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Scenes and Legends of The North of Scotland
Chapter XVII


"He sat upon a rock and bobbed for whale.”—Kenrick.

On the fourth Tuesday of November every year, there is a kind of market held at Cromarty, which for the last eighty years has been gradually dwindling in importance, and is now attended by only the children of the place, and a few elderly people, who supply them with toys and sweetmeats. Early in the last century, however, it was one of the most considerable in this part of the country; and the circumstance of its gradual decline is curiously connected with the great change which has taken place since that period in the manners and habits of the people. It flourished as long as the Highlander legislated for himself and his neighbour on the good old principle so happily described by the poet,1 and sunk into decay when he had flung down his broadsword, and become amenable to the laws of the kingdom. The town of Cromarty, as may be seen by consulting the map, is situated on the extremity of a narrow promontory, skirted on three of its sides by the sea, and bordered on the fourth by the barren uninhabited waste described in a previous chapter. And though these are insurmountable defects of situation for a market of the present day, which ought always to be held in some central point of the interior that commands a wide circumference of country, about a century ago they were positive advantages. It was an important circumstance that the merchants who attended the fair could convey their goods to it by sea, without passing through any part of the Highlands; and the extent of moor which separated it by so broad a line from the seats of even the nearer clans, afforded them no slight protection when they had arrived at it. For further security the fair was held directly beneath the walls of the old castle, in the gorge of a deep wooded ravine, which now forms part of the pleasure-grounds of Cromarty House.

The progress of this market, from what it was once to what it is at present, was strongly indicative of several other curious changes which were taking place in the country. The first achievement of commerce is the establishment of a market. In a semi-barbarous age the trader journeys from one district to another, and finds only, in a whole kingdom, that demand for his merchandise which, when in an after period civilisation has introduced her artificial wants among the people, may be found in a single province. So late as the year 1730, one solitary shopkeeper more than supplied the people of Cromarty with their few, everyday necessaries, of foreign manufacture or produce; I say more than supplied them, for in summer and autumn he travelled the country as a pedlar. For their occasional luxuries and finery they trusted to the traders of the fair. Times changed, however, and the shopkeeper wholly supplanted the travelling merchant; but the fair continued to be frequented till a later period by another class of traders, who dealt in various articles, the produce and manufacture of the country. Among these were a set of dealers who sold a kind of rude harness for horses and oxen, made of ropes of hair and twisted birch; a second set who dealt in a kind of conical-shaped carts made of basket-work; and a third who supplied the housebuilders of the period with split lath, made of moss-fir, for thatched roofs and partitions. In time, however, the hamess-maker, cart-wright, and house-carpenter of modern times, dealt by these artists as the shopkeeper had done by the market-trader. The broguer, or maker of Highland shoes, kept the field in spite of the regular shoemaker half a century later, and disappeared only about five years ago. The dealer in homegrown lint frequented it until last season; but the low wages, and sixteen-hour-per-day employment of the south country weaver, were gradually undermining his trade, and the steam-loom seems to have given it its deathblow.

Prior to the Revolution, and as late as the reign of Queen Anne, Cromarty drove a considerable trade in herrings. About the middle of July every year, immense bodies of this fish came swimming up the Moray Firth; and after they had spawned on a range of banks not more than eight miles from the town, quitted it for the main sea in the beginning of September. In the better fishing seasons they filled the bays and creeks of the coast, swimming in some instances as high as the ferries of Fowlis and Ardersier. There is a tradition that, shortly after the Union, a shoal of many hundred barrels, pursued by a body of whales and porpoises, were stranded in a little bay of Cromarty, a few hundred yards to the east of the town. The beach was covered with them to the depth of several feet, and salt and casks failed the packers when only an inconsiderable part of the shoal was cured. The residue was carried away for manure by the neighbouring farmers; and so great was the quantity used in this way, and the stench they caused so offensive, that it was feared disease would have ensued. The season in which this event took place is still spoken of as the “har’st of the Herring-drove.”

