THE scales of the ganoid order consist of three plates, — an inner, an outer, and an intervening one. The outer is composed mainly of enamel, and retains, when entire, however long exposed, much of the original dinginess of hue which it bore in the quarry: the inner is a plane of porcelanic-looking bone: the intermediate plate is finely composed of concentric lines, crossed from the centre to the circumference by finely radiating ones; and when, as mostly happens, this middle plate is exposed, the appearance of a mass of scales through the glass is of great beauty. The rays of our soft-finned fish (Malacopterygii), such as the haddock, seem as if cut through at minute distances, and then re-united, though less firmly than where the bone is entire, with the design, it would seem, of giving to the organs of motion which they compose the necessary flexibility, somewhat on the principle that a carpenter cuts half- through with his saw the piece of moulding which he intends bending along some rounded corner, or forcing into some concave. But in the ancient ganoid fish, in which the rays are bare enamelled bones, and necessarily of great rigidity, the joints appear real, not fictitious. We see them cut across into short lengths, a single fin consisting of many hundred pieces; and the problem lay in conceiving how [244] such a fin was to be wrought, — whether, for instance, each detached length was to have its moving ligament; and if so, how a piece of machinery so very complicated and multifarious was to be set and kept in motion. Here, however, I found the problem very simply resolved. The rays of the ganoid fish, like its scales, consist of three plates, — two plates of enamel, one on each side, and an interior plate of bone. Now the joints, — though so well marked, that in rays imbricated on the sides, as in those of the Cheirolepis, the imbricated markings turn the corners, if one may so speak, just as the carvings on a moulding recounter, as a workman would say, at the corners of a building, — are not real joints after all: they reach but through the inflexible enamel, leaving the central plate of bone undivided. — Like the rays of the Malacopterygii, they are formed on the principle of the half-sawn moulding. I observed, too, that the inner plate is in every instance considerably narrower than the plates of enamel which rest upon it. In the lateral edges of every ray which composes the inner portion of the fin there must exist a groove, therefore; and in this groove, it is probable, the connecting membrane at one time lay hid, performing, like an invisible hinge, its work unseen.


I ONCE found an interesting illustration of the bone-bed, coupled with at least one of the causes to which it owes its origin, in the upper part of the Moray Firth. I had been spending a night at the herring-fishing, on one of the most famous fishing-banks of the east coast of Scotland, — the bank of Guilliam. It is a long, flat ridge of rock that rises to within ten or twelve fathoms of the surface. On its southern edge there is a submarine valley that sinks to at [245] least twice that depth; and in the course of the night our boat drifted from off the rocky ridge, the haunt of the herrings, to the deepest part of the valley, where scarce a herring is ever found. Our nets had, however, brought fish with them from the fishing-ground, sufficient in quantity to sink them to the bottom of the hollow; and in raising them up, — a work of some little exertion, — we found them be-daubed with patches of a stinking, adhesive mud, that, where partially washed on the surface, seemed literally bristling over with minute fish-bones. The muddy bottom of the valley may be regarded as a sort of submarine burial ground, — an extensive bone-bed in the forming. 'What,' we asked an intelligent old fisherman, ' brings the fish here to die? Have you observed bones here before?' 'I have observed them often,' he said: 'we catch few herrings here; but in winter and spring, when the cold draws the fish from off the shallows into deep water, we catch a great many haddocks and cod in it, and bring up on our lines large lumps of the foul bottom. In spring, when most of the small fish are sickly and out of season, and too weak to lie near the shore, where the water is rough and cold, they take shelter in the deep here in shoals; and thousands of them, as the bones testify, die in the mud, not because they come to die in it, but just because their sickly season is also their dying season.' And such seemed to be the true secret of the accumulation. The fish resorted to this place of shelter, not in order that they might die, but that they might live; just as people go to poor-houses and hospitals with a similar intention, and yet die in them at times notwithstanding. And hence, I doubt not, in most instances those accumulations of fish-bones which men accustomed to the use of the trawl-net find in detached spots of bottom, when in other parts, not less frequented by fish in the milder seasons, not a single bone is to be found, and which have been described as dying places. The dying places, — the [246] deep burial-grounds of the sea's finny inhabitants, — will be found almost always to prove their places of shelter. And hence, it is probable, many of the bone-beds of the geologist.


