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Scotland's Book of Romance
Chapter IV. The Road to Dalilea


I Leave Kinlochmoidart - How News of the Prince reached Edinburgh - To Dalilea and over the Marsh - The Cottage by the Shore - A Lodging for the Night John Campbell of Acharacle.

FROM among trees, Kinlochmoidart House looks out over the tidal waters of the loch. It was built near the ruins of the old house where the Prince stayed for a week and sent out calls to chiefs and the heads of loyal families to rally to his Standard. [The house was burned down by Cumberland's troops after Culloden, and, according to tradition, the chieftain's aged mother, a Cameron of Lochiel, was carried from her bed into the garden, where she watched the place go up in flames. It has also been said that she died before the embers of the house were cold; but she lived for some years after the Rising and received an annuity of six hundred merks out of the forfeited estate of Kinlochmoidart.] While he was there he got word of the first act of hostility against King George's soldiers. With a guide who knew the countryside, a corporal and a private had been sent out from the garrison at Fort William to glean what information they could at Glenelg; and they had been taken prisoner by the Highlanders, and brought to the Prince's temporary headquarters in Macdonald's house.

That week there also arrived at Kinlochmoidart a man who had seen Charles only once since 1738, but had played a big part in his affairs, and was to play a still bigger one John Murray of Broughton. For five years he had been the correspondent for the Jacobites in Scotland, and of his loyalty to the Prince there can be no doubt. But he had a yellow streak in him. Ten weeks after Culloden, he was captured by dragoons at his sister's house, near his own estate of Broughton, and he saved his own skin by acting as informer against the Prince's friends. That he could have told a great deal more than he did is certain; that Lord Lovat would have been executed without his evidence is probable ; and there are people to-day who would like to add a thin coat of white-wash to his memory. But from the day when his conduct became known he was called "Mr. Evidence Murray," and the name stuck to him until the end of his miserable life. He is said to have died insane.

Sir Walter Scott was never happier than when he was hobbling into his armoury or library at Abbotsford to return to his guests in the drawing-room with some romantic knick-knack with a story attached to it. A favourite yarn of his was about the "Broughton Saucer," and it is worth telling again. To the house of his father in George Square in Edinburgh a sedan chair came each evening, and from it stepped a stranger with his face muffled up. Until a late hour he would be closeted with Mr. Scott, a Writer to the Signet; and to his wife's enquiries about the identity of the mysterious visitor, the Writer made guarded replies. This aroused her curiosity, and one evening she decided to take in a dish of tea for them. The richly dressed stranger accepted it with a bow, but Mr. Scott himself coldly refused to join him. When the visitor had left, Sir Walter's father flung up the window and hurled the cup to the pavement outside, silencing his wife's exclamations with :" I may admit into my house, on business, persons unworthy to be my wife's guests -but neither lip of me nor mine comes after Mr. Murray of Broughton's!"

At Kinlochmoidart and afterwards, John Murray was certainly a keen servant of the Prince, though his suspicious nature was the cause of much bickering among the chiefs, and afterwards the relations between him and Lord George Murray were in part responsible for some of the errors in the campaign. Most historians have said that Murray of Broughton joined the Prince at Kinlochmoidart on the 18th of August, a Sunday. I believe this to be inaccurate, and I put the date of his arrival in the early part of the preceding week. He gave Charles a list of important Jacobites, and letters to them were hastily written. Early on the Thursday morning, Murray set out as the Prince's messenger. His energy was tremendous. He had been in the saddle for days, yet he was ready to ride across Scotland, to make a circuit which included Perthshire, Angus, Banff, and Nairn, and to return at once to the Prince with replies. On the second day of his eastward journey, when he reached the mouth of Glen Laragain at the river Lochy, he fell in with John Gordon of Glenbucket, who had left his home in Aberdeenshire and was on his way to join the Prince. Glenbucket had with him a prisoner, Captain Swettenham, captured two days before by Lochgarry. Swettenham had been in command at the Ruthven barracks ; and since he was an engineer who had special skill in the building of fortifications, he had been ordered by Cope to hurry to Fort William to attend to the defences which were in bad state of repair.

John Gordon of Glenbucket was a remarkable man, seventy-four years old, and had a heart as loyal to the Stewarts as any that beat in Scotland. He had fought in the first line at Sheriffmuir, and, perceiving the mess that the inefficient Mar was making in that engagement, he is reported to have cried in despair, "Oh, for one hour of Dundee!" Eight years before the 'Fortyfive he had sold his estate for 700, to have ready money, it is said, for the Jacobite Rising which he had discussed with the old Chevalier at Rome; and the moment he received word that the Prince had landed, he rode to Moidart as fast as his "little grey beast " could carry him.

