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Behold the Hebrides
My Private Alps


I AM quite convinced that long long ago my ancestors were dwellers among the wilds of the mountain; for at times I have an almost insatiable yearning for the hills. Indeed, they always enchanted me; and, when a small child in a remote part of the Highlands, I loved them so dearly that I carefully selected the mountains which appealed to me most. And since that time I have reserved them strictly for my own private thoughts and fitful dreams. Of course I visit them at odd intervals in order to make certain that everything there is as it ought to be.

They are my very own private Alps; and they lie in the beautiful county of Ross, where a sea of many moods sweeps unceasingly beneath them.

Never a man learns exactly where they are situated, in case some stranger, who might one day visit them out of sheer curiosity, should be enchanted with them too, and should seek to destroy my prescriptive right in them.

My private Alps are unlike all other Alps in the world. No (vulgar) tourists scatter wealth and orange-peel about them to disturb their peace and comeliness; and no motor-cars and charabancs dash madly through them. It is merciful that there is not a fashionable hotel within a hundred miles; and, in fact, one is obliged to tramp many weary miles on foot to reach them, for no electric trains with gorgeous dining-saloons ascend my Alps.

The great pine-trees and larches of my Alps sweep down the mountain-side to the very edges of my mirrored lochs; and, when the hills are bathed in snow and my mountain streams are cased in a cold pure ice that is as clear as crystal, multitudes of pretty creatures take shelter within the peaceful aisles of my forestsóconies and squirrels and many birds.

Indeed, there are even wild cats and foxes in my forests; and the blue wood-pigeons, that coo nightly in my larch-tree dovecots, are my emblem of love and of winter peace. And over my tall pine-tree tops the cold winds sough, and make a sound as of someone sighing afar off.

There are any number of deer in my territory; and they trail silently down from the mountains at dawn to drink of my shadowy pools, and to search for food where the snows may lie not. In my Alps there are also snowy eagles; and they guard my mountain-crags like snow-clad sentinels in the dead of winter.

But it is not until summer that my Alps are arrayed as even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed, for in the sunshine of summer they are covered with diverse patterns wrought in blue and purple and gold. It is then that my little rills, which trickle down them, glisten like caskets of many precious jewels. The heather-bell is in full bloom; and the bees of a thousand hives drowse idly among my moors. Beside my streams cool, fresh water-cresses grow; and on the face of my lochs water lilies spread themselves among the reeds wherein the wild ducks hide. It is there my dragon-flies unfold their delicate, flimsy wings, and flutter gaily through the sunlight.

In the distance I can see the greenlit Hebrides, as they loom across the western seas. And at eventide my tarns are stained like great windows of coloured glass; and the clouds of a sunset sky drift over them like some magic panorama.

My Alps are immune from the ruthlessness of modern quasi-sportsmen. They are a sanctuary for bird and for beast, because they are too far out of the way to offer any temptation to the cruel stalker of stags and the relentless destroyer of grouse and pheasant. It is here that as yet the professional, money-grabbing ornithologist is unknown; and neither snarers nor trappers visit my Alps in their eagerness to hunt and to kill.

And when the sun has sunk low beneath the hills, and when darkness has crept around all these pretty things and filled them with the drowsiness of night, there is not a cheep to be heard except, perhaps, the peevish call of the green-hooded lapwing on the lonely moor, for, as I have already told you, no human creature comes nigh.


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