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Bonnie Scotland
The Kingdom of Fife


Like Somerset, claiming to be something more than a mere shire, the county half fondly, half jestingly entitled a kingdom, lies islanded between two firths, cut off from the world by the sea and from the rest of Scotland by the Ochil ridges. The "Fifers" are thus supposed to be a race apart; but it would be more like the truth to take Fifeishness as the essence of Saxon Scotland. Fife is, in fact, an epitome of the Lowlands, showing great stretches of practically prosaic farming, others of grimy coal-field, with patches of moor, bog, and wind-blown firs, here and there swelling into hill features, that in the abrupt Lomonds attain almost mountain dignity in face of their Highland namesake, sixty miles away. Open to cold sea winds, it nurses the hardy frames of "buirdly chiels and clever hizzies"; and all the invigorating discipline of the northern climate is understood to be concentrated in the East Neuk of Fife, where a weakling like R. L. Stevenson might well sigh over the "flaws of fine weather that we call our northern summer." It is in the late autumn that this eastern coast is at its best of halcyon days. As we have seen, the poet lived a little farther south who still laid himself open to Tom Hood's reproach—

'Come, gentle spring, ethereal mildness come!'
O Thomson, void of rhyme as well as reason,
How could'st thou thus poor human nature hum
There's no such season!

In the Antiquary's period, we know how Fife was reached from Edinburgh by crossing the Firth at Queensferry, as old as Malcolm Canmore's English consort, or by the longer sail from Leith to Kinghorn, where Alexander III. broke his neck to Scotland's woe. A more roundabout land route was via Stirling, chosen by prudent souls like the old wife who, being advised to put her trust in Providence for the passage, replied, "Na, na, sae lang as there's a brig at Stirling I'll no fash Providence!" Lord Cockburn records how that conscientious divine, Dr. John Erskine, feeling it his duty to vote in a Fife election, when too infirm to bear the motion of boat or carriage, arranged to walk all the way by Stirling, but was saved this fortnight's pilgrimage by the contest being given up. Till the building of its Firth bridges, the North British Railway's passengers had to tranship both in entering and leaving Fife, a mild taste of adventure for small schoolboys. Now, as all the world knows, the shores of Lothian are joined to Fife by that monumental Forth Bridge that humps itself into view miles away. Then all the world has heard of the unlucky Tay Bridge, graceful but treacherous serpent as it proved in its first form, when one stormy Sabbath night it let a train be blown into the sea. By these constructions the line has now a clear course on which to race its Caledonian rival, either for Perth or Aberdeen. But

The Castle of St. Andrews, Fifeshire
The Castle of St. Andrews, Fifeshire

there is no racing done on the cobweb of North British branches woven to catch Fife-farers, at whose junctions, as a local statistician has calculated, the average Fifer wastes one-seventh of his life or thereabouts. Ladybank Junction, stranded on its moor, used to have the name of a specially penitential waiting-place, which yet lent itself to romantic account in one of those Tales from Blackwood.

The towns of Fife are many rather than much. Cupar, the county seat, is still a quiet little place, whose Academy stands on the site of a Macduff stronghold, recalling that Thane of Fife with whom the Dukedom of our generation is connected only in title. "He that maun to Cupar, maun to Cupar," says the proverb, but few strangers seem to risk this vague condemnation. When James Ray passed through the town on his way to Culloden, he has little to tell of it unless that he put up at the "Cooper's Arms" which, more by token, was kept by the Widow Cooper. The above proverb, by the way, seems to belong to Coupar-Angus, usually so distinguished in spelling, and is transferred to its namesake by "Cupar-justice," a Fife version of the code honoured at Jedburgh. A Scotch cooper or couper may not have to do with barrels, unless indirectly in the way of business, but is also a chaffer or chapman, par excellence, of horses ; and one would like to believe, if philologists did not shake their heads, that these towns got their name as markets, like English Chippings and Cheaps.