The amazing thing about these early days of the Rising is the secrecy with which Charles carried through his plans. He had been in Scotland for over a fortnight before his arrival was known in the military garrison at Fort William, which was no more than twenty-five miles over the hills from Borrodale; and indeed, Cope heard about it in Edinburgh almost as soon as they had an inkling of it at Fort William. The first man to give the show away was a minister in Ardnamurchan, a successor to the Rev. Alexander Macdonald, father of the poet. His name was the Rev. Lauchlan Campbell. On Sunday, 4th August, he was preaching at Kilmory in the north of his parish, and his text was from the first Epistle of Timothy, Chapter II: "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men ; for kings, and for all that are in authority ; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty." In a letter he wrote afterwards to a friend, he declared that his congregation on that Sunday morning "could hardly hear him with decency." The people scowled and muttered among themselves, and after he dismissed them, a man came to him and said: "Sir, you know I have a regard for you and your family, wherefore do not preach in yon style again, else beware of the consequence!"

When he got home to his manse he found awaiting him a woman, Anna Cameron, who was a Whig in spite of the name she bore. He was a shrewd man, this minister, and on his journey home from the service he had been turning things over in his mind. "I can take my oath upon it," he said to the woman, " that the Pretender is in my parish."

"God be thanked that you can," she replied, "for I was under oath to tell nothing." And then Anna Cameron proceeded to relate everything she knew. The ship which had come to anchor in Loch nan Uamh was not a smuggling vessel, as the crew had given out : it had brought the Pretender to Scotland, and word had gone to the Highland chiefs to join him.

The minister was faced with a pretty problem. His first thought was to write at once to the Sheriff of Argyll, but he had not enough money in the house to pay for an express letter. In the end he hurried with the news to Mr. Campbell of Auchindown, who passed the word that same night to Campbell of Airds, who on the Monday morning sent a letter addressed to the Duke of Argyll at Inveraray. The messenger arrived at six o'clock on the Tuesday evening, having covered eighteen miles by sea, and twenty-eight by land within thirty-six hours. His news was transmitted to Lord Milton, the Lord Justice Clerk who was then at Roseneath, another residence of the Duke of Argyll, and Milton despatched a letter to Sir John Cope in Edinburgh. By the time Cope was pondering over this letter in Edinburgh on the Thursday evening, the Rising was already in progress; Locheil and young Clanranald, as well as the Macdonalds of Keppoch, Glengarry, and Glencoe, had promised to follow their Prince; and the Du Teillay was sailing back to France.

With a last look back in the direction of Wat's cave, I turned round the head of the loch and crossed a hump-backed bridge. Here began a stiff pull into the hills. On either hand, pine trees swept upward almost to the skyline, leaving bare patches like a priest's tonsure on the heights. In half an hour I was out of sight of the green valley of Loch Moidart, and high on my right three cairns stood on the rolling skyline. But they were not like the cairns on the old funeral road from Glenuig; they had been carefully built of chiselled stone, and had evidently been erected as memorials to local men. Groves of birch trees lined the road, and when I got over the summit and emerged into the open, I saw that I had come to a countryside that was very different from the green sheltered glen where the river Moidart flows into the sea-loch.

Tier upon tier of the majestic hills of Sunart and Morven lay ahead, and I thought I could pick out the high top of Ben More on the Island of Mull. The sight refreshed me; after eating some of the food I had bought at the little shop near Kinlochmoidart, I went down the hill towards the steely blue water of Loch Shiel, which wanders like a great river among the mountains. How cold that water looked, down there in the valley: the coldest-looking water I thought I had ever seen: and had it not been for the gloomy peak of Ben Resipol, which pinned the scene down in the mind as Highland, an iceberg glittering on its pale surface would not have seemed out of place. I consulted my map. The steep track, which went off to the left among the stunted birches and whins, was the way to Dalilea, where the Prince with a guard of fifty Clanranald men took to boats and rowed up the loch to pass the night of 18th August at the house of Macdonald of Glenaladale. I was not sorry when I reached the end of that long straggling descent, and was making my way slowly along the lochside. Wat had told me there was an inn there, but he was not certain; and I was about to stop and enquire at a cottage when I caught sight of the chimneys of a grey house half a mile further on. It was a moderate-sized place, I found, with many gables and some absurd little turrets of the mock baronial style of the last century, and I pushed open the gate and went crunching down the gravel drive and rang the bell.

Indoors, the folk seemed to be in a great bustle. There was the sound of hurrying feet, and through the window on my right I could see that a long table was being set for a meal. Presently, a woman came to the door. Yes, she said, she took in visitors. I gathered from her, however, that the place was not an inn but a private boarding-house, and it was an immense relief to think that I did not need to go any further that day. Before leaving Edinburgh, I had consulted that familiar and invaluable mauve-coloured handbook of Scottish travel called Murray's Time Table, and had jotted down in my note-book the fact that a steamer sailed up and down Loch Shiel once a day, calling at Dalilea at 9.45 a.m. on its way to Glenfinnan. As I had come up the avenue to the house, I had seen a wooden pier a few hundred yards away on the lochside, so everything fitted in perfectly, and I decided to sail to Glenfinnan in the morning.
But my plans, thus rapidly formed in my mind, went crashing down to earth when the woman spoke again. A party of visitors had unexpectedly descended upon her at half-past two that afternoon-they had come off the boat on its return from Glenfinnan - and she hadn't a spare corner in the house. She was obviously sorry at having to turn me away, but her regret was nothing compared with my disgust. She begged me to stay and have a meal, but I had to refuse, for it was now half-past six, and I had the task of finding shelter for the night before darkness fell, and another hour of daylight was all I could count on. I would find some cottages a mile or two along the loch, the woman told me : I might get a bed for the night in one of them. But it seemed to me that her tone was doubtful, and I was beginning to wish I had thrown in my lot with Gillespie, who by this time would be snugly settled with his friend at Acharacle.

I was bitterly loathing the prospect of tackling that long rough climb ; but when I came to the foot of the hill I found that a track wound along near the side of the loch, and the sight of it put me in a little better fettle. It was easier going too, for there was a path among the short grass which was better for a lame man to walk on than a stony cart-track. But at the cottages I had the worst of luck. There was sickness in one of them, and at the other the woman told me she had relatives staying with her for a week, otherwise she would have found room for me. She recommended me to make for Acharacle. She was not certain how many miles it was-how seldom are country folk definite about distances! - but suggested that I might reach it in about a couple of hours if I kept up a steady pace. There were one or two other cottages near the loch, but she doubted whether I would find accommodation in any of them. After a few moments' thought, I decided that to head for, Acharacle would now be my best plan. It would be pleasant-to meet Gillespie again, although he would chuckle loudly when I turned up there after my dogged refusals to accompany him. The woman came out from her door and gave me directions.

A winding road is a pleasant thing to loiter on ; but to a traveller eager to reach his destination, each bend makes him wish that it had been made in the Roman fashion, as straight as possible across country. Presently, it seemed to take a curve away from the lochside. I saw this was going to add miles to my journey; and when a man came along on a bicycle, I stopped him and asked if there was no short cut to Acharacle.

He pointed across a wide moor to the foot of the loch. Across the narrow streak of water, a few tiny white houses glimmered in the evening light. Since I was on foot, he said, I needn't bother about the road, which went round by the edge of the moor, and there was a footpath that would take me straight to the Shiel Bridge and Acharacle. The idea of a path, with soft grass under foot, was attractive. He retraced his steps for a quarter of a mile and pointed it out to me, and we separated after we had given expression to our mutual goodwill over the tot of brandy which he accepted from my flask.

Before I had gone very far, however, I began to wish I had offered to employ him as a guide. From the spot where we had parted, the surface of the moor had looked pleasantly flat; but I soon found that it was hacked with dozens of little channels, as though somebody had laid about him with a claymore. At each gully I had to scramble down into a trough, jump across water that had gathered from the recent rain, and climb up the other side. The path wound by many deep black hollows, and in the fading light I had difficulty in tracing it among the tufts of heather. The strong earthy smell of peat rose from the ground ; and from the marshes near the loch, whaups were beginning to utter their lonely cries. After half a mile or so, I stopped and went back a little, realising that I had gone off the footpath, but for the life of me I could not pick it up again, and I saw that I had wandered close to the lochside. To search for the path in the gathering darkness was a hopeless business. In the end, I decided to plough straight forward in the hope that I would emerge in the vicinity of Shiel Bridge.

