ALTHOUGH it was only the beginning of the month of March the weather was beautiful, and we should have said that it was hot, had it not been for a refreshing breeze which carried with it a savour of the sea.
The moon was rising brilliantly behind Mount Cagna, and the cascades of light were falling upon the southern slope which separates Corsica into two parts, and in a measure forms two different nations, which are always at war, or at least, detest one another heartily.
As we mounted we could see the gorge in which the Tavaro was buried in profound darkness, impossible to penetrate, but we could view the calm Mediterranean, like a vast steel mirror extending into the horizon.
There are certain noises one hears only at night, for during the day they are overcome by other sounds, or it may be they awake only with the darkness, and these produced not upon Lucien, who was familiar with them, but upon me, who was a stranger to them, curious sensations of surprise, and awoke in me a powerful interest in all that I saw.
When we reached the place where the path united with another—one going up the mountain direct, and the other to the right, Lucien turned to me and said—
“Are you anything of a mountaineer?”
“Yes, a little, as far as walking goes.”
“You are likely to get giddy, then.”
“I am afraid so. The precipice has an irresistible attraction for me.”
“Then we had better take this foot-path where there are no precipices, but merely rough walking.”
“I am quite equal to that.”
“Very well, then, we have three-quarters of an hour’s walk before us.”
“Let us take the path.”
Lucien then went first, and crossed through a little oak wood, into which I followed him.
Diamond trotted fifty or sixty paces away, beating right and left, and occasionally coming back to us, wagging his tail as much as to inform us that we might trust to him and continue our route in safety.
I saw that as some people like to possess a horse, equally for riding or driving, so Diamond had apparently been trained to hunt the biped or the quadruped, the bandit or the boar. I did not wish to appear altogether strange to Corsican manners, so I said as much to Lucien.
“You are mistaken,” he replied; “Diamond is very useful in hunting men or animals, but he never chases bandits. It is the triple red of the gendarmes, the voltigeur, and the volunteer that he hunts.”
“Then I suppose Diamond is a bandit’s dog?”
“He is. He belongs to an Orlandi, to whom I sometimes used to send him into the country with bread, powder, bullets, or whatever he required. He was shot by a Colona, and the next day the dog came to me, for being accustomed to come to the house, he looked upon me as a friend.”
“But,” I said, “I fancied I saw another dog at your house.”
“Yes, that is Brucso, he possesses the same qualities as Diamond, only he came to me from a Colona who was killed by an Orlandi, and so when I pay a visit to a Colona I take Brucso, but when I have business with an Orlandi I take Diamond. If I were to make a mistake and loose them both together they would kill each other. So,” continued Lucien, with a bitter smile, “men can make it up, and will receive the sacrament together; the dogs will never eat from the same platter.”
“Well,” I said, laughing; “here are two regular Corsican dogs, but it seems to me that Diamond, like all other modest creatures, has gone out of earshot while we are speaking of him. I am afraid he has missed us.”
“Oh, do not be alarmed,” said Lucien, “I know where he is.”
“May I inquire where?”
“He is at the Mucchio.”
I was about to hazard another question, even at the risk of tiring my companion, when a long howl was heard, so lamentable, so sad, and so prolonged, that I shivered and stopped.
“What can that be?” I said.
“Nothing, it is only Diamond crying.”
“What is he crying for?”
“His master. Do you not know that dogs do not forget those they have loved?”
“Ah, I understand,” I said, as another prolonged howl rose through the night.
“Yes,” I continued, “his master was shot, you say, and I suppose we are approaching the place where he was killed?”
“Just so, and Diamond has left us to go to Mucchio.”
“That is where the man’s tomb is?”
“Yes, that is to say, the monument which passers-by have raised to his memory, in the form of a cairn; so it follows that the tomb of the victim gradually grows larger, a symbol of the increasing vengeance of his relations.”
Another long howl from Diamond’s throat made me shudder again, though I was perfectly well aware of the cause of the noise.
At the next turn of the path we came upon the wayside tomb or cairn. A heap of stones formed a pyramid of four or five feet in height.
At the foot of this strange monument Diamond was lying with extended neck and open mouth. Lucien picked up a stone, and taking off his cap approached the mucchio.
I did the same, following his example closely.
When he had come close to the pyramid he broke a branch from a young oak and threw, first, the stone and then the branch upon the heap. He rapidly made the sign of the cross.
I imitated him exactly, and we resumed our route in silence, but Diamond remained behind.
About ten minutes afterwards we heard another dismal howling, and then almost immediately Diamond passed us, head and tail drooping, to a point about a hundred paces in front, when he suddenly resumed his hunting.