The Pirate, by Walter Scott

Chapter 21.

But lost to me, for ever lost those joys,

Which reason scatters, and which time destroys.

No more the midnight fairy-train I view,

All in the merry moonlight tippling dew.

Even the last lingering fiction of the brain,

The churchyard ghost, is now at rest again.

The Library.

The moral bard, from whom we borrow the motto of this chapter, has touched a theme with which most readers have some feelings that vibrate unconsciously. Superstition, when not arrayed in her full horrors, but laying a gentle hand only on her suppliant’s head, had charms which we fail not to regret, even in those stages of society from which her influence is wellnigh banished by the light of reason and general education. At least, in more ignorant periods, her system of ideal terrors had something in them interesting to minds which had few means of excitement. This is more especially true of those lighter modifications of superstitious feelings and practices which mingle in the amusements of the ruder ages, and are, like the auguries of Hallow-e’en in Scotland, considered partly as matter of merriment, partly as sad and prophetic earnest. And, with similar feelings, people even of tolerable education have, in our times, sought the cell of a fortune-teller, upon a frolic, as it is termed, and yet not always in a disposition absolutely sceptical towards the responses they receive.

When the sisters of Burgh-Westra arrived in the apartment destined for a breakfast, as ample as that which we have described on the preceding morning, and had undergone a jocular rebuke from the Udaller for their late attendance, they found the company, most of whom had already breakfasted, engaged in an ancient Norwegian custom, of the character which we have just described.

It seems to have been borrowed from those poems of the Scalds, in which champions and heroines are so often represented as seeking to know their destiny from some sorceress or prophetess, who, as in the legend called by Gray the Descent of Odin, awakens by the force of Runic rhyme the unwilling revealer of the doom of fate, and compels from her answers, often of dubious import, but which were then believed to express some shadow of the events of futurity.

An old sibyl, Euphane Fea, the housekeeper we have already mentioned, was installed in the recess of a large window, studiously darkened by bear-skins and other miscellaneous drapery, so as to give it something the appearance of a Laplander’s hut, and accommodated, like a confessional chair, with an aperture, which permitted the person within to hear with ease whatever questions should be put, though not to see the querist. Here seated, the voluspa, or sibyl, was to listen to the rhythmical enquiries which should be made to her, and return an extemporaneous answer. The drapery was supposed to prevent her from seeing by what individuals she was consulted, and the intended or accidental reference which the answer given under such circumstances bore to the situation of the person by whom the question was asked, often furnished food for laughter, and sometimes, as it happened, for more serious reflection. The sibyl was usually chosen from her possessing the talent of improvisation in the Norse poetry; no unusual accomplishment, where the minds of many were stored with old verses, and where the rules of metrical composition are uncommonly simple. The questions were also put in verse; but as this power of extemporaneous composition, though common, could not be supposed universal, the medium of an interpreter might be used by any querist, which interpreter, holding the consulter of the oracle by the hand, and standing by the place from which the oracles were issued, had the task of rendering into verse the subject of enquiry.

On the present occasion, Claud Halcro was summoned, by the universal voice, to perform the part of interpreter; and, after shaking his head, and muttering some apology for decay of memory and poetical powers, contradicted at once by his own conscious smile of confidence and by the general shout of the company, the lighthearted old man came forward to play his part in the proposed entertainment.

But just as it was about to commence, the arrangement of parts was singularly altered. Norna of the Fitful-head, whom every one excepting the two sisters believed to be at the distance of many miles, suddenly, and without greeting, entered the apartment, walked majestically up to the bearskin tabernacle, and signed to the female who was there seated to abdicate her sanctuary. The old woman came forth, shaking her head, and looking like one overwhelmed with fear; nor, indeed, were there many in the company who saw with absolute composure the sudden appearance of a person, so well known and so generally dreaded as Norna.

