This heraldic blazon amused them all very much, and David expressed his entire concurrence with it, declaring it to be incontrovertible. Margaret laughed heartily.
Besides its own beauty, two things made Margaret’s laugh of some consequence; one was, that it was very rare; and the other, that it revealed her two regular rows of dainty white teeth, suiting well to the whole build of the maiden. She was graceful and rather tall, with a head which, but for its smallness, might have seemed too heavy for the neck that supported it, so ready it always was to droop like a snowdrop. The only parts about her which Hugh disliked, were her hands and feet. The former certainly had been reddened and roughened by household work: but they were well formed notwithstanding. The latter he had never seen, notwithstanding the bare-foot habits of Scotch maidens; for he saw Margaret rarely except in the evenings, and then she was dressed to receive him. Certainly, however, they were very far from following the shape of the clumsy country shoes, by which he misjudged their proportions. Had he seen them, as he might have seen them some part of any day during the summer, their form at least would have satisfied him.
Out of whose womb came the ice? and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it? The waters are hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.
He giveth snow like wool; he scattereth the hoar frost like ashes.
Job xxxviii. 29, 30; Psalm cxlvii. 16.
Winter was fairly come at last. A black frost had bound the earth for many days; and at length a peculiar sensation, almost a smell of snow in the air, indicated an approaching storm. The snow fell at first in a few large unwilling flakes, that fluttered slowly and heavily to the earth, where they lay like the foundation of the superstructure that was about to follow. Faster and faster they fell—wonderful multitudes of delicate crystals, adhering in shapes of beauty which outvied all that jeweller could invent or execute of ethereal, starry forms, structures of evanescent yet prodigal loveliness—till the whole air was obscured by them, and night came on, hastened by an hour, from the gathering of their white darkness. In the morning, all the landscape was transfigured. The snow had ceased to fall; but the whole earth, houses, fields, and fences, ponds and streams, were changed to whiteness. But most wonderful looked the trees—every bough and every twig thickened, and bent earthward with its own individual load of the fairy ghost-birds. Each retained the semblance of its own form, wonderfully, magically altered by its thick garment of radiant whiteness, shining gloriously in the sunlight. It was the shroud of dead nature; but a shroud that seemed to prefigure a lovely resurrection; for the very death-robe was unspeakably, witchingly beautiful.