We find figured by M'Culloch, in his "Western Islands," the internal cavity of a pebble of Scuir More, which he picked up on the beach below, and which had been formed evidently within one of the larger vesicles of the amygdaloid. He describes it as curiously illustrative of a various chemistry; the outer crust is composed of a pale-zoned agate, inclosing a cavity, from the upper side of which there depends a group of chalcedonic stalactites, some of them, as in ancient spar caves, reaching to the floor; and bearing on its under side a large crystal of carbonate of lime, that the longer stalactites pass through. In the vesicle in which this hollow pebble was formed three consecutive processes must have gone on. First, a process of infiltration coated the interior all around with layer after layer, now of one mineral substance, now of another, as a plasterer coats over the sides and ceiling of a room with successive layers of lime, putty, and stucco; and had this process gone on, the whole cell would have been filled with a pale-zoned agate. But it ceased, and a new process began. A chalcedonic infiltration gradually entered from above; and, instead of coating over the walls, roof, and floor, it hardened into a group of spear-like stalactites, that lengthened by slow degrees, till some of them had traversed the entire cavity from top to bottom. And then this second process ceased like the first, and a third commenced. An infiltration of lime took place; and the minute calcareous molecules, under the influence of the law of crystallization, built themselves up on the floor into a large smooth-sided rhomb, resembling a closed sarcophagus resting in the middle of some Egyptian cemetery. And then, the limestone crystal completed, there ensued no after change. As shown by some other specimens, however, there was a yet farther process: a pure quartzose deposition took place, that coated not a few of the calcareous rhombs with sprigs of rock-crystal. I found in the Scuir More several cellular agates in which similar processes had gone on,—none of them quite so fine, however, as the one figured by M'Culloch; but there seemed no lack of evidence regarding the strange and multifarious chemistry that had been carried on in the vesicular cavities of this mountain, as in the retorts of some vast laboratory. Here was a vesicle filled with green earth,—there a vesicle filled with calcareous spar,—yonder a vesicle crusted round on a thin chalcedonic shell with rock-crystal,—in one cavity an agate had been elaborated, in another a heliotrope, in a third a milk-white chalcedony, in a fourth a jasper. On what principle, and under what direction, have results so various taken place in vesicles of the same rock, that in many instances occur scarce half an inch apart? Why, for instance, should that vesicle have elaborated only green earth, and the vesicle separated from it by a partition barely a line in thickness, have elaborated only chalcedony? Why should this chamber contain only a quartzose compound of oxygen and silica, and that second chamber beside it contain only a calcareous compound of lime and carbonic acid? What law directed infiltrations so diverse to seek out for themselves vesicles in such close neighborhood, and to keep, in so many instances, each to his own vesicle? I can but state the problem,—not solve it. The groups of heliotropes clustered each around its bulky centrical mass seem to show that the principle of molecular attraction may be operative in very dense mediae,—in a hard amygdaloidal trap even; and it seems not improbable, that to this law, which draws atom to its kindred atom, as clansmen of old used to speed at the mustering signal to their gathering place, the various chemistry of the vesicles may owe its variety.
I shall attempt stating the chemical problem furnished by the vesicles here in a mechanical form. Let us suppose that every vesicle was a chamber furnished with a door, and that beside every door there watched, as in the draught doors of our coal-pits, some one to open and shut it, as circumstances might require. Let us suppose further, that for a certain time an infusion of green earth pervaded the surrounding mass, and percolated through it, and that every door was opened to receive a portion of the infusion. We find that no vesicle wants its coating of this earthy mineral. The coating received, however, one-half the doors shut, while the other half remained agap, and filled with green earth entirely. Next followed a series of alternate infusions of chalcedony, jasper, and quartz; many doors opened and received some two or three coatings, that form around the vesicles skull-like shells of agate, and then shut; a few remained open, and became as entirely occupied with agate as many of the previous ones had become filled with green earth. Then an ample infusion of chalcedony pervaded the mass. Numerous doors again opened; some took in a portion of the chalcedony, and then shut; some remained open, and became filled with it; and many more that had been previously filled by the green earth opened their doors again, and the chalcedony pervading the green porous mass, converted it into heliotrope. Then an infusion of lime took place. Doors opened, many of which had been hitherto shut, save for a short time, when the green earth infusion obtained, and became filled with lime; other doors opened for a brief space, and received lime enough to form a few crystals. Last of all, there was a pure quartzose infusion, and doors opened, some for a longer time, some for a shorter, just as on previous occasions. Now, by mechanical means of this character,—by such an arrangement of successive infusions, and such a device of shutting and opening of doors,—the phenomena exhibited by the vesicles could be produced. There is no difficulty in working the problem mechanically, if we be allowed to assume in our data successive infusions, well-fitted doors, and watchful door-keepers; and if any one can work it chemically,—certainly without door-keepers, but with such doors and such infusions as he can show to have existed,—he shall have cleared up the mystery of the Scuir More. I have given their various cargoes to all its many vesicles by mechanical means, at no expense of ingenuity whatever. Are there any of my readers prepared to give it to them by means purely chemical?
There is a solitary house in the opening of the valley, over which the Scuir More stands sentinel,—a house so solitary, that the entire breadth of the island intervenes between it and the nearest human dwelling. It is inhabited by a shepherd and his wife,—the sole representatives in the valley of a numerous population, long since expatriated to make way for a few flocks of sheep, but whose ranges of little fields may still be seen green amid the heath on both sides, for nearly a mile upwards from the opening. After descending along the precipices of the Scuir, we struck across the valley, and, on scaling the opposite slope sat down on the summit to rest us, about a hundred yards over the house of the shepherd. He had seen us from below, when engaged among the bloodstones, and had seen, withal, that we were not coming his way; and, "on hospitable thoughts intent," he climbed to where we sat, accompanied by his wife, she bearing a vast bowl of milk, and he a basket of bread and cheese. And we found the refreshment most seasonable, after our long hours of toil, and with a rough journey still before us. It is an excellent circumstance, that hospitality grows best where it is most needed. In the thick of men it dwindles and disappears, like fruits in the thick of a wood; but where man is planted sparsely, it blossoms and matures, like apples on a standard or espalier. It flourishes where the inn and the lodging-house cannot exist, and dies out where they thrive and multiply.
