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- Bob Son of Battle - 2/48 -
The patter of cheery feet rang out on the plank-bridge over the stream below them. Tammas glanced round.
"Here's David," he said. "Late this mornin' he be."
A fair-haired boy came spurring up the slope, his face all aglow with the speed of his running. Straightway the young dog dashed off to meet him with a fiery speed his sober gait belied. The two raced back together into the yard.
"Poor lad!" said Sam'l gloomily, regarding the newcomer.
"Poor heart!" muttered Tammas. While the Master's face softened visibly. Yet there looked little to pity in this jolly, rocking lad with the tousle of light hair and fresh, rosy countenance.
"G'mornin', Mister Moore! Morn'n, Tammas! Morn'n, Sam'l!" he panted as he passed; and ran on through the hay-carpeted yard, round the corner of the stable, and into the house.
In the kitchen, a long room with red-tiled floor and latticed windows, a woman, white-aproned and frail-faced, was bustling about her morning business. To her skirts clung a sturdy, bare-legged boy; while at the oak table in the centre of the room a girl with brown eyes and straggling hair was seated before a basin of bread and milk.
"So yo've coom at last, David!" the woman cried, as the boy entered; and, bending, greeted him with a tender, motherly salutation, which he returned as affectionately. "I welly thowt yo'd forgot us this mornin'. Noo sit you' doon beside oor Maggie." And soon he, too, was engaged in a task twin to the girl's.
The two children munched away in silence, the little bare-legged boy watching them, the while, critically. Irritated by this prolonged stare, David at length turned on him.
"Weel, little Andrew," he said, speaking in that paternal fashion in which one small boy loves to address another. "Weel, ma little lad, yo'm coomin' along gradely." He leant back in his chair the better to criticise his subject. But Andrew, like all the Moores, slow of speech, preserved a stolid silence, sucking a chubby thumb, and regarding his patron a thought cynically.
David resented the expression on the boy's countenance, and half rose to his feet.
"Yo' put another face on yo', Andrew Moore," he cried threateningly, "or I'll put it for yo'."
Maggie, however, interposed opportunely.
"Did yo' feyther beat yo' last night?" she inquired in a low voice; and there was a shade of anxiety in the soft brown eyes.
"Nay," the boy answered; "he was a-goin' to, but he never did. Drunk," he added in explanation.
"What was he goin' to beat yo' for, David?" asked Mrs. Moore.
"What for? Why, for the fun o't--to see me squiggle, "the boy replied, and laughed bitterly.
"Yo' shouldna speak so o' your dad, David," reproved the other as severely as was in her nature.
"Dad! a fine dad! I'd dad him an I'd the chance, " the boy muttered beneath his breath. Then, to turn the conversation:
"Us should he startin', Maggie," he said, and going to the door. "Bob! Owd Bob, lad! Ar't coomin' along?" he called.
The gray dog came springing up like an antelope, and the three started off for school together.
Mrs. Moore stood in the doorway, holding Andrew by the hand, and watched the departing trio.
"'Tis a pretty pair, Master, surely," she said softly to her husband, who came up at the moment.
"Ay, he'll be a fine lad if his feyther'll let him," the tall man answered.
"Tis a shame Mr. M'Adam should lead him such a life," the woman continued indignantly. She laid a hand on her husband's arm, and looked up at him coaxingly.
"Could yo' not say summat to un, Master, think 'ee? Happen he'd 'tend to you," she pleaded. For Mrs. Moore imagined that there could be no one but would gladly heed what James Moore, Master of Kenmuir, might say to him. "He's not a bad un at bottom, I do believe," she continued. "He never took on so till his missus died. Eh, but he was main fond o' her."
Her husband shook his head "Nay, mother," he said "'Twould nob' but mak' it worse for t' lad. M'Adam'd listen to no one, let alone me." And, indeed, he was right; for the tenant of the Grange made no secret of his animosity for his straight-going, straight-speaking neighbor.
Owd Bob, in the mean time, had escorted the children to the larch-copse bordering on the lane which leads to the village. Now he crept stealthily back to the yard, and established himself behind the water-butt.
