66 for

" I'm yet in the flesh, but how lang beard — with the lang stripes of I'll be in’t is uncertain. Sic a night greenwood bordering the Mermaid as this, wi' will-o'-wisps, and fiery Burn,—that I said to myself, Could dragons, and lang - nebbit things, the wit o' the Paisley or Glasgow mortal een never beheld !"

fowk make me a prent for lasses So saying, Willie removed his gowns as bonnie as that, and ca't scone bonnet, undid the iron skewer the Corkney pattern, my fortune which fastened his grey plaid over wad be made. But, lo and behold! his bosom, placed his ellwand, which the beauty of the scene evanished answered the twofold purpose of

like a dream. At ae stride came the walking -stick and measure, within dark, as the ballad says, which, reach of his hand ; and occupying when interpreted, means that night the offered seat, held his bonnet to came and day fled; and then not his brow and prayed, or seemed to only did thick darkness come, but a pray:

thicker mist came with it. I had to “An' hae I got within biggit waas grope my way, for I couldna see the at last," he muttered, “and amang length of my ellwand before me." kind and hospitable hearts ? O Willie, Ay, Willie, man, it maun hae be thankful, and mair than thankful, been dark indeed,” said Bell Tamfor ye're reserved for some blessed lin, who considered herself a sufferer purpose yet, some visible working in the matter of Willie's measureout o' the ways of Providence !" ments; your

ellwand is a short “ I wad advise ye, then," said one ane, as my new kirtle can attest.” of his audience,“ to get a langer ell- “ There are other reasons for short wand."

kirtles, Miss Impudence, than short “ And O Willie man !" exclaimed ellwands," said Willie, bitterly; " but another, " tell us what ye saw, and

a hale boon o' shearers shanna mar where it happened, and how it began. my story, for it is a marvellous one. We hae all had our experiences this Weel, as I said, I was obligated to blessed night--ay, troth atweel hae grope my way; but I was na to be we!"

lang in darkness, for there came a “ Weel, then, ye see,” said Willie, queer gleam of light, and ere I could _“ but trouth, gudewise, my voice bless myself Maister Will-o'-wisp has failed since the black flowmoss was at my elbow. Wha are ye, ---feigh! but it was cauld, and no quo I, 'friend ?' for I thought it was sac tasty as kippered salmon-ran some kindly body come to shew me down my thrapple. It lies at my through the Flaughter Flow wi' a hcart like a supper o snaw broo. lantern. Een as I spake away went I hae swam for my life this saamen Willie owre the bonnie heather and night."

velvet grass, that keeps the quagJenny," said my mother, "gie mire as cozie as a blanket. I thought, the bodie a dram. It will be mair as I'm a sinner, that it was Bell comfortable than a pint o' flowmoss- Tamlin there, wi' her white foot water, and help him wi' his tale." and her scrimpit kirtle. “Tak me

“Weel, then, ye see,” said Willie, wi' ye, lass,' I cried, and hoyed after; wiping his lips and setting down the for, thinks I, where flesh and blood empty glass, “ I had come through can gang, sae can I. I'm thinking, Barjarg Whins, and had amaist en- gudewife, that some kind o glatered the road that leads alang the mour had been cast o'er my een, for side of Flaughter Moss-a road of I maun say, in my own justification, nae gude name for poor packmen, that the Flaughter Flow, in the gleam ye

ken. The sun was hardly down, of that elfin candle, seemed as safe and for I saw his light on the top of as bonnie as Dalswinton Lea when Queensberry Hill; and there was a covered wi' witch-gowans. For a step tranquillity in the air which made or twa it was pleasant; but I had na the land look delightful. I set my gane mae than five when my feet ran ellwand behind me, and tarried a through the thin green blanket unspace to look on it. There it lay, der which deceitful Nature hides her the green brae - side, the bonnie sores, and up gaed I to the breekblooming heather, and the lang band-heads. Kink,'quoWill-o'-wisp, blooming broom — the Flaughter and danced and twinkled aboon me Moss whitened with the cannas and about me; for it was him, and

# runs

nae ither, that had gi'en me this be- to his memory, Willie exclaimed, gunk. And will ye believe it? a'the “ Never thought of my Monteatlı Howmoss seemed twinkling frae end red, nor my Paisley sprig muslin to end wi' Willies; and for every light neither, till this precious moment. there was a laugh."

