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- Bob Son of Battle - 20/48 -
Nay; Jem had a lovin' wife and dear little kids at 'ome.
Then Big Bell?
Big Bell'd see 'isseif further first.
A tall figure came forcing through the crowd, his face a little paler than its wont, and a formidable knob-kerry in his hand.
"I'm goin'!" said David.
"But yo're not," answered burly Sam'l, gripping the boy from behind with arms like the roots of an oak. "Your time'll coom soon enough by the look on yo' wi' niver no hurry.
And the sense of the Dalesmen was with the big man; for, as old Rob Saunderson said:
"I reck'n he'd liefer claw on to your throat,. lad, nor ony o' oors."
As there was no one forthcoming to claim the honor of the lead, Tammas came forward with cunning counsel.
"Tell yo' what, lads, we'd best let 'em as don't know nowt at all aboot him go first. And onst they're on, mind, we winna let 'em off; but keep a-shovin' and a-boviri 'on 'em forra'd. Then us'll foller.
By this time there was a little naked space of green round the bridge-head, like a fairy circle, into which the uninitiated might not penetrate. Round this the mob hedged: the Dalesmen in front, striving knavishly back and bawling to those behind to leggo that shovin'; and these latter urging valorously forward, yelling jeers and contumely at the front rank. "Come on! '0's afraid? Lerrus. through to 'em, then, ye Royal Stan'-backs!"--for well they knew the impossibility of their demand.
And as they wedged and jostled thus, there stole out from their midst as gallant a champion as ever trod the grass. He trotted out into the ring, the observed of all, and paused to gaze at the gaunt figure on the bridge. The sun lit the sprinkling of snow on the dome of his head; one forepaw was off the ground ;.. and he stood there, royally alert, scanning his antagonist.
"Th' Owd Un!" went up in a roar fit to split the air as the hero of the day was recognized. And the Dalesmen gave a pace forward,, spontaneously as the gray knight-errant stole across the green.
"Oor Bob'll fetch him!" they roared, their blood leaping to fever heat, and gripped their sticks, determined in stern reality to follow now.
The gray champion trotted up on to the
bridge, and paused again, the long hair about his neck rising like a ruff, and a strange glint in his eyes; and the holder of the bridge never moved. Red and Gray stood thus, face to. face: the one gay yet resolute, the other motionless, his great head slowly sinking between his forelegs, seemingly petrified.
There was no shouting now: it was time for--deeds, not words. Only, above the stillness, came a sound from the bridge like the snore of a giant in his sleep, and blending, with it, a low, deep, purring thunder like some monster cat well pleased.
"Wullie," came a solitary voice from the far side, "keep the bridge!"
One ear went back, one ear was still for-'ward; the great head was low and lower between his forelegs and the glowing eyes rolled upward so that the watchers could see the murderous white.
Forward the gray dog stepped.
Then, for the second time that afternoon, a -voice, stern and hard, came ringing down from the slope above over the heads of the many.
"Bob, lad, coom back!"
"He! he! I thocht that was comin'," sneered the small voice over the stream.
The gray dog heard, and checked.
"Bob, lad, coom in, I say!"
At that he swung round and marched slowly back, gallant as he had come, dignified still in his mortification.
And Red Wull threw back his head and bellowed a paean of victory--challenge, triumph, 'scorn, all blended in that bull-like, bloodchilling blare.
In the mean time, M'Adam and the secretary had concluded their business. It had been settled that the Cup was to be delivered over to James Moore not later than the following Saturday.
"Saturday, see! at the latest!" the secretary cried as he turned and trotted off.
"Mr. Trotter," M'Adam called after him. "I'm sorry, but ye maun bide this side the Lea till I've reached the foot o' the Pass. Gin they gentlemen "--nodding toward the crowd
--"should set hands on me, why--" and he shrugged his shoulders significantly. "Forbye, Wullie's keepin' the bridge."
With that the little man strolled off leis-. urely; now dallying to pick a flower, now to wave a mocking hand at the furious mob, and so slowly on to the foot of the Muirk Muir Pass.
There he turned and whistled that shrill peculiar note.
"Wullie, Wullie, to me!" he called.
At that, with one last threat thrown at the' thousand souls he had held at bay for thirty minutes, the Tailless Tyke swung about and galloped after his lord.
Chapter XIII. THE FACE IN THE FRAME
ALL Friday M'Adarn never left the kitchen. He sat opposite the Cup, in a coma, as it were; and Red Wull lay motionless at his feet.
Saturday came, and still the two never budged. Toward the evening the little man rose, all in a tremble, and took the Cup down from the mantelpiece; then he sat down again with it in his arms.
"Eh, Wullie, Wullie, is it a dream? Ha' they took her fra us? Eh, but it's you and I alane, lad."
He hugged it to him, crying silently, and rocking to and I ro like a mother with a dying child. And Red Wull sat up on his haunches, and weaved from side to side in sympathy.
As the dark was falling, David looked in.
At the sound of the opening door the little man swung round noiselessly, the Cup nursed in his arms, and glared, sullen and suspicious, at the boy; yet seemed not to recognize him. In the half-light David could see the tears coursing down the little wizened face.
'Pon ma life, he's gaein' daft!" was his comment as he turned away to Kenmuir. And again the mourners were left alone.
"A few hours noo, Wullie," the little man wailed, "and she'll be gane. We won her, Wullie, you and I, won her fair: she's lit the hoose for us; she's softened a' for us--and God kens we needed it; she was the ae thing we had to look to and love. And noo they're takin' her awa', and 'twill be night agin. We've cherished her, we've garnished her, we've loved her like oor am; and noo she maun gang to strangers who know her not."
He rose to his feet, and the great dog rose with him. His voice heightened to a scream, and he swayed with the Cup in his arms till it seemed he must fall.
"Did they win her fair, Wullie? Na; they plotted, they conspired, they worked ilka am o' them agin us, and they beat us. Ay, and noo they're robbin' us--robbin' us! But they shallna ha' her. Oor's or naebody's, Wullie! We'll finish her sooner nor that."
He banged the Cup down on the table and rushed madly out of the room, Red Wull at his heels. In a moment he came running back, brandishing a great axe about his head.
"Come on, Wullie!" he cried. "'Scots wha hae'! Noo's the day and noo's the hour! Come on!"
On. the table before him, serene and beautiful, stood the target of his madness. The little man ran at it, swinging his murderous weapon like a flail.
"Oor's or naebody's Wulliel Come on.
'Lay the proud usurpers low'!" He aimed a mighty buffet; and the Shepherds' Trophy-- the Shepherds' Trophy which had won through the hardships of a hundred years--was almost gone. It seemed to quiver as the blow fell. But the cruel steel missed, and the axe-head sank into the wood, clean and deep, like a spade in snow.
Red Wull had leapt on to the table, and in his cavernous voice was grumbling a chorus to his master's yells. The little man danced up and down, tugging and straining at the axe-handle,
"You and I, Wullie!
'Tyrants fall in every foe! Liberty's in every blow!'
The axe-head was as immoveable as the Muir Pike.
'Let us do or die!'
The shaft snapped, and the little man tottered back. Red Wull jumped down from the table, and, in doing so, brushed against the
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