“SALMON-fishing for me,” said Ward decisively, as we
stood in front of the Lodge in the morning.
“And for me,” said Major Duncan, scanning the flying
clouds. “Are you for loch or river, Abbott?” “Either,” I replied:
“the weather is good for both. What say you, Fred? We go together,
“Yes, so you promised; but might we not go to the
Loch of the Fairies?” said Fred half timidly.
“Surely; I’ll go with pleasure: I want another look
at Loch-na-Seachin. You had better take your gun, and kill some
grouse on the way; but let us in to breakfast, as it is a long
Leaving word for the boy to bring the fishing-tackle,
&c., on Punch, we set off straight across the hill, then diverged to
the peat road, and kept by the path as we did not wish to disturb
the fresh grouse beats ; but Fred easily got five brace as we walked
to the loch.
As expected, Fred was charmed, and said he had
sometimes dreamt of such a spot; but, like a boy, he was looking
less at scenery than for Punch, and presently descried that sedate
quadruped on the sky-line; and we went to the head of the loch, and
waited for the tackle.
Having unpacked the pony, and put up the rods, we
proceeded to test the Loch-na-Seachin; but it soon became apparent
that she was a “shy-loch,” as, after an hour’s patient fishing, we
had only one trout, although that was a beauty in shape and colour,
and about two pounds weight. It seemed useless to go on fishing in
the meantime, so we went to the rushy end of the loch to look for
wild-fowl, and with Fred’s light gun I got three teal and some
All the morning the weather had been capricious,
alternate sunshine and cold blustering showers, which the herd-boy
called “scuds;” but towards afternoon the sky became very black in
the north. We returned to the head of the loch, and had scarcely
sheltered below a huge projecting ledge of rock when the storm came
on with a vengeance, and continued so persistingly that it was
resolved to face it and go home, should it not soon improve. At
last, however, a change seemed impending; the wind calmed, and the
rain fell more heavily in a straight-down thunder shower bubbling
the whole surface of the loch. By-and-by bits of blue sky showed
here and there, and a light westerly wind dispersing the clouds; the
sun came forth, and the hills were once more glorified with
sunshine, while every bush and heather-sprig seemed dropping
The trout were freely rising here and there on the
loch, as if to make up for their previous apathy; and I told Fred
that now was his time, if we wanted to save being quizzed by Hope.
So we set earnestly to fishing, and enjoyed one of
those exceptional times which will occur even on the “shyest” of
lochs; for, on finishing, we had thirteen trout—golden beauties,
most of them over a pound, and two of nearly three pounds; and we
set off to the Lodge well satisfied.
From the hill-top we looked back at the fair loch,
now glassy and glowing under the setting sun; and Fred remarked how
lucky, after all, was the rough weather, as, without it, the trout
might have laughed at our beards—or baskets at all events, he added,
on seeing me smile.
We got to the Lodge rather late, for the others had
been home some time, and they had killed four salmon, a grilse, and
On meeting at dinner, Ward inquired gaily, “I say,
Fred, who, think you, comes here tomorrow?”
“Don’t know; unless it be your sketching friends, the
“Hardly. Only your mother, and Annie, and Miss Clive,
and your mother’s bonne, and
all sorts of bonnets and band-boxes.”
“Oh! Hope, that’s capital! How jolly ! and won’t we
take them to the Fairy Loch? But will not Janet be bored, Major?”
“Far from it, my boy,—she is quite pleased and
amiable; and she says it will be like old times when her lady kept
Ardenmohr full of company; and Hope was just now telling her that
his friends were easy-going people, and could rough it in harder
should rather think so, and in worse company,” drawled the little
man, while he twisted an imaginary moustache.
This evening and the following day were passed in
preparations for expected guests; and it was nearly six in the
afternoon before the carriage drew up at the Lodge, and daylight of
civilisation beamed on our bachelors’ camp in the advent of Mrs.
Peyton and two charming girls, a French maid, a poodle, and a world
of boxes. Greetings and introductions being speedily accomplished,
the travellers were carried off by Janet Cameron to the ladies'
We had made the old-fashioned dining-room as neat as
possible: the polished arms glittering on the walls were intermixed
with flowers and fern; and Ward had placed for each of the girls a
bouquet of white heath centred with a blush rose. The evening being
warm, the windows were thrown open, and the ladies sat down to
dinner in full view of glen and mountain.