Weel, weel, let them gang.

All “I canna swallow that," said an that a man hath will he give for his old bandsman: “ wha ever heard of life. A seat in this hospitable manthe laugh of a Will-o'-wisp?-it disnae sion is better than a bed in Flaughter consist wi' nature. It's but an ex- Flow, wi' Will-o'-wisp for a bowerhalation, ye ken, and has neither saul maiden fellow. But, doubtless, thae nor body."

twa bonnie speciments of human skill * Weel, it may be as ye say," said will be a loss to me of fifty white the packman; "but sae it seemed to shillings in the outlay, and the tae me."

half o' the t'other in profits,-a sair “ Domme !" exclaimed the Cum- loss, a sair loss! But what canna be brian, “then our English Jack-a- cured maun be endured." lanterns have souls and bodies, for I But, Willie,” said my mother, have heard them laugh like piping who seemed to receive his whole bullfinches. Jack's no exhalation, story with suspicion in her eye, " it but a merry fellow, who

seems marvellous to me that


have twinkling from moss to mire, duck- endured all this, and yet your outing the drunk, and lighting the ward man is not a jisp the waur. sober."

Yere scone bonnet is spotless; your ** I was sober," said Willie, “ and plaid without a stain; while your Jack did mair than light me, for he hose are as dry as if they had just put me up to the middle in the flow- come out o' your pack. And, speakmoss, and then walked off with his

ing of the pack, what have


done lantern, and left the world 'to dark- with that? Is it in Flaughter Flow, ness and to me,' as Robin Burns says. with your Monteath red and sprig How I got out is the miracle. Wit muslin ?" is better than wealth. I thought of “ 'Deed, goodwife,” answered Wilmy bit pack. Out I pu'd nine ells of lie, composedly, “if the pack is na the bonniest Monteath red that ever there, I watna where it is. And shone - spread it out on the quag- touching my apparel, whilk, as ye mire as I wad do on a lady's table- observe, is dry and comfortable, ye pu'd out my left foot and set it on it are right in saying such a thing is - took out fifteen ells of prime sprig marvellous--nay, miraculous, if ye muslin-spread it out, and placed will --and I accept it as a sign that my right foot on that; and then, Providence was willing to save an standing as it were on firm ground, honest soul from the snares of Satan, I exerted my powers, and sprang fif- elf-spunkies, and Will-o'-wisps; nor teen feet clear owre the flow, and shall I refrain from citing it as an lighted on dry land. Will-o'-wisp had answer to all — and they are na few na a laugh for this exploit; and yet he -- who scoff at my conscience as well might hae laughed too, for nae sooner as at my ellwand, and call them both did I fly, as it were, out of the deceit

scrimp of measure.” ful snare, than I broke and ran; and “ The tale of the night now takes might hae been rinning still, had not a devout turn," said my mother ; the light led me like a string to this “and oh, it does my heart and eyefriendly door. And glad am I that sight gude to see a man sae favoured I have escaped to tell it !" And when at my fireside! Doubtless, it is a he had done, Willie stroked the hair difficult thing to deal justly and truly over his brow with his open palm, in this world, for I hold it to be a sin and said, "I think if a morsel of meat to wrang oneself as much as it is to were before me, I might aiblins eat wrang one's neighbour ; and I aye it, and aiblins no."

thought that the young gudewife of * But, Willie,” said Bell Tamlin, Ladlemouth was wranging herself, * and did ye leave the web o' bonnie and righting naebody, when she Monteath red in the flow to the weighed a pound of butter to Davie whaups?"

