Sunday, September 11th.
Immediately after breakfast, the morning being fine, we set off with cheerful spirits towards the Trossachs, intending to take up our lodging at the house of our old friend the ferryman. A boy accompanied us to convey the horse and car back to Callander from the head of Loch Achray. The country near Callander is very pleasing; but, as almost everywhere else, imperfectly cultivated. We went up a broad vale, through which runs the stream from Loch Ketterine, and came to Loch Vennachar, a larger lake than Loch Achray, the small one which had given us such unexpected delight when we left the Pass of the Trossachs.
Loch Vennachar is much larger, but greatly inferior in beauty to the image which we had conceived of its neighbour, and so the reality proved to us when we came up to that little lake, and saw it before us in its true shape in the cheerful sunshine. The Trossachs, overtopped by Benledi and other high mountains, enclose the lake at the head; and those houses which we had seen before, with their corn fields sloping towards the water, stood very prettily under low woods. The fields did not appear so rich as when we had seen them through the veil of mist; but yet, as in framing our expectations we had allowed for a much greater difference, so we were even a second time surprised with pleasure at the same spot.
Went as far as these houses of which I have spoken in the car, and then walked on, intending to pursue the road up the side of Loch Ketterine along which Coleridge had come; but we had resolved to spend some hours in the neighbourhood of the Trossachs, and accordingly coasted the head of Loch Achray, and pursued the brook between the two lakes as far as there was any track. Here we found, to our surprise - for we had expected nothing but heath and rocks like the rest of the neighbourhood of the Trossachs - a secluded farm, a plot of verdant ground with a single cottage and its company of out-houses. We turned back, and went to the very point from which we had first looked upon Loch Achray when we were here with Coleridge. It was no longer a visionary scene: the sun shone into every crevice of the hills, and the mountain-tops were clear. After some time we went into the pass from the Trossachs, and were delighted to behold the forms of objects fully revealed, and even surpassing in loveliness and variety what we had conceived. The mountains, I think, appeared not so high; but on the whole we had not the smallest disappointment; the heather was fading, though still beautiful.
Sat for half-an-hour in Lady Perth's shed, and scrambled over the rocks and through the thickets at the head of the lake. I went till I could make my way no further, and left William to go to the top of the hill, whence he had a distinct view, as on a map, of the intricacies of the lake and the course of the river. Returned to the huts, and, after having taken a second dinner of the food we had brought from Callander, set our faces towards the head of Loch Ketterine. I can add nothing to my former description of the Trossachs, except that we departed with our old delightful remembrances endeared, and many new ones. The path or road - for it was neither the one nor the other, but something between both - is the pleasantest I have ever travelled in my life for the same length of way, - now with marks of sledges or wheels, or none at all, bare or green, as it might happen; now a little descent, now a level; sometimes a shady lane, at others an open track through green pastures; then again it would lead us into thick coppice-woods, which often entirely shut out the lake, and again admitted it by glimpses. We have never had a more delightful walk than this evening.
Ben Lomond and the three pointed-topped mountains of Loch Lomond, which we had seen from the Garrison, were very majestic under the clear sky, the lake perfectly calm, the air sweet and mild. I felt that it was much more interesting to visit a place where we have been before than it can possibly be the first time, except under peculiar circumstances. The sun had been set for some time, when, being within a quarter of a mile of the ferryman's hut, our path having led us close to the shore of the calm lake, we met two neatly dressed women, without hats, who had probably been taking their Sunday evening's walk. One of them said to us in a friendly, soft tone of voice, 'What! you are stepping westward?' I cannot describe how affecting this simple expression was in that remote place, with the western sky in front, yet glowing with the departed sun. William wrote the following poem long after, in remembrance of his feelings and mine: -
'What! you are stepping westward?' Yea,
'Twould be a wildish destiny
If we, who thus together roam
In a strange land, and far from home,
Were in this place the guests of chance:
Yet who would stop, or fear to advance,
Though home or shelter he had none,
With such a sky to lead him on?
The dewy ground was dark and cold,
Behind all gloomy to behold,
And stepping westward seem'd to be
A kind of heavenly destiny;
I liked the greeting, 'twas a sound
Of something without place or bound;
And seem'd to give me spiritual right
To travel through that region bright.
The voice was soft; and she who spake
Was walking by her native Lake;
The salutation was to me
The very sound of courtesy;
Its power was felt, and while my eye
Was fix'd upon the glowing sky,
The echo of the voice enwrought
A human sweetness with the thought
Of travelling through the world that lay
Before me in my endless way.
We went up to the door of our boatman's hut as to a home, and scarcely less confident of a cordial welcome than if we had been approaching our own cottage at Grasmere. It had been a very pleasing thought, while we were walking by the side of the beautiful lake, that, few hours as we had been there, there was a home for us in one of its quiet dwellings. Accordingly, so we found it; the good woman, who had been at a preaching by the lake-side, was in her holiday dress at the door, and seemed to be rejoiced at the sight of us. She led us into the hut in haste to supply our wants; we took once more a refreshing meal by her fireside, and, though not so merry as the last time, we were not less happy, bating our regrets that Coleridge was not in his old place. I slept in the same bed as before, and listened to the household stream, which now only made a very low murmuring.
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