We reached the cross valley in the interior of the island about half an hour before sunset. The evening was clear, calm, golden-tinted; even wild heaths and rude rocks had assumed a flush of transient beauty; and the emerald-green patches on the hill-sides, barred by the plough lengthwise, diagonally, and transverse, had borrowed an aspect of soft and velvety richness, from the mellowed light and the broadening shadows. All was solitary. We could see among the deserted fields the grass-grown foundations of cottages razed to the ground; but the valley, more desolate than that which we had left, had not even its single inhabited dwelling: it seemed as if man had done with it forever. The island, eighteen years before, had been divested of its inhabitants, amounting at the time to rather more than four hundred souls, to make way for one sheep-farmer and eight thousand sheep. All the aborigines of Rum crossed the Atlantic; and at the close of 1828, the entire population consisted of but the sheep-farmer, and a few shepherds, his servants; the island of Rum reckoned up scarce a single family at this period for every five square miles of area which it contained. But depopulation on so extreme a scale was found inconvenient; the place had been rendered too thoroughly a desert for the comfort of the occupant; and on the occasion of a clearing which took place shortly after in Skye, he accommodated some ten or twelve of the ejected families with sites for cottages, and pasturage for a few cows, on the bit of morass beside Loch Scresort, on which I had seen their humble dwellings. But the whole of the once-peopled interior remains a wilderness, without inhabitant,—all the more lonely in its aspect from the circumstance that the solitary valleys, with their plough-furrowed patches, and their ruined heaps of stone, open upon shores every whit as solitary as themselves, and that the wide untrodden sea stretches drearily around. The armies of the insect world were sporting in the light this evening by millions; a brown stream that runs through the valley yielded an incessant popling sound, from the myriads of fish that were ceaselessly leaping in the pools, beguiled by the quick glancing wings of green and gold that fluttered over them; along a distant hill-side there ran what seemed the ruins of a gray-stone fence, erected, says tradition, in a remote age, to facilitate the hunting of the deer; there were fields on which the heath and moss of the surrounding moorlands were fast encroaching, that had borne many a successive harvest; and prostrate cottages, that had been the scenes of christenings, and bridals, and blythe new-year's days;—all seemed to bespeak the place a fitting habitation for man, in which not only the necessaries, but also a few of the luxuries of life, might be procured; but in the entire prospect not a man nor a man's dwelling could the eye command. The landscape was one without figures. I do not much like extermination carried out so thoroughly and on system;—it seems bad policy; and I have not succeeded in thinking any the better of it though assured by economists that there are more than people enough in Scotland still. There are, I believe, more than enough in our workhouses,—more than enough on our pauper-rolls,—more than enough huddled up, disreputable, useless, and unhappy, in the miasmatic alleys and typhoid courts of our large towns; but I have yet to learn how arguments for local depopulation are to be drawn from facts such as these. A brave and hardy people, favorably placed for the development of all that is excellent in human nature, form the glory and strength of a country;—a people sunk into an abyss of degradation and misery, and in which it is the whole tendency of external circumstances to sink them yet deeper, constitute its weakness and its shame; and I cannot quite see on what principle the ominous increase which is taking place among us in the worse class, is to form our solace or apology for the wholesale expatriation of the better. It did not seem as if the depopulation of Rum had tended much to any one's advantage. The single sheep-farmer who had occupied the holdings of so many had been unfortunate in his speculations, and had left the island: the proprietor, his landlord, seemed to have been as little fortunate as the tenant, for the island itself was in the market; and a report went current at the time, that it was on the eve of being purchased by some wealthy Englishman, who purposed converting it into a deer-forest. How strange a cycle! Uninhabited originally save by wild animals, it became at an early period a home of men, who, as the gray wall on the hill-side testified, derived, in part at least, their sustenance from the chase. They broke in from the waste the furrowed patches on the slopes of the valleys,—they reared herds of cattle and flocks of sheep,—their number increased to nearly five hundred souls,—they enjoyed the average happiness of human creatures in the present imperfect state of being,—they contributed their portion of hardy and vigorous manhood to the armies of the country,—and a few of their more adventurous spirits, impatient of the narrow bounds which confined them, and a course of life little varied by incident, emigrated to America. Then came the change of system so general in the Highlands; and the island lost all its original inhabitants, on a wool and mutton speculation,—inhabitants, the descendants of men who had chased the deer on its hills five hundred years before, and who, though they recognized some wild island lord as their superior, and did him service, had regarded the place as indisputably their own. And now yet another change was on the eve of ensuing, and the island was to return to its original state, as a home of wild animals, where a few hunters from the mainland might enjoy the chase for a month or two every twelvemonth, but which could form no permanent place of human abode. Once more, a strange and surely most melancholy cycle!
