Viking Boys
by Jessie Margaret Edmondston Saxby
1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

E-text prepared by Al Haines




Author of "The Yarl's Yacht" Etc.

[Frontispiece: "Then there came a sudden flare of light, which showed that Yaspard was trying to illuminate the scene."—Page 216]

London Nisbet & Co. Ltd. 22 Berners Street. W.1 1892







"How I wish I had lived hundreds of years ago, when the Vikings lived; it must have been prime!"

He was a Shetland boy of fifteen who so spoke, and he was addressing his young sister of eleven. They were sitting on a low crag by the shore, dangling their feet over the water, which flowed clear and bright within a short distance of their toes. They were looking out upon a grand stretch of ocean studded with islands of fantastic shape, among which numerous boats were threading their way. It was a fair summer afternoon, and the fishing boats were returning from the far haaf[1] laden with spoil. It had not required a great stretch of imagination to carry Yaspard Adiesen's thoughts from the scene before him to the olden days, when his native Isles were the haunts of Vikinger, whose ships were for ever winging their way over those waters bearing the spoils of many a stormy fight.

"Yes," the boy went on; "what glorious fun it must have been in those days; such fighting and sailing and discovering new places; such heaps of adventures of all sorts. Oh, how grand it must have been!"

"I suppose it was," answered Signy; "but then these people long ago did not have all the nice things we have—books, you know, and—and everything!"

"Oh, tuts! They had Scalds to sing their history—much nicer than your musty books."

"Perhaps!" said the girl. She loved books with a mighty love, but she adored her brother, and what he said she accepted, whether it commended itself to her judgment or not.

"There is no 'perhaps' about it, Signy," he retorted a little sharply. "It is fact—so there! It must have been far more jolly in Shetland then than it is now. Everything so tame and commonplace: mail-day once a week, sermon every Sunday, custom-house officers about, chimney-pot hats and tea! Bah!" Yaspard caught up a pebble and flung it to skim over the water as a relief to his feelings, which received a little additional comfort from Signy's next words.

"Hats are certainly very ugly, especially when they are tied on with strings, as Uncle Brues wears his; and when a sermon lasts an hour it is tiresome. Yes, and the custom-house people and the revenue cutter are horrid—though the cutter is very pretty, and the officers look rather nice in uniform. But it is very nice to get letters, Yaspard; and tea is nice. Why, what on earth would Mam Kirsty and Aunt Osla do without tea?" and Signy laughed as she looked up in her brother's face.

He was not unreasonable, and admitted the comfort of the cup which cheers and a weekly mail-bag. He even allowed that the sloop which looked after her Majesty's dues was a tidy little craft, and that a kirk and Sunday service were advantages of no ordinary kind. "But," having admitted so much, he said, "why couldn't we have all that, and still be Vikings? why not live like heroes? why not roam the seas, and fight and discover and bring home spoil, and wear picturesque garments, as well as go to church and drink tea?"

"Well, people do," answered Signy. "There is always somebody going exploring and getting into the most terrible scrapes. And don't you often say that the British people are true sons of the Norsemen, and prove it by the way they are always sending out more and more ships, and bringing home more and more riches. As for the fighting—oh dear! There was Waterloo not so very very long ago; and the papers say, you know, that we are going to fight the Russians very soon. There's always plenty of fighting—if that's what makes a Viking."

"Oh, bother! girls don't understand," Yaspard muttered; and then there was a long silence, which was broken at last by the lad clapping his hands together and shouting, "Hurrah! I've got an idea! a splendid idea! The very thing!" He sprang to his feet and tossed back his golden-brown curls, and stood like a young Apollo all aglow with life and ardour.

"You always look so beautiful, Yaspard, when you have an idea!" said the worshipping little sister, gazing her admiration of the handsome lad, who was the hero of all her dreams.

He laughed. He was accustomed to her homage—if the truth be told, he took it as his right.

"Never mind about my beauty at present, but come along, for I must set my idea to work at once. I wonder I never thought of it before."

"Ah, do wait a very little longer, brodhor," the girl begged. When coaxing or caressing him, she always used the old form of the word, which signified the dearest relationship she knew. They were orphans, and "brother" was Signy's nearest as well as dearest friend alive. He never could resist the soft tone and word, so answered—

"Why do you want to stay here?"

"I have been watching Loki fish, and it is so funny; I want to see when he will be satisfied. He has been at it for hours."

Loki was a pet cormorant, and Yaspard had taught him to seek food for himself in the voe. The affectionate bird, though allowed such licence, never failed to return to Boden when hunger was satisfied; and at all times he would come at once to his master's call.

Yaspard stood for a minute looking at the bird as it swam about, every now and then taking a sudden leap and "header" after some unwary sillack. There were shoals of small cod-fish in the voe, and Loki had no difficulty in filling his most capacious maw. His mode of fishing was certainly comical, but Yaspard was not so interested in the matter as Signy, therefore his eyes were soon roving again to the islets and boats.

Presently his attention became riveted on a smart skiff rounding the headlands in a manner which proved that she was managed by skilful hands. As the boat drew nearer, rising lightly on the waves, Yaspard said, "Yes, it's the Laulie. What splendid sea-boys those lads of Lunda are! They are always off somewhere; always having some grand fun on the water. They are making for Havnholme now, and I expect they mean to stay there all night. Oh, bother feuds and family fights! I wish I were with them."

"They must be nice boys," said Signy. "It does seem very sad that you can't have them for chums. I can't see why our grandfathers' quarrels and Uncle Brues's grumpiness should hinder you from being friends with the only boys of our rank within reach of Boden."

"It is a horrible nuisance. But never mind! I'll make the family feud work into my idea, sure as can be! There, Signy; there goes Loki with five dozen sillacks in his maw, so let's go too."

The cormorant had had enough. He began to flap along the surface of the sea until it was possible for him to rise in steady flight. Then he floated high overhead and took a straight course for the Ha' of Boden.

