Some days were now passed much as before; and, with
the exception of two large salmon caught in trolling the loch,
nothing happened worth particular mention.
The 11th of August must needs be a day of
anticipation and preparation; and, on coming down in the morning, I
found the others busy unpacking boxes, containing a small waterproof
tent, cartridges, vermin stamps, &c.; and after breakfast, guns,
&c., were carefully inspected, ammunition laid out, and a visit made
to the kennels.
All arrangements were left to Major Duncan and
Archie, and consequently settled with the promptness to be expected
between the decisive soldier and taciturn keeper. Still, one way or
other, time was taken up until luncheon; after which, Ward and I
arranged for a long walk. The Major remained at home, as he had an
O.H.M.S. to answer, and he asked Fred if he would go with ns, or
stay and fish the bum; and Fred stayed in preference to what he
considered purposeless exercise.
"Won’t you come, Fred? ” said Ward.
“Flattered by your kindness,” replied Fred. "Nature
has favoured you with long legs, and me with a wise head: let each
improve his gifts.”
Hope and I set off by nearly the same line as our
first walk; but, on getting high up hill, we turned north for a mile
or so, and then scrambled up to the sky-line, enjoyed the grand sea
view, continued northwards down towards the lower hills, and came
suddenly upon the small loch which Archie said held such fine trout.
Once close to the water we regretted having no
fishing-tackle, as there was a fine curl on the loch, which was deep
to the edge in some parts.
This fair lake is as great a contrast as possible
from the dismal pools in the snipe hollow; and, with its margin of
sedge, white sand, and mossy stones, is as charming a little alpine
aquarium as one could fancy; and while sitting on a tuft of heather,
looking at the tiny wavelets curling on its blue surface, Ward went
on sketching, and, as he said, thinking it only natural if a fair
water-nymph should rise to the surface, and in liquid Gaelic invite
him to a bath.
By the side of this gem in the wilderness we rested
some time, and Ward sketched the fair outlines; but he said that his
art failed in giving the metallic hues of green and purple.
“I remember, Hope, of Mr. M speaking to me about
that very same matter of vivid colour.”
“Ah! what did he say? He is real authority.”
“Well, it came about in this way. I was with him
while he painted the rugged walls and quaint window of an old castle
for one of his figure-pieces, and made remark on the bright colours
he was deliberately touching in, to picture what- appeared, to a
common observer like myself, to be simply a grey old wall; but he
distinctly showed me in the wall itself all these varieties of tint
“Just the man to note them; and what did he say about
“That it was an error to decry bright colour in
painting from its mere brightness, as vulgar and gaudy effects came
from false taste and incongruous handling; that the real difficulty
was to colour up to nature. I well remember be illustrated this by
picking a bit of moss from the wall, and, laying it on his palette,
he said, 1 How you see on the palette the finest colours that art
can produce, yet are they paled beside this bit of yellow moss.’ ”
“How just! Even I, a novice, feel it. See these
rushes: I have got the greens and shades pretty well, but would need
a mixture of sunshine and blue sky on my brush to paint the golden
green of that sedgy fringe.”
“Try turquoise and gold dust.”
“I fear this must do. Where next?”
“Ho you see the wood through that gap in the hill?
That’s our march: suppose we go on?”
“I’m game; en avant!”
Directly on moving we started grouse, and again and
again flushed fresh coveys. It seemed as even game appreciated this
pleasant spot, and we resolved to see more of the “Loch-na-Seachin ”
(or Fairy Lake).
We had still some rough walking over this rock-strewn
heath, which looked as if it had been the scene of a stone bicker
with Titans, and huge stones were lying about enough for all the
Druids and an Atlantic breakwater to boot.
At the march we met one of the game-watchers, named
Peter Doig, a powerful bandy-legged carle, who. looked as if he
could tackle a poacher; he himself was a noted poacher in former
days, but now eschewed wicked ways. Archie says Peter is a perfect
treasury of sensation stories, which he characterized as “awfu’
riggs wi’ keepers, warlocks,-and women, and sic like cattle.” We
shall see if we can get at some of his tales.
Peter directed us to the easiest line home, and
pointed to certain woods and semi-cultivated places where, he said,
we should find black game and a few roedeer. Home almost in a
bee-line over hill and bog, we arrived at the Lodge shortly after
six, well pleased and not a little tired.
Major Duncan and Fred had been home some time with
good baskets of burn trout, although the burn was small; but with
carefully keeping out of sight one can usually get trout, however
small and clear the water may be.
On the day before the 12th, there seemed to be a sort
of tacit understanding that light claret was the safe thing.
It was arranged that we should make our first beat
around the loch. There was no particular wish to make a boastful bag
the first day, or indeed any day, but to test in succession the
capabilities of every range.
“Yours is a good plan, Abbott," the Major said, “to
work the outlying beats first, so long as they afford tolerable
sport; meanwhile it is driving the birds inwards."
"Well, I think so; and with plenty birds near home,
and little disturbed on these rough grounds, one can always get
some—although I think the wildness of birds to be more a matter of
season than of shooting.".
After dinner every one was presently engaged with a
fresh packet of books and papers until nearly dark; and I observed
the Major chuckling over some pungency in the Saturday Review, and
Ward in the thick of a novel.
“What is your book, Ward?" I inquired.
“Monte Christo, and strange enough I have never read
it. How cleverly these French writers do shape their plots!" he
"Well, what I like in French authors of the best sort
is their neat dialogue. I don’t mind plots much; and there is a
personality or feeling of acquaintance with the persons and places
of some writers which is to me a great charm."
“Do books so impress you?”
“Yes. Some of Sir Walter’s scenes, and some of bis
persons, are more real on my mind than many actual realities.”
“Ah! he is exceptional,” said Ward; “and I could
sketch his scenes from memory.”
“I can quite fancy you might, but there are many
besides Scott have this gift; others, again, seem to want it
completely. James, who has written nice tales of chivalrous men and
devoted women, wants this faculty, as his characters leave no prints
on the memory. So with Bulwer Lytton and other good writers; and
even Thackeray, deemed so realistic,—saving in his immortal Becky,
and some few more, such as Mr. Pendennis and Colonel Newcombe.”
“Then you must enjoy the elaborate characterizing of
George Eliot and Charlotte Bronte?”
“Surely not, as realities: to me they are the least
real of all; people one never met, nor should care to meet.”
“Because they are so confoundedly sensitive and
self-absorbed. I confess my bad taste in not liking these books; yet
I should wish to have met poor Charlotte Bronte.”
“And you do not admire such fine-drawn
characters—Adam Bede, &c., or Jane Eyre ? Eccentric a bit! ”
“It may be so,” I said; “yet these people seem to me
like anatomical transparencies which show blood, brain, and nerve:
clever and instructive, no doubt; but neither living beings, nor
sweet to contemplate.”
“So you would make recluses of the sensitive and
self-absorbed ? ”
“Certainly, yes—hermit, saints, or sinners; anything,
anywhere, out of the world. I detest animals with feelers.”
Here the Major (who, I thought, was asleep) laughed
“What’s the row, Major inquired Ward.
“Abbott’s term, 'animals with feelers.’ I know
several; nasty people to meet.”
“Then, Major, you agree so far?”
“So far as I heard; but I must have been dozing.”
“Time for everybody to doze, I suspect. Whew! past one o’clock.”