Fisher wi' a twa-pound pair of tangs, With a start of surprise, as if putting in the tae leg, and letting the something material had been recalled tither leg hang out o' the scale."

“ Ye hae touched a delicate matter thus announced came with an unwith delicacy,” said Willie; “ and I steady step, and, like one of the assure all who hears me that I am heroes in Homer, sent his voice, often in a tremor of fear, when my which was not a little tremulous, beellwand gaes along a new web or a fore him. “Peace be here!” he said, piece of riband, lest I should either giving three distinct raps with his err against myself by giving, owre knuckles on the outer door, which mickle, or against the buyer thereof stood then, as it usually did in sumby giving too little -- both sins in mer and harvest, wide open, and to themselves, as ye say, gudewife, the wall. equally heinous."

“ That's Dominie Davison's knock, At this moment, Bell Tamlin, who I ken by the saftness of his knuckles,' had slipt out unheeded, returned cricd Bell Tanlin, whose voice was with a loud laugh, and bearing ever in the van. Willie's pack in her hands. “ Set 4 Deed no !" said a second ; " it's him on the highest seat,” she ex- rather some poor sodger's widow, claimed, " and crown him king of with twa bairns at her back, and a leasing -making. I found his pack third at her bosom, begging her snug behind the hallan, wi' diel ae bread. I'll gie her a share o' my mark of the Will-o'-wisp adventure supper, be she wife or widow. I upon it; and may I gang to the re- wonder where Jenny Shanks, of the pentance stool instead o' the altar if Lang Vennel, is now, that ran off his braw web o' Montcath red and with Corporal Halliday ? I'll aye his braw muslin dress of Paisley think weel o' a sodger's wife for poor sprig are no safe in his wallet instead Jenny's sake." o cleeding the Flaughter Flow, to “ Come ben, and welcome, wholet the sinner, as he called himself, ever ye be,” said my mother, who escape."

never turned any one away from her “ If it be as ye say," said Willie, door, “under,” as she said, “ the with a smile, “ then it is the queerest cloud of night ; for naebody kenned miracle that has yet come to in what might become of them in a land this land; but I maun say, in my that abounded with peat-pot holes, ain justification, that sic a night as dunching tups, and wirrikows, and this maunna be judged by ordinary evil spirits -waur nor a'. Come in, rules ; it's like Bauldy Moffat's and welcome; this is na a night to corn, that refused to be measured by stand on stepping-stanes, wi' this unan established bushel; and further, hallowed mist in the air, and wi’ that since the moment Willie's gla- Willies and elf-candles enow to mour light came into my een, I frighten even a packman into honest hardly ken what I have been saying courses for a hale week.” or doing.”

The person to whom this was ad“ Moreover," said Bell Tamlin, dressed now came forward ; but no “we a' ken that a poor packman gets wanderer--for such he was, though but a cauld reception if he comes to a near neighbour, ever entered a douce a douce body's fireside without a man's dwelling in such a disordered marvellous or a merry tale to tell, trim. All that was imagination in and the shorter his ellwand the longer the experience of Willie Corkney the story."

were matters of sad reality in the “ Hout, tout, lass !" said Willie, wanderings of Dominie Davison. His giving her a pinch unseen.

parson's grey coat, which, like a measure for you wi' my langest ell- hero's mail, was only for great occawand next time, and gie ye two sions, such as bridals, baptisms, and thumb-breadths to the mends. But kirn-suppers, was splashed and soiled I'm saying, I'm neither the first nor from ample skirt to spreading collar, the last that will tell a marvellous while on its hair buttons, which sat tale about this sinfu' night,-- for I in rows as large as full-grown frogs see the thick mist continues,- folk on breast, and cuff, and on pocketmaun try to get hame frae market as lid, hung the weeds of mire and pool, well as moor; and here comes an- in bunches, like parsley at a greenother to take up the wondrous tale of grocer's door; his hoddin grey breeks Will-o'-wisp Wednesday."

