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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPomona's Travels - Letter Number Twenty-three
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Pomona's Travels - Letter Number Twenty-three Post by :ow24160 Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :1944

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Pomona's Travels - Letter Number Twenty-three

OBAN, SCOTLAND

It would seem to be the easiest thing in the world, when looking on the map, to go across the country from Loch Rannoch over to Katrine and all those celebrated parts, but we found we could not go that way, and so we went back to Edinburgh and made a fresh start. We stopped one night at the Royal Hotel, and there we found a letter from Mr. Poplington. We had left him at Buxton, and he said he was not going to Scotland this season, but would try to see us in London before we sailed.

He is a good man, and he wrote this letter on purpose to tell me that he had had a letter from his friend, the clergyman in Somersetshire, who had forbidden the young woman whose wash my tricycle had run into to marry her lover because he was a Radical. This letter was in answer to one Mr. Poplington wrote to him, in which he gave the minister my reasons for thinking that the best way to convert the young man from Radicalism was to let him marry the young woman, who would be sure to bring him around to her way of thinking, whatever that might be.

I didn't care about the Radicalism. All I wanted was to get the two married, and then it would not make the least difference to me what their politics might be; if they lived properly and was sober and industrious and kept on loving each other, I didn't believe it would make much difference to them. It was a long letter that the clergyman wrote, but the point of it was, that he had concluded to tell the young woman that she might marry the fellow if she liked, and that she must do her best to make him a good Conservative, which, of course, she promised to do. When I read this I clapped my hands, for who could have suspected that I should have the good luck to come to this country to spend the summer and make two matches before I left it!

When we left Edinburgh to gradually wend our way to this place, which is on the west coast of Scotland, the first town we stopped at was Stirling, where the Scotch kings used to live. Of course we went to the castle, which stands on the rocks high above the town; but before we started to go there Jone inquired if the place was a ruin or not, and when he was told it was not, and that soldiers lived there, he said it was all right, and we went. He now says he must positively decline to visit any more houses out of repair. He is tired of them; and since he has got over his rheumatism he feels less like visiting ruins than he ever did. I tell him the ruins are not any more likely to be damp than a good many of the houses that people live in; but this didn't shake him, and I suppose if we come to any more vine-covered and shattered remnants of antiquity I shall be obliged to go over them by myself.

The castle is a great place, which I wouldn't have missed for the world; but the spot that stirred my soul the most was in a little garden, as high in the air as the top of a steeple, where we could look out over the battlefield of Bannockburn. Besides this, we could see the mountains of Ben-Lomond, Ben-Venue, Ben-A'an, Benledi, and ever so much Scottish landscape spreading out for miles upon miles. There is a little hole in the wall here called the Ladies' Look-Out, where the ladies of the court could sit and see what was going on in the country below without being seen themselves, but I stood up and took in everything over the top of the wall.

I don't know whether I told you that the mountains of Scotland are "Bens," and the mouths of rivers are "abers," and islands are "inches." Walking about the streets of Stirling, and I didn't have time to see half as much as I wanted to, I came to the shop of a "flesher." I didn't know what it was until I looked into the window and saw that it was a butcher shop.

I like a language just about as foreign as the Scotch is. There are a good many words in it that people not Scotch don't understand, but that gives a person the feeling that she is travelling abroad, which I want to have when I am abroad. Then, on the other hand, there are not enough of them to hinder a traveller from making herself understood. So it is natural for me to like it ever so much better than French, in which, when I am in it, I simply sink to the bottom if no helping hand is held out to me.

I had some trouble with Jone that night at the hotel, because he had a novel which he had been reading for I don't know how long, and which he said he wanted to get through with before he began anything else. But now I told him he was going to enter on the wonderful country of the "Lady of the Lake," and that he ought to give up everything else and read that book, because if he didn't go there with his mind prepared the scenery would not sink into his soul as it ought to. He was of the opinion that when my romantic feeling got on top of the scenery it would be likely to sink into his soul as deep as he cared to have it, without any preparation, but that sort of talk wouldn't do for me. I didn't want to be gliding o'er the smooth waters of Loch Katrine, and have him asking me who the girl was who rowed her shallop to the silver strand, and the end of it was that I made him sit up until a quarter of two o'clock in the morning while I read the "Lady of the Lake" to him. I had read it before and he had not, but I hadn't got a quarter through before he was just as willing to listen as I was to read. And when I got through I was in such a glow that Jone said he believed that all the blood in my veins had turned to hot Scotch.

