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or no, it lookit gey like it, for they retreated as quickly as did the French afore Wellington at Waterloo ! “Thinkin' I had dune weel, I paused a little to tak' breath ;
a but I had no sooner stopped than a' the legions o' the bottomless pit were aroond me again, mair numerous and mair threatenin' than ever. Wishin' to see whether they wid really meddle wi' me or no, I remained for a few minutes quite motionless, during which time they danced, an' capered, an' cleekit, an' grinned; noo peerin' wi' their fiery een into my very face, an' then retreatin' like lichtnin' tae the ither end o’ the moss; their places, meanwhile, supplied by ither imps as wild an uncannie as themselves, wha sprang, as it were, out o the very earth, like sae mony emissaries o' the Evil One, bent on errands o' wrath an' destruction an' death !
“I could stand it nae langer, an' determined to fecht my way hame, although, like Samson, I should slay my thoosands an' tens o' thoosands, I strode manfully forward, strikin' richt an' left wi' a' my vengeance; and, though tumblin' noo an' then among the peat-holes, I was nae sooner doon than I was up again, wrastlin' anfechtin' on, till I reached the road to Glamis at last; an' the warlocks, keepin' strictly to the moss, didna farther molest me, though I saw them fine, caperin' an' dancin' awa' i' the distance, until the hedges o' Brigton concealed them from my sicht !”
“Losh me, gudeman,” said his wife, “but did you really fecht wi' the warlocks ?”
“Fecht wi' the warlocks ?" exclaimed mine host, rising at the same time, and seizing with a firm grasp his faithful ash stick which stood by the firem“Fecht wi' the warlocks ! I would like to see the imp, be it warlock, or hobgoblin, or will-o'-thewisp, that I widna, wi' the aid o' this stick, fecht wi' an' overcome! Notwithstandin' the great odds against me this nicht, I struck at them wi' my sturdy ash in this way”—suiting the action to the word—“sae effectually, an' wi' sic uncommon power an' vengeance, that this goblin's head was severed frae his body, and that Jack-o'-the-lanthorn's body frae his legs, in
less time than it tak’s tae tell ye. Fat are ye gickerin' at, lassies?”
The fact is, the expression of mine host was so fierce, and his actions so animated and comical, that the whole assemblage burst out into a loud, uncontrollable fit of laughter, during which he walked to the still blazing ingle, laid down his staff in its accustomed place, seated himself in his arm-chair, and, covering his face with his handkerchief, laughed as long and heartily as any of them.
“Esther!" at last cried our host, uncovering his face once more, “Esther, put on the kettle again, my lassie; we maun hae an eik afore Maister Robertson tak’s the road to Kinnettles; it's no every nicht he honours us wi' his company." Then, lowering his voice to a whisper, and looking straight in the Dominie's face, he inquiringly said, “You seem to doubt the narration o' this nicht's adventures ?”
“A mere phenomenon of nature," loudly and scornfully replied the Dominie.
“Phenominum o' natur' or no, Maister Robertson,” rejoined mine host, in a still louder voice, “tak’ care as ye gae hame to Kinnettles the nicht that nae ‘keemeera' or 'phenominum,' as ye ca’ them, disna turn up your heels in a way ye wot not of."
Then, turning with a couthy look to his wife, to whom he was much attached, and by way of changing the current of the conversation, he sang with great feeling and tenderness :
My bounie wee wifie, in life's early morn,
And aye it grew sweeter, like song of the thrush,
Alas ! in proportion the farther you flew,
So, from a heart broken, the voice of true love
My bonnie wee wifie, long, long thou hast lain
Aye the more will I love thee, my bonnie wee wife. “Noo, Maister Robertson," continued mine host, “we'll hae an eik to drink the stirrup cup, and a safe landin' tae you at Kinnettles ;" and while handing him his glass of punch, and another to the gudewife, he wickedly observed, “I hope the waterkelpies are no abroad the nicht, Mr Daniel.”
“Mere myths," courageously rejoined the Dominie.
‘Weel, weel,” replied mine host, "we'll see what we'll see ; that's all I'll say for the present; tak'aff yer glass."