The ground was becoming spongy now; a little more rain and it would have been under water. Every few minutes I found myself almost up to the knees, and had to jump from one tuft of rushes to another in order to avoid the treacherous moss into which my feet sank with a gentle gurgle. The bank of a creek gave me surer footing, and when this veered off at an angle I was compelled to take to the open again. Dusk was drawing down quickly; how, much further I had to go I had no idea. There were stretches of twenty or thirty yards when I could take no more than one step at a time, for I had to test each place with my stick before I ventured to put my foot down. Once I misjudged the solidity of a little stool of moss, and with a gasp of panic I went up to the thighs in that ravenously sucking sludge, so that I had to twist quickly round and fling myself over the tussock from which I had unwarily stepped. It began to look as if I would soon be unable to make any progress at all. But I refused to contemplate the prospect of spending a night in that bleak place, with the wheepling of whaups in my ear and only a thin rubber sheet to cover me. The picture of Wat rose before me - Wat on his warm bed of bracken beside a birch-wood fire, with his supper cooking aromatically in a pan-and I would have given a good deal to be beside him in that hour. It was with great heartiness that I began to curse the man I had met on. the road-the man who had told me it was child's play to follow the path, the man who had smacked his lips over my brandy, and had wished me good luck. Did that Highland half-wit really expect that a stranger could grope his way in safety across this water-logged desert? I presently found myself on the side of a ditch. Like the creek I had struck some distance back, it had a fairly firm edge, and for the next ten or fifteen minutes I made better progress. A black hollow opened before me in the gathering darkness, and I knew by the sound of running water that I had come to a stream : this I found to be quite shallow, and I forded it easily. When I had scrambled up on the opposite bank, I saw that I was on slightly higher ground; and I can hardly put into words how deep was my relief as I went stamping around for the sheer pleasure of hearing my heels thud on the substantial earth. If I had to spend the night in the open, here I decided would be my sleeping-quarters, and it would be easy to scoop out a dry bed under the high bank of the burn. And then, looking ahead of me in the darkness, I caught the glimmer of a tiny light.

My first thought was that a man was crossing the moor with a lantern, but presently I saw that the light was stationary, which probably meant that it came from a cottage window. How far away it might be, I was unable to judge, but I decided to reach it at any cost, and with a heart that was warm with hope I set out once more. I found myself now among huge peat-hags ; but I preferred the risk of a fall to the chances of going up to the waist in the bog through which I had been threading my way east of the stream. When I came round the shoulder of a knoll, a cottage with a light in the window suddenly loomed up in front of me. I felt like raising a cheer of exultation as I went forward and knocked.

It was not until the door was opened, and my eyes were dazzled by the lamp-light inside, that I realised how dark it was and how great had been my fortune in having reached the edge of the moor before the night had trapped me. A tall square-shouldered man was looking me up and down. I suppose I must have seemed to him a rather fearsome object to come knocking at the door of his lonely cottage at such an hour, for he stared at me under his thick eyebrows in a puzzled way, and said nothing until I asked him if he could direct me to Acharacle.

"Acharacle?" He gave what seemed to me a gasp of surprise, and, emerging from the doorway, pointed across the foot of the loch to one or two scattered lights on the opposite shore. "It is over there. But you will have to go round by the road, and over the bridge. You have gone far off your way, coming down here."

I explained that I had crossed the moor.

"Ah-h," he said, exhaling his breath with a long whistling sound. "That was not the place to be in at night. It was not the place at all ! You will have walked far, then. Man, you're fair done."

I replied that I was too glad to have got out of the peat-bog to worry much about feeling tired.

"Yess, indeed," he agreed. "It would be bad for you among the peats at night. You should have kept on the road. It is not a good road, but it is better than the moss. Come in and warm yourself." He stood aside to let me pass. "You will take a cup of tea, and I will put you over to Acharacle in my boat." I went into the little kitchen, which was filled with the sharp smell of burning peats, and a kettle hung on a sooted iron cleek over the fire.

A strong cup of tea laced with brandy from my flask pulled me together, and I ate a piece of girdle scone spread with fresh butter, while a woman made crooning noises of consolation as I described the latter part of my journey across the moor. She echoed the man's words: "Ah, the moss is no place at all at night."

My host refused a dram from my flask, saying that I had hardly a drop left, and there was none to be had at Acharacle. "The folk here have to go a long way for a drop," he said. "You could not buy a drop here, even at Christmas. Man, it is a great shame."

Both of them abruptly refused to accept money for their hospitality. I saw that they would have been hurt if I had tried to press it on them; and twenty minutes later I was stepping out of the boat on the other side of the loch, and listening to the sound of rowlocks and the dip of oars as the man pulled home in the darkness.

I sent over the water a final shout of thanks, a reply came back, and the quiet thud of rowlocks was the only sound that broke the silence. Near at hand, I could see the black mass of the little loch steamer where it lay warped to a wooden jetty. My host at the cottage had given me directions how to find the inn, and I could already picture the surprise on Gillespie's face when I walked in and put my hand on his shoulder.

Making towards the jetty, I found the road that took me up the hill, and the lights of the inn on my left had an inviting look that suggested all the pleasant and comfortable things of life : a hot bath, and dry clothes (for in my scrambling journey across the moor I had managed to keep my pack dry), and warm food, and a chair before the fire, and tobacco, and talk - easy desultory talk until one's drowsy eyes were closing, and then a bed with clean cool sheets.