-I use the classic name in obedience The person whose approach "Willic to the laws of delicacy laid down by


" I'll


the ladies of London and New York - with his black-ribbed hose and latched shoes, and his douce, broadbrimmed hat, bore evident marks of having been in both mire and stream. He stared wildly when he came into the light, and was with some difficulty placed in a chair.

“ Maister Davison," said my mother, “hae ye been diving in the Flanghter Moss, too?"

“ No," said the dominie, “ I've only been swimming in the river.” He then retired within himself, as he called his musing moods, which sometimes extended to a stricken hour : all eyes watched the opening of his lips, and all ears listened for the first sounds.

“Oh, sirs," said Bell Tamlin, “but silence be awful.”

“ Nought is awful," said the dominie, “but the presence of Him whom no Christian dare lightly name; and yet I may say that this, though not an awful, is a fearful night. The sound and sough of that deep and darksome river is yet in my ears; the elfish and fiend-like glimmer of the demon's eyes are yet before me, inviting me into the valley and shadow of death; while the ranked grave-stones of Kirmichael kirkyard, with their death's - heads and sand-glasses standing at the heads of their separate graves, like as many ghosts, with Willie's necromantic light dancing on the top of a', are sights which, if I keep my senses, I shall not likely forget soon.

* Whom the Lord loves he chas. tens," said my mother; shouldna grumble at being chosen for this signal mark of favour.”

* What signifies a douk in a dub, a fleg wi' a lass and a lantern, and the sight of carved skulls and shank banes ?" said Bell Tamlin. “ Had ye met wi' the Laird of Cool's ghost, or the spirit that haunts the castle o' Lagg, and is seen in moonlight looking out at the windows wi' een like saucers and teeth like harrows, ye might hae talked of chastenings !"

* Thou art assuredly a carried and giddy girl," said the dominie; “ for the Laird of Cool's ghost and the spirit of Lagg Tower are shadowy and apocryphal things, and unworthy of the consideration of a Christian; they are akin to the delusions and transformations recorded in the yain

verse of the heathen Ovid, whose wo

are changed into running streams, and men into trees and red deer. But touching this nocturnal light which leads men astray, whether it be a lamp lighted at the fire which Nature never allows to expire in her bosom, or one of the heathen spirits unrebuked from the land by our too-merciful Christianity, or is really a spelk or chip of the plough of Satan kindled for his own purposes, who knows ?”

“ I hae nae doubt,” said one of the bandsmen, “ that it is an escaped spirit, as ye jalouse, and doubtless wad say sae were it discreetly questioned; but this can only be speered by a learned man, who kens the Latin tongue : it is a spirit of a classic kind, there's na doubt."

“ Domme !" muttered the man of Cumberland, “ if ever I heard so much nonsense talked in my life about this here Jack-a-lantern!"

“ I have heard it mair than averred,” said a second bandsman, “ that this Will-o'-wisp is a page-light to Satan. I hae seen it with my ain een gaun twinkling out and in on Hallowmass eve, through the deepest dubs of Lochermoss, lending lantern light to the warlocks and witches assembling at Locherbrigg Knowe.”

" Truly, my friend,” said Dominie Davison, as he returned to the spence, having exchanged the wet for the dry, and warmed his heart with a glass of brandy, which he was assured came legally to his lips, for he was a loyal man, and disliked smuggling, -

Truly, my friend, to be a man still in a state of black nature, unenlightened with the lamp of antique learning, ye have stricken at the


root o the matter, as ye shall hear, if, peradventure, ye will listen to my story."

All eyes were fixed at once on Master Davison ; the old sat still, only shedding their locks from their ears, that no word might escape ; while the young gathered round him in a ring, and stood with lips apart, with looks of mingled curiosity and terror.

