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Chapter V. - A Ride to the Great Loch

Next morning was bright and pleasant. But, by ten o’clock, the air became close and sultry, great heavy clouds rolled slowly gathering from the south and hung about the hills, and the slight breeze died away. We were in for a storm; no doubt of it. However, any weather should do for putting tackle in order; so when breakfast was over, we soon had the large table littered from end to end with casts, flies, thread, and cobbler’s wax.

By-and-by it became too dark for operations; a flash of lightning, followed by the rumbling of distant thunder, told what was coming. Nearer and nearer sounded heaven’s artillery, and the storm was upon us, bursting overhead with torrents of rain.

“Fred, are you frightened at thunder?” I asked.

“Not the least.”

“Then we might open the windows. A Highland thunderstorm is worth looking at.”

“Yes, yes,” was quickly replied.

And we threw the windows right open to witness a truly grand sight. The torrents of rain—the gloomy, restless-looking clouds—from which the pale forked lightning zigzagged among the mountain-tops, while the thunder crashed overhead, and growled and rumbled away in distant echoes through the clefts and corries of the glen; but the storm passed quickly, and, although it continued to rain for some time, there was now light enough to go on with the tackle operations.

"While Ward was overhauling my hook-book, he got hold of an absurd Irish fly, with sea-green body, golden wings, and a tail like a fan. This world of art he handed to me, declaring he should use that one in particular.

“Bah!” I said, “you will only frighten the fish.”

“Why, you agreed that these Irish flies often worked wonders.”

"Then try it; it can do no good, however much harm.”

“You are sententious to-day, Abbott.”

“Do then forgive me, like a good fellow, and translate my meaning into parliamentary language.”

Ward laughed, and said that, instead of a curt “do no good, and may harm,” would it not be more polite to have remarked, “Mr. Ward, the lure which you propose to use cannot, under the circumstances of its unnatural brightness and your inexperience, be productive of beneficial influences; but, on the contrary, may be the cause of disaster and deleterious operation throughout the length and breadth of our sporting river”?

“Ha, ha! What a park of wordy artillery to demolish a fly!”

“Still, ridiculous as it seems, the sort of style is often used in private, and it is absolutely necessary in public speeches, in which people are used to having their parish pumps compared with the pyramids; and rather like it,” he sneeringly added.

“Yet the men are not individually donkeys, although they may applaud.”

“A peu de chose pres; but how do you fix these knots so nicely on the casts?”

“Oh! that’s the sailor’s knot; shall I teach you?” “Yes, do.”

And Ward mastered the sailor’s knot, which afterwards saved him some trouble, and, probably fish.

By two o’clock the day had cleared up; but it wag too late to fish the river, which, besides, would likely be discoloured with the rain; so it was agreed that the Major and I should ride the ponies to the loch, and help the launching of the new boat that was to be sent on to-day. Ward and Fred resolved to fish the burn.

On crossing the hills to the loch we saw a good deal of game, which was satisfactory as this is not one of the best beats. Indeed, we had leased Ardenmohr rather for the fishing and the wide range and wildness of the scenery than as a stocked moor, which it is not; but the sport is always ample, and so strange and varied that for good walkers it is infinitely to be preferred to an ordinary grouse moor, where there is little variety from day to day but the tameness or shyness of the birds.

At the loch we met the game-watcher and another man waiting for the boat, which by-and-by arrived, mounted on old coach wheels, and drawn by two stout horses, John Fraser superintending. The “concern,” as John called it, had been twice bogged on the path across the hill, and they had some trouble to get her clear.

The launching was well managed, and the big boat floated even and lightly., Major Duncan and I had a pull at the oars, and found she went famously through the water. The boat was also supplied with the requisites for putting' up a small sail when wanted, as I was anxious to try how a sail would work in trolling: so far so well, and having examined the boathouse and fittings, &c., we went homewards. It began to rain heavily, and we dismounted thoroughly drenched.

Shortly Ward and Fred arrived in like dismal plight, but in great spirits, both having filled their creels with nice burn trout. Fred, who had fished with bait, had the largest-sized trout, but not so many as Ward.

