« ElőzőTovább »
a threat. When he came where the do for me. Look up, mon; foller me. ground fell away less quickly, he saw For thee, noan for me." as it were the nucleus of a denser fog, The miner led him by a foot-path which approaching him took gradually across a level meadow thick with fog, a less exaggerated size, a more definite white with frost. After a while the form, as the umbra, then the substance ground began to rise and he saw beand hardly that of a man; a gaunt fore him dimly, first a smoking furfleshless stooping figure, clad in leather nace, then heaps of mineral rubbish from brimless hat to much-worn shoes. encumbering the hillside, a rude hovel He carried a basket of mining tools at two, and appearances of men his back; his hair and beard were long and women apparently busy thereand wild and black, but perhaps the
abouts. mist gave some of that deathly ghast- “But I munna let t' folks see thee," liness to the leaden hue of his skin. his guide muttered. “Mebbe they'd Roland was for passing by, but the ax more questions nor thou'st answers newcomer stood in his way. He spoke, for i' thy poke." and his speech was as strange and un- He led him aside up the hill, which couth as his appearance.
increased rapidly in steepness. Soon “Hast seed oat,” he said, “o't chap the fog was so thin before them that as killed hisself deäd a-tumblin' from the dividing line of hill and sky aptop to bottom o'ť Winnats? Dost peared above. It was indeed the same hear? Spake or else let a be.”
ridge as Roland had seen from Windy Roland stood dumbfoundered.
Knoll, and that was Mam Tor itself "Aw reet. Let a be then. But looming large on their left hand. From mebbe thou’rt him thysel. Thou'rt far away down the valley came the noan deäd, and yet thou doesna look sound of a horn. The guide stopped quite wick. I reckon thou'st bin so and said: nee death 'at thou'st seed his fow? "Dost want to get to Hope?" face and are freetened o't. Well, deäd Roland caught at the well-omened or wick, lad, dunna goo down into Cas- name. tleton. Iv thou does wi' that face “Ay, to Hope if I may. But they'll nab thee, sure as sure, for a
where is Hope?" deäd mon out a-walkin'."
“We conna see't for t’ mist: but hark “Which way must I take?" said Ro
to me. Thou mun goo up to yonner land at last.
rigg, and thou mun kape along it while "I've a feelin' for thee, lad. I'm
thou cooms to Back Tor. Thou'll meet welly nee death mysel, an' I goo about nubbudy; Jack Shepherd'll be gone afsayin' 'Which way mun I tak?' But I ter a' hounds." hanna gotten no kindly answer from
"How shall I know Back Tor?" asked nayther parson nor clerk nor nubbudy.
Roland. An' I sit awhoam' an' think it ower
“By t' name. 'Twill rare up its back wi' mich labber, but my tho'ts gie me
afore thee like a great awful cat; high no kindly answer. Toad trodden way,
up afore thee, like things thou sees i' thou fool,' say they aw. But it looks thy sleep. Then if thou'rt boun' for awful lonely to be sich a common
Hope, thou mun lave follerin' t' rigg way. Well, well, what mun be muni
an' draw a little to treet an' pass unbe. I can show thee a road 'at wunna
Lose Hill; that'll bring thee 1 Quick, allve.
straight to Hope. Lose Hill's o' one ? Pool, ugly.
side Hope an' Win Hill o' tother. Down 3 At home.
Lose Hill, that mun be; up Win Hill,
tbat may be. But atween Hope an' descending into the valley made Win Hill there's a river."
straight for the sunny bill beyond. “What river?" asked Roland.
The fog was somewhat less dense "Some ud say t river Jordan; I say than before, but soon he lost sight of t' river Noe.”
both hills and everything but the "No?"
ground he trod on, no wide circle. He "Ay, or Noe river; accordin' as thou reached the level ground at the bottom, taks it."
and almost walked into a little knot of With such enigmatical words he men a-foot armed with bill-hooks, turned his back on Roland's thanks and sickles and stakes. One of them saw slunk downhill again into the fog. him and raised a shout; but before they Roland strode uphill. The rise was had made their dash for him he had abrupt; he was soon out of the fog run by. Before he had run many yards and out of breath. He rested a little he found the ground before him trav. while and then clambered higher. He ersed by a swift stream, jumped in up saw gorse in bloom; like a friendly face to his middle and waded across. Was it put heart into him and before long that the river Noe? It certainly was be gained the ridge. On either side not no river. His pursuers shouting he saw a valley fog-possessed, beyond to one another contradictory recommen. which hills stood dimly forth like dations ran some up and some down darksome cliffs repelling a white sea. in search of a better crossing-place, Especially on the left one huge form- lost sight of him and did not trouble less thing towered up, a flat-topped him again. Still he ran on across a lump of a mountain, and occupied all narrow meadow, until the upward tilt that front, seeming only the more sul. and the roughness of the ground lenly gray for the sunlight that played brought him to a more moderate pace. upon its frown. To his unaccustomed Presently the ascent was so steep that eyes it looked like a monstrous de- he was constrained to bear a little to formity in stone; he was glad to turn the right in order to ease it. Where away to the task before him.
