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the flame burns steady, unflickering. Half a mile up, towards the heathy wild, the road passes by a long low cottage, of the familiar bygone type, with wide chimney and wooden lum. A wilderness of weeds and flowers slopes down from the door. If we make our way through the tangle, and knock, and enter the little dark house-place, we shall most likely find its mistress-a bent old woman-sitting idly by her dull peat fire. The place is all smoke-embrowned, from the open chimney to the settle under the window-ledge, and shelves with the dusty row of discoloured old willow-pattern plates, and little jugs and bowls. The dark cavernous box-bed in the wall is brown, and very brown the big worn Bible resting on the little brown table. The very shadows are brown. The framed photograph of a brand-new Aberdeen steamer strikes the sole false note in the Rembrandt-like effect of the whole. The woman is too old and feeble to work any longer in the flowertangle at her door. Half unwilling, she will, perhaps, speak of her youngest boy, who died so long ago, and tell how he had cared for that little bit of garden; how he planted every plant in it, and how for his sake she loved every one of them the orange lilies and tall white Canterbury bells, the polyanthus and candytuft, columbine and snow-in-summer, and above all the blue cornflowers, which have bloomed and seeded and bloomed again for many a year, never letting go their hold of the soil. Such azure blue are these cornflowers! She don't mind if I gather one on taking leave. Could we but more easily get at them, how often in the life-story of cotters whose doors we pass by unthinking, might be found pathos as deep as any in printed books! Sometimes
we come to know something of it when for a moment the veil drifts aside.
After this the road goes on past "the most beautiful tree in all the world!" So says the eye, each time I look upon that tree. It is a willow-grand, immense, in both bulk and height. It is mirrored in the glassy farm-pond near, where cattle cool their feet, and drink, and shelter beneath the shadow of it when the sun is hot. Walk past a little way, then turn and look back, and gaze upon the tree rising up into the blue, in the glory of its countless silver! The grey of it is like an olive grove on the hillslopes of Esterel. The shimmering leaves as the light breeze lifts them are like the silvery turn of olive sprays when the south wind blows. One longs to sit down before the tree with an easel and a big canvas. Most hopeless of tasks! Words cannot paint the rhythm of its triad foliage; no painter's brush could give the glimmering grey of it. Walking backwards is sorry work; so the many-yeared willow must be left behind as we walk on, the charm of its wandering sheen exchanged for richer green of woodland beech. It is in this direction that our old friend, the man with the little yellow dog, may oftenest be met. Robb is the man's name, and Jamie is the other. The man breaks stone for the roads, while the dog lies on his coat, guarding it. This man went beyond seas, and stayed abroad twelve years, and sore misliked the climate. Then the homing-hunger set in and prevailed, and back he came. There is no earning so much in a week here as he earned in a day out there. But what of that? It is bonnie Scotland, and it is Home! The man's companion is the exact copy of a tiny yellow fox-sharppointed ears, brush, and all; and it
is a pattern of faithful endurance. One day Robb was summoned in haste to a funeral at a distance. He left work and was off at once, forgetting Jamie, who lay guarding his red necktie in a neighbouring shallow sand-pit. After two nights' and two days' absence the man got home from the funeral, but no little dog met him at the door. For the first time he remembered he had never called Jamie to follow, that day, as he left work. Robb started for the sand-pit; and when the place was reached late in the afternoon, there lay the little yellow dog upon the handkerchief, still faithfully on guard. They believe he had never moved; and, dog-like, he bore no grudge.
"A country enclosed with stone walls" might in a way describe this part of Aberdeenshire, but it would convey no accurate idea of the picturesque old fences. The stones of them, laboriously gathered, as the land became cultivated, from surrounding waste or muir land, are rounded like boulders,relics of the age when glaciers slided over all this region, bringing down from the mountains moraine and river-rounded stones. Wherever the largest of them are hewn or blasted, they sparkle in the sun with mica. These dikes were built up long ago,—many of them so far back that moss, green as a tourmaline, girds them in thick velvety swathing; or lead coloured lichens roughen the surface. Long lengths of wall are often dappled with gold - dust of that slowest yellow lichen which has been said to take a hundred years of growth before its increase shows. Delicately fronded ferns peep from holes and crannies, or vagrant crane's - bill or aromatic thyme smile out from between the boulders; and the styme or turf, lying deep upon the upper
parts, is often rich with all kinds of flowerets and fern. Dear to the secret heart of true sons and daughters of the North are these old stones of Scotland.
