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Sir Allan's affairs are in disorder by the fault of his ancestors, and while he forms some scheme for retrieving them, he has retreated hither.
When our salutations were over, he showed us the island. We walked uncovered into the chapel, and saw in the reverend ruin the effects of precipitate reformation. The floor is covered with ancient gravestones, of which the inscriptions are not now legible; and without, some of the chief families still continue the right of sepulture. The altar is not yet quite demolished; beside it, on the right side, is a bas relief of the Virgin with her child, and an angel hovering over her. On the other side still stands a hand-bell, which, though it has no clapper, neither Presbyterian bigotry nor barbarian wantonness has yet taken
The chapel is thirty-eight feet long, and eighteen broad. Boswell, who is very pious, went into it at night to perform his devotions, but came back in haste, for fear of spectres. Near the chapel is a fountain, to which the water, remarkably pure, is conveyed from a distant hill, through pipes laid by the Romish clergy, which still perform the office of conveyance, though they have never been repaired since Popery was suppressed.
We soon after went in to dinner, and wanted neither the comforts nor the elegancies of life. There were several dishes, and variety of liquors. The servants live in another cottage; in which, I suppose, the meat is dressed.
Towards evening, Sir Allan told us, that Sunday never passed over him like another day, One of the ladies read, and read very well, the evening service ;-and Paradise was opened in the wild.
Next day, 18th, we went and wandered among the rocks on the shore, while the boat was busy in catching oysters, of which there is a great beda Oysters lie upon the sand, one I think sticking to another, and cockles are found a few inches under the sand.
We then went in the boat to Sondiland, a little island very near. We found it a wild rock, of about ten acres; part naked, part covered with sand, out of which we picked shells; and part clothed with a thin layer of mould, on the grass of which a few sheep are sometimes fed. We then came back and dined. I passed part of the afternoon in reading, and in the evening one of the ladies played on her harpsichord, and Boswell and Col danced a reel with the other.
On the 19th, we persuaded Sir Allan to launch his boat again, and go with us to Icolmkill, where the first great preacher of Christianity to the Scots built a church and settled a monastery. In our way we stopped to examine a very uncommon cave on the coast of Mull. We had some difficulty to make our way over the vast masses of broken rocks that lie before the entrance, and at the mouth were embarrassed with stones, which the sea had accumulated, as at Brighthelmstone; but as we advanced, we reached a floor of soft sand, and as we left the light behind us, walked along a very spacious cavity, vaulted over head with an arch almost regular, by which a mountain was sustained, at least a very lofty rock. From this magnificent cavern went a narrow passage to the right hand, which we entered with a candle, and though it was obstructed with great stones, clambered over
them to a second expansion of the cave, in which there lies a great square stone, which might serve as a table. The air here was very warm, but not oppressive, and the flame of the candle continued pyramidal. The cave goes onward to an unknown extent, but we were now one hundred and sixty yards under ground; we had but one candle, and had never heard of any that went further and came back; we therefore thought it prudent to return.
Going forward in our boat, we came to a cluster of rocks, black and horrid, which Sir Allan chose for the place where he would eat his dinner. We climbed till we got seats. The stores were opened, and the repast taken.
We then entered the boat again; the night came upon us; the wind rose; the sea swelled; and Boswell desired to be set on dry ground: we however pursued our navigation, and passed by several little islands in the silent solemnity of faint moonshine, seeing little, and hearing only the wind and the water. At last we reached the island; the venerable seat of ancient sanctity; where secret piety reposed, and where fallen greatness was reposited. The island has no house of entertainment, and we manfully made our bed in a farmer's barn. The description I hope to give you another time. I
LETTER XXVII. To Mrs. Thrale.
Edinburgh, Nov. 12, 1773. Among the possibilities of evil which my imagination suggested at this distance, I missed that
which has really happened. I never had much hope of a will in your favour, but was willing to believe that no will would have been made. The event is now irrevocable, it remains only to bear it. Not to wish it had been different is impossible; but as the wish is painful without use, it is not prudent, perhaps not lawful; to indulge it. As life, and vigour of mind, and sprightliness of imagination, and flexibility of attention, are given us for valuable and useful purposes, we must not think ourselves at liberty to squander life, to enervate intellectual strength, to cloud our thoughts, or fix our attention, when by all this expense we know that no good can be produced. Be alone as little as you can ; when you are alone, do not suffer your thoughts to dwell on what you might have done, to prevent this disappointment. You perhaps could not have done what you imagine, or might have done it without effect. But even to think in the most reasonable manner is for the present not so useful as not to think. Remit yourself solemnly into the hands of God, and then turn your mind upon the business and amusements which lie before you. “ All is best,” says Chene, “as it has been, excepting the errours of our own free will.” Burton concludes his long book upon melancholy with this important precept, “Be not solitary; be not idle.” Remember Chene's position and observe Burton's precept.
We came hither on the ninth of this month. I long to come under your care, but for some days cannot decently get away. They congratulate our return as if we had been with Phipps or Banks; I am ashamed of their salutations.
I have been able to collect very little for Queeney's cabinet ; but she will not want toys now, she is so well employed. I wish her success; and am not without some thought of becoming her school-fellow. I have got an Italian Rasselas.
Surely my dear Lucy will recover; I wish I could do her good. I love her very much; and should love another godchild, if I might have the honour of standing to the next baby. I am, &c.
LETTER XXVIII. TO Mrs. Thrale.
MY DEAREST MISTRESS, Edinburgh, Nov. 18, 1773.
This is the last letter that I shall write ; while you are reading it, I shall be coming home.
I congratulate you upon your boy; but you must not think that I will love him all at once as well as I love Harry, for Harry you know is so rational. I shall love him by degrees.
Poor, pretty, dear Lucy! Can nothing do her good? I am sorry to lose her. But if she must be taken from us, let us resign her with confidence into the hands of Him who knows, and who only knows, what is best both for us and her.
Do not suffer yourself to be dejected. Resolution and diligence will supply all that is wanting, and all that is lost. But if your health should be impaired, I know not where to find a substitute, I shall have no mistress; Mr. Thrale will have no wife; and the little flock will have no mother.
I long to be home, and have taken a place in the coach for Monday; I hope therefore to be in