« AnteriorContinuar »
It smacks of the sea, and suggests subtly the delicious earthsmell, to inhale which in wild woodlands is equal to the possession of a sixth sense. Once or twice as we drive along we see an occasional croft or small low house, scarcely to be distinguished from the peat stacks but for the pale blue wreath which issues from the hole in the roof, through which the smoke finds its way from the fire of turf.
A few miles further and we reach what is, if not our destination, at all events our resting place. We have reached Gar-na-Hine, which in The Princess of Thule Mr. Black will keep on calling Garra-na-Hine. Here there is still the same character of scenery. The land rises at the back, and in front there is an endless series of lochs, fringed with a belt of vivid green herbage, and these are lochs whose first view must rejoice the heart of a fisherman. Dr. Johnson has said somewhere that every landscape is improved if it have a good hotel in the foreground. The view of Gar-naHine and the lake of the Black Water is certainly improved in that respect. It is a well-built, compact, capacious house, much better than any you will find in Stornoway. It has, let me say from personal experience, an excellent larder, and it had, when I was there, an excellent cellar too.
Lewis is of interest to the antiquarian and archeologist in no less degree than it is to the tourist. They will recognise many links which connect its present Gaelic speaking population with the Norsemen who held the island until, I believe, the thirteenth century. Lewis is said to be the modern form of the Norwegian "Lyoxhus," ie., "The Sounding House," from which (again I quote) the McLeods derive their name. However this may be, it is certain that in the names of places, and in many of the words of the vernacular language, numerous examples of pure Norse are to be found. How far Norse influences have enriched or coloured the folklore of the people I had no means of discovering. Scattered about the island there are some ruins of early Christian churches, a number of cairns, and several specimens of the old dunes or burghs, of which latter the most perfect are those at Carloway and Bragoin, two hours' walk from Callarnish. But of all the curiosities the most important is unquestionably Callarnish itself. Starting from Gar-na-Hine, and walking still westward for a mile, you see almost another mile ahead, and upon a commanding
knoll, a construction which at once attracts the eye by its singu larity and boldness. At first sight it seems to be a group of men, and the natives give it a Gaelic name meaning "False Men;" but as you approach nearer you discover a number of tall stones arranged in a circle, and a short climb up the knoll brings you to what is unquestionably the finest Druidical circle in Scotland, not excepting that at Stenhouse in the Orkneys. It is really, now, rather in the shape of a cross than a circle, though it is possible to trace distinctly the remains of a circle surrounding the four arms of the cross.
It is no part of my province to add any contribution to the controversy about the object with which these circles were raised. Whether one agrees that they were religious or judicial scarcely matters, for in the remote past to which they belong the ecclesiastical and judicial offices were invested in the same persons. The moot question is whether they were used by the primitive inhabitants under the Druidical system, or were the Thingvalla in which the later Norsemen worshipped Odin; or were, as has been suggested, meeting places for the hybrid rites of the earlier Christians, and constructed by the missionaries who went from Iona throughout the Hebrides; and this question, so far as I am concerned, must be left unanswered.
The Druidical circle is not the only attraction of the hill of Callarnish. From the eminence on which it stands, you look out westward, and lo there before you is Loch Bernera, studded with innumerable islands, and winding in many broad reaches of waters six miles towards the sea, whose bright surface extends broad and vast towards eternity. It is now still as a millpond, and the sun shimmers upon its mirror-like face. A little fishing smack is making for the mouth of the loch, and away, a mere speck on the horizon, is a ship bound for an unknown shore. Those are the only sights that break the magnificent solitude of the calm, placid waste of waters. It is not always, thus, however. The ragged cliffs, the caverns, the shivered rocks that strew the beach, and the strange indentations and sharp promontories of Bernera, are proofs that the lamb-like sea is wrathful as a lion. When the gales blow and the league-long rollers come in with all the force of the great Atlantic behind them, then the mighty waters with savage majesty assert their strength and
supremacy, roaring and dashing at the rocky coast in the frenzy of their sublime rage, tearing the cliffs asunder, and making the solid. earth to tremble. But to-day the bosom of Loch Bernera is peaceful and inviting. It is a place of marvellous loneliness. It lacks only trees to be equal to Loch Katrine. It has not hills, it is true; but it has banks sheer and high enough to serve as framework, and what they lack in height and foliage they make up in their prodigality of colour. The black hornblende contrasts with red granite and that with white gneiss, and each of these strata are so curiously contorted and intertwisted that the cliff seems to be composed of a gorgeous marble. The infinite variety on the one hand is equalled by the infinite variety on the other. The lake is a nursery ground of little islands which your boat insinuates its way among and around only by the most dexterous management of its steersman, so intricate is the navigation.
Bernera, under another name, has been made famous by The Princess of Thule, and its scenery has been described in felicitous language by Mr. Black. It was hither that Lavender came with his friend Ingram to carry away the Princess of Borva. Mr. Black calls her the Princess of Thule, which appears to be a mistake in art, for his Borva forms but a small part of Thule, and a title which was acknowledged in his Borbavost might be challenged in Barvas or Stornoway. That is a parenthesis, however, which may go for what it is worth. The appearance of that work, as might be expected, produced a great deal of excitement in the island. The Gar-na-Hine inn, now kept by Mr. Stewart, was then in possession of Mr. Hunter, who is blessed with five lovely daughters-a blessing, by-the-bye, which seems to be more generously bestowed upon fathers in Lewis than in places farther from the North Pole. Upon one of these daughters, and the fairest of them, gossip at once fastened as the original of Princess Shiela. They knew that, at least, there was no real Shiela Mackenzie; they knew that Mr. Black had seen Miss Hunter while he stayed at Gar-na-Hine, and they immediately jumped to the conclusion that Mr. Black, so far from having drawn a fancy picture had made a portrait of this young lady. Forthwith and to this day she was known as the Princess of Thule. Tourists got to hear of her, and made her life miserable by dogging her steps,
intercepting her on landings, rushing unannounced into rooms where she might chance to be. If I am truthfully informed, two enthusiastic admirers of the novel, on the strength of the fancied resemblance, sent the young lady proposals of marriage. She is a modest girl as well as a pretty one, and you can well imagine that all these attentions were very embarrassing. When I saw her in Stornoway, whither her father has removed, it was easy to see that she had been so worried by inquisitive tourists that she feared every strange face; and it was perhaps not unwarrantable to suppose that in her heart of hearts she wished the book had never been written.
[Read December 17, 1877. With Illustrations by R. G. Somerset, William Meredith, and Christopher Blacklock.]
T is a long time since our friend Erasmus succeeded in drawing us away from the English lake country to the larger sporting ground of Wales, and since then we have never missed spending a portion of each year among its mountains and valleys. We have been there in the early spring, when nature is waking into life, and the new growth is struggling through the old decay; when a tenderer green spreads over the mountain side and the grey larches are clothed in a mist of emerald; when fern fronds are unfolding, and anemones, hyacinths, and primroses are springing