Bring the lantern, Peter," said the gudewife ; "an' ye maun licht Maister Robertson hame, for it's a dark eerie nicht.”
“I'm to gie Maister Robertson a convoy hame the nicht mysel'," said mine host, rising at the same time and putting on his hat and overcoat, and grasping firmly in his hand his great ash cudgel, as if preparing for another mysterious encounter with the weird-like denizens of the bog.
“ Jamie," said the farmer, “you're a gey whin stronger than Peter; tak' you the lantern, an' I'll lift the stiles mysel.”
“But are ye no feart, aifter what ye've come through this awfu' nicht ?” timidly enquired his better-half.
“Feart ? gudewife," defiantly replied mine host—"feart ! I'm ready for anither fecht whenever the time comes, for
“Wi' tippeny we fear nae evil,
Wi' usquebae we'll face the“Fie! for shame, gudeman,” interrupted his wife,
Maister Robertson, a rulin' elder o'the kirk, standin' an' hearin' ye a' the time !"
“But I didna say the word,” quietly observed the gudeman in reply, taking the credit to himself for his circumspection. “ Are ye ready, Jamie ? Come awa', Maister Robertson. Button up yer coat, and tie yer comforter round yer neck for it's a gey cauld winter's nicht.”
And away the trio went out into the darkness, mine host on the one side and his stalwart son on the other, with the phlegmatic and censorious Dominie in the midst.
A little bewildered at first, they soon got accustomed to the darkness, and strode down the hill with as steady steps as, under the circumstances, could with a good grace have been anticipated—Jamie keeping the lantern as much in front of the Dominie as possible, and his father lifting the stiles at the end of each park with due care and attention to their progress and comfort.
It was a beautiful night, the ground crisp and hard with the whitening frost; the air clear, sharp and exhilarating, with just enough of wind as gently to stir the leafless branches with a deep, hollow, weird-like sadness. Overhead the stars shone out in all their quiet, subdued loveliness, looking calmly down upon the wayfarers like so many guardian angels overshadowing their midnight path.
“ Yonder's the spunkies i the moss,” burst out the farmer, when they had gone about mid-way down the hill. “Do ye no see them, Maister Robertson, kickin' an' flingin' and caperin' like sae mony warlocks frae the ither warld ?”
“I see," replied the Dominie, “what might properly be termed the inevitable and natural exhaltations of a marsh or moss, phenomena of Nature explainable and clear in the light of science and philosophic research. The wonder would be, not that there should be phenomena of the kind, but why such should not appear in all similar circumstances.”
“Ye're aff the subject a'thegither," pettishly rejoined his
companion. Do you really mean to tell me, Maister Daniel Robertson, that thae warlocks I encoontered and slew this very nicht i' the bog yonder are no leevin' creatur's, wi' flesh an' bluid an' banes like ourselves ?”
“Wisht !” said Jamie, interrupting. “Did you no hear yon lauch ? I doot the waterkelpies are abroad the nicht !”
“What man of ordinary comprehension, or sound judgment,” sneeringly retorted the Dominie, "could for a moment believe in such imaginary nondescripts as waterkelpies, far less give credence to the absurd and ridiculous idea that articulate sounds of laughter could, by any possibility, proceed from that which has no existence ? Pshaw !”
The travellers had now reached the margin of the Kerbet, which, very much swollen by the recent rains, had overflowed its banks, its dark and drumly waters stretching far and near in the hollow, like a vast inland lake. As good, or ill fortune would have it, the rickety wooden bridge was still left intact. The courageous Dominie now declared that, as the frail structure could not bear the weight of more than one individual at the same time, he would go across it alone, and bidding his good guardians farewell, he boldly proceeded to put his brave purpose into execution.
Brave Daniel reached, without a word,
When guffaw from the bank,
And 'tween the planks he sank !
I'll tell’t to a' the clachan :
O’ waterkelpy's lauchin ! The crestfallen, sadly-troubled, and discomfited Dominie was duly escorted to the door of his house in Kinnettles, where