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Waverley

Chapter 8
A Scottish Manor-House Sixty Years Since
It was about noon when Captain Waverley entered the straggling village, or rather
hamlet, of Tully-Veolan, close to which was situated the mansion of the proprietor. The
houses seemed miserable in the extreme, especially to an eye accustomed to the smiling
neatness of English cottages. They stood, without any respect for regularity, on each side
of & straggling kind of unpaved street, where children, almost in a primitive state of
nakedness, lay sprawling, as if to be crushed by the hoofs of the first passing horse.
Occasionally, indeed, when such a consummation seemed inevitable, a watchful old
grandam, with her close cap, distaff, and spindle, rushed like a sibyl in frenzy out of one
of these miserable cells, dashed into the middle of the path, and snatching up her own
charge from among the sunburnt loiterers, saluted him with a sound cuff, and transported
him back to his dungeon, the little white-headed varlet screaming all the while, from the
very top of his lungs, a shrilly treble to the growling remonstrances of the enraged
matron. Another part in this concert was sustained by the incessant yelping of a score of
idle useless curs, which followed, snarling, barking, howling, and snapping at the horses'
heels; a nuisance at that time so common in Scotland, that a French tourist, who, like
other travellers, longed to find a good and rational reason for everything he saw, has
recorded, as one of the memorabilia of Caledonia, that the state maintained in each
village a relay of curs, called COLLIES, whose duty it was to chase the CHEVAUX DE
POSTE (too starved and exhausted to move without such a stimulus) from one hamlet to
another, till their annoying convoy drove them to the end of their stage. The evil and
remedy (such as it is) still exist: but this is remote from our present purpose, and is only
thrown out for consideration of the collectors under Mr. Dent's dog bill.
As Waverley moved on, here and there an old man, bent as much by toil as years, his
eyes bleared with age and smoke, tottered to the door of his hut, to gaze on the dress of
the stranger, and the form and motions of the horses, and then assembled with his
neighbours, in a little group at the smithy, to discuss the probabilities of whence the
stranger came, and where he might be going. Three or four village girls, returning from
the well or brook with pitchers and pails upon their heads, formed more pleasing objects;
and, with their thin, short gowns and single petticoats, bare arms, legs, and feet,
uncovered heads, and braided hair, somewhat resembled Italian forms of landscape. Nor
could a lover of the picturesque have challenged either the elegance of their costume, or
the symmetry of their shape; although, to say the truth, a mere Englishman, in search of
the COMFORTABLE, a word peculiar to his native tongue, might have wished the
clothes less scanty, the feet and legs somewhat protected from the weather, the head and
complexion shrouded from the sun, or perhaps might even have thought the whole person
and dress considerably improved, by a plentiful application of spring water, with a
QUANTUM SUFFICIT of soap, The whole scene was depressing; for it argued, at the
first glance, at least a stagnation of industry, and perhaps of intellect. Even curiosity, the
busiest passion of the idle, seemed of a listless cast in the village of Tully-Veolan: the
curs aforesaid alone showed any part of its activity; with the villagers it was passive.
 
 
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