impassable, and every three or four minutes had to hold their heads down between their knees to recover breath.
They went in single file, taking the lead by turns.
The master soon gave out, and was speechless and semi-conscious for more than an hour, though he afterwards recovered and held out with the rest.
Two of them lost their head-gear, and Hogg
himself fell over a high precipice; but they reached the flock at half-past 10. They found the ewes huddled together in a dense body, under ten feet of snow,—packed so closely, that, to the amazement of the shepherds, when they had extricated the first, the whole flock walked out one after another, in a body, through the hole.
How they got them home it is almost impossible to tell.
It was now noon, and they sometimes could see through the storm for twenty yards, but they had only one momentary glimpse of the hills through all that terrible day. Yet Hogg
persisted in going by himself afterwards to rescue some flocks of his own, barely escaping with life from the expedition; his eyes were sealed up with the storm, and he crossed a formidable torrent, without knowing it, on a wreath of snow.
Two of the others lost themselves in a deep valley, and would have perished but for being accidentally heard by a neighboring shepherd, who guided them home, where the women of the family had abandoned all hope of ever seeing them again.
The next day was clear, with a cold wind, and they set forth again at daybreak to seek the remainder of the flock.
The face of the country was perfectly transformed: not a hill was the same, not a brook or lake could be recognized.
Deep glens were filled in with snow, covering the very tops of the trees; and over a hundred acres of ground, under an average depth of six or eight feet, they were to look for four or five hundred sheep.
The attempt would have been hopeless but for a dog that accompanied them: seeing their perplexity, he began snuffing about, and presently scratched in the snow at a certain point, then looking round at his master.
Digging at this spot, they found a sheep beneath.
And so the dog led them all day, bounding eagerly from one place to another, much faster than they could dig the creatures out, so that he sometimes had twenty or thirty holes marked beforehand.
In this way, within a week, they got out every sheep on the farm except four, these last being buried under a mountain of snow fifty feet deep, on the top of which the dog had marked their places again and again.
In every case the sheep proved to be alive and warm, though half suffocated; on being taken out, they usually bounded away swiftly, and then fell helplessly in a few moments, overcome by the change of atmosphere; some then died almost instantly, and others were carried home and with difficulty preserved, only about sixty being lost in all. Marvellous to tell, the country-people unanimously agreed afterwards to refer the whole terrific storm to some secret incantations of poor Hogg
's literary society aforesaid;