Imatges de pÓgina
[ocr errors]

a bad servant, either get rid of him or her at once--or, if that be inconvenient, make the best of the bad bargain as long as it lasts. All the alchemy of scolding in the world will never transmute a ten-pound buttons into a fifty-guinea butler, or teach the plain cook to toss up an omelet like Soyer. Girls will have followers, glass will break, and china chip, as long as the nature of all such frail vessels remains unchanged. If such trifles are too much for your temper, there is no remedy but to keep an establishment of one-eyed Gorgons, and drink out of wooden bowls. Servants are 'the greatest plague in life," we have heard pretty often; some day, if the march of education goes on, and we all take to writing our autobiographies, we may hope to have the servants' opinion of the masters and mistresses. Then, again, how miserable some people make themselves and their children, by a perpetual worry about trifles. They adopt an insane view of the merits of order and regularity, and sacrifice their own and every one else's comfort to an attempt to regulate the versatile human instincts like a piece of clockwork. I once spent a week in one of these well-ordered families: it was a great punishment to me; I hope also in some degree to my entertainers. The iron rule of that house was "a place for everything, and everything in its place." I wasn't. The disgrace my somewhat vagrant habits led me into there was dreadful. The very first morning I opened Paterfamilias's newspaper, which was always laid in one particular spot upon the breakfast-table, never to be violated by any hand but his. There I stood, with my back to the fire, conning the outspread sheets, and nodding a cheerful goodmorning to my host when he entered. I had the hardihood even to read to him (out of his own paper!) the last Indian despatch--very politely, as I thought and to request his assistance to decipher the possible place intended by a dozen letters which the telegraph clerk appeared to have selected at random. To do him justice, he bore this inroad on his rights with tolerable outward composure; but I was formally

made aware, on the first opportunity, by Mrs P., of the outrage I had committed, and made to feel as uncomfortable as I deserved. Then I left my handkerchief on the drawingroom floor, one glove on the library table, another in the governess's parasol (which certainly was not the place for it, and how it got there I have no conception), and was formally presented with each article separately, and an account of its discovery, in the presence of the whole family assembled for dinner. One day the whole household was under strict cross-examination as to who had come into the drawing-room with dirty shoes. I was the culprit, of course, but I was too great a coward to confess; besides, the lady knew perfectly well who it was, but was polite enough to entertain the fiction that such conduct was impossible in any well-bred person: it must have been one of the children or the housemaids, of course; and the whole investigation was intended for my solemn warning and improvement; just as they used to whip a little boy vicariously to strike terror into misbehaving little princes. Then the terrible punctuality which made slaves of all of us, and kept me always looking at my watch, and always afraid of being late for something, as indeed I was once for dinner, in spite of all precautions-four minutes and a half exactly. Shall I ever forget it? If they only had had the charity to sit down quietly without me--if they had put me off with no soup, cold fish, and the last ragged cut of the mutton-if they had sent me to bed without any dinner at all, as once happened to me when I was a little boy-or inflicted upon me any other reasonable and humane form of punishment: but no; there they were all waiting for me in the drawing-room, all standing up, the door set wide open, and the head of the family opening fire upon me at once, before I was well inside it, with, "Now, Mr- will you take in Mrs P."

Of course, I hammered and stammered over an apology-"quite unintentional," and so forth. Oh, of course they knew it must be quité unintentional; only"-in a semiwhisper-" Mr P. did not like wait

ing for his dinner." There was an abominable child, too, in that family, the very incarnation of premature method and order. All the other children had redeeming points of carelessness and destructiveness about them; and we soon established a sort of freemasonry among ourselves as fellow-culprits, trying to keep each other out of scrapes as much as possible; they conveying to me private warnings as to how soon the prayer-bell would ring in the morning, and in how many minutes the carriage would be at the door, and furnishing me with much valuable secret intelligence as to the enemy's weak points, and the interpretation of the laws of the Medes and Persians, to whom I was in captivity; and I finding substitutes for impounded pencils, mending a broken Cupid who carried the wax matches in his quiver, brushing the boys' clothes after birds-nesting, "before Mamma saw them," and actually cutting up the ribbon of my eye-glass into shoe-ties for one young lady who was generally in trouble upon that score. But as to the imp I speak of, he was irreproachable. If I left the door open, he got up and shut it, not quietly, you understand, but officiously and reproachfully. If I took down a volume from its shelf, and it left my hand for one moment, if he could get at it, it was up in its place again before I knew what had become of it. I took courage one cold morning, there being no one but he and I in the room, to stir the fire, and put the poker, when I had done with it, under the grate (which I take to be the natural place for a poker), when up jumps this well-behaved little monster, and arranges it by rule and measure where he has been told it ought to be. I take credit to myself for very great forbearance-he and I being alone-that I checked an inclination to punch his head with it. Is it excusable in any rational beings to put themselves under such a lifelong penance as this, and to bring up their children, and force the unhappy stranger whom they get within their gates, to do likewise?

