Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the pathway over the fields, distinctly saw the mighty building nod, if I may so speak, to the wind, and in an instant after come crashing and crumbling to the ground in one tremendous mass of destruction. Astonishment and terror rooted him to the spot as he saw the ancient mansion melting, as it were, beneath the breath of the hurricane.

The venerable building continued falling and crumbling away, the chimneys flying over the fields, and the furniture of the chambers rolling, and tumbling, and crashing down with detached masses of bricks, stones, and rafters, all in one conglomeration of destruction.

Just as Laurence breathlessly approached the scene of desolation a part of the wall standing in the left wing fell, and something came down with a great noise and jingling, in the field. He involuntarily turned to see what it was, and the long-sought iron chest, bound with glittering brass, met his eye. He, however, paid no attention to it at that moment, but hastened to ascertain whether his cousin and his friends were safe. Most of the inmates of the house had been apprised of danger by a strange rumbling sound at the top of the building, and had rushed forth in time to save themselves. But Robert had not escaped so well ; he, with two of his companions, had been struck and miserably crushed by the falling stones.

When Laurence found him he was lying in the last faintness of approaching death, surrounded by servants.

Laurence,” said he, as his cousin stooped by his side, “Laurence, this is the judgment of Heaven on me for that

How ! for what ?"

For murdering my uncle. Yes, Laurence, yes, I did it,” he answered with a faint and smothered voice, and died.

Our story is told.

There is no necessity for describing the sensation caused by this announcement ; suffice it to explain that the iron chest had been built up in a thick wall, which had stood when nearly all the rest had fallen. Many and many were the years that Laurence lived, enjoying the wealth left him by his murdered uncle, in a stately mansion built on the ruins of Plumstock Hall.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

THE HIGHLAND BIVOUAC OF 1845. BY THE AUTHOR OF “ HIGHLAND SPORTS AND HIGHLAND QUARTERS."

CHAPTER II. But we have now passed the fine cascades of the Teith running from Loch Lubnaig, and have entered the romantic pass of Lennie, through the Grampians. There are few passes in the Highlands more beautiful, none more variedly and richly wooded ; and as we halted to admire the wild scenery, the mind wandered far away in comparison to those Biscayan scenes where Mina and his guerilla troops had caused death and dismay to the legions of France. Leaving this almost solemn pass, our britska was whirled over the bridge of Killmahog, a name more pleasing to an English butcher than to ears which then listened to rushing mountain torrents. Kill-me-a-hog, however, reminded us that mid-day had passed an hour since ; moreover Loch Van-a-choir, the lake of the Fair Valley, was near at hand—and what scene more fair and calm, near which to form our intended bivouac ? A few clouds now hung on the hitherto clear blue vault of heaven, causing the heat to strike less intensely across the vale, and make the picture more calm and solenın. Ben Ledi, shadowed in its dark blue mantle, stood scowling on the Pass of Lennie ; the waters from the mountains hurried downwards to join the lake and refresh the air; and soon the hazel plantations which bordered the lake of the White or Fair Valley, in which the tall corn waved, became more narrow, and proceeding rapidly we soon halted at a sequestered spot, within a stone's cast of the lake, made as for the resort of a gipsy encampment. Sheltered by the hazel trees, we soon unharnessed, with the aid of the post-boy, our trusty steeds, and allowed them to pick up the fresh herb, a good supply of corn being provided for their dessert, with refreshing water at hand ; this, the first benevolent duty of travellers, over, we forced our way through the thick underwood, and soon selected a truly delicious dining apartment, amid the rocks, and secluded by the trees, on the very margin of Loch Vennachar. Who reading this name does not recal the beautiful poem of the Lady of the Lake, wherein the whole of the scenes on which we then looked are so beautifully and to the life described ?

