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met with such rough receptions from rams, shepherds, and dogs, that they had learned to keep themselves a good deal to themselves, much more than they had been wont to do ; but experience does make a few fools, here and there, the wiser for their education. As soon as it was seen that these Nestors of Nomansland were very wolves, there was a mustering and marshalling of the Highlanders, and every care taken to keep the weak to the wall; and while the sturdy fathers of the flock—six in number, but twelve in prowess—and their sons—nine fine young fellows, in the flush of their second summer—advanced to the front, the ewes formed a hollow triangle in the rear, with their little ones in the midst.— This admirable manoeuvre was made so rapidly, and with such precision, that Field-marshal the Duke of Limbs, (as the shepherds called him, he looked so like a ram on stilts,) who directed it, expressed his approbation afterwards in a short general order. Where, in what school, do birds and beasts learn their tactics of flight and self-defence, and who is their teacher ?—His name is Wonderfull As the ancient enemies to their race came nearer and nearer, and stood at last face to face—silly Sheep to wily Wolf—not farther apart than a wolf might leap easily, and a lamb get over at two bounds, there was a dead, dread silence, (like the hush of the English line of battle in the presence of the French, which is so shocking to that susceptible people,) unbroken even by the pretty bleating of a yeanling lamb in its playfulness. If a drop of dew had fallen it would have been heard, the silence was so intense. The Highland lads were cool enough to observe that, though old, these venerable visitors had lost none of their teeth, and but little of that gloating glare of the eyes which makes their gaze so terrible to the timid. Though modest, moderate, and amiable—for wolves —there was a certain something now not prepossessing in their looks. The opening lines of the poem led you to think you should not like the rest. Sheep are not great Lavaters in their way, but they were wise enough to know that these Wolves looked bland, but not benign—shy, but not sheepishly shy—calm, but not easyfriendly, but not to be trusted farther than a strong man can move a hill at once. They hung their heads a little down—a sign of slyness, though it might be a sign only of old age, a weakening spine, and musing habits of mind. They glanced, too, not boldly, but furtively, at the front rank of rams, steady in their strength. In short, to any other than these o savages, without guile themE. E. Z.
selves, and not suspecting it therefore where it is, they looked the very picture of three sad old scoundrels with wicked designs in their heads; and too well-spoken and civil by half—for Wolves |
The most dignified of the three, as a sign of amity, and to show that he contemplated no violence, none of the old leaping and tearing in the fold, laid himself down on the grass, quite at his ease, his companions doing likewise, and preserving this attitude of graceful repose, when their superior, slowly rising, advanced a little in front of the line of rams, as if to address them ; upon which there was a movement among them of one step to the rear, and then a halt, and eyes right as before.
And now, after a little phthisical coughing, the venerable stranger said, not in the sweetest tones certainly—shepherds' dogs would have been shocked to hear such barking—“Be under no apprehension, my good friends. You have nothing to fear from us!” He was assured by acclamation that Highlanders knew not fear, so he proceeded: “I come an ambassador from my tribe— of peace to you, of war only to the Lowlanders.” There was immediately vociferous bleating, which did not subside till he cried, “Hear me, for I will speak!” There was then a general call for silence, those who most demanded it and commanded it making the most noise, when he proceeded: “My people—I shall not be believed, it may be, when I say it—my people, of gentler natures than shepherds say they are, and more benevolent—my people have seen with sorrow, shaking their heads at it as sad to see, the perpetual petty war waging between the Highland and the Lowland races of sheep—a wasting war—a useless war—a war without the honours, though it has all the horrors of war—a war without end or aim, still beginning, and never ending. As a neutral nation between the high and low contending parties, it is a cause of continual disquiet to us, who love to live at peace.—Ay, I see how incredulously you hear me talk of peace ; but Wolves are not what they were: we are a changed people—and, let me say it, changed for the better—since a patriarch among our tribes, dying, prophesied that, if we quitted not our predatory habits, lived harmless lives, left
* Chasing the wild deer, and following the roe,"
and took to salad-eating, as of old, every man's hand would ultimately be against us, and our ancient race be utterly extinct and
extirpated from the face of the earth. It was time to look about us. We attended to his warning voice—for what the dying say is true—counselled together conservatively, eschewed venison, and took to a vegetable diet and temperate water from the brook, in lieu of heating, fever-breeding meats and drinks; and behold how well this abstinence agrees with us !” And here there was a buzz of something not unlike satisfaction: it might be to hear that wolves had eschewed meats, which included mutton, of course ; but there were no congratulations on this change—no one was glad to see them looking so well—not one among all his auditors cried, “Long live King Richard ' " The bad odour of Wolves was not to be so soon forgotten and forgiven, even by simple Sheep. He missed those encouraging signs that he was making an impression, for he had set this clap-trap for them : but no matter, a wolf can get on without them. He began again lamenting this little warfare, which resulted in nothing but the loss of a horn or two, and sometimes a hot-headed partizan or so, on either side. “It was only two days since,” he said, when he was set right by one of his companions—it was only