Michael Scott

In the early part of Michael Scott's life he was in the habit of

emigrating annually to the Scottish metropolis, for the purpose of being

employed in his capacity of mason. One time as he and two companions

were journeying to the place of their destination for a similar object,

they had occasion to pass over a high hill, the name of which is not

mentioned, but which is supposed to have been one of the Grampians, and

being fatigued with climbing, they sat down to rest themselves. They had

no sooner done so than they were warned to take to their heels by the

hissing of a large serpent, which they observed revolving itself towards

them with great velocity. Terrified at the sight, Michael's two

companions fled, while he, on the contrary, resolved to encounter the

reptile. The appalling monster approached Michael Scott with distended

mouth and forked tongue; and, throwing itself into a coil at his feet,

was raising its head to inflict a mortal sting, when Michael, with one

stroke of his stick, severed its body into three pieces. Having rejoined

his affrighted comrades, they resumed their journey; and, on arriving at

the next public-house, it being late, and the travellers being weary,

they took up their quarters at it for the night. In the course of the

night's conversation, reference was naturally made to Michael's recent

exploit with the serpent, when the landlady of the house, who was

remarkable for her "arts," happened to be present. Her curiosity

appeared much excited by the conversation; and, after making some

inquiries regarding the colour of the serpent, which she was told was

white, she offered any of them that would procure her the middle piece

such a tempting reward, as induced one of the party instantly to go for

it. The distance was not very great; and on reaching the spot, he found

the middle and tail piece in the place where Michael left them, but the

head piece was gone.

The landlady on receiving the piece, which still vibrated with life,

seemed highly gratified at her acquisition; and, over and above the

promised reward, regaled her lodgers very plentifully with the choicest

dainties in her house. Fired with curiosity to know the purpose for

which the serpent was intended, the wily Michael Scott was immediately

seized with a severe fit of indisposition, which caused him to prefer the

request that he might be allowed to sleep beside the fire, the warmth of

which, he affirmed, was in the highest degree beneficial to him.

Never suspecting Michael Scott's hypocrisy, and naturally supposing that

a person so severely indisposed would feel very little curiosity about

the contents of any cooking utensils which might lie around the fire, the

landlady allowed his request. As soon as the other inmates of the house

were retired to bed, the landlady resorted to her darling occupation;

and, in his feigned state of indisposition, Michael had a favourable

opportunity of watching most scrupulously all her actions through the

keyhole of a door leading to the next apartment where she was. He could

see the rites and ceremonies with which the serpent was put into the

oven, along with many mysterious ingredients. After which the

unsuspicious landlady placed the dish by the fireside, where lay the

distressed traveller, to stove till the morning.

Once or twice in the course of the night the "wife of the change-house,"

under the pretence of inquiring for her sick lodger, and administering to

him some renovating cordials, the beneficial effects of which he

gratefully acknowledged, took occasion to dip her finger in her saucepan,

upon which the cock, perched on his roost, crowed aloud. All Michael's

sickness could not prevent him considering very inquisitively the

landlady's cantrips, and particularly the influence of the sauce upon the

crowing of the cock. Nor could he dissipate some inward desires he felt

to follow her example. At the same time, he suspected that Satan had a

hand in the pie, yet he thought he would like very much to be at the

bottom of the concern; and thus his reason and his curiosity clashed

against each other for the space of several hours. At length passion, as

is too often the case, became the conqueror. Michael, too, dipped his

finger in the sauce, and applied it to the tip of his tongue, and

immediately the cock perched on the spardan announced the circumstance

in a mournful clarion. Instantly his mind received a new light to which

he was formerly a stranger, and the astonished dupe of a landlady now

found it her interest to admit her sagacious lodger into a knowledge of

the remainder of her secrets.

Endowed with the knowledge of "good and evil," and all the "second

sights" that can be acquired, Michael left his lodgings in the morning,

with the philosopher's stone in his pocket. By daily perfecting his

supernatural attainments, by new series of discoveries, he became more

than a match for Satan himself. Having seduced some thousands of Satan's

best workmen into his employment, he trained them up so successfully to

the architective business, and inspired them with such industrious

habits, that he was more than sufficient for all the architectural work

of the empire. To establish this assertion, we need only refer to some

remains of his workmanship still existing north of the Grampians, some of

them, stupendous bridges built by him in one short night, with no other

visible agents than two or three workmen.