In an out-of-the-way edge of the county, below the Lomonds, lies Falkland, whose royal palace, restored by the late Marquis of Bute, was the scene of that dubious tragedy enacted in the Fair Maid of Perth, where the dissolute Duke of Rothesay is a little white-washed to heighten the dramatic atrocity of his death. A few miles behind Queensferry is Dunfermline, another place where kings once sat "drinking the blood-red wine," now a thriving seat of linen manufacture, among its mills and bleachfields containing choice fragments of royal and ecclesiastical architecture, as well as modern adornments given by its bounteous son Mr. Andrew Carnegie, native of the town where Charles I. was born, and Robert Bruce buried beside Malcolm Canmore and his queen. There are some fine modern monuments in the new church, which adjoins the monastic old one, testifying stiffly to Presbyterian distrust of Popish arts; and altogether Dunfermline is one of those places that might well "delay the tourist."

But the largest congregation in Fife is that "long town" of Kirkcaldy, flourishing on jute and linoleum since the days when Carlyle and Irving were dominies here, the former a humane pedagogue, though he scourged grownup dunces so unmercifully, while the bygone peace of the place was often broken by the wailing of Irving's pupils under the tawse with which he sought to drive them into unknown tongues. Kirkcaldy has older historic memories; but somehow it is one of those Scottish towns that, like Peebles and Paisley, lend their names to vulgar or comic associations. Was it not a bailie of Kirkcaldy who said, "What wi' a' thae schules and railways, ye canna' tell the dufference atween a Scotchman and an Englishman noo-a-days!"

Let the above words be text for a sermon, to which I invite seriously-minded readers, while the otherwise-minded may amuse themselves by taking a daunder among the lions of Kirkcaldy. The subject is Scottish Humour, which Englishmen are apt to rank with the snakes of Iceland or the breeks of a Highlander. Foreigners do not make the same mistake, as how can they when the best known English humorists are so often Scotsmen or Irishmen? It is the pure John Bull whose notions of the humorous are apt to be rather childish; so when he gets hold of a joke like that about the surgical instrument, he runs about squibbing it in everybody's face, and never seems to grow tired of such a smart saying, nor cares to ask if there be any truth in it beyond the fact that one people may not readily relish another's wit or wisdom.

The vulgar of all nations have a very rudimentary sense of the comic, coarse enough in many Scotsmen who can appreciate no more pointed repartee than—

The never a word had Dickie to say,
Sae he ran the lance through his fause bodie!

The characteristic form of English humour is more or less good-natured chaff, bearing the same relation to keen raillery as a bludgeon does to a rapier. A master of this fence was Dr. Johnson, who, if his pistol missed fire, knocked you down with the butt end of it. Sydney Smith's residence in Edinburgh should have given him a finer style, which he turned to so unworthy use in mocking at Scottish "wut." As to the distinction between wit and humour, I know of no better than that which defines the one as a flash, the other as an atmosphere. It may be granted that the Scottish nature does not coruscate in flashes. But what your Sydney Smiths do not observe is that it develops a very high quality of humour, which has self-criticism as its essence. Know thyself, has been styled the acme of wisdom; and when the Scotsman's best stories come to be analysed, the point of them appears to be a more or less conscious making fun of his own faults and shortcomings, which is a wholesomer form of intellectual exercise than that parrot-trick of nicknaming one's neighbours. The bailie's boast above quoted is a characteristic instance over which an Englishman may chuckle without seeing the true force of it. All those hoary Punch jests as to "bang went saxpence," and so forth, are good old home-made Scottish stories, which the southron brings back with him from their native heath, and dresses them up for his own taste with a spice of malice, then rejoices over the savoury dish which he has prepared by seething poached kids in their mother's milk. Yet often print fails to bring out the true gust that needs a Doric tongue for sauce; and the Englishman who attempts any Scottish accent is apt to merit their fate who ventured to meddle with the ark, not being of the tribe of Judah. The effect of such a story depends as much on the actor as on the words. To mention but one of many noted masters of this art, who that ever spent an evening with the late Sir Daniel Macnee, President of the Scottish Academy, could hold the legendary view of his countrymen's want of fun? He had to be heard to be appreciated ; but, at the risk of misrepresenting his gift, here is one of his anecdotes. He was travelling with a talkative oil merchant who, after much boast of his own business, began to rally the other on his want of communicativeness— "Come now, what line are you in?"— "I'm in the oil trade too," confessed the painter, whereupon his companion fell to pressing him for an order.— "We'll do cheaper for you than any house in the trade!" At last, to get rid of his persistency, Sir Daniel said, "I don't mind taking a gallon from you."—"A gallon! Man, ye're in a sma' way!"

