Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

too hastily, that he was to retrace his steps toward the direction of Loch Tay and Dunkeld. A most estimable person is Dr. Trellington Blythe, F.S.Ā, and Ph.D. Heid; and at home we knew him particularly well, but never had suspected him of the condescension of a Highland tour, or of his betaking himself to fishing; much less of his looking out for good, retired summer quarters for himself and family, “in some secluded district of the mountain country, contiguous to water-within reach of agreeable acquaintance—yet not hackneyed, not hackneved, sir.” Such, nevertheless, had been his confidential words to us, in MacGregor's baronial-looking hostelry by Loch-Katrine, while we took our last evening rummer of GlenDronach toddy near him ; he confining himself, as usual, to soda-water, and several times, with a frown, sniffing at the nicotine odour of Ickerson's clothes. For it must be said that the latter is singularly regardless of people's prejudices, even in sundry other uncouth traits : yet, strangely enough, there is a favour for him none the less universal among his acquaintances, Dr. T. B. ineluded ; still more, perhaps, Mrs. T. B., a very pretty-looking woman with highly æsthetic tastes. When agreeable society was referred to, that lady had not failed to glance our way; as if it were a pity we were but pedestrianizing in a transient manner, without aim or purpose beyond an occasional day's fishing near the road. In fact, we had not indicated any purpose at all. Far from Ickerson's knowing at the time that we had one, I was aware of his easy temperament, his too-passive or too-transient disposition, over which a superior will possessed great influence; and even to him also, I had as yet concealed my knowledge of our friend Moir's discovery ; I had expressed an interest in the same scenery, towards Dunkeld, which the Blythes had in contemplation, with a similar desire to behold the tomb of Rob Roy in passing, and probably explore the rude vicinity of Loch Earn, then to wit ness the Celtic games of St. Fillan's. The reality was, I well knew the difficulty

of escape from that peculiar instinct, if once set upon our track, which pertains to one whom I may call a philanthropic Beagle-delicacy forbidding the word Bore.

Yet here was Trellington Blythe again, after all my pains, most imminently at hand in the hotel coffee-room, snatching a hasty luncheon before he issued forth. Genially fraternizing with a whole band of eager tourists from the road, whose knapsacks, and wide-awakes, and volumes of Scott and Wordsworth, had scared us both as they rushed in upon the débris of our glorious Highland breakfast ; though Ickerson had only gazed his supine dismay, indiscriminately regarding them, till I perceived the direr apparition behind, and drew him with me in our retreat by an opposite door. Somewhat unprepared for immediate renewal of active measures we were, it must be owned ; at least in my friend's case. Since Ickerson's personal vigour and capacity for exertion, combined with a singular faculty for abstinence when needful, are proportionate to his stature and his thews, rendering, perhaps, indispensable on his part those few ruminative whiffs. I could well have spared, certainly, that formal replenishment of a meerschaum resembling a calumet, that careful replacement of the ashes, and that scrupulous ignition, that studious consciousness of every fume. Was it possible that he had hesitated to support me, till I had fortunately recollected the certain advent of M‘Killop that very day ?-did a hankering still possess him after the Egyptian fleshpots of Mrs. Blythe and her elegant cousins, heedless of the doctor's own educational theories, and his feeling remarks on nature ? Could he so forget what was at stake in the prospect of that delicious solitude which Moir had lit upon, and to which at that moment we alone possessed the key? Could it possibly enter into his mind to avoid further ambiguity in the affair by his usual absurd candour, and, for the sake of future relations with the Trellington Blythes, to propose allowing them the opportunity, so much after their own

hearts, of sharing our expected delight? most, and bitterly disciplined by expeI declare, if so; that then and there rience, it was a longing, desperate I could savagely have quarrelled with necessity of the very life and brain, him, despite our long, close friendship, the heart and soul. We now certified had not the simple fact about Mr. ourselves there, that we had only to M‘Killop saved me. The editor of the ferry across forthwith, then hold those Daily Tribune is a man whom, though peaks upon a certain side, and then the I dislike, I do not fear. Whereas the way afterwards was scarcely to be misintense repugnance towards him, almost taken ; until we should perceive that the superstitious dread, entertained by other mountain, of shape unique and Mark Ickerson, with all his equanimity, indubitable position, which overshais something unaccountable. We were dowed the very entrance to the secluded both aware that Mr. M'Killop had a glen of the Macdonochies. I myself, wife and many daughters, that the par- pure Goth as I was, had some practice liamentary season was just about over, in Highland wanderings; as to Ickerson, and the dearth of news to be made up he was an Islesman, familiar from youth for by sporting matters alone ; so when with the tongue of the Gael as with his it struck me like a flash of lightning school Latin or college Greek, almost his that he too was on the outlook for daily German; claiming distant Celtic summer quarters, with the desire to blood, actually pretending, in his slow, lodge his family where the Tribune elephantine, Teutonic humour, to “have might still be cared for amidst his own a Tartan," with right to the kilt and race and original language, need it be eagle's feather. Though stamped by wondered that I avowed the conviction name and aspect, as by inner nature, to Ickerson, or that Ickerson was utterly true son of old Scandinavian sea-riders, overcome ?

