BOB, SON OF BATTLE
By Alfred Ollivant
PART I THE COMING OF THE TAILLESS TYKE Chapter I. The Gray Dog Chapter II. A Son of Hagar Chapter III. Red Wull Chapter IV. First Blood
PART II THE LITTLE MAN Chapter V. A Man's Son Chapter VI. A Licking or a Lie Chapter VII. The White Winter Chapter VIII. M'Adam and His Coat
PART III THE SHEPHERDS' TROPHY Chapter IX. Rivals, Chapter X. Red Wull Wins Chapter XI. Oor Bob, Chapter XII. How Red Wull Held the Bridge Chapter XIII. The Face in the Frame
PART IV THE BLACK KILLER Chapter XIV. A Mad Man Chapter XV. Death on the Marches, Chapter XVI. The Black Killer Chapter XVII. A Mad Dog Chapter XVIII. How the Killer was Singed Chapter XIX. Lad and Lass Chapter XX. The Snapping of the String Chapter XXI. Horror of Darkness
PART V OWD BOB O' KENMUIR Chapter XXII. A Man and a Maid Chapter XXIII. Th' Owd Un Chapter XXIV. A Shot in the Night Chapter XXV. The Shepherds' Trophy.
PART VI THE BLACK KILLER Chapter XXVI. Red-handed Chapter XXVII. For the Defence Chapter XXVIII. The Devil's Bowl Chapter XXIX. The Devil's Bowl Chapter XXX. The Tailless Tyke at Bay
PART I THE COMING OF THE TAILLESS TYKE
Chapter I. THE GRAY DOG
THE sun stared brazenly down on a gray farmhouse lying, long and low in the shadow of the Muir Pike; on the ruins of peel-tower and barmkyn, relics of the time of raids, it looked; on ranges of whitewashed outbuildings; on a goodly array of dark-thatched ricks.
In the stack-yard, behind the lengthy range of stables, two men were thatching. One lay sprawling on the crest of the rick, the other stood perched on a ladder at a lower level.
The latter, small, old, with shrewd nut-brown countenance, was Tammas Thornton, who had served the Moores of Kenmuir for more than half a century. The other, on top of the stack, wrapped apparently in gloomy meditation, was Sam'l Todd. A solid Dales—man, he, with huge hands and hairy arms; about his face an uncomely aureole of stiff, red hair; and on his features, deep-seated, an expression of resolute melancholy.
"Ay, the Gray Dogs, bless 'em!" the old man was saying. "Yo' canna beat 'em not nohow. Known 'em ony time this sixty year, I have, and niver knew a bad un yet. Not as I say, mind ye, as any on 'em cooms up to Rex son o' Rally. Ah, he was a one, was Rex! We's never won Cup since his day."
"Nor niver shall agin, yo' may depend," said the other gloomily.
Tammas clucked irritably.
"G'long, Sam'! Todd!" he cried, "Yo' niver happy onless yo' making' yo'self miser'ble. I niver see sich a chap. Niver win agin? Why, oor young Bob he'll mak' a right un, I tell yo', and I should know. Not as what he'll touch Rex son o' Rally, mark ye! I'm niver saying' so, Sam'l Todd. Ah, he was a one, was Rex! I could tell yo' a tale or two o' Rex. I mind me hoo—"
The big man interposed hurriedly.
"I've heard it afore, Tammas, I welly 'ave," he said.
Tammas paused and looked angrily up.
"Yo've heard it afore, have yo', Sam'l Todd?" he asked sharply. "And what have yo' heard afore?"
"Yo' stories, owd lad—yo' stories o' Rex son o' Rally."
"Which on' em
"All on 'em, Tammas, all on 'em—mony a time. I'm fair sick on 'em, Tammas, I welly am," he pleaded.
The old man gasped. He brought down his mallet with a vicious smack.
"I'll niver tell yo' a tale agin, Sam'l Todd, not if yo' was to go on yo' bended knees for't. Nay; it bain't no manner o' use talkin'. Niver agin, says I."
"I niver askt yo'," declared honest Sam'l.
"Nor it wouldna ha' bin no manner o' use if yo' had," said the other viciously. "I'll niver tell yo' a tale agin if I was to live to be a hunderd."
"Yo'll not live to be a hunderd, Tammas Thornton, nor near it," said Sam'l brutally.
"I'll live as long as some, I warrant," the old man replied with spirit. "I'll live to see Cup back i' Kenmuir, as I said afore."
"If yo' do," the other declared with emphasis, "Sam'l Todd niver spake a true word. Nay, nay, lad; yo're owd, yo're wambly, your time's near run or I'm the more mistook."
"For mussy's sake hold yo' tongue, Sam'l Todd! It's clack-clack all day—" The old man broke off suddenly, and buckled to his work with suspicious vigor. "Mak' a show yo' bin workin', lad," he whispered. "Here's Master and oor Bob."
As he spoke, a tall gaitered man with weather-beaten face, strong, lean, austere, and the blue-gray eyes of the hill-country, came striding into the yard. And trotting soberly at his heels, with the gravest, saddest eyes ever you saw, a sheep-dog puppy.
A rare dark gray he was, his long coat, dashed here and there with lighter touches, like a stormy sea moonlit. Upon his chest an escutcheon of purest white, and the dome of his head showered, as it were, with a sprinkling of snow. Perfectly compact, utterly lithe, inimitably graceful with his airy-fairy action; a gentleman every inch, you could not help but stare at him—Owd Bob o' Kenmuir.
At the foot of the ladder the two stopped. And the young dog, placing his forepaws on a lower rung, looked up, slowly waving his silvery brush.
"A proper Gray Dog!" mused Tammas, gazing down into the dark face beneath him. "Small, yet big; light to get about on backs o' his sheep, yet not too light. Wi' a coat hard a-top to keep oot Daleland weather, soft as sealskin beneath. And wi' them sorrerful eyes on him as niver goes but wi' a good un. Amaist he minds me o' Rex son o' Rally."
"Oh, dear! Oh, dear!" groaned Sam'l. But the old man heard him not.
"Did 'Enry Farewether tell yo' hoo he acted this mornin', Master?" he inquired, addressing the man at the foot of the ladder.
"Nay," said the other, his stern eyes lighting.
"Why, 'twas this way, it seems," Tammas continued. "Young bull gets 'isseif loose, somegate and marches oot into yard, o'erturns milkpail, and prods owd pigs i' ribs. And as he stands lookin' about un, thinking' what he shall be up to next, oor Bob sees un 'An' what yo' doin' here, Mr. Bull?' he seems to say, cockin' his ears and trottin' up gay-like. Wi' that bull bloats fit to bust 'isseif, lashes wi's tail, waggles his head, and gets agate o' chargin' 'im. But Bob leaps oot o' way, quick as lightnin' yet cool as butter, and when he's done his foolin drives un back agin."
"Who seed all this?" interposed Sam'l, sceptically.
"'Enry Farewether from the loft. So there, Fat'ead!" Tammas replied, and continued his tale. "So they goes on; bull chargin' and Bob drivin' un back and back, hoppin' in and oot agin, quiet as a cowcumber, yet determined. At last Mr. Bull sees it's no manner o' use that gate, so he turns, rares up, and tries to jump wall. Nary a bit. Young dog jumps in on un and nips him by tail. Wi' that, bull tumbles down in a hurry, turns wi' a kind o' groan, and marches back into stall, Bob after un. And then, dang me!"—the old man beat the ladder as he loosed off this last titbit,—"if he doesna sit' isseif i' door like a sentrynel till 'Enry Farewether coom up. Hoo's that for a tyke not yet a year?"
Even Sam'l Todd was moved by the tale.
"Well done, oor Bob!" he cried.
"Good, lad!" said the Master, laying a hand on the dark head at his knee.
"Yo' may well say that," cried Tammas in a kind of ecstasy. "A proper Gray Dog, I tell yo'. Wi' the brains of a man and the way of a woman. Ah, yo' canna beat 'em nohow, the Gray Dogs o' Kenmuir!"
The patter of cheery feet rang out on the plank-bridge over the stream below them. Tammas glanced round.
"Here's David," he said. "Late this mornin' he be."
A fair-haired boy came spurring up the slope, his face all aglow with the speed of his running. Straightway the young dog dashed off to meet him with a fiery speed his sober gait belied. The two raced back together into the yard.
"Poor lad!" said Sam'l gloomily, regarding the newcomer.
"Poor heart!" muttered Tammas. While the Master's face softened visibly. Yet there looked little to pity in this jolly, rocking lad with the tousle of light hair and fresh, rosy countenance.
"G'mornin', Mister Moore! Morn'n, Tammas! Morn'n, Sam'l!" he panted as he passed; and ran on through the hay-carpeted yard, round the corner of the stable, and into the house.
In the kitchen, a long room with red-tiled floor and latticed windows, a woman, white-aproned and frail-faced, was bustling about her morning business. To her skirts clung a sturdy, bare-legged boy; while at the oak table in the centre of the room a girl with brown eyes and straggling hair was seated before a basin of bread and milk.
"So yo've coom at last, David!" the woman cried, as the boy entered; and, bending, greeted him with a tender, motherly salutation, which he returned as affectionately. "I welly thowt yo'd forgot us this mornin'. Noo sit you' doon beside oor Maggie." And soon he, too, was engaged in a task twin to the girl's.
The two children munched away in silence, the little bare-legged boy watching them, the while, critically. Irritated by this prolonged stare, David at length turned on him.
"Weel, little Andrew," he said, speaking in that paternal fashion in which one small boy loves to address another. "Weel, ma little lad, yo'm coomin' along gradely." He leant back in his chair the better to criticise his subject. But Andrew, like all the Moores, slow of speech, preserved a stolid silence, sucking a chubby thumb, and regarding his patron a thought cynically.