Perhaps this humour is a modern production, like certain fruits cultivated in Scotland "with deeficulty." There were times, indeed, when life here was no laughing matter. But even the sun-loving vine is all the better for a touch of frost at its roots, and the best wines are not those the most easily made. In contrast with other home-brewed fun that soon goes flat, and with such cheap brands as "Joe Miller," the vintage of Scottish humour, if not distinguished by effervescing spurts of fancy, has body and character which only improve by age, keeping well even when decanted, and giving a marked flavour when mixed with less potent materials, into Punch, let us say. There is also a dry quality thrown away on palates used to the public-house tap; Ally Sloper, for instance, might not taste the womanthropy, as he would call it, of that bachelor divine who began his discourse on the Ten Virgins with "What strikes us here, my brethren, is the unusually large proportion of wise Virgins." A good Scotch story, with the real smack upon the tongue, bears to be told again, like an aphorism distilled from the wisdom of generations. Sound humour is but the seamy side of common-sense, for a sense of the incongruous degenerates into nonsense if not shaped by a clear eye for the relation and proportion of things. If the reader will consider the many specimens of Scottish humour now current in England, or to be drawn from such treasuries as Dean Ramsay's ; and if he will reflect on their weight and minting, he may understand the value of this coinage in the national life.

The northern Attic salt abounds in one savour that appears in a hundred stories like that of the preacher who, at Kirkcaldy or elsewhere, apologised for his want of preparation: "I have been obliged to say what the Lord put into my mouth, but next Sabbath I hope to come better provided!" If there is any subject which the Scot takes seriously it is religion, that yet makes the favourite theme of his jests. Revilers have gone so far as to state that the incongruous elements of Scottish humour are usually supplied by a minister and a whisky bottle. It is certainly the case that a Scotsman relishes playing upon the edge of sacred things, and that the pillars of his church will shake their sides over stories which strike Englishmen as irreverent. But has not vigorous faith often shown a tendency to overflow into backwaters of comicality, as in the gargoyles of our cathedrals, the mediaeval parodies of church rites, and the homely wit of Puritan preachers? There are some believers who can afford a laugh now and then at their sturdy solemnities, others who must keep hush lest a titter bring down their fane like a house of cards. Familiarity with the language of the Bible counts for a good deal in what seems the too free handling of it in the north. But note how the irreverence of the Scot's humour is usefully directed against his own tendency to fanaticism. It is only of late years, I think, that he has taken to joking on the religious practices of his neighbours, whose shortcomings once seemed too serious for joking. That

Loch Lubnaig, Perthshire
Loch Lubnaig, Perthshire

"one" of the servant girl who described the services at Westminster Abbey as "an awful way of spending the Sabbath" may be taken as a sign of growing charity. Yet, in the past, too, a Scotsman seldom chuckled so heartily as over any rebuke to priestly pretension within his own borders. Jenny Geddes's rough form of remonstrance with the dignitary who would have read the mass in her lug was a practical form of Scotch humour, that on such subjects is apt to have a good deal of hard earnest in it. As for the Kirk's own ministers, the tyranny ascribed to them by Buckle has long been tempered by stories at their expense. Buckle's famous comparison of Spain and Scotland is vitiated by his leaving out of account that natural sense of humour that has aided popular instruction in counteracting superstition. Dean Ramsay ekes out Carlyle and other weighty authors who explain how Irving found no depth of earth in Scotland for the seeds of his wild enthusiasm, and why the tourist seeks in vain for winking Madonnas at Kirkcaldy, long ago done with all relics and images but the battered figureheads of her whalers.