On one occasion work was getting scarce, as might have been naturally

expected, and his workmen, as they were wont, flocked to his doors,

perpetually exclaiming, "Work! work! work!" Continually annoyed by their

incessant entreaties, he called out to them in derision to go and make a

dry road from Fortrose to Arderseir, over the Moray Firth. Immediately

their cry ceased, and as Scott supposed it wholly impossible for them to

execute his order, he retired to rest, laughing most heartily at the

chimerical sort of employment he had given to his industrious workmen.

Early in the morning, however, he got up and took a walk at the break of

day down to the shore to divert himself at the fruitless labours of his

zealous workmen. But on reaching the spot, what was his astonishment to

find the formidable piece of work allotted to them only a few hours

before already nearly finished. Seeing the great damage the commercial

class of the community would sustain from the operation, he ordered the

workmen to demolish the most part of their work; leaving, however, the

point of Fortrose to show the traveller to this day the wonderful exploit

of Michael Scott's fairies.

On being thus again thrown out of employment, their former clamour was

resumed, nor could Michael Scott, with all his sagacity, devise a plan to

keep them in innocent employment. He at length discovered one. "Go,"

says he, "and manufacture me ropes that will carry me to the back of the

moon, of these materials--miller's-sudds and sea-sand." Michael Scott

here obtained rest from his active operators; for, when other work failed

them, he always despatched them to their rope manufactory. But though

these agents could never make proper ropes of those materials, their

efforts to that effect are far from being contemptible, for some of their

ropes are seen by the sea-side to this day.

We shall close our notice of Michael Scott by reciting one anecdote of

him in the latter part of his life.

In consequence of a violent quarrel which Michael Scott once had with a

person whom he conceived to have caused him some injury, he resolved, as

the highest punishment he could inflict upon him, to send his adversary

to that evil place designed only for Satan and his black companions. He

accordingly, by means of his supernatural machinations, sent the poor

unfortunate man thither; and had he been sent by any other means than

those of Michael Scott, he would no doubt have met with a warm reception.

Out of pure spite to Michael, however, when Satan learned who was his

billet-master, he would no more receive him than he would receive the

Wife of Beth; and instead of treating the unfortunate man with the

harshness characteristic of him, he showed him considerable civilities.

Introducing him to his "Ben Taigh," he directed her to show the stranger

any curiosities he might wish to see, hinting very significantly that he

had provided some accommodation for their mutual friend, Michael Scott,

the sight of which might afford him some gratification. The polite

housekeeper accordingly conducted the stranger through the principal

apartments in the house, where he saw fearful sights. But the bed of

Michael Scott!--his greatest enemy could not but feel satiated with

revenge at the sight of it. It was a place too horrid to be described,

filled promiscuously with all the awful brutes imaginable. Toads and

lions, lizards and leeches, and, amongst the rest, not the least

conspicuous, a large serpent gaping for Michael Scott, with its mouth

wide open. This last sight having satisfied the stranger's curiosity, he

was led to the outer gate, and came away. He reached his friends, and,

among other pieces of news touching his travels, he was not backward in

relating the entertainment that awaited his friend Michael Scott, as soon

as he would "stretch his foot" for the other world. But Michael did not

at all appear disconcerted at his friend's intelligence. He affirmed

that he would disappoint all his enemies in their expectations--in proof

of which he gave the following signs: "When I am just dead," says he,

"open my breast and extract my heart. Carry it to some place where the

public may see the result. You will then transfix it upon a long pole,

and if Satan will have my soul, he will come in the likeness of a black

raven and carry it off; and if my soul will be saved it will be carried

off by a white dove."

His friends faithfully obeyed his instructions. Having exhibited his

heart in the manner directed, a large black raven was observed to come

from the east with great fleetness, while a white dove came from the west

with equal velocity. The raven made a furious dash at the heart, missing

which, it was unable to curb its force, till it was considerably past it;

and the dove, reaching the spot at the same time, carried off the heart

amidst the rejoicing and ejaculations of the spectators.

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