« PoprzedniaDalej »
yet the iris-light of Paradise bad through and through the grassy not faded from its wings. (A banks where the road dips down freak of fancy! must be toler- between, and Elrick burn flows ated, with the wonder of this across under the bridge. There small field-flower under our very are bluebells of every shade of that eyes.) The colours are a love wan greyish love-tint we call blue. ly blending of primrose yellow Now and then, to our joy, comes with tenderest lilac. One other one pure white, ineffable in its bright gem must not be unmen- perfect purity. tioned. Scotland's beloved little The wild birds delight in these wild heart's - ease grows every old stone walls or dikes, where where, haunting the dullest road- no cover exists to screen them. side, the stoniest most barren They seem to be for ever hopping spots. The velvet glow of its up on to the topmost stones of purple seldom dies away until them, and darting across or dropping extinguished in the snow. Au- down into the field before one can tumn may come in with cold or get near enough to see them close. wet, and go out in sleet or snow; Especially tantalising in this way the little flower that rejoiced us, is the fieldfare, or “Hieland pyat" freely blossoming all summer long, as it is popularly known in Aber. allures us still with its brilliant deenshire. A pair of them will beauty. There is always just one pretend to be quite familiar-will more flower to be seen—and one perch just a step or two in advance, more still as a surprise when all and then fly off, perching again a bit seems over and done; and then the farther on. And this little game very last is gone--and then comes will be kept up till at last off they yet another! and so on into dead go, flying far afield. All the time winter. As summer slowly dies, one has been vainly longing for a the shining bloom of the roadside good look at their handsome pluminsensibly tones down into seeding age. Chaffinches number most, Black vetch-pods begin to cluster of all the small common birds. in the tangle, overtopped by spikes They are everywhere. Easier to of red brown sorrel. Carlododdies’i tame than sparrows, and without stamened powdery heads are no question more delightful, they flit more—they ceased their play ere close round one's feet, learn to fly August waned—and richly scented in at the window for food, or follow white clover disappears at last. one about the garden in their But although we cannot ourselves pretty confidence. As winter tire of wild- flowers, and yet to draws near they gather into talk of them too long is tedious, families, and are seen in lonely one word must be said for the places, a few together in the trees. loveliest of all. For what would Poor little chaffinches ! may they our “narrow gardens” be without have a good time wherever they their bluebells ? “ The bluebells betake themselves, and no cares to of Scotland” naturally know their damp their saucy brisk insouciplace! and here are their clans ance. Yellow-hammers, who look assembled wheresoever there is at one a moinent and are gone, foothold in crannies of the stony are but few hereabouts, and are dikes. Or their airy bells wave lustrous as gold in the sunshine. suspended on delicate stalks all Fewer still are there of that
slender, gracefullest of birds, the of birds beating like a snowstorm yellow wagtail. Rarely are they against the windows of the lantern, met by burn or road. Yet they and of how the morning light are tame enough to run up and showed rock and sea around strewn down all day long on the roof of a thick with their dead. The pashouse, peeping in at the windows. sionate impulse that urges a migraOut in the stubble is a great tory bird has been known to impel blackness of rooks. Thousands one that is caged to dash itself are feeding, with one or two black against the bars so soon as the awkward fellows sitting on a fence fateful hour has struck. The subas sentries. Country - folk have ject has deeply engaged many a way of foretelling the weather minds. It does so still, and it by the rooks' movements. What remains one of the profoundest of the secret of it may be I know not. Nature's mysteries. Half the world knows no more Round by Moneykebbock (corabout their neighbours the rooks rupted from the ancient name than the old Scotch farmer who, Mony Cabbucks, or Many Roeon the occasion of a village meet- bucks), past "the highlands of St ing, when the lecturer proposed to Machar," or New Machar, is to my read a paper about rooks, re- thinking a pleasant tramp-all the marked, “What can he have to pleasanter because unknown to any say aboot the craw? It's juist a tourist's guide-book! Bushes of bird that eats 'taties." Neverthe- wild rose (we have none too many less, both wise and wonderful are here), with broom and gorse and the ways of the “ craw.”
