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The Long Glen
Chapter XXV - Taming the Bull


MUNDANE matters did not come to a stand-still in consequence of the Disruption, which with all its fervour did not produce the millennium, but rather strife and bitterness even among men of goodwill.

It was a great event for the Glen and the fanciers of high-bred Highland cattle far and wide when the Castul-nam-Fiann stock came to the hammer.

The owner, one might say the creator of this celebrated stock, died some years back, and as the lease was now on the point of expiring, the executors were disposing of the cattle by public roup, the incoming tenant being as usual bound to take the sheep stock over at a valuation.

A fold for the sale was fenced in close to the steadings and in front of the homestead. There was a great gathering of people round the fence, but the judge of the sale, the auctioneer, the clerk, the executors, and some of the gentlemen who had come from a distance and were guests at the house, occupied places within the enclosure. Bread and cheese and whisky drams circulated freely among the bidders, and those who were not bidders as well. The sister-in-law and housekeeper of the deceased breeder had a host of servants and neighbourly assistants cooking and attending to the duties of a general dispensation of hospitality in the house.

Among the neighbourly assistants were Jessie Cameron and Mary Macintyre. The latter happened to be sent out to the auction fold towards the end of the first day to ask the chief executor when the gentlemen could come in to dinner, and some other questions respecting the hospitality arrangements required for the occasion. Mary was brought up among cattle all her life, and she thought nothing at aii of stepping past the wild looking but in reality very timid pair of shaggy long-horned queys which were then under the hammer. In fact, she pruh-pruhed to them as she passed, and they turned their formidable faces towards her with bovine looks of thankfulness. Ewan, who with others was giving friendly help to the manager and herds, was in charge of the queys, which were disposed of and driven out while Mary was still taking instructions from the executor at the auctioneer's stand. Just as she turned away towards the house gate of the fold—which happened then to be crowded by a number of people half in and half out of the enclosure—a three-year-old bull with horns of the widest dimensions and a shaggy hide was, with much pushing and some shouting, driven hugely against his will into the fold by the lower gate. Mary did not concern herself about that, for she stopped on her way to speak over the fence to some one to whom she had orders to deliver from headquarters. Besides, it must be confessed that both she and her gossip were much amused, and their watchfulness in regard to matters inside the fold was withdrawn, by the struggle between Ewan and his queys outside. The animals had never been introduced to the public notice of mankind before, and they absolutely declined to follow the narrow way to their green field because they saw a crowd of strange people between.

But meanwhile it was more than time for Mary to get away from the fold ; and Ewan, bothered as he was with the bashfulness of his queys, and their awkward manner of showing it, was one of the first to see the coming danger, and he did not hesitate to shout out his alarm. But the warning came too late—the black bull had already, with a rush and loud bellow, proclaimed war with mankind. He was driven into the fold by people who were strangers to him, and they used violence too. He had from his infancy been tended affectionately, and almost worshipped like an Egyptian Apis, by the herd who had ever the care of him in lonely Fingal's Glen. Which of his race was ever more petted than he! Had not the herd's children been his playmates, and had not the dogs been taught to respect him, and never to fasten their teeth in his tail? And was he now to be goaded by strangers, and to be stared at by a crowd of enemies? Such thoughts may or may not have passed through the black bull's thick head. But whether they did or not, he took very little time for reflection. After straightening himself, pawing with his fore legs, and kicking his hind ones, he took a sullen survey of his surroundings with eyes whose red staring balls were fringed with fierce fences of rough hair; and then in atwinkling lowering his head and lifting his tail he rushed at the auctioneer's stand, but only hit the clerk's table, which he upset with the clerk huddled under its fragments. Then with a thundering roar, the raging animal chased the flying people within the fold before him. Some leaped the fence, but most ran to the upper gate, and among these was Mary Macintyre, who, in her pink jacket and striped petticoat, was, as Ewan thought, more likely than anyone else to draw upon herself the blind vengeance of the mad creature. The bull was already almost within tossing and goring distance, when the outside ring, now crushed back on the fence by the escaped, terrified, and terror-creating queys, was cleaved asunder by a projectile that could not be resisted. And this projectile was Ewan, who vaulted, with a mighty spring, over the high fence, and throwing himself on the bull's neck, seized him by the long horns as he was passing in full career. The onlookers held their breath, and ceased to wink their eyes. An instant of confused struggle, and then beast and man went down with a heavy thud, and the cloud of dust raised by the struggle and fall for a moment prevented the crowd from seeing whether man or beast was uppermost. Next instant, however, Ewan was seen sitting on the bull's neck, and ruling him by his long horn as a boatman rules his boat by the rudder.

