« VorigeDoorgaan »
head of the table, and discharged the agreeable functions of host, with a great sirloin to carve, and all the other duties of hospitality to attend to. The excellent nature of this amiable young man, who is full of kindness, carried him triumphantly through the difficulties of the position; but the idea of having to carve and dispense, and make polite inquiries" May I send you a little beef?"-to the chance guests of a table d'hôte! I myself watched over the plate of the Glasgow lady, and helped her to potatoes, and she and her spouse listened in edified silence to the lively conversation of our little party. Dear Kate, as I have before mentioned, loves to talk, and our young friend's conversation is most improving and instructive. But it would be unkind to let this opportunity pass without warning the unwary against the table d'hôte of the Inverary inn.
At Inverary we held a council, touching our further progress, and receiving assurances, both printed and verbal, that coaches to Dunkeld were to be met with at Dalmally, we started, blithe and confident, in a pretty waggonette, with two famous horses, for the banks of Loch Awe. The sun had gone hopelessly into the clouds, and Ben Cruachan was invisible when we reached the wistful shore at Cladich, but the loch itself opened fair before us in all the shadowless twilight glory of the holy hour. Silent as a nun was the lovely breadth of water, with all its fairy bays and promontories; and as we came opposite the distant
SECOND DAY.-COMMUNICATED BY MRS CATHERINE S
Yes! perfectly true; but there may be too much of it, in my opinion; especially when it is all between two of the party, and the third is put out of the way upon the box.
pass, where "the Awe's fierce river" rushes out of the loch, nothing grander could be conceived. The western sky, with some reflections of the invisible sun, filled up the wild and solemn opening cleft among the hills, and threw a gleam upon the dark distant water which fretted forth in that narrow channel towards the sea. Looking over the gleaming calm of the loch to that distant dark defile, with the piles of mountain breaking across, and the ruddy western glory interposing at every inlet, was such a scene as I can never forget. But I am urged to hasten my course, and reminded that I have already occupied my full share of the permitted space. I might say a great deal more, but I refrain. My friend naturally wishes to give her own account of what followed. In conclusion, we reached Dalmally in time to stray out in the sweet though somewhat damp gloaming, past the peaceful manse of Glenurchy-where the minister, venerable man, was wandering in his fields, like Isaac at eventide, no doubt meditating his next Sunday's sermon— to the bridge over the river, where we mused in silence upon the broad brown noiseless stream, and finally returned to the inn, to spend the evening in friendly conversation—a conversation in which my own natural enthusiasm and the varied experience of my friend blended in a manner, I trust as delightful to them as to me, with the youthful fervour and eloquence of our accomplished companion. How sweet is such friendly communion!
Next day was a wet day, as I always expected. When people do not start on the day they fix for starting, in spite of everything that can be said to them, though it turns out a charming day, they have no
right to expect good weather, in my opinion. I made up my mind from the first that we should have rain, and consequently was not taken by surprise when it came. At Dalmally, of course, we learned that the coaches had not yet begun to run, or at least, if they had begun, they were to be heard of at Tyndrum or Crianlarich, or some hideous village or other, where nobody could
speak English; and the only expedient was to drive in a dog-cart to that scene of certainty. But before going there we must needs start in the same conveyance on a voyage to Loch Awe, to see, in mist and rain, what we had seen the night before in clear but not brilliant twilight. Arabella, with that assumption of sprightliness which is so disgusting in a person come to her time of life (she affects to be two years younger than I am, but I am not sure, if the parish registers could be got at, whether the tables might not be turned in that respect)-Arabella jumped into the back seat of the vehicle, that I might have, as she said, the best seat. Because she is unmarried, she thinks herself entitled to take all the airs of youth. Preposterous notion! but it makes her very absurd, poor thing, though she cannot see it. Young Mr A- helped me into the front with the greatest attention, quite unconscious of her trick, and joined her himself, as of course she had intended all the time, in the back seat of the gig. Off we went, facing the blast; and if any one should be disposed to envy the front seat, let them imagine me seated beside a damp driver, with the rain full in my face, and Arabella and young A- chatting behind me with the most intolerable levity, never so much as looking at the landscape, as far as I could see. I said nothing; in spite of all Arabella's remarks about my conversation with the coachman the day before, and her sentimental assumptions, I am not the woman to turn upon my friend. So I calmly put up my umbrella, and looked at the view. When we reached Kilchurn, I could hear the ridiculous old thing repeating the ballad about it, as if she had been a young girl. I confess it was aggravating; as for me, I had the driver to talk to; and when I found out from him that Monday had been a beautiful day, and that it was all her fault in not starting at the proper time, I really could not restrain my indignation.