She paused a moment at the entrance of the tent; and, as she raised the skin which formed the entrance, she looked up to the north, as if imploring from that quarter a strain of inspiration; then signing to the surprised guests that they might approach in succession the shrine in which she was about to install herself, she entered the tent, and was shrouded from their sight.

But this was a different sport from what the company had meditated, and to most of them seemed to present so much more of earnest than of game, that there was no alacrity shown to consult the oracle. The character and pretensions of Norna seemed, to almost all present, too serious for the part which she had assumed; the men whispered to each other, and the women, according to Claud Halcro, realized the description of glorious John Dryden —

“With horror shuddering, in a heap they ran.”

The pause was interrupted by the loud manly voice of the Udaller. “Why does the game stand still, my masters? Are you afraid because my kinswoman is to play our voluspa? It is kindly done in her, to do for us what none in the isles can do so well; and we will not baulk our sport for it, but rather go on the merrier.”

There was still a pause in the company, and Magnus Troil added, “It shall never be said that my kinswoman sat in her bower unhalsed, as if she were some of the old mountain-giantesses, and all from faint heart. I will speak first myself; but the rhyme comes worse from my tongue than when I was a score of years younger. — Claud Halcro, you must stand by me.”

Hand in hand they approached the shrine of the supposed sibyl, and after a moment’s consultation together, Halcro thus expressed the query of his friend and patron. Now, the Udaller, like many persons of consequence in Zetland, who, as Sir Robert Sibbald has testified for them, had begun thus early to apply both to commerce and navigation, was concerned to some extent in the whale-fishery of the season, and the bard had been directed to put into his halting verse an enquiry concerning its success.

Claud Halcro.

“Mother darksome, Mother dread —

Dweller on the Fitful-head,

Thou canst see what deeds are done

Under the never-setting sun.

Look through sleet, and look through frost,

Look to Greenland’s caves and coast —

By the iceberg is a sail

Chasing of the swarthy whale;

Mother doubtful, Mother dread,

Tell us, has the good ship sped?”

The jest seemed to turn to earnest, as all, bending their heads around, listened to the voice of Norna, who, without a moment’s hesitation, answered from the recesses of the tent in which she was enclosed:—

Norna.

“The thought of the aged is ever on gear —

On his fishing, his furrow, his flock, and his steer;

But thrive may his fishing, flock, furrow, and herd,

While the aged for anguish shall tear his grey beard.”

There was a momentary pause, during which Triptolemus had time to whisper, “If ten witches and as many warlocks were to swear it, I will never believe that a decent man will either fash his beard or himself about any thing, so long as stock and crop goes as it should do.”

But the voice from within the tent resumed its low monotonous tone of recitation, and, interrupting farther commentary, proceeded as follows:—

Norna.

“The ship, well-laden as bark need be,

Lies deep in the furrow of the Iceland sea; —

The breeze for Zetland blows fair and soft,

And gaily the garland1 is fluttering aloft:

Seven good fishes have spouted their last,

And their jaw-bones are hanging to yard and mast;2

Two are for Lerwick, and two for Kirkwall —

And three for Burgh-Westra, the choicest of all.”

“Now the powers above look down and protect us!” said Bryce Snailsfoot; “for it is mair than woman’s wit that has spaed out that ferly. I saw them at North Ronaldshaw, that had seen the good bark, the Olave of Lerwick, that our worthy patron has such a great share in that she may be called his own in a manner, and they had broomed3 the ship, and, as sure as there are stars in heaven, she answered them for seven fish, exact as Norna has telled us in her rhyme!”

“Umph — seven fish exactly? and you heard it at North Ronaldshaw?” said Captain Cleveland, “and I suppose told it as a good piece of news when you came hither?”

“It never crossed my tongue, Captain,” answered the pedlar; “I have kend mony chapmen, travelling merchants, and such like, neglect their goods to carry clashes and clavers up and down, from one countryside to another; but that is no traffic of mine. I dinna believe I have mentioned the Olave’s having made up her cargo to three folks since I crossed to Dunrossness.”

