The wind thus petitioned for was sure, she said, to arrive, though
occasionally the mariners had to wait some time for it. The woman's
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 Eolus 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-coloured kerchief, folded round her head, corresponded in colour 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 Hecaté. She remembered Gow the pirate,
who had been a native of these islands, in which he closed his career,
as mentioned in the preface. Such was Bessie Millie, to whom the
mariners paid a sort of tribute, with a feeling betwixt jest and


It is remarkable, that in an archipelago where so many persons must be
necessarily endangered by the waves, so strange and inhuman a maxim
should have ingrafted itself upon the minds of a people otherwise kind,
moral, and hospitable. But all with whom I have spoken agree, that it
was almost general in the beginning of the eighteenth century, and was
with difficulty weeded out by the sedulous instructions of the clergy,
and the rigorous injunctions of the proprietors. There is little doubt
it had been originally introduced as an excuse for suffering those who
attempted to escape from the wreck to perish unassisted, so that, there
being no survivor, she might be considered as lawful plunder. A story
was told me, I hope an untrue one, that a vessel having got ashore among
the breakers on one of the remote Zetland islands, five or six men, the
whole or greater part of the unfortunate crew, endeavoured to land by
assistance of a hawser, which they had secured to a rock; the
inhabitants were assembled, and looked on with some uncertainty, till an
old man said, "Sirs, if these men come ashore, the additional mouths
will eat all the meal we have in store for winter; and how are we to get
more?" A young fellow, moved with this argument, struck the rope asunder
with his axe, and all the poor wretches were immersed among the
breakers, and perished.


The ancient Zetlander looked upon the sea as the provider of his living,
not only by the plenty produced by the fishings, but by the spoil of
wrecks. Some particular islands have fallen off very considerably in
their rent, since the commissioners of the lighthouses have ordered
lights on the Isle of Sanda and the Pentland Skerries. A gentleman,
familiar with those seas, expressed surprise at seeing the farmer of one
of the isles in a boat with a very old pair of sails. "Had it been His
will"--said the man, with an affected deference to Providence, very
inconsistent with the sentiment of his speech--"Had it been _His_ will
that light had not been placed yonder, I would have had enough of new
sails last winter."

Note VI., p. 172.--ZETLAND CORN-MILLS.

There is certainly something very extraordinary to a stranger in Zetland
corn-mills. They are of the smallest possible size; the wheel which
drives them is horizontal, and the cogs are turned diagonally to the
water. The beam itself stands upright, and is inserted in a stone quern
of the old-fashioned construction, which it turns round, and thus
performs its duty. Had Robinson Crusoe ever been in Zetland, he would
have had no difficulty in contriving a machine for grinding corn in his
desert island. These mills are thatched over in a little hovel, which
has much the air of a pig-sty. There may be five hundred such mills on
one island, not capable any one of them of grinding above a sackful of
corn at a time.

Note VII., p. 234.--THE SWORD-DANCE.

The Sword-Dance is celebrated in general terms by Olaus Magnus. He seems
to have considered it as peculiar to the Norwegians, from whom it may
have passed to the Orkneymen and Zetlanders, with other northern


"Moreover, the northern Goths and Swedes had another sport to exercise
youth withall, that they will dance and skip amongst naked swords and
dangerous weapons. And this they do after the manner of masters of
defence, as they are taught from their youth by skilful teachers, that
dance before them, and sing to it. And this play is showed especially
about Shrovetide, called in Italian _Macchararum_. For, before
carnivals, all the youth dance for eight days together, holding their
swords up, but within the scabbards, for three times turning about; and
then they do it with their naked swords lifted up. After this, turning
more moderately, taking the points and pummels one of the other, they
change ranks, and place themselves in an triagonal figure, and this they
call _Rosam_; and presently they dissolve it by drawing back their
swords and lifting them up, that upon every one's head there may be made
a square Rosa, and then by a most nimbly whisking their swords about
collaterally, they quickly leap back, and end the sport, which they
guide with pipes or songs, or both together; first by a more heavy, then
by a more vehement, and lastly, by a most vehement dancing. But this
speculation is scarce to be understood but by those who look on, how
comely and decent it is, when at one word, or one commanding, the whole
armed multitude is directed to fall to fight, and clergymen may exercise
themselves, and mingle themselves amongst others at this sport, because
it is all guided by most wise reason."

To the Primate's account of the sword-dance, I am able to add the words
sung or chanted, on occasion of this dance, as it is still performed in
Papa Stour, a remote island of Zetland, where alone the custom keeps its
ground. It is, it will be observed by antiquaries, a species of play or
mystery, in which the Seven Champions of Christendom make their
appearance, as in the interlude presented in "All's Well that Ends
Well." This dramatic curiosity was most kindly procured for my use by
Dr. Scott of Hazlar Hospital, son of my friend Mr. Scott of Mewbie,
Zetland. Mr. Hibbert has, in his Description of the Zetland Islands,
given an account of the sword-dance, but somewhat less full than the



(_Enter_ MASTER, _in the character of_ ST. GEORGE.)

  Brave gentles all within this boor,[62]
  If ye delight in any sport,
  Come see me dance upon this floor,
  Which to you all shall yield comfort.
  Then shall I dance in such a sort,
  As possible I may or can;
  You, minstrel man, play me a Porte,[63]
  That I on this floor may prove a man.

(_He bows, and dances in a line._)

  Now have I danced with heart and hand,
  Brave gentles all, as you may see,
  For I have been tried in many a land,
  As yet the truth can testify;
  In England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Italy, and Spain,
  Have I been tried with that good sword of steel.

(_Draws, and flourishes._)

  Yet, I deny that ever a man did make me yield;
  For in my body there is strength,
  As by my manhood may be seen;
  And I, with that good sword of length,
  Have oftentimes in perils been,
  And over champions I was king.
  And by the strength of this right hand,
  Once on a day I kill'd fifteen,
  And left them dead upon the land.
  Therefore, brave minstrel, do not care,
  But play to me a Porte most light,
  That I no longer do forbear,
  But dance in all these gentles' sight;
  Although my strength makes you abased,
  Brave gentles all, be not afraid,
  For here are six champions, with me, staid,
  All by my manhood I have raised.

(_He dances._)

  Since I have danced, I think it best
  To call my brethren in your sight,
  That I may have a little rest,
  And they may dance with all their might;
  With heart and hand as they are knights,
  And shake their swords of steel so bright,
  And show their main strength on this floor,
  For we shall have another bout
  Before we pass out of this boor.
  Therefore, brave minstrel, do not care
  To play to me a Porte most light,
  That I no longer do forbear,
  But dance in all these gentles' sight.

(_He dances, and then introduces his knights, as under._)

  Stout James of Spain, both tried and stour,[64]
  Thine acts are known full well indeed;
  And champion Dennis, a French knight,
  Who stout and bold is to be seen;
  And David, a Welshman born,
  Who is come of noble blood;
  And Patrick also, who blew the horn,
  An Irish knight, amongst the wood.
  Of Italy, brave Anthony the good,
  And Andrew of Scotland King;
  St. George of England, brave indeed,
  Who to the Jews wrought muckle tinte.[65]
  Away with this!--Let us come to sport,
  Since that ye have a mind to war,
  Since that ye have this bargain sought,
  Come let us fight and do not fear.
  Therefore, brave minstrel, do not care
  To play to me a Porte most light,
  That I no longer do forbear,
  But dance in all these gentles' sight.

(_He dances, and advances to JAMES of Spain._)

  Stout James of Spain, both tried and stour,
  Thine acts are known full well indeed,
  Present thyself within our sight,
  Without either fear or dread.
  Count not for favour or for feid,
  Since of thy acts thou hast been sure;
  Brave James of Spain, I will thee lead,
  To prove thy manhood on this floor.

(JAMES _dances_.)

  Brave champion Dennis, a French knight,
  Who stout and bold is to be seen,
  Present thyself here in our sight,
  Thou brave French knight,
  Who bold hast been;
  Since thou such valiant acts hast done,
  Come let us see some of them now
  With courtesy, thou brave French knight,
  Draw out thy sword of noble hue.

(DENNIS _dances, while the others retire to a side_.)

  Brave David a bow must string, and with awe
  Set up a wand upon a stand,
  And that brave David will cleave in twa.[66]
  (DAVID _dances solus._)
  Here is, I think, an Irish knight,
  Who does not fear, or does not fright,
  To prove thyself a valiant man,
  As thou hast done full often bright;
  Brave Patrick, dance, if that thou can.

(_He dances._)

  Thou stout Italian, come thou here;
  Thy name is Anthony, most stout;
  Draw out thy sword that is most clear,
  And do thou fight without any doubt;
  Thy leg thou shake, thy neck thou lout,[67]
  And show some courtesy on this floor,
  For we shall have another bout,
  Before we pass out of this boor.
  Thou kindly Scotsman, come thou here;
  Thy name is Andrew of Fair Scotland;
  Draw out thy sword that is most clear,
  Fight for thy king with thy right hand;
  And aye as long as thou canst stand,
  Fight for thy king with all thy heart;
  And then, for to confirm his band,
  Make all his enemies for to smart.--(_He dances._)

(_Music begins._)


"The six stand in rank with their swords reclining on their shoulders.
The Master (St. George) dances, and then strikes the sword of James of
Spain, who follows George, then dances, strikes the sword of Dennis, who
follows behind James. In like manner the rest--the music playing--swords
as before. After the six are brought out of rank, they and the master
form a circle, and hold the swords point and hilt. This circle is danced
round twice. The whole, headed by the master, pass under the swords held
in a vaulted manner. They jump over the swords. This naturally places
the swords across, which they disentangle by passing under their right
sword. They take up the seven swords, and form a circle, in which they
dance round.

"The master runs under the sword opposite, which he jumps over
backwards. The others do the same. He then passes under the right-hand
sword, which the others follow, in which position they dance, until
commanded by the master, when they form into a circle, and dance round
as before. They then jump over the right-hand sword, by which means
their backs are to the circle, and their hands across their backs. They
dance round in that form until the master calls 'Loose,' when they pass
under the right sword, and are in a perfect circle.

"The master lays down his sword, and lays hold of the point of James's
sword. He then turns himself, James, and the others, into a clew. When
so formed, he passes under out of the midst of the circle; the others
follow; they vault as before. After several other evolutions, they throw
themselves into a circle, with their arms across the breast. They
afterwards form such figures as to form a shield of their swords, and
the shield is so compact that the master and his knights dance
alternately with this shield upon their heads. It is then laid down upon
the floor. Each knight lays hold of their former points and hilts with
their hands across, which disentangle by figuirs directly contrary to
those that formed the shield. This finishes the Ballet.


  Mars does rule, he bends his brows,
  He makes us all agast;[69]
  After the few hours that we stay here,
  Venus will rule at last.

  Farewell, farewell, brave gentles all,
  That herein do remain,
  I wish you health and happiness
  Till we return again.                          [_Exeunt._"

The manuscript from which the above was copied was transcribed from _a
very old one_, by Mr. William Henderson, Jun., of Papa Stour, in
Zetland. Mr. Henderson's copy is not dated, but bears his own signature,
and, from various circumstances, it is known to have been written about
the year 1788.


This is one of the wonders of the Orkney Islands, though it has been
rather undervalued by their late historian, Mr. Barry. The island of Hoy
rises abruptly, starting as it were out of the sea, which is contrary to
the gentle and flat character of the other Isles of Orkney. It consists
of a mountain, having different eminences or peaks. It is very steep,
furrowed with ravines, and placed so as to catch the mists of the
Western Ocean, and has a noble and picturesque effect from all points of
view. The highest peak is divided from another eminence, called the
Ward-hill, by a long swampy valley full of peat-bogs. Upon the slope of
this last hill, and just where the principal mountain of Hoy opens in a
hollow swamp, or corrie, lies what is called the Dwarfie Stone. It is a
great fragment of sandstone, composing one solid mass, which has long
since been detached from a belt of the same materials, cresting the
eminence above the spot where it now lies, and which has slid down till
it reached its present situation. The rock is about seven feet high,
twenty-two feet long, and seventeen feet broad. The upper end of it is
hollowed by iron tools, of which the marks are evident, into a sort of
apartment, containing two beds of stone, with a passage between them.
The uppermost and largest bed is five feet eight inches long, by two
feet broad, which was supposed to be used by the dwarf himself; the
lower couch is shorter, and rounded off, instead of being squared at the
corners. There is an entrance of about three feet and a half square, and
a stone lies before it calculated to fit the opening. A sort of skylight
window gives light to the apartment. We can only guess at the purpose of
this monument, and different ideas have been suggested. Some have
supposed it the work of some travelling mason; but the _cui bono_ would
remain to be accounted for. The Rev. Mr. Barry conjectures it to be a
hermit's cell; but it displays no symbol of Christianity, and the door
opens to the westward. The Orcadian traditions allege the work to be
that of a dwarf, to whom they ascribe supernatural powers, and a
malevolent disposition, the attributes of that race in Norse mythology.
Whoever inhabited this singular den certainly enjoyed

  "Pillow cold, and sheets not warm."

I observed, that commencing just opposite to the Dwarfie Stone, and
extending in a line to the sea-beach, there are a number of small
barrows, or cairns, which seem to connect the stone with a very large
cairn where we landed. This curious monument may therefore have been
intended as a temple of some kind to the Northern Dii Manes, to which
the cairns might direct worshippers.


"At the west end of this stone, (_i. e._ the Dwarfie Stone,) stands an
exceeding high mountain of a steep ascent, called the Ward-hill of Hoy,
near the top of which, in the months of May, June, and July, about
midnight, is seen something that shines and sparkles admirably, and
which is often seen a great way off. It hath shined more brightly
before than it does now, and though many have climbed up the hill, and
attempted to search for it, yet they could find nothing. The vulgar
talk of it as some enchanted carbuncle, but I take it rather to be some
water sliding down the face of a smooth rock, which, when the sun,
at such a time, shines upon, the reflection causeth that admirable
splendour."--DR. WALLACE'S _Description of the Islands of Orkney_,
12mo, 1700, p. 52.


[61] So placed in the old MS.

[62] _Boor_--so spelt, to accord with the vulgar pronunciation of the
word _bower_.

[63] _Porte_--so spelt in the original. The word is known as indicating
a piece of music on the bagpipe, to which ancient instrument, which is
of Scandinavian origin, the sword-dance may have been originally

[64] _Stour_, great.

[65] _Muckle tinte_, much loss or harm; so in MS.

[66] Something is evidently amiss or omitted here. David probably
exhibited some feat of archery.

[67] _Lout_--to bend or bow down, pronounced _loot_, as _doubt_ is
_doot_ in Scotland.

[68] _Figuir_--so spelt in MS.

[69] _Agast_--so spelt in MS.


(_a_) p. xxix. "There came a ghost to Margaret's door." In some versions
of "Clerk Saunders" the lady's troth is "streeked" on a rod of glass,
and so she and the ghost are freed from their plighted love.

(_b_) p. 15. "Scat, wattle, hawkhen, hagalef." Different kinds of duties
exacted in Zetland.

(_c_) p. 18. "Berserkars." Apparently there was a time when these
formidable persons were merely champion warriors, a kind of professional
soldiery. In the "Raven Song," an old Norse lay, the Valkyrie asks the
Raven about Harold Fair Hair's Bearsarks. "Wolfcoats they call them,
that bear bloody targets in battle, that redden their spear heads when
they come into fight, when they are at work together. The wise king, I
trow, will only reward men of high renown among them that smite on the
shield." Later, perhaps, the Bearsarks won their evil reputation, as
ravening maniacs of battle, given to biting their shields and behaving
in an hysterical manner. In such sagas as that of Grettir they are
violent bullies, sometimes selling their services. (See Powell and
Vigfussen's "Corpus Boreale," i. 257.)

(_d_) p. 27. Motto. The second verse is not part of the original ballad,
which was altered by Allan Ramsay.

(_e_) p. 39. "Bolts and bars in Scotland." There are still places so
innocent--in Galloway, at least--that doors and windows may be, and are,
left open all night.

(_f_) p. 45. "Deilbelicket." This is the name of an old Scotch dish, of
which goose and gooseberries are component parts. The recipe occurs in
Gait's "Ayrshire Legatees."

(_g_) p. 46. "James Guthrie." An account of this martyr of the Covenant
will be found in the Editor's Notes to "Old Mortality."

(_h_) p. 151. "Lucas Jacobson Debes." "Foeroae et Foeroa Reserata. A
description of the Isles and inhabitants of Faeroe, Englished by John
Sterpin," 12mo, London 1676, Abbotsford Library.

(_i_) p. 173. "Multures--lock, gowpen, and knaveship." Feudal and other
dues on corn ground at the laird's mill.

(_k_) p. 231. "The wilds of Strathnavern." Montrose met his final defeat
at Strathoykel, at a steep rounded hill, still called the Rock of
Lament. His men were driven into the Kyle, which there is deep and wide.
Montrose fled up the Oykel, into Assynt. The Naver flows due north, the
Oykel from west to east.

(_l_) p. 234. Sword Dance. Scott can hardly have escaped being familiar
with the degradation of this dance as played at Christmas by the
Guizards. They are lads who go round acting and dancing in kitchens.
Their songs may be found in Chambers's "Popular Rhymes of Scotland."
Guizards performed at the Folk-Lore Congress in London 1891.

(_m_) p. 257. "The battue in Ettrick Forest, for the destruction of the
foxes." This ceased when the Duke of Buccleugh hunted the district, but
foxes are still shot in the inaccessible heights of Meggat Water.

(_n_) p. 261. Sharing the whale. An account of a battle for a stranded
whale may be read in the Saga of Grettir, translated by Mr. Morris and
Mr. Magnussen.

(_o_) p. 279. For [Greek: Nephelêgeréta Zeus] read [Greek: Nephelêgeréta

(_p_) p. 299. "That wonderful carbuncle." This must be the origin of
Hawthorne's tale "The Great Carbuncle."

                                                          ANDREW LANG.
  _August 1893._


  A', all.

  Ae, one.

  Aff, off.

  Afore, before.

  Aigre, sour.

  Aik, the oak.

  Ain, own.

  Air, an open sea-beach.

  Airn, iron.

  A-low, ablaze.

  Amang, among.

  An, if.

  Ance, once.

  Ane, one.

  Anent, regarding.

  Aneugh, eneugh, enow, enough.

  Angus, Forfarshire.

  Aroint, avaunt.

  Aught, to possess or belong to.

  Auld, old.

  Auld-world, ancient, old-fashioned.

  Aver, a cart-horse.

  Awa, away.

  Awmous, alms.

  Awn, a beard (of grain).

  Awsome, fearful.

  Back-spauld, the back of the shoulder.

  Bailie, a magistrate.

  Bairn, a child.

  Baith, both.

  Banning, cursing.

  Bauld, bold.

  Bear, a kind of barley.

  Bear-braird, barley-sprouting.

  Bee-skep, a bee-hive.

  Bell-the-cat, to contend with.

  Bern, a child.

  Bicker, a wooden dish.

  Bide, to stay.

  Big, to build.

  Biggin, a building.

  Biggit, built.

  Billie, brother.

  Bittle, a wooden bat for the beating of linen.

  Bland, a drink made from butter-milk.

  Bleeze, blaze.

  Blithe, glad.

  Blurt, to burst out speaking.

  Bonally, a parting drink.

  Bonnie, pretty.

  Bonnie-die, a toy, a trinket.

  Bonnie-wallies, good things, gewgaws.

  Bourasque, a sudden squall.

  Braid, broad.

  Braws, fine clothes.

  Breekless, trouserless.

  Burn-brae, the acclivity at the bottom of which a rivulet runs.

  Callant, a lad.

  Canna, cannot.

  Canny, prudent.

  Canty, lively and cheerful.

  Carles, farm servants.

  Carline, a witch.

  Cart-avers, cart-horses.

  Cateran, a Highland robber.

  Cauld, cold.

  Caup, a cup.

  "Causeyed syver," a cause-wayed sewer.

  Certie--"my certie!" my faith!

  Change-house, an inn.

  Chapman, a small merchant or pedlar.

  Chield, a fellow.

  Claith, cloth.

  Clatter, to tattle.

  Claver, to chatter.

  Clavers, idle talk.

  Clog, a small short log, a billet of wood.

  Coal-heugh, a coal-pit.

  Coble, a small boat.

  Cog, a wooden bowl.

  Cogfu', the full of a wooden bowl.

  Coorse, coarse.

  Coup, to exchange.

  Crack, to boast.

  Creel, a basket. "In a creel," foolish.

  Croft-land, land of superior quality, which was still cropped.

  Crowdie, meal and water stirred up together.

  Cummer, a gossip.

  Curch, a kerchief for covering the head.

  Cusser, a stallion.

  Daffing, larking.

  Daft, crazy.

  Daikering, sauntering.

  Dead-thraw, the death-throes.

  Deftly, handsomely.

  Deil, the devil.

  Ding, to knock.

  Dinna, do not.

  Dirk, a dagger.

  Doited, stupid.

  Doun, down.

  Dour, sullen, hard, stubborn.

  Dowlas, a strong linen cloth.

  Drammock, raw meal and water.

  Drouth, thirst.

  Duds, clothes.

  Een, eyes.

  Embaye, to enclose.

  Equals-aquals, in the way of division strictly equal.

  Fa', fall.

  Factor, a land steward.

  "Farcie on his face!" a malediction.

  Fash, fashery, trouble.

  Ferlies, unusual events or things.

  "Ferlies make fools fain," wonders make fools eager.

  Fey, fated, or predestined to speedy death.

  Fifish, crazy, eccentric.

  Fir-clog, a small log of fir.

  Flang, flung.

  Flichter, to flutter or tremble.

  "Flinching a whale," slicing the blubber from the bones.

  "Floatsome and jetsome," articles floated or cast away on the sea.

  "Fool carle," a clown, a stupid fellow.

  Forby, besides.

  Forpit, a measure = the fourth part of a peck.

  Fowd, the chief judge or magistrate.

  Frae, from.

  Freit, a charm or superstition.

  Fule, a fool.

  Gaberlunzie, a tinker or beggar.

  Gaed, went.

  Gait, gate, way, direction.

  Gane, gone.

  Gang, go.

  Ganging, going.

  Gangrel, vagrant.

  Gar, to oblige, to force.

  Gascromh, an instrument for trenching ground, shaped like a currier's
  knife with a crooked handle.

  "Gay mony," a good many.

  Gear, property.

  Gie, give.

  Gills, the jaws.

  Gin, if.

  Gio, a deep ravine which admits the sea.

  Girdle, an iron plate on which to fire cakes.

  Glamour, a fascination or charm.

  Glebe, land belonging to the parish minister in right of his office.

  Glower, to gaze.

  Gowd, gold.

  Gowk, a fool.

  Gowpen, the full of both hands.

  Graip, a three-pronged pitch-fork.

  Graith, furniture.

  Grew, to shiver. The flesh is said to _grew_ when a chilly sensation
  passes over the surface of the body.

  Grist, a mill fee payable in kind.

  Gude, good.

  Gudeman, gudewife, the heads of the house.

  Gue, a two-stringed violin.

  Guide, to treat, to take care of.

  Guizards, maskers or mummers.

  Gyre-carline, a hag.

  Haaf, deep-sea fishing.

  Haaf-fish, a large kind of seal.

  Hae, have.

  Haft, to fix, to settle.

  Hagalef, payment for liberty to cast peats.

  Haill, whole.

  Hald, hold.

  Halier, a cavern into which the tide flows.

  Hallanshaker, a vagabond, a beggar.

  Halse, the throat.

  Hand-quern, a hand-mill.

  Happer, the hopper of a mill.

  Harry, to plunder.

  Har'st, harvest.

  Hasp, a hank of yarn. "Ravelled hasp," everything in confusion.

  Haud, hauld, hold.

  Havings, behaviour.

  Hawkhen, hens exacted by the royal falconer on his visits to the islands.

  Helyer, a cavern into which the tide flows.

  Hialtland, the old name for Shetland.

  Hinny, a term of endearment=honey.

  Hirple, to halt, to limp.

  Hirsel, to move or slide down.

  Housewife-skep, housewifery.

  Hout! tut!

  Howf, a haunt, a haven.

  Ilk, of the same name.

  Ilk, ilka, each, every.

  Ill-fa'red, ill-favoured.

  "In a creel," foolish.

  Infield, land continually cropped.

  In-town, land adjacent to the farmhouse.

  Isna, is not.

  Jagger, a pedlar.

  Jaud, a jade.

  Jougs, the pillory.

  Kail-pot, a large pot for boiling broth.

  Kain--"to pay the kain," to suffer severely.

  Ken, to know.

  "Ken'dfolks," "ken'dfreend," well-known people, a well-known friend.

  Kiempe, a Norse champion.

  Kist, a chest.

  Kittle, difficult, ticklish.

  Kittywake, a kind of sea-gull.

  "Knapped Latin," spoke Latin.

  Knave, a miller's boy.

  Knaveship, a small due of meal paid to the miller.

  Kraken, a fabulous sea-monster.

  Kyloes, small black cattle.

  Lad-bairn, a male child.

  Lair, learning.

  Lang, long.

  Langspiel, an obsolete musical instrument.

  Lave, the rest.

  Lawright-man, an officer whose chief duty was the regulation of
  weights and measures.

  _Lawting_, a court of law.

  _Limmer_, a woman of loose character.

  Lispund, the fifteenth part of a barrel, a weight used in Orkney
  and Shetland.

  List, to wish, to choose.

  Loan, a lane, an enclosed road.

  Lock, a handful.

  Loo'ed, loved.

  Loom, a vessel.

  Loon, a lad, a fellow.

  Lowe, a flame.

  Lug, the ear.

  Lum, a chimney.

  Mair, more.

  "Mair by token," moreover, especially.

  Maist, most.

  Markal, the head of the plough.

  Maun, must.

  Mearns, Kincardineshire.

  Meltith, food, a meal.

  Mense, manners.

  "Merk of land," originally equal to 1600 square fathoms.

  "Miching malicho," lurking mischief.

  Mickle, much.

  Mill-eye, the eye or opening in the _hupes_ or cases of a mill at
  which the meal is let out.

  Mind, to remember.

  Mony, many.

  "Morn, the," to-morrow.

  "Mould board," the wooden board of the plough which turns over the

  Muckle, much, big.

  Multures, dues paid for grinding corn.

  "My certie!" my faith!

  Na, nae, no, not.

  Nacket, a portable refreshment or luncheon.

  Naig, a nag.

  Nane, none.

  Napery, household linen.

  Natheless, nevertheless.

  Neist, next.

  Nievefu', a handful.

  Noup, a headland precipitous to the sea and sloping inland.

  Nowt, black cattle.

  Ony, any.

  Or, before.

  O't, of it.

  Out-taken, except.

  Out-town, land at a distance from the farmhouse.

  Ower, over.

  Owerlay, a cravat.

  Owsen, oxen.

  Parritch, porridge.

  Partan, a crab.

  Pawky, wily, slyly.

  Peat-moss, the place whence peats are dug.

  Peltrie, trash.

  Pit, put.

  "Plantie cruive," a kail-yard.

  Pleugh, a plough.

  Pouch, a pocket.

  Puir, poor.

  Pund Scots = 1_s._ 8_d._ sterling.

  Quaigh, a small wooden cup.

  Quean, a disrespectful term for a woman.

  Quern, a hand-mill.

  Raddman, a councillor.

  Randy, riotous, disorderly.

  Ranzelman, a constable.

  Redding-kaim, a wide-toothed comb for the hair.

  Reek, smoke.

  Reimkennar, one who knows mystic rhyme.

  Reset, a place of shelter.

  Rigging, a ridge, a roof.

  Ritt, a scratch or incision.

  Riva, a cleft in a rock.

  Rock, a distaff.

  Rokelay, a short cloak.

  "Roose the ford," judge of the ford.

  Roost, a strong and boisterous current.

  Rotton, a rat.

  Sackless, innocent.

  Sae, so.

  Sain, to bless.

  Sair, sore.

  Sall, shall.

  Sandie-lavrock, a sand-lark.

  Sang, a song.

  Saul, the soul.

  Saunt, a saint.

  Saut, salt.

  Sax, six.

  Scald, a bard or minstrel.

  Scart, a cormorant.

  Scart, to scratch.

  Scat, a land-tax paid to the Crown.

  Scathold, a common.

  Scaur, a cliff.

  "Sclate stane," slate stone.

  Scowrie, shabby, mean.

  Scowries, young sea-gulls.

  Sealgh, sealchie, a seal.

  Setting, fitting, becoming.

  "Sharney peat," fuel made of cow's dung.

  Sheltie, a Shetland pony.

  Shouldna, should not.

  Shouthers, the shoulders.

  Sic, siccan, such.

  Siccar, sure.

  Siever, a sewer.

  Siller, money.

  Sillocks, the fry of the coal-fish.

  Skeoe, a stone hut for drying fish.

  Skerry, a flat insulated rock.

  Skirl, to scream.

  Skudler, the leader of a band of mummers.

  Slap, a gap or pass.

  Slocken, to quench.

  Sneck, the latch of the door.

  Sock, a ploughshare.

  Sole-clout, a thick plate of cast metal attached to that part of the
  plough which runs on the ground, for saving the wooden heel from
  being worn.

  Sorner, a sturdy beggar, an obtrusive guest.

  Sorning, masterful begging.

  Sort, a small number.

  Sough, a sigh;
    to emit a rushing or whistling sound.

  Spreacherie, movables.

  Spunk, a match.

  Stack, an insulated precipitous rock.

  "Stilts of plough," handles.

  Stithy, an anvil.

  Stot, a bullock.

  Streek, to stretch.

  Striddle, to straddle.

  Sucken, mill dues.

  Suld, should.

  Sumph, a lubberly fellow.

  Sune, soon.

  Swalled, swollen.

  Swap, to exchange.

  Syne, since, ago.

  Syver, a sewer.

  Tacksman, a tenant of the higher class.

  Taen, taken.

  Tane, the one.

  Tangs, tongs.

  Thae, these, those.

  Theekit, thatched.

  Thegither, together.

  Thigger, a beggar.

  Thigging, begging.

  Thirl, the obligation on a tenant to have his flour ground at a
  certain mill.

  Thirled, bound to.

  Thole, to endure.

  Thrawart, forward, perverse.

  Tither, the other.

  Tittie, a little sister.

  Tocher, dowry, estate.

  Toom, empty.

  Tows, ropes.

  Toy, a linen or woollen headdress hanging down over the shoulders.

  "Tree and tow," the gallows.

  Trindle, to trundle.

  Trock, to barter.

  Trow, to believe, to think, to guess.

  Trow or Drow, a spirit or elf believed in by the Norse.

  Twa, two.

  Twal, twelve.

  Twiscar, tuskar, a spade for cutting peats.

  Udaller, a freehold proprietor.

  Ultima Thule, farthest Thule.

  Ulzie, oil.

  Umquhile, the late.

  Uncanny, dangerous; supposed to possess supernatural powers.

  Unce, ounce.

  Unco, very, strange, great, particularly.

  Ure, the eighth part of a merk of land.

  Usquebaugh, whisky.

  Vivers, victuals.

  Voe, an inlet of the sea.

  Wad, would.

  Wadmaal, homespun woollen cloth.

  Wakerife, watchful, wakeful.

  Wan, won, got.

  Warlock, a wizard.

  Watna, know not.

  Wattle, an assessment for the salary of the magistrate.

  Waur, worse.

  Wee, small, little.

  Weel, well.

  Well, a whirlpool.

  Wha, who.

  Whan, when.

  "What for," why.

  Wheen, a few.

  Whigamore, a term of the same meaning with _Whig_, applied to
  Presbyterians, but more contemptuous.

  Whiles, sometimes.

  Whilk, which.

  Whingers, hangers, knives.

  Whittie-whattieing, shuffling or wheedling.

  Whittle, a knife.

  Wi', with.

  Wick, an open bay.

  Win, to get.

  Withy, a rope of twisted wands.

  Wot, to know.

  Wowf, crazy.

  Yarn-windle, a yarn-winder.

  Yestreen, yesterday.

  Yett, a gate.


       *       *       *       *       *


        Nothing in him----
        But doth suffer a sea-change.




  But lost to me, for ever lost those joys,
  Which reason scatters, and which time destroys.
  No more the midnight fairy-train I view,
  All in the merry moonlight tippling dew.
  Even the last lingering fiction of the brain,
  The churchyard ghost, is now at rest again.

                                              _The Library._

The moral bard, from whom we borrow the motto of this chapter, has
touched a theme with which most readers have some feelings that vibrate
unconsciously. Superstition, when not arrayed in her full horrors, but
laying a gentle hand only on her suppliant's head, had charms which we
fail not to regret, even in those stages of society from which her
influence is wellnigh banished by the light of reason and general
education. At least, in more ignorant periods, her system of ideal
terrors had something in them interesting to minds which had few means
of excitement. This is more especially true of those lighter
modifications of superstitious feelings and practices which mingle in
the amusements of the ruder ages, and are, like the auguries of
Hallow-e'en in Scotland, considered partly as matter of merriment,
partly as sad and prophetic earnest. And, with similar feelings, people
even of tolerable education have, in our times, sought the cell of a
fortune-teller, upon a frolic, as it is termed, and yet not always in a
disposition absolutely sceptical towards the responses they receive.

When the sisters of Burgh-Westra arrived in the apartment destined for a
breakfast, as ample as that which we have described on the preceding
morning, and had undergone a jocular rebuke from the Udaller for their
late attendance, they found the company, most of whom had already
breakfasted, engaged in an ancient Norwegian custom, of the character
which we have just described.

It seems to have been borrowed from those poems of the Scalds, in which
champions and heroines are so often represented as seeking to know their
destiny from some sorceress or prophetess, who, as in the legend called
by Gray the Descent of Odin, awakens by the force of Runic rhyme the
unwilling revealer of the doom of fate, and compels from her answers,
often of dubious import, but which were then believed to express some
shadow of the events of futurity.

An old sibyl, Euphane Fea, the housekeeper we have already mentioned,
was installed in the recess of a large window, studiously darkened by
bear-skins and other miscellaneous drapery, so as to give it something
the appearance of a Laplander's hut, and accommodated, like a
confessional chair, with an aperture, which permitted the person within
to hear with ease whatever questions should be put, though not to see
the querist. Here seated, the voluspa, or sibyl, was to listen to the
rhythmical enquiries which should be made to her, and return an
extemporaneous answer. The drapery was supposed to prevent her from
seeing by what individuals she was consulted, and the intended or
accidental reference which the answer given under such circumstances
bore to the situation of the person by whom the question was asked,
often furnished food for laughter, and sometimes, as it happened, for
more serious reflection. The sibyl was usually chosen from her
possessing the talent of improvisation in the Norse poetry; no unusual
accomplishment, where the minds of many were stored with old verses, and
where the rules of metrical composition are uncommonly simple. The
questions were also put in verse; but as this power of extemporaneous
composition, though common, could not be supposed universal, the medium
of an interpreter might be used by any querist, which interpreter,
holding the consulter of the oracle by the hand, and standing by the
place from which the oracles were issued, had the task of rendering into
verse the subject of enquiry.

On the present occasion, Claud Halcro was summoned, by the universal
voice, to perform the part of interpreter; and, after shaking his head,
and muttering some apology for decay of memory and poetical powers,
contradicted at once by his own conscious smile of confidence and by the
general shout of the company, the lighthearted old man came forward to
play his part in the proposed entertainment.

But just as it was about to commence, the arrangement of parts was
singularly altered. Norna of the Fitful-head, whom every one excepting
the two sisters believed to be at the distance of many miles, suddenly,
and without greeting, entered the apartment, walked majestically up to
the bearskin tabernacle, and signed to the female who was there seated
to abdicate her sanctuary. The old woman came forth, shaking her head,
and looking like one overwhelmed with fear; nor, indeed, were there many
in the company who saw with absolute composure the sudden appearance of
a person, so well known and so generally dreaded as Norna.

She paused a moment at the entrance of the tent; and, as she raised the
skin which formed the entrance, she looked up to the north, as if
imploring from that quarter a strain of inspiration; then signing to the
surprised guests that they might approach in succession the shrine in
which she was about to install herself, she entered the tent, and was
shrouded from their sight.

But this was a different sport from what the company had meditated, and
to most of them seemed to present so much more of earnest than of game,
that there was no alacrity shown to consult the oracle. The character
and pretensions of Norna seemed, to almost all present, too serious for
the part which she had assumed; the men whispered to each other, and the
women, according to Claud Halcro, realized the description of glorious
John Dryden,--

  "With horror shuddering, in a heap they ran."

The pause was interrupted by the loud manly voice of the Udaller. "Why
does the game stand still, my masters? Are you afraid because my
kinswoman is to play our voluspa? It is kindly done in her, to do for us
what none in the isles can do so well; and we will not baulk our sport
for it, but rather go on the merrier."

There was still a pause in the company, and Magnus Troil added, "It
shall never be said that my kinswoman sat in her bower unhalsed, as if
she were some of the old mountain-giantesses, and all from faint heart.
I will speak first myself; but the rhyme comes worse from my tongue than
when I was a score of years younger.--Claud Halcro, you must stand by

Hand in hand they approached the shrine of the supposed sibyl, and after
a moment's consultation together, Halcro thus expressed the query of his
friend and patron. Now, the Udaller, like many persons of consequence in
Zetland, who, as Sir Robert Sibbald has testified for them, had begun
thus early to apply both to commerce and navigation, was concerned to
some extent in the whale-fishery of the season, and the bard had been
directed to put into his halting verse an enquiry concerning its


  "Mother darksome, Mother dread--
  Dweller on the Fitful-head,
  Thou canst see what deeds are done
  Under the never-setting sun.
  Look through sleet, and look through frost,
  Look to Greenland's caves and coast,--
  By the iceberg is a sail
  Chasing of the swarthy whale;
  Mother doubtful, Mother dread,
  Tell us, has the good ship sped?"

The jest seemed to turn to earnest, as all, bending their heads around,
listened to the voice of Norna, who, without a moment's hesitation,
answered from the recesses of the tent in which she was enclosed:--


  "The thought of the aged is ever on gear,--
  On his fishing, his furrow, his flock, and his steer;
  But thrive may his fishing, flock, furrow, and herd,
  While the aged for anguish shall tear his grey beard."

There was a momentary pause, during which Triptolemus had time to
whisper, "If ten witches and as many warlocks were to swear it, I will
never believe that a decent man will either fash his beard or himself
about any thing, so long as stock and crop goes as it should do."

But the voice from within the tent resumed its low monotonous tone of
recitation, and, interrupting farther commentary, proceeded as


  "The ship, well-laden as bark need be,
  Lies deep in the furrow of the Iceland sea;--
  The breeze for Zetland blows fair and soft,
  And gaily the garland[1] is fluttering aloft:
  Seven good fishes have spouted their last,
  And their jaw-bones are hanging to yard and mast;[2]
  Two are for Lerwick, and two for Kirkwall,--
  And three for Burgh-Westra, the choicest of all."

"Now the powers above look down and protect us!" said Bryce Snailsfoot;
"for it is mair than woman's wit that has spaed out that ferly. I saw
them at North Ronaldshaw, that had seen the good bark, the Olave of
Lerwick, that our worthy patron has such a great share in that she may
be called his own in a manner, and they had broomed[3] the ship, and, as
sure as there are stars in heaven, she answered them for seven fish,
exact as Norna has telled us in her rhyme!"

"Umph--seven fish exactly? and you heard it at North Ronaldshaw?" said
Captain Cleveland, "and I suppose told it as a good piece of news when
you came hither?"

"It never crossed my tongue, Captain," answered the pedlar; "I have kend
mony chapmen, travelling merchants, and such like, neglect their goods
to carry clashes and clavers up and down, from one countryside to
another; but that is no traffic of mine. I dinna believe I have
mentioned the Olave's having made up her cargo to three folks since I
crossed to Dunrossness."

"But if one of those three had spoken the news over again, and it is two
to one that such a thing happened, the old lady prophesies upon velvet."

Such was the speech of Cleveland, addressed to Magnus Troil, and heard
without any applause. The Udaller's respect for his country extended to
its superstitions, and so did the interest which he took in his
unfortunate kinswoman. If he never rendered a precise assent to her high
supernatural pretensions, he was not at least desirous of hearing them
disputed by others.

"Norna," he said, "his cousin," (an emphasis on the word,) "held no
communication with Bryce Snailsfoot, or his acquaintances. He did not
pretend to explain how she came by her information; but he had always
remarked that Scotsmen, and indeed strangers in general, when they came
to Zetland, were ready to find reasons for things which remained
sufficiently obscure to those whose ancestors had dwelt there for ages."

Captain Cleveland took the hint, and bowed, without attempting to defend
his own scepticism.

"And now forward, my brave hearts," said the Udaller; "and may all have
as good tidings as I have! Three whales cannot but yield--let me think
how many hogsheads"----

There was an obvious reluctance on the part of the guests to be the next
in consulting the oracle of the tent.

"Gude news are welcome to some folks, if they came frae the deil
himsell," said Mistress Baby Yellowley, addressing the Lady
Glowrowrum,--for a similarity of disposition in some respects had made a
sort of intimacy betwixt them--"but I think, my leddy, that this has
ower mickle of rank witchcraft in it to have the countenance of douce
Christian folks like you and me, my leddy."

"There may be something in what you say, my dame," replied the good Lady
Glowrowrum; "but we Hialtlanders are no just like other folks; and this
woman, if she be a witch, being the Fowd's friend and near kinswoman, it
will be ill taen if we haena our fortunes spaed like a' the rest of
them; and sae my nieces may e'en step forward in their turn, and nae
harm dune. They will hae time to repent, ye ken, in the course of
nature, if there be ony thing wrang in it, Mistress Yellowley."

While others remained under similar uncertainty and apprehension,
Halcro, who saw by the knitting of the old Udaller's brows, and by a
certain impatient shuffle of his right foot, like the motion of a man
who with difficulty refrains from stamping, that his patience began to
wax rather thin, gallantly declared, that he himself would, in his own
person, and not as a procurator for others, put the next query to the
Pythoness. He paused a minute--collected his rhymes, and thus addressed


  "Mother doubtful, Mother dread,
  Dweller of the Fitful-head,
  Thou hast conn'd full many a rhyme,
  That lives upon the surge of time:
  Tell me, shall my lays be sung,
  Like Hacon's of the golden tongue,
  Long after Halcro's dead and gone?
  Or, shall Hialtland's minstrel own
  One note to rival glorious John?"

The voice of the sibyl immediately replied, from her sanctuary,


  "The infant loves the rattle's noise;
  Age, double childhood, hath its toys;
  But different far the descant rings,
  As strikes a different hand the strings.
  The Eagle mounts the polar sky--
  The Imber-goose, unskill'd to fly,
  Must be content to glide along,
  Where seal and sea-dog list his song."

Halcro bit his lip, shrugged his shoulders, and then, instantly
recovering his good-humour, and the ready, though slovenly power of
extemporaneous composition, with which long habit had invested him, he
gallantly rejoined,


  "Be mine the Imber-goose to play,
  And haunt lone cave and silent bay:--
  The archer's aim so shall I shun--
  So shall I 'scape the levell'd gun--
  Content my verse's tuneless jingle,
  With Thule's sounding tides to mingle,
  While, to the ear of wandering wight,
  Upon the distant headland's height,
  Soften'd by murmur of the sea,
  The rude sounds seem like harmony!"

As the little bard stepped back, with an alert gait, and satisfied air,
general applause followed the spirited manner in which he had acquiesced
in the doom which levelled him with an Imber-goose. But his resigned and
courageous submission did not even yet encourage any other person to
consult the redoubted Norna.

"The coward fools!" said the Udaller. "Are you too afraid, Captain
Cleveland, to speak to an old woman?--Ask her any thing--ask her whether
the twelve-gun sloop at Kirkwall be your consort or no."

Cleveland looked at Minna, and probably conceiving that she watched with
anxiety his answer to her father's question, he collected himself, after
a moment's hesitation.

"I never was afraid of man or woman.--Master Halcro, you have heard the
question which our host desires me to ask--put it in my name, and in
your own way--I pretend to as little skill in poetry as I do in

Halcro did not wait to be invited twice, but, grasping Captain
Cleveland's hand in his, according to the form which the game
prescribed, he put the query which the Udaller had dictated to the
stranger, in the following words:--


  "Mother doubtful, Mother dread,
  Dweller of the Fitful-head,
  A gallant bark from far abroad,
  Saint Magnus hath her in his road,
  With guns and firelocks not a few--
  A silken and a scarlet crew,
  Deep stored with precious merchandise,
  Of gold, and goods of rare device--
  What interest hath our comrade bold
  In bark and crew, in goods and gold?"

There was a pause of unusual duration ere the oracle would return any
answer; and when she replied, it was in a lower, though an equally
decided tone, with that which she had hitherto employed:--


  "Gold is ruddy, fair, and free,
  Blood is crimson, and dark to see;--
  I look'd out on Saint Magnus Bay,
  And I saw a falcon that struck her prey,--
  A gobbet of flesh in her beak she bore,
  And talons and singles are dripping with gore;
  Let him that asks after them look on his hand,
  And if there is blood on't, he's one of their band."

Cleveland smiled scornfully, and held out his hand,--"Few men have been
on the Spanish main as often as I have, without having had to do with
the _Guarda Costas_ once and again; but there never was aught like a
stain on my hand that a wet towel would not wipe away."

The Udaller added his voice potential--"There is never peace with
Spaniards beyond the Line,--I have heard Captain Tragendeck and honest
old Commodore Rummelaer say so an hundred times, and they have both been
down in the Bay of Honduras, and all thereabouts.--I hate all Spaniards,
since they came here and reft the Fair Isle men of their vivers in
1558.[4] I have heard my grandfather speak of it; and there is an old
Dutch history somewhere about the house, that shows what work they made
in the Low Countries long since. There is neither mercy nor faith in

"True--true, my old friend," said Cleveland; "they are as jealous of
their Indian possessions as an old man of his young bride; and if they
can catch you at disadvantage, the mines for your life is the word,--and
so we fight them with our colours nailed to the mast."

"That is the way," shouted the Udaller; "the old British jack should
never down! When I think of the wooden walls, I almost think myself an
Englishman, only it would be becoming too like my Scottish
neighbours;--but come, no offence to any here, gentlemen--all are
friends, and all are welcome.--Come, Brenda, go on with the play--do you
speak next, you have Norse rhymes enough, we all know."

"But none that suit the game we play at, father," said Brenda, drawing

"Nonsense!" said her father, pushing her onward, while Halcro seized on
her reluctant hand; "never let mistimed modesty mar honest mirth--Speak
for Brenda, Halcro--it is your trade to interpret maidens' thoughts."

The poet bowed to the beautiful young woman, with the devotion of a poet
and the gallantry of a traveller, and having, in a whisper, reminded her
that she was in no way responsible for the nonsense he was about to
speak, he paused, looked upward, simpered as if he had caught a sudden
idea, and at length set off in the following verses:


  "Mother doubtful, Mother dread--
  Dweller of the Fitful-head,
  Well thou know'st it is thy task
  To tell what beauty will not ask;--
  Then steep thy words in wine and milk,
  And weave a doom of gold and silk,--
  For we would know, shall Brenda prove
  In love, and happy in her love?"

The prophetess replied almost immediately from behind her curtain:--


  "Untouched by love, the maiden's breast
  Is like the snow on Rona's crest,
  High seated in the middle sky,
  In bright and barren purity;
  But by the sunbeam gently kiss'd,
  Scarce by the gazing eye 'tis miss'd,
  Ere down the lonely valley stealing,
  Fresh grass and growth its course revealing,
  It cheers the flock, revives the flower,
  And decks some happy shepherd's bower."

"A comfortable doctrine, and most justly spoken," said the Udaller,
seizing the blushing Brenda, as she was endeavouring to escape--"Never
think shame for the matter, my girl. To be the mistress of some honest
man's house, and the means of maintaining some old Norse name, making
neighbours happy, the poor easy, and relieving strangers, is the most
creditable lot a young woman can look to, and I heartily wish it to all
here.--Come, who speaks next?--good husbands are going--Maddie
Groatsettar--my pretty Clara, come and have your share."

The Lady Glowrowrum shook her head, and "could not," she said,
"altogether approve"----

"Enough said--enough said," replied Magnus; "no compulsion; but the play
shall go on till we are tired of it. Here, Minna--I have got you at
command. Stand forth, my girl--there are plenty of things to be ashamed
of besides old-fashioned and innocent pleasantry.--Come, I will speak
for you myself--though I am not sure I can remember rhyme enough for

There was a slight colour which passed rapidly over Minna's face, but
she instantly regained her composure, and stood erect by her father, as
one superior to any little jest to which her situation might give rise.

