The Herd of Standlan


John Buchan

logo

This web edition published by eBooks@Adelaide.

Last updated Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 12:57.

To the best of our knowledge, the text of this
work is in the “Public Domain” in Australia.
HOWEVER, copyright law varies in other countries, and the work may still be under copyright in the country from which you are accessing this website. It is your responsibility to check the applicable copyright laws in your country before downloading this work.

eBooks@Adelaide
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

The Herd of Standlan

When the wind is nigh and the moon is high

And the mist on the riverside,

Let such as fare have a very good care

Of the Folk who come to ride.

For they may meet with the riders fleet

Who fare from the place of dread;

And hard it is for a mortal man

To sort at ease with the Dead.

The Ballad of Grey Weather

When Standlan Burn leaves the mosses and hags which gave it birth, it tumbles over a succession of falls into a deep, precipitous glen, whence in time it issues into a land of level green meadows, and finally finds its rest in the Gled. Just at the opening of the ravine there is a pool shut in by high, dark cliffs, and black even on the most sunshiny day. The rocks are never dry but always black with damp and shadow. There is scarce any vegetation save stunted birks, juniper bushes, and draggled fern; and the hoot of owls and the croak of hooded crows is seldom absent from the spot. It is the famous Black Linn where in winter sheep stray and are never more heard of, and where more than once an unwary shepherd has gone to his account. It is an Inferno on the brink of a Paradise, for not a stone’s throw off is the green, lawn-like turf, the hazel thicket, and the broad, clear pools, by the edge of which on that July day the Herd of Standlan and I sat drowsily smoking and talking of fishing and the hills. There he told me this story, which I here set down as I remember it, and as it bears repetition.

‘D’ye mind Airthur Morrant?’ said the shepherd, suddenly. I did remember Arthur Mordaunt. Ten years past he and I had been inseparables, despite some half-dozen summers difference in age. We had fished and shot together, and together we had tramped every hill within thirty miles. He had come up from the South to try sheep-farming, and as he came of a great family and had no need to earn his bread, he found the profession pleasing. Then irresistible fate had swept me southward to college, and when after two years I came back to the place, his father was dead and he had come into his own. The next I heard of him was that in politics he was regarded as the most promising of the younger men, one of the staunchest and ablest upstays of the Constitution. His name was rapidly rising into prominence, for he seemed to exhibit that rare phenomenon of a man of birth and culture in direct sympathy with the wants of the people.

‘You mean Lord Brodakers?’ said I.

‘Dinna call him by that name,’ said the shepherd, darkly. ‘I hae nae thocht o’ him now. He’s a disgrace to his country, servin’ the Deil wi’ baith hands. But nine year syne he was a bit innocent callant wi’ nae Tory deevilry in his heid. Well, as I was sayin’, Airthur Morrant has cause to mind that place till his dying day;’ and he pointed his finger to the Black Linn.

I looked up the chasm. The treacherous water, so bright and joyful at our feet, was like ink in the great gorge. The swish and plunge of the cataract came like the regular beating of a clock, and though the weather was dry, streams of moisture seamed the perpendicular walls. It was a place eerie even on that bright summer’s day.

‘I don’t think I ever heard the story,’ I said casually.

‘Maybe no,’ said the shepherd. ‘It’s no yin I like to tell;’ and he puffed sternly at his pipe, while I awaited the continuation.

‘Ye see it was like this,’ he said, after a while. ‘It was just the beginning o’ the back-end, and that year we had an awfu’ spate o’ rain. For near a week it poured hale water, and a’ doon by Drumeller and the Mossfennan haughs was yae muckle loch. Then it stopped, and an awfu’ heat came on. It dried the grund in nae time, but it hardly touched the burns; and it was rale queer to be pourin’ wi’ sweat and the grund aneath ye as dry as a potato-sack, and a’ the time the water neither to haud nor bind. A’ the waterside fields were clean stripped o’ stocks, and a guid wheen hay-ricks gaed doon tae Berwick, no to speak o’ sheep and nowt beast. But that’s anither thing.

‘Weel, ye’ll mind that Airthur was terrible keen on fishing. He wad gang oot in a’ weather, and he wasna feared for only mortal or nateural thing. Dod, I’ve seen him in Gled wi’ the water rinnin’ ower his shouthers yae cauld March day playin’ a saumon. He kenned weel aboot the fishing, for he had traivelled in Norroway and siccan outlandish places, where there’s a heap o’ big fish. So that day — and it was a Setterday tae and far ower near the Sabbath — he maun gang awa’ up Standlan Burn wi’ his rod and creel to try his luck.

