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THREE DAYS IN THE
AN EPILOGUE, IN THREE VOICES.
INTRODUCTORY, BY REGINALD A
IN the middle of July, having some leisure and no immediately engrossing amusement, I undertook the charge of two elderly female friends, whose hearts were set on a short ramble in the Highlands. When I say that three days was the proposed amount of time to be spent in this excursion, it will be apparent that the call upon my patience and fortitude was not so overwhelming as might appear by the first statement. And let me tell you that such a trip is by no means to be despised in the absence of greater attractions, when one is in want of a new sensation. The flutter of enjoyment conveyed to the mature female bosom, by attentions which are not always duly appreciated by their natural objects, is agreeable alike to one's benevolent feelings and to one's personal vanity. One has the satisfaction of combining amusement with the happy sensation of having done a good action; and one is rewarded by the simple flatteries, the delight, the excitement, and the friendly jealousy of the good old souls whom one takes in hand. Altogether, I recommend the experiment to any man of good feelings, who has nothing better to do. It is less captivating, certainly, than the service of those dangerous and delusive sirens, who, alas! have it all their own way in the susceptible heart; but it is infinitely safer-and the true benevolence of the action cannot fail to strike every feeling soul.
Accordingly, I got up with heroism at a preposterous hour on the profoundly cloudy morning of St Swithin's Day. It was a mere temptation of the watery saint to start at such a moment; but having got up my courage to the height
ESQ. THE FALSE START.
of goodness necessary, I was not to be held back even on the 15th of July by a shower. It looked so unpromising, however, that I sauntered down to the pier, in comfortable anticipation of going back to breakfast. What were my astonishment and dismay to see my fair companions seated already on a damp bench on the damp deck of the steamer, with luggage boldly labelled for the farthest point of the projected voyage, may be better imagined than described. Of course I joined them on board, though without a coat or a toothbrush, in the primitive simplicity of my morning jacket. The scene was amusing, as may be supposed. Around us stretched an indefinite expanse of mist, which experience and faith alike declared to be Clyde, with all its various banks and ports, but which sight pronounced to be nothing save a damp horizon of fog, heightened in effect by smoke and rain, all condensed within the enclosing firmament of cloud. Clouds blurred the sky-clouds enveloped the wooded banks-clouds closed in the busy piers and dockyards of the murky town of Greenock. Wherever one looked, nothing but clouds met one's eye, amid which appeared dolefully, as one neared the shore, a pale spectrum of that enchanting coast. Such was the external scene into which the little steamer plunged boldly over the dead-calm, mist-enveloped water. On deck sat my female friends, disputing the question, investigating the sky, appealing to me and to the clouds, to the helmsman and the porters-Would it be a fine day-would it clear up ?—should they go forward or go back? The climax of the business appeared in the person of a friend not exactly of
my own inches, who audibly offer ed me the contents of his portmanteau, with a self- abnegation unusual to modern friendship. flatter myself I am not vain-but when a fellow half your size offers you the use of his wardrobe, you naturally decline the offer, however benevolent may be its intention. Resolute not to shrink from my post, but deeply conscious of my defective provision for it, I stood watching with some anxiety the decision of my fair companions. The state of puzzled and comical uncertainty in which they sat was amusing enough to withdraw from his own circumstances even the thoughts of a man starting upon a Highland excursion without a shirt, a wrapper, or a toothbrush. The good creatures consulted the skies, and my face, and each other, with a pertinacity possible only to women
their eagerness, their doubts, their anxiety to take everybody's opinion, their uneasy shifting of responsibility from one pair of shrinking shoulders to another, was as good as a scene in a comedy; and whether it would have come to a decision, but for the sudden appearance of
the steamboat in which the further voyage was to be performed, packed from stern to bows with Glasgow excursionists, I cannot tell. That sight, however, settled the question. Mists, clouds, and even rain, might be overcome; but what resolution could stand against the society of a Glasgow mob of pleasure-seekers? My companions yielded to the dire compulsion; they turned back, damp and mournful; and with a pathetic parting we separated till the next day. Of course, an hour after, the morning cleared up and became radiant.
On Tuesday, as good a day as ever is to be had in the Highlands, we set out upon our little tour under the kind guardianship of our excellent young friend, whose kindness, indeed, can never be sufficiently estimated. The earliest beginning of our course lay along the sweet banks of the Gair Loch, all broken into tiny bays, and wooded points rich with the fullest foliage, to where the shores of the Clyde slope downward to Loch Long. The sun was shining, and all the outlines stood out clear against the distinct but pale sky of the Highland summer. The scene was not Italian certainly, but I am not sure that the atmosphere and brightness of a southern climate would have suited those hills, which began to rise grand,
The next day, however, we set out, and the following narrative of the journey, conveyed as it is in the natural and unsophisticated utterance of my fair charges, will no doubt be grateful to many intending tourists in this early season. My modesty has impelled me to delete many of the flattering remarks addressed to myself; but, with this trifling exception, I have not ventured to tamper with the tale of my fellow-travellers, who have each contributed to this brief but eventful passage the history of a day.
