« AnteriorContinuar »
too, if you will have it so, at the awful sight But till you convert the supposition into a certainty, and prove the reality of such an apparition, I must beg to assert that what I saw was only my own grey horse, while standing with his face directly towards me, and the rest of his body thereby concealed. Such an appearance in the dark, and so near a churchyard, might have been taken lor a real apparition in any country. This is not the first time that Sultan lias played upon the fancy of the benighted passenger. As to the eldritch laugh which I mentioned, if ever you happened to hear a horse neigh faintly, you could be at no loss to understand it."
"Well, such equivocation!" exclaimed Miss Grisilda, while the majority of the company had no small enjoyment at her expense. "I suppose," she added, "you will explain away everything else that you saw and heard by similar shuffling. How do you account for the light which you said you saw in the chapel?"
"Very easily. It was nothing more nor less than a light from a back window of the house, which I saw through a window of the old ruins in the precise manner I formerly described."
"And what becomes of the phantom horses?"
"1 hey were real horses, ma'am—no phantoms. You will find them still grazing in the corry if you doubt my word and shoose to be at the trouble of going to see. Frightened by some cause which I cannot pretend to explain—by the Bodach Glas if you please—they came thundering past me in the darkness exactly in the way I mentioned. And after the story of my own horse, I suppose there is no occasion to explain the awful mystery of the laughter. It was genuine horse laughter."
Sounds of a similar character were by this time rising from all parts of the table, while Miss Grisilda and her partisans strove in vain to conceal their uneasiness at their awkward position. Still, however, they had sufficient resolution to inquire about the adventure in the cave; and as the Captain, agreeably to the resolution which had been adopted on our way homeward from the corry, chose to communicate no more of that affair than appeared consistent with the smuggler's safety, he related only the most marvellous part of it, leaving his audience to explain them in any way they pleased.
This furnished the defeated party with a rallying point. Miss Grisilda recovered her spirits and her voice, and with much eloquence contended that the breathing he had heard could have proceeded from no imaginable creature but the Bodach Glas. Several of her fair allies again took up their weapons in her cause, and the controversy threatened once more to become geneial. The Captain for some time kept entirely aloof, till, perceiving that neither party was likely to come off with an undisputed victory, he at once put a period to the strife, by remarking that for his part he would never again engage in argument with Miss Grisilda, as she had last night proved herself more than a match for him, but must beg to refer the disputants to the evidence of three competent witnesses, then at the table, who had that morning accompanied him to inquire into the mysterious circumstance.
The said witnesses having been called up accordingly, severally deponed that they had found no Bodach Glas in the cave, fbut that a very substantial Bodach Roy was there, fast asleep on a couch of heather.' In other words, they asserted that they had found a stout, red-haired man, who had taken up his night's lodging in the Vaimh-a-Bhodaich, and who seemed no less astonished at the sight of intruders upon his morning slumbers than they themselves were at his ferocious aspect. They would confess no more for the present, but consented, if any one desired to know any more about him, or his reasons for seeking an asylum there, to afford entire satisfaction on both these poiuts before night.
After this clearing up of so many mysteries, there remained nothing for the advocates of the marvellous but to endure the mortifying laugh which their opponents now raised against them. Miss Grisdda was reduced to absolute silence—a more extraordinary phenomenon than any that had yet been discussed. Her aspect and behaviour betrayed an evident struggle between her good nature and her indignation. The Captain, I was afraid, had entirely forfeited hor favour, which I doubted if lie could ever recover, unless the pleasing occasion of presenting the well-earned marriage gloves should revive her kindlier feelings towards him. She soon, however, recovered the full use of her tongue, and gave her opponents to understand that nothing had yet occurred to invalidate her general doctrine of apparitions, and that she was by no means disposed to concede the palm of victory. As the opposite party had lost their chief pillar in the defection of the Captain, they showed no disposition to renew the combat. They therefore suffered her to erect her trophy unmolested and to enjoy her imagined triumph. Some of her fair partisans candidly confessed that they regretted that the Captain's adventure had thus lost all its marvellous character, chiefly because they were thereby deprived of a choice topic for filling their next letters to their correspondents.
