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Viking Boys
by Jessie Margaret Edmondston Saxby
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"The boat just went where it liked," she said, "and I was so dreadfully frightened for a little while. Then, as I prayed, it seemed all at once that I wasn't afraid any more, so I sat still and watched the sea, and wondered who would pick me up. After a long, long time the boat stopped rocking, and then I knew she had got out of the tides into the bay here. I had been here with Yaspard, and knew it; and I thought if I could row, or steer, or something, I might get the Osprey to the land. I was afraid to try with the oars, so I went and steered, and I really managed to turn the boat so that she was carried to the shore at the right place. I got out and tied the rope as I had seen Yaspard do. It felt so nice to stand on the ground again! But I was very tired; and I came up here, and looked all round at the sea, and I never had felt it to be a dreadful, dreadful thing before—never in my life! I had so loved the sea! But then—oh, it seemed so large, and powerful, and cruel! Somehow I began to tremble all over after that, and I am afraid I cried very much. I am not sure when it was I fell asleep, but it seems ages ago."

They would not let her talk any more about what had happened, but turned the conversation to home, and Signy was soon able to chat on that theme with a degree of composure.

After being rested and cheered, Fred carried Signy to the Lunda boat, saying to Yaspard as he did so, "We must all go together; and we can't bother with a boat in tow, so we had better secure the Osprey here till she can be fetched."

"Yes; and then if any of the search-party come to Havnholme, they will know by that that Signy has been found."

The hour was late, and Yaspard began to speculate upon what Aunt Osla and Uncle Brues would say on being roused from their slumbers to receive the adventurers and hear the story which had so nearly ended in a tragedy.

"I am afraid uncle will be very angry," said Yaspard; but Signy, who lived closer to the eccentric old man's heart and understood it better, affirmed that he would be so pleased to have her back in safety he would not "break out" on anybody. "Besides," she added, "he will see that we couldn't leave that poor man, and that it was all just a mere accident."

Yaspard was not so confident, nor yet was Fred, but they did not discuss the point further; only Fred remarked, "I'd carry you both straight away to Lunda, and get Dr. Holtum to take you home and smooth matters as he only can; but ill news travels fast, and it is quite possible that the catastrophe has been reported at Moolapund; and reported with twenty exaggerations tacked on to it. In that case the sooner you are home the better;" and Signy added, "I'd like best to go home."

Home had seemed so dear and far away while she was alone, that now her whole heart was turning to it with a passionate yearning; and her companions thoroughly understood the full meaning of her little sentence.

The events of the last twenty-four hours had completely driven all else from our Viking's mind, and he did not remember that he had trysted the lads of Lunda to meet him that night at (what they had named) Gloy's geo. But they, knowing nothing of what had taken place after they parted from the Osprey, were not likely to break bargain in such an affair—promising, as it did, some rare fun.

The boats which Fred had sent out to scour the seas had not approached the Ootskerries, knowing that the Laulie was there, and that her crew were not likely to miss seeing the lost boat if it came that way. Moreover, the fishermen calculated that the tide would carry her in a more southerly direction, altogether ignorant of the influence, at a precise and fortunate moment, of cross-currents. As we have seen, Fred Garson judged differently and with a better result.

But of all these things our lads were ignorant; therefore, shortly after Fred's boat entered Boden voe the Laulie set out from the Ootskerries for her rendezvous; and what next happened to her crew you shall learn when we have safely housed the young Adiesens at Moolapund.

There was the complete and brooding silence of Nature at rest over land and sea when the boat sailed up the voe, and the three adventurers did not speak a word till Signy caught sight of a light.

"Oh," she cried, "look! uncle has not gone to bed; there is a lamp burning in the parlour still."

"That is very satisfactory," quoth Fred; "but they can't have heard any rumour about you, else there would be more folks awake than the scientist, and other lamps besides that of the study."

"Uncle Brues will be grubbing among his specimens," said Yaspard concisely.

When they reached land they heard Pirate begin to bark and whine, evidently aware of their vicinity, and eager to get out and give them welcome; and as they drew near the house the door opened and Mr. Adiesen appeared, in a fantastic dressing-gown and Fair Isle cap, saying to the dog, "What's the matter, Pirate?"

The "matter" became plain to his vision next moment in the form of Signy, who flew into his arms crying, "Oh, uncle, dear, dear uncle! I am so thankful to be here again. I was lost, and nearly died; and poor Yaspard was left on Yelholme."

"Bless the child!" he gasped; "what on earth is she saying? Yaspard! do you know it is midnight? What is— Why, Mr. Garson! what—what!"

For once in his life Mr. Adiesen was thrown off his balance. Signy, springing up to bind her arms round his neck, caused him to stagger backwards into the hands of Fred and Yaspard, while their appearance and the girl's words upset his mind as much as his body. The joyful bounds and barks of Pirate added to the old gentleman's confusion, and when set on his feet again he could only turn and walk back to his parlour in blank amazement.

The others followed, of course, and stood waiting for him to speak, which he did shortly after resuming the arm-chair, which he had vacated at Pirate's request. "Explain yourself, sir!" he said severely, addressing Fred. So there was nothing for it but for Fred to begin and tell the story as best he might; but he had not proceeded far when Signy crept to her uncle's knee. Then he noticed her face was white and drawn, and her eyes still full of a great fear.

"Stop a moment, sir," said Mr. Adiesen; "my child is ill. Signy, who has frightened you?"

"No one, uncle; only I was alone in the boat and on Havnholme, and I was so afraid," and then she began to cry bitterly. He drew her close and looked frowning at Yaspard; "You had charge of your sister!" he said very sternly.

"The lad is not to blame, Mr. Adiesen," Fred exclaimed. "He was doing a good action, and he has suffered much also. Don't be hard on Yaspard."

"Mr. Garson saved me, uncle dear," sobbed Signy. "He found me on Havnholme; he is so good."

"Havnholme!" the old man muttered, and something like an electric shock went through him at that word.

The change in his expression was not lost on Fred. In a very few words he explained all; and when the narrative was ended he added, "We know that God had the dear child in His keeping all the time; and I am fain to believe that He who holds the seas in the hollow of His hand guided the boat to Havnholme—to Havnholme—for some wise purpose, Mr. Adiesen."

The old man's face dropped to the curly head lying on his breast, but he only said, "The child must get to rest, and Mam Kirsty. Ring that bell, Yaspard, and then go and tell your aunt. Sit down, Mr. Garson, sit down, till I've had time to think."

Fred did as he was bid, and so of course did Yaspard; and a pretty scene he created in Miss Osla's room when he burst in there and told her all!

The ringing of the bell had roused the maids and Mam Kirsty, who presented herself in the parlour with head discreetly and carefully covered in a huge cap and hap-shawl, but her feet and legs only protected by a short petticoat and pair of wooden clogs.

Her appearance and incoherent ejaculations were quite too much for the gentlemen, although their mood had been grave enough the moment before. They both laughed; and even Signy's tears were checked as she cried out, "Oh, dear Mam Kirsty, you do look so awfully funny."

"Take the child to her aunt's room," said Mr. Adiesen, "and see that she sleeps there to-night. She must not be alone. And some of you girls there prepare a room for Mr. Garson, and bring in some supper. Be sharp now."

He kissed Signy fondly, and had no objections to offer to Fred's doing likewise, but when she disappeared with her nurse he muttered, "I ought not to have trusted her out of this isle."



CHAPTER XX.

"FROM THE HANDS OF MY KINSFOLK."

"What on earth has become of that duffer?" said Tom Holtum, when the Laulie arrived at the geo and no Yaspard appeared either on land or sea.

"We are a little before our time," Harry remarked; "but I don't see his boat anywhere along the voe—that is, as far as one can see in the Dim and along such a twisting twirligig of a voe as this."

"I vote we land and have a nap," said Bill; but no one seconded him, as they expected the Viking and his followers to appear at any moment.

These did not put in an appearance, however; and after waiting a long hour Tom said, "Look here, boys, something unforeseen has stopped him—and it's something serious too. I expect the old man has smelt a rat, or Yaspard has had qualms of conscience."

"He'd have come and told us if that were it," said Harry promptly.

"Anyway," Tom replied, "he hasn't come; and it does not look as if he were coming, and we can't sit here all night doing nothing. So I vote we proceed without Sir Viking."

"He would not like it; and it is his quest, you know," Harry laughingly made answer.

"His quest, but remember it is also my what-you-call-am—little game. Mind you I discovered the seal for myself, and I meant the job of taking her to be our job. Father said it might have been better if Yaspard had less to do with it. On the whole, boys, I don't think we can do better than start and reconnoitre, and take whatever chance comes our way."

The others agreed, and, thinking it best not to venture up the voe, they decided to moor their boat at some safe place on the other side of Boden and nearer Trullyabister. "So said so done" was the way of those lads, and about the time when Yaspard and Fred were falling asleep, thoroughly tired out, the Mitchells, Tom, and Gloy were stealthily creeping up the hill to the old Ha'-hoose.

"We must be careful and spry," quoth Tom, "for the ogre 'walks' like a ghost o' nights, as I know to my cost." Yaspard had described the ruins to them, and they knew all about the passage leading to the haunted room. His plan for liberating the captives had been their plan, since no better could be; but they were not provided with the tools he meant to bring, and could not therefore carry out the programme as at first arranged.

But those boys were not often at their wits' end, and whatever substitutes for sacks, saws, and shovels suggested themselves as available were carried with them from the boat. These substitutes consisted of a piece of sail-cloth and some bits of hard wood, an owzkerry[1] and the boat-hook. They also brought away some stout rope, and a knife which had helped to end the career of many an aspiring fish. They were not without hope of finding a spade lying "handy" somewhere in the vicinity of the house; so that, on the whole, the young marauders were not so badly off for the sinews of war.

