Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 1

PRELIMINARY.

Hast any philosophy in thee, Shepherd?--AS YOU LIKE IT.

It was a fine April morning (excepting that it had snowed hard the night
before, and the ground remained covered with a dazzling mantle of six
inches in depth) when two horsemen rode up to the Wallace Inn. The first
was a strong, tall, powerful man, in a grey riding-coat, having a hat
covered with waxcloth, a huge silver-mounted horsewhip, boots, and
dreadnought overalls. He was mounted on a large strong brown mare, rough
in coat, but well in condition, with a saddle of the yeomanry cut, and
a double-bitted military bridle. The man who accompanied him was
apparently his servant; he rode a shaggy little grey pony, had a blue
bonnet on his head, and a large check napkin folded about his neck, wore
a pair of long blue worsted hose instead of boots, had his gloveless
hands much stained with tar, and observed an air of deference and
respect towards his companion, but without any of those indications
of precedence and punctilio which are preserved between the gentry
and their domestics. On the contrary, the two travellers entered the
court-yard abreast, and the concluding sentence of the conversation
which had been carrying on betwixt them was a joint ejaculation, "Lord
guide us, an this weather last, what will come o' the lambs!" The hint
was sufficient for my Landlord, who, advancing to take the horse of the
principal person, and holding him by the reins as he dismounted, while
his ostler rendered the same service to the attendant, welcomed the
stranger to Gandercleugh, and, in the same breath, enquired, "What news
from the south hielands?"

"News?" said the farmer, "bad eneugh news, I think;--an we can carry
through the yowes, it will be a' we can do; we maun e'en leave the lambs
to the Black Dwarfs care."

"Ay, ay," subjoined the old shepherd (for such he was), shaking his
head, "he'll be unco busy amang the morts this season."

"The Black Dwarf!" said MY LEARNED FRIEND AND PATRON, Mr. Jedediah
Cleishbotham, "and what sort of a personage may he be?"

[We have, in this and other instances, printed in italics (CAPITALS
in this etext) some few words which the worthy editor, Mr. Jedediah
Cleishbotham, seems to have interpolated upon the text of his deceased
friend, Mr. Pattieson. We must observe, once for all, that such
liberties seem only to have been taken by the learned gentleman where
his own character and conduct are concerned; and surely he must be the
best judge of the style in which his own character and conduct should be
treated of.]

"Hout awa, man," answered the farmer, "ye'll hae heard o' Canny Elshie
the Black Dwarf, or I am muckle mistaen--A' the warld tells tales about
him, but it's but daft nonsense after a'--I dinna believe a word o't
frae beginning to end."

"Your father believed it unco stievely, though," said the old man, to
whom the scepticism of his master gave obvious displeasure.

"Ay, very true, Bauldie, but that was in the time o' the
blackfaces--they believed a hantle queer things in thae days, that
naebody heeds since the lang sheep cam in."

"The mair's the pity, the mair's the pity," said the old man. "Your
father, and sae I have aften tell'd ye, maister, wad hae been sair vexed
to hae seen the auld peel-house wa's pu'd down to make park dykes; and
the bonny broomy knowe, where he liked sae weel to sit at e'en, wi' his
plaid about him, and look at the kye as they cam down the loaning, ill
wad he hae liked to hae seen that braw sunny knowe a' riven out wi' the
pleugh in the fashion it is at this day."

"Hout, Bauldie," replied the principal, "tak ye that dram the landlord's
offering ye, and never fash your head about the changes o' the warld,
sae lang as ye're blithe and bien yoursell."

"Wussing your health, sirs," said the shepherd; and having taken off his
glass, and observed the whisky was the right thing, he continued, "It's
no for the like o' us to be judging, to be sure; but it was a bonny
knowe that broomy knowe, and an unco braw shelter for the lambs in a
severe morning like this."

"Ay," said his patron, "but ye ken we maun hae turnips for the lang
sheep, billie, and muckle hard wark to get them, baith wi' the pleugh
and the howe; and that wad sort ill wi' sitting on the broomy knowe, and
cracking about Black Dwarfs, and siccan clavers, as was the gate lang
syne, when the short sheep were in the fashion."

"Aweel, aweel, maister," said the attendant, "short sheep had short
rents, I'm thinking."

Here my WORTHY AND LEARNED patron again interposed, and observed, "that
he could never perceive any material difference, in point of longitude,
between one sheep and another."

This occasioned a loud hoarse laugh on the part of the farmer, and an
astonished stare on the part of the shepherd.

"It's the woo', man,--it's the woo', and no the beasts themsells, that
makes them be ca'd lang or short. I believe if ye were to measure their
backs, the short sheep wad be rather the langer-bodied o' the twa; but
it's the woo' that pays the rent in thae days, and it had muckle need."