LET the reader imagine a fish delicately carved in ivory, and then crusted with a smooth shining enamel, not less hard than that which covers the human teeth, but thickly dotted with minute puncturings, as if stippled all over with the point of a fine needle; — let him imagine the enamelled rays lying so thickly in the fins, that no connecting membrane appears, and that each individual ray consists of numerous pseudo-joints, so rounded at their terminations, that each joint seems a small oblong scale, or each ray, rather, a string of oval beads; — in due harmony with the rounded joints, let him imagine the scales of a circular form, and so regularly laid on, that the ruler ranges along them in three different ways, — from head to tail, parallel to the deeply-marked lateral line, and in slant angles across the body; — immediately under the gill-covers, which consist, as in the sturgeon, of but a single plate apiece, let him imagine two strong pectoral fins of an angular form, with an interior angle in each covered with small scales, and the rays, as in the case of the tail, forming but a fringe around it; — let him imagine the ventral fins, which lie far adown the body, of an exactly similar pattern, — angular projections covered with scales in the centre, and fringed on two of their edges with rays; — exactly opposite to these, let there occur an anterior dorsal fin of comparatively small size, and then exactly opposite to the anal fin a posterior dorsal of at least twice the size of the other; let the anal fin be also large and sweeping, extending for a considerable way under the tail, [247] which must, like the tails of all the more ancient fish, be formed mainly on the under side, the vertebral column running on to its termination; — and the fish so formed will be a fair representation of the ancient Dipterus. Presenting externally in its original state no fragment of skin or membrane, and with even its most flexible organs sheathed in enamelled bone, it must have very much resembled a fish carved in ivory. What chiefly struck me in the examination was the peculiar structure of the ventral fins, — the hind paws of the creature, if I may so speak. Their internal angle of scales imparts to them an appearance of very considerable strength, — such an appearance as that presented by the hind fins of the Ichthyosaurus, which, as shown by a lately-discovered specimen, were furnished on the outer edges by a fringe of cartilaginous rays; and I deemed it interesting thus to mark the true fish approximating in structure, ere the reptilia yet existed, to the reptile type. The young frog, when in its transition state, gets its legs fully developed, and yet for some little time thereafter retains its tail. The Dipterus seems to have been a fish formed on this sort of transition plan.


WHAT first strikes the observer in the appearance of the fossil-wood of this coast is the great distinctness with which the annual layers are marked. The harder lines of tissue, formed in the end of autumn, stand out as distinctly on the weathered surfaces as we see them in pieces of dressed deal that have been exposed for a series of years to the light and the air. The winters of the Oolitic period in this northern locality must have been sufficiently severe to have given a thorough check to vegetation. We are next struck by the great inequality of size in these layers, as we find them shown [248] in separate specimens. I brought with me one specimen in which there is a single layer nearly half an inch in breadth, and another in which, in no greater space, there occur fourteen different layers. The tree to which the one belonged must have been increasing in bulk fourteen times more rapidly than that of the other. Occasionally, too, we find very considerable diversities of size in the layers of the same specimen. One year added to its bulk nearly half an inch; in another it increased scarce an eighth part. Then, as now, there must have been genial seasons, in which there luxuriated a rich-leaved vegetation, and other seasons of a severer cast, in which vegetation languished. My microscope, a botanist's, was of no great power; but, by using its three glasses together, and carefully grinding down small patches of the weathered wood till it began to darken, I could ascertain with certainty, from the structure of the cellular tissue, what, indeed, seemed sufficiently apparent to the naked eye from the general appearance of the specimens, that they all belonged to the coniferæ. When viewed longitudinally, I could discern the elongated cells lying side by side, and the medullary rays stretching at right angles across; but my glass lacked power to show the glandular dots. When viewed transversely, the regularly reticulated texture of the coniferæ was very apparent. A bluish-grey limestone adhered to some of the specimens, and bore evidence in the same track. It abounded in cones and fragments of cones, in what seemed minute needle-shaped leaves, and in thin detached pieces of bark, like those which fall off in scales from the rind of so many of the coniferæ. The limestone bore also its frequent fragments of fern. There seemed nothing lacking to restore the picture. There rose before me a solemn forest of pines, deep, shaggy, and sombre; its opening slopes and with drawing vistas were cheered by the lighter green of the bracken; and far beyond, where the coast terminated, and the feathery tree-tops were relieved against the dark blue of [249] the sea, a long line of surf tumbled incessantly over a continuous reef of coral.

