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uresqueness was that of misery, that whatever
color and sublimity there might be and to the
sublimity, I must confess, we were blind were
but outward signs of poverty and squalor, and
that the huts sheltered not only strong young
women, but feeble old men like that pathetic fig-
ure with the clasped hands and bent head? "We
have seen the old age of the poor, when we thought
it but a peaceful rest after the work of years. In
English almshouses we have found it in our hearts
to envy the old men and women their homes ; but

In the Highlands. 35

here despair and sadness seemed the portion of
old age. I do not know why it was, but as we
watched that gray-haired man, though there was
a space of blue sky just above him, and the day
was warm and the air sweet, it was of the winter
he made us think ; of the time soon to come when
the cold winds would roar through the pass, and
snow would lie on the hills, and he would shiver
alone in the chinmeyless cottage with its one tiny
window. A few miles away, men in a fortnight
throw away on their fishing more than these peo-
ple can make in years. Scotch landlords rent
their wild, uncultivated acres for fabulous sums,
while villages like this grow desolate. If, when
you are in the Highlands, you would still see them
as they are in the stupid romance of Scott or in
the sickly sentiment of Landseer, or as a mere
pleasure-ground for tourists and sportsmen, you
must get the people out of your mind, just as the
laird gets them off his estate. Go everywhere,
by stage and steamboat, and when you come to a
clachan or to a lonely cottage, shut your eyes and
pass on ; else you must realize, as we did and
more strongly as we went farther that this land,
which holiday-makers have come to look upon as
their own, is the saddest on God's earth.

Before we left the shade of the cart a little girl
went by, and we asked her the name of the vil-

36 Our Journey to the Hebrides.

" Kilchrennan," she said, with impossible gut-
turals, and then she spelled it for us.

It was a good sign, we thought ; if Highland
children to-day are taught to spell, Highland men
and women to-morrow may learn to think, and
when they learu to think, then, let the landlord
remember, they will begin to act.

After Kilchrennan, the road crossed the moor-
land, Ben-Cruachan towering far to our right. At
the foot of the one wooded hill-side in all this heath-
er-clad moor we met with the only adventure of
the morning ; for it was here we espied in the road,
in front of us, a black bulL It fixed its horrid
eyes upon us; its horns seemed to stretch from
one side of the way to the other. We cast in our
minds whether to go forward or through the wood,
but we thought it best to get the trees between
us, and we fled up the mountain and never stopped
until we had left it a goodly space behind ; for
indeed it was the dreadfnllest bull that ever we

We came to another wretched village down by
Loch Etive. Here again in the sunshine was an
old man. He was walking slowly .and feebly up
and down, and there was in his face a look as
if hope had long gone from him. In England,
scarce a town or village is without its charities ;
but in the Highlands, while deer and grouse are
protected by law, men are chased from their

In the Highlands. 39

homes,* the aged and infirm are left to shift for
themselves. I think the misery of these villages is
made to seem but the greater because of the large
house which so often stands close by. We looked
from the weary, silent old man and the row of tiny
bare cottages, to a gay young girl and a young man
in a kilt, who together strolled lazily towards the
large house just showing through the trees.

When Mr. Hamerton wrote his " Painters' Camp
in the Highlands " he suggested a new route from
Oban to Ballachulish by steamer up Loch Etive,
and then by coach through Glen Etive and Glen-
coe. This is now one of the regular excursions
from Oban, and one of the finest, I think, in the
Highlands. In the glens we met no fewer than
five coaches, so that I suppose the excursion is fair-
ly popular. I wonder that Mr. Hamerton had a
thought for the amusement of tourists, who are to
him odious, as it seems necessary they should be
to all right-minded writers of travel. Now, he
might find loch and glens less fine. For the rest

* I have left this sentence as it is, though Mr. William
Black was good enough to attack us for making such a state-
ment. If he has any knowledge whatever on the subject, he
must know that it was not until after the trial in Edinburgh
a trial held a little less than a year ago, when these pages had
been already set up in type for the MAGAZINE that it was dis-
covered that deer are not protected by law in the Highlands.
Men, as I have shown further on, cannot now be chased with-
out reason from their homes, fixity of tenure being the chief
good accomplished by the Crofter's Act of 1886.


40 Our Journey to the Hebrides.

of that day, being tourists ourselves, we bore with
all others patiently.

"With Taynuilt we left behind even the sparse
cultivation of the Highlands. From the boat we
saw that the mountain-slopes were unbroken by
road or path ; there was scarce a house in sight.
Through Glen Etive the road was very rough, the
mountains were barren, and not a sheep or cow
was on the lower grassy hill-sides. It was all a
deer forest, the guard told us, and even the Eng-
lish tourists in the coach exclaimed against the waste
of good ground. It is well to go first through
Glen Etive. Bare as it seemed to us, it was green

wjien compared to


where rocks lay on the road and in the stream
and on the hill-sides. The mountains rose bare
and precipitous from their very base, and trees
and grass found no place to grow.

The guard gave us the story of the massacre,
with additions and details of his own which I
have forgotten. *At the end of the drive he
charged two shillings for his trouble, I suppose.
People write of the emotions roused by scenery
and associations. I think it is afterwards, by read-
ing up on the subject, that one becomes first con-
scious of them. However that may be, of one thing
I am certain : we have rarely been more flippant
than we were on that day. In Glen Etive J dis-

In the Highlands.


covered that Highland streams, where clear brown-
ish water flows over a bed of yellow, green, and red
stones, look like rivers of Julienne soup. In the
high moor at the head of the Glen we were chief-
ly concerned with a lunch of milk and scones for
a shilling, and grumblings over Highland extortion.


In Glencoe, guard and driver pointed out the old
man of the mountain, who is here the Lord Chan-
cellor, and Ossiari's Cave, on high in the rocky
wall, and stopped to show us the Queen's View.
But we were more interested in two cyclers push-

42 Our Journey to the Hebrides.

ing their machines up the steepest, stoniest bit of
road ; in a man in a long black frock-coat and silk
hat with crape band, who carried an alpenstock
with an umbrella strapped to it, and strode solemnly
up the pass ; in a species of gypsy van near Glen-
coe Inn, in which, the guard explained, twelve
people and a driver travelled for pleasure. A girl
looking very pale and wrapped in shawls sat at
the inn door. The party had stopped on her ac-
count, he said ; the drive had made her ill and
no wonder, we thought.

The stony pass led to a pleasant green valley,
from which the road set out over the Bridge of
Glencoe for the shores of Loch Leven and


Almost at once it brought us to a field overlook-
ing the loch, where, apparently for our benefit,
sports were being held.

The droning of the pipes made quite a cheer-
ful sound, the plaids of the men a bright picture ;
and when, two miles beyond, we found the hotel
with its windows turned towards the loch, we
made up our minds not to push on to Oban, but
to stay and spend Sunday here.

And so we had a second and longer look at the
sports. Young men vaulted with poles ; others,
in full costume, danced Highland flings and the
sword dance. Two pipers took turns in piping.

In the Highlands. 45

One had tied gay green ribbons to his pipe, and
he fairly danced himself as he kept time with his
foot. And while we watched we heard but Gaelic
spoken. We were in a foreign country.

The position of the hotel was the best thing
about it. At dinner an irate clergyman and his
daughter took fresh offence at every course, until,
when it came to the rice -pudding, they could
stand it no longer and left the table. "We were
less nice, and made a hearty meal ; but we thought
so poorly of it that the next day, which was Sun-
day, we found a lunch of bread and cheese and
beer more to our taste. This we ate at the inn in
Glencoe, in company with the clergyman and his
daughter. They were still sore why, I could not
understand about the pudding, and the clergyman
was consoling himself with a glass of good whis-

The following day we came to


the most odious place in the Highlands, I have
heard it called ; the most beautiful place in the
world, Mr. William Black thinks. When the west
wind blows and the sun shines, there is nothing

like it for color, he told J . We had to take

his word for it. We found an east wind blowing
and gray mist hanging over town and bay, and we
could not see the hills of Mull. When we walked

46 Our Journey to the Hebrides.

out in the late afternoon, it seemed a town of
hotels and photograph shops, into which excursion
trains were forever emptying excursionists and
never carrying them away again. Crowds were on
the parapetless, unsafe embankment ; the bay was
covered with boats. In front of the largest hotels
bands were playing, and one or two of the musi-
cians went about, hat in hand, among the passers-
by. Fancy Hassler at Cape May sending one of
his men to beg for pennies! It was dull, for all
the crowd. The show of gayety was as little suc-
cessful as the attempt of a shivering cockney to
look comfortable in his brand-new kilt.

Altogether, Oban did not seem in the least love-
ly until we could no longer see it. But as the
twilight grew grayer and the tide went out, the
great curve of the embankment was marked by a
circle of lights on shore and by long waving lines
of gold in the bay. At the pier, a steamer, just
arrived, sent up heavy clouds of smoke, black in
the gathering grayness. The boats one by one
hung out their lights. Oban was at peace, though
tourists still walked and bands still played.

It was gray and inexpressibly dreary the next day
at noon, when we took the boat for Tobermory,
in Mull. Through a Scotch mist we watched
Oban and its picturesque castle out of sight ;
through a driving rain we looked forth on the
heights of Morven and of Mull. Sometimes the

In the Highlands. 47

clouds lightened, and for a minute the nearer hills
came out dark and purple against a space of whit-
ish shining mist ; but for the most part they hung
heavy and black over wastes of water and wastes
of land. Sir Walter Scott says that the Sound
of Mull is the most striking scene in the Hebri-
des ; it would have been fair to add, when storms
and mists give one a chance to see it. Pleasure
parties sat up on deck, wrapped in mackintoshes
and huddled under umbrellas. Our time was di-
vided between getting wet and drying off down-
stairs. The excitement of the voyage was the
stopping of the steamer, now in mid -stream in
" Macleod of Dare " fashion, now at rain-soaked
piers. Of all the heroes who should be thought
of between these two lands of romance, only the
most modern was suggested to us, probably because
within a few weeks we had been re-reading Mr.
Black's novel. But, just as in his pages, so in the
Sound of Mull, little boats came out to meet the
steamer. They lay in wait, tossing up and down
on the rough waters and manned with Hamishes
and Donalds. Into one stepped a real Macleod,
his collie at his heels ; into another, an elderly
lady, who was greeted most respectfully by the
Hamish, as he lifted into his boat trunks marked
with the name of Fleeming Jenkin. This gave us
something to talk about ; when we had last seen
the name it was in a publisher's announcement,

48 Our Journey to the Hebrides.

which said that Mr. Stevenson was shortly to write
a biographical notice of the late Fleeming Jenkin.
At the piers, groups of people, no better off for
occupation than we, waited to see the passengers
land. We all took unaccountable interest in this
landing. At Salen there was an intense moment
when, as the steamer started, a boy on shore dis-
covered that he had forgotten his bag. At the next
pier, where a party of three got off, as their baggage
was carried after them, we even went the length of
counting up to forty bags and bundles, three dogs,
and two maids. We left them standing there,
surrounded by their property, with the rain pour-
ing in torrents and not a house in sight. This is
the way you take your pleasure in the Hebrides.
We were glad to see among the boxes a case of
champagne. At the last moment, one of the men,
from the edge of the pier, waved a brown paper
parcel, and told the captain that another like it had
been left aboard. I am afraid he had forgotten
something else ; thence to Tobermory the captain
did but revile him.


is a commonplace town with a semicircle of well-
to-do houses on the shores of a sheltered bay. At
one end of the wooded heights that follow the
curve of the town is a big hotel ; at the other,
Aros House, a brand-new castle, in among the

In the Highlands. 49

trees. The harbor is shut in by a long, narrow isl-
and, bare and flat. It seemed a place of endless rain
and mist. But when we thought the weather at its
worst, the landlady called it pleasant, and suggested
a two miles' walk to the light-house on the coast.
Children played on the street as if the sun shone.
"VYe even saw fishing parties row out towards the

We had to stay in Tobermory two interminable
days, for it was impossible at first to find a way
out of it. Our idea was to walk along the north
and then the west coast, and so to Ulva ; but the
landlady was of the opinion that there was no get-
ting from Tobermory except by boat. Fishermen
in the bar-room thought they had heard of a rough
road around the coast, and knew that on it we
should find no inn. The landlord, to make an
end of our questions, declared that we must go to
lona by the boat due the next morning at eight.
This seemed the only chance of escape unless we
were to return to Oban.

In the mean time there was nothing to do, noth-
ing to see. The hotel windows looked out on the
gray, cheerless bay, dotted with yachts. Once we
walked in the rain to the light-house, and back
across the moors. The wind never stopped blow-
ing a gale.

" If anybody wants to know what Mull's like in
summer," said J , in disgust, " all they've got

50 Our Journey to the Hebrides.

to do is to go to a New Jersey pine barren when
an equinoctial's on."

At our early breakfast the next morning, the
landlord told us that it was dark outside the bay.
It must have been wilder even than he thought.
No boat for lona came.

It was after this disappointment that J , by

chance, in the post-office, met the Procurator Fis-
cal, whatever he may be. We have good reason
to be grateful to him. He mapped out a walking
route to Salen, and thence to Loch-Na-Keal, at the
northern end of which is the island of Ulva the
soft Ool-a-va which always leads the chorus of the
islands in Mr. Black's tragedy, "Macleod of Dare."

We did not care to walk to Salen in the rain ;
we were not willing to spend another night in To-
bermory. Therefore, that same afternoon, when the
boat from Skye touched at the pier, we got on
board. We believed in the roughness of the sea
beyond the Sound when we saw tourists prostrate
in the cabin, with eloquent indifference to looks.
But it was short steaming to


where we faced wind and rain to walk about a
quarter of a mile to the hotel.

Here, as Dr. Johnson said in Glenelg, " of the
provisions, the negative catalogue was very copi-
ous." The landlady asked us what we should like

In the Highlands. 51

for supper; she might have spared herself the
trouble, since she had nothing to give us but ham
and eggs. However, we found the outlook less de-
pressing than at Tobermory. There was no com-
monplace little town in sight, but only bare roll-
ing grounds stretching to a bay, and on the shores
the ruins of a real old castle, of which Mr. Abbey

once very unkindly made a drawing, so that J ,

for his own sake, thought it best to let it alone.
There was, moreover, something to read. Lying
with the guide-books were the " Life of Dr. Nor-
man Mcleod," " Castle Dangerous," and the " Life
of the Prince Consort." J - devoured them all
three, and the next day regaled me with choice
extracts concerning the domestic virtues of the
royal family.

When we awoke, the clouds were breaking.
Across the Sound of Mull they were low on the
heights of Morven, but the hill-sides were green,
streaked with sunshine. Above were long rifts
of blue sky, and in the bay a little yacht rocked
on glittering water. "We ate more ham and eggs,
and made ready to begin our tramp at once.

Neither maid nor landlord could tell us if there
were inns on the road to Bunessan. In Mull a
man knows but his own immediate neighborhood.
In the hotels, the farthest explorations are to the
bed-rooms ; in the cottages the spirit of enterprise
is less. The interior of the island is an unknown

52 Our Journey to the Hebrides.

country. The adventurous traveller goes no far-
ther inland than Tobermory on the east coast, or
Bunessan on the west. The ordinary traveller
never goes ashore at all, but in the boat from
Oban makes the tour of Mull in a day. As a
consequence, there is no direct communication be-
tween the two sides of the island. It is strange
that, though one of the largest of the Hebrides
and within easiest reach of the main -land, Mull
should be one of the least known and civilized.
It is not even settled. People respect Dr. John-
son because in the days when steamboats were
not, and roads at the best were few, he made a
journey to the islands. But we cannot help think-
ing that if this respect is measured by hardships,
we are far more worthy of it for having followed
him to Mull a century later. Wherever he and
Boswell went, guides and horses, or boats, as the
case might be, were at their disposal ; the doors
of all the castles and large houses in the islands
were thrown open to them. We were our own
guides. It may be said that the steamboat was at
our service, but it could not always take us to
places we wished to see. If Dr. Johnson had to
ride over moorland on a pony too small for him,
he was sure that when evening came a Macquarry,
a Maclean, or a Macleod would be eager to make
him welcome. We walked on roads, it is true, but
they were bad, and not only were we not wanted

In the Highlands. 55

at the castles, but we did not want to go to them
since they are now mostly in ruins ; there was
chance, too, of our not coming to an inn at night-
fall. The inns of Mull are few and far between.
Besides, for all one knows, those mentioned in the
guide-book may be closed. If others have been
opened, there is no one to tell you of them.

