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- Bob Son of Battle - 40/48 -
and parson, each red-cheeked, were boisterously shaking hands. Long Kirby, who had not prayed for thirty years, ejaculated with heartfelt earnestness, "Thank God!" Sam'l Todd bellowed in Tammas's ear, and almost slew him with his mighty buffets. Among the Dalesmen some laughed like drunken men; some cried like children; all joined in that roaring song of victory.
To little M 'Adam, standing with his back to the crowd, that storm of cheering came as the first announcement of defeat.
A wintry smile, like the sun over a March sea, crept across his face.
"We might a kent it, Wullie," he muttered, soft and low. The tension loosed, the battle lost, the little man almost broke down. There were red dabs of color in his face; his eyes were big; his lips pitifully quivering; he was near to sobbing.
An old man utterly alone he had staked his all on a throw and lost.
Lady Eleanour marked the forlorn little figure, standing solitary on the fringe of the uproarious mob. She noticed the expression on his face; and her tender heart went out to the lone man in his defeat.
She went up to him and laid a hand upon his arm.
"Mr. M'Adam," she said timidly, "won't you come and sit down in the tent? You look so tired! I can find you a corner where no one shall disturb you."
The little man wrenched roughly away. The unexpected kindness, coming at that moment, was almost too much for him. A few paces off he turned again.
"It's reel kind o' yer ladyship," he said huskily; and tottered away to be alone with Red Wull.
Meanwhile the victors stood like rocks in the tideway. About them surged a continually changing throng, shaking the man's hand, patting the dog.
Maggie had carried wee Anne to tender her congratulations; Long Kirby had come; Tammas, Saunderson, Hoppin, Tupper, Londesley all but Jim Mason; and now, elbowing through the press, came squire and parson.
"Well done, James! well done, indeed! Knew you'd win! told you so eh, eh!" Then facetiously to Owd Bob: "Knew you would, Robert, old man! Ought to Robert the Dev musn't be a naughty boy eh, eh!"
"The first time ever the Dale Cup's been won outright!" said the Parson, "and I dare-say it never will again. And I think Ken-muir's the very fittest place for its final home, and a Gray Dog of Kenmuir for its winner."
"Oh, by the by!" burst in the squire. "I've fixed the Manor dinner for to-day fortnight, James. Tell Saunderson and Tupper, will you? Want all the tenants there." He disappeared into the crowd, but in a minute had fought his way back. "I'd forgotten something!" he shouted. "Tell your Maggie perhaps you'll have news for her after it eh! eh! " and he was gone again.
Last of all, James Moore was aware of a white, blotchy, grinning face at his elbow.
"I maun congratulate ye, Mr. Moore. Ye've beat us you and the gentlemen judges."
"'Twas a close thing, M'Adam," the other answered. "An' yo' made a gran' fight. In ma life I niver saw a finer turn than yours by the two flags yonder. I hope yo' bear no malice."
"Malice! Me? Is it likely? Na, na. 'Do onto ivery man as he does onto you and somethin' over,' that's my motter. I owe ye mony a good turn, which I'll pay ye yet. Na, na; there's nae good fechtin' again fate and the judges. Weel, I wush you well o' yer victory. Aiblins' twill be oor turn next."
Then a rush, headed by Sam'l, roughly hustled the one away and bore the other off on its shoulders in boisterous triumph.
In giving the Cup away, Lady Eleanour made a prettier speech than ever. Yet all the while she was haunted by a white, miserable face; and all the while she was conscious of two black moving dots in the Murk Muir Pass opposite her solitary, desolate, a contrast to the huzzaing crowd around.
That is how the champion challenge Dale Cup, the world-known Shepherds' Trophy, came to wander no more; won outright by the last of the Gray Dogs of Kenmuir Owd Bob.
Why he was the last of the Gray Dogs is now to be told.
PART VI THE BLACK KILLER
Chapter XXVI RED-HANDED
THE SUN was hiding behind the Pike. Over the lowlands the feathery breath of night hovered still. And the hillside was shivering in the chillness of dawn.
Down on the silvery sward beside the Stony Bottom there lay the ruffled body of a dead sheep. All about the victim the dewy ground was dark and patchy like dishevelled velvet; bracken trampled down; stones displaced as though by striving feet; and the whole spotted with the all-pervading red.
A score yards up the hill, in a writhing confusion of red and gray, two dogs at death-grips. While yet higher, a pack of wild-eyed hill-sheep watched, fascinated, the bloody drama.
The fight raged. Red and gray, blood-spattered, murderous-eyed; the crimson froth dripping from their jaws; now rearing high with arching crests and wrestling paws; now rolling over in tumbling, tossing, worrying disorder-- the two fought out their blood-feud.
Above, the close-packed flock huddled and stamped, ever edging nearer to watch the issue. Just so must the women of Rome have craned round the arenas to see two men striving in death-struggle.
The first cold flicker of dawn stole across the green. The red eye of the morning peered aghast over the shoulder of the Pike. And from the sleeping dale there arose the yodling of a man driving his cattle home.
Day was upon them.
James Moore wa~s waked by a little whimpering cry beneath his window. He leapt out of bed and rushed to look; for well he knew 'twas not for nothing that the old dog was calling.
"Lord o' mercy! whativer's come to yo', Owd Un?" he cried in anguish. And, indeed, his favorite, war-daubed almost past recognition, presented a pitiful spectacle.
In a moment the Master was downstairs and out, examining him.
"Poor old lad, yo' have caught it this time!" he cried. There was a ragged tear on the dog's cheek; a deep gash in his throat from which the blood still welled, staining the white escutcheon on his chest; while head and neck were clotted with the red.
Hastily the Master summoned Maggie. After her, Andrew came hurrying down. And a little later a tiny, night-clad, naked-footed figure appeared in the door, wide-eyed, and then fled, screaming. in the kitchen. Maggie tenderly washed his wounds, and dressed them with gentle, pitying fingers; and he stood all the while grateful yet fidgeting, looking up into his master's face as if imploring to be gone.
"He mun a had a rare tussle wi' some one-- eh, dad?" said the girl, as she worked.
"Ay; and wi' whom? 'Twasn't for nowt he got fightin', I war'nt. Nay; he's a tale to tell, has The Owd Un, and--A h-h-h! I thowt as much. Look 'ee!" For bathing the bloody jaws, he had come upon a cluster of tawny red hair, hiding in the corners of the lips.
The secret was out. Those few hairs told their own accusing tale. To but one creature in the Daleland could they belong--" Th' Tailless Tyke."
"He mun a bin trespassin'!" cried Andrew.
"Ay, and up to some o' his bloody work, I'll lay my life," the Master answered. "But Th' Owd Un shall show us."
The old dog's hurts proved less severe than had at first seemed possible. His good gray coat, forest-thick about his throat, had never served him in such good stead. And at length, the wounds washed and sewn up, he jumped down all in a hurry from the table and made for the door.
"Noo, owd lad, yo' may show us," said the Master, and, with Andrew, hurried after him down the hill, along the stream, and over Langholm How. And as they neared the Stony Bottom, the sheep, herding in groups, raised frightened heads to stare.
Of a sudden a cloud of poisonous flies rose, buzzing, up before them; and there in a dimple of the ground lay a murdered sheep. Deserted by its comrades, the glazed eyes staring helplessly upward, the throat horribly worried, it slept its last sleep.
The matter was plain to see. At last the Black Killer had visited Kenmuir.
"I guessed as much," said the Master, standing over the mangled body. "Well, it's the worst night's work ever the Killer done. I reck'n Th' Owd Un come on him while he was at it; and then they fought. And, ma word! ii munn ha' bin a fight too." For all around were traces of that terrible struggle:
the earth torn up and tossed, bracken up-Tooted, and throughout little dabs of wool and tufts of tawny hair, mingling with dark-stained iron-gray wisps.
James Moore walked slowly over the battlefield, stooping down as though he were gleaning. And gleaning he was.
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