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IT was the beginning of the summer holidays, and the Gordons, with Sandy, had come to Skylemore that the young people might spend their holidays together.
Many pleasant trips had been planned, and the first was to be a picnic on Loch Katrine, which was not far from Skylemore.
It was early on a bright summer's morning when Dugald, with his four prancing horses, appeared at the door, and the two Clans of Gordons and Lindsays, to say nothing of Sandy, who was a MacPherson, piled into the big break, along with many baskets full of good things.
With a waving of caps and handkerchiefs off they went, and soon they were driving along the beautiful mountain glens and through the Trossachs, which means literally a wooded gorge or ravine.
"There is the loch now," cried Don, presently.
"No, that is Loch Achray," said his uncle, '"and that mountain is Ben Venue, but we shall see Loch Katrine very soon" and it was not long before Dugald drew up on the very edge of the loch itself, and a camping-place was soon found under the trees and in sight of Ellen's Isle.
Rugs were brought from the break and spread on the ground around a big rock which was to serve as a table. Everybody helped to unpack the big baskets, for all were as hungry as if they had had no breakfasts.
Not much was said for a time but "Please pass that," and "Please pass this," and "Isn't this good?" until finally even the boys decided they had eaten enough.
"Papa, tell us about Ellen's Isle," said Janet, as they all sat around after lunch, and tried to see who could throw a stone the farthest into the water.
So Mr. Lindsay told them the story of the fair Ellen," whom Sir Walter Scott wrote of in his great poem called "The Lady of the Lake." Ellen was called "the lady of the lake," and lived with her father on the little island yonder. Then Mr. Lindsay told them of "Roderick Dhu," and of the gatherings of the Clan Alpine which took place in the old days in a glen not far away, and how at a signal armed men wrapped in their plaids would spring up out of the seemingly lonely dells and glens as if by magic.
Those were wild days in Scotland long ago, days of fierce fights and brave deeds, when Clans met and rushed into battle with a wild "slogan," as their battle-cry was known.
"Sandy says that he does not believe that 'Rob Roy' was a real person; but he was, and lived right here, didn't he, Uncle Alan?" said Don, eagerly, in defence of his hero.
"Indeed he did, and you would like to see his old home, wouldn't you, Don?"
"Wouldn't I!" said Don, and his eyes shone.
"Well, we will go there sometime; it is now a sheep-farm, but was once the old home of the Macgregors. In 'Rob Roy's time bands of lawless men came down from the north to steal cattle and do other kinds of mischief. So the 'lairds' in these parts paid 'Rob Roy' and his little band of followers to protect their property from these invaders and robbers. In after days the band was formed into a regiment called the 'Black Watch,' which to-day is one of the most famous of the Scotch regiments."
Sir Walter Scott has done much to make this part of Scotland well known, and people come from all over the world, and especially from America, anxious to see the beautiful country of rocks and glens and heather-clad mountains of which he wrote in his famous novels and poems.
From the telling of stories our Clansmen soon turned to singing songs, for the Scotch are full of sentiment, and are very fond of music. Some of the most beautiful of our popular songs have come from Scotland. There is one which is known the world over, and sung as often by little American cousins as by little Scotch cousins; and that is "Annie Laurie."
So when Aunt Jessie began to sing "Annie Laurie," all joined in with a will, and sang one of the sweetest songs the world has ever known:
"They sang of love and not of fame,
Forgot was Scotland's glory.
Each heart recalled a different name,
But all sang 'Annie Laurie.' "
After this there was a general scramble to get the things picked up. The whole party mounted again to their seats in the break, and Dugald made the four horses just fly for home; though they did not need much urging, as every horse seems to know when his head is turned homeward.
"Is that Robert Burns's house?" said Janet, in a disappointed voice.
"Yes, my dear," said her father, "great men have often been brought up in small houses like this. Bobby Burns was only a ploughboy, but he became a great poet, one of the greatest in the world."
Our little Scotch friends were standing before the little house at Ayr, where Robert Burns was born. They had come down from Glasgow for the day to visit that part of Scotland made famous by the poet. It is hard to say of whom the Scotch people are most fond and proud, Scott or Burns. The young people had looked forward with a great deal of pleasure to this visit, and they all felt pretty much as Janet did.
"OUR LITTLE SCOTCH FRIENDS WERE STANDING BEFORE
THE LITTLE HOUSE AT AYR, WHERE ROBERT BURNS WAS BORN."
