The Terror had reigned already two months when, with the advent of the lambing-time, matters took a yet more serious aspect.
It was bad enough to lose one sheep, often the finest in the pack; but the hunting of a flock at a critical moment, which was incidental to the slaughter of the one, the scaring of these woolly mothers-about-to-be almost out of their fleeces, spelt for the small farmers something akin to ruin, for the bigger ones a loss hardly bearable.
Such a woful season had never been known; loud were the curses, deep the vows of revenge. Many a shepherd at that time patrolled all night through with his dogs, only to find in the morning that the Killer had slipped him and havocked in some secluded portion of his beat.
It was heartrending work; and all the more so in that, though his incrimination seemed as far off as ever, there was still the same positiveness as to the culprit's identity.
Long Kirby, indeed, greatly daring, went so far on one occasion as to say to the little man: "And d'yo' reck'n the Killer is a sheepdog, M'Adam?"
"I do," the little man replied with conviction.
"And that he'll spare his own sheep?"
"Then," said the smith with a nervous cackle, "it must lie between you and Tupper and Saunderson."