The Cruise of the Betsey (4)

Home Up Autobiography First Impressions Scenes and Legends Tales and Sketches Leading Articles Miscellanea Site Search Main Index


[Previous Page]


THE anchoring ground at Isle Ornsay was crowded with coasting vessels and fishing boats; and when the Sabbath came round, no inconsiderable portion of my friend's congregation was composed of sailors and fishermen.  His text was appropriate,—"He bringeth them into their desired haven;" and as his sea-craft and his theology were alike excellent, there were no incongruities in his allegory, and no defects in his mode of applying it, and the seamen were hugely delighted.  John Stewart, though less a master of English than of many other things, told me he was able to follow the minister from beginning to end—a thing he had never done before at an English preaching.  The sea portion of the sermon, he said was very plain: it was about the helm, and the sails, and the anchor, and the chart, and the pilot,—about rocks, winds, currents, and safe harbourage; and by attending to this simpler part of it, he was led into the parts that were less simple, and so succeeded in comprehending the whole.  I would fain see this unique discourse, preached by a sailor minister to a sailor congregation, preserved in some permanent form, with at least one other discourse,—of which I found trace in the island of Eigg, after the lapse of more than a twelvemonth,—that had been preached about the time of the Disruption, full in sight of the Scuir, with its impregnable hill fort, and in the immediate neighbourhood of the cave of Francis, with its heaps of dead men's bones.  One note stuck fast to the islanders.  In times of peril and alarm, said the minister, the ancient inhabitants of the island had two essentially different kinds of places in which they sought security; they had the deep unwholesome cave, shut up from the light and the breath of heaven, and the tall rock summit, with its impregnable fort, on which the sun shone and the wind blew.  Much hardship might no doubt be encountered on the one, when the sky was black with tempest, and rains beat or snows descended; but it was found associated with no story of real loss or disaster,—it had kept safe all who had committed themselves to it; whereas in the close atmosphere of the other there was warmth, and, after a sort, comfort; and on one memorable day of trouble the islanders had deemed it the preferable sheltering place of the two.  And there survived mouldering skeletons, and a frightful tradition, to tell the history of their choice.  Places of refuge of these very opposite kinds, said the minister, continuing his allegory, are not peculiar to your island: never was there a day or a place of trial in which they did not advance their opposite claims: they are advancing them even now all over the world.  The one kind you find described by one great prophet as low-lying "refuges of lies," over which the desolating "scourge must pass," and which the destroying "waters must overflow;" while the true character of the other may be learned from another great prophet, who was never weary of celebrating his "rock and his fortress."  "Wit succeeds more from being happily addressed," says Goldsmith, "than even from its native poignancy."  If my friend's allegory does not please quite as well in print and in English as it did when delivered viva voce in Gaelic, it should be remembered that it was addressed to an out-door congregation, whose minds were filled with the consequences of the Disruption,—that the bones of Uamh Fraing lay within a few hundred yards of them,—and that the Scuir, with the sun shining bright on its summit, rose tall in the back-ground, scarce a mile away.

    On Monday I spent several hours in re-exploring the Lias of Lucy Bay and its neighbourhood, and then walked on to Kyle-Akin, where I parted from my friend Mr Swanson, and took boat for Loch Carron.  The greater part of the following day was spent in crossing the country to the east coast in the mail-gig, through long dreary glens and a fierce storm of wind and rain.  In the lower portion of the valley, occupied by the river Carron, I saw at least two fine groups of moraines.  One of these, about a mile and a half above the parish manse, marks the place where a glacier, that had once descended from a hollow amid the northern range of hills, had furrowed up the gravel and earth before it in long ridges, which we find running nearly parallel to the road; the other group, which lies higher up the valley, and seems of considerably greater extant, indicates where one of those river-like glaciers that fill up long hollows, and impel their irresistible flood downwards, slow as the hour-hand of a time-piece, had terminated towards the sea.  I could but glance at the appearances as the gig drove past, and point them out to a fellow passenger, the Establishment minister of *  *  *, remarking, at the same time, how much more dreary the prospect must have seemed than even it did to-day, though the fog was thick and the drizzle disagreeable, when the lateral hollows on each side were blocked up with ice, and overhanging glaciers, that ploughed the rock bare in their descent, glistened on the bleak hill-sides.  I wore a gray maud over a coat of rough russet, with waistcoat and trowsers of plaid; and the minister, who must have taken me, I suppose, for a southland shepherd looking out for a farm, gave me much information of a kind I might have found valuable had such been my condition and business, regarding the various districts through which we passed.  On one high-lying farm, the grass, he said, was short and thin, but sweet and wholesome, and the flocks throve steadily, and were never thinned by disease; whereas on another farm that lay along the dank bottom of a valley, the herbage was rank and rich, and the sheep fed and got heavy, but braxy at the close of autumn fell upon them like a pestilence, and more than neutralized to the farmer every advantage of the superior fertility of the soil.  It was not uninteresting, even for one not a sheep farmer, to learn that the life of the sheep is worth fewer years' purchase in one little track of country than in another adjacent one; and that those differences in the salubrity of particular spots which obtain in other parts of the world with regard to our own species, and which make it death to linger on the luxuriant river-side, while on the arid plain or elevated hill-top there in health and safety, should exist in contiguous walks in the Highlands of Scotland in reference to some of the inferior animals.  The minister and I became wonderfully good friends for the time.  All the seats in the gig, both back and front, had been occupied ere he had taken his passage, and the postman had assigned him a miserable place on the narrow elevated platform in the middle, where he had to coil himself up like a hedgehog in its hole, sadly to the discomfort of limbs still stout and strong, but stiffened by the long service of full seventy years.  And, as in the case, made famous by Cowper, of the "softer sex" and the old-fashioned iron-cushioned arm-chairs, the old man had, as became his years, "'gan murmur."  I contrived, by sitting on the edge of the gig on the one side, and by getting the postman to take a similar seat on the other, to find room for him in front; and there, feeling he had not to do with savages, he became kindly and conversible.  We beat together over a wide range of topics—the Scotch banks, and Sir Robert Peel's intentions regarding them,—the periodical press of Scotland,—the Edinburgh literati,—the Free Church even: he had been a consistent Moderate all his days, and disliked renegades, he said; and I, of course, disliked renegades too.  We both remembered that, though civilized nations give quarter to an enemy overpowered in open fight, they are still in the habit of shooting deserters.  In short, we agreed on a great many different matters; and, by comparing notes, we made the best we could of a tedious journey and a very bad day.  At the inn at Garve, a long stage from Dingwall, we alighted, and took the road together, to straighten our stiffened limbs, while the postman was engaged in changing horses.  The minister stopped short in the middle of a discussion.  We are not on equal terms, he said: you know who I am, and I don't know you: we did not start fair at the beginning, but let us start fair now.  Ah, we have agreed hitherto, I replied; but I know not how we are to agree when you know who I am: are you sure you will not be frightened?  Frightened! said the minister sturdily; no, by no man.  Then, I am the Editor of the Witness.  There was a momentary pause.  "Well," said the minister, "it's all the same: I'm glad we should have met.  Give me, man, a shake of your hand."  And so the conversation went on as before till we parted at Dingwall,—the Establishment clergyman wet to the skin, the Free Church editor in no better condition; but both, mayhap, rather less out of conceit with the ride than if it had been ridden alone.

    I had intended passing at least two days in the neighbourhood of Dingwall, where I proposed renewing an acquaintance, broken off for three-and-twenty years, with those bituminous shales of Strathpeffer in which the celebrated mineral waters of the valley take their rise,—the Old Red Conglomerate of Brahan, the vitrified fort of Knockferrel, the ancient tower of Fairburn, above all, the pleasure-grounds of Conon-side.  I had spent the greater portion of my eighteenth and nineteenth years in this part of the country; and I was curious to ascertain to what extent the man in middle life would verify the observations of the lad,—to recall early incidents, revisit remembered scenes, return on old feelings, and see who were dead and who alive among the casual acquaintances of nearly a quarter of a century ago.  The morning of Wednesday rose dark with fog and rain, but the wind had fallen; and as I could not afford to miss seeing Conon-side, I sallied out under cover of an umbrella.  I crossed the bridge, and reached the pleasure-grounds of Conon-house.  The river was big in flood: it was exactly such a river Conon as I had lost sight of in the winter of 1821; and I had to give up all hope of wading into its fords, as I used to do early in the autumn of that year, and pick up the pearl muscles that lie so thickly among the stones at the bottom.  I saw, however, amid a thicket of bushes by the river-side, a heap of broken shells, where some herd-boy had been carrying on such a pearl fishery as I had sometimes used to carry on in my own behalf so long before; and I felt it was just something to see it.  The flood eddied past, dark and heavy, sweeping over bulwark and bank.  The low-stemmed alders that rose on islet and mound seemed shorn of half their trunks in the tide; here and there an elastic branch bent to the current, and rose and bent again; and now a tuft of withered heath came floating down, and now a soiled wreath of foam.  How vividly the past rose up before me!—boyish day-dreams forgotten for twenty years,—the fossils of an early formation of mind, produced at a period when the atmosphere of feeling was warmer than now, and the immaturities of the mental kingdom grew rank and large, like the ancient Cryptogamić, and bore no specific resemblance to the productions of a present time.  I had passed in the neighbourhood the first season I anywhere spent among strangers, at an age when home is not a country, nor a province even, but simply a little spot of earth inhabited by friends and relatives; and the rude verses, long forgotten, in which my joy had found vent when on the eve of returning to that home,—a home little more than twenty miles away,—came chiming as freshly into my memory as if scarce a month had passed since I had composed them beside the Conon. [5]

