« AnteriorContinuar »
More of the Manor House and its Environs.
AFTER having satisfied his curiosity by gazing around him for a few minutes, Waverley applied himself to the massive knocker of the hall-door, the architrave of which bore the date 1594.
But no answer was returned, though the peal resounded through a number of apartments, and was echoed from the courtyard walls without the house, startling the pigeons from the venerable rotunda which they occupied, and alarming anew even the distant village curs, which had retired to sleep upon their respective dunghills. Tired of the din which he created, and the unprofitable responses which it excited, Waverley began to think that he had reached the castle of Orgoglio, as entered by the victorious Prince Arthur,
When 'gan he loudly through the house to call,
But no man cared to answer to his cry;
Filled almost with expectation of beholding some « old, old man, with beard as white as snow,» whom he might question concerning this deserted mansion, our hero turned to a little oaken wicket-door, well clenched with iron nails, which opened in the court-yard wall at its angle with the house. It was only latched, notwithstanding its fortified appearance, and when opened, admitted him into the garden, which presented a pleasing scene. The southern side of the house, clothed with fruittrees, and having many evergreens trained upon its walls, extended its irregular yet venerable front along a terrace, partly paved, partly gravelled, partly bordered with flowers and choice shrubs. This elevation descended by three several flights of steps, placed in its centre and at the extremities, into what might be called the garden proper, and was fenced along the top by a stone parapet, with a heavy balustrade, ornamented from space to space with huge grotesque figures of animals seated upon their haunches, among which the favourite bear was repeatedly introduced.
Placed in the middle of the terrace, between a sashed door opening from the house and the central flight of steps, a huge animal of the same species supported on his head and fore paws a sun-dial of large circumference, inscribed with more diagrams than Edward's mathematics enabled him to decypher.
The garden, which seemed to be kept with great accuracy, and abounded in fruit-trees, exhibited a profusion of flowers and evergreens, cut into grotesque forms. It was laid out in terraces, which descended rank by rank from the western wall to a large brook, which had a tranquil and smooth appearance where it served as a boundary to the garden; but near the extremity, leaped in tumult over a strong dam, or wear-head, the cause of its temporary tranquillity, and there forming a cascade, was overlooked by an octangular summer-house, with a gilded bear on the top by way of vane. After this feat, the brook, assuming its natural rapid and fierce character, escaped from the eye down a deep and wooded dell, from the copse of which arose a 'massive, but ruinous tower, the former habitation of the barons of Bradwardine. The margin of the brook, opposite to the garden, displayed a narrow meadow, or haugh, as it was called, which formed a small washing-green; the bank which retired behind it was covered by ancient trees.
The scene, though pleasing, was not quite equal to the gardens of Alcina; yet it wanted not the «due donzelette garrulev of that enchanted paradise, for upon the green aforesaid two bare-legged damsels, each standing in a spacious tub, performed with their feet the office of a patent washing-machine. These did
not, however, like the maidens of Arinida, remain to greet with their harmony the approaching guest, but, alarmed at the appearance of a handsome stranger on the opposite side, dropped their garments (I should say garment, to be quite correct) over their limbs, which their occupation exposed somewhat too freely, and, with a shrill exclamation of « Eh, sirs b» uttered with an accent between modesty and coquetry, sprung off like deer in different directions.
Waverley began to despair of gaining entrance into this solitary and seemingly enchanted mansion, when a man advanced up one of the garden alleys, where he still retained his station. Trusting this might be a gardener, or some domestic belonging to the house, Edward descended the steps in order to meet him; but as the figure approached, and long before he could descry its features, he was struck with the oddity of its appearance and gestures. Sometimes this mister wight held his hands clasped over his head, like an Indian Jogue in the attitude of penance; sometimes he swung them perpendicularly, like a pendulum, on each side; and anon he slapped them swiftly and repeatedly across his breast, like the substitute used by a hackney-coachman for his usual flogging exercise, when his cattle are idle upon the stand, in a clear frosty day. His gait was as singular as his gestures,
for at times he hopped with great perseverance on the right foot, then exchanged that supporter to advance in the same manner on the left, and then putting his feet close together, he hopped upon both at once. His dress also was antiquated and extravagant. It consisted in a sort of grey jerkin, with scarlet cuffs and slashed sleeves, showing a scarlet lining; the other parts of the dress corresponded in colour, not forgetting a pair of scarlet stockings, and a scarlet bonnet, proudly surmounted with a turkey's feather. Edward, whom he did not seem to observe, now perceived confirmation in his features of what the mien and gestures had already announced. It was apparently neither idiocy nor insanity which gave that wild, unsettled, irregular expression to a face which naturally was rather handsome, but something that resembled a compound of both, where the simplicity of the fool was mixed with the extravagance of a crazed imagination. He sung with great earnestness, and not without some taste, a fragment of an old Scotch ditty:
False love, and hast thou play'd me this
In summer among the flowers?
In winter among the showers.
Unless you turn again ;
I'll smile on other men.