A grey moraine lying desolately amid ferns and moss, where for centuries the stones have lain on a fir-grown brae, gives the passerby strange thoughts of other times when the world was young-before the old road that cuts straight through was thought of. Sometimes, here and there, one comes across some huge block of granite built up in a dike-mute witness that somewhere not far off existed once a stone circle. In the midst of open fields, where a wide horizon extends all round, these ancients were not in former days uncommon. Latterly the few that still remain have been in a great degree protected. But it is not so very long since, that if the great stones interfered with the plough, they were recklessly broken up and used for the bigging of new farmhouses or for gate-posts; or one would be left standing for the cattle to rub against. Some way off there is a place marked on the county map county map "Standing Stones," and once we journeyed there, hoping to find at least some signs of a circle. Alas! the name is all that remains, with a few big stones built into the walls of a most modern farmhouse, and a pair of them set up at the farmyard gate. Miles away in another direction, on a high hill-moss above the wild east coast, other stones of antiquity, I suppose as great as these, are found. There was a length of dike built chiefly of round grindstones and rounded. pudding-like anvil-stones (great pebbles of quartzite with picked hollows), which were used in the manufacture of flint arrow- and spear-heads, and knives, &c. The
heathy, sandy ground was thickly strewn with chips and fragments of spoilt missiles. The strange thing is, that not a flint exists naturally anywhere near this ancient flint factory. Once I came suddenly upon an arrow-head or elf-shot lying on the edge of a turnipfield near a plantation of ilex-oak. It was curiously fashioned, like the pointed leaf of an ilex, and hardly distinguishable from the brown ilex leaves around it. These elf-shots, when one has the luck to find them, are sure to have just been shot; they never lie long, or such is the universal belief among the country-folk. A tale is told of a lady and gentleman on horseback quietly riding along a country road, when the lady's hand unwittingly closed on an elf-shot that instant lodged in the folds of her habit. In Scotland any weird may be believed; nothing there is too strange to be true. It is the land of mystery.
The "sculptured stones" exist still in great numbers. Too mystic and awe-inspiring for love, they are venerated by all who know. Two of these have remained unheeded age after age, within the low-walled graveyard of a roofless church some distance south of Elrick woods. After crossing "the crooked Don," and climbing a steep rough bank on the other side, the ruined church is reached. It was, but a few years since, the parish church.
The ancient font, long cast out, still lies halfsmothered in rough grass and weeds among the graves. If one climbed on to an old "table" tombstone under a window, one might peer through the small greenish pane and mark how a long green ivy streamer had pushed through the roof and waved just over the pulpit, and how cobwebs hung round the decayed unpainted
pews. One glance would be enough at such a ghostly uncanny-looking place! The old roof has fallen in, and nettle-beds fill up where pews and pulpit stood, and a brand-new kirk, with solid roof and no ivy, has arisen near. The two sculptured stones of the graveyard wall have, however, been promoted to outside the blocked west doorway. From the recess loom the wellknown enigmatic figures,—strange outlines, sharp and distinct as if graven yesterday. There are the harpoons and spectacles, and the great Beast with trunk curled over his back. It appears over and over again on these stones, and is by common consent an elephant. They say the figure might have been evolved from descriptions of the elephant learned from travellers who returned from the far East. It is the same as found on carven stones at this day in India. Many are the speculations of the learned. As one of the un-learned, I too have my theory, which shall not be spoken.