Kirkcaldy's whalers now grow legendary, and strangers beholding her shipping to-day, may take for a northern joke that this ranks as the third Scottish port of entry ; but the fact is that a whole string of Fife harbours are officially knotted together under its name, as all North America was once tacked on to the manor of Greenwich, and every British child born at sea belongs to the parish of Stepney. The coast-line here is thick-set with little towns of business and pleasure, grimy coal ports and odorous fishing havens, alternating with bathing beaches and golf-links in the openings of the low cliffs. At the western edge has now been taken in the old burgh Culross, pronounced in a manner that may strike strangers as curious. Not far from the Forth Bridge is the prettiest of Edinburgh seaside resorts, Aberdour, with its own ruins to show, and the remains of an abbey on Inchcolm that shuts in its bay, and behind it Lord Moray's mansion of Doni-bristle, part of which stands a charred shell, burned down and rebuilt three times till its owner accepted what seemed a decree of fate. Opposite Edinburgh, Burntisland's prosaic features make a setting for the castle of Rossend, with its romantic scandal about Queen Mary and Chastelard. Beyond Kirkcaldy come Leven and Largo, trying to grow together about the statue of Alexander Selkirk; and Largo House was home of a more ancient Fifeshire mariner, Andrew Wood, his "Yellow Frigate" a sore thorn in England's side, as commemorated by a novel of James Grant, who wrote so many once-so-popular romances of war. Fife coast towns have a way of sorting themselves in couples. At the corner of the bay overlooked by Largo Law, Elie and Earlsferry flourish together as a family bathing place, behind which, at the pronunciation of Kilconquhar the uninitiated may take a thousand guesses in vain. Then we have Anstruther and Crail on Fifeness, that sharp point of the East Neuk of Fife. Round this, at the mouth of the Eden, we come to St. Andrews, "gem of the province."

Everybody has heard of St. Andrews, but only those who have seen it understand its peculiar rank among seaside resorts. It is distinguished by a certain quiet air, like some high-born spinster's, accustomed to command respect, whose heirlooms of lace and jewellery put her above any need of following the fashions. Her parvenu rivals must lay themselves out to attract, must make the best of their advantages, must ogle and flirt, and strain themselves to profit by the vogue of public favour. St. Andrews does not display so much as an esplanade, standing secure upon her sober dignity, a little dashed, indeed, of Saturday afternoons by excursions from Dundee. Other sea-side places may be said to flourish, but the word seems inappropriate in the case of this resort, that yet thrives sedately, as how should she not with so many strings to her bow? First of all she is a venerable University city, whose Mrs. Bouncers ought to make a good thing of it with the students and the sea-bathing visitors playing "Box and Cox" for them through the winter session and the summer season. Then she is a Scottish Clifton or Brighton of schools, recommended by the singular healthiness of the place. Unless in the smart new quarter near the railway station, the dignified bearing of an ancient town carries it over the flighty manners of a watering-place. The only pier is a thing of use, where the wholesome smell of seaweed mingles with a strong fishy flavour. No gilded pagoda of a bandstand profanes the "Scores," that cliff road which your Margates would have made into a formal promenade. A few bathing machines on the sands alone hint at one side of the town's character. In one of the rocky coves of the cliff is a Ladies' bathing place, which I can praise only by report But the Step Rock, with its recent enclosure to catch the tide, is now more than ever the best swimming place on the East Coast.

What first strikes one in St. Andrews is its union of regularity and picturesqueness, and of a cheerful well-to-do present with relics of a romantic past. Its airy thoroughfares, with their plain solidity of modern Scottish architecture, form an effective setting for bits of antiquity, such as the ivy-clad fragment of Blackfriars' Chapel, and the Abbey wall, beneath which no professor cares to walk, lest then should be fulfilled a prophecy that it is one day to fall upon the wisest head in St. Andrews. The architectural treasures of this historic cathedral city would alone be enough to make it a place of pilgrimage. "You have here," says Carlyle, "the essence of all the antiquity of Scotland in good and clean condition." Southron strangers will hardly understand how these fragments of ecclesiasticism have become a nursery of Protestant sentiment. A generation ago it was stated that but one solitary Romanist could be found in the little city. Generations of Scottish children, like myself, have been shown that gloomy dungeon at the bottom of which once pined the victims of Giant Pope, a sight to fill us with shuddering horror and hate of persecuting times ; but we were not told how Protestants could persecute, too, while they knew not yet of what spirit they were. What shades of grim romance haunt these crumbling walls, what memories of Knox and Beaton, what dreams of the old Stuart days! I never realised the power of their associations till one evening, on the Scores, there sat down beside me two French tourists who had somehow strayed into St. Andrews, and their light talk of boulevards, theatres, and such like, seemed sacrilegious under the shadow of the Martyrs' Memorial.

