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their restraint, and maddened with the baying beneath, sprung here and there, and strained at the slips, which prevented them from joining their companions. Looking down, the view was equally striking. The thin mists were not totally dispersed in the glen, so that it was often through their gauzy medium that the eye strove to discover the motions of the hunters below. Sometimes a breath of wind made the scene visible, the blue rill glittering as it twined itself through its rude and solitary dell. They then could see the shepherds springing with fearless activity from one dangerous point to another, and cheering the dogs on the scent, the whole so diminished by depth and distance that they looked like pigmies. Again the mists close over them, and the only signs of their continued exertions are the halloos of the men, and the clamours of the hounds, ascending as it were out of the bowels of the earth. When the fox, thus persecuted from one stronghold to another, was at length obliged to abandon his valley, and to break away for a more distant retreat, those who watched his motions from the top slipped their greyhounds, which, excelling the fox in swiftness, and equalling him in ferocity and spirit, soon brought the plunderer to his life's end.
In this way, without any attention to the ordinary rules and decorums of sport, but apparently as much to the gratification both of bipeds and quadrupeds as if all due ritual had been followed, four foxes were killed on this active morning; and even Brown himself, though he had seen the princely sports of India, and ridden a-tiger-hunting upon an elephant with the Nabob of Arcot, professed to have received an excellent morning's amusement. When the sport was given up for the day, most of the sportsmen, according to the established hospitality of the country, went to dine at Charlies-hope.
During their return homeward, Brown rode for a short time beside the huntsman, and asked him some questions concerning the mode in which he exercised his profession. The man showed an unwillingness to meet his eye, and a disposition to be rid of his company and conversation, for which Brown could not easily account. He was a thin, dark, active fellow, well framed for the hardy profession which he exercised. But his face had not the frankness of the jolly hunter; he was down-looked, embarrassed, and avoided the eyes of those who looked hard at him. After some unimportant observations on the success of the day, Brown gave him a trifling gratuity, and rode on with his landlord. They found the gudewife prepared for their reception — the fold and the poultry-yard furnished the entertainment, and the kind and hearty welcome made amends for all deficiencies in elegance and fashion.
The Elliots and Armstrongs did conveno,
** Ballad of Johnnie Armstrong.
WITHOUT noticing the occupations of an intervening day or two, which, as they consisted of the ordinary silvan amusements of shooting and coursing, have nothing sufficiently interesting to detain the reader, we pass to one in some degree peculiar to Scotland, which may be called a sort of salmon-hunting. This chase, in which the fish is pursued and struck with barbed spears, or a sort of long-shafted trident called a waster, is much practised at the mouth of the Esk, and in the other salmon rivers of Scotland. The sport is followed by day and night, but most commonly in the latter, when the fish are discovered by means of torches, or firegrates, filled with blazing fragments of tar-barrels, which shed a strong though partial light upon the water. On the present occasion, the principal party were embarked in a crazy boat upon a part of the river which was enlarged and deepened by the restraint of a mill-wear, while others, like the ancient Bacchanals in their gambols, ran along the banks, brandishing their torches and spears, and pursuing the salmon, some of which endeavoured to escape up the stream, while others, shrouding themselves under roots of trees, fragments of stones, and large rocks, attempted to conceal themselves from the researches of the fishermen. These the party in the boat detected by the slightest indications; the twinkling of a fin, the rising of an air-bell, was sufficient to point out to these adroit sportsmen in what direction to use their weapon.
The scene was inexpressibly animating to those accustomed to it; but as Brown was not practised to use the spear, he soon tired of making efforts, which were attended with no other consequences than jarring his arms against the rocks at the bottom of the river, upon which, instead of the devoted salmon, he often bestowed his blow. Nor did he relish, though he concealed feelings which would not have been understood, being quite so near the agonies of the expiring salmon, as they lay flapping about in the boat, which they moistened with their blood. He therefore requested to be put ashore, and, from the top of a heugh or broken bank, enjoyed the scene much more to his satisfaction. Often he thought of his friend Dudley the artist, when he observed the effect produced by the strong red glare on the romantic banks under which the boat glided. Now the light diminished to a distant star that seemed to twinkle on the waters, like those which, according to the legends of the country, the water-kelpy sends for the purpose of indicating the watery grave of his victims. Then it advanced nearer, brightening and enlarging as it again approached, till the broad flickering flame rendered bank, and rock, and tree, visible as it passed, tinging them with its own red glare of dusky light, and resigning them gradually to darkness, or to pale moonlight, as it receded. By this light also were seen the figures in the boat, now holding high their weapons, now stooping to strike, now standing upright, bronzed, by the same red glare, into a colour which might have befitted the regions of Pandemonium.
i Or leister. The long spear is used for striking; but there is a shorter, which is cast from the hand, and with which an experienced sportsinan hits the fish with singular dexterity.
