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one ? Well, sir, I can't reach you, but these gen'le-
men '11 pass it along."

And then he began again with the stories and
the Scripture until he had sold out all his stock
of albums and note-books and cheap jewellery.



To the East Coast, and Hack Again. 209

It was the hint about presents to those left be-
hind which bore greatest weight with the fisher-
men. It never failed. But we remembered their
cottages and the sadness of their homes, and it an-
gered us that they should be duped into wasting
their hard-won earnings on tawdry ornaments. It
seems to be their fate to be cheated by every one.
Even the peddler, like the parson and the landlord,
can pervert Scripture to their discomfort.

Still, there was a pleasant suggestion of holiday-
making in the square. It was the first time we
had seen the Western Islanders amusing them-
selves. True, they did it very solemnly. There
was little laughter and much silence ; but at least
a touch of brightness, was given to the gloom of
their long life of work and want.

Even on Sunday we thought the people more
cheerful. In the morning the women, the little
shawls over their shoulders, their heads still bare,
the men in blue cloth, many without coats, again
filled the streets on their way to church. In the
afternoon we walked to two near fishing villages.
In one an old fisherman was talking about Christ
to a few villagers. We sat a while close to the sea,
looking out to the next village, gray against gray
gold-lined clouds, to the water with the light fall-
ing softly across it, to the little quiet pools in
among the low rocks of the shore, to the big black
boats drawn up on the beach. And then, as we
14



210 Our Journey to the Hebrides.

walked back to Fraserburgli, the mist fell sudden-
ly. But the road near the town was crowded with
the men in blue cloth and the women in short
skirts. Some were singing hymns as they walked.
To us they looked strong and healthy, and even
happy. It seemed as if this life on the east coast
must make np for many of the hardships they
endure in the deserts of their western home.

That same evening in the hotel we heard about
life in Fraserburgli, which looks so prosperous to
the stranger. A Catholic priest came into the din-
ing-room after supper. He seemed very tired.
He had been visiting the sick all day, he told us.
Measles had broken out among the women and
girls from the Hebrides. Many had already died ;
more had been carried to the hospital. The rooms
provided for them by the curers were small and
overcrowded. So long as they were kept in their
present quarters, so long would disease and death
be their portion. Their condition was dreadful ;
but they worked hard, and never complained. He
came from the west coast of Ireland, he said, where
Irish poverty is at its worst, but not even there had
he seen misery as great as that of the Western Isl-
anders. He knew it well. He had lived with
them in the Long Island, where many are Catho-
lics. If the Highlands were represented by eighty-
five members, all wanting Home Kule, more would
have been heard about destitution in the Hebrides.



To the East Coast, and Sack Again. 213

In the prosperous days of the east coast fisheries
the people's burden had been less heavy ; but now
they came to the fishing towns of the east, the
women to sicken and to die, the men to beg their
way back as best they could. There were too many
fishermen here, just as at home landlords thought
there were too many crofters.

The fishers also shall mourn, and all they that
cast angle shall lament, and they that spread nets
upon the waters shall languish.

The epidemic and its causes became the town
talk. The Gaelic Free Kirk minister, differ as he
might from the Catholic priest on every other
point, on this could but agree with him. He told
us the same story in words as strong. It was
shameful, he said, the way these poor girls were
being killed. He had not known it before ; but
now that he did, he could not and would not let the
matter rest. An indignation meeting of the people
of Fraserburgh was called for the day we left. The
town was placarded with the notices. Since then
the report must have gone abroad. Now that
agitation in Lewis is forcing attention to the isl-
ands and their people, in London there has been
formed a committee of ladies to look into the con-
dition of the girls and women who work on the
east coast.

That last morning, as we stood by the hotel door,
the funeral of one of the dead women passed up



214 Our Journey to the Hebrides.

the street towards the station. Fifty or sixty fish-
ermen followed the coffin. When we took our
seats in a third-class carriage we found the Free
Kirk minister there before us. The coffin had just
been put on the train. Two girls came up to
speak to him. He stretched out his hand; one
took and held it as she struggled to answer his
questions; the other turned away with the tears
streaming down her face. As the train started
they stood apart, their heads bent low, their faces
buried in their shawls, both crying as if their
hearts would break. And so, at the last, we saw
only the sadness of Fraserburgh.

