178 TWO HIGHLAND DOGS
together of a sad true story that happened there in just such weather as this two hundred years ago.
These were very happy days for dogs, for they did not mind the cold, it was only an excuse for wild scampering and racing, and they were very grateful for their friend's return. He had been ill, but was able to enjoy his walks and though about sixty years of age he had all those qualities of youth which endear a man to a dog or a child. He was brave and unselfish, and strong to love and to endure, and they loved him without knowing why; without knowing that he had lost his health from overwork in the service of the poor and suffering, and among outcasts so low as to be beyond the sympathy of any heart less loving than that of a dog or of a very good man. ' Father' Mackonochie he was always called, and though he had never had wife or children of his own, many a fatherless child, and many a lonely grown-up man or woman, felt that it was quite easy and natural to call him by a name so sacred.
On the Wednesday after he came, he took Righ and Speireag for a glorious walk through the shrubberies and out through a gate on to the road at the foot of the hills behind, a road that winds on and on for many miles, the mountains rising steeply above, the lake being cold and grey below; the bank, that slopes away from the road to the water, in places covered with gorse and low bushes and heather, where an enterprising dog may hunt for rats and rabbits, or rush headlong after a pee-wit or moor-fowl as it rises with a scream at his approach and flutters off high into the air, and then descending to within a few feet of him, skims low before him, hopelessly far, yet tantalisingly near.
The way was familiar to them by land or by water. Often had they sailed up the loch in the same direction, further and further into the heart of the mountains, the valley becoming more and more narrow, the shores of the lake nearer and nearer to each other, till, had they