In Glenfinlas, Perthshire
In Glenfinlas, Perthshire

I have an acquaintance with St. Andrews going back more than half a century. My introduction to club life was at the club here, then a cottage of two or three rooms, into which I was invited under charge of my nurse, and treated to the refreshment of gingerbread snaps by a member who seemed to me little short of a patriarch. In the scenery of my childhood, nothing stands out more clearly and cheerfully than those sandy green links dotted with red jackets and red flags, not to speak of the red balls with which enthusiasts bid defiance to snow and ice. Nay, another among my earliest reminiscences is of seeing the multitudinous seas themselves incarnadined, when, for once, the golfers allowed their attention to be drawn from their own hazards. A cry had been raised that a lady was drowning; then every group of red jackets within hearing forgot their balls, flung down their clubs, raced across the links, dashed into the waves, and struggled emulously to the rescue. I think a caddie, after all, was the fortunate youth who had the glory of achieving such an adventure.

Since those days, when feather balls cost half-a-crown and few profane foreigners had penetrated its mysteries, the Golf Club has been transformed in a style becoming the chief temple of this Benares, hard by a more modest "howff" for the "professionals" who are its Brahmins, where little "caddies" swarm like the monkeys of an Indian sanctuary. For golf is the idol of a cult that draws here many pilgrims from far lands, now that, in the international commerce of amusement, while barelegged little Macs take kindly to cricket, the time-honoured Caledonian game spreads fast and far over England, over the world, indeed, for on dusty Indian maidans good Scotsmen can be seen trying to play the rounds of Zion in that strange land, and under the very Pyramids a golf course is laid out, where the dust of Pharaohs may serve as a tee, or a mummy pit prove the most provoking of bunkers. In the home of its birth this pastime flourishes more than ever. Parties are given for golf along with tea and tennis; schools begin to lay out their golf ground as well as their football field; and at St. Andrews we have the Ladies' Links, where many a masculine heart has been gently spooned or putted into the hole of matrimony. Fair damsels may even be seen lifting and driving in a "foursome," an innovation frowned at by some old stagers, who hardly care to talk about the game till it is ended, and then can talk of nothing else. "Tee, veniente die, tee, decedente—!" is the song of St. Andrews, which asks for no more absorbing joy than a round in the morning and a round in the evening. In the eyes of inveterate golfers, all prospects are poor beside those links that make the Mecca, the Monte Carlo, the Epsom of the royal game, so one is free to give up the surrounding country as not much contributing to the attractions of the place, many of whose visitors hardly care to stir beyond their beloved arena, unless for a Sunday afternoon walk along the shore as far as that curious freak of the elements known as the Spindle Rock.

Besides its devotion to the game where clubs are always trumps, St. Andrews has in the last generation had an attraction for celebrities in literature and science. The University staff, of course, makes a permanent depot of intellect. The facile essayist A.K.H.B. was long parish minister here, when the Episcopal bishop was a nephew of Wordsworth, himself an author too well known to schoolboys. Here Robert Chambers spent the evening of his days. Blackwood the publisher had a house close at hand, where many famous authors have been guests. In the vicinity, too, is Mount Melville, seat of Whyte-Melville, the novelist. Not to mention living names, the late Mrs. Lynn Linton was a warm lover of St. Andrews. It must have been well known to Mrs. Oliphant, more than one of whose novels take this country for their scene.