"Odd, Bauldie says very true,--short sheep did make short rents--my
father paid for our steading just threescore punds, and it stands me in
three hundred, plack and bawbee.--And that's very true--I hae nae time
to be standing here clavering--Landlord, get us our breakfast, and see
an' get the yauds fed--I am for doun to Christy Wilson's, to see if him
and me can gree about the luckpenny I am to gie him for his year-aulds.
We had drank sax mutchkins to the making the bargain at St. Boswell's
fair, and some gate we canna gree upon the particulars preceesely, for
as muckle time as we took about it--I doubt we draw to a plea--But hear
ye, neighbour," addressing my WORTHY AND LEARNED patron, "if ye want to
hear onything about lang or short sheep, I will be back here to my kail
against ane o'clock; or, if ye want ony auld-warld stories about the
Black Dwarf, and sic-like, if ye'll ware a half mutchkin upon Bauldie
there, he'll crack t'ye like a pen-gun. And I'se gie ye a mutchkin
mysell, man, if I can settle weel wi' Christy Wilson."

The farmer returned at the hour appointed, and with him came Christy
Wilson, their difference having been fortunately settled without an
appeal to the gentlemen of the long robe. My LEARNED AND WORTHY patron
failed not to attend, both on account of the refreshment promised to the
mind and to the body, ALTHOUGH HE IS KNOWN TO PARTAKE OF THE LATTER IN
A VERY MODERATE DEGREE; and the party, with which my Landlord was
associated, continued to sit late in the evening, seasoning their liquor
with many choice tales and songs. The last incident which I recollect,
was my LEARNED AND WORTHY patron falling from his chair, just as he
concluded a long lecture upon temperance, by reciting, from the "Gentle
Shepherd," a couplet, which he RIGHT HAPPILY transferred from the vice
of avarice to that of ebriety:

He that has just eneugh may soundly sleep,
The owercome only fashes folk to keep.

In the course of the evening the Black Dwarf had not been forgotten,
and the old shepherd, Bauldie, told so many stories of him, that they
excited a good deal of interest. It also appeared, though not till the
third punch-bowl was emptied, that much of the farmer's scepticism on
the subject was affected, as evincing a liberality of thinking, and a
freedom from ancient prejudices, becoming a man who paid three hundred
pounds a-year of rent, while, in fact, he had a lurking belief in the
traditions of his forefathers. After my usual manner, I made farther
enquiries of other persons connected with the wild and pastoral district
in which the scene of the following narrative is placed, and I was
fortunate enough to recover many links of the story, not generally
known, and which account, at least in some degree, for the circumstances
of exaggerated marvel with which superstition has attired it in the more
vulgar traditions.

[The Black Dwarf, now almost forgotten, was once held a formidable
personage by the dalesmen of the Border, where he got the blame of
whatever mischief befell the sheep or cattle. "He was," says Dr. Leyden,
who makes considerable use of him in the ballad called the Cowt of
Keeldar, "a fairy of the most malignant order--the genuine Northern
Duergar." The best and most authentic account of this dangerous and
mysterious being occurs in a tale communicated to the author by that
eminent antiquary, Richard Surtees, Esq. of Mainsforth, author of the
HISTORY OF THE BISHOPRIC OF DURHAM.

According to this well-attested legend, two young Northumbrians were
out on a shooting party, and had plunged deep among the mountainous
moorlands which border on Cumberland. They stopped for refreshment in
a little secluded dell by the side of a rivulet. There, after they had
partaken of such food as they brought with them, one of the party fell
asleep; the other, unwilling to disturb his friend's repose, stole
silently out of the dell with the purpose of looking around him, when he
was astonished to find himself close to a being who seemed not to belong
to this world, as he was the most hideous dwarf that the sun had ever
shone on. His head was of full human size, forming a frightful contrast
with his height, which was considerably under four feet. It was thatched
with no other covering than long matted red hair, like that of the felt
of a badger in consistence, and in colour a reddish brown, like the hue
of the heather-blossom. His limbs seemed of great strength; nor was he
otherwise deformed than from their undue proportion in thickness to his
diminutive height. The terrified sportsman stood gazing on this horrible
apparition, until, with an angry countenance, the being demanded by what
right he intruded himself on those hills, and destroyed their harmless
inhabitants. The perplexed stranger endeavoured to propitiate the
incensed dwarf, by offering to surrender his game, as he would to an
earthly Lord of the Manor. The proposal only redoubled the offence
already taken by the dwarf, who alleged that he was the lord of those
mountains, and the protector of the wild creatures who found a retreat
in their solitary recesses; and that all spoils derived from their
death, or misery, were abhorrent to him. The hunter humbled himself
before the angry goblin, and by protestations of his ignorance, and
of his resolution to abstain from such intrusion in future, at last
succeeded in pacifying him. The gnome now became more communicative, and
spoke of himself as belonging to a species of beings something between
the angelic race and humanity. He added, moreover, which could hardly
have been anticipated, that he had hopes of sharing in the redemption of
the race of Adam. He pressed the sportsman to visit his dwelling, which
he said was hard by, and plighted his faith for his safe return. But at
this moment, the shout of the sportsman's companion was heard calling
for his friend, and the dwarf, as if unwilling that more than one
person should be cognisant of his presence, disappeared as the young man
emerged from the dell to join his comrade.

It was the universal opinion of those most experienced in such
matters, that if the shooter had accompanied the spirit, he would,
notwithstanding the dwarf's fair pretences, have been either torn to
pieces, or immured for years in the recesses of some fairy hill.

Such is the last and most authentic account of the apparition of the
Black Dwarf.]

Sir Walter Scott

Sorry, no summary available yet.