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Chapter 10 What the Moon Saw
There was great heat at the end of July — sultry, thunderous weather, when the hills drowsed under a haze and the sun’s beams seemed to be the more torrid for the screen of vapour through which they fell. The heavens were banking up for the Lammas rains. But each evening the skies cleared, and the night was an amethyst dome sprinkled with stars.

David made a great to-do about his visit to Newbiggin. On the Monday morning he announced it to Isobel, and in an hour the word had gone through the village. His housekeeper seemed to receive the news with relief. “Blithe I am to hear it, sir. Folk suld whiles change their ground like bestial, and ye’ve been ower lang tethered to this parochine. Newbiggin will be a caller bit in this lown weather, and while ye’re awa’ I’ll get your chamber cleaned and the stairs washed doun. Dinna haste to come back, for I’ll no look for ye or Setterday.”

He set off on the Tuesday after midday, and there were many eyes in Woodilee to mark his going. That night he duly slept at Newbiggin, but the next day, which was Lammas Eve, he left his cousin’s house and rode up Clyde water into the farthest moors. It was a wide circuit, which brought him in the afternoon to the uplands which separate Rood from Annan. All day he had been out of sight of human dwelling, and the first he saw was in the dusk, when he descended upon the tower of Calidon by the glen of the Calidon burn. At Calidon he left his horse with the grieve, promising to return for it on the morrow, and, with one look at the lit windows of the tower, he set out on foot to ford the Rood. About nine o’clock in the mulberry gloaming he reached the cottage of the Greenshiel.

Three figures greeted him there. One was the herd of the outer hirsel, Richie Smail; another was Rab Prentice, the herd of the home hirsel, who sat on the turf deas at the cottage-end with his crutch beside him; the third was Reiverslaw himself, who was also seated, smoking a pipe of tobacco.

“Ye’re in braw time, Mr. Sempill,” said the last. “Did ye pass ony folk on the road?”

“I have seen no man since the morning, except the Calidon grieve half an hour syne.”

“And that’s just as weel. Richie, kindle the cruisie, for our job is better done indoors.”

The feeble light in the hut revealed a curious assembly. The two shepherds had faces of portentous gravity, and their twitching mouths and restless eyes were proof of an extreme discomfort. Reiverslaw wore his usual frieze small-clothes and boot-hose, but he had no coat, though he had slung on his arm what might have been that garment. He flung this on the settle. “It’s ower het to wear that muckle maud till the time comes. We maun get to business, Mr. Sempill, for you should be on the road afore the moon rises. We’re here to get our plan strauchtit oot and there’s jimp [scarcely] time. Rab Prentice, ye’ve been twice wi’ me to Chasehope in the last se’en days. Ye mind the braw red cock the wife has gotten?”

“Fine,” said the shepherd.

“There’s no sic another fowl in the countryside?”

“That I’ll engage.”

“Therefore if I show ye the morn a pluckin’ o’ red feathers, ye’ll jalouse it’s the Chasehope cock?”

“Ay. But I’m no gaun intil the Wud . . . not even in braid daylicht.”

“If I bid ye, ye’ll gang, Rab Prentice, though I suld carry ye myself. . . . Now, secondly, as the ministers say. Do ye see this bottle? Smell it, a’ three of ye. That’s a smell ye never fand afore? It’s what they call oil of hennyseed, and I got it frae a horse-doctor at Carlisle. I’ll wager there’s no anither phial o’ the same between here and Embro. It’s a smell ye’ll no sune forget. Pit a dab on yer sleeves to remind ye o’t. If the three o’ us gangs to Chasehope the morn and finds Chasehope’s breeks and Chasehope’s sark stinkin’ o’ this oil, ye’ll be able to swear to it, and to swear that I showed it you this verra nicht and that ye kenned the smell when ye fand it again.”

The two men agreed, sniffing the drop on their sleeve.

“Thirdly,” said Reiverslaw, “I’m gaun to turn mysel’ intil a guisyard.”

He picked up the thing he had been carrying, and revealed it as a cloak of deerskins which fitted like a loose jerkin. Over his head he drew a cap of skins with slits for his eyes, a roughly-shaped nozzle like a deer’s, and on the top the horns of a goat.

“Save us a’!” Richie cried, as he saw his master stand up, his lean, active body surmounted by a beast’s head. “Save us a’, ye’re no gaun to tamper wi’ the accursed thing?”

“That’s what I ettle, but the intention is guid, and it’s by our intentions we’ll be judged, as Mr. Sempill will tell ye. Look at me, ye daft auld fules, for there’s naething to be feared o’. I’m for the Wud the nicht, and it’s my purpose to bide in cover till the folk are half dementit, and syne, when their een are blind, to join them. I’ve a notion that there will be some wark wi’ the red cock, and I’d like a feather or twa as a keepsake. And I’ve a sort of notion that my auld friend Chasehope will be there; so as a token o’ friendship I’ll pit saut on his tail — whilk means that if I get the chance I’ll anoint his dowp wi’ the hennyseed. Now, you twa, take tent and listen to me. Ye will swear that I telled ye what I have telled ye, and that ye saw me at the Greenshiel dressed up like a merry-andrew. The horns suld hae been a stag’s, but I was feared o’ hankin’ them in the busses, so the puir auld Reiverslaw billy-goat had to dee.”