I picked up one very fine specimen, which, though it weighed nearly a hundredweight, I resolved on getting transported to Edinburgh, and which now lies on the floor before me. It is a transverse cut of a portion of a large tree, including the pith, and measures twenty-three inches across. In the sections of trees figured by Mr. Witham in his interesting and valuable work, the original structure seems much disorganized: a granular radiating spar occupies the greater portion of the interior; and the tissue is found to exist in but detached portions. Here, on the contrary, the tissue exists unbroken from the pith to the outer ring. We may see one annual circle succeeding another in the average proportion of about ten per inch; and though we cannot reckon them continuously, for there are darker shades in which they disappear, — shades which the polisher of the marble-cutter may yet succeed in dissipating, — the number of the whole must rather exceed than fall short of a hundred. However obscure the geologist may be in his eras generally, here at least is the record of one century. But how were its years filled? I sat beside the root of a newly-felled fir some six or eight seasons ago, and amused myself, when the severed vessels were throwing up their turpentine in minute transparent globules, in reckoning the years by the rings, from the bark inward. Here, I said, is the year in which the Reform Bill passed; and this the year in which Canning died; and this the year of the great commercial crisis; and this the year of Waterloo; and this of the burning of Moscow. The yearly rings of the Oolite have no such indices of recollection attached to them: we see their record in the marble, but know no more of contemporary history than that, when forests showed their fringes of lighter green on the hill-sides, and cell and fibre swelled under the rind, the promptings of instinct were busy all around and beneath, — that the pearly [250] ammonite raised its tiny sails to the breeze, as the belemnite, with its many arms, shot past below, — that nameless birds mingled with flying reptiles, — and that, while the fierce crocodile watched in his pool for prey, the gigantic iguanodon stretched his long length of eighty feet in the sand. But who shall reveal the higher history of the time? The reign of war and of death had commenced long before; and who shall assert that moral evil had not long before cast its blighting shadows over the universe, — that there had not been that war in heaven in which the uncreated angel had overthrown the dragon, — or that unhappy intelligences did not wander, 'seeking rest, but finding none,' in an earth of 'waste places,' whose future sovereign still lay hid in the deep pur poses of Eternity?


THE same deposit in which I found the wood embedded contains large masses of coral, all apparently of one species, — not a branching coral, but of the kind which consists of large stone-like masses covered on the surface with stellular impressions, framed in polygons, and which composes the genus Astrea. I picked up one very fine specimen, which I have since got cut through and polished. It presents a polygonal partitioning, of a delicate cream-colour, that somewhat resembles the cells of a honeycomb. Each cell is filled with a brownish ground of carbonate of lime; and on this ground of brown there is a cream-coloured star, composed of rays that proceed from the centre to the sides. One of these corals measured two feet and a half across in one direction, by two feet in another; and if it grew as slowly as some of its order in the present scene of things, its living existence must have stretched over a term of not less extent than that of its contemporary the pine of the hundred rings. Some of [251] the masses seem as if still adhering to the rocks on which they originally grew; the pentagonal cells are still open, as if the inhabitants died but yesterday; and the star-like lines inside still retain their original character of thin partitions, radiating outwards and upwards from a depressed centre. In other instances they have been torn from their places, and lie upturned in the shale, amid broken shells and fragments of wood. I brought with me one curious specimen perforated by an ancient pholas: the cavity exactly resembles those cavities of the existing Lithodomus shell which fretted so many of the calcareous masses that lay scattered on the beach on every side; but it is shut firmly up by the indurated shale in which the specimen itself had lain buried, and a fragment of carbonized wood lies embedded in the entrance. The cave is curtained across by a wall of masonry immensely more ancient than that which converted into a prison the cave of the Seven Sleepers.


