relief; but it did not last long, for she came out again
in a moment, searching like a hound. She was taller
than Kirsty, and by standing on her tiptoes could have
looked right down into the barrel. She was approach-
ing it with that intent those eyes were about to over-
shadow us with their baleful light Already her apron
hid all other vision from my one eye, when a whizz, a
dull blow, and a shriek from Mrs. Mitchell came to
my ears together. The next moment) the field of my
vision was open, and I saw Mrs. Mitchell holding her
head with both hands, and the face of Turkey grinning
round the corner of the open door. Evidently he
wanted to entice her to follow him ; but she had been
too much astonished by the snow-ball in the back of
her neck even to look in the direction whence the blow
had come. So Turkey stepped out, and was just
poising himself in the delivery of a second missile,
when she turned sharp round.
The snow-ball missed her, and came with a great
bang against the barrel. Wee Davie gave a cry of
alarm, but there was no danger now, for Mrs. Mitchell
was off after Turkey. In a moment, Kirsty lowered
the barrel on its side, and we all crept out. I had
wee Davie on my back instantly, while Kirsty caught
up Allister, and we were off for the manse. As soon
as we were out of the yard, however, we met Turkey,
76 RANALD BANNERMAN'S BOYHOOD.
breathless. He had given Mrs. Mitchell the slip, and
left her searching the barn for him. He took Allister
from Kirsty, and we sped away, for it was all down hill
now. When Mrs. Mitchell got back to the farm-house,
Kirsty was busy as if nothing had happened, and when,
after a fruitless search, she returned to the manse, we
were all snug in bed, with the door locked. After
what had passed about the school, Mrs. Mitchell did
not dare make any disturbance.
From that night she always went by the name of
RANALD BANNERMAN'S BOYHOOD, 77
IN the summer we all slept in a large room in the
wide sloping roof. It had a dormer-window, at
no great distance above the eaves. One day there was
something doing about the ivy, which covered all the
gable and half the front of the house, and the ladder
they had been using was left leaning against the back.
It reached a little above the eaves, right under the
dormer-window. That night I could not sleep, as was
not unfrequently the case with me. On such occasions
I used to go wandering about the upper part of the
house. I believe the servants thought I walked in
my sleep, but it was not so, for I always knew what I
was about well enough. I do not remember whether
this began after that dreadful night when I woke in
the barn, but I do think the enjoyment it gave me was
rooted in the starry loneliness in which I had then
found myself. I wonder if I can explain my feelings.
The pleasure arose from a sort of sense of protected
danger. On that memorable night, I had been as it
were naked to all the silence, alone in the vast uni-
78 RANALD BANNERMAN'S BOYHOOD.
verse, which kept looking at me full of something it
knew but would not speak. Now, when wandering
about sleepless, I could gaze as from a nest of safety
out upon the beautiful fear. From window to window
I would go in the middle of the night, now staring into
a blank darkness out of which came, the only signs ot
its being, the rain-drops that bespattered or the hail-
stones that berattled the panes; now gazing into the
deeps of the blue vault, gold-bespangled with its
worlds ; or, again, into the mysteries of soft clouds,
all gathered into an opal tent by the centre-clasp of
the moon, thinking out her light over its shining and
This, I have said, was one of those nights on which
I could not sleep. It was the summer after the winter-
story of the kelpie, I believe ; but the past is confused,
and its chronology worthless, to the continuous now
of childhood. The night was hot ; my little brothers
were sleeping loud, as wee Davie called snoring; and
a great moth had got within my curtains somewhere,
and kept on fluttering and whirring. I got up, and
went to the window. It was such a night 1 The moon
was full, but rather low, and looked just as if she were
thinking " Nobody is heeding me : I may as well go
to bed." All the top of the sky was covered with
mackerel-backed clouds, lying like milky ripples on a
blue sea, and through them the stars shot, ! e < and
there, sharp little rays like sparkling diamonds. There
was no awfulness about it, as on the night when the
RANALD BANNERMAN'S BOYHOOD. 79
gulfy sky stood over me, flashing with the heavenly
host, and nothing was between me and the farthest
world. The clouds were like the veil that hid the
terrible light in the Holy of Holies a curtain of God's
love, to dim with loveliness the grandeur of their own
being, and make his children able to bear it. My
eye fell upon the top rounds of the ladder, which rose
above the edge of the roof like an invitation. I opened
the window, crept through, and, holding on by the
ledge, let myself down over the slates, feeling with my
feet for the top of the ladder. In a moment I was
upon it. Down I went, and oh, how tender to my
bare feet was the cool grass on which I alighted ! I
looked up. The dark house- wall rose above me. I
could ascend again when I pleased. There was no
hurry. I would walk about a little. I would put my
place of refuge yet a little further off, nibble at the
danger, as it were a danger which existed only in my
imagination. I went outside the high holly hedge, and
the house was hidden. A grassy field was before me,
and just beyond the field rose the farm-buildings.
Why should not I run across and wake Turkey ? I
was off like a shot, the expectation of a companion in
my delight overcoming all the remnants of lingering
apprehension. I knew there was only one bolt, and
that a manageable one, between me and Turkey, for
he slept in a little wooden chamber partitioned off
from a loft in the barn, to which he had to climb a
ladder. The only fearful part was the crossing of the
8o RANALD BANNERMAN'S BOYHOOD.
barn-floor. But I was man enough for that I reached
and crossed the yard in safety, searched for and found
the key of the barn, which was always left in a hole in
the wall by the door, turned it in the lock, and
crossed the floor as fast as the darkness would allow
me. With outstretched groping hands I found the
ladder, ascended, and stood by Turkey's bed.
" Turkey ! Turkey ! wake up," I cried. " It 's such
a beautiful night 1 It 's a shame to lie sleeping that
Turkey's answer was immediate. He was wide
awake and out of bed with all his wits by him in a
" Sh ! sh ! " he said, " or you 11 wake Oscar."
Oscar was a colley (sheep-dog) which slept in a ken-
nel in the corn-yard. He was not much of a watch-
dog, for there was no great occasion for watching, and
he knew it, and slept like a human child ; but he was
the most knowing of dogs. Turkey was proceeding to
" Never mind your clothes, Turkey," I said. "There's
Willing enough to spare himself trouble, Turkey
followed me in his shirt. But once we were out in
the corn-yard, instead of finding contentment in the
sky and the moon, as I did, he wanted to know what
we were going to do.
" It 's not a bad sort of night," he said ; " what shall
we do with it ? "
RANALD BANNERMAWS BOYHOOD. 81
He was always wanting to do something.
"Oh, nothing," I answered; "only look about us a
" You didn't hear robbers, did you ? " he asked.
" Oh dear, no ! I couldn't sleep, and got down the
ladder, and came to wake you that 's all."
" Let 's have a walk, then," he said.
Now that I had Turkey, there was scarcely more
terror in the night than in the day. I consented at
once. That we had no shoes on was not of the least
consequence to Scotch boys. I often, and Turkey
always, went barefooted in summer.
As we left the barn, Turkey had caught up his little
whip. He was never to be seen without either that or
his club, as we called the stick he carried when he was
herding the cattle. Finding him thus armed, I begged
him to give me his club. He ran and fetched it, and,
thus equipped, we set out for nowhere in the middle
of the night. My fancy was full of fragmentary notions
of adventure, in which shadows from The Pilgrim's
Progress predominated. I shouldered my club, trying
to persuade my imagination that the unchristian weapon
had been won from some pagan giant, and therefore
was not unfittingly carried. But Turkey was far better
armed with his lash of wire than I was with the club.
His little whip was like that fearful weapon called the
morning star in the hand of some stalwart knight.
We took our way towards the nearest hills, thinking
little of where we went so that we were in motion. I
82 RANALD BANNERMAN'S BOYHOOD.
guess that the story I have just related must, notwith-
standing his unbelief, have been working in Turkey's
brain that night, for after we had walked for a mile or
more along the road, and had arrived at the foot of a
wooded hill, well known to all the children of the
neighbourhood for its bilberries, he turned into the
hollow of a broken track, which lost itself in a field as
yet only half-redeemed from the moorland. It was
plain to me now that Turkey had some goal or other
in his view ; but I followed his leading, and asked no
questions. All at once he stopped, and said, pointing
a few yards in front of him :
" Look, Ranald ! "
I did look, but the moon was behind the hill, and
the night was so dim that I had to keep looking for
several moments ere I discovered that he was pointing
to the dull gleam of dark water. Very horrible it
seemed. I felt my flesh creep the instant I saw it It
lay in a hollow left by the digging out of peats, drained
thither from the surrounding bog. My heart sank with
fear. The almost black glimmer of its surface was bad
enough, but who could tell what lay in its unknown
depth ? But, as I gazed, almost paralysed, a huge
dark figure rose up on the opposite side of the pool.
For one moment the scepticism of Turkey seemed to
fail him, for he cried out, " The kelpie 1 The kelpie ! "
and turned and ran.
I followed as fast as feet utterly unconscious of the
ground they trod upon could bear me. We had not
RANALD BANNERMAN'S BOYHOOD. 83
gone many yards before a great roar filled the silent
air. That moment Turkey slackened his pace, and
burst into a fit of laughter.
" It 's nothing but Bogbonny's bull, Ranald ! " he
Kelpies were unknown creatures to Turkey, but a
bull was no more than a dog or a sheep, or any other
domestic animal. I, however, did not share his equa-
nimity, and never slackened my pace till I got up with
" But he 's rather ill-natured," he went on, the instant
I joined him, " and we had better make for the hill."
Another roar was a fresh spur to our speed. We
could not have been in better trim for running. But
it was all up hill, and had it not been that the ground
for some distance between us and the animal was
boggy, so that he had to go round a good way, one of
us at least would have been in evil case.
" He 's caught sight of our shirts," said Turkey,
panting as he ran, "and he wants to see what they
are. But we '11 be over the fence before he comes up
with us. I wouldn't mind for myself; I could dodge
him well enough; but he might go after you, Ranald."
What with fear and exertion I was unable to reply.
Another bellow sounded nearer, and by and by we
could hear the dull stroke of his hoofs on the soft
ground as he galloped after us. But the fence of dry
stones, and the larch wood within it, were close at
84 RANALD BANNERAfAWS BOYHOOD.
" Over with you, Ranald ! " cried Turkey, as if with
his last breath ; and turned at bay, for the brute was
close behind him.
But I was so spent, I could not climb the wall ; and
when I saw Turkey turn and face the bull, I turned
too. We were now in the shadow of the hill, but I
could just see Turkey lift his arm. A short sharp hiss,
and a roar followed. The bull tossed his head as in
pain, left Turkey, and came towards me. He could
not charge at any great speed, for the ground was
steep and uneven. I, too, had kept hold of my wea-
pon ; and although I was dreadfully frightened, I felt
my courage rise at Turkey's success, and lifted my club
in the hope that it might prove as good at need as
Turkey's whip. It was well for me, however, that
Turkey was too quick for the bull. He got between
him and me, and a second stinging cut from the brass
wire drew a second roar from his throat, and no doubt
a second red streamlet from his nose, while my club
descended on one of his horns with a bang which
jarred my arm to the elbow, and sent the weapon
flying over the fence. The animal turned tail for a
moment long enough to place us, enlivened by our
success, on the other side of the wall, where we crouched
so that he could not see us. Turkey, however, kept
looking up at the line of the wall against the sky ; and
as he looked, over came the nose of the bull, within a
yard of his head. Hiss went the little whip, and bellow
went the bull.
RANALD BANNERMAN'S BOYHOOD. 85
u Get up among the trees, Ranald, for fear he come
over," said Turkey, in a whisper.
I obeyed. But as he could see nothing of his foes,
the animal had had enough of it, and we heard no
more of him.
After a while, Turkey left his lair and joined me.
We rested for a little, and would then have clambered
co the top of the hill, but we gave up the attempt as
awkward after getting into a furze bush. In our con-
dition, it was too dark. I began to grow sleepy, also,
and thought I should like to exchange the hill-side for
my bed. Turkey make no objection, so we trudged
home again; not without sundry starts and quick
glances to make sure that the bull was neither after
us on the road, nor watching us from behind this bush
or that hillock. Turkey never left me till he saw me
safe up the ladder; nay, after I was in bed, I spied
his face peeping in at the window from the topmost
round of it. By this time the east had begun to begin
to glow, as Allister, who was painfully exact, would
have said; but I was fairly tired now, and, falling
asleep at once, never woke until Mrs. Mitchell pulled
the clothes off me, an indignity which I keenly felt,
but did not yet know how to render impossible for
86 RANALD BANNERMAN'S BOYHOOD.
T that time there were
a good many beggars
going about the country,
who lived upon the alms
of the charitable. Among
these were some half-
witted persons, who, al-
though not to be relied
upon, were seldom to
any extent mischievous.