“But if one of those three had spoken the news over again, and it is two to one that such a thing happened, the old lady prophesies upon velvet.”

Such was the speech of Cleveland, addressed to Magnus Troil, and heard without any applause. The Udaller’s respect for his country extended to its superstitions, and so did the interest which he took in his unfortunate kinswoman. If he never rendered a precise assent to her high supernatural pretensions, he was not at least desirous of hearing them disputed by others.

“Norna,” he said, “his cousin,” (an emphasis on the word,) “held no communication with Bryce Snailsfoot, or his acquaintances. He did not pretend to explain how she came by her information; but he had always remarked that Scotsmen, and indeed strangers in general, when they came to Zetland, were ready to find reasons for things which remained sufficiently obscure to those whose ancestors had dwelt there for ages.”

Captain Cleveland took the hint, and bowed, without attempting to defend his own scepticism.

“And now forward, my brave hearts,” said the Udaller; “and may all have as good tidings as I have! Three whales cannot but yield — let me think how many hogsheads”——

There was an obvious reluctance on the part of the guests to be the next in consulting the oracle of the tent.

“Gude news are welcome to some folks, if they came frae the deil himsell,” said Mistress Baby Yellowley, addressing the Lady Glowrowrum — for a similarity of disposition in some respects had made a sort of intimacy betwixt them —“but I think, my leddy, that this has ower mickle of rank witchcraft in it to have the countenance of douce Christian folks like you and me, my leddy.”

“There may be something in what you say, my dame,” replied the good Lady Glowrowrum; “but we Hialtlanders are no just like other folks; and this woman, if she be a witch, being the Fowd’s friend and near kinswoman, it will be ill taen if we haena our fortunes spaed like a’ the rest of them; and sae my nieces may e’en step forward in their turn, and nae harm dune. They will hae time to repent, ye ken, in the course of nature, if there be ony thing wrang in it, Mistress Yellowley.”

While others remained under similar uncertainty and apprehension, Halcro, who saw by the knitting of the old Udaller’s brows, and by a certain impatient shuffle of his right foot, like the motion of a man who with difficulty refrains from stamping, that his patience began to wax rather thin, gallantly declared, that he himself would, in his own person, and not as a procurator for others, put the next query to the Pythoness. He paused a minute — collected his rhymes, and thus addressed her:

Claud Halcro.

“Mother doubtful, Mother dread,

Dweller of the Fitful-head,

Thou hast conn’d full many a rhyme,

That lives upon the surge of time:

Tell me, shall my lays be sung,

Like Hacon’s of the golden tongue,

Long after Halcro’s dead and gone?

Or, shall Hialtland’s minstrel own

One note to rival glorious John?”

The voice of the sibyl immediately replied, from her sanctuary,

Norna.

“The infant loves the rattle’s noise;

Age, double childhood, hath its toys;

But different far the descant rings,

As strikes a different hand the strings.

The Eagle mounts the polar sky —

The Imber-goose, unskill’d to fly,

Must be content to glide along,

Where seal and sea-dog list his song.”

Halcro bit his lip, shrugged his shoulders, and then, instantly recovering his good-humour, and the ready, though slovenly power of extemporaneous composition, with which long habit had invested him, he gallantly rejoined,

Claud Halcro.

“Be mine the Imber-goose to play,

And haunt lone cave and silent bay:—

The archer’s aim so shall I shun —

So shall I ’scape the levell’d gun —

Content my verse’s tuneless jingle,

With Thule’s sounding tides to mingle,

While, to the ear of wandering wight,

Upon the distant headland’s height,

Soften’d by murmur of the sea,

The rude sounds seem like harmony!”

As the little bard stepped back, with an alert gait, and satisfied air, general applause followed the spirited manner in which he had acquiesced in the doom which levelled him with an Imber-goose. But his resigned and courageous submission did not even yet encourage any other person to consult the redoubted Norna.