    Three-and-twenty years form a large portion of the short life of man,—one-third, as nearly as can be expressed in unbroken numbers, of the entire term fixed by the psalmist, and full one-half, if we strike off the twilight periods of childhood and immature youth, and of senectitude weary of its toils.  I found curious indications among the grounds of Conon-side, of the time that had elapsed since I had last seen them.  There was a rectangular pond in a corner of a moor, near the public road, inhabited by about a dozen voracious, frog-eating pike, that I used frequently to visit.  The water in the pond was exceedingly limpid; and I could watch from the banks every motion of the hungry, energetic inmates.  And now I struck off from the river-side by a narrow tangled pathway, to visit it once more.  I could have found out the place blindfold: there was a piece of flat brown heath that stretched round its edges, and a mossy slope that rose at its upper side, at the foot of which the taste of the proprietor had placed a rustic chair.  The spot, though itself bare and moory, was nearly surrounded by wood, and looked like a clearing in an American forest.  There were lines of graceful larches on two of its sides, and a grove of vigorous beeches that directly fronted the setting sun on a third; and I had often found it a place of delightful resort, in which to saunter alone in the calm summer evenings, after the work of the day was over.  Such was the scene as it existed in my recollection.  I came up to it this day through dripping trees, along a neglected pathway; and found, for the open space and the rectangular pond, a gloomy patch of water in the middle of a tangled thicket, that rose some ten or twelve feet over my head.  What had been bare heath a quarter of a century before had become a thick wood; and I remembered, that when I had been last there, the open space had just been planted with forest-trees, and that some of the taller plants rose half-way to my knee.  Human lifetimes, as now measured, are not intended to witness both the seed-times and the harvests of forests,—both the planting of the sapling, and the felling of the huge tree into which it has grown; and so the incident impressed me strongly.  It reminded me of the sage Shalum in Addison's antediluvian tale, who became wealthy by the sale of his great trees, two centuries after he had planted them.  I pursued my walk, to revisit another little patch of water which I had found so very entertaining a volume three-and-twenty years previous, that I could still recall many of its lessons; but the hand of improvement had been busy among the fields of Conon-side; and when I came up to the spot which it had occupied, I found but a piece of level arable land, bearing a rank swathe of grass and clover. [6]

    Not a single individual did I find on the farm who had been there twenty years before.  I entered into conversation with one of the ploughmen, apparently a man of some intelligence; but he had come to the place only a summer or two previous, and the names of most of his predecessors sounded unfamiliar in his ears: he knew scarce anything of the old laird or his times, and but little of the general history of the district.  The frequent change of servants incident to the large-farm system has done scarce less to wear out the oral antiquities of the country than has been done by its busy ploughs in obliterating antiquities of a more material cast.  The mythologic legend and traditionary story have shared the same fate, through the influence of the one cause, which has been experienced by the sepulchral tumulus and the ancient encampment under the operations of the other.  I saw in the pillars and archways of the farm-steading some of the hewn stones bearing my own mark,—an anchor, to which I used to attach a certain symbolical meaning; and I pointed them out to the ploughman.  I had hewn these stones, I said, in the days of the old laird, the grandfather of the present proprietor.  The ploughman wondered how a man still in middle life could have such a story to tell.  I must surely have begun work early in the day, he remarked, which was perhaps the best way for getting it soon over.  I remembered having seen similar markings on the hewn-work of ancient castles, and of indulging in, I daresay, idle enough speculations regarding what was doing at court and in the field, in Scotland and elsewhere, when the old long-departed mechanics had been engaged in their work.  When this mark was affixed, I have said, all Scotland was in mourning for the disaster at Flodden, and the folk in the work-shed would have been, mayhap, engaged in discussing the supposed treachery of Home, and in arguing whether the hapless James had fallen in battle, or gone on a pilgrimage to merit absolution for the death of his father.  And when this other more modern mark was affixed, the Gowrie conspiracy must have been the topic of the day, and the mechanics were probably speculating,—at worst not more doubtfully than the historians have done after them,—on the guilt or innocence of the Ruthvens.  It now rose curiously enough in memory, that I was employed in fashioning one of the stones marked by the anchor,—a corner stone in a gate-pillar,—when one of my brother-apprentices entered the work-shed, laden with a bundle of newly-sharpened irons from the smithy, and said he had just been told by the smith that the great Napoleon Bonaparte was dead.  I returned to the village of Conon Bridge, through the woods of Conon House.  The day was still very bad: the rain pattered thick on the leaves, and fell incessantly in large drops on the pathways.  There is a solitary, picturesque burying-ground on a wooded hillock beside the river, with thick dark woods all around it,—one of the two burying-grounds of the parish of Urquhart,—which I would fain have visited, but the swollen stream had risen high around, converting the hillock into an island, and forbade access.  I had spent many an hour among the tombs.  They are few and scattered, and of the true antique cast,—roughened with death's heads, and cross bones, and rudely sculptured armorial bearings; and on a broken wall, that marked where the ancient chapel once had stood, there might be seen, in the year 1821, a small, badly cut sun-dial, with its iron gnomon wasted to a saw-edged film, that contained more oxide than metal.  The only fossils described in my present chapter are fossils of mind; and the reader will, I trust, bear with me should I produce one fossil more of this somewhat equivocal class.  It has no merit to recommend it,—it is simply an organism of an immature intellectual formation, in which, however, as in the Carboniferous period, there was provision made for the necessities of an after time. [7]  If a young man born on the wrong side of the Tweed for speaking English, is desirous to acquire the ability of writing it, he should by all means begin by trying to write it in verse.

    I passed, on my return to Dingwall, through the village of Conon Bridge; and, remembering that one of the masons who had hewn beside me in the work-shed so many years before lived in the village at the time, I went direct to the house he had inhabited, to see whether he might not be there still.  It was a low-roofed domicile beside the river, but in the days of my old acquaintance it had presented an appearance of great comfort and neatness; and as there now hung an air of neglect about it, I inferred that it had found some other tenant.  I inquired, however, at the door, and was informed that Mr  * * * now lived higher up the street.  I would find him, it was added, in the best house on the right-hand side,—the house with a hewn front, and a shop in it.  He kept the shop, and was the owner of the house, and had another house besides, and was one of the elders of the Free Church in Urquhart.  Such was the standing of my old acquaintance the journeyman mason of twenty-three years ago.  He had been, when I knew him, a steady, industrious, religious man,—with but one exception the only contributor to missionary and bible societies among a numerous party of workmen; and he was now occupying a respectable place in his village, and was one of the voters of the county.  Let Chartism assert what it pleases on the one hand, and Toryism what it may on the other, the property-qualification of the Reform Bill is essentially a good one for such a country as Scotland.  In our cities it no doubt extends the political franchise to a fluctuating class, ill-hafted in society, who possess it one year and want it another; but in our villages and smaller towns it hits very nearly the right medium for forming a premium on steady industry and character, and for securing that at least the mass of those who possess it should be sober-minded men, with a stake in the general welfare.  In running over the histories of the various voters in one of our smaller towns, I found that nearly one-half of the whole had, like my old comrade at Conon Bridge, acquired for themselves, through steady and industrious habits, the qualification from which they derived their vote.  My companion failed to recognise in the man turned of forty the smooth-cheeked stripling of eighteen, with whom he had wrought so long before.  I soon succeeded, however, in making good my claim to his acquaintance.  He had previously established the identity of the editor of his newspaper with his quondam fellow-workman, and a single link more was all the chain wanted.  We talked over old matters for half an hour.  His wife, a staid respectable matron, who, when I had been last in the district, was exactly such a person as her eldest daughter, showed me an Encyclopćdia, with coloured prints, which she wished to send, if she knew but how, to the Free Church library.  I walked with him through his garden, and saw trees loaded with yellow-cheeked pippins, where I had once seen only unproductive heath, that scantily covered a barren soil of ferruginous sand; and, unwillingly declining an invitation to wait tea,—for a previous engagement interfered,—I took leave of the family, and returned to Dingwall.  The following morning was gloomy, and threatened rain; and, giving up my intention of exploring Strathpeffer, I took the morning coach for Invergordon, and then walked to Cromarty, where I arrived just in time for breakfast.

    I marked from the top of the coach, about two miles to the north-east of Dingwall, beds of a deep gray sandstone, identical in colour and appearance with some of the gray sandstones of the Middle Old Red of Forfarshire, and learned that quarries had lately been opened in these beds near Montgerald.  The Old Red Sandstone lies in immense development on the flanks of Ben-wevis; and it is just possible that the analogue of the gray flagstones of Forfar may be found among its upper beds.  If so, the quarriers should be instructed to look hard for organic remains,—the broad-headed Cephalaspis, so characteristic of the formation, and the huge Crustacean, its contemporary, that disported in plates large as those of the steel mail of the later ages of chivalry.  The geologists of Dingwall,—if Dingwall has yet got its geologists;—might do well to attempt determining the point.  I found the science much in advance in Cromarty, especially among the ladies,—its great patronizers and illustrators everywhere,—and, in not a few localities, extensive contributors to its hoards of fact.  Just as I arrived, there was a pic-nic party of young people setting out for the Lias of Shandwick.  They spent the day among its richly fossiliferous shales and limestones, and brought back with them in the evening Ammonites and Gryphites enough to store a museum.  Cromarty had been visited during the summer by geologists speaking a foreign tongue, but thoroughly conversant with the occult yet common language of the rocks, and deeply interested in the stories which the rocks told.  The vessels in which the Crown Prince of Denmark voyaged to the Faroe Isles had been for some time in the bay; and the Danes, his companions, votaries of the stony science, zealously plied chisel and hammer among the Old Red Sandstones of the coast.  A townsman informed me that he had seen a Danish Professor hammering like the tutelary Thor of his country among the nodules in which I had found the first Pterichthys and first Diplacanthus ever disinterred; and that the Professor, ever and anon as he laid open a specimen, brought it to a huge smooth boulder, on which there lay a copy of the "Old Red Sandstone," to ascertain from the descriptions and prints its family and name.  Shall I confess that the circumstance gratified me exceedingly?



    There are many elements of discard among mankind in the present time, both at home and abroad,—so many, that I am afraid we need entertain no hope of seeing an end, in at least our day, to controversy and war.  And we should be all the better pleased, therefore, to witness the increase of those links of union,—such as the harmonizing bonds of a scientific sympathy,—the tendency of which is to draw men together in a kindly spirit, and the formation of which involves no sacrifice of principle, moral or religious.  I do not think that the foreigner, after geologizing in my company, would have had any very vehement desire, in the event of a war, to cut me down, or to knock me on the head I am afraid this chapter would require a long apology, and for a long apology space is wanting.  But there will be no egotism, and much geology, in my next.


I SPENT one long day in exploring the ichthyolite beds on both sides the Cromarty Frith, and another long day in renewing my acquaintance with the Liasic deposit at Shandwick.  In beating over the Lias, though I picked up a few good specimens, I acquired no new facts; but in re-examining the Old Red Sandstone and its organisms I was rather more successful.  I succeeded in eliciting some curious points not yet recorded, which, with the details of an interesting discovery made in the far north in this formation, I may be perhaps able to weave into a chapter somewhat more geological than my last.



