to the Orkney Islands
Chapter XI. Ben Nevis
Mrs. Morelle was charmed
with the appearance of Ben Nevis and its environs when the steamer drew
near. The slopes of the mountain seemed to commence almost at the margin
of the water, and they rose in solemn grandeur to a vast height, the
portions near the summit being covered with great patches of snow. Lower
down, the mountain sides were rounded and smooth, and covered with rich
green and brown vegetation, which glowed in the setting sun and seemed
as soft as the richest velvet. Along the margin of the water were
extended the buildings of the town, with vessels of various size lying
at anchor near.
The steamer stopped at some distance from the shore, just as Grimkie and
John, who had been forward to see about getting out the trunk, came back
to see if Mrs. Morelle and Florence were ready. Mrs. Morelle looked
“Why, Grimkie!” said she, “are they going to land us in a boat. I
thought they would go up to the pier. I am afraid to land in a boat.”
“Then we can go on,” said Grimkie, “to the end of the sail. It is not a
great deal farther.”
“But I should like to stop, and see Ben Nevis, too" said Mrs. Morelle
hesitating—"if it were not for landing in a boat—going down such a steep
and narrow ladder.”
“There can't be any real danger, Auntie,” said Grimkie, "but still we
will go on if you prefer. They land by boats at half the places where we
This was very true, and Mrs. Morelle had taken great interest in
watching the progress of such landings, several times during the day. It
was very curious to see the boat in such cases come out from the land,
and lie upon its oars on the water in the track of the steamer, until
the steamer came up, and the paddle-wheels were backed. Then the man
standing on the guard would throw a rope to the boat, which would be
caught by a man at the bows of it, and immediately made fast, by which
means the boat would be drawn on through the water, by the steamer which
was not yet entirely at rest.
The boat was soon pulled in under the little step-ladder leading from
the deck, which had previously been let down, and then the passengers
who were to land would descend, guarded carefully, by strong boatmen
reaching up from the boat to the outer side of the ladder, to prevent
the possibility of their falling into the water, in case of any misstep.
As. fast as the passengers reached the boat, they stepped over the
thwarts and took their seats in the stern. Then the trunks and other
parcels of baggage were passed down. Then the boatmen would take the
oars again, the rope was cast off, the boat was pushed away, the
paddle-wheels recommenced their motion, and the steamer went on, leaving
the boat behind to struggle with the waves as best it could, and make
its slow way to the shore.
All this had been very interesting to see, as it appeared to the
passengers who stood leaning over the bulwarks and looking down upon it
from the deck above, but Mrs. Morelle thought that it would not be very
agreeable to go through. She was afraid, in the first place, to go down
such a steep and narrow ladder, especially when the resting place was so
unstable and insecure at the bottom. Then she was still more afraid of
the pitching and tossing of the boat, in the surges made by the
paddle-wheels when the steamer moved away.
She did not, however, hesitate long, for a moment’s reflection convinced
her that these fears were imaginary. There could not possibly be any
real danger in the mode of landing adopted, as the ordinary and usual
method for such a class of travellers as those on board this steamer. So
she banished her fears, and rising from her seat, said that she would
By this time the boat had made fast along side the steamer, and the
passengers who were to go on shore were going down the ladder. Mrs.
Morelle found no difficulty in following them, Florence and John
followed her. Grimkie remained at the head of the ladder to the last.
When all had descended that were going, the trunks were put down, and
then the boat pushed off, and the steamer resumed her voyage.*
The next morning, while at breakfast at the inn at Fort William, Grimkie
proposed to his aunt that they should all make an excursion up the
“Not to the top of it, Auntie,” said he, “but only so far as you find
you will like to go. We will get a guide and set off together. We will
ride to the foot of the mountain. Then we will begin to walk up. You
shall go first and we will follow you, and we will not ask to go any
farther than you like. We will go as slowly, and stop to rest as often,
as you please; and then when we get high enough for a good view, we can
turn about and come back again.”
There could of course be no objection to so exceedingly reasonable a
proposal as this, and Mrs. Morelle said at once that she should like to
make an excursion up the mountain, on those conditions, very much
“If I walk slowly,” said she, “I can walk two hours.”
“That will take us up pretty high,” said Grimkie. “It only takes two
hours and a half to get to the top. So you and Florence may get ready
Auntie, and John and I will go down and see about a carriage and a
The usual mode would have been for Grimkie to have rung the bell and
called for Boots, and so have made the arrangement for the carriage and
the guide through him. But there were some preparations that he wished
to make secretly, and so he left his aunt and Florence, and went down to
the coffee-room of the hotel. He took his seat there at one of the
tables, near a window, and asked the waiter to send Boots in to him.