bracken, border all the way up to It is at dusk of an October the heathery fallows or highlands. evening that the “tuwhit storm” A steep line of road rises through descends upon the land, settling land broken with wood and corn down some big field that and turnips, passing within sight
or stubble. Then of an old walled graveyard,—the the ground is grey with an in- church was moved up to the numerable multitude of peewits, village a long time ago,-in the or plovers. With them comes a middle of a field, by the farm of mixed lot of starlings or of smaller Chapel of Elrick. No path leads birds. It is the eve of migration, up to it; it stands like an island in and the plovers move jerkily about the fields, overgrown
with sycamore and are very silent. It is an ex- and wych-elm. One can enter by cited crowd, however, incessantly the small unlocked iron gate, and in motion. When the plovers rise, give a passing glance within to the the noise of their wings is as the long melancholy grass that hides a sound of many waters. They need few forgotten names and dates hardly make such a fuss, though, graven on flat gravestones. When for they do not mean to cross the the trees are bare, a grey and
It is only a short trip into ghostly tomb surrounded with Berwickshire that they propose. rusty iron rails, in the centre of But what of those other birds who the enclosure, can be seen from boldly dare the seas? How many, the road, above the wall. In or how few, will land safe on the gusty winter nights the glint of a other side? There is a remarkable light has been seen to rest upon description printed somewhere of the central tomb. This is only night-watchers in a lighthouse see- when a wild west wind sweeps ing the white breasts of hundreds the country; and then, they say,
is in grass
the flame burns steady, unflicker- we come to know something of it ing. Half a mile up, towards the when for a moment the veil drifts heathy wild, the road passes by a aside. long low cottage, of the familiar After this the road goes on past bygone type, with wide chimney “the most beautiful tree in all the and wooden lum. A wilderness world!” So says the eye, each of weeds and flowers slopes down time I look upon that tree. It is from the door. If we make our way a willow-grand, immense, in both through the tangle, and knock, and bulk and height. It is mirrored enter the little dark house place, in the glassy farm-pond near, where we shall most likely find its mis- cattle cool their feet, and drink, tress-a bent old woman-sitting and shelter beneath the shadow of idly by her dull peat fire. The place it when the sun is hot. Walk past is all smoke-embrowned, from the a little way, then turn and look open chimney to the settle under back, and gaze upon the tree rising the window - ledge, and shelves up into the blue, in the glory of its with the dusty row of discoloured countless silver! The grey of it old willow-pattern plates, and little is like an olive grove on the hilljugs and bowls. The dark cavern- slopes of Esterel. The shimmering ous box-bed in the wall is brown, leaves as the light breeze lifts them and very brown the big worn are like the silvery turn of olive Bible resting on the little brown sprays when the south wind blows. table, The very shadows are One longs to sit down before the brown. The framed photograph tree with an easel and a big canvas. of a brand-new Aberdeen steamer Most hopeless of tasks! Words strikes the sole false note in the cannot paint the rhythm of its Rembrandt-like effect of the whole. triad foliage; no painter's brush The woman is too old and feeble could give the glimmering grey of to work any longer in the flower- it. Walking backwards is sorry tangle at her door. Half unwilling, work; so the many-yeared willow she will, perhaps, speak of her must be left behind as we walk on, youngest boy, who died so long the charm of its wandering sheen ago, and tell how he had cared for exchanged for richer green of woodthat little bit of garden ; how he land beech. It is in this direction planted every plant in it, and how that our old friend, the man with for his sake she loved every one of the little yellow dog, may oftenest them — the orange lilies and tall be met. Robb is the man's name, white Canterbury bells, the poly- and Jamie is the other. The man anthus and candytuft, columbine breaks stone for the roads, while and snow-in-summer, and above all the dog lies on his coat, guarding the blue cornflowers, which have it. This man went beyond seas, bloomed and seeded and bloomed and stayed abroad twelve years, again for many a year, never letting and sore misliked the climate. go their hold of the soil. Such Then the homing-hunger set in and azure blue are these cornflowers ! prevailed, and back he came. There She don't mind if I gather one on is no earning so much in a week taking leave. Could we but more here as he earned in a day out easily get at them, how often in there. But what of that? It is the life-story of cotters whose bonnie Scotland, and it is Home! doors we pass by unthinking, The man's companion is the exact might be found pathos as deep as copy of a tiny yellow fox-sharpany in printed books! Sometimes pointed ears, brush, and all; and it
is a pattern of faithful endurance. parts, is often rich with all kinds One day Robb was summoned in of flowerets and fern. Dear to the haste to a funeral at a distance. secret heart of true sons and He left work and was off at once, daughters of the North are these forgetting Jamie, who lay guarding old stones of Scotland. his red necktie in a neighbouring A grey moraine lying desolately shallow sand-pit. After two nights' amid ferns and moss, where for and two days' absence the man got centuries the stones have lain on home from the funeral, but no little a fir-grown brae, gives the passerdog met him at the door. For the
For the by strange thoughts of other times first time he remembered he had when the world was young-before never called Jamie to follow, that the old road that cuts straight day, as he left work. Robb started through was thought of. Somefor the sand-pit; and when the times, here and there, one comes place was reached late in the after- across some huge block of granite noon, there lay the little yellow dog built up in a dike---mute witness upon the handkerchief, still faith- that somewhere not far off existed fully on guard. They believe he once a stone circle. In the midst had never moved; and, dog.like, he of open fields, where a wide horizon bore no grudge.