About thirty years ago some masons, in digging a foundation in the eastern extremity of the town, discovered the site of a packing-yard of this period; and threw out vast quantities of scales which glittered as bright as if they had been stripped from the fish only a few weeks before. Near the same place, there stood about twenty years earlier a little grotesque building two storeys in height, and with only a single room on each floor.

The lower was dark and damp, and had the appearance of a cellar or storehouse; the upper was lighted on three sides, and finished in a style which, at the period of its erection, must have led to a high estimate of the taste of the builder. A rich cornice, designed doubtless on the notion of Ramsay, that good herrings and good claret are very suitable companions, curiously united bunches of grapes with clusters of herrings, and divided the walls from the ceiling. The walls were neatly panelled, the Centre of the ceiling was occupied by a massy circular patera, round which a shoal of neatly relieved herrings were swimming in a sea of plaster. This building was the place of business of Urquhart of Greenhill, a rich herring merchant and landed proprietor, and a descendant of the old Urquharts of Cromarty. But it was destined long to survive the cause of its erection.

In a fishing season late in this period, two men of the place, who, like most of the other inhabitants, were both tradesfolks and fishermen, were engaged one morning in discussing the merits of an anker of Hollands which had been landed from a Dutch lugger a few evenings before. They nodded to each other across the table with increasing heartiness and good-will, until at length their heads almost met; and as quaich after quaich was alternately emptied and replenished, they began to find that the contents of the anker were best nearest the bottom. They were interrupted, however, before they had fully ascertained the fact, by the woman of the house tapping at the window, and calling them out to see something extraordinaiy ; and, on going to the door, they saw a plump of whales blowing, and tumbling, and pursuing one another, in a long line up the bay. A sudden thought struck one of the men: “It would be gran’ fun, Charlie man,” said he, addressing his companion, “to hook ane o’ yon chiels on Nannie Fizzle’s crook.” “Ay, if we had but bait,” rejoined the other; “but here’s a gay fresh codling on Nannie’s hake, an’ the yawl lies on the tap o’ the fu’ sea.” The crook—a chain about six feet in length, with a hook at one end, and a large ring at the other, and which, when in its proper place, hung in Nannie’s chimney to suspend her pots over the fire—was accordingly baited with the cod, and fastened to a rope; and the two men, tumbling into their yawl rowed out to the cossmee. Like the giant of the epigram they sat bobbing for whale, but the plump had gone high up the Firth; and, too impatient to wait its return, they hollowed to a friend to row out his skiff for them; and leaving their own at anchor, with the crook hanging over the stem, they returned to Nannie Fizzle’s, where they soon forgot both the yawl and the whales.

They were not long, however, in being reminded of both. A person came bellowing to the window, “Charlie, Willie, the yawl! the yawl!” and, on staggering out, they saw the unfortunate yawl darting down the Firth with twice the velocity of a king’s cutter in a fresh breeze. Ever and anon she would dance, and wheel, and plunge, and then shoot off in a straight line. Wonderful to relate ! one of the whales had swallowed the crook ; the little skiff was launched and manned; but the Hollands had done its work; one of the poor fellows tumbled over the thaft, the other snapped his oar;—all was confusion. Luckily, however, the rope fastened to the crook broke at the ring; and the yawl, after gradually .losing way, began to drift towards the shore. The adventure was bruited all over the town; and every one laughed at the whale-fishers except Nannie Fizzle, who was inconsolable for the loss of her crook.

It was rumoured a few weeks after that the carcass of a whale had been cast ashore somewhere in the Firth of Beauly, near Redcastle, and the two fishermen set off together to the place, in the hope of identifying the carcass with the fish in which they had enfeoffed themselves at the expense of Nannie Fizzle. The day of the journey chanced to be also that of a Redcastle market; and, as they approached the place, they were encountered by parties of Highlanders hurrying to the fair. Most of them had heard of the huge fish, but none of them of the crook.