I didn't pay any attention to this, and after going to the window and looking out at the Gaelic moon, which was about half full and rolling along among the clouds, I turned to Jone and said, "Jone, let's sing 'Scots wha ha',' before we go to bed."

"If we do roar out that thing," said Jone, "they will put us out on the curbstone to spend the rest of the night."

"Let's whisper it, then," said I; "the spirit of it is all I want. I don't care for the loudness."

"I'd be willing to do that," said Jone, "if I knew the tune and a few of the words."

"Oh, bother!" said I; and when I got into bed I drew the clothes over my head and sang that brave song all to myself. Doing it that way the words and tune didn't matter at all, but I felt the spirit of it, and that was all I wanted, and then I went to sleep.

The next morning we went to Callander by train, and there we took a coach for Trossachs. It is hardly worth while to say we went on top, because the coaches here haven't any inside to them, except a hole where they put the baggage. We drove along a beautiful road with mountains and vales and streams, and the driver told us the name of everything that had a name, which he couldn't help very well, being asked so constant by me. But I didn't feel altogether satisfied, for we hadn't come to anything quotable, and I didn't like to have Jone sit too long without something happening to stir up some of the "Lady of the Lake" which I had pumped into his mind the day before, and so keep it fresh.

Before long, however, the driver pointed out the ford of Coilantogle. The instant he said this I half jumped up, and, seizing Jone by the arm, I cried, "Don't you remember? This is the place where the Knight of Snowdoun, James Fitz-James, fought Roderick Dhu!" And then without caring who else heard me, I burst out with:

"'His back against a rock he bore,
And firmly placed his foot before:
"Come one, come all! This rock shall fly
From its firm base as soon as I."'"

"No, madam," said the driver, politely touching his hat, "that was a mile farther on. This place is:

"'And here his course the chieftain staid,
Threw down his target and his plaid.'"

"You are right," said I; and then I began again:

"'Then each at once his falchion drew,
Each on the ground his scabbard threw,
Each look'd to sun, and stream, and plain,
As what they ne'er might see again;
Then foot, and point, and eye opposed,
In dubious strife they darkly closed.'"


I didn't repeat any more of the poem, though everybody was listening quite respectful without thinking of laughing, and as for Jone, I could see by the way he sat and looked about him that his tinder had caught my spark; but I knew that the thing for me to do here was not to give out but take in, and so, to speak in figures, I drank in the whole of Lake Vannachar, as we drove along its lovely marge until we came to the other end, and the driver said we would now go over the Brigg of Turk. At this up I jumped and said:

"'And when the Brigg of Turk was won,
The headmost horseman rode alone.'"


I had sense enough not to quote the next two lines, because when I had read them to Jone he said that it was a shame to use a horse that way.

We now came to Loch Achray, at the other end of which is the Trossachs, where we stopped for the night, and when the driver told me the mountain we saw before us was Ben-Venue, I repeated the lines:

"'The hunter marked that mountain high,
The lone lake's western boundary,
And deem'd the stag must turn to bay,
Where that huge rampart barr'd the way.'"


At last we reached the Trossachs Hotel, which stands near the wild ravines filled with bristling woods where the stag was lost, with the lovely lake in front and Ben-Venue towering up on the other side. I was so excited I could scarcely eat, and no wonder, because for the greater part of the day I had breathed nothing but the spirit of Scott's poetry. I forgot to say that from the time we left Callander until we got to the hotel the rain poured down steadily, but that didn't make any difference to me. A human being soaked with the "Lady of the Lake" is rain-proof.

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