I took a temporary leave that day of my kind friends at Auldour to extend my excursion westward. What befel me before my return I at present reserve; and not to break the continuity of my narrative, I shall briefly state the result of my observations and information during the only other evening which I had the happiness to spend under that hospitable roof. I was anxious to learn how the Captain's cause had prospered during the two weeks that I had been absent. I was fortunate enough to find Maclaine there when I returned, and was glad to perceive that his friendly footing did not seem to be diminished. The Colonel in his evening walk leaned on his arm as usual, and the young ladies flirted with him as familiarly as ever. Mrs Mackenzie, however, and some one or two besides of the more aged dames, together with Miss Grisilda, treated him, as I believed, with more than their wonted coldness and reserve. In the manners of Jacobina herself I could discover no change. She had such absolute control over the external expression of her feelings that in his presence she betrayed no symptom from which any certain inference could be drawn. The most amusing incident of the evening was a certain dry but rather severe practical joke, which she contrived to play off upon him. As all men have their foibles, and not a few have very ridiculous ones, so the gallant Captain was not without his, which was a violent nervous antipathy to mice. At the sight of "such small deer" he would start and scream and run like a city-bred miss. Though he had never turned his back to an armed foe of his own species, and could brave, as we have seen, all the powers of darkness, he was yet a sheer coward when he beheld one of the little depredators of the pantry. Had his enemy in the wars known this weakness, instead of opposing him with sword and bayonet, he would have set before him a couple of the small quadrupeds just mentioned, the very sight of them in the slips in all probability would have as effectually discomfitted him as in days of old the feline allies of King Cambyses did the numerous hosts of Egypt.
This infirmity in the Captain being well known, had been often laid hold of to raise a little meiriment at his expense; and though the joke had been often repeated, its success was still as certain as ever. I myself witnessed this, when a repetition of it was effected by means of her whom he most admired; and when I add that the inference which I have deduced was somewhat unfavourable to my friend, I perhaps hazard my own character for penetration in such matters by the remark.
At supper the Captain was requested by Jacobina to help her from a covered dish that was before him. With his usual politeness he hastened to oblige her. On his lifting the cover, out leaped into his bosom a spirited little mouse. The cover dropped from his hand, he uttered a nervous shriek, instantly sprang to his feet, nearly demolished the table, and leaped upon his chair, where he stood for several seconds with the aspect of personified horror, amidst the deafening peals of laughter which rose all around him from the convulsed company.
The concussion which the jest gave to the sides of the hearty old landlord had nearly proved more serious to him than the alarm to the Captain. Several others also suliered severely, and some time elapsed before tranquillity could again be restored. Maclaine did not immediately recover from the shock, and his appetite seemed completely spoiled. Had any other but the lovely Jacobina acted so to him, it is difficult to conceive how he could have forgiven it; but as he could harbour no resentment against her, he recovered his good humour much sooner than might have been expected, and joined in the mirth he had excited.
I was under the necessity next morning of bidding a final adieu to the worthy family, from whom I had experienced such kindness. I was accompanied to the bridge of Eihre by the Captain, whom the favourable day had induced to try the river for a grilse. Though I had several times used the freedom to rally him on his affaires de caiur, I had never yet succeeded in drawing from him any explicit confession. I was too much interested in his success, however, to take my leave without making another attempt to discover what progress he had made. As we walked along, therefore, I seized my opportunity to remark that before the elapse of many weeks I hoped to see announced in the newspapers the consummation of his happiness.
The observation had all the desired effect. He thanked me for my warm interest in his views, and, affecting no misconception of my meaning, proceeded without farther hint to let mo into the knowledge of the state of his case. I rejoiced to learn, notwithstanding the apparently immense superiority of force brought to bear against him, that he had during my brief absence achieved an almost decisive victory. While his rival Dunbreckan was most urgent in his suit, and when circumstances seemed must favourable to his views, the Captain had succeeded in gaining from the blushing object of their rivalship the fluttering confession for which be had go long and so zealously struggled. He had also been able to gain the consent of her worthy father, the more easily perhaps, as the Captain had remarked, that some late rumours had made him suspect that certain gambling speculations of Dunbreckan were likely to ruin him. Mrs Mackenzie, he added, still carried her head a little high, and refused to countenance him. But, he assured me, ho meant to make no humiliating attempts to conciliate her favour, as he was now secure, and she must give in.