AN imagination curious to re-erect and restore finds assistance of no uninteresting kind among the pools and beneath the bunches of sea-weed which we find scattered, at the fall of the tide, over the surface of the Navidale deposits. One very minute pool of sea-water, scarcely thrice the size of a common washing basin, and scarcely half a foot in depth, furnished me with recent types of well-nigh all the fossils that lay embedded for several feet around it; though there were few places in the bed where these lay more thickly. Three beautiful sea anemones, — two of crimson, and the third of a greenish-buff colour, — stretched out their sentient petals along the sides; and the minute currents around them showed that they were all employed in their proper trade of winnowing the water for its animalcular contents, [252] working that they might live. One of the three had fixed its crimson base on the white surface of a fossil coral; the pentagonal cavities, out of each of which a creature of resembling form had once stretched its slim body and still minuter petals, to agitate the water with similar currents, were lying open around it. In another corner of the pool a sea-urchin was slowly dragging himself up the slope, with all his red fleshy hawsers that could be brought to bear, and all his nearer handspokes hard strained in the work. His progress resembled that of the famous Russian boulder, transported for so many miles to make a pedestal for the statue of Peter the Great; with this difference, however, that here it was the boulder itself that was plying the hand-spokes and tightening the ropes. And lo! from the plane over which he moved there projected the remains of creatures of similar type; — the rock was strewed with fossil handspokes, greater in bulk than his, and somewhat diverse in form, but whose general identity of character it was impossible to mistake. The spines of echini, fretted with lines of projections somewhat in the style of the pinnacles of a Gothic building, lie as thickly in this deposit as in any deposit of the Chalk itself. The pool had its zoophytes of the arborescent form, — the rock its flustra; the pool had its cluster of minute muscles, — the rock its scallops and ostrea; the pool had its buccinidæ, — the rock its numerous whorls of some nameless turreted shell; the pool had its cluster of serpulæ, — the serpulæ lay so thick in the rock, as to compose, in some layers, no inconsiderable proportion of its substance.


A COAL-FIELD in other than the true Coal Measures is always an object of peculiar interest to the geologist; and [253] the coal-field of Brora is, in at least one respect, one of the most remarkable of these with which geologists are yet acquainted. The seams of the well-known Bovey coal of South Devon, — a lignite of the Tertiary, — are described as of greater depth; but it burns so imperfectly, and emits so offensive an odour, that, though used by some of the poorer cottagers in the neighbourhood, and some of the local potteries, it never became, nor can become, an article of commerce. It is curious merely as an immense accumulation of vegetable matter passing into the mineral state, — as, shall I venture to say, a sort of half-mineralized peat of the Tertiary, — a peat moss that, instead of overlying, underlies the diluvium. In the Brora coal, as might be inferred from its much greater age, the process of mineralization is more complete; and it furnishes, if I mistake not, the only instance in which a coal newer than that of the carboniferous era has been wrought for centuries, and made an article of trade. There were pits opened at Brora as early as the year 1598: they were re-opened at various intermediate periods in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; on one occasion, in the middle part of the latter, by Williams, the author of a Natural History of the Mineral Kingdom, which has been characterized by Lyell as 'a work of great merit for its day;' and during twelve years of the present century, from 1814 to 1826, there were extracted from but a single pit in this field no fewer than seventy thousand tons of coal. The Oolitic coal-field of Sutherland stands out in prominent relief amid the ligneous deposits that derive their origin from the later geological floras. And yet its commercial history does not serve to show that the speculations of the miner may be safely pursued in connexion with any other than that one wonderful flora which has done so much more for man, with its coal and its iron, than all the gold mines of the world. The Brora workings were at no time more than barely remunerative; and the fact that they [254] were often opened to be as often abandoned, shows that they must have occasionally fallen somewhat below even this low line. Latterly, at least, it was rather the deficient quality of the coal that militated against the speculation, than any deficiency in the quantity found. It burned freely, and threw out a powerful flame; but it was accompanied by a peculiar odour, that seemed to tell rather of the vegetable of which it had been originally composed than of the mineral into which it had been converted, and then sunk into a white light ash, which every breath of air sent floating over carpets and furniture. And so, when brought into competition, in our northern ports, with the coal of the Mid-Lothian and English fields, it failed to take the market. The speculation of Williams was singularly unlucky. He became lessee of the entire field about the year 1764, and wrought it for nearly five years. There occurs near the centre of the main seam a band of pyritiferous concretions, which here, as elsewhere, have the quality of taking fire spontaneously when exposed in heaps to air and moisture, and which his miners had not been sufficiently careful in excluding from the coal. A cargo which he had shipped from Portsoy, in Banffshire, took fire in this way, in consequence, it has been said, of the vessel springing a leak; and such was the alarm excited among his customers, that they declined dealing with him any longer for a commodity so dangerous. And so, after an ineffectual struggle, he had to relinquish his lease.