yesterday: he said it made no difference, but it did, all the difference—a glorious good dinner yesterday, if they had had nothing worth mentioning to-day. “It was only yesterday,” he resumed, “that our troop were out early in the grey of the morning, foraging for a favourite food with us since we have taken to a vegetable diet solely—a sort of rock moss or lichen, which is very fattening and strengthening, and conducive to longevity—when we were, if not horror-struck, sorrow-struck, to see two fine, full-grown rams of the rival races locked horn and horn together, and dead, in a gap into which they had rolled over the rock in the death-struggle.” The Highlanders looked sadly in each other's faces, and hung their heads in sorrow. This accounted for the loss of one of their comrades—the bravest of the brave—who had died ungazetted; but he had fallen gloriously in a good cause, and had dealt destruction to one of the enemy, and therefore not long they mourned him. The Wolf waited awhile, and then continued: “The Lowlander was fat and fleshy : the Highlander in good condition—a nobler fellow never wore horns! Both were tender ”—here there was a starting and a startling movement among his auditory, which he saw, and said quickly, “—in years, I meant to say—too tender, too young to die!” He paused, and, casting his eyes upwards in good canting style, looked as much as he could like a wolf who would be very particular in paying such rites, and said, “We, mourning to see so sad a spectacle, as shocking to mortality, put them out of sight as soon as possible, and
* — painfully
He did not say of what sort; we could and if we would : but see
True to the old liking, not forgotten since yesterday, his companions licked their lips, and with longing, lingering looks fixed their watering eyes on two lambs—luncheons for two—who would come in front; and hoped they might never meet so sad a fate. The hypocrites 1
“This loss of valuable lives—this little war—these deaths in dribbling detail,” the grey Wolf continued, “must be brought to a conclusion in some way or other ; or you sheep, like us wolves, will hear the awful voice of a prophet among you, crying “Beware, the time is coming when every man's hand shall be against you, unless ye repent, and forsake the evil of your ways ' ' ' And here there was a strong sensation among these simple ones, much consternation, and strange looking into one another's faces, as who should say, “May not this be so? Speaks he not like a soothsayer ? or like a seer among our shepherds gifted with second sight?” When they turned to him again from communing together, he observed that they looked upon him with a more respectful reverence than sheep had ever shown to wolves before; he resumed accordingly :-‘‘There are but two ways to avert this dire calamity to the world—the extirpation of sheep as disturbers of the peace of society; for this land was not made for sheep alone, nor for wolves, who have been warned in good time to remember this, and make themselves agreeable to their fellow-mortals, and be at peace with them. There are two ways to bring this war between your races to a conclusion, and both are honourable. The one is a proposition, to be made by you, for a general peace—” He was silenced by a burst of bleating which seemed to shake the very hills in their seats, the purport of which was, when translated, “No, no ; we won't hear a word of peace; so don't mention it! War to the death with the Lowlanders . The Highlanders will never sue for peace | " and such like clamours. Poor ovine nature, like human nature, it is pride—still pride—evermore pride! When their clamorous bää-bääing was out of breath, and ceased, he finished his sentence : “ or a general war ! ” and the uproar now was deafening. It was some minutes before he could obtain a hearing to add, “Not a little war—a war of outposts —but a great and general war, which should bring these Lowlanders, numerous as they are, and insolent as they are, to beg for peace upon their bended knees' " And here there was another burst of bleating, accompanied by dancing and ungainly capering, as if the victory was already won, and they were wild with joy and exultation. “What a time this would have been for lamb,” whispered one of the weird Wolves to his companion, who was thinking so too, “if we had not forsworn flesh meats—for the nonce s” And, unobserved, again they licked their longing lips. When this cry before they were out of the wood was over, Hypocrite the First went on with his palavering, like one who meant, as we say, to go in and win. Not only lambs, but wolves looked up, and saw no end of good eating, like a lord-mayor on his induction. “You have had great provocations, I believe,” he said, “from this sleek, smug, snug, petty, pusillanimous race. Ah, you have endured more injuries from these Lowlanders than you are conscious or thoughtful of ! We have observed—you have not—that there never was an instance known of one of your race who went south ever returning—ever coming back again to his native wilds, to tell the tale of his travels | " They looked foolishly in each other's faces: it had never struck them: this was indeed the first time it had struck them, and it struck them dumb. “What becomes of them,” he continued, “it is not for me to say. But one of our tribe, caught when a little, heedless, foolish cub, and sold into captivity, travelled through their country in a cage, till he escaped and found his way back to the forest: he tells us, and I believe the words of his mouth, though travellers are said to see and say strange things, that he has not only seen several of our skins, which these barbarians set great store by,” and he seemed much affected for a moment, “but hundreds of the skins you wear, and which so well become you, carried out of the markets, a cartload at a time, with no móre life in them—no more flesh and blood and bone—than there is under the lichen on one of these rocks lying around us!” Here he was interrupted by irrepressible murmurs of horror; and a proper question to be put by the Duke of Limbs in his place—how did he know that they were Highland integuments? “By the wool—not to be mistaken,” he was