The Royal Salmon.—Pretty Kitty.—Captain Stradling.—William Dampier. —Reveries and Caprices of Miss Catherine.
About the commencement of the last century, the little town of St. Andrew, the capital of the county of Fife, in Scotland, celebrated then for its University, was not less so for its Inn, the Royal Salmon, which, built in 1681 by a certain Andrew Felton, had descended as an inheritance to his only daughter, Catherine.
This young lady, known throughout the neighborhood under the name of pretty Kitty, had contributed not a little, by her personal charms, to the success and popularity of the inn. In her early youth, she had been a lively and piquant brunette, with black, glossy hair, combed over a smooth and prominent forehead, and dark, brilliant eyes, a style of beauty much in vogue at that period. Though tall and slender in stature, she was, as our ancestors would have said, sufficiently en bon point. In fine, Kitty merited her surname, and more than one laird in the neighborhood, more than one great nobleman even,—thanks to the familiarity which reigned among the different classes in Scotland,—had figured occasionally among her customers, caring as little what people might say as did the brave Duke of Argyle, whom Walter Scott has shown as conversing familiarly with his snuff merchant.
At present Catherine Felton is in her second youth. By a process common enough, but which at first appears contradictory, her attractions have diminished as they developed; her waist has grown thicker, the roses on her cheek assumed a deeper vermilion, her voice has acquired the rough and hoarse tone of her most faithful customers; the slender young girl is transformed into a virago. Fortunately for her, at the commencement of the eighteenth century, and especially in Scotland, reputations did not vanish as readily as in our days. Notwithstanding her increasing size and coarser voice, Catherine still remained pretty Kitty, especially in the eyes of those to whom she gave the largest credit.
Besides, if from year to year her beauty waned, a circumstance which might tend to diminish the attractions of her establishment, like a prudent woman she took care that her stock of ale and usquebaugh should also from year to year improve in quality, to preserve the equilibrium.
Undoubtedly the visits of lairds and great noblemen at her bar were less frequent than formerly, but all the trades-people in town, all the sailors in port, from the Gulf of Tay to the Gulf of Forth, still patronized the pretty landlady.
Meanwhile Catherine was not yet married. The gossips of the town were surprised, because she was rich and suitors were plenty; they fluttered around her constantly in great numbers, especially when somewhat exhilarated with wine. When their gallantry became obtrusive, Kitty was careful not to grow angry; she would smile, and lift up her white hand, tolerably heavy, till the offenders came to order. Catherine possessed in the highest degree the art of restraining without discouraging them, and always so as to forward the interests of her establishment.