Imatges de pÓgina

council of war. After debate, we agreed to post, unless the landlord proved more than ordinarily rapacious. I went to the little office and informed him of our resolution. We chaffered a good deal, but at last a bargain was struck. I will not mention what current coin of the realm was disbursed on the occasion; it is a painful subject, and let me hasten. The man who has been once flogged winces at every unnecessary allusion to the halberts. I need only say that the journey was long, and to consist of six stages, a fresh horse every stage.

In due time a dog-cart was brought to the door, in which was harnessed a tall rawboned white horse, who seemed to be entering, in the depths of his consciousness, a sullen protest against our proceedings. I fervently trust that brute has by this time gone to the knackers! Against him I will cherish vindictive feeling until my dying day. We got in, and the animal was set in motion. There never was such a slow horse. He evidently disliked the work; perhaps he snuffed the rainy tempest imminent. Who knows? At all events, before he was done with us he took ample revenge for every kick and objurgation bestowed upon him. Half an hour after starting, a huge raincloud was hellying black above us; suddenly one portion of it crumbled away into a livid streak slanting down to earth, and in a few seconds it broke upon us as if it had an injury to avenge. A scold of the Cowgate, emptying her wrath on the husband of her bosom who has reeled home to her tipsy on Saturday night with but half his wages in his pocket, was nothing to the virulence of that cloud. Umbrellas and oilskins-if we had had them-would have been useless. In less than a quarter of an hour we were saturated like a shipwrecked bale of cotton, which has reposed for twenty years in the ooze of the Atlantic; and all the while, against the fell lines of the rain, heavy as bullets, straight as cavalry lances, jogged the white horse, heedless of cry and blow, with but a livelier prick and motion of the ear, as if to him the thing were perfectly

delightful. The first stage was a long one, and all the way from Strathpeffer to Garve, from Garve to Milltown, the rain rushed down on blackened wood, boiled in marshy tarn, smoked on iron crag. At last the inn was descried afar, a speck of white against a space of green. Hope revived within us. Another horse could be procured there. O Jarvie, cudgel his bones amain, and fortune may yet smile!

Alas! on our arrival we were informed that certain travellers had, two hours before, possessed themselves of the only animal of which the inmates could boast. At this intelligence Hope fell down stone dead as if shot through the heart. There was nothing for it but to give our redoubted steed capable of "witching the world" at the rate of four and a half miles an hour-a bag of oats, and hie on. The oats were duly devoured, and the rawboned white was in harness once more. For a while he went at a better pace, the rain slackened somewhat, and our spirits rose in proportion. Our hilarity, however, was premature. A hill rose before us, up which the miry road wriggled and twisted itself. This hill the white would in nowise take. Ingrate! had he not baited at our expense? The whip was of no avail; he stood stock-still. Fellowes applied his stick somewhat rudely to his ribs; he put his legs steadily before him, and refused to move. I got out, seized the bridle, and attempted to drag him forward; he tossed his head high in air, showing at the same time a set of vicious teeth, and actually backed. What was to be done? Just at this time a party of drovers, mounted on red shaggy ponies, with hair hanging over their eyes, came up, and had the ill-feeling to laugh aloud at our discomfiture. Another drop of acid squeezed into the bitter cup. But water will wear the hardest rock, and blows will in time have effect on the stubbornest bones. Suddenly he made a desperate plunge, and took the hill. Midway he paused, and attempted his old game, but down came a hurricane of blows, and he started off.

""Twere long to tell and sad to trace" the annoy that rawboned quadruped wrought us. But it came to a close at last. I wave thee my farewell, O animal sullen and unbeloved; may no green paddock receive thee in thine old age! To the hounds with thine ill-natured flesh! To the tanyard with thy be-cudgelled hide!