Her father, after some rubbing of his brow, and other mechanical efforts
to assist his memory, at length recovered verse sufficient to put the
following query, though in less gallant strains than those of Halcro:--


  "Mother, speak, and do not tarry,
  Here's a maiden fain would marry.
  Shall she marry, ay or not?
  If she marry, what's her lot?"

A deep sigh was uttered within the tabernacle of the soothsayer, as if
she compassionated the subject of the doom which she was obliged to
pronounce. She then, as usual, returned her response:--


  "Untouch'd by love, the maiden's breast
  Is like the snow on Rona's crest;
  So pure, so free from earthly dye,
  It seems, whilst leaning on the sky,
  Part of the heaven to which 'tis nigh;
  But passion, like the wild March rain,
  May soil the wreath with many a stain.
  We gaze--the lovely vision's gone--
  A torrent fills the bed of stone,
  That, hurrying to destruction's shock,
  Leaps headlong from the lofty rock."

The Udaller heard this reply with high resentment. "By the bones of the
Martyr," he said, his bold visage becoming suddenly ruddy, "this is an
abuse of courtesy! and, were it any but yourself that had classed my
daughter's name and the word destruction together, they had better have
left the word unspoken. But come forth of the tent, thou old
galdragon,"[5] he added, with a smile--"I should have known that thou
canst not long joy in any thing that smacks of mirth, God help thee!"
His summons received no answer; and, after waiting a moment, he again
addressed her--"Nay, never be sullen with me, kinswoman, though I did
speak a hasty word--thou knowest I bear malice to no one, least of all
to thee--so come forth, and let us shake hands.--Thou mightst have
foretold the wreck of my ship and boats, or a bad herring-fishery, and I
should have said never a word; but Minna or Brenda, you know, are things
which touch me nearer. But come out, shake hands, and there let there be
an end on't."

Norna returned no answer whatever to his repeated invocations, and the
company began to look upon each other with some surprise, when the
Udaller, raising the skin which covered the entrance of the tent,
discovered that the interior was empty. The wonder was now general, and
not unmixed with fear; for it seemed impossible that Norna could have,
in any manner, escaped from the tabernacle in which she was enclosed,
without having been discovered by the company. Gone, however, she was,
and the Udaller, after a moment's consideration, dropt the skin-curtain
again over the entrance of the tent.

"My friends," he said, with a cheerful countenance, "we have long known
my kinswoman, and that her ways are not like those of the ordinary folks
of this world. But she means well by Hialtland, and hath the love of a
sister for me, and for my house; and no guest of mine needs either to
fear evil, or to take offence, at her hand. I have little doubt she will
be with us at dinner-time."

"Now, Heaven forbid!" said Mrs. Baby Yellowley--"for, my gude Leddy
Glowrowrum, to tell your leddyship the truth, I likena cummers that can
come and gae like a glance of the sun, or the whisk of a whirlwind."

"Speak lower, speak lower," said the Lady Glowrowrum, "and be thankful
that yon carlin hasna ta'en the house-side away wi' her. The like of her
have played warse pranks, and so has she hersell, unless she is the
sairer lied on."

Similar murmurs ran through the rest of the company, until the Udaller
uplifted his stentorian and imperative voice to put them to silence, and
invited, or rather commanded, the attendance of his guests to behold the
boats set off for the _haaf_ or deep-sea fishing.

"The wind has been high since sunrise," he said, "and had kept the boats
in the bay; but now it was favourable, and they would sail

This sudden alteration of the weather occasioned sundry nods and winks
amongst the guests, who were not indisposed to connect it with Norna's
sudden disappearance; but without giving vent to observations which
could not but be disagreeable to their host, they followed his stately
step to the shore, as the herd of deer follows the leading stag, with
all manner of respectful observance.[6](_a_)[7]


[1] The garland is an artificial coronet, composed of ribbons by those
young women who take an interest in a whaling vessel or her crew: it is
always displayed from the rigging, and preserved with great care during
the voyage.

[2] The best oil exudes from the jaw-bones of the whale, which, for the
purpose of collecting it, are suspended to the masts of the vessel.

[3] There is established among whalers a sort of telegraphic signal, in
which a certain number of motions, made with a broom, express to any
other vessel the number of fish which they have caught.

[4] The Admiral of the Spanish Armada was wrecked on the Fair Isle,
half-way betwixt the Orkney and Zetland Archipelago. The Duke of Medina
Sidonia landed, with some of his people, and pillaged the islanders of
their winter stores. These strangers are remembered as having remained
on the island by force, and on bad terms with the inhabitants, till
spring returned, when they effected their escape.

[5] _Galdra-Kinna_--the Norse for a sorceress.

[6] Note I.--Fortune-telling Rhymes.

[7] See Editor's Notes at the end of the Volume. Wherever a similar
reference occurs, the reader will understand that the same direction


  There was a laughing devil in his sneer,
  That raised emotions both of rage and fear;
  And where his frown of hatred darkly fell,
  Hope withering fled--and Mercy sigh'd farewell.

                                     _The Corsair, Canto I._

The ling or white fishery is the principal employment of the natives of
Zetland, and was formerly that upon which the gentry chiefly depended
for their income, and the poor for their subsistence. The fishing season
is therefore, like the harvest of an agricultural country, the busiest
and most important, as well as the most animating, period of the year.

The fishermen of each district assemble at particular stations, with
their boats and crews, and erect upon the shore small huts, composed of
shingle and covered with turf, for their temporary lodging, and skeos,
or drying-houses, for the fish; so that the lonely beach at once assumes
the appearance of an Indian town. The banks to which they repair for the
Haaf fishing, are often many miles distant from the station where the
fish is dried; so that they are always twenty or thirty hours absent,
frequently longer; and under unfavourable circumstances of wind and
tide, they remain at sea, with a very small stock of provisions, and in
a boat of a construction which seems extremely slender, for two or three
days, and are sometimes heard of no more. The departure of the fishers,
therefore, on this occupation, has in it a character of danger and of
suffering, which renders it dignified, and the anxiety of the females
who remain on the beach, watching the departure of the lessening boat,
or anxiously looking out for its return, gives pathos to the scene.[8]

The scene, therefore, was in busy and anxious animation, when the
Udaller and his friends appeared on the beach. The various crews of
about thirty boats, amounting each to from three to five or six men,
were taking leave of their wives and female relatives, and jumping on
board their long Norway skiffs, where their lines and tackle lay ready
stowed. Magnus was not an idle spectator of the scene; he went from one
place to another, enquiring into the state of their provisions for the
voyage, and their preparations for the fishing--now and then, with a
rough Dutch or Norse oath, abusing them for blockheads, for going to sea
with their boats indifferently found, but always ending by ordering
from his own stores a gallon of gin, a lispund of meal, or some similar
essential addition to their sea-stores. The hardy sailors, on receiving
such favours, expressed their thanks in the brief gruff manner which
their landlord best approved; but the women were more clamorous in their
gratitude, which Magnus was often obliged to silence by cursing all
female tongues from Eve's downwards.

At length all were on board and ready, the sails were hoisted, the
signal for departure given, the rowers began to pull, and all started
from the shore, in strong emulation to get first to the fishing ground,
and to have their lines set before the rest; an exploit to which no
little consequence was attached by the boat's crew who should be happy
enough to perform it.

While they were yet within hearing of the shore, they chanted an ancient
Norse ditty, appropriate to the occasion, of which Claud Halcro had
executed the following literal translation:--

  "Farewell, merry maidens, to song, and to laugh,
  For the brave lads of Westra are bound to the Haaf;
  And we must have labour, and hunger, and pain,
  Ere we dance with the maids of Dunrossness again.

  "For now, in our trim boats of Noroway deal,
  We must dance on the waves, with the porpoise and seal;
  The breeze it shall pipe, so it pipe not too high,
  And the gull be our songstress whene'er she flits by.

  "Sing on, my brave bird, while we follow, like thee,
  By bank, shoal, and quicksand, the swarms of the sea;
  And when twenty-score fishes are straining our line,
  Sing louder, brave bird, for their spoils shall be thine.

  "We'll sing while we bait, and we'll sing when we haul,
  For the deeps of the Haaf have enough for us all:
  There is torsk for the gentle, and skate for the carle,
  And there's wealth for bold Magnus, the son of the earl.

  "Huzza! my brave comrades, give way for the Haaf,
  We shall sooner come back to the dance and the laugh;
  For life without mirth is a lamp without oil;
  Then, mirth and long life to the bold Magnus Troil!"

The rude words of the song were soon drowned in the ripple of the waves,
but the tune continued long to mingle with the sound of wind and sea,
and the boats were like so many black specks on the surface of the
ocean, diminishing by degrees as they bore far and farther seaward;
while the ear could distinguish touches of the human voice, almost
drowned amid that of the elements.

The fishermen's wives looked their last after the parting sails, and
were now departing slowly, with downcast and anxious looks, towards the
huts in which they were to make arrangements for preparing and drying
the fish, with which they hoped to see their husbands and friends return
deeply laden. Here and there an old sibyl displayed the superior
importance of her experience, by predicting, from the appearance of the
atmosphere, that the wind would be fair or foul, while others
recommended a vow to the Kirk of St. Ninian's for the safety of their
men and boats, (an ancient Catholic superstition, not yet wholly
abolished,) and others, but in a low and timorous tone, regretted to
their companions, that Norna of Fitful-head had been suffered to depart
in discontent that morning from Burgh-Westra, "and, of all days in the
year, that they suld have contrived to give her displeasure on the first
day of the white fishing!"

The gentry, guests of Magnus Troil, having whiled away as much time as
could be so disposed of, in viewing the little armament set sail, and in
conversing with the poor women who had seen their friends embark in it,
began now to separate into various groups and parties, which strolled in
different directions, as fancy led them, to enjoy what may be called the
clair-obscure of a Zetland summer day, which, though without the
brilliant sunshine that cheers other countries during the fine season,
has a mild and pleasing character of its own, that softens while it
saddens landscapes, which, in their own lonely, bare, and monotonous
tone, have something in them stern as well as barren.

In one of the loneliest recesses of the coast, where a deep indenture of
the rocks gave the tide access to the cavern, or, as it is called, the
_Helyer_, of Swartaster, Minna Troil was walking with Captain Cleveland.
They had probably chosen that walk, as being little liable to
interruption from others; for, as the force of the tide rendered the
place unfit either for fishing or sailing, so it was not the ordinary
resort of walkers, on account of its being the supposed habitation of a
Mermaid, a race which Norwegian superstition invests with magical, as
well as mischievous qualities. Here, therefore, Minna wandered with her

A small spot of milk-white sand, that stretched beneath one of the
precipices which walled in the creek on either side, afforded them space
for a dry, firm, and pleasant walk of about an hundred yards, terminated
at one extremity by a dark stretch of the bay, which, scarce touched by
the wind, seemed almost as smooth as glass, and which was seen from
between two lofty rocks, the jaws of the creek, or indenture, that
approached each other above, as if they wished to meet over the dark
tide that separated them. The other end of their promenade was closed by
a lofty and almost unscaleable precipice, the abode of hundreds of
sea-fowl of different kinds, in the bottom of which the huge helyer, or
sea-cave, itself yawned, as if for the purpose of swallowing up the
advancing tide, which it seemed to receive into an abyss of immeasurable
depth and extent. The entrance to this dismal cavern consisted not in a
single arch, as usual, but was divided into two, by a huge pillar of
natural rock, which, rising out of the sea, and extending to the top of
the cavern, seemed to lend its support to the roof, and thus formed a
double portal to the helyer, on which the fishermen and peasants had
bestowed the rude name of the Devil's Nostrils. In this wild scene,
lonely and undisturbed but by the clang of the sea-fowl, Cleveland had
already met with Minna Troil more than once; for with her it was a
favourite walk, as the objects which it presented agreed peculiarly with
the love of the wild, the melancholy, and the wonderful. But now the
conversation in which she was earnestly engaged, was such as entirely to
withdraw her attention, as well as that of her companion, from the
scenery around them.

"You cannot deny it," she said; "you have given way to feelings
respecting this young man, which indicate prejudice and violence,--the
prejudice unmerited, as far as you are concerned at least, and the
violence equally imprudent and unjustifiable."

"I should have thought," replied Cleveland, "that the service I rendered
him yesterday might have freed me from such a charge. I do not talk of
my own risk, for I have lived in danger, and love it; it is not every
one, however, would have ventured so near the furious animal to save one
with whom they had no connexion."

"It is not every one, indeed, who could have saved him," answered
Minna, gravely; "but every one who has courage and generosity would have
attempted it. The giddy-brained Claud Halcro would have done as much as
you, had his strength been equal to his courage,--my father would have
done as much, though having such just cause of resentment against the
young man, for his vain and braggart abuse of our hospitality. Do not,
therefore, boast of your exploit too much, my good friend, lest you
should make me think that it required too great an effort. I know you
love not Mordaunt Mertoun, though you exposed your own life to save

"Will you allow nothing, then," said Cleveland, "for the long misery I
was made to endure from the common and prevailing report, that this
beardless bird-hunter stood betwixt me and what I on earth coveted
most--the affections of Minna Troil?"

He spoke in a tone at once impassioned and insinuating, and his whole
language and manner seemed to express a grace and elegance, which formed
the most striking contrast with the speech and gesture of the unpolished
seaman, which he usually affected or exhibited. But his apology was
unsatisfactory to Minna.

"You have known," she said, "perhaps too soon, and too well, how little
you had to fear,--if you indeed feared,--that Mertoun, or any other, had
interest with Minna Troil.--Nay, truce to thanks and protestations; I
would accept it as the best proof of gratitude, that you would be
reconciled with this youth, or at least avoid every quarrel with him."

"That we should be friends, Minna, is impossible," replied Cleveland;
"even the love I bear you, the most powerful emotion that my heart ever
knew, cannot work that miracle."

"And why, I pray you?" said Minna; "there have been no evil offences
between you, but rather an exchange of mutual services; why can you not
be friends?--I have many reasons to wish it."

"And can you, then, forget the slights which he has cast upon Brenda,
and on yourself, and on your father's house?"

"I can forgive them all," said Minna;--"can you not say so much, who
have in truth received no offence?"

Cleveland looked down, and paused for an instant; then raised his head,
and replied, "I might easily deceive you, Minna, and promise you what my
soul tells me is an impossibility; but I am forced to use too much
deceit with others, and with you I will use none. I cannot be friend to
this young man;--there is a natural dislike--an instinctive
aversion--something like a principle of repulsion in our mutual nature,
which makes us odious to each other. Ask himself--he will tell you he
has the same antipathy against me. The obligation he conferred on me was
a bridle to my resentment; but I was so galled by the restraint, that I
could have gnawed the curb till my lips were bloody."

"You have worn what you are wont to call your iron mask so long, that
your features," replied Minna, "retain the impression of its rigidity
even when it is removed."

"You do me injustice, Minna," replied her lover, "and you are angry with
me because I deal with you plainly and honestly. Plainly and honestly,
however, will I say, that I cannot be Mertoun's friend, but it shall be
his own fault, not mine, if I am ever his enemy. I seek not to injure
him; but do not ask me to love him. And of this remain satisfied, that
it would be vain even if I could do so; for as sure as I attempted any
advances towards his confidence, so sure would I be to awaken his
disgust and suspicion. Leave us to the exercise of our natural feelings,
which, as they will unquestionably keep us as far separate as possible,
are most likely to prevent any possible interference with each
other.--Does this satisfy you?"

"It must," said Minna, "since you tell me there is no remedy.--And now
tell me why you looked so grave when you heard of your consort's
arrival,--for that it is her I have no doubt,--in the port of Kirkwall?"

"I fear," replied Cleveland, "the consequences of that vessel's arrival
with her crew, as comprehending the ruin of my fondest hopes. I had made
some progress in your father's favour, and, with time, might have made
more, when hither come Hawkins and the rest to blight my prospects for
ever. I told you on what terms we parted. I then commanded a vessel
braver and better found than their own, with a crew who, at my slightest
nod, would have faced fiends armed with their own fiery element; but I
now stand alone, a single man, destitute of all means to overawe or to
restrain them; and they will soon show so plainly the ungovernable
license of their habits and dispositions, that ruin to themselves and to
me will in all probability be the consequence."

"Do not fear it," said Minna; "my father can never be so unjust as to
hold you liable for the offences of others."

"But what will Magnus Troil say to my own demerits, fair Minna?" said
Cleveland, smiling.

"My father is a Zetlander, or rather a Norwegian," said Minna, "one of
an oppressed race, who will not care whether you fought against the
Spaniards, who are the tyrants of the New World, or against the Dutch
and English, who have succeeded to their usurped dominions. His own
ancestors supported and exercised the freedom of the seas in those
gallant barks, whose pennons were the dread of all Europe."

"I fear, nevertheless," said Cleveland, "that the descendant of an
ancient Sea-King will scarce acknowledge a fitting acquaintance in a
modern rover. I have not disguised from you that I have reason to dread
the English laws; and Magnus, though a great enemy to taxes, imposts,
scat, wattle, and so forth, has no idea of latitude upon points of a
more general character;--he would willingly reeve a rope to the yard-arm
for the benefit of an unfortunate buccanier."

"Do not suppose so," said Minna; "he himself suffers too much oppression
from the tyrannical laws of our proud neighbours of Scotland. I trust he
will soon be able to rise in resistance against them. The enemy--such I
will call them--are now divided amongst themselves, and every vessel
from their coast brings intelligence of fresh commotions--the Highlands
against the Lowlands--the Williamites against the Jacobites--the Whigs
against the Tories, and, to sum the whole, the kingdom of England
against that of Scotland. What is there, as Claud Halcro well hinted, to
prevent our availing ourselves of the quarrels of these robbers, to
assert the independence of which we are deprived?"

"To hoist the raven standard on the Castle of Scalloway," said
Cleveland, in imitation of her tone and manner, "and proclaim your
father Earl Magnus the First!"

"Earl Magnus the Seventh, if it please you," answered Minna; "for six of
his ancestors have worn, or were entitled to wear, the coronet before
him.--You laugh at my ardour,--but what _is_ there to prevent all this?"

"Nothing _will_ prevent it," replied Cleveland, "because it will never
be attempted--Any thing _might_ prevent it, that is equal in strength to
the long-boat of a British man-of-war."

"You treat us with scorn, sir," said Minna; "yet yourself should know
what a few resolved men may perform."

"But they must be armed, Minna," replied Cleveland, "and willing to
place their lives upon each desperate adventure.--Think not of such
visions. Denmark has been cut down into a second-rate kingdom, incapable
of exchanging a single broadside with England; Norway is a starving
wilderness; and, in these islands, the love of independence has been
suppressed by a long term of subjection, or shows itself but in a few
muttered growls over the bowl and bottle. And, were your men as willing
warriors as their ancestors, what could the unarmed crews of a few
fishing-boats do against the British navy?--Think no more of it, sweet
Minna--it is a dream, and I must term it so, though it makes your eye so
bright, and your step so noble."

"It is indeed a dream!" said Minna, looking down, "and it ill becomes a
daughter of Hialtland to look or to move like a freewoman--Our eye
should be on the ground, and our step slow and reluctant, as that of one
who obeys a taskmaster."

"There are lands," said Cleveland, "in which the eye may look bright
upon groves of the palm and the cocoa, and where the foot may move
light as a galley under sail, over fields carpeted with flowers, and
savannahs surrounded by aromatic thickets, and where subjection is
unknown, except that of the brave to the bravest, and of all to the most

Minna paused a moment ere she spoke, and then answered, "No, Cleveland.
My own rude country has charms for me, even desolate as you think it,
and depressed as it surely is, which no other land on earth can offer to
me. I endeavour in vain to represent to myself those visions of trees,
and of groves, which my eye never saw; but my imagination can conceive
no sight in nature more sublime than these waves, when agitated by a
storm, or more beautiful, than when they come, as they now do, rolling
in calm tranquillity to the shore. Not the fairest scene in a foreign
land,--not the brightest sunbeam that ever shone upon the richest
landscape, would win my thoughts for a moment from that lofty rock,
misty hill, and wide-rolling ocean. Hialtland is the land of my deceased
ancestors, and of my living father; and in Hialtland will I live and

"Then in Hialtland," answered Cleveland, "will I too live and die. I
will not go to Kirkwall,--I will not make my existence known to my
comrades, from whom it were else hard for me to escape. Your father
loves me, Minna; who knows whether long attention, anxious care, might
not bring him to receive me into his family? Who would regard the length
of a voyage that was certain to terminate in happiness?"

"Dream not of such an issue," said Minna; "it is impossible. While you
live in my father's house,--while you receive his assistance, and share
his table, you will find him the generous friend, and the hearty host;
but touch him on what concerns his name and family, and the
frank-hearted Udaller will start up before you the haughty and proud
descendant of a Norwegian Jarl. See you,--a moment's suspicion has
fallen on Mordaunt Mertoun, and he has banished from his favour the
youth whom he so lately loved as a son. No one must ally with his house
that is not of untainted northern descent."

"And mine may be so, for aught that is known to me upon the subject,"
said Cleveland.

"How!" said Minna; "have you any reason to believe yourself of Norse

"I have told you before," replied Cleveland, "that my family is totally
unknown to me. I spent my earliest days upon a solitary plantation in
the little island of Tortuga, under the charge of my father, then a
different person from what he afterwards became. We were plundered by
the Spaniards, and reduced to such extremity of poverty, that my father,
in desperation, and in thirst of revenge, took up arms, and having
become chief of a little band, who were in the same circumstances,
became a buccanier, as it is called, and cruized against Spain, with
various vicissitudes of good and bad fortune, until, while he interfered
to check some violence of his companions, he fell by their hands--no
uncommon fate among the captains of these rovers. But whence my father
came, or what was the place of his birth, I know not, fair Minna, nor
have I ever had a curious thought on the subject."

"He was a Briton, at least, your unfortunate father?" said Minna.

"I have no doubt of it," said Cleveland; "his name, which I have
rendered too formidable to be openly spoken, is an English one; and his
acquaintance with the English language, and even with English
literature, together with the pains which he took, in better days, to
teach me both, plainly spoke him to be an Englishman. If the rude
bearing which I display towards others is not the genuine character of
my mind and manners, it is to my father, Minna, that I owe any share of
better thoughts and principles, which may render me worthy, in some
small degree, of your notice and approbation. And yet it sometimes seems
to me, that I have two different characters; for I cannot bring myself
to believe, that I, who now walk this lone beach with the lovely Minna
Troil, and am permitted to speak to her of the passion which I have
cherished, have ever been the daring leader of the bold band whose name
was as terrible as a tornado."

"You had not been permitted," said Minna, "to use that bold language
towards the daughter of Magnus Troil, had you _not_ been the brave and
undaunted leader, who, with so small means, has made his name so
formidable. My heart is like that of a maiden of the ancient days, and
is to be won, not by fair words, but by gallant deeds."

"Alas! that heart," said Cleveland; "and what is it that I may do--what
is it that man can do, to win in it the interest which I desire?"

"Rejoin your friends--pursue your fortunes--leave the rest to destiny,"
said Minna. "Should you return, the leader of a gallant fleet, who can
tell what may befall?"

"And what shall assure me, that, when I return--if return I ever
shall--I may not find Minna Troil a bride or a spouse?--No, Minna, I
will not trust to destiny the only object worth attaining, which my
stormy voyage in life has yet offered me."

"Hear me," said Minna. "I will bind myself to you, if you dare accept
such an engagement, by the promise of Odin,[9] the most sacred of our
northern rites which are yet practised among us, that I will never
favour another, until you resign the pretensions which I have given to
you.--Will that satisfy you?--for more I cannot--more I will not give."

"Then with that," said Cleveland, after a moment's pause, "I must
perforce be satisfied;--but remember, it is yourself that throw me back
upon a mode of life which the laws of Britain denounce as criminal, and
which the violent passions of the daring men by whom it is pursued, have
rendered infamous."

"But I," said Minna, "am superior to such prejudices. In warring with
England, I see their laws in no other light than as if you were engaged
with an enemy, who, in fulness of pride and power, has declared he will
give his antagonist no quarter. A brave man will not fight the worse for
this;--and, for the manners of your comrades, so that they do not infect
your own, why should their evil report attach to you?"

Cleveland gazed at her as she spoke, with a degree of wondering
admiration, in which, at the same time, there lurked a smile at her

"I could not," he said, "have believed, that such high courage could
have been found united with such ignorance of the world, as the world is
now wielded. For my manners, they who best know me will readily allow,
that I have done my best, at the risk of my popularity, and of my life
itself, to mitigate the ferocity of my mates; but how can you teach
humanity to men burning with vengeance against the world by whom they
are proscribed, or teach them temperance and moderation in enjoying the
pleasures which chance throws in their way, to vary a life which would
be otherwise one constant scene of peril and hardship?--But this
promise, Minna--this promise, which is all I am to receive in guerdon
for my faithful attachment--let me at least lose no time in claiming

"It must not be rendered here, but in Kirkwall.--We must invoke, to
witness the engagement, the Spirit which presides over the ancient
Circle of Stennis. But perhaps you fear to name the ancient Father of
the Slain too, the Severe, the Terrible?"

Cleveland smiled.

"Do me the justice to think, lovely Minna, that I am little subject to
fear real causes of terror; and for those which are visionary, I have no
sympathy whatever."

"You believe not in them, then?" said Minna, "and are so far better
suited to be Brenda's lover than mine."

"I will believe," replied Cleveland, "in whatever you believe. The whole
inhabitants of that Valhalla, about which you converse so much with that
fiddling, rhyming fool, Claud Halcro--all these shall become living and
existing things to my credulity. But, Minna, do not ask me to fear any
of them."

"Fear! no--not to _fear_ them, surely," replied the maiden; "for, not
before Thor or Odin, when they approached in the fulness of their
terrors, did the heroes of my dauntless race yield one foot in retreat.
Nor do I own them as Deities--a better faith prevents so foul an error.
But, in our own conception, they are powerful spirits for good or evil.
And when you boast not to fear them, bethink you that you defy an enemy
of a kind you have never yet encountered."

"Not in these northern latitudes," said the lover, with a smile, "where
hitherto I have seen but angels; but I have faced, in my time, the
demons of the Equinoctial Line, which we rovers suppose to be as
powerful, and as malignant, as those of the North."

"Have you, then, witnessed those wonders that are beyond the visible
world?" said Minna, with some degree of awe.

Cleveland composed his countenance, and replied,--"A short while before
my father's death, I came, though then very young, into the command of a
sloop, manned with thirty as desperate fellows as ever handled a musket.
We cruized for a long while with bad success, taking nothing but
wretched small-craft, which were destined to catch turtle, or otherwise
loaded with coarse and worthless trumpery. I had much ado to prevent my
comrades from avenging upon the crews of those baubling shallops the
disappointment which they had occasioned to us. At length, we grew
desperate, and made a descent on a village, where we were told we should
intercept the mules of a certain Spanish governor, laden with treasure.
We succeeded in carrying the place; but while I endeavoured to save the
inhabitants from the fury of my followers, the muleteers, with their
precious cargo, escaped into the neighbouring woods. This filled up the
measure of my unpopularity. My people, who had been long discontented,
became openly mutinous. I was deposed from my command in solemn council,
and condemned, as having too little luck and too much humanity for the
profession I had undertaken, to be marooned,[10] as the phrase goes, on
one of those little sandy, bushy islets, which are called, in the West
Indies, keys, and which are frequented only by turtle and by sea-fowl.
Many of them are supposed to be haunted(_b_)--some by the demons
worshipped by the old inhabitants--some by Caciques and others, whom the
Spaniards had put to death by torture, to compel them to discover their
hidden treasures, and others by the various spectres in which sailors of
all nations have implicit faith.[11] My place of banishment, called
Coffin-key, about two leagues and a half to the south-east of Bermudas,
was so infamous as the resort of these supernatural inhabitants, that I
believe the wealth of Mexico would not have persuaded the bravest of the
scoundrels who put me ashore there, to have spent an hour on the islet
alone, even in broad daylight; and when they rowed off, they pulled for
the sloop like men that dared not cast their eyes behind them. And there
they left me, to subsist as I might, on a speck of unproductive sand,
surrounded by the boundless Atlantic, and haunted, as they supposed, by
malignant demons."

"And what was the consequence?" said Minna, eagerly.

"I supported life," said the adventurer, "at the expense of such
sea-fowl, aptly called boobies, as were silly enough to let me approach
so near as to knock them down with a stick; and by means of turtle-eggs,
when these complaisant birds became better acquainted with the
mischievous disposition of the human species, and more shy of course of
my advances."

"And the demons of whom you spoke?"--continued Minna.

"I had my secret apprehensions upon their account," said Cleveland: "In
open daylight, or in absolute darkness, I did not greatly apprehend
their approach; but in the misty dawn of the morning, or when evening
was about to fall, I saw, for the first week of my abode on the key,
many a dim and undefined spectre, now resembling a Spaniard, with his
capa wrapped around him, and his huge sombrero, as large as an umbrella,
upon his head,--now a Dutch sailor, with his rough cap and
trunk-hose,--and now an Indian Cacique, with his feathery crown and long
lance of cane."

"Did you not approach and address them?" said Minna.

"I always approached them," replied the seaman; "but,--I grieve to
disappoint your expectations, my fair friend,--whenever I drew near
them, the phantom changed into a bush, or a piece of drift-wood, or a
wreath of mist, or some such cause of deception, until at last I was
taught by experience to cheat myself no longer with such visions, and
continued a solitary inhabitant of Coffin-key, as little alarmed by
visionary terrors, as I ever was in the great cabin of a stout vessel,
with a score of companions around me."

"You have cheated me into listening to a tale of nothing," said Minna;
"but how long did you continue on the island?"

"Four weeks of wretched existence," said Cleveland, "when I was relieved
by the crew of a vessel which came thither a-turtling. Yet my miserable
seclusion was not entirely useless to me; for on that spot of barren
sand I found, or rather forged, the iron mask, which has since been my
chief security against treason, or mutiny of my followers. It was there
I formed the resolution to seem no softer hearted, nor better
instructed--no more humane, and no more scrupulous, than those with whom
fortune had leagued me. I thought over my former story, and saw that
seeming more brave, skilful, and enterprising than others, had gained me
command and respect, and that seeming more gently nurtured, and more
civilized than they, had made them envy and hate me as a being of
another species. I bargained with myself, then, that since I could not
lay aside my superiority of intellect and education, I would do my best
to disguise, and to sink in the rude seaman, all appearance of better
feeling and better accomplishments. I foresaw then what has since
happened, that, under the appearance of daring obduracy, I should
acquire such a habitual command over my followers, that I might use it
for the insurance of discipline, and for relieving the distresses of the
wretches who fell under our power. I saw, in short, that to attain
authority, I must assume the external semblance, at least, of those over
whom it was to be exercised. The tidings of my father's fate, while it
excited me to wrath and to revenge, confirmed the resolution I had
adopted. He also had fallen a victim to his superiority of mind, morals,
and manners, above those whom he commanded. They were wont to call him
the Gentleman; and, unquestionably, they thought he waited some
favourable opportunity to reconcile himself, perhaps at their expense,
to those existing forms of society his habits seemed best to suit with,
and, even therefore, they murdered him. Nature and justice alike called
on me for revenge. I was soon at the head of a new body of the
adventurers, who are so numerous in those islands. I sought not after
those by whom I had been myself marooned, but after the wretches who had
betrayed my father; and on them I took a revenge so severe, that it was
of itself sufficient to stamp me with the character of that inexorable
ferocity which I was desirous to be thought to possess, and which,
perhaps, was gradually creeping on my natural disposition in actual
earnest. My manner, speech, and conduct, seemed so totally changed, that
those who formerly knew me were disposed to ascribe the alteration to my
intercourse with the demons who haunted the sands of Coffin-key; nay,
there were some superstitious enough to believe, that I had actually
formed a league with them."

"I tremble to hear the rest!" said Minna; "did you not become the
monster of courage and cruelty whose character you assumed?"

"If I have escaped being so, it is to you, Minna," replied Cleveland,
"that the wonder must be ascribed. It is true, I have always endeavoured
to distinguish myself rather by acts of adventurous valour, than by
schemes of revenge or of plunder, and that at length I could save lives
by a rude jest, and sometimes, by the excess of the measures which I
myself proposed, could induce those under me to intercede in favour of
prisoners; so that the seeming severity of my character has better
served the cause of humanity, than had I appeared directly devoted to

He ceased, and, as Minna replied not a word, both remained silent for a
little space, when Cleveland again resumed the discourse:--

"You are silent," he said, "Miss Troil, and I have injured myself in
your opinion by the frankness with which I have laid my character before
you. I may truly say that my natural disposition has been controlled,
but not altered, by the untoward circumstances in which I am placed."

"I am uncertain," said Minna, after a moment's consideration, "whether
you had been thus candid, had you not known I should soon see your
comrades, and discover, from their conversation and their manners, what
you would otherwise gladly have concealed."

"You do me injustice, Minna, cruel injustice. From the instant that you
knew me to be a sailor of fortune, an adventurer, a buccanier, or, if
you will have the broad word, a PIRATE, what had you to expect less than
what I have told you?"

"You speak too truly," said Minna--"all this I might have anticipated,
and I know not how I should have expected it otherwise. But it seemed to
me that a war on the cruel and superstitious Spaniards had in it
something ennobling--something that refined the fierce employment to
which you have just now given its true and dreaded name. I thought that
the independent warriors of the Western Ocean, raised up, as it were, to
punish the wrongs of so many murdered and plundered tribes must have
had something of gallant elevation, like that of the Sons of the North,
whose long galleys avenged on so many coasts the oppressions of
degenerate Rome. This I thought, and this I dreamed--I grieve that I am
awakened and undeceived. Yet I blame you not for the erring of my own
fancy.--Farewell; we must now part."

"Say at least," said Cleveland, "that you do not hold me in horror for
having told you the truth."

"I must have time for reflection," said Minna, "time to weigh what you
have said, ere I can fully understand my own feelings. Thus much,
however, I can say even now, that he who pursues the wicked purpose of
plunder, by means of blood and cruelty, and who must veil his remains of
natural remorse under an affectation of superior profligacy, is not, and
cannot be, the lover whom Minna Troil expected to find in Cleveland; and
if she still love him, it must be as a penitent, and not as a hero."

So saying, she extricated herself from his grasp, (for he still
endeavoured to detain her,) making an imperative sign to him to forbear
from following her.--"She is gone," said Cleveland, looking after her;
"wild and fanciful as she is, I expected not this.--She startled not at
the name of my perilous course of life, yet seems totally unprepared for
the evil which must necessarily attend it; and so all the merit I have
gained by my resemblance to a Norse Champion, or King of the Sea, is to
be lost at once, because a gang of pirates do not prove to be a choir of
saints. I would that Rackam, Hawkins, and the rest, had been at the
bottom of the Race of Portland--I would the Pentland Frith had swept
them to hell rather than to Orkney! I will not, however, quit the chase
of this angel for all that these fiends can do. I will--I must to Orkney
before the Udaller makes his voyage thither--our meeting might alarm
even his blunt understanding, although, thank Heaven, in this wild
country, men know the nature of our trade only by hearsay, through our
honest friends the Dutch, who take care never to speak very ill of those
they make money by.--Well, if fortune would but stand my friend with
this beautiful enthusiast, I would pursue her wheel no farther at sea,
but set myself down amongst these rocks, as happy as if they were so
many groves of bananas and palmettoes."

With these, and such thoughts, half rolling in his bosom, half expressed
in indistinct hints and murmurs, the pirate Cleveland returned to the
mansion of Burgh-Westra.


[8] Dr. Edmonston, the ingenious author of a View of the Ancient and
Present State of the Zetland Islands, has placed this part of the
subject in an interesting light. "It is truly painful to witness the
anxiety and distress which the wives of these poor men suffer on the
approach of a storm. Regardless of fatigue, they leave their homes, and
fly to the spot where they expect their husbands to land, or ascend the
summit of a rock, to look out for them on the bosom of the deep. Should
they get the glimpse of a sail, they watch, with trembling solicitude,
its alternate rise and disappearance on the waves; and though often
tranquillized by the safe arrival of the objects of their search, yet it
sometimes is their lot 'to hail the bark that never can return.' Subject
to the influence of a variable climate, and engaged on a sea naturally
tempestuous, with rapid currents, scarcely a season passes over without
the occurrence of some fatal accident or hairbreadth escape."--_View,
&c. of the Zetland Islands_, vol. i. p. 238. Many interesting
particulars respecting the fisheries and agriculture of Zetland, as well
as its antiquities, may be found in the work we have quoted.

[9] Note II.--Promise of Odin.

[10] To _maroon_ a seaman, signified to abandon him on a desolate coast
or island--a piece of cruelty often practised by Pirates and Buccaniers.

[11] An elder brother, now no more, who was educated in the navy, and
had been a midshipman in Rodney's squadron in the West Indies, used to
astonish the author's boyhood with tales of those haunted islets. On one
of them, called, I believe, Coffin-key, the seamen positively refused to
pass the night, and came off every evening while they were engaged in
completing the watering of the vessel, returning the following sunrise.


  There was shaking of hands, and sorrow of heart,
  For the hour was approaching when merry folks must part;
  So we call'd for our horses, and ask'd for our way,
  While the jolly old landlord said, "Nothing's to pay."

                                         _Lilliput, a Poem._

We do not dwell upon the festivities of the day, which had nothing in
them to interest the reader particularly. The table groaned under the
usual plenty, which was disposed of by the guests with the usual
appetite--the bowl of punch was filled and emptied with the same
celerity as usual--the men quaffed, and the women laughed--Claud Halcro
rhymed, punned, and praised John Dryden--the Udaller bumpered and sung
choruses--and the evening concluded, as usual, in the Rigging-loft, as
it was Magnus Troil's pleasure to term the dancing apartment.

It was then and there that Cleveland, approaching Magnus, where he sat
betwixt his two daughters, intimated his intention of going to Kirkwall
in a small brig, which Bryce Snailsfoot, who had disposed of his goods
with unprecedented celerity, had freighted thither, to procure a supply.

Magnus heard the sudden proposal of his guest with surprise, not
unmingled with displeasure, and demanded sharply of Cleveland, how long
it was since he had learned to prefer Bryce Snailsfoot's company to his
own? Cleveland answered, with his usual bluntness of manner, that time
and tide tarried for no one, and that he had his own particular reasons
for making his trip to Kirkwall sooner than the Udaller proposed to set
sail--that he hoped to meet with him and his daughters at the great fair
which was now closely approaching, and might perhaps find it possible to
return to Zetland along with them.

While he spoke this, Brenda kept her eye as much upon her sister as it
was possible to do, without exciting general observation. She remarked,
that Minna's pale cheek became yet paler while Cleveland spoke, and that
she seemed, by compressing her lips, and slightly knitting her brows, to
be in the act of repressing the effects of strong interior emotion. But
she spoke not; and when Cleveland, having bidden adieu to the Udaller,
approached to salute her, as was then the custom, she received his
farewell without trusting herself to attempt a reply.

Brenda had her own trial approaching; for Mordaunt Mertoun, once so much
loved by her father, was now in the act of making his cold parting from
him, without receiving a single look of friendly regard. There was,
indeed, sarcasm in the tone with which Magnus wished the youth a good
journey, and recommended to him, if he met a bonny lass by the way, not
to dream that she was in love, because she chanced to jest with him.
Mertoun coloured at what he felt as an insult, though it was but half
intelligible to him; but he remembered Brenda, and suppressed every
feeling of resentment. He proceeded to take his leave of the sisters.
Minna, whose heart was considerably softened towards him, received his
farewell with some degree of interest; but Brenda's grief was so visible
in the kindness of her manner, and the moisture which gathered in her
eye, that it was noticed even by the Udaller, who exclaimed, half
angrily, "Why, ay, lass, that may be right enough, for he was an old
acquaintance; but mind! I have no will that he remain one."

Mertoun, who was slowly leaving the apartment, half overheard this
disparaging observation, and half turned round to resent it. But his
purpose failed him when he saw that Brenda had been obliged to have
recourse to her handkerchief to hide her emotion, and the sense that it
was excited by his departure, obliterated every thought of her father's
unkindness. He retired--the other guests followed his example; and many
of them, like Cleveland and himself, took their leave over-night, with
the intention of commencing their homeward journey on the succeeding

That night, the mutual sorrow of Minna and Brenda, if it could not
wholly remove the reserve which had estranged the sisters from each
other, at least melted all its frozen and unkindly symptoms. They wept
in each other's arms; and though neither spoke, yet each became dearer
to the other; because they felt that the grief which called forth these
drops, had a source common to them both.

It is probable, that though Brenda's tears were most abundant, the grief
of Minna was most deeply seated; for, long after the younger had sobbed
herself asleep, like a child, upon her sister's bosom, Minna lay awake,
watching the dubious twilight, while tear after tear slowly gathered in
her eye, and found a current down her cheek, as soon as it became too
heavy to be supported by her long black silken eyelashes. As she lay,
bewildered among the sorrowful thoughts which supplied these tears, she
was surprised to distinguish, beneath the window, the sounds of music.
At first she supposed it was some freak of Claud Halcro, whose fantastic
humour sometimes indulged itself in such serenades. But it was not the
_gue_ of the old minstrel, but the guitar, that she heard; an instrument
which none in the island knew how to touch except Cleveland, who had
learned, in his intercourse with the South-American Spaniards, to play
on it with superior execution. Perhaps it was in those climates also
that he had learned the song, which, though he now sung it under the
window of a maiden of Thule, had certainly never been composed for the
native of a climate so northerly and so severe, since it spoke of
productions of the earth and skies which are there unknown.


        "Love wakes and weeps
        While Beauty sleeps:
  O for Music's softest numbers,
        To prompt a theme,
        For Beauty's dream,
  Soft as the pillow of her slumbers!


        "Through groves of palm
        Sigh gales of balm,
  Fire-flies on the air are wheeling;
        While through the gloom
        Comes soft perfume,
  The distant beds of flowers revealing.


        "O wake and live,
        No dream can give
  A shadow'd bliss, the real excelling;
        No longer sleep,
        From lattice peep,
  And list the tale that Love is telling!"

The voice of Cleveland was deep, rich, and manly, and accorded well with
the Spanish air, to which the words, probably a translation from the
same language, had been adapted. His invocation would not probably have
been fruitless, could Minna have arisen without awaking her sister. But
that was impossible; for Brenda, who, as we have already mentioned, had
wept bitterly before she had sunk into repose, now lay with her face on
her sister's neck, and one arm stretched around her, in the attitude of
a child which has cried itself asleep in the arms of its nurse. It was
impossible for Minna to extricate herself from her grasp without awaking
her; and she could not, therefore, execute her hasty purpose, of donning
her gown, and approaching the window to speak with Cleveland, who, she
had no doubt, had resorted to this contrivance to procure an interview.
The restraint was sufficiently provoking, for it was more than probable
that her lover came to take his last farewell; but that Brenda, inimical
as she seemed to be of late towards Cleveland, should awake and witness
it, was a thought not to be endured.

There was a short pause, in which Minna endeavoured more than once, with
as much gentleness as possible, to unclasp Brenda's arm from her neck;
but whenever she attempted it, the slumberer muttered some little
pettish sound, like a child disturbed in its sleep, which sufficiently
showed that perseverance in the attempt would awaken her fully.

To her great vexation, therefore, Minna was compelled to remain still
and silent; when her lover, as if determined upon gaining her ear by
music of another strain, sung the following fragment of a sea-ditty:--

  "Farewell! Farewell! the voice you hear,
    Has left its last soft tone with you,--
  Its next must join the seaward cheer,
    And shout among the shouting crew.

  "The accents which I scarce could form
    Beneath your frown's controlling check,
  Must give the word, above the storm,
    To cut the mast, and clear the wreck.

  "The timid eye I dared not raise,--
    The hand that shook when press'd to thine,
  Must point the guns upon the chase,--
    Must bid the deadly cutlass shine.

  "To all I love, or hope, or fear,--
    Honour, or own, a long adieu!
  To all that life has soft and dear,
    Farewell! save memory of you!"[12](_c_)

He was again silent; and again she, to whom the serenade was addressed,
strove in vain to arise without rousing her sister. It was impossible;
and she had nothing before her but the unhappy thought that Cleveland
was taking leave in his desolation, without a single glance, or a single
word. He, too, whose temper was so fiery, yet who subjected his violent
mood with such sedulous attention to her will--could she but have stolen
a moment to say adieu--to caution him against new quarrels with
Mertoun--to implore him to detach himself from such comrades as he had
described--could she but have done this, who could say what effect such
parting admonitions might have had upon his character--nay, upon the
future events of his life?

Tantalized by such thoughts, Minna was about to make another and
decisive effort, when she heard voices beneath the window, and thought
she could distinguish that they were those of Cleveland and Mertoun,
speaking in a sharp tone, which, at the same time, seemed cautiously
suppressed, as if the speakers feared being overheard. Alarm now mingled
with her former desire to rise from bed, and she accomplished at once
the purpose which she had so often attempted in vain. Brenda's arm was
unloosed from her sister's neck, without the sleeper receiving more
alarm than provoked two or three unintelligible murmurs; while, with
equal speed and silence, Minna put on some part of her dress, with the
intention to steal to the window. But, ere she could accomplish this,
the sound of the voices without was exchanged for that of blows and
struggling, which terminated suddenly by a deep groan.

Terrified at this last signal of mischief, Minna sprung to the window,
and endeavoured to open it, for the persons were so close under the
walls of the house that she could not see them, save by putting her head
out of the casement. The iron hasp was stiff and rusted, and, as
generally happens, the haste with which she laboured to undo it only
rendered the task more difficult. When it was accomplished, and Minna
had eagerly thrust her body half out at the casement, those who had
created the sounds which alarmed her were become invisible, excepting
that she saw a shadow cross the moonlight, the substance of which must
have been in the act of turning a corner, which concealed it from her
sight. The shadow moved slowly, and seemed that of a man who supported
another upon his shoulders; an indication which put the climax to
Minna's agony of mind. The window was not above eight feet from the
ground, and she hesitated not to throw herself from it hastily, and to
pursue the object which had excited her terror.

But when she came to the corner of the buildings from which the shadow
seemed to have been projected, she discovered nothing which could point
out the way that the figure had gone; and, after a moment's
consideration, became sensible that all attempts at pursuit would be
alike wild and fruitless. Besides all the projections and recesses of
the many-angled mansion, and its numerous offices--besides the various
cellars, store-houses, stables, and so forth, which defied her solitary
search, there was a range of low rocks, stretching down to the haven,
and which were, in fact, a continuation of the ridge which formed its
pier. These rocks had many indentures, hollows, and caverns, into any
one of which the figure to which the shadow belonged might have retired
with his fatal burden; for fatal, she feared, it was most likely to

A moment's reflection, as we have said, convinced Minna of the folly of
further pursuit. Her next thought was to alarm the family; but what tale
had she to tell, and of whom was that tale to be told?--On the other
hand, the wounded man--if indeed he were wounded--alas, if indeed he
were not mortally wounded!--might not be past the reach of assistance;
and, with this idea, she was about to raise her voice, when she was
interrupted by that of Claud Halcro, who was returning apparently from
the haven, and singing, in his manner, a scrap of an old Norse ditty,
which might run thus in English:--

  "And you shall deal the funeral dole;
    Ay, deal it, mother mine,
  To weary body, and to heavy soul,
    The white bread and the wine.

  "And you shall deal my horses of pride;
    Ay, deal them, mother mine;
  And you shall deal my lands so wide,
    And deal my castles nine.

  "But deal not vengeance for the deed,
    And deal not for the crime;
  The body to its place, and the soul to Heaven's grace,
    And the rest in God's own time."

The singular adaptation of these rhymes to the situation in which she
found herself, seemed to Minna like a warning from Heaven. We are
speaking of a land of omens and superstitions, and perhaps will scarce
be understood by those whose limited imagination cannot conceive how
strongly these operate upon the human mind during a certain progress of
society. A line of Virgil, turned up casually, was received in the
seventeenth century, and in the court of England,[13] as an intimation
of future events; and no wonder that a maiden of the distant and wild
isles of Zetland should have considered as an injunction from Heaven,
verses which happened to convey a sense analogous to her present

"I will be silent," she muttered,--"I will seal my lips--

  'The body to its place, and the soul to Heaven's grace,
  And the rest in God's own time.'"

