I WENT into a room in the
City on the day that Spring was born. Outside, the fog had cleared, and a
flock of English sparrows twittered drowsily on sun-splashed roofs, while
the distant murmur of traffic came pleasantly to my ears, like the hum of
But I was not happy. For I was torn by a strange sense of the futility of
what we call civilization, a longing for other days and other scenes
before the City closed its prison walls upon my heart. . . .
They lay there, the rucksack and the nailed shoes, where you had left them
and about them was still the sad, damp smell of peat, and the shoes (which
I had forgotten to clean), had dropped a few fragments of Scottish earth
on to the carpet.
And I remembered, anew, little white hotels nestling in the hollow of
great blue hills -- hotels whose carpets were worn threadbare by the
constant tread of shoes like these, whose antlered halls were littered
with fishing-tackle and many another rucksack which had seen better days…
They tell me they are still there, those hidden, lovely places; and all
around and beyond them the wind still echoes its challenge to the young in
heart, and the whaup cries eerily over the green glens, like a ghost
lamenting the days that are no more.
You will understand, now, why I am so proud of your shabby old rucksack --
and why I will never clean your shoes.
Glencoe, the eastern approach