They met with no adventure by the way, nor saw they the least sign to indicate that either of the night-roving inhabitants of Trullyabister were awake. Near the peat-stack they found a spade and a large stout keschie, which they appropriated, as Harry suggested it would make a handy cradle for the baby seal. They stole into the ruined and roofless apartment as Yaspard and the Harrisons had done, and listened for sounds from the prisoners; but all was quiet. There was plenty of daylight by that time, so that they did not have to grope their way about.

"Of course the first thing," whispered Harry, "is to make sure they are there, so I'll mount as the Viking did."

He clambered up to the window and took a good look in. It was a pity he did not take as good a look out, and then he might have noticed—at a window close by, the window of Mr. Neeven's study—the eyes of that ogre himself watching the boys with grave intentness. But Harry, all unaware of such espionage, came down from the window, and reported Mrs. Sealkie asleep beside her baby in a corner made comfortable with straw and bits of carpet. To work then went the lads, one with a spade, another with a knife; and when these two were tired, the others took their place, so that the job was rapidly accomplished.

Their plan was to remove the lowest board which blocked the way to the passage, and to dig from under it a sufficient amount of earth to enable a boy to enter—or a seal to come out.

They meant, after capturing the captive, to hack the board and scrape the earth, so that any one would suppose that the seal had gnawed and clawed her own way to freedom; and they thought it a very clever plan indeed, saying that Yaspard, with whom it originated, was the great inventor and general of the age.

The seal did not sleep while this was going on so near her; but she had partaken of a late and large supper, and did not "fash" beyond now and then whining in a melancholy voice, which stimulated the young heroes to further efforts, and helped to cover the noise they made.

Before long they were satisfied that the opening was wide enough to allow them to enter crawling. "The first one that goes in will have to watch his head," said Bill, "for I've heard that seals are very fierce when they have young ones around."

"This seal is Trullya, and she will know us. Anyway, she never was a crosspatch, and I'll go first," replied Harry the wise and brave. "And I don't see," he added, "that any one else need go in there. I'll try and persuade her ladyship to inspect this aperture, and take a 'constitutional' down the passage."

But Tom wasn't going to let another eclipse him in valour, particularly as this quest was his, so, before Harry had done speaking, Tom ducked and soon wriggled himself through the opening. Harry followed, after cautioning Bill and Gloy to go out of the passage and keep watch, to give the alarm in case Mr. Neeven or fule-Tammy should come upon the scene.

The sealkie was neither alarmed nor disturbed by her visitors. She had evidently returned to her tame confiding ways, and allowed the boys to come close to her. When Harry spoke to her by name, using also some soft notes which Fred had taught Trullya to understand as a call to meals, she responded in her plaintive voice, which left no doubt of her identity; but when Tom attempted to touch the baby she uttered a sharp bark and glared at him in a manner that showed she was by no means prepared to allow their overtures to go a step further.

"What shall we do if she won't come out?" asked Tom; "we couldn't muffle her here, could we?"

"You go along, and leave madame to me," replied Harry; and Tom made his exit.

Harry had "a way" with animals, and he soon managed to persuade Trullya to leave her couch. Then the baby, restless and curious as small persons are, crept to the opening and peeped out. The mother followed, and finding the barriers against which she had daily fretted removed, waddled slowly into the passage, followed by her young one.

Harry hastily tumbled the earth and broken bits of wood about the opening, and followed the sealkie into the large room, where he found her looking amazedly at the three boys stationed at spots where they thought she might escape.

Tom had taken up the piece of sail-cloth, and he was preparing to throw it over the seal when all were startled by the sound of a loud cough not far away.

"Gracious!" one exclaimed in a horrified whisper.

"He's coming!" said another.

The cough was repeated, and the person who coughed was nearer. Moreover, footsteps were heard! These sounds proceeded from the north side of the house, and the four boys promptly and silently evacuated the ruin over the south wall.

"Run for the peat-stack," Harry whispered; and when they were crouching behind it he said briefly, "It's all up. That was Mr. Neeven. We must creep round to the knowes, and then make tracks for our boat."

Setting the example, he started for the knowes, crawling over the ground like a Red Indian on the war-trail, and followed by his companions. If they reached the knowes unobserved they might hope to get off in safety, for those little hillocks intercepted the view from Trullyabister, preventing any one there from seeing across the hill which the Lunda boys had to cross.

But when they reached the knowes Mr. Neeven suddenly appeared from behind them, saying sternly, "What is this? What! Tom Holtum, who calls himself a gentleman!"

They were beautifully caught, and rose from their reptile position shamefaced and discomfited. Tom, whose audacity frequently stood them in better stead than Harry's self-possession, was the first to face the very awkward situation.

"We didn't mean any harm, sir," he said. "We only came to take Fred Garson's pet sealkie."

"Indeed! and where may Fred Garson's pet sealkie be?"

"She was in the haunted room—goodness knows where she may be by this time," was the very cool answer of Master Tom.

"Are you aware, young gentleman, that breaking into a house is a burglarious offence, for which you are liable to imprisonment with hard labour during a term of years?"

That was a terrible speech; but a sudden break in the speaker's voice, and a mirthful look which he could not repress, were noted by Harry, who took them as hopeful signs; so, plucking up courage, he replied—

"You know what is fair and right as well as we do, sir; and I put it to you—were we doing a bad thing in trying to recover our friend's property in a quiet way? He might have sued Mr. Adiesen in the law courts, and made no end of a row."

"Always supposing, my lad," Mr. Neeven interrupted, "that the seal could be proved to be his."

"I can prove it easily," Harry answered confidently. "She answered to the old call Fred used; and besides that, Isabel made a sketch of her. Every mark on her skin is in the picture."

"And more," said Tom; "the sealkie was caught on Fred's property, where no person had business to be without his leave."

"That, too, is a point open to question. But what I have to do with is this disgraceful burglary. I believe it is admitted that you had less business in Trullyabister than Mr. Adiesen had in Havnholme."

There was no denying that truth, and the boys hung their heads.

"Follow me," said the ogre. "First you shall show me if the animal recognises your call, and after that I'll tell you what I mean to do with you."

The whole party returned to the ruins; but when they got there they were just in time to see Trullya and her baby flopping over some crags near the back of the house, which was situated only a little way from the sea on both sides.

The boys were about to start in pursuit, but Mr. Neeven stopped them.

"Let her go to her own," he said almost gently. And in a few minutes the seal reached the ocean and was free once more.



[1] "Owzkerry," scoop for baling water.



CHAPTER XXI.

"NOUGHT HAD'ST THOU TO PRAISE."

When Trullya disappeared, the ogre turned upon the boys with a savageness that was very much put on; for their rueful looks, disappointment, headlong action, and love of fun, had appealed to him in a way he was not prepared to combat very seriously. But he was not going to let them know that. He laid a hand heavily on Tom's shoulder, and asked, "How came you to know about the seal?"

"I saw her at the window, and I guessed a lot."

Mr. Neeven saw in the four candid faces before him that there was more to tell.

"How did you find your way into my house, and to that particular portion of it? Very few persons know about those passages and places."

They were silent. They would not tell on Yaspard, and seeing that his question remained likely to be unanswered, he asked another.

"Haven't you entered into a Viking campaign, with my young relative Yaspard Adiesen for your 'enemy,' of all games in the world?"

"Yes," said Tom; "but his uncle was told about it, and our fathers know."

"Then your fathers are as——" He stopped short, for Harry Mitchell's eyes were flashing on him in a very spirited manner, and Harry's voice, raised and determined, interrupted him.

"Excuse me, sir, but I think we must not listen if you go on that tack. Blow us sky high about our own doings. We own up that we might have made our raid in a more open way, and given you warning that we meant to attack your castle. That would have been more like honest Vikings; but, all the same, we aren't going to admit that we've done anything really wicked, or that our fathers would have permitted us to carry on so if it had been wrong. And we are ready to take any punishment you think right to inflict."

"It was only our madram," [1] added Tom, using an old Shetland word, which Gaun Neeven had heard applied to himself in days gone by more often than any other term.

"Only boys' madram," his gentle mother had so often said to excuse his foolishness and screen him from the results of many an escapade. His boyhood was being swiftly recalled by the antics of those boys, and by Tom Holtum's ways and words. He saw his boyish self more in Tom than in the others, and the contact with those young spirits was doing the recluse good.

The hand on Tom's shoulder pressed more heavily, but it was not an ungentle touch, and Tom wondered what was coming next.

"Madram!" muttered Neeven, as if he were thinking aloud, and had forgotten their presence. "Madram, boys' madram! There may be worse things in the world than that."

The cloud lifted a little from their spirits then; and a welcome diversion took place at that moment in the form of Yaspard, who presented himself on the scene, flustered, and eager to take the blame of whatever had happened on his own shoulders.

After a dreamless slumber of an hour or two, he had waked up to remember his tryst, and getting up at once, had hastened to a spot where he could see if the Laulie were anywhere near the geo. Pirate accompanied him, and did not at all care for going in the direction of the geo, but kept scampering towards another point, frequently looking back, as if he wished his young master to follow.

The Laulie was not in sight, and Yaspard feared the boys had returned home on finding he did not keep his promise, or had heard of the Osprey's misfortunes, and had not come at all.

While he speculated Pirate grew impatient, and begged in every expressive canine manner that he knew better than Yaspard, who at last yielded to the dog's persuasions and followed, to find the Laulie moored not far from where he was.

"Just so!" he exclaimed. "I see! When they found I did not come, they started on the adventure without me."

After that he set off for Trullyabister, and appeared before Mr. Neeven and his "enemies," as I have stated.

"You are early afoot!" was the salutation spoken sarcastically by the master of the situation. But our hero, nothing daunted, answered—

"Good morning, sir! Well, boys, I suppose you tried it without me, and failed, of course."

"I was convinced none other than yourself was head and tail of the affair," remarked Mr. Neeven, in the same cool, sarcastic manner. "I think you must be finding by this time that Vikinging, otherwise burglary, doesn't fit in with modern civilisation."

