"The sleep of a labouring man is sweet," and so was ours on the primitive beds of the shepherds. But the sounds in the rear of the hotel awoke us very early in the morning, and, as there was every appearance of the weather continuing fine, we decided to walk some distance before breakfast. We asked one of the servants how much we had to pay, and she returned with an account amounting to the astounding sum of sixpence! Just fancy, ye Highland tourists! ye who have felt the keen grip of many an hotel-keeper there - just fancy, if ye can, two of us staying a night at a large hotel in the Highlands of Scotland for sixpence!
We followed the servant to a small room at the front of the hotel, where a lady was seated, to whom the money had to be paid; the surprised and disappointed look on her face as we handed her a sovereign in payment of our account was rich in the extreme, amply repaying us for any annoyance we might have experienced the night before. What made the matter more aggravating to the lady was that she had not sufficient change, and had to go upstairs and waken some unwilling money-changer there! Then the change had to be counted as she reluctantly handed it to us and made a forlorn effort to recover some of the coins. "Won't you stay for breakfast?" she asked; but we were not to be persuaded, for although we were hungry enough, we were of an unforgiving spirit that morning, and, relying upon getting breakfast elsewhere, we thanked her and went on our way rejoicing!
About a mile farther on we reached the ruins of Glengarry Castle, which stand in the private grounds of the owner, but locks and bolts prevented us from seeing the interior. This castle remains more complete than many others and still retains its quadrangular appearance, much as it was when Prince Charlie slept there during his flight after Culloden, and, although not built on any great elevation, it looks well in its wooded environs and well-kept grounds. A story was told of the last Lord Glengarry who, in 1820, travelled 600 miles to be present at the Coronation of King George IV. He was dressed on that magnificent and solemn occasion in the full costume of a Highland chief, including, as a matter of course, a brace of pistols.
A lady who was at the reception happened to see one of the pistols in his clothing, and, being greatly alarmed, set up a loud shriek, crying, "Oh Lord! Oh Lord! there's a man with a pistol," and alarming the whole assembly. As she insisted on Glengarry being arrested, he was immediately surrounded, and the Garter King of Arms came forward and begged him to give up the much-dreaded pistols; but he refused, as they were not loaded, and pleaded that they formed an essential part of his national garb. At length, however, after much persuasion, he gave them up.
Glengarry wrote a letter to the editor of The Times, in which he said: "I have worn my dress continually at Court, and was never so insulted before. Pistols, sir, are as essential to the Highland courtier's dress as a sword is to English, French, or German; and those used by me on such occasions as unstained with powder as any courtier's sword, with blood. It is only grossest ignorance of Highland character and costume which imagined that the assassin lurked under their bold and manly form."
Glengarry, who, it was said, never properly recovered from the effects of this insult, died in 1828.
After about another mile we came to a monument near the side of the road, on the top of which were sculptured the figures of seven human heads held up by a hand clasping a dagger. On each of the four sides of the base there was an inscription in one of four different languages - English, French, Latin, and Gaelic - as follows:
As a memorial to the ample and summary vengeance which in the swift course of Feudal justice inflicted by the orders of the Lord MacDonnell and Aross overtook the perpetrators of the foul murder of the Keppoch family, a branch of the powerful and illustrious Clan of which his Lordship was the Chief, this Monument is erected by Colonel MacDonnell of Glengarry XVII Mac-Minc-Alaister his successor and Representative in the year of our Lord 1812. The heads of the seven murderers were presented at the feet of the noble chief in Glengarry Castle after having been washed in this spring and ever since that event which took place early in the sixteenth century it has been known by the name "Tobar-nan-Ceann" or the Well of the Heads.
The monument was practically built over the well, an arched passage leading down to the water, where we found a drinking-utensil placed for any one who desired a drink. We were glad to have one ourselves, but perhaps some visitors might be of such refined and delicate taste that they would not care to drink the water after reading the horrible history recorded above.
It appeared that Macdonald of Keppoch, the owner of the estate, had two sons whom he sent to France to be educated, and while they were there he died, leaving the management of his estate to seven kinsmen until the return of his sons from France; when they came back, they were murdered by the seven executors of their father's will. The Bard of Keppoch urged Glengarry to take vengeance on the murderers, and this monument was erected to commemorate the ample and summary vengeance inflicted about 1661.
Leaving this memorial of "ample and summary vengeance," we crossed the Loggan Bridge and gained the opposite bank of the Caledonian Canal. The country we now passed through was very lonely and mountainous, and in one place we came to a large plantation of hazel loaded with nuts. We reflected that there were scarcely any inhabitants to eat them, as the persons we met did not average more than a dozen in twenty miles, and on one occasion only six all told; so we turned into nut-gatherers ourselves, spurred on by the fact that we had had no breakfast and our appetites were becoming sharpened, with small prospect of being appeased in that lonely neighbourhood.
A little farther on, however, we met a man with two dogs, who told us he was the shepherd, and, in reply to our anxious inquiry, informed us that we could get plenty to eat at his house, which we should find a little farther on the road. This was good news, for we had walked eight miles since leaving Invergarry. When we reached the shepherd's house, which had formerly been an inn, we found the mistress both civil and obliging, and she did her best to provide for our hungry requirements. The house was evidently a very old one, and we wondered what queer people had sat in that ingle-nook and what strange stories they had told there. The fireplace was of huge dimensions; hanging above it was a single-and a double-barrelled gun, while some old crockery and ancient glass bottles adorned various parts of the kitchen - evidently family heirlooms, which no doubt had been handed down from one generation to another - and a very old bed reposed in the chimney corner.
The mistress provided us with a splendid breakfast, upon which we inflicted "ample and summary vengeance," for those words were still ringing in our minds and ears and had already become by-words as we travelled along. The "best tea-pot," which looked as if it had not been used for ages, was brought from its hiding-place; and, amongst other good things, we were treated by way of dessert to some ripe blackberries, which the mistress called brambleberries and which she told us she had gathered herself. It was half-past ten o'clock when we left the shepherd's house, and shortly afterwards we had a view of the snow-covered summit of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Great Britain.
We had a lonely walk alongside Loch Lochy, which is ten miles in length; but in about six miles General Wade's road, which we followed, branched off to the left. About four miles from the junction we reached Spean Bridge, over which we crossed the river of that name, which brings along the waters of sundry lochs as well as others from the valley of Glen Roy. This Glen forms an almost hidden paradise beloved of geologists, as along the sides of the valley are the famous "Parallel Roads" belonging to the Glacial Period. We replenished our stock of provisions, which we had rather neglected, at Spean Bridge, and treated ourselves to another little picnic in the lonely country beyond. It was dark before we reached Fort William, where we found comfortable lodgings at the house of Mrs. MacPherson opposite the Ben Nevis Hotel, and retired with the intention of ascending Ben Nevis the following day.
(Distance walked twenty-five and a half miles.)
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