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THE PEAT-FIRE FLAME
the shieling a woman, on whom they had no acquahitance.
She professed weariness of body and mind, and asked a
night's hospitality. There seemed nothing unusual about
her mein, since she was clad in the customary dress of the
Lewis peasant woman, and spoke with such intimacy of the
neighbouring countryside that the two Maries saw no reason
to deny her the traditional hospitality of the Isles.
Now, as a rule, tw^o-thirds of the interior of a shieling are
occupied by a bed, which generally consists of a shake-down
of straw or of heather. After a simple repast, the Maries
and their guest retired for the night. At dawn of day,
however. Dark Mary awoke with a fright, and felt a warm
trickle by her side. Up she leapt in great horror to discover
the guest gone, and a stream of blood flowing from the
breast of her cousin, who now was dead.
On forcing open the rude doorway of the shieling, she
noticed a horse trotting away and away toward the greying
of the day. No explanation seemed necessary now. The
horse was nothing more or less than the dreaded cach-iiisge,
or water-horse, to which she and her dead cousin. Fair
Mary, had unwittingly offered hospitality the previous
evening, believing her to have been a woman, footsore, and
genuinely seeking a night's portion.
The corpse of the water-horse's victim, they say in Lewis,
was interred on the slope to the east of this shieling of
unhappy memory, the tumble-down shell of which is still
to be seen. Never since has this shieling been occupied.
Hence the ominous name by which it is known to this day —
Shieling of the One Night.
The White Horse of Spey.
Perhaps the most fitful and unreliable of all our Scottish
rivers is the Spey. Its floods and spates are proverbial ;
and historical records of the destruction they have wrought
to life and property show that there is a touch of modesty
in the old saying that computes the Spey's demand at one
life a year. In this respect, however, the Spey is regarded
as being less rapacious than the Dee —
" Ravenous Dee
Yearly takes three ! "
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