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- Bob Son of Battle - 5/48 -


"It's givin' 'im ye, fair givin' im ye, mind! But I'll do it!"--he smacked a great fist into a hollow palm. "Ye may have the dog for a pun'--I'll only ask you a pun'," and he walked away to the window.

M'Adam drew back, the better to scan his would-be benefactor; his lower jaw dropped, and he eyed the stranger with a drolly sarcastic air.

"A poun', man! A pouxi'--for yon noble dorg!" he pointed a crooked forefinger at the little creature, whose scowling mask peered from beneath the chair. "Man, I couldna do it. Na, na; ma conscience wadna permit me.

'Twad be fair robbin' ye. Ah, ye Englishmen!" he spoke half to himself, and sadly, as if deploring the unhappy accident of his nationality; "it's yer grand, open-hairted generosity that grips a puir Scotsman by the throat. A poun'! and for yon!" He wagged his head mournfully, cocking it sideways the better to scan his subject.

"Take him or leave him," ordered the drover truculently, still gazing out of the window.

"Wi' yer permission I'll leave him," M'Adam answered meeldy.

"I'm short o' the ready," the big man pursued, "or I wouldna part with him. Could I bide me time there's many'd be glad to give me a tenner for one o' that bree--" he caught himself up hastily--" for a dog sic as that."

"And yet ye offer him me for a poun'! Noble indeed!"

Nevertheless the little man had pricked his ears at the other's slip and quick correction. Again he approached the puppy, dangling his coat before him to protect his ankles; and again that wee wild beast sprang out, seized the coat in its small jaw, and worried it savagely.

M'Adam stooped quickly and picked up his tiny assailant; and the puppy, suspended by its neck, gurgled and slobbered; then, wriggling desperately round, made its teeth meet in its adversary's shirt. At which M'Adam shook it gently and laughed. Then he set to examining it.

Apparently some six weeks old; a tawny coat, fiery eyes, a square head with small, cropped ears, and a comparatively immense jaw; the whole giving promise of great strength, if little beauty. And this effect was enhanced by the manner of its docking. For the miserable relic of a tail, yet raw, looked little more than a red button adhering to its wearer's stern.

M'Adam's inspection was as minute as it was apparently absorbing; he omitted nothing from the square muzzle to the lozenge-like scut. And every now and then he threw a quick glance at the man at the window, who was watching the careful scrutiny a thought uneasily.

"Ye've cut him short," he said at length, swinging round on the drover.

"Ay; strengthens their backs," the big man answered with averted gaze.

M'Adam's chin went up in the air; his. mouth partly opened and his eyelids partly closed as he eyed his informant.

"Oh, ay," he said.

"Gie him back to me," ordered the drover surlily. He took the puppy and set it on the floor; whereupon it immediately resumed its former fortified position. "Ye're no buyer; I knoo that all along by that face on ye," he said in insulting tones.

"Ye wad ha' bought him yerseif', nae doot?" M'Adam inquired blandly.

"In course; if you says so."

"Or airblins ye bred him?"

'Appen I did."

"Ye'll no be from these parts?"

"Will I no?" answered the other.

A smile of genuine pleasure stole over M'Adam's face. He laid his hand on the other's arm.

"Man," he said gently, "ye mind me o' hame." Then almost in the same breath:

Ye said ye found him?"

It was the stranger's turn to laugh.

"Ha! ha! Ye teecide me, little mon. Found 'im? Nay; I was give 'im by a friend. But there's nowt amiss wi' his breedin', ye may believe me."

The great fellow advanced to the chair under which the puppy lay. It leapt out like a lion, and fastened on his huge boot.

"A rare bred un, look 'ee! a rare game wi. Ma word, he's a big-hearted un! Look at the back on him; see the jaws to him; mark the pluck of him!" He shook his booted foot fiercely, tossing his leg to and fro like a tree in a wind. But the little creature, now raised ceilingward, now dashed to the ground, held on with incomparable doggedness, till its small jaw was all bloody and muzzle wrinkled with the effort.

"Ay, ay, that'll do," M'Adam interposed, irritably.

The drover ceased his efforts.

"Now, I'll mak' ye a last offer." He thrust his head down to a level with the other's, shooting out his neck. "It's throwin' him at ye, mind. 'Tain't buyin' him ye'll be-- don't go for to deceive yourself. Ye may have him for fifteen shillin'. Why do I do it, ye ask? Why, 'cos I think ye'll be kind to him," as the puppy retreated to its chair, leaving a spotted track of red along its route.

"Ay, ye wadna be happy gin ye thocht he'd no a comfortable hame, conseederate man?" M'Adam answered, eyeing the dark track on the floor. Then he put on his coat.

"Na, na, he's no for me. Weel, I'll no detain ye. Good-nicht to ye, mister!" and he made for the door.

"A gran' worker he'll be," called the drover after him.

"Ay; muckle wark he'll mak' amang the sheep wi' sic a jaw and sic a temper. Weel, I maun be steppin'. Good-nicht to ye."

"Ye'll niver have sich anither chanst."

"Nor niver wush to. Na, na; he'll never mak' a sheep-dog"; and the little man turned up the collar of his coat.

"Will he not?" cried the other scornfully. "There niver yet was one o' that line "he stopped abruptly.

The little man spun round.

"Iss?" he said, as innocent as any child; "ye were sayin'?"

The other turned to the window and watched the rain falling monotonously.

"Ye'll be wantin' wet," he said adroitly.

"Ay, we could do wi' a drappin'. And he'll never mak' a sheep-dog." He shoved his cap down on his head. "Weel, good-nicht to ye!" and he stepped out into the rain.

It was long after dark when the bargain was finally struck.

Adam M'Adam's Red Wull became that little man's property for the following realizable assets: ninepence in cash--three coppers and a doubtful sixpence; a plug of suspicious tobacco in a well-worn pouch; and an old watch.

"It's clean givin' 'im ye," said the stranger bitterly, at the end of the deal.

"It's mair the charity than aught else mak's me sae leeberal," the other answered gently. "I wad not like to see ye pinched."

"Thank ye kindly," the big man replied with some acerbity, and plunged out into the darkness and rain. Nor was that long-limbed drover-man ever again seen in the countryside. And the puppy's previous history--. whether he was honestly come by or no, whether he was, indeed, of the famous Red McCulloch* strain, ever remained a mystery in the Daleland.

*N. B--You may know a Red McCulloeh anywhere by the ring of white upon his tail some two inches from the root.

Chapter IV. FIRST BLOOD

AFTER that first encounter in the Dales-. man's Daughter, Red Wull, for so M'Adam called him, resigned himself complacently to his lot; recognizing, perhaps, his destiny.

Thenceforward the sour little man and the vicious puppy grew, as it were, together. The two were never apart. Where M'Adam was, there was sure to be his tiny attendant, bristling defiance as he kept ludicrous guard over his master.

The little man and his dog were inseparable. M'Adam never left him even at the Grange.

"I couldna trust ma Wullie at hame alone wi' the dear lad," was his explanation. "I ken wed I'd come back to find a wee corpse on the floor, and David singin':

'My heart is sair, I daur na tell,

My heart is sair for somebody.'


Bob Son of Battle - 5/48

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