‘I was bidin’ at that time, as ye mind, in the wee cot-house at the back o’ the faulds. I was alane, for it was three year afore I mairried Jess, and I wasna begun yet to the coortin’. I had been at Gledsmuir that day for some o’ the new stuff for killing sheep-mawks, and I wasna very fresh on my legs when I gaed oot after my tea that night to hae a look at the hill-sheep. I had had a bad year on the hill. First the lambin’-time was snaw, snaw ilka day, and I lost mair than I wad like to tell. Syne the grass a’ summer was so short wi’ the drought that the puir beasts could scarcely get a bite and were as thin as pipe-stapples. And then, to crown a’, auld Will Broun, the man that helpit me, turned ill wi’ his back, and had to bide at hame. So I had twae man’s work on yae man’s shouthers, and was nane so weel pleased.

‘As I was saying, I gaed oot that nicht, and after lookin’ a’ the Dun Rig and the Yellow Mire and the back o’ Cramalt Craig, I cam down the burn by the road frae the auld faulds. It was geyan dark, being about seven o’clock o’ a September nicht, and I keepit weel back frae that wanchancy hole o’ a burn. Weel, I was comin’ kind o’ quick, thinkin’ o’ supper and a story-book that I was readin’ at the time, when just abune that place there, at the foot o’ the Linn, I saw a man fishing. I wondered what ony body in his senses could be daein’ at that time o’ nicht in sic a dangerous place, so I gave him a roar and bade him come back. He turned his face round and I saw in a jiffeyjiffey that it was Mr Airthur.

‘“O, sir,” I cried, “What for are ye fishing there? The water’s awfu’ dangerous, and the rocks are far ower slid.”

‘“Never mind, Scott,” he roars back cheery-like. “I’ll take care o’ mysel’.”

‘I lookit at him for twa-three meenutes, and then I saw by his rod he had yin on, and a big yin tae. He ran it up and doon the pool, and he had uncommon wark wi’ ‘t, for it was strong and there was little licht. But bye and bye he got it almost tae his feet, and was just about to lift it oot when a maist awfu’ thing happened. The tackets o’ his boots maun hae slithered on the stane, for the next thing I saw was Mr Airthur in the muckle hungry water.

‘I dinna exactly ken what happened after that, till I found myself on the very stone he had slipped off. I maun hae come doon the face o’ the rocks, a thing I can scarcely believe when I look at them, and a thing no man ever did afore. At ony rate I ken I fell the last fifteen feet or sae, and lichted on my left airm, for I felt it crack like a rotten branch, and an awfu’ sairness ran up it.

‘Now, the pool is a whirlpool as ye ken, and if anything fa’s in, the water first smashes it against the muckle rock at the foot, then it brings it round below the fall again, and syne at the second time it carries it doon the burn. Weel, that was what happened to Mr Airthur. I heard his held gang dunt on the stane wi’ a sound that made me sick. This must hae dung him clean senseless, and indeed it was a wonder it didna knock his brains oot. At ony rate there was nae mair word o’ swimming, and he was swirled round below the fa’ just like a corp.

‘I kenned fine that nae time was to be lost, for if he once gaed doun the burn he wad be in Gled or ever I could say a word, and nae wad ever see him mair in life. So doon I got on my hunkers on the stane, and waited for the turnin’. Round he came, whirling in the foam, wi’ a lang line o’ blood across his brow where the stane had cut him. It was a terrible meenute. My heart fair stood still. I put out my airm, and as he passed I grippit him and wi’ an awfu’ pu’ got him out o’ the current into the side.

‘But now I found that a waur thing still was on me. My left airm was broken, and my richt sae numbed and weak wi’ my fall that, try as I micht, I couldna raise him ony further. I thocht I wad burst a blood-vessel i’ my face and my muscles fair cracked wi’ the strain, but I would make nothing o’ ‘t. There he stuck wi’ his held and shouthers abune the water, pu’d close until the edge of a rock.

‘What was I to dae? If I once let him slip he wad be into the stream and lost forever. But I couldna hang on here a’ nicht, and as far as I could see there wad be naebody near till the mornin’, when Ebie Blackstock passed frae the Head o’ the Hope. I roared wi’ a’ my power; but I got nae answer, naething but the rummie o’ the water and the whistling o’ some whaups on the hill.

