The mansion-house of Dalrulzian stands on the lower slope of a hill, which is crowned with a plantation of Scotch firs. The rugged outline of this wood, and the close-tufted mass of the tree-tops, stand out against the pale East, and protect the house below and the "policy," as the surrounding grounds are called in Scotland; so that though all the winds are sharp in that northern county, the sharpest of all is tempered. The house itself is backed by lighter foliage—a feathery grove of birches, a great old ash or two, and some tolerably well-grown, but less poetical, elms. It is a house of distinctively local character, with the curious, peaked, and graduated gables peculiar to Scotch rural architecture, and thick walls of the roughest stone, washed with a weather-stained coat of yellow-white. Two wings, each presenting a gabled end to the avenue, and a sturdy block of building retired between them,—all strong, securely built, as if hewn out of the rock, formed the homely house. It had little of the beauty which a building of no greater pretensions would probably have had in England. Below the wings, and in front of the hall-door, with its two broad flat stone steps, there was nothing better than a gravelled square, somewhat mossy in the corners, and marked by the trace of wheels; but round the south wing there swept a sort of terrace, known by no more dignified name than that of "The Walk," from which the ground sloped downwards, broken at a lower level by the formal little parterres of an old-fashioned flower-garden. The view from the Walk was of no very striking beauty, but it had the charm of breadth and distance—a soft sweep of undulating country, with an occasional glimpse of a lively trout-stream gleaming here and there out of its covert of crags and trees, and a great, varied, and ever-changing world of sky,—not a prospect which captivated a stranger, but one which, growing familiar day by day and year by year, was henceforth missed like something out of their lives by the people who, being used to it, had learned to love that silent companionship of nature. It was the sort of view which a man pauses, not to look at but to see, even when he is pacing up and down his library thinking of John Thomson's demand for farm improvements, or, heavier thought, about his balance at his bankers: and which solaces the eyes of a tired woman, giving them rest and refreshment through all the vicissitudes of life. People sought it instinctively in moods of reflection, in moments of watching, at morning and at twilight, whenever any change was going on in that great exhaustless atmosphere, bounded by nothing but the pale distance of the round horizon,—and when was it that there was no change in that atmosphere?—clouds drifting, shadows flying, gleams of light like sudden revelations affording new knowledge of earth and heaven.
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