So deep was the impression made by the story on the inhabitants of Mynehead, that it is said the tradition of Mrs. Leckie still remains in that port; and that mariners belonging to it often, amid tempestuous weather, conceive they hear the whistle-call of the implacable hag who was the source of so much mischief to her own family. However, already too desultory, and too long, it would become intolerably tedious were we to insist farther on the peculiar sort of genius by which stories of this kind may be embodied and prolonged.
I may, however, add, that the charm of the tale depends much upon the age of the person to whom it is addressed ; and that the vivacity of fancy which engages us in youth to pass over much that is absurd, in order to enjoy some single trait of imagination, dies within us when we obtain the age of manhood, and the sadder and graver regions which lie beyond it. I am the more conscious of this, because I have been myself, at two periods of my life, distant from each other, engaged in scenes favourable to that degree of superstitious awe which my countrymen expressively call being eerie.
* Apparition Evidence.
On the first of these occasions, I was only nineteen or twenty years old, when I happened to pass a night in the magnificent old baronial castle of Glammis, the hereditary seat of the Earls of Strathmore. The hoary pile contains much in its appearance, and in the traditions connected with it, impressive to the imagination. It was the scene of the murder of a Scottish king of great antiquity ; not, indeed, the gracious Duncan, with whom the name naturally associates itself, but Malcolm II. It contains also a curious monument of the peril of feudal times, being a secret chamber, the entrance of which, by the law or custom of the family, must only be known to three persons at once, viz. the Earl of Strathmore, his heir apparent, and any third person whom they may take into their confidence. The extreme antiquity of the building is vouched by the immense thickness of the walls, and the wild and straggling arrangement of the accommodation within doors. As the late Earl of Strathmore seldom resided in that ancient mansion, it was, when I was there, but half furnished, and that with movables of great antiquity, which, with the pieces of chivalric armour hanging upon the walls, greatly contributed to the general effect of the whole. After a very hospitable reception from the late Peter Proctor, Esq., then seneschal of the castle, in Lord Strathmore's absence, I was conducted to my apartment in a distant corner of the building. I must own that, as I heard door after door shut after my conductor had retired, I began to consider myself too far from the living, and somewhat too near the dead. We had passed through what is called " the King's room," a vaulted apartment, garnished with stags' antlers and similar trophies of the chase, and said by tradition to be the spot of Malcolm's murder ; and I had an idea of the vicinity of the castle chapel.
In spite of the truth of history, the whole night scene in Macbeth's castle rushed at once upon my mind, and struck my imagination more forcibly than even when I have seen its terrors represented by the late John Kemble and his inimitable sister. In a word, I experienced sensations, which, though not remarkable either for timidity or superstition, did not fail to affect me to the point of being disagreeable, while they were mingled at the same time with a strange and indescribable kind of pleasure, the recollection of which affords me gratification at this moment.
In the year 1814, accident placed me, then past middle life, in a situation somewhat similar to that which I have described.
I had been on a pleasure voyage with some friends around the north coast of Scotland, and in that course had arrived in the salt-water lake under the Castle of Dunvegan, whose turrets, situated upon a frowning rock, rise immediately above the waves of the loch. As most of the party, and I myself in particular, chanced to be well known to the Laird of Macleod, we were welcomed to the castle with Highland hospitality, and glad to find ourselves in polished society, after a cruise of some duration. The most modern part of the castle was founded in the days of James VI. ; the more ancient is referred to a period " whose birth tradition notes not." Until the present Macleod connected by a drawbridge the site of the castle with the mainland of Skye, the access must have been extremely difficult. Indeed, so much greater was the regard paid to security than to convenience that, in former times, the only access to the mansion arose through a vaulted cavern in a rock, up which a staircase ascended from the seashore, like the buildings we read of in the romances of Mrs. Radcliffe.
Such a castle in the extremity of the Highlands was of course furnished with many a tale of tradition, and many a superstitious legend, to fill occasional intervals in music and song, as proper to the halls of Dunvegan as when Johnson commemorated them. We reviewed the arms and ancient valuables of this distinguished family—saw the dirk and broadsword of Rorio Mhor, and his horn, which would drench three chiefs of these degenerate days. The solemn drinking-cup of the Kings of Man must not be forgotten, nor the fairy dinner given to Macleod by the queen of Fairies : that magic flag, which has been victorious in two pitched fields, and will still float in a third, the bloodiest and the last, when the Elfin Sovereign shall, after the fight is ended, recall her banner, and carry off the standard-bearer.
Amid such tales of ancient tradition, I had from Macleod and his lady the courteous offer of the haunted apartment of the castle, about which, as a stranger, I might be supposed interested. Accordingly I took possession of it about the witching hour. Except, perhaps, some tapestry hangings, and the extreme thickness of the walls, which argued great antiquity, nothing could have been more comfortable than the interior of the apartment: but if you looked from the windows the view was such as to correspond with the highest tone of superstition. An autumnal blast, sometimes clear, sometimes driving mist before it, swept along the troubled billows of the lake, which it occasionally concealed, and by fits disclosed. The waves rushed in wild disorder on the shore, and covered with foam the steep piles of rock, which rising from the sea in forms something resembling the human figure, have obtained the name of Macleod's Maidens, and in such a night seemed no bad representatives of the Norwegian goddesses, called Choosers of the Slain, or Riders of the Storm. There was something of the dignity of danger in the scene ; for on a platform beneath the windows lay an ancient battery of cannon, which had sometimes been used against privateers even of late years. The distant scene was a view of that part of Ouillan mountains which are called, from their form, Macleod's Dining-tables. The voice of an angry cascade, termed the Nurse of Rorio Mhor, because that chief slept best in its vicinity, was heard from time to time mingling its notes with those of wind and wave. Such was the haunted room at Dunvegan ; and, as such, it well deserved a less sleepy inhabitant. In the language of Dr. Johnson, who has stamped his memory on this remote place, " I looked around me, and wondered that I was not more affected ; but the mind is not at all times equally ready to be moved." In a word, it is necessary to confess that, of all I heard or saw, the most engaging spectacle was the comfortable bed, in which I hoped to make amends for some rough nights on ship-board, and where I slept accordingly, without thinking of ghost or goblin, till I was called by my servant in the morning.