Late in the afternoon we reached Jean-Town, on the shores of Loch Carron. 'Tis a tarry, scaly village, with a most ancient and fishlike smell. The inhabitants have suffered a sea-change. The men stride about in leather fishing-boots, the women sit at the open doors filling baskets with bait. Two or three boats are moored at the stone-heaped pier. Brown, idle nets, stretched on high poles along the beach, flap in the drying winds. We had tea at the primeval inn, and on intimating to the landlord that we wished to proceed to Broadford, he went off to engage a boat and crew. In a short time an old sea-dog, red with the keen breeze and redolent of the fishy brine, entered the apartment with the information that everything was ready. We embarked at once, a sail was hoisted, and on the vacillating puff of evening we dropped gently down the loch. There was something in the dead silence of the scene and the easy motion of the boat that affected one. Weary with travel, worn out with want of sleep, yet at the same time far from drowsy, with every faculty and sense rather in a condition of wide and intense wakefulness, everything around became invested with a singular and frightful feeling. Why, I know not, for I have had no second experience of the kind; but on this occasion, to my overstrained vision, every object became instinct with a hideous and multitudinous life. The clouds congealed into faces and human forms. Figures started out upon me from the mountain-sides. The rugged surfaces, seamed with torrent lines, grew into monstrous figures, and arms with clutching fingers. The sweet and gracious shows of nature became, under the magic of lassitude, a phantasmagoria hateful and abominable. Fatigue changed the world for me as the microscope changes a dewdrop,

when the jewel pure from the womb of the morning becomes a world swarming with unutterable life-a battle-field of unknown existences. As the aspects of things grew indis tinct in the fading light, the possession lost its pain; but the sublimity of one illusion will be memorable. For a barrier of mountains standing high above the glimmering lower world, distinct and purple against a "daffodil sky," seemed the profile of a gigantic man stretched on a bier; and the features, in their sad imperial beauty, seemed those of the first Napoleon. Wonderful that mountain-monument as we floated seaward into distance the figure sculptured by earthquake and fiery deluges sleeping up there, high above the din and strife of earth, robed in solemn purple, its background the yellow of the evening sky.

About ten we passed the rocky portals of the loch on the last sigh of evening, and stood for the open sea. The wind came only in intermitting puffs, and the boatmen took to the oars. The transparent autumn night fell upon us; the mainland was gathering in gloom behind, and before us rocky islands glimmered on the level deep. To the chorus of a Gaelic song of remarkable length and monotony the crew plied their oars, and every splash awoke the lightning of the main. The sea was filled with elfin fire. I hung over the stern, and watched our brilliant wake seething up into a kind of pale emerald, and rushing away into the darkness. The coast on our left had lost form and outline, withdrawing itself into an undistinguishable mass of gloom, when suddenly the lights of a village broke clear upon it like a bank of glow-worms. I inquired its name, and was answered "Plockton." In half an hour the scattered lights became massed into one; soon that died out in the distance. Eleven o'clock Like one man the rowers pull. The air is chill on the ocean's face, and we wrap ourselves more closely in our cloaks. There is something uncomfortable in the utter silence and loneliness of the hourin the phosphorescent sea, with its ghostly splendours. The boatmen, too, have ceased singing. Would that

I were taking mine ease with FitzTartan! Suddenly a strange sighing sound is behind us. One of the crew springs up, hauls down the sail, and the next moment the squall is upon us. The boatmen hang on their oars, and you hear the rushing rain. Whew! how it hisses down on us, crushing everything in its passion. The long dim stretch of coast, the dark islands, are in a moment shut out; the world shrinks into a circumference of twenty yards; and within that space the sea is churned into a pale illumination-a light of misty gold. In a moment we are wet to the skin. The boatmen have shipped their oars, drawn their jacket-collars over their ears, and there we lie at midnight shelterless to the thick hiss of the rain. But it has spent itself at last, and a few stars are again twinkling in the blue. It is plain our fellows are somewhat tired of the voyage. They cannot depend upon a wind; it will either be a puff, dying as soon as born, or a squall roaring down on the sea through the long funnels of the glens; and to pull all the way is a dreary affair. The matter is laid before us the voices of the crew are loud for our return. They will put us ashore at Plockton-they will take us across in the morning. A cloud has again blotted the stars, and we consent. Our course is altered, the oars are pulled with redoubled vigour; soon the long dim line of coast rises before us, but the lights have burned out now, and the Plocktonites are asleep. On we go; the boat shoots into a "midnight cove," and we leap out upon masses of slippery sea-weed. The craft is safely moored. Two of the men seized our luggage, and we go stumbling over rocks until the road is reached. A short walk brings us to the inn-or rather public-house-which is, however, closed for the night. After some knocking we were admitted, wet as newfoundlands from the lake. Wearied almost to death, I reached my bedroom, and was about to divest myself of my soaked garments, when, after a low tap at the door, the owner of the boat entered. He stated his readiness to take us across in the morning; he would knock us up shortly after dawn; but as he

and his companions had no friends in the place, they would of course have to pay for their beds and their breakfasts before they sailed; "an' she was shure the shentlemens wadna expect her to pay the same." With a heavy heart I satisfied the cormorant. He insisted on being paid his full hire before he left Jean-Town, too! fore turning in, I looked what o'clock. One in the morning. In three hours Fitz - Tartan will be waiting in his galley at the head of Eishart's Loch. Unfortunates that we are!


