ST. Ives

Page 42

But a corp we have none of us ever had to deal with, and I could set nae leemit to what Gillies micht consider proper in the affair. Forbye that, he would be in raither a hobble himsel', if he was to gang hame wantin' Faa. Folk are awfu' throng with their questions, and parteecularly when they're no wantit.'

'That's a fac',' said Candlish.

I considered this prospect ruefully; and then making the best of it, 'Upon all which accounts,' said I, 'the best will be to get across the border and there separate. If you are troubled, you can very truly put the blame upon your late companion; and if I am pursued, I must just try to keep out of the way.'

'Mr. St. Ivy,' said Sim, with something resembling enthusiasm, 'no' a word mair! I have met in wi' mony kinds o' gentry ere now; I hae seen o' them that was the tae thing, and I hae seen o' them that was the tither; but the wale of a gentleman like you I have no sae very frequently seen the bate of.'

Our night march was accordingly pursued with unremitting diligence. The stars paled, the east whitened, and we were still, both dogs and men, toiling after the wearied cattle. Again and again Sim and Candlish lamented the necessity: it was 'fair ruin on the bestial,' they declared; but the thought of a judge and a scaffold hunted them ever forward. I myself was not so much to be pitied. All that night, and during the whole of the little that remained before us of our conjunct journey, I enjoyed a new pleasure, the reward of my prowess, in the now loosened tongue of Mr. Sim. Candlish was still obdurately taciturn: it was the man's nature; but Sim, having finally appraised and approved me, displayed without reticence a rather garrulous habit of mind and a pretty talent for narration. The pair were old and close companions, co- existing in these endless moors in a brotherhood of silence such as I have heard attributed to the trappers of the west. It seems absurd to mention love in connection with so ugly and snuffy a couple; at least, their trust was absolute; and they entertained a surprising admiration for each other's qualities; Candlish exclaiming that Sim was 'grand company!' and Sim frequently assuring me in an aside that for 'a rale, auld, stench bitch, there was nae the bate of Candlish in braid Scotland.' The two dogs appeared to be entirely included in this family compact, and I remarked that their exploits and traits of character were constantly and minutely observed by the two masters. Dog stories particularly abounded with them; and not only the dogs of the present but those of the past contributed their quota. 'But that was naething,' Sim would begin: 'there was a herd in Manar, they ca'd him Tweedie--ye'll mind Tweedie, Can'lish?' 'Fine, that!' said Candlish. 'Aweel, Tweedie had a dog--' The story I have forgotten; I dare say it was dull, and I suspect it was not true; but indeed, my travels with the drove rendered me indulgent, and perhaps even credulous, in the matter of dog stories. Beautiful, indefatigable beings! as I saw them at the end of a long day's journey frisking, barking, bounding, striking attitudes, slanting a bushy tail, manifestly playing to the spectator's eye, manifestly rejoicing in their grace and beauty--and turned to observe Sim and Candlish unornamentally plodding in the rear with the plaids about their bowed shoulders and the drop at their snuffy nose--I thought I would rather claim kinship with the dogs than with the men! My sympathy was unreturned; in their eyes I was a creature light as air; and they would scarce spare me the time for a perfunctory caress or perhaps a hasty lap of the wet tongue, ere they were back again in sedulous attendance on those dingy deities, their masters- -and their masters, as like as not, damning their stupidity.

Altogether the last hours of our tramp were infinitely the most agreeable to me, and I believe to all of us; and by the time we came to separate, there had grown up a certain familiarity and mutual esteem that made the parting harder.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

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