Is it impertinent to say a word in praise of a writer, too soon forgotten at circulating libraries, where she was but too voluminously in evidence for the best part of her lifetime? Had she been content with a flat in Grub Street, Mrs. Oliphant might now be better remembered than by the mass of often hasty work for which her way of life gave hostages to fortune and to publishers. Her novels often smell too much of an Aladdin's lamp that had to be rubbed hard for copy; there is awful example to money-making authorship in a middle period of them that scared off readers for whom again she would rise to her early charm. Defects she had, notably a curious warp of sympathy that led her to do less than poetic justice to prodigal ne'er-do-weels; but her chief fault was in writing too much, when at her best she was very good. Her best known stories are those which deal with English life; yet she was not less happy in describing her native Scotland, having an extraordinary insight that set her at home in very varied scenes and classes of society. Few writers are found in touch with so many phases of life. Even George Eliot, sure as she is in portraying her Midland middle-class life, seems a little depaysé when she strays among fine folk; and many a skilful novelist might be mentioned who falls into convention or caricature as soon as he gets out of his own familiar environment. But, after Sir Walter, I doubt if there be any author who has given us such a varied gallery of Scottish characters, high and low, divined with Scott's sympathy and often drawn with Jane Austen's minute skill. Her servants and farmers seem as natural as her baronets and ministers, all of them indeed ordinary human beings, not the freaks and monsters of the overcharged art that for the moment has thrown such work as hers into the shade.

Of her tales dealing with Fife, perhaps the best, at least the longest, is "The Primrose Path," a beautiful idyll of this East Neuk, its scene laid within a few miles of St. Andrews, evidently at Leuchars, where such a noble Norman chancel is disgraced by the modern meeting-house built on to it, and the old shell of Earl's Hall offered itself as a fit setting for the drama of an innocent girl's heart, that at the end shifts its stage to England. The hero, he that is to be made happy after all, plays a somewhat colourless part in the background; but heroes have license to be lay figures. The real protagonist, the imperfectly villainous Rob Glen, seems to walk out of the canvas; and all the other characters, from the high-bred, scholarly father to the love-sick servant lass, are alive with humour and kindliness. As for the scenery, it is thus that Mrs. Oliphant puts the East Neuk in its best point of view:—

On the Dochart, Killin, Perthshire
On the Dochart, Killin, Perthshire

"There does not seem much beauty to spare in the east of Fife. Low hills, great breadths of level fields: the sea a great expanse of blue or leaden grey, fringed with low reefs of dark rocks like the teeth of some hungry monster, dangerous and grim without being picturesque, without a ship to break its monotony. But yet with those limitless breadths of sky and cloud, the wistful clearness and golden after-glow, and all the varying blueness of the hills, it would have been difficult to surpass the effect of the great amphitheatre of sea and land of which this solitary grey old house formed the centre. The hill, behind which the sun had set, is scarcely considerable enough to have a name; but it threw up its outline against the wonderful greenness, blueness, goldenness of the sky with a grandeur which would not have misbecome an Alp. Underneath its shelter, grey and sweet, lay the soft levels of Stratheden in all their varying hues of colour, green corn, and brown earth, and red fields of clover, and dark belts of wood. Behind were the two paps of the Lomonds, rising green against the clear serene: and on the other side entwining lines of hills, with gleams of golden light breaking through the mists, clearing here and there as far as the mysterious Grampians, far off" under Highland skies. This was one side of the circle; and the other was the sea, a sea still blue under the faint evening skies, in which the young moon was rising ; the yellow sands of Forfarshire on one hand, stretching downwards from the mouth of the Tay, the low brown cliffs and green headlands bending away on the other towards Fifeness—and the great bow of water reaching to the horizon between. Nearer the eye, showing half against the slope of the coast, and half against the water, rose St. Andrews on its cliff, the fine dark tower of the college church poised over the little city, the jagged ruins of the castle marking the outline, the cathedral rising majestically in naked pathos; and old St. Rule, homely and weather-beaten, oldest venerable pilgrim of all, standing strong and steady, at watch upon the younger centuries."

From the flattest part of Fife, let us turn to its inland Highland side. The main North British line to Perth, after passing a dreary coal-field, brings us suddenly beneath the bold swell of Benarty, round which we come in view of the Lomonds with Loch Leven sparkling at their foot. Here indeed we soon get into the small shire of Kinross; but this may be taken as a dependency of the kingdom of Fife, its lowlands also running on the west side into a miniature Highland region, reached by the railway branch that from Loch Leven goes off to Stirling by the Devon Valley and the Ochils, at the end of which Clackmannan vies with Kinross as the Rutland of Scottish counties.