When the Cromarty men came up to the carcass, they found it surrounded by half the people of the fair, who were gazing, and wondering, and pacing it from head to tail, and poking at it with sticks and broadswords. “It is our property every inch,” said one of the men, coming forward to the fish; “we hooked it three weeks ago on the cossmee, but it broke off; and we have now come here to take possession. It carried away our tackle, a chain and a hook. Lend me your dirk, honest man,” he continued, addressing a Highlander; “we shall cut out hook and chain, and make good our claim.” “O ay! nae doubt,” said the Highlander, as he obligingly handed him the weapon; “but och! it’s no me that would like to eat her, for she maun be a filthy meat.” The crowd pressed round to witness the dissection, which ended in the Cromarty man pulling out the crook from among the entrails, and holding it up in triumph “Did I no tell you?” he exclaimed; “the fish is ours beyond dispute.” “Then,” said a smart-looking little pedlar, who had just joined the throng, “ye have made the best o’ this day’s market. I’se warrant your fishing worth a’ the plaiding sold to-day.” The Highlanders stared. “For what is it worth?” asked a tacksman of the place. “Oh, look there! look there!” replied the pedlar, tapping the blubber with his elwand, “ulzie clear as usquebaugh. I’se be bound it’s as richly worth four hunder punds Scots as ony booth at the fair.” This piece of mischievous information entirely altered the circumstances of the case as it regarded the two fishermen; for the tacksman laid claim to the fish on his own behalf and the laird’s, and, as he could back his arguments by a full score of broadswords, the men were at length fain to content themselves with being permitted to carry away with them Nannie Fizzle’s crook. I am afraid it is such of our naturalists as are best acquainted with the habits of the cetacea that will be most disposed to question the truth of the tradition just related. But, however doubtful its foundation, a tradition it is.

The mishap of the whale-fishers was followed by a much greater mishap—the total failure of the herring fishery. The herring is one of the most eccentric little fishes that frequents our seas. For many years together it visits regularly in its season some particular firth or bay;—fishing villages spring up on the shores, harbours are built for the reception of vessels; and the fisherman and merchant calculate on their usual quantum of fish, with as much confidence as the farmer on his average quantum of grain. At length, however, there comes a season, as mild and pleasant as any that have preceded it, in which the herring does not visit the firth. On each evening, the fisherman casts out his nets on the accustomed bank, on each morning he draws them in again, but with all the meshes as brown and open as when he flung them out; in the following season he is equally unsuccessful; and, ere the shoal returns to its accustomed haunts, the harbour has become a ruin, and the village a heap of green mounds. It happened thus, late in the reign of Queen Anne, with the herring trade of the Moray Firth. After a busy and successful fishing, the shoal as usual left the Firth in a single night; preparations were made for the ensuing season; the season came, but not the herrings; and for more than half a century from this time Cromarty derived scarcely any benefit from its herring fishery.

My town’s-folk in this age—an age in which every extraordinary effect was coupled with a supernatural cause—were too ingenious to account for the failure of the trade by a simple reference to the natural history of the herring ; and two stories relating to it still survive, which show them to have been strangely acute in rendering a reason, and not a little credulous in forming a belief. Great quantities of fish had been caught and brought ashore on a Saturday, and the packers continued to work during the night; yet on the Sunday morning much still remained to be done. The weather was sultry, and the fish were becoming soft; and the merchants, unwilling to lose them, urged on the work throughout the Sabbath. Towards evening the minister of the parish visited the packers ; and, as they had been prevented from attending church, he made them a short serious address. They soon, however, became impatient; the diligent began to work, the mischievous to pelt him with filth ; and the good man abruptly concluded his exhortation by praying that the besom of judgment would come and sweep every herring out of the Firth. On the following Monday the boats went to sea as usual, but returned empty ; on the Tuesday they were not more successful, and it was concluded that the shoal had gone off for the season ; but it proved not for the season merely ; for another and another season came, and still no herrings were caught. In short, the prayer, as the story goes, was so fully answered, that none of the unlucky packers who had insulted the minister witnessed the return of the shoal.