There was light enough left, as we reached the upper part of Loch Scresort, to show us a shoal of small silver-coated trout, leaping by scores at the effluence of the little stream along which we had set out in the morning on our expedition. There was a net stretched across where the play was thickest; and we learned that the haul of the previous tide had amounted to several hundreds. On reaching the Betsey, we found a pail and basket laid against the companion-head,—the basket containing about two dozen small trout,—the minister's unsolicited teind of the morning draught; the pail filled with razor-fish of great size. The people of my friend are far from wealthy; there is scarce any circulating medium in Rum; and the cottars in Eigg contrive barely enough to earn at the harvest in the Lowlands money sufficient to clear with their landlord at rent-day. Their contributions for ecclesiastical purposes make no great figure, therefore, in the lists of the Sustentation Fund. But of what they have they give willingly and in a kindly spirit; and if baskets of small trout, or pailfuls of spout-fish, went current in the Free Church, there would, I am certain, be a per centage of both the fish and the mollusc, derived from the Small Isles, in the half-yearly sustentation dividends. We found the supply of both,—especially as provisions were beginning to run short in the lockers of the Betsey,—quite deserving of our gratitude. The razor-fish had been brought us by the worthy catechist of the island. He had gone to the ebb in our special behalf, and had spent a tide in laboriously filling the pail with these "treasures hid in the sand;" thoroughly aware, like the old exiled puritan, who eked out his meals in a time of scarcity with the oysters of New England, that even the razor-fish, under this head, is included in the promises. There is a peculiarity in the razor-fish of Rum that I have not marked in the razor-fish of our eastern coasts. The gills of the animal, instead of bearing the general color of its other parts, like those of the oyster, are of a deep green color, resembling, when examined by the microscope, the fringe of a green curtain.
We were told by John Stewart, that the expatriated inhabitants of Rum used to catch trout by a simple device of ancient standing, which preceded the introduction of nets into the island, and which, it is possible, may in other localities have not only preceded the use of the net, but may have also suggested it: it had at least the appearance of being a first beginning of invention in this direction. The islanders gathered large quantities of heath, and then tying it loosely into bundles, and stripping it of its softer leafage, they laid the bundles across the stream on a little mound held down by stones, with the tops of the heath turned upwards to the current. The water rose against the mound for a foot or eighteen inches, and then murmured over and through, occasioning an expansion among the hard elastic sprays. Next a party of the islanders came down the stream, beating the banks and pools, and sending a still thickening shoal of trout before them, that, on reaching the miniature dam formed by the bundles, darted forward for shelter, as if to a hollow bank, and stuck among the slim hard branches, as they would in the meshes of a net. The stones were then hastily thrown off,—the bundles pitched ashore,—the better fish, to the amount not unfrequently of several scores, secured,—and the young fry returned to the stream, to take care of themselves, and grow bigger. We fared richly this evening, after our hard day's labor, on tea and trout; and as the minister had to attend a meeting of the Presbytery of Skye on the following Wednesday, we sailed next morning for Glenelg, whence he purposed taking the steamer for Portree. Winds were light and baffling, and the currents, like capricious friends, neutralized at one time the assistance which they lent us at another. It was dark night ere we had passed Isle Ornsay, and morning broke as we cast anchor in the Bay of Glenelg. At ten o'clock the steamer heaved-to in the bay to land a few passengers, and the minister went on board, leaving me in charge of the Betsey, to follow him, when the tide set in, through the Kyles of Skye.
Kyles of Skye—A Gneiss District—Kyle Rhea—A Boiling Tide—A "Take" of Sillocks—The Betsey's "Paces"—In the Bay at Broadford—Rain—Island of Pabba—Description of the Island—Its Geological Structure—Astrea—Polypifers—Gryphaea incurva—Three groups of Fossils in the Lias of Skye—Abundance of the Petrifactions of Pabba—Scenery—Pabba a "piece of smooth, level England"—Fossil Shells of Pabba—Voyage resumed—Kyle Akin—Ruins of Castle Maoil—A "Thornback" Dinner—The Bunch of Deep Sea Tangle—The Caileach Stone—Kelp Furnaces—Escape of the Betsey from sinking.
No sailing vessel attempts threading the Kyles of Skye from the south in the face of an adverse tide. The currents of Kyle Rhea care little for the wind-filled sail, and battle at times, on scarce unequal terms, with the steam-propelled paddle. The Toward Castle this morning had such a struggle to force her way inwards, as may be seen maintained at the door of some place of public meeting during the heat of some agitating controversy, when seat and passage within can hold no more, and a disappointed crowd press eagerly for admission from without. Viewed from the anchoring place at Glenelg, the opening of the Kyle presents the appearance of the bottom of a landlocked bay;—the hills of Skye seem leaning against those of the mainland: and the tide-buffeted steamer looked this morning as if boring her way into the earth, like a disinterred mole, only at a rate vastly slower. First, however, with a progress resembling that of the minute-hand of a clock, the bows disappeared amid the heath, then the midships, then the quarter-deck and stern, and then, last of all, the red tip of the sun-brightened union-jack that streamed gaudily behind. I had at least two hours before me ere the Betsey might attempt weighing anchor; and, that they might leave some mark, I went and spent them ashore in the opening of Glenelg,—a gneiss district, nearly identical in structure with the district of Knock and Isle Ornsay. The upper part of the valley is bare and treeless, but not such its character where it opens to the sea; the hills are richly wooded; and cottages, and cornfields, with here and there a reach of the lively little river, peep out from among the trees. A group of tall roofless buildings, with a strong wall in front, form the central point in the landscape; these are the dismantled Berera Barracks, built, like the line of forts in the great Caledonian Valley,—Fort George, Fort Augustus, and Fort William,—to overawe the Highlands at a time when the loyalty of the Highlander pointed to a king beyond the water; but all use for them has long gone by, and they now lie in dreary ruin,—mere sheltering places for the toad and the bat. I found in a loose silt on the banks of the river, at some little distance below tide-mark, a bed of shells and coral, which might belong, I at first supposed, to some secondary formation, but which I ascertained, on examination, to be a mere recent deposit, not so old by many centuries as our last raised sea-beaches. There occurs in various localities on these western coasts, especially on the shores of the island of Pabba, a sprig coral, considerably larger in size than any I have elsewhere seen in Scotland; and it was from its great abundance in this bed of silt that I was at first led to deem the deposit an ancient one.