Mrs S--" Arabella, dear, if have a moment's time to spare, just listen. It was a lovely day on Monday, and they had not a drop of rain, the man says."
The first answer I heard was a peal of laughter; then, in a quivering voice, Arabella spoke
"I have no doubt it will clear up to-day, still. You can't think what a pretty gleam comes from your wet umbrella, dear. It must be from the sun, you know. The sun must be somewhere about, I am convinced. And look yonder, what a strange light on the hills!”
Mr A" Strange darkness, too. Look at that hollow there; how the gloom creeps and gathers! Will you have the glass, Mrs S- ? Famous atmosphere for the hills, you know-quite Highland weather. Look here, exactly what Christopher describes-'a vast mysterious hollow.' The mist is lifting-look! We shan't see Ben Cruachan, but only wait till the sun breaks out."
Mrs S" Yes. Only wait. Next week, perhaps; and we can stay at Dalmally, and have a few lessons in the language. Whereas if we had started on Monday, as I always intended
Miss Arabella.-"Dear Mr A only look here. How fine those mists are, floating and dipping like veils-and that hollow, how grand! Hark! it creeps. To say that is only negative, you know-want of light-is absurd. It is positive darkness raying out of the hill-and that eldritch gleam yonder. Don't tell me it is not out of the heart of the mountain. There is some silvery pool, or something invisible, that sheds that reflection. It is fairy light."
Mrs S--"Stuff! I am getting very wet about the feet, and this man tells me there is no such thing as a coach, whatever we do. The landscape is very fine, but I don't believe you are looking at it in the least."
This produced another foolish burst of laughter. I own I was entirely disgusted with Arabella
Three Days in the Highlands.
talk of levity, indeed! When we returned to the inn, of course it became perfectly evident that there was no hope of any coach. I did not waste any time in words. I saw by this time that we were doomed, and would have to go on in dog-carts to-heaven knows where. I rushed into the kitchen, which was the only place where there was a fire, and took my measures immediately. After some trouble I succeeded in getting a nice wincey petticoat from the landlady, which I put on over my gown-an excellent plan, which I recommend to any lady travelling in the Highlands; and with my cloak covering my shoulders, resigned myself to my fate. Of course I scorned, after having been put upon the box, to accept any other place; but, ascending to my perch, made myself as comfortable as was practicable under the circumstances. The two in the seat behind had some rugs, and young A, who, between ourselves, is a great flirt, and, like some girls I know of, spares neither old nor young, arranged them round Arabella, who, poor old creature, gave herself the most ridiculous languishing airs, enough to send any one into fits of laughter. In this style we set off on one of the most beautiful roads I ever travelled. I can say so with confidence, as my prospect and enjoyment of it were quite undisturbed. When I called the attention of the people behind to the beautiful mountains all bedropped and enveloped in white floating mists, which every breath of wind moved and lifted, I was replied to with ridiculous jokes and laughter. There never was anything more absurd. The harder it rained, and the grander the prospect became, the more they talked and giggled. When I turned to point out the beautiful Highland hills to them, they were lost in discussions about Italy. Indeed I don't know what they did not talk of, sheltered as they were from the blast by my own unfortunate figure and that of the driver, who was quite disposed to
enter into the hilarity of the party,
And, of course, as I have said
from the back seat was the foolish answer that it was no doubt very fine if they could see it, I did see it, and found it wonderful. It is therefore my advice to tourists: If the day is a wet day, never mind -get something to cover you over (and for a lady, in my opinion, nothing is better than a good skirt), and go straight on, and keep your eyes open. But to lose a day out of mere nonsense, you know, after you have quite settled upon your journey, and to be seduced into abandoning an old and well-considered route for a new and hastilyseized one, with coaches uncertain, and dog-carts unsatisfactory; and to feel all the time a regret for that lost day, which it is quite impossible to forget, as if you were for ever hunting it, and could never reach it, is the greatest annoyance imaginable. Any feeling person will understand my sentiments, as I went driving over the country with nothing between me and the blast, and with two people behind me talking and enjoying themselves, actually without a single thought of the landscape which they had come all this way to see; and dear, dear me, to think of that poor old Arabella! Fancy her, poor thing, imagining herself young again, and dreaming about communion of souls! Privately, on the front seat, I was in agonies of silent laughter; but my friendly feelings, you know, eventually gained the upper hand. I could bear to laugh at her myself, but not to see other people laugh at her. And really, after all, though she is foolish, and adopts little youthful airs, and behaves ridiculous enough sometimes, at the bottom she is a dear friend of mine, and a good old soul! The aggravating circumstance of all, however, was the loss of that Monday. made a point of asking all the people at the inns, and all the drivers, what sort of a day it was, and the answer was invariable, A lovely day and we had actually turned back and sacrificed it for no reason in this world but Arabella's weak
minded nonsense! I really could scarcely contain myself when I realised how it was.