We had intended going to Peterhead and the
smaller fishing towns by the way; but our ener-
gy was less inexhaustible than the picturesque-
ness of the east coast. Our journey had been
over-long. We were beginning to be anxious to
bring it to an end. Xow we went straight to

ABERDEEN,

where we at once fell back into ordinary city life.
We even did a little shopping in its fine new
streets. Its large harbor seemed empty after that
of Fraserburgh. Many fishing-boats were at sea;
many had gone altogether. The fishing season
here was really well over. We walked to the old
town after dinner. In it there is not much to be
seen but the university tower with the famous



To the East Coast, and Back Again. 217

crown atop, and the cathedral, which looked mas-
sive and impressive in the twilight. We saw
much more of Aberdeen ; but we are quite of
the same mind as Dr. Johnson, that to write of
such well-known cities "with the solemnity of
geographical description, as if we had been cast
upon a newly discovered coast, has the appearance
of a very frivolous ostentation."

From Aberdeen to Edinburgh we trained it by
easy stages. We stopped dften ; once at

MONTKOSE,

where, like Dr. Johnson, and for that matter, every
one else who comes here, we looked to the Gram-
pian Hills in the distance. The town itself was
not picturesque. The guide-book calls it neat and
Flemish, probably because it has fewer houses with
high gables turned towards the street than can be
seen, as a rule, in any Scotch town. But the har-
bor, of which the guide-book says less, was fine. We
spent hours near the mouth of the river, looking
over to the fishermen's houses on the opposite
shore. There were constant showers as we sat
there ; every few minutes the sun came out from
the clouds, and the wet roofs glistened and glit-
tered through the smoke hanging above them. In
the morning, women, packed like herrings in the
huge ferry-boats, crossed over to the curing-houses.
Now and then a fishing-boat sailed slowly in.



218 Our Journey to the Hebrides.

One sees little from the cars. Of the country
through which we passed I remember only occa-
sional glimpses of the sea and of fishing villages
and of red castles, which made us wish we were
still on the road. Now and then, as we sat com-
fortably in the railway-carriage, we determined to
walk back to see them, or to get a tricycle at Edin-
burgh and " do " the whole east coast over again ;
but we always left* our determinations with the
carriage. Of all the places at which we stopped,
I remember best

ARBROATH,

the sight of which seemed worth his whole jour-
ney to Dr. Johnson. Little is left of the abbey
save the broken walls and towers. A street runs
through the old gate-house. The public park and
children's play-ground lie to one side of the ruined
church. A few old tombs and tablets and bits of
ornament have been gathered together in the sac-
risty, which is in better preservation than the rest
of the building. We found them less interesting
than the guide who explained them. He gave a
poetical touch to the usual verger recitation, and
indeed to all his talk, of which there was plenty.
'Twas better to have loved and lost, than never to
have loved at all, was his manner of expressing
regret for the loss of an old engraving of the ab-
bey. There were many hard things in this world,
but grass was soft ; why, then, should I choose the



To the East Coast, and Back Again. 219

hard things ? was his way of inviting me to walk
on the grass instead of the gravel. But it was
not until he showed us the original copy, full of
blots and corrections, of one of Burns's poems that
we found he too was a poet a successful poet,
it seemed, for he had sold 14,000 copies of his
volume of poems very few, he thought. If he
were a member of the London Society of Authors
he would know better. He had given the last
copy to William Morris, when the latter was in
the town. William Morris did not wear gaudy
clothes, not he. He looked like a sailor in his
blue flannel shirt, and there was a slit in his hat.
And when he returned to London he sent his
" Jason " to his fellow-poet in Arbroath.

As we were leaving, he told us how, one day,
two ladies had driven up to the abbey, looked at
nothing, but at once asked him to recite his "Ab-
bey Gate." He did so, and then, without a word,
they slipped a guinea into his hand, and there were
tears on their cheeks. He never knew who they
were. After this, we felt our tribute to be very
small ; but he clasped our hands warmly at parting.
There was something out of the common in our
faces,-he said.

We talked to no one else in Arbroath, except to
a pessimistic stationer. While we bought his pa-
per he grumbled because farmers could not sell
their cattle and corn. Some people said the coun-



220 Our Journey to the Hebrides.

try needed protection ; " but, sir, what have we got
to protect ?"

Of the rest of the journey to Edinburgh my
note-book says nothing, and little remains in my
memory. But I know that when we walked up
from the station to "Waverley Bridge, and looked
to the gray precipice of houses of the Old Town,
we realized that our long wanderings had not
shown us anything so fine.

