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and, being so hopeless a task,
it was gone about with the less care. Yet we could see the soldiers pike
their bayonets among the heather, which sent a cold thrill into my
vitals; and they would sometimes hang about our rock, so that we scarce
dared to breathe.

It was in this way that I first heard the right English speech; one
fellow as he went by actually clapping his hand upon the sunny face of
the rock on which we lay, and plucking it off again with an oath. "I
tell you it's 'ot," says he; and I was amazed at the clipping tones and
the odd sing-song in which he spoke, and no less at that strange trick
of dropping out the letter "h". To be sure, I had heard Ransome; but he
had taken his ways from all sorts of people, and spoke so imperfectly at
the best, that I set down the most of it to childishness. My surprise
was all the greater to hear that manner of speaking in the mouth of a
grown man; and indeed I have never grown used to it; nor yet altogether
with the English grammar, as perhaps a very critical eye might here and
there spy out even in these memoirs.

The tediousness and pain of these hours upon the rock grew only the
greater as the day went on; the rock getting still the hotter and the
sun fiercer. There were giddiness, and sickness, and sharp pangs like
rheumatism, to be supported. I minded then, and have often minded since,
on the lines in our Scots psalm--

"The moon by night thee shall not smite,
Nor yet the sun by day";

and indeed it was only by God's blessing that we were neither of us
sun-smitten.

At last, about two, it was beyond men's bearing, and there was now
temptation to resist, as well as pain to thole. For the sun being now
got a little into the west, there came a patch of shade on the east side
of our rock, which was the side sheltered from the soldiers.

"As well one death as another," said Alan, and slipped over the edge and
dropped on the ground on the shadowy side.

I followed him at once, and instantly fell all my length, so weak was I
and so giddy with that long exposure. Here, then, we lay for an hour or
two, aching from head to foot, as weak as water, and lying quite naked
to the eye of any soldier who should have strolled that way. None came,
however, all passing by on the other side; so that our rock continued to
be our shield even in this new position.

Presently we began again to get a little strength; and as the soldiers
were now lying closer along the river-side, Alan proposed that we should
try a start. I was by this time afraid of but one thing in the world;
and that was to be set back upon the rock; anything else was welcome to
me; so we got ourselves at once in marching order, and began to slip
from rock to rock one after the other, now crawling flat on our bellies
in the shade, now making a run for it, heart in mouth.

The soldiers, having searched this side of the valley after a fashion,
and being perhaps somewhat sleepy with the sultriness of the afternoon,
had now laid by much of their vigilance, and stood dozing at their posts
or only kept a look-out along the banks of the river; so that in this
way, keeping down the valley and at the same time towards the mountains,
we drew steadily away from their neighbourhood. But the business was the
most wearing I had ever taken part in. A man had need of a hundred eyes
in every part of him, to keep concealed in that uneven country and
within cry of so many and scattered sentries. When we must pass an open
place, quickness was not all, but a swift judgment not only of the lie
of the whole country, but of the solidity of every stone on which we
must set foot; for the afternoon was now fallen so breathless that the
rolling of a pebble sounded abroad like a pistol-shot, and would start
the echo calling among the hills and cliffs.

By sundown we had made some distance, even by our slow rate of progress,
though to be sure the sentry on the rock was still plainly in our view.
But now we came on something that put all fears out of season; and that
was a deep rushing burn, that tore down, in that part, to join the glen
river. At the sight of this we cast ourselves on the ground and plunged
head and shoulders in the water; and I cannot tell which was the more
pleasant, the great shock as the cool stream went over us, or the greed
with which we drank of it.

We lay there (for the banks hid us), drank again and again, bathed our
chests, let our wrists trail in the running water till they ached with
the chill; and at last, being wonderfully renewed, we got out the
meal-bag and made drammach in the iron pan. This, though it is but cold
water mingled with oatmeal, yet makes a good enough dish for a hungry
man; and where there are no means of making fire, or (as in our case)
good reason for not making one, it is the chief stand-by of those who
have taken to the heather.

As soon as the shadow of the night had fallen, we set forth again, at
first with the same caution, but presently with more boldness, standing
our full height and stepping out at a good pace of walking. The way was
very intricate, lying up the steep sides of mountains and along the
brows of cliffs; clouds had come in with the sunset, and the night was
dark and cool; so that I walked without much fatigue, but in continual
fear of falling and rolling down the mountains, and with no guess at our
direction.