    Some of the readers of my little work on the Old Red Sandstone will perhaps remember that I described the organisms of that ancient system as occurring in the neighbourhood of Cromarty mainly on one platform, raised rather more than a hundred feet over the great Conglomerate; and that on this platform, as if suddenly overtaken by some widespread catastrophe, the ichthyolites lie by thousands and tens of thousands, in every attitude of distortion and terror.  We see the spiked wings of the Pterichthys elevated to the full, as they had been erected in the fatal moment of anger and alarm, and the bodies of the Cheirolepis and Cheiracanthus bent head to tail, in the stiff posture into which they had curled when the last pang was over.  In various places in the neighbourhood the ichthyolites are found in situ in their coffin-like nodules, where it is impossible to trace the relation of the beds in which they occur to the rocks above and below; and I had suspected for years that in at least some of the localities, they could not have belonged to the lower platform of death, but to some posterior catastrophe that had strewed with carcases some upper platform.  I had thought over the matter many a time and oft when I should have been asleep,—for it is marvellous how questions of the kind grow upon a man; and now, selecting as a hopeful scene of inquiry the splendid section under the Northern Sutor, I set myself doggedly to determine whether the Old Red Sandstone in this part of the country has not at least its two storeys of organic remains, each of which had been equally a scene of sudden mortality.  I was entirely successful.  The lower ichthyolite bed occurs exactly one hundred and fourteen feet over the great Conglomerate; and three hundred and eighteen feet higher up I found a second ichthyolite bed, as rich in fossils as the first, with its thorny Acanthodians twisted half round, as if still in the agony of dissolution, and its Pterichthyes still extending their spear-like arms in the attitude of defence.  The discovery enabled me to assign to their true places the various ichthyolite beds of the district.  Those in the immediate neighbourhood of the town, and a bed which abuts on the Lias at Eathie, belong to the upper platform; while those which appear in Eathie Burn, and along the shores at Navity, belong to the lower.  The chief interest of the discovery, however, arises from the light which it throws on the condition of the ancient ocean of the Lower Old Red, and on the extreme precariousness of the tenure on which the existence of its numerous denizens was held.  In a section of little more than a hundred yards there occur at least two platforms of violent death,—platforms inscribed with unequivocal evidence of two great catastrophes which over wide areas depopulated the seas.  In the Old Red Sandstone of Caithness there are many such platforms: storey rises over storey; and the floor of each bears its closely-written record of disaster and sudden extinction.   Pompeii in this northern locality lies over Herculaneum, and Anglano over both.  We cease to wonder why the higher order of animals should not have been introduced into a scene of being that had so recently arisen out of chaos, and over which the reign of death so frequently returned.  In a somewhat different sense from that indicated by the poet of the "Seasons,"

As yet the trembling year was unconfirmed,
And winter oft at eve resumed the gale.



    Lying detached in the stratified clay of the fish-beds, there occur in abundance single plates and scales of ichthyolites, which, as they can be removed entire, and viewed on both sides, illustrate points in the mechanism of the creatures to which they belonged that cannot be so clearly traced in the same remains when locked up in stone.  There is a vast deal of skilful carpentry exhibited—if carpentry I may term it—in the coverings of these ancient ichthyolites.  In the commoner fish of our existing seas the scales are so thin and flexible,—mere films of horn,—that there is no particularly nice fitting required in their arrangement.  The condition, too, through which portions of unprotected skin may be presented to the water, as over and between the rays of the fins, and on the snout and lips, obviates many a mechanical difficulty of the earlier period, when it was a condition, as the remains demonstrate, that no bit of naked skin should be exposed, and when the scales and plates were formed, not of thin horny films, but of solid pieces of bone.  Thin slates lie on the roof of a modern dwelling, without any nice fitting;—they are scales of the modern construction: but it required much nice fitting to make thick flag-stones lie on the roof of an ancient cathedral—they, on the other hand, were scales of the ancient type.  Again, it requires no ingenuity whatever to suffer the hands and face to go naked,—and such is the condition of our existing fish, with their soft skinny snouts and membranous fins; but to cover the hands with flexible steel gauntlets, and the face with such an iron mask as that worn by the mysterious prisoner of Louis XIV., would require a very large amount of ingenuity indeed; and the ancient ichthyolites of the Old Red were all masked and gauntleted.  Now the detached plates and scales of the stratified clay exhibit not a few of the mechanical contrivances through which the bony coverings of these fish were made to unite—as in coats of old armour—great strength with great flexibility.  The scales of the Osteolepis and Diplopterus I found nicely bevelled atop and at one of the sides; so that where they overlapped each other,—for at the joints not a needle-point could be insinuated,—the thickness of the two scales equalled but the thickness of one scale in the centre, and thus an equable covering was formed.  I brought with me some of these detached scales, and they now lie fitted together on the table before me, like pieces of complicated hewn work carefully arranged on the ground ere the workman transfers them to their place on the wall.  In the smaller-scaled fish, such as the Cheiracanthus and Cheirolepis, a different principle obtained.  The minute glittering rhombs of bone were set thick on the skin, like those small scales of metal sewed on leather that formed an inferior kind of armour still in use in eastern nations, and which was partially used in our own country just ere the buff coat altogether superseded the coat of mail.  I found a beautiful piece of jaw in the clay, with the enamelled tusks bristling on its brightly enamelled edge, like iron teeth in an iron rake.  Mr Parkinson expresses some wonder, in his work on fossils, that in a fine ichthyolite in the British Museum, not only the teeth should have been preserved, but also the lips; but we now know enough of the construction of the more ancient fish, to cease wondering.  The lips were formed of as solid bone as the teeth themselves, and had as fair a chance of being preserved entire; just as the metallic rim of a toothed wheel has as fair a chance of being preserved as the metallic teeth that project from it.  I was interested in marking the various modes of attachment to the body of the animal which the detached scales exhibit.  The slater fastens on his slates with nails driven into the wood: the tiler secures his tiles by means of a raised bar on the under side of each, that locks into a corresponding bar of deal in the framework of the roof.  Now in some of the scales I found the art of the tiler anticipated: there were bars raised on their inner sides, to lay hold of the skin beneath; while in others it was the art of the slater that had been anticipated,—the scales had been slates fastened down by long nails driven in slantwise, which were, however, mere prolongations of the scale itself.  Great truths may be repeated until they become truisms, and we fail to note what they in reality convey.  The great truth that all knowledge dwelt without beginning in the adorable Creator must, I am afraid, have been thus common-placed in my mind; for at first it struck me as wonderful that the humble arts of the tiler and slater should have existed in perfection in the times of the Old Red Sandstone.

    I had often remarked amid the fossiliferous limestones of the Lower Old Red, minute specks and slender veins of a glossy bituminous substance somewhat resembling jet, sufficiently hard to admit of a tolerable polish, and which emitted in the fire a bright flame.  I had remarked, further, its apparent identity with a substance used by the ancient inhabitants, of the northern part of the country in the manufacture of their rude ornaments, as occasionally found in sepulchral urns, such as beads of an elliptical form, and flat parallelograms, perforated edge-wise by some four or five holes a-piece; but I had failed hitherto in detecting in the stone, portions of sufficient bulk for the formation of either the beads or the parallelograms.  On this visit to the ichthyolite beds, however, I picked up a nodule that inclosed a mass of the jet large enough to admit of being fashioned into trinkets of as great bulk as any of the ancient ones I have yet seen, and a portion of which I succeeded in actually forming into a parallelogram, that could not have been distinguished from those of our old sepulchral urns.  It is interesting enough to think, that these fossiliferous beds, altogether unknown to the people of the country for many centuries, and which, when I first discovered them, some twelve or fourteen years ago, were equally unknown to geologists, should have been resorted to for this substance, perhaps thousands of years ago, by the savage aborigines of the district.  But our antiquities of the remoter class furnish us with several such facts.  It is comparatively of late years that we have become acquainted with the yellow chalk-flints of Banffshire and Aberdeen; though before the introduction of iron into the country they seem to have been well known all over the north of Scotland.  I have never yet seen a stone arrow-head found in any of the northern localities, that had not been fashioned out of this hard and splintery substance,—a sufficient proof that our ancestors, ere they had formed their first acquaintance with the metals, were intimately acquainted with at least the mechanical properties of the chalk-flint, and knew where in Scotland it was to be found.  They were mineralogists enough, too, as their stone battle-axes testify, to know that the best tool-making rock is the axe-stone of Werner; and in some localities they must have brought their supply of this rather rare mineral from great distances.  A history of those arts of savage life, as shown in the relics of our earlier antiquities, which the course of discovery served thoroughly to supplant, but which could not have been carried on without a knowledge of substances and qualities afterwards lost, until re-discovered by scientific curiosity, would form of itself an exceedingly curious chapter.  The art of the gun-flint maker (and it, too, promises soon to pass into extinction) is unquestionably a curious one, but not a whit more curious or more ingenious than the art possessed by the rude inhabitants of our country eighteen hundred years ago, of chipping arrow-heads with an astonishing degree of neatness out of the same stub born material.  They found, however, that though flint made a serviceable arrow-head, it was by much too brittle for an adze or battle-axe; and sought elsewhere than among the Banffshire gravels for the rock out of which these were to be wrought.  Where they found it in our northern provinces I have not yet ascertained.  It is but a short time since I came to know that they were before-hand with me in the discovery of the bituminous jet of the Lower Old Red Sand stone, and were excavators among its fossiliferous beds.  The vitrified forts of the north of Scotland give evidence of yet another of the obsolete arts.  Before the savage inhabitants of the country were ingenious enough to know the uses of mortar, or were furnished with tools sufficiently hard and solid to dress a bit of sandstone, they must have been acquainted with the chemical fact, that with the assistance of fluxes, a pile of stones could be fused into a solid wall, and with the mineralogical fact, that there are certain kinds of stones which yield much more readily to the heat than others.  The art of making vitrified forts was the art of making ramparts of rock through a knowledge of the less obstinate earths and the more powerful fluxes.  I have been informed by Mr Patrick Duff of Elgin, that he found, in breaking open a vitrified fragment detached from an ancient hill-fort, distinct impressions of the serrated kelp-weed of our shores,—the identical flux which, in its character as the kelp of commerce, was so extensively used in our glass-houses only a few years ago.

