The Moon Endureth
V. Streams Of Water In The South
" As streams of water in the south, Our bondage, Lord, recall. -PSALM cxxvi. (Scots
It was at the ford of the Clachlands Water in a tempestuous August, that I, an idle boy,
first learned the hardships of the Lammas droving. The shepherd of the Redswirehead,
my very good friend, and his three shaggy dogs, were working for their lives in an angry
water. The path behind was thronged with scores of sheep bound for the Gledsmuir
market, and beyond it was possible to discern through the mist the few dripping dozen
which had made the passage. Between raged yards of brown foam coming down from
murky hills, and the air echoed with the yelp of dogs and the perplexed cursing of men.
Before I knew I was helping in the task, with water lipping round my waist and my arms
filled with a terrified sheep. It was no light task, for though the water was no more than
three feet deep it was swift and strong, and a kicking hogg is a sore burden. But this was
the only road; the stream might rise higher at any moment; and somehow or other those
bleating flocks had to be transferred to their fellows beyond. There were six men at the
labour, six men and myself and all were cross and wearied and heavy with water.
I made my passages side by side with my friend the shepherd, and thereby felt much
elated. This was a man who had dwelt all his days in the wilds and was familiar with
torrents as with his own doorstep. Now and then a swimming dog would bark feebly as
he was washed against us, and flatter his fool's heart that he was aiding the work. And so
we wrought on, till by midday I was dead-beat, and could scarce stagger through the surf,
while all the men had the same gasping faces. I saw the shepherd look with longing eye
up the long green valley, and mutter disconsolately in his beard.
"Is the water rising?" I asked.
"It's no rising," said he, " but I likena the look o' yon big black clud upon Cairncraw. I
doubt there's been a shoor up the muirs, and a shoor there means twae mair feet o' water
in the Clachlands. God help Sandy Jamieson's lambs, if there is."
"How many are left?" I asked.
"Three, fower,--no abune a score and a half," said he, running his eye over the lessened
flocks. "I maun try to tak twae at a time." So for ten minutes he struggled with a double
burden, and panted painfully at each return. Then with a sudden swift look up-stream he
broke off and stood up. "Get ower the water, every yin o' ye, and leave the sheep," he
said, and to my wonder every man of the five obeyed his word.
And then I saw the reason of his command, for with a sudden swift leap forward the
Clachlands rose, and flooded up to where I stood an instant before high and dry.