We weighed anchor about noon, and entered the opening of Kyle Rhea. Vessel after vessel, to the number of eight or ten in all, had been arriving in the course of the morning, and dropping anchor, nearer the opening or farther away, each according to its sailing ability, to await the turn of the tide; and we now found ourselves one of the components of a little fleet, with some five or six vessels sweeping up the Kyle before us, and some three or four driving on behind. Never, except perhaps in a Highland river big in flood, have I seen such a tide. It danced and wheeled, and came boiling in huge masses from the bottom; and now our bows heaved abruptly round in one direction, and now they jerked as suddenly round in another; and, though there blew a moderate breeze at the time, the helm failed to keep the sails steadily full. But whether our sheets bellied out, or flapped right in the wind's eye, on we swept in the tideway, like a cork caught during a thunder shower in one of the rapids of the High Street. At one point the Kyle is little more than a quarter of a mile in breadth; and here, in the powerful eddy which ran along the shore, we saw a group of small fishing-boats pursuing a shoal of sillocks in a style that blent all the liveliness of the chase with the specific interest of the angle. The shoal, restless as the tides among which it disported, now rose in the boilings of one eddy, now beat the water into foam amid the stiller dimplings of another. The boats hurried from spot to spot wherever the quick glittering scales appeared. For a few seconds, rods would be cast thick and fast, as if employed in beating the water, and captured fish glanced bright to the sun; and then the take would cease, and the play rise elsewhere, and oars would flash out amain, as the little fleet again dashed into the heart of the shoal. As the Kyle widened, the force of the current diminished, and sail and helm again became things of positive importance. The wind blew a-head, steady though not strong; and the Betsey, with companions in the voyage against which to measure herself, began to show her paces. First she passed one bulky vessel, then another: she lay closer to the wind than any of her fellows, glided more quickly through the water, turned in her stays like Lady Betty in a minuet; and, ere we had reached Kyle Akin, the fleet in the middle of which we had started were toiling far behind us, all save one vessel, a stately brig; and just as we were going to pass her too, she cast anchor, to await the change of the tide, which runs from the west during flood at Kyle Akin, as it runs from the east through Kyle Rhea. The wind had freshened; and as it was now within two hours of full sea, the force of the current had somewhat abated; and so we kept on our course, tacking in scant room, however, and making but little way. A few vessels attempted following us, but, after an inefficient tack or two, they fell back on the anchoring ground, leaving the Betsey to buffet the currents alone. Tack followed tack sharp and quick in the narrows, with an iron-bound coast on either hand. We had frequent and delicate turning: now we lost fifty yards, now we gained a hundred. John Stewart held the helm; and as none of us had ever sailed the way before, I had the vessel's chart spread out on the companion-head before me, and told him when to wear and when to hold on his way,—at what places we might run up almost to the rock edge, and at what places it was safest to give the land a good offing. Hurrah for the Free Church yacht Betsey! and hurrah once more! We cleared the Kyle, leaving a whole fleet tide-bound behind us; and, stretching out at one long tack into the open sea, bore, at the next, right into the bay at Broadford, where we cast anchor for the night, within two hundred yards of the shore. Provisions were running short; and so I had to make a late dinner this evening on some of the razor-fish of Rum, topped by a dish of tea. But there is always rather more appetite than food in the country;—such, at least, is the common result under the present mode of distribution: the hunger overlaps and outstretches the provision; and there was comfort in the reflection, that with the razor-fish on which to fall back, it overlapped it but by a very little on this occasion in the cabin of the Betsey. The steam-boat passed southwards next morning, and I was joined by my friend the minister a little before breakfast.
The day was miserably bad: the rain continued pattering on the skylight, now lighter, now heavier, till within an hour of sunset, when it ceased, and a light breeze began to unroll the thick fogs from off the landscape, volume after volume, like coverings from off a mummy,—leaving exposed in the valley of the Lias a brown and cheerless prospect of dark bogs and of debris-covered hills, streaked this evening with downward lines of foam. The seaward view is more pleasing. The deep russet of the interior we find bordered for miles along the edge of the bay with a many-shaded fringe of green; and the smooth grassy island of Pabba lies in the midst, a polished gem, all the more advantageously displayed from the roughness of the surrounding setting. We took boat, and explored the Lias in our immediate neighborhood till dusk. I had spent several hours among its deposits when on my way to Portree, and several hours more when on my journey across the country to the east coast; but it may be well, for the sake of maintaining some continuity of description, to throw together my various observations on the formation, as if made at one time, and to connect them with my exploration of Pabba, which took place on the following morning. The rocks of Pabba belong to the upper part of the Lias; while the lower part may be found leaning to the south, towards the Red Sandstones of the Bay of Lucy. Taking what seems to be the natural order, I shall begin with the base of the formation first.
In the general indentation of the coast, in the opening of which the island of Pabba lies somewhat like a long green steam-boat at anchor, there is included a smaller indentation, known as the Bay or Cove of Lucy. The central space in the cove is soft and gravelly; but on both its sides it is flanked by low rocks, that stretch out into the sea in long rectilinear lines, like the foundations of dry-stone fences. On the south side the rocks are red; on the north they are of a bluish-gray color; their hues are as distinct as those of the colored patches in a map; and they represent geological periods that lie widely apart. The red rocks we find laid down in most of our maps as Old Red, though I am disposed to regard them as of a much higher antiquity than even that ancient system; while the bluish-gray rocks are decidedly Liasic. The cove between represents a deep ditch-like hollow, which occurs in Skye, both in the interior and on the sea-shore, in the line of boundary betwixt the Red Sandstone and the Lias; and it "seems to have originated," says M'Culloch, "in the decomposition of the exposed parts of the formations at their junction." "Hence," he adds, "from the wearing of the materials at the surface, a cavity has been produced, which becoming subsequently filled with rubbish, and generally covered over with a vegetable soil of unusual depth, effectually prevents a view of the contiguous parts." The first strata exposed on the northern side are the oldest Liasic rocks anywhere seen in Scotland. They are composed chiefly of greenish-colored fissile sandstones and calciferous grits, in which we meet a few fossils, very imperfectly preserved. But the organisms increase as we go on. We see in passing, near a picturesque little cottage,—the only one on the shores of the bay,—a crag of a singularly rough appearance, that projects mole-like from the sward upon the beach, and then descending abruptly to the level of the other strata, runs out in a long ragged line into the sea. The stratum, from two to three feet in thickness, of which it is formed, seems wholly built up of irregularly-formed rubbly concretions, just as some of the garden-walls in the neighborhood of Edinburgh are built of the rough scoria of our glass-houses; and we find, on examination, that every seeming concretion in the bed is a perfectly formed coral of the genus Astrea. We have arrived at an entire bed of corals, all of one species. Their surfaces, wherever they have been washed by the sea, are of great beauty: nothing can be more irregular than the outline of each mass, and yet scarce anything more regular than the sculpturings on every part of it. We find them fretted over with polygons, like those of a honeycomb, only somewhat less mathematically exact, and the centre of every polygon contains its many-rayed star. It is difficult to distinguish between species in some of the divisions of corals: one Astrea, recent or extinct, is sometimes found so exceedingly like another of some very different formation or period, that the more modern might almost be deemed a lineal descendant of the more ancient species. With an eye to the fact, I brought with me some characteristic specimens of this Astrea of the Lower Lias, which I have ranged side by side with the Astreae of the Oolite I had found so abundant a twelvemonth before in the neighborhood of Helmsdale. In some of the hand specimens, that present merely a piece of polygonal surface, bounded by fractured sides, the difference is not easily distinguishable: the polygonal depressions are generally smaller in the Oolitic species, and shallower in the Liasic one; but not unfrequently these differences disappear, and it is only when compared in the entire unbroken coral that their specific peculiarities acquire the necessary prominence. The Oolitic Astrea is of much greater size than the Liasic one: it occurs not unfrequently in masses of from two to three feet in diameter; and as its polygons are tubes that converge to the footstalk on which it originally formed, it presents in the average outline a fungous-like appearance; whereas in the smaller Liasic coral, which rarely exceeds a foot in diameter, there is no such general convergency of the tubes; and the form in one piece, save that there is a certain degree of flatness common to all, bears no resemblance to the form in another. Some of the recent Astreae are of great beauty when inhabited by the living zoophites whose skeleton framework they compose. Every polygonal star in the mass is the house of a separate animal, that, when withdrawn into its cell, presents the appearance of a minute flower, somewhat like a daisy stuck flat to the surface, and that, when stretched out, resembles a small round tower, with a garland of leaves bound round it atop for a cornice. The Astrea viridis, a coral of the tropics, presents on a ground of velvety brown myriads of deep green florets, that ever and anon start up from the level in their tower-like shape, contract and expand their petals, and then, shrinking back into their cells, straightway became florets again. The Lower Lias presented in one of its opening scenes, in this part of the world, appearances of similar beauty widely spread. For miles together,—we know not how many,—the bottom of a clear shallow sea was paved with living Astreae: every irregular rock-like coral formed a separate colony of polypora, that, when in motion, presented the appearance of continuous masses of many-colored life, and when at rest, the places they occupied were more thickly studded with the living florets than the richest and most flowery piece of pasture the reader ever saw, with its violets or its daisies. And mile beyond mile this scene of beauty stretched on through the shallow depths of the Liasic sea. The calcareous framework of most of the recent Astreae are white; but in the species referred to,—the Astrea viridis,—it is of a dark-brown color. It is not unworthy of remark, in connection with these facts, that the Oolitic Astrea of Helmsdale occurs as a white, or, when darkest, as a cream-colored petrifaction; whereas the Liasic Astrea of Skye is invariably of a deep earthy hue. The one was probably a white, the other a dingy-colored coral.
