« السابقةمتابعة »
pipe, he resigned himself to his I began to think that the meditations.
man's wits were unhinged, and But he could not keep quiet. the thought did not give me Some nervous unrest seemed to satisfaction. I had no relish have possessed the man. He for the prospect of being left got up with a start and went alone in this moorland dwellto the window, where the snow ing with the cheerful company was drifting unsteadily past. of a maniac. But his next As he stared out into the storm movements reassured me. Не I heard him mutter to himself, was clearly only dead - tired, “Three away, God help me,
God help me, for he fell sound asleep in his and three wi' the hole in the chair, and by the time his sister throat."
brought tea and wakened him, Then he turned round to me he seemed to have got the better abruptly. I was jotting down of his excitement. notes for an article I contem- When the window was shutplated in the 'Revue Celtique,' tered and the lamp lit, I set so my thoughts were far away myself again to the completion from the present. The man re- of my notes. The shepherd had called me by demanding fiercely, got out his Bible, and was solDo ye believe in God?”
emnly reading with one great I gave him some sort of finger travelling down the lines. . answer in the affirmative. He was smoking, and whenever · Then do
believe in the some text came home to him Devil ?” he asked.
he would make The reply must have been pretence to underline it with less satisfactory, for he came the end of the stem. Soon I forward and flung himself vio- had finished the work I desired, lently into the chair before me.
mind being full of my “What do ye ken about it?" pet hobby, I fell into an inquisihe cried. “ You that bides in a tive frame of mind, and began southern toun, what can ye ken to question the solemn man o'the God that works in thae opposite on the antiquities of hills and the Devil — ay, the the place. manifold devils—that He suffers He stared stupidly at me to bide here? I tell ye, man, when I asked him concerning that if
had what I have monuments or ancient weapons. seen ye wad be on your knees “I kenna," said he. “There's at this moment praying to God a heap o' queer things in the to pardon your unbelief. There hills.' are devils at the back o' every “This place should be stane and hidin' in every cleuch, centre for such relics. You and it's by the grace o' God know that the name of the alone that a man is alive upon hill behind the house, as far the earth.” His voice had risen as I can make it out, means high and shrill, and then sud- the Place of the Little Men.' denly he cast a frightened It is a good Gaelic word, glance towards
towards the window though there is some doubt and was silent.
about its exact interpretation,
But clearly the Gaelic peoples o’ death on a man he aye speaks
the fact that the conversation The shepherd looked at me was getting into strange chandully, as not understanding. nels.
“It is partly this fact-be- The shepherd moved uneasily sides the fishing, of
in his chair. “I am a man that which interests in this fears God, and has nae time countryside," said I, gaily. for daft stories; but I havena
Again he cast the same queer traivelled the hills for twenty frightened glance towards the years wi' my een shut. If I window. “If ye'll tak the say that I could tell ye stories advice of an aulder man," he o' faces seen in the mist, and said, slowly, “ye'll let well queer things that have knocked alane and no meddle wi' un- against me in the snaw, wad canny things.”
ye believe me?
I wager ye I laughed pleasantly, for at wadna. Ye wad say I had last I had found out my hard- been drunk, and yet I am a headed host in a piece of child- God-fearing temperate man.” ishness. “Why, I thought that He rose and went to a cupyou of all men would be free board, unlocked it, and brought from superstition."
out something in his hand, which “What do ye call superstee- he held out to me. I took it tion ?” he asked.
with some curiosity, and found “A belief in old wives' tales," that it was a flint arrow-head. said I, “a trust in the crude Clearly a flint arrow-head, supernatural and the patently and yet like none that I had impossible.”
ever seen in any collection. For He looked at me beneath his one thing it was larger, and the shaggy brows. “How do ye barb less clumsily thick. More, ken what is impossible? Mind the chipping was new, or comye, sir, ye’re no in the toun just paratively so; this thing had now, but in the thick of the wild not stood the wear of fifteen hills."
hundred years among the stones “But, hang it all, man," I of the hillside. Now there are, cried, “you don't mean to say I regret to say, institutions that you believe in that sort which manufacture primitive of thing? I am prepared for relics; but it is not hard for a many things up here, but not practised eye to see the differfor the Brownie, — though, to ence. The chipping has either be sure, if one could meet him a regularity and a balance which in the flesh, it would be rather is unknown in the real thing, pleasant than otherwise, for he or the rudeness has been overwas a companionable sort of done, and the result is an imfellow."
plement incapable of harming “When a thing pits the fear a mortal creature, But this
was the real thing if it ever time. It's the most uncanny existed ; and yet-I was pre- slaughter, for sheep-stealing I pared to swear on my reputa- can understand, but this tion that it was not half a pricking o’ the puir beasts' century old.
wizands. I kenna how they “Where did you get this ?” dae't either, for it's no wi' a I asked with some nervousness. knife or ony common tool.”
“I hae a story about that, “Have you never tried to said the shepherd. “Outside follow the thieves?” the door there ye can
“Have I no?” he asked, muckle flat stane aside the grimly. “If it had been combuchts. One simmer nicht I mon sheep-stealers I wad hae was sitting there smoking till had them by the heels, though I the dark, and I wager there had followed them a hundred was naething on the stane then. miles. But this is no common. But that same nicht I awoke I've tracked them, and it's ill wi' a queer thocht, as if there they are to track; but I never were folk moving around the got beyond ae place, and that hoose folk that didna mak' was the Scarts o' the Muneraw muckle noise. I mind o' lookin' that ye've heard me speak o'.” out o' the windy, and I could “But who in Heaven's name hae sworn I saw something are the people ? Tinklers or black movin' amang the heather poachers or what?” and intil the buchts. Now I “Ay,” said he, drily. “Even had maybe threescore o' lambs so. Tinklers and poachers whae there that nicht, for I had to wark wi' stane errows and kill tak' them many miles off in the sheep by a hole in their throat. early morning. Weel, when I Lord, I kenna what they are, gets up about four o'clock and unless the Muckle Deil himsel.” gangs out, as I am passing the The conversation had passed muckle stane I finds this bit beyond my comprehension. In errow. • That's come here in this prosaic hard-headed man I the nicht,' says I, and I wun- had come on the dead-rock of nered a wee and put it in my superstition and blind fear. pouch.
