« ForrigeFortsett »
business then was to find out the pass they would use on their way back, and lie concealed. This was not difficult, as the barricaders in front would give me the signal. A very slight one might suffice, as I was also well acquainted with all the back passes.
I took my telescope in my hand; and was followed by a keeper, carrying my rifle. A circuit of a mile, to gain the wind, brought us to the far side of Crap-na-Gower. We were then about a quarter of a mile to leeward of the two poor goats, who were unsuspectingły munching their delicious repast of yew-twigs, in the full enjoyment of a midday sun. Our near approach was over a succession of rocks and knolls covered with heather, so long as nearly to reach the waist. We were constantly kept upon the alert, for this heather often concealed holes that it would have been no joke to have stumbled into; and were also annoyed by the sunk rocks, which are often covered as effectually by this long heather as by the waters of the deep.
Having gained the knoll, on the other side of which we hoped to find our victims, we held a consultation as to the point of attack. This arranged, we slunk very warily round the angle of the knoll, in case the goats had moved. It was well we were so cautious, for scarcely had we turned the peak, when the head and long horns of one of the hirci rose into view, not more than fifty yards off. He was rearing himself upon his hind legs to reach the branch of a yew-tree, which made the apparition of his head so sudden! I at once dropped into the long heather, and beckoned to the keeper for my rifle. When I crawled forward upon hands and knees, it was quite evident the poor creature had no idea of an enemy. He continued his
yew-cropping, occasionally scratching his shoulder with his long pointed horn, which seemed admirably adapted for the purpose. Sometimes he would rear himself upon his hind legs, to seize a twig just out of his reach when on all fours. I was quite amused at his dexterity, and the length of time he could remain in this erect posture.
All my endeavours to ascertain whether he was the ten or eight year old, were unavailing, and it was impossible to move further; as, in trying to get a sight of the other, I might probably scare both. From his position being rather above me, he looked very imposing, and I felt pretty sure he was the patriarch. Raising my rifle by inches, I fired. The ball struck him true in the centre of the shoulder; but, from his being above me, it took a slanting direction (as we afterwards found), and he did not drop. Up I started; and, at the same instant, the old goat bounded from the opposite side of the tree, and took the lead of his wounded companion. It was now apparent I had struck the junior. A severe race the keeper and I had to keep sight of him; but in vain. The last we saw of him was lagging far behind the other, his snow white shoulder bedabbled with blood. He soon after disappeared among the rugged ground, and was seen no more that day. The old chief, however, kept on at a swing gallop by himself. Knowing that our sentries would soon turn him, and that his .object would then be the rocks of Crap-naGower, we kept watching for the signal which was to make us aware of his course. It sounded; and was again at my post for a shot.
After waiting for half an hour, I saw the tips of his horns coming straight for my ambush, and making for the wilds of the island; which, if he gained, adieu to him for
that day. Before he quite came up, I raised myself and fired. He halted, and changed his course, but I was up to him. I knew that if I could, by taking a short cut, gain the pass where it entered Crap-na-Gower, I should be pretty sure of an excellent chance. Billy had a long circuit to make, and was, moreover, a good deal blown, so the odds were in my
favour. Throwing off my shooting jacket, waistcoat, and neckcloth, I rushed away at full speed, though in danger every moment of tumbling into one or other of the natural pitfalls, or of knocking my rifle to pieces against a rock. Panting and toiling under the burning sun, I at last arrived at the pass; and had scarcely five minutes to recover breath, when William, equally done up, appeared, thundering over the adjoining height. I was in no hurry this time, and allowed him to cross fair, and so present the full target of his side; as I well knew that nothing could keep him from the rocks but a rifle ball. Crack! The poor fellow gave a cry something between a bleat and a howl (it was far too human to be agreeable), walked on a hundred yards, and then stopped. It was plain his race was
I loaded as quickly as I could, to put him out of his misery; but, whenever I attempted to move, he braced himself up for a last struggle. With one desponding look at his own Crap-na-Gower, which he now despaired of reaching, and was never to see again, he turned his back upon it, and hobbled slowly to the shore. I did not press him. Poor fellow! I felt too much for him for that. Notwithstanding my “successful skill,” I was far enough from regarding him with "apathy." My great anxiety was to end his woes. I watched him to the shore, and then saw him wade out upon a rock surrounded by
water. Keeping out of his sight, I stalked him from behind a heathery bank, which ran parallel to the shore, till I got within thirty yards. When I peeped cautiously through the heather, he was standing with his side to me, and his head sunk down nearly to the rock, the very picture of meek despair! Resting my elbow upon the heather, to make sure, I aimed at his heart. He gave one brave bound from his rock to the shore, staggered, and fell quite dead upon the beach.
There were soon plenty of hands examining his wounds. We found the first ball had grazed his neck, although I ancied I had missed him altogether. It was a wonder to all of us how the second had not finished him, so fair was he struck. The third passed through his heart.
It was now agreed that we should separate, for a thorough search after the wounded goat. It proved unsuccessful, although we were assisted by half-a-dozen pair of active limbs and sharp eyes, the general birthright of Highlanders. The shades of evening drew on, and we were obliged to take to our boat.
What motive was it that made me decline a shooting party next morning, and determine upon a second excursion to the Lone Isle ? After the narrative of the preceding day, I have little right to expect belief, when I say it was compassion. I could not help thinking that the poor goat might be alive; and, if so, nothing awaited him but a lingering death of pain. Having quickly finished my breakfast, I was soon seated at the oar, with a sturdy partner, and pulling rapidly for the quiet strand.
The people of the island had been on the outlook; and,
about two hours before we came, had seen him slowly. limping up a hill. With my attendant behind me, I immediately walked off in the direction they pointed out. I had not long to look. Upon the pinnacle of the hill, which commanded a view all round, sat the poor goat, evidently in dread of a surprise like yesterday's. There was no possibility of stalking him, and the moment he saw me, he rose leisurely to his feet and descended the hill on the other side. He then sauntered to the rocks on the shore, being quite unable for the steeps of Crap-na-Gower. We followed to the beach ; but, upon getting there, he had hidden again.
After a search of many hours, my follower winded him. Upon looking cautiously all round, he detected him completely engulphed in heather, with rocks on each side, and only a small aperture by which he had entered this snug shelter. He had an instinctive knowledge the moment he was discovered; for he immediately rose and limped out of his retreat. The man hallooed to me, and I took my station upon a rock which commanded two passes, one of which he must cross, as he was unable to climb the high rocks. When he was within forty yards, I shouted to make him turn off the shore, and thus present a broadside. He only looked up languidly, and kept his course along the beach. He passed directly under me, at the distance of twenty yards, when I fired at the back of his neck, and hit him in the spine--of course his death was instantaneous.
Our boat was at the other side of the island, and we had no time to bring it round; so we could only leave him where he fell, and send early next morning to fetch him home. A light cobble and couple of gillies were along