What a new sensation was this for the maiden! She had been rowed on the waters of Lake Malcolm; but the oar, handled ever so lightly by Harry, always betrayed effort on the part of the oarsman. Now, for the first time, Nell felt herself borne along with a gliding movement, like that of a balloon through the air. The water was smooth as a lake, and Nell reclined in the stern of the boat, enjoying its gentle rocking. Occasionally the effect of the
moonlight on the waters was as though the boat sailed across a glittering silver field. Little wavelets rippled along the banks. It was enchanting.
At length Nell was overcome with drowsiness, her eyelids drooped, her head sank on Harry's shoulder--she slept. Harry, sorry that she should miss any of the beauties of this magnificent night, would have aroused her.
"Let her sleep!" said the engineer. "She will better enjoy the novelties of the day after a couple of hours' rest."
At two o'clock in the morning the boat reached Granton pier. Nell awoke. "Have I been asleep?" inquired she.
"No, my child," said James Starr. "You have been dreaming that you slept, that's all."
The night continued clear. The moon, riding in mid-heaven, diffused her rays on all sides. In the little port of Granton lay two or three fishing boats; they rocked gently on the waters of the Firth. The wind fell as the dawn approached. The atmosphere, clear of mists, promised one of those fine autumn days so delicious on the sea coast.
A soft, transparent film of vapor lay along the horizon; the first sunbeam would dissipate it; to the maiden it exhibited that aspect of the sea which seems to blend it with the sky. Her view was now enlarged, without producing the impression of the boundless infinity of ocean.
Harry taking Nell's hand, they followed James Starr and Jack Ryan as they traversed the deserted streets. To Nell, this suburb of the capital appeared only a collection of gloomy dark houses, just like Coal Town, only that the roof was higher, and gleamed with small lights.
She stepped lightly forward, and easily kept pace with Harry. "Are you not tired, Nell?" asked he, after half an hour's walking.
"No! my feet seem scarcely to touch the earth," returned she. "This sky above us seems so high up, I feel as if I could take wing and fly!"
"I say! keep hold of her!" cried Jack Ryan. "Our little Nell is too good to lose. I feel just as you describe though, myself, when I have not left the pit for a long time."
"It is when we no longer experience the oppressive effect of the vaulted rocky roof above Coal Town," said
James Starr, "that the spacious firmament appears to us like a profound abyss into which we have, as it were, a desire to plunge. Is that what you feel, Nell?"
"Yes, Mr. Starr, it is exactly like that," said Nell. "It makes me feel giddy."
"Ah! you will soon get over that, Nell," said Harry. "You will get used to the outer world, and most likely forget all about our dark coal pit."
"No, Harry, never!" said Nell, and she put her hand over her eyes, as though she would recall the remembrance of everything she had lately quitted.
Between the silent dwellings of the city, the party passed along Leith Walk, and went round the Calton Hill, where stood, in the light of the gray dawn, the buildings of the Observatory and Nelson's Monument. By Regent's Bridge and the North Bridge they at last reached the lower extremity of the Canongate. The town still lay wrapt in slumber.
Nell pointed to a large building in the center of an open space, asking, "What great confused mass is that?"
"That confused mass, Nell, is the palace of the ancient kings of Scotland; that is Holyrood, where many a sad scene has been enacted! The historian can here invoke many a royal shade; from those of the early Scottish kings to that of the unhappy Mary Stuart, and the French king, Charles X. When day breaks, however, Nell, this palace will not look so very gloomy. Holyrood, with its four embattled towers, is not unlike some handsome country house. But let us pursue our way.