Yaspard caught up Signy in his arms; and as he swung along towards home he chanted—

"As with his wings aslant Sails the fierce cormorant Seeking some rocky haunt, With his prey laden; So toward the open main, Beating to sea again, Through the wild hurricane Bore I the maiden."

When he finished the verse he put his sister down. "There," he exclaimed; "there is a small hint at a part of my new idea."

"What is your idea, Yaspard?"

But Yaspard laughed and shook his head. "I can't tell you yet. It isn't shaped at all yet, but by-and-by you shall hear all about it, and help with it too, Mootie;[2] only, mind, it's a secret. You must not tell a soul."

"I never tell any of your secrets," Signy answered, with gentle reproach in her tone; and her brother answered promptly, "No, you never tell on me, that is true—though you sometimes let things out by mistake. But you are a trump all the same, Signy; you are; and as good as a boy. I sometimes wish you were a boy. But if you were you'd plague me. Small boys always do plague their big brothers—but you never plague me. Never!"

She squeezed his hand tight and was perfectly happy while they walked on, and Yaspard whistled "the Hardy Norseman."

After executing a few bars he said, "I am going across the voe, and you must not mind if I do not take you with me. I want to have a long talk with the Harrison boys. But if you come down to the noost[3] when I return, I'll take you for a little sail."

"I'll be there, brodhor," said Signy. She was always "there" when Yaspard required or requested.

They walked along the shore until they reached a quay of very modest pretensions, where a small boat was lying ready for use. Their home was not many yards from the beach, and was situated on a green sloping point of land almost surrounded by the waters of Boden voe.

Yaspard jumped into the boat, hauled up the sail, shoved off, and was soon speeding across the mile of water, which was the broadest bit of that winding picturesque fiord.

Signy stood a minute to watch him. She would have stood longer, but out of the house bounced a big dog, barking and evidently greatly excited over something.

"Well, Pirate, what is the matter with you?" the girl asked, as the dog rushed up to her. For answer Pirate caught her skirt gently in his mouth, and indicated as plainly as if he had expressed himself in choicest English that he desired her presence indoors.

So indoors Signy went without more ado.

[1] "Haaf," deep-sea fishing.

[2] "Mootie," little one.

[3] "Noost," boat-shelter.



When Yaspard reached the other shore he was met by two boys, one his own age, the other about thirteen. These were Laurence and Gilbert Harrison, sons of Mr. Adiesen's factotum, and they were usually styled Lowrie and Gibbie.

Boden was a small island, and there were only three houses on it, namely, the Ha', the factor's house, and Trullyabister, a very ancient dwelling nearly in ruins. Every house in Shetland has a name of its own, so has every knoll and field and crag and islet, therefore the Ha' was called Moolapund, and the Harrisons' house Noostigard. To attend church the inhabitants were obliged to cross to a neighbouring island, and this the majority of them did very regularly. Stores were brought twice a year from the town of Lerwick; and it seldom happened that these ran short, for Miss Adiesen was a shrewd housewife and James Harrison a notable manager; also the Laird was somewhat eccentric, and objecting strongly to all society outside of Boden, did not like that "provisions short" should be made an excuse for frequent expeditions to the larger islands.

The isolated life of Boden had certain charms of its own for a scientist like Mr. Adiesen, and a quiet domestic creature like his sister, whose happiness had been wrecked in early life, and who desired nothing better than to hide herself at Moolapund and devote her life to the wants of her lost twin-brother's children.

Boden was a pleasant home to the Harrisons', for they were a large family, simple crofters, content in each other's society, and cherishing no earthly ambition. It was a satisfactory retreat from the world for Gaun Neeven, who lived alone with a half-witted attendant in the old house of Trullyabister. It was a paradise to little Signy, whose imaginative, romantic nature found infinite delight in the beauty of the Isle, in its myriads of sea-fowl, in its grand-encircling ocean, in the freedom and poetry of life with such environs. But to a strong lad like Yaspard, full of vitality, longing for action and the company of his fellows, there was less to content him, and much to stir in him that spirit of mischief which attends on every energetic boy not blessed with wise guardians, and with plenty of time on his hands.

"Come into the boat, boys," said Yaspard, as he ran his skiff to the noost; and the brothers, nothing loth, scrambled aboard.

"I ran across," said our hero, plunging at once into his subject, "to tell you about a magnificent scheme I have in my head. I am going to be a Viking!"

If he had announced his intention of becoming Czar of all the Russias these boys would have taken it as a matter of course. They merely opened their eyes and said "Weel?" Yaspard had rather expected to surprise them, and was a little disconcerted by the way his startling intention was received.

"I've told you heaps about Vikinger," he said; "you know just what I mean, eh?"

"Weren't they pirates?" Gibbie asked.

"No—at least they would be called that now, but it was different when they lived. There was no way of discovering new lands and getting lots of riches, being great men and doing all sorts of grand things, except by becoming Vikings. It was the only way."

"But they killed people, and robbed, and made slaves. Everybody was frightened when a Viking ship hove in sight," said Lowrie, who was rather reflective for his age and station.

"So they did; but it could not be helped. Besides, every one tried to do the same. And for the matter of that, don't people do the same now? Don't they fight still, and in a worse way? for the Vikinger only laid on man for man, but now any nation who invents the most murderous machine for shooting can mow down armies of men miles off. As for the stealing—what is half the trade of the world but a kind of civil picking of somebody's pocket—a 'doing' of some one. And slavery; bah! slaves enough in Britain while the pressgang can carry off any man it likes. But there—what's the good of such talk? I'm not going to be a Viking in a bad way, so you need not be afraid. It will all be for adventure, and glory and daring, and jolly good fun, I tell you."

"All right; we're game for whatever you please," answered the Harrisons.

After that Yaspard entered into some details of his scheme, and explained portions in which he specially required their co-operation. They were soon as enamoured of the project as he, and eager to begin a career which promised such scope for wild adventure. Some time slipped past while the confabulation lasted, and the dusk of a Shetland summer evening—the poetic "dim"—had fallen upon Boden before the lads separated.

"I'll be over again to-morrow early," said Yaspard, as he pulled out from the shore; "mind you have some armour ready by the time I come."

The light breeze which had wafted him to Noostigard had fallen to a calm, therefore the sail was of no use; but a pair of oars in his muscular hands soon carried the little Osprey to her quay, and there Signy was waiting.

"I've been longer than I meant to be, Mootie," he called out; "I am afraid it is too late to take you off."

"Never mind," she answered; "I don't want to go now. There has been such a disturbance in the house—such a terrific upset. It has made me laugh and cry—I hardly know which I ought to do now about it."

"An upset!" Yaspard exclaimed. "Praise the powers, as Mam Kirsty says. I'm glad the humdrum has had a break. What was it, Signy?"

"It was a letter."

"A letter! Was that all?"

"All!" exclaimed the girl; "you won't say a letter is a little 'all' when you hear what it did. The mailbag came across this afternoon when we were sitting at the Teng, never thinking!—and uncle got a letter from the young Laird of Lunda which made him furious. You know what happens when Uncle Brues is angry."

"I know. I'm glad it does not happen often, poor old man! Well, what next?"

"He rampaged, and set Aunt Osla off crying. Then he began experiments with that new chemical machine, and nearly blew up the house. The windows of his Den are smashed, and you never saw anything like the mess there is in it—broken glass, books, methylated spirits, specimens, everything."

"Hurrah!" shouted Yaspard, cutting short Signy's story; "don't tell me more. Let's go and see."

He fastened up his boat, took his sister's hand, and ran quickly up the brae to his home.

There indeed was a scene of devastation, as far as the scientist's study was concerned. It looked as though a volcano had irrupted there: bookshelves were overturned, chairs and tables were sprawling legs in air, liquids were oozing in rainbow hues over manuscripts, odours of the most objectionable kind filled the air. A tame raven was hopping among the debris, with an eye to choice "remains" dropping from broken jars; a strange-looking fish was gasping its last breath on the sofa, among broken fragments of its crystal tank. A huge grey cat was standing, with her back arched, on the mantelpiece—the only place she deemed secure—surveying the scene, and ready for instant flight, or fight, if another explosion seemed imminent.

Pirate was lying at the open door, watching the movements of Thor (the raven), whose depredatory proclivities were well known to the dog. Thor, perfectly aware that a detective's eye was upon him, did not venture to abstract any of the wreckage, but assumed an air of careless curiosity as he hopped about among Mr. Adiesen's demoralised treasures.

Mr. Adiesen himself had disappeared. He had been stunned for a few moments by the explosion; but on recovering he only waited to realise the ruin he had wrought, and then, seizing a favourite geological hammer, he raced away to the rocks to practise what stood him in place of strong language.

No one had dared to attempt restoring order in the Den; the maids would not have set foot within its door for their lives. Miss Adiesen was soothing her nerves with tea, which Mam Kirsty was administering with loud and voluble speech.

"My! what a sight!" Yaspard exclaimed, as he looked into the study. "And what a smell! It's enough to frighten the French," and he turned into the parlour, where his aunt was comforting her nerves after her favourite manner, as I said.

"You've been having a high old time, auntie," he cried, laughing. "I never saw such a rare turn-out in Moolapund before."

"You may say so," sobbed Aunt Osla. "It is a 'turn-out' and a 'high old' business. We were near going high enough, let alone your uncle, whose escape is nothing short of a miracle. I always said there would be mischief done with those mixtures and glass tubes, and machines for heating dangerous coloured stuff. A rare turn-out! Yes; there is not much left in his room to turn out—it's all turned. But it isn't the specimens and all that I mind so very much, after all, though that is bad enough, considering all the time and money he has spent on them. It is the—the cause of all this that—that breaks my heart. Oh dear!" and she broke out a-weeping again.



"What had young Garson said to make Uncle Brues so angry?" asked Yaspard.

"He did not say much that was unpleasant—even from our point of view. It is the letter of a gentleman anyway; and I know very well that his mother's son could not say or do or think anything that was not like a gentleman. I knew her, poor dear, when we were both young. See, here is the letter. You may read it. It was flung to me. Your uncle did not care who saw it, or who knows about his 'feud'—oh, I'm sick of the word."

Yaspard smoothed out the letter, which his uncle had crushed up in his rage, and read—

"DEAR MR. ADIESEN,—I very much regret being obliged to remind you once more that Havnholme is part of the Lunda property, and that it was my dear father's wish that the sea-birds on the island should not be molested.

"I shall always be very pleased to give you, or any other naturalist, every facility for studying the birds in their haunts, but I cannot (knowing as I do so well the mind of my late father in this matter) permit innocent creatures to be disturbed and distressed as they have been of late. You know the circumstances to which I allude.

"I do wish (as my father so long wished) that you would meet me and have a friendly talk, when I have no doubt we could smooth this matter—I mean your grievance regarding Havnholme. It seems so unneighbourly, not to say unchristian, to keep up a quarrel from generation to generation.

"Pardon me if it seems presumptuous of a young fellow like me to write thus to you; but I feel as it I were only the medium through which my good noble father were making his wishes known. If you will allow me, I will call upon you at some early time.—Yours sincerely, FRED GARSON."

"It's a very decent letter," said Yaspard, "and everybody who knows the young Laird says he is a brick; but I know how Uncle Brues would flare up over this. One has only to utter 'holme' or 'Lunda' in uncle's hearing if one wants to bring the whole feud about one's ears."

Here Signy put in her soft little voice. "But it really was a shame about the birds, Yaspard. You said so, you know; and oh, I have dreamt about them ever so often, poor things!"