IN the Museum of Economic Geology now in the course of forming in London, there are specimens exhibited of not only the various rude materials of art furnished by the mine and the quarry, but also of what these can be converted into by the chemist and the mechanic. Not only does it [255] show the gifts of the mineral kingdom to man, but the uses also to which man has applied them. The rough and unpromising block of marble stands side by side with the exquisitely polished and delicately-sculptured vase. The bracelet of glittering steel, scarcely of less value than if wrought in gold, ranges in striking contrast with the earthy, umbry nodule of clay-ironstone. There are series of specimens, too, illustrative of the various changes which an earth or metal assumes in its progress through the workshop or the laboratory. Here, for instance, is the ironstone nodule, — there the roasted ore, — yonder the fused mass; the wrought bar succeeds; then comes the rudely-blocked ornament or implement; and, last of all, the exquisitely finished piece of work, as we find it in the cutler's warehouse or the jeweller's shop.

I am not aware whether the museum also exhibits its sets of specimens illustrative of substances elaborated, not by man, but by nature herself, and elaborated, if one may so speak, on the principle of serial processes and succeeding stages. The arrangement in many cases would have to proceed, no doubt, on a basis of hypothesis; but the cases would also be many in which the hypothesis would at least not seem a forced one. It was suggested to me on the Brora coal-field, that the process through which nature makes coal might be strikingly illustrated in this style. One might almost venture to begin one's serial collection with a well-selected piece of fresh peat, containing its fragments of wood, its few blackened reeds, its fern-stalks, and its club-mosses. Another specimen of more solid and homogeneous structure, and darker hue, cut from the bottom of some deep morass, might be placed second in the series. Then might come a first specimen of Bovey coal, taken from under its eight or ten feet of Tertiary clay, — a specimen of light and friable texture, and that exhibited more of its original vegetable qualities than of its [256] acquired mineral ones. A second specimen, brought from a deeper bed of the same deposit, might be chosen by the darker brown of its colour, and its nearer approximation to the structure of pit-coal. The Oolitic coal of the Brora or Yorkshire field might furnish at least two specimens more. And thus the collector might pass on, by easy gradations, to the true Coal Measures, and down through these to the deeply-seated anthracite of Ireland, or the still more deeply-seated anthracite of America, — not altogether so assured of his arrangement, perhaps, as in dealing with the processes of the laboratory or the workshop, but at least tolerably sure that both chemists and naturalists would find fewer reasons to challenge than to confirm it.


THE Brora field, so various in its deposits, must have existed in many various states, — now covered by salt water, now by fresh, — now underlying some sluggish estuary, — now presenting, perchance, a superaqueous surface, darkened by accumulations of vegetable matter, — and now, again, let down into the green depths of the sea. To realize such a change as the last, one has but to cross the Moray Firth at this point to the opposite land, and there see a peat- moss covered, during stream tides, by from two to three fathoms of water, and partially overlaid by a stratum of sea-sand, charged with its characteristic shells. It is a small coal-bed, kneaded out and laid by, though still in its state of extremest unripeness, — a coal-bed in the raw material; and there are not a few such on the coasts of both Great Britain and Ireland. Professor Fleming's description of the submerged forests of the Firths of Forth and Tay must be familiar to many of my readers. They must have heard, too, through the far-known Principles of Lyell, of the [257] submerged forests of Lancashire. 'In passing over Black Sod Bay, in a clear, calm morning,' says a late tourist in Erris and Tyrawly, 'I could see, fathoms down, the roots of trees that seemed of the same sort as are every day dug out of our bogs.' Now, we do not know that the Oolite had properly its peat-mosses. The climate, though its pines had their well-marked annual rings, seems, judging from its other productions, to have been warmer than those in which peat now accumulates; but there can be no doubt that both it and the true Coal Measures must have had their vast accumulations of vegetable matter formed; in many instances, on the spot on which the vegetable matter grew; and no one surely need ask a better definition of a peat-moss. A peat-moss, in the present state of things, is simply an accumulation of vegetable matter formed on the spot on which it grew. These, as I have said, we frequently find let down on our coast far beneath the sea level, and covered up by marine deposits; and the fact furnishes a first and important step in the proposed serial arrangement of coal in the forming. May I not further add, that Professor Johnston of Durham, so well known in the field of geological chemistry, regards all our coal-seams, whether of the Carboniferous period or of the Oolitic, as mere beds of ancient peat, mineralized in the laboratory of nature?