It was a tiny house, what the country people call a "clay biggin," with a thatched roof. Inside are many relics of Burns, but the children were, perhaps, more interested in "Alloway's Auld Haunted Kirk." This is the small church of which Burns wrote in his poem, called "Tam-o'-shanter," where Tam saw the witches dance, and from whence he started on his wild ride, with the witches after him riding on broomsticks. It is one of the chief attractions for visitors.
"Oh! it is a creepy poem," said Don; and you will all think so, too, when you have read it.
They saw the "Auld Brig of Ayr," which means the old bridge, across the river Ayr, and they walked along the "Banks and Braes o' Bonnie Doon," of which Burns wrote and which he loved so well. They visited the monument to Burns. Marjorie remarked that it was not a very grand monument, not nearly so grand as that to Scott in Edinburgh; and she was quite right.
"Not far from Ayr was the home of Annie Laurie," said Mr. Lindsay, as the train speeded them back to Glasgow.
"Was she a real person, father?" eagerly exclaimed the little girls together.
"Indeed she was, though her eyes were black and not blue," said Mr. Lindsay.
"How do you know?" asked Janet, who liked to be exact.
"Because her portrait is still to be seen at Maxwelton House, near the town of Dumfries, where she lived," replied her father.
"Well, I'd rather her eyes had been blue," said Marjorie, and the children kept talking about blue and black eyes until, they reached the great St. Enoch's railway station at Glasgow.
There are so many delightful journeys to be made from Glasgow by rail and steamer that it is one of the best starting points in all Scotland for excursions, of which all children and most old folks are so fond. The Lindsays and the Gordons were accordingly to stay in Glasgow for a week, that the young people might enjoy more of these rare treats, and take some of the lovely sails on the river Clyde and among the near-by islands.
Don and Sandy were having some hot discussions as to which was the finest city in Scotland, Glasgow or Edinburgh. This was about the only thing that the boys ever disagreed on. Sandy's father came originally from Glasgow, so Sandy always stood up for it.
"It's a big city, and lots richer than Edinburgh; and think of all the business that is done here, and of the lots and lots of ships that come and go from all parts of the world. It's the largest city in Scotland, too, and the second city of the kingdom," Sandy would say.
"But it's not so beautiful as Edinburgh. It hasn't anything like Princes Street, nor so many famous old buildings and historic places, nor our great colleges. Anybody had rather live in Edinburgh -- you know you would, Sandy," Don would argue.
And the truth of it all was, both boys were right.
Early one morning found our party gathered on the steamer Lord of the Isles for a cruise around the islands off the coast. They passed the great ship-building yards of the Clyde, the largest in the world, as they steamed down the river. The ships built upon the Clyde have always been famous all over the world.
"There is Gourock Bay, where the great racing yachts anchor," said Mr. Lindsay. "It was always thought to be a lucky place to set sail. It was from this bay that many of the yachts sailed for America when they were to make the attempt to capture the 'America's Cup,' that you doubtless all know about; but while these Clyde-built boats were fine yachts, none of them have been lucky enough to bring back the cup."
Next was seen the Island of Bute and the old Castle of Rothesay. Here they entered a narrow bit of water, called the Kyles of Bute, from which they entered Loch Fyne, famous for its fresh herrings.
Another steamer took them through the Crinan Canal, and thence to Oban, the capital of the Western Highlands.
In this part of Scotland, called by every one the Highlands, are the great deer forests of many thousands of acres, belonging to some of the great families of Scotland, where the wild deer is hunted, or "stalked," as it is called. Here, too, are wild moors, stretching for miles and miles, where few people live except the shepherds who look after the flocks.
There was another fine summer which was enjoyed greatly by our little Scotch cousins, and that was when some young American cousins came to visit the Lindsays, and they all went on Uncle Alan's yacht for a lovely sail of many days, among the islands which fringe the northern and western coasts of Scotland. It was on this occasion that they all went to the Isle of Skye (some of you have probably heard of the Skye terriers), and they stopped, too, at the Shetland Isles, where the little horses come from. Every girl and boy wants to own a dear little Shetland pony.
Didn't they have a splendid time on this trip! That was the time, too, when Donald and Sandy got left behind on one of the islands where they had all landed for a picnic, -- but that's another story!
So many little cousins are waiting to talk about themselves that we must really get our little Clan safely back home, and leave them for the present to talk over the good times they have had together.