Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

inviting snip of rock juts out upon a line with the walls of the fortress, where the riflemen take their station. They have seldom long to wait ere a gannet settles upon this point. It was called “ Baird's shot," from some steadyhanded Baird having frequently perforated his goose. Upon looking steadily at the distance, I could not reckon it more than seventy or eighty yards. Taking everything into consideration, the cool post of the shooter, and the fair position of his mark, a first-rate rifleman ought seldom to miss it.

The only small birds I saw on the Bass were a couple of rock pipits, feeding among the withered sea-ware close to the landing bay. Their nest no doubt was near, and they had chosen a place to build it upon, which did not belie their name. Those inheritors of dilapidation and decay, the jackdaws, sum up the zoology I noticed on the Bass Rock. The old rampart walls and chapel bad most likely tempted them over the sea from Tantallan Castle.

Having satisfied my curiosity, and procured all the specimens I wanted, we hoisted our sail and steered for Canty Bay. Numbers of the common gull were flitting about us on our passage, although I saw none on the Bass.

When stripping the soland of his best fly feathers, old Jack remarked that the wing pinions were excellent for writing quills. He had often commissions from the village teachers in the neighbourhood for a supply. There was a good deal of oil about them, which the schoolmasters extract by cutting off the end of the quills and soaking them in warm water. I took out my penknife and made one or two into toothpicks; upon which Jack assured me that I would find them “far praeferable to a prin” (pin).

There can scarcely be a more inviting resting place than

Canty Bay; a cheerful sunny beach of smoothest sand, inclosed by rising hillocks covered with wild flowers; the bold ocean waves rolling before, and the bolder ocean rock in full view. now joined our party there, who had been busily giving books, &c., among the few cottages which lie in one sheltered corner. A poor man, whom reason had left, lay basking on the grass with a number of children playing all round him. He seemed gentle and kind to them, though no others dared to interfere. Sorrow had left its deepest traces on his poor old mother's face. Suffering of many kinds met our eyes; and we were painfully impressed with the contrast between the outer forms of nature and these poor wrecks of human kind.

CRAP-NA-GOWER.

THE heather was bare and run to seed, the bell had long faded, and the grouse were wild and packed, when I received a note from my brother to say " that, in consequence of the mischief the flock of wild goats had done to the newly planted trees on his deer island, he had determined to extirpate them; but had reserved the two old Billies for my rifle." Well pleased, I obeyed the

summons.

The evening I came to Rossdhu was dull and cold; rather watery looking for the west; but at grey of next morning I threw up my window, and was happy to find that it had cleared to bright starlight, with a crisp night frost. The ivy owl was sounding his melancholy note, foreboding abdication, while old chanticleer welcomed the first faint streaks of the dawn by a blast from his cheery trumpet. It had a curious effect, and seemed a contention between the spirits of night and morning. It was a good omen, for the sun rose in cloudless lustre, and by breakfast-time was flaming down upon the antiquated beeches, now in their rich and variegated autumnal tints, and casting his warmest glow over the red and withered bracken upon the slopes of the distant hills.

I found the bearded chief was at least ten years old, and his henchman about two years younger. They had been

[ocr errors]

the progeny of a cross between the original wild black goat of the rock, and a tame white Billy of very large size, who fell a victim to the change; having hanged himself by the horns on a yew-tree, in attempting to feed upon the higher branches. They had been bred among the craggy ravines on the unfrequented part of the island, and had never left them. A four-oared yawl was soon manned by hardy Highlandmen, and we pushed off for Crap-na-Gower.

There is nothing more exhilarating than the air of these calm autumn mornings. The breath of spring may be more fresh and fragrant, but it is not so buoyant nor clear. The little robin seems to feel its effect; for his monotonous but plaintive wail is always louder then, and his bows made with greater spirit. Our loch was calm as glass, and reflected the wooded islands and copses of various hues, relieved here and there by the dark Scotch firs, with their knotted and twisted branches. A black-backed or giant gull, perched upon a large stone, at the end of Inch Moan, was shouting his rough music (which sounded doubly atrocious over the calm expanse) to another couple, floating at a distance so airily upon the clear water, they scarcely seemed to touch it. The giant gull is a beautiful fellow, with his snowy breast and dusky wing; and, barring his voice, is the greatest ornament to our inland lochs, during summer and autumn, of any bird except the osprey.

Leaving master black-back in possession of his platform, like many as noisy an orator equally au fait at gull rhetoric, we stood out for the middle of the Loch, in order to have a good view of the rugged part of Inch Lonach, the territory of the goats. As we expected, we soon twigged

their white coats in broad contrast to the dark heather and darker yew-trees. Upon inspecting them through our telescopes, we found they were in a sort of rocky hollow, a capital situation for stalking, and busily engaged in cropping the lower branches of a venerable yew.

I saw, with pleasure, that there was considerable difference in their size. When we got to the island, they told us that we could not help knowing the patriarch, as his horns came down to the small of his back.

As my rifle was only a single barrel, I was anxious to make sure of him first, in case he might hide, if alarmed by my firing at the other. Should he do so, we might not find him again all day.

Crap-na-Gower, the stronghold of the goats, is perhaps the most fascinating spot of the far-famed Loch Lomond. It is placed midway between the lovely islands at the foot, and the rugged and romantic grandeur at the head of the Loch, and quite commands the best views of both. It rises perpendicularly out of the Loch, by an almost inaccessible succession of rocks and shaggy heather, full of deep holes and caverns.

Seen at a distance, from a boat, with its wild goats browsing among the grey rocks and scaurs, shaded here and there by a clump of reverent yews, a finer study for the artist's pencil could not be found. It was to this lone spot, where the poor goats had braved the winter frost and summer sun of many a long year, that I now bent my steps; the messenger of their destruction.

We thoroughly knew all the passes, and stationed sentries in them to intercept the goats, should they attempt to cross to the other side of the island, which is about two miles long. When they found their progress blockaded, they would immediately return to Crap-na-Gower. My

« ForrigeFortsett »