"Who speaks there?" said Claud Halcro, in some alarm; for he had not, in
his travels in foreign parts, been able by any means to rid himself of
his native superstitions. In the condition to which fear and horror had
reduced her, Minna was at first unable to reply; and Halcro, fixing his
eyes upon the female white figure, which he saw indistinctly, (for she
stood in the shadow of the house, and the morning was thick and misty,)
began to conjure her in an ancient rhyme which occurred to him as suited
for the occasion, and which had in its gibberish a wild and unearthly
sound, which may be lost in the ensuing translation:--

  "Saint Magnus control thee, that martyr of treason;
  Saint Ronan rebuke thee, with rhyme and with reason;
  By the mass of Saint Martin, the might of Saint Mary,
  Be thou gone, or thy weird shall be worse if thou tarry!
    If of good, go hence and hallow thee,--
    If of ill, let the earth swallow thee,--
    If thou'rt of air, let the grey mist fold thee,--
    If of earth, let the swart mine hold thee,--
    If a Pixie, seek thy ring,--
    If a Nixie, seek thy spring;--
    If on middle earth thou'st been
    Slave of sorrow, shame, and sin,
    Hast eat the bread of toil and strife,
    And dree'd the lot which men call life,
  Begone to thy stone! for thy coffin is scant of thee,
  The worm, thy playfellow, wails for the want of thee;--
  Hence, houseless ghost! let the earth hide thee,
  Till Michael shall blow the blast, see that there thou bide thee!--
  Phantom, fly hence! take the Cross for a token,
  Hence pass till Hallowmass!--my spell is spoken."

"It is I, Halcro," muttered Minna, in a tone so thin and low, that it
might have passed for the faint reply of the conjured phantom.

"You!--you!" said Halcro, his tone of alarm changing to one of extreme
surprise; "by this moonlight, which is waning, and so it is!--Who could
have thought to find you, my most lovely Night, wandering abroad in your
own element!--But you saw them, I reckon, as well as I?--bold enough in
you to follow them, though."

"Saw whom?--follow whom?" said Minna, hoping to gain some information on
the subject of her fears and anxiety.

"The corpse-lights which danced at the haven," replied Halcro; "they
bode no good, I promise you--you wot well what the old rhyme says--

  'Where corpse-light
  Dances bright,
  Be it day or night,
  Be it by light or dark,
  There shall corpse lie stiff and stark.'

I went half as far as the haven to look after them, but they had
vanished. I think I saw a boat put off, however,--some one bound for the
Haaf, I suppose.--I would we had good news of this fishing--there was
Norna left us in anger,--and then these corpse-lights!--Well, God help
the while! I am an old man, and can but wish that all were well
over.--But how now, my pretty Minna? tears in your eyes!--And now that I
see you in the fair moonlight, barefooted, too, by Saint Magnus!--Were
there no stockings of Zetland wool soft enough for these pretty feet and
ankles, that glance so white in the moonbeam?--What, silent!--angry,
perhaps," he added, in a more serious tone, "at my nonsense? For shame,
silly maiden!--Remember I am old enough to be your father, and have
always loved you as my child."

"I am not angry," said Minna, constraining herself to speak--"but heard
you nothing?--saw you nothing?--They must have passed you."

"They?" said Claud Halcro; "what mean you by they?--is it the
corpse-lights?--No, they did not pass by me, but I think they have
passed by you, and blighted you with their influence, for you are as
pale as a spectre.--Come, come, Minna," he added, opening a side-door of
the dwelling, "these moonlight walks are fitter for old poets than for
young maidens--And so lightly clad as you are! Maiden, you should take
care how you give yourself to the breezes of a Zetland night, for they
bring more sleet than odours upon their wings.--But, maiden, go in; for,
as glorious John says--or, as he does not say--for I cannot remember how
his verse chimes--but, as I say myself, in a pretty poem, written when
my muse was in her teens,--

  Menseful maiden ne'er should rise,
  Till the first beam tinge the skies;
  Silk-fringed eyelids still should close,
  Till the sun has kiss'd the rose;
  Maiden's foot we should not view,
  Mark'd with tiny print on dew,
  Till the opening flowerets spread
  Carpet meet for beauty's tread--

Stay, what comes next?--let me see."

When the spirit of recitation seized on Claud Halcro, he forgot time and
place, and might have kept his companion in the cold air for half an
hour, giving poetical reasons why she ought to have been in bed. But she
interrupted him by the question, earnestly pronounced, yet in a voice
which was scarcely articulate, holding Halcro, at the same time, with a
trembling and convulsive grasp, as if to support herself from
falling,--"Saw you no one in the boat which put to sea but now?"

"Nonsense," replied Halcro; "how could I see any one, when light and
distance only enabled me to know that it was a boat, and not a grampus?"

"But there must have been some one in the boat?" repeated Minna, scarce
conscious of what she said.

"Certainly," answered the poet; "boats seldom work to windward of their
own accord.--But come, this is all folly; and so, as the Queen says, in
an old play, which was revived for the stage by rare Will D'Avenant, 'To
bed--to bed--to bed!'"

They separated, and Minna's limbs conveyed her with difficulty, through
several devious passages, to her own chamber, where she stretched
herself cautiously beside her still sleeping sister, with a mind
harassed with the most agonizing apprehensions. That she had heard
Cleveland, she was positive--the tenor of the songs left her no doubt on
that subject. If not equally certain that she had heard young Mertoun's
voice in hot quarrel with her lover, the impression to that effect was
strong on her mind. The groan, with which the struggle seemed to
terminate--the fearful indication from which it seemed that the
conqueror had borne off the lifeless body of his victim--all tended to
prove that some fatal event had concluded the contest. And which of the
unhappy men had fallen?--which had met a bloody death?--which had
achieved a fatal and a bloody victory?--These were questions to which
the still small voice of interior conviction answered, that her lover
Cleveland, from character, temper, and habits, was most likely to have
been the survivor of the fray. She received from the reflection an
involuntary consolation which she almost detested herself for admitting,
when she recollected that it was at once darkened with her lover's
guilt, and embittered with the destruction of Brenda's happiness for

"Innocent, unhappy sister!" such were her reflections; "thou that art
ten times better than I, because so unpretending--so unassuming in thine
excellence! How is it possible that I should cease to feel a pang, which
is only transferred from my bosom to thine?"

As these cruel thoughts crossed her mind, she could not refrain from
straining her sister so close to her bosom, that, after a heavy sigh,
Brenda awoke.

"Sister," she said, "is it you?--I dreamed I lay on one of those
monuments which Claud Halcro described to us, where the effigy of the
inhabitant beneath lies carved in stone upon the sepulchre. I dreamed
such a marble form lay by my side, and that it suddenly acquired enough
of life and animation to fold me to its cold, moist bosom--and it is
yours, Minna, that is indeed so chilly.--You are ill, my dearest Minna!
for God's sake, let me rise and call Euphane Fea.--What ails you? has
Norna been here again?"

"Call no one hither," said Minna, detaining her; "nothing ails me for
which any one has a remedy--nothing but apprehensions of evil worse than
even Norna could prophesy. But God is above all, my dear Brenda; and let
us pray to him to turn, as he only can, our evil into good."

They did jointly repeat their usual prayer for strength and protection
from on high, and again composed themselves to sleep, suffering no word
save "God bless you," to pass betwixt them, when their devotions were
finished; thus scrupulously dedicating to Heaven their last waking
words, if human frailty prevented them from commanding their last waking
thoughts. Brenda slept first, and Minna, strongly resisting the dark and
evil presentiments which again began to crowd themselves upon her
imagination, was at last so fortunate as to slumber also.

The storm which Halcro had expected began about daybreak,--a squall,
heavy with wind and rain, such as is often felt, even during the finest
part of the season, in these latitudes. At the whistle of the wind, and
the clatter of the rain on the shingle-roofing of the fishers' huts,
many a poor woman was awakened, and called on her children to hold up
their little hands, and join in prayer for the safety of the dear
husband and father, who was even then at the mercy of the disturbed
elements. Around the house of Burgh-Westra, chimneys howled, and windows
clashed. The props and rafters of the higher parts of the building, most
of them formed out of wreck-wood, groaned and quivered, as fearing to be
again dispersed by the tempest. But the daughters of Magnus Troil
continued to sleep as softly and as sweetly as if the hand of Chantrey
had formed them out of statuary-marble. The squall had passed away, and
the sunbeams, dispersing the clouds which drifted to leeward, shone full
through the lattice, when Minna first started from the profound sleep
into which fatigue and mental exhaustion had lulled her, and, raising
herself on her arm, began to recall events, which, after this interval
of profound repose, seemed almost to resemble the baseless visions of
the night. She almost doubted if what she recalled of horror, previous
to her starting from her bed, was not indeed the fiction of a dream,
suggested, perhaps, by some external sounds.

"I will see Claud Halcro instantly," she said; "he may know something of
these strange noises, as he was stirring at the time."

With that she sprung from bed, but hardly stood upright on the floor,
ere her sister exclaimed, "Gracious Heaven! Minna, what ails your
foot--your ankle?"

She looked down, and saw with surprise, which amounted to agony, that
both her feet, but particularly one of them, was stained with dark
crimson, resembling the colour of dried blood.

Without attempting to answer Brenda, she rushed to the window, and cast
a desperate look on the grass beneath, for there she knew she must have
contracted the fatal stain. But the rain, which had fallen there in
treble quantity, as well from the heavens, as from the eaves of the
house, had washed away that guilty witness, if indeed such had ever
existed. All was fresh and fair, and the blades of grass, overcharged
and bent with rain-drops, glittered like diamonds in the bright morning

While Minna stared upon the spangled verdure, with her full dark eyes
fixed and enlarged to circles by the intensity of her terror, Brenda was
hanging about her, and with many an eager enquiry, pressed to know
whether or how she had hurt herself?

"A piece of glass cut through my shoe," said Minna, bethinking herself
that some excuse was necessary to her sister; "I scarce felt it at the

"And yet see how it has bled," said her sister. "Sweet Minna," she
added, approaching her with a wetted towel, "let me wipe the blood
off--the hurt may be worse than you think of."

But as she approached, Minna, who saw no other way of preventing
discovery that the blood with which she was stained had never flowed in
her own veins, harshly and hastily repelled the proffered kindness. Poor
Brenda, unconscious of any offence which she had given to her sister,
drew back two or three paces on finding her service thus unkindly
refused, and stood gazing at Minna with looks in which there was more of
surprise and mortified affection than of resentment, but which had yet
something also of natural displeasure.

"Sister," said she, "I thought we had agreed but last night, that,
happen to us what might, we would at least love each other."

"Much may happen betwixt night and morning!" answered Minna, in words
rather wrenched from her by her situation, than flowing forth the
voluntary interpreters of her thoughts.

"Much may indeed have happened in a night so stormy," answered Brenda;
"for see where the very wall around Euphane's plant-a-cruive has been
blown down; but neither wind nor rain, nor aught else, can cool our
affection, Minna."

"But that may chance," replied Minna, "which may convert it into"----

The rest of the sentence she muttered in a tone so indistinct, that it
could not be apprehended; while, at the same time, she washed the
blood-stains from her feet and left ankle. Brenda, who still remained
looking on at some distance, endeavoured in vain to assume some tone
which might re-establish kindness and confidence betwixt them.

"You were right," she said, "Minna, to suffer no one to help you to
dress so simple a scratch--standing where I do, it is scarce visible."

"The most cruel wounds," replied Minna, "are those which make no outward
show--Are you sure you see it at all?"

"O, yes!" replied Brenda, framing her answer as she thought would best
please her sister; "I see a very slight scratch; nay, now you draw on
the stocking, I can see nothing."

"You do indeed see nothing," answered Minna, somewhat wildly; "but the
time will soon come that all--ay, all--will be seen and known."

So saying, she hastily completed her dress, and led the way to
breakfast, where she assumed her place amongst the guests; but with a
countenance so pale and haggard, and manners and speech so altered and
so bewildered, that it excited the attention of the whole company, and
the utmost anxiety on the part of her father Magnus Troil. Many and
various were the conjectures of the guests, concerning a distemperature
which seemed rather mental than corporeal. Some hinted that the maiden
had been struck with an evil eye, and something they muttered about
Norna of the Fitful-head; some talked of the departure of Captain
Cleveland, and murmured, "it was a shame for a young lady to take on so
after a landlouper, of whom no one knew any thing;" and this
contemptuous epithet was in particular bestowed on the Captain by
Mistress Baby Yellowley, while she was in the act of wrapping round her
old skinny neck the very handsome owerlay (as she called it) wherewith
the said Captain had presented her. The old Lady Glowrowrum had a system
of her own, which she hinted to Mistress Yellowley, after thanking God
that her own connexion with the Burgh-Westra family was by the lass's
mother, who was a canny Scotswoman, like herself.

"For, as to these Troils, you see, Dame Yellowley, for as high as they
hold their heads, they say that ken," (winking sagaciously,) "that there
is a bee in their bonnet;--that Norna, as they call her, for it's not
her right name neither, is at whiles far beside her right mind,--and
they that ken the cause, say the Fowd was some gate or other linked in
with it, for he will never hear an ill word of her. But I was in
Scotland then, or I might have kend the real cause, as weel as other
folk. At ony rate there is a kind of wildness in the blood. Ye ken very
weel daft folk dinna bide to be contradicted; and I'll say that for the
Fowd--he likes to be contradicted as ill as ony man in Zetland. But it
shall never be said that I said ony ill of the house that I am sae
nearly connected wi'. Only ye will mind, dame, it is through the
Sinclairs that we are akin, not through the Troils,--and the Sinclairs
are kend far and wide for a wise generation, dame.--But I see there is
the stirrup-cup coming round."

"I wonder," said Mistress Baby to her brother, as soon as the Lady
Glowrowrum turned from her, "what gars that muckle wife dame, dame,
dame, that gate at me? She might ken the blude of the Clinkscales is as
gude as ony Glowrowrum's amang them."

The guests, meanwhile, were fast taking their departure, scarcely
noticed by Magnus, who was so much engrossed with Minna's indisposition,
that, contrary to his hospitable wont, he suffered them to go away
unsaluted. And thus concluded, amidst anxiety and illness, the festival
of Saint John, as celebrated on that season at the house of
Burgh-Westra; adding another caution to that of the Emperor of
Ethiopia,--with how little security man can reckon upon the days which
he destines to happiness.


[12] I cannot suppress the pride of saying, that these lines have been
beautifully set to original music, by Mrs. Arkwright, of Derbyshire.

[13] The celebrated Sortes Virgilianæ were resorted to by Charles I. and
his courtiers, as a mode of prying into futurity.


    But this sad evil which doth her infest,
    Doth course of natural cause far exceed,
    And housed is within her hollow breast,
    That either seems some cursed witch's deed,
  Or evill spright that in her doth such torment breed.

                        _Fairy Queen, Book III., Canto III._

The term had now elapsed, by several days, when Mordaunt Mertoun, as he
had promised at his departure, should have returned to his father's
abode at Jarlshof, but there were no tidings of his arrival. Such delay
might, at another time, have excited little curiosity, and no anxiety;
for old Swertha, who took upon her the office of thinking and
conjecturing for the little household, would have concluded that he had
remained behind the other guests upon some party of sport or pleasure.
But she knew that Mordaunt had not been lately in favour with Magnus
Troil; she knew that he proposed his stay at Burgh-Westra should be a
short one, upon account of his father's health, to whom, notwithstanding
the little encouragement which his filial piety received, he paid
uniform attention. Swertha knew all this, and she became anxious. She
watched the looks of her master, the elder Mertoun; but, wrapt in dark
and stern uniformity of composure, his countenance, like the surface of
a midnight lake, enabled no one to penetrate into what was beneath. His
studies, his solitary meals, his lonely walks, succeeded each other in
unvaried rotation, and seemed undisturbed by the least thought about
Mordaunt's absence.

At length such reports reached Swertha's ear, from various quarters,
that she became totally unable to conceal her anxiety, and resolved, at
the risk of provoking her master into fury, or perhaps that of losing
her place in his household, to force upon his notice the doubts which
afflicted her own mind. Mordaunt's good-humour and goodly person must
indeed have made no small impression on the withered and selfish heart
of the poor old woman, to induce her to take a course so desperate, and
from which her friend the Ranzelman endeavoured in vain to deter her.
Still, however, conscious that a miscarriage in the matter, would, like
the loss of Trinculo's bottle in the horse-pool, be attended not only
with dishonour, but with infinite loss, she determined to proceed on her
high emprize with as much caution as was consistent with the attempt.

We have already mentioned, that it seemed a part of the very nature of
this reserved and unsocial being, at least since his retreat into the
utter solitude of Jarlshof, to endure no one to start a subject of
conversation, or to put any question to him, that did not arise out of
urgent and pressing emergency. Swertha was sensible, therefore, that, in
order to open the discourse favourably which she proposed to hold with
her master, she must contrive that it should originate with himself.

To accomplish this purpose, while busied in preparing the table for Mr.
Mertoun's simple and solitary dinner-meal, she formally adorned the
table with two covers instead of one, and made all her other
preparations as if he was to have a guest or companion at dinner.

The artifice succeeded; for Mertoun, on coming from his study, no sooner
saw the table thus arranged, than he asked Swertha, who, waiting the
effect of her stratagem as a fisher watches his ground-baits, was
fiddling up and down the room, "Whether Mordaunt was returned from

This question was the cue for Swertha, and she answered in a voice of
sorrowful anxiety, half real, half affected, "Na, na!--nae sic divot had
dunted at their door. It wad be blithe news indeed, to ken that young
Maister Mordaunt, puir dear bairn, were safe at hame."

"And if he be not at home, why should you lay a cover for him, you
doting fool?" replied Mertoun, in a tone well calculated to stop the old
woman's proceedings. But she replied, boldly, "that, indeed, somebody
should take thought about Maister Mordaunt; a' that she could do was to
have seat and plate ready for him when he came. But she thought the dear
bairn had been ower lang awa; and, if she maun speak out, she had her
ain fears when and whether he might ever come hame."

"_Your_ fears!" said Mertoun, his eyes flashing as they usually did when
his hour of ungovernable passion approached; "do you speak of your idle
fears to me, who know that all of your sex, that is not fickleness, and
folly, and self-conceit, and self-will, is a bundle of idiotical fears,
vapours, and tremors? What are your fears to me, you foolish old hag?"

It is an admirable quality in womankind, that, when a breach of the laws
of natural affection comes under their observation, the whole sex is in
arms. Let a rumour arise in the street of a parent that has misused a
child, or a child that has insulted a parent,--I say nothing of the
case of husband and wife, where the interest may be accounted for in
sympathy,--and all the women within hearing will take animated and
decided part with the sufferer. Swertha, notwithstanding her greed and
avarice, had her share of the generous feeling which does so much honour
to her sex, and was, on this occasion, so much carried on by its
impulse, that she confronted her master, and upbraided him with his
hard-hearted indifference, with a boldness at which she herself was

"To be sure it wasna her that suld be fearing for her young maister,
Maister Mordaunt, even although he was, as she might weel say, the very
sea-calf of her heart; but ony other father, but his honour himsell, wad
have had speerings made after the poor lad, and him gane this eight-days
from Burgh-Westra, and naebody kend when or where he had gane. There
wasna a bairn in the howff but was maining for him; for he made all
their bits of boats with his knife; there wadna be a dry eye in the
parish, if aught worse than weal should befall him,--na, no ane, unless
it might be his honour's ain."

Mertoun had been much struck, and even silenced, by the insolent
volubility of his insurgent housekeeper; but, at the last sarcasm, he
imposed on her silence in her turn with an audible voice, accompanied
with one of the most terrific glances which his dark eye and stern
features could express. But Swertha, who, as she afterwards acquainted
the Ranzelman, was wonderfully supported during the whole scene, would
not be controlled by the loud voice and ferocious look of her master,
but proceeded in the same tone as before.

"His honour," she said, "had made an unco wark because a wheen bits of
kists and duds, that naebody had use for, had been gathered on the beach
by the poor bodies of the township; and here was the bravest lad in the
country lost, and cast away, as it were, before his een, and nae are
asking what was come o' him."

"What should come of him but good, you old fool," answered Mr. Mertoun,
"as far, at least, as there can be good in any of the follies he spends
his time in?"

This was spoken rather in a scornful than an angry tone, and Swertha,
who had got into the spirit of the dialogue, was resolved not to let it
drop, now that the fire of her opponent seemed to slacken.

"O ay, to be sure I am an auld fule,--but if Maister Mordaunt should
have settled down in the Roost, as mair than ae boat had been lost in
that wearifu' squall the other morning--by good luck it was short as it
was sharp, or naething could have lived in it--or if he were drowned in
a loch coming hame on foot, or if he were killed by miss of footing on a
craig--the haill island kend how venturesome he was--who," said Swertha,
"will be the auld fule then?" And she added a pathetic ejaculation, that
"God would protect the poor motherless bairn! for if he had had a
mother, there would have been search made after him before now."

This last sarcasm affected Mertoun powerfully,--his jaw quivered, his
face grew pale, and he muttered to Swertha to go into his study, (where
she was scarcely ever permitted to enter,) and fetch him a bottle which
stood there.

"O ho!" quoth Swertha to herself, as she hastened on the commission, "my
master knows where to find a cup of comfort to qualify his water with
upon fitting occasions."

There was indeed a case of such bottles as were usually employed to hold
strong waters, but the dust and cobwebs in which they were enveloped
showed that they had not been touched for many years. With some
difficulty Swertha extracted the cork of one of them, by the help of a
fork--for corkscrew was there none at Jarlshof--and having ascertained
by smell, and, in case of any mistake, by a moderate mouthful, that it
contained wholesome Barbadoes-waters, she carried it into the room,
where her master still continued to struggle with his faintness. She
then began to pour a small quantity into the nearest cup that she could
find, wisely judging, that, upon a person so much unaccustomed to the
use of spirituous liquors, a little might produce a strong effect. But
the patient signed to her impatiently to fill the cup, which might hold
more than the third of an English pint measure, up to the very brim, and
swallowed it down without hesitation.

"Now the saunts above have a care on us!" said Swertha; "he will be
drunk as weel as mad, and wha is to guide him then, I wonder?"

But Mertoun's breath and colour returned, without the slightest symptom
of intoxication; on the contrary, Swertha afterwards reported, that,
"although she had always had a firm opinion in favour of a dram, yet she
never saw one work such miracles--he spoke mair like a man of the middle
world, than she had ever heard him since she had entered his service."

"Swertha," he said, "you are right in this matter, and I was wrong.--Go
down to the Ranzelman directly, tell him to come and speak with me,
without an instant's delay, and bring me special word what boats and
people he can command; I will employ them all in the search, and they
shall be plentifully rewarded."

Stimulated by the spur which maketh the old woman proverbially to trot,
Swertha posted down to the hamlet, with all the speed of threescore,
rejoicing that her sympathetic feelings were likely to achieve their own
reward, having given rise to a quest which promised to be so lucrative,
and in the profits whereof she was determined to have her share,
shouting out as she went, and long before she got within hearing, the
names of Niel Ronaldson, Sweyn Erickson, and the other friends and
confederates who were interested in her mission. To say the truth,
notwithstanding that the good dame really felt a deep interest in
Mordaunt Mertoun, and was mentally troubled on account of his absence,
perhaps few things would have disappointed her more than if he had at
this moment started up in her path safe and sound, and rendered
unnecessary, by his appearance, the expense and the bustle of searching
after him.

Soon did Swertha accomplish her business in the village, and adjust with
the senators of the township her own little share of per centage upon
the profits likely to accrue on her mission; and speedily did she return
to Jarlshof, with Niel Ronaldson by her side, schooling him to the best
of her skill in all the peculiarities of her master.

"Aboon a' things," she said, "never make him wait for an answer; and
speak loud and distinct, as if you were hailing a boat,--for he downa
bide to say the same thing twice over; and if he asks about distance,
ye may make leagues for miles, for he kens naething about the face of
the earth that he lives upon; and if he speak of siller, ye may ask
dollars for shillings, for he minds them nae mair than sclate-stanes."

Thus tutored, Niel Ronaldson was introduced into the presence of
Mertoun, but was utterly confounded to find that he could not act upon
the system of deception which had been projected. When he attempted, by
some exaggeration of distance and peril, to enhance the hire of the
boats, and of the men, (for the search was to be by sea and land,) he
found himself at once cut short by Mertoun, who showed not only the most
perfect knowledge of the country, but of distances, tides, currents, and
all belonging to the navigation of those seas, although these were
topics with which he had hitherto appeared to be totally unacquainted.
The Ranzelman, therefore, trembled when they came to speak of the
recompense to be afforded for their exertions in the search; for it was
not more unlikely that Mertoun should be well informed of what was just
and proper upon this head than upon others; and Niel remembered the
storm of his fury, when, at an early period after he had settled at
Jarlshof, he drove Swertha and Sweyn Erickson from his presence. As,
however, he stood hesitating betwixt the opposite fears of asking too
much or too little, Mertoun stopped his mouth, and ended his
uncertainty, by promising him a recompense beyond what he dared have
ventured to ask, with an additional gratuity, in case they returned with
the pleasing intelligence that his son was safe.

When this great point was settled, Niel Ronaldson, like a man of
conscience, began to consider earnestly the various places where search
should be made after the young man; and having undertaken faithfully
that the enquiry should be prosecuted at all the houses of the gentry,
both in this and the neighbouring islands, he added, that, "after all,
if his honour would not be angry, there was ane not far off, that, if
any body dared speer her a question, and if she liked to answer it,
could tell more about Maister Mordaunt than any body else could.--Ye
will ken wha I mean, Swertha? Her that was down at the haven this
morning." Thus he concluded, addressing himself with a mysterious look
to the housekeeper, which she answered with a nod and a wink.

"How mean you?" said Mertoun; "speak out, short and open--whom do you
speak of?"

"It is Norna of the Fitful-head," said Swertha, "that the Ranzelman is
thinking about; for she has gone up to Saint Ringan's Kirk this morning
on business of her own."

"And what can this person know of my son?" said Mertoun; "she is, I
believe, a wandering madwoman, or impostor."

"If she wanders," said Swertha, "it is for nae lack of means at hame,
and that is weel known--plenty of a' thing has she of her ain, forby
that the Fowd himsell would let her want naething."

"But what is that to my son?" said Mertoun, impatiently.

"I dinna ken--she took unco pleasure in Maister Mordaunt from the time
she first saw him, and mony a braw thing she gave him at ae time or
another, forby the gowd chain that hangs about his bonny craig--folk say
it is of fairy gold--I kenna what gold it is, but Bryce Snailsfoot says,
that the value will mount to an hundred pounds English, and that is nae
deaf nuts."

"Go, Ronaldson," said Mertoun, "or else send some one, to seek this
woman out--if you think there be a chance of her knowing any thing of my

"She kens a' thing that happens in thae islands," said Niel Ronaldson,
"muckle sooner than other folk, and that is Heaven's truth. But as to
going to the kirk, or the kirkyard, to speer after her, there is not a
man in Zetland will do it, for meed or for money--and that's Heaven's
truth as weel as the other."

"Cowardly, superstitious fools!" said Mertoun.--"But give me my cloak,
Swertha.--This woman has been at Burgh-Westra--she is related to Troil's
family--she may know something of Mordaunt's absence, and its cause--I
will seek her myself--She is at the Cross-kirk, you say?"

"No, not at the Cross-kirk, but at the auld Kirk of Saint Ringan's--it's
a dowie bit, and far frae being canny; and if your honour," added
Swertha, "wad walk by my rule, I wad wait until she came back, and no
trouble her when she may be mair busied wi' the dead, for ony thing that
we ken, than she is wi' the living. The like of her carena to have other
folk's een on them when they are, gude sain us! doing their ain
particular turns."

Mertoun made no answer, but throwing his cloak loosely around him, (for
the day was misty, with passing showers,) and leaving the decayed
mansion of Jarlshof, he walked at a pace much faster than was usual with
him, taking the direction of the ruinous church, which stood, as he well
knew, within three or four miles of his dwelling.

The Ranzelman and Swertha stood gazing after him in silence, until he
was fairly out of ear-shot, when, looking seriously on each other, and
shaking their sagacious heads in the same boding degree of vibration,
they uttered their remarks in the same breath.

"Fools are aye fleet and fain," said Swertha.

"Fey folk run fast," added the Ranzelman; "and the thing that we are
born to, we cannot win by.--I have known them that tried to stop folk
that were fey. You have heard of Helen Emberson of Camsey, how she
stopped all the boles and windows about the house, that her gudeman
might not see daylight, and rise to the Haaf-fishing, because she feared
foul weather; and how the boat he should have sailed in was lost in the
Roost; and how she came back, rejoicing in her gudeman's safety--but
ne'er may care, for there she found him drowned in his own masking-fat,
within the wa's of his ain biggin; and moreover"----

But here Swertha reminded the Ranzelman that he must go down to the
haven to get off the fishing-boats; "for both that my heart is sair for
the bonny lad, and that I am fear'd he cast up of his ain accord before
you are at sea; and, as I have often told ye, my master may lead, but he
winna drive; and if ye do not his bidding, and get out to sea, the never
a bodle of boat-hire will ye see."

"Weel, weel, good dame," said the Ranzelman, "we will launch as fast as
we can; and by good luck, neither Clawson's boat, nor Peter Grot's, is
out to the Haaf this morning, for a rabbit ran across the path as they
were going on board, and they came back like wise men, kenning they wad
be called to other wark this day. And a marvel it is to think, Swertha,
how few real judicious men are left in this land. There is our great
Udaller is weel eneugh when he is fresh, but he makes ower mony voyages
in his ship and his yawl to be lang sae; and now, they say, his
daughter, Mistress Minna, is sair out of sorts.--Then there is Norna
kens muckle mair than other folk, but wise woman ye cannot call her. Our
tacksman here, Maister Mertoun, his wit is sprung in the bowsprit, I
doubt--his son is a daft gowk; and I ken few of consequence
hereabouts--excepting always myself, and maybe you, Swertha--but what
may, in some sense or other, be called fules."

"That may be, Niel Ronaldson," said the dame; "but if you do not hasten
the faster to the shore, you will lose tide; and, as I said to my master
some short time syne, wha will be the fule then?"


        I do love these ancient ruins--
  We never tread upon them but we set
  Our foot upon some reverend history;
  And, questionless, here, in this open court,
  (Which now lies naked to the injuries
  Of stormy weather,) some men lie interr'd,
  Loved the Church so well, and gave so largely to it,
  They thought it should have canopied their bones
  Till doomsday;--but all things have their end--
  Churches and cities, which have diseases like to men,
  Must have like death which we have.

                                         _Duchess of Malfy._

The ruinous church of Saint Ninian had, in its time, enjoyed great
celebrity; for that mighty system of Roman superstition, which spread
its roots over all Europe, had not failed to extend them even to this
remote archipelago, and Zetland had, in the Catholic times, her saints,
her shrines, and her relics, which, though little known elsewhere,
attracted the homage, and commanded the observance, of the simple
inhabitants of Thule. Their devotion to this church of Saint Ninian, or,
as he was provincially termed, Saint Ringan, situated, as the edifice
was, close to the sea-beach, and serving, in many points, as a landmark
to their boats, was particularly obstinate, and was connected with so
much superstitious ceremonial and credulity, that the reformed clergy
thought it best, by an order of the Church Courts, to prohibit all
spiritual service within its walls, as tending to foster the rooted
faith of the simple and rude people around in saint-worship, and other
erroneous doctrines of the Romish Church.

After the Church of Saint Ninian had been thus denounced as a seat of
idolatry, and desecrated of course, the public worship was transferred
to another church; and the roof, with its lead and its rafters, having
been stripped from the little rude old Gothic building, it was left in
the wilderness to the mercy of the elements. The fury of the
uncontrolled winds, which howled along an exposed space, resembling that
which we have described at Jarlshof, very soon choked up nave and aisle,
and, on the north-west side, which was chiefly exposed to the wind, hid
the outside walls more than half way up with mounds of drifted sand,
over which the gable-ends of the building, with the little belfry, which
was built above its eastern angle, arose in ragged and shattered
nakedness of ruin.

Yet, deserted as it was, the Kirk of Saint Ringan still retained some
semblance of the ancient homage formerly rendered there. The rude and
ignorant fishermen of Dunrossness observed a practice, of which they
themselves had wellnigh forgotten the origin, and from which the
Protestant Clergy in vain endeavoured to deter them. When their boats
were in extreme peril, it was common amongst them to propose to vow an
_awmous_, as they termed it, that is, an alms, to Saint Ringan; and when
the danger was over, they never failed to absolve themselves of their
vow, by coming singly and secretly to the old church, and putting off
their shoes and stockings at the entrance of the churchyard, walking
thrice around the ruins, observing that they did so in the course of the
sun. When the circuit was accomplished for the third time, the votary
dropped his offering, usually a small silver coin, through the mullions
of a lanceolated window, which opened into a side aisle, and then
retired, avoiding carefully to look behind him till he was beyond the
precincts which had once been hallowed ground; for it was believed that
the skeleton of the saint received the offering in his bony hand, and
showed his ghastly death's-head at the window into which it was thrown.

Indeed, the scene was rendered more appalling to weak and ignorant
minds, because the same stormy and eddying winds, which, on the one side
of the church, threatened to bury the ruins with sand, and had, in fact,
heaped it up in huge quantities, so as almost to hide the side-wall with
its buttresses, seemed in other places bent on uncovering the graves of
those who had been laid to their long rest on the south-eastern quarter;
and, after an unusually hard gale, the coffins, and sometimes the very
corpses, of those who had been interred without the usual cerements,
were discovered, in a ghastly manner, to the eyes of the living.

It was to this desolated place of worship that the elder Mertoun now
proceeded, though without any of those religious or superstitious
purposes with which the church of Saint Ringan was usually approached.
He was totally without the superstitious fears of the country,--nay,
from the sequestered and sullen manner in which he lived, withdrawing
himself from human society even when assembled for worship, it was the
general opinion that he erred on the more fatal side, and believed
rather too little than too much of that which the Church receives and
enjoins to Christians.

As he entered the little bay, on the shore, and almost on the beach of
which the ruins are situated, he could not help pausing for an instant,
and becoming sensible that the scene, as calculated to operate on human
feelings, had been selected with much judgment as the site of a
religious house. In front lay the sea, into which two headlands, which
formed the extremities of the bay, projected their gigantic causeways of
dark and sable rocks, on the ledges of which the gulls, scouries, and
other sea-fowl, appeared like flakes of snow; while, upon the lower
ranges of the cliff, stood whole lines of cormorants, drawn up alongside
of each other, like soldiers in their battle array, and other living
thing was there none to see. The sea, although not in a tempestuous
state, was disturbed enough to rush on these capes with a sound like
distant thunder, and the billows, which rose in sheets of foam half way
up these sable rocks, formed a contrast of colouring equally striking
and awful.

Betwixt the extremities, or capes, of these projecting headlands, there
rolled, on the day when Mertoun visited the scene, a deep and dense
aggregation of clouds, through which no human eye could penetrate, and
which, bounding the vision, and excluding all view of the distant ocean,
rendered it no unapt representation of the sea in the Vision of Mirza
whose extent was concealed by vapours, and clouds, and storms. The
ground rising steeply from the sea-beach, permitting no view into the
interior of the country, appeared a scene of irretrievable barrenness,
where scrubby and stunted heath, intermixed with the long bent, or
coarse grass, which first covers sandy soils, were the only vegetables
that could be seen. Upon a natural elevation, which rose above the beach
in the very bottom of the bay, and receded a little from the sea, so as
to be without reach of the waves, arose the half-buried ruin which we
have already described, surrounded by a wasted, half-ruinous, and
mouldering wall, which, breached in several places, served still to
divide the precincts of the cemetery. The mariners who were driven by
accident into this solitary bay, pretended that the church was
occasionally observed to be full of lights, and, from that circumstance,
were used to prophesy shipwrecks and deaths by sea.

As Mertoun approached near to the chapel, he adopted, insensibly, and
perhaps without much premeditation, measures to avoid being himself
seen, until he came close under the walls of the burial-ground, which he
approached, as it chanced, on that side where the sand was blowing from
the graves, in the manner we have described.

Here, looking through one of the gaps in the wall which time had made,
he beheld the person whom he sought, occupied in a manner which assorted
well with the ideas popularly entertained of her character, but which
was otherwise sufficiently extraordinary.

She was employed beside a rude monument, on one side of which was
represented the rough outline of a cavalier, or knight, on horseback,
while, on the other, appeared a shield, with the armorial bearings so
defaced as not to be intelligible; which escutcheon was suspended by one
angle, contrary to the modern custom, which usually places them straight
and upright. At the foot of this pillar was believed to repose, as
Mertoun had formerly heard, the bones of Ribolt Troil, one of the remote
ancestors of Magnus, and a man renowned for deeds of valorous emprize in
the fifteenth century. From the grave of this warrior Norna of the
Fitful-head seemed busied in shovelling the sand, an easy task where it
was so light and loose; so that it seemed plain that she would shortly
complete what the rude winds had begun, and make bare the bones which
lay there interred. As she laboured, she muttered her magic song; for
without the Runic rhyme no form of northern superstition was ever
performed. We have perhaps preserved too many examples of these
incantations; but we cannot help attempting to translate that which

  "Champion, famed for warlike toil,
  Art thou silent, Ribolt Troil?
  Sand, and dust, and pebbly stones,
  Are leaving bare thy giant bones.
  Who dared touch the wild-bear's skin
  Ye slumber'd on while life was in?--
  A woman now, or babe, may come,
  And cast the covering from thy tomb.

  "Yet be not wrathful, Chief, nor blight
  Mine eyes or ears with sound or sight!
  I come not, with unhallow'd tread,
  To wake the slumbers of the dead,
  Or lay thy giant relics bare;
  But what I seek thou well canst spare.
  Be it to my hand allow'd
  To shear a merk's weight from thy shroud;
  Yet leave thee sheeted lead enough
  To shield thy bones from weather rough.

  "See, I draw my magic knife--
  Never while thou wert in life
  Laid'st thou still for sloth or fear,
  When point and edge were glittering near;
  See, the cerements now I sever--
  Waken now, or sleep for ever!
  Thou wilt not wake? the deed is done!--
  The prize I sought is fairly won.

  "Thanks, Ribolt, thanks,--for this the sea
  Shall smooth its ruffled crest for thee,--
  And while afar its billows foam,
  Subside to peace near Ribolt's tomb.
  Thanks, Ribolt, thanks--for this the might
  Of wild winds raging at their height,
  When to thy place of slumber nigh,
  Shall soften to a lullaby.

  "She, the dame of doubt and dread,
  Norna of the Fitful-head,
  Mighty in her own despite--
  Miserable in her might;
  In despair and frenzy great,--
  In her greatness desolate;
  Wisest, wickedest who lives,
  Well can keep the word she gives."

While Norna chanted the first part of this rhyme, she completed the task
of laying bare a part of the leaden coffin of the ancient warrior, and
severed from it, with much caution and apparent awe, a portion of the
metal. She then reverentially threw back the sand upon the coffin; and
by the time she had finished her song, no trace remained that the
secrets of the sepulchre had been violated.

Mertoun remained gazing on her from behind the churchyard wall during
the whole ceremony, not from any impression of veneration for her or her
employment, but because he conceived that to interrupt a madwoman in her
act of madness, was not the best way to obtain from her such
intelligence as she might have to impart. Meanwhile he had full time to
consider her figure, although her face was obscured by her dishevelled
hair, and by the hood of her dark mantle, which permitted no more to be
visible than a Druidess would probably have exhibited at the celebration
of her mystical rites. Mertoun had often heard of Norna before; nay, it
is most probable that he might have seen her repeatedly, for she had
been in the vicinity of Jarlshof more than once since his residence
there. But the absurd stories which were in circulation respecting her,
prevented his paying any attention to a person whom he regarded as
either an impostor or a madwoman, or a compound of both. Yet, now that
his attention was, by circumstances, involuntarily fixed upon her person
and deportment, he could not help acknowledging to himself that she was
either a complete enthusiast, or rehearsed her part so admirably, that
no Pythoness of ancient times could have excelled her. The dignity and
solemnity of her gesture,--the sonorous, yet impressive tone of voice
with which she addressed the departed spirit whose mortal relics she
ventured to disturb, were such as failed not to make an impression upon
him, careless and indifferent as he generally appeared to all that went
on around him. But no sooner was her singular occupation terminated,
than, entering the churchyard with some difficulty, by clambering over
the disjointed ruins of the wall, he made Norna aware of his presence.
Far from starting, or expressing the least surprise at his appearance in
a place so solitary, she said, in a tone that seemed to intimate that he
had been expected, "So,--you have sought me at last?"

"And found you," replied Mertoun, judging he would best introduce the
enquiries he had to make, by assuming a tone which corresponded to her

"Yes!" she replied, "found me you have, and in the place where all men
must meet--amid the tabernacles of the dead."

"Here we must, indeed, meet at last," replied Mertoun, glancing his
eyes on the desolate scene around, where headstones, half covered in
sand, and others, from which the same wind had stripped the soil on
which they rested, covered with inscriptions, and sculptured with the
emblems of mortality, were the most conspicuous objects,--"here, as in
the house of death, all men must meet at length; and happy those that
come soonest to the quiet haven."

"He that dares desire this haven," said Norna, "must have steered a
steady course in the voyage of life. _I_ dare not hope for such quiet
harbour. Darest _thou_ expect it? or has the course thou hast kept
deserved it?"

"It matters not to my present purpose," replied Mertoun; "I have to ask
you what tidings you know of my son Mordaunt Mertoun?"

"A father," replied the sibyl, "asks of a stranger what tidings she has
of his son! How should I know aught of him? the cormorant says not to
the mallard, where is my brood?"

"Lay aside this useless affectation of mystery," said Mertoun; "with the
vulgar and ignorant it has its effect, but upon me it is thrown away.
The people of Jarlshof have told me that you do know, or may know,
something of Mordaunt Mertoun, who has not returned home after the
festival of Saint John's, held in the house of your relative, Magnus
Troil. Give me such information, if indeed ye have it to give; and it
shall be recompensed, if the means of recompense are in my power."

"The wide round of earth," replied Norna, "holds nothing that I would
call a recompense for the slightest word that I throw away upon a living
ear. But for thy son, if thou wouldst see him in life, repair to the
approaching Fair of Kirkwall, in Orkney."

"And wherefore thither?" said Mertoun; "I know he had no purpose in that

"We drive on the stream of fate," answered Norna, "without oar or
rudder. You had no purpose this morning of visiting the Kirk of Saint
Ringan, yet you are here;--you had no purpose but a minute hence of
being at Kirkwall, and yet you will go thither."

"Not unless the cause is more distinctly explained to me. I am no
believer, dame, in those who assert your supernatural powers."

"You shall believe in them ere we part," said Norna. "As yet you know
but little of me, nor shall you know more. But I know enough of you, and
could convince you with one word that I do so."

"Convince me, then," said Mertoun; "for unless I am so convinced, there
is little chance of my following your counsel."

"Mark, then," said Norna, "what I have to say on your son's score, else
what I shall say to you on your own will banish every other thought from
your memory. You shall go to the approaching Fair at Kirkwall; and, on
the fifth day of the Fair, you shall walk, at the hour of noon, in the
outer aisle of the Cathedral of Saint Magnus, and there you shall meet a
person who will give you tidings of your son."

"You must speak more distinctly, dame," returned Mertoun, scornfully,
"if you hope that I should follow your counsel. I have been fooled in my
time by women, but never so grossly as you seem willing to gull me."

"Hearken, then!" said the old woman. "The word which I speak shall touch
the nearest secret of thy life, and thrill thee through nerve and bone."

So saying, she whispered a word into Mertoun's ear, the effect of which
seemed almost magical. He remained fixed and motionless with surprise,
as, waving her arm slowly aloft, with an air of superiority and triumph,
Norna glided from him, turned round a corner of the ruins, and was soon
out of sight.

Mertoun offered not to follow, or to trace her. "We fly from our fate in
vain!" he said, as he began to recover himself; and turning, he left
behind him the desolate ruins with their cemetery. As he looked back
from the very last point at which the church was visible, he saw the
figure of Norna, muffled in her mantle, standing on the very summit of
the ruined tower, and stretching out in the sea-breeze something which
resembled a white pennon, or flag. A feeling of horror, similar to that
excited by her last words, again thrilled through his bosom, and he
hastened onwards with unwonted speed, until he had left the church of
Saint Ninian, with its bay of sand, far behind him.

Upon his arrival at Jarlshof, the alteration in his countenance was so
great, that Swertha conjectured he was about to fall into one of those
fits of deep melancholy which she termed his dark hour.

"And what better could be expected," thought Swertha, "when he must
needs go visit Norna of the Fitful-head, when she was in the haunted
Kirk of Saint Ringan's?"

But without testifying any other symptoms of an alienated mind, than
that of deep and sullen dejection, her master acquainted her with his
intention to go to the Fair of Kirkwall,--a thing so contrary to his
usual habits, that the housekeeper wellnigh refused to credit her ears.
Shortly after, he heard, with apparent indifference, the accounts
returned by the different persons who had been sent out in quest of
Mordaunt, by sea and land, who all of them returned without any tidings.
The equanimity with which Mertoun heard the report of their bad success,
convinced Swertha still more firmly, that, in his interview with Norna,
that issue had been predicted to him by the sibyl whom he had consulted.

The township were yet more surprised, when their tacksman, Mr. Mertoun,
as if on some sudden resolution, made preparations to visit Kirkwall
during the Fair, although he had hitherto avoided sedulously all such
places of public resort. Swertha puzzled herself a good deal, without
being able to penetrate this mystery; and vexed herself still more
concerning the fate of her young master. But her concern was much
softened by the deposit of a sum of money, seeming, however moderate in
itself, a treasure in her eyes, which her master put into her hands,
acquainting her at the same time, that he had taken his passage for
Kirkwall, in a small bark belonging to the proprietor of the island of


  Nae langer she wept,--her tears were a' spent,--
  Despair it was come, and she thought it content;
  She thought it content, but her cheek it grew pale,
  And she droop'd, like a lily broke down by the hail.

                 _Continuation of Auld Robin Gray_.[14](_d_)

The condition of Minna much resembled that of the village heroine in
Lady Ann Lindsay's beautiful ballad. Her natural firmness of mind
prevented her from sinking under the pressure of the horrible secret,
which haunted her while awake, and was yet more tormenting during her
broken and hurried slumbers. There is no grief so dreadful as that which
we dare not communicate, and in which we can neither ask nor desire
sympathy; and when to this is added the burden of a guilty mystery to an
innocent bosom, there is little wonder that Minna's health should have
sunk under the burden.

To the friends around, her habits and manners, nay, her temper, seemed
altered to such an extraordinary degree, that it is no wonder that some
should have ascribed the change to witchcraft, and some to incipient
madness. She became unable to bear the solitude in which she formerly
delighted to spend her time; yet when she hurried into society, it was
without either joining in, or attending to, what passed. Generally she
appeared wrapped in sad, and even sullen abstraction, until her
attention was suddenly roused by some casual mention of the name of
Cleveland, or of Mordaunt Mertoun, at which she started, with the horror
of one who sees the lighted match applied to a charged mine, and expects
to be instantly involved in the effects of the explosion. And when she
observed that the discovery was not yet made, it was so far from being a
consolation, that she almost wished the worst were known, rather than
endure the continued agonies of suspense.

Her conduct towards her sister was so variable, yet uniformly so painful
to the kind-hearted Brenda, that it seemed to all around, one of the
strongest features of her malady. Sometimes Minna was impelled to seek
her sister's company, as if by the consciousness that they were common
sufferers by a misfortune of which she herself alone could grasp the
extent; and then suddenly the feeling of the injury which Brenda had
received through the supposed agency of Cleveland, made her unable to
bear her presence, and still less to endure the consolation which her
sister, mistaking the nature of her malady, vainly endeavoured to
administer. Frequently, also, did it happen, that, while Brenda was
imploring her sister to take comfort, she incautiously touched upon some
subject which thrilled to the very centre of her soul; so that, unable
to conceal her agony, Minna would rush hastily from the apartment. All
these different moods, though they too much resembled, to one who knew
not their real source, the caprices of unkind estrangement, Brenda
endured with such prevailing and unruffled gentleness of disposition,
that Minna was frequently moved to shed floods of tears upon her neck;
and, perhaps, the moments in which she did so, though embittered by the
recollection that her fatal secret concerned the destruction of Brenda's
happiness as well as her own, were still, softened as they were by
sisterly affection, the most endurable moments of this most miserable
period of her life.

The effects of the alternations of moping melancholy, fearful agitation,
and bursts of nervous feeling, were soon visible on the poor young
woman's face and person. She became pale and emaciated; her eye lost the
steady quiet look of happiness and innocence, and was alternately dim
and wild, as she was acted upon by a general feeling of her own
distressful condition, or by some quicker and more poignant sense of
agony. Her very features seemed to change, and become sharp and eager,
and her voice, which, in its ordinary tones, was low and placid, now
sometimes sunk in indistinct mutterings, and sometimes was raised beyond
the natural key, in hasty and abrupt exclamations. When in company with
others, she was sullenly silent, and, when she ventured into solitude,
was observed (for it was now thought very proper to watch her on such
occasions) to speak much to herself.

The pharmacy of the islands was in vain resorted to by Minna's anxious
father. Sages of both sexes, who knew the virtues of every herb which
drinks the dew, and augmented those virtues by words of might, used
while they prepared and applied the medicines, were attended with no
benefit; and Magnus, in the utmost anxiety, was at last induced to have
recourse to the advice of his kinswoman, Norna of the Fitful-head,
although, owing to circumstances noticed in the course of the story,
there was at this time some estrangement between them. His first
application was in vain. Norna was then at her usual place of residence,
upon the sea-coast, near the headland from which she usually took her
designation; but, although Eric Scambester himself brought the message,
she refused positively to see him, or to return any answer.

Magnus was angry at the slight put upon his messenger and message, but
his anxiety on Minna's account, as well as the respect which he had for
Norna's real misfortunes and imputed wisdom and power, prevented him
from indulging, on the present occasion, his usual irritability of
disposition. On the contrary, he determined to make an application to
his kinswoman in his own person. He kept his purpose, however, to
himself, and only desired his daughters to be in readiness to attend him
upon a visit to a relation whom he had not seen for some time, and
directed them, at the same time, to carry some provisions along with
them, as the journey was distant, and they might perhaps find their
friend unprovided.

Unaccustomed to ask explanations of his pleasure, and hoping that
exercise and the amusement of such an excursion might be of service to
her sister, Brenda, upon whom all household and family charges now
devolved, caused the necessary preparations to be made for the
expedition; and, on the next morning, they were engaged in tracing the
long and tedious course of beach and of moorland, which, only varied by
occasional patches of oats and barley, where a little ground had been
selected for cultivation, divided Burgh-Westra from the north-western
extremity of the Mainland, (as the principal island is called,) which
terminates in the cape called Fitful-head, as the south-western point
ends in the cape of Sumburgh.

On they went, through wild and over wold, the Udaller bestriding a
strong, square-made, well-barrelled palfrey, of Norwegian breed,
somewhat taller, and yet as stout, as the ordinary ponies of the
country; while Minna and Brenda, famed, amongst other accomplishments,
for their horsemanship, rode two of those hardy animals, which, bred and
reared with more pains than is usually bestowed, showed, both by the
neatness of their form and their activity, that the race, so much and so
carelessly neglected, is capable of being improved into beauty without
losing any thing of its spirit or vigour. They were attended by two
servants on horseback, and two on foot, secure that the last
circumstance would be no delay to their journey, because a great part of
the way was so rugged, or so marshy, that the horses could only move at
a foot pace; and that, whenever they met with any considerable tract of
hard and even ground, they had only to borrow from the nearest herd of
ponies the use of a couple for the accommodation of these pedestrians.

The journey was a melancholy one, and little conversation passed, except
when the Udaller, pressed by impatience and vexation, urged his pony to
a quick pace, and again, recollecting Minna's weak state of health,
slackened to a walk, and reiterated enquiries how she felt herself, and
whether the fatigue was not too much for her. At noon the party halted,
and partook of some refreshment, for which they had made ample
provision, beside a pleasant spring, the pureness of whose waters,
however, did not suit the Udaller's palate, until qualified by a
liberal addition of right Nantz. After he had a second, yea and a third
time, filled a large silver travelling-cup, embossed with a German Cupid
smoking a pipe, and a German Bacchus emptying his flask down the throat
of a bear, he began to become more talkative than vexation had permitted
him to be during the early part of their journey, and thus addressed his

"Well, children, we are within a league or two of Norna's dwelling, and
we shall soon see how the old spell-mutterer will receive us."

Minna interrupted her father with a faint exclamation, while Brenda,
surprised to a great degree, exclaimed, "Is it then to Norna that we are
to make this visit?--Heaven forbid!"

"And wherefore should Heaven forbid?" said the Udaller, knitting his
brows; "wherefore, I would gladly know, should Heaven forbid me to visit
my kinswoman, whose skill may be of use to your sister, if any woman in
Zetland, or man either, can be of service to her?--You are a fool,
Brenda,--your sister has more sense.--Cheer up, Minna!--thou wert ever
wont to like her songs and stories, and used to hang about her neck,
when little Brenda cried and ran from her like a Spanish merchantman
from a Dutch caper."[15]

"I wish she may not frighten me as much to-day, father," replied Brenda,
desirous of indulging Minna in her taciturnity, and at the same time to
amuse her father by sustaining the conversation; "I have heard so much
of her dwelling, that I am rather alarmed at the thought of going there

"Thou art a fool," said Magnus, "to think that a visit from her
kinsfolks can ever come amiss to a kind, hearty, Hialtland heart, like
my cousin Norna's.--And, now I think on't, I will be sworn that is the
reason why she would not receive Eric Scambester!--It is many a long day
since I have seen her chimney smoke, and I have never carried you
thither--She hath indeed some right to call me unkind. But I will tell
her the truth--and that is, that though such be the fashion, I do not
think it is fair or honest to eat up the substance of lone women-folks,
as we do that of our brother Udallers, when we roll about from house to
house in the winter season, until we gather like a snowball, and eat up
all wherever we come."

"There is no fear of our putting Norna to any distress just now,"
replied Brenda, "for I have ample provision of every thing that we can
possibly need--fish, and bacon, and salted mutton, and dried geese--more
than we could eat in a week, besides enough of liquor for you, father."

"Right, right, my girl!" said the Udaller; "a well-found ship makes a
merry voyage--so we shall only want the kindness of Norna's roof, and a
little bedding for you; for, as to myself, my sea-cloak, and honest dry
boards of Norway deal, suit me better than your eider-down cushions and
mattresses. So that Norna will have the pleasure of seeing us without
having a stiver's worth of trouble."

"I wish she may think it a pleasure, sir," replied Brenda.

"Why, what does the girl mean, in the name of the Martyr?" replied
Magnus Troil; "dost thou think my kinswoman is a heathen, who will not
rejoice to see her own flesh and blood?--I would I were as sure of a
good year's fishing!--No, no! I only fear we may find her from home at
present, for she is often a wanderer, and all with thinking over much on
what can never be helped."

Minna sighed deeply as her father spoke, and the Udaller went on:--

"Dost thou sigh at that, my girl?--why, 'tis the fault of half the
world--let it never be thine own, Minna."

Another suppressed sigh intimated that the caution came too late.

"I believe you are afraid of my cousin as well as Brenda is," said the
Udaller, gazing on her pale countenance; "if so, speak the word, and we
will return back again as if we had the wind on our quarter, and were
running fifteen knots by the line."

"Do, for Heaven's sake, sister, let us return!" said Brenda,
imploringly; "you know--you remember--you must be well aware that Norna
can do nought to help you."

"It is but too true," said Minna, in a subdued voice; "but I know
not--she may answer a question--a question that only the miserable dare
ask of the miserable."

"Nay, my kinswoman is no miser," answered the Udaller, who only heard
the beginning of the word; "a good income she has, both in Orkney and
here, and many a fair lispund of butter is paid to her. But the poor
have the best share of it, and shame fall the Zetlander who begrudges
them; the rest she spends, I wot not how, in her journeys through the
islands. But you will laugh to see her house, and Nick Strumpfer, whom
she calls Pacolet--many folks think Nick is the devil; but he is flesh
and blood, like any of us--his father lived in Græmsay--I shall be glad
to see Nick again."

While the Udaller thus ran on, Brenda, who, in recompense for a less
portion of imagination than her sister, was gifted with sound common
sense, was debating with herself the probable effect of this visit on
her sister's health. She came finally to the resolution of speaking with
her father aside, upon the first occasion which their journey should
afford. To him she determined to communicate the whole particulars of
their nocturnal interview with Norna,--to which, among other agitating
causes, she attributed the depression of Minna's spirits,--and then make
himself the judge whether he ought to persist in his visit to a person
so singular, and expose his daughter to all the shock which her nerves
might possibly receive from the interview.

Just as she had arrived at this conclusion, her father, dashing the
crumbs from his laced waistcoat with one hand, and receiving with the
other a fourth cup of brandy and water, drank devoutly to the success of
their voyage, and ordered all to be in readiness to set forward. Whilst
they were saddling their ponies, Brenda, with some difficulty, contrived
to make her father understand she wished to speak with him in
private--no small surprise to the honest Udaller, who, though secret as
the grave in the very few things where he considered secrecy as of
importance, was so far from practising mystery in general, that his most
important affairs were often discussed by him openly in presence of his
whole family, servants included.

But far greater was his astonishment, when, remaining purposely with his
daughter Brenda, a little in the wake, as he termed it, of the other
riders, he heard the whole account of Norna's visit to Burgh-Westra, and
of the communication with which she had then astounded his daughters.
For a long time he could utter nothing but interjections, and ended with
a thousand curses on his kinswoman's folly in telling his daughters such
a history of horror.

"I have often heard," said the Udaller, "that she was quite mad, with
all her wisdom, and all her knowledge of the seasons; and, by the bones
of my namesake, the Martyr, I begin now to believe it most assuredly! I
know no more how to steer than if I had lost my compass. Had I known
this before we set out, I think I had remained at home; but now that we
have come so far, and that Norna expects us"----

"Expects us, father!" said Brenda; "how can that be possible?"

"Why, that I know not--but she that can tell how the wind is to blow,
can tell which way we are designing to ride. She must not be
provoked;--perhaps she has done my family this ill for the words I had
with her about that lad Mordaunt Mertoun, and if so, she can undo it
again;--and so she shall, or I will know the cause wherefore. But I will
try fair words first."

Finding it thus settled that they were to go forward, Brenda endeavoured
next to learn from her father whether Norna's tale was founded in
reality. He shook his head, groaned bitterly, and, in a few words,
acknowledged that the whole, so far as concerned her intrigue with a
stranger, and her father's death, of which she became the accidental and
most innocent cause, was a matter of sad and indisputable truth. "For
her infant," he said, "he could never, by any means, learn what became
of it."

"Her infant!" exclaimed Brenda; "she spoke not a word of her infant!"

"Then I wish my tongue had been blistered," said the Udaller, "when I
told you of it!--I see that, young and old, a man has no better chance
of keeping a secret from you women, than an eel to keep himself in his
hold when he is sniggled with a loop of horse-hair--sooner or later the
fisher teazes him out of his hole, when he has once the noose round his

"But the infant, my father," said Brenda, still insisting on the
particulars of this extraordinary story, "what became of it?"

"Carried off, I fancy, by the blackguard Vaughan," answered the Udaller,
with a gruff accent, which plainly betokened how weary he was of the

"By Vaughan?" said Brenda, "the lover of poor Norna, doubtless!--what
sort of man was he, father?"

"Why, much like other men, I fancy," answered the Udaller; "I never saw
him in my life.--He kept company with the Scottish families at Kirkwall;
and I with the good old Norse folk--Ah! if Norna had dwelt always
amongst her own kin, and not kept company with her Scottish
acquaintance, she would have known nothing of Vaughan, and things might
have been otherwise--But then I should have known nothing of your
blessed mother, Brenda--and that," he said, his large blue eyes shining
with a tear, "would have saved me a short joy and a long sorrow."

"Norna could but ill have supplied my mother's place to you, father, as
a companion and a friend--that is, judging from all I have heard," said
Brenda, with some hesitation. But Magnus, softened by recollections of
his beloved wife, answered her with more indulgence than she expected.

"I would have been content," he said, "to have wedded Norna at that
time. It would have been the soldering of an old quarrel--the healing of
an old sore. All our blood relations wished it, and, situated as I was,
especially not having seen your blessed mother, I had little will to
oppose their counsels. You must not judge of Norna or of me by such an
appearance as we now present to you--She was young and beautiful, and I
gamesome as a Highland buck, and little caring what haven I made for,
having, as I thought, more than one under my lee. But Norna preferred
this man Vaughan, and, as I told you before, it was, perhaps, the best
kindness she could have done to me."

"Ah, poor kinswoman!" said Brenda. "But believe you, father, in the high
powers which she claims--in the mysterious vision of the dwarf--in

She was interrupted in these questions by Magnus, to whom they were
obviously displeasing.

"I believe, Brenda," he said, "according to the belief of my
forefathers--I pretend not to be a wiser man than they were in their
time,--and they all believed that, in cases of great worldly distress,
Providence opened the eyes of the mind, and afforded the sufferers a
vision of futurity. It was but a trimming of the boat, with
reverence,"--here he touched his hat reverentially; "and, after all the
shifting of ballast, poor Norna is as heavily loaded in the bows as ever
was an Orkneyman's yawl at the dog-fishing--she has more than affliction
enough on board to balance whatever gifts she may have had in the midst
of her calamity. They are as painful to her, poor soul, as a crown of
thorns would be to her brows, though it were the badge of the empire of
Denmark. And do not you, Brenda, seek to be wiser than your fathers.
Your sister Minna, before she was so ill, had as much reverence for
whatever was produced in Norse, as if it had been in the Pope's bull,
which is all written in pure Latin."

"Poor Norna!" repeated Brenda; "and her child--was it never recovered?"

"What do I know of her child," said the Udaller, more gruffly than
before, "except that she was very ill, both before and after the birth,
though we kept her as merry as we could with pipe and harp, and so
forth;--the child had come before its time into this bustling world, so
it is likely it has been long dead.--But you know nothing of all these
matters, Brenda; so get along for a foolish girl, and ask no more
questions about what it does not become you to enquire into."

So saying, the Udaller gave his sturdy little palfrey the spur, and
cantering forward over rough and smooth, while the pony's accuracy and
firmness of step put all difficulties of the path at secure defiance, he
placed himself soon by the side of the melancholy Minna, and permitted
her sister to have no farther share in his conversation than as it was
addressed to them jointly. She could but comfort herself with the hope,
that, as Minna's disease appeared to have its seat in the imagination,
the remedies recommended by Norna might have some chance of being
effectual, since, in all probability, they would be addressed to the
same faculty.

Their way had hitherto held chiefly over moss and moor, varied
occasionally by the necessity of making a circuit around the heads of
those long lagoons, called voes, which run up into and indent the
country in such a manner, that, though the Mainland of Zetland may be
thirty miles or more in length, there is, perhaps, no part of it which
is more than three miles distant from the salt water. But they had now
approached the north-western extremity of the isle, and travelled along
the top of an immense ridge of rocks, which had for ages withstood the
rage of the Northern Ocean, and of all the winds by which it is

At length exclaimed Magnus to his daughters, "There is Norna's
dwelling!--Look up, Minna, my love; for if this does not make you laugh,
nothing will.--Saw you ever any thing but an osprey that would have made
such a nest for herself as that is?--By my namesake's bones, there is
not the like of it that living thing ever dwelt in, (having no wings and
the use of reason,) unless it chanced to be the Frawa-Stack off Papa,
where the King's daughter of Norway was shut up to keep her from her
lovers--and all to little purpose, if the tale be true;[16] for,
maidens, I would have you to wot that it is hard to keep flax from the


[14] It is worth while saying, that this motto, and the ascription of
the beautiful ballad from which it is taken to the Right Honourable Lady
Ann Lindsay, occasioned the ingenious authoress's acknowledgment of the
ballad, of which the Editor, by her permission, published a small
impression, inscribed to the Bannatyne Club.

[15] A light-armed vessel of the seventeenth century, adapted for
privateering, and much used by the Dutch.

[16] The _Frawa-Stack_ or Maiden-Rock, an inaccessible cliff, divided by
a narrow gulf from the Island of Papa, has on the summit some ruins,
concerning which there is a legend similar to that of Danaë.

[17] _Lowe_, flame.


  Thrice from the cavern's darksome womb
    Her groaning voice arose;
  And come, my daughter, fearless come,
    And fearless tell thy woes!


The dwelling of Norna, though none but a native of Zetland, familiar,
during his whole life, with every variety of rock-scenery, could have
seen any thing ludicrous in this situation, was not unaptly compared by
Magnus Troil to the eyry of the osprey, or sea-eagle. It was very small,
and had been fabricated out of one of those dens which are called Burghs
and Picts-houses in Zetland, and Duns on the mainland of Scotland and
the Hebrides, and which seem to be the first effort at architecture--the
connecting link betwixt a fox's hole in a cairn of loose stones, and an
attempt to construct a human habitation out of the same materials,
without the use of lime or cement of any kind,--without any timber, so
far as can be seen from their remains,--without any knowledge of the
arch or of the stair. Such as they are, however, the numerous remains of
these dwellings--for there is one found on every headland, islet, or
point of vantage, which could afford the inhabitants additional means of
defence--tend to prove that the remote people by whom these Burghs were
constructed, were a numerous race, and that the islands had then a much
greater population, than, from other circumstances, we might have been
led to anticipate.

The Burgh of which we at present speak had been altered and repaired at
a later period, probably by some petty despot, or sea-rover, who,
tempted by the security of the situation, which occupied the whole of a
projecting point of rock, and was divided from the mainland by a rent or
chasm of some depth, had built some additions to it in the rudest style
of Gothic defensive architecture;--had plastered the inside with lime
and clay, and broken out windows for the admission of light and air;
and, finally, by roofing it over, and dividing it into stories, by means
of beams of wreck-wood, had converted the whole into a tower, resembling
a pyramidical dovecot, formed by a double wall, still containing within
its thickness that set of circular galleries, or concentric rings, which
is proper to all the forts of this primitive construction, and which
seem to have constituted the only shelter which they were originally
qualified to afford to their shivering inhabitants.[18]

This singular habitation, built out of the loose stones which lay
scattered around, and exposed for ages to the vicissitudes of the
elements, was as grey, weatherbeaten, and wasted, as the rock on which
it was founded, and from which it could not easily be distinguished, so
completely did it resemble in colour, and so little did it differ in
regularity of shape, from a pinnacle or fragment of the cliff.

Minna's habitual indifference to all that of late had passed around her,
was for a moment suspended by the sight of an abode, which, at another
and happier period of her life, would have attracted at once her
curiosity and her wonder. Even now she seemed to feel interest as she
gazed upon this singular retreat, and recollected it was that of certain
misery and probable insanity, connected, as its inhabitant asserted, and
Minna's faith admitted, with power over the elements, and the capacity
of intercourse with the invisible world.

"Our kinswoman," she muttered, "has chosen her dwelling well, with no
more of earth than a sea-fowl might rest upon, and all around sightless
tempests and raging waves. Despair and magical power could not have a
fitter residence."

Brenda, on the other hand, shuddered when she looked on the dwelling to
which they were advancing, by a difficult, dangerous, and precarious
path, which sometimes, to her great terror, approached to the verge of
the precipice; so that, Zetlander as she was, and confident as she had
reason to be, in the steadiness and sagacity of the sure-footed pony,
she could scarce suppress an inclination to giddiness, especially at one
point, when, being foremost of the party, and turning a sharp angle of
the rock, her feet, as they projected from the side of the pony, hung
for an instant sheer over the ledge of the precipice, so that there was
nothing save empty space betwixt the sole of her shoe and the white foam
of the vexed ocean, which dashed, howled, and foamed, five hundred feet
below. What would have driven a maiden of another country into delirium,
gave her but a momentary uneasiness, which was instantly lost in the
hope that the impression which the scene appeared to make on her
sister's imagination might be favourable to her cure.


She could not help looking back to see how Minna should pass the point
of peril, which she herself had just rounded; and could hear the
strong voice of the Udaller, though to him such rough paths were
familiar as the smooth sea-beach, call, in a tone of some anxiety, "Take
heed, jarto,"[19] as Minna, with an eager look, dropped her bridle, and
stretched forward her arms, and even her body, over the precipice, in
the attitude of the wild swan, when balancing itself, and spreading its
broad pinions, it prepares to launch from the cliff upon the bosom of
the winds. Brenda felt, at that instant, a pang of unutterable terror,
which left a strong impression on her nerves, even when relieved, as it
instantly was, by her sister recovering herself and sitting upright on
her saddle, the opportunity and temptation (if she felt it) passing
away, as the quiet steady animal which supported her rounded the
projecting angle, and turned its patient and firm step from the verge of
the precipice.

They now attained a more level and open space of ground, being the flat
top of an isthmus of projecting rock, narrowing again towards a point
where it was terminated by the chasm which separated the small peak, or
_stack_, occupied by Norna's habitation, from the main ridge of cliff
and precipice. This natural fosse, which seemed to have been the work of
some convulsion of nature, was deep, dark, and irregular, narrower
towards the bottom, which could not be distinctly seen, and widest at
top, having the appearance as if that part of the cliff occupied by the
building had been half rent away from the isthmus which it
terminated,--an idea favoured by the angle at which it seemed to recede
from the land, and lean towards the sea, with the building which crowned

This angle of projection was so considerable, that it required
recollection to dispel the idea that the rock, so much removed from the
perpendicular, was about to precipitate itself seaward, with its old
tower: and a timorous person would have been afraid to put foot upon it,
lest an addition of weight, so inconsiderable as that of the human body,
should hasten a catastrophe which seemed at every instant impending.

Without troubling himself about such fantasies, the Udaller rode towards
the tower, and there dismounting along with his daughters, gave the
ponies in charge to one of their domestics, with directions to
disencumber them of their burdens, and turn them out for rest and
refreshment upon the nearest heath. This done, they approached the gate,
which seemed formerly to have been connected with the land by a rude
drawbridge, some of the apparatus of which was still visible. But the
rest had been long demolished, and was replaced by a stationary
footbridge, formed of barrel-staves covered with turf, very narrow and
ledgeless, and supported by a sort of arch, constructed out of the
jaw-bones of the whale. Along this "brigg of dread" the Udaller stepped
with his usual portly majesty of stride, which threatened its demolition
and his own at the same time; his daughters trode more lightly and more
safely after him, and the whole party stood before the low and rugged
portal of Norna's habitation.

"If she should be abroad after all," said Magnus, as he plied the black
oaken door with repeated blows;--"but if so, we will at least lie by a
day for her return, and make Nick Strumpfer pay the demurrage in bland
and brandy."

As he spoke, the door opened, and displayed, to the alarm of Brenda,
and the surprise of Minna herself, a square-made dwarf, about four feet
five inches high, with a head of most portentous size, and features
correspondent--namely, a huge mouth, a tremendous nose, with large black
nostrils, which seemed to have been slit upwards, blubber lips of an
unconscionable size, and huge wall-eyes, with which he leared, sneered,
grinned, and goggled on the Udaller as an old acquaintance, without
uttering a single word. The young women could hardly persuade themselves
that they did not see before their eyes the very demon Trolld, who made
such a distinguished figure in Norna's legend. Their father went on
addressing this uncouth apparition in terms of such condescending
friendship as the better sort apply to their inferiors, when they wish,
for any immediate purpose, to conciliate or coax them,--a tone, by the
by, which generally contains, in its very familiarity, as much offence
as the more direct assumption of distance and superiority.

"Ha, Nick! honest Nick!" said the Udaller, "here you are, lively and
lovely as Saint Nicholas your namesake, when he is carved with an axe
for the headpiece of a Dutch dogger. How dost thou do, Nick, or Pacolet,
if you like that better? Nicholas, here are my two daughters, nearly as
handsome as thyself thou seest."

Nick grinned, and did a clumsy obeisance by way of courtesy, but kept
his broad misshapen person firmly placed in the doorway.

"Daughters," continued the Udaller, who seemed to have his reasons for
speaking this Cerberus fair, at least according to his own notions of
propitiation,--"this is Nick Strumpfer, maidens, whom his mistress calls
Pacolet, being a light-limbed dwarf, as you see, like him that wont to
fly about, like a _Scourie_, on his wooden hobbyhorse, in the old
storybook of Valentine and Orson, that you, Minna, used to read whilst
you were a child. I assure you he can keep his mistress's counsel, and
never told one of her secrets in his life--ha, ha, ha!"

The ugly dwarf grinned ten times wider than before, and showed the
meaning of the Udaller's jest, by opening his immense jaws, and throwing
back his head, so as to discover, that, in the immense cavity of his
mouth, there only remained the small shrivelled remnant of a tongue,
capable, perhaps, of assisting him in swallowing his food, but unequal
to the formation of articulate sounds. Whether this organ had been
curtailed by cruelty, or injured by disease, it was impossible to guess;
but that the unfortunate being had not been originally dumb, was evident
from his retaining the sense of hearing. Having made this horrible
exhibition, he repaid the Udaller's mirth with a loud, horrid, and
discordant laugh, which had something in it the more hideous that his
mirth seemed to be excited by his own misery. The sisters looked on each
other in silence and fear, and even the Udaller appeared disconcerted.

"And how now?" he proceeded, after a minute's pause. "When didst thou
wash that throat of thine, that is about the width of the Pentland
Frith, with a cup of brandy? Ha, Nick! I have that with me which is
sound stuff, boy, ha!"

The dwarf bent his beetle-brows, shook his misshapen head, and made a
quick sharp indication, throwing his right hand up to his shoulder with
the thumb pointed backwards.

"What! my kinswoman," said the Udaller, comprehending the signal, "will
be angry? Well, shalt have a flask to carouse when she is from home,
old acquaintance;--lips and throats may swallow though they cannot

Pacolet grinned a grim assent.

"And now," said the Udaller, "stand out of the way, Pacolet, and let me
carry my daughters to see their kinswoman. By the bones of Saint Magnus,
it shall be a good turn in thy way!--nay, never shake thy head, man; for
if thy mistress be at home, see her we will."

The dwarf again intimated the impossibility of their being admitted,
partly by signs, partly by mumbling some uncouth and most disagreeable
sounds, and the Udaller's mood began to arise.

"Tittle tattle, man!" said he; "trouble not me with thy gibberish, but
stand out of the way, and the blame, if there be any, shall rest with

So saying, Magnus Troil laid his sturdy hand upon the collar of the
recusant dwarf's jacket of blue wadmaal, and, with a strong, but not a
violent grasp, removed him from the doorway, pushed him gently aside,
and entered, followed by his two daughters, whom a sense of
apprehension, arising out of all which they saw and heard, kept very
close to him. A crooked and dusky passage through which Magnus led the
way, was dimly enlightened by a shot-hole, communicating with the
interior of the building, and originally intended, doubtless, to command
the entrance by a hagbut or culverin. As they approached nearer, for
they walked slowly and with hesitation, the light, imperfect as it was,
was suddenly obscured; and, on looking upward to discern the cause,
Brenda was startled to observe the pale and obscurely-seen countenance
of Norna gazing downward upon them, without speaking a word. There was
nothing extraordinary in this, as the mistress of the mansion might be
naturally enough looking out to see what guests were thus suddenly and
unceremoniously intruding themselves on her presence. Still, however,
the natural paleness of her features, exaggerated by the light in which
they were at present exhibited,--the immovable sternness of her look,
which showed neither kindness nor courtesy of civil reception,--her dead
silence, and the singular appearance of every thing about her dwelling,
augmented the dismay which Brenda had already conceived. Magnus Troil
and Minna had walked slowly forward, without observing the apparition of
their singular hostess.


[18] Note III.--The Pictish Burgh.

[19] _Jarto_, my dear.


  The witch then raised her wither'd arm,
    And waved her wand on high,
  And, while she spoke the mutter'd charm,
    Dark lightning fill'd her eye.


"This should be the stair," said the Udaller, blundering in the dark
against some steps of irregular ascent--"This should be the stair,
unless my memory greatly fail me; ay, and there she sits," he added,
pausing at a half-open door, "with all her tackle about her as usual,
and as busy, doubtless, as the devil in a gale of wind."

As he made this irreverent comparison, he entered, followed by his
daughters, the darkened apartment in which Norna was seated, amidst a
confused collection of books of various languages, parchment scrolls,
tablets and stones inscribed with the straight and angular characters of
the Runic alphabet, and similar articles, which the vulgar might have
connected with the exercise of the forbidden arts. There were also lying
in the chamber, or hung over the rude and ill-contrived chimney, an old
shirt of mail, with the headpiece, battle-axe, and lance, which had once
belonged to it; and on a shelf were disposed, in great order, several of
those curious stone-axes, formed of green granite, which are often found
in those islands, where they are called thunderbolts by the common
people, who usually preserve them as a charm of security against the
effects of lightning. There was, moreover, to be seen amid the strange
collection, a stone sacrificial knife, used perhaps for immolating human
victims, and one or two of the brazen implements called Celts, the
purpose of which has troubled the repose of so many antiquaries. A
variety of other articles, some of which had neither name nor were
capable of description, lay in confusion about the apartment; and in one
corner, on a quantity of withered sea-weed, reposed what seemed, at
first view, to be a large unshapely dog, but, when seen more closely,
proved to be a tame seal, which it had been Norna's amusement to

This uncouth favourite bristled up in its corner, upon the arrival of so
many strangers, with an alertness similar to that which a terrestrial
dog would have displayed on a similar occasion; but Norna remained
motionless, seated behind a table of rough granite, propped up by
misshapen feet of the same material, which, besides the old book with
which she seemed to be busied, sustained a cake of the coarse unleavened
bread, three parts oatmeal, and one the sawdust of fir, which is used by
the poor peasants of Norway, beside which stood a jar of water.

Magnus Troil remained a minute in silence gazing upon his kinswoman,
while the singularity of her mansion inspired Brenda with much fear, and
changed, though but for a moment, the melancholy and abstracted mood of
Minna, into a feeling of interest not unmixed with awe. The silence was
interrupted by the Udaller, who, unwilling on the one hand to give his
kinswoman offence, and desirous on the other to show that he was not
daunted by a reception so singular, opened the conversation thus:--

"I give you good e'en, cousin Norna--my daughters and I have come far to
see you."

Norna raised her eyes from her volume, looked full at her visitors, then
let them quietly sit down on the leaf with which she seemed to be

"Nay, cousin," said Magnus, "take your own time--our business with you
can wait your leisure.--See here, Minna, what a fair prospect here is of
the cape, scarce a quarter of a mile off! you may see the billows
breaking on it topmast high. Our kinswoman has got a pretty seal,
too--Here, sealchie, my man, whew, whew!"

The seal took no further notice of the Udaller's advances to
acquaintance, than by uttering a low growl.

"He is not so well trained," continued the Udaller, affecting an air of
ease and unconcern, "as Peter MacRaw's, the old piper of Stornoway, who
had a seal that flapped its tail to the tune of _Caberfae_, and
acknowledged no other whatever.[20]--Well, cousin," he concluded,
observing that Norna closed her book, "are you going to give us a
welcome at last, or must we go farther than our blood-relation's house
to seek one, and that when the evening is wearing late apace?"

"Ye dull and hard-hearted generation, as deaf as the adder to the voice
of the charmer," answered Norna, addressing them, "why come ye to me?
You have slighted every warning I could give of the coming harm, and
now that it hath come upon you, ye seek my counsel when it can avail you

"Look you, kinswoman," said the Udaller, with his usual frankness, and
boldness of manner and accent, "I must needs tell you that your courtesy
is something of the coarsest and the coldest. I cannot say that I ever
saw an adder, in regard there are none in these parts; but touching my
own thoughts of what such a thing may be, it cannot be termed a suitable
comparison to me or to my daughters, and that I would have you to know.
For old acquaintance, and certain other reasons, I do not leave your
house upon the instant; but as I came hither in all kindness and
civility, so I pray you to receive me with the like, otherwise we will
depart, and leave shame on your inhospitable threshold."

"How," said Norna, "dare you use such bold language in the house of one
from whom all men, from whom you yourself, come to solicit counsel and
aid? They who speak to the Reimkennar, must lower their voice to her
before whom winds and waves hush both blast and billow."

"Blast and billow may hush themselves if they will," replied the
peremptory Udaller, "but that will not I. I speak in the house of my
friend as in my own, and strike sail to none."

"And hope ye," said Norna, "by this rudeness to compel me to answer to
your interrogatories?"

"Kinswoman," replied Magnus Troil, "I know not so much as you of the old
Norse sagas; but this I know, that when kempies were wont, long since,
to seek the habitations of the gall-dragons and spae-women, they came
with their axes on their shoulders, and their good swords drawn in their
hands, and compelled the power whom they invoked to listen to and to
answer them, ay were it Odin himself."

"Kinsman," said Norna, arising from her seat, and coming forward, "thou
hast spoken well, and in good time for thyself and thy daughters; for
hadst thou turned from my threshold without extorting an answer,
morning's sun had never again shone upon you. The spirits who serve me
are jealous, and will not be employed in aught that may benefit
humanity, unless their service is commanded by the undaunted importunity
of the brave and the free. And now speak, what wouldst thou have of me?"

"My daughter's health," replied Magnus, "which no remedies have been
able to restore."

"Thy daughter's health?" answered Norna; "and what is the maiden's

"The physician," said Troil, "must name the disease. All that I can tell
thee of it is"----

"Be silent," said Norna, interrupting him, "I know all thou canst tell
me, and more than thou thyself knowest. Sit down, all of you--and thou,
maiden," she said, addressing Minna, "sit thou in that chair," pointing
to the place she had just left, "once the seat of Giervada, at whose
voice the stars hid their beams, and the moon herself grew pale."

Minna moved with slow and tremulous step towards the rude seat thus
indicated to her. It was composed of stone, formed into some semblance
of a chair by the rough and unskilful hand of some ancient Gothic

Brenda, creeping as close as possible to her father, seated herself
along with him upon a bench at some distance from Minna, and kept her
eyes, with a mixture of fear, pity, and anxiety, closely fixed upon
her. It would be difficult altogether to decipher the emotions by which
this amiable and affectionate girl was agitated at the moment. Deficient
in her sister's predominating quality of high imagination, and little
credulous, of course, to the marvellous, she could not but entertain
some vague and indefinite fears on her own account, concerning the
nature of the scene which was soon to take place. But these were in a
manner swallowed up in her apprehensions on the score of her sister,
who, with a frame so much weakened, spirits so much exhausted, and a
mind so susceptible of the impressions which all around her was
calculated to excite, now sat pensively resigned to the agency of one,
whose treatment might produce the most baneful effects upon such a

Brenda gazed at Minna, who sat in that rude chair of dark stone, her
finely formed shape and limbs making the strongest contrast with its
ponderous and irregular angles, her cheek and lips as pale as clay, and
her eyes turned upward, and lighted with the mixture of resignation and
excited enthusiasm, which belonged to her disease and her character. The
younger sister then looked on Norna, who muttered to herself in a low
monotonous manner, as, gliding from one place to another, she collected
different articles, which she placed one by one on the table. And
lastly, Brenda looked anxiously to her father, to gather, if possible,
from his countenance, whether he entertained any part of her own fears
for the consequences of the scene which was to ensue, considering the
state of Minna's health and spirits. But Magnus Troil seemed to have no
such apprehensions; he viewed with stern composure Norna's
preparations, and appeared to wait the event with the composure of one,
who, confiding in the skill of a medical artist, sees him preparing to
enter upon some important and painful operation, in the issue of which
he is interested by friendship or by affection.

Norna, meanwhile, went onward with her preparations, until she had
placed on the stone table a variety of miscellaneous articles, and among
the rest, a small chafing-dish full of charcoal, a crucible, and a piece
of thin sheet-lead. She then spoke aloud--"It is well that I was aware
of your coming hither--ay, long before you yourself had resolved it--how
should I else have been prepared for that which is now to be
done?--Maiden," she continued, addressing Minna, "where lies thy pain?"

The patient answered, by pressing her hand to the left side of her

"Even so," replied Norna, "even so--'tis the site of weal or woe.--And
you, her father and her sister, think not this the idle speech of one
who talks by guess--if I can tell thee ill, it may be that I shall be
able to render that less severe, which may not, by any aid, be wholly
amended.--The heart--ay, the heart--touch that, and the eye grows dim,
the pulse fails, the wholesome stream of our blood is choked and
troubled, our limbs decay like sapless sea-weed in a summer's sun; our
better views of existence are past and gone; what remains is the dream
of lost happiness, or the fear of inevitable evil. But the Reimkennar
must to her work--well it is that I have prepared the means."

She threw off her long dark-coloured mantle, and stood before them in
her short jacket of light-blue wadmaal, with its skirt of the same
stuff, fancifully embroidered with black velvet, and bound at the waist
with a chain or girdle of silver, formed into singular devices. Norna
next undid the fillet which bound her grizzled hair, and shaking her
head wildly, caused it to fall in dishevelled abundance over her face
and around her shoulders, so as almost entirely to hide her features.
She then placed a small crucible on the chafing-dish already
mentioned,--dropped a few drops from a vial on the charcoal
below,--pointed towards it her wrinkled forefinger, which she had
previously moistened with liquid from another small bottle, and said
with a deep voice, "Fire, do thy duty;"--and the words were no sooner
spoken, than, probably by some chemical combination of which the
spectators were not aware, the charcoal which was under the crucible
became slowly ignited; while Norna, as if impatient of the delay, threw
hastily back her disordered tresses, and, while her features reflected
the sparkles and red light of the fire, and her eyes flashed from
amongst her hair like those of a wild animal from its cover, blew
fiercely till the whole was in an intense glow. She paused a moment from
her toil, and muttering that the elemental spirit must be thanked,
recited, in her usual monotonous, yet wild mode of chanting, the
following verses:--

  "Thou so needful, yet so dread,
  With cloudy crest, and wing of red;
  Thou, without whose genial breath
  The North would sleep the sleep of death;
  Who deign'st to warm the cottage hearth,
  Yet hurl'st proud palaces to earth,--
  Brightest, keenest of the Powers,
  Which form and rule this world of ours,
  With my rhyme of Runic, I
  Thank thee for thy agency."

She then severed a portion from the small mass of sheet-lead which lay
upon the table, and, placing it in the crucible, subjected it to the
action of the lighted charcoal, and, as it melted, she sung,--

  "Old Reimkennar, to thy art
  Mother Hertha sends her part;
  She, whose gracious bounty gives
  Needful food for all that lives.
  From the deep mine of the North,
  Came the mystic metal forth,
  Doom'd, amidst disjointed stones,
  Long to cere a champion's bones,
  Disinhumed my charms to aid--
  Mother Earth, my thanks are paid."

She then poured out some water from the jar into a large cup, or goblet,
and sung once more, as she slowly stirred it round with the end of her

  "Girdle of our islands dear,
  Element of Water, hear
  Thou whose power can overwhelm
  Broken mounds and ruin'd realm
      On the lowly Belgian strand;
  All thy fiercest rage can never
  Of our soil a furlong sever
      From our rock-defended land;
  Play then gently thou thy part,
  To assist old Norna's art."

She then, with a pair of pincers, removed the crucible from the
chafing-dish, and poured the lead, now entirely melted, into the bowl of
water, repeating at the same time,--

  "Elements, each other greeting,
  Gifts and powers attend your meeting!"

The melted lead, spattering as it fell into the water, formed, of
course, the usual combination of irregular forms which is familiar to
all who in childhood have made the experiment, and from which, according
to our childish fancy, we may have selected portions bearing some
resemblance to domestic articles--the tools of mechanics, or the like.
Norna seemed to busy herself in some such researches, for she examined
the mass of lead with scrupulous attention, and detached it into
different portions, without apparently being able to find a fragment in
the form which she desired.

At length she again muttered, rather as speaking to herself than to her
guests, "He, the Viewless, will not be omitted,--he will have his
tribute even in the work to which he gives nothing.--Stern compeller of
the clouds, thou also shalt hear the voice of the Reimkennar."

Thus speaking, Norna once more threw the lead into the crucible, where,
hissing and spattering as the wet metal touched the sides of the red-hot
vessel, it was soon again reduced into a state of fusion. The sibyl
meantime turned to a corner of the apartment, and opening suddenly a
window which looked to the north-west, let in the fitful radiance of the
sun, now lying almost level upon a great mass of red clouds, which,
boding future tempest, occupied the edge of the horizon, and seemed to
brood over the billows of the boundless sea. Turning to this quarter,
from which a low hollow moaning breeze then blew, Norna addressed the
Spirit of the Winds, in tones which seemed to resemble his own:--

  "Thou, that over billows dark
  Safely send'st the fisher's bark,--
  Giving him a path and motion
  Through the wilderness of ocean;
  Thou, that when the billows brave ye,
  O'er the shelves canst drive the navy,--
  Did'st thou chafe as one neglected,
  While thy brethren were respected?
  To appease thee, see, I tear
  This full grasp of grizzled hair;
  Oft thy breath hath through it sung,
  Softening to my magic tongue,--
  Now, 'tis thine to bid it fly
  Through the wide expanse of sky,
  'Mid the countless swarms to sail
  Of wild-fowl wheeling on thy gale;
  Take thy portion and rejoice,--
  Spirit, thou hast heard my voice!"

Norna accompanied these words with the action which they described,
tearing a handful of hair with vehemence from her head, and strewing it
upon the wind as she continued her recitation. She then shut the
casement, and again involved the chamber in the dubious twilight, which
best suited her character and occupation. The melted lead was once more
emptied into the water, and the various whimsical conformations which it
received from the operation were examined with great care by the sibyl,
who at length seemed to intimate, by voice and gesture, that her spell
had been successful. She selected from the fused metal a piece about the
size of a small nut, bearing in shape a close resemblance to that of the
human heart, and, approaching Minna, again spoke in song:--

  "She who sits by haunted well,
  Is subject to the Nixie's spell;
  She who walks on lonely beach
  To the Mermaid's charmed speech;
  She who walks round ring of green,
  Offends the peevish Fairy Queen;
  And she who takes rest in the Dwarfie's cave,
  A weary weird of woe shall have.

  "By ring, by spring, by cave, by shore,
  Minna Troil has braved all this and more:
  And yet hath the root of her sorrow and ill
  A source that's more deep and more mystical still."

Minna, whose attention had been latterly something disturbed by
reflections on her own secret sorrow, now suddenly recalled it, and
looked eagerly on Norna as if she expected to learn from her rhymes
something of deep interest. The northern sibyl, meanwhile, proceeded to
pierce the piece of lead, which bore the form of a heart, and to fix in
it a piece of gold wire, by which it might be attached to a chain or
necklace. She then proceeded in her rhyme,--

  "Thou art within a demon's hold,
  More wise than Heims, more strong than Trolld;
  No siren sings so sweet as he,--
  No fay springs lighter on the lea;
  No elfin power hath half the art
  To soothe, to move, to wring the heart,--
  Life-blood from the cheek to drain,
  Drench the eye, and dry the vein.
  Maiden, ere we farther go,
  Dost thou note me, ay or no?"

Minna replied in the same rhythmical manner, which, in jest and earnest,
was frequently used by the ancient Scandinavians,--

  "I mark thee, my mother, both word, look, and sign;
  Speak on with the riddle--to read it be mine."

"Now, Heaven and every saint be praised!" said Magnus; "they are the
first words to the purpose which she hath spoken these many days."

"And they are the last which she shall speak for many a month," said
Norna, incensed at the interruption, "if you again break the progress of
my spell. Turn your faces to the wall, and look not hitherward again,
under penalty of my severe displeasure. You, Magnus Troil, from
hard-hearted audacity of spirit, and you, Brenda, from wanton and idle
disbelief in that which is beyond your bounded comprehension, are
unworthy to look on this mystic work; and the glance of your eyes
mingles with, and weakens, the spell; for the powers cannot brook

Unaccustomed to be addressed in a tone so peremptory, Magnus would have
made some angry reply; but reflecting that the health of Minna was at
stake, and considering that she who spoke was a woman of many sorrows,
he suppressed his anger, bowed his head, shrugged his shoulders, assumed
the prescribed posture, averting his head from the table, and turning
towards the wall. Brenda did the same, on receiving a sign from her
father, and both remained profoundly silent.

Norna then addressed Minna once more,--

  "Mark me! for the word I speak
  Shall bring the colour to thy cheek.
  This leaden heart, so light of cost,
  The symbol of a treasure lost,
  Thou shalt wear in hope and in peace,
  That the cause of your sickness and sorrow may cease,
  When crimson foot meets crimson hand
  In the Martyrs' Aisle, and in Orkney-land."

Minna coloured deeply at the last couplet, intimating, as she failed not
to interpret it, that Norna was completely acquainted with the secret
cause of her sorrow. The same conviction led the maiden to hope in the
favourable issue, which the sibyl seemed to prophesy; and not venturing
to express her feelings in any manner more intelligible, she pressed
Norna's withered hand with all the warmth of affection, first to her
breast and then to her bosom, bedewing it at the same time with her

With more of human feeling than she usually exhibited, Norna extricated
her hand from the grasp of the poor girl, whose tears now flowed freely,
and then, with more tenderness of manner than she had yet shown, she
knotted the leaden heart to a chain of gold, and hung it around Minna's
neck, singing, as she performed that last branch of the spell,--

  "Be patient, be patient, for Patience hath power
  To ward us in danger, like mantle in shower;
  A fairy gift you best may hold
  In a chain of fairy gold;
  The chain and the gift are each a true token,
  That not without warrant old Norna has spoken;
  But thy nearest and dearest must never behold them,
  Till time shall accomplish the truths I have told them."

The verses being concluded, Norna carefully arranged the chain around
her patient's neck so as to hide it in her bosom, and thus ended the
spell--a spell which, at the moment I record these incidents, it is
known, has been lately practised in Zetland, where any decline of
health, without apparent cause, is imputed by the lower orders to a
demon having stolen the heart from the body of the patient, and where
the experiment of supplying the deprivation by a leaden one, prepared in
the manner described, has been resorted to within these few years. In a
metaphorical sense, the disease may be considered as a general one in
all parts of the world; but, as this simple and original remedy is
peculiar to the isles of Thule, it were unpardonable not to preserve it
at length, in a narrative connected with Scottish antiquities.[21]

A second time Norna reminded her patient, that if she showed, or spoke
of, the fairy gifts, their virtue would be lost--a belief so common as
to be received into the superstitions of all nations. Lastly,
unbuttoning the collar which she had just fastened, she showed her a
link of the gold chain, which Minna instantly recognised as that
formerly given by Norna to Mordaunt Mertoun. This seemed to intimate he
was yet alive, and under Norna's protection; and she gazed on her with
the most eager curiosity. But the sibyl imposed her finger on her lips
in token of silence, and a second time involved the chain in those folds
which modestly and closely veiled one of the most beautiful, as well as
one of the kindest, bosoms in the world.

Norna then extinguished the lighted charcoal, and, as the water hissed
upon the glowing embers, commanded Magnus and Brenda to look around, and
behold her task accomplished.


[20] The MacRaws were followers of the MacKenzies, whose chief has the
name of Caberfae, or Buckshead, from the cognisance borne on his
standards. Unquestionably the worthy piper trained the seal on the same
principle of respect to the clan-term which I have heard has been taught
to dogs, who, unused to any other air, dance after their fashion to the
tune of Caberfae.

[21] The spells described in this chapter are not altogether imaginary.
By this mode of pouring lead into water, and selecting the part which
chances to assume a resemblance to the human heart, which must be worn
by the patient around her or his neck, the sage persons of Zetland
pretend to cure the fatal disorder called the loss of a heart.


  See yonder woman, whom our swains revere,
  And dread in secret, while they take her counsel
  When sweetheart shall be kind, or when cross dame shall die;
  Where lurks the thief who stole the silver tankard,
  And how the pestilent murrain may be cured.--
  This sage adviser's mad, stark mad, my friend;
  Yet, in her madness, hath the art and cunning
  To wring fools' secrets from their inmost bosoms,
  And pay enquirers with the coin they gave her.

                                                 _Old Play._

It seemed as if Norna had indeed full right to claim the gratitude of
the Udaller for the improved condition of his daughter's health. She
once more threw open the window, and Minna, drying her eyes and
advancing with affectionate confidence, threw herself on her father's
neck, and asked his forgiveness for the trouble she had of late
occasioned to him. It is unnecessary to add, that this was at once
granted, with a full, though rough burst of parental tenderness, and as
many close embraces as if his child had been just rescued from the jaws
of death. When Magnus had dismissed Minna from his arms, to throw
herself into those of her sister, and express to her, rather by kisses
and tears than in words, the regret she entertained for her late wayward
conduct, the Udaller thought proper, in the meantime, to pay his thanks
to their hostess, whose skill had proved so efficacious. But scarce had
he come out with, "Much respected kinswoman, I am but a plain old
Norseman,"--when she interrupted him, by pressing her finger on her

"There are those around us," she said, "who must hear no mortal voice,
witness no sacrifice to mortal feelings--there are times when they
mutiny even against me, their sovereign mistress, because I am still
shrouded in the flesh of humanity. Fear, therefore, and be silent. I,
whose deeds have raised me from the low-sheltered valley of life, where
dwell its social wants and common charities;--I, who have bereft the
Giver of the Gift which he gave, and stand alone on a cliff of
immeasurable height, detached from earth, save from the small portion
that supports my miserable tread--I alone am fit to cope with those
sullen mates. Fear not, therefore, but yet be not too bold, and let this
night to you be one of fasting and of prayer."