As to the thousand petty vexations which we invent for ourselves in an over-civilised state of society, they

have been the stock subject of satire ever since satire existed: they have been preached at till we are tired of the text, and laughed at (in other people) till we can laugh no longer. Still, to this moment, in our own rank of society, they make the daily bitterness of life. We torment ourselves because Mr A cut us in the street; because the B's did not ask us to dinner; because we were asked to meet the C's, and not the D's; or because the E's saw us getting out of a second-class railway carriage. Not one of these things makes the slightest real difference to our comfort or happiness; and in nine out of ten of such cases, no one is conscious of any neglect or annoyance but ourselves. Our imagination supplies the peas, in this case, and our vanity will not suffer us to try the boiling plan.

Look at the British pilgrim again on his foreign travels. He halts considerably over the passport difficulty, we have observed, at starting. But boil his peas, indeed !—not he; not if he knows it. He limps along upon little worries of his own creation, proud of them as if they were the ancestral gout that proves his pedigree; and comes home with sore toes in consequence. He calls for his bottled stout in the most impossible places, and grumbles if he is charged in proportion to the distance from Messrs Guinness and Co. The scene in Tancred, where his English body-servants think it rather hard not to have lump sugar with their coffee in the Arab sheikh's tent in the desert, and lament over "the family prayers and the home-brewed," is no exaggeration whatever; if it never literally occurred, we may, any of us, see the ditto of it enacted over and over again.

Turk, sir, you're asleep. And my cigar is out. The remark, sir, which I was about to address in conclusion to you or to any other traveller on the road of life is-take things easy, If I may be allowed to quote an ancient vernacular poet—

"A light heart and a thin pair of breeches

Will go through the world, brave boys." To which may be added, by way of corollary, that a grumbling, discontented spirit will fret through the

action; don't write to the Times; buy a copy instead, and amuse yourself with Paterfamilias and his troubles in print. And when the train comes up at last and you take your seat, don't tell us how very superior the French and Austrian carriages are, with their plate glass and morocco leather; go and live in France or Austria if you prefer it, and see how much better off you find yourself there. You will be apt to find in those strongly - governed countries an extra pea or two in your shoes that will pinch you pretty considerably before you have been naturalised there long.

stoutest corduroys in comparatively no time. There will be trials duly appointed for you, penances which you must perform whether or no; but even these will hardly be lightened by making a long face. And there will be still more of which the making and the mending will lie entirely in your own hands. If you choose to speculate in annoyances, there lies a large field open to you, between your Own weaknesses and your neighbour's. But let me advise you not to take more shares than you can help. Have as high an opinion of yourself and your deserts as you please, but don't expect to cut all the world out after your own There was a solemn dictum of pattern. Keep a good digestion, if Pythagoras' which much puzzled his possible, and a cheerful temper; it's scholars, and has been a perplexity easy enough to laugh when you win; to the learned ever since "Abstain but, you may depend upon it, it from beans." Some think it conwill prove a great advantage to your tained a deep political allusionplay in the end, to be able to laugh beans being the substitute for votingwhen you lose. If you go by rail, papers at Athens-and that extenddon't worry yourself about the training, as he no doubt meant it to do, being ten minutes behind time; it's your very idle men, be it remarked, whose minutes are always so immensely valuable. You will be quite in time for all you have to do if you don't start for another half-hour; and may count yourself luckier than many of your neighbours if you don't arrive sometimes before you are wanted. Don't fret about being expected at home; you'll find your chaste "Lucrece combing the fleece (i. e. doing her crochet) under the midnight" moderator with the utmost patience, even if you are a few minutes after your time. Don't stamp about the platform; don't threaten the company with


to future ages, it conveys to us a warning against having anything to do with Mr Bright and the ballot. Others suppose that it referred to his doctrine of the transmigration of souls, and that he feared he might some day be guilty of eating his grandmother in the bodily shape of a haricot. Possibly, like some other wise men, he did not quite understand himself; possibly it was only intended as a burlesque upon all sententious philosophy. Let me offer, as an appropriate pendant to that great man's saying, this which, not being a great man, I have felt bound to explain-" Boil your peas."


DURING summer, one of the Quarterly Reviews-it is neither necessary nor convenient to remember which of that now numerous family-indulged itself incidentally in some remarks to the effect that it is very presumptuous in people to write (in Magazínes, we presume) about such matters as angling, because anglers form a very small community, and the subject cannot have either interest or amusement for anybody else. With deference, this doctrine-though delivered with all that solemnity and air of old experience which, somehow or another, periodicals published no oftener than once in three months think it necessary to assume as soon as they are born-is really what the polite call nonsense, and the more candid trash. In the first and least place, anglers are not so small a community as the reviewer solemnly assumes, but a very large one, with many and various claims to have their wants supplied and their words listened to; and, secondly and conclusively, it is a fallacy of great size and entire hollowness to say that people take no interest in anything they have not seen or cannot do. As well almost say that people will not read about countries they have not visited or do not trade with, or that people cannot be expected to look at pictures they could not paint, as maintain, like this excessively grave, and, we suspect, reverend seignior, that it is impertinence or boredom to write about a sport which all have not the opportunity or the inclination to practise. "With these views" (as people say in giving a toast or proposing a resolution, after they have signally failed to give you a view of anything), and having also in view two excellent little books* which last summer brought forth, we venture to think that a short and rude account of some experiences acquired in a saunter round the remote and rough, but (in an angling point of view) paradisiacal county of Sutherland,

may be of use to some of those who may choose to read it, and do no great harm even to those who may prefer to read something wiser and better.

The best though not nearest way to Sutherlandshire and our subject, is by steamer through the Hebrides. There are two routes, or two ways of "doing" the route, Glasgow or Greenock being in both cases the starting-point-by the Kyles of Bute and the Crinan Canal to Oban, sleeping at that town of hotels a night, and catching the Skye steamer at a reasonable hour in the morning; or taking the Skye steamer when it leaves the Clyde in the evening, and spending the night (in a comfortable berth), rounding that inscrutable impediment to navigation, called Cantyre, which is so wonderfully and inconveniently made, that, after steaming swiftly all night, you find yourself at wakening within three or four miles of where you were at bedding. Take it either way (of course, the route is the same from Oban northwards), you have what many, and we among them, regard as the finest scenery in the three kingdoms, viewed in comfort and luxury from vessels rushing smoothly along at from ten to eighteen miles an hour (eighteen miles is nothing to the " Iona," one of the noble steamers of the fleet of Messrs Hutcheson & Co., the firm which, barring an occasional rebellion by the west wind, rules the Hebridean waves). Nowhere can you make so sudden and deep a plunge from multitude to solitude, from city to desert. This hour you are leaving the crammed and roaring streets of the second city of the United Kingdom; as you pass on, your ears are deafened, yet your heart cheered, by the din of thousands of hammers " closing rivets up" in those stately ocean giants which in a few months more will be dotting Mexican and Australian seas; and the next hour you are sweeping along

* Salmon-Casts and Stray Shots, by JOHN COLQUHOUN, Esq.; and The Tourist's and Angler's Guide to the North of Scotland by ANDREW YOUNG, Invershin.



[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

"Ulva dark and Colonsay,

And all the groups of islets gay, That guard famed Staffa round," -Isla, Jura, Scarba, Mull, Corryvreckan, Duntrune, Dunolly, Dunstaffnage, Duart-till, shooting out into open ocean from, "dark Mull, thy mighty Sound," you see, far beyond the mountains of Morven, out against the northern horizon, the wonderful peaks of the Cuchullins of Skye, appearing less like mountains than the most gorgeous and fantastic gift that the Atlantic ever sent to cloud-land. Then the ocean-battered Ardnamurchan-almost alone, of all that coast, without an island breakwater; the stony wilderness of Arisaig; green yet drear Glenelg ; “high Kintail," with its shores smiling to the sea, and its needle-pointed mountains assailing the sky-and you are at the southern end of the almost unvisited mountains of Western Ross, which, with various degrees of grandeur, but in unbroken series, wall the Atlantic for seventy miles northwards. The probability is, that the steamer diverges up some of those sea-lochs which, running far into the country, form its chief sources of communication with the world. This is, indeed, the most roadless district in the three kingdoms. It was a worthy clergyman, in one of its least desolate portions, who, urging a late aged and illustriously obese Scotch judge to


him a visit, gave him the enticing assurance that there was a good bridle-road to within twenty miles of the place! It is generally the case that the voyager for Sutherland has also an opportunity for two or three hours' inspection of that people, strangely habited in more than one sense, and those bogs so flat and bleak and

wet, both of which Sir James Matheson of the Lewes, with princely munificence of heart and purse, is seeking to reclaim. And then straight across the Minsh, past the Shiant Isles, which Dr M'Culloch speaks of as rivals to Staffa, but which almost nobody goes or can get to see, having all the grandest mountain-districts of Scotland, from Cape Wrath to the Point of Ardnamurchan, spread out before you, like a mighty sea in wild commotion. As our destination is Sutherland, and as we are neither able nor disposed to do all the mountains by the way, we have perhaps been loitering, or even twaddling ; but where the route is, for two days and nights, through a succession of the grandest scenery in the British Islands, it is impossible and undesirable to get along as quickly and silently as if you were on the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway.

The first view of Sutherland, approached from the Atlantic, gives a pretty correct idea of the characteristics of its scenery. The most conspicuous object is a gigantic conical mountain, close on the sea, standing apart from all rivals, though ringed round by some satellites; and far inland you see a repetition of the same effect in greater degree-a few peaks standing in apparent isolation, haughty and neighbourless, with no children round their knees. There are here, strictly speaking, no great mountain-ranges, but rather a mob of hills, destitute of arrangementwith one here, and another there, and a third yonder, raising their heads calmly and loftily out of the tumult


'serene, like heaven, above the clouds." None of them attain to a very great altitude, or rather none of them, in mere height, rival Ben Macdhui or Ben Nevis-the former of which, in the recent competition for greatest height among the mountains, conducted under the patronage of the Board of Ordnance, came in winner over the latter by only fourteen feet; but their shapes and postures are for the most part magnificent, and broadly varied-Coinag, rising sharp from Loch Assynt and the sea, with walls of precipices and gloomy fissures; Ben Hope, smooth and handsome, lifting himself from a smiling

« AnteriorContinua »