fine afternoon in July a light-built and quaint-looking carriage was
rattling at a good pace along a narrow road in the Highlands. The
occupants were Hope Ward, little Fred Peyton, and myself, on our way
to the far hills, “Lull of pleasant anticipations of some months’
sojourn in the wild west.
I had been at Ardenmohr a week or two before with my
friend, Major George Duncan, and who remained there, while I
returned south to get the necessary supplies and come back with the
others: the Major’s letters meanwhile reporting how fortunate we
were in our lease—the country being thoroughly savage, the natives
civilised, and the climate glorious.
We still were some ten miles from the end of our
journey, but felt none of that impatience shown by fussy railway
travellers, or more distinctly patent in sea-going “miserables.” Our
vehicle held manifold comforts in its recesses and curiously
contrived pockets, while the worthy who did postillion was Ward’s
valet and factotum, Dick, who can cook a chop, ride a steeplechase,
or carry a love-letter with equal propriety.
There is always to me peculiar enjoyment in driving
along these Highland roads, especially in a new country, and the
more so on such an evening as this. It had rained heavily early in
the day, but had now cleared up, and the great aromatic pines and
fields of white clover smelt, oh, how fresh and sweet! At every turn
there was a change of scene: here dark wood on either side, with now
and then a peep through some open glade; by-and-by wide moor and
rolling hills far beyond, then past braes covered with broom and
wild flowers; now, by a thatched hamlet at the burnside, we catch a
glimpse of white-haired urchins at play, or a shy Highland maiden
filling her pitchers at the stream; then through miles of wood, and
we drove down a steep part of the road, crossed a bustling little
burn, and came to the river.
Alongside the broken waters we drove for some
distance, crossed an obtuse-angled ancient bridge, of the General
Wade pattern, and associated in one’s mind with lawless Celts and
ruthless troopers. Then a sharp turn to the right, and we pulled up
at the Fraser’s Arms Inn.
The landlord had a letter from Major Duncan, which
said he hardly expected us till next day. So we disembarked to have
some provision and look about.
John Fraser is a good specimen of the Highland
innkeeper (not hotel-keeper, save the mark!). John has a nice
grazing-farm at a “canny rent,” he says; he owns store of West
Highland cattle and blackfaced sheep, and moreover has a “sonsie
wife and bonnie bairns;” so small thanks to him if lie do not
grumble, like most of his lowland brethren, but works, fishes,
bargains, and jokes, in an easy-going way, pleasant to witness.
The horses were taken round to the stables, and we
were greeted by Mrs. Fraser’s smiling face.
“Glad to see you again, Mrs. Fraser,” I said; “how
are the bairns?”
“All weel and stout, thank you, sir. I hope you and
the ither gentlemen will have a pleasant stay in the Highlands.”
“No doubt of it. Mrs. Fraser. Can you give us
something for dinner?”
“Not very much, I fear, sir. You would like it soon,
“Yes, as soon as may be, if not too much trouble.”
We now went out for a stroll, and to have a look
around. Fred Peyton and Ward, who had never before been farther
north than York, were delighted with everything — the wide unfenccd
moors, the rough river and queer old bridge, and the great towering
hills around; but, above all, by the cheery, homely ways of the
When we came back to the inn, dinner was neatly laid
out, simple, but good—a fresh sea-trout, black-faced mutton, and a
dish of fruit with delicious cream. Mrs. Fraser gave us some wine
that she had got, seventeen years ago, from her old master, Cairndhu,
on her beginning housekeeping, and her training with him accounted
for the excellent menage of
A little after eight o’clock Dick brought round .the
carriage; so, bidding good-bye to the worthy family, we journeyed
Here our road led along the river for a mile or two.
We then turned through a gap in the hills, and were now in a purely
Highland glen, with bare mountains towering on each side; to the
left those fine rolling, heathy slopes so pleasant to the eye of the
grouse-shooter; while on the right hand the hills are abrupt and
rocky, here and there broken by perilous corries, down which the
hill-burns, swollen by the late rains, tumbled in innumerable
waterfalls. Hot a tree to be seen, except a few birches on the banks
of the brawling stream that coursed through the glen.
By-and-by the hills were closer and more picturesque,
and gradually there came indications of the region being inhabited —
a bit of pasture neatly enclosed, or a rustic bridge, and, at' last,
the flagstaff on a projecting shoulder of the hill; round which we
drove, and arrived at Ardenmohr. .
The Major was quietly smoking an Indian pipe, and
sitting on the door-steps. He rose gladly, to receive us, and said
he had heard the wheels long before we came up, everything being so
still in the glen, and that he was nearly sure it must be our party.
“How what about dinner?” he
We had dined—voted tea—and went into the Lodge.
The Lodge is a good-sized building of no particular
order of architecture, all rough granite, of a light blue colour,
and, with its ample windows and ivy-covered walls, looks cheerful
and homelike. There is no pretence to orthodox dining and drawing
rooms. A long red-carpeted room, with two tall windows looking
across the glen, does duty for the first: and it looks nice and
orderly, in spite of its book-cases and sporting paraphernalia on
the walls, and the .deer and tiger skins on the floor. The
drawing-room is smaller, prevailing colours grey and pink, and
contains a few articles of “virtue and bigotry,” as Mrs. Somebody
calls them, and some sensible couches. Here we had tea, and then
went out to inspect the kennels and offices. All satisfactory.
After having a stroll down the glen in the “gloamin’”
and a quiet pipe, we went early to bed.