ALL Friday M’Adarn never left the kitchen. He sat opposite the Cup, in a coma, as it were; and Red Wull lay motionless at his feet.
Saturday came, and still the two never budged. Toward the evening the little man rose, all in a tremble, and took the Cup down from the mantelpiece; then he sat down again with it in his arms.
“Eh, Wullie, Wullie, is it a dream? Ha’ they took her fra us? Eh, but it’s you and I alane, lad.”
He hugged it to him, crying silently, and rocking to and I ro like a mother with a dying child. And Red Wull sat up on his haunches, and weaved from side to side in sympathy.
As the dark was falling, David looked in.
At the sound of the opening door the little man swung round noiselessly, the Cup nursed in his arms, and glared, sullen and suspicious, at the boy; yet seemed not to recognize him. In the half-light David could see the tears coursing down the little wizened face.
‘Pon ma life, he’s gaein’ daft!” was his comment as he turned away to Kenmuir. And again the mourners were left alone.
“A few hours noo, Wullie,” the little man wailed, “and she’ll be gane. We won her, Wullie, you and I, won her fair: she’s lit the hoose for us; she’s softened a’ for us–and God kens we needed it; she was the ae thing we had to look to and love. And noo they’re takin’ her awa’, and ’twill be night agin. We’ve cherished her, we’ve garnished her, we’ve loved her like oor am; and noo she maun gang to strangers who know her not.”
He rose to his feet, and the great dog rose with him. His voice heightened to a scream, and he swayed with the Cup in his arms till it seemed he must fall.
“Did they win her fair, Wullie? Na; they plotted, they conspired, they worked ilka am o’ them agin us, and they beat us. Ay, and noo they’re robbin’ us–robbin’ us! But they shallna ha’ her. Oor’s or naebody’s, Wullie! We’ll finish her sooner nor that.”
He banged the Cup down on the table and rushed madly out of the room, Red Wull at his heels. In a moment he came running back, brandishing a great axe about his head.
“Come on, Wullie!” he cried. “‘Scots wha hae’! Noo’s the day and noo’s the hour! Come on!”
On. the table before him, serene and beautiful, stood the target of his madness. The little man ran at it, swinging his murderous weapon like a flail.
“Oor’s or naebody’s Wulliel Come on.
‘Lay the proud usurpers low’!” He aimed a mighty buffet; and the Shepherds’ Trophy– the Shepherds’ Trophy which had won through the hardships of a hundred years–was almost gone. It seemed to quiver as the blow fell. But the cruel steel missed, and the axe-head sank into the wood, clean and deep, like a spade in snow.
Red Wull had leapt on to the table, and in his cavernous voice was grumbling a chorus to his master’s yells. The little man danced up and down, tugging and straining at the axe-handle,
“You and I, Wullie!”
‘Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty’s in every blow!’
The axe-head was as immoveable as the Muir Pike.
‘Let us do or die!’
The shaft snapped, and the little man tottered back. Red Wull jumped down from the table, and, in doing so, brushed against the Cup. It toppled over on to the floor, and rolled tinkling away in the dust. And the little man fled madly out of the house, still screaming his war-song.
When, late that night, M’Adam returned home, the Cup was gone. Down on his hands and knees he traced out its path, plain to see, where it had rolled along the dusty floor. Beyond that there was no sign.
At first he was too much overcome to speak. Then he raved round the room like a derelict ship, Red Wull following uneasily behind. He cursed; he blasphemed; he screamed and beat the walls with feverish hands. A stranger, passing, might well have thought this was a private Bedlam. At last, exhausted, he sat down and cried.
“It’s David, Wullie, ye may depend; David that’s robbed his father’s hoose. Oh, it’s a grand thing to ha’ a dutiful son!”–and he bowed his gray head in his hands.
David, indeed, it was. He had come back to the Grange during his father’s absence, and, taking the Cup from its grimy bed, had marched it away to its rightful home. For that evening at Kenmuir, James Moore had said to him:
“David, your father’s not sent the Cup. I shall come and fetch it to-morrow.” And David knew he meant it. Therefore, in order to save a collision between his father and his friend–a collision the issue of which he dared hardly contemplate, knowing, as he did, the unalterable determination of the one and the lunatic passion of the other–the boy had resolved to fetch the Cup himself, then and there, in the teeth, if needs be, of his father and the Tailless Tyke. And he had done it.
When he reached home that night he marched, contrary to his wont, straight into the kitchen.
There sat his father facing the door, awaiting him, his hands upon his knees. For once the little man was alone; and David, brave though he was, thanked heaven devoutly that Red Wull was elsewhere.
For a while father and son kept silence, watching one another like two fencers.
‘Twas you as took ma Cup?” asked the little man at last, leaning forward in his chair.
‘Twas me as took Mr. Moore’s Cup,” the boy replied. “I thowt yo’ mun ha’ done wi’ it–I found it all hashed upon the floor.”
