thousand camels,—or as ‘the thirteen drifty days,’ in 1620, which killed nine-tenths of all the sheep in the South
On Eskdale Moor
, out of twenty thousand only forty-five were left alive, and the shepherds everywhere built up huge, semicircular walls of the dead creatures, to afford shelter to the living till the gale should end. But the most remarkable narrative of a snow-storm which I have ever seen was that written by James Hogg
, the Ettrick Shepherd
, in record of one which took place January 24, 1790.
at this time belonged to a sort of literary society of young shepherds, and had set out, the day previous, to walk twenty miles over the hills to the place of meeting; but so formidable was the look of the sky that he felt anxious for his sheep, and finally turned back again.
There was at that time only a slight fall of snow, in thin flakes which seemed uncertain whether to go up or down; the hills were covered with deep folds of frost-fog, and in the valleys the same fog seemed dark, dense, and as it were crushed together.
An old shepherd, predicting a storm, bade him watch for a sudden opening through this fog, and expect a wind from that quarter; yet when he saw such an opening suddenly forming at midnight (having then reached his own home), he thought it all a delusion, as the weather had grown milder and a thaw seemed setting in. He therefore went to bed, and felt no more anxiety for his sheep; yet he lay awake in spite of himself, and at two o'clock heard the storm begin.
It smote the house suddenly, like a great peal of thunder,—something utterly unlike any storm he had ever before heard.
On his rising and thrusting his bare arm through a hole in the roof, it seemed precisely as if he had thrust it into a snow-bank, so densely was the air filled with falling and driving particles.
He lay still for an hour, while the house rocked with the tempest, hoping it might prove only a hurricane; but as there was no abatement, he wakened his companion-shepherd, telling him ‘it was come on such a night or morning as never blew from the heavens.’
The other at once arose, and, opening the door of the shed where they slept, found a drift as high as the farm-house already heaped between them and its walls, a distance of only fourteen yards. He floundered through, Hogg
soon following, and, finding all the family up, they agreed that they must reach the sheep as soon as possible, especially eight hundred ewes that were in one lot together, at the farthest end of the farm.
So, after family-prayers and breakfast, four of them stuffed their pockets with bread and cheese, sewed their plaids about them, tied down their hats, and, taking each his staff, set out on their tremendous undertaking, two hours before day.
Day dawned before they got three hundred yards from the house.
They could not see each other, and kept together with the greatest difficulty.
They had to make paths with their staves, rolled themselves over drifts otherwise