David resented the expression on the boy's countenance, and half rose to his feet.
"Yo' put another face on yo', Andrew Moore," he cried threateningly, "or I'll put it for yo'."
Maggie, however, interposed opportunely.
"Did yo' feyther beat yo' last night?" she inquired in a low voice; and there was a shade of anxiety in the soft brown eyes.
"Nay," the boy answered; "he was a-goin' to, but he never did. Drunk," he added in explanation.
"What was he goin' to beat yo' for, David?" asked Mrs. Moore.
"What for? Why, for the fun o't—to see me squiggle," the boy replied, and laughed bitterly.
"Yo' shouldna speak so o' your dad, David," reproved the other as severely as was in her nature.
"Dad! a fine dad! I'd dad him an I'd the chance," the boy muttered beneath his breath. Then, to turn the conversation:
"Us should be startin', Maggie," he said, and going to the door. "Bob! Owd Bob, lad! Ar't coomin' along?" he called.
The gray dog came springing up like an antelope, and the three started off for school together.
Mrs. Moore stood in the doorway, holding Andrew by the hand, and watched the departing trio.
"'Tis a pretty pair, Master, surely," she said softly to her husband, who came up at the moment.
"Ay, he'll be a fine lad if his fether'll let him," the tall man answered.
"Tis a shame Mr. M'Adam should lead him such a life," the woman continued indignantly. She laid a hand on her husband's arm, and looked up at him coaxingly.
"Could yo' not say summat to un, Master, think 'ee? Happen he'd 'tend to you," she pleaded. For Mrs. Moore imagined that there could be no one but would gladly heed what James Moore, Master of Kenmuir, might say to him. "He's not a bad un at bottom, I do believe," she continued. "He never took on so till his missus died. Eh, but he was main fond o' her."
Her husband shook his head "Nay, mother," he said "'Twould nob' but mak' it worse for t' lad. M'Adam'd listen to no one, let alone me." And, indeed, he was right; for the tenant of the Grange made no secret of his animosity for his straight-going, straight-speaking neighbor.
* * * * *
Owd Bob, in the mean time, had escorted the children to the larch-copse bordering on the lane which leads to the village. Now he crept stealthily back to the yard, and established himself behind the water-butt.
How he played and how he laughed; how he teased old Whitecap till that gray gander all but expired of apoplexy and impotence; how he ran the roan bull-calf, and aroused the bitter wrath of a portly sow, mother of many, is of no account.
At last, in the midst of his merry mischief-making, a stern voice arrested him.
"Bob, lad, I see 'tis time we larned you yo' letters."
So the business of life began for that dog of whom the simple farmer-folk of the Daleland still love to talk,—Bob, son of Battle, last of the Gray Dogs of Kenmuir.
Chapter II. A SON OF HAGAR
It is a lonely country, that about the Wastrel-dale.
Parson Leggy Hornbut will tell you that his is the smallest church in the biggest parish north of the Derwent, and that his cure numbers more square miles than parishioners. Of fells and ghylls it consists, of becks and lakes; with here a scattered hamlet and there a solitary hill sheep-farm. It is a country in which sheep are paramount; and every other Dalesman is engaged in that profession which is as old as Abel. And the talk of the men of the land is of wethers and gimmers, of tup-hoggs, ewe tegs in wool, and other things which are but fearsome names to you and me; and always of the doings or misdoings, the intelligence or stupidity, of their adjutants, the sheep-dogs.
Of all the Daleland, the country from the Black Water to Grammoch Pike is the wildest. Above the tiny stone-built village of Wastrel-dale the Muir Pike nods its massive head. Westward, the desolate Mere Marches, from which the Sylvesters' great estate derives its name, reach away in mile on mile of sheep infested, wind-swept moorland. On the far side of the Marches is that twin dale where flows the gentle Silver Lea. And it is there in the paddocks at the back of the Dalesman's Daughter, that, in the late summer months, the famous sheep-dog Trials of the North are held. There that the battle for the Dale Cup, the world-known Shepherds' Trophy, is fought out.
Past the little inn leads the turnpike road to the market-centre of the district—Grammoch-town. At the bottom of the paddocks at the back of the inn winds the Silver Lea. Just there a plank bridge crosses the stream, and, beyond, the Murk Muir Pass crawls up the sheer side of the Scaur on to the Mere Marches.
At the head of the Pass, before it debouches on to those lonely sheep-walks which divide the two dales, is that hollow, shuddering with gloomy possibilities, aptly called the Devil's Bowl. In its centre the Lone Tarn, weirdly suggestive pool, lifts its still face to the sky. It was beside that black, frozen water, across whose cold surface the storm was swirling in white snow-wraiths, that, many, many years ago (not in this century), old Andrew Moore came upon the mother of the Gray Dogs of Kenmuir.
In the North, every one who has heard of the Muir Pike—and who has not?—has heard of the Gray Dogs of Kenmuir, every one who has heard of the Shepherd's Trophy—and who has not?—knows their fame. In that country of good dogs and jealous masters the pride of place has long been held unchallenged. Whatever line may claim to follow the Gray Dogs always lead the van. And there is a saying in the land: "Faithfu' as the Moores and their tykes."
* * * * *
On the top dresser to the right of the fireplace in the kitchen of Kenmuir lies the family Bible. At the end you will find a loose sheet—the pedigree of the Gray Dogs; at the beginning, pasted on the inside, an almost similar sheet, long since yellow with age—the family register of the Moores of Kenmuir.
Running your eye down the loose leaf, once, twice, and again it will be caught by a small red cross beneath a name, and under the cross the one word "Cup." Lastly, opposite the name of Rex son of Rally, are two of those proud, tell-tale marks. The cup referred to is the renowned Dale Cup—Champion Challenge Dale Cup, open to the world. Had Rex won it but once again the Shepherds' Trophy, which many men have lived to win, and died still striving after, would have come to rest forever in the little gray house below the Pike.
It was not to be, however. Comparing the two sheets, you read beneath the dog's name a date and a pathetic legend; and on the other sheet, written in his son's boyish hand, beneath the name of Andrew Moore the same date and the same legend.
From that day James Moore, then but a boy, was master of Kenmuir.
So past Grip and Rex and Rally, and a hundred others, until at the foot of the page you come to that last name—Bob, son of Battle.
* * * * *
From the very first the young dog took to his work in a manner to amaze even James Moore. For a while he watched his mother, Meg, at her business, and with that seemed to have mastered the essentials of sheep tactics.
Rarely had such fiery elan been seen on the sides of the Pike; and with it the young dog combined a strange sobriety, an admirable patience, that justified, indeed, the epithet. "Owd." Silent he worked, and resolute; and even in those days had that famous trick of coaxing the sheep to do his wishes;—blending, in short, as Tammas put it, the brains of a man with the way of a woman.
Parson Leggy, who was reckoned the best judge of a sheep or sheep-dog 'twixt Tyne and Tweed, summed him up in the one word "Genius." And James Moore himself, cautious man, was more than pleased.
In the village, the Dalesmen, who took a personal pride in the Gray Dogs of Kenmuir, began to nod sage heads when "oor" Bob was mentioned. Jim Mason, the postman, whose word went as far with the villagers as Parson Leggy's with the gentry, reckoned he'd never seen a young un as so took his fancy.
That winter it grew quite the recognized thing, when they had gathered of a night round the fire in the Sylvester Arms, with Tammas in the centre, old Jonas Maddox on his right, Rob Saunderson of the Holt on the left, and the others radiating away toward the sides, for some one to begin with:
"Well, and what o' oor Bob, Mr. Thornton?"
To which Tammas would always make reply:
"Oh, yo' ask Sam'l there. He'll tell yo' better'n me, "—and would forthwith plunge, himself, into a yarn.
And the way in which, as the story proceeded, Tupper of Swinsthwaite winked at Ned Hoppin of Fellsgarth, and Long Kirby, the smith, poked Jem Burton, the publican, in the ribs, and Sexton Ross said, "Ma word, lad!" spoke more eloquently than many words.
One man only never joined in the chorus of admiration. Sitting always alone in the background, little M'Adam would listen with an incredulous grin on his sallow face.
"Oh, ma certes! The devil's in the dog! It's no cannie ava!" he would continually exclaim, as Tammas told his tale.
* * * * *
In the Daleland you rarely see a stranger's face. Wandering in the wild country about the twin dales at the time of this story, you might have met Parson Leggy, striding along with a couple of varmint terriers at his heels, and young Cyril Gilbraith, whom he was teaching to tie flies and fear God, beside him; or Jim Mason, postman by profession, poacher by predilection, honest man and sportsman by nature, hurrying along with the mail-bags on his shoulder, a rabbit in his pocket, and the faithful Betsy a yard behind. Besides these you might have hit upon a quiet shepherd and a wise-faced dog; Squire Sylvester, going his rounds upon a sturdy cob; or, had you been lucky, sweet Lady Eleanour bent upon some errand of mercy to one of the many tenants.
It was while the Squire's lady was driving through the village on a visit* to Tammas's slobbering grandson—it was shortly after Billy Thornton's advent into the world—that little M'Adam, standing in the door of the Sylvester Arms, with a twig in his mouth and a sneer fading from his lips, made his ever-memorable remark:
"Sall!" he said, speaking in low, earnest voice; "'tis a muckle wumman."
Note:* It was this visit which figured in the Grammoch-town Argus (local and radical) under the heading of "Alleged Wholesale Corruption by Tory Agents." And that is why, on the following market day, Herbert Trotter, journalist, erstwhile gentleman, and Secretary of the Dale Trials, found himself trying to swim in the public horse-trough.
"What? What be sayin', mon?" cried old Jonas, startled out of his usual apathy.
M'Adam turned sharply on the old man.
"I said the wumman wears a muckle hat!" he snapped.
Blotted out as it was, the observation still remains—a tribute of honest admiration. Doubtless the Recording Angel did not pass it by. That one statement anent the gentle lady of the manor is the only personal remark ever credited to little M'Adam not born of malice and all uncharitableness. And that is why it is ever memorable.
The little Scotsman with the sardonic face had been the tenant of the Grange these many years; yet he had never grown acclimatized to the land of the Southron. With his shrivelled body and weakly legs he looked among the sturdy, straight-limbed sons of the hill-country like some brown, wrinkled leaf holding its place midst a galaxy of green. And as he differed from them physically, so he did morally.
He neither understood them nor attempted to. The North-country character was an unsolved mystery to him, and that after ten years' study. "One-half o' what ye say they doot, and they let ye see it; t'ither half they disbelieve, and they tell ye so," he once said. And that explained his attitude toward them, and consequently theirs toward him.
He stood entirely alone; a son of Hagar, mocking. His sharp, ill tongue was rarely still, and always bitter. There was hardly a man in the land, from Langholm How to the market-cross in Grammoch-town, but had at one time known its sting, endured it in silence—for they are slow of speech, these men of the fells and meres—and was nursing his resentment till a day should bring that chance which always comes. And when at the Sylvester Arms, on one of those rare occasions when M'Adam was not present, Tammas summed up the little man in that historic phrase of his, "When he's drunk he's wi'lent, and when he bain't he's wicious," there was an applause to gratify the blase heart of even Tammas Thornton.
Yet it had not been till his wife's death that the little man had allowed loose rein to his ill-nature. With her firmly gentle hand no longer on the tiller of his life, it burst into fresh being. And alone in the world with David, the whole venom of his vicious temperament was ever directed against the boy's head. It was as though he saw in his fair-haired son the unconscious cause of his ever-living sorrow. All the more strange this, seeing that, during her life, the boy had been to poor Flora M'Adam as her heart's core. And the lad was growing up the very antithesis of his father. Big and hearty, with never an ache or ill in the whole of his sturdy young body; of frank, open countenance; while even his speech was slow and burring like any Dale-bred boy's. And the fact of it all, and that the lad was palpably more Englishman than Scot—ay, and gloried in it—exasperated the little man, a patriot before everything, to blows. While, on top of it, David evinced an amazing pertness fit to have tried a better man than Adam M'Adam.
On the death of his wife, kindly Elizabeth Moore had, more than once, offered such help to the lonely little man as a woman only can give in a house that knows no mistress. On the last of these occasions, after crossing the Stony Bottom, which divides the two farms, and toiling up the hill to the Grange, she had met M'Adam in the door.
"Yo' maun let me put yo' bit things straight for yo', mister," she had said shyly; for she feared the little man.
"Thank ye, Mrs. Moore," he had answered with the sour smile the Dalesmen knew so well, "but ye maun think I'm a waefu' cripple." And there he had stood, grinning sardonically, opposing his small bulk in the very centre of the door.
Mrs. Moore had turned down the hill, abashed and hurt at the reception of her offer; and her husband, proud to a fault, had forbidden her to repeat it. Nevertheless her motherly heart went out in a great tenderness for the little orphan David. She knew well the desolateness of his life; his father's aversion from him, and its inevitable consequences.
It became an institution for the boy to call every morning at Kenmuir, and trot off to the village school with Maggie Moore. And soon the lad came to look on Kenmuir as his true home, and James and Elizabeth Moore as his real parents. His greatest happiness was to be away from the Grange. And the ferret-eyed little man there noted the fact, bitterly resented it, and vented his ill-humor accordingly.
It was this, as he deemed it, uncalled-for trespassing on his authority which was the chief cause of his animosity against James Moore. The Master of Kenmuir it was at whom he was aiming when he remarked one day at the Arms: "Masel', I aye prefaire the good man who does no go to church, to the bad man who does. But then, as ye say, Mr. Burton, I'm peculiar."
The little man's treatment of David, exaggerated as it was by eager credulity, became at length such a scandal to the Dale that Parson Leggy determined to bring him to task on the matter.
Now M'Adam was the parson's pet antipathy. The bluff old minister, with his brusque manner and big heart, would have no truck with the man who never went to church, was perpetually in liquor, and never spoke good of his neighbors. Yet he entered upon the interview fully resolved not to be betrayed into an unworthy expression of feeling; rather to appeal to the little man's better nature.
The conversation had not been in progress two minutes, however, before he knew that, where he had meant to be calmly persuasive, he was fast become hotly abusive.
"You, Mr. Hornbut, wi' James Moore to help ye, look after the lad's soul, I'll see to his body," the little man was saying.
The parson's thick gray eyebrows lowered threateningly over his eyes.
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself to talk like that. Which d'you think the more important, soul or body? Oughtn't you, his father, to be the very first to care for the boy's soul? If not, who should? Answer me, sir."
The little man stood smirking and sucking his eternal twig, entirely unmoved by the other's heat.
"Ye're right, Mr. Hornbut, as ye aye are. But my argiment is this: that I get at his soul best through his leetle carcase."
The honest parson brought down his stick with an angry thud.
"M'Adam, you're a brute—a brute!" he shouted. At which outburst the little man was seized with a spasm of silent merriment.
"A fond dad first, a brute afterward, aiblins—he! he! Ah, Mr. Hornbut! ye 'ford me vast diversion, ye do indeed, 'my loved, my honored, much-respected friend."
"If you paid as much heed to your boy's welfare as you do to the bad poetry of that profligate ploughman—"
An angry gleam shot into the other's eyes. "D'ye ken what blasphemy is, Mr. Hornbut?" he asked, shouldering a pace forward.
For the first time in the dispute the parson thought he was about to score a point, and was calm accordingly.
"I should do; I fancy I've a specimen of the breed before me now. And d'you know what impertinence is?"
"I should do; I fancy I've—I awd say it's what gentlemen aften are unless their mammies whipped 'em as lads."
For a moment the parson looked as if about to seize his opponent and shake him.
"M'Adam," he roared, "I'll not stand your insolences!"
The little man turned, scuttled indoors, and came running back with a chair.
"Permit me!" he said blandly, holding it before him like a haircutter for a customer.
The parson turned away. At the gap in the hedge he paused.
"I'll only say one thing more," he called slowly. "When your wife, whom I think we all loved, lay dying in that room above you, she said to you in my presence—"
It was M'Adam's turn to be angry. He made a step forward with burning face.
"Aince and for a', Mr. Hornbut," he cried passionately, "onderstand I'll not ha' you and yer likes lay yer tongues on ma wife's memory whenever it suits ye. You can say what ye like aboot me—lies, sneers, snash—and I'll say naethin'. I dinna ask ye to respect me; I think ye might do sae muckle by her, puir lass. She never harmed ye. Gin ye canna let her bide in peace where she lies doon yonder"—he waved in the direction of the churchyard—"ye'll no come on ma land. Though she is dead she's mine."
Standing in front of his house, with flushed face and big eyes, the little man looked almost noble in his indignation. And the parson, striding away down the hill, was uneasily conscious that with him was not the victory.
Chapter III. RED WULL
THE winter came and went; the lambing season was over, and spring already shyly kissing the land. And the back of the year's work broken, and her master well started on a fresh season, M'Adam's old collie, Cuttie Sark, lay down one evening and passed quietly away.
The little black-and-tan lady, Parson Leggy used to say, had been the only thing on earth M'Adam cared for. Certainly the two had been wondrously devoted; and for many a market-day the Dalesmen missed the shrill, chuckling cry which heralded the pair's approach: "Weel done, Cuttie Sark!"
The little man felt his loss acutely, and, according to his wont, vented his ill-feeling on David and the Dalesmen. In return, Tammas, whose forte lay in invective and alliteration, called him behind his back, "A wenomous one!" and "A wiralent wiper!" to the applause of tinkling pewters.
A shepherd without his dog is like a ship without a rudder, and M'Adam felt his loss practically as well as otherwise. Especially did he experience this on a day when he had to take a batch of draft-ewes over to Grammoch-town. To help him Jem Burton had lent the services of his herring-gutted, herring-hearted, greyhound lurcher, Monkey. But before they had well topped Braithwaite Brow, which leads from the village on to the marches, M'Adam was standing in the track with a rock in his hand, a smile on his face, and the tenderest blandishments in his voice as he coaxed the dog to him. But Master Monkey knew too much for that. However, after gamboling a while longer in the middle of the flock, a boulder, better aimed than its predecessors, smote him on the hinder parts and sent him back to the Sylvester Arms, with a sore tail and a subdued heart.
For the rest, M'Adam would never have won over the sheep-infested marches alone with his convoy had it not been for the help of old Saunderson and Shep, who caught him on the way and aided him.
It was in a very wrathful mood that on his way home he turned into the Dalesman's Daughter in Silverdale.
The only occupants of the tap-room, as he entered, were Teddy Bolstock, the publican, Jim Mason, with the faithful Betsy beneath his chair and the post-bags flung into the corner, and one long-limbed, drover-like man—a stranger.
"And he coom up to Mr. Moore," Teddy was saying, "and says he, 'I'll gie ye twal' pun for yon gray dog o' yourn.' 'Ah,' says Moore, 'yo' may gie me twal' hunner'd and yet you'll not get ma Bob.'—Eh, Jim?"
"And he did thot," corroborated Jim. "'Twal' hunner'd,' says he."
"James Moore and his dog agin" snapped M'Adam. "There's ithers in the warld for bye them twa."
"Ay, but none like 'em," quoth loyal Jim.
"Na, thanks be. Gin there were there'd be no room for Adam M'Adam in this 'melancholy vale.'"
There was silence a moment, and then—:
"You're wantin' a tyke, bain't you, Mr. M'Adam?" Jim asked.
