Page images

viously looked upon me as a a hazy notion of how I was to poor creature—a Southron. reach my destination.

I told him that I wanted to At first, all was olear. Bego to Hopeton.

hind the station rose a steep “Hopeton, is't?” he an. grassy hill, its base olad in swered. “Does the Laird ken trees, amidst which one could ye're comin', for if he kons, see the obimneys and roofs of what wye did he no' sen' the two or three houses peeping gig tae meet ye?”

out. My road led me upwards “He doesn't know that I through this wooded zone to intended coming by this train, & bare whitewashed farm though he expeots me any day house which lay at the foot now," I replied, somewhat of the bill proper. Here I Rettled by this oross-examin- thought it wise to refresh my ation.

memory as to my direction. " Ye wad ha'e dune better “Hopeton ?” replied the tae wire. Ye'd ha'e saved yer- strapping red-armed girl whom sel's heap o' fash-an' me tae, I found by the byre-door. “Oo for that maitter. What'll ye aye. Ye oan gang this wye, dae noo?"

but it's a gye rough road. “How far is it to Hope- Turn roond tae the left when ton ?" I asked.

ye're bye the fairm, an' keep “It's ower five mile if ye straucht on roond the side o'the gang by the turnpike, but no' hill. The dry-stane dykes 'll muokle mair nor three by the keep yo rioht. Keep atween auld Roman Road ower the them an'

yө @anna gae hills—that's if ye're thinkin' wrang." o' walkin'. But yo couldna Having thanked the girl for tak ony o'thae muokle boaxes her courtesy, and received in wi' ye. The sairrier wud tak' reply & hearty laugh and a them ower on the railway “Havers, man, it's daething!” lorry."

-I went on my way round the “I think that's the best side of the hill. way, then," I agreed. “It's a So this was the old Roman lovely evening, and the walk Road ! will do me good after a day On either side of me was an cramped ap in the train." ancient dry-stone dyke, broken

“O aye, it's a braw nioht," down by time and sheep into a he admitted, grudgingly to mere olutter of looge stone. all appearances.

"An' ye'll Between lay & deep irregular jaist ha'e time tae gang that hollow, filled up with braoken far afore the gloamin's on tap and gnarled gorse. A sombo' ye.”

lance of a path led throngh this With that he proceeded to wilderness, kept open by på88instruot me upon my route, ing shepherds and as I learnt but what with the strangeness afterwards-quarrymen werdof his dialoot and my own ing their way to their work rather casual attention to his aor088 the bills. direotions, I went off with bat I was enobanted with the scene beneath me. The road assured that I was still on the winding round the side of the old Roman road. Worse still, grassy hill which rose four or when I passed these gloomy five hundred feet above my knolls on which night had head, was itself a couple of already began to settle, I found hundred feet above the waters in front of me a great dark of the Firth. When I stood wood of stunted firs and pines, by the broken wall and looked at whioh my path forked, one down, I saw the blue waters branoh leading by a stile stretched before me, with is- through the wood, the other lands large and small laid out bearing away to the left. a8 on a map. I did not know I stopped and scratched my them then as I do now, but head. The porter had oerthere were the two Cambraes, tainly mentioned this woodBig and Little, the Isle of Bute, “the foax-cover" he had called and, most wonderful of all, it—but whether he had bidden Arran, with the sun just set me go through it or avoid it behind the northern end. The was beyond my oapacity to whole sky was rich with colour, remember. but on the water the shadows Giving the problem up in were lengthening each moment, despair I tossed for it, and bore and a gloom began to settle off on the path to the left, on the land, which made me avoiding the wood. It had ghiver and hastily pass on

now grown 80 dark that it my way.

with difficulty that I As I proceeded my path be- could see the path, though, oame steadily worse. I left the looking over the countryside, first hill behind, and found my. I could still follow the conself in the midst of a country tours of the hills, and distindotted with grass-olad knolls, guish the blaok masses that topped with rude cairns of represented wooded tracks. stones. My track kept me well I suppose I must have walked above the level of cultivation, about a mile from the fork in

When I had walked for the the way, when I saw, in the best part of an hour I began to distance, a light, which I took have doubts as to my direction. to be shining from some dwellMy friend the railway porter ing-house, possibly Hopeton. had put it at three miles, and Unfortunately the path I fol. I felt sure that I must have lowed was leading me away at walked quite that distance. right angles to this light, to Dask was thickening on me reach which I must leave the too, and there was no sign of traok and take to the pasturehuman habitation at which I land that stretohed beneath oould inquire my way.

I now found myself in a high “Anyhow," I thought, “a valley between two small hills oross - country tramp can be set olose together. My twin- little worse than this,”—for, guides, the dykes, had dwindled indeed, the path was now to one, so that I was no longer almost indiscernible, and I was

[ocr errors]



continually coming into an. ing. Ahead of me lay a long pleasant contact with whin- narrow wood, which appeared bashes, or stumbling over loose to me as a black stripe stretchboulders whioh had fallen from ing away far up the hill tothe dyke.

wards which I was advancing. The light whioh I had made As I descended the slope ap my mind to aim for lay into the valley, this wood aeross a valley between two had come ' between me and hills, and was a fair way up the light. on the opposite slope. I olam- I could see that I must either bered over the dyke amid & make a very long detour, or rattle of loose stones, and set else out right through the off downhill at a good pace, wood—no easy job in the darkand at oonsiderable risk of a

However, as I had no broken ankle, for the close- idea how far I might have to cropped turf was honeycombed walk to get round it, I deterwith rabbit-holes and full of mined that I would go through, ridges and

and irregularities of if the undergrowth were not surface.

too thick. It was now all but night, I reached the bottom of the and but for the fact that the valley and stumbled into a moon had appeared round the little burn that flowed through shoulder of the nearest hill, I it. Crossing this, I advanced should have been unable to ad- uphill once more, still over Vance with any hope of reaoh- springy, close grass, and each ing my goal. To add to my moment I seemed to get nearer troables, the light for whiob I to the wood. So quickly did was aiming suddenly disap- it draw near that it almost peared. Once or twice again seemed to be coming to meet I caught a glimpse of it, and me, and as it came I liked it then it was gone for good. less and less.

