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mestic misfortune, he had long renounced that and every other gainful calling. In the language of Scripture, he left his house, his home, and his kindred, and wandered about until the day of his death; a period, it is said, of about thirty years.
During this long pilgrimage, the pious enthusiast regulated his
circuit so as annually to visit the graves of the unfortunate Covenanters who suffered by the sword or by the executioner, during the reigns of the two last monarchs of the Stuart line. Their tombs are often apart from all human habitation, in the remote moors and wilds to which the wanderers had fled for concealment. But, wherever they existed, Old Mortality was sure to visit them when his annual round brought them within his reach.
In the most lonely recess'es of the mountains, the moorfowl shooter has been often surprised to find him busied in cleaning the moss from the gray stones, renewing with his chisel the half-defaced inscriptions, and repairing the emblems of death with which these simple monuments are usually adorned.
Motives of the most sincere, though fanciful devotion, induced the old man to dedicate so many years of existence to perform this tribute to the memory of the deceased warriors of the church. He considered himself as fulfilling a sācred duty, while renewing, to the eyes of posterity, the decaying emblems of the zeal and sufferings of their forefathers, and thereby trimming, as it were, the beacon light which was to warn future generations to defend their religion even unto blood.
In all his wanderings, the old pilgrim never seemed to need, or was known to accept, pecuniary assistance. It is true, his wants were very few; for wherever he went he found ready quarters in the house of some Cameronian of his own sect, or of some other religious person. The hospitality which was reverentially paid to him he always acknowledged by repairing the grave stones (if there existed any) belonging to the family or ăncestors of his host. As the wanderer was usually to be seen bent on this pious task within the precincts of some country church-yard, or reclined on the solitary tomb-stone among the heath, disturbing the plover and the black-cock with the clink of his chisel and mallet, with his old white pony grazing by his side, he acquired, from his converse among the dead, the popular appellation of Old Mortality.
The character of such a man would have in it little connexion even with innocent gayety. Yet among those of his own religious persuasion, he is reported to have been cheerful. The descendants of persecutors, or those whom he supposed guilty of entertaining similar tenets, and the scoffers at religion by whom he was sometimes assailed, he usually termed the generation of vipers. Conversing with others, he was grave and sententious, not without a cast of severity.
But he is said never to have been observed to give way to violent passion, excepting upon one occasion, when a mis'chievous truant-boy defaced with a stone the nose of a cherub's face which the old man was engaged in retouching. I am, in general, a sparer of the rod, notwithstanding the maxim of Solomon, for which school-boys have little reason to thank his memory but on this occasion I deemed it proper to show that I did not hate the child.—But I must return to the circumstances attending my first interview with this interesting enthusiast.
In accosting Old Mortality, I did not fail to pay respect to his years and his principles, beginning my address by a respectful apology for interrupting his labors. The old man intermitted the operation of the chisel, took off his spectacles and wiped them, then replacing them on his nose, acknowledged my courtesy* by a suitable return. Encouraged by his affability, I intruded upon him some questions coll. cerning the sufferers upon whose monument he was now employed.
To talk of the exploits of the Covenanters was the delight, as to repair their monuments was the business, of his life. He was profuse in the communication of all the minute information which he had collected concerning them, their wars, and their wanderings. One would almost have supposed he must have been their contemporary, and have actually beheld the passages which he related; so much had he identified his feelings and opinions with theirs, and so much had his narratives the circumstantiality of an eye-witness.****
Soothing the old man by letting his peculiar opinions pass without contradiction, and anxious to prolong conversation with so singular a character, I prevailed upon him to accept that hospitality which my pātron is always willing to extend to those who need it. In our way to the schoolmaster's house we called at the Wallace Inn, where I was pretty certain I should find my pātron about that hour of the evening.
* Pron, kur'-te-se.
As no per
After a courteous interchange of civilities, Old Mortality was prevailed upon to join his host in a single glass of liquor, and that on condition that he should be permitted to name the pledge, which he prěfaced with a grace of about five minutes, and then, with bonnet doffed and eyes uplifted, drank to the memory of those heroes of the Kirk who had first uplifted her banner upon the mountains. suasion could prevail on him to extend his conviviality to a second cup, my patron accompanied him home, and accommodated him with the prophet's chamber, as it is his pleasure to call the closet which holds a spare bed, and which is frequently a place of retreat for the poor traveller.
The next day I took my leave of Old Mortality, who seemed affected by the unusual attention with which I had cultivated his acquaintance, and listened to his conversation. After he had mounted, not without difficulty, the old white pony,
he took me by the hand, and said, “The blessing of our Master be with you, young man. My hours are like the ears of the latter harvest, and your days are yet in the spring; and yet, you may be gathered into the garner of mortality before me; for the sickle of death cuts down the green as oft as the ripe ; and there is a color in your cheek, that, like the bud of the rose, serveth oft to hide the worm of corruption. Wherefore, labor as one who knoweth not when his master calleth. And if it be my lot to return to this village after you are gone home to your own place, these auld withered hands will frame a stone of memorial, that your name may not perish from among the people."
I thanked Old Mortality for his kind intentions in my behalf, and heaved a sigh, not, I think, of regret so much as of résignation, to think of the chance that I might soon require his good offices. But though, in all human probability, he did not err in supposing that my span of life may be abridged in youth, he had over-estimated the period of his own pilgrimage on earth. It is now some years since he has been missed in all his usual haunts, while moss, lichen, and deer-hair, are fast covering those stones, to cleanse which had been the business of his life.
About the beginning of this century, he closed his mortal toils, being found on the highway near Lockerby, in Dumfries-shire, exhausted and just expiring. The old white pony, the companion of all his wanderings, was standing by the side of his dying master. There was found upon
person a sum of money sufficient for his decent interment, which
serves to show that his death was in no ways hastened by violence, or by want.
The common people still regard his memory with great respect; and many are of opinion that the stones which he repaired will not again require the assistance of the chisel. They even assert, that, on the tombs where the manner of the martyrs' murder is recorded, their names have remained indelibly legible since the death of Old Mortality; while those of the persecutors, sculptured on the same monuments, have been entirely defaced. It is hardly necessary to say that this is a fond imagination, and that, since the time of the pious pilgrim, the monuments, which were the objects of his care, are hastening, like all earthly memorials, into ruin and decay.
The religious cottage.-D. HUNTINGTON. “Seest thou yon lonely cottage in the grove
With little garden neatly planned beforeIts roof, deep shaded by the elms above,
Moss-grown, and decked with velvet verdure o'er ?
Go lift the willing latch-the scene explore-
For there religion dwells; whose sācred lore
Up springs the peasant from his calm repose ;
And tastes the sweets of nature as he goes—
But first, of Sharon's fairest, sweetest rose,
Looks to the source whence every blessing flows,
His faithful partner and their blooming train,
The heaven-directed path of life to gain.
The lay of love and joy together sing,
To Him whose bounty clothes the smiling plain, Who spreads the beauties of the blooming spring, And tunes the warbling throats that make the valleys ring."
The deaf man's grave.--WORDSWORTH.
ALMOST at the root
in loneliness of soul;