‘Then I turned very sick wi’ terror and pain and weakness and I kenna what. My broken airm seemed a great lump o’ burnin’ coal. I maun hae given it some extra wrench when I hauled him out, for it was sae sair now that I thocht I could scarcely thole it. Forbye, pain and a’, I could hae gone off to sleep wi’ fair weariness. I had heard tell o’ men sleepin’ on their feet, but I never felt it till then. Man, if I hadna warstled wi’ mysel, I wad hae dropped off as deid’s a peery.

‘Then there was the awfu’ strain o’ keepin’ Mr Airthur up. He was a great big man, twelve stone I’ll warrant, and weighing a terrible lot mair wi’ his fishing togs and things. If I had had the use o’ my ither airm I micht hae taen off his jacket and creel and lichtened the burden, but I could do naething. I scarcely like to tell ye how I was tempted in that hour. Again and again I says to mysel, “Gidden Scott,” say I, “what do ye care for this man? He’s no a drap’s bluid to you, and forbye ye’ll never be able to save him. Ye micht as weel let him gang. Ye’ve dune a’ ye could. Ye’re a brave man, Gidden Scott, and ye’ve nae cause to be ashamed o’ givin’ up the fecht.” But I says to mysel again: “Gidden Scott, ye’re a coward. Wad ye let a man die, when there’s a breath in your body? Think shame o’ yoursel, man.” So I aye kept haudin’ on, although I was very near bye wi’ ‘t. Whenever I lookit at Mr Airthur’s face, as white’s death and a’ blood, and his een sae stelled-like, I got a kind o’ groo and felt awfu’ pitiful for the bit laddie. Then I thocht on his faither, the auld Lord, wha was sae built up in him, and I couldna bear to think o’ his son droonin’ in that awfu’ hole. So I set mysel to the wark o’ keepin’ him up a’ nicht, though I had nae hope in the matter. It wasna what ye ca’ bravery that made me dae’t, for I had nae ither choice. It was just a kind o’ dourness that runs in my folk, and a kind o’ vexedness for sae young a callant in sic an ill place.

‘The nicht was hot and there was scarcely a sound o’ wind. I felt the sweat standin’ on my face like frost on tatties, and abune me the sky was a’ misty and nae mune visible. I thocht very likely that it micht come a thunder-shower and I kind o’ lookit forrit tae ‘t. For I was aye feared at lichtning, and if it came that nicht I was bound to get clean dazed and likely tummie in. I was a lonely man wi’ nae kin to speak o’, so it wouldna maitter muckle.

‘But now I come to tell ye about the queer side o’ that nicht’s wark, whilk I never telled to nane but yoursel, though a’ the folk about here ken the rest. I maun hae been geyan weak, for I got into a kind o’ doze, no sleepin’, ye understand, but awfu’ like it. And then a’ sort o’ daft things began to dance afore my een. Witches and bogles and brownies and things oot o’ the Bible, and leviathans and brazen bulls — a’ cam fleerin’ and flauntin’ on the tap o’ the water straucht afore me. I didna pay muckle heed to them, for I half kenned it was a’ nonsense, and syne they gaed awa’. Then an auld wife wi’ a mutch and a hale procession o’ auld wives passed, and just about the last I saw yin I thocht I kenned.

‘“Is that you, grannie?” says I.

‘“Ay, it’s me, Gidden,” says she; and as shure as I’m a leevin’ man, it was my auld grannie, whae had been deid thae sax year. She had on the same mutch as she aye wore, and the same auld black stickle in her hand, and, Dod, she had the same snuff-box I made for her out o’ a sheep’s horn when I first took to the herdin’. I thocht she was lookin’ rale weel.

‘“Losh, Grannie,” says I, “Where in the warld hae ye come frae? It’s no canny to see ye danderin’ about there.”

‘“Ye’ve been badly brocht up,” she says, “and ye ken nocht about it. Is’t no a decent and comely thing that I should get a breath o’ air yince in the while?”

‘“Deed,” said I, “I had forgotten. Ye were sae like yoursel I never had a mind ye were deid. And how d’ ye like the Guid Place?”

‘“Wheesht, Gidden,” says she, very solemn-like, “I’m no there.”

‘Now at this I was fair flabbergasted. Grannie had aye been a guid contentit auld wumman, and to think that they hadna let her intil Heeven made me think ill o’ my ain chances.

‘“Help us, ye dinna mean to tell me ye’re in Hell?” I cries.

‘“No exactly,” says she, “But I’ll trouble ye, Gidden, to speak mair respectful about holy things. That’s a name ye uttered the noo whilk we dinna daur to mention.”