And now our journey was at an end. Like Dr.
Johnson's, it began and finished in Edinburgh,
but it resembled his in little else. From the start,
we continually took liberties with his route ; we
often forgot that he was our guide. We went to
places he had never seen ; we turned our backs
upon many through which he and Boswell had
travelled. But at least he had helped us to form
definite plans without weeks of hard map-study
which they otherwise must have cost us.

We had come back wiser in many ways. In
the first place, we had learned that for us walking
on a tour of this kind, or indeed of any kind, is a
mistake. Had we never cycled, perhaps we might
not have felt this so keenly. Our powers of en-
durance are not, I think, below the average ; but
the power to endure so many miles a day on foot
is very different from the capacity to enjoy them ;
and if on such a trip one proposes, as we did, to
work, without pleasure in the exercise, how can




RTJINS AT ARBROATH.



To the East Coast, and Back Again. 223

one hope for good results ? But for the two days'
coaching on the west coast, the necessary steam-
ing among the islands, our utter collapse on the
east coast, I am sure we never should have worked
at all. Day after day we were dispirited, disheart-
ened, and only happy when we were not walking.
"We went to bed in the evening and got up in the
morning wearied and exhausted. The usual walk-
ing tours of which one hears mean a day's climb-
ing in the mountains, or a day's tramp with bag or
knapsack sent before by train or stage. Under
these conditions we probably would not be the
first to give in. But to be as independent as if on
a tricycle, to have one's sketching traps when need-
ed, one must carry a knapsack one's self. J 's

weighed between twenty-five and thirty pounds ;
mine, fifteen. Never before have I appreciated so
well the true significance of Christian's burden.
But even worse than this constant strain on our
shoulders was the monotony of our pace. Whether
the road was good or bad, level or hilly, there was
no change, no relief. In cycling, for one hard
day's work you know you will have two of pleas-
ure. As for short-cuts, they are, as a rule, out of
the question. One does not know the country
through which one is passing ; it is the exception
to meet a native. After cycling more thousands
of miles than we have walked hundreds, we know
it to be not mere theorizing when we declare that



224 Our Journey to the Hebrides.

no comparison between the two methods of travel-
ling is possible. One is just enough work to make
the pleasure greater ; the other is all work.

Our experience has taught us to be sceptical
about the tramps of other days who saw Europe
afoot. We wonder if they told the whole story.
Of modern tramps, none has given such a delight-
ful record as has Mr. Stevenson of the walk he
took with a donkey through the Cevennes. And
yet, even with him, if you read between his lines,
or, for that matter, the lines themselves, you real-
ize that, charming as his story is for us, the reality
for him was wearisome, depressing, and often pain-
ful, and that probably to it is to be referred much
of his after physical weakness. We have also had
a new light thrown upon the life of tramps at
Lome, who are so often supposed to have chosen
the better part. Theirs is as much a life of toil as
if they broke stones on the same roads over which
they journey. They are not to be envied, but
pitied. The next time one begs from you as he
passes, give him something out of your charity ;
he deserves it.

However, many drawbacks as there were to our
walk, we do not regret it. In no other way could
we have come to know the country and the people
with the same friendly intimacy. For pure enjoy-
ment, it would be best to go over the greater part
of our route in a yacht. From it is to be seen



To the East Coast, and Back Again. 225

much beauty and little misery. The coast-line can
be followed, excursions made inland. But a yacht
is a luxury for the rich. Besides, on it one lives
one's own life, not that of the country one has
come to visit. On foot, with knapsacks on our
backs, we often passed for peddlers. Certainly we
were never mistaken to be tourists of means or
sportsmen. Therefore the people met us as equals
and talked to us freely.

We were able to correct the vague and false im-
pressions with which we had started. If we did
not master the geography of all Scotland, I think
at least on the two coasts as far north as the Cale-
donian Canal we could now pass an examination
with credit. We learned that haggis and oatmeal
figure more extensively in books than on hotel ta-
bles ; the first we saw not at all, the second but
twice, and then it was not offered to us.

Above all, we learned the burden of Scotland,
whose Highlands have been laid ;waste, their peo-
ple brought to silence. But now the people them-
selves have broken their long silence, and a cry
has gone up from them against their oppressors.
If by telling exactly what we saw we can in the
least strengthen that cry, we shall feel that our
journeying has not been in vain.

THE END.



BY WILLIAM BLACK.



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