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Raiderland, All about Grey Galloway
Chapter 27


CLASHDAAN

  CLASHDAAN lies immediately above Loch Dee, and forms the southernmost end of the wild Dungeon ridge which shuts in the country of the lochs. It should certainly be climbed, if not for the sake of "Mad Sir Uchtred of the Hills," at least for the sake of the magnificent view, and because it is the most thunder-battered of all the hills about, Craiglee, Craignaw, Curlywee, not even excepting the Dungeon itself. Any stray shepherd, if fairly spoken and with a little time on his hands, will show a traveller more of the effects of lightning on this single hill than an average geologist is apt to see in a lifetime.

  My friend, Mr. M'Millan of Glenhead,'was present with me at one such scene, which I have done my best to describe elsewhere. It will be many years before that deeply scored record is erased from the side of Clashdaan where it looks out upon Loch Dee.

  It is or the gipsy Harry Polwart, Hector Faa's lieutenant, that the record speaks.

  “He had his course accurately marked, and after passing Loch Dee he bore away up the side of Curleywee, the peewits scattering and whinnying before him. He followed a little stream which came down the mountain, dispersing its waters into sprays a dozen times, again collecting them apparently undiminished in volume, sending them to sleep in half-a-score of shallow lakelets and a deep unruffled tam. and finally in one great white spout of foam, dropping them into the valley far below.

  "Without a word spoken on either side, Joyce and her companion took this goat's track up the mountain-side. They were just on the border lands of Lamachan and Curleywee. Above them the blue thunderclouds streamed eastward at a uniform height along the side of the great precipitous ridge of Bennanbrack. Up, up they went, Joyce scarce wondering whither they were going, but blindly obeying, and in a certain sick and weary-hearted way glad to obey-to do anything, and to keep on doing it.

Thunder on Clashdaan.

  "Harry Polwart did not slacken his speed till the stagnant airs of the valley began to give place to an occasional puff of icy wind blown downwards from above He was marching right upward into the thunder-cloud Joyce felt more than once the sting of hail in her face. Suddenly a whitish-grey tongue of cloud came rushing towards them, at the sight of which the gipsy uttered a warning cry, and Joyce caught at a projecting comer of rock, which gave way under her hand.

  “In a moment the gipsy had sprung to her side, and pulled her down behind a huge boulder, which, after sliding so far, remained perilously poised on the mountain-side. He put his arm about Joyce and forced her into a crevice of the rock–standing in front of her as the threatening arm reached out as if to snatch them from their refuge. As it came nearer, Joyce saw a funnel-shaped cloud, with the point spinning like a top along the mountain-side. It rushed upon them. The next moment, with a tremendous explosion of sound and a blinding pale-violet light, the world seemed to end. and the heart of Joyce Faa gave a bound of thankfulness. God had surely heard her prayer. The end had come! The thunder-bolt had smitten them both!

 “But the next instant, against the rushing vapours of the cloud, Joyce saw the figure of Harry the gipsy stand out with a certain wild nobility. His hands were outstretched, and, as it were, striking palm-forward against some horror. The great boulder behind which they stood had disappeared in a wild debris of fragments, chips, and granite dust. The ground was torn up in all directions-here in great gashes, as if a gigantic ploughshare had passed that way; there, in a myriad of shallow tunnels, as purposeless and wandering as so many mole-runs.”

  More almost than any imagined character of whom I have written, the vision of Mad Sir Uchtred, the Persecutor, the Beast-Man, possessed me. The public apparently does not agree with me, placing him at the bottom of my list of yearly sales. Nevertheless, once on a day I sat on Clashdaan and shuddered when I thought of him, and I hope some will ascend Clashdaan for the sake of  “the Man Hunted with Dogs."

 The Man Hunted with Dogs.

  “The indigo night, winking with stars, bent over Clashdaan. Uchtred the Beast-Man went back to his lair in the Hass of the Wolfs Slock, dancing along the fretted pinnacles of the granite as a withered leaf dances in the veering flaw of November. His familiar followed after, trailing a limb. To see them against the sky was to believe in devils; and that is sound and wholesome doctrine.

  “The cave on Clashdaan was but a fox-earth between two stones; but it was overgrown with matted heather, and being set on a promontory it was a watch-tower looking three ways over the blue cauldron of the Dungeon of Buchan.!

  “Then the night came, a serene and austere coolness settled down on the hills. The world was full of sweet air to breathe. The bog-myrtle, which here men name ‘gall,' gave forth a rare smell. It was very silent on Clashdaan. The hills that shut it in on the north glowed darkest amethyst, and the lakelets and tams shone uncertainly in the hollows.

  1 “Mad Sir Uchtred," p. 126. (T. Fisher Unwin.)

 

  But on all the hills there was not a sound save of a stone that clattered down a slide of shale and slate.

  "When Uchtred awoke the morning was breaking in the east. The red bars of cloud glowed like a furnace grate. The crest of the Dungeon bristled black against the fire. There was no sound, save a burn soughing somewhere in the hollows of the hills. But above the birds cried in the dewy chill of the sun-rising. Sir Uchtred came to himself and looked about him…”


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