extends all round, these ancients “A country enclosed with stone were not in former days uncomwalls” might in a way describe mon. Latterly the few that still this part of Aberdeenshire, but it remain have been in a great dewould convey no accurate idea of gree protected. But it is not so the picturesque old fences. The very long since, that if the great stones of them, laboriously gathered, stones interfered with the plough, as the land became cultivated, they were recklessly broken up and from surrounding waste or muir used for the bigging of new farmland, are rounded like boulders,— houses or for gate-posts ; or relics of the age when glaciers would be left standing for the slided over all this region, bring- cattle to rub against. Some way ing down from the mountains off there is a place marked on the moraine and river-rounded stones. county map “Standing Stones,” Wherever the largest of them are and once
we journeyed there, hewn or blasted, they sparkle in hoping to find at least some signs the sun with mica. These dikes of a circle. Alas! the name is all were built up long ago,-many of that remains, with a few big stones them so far back that moss, green built into the walls of a most as a tourmaline, girds them in modern farmhouse, and a pair of thick velvety swathing; or lead- them set up at the farmyard gate. coloured lichens roughen the sur- Miles away in another direction, face. Long lengths of wall are on a high hill-moss above the wild often dappled with gold - dust of east coast, other stones of anthat slowest yellow lichen which tiquity, I suppose as great as has been said to take a hundred these, are found. There was years of growth before its increase length of dike built chiefly of shows. Delicately fronded ferns round grindstones and rounded peep from holes and crannies, or pudding-like anvil - stones (great vagrant crane’s - bill or aromatic pebbles of quartzite with picked thyme smile out from between hollows), which were used in the the boulders ; and the styme or manufacture of flint arrow- and turf, lying deep upon the upper spear-heads, and knives, &c. The
heathy, sandy ground was thickly pews. One glance would be enough strewn with chips and fragments of at such a ghostly uncanny-looking spoilt missiles. The strange thing place! The old roof has fallen in, is, that not a flint exists naturally and nettle-beds fill up where pews anywhere near this ancient flint and pulpit stood, and a brand-new factory. Once I came suddenly kirk, with solid roof and no ivy, upon an arrow-head or elf-shot has arisen near. The two sculplying on the edge of a turnip- tured stones of the graveyard wall field near a plantation of ilex-oak. have, however, been promoted to It was curiously fashioned, like outside the blocked west doorway. the pointed leaf of an ilex, and From the recess loom the wellhardly distinguishable from the known enigmatic figures,—strange brown ilex leaves around it. These outlines, sharp and distinct as if elf-shots, when one has the luck graven yesterday. There are the to find them, are sure to have just harpoons and spectacles, and the been shot; they never lie long, or great Beast with trunk curled over such is the universal belief among his back, It appears over and the country-folk. A tale is told over again on these stones, and is of a lady and gentleman on horse- by common consent an elephant. back quietly riding along a country They say the figure might have road, when the lady's hand un- been evolved from descriptions of wittingly closed on an elf-shot the elephant learned from travelthat instant lodged in the folds lers who returned from the far of her habit. In Scotland any East. It is the same as found on weird may be believed ; nothing carven stones at this day in India. there is too strange to be true. Many are the speculations of the It is the land of mystery.
learned. As one of the un-learned, The "sculptured stones” exist I too have my theory, which shall still in great numbers. Too mystic not be spoken. and awe-inspiring for love, they The lost key to all these hieroare venerated by all who know. glyphs has been discovered by Two of these have remained un- none. And all the time, with heeded age after age, within the slow sure pace, farther and farther low-walled graveyard of a roofless away, the centuries travel on; and church some distance south of ever more and more remote, more Elrick woods. After crossing faint and small, shines apart the “ the crooked Don,” and climbing old old Past. Even as year by a steep rough bank on the other year the hundredth part of a few side, the ruined church is reached. grains of surface may be weatherIt was, but a few years since, the bitten from the stone, so slow yet parish church. The ancient font, certain is the ultimate effacement long cast out, still lies half- of these undeciphered signs. The smothered in rough grass and Maiden Stone of Bennachie (beweeds among the graves. If one yond the limits of a walk from climbed on to an old “table” St Machar) bears sculptured signs, tombstone under a window, one some of which are the very same might peer through the small in character as those in the ruined greenish pane and mark how a doorway. Ten feet tall, gaunt and long green ivy streamer had pushed grey, stands the Maiden in the field through the roof and waved just upon the fell - dike, close to the over the pulpit, and how cobwebs public road that passes on round hung round the decayed unpainted by the foot of Bennachie. Ages