Page images

in their fastnesses above the cascade; huddled into a small compass and for there nature had defended them seen at once. The waterfall shot in her strongest manner. As one from a height of about seventy feet, ascended the torrent, there was on and the precipitous rock on each side, the left a forest thick with pines, and had an elevation of at least twice as interrupted by lakes and marshes; much more; so that to have gained and, on the right, a succession of the top, John must have climbed crag rising over crag, in such a man- like the mountain cat, or soared like ner that no human being, or indeed the raven. There was, indeed, one wing-less thing of any sort, could at- little path, (if path it could be called,) tempt to descend, without the cer- in which one had to creep in the tainty of being dashed to pieces. In dark below fallen fragments of the those crags, the ravens, from which rock, for some ten feet at a time, the cascade takes its appropriate and through a crevice of about two cognomen, build their eyries, and feet in diameter, in which there was rear their ravenous brood, despite no knowing what might be concealthe muttered vengeance of the neigh- ed; and in which the gripe of a bouring shepherds, whose flocks are mountain-cat, or a mountaineer, made to pay tithes to those dark- would have been alternatives equal nested gentry, and in contempt of ly fearful and fatal to John Rose. the efforts of the most daring hunters. Nor was this all; for, just as one approached the falling sheet of water, and was drenched by the spray, and made dizzy by the motion and the din, one stood upon scanty and slippery footing, and looked down upon a tremendous cauldron of black and tumbling water, full fifty feet below, of which no one could see the entrance or the outlet for the overhang ing and frightful crags, and of which no man knew, or felt disposed to fathom, the depth.

Nor is the place more accessible from the source of the torrent that lies distant in the summit of a mountain, which can be passed with difficulty by the most adventurous traveller; and even though the road that way were easy, it is long,-full thirty miles to go, and twenty to return; and though John Rose might have continued to make the former part of the journey upon his poney, in about two days, it would have taken him at least an equal time to perform the latter on foot, in a place where peat and heather would have been both his bed and his board. Besides, though John had undertaken this long and perilous journey, and though there had been no chance of his meeting "the braw M'Craws," bringing tea and tobacco from the west coast to barter for that dew, of which he wished to prevent the circulation and influence; and against whom, if he had happened to meet them, the insurance of his safe return would have been full cent per cent upon his value; the alarm would have been given, and John would have been drubbed and driven back, long before he had reached the place of his desires.

Into this abyss would John Rose have been compelled to look, after he had overcome the perils of the passage formerly mentioned; and not only would he have had to cast upon it, what would have been fatal to most men under such circumstances, a passing look; but he would have had to hang suspended over it for some time, to ruminate upon the still greater peril which then presented itself. At the point where one comes SO near to the fall, that the spray makes sight difficult, and foot ing and grasp impossible to any thing but naked feet, and hard hands which have long been inured to cling to the rock, as a fly does to the window, or a boy's "sucker" to a pebble-being pressed down at the sides, and drawn up in the middle by that peculiar action of the muscles which the bands and feet of climbers of rocks acquire,

In the fourth quarter, or from the Strath, the approach is more terrific, because all the terrors of it are


without the owner being able to tell how, just at that point, a plate of schistus, of much harder texture than the rest, projects about two feet for ward, and overhangs from an elevation, to the top of which one dares not look up.

the place; but that which, if he could have reached it, would have given him a little profit to console him for the banterings and bangs to which he was forced to submit, and, what was his grand object, have recommended him to a more lucrative and less perilous district, was quite inaccessible; and though John Rose could see the blue smoke curling through the crevices, and though the breeze came perfumed with the fragrace of the dew, yet not on one thimbleful of it could he set the broad arrow of the king.

It is true that, upon the edge of this curtain of rock, there is a little step, or indenture, of the depth of about three inches; and it is also true, that one who knows the other side of the rock can grasp it with perfect security, and, by dexterously "changing step" and making a spring, land upon a stony platform on the other side, where all is safe, and where there is a natural parapet, to protect one equally from the gulf and the cataract. At the same time it is equally true, that no one who has seen only one side of the rock, could easily prevail on himself to pass it either way, though those on the other side were making their every effort to encourage and aid him. Much less could John Rose, the gauger, against whom every vengeance was vowed, and every hostility carried on, dare to make the attempt, where one child of ten years old might have stood in safety and silence, and plunged ten thousand gangers, seriatim, into the abyss, whence they would have been carried, the Lord knows where.

In consequence of these formidable barriers in the way, John Rose, the gauger, could not interfere with the distillation of the dew; and thus his operations were confined to intercepting the malt, and seizing the spirits when made, and in the act of being conveyed to other parts of the district; operations in which, from the numbers and determination of the escorts, John had usually more broil than profit. He used to watch in the neighbourhood, however; and when the wind set down the dell, he has often been seen snuffing up the scent of that which he could not reach; or eyeing the operations, as a cat eyes a sparrow on an unaccessible twig. Often did John Rose linger about 27 ATHENEUM, VOL. 9, 2d series.

