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all sweetly vocal with the songs of birds, the church spire towering high between, with the distant Grampians, in all their grim and lofty grandeur, forming a noble and fitting background to such an enchanting scene.
Emerging slowly from the ravine, I unexpectedly met Dr Steele, of Forfar, returning from a professional visit to the forester's daughter. After the usual greeting, the good, kind doctor, gently putting his arm in mine, turned with me in the direction of the cottage, inquiringly saying, as he did som
“ You are much interested in the welfare of the forester's daughter ? "
“Very much interested indeed,” I frankly replied. “How did you find your patient to-day, doctor, for I have not seen her myself for several months? I sincerely hope she may be getting better, and that you entertain good hopes of her ultimate recovery."
“She is better in one respect,” he quietly replied, " for she is getting nearer heaven every day she survives. As to her ultimate recovery, I dare not hold out any hope whatever; if I did, I should belie, as a professional man, my own convictions."
“You surprise me much, doctor," I hurriedly rejoined. “To me, on the contrary, Eliza appears to be gradually gaining strength. Her eye is as bright and her countenance as blooming as ever."
“These are just the symptoms, my young friend,” the doctor replied, “which to the experienced eye lead to the very opposite conclusion. To be candid with you, the trembling tenement, which still so tenaciously retains its feeble hold of her up-soaring spirit, is so worn and fragile in its texture, that the silver cord may be loosed and the golden bowl be broken in the twinkling of an eye. She will pass away so peacefully that, if not watched by night and by day, her pure and gentle soul may wing its silent flight above before any perceptible change be observed or anticipated. Take this in good part, and you may remember afterwards my parting words."
My trembling lips could not articulate a reply, and the forester's cottage being now in sight, the tender-hearted doctor bade me an affectionate adieu, and went on his
way to the glen.
To my great surprise, and as if falsifying the predictions of the good physician, instead of finding Eliza on the couch of sickness, she was seated at the door of the cottage, where she received me with her sweetest smiles of welcome, gently chiding me at the same time for my long absence from the cottage.
“Eliza expected you to-day,” said her mother, who sat beside her daughter, intently watching her every movement with the tenderest solicitude. “No one had informed her of your arrival, and yet she heard your footsteps, she said, in the tangled brushwood long before you came in sight, and seemed to feel your presence beside her while you were yet a far way off. “Array me, mother,' she joyfully exclaimed in the morning, 'in my long white robe and let my tresses fall full and carelessly adown my shoulders in the way he likes to see them best, and lead me out among the sunshine and the flowers as a bride to meet the bridegroom.'”
“Mother should not have told you that,” Eliza blushingly said, at the same time beckoning me to be seated in the empty chair beside her. “ The beautiful morning 'blent in the more beautiful day," she continued, “I felt so cheerful and so happy, as if inhaling the very atmosphere of heaven, my exulting spirit bounding in gladness in fond anticipation of some coming joy, that I longed to breathe again the soft sweet air of the hills, and to listen to the last long plaintive song of the dying year. You will read again to me, will you not, of the celestial city and the river of God, of the new song of the redeemed, and the harpings of the angels on the hills of heaven? You remember my last wish ?”
On presenting me with the same Bible from which I had formerly read, and which I had given her many years before, she fixed her clear blue eye with such a spiritual intensity of
gaze on mine that I felt as if I were in heaven itself, or rather that one of its celestial inhabitants had become my companion on earth. Seeing me hesitate, Eliza softly said
“Much as I love this fair and beautiful earth my spirit longs to breathe a purer atmosphere of bliss, to roam in glorious sunshine on the mountain tops of the empyrean heavens, and, grandest thing of all grand things, to walk with Christ in white amid the Father's smiles. Read :- I long yet once again to hear from loving lips the sweet notes of that triumphal song, 'Alleluia; the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth! Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints !""
Catching now her intensity of joy, I rapturously read of the holy city, with its gates of pearl inwrought with burnished gold, its dazzling walls of jasper, amethyst, and emerald ; the rainbow round about the Throne, the crowns and sceptres, robes of white and palms of victory; the thousand times ten thousand voices thundering loud like sound of many waters, and harpers harping with their harps—the song, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain : for the former things are passed away."
Hearing no response, I looked up from the book on which I was reading, but, alas ! the brightness of Eliza's eye was quenching fast in darkness; the snow of death was already gathering on her brow, and her pure and gentle spirit was peacefully passing away to God who gave it! I gently took her cold and clammy hand in mine. The pressure was returned, and with a faint, sweet smile on her ashy lips, Eliza Wood, the forester's daughter, entered into her rest !
“What else but evil could betide,
Will-o'-the-Wisp, according to Scott, is "a strolling demon, or esprit follet, who once upon a time got admittance into a monastery as a scullion and played the monks many pranks.” He is sometimes called Jack-o'-Lanthern, and as such is familiar to our southern neighbours. The followers of Marmion attributed the mysterious disasters that befell them at Gifford Castle to the guidance of the assumed ecclesiastic—“the cursed Palmer" and expressed the belief that it had been better for them they had been lantern-led by Friar Rush. Milton also makes the same allusion through his clown
“She was pinched and pulled, she said,
And he by Friar's Lanthorn led.” This wandering demon, however, was universally known throughout the “Howe" by the more familiar name of Spunkie, whose freaks and pranks in that amusing and mischievous character might form the subject matter of a lengthened tale or stirring romance. Many a poor benighted wight bath this uncannie warlock driven to his wits'-end by his uncouth gambols and deceptive light, and many a bold and valiant knight hath he laid hors de combat on the marshy plain.
Some fifty or sixty years ago, nearly one half of the parish of Kinnettles was one continued marsh or bog, arising,
doubtless, from the circumstance that the northern part had formed, at some remote period, the bed of a large river or lake. At that time, and before the great drain was opened through the Howe from the Loch of Forfar, peat mosses and stagnant marshes occupied the whole tract of level land which stretches for some miles between the Castle of Glamis and the Loch. It was in this low, marshy region that Spunkie reigned supreme, and where he held his dreaded midnight revels with sovereign and undisputed sway.
On a dreary night in the latter end of December, 1822, the inmates of the farm-house of Foffarty were assembled in the cozy kitchen around a blazing wood fire, which cast its cheerful light around the no less cheerful room.
A tidy, couthie kitchen was that of Foffarty; and a contented, happy household withal. The lasses were spinning busily, and singing while they span; the young men were seated by the ingle, with the Dominie of Kinnettles in their midst; while the gudewife was busily engaged preparing the evening meal. The old arm-chair of the gudeman stood in its accustomed place, however, unoccupied. The worthy farmer had gone to attend the Kirriemuir market, but was expected home every moment. Intending to take the shortest road through the marsh and peat moss, instead of going round by the turnpike, he was obliged to go a-foot, and, consequently, to trust to his own resources in the case of any emergency.
The table was spread, and all awaited his coming. The clock struck nine-a long hour after his usual time of returning from market-and still he did not appear. The gudewife, after looking out to the cold, dark night for the sixth or seventh time, to descry, if she could, any signs of his coming, returned to the kitchen in a state of increased anxiety and fear; the spinning wheels were silent, and the general buzz of the conversation was hushed into ominous whispers of dread import and prophetic meaning.
Amidst the silence and general consternation that prevailed, the door suddenly opened, and the farmer staggered across the