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