‘“I’m sorry. Grannie,” says I, “but ye maun allow it’s an astonishin’ thing for me to hear. We aye counted ye shure, and ye died wi’ the Buik in your hands.”

‘“Weel,” she says, “it was like this. When I gaed up till the gate o’ Heeven a man wi’ a lang white robe comes and says, ‘Wha may ye be?’ Says I, ‘I’m Elspeth Scott.’ He gangs awa’ and consults awee and then he says, ‘I think, Elspeth my wumman, ye’ll hae to gang doon the brae a bit. Ye’re no quite guid eneuch for this place, but ye’ll get a very comfortable doonsittin’ whaur I tell ye.’ So off I gaed and cam’ to a place whaur the air was like the inside of the glass-houses at the Lodge. They took me in wi’oot a word and I’ve been rale comfortable. Ye see they keep the bad part o’ the Place for the reg’lar bad folk, but they’ve a very nice half-way house where the likes o’ me stop.”

‘“And what kind o’ company hae ye?”

‘“No very select,” says she. “There’s maist o’ the ministers o’ the countryside and a pickle fairmers, tho’ the maist o’ them are further ben. But there’s my son Jock, your ain faither, Gidden, and a heap o’ folk from the village, and oh, I’m nane sae bad.”

‘“Is there naething mair ye wad like then, Grannie?”

‘“Oh aye,” says she, “we’ve each yae thing which we canna get. It’s a’ the punishment we hae. Mine’s butter. I canna get fresh butter for my bread, for ye see it winna keep, it just melts. So I’ve to tak jeely to ilka slice, whilk is rale sair on the teeth. Ye’ll no hae ony wi’ ye?”

‘“No,” I says, “I’ve naething but some tobaccy. D’ ye want it? Ye were aye fond o’ ‘t.”

‘“Na, na,” says she. “I get plenty o’ tobaccy doon bye. The pipe’s never out o’ the folks’ mouth there. But I’m no speakin’ about yoursel, Gidden. Ye’re in a geyan ticht place.”

‘“I’m a’ that,” I said. “Can ye no help me?”

‘“I micht try.” And she raxes out her hand to grip mine. I put out mine to tak it, never thinkin’ that that wasna the richt side, and that if Grannie grippit it she wad pu’ the broken airm and haul me into the water. Something touched my fingers like a hot poker; I gave a great yell; and ere ever I kenned I was awake, a’ but off the rock, wi’ my left airm aching like hell-fire. Mr Airthur I had let slunge ower the held and my ain legs were in the water.

‘I gae an awfu’ whammle and edged my way back though it was near bye my strength. And now anither thing happened. For the cauld water roused Mr Airthur frae his dwam. His een opened and he gave a wild look around him. “Where am I?” he cries, “Oh God!” and he gaed off intil anither faint.

‘I can tell ye, sir, I never felt anything in this warld and I hope never to feel anything in anither sae bad as the next meenutes on that rock. I was fair sick wi’ pain and weariness and a kind o fever. The lip-lap o’ the water, curling round Mr Airthur, and the great crush o’ the Black Linn itsel dang me fair silly. Then there was my airm, which was bad eneuch, and abune a’ I was gotten into sic a state that I was fleyed at ilka shadow just like a bairn. I felt fine I was gaun daft, and if the thing had lasted anither score o’ meenutes I wad be in a madhouse this day. But soon I felt the sleepiness comin’ back, and I was off again dozin’ and dreamin’.

‘This time it was nae auld wumman but a muckle black-avised man that was standin’ in the water glowrin’ at me. I kenned him fine by the bandy-legs o’ him and the broken nose (whilk I did mysel), for Dan Kyle the poacher deid thae twae year. He was a man, as I remembered him weel, wi’ a great black beard and een that were stuck sae far in his held that they looked like twae wull-cats keekin’ oot o’ a hole. He stands and just stares at me, and never speaks a word.

‘“What d’ye want?” I yells, for by this time I had lost a’ grip o’ mysel. “Speak, man, and dinna stand there like a dummy.”

‘“I want naething,” he says in a mournfu’ sing-song voice; “I’m just thinkin’.”

‘“Whaur d’ ye come frae?” I asked, “and are ye keepin’ weel?”

‘“Weel,” he says bitterly. “In this warld I was ill to my wife, and twa-three times I near killed a man, and I stole like a pyet, and I was never sober. How d’ ye think I should be weel in the next?”