"That's true. Still, uncle persists that the holme is his property; and the Lairds of Lunda have always got the name of land-grabbers."

Miss Osla looked up at the boy with a kind of terror in her eyes. "O Yaspard," she cried, "don't you begin that way too. Don't you believe all that's told you. Don't you take up that miserable, wicked—yes, wicked—quarrel."

"Easy, easy, Aunt Osla! I haven't dug up the hatchet yet. But can you tell me what was the true origin of that affair?"

"I don't believe anybody ever knew what it began about, or why. The Garsons and Adiesens were born quarrelling with one another, I think."

"But surely you know about the particular part of the family feud which had to do with Havnholme?"

"Even that began before I was born, and it was about some land that was exchanged. Your great-grandfather wanted all this island to himself, and he offered the Laird of Lunda some small outlying islands instead of the piece of Boden which belonged to him. Mr. Garson agreed, so they 'turned turf'[1] and settled the bargain; and a body would have thought that was enough. But no! By-and-by they got debating that the bargain had not been a fair one, then that Havnholme was not included with the other skerries, and so it went as long as they lived. After that their sons took it up, and disputed, and fought, and never got nearer the truth, for there were no papers to be found to prove who was right; and the tenants who had witnessed the 'turning of turf' would only speak as pleased their master. They wrangled all their lives about it. One would put his sheep on the holme, and the other would promptly go and shove the poor beasts into the sea. One would build a skeoe,[2] and the other would pull it down. These were lawless days, and men might do as they pleased."

"Just like Vikinger," said Yaspard, who quite enjoyed the story. "Well?"

"They never would speak to each other, even if they met at the church door, or at a neighbour's funeral. It was very sinful; and they would not let their children become acquainted. My father made me drop acquaintance with my school friend when she married Mr. Garson, for no reason but because she married the son of his enemy. It has been the same since your uncle came to be Laird. If your father had lived it would have been different, for he bore ill-feeling to no one; but he was so much away with his ship, he never got a chance to put things right; which I know he could have done, for the Laird of Lunda—who died two years ago—was one of the best of men. A land-grabber! My friend's husband. He was as good a man as Shetland ere saw. He tried again and again to be friends with Brues, but it was no use, and it will be of no use his boy trying. I know."

"Something shall be of use," muttered Yaspard; then aloud he asked, "Will uncle answer this letter?"

"My dear, he's done it. There is his answer on the table. He read it to me, and I felt as if I were listening to a clap of thunder."

"What did he say?"

"He said that Havnholme was his, and that he meant to do with his own as he pleased. And he said, 'If you set foot in Boden you will receive the thrashing which such a coxcomb deserves.' He told me to send the Harrison boys across the sound in your little boat early to-morrow, and they were to leave the letter at the post-office. They were not to go to the Ha' for their lives. Brues never told me to do a harder thing than to send such a letter to the son of my friend—to the poor lad who is trying to live like his true-hearted father, and to be at peace with all men! It is a cruel thing." And here Miss Osla began to weep again.

Yaspard went to the table and picked up the letter, read the address, and put it in his pocket. "Leave this affair to me, auntie," he said; "I'll see that Fred Garson gets the letter, and gets it right properly."

Poor Miss Adiesen was too much troubled to notice anything peculiar in Yaspard's words or expression, but Signy did, and as he left the room she followed and asked in a whisper—

"Is it going to fit into your idea, brodhor?"

"Fits like the skin to a sealkie," said he.

Yaspard went up the stairs four steps at every stride until he reached the attics. One of these was used for lumber, and into it he went. There was a marvellous collection of things in that room, but Yaspard knew what he had come for, and where to find it. He pulled some broken chairs from off an old chest which had no lid, and was piled full of curious swords, cutlasses, horse-pistols, battle-axes, some foils and masks, and a battered old shield. Not one of all these implements had been in use for a century—some were of far more ancient date. They had neither edge, nor point, nor power of any sort beyond what might lie in their weight if it were brought into play. Yaspard gathered up as many of these weapons as he could carry, and bore them off to his own room, where he proceeded to scrub the rust from them with some sandpaper and a pair of woollen socks. He whistled at his task, and was infinitely pleased with his own thoughts, which ran something like this:—

"Oh yes! I'll make it work. I'll turn this old feud into a rare old lark, I will. How nicely it all fits in for to-morrow—the Harrison boys to go with the letter in my boat, and the Manse boys spending the night on Havnholme! What times those boys have, to be sure. They go everywhere, and stay just as long as they please. I could not count how many times this summer they have camped out for the night on Havnholme, and the Gruen holme, and the Ootskerries. Guess they'll be surprised at the waking up they'll get tomorrow!"

When he had cleaned up the armour to his satisfaction, he sat down to his desk and wrote a letter, which pleased him so much that he read it twice aloud, and ended by saying—

"Prime! I didn't know that I could express myself so well on paper. It's as good as Garson's own. I wonder what he will say!"

Then Yaspard went down to supper, and while demolishing his porridge he said, "Will you make me up a bit of ferdimet,[3] auntie? I am going off early to-morrow to fish. (It's true," he added to himself, "for I'll take a rod and fish a fish to make it true.")

"I suppose the Harrisons go with you?" said Aunt Osla. "Don't forget about your uncle's message to Lunda."

"No, I won't forget."

"You could run across to the post-office before going to fish, and get it over," she added.

Yaspard often went on such expeditions, therefore there was nothing unusual in his proceedings on the present occasion, but Signy detected a new fire in his eyes, and a twitching of the mouth that suggested ideas! Moreover, she had been on the stair when he came out of the lumber-room with his arms full of weapons, and Signy's soul was troubled about its hero.

[1] The old Shetland way of taking possession of land.

[2] "Skeoe," a shed for drying fish in.

[3] "Ferdimet," food for a journey.