    I was struck, during my explorations at this time, as I had been often before, by the style of grouping, if I may so speak, which obtains among the Lower Old Red fossils.  In no deposit with which I am acquainted, however rich in remains, have all its ichthyolites been found lying together.  The collector finds some one or two species very numerous; some two or three considerably less so, but not unfrequent; some one or two more, perhaps, exceedingly rare; and a few, though abundant in other localities, that never occur at all.  In the Cromarty beds, for instance, I never found a Holoptychius, and a Dipterus only once; the Diplopterus is rare; the Glyptolepis not common; the Cheirolepis and Pterichthys more so, but not very abundant; the Cheiracanthus and Diplicanthus, on the other hand, are numerous; and the Osteolepis and Coccosteus more numerous still.  But in other deposits of the same formation, though a similar style of grouping obtains, the proportions are reversed with regard to species and genera: the fish rare in one locality abound in another.  In Banniskirk, for instance, the Dipterus is exceedingly common, while the Osteolepis and Coccosteus are rare, and the Cheiracanthus and Cheirolepis seem altogether awanting.  Again, in the Morayshire deposits, the Glyptolepis is abundant, and noble specimens of the Lower Old Red Holoptychius—of which more anon—are to be found in the neighbourhood of Thurso, associated with remains of the Diplopterus, Coccosteus, Dipterus, and Osteolepis.  The fact may be deemed of some little interest by the geologist, and may serve to inculcate caution, by showing that it is not always safe to determine regarding the place or age of subordinate formations from the percentage of certain fossils which they may be found to contain, or from the fact that they should want some certain organisms of the system to which they belong, and possess others.  These differences may and do exist in contemporary deposits; and I had a striking example, on this occasion, of their dependence on a simple law of instinct, which is as active in producing the same kind of phenomena now as it seems to have been in the earlier days of the Old Red Sandstone.  The Cromarty and Moray Friths, mottled with fishing boats (for the bustle of the herring fishers had just begun), stretched out before me.  A few hundred yards from the shore there was a yawl lying at anchor, with an old fisherman and a few boys angling from the stern for sillocks (the young of the coal-fish) and for small rock-cod.  A few miles higher up, where the Cromarty Frith expands into a wide land-locked basin, with shallow sandy shores, there was a second yawl engaged in fishing for flounders and small skate, for such are the kinds of fish that frequent the flat shallows of the basin.  A turbot-net lay drying in the sun: it served to remind me that some six or eight miles away, in an opposite direction, there is a deep-sea bank, on which turbot, halibut, and large skate are found.  Numerous boats were stretching down the Moray Frith, bound for the banks of a more distant locality, frequented at this early stage of the herring fishing by shoals of herrings, with their attendant dogfish and cod; and I knew that in yet another deep-sea range there lie haddock and whiting banks.  Almost every variety of existing fish in the two friths has its own peculiar habitat; and were they to be destroyed by some sudden catastrophe, and preserved by some geologic process, on the banks and shoals which they frequent, there would occur exactly the same phenomena of grouping in the fossiliferous contemporaneous deposits which they would thus constitute, as we find exhibited by the deposits of the Lower Old Red Sandstone.

    The remains of Holoptychius occur, I have said, in the neighbourhood of Thurso.  I must now add, that very singular remains they are,—full of interest to the naturalist, and, in great part at least, new to Geology.  My readers, votaries of the stony science; must be acquainted with the masterly paper of Mr Sedgwick and Sir R. Murchison "On the Old Red Sandstone of Caithness and the North of Scotland generally," which forms part of the second volume (second series) of the "Transactions of the Geological Society," and with the description which it furnishes, among many others, of the rocks in the neighbourhood of Thurso.  Calcareo-bituminous flags, grits, and shales, of which the paving flagstones of Caithness may be regarded as the general type, occur on the shores, in reefs, crags, and precipices; here stretching along the coast in the form of flat, uneven bulwarks; there rising over it in steep walls; yonder leaning to the surf, stratum against stratum, like flights of stairs thrown down from their slant position to the level; in some places severed by faults; in others cast about in every possible direction, as if broken and contorted by a thousand antagonist movements; but in their general bearing rising towards the east, until the whole calcareo-bituminous schists of which this important member of the system is composed disappear under the red sandstones of Dunnet Head.  Such, in effect, is the general description of Mr Sedgwick and Sir R. Murchison, of the rocks in the neighbourhood of Thurso.  It indicates further, that in at least three localities in the range there occur in the grits and shales, scales and impressions of fish.  And such was the ascertained geology of the deposit when taken up last year by an ingenious tradesman of Thurso, Mr Robert Dick, whose patient explorations, concentrated mainly on the fossil remains of this deposit, bid fair to add to our knowledge of the ichthyology of the Old Red Sandstone.  Let us accompany Mr Dick in one of his exploratory rambles.  The various organisms which he disinterred I shall describe from specimens before me, which I owe to his kindness,—the localities in which he found them, from a minute and interesting description, for which I am indebted to his pen.

    Leaving behind us the town at the bottom of its deep bay, we set out to explore a bluff-headed parallelogramical promontory, bounded by Thurso Bay on the one hand, and Murkle Bay on the other, and which presents to the open sea, in the space that stretches between, an undulating line of iron-bound coast, exposed to the roll of the northern ocean.  We pass two stations in which the hard Caithness flagstones so well known in commerce are jointed by saws wrought by machinery.  As is common in the Old Red Sandstone, in which scarce any stratum solid enough to be of value to the workmen, whether for building or paving, contains good specimens, we find but little to detain us in the dark coherent beds from which the flags are quarried.  Here and there a few glittering scales occur; here and there a few coprolitic patches; here and there the faint impression of a fucoid; but no organism sufficiently entire to be transferred to the bag.  As we proceed outwards, however, and the fitful breeze comes laden with the keen freshness of the open sea, we find among the hard dark strata in the immediate neighbourhood of Thurso Castle, a paler-coloured bed of fine-grained semi-calcareous stone, charged with remains in a state of coherency and keeping better fitted to repay the labour of the specimen-collector.  The inclosing matrix is comparatively soft: when employed in the neighbouring fences as a building stone, we see it resolved by the skyey influences into well-nigh its original mud; whereas the organisms which it contains are composed of a hard, scarce destructible substance,—bone steeped in bitumen; and the enamel on their outer surfaces is still as glossy and bright as the japan on a papier-maché tray fresh from the hands of the workman.  Their deep black, too, contrasts strongly with the pale hue of the stone.  They consist chiefly of scales, spines, dermal plates, snouts, skull-caps, and vegetable impressions.  A little farther on, in a thick bed interposed between two faults, the same kind of remains occur in the same abundance, largely mingled with scales and teeth of Holoptychius, tuber culated plates, and coprolitic blotches; and further on still, in a rubbly flagstone, near where a little stream comes trotting merrily from the uplands to the sea, there occur skull-plates,—at least one of which has been disinterred entire,—large and massy as the helmets of ancient warriors.  We have now reached the outer point of the promontory, where the seaward wave, as it comes rolling unbroken from the Pole, crosses, in nearing the shore, the eastward sweep of the great Gulf-stream, and then casts itself headlong on the rocks.  The view has been extending with almost every step we have taken, and it has now expanded into a wide and noble prospect of ocean and bay, island and main, bold surf-skirted headlands, and green retiring hollows.  Yonder, on the one hand, are the Orkneys, rising dim and blue over the foam-mottled currents of the Pentland Frith; and yonder, on the other, the far-stretching promontory of Holborn Head, with the line of coast that sweeps along the opposite side of the bay; here sinking in abrupt flagstone precipices direct into the tide; there receding in grassy banks formed of a dark blue diluvium.  The fields and dwellings of living men mingle in the landscape with old episcopal ruins and ancient burying grounds; and yonder, well-nigh in the opening of the Frith, gleams ruddy to the sun,—a true blood-coloured blush, when all around is azure or pale,—the tall Red Sandstone precipices of Dunnet Head.  It has been suggested that the planet Mars may owe its red colour to the extensive development of some such formation as the Old Red Sandstone of our own planet: the existing formation in Mars may, at the present time, it is said, be a Red Sandstone formation.  It seems much more probable, however, that the red flush which characterizes the whole of that planet,—its oceans as certainly as its continents,—should be rather owing to some widely-diffused peculiarity of the surrounding atmosphere, than to aught peculiar in the varied surface of land and water which that atmosphere surrounds; but certainly the extensive existence of such a red system might produce the effect.  If the rocks and soils of Dunnet Head formed average specimens of those of our globe generally, we could look across the heavens at Mars with a disk vastly more rubicund and fiery than his own.  The earth, as seen from the moon, would seem such a planet bathed in blood as the moon at its rising frequently appears from the earth.