“The coward fools!” said the Udaller. “Are you too afraid, Captain Cleveland, to speak to an old woman? — Ask her any thing — ask her whether the twelve-gun sloop at Kirkwall be your consort or no.”

Cleveland looked at Minna, and probably conceiving that she watched with anxiety his answer to her father’s question, he collected himself, after a moment’s hesitation.

“I never was afraid of man or woman. — Master Halcro, you have heard the question which our host desires me to ask — put it in my name, and in your own way — I pretend to as little skill in poetry as I do in witchcraft.”

Halcro did not wait to be invited twice, but, grasping Captain Cleveland’s hand in his, according to the form which the game prescribed, he put the query which the Udaller had dictated to the stranger, in the following words:—

Claud Halcro.

“Mother doubtful, Mother dread,

Dweller of the Fitful-head,

A gallant bark from far abroad,

Saint Magnus hath her in his road,

With guns and firelocks not a few —

A silken and a scarlet crew,

Deep stored with precious merchandise,

Of gold, and goods of rare device —

What interest hath our comrade bold

In bark and crew, in goods and gold?”

There was a pause of unusual duration ere the oracle would return any answer; and when she replied, it was in a lower, though an equally decided tone, with that which she had hitherto employed:—

Norna.

“Gold is ruddy, fair, and free,

Blood is crimson, and dark to see; —

I look’d out on Saint Magnus Bay,

And I saw a falcon that struck her prey —

A gobbet of flesh in her beak she bore,

And talons and singles are dripping with gore;

Let him that asks after them look on his hand,

And if there is blood on’t, he’s one of their band.”

Cleveland smiled scornfully, and held out his hand — “Few men have been on the Spanish main as often as I have, without having had to do with the Guarda Costas once and again; but there never was aught like a stain on my hand that a wet towel would not wipe away.”

The Udaller added his voice potential —“There is never peace with Spaniards beyond the Line — I have heard Captain Tragendeck and honest old Commodore Rummelaer say so an hundred times, and they have both been down in the Bay of Honduras, and all thereabouts. — I hate all Spaniards, since they came here and reft the Fair Isle men of their vivers in 1558.4 I have heard my grandfather speak of it; and there is an old Dutch history somewhere about the house, that shows what work they made in the Low Countries long since. There is neither mercy nor faith in them.”

“True — true, my old friend,” said Cleveland; “they are as jealous of their Indian possessions as an old man of his young bride; and if they can catch you at disadvantage, the mines for your life is the word — and so we fight them with our colours nailed to the mast.”

“That is the way,” shouted the Udaller; “the old British jack should never down! When I think of the wooden walls, I almost think myself an Englishman, only it would be becoming too like my Scottish neighbours; — but come, no offence to any here, gentlemen — all are friends, and all are welcome. — Come, Brenda, go on with the play — do you speak next, you have Norse rhymes enough, we all know.”

“But none that suit the game we play at, father,” said Brenda, drawing back.

“Nonsense!” said her father, pushing her onward, while Halcro seized on her reluctant hand; “never let mistimed modesty mar honest mirth — Speak for Brenda, Halcro — it is your trade to interpret maidens’ thoughts.”

The poet bowed to the beautiful young woman, with the devotion of a poet and the gallantry of a traveller, and having, in a whisper, reminded her that she was in no way responsible for the nonsense he was about to speak, he paused, looked upward, simpered as if he had caught a sudden idea, and at length set off in the following verses:

Claud Halcro.

“Mother doubtful, Mother dread —

Dweller of the Fitful-head,

Well thou know’st it is thy task

To tell what beauty will not ask; —

Then steep thy words in wine and milk,

And weave a doom of gold and silk —

For we would know, shall Brenda prove

In love, and happy in her love?”

The prophetess replied almost immediately from behind her curtain:—

Norna.

