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"Homo sum: nihil humani a me alienum puto."

HAVE paidlt in its burns and tumbled on its fairy hillocks. I have wandered through its woods by day and by night. I have trudged over its moors and mosses. I have lain below its rocks, dreaming with open eyes of the past. I have climbed its hills in sunshine and in mist, in calm and in storm; in fair and in foul, when the tiny stream that flowed down the hill-side was swollen into a roaring torrent of foam, and "deep was calling unto deep." I have seated myself on the hill-top, and looked out on the great sea of hills, billow on billow, with their grey, broken crests and purple sides streaked with patches of glittering snow, with many a tarn looking out from below the rugged brows of the hills--eyes gazing with calm, steadfast gaze to Heaven; with here and there a lake shining as molten gold, fringed with black from the dark fir wood, with here and there a stream dancing and sparkling in the sun, now shut out from view by all intervening hill, now coming into sight round the base of another; the sea in the distance, calm and grand, glancing in the summer-sun, beautiful as a child at play, and carrying on its breast many a brave vessel, round which floated mothers; and wives' and children's prayers, and lovers' vows, and merchant-men's hopes and fears; and between the hills and the fair, fruitful fields, and villages and towns, with all

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their joys and hopes, with all their earnest endeavour and honest work, with all their devotion and self-denial, with all their loves and hatreds, with all their pain and misery. I have seen the sun go down, and the darkness creep over the lowlands and up the hill-sides, inch by inch, till only the hill-tops shone in purple splendour for a few minutes, and they too, then, were clad in darkness, and the stars came out one by one, larger and brighter than when seen from the plains. I have stood at midnight on the mountain-top, and heard only the dull sough of the wind, broken by the bark of the fox or the croak of the ptarmigan. I have guided my steps over its ridges by the midnight stars. Wrapped in a plaid, I have crouched beneath a stone on a bed of fresh heather, and have fallen asleep with the music of a Gaelic song and the murmur of the streams falling over the mountain side--the one the counterpart of the other--sounding in my ears. I have sat in the hut beside a blazing fire, and, amidst the roar of the tempest and the rush of swollen waters, listened at midnight to tales of witchcraft; of compacts with the Devil, of fightings with the same dark being, of the same being blowing to the four winds of Heaven wicked men, with their hut, their guns, and their dogs; of fair women and infants carried off by the fairies; of dead-candles, of death-warnings, of ghosts, and of all the terrible things of the realm of spirits, till an eerie feeling crept over me, and I began to question with myself whether such tales might not be true. I have taken my seat beside the reputed witch, in her dark turf hut, and, with the faint glimmering light of a small candle, witnessed her perform with her long skinny fingers her incantations. I have sailed the Firth in boat and in vessel, in sunshine and in storm, and I have listened to the tales of the fishermen and sailors as the ship rocked lazily under the falling darkness. The North, with its hills, and vales, and woods, and rocks, and streams, and lochs, and sea--with its fairies, and waterkelpies, and ghosts, and superstitions--with its dialect, and customs, and mariners, has become part of myself. Everything is changing, and changing faster than ever. The scream of the railway whistle is scaring away the witch,

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and the fairy, and the waterkelpie, and the ghost. To give an account of the olden time in the North, as seen by myself and as related to me by the aged, is the task I have set before me. It is true some of what is related has not yet passed away. If I fall into error, I can only say, with the Roman comedian,

"Si id est peccatum, peccatum imprudentia’st,"

and with Richard Rolle de Hampole:--

And if any man that es clerk
Can fynde any errour in this werk,
I pray hym he do me that favour
That he wille amende that errour;
And if men may here any erroure se,
Or if any defaut in this tretice be,
I make here a protestacion,
That I will stand til the correccion
Of ilka rightwyse lered man,
That my defaut here correcte can."

Next: Chapter I. Birth