Having amused himself for some time with these effects of light and shadow, Brown strolled homewards towards the farmhouse, gazing in his way at the persons engaged in the sport, two or three of whom are generally kept together, one holding the torch, the others with their spears, ready to avail themselves of the light it affords to strike their prey. As he observed one man struggling with a very weighty salmon which he had speared, but was unable completely to raise from the water, Brown advanced close to the bank to see the issue of his exertions. The man who held the torch in this instance was the huntsman, whose sulky demeanour Brown had already noticed with surprise.--"Come here, sir! come here, sir! look at this ane! He turns up a side like a sow."
-Such was the cry from the assistants when some of them observed Brown advancing.
“Ground the waster weel, man! ground the waster weel! -haud him down—ye haena the pith o’a cat!"-were the cries of advice, encouragement, and expostulation, from those who were on the bank, to the sportsman engaged with the salmon, who stood up to his middle in water, jingling among broken ice, struggling against the force of the fish and the strength of the current, and dubious in what manner he should attempt to secure his booty. As Brown came to the edge of the bank, he called out-"Hold up your torch, friend huntsman !” for he had already distinguished his dusky features by the strong light cast upon them by the blaze. But the fellow no sooner heard his voice, and saw, or rather concluded, it was Brown who approached him, than, instead of advancing his light, he let it drop, as if accidentally, into the water.
“The deil's in Gabriel !” said the spearman, as the fragments of glowing wood floated half-blazing, half-sparkling, but soon extinguished, down the stream-"the deil's in the man ! I'll never master him without the light—and a braver kipper, could I but land him, never reisted abune a pair o' cleeks.” 1-Some dashed into the water to lend their assistance, and the fish, which was afterwards found to weigh nearly thirty pounds, was landed in safety.
The behaviour of the huntsman struck Brown, although he had no recollection of his face, nor could conceive why he should, as it appeared he evidently did, shun his observation. Could he be one of the footpads he had encountered a few days before ?— The supposition was not altogether improbable, although unwarranted by any observation he was able to make upon the man's figure and face. To be sure the villains wore their hats much slouched, and had loose coats, and their size was not in any way so peculiarly discriminated as to enable him to resort to that criterion. He resolved to speak to his host Dinmont on the subject, but for obvious reasons concluded it were best to defer the explanation until a cool hour in the morning.
The sportsmen returned loaded with fish, upwards of one hundred salmon having been killed within the range of their sport. The best were selected for the use of the principal farmers, the others divided among their shepherds, cottars, dependants, and others of inferior rank who attended. These fish, dried in the turf smoke of their cabins, or shealings, formed a savoury addition to the mess of potatoes, mixed with onions, which was the principal part of their winter food. In the meanwhile a liberal distribution of ale and whisky was made among them, besides what was called a
1 Note II. Lum Cleeks.
kettle of fish,—two or three salmon, namely, plunged into a cauldron, and boiled for their supper. Brown accompanied his jolly landlord and the rest of his friends into the large and smoky kitchen, where this savoury mess reeked on an oaken table, massive enough to have dined Johnnie Armstrong and his merry men. All was hearty cheer and huzza, and jest and clamorous laughter, and bragging alternately, and raillery between whiles. Our traveller looked earnestly around for the dark countenance of the fox-hunter; but it was nowhere to be seen.
At length he hazarded a question concerning him. “That was an awkward accident, my lads, of one of you, who dropped his torch in the water when his companion was struggling with the large fish.”
“Awkward !” returned a shepherd, looking up (the same stout young fellow who had speared the salmon), “he deserved his paiks fort—to put out the light when the fish was on ane's witters ! — I'm well convinced Gabriel drapped the roughies 2 in the water on purpose he doesna like to see onybody do a thing better than himsell.”
“Ay," said another, “he's sair shamed o' himsell, else he would have been up here the night-Gabriel likes a little o' the gude thing as weel as ony o' us."
“Is he of this country?” said Brown.
“Na, na, he's been but shortly in office, but he's a fell hunter--he's frae down the country, some gate on the Dumfries side.”
“ And what's his name, pray?"
“Oh, Lord kens that; we dinna mind folk's after-names muckle here, they run sae muckle into clans.”
“Ye see, sir," said an old shepherd, rising, and speaking very slow, “the folks hereabout are a' Armstrongs and Elliots, and sic like—twa or three given names—and so, for distinction's sake, the lairds and farmers have the names of their places that they live at—as for example, Tam o' Todshaw, Will o' the Flat, Hobbie o' Sorbietrees, and our
1 The barbs of the spear.
2 When dry splinters, or branches, are used as fuel to supply the light for burning the water, as it is called, they are termed, as in the text, Roughies. When rags, dipped in tar, are employed, they are called Hards, probably from the French
Note III. Clan Surnames.