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the hours not idly spent. Yet how deeply soever the mind may be at work, the eye sees and takes in with delight details of rocks and grass and wild-flower, each varied outline of trees or fields, of hilltop and of cloud. Wild woods and mountains and river-sides may be more full of romantic beauty, yet, for everyday wear, these familiar roads with their old stone dikes are best. There are the roadside flowers and herbs, changing ever with the changeful months; the purple distance of wooded heights: with the field life, and birds,—and the human interest, which last never can be least.
This Elrick countryside is very old-a truism that only means old cottages, old landmarks, old stones. There is a hilly road from which the prospect on a sunny late September morning is as beautiful as the breeze that blows over it is bright and health-giving. It is the very picture of prosperity. Amidst the upland corn and pasture are scattered clumps of trees and islands of white farmsteads. Around each farm lies its little enclosed bit of garden and labourer's cottage or two, and the shadow of them aslant upon the hill. A black heap under every farm gable and beside every cot is the winter hoard of peat. Later in the month dark loads creep all day along the winding far - seen roads. It is the season for "leading" peats. Pasturing in the fields beside the cattle are flocks of white sea-mew. The birds rise and settle and rise again in a perpetual twinkle of white wings. The weather is so fine that " stookey Sunday" must be near. On stookey Sunday the corn- stooks stand in ordered ranks every where up and down the wide deserted
The last of the harvest ("clyack" they still call the last sheaf, sometimes) has been cut by the youngest lass in the field, and only tarries for the "leading," or carrying, as they would say in England. There is a deeper quiet in the air than even on any ordinary Sabbath day, by contrast with the busy jollity of last week's end. The very silence speaks, while the Bible word keeps running in our mind, the word which said, "and the land had rest.' The sheaves will stand as they are, all a-row up and down the fields day and night, for long. They have to await fulfilment of "the flailer's prayer "-the welcome shower that makes the threshing easy. An old rhyme formerly in use was written down nineteen years ago from the lips of an old ploughman crooning by the farm-kitchen fire
"Trembling strae maks trottin' owsen; 1
Trottin' owsen maks red lan' banks; Red lan' banks maks a thin corn-yaird; A thin corn-yaird maks a hungry fairmer!"
That is true Doric; but, whether in rhyme or prose, "the flailer's prayer" is now but an empty sound, for the big deafening threshing-machine needs none of
it. Yet, rain or shine, the stooks will bide a wee, and hold the field. If to-day were Sabbath, the seabirds would be away. Birds, &c., as we all know, have their own ways of spending it. On Sundays gulls are not seen inland. Rooks choose it for the first day of nest-building in the spring. Caged doves almost invariably lay an egg on Sunday. The heron alights by the burn near the house for an hour's quiet fishing while the people are at kirk. Salmon get up the river unscared
1 Owsen- -oxen.
by mills, and bees are said not to
The aspect of a certain quiet full prosperity, so characteristic of this part of Scotland, is no mere idle show. The black peat neatly stacked at the gable end of the poorest dwelling, alone might mark the difference. New slated houses are many, but there still remain dotted about near the roads or on the hillsides old low-roofed dreary little dwellings of the poor (poor, almost without poverty!), the same as were in existence a hundred years ago and more. The old thatch grows deep-green crops of moss; the wooden lum is swathed round in hay-ropes; the doorway is only just high enough, or barely, for a man to walk in without knocking his head; little deep-set windows not made to open, with one like an afterthought worked in the wall beside the ingle-neuk. Sometimes huge boulders, built in as cornerstones, give a sense of solidness and security. How well the colourtone of roof and walls blends with the colouring of all the land around! Dreary little northland cottages! how pleasant is their look of homely comfort, how engaging their bit of bright garden, and how seldom would it gain a prize for tidiness! Sweet simple flowers, such as are sown in spring, grow there, with a patch or two of so-called English iris and blue monk's-hood, all blooming as they never bloom in milder regions. If a few tall splendours of crimson sword - lily perchance aspire above the humbler flowers, they are guilty of giving no shock of incongruousness, as would a scarlet geranium or yellow calceolaria, or any other flowering foreigners. Deep-rooted in Scotland, in the hearts of her people is their love for gardens. It is a love born with their birth, and it forsakes
them never. Even the children play at gardening, and make small pleasure-plots by the road, in rough waste-grounds, or in corners of the crofts. One such miniature garden I pass in walks along the Elrick roads. It is the joint property of a family of four children. The little space is carefully fenced round, and laid out in walks and flower - beds. Two tiny wooden gates, fastened with a loop of old string, admit-or keep out-the brownies, the only people who might be supposed to wish to trespass there, or sit under the shade of a tall tree of spiced southernwood in the midst! A fairy path leads to a thicket of spotted pulmonaria; and in a sunny corner are the strawberry beds, where is room for just one large strawberry root. Sometimes I have known the children make their "brownie" gardens among the foundation-stones of some poor ruined cot; and there I have seen a fairy farmyard too, with little. corn-stacks of wild grasses thatched with rush.
