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In the year 1817, a new and terrible pestilence broke out in a densely peopled district of Hindostan. During the twelve succeeding years it was going to and fro, and walk
and down,” in that immense tract of country which intervenes between British India and the Russian dominions in Europe. It passed from province to province, and city to city. Multitudes,“ which no man could number,” stood waiting its approach in anxiety and terror; a few solitary mourners gazed at it from behind. It journeyed by the highways, and strewed them with carcasses. It coursed along the rivers, and vessels were seen drifting in the current with their dead. It overtook the caravan in the desert, and the merchant fell from his camel. It followed armies to the field of battle, struck down their standards, and broke up
It scaled the great wall of China, forded the Tigris and the Euphrates, threaded with the mountaineer the
passes of the frozen Caucasus, and traversed with the mariner the wide expanse of the Indian Ocean. Vainly was it deprecated with the rites of every religion, exorcised in the name of every god. The Brahmin saw it rolling onwards, more terrible than the car of Juggernaut, and sought refuge in his temple; but the wheel passed over him, and he died. The wild Tartar raised his war-cry to scare it away, and then, rushing into a darkened corner of his hut, prostrated himself before his idol, and expired. The Dervise ascended the highest tower of his mosque to call upon Allah and the prophet; but it grappled with him ere he had half-repeated his prayer, and he toppled over the battlements. The priest unlocked his relics, and then, grasping his crucifix, hied to the bedside of the dying ; but, as he doled out the consolations of his faith, the pest seized on his vitals, and he sunk howling where he had kneeled. And alas for the philosopher ! Silent and listless he awaited its coming; and had the fountains of the great deep been
and the proud waves come rolling, as of old, over wide-extended continents, foaming around the summit of the hills, and prostrating with equal ease the grass of the field and the oaks of the forest, he could not have met the inundation with a less effective resistance. It swept away
in its desolating progress a hundred millions of the human species.
In the spring of 1831, the disease entered the Russian dominions, and in a few brief months, after devastating the inland provinces, began to ravage the shores of the Baltic. The harbours, as is usual in the summer season, were crowded with vessels from every port of Britain : and the infection spread among the seamen. To guard against its introduction into this country, a rigid system of quarantine was established by the Government; and the bay of Cromarty was one of the places appointed for the reception of vessels until their term of restriction should have expired. The whole eastern coast of Britain could not have afforded a better station; as, from the security and great extent of the bay, entire fleets can lie in it safe from every
and at a distance of more than two miles from any
shore. On a calm and beautiful evening in the month of July 1831, a little fleet of square-rigged vessels were espied in the offing, slowly advancing towards the bay. They were borne onwards by the tide, which, when flowing, rushes with much impetuosity through the narrow opening, and, as they passed under the northern Sutor, there was seen from the shore, relieved by the dark cliffs which frowned over them, a pale yellow flag drooping from the mast-head of each. As they advanced further on, the tide began to recede. The foremost was towed by her boats to the common anchoringground; and the burden of a Danish song, in which all the rowers joined, was heard echoing over the waves with a cadence so melancholy, that, associating in the minds of the town's-people with ideas of death and disease, it seemed a coronach of lamentation poured out over the dead and the expiring. The other vessels threw out their anchors opnn. site the town ;-groups of people, their countenances shaded by anxiety, sauntered along the beach; and children ran about, shouting at the full pitch of their voices that the ships of the plague had got up as far as the ferry. As the evening darkened, little glimmering lights, like stars of the third magnitude, twinkled on the mast-heads from whence the yellow flags had lately depended ; and never did astrologer experience greater dismay when gazing at the two comets, the fiery and the pale, which preceded those years of pestilence ard conflagration that wasted the capital of England,
than did some of the people of Cromarty when gazing at these lights.
Day after day vessels from the Baltic came sailing up the bay, and the fears of the people, exposed to so continual a friction, began to wear out. The first terror, however, had been communicated to the nearer parishes, and from them to · the more remote ; and so on it went, escorted by a train of vagabond stories, that, like felons flying from justice, assumed new aspects at every stage. The whole country talked of nothing but Cholera and the Quarantine port. Such of the shopkeepers of Cromarty as were most in the good graces of the countrywomen who come to town laden with the produce of the dairy, and hen-cot, and return with their little parcels of the luxuries of the grocer, experienced a marked falling away in their trade. Occasionally, however, a few of the more courageous housewives might be seen creeping warily along our streets ; but, in coming in by the road which passes along the edge of the bay, they invariably struck up the hill if the wind blew from off the quarantine vessels, and, winding by a circuitous route among the fields and cottages, entered the town on the opposite side. A lad who ran errands to a neighbouring burgh, found that few of the inhabitants were so desperately devoted to business as to incur the risk of receiving the messages he brought them; and, from the inconvenient distance at which he was held by even the less cautious, he entertained serious thoughts of providing himself with a speaking-trumpet. fishermen, too, fared but badly in the little villages of the frith where they went to sell their fish. It was asserted on the very best authority, by the villagers, that dead bodies were flung out every day over the sides of the quarantine vessels, and might be seen, bloated by the water and tanned yellow by disease, drifting along the surface of the bay. Who could eat fish in such circumstances ? There was one person, indeed, who remarked to them, that he might perhaps venture on eating a haddock or whiting; but no man in his senses, he said, would venture on eating a cod. He himself had once found a bunch of furze in the stomach of a fish of this species, and what might not that throat contrive to swallow that had swallowed a bunch of furze ? The very fishermen themselves added to the general terror by their wild stories. They were rowing homewards one morning, they said, in the grey uncertain light which precedes
sunrise, along the rough edge of the northern Sutor, when, after doubling one of the rocky promontories which jut into the sea from beneath the crags of the hill, they saw a gigantic figure, wholly attired in white, winding slowly along the beach. It was much taller than any man, or, as Cowley would have perhaps described it, than the shadow of any man in the evening; and at intervals, after gliding round the base of some inaccessible cliff, it would remain stationary for a few seconds, as if gazing wistfully upon the sea. No one who believed this apparition to be other than a wreath of vapour, entertained at the time the slightest doubt of its portending the visitation of some terrible pestilence, which was to desolate the country.—Hugh MILLER.
THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM.
When marshalld on the nightly plain,
The glittering host bestud the sky;
Can fix the sinner's wandering eye.
From every host, from every gem;
It is the Star of Bethlehem.
The storm was loud—the night was dark,
The wind that toss'd my foundering bark.
Death-struck, I ceased the tide to stem;
It was the Star of Bethlehem.
It bade my dark forebodings cease;
It led me to the port of peace.
I'll sing, first in night's diadem,
-H. K. WAITE.
THE BETTER LAND.
“ I hear thee speak of the better land ;
“Not there, not there, my child !”
“ Is it far away, in some region old ;
“ Not there, not there, my child !
Eye hath not seen it, my gentle boy !
One of the mightiest agents in nature is WATER. required in great abundance, and most amply has it been provided. Human littleness is strikingly evinced when we contrast the goodliest canals and reservoirs of enterpris