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Chapter XIII. - The Lake of the Fairies, Loch-na-Seachin

Some days were now passed much as before; and, with the exception of two large salmon caught in trolling the loch, nothing happened worth particular mention.

The 11th of August must needs be a day of anticipation and preparation; and, on coming down in the morning, I found the others busy unpacking boxes, containing a small waterproof tent, cartridges, vermin stamps, &c.; and after breakfast, guns, &c., were carefully inspected, ammunition laid out, and a visit made to the kennels.

All arrangements were left to Major Duncan and Archie, and consequently settled with the promptness to be expected between the decisive soldier and taciturn keeper. Still, one way or other, time was taken up until luncheon; after which, Ward and I arranged for a long walk. The Major remained at home, as he had an O.H.M.S. to answer, and he asked Fred if he would go with ns, or stay and fish the bum; and Fred stayed in preference to what he considered purposeless exercise.

"Won’t you come, Fred? ” said Ward.

“Flattered by your kindness,” replied Fred.  "Nature has favoured you with long legs, and me with a wise head: let each improve his gifts.”

Hope and I set off by nearly the same line as our first walk; but, on getting high up hill, we turned north for a mile or so, and then scrambled up to the sky-line, enjoyed the grand sea view, continued northwards down towards the lower hills, and came suddenly upon the small loch which Archie said held such fine trout.

Once close to the water we regretted having no fishing-tackle, as there was a fine curl on the loch, which was deep to the edge in some parts.

This fair lake is as great a contrast as possible from the dismal pools in the snipe hollow; and, with its margin of sedge, white sand, and mossy stones, is as charming a little alpine aquarium as one could fancy; and while sitting on a tuft of heather, looking at the tiny wavelets curling on its blue surface, Ward went on sketching, and, as he said, thinking it only natural if a fair water-nymph should rise to the surface, and in liquid Gaelic invite him to a bath.

By the side of this gem in the wilderness we rested some time, and Ward sketched the fair outlines; but he said that his art failed in giving the metallic hues of green and purple.

“I remember, Hope, of Mr. M  speaking to me about that very same matter of vivid colour.”

“Ah! what did he say? He is real authority.”

“Well, it came about in this way. I was with him while he painted the rugged walls and quaint window of an old castle for one of his figure-pieces, and made remark on the bright colours he was deliberately touching in, to picture what- appeared, to a common observer like myself, to be simply a grey old wall; but he distinctly showed me in the wall itself all these varieties of tint and shade.”

“Just the man to note them; and what did he say about vivid colour?”

“That it was an error to decry bright colour in painting from its mere brightness, as vulgar and gaudy effects came from false taste and incongruous handling; that the real difficulty was to colour up to nature. I well remember be illustrated this by picking a bit of moss from the wall, and, laying it on his palette, he said, 1 How you see on the palette the finest colours that art can produce, yet are they paled beside this bit of yellow moss.’ ”

“How just! Even I, a novice, feel it. See these rushes: I have got the greens and shades pretty well, but would need a mixture of sunshine and blue sky on my brush to paint the golden green of that sedgy fringe.”

“Try turquoise and gold dust.”

“I fear this must do. Where next?”

“Ho you see the wood through that gap in the hill? That’s our march: suppose we go on?”

“I’m game; en avant!”

Directly on moving we started grouse, and again and again flushed fresh coveys. It seemed as even game appreciated this pleasant spot, and we resolved to see more of the “Loch-na-Seachin ” (or Fairy Lake).

We had still some rough walking over this rock-strewn heath, which looked as if it had been the scene of a stone bicker with Titans, and huge stones were lying about enough for all the Druids and an Atlantic breakwater to boot.

At the march we met one of the game-watchers, named Peter Doig, a powerful bandy-legged carle, who. looked as if he could tackle a poacher; he himself was a noted poacher in former days, but now eschewed wicked ways. Archie says Peter is a perfect treasury of sensation stories, which he characterized as “awfu’ riggs wi’ keepers, warlocks,-and women, and sic like cattle.” We shall see if we can get at some of his tales.

Peter directed us to the easiest line home, and pointed to certain woods and semi-cultivated places where, he said, we should find black game and a few roedeer. Home almost in a bee-line over hill and bog, we arrived at the Lodge shortly after six, well pleased and not a little tired.

Major Duncan and Fred had been home some time with good baskets of burn trout, although the burn was small; but with carefully keeping out of sight one can usually get trout, however small and clear the water may be.

On the day before the 12th, there seemed to be a sort of tacit understanding that light claret was the safe thing.

It was arranged that we should make our first beat around the loch. There was no particular wish to make a boastful bag the first day, or indeed any day, but to test in succession the capabilities of every range.

“Yours is a good plan, Abbott," the Major said, “to work the outlying beats first, so long as they afford tolerable sport; meanwhile it is driving the birds inwards."

"Well, I think so; and with plenty birds near home, and little disturbed on these rough grounds, one can always get some—although I think the wildness of birds to be more a matter of season than of shooting.".

After dinner every one was presently engaged with a fresh packet of books and papers until nearly dark; and I observed the Major chuckling over some pungency in the Saturday Review, and Ward in the thick of a novel.

“What is your book, Ward?" I inquired.

“Monte Christo, and strange enough I have never read it. How cleverly these French writers do shape their plots!" he remarked.

"Well, what I like in French authors of the best sort is their neat dialogue. I don’t mind plots much; and there is a personality or feeling of acquaintance with the persons and places of some writers which is to me a great charm."

“Do books so impress you?”

“Yes. Some of Sir Walter’s scenes, and some of bis persons, are more real on my mind than many actual realities.”

“Ah! he is exceptional,” said Ward; “and I could sketch his scenes from memory.”

“I can quite fancy you might, but there are many besides Scott have this gift; others, again, seem to want it completely. James, who has written nice tales of chivalrous men and devoted women, wants this faculty, as his characters leave no prints on the memory. So with Bulwer Lytton and other good writers; and even Thackeray, deemed so realistic,—saving in his immortal Becky, and some few more, such as Mr. Pendennis and Colonel Newcombe.”

“Then you must enjoy the elaborate characterizing of George Eliot and Charlotte Bronte?”

“Surely not, as realities: to me they are the least real of all; people one never met, nor should care to meet.”


“Because they are so confoundedly sensitive and self-absorbed. I confess my bad taste in not liking these books; yet I should wish to have met poor Charlotte Bronte.”

“And you do not admire such fine-drawn characters—Adam Bede, &c., or Jane Eyre ? Eccentric a bit! ”

“It may be so,” I said; “yet these people seem to me like anatomical transparencies which show blood, brain, and nerve: clever and instructive, no doubt; but neither living beings, nor sweet to contemplate.”

“So you would make recluses of the sensitive and self-absorbed ? ”

“Certainly, yes—hermit, saints, or sinners; anything, anywhere, out of the world. I detest animals with feelers.”

Here the Major (who, I thought, was asleep) laughed heartily.    .

“What’s the row, Major   inquired Ward.

“Abbott’s term, 'animals with feelers.’ I know several; nasty people to meet.”

“Then, Major, you agree so far?”

“So far as I heard; but I must have been dozing.” “Time for everybody to doze, I suspect. Whew! past one o’clock.”

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