The moon rose at last and found us still on the road; it was in its last
quarter, and was long beset with clouds; but after a while shone out and
showed me many dark heads of mountains, and was reflected far underneath
us on the narrow arm of a sea-loch.

At this sight we both paused: I struck with wonder to find myself so
high, and walking (as it seemed to me) upon clouds: Alan to make sure of
his direction.

Seemingly he was well pleased, and he must certainly have judged us out
of ear-shot of all our enemies; for throughout the rest of our
night-march he beguiled the way with whistling of many tunes, warlike,
merry, plaintive; reel tunes that made the foot go faster; tunes of my
own south country that made me fain to be home from my adventures; and
all these, on the great, dark, desert mountains, making company upon the
way.


FOOTNOTE:

[25] Brisk.




CHAPTER XXI

THE FLIGHT IN THE HEATHER: THE HEUGH OF CORRYNAKIEGH


Early as day comes in the beginning of July, it was still dark when we
reached our destination, a cleft in the head of a great mountain, with a
water running through the midst, and upon the one hand a shallow cave in
a rock. Birches grew there in a thin, pretty wood, which a little
farther on was changed into a wood of pines. The burn was full of trout;
the wood of cushat-doves; on the open side of the mountain beyond,
whaups would be always whistling, and cuckoos were plentiful. From the
mouth of the cleft we looked down upon a part of Mamore, and on the
sea-loch that divides that country from Appin; and this from so great a
height as made it my continual wonder and pleasure to sit and behold
them.

The name of the cleft was the Heugh of Corrynakiegh; and although from
its height, and being so near upon the sea, it was often beset with
clouds, yet it was on the whole a pleasant place, and the five days we
lived in it went happily.

We slept in the cave, making our bed of heather bushes which we cut for
that purpose, and covering ourselves with Alan's great-coat. There was a
low concealed place, in a turning of the glen, where we were so bold as
to make fire: so that we could warm ourselves when the clouds set in,
and cook hot porridge, and grill the little trouts that we caught with
our hands under the stones and overhanging banks of the burn. This was
indeed our chief pleasure and business; and not only to save our meal
against worse times, but with a rivalry that much amused us, we spent a
great part of our days at the water-side, stripped to the waist and
groping about or (as they say) guddling for these fish. The largest we
got might have been a quarter of a pound; but they were of good flesh
and flavour, and when broiled upon the coals, lacked only a little salt
to be delicious.

In any by-time Alan must teach me to use my sword, for my ignorance had
much distressed him; and I think besides, as I had sometimes the upper
hand of him in the fishing, he was not sorry to turn to an exercise
where he had so much the upper hand of me. He made it somewhat more of a
pain than need have been, for he stormed at me all through the lessons
in a very violent manner of scolding, and would push me so close that I
made sure he must run me through the body. I was often tempted to turn
tail, but held my ground for all that, and got some profit of my
lessons; if it was but to stand on guard with an assured countenance,
which is often all that is required. So, though I could never in the
least please my master, I was not altogether displeased with myself.

In the meanwhile, you are not to suppose that we neglected our chief
business, which was to get away.

"It will be many a long day," Alan said to me on our first morning,
"before the red-coats think upon seeking Corrynakiegh; so now we must
get word sent to James, and he must find the siller for us."

"And how shall we send that word?" says I. "We are here in a desert
place, which yet we dare not leave; and unless ye get the fowls of the
air to be your messengers, I see not what we shall be able to do."

"Ay?" said Alan. "Ye're a man of small contrivance, David."

Thereupon he fell in a muse, looking in the embers of the fire; and
presently, getting a piece of wood, he fashioned it in a cross, the four
ends of which he blackened on the coals. Then he looked at me a little
shyly.

"Could ye lend me my button?" says he. "It seems a strange thing to ask
a gift again, but I own I am laith to cut another."

I gave him the button; whereupon he strung it on a strip of his
great-coat which he had used to bind the cross; and tying in a little
sprig of birch and another of fir, he looked upon his work with
satisfaction.

"Now," said he, "there is a little clachan" (what is called a hamlet in
the English) "not very far from Corrynakiegh, and it has the name of
Koalisnacoan.



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