    We have rounded the promontory.  The beds exposed along the coast to the lashings of the surf are of various texture and character,—here tough, bituminous, and dark; there of a pale hue, and so hard that they ring to the hammer like plates of cast iron; yonder soft, unctuous, and green,—a kind of chloritic sandstone.  And these very various powers of resistance and degrees of hardness we find indicated by the rough irregularities of the surface.  The softer parts retire in long trench-like hollows,—the harder stand out in sharp irregular ridges.  Fossils abound: the bituminous beds glitter bright with glossy quadrangular scales, that look like sheets of black mica inclosed in granite.  We find jaws, teeth, tubercled plates, skull-caps, spines, and fucoids,—"tombs among which to contemplate," says Mr Dick, "of which Hervey never dreamed."  The condition of complete keeping in which we discover some of these remains, even when exposed to the incessant dash of the surf, seems truly wonderful.  We see scales of Holoptychius standing up in bold relief from the hard cherty rock that has worn from around them, with all the tubercles and wavy ridges of their sculpture entire.  This state of keeping seems to be wholly owing to the curious chemical change that has taken place in their substance.  Ere the skeleton of the Bruce, disinterred entire after the lapse of five centuries, was re-committed to the tomb, there were such measures taken to secure its preservation, that, were it to be again disinterred even after as many centuries more had passed, it might be found retaining unbroken its gigantic proportions.  There was molten pitch poured over the bones in a state of sufficient fluidity to permeate all their pores, and fill up the central hollows, and which, soon hardening around them, formed a bituminous matrix, in which they may lie unchanged for more than a thousand years.  Now, exactly such was the process of keeping to which nature resorted with these skeletons of the Old Red Sandstone.  The animal matter with which they were charged has been converted into a hard black bitumen.  Like the bones of the Bruce, they are bones steeped in pitch; and so thoroughly is every pore and hollow still occupied, that, when cast into the fire, they flame like torches.  In one of the beds at which we have now arrived Mr Dick found the occipital plates of a Holoptychius of gigantic proportions.  The frontal plates measured full sixteen inches across, and from the nape of the neck to a little above the place of the eyes, full eighteen; while a single plate belonging to the lower part of the head measures thirteen and a half inches by seven and a half.  I have remarked, in my little work on the Old Red Sandstone,—founding on a large amount of negative evidence,—that a mediocrity of size and bulk seems to have obtained among the fish of the Lower Old Red, though, in at least the Upper formation, a considerable increase in both took place.  A single piece of positive evidence, however, outweighs whole volumes of a merely negative kind.  From the entire plate now in my possession, which is identical with one figured in Mr Noble of St Madoes' specimen, and from the huge fragments of the upper plates now before me, some of which are full five-eighth parts of an inch in thickness, I am prepared to demonstrate that this Holoptychius of the Lower Old Red must have been at least thrice the size of the Holoptychius Nobilissimus of Clashbenme.

    Still we pass on, though with no little difficulty, over the rough contorted crags, worn by the surf into deep ruts and uneven ridges, gnarled protuberances, and crater-like hollows.  The fossiliferous beds are still very numerous, and largely charged with remains.  We see dermal bones, spines, scales, and jaws, projecting in high relief from the sea-worn surface of the ledges below, and from the weather-worn faces of the precipices above; for an uneven wall of crags, some thirty or forty feet high, now runs along the shore.  We have reached what seems a large mole, that, sloping downwards athwart the beach from the precipices, like a huge boat-pier, runs far into the surf.  We find it composed of a siliceous bed, so intensely compact and hard, that it has preserved its proportions entire, while every other rock has worn from around it.  For century after century have the storms of the fierce north-west sent their long ocean-nursed waves to dash against it in foam; for century after century have the never-ceasing currents of the Pentland chafed against its steep sides, or eddied over its rough crest; and yet still does it remain unwasted and unworn,—its abrupt wall retaining all its former steepness, and every angular jutting all the original sharpness of edge.  As we advance the scenery becomes wilder and more broken: here an irregular wall of rock projects from the crags towards the sea; there a dock-like hollow, in which the water gleams green, intrudes from the sea upon the crags; we pass a deep lime-encrusted cave, with which tradition associates some wild legends, and which, from the supposed resemblance of the hanging stalactites to the entrails of a large animal wounded in the chase, bears the name of Pudding-Gno; and then, turning an angle of the coast, we enter a solitary bay, that presents at its upper extremity a flat expanse of sand.  Our walk is still over sepulchres charged with the remains of the long-departed.  Scales of Holoptychius abound, scattered like coin over the surface of the ledges.  It would seem—to borrow from Mr Dick—as if some old lord of the treasury, who flourished in the days of the coal-money currency, had taken a squandering fit at Sanday Bay, and tossed the dingy contents of his treasure-chest by shovelfuls upon the rocks.  Mr Dick found in this locality some of his finest specimens, one of which—the inner side of the skull-cap of a Holoptychius, with every plate occupying its proper place, and the large angular holes through which the eyes looked out still entire—I trust to be able by and by to present to the public in a good engraving. There occur jaws, plates, scales, spines,—the remains of fucoids, too, of great size and in vast abundance.  Mr Dick has disinterred from among the rocks of Sanday Bay flattened carbonaceous stems four inches in diameter.  We are still within an hour's walk of Thurso; but in that brief hour how many marvels have we witnessed!—how vast an amount of the vital mechanisms of a perished creation have we not passed over!  Our walk has been along ranges of sepulchres, greatly more wonderful than those of Thebes or Petrća, and mayhap a thousand times more ancient.  There is no lack of life along the shores of the solitary little bay.  The shriek of the sparrow-hawk mingles from the cliffs with the hoarse deep croak of the raven; the cormorant on some wave-encircled ledge hangs out his dark wing to the breeze; the spotted diver, plying his vocation on the shallows beyond, dives and then appears, and dives and appears again, and we see the silver glitter of scales from his beak; and far away in the offing the sun-light falls on a scull of sea-gulls, that flutter upwards, downwards, and athwart, now on the sea, now in the air, thick as midges over some forest-brook in an evening of midsummer.

    But we again pass onwards, amid a wild ruinous scene of abrupt faults, detached fragments of rock, and reversed strata: again the ledges assume their ordinary position and aspect, and we rise from lower to higher and still higher beds in the formation,—for such, as I have already remarked, is the general arrangement from west to east, along the northern coast of Caithness, of the Lower Old Red Sandstone.  The great Conglomerate base of the formation we find largely developed at Port Skerry, just where the western boundary line of the county divides it from the county of Sutherland; its thick upper coping of sandstone we see forming the tall cliffs of Dunnet Head; and the greater part of the space between, nearly twenty miles as the crow flies, is occupied chiefly by the shales, grits, and flagstones, which we have found charged so abundantly with the strangely-organised ichthyolites of the second stage of vertebrate existence.  In the twenty intervening miles there are many breaks and faults, and so there may be, of course, recurrences of the same strata, and re-appearances of the same beds; but, after making large allowance for partial foldings and repetitions, we must regard the development of this formation, with which the twenty miles are occupied, as truly enormous.  And yet it is but one of three that occur in a single system.  We reach the long flat bay of Dunnet, and cross its waste of sands.  The incoherent coils of the sand-worm lie thick on the surface; and here a swarm of buzzing flies, disturbed by the foot, rises in a cloud from some tuft of tangled sea-weed; and here myriads of gray crustaceous sand-hoppers dart sidelong in the little pools, or vault from the drier ridges a few inches into the air.  Were the trilobites of the Silurian system,—at one period, as their remains testify, more than equally abundant,—creatures of similar habits?  We have at length arrived at the tall sandstone precipices of Dunnet, with their broad decaying fronts of red and yellow; but in vain may we ply hammer and chisel among them: not a scale, not a plate, not even the stain of an imperfect fucoid, appears.  We have reached the upper boundary of the Lower Old Red formation, and find it bordered by a desert devoid of all trace of life.  Some of the characteristic types of the formation re-appear in the upper deposits; but though there is a reproduction of the original works in their more characteristic passages, if I may so speak, many of the readings are diverse, and the editions are all new.

    It is one of the circumstances of peculiar interest with which Geology at its present stage is invested, that there is no man of energy and observation who may not rationally indulge in the hope of extending its limits by adding to its facts.  Mr Dick, an intelligent tradesman of Thurso, agreeably occupies his hours of leisure, for a few months, in detaching from the rocks in his neighbourhood their organic remains; and thus succeeds in adding to the existing knowledge of palćozoic life, by disinterring ichthyolites which even Agassiz himself would delight to figure and describe.  Several of the specimens in my possession, which I owe to the kindness of Mr Dick, are so decidedly unique, that they would be regarded as strangers in the completest geological museums extant.  It is a not uncurious fact, that when the Thurso tradesman was pursuing his labours of exploration among rocks beside the Pentland Frith, a man of similar character was pursuing exactly similar labours, with nearly similar results, among rocks of nearly the same era, that bound, or the coast of Cornwall, the British Channel.  When the one was hammering in "Ready-money Cove," the other, at the opposite end of the island, was disturbing the echoes of "Pudding Gno;" and scales, plates, spines, and occipital fragments of palćozoic fishes rewarded the labours of both.  In an article on the scientific meeting at York, which appeared in "Chambers' Journal" in the November of last year, the reading public were introduced to a singularly meritorious naturalist, Mr Charles Peach, [8] a private in the mounted guard (preventive service), stationed on the southern coast of Cornwall, who has made several interesting discoveries on the outer confines of the animal kingdom, that have added considerably to the list of our British zoophites and echinodermata.  The article, a finely-toned one, redolent of that pleasing sympathy which Mr Robert Chambers has ever evinced with struggling merit, referred chiefly to Mr Peach's labours as a naturalist; but he is also well known in the geological field.


MY term of furlough was fast drawing to a close.  It was now Wednesday the 14th August, and on Monday the 19th it behoved me to be seated at my desk in Edinburgh.  I took boat, and crossed the Moray Frith from Cromarty to Nairn, and then walked on, in a very hot sun, over Shakspeare's Moor to Boghole, with the intention of examining the ichthyolite beds of Clune and Lethenbarn, and afterwards striking across the country to Forres, through the forest of Darnaway, where the forest abuts on the Findhorn, at the picturesque village of Sluie.  When I had last crossed the moor, exactly ten years before, it was in a tremendous storm of rain and wind; and the dark platform of heath and bog, with its old ruinous castle standing sentry over it, seemed greatly more worthy of the genius of the dramatist, as cloud after cloud dashed over it, like ocean waves breaking on some low volcanic island, than it did on this clear, breathless afternoon, in the unclouded sunshine.  But the sublimity of the moor on which Macbeth met the witches depends in no degree on that of the "heath near Forres," whether seen in foul weather or fair: its topography bears relation to but the mind of Shakspeare; and neither tile-draining nor the plough will ever lessen an inch of its area.