The Liasic bed of Astreae existed long enough here to attain a thickness of from two to three feet. Mass rose over mass,—the living upon the dead,—till at length, by a deposit of mingled mud and sand,—the effect, mayhap, of some change of currents, induced we know not how,—the innumerable polypedes of the living surface were buried up and killed, and then, for many yards, layer after layer of a calciferous grit was piled over them. The fossils of the grit are few and ill preserved; but we occasionally find in it a coral similar to the Astrea of the bed below, and, a little higher up, in an impure limestone, specimens, in rather indifferent keeping, of a genus of polypifer which somewhat resembles the Turbinolia of the Mountain Limestone. It presents in the cross section the same radiated structure as the Turbinolia fungites, and nearly the same furrowed appearance in the longitudinal one; but, seen in the larger specimens, we find that it was a branched coral, with obtuse forky boughs, in each of which, it is probable, from their general structure, there lived a single polype. It may have been the resemblance which these bear, when seen in detached branches, to the older Caryophyllia, taken in connection with the fact that the deposit in which they occur rests on the ancient Red Sandstone of the district, that led M'Culloch to question whether this fossiliferous formation had not nearly as clear a claim to be regarded as an analogue of the Carboniferous Limestone of England as of its Lias; and hence he contented himself with terming it simply the Gryphite Limestone. Sir R. Murchison, whose much more close and extensive acquaintance with fossils enabled him to assign to the deposit its true place, was struck, however, with the general resemblance of its polypifers to "those of the Madreporite Limestone of the Carboniferous series." These polypifers occur in only the lower Lias of Skye. I found no corals in its higher beds, though these are charged with other fossils, more characteristic of the formation, in vast abundance. In not a few of the middle strata, composed of a mud-colored fissile sandstone, the gryphites lie as thickly as currants in a Christmas cake; and as they weather white, while the stone in which they are embedded retains its dingy hue, they somewhat remind one of the white-lead tears of the undertaker mottling a hatchment of sable. In a fragment of the dark sandstone, six inches by seven, which I brought with me, I reckon no fewer than twenty-two gryphites; and it forms but an average specimen of the bed from which I detached it. By far the most abundant species is that not inelegant shell so characteristic of the formation, the Gryphaea incurva. We find detached specimens scattered over the beach by hundreds, mixed up with the remains of recent shells, as if the Gryphaea incurva were a recent shell too. They lie, bleached white by the weather, among the valves of defunct oysters and dead buccinidae; and, from their resemblance to lamps cast in the classic model, remind one, in the corners where they have accumulated most thickly, of the old magician's stock in trade, who wiled away the lamp of Aladdin from Aladdin's simple wife. The Gryphaea obliquita and Gryphaea M'Cullochii also occur among these middle strata of the Lias, though much less frequently than the other. We, besides, found in them at least two species of Pecten, with two species of Terebratula,—the one smooth, the other sulcated; a bivalve resembling a Donax; another bivalve, evidently a Gervillia, though apparently of a species not yet described; and the ill-preserved rings of large Ammonites, from ten inches to a foot in diameter. Towards the bottom of the bay the fossils again become more rare, though they re-appear once more in considerable abundance as we pass along its northern side; but in order to acquaint ourselves with the upper organisms of the formation, we have to take boat and explore the northern shores of Pabba. The Lias of Skye has its three distinct groups of fossils: its lower coraline group, in which the Astrea described is most abundant; its middle group, in which the Gryphaea incurva occurs by millions; and its upper group, abounding in Ammonites, Nautili, Pinnae, and Serpulae.
Friday made amends for the rains and fogs of its disagreeable predecessor: the morning rose bright and beautiful, with just wind enough to fill, and barely fill, the sail, hoisted high, with miser economy, that not a breath might be lost; and, weighing anchor, and shaking out all our canvass, we bore down on Pabba, to explore. This island, so soft in outline and color, is formidably fenced round by dangerous reefs; and, leaving the Betsey in charge of John Stewart and his companion, to dodge on in the offing, I set out with the minister in our little boat, and landed on the north-eastern side of the island, beside a trap-dyke that served us as a pier. He would be a happy geologist who, with a few thousands to spare, could call Pabba his own. It contains less than a square mile of surface; and a walk of little more than three miles and a half along the line where the waves break at high water brings the traveller back to his starting point; and yet, though thus limited in area, the petrifactions of its shores might of themselves fill a museum. They rise by thousands and tens of thousands on the exposed planes of its sea-washed strata, standing out in bold relief, like sculpturings on ancient tombstones, at once mummies and monuments,—the dead and the carved memorials of the dead. Every rock is a tablet of hieroglyphics, with an ascertained alphabet; every rolled pebble a casket with old pictorial records locked up within. Trap-dykes, beyond comparison finer than those of the Water of Leith, which first suggested to Hutton his theory, stand up like fences over the sedimentary strata, or run out like moles far into the sea. The entire island, too, so green, rich, and level, is itself a specimen illustrative of the effect of geologic formation on scenery. We find its nearest neighbor,—the steep, brown, barren island of Longa, which is composed of the ancient Red Sandstone of the district,—differing as thoroughly from it in aspect as a bit of granite differs from a bit of clay-slate; and the whole prospect around, save the green Liasic strip that lies along the bottom of the Bay of Broadford, exhibits, true to its various components, Plutonic or sedimentary, a character of picturesque roughness or bold sublimity. The only piece of smooth, level England, contained in the entire landscape, is the fossil-mottled island of Pabba. We were first struck, on landing this morning, by the great number of Pinnae embedded in the strata,—shells varying from five to ten inches in length,—one species of the common flat type, exemplified in the existing Pinna sulcata, and another nearly quadrangular, in the cross section, like the Pinna lanceolata of the Scarborough limestone. The quadrangular species is more deeply crisped outside than the flat one. Both species bear the longitudinal groove in the centre, and when broken across, are found to contain numerous smaller shells,—Terebratulae of both the smooth and sulcated kinds, and a species of minute smooth Pecten resembling the Pecten demissus, but smaller. The Pinnae, ere they became embedded in the original sea-bottom, long since hardened into rock around them, were, we find, dead shells, into which, as into the dead open shells of our existing beaches, smaller shells were washed by the waves. Our recent Pinnae are all sedentary shells, some of them full two feet in length, fastened to their places on their deep-sea floors by flowing silky byssi,—cables of many strands,—of which beautiful pieces of dress, such as gloves and hose, have been manufactured. An old French naturalist, the Abbe Le Pluche, tells us that "the Pinna with its fleshy tongue" (foot),—a rude inefficient looking implement for work so nice,—"spins such threads as are more valuable than silk itself, and with which the most beautiful stuffs that ever were seen have been made by Sicilian weavers." Gloves made of the byssus of recent Pinnae may be seen in the British Museum. Associated with the numerous Pinnae of Pabba we found a delicately-formed Modiola, a small Ostrya, Plagiostoma, Terebratula, several species of Pectens, a triangular univalve resembling a Trochus, innumerable groups of Serpulae, and the star-like joints of Pentacrinites. The Gryphae are also abundant, occurring in extensive beds; and Belemnites of various species lie as thickly scattered over the rock as if they had been the spindles of a whole kingdom thrown aside in consequence of some such edict framed to put them down as that passed by the father of the Sleeping Beauty. We find, among the detached masses of the beach, specimens of Nautilus, which, though rarely perfect, are sufficiently so to show the peculiarities of the shell; and numerous Ammonites project in relief from almost every weathered plane of the strata. These last shells, in the tract of shore which we examined, are chiefly of one species,—the Ammonites spinatus,—one of which, considerably broken, the reader may find figured in Sowerby's "Mineral Conchology," from a specimen brought from Pabba sixteen years ago by Sir R. Murchison. It is difficult to procure specimens tolerably complete. We find bits of outer rings existing as limestone, with every rib sharply preserved, but the rest of the fossil lost in the shale. I succeeded in finding but two specimens that show the inner whorls. They are thickly ribbed; and the chief peculiarity which they exhibit, not so directly indicated by Mr. Sowerby's figure, is, that while the ribs of the outer whorl are broad and deep, as in the Ammonites obtusus, they suddenly change their character, and become numerous and narrow in the inner whorls, as in the Ammonites communis.