“Untouched by love, the maiden’s breast

Is like the snow on Rona’s crest,

High seated in the middle sky,

In bright and barren purity;

But by the sunbeam gently kiss’d,

Scarce by the gazing eye ’tis miss’d,

Ere down the lonely valley stealing,

Fresh grass and growth its course revealing,

It cheers the flock, revives the flower,

And decks some happy shepherd’s bower.”

“A comfortable doctrine, and most justly spoken,” said the Udaller, seizing the blushing Brenda, as she was endeavouring to escape —“Never think shame for the matter, my girl. To be the mistress of some honest man’s house, and the means of maintaining some old Norse name, making neighbours happy, the poor easy, and relieving strangers, is the most creditable lot a young woman can look to, and I heartily wish it to all here. — Come, who speaks next? — good husbands are going — Maddie Groatsettar — my pretty Clara, come and have your share.”

The Lady Glowrowrum shook her head, and “could not,” she said, “altogether approve”——

“Enough said — enough said,” replied Magnus; “no compulsion; but the play shall go on till we are tired of it. Here, Minna — I have got you at command. Stand forth, my girl — there are plenty of things to be ashamed of besides old-fashioned and innocent pleasantry. — Come, I will speak for you myself — though I am not sure I can remember rhyme enough for it.”

There was a slight colour which passed rapidly over Minna’s face, but she instantly regained her composure, and stood erect by her father, as one superior to any little jest to which her situation might give rise.

Her father, after some rubbing of his brow, and other mechanical efforts to assist his memory, at length recovered verse sufficient to put the following query, though in less gallant strains than those of Halcro:—

Magnus Troil.

“Mother, speak, and do not tarry,

Here’s a maiden fain would marry.

Shall she marry, ay or not?

If she marry, what’s her lot?”

A deep sigh was uttered within the tabernacle of the soothsayer, as if she compassionated the subject of the doom which she was obliged to pronounce. She then, as usual, returned her response:—

Norna.

“Untouch’d by love, the maiden’s breast

Is like the snow on Rona’s crest;

So pure, so free from earthly dye,

It seems, whilst leaning on the sky,

Part of the heaven to which ’tis nigh;

But passion, like the wild March rain,

May soil the wreath with many a stain.

We gaze — the lovely vision’s gone —

A torrent fills the bed of stone,

That, hurrying to destruction’s shock,

Leaps headlong from the lofty rock.”

The Udaller heard this reply with high resentment. “By the bones of the Martyr,” he said, his bold visage becoming suddenly ruddy, “this is an abuse of courtesy! and, were it any but yourself that had classed my daughter’s name and the word destruction together, they had better have left the word unspoken. But come forth of the tent, thou old galdragon,”5 he added, with a smile —“I should have known that thou canst not long joy in any thing that smacks of mirth, God help thee!” His summons received no answer; and, after waiting a moment, he again addressed her —“Nay, never be sullen with me, kinswoman, though I did speak a hasty word — thou knowest I bear malice to no one, least of all to thee — so come forth, and let us shake hands. — Thou mightst have foretold the wreck of my ship and boats, or a bad herring-fishery, and I should have said never a word; but Minna or Brenda, you know, are things which touch me nearer. But come out, shake hands, and there let there be an end on’t.”

Norna returned no answer whatever to his repeated invocations, and the company began to look upon each other with some surprise, when the Udaller, raising the skin which covered the entrance of the tent, discovered that the interior was empty. The wonder was now general, and not unmixed with fear; for it seemed impossible that Norna could have, in any manner, escaped from the tabernacle in which she was enclosed, without having been discovered by the company. Gone, however, she was, and the Udaller, after a moment’s consideration, dropt the skin-curtain again over the entrance of the tent.

“My friends,” he said, with a cheerful countenance, “we have long known my kinswoman, and that her ways are not like those of the ordinary folks of this world. But she means well by Hialtland, and hath the love of a sister for me, and for my house; and no guest of mine needs either to fear evil, or to take offence, at her hand. I have little doubt she will be with us at dinner-time.”