The other story accounts for its flight in a different and somewhat conflicting manner. Tradition, who, as I have already shown, is even a more credulous naturalist than historian, affirms that herrings have a strong antipathy to human blood, especially when spilt in a quarrel. On the last day of the fishing, the nets belonging to two boats became entangled ;‘the crew that first hauled applied the knife to their neighbours’ baulks and meshes, and, with little trouble or damage to themselves, succeeded in unravelling their own. A quarrel was the consequence ; and one of the ancient modes of naval warfare, the only one eligible in their circumstances, was resorted to— they fought leaning over the gunwales of their respective boats. Blood was spilt, unfortunately spilt in the sea; the affronted herrings took their departure, and for more than half a century were not the cause, in even the remotest degree, of any quarrel which took place on the Moray Firth or its shores. One of the combatants, who distinguished himself either by doing or suffering in this unlucky fray, was known ever after by the name of Andrew Bleed; and there are men still living who remember to have seen him.

The failure of the herring trade was followed by that of Urquhart of Greenhill. He is said to have been a shrewd industrious man, of great force of character, and admirably fitted by nature and habit, had he lived in better times, to have restored the dilapidated fortunes of his house. During the reign of William he was adding ship to ship, and field to field, until about the year 1700, when he was possessed of nearly one-half the lands of the parish, and of five large vessels. But it was his lot to speculate in an unfortunate age; and having, with almost all the other merchants of Scotland, suffered severely from the Union, the failure of the herring fishery completed his ruin. He sank by inches; striving to the last, with a proud heart and a bitter spirit, against the evils which assailed him. All his ships were at length either knocked down by the hammer of the auctioneer, or broken up by the maul of the carpenter, except one; and that one, the Swallow of Cromartie, when returning homewards from some port of the Continent, was driven ashore in a violent night-storm on the rocky coast of Cadboll, and beaten to pieces before morning. It was with difficulty the crew was saved. One of them, a raw young fellow, a much better herdsman than sailor, escaped to his friends, full of the wild scenes he had just witnessed, and set himself to relate to them the particulars of his voyage;—it was his first and his last. Smooth water and easy sailing may be delineated in common language ; he warmed, however, as the narrative proceeded. He described the gathering of the tempest, the darkening of the night, the dashing of the waves, the howling of the winds, and the rolling of the vessel; but being unfortunately no master of climax, language failed him in the concluding scene, where there were rocks, and breakers, and midnight darkness, and a huge ship wallowing in foam, like a wounded boar in the toils of the hunters. “Oh!” exclaimed the sailor herdsman, “I can think o’ nae likening to that puir ship, and the awfu’ crags and awfu’ jaws, except the nowt i’ the byre, when they break their fastenings i’ the mirk night, and rout and gore, and rout and gore, till the roof-tree shakes wi’ the brattle.” The people of the present age may not think much of the comparison; but it was deemed a piece of very tolerable humour in Cromarty in the good year 1715. Greenhill’s remark, when informed of the disaster, had more of philosophy in it. “Aweel,” said he, taking a deliberate pinch of snuff, and then handing the box to his informant, “I have lang warstled wi’ the warld, and fain would I have got on the tap o’t; but I may be just as weel as I am. Diel haet can harm me now, if the laird o’ Cadboll, honest man, doesna put me to the law for dinting the Swallow against his march-stanes.”