We were not much afraid
of them, for the home-
neighbourhood is a
charmed spot round
which has been drawn a
magic circle of safety, and
we seldom roamed far
beyond it. There was,
however, one occasional visitor of this class, of whom
RANALD BANNERMAWS BOYHOOD. 87
we stood in some degree of awe. He was com-
monly styled Foolish Willie. His approach to the
manse was always announced by a wailful strain upon
the bagpipes, a set of which he had inherited from his
father, who had been piper to some Highland noble-
man : at least so it was said. Willie never went with-
out his pipes, and was more attached to them than to
any living creature. He played them well, too, though
in what corner he kept the amount of intellect neces-
sary to the mastery of them was a puzzle. The proba-
bility seemed that his wits had not decayed until after
he had become in a measure proficient in the use of
the chanter, as they call that pipe by means of whose
perforations the notes are regulated. However this
may be, Willie could certainly play the pipes, and was
a great favourite because of it with children especially,
notwithstanding the mixture of fear which his presence
always occasioned them. Whether it was from our
Highland blood or from Kirsty's stories, I do not
know, but we were always delighted when the far-off
sound of his pipes reached us : little Davie would
dance and shout with glee. Even the Kelpie, Mrs.
Mitchell that is, was benignantly inclined towards
Wandering Willie, as some people called him after the
old song; so much so that Turkey, who always tried
to account for things, declared his conviction that
Willie must be Mrs. Mitchell's brother, only she was
ashamed and wouldn't own him. I do not believe he
had the smallest atom of corroboration for the con-
88 RANALD BANNERMAN'S BOYHOOD.
jecture, which therefore was bold and worthy of the
inventor. One thing we all knew, that she would os-
tentatiously fill the canvas bag which he carried by his
side, with any broken scraps she could gather, would
give him as much milk to drink as he pleased, and
would speak kind, almost coaxing, words to the poor
natural words which sounded the stranger in our
ears, that they were quite unused to like sounds from
the lips of the Kelpie.
It is impossible to describe Willie's dress : the ag-
glomeration of ill-supplied necessity and superfluous
whim was never exceeded. His pleasure was to pin
on his person whatever gay-coloured cotton handker-
chiefs he could get hold of; so that, with one of these
behind and one before, spread out across back and
chest, he always looked like an ancient herald come
with a message from knight or nobleman. So incon-
gruous was his costume that I could never tell whether
kilt or trousers was the original foundation upon which
it had been constructed. To his tatters add the bits
of old ribbon, list, and coloured rag which he attached
to his pipes wherever there was room, and you will see
that he looked all flags and pennons a moving grove
of raggery, out of which came the screaming chant and
drone of his instrument When he danced, he was
like a whirlwind that had caught up the contents of an
old-clothes-shop. It is no wonder that he should have
produced in our minds an indescribable mixture of
awe and delight awe, because no one could tell what
RANALD BANNERMAN'S BOYHOOD. 89
he might do next, and delight because of his oddity,
agility, and music. The first sensation was always a
slight fear, which gradually wore off as we became anew
accustomed to the strangeness of the apparition. Be-
fore the visit was over, Wee Davie would be playing
with the dangles of his pipes, and laying his ear to the
bag out of which he thought the music came ready-
made. And Willie was particularly fond of Davie, and
tried to make himself agreeable to him after a hundred
grotesque fashions. The awe, however, was constantly
renewed in his absence, partly by the threats of the
Kelpie, that, if so and so, she would give this one or
that to Foolish Willie to take away with him a threat
which now fell almost powerless upon me, but still told
upon Allister and Davie.
One day, in early summer it was after I had begun
to go to school I came home as usual at five o'clock,
to find the manse in great commotion. Wee Davie
had disappeared. They were looking for him every-
where without- avail. Already all the farm-houses had
been thoroughly searched. An awful horror fell upon
me, and the most frightful ideas of Davie's fate arose
in my mind. I remember giving a howl of dismay the
moment I heard of the catastrophe, for which I re-
ceived a sound box on the ear from Mrs. Mitchell. I
was too miserable, however, to show any active resent-
ment, and only sat down upon the grass and cried.
In a few minutes, my father, who had been away visit-
ing some of his parishioners, rode up on his little black
90 RANALD BANNERMAWS BOYHOOD.
mare. Mrs. Mitchell hurried to meet him, wringing
her hands, and crying
" Oh, sir 1 oh, sir ! Davie 's away with Foolish
This was the first I had heard of Willie in connec-
tion with the affair. My father turned pale, but kept
" Which way did he go ? " he asked.
