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Full text of "Selected Essays Of Robert Louis Stevenson"

48                              PASTOEAL

His face was permanently set and coloured ;   ruddy and
stiff with weathering ;   more like a picture than a face;
yet with a certain strain and a threat of latent anger in
the expression, like that of a man trained too fine and
harassed   with   perpetual   vigilance.    He   spoke   in   the
richest dialect of Scotch I ever heard;    the words in
themselves were a pleasure and often a surprise to me,
so that I often came back from one of our patrols with
new acquisitions ;   and this vocabulary he would handle
like  a master,   stalking  a little before me,   ' beard  on
shoulder,' the plaid hanging loosely about him, the yellow
staff clapped under his arm, and guiding me uphill by
that devious, tactical ascent which seems peculiar to men
of his trade.    I might count him with the best talkers ;
only that talking Scotch and talking English seem incom-
parable acts.     He touched on nothing at least but he
adorned it;  when he narrated, the scene was before you ;
when he spoke (as he did mostly) of his own antique busi-
ness, the thing took on a colour of romance and curiosity
that was surprising.    The clans of sheep with their particu-
lar territories on the hill, and how, in the yearly killings
and purchases, each must be proportionally thinned and
strengthened ; the midnight busyness of animals, the signs
of the weather, the cares of the snowy season, the exquisite
stupidity of sheep, the exquisite cunning of dogs:   all
these he could present so humanly, and with so much old
experience and living gusto, that weariness was excluded.
And in the midst he would suddenly straighten his bowed
back, the stick would fly abroad in demonstration, and the
sharp thunder of his voice roll out a long itinerary for the
dogs, so that you saw at last the use of that great wealth
of names for every knowe and howe upon the hillside ; and
the dogs, having hearkened with lowered tails and raised
faces, would run up tiieir flags again to the masthead and
spread themselves upon the indicated circuit.    It used to
fill me with wonder how they could follow and retain so
long a story.    But John denied these creatures all intelli-
gence ;   they were the constant butt of his passion and
contempt;  it was just possible to work with the like of
them, lie said,ónot more than possible.    And then he