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How Childe Roland And Another Came To The Dark
Dickson woke with a vague sense of irritation. As his recollections took form they
produced a very unpleasant picture of Mr. John Heritage. The poet had loosened all his
placid idols, so that they shook and rattled in the niches where they had been erstwhile so
secure. Mr. McCunn had a mind of a singular candour, and was prepared most honestly at
all times to revise his views. But by this iconoclast he had been only irritated and in no
way convinced. "Sich poetry!" he muttered to himself as he shivered in his bath (a daily
cold tub instead of his customary hot one on Saturday night being part of the discipline of
his holiday). "And yon blethers about the working-man!" he ingeminated as he shaved.
He breakfasted alone, having outstripped even the fishermen, and as he ate he arrived at
conclusions. He had a great respect for youth, but a line must be drawn somewhere. "The
man's a child," he decided, "and not like to grow up. The way he's besotted on everything
daftlike, if it's only new. And he's no rightly young either--speaks like an auld dominie,
whiles. And he's rather impident," he concluded, with memories of "Dogson.".... He was
very clear that he never wanted to see him again; that was the reason of his early
breakfast. Having clarified his mind by definitions, Dickson felt comforted. He paid his
bill, took an affectionate farewell of the landlord, and at 7.30 precisely stepped out into
the gleaming morning.
It was such a day as only a Scots April can show. The cobbled streets of Kirkmichael still
shone with the night's rain, but the storm clouds had fled before a mild south wind, and
the whole circumference of the sky was a delicate translucent blue. Homely breakfast
smells came from the houses and delighted Mr. McCunn's nostrils; a squalling child was
a pleasant reminder of an awakening world, the urban counterpart to the morning song of
birds; even the sanitary cart seemed a picturesque vehicle. He bought his ration of buns
and ginger biscuits at a baker's shop whence various ragamuffin boys were preparing to
distribute the householders' bread, and took his way up the Gallows Hill to the Burgh
Muir almost with regret at leaving so pleasant a habitation.
A chronicle of ripe vintages must pass lightly over small beer. I will not dwell on his
leisurely progress in the bright weather, or on his luncheon in a coppice of young firs, or
on his thoughts which had returned to the idyllic. I take up the narrative at about three
o'clock in the afternoon, when he is revealed seated on a milestone examining his map.
For he had come, all unwitting, to a turning of the ways, and his choice is the cause of
this veracious history.
The place was high up on a bare moor, which showed a white lodge among pines, a white
cottage in a green nook by a burnside, and no other marks of human dwelling. To his left,
which was the east, the heather rose to a low ridge of hill, much scarred with peat-bogs,
behind which appeared the blue shoulder of a considerable mountain. Before him the
road was lost momentarily in the woods of a shooting-box, but reappeared at a great
distance climbing a swell of upland which seemed to be the glacis of a jumble of bold
summits. There was a pass there, the map told him, which led into Galloway. It was the
road he had meant to follow, but as he sat on the milestone his purpose wavered. For
there seemed greater attractions in the country which lay to the westward. Mr. McCunn,