having the noble viking always in him, Urged by haste, though inwardly sometimes the latent Berserkir like to triumphant, I had but to take out again flash forth; otherwise inexperienced, our London friend's epistle from Loch- impractical, the mere abstracted quietist, na-Diomhair; and for Ickerson's benefit, who might use the eyes and help the while he suspended his meerschaum active energy of a companion that knew anxiously, to retrace the considerate the world. chart of our way which the postscript It was hot already. By the nearest contained. Its first bearings and guide- route it must be a good long afternoon's marks were identically before us from tramp for us, even from the opposite. that spot, far over amongst the sinewy shore of Benlomond, where the light mountain-shoulders which press from would glare and the heat would broil westward on the lake, reflected below above us. As for fear of weather or more softly; above, too, in the Alps of change, it had varied too long before, Arrochar that overpeak these, remote for any fear of it now from me; although beyond record even in that magic mirror. Ickerson looked up into the very brightIt was a blessed picture still farther in ness of the sky, and away at some mist the unseen background, which the letter about the distinctest mountains, saying, itself conjured up; the ecstatic affirma- in his queer, quasi-prophetic manner, tion from Frank Moir of an absolute that it would rain to the west. I only Highland Arcadia undetected by guide- set some store by him in the matter, bebooks, which, allowing for some acci- cause he none the less resolutely putuphis dental rose-colour of a personal kind, pipe, stretched his large limbs, and rose, he was not yet too much cockneyfied to professing himself ready. He, indeed ! appreciate ; while, to us, in our holiday the half-abstracted, half-sagacious monescape from rote and toil, from the ster of good luck that I have often found weary hack-round and daily trouble, it him !-it was not he who needed to go was a precious refreshment to hear of. back into the hotel lobby, facing the full To one of us, lately fagged to the ut- glare of those spectacles in the sunlight,

before we could again abscond; for he invariably had borne his fishing-rod about with him in the compendious form of that huge walking-staff which he now struck upon the ground so promptly, and his plaid was always over his shoulder, enveloping in one fold that simple oilskin parcel of his. It was not he who had become responsible to the waiter for our charges, nor who had left his well compacted impedimenta, with every essential of pedestrian comfort, on the hall table; and despite his solemn consternation at the reiterated statement, it is impossible to get rid of a belief, from one scarce perceptible twinkle of his eye, that the hypocrite enjoyed it. “Being conscious of my own deficiences in the practical department," said he, with that provoking Orcadian accent, occasionally similar to a snuffle, “I have to guard against them, or rather, my worthy aunt and cousins have ;" uplifting and surveying his whole outfit with an air of innocent satisfaction. “But would he the doctor, I mean—seeing you alone, my dear Brown, do you think, be so eager to accost you as you suppose ? To wish to --that is, to persevere in having you of his party—that is to say, I-as you feel it disagreeable—perhaps he may not, in fact, care for your proximity and a—a -what particular exploration you might contemplate ?

It is true, as the fellow naïvely showed himself aware, Ickerson was the chief magnet to the Blythe party in general; nor am I sure to this moment that the mestimable doctor likes me at bottom. Well knowing, therefore, that I could trust myself alone, even with Trellington Blythe, I at once cut the knot by providing that my companion should forthwith skirt the lake towards the ferryboat, while I, at every hazard, would boldly rush up to the hotel. Struck by & sudden thought at Ickerson's depar. ture, however, I lingered instead upon the pier, as the steamer came plashing up. Already the doctor's voice was conspicuous from the other side, hurrying down among other tourists; but the sharp-prowed “Lady-of-the-Lake" was quicker than he or I had calculated;

