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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

PASTORAL                                47

—by two men after his watch,—and at least once,
betrayed by his habitual anger, fell under the danger of
the law and was clapped into some rustic prison-house,
the doors of which he burst in the night and was no more
heard of in that quarter. When I knew him, his life had
fallen in quieter places, and he had no cares beyond the
dullness of his dogs and the inroads of pedestrians from
town. But for a man of his propensity to wrath these
were enough; he knew neither rest nor peace, except by
snatches ; in the gray of the summer morning, and already
from far up the hill, he would wake the ' toun' with the
sound of his shoutings ; and in the lambing time his cries
were not yet silenced late at night. This wrathful voice of
a man unseen might be said to haunt that quarter of the
Pentlands, an audible bogie, and no doubt it added to the
fear in which men stood of John, a touch of something
legendary. For my own part, he was at first my enemy,
and I, in my character of a rambling boy, his natural
abhorrence. It was long before I saw Mm near at hand,
knowing him only by some sudden blast of bellowing from
far above, bidding me ' c'way oot amang the sheep.' The
quietest recesses of the hill harboured this ogre ; I skulked
in my favourite wilderness like a Cameronian of the
Killing Time, and John Todd was my Claverhouse, and his
dogs my questing dragoons. Little by little we dropped
into civilities ; his hail at sight of me began to have less
of the ring of a war-slogan ; soon, we never met but he
produced his snuff-box, which was with him, like the
calumet with the Red Indian, a part of the heraldry of
peace ; and at length, in the ripeness of time, we grew to
be a pair of friends, and wheji I lived alone in these parts
in the winter, it was a settled thing for John to c give me
a cry ' over the garden wall as he set forth upon his evening
round, and for me to overtake and bear hi in company.

That dread voice of his that shook the hills when he
was angry, fell in ordinary talk very pleasantly upon the
ear, with a kind of honied, friendly whine, not far off
singing, that was eminently Scottish. He laughed not
very often, and when he did, with a sudden, loud haw-haw,
hearty but somehow joyless, like an echo from a rock.