‘I was sorry for the man. “D’ ye ken I’m vexed for ye, Dan,” says I; “I never likit ye when ye were here, but I’m wae to think ye’re sae ill off yonder.”

‘“I’m no alane,” he says. “There’s Mistress Courhope o’ the Big House, she’s waur. Ye mind she was awfu’ fond o’ gum-flowers. Weel, she canna keep them Yonder, for they a’ melt wi’ the heat. She’s in an ill way about it, puir body.” Then he broke off. “Whae’s that ye’ve got there? Is’t Airthur Morrant?”

‘“Ay, it’s Airthur Morrant,” I said.

‘“His family’s weel kent doon bye,” says he. “We’ve maist o’ his forbears, and we’re expectin’ the auld Lord every day. May be we’ll sune get the lad himsel.”

‘“That’s a damned lee,” says I, for I was angry at the man’s presumption.

‘Dan lookit at me sorrowfu’-like. “We’ll be gettin’ you tae, if ye swear that gate,” says he, “and then ye’ll ken what it’s like.”

‘Of a sudden I fell into a great fear. “Dinna say that, Dan,” I cried; “I’m better than ye think. I’m a deacon, and’ll maybe sune be an elder, and I never swear except at my dowg.”

‘“Tak care, Gidden,” said the face afore me. “Where I am, a’ things are taken into account.”

‘“Then they’ll hae a gey big account for you,” says I. “What-like do they treat you, may be?”

‘The man groaned.

‘“I’ll tell ye what they dae to ye doon there,” he said. “They put ye intil a place a’ paved wi’ stanes and wi’ four square walls around. And there’s naething in ‘t, nae grass, nae shadow. And abune you there’s a sky like brass. And sune ye get terrible hot and thirsty, and your tongue sticks to your mouth, and your eyes get blind wi’ lookin’ on the white stane. Then ye gang clean fey, and dad your held on the ground and the walls to try and kill yoursel. But though ye dae ‘t till a’ eternity ye couldna feel pain. A’ that ye feel is just the awfu’ devourin’ thirst, and the heat and the weariness. And if ye lie doon the ground burns ye and ye’re fain to get up. And ye canna lean on the walls for the heat, and bye and bye when ye’re fair perished wi’ the thing, they tak ye out to try some ither ploy.”

‘“Nai mair,” I cried, “nae mair, Dan!”

‘But he went on malicious-like, “Na, na, Gidden, I’m no dune yet. Syne they tak you to a fine room but awfu’ warm. And there’s a big fire in the grate and thick woollen rugs on the floor. And in the corner there’s a braw feather bed. And they lay ye down on ‘t, and then they pile on the tap o’ ye mattresses and blankets and sacks and great rolls o’ woollen stuff miles wide. And then ye see what they’re after, tryin’ to suffocate ye as they dae to folk that a mad dowg has bitten. And ye try to kick them off, but they’re ower heavy, and ye canna move your feet nor your airms nor gee your heid. Then ye gang clean gyte and skirl to yoursel, but your voice is choked and naebody is near. And the warst o’ ‘t is that ye canna die and get it ower. It’s like death a hundred times and yet ye’re aye leevin’. Bye and bye when they think ye’ve got eneuch they tak you out and put ye somewhere else.”

‘“Oh,” I cries, “stop, man, or you’ll ding me silly.” ‘But he says never a word, just glowrin’ at me. ‘“Aye, Gidden, and waur than that. For they put ye in a great loch wi’ big waves just like the sea at the Pier o’ Leith. And there’s nae chance o’ soomin’, for as sune as ye put out your airms a billow gulfs ye down. Then ye swallow water and your heid dozes round and ye’re chokin’. But ye canna die, ye must just thole. And down ye gang, down, down, in the cruel deep, till your heid’s like to burst and your een are fu’ o’ bluid. And there’s a’ kind o’ fearfu’ monsters about, muckle slimy things wi’ blind een and white scales, that claw at ye wi’ claws just like the paws o’ a drooned dog. And ye canna get away though ye fecht and fleech, and bye and bye ye’re fair mad wi’ horror and choking and the feel o’ thae awfu’ things. Then —”

‘But now I think something snapped in my heid, and I went daft in doonricht earnest. The man before me danced about like a lantern’s shine on a windy nicht and then disappeared. And I woke yelling like a pig at a killing, fair wud wi’ terror, and my skellochs made the rocks ring. I found mysel in the pool a’ but yae airm — the broken yin — which had hankit in a crack o’ rock. Nae wonder I had been dreaming o’ deep waters among the torments o’ the Place, when I was in them mysel. The pain in my airm was sae fearsome and my heid was gaun round sae wi’ horror that I just skirled on and on, shrieking and groaning wi’oot a thocht what I was daein’. I was as near death as ever I will be, and as for Mr Airthur he was on the very nick o’ ‘t, for by this time he was a’ in the water, though I still kept a grip o’ him.

