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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPomona's Travels - Letter Number Twenty-four
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Pomona's Travels - Letter Number Twenty-four Post by :Ndoki Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :2032

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Pomona's Travels - Letter Number Twenty-four

EDINBURGH

I was sorry to stop my last letter right in the middle of the "Lady of the Lake" country, but I couldn't get it all in, and the fact is, I can't get all I want to say in any kind of a letter. The things I have seen and want to write about are crowded together like the Scottish mountains.

On the day after we got to Trossachs Hotel, and I don't know any place I would rather spend weeks at than there, Jone and I walked through the "darksome glen" where the stag,

"Soon lost to hound and hunter's ken,
In the deep Trossachs' wildest nook
His solitary refuge took."


And then we came out on the far-famed Loch Katrine. There was a little steamboat there to take passengers to the other end, where a coach was waiting, but it wasn't time for that to start, and we wandered on the banks of that song-gilded piece of water. It didn't lie before us like "one burnished sheet of living gold," as it appeared to James Fitz-James but my soul could supply the sunset if I chose. There, too, was the island of the fair Ellen, and beneath our very feet was the "silver strand" to which she rowed her shallop. I am sorry to say there isn't so much of the silver strand as there used to be, because, in this world, as I have read, and as I have seen, the spirit of realistics is always crowding and trampling on the toes of the romantics, and the people of Glasgow have actually laid water-pipes from their town to this lovely lake, and now they turn the faucets in their back kitchens and out spouts the tide which kissed

"With whispering sound and slow
The beach of pebbles bright as snow."

This wouldn't have been so bad, because the lake has enough and to spare of its limpid wave; but in order to make their water-works the Glasgow people built a dam, and that has raised the lake a good deal higher, so that it overflows ever so much of the silver strand. But I can pick out the real from a scene like that as I can pick out and throw away the seeds of an orange, and gazing o'er that enchanted scene I felt like the Knight of Snowdoun himself, when he first beheld the lake and said:

"How blithely might the bugle horn
Chide, on the lake, the lingering morn!"

and then I went on with the lines until I came to

"Blithe were it then to wander here!
But now--beshrew yon nimble deer"--


"You'd better beshrew that steamboat bell," said Jone, and away we went and just caught the boat. Realistics come in very well sometimes when they take the form of legs.

The steamboat took us over nearly the whole of Lake Katrine, and I must say that I was so busy fitting verses to scenery that I don't remember whether it rained or the sun shone. When we left the boat we took a coach to Inversnaid on Loch Lomond, and, as we rode along, it made my heart almost sink to feel that I had to leave my poetry behind me, for I didn't know any that suited this region. But when we got in sight of Loch Lomond a Scotch girl who was on the seat behind me, and had several friends with her, began to sing a song about Lomond, of which I only remember, "You take the high road and I'll take the low road, and I'll get to Scotland afore you."

I am sure I must have Scotch blood in me, for when I heard that song it wound up my feelings to such a pitch that I believe if that girl had been near enough I should have given her a hug and a kiss. As for Jone, he seemed to be nearly as much touched as I was, though not in the same way, of course.

We took a boat on Loch Lomond to Ardlui, another little town, and then we drove nine miles to the railroad. This was through a wild and solemn valley, and by the side of a rushing river, full of waterfalls and deep and diresome pools. When we reached the railroad we found a train waiting, and we took it and went to Oban, which we reached about six o'clock. Even this railroad trip was delightful, for we went by the great Lake Awe, with another rushing river and mountains and black precipices. We had a carriage all to ourselves until an old lady got in at a station, and she hadn't been sitting in her corner more than ten minutes before she turned to me and said:

"You haven't any lakes like this in your country, I suppose."

Now I must say that, in the heated condition I had been in ever since I came into Scotland, a speech like that was like a squirt of cold water into a thing full of steam. For a couple of seconds my boiling stopped, but my fires was just as blazing as ever, and I felt as if I could turn them on that old woman and shrivel her up for plastering her comparisons on me at such a time.

"Of course, we haven't anything just like this," I said, "but it takes all sorts of scenery to make up a world."

"That's very true, isn't it?" said she. "But, really, one couldn't expect in America such a lake as that, such mountains, such grandeur!"