At length we came down upon Loch Tay, through a lovely wooded road, which I remember years ago. I had seen Loch Tay, and was twenty times more interested in it for my companions' sake than for my own. The lights and clouds which had been so favourable for the hills, were not so suitable, I am obliged to confess, for that loch, which is neither like Loch Awe nor Loch Lomond, nor any other loch but itself, all heavenly and serene as it is, with Taymouth sitting splendid at its head. It ceased to rain as we came along those wooded banks, which I remember so distinctly, and which I was only anxious to point out to the others. I could hear that poor dear Arabella was talking deep sentiment by this time, from which I perceived that the current was getting exhausted; and she actually did condescend to pay some attention as we went on, the rain having ceased at last. Loch Tay, however, wants sunshine. It lay gleaming all dark before me, with a look (though I am not given to sentiment), a visible look, of something having gone out of it since those days when I saw it first. Ah me! I daresay not only myself upon the box, with my umbrella up, steadfastly looking at the view, but poor dear Arabella with all her little follies, and even that excellent young A- himself, who might be our son, as far as age goes, had our own thoughts going trudging on with us, all the same, every step of the way. I never heard that anybody ever got free of those companions; and when I looked at that loch, many a scene unseen to my friends came up before me. It was the same as ever, long and tranquil and shining, with two great banks all rich with wood projecting out into the water, like a kind of grand portal to the basin on which Taymouth is planted; but something had gone out of it since last I saw it-out of it or out of my eyes→→→
something never to return any
I hope nobody will suppose I am sentimentally minded-quite the reverse is the case. I resolved to take the management of the whole matter into my own hands after this, and quite to exclude Arabella from having anything to do with it. In this spirit I got down at the pretty new inn at Kenmore, got the most charming rooms, a famous fire and tea, without consulting anybody. Arabella came in looking a little ashamed of herself, and young A→ much amused, as was natural. Then began a comical scene. I set their enormities before them, as was proper; and Arabella, poor old soul! with all the consciousness of guilt, began to justify herself. She declared she had seen everything all along the way; she protested she
could not tell what I meant. went into an elderly flutter and palpitation, and appealed to young A whether she had been doing anything wrong. Actually the dear old creature believed she had been flirting, and did not know what to say for herself. Was there ever anything more absurd? If I had been silent all day long, I assure you I had the laugh on my side now. And so ended the day we spent in dogcarts, driving through the rain from Loch Awe to Loch Tay. I am merciful. I let Arabella off. I said no more about it; but I must say it was not for nothing that I spent that day in silence with my umbrella up, seeing more hills and mists than I ever saw in my life, and put out of the way by my companions, under pretence of giving me the best seat, upon the driving-box.
THIRD DAY.-BY REGINALDA
After the narratives of my fair friends, I need not enter into any explanation of the little difficulties and hitches of the journey. The good old ladies enjoyed it, I don't doubt, in spite of all, and were as good friends as ever, like a pair of old doves, the next morning, when the missing sun presented himself, and we were at length able to set out with comfort on foot to see the beautiful grounds of Taymouth. I got along with them famously, I am glad to say, and was able, with a little trouble, to make myself agreeable in a way flattering to a fellow's self-regard who has had his disappointments in the service of woman, like most other people. The greatest bore in it all was when one happened to meet an acquaintance, and was led to mention, in a cursory way, that one was in charge of a party of ladies, never thinking that the venerable companions of one's voyage were about to sally forth, and dissipate at a blow that agreeable illusion. But indeed a man must be more hardhearted than I can boast of being,
who would grudge the trouble which gave those good creatures their innocent holiday. I don't mean to say I should be very ready to undertake it again; but I don't regret the three days.
And what a famous place Taymouth is, when one gets a little sunshine to see it by! A beautiful loch in front, quite by itself, and unlike all the other lochs; famous wood, unlimited shooting, and a princely size and style of place altogether. I should not mind going down there on the 12th, or any period presently thereafter, at the chieftain's pleasure-nor, indeed, of bestowing my leisure upon him, whenever he thinks fit to honour me with an invitation. I don't know a better specimen of composed and sober grandeur; and with all those beautiful glades and trees about-the trout in the Tay and the deer on the hill-a man might manage to be a Marquess without feeling inevitably doomed to bore himself to death. I am not sure, however, that I don't prefer the Duke of Atholl's quiet cottage es