‘When I think ower it often I wonder how it was possible that I could be here the day. But the Lord’s very gracious, and he works in a queer way. For it so happened that Ebie Blackstock, whae had left Gledsmuir an hour afore me and whom I thocht by this time to be snorin’ in his bed at the Head o’ the Hope, had gone intil the herd’s house at the Waterfit, and had got sae muckle drink there that he was sweered to start for hame till aboot half-past twal i’ the night. Weel, he was comin’ up the burnside, gae happy and contentit, for he had nae wife at hame to speir about his ongaeings, when, as he’s celled me himsel, he heard sic an uproar doon by the Black Linn that made him turn pale and think that the Deil, whom he had long served, had gotten him at last. But he was a brave man, was Ebie, and he thinks to himsel that some fellow-creature micht be perishin’. So he gangs forrit wi’ a’ his pith, trying to think on the Lord’s Prayer and last Sabbath’s sermon. And, lookin’ ower the edge, he saw naething for a while, naething but the black water wi’ the awfu’ yells coming out o’ ‘t. Then he made out something like a held near the side. So he rins doon by the road, no ower the rocks as I had come, but round by the burnside road, and soon he gets to the pool, where the crying was getting aye fainter and fainter. And then he saw me. And he grips me by the collar, for he was a sensible man, was Ebie, and hauls me oot. If he hadna been geyan strong he couldna hae dune it, for I was a deid wecht, forbye having a heavy man hanging on to me. When he got me up, what was his astonishment to find anither man at the end o’ my airm, a man like a corp a’ bloody about the heid. So he got us baith out, and we wae baith senseless; and he laid us in a safe bit back frae the water, and syne gaed off for help. So bye and bye we were baith got home, me to my house and Mr Airthur up to the Lodge.’

‘And was that the end of it?’ I asked.

‘Na,’ said the shepherd. ‘I lay for twae month there raving wi’ brain fever, and when I cam to my senses I was as weak as a bairn. It was many months ere I was mysel again, and my left airm to this day is stiff and no muckle to lippen to. But Mr Airthur was far waur, for the dad he had gotten on the rock was thocht to have broken his skull, and he lay long atween life and death. And the warst thing was that his faither was sae vexed about him that he never got ower the shock, but dee’d afore Airthur was out o’ bed. And so when he cam out again he was My Lord, and a monstrously rich man.’

The shepherd puffed meditatively at his pipe for a few minutes.

‘But that’s no a’ yet. For Mr Airthur wad tak nae refusal but that I maun gang awa’ doon wi’ him to his braw house in England and be a land o’ factor or steward or something like that. And I had a rale fine cottage a’ to mysel, wi’ a very bonny gairden and guid wages, so I stayed there maybe sax month and then I gaed up till him. “I canna bide nae longer,” says I. “I canna stand this place. It’s far ower laigh, and I’m fair sick to get hills to rest my een on. I’m awfu’ gratefu’ to ye for your kindness, but I maun gie up my job.” He was very sorry to lose me, and was for giein’ me a present o’ money or stockin’ a fairm for me, because he said that it was to me he owed his life. But I wad hae nane o’ his gifts. “It wad be a terrible thing,” I says, “to tak siller for daein’ what ony body wad hae dune out o’ pity.” So I cam awa’ back to Standlan, and I maun say I’m rale contentit here. Mr Airthur used whiles to write to me and ca’ in and see me when he cam North for the shooting; but since he’s gane sae far wrang wi’ the Tories, I’ve had naething mair to dae wi’ him.’

I made no answer, being busy pondering in my mind on the depth of the shepherd’s political principles, before which the ties of friendship were as nothing.

‘Ay,’ said he, standing up, ‘I did what I thocht my duty at the time and I was rale glad I saved the callant’s life. But now, when I think on a’ the ill he’s daein’ to the country and the Guid Cause, I whiles think I wad hae been daein’ better if I had just drappit him in.

‘But whae kens? It’s a queer warld.’ And the shepherd knocked the ashes out of his-pipe.

This web edition published by:

eBooks@Adelaide
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005