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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
A Highland Tramp
By William Edmondstoune Aytoun (1813–1865)
 
From ‘Norman Sinclair’

WHEN summer came—for in Scotland, alas! there is no spring, winter rolling itself remorselessly, like a huge polar bear, over what should be the beds of the early flowers, and crushing them ere they develop—when summer came, and the trees put on their pale-green liveries, and the brakes were blue with the wood-hyacinth, and the ferns unfolded their curl, what ecstasy it was to steal an occasional holiday, and wander, rod in hand, by some quiet stream up in the moorlands, inhaling health from every breeze, nor seeking shelter from the gentle shower as it dropped its manna from the heavens! And then the long holidays, when the town was utterly deserted—how I enjoyed these, as they can only be enjoyed by the possessors of the double talisman of strength and youth! No more care—no more trouble—no more task-work—no thought even of the graver themes suggested by my later studies! Look—standing on the Calton Hill, behold yon blue range of mountains to the west—cannot you name each pinnacle from its form? Benledi, Benvoirlich, Benlomond! Oh, the beautiful land, the elysium that lies round the base of those distant giants! The forest of Glenfinlas, Loch Achray with its weeping birches, the grand defiles of the Trosachs, and Ellen’s Isle, the pearl of the one lake that genius has forever hallowed! Up, sluggard! Place your knapsack on your back; but stow it not with unnecessary gear, for you have still further to go, and your rod also must be your companion, if you mean to penetrate the region beyond. Money? Little money suffices him who travels on foot, who can bring his own fare to the shepherd’s bothy where he is to sleep, and who sleeps there better and sounder than the tourist who rolls from station to station in his barouche, grumbling because the hotels are overcrowded, and miserable about the airing of his sheets. Money? You would laugh if you heard me mention the sum which has sufficed for my expenditure during a long summer month; for the pedestrian, humble though he be, has his own especial privileges, and not the least of these is that he is exempted from all extortion. Donald—God bless him!—has a knack of putting on the prices; and when an English family comes posting up to the door of his inn, clamorously demanding every sort of accommodation which a metropolitan hotel could afford, grumbling at the lack of attendance, sneering at the quality of the food, and turning the whole establishment upside down for their own selfish gratification, he not unreasonably determines that the extra trouble shall be paid for in that gold which rarely crosses his fingers except during the short season when tourists and sportsmen abound. But Donald, who is descended from the M’Gregor, does not make spoil of the poor. The sketcher or the angler who come to his door, with the sweat upon their brow and the dust of the highway or the pollen of the heather on their feet, meet with a hearty welcome; and though the room in which their meals are served is but low in the roof, and the floor strewn with sand, and the attic wherein they lie is garnished with two beds and a shake-down, yet are the viands wholesome, the sheets clean, and the tariff so undeniably moderate that even parsimony cannot complain. So up in the morning early, so soon as the first beams of the sun slant into the chamber—down to the loch or river, and with a headlong plunge scrape acquaintance with the pebbles at the bottom; then rising with a hearty gasp, strike out for the islet or the further bank, to the astonishment of the otter, who, thief that he is, is skulking back to his hole below the old saugh-tree, from a midnight foray up the burns. Huzza! The mallard, dozing among the reeds, has taken fright, and tucking up his legs under his round fat rump, flies quacking to a remoter marsh.
    “By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes,”
and lo! Dugald the keeper, on his way to the hill, is arrested by the aquatic phenomenon, and half believes that he is witnessing the frolics of an Urisk! Then make your toilet on the greensward, swing your knapsack over your shoulders, and cover ten good miles of road before you halt before breakfast with more than the appetite of an ogre.
  1
  In this way I made the circuit of well-nigh the whole of the Scottish Highlands, penetrating as far as Cape Wrath and the wild district of Edderachylis, nor leaving unvisited the grand scenery of Loch Corruisk, and the stormy peaks of Skye; and more than one delightful week did I spend each summer, exploring Gameshope, or the Linns of Talla, where the Covenanters of old held their gathering; or clambering up the steep ascent by the Grey Mare’s Tail to lonely and lovely Loch Skene, or casting for trout in the silver waters of St. Mary’s.  2
 
 
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