"You! what? Why, didn't Uncle Brues—you're never going to beard the lion in his den."
"That is just what I intend," Fred answered, smiling.
"But—oh, you know I'd like it—but you will be insulted. It will be horrid. There will be a row, sure as anything. I can't bear to think of what he may say; and, being an old man, you won't like to answer back, and—you have no idea what bitter words Uncle Brues says when he is angry."
Yaspard's eyes filled with tears, and he hung his head for shame, as he pictured to himself the reception which that gracious, gallant young knight was likely to receive in Boden.
"Don't fear!" said Harry Mitchell, laying a hand on the boy's shoulder. "Our captain has a way of his own of turning thunder-clouds into sunshine."
"He has a temper, and he likes to be monarch of all he surveys," added Tom; "but he is the finest fellow out; and he will tackle old Adiesen—beg pardon, the Laird of Boden—in just the properest way. You needn't be afraid to give Fred a passage in your boat."
"And Gloy, please, sir," added the Harrisons.
"I am at Mr. Garson's service," said Yaspard. Then a brilliant idea came into his head, dispelling in a moment all his doubts and fears. "I'll tell you what," he cried, "you shall meet my little sister first, and she shall take you to Uncle Brues. He will do anything for her. She is always there when my boat is coming in, and we'll hand you over to Signy. That's the ticket!"
"Sisters are towers of strength, arks of refuge in a storm," said Fred.
"Well, that's settled," remarked Tom, "so the best you can do is to be off as quickly as possible and get it over. We will go and lay our lines at the Ootskerries, and have some sport till you return. When will that be?"
"Don't wait for us," said Fred. "I may be detained, and your mothers might be anxious. When you've hauled your lines just go home, and I'll trust to being safely despatched to Lunda from Boden."
The Mitchells and Tom got into the Laulie, and were soon sailing to their favourite fishing-ground, while the others embarked in the Osprey and made tacks for Boden voe.
"MAY THE GODS GIVE US TWAIN A GOOD DAY."
When they arrived there it was as Yaspard had said. Signy was on the beach waiting for her brother, and great was her surprise to see Fred in the Osprey.
But when her brother explained, and told her of the part they expected her to play, the little girl's heart began to beat with the wildest hopes and fears that ever stirred in one so young.
The shadow of that terrible family feud had early fallen on her gentle spirit, and the vivid imagination which made her almost realise many merely ideal fancies had exaggerated that inherited enmity into something too dreadful to put into words. Such thoughts had been fostered, of course, by the inconsiderate way in which Mr. Adiesen had spoken and acted, never thinking, as he ought to have done, of the tender years of one who marked his words—never caring that his sentiments were the reverse of Christian. I think he rather "prided himself" upon the feud as a thing pertaining to his family tree, and to be cherished along with the motto on his crest! No one had dared to tell the Laird of Boden plainly that he was acting as no civilised—far less God-fearing—man should act, and he had never taken himself to task upon the subject. Consequently he had put no restraint on his speech, nor cared who heard him, when denouncing the Lairds of Lunda and all pertaining to them!
Signy would, of her own free will, as soon have put her hand into a red-hot fire as have asked Uncle Brues to receive Fred Garson in a hospitable manner; but she was made of fine metal, and would carry out Yaspard's wishes, although all the thunders of Thor and Odin were ready to burst on her little head.
She put her hand frankly into that of Fred and walked up to the house, soon followed by Yaspard, who had only lingered a moment to give some instructions to the Harrisons before they left, with Gloy, for their home.
When Moolapund was reached Yaspard said to Signy, "Take Mr. Garson to the parlour, and I will go and tell Aunt Osla he is here."
The parlour, you may remember, was being used as a study while the Den was undergoing renovation; and Mr. Adiesen was sitting at a table examining some pieces of rock which greatly delighted him, for he was saying to himself, in tones of extreme satisfaction, "I knew it! I was convinced of it! I always believed it was to be found in those islands! and I am the discoverer!"
"Uncle!" said the soft little voice, and the scientist turned round to face his hereditary foe!
He had never seen Fred, but some striking traits peculiar to his race, made it easy for Mr. Adiesen to recognise a Garson in the bold youth who stood there smiling and holding out the hand of good-fellowship.
The old man was completely taken aback. The instinct of hospitality, which is held like a sacred thing among Shetlanders, bade him receive with a measure of courtesy whoever chanced to come under his "rooftree," but another instinct, as deeply rooted, and more ready to exhibit itself, was also moving within him.
Fortunately no time was given him to choose between two courses. Signy caught his hand between her own, kissed it with quick fervency, and laid it in that of Fred, saying as she did so, "Dear Uncle Brues, for my sake, for your own little Signy's sake."
They did not give him a single moment to recover himself—not a single demon of hatred, jealousy, or pride got a chance to reassert its power in time to prevent that hand-clasp; and before he could speak either, the ground was half cut from under him!
As if they had been meeting every day, and were old friends, Fred said, as their hands met, "How do you do? I see you have triumphed where even the famous geologist Congreve failed. We have chipped the rocks for years, and Mr. Congreve has searched high and low, in Lunda and Burra Isle, in every skerry and locality where that" (pointing to the beautifully veined bits of mineral) "ought to be found, but without success. Allow me to congratulate you on such a discovery. You are to be envied, Mr. Adiesen. May I take a near view of your specimens?"
How it came about no one could ever tell, but a few minutes later Yaspard and Aunt Osla, coming in much trepidation to the parlour, found Fred and Mr. Adiesen in amicable conversation over the stones, while Signy stood between her uncle's knees, with his arm around her, and his fingers lovingly twined among her bright curls!
Aunt Osla was nervous and tearful, and would have made a scene, no doubt, but for Fred's admirable tact. He addressed her, as he had done the Laird, just as if they were ordinary acquaintances meeting in the most matter-of-fact, every-day kind of manner. Wrath and sentiment alike collapsed before such commonplace salutations, and both Mr. Adiesen and his sister felt they would only make themselves ridiculous if they met young Garson's simple civility with any expression of deeper feelings.
So the conversation glided smoothly into the well-worn and useful channels of ordinary talk about the weather, and the crops, and the fishing, and "the South," until Miss Adiesen was at her ease enough to say, "I hope your dear mother is well?"
"She is regaining strength and a degree of cheerfulness, thank you," said Fred; and then quite naturally, as if he knew he were talking on a subject interesting to his hearers, he went on to speak of the trial they had passed through in the loss of his father; and when he had said just enough about that he quietly glided into Mr. Adiesen's favourite themes, surprising the old gentleman considerably by his knowledge of natural science and his intelligent appreciation of the scientist himself!
Yaspard sat near, a delighted listener, while Fred, using his utmost powers of fascination, talked Uncle Brues into good humour, and so paved the way to an amicable adjustment of some of the differences between the rival Lairds.
It was not till tea had been served, and the day was far spent, that Fred asked the loan of a boat, and his young friend Yaspard's crew, to take him back to Lunda. Permission was given, of course; and when our Viking-boy went off to get the Osprey ready Signy went too, and Aunt Osla disappeared to indite a letter to her old friend, Fred's mother. Thus the two men were left alone, which was exactly what Fred desired, and he was not long in taking advantage of an opportunity he had been devoutly desiring would come.
"What a fine lad that is!" he said, speaking of Yaspard. "He is quite the ideal Hialtlander!"
"He is rather too fond of romance and the like," answered the old man; but he smiled, for he was fond of his nephew, and liked to hear him praised.
"Yes, I think with you that there is an excess of romantic sentiment in his character; and that kind of thing is apt to become exaggerated into eccentricity or foolishness. I suppose he can't help it, living so much within himself, as it were."
"Possibly—that is—so!" Mr. Adiesen replied slowly.
"I hope," Fred resumed, and he smiled very pleasantly, "that this Viking fancy he has taken up may be of service to him in bringing him into contact with boys of his own age and rank. The young Mitchells are capital fellows, and you know better than most folk what sort of companions he is likely to find in Dr. Holtum's family."
"The Doctor is a man in a thousand. He did me a service I am not likely to forget on this side the grave. I don't see him as often as—might be under different circumstances. But I respect him. Yes, young man, I respect Dr. Holtum!" And the frown which had gathered on the old man's brow at mention of the Mitchells cleared up more rapidly than Fred had dared to hope for.
"I don't know how we should get along without Dr. Holtum—we young ones, I mean," he remarked. "He enters so much into all our fun, and then he is so very clever too, a first-rate scientist. They have a 'menagerie,' as large and interesting as your own, at Collaster. And the twins—they are a little older than your lovely little niece, but she would find them companionable, for she is older than her years, I think. I suppose it will be with her as it is with Yaspard in some respects?"
"Signy is quite contented without girls' society, and she can never become either eccentric or foolish," Mr. Adiesen said hurriedly; but all the same he suddenly had a vision of his pet growing up to be peculiar, and an old maid perhaps resembling Aunt Osla, or some other of the many spinster ladies whose insular life had doomed them to that fate.
"My sister Isobel and I," said Fred, "always feel that we are more fortunate than the greater number of Lairds' families in having so many companions in our island. It has been desperately good for me, I know, to have such clever chaps as Eric Mitchell and Svein Holtum for my chums."
"And your sister? Dr. Holtum's girls are younger?"
"Yes, and Isobel suffers in consequence. We all make a great fuss over Isobel, and she thinks a little too much of her own consequence. But still she has advantages—from the society of ladies, for instance—which your Signy cannot have."
The entrance of Signy herself put a stop to the conversation, but Fred was satisfied that he had sown good seed which would produce the right kind of fruit by-and-by. When he left Boden his heart was light within him. He took Mr. Adiesen's insolent note from his pocket and tore it to bits, scattering them on the sea, and saying within himself, "A soft answer turneth away wrath;" then to Yaspard he said, "Now, Sir Viking, for your letter. You want the answer, don't you?"
