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shout from the interior of the wood showed us
we were right as Oldbuck, quoting Chaucer, a
sure sign of his being in the highest spirits,
made a plunge among the firs, and I followed

Here was the Briton's burying-placea low
mound, covered with scanty grass, and brown
fir needles, mid resinous scaly fir cones, and just
a violet or two. It had been nibbled away by
time, and rains, and heat, and the friction of
winds, and rabbits' feet, and foxes' scratching,
until it was a mere small wen of earth, half
hidden among the coppery fir-trees. Very many
centuries ago, that mound was soft fresh earth,
and warm tears fell fast upon its surface. You
have slept long enough, very Ancient Briton;
it is time for you to rise. It is a fine morning.
You will find the country improved. Steam, sir,
that wonderful invention, has revolutionised the
world. I will lend you Pinnock's Catechism, and
you shall read the History of the Norman
Conquest, my good man.

The two keepers, who look like the sextons in
Hamlet, are of a coppery, winter-apple colour,
and are of a strong build, well adapted for
grappling with poachers. They both wear brown
velveteen jackets, stained with hare's blood, and
smeared with fish slime, and their legs are cased
in hard leather gaiters that look like greaves of
rusty iron. To it they go, as if digging for
treasure, paring off the pads of turf, chopping at
the clawing roots of the firs, and picking out
the broken bones of mother earth, which men
call flints.

Oldbuck advised at once cutting to the centre
of the mound, on the Colt Hoare principle, in
order to reach the central burial-chamber, which
is generally found constructed of four square
stones. We opened, therefore, two trenches,
one in a perpendicular, and the other in a
horizontal direction, so as to meet in the centre.

Oldbuck took a shovel, I took a spade, and we
worked as well as the best; no navigators ever
earned their wages more satisfactorily than we
did. The elder keeper, with the white moth
trout-flies round his rusty hat, toiled after us in
vain. We soon came upon the remains of bodies:
at first merely small finger-bones, brown, and
not unlike the mouthpieces of pipes: then the
ends of ribs, protruding like roots from the slabs
of clay: then, empty boxes of skulls, men's and
women's: then puzzle-pieces of disjointed
vertebra. Oldbuck was in raptures.

Some bits of rude, black, unglazed pottery were
next thrown up, and the brown bones, piled up
at the foot of a fir-tree, began to grow into
a heap that, put together, would have been
sufficient to build up six or seven human beings.
But bronze spear-head, or brooch, or Celt axe,
we found not, much to Oldbuck's mortification.

I could not help thinking that as for the
glazed pottery it looked wonderfully like the
fragment of a modern Briton's black teapot;
but I dared not say so to Oldbuck, who was hanging
over it as Romeo might have done over
Juliet's glove. It was certainly the base of some
culinary vessel, rudely fashioned into a round
shape, and totally without ornamentnot even
that toothed edge, which so resembles the
decoration round the edge of a beef-steak pie, and
which the modern cook's knife so readily

As for the leg-bones which left moulds of
themselves in the clay they had so long been
imbedded in, they were sadly crumbly and
porous; white thread-like roots of bent grass had
crept into their sockets, and the blue poisonous
fibres of couch-grass had grown, through their
tubes, and matted round the caps of the thigh
bones. But the skulls, some male and some
female, sent Oldbuck into paroxysms of theories
and into prophetical utterances of new
ethnological systems.

They were unquestionably curious, and adapted
to set one thinking over the dwellers in the wattled
houses, and the blue-stained men who trod the
pleasant downs of Ramshire many centuries ago.
Oldbuck declared violently that they served to
establish ingenious Mr. Wright's theory about
the deformed skulls found at Uriconium, where
the Roman swords had operated upon them.

They were of a mean ape-like character, low,
flat, and with scarcely an inch of forehead,
though the bones over the eyes (where the
perceptive faculties are situated) were coarsely
prominent. They might have belonged to a sort
of aboriginal race, scarcely of greater mental
capacity than the Bushman, that had been
destroyed by the Celt. The bones of the male
skulls were of enormous thicknesstwice the
thickness of skulls of our own day; so thick
that a bronze axe could hardly have split them;
while the female skulls were thin as terra-cotta,
and fragile as delicate pie-crust. Oldbuck
suggested that the men, bareheaded, were out all
day in the fen and forest; while the women
remained in their huts, so that their bones remained
finer and softer. I reminded him of the old
story in Herodotus, of the battle-field, when it
was easy to tell the Persian's from the Egyptian's
skull, because the one which had always been
kept coddled in a turban was soft, and could be
cracked by a stone, while the other, which had
been ever exposed to the sun and wind, resisted
the utmost degree of violence. Oldbuck, kneading
some clay out of the cavity of a Briton's skull
with his finger and thumb, said the story was
"very well indeed," and he would make a note
of it for his paper on the subject of this barrow.

Some teeth that we found, set Oldbuck off
again. They were of a curious, low, animal
kind, very narrow and long, more like the front
incisor teeth of a beaver than a man's. They
had belonged to a young man in the age before
dentists; they were still covered with beautiful
white enamel, and their edges were not the least
wornjust a little deer's flesh the owner had
gnawed; then, the struggle of swords, the
blazing huts, the glare of the advancing eagle
darkness, and this long sleep under the mound.

All the while that we mused and ravelled out
our dim theories, the fir wood was pulsing with
the brooding motherly note of innumerable
wood-pigeons, the leaping squirrels eyed us

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