When the sun was well up next morning, which meant about three o'clock, Yaspard came downstairs, carrying his armour, and treading softly, as he did not wish to disturb anybody. Pirate was dozing in the porch, but when the lad appeared he got up and followed him to the quay. Signy's eyes too followed—for she had heard her brother leave his room—and again her heart was troubled when she saw the weapons of warfare. All unconscious of her gaze, he proceeded to stow these into his boat, where Pirate had stepped gravely, and Signy's soul was comforted as she returned to her bed murmuring, "Any way, he has Pirate with him, and Pirate is more than a match for anything!"

Yaspard was soon across the voe, and he soon had the Harrisons out of their beds. When they reached the beach Lowrie pulled out of a fish-chest two neatly made wooden swords, two slings, two bows, and a sheaf of arrows. As he handed some to his brother he said to Yaspard, "We made the swords last night, and most of the arrows. I think they are a great improvement on the last."

"Yes, certain!" was the ready answer; but Yaspard's eyes gleamed as he pointed to his ancestral old iron, and said, "What think you of mine?"

"Oh, grand! splendid!" they cried.

"You are going to have a share—a loan of them, I mean." And then he rapidly explained what he purposed doing, and what he wished them to do. As the boat slipped rapidly along, the lads rigged themselves for action. Playing at "Robinson Crusoe" and "Hawk eye" had been favourite games, therefore they were provided with all sorts of belts and pouches for holding every conceivable kind of weapon; and queer figures they looked when their war toilet was complete, and they sat down to talk over their scheme and project a great many more.

Once outside of Boden voe, it did not take long to reach Havnholme. The Laulie was lying along the crags safely moored there, and her crew were asleep in the old shed, where they had spent many a night before. They had had a long day of exciting sport, and were wrapped in sleep more profound than usual.

But when the Osprey came within hailing distance, Yaspard ran up a black flag and raised a shout of "A Viking! a Viking!" His companions took up the cry, and Pirate, setting his fore-paws on the bow, barked and howled like mad. Such a hullaballoo was enough to waken anybody, and the Lunda boys—half-awake—rushed out of the shed, and stood staring in dumb-foundered amazement at the foe!

The Harrisons burst out laughing at the ludicrous spectacle of four lads rubbing their eyes, scratching their heads, shaking themselves straight in their clothes, and looking as if there never had been half an idea in one of their minds. But Yaspard shouted in grandiloquent style—

"You, lads of Lunda there, listen! We are Vikinger in search of glory and spoil, and all the rest of it. But we do not take our enemy unawares. We would not assail slumberers. We are nineteenth century enough to fight fair. So now, look to yourselves!"

During these few minutes the Osprey had reached the crags, and was alongside of the Laulie. As he finished speaking the young marauder, leaning over to the other boat, undid her painter, and hitching it to his own boat, shouted to his companions to row off again. They pulled out from the shore, and the Laulie was captured before her crew had waked up enough to comprehend what was going on.

"It's Yaspard Adiesen masquerading like an ass," said Harry Mitchell at last.

"It will only be a bit of fun," Gloy Winwick ventured to say, for by that time he had recognised Lowrie and Gibbie. They were his cousins, and he had often met them, and heard of the curious games which young Adiesen invented for their amusement and his own. "There will be nae harm in it. It's just his way. He's queer."

The last half of his remarks was given in an aside to Tom Holtum, but Tom only growled, "Bother the fellow! What does he mean by such preposterous impudence?"

Tom's temper was easily roused; and, followed by the others, he ran to the crag and shouted, "Give us none of your humbug! Bring back the boat, or it will be the worse for you!"

A mocking laugh was all the answer he got; and this so exasperated Tom that he was about to fling a volley of abuse to the enemy, but Harry checked him. Harry was always the first to look at a thing from more points than one, and now he said in an undertone, "I expect it is only some nonsensical make-believe. Yaspard is a baby in some ways, I am told; and he never exchanges a word with gentlemen's sons—lives horribly alone, you know. Let's humour him a bit, and see what it will come to."

Tom grunted, but Bill and Gloy seconded Harry, so Harry called out, "I say, you might as well come on shore first and tell us what's up, and then let us start fair all round."

"I'd like to," burst from Yaspard in his natural and impulsive manner, "but I mustn't. Uncle Brues has forbidden me to be friends with any of you Lunda fellows, because of the family feud, you know. But I'm tired of having no chums, and living as I do, so I'm resolved to be a Viking; and as you are all my enemies, I shall, of course, try to harass you in every way I can, to fight you, and carry off your property, and conquer you, and—and—have some good fun!"

Tom and Harry instantly got the right kind of inspiration about the matter, and replied, "All right, we're your men! strongest fend off!" but Gloy exclaimed, "I think he must be going off his head," and Bill called out furiously, "Conquer us! come and try, if you dare."

"I'll dare another day, youngster," answered the Viking loftily; "but listen now" (addressing the others): "I've got your boat, and you must agree to what I ask before I will let you have her again."

"Impudence!" shouted Tom.

"Tuts, man, let him haver," said Harry; then to Yaspard, "Well, go on."

"Are you captain of that crew?" Yaspard asked.

"In the absence of my elders and betters, yes!"

"Well, I want you to take a letter (it is really two letters, one inside the other) to the young Laird of Lunda. He is captain, chief, yarl, and all the rest of it, over you and your island."

"If it's a proper letter I'll take it," Harry answered promptly.

"One of the letters is quite proper; but, proper or no proper, uncle's note must also reach Mr. Garson, and you must promise to give it faithfully before I give you the Laulie. She's a splendid little craft. She would make a glorious Viking's bark! I am tempted to keep my spoil."

While they were talking Bill said to Gloy very loudly, "Never mind the jabber, boy. Come for a swim before breakfast! I'm off." They stripped and went in, and as they did so they whispered together and winked knowingly, then began to race and splash in the water as if they had no thought in their heads but the enjoyment of the moment, while the rival captains continued the engrossing debate.

