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Chapter XVIII The Hound Restored
 On the third day after his arrival at the camp Archie received orders to prepare to start with the hound, with the earl and a large party of men-at-arms, in search of Bruce. A traitor had just come in and told them where Bruce had slept the night before. Reluctantly Archie unfastened the chain from the pole, and holding the end in his hand went round with Hector to the front of the pavilion. He was resolved that if under the dog's guidance the party came close up with Bruce, he would kill the dog and then try to escape by fleetness of foot, though of this, as there were so many mounted men in the party, he had but slight hope. Led by the peasant they proceeded to the hut, which was five miles away in the hills. On reaching it Hector at once became greatly excited. He sniffed here and there, eagerly hunted up and down the cottage, then made a circuit round it, and at last, with a loud deep bay he started off with his nose to the ground, pulling so hard at the chain that Archie had difficulty in keeping up with him. Pembroke and his knights rode a little behind, followed by their men-at-arms.  
"I pray you, Sir Earl," Archie said, "keep not too close to my traces, for the sound of the horse's hoofs and the jingling of the equipments make him all the more impatient to get forward, and even now it taxes all my strength to hold him in."
The earl reined back his horse and followed at a distance of some fifty yards. He had no suspicion whatever of any hidden design on Archie's part. The fact that the hound had recognized him had appeared to him a sure proof of the truth of his tale, and Archie had put on an air of such stupid simplicity that the earl deemed him to have but imperfect possession of his wits. Moreover, in any case he could overtake him in case he attempted flight.
Archie proceeded at a trot behind the hound, who was with difficulty restrained at that pace, straining eagerly on the chain and occasionally sending out his deep bay. Archie anxiously regarded the country through which he was passing. He was waiting for an opportunity, and was determined, whenever they passed near a steep hillside unscaleable by horsemen, he would stab Hector to the heart and take to flight. Presently he saw a man, whose attire showed him to be a Highlander, approaching at a run; he passed close by Archie, and as he did so stopped suddenly, exclaiming, "Archibald Forbes!" and drawing his broadsword sprang at him. Archie, who was unarmed save by a long knife, leapt back. In the man he recognized the leader of the MacDougall's party, who had captured him near Dunstaffnage. The conflict would have terminated in an instant had not Hector intervened. Turning round with a deep growl the great hound sprang full at the throat of the Highlander as with uplifted sword he rushed at Archie. The impetus of the spring threw the MacDougall on his back, with the fangs of the hound fixed in his throat. Archie's first impulse was to pull the dog off, the second thought showed him that, were the man to survive he would at once denounce him. Accordingly, though he appeared to tug hard at Hector's chain, he in reality allowed him to have his way. Pembroke and his knights instantly galloped up. As they arrived Hector loosed his hold, and with his hair bristly with rage prepared to attack those whom he regarded as fresh enemies.
"Hold in that hound," Pembroke shouted, "or he will do more damage. What means all this?" For a minute Archie did not answer, being engaged in pacifying Hector, who, on seeing that no harm was intended, strove to return to his first foe.
"It means," Archie said, when Hector was at last pacified, "that that Highlander came the other day to our cottage and wanted to carry off a cow without making payment for it. I withstood him, he drew his sword, but as I had a stout cudgel in my hand I hit him on the wrist ere he could use it, and well nigh broke his arm. So he made off, cursing and swearing, and vowing that the next time he met me he would have my life."
"And that he would have done," Pembroke said, "had it not been for Bruce's dog, who has turned matters the other way. He is dead assuredly. It is John of Lorne's henchman, who was doubtless on his way with a message from his lord to me. Could not the fool have postponed his grudge till he had delivered it? I tell you, Scot, you had best keep out of the MacDougalls' way, for assuredly they will revenge the death of their clansman upon you if they have the chance, though I can testify that the affair was none of your seeking. Now let us continue our way."
"I doubt me, Sir Earl, whether our journey ends not here," Archie said, "seeing that these hounds, when they taste blood, seem for a time to lose their fineness of scent; but we shall see."