Although early in August, the evening was chilly, and it was pleasant, on coming in to dinner, to gather round a bright fire. Foreigners are beginning to find the beauties of an open fireplace, and though neither so economical nor perhaps so warm as a stove, it is so jolly to look at; but the piles of faggots we" bum on cool nights would be ruinous on the Continent.

After dinner, to make doubly safe against a chill, we bad a brew of whisky toddy: and Ward, like a sensible fellow, took quite kindly to a reeking tumbler, and might have taken two had his head not warned him that it was not negus; and Freddy, inspired by a small glass, toasted the girls of N- before he went off to prepare for his next morning’s lesson.

When Fred had gone out, I remarked to Ward how like he is to his sisters;—they having the same brusque and slightly defiant manner, and yet so sweet-tempered.

“Yes,” said Ward, “sweet tempered with pleasant people, and so gentle with the shy or reserved; but they do bristle up sometimes at pomposity or advice-giving.”

“Do they!” said the Major. “Then I might have their sympathy. Why, just to-day, I have a letter from a wise friend, who is pleased to advise me on a delicate matter: his maxims are beautiful.”

“I detest maxims,” said Ward, “bumptious, onesided dogmas seldom applying in individual cases. Why the deuce won’t people let others alone?”

“As the best judges, Hope?”

“Yes, of their own circumstances, and quite unlikely to act on others views.”

“Yet counsel and sympathy are sought by many people far from being fools.”

“Ay, sought, and from those they like or trust; but not to be volunteered. A better authority than maxim-mongers says, ‘The heart knoweth its own bitterness, and a stranger intermeddleth not with its joys.’ ”

“A stranger, of course; but he does not say a friend.”

“Surely not—a friend’s counsel Bacon pronounces doubly good; it halves evil and doubles joys. By a stranger I understand one who has not one’s confidence. Yet the meaning may lie deeper, and point to those silent griefs and joys which even friendship cannot touch.”

“You seem, Hope, to have thought this matter over before.”

“Hot very philosophically, Major; but there are some lines, not poetry, in my scrap-book, suggested to me by Captain Maury’s statements about the perfect stillness of the sea in great depths, and which bear in some degree on the subject. I need scarcely say that they are poetry of a very mild type.”

“Ah! verse instead of a drawing of ocean depths: but you could hardly sketch in a diving-bell. Let us look at the inspiration.”

Ward laughed, and handed the thing to Major Duncan, who put down his pipe and read aloud—

’Tis false religion, false philosophy
To teach life’s ills are nought, life’s pleasures toys;
And wisest minds with simple natures vie
In frankly sharing common griefs and joys.
Yet doth the heart retain a hallow’d spot,
A sacred fane, where many feelings lie
With which the stranger intermeddleth not—
A mind’s retreat and Christian’s sanctuary.
Men of great heart and eke of judgment ripe
Have the broad living ocean as their type,
That open-arm’d receives earth’s tribute streams,
Spreading in bounteous rain those tributes won;
Changeful in mood, as childhood’s face in dreams,
Frowns with each cloud, or glitters in the sun.
Oft fretful gales dispel the ocean’s rest,
Tornadoes fierce its throbbing bosom vex;
Then is upheaved the white and dreaded crost,
The trembling shore all strewn with piteous wrecks.
Yet, far below, in crystal depths profound,
Waves have no force, the shrieking wind no sound.
Deep, where rich spoils of many a foreign land,
Hid ever from man’s grasping, slowly rot;
Down, where, till doomsday, rest on silver sands
Unshrouded dead, long shipwreck’d, long forgot,
In gloom more hush’d than dim Carthusian cell.
Such rest, that wind nor wave have never power
To move one fragile weed or tiny shell
Hid in the coral grottoes of the deep—
A home of silence and unbroken sleep.

“Prodigious!” exclaimed the Major on finishing the rhyme; “and sentimental too, Hope; yet very reasonable rhyme and reason: besides, it would be hard to deny a private room to your friends who keep open house for public griefs and joys in their sympathies, eh?”