sending an eddy before her to my very feet, when, with a roar, and a hiss, and a clamour, she came sheering round to float broadside in. The first face I discerned was that of M'Killop of the Daily Tribune, high on one paddle-box, through the steam which contrasted with his sandy whiskers, carpet-bag and umbrella in hand, firmly looking for the shore. His eye was in a moment upon me; but the motley crowd were scarce begun to be disgorged, ere, with a presence of mind I still plume myself upon, I had turned and hastened up in the van of the confusion; meeting right in the face, of course, as if newly arrived from Glasgow, with the good Trellington Blythe. It was the work of a few seconds to make my hurried and broken explanation as he stumbled against me—to mutter a reply to his alarmed inquiry about Ickerson--to nod assent to his hope of further leisure together in the hotel—and then, leaving him to meet his friend, to dash in for my indispensables, settle with the waiter, and once more escape, breathless, to the ferry-place. There the stout-built Highland boatmen, of pudgy shapes, with foxy faces, were at their oars. Ickerson was seated, calmly waiting, beside a rustic female of carroty locks, with a suckling baby, whose unreserved relations he mildly regarded, in his own placid, all-tolerating, catholic manner, dabbling his hand alongside the while.

Why must we thus wait still, though? Why, leaving the honorary stern sheets vacant, and the helm untouched, must I pass into the forepart also, beside nursing rustics? “Somepotty is be coming,” it seems, from the boatman,“off impoartanze." Was the place bespoken then? Was it engaged beforehand ? They stare at me. “Aye, shis two day, Hoo, Aye!” “Some superior person,” gravely whispers Ickerson, “from Glasgow, by the steamer.” We were mutually appalled by the same idea : especially as I saw M‘Killop's form with the doctor, over the edge of the little pier, absorbed in conversation behind the throng, in rear of a whole stalking procession of

females with hats and feathers. Doubt- pectedly. I leant back, musing on the less the M‘Killop family! All so near, doubtful likelihood of Loch-na-Diomhair that, as we crouch, we can hear the remaining an oasis long; while the Macsound of their voices across the smooth donochy sulked at us, and talked loud little bay; and, out of sight myself, I to his better-bred companion, using can still see the distincter, warmer reflec- French phrases; then once or twice tion of that able editor's gestures—nay, superciliously drawled to the boatmen what was not before visible, the very a hideous sentence of authority, interunder-brim of his furry hat, the bristling spersed with what seemed a Gaelic sandiness under his full chin. He had, oath ; to which they, rowing, droned on a sudden, a staring-white paper in humbly back. his hand, and, looking at it curiously, As we leapt upon the other shore of gave it to Trellington Blythe, who Loch-Lomond, the road lay before us ; peered into it also; till they both looked wild enough at best ; parting, within round and round. Yet, to our joy, we sight, to a wilder one, up a stern pass, were unobserved ; indeed, as they were de- through which brawled a headlong river. parting towards the hotel, we saw further At the parting, stood a well-equipped proof that it was none of them the boat dog-cart, waiting. But neither help nor delayed for. A groom from the steamer, guidance was I inclined to, even from carrying a gun-case, leading two fine the looks of the best-mannered friend of setters, came and stepped into the boat the Macdonochies; and in the wilder of beside us: followed at greater leisure by the two ways I recognised the “short two gentlemen, both young, one plea- cut," of which Moir's letter spoke. sant-faced and with a military air, his Ickerson, after another of his mystical accents English; the other under-browed looks overhead and up the mountains, and Celtic, though darkly handsome, silently acceded. So we escaped from with a sulky hauteur, jealous and half the Macdonochy also, and took the short awkward, that checked his friend's de- cut by the pass. signed complaisance towards ourselves. We sat unheeded, therefore; while at

II. an abrupt motion of the hand from that glooming young Gael, the rowers

OUR JOURNEY THITHER. stretched out, and he took the tiller to steer us across for Bealach-More. WILD, grim, desolate, it was soon, as Strange to say, it was the Englishman the sternest valley of Rephidim. Away who wore a costume like a chief's, on either hand, drearier in their very while the Celt wore the fashionable formlessness, began to slant without garb of to-day.

