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Excursion to the Orkney Islands
Chapter X. The Highland Glens


“Now,” said Grimkie, when the party arrived at the hotel in Glasgow, “we have come to the end of the first stage of our journey, that is the railway stage of it. The next is the steamboat stage.”

“I am glad of that,” said Florence. “The railway ride was very pleasant, but I am ready for a change.”

Grimkie had learned in the course of the conversations which he had held with his fellow-passengers on board the ship at sea, that it was best, in travelling in Scotland, especially among the Highlands, to take as little baggage as possible.

“On whichever side of Scotland you go up,” said one of these gentlemen, “you will be likely to come down on the other side, so that your journey will either begin at Glasgow and end at Edinburgh, or it will begin at Edinburgh and end at Glasgow. You will find it better therefore, when you are ready to set out from either of those towns, to put all that you will want for the journey in one trunk, and send all the rest of your baggage across to some hotel in the other town, to wait there for you till you come back.” Grimkie explained all this to his aunt, at the breakfast table at their hotel in Glasgow. Mrs. Morelle looked at her travelling map of Scotland, and she saw that Edinburgh and Glasgow were in fact situated as is represented above.

“We shall probably come down from the Orkneys on that side of the island,” said she, "and I think it would be convenient to have our trunks go there, all except one—but then, Grimkie, we don't know how to send them there. I suppose there is some kind of express, if we only knew where the office was.”

“Ah, but you remember, Auntie, that father told us that all we had to do was to be able to tell distinctly what we wanted, and the people here would find out how it was to be done.”

“That was in the public offices,” said Mrs. Morelle. .

“It will do just as well in the hotels I expect, Auntie,” said Grimkie. “May I ring the bell and try?”

Mrs. Morelle gave the required permission, and Grimkie rang the bell. Very soon the waiter appeared.

"I want to see about sending some baggage to Edinburgh,” said Grimkie.

"Yes, sir,” said the waiter. “I'll send up Boots directly.”

Boots is the familiar name by which the porter is designated in the English inns. In these inns moreover every servant has his own definite duties to perform, and these are never on any account intermingled. It is the porter’s duty to know about railway trains, and conveyances of all kinds, and about baggage, and sending letters and parcels, and all such things. The waiter’s duty, on the other hand, is confined entirely to the service of the table, and to acts of personal attendance upon the guests within the hotel. If any question arises pertaining to transportation or conveyance of any kind, he has but one answer—“Yes, sir. I'll send Boots.” .

In a few minutes the porter appeared, cap in hand.

“We want to inquire about sending some of our luggage to Edinburgh,” said Grimkie. “We are going to make a tour in the north of Scotland, and we thought it would be best to send most of our luggage to Edinburgh to wait there till we come.”

“Yes, sir,” said the porter, "that will be much the best way for you.”

“And how shall we manage it?” asked Grimkie. “What have I to do?”

“You have nothing at all to do,” said the porter, ”except to tell me the name of the hotel where you will go—or put it upon your luggage, and leave it in your room here when you go away. I will attend to it all, and you will find it quite safe at the hotel when you arrive there.” “And how about paying?” asked Grimkie. “Shall we pay you?”

“No, sir,” said the porter, “you will have nothing to pay here. It will not be much, and they will pay at the hotel in Edinburgh and put it in your bill.”

“That will be exactly the thing, Auntie,” said Grimkie. “Only,” he added, "we do not know what hotel we shall go to.”

On being asked by Mrs. Morelle, the porter gave them the address of a good hotel in Edinburgh, which he said was in a pleasant situation, and a well kept house. He also brought Grimkie a package of gum labels, such as are used in England for labelling baggage. Grimkie wrote Mrs. Morelle's name on several of these labels, and also, the name of the hotel which the porter had given him, and then, after his aunt had selected from all the trunks what she thought would be required for the whole party during the tour in Scotland, and had put them in the one which she was to take, Grimkie with the assistance of the porter locked and strapped the others, and put the labels upon them.

The party spent the rest of the day in rambling about Glasgow, and in amusing themselves with the various objects of interest which met their view in the streets and in the environs, and the next morning before breakfast, they went on board the. steamer Iona, which was to take them to Inverness.

They enjoyed the voyage exceedingly although at first Florence was somewhat disappointed in respect to the steamer, which she had expected would be as much superior, in respect to its size, and its decorations, to those plying upon the North River, as Europe is generally considered superior to America. Instead of this, the Iona was comparatively quite small, but it was very neatly arranged, and there was a small, but richly furnished cabin below, which looked exceedingly snug and comfortable.

After rambling about the steamer until they had explored it in every part, the children went with Mrs. Morelle and chose a place upon the deck at a corner near the companion-way, where they could enjoy the views on every side, and at the same time, could be comfortably seated all the time, if they chose, on camp-stools and benches.

Here they remained for several hours enjoying the most charming succession of views of mountain scenery that can be imagined. Grimkie, by means of the maps and guide books, followed the course of the steamer, and found out the names of all the villages, and castles, and country seats, which came successively into view, and pointed them out to his aunt and Florence who examined them attentively, especially the old castles, by means of the opera glass.

