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    Ch. 6 - Pastoral

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    Chapter 7
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    TO leave home in early life is to be stunned and quickened with
    novelties; but when years have come, it only casts a more endearing
    light upon the past. As in those composite photographs of Mr.
    Galton's, the image of each new sitter brings out but the more
    clearly the central features of the race; when once youth has
    flown, each new impression only deepens the sense of nationality
    and the desire of native places. So may some cadet of Royal
    Ecossais or the Albany Regiment, as he mounted guard about French
    citadels, so may some officer marching his company of the Scots-
    Dutch among the polders, have felt the soft rains of the Hebrides
    upon his brow, or started in the ranks at the remembered aroma of
    peat-smoke. And the rivers of home are dear in particular to all
    men. This is as old as Naaman, who was jealous for Abana and
    Pharpar; it is confined to no race nor country, for I know one of
    Scottish blood but a child of Suffolk, whose fancy still lingers
    about the lilied lowland waters of that shire. But the streams of
    Scotland are incomparable in themselves - or I am only the more
    Scottish to suppose so - and their sound and colour dwell for ever
    in the memory. How often and willingly do I not look again in
    fancy on Tummel, or Manor, or the talking Airdle, or Dee swirling
    in its Lynn; on the bright burn of Kinnaird, or the golden burn
    that pours and sulks in the den behind Kingussie! I think shame to
    leave out one of these enchantresses, but the list would grow too
    long if I remembered all; only I may not forget Allan Water, nor
    birch-wetting Rogie, nor yet Almond; nor, for all its pollutions,
    that Water of Leith of the many and well-named mills - Bell's
    Mills, and Canon Mills, and Silver Mills; nor Redford Burn of
    pleasant memories; nor yet, for all its smallness, that nameless
    trickle that springs in the green bosom of Allermuir, and is fed
    from Halkerside with a perennial teacupful, and threads the moss
    under the Shearer's Knowe, and makes one pool there, overhung by a
    rock, where I loved to sit and make bad verses, and is then
    kidnapped in its infancy by subterranean pipes for the service of
    the sea-beholding city in the plain. From many points in the moss
    you may see at one glance its whole course and that of all its
    tributaries; the geographer of this Lilliput may visit all its
    corners without sitting down, and not yet begin to be breathed;
    Shearer's Knowe and Halkerside are but names of adjacent cantons on
    a single shoulder of a hill, as names are squandered (it would seem
    to the in-expert, in superfluity) upon these upland sheepwalks; a
    bucket would receive the whole discharge of the toy river; it would
    take it an appreciable time to fill your morning bath; for the most
    part, besides, it soaks unseen through the moss; and yet for the
    sake of auld lang syne, and the figure of a certain GENIUS LOCI, I
    am condemned to linger awhile in fancy by its shores; and if the
    nymph (who cannot be above a span in stature) will but inspire my
    pen, I would gladly carry the reader along with me.

    John Todd, when I knew him, was already "the oldest herd on the
    Pentlands," and had been all his days faithful to that curlew-
    scattering, sheep-collecting life. He remembered the droving days,
    when the drove roads, that now lie green and solitary through the
    heather, were thronged thoroughfares. He had himself often marched
    flocks into England, sleeping on the hillsides with his caravan;
    and by his account it was a rough business not without danger. The
    drove roads lay apart from habitation; the drovers met in the
    wilderness, as to-day the deep-sea fishers meet off the banks in
    the solitude of the Atlantic; and in the one as in the other case
    rough habits and fist-law were the rule. Crimes were committed,
    sheep filched, and drovers robbed and beaten; most of which
    offences had a moorland burial and were never heard of in the
    courts of justice. John, in those days, was at least once
    attacked, - by two men after his watch, - and at least once,
    betrayed by his habitual anger, fell under the danger of the law
    and was clapped into some rustic prison-house, the doors of which
    he burst in the night and was no more heard of in that quarter.
    When I knew him, his life had fallen in quieter places, and he had
    no cares beyond the dulness of his dogs and the inroads of
    pedestrians from town. But for a man of his propensity to wrath
    these were enough; he knew neither rest nor peace, except by
    snatches; in the gray of the summer morning, and already from far
    up the hill, he would wake the "toun" with the sound of his
    shoutings; and in the lambing time, his cries were not yet silenced
    late at night. This wrathful voice of a man unseen might be said
    to haunt that quarter of the Pentlands, an audible bogie; and no
    doubt it added to the fear in which men stood of John a touch of
    something legendary. For my own part, he was at first my enemy,
    and I, in my character of a rambling boy, his natural abhorrence.
    It was long before I saw him near at hand, knowing him only by some
    sudden blast of bellowing from far above, bidding me "c'way oot
    amang the sheep." The quietest recesses of the hill harboured this
    ogre; I skulked in my favourite wilderness like a Cameronian of the
    Killing Time, and John Todd was my Claverhouse, and his dogs my
    questing dragoons. Little by little we dropped into civilities;
    his hail at sight of me began to have less of the ring of a war-
    slogan; soon, we never met but he produced his snuff-box, which was
    with him, like the calumet with the Red Indian, a part of the
    heraldry of peace; and at length, in the ripeness of time, we grew
    to be a pair of friends, and when I lived alone in these parts in
    the winter, it was a settled thing for John to "give me a cry" over
    the garden wall as he set forth upon his evening round, and for me
    to overtake and bear him company.

    That dread voice of his that shook the hills when he was angry,
    fell in ordinary talk very pleasantly upon the ear, with a kind of
    honied, friendly whine, not far off singing, that was eminently
    Scottish. He laughed not very often, and when he did, with a
    sudden, loud haw-haw, hearty but somehow joyless, like an echo from
    a rock. His face was permanently set and coloured; ruddy and stiff
    with weathering; more like a picture than a face; yet with a
    certain strain and a threat of latent anger in the expression, like
    that of a man trained too fine and harassed with perpetual
    vigilance. He spoke in the richest dialect of Scotch I ever heard;
    the words in themselves were a pleasure and often a surprise to me,
    so that I often came back from one of our patrols with new
    acquisitions; and this vocabulary he would handle like a master,
    stalking a little before me, "beard on shoulder," the plaid hanging
    loosely about him, the yellow staff clapped under his arm, and
    guiding me uphill by that devious, tactical ascent which seems
    peculiar to men of his trade. I might count him with the best
    talkers; only that talking Scotch and talking English seem
    incomparable acts. He touched on nothing at least, but he adorned
    it; when he narrated, the scene was before you; when he spoke (as
    he did mostly) of his own antique business, the thing took on a
    colour of romance and curiosity that was surprising. The clans of
    sheep with their particular territories on the hill, and how, in
    the yearly killings and purchases, each must be proportionally
    thinned and strengthened; the midnight busyness of animals, the
    signs of the weather, the cares of the snowy season, the exquisite
    stupidity of sheep, the exquisite cunning of dogs: all these he
    could present so humanly, and with so much old experience and
    living gusto, that weariness was excluded. And in the midst he
    would suddenly straighten his bowed back, the stick would fly
    abroad in demonstration, and the sharp thunder of his voice roll
    out a long itinerary for the dogs, so that you saw at last the use
    of that great wealth of names for every knowe and howe upon the
    hillside; and the dogs, having hearkened with lowered tails and
    raised faces, would run up their flags again to the masthead and
    spread themselves upon the indicated circuit. It used to fill me
    with wonder how they could follow and retain so long a story. But
    John denied these creatures all intelligence; they were the
    constant butt of his passion and contempt; it was just possible to
    work with the like of them, he said, - not more than possible. And
    then he would expand upon the subject of the really good dogs that
    he had known, and the one really good dog that he had himself
    possessed. He had been offered forty pounds for it; but a good
    collie was worth more than that, more than anything, to a "herd;"
    he did the herd's work for him. "As for the like of them!" he
    would cry, and scornfully indicate the scouring tails of his

    Once - I translate John's Lallan, for I cannot do it justice, being
    once, in the days of his good dog, he had bought some sheep in
    Edinburgh, and on the way out, the road being crowded, two were
    lost. This was a reproach to John, and a slur upon the dog; and
    both were alive to their misfortune. Word came, after some days,
    that a farmer about Braid had found a pair of sheep; and thither
    went John and the dog to ask for restitution. But the farmer was a
    hard man and stood upon his rights. "How were they marked?" he
    asked; and since John had bought right and left from many sellers
    and had no notion of the marks - "Very well," said the farmer,
    "then it's only right that I should keep them." - "Well," said
    John, "it's a fact that I cannae tell the sheep; but if my dog can,
    will ye let me have them?" The farmer was honest as well as hard,
    and besides I daresay he had little fear of the ordeal; so he had
    all the sheep upon his farm into one large park, and turned John's
    dog into their midst. That hairy man of business knew his errand
    well; he knew that John and he had bought two sheep and (to their
    shame) lost them about Boroughmuirhead; he knew besides (the lord
    knows how, unless by listening) that they were come to Braid for
    their recovery; and without pause or blunder singled out, first one
    and then another, the two waifs. It was that afternoon the forty
    pounds were offered and refused. And the shepherd and his dog -
    what do I say? the true shepherd and his man - set off together by
    Fairmilehead in jocund humour, and "smiled to ither" all the way
    home, with the two recovered ones before them. So far, so good;
    but intelligence may be abused. The dog, as he is by little man's
    inferior in mind, is only by little his superior in virtue; and
    John had another collie tale of quite a different complexion. At
    the foot of the moss behind Kirk Yetton (Caer Ketton, wise men say)
    there is a scrog of low wood and a pool with a dam for washing
    sheep. John was one day lying under a bush in the scrog, when he
    was aware of a collie on the far hillside skulking down through the
    deepest of the heather with obtrusive stealth. He knew the dog;
    knew him for a clever, rising practitioner from quite a distant
    farm; one whom perhaps he had coveted as he saw him masterfully
    steering flocks to market. But what did the practitioner so far
    from home? and why this guilty and secret manoeuvring towards the
    pool? - for it was towards the pool that he was heading. John lay
    the closer under his bush, and presently saw the dog come forth
    upon the margin, look all about him to see if he were anywhere
    observed, plunge in and repeatedly wash himself over head and ears,
    and then (but now openly and with tail in air) strike homeward over
    the hills. That same night word was sent his master, and the
    rising practitioner, shaken up from where he lay, all innocence,
    before the fire, was had out to a dykeside and promptly shot; for
    alas! he was that foulest of criminals under trust, a sheep-eater;
    and it was from the maculation of sheep's blood that he had come so
    far to cleanse himself in the pool behind Kirk Yetton.

    A trade that touches nature, one that lies at the foundations of
    life, in which we have all had ancestors employed, so that on a
    hint of it ancestral memories revive, lends itself to literary use,
    vocal or written. The fortune of a tale lies not alone in the
    skill of him that writes, but as much, perhaps, in the inherited
    experience of him who reads; and when I hear with a particular
    thrill of things that I have never done or seen, it is one of that
    innumerable army of my ancestors rejoicing in past deeds. Thus
    novels begin to touch not the fine DILETTANTI but the gross mass of
    mankind, when they leave off to speak of parlours and shades of
    manner and still-born niceties of motive, and begin to deal with
    fighting, sailoring, adventure, death or childbirth; and thus
    ancient outdoor crafts and occupations, whether Mr. Hardy wields
    the shepherd's crook or Count Tolstoi swings the scythe, lift
    romance into a near neighbourhood with epic. These aged things
    have on them the dew of man's morning; they lie near, not so much
    to us, the semi-artificial flowerets, as to the trunk and
    aboriginal taproot of the race. A thousand interests spring up in
    the process of the ages, and a thousand perish; that is now an
    eccentricity or a lost art which was once the fashion of an empire;
    and those only are perennial matters that rouse us to-day, and that
    roused men in all epochs of the past. There is a certain critic,
    not indeed of execution but of matter, whom I dare be known to set
    before the best: a certain low-browed, hairy gentleman, at first a
    percher in the fork of trees, next (as they relate) a dweller in
    caves, and whom I think I see squatting in cave-mouths, of a
    pleasant afternoon, to munch his berries - his wife, that
    accomplished lady, squatting by his side: his name I never heard,
    but he is often described as Probably Arboreal, which may serve for
    recognition. Each has his own tree of ancestors, but at the top of
    all sits Probably Arboreal; in all our veins there run some minims
    of his old, wild, tree-top blood; our civilised nerves still tingle
    with his rude terrors and pleasures; and to that which would have
    moved our common ancestor, all must obediently thrill.

    We have not so far to climb to come to shepherds; and it may be I
    had one for an ascendant who has largely moulded me. But yet I
    think I owe my taste for that hillside business rather to the art
    and interest of John Todd. He it was that made it live for me, as
    the artist can make all things live. It was through him the simple
    strategy of massing sheep upon a snowy evening, with its attendant
    scampering of earnest, shaggy aides-de-champ, was an affair that I
    never wearied of seeing, and that I never weary of recalling to
    mind: the shadow of the night darkening on the hills, inscrutable
    black blots of snow shower moving here and there like night already
    come, huddles of yellow sheep and dartings of black dogs upon the
    snow, a bitter air that took you by the throat, unearthly harpings
    of the wind along the moors; and for centre piece to all these
    features and influences, John winding up the brae, keeping his
    captain's eye upon all sides, and breaking, ever and again, into a
    spasm of bellowing that seemed to make the evening bleaker. It is
    thus that I still see him in my mind's eye, perched on a hump of
    the declivity not far from Halkerside, his staff in airy flourish,
    his great voice taking hold upon the hills and echoing terror to
    the lowlands; I, meanwhile, standing somewhat back, until the fit
    should be over, and, with a pinch of snuff, my friend relapse into
    his easy, even conversation.
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