WILD, grey, plain moorland to the eye, crossed and barred
with purple streaks of moss-hags innumerable, and in the midst, the brown
peaty loch with its little island of water-worn stones–that is Lochinvar.
Perhaps the level of the water has at some recent period been raised
artificially. There are signs of such a work having been attempted at the
westernmost end, but it is indeed almost incredible that the Gordons of
Lochinvar ever had a castle, or even a tower on the little island which
remains in the loch. To the ordinary observer Edie Ochiltree's famous
praetorium, put together by some “mason lads and twa-three herds” is as much
as the appearances warrant.
The Eye of
But the eye of faith and romance can still see peace and
silence cincturing the ancient tower of Lochinvar like the blue circle of
the vault of heaven – and Kate and Wat Gordon walking the battlements. “It
was a narrow promenade, but they kept the closer together. From the gable
chimneys immediately above them, the blue perfumed reek of a peat fire went
up straight as a monument."
To use the boat upon the loch and visit with scientific
purpose the mound of water-worn cobbles certainly provokes unbelief. But one
may still stand on the peaty brows above the water in the hush of evening
and thrill to the thought of the young Lochinvar's return to the house of
his father before he spoke II that word in her ear" which rendered his name
for ever famous in song and romance.
"It was evening of a great, solemn, serene September day
when Wat reached the edges of the loch, upon the little island in the midst
of which stood the tower of his forebears. There was no smoke going up from
its chimneys. The water slept black from the very margin, deeply stained
with peat. The midges danced and balanced; the moorbirds cried; the old owl
hooted from the gables; the retired stars twinkled reticently above, just as
they had done in Wat's youth.
”The little grey keep on its lonely islet towering above
him, seemed not so high as of old. It was somehow strangely shrunken. The
isle, too, had grown smaller to his travelled eye-probably was so indeed,
for the water had for many years been encroaching on the narrow insular
policies of the tower of Lochinvar.
"There to his right was the granite 'snibbing-post,' to
which the boat was usually tied. The pillar had, he remembered, a hole bored
through the head of it with a chip knocked out of the side–for making which
with a hammer he had been soundly cuffed by his father. And there was the
anchored household boat itself, nodding and rocking under the northern
castle wall, where it descends abruptly into the deeps of the loch.
"Wat stood under the carved archway and clattered on the
door with a stone picked from the water-side. For the great brass knocker
which he remembered so well had been tom off, no doubt during the recent
“It was long indeed ere any one came to answer the
summons, and meanwhile Wat stood, dripping and shaking, consumed with deadly
weakness, yet conscious of a still more deadly strength. If God would only
help him ever so little, he thought–would grant him but one night's quiet
rest, he could yet do all that which he had come so fast and far to
" At last he heard a stir in the tower above. A footstep
came steadily and lightly along the stone passages. The thin gleam of a
rushlight penetrated beneath the door, and shed a
solid ray through the great worn key-hole. The bolts growled
and screeched lustily, as if complaining at being so untimely disturbed. The
door opened, and there before Wat stood a sweet, placid-browed old lady in
laced cap and stomacher–even the Jean Gordon of ancient days." 1
1 “Lochinvar," p. 409. (Methuen & Co.)