The little man hopped round all in a hurry.
"What!" he cried in well-affected eagerness, scanning the yellow mongrel beneath the chair. "Betsy for sale! Guid life! Where's ma check-book?" Whereat Jim, most easily snubbed of men, collapsed.
M'Adam took off his dripping coat and crossed the room to hang it on a chair-back. The stranger drover followed the meagre, shirt-clad figure with shifty eyes; then he buried his face in his mug.
M'Adam reached out a hand for the chair; and as he did so, a bomb in yellow leapt out from beneath it, and, growling horribly, attacked his ankles.
"Curse ye!" cried M'Adam, starting back.
"Ye devil, let me alone!" Then turning fiercely on the drover, "Yours, mister?" he asked. The man nodded. "Then call him aff, can't ye? D—n ye!" At which Teddy Bolstock withdrew, sniggering; and Jim Mason slung the post-bags on to his shoulder and plunged out into the rain, the faithful Betsy following, disconsolate.
The cause of the squall, having beaten off the attacking force, had withdrawn again beneath its chair. M'Adam stooped down, still cursing, his wet coat on his arm, and beheld a tiny yellow puppy, crouching defiant in the dark, and glaring out with fiery light eyes. Seeing itself remarked, it bared its little teeth, raised its little bristles, and growled a hideous menace.
A sense of humor is many a man's salvation, and was M'Adam's one redeeming feature. The laughableness of the thing—this ferocious atomy defying him—struck home to the little man. Delighted at such a display of vice in so tender a plant, he fell to chuckling.
"Ye leetle devil!" he laughed. "He! he! ye leetle devil!" and flipped together finger and thumb in vain endeavor to coax the puppy to him.
But it growled, and glared more terribly.
"Stop it, ye little snake, or I'll flatten you!" cried the big drover, and shuffled his feet threateningly. Whereat the puppy, gurgling like hot water in a kettle, made a feint as though to advance and wipe them out, these two bad men.
M'Adam laughed again, and smote his leg.
"Keep a ceevil tongue and yer distance," says he, "or I'll e'en ha' to mak' ye. Though he is but as big as a man's thumb, a dog's a dog for a' that—he! he! the leetle devil." And he fell to flipping finger and thumb afresh.
"Ye're maybe wantin' a dog?" inquired the stranger. "Yer friend said as much."
"Ma friend lied; it's his way," M'Adam replied.
"I'm willin' to part wi' him," the other pursued.
The little man yawned. "Weel, I'll tak' him to oblige ye," he said indifferently.
The drover rose to his feet.
"It's givin' 'im ye, fair givin' im ye, mind! But I'll do it!"—he smacked a great fist into a hollow palm. "Ye may have the dog for a pun'—I'll only ask you a pun'," and he walked away to the window.
M'Adam drew back, the better to scan his would-be benefactor; his lower jaw dropped, and he eyed the stranger with a drolly sarcastic air.
"A poun', man! A pouxi'—for yon noble dorg!" he pointed a crooked forefinger at the little creature, whose scowling mask peered from beneath the chair. "Man, I couldna do it. Na, na; ma conscience wadna permit me. 'Twad be fair robbin' ye. Ah, ye Englishmen!" he spoke half to himself, and sadly, as if deploring the unhappy accident of his nationality; "it's yer grand, open-hairted generosity that grips a puir Scotsman by the throat. A poun'! and for yon!" He wagged his head mournfully, cocking it sideways the better to scan his subject.
"Take him or leave him," ordered the drover truculently, still gazing out of the window.
"Wi' yer permission I'll leave him," M'Adam answered meekly.
"I'm short o' the ready," the big man pursued, "or I wouldna part with him. Could I bide me time there's many'd be glad to give me a tenner for one o' that bree—" he caught himself up hastily—"for a dog sic as that."
"And yet ye offer him me for a poun'! Noble indeed!"
Nevertheless the little man had pricked his ears at the other's slip and quick correction. Again he approached the puppy, dangling his coat before him to protect his ankles; and again that wee wild beast sprang out, seized the coat in its small jaw, and worried it savagely.
M'Adam stooped quickly and picked up his tiny assailant; and the puppy, suspended by its neck, gurgled and slobbered; then, wriggling desperately round, made its teeth meet in its adversary's shirt. At which M'Adam shook it gently and laughed. Then he set to examining it.
Apparently some six weeks old; a tawny coat, fiery eyes, a square head with small, cropped ears, and a comparatively immense jaw; the whole giving promise of great strength, if little beauty. And this effect was enhanced by the manner of its docking. For the miserable relic of a tail, yet raw, looked little more than a red button adhering to its wearer's stern.
M'Adam's inspection was as minute as it was apparently absorbing; he omitted nothing from the square muzzle to the lozenge-like scut. And every now and then he threw a quick glance at the man at the window, who was watching the careful scrutiny a thought uneasily.
"Ye've cut him short," he said at length, swinging round on the drover.
"Ay; strengthens their backs," the big man answered with averted gaze.
M'Adam's chin went up in the air; his mouth partly opened and his eyelids partly closed as he eyed his informant.
"Oh, ay," he said.
"Gie him back to me," ordered the drover surlily. He took the puppy and set it on the floor; whereupon it immediately resumed its former fortified position. "Ye're no buyer; I knoo that all along by that face on ye," he said in insulting tones.
"Ye wad ha' bought him yerseif', nae doot?" M'Adam inquired blandly.
"In course; if you says so."
"Or airblins ye bred him?"
"'Appen I did."
"Ye'll no be from these parts?"
"Will I no?" answered the other.
A smile of genuine pleasure stole over M'Adam's face. He laid his hand on the other's arm.
"Man," he said gently, "ye mind me o' hame." Then almost in the same breath: "Ye said ye found him?"
It was the stranger's turn to laugh.
"Ha! ha! Ye teekle me, little mon. Found 'im? Nay; I was give 'im by a friend. But there's nowt amiss wi' his breedin', ye may believe me."
The great fellow advanced to the chair under which the puppy lay. It leapt out like a lion, and fastened on his huge boot.
"A rare bred un, look 'ee! a rare game un. Ma word, he's a big-hearted un! Look at the back on him; see the jaws to him; mark the pluck of him!" He shook his booted foot fiercely, tossing his leg to and fro like a tree in a wind. But the little creature, now raised ceilingward, now dashed to the ground, held on with incomparable doggedness, till its small jaw was all bloody and muzzle wrinkled with the effort.
"Ay, ay, that'll do," M'Adam interposed, irritably.
The drover ceased his efforts.
"Now, I'll mak' ye a last offer." He thrust his head down to a level with the other's, shooting out his neck. "It's throwin' him at ye, mind. 'Tain't buyin' him ye'll be—don't go for to deceive yourself. Ye may have him for fifteen shillin'. Why do I do it, ye ask? Why, 'cos I think ye'll be kind to him," as the puppy retreated to its chair, leaving a spotted track of red along its route.
"Ay, ye wadna be happy gin ye thocht he'd no a comfortable hame, conseederate man?" M'Adam answered, eyeing the dark track on the floor. Then he put on his coat.
"Na, na, he's no for me. Weel, I'll no detain ye. Good-nicht to ye, mister!" and he made for the door.
"A gran' worker he'll be," called the drover after him.
"Ay; muckle wark he'll mak' amang the sheep wi' sic a jaw and sic a temper. Weel, I maun be steppin'. Good-nicht to ye."
"Ye'll niver have sich anither chanst."
"Nor niver wush to. Na, na; he'll never mak' a sheep-dog"; and the little man turned up the collar of his coat.
"Will he not?" cried the other scornfully. "There niver yet was one o' that line—" he stopped abruptly.
The little man spun round.
"Iss?" he said, as innocent as any child; "ye were sayin'?"
The other turned to the window and watched the rain falling monotonously.
"Ye'll be wantin' wet," he said adroitly.
"Ay, we could do wi' a drappin'. And he'll never mak' a sheep-dog." He shoved his cap down on his head. "Weel, good-nicht to ye!" and he stepped out into the rain.
* * * * *
It was long after dark when the bargain was finally struck.
Adam M'Adam's Red Wull became that little man's property for the following realizable assets: ninepence in cash—three coppers and a doubtful sixpence; a plug of suspicious tobacco in a well-worn pouch; and an old watch.
"It's clean givin' 'im ye," said the stranger bitterly, at the end of the deal.
"It's mair the charity than aught else mak's me sae leeberal," the other answered gently. "I wad not like to see ye pinched."
"Thank ye kindly," the big man replied with some acerbity, and plunged out into the darkness and rain. Nor was that long-limbed drover-man ever again seen in the countryside. And the puppy's previous history—whether he was honestly come by or no, whether he was, indeed, of the famous Red McCulloch* strain, ever remained a mystery in the Daleland.
*N. B.—You may know a Red McCulloch anywhere by the ring of white upon his tail some two inches from the root.
Chapter IV. FIRST BLOOD
AFTER that first encounter in the Dalesman's Daughter, Red Wull, for so M'Adam called him, resigned himself complacently to his lot; recognizing, perhaps, his destiny.
Thenceforward the sour little man and the vicious puppy grew, as it were, together. The two were never apart. Where M'Adam was, there was sure to be his tiny attendant, bristling defiance as he kept ludicrous guard over his master.
The little man and his dog were inseparable. M'Adam never left him even at the Grange.
"I couldna trust ma Wullie at hame alone wi' the dear lad," was his explanation. "I ken weel I'd come back to find a wee corpse on the floor, and David singin':
'My heart is sair, I daur na tell, My heart is sair for somebody.'
Ay, and he'd be sair elsewhere by the time I'd done wi' him—he! he!"