Bound up together with this native love for flowers and gardens is the faculty of vivid imagination. It dies down as the years increase, but in the bairnie's breast, as a rule, it glows and burns. With flame more faint perhaps, imagination does also not seldom illuminate the daily life of cottage children in the tamer South. In Berkshire field-paths, for instance, one may often come unawares upon little altars piled within recesses of big tree-roots, decked out in freshly gathered flower-heads. It is the children who build these high places, and make their little offerings there of red clovers or buttercups or blue veronica. A tiny survival it may be of Mariolatry, or perchance of some remoter pagan age. The remnants of that
ruin at the foot of the Gallow Hill (where I found the little fairy farm and flower-garden) wear a dreary aspect, more desolate even than those frequent ruins of desolated homes - just two gaunt roofless gables-that are seen afar in distant fields from the windows of some passing train. There remains only a heap of big foundationstones smothered in weeds and thistles.
Nothing certain is known about the Gallow Hill, or the meaning of its gruesome name. Straight up the steep brae leads the path to the spot where it is said the gallows stood. All who came and went through that cottage door must have seen it. From the peephole window by the hearth it would be for ever in sight. One can fancy how, as years went on, the little home would become distasteful to the dwellers in it, and it was at last deserted and pulled down. The hillside grass is fine and short, and thick with flowers. The track climbs through a plantation of young spruce and between the hoary boles of a few ancient beeches, and then, the summit reached, one may rest upon the heather, all interwoven with blaeberry and thyme, and dream away a sunny August hour. around, above, below, reigns profoundest silence. No living creatures can be seen save the feeding cattle and white sea-gulls, down in the low-lying pasture-lands. A wide landscape fraught with the stillness of deep peace spreads away and away to the far horizonline of lilac hills. The sun shines sweetly on near farms and woods. On such a day, it might well have been, took place the last tragedy connected with the gibbet when it stood there, reared up on the hill-crest where we now take our ease, resting among
the honey - scented heath - bells. From the highroad a mile away, and from every path and every house within sight, the awful Thing could be seen, silhouetted black against the sun-bright sky. The half-forgotten tales that with difficulty may be extracted still from the country-folk round about are of the vaguest. Whatever happened here must have been at least 150 years ago. The parish archives-a part of which perished by fire-are silent upon the subject. Some say this was the place of
execution for the whole of New Machar; others, that here stood the gallows-tree of the lairds of Elrick, in the ugly old times when the lairds, or barons, "had power of pit and gallows." No deep loch -like the loch of Spynie-being near at hand, the maintenance of a gallows was of course a necessary expense! "The oldest inhabitant" tells a tradition of his boyhood. Two herd-boys posted on the hill to watch the cattle (the land was not in those days enclosed) were playing together, and one hung up the other in sport upon a tree. Returning in an hour, the lad was dead as he hung. Then the boy suffered death himself, on the gibbet set up for him alone. Yet another and more ghastly tradition lingers, and would seem to point to the first idea, of a place of public execution. They say that one hot summer a hundred years ago the ripened berries had to be left to hang ungathered on the bushes in cottage-gardens within a certain distance of the Gallow Hill. Whatever may be the truth of all that is said to have happened here in those far days, time has since so wrought as to mellow into wild loveliness the once drear aspect of the hill of doom. We only know it now as a flowery brae from whose summit is seen the prettiest
home-view in all the countryside.
