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LETTER VIII.

DEAR AUNT E.:

You wanted us to write about our visit to Melrose ; so here

you have it.

On Tuesday morning Mr. S. and Chad agreed to go back to Glasgow for the purpose of speaking at a temperance meeting, and as we were restricted for time, we were obliged to make the visit to Melrose in their absence, much to the regret of us all. G thought we would make a little quiet run out in the cars by ourselves, while Mr. S. and Cwere gone back to Glasgow.

It was one of those soft, showery, April days, misty and mystical, now weeping and now shining, that we found ourselves whirled by the cars through this enchanted ground of Scotland. Almost every name we heard spoken along the railroad, every stream we passed, every point we looked at, recalled some line of Walter Scott's poetry, or some event of history. The thought that he was gone forever, whose genius had given the charm to all, seemed to settle itself down like a melancholy mist. To how little purpose seemed the few, short years of his life, compared with the capabilities of such a soul! Brilliant as his success had been, how was it passed like a dream! It seemed sad to think that he had not only passed away himself, but that almost the whole family and friendly cir:le had passed with him — not a son left to bear his name !

Here we were in the region of the Ettrick, the Yarrow, and the Tweed. I opened the Lay of the Last Minstrel, and, as if by instinct, the first lines my eye fell upon were these :

“ Call it not vain : they do not err

Who say, that when the poet dies,
Mute nature mourns her worshipper,

And celebrates his obsequies ;
Who say, tall cliff and cavern lone
For the departed bard make moan;
That mountains weep in crystal rill;
That flowers in tears of balm distil;
Through his loved groves that breezes sigh,
And oaks, in deeper groan, reply;
And rivers teach their rushing wave
To murmur dirges round his grave.”

“ Melrose!” said the loud voice of the conductor; and start ing, I looked up and saw quite a flourishing village, in the midst of which rose the old, gray, mouldering walls of the abbey. Now, this was somewhat of a disappointment to me. I had been somehow expecting to find the building standing alone in the middle of a great heath, far from all abodes of men, and with no companions more hilarious than the owls. However, it was no use complaining; the fact was, there was a village, and what was more, a hotel, and to this hotel we were to go to get a guide for the places we were to visit ; for it was understood that we were to doMelrose, Dryburgh, and Abbotsford, all in one day. There was no time for sentiment; it was a business affair, that must be looked in the face promptly, if we meant to get through. Ejaculations and quotations of poetry could, of course, be thrown in, as William of Deloraine pattered his prayers, while riding.

We all alighted at a very comfortable hotel, and were

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ushered into as snug a little parlor as one's heart could desire.

The next thing was to hire a coachman to take us, in the rain, - for the mist had now swelled into a rain, — through the whole appropriate round. I stood by and heard names which I had never heard before, except in song, brought into view in their commercial relations; so much for Abbotsford ; and so much for Dryburgh ; and then, if we would like to throw in Thomas the Rhymer's Tower, why, that would be something extra.

“ Thomas the Rhymer?” said one of the party, not exactly posted up. “Was he any thing remarkable? Well, is it worth while to go to his tower? It will cost something extra, and take more time.”

Weighed in such a sacrilegious balance, Thomas was found wanting, of course : the idea of driving three or four miles farther to see an old tower, supposed to have belonged to a man who is supposed to have existed and to have been carried off by a supposititious Queen of the Fairies into Elfland, was too absurd for reasonable people ; in fact, I made believe myself that did not care much about it, particularly as the landlady remarked, that if we did not get home by five o'clock "the chops might be spoiled."

As we all were packed into a tight coach, the rain still pouring, I began to wish mute Nature would not be quite so energetic in distilling her tears. A few sprinkling showers, or a graceful wreath of mist, might be all very well; but a steady, driving rain, that obliged us to shut up the carriage windows, and coated them with mist so that we could not look out, why, I say it is enough to put out the fire of sentiment in

any

heart. We might as well have been rolled up in a bundle and carried through the country, for all the seeing it was possible to do under such circumstances. It, therefore, should be stated, that we did keep bravely up in our poetic zeal, which kindly Mrs. W. also reënforced, by distributing certain very delicate sandwiches to support the outer man.

At length, the coach stopped at the entrance of Abbotsford grounds, where there was a cottage, out of which, due notice being given, came a trim, little old woman in a black gown, with pattens on; she put up her umbrella, and we all put up ours; the rain poured harder than ever as we went dripping

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up

the gravel walk, looking much, I inly fancied, like a set of discomforted fowls fleeing to covert. We entered the great court yard, surrounded with a high wall, into which were built sundry fragments of curious architecture that happened to please the poet's fancy.

I had at the moment, spite of the rain, very vividly in my mind Washington Irving's graceful account of his visit to Abbotsford while this house was yet building, and the picture which he has given of Walter Scott sitting before his door, humorously descanting on various fragments of sculpture, which lay scattered about, and which he intended to immortalize by incorporating into his new dwelling.

Viewed as a mere speculation, or, for aught I know, as an architectural effort, this building may, perhaps, be counted as a mistake and a failure. I observe, that it is quite customary to speak of it, among some, as a pity that he ever undertook it. But viewed as a development of his inner life, as a working out in wood and stone of favorite fancies and cherished ideas, the building has to me a deep interest. The gentlehearted poet delighted himself in it; this house was his stone and wood poem, as irregular, perhaps, and as contrary to any established rule, as his Lay of the Last Minstrel, but still wild and poetic. The building has this interest, that it was throughout his own conception, thought, and choice; that he expressed himself in every stone that was laid, and made it a kind of shrine, into which he wove all his treasures of antiquity, and where he imitated, from the beautiful, old, mouldering ruins of Scotland, the parts that had touched him most deeply.

The walls of one room were of carved oak from the Dunfermline Abbey ; the ceiling of another imitated from Roslin Castle ; here a fireplace was wrought in the image of a favor

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