The sky became o’ercast and the wind rose so high as Jock was recounting the fate of the Badenoch mechanic’s fanners—that we deemed it more prudent to take the shelter afforded us by the Castle than proceed farther for a time, and in order to while away the time Mr Mack-Muckle-o-Little related the following nar­rative.


About the middle of the month of September, and towards the close of the day, some forty years ago, a stout elderly gentleman, mounted on a grey pony, as portly and well fed as himself, was slowly cantering along the road that leads from Keith to Dufftown. He was dressed after the fashion of the presbyterian clergymen —that is to say, his garments were of good broad black cloth, and his ministerial neck covered by the distinguishing badge of his order—the white neckcloth—vulgarly termed chocker—which clergymen are wont to wear as a sort of signboard, after the same manner as the publican hangs his black bull or red lion over the door of his hovel for the benefit of tho unlettered—who may thus form a shrewd guess of what is retailed below with­ out the aid of an inscription. This chocker too, has other uses than the advertising of the body of divinity which it adorns. Not amongst the least useful is the barrier or restraint which it usually raises up between the common herd and its wearer. For some how or other a white neckcloth has got so associated in the minds of the Scotch people with a demure and staid demeanour, that it has only to make its appearance on the neck of a scavenger and an elongation of the mer­riest faces would be an immediate consequence, out of compliment to the supposed feelings of its wearer.

This no doubt accounts for its being worn at home and abroad by all who have the right to put it on—and it frequently saves a rough question and rougher answer, to which the wearers of black and coloured stocks are daily and hourly subjected. The complacency with which this worthy sat as his pretty pony ambled away, had no doubt something to do with the assurance which the square of linen imparted, and be as little expected to be impertinentely addressed or rudely questioned as he did of journeying to the moon. Unfortunately, however, there are men in this world who are infidel enough to refuse to honour a man for his works or office sake; and our portly friend was doomed to meet with one of those ere he had gone far on his journey—for long be­fore he had reached Botriphnie he was overtaken by a gentleman similarly dressed and mounted as himself, save that his stock and pony were the exact antipodes, in colour of that of our friend. The rider might have been twenty eight or thirty years of age, was tall and muscular, with dark hair and regular and graceful features, he had a keen piercing eye, with a sort of twinkle in it that betokened a propensity for sport or mischief, and the expression of his face belied him if he had not skill and energy to carry out both. This new comer rode up beside him, and boldly accosted him with an easy familiarity that must have been anything but grateful to the ears of the clergyman; and he even had the audacity to enquire the direction he was going, and the description he proposed to himself. These were questions, however, which when his reverence took another look at his athletic com­panion, and another thought about the dreary woods and yawning gulfs at Loch Park, he deemed it more prudent to wade than to answer, and that Donald might be made aware of his master’s trepidation he slack­ened his reigns, a motion which the sensible animal immediately construed into a license to relax from his professional canter to a motion between what is called a trottle and a walk—but Blackstock’s pony seemed to be equally sagacious in picking up hints for his own benefit, and the two riders continued to move on side by side as formerly. Our friend the clergyman, being unwilling to show his fears, made a virtue of necessity, and began at once to join with more spirit in the conversation. The weather past, present, and to come, was soon discussed, the crops and probable amount of the price of grain as bearing upon the stipend was next disposed of, ecclesiastical subjects and doctrines were gone over, &c., &c., but upon no point was the divine so eloquent, or his companion so stubborn as upon that of smuggling; upon other matters they pretty much agreed, but upon this there existed an irreconcilable difference between them, nor could all the law and divinity the minister had to wield make the other budge one iota from his postulate—that no Government had a right to make a crime where no crime naturally existed.