Across the moss-rich in June
It is wintergreen (Trientalis europaea), pride of the northern woods. Why our English name is wintergreen were hard to tell. When in June their prime was done, the little white flowers loosed hold and fell away-not petal by petal, but whole, like scattered snow stars. Then, along with fresh green summer, the substance of leaves and stalks decayed, until all the plant seemed dipped in a brown autumnal dye. By-andby each sombre coloured triple leaf upheld a pearly seed or two. Often in warm September days has this white seed deceived unwary strangers, who, forgetting how the flowery time is long past, think to find fresh blooms upon the wintergreen. Soon these brown reliquiæ with their pearls shall perish and burn away into oblivion-small mimic flames of crimson.
Signs of some small arboreous life are not wanting in the wood. The ground is littered with short ends and tassels of firtwigs nipt off from upper branches. Squirrels mostly are accused of the mischief (mischief far more likely to be the work of the insidious pine- beetle). A surer token of the unseen active presence somewhere of these little sportive beings is, that every red "tode-stol" has been skinned on the very first day of its appearing. In the brisk clear atmosphere of the fir-wood no such unwelcome guest as a corpse candle," so called, will ever peer in among the throngs of fine tawny agarics springing up from under tawny fir-needles. These, with shy violet ones that enliven sometimes the moist dead. leaves lying underneath isolated beech, seem to escape attention from the squirrels. They are never peeled as are the scarlet and orange. Do the little rascal
"shadow - tails" taste a sugary flavour in the fine colour? They hide away so cleverly that rarely does the whisk of a tail of one betray it. Later in autumn they become more fearless, and are bold enough to chatter and scold, at hide-and-seek among the branches. Then is the time to scatter nuts and almonds for them on the lawn close under our windows, and look for repayment in watch ing the delicious grace of their gambolling. The shadow-tails will dance about the lawn light as withered leaves,-with frugal forethought, in contrast to their usual frivolity, sowing the turf with every nut they do not crack and eat. Could one but be a St Francis and attain the gift of charming wild creatures of the woods! There are those at whose call a squirrel will climb down from some high branch and take a nut from the hand, or perch inconveniently on the book in their lap if they happen to be reading under a tree. There is a lady I know, one who draws to her all living creatures. She was visited last week by a fine hedgehog, on the morning of her eighty-fifth birthday. When she opened the garden door, there sat Prickles waiting on the doormat. He was regaled with milk, and next morning came again for more, bringing a pair of young ones with him. Such examples, however, of the power we covet are rare. Whilst at play with the shadowtails, dare it be whispered how the only bit of a sermon I ever remembered much of afterwards, occurred in one (preached by the Bishop of Oxford) at the service of completion of a village churchtower in Bucks. Referring to the old towers as land-marks, the sermon went on to describe that particular district of Mercia as it was in the olden days. "For forty miles
in a straight line," the Bishop said, "a squirrel might leap from tree to tree." A suggestive enough sketch this, of the country Milton knew and loved, with its small old villages set in the midst of forest-land.
Other, lesser forms of life abound in late summer days in this woody wild. There is a curious semblance of a transmigration into winged life, in the hosts of new-born, yellowish, filmy moths fluttering just above the yellow withered grasses! They have just escaped from silky cells where in their chrysalis state they lie; and until they rise and fly, one would scarce guess the existence of these living leaves, these faded moths, so exactly are moth and dry grass matched in colour, to a shade. Should the spinning of cocoons not yet have begun, and the hour for retirement from the world not come, the eye may chance upon some lovely caterpillar fattening on the heather. Nature truly gives rein to fancy of a marvellous order in her decorations of some of these amongst the lowliest of her creatures. Nature's consummate taste and infinite variety are here displayed in endless combinations of both form and tint. A favourite type-one sees it everywhere-is done with ornamental side-stripes of electric blue and black velvet cross-bands, set off with a head decoration of black peacock's crests and tufts of spun silver all along the back. Not one in ten thousand of these art masterpieces in miniature is like to be seen of men. But to the serene grandeur of the mind of Nature, what matter? The heather in the shaded woods is not broad or deep enough to sustain with safety a caterpillar so grand as one we once met on a grousemoor over the hill, within sound of the sea. The girth of it was huge, and in length it measured