The village wonders.
Like one greater than either of us, ‘"we woke one morning, and found ourselves famous."’--We had waked the previous morning very humdrum, ordinary specimens of the feminine gender, in Edinburg
morning, we found ourselves at a Highland village, and, as I have above said, famous.
Who are they?
That was the question that absorbed the postmaster and the toll-keeper — it perplexed the minister and the hotel-keeper — it interested the visitors at the hotel, and the cotters by the loch-side — the very dogs and birds inquired in their mute language, ‘"Who are they?"’ --It's a pity we were not young men, for we could have enjoyed ourselves much more even than we did, since we should not have needed to be so proper and quiet.
That was what we were not; but what we were, was the question.
All that was known was, that two ordinary-looking girls had suddenly appeared in the village at that dreamy fairy-time, a Highland sunset — that they had no luggage but what they carried in their hands — that they had immediately endeavored to secure lodgings anywhere but at the hotel, but in the scarcity of ‘"rooms to let, "’ had finally got accommodation at Mrs. Stewart
's small cottage; thereupon Mrs. Stewart
became as one of the lions — the mouthpiece of the wonders — the oracle of the village.
Opinions of us varied, as the following conversations will show.
It was not Mrs. Stewart
's fault that she could not supply them with definite information; for, amiable and kind- hearted though she was, she was not free from that in variable failing in country villages, especially Highland
ones — the love of gossip.
We easily saw how the different results of her conversations swayed her opinions, and the pleasure we found in confusing her transparent mind was quite piquant.
The second morning after our arrival, the postmaster and his wife found it necessary to visit Mrs. Stewart
‘"Sae ye've gotten twa leddies bidin' wi' ye, Mrs. Stewart
Wha are they?"’
's mind was not made up yet, and she took care not to express herself too strongly at first.)
‘"Ay, but I kenna wha they are. They havena tell me as yet; but leave me alane for findin' out funny things!"’
‘"Ye may weel say that!
Hoo lang are they gaun to bide wi' ye?"’
‘"Ane o' them tell me the day that they liket the place sae weel they wad stay a fortnight, if I wad keep them; and I said, 'Yes,' so I'm supposing they'll stay."’
‘"Can ye find oot their names?"’
I hear theirsels calling Ally and Carry and sometimes Granny; but ony mair I canna tell — I've had nae opportunity o' willin' it oot o' them; and I dinna like to ask downricht, 'What's your name?'"’
‘"When their letters come, we shall see; it they get ony rate."’
‘"They're writin' away this mornin' at ony rate."’
‘"We'll see then.
But what kind o' folk d' ye think they'll be?"’
‘"The faither o' ane o' them's a hoose-penter that's certain, for the lassie's brocht a bit brod to try her haun' upon; and I'm thinkin' the ither ane maun be the dochter o' a miller or corndealer: for they've some bits o' prent steekit thegither wi' yallow paper; it maun be on that trade, by the pictures ootside; and it's ca'd the Cornhill Maggseen.
‘"What has Maggy to do wi' Corn?"’
‘"I dinna ken."’
‘"I'm thinkin' they'll be dressmaker or milliner bodies theirsels, "’ suggested the postmistress.
they are no that weel pitten on!"’ responds her spouse,
‘"Sure certain, they hae just the claes they staun in, and puir enough trash it is. But ye ken cobblers' shoon are aye doun at the heel. "’
‘"I'm thinkin' they're no leddies, ony gate — leddies wad hae mair to say about theirsels,"’ said the postmaster.
‘"Ay, then they're aye talkin' and haverin' aboot lads."’
‘"Whilk is a sure sign o' a milliner."’
‘"There's ane that I think they maun be baith wantin' for they're kind o' fechtin' aboot him — they ca' him Garry Bauldie
I think he maun be some great catch, for they speak maist and langest aboot him — ye see they dinna ken that Hieland wa's are sae thin and just speak out their mind — but they've a deal o' havering aboot some Brownie or Browning
(ill-faured set a' thae brownies are) and aboot Curry Bell
Ye see I mind the names, to see if they'll be of ony use to me afterwards."’
‘"They maun be glaikit hizzies."’
‘"Yet I dinna think they're that a'thegither; they're sae quiet i' the house, and respectful' to me, and very little trouble — that's ae thing make me think they're no leddies.
And when they're no clishmacla vering o' nichts, if I'll gang in by accident, they're reading either aboot the grain-trade, or oot o'a bulk whaur lika sentence gangs jump wi' the ither, for a' the warld like a see-saw.
Pou'try, they ca'd it — but why pou'try, I dinna ken, if it's no that the jabbers o' a bubbly-jock or a clockin' hen hae mair sense in them."’
‘"Maybe because nane but geese or ither foul read them!"’
A hearty laugh and my appearance closed the important colloquy for the time.
That afternoon the carrier, in the same mysterious manner in which we appeared ourselves brought two portmanteaus for us.
‘"Here, Mrs. Stewart
, here's something solid for your leddies."’
What's their names?"’
‘"I dinna ken — no more than yersel.
I was tauld to leave them for the leddies at Mrs. Stewart
‘"Wha gie'd ye them?"’
‘"What did he say?"’
‘"Naething but what I've tell ye."’
