« AnteriorContinuar »
Englishman drew a heavy purse from his pocket, and gave her, as a douceur, enough to have paid three such bills, and her courtesy at once expressed her surprise and satisfaction. A Highlander, who was standing talking to Hamish, greedily eyed the golden treasure peeping through the meshes of the purse. The indolent landlord seemed to have remained in the same place and posture they had found him on their arrival. Nor did he move from the spot now, but bowing his back from the wall, with much dignity, he wished them a pleasant ride.
The travellers now crossed the river, by a narrow high arched bridge, and pursued their way for many miles through a deep forest of very large firs, sown by the hand of Nature herself, and exhibiting, in the bold bendings of their stems, and the wild luxuriance of their branches, all that freedom of growth in vain sought for in the formal modern plantations of the tree. Here they appeared like natives of the soil. The surface of the ground they grew on was varied with knolls and banks, and hills, and hollows, covered with the glossy leaves of the trailing arbutus,and in the more open parts, the high tops of the
distant Cairngorums broke upon the view, the dark green masses of the foliage, being richly relieved against the pure white of their snowy summits.
About six or eight miles of travel brought them into the great Strath of the Spey, where are the districts of Rothiemurchus and Badenoch. The magnificent scale that nature now appeared in,—the breadth of the valley,—the noble stream by which it is watered,—the grandeur of the mountains bounding it,—the immensity of its natural forests,—the beauty of its numerous little lakes, every now and then bursting upon the eye, or seen glittering through the foliage, as they wound among the knolls of weeping birches,the lovely form and rich green of some of those isolated hills, rising in the middle of the landscape,--the rocks hung with woods, together with a thousand more minute charms unfolding themselves at every turn, called forth Amherst's admiration, and filled his mind with sensations he had never before experienced.
The sun was on the eve of going down as they entered a birch wood, through which they urged on their horses, with as much speed as the nature of the road, and the tired state of their animals would admit. Hamish, notwithstanding the length of the journey, trotted on before, with as much alacrity as he did the first minute they set out. Amherst expressed his surprise to Lochandhu.
Why, the fellow has got his foot on his native soil now,” replied he,—“his pace is mended by it, and I'll warrant he would run down a horse ere he would tire.”
While they were yet speaking, a rustling was heard among the branches of the underwood, and a tall, athletic, and very handsome man in the Highland garb, sprang into the middle of the path. He was fully armed, with dirk and pistols in his belt, carried a long gun, and was followed by seven or eight men, dressed and accoutred in a similar, though somewhat inferior manner. One of these was the very man who had so earnestly eyed the young Englishman's purse at Macphie's. Amherst was startled by the sudden appearance of this formidable party, but he was relieved, by observing that Lochandhu considered them as friends.
“ Well, Alexander,” said he familiarly, addressing the apparent leader, “ all going well, I hope ?” and then turning round towards Amherst, and addressing him in parenthésis, “ a half brother of mine, Mr Oakenwold. After the roebucks, I see, Sandy."
The man, whose face wore an expression that gave Amherst no very favourable opinion of him, glanced a keen side-look at him from under his brows, and then began to talk to his brother in Gaelic, walking by his horse's side as he rode slowly on. Meanwhile, the others, after staring at the stranger, fell into the rear of the line of march, where they maintained a broken whispering conversation in the same language, occasionally stretching their heads forward to catch up the words falling from the two brothers. Amherst, as he rode so singularly attended, could not help comparing himself in his own mind to a prisoner of war, taken, under a strong guard, into the enemy's country. From the frequent sly and sinister looks he from time to time observed Alexander Macgillivray stealing over his shoulder at him, he was convinced that the brothers were talking about him, and though he did not understand their language, he could perceive from their manner towards each other, as well as
from the tone of their voices, that they were not agreed on the subject they were discussing. On the part of Alexander there were long, eager, and even violent expostulations, at least such Amherst judged them to be, by the gesticulations used to enforce them, whilst they were received, on the other hand, by Lochandhu, with great apparent coolness, and with a few short words, accompanied by a shrug, or a shake of the head, or a whirl of the arm, or, at most, by an energetic slap on his leathern cased thigh, all which, however, Amherst could easily interpret into decided, though temperate negation.
After accompanying them for a good mile or two, in this way, without the least cessation in their dialogue, Alexander Macgillivray sprang up a gravel bank that rose over the road, speaking all the while he mounted, and halting on the top of it, he, with outstretched hand, continued to address his brother, raising his voice, as Lochandhu, with his head half-turned round, walked his horse slowly on; and it was not until the laird was nearly beyond hearing, that he waved his attendants to follow him, and disappeared into the thickets.