The sneer at David's expense was as characteristic as it was unjust. For though the puppy and the boy were already sworn enemies, yet the lad would have scorned to harm so small a foe. And many a tale did David tell at Kenmuir of Red Wull's viciousness, of his hatred of him (David), and his devotion to his master; how, whether immersed in the pig-bucket or chasing the fleeting rabbit, he would desist at once, and bundle, panting, up at his master's call; how he routed the tomcat and drove him from the kitchen; and how he clambered on to David's bed and pinned him murderously by the nose.
Of late the relations between M'Adam and James Moore had been unusually strained. Though they were neighbors, communications between the two were of the rarest; and it was for the first time for many a long day that, on an afternoon shortly after Red Wull had come into his possession, M'Adam entered the yard of Kenmuir, bent on girding at the master for an alleged trespass at the Stony Bottom.
"Wi' yer permission, Mr. Moore," said the little man, "I'll wheestle ma dog," and, turning, he whistled a shrill, peculiar note like the cry of a disturbed peewit.
Straightway there came scurrying desperately up, ears back, head down, tongue out, as if the world depended on his speed, a little tawny beetle of a thing, who placed his forepaws against his master's ankles and looked up into his face; then, catching sight of the strangers, hurriedly he took up his position between them and M'Adam, assuming his natural attitude of grisly defiance. Such a laughable spectacle he made, that martial mite, standing at bay with bristles up and teeth bared, that even James Moore smiled.
"Ma word! Ha' yo' brought his muzzle, man?" cried old Tammas, the humorist; and, turning, climbed all in a heat on to an upturned bucket that stood by. Whereat the puppy, emboldened by his foe's retreat, advanced savagely to the attack, buzzing round the slippery pail like a wasp on a windowpane, in a vain attempt to reach the old man.
Tammas stood on the top, hitching his trousers and looking down on his assailant, the picture of mortal fear.
"'Elp! Oh, 'elp!" he bawled. "Send for the sogers! Fetch the p'lice! For lawk-amussy's sake call him off, man!" Even Sam'l Todd, watching the scene from the cart-shed, was tickled and burst into a loud guffaw, heartily backed by 'Enry and oor Job. While M'Adam remarked: "Ye're fitter for a stage than a stable-bucket, Mr. Thornton."
"How didst come by him?" asked Tammas, nodding at the puppy.
"Found him," the little man replied, sucking his twig. "Found him in ma stockin' on ma birthday. A present from ma leetle David for his auld dad, I doot."
"So do I," said Tammas, and was seized with sudden spasm of seemingly causeless merriment. For looking up as M'Adam was speaking, he had caught a glimpse of a boy's fair head, peering cautiously round the cow-shed, and, behind, the flutter of short petticoats. They disappeared as silently as they had come; and two small figures, just returned from school, glided away and sought shelter in the friendly darkness of a coal-hole.
"Coom awa', Maggie, coom awa'! 'Tis th' owd un, 'isself," whispered a disrespectful voice.
M'Adam looked round suspiciously.
"What's that?" he asked sharply.
At the moment, however, Mrs. Moore put her head out of the kitchen window.
"Coom thy ways in, Mister M'Adam, and tak' a soop o' tea," she called hospitably.
"Thank ye kindly, Mrs. Moore, I will," he answered, politely for him. And this one good thing must be allowed of Adam M'Adam: that, if there was only one woman of whom he was ever known to speak well, there was also only one, in the whole course of his life, against whom he ever insinuated evil—and that was years afterward, when men said his brain was sapped. Flouts and jeers he had for every man, but a woman, good or bad, was sacred to him. For the sex that had given him his mother and his wife he had that sentiment of tender reverence which, if a man still preserve, he cannot be altogether bad. As he turned into the house he looked back at Red Wull.
"Ay, we may leave him," he said. "That is, gin ye're no afraid, Mr. Thornton?"
Of what happened while the men were within doors, it is enough to tell two things. First, that Owd Bob was no bully. Second, this: In the code of sheep-dog honor there is written a word in stark black letters; and opposite it another word, writ large in the color of blood. The first is "Sheep-murder"; the second, "Death." It is the one crime only to be wiped away in blood; and to accuse of the crime is to offer the one unpardonable insult. Every sheep-dog knows it, and every shepherd.
That afternoon, as the men still talked, the quiet echoes of the farm rung with a furious animal cry, twice repeated: "Shot for sheep-murder"—"Shot for sheep-murder"; followed by a hollow stillness.
* * * * *
The two men finished their colloquy. The matter was concluded peacefully, mainly owing to the pacifying influence of Mrs. Moore. Together the three went out into the yard; Mrs. Moore seizing the opportunity to shyly speak on David's behalf.
"He's such a good little lad, I do think," she was saying.
"Ye should ken, Mrs. Moore," the little man answered, a thought bitterly; "ye see enough of him."
"Yo' mun be main proud of un, mester," the woman continued, heedless of the sneer: "an' 'im growin' such a gradely lad."
M'Adam shrugged his shoulders.
"I barely ken the lad," he said. "By sight I know him, of course, but barely to speak to. He's but seldom at hame."
"An' hoo proud his mother'd be if she could see him," the woman continued, well aware of his one tender place. "Eh, but she was fond o' him, so she was."
An angry flush stole over the little man's face. Well he understood the implied rebuke; and it hurt him like a knife.
"Ay, ay, Mrs. Moore," he began. Then breaking off, and looking about him—"Where's ma Wullie?" he cried excitedly. "James Moore!" whipping round on the Master, "ma Wullie's gone—gone, I say!"
Elizabeth Moore turned away indignantly. "I do declar' he tak's more fash after yon little yaller beastie than iver he does after his own flesh," she muttered.
"Wullie, ma we doggie! Wullie, where are ye? James Moore, he's gone—ma Wullie's gone!" cried the little man, running about the yard, searching everywhere.
"Cannot 'a' gotten far," said the Master, reassuringly, looking about him.
"Niver no tellin'," said Sam'l, appearing on the scene, pig-bucket in hand. "I misdoot yo'll iver see your dog agin, mister." He turned sorrowfully to M'Adam.
That little man, all dishevelled, and with the perspiration standing on his face, came hurrying out of the cow-shed and danced up to the Master.
"It's robbed I am—robbed, I tell ye!" he cried recklessly. "Ma wee Wull's bin stolen while I was ben your hoose, James Moore!"
"Yo' munna say that, ma mon. No robbin' at Kenmuir," the Master answered sternly.
"Then where is he? It's for you to say."
"I've ma own idee, I 'aye," Sam'l announced opportunely, pig-bucket uplifted.
M'Adam turned on him.
"What, man? What is it?"
"I misdoot yo'll iver see your dog agin, mister," Sam'l repeated, as if he was supplying the key to the mystery.
"Noo, Sam'l, if yo' know owt tell it," ordered his master.
Sam'l grunted sulkily.
"Wheer's oor Bob, then?" he asked.
At that M'Adam turned on the Master.
"'Tis that, nae doot. It's yer gray dog, James Moore, yer —— dog. I might ha' kent it,"—and he loosed off a volley of foul words.
"Sweerin' will no find him," said the Master coldly. "Noo, Sam'l."
The big man shifted his feet, and looked mournfully at M'Adam.
"'Twas 'appen 'aif an hour agone, when I sees oor Bob goin' oot o' yard wi' little yaller tyke in his mouth. In a minnit I looks agin—and theer! little yaller 'un was gone, and oor Bob a-sittin' a-lickin' his chops. Gone foriver, I do reck'n. Ah, yo' may well take on, Tammas Thornton!" For the old man was rolling about the yard, bent double with merriment.
M'Adam turned on the Master with the resignation of despair.
"Man, Moore," he cried piteously, "it's yer gray dog has murdered ma wee Wull! Ye have it from yer ain man."
"Nonsense," said the Master encouragingly. "'Tis but yon girt oof."
Sam'l tossed his head and snorted.
"Coom, then, and i'll show yo'," he said, and led the way out of the yard. And there below them on the slope to the stream, sitting like Justice at the Courts of Law, was Owd Bob.
Straightway Sam'l whose humor was something of the calibre of old Ross's, the sexton, burst into horse-merriment. "Why's he sittin' so still, think 'ee? Ho! Ho! See un lickin' his chops—ha! ha!"—and he roared afresh. While from afar you could hear the distant rumbling of 'Enry and oor Job.
At the sight, M'Adam burst into a storm of passionate invective, and would have rushed on the dog had not James Moore forcibly restrained him.
"Bob, lad," called the Master, "coom here!"
But even as he spoke, the gray dog cocked his ears, listened a moment, and then shot down the slope. At the same moment Tammas hallooed: "Theer he be! yon's yaller un coomin' oot o' drain! La, Sam'l!" And there, indeed, on the slope below them, a little angry, smutty-faced figure was crawling out of a rabbit-burrow.
"Ye murderin' devil, wad ye duar touch ma Wullie?" yelled M'Adam, and, breaking away, pursued hotly down the hill; for the gray dog had picked up the puppy, like a lancer a tent-peg, and was sweeping on, his captive in his mouth, toward the stream.
Behind, hurried James Moore and Sam'l, wondering what the issue of the comedy would be. After them toddled old Tammas, chuckling. While over the yard-wall was now a little cluster of heads: 'Enry, oor Job, Maggie and David, and Vi'let Thornton, the dairy-maid.
Straight on to the plank-bridge galloped Owd Bob. In the middle he halted, leant over, and dropped his prisoner; who fell with a cool plop into the running water beneath.
Another moment and M'Adam had reached the bank of the stream. In he plunged, splashing and cursing, and seized the struggling puppy; then waded back, the waters surging about his waist, and Red Wull, limp as a wet rag, in his hand. The little man's hair was dripping, for his cap was gone; his clothes clung to him, exposing the miserableness of his figure; and his eyes blazed like hot ashes in his wet face.