was Hope? Had be gone by and lost He followed the ridge, and after it, or was it still attainably before about half a mile came to Back Tor; him? he did not mistake it, he knew it by He heard the thud of horses' hoofs its name. For the ridge which had on the hillside, stopped and crouched hitherto been fairly even suddenly among the heather. Two horsemen leapt up before him; and the hillside on appeared out of the fog about a furhis left hand was shorn clean away long off; so much clearer was the air. leaving a sheer precipice. He avoided He lay still while they rode by into it on the right, still heading in nearly the fog again; then he rose and pushed the same direction. After Back Tor on more hurriedly, always lessening the ridge rose yet higher, then rapidly the gradient by taking it aslant. He falling disappeared in the fog. Would reached a height at which there was a that be Lose Hill? Yonder in front of strong breeze, icy-cold to his sweaty him beyond the waste of fog stood brow, and the air was clear; which was forth a sun-lit eminence crowned by a not at first apparent to him, so dim peak, which sat on it like a dwarf's cap were his eyes in that turmoil of his on a gigantic head. Was that Win blood. He stood panting, doubled up, Hill? And was Hope anywhere be- only long enough to half-regain his tween the two? Anyhow he declined breath and eyesight, then mechanically the rise offered him close at hand, and
resumed his course, but without aim, bis strength almost spent, bis spirits scattering all along of young oak and lapsed. Weary of climbing be turned beech. and moved on almost at a level, having The Highlander turned away down. tbe rising steep on his left hand and hill beckoning him to follow; which he the descending on his right. He felt did limping. Soon they came where that he had somehow missed Hope, felt the fog was somewhat denser and a beset on every side by armed horsemen thicker growth of beech saplings, which and footmen. The ground became yet still kept much of their foliage, afrougher, often boggy or crossed by forded considerable cover. There more watercourses, and the steeps upon his Highlanders were gathered, the bulk of left and right were yet steeper. After them it seemed, seated against trees or a while the sun, which bad been trou- lying along the bank. These hardly bling his eyes, shone upon his back, a lifted an eye on the new-comer, but sensible relief. Still he stumbled on, the orator gave him a bunch of bread not looking so far forward as to his from his pouch. It would seem that next step, ever thinking that his then even during the hazards of flight they step would be his last. Unawares he had ventured on a little thievery. must have begun to descend, for he A breeze was springing up and the was again involved in mist, unless that fog was fast disappearing. On the dimness was caused by a clouding of other side of the valley, about a mile his vision. But he also heard, which away, a jagged cliff dimly appeared. must have been outward; heard the Sunshine crowned the beech under faint clatter from below of horses' which Roland sat and ate, and it turned hoofs as on a hard road.
the dull russet leaves to the color of Suddenly his going tended abruptly flame. From the topmost bough a downwards; some dozen short stagger- robin began to sing. When it had ing steps. Then as it seemed by the sung it fluttered down to the branch greater effort asked of him the suc- just over Roland's head, twittered there ceeding step, the thirteenth or so, was a little, alighted on the ground at his planted on ground as abruptly mount- feet, looked him boldly in the face, ing. His hinder foot refused the ef- came within arm's length and pecked fort; he stood panting with a hand on up the crumbs he dropped. Then again each knee. Without any sound of ap- it flew to its singing place and renewed proach a man stood before him. His
The Highlanders, who had heart gave a leap, his feet were fas- seemed so sullenly indifferent to Rotened to the ground; he thought he was land's presence, had every man turned taken. Next moment he perceived the and looked and listened with an abHighland dress; he was a second or sorbed interest while the little bird two longer in seeing that the out- piped and hopped. As soon as it flew stretched hand held not a weapon but away, as though that had been the siga flask glittering with silver. One nal, the whole party rose and stole in hand released a knee, accepted the silence down the clough, which deepflask and put it to his mouth. ened somewhat as it descended. It He drank of the brandy in it descended so quickly that in a few min. and straightened his back. His clearer utes they had overtaken the receding sight recognized the Highlanders' fore- mist. Then they came upon one of their speaker. He had descended into a fellows. He put up his hand; they tiny clough, a mere furrow, running stopped at once and crouched where straight down the hillside. It had a they stood, so as to make the most of dribble of water at the bottom and a the shelter afforded by the trees and
the ground. Roland did as they did. just let blood in a cateran's arm and Not only could he hear from below the was felled by the stock of the cateran's rush of a turbulent river but also men's pistol. The bridge was carried at one voices.