This was a terminus, so she knocked at our door.
‘"Here's some luggage com'd; but we dinna ken if it should be for you. What name should be on it?"’
‘"Oh, it's all right.
We expected them.
Ask the man to bring them in."’
She did so with evident unwillingness, but we parted with the carrier on the best of terms.
loq. ‘"Hoo are ye gettin' on wi' your lodgers?"’
‘"No fund oot their names yet?"’
‘"I wonder if they've ony. I'm thinking they're no that canny — maybe fairies, or els, or witches, I wadna be you, Mrs. Stewart
, for something.
They came in a flicht o'sunlight, and they'll gang in a puff o' smoke.
Maix by taken, when Nanse was down wi' her water-stoups to the loch, she saw them lookin' into the water like a couple o' fules, and she went gey near them on purpose; and the fair-haired one, Ally, said to the ither:--'Hasn't that a fine effect, that glorious green on the water?' 'Ay, Ally; but I love all water- scenes so much: mind you, I'm half a mermaid!' And what she meant by that, but something unearthly, I wad like to know."’
Ratner owre substantial for ony uncerthly bein', especially the Carry ane — she's aboot as braid as she's lang — and there nane o' them that bonny either; and my!
what hearty meals they take — that's no fairy-like!"’
‘"Faither says they're some gamblin' beggars, but mither thinks they maun be practised gipsies.
They hinna seen them yet, but they're comin' by to get a peep o' them the mern."’
‘"Come early, then, for I never ken what they'll be after; they generally bang out i' the mornin' without rhyme or reason, and sometimes come back to dinner.
At ither times, I'll find them landed in their room at the dusk, and they'll tell me they've been some score o'miles, I dinna like to misdoot them; but it looks funny, for they're evident toun lassies, and that set are aye puling things.
Now, how a toun lassie could walk round the loch, and come into tea as if naething had happened, I canna mak oot; and they proved they'd been round."’
‘"Nae toun body could do that.
But thae lassies maun be either witches or practeesed trampin' gipsies.
I'm hopin' that whan they gang awa, they'll leave you some sicht o'a note, and no just let you whistle for it. "’
‘"Na, na, let alane; and, as the wise man says, 'We'll no skirt afore the prin's jaggit us.' But I'm no that feared; I someway think they're a richt."’
‘"We'll see. Good day."’
, popping in her head, and then herself: ‘"Are ye gaun oot the day for a stravaig, leddies?"’
We will just be about the doors.
We have had one or two tolerably long walks since we came here, haven't we?"’
‘"Ay, that ye have!
Ye've surely been accustomed to walkin"’
‘"Yes; but not so much as we have done here."’
‘"Ye've done wonders then.
I've gotten your boots brushed, but I wad like hers.
What am I to ca' her?"’
This was addressed to me, on behalf of my friend.
I was fairly caught, unprepared and answerless.
I looked painfully at her.
‘"Never mind a name for me, Mrs. Stewart
; you'll hear some time; but we'll be like the Queen
, and not tell you till we go away!"’ She pretended to enjoy it very much, but, I have no doubt, vowed vengeance.
That evening, Mrs. Stewart
commenced the attack again.
‘"It's a cauld nicht; will ye no come butt, and warm yersels, and hae a bit crack, leddies?"’
We were cold, and much amused with her, so we went.
Ally took off her thin house boots, and pushed forward her feet to the fire ‘"I'm so cold, "’ she said.
‘"No wonder,"’ said Mrs. Stewart
; ‘"they's such silly shoes; they'll no keep heat in them, Is'se warrant.’
‘"I never wear anything else."’
‘"Where did you get them?"’
."’ (Item for Mrs. Stewart
‘"Ye'll no be sisters?"’
‘"No; we have no relation to each other."’--(Item.)
‘"I didna think ye were, for ye're no like one another; but the toll-wife thocht ye maun be."’
‘"The toll-wife must be interested in us — But have you any nice old witch-stories to tell us, Mrs. Stewart
, or things about the places here?"’
Have ye ever been in the Highlands afore?"’
‘"Often; but never at this place."’
‘"And do ye like this country?"’
‘"Very well; and we're so much amused with the people, they all stare at us so, and seem so much astonished.
Do they think us wild beasts? "’
‘"Everybody's askin' me wha ye are?"’
‘"And what do you tell them?"’
‘"Jist that I dinna ken mysel,"’ said Mrs. Stewart
, a little crest-fallen; ‘"and they say it's gey queer to hae folk bidin' in the house, and no be able to tell their names."’
‘"So it is — I never thought of it,"’ exclaimed I. ‘ "We're elevated into curiosities, lions, and everything; and we shan't let out our names at all, to keep up the fun. We should lose our romantic interest if they found out 'the nameless lassies' name."’
‘"But surely you can tell them something about us?" said Ally.’
‘"Naething but that ye're frae the south; and fond o' pentin', and walkin', and readin' !"’
‘"That is always something!
Are they not content with it?"’
‘"I wonder if they'll find out much more,"’ said Ally.
turned to me: ‘"What kind o' tongue has she — it's no Scotch, nor Edinburgh
, nor English
, that I've heard?"’
Hereupon sundry particulars were entered into which left her as much in the dark as ever.
(To be Concluded in our next.)