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Snatch from the ashes of your sires
Bear witness, Greece, thy living page,
GEORGE GORDON NOËL BYRON.
THE BOYS' VISIT TO THE DOOCOT CAVES.
Hugh MILLER was born at Cromarty, Scotland, Oct. 10, 1802. Even in childhood he showed a fondness for the works of the great English writers of prose and verse. Beginning when he was seventeen, he worked for many years at the trade of stone mason, devoting the winter months to study. The employment in which he was engaged led him to take a strong interest in the science of geology. In 1839 he began the editing of a newspaper, and in its columns were first printed the articles on geology which eventually made up his book, “ The Old Red Sandstone." He wrote many other valuable books, a number of which were published after his death.
He died Dec. 23, 1856.
It was on a pleasant spring morning that, with my little curious friend beside me, I stood on the beach opposite the eastern promontory, that, with its stern granitic wall, bars access for ten days out of every fourteen to the wonders of the Doocot; and saw it stretching provokingly out into the green water. It was hard to be disappointed and the cave so near.
The tide was low neap, and if we wanted a passage dry shod, it behooved us to wait for at least a week but neither of us understood the philosophy of neap tides at the period. I was quite sure I had got round at low water with my uncles not a great many days before, and we both inferred that if we but suc
ceeded in getting round now, it would be a pleasure to wait among the caves inside till such time as the fall of the tide should lay bare a passage for our return.
A narrow and broken shelf runs along the promontory, on which, by the assistance of the naked toe and the toe nail, it is just possible to creep. ceeded in scrambling up to it; and then, crawling outward on all fours, the precipice, as we proceeded, beetling more and more formidable from above, and the water becoming greener and deeper below, - we reached the outer point of the promontory; and then doubling the cape on a still narrowing margin, we found the ledge terminating just where, after clearing the sea, it overhung the gravelly beach at an elevation of nearly ten feet. Adown we both dropped, proud of our success; up splashed the rattling gravel as we fell. . . . The marvels of the Doocot Cave might be regarded as solely and exclusively our
The first few hours were hours of sheer enjoyment. The larger cave proved a mine of marvels, and we found a great deal additional to wonder at on the slopes beneath the precipices and along the piece of rocky sea beach in front. We succeeded in discovering for ourselves dwarf bushes, that told of the blighting influence of the sea spray; the pale yellow honeysuckle, that we had never seen before, save in gardens and shrubberies; and on a deeply shaded slope that leaned against one of the steeper precipices we detected the sweet-scented woodruff. .
There, too, immediately in the opening of the deeper cave, where a small stream came pattering in detached drops from the over-beetling precipice above, like the first drops of a heavy thundershower, we found the hot, bitter, scurvy grass, with its minute cruciform flowers, which the great Captain Cook had used in his voyages ; above all, there were the caves with their pigeons, — white, variegated, and blue, — and their mysterious and gloomy depths, in which plants hardened into stone and water became marble. In a short time we had broken off with our hammer whole pocketfuls of stalactites and petrified moss.
It did seem rather ominous, however, and perhaps somewhat supernatural to boot, that about an hour after noon, the tide, while there was yet a full fathom of water beneath the brow of the promontory, ceased to fall, and then, after a quarter of an hour's space, began actually to creep upwards on the beach. But just hoping that there might be some mistake in the matter, which the evening tide would scarce fail to rectify, we continued to amuse ourselves, and to hope on.
Hour after hour passed, lengthening as the shadows lengthened, and yet the tide still rose. The sun had sunk behind the precipices, and all was gloom along their bases, and double gloom in their caves; but their rugged brows still caught the red glare of evening. The flush rose higher and higher, chased by the shadows; and then, after lingering for a moment on their crests of honeysuckle and juniper, passed away, and the whole became somber and gray.
The seagull sprang upward from where he had floated on the ripple, and hied him slowly away to his lodge in his deep-sea stack; the dusky cormorant flitted past, with heavier and more frequent stroke, to his whitened shelf high on the precipice; the pigeons came whizzing downward from the uplands and the opposite land, and disappeared amid the gloom of their caves ; every creature that had wings made use of them in speeding homeward; but neither my companion nor myself had any; and there was no possibility of getting home without them.
We made desperate efforts to scale the precipices and on two several occasions succeeded in reaching midway shelves among crags,
where the sparrow hawk and the raven build; but though we had climbed well enough to render our return a matter of bare possibility, there was no possibility whatever of our getting farther up; the cliffs had never been scaled before, and they were not destined to be scaled
And so, as the twilight deepened, and the precarious footing became every moment more doubtful and precarious still, we had just to give up in despair.
“Wouldn't care for myself," said the poor little fellow, my companion, bursting into tears,“ if it were not for my mother; but what will my mother say ?