Loch Leven is celebrated for its breed of trout, and for that grey tower half hidden by trees on an islet, which was poor Mary Stuart's prison. The dourest Scotsman's heart has three soft spots, the memory of Robert Burns, the romance of Prince Charlie, and the misfortunes that seem to wash out the errors of that girl queen. This is dubious ground, into which tons of paper and barrels of ink have been thrown without filling up a quaking bog of controversy. I myself have heard a distinguished scholar hissed off the most philosophic platform in Scotland for throwing a doubt on Queen Mary's innocence, so I will say no more than that her harshest historian, if shut up with her in Loch Leven as page or squire, might have been tempted to steal the keys and take an oar in the boat that bore her over those dark waters to brief freedom and safety. Had Charles Edward only had the luck to get his head cut off in solemn state, how much more gloriously dear might now be his memory!

As Scott points out, Fife was noted for a thick crop of gentry, who were apt to be found on the side of the Queen Marys and Prince Charlies, whereas its sturdy common folk rather favoured Whig principles. Not far from Kinross the grey homespun of Scottish life is proclaimed by one of those ugly obelisks that have so much commended themselves for the expression of Protestant sentiment. At Gairney Bridge, on the Fife and Kinross border, in 1733, four suspended ministers formed themselves into the first Presbytery of the Original Secession Church, a most fissiparous body which brought forth a brood of sects not yet altogether swallowed up in the recent union of the Free and United Presbyterian churches. I am bound to special interest in that foundation, for as a forebear of mine appears riding away from the shores of Loch Leven in Queen Mary's train, so one of those four seceders was my great-great-great-great (or thereabouts) grandfather, Moncrieff of Culfargie, himself grandson of a still remembered Covenanter. His spiritual descendants make a point of the fact that being a small laird, he yet testified against the unpopular system of patronage, and thus is taken to have been before his time. But Plato amicus, etc., or as Sterne translates, "Dinah is my aunt, but truth is my sister," and a closer examination reveals among the heads of my forefather's testimony against the Church of Scotland a conscientious protest in favour of executing witches and persecuting Roman Catholics, so perhaps the less said about his views the better. A few years before, a poor old wife, rubbing her hands in crazy delight at the blaze, had been burned as a witch for the last time in Scotland; and the "moderate" ministers were now content to ignore an imaginary crime which a few years later became wiped out of the statute-book.

The ancestral shade should know how filial piety urged me, perhaps alone in this generation, to perform the rite of reading his works, which indeed want such "go" and "snap" as are admired by congregations who "have lost the art of listening to two hours' sermons. "He was truly a painful and earnest preacher, in one volume of whose discourses I note this mark of wide-mindedness, that it is entitled "England's Alarm," whereas other old Scottish divines seem rather to treat the neighbour country as beyond hope of alarming. His brother-in-law, Clerk of Penicuik, characterises Culfargie as "a very sober, good man, except he should carry his very religious whims so far as to be very uneasy to everybody about him." It is recorded of him that he prayed from his pulpit for the Hanoverian King in face of the Pretender's bristling soldiery, like that other stout Whig divine whose petition ran, "As for this young man who has come among us seeking an earthly crown, may it please Thee to bestow upon him a heavenly one!" Loyalty to the same line was less frankly shown by a very different member of our clan, Margaret Moncrieff, a name little renowned on this side the Atlantic, while she figures in more than one American book as the "Beautiful Spy." Being shut up among rebels in New York, when the besieging Engineers were commanded by her father Colonel Moncrieff, she got leave to send him little presents, among them flower-paintings on velvet, beneath which were traced plans of the American works. The device being discovered, it might have gone hard with her but for Yankee chivalry, that expelled that artful hussy unhurt, in the end to bring no honour upon her name, if all tales of her be true.

The ancestral worthy whose memory has led me into a digression, lived and laboured in Strathearn, to which from Kinross we pass by Glenfarg, no Highland glen but a fine gulf of greenery with stream, road, and railway winding side by side through its banks and knolls, that called forth Queen Victoria's warm admiration on her first visit to Scotland. At the other end of this Ochil gorge we are welcomed to Perthshire by the wooded crags of Moncrieff Hill, round which the Earn bends to the Tay; then some dozen miles behind, rises the edge of the true Highlands, where "to the north-west a sea of mountains rolls away to Cape Wrath in wave after wave of gneiss, schist, quartzite, granite, and other crystalline masses."


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