At least, thought I when I awoke, there is satisfaction in accomplishing something quite peculiar. There are many men in the world who have performed extraordinary actions, but Fellowes and myself inay boast, without fear of contradiction, that we are the only travellers who ever arrived at Plockton. Looking to the rottenness of most reputations nowadays, our feat is distinction sufficient for the ambition of a private


We ought to be made fions of when we return to the abodes of civilisation. I have heard certain beasts roar, seen them wag their tails to the admiration of beholders, and all on account of a slighter matter than that we wot of. Who, pray, is that pale gentleman with the dishevelled locks, yonder, in the flower-bed of ladies, to whom every face turns? What don't you know? The last new poet, author of the "Universe." Splendid performance. Pooh! a reed shaken by the wind. Look at us. We are the men who arrived at Plockton! But, heavens ! the boatmen should have been here ere this. Alarmed, I sprung out of bed, clothed in haste, burst into Fellowes' room, turned him out, and then proceeded down stairs. No information could be procured. Nobody had seen our crew. That morning they had not called at the house. After a while a fisherman sauntered in, and in consideration of certain stimulants to be supplied by us, admitted that our fellows were acquaintances of his own, that they had started at daybreak, and would now be far on their way to JeanTown. The scoundrels, so over-paid too! Well, well, there's another world. With some difficulty, we

gathered from our friend that a ferry from the mainland to Skye existed at some inconceivable distance across the hills, and that a boat perhaps could be had there. But how was the ferry to be reached? No conveyance could be had at the inn. We instantly despatched scouts to every point of the compass to hunt for a wheeled vehicle. At height of noon our messengers returned with the information that neither gig, cart, nor wheelbarrow could be had on any terms. What was to be done? I was smitten by a horrible sense of helplessness; it seemed as if I were doomed to abide for ever in that dreary place, girdled by these grey rocks scooped and honeycombed by the washing of the bitter seas-were cut off from friends, profession, and delights of social intercourse, as if spirited away to fairyland. I felt myself growing a fisherman like the men about me; Gaelic seemed forming on my tongue. Fellowes, meanwhile, with that admirable practical philosophy of his, had lit a cigar, and was chatting away with the landlady about the population of the village, the occupations of the inhabitants, their ecclesiastical history. I awoke from my gloomy dream as she replied to a question of his "The last minister was put awa' for drinkin'; but we've got a new ane, a Mr Cammil; an' verra weel liket he is." The words were a ray of light, and suggested a possible deliverance. I slapped him on the shoulder, crying, "I have it! There was a fellow-student of mine in Glasgow, a Mr Donald Campbell, and it runs in my mind that he was preferred to a parish in the Highlands somewhere what if this should prove the identical man? Let us call upon him." The chances were not very much in our favour; but our circumstances were desperate, and the thing was worth trying. The landlady sent her son with us to point the way. We knocked, were admitted, and shown to the tiny drawing-room. While waiting, I observed a couple of photograph cases on the table. These I opened. One contained the portrait of a gentleman in a white neckcloth, evidently a clergyman; the other that of a lady, in all likelihood his spouse.


Alas! the gentleman bore no resemblance to my Mr Campbell: the lady I did not know. I laid the cases down in disappointment, and began to frame an apology for our singular intrusion, when the door openedand my old friend entered. He greeted us cordially, and I wrung his hand with fervour. I told him our adventure with the Jean-Town boatmen, and our consequent helplessness; at which he laughed, and offered his cart to convey ourselves and luggage to Kyleakin ferry, which turned out to be only six miles off. Genial talk about college scenes and old associates brought on the hour of luncheon; that concluded, the cart was at the door. In it our things were placed; farewells were uttered, and we departed. It was a wild, picturesque road along which we moved; sometimes comparatively smooth, but more frequently rough and stony as the dry torrent's bed. Black dreary wastes spread around. Here and there we passed a colony of turf huts, out of which wild ragged children, tawny as Indians, came trooping, to stare upon us as we passed. But the journey was attractive enough; for before us rose a permanent vision of mighty hills, with their burdens of cloudy rack; and every now and then, from an eminence, we could mark, against the land, the blue of the sea flowing in, bright with sunlight. We were once more on our way; the minister's mare went merrily; the breeze came keen and fresh against us; and in less than a couple of hours we sighted Kyleakin.