"FAIR FELLOW DEEM I THE DARK-WINGED RAVEN."
Yaspard and Fred were alone in the boat. There was a pleasant breeze blowing fair, and Yaspard had preferred taking his passenger himself, leaving the Harrisons to entertain Gloy at Noostigard. Thus the conversation between the two could be as confidential as they pleased.
"I wonder," said Fred, "if you know that it was your letter that brought me to Boden?"
The Viking opened his eyes very wide. Evidently he knew nothing of the sort, and Fred laughed as he glanced over the sheet of paper which had come out of his pocket with that other letter.
"I don't believe you have the least idea how good a letter it is. My mother cried over it, and Isobel declared the writer ought to be crowned king of every 'vik' in Shetland."
"Oh, come!" Yaspard exclaimed, blushing hotly at his own praises so sung.
We will take the liberty of looking over Fred Garson's shoulder, and reading that epistle which had done so much good.
"DEAR MR. GARSON,—My uncle has directed that the enclosed letter shall be sent to you, so I must put it with this. It is none of my business to judge him, and I am sure you will not forget that he is an old man, and has been bred up with a lot of old-fangled fads, and lives a very solitary kind of life. I want you to know that I have begun a kind of game which I expect will give me a chance of meeting some of your Lunda fellows. I would take it as a great honour if you would keep an eye upon us in this matter, and umpire us when we get anyhow mixed about the rights of the game. I hope to find the Manse boys at Havnholme, and will tell them, so that they can explain to you. I am going to pretend to be a Viking, and make raids. But I'd like you to know something more about it than the mere play and nonsense.
"I just hate that horrid, miserable quarrel, which uncle speaks about as The Feud; it seems such a stupid, cruel sort of thing. Poor Aunt Osla cries about it, and my little sister and I are sometimes so unhappy over it that we vow we shall make an end of it when we are grown up. It is so awfully hard to think that there are so many boys and girls like us growing up in Lunda, and we can't know them because of the Feud. The truth is, I have not patience to wait till I am grown up. It will be too late then, for I shall have lost my boy-friends while I was a boy. Now, I hope you will understand that my Viking exploits have got a really good kind of idea at the bottom of them; so if you hear of fights, and forays, and the like, you will know that I am trying in that way to 'settle' this hideous old vampire of a fend. It's the only way I could think of while Uncle Brues feels as he does.
"I know you are a right good fellow, as your father was, and you will help me. I do need a good fellow's help, and you can't think how my heart seems sometimes like to burst with longing to be with other boys and like other boys. People talk of your minister, how good he is; and of Mrs. Mitchell, and that splendid boy Frank who died. And I hear of all you do for the poor people, and about the Lady. Aunt Osla has a heap to tell about her. I think I would not be so selfish and so foolish as I am if I could talk to some of you Lunda folk, and see how you live. But I must obey Uncle Brues, and I must not annoy him; so it's hard to see how I can clear up matters unless I go on the 'war-path,' and you help me to manage our 'sham' so that it does not harm anybody. Trusting you, I am your honest admirer and hereditary foe,
"P.S.—Please, dear Mr. Garson, forgive Uncle Brues, and pray, as I do, that somebody may persuade him how silly and really sinful a feud can be."
"Yes, it's a prime letter," remarked Fred; "and nothing but that letter (particularly the postscript) would have made me pass over—— Bah! what is the use of thinking more about it."
But even then his face flushed, and his naturally imperious temper rose, as he recalled the rude, angry words which Mr. Adiesen had written. There was a short silence, which Yaspard was the first to break, "You have made a lot of people happy to-day, Mr. Garson," he said very gratefully.
"I hope this is only the beginning of good times for us all," was the answer. "But now, I wonder what is going to be your next adventure?"
"I expect they'll grow one out of another. By the way, what shall we do about Gloy?"
"He isn't your prisoner now, but your guest, so you must let him return when he pleases. No doubt the Mitchells will have some plan in head for making capital out of Gloy's presence in Boden."
They chatted in the most friendly manner till they reached Lunda, when they parted with mutual regret and many assurances that they should meet again at no very distant time.
The wind was even more favourable for the voyage back, and Yaspard's little boat went swiftly and easily along. He leaned back and let her go, while giving himself up to ecstatic dreams of adventure in which his new acquaintance played the important part. He had adopted Fred Garson for his hero, and was already setting him in the chief place in every airy castle of his imagination; but fancy's flight was interrupted by flight of another kind. As he lay back, gazing more into the air than on the course before him, his attention was drawn to a party of shooies (Arctic skuas) badgering a raven, who was greatly annoyed, and seemed at a sore disadvantage—a position which the lordly bird seldom allows himself to be in.
These shooies live chiefly by preying on other birds. They are winged parasites; they are very audacious, and fear no foe. Although they are not larger than a pigeon, they are not afraid to lay siege to an erne or a glaucus gull, and they will often do so as much for amusement as for gain.
"Mr. Corbie is in a fix," quoth Yaspard to himself, as he watched the swift, graceful evolutions of the shooies as they darted through the air buffeting and tormenting the unfortunate raven, whose harsh, fierce croak and futile efforts to escape were quite pitiful though amusing.
"If he doesn't gain land somehow he's done for, poor wretch: he is tired now, and can't keep on wing much longer; if he touches the water it's all up with him. Poor old corbie! they must have been after him a long time." Thus our Viking soliloquised, as his boat glided on until it was passing below the aerial battlefield.
At that moment Sir Raven, uttering a loud and prolonged scream, shot downward and alighted on the thwart next Yaspard, too exhausted to do more than utter one faint croak, which might have been a parting anathema on the shooies, but which charity impels me to believe was an expression of thankfulness for such an ark of refuge as the boat of a Viking.
Yaspard leaned quickly forward, exclaiming, "Why, can it be? Yes, sure enough—Thor, old fellow, how came you to be in such a plight?"
Still gasping, but self-possessed, Thor hopped from the thwart on to Yaspard's arm, and then, turning up one side of his head, he leered at the shooies in such an expressive and ludicrous manner that the boy went into fits of laughter, even though one of the shooies swooped so near in its baffled anger as to touch his hair.
Thor snuggled up to his master, and began to smooth his ruffled plumes a bit, while Yaspard, tossing his hand about, so frightened the winged banditti that they flew away, and Thor was satisfied.
It was only when this interesting episode was over that our young rover allowed his vision to return to the homeward course; but when his glance fell upon the sea ahead he saw a sight to rejoice the spirit of a Viking. Near the mouth of Boden voe, straight before him, keeping watch for him, lay the Laulie, her blue flag with its golden star flying merrily at the mast-head, her white sail spread, her jolly crew all alert and "on the war-path."
She was cruising about the entrance to the fiord, with the obvious intention of preventing the Osprey from reaching her own lawful domain.
Up Yaspard sprung, and keenly surveyed the enemy's position and his own, calculating his "chances" with as much anxiety as if life and honour were at stake. He did not dream of turning aside, or trying to reach any harbour of refuge save his own voe; but he knew that to pass the Laulie in safety would require considerable manoeuvring and daring seamanship.
With utmost pleasure, and
"The stern joy that warriors feel In foemen worthy of their steel,"
he drew from the locker his black Viking flag and ran it aloft, smiling as the ugly thing spread itself in the breeze.
Thor watched this performance with profound gravity and attention; and when Yaspard resumed his position Sir Raven solemnly hopped away and took up a position on the bow, with his weather-eye sagaciously fixed upon the black flag high overhead. He had so lately suffered so much from dark-hued things flying above him that he was suspicious of that pennon's intentions, and felt it necessary to observe its movements with the closest heedfulness.
Yaspard, however, put another construction on the bird's behaviour. "You're a genuine old brick!" he said; "a real Viking's raven, and no mistake, Thor. Now I call that very fine of you, to take your proper place on my prow. They'll think I've trained you to it. What prime fun this is, to be sure!"
Thor lifted his shoulders, bent forward his head, and croaked as dismally as ever his congeners croaked over a field of the slain in days gone by; and Yaspard nodded to him, then gave entire attention to the management of his boat.
"ENOUGH AND TO SPARE OF BALE IS IN THY SPEECH."
We may be sure that the Laulie's crew watched our hero's movements with quite as much interest as he noted theirs, and when his battle-flag was seen they shouted for joy.
"He knows what we are up to. He has challenged us," Harry Mitchell exclaimed with great satisfaction. "Now, boys, we've got to nail him before he passes Yelholme."
"His boat goes very fast; she is light too, and he has her well in hand," Tom remarked critically as the Osprey drew nearer, skimming the waves as airily and swiftly as any bird.
Yelholme, to which reference had been made, lay near the course Yaspard was on. If the Laulie could not intercept Yaspard before he reached the little island she would lose ground by being obliged to tack a good deal, while he, having the wind with him, would easily get ahead.
"If it becomes a chase we haven't a chance," said Harry, "so we must try and cut him off at the holme."
But Yaspard knew pretty well what their tactics were likely to be, and acted accordingly.
It is not possible to describe with any degree of accuracy the very clever way in which the boats tried to circumvent each other; how the Osprey dodged here and there, striving to outrace the other, and how the Laulie gallantly defeated every attempt so made. At last Yaspard, seeing that nothing but a very bold effort had any chance of success, determined to try a delicate manoeuvre. His boat, being smaller and lighter than the Laulie, could venture much nearer a skerry or holme. He resolved to run straight for Yelholme. He knew that the other boat would do likewise, but approaching from another point, would be obliged to lower sail and trust to the oars. He hoped he could keep "on wing," and round the holme in safety before the Laulie had got on the same course. Accordingly he altered his tactics, and sent his skiff careening toward the holme as if he meant to dash right into it.
"What on earth is he up to now?" Bill exclaimed in wonder; "he will be under our stern in a jiffy if he holds on like that."
"If he passes astern he will reach the holme and be round it before us. We must not allow that; drop the sail, Bill," said Harry.
Down went the Laulie's sail, and in a short time she was rowing swiftly for the same point that the Osprey seemed bent on gaining. Yaspard did not alter his course one bit until he was within talking distance of the enemy, and dangerously near the holme.
"Don't be rash, man," Harry sung out. "You will be flung on the holme by that undertow on the lee side."
Even as he spoke Yaspard saw the danger he had not considered, and promptly dropped his sail. By that time the boats were almost within an oar's length of each other, but the Osprey was ahead. With wondrous speed the Viking-boy had his oars out, and would soon have been round the holme and on his course again, but at that moment Tom Holtum caught up a coil of rope lying handy, and flung it like a lasso over the Osprey. The bight fell over her rudder and horn, and before the hapless Viking could leave his seat or lift a finger to save himself, his boat was hauled alongside of the Laulie, and he was captured.
"Fairly caught!" cried Bill, leaning over to thump him on the back, while Tom clutched the Osprey with both hands, determined that she should not escape.
Then Yaspard struck his colours, and remarked, "You need not be so particular with your grappling-irons, Holtum; I yield myself to the fortune of fair fight."
"Come aboard us," said Harry. "You did awfully well, and needn't mind that Tom's dodge was more successful than yours. It was a low kind of trick on the whole, but we were determined to make you our prisoner."
By that time Yaspard was in the Laulie, and his boat towing ignobly in the rear. Thor, puzzled out of his dignity by such extraordinary proceedings, afraid to trust himself with his master in the enemies' hands, and too tired to seek refuge in flight, then gave vent to his feelings in speech—
"Uncle, uncle. Croak! bad boy! croak! croak! croak! Yap! yap! yap! Pirate; hi, good dog! Dog! Uncle! oh my!"
He had never spoken so much at one time before, but the situation called for a supreme effort.
When he concluded his oration, amid yells of laughter, Thor turned up his eyes till nothing but a streak of white was visible, and shoved his beak among the feathers on one shoulder as if he meant to go to sleep.
"What a fellow, to be sure!" exclaimed Tom. "He licks Crawbie all to nothing."
Harry explained to Yaspard that Crawbie was a hoodie crow belonging to Svein Holtum, and a great talker, but nothing like Thor in that respect.
Harry was soon on his hobby, and would have discoursed on birds for an hour if Bill had not stopped him by asking, "Well, boys, what's the next move?"
"Home, of course," said Harry; "at least, to Collaster first, for the Viking is Tom's prize, and must be taken to the Doctor's house."
"I should like that hugely," said the captive; "but may I beg you to remember my anxious and sorrowing relations, who will strain dim eyes in vain and all the rest of that sort of thing. They'll be horribly frightened at Moolapund if I am not back there tonight, and it's late now."
A long discussion followed as to how the Boden folk were to be informed of the Viking's position. One suggestion was that a Manse boy was to return to Boden in the Osprey, tell the tale, and bring Gloy away; but that plan was rejected, because Yaspard declared that his "followers" would seize the messenger, and hold both him and Gloy as hostages for their captain.
Then a brilliant idea occurred to Harry, who had always been the most reflecting boy of the lot.
"I'll tell you what to do. Send Thor with a message tied to his leg. That was what Svein did once, when he was hurt and in Vega. Crawbie had gone after him; and he carved two words on the cover of his pocket-book, tied it to Crawbie, and Crawbie went to Collaster with it."
"Splendid! Yes, the very thing!" the others cried.
So a hard-boiled egg was taken from the ferdimet, and laid temptingly on Yaspard's hand as a lure for Thor, who was evidently averse to trusting himself in the Laulie. But his weakness was an egg, and he soon flopped across to his master's knee, where he was detained for "further orders."
"Will he go home?" was the next debatable point. Yaspard thought Thor would, if they made it sufficiently plain to his corvidaeous intellect that he must not remain with the boats.
"He has often followed me, poor old chap!" said Yaspard. "I dare say he was coming on my tracks when the shooies fell foul of him; he will return to Moolapund if I drive him off. He won't halt by the way now, for it is near his roosting time, and he is tired to boot."
They did as Svein Holtum had shown them how, and tearing the cover from a pocket-book, tied it securely to Thor's leg. To make assurance doubly sure, a duplicate was fixed around his neck. Yaspard wrote on these boards—
"Captured on the high seas; taken in chains to Collaster.—THE VIKING."
Then he tossed Thor up from his hand, crying, "Shoo! off with you! Home now!" But Thor flitted no farther than the Osprey, and, settling in his favourite place at the bow, began to pull viciously at the book-boards.
Bill hauled the smaller boat alongside and clambered into her, making noise and demonstration enough, as he did so, to scare any ordinary bird; but Thor did not stir from the spot until Bill's hands were almost on him. Then he merely hopped from the one boat to the other, remarking as he did it, "Just so!" which of course sent the boys off yelling as before with wild laughter.
Now, no self-respecting raven will endure to be laughed at, especially when he is merely repeating a boy's pet phrase. Nor will he tamely submit to being chased from stem to stern with shouts of "Shoo! shoo!" Thor felt trebly insulted just then; possibly he believed that "Shoo! shoo!" had something to do with shooies, and the allusion was ill-timed he considered.
After much noise and hustling, and what Thor looked upon as unseemly action, he came to the conclusion that a boat is not always an ark of refuge, nor is one's master always to be depended upon as a sure help in time of need. With these thoughts came a recollection of the comforts of Moolapund and the more fit companionship of Mr. Adiesen. That settled the point in Thor's mind.
"Bad boy! Shoo!" he burst forth wrathfully, and then screeching out, "Uncle, Pirate, uncle, uncle, uncle!" he spread his great wings and took a bee-line for Moolapund.
Loud hurrahs followed him; but Thor never looked back once, never turned to the right or the left, but, swift as possible in his cumbered condition, flew home, and alighting on the parlour window-sill, began to jabber every word he knew, without the least attention to either grammar or construction of words, and in such excited tones that Mr. Adiesen's attention was drawn to him. Thor was admitted at once, and freed from his burden. Then the message was read; and while the Laird read, Miss Osla and Signy waited in fear and trembling, but never a word spoke the old man.
"What has that boy been doing?" the boy's aunt asked at length.
"Taking his turn at being captive, as I warned him might happen."
"Oh, Uncle Brues, have they taken Yaspard?" Signy cried in great excitement.
"'Captured on the high seas; taken in chains to Collaster.—THE VIKING,'" Mr. Adiesen read with impressive solemnity; and Miss Osla, scarcely understanding what was the state of the case, or whether her brother was joking, or the reverse, exclaimed—
"Dear, dear! whatever has he been about now? He is the very strangest boy. To Collaster! in chains! What a foolish, foolish boy! He must have been interfering with some of those young Mitchells. Of course Mr. Garson has nothing to do with his nonsense!"
Mr. Adiesen had walked out of the room long before she stopped; and her bewilderment was much increased by Signy saying delightedly—
"Captured! and taken to Collaster! Oh, how pleased brodhor must be!"
"HE IS YOUNG AND OF LITTLE KNOWLEDGE."
The lads found that it was so late when they neared Lunda, that it would be best to divide, one boat going to Collaster, and the other proceeding to Westervoe; so Tom and Yaspard (the latter on a kind of parole) were transferred to the Osprey, which immediately made sail for Collaster, while the Manse boat conveyed the Mitchells to their own home.
The Holtums were lingering over their supper when Tom presented himself, bringing his captive with hands fastened together by a lanyard borrowed from Harry Mitchell for the purpose. The captive's glowing face, afire with fun and joyous anticipation, did not accord with the humiliating position in which he was introduced by Tom; and his reception by the Doctor and Mrs. Holtum certainly did not indicate anything like hostile feeling.
The lanyard was laughingly untied by the Doctor, who said, as he released and shook Yaspard's hands, "I am sure you can trust your prisoner with so much liberty, Tom."
"Of course," said Tom; "I didn't see the fun of roping him at all, but he would have it so, and the Mitchells said it looked more ship-shape."
"Besides," added Yaspard, "I wanted Uncle Brues to know that I didn't come here of my own free will and free-handed."
"I quite understand," replied the Doctor, very much amused at the whole affair. "But now it is quite proper that your manacles be removed. You remember how the Black Prince treated his French prisoners? My Tom must not be less courteous to a Viking! Now, boys, let us hear how all this came about."
Nothing loth, Tom and Yaspard related their adventures, and very entertaining these were; but when they described the sending home of Thor, Dr. Holtum's face grew somewhat grave, and he seemed pondering within himself.
When Tom had conducted his prisoner to his cell—which was one of the best bedrooms—and returned to bid good-night, his father said, "Tom, lad, I am not altogether satisfied that yon corbie was a trustworthy messenger. Suppose he did not carry news of Yaspard to Moolapund?"
"Yaspard never doubted he would."
The Doctor shook his head. "If," he said, "by any chance they have not heard of the boy they will be very anxious about him. I think you must take a note from me to the fishing-station. Some of the boats will be leaving for the haaf even now, and as they run past Boden, I am sure one of them will put in there with my letter."
"Let me go with it, father!" Tom cried eagerly. "I am not a bit tired or sleepy; and it will be such fun. Do let me go!"
Permission was given, a note to Mr. Adiesen written by Dr. Holtum, and Tom despatched as envoy. He soon found a skipper willing to land him on Boden, and in the grey, quiet night, this most prosaic of the Lunda lads was started on a somewhat eerie journey. A great deal of time would have been lost if the haaf-boat had carried him into Boden voe, so Tom good-naturedly requested to be put ashore at the nearest point, determined to walk across the island to Moolapund. Tom had declared that he was neither tired nor sleepy, but he was both; and by the time he had walked over a mile of Boden heath he was fain to stop more than once and take a brief rest. Each time he sat down on the soft, fragrant verdure, he felt less inclined to get up. How it happened at last he never knew, but Tom sat down by an old planticrue, and remained there; and there he was lying in blissful slumber when the sun was well up over the Heogue, and Gaun Neeven had come out for an early stroll. He always took his walks abroad when the rest of the Boden folk were in their beds, therefore it was believed that he seldom went out at all.
If a philosopher like Mr. Neeven, who had passed through many years of most exciting life, could be surprised, he was when, coming around the planticrue, he stumbled upon Tom Holtum, spread out at ease, and unconscious of his position.
The man stood stock still for some minutes, contemplating the prostrate figure, until a grim smile gradually spread over his melancholy countenance; then stooping, he touched Tom's face and said, "Wake up, lad, wake up!"
Tom's eyes were wide open in a moment, and he sat up and stared at the disturber of his repose.
"What are you doing here?" Mr. Neeven asked, in his usual stern tones, which did not help to clarify Tom's understanding of his own position. He stammered some very incoherent words, which were no explanation at all, and did not even attempt to get on his feet.
Mr. Neeven was not a patient man. "Get up," he said, "and come with me. I must know what you mean by skulking about my house in the night-time."
Tom rose slowly, and then discovered that he was in the near vicinity of Trullyabister.
"This is a pretty fix," thought he, as he followed Mr. Neeven. "I believe I'll bolt!"
But a moment's reflection showed him how futile any attempt at escape would be, so he silently proceeded in Mr. Neeven's wake, repenting him sorely for being so foolish as to fall asleep that night.
When they were in the dismal apartment where the recluse spent the greater part of his time poring over books and nursing his gloomy thoughts, he pointed to a chair, and taking one himself, said briefly—
"Now give a proper account of yourself."
Tom could be concise and to the point in speech as well as Mr. Neeven, and having recovered his usual sang-froid, he explained his appearance in Boden in few plain words.
It was the first Gaun Neeven had heard of his young relative turning Viking, and he was surprised to find a strange something within himself leap and stir warmly at the tale of Yaspard's adventures, even though told in Tom's unvarnished matter-of-fact style. Was it not a like "craze" which had rioted within his own blood when he was a boy, and had sent him out into the world to fight and jostle men, to win renown, and prove his manhood by risking life and limb in all kinds of mad adventure? Nothing had so moved that self-contained, moody man for years, and even obtuse Tom could see that his story had touched some hidden spring of feeling. The stern lines had relaxed, and there was a softer though more intense light in the man's eyes.
Taking advantage of what he would have styled "a melting mood," Tom begged to be allowed to carry his father's letter to its destination. "And after that," he said, "on the honour of a gentleman, I will come back to you, and you can make of me what you please."
"The letter shall go to Mr. Adiesen at a proper hour," replied Mr. Neeven. "He is asleep at present, and I happen to know he is not uneasy about his nephew. You had better lie down on this sofa and finish your own nap, while I finish my walk. Later I will tell you what I require you to do."
He walked out of the room, shutting the door with a key, and leaving Tom a veritable prisoner.
"He might have trusted me," muttered Tom; "but since he hasn't put me on my honour, I shall do my best to escape—— Gracious! what's that?"
The lad was very wide-awake, and not the least inclined to go to sleep again. His exclamation had been caused by a curious sharp barking noise, mingled with plaintive crying, which roused Tom's pity as well as astonishment. He ran to the window, fancying the sounds came from that side, and hoping to see something to explain what they meant. He was not disappointed. The window of the haunted room was not far from that of Mr. Neeven's sitting-room, and at that window Tom saw the same unearthly visage which had startled Yaspard and the Harrisons.
"Whe-e-ew!" whistled Tom, thrusting his fists far down his pockets, as was his wont when the solution of any difficulty penetrated the somewhat "thick skin" which enveloped his remarkably sound and shrewd understanding.
He stood some time staring thoughtfully at the creature, who stared back at him as no lady of modest demeanour ought to have done; but we must not forget that she was a captive, and looking for a deliverer, and therefore to be excused in part.
"Poor soul!" muttered Tom, as the baby's wails once more broke the beautiful silence of that smiling, sun-watched night-time. "It's a horrible shame. I wish I could let them out. It would serve the old boy right. But it's too risky a job for me to undertake by myself. Oh, well! when I get back to Lunda—if I'm not going to be shut up as she is—I'll get the Manse boys to help. Bet Harry Mitchell will devise a way of circumventing both Mr. Neeven and Mr. Adiesen."
Then Tom tried the window, hoping to make his exit by it, but found it was nailed down beyond his power to unfasten.
"Never heard of such a thing in Shetland before," growled Tom. "What's he afraid of here? One would think Boden was the abode of thieves or pirates at this rate. Anyway, there are plenty of books about."
He found an interesting book about the buccaneers of the Spanish Main, so, lying down on the sofa, he was soon lost in the volume, and forgot that he was in durance vile.
 Planticrue,—a circular enclosure.
"OH, BE THOU WELCOME HERE."
When Mr. Neeven returned to his house the Laird of Boden was with him, and Tom was desired to hand over Dr. Holtum's letter, which he did with alacrity.
After perusing it carefully, Mr. Adiesen said, "And so you are the Doctor's son? You are not very like your father. He was a very handsome youth when he was your age."
Tom laughed, and there was that in his plain, honest face, which pleased both the gentlemen perhaps more than fine features would have done.
"I try to be like father in other ways," said he; "but my brother Svein is as like him as can be. You would like Svein. He is very clever as well as good-looking. People who can judge say so!"
That hearty brotherly speech added still more to the good impression Tom had made, and the two men studied him silently for a minute or two, "as they might some curious starfish," Tom remarked later, when recounting all that took place.
"You are to come with me now," said Mr. Adiesen at last. "I dare say you will be glad of some breakfast. Come along, and we will settle what is to be done about Yaspard afterwards."
They went off to Moolapund, leaving Mr. Neeven alone; and very much alone he felt himself to be. It was strange, passing strange, thought he, that the "chatter" of a very ordinary boy should have caused such a curious revolution within him. What did it mean? Had he not lived his life of action? had he not tasted the fruit of knowledge until it had palled on his appetite? Had he not his books for company—books, which could not irritate, and contradict, and bother, as human beings are prone to do?
"A boy is a happy creature!" Gaun Neeven said to himself with a sigh, as he picked up the book Tom had been reading; "a happy sort of animal on the whole. I could wish myself a boy once more!"
Meanwhile Tom Holtum was being introduced at Moolapund, where he was very soon at his ease, and chatting away with his wonted fearless candour, which Harry had been heard to call "impudence and vanity rolled up in whale's blubber."
His host was in wonderfully good humour, and contrived to get a good deal of information regarding life in Lunda out of Tom, without allowing it to appear that he was at all interested in the people of that isle.
"I suppose," he said by-and-by, "that I must find a way of sending you back; and there is that boy Winwick has to go also. But Yaspard's misadventure must teach us a lesson. You will have to give me your word that those who convey you to Lunda shall not be intercepted in the performance of a neighbourly courtesy as he was."
"Oh, sir!" Tom cried hotly; "why, we never looked at it like that, nor did Yaspard. It was agreed that we should try and nab each other anywhere and anyhow outside of our own voes. If you had asked Fred Garson to safeguard the Viking, we would not have meddled with him."
"And poor brodhor," Signy exclaimed, "would not have been enjoying himself at Collaster!"
"I think," said Uncle Brues suddenly, "that Yaspard has met Vikings as mad as himself. Now, Master Tom, can you tell how he is going to recover his liberty and his boat 'captured on the high seas,' eh?"
"I thought I'd talk to his followers—as he calls those Harrison boys—and they may help him. Of course they are the proper persons to negotiate about his ransom," and Tom grinned.
Signy volunteered to go with him to Noostigard; so the ponies were saddled, and off the couple set.
Such a claver as there was, to be sure, when Tom and the Harrisons met! The brothers were for seizing Tom in place of Yaspard; and nothing but Signy's vehement protestations that he was under a flag of truce, so to speak, prevented their carrying out some desperate measure of the sort. They wouldn't see the difference between Yaspard caught at sea after discharging a hospitable duty, and Tom a messenger of peace.
"Weel," said Lowrie at last, "will ye tak' one o' us in his place, then?"
"No, we won't—not a dozen of you!" answered Tom.
"Oh, boys!" Signy exclaimed then, "Yaspard promised at the very first that I should have a share in his Viking-ploy. It would be just lovely if you would take me with you, to beg for his freedom. You know that's how the ladies used to do for their knights."
"When they happened to be their fathers or brothers," said Tom; "and then the girls were married to the knights' enemies, and they all lived happily ever after."
"I'm not going to marry you EVER, so that isn't to be the way this time," retorted the little lady, with immense spirit.
"Very well," he answered calmly, "then it will be some other fellow. But upon my word I think it would be a very jolly plan to take you with us; only—will your uncle permit it?"
"I'll try and coax him. He is really dear and good, if you only would believe it; and I don't think that he is going to be so camsterie about Lunda folk now that he has seen Mr. Garson. I just think Mr. Garson is splendid. He makes me think of Prince Charlie and Sir Philip Sidney. He looks so like a real hero, does he not?"
"Fred is to be the other fellow ten years hence," thought Tom, but he wisely held his tongue.
