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.
"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
“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…”