They had come to find him, these stern-faced, long, lean men, on account of “information received.” And they had found him. But they did not speak. They were Scotch. Nor did they screw out a smile among them. They were Jocks! They acted—being Highlanders.
Four hands like iron claws seized Pig Head, and tipped him on end, even as he had tipped the eagles. Two knives went “snick” as they opened, then “wheep-wheep” as they cut. Several pieces of cord and bits of sacking flew into the air. There was one colossal upheaval of wings, a feathered whirlwind hurling everybody every way—and the Chieftain and his son, released and scandalized, offended and enraged beyond the rage of kings, rose swiftly into the air with mighty, threshing strokes that simply hurled them aloft like powerful projectiles—into the heavens, as it were terrible avenging spirits of the tempest. A chaos, a rush, a mighty blast of air, and—they were gone!
Then the laird turned to Pig Head, and, “Mon, ye dinna ken th’ laird. If ye did—w-e-e-l, Ah’m thinkin’ ye’d understand.”
Between the clumps of the stunted acacias the sun beat down with the pitilessness of a battleship’s furnace, and it was not much better in the acacias themselves. Save for a lizard here and there, motionless as a bronze fibula, or a snake asleep with eyes wide open, or the flash of a “pinging” fly, all Nature seemed to have fled from that intolerable white-hot glare and gone to sleep.
But the hour of emancipation was at hand, and the dim caverns of shade—what there was of it—stirred strangely. A hundred yards away a blotch of shadow beneath a group of stunted trees swayed and broke up into several zebra moving off to water. Fifty yards distant the inky shade that carpeted the earth under a bare outcrop of rock gave up a single gnu antelope bull and a Grant’s gazelle whose lyrate horns were as wonderful as his consummate grace.
Thereafter came sound. Till then there had been only heat, the first hints at movement, and the terrifying silence of the wilderness. Even the birds had been dumb. Now came “a feathered denizen of the grove” with a peculiarly arresting, grating chatter, a noise no one could overlook, and few could help investigating. And finally, brazenly, impudently, excitedly flitting from branch to branch, the chatterer evolved slowly out of the ragged bush-choked landscape, a dusky little bird, seemingly a bird of no importance, scarce larger than a lark.
Putting personal appearance aside, however, this feathered one, who dared to shatter the slumber of the everlasting wilderness, seemed to be under the impression that he was of vast importance. Moreover, his business appeared to be pressing and urgent, so that he could neither brook delay nor take “No” for an answer. It was as though he was under a desperate need to take you somewhere or show you something, and YOU must follow him—must; there was nothing else for it.