He was a crazy sight with the goat’s head on him, and a formidable sight without it, for as he stood in that dusk beside two men bent with labour, the one maimed and the other past the allotted span of human years, David had an impression of something desperate and fearless and light-hearted. The shepherds were clearly torn between loyalty and terror, and he himself, while firm enough in his resolve, had to keep his thoughts battened down to prevent his knees knocking. But Reiverslaw seemed to have no fears. He had set about the thing as cannily as if he were selling sheep at Lockerbie fair, and now, with a venture before him which not two other men in Scotland would have contemplated, he was notably the least embarrassed of the party.

“I saw three pyets [magpies] flee intil the Wud this morning,” said Prentice, “and but ane cam’ back. That’s an unco freit [omen] for the beginnin’ o’t!”

“Haud your tongue, ye auld wife,” said Reiverslaw. “Freits fa’ to them that fear them, and I’m no gaun to fash my heid about twa jauds o’ birds. . . . ”

“I had a vision yestereen,” Richie put in. “I saw the haill land o’ Scotland like a field o’ aits, white until the harvest, the haill land frae John o’ Groats to Galloway, a’ but the parish o’ Woodilee, whilk was unplewed and rough wi’ briars and thrissles. An’ says I to mysel’, ‘Whatever place is yon?’ and says a voice to me, ‘That’s what we ca’ the Deil’s Baulk in the gospel field o’ Scotland.’”

“And a very true observe, for Deil’s Baulk is just what the Wud is, and it’s for us to pit a plew intill’t and mak’ a fire o’ the wastry. Set bite and sup afore the minister, Richie.”

The shepherd produced some oatcakes, of which David ate only a mouthful, for though he had had no food since morning, his throat was dry and his tongue like a stick. He drank, however, a pint of buttermilk.

“Kirn-milk for you?” the host asked of Reiverslaw. “I hae nae yill, but Rab has brocht a flask o’ aquavitty ye gied him at the lambin’.”

“I’ll hae spring water. Nae strong drink for me, for this nicht I’m like Jonadab the son of Rechab. . . . Are ye ready, Mr. Sempill? Ye maun start first, for ye’ve a tree to speel. There’s nae hurry for me till the Deil begins his pipin’.”

“You are either strong in the faith, or of a very stout heart,” said David admiringly.

“No as strong as I might be,” was the answer. “Afore we part, wad it no be weel for you to pit up a prayer?”

The minister prayed — and it was as if he confessed alone to his God in his closet. He himself was strengthened by it, and the comfort of Richie and Rab was visibly enlarged. But Reiverslaw stood through the devotions in no very devout position, and from him came none of the responses which flowed from the others. Before the “Amen” he had his goat-cap on, and was peering at the rising moon. He made his staff sing as he whirled it.

David took his strange confederate’s hand, and his own shook. Reiverslaw noted his trepidation.

“Fear nocht, sir. It’ll gang ill wi’ the wirriecow gin we meet him. But what brocht a man o’ peace like you into this tuilzie?”

“Jealousy for the honour of my God. And you? For it is less your quarrel than mine.”

The man grinned. “Write it down that Andra Shillinglaw couldna see an honest man beat, and that he didna like kail-worms.”

David had many times gone over in his mind the route to the glade of the altar, and had compared notes with Reiverslaw that very night. The distance was less than three miles, and he had a couple of hours to reach the place and still be in position well before midnight. As on all the nights of the past week, the oppressive haze of the day had lifted, and the sky rose to an infinite height, thick studded with stars, for the moon was only new risen. David made his way to the dividing glen between the pines and the hazels in a miserable disquiet. He had lost the first fierce anger which had stiffened him for his frustrated expedition on the eve of the second Beltane, and his tacit ostracism all summer by the folk of Woodilee had engendered a profound self-distrust. Even the thought of Katrine Yester did not nerve him; she belonged to a world separated by impassable gulfs from that black necromancy which he warred against. Nor did the fact that he had an ally comfort him, for Reiverslaw, he greatly feared, fought in his own strength and not in that of the Lord, and in such a strife the arm of flesh could not avail them. As he stumbled through the dark undergrowth David’s lips moved in anxious prayers.

He entered the pines, and, shaping his course by the low line of cliffs, came to the place where he had first met Katrine. Thus far he felt that he was not wholly outside the pale of kindly things. But after that he was in enemy country, and the moon was still too low to give him help. He wasted half an hour in the thickets, till by a strong effort of will he forced himself to take his bearings and remember Reiverslaw’s instructions. He scrambled up hill again till he was in touch with the outcrop of rock, and then suddenly found himself looking down on the glade where stood the altar.

It was very dark, and the stone was only a ghostly blur. But the darkness was a blessing, for the place was not as he had seen it before, and the sight of it did not revive the terrors he had feared. It looked no more than a woodland gla............
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