" How long is it ago ? "
"About an hour and a half, I think," said Mrs.
To me the news was some relief. Now I could at
least do something. I left the group, and hurried
away to find Turkey. Except my father, I trusted
more in Turkey than in any one. I got on a rising
ground near the manse, and looked all about until I
found where the cattle were feeding that afternoon,
and then darted off at full speed. They were at some
distance from home, and I found that Turkey had
heard nothing of the mishap. When I had succeeded
in conveying the dreadful news, he shouldered his
club, and said
" The cows must look after themselves, Ranald ! "
With the words he set off at a good swinging trot
in the direction of a little rocky knoll in a hollow
about half a mile away, which he knew to be a favourite
haunt of Wandering Willie, as often as he came into
the neighbourhood. On this knoll grew some stunted
RANALD BANNERMAN'S BOYHOOD. 91
trees, gnarled and old, with very mossy stems. There
was moss on the stones too, and between them gre\
lovely harebells, and at the foot of the knoll there
were always in the season tall foxgloves, which had
imparted a certain fear to the spot in my fancy. For
there they call them Dead Man's Bells, and I thought
there was a murdered man buried somewhere there-
about. I should not have liked to be there alone
even in the broad daylight. But with Turkey I would
have gone at any hour, even without the impulse which
now urged me to follow him at my best speed. There
was some marshy ground between us and the knoll,
but we floundered through it ; and then Turkey, who
was some distance ahead of me, dropped into a walk,
and began to reconnoitre the knoll with some caution.
I soon got up with him.
" He's there, Ranald ! " he said.
" I don't know about Davie ; but Willie 's there."
" How do you know ? "
"I heard his bagpipes grunt. Perhaps Davie sat
down upon them."
" Oh, run, Turkey ! " I said, eagerly.
" No hurry," he returned. " If Willie has him, he
won't hurt him, but it mayn't be easy to get him away.
We must creep up and see what can be done."
Half dead as some of the trees were, there was
foliage enough upon them to hide Willie, and Turkey
hoped it would help to hide our approach. He went
92 RANALD BANNERMAWS BOYHOOD.
down on his hands and knees, and thus crept towards
the knoll, skirting it partly, because a little way round
it was steeper. I followed his example, and found I
was his match at crawling in four-footed fashion. When
we reached the steep side, we lay still and listened.
" He 's there ! " I cried in a whisper.
"Shi" said Turkey; "I hear him. It 'sail right
We '11 soon have a hold of him."
A weary whimper as of a child worn out with hope-
less crying had reached our ears. Turkey immediately
began to climb the side of the knoll.
" Stay where you are, Ranald," he said. " I can go
up quieter than you."
I obeyed. Cautious as a deer-stalker, he ascended,
still on his hands and knees. I strained my eyes after
his every motion. But when he was near the top he
lay perfectly quiet, and continued so till I could bear
it no longer, and crept up after him. When I came
behind him, he looked round angrily, and made a most
emphatic contortion of his face ; after which I dared
not climb to a level with him, but lay trembling with
expectation. The next moment I heard him call in a
low whisper :
Davie ! Davie ! wee Davie ! "
But there was no reply. He called a little louder,
evidently trying to reach by degrees just the pitch that
would pierce to Davie's ears and not arrive at Wander-
ing Willie's, who I rightly presumed was farther off.
His tones grew louder and louder but had not yet
RANALD EANNERMAN'S BOYHOOD. 93
risen above a sharp whisper, when at length a small
trembling voice cried " Turkey ! Turkey ! " in pro-
longed accents of mingled hope and pain. There was
a sound in the bushes above me a louder sound and
a rush. Turkey sprang to his feet and vanished. I
followed. Before I reached the top, there came a
despairing cry from Davie, and a shout and a gabble
from Willie. Then followed a louder shout and a
louder gabble, mixed with a scream from the bagpipes,
and an exulting laugh from Turkey. . All this passed
in the moment I spent in getting to the top, the last
step of which was difficult. There was Davie alone in
the thicket, Turkey scudding down the opposite slope
with the bagpipes under his arm, and Wandering
Willie pursuing him in a foaming fury. I caught Davie
in my arms from where he lay sobbing and crying