    The limestone quarry of Clune has been opened on the edge of an extensive moor, about three miles from the public road, where the province of Moray sweeps upwards from the broad fertile belt of corn-land that borders on the sea, to the brown and shaggy interior.  There is an old-fashioned bare-looking farm-house on the one side, surrounded by a few uninclosed patches of corn; and the moorland, here dark with heath, there gray with lichens, stretches away on the other.  The quarry itself is merely a piece of moor that has been trenched to the depth of some five or six feet from the surface, and that presents, at the line where the broken ground leans against the ground still unbroken, a low uneven front age, somewhat resembling that of a ruinous stone-fence.  It has been opened in the outcrop of an ichthyolite bed of the Lower Old Red Sandstone, on which in this locality the thin moory soil immediately rests, without the intervention of the common boulder clay of the country; and the fish-enveloping nodules, which are composed in this bed of a rich limestone, have been burnt, for a considerable number of years, for the purposes of the agriculturist and builder.  There was a kiln smoking this evening beside the quarry; and a few labourers were engaged with shovel and pickaxe in cutting into the stratified clay of the unbroken ground, and throwing up its spindle-shaped nodules on the bank, as materials for their next burning.  Antiquaries have often regretted that the sculptured marble of Greece and Egypt,—classic urns, to whose keeping the ashes of the dead had been consigned, and antique sarcophagi, roughened with hieroglyphics,—should have been so often condemned to the lime-kiln by the illiterate Copt or tasteless Mohammedan; and I could not help experiencing a somewhat similar feeling here.  The urns and sarcophagi, many times more ancient than those of Greece and Egypt, and that told still more wondrous stories, lay thickly ranged in this strange catacomb,—so thickly, that there were quite enough for the lime-kiln and the geologists too; but I found the kiln got all, and this at a time when the collector finds scarce any fossils more difficult to procure than those of the Lower Old Red Sandstone.  I asked one of the labourers whether he did not preserve some of the better specimens, in the hope of finding an occasional purchaser.  Not now, he said: he used to preserve them in the days of Lady Cumming of Altyre; but since her ladyship's death, no one in the neighbourhood seemed to care for them, and strangers rarely came the way.


    The first nodule I laid open contained a tolerably well preserved Cheiracanthus; the second, an indifferent specimen of Glyptolepis; and three others, in succession, remains of Coccesteus.  Almost every nodule of one especial layer near the top incloses its organism.  The colouring is frequently of great beauty.  In the Cromarty, as in the Caithness, Orkney, and Gamrie specimens, the animal matter with which the bones were originally charged has been converted into a dark glossy bitumen, and the plates and scales glitter from a ground of opaque gray, like pieces of japan-work suspended against a rough-cast wall. But here, as in the other Morayshire deposits, the plates and scales exist in nearly their original condition, as bone that retains its white colour in the centre of the specimens, where its bulk is greatest, and is often beautifully tinged at its thinner edges by the iron with which the stone is impregnated.  It is not rare to find some of the better preserved fossils coloured in a style that reminds one of the more gaudy fishes of the tropics.  We see the body of the ichthyolite, with its finely arranged scales, of a pure snow-white.  Along the edges, where the original substance of the bone, combining with the oxide of the matrix, has formed a phosphate of iron, there runs a delicately shaded band of plum-blue; while the outspread fins, charged still more largely with the oxide, are of a deep red.  The description of Mr Patrick Duff, in his "Geology of Moray," so redolent of the quiet enthusiasm of the true fossil-hunter, especially applies to the ichthyolites of this quarry, and to those of a neighbouring opening in the same bed,—the quarry of Lethenbar.  "The nodules," says Mr Duff, "which in their external shape resemble the stones used in the game of curling, but are elliptical bodies instead of round, lie in the shale on their flat sides, in a line with the dip.  When taken out, they remind one of water-worn pebbles, or rather boulders of the shore.  A smart blow on the edge splits them along on the major axis, and exposes the interesting inclosure.  The practised geologist knows well the thrilling interest attending the breaking up of the nodule: the uninitiated cannot sympathize with it.  There is no time when a fossil looks so well as when first exposed.  There is a clammy moisture on the surface of the scales or plates, which brings out the beautiful colouring, and adds brilliancy to the enamel.  Exposure to the weather soon dims the lustre; and even in a cabinet an old specimen is easily known by its tarnished aspect."

    I found at Clune no ichthyolite to which the geologists have not been already introduced, or with which I had not been acquainted previously in the Cromarty beds.  The Lower Old Red of Morayshire furnishes, however, at least one genus not yet figured nor described, and of which, so far as I am aware, only a single specimen has yet been found.  It seems to have been a small delicately-formed fish; its head covered with plates; its body with round scales of a size intermediate between those of the Osteolepis and Cheiracanthus; its anterior dorsal fin placed, as in the Dipterus, Diplopterus, and Glyptolepis, directly opposite to its ventral fins; the enamelled surfaces of the minute scales were fretted with microscopic undulating ridges, that radiated from the centre to the circumference; similar furrows traversed the occipital plates; and the fins, unfurnished with spines, were formed, as in the Dipterus and Diplopterus, of thick-set enamelled rays.  The posterior fins and tail of the creature were not preserved.  I may mention, far the satisfaction of the geologist, that I saw this unique fossil in the possession of the late Lady Cumming of Altyre, a few weeks previous to the lamented death of her ladyship; and that, on assuring her it was as new in relation to the Cromarty and Caithness fish-beds as to those of Moray, she intimated an intention of forthwith sending a drawing of it to Agassiz; but her untimely decease in all probability interfered with the design, and I have not since heard of this new genus of ichthyolite, or of her ladyship's interesting specimen, hitherto apparently its only representative and memorial.  In the Morayshire, as in the Cromarty beds, the limestone nodules take very generally the form of the fish which they inclose: they are stone coffins, carefully moulded to express the outline of the corpses within.  Is the fish entire?—the nodule is of a spindle form, broader at the head and narrower at the tail.  Is it slightly curved, in the attitude of violent death?—the nodule has also its slight curve.  Is it bent round, so that the extremities of the creature meet?—the nodule, in conformity with the outline, is circular.  Is it disjointed and broken?—the nodule is correspondingly irregular.  In nine cases out of ten, the inclosing coffin, like that of an old mummy, conforms to the outline of the organism which it incloses.  It is further worthy of remark, too, that a large fish forms generally a large nodule, and a small fish a small one.  Here, for instance, is a nodule fifteen inches in length, here a nodule of only three inches, and here a nodule of intermediate size, that measures eight inches.  We find that the large nodule contains a Cheirolepis thirteen inches in length, the small one a Diplacanthus of but two and a half inches in length, and the intermediate one a Cheiracanthus of seven inches.  The size of the fish evidently regulated that of the nodule.  The coffin is generally as good a fit in size as in form; and the bulk of the nodule bears almost always a definite proportion to the amount of animal matter round which it had formed.  I was a good deal struck, a few weeks ago, in glancing over a series of experiments conducted for a different purpose by a lady of singular ingenuity,—Mrs Marshall, the inventor and patentee of the beautiful marble-looking plaster, Intonacco,—to find what, seemed a similar principle illustrated in the composition—of her various cements.  These are all formed of a basis of lime, mixed in certain proportions with organic matter.  The reader must be familiar with cements of this kind long known among the people, and much used in the repairing of broken pottery, such as a cement compounded of quicklime made of oyster shells, mixed up with a glue made of skim-milk cheese, and another cement made also of quicklime mixed up with the whites of eggs.  In Mrs Marshall's cements, the organic matter is variously compounded of both animal and vegetable substances, while the earth generally employed is sulphate of lime; and the result is a close-grained marble-like composition, considerably harder than the sulphate in its original crystalline state.  She had deposited, in one set of her experiments, the calcareous earth, mixed up with sand, clay, and other extraneous matters, on some of the commoner molluscs of our shores; and universally found that the mass, incoherent everywhere else, had acquired solidity wherever it had been permeated by the animal matter of the molluscs.  Each animal, in proportion to its size, is found to retain, as in the fossiliferous spindles of the Old Red Sandstone, its coherent nodule around it.  One point in the natural phenomenon, however, still remains unillustrated by the experiments of Mrs Marshall.  We see in them the animal matter giving solidity to the lime in immediate contact with it; but we do not see it possessing any such affinity for it as to form, in an argillaceous compound, like that of the ichthyolite beds, a centre of attraction powerful enough to draw together the lime diffused throughout the mass.  It still remains for the geologic chemist to discover on what principle masses of animal matter should form the attracting nuclei of limestone nodules.

    The declining sun warned me that I had lingered rather longer than was prudent among the ichthyolites of Clune; and so, striking in an eastern direction across a flat moor, through which I found the schistose gneiss of the district protruding in masses resembling half-buried boulders, I entered the forest of Darnaway.  There was no path, and much underwood; and I enjoyed the luxury of steering my course, out of sight of road and landmark, by the sun, and of being not sure at times whether I had skill enough to play the part of the bush-ranger under his guidance.  A sultry day had clarified and cooled down into a clear balmy evening; the slant beam was falling red on a thousand tall trunks,—here gleaming along some bosky vista, to which the white silky wood moths fluttering by scores, and the midge and the mosquito dancing by myriads, imparted a motty gold-dust atmosphere; there penetrating in straggling rays far into some gloomy recess, and resting in patches of flame, amid the darkness, on gnarled stem, or moss-cushioned stump, or gray beardlike lichen.  I dislodged, in passing through the underwood, many a tiny tenant of the forest, that had a better right to harbour among its wild raspberries and junipers than I had to disturb them,—velvety night-moths, that had sat with folded wings under the leaves, awaiting the twilight, and that now took short blind flights of some two or three yards, to get out of my way,—and robust, well-conditioned spiders, whose elastic well-tightened lines snapped sharp before me as I pressed through, and then curled up on the scarce perceptible breeze, like broken strands of wool.  But every man, however Whiggish in his inclinations, entertains a secret respect for the powerful; and though I passed within a few feet of a large wasp's nest, suspended to a jutting bough of furze, the wasps I took especial care not to disturb.  I pressed on, first through a broad belt of the forest, occupied mainly by melancholy Scotch firs; next through an opening, in which I found an American-looking village of mingled cottages, gardens, fields, and wood; and then through another broad forest-belt, in which the ground is more varied with height and hollow than in the first, and in which I found only forest trees, mostly oaks and beeches.  I heard the roar of the Findhorn before me, and premised I was soon to reach the river; but whether I should pursue it upwards or downwards, in order to find the ferry at Sluie, was more than I knew.  There lay in my track a beautiful hillock, that reclines on the one side to the setting sun, and sinks sheer on the other, in a mural sandstone precipice, into the Findhorn.  The trees open over it, giving full access to the free air and the sunshine; and I found it as thickly studded over with berries as if it had been the special care of half a dozen gardeners.  The red light fell yet redder on the thickly inlaid cranberries and stone-brambles of the slope, and here and there, though so late in the season, on a patch of wild strawberries: while over all, dark, delicate blaeberries, with their flour-bedusted coats, were studded as profusely as if they had been peppered over it by a hailstone cloud.  I have seldom seen such a school-boy's paradise; and I was just thinking what a rare discovery I would have deemed it had I made it thirty years sooner, when I heard a whooping in the wood, and four little girls, the eldest scarcely eleven, came bounding up to the hillock, their lips and fingers already dyed purple, and dropped themselves down among the berries with a shout.  They were sadly startled to find they had got a companion in so solitary a recess; but I succeeded in convincing them that they were in no manner of danger from him; and on asking whether there was any of them skilful enough to show me the way to Sluie, they told me they all lived there, and were on their way home from school, which they attended at the village in the forest.  Hours had elapsed since the master had let them go, but in so fine an evening the berries would'nt, and so they were still in the wood.  I accompanied them to Sluie, and was ferried over the river in a salmon coble.  There is no point where the Findhorn, celebrated among our Scotch streams for the beauty of its scenery, is so generally interesting as in the neighbourhood of this village; forest and river,—each a paragon in its kind,—uniting for several miles together what is most choice and characteristic in the peculiar features of both.  In no locality is the surface of the great forest of Darnaway more undulated, or its trees nobler; and nowhere does the river present a livelier succession of eddying pools and rippling shallows, or fret itself in sweeping on its zig-zag course, now to the one bank, now to the other, against a more picturesque and imposing series of cliffs.  But to the geologist the locality possesses an interest peculiar to itself.  The precipices on both sides are charged with fossils of the Upper Old Red Sandstone: they form part of a vast indurated grave-yard, excavated to the depth of an hundred feet by the ceaseless wear of the stream; and when the waters are low, the teeth-plates and scales of ichthyolites, all of them specifically different from those of Clune and Lethenbar, and most of them generically so, may be disinterred from the strata in handfuls.  But the closing evening left me neither light nor time for the work of exploration.  I heard the curfew in the woods from the yet distant town, and dark night had set in long ere I reached Forres.  On the following morning I took a seat in one of the south coaches, and got on to Elgin an hour before noon.