This, our first attempt, got on famously—everyone
pleased and cheerful. Dick waited with the power of half-a-dozen
servants; while Burmah flitted about in snowy turban and gorgeous
scarf, gravely dispensing cunning compounds of wine and ice.
is quite nice and piquant,—
eh, Miss Clive?” said Mrs. Peyton. “Why, hardly an hour since, when
coming through that wild glen, Annie was just speculating if you
might not be troubled in receiving ladies, and, lo ! here is a
castle with all sorts of graceful appliances.”
“All at your command, Mrs. Peyton; but we can give
you merely the fruits indigenous to the soil,” the Major remarked.
“A land of Goshen,” said Miss Peyton; “and tell me,
Hope, you who know the country, do these odd-shaped bottles grow on
trees here? Your dogs, of course, find truffles, as in France.”
All this was said quite gravely, and created some
“I begin to suspect you young men,” Mrs. Peyton
write us such pitiful letters about your hardships when living en
in Highland quarters; and when (as Hope would say) you are
unearthed, some such heart-breaking scene as this is the result.”
be uncharitable, mother dear,” Annie said; “but look closely to find
the sad truth. Perhaps no library or cigar-shop within fifty miles,
not to mention the awful possibility of the house not containing one
pack of cards. Cause enough,” she added quietly, “for grave
consideration before you blame.”
“Yours is true charity, Miss Peyton,” remarked the
Major, while he tried in vain to look solemn.
“And, Annie,” said Hope, “let it soothe your gentle
spirit to know we have cards,
and you shall have your rubber at whist; but here is
luxury,” lie said, as Dick placed three antique china bowls on the
table, “and specially culled for Miss Clive and you.”
“Pray explain, Hope.”
“Easy enough: the first bowl contains cream
unapproachable, even in Devonshire; another, wild fruit; the third
“A simple affair of fruit and milk, Hope,” Annie
said, with a droll peep under her long eyelashes.
“Just so, sweet cousin; as beauty is a simple affair
of creamy complexion and eyes dark as—as wild
! and what of. ice,” she said, with a meaning look.
Hope coloured slightly, from some cause or other, as
he remarked that neither beauty nor berry should be much iced.
what do yon say to all this, Miss Clive?” Annie inquired.
“Oh! I can hardly judge,” she replied demurely; “I
never use ice.”
When the ladies left the table, Hope said he thought
Charley Clive could use ice in very cooling knobs, if it suited her.
On going to the drawing-room we found a sleepy party
after their long journey, too sleepy for whist; and they retired
Next morning the weather was beautiful; and it was
quite a novel pleasure to hear the sweet gay voices of the girls
about the Lodge. Let me try to describe our guests.
First in honour, Mrs. Peyton, stout, comely, and debonnaire,
as beseemeth a British matron; had, nevertheless, a certain haughty
presence, which was entirely belied by her real, simple, kindly
nature; for, grave and sensible as she was, no one could better
enjoy pleasantry, and her quick appreciation and ready sympathy soon
taught us to confide with her in any quiz or droll event as freely
as we should have done in sorrow or difficulty.
Neither Major Duncan nor I had before seen Miss
Peyton; and, certainly, it would be hard to imagine a more lovely
young woman. Tall, rather slight in figure, and graceful as a young
roe; her refined features and large lustrous grey eyes harmonizing
with a dark complexion, brown almost as a Spanish girl’s, yet
exquisitely delicate; moreover, she had fine dark hair, perfect
mouth and teeth, and a look of sweetness and intelligence that took
the heart at once. But, to my taste, perhaps her greatest charm was
her voice, rich and musical in every accent; and, when particularly
amused, she had an odd way of looking at you with her great bright
eyes, and shrugging her pretty shoulders, which was positive
infection: grave as I am, I could never resist her; for,
notwithstanding a queenly presence, like a demoiselle in
an ancient picture, Annie Peyton was a thorough, joyous, frank,
Her friend, Charlotte (or, as intimates styled her,
Charley Clive), by all was declared to be an unmistakably nice girl.
Hardly so tall as Miss Peyton, and somewhat fuller in figure, she
had a pleasing expression, a wealth of golden chestnut hair clubbed
behind her pretty ears, high features, blue eyes, a dainty mouth,
and a dimple. As might be expected, she was reserved at first; yea,
almost what is called in Scotland “douce,” but soon proved a
treasure of quiet humour, that rare feminine
quality; for, in spite of much twaddle about women being visionary
and romantic, they are more often shockingly matter-of-fact, and
thereby lose a little charity and a good deal of amusement. Be that
as it may, Miss Clive was humorous and, consequently, good-natured;
and having been well educated, and seen something of the world, she
was excellent company and great fun.