If the Udaller had not, before the commencement of the operation, been
disposed to dispute the commands of the sibyl, it may be well believed
he was less so now, that it had terminated to all appearance so
fortunately. So he sat down in silence, and seized upon a volume which
lay near him as a sort of desperate effort to divert ennui, for on no
other occasion had Magnus been known to have recourse to a book for that
purpose. It chanced to be a book much to his mind, being the well-known
work of Olaus Magnus, upon the manners of the ancient Northern nations.
The book is unluckily in the Latin language, and the Danske or Dutch
were, either of them, much more familiar to the Udaller. But then it was
the fine edition published in 1555, which contains representations of
the war-chariots, fishing exploits, warlike exercises, and domestic
employments of the Scandinavians, executed on copper-plates; and thus
the information which the work refused to the understanding, was
addressed to the eye, which, as is well known both to old and young,
answers the purpose of amusement as well, if not better.

Meanwhile the two sisters, pressed as close to each other as two flowers
on the same stalk, sat with their arms reciprocally passed over each
other's shoulder, as if they feared some new and unforeseen cause of
coldness was about to separate them, and interrupt the sister-like
harmony which had been but just restored. Norna sat opposite to them,
sometimes revolving the large parchment volume with which they had found
her employed at their entrance, and sometimes gazing on the sisters with
a fixed look, in which an interest of a kind unusually tender, seemed
occasionally to disturb the stern and rigorous solemnity of her
countenance. All was still and silent as death, and the subsiding
emotions of Brenda had not yet permitted her to wonder whether the
remaining hours of the evening were to be passed in the same manner,
when the scene of tranquillity was suddenly interrupted by the entrance
of the dwarf Pacolet, or, as the Udaller called him, Nicholas Strumpfer.

Norna darted an angry glance on the intruder, who seemed to deprecate
her resentment by holding up his hands and uttering a babbling sound;
then, instantly resorting to his usual mode of conversation, he
expressed himself by a variety of signs made rapidly upon his fingers,
and as rapidly answered by his mistress, so that the young women, who
had never heard of such an art, and now saw it practised by two beings
so singular, almost conceived their mutual intelligence the work of
enchantment. When they had ceased their intercourse, Norna turned to
Magnus Troil with much haughtiness, and said, "How, my kinsman? have you
so far forgot yourself, as to bring earthly food into the house of the
Reimkennar, and make preparations in the dwelling of Power and of
Despair, for refection, and wassail, and revelry?--Speak not--answer
not," she said; "the duration of the cure which was wrought even now,
depends on your silence and obedience--bandy but a single look or word
with me, and the latter condition of that maiden shall be worse than the

This threat was an effectual charm upon the tongue of the Udaller,
though he longed to indulge it in vindication of his conduct.

"Follow me, all of you," said Norna, striding to the door of the
apartment, "and see that no one looks backwards--we leave not this
apartment empty, though we, the children of mortality, be removed from

She went out, and the Udaller signed to his daughters to follow, and to
obey her injunctions. The sibyl moved swifter than her guests down the
rude descent, (such it might rather be termed, than a proper staircase,)
which led to the lower apartment. Magnus and his daughters, when they
entered the chamber, found their own attendants aghast at the presence
and proceedings of Norna of the Fitful-head.

They had been previously employed in arranging the provisions which they
had brought along with them, so as to present a comfortable cold meal,
as soon as the appetite of the Udaller, which was as regular as the
return of tide, should induce him to desire some refreshment; and now
they stood staring in fear and surprise, while Norna, seizing upon one
article after another, and well supported by the zealous activity of
Pacolet, flung their whole preparations out of the rude aperture which
served for a window, and over the cliff, from which the ancient Burgh
arose, into the ocean, which raged and foamed beneath. _Vifda_, (dried
beef,) hams, and pickled pork, flew after each other into empty space,
smoked geese were restored to the air, and cured fish to the sea, their
native elements indeed, but which they were no longer capable of
traversing; and the devastation proceeded so rapidly, that the Udaller
could scarce secure from the wreck his silver drinking cup; while the
large leathern flask of brandy, which was destined to supply his
favourite beverage, was sent to follow the rest of the supper, by the
hands of Pacolet, who regarded, at the same time, the disappointed
Udaller with a malicious grin, as if, notwithstanding his own natural
taste for the liquor, he enjoyed the disappointment and surprise of
Magnus Troil still more than he would have relished sharing his

The destruction of the brandy flask exhausted the patience of Magnus,
who roared out, in a tone of no small displeasure, "Why, kinswoman, this
is wasteful madness--where, and on what, would you have us sup?"

"Where you will," answered Norna, "and on what you will--but not in my
dwelling, and not on the food with which you have profaned it. Vex my
spirit no more, but begone every one of you! You have been here too long
for my good, perhaps for your own."

"How, kinswoman," said Magnus, "would you make outcasts of us at this
time of night, when even a Scotchman would not turn a stranger from the
door?--Bethink you, dame, it is shame on our lineage for ever, if this
squall of yours should force us to slip cables, and go to sea so
scantily provided."

"Be silent, and depart," said Norna; "let it suffice you have got that
for which you came. I have no harbourage for mortal guests, no provision
to relieve human wants. There is beneath the cliff, a beach of the
finest sand, a stream of water as pure as the well of Kildinguie, and
the rocks bear dulse as wholesome as that of Guiodin; and well you wot,
that the well of Kildinguie and the dulse of Guiodin will cure all
maladies save Black Death."[22]

"And well I wot," said the Udaller, "that I would eat corrupted
sea-weeds like a starling, or salted seal's flesh like the men of
Burraforth, or wilks, buckies, and lampits, like the poor sneaks of
Stroma, rather than break wheat bread and drink red wine in a house
where it is begrudged me.--And yet," he said, checking himself, "I am
wrong, very wrong, my cousin, to speak thus to you, and I should rather
thank you for what you have done, than upbraid you for following your
own ways. But I see you are impatient--we will be all under way
presently.--And you, ye knaves," addressing his servants, "that were in
such hurry with your service before it was lacked, get out of doors with
you presently, and manage to catch the ponies; for I see we must make
for another harbour to-night, if we would not sleep with an empty
stomach, and on a hard bed."

The domestics of Magnus, already sufficiently alarmed at the violence of
Norna's conduct, scarce waited the imperious command of their master to
evacuate her dwelling with all dispatch; and the Udaller, with a
daughter on each arm, was in the act of following them, when Norna said
emphatically, "Stop!" They obeyed, and again turned towards her. She
held out her hand to Magnus, which the placable Udaller instantly folded
in his own ample palm.

"Magnus," she said, "we part by necessity, but, I trust, not in anger?"

"Surely not, cousin," said the warm-hearted Udaller, wellnigh stammering
in his hasty disclamation of all unkindness,--"most assuredly not. I
never bear ill-will to any one, much less to one of my own blood, and
who has piloted me with her advice through many a rough tide, as I would
pilot a boat betwixt Swona and Stroma, through all the waws, wells, and
swelchies of the Pentland Frith."

"Enough," said Norna, "and now farewell, with such a blessing as I dare
bestow--not a word more!--Maidens," she added, "draw near, and let me
kiss your brows."

The sibyl was obeyed by Minna with awe, and by Brenda with fear; the one
overmastered by the warmth of her imagination, the other by the natural
timidity of her constitution. Norna then dismissed them, and in two
minutes afterwards they found themselves beyond the bridge, and standing
upon the rocky platform in front of the ancient Pictish Burgh, which it
was the pleasure of this sequestered female to inhabit. The night, for
it was now fallen, was unusually serene. A bright twilight, which
glimmered far over the surface of the sea, supplied the brief absence of
the summer's sun; and the waves seemed to sleep under its influence, so
faint and slumberous was the sound with which one after another rolled
on and burst against the foot of the cliff on which they stood. In front
of them stood the rugged fortress, seeming, in the uniform greyness of
the atmosphere, as aged, as shapeless, and as massive, as the rock on
which it was founded. There was neither sight nor sound that indicated
human habitation, save that from one rude shot-hole glimmered the flame
of the feeble lamp by which the sibyl was probably pursuing her mystical
and nocturnal studies, shooting upon the twilight, in which it was soon
lost and confounded, a single line of tiny light; bearing the same
proportion to that of the atmosphere, as the aged woman and her serf,
the sole inhabitants of that desert, did to the solitude with which they
were surrounded.

For several minutes, the party, thus suddenly and unexpectedly expelled
from the shelter where they had reckoned upon spending the night, stood
in silence, each wrapt in their own separate reflections. Minna, her
thoughts fixed on the mystical consolation which she had received, in
vain endeavoured to extract from the words of Norna a more distinct and
intelligible meaning; and the Udaller had not yet recovered his surprise
at the extrusion to which he had been thus whimsically subjected, under
circumstances that prohibited him from resenting as an insult,
treatment, which, in all other respects, was so shocking to the genial
hospitality of his nature, that he still felt like one disposed to be
angry, if he but knew how to set about it. Brenda was the first who
brought matters to a point, by asking whither they were to go, and how
they were to spend the night? The question, which was asked in a tone,
that, amidst its simplicity, had something dolorous in it, entirely
changed the train of her father's ideas; and the unexpected perplexity
of their situation now striking him in a comic point of view, he laughed
till his very eyes ran over, while every rock around him rang, and the
sleeping sea-fowl were startled from their repose, by the loud, hearty
explosions of his obstreperous hilarity.

The Udaller's daughters, eagerly representing to their father the risk
of displeasing Norna by this unlimited indulgence of his mirth, united
their efforts to drag him to a farther distance from her dwelling.
Magnus, yielding to their strength, which, feeble as it was, his own fit
of laughter rendered him incapable of resisting, suffered himself to be
pulled to a considerable distance from the Burgh, and then escaping from
their hands, and sitting down, or rather suffering himself to drop, upon
a large stone which lay conveniently by the wayside, he again laughed so
long and lustily, that his vexed and anxious daughters became afraid
that there was something more than natural in these repeated

At length his mirth exhausted both itself and the Udaller's strength. He
groaned heavily, wiped his eyes, and said, not without feeling some
desire to renew his obstreperous cachinnation, "Now, by the bones of
Saint Magnus, my ancestor and namesake, one would imagine that being
turned out of doors, at this time of night, was nothing short of an
absolutely exquisite jest; for I have shaken my sides at it till they
ache. There we sat, made snug for the night, and I made as sure of a
good supper and a can as ever I had been of either,--and here we are all
taken aback! and then poor Brenda's doleful voice, and melancholy
question, of 'What is to be done, and where are we to sleep?' In good
faith, unless one of those knaves, who must needs torment the poor woman
by their trencher-work before it was wanted, can make amends by telling
us of some snug port under our lee, we have no other course for it but
to steer through the twilight on the bearing of Burgh-Westra, and rough
it out as well as we can by the way. I am sorry but for you, girls; for
many a cruize have I been upon when we were on shorter allowance than we
are like to have now.--I would I had but secured a morsel for you, and a
drop for myself; and then there had been but little to complain of."

Both sisters hastened to assure the Udaller that they felt not the least
occasion for food.

"Why, that is well," said Magnus: "and so being the case, I will not
complain of my own appetite, though it is sharper than convenient. And
the rascal, Nicholas Strumpfer,--what a leer the villain gave me as he
started the good Nantz into the salt-water! He grinned, the knave, like
a seal on a skerry.--Had it not been for vexing my poor kinswoman Norna,
I would have sent his misbegotten body, and misshapen jolterhead, after
my bonny flask, as sure as Saint Magnus lies at Kirkwall!"

By this time the servants returned with the ponies, which they had very
soon caught--these sensible animals finding nothing so captivating in
the pastures where they had been suffered to stray, as inclined them to
resist the invitation again to subject themselves to saddle and bridle.
The prospects of the party were also considerably improved by learning
that the contents of their sumpter-pony's burden had not been entirely
exhausted,--a small basket having fortunately escaped the rage of Norna
and Pacolet, by the rapidity with which one of the servants had caught
up and removed it. The same domestic, an alert and ready-witted fellow,
had observed upon the beach, not above three miles distant from the
Burgh, and about a quarter of a mile off their straight path, a deserted
_Skio_, or fisherman's hut, and suggested that they should occupy it for
the rest of the night, in order that the ponies might be refreshed, and
the young ladies spend the night under cover from the raw evening air.

When we are delivered from great and serious dangers, our mood is, or
ought to be, grave, in proportion to the peril we have escaped, and the
gratitude due to protecting Providence. But few things raise the spirits
more naturally, or more harmlessly, than when means of extrication from
any of the lesser embarrassments of life are suddenly presented to us;
and such was the case in the present instance. The Udaller, relieved
from the apprehensions for his daughters suffering from fatigue, and
himself from too much appetite and too little food, carolled Norse
ditties, as he spurred Bergen through the twilight, with as much glee
and gallantry as if the night-ride had been entirely a matter of his own
free choice. Brenda lent her voice to some of his choruses, which were
echoed in ruder notes by the servants, who, in that simple state of
society, were not considered as guilty of any breach of respect by
mingling their voices with the song. Minna, indeed, was as yet unequal
to such an effort; but she compelled herself to assume some share in the
general hilarity of the meeting; and, contrary to her conduct since the
fatal morning which concluded the Festival of Saint John, she seemed to
take her usual interest in what was going on around her, and answered
with kindness and readiness the repeated enquiries concerning her
health, with which the Udaller every now and then interrupted his carol.
And thus they proceeded by night, a happier party by far than they had
been when they traced the same route on the preceding morning, making
light of the difficulties of the way, and promising themselves shelter
and a comfortable night's rest in the deserted hut which they were now
about to approach, and which they expected to find in a state of
darkness and solitude.

But it was the lot of the Udaller that day to be deceived more than once
in his calculations.

"And which way lies this cabin of yours, Laurie?" said the Udaller,
addressing the intelligent domestic of whom we just spoke.

"Yonder it should be," said Laurence Scholey, "at the head of the
voe--but, by my faith, if it be the place, there are folk there before
us--God and Saint Ronan send that they be canny company!"

In truth there was a light in the deserted hut, strong enough to glimmer
through every chink of the shingles and wreck-wood of which it was
constructed, and to give the whole cabin the appearance of a smithy seen
by night. The universal superstition of the Zetlanders seized upon
Magnus and his escort.

"They are trows," said one voice.

"They are witches," murmured another.

"They are mermaids," muttered a third; "only hear their wild singing!"

All stopped; and, in effect, some notes of music were audible, which
Brenda, with a voice that quivered a little, but yet had a turn of arch
ridicule in its tone, pronounced to be the sound of a fiddle.

"Fiddle or fiend," said the Udaller, who, if he believed in such nightly
apparitions as had struck terror into his retinue, certainly feared them
not--"fiddle or fiend, may the devil fetch me if a witch cheats me out
of supper to-night, for the second time!"

So saying, he dismounted, clenched his trusty truncheon in his hand, and
advanced towards the hut, followed by Laurence alone; the rest of his
retinue continuing stationary on the beach beside his daughters and the


[22] So at least says an Orkney proverb.


  What ho, my jovial mates! come on! we'll frolic it
  Like fairies frisking in the merry moonshine,
  Seen by the curtal friar, who, from some christening
  Or some blithe bridal, hies belated cell-ward--
  He starts, and changes his bold bottle swagger
  To churchman's pace professional, and, ransacking
  His treacherous memory for some holy hymn,
  Finds but the roundel of the midnight catch.

                                                 _Old Play._

The stride of the Udaller relaxed nothing of its length or of its
firmness as he approached the glimmering cabin, from which he now heard
distinctly the sound of the fiddle. But, if still long and firm, his
steps succeeded each other rather more slowly than usual; for, like a
cautious, though a brave general, Magnus was willing to reconnoitre his
enemy before assailing him. The trusty Laurence Scholey, who kept close
behind his master, now whispered into his ear, "So help me, sir, as I
believe that the ghaist, if ghaist it be, that plays so bravely on the
fiddle, must be the ghaist of Maister Claud Halcro, or his wraith at
least; for never was bow drawn across thairm which brought out the gude
auld spring of 'Fair and Lucky,' so like his ain."

Magnus was himself much of the same opinion; for he knew the blithe
minstrelsy of the spirited little old man, and hailed the hut with a
hearty hilloah, which was immediately replied to by the cheery note of
his ancient messmate, and Halcro himself presently made his appearance
on the beach.

The Udaller now signed to his retinue to come up, while he asked his
friend, after a kind greeting and much shaking of hands, "How the devil
he came to sit there, playing old tunes in so desolate a place, like an
owl whooping to the moon?"

"And tell me rather, Fowd," said Claud Halcro, "how you came to be
within hearing of me? ay, by my word, and with your bonny daughters,
too?--Jarto Minna and Jarto Brenda, I bid you welcome to these yellow
sands--and there shake hands, as glorious John, or some other body,
says, upon the same occasion. And how came you here like two fair swans,
making day out of twilight, and turning all you step upon to silver?"

"You shall know all about them presently," answered Magnus; "but what
messmates have you got in the hut with you? I think I hear some one

"None," replied Claud Halcro, "but that poor creature, the Factor, and
my imp of a boy Giles. I--but come in--come in--here you will find us
starving in comfort--not so much as a mouthful of sour sillocks to be
had for love or money."

"That may be in a small part helped," said the Udaller; "for though the
best of our supper is gone over the Fitful Crags to the sealchies and
the dog-fish, yet we have got something in the kit still.--Here, Laurie,
bring up the _vifda_."

"_Jokul, jokul!_"[23] was Laurence's joyful answer; and he hastened for
the basket.

"By the bicker of Saint Magnus,"[24] said Halcro, "and the burliest
bishop that ever quaffed it for luck's sake, there is no finding your
locker empty, Magnus! I believe sincerely that ere a friend wanted, you
could, like old Luggie the warlock, fish up boiled and roasted out of
the pool of Kibster."[25]

"You are wrong there, Jarto Claud," said Magnus Troil, "for far from
helping me to a supper, the foul fiend, I believe, has carried off great
part of mine this blessed evening; but you are welcome to share and
share of what is left." This was said while the party entered the hut.

Here, in a cabin which smelled strongly of dried fish, and whose sides
and roof were jet-black with smoke, they found the unhappy Triptolemus
Yellowley seated beside a fire made of dried sea-weed, mingled with some
peats and wreck-wood; his sole companion a barefooted, yellow-haired
Zetland boy, who acted occasionally as a kind of page to Claud Halcro,
bearing his fiddle on his shoulder, saddling his pony, and rendering him
similar duties of kindly observance. The disconsolate agriculturist, for
such his visage betokened him, displayed little surprise, and less
animation, at the arrival of the Udaller and his companions, until,
after the party had drawn close to the fire, (a neighbourhood which the
dampness of the night air rendered far from disagreeable,) the pannier
was opened, and a tolerable supply of barley-bread and hung beef,
besides a flask of brandy, (no doubt smaller than that which the
relentless hand of Pacolet had emptied into the ocean,) gave assurances
of a tolerable supper. Then, indeed, the worthy Factor grinned,
chuckled, rubbed his hands, and enquired after all friends at

When they had all partaken of this needful refreshment, the Udaller
repeated his enquiries of Halcro, and more particularly of the Factor,
how they came to be nestled in such a remote corner at such an hour of

"Maister Magnus Troil," said Triptolemus, when a second cup had given
him spirits to tell his tale of woe, "I would not have you think that it
is a little thing that disturbs me. I came of that grain that takes a
sair wind to shake it. I have seen many a Martinmas and many a
Whitsunday in my day, whilk are the times peculiarly grievous to those
of my craft, and I could aye bide the bang; but I think I am like to be
dung ower a'thegither in this damned country of yours--Gude forgie me
for swearing--but evil communication corrupteth good manners."

"Now, Heaven guide us," said the Udaller, "what is the matter with the
man? Why, man, if you will put your plough into new land, you must look
to have it hank on a stone now and then--You must set us an example of
patience, seeing you come here for our improvement."

"And the deil was in my feet when I did so," said the Factor; "I had
better have set myself to improve the cairn on Clochnaben."

"But what is it, after all," said the Udaller, "that has befallen
you?--what is it that you complain of?"

"Of every thing that has chanced to me since I landed on this island,
which I believe was accursed at the very creation," said the
agriculturist, "and assigned as a fitting station for sorners, thieves,
whores, (I beg the ladies' pardon,) witches, bitches, and all evil

"By my faith, a goodly catalogue!" said Magnus; "and there has been the
day, that if I had heard you give out the half of it, I should have
turned improver myself, and have tried to amend your manners with a

"Bear with me," said the Factor, "Maister Fowd, or Maister Udaller, or
whatever else they may call you, and as you are strong be pitiful, and
consider the luckless lot of any inexperienced person who lights upon
this earthly paradise of yours. He asks for drink, they bring him sour
whey--no disparagement to your brandy, Fowd, which is excellent--You ask
for meat, and they bring you sour sillocks that Satan might choke
upon--You call your labourers together, and bid them work; it proves
Saint Magnus's day, or Saint Ronan's day, or some infernal saint or
other's--or else, perhaps, they have come out of bed with the wrong foot
foremost, or they have seen an owl, or a rabbit has crossed their path,
or they have dreamed of a roasted horse--in short, nothing is to be
done--Give them a spade, and they work as if it burned their fingers;
but set them to dancing, and see when they will tire of funking and

"And why should they, poor bodies," said Claud Halcro, "as long as there
are good fiddlers to play to them?"

"Ay, ay," said Triptolemus, shaking his head, "you are a proper person
to uphold them in such a humour. Well, to proceed:--I till a piece of
my best ground; down comes a sturdy beggar that wants a kailyard, or a
plant-a-cruive, as you call it, and he claps down an enclosure in the
middle of my bit shot of corn, as lightly as if he was baith laird and
tenant; and gainsay him wha likes, there he dibbles in his kail-plants!
I sit down to my sorrowful dinner, thinking to have peace and quietness
there at least; when in comes one, two, three, four, or half-a-dozen of
skelping long lads, from some foolery or anither, misca' me for barring
my ain door against them, and eat up the best half of what my sister's
providence--and she is not over bountiful--has allotted for my dinner!
Then enters a witch, with an ellwand in her hand, and she raises the
wind or lays it, whichever she likes, majors up and down my house as if
she was mistress of it, and I am bounden to thank Heaven if she carries
not the broadside of it away with her!"

"Still," said the Fowd, "this is no answer to my question--how the foul
fiend I come to find you at moorings here?"

"Have patience, worthy sir," replied the afflicted Factor, "and listen
to what I have to say, for I fancy it will be as well to tell you the
whole matter. You must know, I once thought that I had gotten a small
godsend, that might have made all these matters easier."

"How! a godsend! Do you mean a wreck, Master Factor?" exclaimed Magnus;
"shame upon you, that should have set example to others!"

"It was no wreck," said the Factor; "but, if you must needs know, it
chanced that as I raised an hearthstane in one of the old chambers at
Stourburgh, (for my sister is minded that there is little use in mair
fire-places about a house than one, and I wanted the stane to knock bear
upon,) when, what should I light on but a horn full of old coins, silver
the maist feck of them, but wi' a bit sprinkling of gold amang them
too.[26] Weel, I thought this was a dainty windfa', and so thought Baby,
and we were the mair willing to put up with a place where there were
siccan braw nest-eggs--and we slade down the stane cannily over the
horn, which seemed to me to be the very cornucopia, or horn of
abundance; and for further security, Baby wad visit the room maybe
twenty times in the day, and mysell at an orra time, to the boot of a'

"On my word, and a very pretty amusement," said Claud Halcro, "to look
over a horn of one's own siller. I question if glorious John Dryden ever
enjoyed such a pastime in his life--I am very sure I never did."

"Yes, but you forget, Jarto Claud," said the Udaller, "that the Factor
was only counting over the money for my Lord the Chamberlain. As he is
so keen for his Lordship's rights in whales and wrecks, he would not
surely forget him in treasure-trove."

"A-hem! a-hem! a-he--he--hem!" ejaculated Triptolemus, seized at the
moment with an awkward fit of coughing,--"no doubt, my Lord's right in
the matter would have been considered, being in the hand of one, though
I say it, as just as can be found in Angus-shire, let alone the Mearns.
But mark what happened of late! One day, as I went up to see that all
was safe and snug, and just to count out the share that should have been
his Lordship's--for surely the labourer, as one may call the finder, is
worthy of his hire--nay, some learned men say, that when the finder, in
point of trust and in point of power, representeth the _dominus_, or
lord superior, he taketh the whole; but let that pass, as a kittle
question _in apicibus juris_, as we wont to say at Saint Andrews--Well,
sir and ladies, when I went to the upper chamber, what should I see but
an ugsome, ill-shaped, and most uncouth dwarf, that wanted but hoofs and
horns to have made an utter devil of him, counting over the very hornful
of siller! I am no timorous man, Master Fowd, but, judging that I should
proceed with caution in such a matter--for I had reason to believe that
there was devilry in it--I accosted him in Latin, (whilk it is maist
becoming to speak to aught whilk taketh upon it as a goblin,) and
conjured him _in nomine_, and so forth, with such words as my poor
learning could furnish of a suddenty, whilk, to say truth, were not so
many, nor altogether so purely latineezed as might have been, had I not
been few years at college, and many at the pleugh. Well, sirs, he
started at first, as one that heareth that which he expects not; but
presently recovering himself, he wawls on me with his grey een, like a
wild-cat, and opens his mouth, whilk resembled the mouth of an oven, for
the deil a tongue he had in it, that I could spy, and took upon his ugly
self, altogether the air and bearing of a bull-dog, whilk I have seen
loosed at a fair upon a mad staig;[27] whereupon I was something
daunted, and withdrew myself to call upon sister Baby, who fears neither
dog nor devil, when there is in question the little penny siller. And
truly she raise to the fray as I hae seen the Lindsays and Ogilvies
bristle up, when Donald MacDonnoch, or the like, made a start down frae
the Highlands on the braes of Islay. But an auld useless carline, called
Tronda Dronsdaughter, (they might call her Drone the sell of her,
without farther addition,) flung herself right in my sister's gate, and
yelloched and skirled, that you would have thought her a whole
generation of hounds; whereupon I judged it best to make ae yoking of
it, and stop the pleugh until I got my sister's assistance. Whilk when I
had done, and we mounted the stair to the apartment in which the said
dwarf, devil, or other apparition, was to be seen, dwarf, horn, and
siller, were as clean gane as if the cat had lickit the place where I
saw them."

Here Triptolemus paused in his extraordinary narration, while the rest
of the party looked upon each other in surprise, and the Udaller
muttered to Claud Halcro--"By all tokens, this must have been either the
devil or Nicholas Strumpfer; and if it were him, he is more of a goblin
than e'er I gave him credit for, and shall be apt to rate him as such in
future." Then, addressing the Factor, he enquired--"Saw ye nought how
this dwarf of yours parted company?"

"As I shall answer it, no," replied Triptolemus, with a cautious look
around him, as if daunted by the recollection; "neither I, nor Baby, who
had her wits more about her, not having seen this unseemly vision, could
perceive any way by whilk he made evasion. Only Tronda said she saw him
flee forth of the window of the west roundel of the auld house, upon a
dragon, as she averred. But, as the dragon is held a fabulous animal, I
suld pronounce her averment to rest upon _deceptio visus_."

"But, may we not ask farther," said Brenda, stimulated by curiosity to
know as much of her cousin Norna's family as was possible, "how all this
operated upon Master Yellowley, so as to occasion his being in this
place at so unseasonable an hour?"

"Seasonable it must be, Mistress Brenda, since it brought us into your
sweet company," answered Claud Halcro, whose mercurial brain far
outstripped the slow conceptions of the agriculturist, and who became
impatient of being so long silent. "To say the truth, it was I, Mistress
Brenda, who recommended to our friend the Factor, whose house I chanced
to call at just after this mischance, (and where, by the way, owing
doubtless to the hurry of their spirits, I was but poorly received,) to
make a visit to our other friend at Fitful-head, well judging from
certain points of the story, at which my other and more particular
friend than either" (looking at Magnus) "may chance to form a guess,
that they who break a head are the best to find a plaster. And as our
friend the Factor scrupled travelling on horseback, in respect of some
tumbles from our ponies"----

"Which are incarnate devils," said Triptolemus, aloud, muttering under
his breath, "like every live thing that I have found in Zetland."

"Well, Fowd," continued Halcro, "I undertook to carry him to Fitful-head
in my little boat, which Giles and I can manage as if it were an
Admiral's barge full manned; and Master Triptolemus Yellowley will tell
you how seaman-like I piloted him to the little haven, within a quarter
of a mile of Norna's dwelling."

"I wish to Heaven you had brought me as safe back again," said the

"Why, to be sure," replied the minstrel, "I am, as glorious John says,--

  'A daring pilot in extremity,
  Pleased with the danger when the waves go high,
  I seek the storm--but, for a calm unfit,
  Will steer too near the sands, to show my wit.'"

"I showed little wit in intrusting myself to your charge," said
Triptolemus; "and you still less when you upset the boat at the throat
of the voe, as you call it, when even the poor bairn, that was mair than
half drowned, told you that you were carrying too much sail; and then ye
wad fasten the rape to the bit stick on the boat-side, that ye might
have time to play on the fiddle."

"What!" said the Udaller, "make fast the sheets to the thwart? a most
unseasonable practice, Claud Halcro."

"And sae came of it," replied the agriculturist; "for the neist blast
(and we are never lang without ane in these parts) whomled us as a
gudewife would whomle a bowie, and ne'er a thing wad Maister Halcro save
but his fiddle. The puir bairn swam out like a water-spaniel, and I
swattered hard for my life, wi' the help of ane of the oars; and here we
are, comfortless creatures, that, till a good wind blew you here, had
naething to eat but a mouthful of Norway rusk, that has mair sawdust
than rye-meal in it, and tastes liker turpentine than any thing else."

"I thought we heard you very merry," said Brenda, "as we came along the

"Ye heard a fiddle, Mistress Brenda," said the Factor; "and maybe ye may
think there can be nae dearth, miss, where that is skirling. But then
it was Maister Claud Halcro's fiddle, whilk, I am apt to think, wad
skirl at his father's deathbed, or at his ain, sae lang as his fingers
could pinch the thairm. And it was nae sma' aggravation to my misfortune
to have him bumming a' sorts of springs,--Norse and Scots, Highland and
Lawland, English and Italian, in my lug, as if nothing had happened that
was amiss, and we all in such stress and perplexity."

"Why, I told you sorrow would never right the boat, Factor," said the
thoughtless minstrel, "and I did my best to make you merry; if I failed,
it was neither my fault nor my fiddle's. I have drawn the bow across it
before glorious John Dryden himself."

"I will hear no stories about glorious John Dryden," answered the
Udaller, who dreaded Halcro's narratives as much as Triptolemus did his
music,--"I will hear nought of him, but one story to every three bowls
of punch,--it is our old paction, you know. But tell me, instead, what
said Norna to you about your errand?"

"Ay, there was anither fine upshot," said Master Yellowley. "She wadna
look at us, or listen to us; only she bothered our acquaintance, Master
Halcro here, who thought he could have sae much to say wi' her, with
about a score of questions about your family and household estate,
Master Magnus Troil; and when she had gotten a' she wanted out of him, I
thought she wad hae dung him ower the craig, like an empty peacod."

"And for yourself?" said the Udaller.

"She wadna listen to my story, nor hear sae much as a word that I had to
say," answered Triptolemus; "and sae much for them that seek to witches
and familiar spirits!"

"You needed not to have had recourse to Norna's wisdom, Master Factor,"
said Minna, not unwilling, perhaps, to stop his railing against the
friend who had so lately rendered her service; "the youngest child in
Orkney could have told you, that fairy treasures, if they are not wisely
employed for the good of others, as well as of those to whom they are
imparted, do not dwell long with their possessors."

"Your humble servant to command, Mistress Minnie," said Triptolemus; "I
thank ye for the hint,--and I am blithe that you have gotten your
wits--I beg pardon, I meant your health--into the barn-yard again. For
the treasure, I neither used nor abused it,--they that live in the house
with my sister Baby wad find it hard to do either!--and as for speaking
of it, whilk they say muckle offends them whom we in Scotland call Good
Neighbours, and you call Drows, the face of the auld Norse kings on the
coins themselves, might have spoken as much about it as ever I did."

"The Factor," said Claud Halcro, not unwilling to seize the opportunity
of revenging himself on Triptolemus, for disgracing his seamanship and
disparaging his music,--"The Factor was so scrupulous, as to keep the
thing quiet even from his master, the Lord Chamberlain; but, now that
the matter has ta'en wind, he is likely to have to account to his master
for that which is no longer in his possession; for the Lord Chamberlain
will be in no hurry, I think, to believe the story of the dwarf. Neither
do I think" (winking to the Udaller) "that Norna gave credit to a word
of so odd a story; and I dare say that was the reason that she received
us, I must needs say, in a very dry manner. I rather think she knew that
Triptolemus, our friend here, had found some other hiding-hole for the
money, and that the story of the goblin was all his own invention. For
my part, I will never believe there was such a dwarf to be seen as the
creature Master Yellowley describes, until I set my own eyes on him."

"Then you may do so at this moment," said the Factor; "for, by ----,"
(he muttered a deep asseveration as he sprung on his feet in great
horror,) "there the creature is!"

All turned their eyes in the direction in which he pointed, and saw the
hideous misshapen figure of Pacolet, with his eyes fixed and glaring at
them through the smoke. He had stolen upon their conversation
unperceived, until the Factor's eye lighted upon him in the manner we
have described. There was something so ghastly in his sudden and
unexpected appearance, that even the Udaller, to whom his form was
familiar, could not help starting. Neither pleased with himself for
having testified this degree of emotion, however slight, nor with the
dwarf who had given cause to it, Magnus asked him sharply, what was his
business there? Pacolet replied by producing a letter, which he gave to
the Udaller, uttering a sound resembling the word _Shogh_.[28]

"That is the Highlandman's language," said the Udaller--"didst thou
learn that, Nicholas, when you lost your own?"

Pacolet nodded, and signed to him to read his letter.

"That is no such easy matter by fire-light, my good friend," replied the
Udaller; "but it may concern Minna, and we must try."

Brenda offered her assistance, but the Udaller answered, "No, no, my
girl,--Norna's letters must be read by those they are written to. Give
the knave, Strumpfer, a drop of brandy the while, though he little
deserves it at my hands, considering the grin with which he sent the
good Nantz down the crag this morning, as if it had been as much

"Will you be this honest gentleman's cup-bearer--his Ganymede, friend
Yellowley, or shall I?" said Claud Halcro aside to the Factor; while
Magnus Troil, having carefully wiped his spectacles, which he produced
from a large copper case, had disposed them on his nose, and was
studying the epistle of Norna.

"I would not touch him, or go near him, for all the Carse of Gowrie,"
said the Factor, whose fears were by no means entirely removed, though
he saw that the dwarf was received as a creature of flesh and blood by
the rest of the company; "but I pray you to ask him what he has done
with my horn of coins?"

The dwarf, who heard the question, threw back his head, and displayed
his enormous throat, pointing to it with his finger.

"Nay, if he has swallowed them, there is no more to be said," replied
the Factor; "only I hope he will thrive on them as a cow on wet clover.
He is dame Norna's servant it's like,--such man, such mistress! But if
theft and witchcraft are to go unpunished in this land, my lord must
find another factor; for I have been used to live in a country where
men's worldly gear was keepit from infang and outfang thief, as well as
their immortal souls from the claws of the deil and his cummers,--sain
and save us!"

The agriculturist was perhaps the less reserved in expressing his
complaints, that the Udaller was for the present out of hearing, having
drawn Claud Halcro apart into another corner of the hut.

"And tell me," said he, "friend Halcro, what errand took thee to
Sumburgh, since I reckon it was scarce the mere pleasure of sailing in
partnership with yonder barnacle?"

"In faith, Fowd," said the bard, "and if you will have the truth, I went
to speak to Norna on your affairs."

"On my affairs?" replied the Udaller; "on what affairs of mine?"

"Just touching your daughter's health. I heard that Norna refused your
message, and would not see Eric Scambester. Now, said I to myself, I
have scarce joyed in meat, or drink, or music, or aught else, since
Jarto Minna has been so ill; and I may say, literally as well as
figuratively, that my day and night have been made sorrowful to me. In
short, I thought I might have some more interest with old Norna than
another, as scalds and wise women were always accounted something akin;
and I undertook the journey with the hope to be of some use to my old
friend and his lovely daughter."

"And it was most kindly done of you, good warm-hearted Claud," said the
Udaller, shaking him warmly by the hand,--"I ever said you showed the
good old Norse heart amongst all thy fiddling and thy folly.--Tut, man,
never wince for the matter, but be blithe that thy heart is better than
thy head. Well,--and I warrant you got no answer from Norna?"

"None to purpose," replied Claud Halcro; "but she held me close to
question about Minna's illness, too,--and I told her how I had met her
abroad the other morning in no very good weather, and how her sister
Brenda said she had hurt her foot;--in short, I told her all and every
thing I knew."

"And something more besides, it would seem," said the Udaller; "for I,
at least, never heard before that Minna had hurt herself."

"O, a scratch! a mere scratch!" said the old man; "but I was startled
about it--terrified lest it had been the bite of a dog, or some hurt
from a venomous thing. I told all to Norna, however."

"And what," answered the Udaller, "did she say, in the way of reply?"

"She bade me begone about my business, and told me that the issue would
be known at the Kirkwall Fair; and said just the like to this noodle of
a Factor--it was all that either of us got for our labour," said Halcro.

"That is strange," said Magnus. "My kinswoman writes me in this letter
not to fail going thither with my daughters. This Fair runs strongly in
her head;--one would think she intended to lead the market, and yet she
has nothing to buy or to sell there that I know of. And so you came away
as wise as you went, and swamped your boat at the mouth of the voe?"

"Why, how could I help it?" said the poet. "I had set the boy to steer,
and as the flaw came suddenly off shore, I could not let go the
tack and play on the fiddle at the same time. But it is all well
enough,--salt-water never harmed Zetlander, so as he could get out of
it; and, as Heaven would have it, we were within man's depth of the
shore, and chancing to find this skio, we should have done well enough,
with shelter and fire, and are much better than well with your good
cheer and good company. But it wears late, and Night and Day must be
both as sleepy as old Midnight can make them. There is an inner crib
here, where the fishers slept,--somewhat fragrant with the smell of
their fish, but that is wholesome. They shall bestow themselves there,
with the help of what cloaks you have, and then we will have one cup of
brandy, and one stave of glorious John, or some little trifle of my own,
and so sleep as sound as cobblers."

"Two glasses of brandy, if you please," said the Udaller, "if our stores
do not run dry; but not a single stave of glorious John, or of any one
else to-night."

And this being arranged and executed agreeably to the peremptory
pleasure of the Udaller, the whole party consigned themselves to slumber
for the night, and on the next day departed for their several
habitations, Claud Halcro having previously arranged with the Udaller
that he would accompany him and his daughters on their proposed visit to


[23] _Jokul_, yes, sir; a Norse expression, still in common use.

[24] The Bicker of Saint Magnus, a vessel of enormous dimensions, was
preserved at Kirkwall, and presented to each bishop of the Orkneys. If
the new incumbent was able to quaff it out at one draught, which was a
task for Hercules or Rorie Mhor of Dunvegan, the omen boded a crop of
unusual fertility.

[25] Luggie, a famous conjurer, was wont, when storms prevented him from
going to his usual employment of fishing, to angle over a steep rock, at
the place called, from his name, Luggie's Knoll. At other times he drew
up dressed food while they were out at sea, of which his comrades
partook boldly from natural courage, without caring who stood cook. The
poor man was finally condemned and burnt at Scalloway.

[26] Note IV.--Antique Coins found in Zetland.

[27] Young unbroke horse.

[28] In Gaelic, _there_.


    "By this hand, thou think'st me as far in the devil's
    book as thou and Falstaff, for obduracy and persistency.
    Let the end try the man.... Albeit I could tell to thee,
    (as to one it pleases me, for fault of a better, to
    call my friend,) I could be sad, and sad indeed too."

                                       _Henry IV., Part 2d._

We must now change the scene from Zetland to Orkney, and request our
readers to accompany us to the ruins of an elegant, though ancient
structure, called the Earl's Palace. These remains, though much
dilapidated, still exist in the neighbourhood of the massive and
venerable pile, which Norwegian devotion dedicated to Saint Magnus the
Martyr, and, being contiguous to the Bishop's Palace, which is also
ruinous, the place is impressive, as exhibiting vestiges of the
mutations both in Church and State which have affected Orkney, as well
as countries more exposed to such convulsions. Several parts of these
ruinous buildings might be selected (under suitable modifications) as
the model of a Gothic mansion, provided architects would be contented
rather to imitate what is really beautiful in that species of building,
than to make a medley of the caprices of the order, confounding the
military, ecclesiastical, and domestic styles of all ages at random,
with additional fantasies and combinations of their own device, "all
formed out of the builder's brain."

The Earl's Palace forms three sides of an oblong square, and has, even
in its ruins, the air of an elegant yet massive structure, uniting, as
was usual in the residence of feudal princes, the character of a palace
and of a castle. A great banqueting-hall, communicating with several
large rounds, or projecting turret-rooms, and having at either end an
immense chimney, testifies the ancient Northern hospitality of the Earls
of Orkney, and communicates, almost in the modern fashion, with a
gallery, or withdrawing-room, of corresponding dimensions, and having,
like the hall, its projecting turrets. The lordly hall itself is lighted
by a fine Gothic window of shafted stone at one end, and is entered by a
spacious and elegant staircase, consisting of three flights of stone
steps. The exterior ornaments and proportions of the ancient building
are also very handsome; but, being totally unprotected, this remnant of
the pomp and grandeur of Earls, who assumed the license as well as the
dignity of petty sovereigns, is now fast crumbling to decay, and has
suffered considerably since the date of our story.

With folded arms and downcast looks the pirate Cleveland was pacing
slowly the ruined hall which we have just described; a place of
retirement which he had probably chosen because it was distant from
public resort. His dress was considerably altered from that which he
usually wore in Zetland, and seemed a sort of uniform, richly laced, and
exhibiting no small quantity of embroidery: a hat with a plume, and a
small sword very handsomely mounted, then the constant companion of
every one who assumed the rank of a gentleman, showed his pretensions to
that character. But if his exterior was so far improved, it seemed to be
otherwise with his health and spirits. He was pale, and had lost both
the fire of his eye and the vivacity of his step, and his whole
appearance indicated melancholy of mind, or suffering of body, or a
combination of both evils.

As Cleveland thus paced these ancient ruins, a young man, of a light and
slender form, whose showy dress seemed to have been studied with care,
yet exhibited more extravagance than judgment or taste, whose manner was
a janty affectation of the free and easy rake of the period, and the
expression of whose countenance was lively, with a cast of effrontery,
tripped up the staircase, entered the hall, and presented himself to
Cleveland, who merely nodded to him, and pulling his hat deeper over his
brows, resumed his solitary and discontented promenade.

The stranger adjusted his own hat, nodded in return, took snuff, with
the air of a _petit maitre_, from a richly chased gold box, offered it
to Cleveland as he passed, and being repulsed rather coldly, replaced
the box in his pocket, folded his arms in his turn, and stood looking
with fixed attention on his motions whose solitude he had interrupted.
At length Cleveland stopped short, as if impatient of being longer the
subject of his observation, and said abruptly, "Why can I not be left
alone for half an hour, and what the devil is it that you want?"

"I am glad you spoke first," answered the stranger, carelessly; "I was
determined to know whether you were Clement Cleveland, or Cleveland's
ghost, and they say ghosts never take the first word, so I now set it
down for yourself in life and limb; and here is a fine old hurly-house
you have found out for an owl to hide himself in at mid-day, or a ghost
to revisit the pale glimpses of the moon, as the divine Shakspeare

"Well, well," answered Cleveland, abruptly, "your jest is made, and now
let us have your earnest."

"In earnest, then, Captain Cleveland," replied his companion, "I think
you know me for your friend."

"I am content to suppose so," said Cleveland.

"It is more than supposition," replied the young man; "I have proved
it--proved it both here and elsewhere."

"Well, well," answered Cleveland, "I admit you have been always a
friendly fellow--and what then?"

"Well, well--and what then?" replied the other; "this is but a brief way
of thanking folk. Look you, Captain, here is Benson, Barlowe, Dick
Fletcher, and a few others of us who wished you well, have kept your old
comrade Captain Goffe in these seas upon the look-out for you, when he
and Hawkins, and the greater part of the ship's company, would fain have
been down on the Spanish Main, and at the old trade."

"And I wish to God that you had all gone about your business," said
Cleveland, "and left me to my fate."

"Which would have been to be informed against and hanged, Captain, the
first time that any of these Dutch or English rascals, whom you have
lightened of their cargoes, came to set their eyes upon you; and no
place more likely to meet with seafaring men, than in these Islands. And
here, to screen you from such a risk, we have been wasting our precious
time, till folk are grown very peery; and when we have no more goods or
money to spend amongst them, the fellows will be for grabbing the ship."

"Well, then, why do you not sail off without me?" said Cleveland--"there
has been fair partition, and all have had their share--let all do as
they like. I have lost my ship, and having been once a Captain, I will
not go to sea under command of Goffe or any other man. Besides, you know
well enough that both Hawkins and he bear me ill-will for keeping them
from sinking the Spanish brig, with the poor devils of negroes on

"Why, what the foul fiend is the matter with thee?" said his companion;
"are you Clement Cleveland, our own old true-hearted Clem of the Cleugh,
and do you talk of being afraid of Hawkins and Goffe, and a score of
such fellows, when you have myself, and Barlowe, and Dick Fletcher at
your back? When was it we deserted you, either in council or in fight,
that you should be afraid of our flinching now? And as for serving under
Goffe, I hope it is no new thing for gentlemen of fortune who are going
on the account, to change a Captain now and then? Let us alone for
that,--Captain you shall be; for death rock me asleep if I serve under
that fellow Goffe, who is as very a bloodhound as ever sucked
bitch!--No, no, I thank you--my Captain must have a little of the
gentleman about him, howsoever. Besides, you know, it was you who first
dipped my hands in the dirty water, and turned me from a stroller by
land, to a rover by sea."

"Alas, poor Bunce!" said Cleveland, "you owe me little thanks for that

"That is as you take it," replied Bunce; "for my part, I see no harm in
levying contributions on the public either one way or t'other. But I
wish you would forget that name of Bunce, and call me Altamont, as I
have often desired you to do. I hope a gentleman of the roving trade has
as good a right to have an alias as a stroller, and I never stepped on
the boards but what I was Altamont at the least."

"Well, then, Jack Altamont," replied Cleveland, "since Altamont is the

"Yes, but, Captain, _Jack_ is not the word, though Altamont be so. Jack
Altamont?--why, 'tis a velvet coat with paper lace--Let it be Frederick,
Captain; Frederick Altamont is all of a piece."

"Frederick be it, then, with all my heart," said Cleveland; "and pray
tell me, which of your names will sound best at the head of the Last
Speech, Confession, and Dying Words of John Bunce, _alias_ Frederick
Altamont, who was this morning hanged at Execution-dock, for the crime
of Piracy upon the High Seas?"

"Faith, I cannot answer that question, without another can of grog,
Captain; so if you will go down with me to Bet Haldane's on the quay, I
will bestow some thought on the matter, with the help of a right pipe of
Trinidado. We will have the gallon bowl filled with the best stuff you
ever tasted, and I know some smart wenches who will help us to drain it.
But you shake your head--you're not i' the vein?--Well, then, I will
stay with you; for by this hand, Clem, you shift me not off. Only I will
ferret you out of this burrow of old stones, and carry you into sunshine
and fair air.--Where shall we go?"

"Where you will," said Cleveland, "so that you keep out of the way of
our own rascals, and all others."

"Why, then," replied Bunce, "you and I will go up to the Hill of
Whitford, which overlooks the town, and walk together as gravely and
honestly as a pair of well-employed attorneys."