A great shout of joy and gratulation was raised. But when he got time to think of it—and that was not until he saw Mary Macintyre joining the women in front of the house, who had watched the affair with beating hearts and gasping breath—nobody was more astonished at his victory than Ewan himself, unless it might be his prostrate foe, with whom he was now striking up confidential relations and sudden friendship by soothing words and gentle patting. "Shoot the beast," was the cry among some who had been much frightened. "Put a ring in his nose," said the chief executor, wishing to save such a valuable animal—the pride of the herd—from being converted into inferior beef.

An old gentleman-farmer, who had come forty miles to the sale for the sole purpose of bidding for this identical animal, and none other, got up to Ewan, and began to stroke the bull's neck, and to suggest to Ewan that he should stand between the conquered animal and the humiliation of a ring in the nose, which, he felt sure, would make him vicious and untrustworthy for the rest of his days. Evvan readily agreed with the great breeder and knower of beasts. So when the manager and others came with ring and rope, they were told to keep off, and the tamer of the bull shouted from his seat on the shoulder of his late antagonist—"Clear the cro. Keep outside, and keep quiet the whole lot of you." This order was obeyed, and Ewan, being left alone with the bull, rose from his seat, and keeping a good flanking position, encouraged the bull to get on his feet also. The bull gladly obeyed, and after shaking his hide free from the dust of strife, became as quiet and gentle as he used to be in Fingal's Glen with the dogs and children of the herd.

He was sold for a good price ; but not by any means for such a price as he would have fetched if he had not damaged his character. The old yoeman breeder was the purchaser, and to the end of his life he used, with great glee, to tell how it came to pass that he bought so cheaply the pride of the Castul-nam-Fiann herd. And the bull, long before he closed his honourable career, owned a great necklace of gold and silver medals, won at cattle shows, and was the sire of many descendants that have kept up his fame to the present day.

Ewan received vast credit for his prowess and philan-throphy. The prowess was genuine enough, but it was not for mankind in general, as represented by the endangered crowd, but for one girl in particular that Ewan risked his life. He felt, therefore, that he was accepting praise under false pretences, but how could he undeceive the lot of grateful people, and say he never thought of being their rescuer at all ? He likewise was generous to the conquered, for he maintained that the bull would have prevailed if the disadvantage of unequal ground had not helped to trip him up.

By taming the wild bull Ewan got over the ridicule attaching to the St Mungo Kil adventure, although, to speak truly, he saw nothing ridiculous about it, and was not ashamed to confess belief in ghosts and fear to meet them anywhere. In regard to strength, the pre-eminence of the biggest man in the Glen was admitted, and boasted ofbyallthe Glen people. But there were many young men from other parts present at the sale who wished to test him in athletic sports, and as the sale continued for two days, and the evenings were long, a competition between the Glen young men and the stranger young men was resolved upon. Now Ewan beat all at the caber and putting the stone, but a stranger was first at throwing the hammer, the elder's John coming second. A stranger was also first in the racing, Diarmad coming second. Duncan Ban, who looked on and felt vexed at the strangers being allowed to beat the Glen youths at anything, cried out when the leaping was going on, and three strangers were taking the lead—Pooh-pooh? these are only foolish things ; try the bodach, which was the test in the Feinne's day for youths who wished to be numbered among heroes.

The bodach was a slippery round stone that had to be lifted on a pedestal some three feet high. It was near the ruins of one of the round towers called "Castulan-nam-Fiann," or "Castles of the Feinne," and the saying was that in ancient times every young man who wished to be enrolled among the Feinne was first called upon to prove his strength by lifting the bodach. It was certainly a severe test, but knack helped strength, and the lithe man succeeded frequently where the heavy strong man failed. It is questionable whether Duncan Ban acted fairly towards the strangers, for he knew perfectly well that practice had made many among the Glen youths perfect in the art of raising the bodach with apparent ease. "But everything is fair in war," was Duncan Ban's maxim, when the credit of the Glen had to be fought for. The strangers accepted the challenge, and were hopelessly defeated. There was not one of them who succeeded that evening in lifting the bodach stone fairly from the ground, far less in placing it on its pedestal. Six of the Glen youths were put forward against the six strangers who had the courage to accept the test, and every Glen youth performed the feat with seeming ease. So the final victory remained with the Glen, and Duncan Ban was highly delighted.


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