rush. Roland was the last to clear Now only in the trough of the valley it. A farmer whose horse had been had the fog any body. The outlaws disabled hooked him round the throat looking to their every step went down with his whip, and said: a little further, almost to the mouth “Who's to pee for poor oad Ball?" of the clough. The river into which Roland threatened him with the dirk. it drained itself was so near that they "A carving-knife? Thankee kindly; could see its furtive gleam. Standing 'tisna our dinner-time yit.” and listening they could hear the voices With that he let Roland pass. Two of Englishmen stationed close at hand, teeth knocked out, three horses disthe stamping of their horses, the jing- abled was the sum of the bloodshed. ling of their accoutrements. Appar- It was evidently no desire of the crafty ently these were keeping careless freebooters to rouse the country against watch, for loud speech and laughter them by unnecessary violence. By passed from one to another. Presently then the gentleman who had been there was a double thump upon the thrown at the first end of the bridge ground above, such a jack-hare had risen to his feet, confounded as would make with his strong hind-legs. much by the present quiet as by that Immediately each Highlander adjusted furious onset and his fall. his booty, then with his right hand "Where's Barker? Where's Wright?" quietly unsheathed sword, with his left he said to a comrade who had kept his clutched dirk and assumed shield or seat, and scarcely that. made ready his claymore with both. "Oh, they have matehed their horses The orator put a naked dagger into one against tother and are now enRoland's hand.
gaged equis virisque in settling the Again they stood and waited, silent, wager." motionless; until there was again that "And what have you been doing?" double thump. Then they all together "Practising the noble art of equitasprang out of hiding and with a loud tion." barbaric shout, the very scream of "Then I may say that I have been war, dashed down to the river; also to practising the noble art of disequitaa bridge, and a party of horsemen on tion?" and by it, a dozen or more, of whom "The noblest art of all, witness the some were mounted, some dismounted, performances of the noble Carteret, the all unprepared. Their horses took noble Pulteney, the noble Walpole and fright at the outcry and the clash of the equally noble etceteras." arms. The foremost reared and threw The unborsed gentleman was his rider, half of them bolted in a body; horsed again, and the two rode off of the rest two were hocked, one pis- apace with such few others as had kept tolled, and their riders fell with them. their ground and saved their horses, Only one Englishman fired a shot, only leaving the gentleman who had been one drew sword, and they were among stunned to condole with the gentleman those who had dismounted. He who who was spitting out his teeth. In a fired, fired into the air, his pistol being quarter of a mile the road divided right knocked up by a Highland targe, whose and left, up and down the valley. The spike forthwith did rough dentistry stampede of the horses had been stayed upon his teeth. He who drew did but and they were returning to the pursuit.
Moreover the alarm bad spread as if on best of light horses used to that counwings and other borsemen were rid- try would have to go round. ing up post-haste on either band. But Roland was left alone. He could the Highlandmen, taking the shortest see nothing but the cloudless sky and road to safety, had turned neither to the crinkled stems, dark foliage and right nor left but had run straight up withered bloom of the heather in which what fronted them. Neither its steep- he lay; heard nothing but the continual ness nor roughness affected their speed rustle of the breeze there through and one whit, but to Roland, out of condi- the occasional cry of a grouse, that tion and mauled as he was, it seemed to barking laugh ending in a grunting frown down like a very bill of diff. chuckle. Lassitude had seized him. culty. He fell behind, and would He lay with no thought of rising, and soon have been overtaken had not the let the action of his arrest pass and reorator stepped back to him and taken pass through his brain with such variahim under his arm. At a word from tions as his errant imagination inhim another stalwart mountaineer did vented, a moving picture in which his the like on the other side. Thus the part was wholly passive. two upheld his failing strength as with He lay thus for quite an hour; then mainstays and hurried, almost dragged be heard footsteps. He believed that him along at a pace that was marvel- the time was come for the realization lous under the circumstances. As for of his visionary dread. He waited, Roland he worked his legs without vo- lying, with little more emotion than he lition, being subjected to the will of had lain and imagined. It seemed the men who ran on either side of him. long, yet was but a few seconds before
The ground before them became yet the footsteps ceased, a man stood over steeper,
thickly beset with bim. He had to open his eyes and boulders and other impediments; they take him in; until then he did not know were approaching the cliff that capped that his eyes were shut. It was the its brow. Then there was the report red-haired orator. The difference beof a gun. The cateran with the fowl- tween that and his expectation was so ing-piece had shot down the horse of the great that he had to shut his eyes again foremost rider. Next moment Roland's to stay the whirling of his brain. supporters dropped him behind a great When again he opened them the orator lump of rock and sped on without ap- beckoned to him to rise. Still he lay parent break; but instead of attempting until the orator took him by the hand immediately to scale the cliff they and helped him up, then with wheeled to the right and ran under it for peated gestures invited him to follow, some distance, with the effect, perhaps admonished him to hasten. Follow he the intention of bending the line of did, but at first slowly, stiffly. He pursuit from pointing towards Roland. was led straight to the cliff, up whose Their comrades had all taken or now face he had a zigzag ascent pointed out took the same direction. Those of the to him, quite practicable with a little hunters who put a restraining value rough clambering and here and there on their horses or their necks turned the help of the Highlander's strong back, others whose horses were not right hand. He had never fushed too blown still pursued eagerly, the rest with an angrier shame than when he straggled after as they might. But conceded that such help was necessary these were under the disadvantage that to him. Being fairly over the top he whereas the caterans could choose a stopped to recover breath. place and scramble over the edge, the He thought he had never beheld so