Uncle Brues was not so very difficult to persuade as Signy had imagined. Perhaps, if she had seen Dr. Holtum's letter, she would have found a reason for his unexpected complacence; but Signy was too glad at the permission given to waste thoughts on "reasons why." She would hardly wait to carry out Aunt Osla's request that her best frock must be worn on such an important occasion, and nothing short of Mam Kirsty's tears could have reconciled her to wasting time in brushing out her abundant hair into a profusion of curls, and otherwise making herself "a credit tae them 'at aws (owns) her."
But when she was released from those loving feminine hands and went down to the little quay with Uncle Brues to join the boys, Tom Holtum thought he had never seen a sweeter vision of a ladye faire than she appeared in her cream-white frock and navy-blue cloak and hat, her shining hair hanging about the lovely little face, and her eyes shining like stars on a frosty night.
"You'll never need to beg one word," he declared; "you will break the Viking's chains with the glint of your eyes. He was considered my booty, and I am ready this moment to give him up to you without a single condition. So there!"
"Thank you, but I don't want my knight for nothing," Signy replied, with a saucy toss of the head, as she stepped into the boat. Then turning to her uncle, she said, "Good-bye, dear uncle; we—Yaspard and I—will be back soon."
"Not to-night, sir, if you please," Tom cried eagerly; "we shall want to keep her a little while;" and the Laird answered, "It shall be as Dr. Holtum may think best. Take care of her, boys."
As the boat rowed away he looked fondly after the child, and thought that never did a fairer maid than his darling Signy go on a mission of love.
As the Boden boat went sliding along the coast of Lunda, purposing to bring up at Collaster, Tom saw their young laird riding over the hill, and as the distance was not great, the lad stood up and waved and yelled to attract Fred's notice. He was successful, and the horseman came rapidly to the beach, while the boat drew close in-shore.
A few words sufficed to explain matters, for Fred had seen Dr. Holtum that morning, and knew of Tom's expedition.
"And you have been allowed to bring the little lady to Lunda?" Fred said. "I think you had better land her here, for there is a good deal of rough water round the Head of Collaster to-day, and she may get some spray. Will you let me carry you on Arab to the Doctor's house, Signy?"
"I think that would be nice," she answered; and Tom said, "You had better go with Fred."
The boat was brought along some crags, and Tom, jumping out, lifted Signy on shore; then, resuming his place, shoved off again, saying as he waved them good-bye, "You will be there before us, I suppose, but we will not be long behind you; so look alive, if you don't want to be beat."
Fred had dismounted, and he and Signy stood together watching the boat get on her course again.
Then Fred said, laughing, "I shall feel like some robber chief carrying off a fair prize when I ride away with you! You will not be afraid to trust me and Arab, I hope?"
"No! of course I can trust you," was Signy's ready answer.
He sprang into his saddle, and then with the aid of his hand and stirrup Signy climbed lightly to the place before him, and settled herself there composedly.
"This is how I used to have delightful rides with Uncle Brues," she said; "but he could not hold me so firmly as you do, and once his pony stumbled and I had a fall, and he never would let me up beside him again."
"When my sister was a little girl like you, she was never so happy as when our father took her up like this; and sometimes he would ride miles and miles with her. Don't you like Arab's step? I always think there never was a horse like him. He was a present to me on my birthday—the last gift of my dear father."
"How you must love him! He goes as easy as a sail-boat on a smooth sea."
And then Arab was put at a gallop, to Signy's delight. She was perfectly safe (and felt herself to be so) with that strong arm around her, and that firm hand holding the reins. She enjoyed that ride immensely, and remembered the pleasure of it for a long time; but Fred remembered it all his life long, because from that moment he could date a new colour in his life, a kind of thought and feeling which were novel in his experience.
 Headstrong and cross-grained.
"AND PEACE SHALL BE SURER."
A large party were stationed on the lawn at Collaster when Fred rode up. His sister and Mrs. Mitchell had come to plan a picnic in honour of Yaspard, and the Manse boys were of course "to the fore" on such an occasion. The Holtum girls, with the Doctor, his wife, and the Viking, were all there. If it had been pre-arranged it could not have been managed better.
"It's like a bit out of a book," Signy said in a whisper, as Arab pranced up to the door, and everybody there struck an attitude (unconsciously) with quite dramatic effect.
Yaspard was the first to speak and act.
"Signy! have you come from Boden on a witch's broomstick? Where did you find her, Mr. Garson?" he said, as he lifted his little sister from the saddle.
"I've come to ransom you, brodhor," said she; and then she was given up to the ladies to be petted and welcomed with the greatest tenderness, while Fred explained; and the appearance of the boat sent Yaspard and the Mitchell boys racing off to the quay.
It had been arranged that the picnic should consist of an excursion up the gill (ravine) near the Ha' at Blaesound, and a strawberry tea in the Ha' garden. Fred and his mother were very anxious to draw Yaspard within the circle of their best affections, but they knew they must be careful not to touch Mr. Adiesen's weak points in extending the hand of friendship to his nephew. He would, as likely as not, resent their well-meant intentions if they invited the boy to their house, but a picnic under Dr. Holtum's auspices to the neighbourhood of the Ha' was different.
Any of us who remember the recorded adventures of the Lads of Lunda and the Yarl of Burra Isle, will know with what perfect success entertainments of the sort were conducted by the Garsons or any of their friends. There seldom had been a day more happily spent by those young folks than that day, and each and all combined to make it a period of unclouded bliss to Yaspard and Signy.
They revelled in the society of so many charming girls and fine boys, and thought that life could need nothing more than the pleasure such companionship afforded. How they enjoyed the scramble up the gill, the fun bubbling up constantly, the manner in which the fathers and mothers shared in the children's play; the running and singing and laughter; the dainty meal of cake and chicken and strawberries with rich cream, dispensed—after a very un-English but wholly satisfactory manner—in heaped platefuls! The scent of flowers, the sunshine and universal hilarity, cast a spell over Signy, and she sat on the garden turf eating her strawberries without speaking for some time, but radiant with happiness.
"Are you dreaming, or composing an ode, little lady?" Fred asked her, after having watched the soft play of her expressive features for some minutes.
"I was—thinking, and I never enjoyed anything so much before; but"—and she looked up wistfully—"I was wishing too that there had never been any feud, and that Uncle Brues could see for himself how good you all are. I wish he could!"
"I hope he will before long. I think, now the ice is broken, that it will all come right, little one."
I ought to have mentioned before that the Harrison boys had gone with Gloy to see his mother, and had been directed to return in their own boat to Boden before night; so when the Holtums, with their guest and the Viking, returned to Collaster at dayset, they were just in time to see James Harrison's boat disappear round the Head of Collaster.
"I am so glad," said Yaspard, "that uncle gave you leave to come and to stay overnight, Mootie."
"I wish she might remain some days," said Mrs. Holtum; but the Doctor, understanding best the kind of man Mr. Adiesen was, remarked, "That will be next time. We must not take more than his lairdship has conceded. By-and-by we may venture to stretch a point with him."
"What has been settled about the captive Viking?" Harry Mitchell then asked. "I am sorry to remind you, Yaspard, in such an abrupt manner of your precarious position; but we must not forget that we have to make capital of you."
"I offered him free, gratis, and for nothing to this high and haughty miss; but she tossed her curls and declined my civility," answered Tom.
"There would be no fun in that," Yaspard said in an aside; and Signy remarked, "Brodhor is worth a great deal to me, and he ought to be worth a lot to his captors. Just put a price on him that I am able to pay, and you shall have it."
"Bravo!" shouted the boys in chorus.
"Do you then absolutely refuse my princely offer?" Tom asked her, and the little girl replied boldly—
"Yes. I'd be ashamed to take him for nothing."
"The lads of Lunda," answered he loftily, "don't make bargains with ladies. If you won't take my offer you're 'out of it,' miss! Now, Sir Viking, let me tell you under what condition I will set you free. You shall give me your royal word—on the faith of a Viking—that you will give me your assistance in a deed of high emprise which I have vowed to perform."
"Why, Harry," exclaimed Bill, "you could not have said that in a more booky way yourself!"
"I haven't got another word of the sort in my vocabulary, so must return to my usual style, gentlemen," said Tom. "The long and the short of it is, when I was a prisoner at Trullyabister, I discovered that I was not the only poor wretch whom the ogre had nabbed. There are others——"
"Oh, goloptious!" shouted Yaspard, interrupting Tom without the least ceremony. "You have found out the very thing I meant to tell you. I meant to ask you fellows to help me."
"Then it would seem," said Dr. Holtum, smiling—for he had had a private talk with Tom, and had come to a conclusion of his own—"that Yaspard's 'knightly quest' and Tom's 'deed of high emprise' are one and the same. You have my approval, boys; only let me warn you to be very wary, for if you do not succeed you will have no support from any one, and may find yourselves in an awkward fix."
"Doctor!" Harry exclaimed, "did the lads of Lunda ever fail to carry out their schemes, or squirm out of the ugliest fix in creation?"
"I must own," laughed the Doctor, "that collectively you have a wonderful faculty for emerging with eclat from every adventure; but I can't say as much for you individually."
"One for you, Tom," whispered Bill.
"And one for yourself," retorted Tom.
Meantime Signy had crept into Yaspard's arms, and was coaxing him to tell her the secret; but he put her off with a promise of telling it when they were on the way home. "And, Mootie," he added thoughtfully, "I believe we ought not to stay here very long to-morrow, just that Uncle Brues may see that we aren't anxious to take the greatest advantage of his permission. Besides, we don't want him to feel that we like being away from Boden so awfully much."
She squeezed his hand. She understood him perfectly, and Yaspard, laughing into her upraised eyes, said aloud, "Here is a little girl who wouldn't contradict me for worlds, and is agreed with me in stating that the Osprey must be on wing to-morrow morning."
But when to-morrow morning came there had been a breeze in the night which had raised the sea a bit, and Dr. Holtum would not permit them to leave until it had subsided, notwithstanding the Viking's declaration that he never minded such a small thing as that.