"And there are other things don't fit in either," retorted Yaspard quickly; then recovering himself at once, he added hastily, "but I don't mean to fuss. If you please, by-and-by I'll have a quiet talk with you, sir, about a very important matter. Now, boys, you want to know why I didn't keep my tryst with you. It is a long story, and a very dreadful and a very strange one."

He then recounted all that had occurred since the Laulie and Osprey parted company, and Mr. Neeven, as well as the lads of Lunda, was deeply moved by the story. Yaspard alluded as little as possible to the light which had caused the wreck, and he did not mention at all that he had seen one similar himself.

Many were the exclamations of astonishment and sympathy with which his story was heard, but when it was finished our young adventurers found their usual mode of expressing much feeling.

"Three cheers for the little lady, and three times three for Fred Garson!" Tom called out.

Up went their caps in the air, and out rang their wild hurrahs, louder and heartier at each renewal, to the consternation of fule-Tammy, who was waked from slumber by the uproar, and came out rubbing his eyes, with all his hair on end, and wailing, "The trows! the trows! they've come tae pu' doon a' the house at last."

He was a comical sight, and laughter took the place of cheering. The boys caught each other's hands and formed a circle round Tammy, dancing, laughing, shouting, like the wildest of wild savages, until he recognised some of them, and added to their mirth by squatting in the midst of them, and saying, "Weel, noo! and I thought it wis the trows! My lambs, ye can carry on like yon till ye're weary. It's no puir Tammy 'at sall stop your madram. But, for a' that, ye're a set o' filskit moniments." [2]

"Get up, Tammy. Boys, come into the house with me," said Mr. Neeven, when the tumult subsided and he could make himself heard.

They followed him to his study, and they were not ungrateful for some scones and milk which he caused Tammy to set before them; but his grim expression did not relax, and they did not find their confidence rise very much.

After a little time Yaspard said, "Will you please let me have some private talk with you? I really must, before uncle begins to question me to-day, or any one comes from Lunda, as I expect they will."

He was taken to another room, but we will not intrude upon that interview. Mr. Neeven's face wore a heavy frown when they returned, but he only said, "You will all go now with Yaspard; he can stow you somewhere, I expect, till the family gets out of bed. You and your boat may find employment in conveying the Laird of Lunda to his own island. I have nothing further to say to you, except to warn you not to make raids upon me again."

"Thank you, sir," said the Mitchell brothers; and Tom added, "It is more than good of you to let us off so easy; all the same, I wish we had Fred's sealkie for him. But thank you, Mr. Neeven; and I'm sure if I can ever do anything for yon, I'll be as pleased as Punch."

Then they were dismissed curtly, but not unkindly; and Gaun Neeven felt his room to be all the darker and lonelier when the mischief-loving laddies were gone.

When they got a bit away from the house Harry called a halt. "Look you," said he, "this is no kind of hour in which to invade a decent house. Let's go to our boat, and bring her round to Moolapund."

"And say we've come for Fred, as flat as you like," added Tom; "it will be quite like our impudence."

"And will be true enough," said Yaspard. "Only there is more in it than that."

"We shan't mind telling your uncle all about it," Tom replied, "if you don't think it will make a row."

"There won't be any need to tell him at present, and he is bound to hear it from Mr. Neeven. These two have long confabs every day, and I just believe—for I've sometimes heard bits of their talk—that they don't talk science so much as all about the pranks they played when they were boys. You wouldn't think it, to look at him, but Aunt Osla says Mr. Neeven was an awful boy."

It was hard to imagine the serious scientist and the melancholy recluse two restless mischievous boys. The irreverent young rascals amused themselves till they reached the Laulie with fancy sketches of the two gentlemen (when they were known merely as Brues and Gaun) getting into all sorts of ridiculous pickles, until Harry checked the nonsensical chatter by remarking, "Every man is a boy first, and has to be a bit of a donkey, with the tricks of a monkey, till he grows up and gets sense. I hope we will all grow up with half the brains in our noddles that these two have got."

Bill Mitchell had scarcely spoken a word since the time they were discovered, but now he said very solemnly, "He's full of brains, that man! but I'd rather be more empty-headed, and less like a katyogle[3] that's been sitting on a stone all day with a dozen of undigested sandyloos[4] and sna-fowl[5] in his crop."



[1] "Madram," extravagant action, the result of wild, animal spirits.

[2] Frisky simpletons.

[3] "Katyogle," snowy owl.

[4] "Sandyloos," ringed plover.

[5] "Sna-fowl," snow buntings.



CHAPTER XXII.

"GIVE YE GOOD COUNSEL."

When they reached Moolapund they found all the household up and assembled for breakfast. Even Signy—though she looked pale and nervous—was there. The Laulie's approach had been noticed, but Mr. Adiesen merely remarked, "Your young friends come to fetch you, Mr. Garson, I suppose?"

He exchanged a knowing look with Fred. They had been conversing in private that morning for two hours, and both came into the breakfast-room with beaming faces. Even Aunt Osla could see without spectacles that a great change had come over her brother, and the good lady's heart was lightened, for she was sure the feud had come to an end at last.

Yaspard came to much the same conclusion when he ushered his companions into the house, and saw Uncle Brues leaning familiarly on Fred's arm, and quite ready to greet the Lunda boys with cordiality.

This was what our Viking-boy had longed for, and had hoped to bring about; yet there was a comical regret mingled with his pleasure as he thought, "There will be no more excuse for my Viking raids."

As they all gathered around the table Mr. Adiesen said, "I suppose you came for your captain, young gentlemen?"

A moment's pause. "Yes," said Harry; "we were sure he would want to get home soon to report Signy and Yaspard all right, but——"

"There's a 'but,' is there? Well?" said the Laird with a smile, which was reflected on Fred's face.

"We did not leave home with such an intention," Harry went on resolutely. "We came to join Yaspard in a quest which ended in a muddle."

"Because I wasn't there," said the Viking. And then they told all about their night's work; and Tom prefaced the telling by a very sensible remark. "It's got to be known, and we'd much rather have it all out, and take the consequences as you like. It might look like being sneaky, or fibicating, if we held our tongues."

When all was confessed Mr. Adiesen turned to his nephew. "Yaspard," he said, "you are usually truthful and candid; why have you allowed me to hear all this from some one else?"

"I was afraid that you would stop me from having any more raids, and that the feud would have it all its own way after this." He looked straight at his uncle, ready for a storm if it came, but it didn't.

"There will be no more feud, my boy," was the mild answer Mr. Adiesen made. "I have agreed to bury the feud in gratitude for this child's deliverance from great peril," and he laid his hand tenderly on Signy's bright hair.

"Dear, dear uncle!" she exclaimed; and Miss Osla, behind the teapot, began to sniff preparatory to a sentimental effusion, which was fortunately checked by Yaspard exclaiming, "Then that makes an end of our jolly Vikinging, boys."

They all laughed, all save Signy, who so thoroughly entered into her brother's feelings, and she said, "That does seem a pity, brodhor; just when you had got it all so splendidly arranged."

"Perhaps," Fred remarked, "some other method may suggest itself. I don't see why you can't—now that a treaty of alliance is made—join forces and go on the war-path together."

"But there's no enemy!" said Yaspard; "one can't fight without a foe."

"I dare say they will turn up if they are looked for. If you hoist the black flag you will certainly find some one in the world ready to try and haul it down, I am glad to say."

"All right, Fred," Tom cried; "since you counsel such action, we'll range ourselves under Yaspard's banner, and it shall be 'Boden and Lunda against the world.'"

"Stop! stop! you misunderstand me, Tom. I said that I was glad that there were plenty of foes of the black flag, and that you would find it so; but in saying that I did not desire you to sail under it. And, Yaspard, I think you are a little adrift about your Vikinging. It was only a section of the gallant Vikinger who made piracy their profession, or need its hateful sign. Why identify yourself with that lot? There are plenty of black flags flying all over the world, and not so many of the Red Cross, my lad. Our boys still call me their captain, so if you will all take your captain's advice, I'd say—let the black flag be the pall of the feud. Sail with a noble minority under the Christian badge, as many a Viking did, and then it should be right well, 'Boden and Lunda against the world.'"

"Good for you, Fred," said Harry; but Tom declared he couldn't see through allegories; and that fighting the "world" in that fashion didn't solve Yaspard's difficulty about his jolly game; and he turned to Yaspard for assistance in the argument.

But our hero was "all with" Fred, and could see no fault in him.

"Obedience and no argument is the first rule of all who elect to follow a chief," Yaspard said decidedly. "You must see as your captain bids you, Tom."

"That's right," Harry Mitchell struck in; "we all agree with Fred. Good-bye to the black flag; and may Balder guide you to fresh fields of adventure, Sir Viking, for we look to you to provide us with something 'worthy of our steel.'"

"Quotations from Scott and Garth Halsen are always dodging among Harry's yackles,[1] ready to dance on the tip of his tongue when the smallest opportunity occurs," remarked Tom.

"Practical Tom Holtum aspires to poetic language," retorted Harry, with some heat.

"There they go!" exclaimed Bill, giving a small kick to each, as he happened to be seated between them. "Always sparring at each other like young cocks."

"Sailing under the black flag, eh?" said Mr. Adiesen to Tom and Harry, who looked a little ashamed, but joined in the laugh at Bill's next speech.

"Talk of feuds," quoth he. "These two have had a feud of their own going since they were born."

"Why, there is the Osprey coming up the voe," Signy called out. She had left the table a minute before, and had gone to the window to throw out some scraps to the pet birds waiting, well assured that they would not be forgotten.

Very few boats came up Boden voe, especially at such an unusual hour, therefore more than one of the breakfast party followed Signy to the window to see who was coming.

"It's father for one," said Tom.

"And that schooner's captain for another," said Fred.

"Now for it," thought Yaspard. "I wonder what I ought to do? I can't peach on poor fule-Tammy."

He was not put to the test, for as the boat reached the quay Gaun Neeven stalked up to the door followed by the culprit Tammy, looking quite satisfied with himself, and not at all disconcerted by the many eyes turned upon him—some in wonder why he was there, some in pity for his half-witted condition which had caused so much trouble.