The ferry is a narrow passage between the mainland and Skye; the current is powerful there, difficult to pull against on gusty days; and the ferrymen are loth to make the attempt unless well remunerated. When we arrived, we found four passengers waiting to cross; and as their appearance gave prospect of an insufficient supply of coin, they were left sitting on the bleak windy rocks until some others should come up. It was as easy to pull across for ten shillings as for two! One was a girl, who had been in service in the south, had taken ill there, and was on her way home to some wretched turf-hut



on the hill-side, in all likelihood to die; the second a little cheery Irishwoman, with a basket full of paper ornaments, with the gaudy colours and ingenious devices of which she hoped to tickle the aesthetic sensibilities, and open the purses, of the Gael. The third and fourth were men, apparently laborious ones; but the younger informed me he was schoolmaster, and it came out incidentally in conversation that his schoolhouse was a turf cabin, his writing-table a trunk, on which his pupils wrote by turns. Imagination sees his young kilted friends kneeling on the clay floor, laboriously forming pot-hooks there, and squinting horribly the while. The ferrymen began to bestir themselves when we came up; in a short time the boat was ready, and the party embarked. The craft was crank, and leaked abominably, but there was no help; and our bags were deposited in the bottom. The schoolmaster worked an oar in lieu of payment. The little Irish woman, with her precious basket, sat high in the bow, the labourer and the sick girl behind us at the stern. With a strong pull of the oars we shot out into the seething water. In a moment the Irishwoman is brought out in keen relief against a cloud of spray; but, nothing daunted, she laughs out merrily, and seems to consider a ducking the funniest thing in the world. In another I receive a slap in the face from a gush of blue water, and emerge half-blinded, and soaked from top to toe. Ugh, this sea-waltz is getting far from pleasant! The leak is increasing fast, and our carpet-bags are well-nigh afloat in the working bilge. We are all drenched now. The girl is sick behind, and Fellowes is assisting her from his brandy-flask. The little Irishwoman, erst so cheery and gay, with spirits that turned every circumstance into a quip and crank, has sunk in a heap at the bow; her basket is exposed, and the ornaments, shaped by patient fingers out of coloured papers, are shapeless now, the looped rosettes are ruined, her stock-in-trade, pulp -a misfortune great to her as a defeat to any army, or a famine to a kingdom. But we are more than halfway across, and a little ahead the

water is comparatively smooth. The boatmen pull with greater ease, the uncomfortable sensation at the pit of the stomach is redressed, the white lips of the girl begin to redden somewhat, and the bunch forward begins to bestir itself, and exhibit signs of life. Fellowes bought up the contents of her basket, and a contribution of two-and-sixpence from myself made the widow's heart to sing aloud for joy. On landing, our luggage is conveyed in a cart to the inn, and waits our arrival there. Meanwhile we warm our chilled limbs with a caulker of Glenlivet. "Blessings be with it, and eternal praise." How the fine spirit melts into the wandering blood, like "a purer light in light!" How the soft benignant fire streams through the labyrinthine veins, from brain to toe! The sea is checkmated, the heart beats with a fuller throb, and impending rheu matism flies afar. When I reached the inn, we seized our luggage, in the hope of procuring dry garments. Alas! when I went up-stairs, mine might have been the carpet-bag of a merman; it was wet to the inmost core.

Soaked to the skin, it was our interest to proceed without delay. We waited on the landlord, and desired a conveyance. The landlord informed us that the only vehicle which he possessed was a phaton at present on hire till the evening, and advised us, now that it was Saturday, to remain in his establishment till Monday, when he could send us on comfortably. To wait till Monday, however, would never do. We told the man our story, how for two days we had been the sport of fortune, tossed hither and thither; but he-feeling he had us in his power - would render no assistance. We wandered out toward the rocks to hold a consultation, and had almost resolved to leave our things where they were, and start on foot, when a son of the innkeeper joined us. He-whether cognisant of his parent's statement, I cannot say admitted that there was a horse and gig in the stable, that he knew Fitz-Tartan's place, and offered to drive us to a little fishingvillage within three miles of it, where our things could be left, and a cart

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