How Geordie’s herding days came to an end.
It was a lovely autumn evening. The valley of Kirklands lay flooded in the sunset glow. Its yellowing fields were tinged with warm-crimson and purple, and the golden light shimmered on the trees and fringed the dark fir tops. Never had her home looked more beautiful, Grace thought, when, at last, the brother and sister turned to go indoors, after their earnest talk. She stood leaning on the old carved railing of the steps, taking one more glance at the peaceful scene before she followed Walter into the darkening entrance-hall, when her eye caught sight of a stumpy figure which she thought she recognised.
It was little Jean Baxter, who hurried along the elm avenue as fast as her short legs could carry her. She looked breathless and excited, and when she came nearer Grace saw that she was tearful and dishevelled. She hastened down the steps to meet her, wondering what childish grief could be agitating the mind of the usually imperturbable little Jean. When she caught eight of Grace, she threw up her arms with a loud, bitter wail that rang among the old elms, echoing through their arching branches, and startling the birds that had just gone to roost. “Oh, Miss Cam’ell! Geordie, Geordie!—he’s hurt; he’s dyin’; Blackie’s gotten hold o’ him.”
It was vain to ask anything more. Jean could only repeat her wailing refrain, so taking the child’s hand, Grace quietly asked her to lead the way to where Geordie was, trying to quiet her bitter weeping by such soothing words as she could muster in the midst of her own distress at the possibility of any serious accident having happened to her favourite scholar. But poor little Jean’s sad monotone still rang mournfully through the soft evening air as she trotted along by Grace’s side—“Geordie’s dyin’; Blackie’s got hold o’ him.”
Grace, however, managed to learn from a few incoherent words that the boy was lying, in whatever state he might be, at the river side, near the stepping-stones. He had, that afternoon, taken the cattle, along with the dangerous bull, to the heathery knolls, where Gowrie’s careful soul grudged that any morsel of pasture should remain unused. Geordie had always been most careful in warning unwary passers-by of their danger, for, though fearless enough himself, he still held that Blackie was the “ill-natertest bull in all the country-side,” and never felt easy in his mind