sublimity the worn grey hill-sides, from “The Macdonochy, nevertheless," waste to waste. Chaotic shatterings murmured Ickerson to me. “ The young and tumblings here and there, driven chief, that is to say, of the Macdono back upon forgotten Titans, had long chies.” I stared. It was to the land of the come to an end in utter stillness; where Macdonochies we were bound. “Which ?the lichen and moss were the sole living I whispered back—“He with the kilt things, creeping insensibly over some and feather ?” “No. With the long huge foremost boulder, bald and blind Noah's-ark frock-coat, the peg-top trou- with storm that had been. In the sultry, sers, the Zouave cap, and first-rate boots suffocating heat of that Glen-Ogie, the -on that starboard sole of which, dis- very rocks gave out a faint tinkling, as played so unconsciously, you perceive in when calcined limestone cools slowly ; small nails the advertisement of 'Dun- nothing else sounded but our own feet, can and Co., Princes Street, Edin- slipping or crackling. For Ickerson was burgh."" There was in Ickerson, as I especially taciturn, yet in haste; nor at hinted, a slow, subterranean, subacid the same time abstracted, as I could have humour; and he noticed things unex- pardoned his becoming. Thus his unsocial mood annoyed the more; no sneer wreath of mist. Here we quenched at Ossian, nor lure to the pipe, or to the our thirst; here we gave ourselves up, flask of Glenlivet I bore, could draw him at ease, to the untroubled rapture of the out. The fellow's tone and manner be pause at that high spot, our journey's came positively uncomfortable, when, zenith. The rest was plain before us; grasping me by the arm with a hand which and Ickerson took out his meerschaum is like a vice, he bade me turn and look once more, and smoked tranquilly again. along Glen-Ogie. We were in the bot- Too well does he meditate, my friend toin of it. There was nothing particular Ickerson, and pour forth at length the to see. That way—the other also, to- tenor of his meditations ; in rhapsody wards which he kept that staff of his that takes indeed the colour of sublime pointed like a divining rod—was but phenomena around him, yet too much a wild, inarticulate, rugged ascent, with assimilates to the other vapour he dry rifts and gullies on both sides, breathes forth, till it is apt to lull one into a wrinkling off through stony beds of dreams. Had it not been to avoid this, vanished torrents into unknown chasms; I do not think, in circumstances still rethen up, as where avalanches had rolled quiring care, that I should have been down, or volcanic eruptions had passed. tempted to join my rod together and Where had the hazy sweltering sun re- leave him a little, to try the upward treated? Where were our own shadows course of the brook. To him, forsooth,

—where the clouds-on what side, the it may be the easiest thing to put away east, west, north, or south- and which inveterate thoughts at will : they never the vista of Glen-Ogie we had descended, haunted or terrified him. There was which the perspective of it we were yet always a fund of latent power in the to ascend? To tell the truth, for all I fellow, which he never troubled himself know, we might then have steadily pro- to draw upon ; because, perhaps, he was ceeded backward, even passing the last six feet two without his shoes, with a nondescript clachan of human burrows bone, muscle, and length of arm that set as a new one, and reaching Loch-Lomond him above need of much sparring pracas if it were our lake in prospect, till we tice with our friend Francalanza. I ferried across to the supposed welcome soon heard him, but in the distance ; of Moir, and should find the embrace of his eyes closed, his incense ascending, Trellington Blythe, with the exulting his knees up-eventually, as I looked recognition of M‘Killop! For a moment over my shoulder, raising by turns his I was in Ickerson's hands: so that if he delighted feet, in real enjoyment of the had smiled, I could have dashed him glorious hush—with the supposition, from me. But in the most earnest doubtless, that the silent pea-coat beside spirit of companionship, which never him was a drowsy companion Alas ! shall I forget, he thrust his staff before ye dogging remembrances, ye jading and him like a sword, and without a word worldly consciousnesses-ye could not we rushed upward together. One glimpse so easily be left. I followed the upward was all I wanted now of the double- vein of the brook, in its deep waterheaded summit of Ben-Araidh, with its course, broken and fern-fringed; and single cairn of stones.

it is strange, though childish, how a few At length, with something like a cry minutes, which self-control could not of satisfaction, my friend sprang up compose to peace, will glide away in before me from the rocky trough, out puerile sport and device. Rest !-rest, upon a heathery knoll. Beside us was said we? Flight from thought, or from a small round mountain-tarn, fed by a the pertinacity of words and artifices ? quick little burn from above, which again No—'tis a new, eager, wild refuge of stole out into wide-rolling moor. Over pursuit, exultingly compensative by reits own vast brown shoulder I caught venge for what you have feared and fled sight of the bare grey top I looked for; from before : pitiless in its first savage slightly swathed, between, with a slight longings for the scent, the chase, capture,

« AnteriorContinuar »