So totally unproductive was John's district, that his superiors began to hint that he was in league with the illicit distillers, and cognizant of the spoliation of that revenue; upon which he was, at the same time, a dead weight to the full amount of his salary. To John Rose, the most zealous of gaugers, to him whose days were spent in watching and his n ghts in dreaming of that prey, which, had he been ten John Roses, he could not have reached, this was a most bitter accusation; and the bitterness was deepened by the reflection that it would lead to his dismissal; and John Rose, the gentleman gauger, would have to sink down into the laborious ditcher, which was his calling before he was united in holy wedlock with the handmaid of parson Rory; and soon thereafter made to taste the sweets of patriarchal blessedness.

Out of this unpleasant predicament, John Rose was determined to work himself, or perish in the attempt. But how to do the former, and avoid the latter, was the rub. The fatal rock and the yawning gulf, the dreary forest, the stupendous height of Mam Suil, the everlasting ice of Loch na' Nuin; with the crags, the wild cats, and worse than all, the cudgels and dirks of the Chisholms, beset the place in formidable array. He thumped and scratched the outside of his cranium, to stimulate his organ of investigation; and he kept cannonading the same with snuff, pinch after pinch, till resolution came

upon him to thread the mazes of the forest.

Arming himself with pistols and provend, he began his journey at midnight, and ere grey dawn he was on the outskirt of the forest, and had the satisfaction of being secured against the heat of the sun, by that close and cooling investure, a Scotch mist; which, at the same time that it watered him copiously for his journey, so circumscribed his vision, that it did not extend beyond the next pine. If you take a kitchen-poker, which has stood for some time by the fire (if leaning southward all the better,) give it two or three smart taps on the floor, to shake out any disturbed polarizations that may be in it; and then holding it as nearly as you can in the direction and dip of the magnetic needle, bring the south or upper end of it near the north of a compass, it would attract the said north very powerfully. But if you then, holding the south where it was, reverse the poker by turning it over, and making that which was the south the north, the north point of the compass will fly, and the whole will be reversed. Those who have been in the habit of travelling in a trackless country, get a compass in their heads, How it comes there one cannot very well tell but it does come, and clear or cloudy, day or night, it points out the direction with wonderful accuracy. Nature sometimes reverses this compass, without any application of a poker; and so powerful is the impression, that when under its influence, one can hardly persuade one's-self that the midday sun is not due north. What influence the whiskey that Johu Rose took with him and in him, in order that it might instinctively go to that of which he was in quest, might have had in the matter, there is no knowing; but certain it is that the compass in John's head got sadly out of sorts; and through the live-long day he could not get out of the forest, unless at the point where he entered, to which he came unintentionally more than twenty times; so that, when evening

came, there was nothing for John Rose but to make the best of his way home.

The best of a disappointed man's way is not very good, even in the best kept thoroughfare in the world; and those who have had the fortune to be alone in the dark upon the hills of Strathglass, need not be told that the best of Johu Rose's way, was nothing to be desired or boasted of.

The physical perils in his way were not small; pits, precipices, pools, cataracts, and quagmires; besides the unpleasant yelling of the wild cats, on all sides of him, the sharp bark of the fox upon the hill, and the ear-piercing boom of the bit tern from the mire. There were metaphysical alarms too. John was deeply imbued with the superstitions of his country: he heard the mocking neigh of the "water kelpie" through the mournful wail of the falling stream; and that fellest of imps the ignis fatuus, was ever and anon holding up his lantern, to lure John Rose into all sorts of dangerous places.

Still John tottered and trembled on, mingling prayers and curses, till he came to a place more tangled and wild than any he had yet encountered. Here a real light glared upon him for a moment, and as its last flicker stole from him, the little glinmer that the stars cast through the fog, there glided past, plain to his vision, that horrible apparition, the Bhodaich Ghlais, the certain harbinger of death. John yelled out; forward he sprang, and the next instant he was many fathoms under the earth, not much stunned by the fall, but so hurt with heat and smoke and sulphur, that he verily believed that he had passed the doom of which the Bhodaich had warned him, and entered upon his final retribution in the place of woe.

A gripe like that of a tiger was upon his throat; a dagger gleamed over him; and a voice which made the earth rock again, exclaimed, "Are you Shohn Rose, ta gaäger !"

"A-ay." "Tid ony poty saw you come in ?" "No-a." "Then," flourishing the dagger, and dashing John on the floor, “tam ta one shall saw you go out!" The heart of John sank within him, and his recollection did not return till he found himself at the door of his own house, with a whole skin, but bound hand and foot; and so heartily tired of Strathglass, and of those dens of distillation which he had been unable to reach with his will, but had reached against it, that he applied to Rory, his patron, and soon took his departure for another district, amid the jeers and hootings of the people.

John Rose next set up his staff upon the west coast of the Highlands. It seems, however, that he was destined to give additioual force to the proverb, "If you flee from fate it will follow;" for the rumour of John's zeal outran him, and the story of the subterranean distillery, the Bhodaich Ghlais and the dirk, met him on his arrival. He was now, however, in a more open country; there was a company of volunteers, whom he could call upon on any emergency; and, backed by them, John Rose had still hopes that his zeal would be crowned with success, and lead to that promotion which was the operating principle in all his exertions.

