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yards of line, which he made swirl through the water with a humming noise, like a low sound of the telegraph wires. When I shook him up, he would fight away for the middle of the loch. At length he grew weaker, and I got him under command of a short line. It was a beautiful sight -that noble fish, sometimes showing his glancing scales for a moment, and then trying to bore under the boat, and always foiled by the boatmen, who promptly obeyed my slightest signal. He now began really to fail, and I felt I could lead him, so, directing Sandy to a shingly part of the shore, where there were no rocks, I determined to land him there. The beach was very shallow, and, in spite of my remonstrances, Sandy walked up to his knees in water, and drew the cobble ashore. I was now on terra firma, but my fish was by no means done up yet. Every time that I brought him to the shallow, he dashed away with as much vigour as before. This could not last, and the bursts became shorter and slower, till my victim was unable to get down at all, and only struggled on the top of the water. I had ample opportunity to admire his dimensions, colour, and shape, and was determined that no rashness or eagerness to obtain it should rob me of so rich a prize. At last he turned upon his broad and gleaming side. Now was my time. And like a wrecked and gallant vessel he lay stranded on the beach!
A proud man was Sandy McKenzie then. He took entire possession of the fish, and would hardly let Johnny look at it; if he ventured to touch it, he met a stern rebuke. Well did Sandy know how rare it was to come across a trout of that size in Loch Awe now-a-days, and all the fishing guides there are as proud of their gentlemen's performances as if they were their own. They
reckon their honour concerned, and banter each other about the failure of their employers as reflecting upon their own want of knowledge of the haunts of the fish.
We now sat down upon a green bank, close to the gled's nest wood, and had out our little basket of refreshments. I gave Sandy a plentiful supply for both. "Now, Sandy, eat your fill, and give Johnny the leavings." This is a favourite joke with Sandy, and Johnny is obliged to shield himself from its point by chuckling as heartily as he can. The Glenlivat was now uncorked; and when I was taking my modicum, mixed with the clear water of the spring, I overheard Johnny complaining of the scarcity of the "sma' stells which were ance thick eneuch on Loch Ow," and reprobating the tyranny of our rulers, "wha hinnered folk frae doin' what they liket best theirsels wi' their ain pickle barley." Sandy likes his whiskey raw, but is " very fond o' a drap water after 't!" The first time I gave him a glass into his paralytic hand, he spilt about two-thirds. I now insist upon holding the glass to his mouth myself. This indignity Sandy resisted at first, but I was peremptory, and he now contrives to keep me between him and Johnny, who is slily keeking round. When he has got his glass, however, he seems to think it a good job well over, and occasionally attempts some wit. I never like to see his sorrowful face then, or even to hear his joke; it seems as if uttered in bitterness of heart.
I could not resist having a peep into the kite's nest. She had no eggs yet, but all was ready for them, plenty of soft warm odds and ends for the lining. The two birds, balancing themselves at a great height above, kept strict watch over our movements. It is a great pity that the
kite has become so rare, for it always gives a sort of finishing touch to our pine-clothed hills.
The breeze had freshened. The squalls had settled into a steady gale, and we were upwards of eight miles from Cladich. I wished, at least, to try some of the best ground on our way home, having little hope of pulling the whole distance against such a head wind; Sandy, however, was unable to make any way, and upon Johnny's complaining that the boat was drifting back, fairly gave in. I had always relieved the old man when we had to cross the loch, or go quickly past bad fishing-ground, upon which occasions I used to hear Johnny taunting him. When I took the oar, Sandy always had his revenge, by "You've met your match noo, lad." Since it was impossible to fish any of the way back, I dried my lines along the shore, and determined to enjoy the lonely walk to the inn. The road for some miles was a steep mountain track, which seemed only fitted for a flock of goats. On some parts of this dismal region the sun seldom shines, and on others never a ray penetrates, summer or winter. The whole hill was studded with jagged rock and stone, and a more dreary path could hardly be imagined. Gloomy without grandeur. Slowly we plodded to accommodate poor old Sandy, whose short breath effectually stopped his wild legends.
We had nearly gained the summit, from which there is a distant view of the loch, when Johnny, who had sauntered on a few paces before, stopped suddenly, and pointing to a little bing of stones: "This is the Tinkler's Cairn." "'Deed, no," says Sandy, with an air of superior knowledge, "I'll show the Tinkler's Cairn." And stumping on a few paces further, "This is the very bit where the
tinkler was murdered." I felt a thrill of horror. A more appropriate place for a deed of blood could not have been chosen; it looked like haunted ground, so bleak, and bare, and lonely, with its stern rocks of perpetual gloom. After carefully examining the little cairn of stones, which is always reared over the spot where a dead body is found upon the mountains, I asked Sandy to relate the story, the substance of which is as follows. A tinker and his termagant wife had long travelled the country. He was much older than his wife, who was a woman of immense muscular power, and nearly six feet high. "The puir body," said Sandy, "had little peace wi' her. A perfect she-deevil was Kirsty; I kent her weel. Mony a day after the deed was done she travelled the country, and her sons are to the fore yet." One day they left Cladich, and took their course over this mountain, in the way of their trade. From what motive is not known, but when they came to this spot, she seized a stone, murdered her wretched husband, then coolly walked on to the next sheeling, where she slept, and in the morning pursued her way through the hills. A shepherd soon after discovered the poor tinker, lying stark and gory upon his cold hard bed. The woman was taken up, but dismissed for want of evidence. Life was held light in the Highlands in those days, and soon little was said or thought about the poor lost tinker or his tyrant mate.
I felt relieved to quit this dismal scene, and to descend the more sunny side of the hill. We were now threading the waving woods of Sonachan and Rock Hill, where the blithe mavis was pouring its evening melody from the topmost bough of many a tall pine or shadowy beech. I took the opportunity of explaining to Johnny that the
large "stells" paid a deal o' money to government, which they could not do if the little ones were allowed to compete and pay nothing; that government paid an army with this money to keep the French from coming over, and taking him where he would never see a glass of whiskey more that if he objected to pay soldiers in this way, he must e'en go and be a "soger" himself for nothing, to prevent the aforesaid French inroad. This last piece of logic evidently had some effect; and I question if Johnny will long for the strong waters of "Loch Ow'," the next time he is so fortunate as to be presented with a glass from the large "stells" of Glenlivat or Glen Islay.
Arrived at Cladich, my first step was to order in the weighing machine, when my fish proved 15 lbs. odd, so must have been nearly sixteen when taken out of the water. I had killed in Loch Vennacher, the year before, with single gut, a clean salmon which weighed seventeen pounds when brought home. This salmon did not make near so fierce a run as the Loch Awe trout with gimp. I have heard gentlemen speak slightingly of the best trout when compared with salmon; but let them have one of these Loch Awe monsters on their hooks, in as good condition as mine was, and I venture to say they will not complain of the want of mettle in the trout. I have no doubt that the salmo-ferox is superior, both in strength and spirit, to the salmo-salar. Unless the ferox is in first-rate condition, his head is very ugly, and looks much too large for his body. This was not the case with the specimen I have just described; his head is smaller, and his shoulder more round than any I have ever taken; on which account he is now stuffed, and may be seen at Fenton's, in George Street, Edinburgh.