“Ye must know," said the dominic, " that I did not indow myself in these my best habiliments that I might have a meeting with this demon-light, and get them stained and polluted in the Flaughter Flow; but I put them on in order that I

and ye

might partake of the infusion of that light laughed. "Can a cold exhalaeastern and savoury weed called tea tion laugh like a hyæna ?' I said; with the widow of him who once but I had better have held my lived in Drumbreg, and who loveth tongue, for whisk it started from the to hold discourse with douce and kirkyard, and round and round it learned men. As I came down by reeled and whirled, like Dame Drumthe side of the Routing Burn, I was breg when she crosses partners in the thinking what the lands of Drum- dance. I looked, and better looked ; breg might, in good hands, be worth and I must have moved, though I per annum; when all at once, at one did not feel myself moving,- for I step as it were, this thick and vapour- soon was up to the armpits in Flaughish mist came down. I stood stone ter Flow; and still the elfin light still; I held up my bone-headed blazed and whirled and whirled, staff atween me and the mist, but I and danced before me, making the could not see it. This is really aw- treacherous moss, with all its beard ful!' I said aloud."

of canna, look like a deal floor “ Nought is awful," said Bell chalked to dance upon. • Curse Tamlin, " but the presence o' thee for a wicked spirit !' I said ; but

“ Whisht! whisht!" exclaimed in all this sad expedition of mine, I the dominie. “ Awful is not for a never spake but for my own harm, light lip that is singing psalms ac for the spirit of evil laughed louder minute and committing folly with than before ; and when I tried to get Sandie Kissock the next."

my legs out of the flowmoss, I felt “But it will do weel enough," per- as if something more powerful than sisted Bell, “ for your grave lip, which aught of this earth took me by the the dame of Drumbreg declares has cuff of the neck, and turned me mair life in 't than there is in the hale round and round in the mire, like a Latin tongue.”

mill-wheel. I got out, but I cannot “For gudesake, Bell, be quiet," tell ye how,- for I'm thinking there said one of the bandsmen, “ and I'll was an hour or so of this disastrous gie ye a kiss mysel when my beard is night that I knew not what I was

about. When I came to myself, I " That wad put me in mind of the was out of the Flow, it's true; but I skulls and shank - banes which the was shanking it away to this accursed dominie saw in his dream,” said Will-o'-wisp-—that I should say soBell; “sae he may as weel go on wi' as if he had been a bagpiper, with a his story."

eharm in his drone. At last I came Well," continued the dominie, to what seemed the brae-side above “I said, when the mist fell so thick my own little domicile, and followed that the hand might have groped it, the demon-light down to what I and that when I held up my thumb thought was the Minnow Ford, I could not see it before me, I stood which we step through on three stone still.

But I soon saw some- stones as we go to the kirk. I was thing in the mist which came over about to take a step; but it was the me like a spell: at first, it seemed a will of God, that all at once a light round spot, like the wraith of a came from the sky, and shewed me the dipped candle struggling to shine,-I river broad and deep, and the charm could not take my eyes from it. It was removed from my cars, and I grew larger and larger, and brighter heard the deep and drowning plunge and brighter; and then it ran round of its waters. I started back, and, about like one of those whirlygig falling on my knees, thanked the lights at illuminations, and as it ran Power above for my deliverance round my senses ran with it. But I from the demon ; and with that the must have followed it ; for when it cursed spirit filled all the air with stood still, I saw by the shattered laughter, and vanished.” walls and grey headstones that I was All who heard this legend adat the auld kirkyard of Kirmichael. mitted that it surpassed all that traThe walls looked as if the very rents dition had recorded of the exploits of would speak, and the hard stones as this extraordinary luminary.;, and though they would find a tongue. that in honour of the dominie's ad• There must be a spirit of evil in ventures - he called them trialsthat light,' said I to myself; and it should be called WILL-o'-WISP while thinking this, I thought the WEDNESDAY.


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »