Joseph Pennell.

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in such torrents our stay was long. We stood
under the old gate-way and at the window of the
porter's lodge. The sketches were very charming,
very beautiful, but they are lost ! We walked
about in the rain and looked at the castle from
every side. But as everybody who has travelled in
Scotland has described Cawdor, there is no special
reason why I should do it again. The sketches
would have been original.

The most provoking part of it was that we had
scarce left the castle a mile behind when the rain
became mist again ; at the third mile-stone we
were once more in a dry world.

Boswell called Nairn " a miserable place." Dr.

Johnson said next to nothing about it. Perhaps

178 Our Journey to the Hebrides.

the people laughed at them as they did at ns.
"We thought their manners miserable, though their
town now is decent enough. It is long and nar-
row, stretching from the rail way -station to the
sea. After the hotels and shops, we came to the
fishermen's quarter. The houses were mostly
new ; a few turned old gables and chimneys to
the street. Women in white caps, with great bas-
kets on their backs, strode homeward in the twi-
light. Everywhere brown nets were spread out
to dry, boats lay along the sands, beyond was the
sea, and the smell of the fish was over it all.

The next morning we learned from the maid
that Macbeth's blasted heath was but a few miles
from Nairn ; all the theatricals went there, she
said. We made a brave start ; but bravery gave
out with the first mile. Walking was even more
unbearable than it had been the day before. There
could be nothing more depressing than to walk on
a public highway through a well-cultivated coun-
try under a hot sun. Already, when we came to
the near village of Auldearn, we had outwalked
interest in everything but our journey's end. We
would not go an extra step for the monuments the
guide-book directs the tourist to see, though the
graveyard was within sight of the road.

Macbeth seems to have shared the fate of proph-
ets in their own country. We asked a man pass-
ing with a goat the distance to Macbeth's Hill, as

To the East Coast, and Back Again. 179

it is called on the map. He didna know, he an-
swered. But presently he ran after us. Was the
gentleman we spoke of a farmer? Another man,
however, knew all about it. He had never been
to the top of the hill ; he had been told there were
trees up there, and that it wasn't different from
the other hills around. And yet he had heard peo-
ple came great distances to see it. He supposed
we had travelled far just to go up the hill. He
knew from our talk, many words of which he
couldna understand, that we were no from this
part of the country. But then sometimes he
couldna understand the broad Scotch of the peo-
ple in Aberdeenshire. There were some people
hereabouts who could talk only Gaelic. They had
been turned off the Western Islands, and had set-
tled here years ago, but they still talked only the

He went our way for half a mile or less, and he
walked with us. His clothes were ragged, his
feet bare, and over his shoulders was slung a small
bundle done up in a red handkerchief. In the last
three years, he said, he had had but two or three
days' work. Work was hard to get. Here rents
were high, farmers complained, and this year the
crops were ruined because of the long drought.
He did think at times of going to America. He
had a sister who had gone to live in Pittsburg.
It might be a good thing. There are Scotchmen

1 80 Our Journey to the Hebrides.

who have done well in Pittsburg. He left us with
minute directions. The hill, though not far from
the road, which now went between pine woods
and heather, could not be seen from it. We came
to the point at which we should have turned to
the blasted heath.

" It's a blasted nuisance," J said, and we

kept straight on to the nearest railway-station.

This was Brodie. The porters told us there was
a fine castle within a ten minutes' walk, and a train
for Elgin in fifteen minutes. We waited for the

We were so tired, so disgusted, that everything
put us out of patience. Even a small boy who had
walked with us earlier in the morning to show us
the way, simply by stopping when we stopped and
starting when we started, had driven us almost fran-
tic. I mention this to show how utterly wearisome
a walking tour through beautiful country can be.