“Even should it, Major, be like the maister’s room you spoke of as being common in Scotch country houses, and the worst-furnished room in the house,” said Ward, laughing.

“Exactly, moncher; for, analogous to your mind’s private room, the master’s retreat is sacred to quiet and fancy, .and free from bothering advisers.”

“You dry Scotch quiz, you have no pity for delusions.”

“I suspect,” I remarked, “that delusions fill the pleasantest corners in one’s mind, and that Bums only half considered when he wrote—

‘Oh wad some power the giftie gie us 
To see ourselves as others see us.’

Individually, it would be far from a pleasing giftie; but had Robbie written gie them, and not gie us, every one would say, how proper ! I don’t want my own fancies, mayhap delusions, to he disturbed.”

“NorI,” said Ward. “I wish to believe my friends to be friendly; my tastes and whims good taste; and don’t seek others’ views thereon to disperse all my fancy blossoms. Time may quietly pick them off one by one soon enough.”

“Ah! Hope, is this not pleasure verms dry wisdom?” said Major Duncan.

“Hot entirely; no sane man will deny that in matters of real moment truth is best, however bitter; but Lord Bacon, a safer philosopher than your Bums, says that, c If you take from men vain opinions, flattering hopes, and the like, it would leave the minds of most of us poor shrunken things.’ Nor do I want people to be poking pins through my wind-bags: they float me nicely down the stream.”

“So, so, Hope, and you admire the great chancellor? Not a bad sign of your taste.”

“Who does not? the finest of philosophical intellects, and the most intensely sensible of men of the world; yet he made some sad mulls, moral and mental. Not you, Fred,” Ward said, as the youngster came in, and was staring at his cousin being so earnest; “you never make mulls.” .

Fred merely grinned.

“Alas, Hope, for weak humanity,” I said, “that such as King David, Solomon, and Bacon should stand for beacons as well as stars! Consoling to us common people in the ruck, eh?”

“ Yes ; and too many do console and please themselves with the notion that they are better behaved than their betters, and, perhaps, secretly wiser: the giftie might be useful there.”

“It might, if anything can mitigate the envy and sham contempt of narrow minds for those of higher stamp. They pooh-pooh everything: clever men are bores; the pleasant, deceitful; the philosophic, free thinkers; and even sportsmen, to be pitied and prayed for.”

“Even so,” said the Major, laughing. “Yet must we continue in folly, and give the loch a thorough trial to-morrow; this has been a sort of blank day.” “Oh no, Major,” said Fred; “Hope and I had right good sport in the burn.”

“To he sure; but I supposed your grilse had made you despise small fry, Fred?”

“No, Major, not at all; I forgot all about it when the trout in the burn were taking so well.”

“And quite right, Freddy; never throw over old friends for newer or bigger fish; besides, there’s worse fun than good bum-fishing.”

“Won’t the fishing be good for some time yet?”

“To be sure, boy; and you will take many a trout, and some salmon, long after the 12th; and, you recollect, you and I go together that day.”

“That’s famous! I can do nothing with Hope when he is in a bumptious humour, which he is sure to be when he begins to miss grouse.”

“Suppose,” said Ward, “we have a bet, Frederick, that you make three misses to my one; is that fair? What shall it be?”

“Will you stake your silver sandwich-box against half an hour’s extra study on my part for a week?”

“Hem, yes ; agreed.”

“Ho you play whist, Fred?” inquired Major Duncan.

“Only a very little. I about know the moves.” “We might have a rubber. Of course you fellows play! Fred, you will find some packs in that corner drawer. You and I shall be partners against the philosophers.”

All the evening we waged tough battle, which ended by Master Fred and the Major winning six shillings sterling from each of us.

On going to bed, Fred stood on the stairs, and called: “I say, Hope.”

“Well, imp, what is it?”

“I have got some laudanum for toothache, if you find the whist has made you restless. You may come to my room for it.”

Ward made a dash at him, but Fred was holed like a rabbit.

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