ON entering the quarry hollowed on the southern eminence, one is first struck by the character of the broken masses of stone that lie scattered over the excavations. The rubbish abounds in what seem fragments of a very exquisite sculpture. The shells and lignites, which it contains in vast numbers, exist as mere impressions in the white sandstone, and look as if fresh from the chisel of a [258] Thorn or Forrest. But even these masters of their art would confess themselves outdone here in beauty of finish. Their best works don't stand the microscope; whereas the carvings of the Upper Oolite here, though in sandstone, mightily improve under it. The cast of a broken fragment of wood at present before me shows not only the markings of the annual rings, but also the microscopic striæ of the vegetable fibre, — a niceness of impression impossible in any sandstone that had not what the sandstones of this quarry have, — a large mixture of calcareous cement. I remember that, on my first introduction to the excavations of Braambury, — for such is the name of the quarry, — the vast amount of what seemed broken sculpture in the rubbish reminded me of some of Tennant's singularly happy descriptions in his Dinging down o' the Cathedral. They seemed memorials of a time when, to the signal detriment of ecclesiastical architecture in Scotland, and all the good solid religion that springs out of sandstone,

'Ilk tirlie-wirlie mament bra,
That had for centuries ane and a'
Brankit on bunker or on Wa',
Cam tumblin tap o'er tail . . .
Whan in ilk kirk the angry folk
Carv't wark, an arch, an pillar broke.'
I had not a few other recollections of the quarry of Braambury. Nothing can be more interesting to the geologist than its fossils, and nothing more annoying at times to the workman. Occurring often in the wrought stone, they occasion sad gaps and deplorable breaches, where the plane should be smooth or the moulding sharp. I remember laying open on one occasion a beautiful cast that had once been a belemnite, but that had become a mere cavity in which a belemnite might be moulded, — for even this solid fossil, that so doggedly preserves its substance in most other deposits, is absorbed by the sandstone of Braambury. And [259] greatly did I admire its peculiar state of keeping. The smooth cylindrical hollow was partitioned across by two stony diaphragms, thin as bits of drawing-paper; for ere the absorbing process had begun, the fossil had been broken into three pieces by the superincumbent weight, and the minute strips of sand which had filled up the cracks had hardened into stone. The point was sharp and smooth; a rectilinear convex ridge showed the place of the abdominal groove; a cone at the base, lined transversely, represented the chambered shell of the interior. There could not be a more interesting specimen for a museum; but, alas! it occupied the polished plane of a tombstone, just where the hic jacet should have been; and though it symbolized the sentence wonderfully well, it was a symbol which I feared few would succeed in interpreting. I pointed it out to a brother workman. 'Ah,' said he, 'you have got one of these terrible tangle-holes; they 're the dash'dest things in all the quarry.'

