of these railroads? What does the is what every body must see, if they mere principle of mobility do for us, calmly look about them. We wish but as means to that end? Of old to look at it as philosophers, not as time and space seemed going for politicians. We wish that party spirit nothing, truth was left to take its may not be said to deform these pages. chance, and travel could not bind We see virtues and vices, right and them up. Now they all pretend to wrong, on all sides, and this only go together, but how far is this really belongs to every age as it comes. the case ? Let us distinguish, then, But it is the strange proportion in between the use and abuse of rail- which these things are mixed that roads; let us avail ourselves of our has struck us; it is the strange connew resources; for if we did not, we flict and composition in which they should have as little claims on pos- seem held; for it is an age of conterity, as they would have on what trasts and contradiction,-an age of comes after; for what are these re- concordia discors,--an age where we sources given to us? What is our all seem agreed to disagree with each mind, but like the earth, to make the other; and whose colours, like the most of? This mind says, Let us chameleon's, depend on the light we work those resources, science gives view it by. We must go on therethe tools, new necessities give new fore; we must see that with all the inventions, and new ways and means opposition currents there is a procreate new wants and wishes. Yes, gressive stream going down from we know all this; we know that we generation to generation --vivifying, are arrived at a new state of society, fructifying, and recording; but we we know that railroads are agents must also see how the direction of of new wealth, but for this very this stream depends on ourselves. reason we should know how to re- If it is not an age of philosophy, and gulate our course. If our agricul- if philosophy does not exactly begin tural interests are to be sacrificed “ where satiety ends," still we see a to those of the manufacturing, if kind of retributive principle, a kind the roots and bowels of our old of vis medicatrir naturæ, ever at work. land are to be torn and swallowed up Still time teaches wisdom, by teachon pretence of seeking new treasures, ing experience. Wisdom does not and that England is to become one come by acts of parliament, neither vast hive of machinery, let us con- does virtue, neither does philosophy ; sider how far all this can go in other but acts of parliament may improve respects, let us see how far it has us in the ways that lead to such. We gone already. We know our have got our new reform, but let there sources, we know that they are im- be social reform; we have got higher mense, but we know that we must powers, but we want higher principles avail ourselves of them with judg- to regulate them; we want a higher ment. Yes, they are immense, they stream and a fresher current running are astonishing, and they point out through our whole moral atmosphere. our new age. Coal and iron are our Let us go on, then, but let us look gold mines, mind is our manufactory, to such ; let us think that England's and mind and matter have entered brighter days are even still to come. into a new partnership, where minutes When the Portuguese navigator first and miles explain each other in the made the Cape, it was shrouded in great account. The press works the storm; the storm wore away, and its steam-engine, the steam-engine works spirit descended in Good Hope. Let the press ; by the railroads of iron, us look forward in like manner; the we have railroads of mind; they act storm is now on all sides, but truth and react on each other; and as the will bring calm. Let us see what old coaches cannot run over the new our resources are; let us see what roads, or the new coaches on the old God and nature has done for us ; let roads, we must of course go on with us see what our forefathers have our new ways and means.

done, and despise not the tracks of Such seems the age we live in ; their truth. " Then will old Engsuch, at least, is a faint outline of the land be herself again ; then will the great circle ; for in this circle we nations look up to her as of old ; the only go back from whence we started. storm may rage, but her star will We attempt not details, we look only burn, and her last light shine out on at a few generic characters; though it the last shores of the world !"



No. VII.