As they proceeded to leave the ruinous castle, Bunce, turning back to
look at it, thus addressed his companion:

"Hark ye, Captain, dost thou know who last inhabited this old cockloft?"

"An Earl of the Orkneys, they say," replied Cleveland.

"And are you avised what death he died of?" said Bunce; "for I have
heard that it was of a tight neck-collar--a hempen fever, or the like."

"The people here do say," replied Cleveland, "that his Lordship, some
hundred years ago, had the mishap to become acquainted with the nature
of a loop and a leap in the air."

"Why, la ye there now!" said Bunce; "there was some credit in being
hanged in those days, and in such worshipful company. And what might his
lordship have done to deserve such promotion?"

"Plundered the liege subjects, they say," replied Cleveland; "slain and
wounded them, fired upon his Majesty's flag, and so forth."

"Near akin to a gentleman rover, then," said Bunce, making a theatrical
bow towards the old building; "and, therefore, my most potent, grave,
and reverend Signior Earl, I crave leave to call you my loving cousin,
and bid you most heartily adieu. I leave you in the good company of rats
and mice, and so forth, and I carry with me an honest gentleman, who,
having of late had no more heart than a mouse, is now desirous to run
away from his profession and friends like a rat, and would therefore be
a most fitting denizen of your Earlship's palace."

"I would advise you not to speak so loud, my good friend Frederick
Altamont, or John Bunce," said Cleveland; "when you were on the stage,
you might safely rant as loud as you listed; but, in your present
profession, of which you are so fond, every man speaks under correction
of the yard-arm, and a running noose."

The comrades left the little town of Kirkwall in silence, and ascended
the Hill of Whitford, which raises its brow of dark heath, uninterrupted
by enclosures or cultivation of any kind, to the northward of the
ancient Burgh of Saint Magnus. The plain at the foot of the hill was
already occupied by numbers of persons who were engaged in making
preparations for the Fair of Saint Olla, to be held upon the ensuing
day, and which forms a general rendezvous to all the neighbouring
islands of Orkney, and is even frequented by many persons from the more
distant archipelago of Zetland. It is, in the words of the Proclamation,
"a free Mercat and Fair, holden at the good Burgh of Kirkwall on the
third of August, being Saint Olla's day," and continuing for an
indefinite space thereafter, extending from three days to a week, and
upwards. The fair is of great antiquity, and derives its name from
Olaus, Olave, Ollaw, the celebrated Monarch of Norway, who, rather by
the edge of his sword than any milder argument, introduced Christianity
into those isles, and was respected as the patron of Kirkwall some time
before he shared that honour with Saint Magnus the Martyr.

It was no part of Cleveland's purpose to mingle in the busy scene which
was here going on; and, turning their route to the left, they soon
ascended into undisturbed solitude, save where the grouse, more
plentiful in Orkney, perhaps, than in any other part of the British
dominions, rose in covey, and went off before them.[29] Having continued
to ascend till they had wellnigh reached the summit of the conical
hill, both turned round, as with one consent, to look at and admire the
prospect beneath.

The lively bustle which extended between the foot of the hill and the
town, gave life and variety to that part of the scene; then was seen the
town itself, out of which arose, like a great mass, superior in
proportion as it seemed to the whole burgh, the ancient Cathedral of
Saint Magnus, of the heaviest order of Gothic architecture, but grand,
solemn, and stately, the work of a distant age, and of a powerful hand.
The quay, with the shipping, lent additional vivacity to the scene; and
not only the whole beautiful bay, which lies betwixt the promontories of
Inganess and Quanterness, at the bottom of which Kirkwall is situated,
but all the sea, so far as visible, and in particular the whole strait
betwixt the island of Shapinsha and that called Pomona, or the Mainland,
was covered and enlivened by a variety of boats and small vessels,
freighted from distant islands to convey passengers or merchandise to
the Fair of Saint Olla.

Having attained the point by which this fair and busy prospect was most
completely commanded, each of the strangers, in seaman fashion, had
recourse to his spy-glass, to assist the naked eye in considering the
bay of Kirkwall, and the numerous vessels by which it was traversed. But
the attention of the two companions seemed to be arrested by different
objects. That of Bunce, or Altamont, as he chose to call himself, was
riveted to the armed sloop, where, conspicuous by her square rigging and
length of beam, with the English jack and pennon, which they had the
precaution to keep flying, she lay among the merchant vessels, as
distinguished from them by the trim neatness of her appearance, as a
trained soldier amongst a crowd of clowns.

"Yonder she lies," said Bunce; "I wish to God she was in the bay of
Honduras--you Captain, on the quarter-deck, I your lieutenant, and
Fletcher quarter-master, and fifty stout fellows under us--I should not
wish to see these blasted heaths and rocks again for a while!--And
Captain you shall soon be. The old brute Goffe gets drunk as a lord
every day, swaggers, and shoots, and cuts, among the crew; and, besides,
he has quarrelled with the people here so damnably, that they will
scarce let water or provisions go on board of us, and we expect an open
breach every day."

As Bunce received no answer, he turned short round on his companion,
and, perceiving his attention otherwise engaged, exclaimed,--"What the
devil is the matter with you? or what can you see in all that trumpery
small-craft, which is only loaded with stock-fish, and ling, and smoked
geese, and tubs of butter that is worse than tallow?--the cargoes of the
whole lumped together would not be worth the flash of a pistol.--No, no,
give me such a chase as we might see from the mast-head off the island
of Trinidado. Your Don, rolling as deep in the water as a grampus,
deep-loaden with rum, sugar, and bales of tobacco, and all the rest
ingots, moidores, and gold dust; then set all sail, clear the deck,
stand to quarters, up with the Jolly Roger[30]--we near her--we make
her out to be well manned and armed"----

"Twenty guns on her lower deck," said Cleveland.

"Forty, if you will," retorted Bunce, "and we have but ten
mounted--never mind. The Don blazes away--never mind yet, my brave
lads--run her alongside, and on board with you--to work, with your
grenadoes, your cutlasses, pole-axes, and pistols--The Don cries
Misericordia, and we share the cargo without _co licencio, Seignior_!"

"By my faith," said Cleveland, "thou takest so kindly to the trade, that
all the world may see that no honest man was spoiled when you were made
a pirate. But you shall not prevail on me to go farther in the devil's
road with you; for you know yourself that what is got over his back is
spent--you wot how. In a week, or a month at most, the rum and the sugar
are out, the bales of tobacco have become smoke, the moidores, ingots,
and gold dust, have got out of our hands, into those of the quiet,
honest, conscientious folks, who dwell at Port Royal and elsewhere--wink
hard on our trade as long as we have money, but not a jot beyond. Then
we have cold looks, and it may be a hint is given to the Judge Marshal;
for, when our pockets are worth nothing, our honest friends, rather than
want, will make money upon our heads. Then comes a high gallows and a
short halter, and so dies the Gentleman Rover. I tell thee, I will leave
this trade; and, when I turn my glass from one of these barks and boats
to another, there is not the worst of them which I would not row for
life, rather than continue to be what I have been. These poor men make
the sea a means of honest livelihood and friendly communication between
shore and shore, for the mutual benefit of the inhabitants; but we have
made it a road to the ruin of others, and to our own destruction here
and in eternity.--I am determined to turn honest man, and use this life
no longer!"

"And where will your honesty take up its abode, if it please you?" said
Bunce.--"You have broken the laws of every nation, and the hand of the
law will detect and crush you wherever you may take refuge.--Cleveland,
I speak to you more seriously than I am wont to do. I have had my
reflections, too; and they have been bad enough, though they lasted but
a few minutes, to spoil me weeks of joviality. But here is the
matter,--what can we do but go on as we have done, unless we have a
direct purpose of adorning the yard-arm?"

"We may claim the benefit of the proclamation to those of our sort who
come in and surrender," said Cleveland.

"Umph!" answered his companion, dryly; "the date of that day of grace
has been for some time over, and they may take the penalty or grant the
pardon at their pleasure. Were I you, I would not put my neck in such a

"Why, others have been admitted but lately to favour, and why should not
I?" said Cleveland.

"Ay," replied his associate, "Harry Glasby and some others have been
spared; but Glasby did what was called good service, in betraying his
comrades, and retaking the Jolly Fortune; and that I think you would
scorn, even to be revenged of the brute Goffe yonder."

"I would die a thousand times sooner," said Cleveland.

"I will be sworn for it," said Bunce; "and the others were forecastle
fellows--petty larceny rogues, scarce worth the hemp it would have cost
to hang them. But your name has stood too high amongst the gentlemen of
fortune for you to get off so easily. You are the prime buck of the
herd, and will be marked accordingly."

"And why so, I pray you?" said Cleveland; "you know well enough my aim,

"Frederick, if you please," said Bunce.

"The devil take your folly!--Prithee keep thy wit, and let us be grave
for a moment."

"For a moment--be it so," said Bunce; "but I feel the spirit of Altamont
coming fast upon me,--I have been a grave man for ten minutes already."

"Be so then for a little longer," said Cleveland; "I know, Jack, that
you really love me; and, since we have come thus far in this talk, I
will trust you entirely. Now tell me, why should I be refused the
benefit of this gracious proclamation? I have borne a rough outside, as
thou knowest; but, in time of need, I can show the numbers of lives
which I have been the means of saving, the property which I have
restored to those who owned it, when, without my intercession, it would
have been wantonly destroyed. In short, Bunce, I can show"----

"That you were as gentle a thief as Robin Hood himself," said Bunce;
"and, for that reason, I, Fletcher, and the better sort among us, love
you, as one who saves the character of us Gentlemen Rovers from utter
reprobation.--Well, suppose your pardon made out, what are you to do
next?--what class in society will receive you?--with whom will you
associate? Old Drake, in Queen Bess's time, could plunder Peru and
Mexico without a line of commission to show for it, and, blessed be her
memory! he was knighted for it on his return. And there was Hal Morgan,
the Welshman, nearer our time, in the days of merry King Charles,
brought all his gettings home, had his estate and his country-house, and
who but he? But that is all ended now--once a pirate, and an outcast for
ever. The poor devil may go and live, shunned and despised by every one,
in some obscure seaport, with such part of his guilty earnings as
courtiers and clerks leave him--for pardons do not pass the seals for
nothing;--and, when he takes his walk along the pier, if a stranger
asks, who is the down-looking, swarthy, melancholy man, for whom all
make way, as if he brought the plague in his person, the answer shall
be, that is such a one, the pardoned pirate!--No honest man will speak
to him, no woman of repute will give him her hand."

"Your picture is too highly coloured, Jack," said Cleveland, suddenly
interrupting his friend; "there are women--there is one at least, that
would be true to her lover, even if he were what you have described."

Bunce was silent for a space, and looked fixedly at his friend. "By my
soul!" he said, at length, "I begin to think myself a conjurer. Unlikely
as it all was, I could not help suspecting from the beginning that there
was a girl in the case. Why, this is worse than Prince Volscius in love,
ha! ha! ha!"

"Laugh as you will," said Cleveland, "it is true;--there is a maiden who
is contented to love me, pirate as I am; and I will fairly own to you,
Jack, that, though I have often at times detested our roving life, and
myself for following it, yet I doubt if I could have found resolution to
make the break which I have now resolved on, but for her sake."

"Why, then, God-a-mercy!" replied Bunce, "there is no speaking sense to
a madman; and love in one of our trade, Captain, is little better than
lunacy. The girl must be a rare creature, for a wise man to risk hanging
for her. But, harkye, may she not be a little touched, as well as
yourself?--and is it not sympathy that has done it? She cannot be one of
our ordinary cockatrices, but a girl of conduct and character."

"Both are as undoubted as that she is the most beautiful and bewitching
creature whom the eye ever opened upon," answered Cleveland.

"And she loves thee, knowing thee, most noble Captain, to be a commander
among those gentlemen of fortune, whom the vulgar call pirates?"

"Even so--I am assured of it," said Cleveland.

"Why, then," answered Bunce, "she is either mad in good earnest, as I
said before, or she does not know what a pirate is."

"You are right in the last point," replied Cleveland. "She has been bred
in such remote simplicity, and utter ignorance of what is evil, that she
compares our occupation with that of the old Norsemen, who swept sea and
haven with their victorious galleys, established colonies, conquered
countries, and took the name of Sea-Kings."

"And a better one it is than that of pirate, and comes much to the same
purpose, I dare say," said Bunce. "But this must be a mettled
wench!--why did you not bring her aboard? methinks it was pity to baulk
her fancy."

"And do you think," said Cleveland, "that I could so utterly play the
part of a fallen spirit as to avail myself of her enthusiastic error,
and bring an angel of beauty and innocence acquainted with such a hell
as exists on board of yonder infernal ship of ours?--I tell you, my
friend, that, were all my former sins doubled in weight and in dye, such
a villainy would have outglared and outweighed them all."

"Why, then, Captain Cleveland," said his confident, "methinks it was but
a fool's part to come hither at all. The news must one day have gone
abroad, that the celebrated pirate Captain Cleveland, with his good
sloop the Revenge, had been lost on the Mainland of Zetland, and all
hands perished; so you would have remained hid both from friend and
enemy, and might have married your pretty Zetlander, and converted your
sash and scarf into fishing-nets, and your cutlass into a harpoon, and
swept the seas for fish instead of florins."

"And so I had determined," said the Captain; "but a Jagger, as they call
them here, like a meddling, peddling thief as he is, brought down
intelligence to Zetland of your lying here, and I was fain to set off,
to see if you were the consort of whom I had told them, long before I
thought of leaving the roving trade."

"Ay," said Bunce, "and so far you judged well. For, as you had heard of
our being at Kirkwall, so we should have soon learned that you were at
Zetland; and some of us for friendship, some for hatred, and some for
fear of your playing Harry Glasby upon us, would have come down for the
purpose of getting you into our company again."

"I suspected as much," said the Captain, "and therefore was fain to
decline the courteous offer of a friend, who proposed to bring me here
about this time. Besides, Jack, I recollected, that, as you say, my
pardon will not pass the seals without money, my own was waxing low--no
wonder, thou knowest I was never a churl of it--And so"----

"And so you came for your share of the cobs?" replied his friend--"It
was wisely done; and we shared honourably--so far Goffe has acted up to
articles, it must be allowed. But keep your purpose of leaving him close
in your breast, for I dread his playing you some dog's trick or other;
for he certainly thought himself sure of your share, and will hardly
forgive your coming alive to disappoint him."

"I fear him not," said Cleveland, "and he knows that well. I would I
were as well clear of the consequences of having been his comrade, as I
hold myself to be of all those which may attend his ill-will. Another
unhappy job I may be troubled with--I hurt a young fellow, who has been
my plague for some time, in an unhappy brawl that chanced the morning I
left Zetland."

"Is he dead?" asked Bunce: "It is a more serious question here, than it
would be on the Grand Caimains or the Bahama Isles, where a brace or two
of fellows may be shot in a morning, and no more heard of, or asked
about them, than if they were so many wood-pigeons. But here it may be
otherwise; so I hope you have not made your friend immortal."

"I hope not," said the Captain, "though my anger has been fatal to those
who have given me less provocation. To say the truth, I was sorry for
the lad notwithstanding, and especially as I was forced to leave him in
mad keeping."

"In mad keeping?" said Bunce; "why, what means that?"

"You shall hear," replied his friend. "In the first place, you are to
know, this young man came suddenly on me while I was trying to gain
Minna's ear for a private interview before I set sail, that I might
explain my purpose to her. Now, to be broken in on by the accursed
rudeness of this young fellow at such a moment"----

"The interruption deserved death," said Bunce, "by all the laws of love
and honour!"

"A truce with your ends of plays, Jack, and listen one moment.--The
brisk youth thought proper to retort, when I commanded him to be gone. I
am not, thou knowest, very patient, and enforced my commands with a
blow, which he returned as roundly. We struggled, till I became desirous
that we should part at any rate, which I could only effect by a stroke
of my poniard, which, according to old use, I have, thou knowest, always
about me. I had scarce done this when I repented; but there was no time
to think of any thing save escape and concealment, for, if the house
rose on me, I was lost; as the fiery old man, who is head of the family,
would have done justice on me had I been his brother. I took the body
hastily on my shoulders to carry it down to the sea-shore, with the
purpose of throwing it into a _riva_, as they call them, or chasm of
great depth, where it would have been long enough in being discovered.
This done, I intended to jump into the boat which I had lying ready, and
set sail for Kirkwall. But, as I was walking hastily towards the beach
with my burden, the poor young fellow groaned, and so apprized me that
the wound had not been instantly fatal. I was by this time well
concealed amongst the rocks, and, far from desiring to complete my
crime, I laid the young man on the ground, and was doing what I could to
stanch the blood, when suddenly an old woman stood before me. She was a
person whom I had frequently seen while in Zetland, and to whom they
ascribe the character of a sorceress, or, as the negroes say, an Obi
woman. She demanded the wounded man of me, and I was too much pressed
for time to hesitate in complying with her request. More she was about
to say to me, when we heard the voice of a silly old man, belonging to
the family, singing at some distance. She then pressed her finger on her
lip as a sign of secrecy, whistled very low, and a shapeless, deformed
brute of a dwarf coming to her assistance, they carried the wounded man
into one of the caverns with which the place abounds, and I got to my
boat and to sea with all expedition. If that old hag be, as they say,
connected with the King of the Air, she favoured me that morning with a
turn of her calling; for not even the West Indian tornadoes, which we
have weathered together, made a wilder racket than the squall that drove
me so far out of our course, that, without a pocket-compass, which I
chanced to have about me, I should never have recovered the Fair Isle,
for which we run, and where I found a brig which brought me to this
place. But, whether the old woman meant me weal or woe, here we came at
length in safety from the sea, and here I remain in doubts and
difficulties of more kinds than one."

"O, the devil take the Sumburgh-head," said Bunce, "or whatever they
call the rock that you knocked our clever little Revenge against!"

"Do not say _I_ knocked her on the rock," said Cleveland; "have I not
told you fifty times, if the cowards had not taken to their boat, though
I showed them the danger, and told them they would all be swamped, which
happened the instant they cast off the painter, she would have been
afloat at this moment? Had they stood by me and the ship, their lives
would have been saved; had I gone with them, mine would have been lost;
who can say which is for the best?"

"Well," replied his friend, "I know your case now, and can the better
help and advise. I will be true to you, Clement, as the blade to the
hilt; but I cannot think that you should leave us. As the old Scottish
song says, 'Wae's my heart that we should sunder!'--But come, you will
aboard with us to-day, at any rate?"

"I have no other place of refuge," said Cleveland, with a sigh.

He then once more ran his eyes over the bay, directing his spy-glass
upon several of the vessels which traversed its surface, in hopes,
doubtless, of discerning the vessel of Magnus Troil, and then followed
his companion down the hill in silence.


[29] It is very curious that the grouse, plenty in Orkney as the text
declares, should be totally unknown in the neighbouring archipelago of
Zetland, which is only about sixty miles distance, with the Fair Isle as
a step between.

[30] The pirates gave this name to the black flag, which, with many
horrible devices to enhance its terrors, was their favourite ensign.


  I strive like to the vessel in the tide-way,
  Which, lacking favouring breeze, hath not the power
  To stem the powerful current.--Even so,
  Resolving daily to forsake my vices,
  Habits, strong circumstance, renew'd temptation,
  Sweep me to sea again.--O heavenly breath,
  Fill thou my sails, and aid the feeble vessel,
  Which ne'er can reach the blessed port without thee!

                                _'Tis Odds when Evens meet._

Cleveland, with his friend Bunce, descended the hill for a time in
silence, until at length the latter renewed their conversation.

"You have taken this fellow's wound more on your conscience than you
need, Captain--I have known you do more, and think less on't."

"Not on such slight provocation, Jack," replied Cleveland. "Besides, the
lad saved my life; and, say that I requited him the favour, still we
should not have met on such evil terms; but I trust that he may receive
aid from that woman, who has certainly strange skill in simples."

"And over simpletons, Captain," said his friend, "in which class I must
e'en put you down, if you think more on this subject. That you should be
made a fool of by a young woman, why it is many an honest man's
case;--but to puzzle your pate about the mummeries of an old one, is far
too great a folly to indulge a friend in. Talk to me of your Minna,
since you so call her, as much as you will; but you have no title to
trouble your faithful squire-errant with your old mumping magician. And
now here we are once more amongst the booths and tents, which these good
folk are pitching--let us look, and see whether we may not find some fun
and frolic amongst them. In merry England, now, you would have seen, on
such an occasion, two or three bands of strollers, as many fire-eaters
and conjurers, as many shows of wild beasts; but, amongst these grave
folk, there is nothing but what savours of business and of
commodity--no, not so much as a single squall from my merry gossip Punch
and his rib Joan."

As Bunce thus spoke, Cleveland cast his eyes on some very gay clothes,
which, with other articles, hung out upon one of the booths, that had a
good deal more of ornament and exterior decoration than the rest. There
was in front a small sign of canvass painted, announcing the variety of
goods which the owner of the booth, Bryce Snailsfoot, had on sale, and
the reasonable prices at which he proposed to offer them to the public.
For the further gratification of the spectator, the sign bore on the
opposite side an emblematic device, resembling our first parents in
their vegetable garments, with this legend--

  "Poor sinners whom the snake deceives,
  Are fain to cover them with leaves.
  Zetland hath no leaves, 'tis true,
  Because that trees are none, or few;
  But we have flax and taits of woo',
  For linen cloth and wadmaal blue;
  And we have many of foreign knacks
  Of finer waft, than woo' or flax.
  Ye gallanty Lambmas lads,[31] appear,
  And bring your Lambmas sisters here;
  Bryce Snailsfoot spares not cost or care,
  To pleasure every gentle pair."

While Cleveland was perusing these goodly rhymes, which brought to his
mind Claud Halcro, to whom, as the poet laureate of the island, ready
with his talent alike in the service of the great and small, they
probably owed their origin, the worthy proprietor of the booth, having
cast his eye upon him, began with hasty and trembling hand to remove
some of the garments, which, as the sale did not commence till the
ensuing day, he had exposed either for the purpose of airing them, or to
excite the admiration of the spectators.

"By my word, Captain," whispered Bunce to Cleveland, "you must have had
that fellow under your clutches one day, and he remembers one gripe of
your talons, and fears another. See how fast he is packing his wares out
of sight, so soon as he set eyes on you!"

"_His_ wares!" said Cleveland, on looking more attentively at his
proceedings; "By Heaven, they are my clothes which I left in a chest at
Jarlshof when the Revenge was lost there--Why, Bryce Snailsfoot, thou
thief, dog, and villain, what means this? Have you not made enough of us
by cheap buying and dear selling, that you have seized on my trunk and
wearing apparel?"

Bryce Snailsfoot, who probably would otherwise not have been willing to
_see_ his friend the Captain, was now by the vivacity of his attack
obliged to pay attention to him. He first whispered to his little
foot-page, by whom, as we have already noticed, he was usually attended,
"Run to the town-council-house, jarto, and tell the provost and bailies
they maun send some of their officers speedily, for here is like to be
wild wark in the fair."

So having said, and having seconded his commands by a push on the
shoulder of his messenger, which sent him spinning out of the shop as
fast as heels could carry him, Bryce Snailsfoot turned to his old
acquaintance, and, with that amplification of words and exaggeration of
manner, which in Scotland is called "making a phrase," he
ejaculated--"The Lord be gude to us! the worthy Captain Cleveland, that
we were all sae grieved about, returned to relieve our hearts again! Wat
have my cheeks been for you," (here Bryce wiped his eyes,) "and blithe
am I now to see you restored to your sorrowing friends!"

"My sorrowing friends, you rascal!" said Cleveland; "I will give you
better cause for sorrow than ever you had on my account, if you do not
tell me instantly where you stole all my clothes."

"Stole!" ejaculated Bryce, casting up his eyes; "now the Powers be gude
to us!--the poor gentleman has lost his reason in that weary gale of

"Why, you insolent rascal!" said Cleveland, grasping the cane which he
carried, "do you think to bamboozle me with your impudence? As you would
have a whole head on your shoulders, and your bones in a whole skin, one
minute longer, tell me where the devil you stole my wearing apparel?"

Bryce Snailsfoot ejaculated once more a repetition of the word "Stole!
Now Heaven be gude to us!" but at the same time, conscious that the
Captain was likely to be sudden in execution, cast an anxious look to
the town, to see the loitering aid of the civil power advance to his

"I insist on an instant answer," said the Captain, with upraised weapon,
"or else I will beat you to a mummy, and throw out all your frippery
upon the common!"

Meanwhile, Master John Bunce, who considered the whole affair as an
excellent good jest, and not the worse one that it made Cleveland very
angry, seized hold of the Captain's arm, and, without any idea of
ultimately preventing him from executing his threats, interfered just so
much as was necessary to protract a discussion so amusing.

"Nay, let the honest man speak," he said, "messmate; he has as fine a
cozening face as ever stood on a knavish pair of shoulders, and his are
the true flourishes of eloquence, in the course of which men snip the
cloth an inch too short. Now, I wish you to consider that you are both
of a trade,--he measures bales by the yard, and you by the sword,--and
so I will not have him chopped up till he has had a fair chase."

"You are a fool!" said Cleveland, endeavouring to shake his friend
off.--"Let me go! for, by Heaven, I will be foul of him!"

"Hold him fast," said the pedlar, "good dear merry gentleman, hold him

"Then say something for yourself," said Bunce; "use your gob-box, man;
patter away, or, by my soul, I will let him loose on you!"

"He says I stole these goods," said Bryce, who now saw himself run so
close, that pleading to the charge became inevitable. "Now, how could I
steal them, when they are mine by fair and lawful purchase?"

"Purchase! you beggarly vagrant!" said Cleveland; "from whom did you
dare to buy my clothes? or who had the impudence to sell them?"

"Just that worthy professor Mrs. Swertha, the housekeeper at Jarlshof,
who acted as your executor," said the pedlar; "and a grieved heart she

"And so she was resolved to make a heavy pocket of it, I suppose," said
the Captain; "but how did she dare to sell the things left in her

"Why, she acted all for the best, good woman!" said the pedlar, anxious
to protract the discussion until the arrival of succours; "and, if you
will but hear reason, I am ready to account with you for the chest and
all that it holds."

"Speak out, then, and let us have none of thy damnable evasions," said
Captain Cleveland; "if you show ever so little purpose of being somewhat
honest for once in thy life, I will not beat thee."

"Why, you see, noble Captain," said the pedlar,--and then muttered to
himself, "plague on Pate Paterson's cripple knee, they will be waiting
for him, hirpling useless body!" then resumed aloud--"The country, you
see, is in great perplexity,--great perplexity, indeed,--much
perplexity, truly. There was your honour missing, that was loved by
great and small--clean missing--nowhere to be heard of--a lost

"You shall find me alive to your cost, you scoundrel!" said the
irritated Captain.

"Weel, but take patience,--ye will not hear a body speak," said the
Jagger.--"Then there was the lad Mordaunt Mertoun"----

"Ha!" said the Captain, "what of him?"

"Cannot be heard of," said the pedlar; "clean and clear tint,--a gone
youth;--fallen, it is thought, from the craig into the sea--he was aye
venturous. I have had dealings with him for furs and feathers, whilk he
swapped against powder and shot, and the like; and now he has worn out
from among us--clean retired--utterly vanished, like the last puff of an
auld wife's tobacco pipe."

"But what is all this to the Captain's clothes, my dear friend?" said
Bunce; "I must presently beat you myself unless you come to the point."

"Weel, weel,--patience, patience," said Bryce, waving his hand; "you
will get all time enough. Weel, there are two folks gane, as I said,
forbye the distress at Burgh-Westra about Mistress Minna's sad

"Bring not _her_ into your buffoonery, sirrah," said Cleveland, in a
tone of anger, not so loud, but far deeper and more concentrated than he
had hitherto used; "for, if you name her with less than reverence, I
will crop the ears out of your head, and make you swallow them on the

"He, he, he!" faintly laughed the Jagger; "that were a pleasant jest!
you are pleased to be witty. But, to say naething of Burgh-Westra, there
is the carle at Jarlshof, he that was the auld Mertoun, Mordaunt's
father, whom men thought as fast bound to the place he dwelt in as the
Sumburgh-head itsell, naething maun serve him but he is lost as weel as
the lave about whom I have spoken. And there's Magnus Troil (wi' favour
be he named) taking horse; and there is pleasant Maister Claud Halcro
taking boat, whilk he steers worst of any man in Zetland, his head
running on rambling rhymes; and the Factor body is on the stir--the
Scots Factor,--him that is aye speaking of dikes and delving, and such
unprofitable wark, which has naething of merchandise in it, and he is on
the lang trot, too; so that ye might say, upon a manner, the tae half of
the Mainland of Zetland is lost, and the other is running to and fro
seeking it--awfu' times!"

Captain Cleveland had subdued his passion, and listened to this tirade
of the worthy man of merchandise, with impatience indeed, yet not
without the hope of hearing something that might concern him. But his
companion was now become impatient in his turn:--"The clothes!" he
exclaimed, "the clothes, the clothes, the clothes!" accompanying each
repetition of the words with a flourish of his cane, the dexterity of
which consisted in coming mighty near the Jagger's ears without actually
touching them.

The Jagger, shrinking from each of these demonstrations, continued to
exclaim, "Nay, sir--good sir--worthy sir--for the clothes--I found the
worthy dame in great distress on account of her old maister, and on
account of her young maister, and on account of worthy Captain
Cleveland; and because of the distress of the worthy Fowd's family, and
the trouble of the great Fowd himself,--and because of the Factor, and
in respect of Claud Halcro, and on other accounts and respects. Also we
mingled our sorrows and our tears with a bottle, as the holy text hath
it, and called in the Ranzelman to our council, a worthy man, Niel
Ronaldson by name, who hath a good reputation."

Here another flourish of the cane came so very near that it partly
touched his ear. The Jagger started back, and the truth, or that which
he desired should be considered as such, bolted from him without more
circumlocution; as a cork, after much unnecessary buzzing and fizzing,
springs forth from a bottle of spruce beer.

"In brief, what the deil mair would you have of it?--the woman sold me
the kist of clothes--they are mine by purchase, and that is what I will
live and die upon."

"In other words," said Cleveland, "this greedy old hag had the impudence
to sell what was none of hers; and you, honest Bryce Snailsfoot, had the
assurance to be the purchaser?"

"Ou dear, Captain," said the conscientious pedlar, "what wad ye hae had
twa poor folk to do? There was yoursell gane that aught the things, and
Maister Mordaunt was gane that had them in keeping, and the things were
but damply put up, where they were rotting with moth and mould, and"----

"And so this old thief sold them, and you bought them, I suppose, just
to keep them from spoiling?" said Cleveland.

"Weel then," said the merchant, "I'm thinking, noble Captain, that wad
be just the gate of it."

"Well then, hark ye, you impudent scoundrel," said the Captain. "I do
not wish to dirty my fingers with you, or to make any disturbance in
this place"----

"Good reason for that, Captain--aha!" said the Jagger, slyly.

"I will break your bones if you speak another word," replied Cleveland.
"Take notice--I offer you fair terms--give me back the black leathern
pocket-book with the lock upon it, and the purse with the doubloons,
with some few of the clothes I want, and keep the rest in the devil's

"Doubloons!!!"--exclaimed the Jagger, with an exaltation of voice
intended to indicate the utmost extremity of surprise,--"What do I ken
of doubloons? my dealing was for doublets, and not for doubloons--If
there were doubloons in the kist, doubtless Swertha will have them in
safe keeping for your honour--the damp wouldna harm the gold, ye ken."

"Give me back my pocket-book and my goods, you rascally thief," said
Cleveland, "or without a word more I will beat your brains out!"

The wily Jagger, casting eye around him, saw that succour was near, in
the shape of a party of officers, six in number; for several rencontres
with the crew of the pirate had taught the magistrates of Kirkwall to
strengthen their police parties when these strangers were in question.

"Ye had better keep the _thief_ to suit yoursell, honoured Captain,"
said the Jagger, emboldened by the approach of the civil power; "for wha
kens how a' these fine goods and bonny-dies were come by?"

This was uttered with such provoking slyness of look and tone, that
Cleveland made no further delay, but, seizing upon the Jagger by the
collar, dragged him over his temporary counter, which was, with all the
goods displayed thereon, overset in the scuffle; and, holding him with
one hand, inflicted on him with the other a severe beating with his
cane. All this was done so suddenly and with such energy, that Bryce
Snailsfoot, though rather a stout man, was totally surprised by the
vivacity of the attack, and made scarce any other effort at extricating
himself than by roaring for assistance like a bull-calf. The "loitering
aid" having at length come up, the officers made an effort to seize on
Cleveland, and by their united exertions succeeded in compelling him to
quit hold of the pedlar, in order to defend himself from their assault.
This he did with infinite strength, resolution, and dexterity, being at
the same time well seconded by his friend Jack Bunce, who had seen with
glee the drubbing sustained by the pedlar, and now combated tightly to
save his companion from the consequences. But, as there had been for
some time a growing feud between the townspeople and the crew of the
Rover, the former, provoked by the insolent deportment of the seamen,
had resolved to stand by each other, and to aid the civil power upon
such occasions of riot as should occur in future; and so many assistants
came up to the rescue of the constables, that Cleveland, after fighting
most manfully, was at length brought to the ground and made prisoner.
His more fortunate companion had escaped by speed of foot, as soon as he
saw that the day must needs be determined against them.

The proud heart of Cleveland, which, even in its perversion, had in its
feelings something of original nobleness, was like to burst, when he
felt himself borne down in this unworthy brawl--dragged into the town as
a prisoner, and hurried through the streets towards the Council-house,
where the magistrates of the burgh were then seated in council. The
probability of imprisonment, with all its consequences, rushed also upon
his mind, and he cursed an hundred times the folly which had not rather
submitted to the pedlar's knavery, than involved him in so perilous an

But just as they approached the door of the Council-house, which is
situated in the middle of the little town, the face of matters was
suddenly changed by a new and unexpected incident.

Bunce, who had designed, by his precipitate retreat, to serve as well
his friend as himself, had hied him to the haven, where the boat of the
Rover was then lying, and called the cockswain and boat's crew to the
assistance of Cleveland. They now appeared on the scene--fierce
desperadoes, as became their calling, with features bronzed by the
tropical sun under which they had pursued it. They rushed at once
amongst the crowd, laying about them with their stretchers; and, forcing
their way up to Cleveland, speedily delivered him from the hands of the
officers, who were totally unprepared to resist an attack so furious and
so sudden, and carried him off in triumph towards the quay,--two or
three of their number facing about from time to time to keep back the
crowd, whose efforts to recover the prisoner were the less violent, that
most of the seamen were armed with pistols and cutlasses, as well as
with the less lethal weapons which alone they had as yet made use of.

They gained their boat in safety, and jumped into it, carrying along
with them Cleveland, to whom circumstances seemed to offer no other
refuge, and pushed off for their vessel, singing in chorus to their oars
an old ditty, of which the natives of Kirkwall could only hear the first

  "Robin Rover
    Said to his crew,
  'Up with the black flag,
    Down with the blue!--
  Fire on the main-top,
    Fire on the bow,
  Fire on the gun-deck,
    Fire down below!'"

The wild chorus of their voices was heard long after the words ceased to
be intelligible.--And thus was the pirate Cleveland again thrown almost
involuntarily amongst those desperate associates, from whom he had so
often resolved to detach himself.


[31] It was anciently a custom at Saint Olla's Fair at Kirkwall, that
the young people of the lower class, and of either sex, associated in
pairs for the period of the Fair, during which the couple were termed
Lambmas brother and sister. It is easy to conceive that the exclusive
familiarity arising out of this custom was liable to abuse, the rather
that it is said little scandal was attached to the indiscretions which
it occasioned.


  Parental love, my friend, has power o'er wisdom,
  And is the charm, which, like the falconer's lure,
  Can bring from heaven the highest soaring spirits.--
  So, when famed Prosper doff'd his magic robe,
  It was Miranda pluck'd it from his shoulders.

                                                 _Old Play._

Our wandering narrative must now return to Mordaunt Mertoun.--We left
him in the perilous condition of one who has received a severe wound,
and we now find him in the condition of a convalescent--pale, indeed,
and feeble from the loss of much blood, and the effects of a fever which
had followed the injury, but so far fortunate, that the weapon, having
glanced on the ribs, had only occasioned a great effusion of blood,
without touching any vital part, and was now wellnigh healed; so
efficacious were the vulnerary plants and salves with which it had been
treated by the sage Norna of Fitful-head.

The matron and her patient now sat together in a dwelling in a remote
island. He had been transported, during his illness, and ere he had
perfect consciousness, first to her singular habitation near
Fitful-head, and thence to her present abode, by one of the
fishing-boats on the station of Burgh-Westra. For such was the command
possessed by Norna over the superstitious character of her countrymen,
that she never failed to find faithful agents to execute her commands,
whatever these happened to be; and, as her orders were generally given
under injunctions of the strictest secrecy, men reciprocally wondered at
occurrences, which had in fact been produced by their own agency, and
that of their neighbours, and in which, had they communicated freely
with each other, no shadow of the marvellous would have remained.

Mordaunt was now seated by the fire, in an apartment indifferently well
furnished, having a book in his hand, which he looked upon from time to
time with signs of ennui and impatience; feelings which at length so far
overcame him, that, flinging the volume on the table, he fixed his eyes
on the fire, and assumed the attitude of one who is engaged in
unpleasant meditation.

Norna, who sat opposite to him, and appeared busy in the composition of
some drug or unguent, anxiously left her seat, and, approaching
Mordaunt, felt his pulse, making at the same time the most affectionate
enquiries whether he felt any sudden pain, and where it was seated. The
manner in which Mordaunt replied to these earnest enquiries, although
worded so as to express gratitude for her kindness, while he disclaimed
any feeling of indisposition, did not seem to give satisfaction to the

"Ungrateful boy!" she said, "for whom I have done so much; you whom I
have rescued, by my power and skill, from the very gates of death,--are
you already so weary of me, that you cannot refrain from showing how
desirous you are to spend, at a distance from me, the very first
intelligent days of the life which I have restored you?"

"You do me injustice, my kind preserver," replied Mordaunt; "I am not
tired of your society; but I have duties which recall me to ordinary

"Duties!" repeated Norna; "and what duties can or ought to interfere
with the gratitude which you owe to me?--Duties! Your thoughts are on
the use of your gun, or on clambering among the rocks in quest of
sea-fowl. For these exercises your strength doth not yet fit you; and
yet these are the duties to which you are so anxious to return!"

"Not so, my good and kind mistress," said Mordaunt.--"To name one duty,
out of many, which makes me seek to leave you, now that my strength
permits, let me mention that of a son to his father."

"To your father!" said Norna, with a laugh that had something in it
almost frantic. "O! you know not how we can, in these islands, at once
cancel such duties! And, for your father," she added, proceeding more
calmly, "what has he done for you, to deserve the regard and duty you
speak of?--Is he not the same, who, as you have long since told me, left
you for so many years poorly nourished among strangers, without
enquiring whether you were alive or dead, and only sending, from time to
time, supplies in such fashion, as men relieve the leprous wretch to
whom they fling alms from a distance? And, in these later years, when he
had made you the companion of his misery, he has been, by starts your
pedagogue, by starts your tormentor, but never, Mordaunt, never your

"Something of truth there is in what you say," replied Mordaunt: "My
father is not fond; but he is, and has ever been, effectively kind. Men
have not their affections in their power; and it is a child's duty to be
grateful for the benefits which he receives, even when coldly bestowed.
My father has conferred instruction on me, and I am convinced he loves
me. He is unfortunate; and, even if he loved me not"----

"And he does _not_ love you," said Norna, hastily; "he never loved any
thing, or any one, save himself. He is unfortunate, but well are his
misfortunes deserved.--O Mordaunt, you have one parent only,--one
parent, who loves you as the drops of the heart-blood!"

"I know I have but one parent," replied Mordaunt; "my mother has been
long dead.--But your words contradict each other."

"They do not--they do not," said Norna, in a paroxysm of the deepest
feeling; "you have but one parent. Your unhappy mother is not dead--I
would to God that she were!--but she is not dead. Thy mother is the only
parent that loves thee; and I--I, Mordaunt," throwing herself on his
neck, "am that most unhappy--yet most happy mother."

She closed him in a strict and convulsive embrace; and tears, the first,
perhaps, which she had shed for many years, burst in torrents as she
sobbed on his neck. Astonished at what he heard, felt, and saw,--moved
by the excess of her agitation, yet disposed to ascribe this burst of
passion to insanity,--Mordaunt vainly endeavoured to tranquillize the
mind of this extraordinary person.

"Ungrateful boy!" she said, "who but a mother would have watched over
thee as I have watched? From the instant I saw thy father, when he
little thought by whom he was observed, a space now many years back, I
knew him well; and, under his charge, I saw you, then a
stripling,--while Nature, speaking loud in my bosom, assured me, thou
wert blood of my blood, and bone of my bone. Think how often you have
wondered to see me, when least expected, in your places of pastime and
resort! Think how often my eye has watched you on the giddy precipices,
and muttered those charms which subdue the evil demons, who show
themselves to the climber on the giddiest point of his path, and force
him to quit his hold! Did I not hang around thy neck, in pledge of thy
safety, that chain of gold, which an Elfin King gave to the founder of
our race? Would I have given that dear gift to any but to the son of my
bosom?--Mordaunt, my power has done that for thee that a mere mortal
mother would dread to think of. I have conjured the Mermaid at midnight,
that thy bark might be prosperous on the Haaf! I have hushed the winds,
and navies have flapped their empty sails against the mast in
inactivity, that you might safely indulge your sport upon the crags!"

Mordaunt, perceiving that she was growing yet wilder in her talk,
endeavoured to frame an answer which should be at once indulgent,
soothing, and calculated to allay the rising warmth of her imagination.

"Dear Norna," he said, "I have indeed many reasons to call you mother,
who have bestowed so many benefits upon me; and from me you shall ever
receive the affection and duty of a child. But the chain you mentioned,
it has vanished from my neck--I have not seen it since the ruffian
stabbed me."

"Alas! and can you think of it at this moment?" said Norna, in a
sorrowful accent.--"But be it so;--and know, it was I took it from thy
neck, and tied it around the neck of her who is dearest to you; in token
that the union betwixt you, which has been the only earthly wish which
I have had the power to form, shall yet, even yet, be accomplished--ay,
although hell should open to forbid the bans!"

"Alas!" said Mordaunt, with a sigh, "you remember not the difference
betwixt our situation--her father is wealthy, and of ancient birth."

"Not more wealthy than will be the heir of Norna of Fitful-head,"
answered the Pythoness--"not of better or more ancient blood than that
which flows in thy veins, derived from thy mother, the descendant of the
same Jarls and Sea-Kings from whom Magnus boasts his origin.--Or dost
thou think, like the pedant and fanatic strangers who have come amongst
us, that thy blood is dishonoured because my union with thy father did
not receive the sanction of a priest?--Know, that we were wedded after
the ancient manner of the Norse--our hands were clasped within the
circle of Odin,[32] with such deep vows of eternal fidelity, as even the
laws of these usurping Scots would have sanctioned as equivalent to a
blessing before the altar. To the offspring of such a union, Magnus has
nought to object. It was weak--it was criminal, on my part, but it
conveyed no infamy to the birth of my son."

The composed and collected manner in which Norna argued these points
began to impose upon Mordaunt an incipient belief in the truth of what
she said; and, indeed, she added so many circumstances, satisfactorily
and rationally connected with each other, as seemed to confute the
notion that her story was altogether the delusion of that insanity which
sometimes showed itself in her speech and actions. A thousand confused
ideas rushed upon him, when he supposed it possible that the unhappy
person before him might actually have a right to claim from him the
respect and affection due to a parent from a son. He could only surmount
them by turning his mind to a different, and scarce less interesting
topic, resolving within himself to take time for farther enquiry and
mature consideration, ere he either rejected or admitted the claim which
Norna preferred upon his affection and duty. His benefactress, at least,
she undoubtedly was, and he could not err in paying her, as such, the
respect and attention due from a son to a mother; and so far, therefore,
he might gratify Norna without otherwise standing committed.

"And do you then really think, my mother,--since so you bid me term
you,"--said Mordaunt, "that the proud Magnus Troil may, by any
inducement, be prevailed upon to relinquish the angry feelings which he
has of late adopted towards me, and to permit my addresses to his
daughter Brenda?"

"Brenda?" repeated Norna--"who talks of Brenda?--it was of Minna that I
spoke to you."

"But it was of Brenda that I thought," replied Mordaunt, "of her that I
now think, and of her alone that I will ever think."

"Impossible, my son!" replied Norna. "You cannot be so dull of heart, so
poor of spirit, as to prefer the idle mirth and housewife simplicity of
the younger sister, to the deep feeling and high mind of the
noble-spirited Minna? Who would stoop to gather the lowly violet, that
might have the rose for stretching out his hand?"

"Some think the lowliest flowers are the sweetest," replied Mordaunt,
"and in that faith will I live and die."

"You dare not tell me so!" answered Norna, fiercely; then, instantly
changing her tone, and taking his hand in the most affectionate manner,
she proceeded:--"You must not--you will not tell me so, my dear son--you
will not break a mother's heart in the very first hour in which she has
embraced her child!--Nay, do not answer, but hear me. You must wed
Minna--I have bound around her neck a fatal amulet, on which the
happiness of both depends. The labours of my life have for years had
this direction. Thus it must be, and not otherwise--Minna must be the
bride of my son!"

"But is not Brenda equally near, equally dear to you?" replied Mordaunt.

"As near in blood," said Norna, "but not so dear, no not half so dear,
in affection. Minna's mild, yet high and contemplative spirit, renders
her a companion meet for one, whose ways, like mine, are beyond the
ordinary paths of this world. Brenda is a thing of common and ordinary
life, an idle laugher and scoffer, who would level art with ignorance,
and reduce power to weakness, by disbelieving and turning into ridicule
whatever is beyond the grasp of her own shallow intellect."

"She is, indeed," answered Mordaunt, "neither superstitious nor
enthusiastic, and I love her the better for it. Remember also, my
mother, that she returns my affection, and that Minna, if she loves any
one, loves the stranger Cleveland."

"She does not--she dares not," answered Norna, "nor dares he pursue her
farther. I told him, when first he came to Burgh-Westra, that I destined
her for you."

"And to that rash annunciation," said Mordaunt, "I owe this man's
persevering enmity--my wound, and wellnigh the loss of my life. See, my
mother, to what point your intrigues have already conducted us, and, in
Heaven's name, prosecute them no farther!"

It seemed as if this reproach struck Norna with the force, at once, and
vivacity of lightning; for she struck her forehead with her hand, and
seemed about to drop from her seat. Mordaunt, greatly shocked, hastened
to catch her in his arms, and, though scarce knowing what to say,
attempted to utter some incoherent expressions.

"Spare me, Heaven, spare me!" were the first words which she muttered;
"do not let my crime be avenged by his means!--Yes, young man," she
said, after a pause, "you have dared to tell what I dared not tell
myself. You have pressed that upon me, which, if it be truth, I cannot
believe, and yet continue to live!"

Mordaunt in vain endeavoured to interrupt her with protestations of his
ignorance how he had offended or grieved her, and of his extreme regret
that he had unintentionally done either. She proceeded, while her voice
trembled wildly, with vehemence.

"Yes! you have touched on that dark suspicion which poisons the
consciousness of my power,--the sole boon which was given me in exchange
for innocence and for peace of mind! Your voice joins that of the demon
which, even while the elements confess me their mistress, whispers to
me, 'Norna, this is but delusion--your power rests but in the idle
belief of the ignorant, supported by a thousand petty artifices of your
own.'--This is what Brenda says--this is what you would say; and false,
scandalously false, as it is, there are rebellious thoughts in this wild
brain of mine," (touching her forehead with her finger as she spoke,)
"that, like an insurrection in an invaded country, arise to take part
against their distressed sovereign.--Spare me, my son!" she continued in
a voice of supplication, "spare me!--the sovereignty of which your words
would deprive me, is no enviable exaltation. Few would covet to rule
over gibbering ghosts, and howling winds, and raging currents. My throne
is a cloud, my sceptre a meteor, my realm is only peopled with
fantasies; but I must either cease to be, or continue to be the
mightiest as well as the most miserable of beings!"[33]

"Do not speak thus mournfully, my dear and unhappy benefactress," said
Mordaunt, much affected; "I will think of your power whatever you would
have me believe. But, for your own sake, view the matter otherwise. Turn
your thoughts from such agitating and mystical studies--from such wild
subjects of contemplation, into another and a better channel. Life will
again have charms, and religion will have comforts, for you."