“ Few were the stragglers following far,

That reached the Lake of Vennachar.” But we must forget for a moment the beauties of nature, and attend to the calls of a ravenous appetite. Once more the carriage was robbed of every cushion-fires were kindled among the rocks-potatoes washed in the waters of the lake-not a very romantic occupation, nevertheless doing the amateur cook is a very pleasing pastime, and on this occasion we concocted a stew, which had it not been for the damnable midges, which in the Highlands are given to feed luxuriously on the faces, hands, and necks of fair ladies and dark gentlemen who intrude on their domains, we verily believe our gastronomic talent would have surpassed those of the enthusiastic individual who finished his career on a rapier for want of a fish. Nevertheless, in spite of the midges, we stirred and tasted the stew, poured in now a little Reading sauce, now a little Worcester, while they continued to stir us with a vengeance and taste us in spite of ourselves. But the Reading and Worcester were not all the ingredients that fell therein; yet every morsel was eaten and pronounced marvellously appetisant, for we kept the fact to ourselves that at least a pint of sand from the shores of Loch Ỹennachar had assisted in thickening the gravy. We had in those bright days a merry Highland terrier, as joyous and active a little animal as ever was pupped beyond the Border. This little fellow was a great favourite with all who saw him, and as he was our constant companion, and in fact, a great addition to any party, he had been permitted to accompany us—now running by the carriage-side, now chasing mountain sheep, and frightening all the ducks on the road side out of their lives ; then, fatigued, resting his little head on the lap of one of the fair ladies—for dogs have good taste in these matters as well as man-or sitting perched up between us on the rumble, in silent admiration of all with life he saw. He had, however, one trick, of which when once learned it was impossible to break him; how or where he had acquired it, it is impossible to explain, and matters little-save that he had not at the same time been taught to practise it in proper

It was simply that of picking up a stone and laying it at the feet of any person kindly disposed to give him a run on land or a jump into the water to seek it, when, how, or where, little cared he. The day was hot-the water of the lake calm and delightful, two or three refreshing baths had already been afforded him. The party—at least, most of them had wandered from the spot in search of the picturesque, while he for some brief time sat watching his master's culinary labours—impatient of delay, he at length found a round pebble, and laid it at our feet. Intent on our object of serving a most savoury mess, the high flavour of which began to waft its aroma towards Ben Ledi, we paid little or no attention to his wishes. These, however, he soon apprised us he intended should be gratified ; and with an earnest intent to this effect, in pushing the pebble towards us, he cast into the high-flavoured concoction at least half a pint of sand, which pleasing addition he repeated ere we had time to chastise him. We had only one course to pursue, that of stirring a few additional stirs, and then serving to our friends that which we other

season.

wise would willingly have enjoyed ourselves ; they were satisfied even to repletion-pronounced it delicious, and of course gave us the credit of depriving ourselves for their benefit—but a feast in the open air after a long day's ramble, weather being fair, and locality being beautiful, causes an appetite to the least of eaters, which no heated room, however delightful-no society, however charming-no repast, however suited to the senses, can ever call forth; and on such occasions a sprinkling of sand answers all the purposes of a dash of cayenne, or any other seasoning of the highest order. Dinner being over, as on the border of Loch Earn, we took our time of repose, the smokers, among whom we numbered, sought a fitting divan among the rocks; while the rest of the party, scattered in different directions, either taking a siesta or in other amusements, having fully refreshed the body allowed the mind to dwell on nature's beauties, with which on all sides we were surrounded—not, in our humble estimation, that Loch Vennachar bears comparison in boldness or beauty to Loch Earn or those more lovely lakes we were slothfully approaching. Sir Walter Scott, however, with his bright imagination has nevertheless thrown around it a halo of interest which makes all things, to a mind open to receive such, appear to advantage.

But the dark and leaden clouds which now hang on the craggy pinnacle of the hill of God, speak of a change of weather—the afternoon advances, and we have still some leagues ere we reach our quarters for the night at the small hotel built at the mouth of the Trossachs for the accomodation of tourists; moreover, we were led to believe that the route which lay before us was one of unsurpassing beauty not to be lost sight of by the coming shades of evening, or dimned and saddened by the approaching storm, which, amid these Highlands comes frequently unexpected and unprepared for, deluging the earth and all who are unwarily exposed to it, so we quickly gathered up the fragments of our outdoor meal, packed away the pans and kettles, replaced the cushions, and having assisted our most civil, but most unenlightened charioteer to harness in his cattle, we were soon fairly under weigh again ;