But when I came to “That is only the story of the my faulds what did I see? Five Brownie over again, and he is o my best hoggs were away, an exploded myth," I said, and three mair were lying deid laughing. wi' a hole in their throat.
“Are ye the man that ex“Who in the world--?"I ploded it?" said the shepherd, began.
rudely. “I trow no, neither “Dinna ask," said he. “If you nor ony ither. My bonny I aince sterted to speir about man, if ye lived a twalmonth in thae maitters, I wadna keep my thae hills, ye wad sing safter reason.”
about exploded myths, as ye call “Then that was what hap- them.” pened on the hill this morning ?" “I tell you what I would do,”
‘Even sae, and it has hap- said I. "If I lost sheep as you pened mair than aince sin' that lose them, I would go up the
Scarts of the Muneraw and me, and makes me a fearfu' man
Weel, I was the man that “I daresay ye wad,” he said, fand him. I had seen the deid slowly.
6. But then I am afore and I've seen them since. you, and maybe I ken mair o' But never have I seen aucht what is in the Scarts o' the like the look in that man's een. Muneraw. Maybe I ken that what he saw at his death I
ye kenned it, wad send may see the morn, so I walk ye back to the South Country before the Lord in fear.” wi' your hert in your mouth. Then he rose and stretched But, as I say, I am no sae brave himself. "It's bedding-time, for as you, for I saw something in I maun be up at three,” and the first year o' my herding here with a short good night he left which put the terror o' God on
CHAPTER III.—THE SCARTS OF THE MUNERAW.
The next morning was fine, will be ower that rig, and syne for the snow had been inter- on to the water o' Caulds. mittent, and had soon melted Keep abune the moss till ye except in the high corries. come to the place they ca’ the True, it was deceptive weather, Nick o' the Threshes. That for the wind had gone to the will take ye
lochrainy south-west, and the masses side, but it's a lang road and a of cloud on that horizon boded sair.” ill for the afternoon. But some
The morning was breaking days' inaction had made me over the bleak hills. Little keen for a chance of sport, so clouds drifted athwart the corI rose with the shepherd and ries, and wisps of haze fluttered set out for the day.
from the peaks. A great rosy He asked me where I proposed flush lay over one side of the to begin.
glen, which caught the edge of I told him the tarn called the the sluggish bog - pools and Loch o' the Threshes, which lies turned them to fire.
Never over the back of the Muneraw before had I seen the mountainon another watershed. It is land so clear, for far back into the on the ground of the Rhynns east and west I saw mountainForest, and I had fished it of tops set as close as flowers in a old from the Forest House. I border, black
seamed with knew the merits of the trout, silver lines which I knew for and I knew its virtues in a mighty waterfalls, and below at south-west wind, so I had re- my feet the lower slopes fresh solved to go thus far afield. with the dewy green of spring.
The shepherd heard the name A name stuck in my memory in silence, “Your best road from the last night's talk,
“Where are the Scarts of The promise, too, of fine weather the Muneraw?" I asked. had been deceptive. By mid
The shepherd pointed to the day the rain was falling in that great hill which bears the name, soft soaking fashion which and which lies, a huge mass, gives no hope of clearing. The above the watershed.
mist was down to the edge of “D'ye see yon corrie at the the water, and I cast my flies east that runs straucht up the into a blind sea of white. It side ? It looks a bit scart, but was hopeless work, and yet it's sae deep that it's aye derk from a sort of ill-temper I stuck at the bottom o't. Weel, at the to it long after my better judgtap o' the rig it meets anither ment had warned me of its corrie that runs doun the ither folly. At last, about three in side, and that one they ca' the the afternoon, I struck my Scarts. There is a sort o' burn camp, and prepared myself for in it that flows intil the Dule a long and toilsome retreat. and sae intil the Aller, and, And long and toilsome it was indeed, if ye were gaun there it beyond anything I had ever enwad be from Aller Glen that countered. Had I had a your best road wad lie. But tige of sense I would have folit's an ill bit, and ye'll be sair lowed the burn from the loch guidit if ye try't."
down to the Forest House. There he left me and went The place was shut up, but the across the glen, while I struck keeper would gladly have given upwards over the ridge. At me shelter for the night. But the top I halted and looked foolish pride was too strong in down on the wide glen of the me. I had found my road in Caulds, which there is little mist before, and could do it better than a bog, but lower again. down
green Before I got to the top of pastoral valley. The great the hill I had repented my deMuneraw still dominated the cision; when I got there I relandscape, and the black scaur pented it more.
For below me on its side seemed blacker than a dizzy chaos of grey ; before. The place fascinated there was no landmark visible ; me, for in that fresh morning and before me I knew was the air the shepherd's fears seemed bog through which the Caulds monstrous. “Some day,” said Water twined.
Water twined. I had crossed I to myself, “I will go and it with some trouble in the explore the whole of that mighty morning, but then I had light hill.” Then I descended and to pick my steps. Now I could struggled over the moss, found only stumble on, and in five the Nick, and in two hours' minutes I might be in a bogtime was on the loch's edge. hole, and in five more
I have little in the way of better world. good to report of the fishing. But there was no help to be For perhaps one hour the trout got from hesitation, so with a took well; after that they rueful courage I set off. The sulked steadily for the day. place was if possible worse