She listened to him with some composure, as if she weighed his counsel,
and desired to be guided by it; but, as he ended, she shook her head and

"It cannot be. I must remain the dreaded--the mystical--the
Reimkennar--the controller of the elements, or I must be no more! I have
no alternative, no middle station. My post must be high on yon lofty
headland, where never stood human foot save mine--or I must sleep at the
bottom of the unfathomable ocean, its white billows booming over my
senseless corpse. The parricide shall never also be denounced as the

"The parricide!" echoed Mordaunt, stepping back in horror.

"Yes, my son!" answered Norna, with a stern composure, even more
frightful than her former impetuosity, "within these fatal walls my
father met his death by my means. In yonder chamber was he found a livid
and lifeless corpse. Beware of filial disobedience, for such are its

So saying, she arose and left the apartment, where Mordaunt remained
alone to meditate at leisure upon the extraordinary communication which
he had received. He himself had been taught by his father a disbelief in
the ordinary superstitions of Zetland; and he now saw that Norna,
however ingenious in duping others, could not altogether impose on
herself. This was a strong circumstance in favour of her sanity of
intellect; but, on the other hand, her imputing to herself the guilt of
parricide seemed so wild and improbable, as, in Mordaunt's opinion, to
throw much doubt upon her other assertions.

He had leisure enough to make up his mind on these particulars, for no
one approached the solitary dwelling, of which Norna, her dwarf, and he
himself, were the sole inhabitants. The Hoy island in which it stood is
rude, bold, and lofty, consisting entirely of three hills--or rather one
huge mountain divided into three summits, with the chasms, rents, and
valleys, which descend from its summit to the sea, while its crest,
rising to great height, and shivered into rocks which seem almost
inaccessible, intercepts the mists as they drive from the Atlantic,
and, often obscured from the human eye, forms the dark and unmolested
retreat of hawks, eagles, and other birds of prey.[34]

The soil of the island is wet, mossy, cold, and unproductive, presenting
a sterile and desolate appearance, excepting where the sides of small
rivulets, or mountain ravines, are fringed with dwarf bushes of birch,
hazel, and wild currant, some of them so tall as to be denominated
trees, in that bleak and bare country.

But the view of the sea-beach, which was Mordaunt's favourite walk, when
his convalescent state began to permit him to take exercise, had charms
which compensated the wild appearance of the interior. A broad and
beautiful sound, or strait, divides this lonely and mountainous island
from Pomona, and in the centre of that sound lies, like a tablet
composed of emerald, the beautiful and verdant little island of Græmsay.
On the distant Mainland is seen the town or village of Stromness, the
excellence of whose haven is generally evinced by a considerable number
of shipping in the roadstead, and, from the bay growing narrower, and
lessening as it recedes, runs inland into Pomona, where its tide fills
the fine sheet of water called the Loch of Stennis.

On this beach Mordaunt was wont to wander for hours, with an eye not
insensible to the beauties of the view, though his thoughts were
agitated with the most embarrassing meditations on his own situation. He
was resolved to leave the island as soon as the establishment of his
health should permit him to travel; yet gratitude to Norna, of whom he
was at least the adopted, if not the real son, would not allow him to
depart without her permission, even if he could obtain means of
conveyance, of which he saw little possibility. It was only by
importunity that he extorted from his hostess a promise, that, if he
would consent to regulate his motions according to her directions, she
would herself convey him to the capital of the Orkney Islands, when the
approaching Fair of Saint Olla should take place there.


[32] See an explanation of this promise, Note II. of this volume.

[33] Note V.--Character of Norna.

[34] Note VI.--Birds of Prey.


  Hark to the insult loud, the bitter sneer,
  The fierce threat answering to the brutal jeer;
  Oaths fly like pistol-shots, and vengeful words
  Clash with each other like conflicting swords--
  The robber's quarrel by such sounds is shown,
  And true men have some chance to gain their own.

                                        _Captivity, a Poem._

When Cleveland, borne off in triumph from his assailants in Kirkwall,
found himself once more on board the pirate-vessel, his arrival was
hailed with hearty cheers by a considerable part of the crew, who rushed
to shake hands with him, and offer their congratulations on his return;
for the situation of a Buccanier Captain raised him very little above
the level of the lowest of his crew, who, in all social intercourse,
claimed the privilege of being his equal.

When his faction, for so these clamorous friends might be termed, had
expressed their own greetings, they hurried Cleveland forward to the
stern, where Goffe, their present commander, was seated on a gun,
listening in a sullen and discontented mood to the shout which announced
Cleveland's welcome. He was a man betwixt forty and fifty, rather under
the middle size, but so very strongly made, that his crew used to
compare him to a sixty-four cut down. Black-haired, bull-necked, and
beetle-browed, his clumsy strength and ferocious countenance contrasted
strongly with the manly figure and open countenance of Cleveland, in
which even the practice of his atrocious profession had not been able to
eradicate a natural grace of motion and generosity of expression. The
two piratical Captains looked upon each other for some time in silence,
while the partisans of each gathered around him. The elder part of the
crew were the principal adherents of Goffe, while the young fellows,
among whom Jack Bunce was a principal leader and agitator, were in
general attached to Cleveland.

At length Goffe broke silence.--"You are welcome aboard, Captain
Cleveland.--Smash my taffrail! I suppose you think yourself commodore
yet! but that was over, by G--, when you lost your ship, and be

And here, once for all, we may take notice, that it was the gracious
custom of this commander to mix his words and oaths in nearly equal
proportions, which he was wont to call _shotting_ his discourse. As we
delight not, however, in the discharge of such artillery, we shall only
indicate by a space like this ---- the places in which these expletives
occurred; and thus, if the reader will pardon a very poor pun, we will
reduce Captain Goffe's volley of sharp-shot into an explosion of blank
cartridges. To his insinuations that he was come on board to assume the
chief command, Cleveland replied, that he neither desired, nor would
accept, any such promotion, but would only ask Captain Goffe for a cast
of the boat, to put him ashore in one of the other islands, as he had no
wish either to command Goffe, or to remain in a vessel under his orders.

"And why not under my orders, brother?" demanded Goffe, very austerely;
"-- -- -- are you too good a man, -- -- -- with your cheese-toaster and
your jib there, -- -- to serve under my orders, and be d----d to you,
where there are so many gentlemen that are elder and better seamen than

"I wonder which of these capital seamen it was," said Cleveland, coolly,
"that laid the ship under the fire of yon six-gun battery, that could
blow her out of the water, if they had a mind, before you could either
cut or slip? Elder and better sailors than I may like to serve under
such a lubber, but I beg to be excused for my own share, Captain--that's
all I have got to tell you."

"By G--, I think you are both mad!" said Hawkins the boatswain--"a
meeting with sword and pistol may be devilish good fun in its way, when
no better is to be had; but who the devil that had common sense, amongst
a set of gentlemen in our condition, would fall a quarrelling with each
other, to let these duck-winged, web-footed islanders have a chance of
knocking us all upon the head?"

"Well said, old Hawkins!" observed Derrick the quarter-master, who was
an officer of very considerable importance among these rovers; "I say,
if the two captains won't agree to live together quietly, and club both
heart and head to defend the vessel, why, d----n me, depose them both,
say I, and choose another in their stead!"

"Meaning yourself, I suppose, Master Quarter-Master!" said Jack Bunce;
"but that cock won't fight. He that is to command gentlemen, should be a
gentleman himself, I think; and I give my vote for Captain Cleveland, as
spirited and as gentleman-like a man as ever daffed the world aside, and
bid it pass!"

"What! _you_ call yourself a gentleman, I warrant!" retorted Derrick;
"why, ---- your eyes! a tailor would make a better out of the worst suit
of rags in your strolling wardrobe!--It is a shame for men of spirit to
have such a Jack-a-dandy scarecrow on board!"

Jack Bunce was so incensed at these base comparisons, that without more
ado, he laid his hand on his sword. The carpenter, however, and
boatswain, interfered, the former brandishing his broad axe, and
swearing he would put the skull of the first who should strike a blow
past clouting, and the latter reminding them, that, by their articles,
all quarrelling, striking, or more especially fighting, on board, was
strictly prohibited; and that, if any gentleman had a quarrel to settle,
they were to go ashore, and decide it with cutlass and pistol in
presence of two of their messmates.

"I have no quarrel with any one, -- -- --!" said Goffe, sullenly;
"Captain Cleveland has wandered about among the islands here, amusing
himself, -- -- --! and we have wasted our time and property in waiting
for him, when we might have been adding twenty or thirty thousand
dollars to the stock-purse. However, if it pleases the rest of the
gentlemen-adventurers, -- -- --! why, I shall not grumble about it."

"I propose," said the boatswain, "that there should be a general council
called in the great cabin, according to our articles, that we may
consider what course we are to hold in this matter."

A general assent followed the boatswain's proposal; for every one found
his own account in these general councils, in which each of the rovers
had a free vote. By far the greater part of the crew only valued this
franchise, as it allowed them, upon such solemn occasions, an unlimited
quantity of liquor--a right which they failed not to exercise to the
uttermost, by way of aiding their deliberations. But a few amongst the
adventurers, who united some degree of judgment with the daring and
profligate character of their profession, were wont, at such periods, to
limit themselves within the bounds of comparative sobriety, and by
these, under the apparent form of a vote of the general council, all
things of moment relating to the voyage and undertakings of the pirates
were in fact determined. The rest of the crew, when they recovered from
their intoxication, were easily persuaded that the resolution adopted
had been the legitimate effort of the combined wisdom of the whole

Upon the present occasion the debauch had proceeded until the greater
part of the crew were, as usual, displaying inebriation in all its most
brutal and disgraceful shapes--swearing empty and unmeaning
oaths--venting the most horrid imprecations in the mere gaiety of their
heart--singing songs, the ribaldry of which was only equalled by their
profaneness; and, from the middle of this earthly hell, the two
captains, together with one or two of their principal adherents, as also
the carpenter and boatswain, who always took a lead on such occasions,
had drawn together into a pandemonium, or privy council of their own, to
consider what was to be done; for, as the boatswain metaphorically
observed, they were in a narrow channel, and behoved to keep sounding
the tide-way.

When they began their consultations, the friends of Goffe remarked, to
their great displeasure, that he had not observed the wholesome rule to
which we have just alluded; but that, in endeavouring to drown his
mortification at the sudden appearance of Cleveland, and the reception
he met with from the crew, the elder Captain had not been able to do so
without overflowing his reason at the same time. His natural sullen
taciturnity had prevented this from being observed until the council
began its deliberations, when it proved impossible to hide it.

The first person who spoke was Cleveland, who said, that, so far from
wishing the command of the vessel, he desired no favour at any one's
hand, except to land him upon some island or holm at a distance from
Kirkwall, and leave him to shift for himself.

The boatswain remonstrated strongly against this resolution. "The lads,"
he said, "all knew Cleveland, and could trust his seamanship, as well as
his courage; besides, he never let the grog get quite uppermost, and was
always in proper trim, either to sail the ship, or to fight the ship,
whereby she was never without some one to keep her course when he was on
board.--And as for the noble Captain Goffe," continued the mediator, "he
is as stout a heart as ever broke biscuit, and that I will uphold him;
but then, when he has his grog aboard--I speak to his face--he is so
d----d funny with his cranks and his jests, that there is no living with
him. You all remember how nigh he had run the ship on that cursed Horse
of Copinsha, as they call it, just by way of frolic; and then you know
how he fired off his pistol under the table, when we were at the great
council, and shot Jack Jenkins in the knee, and cost the poor devil his
leg, with his pleasantry."[35]

"Jack Jenkins was not a chip the worse," said the carpenter; "I took the
leg off with my saw as well as any loblolly-boy in the land could have
done--heated my broad axe, and seared the stump--ay, by ----! and made a
jury-leg that he shambles about with as well as ever he did--for Jack
could never cut a feather."[36]

"You are a clever fellow, carpenter," replied the boatswain, "a d----d
clever fellow! but I had rather you tried your saw and red-hot axe upon
the ship's knee-timbers than on mine, sink me!--But that here is not the
case--The question is, if we shall part with Captain Cleveland here, who
is a man of thought and action, whereby it is my belief it would be
heaving the pilot overboard when the gale is blowing on a lee-shore.
And, I must say, it is not the part of a true heart to leave his mates,
who have been here waiting for him till they have missed stays. Our
water is wellnigh out, and we have junketed till provisions are low with
us. We cannot sail without provisions--we cannot get provisions without
the good-will of the Kirkwall folks. If we remain here longer, the
Halcyon frigate will be down upon us--she was seen off Peterhead two
days since,--and we shall hang up at the yard-arm to be sun-dried. Now,
Captain Cleveland will get us out of the hobble, if any can. He can play
the gentleman with these Kirkwall folks, and knows how to deal with them
on fair terms, and foul, too, if there be occasion for it."

"And so you would turn honest Captain Goffe a-grazing, would ye?" said
an old weatherbeaten pirate, who had but one eye; "what though he has
his humours, and made my eye dowse the glim in his fancies and frolics,
he is as honest a man as ever walked a quarter-deck, for all that; and
d----n me but I stand by him so long as t'other lantern is lit!"

"Why, you would not hear me out," said Hawkins; "a man might as well
talk to so many negers!--I tell you, I propose that Cleveland shall only
be Captain from one, _post meridiem_, to five _a. m._, during which time
Goffe is always drunk."

The Captain of whom he last spoke gave sufficient proof of the truth of
his words, by uttering an inarticulate growl, and attempting to present
a pistol at the mediator Hawkins.

"Why, look ye now!" said Derrick, "there is all the sense he has, to get
drunk on council-day, like one of these poor silly fellows!"

"Ay," said Bunce, "drunk as Davy's sow, in the face of the field, the
fray, and the senate!"

"But, nevertheless," continued Derrick, "it will never do to have two
captains in the same day. I think week about might suit better--and let
Cleveland take the first turn."

"There are as good here as any of them," said Hawkins; "howsomdever, I
object nothing to Captain Cleveland, and I think he may help us into
deep water as well as another."

"Ay," exclaimed Bunce, "and a better figure he will make at bringing
these Kirkwallers to order than his sober predecessor!--So Captain
Cleveland for ever!"


"Stop, gentlemen," said Cleveland, who had hitherto been silent; "I
hope you will not choose me Captain without my own consent?"

"Ay, by the blue vault of heaven will we," said Bunce, "if it be _pro
bono publico_!"

"But hear me, at least," said Cleveland--"I do consent to take command
of the vessel, since you wish it, and because I see you will ill get out
of the scrape without me."

"Why, then, I say, Cleveland for ever, again!" shouted Bunce.

"Be quiet, prithee, dear Bunce!--honest Altamont!" said Cleveland.--"I
undertake the business on this condition; that, when I have got the ship
cleared for her voyage, with provisions, and so forth, you will be
content to restore Captain Goffe to the command, as I said before, and
put me ashore somewhere, to shift for myself--You will then be sure it
is impossible I can betray you, since I will remain with you to the last

"Ay, and after the last moment, too, by the blue vault! or I mistake the
matter," muttered Bunce to himself.

The matter was now put to the vote; and so confident were the crew in
Cleveland's superior address and management, that the temporary
deposition of Goffe found little resistance even among his own
partisans, who reasonably enough observed, "he might at least have kept
sober to look after his own business--E'en let him put it to rights
again himself next morning, if he will."

But when the next morning came, the drunken part of the crew, being
informed of the issue of the deliberations of the council, to which they
were virtually held to have assented, showed such a superior sense of
Cleveland's merits, that Goffe, sulky and malecontent as he was, judged
it wisest for the present to suppress his feelings of resentment, until
a safer opportunity for suffering them to explode, and to submit to the
degradation which so frequently took place among a piratical crew.

Cleveland, on his part, resolved to take upon him, with spirit and
without loss of time, the task of extricating his ship's company from
their perilous situation. For this purpose, he ordered the boat, with
the purpose of going ashore in person, carrying with him twelve of the
stoutest and best men of the crew, all very handsomely appointed, (for
the success of their nefarious profession had enabled the pirates to
assume nearly as gay dresses as their officers,) and above all, each man
being sufficiently armed with cutlass and pistols, and several having
pole-axes and poniards.

Cleveland himself was gallantly attired in a blue coat, lined with
crimson silk, and laced with gold very richly, crimson damask waistcoat
and breeches, a velvet cap, richly embroidered, with a white feather,
white silk stockings, and red-heeled shoes, which were the extremity of
finery among the gallants of the day. He had a gold chain several times
folded round his neck, which sustained a whistle of the same metal, the
ensign of his authority. Above all, he wore a decoration peculiar to
those daring depredators, who, besides one, or perhaps two brace of
pistols at their belt, had usually two additional brace, of the finest
mounting and workmanship, suspended over their shoulders in a sort of
sling or scarf of crimson ribbon. The hilt and mounting of the Captain's
sword corresponded in value to the rest of his appointments, and his
natural good mien was so well adapted to the whole equipment, that,
when he appeared on deck, he was received with a general shout by the
crew, who, as in other popular societies, judged a great deal by the

Cleveland took with him in the boat, amongst others, his predecessor in
office, Goffe, who was also very richly dressed, but who, not having the
advantage of such an exterior as Cleveland's, looked like a boorish
clown in the dress of a courtier, or rather like a vulgar-faced footpad
decked in the spoils of some one whom he has murdered, and whose claim
to the property of his garments is rendered doubtful in the eyes of all
who look upon him, by the mixture of awkwardness, remorse, cruelty, and
insolence, which clouds his countenance. Cleveland probably chose to
take Goffe ashore with him, to prevent his having any opportunity,
during his absence, to debauch the crew from their allegiance. In this
guise they left the ship, and, singing to their oars, while the water
foamed higher at the chorus, soon reached the quay of Kirkwall.

The command of the vessel was in the meantime intrusted to Bunce, upon
whose allegiance Cleveland knew that he might perfectly depend, and, in
a private conversation with him of some length, he gave him directions
how to act in such emergencies as might occur.

These arrangements being made, and Bunce having been repeatedly charged
to stand upon his guard alike against the adherents of Goffe and any
attempt from the shore, the boat put off. As she approached the harbour,
Cleveland displayed a white flag, and could observe that their
appearance seemed to occasion a good deal of bustle and alarm. People
were seen running to and fro, and some of them appeared to be getting
under arms. The battery was manned hastily, and the English colours
displayed. These were alarming symptoms, the rather that Cleveland knew,
that, though there were no artillerymen in Kirkwall, yet there were many
sailors perfectly competent to the management of great guns, and willing
enough to undertake such service in case of need.

Noting these hostile preparations with a heedful eye, but suffering
nothing like doubt or anxiety to appear on his countenance, Cleveland
ran the boat right for the quay, on which several people, armed with
muskets, rifles, and fowlingpieces, and others with half-pikes and
whaling-knives, were now assembled, as if to oppose his landing.
Apparently, however, they had not positively determined what measures
they were to pursue; for, when the boat reached the quay, those
immediately opposite bore back, and suffered Cleveland and his party to
leap ashore without hinderance. They immediately drew up on the quay,
except two, who, as their Captain had commanded, remained in the boat,
which they put off to a little distance; a man[oe]uvre which, while it
placed the boat (the only one belonging to the sloop) out of danger of
being seized, indicated a sort of careless confidence in Cleveland and
his party, which was calculated to intimidate their opponents.

The Kirkwallers, however, showed the old Northern blood, put a manly
face upon the matter, and stood upon the quay, with their arms
shouldered, directly opposite to the rovers, and blocking up against
them the street which leads to the town.

Cleveland was the first who spoke, as the parties stood thus looking
upon each other.--"How is this, gentlemen burghers?" he said; "are you
Orkney folks turned Highlandmen, that you are all under arms so early
this morning; or have you manned the quay to give me the honour of a
salute, upon taking the command of my ship?"

The burghers looked on each other, and one of them replied to
Cleveland--"We do not know who you are; it was that other man," pointing
to Goffe, "who used to come ashore as Captain."

"That other gentleman is my mate, and commands in my absence," said
Cleveland;--"but what is that to the purpose? I wish to speak with your
Lord Mayor, or whatever you call him."

"The Provost is sitting in council with the Magistrates," answered the

"So much the better," replied Cleveland.--"Where do their Worships

"In the Council-house," answered the other.

"Then make way for us, gentlemen, if you please, for my people and I are
going there."

There was a whisper among the townspeople; but several were unresolved
upon engaging in a desperate, and perhaps an unnecessary conflict, with
desperate men; and the more determined citizens formed the hasty
reflection that the strangers might be more easily mastered in the
house, or perhaps in the narrow streets which they had to traverse, than
when they stood drawn up and prepared for battle upon the quay. They
suffered them, therefore, to proceed unmolested; and Cleveland, moving
very slowly, keeping his people close together, suffering no one to
press upon the flanks of his little detachment, and making four men, who
constituted his rear-guard, turn round and face to the rear from time to
time, rendered it, by his caution, a very dangerous task to make any
attempt upon them.

In this manner they ascended the narrow street and reached the
Council-house, where the Magistrates were actually sitting, as the
citizen had informed Cleveland. Here the inhabitants began to press
forward, with the purpose of mingling with the pirates, and availing
themselves of the crowd in the narrow entrance, to secure as many as
they could, without allowing them room for the free use of their
weapons. But this also had Cleveland foreseen, and, ere entering the
council-room, he caused the entrance to be cleared and secured,
commanding four of his men to face down the street, and as many to
confront the crowd who were thrusting each other from above. The
burghers recoiled back from the ferocious, swarthy, and sunburnt
countenances, as well as the levelled arms of these desperadoes, and
Cleveland, with the rest of his party, entered the council-room, where
the Magistrates were sitting in council, with very little attendance.
These gentlemen were thus separated effectually from the citizens, who
looked to them for orders, and were perhaps more completely at the mercy
of Cleveland, than he, with his little handful of men, could be said to
be at that of the multitude by whom they were surrounded.

The Magistrates seemed sensible of their danger; for they looked upon
each other in some confusion, when Cleveland thus addressed them:--

"Good morrow, gentlemen,--I hope there is no unkindness betwixt us. I am
come to talk with you about getting supplies for my ship yonder in the
roadstead--we cannot sail without them."

"Your ship, sir?" said the Provost, who was a man of sense and
spirit,--"how do we know that you are her Captain?"

"Look at me," said Cleveland, "and you will, I think, scarce ask the
question again."

The Magistrate looked at Kim, and accordingly did not think proper to
pursue that part of the enquiry, but proceeded to say--"And if you are
her Captain, whence comes she, and where is she bound for? You look too
much like a man-of-war's man to be master of a trader, and we know that
you do not belong to the British navy."

"There are more men-of-war on the sea than sail under the British flag,"
replied Cleveland; "but say that I were commander of a free-trader here,
willing to exchange tobacco, brandy, gin, and such like, for cured fish
and hides, why, I do not think I deserve so very bad usage from the
merchants of Kirkwall as to deny me provisions for my money?"

"Look you, Captain," said the Town-clerk, "it is not that we are so very
strait-laced neither--for, when gentlemen of your cloth come this way,
it is as weel, as I tauld the Provost, just to do as the collier did
when he met the devil,--and that is, to have naething to say to them, if
they have naething to say to us;--and there is the gentleman," pointing
to Goffe, "that was Captain before you, and may be Captain after
you,"--("The cuckold speaks truth in that," muttered Goffe,)--"he knows
well how handsomely we entertained him, till he and his men took upon
them to run through the town like hellicat devils.--I see one of them
there!--that was the very fellow that stopped my servant-wench on the
street, as she carried the lantern home before me, and insulted her
before my face!"

"If it please your noble Mayorship's honour and glory," said Derrick,
the fellow at whom the Town-clerk pointed, "it was not I that brought
to the bit of a tender that carried the lantern in the poop--it was
quite a different sort of a person."

"Who was it, then, sir?" said the Provost.

"Why, please your majesty's worship," said Derrick, making several sea
bows, and describing as nearly as he could, the exterior of the worthy
Magistrate himself, "he was an elderly gentleman,--Dutch-built, round in
the stern, with a white wig and a red nose--very like your majesty, I
think;" then, turning to a comrade, he added, "Jack, don't you think the
fellow that wanted to kiss the pretty girl with the lantern t'other
night, was very like his worship?"

"By G--, Tom Derrick," answered the party appealed to, "I believe it is
the very man!"

"This is insolence which we can make you repent of, gentlemen!" said the
Magistrate, justly irritated at their effrontery; "you have behaved in
this town, as if you were in an Indian village at Madagascar. You
yourself, Captain, if captain you be, were at the head of another riot,
no longer since than yesterday. We will give you no provisions till we
know better whom we are supplying. And do not think to bully us; when I
shake this handkerchief out at the window, which is at my elbow, your
ship goes to the bottom. Remember she lies under the guns of our

"And how many of these guns are honeycombed, Mr. Mayor?" said Cleveland.
He put the question by chance; but instantly perceived, from a sort of
confusion which the Provost in vain endeavoured to hide, that the
artillery of Kirkwall was not in the best order. "Come, come, Mr.
Mayor," he said, "bullying will go down with us as little as with you.
Your guns yonder will do more harm to the poor old sailors who are to
work them than to our sloop; and if we bring a broadside to bear on the
town, why, your wives' crockery will be in some danger. And then to talk
to us of seamen being a little frolicsome ashore, why, when are they
otherwise? You have the Greenland whalers playing the devil among you
every now and then; and the very Dutchmen cut capers in the streets of
Kirkwall, like porpoises before a gale of wind. I am told you are a man
of sense, and I am sure you and I could settle this matter in the course
of a five-minutes' palaver."

"Well, sir," said the Provost, "I will hear what you have to say, if you
will walk this way."

Cleveland accordingly followed him into a small interior apartment, and,
when there, addressed the Provost thus: "I will lay aside my pistols,
sir, if you are afraid of them."

"D----n your pistols!" answered the Provost, "I have served the King,
and fear the smell of powder as little as you do!"

"So much the better," said Cleveland, "for you will hear me the more
coolly.--Now, sir, let us be what perhaps you suspect us, or let us be
any thing else, what, in the name of Heaven, can you get by keeping us
here, but blows and bloodshed? For which, believe me, we are much better
provided than you can pretend to be. The point is a plain one--you are
desirous to be rid of us--we are desirous to be gone. Let us have the
means of departure, and we leave you instantly."

"Look ye, Captain," said the Provost, "I thirst for no man's blood. You
are a pretty fellow, as there were many among the buccaniers in my
time--but there is no harm in wishing you a better trade. You should
have the stores and welcome, for your money, so you would make these
seas clear of you. But then, here lies the rub. The Halcyon frigate is
expected here in these parts immediately; when she hears of you she will
be at you; for there is nothing the white lapelle loves better than a
rover--you are seldom without a cargo of dollars. Well, he comes down,
gets you under his stern"----

"Blows us into the air, if you please," said Cleveland.

"Nay, that must be as _you_ please, Captain," said the Provost; "but
then, what is to come of the good town of Kirkwall, that has been
packing and peeling with the King's enemies? The burgh will be laid
under a round fine, and it may be that the Provost may not come off so

"Well, then," said Cleveland, "I see where your pinch lies. Now, suppose
that I run round this island of yours, and get into the roadstead at
Stromness? We could get what we want put on board there, without
Kirkwall or the Provost seeming to have any hand in it; or, if it should
be ever questioned, your want of force, and our superior strength, will
make a sufficient apology."

"That may be," said the Provost; "but if I suffer you to leave your
present station, and go elsewhere, I must have some security that you
will not do harm to the country."

"And we," said Cleveland, "must have some security on our side, that you
will not detain us, by dribbling out our time till the Halcyon is on the
coast. Now, I am myself perfectly willing to continue on shore as a
hostage, on the one side, provided you will give me your word not to
betray me, and send some magistrate, or person of consequence, aboard
the sloop, where his safety will be a guarantee for mine."

The Provost shook his head, and intimated it would be difficult to find
a person willing to place himself as hostage in such a perilous
condition; but said he would propose the arrangement to such of the
council as were fit to be trusted with a matter of such weight.


[35] This was really an exploit of the celebrated Avery the pirate, who
suddenly, and without provocation, fired his pistols under the table
where he sat drinking with his messmates, wounded one man severely, and
thought the matter a good jest. What is still more extraordinary, his
crew regarded it in the same light.

[36] A ship going fast through the sea is said to cut a feather,
alluding to the ripple which she throws off from her bows.


  "I left my poor plough to go ploughing the deep!"


When the Provost and Cleveland had returned into the public
council-room, the former retired a second time with such of his brethren
as he thought proper to advise with; and, while they were engaged in
discussing Cleveland's proposal, refreshments were offered to him and
his party. These the Captain permitted his people to partake of, but
with the greatest precaution against surprisal, one party relieving the
guard, whilst the others were at their food.

He himself, in the meanwhile, walked up and down the apartment, and
conversed upon indifferent subjects with those present, like a person
quite at his ease.

Amongst these individuals he saw, somewhat to his surprise, Triptolemus
Yellowley, who, chancing to be at Kirkwall, had been summoned by the
Magistrates, as representative, in a certain degree, of the Lord
Chamberlain, to attend council on this occasion. Cleveland immediately
renewed the acquaintance which he had formed with the agriculturist at
Burgh-Westra, and asked him his present business in Orkney.

"Just to look after some of my little plans, Captain Cleveland. I am
weary of fighting with wild beasts at Ephesus yonder, and I just cam
ower to see how my orchard was thriving, whilk I had planted four or
five miles from Kirkwall, it may be a year bygane, and how the bees were
thriving, whereof I had imported nine skeps, for the improvement of the
country, and for the turning of the heather-bloom into wax and honey."

"And they thrive, I hope?" said Cleveland, who, however little
interested in the matter, sustained the conversation, as if to break the
chilly and embarrassed silence which hung upon the company assembled.

"Thrive!" replied Triptolemus; "they thrive like every thing else in
this country, and that is the backward way."

"Want of care, I suppose?" said Cleveland.

"The contrary, sir, quite and clean the contrary," replied the Factor;
"they died of ower muckle care, like Lucky Christie's chickens.--I asked
to see the skeps, and cunning and joyful did the fallow look who was to
have taken care of them--'Had there been ony body in charge but mysell,'
he said, 'ye might have seen the skeps, or whatever you ca' them; but
there wad hae been as mony solan-geese as flees in them, if it hadna
been for my four quarters; for I watched them so closely, that I saw
them a' creeping out at the little holes one sunny morning, and if I had
not stopped the leak on the instant with a bit clay, the deil a bee, or
flee, or whatever they are, would have been left in the skeps, as ye ca'
them!'--In a word, sir, he had clagged up the hives, as if the puir
things had had the pestilence, and my bees were as dead as if they had
been smeaked--and so ends my hope, _generandi gloria mellis_, as
Virgilius hath it."

"There is an end of your mead, then," replied Cleveland; "but what is
your chance of cider?--How does the orchard thrive?"

"O Captain! this same Solomon of the Orcadian Ophir--I am sure no man
need to send thither to fetch either talents of gold or talents of
sense!--I say, this wise man had watered the young apple-trees, in his
great tenderness, with hot water, and they are perished, root and
branch! But what avails grieving?--And I wish you would tell me,
instead, what is all the din that these good folks are making about
pirates? and what for all these ill-looking men, that are armed like so
mony Highlandmen, assembled in the judgment-chamber?--for I am just come
from the other side of the island, and I have heard nothing distinct
about it.--And, now I look at you yoursell, Captain, I think you have
mair of these foolish pistolets about you than should suffice an honest
man in quiet times?"

"And so I think, too," said the pacific Triton, old Haagen, who had been
an unwilling follower of the daring Montrose; "if you had been in the
Glen of Edderachyllis, when we were sae sair worried by Sir John

"You have forgot the whole matter, neighbour Haagen," said the Factor;
"Sir John Urry was on your side, and was ta'en with Montrose; by the
same token, he lost his head."

"Did he?" said the Triton.--"I believe you may be right; for he changed
sides mair than anes, and wha kens whilk he died for?--But always he was
there, and so was I;--a fight there was, and I never wish to see

The entrance of the Provost here interrupted their desultory
conversation.--"We have determined," he said, "Captain, that your ship
shall go round to Stromness, or Scalpa-flow, to take in stores, in order
that there may be no more quarrels between the Fair folks and your
seamen. And as you wish to stay on shore to see the Fair, we intend to
send a respectable gentleman on board your vessel to pilot her round the
Mainland, as the navigation is but ticklish."

"Spoken like a quiet and sensible magistrate, Mr. Mayor," said
Cleveland, "and no otherwise than as I expected.--And what gentleman is
to honour our quarter-deck during my absence?"

"We have fixed that, too, Captain Cleveland," said the Provost; "you may
be sure we were each more desirous than another to go upon so pleasant a
voyage, and in such good company; but being Fair time, most of us have
some affairs in hand--I myself, in respect of my office, cannot be well
spared--the eldest Bailie's wife is lying-in--the Treasurer does not
agree with the sea--two Bailies have the gout--the other two are absent
from town--and the other fifteen members of council are all engaged on
particular business."

"All that I can tell you, Mr. Mayor," said Cleveland, raising his voice,
"is, that I expect"----

"A moment's patience, if you please, Captain," said the Provost,
interrupting him--"So that we have come to the resolution that our
worthy Mr. Triptolemus Yellowley, who is Factor to the Lord Chamberlain
of these islands, shall, in respect of his official situation, be
preferred to the honour and pleasure of accompanying you."

"Me!" said the astonished Triptolemus; "what the devil should I do going
on your voyages?--my business is on dry land!"

"The gentlemen want a pilot," said the Provost, whispering to him, "and
there is no eviting to give them one."

"Do they want to go bump on shore, then?" said the Factor--"how the
devil should I pilot them, that never touched rudder in my life?"

"Hush!--hush!--be silent!" said the Provost; "if the people of this town
heard ye say such a word, your utility, and respect, and rank, and every
thing else, is clean gone!--No man is any thing with us island folks,
unless he can hand, reef, and steer.--Besides, it is but a mere form;
and we will send old Pate Sinclair to help you. You will have nothing to
do but to eat, drink, and be merry all day."

"Eat and drink!" said the Factor, not able to comprehend exactly why
this piece of duty was pressed upon him so hastily, and yet not very
capable of resisting or extricating himself from the toils of the more
knowing Provost--"Eat and drink?--that is all very well; but, to speak
truth, the sea does not agree with me any more than with the Treasurer;
and I have always a better appetite for eating and drinking ashore."

"Hush! hush! hush!" again said the Provost, in an under tone of earnest
expostulation; "would you actually ruin your character out and out?--A
Factor of the High Chamberlain of the Isles of Orkney and Zetland, and
not like the sea!--you might as well say you are a Highlander, and do
not like whisky!"

"You must settle it somehow, gentlemen," said Captain Cleveland; "it is
time we were under weigh.--Mr. Triptolemus Yellowley, are we to be
honoured with your company?"

"I am sure, Captain Cleveland," stammered the Factor, "I would have no
objection to go anywhere with you--only"----

"He has no objection," said the Provost, catching at the first limb of
the sentence, without awaiting the conclusion.

"He has no objection," cried the Treasurer.

"He has no objection," sung out the whole four Bailies together;
and the fifteen Councillors, all catching up the same phrase of
assent, repeated it in chorus, with the additions of--"good
man"--"public-spirited"--"honourable gentleman"--"burgh eternally
obliged"--"where will you find such a worthy Factor?" and so forth.

Astonished and confused at the praises with which he was overwhelmed on
all sides, and in no shape understanding the nature of the transaction
that was going forward, the astounded and overwhelmed agriculturist
became incapable of resisting the part of the Kirkwall Curtius thus
insidiously forced upon him, and was delivered up by Captain Cleveland
to his party, with the strictest injunctions to treat him with honour
and attention. Goffe and his companions began now to lead him off, amid
the applauses of the whole meeting, after the manner in which the victim
of ancient days was garlanded and greeted by shouts, when consigned to
the priests, for the purpose of being led to the altar, and knocked on
the head, a sacrifice for the commonweal. It was while they thus
conducted, and in a manner forced him out of the Council-chamber, that
poor Triptolemus, much alarmed at finding that Cleveland, in whom he had
some confidence, was to remain behind the party, tried, when just going
out at the door, the effect of one remonstrating bellow.--"Nay, but,
Provost!--Captain!--Bailies!--Treasurer! Councillors!--if Captain
Cleveland does not go aboard to protect me, it is nae bargain, and go I
will not, unless I am trailed with cart-ropes!"

His protest was, however, drowned in the unanimous chorus of the
Magistrates and Councillors, returning him thanks for his public
spirit--wishing him a good voyage--and praying to Heaven for his happy
and speedy return. Stunned and overwhelmed, and thinking, if he had any
distinct thoughts at all, that remonstrance was vain, where friends and
strangers seemed alike determined to carry the point against him,
Triptolemus, without farther resistance, suffered himself to be
conducted into the street, where the pirate's boat's-crew, assembling
around him, began to move slowly towards the quay, many of the townsfolk
following out of curiosity, but without any attempt at interference or
annoyance; for the pacific compromise which the dexterity of the first
Magistrate had achieved, was unanimously approved of as a much better
settlement of the disputes betwixt them and the strangers, than might
have been attained by the dubious issue of an appeal to arms.

Meanwhile, as they went slowly along, Triptolemus had time to study the
appearance, countenance, and dress, of those into whose hands he had
been thus delivered, and began to imagine that he read in their looks,
not only the general expression of a desperate character, but some
sinister intentions directed particularly towards himself. He was
alarmed by the truculent looks of Goffe, in particular, who, holding his
arm with a gripe which resembled in delicacy of touch the compression of
a smith's vice, cast on him from the outer corner of his eye oblique
glances, like those which the eagle throws upon the prey which she has
clutched, ere yet she proceeds, as it is technically called, to plume
it. At length Yellowley's fears got so far the better of his prudence,
that he fairly asked his terrible conductor, in a sort of crying
whisper, "Are you going to murder me, Captain, in the face of the laws
baith of God and man?"

"Hold your peace, if you are wise," said Goffe, who had his own reasons
for desiring to increase the panic of his captive; "we have not murdered
a man these three months, and why should you put us in mind of it?"

"You are but joking, I hope, good worthy Captain!" replied Triptolemus.
"This is worse than witches, dwarfs, dirking of whales, and cowping of
cobles, put all together!--this is an away-ganging crop, with a
vengeance!--What good, in Heaven's name, would murdering me do to you?"

"We might have some pleasure in it, at least," said Goffe.--"Look these
fellows in the face, and see if you see one among them that would not
rather kill a man than let it alone?--But we will speak more of that
when you have first had a taste of the bilboes--unless, indeed, you come
down with a handsome round handful of Chili boards[37] for your ransom."

"As I shall live by bread, Captain," answered the Factor, "that
misbegotten dwarf has carried off the whole hornful of silver!"

"A cat-and-nine-tails will make you find it again," said Goffe, gruffly;
"flogging and pickling is an excellent receipt to bring a man's wealth
into his mind--twisting a bowstring round his skull till the eyes start
a little, is a very good remembrancer too."

"Captain," replied Yellowley, stoutly, "I have no money--seldom can
improvers have. We turn pasture to tillage, and barley into aits, and
heather into greensward, and the poor _yarpha_, as the benighted
creatures here call their peat-bogs, into baittle grass-land; but we
seldom make any thing of it that comes back to our ain pouch. The carles
and the cart-avers make it all, and the carles and the cart-avers eat it
all, and the deil clink doun with it!"

"Well, well," said Goffe, "if you be really a poor fellow, as you
pretend, I'll stand your friend;" then, inclining his head so as to
reach the ear of the Factor, who stood on tiptoe with anxiety, he said,
"If you love your life, do not enter the boat with us."

"But how am I to get away from you, while you hold me so fast by the
arm, that I could not get off if the whole year's crop of Scotland
depended on it?"

"Hark ye, you gudgeon," said Goffe, "just when you come to the water's
edge, and when the fellows are jumping in and taking their oars, slue
yourself round suddenly to the larboard--I will let go your arm--and
then cut and run for your life!"

Triptolemus did as he was desired, Goffe's willing hand relaxed the
grasp as he had promised, the agriculturist trundled off like a football
that has just received a strong impulse from the foot of one of the
players, and, with celerity which surprised himself as well as all
beholders, fled through the town of Kirkwall. Nay, such was the impetus
of his retreat, that, as if the grasp of the pirate was still open to
pounce upon him, he never stopped till he had traversed the whole town,
and attained the open country on the other side. They who had seen him
that day--his hat and wig lost in the sudden effort he had made to bolt
forward, his cravat awry, and his waistcoat unbuttoned,--and who had an
opportunity of comparing his round spherical form and short legs with
the portentous speed at which he scoured through the street, might well
say, that if Fury ministers arms, Fear confers wings. His very mode of
running seemed to be that peculiar to his fleecy care, for, like a ram
in the midst of his race, he ever and anon encouraged himself by a great
bouncing attempt at a leap, though there were no obstacles in his way.

There was no pursuit after the agriculturist; and though a musket or two
were presented, for the purpose of sending a leaden messenger after him,
yet Goffe, turning peace-maker for once in his life, so exaggerated the
dangers that would attend a breach of the truce with the people of
Kirkwall, that he prevailed upon the boat's crew to forbear any active
hostilities, and to pull off for their vessel with all dispatch.

The burghers, who regarded the escape of Triptolemus as a triumph on
their side, gave the boat three cheers, by way of an insulting farewell;
while the Magistrates, on the other hand, entertained great anxiety
respecting the probable consequences of this breach of articles between
them and the pirates; and, could they have seized upon the fugitive very
privately, instead of complimenting him with a civic feast in honour of
the agility which he displayed, it is likely they might have delivered
the runaway hostage once more into the hands of his foemen. But it was
impossible to set their face publicly to such an act of violence, and
therefore they contented themselves with closely watching Cleveland,
whom they determined to make responsible for any aggression which might
be attempted by the pirates. Cleveland, on his part, easily conjectured
that the motive which Goffe had for suffering the hostage to escape, was
to leave him answerable for all consequences, and, relying more on the
attachment and intelligence of his friend and adherent, Frederick
Altamont, alias Jack Bunce, than on any thing else, expected the result
with considerable anxiety, since the Magistrates, though they continued
to treat him with civility, plainly intimated they would regulate his
treatment by the behaviour of the crew, though he no longer commanded

It was not, however, without some reason that he reckoned on the devoted
fidelity of Bunce; for no sooner did that trusty adherent receive from
Goffe, and the boat's crew, the news of the escape of Triptolemus, than
he immediately concluded it had been favoured by the late Captain, in
order that, Cleveland being either put to death or consigned to hopeless
imprisonment, Goffe might be called upon to resume the command of the

"But the drunken old boatswain shall miss his mark," said Bunce to his
confederate Fletcher; "or else I am contented to quit the name of
Altamont, and be called Jack Bunce, or Jack Dunce, if you like it
better, to the end of the chapter."

Availing himself accordingly of a sort of nautical eloquence, which his
enemies termed slack-jaw, Bunce set before the crew, in a most animated
manner, the disgrace which they all sustained, by their Captain
remaining, as he was pleased to term it, in the bilboes, without any
hostage to answer for his safety; and succeeded so far, that, besides
exciting a good deal of discontent against Goffe, he brought the crew to
the resolution of seizing the first vessel of a tolerable appearance,
and declaring that the ship, crew, and cargo, should be dealt with
according to the usage which Cleveland should receive on shore. It was
judged at the same time proper to try the faith of the Orcadians, by
removing from the roadstead of Kirkwall, and going round to that of
Stromness, where, according to the treaty betwixt Provost Torfe and
Captain Cleveland, they were to victual their sloop. They resolved, in
the meantime, to intrust the command of the vessel to a council,
consisting of Goffe, the boatswain, and Bunce himself, until Cleveland
should be in a situation to resume his command.

These resolutions having been proposed and acceded to, they weighed
anchor, and got their sloop under sail, without experiencing any
opposition or annoyance from the battery, which relieved them of one
important apprehension incidental to their situation.


[37] Commonly called by landsmen, Spanish dollars.


  Clap on more sail, pursue, up with your fights,
  Give fire--she is my prize, or ocean whelm them all!


A very handsome brig, which, with several other vessels, was the
property of Magnus Troil, the great Zetland Udaller, had received on
board that Magnate himself, his two lovely daughters, and the facetious
Claud Halcro, who, for friendship's sake chiefly, and the love of beauty
proper to his poetical calling, attended them on their journey from
Zetland to the capital of Orkney, to which Norna had referred them, as
the place where her mystical oracles should at length receive a
satisfactory explanation.

They passed, at a distance, the tremendous cliffs of the lonely spot of
earth called the Fair Isle, which, at an equal distance from either
archipelago, lies in the sea which divides Orkney from Zetland; and at
length, after some baffling winds, made the Start of Sanda. Off the
headland so named, they became involved in a strong current, well known,
by those who frequent these seas, as the Roost of the Start, which
carried them considerably out of their course, and, joined to an adverse
wind, forced them to keep on the east side of the island of Stronsa,
and, finally compelled them to lie by for the night in Papa Sound, since
the navigation in dark or thick weather, amongst so many low islands, is
neither pleasant nor safe.

On the ensuing morning they resumed their voyage under more favourable
auspices; and, coasting along the island of Stronsa, whose flat,
verdant, and comparatively fertile shores, formed a strong contrast to
the dun hills and dark cliffs of their own islands, they doubled the
cape called the Lambhead, and stood away for Kirkwall.

They had scarce opened the beautiful bay betwixt Pomona and Shapinsha,
and the sisters were admiring the massive church of Saint Magnus, as it
was first seen to rise from amongst the inferior buildings of Kirkwall,
when the eyes of Magnus, and of Claud Halcro, were attracted by an
object which they thought more interesting. This was an armed sloop,
with her sails set, which had just left the anchorage in the bay, and
was running before the wind by which the brig of the Udaller was beating

"A tight thing that, by my ancestors' bones!" said the old Udaller; "but
I cannot make out of what country, as she shows no colours. Spanish
built, I should think her."

"Ay, ay," said Claud Halcro, "she has all the look of it. She runs
before the wind that we must battle with, which is the wonted way of the
world. As glorious John says,--

  'With roomy deck, and guns of mighty strength
    Whose low-laid mouths each mounting billow laves,
  Deep in her draught, and warlike in her length,
    She seems a sea-wasp flying on the waves.'"

Brenda could not help telling Halcro, when he had spouted this stanza
with great enthusiasm, "that though the description was more like a
first-rate than a sloop, yet the simile of the sea-wasp served but
indifferently for either."

"A sea-wasp?" said Magnus, looking with some surprise, as the sloop,
shifting her course, suddenly bore down on them: "Egad, I wish she may
not show us presently that she has a sting!"

What the Udaller said in jest, was fulfilled in earnest; for, without
hoisting colours, or hailing, two shots were discharged from the sloop,
one of which ran dipping and dancing upon the water, just ahead of the
Zetlander's bows, while the other went through his main-sail.

Magnus caught up a speaking-trumpet, and hailed the sloop, to demand
what she was, and what was the meaning of this unprovoked aggression. He
was only answered by the stern command,--"Down top-sails instantly, and
lay your main-sail to the mast--you shall see who we are presently."

There were no means within the reach of possibility by which obedience
could be evaded, where it would instantly have been enforced by a
broadside; and, with much fear on the part of the sisters and Claud
Halcro, mixed with anger and astonishment on that of the Udaller, the
brig lay-to to await the commands of the captors.

The sloop immediately lowered a boat, with six armed hands, commanded by
Jack Bunce, which rowed directly for their prize. As they approached
her, Claud Halcro whispered to the Udaller,--"If what we hear of
buccaniers be true, these men, with their silk scarfs and vests, have
the very cut of them."

"My daughters! my daughters!" muttered Magnus to himself, with such an
agony as only a father could feel,--"Go down below, and hide yourselves,
girls, while I"----

He threw down his speaking-trumpet, and seized on a handspike, while his
daughters, more afraid of the consequences of his fiery temper to
himself than of any thing else, hung round him, and begged him to make
no resistance. Claud Halcro united his entreaties, adding, "It were best
pacify the fellows with fair words. They might," he said, "be
Dunkirkers, or insolent man-of-war's men on a frolic."

"No, no," answered Magnus, "it is the sloop which the Jagger told us of.
But I will take your advice--I will have patience for these girls'
sakes; yet"----

He had no time to conclude the sentence, for Bunce jumped on board with
his party, and drawing his cutlass, struck it upon the companion-ladder,
and declared the ship was theirs.

"By what warrant or authority do you stop us on the high seas?" said

"Here are half a dozen of warrants," said Bunce, showing the pistols
which were hung round him, according to a pirate-fashion already
mentioned, "choose which you like, old gentleman, and you shall have the
perusal of it presently."