“ And nearer was the copse-wood grey

That waned and wept on Loch Achray,
And mingled with the pine trees blue

On the bold cliffs of Ben Venue." As an enthusiastic lover of fine scenery, we had looked forward with no common anticipations of pleasure to the four last leagues of this day's ramble. Whatever were those anticipations, however, we must frankly admit they were more than realised as each yard opened new features in the picture more and more to be admired, and the sun, now hidden by the gathering clouds, now breaking forth again in splendour, produced an effect of light and shade far more pleasing to the beholder than had the hoped-for clearness of the heavens continued throughout the day. Bidding adieu to Loch Vennachar and the fair valley from which it takes its name, we now proceeded through a cluster of small huts, and mounted a very steep, rough road cut from the mountain side, winding on through labyrinths and crags intermixed with patches of verdure, bogs, rushes, and shady coppice, with mountain rivulets rushing from all quarters; a road less formed for easy motion of wheels, and consequently less agreeable to ride over, yet more beauteous in variety we scarcely ever beheld—approaching the Glen of Finglass with the river issuing thence we crossed a small bridge, the Bridge of Turk

“ And when the brigg of Turk was won

The headmost horseman rode alone". truly a strange but beautiful and impracticable hunting country; though the quarry was nigh run to, ere the

parkling eyes of the fair Ellen gave welcome in the distance. As we entered this part of the pass—for pass it may

be termed-strange were the sensations which crowded on the mind ; on the right a few scattered shielings, the river roaring through the deep glen (for there had recently been much rain, and darkened by the shadows of the high towering crags of the forest of Glen Finglass, covered with wood. The river, though loudly heard, was scarcely to be seen, so dense was the foliage-here the lofty pine towering above the thick hazel, varied by the silvery birch and mountain ash bending over the broken flood which rushed towards the bridge. To the left Loch Achray, closely surrounded by hills of every shape and hue, shadowing its cobalt waters. Hence the beauty, we may fairly add the sublimity, of the scene by the borders of Loch Achray, to the very entrance of the foot of Loch Katrine or more properly written Loch Cathrine-is beyond the power of pen to describe or pencil to delineate, nothing but the eye can truly convey to the mind such scenery. Well may this beauteous lake be termed Loch-a-chrávy, or the lake of the Field of Devotion, for never have we witnessed a spot more calculated to call the mind of man from thoughts of the world, the city's din, the struggles of life, to his God in thankfulness that he in his bounty has made such loveliness for man's delight.

On quitting the narrow road which winds, or rather twists under the rocks by the side of Loch Achray, we passed on amongst various shaped crags covered with wood, and rended chasms, deep and dark on every side. No trace of man or living thing was seen; every sound reverberated from rock to rock as if flying through the labyrinth to announce the approach of unhallowed steps. Our hearts were raised in awe to Heaven's solemnity. All was echo; the song of the bird, the sound of the foot of an animal, the rustling of the wind among the trees, the gush of a torrent, or the fall of a pebble resounded through the solemn pass as through a ruined cloister. The gloom hung heavier and heavier on the mountain; now a large drop of heated rain fell from the sky, a slight rumbling sound, the horses pricked their ears, the ladies feared for their bonnets; faster and faster fell the heavy raindrops, louder pealed the thunder, echoing through a hundred hills—flash, flash, the lightning flew across the glen. The morning scene had shifted; then so fair, so calm, so cloudless ; now so gloomy yet so grand; the very weather for once seemed to have prepared itself for our enthusiasm. While gliding through treeless moors, and feasting under the canopy of heaven, all was fair, and warm, and dry, over head and under foot; but the moment we entered the wild pass we have thus briefly endeavoured to describe, we were treated to a thousand freaks of most awful grandeur; and although choice would unquestionably not induce us to select such an astonishing atmospheric termination to a pleasant excursion, we must express our thankfulness that the deluge poured on our devoted heads at a moment when shelter was near at hand, and amid scenes of all others made more interesting by such an event. But our carriage now stands before the door of the little Highland Posada, in a spot of exceeding beauty, hard by the entrance to the Trossachs; its outward appearance speaks of homely comfort and rural simplicity. We rest there to-night, to-morrow we will tell you of Helen's Isle ; and having looked on the placid lake from the heathered sides of Ben Venue, will endeavour to paint you a rough but truthful portrait of its loveliness. The thunder still groans in the distance, but the battle of nature is fought, and the mighty legions are retiring. The dark clouds roll onwards from north to west, and the air

is lighter, almost chilly among these Highland mountains; moreover, the gentler sex, fatigued, but not weary of the day's pleasure, yet somewhat unnerved by the last hour's thunder and deluge, are handed from the carriage. Beware how you step; the ground, but recently parched by the hot sun, is now saturated. Be careful ; such fairy feet are rarely seen within the threshold of a Highland inn. We were ushered into a tolerable-sized parlour, decently clean and commodious, nothing more; the bivouac among the rocks was a palace in comparison. Our horses were cared for, our bed-rooms selected, or rather secured, these were clean, but neither airy nor commodious, the view from the windows, however, spoke for itself, and we all felt disposed to be well pleased. The dust of the morning drive was soon washed away, and dry shoes replaced the muddy boots occasioned by the thunder storm. Tea, and what not was ordered, and we all

evinced the full intention of passing the evening as we had passed the day. The merry joke went round, the cheerful laugh was heard, and anticipations of the morrow made the present doubly joyous. The board, however, had scarcely been spread for our evening's meal, ere another vehicle, in the shape of a hired open phaeton, drove to the door, from which alighted four individuals; the one a thick-set, vulgar-looking man, dressed evidently in one of Moses and Son's shooting jackets, and a pair of tartan trowsers, his head being covered with a Glengarry bonnet; yet no Highlander was he, but an unmistakable individual fresh from Whitechapel, who, Heaven knows how or wherefore, thus unexpectedly found himself in the midst of all most beautiful in Scottish scenery. He was followed by a lanky youth, some sixteen years of age; the two with difficulty handing out, with care, a portly over-dressed dame, weighing some sixteen stone of human flesh, the mother, doubtless, of a quiet, pretty-looking young woman, whom, as she repeatedly addressed as her dair love Jane, we presume to have been her daughter. Having witnessed the unloading of the vehicle, and wondered why such persons should travel so far to witness sights for the beauties of which they cared not one jot-save, perhaps, the young lady, who had been at a London boarding-school, and was therefore well read in Scott and Burns, we resumed our seat, and prepared to play our part at the tea table-when, lo! the door opened, and the whole party entering, relieved themselves from all unnecessary garments; while the gentleman, or leader of the tourists, deliberately rang the bell

, and loudly declaring he was famished among these savage hills, and positively had eaten nothing palatable since he crossed the Border, immediately ordered that everything in the house might be produced. Had he said he had smelt nothing but whiskey there would have been some truth in his assertion, as even in this truly lovely spot, where honeysuckles hung in flowery clusters without the windows, the very room within was scented with it.

But it was now full time that we should express our annoyance at that which we naturally surmised was a rude and unmannerly intrusion; we looked at one another-disgust and astonishment were vividly depicte on the faces of all-yet no one spoke. Having, however, hitherto been one of the active leaders of the party, we felt it high time that we should hint that we had already secured the apartment. This we did, as mildly and courteously as circumstances would permit; but we were very briefly undeceived as to the hopes of retaining our privacy, as were we with the pleasures we had expected around the social board.

“No offence, no offence whatever, gentlemen," said the sturdy little intruder. “This is a public room—so said the landlady; them who pays has the right of entry, and right is might with Londoners, as all the world over. First come, how ever, first served—that's

all fair and just—so drink your tea, ladies. Doubtless you've dined, aye? I have not. Come, Jane, my dear, here is the eatablescold beef, aye! Any pickles in this outlandish place, aye, my good lassie? Cold fowl, Jane, here's for you—come, my boy, tackle the beef. Young woman, bring porter, ale, everything your house affords, and just half a glass of brandy to keep out the mountain hair I have been hinhaling from the lake this last hour."

This was really too much. Hitherto all had been couleur de rose, now our quiet evening was totally upset by the association of this noisy vulgar tourist, who for an hour had been hinhailing " the “hair” of the mountain from the lake. Would that he had been soaking in it, or on the mountains ! We hastened out to find the landlady-for host there was none—but from her we only received a corroboration of his assertions. The room was not only a public one, but the only one, and truly his right was might. Alternative we had none; conversation on private matters or merriment was at an end, and heartily we wished our hungry friend had never left his home in the capital to wander amid scenes he cared not for. The ladies retired to their bed-rooms, while the gentlemen, after a stroll and a cigar, were condemned to follow their

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »