This eastern side of the lake was the special abode of the clan McGregor. At no great distance, the struggles of the Jacobites and Hanoverians repeatedly dyed with blood these lonely glens. Over these scenes shines the pale moon, called in old ballads 'Macfarlane's lantern.' Among these rocks still echo the immortal names of Rob Roy and McGregor Campbell."
As the SINCLAIR advanced along the base of the mountain, the country became more and more abrupt in character. Trees were only scattered here and there; among them were the willows, slender wands of which were formerly used for hanging persons of low degree.
"To economize hemp," remarked James Starr.
The lake narrowed very much as it stretched northwards.
The steamer passed a few more islets, Inveruglas, Eilad-whow, where stand some ruins of a stronghold of the clan MacFarlane. At length the head of the loch was reached, and the SINCLAIR stopped at Inversnaid.
Leaving Loch Arklet on the left, a steep ascent led to the Inn of Stronachlacar, on the banks of Loch Katrine.
There, at the end of a light pier, floated a small steamboat, named, as a matter of course, the Rob Roy. The travelers immediately went on board; it was about to start. Loch Katrine is only ten miles in length; its width never exceeds two miles. The hills nearest it are full of a character peculiar to themselves.
"Here we are on this famous lake," said James Starr. "It has been compared to an eel on account of its length and windings: and justly so. They say that it never freezes. I know nothing about that, but what we want to think of is, that here are the scenes of the adventures in the Lady of the Lake. I believe, if friend Jack looked about him carefully, he might see, still gliding over the surface of the water, the shade of the slender form of sweet Ellen Douglas."
"To be sure, Mr. Starr," replied Jack; "why should I not? I may just as well see that pretty girl on the waters of Loch Katrine, as those ugly ghosts on Loch Malcolm in the coal pit."
It was by this time three o'clock in the afternoon. The less hilly shores of Loch Katrine westward extended like a picture framed between Ben An and Ben Venue. At the distance of half a mile was the entrance to the narrow bay, where was the landing-place for our tourists, who meant to return to Stirling by Callander.
Nell appeared completely worn out by the continued excitement of the day. A faint ejaculation was all she was able to utter in token of admiration as new objects of wonder or beauty met her gaze. She required some hours of rest, were it but to impress lastingly the recollection of all she had seen.
Her hand rested in Harry's, and, looking earnestly at her, he said, "Nell, dear Nell, we shall soon be home again in the gloomy region of the coal mine. Shall you not pine for what you have seen during these few hours spent in the glorious light of day?"
"No, Harry," replied the girl; "I shall like to think about it, but I am glad to go back with you to our dear old home."
"Nell!" said Harry, vainly attempting to steady his voice, "are you willing to be bound to me by the most sacred tie? Could you marry me, Nell?"
"Yes, Harry, I could, if you are sure that I am able to make you happy," answered the maiden, raising her innocent eyes to his.
Scarcely had she pronounced these words when an unaccountable phenomenon took place. The Rob Roy, still half a mile from land, experienced a violent shock. She suddenly grounded. No efforts of the engine could move her.
The cause of this accident was simply that Loch Katrine was all at once emptied, as though an enormous fissure had opened in its bed. In a few seconds it had the appearance of a sea beach at low water. Nearly the whole of its contents had vanished into the bosom of the earth.
"My friends!" exclaimed James Starr, as the cause of this marvel became suddenly clear to him, "God help New Aberfoyle!"
CHAPTER XVI A FINAL THREAT
ON that day, in the colliery of New Aberfoyle, work w