He sprang on to the bank, and, beside himself with passion, rushed at Owd Bob.
"Curse ye for a ——"
"Stan' back, or yo'll have him at your throat!" shouted the Master, thundering up. "Stan' back, I say, yo' fule!" And, as the little man still came madly on, he reached forth his hand and hurled him back; at the same moment, bending, he buried the other hand deep in Owd Bob's shaggy neck. It was but just in time; for if ever the fierce desire of battle gleamed in gray eyes, it did in the young dog's as M'Adam came down on him.
The little man staggered, tottered, and fell heavily. At the shock, the blood gushed from his nose, and, mixing with the water on his face, ran down in vague red streams, dripping off his chin; while Red Wull, jerked from his grasp, was thrown afar, and lay motionless.
"Curse ye!" M'Adam screamed, his face dead-white save for the running red about his jaw. "Curse ye for a cowardly Englishman!" and, struggling to his feet, he made at the Master.
But Sam'l interposed his great bulk between the two.
"Easy, little mon," he said leisurely, regarding the small fury before him with mournful interest. "Eh, but thee do be a little spit-cat, surely!"
James Moore stood, breathing deep, his hand still buried in Owd Bob's coat.
"If yo'd touched him," he explained, "I couldna ha' stopped him. He'd ha' mauled yo' afore iver I could ha' had him off. They're bad to hold, the Gray Dogs, when they're roosed."
"Ay, ma word, that they are!" corroborated Tammas, speaking from the experience of sixty years. "Once on, yo' canna get 'em off."
The little man turned away.
"Ye're all agin me," he said, and his voice shook. A pitiful figure he made, standing there with the water dripping from him. A red stream was running slowly from his chin; his head was bare, and face working.
James Moore stood eyeing him with some pity and some contempt. Behind was Tammas, enjoying the scene. While Sam'l regarded them all with an impassive melancholy.
M'Adam turned and bent over Red Wull, who still lay like a dead thing. As his master handled him, the button-tail quivered feebly; he opened his eyes, looked about him, snarled faintly, and glared with devilish hate at the gray dog and the group with him.
The little man picked him up, stroking him tenderly. Then he turned away and on to the bridge. Half-way across he stopped. It rattled feverishly beneath him, for he still trembled like a palsied man.
"Man, Moore!" he called, striving to quell the agitation in his voice—"I wad shoot yon dog."
Across the bridge he turned again. "Man, Moore!" he called and paused. "Ye'll not forget this day." And with that the blood flared up a dull crimson into his white face.
PART II THE LITTLE MAN
Chapter V. A MAN'S SON
THE storm, long threatened, having once burst, M'Adam allowed loose rein to his bitter animosity against James Moore.
The two often met. For the little man frequently returned home from the village by the footpath across Kenmuir. It was out of his way, but he preferred it in order to annoy his enemy and keep a watch upon his doings.
He haunted Kenmuir like its evil genius. His sallow face was perpetually turning up at inopportune moments. When Kenmuir Queen, the prize short-horn heifer, calved unexpectedly and unattended in the dip by the lane, Tammas and the Master, summoned hurriedly by Owd Bob, came running up to find the little man leaning against the stile, and shaking with silent merriment. Again, poor old Staggy, daring still in his dotage, took a fall while scrambling on the steep banks of the Stony Bottom. There he lay for hours, unnoticed and kicking, until James Moore and Owd Bob came upon him at length, nearly exhausted. But M'Adam was before them. Standing on the far bank with Red Wull by his side, he called across the gulf with apparent concern: "He's bin so sin' yesternight." Often James Moore, with all his great strength of character, could barely control himself.
There were two attempts to patch up the feud. Jim Mason, who went about the world seeking to do good, tried in his shy way to set things right. But M'Adam and his Red Wull between them soon shut him and Betsy up.
"You mind yer letters and yer wires, Mr. Poacher-Postman. Ay, I saw 'em baith: th' ain doon by the Haughs, t'ither in the Bottom. And there's Wullie, the humorsome chiel, havin' a rare game wi' Betsy." There, indeed, lay the faithful Betsy, suppliant on her back, paws up, throat exposed, while Red Wull, now a great-grown puppy, stood over her, his habitually evil expression intensified into a fiendish grin, as with wrinkled muzzle and savage wheeze he waited for a movement as a pretext to pin: "Wullie, let the leddy be—ye've had yer dinner."
Parson Leggy was the other would-be mediator; for he hated to see the two principal parishioners of his tiny cure at enmity. First he tackled James Moore on the subject; but that laconic person cut him short with, "I've nowt agin the little mon," and would say no more. And, indeed, the quarrel was none of his making.
Of the parson's interview with M'Adam, it is enough to say here that, in the end, the angry old minister would of a surety have assaulted his mocking adversary had not Cyril Gilbraith forcibly withheld him.
And after that the vendetta must take its course unchecked.
David was now the only link between the two farms. Despite his father's angry commands, the boy clung to his intimacy with the Moores with a doggedness that no thrashing could overcome. Not a minute of the day when out of school, holidays and Sundays included, but was passed at Kenmuir. It was not till late at night that he would sneak back to the Grange, and creep quietly up to his tiny bare room in the roof—not supperless, indeed, motherly Mrs. Moore had seen to that. And there he would lie awake and listen with a fierce contempt as his father, hours later, lurched into the kitchen below, lilting liquorishly:
"We are na fou, we're nae that fou, But just a drappie in our e'e; The cock may craw, the day may daw', And ay we'll taste the barley bree!"
And in the morning the boy would slip quietly out of the house while his father still slept; only Red Wull would thrust out his savage head as the lad passed, and snarl hungrily.
Sometimes father and son would go thus for weeks without sight of one another. And that was David's aim—to escape attention. It was only his cunning at this game of evasion that saved him a thrashing.
The little man seemed devoid of all natural affection for his son. He lavished the whole fondness of which his small nature appeared capable on the Tailless Tyke, for so the Dalesmen called Red Wull. And the dog he treated with a careful tenderness that made David smile bitterly.
The little man and his dog were as alike morally as physically they were contrasted. Each owed a grudge against the world and was determined to pay it. Each was an Ishmael among his kind.
You saw them thus, standing apart, leper-like, in the turmoil of life; and it came quite as a revelation to happen upon them in some quiet spot of nights, playing together, each wrapped in the game, innocent, tender, forgetful of the hostile world.
The two were never separated except only when M'Adam came home by the path across Kenmuir. After that first misadventure he never allowed his friend to accompany him on the journey through the enemy's country; for well he knew that sheep-dogs have long memories.
To the stile in the lane, then, Red Wull would follow him. There he would stand, his great head poked through the bars, watching his master out of sight; and then would turn and trot, self-reliant and defiant, sturdy and surly, down the very centre of the road through the village—no playing, no enticing away, and woe to that man or dog who tried to stay him in his course! And so on, past Mother Ross's shop, past the Sylvester Arms, to the right by Kirby's smithy, over the Wastrel by the Haughs, to await his master at the edge of the Stony Bottom.
The little man, when thus crossing Kenmuir, often met Owd Bob, who had the free run of the farm. On these occasions he passed discreetly by; for, though he was no coward, yet it is bad, single-handed, to attack a Gray Dog of Kenmuir; while the dog trotted soberly on his way, only a steely glint in the big gray eyes betraying his knowledge of the presence of his foe. As surely, however, as the little man, in his desire to spy out the nakedness of the land, strayed off the public path, so surely a gray figure, seeming to spring from out the blue, would come fiercely, silently driving down on him; and he would turn and run for his life, amid the uproarious jeers of any of the farm-hands who were witness to the encounter.
On these occasions David vied with Tammas in facetiousness at his father's expense.
"Good on yo', little un!" he roared from behind a wall, on one such occurrence.
"Bain't he a runner, neither?" yelled Tammas, not to be outdone.
"See un skip it—ho! ho! Look to his knees a-wamblin'! from the undutiful son in ecstasy. An' I'd knees like yon, I'd wear petticoats." As he spoke, a swinging box on the ear nearly knocked the young reprobate down.
"D'yo' think God gave you a dad for you to jeer at? Y'ought to be ashamed o' yo'self. Serve yo' right if he does thrash yo' when yo' get home." And David, turning round, found James Moore close behind him, his heavy eyebrows lowering over his eyes.
Luckily, M'Adam had not distinguished his son's voice among the others. But David feared he had; for on the following morning the little man said to him:
"David, ye'll come hame immediately after school to-day."
"Will I?" said David pertly.
"Because I tell ye to, ma lad"; and that was all the reason he would give. Had he told the simple fact that he wanted help to drench a "husking" ewe, things might have gone differently. As it was, David turned away defiantly down the hill.
The afternoon wore on. Schooltime was long over; still there was no David.
The little man waited at the door of the Grange, fuming, hopping from one leg to the other, talking to Red Wull, who lay at his feet, his head on his paws, like a tiger waiting for his prey.
At length he could restrain himself no longer; and started running down the hill, his heart burning with indignation.
"Wait till we lay hands on ye, ma lad," he muttered as he ran. "We'll warm ye, we'll teach ye."
At the edge of the Stony Bottom he, as always, left Red Wull. Crossing it himself, and rounding Langholm How, he espied James Moore, David, and Owd Bob walking away from him and in the direction of Kenmuir. The gray dog and David were playing together, wrestling, racing, and rolling. The boy had never a thought for his father.
The little man ran up behind them, unseen and unheard, his feet softly pattering on the grass. His hand had fallen on David's shoulder before the boy had guessed his approach.
"Did I bid ye come hame after school, David?" he asked, concealing his heat beneath a suspicious suavity.
"Maybe. Did I say I would come?"