Immediately after I had lost There was something horrid sight of the light, the report about that wood. All around of a shot-gan reached my ears me I could see the rough outfrom somewhere in the gloom line of the country by the ahead. At the same time I bright light of the moon, but thought I could hear a faint there ahead the moon's rays distant call of distress, and had no power. The wood was then once more the silenoe fell like a great black wall stretched around me.

across my track.

Its gloom I stood still and listened in- and silence began to have an tently, but as I heard nothing eerie effeot apon me, so much further, I put the sound down so that as I reached the dyke as the startled oall of some that bordered the wood I bebird disturbed by the shot. gan to hesitate, and wonder

Then, by the aid of the if perhaps it would not be moonlight, I saw the explana- wiser to make the

the detour tion of the disappearance of after all. the light for which I was aim- Then I palled myself to

[ocr errors]

gether and called myself & trees seemed to grow wider nervous fool, afraid of the apart, and patches of moon. dark. Giving myself no further light lay here and there, like time for hesitation, I clambered white sheets spread upon the over the wall and dived down ground. A clear light shone into the darkness.

some way ahead as though an Immediately the whole wood open space lay there, wherein became pandemonium of the moonlight could play sound. For a

moment my freely. heart jumped within me in But from that direction, too, sudden fear; and then I real. seemed to come the ever-reised that in the tree-tops were peated wail that struck unthe nests of innumerable wood- manly fear into my heart. I pigeons, whose rest I had dis- all but turned and fled back turbed, and the harsh clatter into the thicket. Shame drove of whose wings had startled me forward, however, and soon me.

I had stumbled upon


verge I pushed my way forward, of a small clearing, brilliantly stung and prioked by the sharp lit by the cold hard light of pine-needles, which to my high- the moon. strung nerves

seemed like It was here that I found the swords of dumb sentinels the source of the weird bad barring my advance. As I ories that had upset my struggled I beoame conscious nerve. of another sound, so distinct In the middle of the clearing that it pierced even the thun- stood a rough cairn of stones, derous flapping overhead. clean - out in the moonlight.

It was a low moaning wail, Seated at the base of this as of some creature in awful cairn was a young man, on pain or strioken by unutter. whose face there was a look able sorrow - sound that, of grief and despair indescrib

& ooming to me raw-nerved as able in words. I was, brought & cold sweat Across his knees and supto my brow and set my limbs ported by his twined arms lay X-tremble.

the form of a white - olad I stumbled on, guarding my woman, from whose closed eyes head from injury with out and set features life appeared stretched arms, and jarring to have fled. A great dark my whole body from time to stain spread over the bosom time as I collided with the of her white dress. Her dark trunks of trees. Already it hair hung loose over the arm was hopeless to turn back of the youth who held her. My sense of direotion had de- At first I thought the young serted me, and there was noth- man bad heard my approach, but ing for it but to struggle on, his eyes, which looked in my in the hope that I would direotion, were fixed on vacanoy blunder out on the opposite and as I looked his lips parted, side.

and there burst from them As I penetrated farther the again that low long wail.


How long I stood silently Do you hear? She is alive! looking on this strange scene Let me see the wound.” I cannot say. I might have I took the woman from hig stood much longer than I did arms and laid her upon the but for a discovery that I made ground. Quickly I opened up without at first realising its the bosom of her dress and significanoe. As the young found apon her breast, just man sat motionless with the over the heart, a long raw body of the woman in his flesh wound. A short examinarms, I became conscious of the ation convinced me that it faint regular rise and fall of was that, and nothing more. her bosom. Everything stood She had merely fainted from out so olearly in the moonlight loss of blood and from shock. that I could not be mistaken. Springing to my feet I tried So still and white was her face to convey this good news to that I had assumed that life the young man, who had stood had fled, and the discovery of by meanwhile with a dazed my mistako oame on me 80 look on his face. suddenly that I rushed for- “She is all right!” I exward, shouting

plained. “It is merely a flesh “She is alive! She is wound. Where can we take alive!”

her in order that I may dress The young man started to it properly? Have you a home his feet, still olasping her to near by ? his bresst, and I saw his eyes Gradually a look of compre. gradually foous upon me, and hension dawned on his face. marked the look of surprise “She is alive? Oh, Marie ! with which he slowly realised Thank God !" my presence.

He threw himself on the “ Who are you? ... What ground beside her and kissed do you want here?” he de- her eyes, her lips, and her hair, manded, but in hoarse and dropped tears upon her whisper as if afraid of dis- upturned face. turbing her whom he oarried. “Come, come !" I said “Don't ask questions," I sternly.

"This won't do at answered hurriedly. “I am all. Pull yourself together, a doctor, and the lady is hartman, and let us get & roof -but alive."

over the lady." "She is shot through the “Yes, yes," he stammered heart!” he murmured. “Oh, brokenly. “You are right. It

. God!" And again his ory of is not far.” anguish filled the air.

He lifted her tenderly in his "Pull yourself together, arms, and making a sign to man," I said abruptly, and me to follow, plunged sp

apseizing his shoulder I shook parently into the depths of him roughly. “She is alive! the wood. In reality he fol

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »