Page:Footsteps of Dr. Johnson.djvu/237

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was so boggy that it would not bear the weight of horse and rider, and they were forced to dismount and walk. It was late in the afternoon when they reached Uunvegan Castle that hospitable home where Johnson " tasted lotus, and was in danger," as he said, "of forgetting that he was ever to depart." This ancient seat of the Macleods was less beautiful, but far more interesting as he saw it than it is at the present clay. The barrenness of nature has been covered with a luxuriant growth, and the land all around " which presented nothing but wild, moorish, hilly, and craggy appear- ances," is now finely wooded. But while the setting is so greatly improved, the ancient building which is enshrined has suffered beneath the hand of a restorer. It is true that some great improve- ments have been made. The wing which had so long been left unfinished, through a superstitious fear that the owner would not long outlive the completion " this skeleton of a castle," as Johnson describes it has been completed. A fine approach has been formed from the side of the land. But in the alterations which were made about fifty years ago an architect was employed who must surely have acquired his mischievous art in erecting sham fortresses on the banks of the Clyde for the wealthy traders of Glasgow. It is greatly to be wished that a judicious earthquake would bring to the ground his pepper-box turrets. Nevertheless, in spite of all that he has done and he did his worst, it still remains a noble pile, nobly placed. It is built on the rocky shore of a small bay, and well sheltered from the violence of the waves by an island which lies across the mouth, and by headlands on both sides. Through narrow inlets are seen the open waters of Loch Follart, and beyond them the everlasting hills. We saw it on a fine summer evening, when the long seaweeds were swaying in the gentle heaving of the tiny waves. Outside the bay two yachts were furling their sails, for the morrow was the day of rest. The sea-birds were hovering and screaming all around. A great heron was standing on a rock, with his white breast reflected in the water. A little to the north a long mast was lying on the beach, washed up from a wreck which, black with seaweed, is discovered at low tide. The old castle, the finely wooded hills, the rocks covered with fern and heath, the clear reflections in the sea of the mountains across the loch, the island, the inlets, the white sails of the yachts, the tranquil beauty of the summer evening all moved us deeply. One thing only was wanting. The delightful weather which the

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