The course of the steamer lay through a succession of channels, lakes and sounds, most of which were connected with the sea, but they were so hemmed in by the promontories and islands which bordered them, as to make it seem to the party as if they were navigating inland waters altogether. The channels of water were so narrow too, in most cases, that the land was very near. It was generally more like sailing upon a river, than upon an arm of the sea. The land was everywhere very mountainous too, and seemed to rise very abruptly from the water's edge, though often it was bordered near the margin of the water, by villages and towns, and elegant country seats with green fields and beautiful gardens adjoining them, and parks and pleasant grounds, all of which presented a succession of most charming pictures to the view.

In other places the shores of the loch, as the Scotch call such sheets of water as these, were wild and solitary,—immense sheep pastures extending up the mountain sides to a great height, with flocks of sheep, and dogs, and Highland shepherds seen here and there, standing motionless to gaze upon the steamer as it glided swiftly by. . ,

As this line of steamers was intended almost exclusively for the accommodation of tourists, journeying for health or pleasure, the arrangements on board were all made with reference to rendering the voyage as comfortable and as agreeable as possible. One of the arrangements made with this view was to stop at night, half way between Glasgow and Inverness, at a place situated in the midst of some of the grandest and most romantic scenery, in order to give the passengers a quiet night’s sleep, at a spacious and elegant hotel, built there expressly for the purpose. The steamer was to touch too at a great many different places along the route, wherever there was a pretty village on the margin of the water, or any grand or picturesque scenery at a little distance in the interior. When Mrs. Morelle and her party came on board, they had not determined whether to proceed directly to Inverness, or to stop at Rothsay, or Oban, or Fort William, or at some other interesting point, with a view of continuing their journey on a subsequent day.

“We will not decide,” said Mrs. Morelle, “until we get on board the steamer, and see how we like it, and what the weather is.”

When, however, the party had embarked and the voyage was begun, they were all for the first hour so much interested in the wonderful beauty and grandeur of the scenery which everywhere met their view, that they did not think of the question how far they should go, until Grimkie saw the man coming round among the passengers to receive their money, and give them tickets. Before he had time to say anything about it, the man came to where Mrs. Morelle was sitting and said he would take the fare. "How much is it, sir?” asked Grimkie.

The man replied by asking how far they were going. Grimkie looked to his aunt, not knowing himself exactly what to say.

“We are going to Inverness,” said she, “but we had not fully decided whether to go directly through, or to stop somewhere, for a day.”

“You can pay through madam,” said the man, “and take a ticket, and then you can
break the journey where yon please. The tickets are good for a month.”

“Ah,” said Grimkie, “that will be just the thing for us.” So he took out his purse and counted out the number of sovereigns which the man required and received the tickets.

The tickets were made in a very curious manner. They were printed upon thin paper, and lined upon the back with green morocco, and were then folded in three, that is, the upper part was folded down, and the lower part up, and in this condition they looked like so many little green wallets. Florence and John were very much interested in examining their tickets, and they wished to have the custody of them themselves. But Grimkie said no. He was responsible for all the payments, and he must take charge of the tickets himself—but they might have them to look at as often as they pleased.

John was very much taken with the ticket man's phrase “break the journey,” and he began to be quite desirous that their journey should be broken at some point or other along the route. His mother said that she had no objection to that. So she commissioned Grimkie to look over the map and the guide books, and read the descriptions of the different places along the route, and of the objects of interest to be seen in the vicinity of them, and so select a place where in his opinion it would be best to stop.

Grimkie immediately set himself to this work, and after a good deal of patient investigation and research, he came to the conclusion to recommend that they should stop at Ben Nevis. Ben Nevis, he found, lay close upon their course.

Ben Nevis has usually been considered as the highest mountain in Scotland. It is any rate altogether the most celebrated. There is a little village at the base of it, named Fort William, where travellers land who wish to ascend the mountain. This village is at the head of a loch, and all the environs of it are romantic and beautiful. Grimkie found a picture of Fort William in one of the guide books, and showed it to his aunt, and to Florence and John. He also read what the guide book said about the place, and the environs of it, and the mode of ascending the mountain.

“I have only one objection to stopping there,” said Mrs. Morelle, “and that is that I do not like climbing mountains very well.”

“But, Auntie,” said Grimkie, “we need not go up the mountain unless we choose to do it.”

“True,” said Mrs. Morelle, “but I am pretty sure you children will want to go up, and I shall not like to have you go, unless I go too.”

“Then, Auntie, how would you like to stop at Oban?”

“What is there remarkable at Oban?” asked Mrs. Morelle.

“It is a pretty little town on the western coast, built along the curve of a bay, under high hills,” said Grimkie, half reading from his guide book. “It is a sort of central point and rendezvous for travellers in the western Highlands, being the place of departure for many excursions.”

“What sort of excursions?” asked Mrs. Morelle.

“The principal are steamboat excursions among the outlying islands,” said Grimkie, “such as to Fingal's cave on the island of Staffa, and the old monastery in Iona.”

“Should we be exposed to the swell of the sea in going to those islands?” asked Mrs. Morelle.

“I think from the map that we should,” said Grimkie.

“Then,” said Mrs. Morelle, laughing, “I would rather stop at Ben Nevis. I would rather take the mountain than the sea.”

“I thought so, Auntie,” said Grimkie. .

And so it was decided that the party should land at Fort William, at the base of Ben Nevis.


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