As I passed in front of the inn I could see into a room where some people sat at food. The place was very different from what I had expected ; it looked as if it had once been a private house, and everything seemed very tidy and modern, at the first glance reminding one of a spick and span suburban villa. I rang the front door bell, and after a slight delay a maid came to the door. She too was very tidy and modern, with a spotlessly white cap and apron, and I enquired for Mr. Gillespie.

Asking me to wait for a moment, she hurried into the hall. From her doubtful tone I concluded that she had taken me for a tramp, and I did not wonder at it. My flannel trousers were dark with wet mud, and I must have looked mightily bedraggled in comparison with these spruce folk I had seen at their food as I had passed the dining-room window. My ambrosial evening with Gillespie and his friend, the three of us alone in an old-fashioned room with a low ceiling and open fireplace, and logs spluttering on the hearth -all this faded away; and I could already see ourselves sitting stiffly in the corner of a trim little drawing-room on three plush chairs, with these groups of holidaymakers around us-no doubt anglers, most of them, who had come for the loch-fishing, and their womenfolk who would look at us with that slightly incredulous stare which anglers' wives and daughters unconsciously acquire. In any other circumstances I would have felt disappointed, but I was too thankful to find myself at the hotel to trouble about the urban atmosphere of the place and the presence of others, who after all had as much right to be there as I had.

The maid returned to the door. "There is no one of the name Gillespie staying here," she informed me, and I racked my brains for the name of the friend he was to join at Acharacle. At last it came back to me.

"There's a Mr. Grant?" I said.

No; there was no Grant either. She was quite sure of it; I must have made a mistake.

"But wasn't there a Mr. Grant staying here last night " I persisted.

There was no Mr. Grant at the hotel last night, the maid assured me, and she spoke with conviction.

This was a blow. What could be the explanation? Gillespie was certainly come here expecting to meet his friend, but where he had gone I had not the least idea, nor did there seem to be any way of finding out. However, if I wasn't to have their company for the evening, at least I had found shelter for the night. And then the biggest bombshell of all dropped at my feet.

"I'm sorry the hotel is full."

I stared at the maidservant incredulously. Was it possible that fate could have played me the same trick twice in the one evening? Had all Scotland flocked to the shores of Loch Shiel during the last twelve hours?

Two motor-cars full of people had arrived that evening from Fort William, she explained. Motorcars! For two days I had been so far away from ordinary roads that I had forgotten that Acharacle was in touch with the outer world, and the outer world had apparently descended upon Acharacle ...

The maid went in to make certain, and returned shaking her head. No ; there wasn't a spare bed in the place.

I turned away. The lamp-light from the diningroom window streamed out upon a tall monkey-puzzle tree, and its upturned branches had an oddly human look, as if they were the arms of a person who knelt in a dumbly beseeching attitude: they expressed my own feelings exactly : I felt a warm kinship with that tree. The darkness was now intense. Three or four cottages were scattered on the higher ground, but I did not know how far away they were, for lights at night can be deceptive. I was in an awkward predicament, and I knew it. And yet I had foreseen from the start of my journey that this might happen. On that morning of hot sunshine, lying stretched out on the beach at Borrodale, the idea of having to strain my wits to find a bed at the end of a day's march had seemed a romantic thing-part of the glory of the road, genuine vagabond stuff ! Well, here it was, the real thing, and in it I could find mighty little romance.

Besides, I was angry. I was convinced I had been turned away from the hotel, not because it was full, but because I was too filthy and wretched-looking to be allowed into that trim little place among these clean pink-faced people. I learned afterwards that I was quite wrong in my suspicion, and that the little hotel was actually full, and was kept by a kindly and hospitable couple; but as I paused in the darkness, trying to make up my mind what to do, I cursed the keepers of all inns as a voracious lot of ruffians who took in only those they thought they could fleece : so warped can one's mind become in moments of despondency. And then I remembered about the little cottage on the edge of the moor across the loch. I felt confident that the folk there would take me in. If they had no bed for me, they would at least let me sit beside the fire for the night, and I wished to heaven the idea had occurred to me before I left them-it would have saved me a two-mile tramp back round the foot of the loch. Two miles! Yet from the wooden jetty where the steamer lay, a good golfer driving long and straight could almost have dropped a ball across that narrow neck of water on their cabbage-patch.

The thought of the jetty raised a sinister notion in my mind. At the jetty there might be a small boat I could borrow - I would return it in the morning! I told myself that I would make a point of suitably rewarding the owner - and when I explained the circumstances, he would surely approve. Indeed, so that there could be no chance of him being put to inconvenience, the man at the cottage could tow the boat back at once to its moorings. I turned and made down to the wooden pier with my anger at the hotel folk already beginning to melt.