“You took it–pit up to it, nae doot, by James Moore.”
David made a gesture of dissent.
“Ay, by James Moore,” his father continued. “He dursena come hissel’ for his ill-gotten spoils, so he sent the son to rob the father. The coward!”–his whole frame shook with passion. “I’d ha’ thocht James Moore’d ha’ bin man enough to come himself for what he wanted. I see noo I did him a wrang–I misjudged him. I kent him a heepocrite; am o’ yer unco gudes; a man as looks one thing, says anither, and does a third; and noo I ken he’s a coward. He’s fear’d o’ me, sic as I am, five foot twa in ma stockin’s.” He rose from his chair and drew himself up to his full
“Mr. Moore had nowt to do wi’ it,” David persisted.
“Ye’re lyin’. James Moore pit ye to it.”
“I tell yo’ he did not.”
“Ye’d ha’ bin willin’ enough wi’oot him, if ye’d thocht o’t, I grant ye. But ye’ve no the wits. All there is o’ ye has gane to mak’ yer rnuckle body. Hooiver, that’s no matter. I’ll settle wi’ James Moore anither time. I’ll settle wi’ you noo, David M’Adam.”
He paused, and looked the boy over from bead to foot.
So, ye’re not only an idler! a wastrel! a liar! “–he spat the words out. “Ye’re–God help ye–a thief!”
“I’m no thief!” the boy returned hotly. “I did but give to a mon what ma feyther– shame on hirn!–wrongfully kept from him.”
“Wrangfully?” cried the little man, advancing with burning face.
‘Twas honorably done, keepin’ what wasna your’n to keep! Holdin’ back his rights from a man! Ay, if ony one’s the thief, it’s not me: it’s you, I say, you! “–and he looked his father in the face with flashing eyes.
“I’m the thief, am I?” cried the other, incoherent with passion. “Though ye’re three times ma size, I’ll teach ma son to speak so to me.”
The old strap, now long disused, hung in the chimney corner. As he spoke the little man sprang back, ripped it from the wall, and, almost before David realized what he was at, had brought it down with a savage slash across his son’s shoulders; and as he smote he whistled a shrill, imperative note:
“Wullie, Wullie, to me!”
David felt the blow through his coat like a bar of hot iron laid across his back. His passion seethed within him; every vein throbbed; every nerve quivered. In a minute he would wipe out, once and for all, the score of years; for the moment, however, there was urgent business on hand. For outside he could hear the quick patter of feet hard-galloping, and the scurry of a huge creature racing madly to a call.
With a bound he sprang at the open door; and again the strap came lashing down, and a wild voice:
“Quick, Wullie! For God’s sake, quick!”
David slammed the door to. It shut with a rasping snap; and at the same moment a great body from without thundered against it with terrific violence, and a deep voice roared like the sea when thwarted of its prey.
“Too late, agin!” said David, breathing hard; and shot the bolt home with a clang. Then he turned on his father.
“Noo,” said he, “man to man!”
“Ay,” cried the other, “father to son!”
The little man half turned and leapt at the old musketoon hanging on the wall. He missed it, turned again, and struck with the strap full at the other’s face. David caught the falling arm at the wrist, hitting it aside with such tremendous force that the bone all but snapped. Then he smote his father a terrible blow on the chest, and the little man staggered back, gasping, into the corner; while the strap dropped from his numbed fingers.
Outside Red Wull whined and scratched; but the two men paid no heed.
David strode forward; there was murder in his face. The little man saw it: his time was come; but his bitterest foe never impugned Adam M’Adam’s courage.
He stood huddled in the corner, all dis-. hevelled, nursing one arm with the other, entirely unafraid.
“Mind, David,” he said, quite calm, “murder ’twill be, not manslaughter.”
“Murder ’twill be,” the boy answered, in thick, low voice, and was across the room.
Outside Red Wull banged and clawed high up on the door with impotent pats.
The little man suddenly slipped his hand in his pocket, pulled out something, and flung it. The missile pattered on his son’s face like a rain-drop on a charging bull, and David smiled as he came on. It dropped softly on the table at his side; he looked down and–it was the face of his mother which gazed up at him!
“Mither!” he sobbed, stopping short. “Mither! Ma God, ye saved him–and me!”
He stood there, utterly unhinged, shaking and whimpering.
It was some minutes before he pulled himself together; then he walked to the wall, took down a pair of shears, and seated himself at the table, still trembling. Near him lay the miniature, all torn and crumpled, and beside it the deep-buried axe-head.
He picked up the strap and began cutting it into little pieces.
“There! and there! and there!” he said with each snip. “An’ ye hit me agin there may be no mither to save ye.”
M’Adam stood huddling in the corner. He shook like an aspen leaf; his eyes blazed in his white face; and he still nursed one arm with the other.
“Honor yer father,” he quoted in small, low tone.