Page:Footsteps of Dr. Johnson.djvu/204

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T6 2 SHEEP INSTEAD OF MEN.

Johnson, stoiit-heajted though he was. " I believe," he says, " they were without any evil intention, but they had a very savage wiklness of aspect and manner." My friend, the minister of Glen Shiel, pointed out to me that it was no doubt mere curiosity which brought them round him. Johnson was as strange a sight to them as they were to Johnson. An earlier traveller in the Hebrides has expressed this very well. " livery man and thing 'I met with," he writes, " seemed a novelty. 1 thought myself entering upon a new scene of nature, but nature rough and unpolished. Men, manners, habits, buildings, everything different from our own ; and if we thought them rude and barbarous, no doubt the people had the same opinion of what belonged to us, and the wonder was mutual." '

Auchnasheal has been swept away ; nothing of it is left but a few banks of earth and the foundations of the one stone house. The same fate has befallen it which befell that other village near Fort Augustus where Coleridge heard a Highland widow mourn over the desolation of the land :

" ' Within this space,' she said, ' how short a time back ! there lived a hundred and seventy-three persons, and now there is only a shepherd and an underling or two. Yes, Sir ! One hundred and seventy-three Christian souls, man, woman, boy, girl, and babe, and in almost every home an old man by the fire-side, who would tell you of the troubles before our roads were made; and many a brave youth among them who loved the birthplace of his forefathers, yet would swing about his broad-sword, and want but a word to march off to the battles over sea ; aye, Sir, and many a good lass who had a respect for herself. Well, but they are gone, and with them the bristled bear [barley] and the pink haver [oats], and the potato plot that looked as gay as any flower-garden with its blossoms ! I sometimes fancy that the very birds are gone all but the crows and the gleads [kites]. Well, and what then ? Instead of us all, there is one shepherd man, and it may be a pair of small lads and a many, many sheep ! And do you think, Sir, that God allows of such proceedings?'"

The desolation had already begun even at the time of our travellers' visit. Their host of the evening before was following seventy of the dalesmen to America, whither they had been driven by a rack-renting landlord. " I asked, him," writes Johnson, " whether they would stay at home if they were well-treated. He answered with indignation, that no man willingly left his native country."

Taking leave of these inoffensive, if wild-looking people, our travellers rode on, much refreshed by their repast. They had, as Johnson complained, " very little entertainment, as they travelled

1 W. Sacheverell's Account of the Isle of Man, &v., p. 128. Lay Simian, eel. 1870, p. 427.

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