Harry was not unwilling to carry the letter, but he did not like to be threatened into doing it.

"Suppose I refuse?" he said.

"Then I go off with your boat, and you remain prisoned on Havnholme."

"You could be severely punished if you did so."

"If you are mean enough to tell, and bring grown people and lawyers into the business," retorted Yaspard.

"I see no harm in taking the letter to Fred," said Tom then.

Tom strongly objected to telling tales. He also scented some rare shindies in the game Yaspard was playing, and Harry, seeing that the situation was an awkward one, agreed.

"Is that all?" he asked. But before the enemy could reply there came a shout from Tom, a howl from Yaspard, a screech from the Harrisons, and loud laughter from Gloy in the water.

Gloy and Bill had taken advantage of the attention of the others being chiefly directed to those on shore, and had, as if by accident, swam nearer to the boats. Then Gloy had held the Harrisons in talk while Bill quietly contrived to swim to that side of the Laulie which was farthest from the other boat. No one was aware of his movements until he had swiftly crawled into the Laulie. Leaning over the side, he slipped the painter from the thole-pin round which it hung, and then shoving with all his might, he sent the skiffs a good way apart at once.

"After him, boys!" Yaspard cried; but the boys were not ready. Gloy had come alongside and had caught hold of Gibbie, Lowrie was laughing like to split his sides at the sight of Bill, nude and dripping, gaping like a fresh caught cod, rowing for his life. The Laulie was safe back at her favourite crag in a minute more, and Yaspard could only comfort himself for being so outwitted by making a captive of Gloy.

"He isn't worth much without his clothes," Harry told all who cared to hear.

"We'll paint him," retorted Yaspard, and Gloy began to think that his position was awkward, to say the least of it; but Tom, whose good-humour had been completely restored by Bill's clever manoeuvre, said—

"You might just as well come along and have some breakfast with us, and then we can arrange the campaign, and settle about ransom for the captive."

There was no resisting such a suggestion, especially as it did not hint at compromise of the "position."

The Osprey came to land, and Gloy was permitted to go and resume his garments, after giving his word of honour to respect the parole.

A white handkerchief was tied to a fishing-rod, which was planted in the skeoe wall, and under that flag of truce the rival parties made merry in lighting a fire, boiling water, and feasting heartily on the good things which the Manse boys never failed to find in their ferdimet basket.



As they ate they talked, you may be sure. The Lunda boys were decidedly in favour of Yaspard's scheme—was there ever a boy who would have objected to any such prank? They saw no harm in it whatever, only Harry said—

"We must consult Fred Garson; we never go in for any big thing without consulting Fred."

"Of course," Yaspard answered cheerfully. "He will let you read my letter, and you will see by it that I expect he will have a finger in the pie—not to take part in the war, but just to look on and kind of see fair-play, you know, and umpire us when we fall out. He is a nice fellow, people say."

"There is no one like him," said Harry, with that hearty enthusiasm which all the lads of Lunda displayed when their chief was mentioned.

"What a pity it is," Bill chimed in, "that Eric and Svein are away, and—too old now for this kind of thing."

"I am glad they are too old," replied Yaspard, "for that leaves our number about equal."

"Four to three! you are in a minority," said Tom.

"There is Pirate," Yaspard answered, with a smile, and Pirate wagged his tail, as much as to say, "I'm ready for any or all of you."

"Oh, if dogs are to be in it," laughed Tom, "there's Watchie, that Svein rescued off a skerry; and there's old toothless Tory at the Manse. But now, what about the hapless captive? What do you price him at, Mr. Viking?"

"Twenty pebbles wet with the waves of Westervoe," was the instant reply, at which the lads roared.

"We don't carry our beach about in our pockets," one of them said, as soon as the laugh subsided.

"Then I must keep my captive till you bring his price." And Yaspard stuck to that, and urged his arguments so well that finally it was agreed that he should hold Gloy till his friends produced the stipulated ransom.

The prisoner did not seem very distressed. He had never been to Boden, and he anticipated having a good time during his captivity. He took for granted that his prison would be Noostigard, the home of his cousins—so little did he understand the mind and method of a Viking boy!

It is no part of my intention to tell you just now what those boys arranged. They hugely enjoyed laying plans, and we shall hear presently how these were carried out.

Before parting they engaged in a preliminary combat—we might be nearer the right term for it if we called it a knightly joust.

Gloy and Pirate were not in the tournament, for Yaspard had said the magic words "On guard" to his dog, and pointed out Gloy, who did not from that moment dare to move from the spot. The wooden swords were given to Bill and Gibbie; Tom and Lowrie had two huge broadswords which had been rendered harmless by chopping sticks. The rival captains chose two rapiers rusted to their sheaths.

It was a famous joust. The old iron clashed and sounded very terrible. The young heroes fought valiantly. Presently Bill's wooden sword broke in two, and he ought to have owned himself beaten, but he didn't. He caught Gibbie in a true wrestler's grip, and soon they were rolling together on the sandy seashore.

Tom very soon settled Lowrie by striking his mighty heavy weapon from his hand; but this victory was of no account in the general action when Harry's rapier went spinning over his head, and he went down on his back before the vigorous fencing of Yaspard. He was on his feet, however, in time to witness the final roll over of Bill and Gibbie. They had reached the water's edge, and the incoming tide washed over them, putting a most effectual stop to their wrestling-match. Choking with sand, and wet with spray, they let go of each other and jumped to their feet, panting, but happy, and declaring that "it wasn't a bad round, that."

All agreed that the joust had ended in a draw between the two parties, so—highly pleased with themselves and their new acquaintances—both crews got into the boats, and were soon sailing in opposite directions away from Havnholme.

When the Osprey reached Boden, Yaspard ran her into a small geo (creek) near the mouth of the voe. The cliffs which formed the geo were lofty, and overhung a strip of dry white sand. The place looked almost like a cave. There was no way out of the geo by land, and Yaspard said, as the boat grounded, "This will be a splendid place for a prison."