Now I made up my mind if she was going to keep up this sort of thing Jone and me would change carriages when we stopped at the next station, for comparisons are very different from poetry, and if you try to mix them with scenery you make a mess that is not fit for a Christian. But I thought first I would give her a word back:

"I have seen to-day," I said, "the loveliest scenery I ever met with; but we've got grand canons in America where you could put the whole of that scenery without crowding, and where it wouldn't be much noticed by spectators, so busy would they be gazing at the surrounding wonders."

"Fancy!" said she.

"I don't want to say anything," said I, "against what I have seen to-day, and I don't want to think of anything else while I am looking at it; but this I will say, that landscape with Scott is very different from landscape without him."

"That is very true, isn't it?" said she; and then she stopped making comparisons, and I looked out of the window.

Oban is a very pretty place on the coast, but we never should have gone there if it had not been the place to start from for Staffa and Iona. When I was only a girl I saw pictures of Fingal's Cave, and I have read a good deal about it since, and it is one of the spots in the world that I have been longing to see, but I feel like crying when I tell you, madam, that the next morning there was such a storm that the boat for Staffa didn't even start; and as the people told us that the storm would most likely last two or three days, and that the sea for a few days more would be so rough that Staffa would be out of the question, we had to give it up, and I was obliged to fall back from the reality to my imagination. Jone tried to comfort me by telling me that he would be willing to bet ten to one that my fancy would soar a mile above the real thing, and that perhaps it was very well I didn't see old Fingal's Cave and so be disappointed.

"Perhaps it is a good thing," said I, "that you didn't go, and that you didn't get so seasick that you would be ready to renounce your country's flag and embrace Mormonism if such things would make you feel better." But that is the only thing that is good about it, and I have a cloud on my recollection which shall never be lifted until Corinne is old enough to travel and we come here with her.

But although the storm was so bad, it was not bad enough to keep us from making our water trip to Glasgow, for the boat we took did not have to go out to sea. It was a wonderfully beautiful passage we made among the islands and along the coast, with the great mountains on the mainland standing up above everything else. After a while we got to the Crinan Canal, which is in reality a short cut across the field. It is nine miles long and not much wider than a good-sized ditch, but it saves more than a hundred miles of travel around an island. We was on a sort of a toy steamboat which went its way through the fields and bushes and grass so close we could touch them; and as there was eleven locks where the boat had to stop, we got out two or three times and walked along the banks to the next lock. That being the kind of a ride Jone likes, he blessed Buxton. At the other end of the canal we took a bigger steamboat which carried us to Glasgow.

In the morning it hailed, which afterward turned to rain, but in the afternoon there was only showers now and then, so that we spent most of the time on deck. On this boat we met a very nice Englishman and his wife, and when they had heard us speak to each other they asked us if we had ever been in this part of the world before, and when we said we hadn't they told us about the places we passed. If we had been an English couple who had never been there before they wouldn't have said a word to us.

As we got near the Clyde the gentleman began to talk about ship-building, and pretty soon I saw in his face plain symptoms that he was going to have an attack of comparison making. I have seen so much of this disorder that I can nearly always tell when it is coming on a person. In about a minute the disease broke out on him, and he began to talk about the differences between American and English ships. He told Jone and me about a steamship that was built out in San Francisco which shook three thousand bolts out of herself on her first voyage. It seemed to me that that was a good deal like a codfish shaking his bones out through swimming too fast. I couldn't help thinking that that steamship must have had a lot of bolts so as to have enough left to keep her from scattering herself over the bottom of the ocean.

I expected Jone to say something in behalf of his country's ships, but he didn't seem to pay much attention to the boat story, so I took up the cudgels myself, and I said to the gentleman that all nations, no matter how good they might be at ship-building, sometimes made mistakes, and then to make a good impression on him I whanged him over the head with the "Great Eastern," and asked him if there ever was a vessel that was a greater failure than that.

He said, "Yes, yes, the 'Great Eastern' was not a success," and then he stopped talking about ships.

When we got fairly into the Clyde and near Glasgow the scene was wonderful. It was nearly night, and the great fires of the factories lit up the sky, and we saw on the stocks a great ship being built.

We stayed in Glasgow one day, and Jone was delighted with it, because he said it was like an American city. Now, on principle, I like American cities, but I didn't come to Scotland to see them; and the greatest pleasure I had in Glasgow was standing with a tumbler of water in my hand, repeating to myself as much of the "Lady of the Lake" as I could remember.

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