184 TWO HIGHLAND BOGS
the Bishop himself choosing that which his friend and his dogs were known to have taken the day before.
A whole day of search over miles and miles of the desolate wintry mountains revealed but one fact, that the party had eaten their luncheon under a tree in the wood, beyond the bridge. The squirrels had left the sandwich paper there to tell the tale, and for the first time it seemed likely that they had not turned homewards on reaching the head of the lake, either by the same road they had come, or by that on the other side of the water and through Glencoe.
One by one, the search parties came home with no tidings. No trace of the wanderers had been seen, no bark of dogs had been heard, no help had been found towards the discovery of the sad secret. Weary and heartsick as all felt, no time was to be lost, every hour made the anxiety greater, and all were ready in a very short time to start afresh.
Again, for the second time, all through the long night they wandered over the mountains, through the wood, and across the deer-forest beyond. It was an awful night. Again and again were their lights blown out; the snow lay deep in all the hollows; where the streams had overflowed their banks, the path was a sheet of solid ice; the rocks, polished and slippery, were climbed with utmost difficulty. At every opening in the hills an ice-cold wind whirled down glen and corrie, sleet and hailstones beat against their faces, the frozen pools in the marshes gave way beneath their feet. The night was absolutely dark, not a star shone out to give them courage. The silence and the sounds were alike awful. Sometimes they could hear each other's laboured breathing as they tottered on the ice or waded through the snow, sometimes all other sounds were lost in the shrieking of the whirlwinds, the crackling of the ice, and the roaring of the swollen, angry streams.