When Boots came, Grimkie told him that they were going a little way up
the mountain, and made an arrangement with him to have a dog-cart got
ready immediately, to take them as far as they could go in a carriage,
and also to engage a guide, and to send the guide in to the coffee-room
to see him. In a few minutes the guide came.
He was a nice tidy-looking young man, with a frank and good-humored
countenance, and a broad Scotch accent in his speech. Grimkie explained
the case to him.
“We are going up the mountain a little way,” said Grimkie. “We want to
go as far as we can, but my aunt is not used to climbing mountains much,
and so we must go very slowly.”
“Oh, aye,” said the guide, “the slower ye gang, the higher oop y’ell
The guide had had great experience with travelling parties attempting to
ascend the mountain, and he had known many ladies to become tired and
discouraged before reaching the top, just because they could not be
contented to go slowly enough at the beginning.
After some further discussion and consultation, the plan for the
excursion was matured in all its details. The guide was to go forward on
foot, carrying with him a supply of provisions which Grimkie was to have
made ready, and to wait at the end of the carriage road until the party
in the carriage should come up. The provisions—which, the waiter at the
coffee-room subsequently made ready under Grimkie's directions—consisted
of a bottle of coffee, another of milk, a cold roast chicken, some
sandwiches, two buttered rolls, a little paper of salt, one plate, one
knife, four forks, and a tumbler. All these the waiter packed carefully
in two round wooden boxes, and put the boxes in a bag. That was the way
he said that the guides liked to have their burdens packed.
The bag thus arranged was to be put into the dog-cart, to be carried in
that way as far the cart could go, with a view of being taken by the
guide there, and carried by him over his shoulder for the rest of the
When Grimkie had completed these arrangements he went up to his aunt's
room again, and there he found John who had gone up a moment before him,
remonstrating in a somewhat urgent manner with Florence against a plan
which she entertained of carrying a large guide book up the mountain, to
press flowers in.
“You can't carry such a big book as that,” said John. “It's ridiculous.
We must have every thing as light as possible, in going up a mountain.
Grimkie says so.''
“But this is the only book I have got,” said Florence, “and I must take
some book. It is very important for me to get some specimens from Ben
Nevis, to carry home for souvenirs.”
“Then you must bring them down in your hand,” said John. “We can't
possibly take such a big book as that; can we Grimkie?”
“I will see about that presently" said Grimkie. “Come with me, John. I
want you to go somewhere.''
So John laid down the big book and followed Grimkie down stairs. Grimkie
led the way into the street.
“Where are you going, Grimkie?” asked John. “I am going to see if I can
find a bookseller" said Grimkie. “But you should not contradict a young
lady in that short way. That's boyish" “How boyish?” said John.
“Why boys fly in their sisters' faces in that way sometimes, but no
gentleman ever does.''
“But Grimkie,” said John, “it is perfectly ridiculous to think of
carrying such a big book as that up a high mountain.” .
“That's the very reason why you ought to be more gentle in setting her
right,” replied Grimkie. “Do you think a lady likes to have it made to
appear to her face that any thing she says or does is ridiculous?”
“Then what shall I do?” asked John.
“You must be more gentle" said Grimkie.
“A lady is like a steamboat; you can’t turn her short about, by a sudden
twitch, when she is going wrong. You must bring her round by a sweep—in
a grand circle—gently and gracefully. I'll show you how."
By this time the boys arrived at the door of a small bookstore, and
Grimkie immediately went in. John followed him. Grimkie asked a young
woman who stood behind the counter if she had any blotting paper. She
immediately produced half a quire, and Grimkie bought six sheets of it.
These sheets he cut in two with a paper knife, and then after folding
them, cut them again. He then folded them again, thus bringing them into
a snug compass for carrying, that is, as the bookbinders would say, into
an octavo form. The paper as it was when he bought it, was in a folio
form. After he had cut and folded it the first time, it was in a quarto
form, and now after a second folding, by which means each sheet formed
eight leaves, it was put into the octavo form. Another folding still,
which would have made sixteen leaves to the sheet, would have produced
what is called the sixteenmo form.