Many a curious thing besides does this quarry contain: boles of trees, that look as if sculptured in the white sandstone, with their gnarled and twisted knots and furrowed rinds; striated reeds of the same brittle material, that seem the fluted columns of architectural models; club-mosses, with their gracefully-disposed branches; rounded stems, scaled like the cones of the fir; impressions of fibrous, sword-shaped leaves, that resemble the leaves of the iris; and the casts of fragmentary masses of timber, deeply fretted by the involved and tortuous gnawings of some marine worm. Such are a few of the sculptured representations of the flora of the period, — things more delicate by a great deal than those carved flowers of Melrose which we find described with such picturesque effect by Sir Walter. And its fauna we see represented quite as interestingly as its flora. Its sculptured Pectens remind us of those of a Grecian frieze; a beautifully-ribbed Cardium has proved a [260] still finer subject for the chisel; its Gryphites stand out in the boldest style of art. One very striking Ammonite (Ammonite perarmatus) exhibits a double row of prominent cones, that run along the spiral windings, and give to it the appearance of an Ionic volute ingeniously rusticated; and another Ammonite, that takes its name from the quarry (Ammonite Braamburiensis), presents on its smooth, broad surface, — for in form it resembles some of our recent nautili, — the gracefully-involved lines of the internal partitioning, as sharp and distinct as if traced on copper by the burin. The traveller explores and examines, and finds the rude excavation on the hill-side converted into the studio of some wonderful sculptor. In the quarry opened on the other eminence there are similar appearances presented; but the stone is softer, and the impressions less sharp.


LET us mark the abrupt and imposing character of the hills. They rise dark, lofty, and bare, and show — to employ a graphic Highland phrase — their bones sticking through the skin. They must have been well swept, surely; and as they are composed mainly of Old Red Sandstone conglomerate in this locality, — for we have left behind us the granitic hills of Navidale and Loth, — their sweepings, could we but find them, would have doubtless a well-marked character. And now let us turn to appearances of another kind. We stand on the polished surface of the rock, with its rectilinear grooves and scratches, and, when we look upwards along the lines, see the mountains and the valley; but what see we when we look downwards along the lines? Something exceedingly curious indeed; — double and triple ranges of miniature hills, composed of boulders and gravel, — the veritable conglomerate sweepings of the mountain-slopes and the valley, mixed with sweepings of the more distant [261] primary hills that rise behind. There they lie, in lines that preserve such a rude parallelism to the steep range from which they were originally scraped, as the waves that rebound from a seaward barrier of cliff maintain to the line of the barrier. Varying from thirty to forty feet in height, and steep and pyramidal, in the cross section, as roofs of houses, they run in continuous undulating lines of from a hundred yards to half a mile in length. Three such lines, with their intervening valleys, occur between the base of Braambury Hill and the village of Brora, like inner, outer, arid middle mounds of circumvallation in an ancient hill-fort. If one steadily rakes, with the edge of one's moist palm, the scattered crumbs on a polished tea-table, they form, of course, into irregular lines, presenting in the transverse section a rudely angular form; and in the direction in which they have been swept, the moisture from the palm furrows the mahogany with minute streaks of dimness. The illustration is one on the smallest scale possible. But if the palm be tolerably moist, the crumbs tolerably abundant, and the polish of the mahogany brought brightly out, and if we rake into rude parallelism in this way, line after line from the front of some platter or bread-dish, upturned to represent the line of hills, we shall have provided ourselves with no very inadequate model of the phenomena of Braambury. But what palm of inconceivable weight, breadth, and strength, could have been employed here in thus raking the débris into lines of hills half a mile in length by at least thirty feet in height, and in pressing into smoothness, as it passed, the asperities of the solid rocks below? The reader has already anticipated the reply. We have before us indications of an ancient glacier the most unequivocal that are to be found perhaps anywhere in the kingdom : there is not a condition or accompaniment wanting. I have had my doubts regarding glacial agency in Scotland: but after visiting this locality a twelvemonth ago, I found doubt impossible; and I [262] would now fain recommend the sceptical to suspend their ultimate decision on the point, until such time as they shall have acquainted themselves with the grooved and polished rocks of Braambury, and the parallel moraines that stretch out around its base.