The pertness of tone and words, alike, fanned his father's resentment into a blaze. In a burst of passion he lunged forward at the boy with his stick. But as he smote, a gray whirlwind struck him fair on the chest, and he fell like a snapped stake, and lay, half stunned, with a dark muzzle an inch from his throat.
"Git back, Bob!" shouted James Moore, hurrying up. "Git back, I tell yo'!" He bent over the prostrate figure, propping it up anxiously.
"Are yo' hurt, M'Adam? Eh, but I am sorry. He thought yo' were going for to strike the lad."
David had now run up, and he, too, bent over his father with a very scared face.
"Are yo' hurt, feyther?" he asked, his voice trembling.
The little man rose unsteadily to his feet and shook off his supporters. His face was twitching, and he stood, all dust-begrimed, looking at his son.
"Ye're content, aiblins, noo ye've seen yer father's gray head bowed in the dust," he said.
"'Twas an accident," pleaded James Moore. "But I am sorry. He thought yo' were goin' to beat the lad."
"So I was—so I will."
"If ony's beat it should be ma Bob here tho' he nob'but thought he was doin' right. An' yo' were aff the path."
The little man looked at his enemy, a sneer on his face.
"Ye canna thrash him for doin' what ye bid him. Set yer dog on me, if ye will, but dinna beat him when he does yer biddin'!"
"I did not set him on yo', as you know," the Master replied warmly.
M'Adam shrugged his shoulders.
"I'll no argie wi' ye, James Moore," he said. "I'll leave you and what ye call yer conscience to settle that. My business is not wi' you.—David!" turning to his son.
A stranger might well have mistaken the identity of the boy's father. For he stood now, holding the Master's arm; while a few paces above them was the little man, pale but determined, the expression on his face betraying his consciousness of the irony of the situation.
"Will ye come hame wi' me and have it noo, or stop wi' him and wait till ye get it?" he asked the boy.
"M'Adam, I'd like yo' to—"
"None o' that, James Moore.—David, what d'ye say?"
David looked up into his protector's face.
"Yo'd best go wi' your feyther, lad," said the Master at last, thickly. The boy hesitated, and clung tighter to the shielding arm; then he walked slowly over to his father.
A bitter smile spread over the little man's face as he marked this new test of the boy's obedience to the other.
"To obey his frien' he foregoes the pleasure o' disobeyin' his father," he muttered. "Noble!" Then he turned homeward, and the boy followed in his footsteps.
James Moore and the gray dog stood looking after them.
"I know yo'll not pay off yer spite agin me on the lad's head, M'Adam," he called, almost appealingly.
"I'll do ma duty, thank ye, James Moore, wi'oot respect o' persons," the little man cried back, never turning.
Father and son walked away, one behind the other, like a man and his dog, and there was no word said between them. Across the Stony Bottom, Red Wull, scowling with bared teeth at David, joined them. Together the three went up the bill to the Grange.
In the kitchen M'Adam turned.
"Noo, I'm gaein' to gie ye the gran'est thrashin' ye iver dreamed of. Tak' aff yer coat!"
The boy obeyed, and stood up in his thin shirt, his face white and set as a statue's. Red Wull seated himself on his haunches close by, his ears pricked, licking his lips, all attention.
The little man suppled the great ash-plant in his hands and raised it. But the expression on the boy's face arrested his arm.
"Say ye're sorry and I'll let yer aff easy."
"One mair chance—yer last! Say yer 'shamed o' yerself'!"
The little man brandished his cruel, white weapon, and Red Wull shifted a little to obtain a better view.
"Git on wi' it," ordered David angrily.
The little man raised the stick again and—threw it into the farthest corner of the room.
It fell with a rattle on the floor, and M'Adam turned away.
"Ye're the pitifulest son iver a man had," he cried brokenly. "Gin a man's son dinna haud to him, wha can he expect to?—no one. Ye're ondootiful, ye're disrespectfu', ye're maist ilka thing ye shouldna be; there's but ae thing I thocht ye were not—a coward. And as to that, ye've no the pluck to say ye're sorry when, God knows, ye might be. I canna thrash ye this day. But ye shall gae nae mair to school. I send ye there to learn. Ye'll not learn—ye've learnt naethin' except disobedience to me—ye shall stop at hame and work."
His father's rare emotion, his broken voice and working face, moved David as all the stripes and jeers had failed to do. His conscience smote him. For the first time in his life it dimly dawned on him that, perhaps, his father, too, had some ground for complaint; that, perhaps, he was not a good son.
He half turned.
"Git oot o' ma sight!" M'Adam cried.
And the boy turned and went.
Chapter VI. A LICKING OR A LIE
THENCEFORWARD David buckled down to work at home, and in one point only father and son resembled—industry. A drunkard M'Adam was, but a drone, no.
The boy worked at the Grange with tireless, indomitable energy; yet he could never satisfy his father.
The little man would stand, a sneer on his face and his thin lips contemptuously curled, and flout the lad's brave labors.
"Is he no a gran' worker, Wullie? 'Tis a pleasure to watch him, his hands in his pockets, his eyes turned heavenward!" as the boy snatched a hard-earned moment's rest. "You and I, Wullie, we'll brak' oorsel's slavin' for him while he looks on and laffs."
And so on, the whole day through, week in, week out; till he sickened with weariness of it all.
In his darkest hours David thought sometimes to run away. He was miserably alone on the cold bosom of the world. The very fact that he was the son of his father isolated him in the Daleland. Naturally of a reserved disposition, he had no single friend outside Kenmuir. And it was only the thought of his friends there that withheld him. He could not bring himself to part from them; they were all he had in the world.
So he worked on at the Grange, miserably, doggedly, taking blows and abuse alike in burning silence. But every evening, when work was ended, he stepped off to his other home beyond the Stony Bottom. And on Sundays and holidays—for of these latter he took, unasking, what he knew to be his due—all day long, from cock-crowing to the going down of the sun, he would pass at Kenmuir. In this one matter the boy was invincibly stubborn. Nothing his father could say or do sufficed to break him of the habit. He endured everything with white-lipped, silent doggedness, and still held on his way.
Once past the Stony Bottom, he threw his troubles behind him with a courage that did him honor. Of all the people at Kenmuir two only ever dreamed the whole depth of his unhappiness, and that not through David. James Moore suspected something of it all, for he knew more of M'Adam than did the others. While Owd Bob knew it as did no one else. He could tell it from the touch of the boy's hand on his head; and the story was writ large upon his face for a dog to read. And he would follow the lad about with a compassion in his sad gray eyes greater than words.
David might well compare his gray friend at Kenmuir with that other at the Grange.
The Tailless Tyke had now grown into an immense dog, heavy of muscle and huge of bone. A great bull head; undershot jaw, square and lengthy and terrible; vicious, yellow-gleaming eyes; cropped ears; and an expression incomparably savage. His coat was a tawny, lion-like yellow, short, harsh, dense; and his back, running up from shoulder to loins, ended abruptly in the knob-like tail. He looked like the devil of a dogs' hell. And his reputation was as bad as his looks. He never attacked unprovoked; but a challenge was never ignored, and he was greedy of insults. Already he had nigh killed Rob Saunderson's collie, Shep; Jem Burton's Monkey fled incontinently at the sound of his approach; while he had even fought a round with that redoubtable trio, the Vexer, Venus, and Van Tromp.
Nor, in the matter of war, did he confine himself to his own kind. His huge strength and indomitable courage made him the match of almost anything that moved. Long Kirby once threatened him with a broomstick; the smith never did it again. While in the Border Ram he attacked Big Bell, the Squire's underkeeper, with such murderous fury that it took all the men in the room to pull him off.
More than once had he and Owd Bob essayed to wipe out mutual memories, Red Wull, in this case only, the aggressor. As yet, however, while they fenced a moment for that deadly throat-grip, the value of which each knew so well, James Moore had always seized the chance to intervene.
"That's right, hide him ahint yer petticoats," sneered M'Adam on one of these occasions.
"Hide? It'll not be him I'll hide, I warn you, M'Adam," the Master answered grimly, as he stood, twirling his good oak stick between the would-be duellists. Whereat there was a loud laugh at the little man's expense.
It seemed as if there were to be other points of rivalry between the two than memories. For, in the matter of his own business—the handling of sheep—Red Wull bid fair to be second only throughout the Daleland to the Gray Dog of Kenmuir. And M'Adam was patient and painstaking in the training of his Wullie in a manner to astonish David. It would have been touching, had it not been so unnatural in view of his treatment of his own blood, to watch the tender carefulness with which the little man moulded the dog beneath his hands. After a promising display he would stand, rubbing his palms together, as near content as ever he was.
"Weel done, Wullie! Weel done. Bide a wee and we'll show 'em a thing or two, you and I, Wullie.
"'The warld's wrack we share o't, The warstle and the care o't.'
For it's you and I alane, lad." And the dog would trot up to him, place his great forepaws on his shoulders, and stand thus with his great head overtopping his master's, his ears back, and stump tail vibrating.
You saw them at their best when thus together, displaying each his one soft side to the other.
From the very first David and Red Wull were open enemies: under the circumstances, indeed, nothing else was possible. Sometimes the great dog would follow on the lad's heels with surly, greedy eyes, never leaving him from sunrise to sundown, till David could hardly hold his hands.
So matters went on for a never-ending year. Then there came a climax.
One evening, on a day throughout which Red Wull had dogged him thus hungrily, David, his work finished, went to pick up his coat, which he had left hard by. On it lay Red Wull.
"Git off ma coat!" the boy ordered angrily, marching up. But the great dog never stirred: he lifted a lip to show a fence of white, even teeth, and seemed to sink lower in the ground; his head on his paws, his eyes in his forehead.
"Come and take it!" he seemed to say.
Now what, between master and dog, David had endured almost more than he could bear that day.