Grimkie and John immediately returned to the hotel, carrying the paper
with them. As soon as they arrived, Grimkie went to his room and took a
small portfolio off his table. This portfolio was simply the cover of a
blank book Grimkie had used at the Chateau for some of his exercises.
When it was full and he had no further occasion to use it, he had cut
out the inside neatly, in order to save the cover, which was quite a
pretty one, being made of green morocco. He thought it would make a nice
portfolio. He had accordingly stocked it with small note papers and
envelopes, and had made it serve the purpose of a stationery case, for
He now took out the note paper and his envelopes from it, and then
compared the blotting-paper in its octavo form with the size of the
cover. He found that by folding it once more, that is into the sixteenmo
form it would fit the cover very well. So he cut it open at the octavo
folding, and then after folding it again he slipped it into the cover
and went to find Florence.
“Florence,” said he, “how do you think this will do to put your little
flowers in up the mountain? It is made of blotting paper, and that is
much better than the paper of books to press plants in, for it absorbs
the moisture, and so dries the plants quicker, and that makes them
preserve their colors better.”
"That will be excellent,” said Florence, taking the book and looking at
it with great interest. “But how did you know about that?”
“Our professor of botany at the Chateau" . said Grimkie, “told us that
it is better to have a book made of blotting paper. Only this book is
not sewed. Could you sew it?''
“I can sew it in a moment/' said Florence.
“Then it will do nicely" said Grimkie. “If you can sew the leaves
together so as to make a book of them, then we can slip them into the
book cover, and that will be all we shall want.
I can carry it in my pocket. You see you don't want large specimens. The
smaller and more delicate they are the better. Our professor told us
“Your professor?" repeated Florence.
“Yes" replied Grimkie; “he lectured us about it". "Young gentlemen" said
he "the mode of procedure is very different both in the selection of
flowers and in the method of preserving them, according to the object
you have in view, whether to procure botanical specimens for purposes of
science, or souvenirs and tokens for purposes of sentiment and love."
Grimkie repeated these words in a tone and manner imitative of a
lecturer making a discourse before an audience, producing thus a very
comical effect, so that both John and Florence laughed outright.
“Oh, Grimkie!'' exclaimed Florence. "I don't believe he said any such
things,” added John.
“He verily did,” replied Grimkie. "Young gentlemen,'"said he, "when you
have advanced a little farther along the verdant and flowery path of
life, you will sometimes have occasion, in your various wanderings, to
prepare plants and flowers as tokens of remembrance, or of other
sentiments, or as souvenirs of travel. In such cases, gentlemen, select
small and delicate specimens—of graceful forms and pretty colors. Press
them till they are dry between leaves of blotting paper. If necessary,
separate the leaves and stems so as to press and preserve them
separately. You can recompose your flower afterward. Examine the
specimens from time to time while they are drying, and see that the
stems lie in natural and graceful curves, and that the leaves and petals
are smooth, and fully extended. Then when they are thoroughly dry,
arrange the parts anew, and gum them delicately upon a small piece of
white paper, with a suitable inscription beneath, and enclose the paper
in a tinted envelope of the right size to contain it,—and then when you
present it to the Mary, or the Lucy, or the Ellen, for whom it is
intended, she will perceive that you are a young gentleman of taste and
skill, as well as of science.”
Grimkie finished this recitation of a portion of the professor's lecture
with such an air of mock gravity, that Florence and John both laughed
louder than ever.
“Oh, Grimkie!” said John, “did the professor really say that?”
“Yes,” said Grimkie, “and we all clapped him.”
“It seems to me you have pretty funny doings at the Chateau, Grimkie,”
“We do sometimes,” said Grimkie. “But hark!” he added, “I thought I
heard wheels coming. No they are not coming yet, but we must not waste
any more time. We must get ready. The dog-cart will be here very soon.”
“Good!” said John, at the same time cutting a caper, to express his joy.
“But what kind of dogs will they be?” he added, turning to Grimkie.
“Will they be Esquimaux dogs?”
“There they come,” said Grimkie; “run to the window and see.”
John supposed that a dog-cart was a cart made to be drawn by dogs. In
this idea he was greatly mistaken, a dog-cart being made to carry dogs,
and not to be drawn by them. It is quite a curious vehicle, having its
origin in the wish of sportsmen to provide some means of transporting
their dogs, as well as themselves and their guns, when going into the
field, so that the dogs may he fresh and in good condition for their
work, when they arrive there.
