Chapter 8

Expert climbers - The crags - Something red - The horrible edge - David Haggart - Fine materials - The greatest victory - Extraordinary robber - The ruling passion.

MEANWHILE I had become a daring cragsman, a character to which an English lad has seldom opportunities of aspiring; for in England there are neither crags nor mountains. Of these, however, as is well known, there is no lack in Scotland, and the habits of individuals are invariably in harmony with the country in which they dwell. The Scotch are expert climbers, and I was now a Scot in most things, particularly in language. The Castle in which I dwelt stood upon a rock, a bold and craggy one, which, at first sight, would seem to bid defiance to any feet save those of goats and chamois; but patience and perseverance generally enable mankind to overcome things which, at first sight, appear impossible. Indeed, what is there above man’s exertions? Unwearied determination will enable him to run with the horse, to swim with the fish, and assuredly to compete with the chamois and the goat in agility and sureness of foot. To scale the rock was merely child’s play for the Edinbro’ callants. It was my own favourite diversion. I soon found that the rock contained all manner of strange crypts, crannies, and recesses, where owls nestled, and the weasel brought forth her young; here and there were small natural platforms, overgrown with long grass and various kinds of plants, where the climber, if so disposed, could stretch himself, and either give his eyes to sleep or his mind to thought; for capital places were these same platforms either for repose or meditation. The boldest features of the rock are descried on the northern side, where, after shelving down gently from the wall for some distance, it terminates abruptly in a precipice, black and horrible, of some three hundred feet at least, as if the axe of nature had been here employed cutting sheer down, and leaving behind neither excrescence nor spur - a dizzy precipice it is, assimilating much to those so frequent in the flinty hills of Northern Africa, and exhibiting some distant resemblance to that of Gibraltar, towering in its horridness above the Neutral Ground.

It was now holiday time, and having nothing particular wherewith to occupy myself, I not unfrequently passed the greater part of the day upon the rocks. Once, after scaling the western crags, and creeping round a sharp angle of the wall, overhung by a kind of watch-tower, I found myself on the northern side. Still keeping close to the wall, I was proceeding onward, for I was bent upon a long excursion which should embrace half the circuit of the Castle, when suddenly my eye was attracted by the appearance of something red, far below me; I stopped short, and, looking fixedly upon it, perceived that it was a human being in a kind of red jacket, seated on the extreme verge of the precipice which I have already made a faint attempt to describe. Wondering who it could be, I shouted; but it took not the slightest notice, remaining as immovable as the rock on which it sat. ‘I should never have thought of going near that edge,’ said I to myself; ‘however, as you have done it, why should not I? And I should like to know who you are.’ So I commenced the descent of the rock, but with great care, for I had as yet never been in a situation so dangerous; a slight moisture exuded from the palms of my hands, my nerves were tingling, and my brain was somewhat dizzy - and now I had arrived within a few yards of the figure, and had recognised it: it was the wild drummer who had turned the tide of battle in the bicker on the Castle Brae. A small stone which I dislodged now rolled down the rock, and tumbled into the abyss close beside him. He turned his head, and after looking at me for a moment somewhat vacantly, he resumed his former attitude. I drew yet nearer to the horrible edge not close, however, for fear was on me.

‘What are you thinking of, David?’ said I, as I sat behind him and trembled, for I repeat that I was afraid.

David Haggart. I was thinking of Willie Wallace.

Myself. You had better be thinking of yourself, man. A strange place this to come to and think of William Wallace.

David Haggart. Why so? Is not his tower just beneath our feet?

Myself. You mean the auld ruin by the side of the Nor Loch - the ugly stane bulk, from the foot of which flows the spring into the dyke where the watercresses grow?

David Haggart. Just sae, Geordie.

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.