In those days, the people on the west coast of the Scotch Highlands were annually supplied with brandy, tea, claret, and various other exciseable commodities, by a smuggling cutter, which came nominally from Guernsey, but which, in reality, was the property of Highlanders, and navigated by a Highlander who knew every creek and bay on the coast. This vessel had carried on her contraband trade for many years, without once having been encountered by the custom-house yacht, which generally contrived to stand off in the direction of the Orkney and Shetland Isles, until the cargo was landed, and the cutter gone.

John Rose resolved to make this same cutter the lever which was to hoist him up to the desired elevation;

and from the day of his taking up his abode in his new district, his whole wishes and wits were at work, devising means by which he should seize the cutter. Upon the high seas he had no means of getting, and therefore he had to wait till the prize should come to him; and as his district was the last at which the cutter touched, the capture was delayed, and the value diminished. There is nothing that spins time to such an unbearable length as expectation; but eveu expectation does not spin it out for ever.

Many a long and weary day did John Rose nestle upon the highest summit of the peninsula-looking wistfully toward the whole sea part of the horizon; and many a fishingboat from Barra to the Clyde, and kelp-sloop from the Long Island for Liverpool, cheated his expectation ere there was any news of the cutter. The cutter did come, however, at last, and had been snugly laid up in a little creek for several days before John Rose was apprized of the fact. When that came to his ears, he called the assistance of his reluctant soldier-craft, the volunteers, and, ensconcing them behind a knoll which was covered with coppice, he directed them to rush forward when he should give the signal. They, or some one else, had, however, given the signal before him; and so, though he went in the costume of a mendicant, the better to conceal his purpose till the proper time came, those on board had notice of his quality and intentions.

John Rose was received with a frankness which, if it had not been for the value of the prize, would have unmanned him for his project; and his spirits were somewhat damped by the array of pikes, pistols, and cutlasses which he saw. No pike was brought to the charge, however, no pistol was cocked, and no cutlass was grasped; the people on board were swinging almost the last tub of brandy overboard; and the weapons of death lay by as harmless as if John Rose had the power of charming

them into wreaths of myrtles, roses, and the olive. "They do not know me now, but they shall know me by and by," whispered John Rose to himself: John was a true prophet, but he did not know it.

Upon the deck of the vessel, there was a small cask of the choicest cogniac, in which there was a crane, and to which a small silver jug was attached. It caught John's attention; and forthwith, as if by magic, he was seated on a camp stool, and the fascinating chalice was at his lips. It was nectar and ambrosia, John Rose quaffed and quaffed again; and at the seventh age of the draught, he essayed to rise for the purpose of

making his signal; but the heels of John only rose; the head fell; the cutter sheered out, and sailed with the tide; and when the senses of John Rose came back to him, he was in the wide Atlantic with not even a distant peak in sight. Drowning or something worse was his anticipation; but John Rose was not destined to have his exit in that element. They stood across the Bay of Biscay, and landing him at Corunna, gave him dollars to the value of five pounds. With no language, save Gaelic and Scotch, he plodded his way to Oporto; and from thence he returned to England, where he ceases to be matter of history.


DURING the middle of last summer, I was travelling through the delightful provinces in the east of France. Thus agreeably engaged, I frequently availed myself of the delicious fragrance which pervaded the mild evenings of the month of August, and wandered alone amidst the splendid scenery on the banks of the Rhine. On one occasion, I strayed mechanically towards the village of Houssen, situated near Colmar. The sun had already set, though a glowing streak of red still marked its departure in the west; while, from the opposite horizon, the moon, like a timid, blushing nymph, rose from out the silvery clouds. The Queen of Night gradually rose, and pursued her course uninterrupted through the azure vault of heaven, or occasionally rested on an accumulated mass of clouds, whose broken shapes and shades likened them to the lofty summits of snow-topped mountains. Her mild and dawning light rapidly assumed a vivid brilliancy, which glittered through the foliage of the trees, and illumined the deepest recesses of the wood, or played upon the waters of the noble stream which flowed through the plain. I contemplated with delight

this enchanting scene. The sky was clear, the air calm and serene, and the rays of the moon broke through the darkness with their pale light; the freshness of the night fell upon the earth and cooled its burning heat; the husbandman had long left his labour, and retired to his peaceful dwelling: all was tranquillity and repose, and no sound was heard, save the mournful cry of birds of prey, the distant step of some lonely traveller, or the hollow roar of the impetuous waters, as they dashed upon the rocks in their course,

I sat at the foot of a tree, and looked with wonder and delight upon the sublime scene that lay before me, and my thoughts were of the hidden Being who had created such works of grandeur; I was absorbed with these reflections, when the hour of one struck from the church of Houssen and warned me to retire.

I rose and walked slowly away; as 1 came near a bridge at a short distance from Colmar, I saw something like a human figure stretched in the road, and, on approaching the spot, found it really was a man lying senseless. At this moment I heard the noise of an approaching carriage; it was the Strasburg mail, and was

« PreviousContinue »