The lost key to all these hieroglyphs has been discovered by none. And all the time, with slow sure pace, farther and farther away, the centuries travel on; and ever more and more remote, more faint and small, shines apart the old old Past. Even as year by year the hundredth part of a few grains of surface may be weatherbitten from the stone, so slow yet certain is the ultimate effacement of these undeciphered signs. The Maiden Stone of Bennachie (beyond the limits of a walk from St Machar) bears sculptured signs, some of which are the very same in character as those in the ruined doorway. Ten feet tall, gaunt and grey, stands the Maiden in the field upon the fell-dike, close to the public road that passes on round by the foot of Bennachie. Ages
of storm and tempest has she endured-alone, unshaken. Generations of men, in long and vast procession, have been born, and lived, and perished, while she has stood there, where first they set her, on the dreary muirland. Infinite toil must it have cost to cut the enormous monolith out of the quarry and bring it down the mountainside; infinite care and skilled art in that rude age to work, in such bold yet finished relief, the hard uncompromising granite-it is coarse red-toned granite of Bennachieand make it tell the story that all the coming races of the earth were to understand and know. The granite and its sculptured story were to last for ever. And now, poor stone! all outworn and crumbling, only when the sun shines full upon you an hour after noonday, late in summer, can your carved images be made out at all with clearness, and then only by the transparent lilac shadows of them. The elephant is there, and the harpoon or scales; there is a mirror and a comb, and over them the ass-centaur is represented with action true to nature and full of spirit. What avails the labour and the skill, since now the whole is empty of meaning? A large notch in the upper part remains in proof of the legend which tells how the Fiend pursued the Maid of Drumdurno farm as she fled towards Pittodrie woods, and clutched her shoulder, when on the instant she was turned to stone. Men of science travel long distances to see the strange thing. Tourists hire carriages and come out from Aberdeen and picnic under its shadow. The dike has to be scaled; and while they walk round and scrutinise, and are none the wiser, the driver, a little way on, nods asleep on his box. And then they sit
down and eat their sandwiches, and the young colts in the field come round and sniff and have to be scared away. One or two may pluck a tiny heart's-ease from a bevy of them growing there, and then the carriage-load drives off. They have seen the sight, they have lunched, and are content. Twenty or more years ago the moss had not been ploughed up, nor the new road made, and the stone was still knee deep in heather. Yet even now, alone in a field hemmed in with common life-stared at, desecratedthe impression made by a first sight of that great melancholy stone is one not to be forgotten. A hundred wheels might rattle past, noisy crowds might surround it, but the Maiden Stone of Bennachie would seem to stand for ever as it now is standingrooted in solitude, wrapt round with silence.
Far, far have we wandered from the sweet home-walks of Elrick! and in memory alone their charm may be retraced. Could I but answer when the spirit calls, how would its flowery lanes and footpaths bear again the print of eager feet! how would the dreams once more thicken amongst the green beech leaves and amid the darkness of the firs, or glow within the fire of sunset clouds! how would the ear hear with delight the low song of the ousel,-half outsung by the bubbling burn around him,-or hearken the harsh cry of some grey sea-gull overhead gravely winging to the sea! Recalling in the fogs of London lost joys of sun-bright summers, one forgets that winter reigns supreme, and that the Field of the Fairies lies flowerless and drear, hid beneath the soft white winter snow-sheet.
E. V. B
JOHN CABOT: AN ANNIVERSARY STORY.
WHEN the historian comes to write of England in the last ten years of this century, not the least splendid of his themes will be the sentiment of Empire which budded and flowered in them. The years of the decade that have still to run may hold in store for his pen most momentous events, -peoples and dynasties trembling in the balance of war, or, it may be, the re-partition of continents accomplished: but still we may be sure this Imperialism will stand out among them all, conspicuous in his eyes. Even we who, living in the whirl of them, are least able to distinguish clearly the signs of the times, cannot doubt to what they point here. The offer of Australia to aid us with troops at a pinch, and the fiscal action of ever- loyal Canada, are purple incidents upon the significance of which, indeed, it would be possible to lay too much stress. More expressive are the motions towards Federation among the colonies themselves, and the quickened interest of the rulers at home in the Greater Britain across the seas: an interest, it is true, that is no more than becoming, yet, because of previous indifference, not to be overlooked as a sign. Most significant of all, possibly, is the new awakening of all England's sons to see that the seas which separate them do but bind them closer, and that their concern must ever be for the ships that sail them-"swift shuttles of our Empire's loom that weave us, main to main." And there are not wanting evidences of how close and intimate is this sentiment with the body of the people. There is, for example, the tendency of popular journalism.
That is a test which, perhaps, before our day was not available. It would be wrong to say that hitherto public opinion has followed where the journalists have led; but certainly there is a mass of journalism to-day which throws its weight at the bidding of the public in a manner undreamed of twenty years ago, and the shrewdest conductors of this popular journalism have been striking the Imperial note very loudly of late. Evidences of the sentiment, indeed, are everywhere, in the talk of the man in the street, in the bus, in the office, in the club, and most of us, no doubt, are conscious of it chiefly in some uplifting of spirit within ourselves.
There are many explanations given for this renascence. It is accounted a reaction from the Commercialism which marked the middle of this century, as the spirit of war marked the close of the previous. With more reason, others see in it, not a reaction from that Commercialism, but, its evolution,—the natural instinct of commercial England, hard pressed by Continental and Transatlantic rivals, to turn in the direction where her future superiority must lie. Others, again, are content to trace it to more acute and immediate causes: the blustering of a cock-a-hoop section in America, the notorious telegram of the German Emperor-quick-matches, at least, to fire the train. And we may believe that the writings of Mr Rudyard Kipling are not the expression merely of the Imperial spirit, but partly its inspiration also. All these immediate causes and special manifestations the historian will marshal in the order