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was the real thing if it ever existed; and yet I was prepared to swear on my reputation that it was not half a century old.
"Where did you get this?" I asked with some nervousness. "I hae a story about that," said the shepherd. "Outside the door there ye can see a muckle flat stane aside the buchts. One simmer nicht I was sitting there smoking till the dark, and I wager there was naething on the stane then. But that same nicht I awoke wi' a queer thocht, as if there were folk moving around the hoose - folk that didna mak' muckle noise. I mind o' lookin' out o' the windy, and I could hae sworn I saw something black movin' amang the heather and intil the buchts. Now I had maybe threescore o' lambs there that nicht, for I had to tak' them many miles off in the early morning. Weel, when I gets up about four o'clock and gangs out, as I am passing the muckle stane I finds this bit finds this bit errow. 'That's come here in the nicht,' says I, and I wunnered a wee and put it in my pouch. But when I came to my faulds what did I see? Five o' my best hoggs were away, and three mair were lying deid wi' a hole in their throat."
"Who in the world-?" I began.
"Dinna ask," said he. "If I aince sterted to speir about thae maitters, I wadna keep my
time. It's the most uncanny
"Have you never tried to
"Have I no?" he asked, grimly. "If it had been common sheep-stealers I wad hae had them by the heels, though I had followed them a hundred miles. But this is no common. I've tracked them, and it's ill they are to track; but I never got beyond ae place, and that was the Scarts o' the Muneraw that ye've heard me speak o'.”
"But who in Heaven's name are the people? Tinklers or poachers or what?"
"Ay," said he, drily. "Even so. Tinklers and poachers whae wark wi' stane errows and kill sheep by a hole in their throat. Lord, I kenna what they are, unless the Muckle Deil himsel'."
"Then that was what happened on the hill this morning?"
"Even sae, and it has happened mair than aince sin' that
The conversation had passed beyond my comprehension. In this prosaic hard-headed man I had come on the dead-rock of superstition and blind fear.
"That is only the story of the Brownie over again, and he is an exploded myth," I said, laughing.
"Are ye the man that exploded it?" said the shepherd, rudely. "I trow no, neither you nor ony ither. My bonny man, if ye lived a twalmonth in thae hills, ye wad sing safter about exploded myths, as ye call them."
"I tell you what I would do," said I. "If I lost sheep as you 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. “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 whilk, if
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- 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 to the very 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.
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 crags 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 vesyour best road wad lie.
Buttige 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 grows into
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. 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 in a
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
than I had feared. Wading ing must be at hand, and sure up to the knees with nothing enough the mist seemed to be before you but a blank wall of deepening into a greyish black. . mist and the cheerful conscious- I began to grow desperate. ness that your next step may Here was I on the summit of be your last—such was my state
some infernal mountain, withfor one weary mile. The stream out any certainty where my itself was high, and rose to my road lay. I was lost with a armpits, and once and again I vengeance, and at the thought only saved myself by a violent I began to be acutely afraid. leap backwards from a pitiless I took what seemed to me the green slough. But at last it way I had come, and began to was past, and I was once more descend steeply. Then someon the solid ground of the hill- thing made me halt, and the side.
next instant I was lying on my Now, in the thick weather I face trying painfully to retrace had crossed the glen much my steps. For I had found mylower down than in the morn- self slipping, and before I could ing, and the result was that stop, my feet were dangling the hill on which I stood was over a precipice with Heaven one of the giants which, with alone knows how many yards the Muneraw for centre, guard of sheer mist between me and the watershed. Had I taken the bottom. Then I tried keepthe proper way, the Nick o' the ing the ridge, and took that to Threshes would have led me to the right, which I thought would the Caulds, and then once over bring me nearer home. It was the bog a little ridge was all no good trying to think out a that stood between me and the direction, for in the fog my glen of Farawa. But instead brain was running round, and I I had come a wild cross-coun- seemed to stand on a pin-point try road, and was now, though of space where the laws of the I did not know it, nearly as compass had ceased to hold. far from my destination as at It was the roughest sort of the start.
walking, now stepping warily Well for me that I did not over acres of loose stones, now know, for I was wet and dispir- crawling down the face of some ited, and had I not fancied battered rock, and now wading myself all but home, I should in the long dripping heather. scarcely have had the energy The soft rain had begun to fall to make this last ascent. But again, which completed my dissoon I found it was not the comfort. I was now seriously little ridge I had expected. I tired, and, like all men who in looked at my watch and saw their day have bent too much that it was five o'clock. When, over books, I began to feel it in after the weariest climb, I lay my back. My spine ached, and
a a piece of level ground my breath came in short broken which seemed the top, I was pants. It was a pitiable state not surprised to find that it of affairs for an honest man who was now seven. The darken- had never encountered much
grave discomfort. To ease my- Then suddenly in the hollow self I was compelled to leave my trough of mist before me, where basket behind me, trusting to things could still be half disreturn and find it, if I should cerned, there appeared a figure. ever reach safety and discover It was little and squat and on what pathless hill I had been dark; naked, apparently, but strayed. My rod I used as a so rough with hair that it wore staff, but it was of little use, for the appearance of a skin-covered my fingers were getting too being. It crossed my line of numb to hold it.
vision, not staying for a moment, Suddenly from the blankness but in its face and eyes there I heard a sound as of human seemed to lurk an elder world speech. At first I thought it of mystery and barbarism, a mere craziness the cry of a
troll - like life which was too weasel or a hill-bird distorted horrible for words. by my ears. But again it came,
The shepherd's fear thick and faint, as through acres back on me like a thunderclap. of mist, and yet clearly the sound For one awful instant my legs of " articulate-speaking men.” failed me, and I had almost In a moment I lost my despair fallen. The next I had turned and cried out in answer. This and ran shrieking up the hill. was some forwandered traveller If he who may read this narlike myself, and between us we rative has never felt the force could surely find some road to of an overmastering terror, then safety. So I yelled back at the let him thank his Maker and pitch of my voice and waited pray that he never may. I am intently.
no weak child, but a strong But the sound ceased, and grown man, accredited in genthere was utter silence again. eral with sound sense and little Still I waited, and then from suspected of hysterics. And some place much nearer came yet I went up that brae-face the same soft mumbling speech. with my heart fluttering like a I could make nothing of it. bird and my throat aching with Heard in that drear place it made fear. I screamed in short dry the nerves tense and the heart gasps ; involuntarily, for my timorous. It was the strangest mind was beyond any purpose. jumble of vowels and consonants I felt that beast - like clutch I had ever met.
at my throat ; those red eyes A dozen solutions flashed seemed to be staring at me from through my brain.
It the mist; I heard ever behind some maniac talking Jabber- and before and on all sides the wock to himself. It was some patter of those inhuman feet. belated traveller whose wits Before I knew I was down, had given out in fear. Perhaps slipping over a rock and falling it was only some shepherd who some dozen feet into a soft was amusing himself thus, and marshy hollow. I was conscious whiling the way with nonsense. of lying still for a second and Once again I cried out and whimpering like a child.
as I lay there I awoke to the