Page:Footsteps of Dr. Johnson.djvu/290

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approaching from which Mr. Boswell could not be absent." On the morning of Tuesday, October 19, they started for Iona in a good strong boat, with four stout rowers under the guidance of the chief of the Macleanes. On the shore they took their last farewell of poor Col, "who," wrote Johnson, "had treated us with so much kindness, and concluded his favours by consigning us to Sir Allan." On the way they visited Mackinnon's Cave, on the opposite coast of Mull, the greatest natural curiosity," said Johnson, "he had ever seen." He thus describes it in a letter to Mrs. Thrale.

"We had some difficulty to make our way over the vast masses of broken rocks that lie before the entrance, and at the mouth were embarrassed with stones, which the sea had accumulated as at Brighthelmstone; but as we advanced we reached a floor of soft sand, and as we left the light behind us walked along a very spacious cavity vaulted overhead with an arch almost regular, by which a mountain was sustained, at least, a very lofty rock. From this magnificent cavern went a narrow passage to the right hand, which we entered with a candle, and though it was obstructed with great stones, clambered over them to a second expansion of the cave, in which there lies a great square stone, which might serve as a table. The cave goes onward to an unknown extent, but we were now one hundred and sixty yards under ground; we had but one candle, and had never heard of any that went further and came back; we therefore thought it prudent to return."

"Tradition," according to Boswell, "says that a piper and twelve men once advanced into this cave, nobody can tell how far; and never returned." It is indeed a wonderful place. As we sat on the rocks near the entrance, with the huge cliffs rising sheer above us, and the waves breaking at our feet, we could see in the distance Iona, with its beach of white sand, Staffa with its lofty masses of dark rock, Little Colonsay with the waves dashing in foam upon it, and on the horizon a coast which we took to be the island of Col. Vast masses of rock lay along the beach in huge and wild disorder. Beyond the cavern they came to an end; for there the cliff rose from the sea steep as the wall of a house. The cascade near the cave, which Boswell mentions, was falling in a very slender stream. Hard by a huge crag was covered almost to the top by the fresh young leaves of a great ivy-tree. It called up to my memory the ivy-mantled ruins of Kenilworth Castle.

Our travellers, taking boat again, continued their voyage along the shore of Mull. "The island of Staffa," writes Boswell, "we saw at no very great distance, but could not land upon it, the surge was so high on its rocky coast." It is strange that Sir James Mackintosh, with this passage before him, should have accused