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chin, and archly said, “What ! my little boatswain first beginning to show the white feather ? Cheer
up, my boy. Only think how these land sharks will jerk up their trousers and trip up the shrouds when your piping cry is heard, ‘All hands aloft, boys, all hands aloft !'” Then giving me a hearty slap on the shoặlder, and with a waggish leer directed to the rest of my schoolmates, he boisterously exclaimed, “Show them pluck, my boy-show them pluck, my hearty !”
After partaking of an excellent breakfast, and having received the parting benediction and advice of our worthy teacher, we sallied first along the High Street and Bridge Street, and then to the harbour, where we had little difficulty in engaging a small fishing-boat for the day.
“All hands on board,” cried Billy; and when seated in the little craft, our amateur crew of eight looked like so many tight, jolly tars on the eve of a long and perilous voyage.
“Stow the beef and biscuit in the locker,” again cried our captain ; “and, Tom, you seat yourself on the prow and look out for squalls. The rudder I will guide myself assisted by (as he always called me) my little friend Jim, who will sit in the stern beside me; and as for the rest of you, my boys, bestir yourselves to weigh the anchor and unfurl the sails, and let us scud before the gale ere it lulls itself into a calm.”
In a few minutes all was ready, and our tight little boat passed under the old wooden bridge, carrying us on to the “Backsands” right merrily. It was a beautiful morning in April, the air crisp, sharp, and exhilarating, and as we bounded over the silver waves we looked so proud and so happyproud at our dexterous and successful seamanship, and happy at the prospect of a long and merry holiday.
'Steady, boys, steady,” said Billy, as a heavily-laden coal craft bore down upon us. “We must give her more way. There, on like a duck in a mill-pond, she scuds away, and I defy that clumsy lugger to overtake her.”
“We must beware of the treacherous sandbanks," I said, sometime after, looking up into Billy's face, as he now stood
in the stern of the boat, as if listening to some distant sound, and scanning at the same time the changed aspect of the heavens. “I fear these sudden squalls,” said Billy, quietly, “much more than I do the changing quicksands. For the one we may be prepared, for the other we cannot."
The wind was now hushed into a deceitful calm, the sails flapped ominously on the creaking masts, the sky grew dark and troubled, and the low moan of the distant sea, mingled with the mournful cry of the seagull, fell heavily on the ear.
Squalls ahead !” cried Tom, from the prow, and instantly all eyes were directed to a dark lowering cloud, which every moment increased its threatening aspect, till the black ripple on the water forewarned us of the coming tempest.
“Steady, boys, steady," cried Billy. “Quick, furl the sails, and I shall lay her more to leeward. The wind is rising, but there is no danger."
* There is danger," Billy whispered in my ear. “ When the lurch comes cling fast to me, Jim.”
Scarcely were the words uttered when the swell of the water shook the timbers of our little craft, and the squall burst in merciless rage over her, tearing into tatters her tiny sails, and capsizing her in an instant into the trough of the sea!
The salt brine gurgled in my throat,
Their skin all so pure and silvery white,
I awoke. Where? On the lowly bed of a little cottage, on the southern banks of the Esk, and attended by my shivering and anxious shipmates. The truth at once dawned upon me, and 1 essayed to speak; but for some time was unable to articulate.
At last I cried—“Where is Billy Dickson ?" No answer being returned, I carefully scrutinised each anxious face to read the truth, if possible, in each expression, but not being satisfied I rose, and staggered feebly towards a little group who seemed intently gazing on some object which, apparently, deeply interested them.
And there—stretched on a lowly couch-lay Billy Dickson, his garments drenched with brine, and his hair dishevelled
yet so natural and life-like, that with great rapture I exclaimed
“How happy I am our dear Billy is safe.”
“He is safe, I trust, in one respect," said an elderly cottar beside “ but I fear
“Fear what ?" I interrupted impetuously.
“And I gazed on his calm expressive countenance, the sweet smile on his lip, and the clear lustre in his eye, and exclaimed with tears of joy in my eyes—
“You mock me—he is not dead," and I eagerly grasped his hand in mine.
It was damp and clammy to the touch. I pressed it with greater warmth; but oh! how cold, cold, this last pressure, sending a withering and chilling thrill to my innermost heart, never, never to be forgotten, for this was my first contact with death!
The details of the catastrophe are few, and soon told.
Capsized in the storm, our cries were heard by those on board the coal sloop, which we were so anxious to outsail. They bore down with all speed to the scene, and all were rescued from a watery grave.
Poor Billy, however, never rallied, and by the time the shore was reached his spirit had fled to another and a happier sphere.
Such were my first impressions of Death.
Lo ! princely mansion, hall and tower,
SKIRTING the basin of Montrose are the rich alluvial lands of Kinnaird, and after a pleasant drive of an hour, we enter the gates of Kinnaird Castle, the princely residence of the Earls of Southesk.
The lands which form the territorial earldom of Southesk extend from the basin of Montrose on the east to the western extremity of Monrommon Moor on the west, a distance of fully eight miles. The southern division of the Kinnaird estates comprehends the lands of Baldovie, Fullerton, Bonayton, part of Carcary, Upper and Lower Fithie, Bolsham, Kinnell, and others, comprehending the lands of Baldovie on the east, to the parish of Kinnell on the south-west and is in length seven and a half miles. The northern division comprises the portion north of the river South Esk, and extends from Balwyllo on the east to Brechin on the west.
The early history of the family-according to Mr Fraser to whose antiquarian researches I have in the composition of this chapter been greatly indebted—is involved in much obscurity, owing in a great measure to the destruction of the charters and records of Kinnaird by the burning of the mansionhouse of Kinnaird after the battle of Brechin in the year 1452; and again suffering from the confusion of the times, having been dispersed on the forfeiture of the fifth Earl