Archie's opinion turned out correct. Do what they would they could not induce Hector again to take up his master's trail, the hound again and again returning to the spot where the dead Highlander still lay. Pembroke had the body carried off but the hound tugged at his chain in the direction in which it had gone, and seemed to have lost all remembrance of the track upon which he was going. At last Pembroke was obliged to acknowledge that it was useless to pursue longer, and, full of disappointment at their failure, the party returned to camp, Pembroke saying: "Our chase is but postponed. We are sure to get tidings of Bruce's hiding place in a day or two, and next time we will have the hound muzzled, lest any hotheaded Highlander should again interfere to mar the sport."
It was some days before further tidings were obtained of Bruce. Archie did not leave his tent during this time, giving as a reason that he was afraid if he went out he should meet some of Lorne's men, who might take up the quarrel of the man who had been killed. At length, however, another traitor came in, and Pembroke and his party set out as before, Hector being this time muzzled by a strap round his jaw, which would not interfere with his scent, but would prevent him from widely opening his jaws.
The scent of Bruce was again taken up at a lonely hut in the hills. The country was far more broken and rough than that through which they had followed Bruce's trail on the preceding occasion. Again Archie determined, but most reluctantly, that he would slay the noble dog; but he determined to postpone the deed to the latest moment. Several places were passed where he might have succeeded in effecting his escape after stabbing the hound, but each time his determination failed him. It would have been of no use to release the dog and make himself up the hillside, for a blood hound's pace when on the track is not rapid, and the horsemen could have kept up with Hector, who would of course have continued his way upon the trail of the king. Presently two men were seen in the distance; they had evidently been alarmed by the bay of the hound, and were going at full speed. A shout of triumph broke from the pursuers, and some of the more eager would have set spurs to their horses and passed the hound.
"Rein back, rein back," Pembroke said, "the country is wild and hilly here, and Bruce may hide himself long before you can overtake him. Keep steadily in his track till he gains flatter country, where we can keep him in sight, then we shall have no more occasion for the hound and can gallop on at full speed."
Archie observed, with satisfaction, that Bruce was making up an extremely steep hillside, deeming probably that horsemen would be unable to follow him here, and that he would be able to distance pursuers on foot. Ten minutes later his pursuers had reached the foot of the hill. Pembroke at once ordered four knights and ten men-at-arms to dismount.
"Do you," he said, "with the dog, follow hard upon the traces of Bruce. When you reach the top signal to us the direction in which he has gone. Follow ever on his track without stopping; he must at last take to the low country again. Some of my men shall remain here, others a mile further on, and so on round the whole foot of the hills. Do you, when you see that, thinking he has distanced you, which he may well do being more lightly armed and flying for his life, he makes for the low country again, send men in different directions to give me warning. The baying of the dog will act as a signal to us."
While the men had been dismounting and Pembroke was giving his orders Archie had proceeded up the hill with the hound. The path was exceedingly steep and difficult.
"Do not hurry, sirrah," Pembroke called; "hold in your hound till the others join you." But Archie paid no attention to the shout, but kept up the steep path at the top of his speed. Shouts and threats followed him, but he paused not till he reached the top of the ascent; then he unfastened Hector's collar, and the dog, relieved from the chain which had so long restrained him, bounded away with a deep bay in pursuit of his master, whose scent was now strong before him. As Archie looked back, the four knights and their followers, in single file, were, as yet, scarce halfway up the ascent. Lying round were numbers of loose boulders, and Archie at once began to roll these down the hillside. They went but slowly at first, but as they reached the steeper portion they gathered speed, and taking great bounds crashed down the hillside. As these formidable missiles burst down from above the knights paused.
"On!" Pembroke shouted from below; "the Scot is a traitor, and he and the hound will escape if you seize him not." Again the party hurried up the hill. Three of them were struck down by the rocks, and the speed of all was impeded by the pauses made to avoid the great boulders which bounded down toward them. When they were within a few yards of the top Archie turned and bounded off at full speed. He had no fear of being himself overtaken. Lightly clad and unarmed, the knights and men-at-arms, who were all in full armour, and who were already breathed with the exertions they had made, would have no chance of overtaking him; indeed he could safely have fled at once when he loosed Hector, but he had stopped to delay the ascent of his pursuers solely to give the hound as long a start as possible. He himself could have kept up with the hound; the men-at-arms could assuredly not do so, but they might for a long time keep him in sight, and his baying would afterwards indicate the line the king was taking, and B............
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