    Elgin, one of the finest of our northern towns, occupies the centre of a richly fossiliferous district, which wants only better sections to rank it among the most interesting in the kingdom.  An undulating platform of Old Red Sandstone, in which we see, largely developed in one locality, the lower formation of the Coccosteus, and in another, still more largely, the upper formation of the Holoptychius Nobilissimus, forms, if I may so speak, the foundation deposit of the district,—the true geologic plane of the country; and, thickly scattered over this plane, we find numerous detached knolls and patches of the Weald and the Oolite, deposited like heaps of travelled soil, or of lime shot down by the agriculturist on the surface of a field.  The Old Red platform is mottled by the outliers of a comparatively modern time: the sepulchral mounds of later races, that lived and died daring the reptile age of the world, repose on the surface of an ancient burying- ground, charged with remains of the long anterior age of the fish; and over all, as a general covering, rest the red boulder-clay and the vegetable mould.  Mr Duff, in his valuable "Sketch of the Geology of Moray," enumerates five several localities in the neighbourhood of Elgin in which there occur outliers of the Weald; though, of course, in a country so flat, and in which the diluvium lies deep, we cannot hold that all have been discovered.  And though the outliers of the Oolite have not yet been ascertained to be equally numerous, they seem of greater extent; the isolated masses detached from them by the denuding agencies lie thick over extensive areas; and in working out the course of improvement which has already rendered Elginshire the garden of the north, the ditcher at one time touches on some bed of shale charged with the characteristic Ammonites and Belemnites of the system, and at another on some calcareous sandstone bed, abounding with its Pectens, its Plagiostoma, and its Pinnć.  Some of these outliers, whether Wealden or Oolitic, are externally of great beauty.  They occur in the parish of Lhanbryde, about three miles to the east of Elgin, in the form of green pyramidal hillocks, mottled with trees, and at Linksfield, as a confluent group of swelling grassy mounds.  And from their insulated character, and the abundance of organisms which they inclose, they serve to remind one of those green pyramids of Central America in which the traveller finds deposited the skeleton remains of extinct races.  It has been suggested by Mr Duff, in his "Sketch,"—a suggestion which the late Sutherlandshire discoveries of Mr Robertson of Inverugie have tended to confirm,—that the Oolite and Weald of Moray do not, in all probability, represent consecutive formations: they seem to bear the same sort of relation to each other as that mutually borne by the Mountain Limestone and the Coal Measures.  The one, of lacustrine or of estuary origin, exhibits chiefly the productions of the land and its fresh waters; the other, as decidedly of marine origin, is charged with the remains of animals whose proper home was the sea.  But the productions, though dissimilar, were in all probability contemporary, just as the crabs and periwinkles of the Frith of Forth are contemporary with the frogs and lymnea of Flanders moss.

    I had little time for exploration in the neighbourhood of Elgin; but that little, through the kindness of my friend Mr Duff, I was enabled to economize.  We first visited together the outlier of the Weald at Linksfield.  It may be found rising in the landscape, a short mile below the town, in the form of a green undulating hillock, half cut through by a limestone quarry; and the section thus furnished is of great beauty.  The basis on which the hillock rests is formed of the well-marked calcareous band in the Upper Old Red, known as the Cornstone, which we find occurring here, as elsewhere, as a pale concretionary limestone of considerable richness, though in some patches largely mixed with a green argillaceous earth, and in others passing into a siliceous chert.  Over the pale-coloured base, the section of the hillock is ribbed like an onyx: for about forty feet bands of gray, green, and blue clays alternate with bands of cream-coloured, light-green, and dark-blue limestones; and over all there rests a band of the red boulder-clay, capped by a thin layer of vegetable mould.  It is a curious circumstance, well fitted to impress on the geologist the necessity of cautious induction, that the boulder-clay not only overlies, but also underlies, this freshwater deposit; a bed of unequivocally the same origin and character with that at the top lying intercalated, as if filling up two low flat vaults, between the upper surface of the Cornstone and the lower band of the Weald.  It would, however, be as unsafe to infer that this intervening bed is older than the overlying ones, as to infer that the rubbish which choaks up the vaulted dungeon of an old castle is more ancient than the arch that stretches over it.  However introduced into the cavity which it occupies,—whether by land-springs or otherwise,—we find it containing fragments of the green and pale limestones that lie above, just as the rubbish of the castle dungeon might be found to contain fragments of the castle itself.  When the bed of red boulder-clay was intercalated, the rocks of the overlying Wealden were exactly the same sort of indurated substances that they are now, and were yielding to the operations of some denuding agent.  The alternating clays and limestones of this outlier, each of which must have been in turn an upper layer at the bottom of some lake or estuary, are abundantly fossiliferous.  In some the fresh-water character of the deposit is well marked: Cyprides are so exceedingly numerous in some of the bands, that they impart to the stone an Oolitic appearance; while others of a dark-coloured limestone we see strewed over, like the oozy bottom of a modern lake, with specimens of what seem Paludina, Cyclas, and Planorbus.  Some of the other shells are more equivocal: a Mytilus or Modiola, which abounds in some of the bands, may have been either a sea or a fresh-water shell; and a small oyster and Astarte seem decidedly marine.  Remains of fish are very abundant,—scales, plates, teeth, ichthyodorulites, and in some instances entire ichthyolites.  I saw, in the collection of Mr Duff, a small but very entire specimen of Lepidotus minor, with the fins spread out on the limestone, as in an anatomical preparation, and almost every plate and scale in its place.  Some of his specimens of ichthyodorulites, too, are exceedingly beautiful, and of great size, resembling jaws thickly set with teeth, the apparent teeth being more knobs ranged along the concave edge of the bone, the surface of which we see gracefully fluted and enamelled.  What most struck me, however, in glancing over the drawers of Mr Duff, was the character of the Ganoid scales of this deposit.  The Ganoid order in the days of the Weald was growing old; and two new orders,—the Ctenoid and Cycloid,—were on the eve of taking its place in creation.  Hitherto it had comprised at least two-thirds of all the fish that had existed ever since the period in which fish first began; and almost every Ganoid fish had its own peculiar pattern of scale.  But it would now seem as if well nigh all the simpler patterns were exhausted, and as if, in order to give the variety which nature loves, forms of the most eccentric types had to be resorted to.  With scarce any exception save that furnished by the scales of the Lepidotus minor, which are plain lozenge-shaped plates, thickly japanned, the forms are strangely complex and irregular, easily expressible by the pencil, but beyond the reach of the pen.  The remains of reptiles have been found occasionally, though rarely, in this outlier of the Weald,—the vertebra of a Plesiosaurus, the femur of some Chelonian reptile, and a large fluted tooth, supposed Saurian.