"Shall we boys clear out of the way?" Harry asked of Mr. Adiesen, who assured him there was no necessity for their effacing themselves, as he believed a very few words with the Norna's skipper would explain everything.

"I wish I had not come on a disagreeable errand," said Dr. Holtum, as he shook hands all round. "Yes, Tom, I expected to find you boys here. You generally do contrive to get on Fred's track. We were so thankful, Adiesen, to learn that the child was safe. One of our boats found the Osprey at Havnholme, and brought the news and the boat to Lunda."

Then Mr. Neeven spoke abruptly—"Before anything further is said I wish to state that I have discovered what caused the deplorable accident to the schooner Norna, and I will make good the loss—though not bound to do so—to her skipper, who I understand was also her owner."

"That's handsomely said," remarked the captain; "and when I hear the explanation I will be better able to judge whether it is justice or generosity."

Taking no notice of that surly speech, Neeven turned to fule-Tammy. "Tell this gentleman, Tammy, about the peat fires you light on the Heogue."

"Weel, sir," said Tammy, leering, and shaking himself, "it wis this way. The Laird wis aye spakin' and spakin' o' getting yon things 'at they ca' lichthooses upo' wir isles, and he wad say hoo puir seafaring men wis drooned, and ships broken into shallmillins upo' the baus and skerries a' for want o' a licht upo' the laund. And, thinks I, there's plenty o' pates in Boden, and a gude pair o' haunds here tae mak a roogue[2] 'at should lowe a muckle lowe ony nicht. And why shouldna puir Tammy's pate-stack do as well tae mak a lowe as a lamp in a lichthoose? The Laird, puir body, is that taen up with bukes and bits o' stanes and skroita[3] that his head wasna big eneuch tae think like puir Tammy, 'at had nae mair tae do but gang drodgin[4] wi' a pate keschie and the like. So, thinks I, Tammy sall big a lichthoose o' pates upo' da Heogue, and Tammy sall be the licht-keeper, and des[5] be a bonnie lowe when the winds blaw. Mony a keschie-fu' has puir Tammy carried tae dat spot, and mony a puir seafaring man will hae said, 'Blessin's be upo' da cruppin[6] 'at set yon taunds intae a lowe!'"

So perfectly satisfied with himself and his performance was Tammy, that not even the Norna's skipper would allow himself to laugh or say a harsh word. The poor man's mental condition was so obvious, that no one could doubt for a moment that the truth regarding the mysterious fire had been told. "That will do, Tammy; you can go home now," said Mr. Neeven, and Tammy departed forthwith.



[1] Double teeth.

[2] Heap.

[3] Lichen.

[4] Go dawdling.

[5] There shall.

[6] Body.



CHAPTER XXIII.

"AND BOUND FAST THEIR SWORDS IN WEBS GOODLY WOVEN."

"I think," said Fred as Tammy shuffled away, "that some of us must follow the 'light-keeper's' example and take ourselves off, especially as we came without invitation."

But no one would permit him to say another word about leaving. Mr. Neeven curtly requested the Norna's captain to accompany him to Trullyabister "on business." Dr. Holtum, Harry Mitchell, and Fred followed Mr. Adiesen to his study, for the purpose of inspecting some of its treasures. Aunt Osla insisted upon Signy's retirement to a sofa—for the child still looked wan and nervous. Yaspard carried off Tom and Bill to Noostigard, where Gloy had gone immediately after breakfast to tell the Harrisons all the astonishing news. Thus the lawn at Moolapund was cleared of the large human party which had assembled there—the first for many years; and their places were taken by the motley crowd of birds and beasts who daily assembled for the matutinal meal the scientist never failed to give them from his own hands.

Great was the astonishment created amongst them by his non-appearance on this occasion. Loki stretched out his long neck with the curious jerk which makes a cormorant look so idiotic as well as voracious, while one or two scories[1] gave utterance to a good deal of strong language. Pigeons, chickens, shelders,[2] sparrows, and starlings skirmished for the crumbs, &c., which Signy had put out, and wondered what was to happen next; a pony shoved his frowsy head against the window, and a patient large-eyed ox stood near the door with the obvious intention of remaining there till the master put in an appearance. All were envious of the favourite cat who was seated serenely inside the window, blinking complacently at the assemblage through a safe shield of glass, and at last her airs of superiority and content became too much for Thor.

After hopping sedately about, contriving to annex the tit-bits from Signy's contribution, and making inquiries into the position of affairs, Sir Raven suddenly alighted on the window-sill in front of Mistress Puss, and screamed harshly in her very face, "Shoo! shoo! Uncle, uncle, uncle!"

The feline person waited for no second remark, but setting up her back at Thor, she cursed him in cat language and hastily decamped; whereat the astute Thor, turning to the company observant of all that was taking place, said "Just so!"

By that time the patience of a good many of the creatures was exhausted, and they took to falling out with one another, the result of which was a concert so peculiar that it drew the attention of the gentlemen, even though they were very intently turning out the contents of a cabinet.

"Ah, poor things! I don't often forget them," Mr. Adiesen said by way of explaining the clamour outside, and—excusing himself to his guests—he hurried away to his menagerie.

Dr. Holtum and Fred stood together at the window and watched the scientist distribute food to his dependants, while Fred told the Doctor a great deal of what had passed between himself and his hereditary enemy; and we may be sure his listener rejoiced over such a happy termination to the feud of years.

A pleasant morning glided swiftly to the hour of noontide dinner, when the boys returned to the Ha' hungry and in high spirits. They had concocted a grand "lark" while at Noostigard; and they had encountered Mr. Neeven at the Hoobes, when he had invited Tom to come to Trullyabister whenever he so pleased.

"And I'll go," said Tom, when the recluse was out of hearing. "I'll go, and I'll take the rest of us with me."

After dinner the Doctor said, "You have a Lunda boat here; and I must be at Collaster this afternoon, but I don't want to hurry Fred. Perhaps some of the boys will take me home and return for him."

But Fred required to go home too, so it was settled that the whole Lunda party were to depart together.

"We are to meet, however, on Friday," said Fred, "and have a splendid picnic in honour of little Signy. She is to be queen of our revels."

"Hurrah! All right! Just your style! Good for you, Fred!" In such words the lads let it be known how thoroughly they appreciated any such project; and when they subsided Mr. Adiesen said, "I wished the picnic to be here—on Boden, I mean; our island is a scrap compared with Lunda in size, but we have some cliffs and caves quite as fine as those of any of the Shetland Isles; and I could show you some fine scenery from the Heogue. But Mr. Garson wishes his picnic to be held on——" The old gentleman came to a very full stop, pushed back his spectacles from his nose to his forehead, drew himself up and looked around, meaning to be very emphatic indeed (which he was). "Yes," he resumed, when all his hearers were sufficiently impressed with the importance of what he had to state—"yes, Mr. Garson desires, and I cordially agree, that the picnic—I might call it the celebration of our thanksgiving for my Signy's preservation. Yes—hum! this meeting of my family with our friends of Lunda is to take place on—— Havnholme!"

Who can say what it cost that old man to agree to Fred's proposal; to bury his pride and his resentment, his ancestral prejudice and his personal arrogance, and meet the Laird of Lunda with his friends on the disputed piece of earth?

We cannot understand either the position or the concession, which seem almost ludicrous in our estimation, but were sufficiently solemn, even tragic, in the sight of Brues Adiesen, living a secluded life apart from men, and nursing there every fantastic or unreasonable or old-world idea.

The boys had not a word to say when their host's speech was concluded; but a sniff from Miss Osla, which might be the prelude to tears and sentiment, warned Dr. Holtum not to leave the silence for her to break, and he remarked—

"A good thought. We have not had a picnic on Havnholme for ages. The last time I saw the Yarl of Broch, he was saying he had not set foot on the Holme since he was a boy, and got thrashed there by you, Adiesen, eh?"

"I remember! I remember!" answered the scientist, chuckling and rubbing his hands together. "We were boys then—yes, boys—and boy-like, very ready for a row. It seems so short a time ago! It was, yes, it was a rare good fight—the only time I ever came off best! Ha! ha! I was not a fighting boy as a rule. I may say Neeven could always lick me; so could my poor brother Yaspard. But that time—don't know how it happened—I thrashed Halsen. I did indeed, though you mayn't think it."

"I am awfully surprised," said blunt Tom Holtum.

"You may be that," rejoined the scientist, not in the least nettled by the implication in Tom's speech. "You may well be surprised, for he is twice my size; he was a big boy, and is a big man. Yes! the Yarl is a genuine old Shetland Viking of the right sort."

"He'd suit you down to the ground, Yaspard," quoth Tom; and Fred Garson added, "You would freeze to Garth Halsen, boy. He is as mad about Vikinger as you are, only it's in another way. I'll ask them to join our party. You would like to see Mr. Halsen again, wouldn't you?"

"To be sure," Mr. Adiesen replied. "We'll fight our battle o'er again—with our tongues this time. By all means let's have the Yarl and his boy on Friday."

So things were settled; and in high good-humour the Lunda boys escorted Dr. Holtum and their young captain to the boat, and with hearty good-will rowed home, singing lustily as they pulled—

"A life on the ocean wave, A home on the rolling deep."

When the Lunda boat was out of sight Yaspard heaved a long sigh, and said to Signy, who with him had stood watching their new friends until the curves of the voe hid them from sight, "Well! I suppose I may stop my raids when I like now. There is no feud, and no occasion to go on the warpath."

"It seems almost too good to be true, brodhor," the girl made answer. "You need not mind giving up your Vikinging for such a good reason."

"That's true," he answered cheerily; "only we were getting no end of fun out of it. However, we must think of some other plan, as Mr. Garson said. Oh! but isn't he a brick, Signy?"

"He is just splendid," was the fervent answer.