"Gracious! you're never going to leave me here?" exclaimed Gloy in a kind of comical dismay.

"Yes, here! what could be better? It is a very nice place. I've spent many a happy hour in this geo reading and fishing. Now, don't be frightened. I won't leave you long;—only till I see if the coast is clear, so that we can carry you to a real prison. We'll call this the Viking's Had,[1] and in his Had he means to keep you for a little while."

"Oh, come, this is too much," Lowrie remonstrated.

"Not at all. You know very well that Uncle Brues will not let anybody from Lunda set foot on the island. If he chanced to see Gloy he would make us take him straight away again; and he would ask so many questions that I should be obliged to tell the whole affair. Now, if we keep him here till the evening, we can then bring him without fear of discovery to a safe place. I know of a splendid place for his prison—so comfortable, and under a roof too! And see, here is a lot of ferdimet left; and" (pulling a small book from his coat pocket) "here is 'Marmion' to amuse you, Gloy. I'll leave you my fishing-rod—lots of sillacks about the geo. Oh, you won't think the time long till we come again."

Gibbie and Gloy exchanged rueful glances, and Lowrie, scratching his head, said, "I'm no' just sure that my faither will like our having a hand in ony such prank, sir."

The Harrisons were very much in earnest when they addressed Yaspard as "Sir," and he did not like it, for it usually meant that they were going to oppose some darling project of his. He did not suggest concealment; he knew that these boys always recounted all their adventures to their parents; but he rather counted on James Harrison seeing no harm in what he proposed, and therefore "winking" at it.

"Your father will not mind one bit if you tell him that I am going to use up that ridiculous old feud in this business. Believe me, he won't see any harm in it."

"But our own cousin, and his first visit to Boden?" said Lowrie, only half satisfied.

Here Gibbie struck in: "It's only a little bit of fun, Lowrie; don't let us make a fuss, for that may spoil all."

Gloy glanced around the geo, evidently calculating how far his powers of climbing were fit to cope with the walls of his prison; and Yaspard, guessing his thought, said, "I shall leave Pirate on guard with you."

Gloy resigned himself to fate, and patting the dog, he assured Yaspard that he didn't mind staying in the geo a few hours—even days—if that would help to demolish the quarrels which had kept poor young Adiesen so isolated from his kind.

"You're a brick," the others declared. Then Pirate got his instructions, and the Osprey went on her homeward way.

When she had disappeared in a curve of the fiord, a tiny punt came out from behind some crags which formed part of the geo. The punt was propelled by no unskilful hand, although its solitary occupant used a geological hammer more often than an oar. We may judge what Gloy Winwick felt like when he recognised the new-comer to be the dreaded Laird of Boden!

In blissful ignorance of the fact that his uncle had been so near, and had heard every word of their conference, Yaspard landed the Harrisons at their own noost; and promising to return for them at dusk, he took himself to Moolapund. There Signy was looking out eagerly for him, and great was her joy at his safe return. The little girl's lively imagination had been conjuring up all sorts of terrible adventures through which her hero might be passing, and she looked anxiously at him and his boat for signs of a fray. None were visible, not even the armour, for it had been stowed under the foot-boards.

"What have you done with Pirate?" Signy asked.

Now Yaspard was a very truthful boy, and could not tell a "whopper" to save his life. "Pirate is all right," he answered; "and if you will come up to my room, Mootie, I'll tell you my great secret, for it has begun to work. Only think!"

There were few things he loved more than his bright little sister's sympathy. He was never so happy as when pouring into her ears the story of his exploits. He thoroughly enjoyed telling her all about his expedition to Havnholme, and his pleasure was not even damped by the tears rising in her blue eyes when he described Gloy a prisoner in the geo with Pirate for jailer.

"Wasn't it a good lark, Signy? Don't I make a ripping Viking, &c.?"

She smiled in spite of her compassion, but she said, "Oh, brodhor, you know he is only a poor boy. If it had been one of the others it would not have mattered so much; but Gloy Winwick is a poor widow's son, and an only son, and it seems just a little—horrid."

"I never thought of it that way," Yaspard said, looking very crestfallen; "but it can't be helped now, any way. However, I'll make it up to him afterwards. He shan't lose by this, I tell you."

Signy twined her arms round his neck, and whispered softly, "Brodhor, is it quite—quite right, do you think, to do what Uncle Brues would be very angry about?"

"I don't think it's wrong any way," the lad replied. "I haven't disobeyed uncle, and I haven't told any stories. I've only—— There, Signy; if it seems a mean or deceitful thing I've done, I'll set that right in a jiffy. I'll just go and tell Uncle Brues about it myself."

"How brave you are, brodhor! How straight you go at things, to be sure!"

"And how round the corner and round my neck you go with things, Mootie-ting!" laughed he; then more gravely asked, "Where is uncle, do you know?"

"He is out, as usual, after specimens: he has been out a long time."

"Oh, well, I'll tell him when he comes."

[1] "Had," the den of a wild animal.



Some hours later Mr. Adiesen appeared at his own door laden with blocks of serpentine, fragments of lichen, moss, seaweed, and shells. Yaspard followed him into a little room which was doing duty as a study until the Den was restored to order, and as the scientist put down his treasures the lad said—in a trembling voice, be it confessed—"I want to tell you about something, uncle; something I've been doing."

"Well, go on," said Mr. Adiesen, not looking up, and in a very grim tone.

"I—I—there used to be—I've heard you say—that our ancestors were Vikings; and I—I thought I'd be—a Viking."

Yaspard got so far, and stuck. It was hard to go on telling of his romantic fancy and wild escapade with that grave face before him.

"You thought you'd be a Viking," Mr. Adiesen repeated calmly, then paused, and asked in ice-cold tones, "Well, what else do you wish to say?"

