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Raiderland, All about Grey Galloway
Chapter 31


 

TWO LAKELANDS GALLOWAY AND CUMBERLAND

  ONCE on a glorious first of October the snow was lying thick on the stooks as I went down into St. John's Vale and looked upon Derwentwater. Hardly a cornfield was cleared, and the blonde grain upon the tops of the sheaves looked up through the snow with an unaccustomed and pathetic chill.

Now in the last days of November, the primroses are in bloom under the home of the dead Master at Coniston. It may be that it has been chiefly my fortune to visit the Lakes in autumn, but to me the season seems to fit the country better than any other.

  Yet those who live there all the year tell me that it is like the sun on the hills of Beulah, when in spring the blue hyacinth haze lies like peat reek in every hollow. But in spring I want to be farther from the snell breath of my own east wind; and in summer-well, there are few places on earth that can woo me from Galloway in summer.

"Autumn is Scotch and lingers lovingly among the hills.”

  So says the author of "Olrig Grange," that gracious poetpreacher. But, after all, Cumbria is also Strathclyde, and save for the fight on Dunmail Rise we might have made one compact kingdom of it from Clyde to Mersey, and been a thorn in the sides of those intruding Saxons to which the Irish one were but as the tickling of a thistledown.

  Derwentwater I shall ever remember. It was, I think, in 1889, and on the first day of October in that year, that I saw the splendours of full autumn shine from under the veil of white like an arrayed bride on her way to the altar. The long smooth slopes of Helvellyn were smoother than ever-sleeked and polished with glistering snow. The nearer ridges, Walla and the Castle Crag, stood black against the pure new-fallen drift .

  But most of all I shall not forget the Vale of St. John on that first of October, and the snow lying heaped and chill among the sheaves–the tall stooks blonde like meadow-sweet, growing through frozen wreaths. Of course, even in a day the snow melted from off the corn, and the fanners of the vale led in the grain no whit the worse. The October sun was hot, and the shores of Derwentwater flamed into sudden crimson and gold, like the sunset of a stormy day.

  Yet nevertheless Lakeland is “no my ain hoose–I ken by the biggin' o't.” But it is a fine" hoose" for all that, and there is happiness to me in sojourning in it. My land is Galloway, and that I love best, even as I love mine own Sweetheart better than another's sweetheart. Once I said that Galloway was like a plain maid with beautiful eyes

and not so very plain either when I come to think of it–but with eyes that are frankly blue and outlooking. For she smiles up at us from her thousand lakes and tams, which reflect the sky and the clouds, and make beautiful her most desolate scene.

The Lakes of Lakeland.

  The lakes of Lakeland are fewer, larger-more intentional, as it were, on Nature's part. But in Galloway, whenever you conquer a mountain summit, there is every chance that you will find a “Dhu Loch" lying a few steps beneath you, with chance flaws from the clouds of the hill face playing upon it. A typical Galloway loch is Loch Valley, which flashes upon the traveller like the transformation scene of a picture as he mounts one of the little hillocks of " jingling stones "–the Loch Valley "terminal moraine," about which geologists have so much to say. How far it appears to reach from east to west, running beneath the rocky Jarkness from horizon to horizon, the wild treeless slopes of the ancient Forest of Buchan closing it in ! Above it there is only the desolation of the older land towards Enoch and the stars. And may all the gods of solitude defend the passes, that the rail come no nearer to birch-fringed Trool and the white water of Gairland, where it leaps down its lonely steep and hastens to the loch between grassy banks, under which the shy trout sulk and upon which the bog-myrtle grows.

  Yet it was gladsome, too, when, from a "little-lit toureIle" built like a swallow's nest on the side of a beautiful house, I looked my first upon Coniston Lake and saw the white dwellings of men sprinkled liberally on the opposite side of the water. I saw the reek of the morning meal going up from them, and a burst of steam told me of the locality of the station, where in the blackness of the night I had arrived. Then I allowed within me that Coniston, with her "Old Man" smoking his morning pipe and looking down on the lake, was among the world's choicest of pleasant places. .

  The scene as I saw it then was arranged to take the unwary by surprise. It was that hour of dawn which all my life I have most loved. As I laid a finger upon the cord, of its own accord the blind sprang upwards, and lo! there below me were the shining levels of the lake and the dawn red behind the hills to the east. An equal wind, chill but not dank, was blowing, and the white houses of Coniston village looked right friendly at me across the bay. A good land, even though not mine own!


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