THE FIRST DAY.-COMMUNICATED BY MISS ARABELLA W
but not too solemn, in a hundred irregular lines out of the horizon. A blaze of sunshine would but have transfixed in speechless grandeur those huge shoulders and heights of rock and heather; whereas the constant motion and progress of light and shadow sets a perpetual drama astir among those bold and graceful hills, and keeps one's interest constantly engaged. I confess though no one can be more glad than I to see the city-bound escaping for a holiday I do confess that the steamer, with its noise and its clangour, with the flute and the fiddle playing in concert, with parties out for the day filling all the seats, is not conducive, so far as I am concerned, to the enjoyment of fine scenery. The music reduced me to that aggra
vating condition, in which, though your mind is mentally disgusted with the unseasonable melody, your foot unconsciously keeps time; and the pleasant family-attentions bestowed by amiable mothers upon their children, and the naïve remarks of Glasgow tourists bound for Lochgoilhead, were sadly distracting to behold and listen to. I have seen a good deal of fine scenery in my day, and am an enthusiast in mountainous landscapes; but I cannot think I ever saw anything finer than Loch Long-threading its way in stretches, sometimes silvery, sometimes purple and golden, sometimes leaden-blue under a sudden shadow, deep into the silent heart of the hills. The sentiment belonging to a river is entirely different. A volume of joyous water rushing out from its mountainous cradle, carries the mind with it into the sea and the world; but that narrow enterprising current penetrating inward-making its way through passes of momentary gloom, widening wherever it can into bursts of sunshine, curving out sweet bays and indentations into the very substance of the hills, and subsiding twenty miles inland on a quiet shore amid an amphitheatre of mountains, with tidal sighs, half of satisfaction, half of longing, conveys an impression more profound and striking than any stream. Every step you advance up that narrow, wonderful channel changes the aspect of the scene. The very steamboat takes a certain colour of poetry. Look how the dark sprite pauses, or seems to pause, with a dismayed stagger of dread, the dark smoke floating confusedly over her head in that dark pass through which there seems no outlet! It is not a Glasgow steamboat, with a flute and a fiddle, and a mob of excursionists; it is a conscious creature going blindly forward, with a certain awful ignorance, into the gloom of fate.
And now the hills open up to the left hand, and Loch Goil gleams into another hollow, amid another line of mountains. At the point
where the one loch darts out of the other begins that range of heights given by the magnificent popular imagination to the house of Argyll with a subtle flattery not to be surpassed. Imagine what a grandeur must have surrounded the MacCallan More to that Celtic fancy which named Argyll's BowlingGreen! Are these the ancient giants up among the mists echoing their throws in sportive thunder, who gave its earliest origin to the race of Diarmid ? But there is neither thunder nor mist to-day upon Argyll's Bowling-Green. The heights rise and cluster inward to the fantastic Cobbler, who sits silent over Glen Croe in his never-ending toil. But the moment you turn up Loch Goil, you naturally revert to another Campbell, not less illustrious than the chief of the name. Is not Lord Ullin raving on the cliffs in perennial rage and remorse? But it is calm on Loch Goil this morning: the tide sweeps peacefully upward to the perfect curve of its hilly basin. A lonely castle in leafy ruin
farm-steading almost too sunny and comfortable, the Elysian solitude of here and there a cottage, alone breaking upon the summer calm. If I am thought too lofty in my description, let me recommend all unbelievers to follow our track over those dark yet sunny waters. If they travel in the society of two congenial souls and a good glass, so much the better.
All this time my two friends have been heightening my enjoyment of the scenery by their vivid observations and reflections. My friend Kate is short, stout, and merry, though she is a woman who has had her losses. We were not acquainted in very early youth, so I will not venture to say what her attractions may have been in that remote period. But at present I am bound to confess that she looks her full age, and having the good sense to wear a bonnet (which I think only becoming for a person come to her time of life), no delusion is possible on the subject.
Standing by the side of our handsome young friend, one naturally perceives the full force of the contrast. I must say that so great is my sense of the goodness of our disinterested cavalier, that I could be content to re-enter the perils of earlier life, and become young and pretty again, for his sake. Dear young man! the amiable way in which he listens to Kate's observations, and enters into the spirit of the excursion, is refreshing to a mind wearied with the coldness and neglect of the world. One thinks better of one's kind after meeting with such chivalrous at tentions. In earlier days, indeed, one might have imagined that there was a motive for his devotion; but, alas! time and the hour have put that entirely out of the question. I have a niece who perhaps might in some degree-but it is useless to calculate on girls. The friendship of a woman who knows her own mind is, if young people could only understand it, a much more trustworthy object to depend upon.