At the town of


we were in the humor to moralize on modern
degeneracy among the ruins. A distillery is now
the near neighbor of the cathedral. Below the
broken walls, still rich with beautiful carving,
new and old gravestones, as at lona, stand side by
side. In nave and transepts knights lie on old
tombstones, under canopies carved with leaves and
flowers; here 'and there in the graveyard without

To the East Coast, and Back Again. 181

are moss-grown slabs with the death's-head and
graceful lettering of the seventeenth century ; near
by are ugly blocks from the modern stone-mason.
The guide-book quotes some of the old inscrip-
tions ; but it omits one of late date, which should,
however, receive the greatest honor that of the
man who cared for the ruins with reverence and
love until the Government took them in charge.
These ruins are very beautiful. Indeed, nowhere
does the religious vandalism of the past seem more
monstrous than in Scotland. The Government
official asked us to write our names in the Visitors'
Book ; he made it seem a compliment by saying
that it was not everybody's name he wanted. We
thought him a man of much greater intelligence
than the Glasgow verger. He could see, he said,
that J - knew something about cathedrals and

We found nothing else of interest in Elgin. It
had a prosperous look, and we saw not a trace of
the old timbered houses with projecting upper
stories of which Dr. Johnson writes. The re-
mainder of our stay we spent in a restaurant near
the station, where we talked politics with a farmer.
He lectured us on free-trade. Scotch farmers cry
for protection, he said, but they don't know what
it means. Free-trade is good for the bulk of the
people, and what would protection do for the
farmer? Nothing! If he got higher prices, the

182 Our Journey to the Hebrides.

landlord would say, Now you can afford to pay me
higher rent, and he would pocket the few shillings'

"We talked with many other farmers in the east
of Scotland. Sometimes we journeyed with them
in railway - carriages ; sometimes we breakfasted
and dined with them in hotels. They all had
much to say about protection and free-trade, and
we found that Henry George had been among
them. Their ideas of his doctrine of the national-
ization of the land were at times curious and orig-
inal. I remember a farmer from Aberdeenshire
who told us that he believed in it thoroughly, and
then explained that it would give each man per-
mission, if he had money enough, to buy out his

After our lunch at Elgin we again got through
a day's work in less than an hour. We went by

train to


a place of which we had never heard before that

afternoon. How J happened to 'buy tickets

for it I cannot explain, since he never made it
quite clear to me. We found it a large and ap-
parently thriving fishing town, with one long line
of houses low on the shore, another above on the
hill, and a very good hotel, the name of which I
am not sure we knew at the time ; certainly we
do not remember it now.

To the East Coast, and Back Again. 185

It was at Buckie that J made several of the

best sketches in the lost sketch-book in the evening
as we watched the boats sail silently out from the
harbor. The sun had just set. The red light of
the after-glow shone upon the water. Against it,
here and there, the brown sails stood out in strong
relief. Other boats lay at anchor in the cool gray
of the harbor.

In the morning we made a new start on foot.
Now and then, for a short distance, the road went
inland across treeless, cultivated country ; but the
greater part of the time it lay near the sea, and
kept wandering in and out of little fishing villages,
in each of which the lost sketch-book came into
play. They were all much alike ; there was usual-
ly the harbor, where the fishing-boats were moored,
some with brown sails hung out to dry and flapping
slowly in the breeze ; others with long lines of
floats stretched from mast to mast ; and as it was
not only low tide but near the end of the fishing
season, all were drawn up in picturesque masses in
the foreground, the light of sea and sky bright and
glittering behind them. Carts full of nets, men
and women with huge bundles of them on their
backs, were always on their way either up or down
the hill at whose foot the village nestled ; or on
the level at its top the nets were spread like great
snares, not for birds, but for any one who tried to
walk across them. Boxes and barrels of salted fish


Our Journey to the Hebrides.

were piled along the street. In the air was the
strong smell of herrings. In every village new
houses were being or had just been built, but the
soft gray smoke hovering above the roofs toned
down their aggressive newness. In their midst
was the plain white kirk.

There were so many villages that
we could not complain of monotony ;
and then sometimes, on the stretch of beach be-
yond, dismantled boats in various stages of decline
were pulled up out of reach of the tide. Some-
times on the near links men were playing golf.
Once we passed three, each putting his little white
ball on a bit of turf. They were very serious about
it. " Xow to business," we heard one say as we
went by. But it grew very hot towards noon, and
in the heat our first enthusiasm melted. When

To the East Coast, and Sack Again. 189

Cullen came in sight we were again declaring that
nothing would induce us to walk another step.

However, a hearty lunch changed our minds.
The truth is, we hated to give in. Though we
were quite certain we would never tramp again,
we were unwilling to confess our one walk a fail-
ure. At the hotel we were told that the road to
Banff, our next stopping-place, kept inland, but the
landlady thought that to the nearest village at least
there was a path by the shore. A man on the out-
skirts of the town tried to dissuade us from going
that way ; there was such a brae to be climbed, he
said. But there seemed no doubt about the path.
When we persisted, he walked back with us to di-
rect us the better, J - talking to him about the
brae as if he had never heard of a hill in his life,
the man describing the difficulties before us as if
ours was an Alpine expedition. The hill was steep
enough. At the top there was no path, but instead
a field of tall prickly furze, through which we
waded. Oh, the misery of that five minutes' walk !
At every step we were stung and pricked by hun-
dreds of points sharper than needles. And after
that we skirted wheat and turnip fields, because
when we tried to cross them, as we were not sports-
men, there was some one near at hand to stop us.
"We went up and down ravines, and picked our way
through tall grass at the very edge of sheer cliffs.
The afternoon was hotter than the morning had

190 Our Journey to the

been. A warm haze hung over the level stretch
of country and the distant hills. The sky seemed
to have fallen down upon the sea ; there was not a
line to mark where it met the water. The few


brown-sailed boats looked as if they were forcing
their way between, holding up the heavens on
their masts.

In one place, on a high rock jutting out into the
sea, was a low broken wall of rough masonry, all
that is left of Findlater Castle.

There was no use in trying to keep up any lon-
ger. Our backs ached, our shoulders were cut ;
we were hot, dusty, exhausted, and, in a w r ord, at
the end of our physical and moral forces. This
scramble on the cliffs ended our walking tour.

To the East Coast, and Hack Again. 191

At Sandend we took the train for Banff; but
first we went down to the shore ; for Sandend was
a picturesque little village, with all its gables turn-
ed towards the sea, big black boats on the beach,
rocks beyond, and a pretty blue bay of its own.
Three artists had left their easels to eat buns out
of a brown-paper bag and drink beer out of bot-
tles, under the shade of one of the boats. J ,

having already learned the exclusiveness of British
artists, took out his sketch-book at a safe distance.
He only spoke to them to ask the way to the sta-
tion. He did not dare to talk about work.

A little farther on we again asked the way, this
time of a girl hanging up clothes. J 's ques-
tions and her answers were typical of t many con-
versations, bad for one's temper, that we held on
the east coast.

" Where is the railway-station ?"

" What station 2"

"Where the train comes in."

" There ;" and she pointed to a house beyond
the village.

" How do you get there ?"

" By the road."

" Can you go up by the hill ?"


" Which is better ?"

" I don't know."

" Which is shorter ?"

1 92 Our Journey to the Hebrides.

"Up the bill."

We started up the hill, but there was no path.
" There is no path," we said to her.
" No, there's no path."
We came to


late in the afternoon, just as the fishing- boats
were putting out to sea, one beyond another on
the gray water, the farthest but faint specks on
the horizon. The best thing about Banff is that
in fifteen or twenty minutes you can be out of it
and in Macduff. The shore here makes a great
curve. On one point is Banff, on the other Mac-
duff; half-way between, a many -arched bridge
spans the river Deveron, and close by the big
house of the Earl of Fife shows through the trees
of his park. High on the hill of Macduff stands
the white kirk ; it overlooks the town, with its
many rows of fishermen's houses, and the harbor,
where the black masts rise far above the gray
walls, and the fishermen spread out their nets to
dry, and the dark-sailed boats are always coming
and going, and boys paddle in the twilight. And
if you go to the far end of the harbor, where the
light-house is, you look to the spires and chimneys
and roofs of Banff climbing up their hill-side, and
beyond to a shadowy point of land like a pale
gray cloud-bank on the water.

It was easy to see what they thought of us at

To the East Coast, and Back Again. 193

the Fife Arms, where we stayed in Banff. "We
were given our breakfast with the nurse and chil-
dren of an A. R. A., while the great man break-
fasted in state in a near dining-room. Thev ate


very like ordinary children, but their clothes
showed them to be little boys and girls of ees-
thetic distinction. I fear, however, we were not
properly impressed.