“Now, Heaven forbid!” said Mrs. Baby Yellowley —“for, my gude Leddy Glowrowrum, to tell your leddyship the truth, I likena cummers that can come and gae like a glance of the sun, or the whisk of a whirlwind.”

“Speak lower, speak lower,” said the Lady Glowrowrum, “and be thankful that yon carlin hasna ta’en the house-side away wi’ her. The like of her have played warse pranks, and so has she hersell, unless she is the sairer lied on.”

Similar murmurs ran through the rest of the company, until the Udaller uplifted his stentorian and imperative voice to put them to silence, and invited, or rather commanded, the attendance of his guests to behold the boats set off for the haaf or deep-sea fishing.

“The wind has been high since sunrise,” he said, “and had kept the boats in the bay; but now it was favourable, and they would sail immediately.”

This sudden alteration of the weather occasioned sundry nods and winks amongst the guests, who were not indisposed to connect it with Norna’s sudden disappearance; but without giving vent to observations which could not but be disagreeable to their host, they followed his stately step to the shore, as the herd of deer follows the leading stag, with all manner of respectful observance.6(a)7

1 The garland is an artificial coronet, composed of ribbons by those young women who take an interest in a whaling vessel or her crew: it is always displayed from the rigging, and preserved with great care during the voyage.

2 The best oil exudes from the jaw-bones of the whale, which, for the purpose of collecting it, are suspended to the masts of the vessel.

3 There is established among whalers a sort of telegraphic signal, in which a certain number of motions, made with a broom, express to any other vessel the number of fish which they have caught.

4 The Admiral of the Spanish Armada was wrecked on the Fair Isle, half-way betwixt the Orkney and Zetland Archipelago. The Duke of Medina Sidonia landed, with some of his people, and pillaged the islanders of their winter stores. These strangers are remembered as having remained on the island by force, and on bad terms with the inhabitants, till spring returned, when they effected their escape.

5 Galdra-Kinna— the Norse for a sorceress.

6 Fortune-telling Rhymes.

The author has in Chapter I. supposed that a very ancient northern custom, used by those who were accounted soothsaying women, might have survived, though in jest rather than earnest, among the Zetlanders, their descendants. The following original account of such a scene will show the ancient importance and consequence of such a prophetic character as was assumed by Norna:—

“There lived in the same territory (Greenland) a woman named Thorbiorga, who was a prophetess, and called the little Vola, (or fatal sister,) the only one of nine sisters who survived. Thorbiorga during the winter used to frequent the festivities of the season, invited by those who were desirous of learning their own fortune, and the future events which impended. Torquil being a man of consequence in the country, it fell to his lot to enquire how long the dearth was to endure with which the country was then afflicted; he therefore invited the prophetess to his house, having made liberal preparation, as was the custom, for receiving a guest of such consequence. The seat of the soothsayer was placed in an eminent situation, and covered with pillows filled with the softest eider down. In the evening she arrived, together with a person who had been sent to meet her, and show her the way to Torquil’s habitation. She was attired as follows: She had a sky-blue tunick, having the front ornamented with gems from the top to the bottom, and wore around her throat a necklace of glass beads.42 Her head-gear was of black lambskin, the lining being the fur of a white wild-cat. She leant on a staff, having a ball at the top.43 The staff was ornamented with brass, and the ball or globe with gems or pebbles. She wore a Hunland (or Hungarian) girdle, to which was attached a large pouch, in which she kept her magical implements. Her shoes were of sealskin, dressed with the hair outside, and secured by long and thick straps, fastened by brazen clasps. She wore gloves of the wild-cat’s skin, with the fur inmost. As this venerable person entered the hall, all saluted her with due respect; but she only returned the compliments of such as were agreeable to her. Torquil conducted her with reverence to the seat prepared for her, and requested she would purify the apartment and company assembled, by casting her eyes over them. She was by no means sparing of her words. The table being at length covered, such viands were placed before Thorbiorga as suited her character of a soothsayer. These were, a preparation of goat’s milk, and a mess composed of the hearts of various animals; the prophetess made use of a brazen spoon, and a pointless knife, the handle of which was composed of a whale’s tooth, and ornamented with two rings of brass. The table being removed, Torquil addressed Thorbiorga, requesting her opinion of his house and guests, at the same time intimating the subjects on which he and the company were desirous to consult her.