The water lapped gently around the steamer, which creaked faintly now and then against the timbers of the pier. Several small boats lay together, and I had to retrace my steps for a dozen yards before I could clamber down the bank to reach them. I had met with so many disappointments since I had limped down the long hill to Loch Shiel that my next discovery made me laugh aloud. There were neither oars nor rowlocks in the boats ! I appreciated deeply the mood in which desperate men commit crimes, that mood in which the desired object dazzles the mind with a sweet radiance. I would cheerfully have broken into a barn, or even a house, just then", so desperate was I to find shelter. What in fact I did do was to go up again on the pier, and climb over the rail of the steamer, hoping I might be able to borrow rowlocks and a pair of oars from the small boat on deck.

But here again I drew blank. I saw that my only hope was now to fall back on the people at the cottage round the foot of the loch-unless I could find some cubby-hole on board the steamer which would give me shelter for the night. It was a faint whiff of hot oil that put the idea into my head, and for a second time I groped my way around the deck. The thick glass on a skylight abaft the funnel felt warm to the touch, and there was moisture on it, which made me conclude that the engine-room was underneath ; and forward and aft there was a companion-way with locked doors. On that barren deck there certainly was not a corner where a cat could have curled up in reasonable comfort. And then I made a discovery. The low doors of the after companion-way were locked, but the sliding hatch was loose. I gave it a push, and it moved smoothly back, exposing a hole. I carried a tiny pocket flash-light, but the thing had gone wrong the night before, so I scratched a match and took a survey. Were the Fates, after giving me of their worst, being kind to me in the end ? Was there a corner down below where a man could stretch out his tired legs ? I decided to investigate. I lowered myself through the hatchway until my feet touched the steps, and with the light of another match I descended.

On the left there was a tiny pantry with a sink and a cupboard built against the bulkhead. By the sink stood a primus stove and a kettle. Next the pantry was a little mess-room, so narrow that I could have spanned its breadth with my outstretched arms. Round the long table, which was covered with brown wax-cloth, there were cushioned lockers for seats. I scratched more matches. Opposite to the mess-room was a little cabin, and on the table I saw an old-fashioned portable typewriter, no doubt used by the purser for his correspondence. In the opposite corner there was a bunk with some brown blankets in a neat pile. This was almost, but not quite, too good to be true.

Was I going to foot-slog round the end of Loch Shiel when I was thus provided for so handsomely? I knew I was trespassing (or whatever the legal term was) just as surely as if I had broken into a house, and I was laying myself open to the ignominy of being convicted in some local court-convicted for theft as well as trespass, for the first thing I did was to light a lamp on the mahogany bulkhead, thus stealing somebody's paraffin oil. However, I took the precaution of drawing the curtains over the porthole.

The criminal aspect of the affair did not worry me for many moments. I went up the companion-way and pushed shut the hatch. Then I dropped my rucksack on the bunk, pulled out my towel, spare underclothes, socks, and flannel trousers. Stripping to the skin, I had a good rub down and changed into dry clothing, wringing out my wet socks and trousers and spreading them out to dry. I felt too tired to eat anything, but I finished the brandy in my flask. Five minutes later the lamp was out, and I had curled up on the bunk under the brown blankets. After a day of the vilest luck, with disappointment piling up upon disappointment, I could hardly believe the good fortune that had come to me at the end.

I awakened with a slight headache next morning, due to the stuffiness of the cabin, and perhaps also to my fatigue of the previous day. When I glanced at my watch, however, I forgot about my headache in the sudden panic I felt when I saw it was nearly seven o'clock. I brushed aside the curtains from the porthole. It looked out under the timbers of the jetty, and the morning sun was dappling the water. I had sworn to myself I would awaken early: five o'clock was the hour I had fixed in my mind, and my last thought before falling asleep had been this urgent injunction to myself. For it would have been a fine kettle of fish if the crew had come on board to find a stranger snoring in the cabin!

I had intended to make a mild raid on the pantry before leaving. There was some water in an enamel flagon, and I had spotted a tin of cocoa in the cupboard. A cup of hot cocoa, together with the remains of the food I had bought at Loch Moidart, was to have been my breakfast, and I could take steps later on to adjust my indebtedness with the owner of the cocoa. But to remain on board for another moment was out of the question. I hastily rolled up my wet trousers and socks, wrapped them in the towel, and stuffed them into my rucksack. I did not even pause to fasten the buckles, but swung the thing on my back, and, after folding up the blankets on the bunk as neatly as I could, I hurried up the companion-way and pushed open the hatch.

