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watch, the shriek of an owl, or the motion of a mouse in the dark, inspired him with terror.
Prejudice had implanted a belief in supernatural ap. pearances by night: and reason was yet too weak to break the spell. What was to be done? The more absurd an opinion is, the depeer it sinks into the mind when once
indulged. Ridicule is often more powerful than argument. His father had felt the pernicious effects of such inbred terrors himself: he wished to recover his child from the dread of imaginary existences.
Without explaining the motives of his conduct, he ordered a trusty servant one evening to spread a sheet on a bush, and then proposed taking a walk that way, to hear the nightingale sing. John was pleased to accompany him; but when he came in sight of something white, be began to confess an alarm. “Come,” says his guide, * we will see what that white thing is. White, you know, is the emblem of innocence, and therefore it can be
nothing that will hurt us." .. . . .: · Jolin, however, would fain have declined the experi: ment, but did not like to own it. The father advanced : first, and taking the sheet from the top of the bush . " Here,” says he, “is the apparition that has frightened
many 'ą, stout heart-now had it been wrapped round a i man, or suspended on a bush, would it not have been the 1. same?
• In returning they saw something black and upright.
John was again in trepidation. He was, however, satis. fied that this was no other than an old wig on the stump of a tree to frighten the rooks from the corn: and neither intended, nor capable of hurting him. His father having ridiculed his foolish apprehensions, toncluded with these serious remarks :
. 6 What
“What is spiritual cannot be seen. Weak fear, or a bad conscience, has often conjured up ghosts and apparitions ; but when they have been approached, they have always turned out to be either real objects, or illusions of the fancy. Do you think, my dear,” added he, * that the good and gracious Being who made and protects us, has left us to be molested by evil spirits ; or can you for a moment suppose, that he has given to birds or insects an insight into futurity, which he has denied to man? Are you so weak as to believe, that he, whose providence watches over you by day, cannot see you" by night? Trust me, the only evil you have to fear, except from natural causes, is the fear of losing his favour; if you are happy enough to retain that, you may laugh at the silly stories of old women, and the dreams of superstition. You are as safe in the dark as in the light, from preternatural dangers. But if ever you fancy you see any thing uncommon, or hear a noise for which you cannot readily account, approach without apprehension, or listen till you have discovered the cause ; and you will find it to be generally as harmless as the white sheet, or the wig on the stump of a tree*.»i*
In Mrs GRANT's new work, on the Superstitions of the Highlanders, we have the following remarkable story of a Highland Visionary, which will, no doubt, be an acceptable treat to such of our readers as delight in the marvellous. “He lived with his master in the deepest seclusion, on the banks of Loch Laggan, as a kind of principal trust ed servant; and became so great a favourite, that in the solitude of his retreat, he often conversed with him as an
. . equal * Dr. Mavor's Father's Gift.
equal. He often boasted of bim indeed as superior to any one in his station he had ever met with, not only in fi. delity and integrity, but in feeling and understanding. - Here, however, lie was often left for months in solitude, in his master's absence. Unable to find solace in books from a total want of education, and having derived a kind of painful refinement from that gentleman's various and intelligent conversation, he became in some degree thoughtful and abstracted.
He met with some alarm, when contrary to all highland custom, he went out alone at night. This sin of presumption was, as he imagined, punished by an encounter with a spirit, who wrestled violently with bim, bruised him, and charged bim to meet liim some nights after, at an allotted place and hour. When the appointed time arrived, his brothers, by every affectionate entreaty, en. deavoured to detain him. He broke from their bands, went to some unknown place to meet the substantial spirit, and returned as formerly, exhausted and marked with bruises. Upon this, these assignations became matter of speculation in the neighbourhood, and all bis friends assembled on the appointed evenings, to prevent if possible, this dreaded assignation from taking place.
Many were the counter-magical operations and pre cautions used for this purpose. A small bible was sewed into one of his pockets, which would at any rate have the good effect of preventing the evil spirit from obtaining power to overcome him entirely. This, which was done with tremulous awe, was the dernier resort. Before this final resource, nine knots of a very old pine tree, growing in a certain situation and exposure, which gave it a kind of sacredness, and adapted it for this purpose, were fastened in different parts of liis clothes, but without the
desired effect. Two of Angus's brother's very strong men, assisted by another, on one of these appointed nights, struggled to detain him, but in vain ; with a kind of preternatural strength he broke through them all, went out to his antagonist, and returned more exhausted and bruised than usual: This, doubtless, was a kind of mad. ness, but there was method in it; for on all other subjects, he was quite rational, and though very unwilling to mention the apparition, argued consequentially on the subject, when forced to speak of it at all. If he were to break his assignation with this agent, who was permitted for the punishment of his sins to afflict him, this powerful and malicious spirit might avenge himself of him by injuries still more serious to himself and his friends.
His master, who was in the largest sense of the word bis friend, returned to the country about the time that this poor man's unfortunate state of mind was the prevailing subject of con"ersation in that neighbourhood. He immediately visited his faithful and affectionate adherent, of whose worth he thought very highly, and to whom he owed much for courage and fidelity, called forth by very singular and trying exigences. He found him pensive, but calm, sensible, and collected. He entered into a confidential conversation with him; and heard with astonishment, a narrative in itself most improbable, told with such circumstances as might stagger incredulity itself. The falsest premises laid down, and the truest conclusions drawn from these prémises. Never, he said, had he found so much occasion to admire the powerful native eloquence, and acuteness in argument of this extraordinary person.
He let him into the whole secret of those struggles,
and the conversations that preceded them. He considered his materially and literally wrestling with this goblin a a trial of his faith. He was so supported, be said, by this dependence, that this agent of evil had not power en. tirely to overcome him; and he trusted never would Various modes of trial were appointed to various characters ; no doubt this had been seen fit to be the most suited to his. And thus he went on, demonstrating with a plausibility that almost. varnished absurdity, till bis master knew not what to think.
This same master, thongh no believer in spirits, was in some respects a koigbt very well suited to such a squire. He had much imagination, was a native of the district, and possessed, in a very high degree, enthusiasm and warmth of heart, which considerable intercourse with the world had not chilled. All this fitted him for the subject of a romantic adventure. Beginning to waver, perhaps more than he chose to own from his original opinion, that this was merely a deception of Angus's fancy,
“Bred from his weakness and his melancholy.” ke even proposed to accompany the unfortunate visionary to the scene of his nightly combats. • This proposal was at first resisted with extreme horror; partly from a fear of provoking his unearthly antagonist, but chiefly from terror, lest he should revenge the" intrusion of an unbidden visitor to witness these midnight meetings. He feared too, that bis master was committing á sin, in thus needlessly exposing himself to trials, which he himself, when called to them found so severe. His friend, however, with great difficulty, convinced him, that as his intents were holy and charitable, and bis confidence in the divine protection undoubting, there was not the least danger of his being abandoned to unballowed powers.