“Thorbiorga replied, it was impossible for her to answer their enquiries until she had slept a night under his roof. The next morning, therefore, the magical apparatus necessary for her purpose was prepared, and she then enquired, as a necessary part of the ceremony, whether there was any female present who could sing a magical song called ‘Vardlokur.’ When no songstress such as she desired could be found, Gudrida, the daughter of Torquil, replied, ‘I am no sorceress or soothsayer; but my nurse, Haldisa, taught me, when in Iceland, a song called Vardlokur.’—‘Then thou knowest more than I was aware of,’ said Torquil. ‘But as I am a Christian,’ continued Gudrida, ‘I consider these rites as matters which it is unlawful to promote, and the song itself as unlawful.’—‘Nevertheless,’ answered the soothsayer, ‘thou mayst help us in this matter without any harm to thy religion, since the task will remain with Torquil to provide every thing necessary for the present purpose.’ Torquil also earnestly entreated Gudrida, till she consented to grant his request. The females then surrounded Thorbiorga, who took her place on a sort of elevated stage; Gudrida then sung the magic song, with a voice so sweet and tuneful, as to excel any thing that had been heard by any present. The soothsayer, delighted with the melody, returned thanks to the singer, and then said, ‘Much I have now learned of dearth and disease approaching the country, and many things are now clear to me which before were hidden as well from me as others. Our present dearth of substance shall not long endure for the present, and plenty will in the spring succeed to scarcity. The contagious diseases also, with which the country has been for some time afflicted, will in a short time take their departure. To thee, Gudrida, I can, in recompense for thy assistance on this occasion, announce a fortune of higher import than any one could have conjectured. You shall be married to a man of name here in Greenland; but you shall not long enjoy that union, for your fate recalls you to Iceland, where you shall become the mother of a numerous and honourable family, which shall be enlightened by a luminous ray of good fortune. So, my daughter, wishing thee health, I bid thee farewell.’ The prophetess, having afterwards given answers to all queries which were put to her, either by Torquil or his guests, departed to show her skill at another festival, to which she had been invited for that purpose. But all which she had presaged, either concerning the public or individuals, came truly to pass.”

The above narrative is taken from the Saga of Erick Randa, as quoted by the learned Bartholine in his curious work. He mentions similar instances, particularly of one Heida, celebrated for her predictions, who attended festivals for the purpose, as a modern Scotsman might say, of spaeing fortunes, with a gallant tail, or retinue, of thirty male and fifteen female attendants. — See De Causis Contemptæ a Danis adhuc gentilibus Mortis, lib. III., cap. 4.

42 We may suppose the beads to have been of the potent adderstone, to which so many virtues were ascribed.

43 Like those anciently borne by porters at the gates of distinguished persons, as a badge of office.

(a) p. 17. Norna’s soothsaying. The passage quoted by Scott from the Saga of Eric the Red may be read in its context in “Vinland the Good,” edited by Mr. Reeves, and published by the Clarendon Press. Eric was the discoverer of Greenland, and father of Leif the Lucky, who found Vinland (New England, or Nova Scotia?) about the year 1002. Leif has a statue in Boston, Massachusetts. — A.L.

7 See Editor’s Notes at the end of the Volume. Wherever a similar reference occurs, the reader will understand that the same direction applies.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/scott/walter/pirate/chapter21.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:29