"My boat and I go out in rough weather," he declared; "and even Signy would laugh at the idea of calling this a 'rough morning!'"
The Doctor was firm, however, and the morning slipped happily away in the pleasant companionship of so many new and agreeable friends.
It was arranged that the Lunda boys were to run across to Boden on the evening of the following day, to carry out the mysterious plans of Tom and Yaspard. They were to wait at the geo for Yaspard and his chums, and the mighty deed was to be done at the witching hour of night. So they planned, and put aside with unwonted impatience the Doctor's declaration that there was going to be unsettled weather, and that they must not count upon being able to carry out their scheme in such an expeditious way.
"I don't know what has come to father," Tom muttered; "he is quite scarey: he proposes that some of us go in the boat with you, Yaspard; or that we escort you in our own boat!"
The Viking's face flushed hotly, for he knew himself to be an expert "seaman," and it was exasperating that anybody should be afraid for him; but Harry Mitchell soothed his wounded pride by saying, "I expect the Doctor is thinking of Signy. He is always so careful that girls shall not be frightened—and she might be, you know, if she saw a big wave alongside, and no one with her but you."
"Signy wouldn't be afraid if she were left floating in mid-ocean on a plank with me," Signy's brother made answer.
So the Laulie did not go farther than the Head of Collaster, but took the way to Westervoe when the Osprey set her face to Boden.
There was not much wind, but a long and gentle swell, and the little boat went dancing over the waves in a manner wholly delightful to the brother and sister.
"This is delicious, brodhor," said Signy, "and we have had a splendid time; but it is nice to be going home. Now tell me about your quest."
"FOR NAUGHT HE WOTTED, NOR MIGHT SEE CLEARLY."
"You remember, Mootie, about the big row concerning Havnholme—I mean the last disturbance which made Fred Garson write to uncle?"
"I know a little about it. Uncle killed a number of birds, and a poor seal?"
"That wasn't quite how things went, though we heard that was it. We were told correctly enough about the birds; and I must say I think Uncle Brues thinks too much of science and specimens, and too little of lives. But we did not hear the right way about the seal I have heard something about it from Fred, and I don't wonder he was so indignant. It seems they had a tame seal at the Ha'. It had been given to Miss Garson when it was very young. Its mother had been killed by some Cockney tourists, and the Laird of Lunda took the little seal home. It was a great pet, and used to go and fish for itself in Blaesound, but would always come home when tired or called upon."
"Just as Loki does," said Signy.
"Yes; and they were all very fond of it. But after the Laird died, his people were a good deal away from the Ha', and the pets were neglected—servants are so stupid in that way—and so it happened that the seal was out in Blaesound one day, and didn't come back as usual. Fred says he heard it had become shy, and a bit wild, through not being petted, and perhaps it went off of its free will; but he believes it lost its way among the skerries, and would have returned if it had known how, or if any one had had the sense to go and look for it as soon as it was missed. Anyway, it was lost. When the family came home it was looked for everywhere, and Fred promised a large reward to any one who should bring it back; but all in vain. Sometimes fishermen would come and tell how they had seen a sealkie on a skerry that was not a bit frightened when they came near, but dropped into the water when they tried to catch it. Others said that a sealkie had followed their boat, and had looked at them as if it wanted to be friends; and Fred was sure that it must be Trullya, for no wild seal acts like that. But though he went to the places where these men had seen the seal, he never saw it. Then it happened that the Manse boys, passing Havnholme one day, saw a seal creeping up to the old skeoe; and they were quite sure that it was the lost Trullya, for wild seals don't go up on land like that. Moreover, the seal kept looking around, and never minding a boat not far off, and the boys were as convinced that it was the Ha' pet as I am sure you are mine. They were going to land at once and capture it, when Uncle Brues, with Harrison and fule-Tammy, came along in this boat, and Uncle ordered the Manse boys to get along. There was a row, for the boys stuck to it, and said they would land, for the island was Fred's, and the seal belonged to him as well. Of course you know how uncle would rampage at that. He was so angry he threatened to shoot them if they came one bit nearer; and they declared afterwards that they were sure he would have done it. While the row was going on the seal disappeared, and the boys, believing it had dropped into the sea and that there was no hope of securing it, decided to quit. But as they sailed away and uncle's boat landed, they saw the poor sealkie's head peep round the skeoe; then there were shots fired, and fule-Tammy shouted at the pitch of his voice, 'Ye've got him, sir, got him! dead as a door-nail!' The Mitchells were too disgusted to wait for anything more. They sailed home and told Fred."
"It was horrible, Yaspard—very horrible. How could uncle be so cruel to a poor sealkie, and yet be so kind to me?"
Yaspard laughed. "There is a difference between you and Trullya, Mootie! But now comes the nice bit of my story. The seal wasn't killed at all! Fule-Tammy told me all about it. He said it had a young one with it, and they had been spending the night in the skeoe. Uncle does not often miss his mark, but he had missed when he shot at the seal. Perhaps he missed on purpose, only shot to aggravate the Manse boys. When he got to the skeoe the creature was there, having hastened back to her little one, and they were easily captured. Uncle told Harrison that he must not let even his boys know that the seals had been taken alive."
Signy could keep silence no longer, but clapped her hands delightedly and cried, "It's as good as a fairy story, brodhor. Oh, I am glad, for of course they are still alive; uncle would never kill them then."
"Yes, they are alive, and they are in the haunted room at Trullyabister. They were smuggled there so that even I should not know; but Tammy can't keep a secret, and he told me one day that Mr. Neeven had charge of the seal and her baby. I did not dream they were in the haunted room; but when the Harrison boys and I were on the prowl the other night I found it out; and then I determined I would restore the sealkie to Fred Garson. I told the Harrisons there were a mother and child imprisoned at Trullyabister, and that we must free them from thraldom."
"And Tom Holtum has found it out too; and that is your quest? How fine!"
"It is prime, Signy, prime! We are not going to tell the Garsons a word about it till we restore their lost pet, for we are all convinced it is their seal."
"But won't uncle be dreadfully angry if you interfere? Won't he stop all your Vikinging and our meeting——"
"If," Yaspard interrupted, "I were fool enough to show my hand in the matter. No, no, Mootie, you don't understand a bit. We shall manage it so cleverly that uncle and Mr. Neeven will take for granted the sealkie escaped of herself. You see, Uncle Brues makes laws for himself that are not proper, so he can't grumble if they don't work to his satisfaction at all times."
"I wish, though, that we could just beg for the seal, and settle it nicely," said Signy.
"Not a bit of good; that would make more fuss still, and unsettle everything, and—I'd lose my fun."
The Osprey was not far from Yelholme by that time, and Yaspard, pointing to the little isle, said, "It was that old rock with the green nightcap that caused my capture."
"It's a pretty peerie holme," Signy remarked. "I like the little morsel of green turf on top. I wonder how it ever manages to grow there, for the skerry must be swept by the sea more often than not."
"There's something white on it," Yaspard exclaimed, "something white and moving. Why, goodness me!" and he stood up in great excitement, "it is awfully like a person."
He moved his helm so as to bring the boat nearer Yelholme than his course; and very soon they discovered that the "something white" was really a human being.
"It's a man; and he must be hurt, for he is lying on his side waving to us. He would stand up if he could," Yaspard cried.
"Oh, poor creature! We must save him," said Signy.
"It will not be very easy to reach the holme this afternoon," Yaspard remarked thoughtfully. "There's a heavy under-tow there."
"But we can't go away and leave him, brodhor. Just look at him. Now he tries to raise himself. It is dreadful."
"I wish the Manse boat had come along after all;" and Yaspard scanned the sea, hoping some boat might be in sight; but there was nothing moving on the water save the wild birds and his own skiff. After a moment's silence he said, "We'll make a try, Signy; and if we don't succeed, we'll tell him we are going to bring more efficient help."
With skill and caution Yaspard brought his boat alongside of the skerry. The castaway was lying on the turf, battered and helpless. He could only raise his hands, and watch the boy's movements with intense emotion; and it was evident he could not help in his own rescue very much.
"I shall have to land," said Yaspard, "and lug him into the boat somehow."
He had, of course, dropped the sail, and the boat being on the lee side of the rock, was easily attached to it, but swung about considerably, as there was rather more than usual under-tow around the holme, occasioned by the state of the tide—a circumstance which our young hero had not sufficiently considered.
"I really don't believe we can get him aboard if he has broken his bones, as seems the case," the lad remarked, as he jumped upon the skerry and fastened the boat by the end of a rope to the rocks.
"I am giving her a good length," he said, "so that she can ride free as the water falls. Do you think you can keep her from scraping with the boat-hook, Signy?"
She had often performed a similar duty, though not with so much motion of the sea, and she replied that she would try on the present occasion.
Having settled these points, Yaspard turned to the unfortunate man lying a few yards from the water's edge. "Are you much hurt?" was the first question put to him.
"I'm half killed," was the feebly uttered reply; and in truth he looked three-fourths killed. One leg was broken, and both arms were much cut and bruised. He had scarcely any clothing on, and was altogether a most pitiable object.
But Yaspard wasn't going to waste time in talk. "Can you get to the boat with my help, do you think?" he asked, stooping to assist the man to rise. But as he attempted to do so the pain overcame him, and he sank back swooning.
"Poor soul!" muttered Yaspard; "I can't think what to do with him," and then he pulled off his jacket, laid it gently over the unfortunate castaway, and tried to revive him by rubbing his chest.
Signy watched her brother's movements with the most eager interest, and was so engrossed that she scarcely attended to her duty of keeping the boat from bumping against the rocks. Although her negligence was not the cause of what happened to the boat, if she had been on the alert she might have given the alarm in time.
