Page:Traditional Tales of the English and Scottish Peasantry - 1887.djvu/180
176 TRADITIONAL TALES.
tar and tainted mutton is diminished since his departure.' This was touching on a perilous theme the old feud which exists between the pastoral and agricultural districts. ' I would advise ye lads,' said a youth of moorland descent, 1 to eat well of wether mutton and moorcocks afore ye speak lightly of aught that's bred among mosses ; ye may need all your strength to maintain unguarded words. Lord, if my cousin of Blackhagg were here, he would make ye eat your own words, though every one were as ill to swallow as a pound of hiplock wool.' The incensed tiller of the holms of Ae started to his feet, his utterance nearly choked with rage : ' Rise, ye moorland coof, ye two-footed tender of four- footed brutes, lacking as much in sense as ye lack in number of limbs; rise this precious moment, else I'll give ye the blow where ye sit.' The man of the moors was not slow in attempting to rise ; the brawny arm of a brother shepherd, which clutched his gorget with a grasp equal to the tethering of a bull, alone retarded his rising. ' Let him alone, I say, Sandie ; just let him alone,' said the shepherd; 'be civil at a douce man's hearth before his weelfaured daughter : ye ken the auld say, "Be the saint in the hall, and the devil on the greensward " meaning, nae doubt, that we should carry our mischief out of doors. I'll stretch him as straight as one of his own furrows before an hour blow by, and on the same place too, the lily lea.' The wrath of the husband- man was turned on this doughty auxiliary, and, having a divided aim, it burnt fiercely between them, without harm- ing either. Meantime, other tongues took part in the commotion : parochial nicknames, and family failings, and personal defects were bandied from side to side, with all the keenness of rustic wit and the malice of rivalry ; while, on the whole, the maiden sat and looked as one would on a fire burning too fiercely to be quenched.
It was not my wish to distinguish myself in this strife of tongues, and therefore I sat still, maintaining an expression of face which I hoped would carry me quietly through this stormy tide of contention. I was only deceiving myself.
" 'And ye'll sit mute and motionless there, and hear the bonnie green hills of Annandale turned, by the malice of man's wit, into moudie-tammocks,' said a shepherd to me ; ' up and speak, for I have spoken till I'm as hoarse as a raven ; or rise and fight ; if ye have not a tongue in your head, ye may have a soul in your body.'