The tide began to flow, and we had to quit our explorations, and return to the Betsey. The little wind had become less, and all the canvas we could hang out enabled us to draw but a sluggish furrow. The stern of the Betsey "wrought no buttons" on this occasion; but she had a good tide under her keel; and ere the dinner-hour we had passed through the narrows of Kyle Akin. The village of this name was designed by the late Lord M'Donald for a great seaport town; but it refused to grow; and it has since become a gentleman in a small way, and does nothing. It forms, however, a handsome group of houses, pleasantly situated on a flat green tongue of land, on the Skye side, just within the opening of the Kyle; and there rises on an eminence beyond it a fine old tower, rent open, as if by an earthquake, from top to bottom, which forms one of the most picturesque objects I have almost ever seen in a landscape. There are bold hills all around, and rocky islands, with the ceaseless rush of tides in front; while the cloven tower, rising high over the shore, is seen, in threading the Kyles, whether from the south or north, relieved dark against the sky, as the central object in the vista. We find it thus described by the Messrs. Anderson of Inverness, in their excellent "Guide Book,"—by far the best companion of the kind with which the traveller who sets himself to explore our Scottish Highlands can be provided. "Close to the village of Kyle Akin are the ruins of an old square keep, called Castle Muel or Maoil, the walls of which are of a remarkable thickness. It is said to have been built by the daughter of a Norwegian king, married to a Mackinnon or Macdonald, for the purpose of levying an impost on all vessels passing the Kyles, excepting, says the tradition, those of her own country. For the more certain exaction of this duty, she is reported to have caused a strong chain to be stretched across from shore to shore; and the spot in the rocks to which the terminal links were attached is still pointed out." It was high time for us to be home. The dinner hour came; but, in meet illustration of the profound remark of Trotty-Veck, not the dinner. We had been in a cold Moderate district, whence there came no half-dozens of eggs, or whole dozens of trout, or pailfuls of razor-fish, and in which hard cabin-biscuit cost us sixpence per pound. And now our stores were exhausted, and we had to dine as best we could, on our last half-ounce of tea, sweetened by our last quarter of a pound of sugar. I had marked, however, a dried thornback hanging among the rigging. It had been there nearly three weeks before, when I came first aboard, and no one seemed to know for how many weeks previous; for as it had come to be a sort of fixture in the vessel, it could be looked at without being seen. But necessity sharpens the discerning faculty, and on this pressing occasion I was fortunate enough to see it. It was straightway taken down, skinned, roasted, and eaten; and, though rather rich in ammonia,—a substance better suited to form the food of the organisms that do not unite sensation to vitality, than organisms so high in the scale as the minister and his friend,—we came deliberately to the opinion, that on the whole, we could scarce have dined so well on one of Major Bellenden's jack-boots,—"so thick in the soles," according to Jenny Dennison, "forby being tough in the upper leather." The tide failed us opposite the opening of Loch Alsh; the wind, long dying, at length died out into a dead calm; and we cast anchor in ten fathoms water, to wait the ebbing current that was to carry us through Kyle Rhea.
The ebb-tide set in about half an hour after sunset; and in weighing anchor to float down the Kyle,—for we still lacked wind to sail down it,—we brought up from below, on one of the anchor-flukes, an immense bunch of deep-sea tangle, with huge soft fronds and long slender stems, that had lain flat on the rocky bottom, and had here and there thrown out roots along its length of stalk, to attach itself to the rock, in the way the ivy attaches itself to the wall. Among the intricacies of the true roots of the bunch, if one may speak of the true roots of an alga, I reckoned from eighteen to twenty different forms of animal life,—Flustrae, Sertulariae, Serpulae, Anomiae, Modiolae, Astarte, Annelida, Crustacea, and Radiata. Among the Crustaceans I found a female crab of a reddish-brown color, considerably smaller than the nail of my small finger, but fully grown apparently, for the abdominal flap was loaded with spawn; and among the Echinoderms, a brownish-yellow sea-urchin about the size of a pistol-bullet, furnished with comparatively large but thinly-set spines. There is a dangerous rock in the Kyle Rhea, the Caileach stone, on which the Commissioners for the Northern Lighthouses have stuck a bit of board about the size of a pot-lid, which, as it is known to be there, and as no one ever sees it after sunset, is really very effective, considering how little it must have cost the country, in wrecking vessels. I saw one of its victims, the sloop of an honest Methodist, in whose bottom the Caileach had knocked out a hole, repairing at Isle Ornsay; and I was told, that if I wished to see more, I had only just to wait a little. The honest Methodist, after looking out in vain for the bit of board, was just stepping into the shrouds, to try whether he could not see the rock on which the bit of board is placed, when all at once his vessel found out both board and rock for herself. We also had anxious looking out this evening for the bit of board: one of us thought he saw it right a-head; and when some of the others were trying to see it too, John Stewart succeeded in discovering it half a pistol-shot astern. The evening was one of the loveliest. The moon rose in cloudy majesty over the mountains of Glenelg, brightening as it rose, till the boiling eddies around us curled on the darker surface in pale circlets of light, and the shadow of the Betsey lay as sharply defined on the brown patch of calm to the larboard as if it were her portrait taken in black. Immediately at the water-edge, under a tall dark hill, there were two smouldering fires, that now shot up a sudden tongue of bright flame, and now dimmed into blood-red specks, and sent thick strongly-scented trails of smoke athwart the surface of the Kyle. We could hear, in the calm, voices from beside them, apparently those of children; and learned that they indicated the places of two kelp-furnaces,—things which have now become comparatively rare along the coasts of the Hebrides. There was the low rush of tides all around, and the distant voices from the shore, but no other sounds; and, dim in the moonshine, we could see behind us several spectral-looking sails threading their silent way through the narrows, like twilight ghosts traversing some haunted corridor.