"They are all splendid," replied the lad, "except perhaps Tom Holtum. I don't like him much. And to think of cousin Neeven taking to that one of all the lot! Well! if Tom is to be visiting at Trullyabister, where even I have not more than a half-civil 'Good-day'-and-don't-stay-long sort of welcome, there will be hot times in Boden, and plenty of rows."

"Oh, brodhor! don't set up a feud of your own, I beseech!" Signy cried, with a comical look of dismay on her face, and lifting both hands in appeal.

Yaspard burst into laughter. "Oh, Mootie, what a little goose you are! I couldn't keep a feud going to save my life. I can fight! I dare say, if that chap is much about, I shall knock him down if he cheeks me, but we will shake hands on the spot every time, you bet! I a feud! No, Signy, I am not a fool just yet; though if I had stayed much longer on Yelholme, I'd have lost the little wit I now possess."

They strolled away to the house, and did not know that Uncle Brues had been lying sunning himself on the other side of the stone wall near which they stood. As the brother and sister departed the old gentleman muttered, "Not a fool yet! No, Yaspard is not such a fool now as his uncle has been through a wasted long life. Heaven pardon me!"



[1] Young gulls.

[2] Oyster-catchers.



CHAPTER XXIV.

"MEET AND RIGHT IT IS, FAIR LORD, THAT I SHOULD GO."

The day before that on which the picnic was to take place a mysterious communication passed between the young Laird of Lunda and Yaspard Adiesen, the effect of which was to set our Viking into a fit of the fidgets combined with a state of exhilaration of spirit that threatened to effervesce in a dangerous manner at any moment.

But nothing more serious came of it than the startling of Miss Osla's wits by an apparition of her nephew prancing downstairs with one of Signy's old dolls in his arms, and his face and head wrapped in a piece of black linen, upon which our young hero had sketched a death's-head and cross-bones. As the terrific symbols were spread over his face, it was scarcely wonderful that Miss Osla got a fright, and called him a profane boy; but Signy—who was following her brother—explained that "it" was only the "black flag," and that it would never frighten anybody any more; with which explanation the gentle old auntie was quite satisfied.

Friday came, a glorious summer day, and promising to continue so. Yaspard was up early, putting some finishing touches to his boat, which had been undergoing a good deal of cleaning and painting in honour of the occasion.

He was all impatience to be off soon, desiring to be the first at the rendezvous; but Uncle Brues was not a person who liked to be hurried, and took his usual time to finish breakfast and feed his pets in spite of Yaspard's fidgets.

Fortunately the Harrison brothers (who were to be the Osprey's crew that day) arrived soon; and he found some relief in discussing with them the projected "lark" to which I have alluded, and which will be recorded in its proper place.

At last Mr. Adiesen and his sister came from the house, the former carrying a vasculum and field-telescope, the latter burdened with shawls and umbrellas, which were an insult to the sun, smiling that day as he seldom condescends to smile on Hialtland.

Signy followed her guardians, and Pirate came with her, bounding and barking his delight—for he was still a young dog, and expressed his pleasure naturally, as young creatures do.

Yaspard's eager impatience did not prevent him from noting his little sister's attractive appearance, and he called out as she came running to the quay, "Why, Mootie, you do look spiff[1] to be sure! Where on earth did you get that elegant frock from?"

"Out of Aunt Osla's bullyament[2] boxes," said she; and Aunt Osla herself explained that the bairn's "best things" had been worsted during her terrible adventure, which had obliged Miss Adiesen to make a new dress. All the same, Signy knew that the good lady had consulted with Mam Kirsty, and had come to the conclusion, fortified by the opinion of her aide-de-camp, that "whether or no," such an important occasion demanded a new frock for the queen of the revels.

The Shetland ladies of that time were wont to keep "by them" a hoard of "material," seeing that shops were beyond their reach; therefore Miss Adiesen was at no loss to provide a suitable and elegant picnic costume for the darling of Boden; and the result did credit to her taste and ingenuity.

As the family party were taking their places in the boat, two unexpected guests arrived with the evident intention of joining the others. These were Thor and Mr. Neeven. Thor coolly lighted aboard and settled himself close by Mr. Adiesen, remarking, as he did so, "Just so! Bad boy! bad boy! Uncle!"

These observations evidently referred to Pirate—not the scientist—who was lying at their master's feet with head lovingly rested against his knee, a position which Thor never liked to see occupied by any one, for he was a jealous bird.

Mr. Adiesen welcomed Sir Raven by handing him a crust from the capacious pocket which never failed to carry a supply of such tokens of good-will. While addressing Thor in the way he liked best, the old gentleman greeted his cousin by saying, "Glad you thought better of it, and have come, Gaun. Fine day for an excursion, this. Here is a comfortable place for you," and he made room for Neeven beside Miss Osla; but the recluse merely nodded "Good morning" to his relatives, stepped along the thwarts to the bow, and seated himself there.

His ways, peculiar and not meant for incivility, were too well known to provoke comment. The Osprey was shoved off by Yaspard, while Lowrie and Gibbie got out a pair of oars to help the boat along, as the wind was very light.

Brues Adiesen was in high good spirits, and insisted upon taking an oar too as soon as his nephew sat down to row. Then Signy began to sing for very gladness of soul, as the birds do. Yaspard took up the chorus of her song, which was commented upon by Thor in his usual sage manner; and even Miss Osla forgot to seem afraid of the sea—a sentimental fashion which had been considered a feminine attraction in the days of her youth.

Altogether the Osprey's party was as happy and almost as blithe a one as that of the Laulie, which arrived at the little bay of Havnholme a few minutes after the Boden boat. Shortly afterwards two more boats arrived in company. These were the Vaigher and Mermaid, containing all the rest of Fred's guests. He was in his father's place at the Vaigher's helm, presiding, as his father would have done, over the safety of the elder and more sober portion of the party. His sister Isobel had the management of the little Mermaid, and her companions were Gerta Bruce and Amy Congreve, who had, of course, accompanied Garth Halsen and his father, the Yarl of Burra Isle. Any of us who made the acquaintance of the Yarl, his household, and guests from England, will know all about those girls and Garth, and will expect fun where they appear.

It is a real pleasure to me (and I hope to you who read this) to renew my acquaintance with the Burra Isle contingent; to look once more on the tender faces of Mrs. Holtum and the "little mother" of those Manse boys, and to hear the minister's genial laugh, as well as the Doctor's cheery voice.

What a shaking of hands and clatter of voices there were, to be sure! Even Pirate had to make a demonstration, for Watchie had accompanied the Holtums, and was ready to be friends with any dog. The only person who did not share in the general good-will and hilarity, who seemed indeed to be out of place among so many pleasant folk, and to feel himself quite above all such demonstrations of peace, was Thor. After surveying the "ongoings" from the safe point of a masthead, he came to the conclusion that the proceedings interested him no more, and with a dismal croak he flew off to the skeoe, and, seating himself on the topmost point of its ruinous gable, commented in very uncomplimentary terms upon the ways of mankind. As his opinions were expressed aloud, and accompanied by many grotesque and expressive gestures, he created a good deal of amusement, although Mr. Adiesen remarked gravely enough, "We ought not to have allowed Thor to accompany us."

"He won't stay at home unless he is shut up," Yaspard explained; and Signy added, "Poor old Thor! I dare say he is more pleased than he seems."

"Perhaps," Fred whispered aside to the brother and sister, "the Thunderer, the god of war, can appreciate a peace celebration as well as others."

"Anyway," replied Yaspard, "there ought to be a 'chief mourner' at the funeral, and I don't know who can undertake the part if Thor will not."

"Funeral! What do you mean, brodhor?" Signy asked, with eyes very wide open; whereupon he beseeched her to be silent, or the cat would be out of the bag in a jiffy; and Signy, still wondering but submissive, held her peace, while Yaspard went rollicking from group to group, singing to a doleful tune with a grin on his face—

"Thus said the Rover To his jolly crew, Down with the black flag, Up with the blue. Shake hands on main-deck, Shake hands on bow; Shake hands amidships, Kiss down below."

"You are improving on Scott, I hear," said Garth Halsen. "I didn't know you went in for being a poet as well as a Viking."

"No more I do, but I know you write poetry," retorted Yaspard; and then Fred said, "Yes; and do you know he has been impudent enough to compose a ballad about a legend of your family, boy? Think of that! I liked the ballad so well that I asked Garth to bring it along and give us all the benefit; so you are to hear the story of your own great-granduncle, whose namesake you are, done into verse, with all the Viking and Shetlandic accompaniments. What think you of that?"

"It depends upon how it is treated," quoth Yaspard with most unusual caution, and eyeing Garth as if he were some curious specimen more fit for Uncle Brues's cabinets than a picnic.

Aunt Osla, however, was charmed with the idea, said it was a very pitiful story, quite true, and just suitable for a ballad; so Garth's verses were to be read after lunch and other ceremonies were over—for other ceremonies there were to be, as all could guess who saw Fred Garson talking eagerly apart with Yaspard, then choose a lovely green spot, and say, "This will do. Our dining hall can be on that flat lower down, but this is exactly what we want. You might get some of the fellows to bring up a few stones, while I fetch the flag-staff."

Off went Yaspard, and soon the Harrisons and Mitchell boys were helping him to convey some large stones to the brae which Fred had chosen.

"To fix a flag-staff" was all he told them, and they were not inquisitive, although our Viking's smile and knowing look betokened something much more important than the erection of a flag-staff.

"That will do, boys," said Fred, returning from his boat with a long stout stick and a spade, and in a short time the noble flag of noblest Britain, the beautiful red, white, and blue, with its mingled crosses telling so much of Britain's fame and story, was floating over Havnholme.



[1] Smartly dressed.

[2] Odds and ends.



CHAPTER XXV.

"AND THERETO THEY PLIGHTED TROTH BOTH OF THEM."

Do you wonder how so many people (and the boys in particular) contrived to amuse themselves on that little island for a whole long summer day? I could write a volume about it, and still leave something to tell. Perhaps, some day, we shall hear what each person said and did and discovered on that occasion, but at present we must confine ourselves to the chief incidents.