It is a very handsomely made vehicle, in the form of a cart. The seat is
double, there being places for two persons to sit on the front part,
facing the horse, and two directly behind them, with their backs against
those of the first two. Underneath this double seat is a box or recess,
for the dogs. The lid which shuts this box, is behind, and is made to
open down in such a manner that when it is opened it is sustained by a
support which holds it in nearly a horizontal position, where it forms a
foot-board for the two persons riding behind to rest their feet upon.
The children were all very much interested in examining the form and
construction of the dogcart when they went down to the door. The
coachman took the right hand front seat. Mrs. Morelle took the other
front seat. John and Florence and Grimkie took the seat behind, where
they were so much crowded at first, that John said he had a great mind
to play that he was a pointer or a setter, and crawl into the box below.
After having been shaken together a little while by the jolting of the
carriage—for a dogcart moves, even upon a smooth road, with a very
jerking and jolting motion—they found themselves quite comfortable, and
they had a very amusing ride.
When they reached the end of the carriage-road, they found a guide there
ready for them. He took the bag containing the provisions, from the fore
part of the dog-cart where the coachman had put it, and threw it over
his shoulder, in such a manner that one of the boxes hung down before
him, and the other behind. The coachman then took the dog-cart to a
farmer's near by, to put up the horse, to wait until the party returned,
while the guide, followed by his party, commenced his ascent of the
The path was very good, although rather rugged and steep, but the
country was open, there being in general no trees, but only furze,
broom, whinbushes, and other such shrubs as grow upon the Scottish
Highlands. Grimkie wished very much that his aunt should ascend to the
top of the mountain, but he knew very well that the only hope of her
being able to do so, must depend upon their going very slowly at first.
John and Florence who both felt very fresh and agile, were eager to
press forward, but Grimkie kept them back, stopping continually to
gather flowers, and to look back at the prospect. Whenever he found a
flat stone with a smooth and clear surface, he persuaded his aunt to sit
down, and when she was once seated, he detained her as long as possible,
by talking with her, and amusing her mind with the objects around her.
Then he would point to the next elevation above, and ask his aunt if she
thought she could go up to it; and she would say, “Oh, yes! I am not
tired at all yet.”
In this way the party sauntered along for more than three hours,
advancing all the time, but in a slow and unconcerned manner, without
thought or care, as if they were out for a walk, without any definite
plan in respect to the end of the excursion. At last, however, about
noon, Mrs. Morelle took out her watch, and expressed surprise to find
how late it was, and said that it was time for her to begin to think
about going home.
“Look up there, Auntie,” said Grimkie, “where that shepherd is standing
with his dog. There must be a grand lookout from there. Let us go up as
high as that, and there we will have our luncheon, and then, if you
please, we will set out for home."
Mrs. Morelle made no objection to going up to the point which Grimkie
had indicated, and they soon attained it. Here they found a spring of
water coming out from under a great rock. Grimkie brought some flat
stones and made seats for the party in a shady and sheltered place, and
then the guide opened the bag and took out the provisions. Mrs. Morelle
was quite surprised to see so abundant a supply of provisions coming to
“I did not know that we were going to have even a luncheon on the
mountain,” said she, “and here you have got enough, almost, for a
The party remained at the spring for more than half an hour, and then
Mrs. Morelle found herself so much refreshed by the chicken and the
sandwiches, and especially by the tumbler of cold coffee which Grimkie
mixed for her, that she said she was almost inclined to go on farther;
and when the guide told her that an hour more of easy walking would
bring her to the very top, she said she had half a mind to try to go
“Do you think I could do it, Grimkie?” said she.
Grimkie said it was a great thing for a lady to get to the top of Ben
Nevis, but if she felt strong enough to try it, he should like it very
much indeed. She might go on for half an hour more at any rate, and then
if she felt tired she could turn.
Mra. Morelle determined to follow this suggestion, and the result was,
that she persevered until she reached the top.
The wind blew very fresh and cool upon the summit, and the party could
not remain there long. While they did remain, however, they were filled
with wonder and delight at the extent and sublime magnificence of the
view. The mountains lay all around them, clothed with a velvet-like
covering of the softest green, and between them lay an endless number
and variety of lakes and rivers—all sleeping apparently in the sun—and
green fields, and pretty villages, and charming glens, in endless
After remaining upon the mountain for about fifteen minutes, they all
set out upon their return. They of course came down the path very
easily, and getting into the dog-cart, when they reached the foot of the
descent, they were driven very rapidly back to the inn.
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