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Raiderland, All about Grey Galloway
Chapter 21


THE RAIDERS' BRIDGE

  BUT I must not forget the Raiders' Bridge–the "Bridge of the Cattle," as I have heard it called. I have often been asked where it was, if it really existed, if the driving of the cattle happened thus and thus. Now, no criminal is bound to commit himself out of his own mouth, and I will only say that there can only be one true Raiders' Bridge–that across the Black Water a short half-mile south of the New Galloway Station–not, indeed, the modern bridge, but a much narrower one, the spring of whose arch can still be seen on both sides of the river, a few yards farther down. The road by which the cattle came, left the modem highway at Park Hill, and can still be followed quite easily over the Duchrae Moor–the tracing of it out making a very interesting variation to a trip upon the highway.

  Of the scene itself I will say nothing, save that I take the liberty of introducing it, that the story may be read on the spot.

  "For a few minutes this picture stood like a painted show, with the Dee Water running dark and cool beneath–a kind of Circe's Inferno where beasts are tortured for ever.

The Fight on the Bridge.

  "Two half-naked fiends ran alongside the column of cattle, carrying what was apparently a pot of blazing fire, which they threw in great ladlefuls on the backs of the packed beasts that stood frantically heaving their heads up to the sky. Then in a hides of the rough red Highland and black Galloway cattle. Desperate men sprang on their backs, yelling. Dogs drove them forward. With one wild, irresistible, universal rush the maddened column of beasts drave at the bridge, and swept us aside like chaff.

  "Never have I seen anything so passing strange and uncanny as this tide of wild things, frantic with pain and terror, whose billows surged irresistibly to the bridge-head. It was a dance of demons. Between me and the burning backs of the cattle there rose a gigantic Highlander with fiery eyes and matted front. On his back was a black devilkin that waved a torch with his hands, scattering contagious fire over the furious herd. The rush of the maddened beasts swept us off the bridge as chaff is driven before the wind. There was no question of standing. I shot off my pistols into the mass. I might as well have shot them into the Black Water. I declare some of the yelling devils were laughing as they rode, like fiends yammering and girning when hell wins a soul. It is hard to make anyone who did not see it, believe in what we saw that night. Indeed, in this warm and heartsome winter room, with the storm without, and the wife in bed crying at me to put by the writing and let her get to sleep, it is well-nigh impossible to believe that any of these things came to pass within the space of a few years. Yet so it was. I who write it down was there. These eyes saw the tossing, fiery waves of maddened creatures that ran forward seeking death to escape from torture, while the reek of their burning went up to heaven.

  “I looked again. Beneath at the ford I saw a thousand wild cattle with their thick hair blazing with fire, their tails in the air, tossing wide-arched horns. I saw the steam of their nostrils going up like smoke as they surged through the water, a hundred mad Faas and Marshalls on their backs yelling like fiends of the pit. In a score of pulse-beats there was not a beast that had not forced the bridge or crossed the ford. We who defended were broken and scattered; some of us swept down by the water, powder damp, guns trampled shapeless-dispirited, annihilated, we that had been so sure of victory."


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