There was no doubt that now our walking was

194 Oar Journey to the Hebrides.

all done. "We asked about the stage for Fraser-
burgh, as if staging with us was a matter of course.
It was a relief not to begin the day by strapping
heavy knapsacks to our backs. The hours of wait-
ing were spent partly in strolling through the
streets of Banff, where here and there is an old
gray house with pretty turret at its corner, or
quaint old inscription with coat of arms or figures
let into its walls ; partly in sitting on the beach
looking out on a hot blue sea.

But hot as it was in the morning, a sharp, cold
wind was blowing when, at three o'clock, we took
our seats in the little old-fashioned stage that runs
between Banff and Fraserburgh. Stage and coach-
man and passengers seemed like a page out of
Dickens transposed to Scotland. Inside was a
very small boy, put there by a fat woman in black,
and left, with many exhortations and a couple of
buns, to make the journey alone ; opposite to him
sat a melancholy man who saw but ruin staring
in the face of farmers and fishermen alike. At
every corner in Banff and Macduff we stopped
for more passengers, until the stage, elastic as it
seemed, was full to overflowing, and we took ref-
uge on the top. Here the seats were crowded with
men, their heads tied up in scarfs. The coach-
man was carrier as well, and at different points in
the open country women and children waited by
the road to give him, or to take from him, bundles

To the East Coast, and Back Again. 197

and boxes and letters. He was the typical cheery
carrier. He had a word for everybody, even for
a young man who dropped his wheelbarrow to flap
his arms and greet us with a vacant smile. He
was a puir thing, the driver explained, who went
wrong only four years ago. He was the third we
had seen in two days.

Many of the carrier's jokes we lost. A commer-
cial traveller, who sat next to us, supposed we could
not understand some of the expressions hereabouts.
He might better have said we could not understand
the language. We could make out enough, how-
ever, to find that one joke went a long way. A
man in the front seat, trying to light his pipe in
the wind, set off the whole box of matches. " That's
extravagance," said the carrier ; and when another
box was handed to the man, he told him that these
were safety matches it took only one to light a
pipe ; and this he kept saying over and over again,
with many chuckles, for the next half-hour. We
had a specimen, too, of Scotch humor. At one
stopping-place the commercial traveller got down
and went into the public-house. A family party
scrambled up and filled every seat, his with the

rest. J remonstrated ; but the man of the

party answered that he paid his money for a seat
as well as anybody else. " An empty seat 's nae-
body's seat," he argued, and carrier and passengers
roared at his fun.

198 Our Journey to the Hebrides.

The country was dreary, for all its cultivation.
The fields were without tree or hedge to break
their monotony. The villages were full of new
houses. There was nothing striking or picturesque
until we came within sight of Fraserburgh. Far
across a level stretch we first saw it, its spires rising
high above gray and red roofs. The near meadows
were dark with fishing-nets ; in places fishermen
were at work spreading them over the grass ; and
we began to pass carts heavily laden with their
brown masses, and men and women bent under the
same burdens.


We walked out after supper. Rain was falling,
and the evening was growing dark. Down by the
harbor carts were still going and coming; men
were still busy with their nets. Along the quay
was a succession of basins, and these opened into
others beyond. All were crowded with boats, and
their thickly clustered masts seemed, in the gath-
ering shadows, like a forest of branchless, leafless
trees. One by one lights were hung out. On the
town side of the quay, in crypt-like rooms and un-
der low sheds, torches flamed and flared against a
background of darkness. Their strong light fell
upon women clothed in strange stuffs that glis-
tened and glittered, their heads bound with white
cloths. They were bending over shiny, ever-shift-
ing masses piled at their feet, and chanting a wild

To the East Coast, and Back Again. 201

Gaelic song that rose and fell with the wailing of
all savage music. As we first saw them, from a
distance, they might have been so many sorceresses
at their magic rites. When we drew near we
found that they were but the fish-carers' gutters
and packers at work. Thanks to Cable and Lafca-
dio Hearn, we know something of the songs of
work at home; but who in England cares about
the singing in these fishing towns singing which
is only wilder and weirder than that of the cotton
pressers of Louisiana? To the English literary
man, however the Charles Reades are the excep-
tions I fear the gutters would be but nasty, dirty
fisher persons. Now and then groups of these
women passed us, walking with long strides, their
arms swinging, and their short skirts and white-
bound heads shining through the sombre streets.
Over the town was the glow of the many fires.

