Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

“ The dinner was gude, and sae were the wines :

Hark, hark, says Willie ;
Come listen each one who to music inclines,
And I'll sing a short song o’some four hundred lines ;

Wi' my dactyl and spondee,

My Latin and Greek-
List ! says musical Willie.”

Song of the Morayshire Society.

SILCHESTER liked to know everybody in the Silchester village and vicinage, whether dependent on him or otherwise. Few strangers came thither; but at the little fishing hamlet of Mount St. Nicholas there were visitors now and then, who got into stuffy little cottages how they could. There was a legend in the place that a lady from London took the ground floor, two rooms, of old Bill Rendell's cottage-unaware that there was indeed no floor at all, but native mud, which Bill had deftly carpeted. Under the bed in the sleeping-room was a nice little pool, which Bill's pet Muscovy ducks were used to haunt, when he and his wife were sleeping there. He forgot to turn them out when his lodger came, and at

at midnight she was awakened by strange sounds under the bed, and rushed out into the street in airy attire, screaming that she had heard ghostly sounds. The spectral utterances were of course Quack ! quack !

Mount St. Nicholas is so called because high above the fishing village, on a green hill that can be seen miles away, there stands an old church with a high square tower, dedicated to St. Nicholas. The church and hamlet are just beyond the limits of Silchester manor, and belong to an old family with great estates far away in Northumberland, who seldom visit this despised property. Yet the founder of the house lies in St. Nicholas Church, an illegible bronze above him; and the old gray dwelling which his descendants used to inhabit, built of granite, with all sorts of ancient anomalies, stands midway down the slope, about as far below the church as above the top of the steep village street. That street is a pitched path six feet wide, with a rivulet running down it when the springs rise on St. Nicholas Mount; and descends to the sea so steeply that to walk down the roof of a house were not much safer. Timid people can cling to the pales of the cottage gardens, which are however rather rickety.

The Manor House at Mount St. Nicholas, as it was magniloquently called, was generally to let. Once an enterprising speculatòr had furnished it second-hand, and tried to attract visitors by advertising in the Times the beauty and salubrity of the situation, and the perfect

accommodation; but he did not take much by it. It stood empty for a long time; then, about five years after the Squire's marriage, it was taken by a Scottish gentleman, who bore the name of William Nairn, and who settled

down permanently, with no companions save · his man-servant, Donald, and a colley dog of

remarkable sagacity. Mr. Nairn was a ruddy broad-shouldered man of five feet eight, with a merry twinkle in his eye, and a pleasant halfcynical half-Epicurean expression of mouth. His servant Donald was a gaunt Highlander of six feet four, who wore the kilt. A little Devonshire maid who came to the Manor House with cream on the day after the arrival, ran away when Donald opened the door, dropping her pitcher. She came crying to her mother, declaring that she had seen a she-giant, that wanted to eat her up.

The relations between the fishing folk and their new neighbours soon became friendly. Mr. Nairn was a middle-aged bachelor, kindhearted and open-handed; he liked to play the flute and the fiddle ; he liked to make a homely song, music and all, and sing it among uncritical friends over a bowl of whisky punch; he liked to turn into English doggrel a morsel of Moschus or an ode of Horace. What brought him to Mount St. Nicholas puzzled the simple fishing folk; puzzled even more Squire Silchester and Dr. Sterne, when they came to know him, which was not long.

As to Donald, his tall henchman, he loved his master thoroughly, but despised him for being a 'Lowlander, and for playing the flute and fiddle. He, Donald, played the bagpipes ; had played that dread wind instrument behind the chair of a great chief of the Campbells, when a hundred gentlemen dined from gold plate by the blaze of pine-torches. He was wont to walk up and down the sands on a moonlight night, and play tune upon tune for hours together-enough to frighten all the fish of the sea : still

« НазадПродовжити »