One other passage relating to the Greenhill branch of the family of the Urquharts, ere I take leave of it for the time. It has produced, in a lady of Aberdeenshire, one of the most pleasing poetesses of our age and country—not, however, one of the most celebrated. Her exquisite little pieces, combining with singular felicity the simplicity and pathos of the old ballad with the refinement and elegance of our classical poets, have been flung as carelessly into the world as the rich plumes of the birds of the tropics on the plains and forests of the south. But they have not lain altogether unnoticed. The nameless little foundlings have been picked out from among the crowd, and introduced into the best company on the score of merit alone.—The genealogist was of a different spirit from his relative ; he would have inscribed his name on the face of the sun could he have but climbed to it;—but may not there be something to regret in even the more amiable extreme? The prophecies of that sibyl who committed her writings to the loose leaves of the forest, were lost to the world on the first slight breeze. I present the reader with a pleasing little poem of this descendant of the Urquharts, in which, though perhaps not

one of the most finished of her pieces, he will find something better than mere finish. It may not be quite new to him, having found its way into Macdiarmid’s Scrap-Book, and several other collections of merit; but he may peruse it with fresh interest, as the production of a relative of Sir Thomas, who seems to have inherited all his genius, undebased by any mixture of his eccentricity.

ON HEARING A LIVELY PIECE OF MUSIC,
“THE WATERLOO WALTZ.”

A moment pause, ye British fair,
While pleasure’s phantom ye pursue,
And say if dance and sprightly air
Suit with the name of Waterloo.
Dearly bought the victory,
Chasten’d should the triumph be;
’Midst the laurels she has won,
Britain weeps for many a son.
Veil’d in clouds the morning rose,
Nature seem’d to mourn the day
Which consign’d before its close
Thousands to their kindred clay.
How unfit for courtly ball,
Or the giddy festival,
Was the grim and ghastly view
Ere evening closed on Waterloo.
See the Highland warrior rushing,
First in danger, on the foe,
Till the life-blood, stemless gushing,
Lays the plaided hero low.
Ilis native pipe’s heart-thrilling sound,
’Mid war’s infernal concert drown’d,
Cannot soothe his last adieu,
Nor wake his sleep on Waterloo.
Crashing o’er the cuirassier,
See the foaming charger flying,
Trampling in his wild career,
All alike, the dead and dying.
See the bullets pierce his side,
See, amid a crimson tide,
Helmet, horse, and rider too,
Roll on bloody Waterloo.
Shall sights like these the dance inspire,
Or wake the jocund notes of mirth?
Oh, shiver’d be the recreant lyre
That gave the base idea birth!
Other sounds, I ween, were there,
Other music rent the air,
Other Waltz the warriors knew,
When they closed at Waterloo.
Forbear, till time with lenient hand
Has heal’d the wounds of recent sorrow,
And let the picture distant stand,
The softening hue of years to borrow.
When our race has pass’d away,
Hands unborn may wake the lay,
And give to joy alone the view
Of victory at Waterloo.

About the time of the Rebellion, or a little after, the trade of the place began to recover itself much through the influence of a vigorous-minded man, a merchant of the period. Urquhart of Greenhill had sunk with the sinking trade of the country; his townsman, William Forsyth, enjoyed the advantage of being born at least forty years later, and rose as it revived. The nature of the business which the latter pursued may be regarded as illustrating, not inaptly, the condition of society in the north of Scotland at the time. It was of a miscellaneous character, as became the state of a country so poor and so thinly peopled, and in which, as there was scarce any division of labour, one merchant had to perform the part of many. He supplied the proprietors with teas, wines, and spiceries; with broad-cloths, glass, Delft ware, Flemish tiles, and pieces of japanned cabinet-work; he furnished the blacksmith with iron from Sweden, the carpenter with tar and spars from Norway, and the farmer with flax-seed from Holland. He found, too, in other countries, markets for the produce of our own. The exports of the north of Scotland, at this period, were mostly malt, wool, and salmon. Almost all rents were paid in kind or in labour-—the proprietors retaining in their hands a portion of their estates, termed demesnes or mains, which was cultivated mostly by their tacksmen or feuars as part of their proper service. Each proprietor, too, had his storehouse or gimal—a tall narrow building, the strong-box of the time—which, at the Martinmas of every year, used to be filled from gable to gable with the grain-rents paid him by his tenants, and the produce of his own farm. His surplus cattle found their way south under charge of the drovers of the period; but it proved a more difficult matter to dispose to advantage of his surplus com, mostly barley, until some one, more fertile in speculation than the others, originated the scheme of converting it into malt, and exporting it into England and Flanders. And to so great an extent was this trade carried on about the middle of the last century, that in the town of Inverness the English under Cumberland found almost every second building a malt-bam. '

