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GREY

CRAIGS.

CHAPTER I.

“The land where girt by friend or foe,
A man may speak the thing he will.”

-TENNYSON.

HE inhabitants of the little seaport town of

Grey Craigs were a people rich in that

individuality of character which forms in its possessor strong lights and deep shadows. Honest they were, for the salt virtue of the sea seemed to have implanted in their nature a love of fair play and downright-heartedness in word and deed, which caused them to speak as they believed, and to act as they spoke.

Independent, for in general they were well to do in the world, either owning their own houses, or by steady industry having gained a competency, they possessed a freedom of manner and gait seldom acquired by those who struggle against poverty; and

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so if a stranger passed them as they lounged in the summer evenings by their doors, or sat on the rocks discoursing gravely on the evils of the times, the chance is not one of the group would touch his hat, or even pull the short black pipe from his lips if addressed.

Bold and courageous, too, they were, as well as indomitable in spirit and mighty in perseverance, having an element of strength in their sinews with which more effeminate natures could not cope. While the eldest son of the family remained at home to till the ground, the younger ones usually followed the occupation of fishermen, a precarious calling on that rock-bound coast–hence the dangers to which they were exposed gave generally a grave earnestness to their strong and individual characters.

Then, their religious feelings were profound and powerful, making them forsake the parish church for the earnest and more spiritual preaching of the humble meeting-house; and in the stillness of the Sabbath evening, as group after group bent their steps across the Links from that rude edifice, they might invariably be heard discoursing with each other upon points of deep spiritual theology.

The superstitions of the olden time still lingered amongst them, filling their minds with simple wonder at, and a readiness to believe in, everything supernatural—from the hideous hobgoblin to the graceful fairy that tripped in the dance at midnight by some mountain stream.

A strange combination of character this, where nothing shallow or superficial had room to exist. The grave and gay, the simple and profound, the strong faith in a wise and merciful God, yet a misapprehension of His real nature: nevertheless, all these united formed fine specimens of the true Scottish stamp now rarely seen.

But as there are no virtues that have not their antagonistic vices, no pictures that have not two sides, one of shade as well as sunshine, we must also confess that these old portioners (as they were called) of Grey Craigs had the dark as well as the bright side in their natures.

If they themselves were honest, they showed too little mercy to those whose training or disposition rendered them liable to double dealing or deceit; if independent, there was a want of courtesy and softness in the expression of their best affections, and an illiberality often amounting to rudeness in their treatment of strangers ; if brave, they were at times fierce, even cruel and unrelenting; and if religious, too intolerant of others, too strict, and often too fanatical.

I have spoken of the inhabitants, let us now take a glance at the town and neighbourhood of Grey Craigs.

On a

Grey Craigs was principally a seaport town. It consisted of a line of red-roofed houses stretching along the coast, broken by sundry streets and narrow wynds climbing upwards from the shore. clear day these red-roofed houses, reflected on the ocean, made it look like some piece of finely-veined and polished jasper streaked with divers brilliant hues—red, blue, brown, in a setting of salt seagreen.

Forming naturally part of the scene was the quiet homelike harbour, where one or two sloops might always be seen lying moored beside the pier. A gleam of fire usually appearing from braziers on their decks, near which sailors idly lounged or smoked their pipes, regardless of the smells of tar and bilge water, suggestive of the harbour of a seaport town.

The coast-line was high and bold, sometimes descending precipitously to the yellow sands, at others sloping in green banks, broken by gullies, giving sheltered nooks and quiet spots,—the neverfailing resort of the inhabitants of the town. In these the children played through long summer hours, gathering trails of blackened seaweed blown up among the prickly wild roses, or picking up coloured shells and perforated stones from amongst the sea-pink and rock saxifrage that flourished there; and there, too, in the gloaming, when the

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day's work was over, might pairs of happy lovers.be seen—too much engrossed with each other to care for a chance passer-by.

Across the Links were the dwellings of the weaver part of the population, crowned by the parish church and manse, while near it, in the valley, might be seen the humble, homelike meetinghouse, where the poorer people of the community generally met for worship.

The smithy at Grey Craigs stood at the outskirts of the town. Even the bright sun of a July morning could not rob it of its dingy aspect, though it gleamed through its broken windows and lighted up its dull, dark interior. The smoke-begrimed strong couples bore quantities of old iron in the shape of broken rims of cart-wheels, worn-out plough-coulters, &c., while the unlathed walls were hung with chains, harrows, and numberless horseshoes of different sizes.

The morning when my story begins—in the end of the eighteenth century—there glowed upon the forge a fire, which a boy in a sooty dress and a brown paper cap, blew into a strong red heat with the ponderous bellows, while a country lad stood by the anvil endeavouring, by means of a hammer, to beat a perverse piece of iron into a proper shape.

“I doubt if ye'll make a guid smith, Rob," said paper-cap with a grin, as he watched the young

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