Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

self a gentleman, was disposed to be rude to his guest, because he had not bespoke the pleasure of his society to supper. The next day, traversing an open and uninclosed country,

Edward gradually approached the Highlands of Perthshire, which at first had appeared a blue outline in the horizon, but now swelled into huge gigantic masses, which frowned defiance over the more level country that lay beneath them. Near the bottom of this stupendous barrier, but still in the Lowland country, dwelt Cosmo Comyne Bradwardine of Bradwardine; and if grey-haired eld can be in aught believed, there had dwelt his ancestors, with all their heritage, since the days of the gracious King Duncan.

CHAPTER VIII.

A Scottish Manor House Sixty Years since.

It was about noon when Captain Waverley. entered the straggling village, or rather hamlet, of Tully-Veolan, close to which was situated the mansion of the proprietor. The houses seemed miserable in the extreme, especially to an eye accustomed to the smiling neatness. of English cottages. They stood, without any respect for regularity, on each side of a straggling kind of unpaved street, where children, almost in a primitive state of nakedness, lay sprawling, as if to be crushed by the hoofs of the first passing horse. Occasionally, indeed, when such a consummation seemed inevitable, a watchful old grandam, with her close cap, distaff, and spindle, rushed like a sybil in frenzy out of one of these miserable cells, dashed into the middle of the path, and snatching up her own charge from among the sunburnt loiterers, saluted him with a sound cuff,

and transported him back to his dungeon, the little white-headed varlet screaming all the while from the very top of his lungs a shrilly treble to the growling remonstrances of the enraged matron. Another part in this concert was sustained by the incessant yelping of idle useless curs, which followed, snarling, barking, howling, and snapping at the horses' heels; a nuisance at that time so common in Scotland, that a French tourist, who, like other travellers, longed to find a good and rational reason for every thing he saw, has recorded, as one of the memorabilia of Caledonia, that the state maintained in each village a relay of curs, called collies, whose duty it was to chase the chevaux de poste (too starved and exhausted to move without such a stimulus) from one hamlet to another, till their annoying convoy drove them to the end of their stage. The evil and remedy (such as it is) still exist. But this is remote from our present purpose, and is only thrown out for consideration of the collectors under Mr Dent's dog-bill.

As Waverley moved on, here and there an old man, bent as much by toil as years, his eyes bleared with age and smoke, tottered to the door of his hut, to gaze on the dress of the stranger and the form and motions of the horses, and then assembled, with his neighbours, in a little group at the smithy, to discuss the probabilities of whence the stranger came,

and where he might be going. Three or four village girls, returning from the well or brook with pitchers and pails upon their heads, formed more pleasing objects, and, with their thin short gowns and single petticoats, bare arms, legs, and feet, uncovered heads and braided hair, somewhat resembled Italian forms of landscape. Nor could a lover of the picturesque have challenged either the elegance of their costume, or the symmetry of their shape, although, to say the truth, a mere Englishman, in search of the comfortable, a word peculiar to his native tongue, might have wished the clothes less scanty, the feet and legs somewhat protected from the weather, the head and complexion shrouded from the sun, or perhaps might even have thought the whole person and dress considerably improved, by a plentiful application of spring water, with a quantum sufficit of soap. The whole scene was depressing, for it argued, at the first glance, at least a stagnation of industry, and perhaps of intellect. Even curiosity, the busiest passion of the idle, seemed of a listless cast in the village of Tully-Veolan: the curs aforesaid alone showed any part of its activity; with the villagers it was passive. They stood and gazed at the handsome young officer and his attendant, but without any of those quick motions and eager looks, that indicate the earnestness with which those who live in mo

4

VOL. I.

notonous ease at home, look out for amusement abroad. Yet the physiognomy of the people, when more closely examined, was far from exhibiting the indifference of stupidity; their features were rough, but remarkably intelligent, grave, but the very reverse of stupid; and from among the young women, an artist might have chosen more than one model whose features and form resembled those of Minerva. The children also, whose skins were burnt black, and whose hair was bleached white, by the influence of the sun, had a look and manner of life and interest. It seemed, upon the whole, as if poverty, and indolence, its too frequent companion, were combining to depress the natural genius and acquired information of a hardy, intelligent, and reflecting peasantry.

Some such thoughts crossed Waverley's mind as he paced his horse slowly through the rugged and flinty street of Tully-veolan, interrupted only in his meditations by the occasional cabrioles which his charger exhibited at the reiterated assaults of these canine Cossacks, the collies before mentioned. The village was more than half a mile long, the cottages being irregularly divided from each other by gardens, or yards, as the inhabitants called them, of different sizes, where (for it is Sixty Years since) the now universal potatoe was unknown, but which were stored with gigantic

« AnteriorContinuar »