186 TWO HIGHLAND DOGS
The men who had called to them were hastening to a given point, the dog, nose to ground, preceding them. There is no mistaking the air of a dog on business. The collie's intentness was as different from his late dejection as was the present haste of the men from the anxious watchful plodding of their long search.
In another moment they came in sight of something which made them hold back the dog, and which arrested their own footsteps. The Bishop himself must be the first to tread on what all felt was holy ground.
There, on the desolate hillside, lay the body of Father Mackonochie, wreathed about with the spotless snow, a peaceful expression on his face. One on either side sat the dogs, watching still, as they had watched through the two long nights of storm and darkness. Even the approach of friends did not tempt them to forsake their duty. With hungry, weary faces they looked towards the group which first came near them, but not till their own master knelt down beside all that remained of his old friend, did they yield up their trust, and rise, numbed and stiff, from the posts they had taken up, who knows how long before?
To say a few words of prayer and thanksgiving was the Bishop's first thought, his second to take from his pocket the sandwiches he carried, and to give all to Righ and Speireag.
A bier was contrived of sticks from a rough fence that marked the boundary of the deer-forest, and the body was lifted from the frozen ground on which it lay. The return to Kinloch, where the carriage waited, was very difficult, and the bearers had to change places very often.
Slow as was their progress, it was as rapid as Righ could manage, numbed with cold, and exhausted with hunger. The little dog was easily carried, and for once little Speireag was content to rest.
No one will ever know what those faithful dogs felt