I had been dead scared that the deck of the steamer could be seen from the windows of the inn. But when I stuck my head out into the open air, I thanked heaven that a big black hut on the pier shut out the view from anyone who might be stirring. I hauled myself up, scrambled over the low doors, then slid the hatch back into position. As I did so, I noticed that there were a couple of little catches on each side, and it was the man who had forgotten to fasten them that I had to thank for my night's lodging. Crossing the deck, I hastily stepped from it to the pier.

Once ashore I felt reasonably safe. Nobody had seen me go on board in the darkness; of that I was certain; and so far as I knew, nobody had seen me leave the steamer. I sauntered out from the shelter of the hut, and walked up the lane past the inn as though I were enjoying an early morning stroll.

The little maidservant who had turned me away the night before was washing the doorstep. She caught sight of me, then rose from her knees, and hurried through the gate. She seemed to have something on her mind; and as I wished her good morning, I wondered what she wanted to say to me.

She enquired whether I had found a bed for the night. With a clear conscience I was able to assure her I had been most comfortable, and at this she looked relieved. She explained that, a few minutes after I had gone, she had come out after me to tell me I might have been able to find accommodation in another little hotel up the road, but she had failed to find me in the darkness. She said she was sorry I had been turned away like that-she had forgotten to mention the other hotel.

I thanked her for her solicitude ; and, greatly comforted, she returned to the washing of her doorstep.

So there was another hotel in the place! I thought at once of Gillespie. Little doubt he would be there ! At the end of the lane I turned left, as the maid had directed, and walked up the hill in the morning sunlight. Presently I caught sight of an old white-washed house standing in a pleasant position among trees below the road, with a fine view of the loch. It looked like a farmhouse, but a notice board on the gate told me it was the place I sought. Smoke was rising from one of the chimneys, which meant that somebody was up and about, and I went through the little iron swing-gate and hastened along the curving drive. As I neared the porch, a man stepped out, and began to light a cigarette, but hearing my footsteps he turned round.

"Hullo," he said, startled. "Good-morning!"

He spoke in a quick staccato way, and his movements were rapid and energetic. He looked about forty-five years of age, and his build was slight, his face lean and brown. A pair of pleasant grey eyes twinkled behind his spectacles, and he wore a kilt of some dark tartan and a grey tweed jacket.

"I say," he exclaimed, staring at my rucksack, "you haven't come from the direction of Dalilea, by any chance?"

I told him I had walked from Dalilea the previous evening.

"Then you're the man Gillespie was talking about? He'll be glad you've come-he was worried about you. He said you were crocked-your feet, or something. Where did you stay the night?"

"You aren't Grant by any chance?" I enquired.

He nodded, and put out his hand. "Now what the dickens has Gillespie been telling you about me? Nothing good, I'll warrant."

"He said that if we met, you'd do nothing but talk about books."

"I won't," said the man vigorously. "I read books, and I try to stop numskulls of authors from writing books, and I sell books. Yes; I sell books. Blast all books ! I'm on holiday. But you haven't told me where you stayed the night."

When I explained where I had found sleeping-quarters, his sonorous guffaw must have startled into sudden wakefulness any sleepy-heads who were still between the sheets in their bedrooms above us.

"On the steamer! Well, that was a bit of luck," he exclaimed. "You might have tramped for miles and not found a bed hereabouts. The other hotel's packed stiff for a couple of days-a fishing-party or something. You haven't had breakfast, by the way? Oh, we'll soon fix that, though I don't suppose it'll be ready for another half-hour. Hold on a minute, and I'll dig out Gillespie. He's a lazy dog in the mornings. I've been up since six o'clock reading the manuscript of a confounded ass who thinks he can write about the Highlands."

"I thought you said you were on holiday," I ventured to remark.

He blinked at me through his spectacles. "Did I say so? Then I was wrong. I'm never on holiday. I sometimes think I am-for about ten minutes. Hold on and I'll get Gillespie." He spun round on his heel and, with his kilt swinging, hurried indoors.

I put down my rucksack near the porch and walked over to the garden seat on the brow of the slope ; and standing among the sharp-scented larches, I looked down on Loch Shiel glittering coldly in the sunshine. The air was still. From somewhere at the back of the house there came the clink of dishes, and the soft voice of a girl was humming a song. I was glad now that I had come to Acharacle. I felt that I could stay there happily for a few days till my lame feet recovered, and there might be a cobbler in one of those cottages scattered along the lochside who would be able to tinker up the offending shoes so that I could wear them without feeling that I was doing penance for my sins at every step. Compared with the wooded slopes of the Moidart glen, Loch Shiel was a bleak place, but there was something friendly about this old whitewashed house with many gables, and there was both Gillespie and Grant for company.