"Yo' won't, won't yo', girt brute!" he shouted, and bending, snatched a corner of the coat and attempted to jerk it away. At that, Red Wull rose, shivering, to his feet, and with a low gurgle sprang at the boy.
David, quick as a flash, dodged, bent, and picked up an ugly stake, lying at his feet. Swinging round, all in a moment, he dealt his antagonist a mighty buffet on the side of the head. Dazed with the blow, the great dog fell; then, recovering himself, with a terrible, deep roar he sprang again. Then it must have gone hard with the boy, fine-grown, muscular young giant though he was. For Red Wull was now in the first bloom of that great strength which earned him afterward an undying notoriety in the land.
As it chanced, however, M'Adam had watched the scene from the kitchen. And now he came hurrying out of the house, shrieking commands and curses at the combatants. As Red Wull sprang, he interposed between the two, head back and eyes flashing. His small person received the full shock of the charge. He staggered, but recovered, and in an imperative voice ordered the dog to heel.
Then he turned on David, seized the stake from his hand, and began furiously belaboring the boy.
"I'll teach ye to strike—a puir—dumb—harmless—creetur, ye—cruel—cruel—-lad!" he cried. "Hoo daur ye strike—ma——Wullie? yer—father's——Wullie? Adam—M 'Adam's—Red Wull?" He was panting from his exertions, and his eyes were blazing. "I pit up as best I can wi' all manner o' disrespect to masel'; but when it comes to takin' ma puir Wullie, I canna thole it. Ha' ye no heart?" he asked, unconscious of the irony of the question.
"As much as some, I reck'n," David muttered.
"Eh, what's that? What d'ye say?"
"Ye may thrash me till ye're blind; and it's nob'but yer duty; but if only one daurs so much as to look at yer Wullie ye're mad," the boy answered bitterly. And with that he turned away defiantly and openly in the direction of Kenmuir.
M'Adam made a step forward, and then stopped.
"I'll see ye agin, ma lad, this evenin'," he cried with cruel significance.
"I doot but yo'll be too drunk to see owt—except, 'appen, your bottle," the boy shouted back; and swaggered down the hill.
* * * * *
At Kenmuir that night the marked and particular kindness of Elizabeth Moore was too much for the overstrung lad. Overcome by the contrast of her sweet motherliness, he burst into a storm of invective against his father, his home, his life—everything.
"Don't 'ee, Davie, don't 'ee, dearie!" cried Mrs. Moore, much distressed. And taking him to her she talked to the great, sobbing boy as though he were a child. At length he lifted his face and looked up; and, seeing the white, wan countenance of his dear comforter, was struck with tender remorse that he had given way and pained her, who looked so frail and thin herself.
He mastered himself with an effort; and, for the rest of the evening, was his usual cheery self. He teased Maggie into tears; chaffed stolid little Andrew; and bantered Sam'l Todd until that generally impassive man threatened to bash his snout for him.
Yet it was with a great swallowing at his throat that, later, he turned down the slope for home.
James Moore and Parson Leggy accompanied him to the bridge over the Wastrel, and stood a while watching as he disappeared into the summer night.
"Yon's a good lad," said the Master half to himself.
"Yes," the parson replied; "I always thought there was good in the boy, if only his father'd give him a chance. And look at the way Owd Bob there follows him. There's not another soul outside Kenmuir he'd do that for."
"Ay, sir," said the Master. "Bob knows a mon when he sees one."
"He does," acquiesced the other. "And by the by, James, the talk in the village is that you've settled not to run him for the Cup. Is, that so?"
The Master nodded.
"It is, sir. They're all mad I should, but I mun cross 'em. They say he's reached his prime—and so he has o' his body, but not o' his brain. And a sheep-dog—unlike other dogs—is not at his best till his brain is at its best—and that takes a while developin', same as in a mon, I reck'n."
"Well, well," said the parson, pulling out a favorite phrase, "waiting's winning—waiting's winning."
* * * * *
David slipped up into his room and into bed unseen, he hoped. Alone with the darkness, he allowed himself the rare relief of tears; and at length fell asleep. He awoke to find his father standing at his bedside. The little man held a feeble dip-candle in his hand, which lit his sallow face in crude black and white. In the doorway, dimly outlined, was the great figure of Red Wull.
"Whaur ha' ye been the day?" the little man asked. Then, looking down on the white stained face beneath him, he added hurriedly: "If ye like to lie, I'll believe ye."
David was out of bed and standing up in his night-shirt. He looked at his father contemptuously.
"I ha' bin at Kenmuir. I'll not lie for yo' or your likes," he said proudly.
The little man shrugged his shoulders.
"'Tell a lee and stick to it,' is my rule, and a good one, too, in honest England. I for one 'll no think ony the worse o' ye if yer memory plays yer false."
"D'yo' think I care a kick what yo' think o' me?" the boy asked brutally. "Nay; there's 'nough liars in this fam'ly wi'oot me."
The candle trembled and was still again.
"A lickin' or a lie—tak' yer choice!"
The boy looked scornfully down on his father. Standing on his naked feet, he already towered half a head above the other and was twice the man.
"D'yo' think I'm fear'd o' a thrashin' fra yo'? Goo' gracious me!" he sneered. "Why, I'd as lief let owd Grammer Maddox lick me, for all I care."
A reference to his physical insufficiencies fired the little man as surely as a lighted match powder.
"Ye maun be cauld, standin' there so. Rin ye doon and fetch oor little frien'"—a reference to a certain strap hanging in the kitchen. "I'll see if I can warm ye."
David turned and stumbled down the unlit, narrow stairs. The hard, cold boards struck like death against his naked feet. At his heels followed Red Wull, his hot breath fanning the boy's bare legs.
So into the kitchen and back up the stairs, and Red Wull always following.
"I'll no despair yet o' teachin' ye the fifth commandment, though I kill masel' in doin' it!" cried the little man, seizing the strap from the boy's numb grasp.
* * * * *
When it was over, M'Adam turned, breathless, away. At the threshold of the room he stopped and looked round: a little, dim-lit, devilish figure, framed in the door; while from the blackness behind, Red Wull's eyes gleamed yellow.
Glancing back, the little man caught such an expression on David's face that for once he was fairly afraid. He banged the door and hobbled actively down the stairs.
Chapter VII. THE WHITE WINTER
M'ADAM—in his sober moments at least—never touched David again; instead, he devoted himself to the more congenial exercise of the whiplash of his tongue. And he was wise; for David, who was already nigh a head the taller of the two, and comely and strong in proportion, could, if he would, have taken his father in the hollow of his hand and crumpled him like a dry leaf. Moreover, with his tongue, at least, the little man enjoyed the noble pleasure of making the boy wince. And so the war was carried on none the less vindictively.
Meanwhile another summer was passing away, and every day brought fresh proofs of the prowess of Owd Bob. Tammas, whose stock of yarns anent Rex son of Rally had after forty years' hard wear begun to pall on the loyal ears of even old Jonas, found no lack of new material now. In the Dalesman's Daughter in Silverdale and in the Border Ram at Grammoch-town, each succeeding market day brought some fresh tale. Men told how the gray dog had outdone Gypsy Jack, the sheep-sneak; how he had cut out a Kenmuir shearling from the very centre of Londesley's pack; and a thousand like stories.
The Gray Dogs of Kenmuir have always been equally heroes and favorites in the Daleland. And the confidence of the Dalesmen in Owd Bob was now invincible. Sometimes on market days he would execute some unaccountable maneuvre, and... strange shepherd would ask: "What's the gray dog at?" To which the nearest Dalesman would reply: "Nay, I canno tell ye! But he's reet enough. Yon's Owd Bob o' Kenmuir."
Whereon the stranger would prick his ears and watch with close attention.
"Yon's Owd Bob o' Kenmuir, is he?" he would say; for already among the faculty the name was becoming known. And never in such a case did the young dog fail to justify the faith of his supporters.
It came, therefore, as a keen disappointment to every Dalesman, from Herbert Trotter, Secretary of the Trials, to little Billy Thornton, when the Master persisted in his decision not to run the dog for the Cup in the approaching Dale Trials; and that though parson, squire, and even Lady Eleanour essayed to shake his purpose. It was nigh fifty years since Rex son o' Rally had won back the Trophy for the land that gave it birth; it was time, they thought, for a Daleland dog, a Gray Dog of Kenmuir—the terms are practically synonymous—to bring it home again. And Tammas, that polished phrase-maker, was only expressing the feelings of every Dalesman in the room when, one night at the Arms, he declared of Owd Bob that "to ha' run was to ha' won." At which M'Adam sniggered audibly and winked at Red Wull. "To ha' run was to ha' one—lickin'; to rin next year'll be to—"
"Win next year." Tammas interposed dogmatically. "Onless"—with shivering sarcasm—"you and yer Wullie are thinkin' o' winnin'."
The little man rose from his solitary seat at the back of the room and pattered across. "Wullie and I are thinkin' o' t," he whispered loudly in the old man's ear. "And mair: what Adam M'Adam and his Red Wull think o' doin', that, ye may remairk, Mr. Thornton, they do. Next year we rin, and next year—we win. Come, Wullie, we'll leave 'em to chew that"; and he marched out of the room amid the jeers of the assembled topers.
When quiet was restored, it was Jim Mason who declared: "One thing certain, win or no, they'll not be far off."
* * * * *
Meanwhile the summer ended abruptly. Hard on the heels of a sweltering autumn the winter came down. In that year the Daleland assumed very early its white cloak. The Silver Mere was soon ice-veiled; the Wastrel rolled sullenly down below Kenmuir, its creeks and quiet places tented with jagged sheets of ice; while the Scaur and Muir Pike raised hoary heads against the frosty blue. It was the season still remembered in the North as the White Winter—the worst, they say, since the famous 1808.