The only remaining obstacle to the consummation of his wishes was the want of a suitable mansion-house at his farm of Ardlynna to receive his bride. Upon this ho took from his pocket a plan of an edifice which he himself had drawn out; and having sat down on the parapet of the bridge, which we had now reached, he was at much pains to explain to me its various details, and requested my opinion as to its merits. The Captain's good sense, I was glad to perceive had led him to study comfort more than show, and while he had contrived to provide sufficient room for the accommodation of a few friends as guests, the general plan of the building was on such a moderate scale as best suited the fortune of the landlord. I had therefore only to express in the strongest terms my approbation, and to wish Jacobina and him many years of happiness in their future dwelling, and a numerous progeny to fill it In return for my good wishes, I was honoured with a cordial invitation to Ardlynna on my next excursion to the Highlands, with an assurance that Jacobina and he would be glad to endeavour to make everything agreeable to me. Having thus made a liberal interchange of good wishes, which on both sides, I believe, were breathed from the heart, our right hands at length relaxed their mutual grasp and waved the parting adieu. After I had walked a few paces an idle crotchet came across my mind, which tempted me to call back to the Captain and inquire whether there were any mice at Ardlynna. But by this time he had cast his fly upon the stream, and was too intent on watching its motions to hear me. I therefore set forward on my solitary way, admiring the dexterous fellow's good fortune and moralising on the various destinies of men in the adventures of this life.
THE MACRAES OF KINTAIL U^ILTED. — In our last wo pointed out that a sufficient number of Kintail men could not be found to carry the body of the late Seaforth out of Brahan Castle according to immemorial custom. This seems to have had a most depressing effect upon the few handsome Macraes, who hitherto were the most picturesque frequenters of the Inverness Wool Market; for, on the last occasion, not a single Macrae was seen dressed in the ancient garb of the race. They have now nearly all been driven from the lands of their ancestors, and they have apparently thrown aside the kilt and donned the Lowlander's garbjin disgust. We venture to think that this is carrying resentment a little too far.'—Inverneesian for August.
THE GAELIC CENSUS OF THE COUNTIES OF INVERNESS, BOSS, AND SUTHERLAND.
The following valuable and most interesting statement has been sent for publication by Mr Fraser-Mackintosh, M.P.:—
London, 8th July 1881.
Sir,—Pending the issue of the Official Returns of the Census,* I was desirous to procure accurate returns of the Gaelic population in its three head settlements. Accordingly, circulars were issued to the Registrars of Inverness, Ross, and Sutherland shires, asking for information; and as it had been publicly stated that in several cases young children and infants were not included, nor, under a misapprehension of the Registrar-GeneraTs instructions, many who speak Gaelic fluently; requesting the numbers so omitted as nearly as possible to be given. I am glad to say that 74 Registrars made returns, the results of which are shown in the Table annexed, which I hope you will be so good as publish. The Registrars of Rosehall (District), Dornoch, Dingwall, Logie-Easter, Croy and Dalcross, and South Snizort District, acknowledged the request, but stated that they had not kept a note of the Gaelic Return; the Registrar of Croy adding, that many wore omitted that could speak Gaelic fluently; of South Snizort, that all were returned except 4; of Rosehall, that children not included, and of Dornoch, that none were omitted. The present Registrar nf Abernethy did not take the census. The Registrar of the Southern District of Gairloch states that he does not think ho has the right to supply information, and adds, "I consider there was really no Gaelic Census as yet." Considering that Gairloch gave birth to the author of "The Beauties," and the Editor of the Celtic Magazine, this result was not to be expected.
The Registrars of the following districts made no reply, viz.:—
* A Return was ordered by Parliament, on the motion of Mr Fraser-Mackintosh, upon the 25th July, in the terms following:—
Return in the form annexed of the numbers of Gaelic-speaking people of Scotland, by 'unties, Parishes, and Registration Districts, under the Scottish Census of 1881:—