It was late ere we reached the opening of Isle Ornsay; and as it was still a dead calm we had to tug in the Betsey to the anchoring ground with a pair of long sweeps. The minister pointed to a low-lying rock on the left-hand side of the opening,—a favorite haunt of the seal. "I took farewell of the Betsey there last winter," he said. "The night had worn late, and was pitch dark; we could see before us scarce the length of our bowsprit; not a single light twinkled from the shore; and, in taking the bay, we ran bump on the skerry, and stuck fast. The water came rushing in, and covered over the cabin-floor. I had Mrs. Swanson and my little daughter aboard with me, with one of our servant-maids who had become attached to the family, and insisted on following us from Eigg; and, of course, our first care was to get them ashore. We had to land them on the bare uninhabited island yonder, and a dreary enough place it was at midnight, in winter, with its rocks, bogs, and heath, and with a rude sea tumbling over the skerries in front; but it had at least the recommendation of being safe, and the sky, though black and wild, was not stormy. I had brought two lanterns ashore: the servant girl, with the child in her lap, sat beside one of them, in the shelter of a rock; while my wife, with the other, went walking up and down along a piece of level sward yonder, waving the light, to attract notice from the opposite side of the bay. But though it was seen from the windows of my own house by an attached relative, it was deemed merely a singularly-distinct apparition of Will o' the Wisp, and so brought us no assistance. Meanwhile we had carried out a kedge astern of the Betsey, as the sea was flowing at the time, to keep her from beating in over the rocks; and then, taking our few movables ashore, we hung on till the tide rose, and, with our boat alongside ready for escape, succeeded in warping her into deep water, with the intention of letting her sink somewhere beyond the influence of the surf, which, without fail, would have broken her up on the skerry in a few hours, had we suffered her to remain there. But though, when on the rock, the tide had risen as freely over the cabin sole inside as over the crags without, in the deep water the Betsey gave no sign of sinking. I went down to the cabin; the water was knee-high on the floor, dashing against bed and locker, but it rose no higher;—the enormous leak had stopped, we knew not how; and, setting ourselves to the pump, we had in an hour or two a clear ship. The Betsey is clinker-built below. The elastic oak planks had yielded inwards to the pressure of the rock, tearing out the fastenings, and admitted the tide at wide yawning seams; but no sooner was the pressure removed, than out they sprung again into their places, like bows when the strings are slackened; and when the carpenter came to overhaul, he found he had little else to do than to remove a split plank, and to supply a few dozens of drawn nails."
Isle Ornsay—The Sabbath—A Sailor-minister's Sermon for Sailors—The Scuir Sermon—Loch Carron—Groups of Moraines—A sheep District—The Editor of the Witness and the Establishment Clergyman—Dingwall—Conon-side revisited—The Pond and its Changes—New Faces—The Stonemason's Mark—The Burying Ground of Urquhart—An old acquaintance—Property Qualification for Voting in Scotland—Montgerald Sandstone Quarries—Geological Science in Cromarty—The Danes at Cromarty—The Danish Professor and the "Old Red Sandstone"—Harmonizing tendencies of Science.
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 harborage; 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 neighborhood of the cave of Frances, 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 Fraingh lay within a few hundred yards of them,—and that the Scuir, with the sun shining bright on its summit, rose tall in the background, scarce a mile away.
On Monday I spent several hours in reexploring the Lias of Lucy Bay and its neighborhood, 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 extent, 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 waist-coat 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 in 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 is 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 post man 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 neighborhood 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 were 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 Cryptogamiae, and bore no specific resemblance to the productions of a present time. I had passed in the neighborhood 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.
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.
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. 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 derive their vote. My companion failed to recognize 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 Encyclopaedia, with colored 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 color 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 Discord 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.
Ichthyolite Beds—An interesting Discovery—Two Storeys of Organic Remains in the Old Red Sandstone—Ancient Ocean of Lower Old Red—Two great Catastrophes—Ancient Fish Scales—Their skilful Mechanism displayed by examples—Bone Lips—Arts of the Slater and Tiler as old as Old Red Sandstone—Jet Trinkets—Flint Arrow-heads—Vitrified Forts of Scotland—Style of grouping Lower Old Red Fossils—Illustration from Cromarty Fishing Phenomena—Singular Remains of Holoptychius—Ramble with Mr. Robert Dick—Color of the Planet Mars—Tombs never dreamed of by Hervey—Skeleton of the Bruce—Gigantic Holoptychius—"Coal money Currency"—Upper Boundary of Lower Old Red—Every one may add to the Store of Geological Facts—Discoveries of Messrs. Dick and Peach.
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 neighborhood 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 wide-spread 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 neighborhood 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 carcasses 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 neighborhood 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 flagstones 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 armor—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 armor 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 sereved 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 stubborn 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 beforehand with me in the discovery of the bituminous jet of the Lower Old Red Sandstone, 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 Diplacanthus, 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 neighborhood 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 per centage 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 landlocked 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 dog-fish 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.