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The Cruise of the Betsey
Chapter 6


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

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

     It was Sabbath, but the morning rose like a hypochondriac wrapped up in his night-clothes, - gray in fog,  and sad with rain.  The higher grounds of the island lay hid in clouds, far below the level of the central hollow; and our whole prospect from the deck was limited to the nearer slopes , dank, brown, and uninhabited, and to the rough black crags that frown like sentinels over the beach. Now the rime thickened as the rain pattered more loudly on the deck; and even the nearer stacks and precipices showed as unsolid and spectral in the cloud as moonlight shadows thrown on a ground of vapour; anon it cleared up for a few hundred yards, as the shower lightened; and then there came in view, partially at least, two objects that spoke of man, - deserted boat-harbour, formed of loosely piled stone, at the upper extremity of a sandy bay; and a roofless dwelling beside it, with two ruinous gables rising over the broken walls.  The entire scene suggested the idea of a land with which man had done forever; - the vapour-enveloped rocks, - the waste of ebb-incovered sand, - the deserted harbour, - the ruinous house, - the melancholy rain-fretted tides eddying along the strip of brown tangle in the foreground, - and, dim over all, the thick, slant lines of the beating shower! - I know not that of themselves they would have furnished materials enough for a finished picture in the style of Hogarth’s “End of all Things”; but right sure am I that in the hands of Bewick they would have been grouped into a tasteful and poetic vignette.  We set out for church a little after eleven, - the minister encased in his ample-skirted storm jacket of oiled canvass, and protected atop by a genuine sou-wester, of which the broad posterior rim sloped a half a yard down his back; and I closely wrapped up in my gray maud, which proved, however, a rather indifferent protection against the penetrating powers of a true Hebridean drizzle.  The building in which the congregation meets is a low dingy cottage of turf and stone, situated nearly opposite to the manse windows.  It had been built by my friend, previous to the Disruption, at his own expense, for a Gaelic school, and it now serves as a place of worship for the people. We found the congregation already gathered, and that the very bad morning had failed to lessen their numbers.  There were a few of the male parishioners keeping watch at the door, looking wistfully out through the fog and rain for their minister; and at his approach nearly twenty more came issuing  from the place, - like carder bees from their nest of dried grass and moss, - to gather round him, and shake him by the hand.  The islanders of Eigg are an active, middle-sized race, with well-developed heads, acute intellects, and singularly warm feelings.  And on this occasion at least there could be no possibility of mistake respecting the feelings with which they regarded their minister.  Rarely have I seen human countenances so eloquently vocal with veneration and love.  The gospel message, which my friend had been the first effectually to bring home to their hearts, - the palpable fact of his sacrifice for the sake of the high principles which he has taught, - his own kindly disposition, - the many services which he has rendered them, for not only has he been the minister, but also the sole medical man, of the Small Isles, and the benefit of his practice they have enjoyed, in every instance, without fee or reward, - his new life of hardship and danger, maintained for their sakes amid sinking health and great privation’, - their frequent fears for his safety when stormy nights close over the sea, - and they have seen his little vessel driven from her anchorage, just as the evening has fallen, - all these are circumstances that have concurred in giving him a strong hold on their affections. The rude turf-building we found full from end to end, and all a-steam with a particularly wet congregation, some of whom, neither very robust nor young, had travelled in the soaking drizzle from the farther extremities of the island. And, judging from the serious attention with which they listened to the discourse, they must have deemed it full value for all it cost them.  I have never yet seen a congregation more deeply impressed, or that seemed to follow the preacher more intelligently; and I was quite sure, though ignorant of the language in which my friend addressed them, that he preached to them neither heresy nor nonsense. There was as little of the reverence of externals in the place as can well be imagined: an uneven earthen floor, - turf -walls on every side, and a turf-roof above, - two little windows of four panes a-piece, adown which the rain-drops were coursing thick and fast, - a pulpit grotesquely rude, that had never employed the bred carpenter, - and a few ranges of seats of undressed deal, - such were the mere materialisms of this lowly church of the people; and yet here, notwithstanding, was the living soul of a Christian community, - understandings convinced of the truth of the gospel, and hearts softened and impressed by its power.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     It had been an essential part of my plan to explore the splendid section of the Lower Oolite furnished by the line of sea-cliffs that, to the north of Portree, rise full seven hundred feet over the beach; and on the morning of Wednesday I set out with this intention from Isle Ornsay, to join the mail gig at Broadford, and pass on to Portree , - a journey of rather more than thirty miles..I soon passed over the gneiss, and entered on a wide deposit, extending from side to side of the island, of what is generally laid down in our geological maps as Old Red Sandstone, but which, in most of its beds, quite as much resembles a quartz rock, and which, unlike any Old Red proper I have ever seen, passes, by insensible gradations, into the gneiss [Professor Nicol of Aberdeen  believes the Red Sandstones of the West Highlands are of Devonian age, and the quartzite and limestone of Lower Carboniferous.-  See Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, February 1857- W.S.]   Wherever it has been laid bare in flat tables among the heath, we find it bearing those mysterious scratches on a polished surface which we so commonly find associated on the main land with the boulder clay; but here, as in the Hebrides generally, the boulder clay is wanting.  To the tract of Red Sandstone there succeeds a tract of Lias, which, also extending across the island, forms by far the most largely-developed deposit of this formation in Scotland. It occupies a flat dingy valley, about six miles in length, and that varies from two to four miles in breadth.  The dreary interior is covered with mosses, and studded with inky pools, in which the botanist finds a few rare plants, and which were dimpled, as I passed them this morning, with countless eddies, formed by myriads of small quick glancing trout, that seemed busily engaged in fly-catching. The rock appears but rarely, - all is moss, marsh, and pool; but in a few localities on the hill-sides, where some stream has cut into the slope, and disintegrated the softer shales, the shepherd finds shells of strange form strewed along the water-courses, or bleaching white among the heath.  The valley, - evidently a dangerous one to the night traveller, from its bogs and its tarns, - is said to be haunted by a spirit peculiar to itself, - mischievous, eccentric, grotesque creature, not unworthy, from the monstrosity of its form, of being associated with the old monsters of the Lias.  Luidag - for so the goblin is called - has but one leg, terminating, like an ancient satyr’s, in  a cloven foot; but it is furnished with two arms, bearing hard fists at the end of them, with which it has been known to strike the benighted traveller in the face, or to tumble him over into some dark pool. The spectre may be seen at the close of evening hopping vigorously among the distant bogs, like a felt ball on its electric platform; and when the mist lies thick in the hollows, an occasional glimpse may be caught of it even by day. But when I passed the way there was no fog: the light, though softened by a thin film of cloud, fell equally over the heath, revealing hill and hollow; and I was unlucky enough not to see this goblin of the Liasic valley.

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


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