However, we took the procurator's word for the
inn at Ulva, and started out again with our knap-
sacks, which seemed but heavier on our backs after
several days' rest. All morning we tramped dreary
miles of moor and hill, with the wind in our faces,
and by lochs with endless curves, around which we
had to go, though we saw our 1 journey's end just
before us. While we followed the northern shore
of Loch-Na-Keal, high Ben -More, with its head
among the clouds, was behind us. In front was
the Atlantic, with heavy showers passing over it,
and now blotting out far Staffa and the long ridge
of the Ross of Mull, an encircling shadow between
the ocean and the headland of Gribun ; and now
sweeping across the loch and the near green island
of Inch-Kenneth.

A large house, with wide lawn and green fields
and well-clipped hedges, just at the head of Loch-
Na-Keal, and one or two small new cottages shut
in with flaming banks of fuchsias, showed what
Mull might be if in the island men were held in
as high account as rabbits and grouse. "We saw the

56 Our Journey to the Hebrides.

many white tails of the rabbits in among the ferns,
and though they live only to be shot, on the whole
we thought them better off than the solemn, silent
men and women who trudged by us towards Salen,
where it was market-day, for it is their fate to
live only to starve and suffer. The one man who
spoke to us during that long morning was a shep-
herd, with a soft gentle voice and foreign Scotch,
whose sheep we frightened up the hill-side.


lay so close to the shores of Mull as scarce to
seem a separate island. But the waters of the nar-
row Sound were rough. The postman, who had
just been ferried over, held the boat as we stepped
into it from the slippery stones of the landing.
As he waited, he said not a word. They keep
silence, these people, under the yoke they have
borne for generations. The ferryman was away,
and the boy who had come in his place had hard
work to row against wind and waves, and harder
work to talk English. " I beg pardon," was his
answer to every question we asked.

The little white inn was just opposite the land-
ing, and we went to it at once, for it was late and
we were hungry. We asked the landlady if she
could give us some meat.

" Of course," she said and her English was
fairly good she could give us tea and eggs.

In the Highlands. 57

" No, but meat," we repeated.

" Yes, of course," she said again ; " tea and eggs."

And we kept on asking for meat, and she kept
on promising us tea and eggs, and I know not how
the discussion had ended, if on a sudden it had not
occurred to us that for her the word had none
other but its Scriptural meaning.

While she prepared lunch we sat on low rocks
by the boats drawn up high and dry on the stony
beach. At the southern end of the island was
Ulva House, white through an opening in a pleas-
ant wood, and surrounded by broad green past-
ures. Just in front of us, close to the inn, a hand-
ful of bare black cottages rose from the mud in
among rocks and bowlders. No paths led to the
doors ; nothing green grew about the walls. Wom-
en with pinched, care-worn faces came and went,
busy with household work, and they were silent
as the people we had met on the road. Beyond
was barrenness ; not another tree, not another bit
of pasture-land was in sight. And yet, before the
people were brought unto desolation, almost all
the island was green as the meadows about the
laird's house ; and so it could be again if men were
but allowed to cultivatf the ground. Where weeds
and rushes and ferns now cover the hills and the
level places were once fields of grain and grass.
To-day only the laird's crops are still sowed and
reaped. Once there could be heard the many

68 Our Journey to the Hebrides.

voices of men and women and children at work
or at play, where now the only sounds are the
roaring of the waters and the crack of the rifle.*
Of all the many townships that were scattered
from one end of the island to the other, there
remains but this miserable group of cottages. The
people have been driven from the land they loved,
and sent hither and thither, some across the nar-
row Sound, others far across the broad Atlantic.

The Highlands and the Hebrides are lands of
romance. There is a legend for almost every
step you take. But the cruelest of these are not
so cruel as, and none have the pathos of, the tales
of their own and their fathers' wrongs and wretch-
edness which the people tell to-day. The old
stories of the battle-field, and of clan meeting clan
in deadly duel, have given way to stories of the
clearing of the land that the laird or the stranger
might have his shooting and fishing, as well as
his crops. At first the people could not understand
it. The evicted in Ulva went to the laird, as they
would have gone of old, and asked for a new home.
And what was his answer ? "I am not the father
of your family." And then, when frightened
women ran and hid themselves at his coming, he
broke the kettles they left by the well, or tore into

* This also has been questioned. All we can say is that

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