In the morning there was less mystery, but not
less picturesqueness. We were up in time to go
to the harbor with the fishermen's wives, and watch
the boats come in. Everything was fresli after a
night of rain. It was still early, and the sun sent
a path of gold across the sea just where the boats
turned on their last tack homeward. Each brown
sail was set in bold relief against the shining east,
and then slowly lowered, as the fishermen with
their long poles pushed the boats into the already
crowded harbor. At once nets were emptied of

202 Our Journey to the Hebrides.

the fish, which lay gleaming like silver through
the brown meshes. Women and boys came to h'll
baskets with the fresh herrings ; carts were loaded
with them. In other boats men were hanging up
their floats and shaking out their nets. The water
was rich with the many black and brown reflec-
tions, only brightened here and there by lines of
bine or purple or white from the distinguishing
rings of color on each mast. There was a never-
ending stream of men and carts passing along the
quay. Many fishermen wiih their bags were on
their way to the station, for the fishing season was
almost over. So they said. But when one thou-
sand boats came in, and twenty thousand fisher-folk
were that day in Fraserburgh, to us it looked little
like the end. In all this busy place we heard no
English. Only Gaelic was spoken, as if we were
once more in the Western Islands.

It was the same in the streets. The day's work
in the curing-houses was just about to begin. Girls
and women in groups of threes and fours were
walking towards them. In the morning light we
could see that the greater number were young.
All were neat and clean, with hair carefully part-
ed and well brushed, little shawls over their shoul-
ders, but nothing on their heads. They carried
their working clothes under their arms, and kept
knitting as they walked. Like the men, they all
talked Gaelic.

To the East Coast, and Back Again. 205

When* they got to work, we found that those
strange stuffs which had glistened in the torch-light
were aprons and bibs smeared with scales and
slime, that the white head-dresses were worn only
for cleanliness, that the shining masses at their
feet were but piles of herring. I have never seen
women work so hard or so fast. Their arms, as
they seized the fish, gutted them, and threw them
in the buckets, moved with the regularity and the
speed of machines. Indeed, there could not be a
busier place than Fraserburgh. All day long the
boats kept coming in, nets were emptied, fish
carted away. The harbor, the streets, the fields
beyond where nets were taken to dry, the curing-
houses, were alike scenes of industry. If the wom-
en put down their knives, it was only to take up
their knitting. And yet these men and women,
working incessantly by day and by night, were
almost all Western Islanders the people who, we
are told, are so slovenly and so lazy ! No one who
comes with them to the east coast for the fishing
season will ever again believe in the oft-repeated
lies about their idleness.

There were no signs of rest until Saturday even-
ing. Then no boats went out, and the harbor and
curing-houses were deserted. The streets were full
of men and women walking about for pleasure.
The greatest crowd was in the market-place, where
a few "cheap Jacks" drove their trade. Two,

200 Our Journey to the Hebrides.

who dealt in china, as if to make up for their poor
patter, threw cups and saucers recklessly into the
air, breaking them with great clatter, while the
women and girls they had attracted stood by and
bought nothing.

The fishermen had gathered about a third, who
sold cheap and tawdry ornaments, but who could
patter. When we first came near he was holding
up six imitation gold watch-chains, and offering
the buyers prizes into the bargain. " O ye men
of little faith !" shaking his fist at them " can't
any of you favor me with a shillin' ? You don't
want 'em, gen'lemen ? Then there'll be smashin'
of teeth and tearin' of hair. Glory ! glory hallylu-
jah !" All this, I regret to say, was interspersed
with stories that do not bear repetition. But he
sold his watch-chains without trouble. " And no\v,
gen'lemen, for any of you that wants to take home
a present to your wife and chil'ren, here's an
album. It 'd adorn a nobleman's mansion, and
wouldn't disgrace a fisherman's cottage. It's
bound in moroccer and stamped with gold, and '11
hold many pictures. I'll only sell half a dozen,
and it's the very thing you wants. You'll have

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