The peasantry whose acts and opin- his light practised his delusions on ions Î love so much to record, dis- the staid and the devout, and led regarding those great eras from those wrong that never strayed bewhich “ profound politicians” date fore. Nor did the mischievous meevents, refer in their traditionary an- teor confine its experiments to the nals to times which have an influence illiterate alone; it presented itself to on their own fortunes, and recall pe- the learned dominie of the district ; riods of darkness and storm, of sorrow and, after decoying him through a and wo. Thus, instead of referring to quagmire furnished with peat-potthe birth-time of Jeremy Bentham- holes, well-nigh succeeded in pera moment sacred to sound philosophy suading him that the flooded Nith --they find an equivalent in “ Windy was the trout-stream at his own door, Saturday," a day on which the winds and that the cursed twinkle of its of heaven broke through all esta- elfin lamp was the light of his own blished law, and desired to restore window. But it would be unjust to carth again to chaos ; and instead of the accidents and adventures of this admitting Malthus to the honours of fated night, were I to dismiss them their calendar, they find a represen- all in one brilliant sentence; it would tative in “ Mirk Monday,” a day in be unjust also to my own fame to which a thick cloud came over the get rid of them, as travellers say, whole people, and gross darkness with a dry foot, for I look upon these reigned. In later times, another land. Rustic Controversies as things of life, mark has been established - namely, which the land will not willingly let “ Will-o'-wisp Wednesday;" which, die; so, from a double regard to self for moving accidents by flood and and country, I shall allow the story field, is a day, or rather night, worthy of “ Will-o'-wisp Wednesday” to of being recorded, as well as held in evolve in its own proper order, and remembrance. The grave and moral adorn it with illustrations of a conauthor of the Man of Feeling per- troversial kind. ceived this taste for local dates even The day. which ushered in this in individuals, and introduces in one remarkable night had been quite a of his clever tales a damsel from pet, as ploughmen say. The sky was Edinburgh who, neglecting the hour clear, and the breeze was balm, or, to of her birth, dates all that befell her speak more correctly, was filled with from the night when she met with the fragrance ofthe blooming heather; her“ misfortune.” A devout man while the birds sang as sweet and as of my own acquaintance dates from loud as if hawks and howlets had been the day on which he says the true abolished by act of parliament; and, light Hashed upon him, and he was to crown ali, the sun not only shone born again ; declaring at the same brightly down in his mid-day march time, that he can see no cause why through the heaven, but looked, God singled him out for such a mani- when he sat on the summit of the fest mercy, for he was a great and green western hills, as if desirous miserable sinner.

to usurp the province of the moon Now I know not whether on and stars, and abide there and gaze “ Will-o'-wisp Wednesday” any ac- on a scene which only wanted a cidents occurred such as befell the happy touch or two, as painters word damisel of Auld Reekie, or that a it, to be quite chaste and beautiful. great and miserable sinner, like my The sun, however, remembered its acquaintance, was won back to grace duty, and disappeared behind the and light, but I know that much hills ; and that so suddenly, that misadventure befell; that true lovers, the stars and moon, taken as it instead of tinding bowers of jasmine seemed by surprise, were unable to and beds of lilies in their walk, found get out their lights for ten minutes' mosses and marshes,--that Will and space or more, and the whole vale



was thrown into darkness. It is and endow it with that fascinating still remembered that Pate Proud- sparkle which confounds experience foot, of Haselbrae—a shepherd who and misleads wisdom. was not only familiar with the ills The reapers, with their bright which belong to mugs, wethers, and sickles over their arms, were retirdinmans, but knew the ailments of ing from the labours of the harvestthe planets, and could read the mean- field, when this misty inundation took ing of blood-red suns, double moons, place, and were heard better than and shooting stars was returning seen, when some damsel, with a clear from the uplands when the sun, as voice, attempted to cheer her comhe said, “ dooped down at ance !” panions with the verse of a favourite He stood stone still; held his hand

song: above his eyes to concentrate and “Is this a time for kirling up direct his powers of vision; shook fule songs," said an old bandsman, his head slowly, and, turning sud- “ when unnatural darkness is come denly round, revisited the folded to swallow up the land ; and, for ewes, and gave a glance at a score of aught I ken, there may be pestilence outlyer stots, before he went home. in its company ?" It is added, also, by those who place “ Saunders," retorted the singer, “ Will-o'-wisp Wednesday” high in ye are a pest yersel' to all pleasure the calendar of memorable days, If it's a bright day, ye remember the " That the very bats forsook the air; fires of Sodom and Gomorrah; if it's the winged bum-clocks dropped all a dull day, ye cry, ‘llow dare ye at once their drowsy drone; and the lilt and laugh, when the land is owl, as if it saw something strange visited wi' sic judgment-like weather and threatening, opened wide its as this?' and when the dead of night great round eyes, and, with a startled comes, ye cry, “Let us pray that the cry, fled to its hiding.place in Co- light o' morn may return to the land myn's auld Tower."

Were I a painter of landscape, I A shrill laugh, in which many could delineate the twilight or gloam- voices were united, told how truly the ing of this Will-o'-wisp Wednesday character of Saunders was touched with a brightness and an accuracy off. which words are unable to convey. "Weel, weel," said he,"if ye winna I would mix up my palette in the believe me, believe that !" and he manner of Turner when he surveys pointed to a small, blue, glimmering an object through the atmosphere of light, which went dancing to and fro poetry, and limn a scene dark, but yet amid the mist, and was never for a clear, with a gauze of blackness drawn, moment settled or steady. “ Sic like veil-like, over the pure face of the appearances were common in this land, sky; stars trembling, rather than I have heard my grandsire say,” conshining; the moon, with her cold, tinued Saunders,“ before the fatal dull edge, raised a hand's breadth Mars year, and still more fearful were above the summit of the eastern hills, they before the bloody Forty-five; as if hesitating whether to rise or nor were they absent before the great no; and the whole valley which lies Famine, at the close of the last cenbetween the hills of Galloway and tury, when the staff of life raise frao those of Tinwald filled with a slow- aughteenpence to anght-and-sax curling and rolling mist, through pence a stane. I wonder what is next which you might hear the descent of to befall !" water in the linns, the alarmed call The girl ceased her song, her comof travellers uncertain of their way, rades ceased their mirth, and all beand now and then the half shriek and gan to hasten homewards in the rear giggle of lasses who, on their way of Saunders, who, strong in virtue, from the fields, were blinded in a man- strode vigorously before, putting himtle of mist, and ran against a loose self boldly in the van, as a ram when calf or a stray man. But it would re- a fence is to be scaled or a strange quire the skill of my friend Martin dog braved, puts himself at the head himself, who has all kinds of super- of the softer portion of the flock, and natural lights at command, to let the presents his large curled horns and eltin lustre of Will-oʻ-wisp loose on hard brow to the contest. the scene as it was on that fated night, By this time the mist filled up the



[ocr errors]

sac ?

valley as fully as a vessel is filled with I no ken ilka fit and fur o' this land ? water. The tops of the neighbour- I hac dwalt in't since I was cock-bird ing hills, with here and there the high. Willic's gaun right for ance: peak of a roof, and, by fits and starts, yond's the candle in our spence winthe battlements of some ruined castle, dow; awa' to the right lies the auld were alone to be seen. The lights Tower o' Kirklebride; to the left lie of cottage-windows glimmered faint; the peat-pot holes ye are sae feared and the lamps and candles, op- for." pressed with the vapour which forced At this moment I heard a loud its way in at door and window, shed plunge, and the voice of the English a strange light around the house ;

reaper exclaim, — the dogs crept closer to the hearth, Ile's plumped over the head in a and looked up in men's faces as if brook, by Goles ! That's Jack, by to inquire what this strange change jingo! I knows ’im.” foreboded.

" Ye're wrang again, friend,” said Laddie,” said my mother to me, Saunders, “ for I'm only up to the gang yere ways out, and meet the neck ; and no in a brook either, but shearers. Maist of them are fremit the foul pool in which we dub the folk; and that demented bodic, Saun- lint. A'the Jacks o' England couldna ders, wi' his clavers, will be waur play me sic a pliskie !"

han Will-o'-wisp to them. He'll I now ran up to the bewildered scare them wi' his fule tales, and mis- group, and found Saunders emerging lead them wi' his terror; for he bc- from the deep peat-pot hole, with lieves Willie, wi' his harmless lamp, the green covering of the stagnant to be a demon. If they're no up to water about his shoulders like a their middle in the Snipe-mire al- mantle, and sputtering the moisture really, they will be soon.'

from his mouth. Thus admonished, I walked out to- “Bless us, Saunders!" I said ; “how wards the field on which that morn- did ye let Will-o'-wisp mislead ye ing I had placed a score of reapers. It was some time before I could hear " There now !" said Saunders to them, for seeing them was out of the the English reaper, “ ye'll believe it's question. The first voice I heard Willie-o'wisp now, and nane o' yere was that of a reaper from the English Cumberland candles? How did I let side of the Esk, crying, Domme, Will mislead me, said ye? How did there's Jack again! Jack's a rum ye come to dig yere lint-dub sae close un !"

to the house as this? Answer me “ Haud yere profane tongue!" I that! But I shouldna blame you ; heard Saunders say, with a tremulous ye're owre young and owre carried voice. “Can ye no tell a lie without to ken whilk end o' ye's up; I maun swearing ? That's nane o' Jack, as speak to your mother anent it.” ye ca' him,- I wish it were; I wadna So saying he emerged slowly from mind yere English spunkie mair than the mud and water, and, with many the light o' a turnip- lantern; but a dripping step and many a groan, this is a real Will-o'-wisp--a light took his way homewards. Even as that comes frae the ill place. See he went, Will-o'-wisp came close to till't! see till't! Ay, ay! ye wad us,-large and round, and danced to fain wile Saunders into the Dead and fro, now on the grass, then in Man's Plump : he's fool, and fool the air, but ever in the body of the enough, but no sic a fool as to pre- thick and rolling mist. fer a Howmoss to a feather-bed !" * Ay, ay !” exclaimed Saunders,

“ Saunders !" a female voice said, ye may do yere warst or yere best - are ye sure that's Willie ?-it looks now-shine like a born deevil, or cut mair like an evil spirit! See till't! yere elfin capers amang the mist-but - just see till't! it's grown as big ye’se have me na mair at your mercy as the moon! This is waur than to-night. Gae awa' wi' ye, Maister Willie, I trow; and, mair nor that, Willie! and glimmer, and glower, and I dinna like the airt yere ganging ; mislead some silly shepherd, who ye'll be into the peat-pots, the grun's scarcely kens a horse's tail frae hawgrowing saft already!"

slock woo', or some tricky chapman, * Whist, whist, woman!" I heard wha carries an ellwand a hale thumSaunders say, in a firmer voice. “ Diy breadth short, but dinna trow that


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ye can draw the black clout

ony mair “though a vain and frivolous people, owre Saunders's ee.”

who love gain more than is meet for His confidence was great, but his creatures wi' souls to be saved, and, mishaps were not yet at an end, waur than a', members of a lax and though he was almost at the threshold idolatrous kirk, have, nevertheless, of home; for a brighter and a more the root of the matter in you. Wha dazzling twinkle from Will and his would think that a people wha made wisp bewildered him so that, mis- idols o’their wames, and wad quarrel taking the midden-hole sprinkled about a pudding in a clout, could over with dust and chaff for the solid have started sic a bright idea as this? ground, he was up to the knees in a mo- It beats turning loch leeches into ment; and, as he squattered through doctors, steam into a public servant ; disturbing smells other than odorous, and is worthy of that daring hand he exclaimed to the man of Cumber- that caught and tamed the lightning land, “ God! this is an English Jack- of heaven, and made it useful. I'm a-lantern after a'! A kindly Scots tauld they sell it by the pound in Willie wad hae been satisfied wi' ae the Carolinas, like dippit candles. joke, though a misleard ane, but a And wherefore should we not endeaSouthron spunkie is a' malice and vour to catch the wild and mismischief!"

chievous light called will-o'-wisp, We soon settled down around the and turn this fire of Satan— that I fire. Saunders got change of ap

should say

sae!-to wise and Christian parel ; and having purified his per- purposes ? I'll think on it. It wad sun from peat-hole and midden dub, be a limiting o' the rule of the Evil and comforted his inner man with One, and doubtless acceptable.” a reeking cheerer, he proceeded, The door, which in a lonesome while the thick mist rolled, and country place is seldom shut, was Willie with his wisp. continued to now darkened by some one, who triumph, to relate his whole life- with hands and feet seemed to be time of experience in spunkies, elf- feeling the way to the fireside. candles, dead-lights, and will-o'- “ Am I within biggit waas ?" mutwisps; concluding all with an assur- tered this new comer. “ Am I nigh ance that such things “ didna come a light kindled by Christian hands? for nought, and were na the acci- Is this no a delusion ? and am I dental offspring of fire and inflam- doomed to wander the leelang night mable air; nor yet a cauld, lifeless frae peat-pot hole to quagmire, and light, sic as was in a glow-worm's no get rest for the sole of my foot ?" tail; but a real spelk, or spunk, “That's the voice of Willie Corkof an evil spirit: and that with re- ney,” said my mother, “ if ever I spect to the trials he had experienced heard it in my life, though it sounds this blessed night, it would be baith rather howe and sture. Come ben, if seen and heard of yet that the enemy ye be in the flesh !" of man's salvation had his finger, if “Come ben!” exclaimed one of the not his hale hand, in't."

harvest women : “ I marvel that he * Then I'm blessed," said the dare look honest folk in the face, Southron authority in meteors,“ if after his assurance in selling me a there's a spice of the devil at all in gown-picce a full ell and a thumbhonest Jack. He's a quiet fellow; breadth scrimp o' legal measure, as I harmless as a lamb before weaning am a sinner!” time; gives us his light, too, without These were words of no discomexpense ; is as silent all the while as fort to Willic Corkney, a wandering the northern star. I have often dealer in matters of necessary attire wished to catch a sucking Jack, and or superfluous finery; for, to tell the tame him for domestic purposes, truth, he was familiar with reproach, but never could get one. They and sometimes deserved it, by the were birds too fiery in the wing, sleight-of-hand way in which he made lored too much the mist for I, - his ellwand- -a stick of legal length and to walk over quicksands and of itself, but not as he handled itquagmires, wasting a precious light!" skip over the printed cloth or figured Saunders turned eyes of respect

riband. and wonder on his Cumbrian com- “ Indeed, gudewife,” said Willic, rade. “ You Englishers," said he, with a woful and afflicted voice,

« ElőzőTovább »