I had lacked time, during my visit of the previous season, to examine the moraines that lie in the opening of the valley higher up, and now set out to explore them. The day had become exceedingly pleasant: a few cottony-looking wreaths of mist still mottled the hills, and the sky overhead was still laden with clouds; but ever and anon the sun broke out in hasty glimpses, that went flashing across the dark moors, now lighting up some bosky recess or abrupt cliff, now casting into strong prominence some insulated moraine. The hollow between Braambury and the hills is occupied, as I have said, by an extensive morass, in which the inhabitants of the neighbourhood dig their winter fuel, and which we find fretted, in consequence, by numerous rectilinear cavities, filled with an inky water, and roughened and darkened on its drier swellings with innumerable parallelograms of peat. I passed an opening in which there were no fewer than five gnarled, short-stemmed fir-trees, laid bare. They lay clustered together, as if uprooted and thrown down by some tremendous hurricane, — presenting exactly such appearances as I have seen in the woods of Croinarty after the hurricane of November 1830, when, in less than an hour, three thousand full-grown trees were blown down in one not very extensive wood, and lay heaped on some of the more exposed eminences in groups of six and eight. A few hundred yards from the prostrate trees there rises, amid the morass, a solitary moraine. I could see its gravelly root extending downwards under the peat which, in the slow course of ages, had accumulated around it, and found the conviction pressing upon me, that many centuries ago, when the five prostrate pines were living denizens of the forest, [263] and the moss which now enveloped them had not yet formed, this insulated hill must have raised its heathy ridge over the trees, and borne the marks of an antiquity apparently not less remote than those which it bears now. And then, long ere the hill itself had formed, the same remark must have applied with at least equal force to the Oolitic rock below. We see that, when overlaid by the ponderous ice, it must have been exactly the same sort of hard, brittle sandstone it is at the present moment. As shown by the slim partitionings that divide internally its casts of Belemnites, it must have hardened ere its fossils were absorbed; and, as shown by its polished and striated surfaces, its fossils must have been absorbed ere the glacier slid over it. We see laid bare in the lines of the striæ, the casts of Gryphites, Pectens, and Terebratulæ; we see further, that the hollows which they formed were weak places in the stone, and that the ice, breaking through, had crushed into them the minute fragments of which their roofs had been composed; and so infer from the appearances, that the newer Oolite of Sutherland must have been as firm a building-stone in the ages of the glaciers as it is now.

As we approach the valley of the Brora, we see a long, well-marked moraine sweeping in a curved line along the base of the hill that forms its northern boundary of entrance, and are again reminded, by the general parallelism of moraine and hill, of the reversed wave thrown back from a barrier of rock. In the gorge of the valley, immediately below where the river expands into a fine wild lake, we find the moraines very abundant, but preserving no regularity of line. They exist as a broken, cockling sea of miniature hills; and, to follow up the twice-used illustration, remind one of rebounding waves at the opening of a rocky bay, where the lines meet and cross, and break one another into fragments. Like many of the other moraines of the Highlands, they were of mark enough to attract the [264] notice of the old imaginative Celtæ, who called them Tomhans, and believed them to be haunts of the fairies, — domiciles whose enchanted places of entrance might be discovered on just one night of the year, but which no man, not desirous of becoming a denizen of fairyland, would do well to enter. The lake above is a fine lonely sheet of water, fringed with birch, and overlooked by many a green uninhabited spot, dimly barred by the plough. A range of stern, solemn-looking hills rises steep and precipitous on either hand; while a single picturesque hill, with abrupt sides and a tabular summit, terminates the upward vista some six or eight miles away. I saw in one reedy bay a whole community of water-lilies opening their broad white petals and golden stamens to the light; and, wishing to possess myself of one that grew nearer the shore than any of the others, and having no such companion as Cowper's dog Beau to bring it me, I cut a long switch of birch, and struck sharply at the stem, that I might decapitate it, and then steer it to land. But the blow, though repeated and re-repeated, fell short; and I had drawn my last, when up there started from the bottom a splendid lily, two-thirds developed, — a true Venus, that, rising from the water, looked up to the light, neck-deep, with the rest. The agitation occasioned by the strokes had burst the calyx, and, true to its nature, up the prematurely-liberated flower had sprung. The image which the incident furnished mingled curiously with my attempted restorations of the ancient state of the valley. The delicate lily, rising to the surface in its quiet, sheltered bay, during a bright glimpse of sun shine, formed an interesting point of contrast to what seemed a fast foaming river of ice, that rose on the hill sides more than half their height, and swept downwards, till where it terminated in the plain, in an abrupt moving precipice, that ploughed before it, in its irresistible march, huge hills of gravel and stone.