were prepared those " performances of a nobleman's French cook which so much displeased Johnson, that he exclaimed with ve- hemence, ' I'd throw such a rascal into the river.' " l Though the flames no longer roared up the chimney as they had done for many a long year, still a fire was kept up and soot accumulated. One day the old woman tried to get rid of it by setting it alight, a primitive mode of chimney-sweeping not uncommon in that part of the country. A spark, it is conjectured, was carried into the main building through a broken pane, and falling on some straw brought in by the birds who nested there, set an upper room on fire. The summer had been unusually dry. The flames spread rapidly from one end of the house to the other ; so fierce was the blaze that a large beech-tree which stood at some little distance was burnt also. Part of the house is evidently of considerable antiquity, being very solidly built, with vaulted chambers and walls many feet in thick- ness. In the year 1625, as I judge from an inscription on the wall, great additions were made. It is pleasantly placed, with meadow-land on three sides, and at a little distance from a fine range of hills, which boasts of a Roman camp and BALLENCRIEFF.
of a lofty column to one of
Wellington's generals. So strangely do the ages mingle here. From the upper windows on a clear day a delightful view must have been enjoyed of the Forth, with the little island of Inch Keith and the hills of Fife beyond. Near the house there is a row of yew-trees which could not have looked young in Johnson's time, and holly hedges leading up to it, between which, perhaps, he walked, for they too look old. The land is in the occupation of a market-gardener, who cultivates it with a success which would have won his praise, and made him allow that something beside the sloe is brought to perfection in Scotland. The whole district abounds in fruitful gardens and orchards, and fine plantations of trees. As I looked at the luxuriance of growth, and meditated on the change that had been wrought in a century and a quarter, I thought that to Johnson, who had shown the nakedness of the land, a grateful and penitent people, who had profited by his exhorta-
1 At BallencriefF there is no river, but perhaps Johnson was thinking of the Firth of Forth.