First of these was the spreading of a bountiful lunch on a soft flat spot of turf, as green and fragrant as an English lawn, although yearly washed by the wild salt billows of the rough Atlantic, and never touched by spade or ploughshare. Then there was the lighting of a fire in the skeoe, and the boiling of potatoes, and the infusing of tea. And when all these preparations where almost complete, Yaspard stood upon a knoll and blew lustily on his "Looder-horn" a signal agreed upon, and which brought all the scattered party together near the flag-staff.

When they were all assembled, some casting very longing looks towards the banquet so invitingly spread on snowy linen with a border of emerald grass, others looking with some curiosity at the young host and master of ceremonies, Fred said, "I've got a little speech to make, friends, if you will have patience to hear me. I have a little present to give to the little queen of our revels, and I can't do so without the little speech."

"Hear! hear!" from some of the listeners, and one (his sister Isobel, be it known) said loud enough for all to hear—

"There was a little man, And he had a little gift For to give unto a little little maiden, oh."

Fred shook his head at her. "Don't spoil my eloquence, Bell! I won't say much, you may be sure."

He drew a paper from his pocket, and the smile on his bright handsome face deepened into a wonderful resemblance to the chastened gracious light which had given so much attraction to his father's countenance. There was much, too, of his father's dignity and ease in his air, and tears sprang to many eyes as that striking likeness was noted.

"His father's son, dear lad!" the Yarl whispered to Mrs. Holtum, who could only look up with quivering lips in reply.

"My friends," Fred resumed, in graver tones, "you know why we are all here to-day. We meet to rejoice over little Signy's preservation, and we meet here to thank God who made this little holme a havn[1] for her. It was well named Havnholme. It has given shelter to many a storm-tossed bark. The tiny bay yonder has ever been the one safe shelter amid the breakers and billows which surround both Lunda and Boden. There is no other haven of refuge between your island, Mr. Adiesen, and mine, and we unite to-day in thanking God that little Signy was saved on Havnholme. In time past, my friends, the cross-currents were too much for some of the human barks that were out for life's voyage, and they swamped among the skerries instead of finding the calm shelter of this islet. We—that is, Mr. Adiesen and myself—are so thankful to-day, that we have agreed that the best expression of our gratitude will be a conferring of all our rights in Havnholme upon the little lady who is queen of our party. Little Signy, you are to be henceforth sole owner of Havnholme! This paper is the legal document transferring to you this island as the free gift of your uncle and myself. But there is another and more interesting method of assuming the rights of property; and, my friends, we purpose that Signy Adiesen, Esquiress, of Havnholme, shall 'turn turf' after the old Shetland manner. I have loosened one or two sods here, so that she will be able to turn them easily.

"There is just one small thing more to say. A number of you heard me, as captain of a crew of sea-rovers, advise Yaspard Adiesen to sail under this royal old flag, this fair tricoloured cross, and to make the black badge of Thor into a pall! Yaspard has agreed to my proposal.

"His little sister possessed a doll which seems to have been an ill-omened creature all its days. Its legs and arms were always coming off, its eyes have been renewed many times, but never kept their position without a squint. It was often lost; it frequently fell on people's toes, bruising them and wounding the feelings of inoffending mortals. It was an evilly-disposed doll evidently, and received the name of the 'Feud.' This doll died the day Signy went to ransom the Viking. It died by the deed of Pirate, who, finding it in a place where it ought not to have been, bore it to his hold, as any other pirate would, and gnawed the life out of it!

"Well, my friends, our Viking has shrouded the doll Feud in his black flag, and the turf Signy turns will cover its grave! And now my little speech is ended."

Amid the wildest of cheers and the happiest of smiles Yaspard deposited the doll Feud, rolled up in his Viking flag, in the hole which Fred had dug; and when it was almost levelled up, Signy took the spade and deftly "turned turf" as directed. A few pats with the flat side of the spade soon put the turf in proper position; and when the grave of Miss Feud was finished, Yaspard flung his cap in the air and shouted, "Death to all feuds! So perish all the queen's enemies!"

"The feud is dead! Long live Queen Signy!" cried Fred, lifting the little girl in his arms; and then Bill Mitchell terminated the proceedings by calling out, "I vote we go to dinner now, or Thor will have demolished the best part of it."

To be sure, Thor, taking advantage of such an excellent opportunity, when no eye was upon him (for Pirate had slunk to his master's feet when the doll was produced, thinking that his misdemeanour was about to be declared and punished, and had no attention to bestow on a marauder), had hopped on to the table-cloth, and was rapidly investigating the "spread" with an eye to future confiscation. Fortunately, Bill was more interested in the food than in the feud, and gave notice of Thor's depredation in time to prevent any serious calamity to the dinner.

Everybody hastened to the level ground, and were soon seated and busy over the good things which Mrs. Garson had provided with her usual consideration of individual tastes and necessities. When the more serious part of the meal was concluded, and tea and fruit was circulating, there was a great cry for Garth's ballad of the Boden boy who long years before had come to a tragic end in Lunda. So the young scald modestly, but with capital effect, recited his story of

HEL-YA WATER.[2]

"Where the sod is seldom trodden, Where the haunted hillocks lie, Where the lonely Hel-ya Water Looks up darkly to the sky; Where the daala mists forgather,[3] Where the plovers make complaint, Where the stray or timid vaigher[4] Calls upon his patron saint;

Where the waves of Hel-ya Water Fret around a rugged isle, Where the bones of Yarl Magnus Lie below a lichened pile, There the raven found a refuge, There he reared his savage brood; And the young lambs from the scattald Were the nestlings' dainty food.

Year by year the Viking's raven Made that mystic spot his rest; Year by year within the eyot Brooded he as on a nest; And no man would ever venture To invade the lone domain Where in solitary scheming The grim bird of doom did reign.

It was Yule-time, and the Isles' folk Sained[5] the children by their fires; Lit the yatlin,[6] filled the daffock,[7] As of ealdon did their sires. There was wassail in each dwelling, And the song and dance went round; And the laugh, the jest, the music, Rose above the tempest's sound.

Ho! the winds are raging wildly, Ho! the thunders are awake— Tis the night when trows[8] have licence Over saitor,[9] hill, and brake. Power is theirs on land and water, While the Yule-star leads the night; For where trows may trice their circlet There they claim exclusive right.

Yelling round the Hel-ya Water, Sobbing by its eyot drear, Screaming with the tempest-furies, Over hillock, over mere; On the wings of silent snow-flakes, On the bulwands[10] from the rill, By the haunted Hel-ya Water Flit those heralds of all ill.

There the dismal bird of boding Is exulting with the storm. Who will dare to-night, and conquer The old raven's sable form? Who will venture to the vatn,[11] Where the phantoms of unrest Set their weird and magic signet On each knoll and wavelet's crest?

See, young Yaspard's eye is blazing, With the fires so fleet and free: Come of Magnus, yarl and sea-king, Son of Norland scald is he: Well he knows the gruesome story Of that evil-omened bird, And of trows and vengeful demons He hath dreamed and he hath heard.

But his heart is hot and steadfast, And his hands are strong to try; He will dare with fiends to combat— He will dare, and he will die. Forth against the howling tempest, Forth against each evil power, Wild and reckless, went young Yaspard In a dark unguarded hour.

Cold the surf of Hel-ya Water Breaks around the Norseman's grave, And the boy is lifted rudely By each charmed and chafing wars. Now he struggles boldly onward, Now he nears the haunted isle, Where in grim and boding silence Waits the bird of woe and wile.

Fain is Yaspard to encounter That fierce harbinger of gloom— Fain to dare the spells of magic, Fain to foil the wrath of doom. Hark! the solitary raven Croaks a note of death and pain, And a human call defiant Answers from the flood again.

* * * *

Morning breaks: a snow-drift cover All the drear deserted earth; In young Yaspard's home is weeping, Quenched the fire upon his hearth. But he broke the spells of evil, And he found a hero's grave. When you pass the Hel-ya Water Cast a pebble to its wave." [12]



[1] Haven.

[2] Holy lake.

[3] Lowland mists meet each other.

[4] Wanderer.

[5] Guarded by Christian rites from evil spirits, who are supposed to have great licence at Yule.

[6] Candles used on festive occasions.

[7] Water bucket which was always required to be full of clean water at Yule.

[8] Trolls.

[9] Plains or pasture-land.

[10] Bullrushes which trows are supposed to use as aerial horses.

[11] Fresh-water lake.

[12] When passing any haunted water people cast therein a stone to appease the troubled spirits.



CHAPTER XXVI.

"THAT WORK SHALL BE WROUGHT."

"What a capital job you've made of the story," quoth Yaspard when Garth had finished. "I feel as if I ought to thank you in the name of my great-grand-uncle."

"Just so! Bad boy! Uncle! uncle! uncle!" said Thor from a hillock close by. He spoke so very distinctly, and as if he understood every word, that even the elderly ladies of the party gazed in a sort of awe at the uncanny bird.

"Come here, Thor!" Mr. Adiesen called out, extending a tempting bit of chicken towards Sir Raven, who immediately obeyed the invitation, and hopped to his master's knee. "Why, you old rascal," the scientist went on, "I believe you are the great-grand-nephew of that raven of Hel-ya Water fame; indeed, if I had not taken you myself from the nest when you were only half-fledged, and I was a boy, I would believe that you were the identical bird of the legend."

"If Thor lives as long as the former Thor did," said Mr. Neeven, "he will be over a century when he dies. You remember that fellow, Brues?"

Of course Mr. Adieson remembered his grandfather's raven, who had been the spy and plague of the lives of both Gaun and Brues (when they were children), and whom they believed was possessed of an evil spirit.

The conversation drifted into chat about pet birds, until some of the restless young people proposed a rowing match around the island, and out of that project sprang another.