Grant himself came hurrying out in high spirits a few minutes later. "Gillespie will be down soon - the lazy dog was still in bed. I've fixed up everything for you with Campbell-he's the boss here, a good chap. You can have a bed to-night if you want. There's hot water, so you can have a tub now.'' He swung round as one of the largest men I have ever seen in my life emerged from the porch and came forward-a man worthy to have joined battle with the great Fingal himself.

"Here's Campbell," said Grant. "He used to farm in Mull before he came here to show the rest of Scotland how to run a hotel."

The landlord came forward with a smile on his go good-natured face. He wore a suit of brown knickerbockers which I am sure could have held two men of average size, and I had never before seen such powerful-looking arms and shoulders. His hand-clasp was gentle and friendly.

"Come away in," he said. "You'll be ready for your breakfast. Mr. Grant says you're walking across Scotland. Man, that's an awful job. You must like walking, surely ! The wife's busy in the kitchen - I'll show you to your room."

He talked with the soft musical voice of the Gaelic-speaking Islesman. Though I have not the Gaelic myself, I spent part of each year as a boy among Gaelic-speaking folk in the Central Highlands, and it seems to me that the Gaelic of Perthshire has a slightly harsher sound and its gutturals are stronger than the Gaelic in the West. But apart from the tone of his voice, the Gael who can talk English uses the English language in a very lovely way. Almost always a vivid word comes to his tongue; his turns of speech are rich and expressive; and even his inversions fall upon the ear with a pleasant sound. Campbell's vocabulary, I soon perceived, had been strengthened by many a bit of good broad Scots which he had picked up on his travels.

Lifting my rucksack as if it were no heavier than a box of matches, he led the way upstairs to a comfortable little bedroom ; and in less than ten minutes I was wallowing in a bath of such size that I wondered if it had been specially built to accommodate Campbell himself. To roll in it was almost like bathing in a hill-loch, and I was loath to wade, as it were, ashore. My tub put new life into me, and I went downstairs to breakfast with a tremendous appetite. Somewhere, a peat-fire was burning, for the sweet pungent incense of it was beginning to creep through all the house, and I traced it to the sitting-room, where I found Grant warming himself in front of the rich black stuff that was smouldering in the grate. Gillespie came thundering downstairs as we went in to breakfast.

Over our porridge, which was followed by a great ashet of fish from the loch, I told them about my bad luck at Dalilea, and how I crossed the moor and in the end found a bed for the night on board the steamer. Grant must have noticed before breakfast that I was limping, for afterwards in my bedroom he insisted on examining my lame feet, with the result that the landlord's wife was brought into the council. She held up her hands in horror at the broken blisters, and carried up a large basin of hot water, bathing the wounds herself and applying castor-oil, an unguent which she declared would cure nearly every human ill. Campbell himself stood with his hand on the door making quiet chuckling sounds of pity, then demanded to see my shoes. In the end, he took them away to try to stretch them on a last which he kept for repairs to the boots of his young family ; and I was not long in that house before I found that he could turn his hand to almost anything. He was looked upon at Loch Shielside as a kind of Admirable Crichton, with a special gift of doctoring sick animals that had gained him the reputation of a wizard in many a West Highland glen.

Gillespie and Grant spent most of their day fishing on the loch, while I loafed happily with a book. A drizzling rain began to come down soon after breakfast; there was a nip of autumn in the air; and although my conscience warned me that I had not earned such luxury, I found it pleasant to take my ease beside the peat-fire. To add to my happiness, the book I had picked from a row of novels turned out to be a remarkable one. It was called Moidart; or Among the Clanranalds, and had been written away back in the 'eighties by Father Charles Macdonald, who was then parish priest of Moidart. When I tried to buy a copy afterwards in Edinburgh, I found that it had been out of print for many years and could hardly be obtained for love or money. In Father Macdonald's book, there was no maudlin stuff about the Spirit of the Gael; but before I had read many pages, I realised that he was a man who loved his people. He made no attempt to interpret them for the benefit of the Southerner, and he certainly did not try to write up the Highlander as a fine fellow. Too often nowadays the Highlander is praised in a defensive tone of voice, as though he were still regarded as a barbarian and required a special leader. Equally nauseating is the gushing voice of the modern Sennachie (often an Englishman) who talks as if tartan and bare knees were practically the same thing as culture and purity of heart. And I liked Father Macdonald for another thing : he did not write in the tone of a democrat who bemoans the fate of a down-trodden peasantry. With him, a laird was a laird - and if he was a good laird and a good Catholic, so much the better. I could not help wondering where Father Macdonald had been educated, whether he was a "heather priest" or had studied at one of the great Scots colleges at Paris, Valladolid, or Rome, where students used to spend as long as ten years before returning to take up their duties in a Scottish parish. I look back on that Saturday when I lingered over Father Macdonald's book as one of the most satisfying days I have ever spent.


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