How he played and how he laughed; how he teased old Whitecap till that gray gander all but expired of apoplexy and impotence; how he ran the roan bull-calf, and aroused the bitter wrath of a portly sow, mother of many, is of no account.
At last, in the midst of his merry mischief-making, a stern voice arrested him.
"Bob, lad, I see 'tis time we lamed you yo' letters."
So the business of life began for that dog of whom the simple farmer-folk of the Daleland still love to talk,--Bob, son of Battle, last of the Gray Dogs of Kenmuir.
Chapter II. A SON OF HAGAR
It is a lonely country, that about the Wastreldale.
Parson Leggy Hornbut will tell you that his is the smallest church in the biggest parish north of the Derwent, and that his cure numbers more square miles than parishioners. Of fells and ghylls it consists, of becks and lakes; with here a scattered hamlet and there a solitary hill sheep-farm. It is a country in which sheep are paramount; and every other Dalesman is engaged in that profession which is as old as Abel. And the talk of the men of the land is of wethers and gimmers, of tup-hoggs, ewe tegs in wool, and other things which are but fearsome names to you and me; and always of the doings or misdoings, the intelligence or stupidity, of their adjutants, the sheep-dogs.
Of all the Daleland, the country from the Black Water to Grammoch Pike is the wildest. Above the tiny stone-built village of Wastrel-- dale the Muir Pike nods its massive head. Westward, the desolate Mere Marches, froni which the Sylvesters' great estate derives its name, reach away in mAe on mile of sheep infested, wind-swept moorland. On the far side of the Marches is that twin dale where. flows the gentle Silver Lea. And it is there in the paddocks at the back of the Dalesman's Daughter, that, in the late summer months, the famous sheep-dog Trials of the North are held. There that the battle for the Dale Cup, the world-known Shepherds' Trophy, is fought out.
Past the little inn leads the turnpike road to the market-centre of the district--Grammoch-town. At the bottom of the paddocks at the back of the inn winds the Silver Lea. Just there a plank bridge crosses the stream, and, beyond, the Murk Muir Pass. crawls up the sheer side of the Scaur on to the Mere Marches.
At the head of the Pass, before it debouches. on to those lonely sheep-walks which divide. the two dales, is that hollow, shuddering with gloomy possibilities, aptly called the Devil's. Bowl. In its centre the Lone Tarn, weirdly suggestive pool, lifts its still face to the sky. It was beside that black, frozen water, across. whose cold surface the storm was swirling in white snow-wraiths, that, many, many years ago (not in this century), old Andrew Moore-came upon the mother of the Gray Dogs of Kenmuir.
In the North, every one who has heard of the Muir Pike--and who has not?--has heard. of the Gray Dogs of Kenmuir, every one who has heard of the Shepherd's Trophy--and who has not?--knows their fame. In that country of good dogs and jealous masters the pride of place has long been held unchallenged. Whatever line may claim to follow the Gray Dogs always lead the van. And there is a saying in the land: "Faithfu' as the Moores and their tykes."
On the top dresser to the right of the fireplace in the kitchen of Kenmuir lies the family Bible. At the end you will find a loose sheet-- the pedigree of the Gray Dogs; at the beginning, pasted on the inside, an almost similar heet, long since yellow with age--the family register of the Moores of Kenmuir.
Running your eye down the loose leaf, once, twice, and again it will be caught by a small red cross beneath a name, and under the cross the one word "Cup." Lastly, opposite the name of Rex son of Rally, are two of those proud, tell-tale marks. The cup referred to is the renowned Dale Cup--Champion Challenge Dale Cup, open to the world. Had Rex won it but once again the Shepherds' Trophy, which many men have lived to win, and died still striving after, would have come to rest forever in the little gray house below the Pike.
It was not to be, however. Comparing the two sheets, you read beneath the dog's name a date and a pathetic legend; and on the other sheet, written in his son's boyish hand, beneath the name of Andrew Moore the same date and the same legend.
From that day James Moore, then but a boy, was master of Kenmuir.
So past Grip and Rex and Rally, and a hundred others, until at the foot of the page you come to that last name--Bob, son of Battle.
From the very first the young dog took t& his work in a manner to
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