On arriving at Lochgoilhead, according to an arrangement concluded upon at a former period, we took the coach for Inverary, and with the fortitude peculiar to women of this age, mounted the top of the coach. Having gone heroically through this process, we found ourselves in very amusing company. The driver of the coach to Inverary-of course a Campbell -is well worthy of introduction to the public. Not to enter too fully into personal particulars, which in a coachman a lady cannot be expected to observe with any minuteness, I may say that our young friend pronounced him a handsome fellow, and that my own observation confirmed the statement. How the Campbells got to be called the dark sons of Diarmid I cannot imagine, since my own experience proves them to be red, with scarcely an exception-the most illustrious as well as the most humble. John of the Inverary coach has the mouth of a mime hidden in a handsome florid
beard, and is great in imitations and sketches of character. The way in which he subdues his round, Scotch, Campbell voice into the sharp pipe of an English lady tourist, is astonishing; but I will not venture to reproduce these inimitable sketches. How the excellent stout Englishman on the box beside him refrained from any attempt to pitch him over the side, I cannot understand. I presume it must be the placidity of the Cockney tempera smoothness unknown on this side of the Tweed; for sure am I that had I heard my own dear countrypeople libelled with equal freedom, I should have demanded to be set down instantly, had it been in the most savage wilds of Cumberland or Derbyshire. Our fat friend, however, bore it with the utmost goodhumour, even though it was in the presence of ladies, and displayed an inclination to communicate his sentiments to me, and to enter into agreeable conversation, which was certainly complimentary. When it rained as of course it did four times in the two hours occupied by the journey-this good man bore the dripping of my umbrella upon the shoulder, which he turned perseveringly towards me (you will understand that he sat in front, and we on the seat behind), with the most praiseworthy equanimity. He had evidently a perception of the charms of good society, though not what you could call a man of fine manners or high breeding in his own person. These personal particulars, however, keep me from the scenery; and indeed I must confess that dear Kate shocked me not a little by the levity with which she permitted her attention to be diverted from the hills to the coachman's narratives and recitations. The conversation, however, was brought to a sudden conclusion by an ill-advised question on her part, whether it would be possible to reach Loch Awe that same night? John was indignant-the idea of passing over Inverary, and making it the mere scene of a lunch or tra
veller's dinner, offended his highest sympathies. Thenceforward he deserted Kate, and addressed himself to another passenger, who did not abuse his confidence.
But while the sound of their conversation went on at my ear, I devoted myself to the lovely landscape through which we were passing. Leaving the salt-water lochs, those wistful investigations of the "homeless sea" into the lone recesses of the hills, we plunged into the world of opening slopes which make a mountainous country so full of interest. Here a gleam of lovely valley, with lonely houses hidden in light clouds of tender birch, or pillared solitudes of fir-there a brown cottage on a height, all brown, thatch and wall, growing out of the soil like a natural production; and on every side great living walls of hills, silent, with silver threads of water descending their steeps, or plaintive with pathetic bleatings, mournful incessant voice of the wilderness. But now our attention was distracted by a discussion on the poor-laws, which, the gentlemen having been requested to descend while we mounted the hill, was addressed almost exclusively to Kate and myself, and listened to by her with provoking indifference to the landscape. Fancy discussing poor-laws with a Campbell coachman while winding up the picturesque ascents of Hell's Glen! I cannot deny that I was considerably disgusted. For myself, I confess that the absence of human habitations does by no means injure the landscape in my opinion. like the unbroken splendour of the primitive mountains. But dear Kate, who loves to talk, and who had at the moment no better interlocutor, entered into a discussion of rates and local necessities with the warmest interest, and lamented over the charming solitude, as if a dirty hamlet and crowds of Gaelic children could have added quite an additional attraction to that solitary glen. Human interest-that is the expression. Dear Kate, I am sorry to say, is often carried away by the fashionable talk of the time.
When we reached the top of the ascent, Inverary burst upon uslying lovely, with a sweet peacefulness, reflecting all her boats and houses in the tender-tinted water. You do not see the long stretch of Loch Fyne from that height-only a lovely bay folded in with hills, one of minor size, but wooded to a thought, rising just over the sombre pepper-boxes of the Castle. One could fancy a great Argyll coming here out of the fighting world, as to a haven of absolute rest and tranquillity. Can troubles come over those hills? Do any whispers of the angry surf ever steal upward through the reaches of the loch upon those gentle palpitating tides? I suppose it is possible; but to glide over the crisped and tinted waters towards that halcyon shore, with its boats lying round the little pier, and its houses slumbering on the beach, it is difficult to imagine such a retreat as open to the invasions of the common world.
Notwithstanding what I say, we had a proof of those invasions in the various groups accompanying our own steps. Our stout Englishman, all unromantic as he looked, was bound to some picturesque solitude in the neighbourhood which he had rented for the summerthough what could have brought such a person to the Highlands it is hard to imagine. Perhaps his wife was a Campbell-though, indeed, I should rather imagine, from the perseverance with which he held his shoulder under the drip of my umbrella, that the good man was a widower, probably with an interesting family of children. Be that as it may, he disappeared placidly in a dog-cart from Inverary, and we saw him no more. Being accustomed to travelling on the Continent, neither Kate nor I had the smallest objection to dining at the table d'hôte, which we were told existed in the Inverary hotel; but you may imagine our consternation when we found ourselves in a small family-party, with two strangers, apparently newly-married people. Our young friend was placed at the