Scotland – Macbeth’s Castle

“Do you see that mountain a little way on, with the level top, Mr. Wing l” asked Mr. Henderson. I assented. “Did ever you hear of a man named Macbeth them” “Oh, the man in Shakspeare?” “Yes, the same. Well, Macbeth’s castle stood on that hill; the ramparts are there today, and across the valley is Birnam Wood. Do you not see it on the farther slopes? You may recall that it was said that Macbeth’s castle would stand until Birnam Wood should march across the valley. It was a sort of prophecy. Well, the soldiers took branches of the trees of Birnam Wood and carried them as living trees, and so hidden they marched across the plain to attack the castle and it fell.”

Shakspeare had stood on this very mountain, maybe, and seen these things with his own eyes; had drunk in the scene and seen it in time of storm and darkness, too. Macbeth is no fairy tale; and here in this lovely valley beside the grim mountains, today gay with heather, was the scene of perhaps the most tremendous and terrible setting forth of the workings of the human ambitions and the most terrific lesson of the working of a guilty conscience ever conceived by man. What an old world is this bonnie Scotland. How stern and grim it can be, yet how sweet and smiling and flower-decked it was that day. No wonder the people love it. No wonder they hold fast to its soil, traditions and kindly tongue.

The Scots have a passion for fertility. They enrich their soils in every possible way. I could not but observe that the farm laborers in Scotland are larger, stronger and more efficient than in England. Is that the result of oats and milk, or is it because they use less alcohol, or is there a combination of reasons difficult to unravel?

Mr. Henderson had turned over to me some of his farm account books, so that I could study his system, and a very perfect one it proved to be. He grazes and feeds a great many cattle and sheep, usually sheep, buying them in the market, fattening them on grass and cake, and selling them again. One of his books was of his own design. Two pages are given to each lot of cattle or sheep; the page to the left has columns for numbers of animals, weights, costs, dates bought and so on. The opposite page has columns for deaths, sales and prices received, with dates for all. Thus each lot of animals is fully accounted for in the one place. A glance shows what they cost, how many were lost, how long it took them to fatten and what they finally brought. The one deficiency seemed to be that no effort was made to estimate the amount of feed that they had consumed. However, the profits seemed often great, far in excess of what we hope to get in America.