It is quite according to the nature of the herrings to resume their visits as suddenly and unexpectedly as they have, broken them off, though not until after a lapse of so many seasons, that the fishermen have ceased to watch for their appearance in their old haunts, or to provide the tackle necessary for their capture; and in this way a number of years are sometimes suffered to pass after the return of the fish, ere the old trade is re-established. It was a main object with William Forsyth to guard against any such waste of opportunity on the part of his town’s-people; and representing the case to the more intelligent gentlemen of the district, and some of the wealthier merchants of Inverness, he succeeded in forming them, for the encouragement of the herring fishery, into a society, which provided a yearly premium of twenty merks Scots for the first barrel of herrings caught every season in the Moray Firth. The sum was small; but as money at the time was greatly more valuable than now, it proved a sufficient inducement to the fishermen and tradespeople of the place to fit out, about the beginning of autumn every year, a few boats that swept over the various fishing banks for the herrings ; and there were not many seasons in which some one crew or other did not catch enough to entitle them to the premium. At length, however, their tackle wore out, and Mr. Forsyth, in pursuance of his scheme, provided himself, at some little expense, with a complete drift of nets, which were carried to sea each season by a crew of boatmen, and the search kept up. His exertions, however, could only merit success, without securing it. The fish returned for a few seasons in considerable bodies, and the fishermen procuring nets, several thousand barrels were caught; but they soon deserted the Firth as entirely as before. It was at the period of this second return that the “Herring Fishery” according to Goldsmith, “employed all Grub Street;” and “formed the topic of every coffee-house, and the burden of every ballad.” The sober English of the times of George II. had got sanguine on the subject, and hope had broken out into poetry. They were “to drag up oceans of gold from the bottom of the sea, and to supply all Europe with herrings on their own terms;” but their expectations outran the capabilities of the speculation; “they fished up very little gold” that the essayist “ever heard of, nor did they furnish the world with herrings.” Their herring fishery turned out in short to be a mere herring fishery, and not even that for any considerable length of time.

Sir John Sinclair marks the autumn of the year 1770 as a season in which the herring fishery of Caithness suddenly doubled its amount. “ From that time,” he adds, “ the fishery gradually increased for a few years, but afterwards fell off again, and did not revive with spirit until the year 1788.” During the short period in which it was plied with success, it was prosecuted by several crews of Cromarty fishermen; and their first visit to the coast of this northern county, I find connected with a curious anecdote of* the class whose extreme singularity gives in some measure evidence of their truth. Invention generally loves a beaten track—it has its rules and its formulas, beyond which it rarely ventures to expatiate; but the course of real events is narrowed by no such contracting barrier; the range of possibility is by far too extensive to be fully occupied by the anticipative powers of imagination; and hence it is that true stories are often stranger than fictions, and that their very strangeness, and their dissimilarity from all the models of literary plot and fable, guarantee in some measure their character as authentic.

The hill of Cromarty is skirted, as I have said, by dizzy precipices, some of them more than a hundred yards in height; and one of these, for the last hundred and fifty years, has borne the name of the Caithness-man’s Leap. The sheer descent is broken by projecting shelves, covered with a rank vegetation, and furrowed by deep sloping hollows, filled at the bottom with long strips of loose debris, which, when set in motion by the light foot of the goat, falls rattling in continuous streams on the beach. The upper part of the precipice is scooped out by a narrow and perilous pathway, which, rising slantways from the shore, along the face of the neighbouring precipices, makes an abrupt turn on the upper edge of the “ leap,” and then gains the top. Immediately above, on a sloping acclivity, covered for the last century by a thick wood, there was a little field, the furrows of which can still be distinctly traced among the trees, and which, about the time of the Revolution, was tenanted by a wild young fellow, quite as conversant with his fowling-piece as with his plough. He was no favourite with such of the neighbouring proprietors as most resembled himself; the game-laws in Scotland were not quite so stringent at that period as they are now, but game had its value; and sheriffs and barons, addicted to hunting and the chase, who had dungeons in their castles, and gibbets on their Gallow Hills, neither lacked the will nor the power to protect it. And so the tacksman of the the little field found poaching no safe employment; but the dangers he incurred had only the effect common in such cases, of imparting to his character a sort of Irish-like recklessness— a carelessness both of his own life and the lives of others. He had laid down his little field with peas, and was seriously annoyed, when they began to ripen, by the town’s boys—mischievous little fellows—who, when on their fishing excursions, would land in a little rocky bay, immediately below the pathway, and ascending the cliffs, carry away his property by armfuls at a time. The old northern pirates were scarcely more obnoxious to the early inhabitants of Scotland than the embryo fishermen to the man of the gun: nay, the man of the gun was himself scarcely more obnoxious to the proprietors. There was no possibility of laying hold of the intruders ; a few minutes were sufficient on the first alarm, to bring them from the top to the bottom of the cliffs—a few strokes of the oar set them beyond all reach of pursuit—and he saw that, unless he succeeded in terrifying them into honesty with his gun, they might go on robbing him with impunity until they had left nothing behind them to rob. Matters were in this state when a Caithness boat, laden with timber, moored one morning in the bay below, and one of the crew, a young fellow of eighteen, after climbing the pathway on an excursion of discovery, found out the field of peas. The farmer, on this unlucky morning, had been rated and collared by the laird for shooting a hare, and, very angry, and armed with the gun as usual, he came up to his field, and found the Caithness-man employed in leisurely filling his pockets. He presented his piece and drew the trigger, but the powder flashed in the pan. “The circumstance of being shot,” says the ingenious author of Cyril Thornton, “produces a considerable confusion in a man’s ideas.” The ideas of the Caithness-man became confused in circumstances one degree less trying; for starting away with the headlong speed of a hare roused out of her form, instead of following the windings of the path, he shot right over the precipice at the abrupt angle. Downwards he went from shelf to shelf—now tearing away with him a huge bush of ivy—now darting along a stream of debris—now making somersets in mid-air over the perpendicular walls of rock which alternate with the shelving terraces. The fear of the gun precluded every other fear; he reached the beach unharmed, except by a few slight sprains and a few scratches, and bolting up, tumbled himself into the boat, and dived for shelter under the folds of the sail. The farmer had pursued him to the top of the rock, and had turned the angle just in time to see him dash over; when, horror-struck at so terrible an accident, for he had intended only to shoot the man, he flung away his gun and ran home. Years and generations passed away; the good King William was succeeded by the good Queen Anne, and Anne by the three Georges, successively; the farmer and all his contemporaries passed to the churchyard—his very fields were lost in the thickets of a deep wood ;—the story of the Caithness-man had become traditional—elderly men said it had happened in their grandfather’s days, and pointing out to the “leap,” they adverted to the name which the rock still continued to bear, as proofs that the incident had really occurred —incredible as it might seem that a human creature could possibly have survived such a fall. Ninety years had elapsed from the time, ere the Cromarty fishermen set out on their Caithness expedition. In the first year of the enterprise one of their fleet was storm-bound in a rocky bay, and the crew found shelter in a neighbouring cottage. There was a spectral-looking old man seated in a comer beside the fire. On learning they had come from Cromarty, he seemed to shake off the apathy of extreme age, and began to converse with them; and they were astonished to learn from his narrative that they had before them the hero of the “ leap,” at that time in his hundred and eighth year.


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