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.
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
"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
“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."
This comment system requires
you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an
account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or
Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these
companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All
comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator
has approved your comment.