« PreviousContinue »
symbol of a life-with all the qualities there, the sweetness, the affection, the passion, the divine despair, the longing, even the valours and the faiths to make a great accomplishment, but yet lacking some essential note. And as he waited once again for its recurrence he fell asleep.
as we say As he side of the est benignit in a sun
the doute petir of the the castle little
It was difficult for Count Victor, when he went abroad in the morning, to revive in memory the dreary and mysterious impressions of his arrival; and the melody he had heard so often half-completed in the dark waste and hollow of the night was completely gone from his recollection, leaving him only the annoying sense of something on the tongue's-tip, as we say, but as unattainable as if it had never been heard. As he walked upon a little knoll that lay between the seaside of the castle and the wave itself, he found an air of the utmost benignity charged with the odours of wet autumn woodlands in a sunshine. And the sea stretched serene; the mists that had gathered in the night about the hills were rising like the smoke of calm hearths into a sky without a cloud. The castle itself, for all its natural arrogance and menace, had something pleasant in its aspect looked at from this small eminence, where the garden did not display its dishevelment and even the bedraggled bower seen from the rear had a look of trim composure.
To add to the morning's cheerfulness Mungo was afoot whistling a ballad air of the low country, with a regard for neither time nor tune in his puckered lips as he sat on a firkin-head at an outhouse door and gutted some fish he had caught with his own hands in a trammel net at the river-mouth
before Montaiglon was awake and the bird, as the Gaelic goes, had drunk the water.
“Gude mornin' to your honour," he cried with an elaborately flourished salute as Montaiglon sauntered up to him. “ Ye're early on the move, monsher; a fine caller mornin'. I hope ye sleepit weel ; it was a gowsty nicht.”
In spite of his assumed indifference and the purely casual nature of his comment upon the night, there was a good deal of cunning, thought Montaiglon, in the beady eyes of him, but the stranger only smiled at the ease of those Scots domestic manners.
"I did very well, I thank you,” said he. “My riding and all the rest of it yesterday would have made me sleep soundly inside the drum of a marching regiment.”
* That's richt, that's richt,” said Mungo, ostentatiously handling the fish with the awkward repugnance of one unaccustomed to a task so menial, to prove perhaps that cleansing them was none of his accustomed office. " That's richt. When we were campaignin' wi' Marlborough oor lads had many a time to sleep wi' the cannon dirlin' aboot them. Ye get us'd to't, as Annapla says aboot bein' a weedow woman. And if ye hae noticed it, Coont, there's nae people mair adapted for fechtin' under diffeeculties than oor ain; that's what maks the Scots the finest sogers in the warld. It's the build o' them, Lowlan' or Hielan', the breed o' them; the dour hard character o' their country and their mainner o' leevin'. We gied the English a fleg at the 'Forty-five,' didnae we? That was where the tartan cam' in: man, there's naethin' like us!”
“You do not speak like a Highlander," said Montaiglon, finding some of this gasconade unintelligible.
“No, I'm no' exactly a'thegether a Hielan'man," Mungo admitted, “though I hae freends connekit wi' the auldest clans, and though I'm, in a mainner o' speakin', i' the tail o' Doom, as I was i' the tail o' his faither afore him-peace wi' him, he was the grand soger!-but Hielan' or Lowlan', we gied them their scuds at the 'Forty-five. Scots regiments, sir, a' the warld ower, hae had the best o't for fechtin', marchin', or glory. See them at the auld grand wars o' Sweden wi’ Gustavus, was there ever the like o' them? Or in your ain country, whaur's the bate o' the Gairde Ecossay, as they
cahaur's the co' themeden wicy See them bes
He spoke with such a zest, he seemed to fire with such a martial glow, that Montaiglon began to fancy that this amusing grotesque, who in stature came no higher than his waist, might have seen some service as sutler or groom in a campaigning regiment.
“Ma foi ! " he exclaimed, with his surprise restrained from the most delicate considerations for the little man's feelings; “have you been in the wars?"
It was manifestly a home-thrust to Mungo. He had risen, in his moment of braggadocio, and was standing over the fish with a horn-hilted guttingknife in his hands, that were sanguine with his occupation, and he had, in the excess of his feeling, made a flourish of the knife, as if it were a dagger, when Montaiglon's query checked him. He was a bubble burst, his backbone—that braced him to the tension of a cuirassier of guards—melted into air, into thin air, and a ludicrous limpness came on him, while his eye fell, and confusion showed about his mouth.
“In the wars!” he repeated. “Weel-no jist a'thegether what ye micht call i' the wars—though in a mainner o' speakin', gey near't. I had an uncle oot wi' Balmerino; ye may hae heard tell o'm, a man o' tremendous valour, as was generally alooed
-Dugald Boyd, by my faither's side. There's been naethin' but sogers in oor faimily since the beginnin' o'time, and mony ane o' them's deid and dusty in foreign lands. If it hadnae been for the want o' a half inch or thereby in the height o' my heels”here he stood upon his toes—“I wad hae been in the
pected and suBefore he could c.melody of the
airmy mysel'. It's the only employ for a man o' spunk, and there's spunk in Mungo Boyd, mind I'm tellin' ye !”
"It is the most obvious thing in the world, good Mungo,” said Montaiglon, smiling. “You eviscerate fish with the gusto of a gladiator."
And then an odd thing happened to relieve Mungo's embarrassment and end incontinent his garrulity. Floating on the air round the bulge of the turret came a strain of song in a woman's voice, not powerful but rich and sweet, young in its accent, the words inaudible but the air startling to Count Victor, who heard no more than half a bar before he had realised that it was the unfinished melody of the nocturnal flageolet. Before he could comment upon so unexpected and surprising a phenomenon, Mungo had dropped his gutting-knife, and made with suspicious rapidity for the entrance of the castle, without a word of explanation or leave-taking.
“I become decidedly interested in Annapla," said Montaiglon to himself, witnessing this odd retreat, “and my host gives me no opportunity of paying my homages. Malediction! It cannot be a wife; Bethune said nothing of a wife, and then M. le Baron himself spoke of himself as a widower. A domestic, doubtless; that will more naturally account for the ancient fishmonger's fleet retirement. He goes to chide the erring abigail. Or-or-or the cunning wretch !” continued Montaiglon with new meaning in his eyes, “he is perhaps the essential lover. Let the Baron at breakfast elucidate the mystery."
But the Baron at breakfast said never a word of the domestic economy of his fortalice. As they sat over a frugal meal of oat porridge, the poached fish, and a smoky high-flavoured mutton ham whose history the Count was happy not to know, his host's conversation was either upon Paris, where he had spent some months of sad expatriation, yawning at its gaiety (it seemed) and longing for the woods of