Chapter Ten

WHEN THE AUTUMN run of salmon came into the loch, these were days to make a fisherman's pulse beat faster. Dr. Cameron well knew my ruling passion and in this season gave me many an afternoon off -- from kindness of heart, no doubt, yet perhaps also because he was very partial to a slice of "brandered" grilse.

It was on one of these excursions that I made acquaintance with the strange character known on the lochside as Houseboat Tam, and thereafter I seldom went fishing without calling upon him. If I failed to do so, then Tam like as not would call on me, swimming up silently behind my dinghy and bursting triumphantly into view with a loud laugh or a friendly halloo. He would stay for a moment treading water, smiling naïvely, exchanging a word or two of news, then down would go his wet, black head, and he would glide away, striking through the water like a seal to where his old houseboat lay moored in Sandy Bay. It was here that Tam Douglas lived his solitary life, though to call Tam's home a houseboat was flattery of the first degree.

In her early days the boat had been a coal scow, plying between Levenford and Overton on the Fourth and Clyde Canal. With the finish of the barge trade she had lain for years mouldering in the mud of the Leven Estuary. In course of time a ramshackle superstructure had been added to her hull, and with a lick of paint on her sodden timbers, she was tugged up to the loch in the hope that she might be sold for a fishing bothy.

-82-

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