As the Osprey rose and fell with the waves, the rope became chafed on sharp edges of rock, and parted. The boat swung adrift, and was carried on a long sweep of the undertow some yards from the skerry; but the length of rope Yaspard had allowed prevented Signy from wondering. It was only when she felt the boat dip unchecked over a second long wave that she glanced at the rope, and saw its end trailing in the water.
She uttered a startled cry, and Yaspard, looking around, saw with horror what had taken place.
"Oh, Signy! fling me a rope! No, sit still; be still, dear, or you'll be over! Oh, my Signy!"
She had half risen from her seat as he sprang to the water's edge and called to her; but next moment she cowered down in terror, for the light boat rocked as if it must capsize, then went whirling on the tideway round the end of the skerry.
Yaspard did not utter a sound after those first few terror-freighted words. He could only stand motionless and dumb, gazing after the boat, while Signy, kneeling, stretched out her poor little hands and cried, "Brodhor! brodhor!"
A groan from the man, for whom Yaspard had inadvertently risked and lost so much, roused the boy from his stupor of despair; and then he broke into bitter cries, which ere long explained to his companion their terrible plight; while farther and farther drifted the Osprey, until even her taper mast could not be distinguished amid the waste of heaving billows.
And then, in the moment of supreme agony, Yaspard did what Signy had been doing all the time. He flung himself on his knees and lifted up his heart to God.
"NO GOOD IT BETOKENETH."
The positions of the two on Yelholme were reversed, and it became the man's part to speak words of comfort.
"There are plenty of boats about—must be in these parts, my lad," he said, "and some one will see your skiff. Don't lose courage about the little one. I'm as vexed as can be that this should have happened for me. I'd rather have died straight away."
The generous heart of Yaspard Adiesen was stirred from its bitterness of grief by such words, and after a time he allowed himself to hope that Signy might be rescued after all. Of his own position he thought not at all, until considering that of his companion. Then he remembered that there were some scraps of biscuit in his jacket pocket—kept there for his pets—and pulling these out he said, "I wonder if these will be of any use till some boat picks us up. I dare say you need food?"
The biscuit was very welcome; but the jacket had been of still more service in restoring a degree of warmth to the chilled and sorely injured body, and Yaspard would not listen to the man's remonstrance as he tucked the coat closer around him.
"I am not in the least cold, and don't need a jacket in such sunny weather," said Yaspard; "but I hope some of the haaf-boats may come this way soon, for you ought to be in the doctor's hands. Now I wonder if I can do anything in the way of a bandage?"
It was wonderful how the sight of those wounds had restored the lad's equanimity, and drawn his distracted mind from thoughts of the forlorn child tossing amid the waves. But that was the way God answered his prayers at first; and it is a way God often uses for helping us to bear some overwhelming calamity. The suffering of another is presented before us, and our better nature, our least selfish part, is evoked in a way that makes us dwell less upon our own trial. Yaspard's handkerchief and necktie, torn into strips, helped wonderfully to bind up some of the wounds, although the boy's hands were inexperienced at such work, and he sickened over the job.
When that was done there was nothing more to do but exercise patience, and scan the seas in hope of sighting a vessel of some sort. While they so waited, and tried to cheer each other's flagging courage, Yaspard asked, "Did you fall from a ship; or how was it you came to be tossed up here?"
The answer was startling. "You have some cursed bad men in those Shetland Isles," said the sailor, with all the energy he could command. "Hanging is too good for wreckers; they should be roasted at the false fires they light for poor seafaring men's destruction."
Yaspard stared his astonishment. "I never heard the like!" he ejaculated. "Wreckers! Why, there isn't one left in Shetland. Not one, I am sure. What do you mean?"
"I mean that the stout schooner I sailed in would be in a safe harbour now instead of drifting as spindle-wood among those skerries if there were no wreckers on your islands, my lad!"
"There must be some mistake. Do tell me what happened," was all Yaspard could say. And then he heard the story.
The schooner Norna was caught in a tempest crossing the North Sea, and sustained considerable damage—so much that it was deemed advisable to seek harbour for repairs. She was making for Bressa Sound when a slight fog came down which compelled the skipper to defer attempting to thread a way among those rock-bound isles till the atmosphere was clearer. While beating about, not quite sure of their exact locality, a bright light was observed which was believed to be lit for their guidance. There was no other reason why a great blaze should appear in the middle of the night on a lonely height, which loomed fitfully through the mist and gloom, and was evidently the crest of some hill. No doubt a safe harbour lay in that neighbourhood, and the Norna was confidently put on another course—one which it was believed led her within the safe arms of a sheltering fiord. On the one hand could be dimly discerned a low irregular coast, on the other rose the gaunt shadowy outline of majestic crags.
It was no friendly voe the hapless schooner had come into, but the dangerous sound, studded with stacks and holmes, which flow between Lunda and Boden.
Guided by that treacherous beacon, the Norna sailed slowly on and crashed on a sunken rock not far from the cliffs of Trullyabister.
The man who told the story had gone aloft to take in sail, when it was discovered that the vessel was among breakers; and when she struck he was dashed from the rigging. He could give no account of what further happened, beyond remembering that he was clinging at one time to a spar, and saw his ship backing (as he described it) into deep ocean.
"I think it must have happened not far from here," he said; and Yaspard, looking towards Boden, over which the soft tints of twilight were beginning to blend with mists from the surrounding seas, replied—
"Yes; it must have been the Easting Ban upon which she struck—that's a sunken rock quite near this holme. But I can't think what light it was you saw. You see the land on Lunda is very low along the sound, and there are only a very few people living on my island—that is Boden there; the light couldn't have been there."
The sailor raised himself on an elbow and looked at the cliffs of Boden, and the sound with its many isolated and barbarous rocks; then he said—
"The fire blazed from beside that cone. I recognise its shape," and he pointed to the Heogue towering steeply over Trullyabister and its range of mighty cliffs.
Yaspard shook his head.
"It couldn't be," he said positively; and then his thoughts once more became filled by the image of his little sister all alone in the Osprey drifting out to sea as the evening fell, and he could not take further interest in the Norna's fate. He never even asked if it was likely that any others had escaped the fate of their ship. Signy, in her holiday attire, with her bright face blanched with fear, her hands stretched to him, her small slight form bent in the attitude of prayer;—Signy floating away, away, and alone! It was terrible.
He rose up from his place beside the sailor, and going to the other side of the holme, he again knelt down and "wrestled in prayer" for his darling. Never once did he think of his own serious position, beyond desiring fervently that help might come in time to enable him to go in search of his sister with some hope of finding her.
But the twilight came slowly and softly down, and some sea-fowl who were wont to nest on Yelholme circled around it, clamouring to find their night abode invaded, but no welcome boat appeared.
The sailor gradually fell into an exhausted sleep, which looked so like death that Yaspard's heart sank with a new fear, and he scarcely dared bend over the still, prostrate figure lest he should find that fear realised. By-and-by the mists drew nearer, wrapping the holme in their filmy veil; then the sea-birds, emboldened by the motionless silence of the castaways, dropped upon the crags, and folded their wings for the night. Around the lonely islet thundered the ocean, whose waves rocked never-endingly, until Yaspard, gazing fixedly on them, felt as though the holme itself were some tremulous cradle swinging with the rhythmical ebb and flow of those majestic billows.
His brain seemed on fire, however, and would not be lulled to sleep by the influence of night and the anthem of ocean. The poor lad suffered such torment of soul as we can scarcely imagine; to the young, compulsory inaction during mental pain is almost unendurable, and sometimes Yaspard felt that to fling himself into the water, to struggle there and drown, would be better than sitting on the holme idle, helpless, picturing Signy's fate.
He gave up at last gazing on the sea, which seemed to mock his hopes and fears with its monotonous roll and roar, and fixed his eyes on the dim outline of the Heogue, which his sister had named "Boden's purple crown;" and he wondered if Signy could see the dear old hill from her place amid the waves. He would not think that the Osprey had capsized or broken on some crag, but continued to picture the child in the boat as he had last seen her.
While Yaspard sat there straining his eyes upon the hill-cap, he fancied he saw a flicker of red light on its side. For a moment he believed his sight had deceived him, and he rubbed his lashes and looked again. There it was again, a more distinct flicker than at first; then it grew brighter and steadier, and presently flashed up into a merry blaze which sent its ruddy life far over the sea.
Yaspard stood up wondering and trembling, till in a moment the truth flashed into his mind, and he sat down again dumfoundered, and saying within himself, "That explains the whole affair! Yes. It's fule-Tammy without question. A pretty fix he has made for himself!"
Then Yaspard thought of waking the sailor to see the false light; but on second thoughts he muttered, "What's the use? If I have to speak, and am ever in another place than this, I'll do it. But there isn't any use in telling upon that born fool just now. Well! I'm glad he is a fool. I could not bear this fellow to accuse us of having wreckers in Shetland—though there have been plenty. But so there were in other places when folk were like savages."
He watched fule-Tammy's fire burn up and blaze steadily, then wane and die out; and when every spark was extinguished there came over the eastern sky a faint blush heralding the dawn of day.
The brief dream of night was over, and Yaspard, sighing wearily, murmured, "If some boat could but find Signy it would not matter so much about us—about me, I mean. I deserve my fate. I ought not to have left her in the boat alone for any earthly consideration. And yet—it seemed the right thing to do."
"OH, NEED SORE AND MIGHTY."
Shortly before Yaspard and Signy left Collaster on that unfortunate expedition, the young Laird of Lunda was called from the Ha' to interview some shipwrecked men who had been found by a haaf-boat on one of the sound skerries.
Arab soon carried Fred to the extreme point of his island, where the men were hospitably lodged by some fisher folk. Great was his wrath and astonishment on being told the story of their misadventure, which seemed incredible from one point, and yet was the only explanation admissible, considering that when the accident took place the weather was not rough, and the vessel still under management, if the skipper was telling truth.
Fred put the men through a searching course of cross-questioning, but could not discover any flaw in their statement regarding the large fire lit on the hill; and he was obliged to admit that there must have been a signal there as described.
After seeing that the men had every comfort, he went off to consult the minister and Doctor Holtum as to what must be done. The sailors were wrathful (as was not wonderful) and vowing vengeance. The fisher folk were puzzled, and affirmed that there must have been some supernatural agency at work. Fred felt sure the matter would have to be sifted, and that upon himself and Doctor Holtum (the only magistrate in Lunda since Mr. Garson's death) would devolve the duty of instituting inquiries in Boden.
"It will be a very awkward job," Fred said, when retailing what had taken place to Dr. Holtum. "It will certainly put an end to all chance of peace with Mr. Adiesen, for he is sure to resent such a charge and such a suspicion with the utmost bitterness."
"There is no one living on Boden but what one might call his own household, for the Harrisons are just like home servants; therefore—as you say—he will resent this as a personal matter."
"There is that strange man Neeven," said Fred thoughtfully. "I have heard very curious tales of him. He does not seem to be quite sane, if one may credit all that is reported of his ways. It is possible that he may have lit that fire for some eccentric purpose quite different from that which those men imagine."
"You have not unlikely hit upon the truth, Fred," said the Doctor; "but that makes our task no easier."
"If that Viking-boy had not been here last night, I should have been convinced it was some prank of his. Well for him that we can prove an alibi for him! Dear-a-me, Doctor, what a business this will be! I am sure being Laird of Lunda isn't all sugar and spice."
"It has happened most unfortunately at this time, just when those young people were bringing the old man round in such a nice way. Well, well, Fred! we must believe there is some good purpose in even such a 'kettle of fish' as this."
After various consultations among the wise-heads, it was agreed that Dr. Holtum and Fred, with the captain and mate of the Norna, should go over to Boden next day and interview Mr. Adiesen. I need not describe what they meant to say, or how they hoped to mollify the irascible old man, for their intention was never carried out. In crossing the sound they spied Yaspard gesticulating wildly from the crest of Yelholme.
"Some of your men on the holme, captain?" the Doctor said, as soon as they caught sight of the figure.
"I only lost one, and that may be him," was the answer; "but he fell from the rigging, and must have been awfully mashed. Indeed, I never dreamt he could be alive; and I can hardly believe he would be able to dance about in that fashion."
Yaspard was moving restlessly about, afraid that if he stood still he might not be noticed. As the boat approached nearer Fred remarked, "That is a mere lad, but there is some one else lying on the skerry."
Dr. Holtum had very keen vision, and very soon he said in agitated tones, "Fred, lad, it is very like the boy Yaspard; and I don't see any boat about."
"It certainly is Yaspard, with no jacket on, and a man beside him. Whatever can have happened?"
The boat went straight for Yelholme, and as she reached it the Doctor called out, "My dear boy, what has happened to you?"
Yaspard could not speak, but his haggard, weary appearance, as well as the helpless form beside him, told a tale of sufficient misery.
"That's my bo's'n," said the captain, as soon as he saw the man's face. Then the Doctor and Fred scrambled on shore, and while the former—with the instinct of his profession—made for the wounded man first, Fred turned to Yaspard (foreboding the truth) and asked, "Your little sister?"
"I have lost her. She has gone with the boat," came in bursting sobs from the poor boy, who was by that time so completely exhausted and unmanned that Fred could only take him in his arms and try to comfort him as one might a little child.
A brief explanation made the whole matter plain to our friends of Lunda, but it took some time to show the Norna's captain how it stood. He had been nursing much wrath against the inhabitants of Boden, and would scarcely pay sufficient heed to what Fred said. But his boatswain's account of the matter satisfied him, and he was as willing as any one of the party to postpone the disagreeable visit to Boden, and return to Collaster with as much expedition as possible.
Under the Doctor's skilful directions the injured man was removed to the boat, which was soon being rowed by six pairs of strong arms back to Lunda; and while so proceeding, Fred contrived to revive Yaspard's hopes regarding Signy.
It was impossible, he said, that the boat could go far out to sea, for the many cross-currents would prevent her. Nor was it likely that she could upset, unless she came in contact with the rocks. It was even possible that little Signy, so intelligent and brave, might think of using the helm to guide herself. She was quite familiar with the working of a boat, and after the first panic was over might find some way of serving herself.
Thus Fred talked, and Yaspard's naturally sanguine nature caught inspiration from his words. He was even ready to smile, and say, "Yes, the Laulie's crew will find her if any can," when Fred spoke of the young Mitchells and their boat, no doubt available at that time.
Unfortunately the Laulie was not available, for those restless boys had determined on a fishing expedition to the Ootskerries preparatory to their Viking-raid on Trullyabister, and had gone off early that morning. However, there were many other, if less interested and less efficient, crews in Lunda ready to do the young Laird's bidding; and not long after his return a number of boats were leaving the island to scour its neighbouring seas in search of the lost child.
Yaspard could scarcely be constrained from embarking in the first available boat, and was only deterred by Fred's assurance that he had a plan in his head which was only workable by themselves twain.
"When you have fed and rested we will set about it; and while you are obeying the Doctor by lying down on that sofa, I will go home and tell my mother what has happened, and what I purpose doing."
In the afternoon—just twenty-four hours after the Osprey had sailed from the voe of Collaster with a happy brother and sister aboard of her—Fred and Yaspard put off in a small boat, very like our Viking's bark in size and build. They sailed straight for Yelholme. By that time Fred explained what his plan was, and Yaspard became much excited over it, hoping everything from its peril and ingenuity.
When they reached the holme they hauled down their sail, and waited "on their oars" till the tide was exactly in the same stage in which it was when Signy was carried away by it.
Then the oars went in; the two adventurers sat passive on the middle thwarts, and let the boat go as the waters willed. Away she spun round the holme, and out in the same direction that the Osprey had taken.
"It's going to do, I really believe," Yaspard exclaimed, and Fred nodded; but Fred's heart was heavy at thought of the beautiful little creature who had flown like a dove into his heart so short a time before. He could so easily recall the sweet-confiding way she rested her head against him; he almost felt her soft hair blowing about his face as it had done when Arab carried them both to Collaster, and he was also carried into the undiscovered country of a young man's ideals!
They did not speak much as they drifted with the currents. They saw many of the boats that had been sent out, and spoke some; but no one had any report to make. Nothing had been seen or heard of the Osprey.
"It is scarcely time to hear anything yet," said Fred. "We must not be discouraged until we have heard from the boats that have gone farther away, and until our own plan fails to put us on her track."
"I don't believe it will fail," answered Yaspard, with a show of resolution far greater than his inward hope warranted.
"We will hope, boy; and we will not forget that the Father's watchful care has been about her in her loneliness and peril, poor little lassie!"
They lapsed into silence after that, and drearily watched the water as it carried them along, until they began to near a group of skerries which lay on the direct way to Havnholme. The steady current flowing past the point of Yelholme had borne them in safety beyond all dangerous rocks until nearing that ugly group, and when they noted the direction in which they were then drifting their hearts sank.
Fred sat white and stern, looking at the black rocks round which the ocean seethed white, and Yaspard wondered what he meant to do. He did not have much time to wonder. Fred took the seat in the stern, and said in a low voice, "She shall go as far as we dare let her; stand by to lift the sail when I bid you."
On went the boat, rolling more perilously as she came among the more disturbed waters; then it seemed that she lay checked between two huge waves for a moment; and while she so seemed to pause, the young fellows anxiously gazed at the group of skerries, fearing everything from their dark and frowning appearance.
Presently—could it be? Yes, the boat was not proceeding as she had done. She was going in another direction; she had met a cross tide, and was being carried by it past the skerries, past the towering cliffs of Havnholme, and into the quiet smiling little bay which gave that island its blessed name.
"SO HE SHUT ME IN SHIELD-WALL."
I have not been able to describe Yaspard's grief when he lost sight of the Osprey, and I am less able to describe his joy upon seeing her floating snug against the crags which were the favourite landing-place on Havnholme. But neither he nor Fred could utter a Bound when they caught sight of Signy lying under shelter of the skeoe, which had been of like service to many a person before; but never surely to so fair, delicate, and forlorn a creature as she—when she quitted the boat on the previous evening, and sank down on the spot to weep herself into unconsciousness. The sun had gone down, and had risen, and was fast sinking to rest behind the western waves again, but Signy had never moved from the place. Once or twice she had waked up, and gazed wildly around until she had once more realised her position, then with a low cry, that was yet a prayer, she had buried her face in the grass again and lapsed into that state of half slumber, half stupor, which was a merciful relief from the more keen realisation of her position.
In trembling haste her brother and Fred landed, and ran to where she lay; but so lifeless did she seem that Yaspard paused beside her, and dared not even stoop for a nearer look.
It was Fred Garson who lifted her head, and tenderly put the hair back from the white, innocent face; then said with tears, "Thank God, this is only sleep!"
Down Yaspard dropped on his knees by Signy, and when she opened her eyes they lighted first on her brother's face—white as her own, but full of gladness and love.
For a few moments she did not realise what had happened to her. "Brodhor! I had a strange dream," she murmured—"a terrible dream. But—where am I? Oh! I remember! Oh, Yaspard! you have found me! Oh, God heard all I said to Him!"
She leaned back on Fred's arm again, and looked up at him with the same confiding look she had raised when they were galloping over the Lunda heath, and she said very sweetly, "In the boat I thought of you helping Yaspard to find me."
They had brought wine and other nourishment with them, hoping that these might be found of use in that very way; and after Signy had partaken of refreshment, she was able to smile a little and tell them how she managed to land.