"I should like," said Fred, "to take the little lady of the isle around it in the Mermaid first. She really ought to be the first to circumnavigate Havnholme. Will you trust her in my boat, Miss Adiesen?"

"I suppose it is quite safe?" Aunt Osla asked by way of reply; and Signy answered, "I shall be as safe in the Mermaid as I was on Arab."

"Perhaps Mr. Adiesen will accompany us, to make safety safer," Fred suggested; and the girl seconded his proposal by a "Yes, please, Uncle Brues."

The old gentleman agreed, and away they went; and Dr. Holtum said aside to the minister that nothing more satisfactory had he ever witnessed than the sailing round Havnholme of those two men together, with so sweet a bond between them as fair little Signy.

When the long, happy day was nearing its close, and the party was preparing to embark, Isobel Garson said, "I didn't like to spoil Fred's beautiful oration and funereal ceremonies with any small idea of my own, but now perhaps I may be allowed to suggest that we each take a beach stone and cast it on those 'turned' sods, and so erect a cairn in memory of this day."

"A capital suggestion, my dear!" said Mr. Adiesen, who had taken quite a fancy to Isobel, whose bright, high-spirited ways attracted him very much, and he was ready to second any suggestion she might offer.

"Good for you, Isobel!" exclaimed her brother; "but I don't see why we need confine ourselves to one stone each. Let us make the cairn a good big one, boys."

In a short time a considerable heap of round, smooth stones from the shore were piled over the sepulchre of the feud, and Yaspard remarked, "There never was a fend strong enough to escape from under that big rougue."

"Shoo! shoo! shoo! Uncle!" screamed Thor, quite impatient over such (to him) meaningless proceedings. Then, despairing of convincing anybody there that they ought to go home, he spread his great wings and deliberately sailed away through the air to Boden.

"Thor is right for once," said Dr. Holtum, "and it is quite time we were all on the wing for our homes; so, shoo! shoo! shoo!" and he put out his hands, as if he were driving away a flock of birds, with the result that every one "made tracks" for the boats.

There was a good deal of whispering between Yaspard and the Manse boys before they parted; and there was a very significant "Good-bye," from the Yarl of Broch. He had kept our Viking-boy very much with him throughout the day, and had quite enchanted him by suggesting a scheme which contained the germ of much exciting adventure, although there was no enemy to meet or circumvent. And this scheme must have been on Viking lines, if we may judge from old Hoskald Halsen's farewell words to Yaspard.

"Now mind, boy," he shouted, as the Osprey parted company from the other boats, "mind you think it well out, and come to Burra Wick. No Viking should sail from a legitimate voe. Garth and I spell 'wick' with a 'v' and no 'c' in it, remember."

"Oh, brodhor, are you to go a-Vikinging still?" Signy asked in an ecstatic whisper; and our hero, squeezing her close to him, answered, "Yes, Mootie, thanks to that jolly old brick! I don't believe I should ever have thought of his plan. It is even better than mine, for it has got no enemy in it, but the chance of ever so many adventures."

A pleasant breeze had sprung up, so there was no rowing to do on the homeward voyage. Mr. Adiesen was steering, and Aunt Osla was napping, rolled up in shawls. Mr. Neeven had unbent considerably during the day, and was talking to his cousin with an unusual degree of cheerfulness. The Harrison boys were amusing themselves over a wooden puzzle which Harry Mitchell had invented and given them. Thus Yaspard and his sister could talk confidentially together without being overheard. He was as eager to tell her of the new project as she was to listen, and before long they had not only discussed the Yarl's scheme, but had built on it a vast structure of romantic adventure.

"It has been the very happiest of days, this," said Signy when they reached the quay; "but even happiness makes one tired, and so I am glad to be home. I shall be asleep like winkie as soon as I get into bed."

"Not so your roving brother," quoth Yaspard; "I have other things to do than sleep," and he grimaced at Lowrie, who grinned back a perfect understanding of the mysterious allusion; but Signy by that time was too sleepy to pay further attention, so followed Miss Adiesen to Moolapund, and was soon resting in dreamless repose in her own room.

Meanwhile Yaspard and the Harrisons politely offered to row the Osprey to the head of the voe with Mr. Neeven, and he—with less than his usual sharp suspicion—agreed. He even thanked them as he stepped ashore, and he strode up the hill without once looking back. If he had done so he would have seen that the boat did not pass beyond the Hoobes, but stopped near there, where the old water-mill was located by the side of a burn whose spring was far up the hill-side. They fastened the boat, and went into the mill-house, where a quantity of last year's straw and chaff was heaped. On this the three lads flung themselves and were soon fast asleep. And there the Harrisons would have slept on till breakfast time if Yaspard had not roused them shortly after midnight.

"Up, boys, up!" he said, as he shook himself. "It is high time we were off; and I hope fule-Tammy is as sound asleep now as you have been for the last five minutes."

From that mention of Tammy you will guess that another raid on Trullyabister was proposed. The fact was, Yaspard had made one quiet visit to the old ruin by himself, and had found that the things they secreted in the old chimney had disappeared. From a remark of Tammy's, Lowrie had concluded that the "natural" had discovered their hiding-place, and had abstracted the articles in question. It would have been a simple matter to ask the truth and claim the property, but that course was not the one a Viking-boy was at all likely to approve. Hence the present "lark."

The three conspirators were not long in reaching the old Ha'house, and as the back door was never locked, they easily gained admission.

Tammy slept in a small chamber beside the kitchen, and at a distance from the rooms inhabited by his master, therefore the lads were not much afraid of being heard even if the recluse had not gone to sleep.

But Gaun Neeven was asleep, and so was Tammy, "like a top, and snoring too like one," whispered Yaspard as he led the way. Tammy did not even move when they gently and deftly tied his hands together, and put a not uncomfortable gag over his mouth, and he only snored a little louder, but did not wake, when they lifted him up. (Tammy always went to bed with a complete suit of clothes on, which he kept for the purpose, saying he did not see why a "puir body" should not be as decently clothed all night as all day.) They carried him to the ruined apartment with which we are already acquainted. I ought to have mentioned that Yaspard had provided masks for himself and his companions. These were made of brown paper, painted to resemble tatooed savages, and had been put on as they came up from the mill, so that Tammy should not recognise his assailants.

But Tammy was far more cute in many ways than he got credit for being; and though astonished when the cool air and a few gentle shakes woke him up, he was not frightened by the hideous visages; even the feigned voices did not deceive him. But he was wise enough to pretend ignorance of their identity, and stared a well-acted credulity.

"What have you done with what you found in that chimney?" Yaspard demanded in assumed tones, which did not deceive Tammy, however. "We are Vikings, and hid our property in that receptacle. Woe to the person who crosses our path! Moreover, our allies left weapons of war in this apartment, and it is our business to restore them to their owners. Tell now what you have done with these hoards."

How could Tammy tell? He could only shake his head and nod in the direction of the haunted room.

"Is the property there?" Yaspard asked, and Tammy nodded again. "Then you must take us through the house to that room, for I happen to know that the way through the passage is now built up with stones and mortar. I suppose you did that, you duffer!"

Tammy nodded again; and then Gibbie remarked, "He wad be put to the job by Mr. Neeven."

He spoke unwittingly in his natural voice, and was admonished by a vigorous nudge from Lowrie; while Yasgard, still addressing their captive, said, "Lead on, we follow! and for your life make no noise."

Tammy obediently returned to the house, and showed a way from his kitchen to the haunted room.



CHAPTER XXVII.

"OF THE VOLSUNGS' KIN IS HE."

There they found, carefully arranged, all the miscellaneous articles which they had conveyed to Trullyabister on the night of their first raid upon it. There too were the things brought by the Laulie's crew, when engaged upon Tom's "deed of high emprise." The Lunda boys had been too ashamed at their defeat to say one word about their property to Mr. Neeven, but they had spoken of it to Yaspard, and had been somewhat comforted by his assurance that all they had lost should be restored before long.

Our Viking eyed the confiscated articles with infinite satisfaction, before instructing his followers how to deal with it. "But time must not be wasted," said he in a moment. "I believe the ogre to be a very sleepless creature, and he may soon rise to wander after his usual style; so let's make haste."

They stowed everything into their keschies, and what could not go there was packed in the Laulie's "spare canvas," or suspended from their belts; while Tammy watched the proceedings with profound interest.

When they were ready to depart the marauders conveyed Tammy to his kitchen, and left him seated comfortably in his favourite corner, assured that he would sit there till Mr. Neeven should get up. They were well aware that Tammy would allow the kitchen to be burned about his ears before he would venture to disturb the recluse in his chamber.

I may mention here that it happened as they supposed it would, and it was not until his breakfast-hour arrived, and Mr. Neeven came to discover why Tammy was not stirring, that he found the "natural" sitting sleeping, gagged and bound!

When aroused, released, and able to speak, Tammy said, "It wis yon filskit moniments o' boys, sir. But they've taken no' a vestige that wis no' their ain. They'll be far enough by this time; and puir Tammy is thinking that there's no' muckle use in trying tae get the better o' the likes o' them."

"You are about right for once," replied his master, as he turned away, saying to himself, "Boys are certainly more than a match for men in the exercise of their wits."

Meanwhile the Osprey had gone to Gloy's geo, and deposited on a safe ledge of rock all which our Viking-boys had carried away from Trullyabister; and when that was done the marauders returned to their homes.

At the breakfast-table Yaspard said to his uncle, "The Yarl of Broch asked me to come to Burra Isle to-day, if you have no objections. The Lunda boys are to be there. It's to be only a boy party, not like the picnic."

"When the young braves go forth alone," replied Mr. Adiesen, in a bantering tone, which showed he was in excellent good-humour, and likely to give the required permission, "when the warriors embark without the companionship of women, there are perilous tasks to be performed. May a mere humdrum person inquire what knightly deed a modern Viking proposes, and what is to be the result of 'only a boy party'?"

"We are going to have some jolly fun—of Mr. Halsen's planning; but it would spoil it to tell beforehand."

