He soon, however, found his true vocation in the novel of Scottish country life, and his fame rests upon the Ayrshire Legatees , The Annals of the Parish , Sir Andrew Wylie , The Entail , and The Provost. He was not so successful in the domain of historical romance, which he tried in Ringan Gilbaize, The Spae-wife, The Omen, etc., although these contain many striking passages.
July 18. A Sunday with alternate showers and sunshine. Wrote double task, which brings me to page forty-six inclusive. I read the Spae-wife of Galt.
But you are surely a queer man to be a vagabond at the petticoat-tails of a spae-wife," said I. "I've had my chance of common life, city and town, and the company of ladies with broidery and camisole and washen faces," he answered with no hesitation, "and give me the highroad and freedom and the very brute of simplicity. I'm not of these parts.
The Irishman with the silver eye here jostled a merchantman, who drew his gully-knife, so that soon there was a fierce quarrel that it took all the landlord's threats and vigour of arm to put an end ta By this time I was becoming tired of my company; now that the spae-wife had planted the seed of distress in my mind, those people were tawdry, unclean, wretched.
With a start I wakened up to find the landlord making a buffoon's attempt at a dance in the middle of the floor to the tune of the Jew-trump, a transparent trick to restore the good-humour of his roysterers, and the black man who had fetched the spae-wife was standing at my side surveying me closely out of the corners of his eyes.
It was an expression such as one might expect to see in a 'budding spae-wife, or in a Roman Sibyl. And whose expression was it that it now reminded me of? But the remarkable thing was that this expression was intermittent; it came and went like the shadows the fleeting clouds cast along the sunlit grass. Then it was followed by a look of steady self-reliance and daring.
With the same conscientious zeal James had written the book, the king condemned it; and the sovereign separated himself from the author, in the cause of truth; but the clergy and the parliament persisted in making the imaginary crime felony by the statute, and it is only a recent act of parliament which has forbidden the appearance of the possessed and the spae-wife.
Many remembered that Annaple Bailzou wandered through the country as a beggar and fortune-teller, or spae-wife some remembered that she had been seen with an infant in 1737 or 1738, but for more than ten years she had not travelled that district; and that she had been heard to say she was going to a distant part of Scotland, of which country she was a native.
And an old warrior, hight Sorli, who sat in his chair, no longer quite way-worthy, said: "Hall-Sun, this we looked for of thee; since thy wisdom is not wholly the wisdom of a spae-wife, but rather is of the children of warriors: and we know thine heart to be high and proud, and that thy death seemeth to thee a small matter beside the life of the Wolfing House."
There is something good in it, and the language is occasionally very forcible, but he has made his story difficult to understand, by adopting a region of history little known, and having many heroes of the same name, whom it is not easy to keep separate in one's memory. Some of the traits of the Spae-wife, who conceits herself to be a changeling or twin, are very good indeed.