    I would fain have visited some of the neighbouring outliers of the Oolite, but time did not permit.  Mr Duff's collection, however, enabled me to form a tolerably adequate estimate of their organic contents.  Viewed in the group, these present nearly the same aspect as the organisms of the Upper Lias of Pabba.  There is in the same abundance large Pinnć, and well-relieved Pectens, both ribbed and smooth; the same abundance, too, of Belemnites and Ammonites of resembling type.  Both the Moray outliers and the Pabba deposit have their Terebratulć, Gervillić, Plagiostoma, Cardiadć, their bright Ganoid scales, and their imperfectly-preserved lignites.  They belong apparently to nearly the same period, and must have been formed in nearly similar circumstances,—the one on the western, the other on the eastern coast of a country then covered by the vegetation of the Oolite, and now known, with reference to an antiquity of but yesterday, as the ancient kingdom of Scotland.  I saw among the Ammonites of these outliers at least one species, which, I believe, has not yet been found elsewhere, and which has been named, after Mr Robertson of Inverugie, the gentleman who first discovered it, Ammonites Robertsoni.  Like most of the genus to which it belongs, it is an exceedingly beautiful shell, with all its whorls free and gracefully ribbed, and bearing on its back, as its distinguishing specific peculiarity, a triple keel.  I spent the evening of this day in visiting, with Mr Duff, the Upper Old Red Sandstones of Scat-Craig.  In Elginshire, as in Fife and elsewhere, the Upper Old Red consists of three grand divisions,—a superior bed of pale yellow sandstone, which furnishes the finest building stone anywhere found in the north of Scotland,—an intermediate calcareous bed, known technically as the Cornstone,—and an inferior bed of sandstone, chiefly, in this locality, of a grayish-red colour, and generally very incoherent in its structure.  The three beds, as shown by the fossil contents of the yellow sandstones above, and of the grayish-red sandstones below, are members of the same formation,—a formation which, in Scotland at least, does not possess an organism in common with the Middle Old Red formation, that of the Cephalaspis, as developed in Forfarshire, Stirling, and Ayr; or the Lower Old Red formation, that of the Coccosteus, as developed in Caithness, Cromarty, Inverness, and Banff shires, and in so many different localities in Moray.  The sandstones at Scat-Craig belong to the grayish-red base of the Upper Old Red formation.  They lie about five miles south of Elgin, not far distant from where the palćzoic deposits of the coast-side lean against the great primary nucleus of the interior.  We pass from the town, trough deep rich fields, carefully cultivated and well inclosed: the country, as we advance on the moorlands, becomes more open; the homely cottage takes the place of the neat villa; the brown heath, of the grassy lea, and unfenced itches of corn here and there alternate with plantings of dark sombre firs, in their mediocre youth.  At length we near the southern boundary of the landscape,—an undulating moory due, partially planted; and see where a deep gap in the outline opens a way to the upland districts of the province, a lively hill-stream descending towards the east through the bed which it has scooped out for itself in a soft red conglomerate.  The section we have come to explore lies along its course: it is been the grand excavator in the densely occupied burial ground over which it flows; but its labours have produced—it a shallow scratch after all,—a mere ditch, some ten or twelve feet deep, in a deposit the entire depth of which is supposed greatly to exceed a hundred fathoms.  The shallow section, however, has been well wrought; and its suit of fossils is one of the finest, both from the great specific variety which they exhibit, and their excellent state of keeping, that the Upper Old Red Sandstone has anywhere furnished.

    So great is the incoherency of the matrix, that we can dig to it with our chisels, unassisted by the hammer.  It reminds us of the loose gravelly soil of an ancient grave-yard, partially consolidated by a night's frost,—a resemblance still further borne out by the condition and appearance of its of its organic contents.  The numerous bones disseminated throughout the mass do not exist, as in so many of the Upper Old Red Sandstone rocks, as mere films or impressions, but in their original forms, retaining bulk as well as surface: they are true grave-yard bones, which may be detached entire from the inclosing mass, and of which, were we sufficiently well acquainted with the anatomy of the long perished races to which they belonged, entire skeletons might be reconstructed.  I succeeded in disinterring, during my short stay, an occipital plate of great beauty, fretted on its outer surface by numerous tubercles, confluent on its anterior part, and surrounded on its posterior portion, where they stand detached, by punctulated markings.  I found also a fine scale of Holoptychius Nobilissimus, and a small tooth, bent somewhat like a nail that had been drawn out of its place by two opposite wrenches, and from the internal structure of which Professor Owen has bestowed on the animal to which it belonged the generic name Dendrodus.  I have ascertained, however, through the indispensable assistance of Mr George Sanderson, that the genus Holoptychius of Agassiz, named from a peculiarity in the sculpture of the scale, is the identical genus Dendrodus of Professor Owen, named from a peculiarity in the structure of the teeth.  Those teeth of the genus Holoptychius, whether of the Lower or Upper Old Red, that belong to the second or reptile row with which the creature's jaws were furnished, present in the cross section the appearance of numerous branches, like those of trees, radiating from a centre like spokes from the nave of a wheel; and their arborescent aspect suggested to the Professor the name Dendrodus.  It seems truly wonderful, when one but considers it, to what minute and obscure ramifications the variety of pattern, specific and generic, which nature so loves to preserve, is found to descend.  We see great diversity of mode and style in the architecture of a city built of brick; but while the houses are different, the bricks are always the same.  It is not so in nature.  The bricks are as dissimilar as the houses.  We find, for instance, those differences, specific and generic, that obtain among fishes, both recent and extinct, descending to even the microscopic structure of their teeth.  There is more variety of pattern,—in most cases of very elegant pattern,—in the sliced fragments of the teeth of the ichthyolites of a single formation, than in the carved blocks of an extensive calico-print yard.  Each species has its own distinct pattern, as if in all the individuals of which it consisted the same block had been employed to stamp it; each genus has its own general type of pattern, as if the same inventive idea, variously altered and modified, had been wrought upon in all.  In the genus Dendrodus, for instance, it is the generic type, that from a central nave there should radiate, spoke-like, a number of leafy branches; but in the several species, the branches, if I may so express myself, belong to different shrubs, and present dissimilar outlines.  There are no repetitions of earlier patterns to be found among the generically different ichthyolites of other formations.  We see in the world of fashion old modes of ornament continually reviving: the range of invention seems limited; and we find it revolving, in consequence, in an irregular, ever-returning cycle.  But Infinite resource did not need to travel in a circle, and so we find no return or doublings in its course.  It has appeared to me, that an argument against the transmutation of species, were any such needed, might be founded on those inherent peculiarities of structure that are ascertained thus to pervade the entire texture of the framework of animals.  If we find one building differing from another merely in external form, we have no difficulty in conceiving how, by additions and alterations, they might be made to present a uniform appearance: transmutation, development, progression,—if one may use such terms,—differ from each other, not only in external form, but also in every brick and beam, bolt and nail, no mere scheme of external alteration can induce a real resemblance.  Every brick must be taken down, and every beam and bolt removed.  The problem cannot be wrought by the remodelling of an old house: there is no other mode of solving it save by the erection of a new one.

    Among the singularly interesting Old Red fossils of Mr Duff's collection I saw the impression of a large ichthyolite from the superior yellow sandstone of the Upper Old Red, which had been brought him by a country diker only a few days before.  In breaking open a building stone, the diker had found the inside of it, he said, covered over with curiously carved flowers; and, knowing that Mr Duff had a turn for curiosities, he had brought the flowers to him.  The supposed flowers are the sculpturing on the scales of the ichthyolite; and, true to the analogy of the diker, on at least a first glance, they may be held to resemble the rather equivocal florets of a cheap wall-paper, or of an ornamental tile.  The specimen exhibits the impressions of four rows of oblong rectangular scales.  One row contains seven of these, and another eight.  Each scale averages about an inch and a quarter in length by about three quarters of an inch in breadth; and the parallelogramical field which it presents is occupied by a curious piece of carving.  By a sort of pictorial illusion, the device appears as if in motion: it would seem as if a sudden explosion had taken place in the middle of the field, and as if the numerous dislodged fragments, propelled all around by the central force, were hurrying to the sides.  But these seeming fragments were not elevations in the original scale, but depressions.  They almost seem as if they had been indented into it, in the way one sees the first heavy drops of a thunder shower indented into a platform of damp sea-sand; and this last peculiarity of appearance seems to have suggested the name which this sole representative of an extinct genus has received during the course of the last few weeks from Agassiz.  An Elgin gentleman forwarded to Neufchatel a singularly fine calotype of the fossil, taken by Mr Adamson of Edinburgh, with a full-size drawing of a few of the scales; and from the calotype and the drawing the naturalist has decided that the genus is entirely new, and that henceforth it shall bear the descriptive name of Stagonolepis, or drop-scale.  As I looked for the first time on this broken fragment of an ichthyolite,—the sole representative and record of an entire genus of creatures that had been once called into existence to fulfil some wise purpose of the Creator long since accomplished,—I bethought me of Rogers' noble lines on the Torso,

And dost thou still, thou mass of breathing stone,
(Thy giant limbs to night and chaos hurled)
Still sit as on the fragment of a world,
Surviving all?



    Here, however, was a still more wonderful Torso than that of the dismembered Hercules, which so awakened the enthusiasm of the poet.  Strange peculiarities of being,—singular habits, curious instincts, the history of a race from the period when the all-producing Word had spoken the first individuals into being, until, in circumstances unfitted for their longer existence, or in some great annihilating catastrophe, the last individuals perished,—were all associated with this piece of sculptured stone; but, like some ancient inscription of the desert, written in an unknown character and dead tongue, its dark meanings were fast locked up, and no inhabitant of earth possessed the key.  Does that key anywhere exist, save in the keeping of Him who knows all and produced all, and to whom there is neither past nor future?  Or is there a record of creation kept by those higher intelligences,—the first-born of spiritual natures,—whose existence stretches far into the eternity that has gone by, and who possess, as their inheritance, the whole of the eternity to come?  We may be at least assured, that nothing can be too low for angels to remember, that was not too low for God to create.

    I took coach for Edinburgh on the following morning; for with my visit to Scat-Craig terminated the explorations of my Summer Ramble.  During the summer of the present year I have found time to follow up some of the discoveries of the last.  In the course of a hasty visit to the island of Eigg, I succeeded in finding in situ reptile remains of the kind which I had found along the shores in the previous season, in detached water-rolled masses.  The deposit in which they occur lies deep in the Oolite.  In some parts of the island there rest over it alternations of beds of trap and sedimentary strata, to the height of more than a thousand feet; but in the line of coast which intervenes between the farm-house of Keill and the picturesque shieling described in my fifth chapter, it has been laid bare by the sea immediately under the cliffs, and we may see it jutting out at a low angle from among the shingle and rolled stones of the beach for several hundred feet together, charged everywhere with the teeth, plates, and scales of Ganoid fishes, and, somewhat more sparingly, with the ribs, vertebrć, and digital bones of saurians.  But a full description of this interesting deposit, as its discovery belongs to the Summer Ramble of a year, the ramblings of which are not yet completed, must await some future time.

[Next Page]


5.    The verses hero referred to are introduced into "My Schools and Schoolmasters," chapter tenth.
6.    For a description of this pond see "My Schools and Schoolmasters," chapter tenth.
7.    These remarks refer to the poem "On Seeing a Sun-Dial in a Church Yard," which was introduced here when these chapters were first published in the "Witness," but, having been afterwards inserted in the tenth chapter of "My Schools and Schoolmasters " is not here re-produced.
8.    Mr Peach has discovered fossils in the Durness limestone, which rests above the quartzite rock of the west of Scotland, that covers the Red Sandstone long believed to be O
LD RED, The fossils are very obscure.—W. S. S.


[Home] [Up] [Autobiography] [First Impressions] [Scenes and Legends] [Tales and Sketches] [Leading Articles] [Miscellanea] [Site Search] [Main Index]