"I can leave the responsibility on Mr. Halsen," answered Uncle Brues; "he understands what boys need and like."

"I shall want to stay some—days. It might be a whole week; and I need the Harrison boys and the Osprey, of course. I would also like to take Thor as well as Pirate, if you please, uncle."

"You will want clean collars and socks," said Miss Osla.

"No, thank you, auntie. I shall not take any luggage with me, only what I need in——"

"Of course," she interrupted, "you won't want a lot of clothes, only what is needful;" and the good lady went off as soon as breakfast was over to pack a bag for Yaspard, who was obliged to take it with him.

"I can leave it at Broch anyway," he said to Signy as he stowed the bag aboard. She had carried it to the quay, and was watching him get ready for his expedition.

"Then are you going farther than to Broch?" she asked; and, under pledge of secrecy, the girl was told the whole scheme, which delighted her.

"Oh, what a fine time he will have! It is so nice to be a boy!" Signy said to herself, as she slowly turned from the shore when the Osprey took wing.

When the Boden boat reached the geo she was stopped while Gibbie went ashore, and brought all the odds and ends recaptured at Trullyabister. These were stowed beside the basket containing Thor, who made known to all concerned how little he relished being in durance vile by occasional bursts of angry speech and vindictive snaps, through his prison bars, at whatever came within reach. Once it was Lowrie's jacket tails, another time it was Gibbie's sleeve; but what pleased Thor best was when he got a chance at Pirate's ear.

Our Viking-boy received the warmest of welcomes when he arrived at Burra Wick. The Lunda boys were there, and had brought a parcel for him from Fred, which, upon being opened, was discovered to be a fine field-glass, such as Yaspard had long wished to possess, and a beautiful silk flag embroidered by Isobel.

He did not know which to admire and value most; yet I think the letter of manly kind advice and friendship which accompanied these gifts was cherished still more; for I know that when the faded flag was stowed away—long years afterwards—in an old bureau, and the field-glass had been lost on a wild Western prairie, Yaspard still kept lying near his heart the words of love and Christian counsel written to him by his boyhood hero in the golden days of youth and dreams.

The rest of that day was spent at Broch—delightfully spent, we know, since the Yarl was host.

Gerta and Amy were extremely kind to the boys, although they were only the "young ones," and not to be compared with their elder brothers. But Yaspard was more attracted to Garth than to the girls. He had been abroad with Mr. Congreve, and had the most interesting stories to tell of the northern lands he had visited. Then his books of travel and legend, how bewitching they were! While Harry Mitchell revelled in Garth's specimens, Yaspard pored over his books, and could scarcely be torn from them.

"Oh, Harry," he said, "wouldn't you like his chance of going away and discovering all sorts of places and things?"

"I'll make a chance of the sort for myself," replied Harry, in his usual quiet, determined way, which meant never less than "act to follow word."

"It would be fine, glorious!" Yaspard mused; then shutting the "Wanderings of Waterton" with a clap, he exclaimed, "We'll do it, Harry—you and I—some day. We will go off as the Vikings did, and explore the world."

"As you are going to-morrow, eh?" said Garth.

"Boys play at what men achieve," answered Harry.

And then was begun a dream which Yaspard and Harry realised in later years.

In the evening, Amy, seeing Yaspard still hankering after Garth's Scandinavian travels and lore, said, "Do, Garth, read us what you have written about the Jews and the Norsemen. I am so fond of that little bit. I suppose because my family was of Jewish extraction."

"I believe it was composed in compliment to you," laughed Gerta, bringing a blush to the sensitive young author's face by her words. But his father seconded Amy's request, so Garth read—

"There are two races of men who have retained their peculiar characteristics through long ages and through many vicissitudes. They have wandered over the whole globe, and become part of almost every people now existing. They have conquered and been conquered. Their blood has mixed with that of all the other tribes of earth. As independent nations they no longer exist, and yet the personality of the Jew and the Norseman is as distinct to-day as it was when they were mighty ruling powers on the earth.

"The Egyptian of old, the Greek and Goth, where are they now? They have left grand memories, but have become 'mixed races,' and the peoples of to-day who bear their names have few, or any, of their attributes.

"Not so have the wandering Arab and the restless Scandinavian obeyed the law of nature that says—

'The old order changeth, yielding place to new, And God fulfils Himself in many ways, Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.'

"Like the two currents that roll side by side in one channel, distinct in their nature, those two great races have come down the ages bearing to all lands and all peoples a God-derived power and a God-given message. They have not been lost in each other; and in blending with those among whom they dwelt they have yet never ceased to leave indelible traces, which have made them recognisable always. They have absorbed, but never been absorbed.

"When our hearts thrill to some glowing page of Eastern imagery, when we listen enraptured to some sacred song, some impassioned speech of one filled with religious fervour; when we read of suffering borne patiently, of fortitude unequalled amid awful tribulation, of quiet perseverance conquering difficulty—we recognise the strength of the Hebrew race. When we are told of some venturesome band daring the dangers of iceberg and darkness in penetrating to the secret haunts of Nature; when we learn that gallant seamen are guiding civilisation to the farthest corners of the earth, are doing deeds of heroism that stir our deepest feelings of reverence; when we know that our explorers and sailors laugh at peril and face death without fear; when we see numbers of our boys, from the prince who stands by the throne to the city outcast who begs at our door, prefer and seek sea-life rather than any other—we acknowledge with pride that the power of our sea-king sires is dominant yet.

"The Jew and the Norseman have surely been chosen of Heaven to keep the human race from degenerating, for the soul of the Jew rules our moral being, and the spirit of the Norseman controls our intellectual nature. The nursery of our faith was the tent of an Arab shiek, and the cradle of our fame was the bark of a northern Viking."



CHAPTER XXVIII.

"SEA-RUNES GOOD AT NEED."

"Well, boys, I suppose you want to be off early," said the Yarl next morning, when he came in for breakfast and found his young guests in a ferment of excitement asking each other, "Where did you put the knives?" "Have you remembered matches?" "I vote we take a whole ham with us." "You've left out the log-book." "For goodness' sake, somebody carry a pencil."

"You look like business, on my word," their host added, smiling; "and I wish I were a boy too."

"Never mind, sir; come with us all the same," cried Yaspard, but old Halsen shook his head.

"The glamour of boyhood is wanting. I could not enjoy such a voyage of adventure and exploring in the right way now. But I shall want to hear all about it; so mind you use Garth's note-book and keep an accurate log."

"I'll see to that," quoth Harry; and Tom added, "I do the messing, and Harry does the writing."

When all preparations were made, the Yarl insisted that they should march to the shore in proper style, with Yaspard walking in front carrying his new flag, hoisted for the occasion on Mr. Halsen's walking-stick.

It was a lovely flag indeed. Isobel had been working on it for a long time, intending it for Fred, but he had asked that it might be given to his young friend, and she willingly agreed.

The device was not uncommon, but Isobel's artistic fancy had made it a perfect work of art. It was the figure of a youth clad in armour holding high in his right hand a white cross with "Onward" worked in gold letters upon it.

The flag was blue, with a crimson star in the corner; and altogether any prince might have been proud to start upon a high quest under such a banner.

The two girls accompanied the procession, we may be sure; and many were Gerta's injunctions to "take care of yourselves, and don't be foolhardy."

Just as the good-byes were being said, Thor called out from his basket, "Uncle, uncle! Bad, bad, bad!"

"Why on earth have you taken that uncanny fowl with you?" Amy Congreve asked.

"You ought to know by this time," said Garth, speaking for our Viking-boy, "that the sea-rovers never went out to maraud or explore without the bird of Odin."

"I shouldn't like to have a creature like that calling out 'Bad, bad!' as I started on a voyage of discovery. It is not a good omen," Amy replied in lower tones, which did not reach the ears of the young adventurers, for their boat was off, and the Yarl and Garth were cheering the Osprey as it slid away from the land.

"What very odd fancies that boy has!" Mr. Halsen remarked as they returned to the house. "Some of his notions are almost childish at the first glance one takes—so simple, and full of the exaggerated fancy of a mere child. But soon one finds the germ of the right kind of stuff in all his fancies; and he carries them out with the shrewd common sense, the cool determination, energy, and daring of a grown man. It is a strange mixture."

"It is a mixture that makes a fascinating character, uncle," said Gerta. "I like Yaspard Adiesen very much just because of that child-way and man-manner he has. He will do something grand one of these days."

Yaspard thought he was doing something grand that very day, you may be sure. He was started on an exploring expedition: and when we remember that the Shetland group consists of over one hundred islands, large and small; that many of these have seldom been visited by any one, some never trod by human foot, and the greater number uninhabited save by the wild birds and sea creatures, we will see that our hero's voyage was not unlikely to be one of discovery and adventure.

Some other time I will give you the Osprey's log, carefully kept by Harry Mitchell, who every evening recorded all the day's doings, however trivial these had been. Many of their adventures were so startling that he might well have been excused if his attention had been occasionally diverted from this duty; but that diary was a model of faithful discharging of a promise given to more than one of the dear home friends, whose thoughts we know were with the Viking-boys. At present I can only tell you a small part of what happened during the week which the Osprey spent in cruising among the lonely skerries and holmes of Hialtland.

More than once our lads had spoken a haaf-boat, and sent messages to Lunda, from whence Fred had taken care to despatch the news, "Osprey spoken. All well," to Boden and Burra Isle.

They never landed on any inhabited spot, but preferred to camp for the night on some lofty rock, whose steep sides they had to scale at the risk of their bones, or on some green holme, where the waves lapped round the place of their rest, tossing spray on them as they slept.

They always kept a watch, knowing from past experience how swiftly the squalls arise. It would be no joke, they knew, if their boat were caught by the sea in some geo while they slept on the high rock above; and well they knew that a very little increase of wind would cause the waves to wash them from the low holmes in a moment. They kept a wary eye on the weather, and always contrived to have a safe port to lee when atmospheric disturbance threatened.

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