"That is to say, you intend to rob us?" said Magnus.--"So be it--we have
no means to help it--only be civil to the women, and take what you
please from the vessel. There is not much, but I will and can make it
worth more, if you use us well."

"Civil to the women!" said Fletcher, who had also come on board with the
gang--"when were we else than civil to them? ay, and kind to boot?--Look
here, Jack Bunce!--what a trim-going little thing here is!--By G--, she
shall make a cruize with us, come of old Squaretoes what will!"

He seized upon the terrified Brenda with one hand, and insolently
pulled back with the other the hood of the mantle in which she had
muffled herself.

"Help, father!--help, Minna!" exclaimed the affrighted girl;
unconscious, at the moment, that they were unable to render her

Magnus again uplifted the handspike, but Bunce stopped his
hand.--"Avast, father!" he said, "or you will make a bad voyage of it
presently--And you, Fletcher, let go the girl!"

"And, d----n me! why should I let her go?" said Fletcher.

"Because I command you, Dick," said the other, "and because I'll make it
a quarrel else.--And now let me know, beauties, is there one of you
bears that queer heathen name of Minna, for which I have a certain sort
of regard?"

"Gallant sir!" said Halcro, "unquestionably it is because you have some
poetry in your heart."

"I have had enough of it in my mouth in my time," answered Bunce; "but
that day is by, old gentleman--however, I shall soon find out which of
these girls is Minna.--Throw back your mufflings from your faces, and
don't be afraid, my Lindamiras; no one here shall meddle with you to do
you wrong. On my soul, two pretty wenches!--I wish I were at sea in an
egg-shell, and a rock under my lee-bow, if I would wish a better
leaguer-lass than the worst of them!--Hark you, my girls; which of you
would like to swing in a rover's hammock?--you should have gold for the

The terrified maidens clung close together, and grew pale at the bold
and familiar language of the desperate libertine.

"Nay, don't be frightened," said he; "no one shall serve under the
noble Altamont but by her own free choice--there is no pressing amongst
gentlemen of fortune. And do not look so shy upon me neither, as if I
spoke of what you never thought of before. One of you, at least, has
heard of Captain Cleveland, the Rover."

Brenda grew still paler, but the blood mounted at once in Minna's
cheeks, on hearing the name of her lover thus unexpectedly introduced;
for the scene was in itself so confounding, that the idea of the
vessel's being the consort of which Cleveland had spoken at
Burgh-Westra, had occurred to no one save the Udaller.

"I see how it is," said Bunce, with a familiar nod, "and I will hold my
course accordingly.--You need not be afraid of any injury, father," he
added, addressing Magnus familiarly; "and though I have made many a
pretty girl pay tribute in my time, yet yours shall go ashore without
either wrong or ransom."

"If you will assure me of that," said Magnus; "you are as welcome to the
brig and cargo, as ever I made man welcome to a can of punch."

"And it is no bad thing that same can of punch," said Bunce, "if we had
any one here that could mix it well."

"I will do it," said Claud Halcro, "with any man that ever squeezed
lemon--Eric Scambester, the punch-maker of Burgh-Westra, being alone

"And you are within a grapnel's length of him, too," said the
Udaller.--"Go down below, my girls," he added, "and send up the rare old
man, and the punch-bowl."

"The punch-bowl!" said Fletcher; "I say, the bucket, d----n me!--Talk
of bowls in the cabin of a paltry merchantman, but not to
gentlemen-strollers--rovers, I would say," correcting himself, as he
observed that Bunce looked sour at the mistake.

"And I say, these two pretty girls shall stay on deck, and fill my can,"
said Bunce; "I deserve some attendance, at least, for all my

"And they shall fill mine, too," said Fletcher--"they shall fill it to
the brim!--and I will have a kiss for every drop they spill--broil me if
I won't!"

"Why, then, I tell you, you shan't!" said Bunce; "for I'll be d----d if
any one shall kiss Minna but one, and that's neither you nor I; and her
other little bit of a consort shall 'scape for company;--there are
plenty of willing wenches in Orkney.--And so, now I think on it, these
girls shall go down below, and bolt themselves into the cabin; and we
shall have the punch up here on deck, _al fresco_, as the old gentleman

"Why, Jack, I wish you knew your own mind," said Fletcher; "I have been
your messmate these two years, and I love you; and yet flay me like a
wild bullock, if you have not as many humours as a monkey!--And what
shall we have to make a little fun of, since you have sent the girls
down below?"

"Why, we will have Master Punch-maker here," answered Bunce, "to give us
toasts, and sing us songs.--And, in the meantime, you there, stand by
sheets and tacks, and get her under way!--and you, steersman, as you
would keep your brains in your skull, keep her under the stern of the
sloop.--If you attempt to play us any trick, I will scuttle your sconce
as if it were an old calabash!"

The vessel was accordingly got under way, and moved slowly on in the
wake of the sloop, which, as had been previously agreed upon, held her
course, not to return to the Bay of Kirkwall, but for an excellent
roadstead called Inganess Bay, formed by a promontory which extends to
the eastward two or three miles from the Orcadian metropolis, and where
the vessels might conveniently lie at anchor, while the rovers
maintained any communication with the Magistrates which the new state of
things seemed to require.

Meantime Claud Halcro had exerted his utmost talents in compounding a
bucketful of punch for the use of the pirates, which they drank out of
large cans; the ordinary seamen, as well as Bunce and Fletcher, who
acted as officers, dipping them into the bucket with very little
ceremony, as they came and went upon their duty. Magnus, who was
particularly apprehensive that liquor might awaken the brutal passions
of these desperadoes, was yet so much astonished at the quantities which
he saw them drink, without producing any visible effect upon their
reason, that he could not help expressing his surprise to Bunce himself,
who, wild as he was, yet appeared by far the most civil and conversable
of his party, and whom he was, perhaps, desirous to conciliate, by a
compliment of which all boon topers know the value.

"Bones of Saint Magnus!" said the Udaller, "I used to think I took off
my can like a gentleman; but to see your men swallow, Captain, one would
think their stomachs were as bottomless as the hole of Laifell in Foula,
which I have sounded myself with a line of an hundred fathoms. By my
soul, the Bicker of Saint Magnus were but a sip to them!"

"In our way of life, sir," answered Bunce, "there is no stint till duty
calls, or the puncheon is drunk out."

"By my word, sir," said Claud Halcro, "I believe there is not one of
your people but could drink out the mickle bicker of Scarpa, which was
always offered to the Bishop of Orkney brimful of the best bummock that
ever was brewed."[38]

"If drinking could make them bishops," said Bunce, "I should have a
reverend crew of them; but as they have no other clerical qualities
about them, I do not propose that they shall get drunk to-day; so we
will cut our drink with a song."

"And I'll sing it, by ----!" said or swore Dick Fletcher, and instantly
struck up the old ditty--

  "It was a ship, and a ship of fame,
  Launch'd off the stocks, bound for the main,
  With an hundred and fifty brisk young men,
  All pick'd and chosen every one."

"I would sooner be keel-hauled than hear that song over again," said
Bunce; "and confound your lantern jaws, you can squeeze nothing else out
of them!"

"By ----," said Fletcher, "I will sing my song, whether you like it or
no;" and again he sung, with the doleful tone of a north-easter
whistling through sheet and shrouds,--

  "Captain Glen was our captain's name;
  A very gallant and brisk young man;
  As bold a sailor as e'er went to sea,
  And we were bound for High Barbary."

"I tell you again," said Bunce, "we will have none of your screech-owl
music here; and I'll be d----d if you shall sit here and make that
infernal noise!"

"Why, then, I'll tell you what," said Fletcher, getting up, "I'll sing
when I walk about, and I hope there is no harm in that, Jack Bunce." And
so, getting up from his seat, he began to walk up and down the sloop,
croaking out his long and disastrous ballad.

"You see how I manage them," said Bunce, with a smile of
self-applause--"allow that fellow two strides on his own way, and you
make a mutineer of him for life. But I tie him strict up, and he follows
me as kindly as a fowler's spaniel after he has got a good beating.--And
now your toast and your song, sir," addressing Halcro; "or rather your
song without your toast. I have got a toast for myself. Here is success
to all roving blades, and confusion to all honest men!"

"I should be sorry to drink that toast, if I could help it," said Magnus

"What! you reckon yourself one of the honest folks, I warrant?" said
Bunce.--"Tell me your trade, and I'll tell you what I think of it. As
for the punch-maker here, I knew him at first glance to be a tailor, who
has, therefore, no more pretensions to be honest, than he has not to be
mangy. But you are some High-Dutch skipper, I warrant me, that tramples
on the cross when he is in Japan, and denies his religion for a day's

"No," replied the Udaller, "I am a gentleman of Zetland."

"O, what!" retorted the satirical Mr. Bunce, "you are come from the
happy climate where gin is a groat a-bottle, and where there is daylight
for ever?"

"At your service, Captain," said the Udaller, suppressing with much
pain some disposition to resent these jests on his country, although
under every risk, and at all disadvantage.

"At _my_ service!" said Bunce--"Ay, if there was a rope stretched from
the wreck to the beach, you would be at my service to cut the hawser,
make _floatsome_ and _jetsome_ of ship and cargo, and well if you did
not give me a rap on the head with the back of the cutty-axe; and you
call yourself honest? But never mind--here goes the aforesaid toast--and
do you sing me a song, Mr. Fashioner; and look it be as good as your

Halcro, internally praying for the powers of a new Timotheus, to turn
his strain and check his auditor's pride, as glorious John had it, began
a heart-soothing ditty with the following lines:--

  "Maidens fresh as fairest rose,
  Listen to this lay of mine."

"I will hear nothing of maidens or roses," said Bunce; "it puts me in
mind what sort of a cargo we have got on board; and, by ----, I will be
true to my messmate and my captain as long as I can!--And now I think
on't, I'll have no more punch either--that last cup made innovation, and
I am not to play Cassio to-night--and if I drink not, nobody else

So saying, he manfully kicked over the bucket, which, notwithstanding
the repeated applications made to it, was still half full, got up from
his seat, shook himself a little to rights, as he expressed it, cocked
his hat, and, walking the quarter-deck with an air of dignity, gave, by
word and signal, the orders for bringing the ships to anchor, which
were readily obeyed by both, Goffe being then, in all probability, past
any rational state of interference.

The Udaller, in the meantime, condoled with Halcro on their situation.
"It is bad enough," said the tough old Norseman; "for these are rank
rogues--and yet, were it not for the girls, I should not fear them. That
young vapouring fellow, who seems to command, is not such a born devil
as he might have been."

"He has queer humours, though," said Halcro; "and I wish we were loose
from him. To kick down a bucket half full of the best punch ever was
made, and to cut me short in the sweetest song I ever wrote,--I promise
you, I do not know what he may do next--it is next door to madness."

Meanwhile, the ships being brought to anchor, the valiant Lieutenant
Bunce called upon Fletcher, and, resuming his seat by his unwilling
passengers, he told them they should see what message he was about to
send to the wittols of Kirkwall, as they were something concerned in it.
"It shall run in Dick's name," he said, "as well as in mine. I love to
give the poor young fellow a little countenance now and then--don't I,
Dick, you d----d stupid ass?"

"Why, yes, Jack Bunce," said Dick, "I can't say but as you do--only you
are always bullocking one about something or other, too--but,
howsomdever, d'ye see"----

"Enough said--belay your jaw, Dick," said Bunce, and proceeded to write
his epistle, which, being read aloud, proved to be of the following

    "For the Mayor and Aldermen of Kirkwall--Gentlemen, As, contrary
    to your good faith given, you have not sent us on board a hostage
    for the safety of our Captain, remaining on shore at your
    request, these come to tell you, we are not thus to be trifled
    with. We have already in our possession, a brig, with a family of
    distinction, its owners and passengers; and as you deal with our
    Captain, so will we deal with them in every respect. And as this
    is the first, so assure yourselves it shall not be the last damage
    which we will do to your town and trade, if you do not send on
    board our Captain, and supply us with stores according to treaty.

    "Given on board the brig Mergoose of Burgh-Westra, lying in
    Inganess Bay. Witness our hands, commanders of the Fortune's
    Favourite, and gentlemen adventurers."

He then subscribed himself Frederick Altamont, and handed the letter to
Fletcher, who read the said subscription with much difficulty; and,
admiring the sound of it very much, swore he would have a new name
himself, and the rather that Fletcher was the most crabbed word to spell
and conster, he believed, in the whole dictionary. He subscribed himself
accordingly, Timothy Tugmutton.

"Will you not add a few lines to the coxcombs?" said Bunce, addressing

"Not I," returned the Udaller, stubborn in his ideas of right and wrong,
even in so formidable an emergency. "The Magistrates of Kirkwall know
their duty, and were I they"----But here the recollection that his
daughters were at the mercy of these ruffians, blanked the bold visage
of Magnus Troil, and checked the defiance which was just about to issue
from his lips.

"D----n me," said Bunce, who easily conjectured what was passing in the
mind of his prisoner--"that pause would have told well on the stage--it
would have brought down pit, box, and gallery, egad, as Bayes has it."

"I will hear nothing of Bayes," said Claud Halcro, (himself a little
elevated,) "it is an impudent satire on glorious John; but he tickled
Buckingham off for it--

  'In the first rank of these did Zimri stand;
  A man so various'"----

"Hold your peace!" said Bunce, drowning the voice of the admirer of
Dryden in louder and more vehement asseveration, "the Rehearsal is the
best farce ever was written--and I'll make him kiss the gunner's
daughter that denies it. D----n me, I was the best Prince Prettyman
ever walked the boards--

  'Sometimes a fisher's son, sometimes a prince.'

But let us to business.--Hark ye, old gentleman," (to Magnus,) "you have
a sort of sulkiness about you, for which some of my profession would cut
your ears out of your head, and broil them for your dinner with red
pepper. I have known Goffe do so to a poor devil, for looking sour and
dangerous when he saw his sloop go to Davy Jones's locker with his only
son on board. But I'm a spirit of another sort; and if you or the ladies
are ill used, it shall be the Kirkwall people's fault, and not mine, and
that's fair; and so you had better let them know your condition, and
your circumstances, and so forth,--and that's fair, too."

Magnus, thus exhorted, took up the pen, and attempted to write; but his
high spirit so struggled with his paternal anxiety, that his hand
refused its office. "I cannot help it," he said, after one or two
illegible attempts to write--"I cannot form a letter, if all our lives
depended upon it."

And he could not, with his utmost efforts, so suppress the convulsive
emotions which he experienced, but that they agitated his whole frame.
The willow which bends to the tempest, often escapes better than the oak
which resists it; and so, in great calamities, it sometimes happens,
that light and frivolous spirits recover their elasticity and presence
of mind sooner than those of a loftier character. In the present case,
Claud Halcro was fortunately able to perform the task which the deeper
feelings of his friend and patron refused. He took the pen, and, in as
few words as possible, explained the situation in which they were
placed, and the cruel risks to which they were exposed, insinuating at
the same time, as delicately as he could express it, that, to the
magistrates of the country, the life and honour of its citizens should
be a dearer object than even the apprehension or punishment of the
guilty; taking care, however, to qualify the last expression as much as
possible, for fear of giving umbrage to the pirates.

Bunce read over the letter, which fortunately met his approbation; and,
on seeing the name of Claud Halcro at the bottom, he exclaimed, in great
surprise, and with more energetic expressions of asseveration than we
choose to record--"Why, you are the little fellow that played the fiddle
to old Manager Gadabout's company, at Hogs Norton, the first season I
came out there! I thought I knew your catchword of glorious John."

At another time this recognition might not have been very grateful to
Halcro's minstrel pride; but, as matters stood with him, the discovery
of a golden mine could not have made him more happy. He instantly
remembered the very hopeful young performer who came out in Don
Sebastian, and judiciously added, that the muse of glorious John had
never received such excellent support during the time that he was first
(he might have added, and only) violin to Mr. Gadabout's company.

"Why, yes," said Bunce, "I believe you are right--I think I might have
shaken the scene as well as Booth or Betterton either. But I was
destined to figure on other boards," (striking his foot upon the deck,)
"and I believe I must stick by them, till I find no board at all to
support me. But now, old acquaintance, I will do something for you--slue
yourself this way a bit--I would have you solus." They leaned over the
taffrail, while Bunce whispered with more seriousness than he usually
showed, "I am sorry for this honest old heart of Norway pine--blight me
if I am not--and for the daughters too--besides, I have my own reasons
for befriending one of them. I can be a wild fellow with a willing lass
of the game; but to such decent and innocent creatures--d----n me, I am
Scipio at Numantia, and Alexander in the tent of Darius. You remember
how I touch off Alexander?" (here he started into heroics.)

  "'Thus from the grave I rise to save my love;
  All draw your swords, with wings of lightning move.
  When I rush on, sure none will dare to stay--
  'Tis beauty calls, and glory shows the way.'"

Claud Halcro failed not to bestow the necessary commendations on his
declamation, declaring, that, in his opinion as an honest man, he had
always thought Mr. Altamont's giving that speech far superior in tone
and energy to Betterton.

Bunce, or Altamont, wrung his hand tenderly. "Ah, you flatter me, my
dear friend," he said; "yet, why had not the public some of your
judgment!--I should not then have been at this pass. Heaven knows, my
dear Mr. Halcro--Heaven knows with what pleasure I could keep you on
board with me, just that I might have one friend who loves as much to
hear, as I do to recite, the choicest pieces of our finest dramatic
authors. The most of us are beasts--and, for the Kirkwall hostage
yonder, he uses me, egad, as I use Fletcher, I think, and huffs me the
more, the more I do for him. But how delightful it would be in a tropic
night, when the ship was hanging on the breeze, with a broad and steady
sail, for me to rehearse Alexander, with you for my pit, box, and
gallery! Nay, (for you are a follower of the muses, as I remember,) who
knows but you and I might be the means of inspiring, like Orpheus and
Eurydice, a pure taste into our companions, and softening their manners,
while we excited their better feelings?"

This was spoken with so much unction, that Claud Halcro began to be
afraid he had both made the actual punch over potent, and mixed too many
bewitching ingredients in the cup of flattery which he had administered;
and that, under the influence of both potions, the sentimental pirate
might detain him by force, merely to realize the scenes which his
imagination presented. The conjuncture was, however, too delicate to
admit of any active effort, on Halcro's part, to redeem his blunder, and
therefore he only returned the tender pressure of his friend's hand, and
uttered the interjection "alas!" in as pathetic a tone as he could.

Bunce immediately resumed: "You are right, my friend, these are but
vain visions of felicity, and it remains but for the unhappy Altamont to
serve the friend to whom he is now to bid farewell. I have determined to
put you and the two girls ashore, with Fletcher for your protection; and
so call up the young women, and let them begone before the devil get
aboard of me, or of some one else. You will carry my letter to the
magistrates, and second it with your own eloquence, and assure them,
that if they hurt but one hair of Cleveland's head, there will be the
devil to pay, and no pitch hot."

Relieved at heart by this unexpected termination of Bunce's harangue,
Halcro descended the companion ladder two steps at a time, and knocking
at the cabin door, could scarce find intelligible language enough to say
his errand. The sisters hearing, with unexpected joy, that they were to
be set ashore, muffled themselves in their cloaks, and, when they
learned that the boat was hoisted out, came hastily on deck, where they
were apprized, for the first time, to their great horror, that their
father was still to remain on board of the pirate.

"We will remain with him at every risk," said Minna--"we may be of some
assistance to him, were it but for an instant--we will live and die with

"We shall aid him more surely," said Brenda, who comprehended the nature
of their situation better than Minna, "by interesting the people of
Kirkwall to grant these gentlemen's demands."

"Spoken like an angel of sense and beauty," said Bunce; "and now away
with you; for, d----n me, if this is not like having a lighted linstock
in the powder-room--if you speak another word more, confound me if I
know how I shall bring myself to part with you!"

"Go, in God's name, my daughters," said Magnus. "I am in God's hand; and
when you are gone I shall care little for myself--and I shall think and
say, as long as I live, that this good gentleman deserves a better
trade.--Go--go--away with you!"--for they yet lingered in reluctance to
leave him.

"Stay not to kiss," said Bunce, "for fear I be tempted to ask my share.
Into the boat with you--yet stop an instant." He drew the three captives
apart--"Fletcher," said he, "will answer for the rest of the fellows,
and will see you safe off the sea-beach. But how to answer for Fletcher,
I know not, except by trusting Mr. Halcro with this little guarantee."


He offered the minstrel a small double-barrelled pistol, which, he said,
was loaded with a brace of balls. Minna observed Halcro's hand tremble
as he stretched it out to take the weapon. "Give it to me, sir," she
said, taking it from the outlaw; "and trust to me for defending my
sister and myself."

"Bravo, bravo!" shouted Bunce. "There spoke a wench worthy of Cleveland,
the King of Rovers!"

"Cleveland!" repeated Minna, "do you then know that Cleveland, whom you
have twice named?"

"Know him! Is there a man alive," said Bunce, "that knows better than I
do the best and stoutest fellow ever stepped betwixt stem and stern?
When he is out of the bilboes, as please Heaven he shall soon be, I
reckon to see you come on board of us, and reign the queen of every sea
we sail over.--You have got the little guardian; I suppose you know how
to use it? If Fletcher behaves ill to you, you need only draw up this
piece of iron with your thumb, so--and if he persists, it is but
crooking your pretty forefinger thus, and I shall lose the most dutiful
messmate that ever man had--though, d----n the dog, he will deserve his
death if he disobeys my orders. And now, into the boat--but stay, one
kiss for Cleveland's sake."

Brenda, in deadly terror, endured his courtesy, but Minna, stepping back
with disdain, offered her hand. Bunce laughed, but kissed, with a
theatrical air, the fair hand which she extended as a ransom for her
lips, and at length the sisters and Halcro were placed in the boat,
which rowed off under Fletcher's command.

Bunce stood on the quarter-deck, soliloquizing after the manner of his
original profession. "Were this told at Port-Royal now, or at the isle
of Providence, or in the Petits Guaves, I wonder what they would say of
me! Why, that I was a good-natured milksop--a Jack-a-lent--an
ass.--Well, let them. I have done enough of bad to think about it; it is
worth while doing one good action, if it were but for the rarity of the
thing, and to put one in good humour with oneself." Then turning to
Magnus Troil, he proceeded--"By ---- these are bona-robas, these
daughters of yours! The eldest would make her fortune on the London
boards. What a dashing attitude the wench had with her, as she seized
the pistol!--d----n me, that touch would have brought the house down!
What a Roxalana the jade would have made!" (for, in his oratory, Bunce,
like Sancho's gossip, Thomas Cecial, was apt to use the most energetic
word which came to hand, without accurately considering its propriety.)
"I would give my share of the next prize but to hear her spout--

  'Away, begone, and give a whirlwind room,
  Or I will blow you up like dust.--Avaunt!
  Madness but meanly represents my rage.'

And then, again, that little, soft, shy, tearful trembler, for Statira,
to hear her recite--

  'He speaks the kindest words, and looks such things,
  Vows with such passion, swears with so much grace,
  That 'tis a kind of heaven to be deluded by him.'

What a play we might have run up!--I was a beast not to think of it
before I sent them off--I to be Alexander--Claud Halcro,
Lysimachus--this old gentleman might have made a Clytus, for a pinch. I
was an idiot not to think of it!"

There was much in this effusion which might have displeased the Udaller;
but, to speak truth, he paid no attention to it. His eye, and, finally,
his spy-glass, were employed in watching the return of his daughters to
the shore. He saw them land on the beach, and, accompanied by Halcro,
and another man, (Fletcher, doubtless,) he saw them ascend the
acclivity, and proceed upon the road to Kirkwall; and he could even
distinguish that Minna, as if considering herself as the guardian of the
party, walked a little aloof from the rest, on the watch, as it seemed,
against surprise, and ready to act as occasion should require. At
length, as the Udaller was just about to lose sight of them, he had the
exquisite satisfaction to see the party halt, and the pirate leave them,
after a space just long enough for a civil farewell, and proceed slowly
back, on his return to the beach. Blessing the Great Being who had thus
relieved him from the most agonizing fears which a father can feel, the
worthy Udaller, from that instant, stood resigned to his own fate,
whatever that might be.


[38] Liquor brewed for a Christmas treat.


  Over the mountains and under the waves,
  Over the fountains and under the graves,
        Over floods that are deepest,
          Which Neptune obey,
        Over rocks that are steepest,
          Love will find out the way.

                                                 _Old Song._

The parting of Fletcher from Claud Halcro and the sisters of
Burgh-Westra, on the spot where it took place, was partly occasioned by
a small party of armed men being seen at a distance in the act of
advancing from Kirkwall, an apparition hidden from the Udaller's
spy-glass by the swell of the ground, but quite visible to the pirate,
whom it determined to consult his own safety by a speedy return to his
boat. He was just turning away, when Minna occasioned the short delay
which her father had observed.

"Stop," she said; "I command you!--Tell your leader from me, that
whatever the answer may be from Kirkwall, he shall carry his vessel,
nevertheless, round to Stromness; and, being anchored there, let him
send a boat ashore for Captain Cleveland when he shall see a smoke on
the Bridge of Broisgar."

Fletcher had thought, like his messmate Bunce of asking a kiss, at
least, for the trouble of escorting these beautiful young women; and
perhaps, neither the terror of the approaching Kirkwall men, nor of
Minna's weapon, might have prevented his being insolent. But the name of
his Captain, and, still more, the unappalled, dignified, and commanding
manner of Minna Troil, overawed him. He made a sea bow,--promised to
keep a sharp look-out, and, returning to his boat, went on board with
his message.

As Halcro and the sisters advanced towards the party whom they saw on
the Kirkwall road, and who, on their part, had halted as if to observe
them, Brenda, relieved from the fears of Fletcher's presence, which had
hitherto kept her silent, exclaimed, "Merciful Heaven!--Minna, in what
hands have we left our dear father?"

"In the hands of brave men," said Minna, steadily--"I fear not for him."

"As brave as you please," said Claud Halcro, "but very dangerous rogues
for all that.--I know that fellow Altamont, as he calls himself, though
that is not his right name neither, as deboshed a dog as ever made a
barn ring with blood and blank verse. He began with Barnwell, and every
body thought he would end with the gallows, like the last scene in
Venice Preserved."

"It matters not," said Minna--"the wilder the waves, the more powerful
is the voice that rules them. The name alone of Cleveland ruled the mood
of the fiercest amongst them."

"I am sorry for Cleveland," said Brenda, "if such are his
companions,--but I care little for him in comparison to my father."

"Reserve your compassion for those who need it," said Minna, "and fear
nothing for our father.--God knows, every silver hair on his head is to
me worth the treasure of an unsummed mine; but I know that he is safe
while in yonder vessel, and I know that he will be soon safe on shore."

"I would I could see it," said Claud Halcro; "but I fear the Kirkwall
people, supposing Cleveland to be such as I dread, will not dare to
exchange him against the Udaller. The Scots have very severe laws
against theft-boot, as they call it."

"But who are those on the road before us?" said Brenda; "and why do they
halt there so jealously?"

"They are a patrol of the militia," answered Halcro. "Glorious John
touches them off a little sharply,--but then John was a Jacobite,--(_e_)

  'Mouths without hands, maintain'd at vast expense,
  In peace a charge, in war a weak defence;
  Stout once a-month, they march, a blustering band,
  And ever, but in time of need, at hand.'

I fancy they halted just now, taking us, as they saw us on the brow of
the hill, for a party of the sloop's men, and now they can distinguish
that you wear petticoats, they are moving on again."

They came on accordingly, and proved to be, as Claud Halcro had
suggested, a patrol sent out to watch the motions of the pirates, and to
prevent their attempting descents to damage the country.

They heartily congratulated Claud Halcro, who was well known to more
than one of them, upon his escape from captivity; and the commander of
the party, while offering every assistance to the ladies, could not help
condoling with them on the circumstances in which their father stood,
hinting, though in a delicate and doubtful manner, the difficulties
which might be in the way of his liberation.

When they arrived at Kirkwall, and obtained an audience of the Provost,
and one or two of the Magistrates, these difficulties were more plainly
insisted upon.--"The Halcyon frigate is upon the coast," said the
Provost; "she was seen off Duncansbay-head; and, though I have the
deepest respect for Mr. Troil of Burgh-Westra, yet I shall be answerable
to law if I release from prison the Captain of this suspicious vessel,
on account of the safety of any individual who may be unhappily
endangered by his detention. This man is now known to be the heart and
soul of these buccaniers, and am I at liberty to send him aboard, that
he may plunder the country, or perhaps go fight the King's ship?--for he
has impudence enough for any thing."

"_Courage_ enough for any thing, you mean, Mr. Provost," said Minna,
unable to restrain her displeasure.

"Why, you may call it as you please, Miss Troil," said the worthy
Magistrate; "but, in my opinion, that sort of courage which proposes to
fight singly against two, is little better than a kind of practical

"But our father?" said Brenda, in a tone of the most earnest
entreaty--"our father--the friend, I may say the father, of his
country--to whom so many look for kindness, and so many for actual
support--whose loss would be the extinction of a beacon in a storm--will
you indeed weigh the risk which he runs, against such a trifling thing
as letting an unfortunate man from prison, to seek his unhappy fate

"Miss Brenda is right," said Claud Halcro; "I am for let-a-be for
let-a-be, as the boys say; and never fash about a warrant of
liberation, Provost, but just take a fool's counsel, and let the goodman
of the jail forget to draw his bolt on the wicket, or leave a chink of a
window open, or the like, and we shall be rid of the rover, and have the
one best honest fellow in Orkney or Zetland on the lee-side of a bowl of
punch with us in five hours."

The Provost replied in nearly the same terms as before, that he had the
highest respect for Mr. Magnus Troil of Burgh-Westra, but that he could
not suffer his consideration for any individual, however respectable, to
interfere with the discharge of his duty.

Minna then addressed her sister in a tone of calm and sarcastic
displeasure.--"You forget," she said, "Brenda, that you are talking of
the safety of a poor insignificant Udaller of Zetland, to no less a
person than the Chief Magistrate of the metropolis of Orkney--can you
expect so great a person to condescend to such a trifling subject of
consideration? It will be time enough for the Provost to think of
complying with the terms sent to him--for comply with them at length he
both must and will--when the Church of Saint Magnus is beat down about
his ears."

"You may be angry with me, my pretty young lady," said the good-humoured
Provost Torfe, "but I cannot be offended with you. The Church of Saint
Magnus has stood many a day, and, I think, will outlive both you and me,
much more yonder pack of unhanged dogs. And besides that your father is
half an Orkneyman, and has both estate and friends among us, I would, I
give you my word, do as much for a Zetlander in distress as I would for
any one, excepting one of our own native Kirkwallers, who are doubtless
to be preferred. And if you will take up your lodgings here with my wife
and myself, we will endeavour to show you," continued he, "that you are
as welcome in Kirkwall, as ever you could be in Lerwick or Scalloway."

Minna deigned no reply to this good-humoured invitation, but Brenda
declined it in civil terms, pleading the necessity of taking up their
abode with a wealthy widow of Kirkwall, a relation, who already expected

Halcro made another attempt to move the Provost, but found him
inexorable.--"The Collector of the Customs had already threatened," he
said, "to inform against him for entering into treaty, or, as he called
it, packing and peeling with those strangers, even when it seemed the
only means of preventing a bloody affray in the town; and, should he now
forego the advantage afforded by the imprisonment of Cleveland and the
escape of the Factor, he might incur something worse than censure." The
burden of the whole was, "that he was sorry for the Udaller, he was
sorry even for the lad Cleveland, who had some sparks of honour about
him; but his duty was imperious, and must be obeyed." The Provost then
precluded farther argument, by observing, that another affair from
Zetland called for his immediate attention. A gentleman named Mertoun,
residing at Jarlshof, had made complaint against Snailsfoot the Jagger,
for having assisted a domestic of his in embezzling some valuable
articles which had been deposited in his custody, and he was about to
take examinations on the subject, and cause them to be restored to Mr.
Mertoun, who was accountable for them to the right owner.

In all this information, there was nothing which seemed interesting to
the sisters excepting the word Mertoun, which went like a dagger to the
heart of Minna, when she recollected the circumstances under which
Mordaunt Mertoun had disappeared, and which, with an emotion less
painful, though still of a melancholy nature, called a faint blush into
Brenda's cheek, and a slight degree of moisture into her eye. But it was
soon evident that the Magistrate spoke not of Mordaunt, but of his
father; and the daughters of Magnus, little interested in his detail,
took leave of the Provost to go to their own lodgings.

When they arrived at their relation's, Minna made it her business to
learn, by such enquiries as she could make without exciting suspicion,
what was the situation of the unfortunate Cleveland, which she soon
discovered to be exceedingly precarious. The Provost had not, indeed,
committed him to close custody, as Claud Halcro had anticipated,
recollecting, perhaps, the favourable circumstances under which he had
surrendered himself, and loath, till the moment of the last necessity,
altogether to break faith with him. But although left apparently at
large, he was strictly watched by persons well armed and appointed for
the purpose, who had directions to detain him by force, if he attempted
to pass certain narrow precincts which were allotted to him. He was
quartered in a strong room within what is called the King's Castle, and
at night his chamber door was locked on the outside, and a sufficient
guard mounted to prevent his escape. He therefore enjoyed only the
degree of liberty which the cat, in her cruel sport, is sometimes
pleased to permit to the mouse which she has clutched; and yet, such was
the terror of the resources, the courage, and ferocity of the pirate
Captain, that the Provost was blamed by the Collector, and many other
sage citizens of Kirkwall, for permitting him to be at large upon any

It may be well believed, that, under such circumstances, Cleveland had
no desire to seek any place of public resort, conscious that he was the
object of a mixed feeling of curiosity and terror. His favourite place
of exercise, therefore, was the external aisles of the Cathedral of
Saint Magnus, of which the eastern end alone is fitted up for public
worship. This solemn old edifice, having escaped the ravage which
attended the first convulsions of the Reformation, still retains some
appearance of episcopal dignity. This place of worship is separated by a
screen from the nave and western limb of the cross, and the whole is
preserved in a state of cleanliness and decency, which might be well
proposed as an example to the proud piles of Westminster and St. Paul's.

It was in this exterior part of the Cathedral that Cleveland was
permitted to walk, the rather that his guards, by watching the single
open entrance, had the means, with very little inconvenience to
themselves, of preventing any possible attempt at escape. The place
itself was well suited to his melancholy circumstances. The lofty and
vaulted roof rises upon ranges of Saxon pillars, of massive size, four
of which, still larger than the rest, once supported the lofty spire,
which, long since destroyed by accident, has been rebuilt upon a
disproportioned and truncated plan. The light is admitted at the eastern
end through a lofty, well-proportioned, and richly-ornamented Gothic
window; and the pavement is covered with inscriptions, in different
languages, distinguishing the graves of noble Orcadians, who have at
different times been deposited within the sacred precincts.

Here walked Cleveland, musing over the events of a misspent life, which,
it seemed probable, might be brought to a violent and shameful close,
while he was yet in the prime of youth.--"With these dead," he said,
looking on the pavement, "shall I soon be numbered--but no holy man will
speak a blessing; no friendly hand register an inscription; no proud
descendant sculpture armorial bearings over the grave of the pirate
Cleveland. My whitening bones will swing in the gibbet-irons, on some
wild beach or lonely cape, that will be esteemed fatal and accursed for
my sake. The old mariner, as he passes the Sound, will shake his head,
and tell of my name and actions, as a warning to his younger
comrades.--But, Minna! Minna!--what will be thy thoughts when the news
reaches thee?--Would to God the tidings were drowned in the deepest
whirlpool betwixt Kirkwall and Burgh-Westra, ere they came to her
ear!--and O! would to Heaven that we had never met, since we never can
meet again!"

He lifted up his eyes as he spoke, and Minna Troil stood before him. Her
face was pale, and her hair dishevelled; but her look was composed and
firm, with its usual expression of high-minded melancholy. She was still
shrouded in the large mantle which she had assumed on leaving the
vessel. Cleveland's first emotion was astonishment; his next was joy,
not unmixed with awe. He would have exclaimed--he would have thrown
himself at her feet--but she imposed at once silence and composure on
him, by raising her finger, and saying, in a low but commanding
accent,--"Be cautious--we are observed--there are men without--they let
me enter with difficulty. I dare not remain long--they would think--they
might believe--O, Cleveland! I have hazarded every thing to save you!"

"To save me?--Alas! poor Minna!" answered Cleveland, "to save me is
impossible.--Enough that I have seen you once more, were it but to say,
for ever farewell!"

"We must indeed say farewell," said Minna; "for fate, and your guilt,
have divided us for ever.--Cleveland, I have seen your associates--need
I tell you more--need I say, that I know now what a pirate is?"

"You have been in the ruffians' power!" said Cleveland, with a start of
agony--"Did they presume"----

"Cleveland," replied Minna, "they presumed nothing--your name was a
spell over them. By the power of that spell over these ferocious
banditti, and by that alone, I was reminded of the qualities I once
thought my Cleveland's!"

"Yes," said Cleveland, proudly, "my name has and shall have power over
them, when they are at the wildest; and, had they harmed you by one rude
word, they should have found--Yet what do I rave about--I am a

"You shall be so no longer," said Minna--"Your safety--the safety of my
dear father--all demand your instant freedom. I have formed a scheme for
your liberty, which, boldly executed, cannot fail. The light is fading
without--muffle yourself in my cloak, and you will easily pass the
guards--I have given them the means of carousing, and they are deeply
engaged. Haste to the Loch of Stennis, and hide yourself till day dawns;
then make a smoke on the point, where the land, stretching into the
lake on each side, divides it nearly in two at the Bridge of Broisgar.
Your vessel, which lies not far distant, will send a boat ashore.--Do
not hesitate an instant!"

"But you, Minna!--Should this wild scheme succeed," said Cleveland,
"what is to become of you?"

"For my share in your escape," answered the maiden, "the honesty of my
own intention will vindicate me in the sight of Heaven; and the safety
of my father, whose fate depends on yours, will be my excuse to man."

In a few words, she gave him the history of their capture, and its
consequences. Cleveland cast up his eyes and raised his hands to Heaven,
in thankfulness for the escape of the sisters from his evil companions,
and then hastily added,--"But you are right, Minna; I must fly at all
rates--for your father's sake I must fly.--Here, then, we part--yet not,
I trust, for ever."

"For ever!" answered a voice, that sounded as from a sepulchral vault.

They started, looked around them, and then gazed on each other. It
seemed as if the echoes of the building had returned Cleveland's last
words, but the pronunciation was too emphatically accented.

"Yes, for ever!" said Norna of the Fitful-head, stepping forward from
behind one of the massive Saxon pillars which support the roof of the
Cathedral. "Here meet the crimson foot and the crimson hand. Well for
both that the wound is healed whence that crimson was derived--well for
both, but best, for him who shed it.--Here, then, you meet--and meet for
the last time!"

"Not so," said Cleveland, as if about to take Minna's hand; "to
separate me from Minna, while I have life, must be the work of herself

"Away!" said Norna, stepping betwixt them,--"away with such idle
folly!--Nourish no vain dreams of future meetings--you part here, and
you part for ever. The hawk pairs not with the dove; guilt matches not
with innocence.--Minna Troil, you look for the last time on this bold
and criminal man--Cleveland, you behold Minna for the last time!"

"And dream you," said Cleveland, indignantly, "that your mummery imposes
on me, and that I am among the fools who see more than trick in your
pretended art?"

"Forbear, Cleveland, forbear!" said Minna, her hereditary awe of Norna
augmented by the circumstance of her sudden appearance. "O,
forbear!--she is powerful--she is but too powerful.--And do you, O
Norna, remember my father's safety is linked with Cleveland's."

"And it is well for Cleveland that I do remember it," replied the
Pythoness--"and that, for the sake of one, I am here to aid both. You,
with your childish purpose, of passing one of his bulk and stature under
the disguise of a few paltry folds of wadmaal--what would your device
have procured him but instant restraint with bolt and shackle?--I will
save him--I will place him in security on board his bark. But let him
renounce these shores for ever, and carry elsewhere the terrors of his
sable flag, and his yet blacker name; for if the sun rises twice, and
finds him still at anchor, his blood be on his own head.--Ay, look to
each other--look the last look that I permit to frail affection,--and
say, if ye _can_ say it, Farewell for ever!"

"Obey her," stammered Minna; "remonstrate not, but obey her."

Cleveland, grasping her hand, and kissing it ardently, said, but so low
that she only could hear it, "Farewell, Minna, but _not_ for ever."

"And now, maiden, begone," said Norna, "and leave the rest to the

"One word more," said Minna, "and I obey you. Tell me but if I have
caught aright your meaning--Is Mordaunt Mertoun safe and recovered?"

"Recovered, and safe," said Norna; "else woe to the hand that shed his

Minna slowly sought the door of the Cathedral, and turned back from time
to time to look at the shadowy form of Norna, and the stately and
military figure of Cleveland, as they stood together in the deepening
gloom of the ancient Cathedral. When she looked back a second time they
were in motion, and Cleveland followed the matron, as, with a slow and
solemn step, she glided towards one of the side aisles. When Minna
looked back a third time, their figures were no longer visible. She
collected herself, and walked on to the eastern door by which she had
entered, and listened for an instant to the guard, who talked together
on the outside.

"The Zetland girl stays a long time with this pirate fellow," said one.
"I wish they have not more to speak about than the ransom of her

"Ay, truly," answered another, "the wenches will have more sympathy with
a handsome young pirate, than an old bed-ridden burgher."

Their discourse was here interrupted by her of whom they were speaking;
and, as if taken in the manner, they pulled off their hats, made their
awkward obeisances, and looked not a little embarrassed and confused.

Minna returned to the house where she lodged, much affected, yet, on the
whole, pleased with the result of her expedition, which seemed to put
her father out of danger, and assured her at once of the escape of
Cleveland, and of the safety of young Mordaunt. She hastened to
communicate both pieces of intelligence to Brenda, who joined her in
thankfulness to Heaven, and was herself wellnigh persuaded to believe in
Norna's supernatural pretensions, so much was she pleased with the
manner in which they had been employed. Some time was spent in
exchanging their mutual congratulations, and mingling tears of hope,
mixed with apprehension; when, at a late hour in the evening, they were
interrupted by Claud Halcro, who, full of a fidgeting sort of
importance, not unmingled with fear, came to acquaint them, that the
prisoner, Cleveland, had disappeared from the Cathedral, in which he had
been permitted to walk, and that the Provost, having been informed that
Minna was accessary to his flight, was coming, in a mighty quandary, to
make enquiry into the circumstances.

When the worthy Magistrate arrived, Minna did not conceal from him her
own wish that Cleveland should make his escape, as the only means which
she saw of redeeming her father from imminent danger. But that she had
any actual accession to his flight, she positively denied; and stated,
"that she had parted from Cleveland in the Cathedral, more than two
hours since, and then left him in company with a third person, whose
name she did not conceive herself obliged to communicate."

"It is not needful, Miss Minna Troil," answered Provost Torfe; "for,
although no person but this Captain Cleveland and yourself was seen to
enter the Kirk of St. Magnus this day, we know well enough that your
cousin, old Ulla Troil, whom you Zetlanders call Norna of Fitful-head,
has been cruising up and down, upon sea and land, and air, for what I
know, in boats and on ponies, and it may be on broomsticks; and here has
been her dumb Drow, too, coming and going, and playing the spy on every
one--and a good spy he is, for he can hear every thing, and tells
nothing again, unless to his mistress. And we know, besides, that she
can enter the Kirk when all the doors are fast, and has been seen there
more than once, God save us from the Evil One!--and so, without farther
questions asked, I conclude it was old Norna whom you left in the Kirk
with this slashing blade--and, if so, they may catch them again that
can.--I cannot but say, however, pretty Mistress Minna, that you Zetland
folks seem to forget both law and gospel, when you use the help of
witchcraft to fetch delinquents out of a legal prison; and the least
that you, or your cousin, or your father, can do, is to use influence
with this wild fellow to go away as soon as possible, without hurting
the town or trade, and then there will be little harm in what has
chanced; for, Heaven knows, I did not seek the poor lad's life, so I
could get my hands free of him without blame; and far less did I wish,
that, through his imprisonment, any harm should come to worthy Magnus
Troil of Burgh-Westra."

"I see where the shoe pinches you, Mr. Provost," said Claud Halcro, "and
I am sure I can answer for my friend Mr. Troil, as well as for myself,
that we will say and do all in our power with this man, Captain
Cleveland, to make him leave the coast directly."

"And I," said Minna, "am so convinced that what you recommend is best
for all parties, that my sister and I will set off early to-morrow
morning to the House of Stennis, if Mr. Halcro will give us his escort,
to receive my father when he comes ashore, that we may acquaint him with
your wish, and to use every influence to induce this unhappy man to
leave the country."

Provost Torfe looked upon her with some surprise. "It is not every young
woman," he said, "would wish to move eight miles nearer to a band of

"We run no risk," said Claud Halcro, interfering. "The House of Stennis
is strong; and my cousin, whom it belongs to, has men and arms within
it. The young ladies are as safe there as in Kirkwall; and much good may
arise from an early communication between Magnus Troil and his
daughters. And happy am I to see, that in your case, my good old
friend,--as glorious John says,--

    ----'After much debate,
  The man prevails above the magistrate.'"

The Provost smiled, nodded his head, and indicated, as far as he thought
he could do so with decency, how happy he should be if the Fortune's
Favourite, and her disorderly crew, would leave Orkney without further
interference, or violence on either side. He could not authorize their
being supplied from the shore, he said; but, either for fear or favour,
they were certain to get provisions at Stromness. This pacific
magistrate then took leave of Halcro and the two ladies, who proposed
the next morning, to transfer their residence to the House of Stennis,
situated upon the banks of the salt-water lake of the same name, and
about four miles by water from the Road of Stromness, where the Rover's
vessel was lying.


  Fly, Fleance, fly!--Thou mayst escape.


It was one branch of the various arts by which Norna endeavoured to
maintain her pretensions to supernatural powers, that she made herself
familiarly and practically acquainted with all the secret passes and
recesses, whether natural or artificial, which she could hear of,
whether by tradition or otherwise, and was, by such knowledge, often
enabled to perform feats which were otherwise unaccountable. Thus, when
she escaped from the tabernacle at Burgh-Westra, it was by a sliding
board which covered a secret passage in the wall, known to none but
herself and Magnus, who, she was well assured, would not betray her. The
profusion, also, with which she lavished a considerable income,
otherwise of no use to her, enabled her to procure the earliest
intelligence respecting whatever she desired to know, and, at the same
time, to secure all other assistance necessary to carry her plans into
effect. Cleveland, upon the present occasion, had reason to admire both
her sagacity and her resources.

Upon her applying a little forcible pressure, a door which was concealed
under some rich wooden sculpture in the screen which divides the eastern
aisle from the rest of the Cathedral, opened, and disclosed a dark
narrow winding passage, into which she entered, telling Cleveland, in a
whisper, to follow, and be sure he shut the door behind him. He obeyed,
and followed her in darkness and silence, sometimes descending steps, of
the number of which she always apprized him, sometimes ascending, and
often turning at short angles. The air was more free than he could have
expected, the passage being ventilated at different parts by unseen and
ingeniously contrived spiracles, which communicated with the open air.
At length their long course ended, by Norna drawing aside a sliding
panel, which, opening behind a wooden, or box-bed, as it is called in
Scotland, admitted them into an ancient, but very mean apartment, having
a latticed window, and a groined roof. The furniture was much
dilapidated; and its only ornaments were, on the one side of the wall, a
garland of faded ribbons, such as are used to decorate whale-vessels;
and, on the other, an escutcheon, bearing an Earl's arms and coronet,
surrounded with the usual emblems of mortality. The mattock and spade,
which lay in one corner, together with the appearance of an old man,
who, in a rusty black coat, and slouched hat, sat reading by a table,
announced that they were in the habitation of the church-beadle, or
sexton, and in the presence of that respectable functionary.

When his attention was attracted by the noise of the sliding panel, he
arose, and, testifying much respect, but no surprise, took his shadowy
hat from his thin grey locks, and stood uncovered in the presence of
Norna with an air of profound humility.

"Be faithful," said Norna to the old man, "and beware you show not any
living mortal the secret path to the Sanctuary."

The old man bowed, in token of obedience and of thanks, for she put
money in his hand as she spoke. With a faltering voice, he expressed his
hope that she would remember his son, who was on the Greenland voyage,
that he might return fortunate and safe, as he had done last year,