"I think it right to tell you—I feel I ought—even about what—I mean—in fun;—but, uncle," and again poor Yaspard came to a deadlock, and might never have made a satisfactory confession if help had not come to him in the form of Signy.

She had been hovering about the door in much trepidation, and, fearing that her brother's courage might fail him, she stole to his side, put her hand in his, looked fearlessly at Uncle Brues, and said—

"He has not done anything to be ashamed of, uncle; only we thought you ought to know, because it came out of the feud partly."

The Laird's brows came together in a frown, but he was very fond of Signy. She was his one "weakness," Aunt Osla said, and said truly.

"Let Yaspard speak for himself, my dear," her uncle answered gently, while his grim feature relaxed as he looked at her; and the boy, braced by the touch of the little hand in his, blurted out—

"I wanted to know the lads of Lunda, and have some fun, as they have and most boys have; and I couldn't be friends with them because you had forbidden that, so I took up the feud in a sort of way on my own account, and determined to make raids upon them, and have fights (sham-fights) and do as the Vikings did—in a kind of play, of course. They are the enemy; and we could make-believe to slaughter and capture each other, and——"

Mortal man could stand no more than that. Mr. Adiesen, drawing his brows together savagely to hide his strong inclination to burst into laughter, called his nephew by some not complimentary names, and dismissed him abruptly, saying, "Go along with you, and take your fun any way you please. Only remember—no friendships with Lunda folk. Play with them under the black flag, if that gives you amusement; and see that your Viking-craze keeps within the bounds of civilised laws."

Yaspard escaped, rejoicing; but Signy lingered to ask, "Would you object to taking prisoners, uncle?"

"Child, let him prison every man and boy in Lunda if he likes—if he can catch them."

Signy flew to tell her brother of this further concession, and Mr. Adiesen shut the door upon himself. If the young folks had listened outside that door they would have heard a curious noise; but whether it meant that the old man was growling to himself or suppressing laughter, we, who do not know Mr. Adiesen's moods very well, cannot tell.

Yaspard was only too glad to get off so easily, and paused for nothing, but, racing off to his boat with Signy, was soon sailing up the voe—not across, as before, for his destination was not Noostigard.

Boden voe is very beautiful It curves between steep shores, and at one place narrows so much that you could almost touch either shore with a sillack-rod from a boat passing through. When it is ebb-tide you can walk dry-shod across this passage (called the Hoobes). Here the voe terminates in a lovely little basin, almost land-locked, and placid as a mountain tarn.

Where the voe ends there is only a mere neck of land. It rises abruptly from both sides, and is crowned by a peak known as the Heogne.

Under shelter of the Heogne, and commanding a magnificent view of islands and ocean-wastes, stands the old dwelling of Trullyabister. Mr. Neeven was the cousin of Mr. Adiesen: he left Shetland in his early youth, and no one heard whether he was alive or dead for thirty years. Then he returned to his native land, a gloomy, disappointed man, hard to be recognised as the light-hearted lad who had gone away to make a fortune in California, and be happy ever afterwards. It seemed that he had made the fortune, but the happiness had eluded him. He would give no account of his life, and seldom cared to converse with any one except Brues Adiesen, from whom he asked and readily obtained the half-ruined home of their fathers. Two or three rooms were made habitable; the half-witted brother of James Harrison was hired as attendant; cart-loads of books were brought from the South (by which vague term the Shetlanders mean Great Britain); and Gaun Neeven settled himself in that wild, lone spot, purposing to end his days there. He was there when Yaspard was very small, therefore the boy always associated his hermit-relative with the "haunted" house of Boden; and as he grew older, and the romantic side of his character developed rapidly, he was greatly attracted to Trullyabister and its queer occupants—fule-Tammy being, in his way, as mysterious a recluse as his master.

Yaspard found a great many excuses for going to Trullyabister, although he very rarely was permitted to enter Mr. Neeven's rooms, and was never allowed near the "haunted" portion of the dwelling. But Tammy was usually pleased enough to see him, and would entertain the boy with many strange legends of the old house; for Tammy was shrewd and imaginative; his "want" exhibited itself in no outrageous manner, but rather in a kind of low cunning and feebleness of will. It was Tammy's talent for story-telling, and his skill as a player of the violin, which drew Yaspard to him. Also the lad felt a kind of pity for the creature, and tried, in his plain boy-fashion, to instruct him, and make him "a little more like other folk."

Signy did not like fule-Tammy: she did not like his sidelong, leering expression; and she always avoided him, notwithstanding her brother's oft-repeated declaration that the man "wasn't so bad as he looked." Therefore, when Yaspard moored the Osprey at the head of the voe, and announced his intention of running up the hill to have a word with Tammy, Signy said—

"I'll stay on the beach, brodhor. There are lovely shells about, and I can gather a heap while you are away."

"All right," said he, and up the hill he bounded, while Signy set herself to picking up shells. She was soon so interested in her occupation that she forgot how time slips past, and was not aware that Yaspard had been absent a whole hour when he returned looking very much annoyed.

"Bother that fellow!" he said, as he helped Signy into the boat and took his place at the oars.

"You mean fule-Tammy?" she asked.

"Of course. The impudence of him, to say I mayn't have any tumble-down bit of Trullyabister for a play-place! I had it all so nicely planned—to hide Gloy there, and bring our armour and our spoil there. It was just the very place. It is an old Viking's place—at least one bit of it is said to be. But I'll circumvent fule-Tammy yet."

"Why not ask permission from Mr. Neeven?" Signy ventured to suggest; but Yaspard shook his head.

"He would not hear of such a thing. Besides, that would take all the secrecy and dark plotting and fun out of it all. But, never mind, I'll have my prisoner in Trullyabister in spite of everything."

No cloud rested for many minutes on Yaspard's smooth brow, and very soon he was laughing merrily as he pulled his boat along.

As they neared Moolapund, Loki came slowly sailing homewards, and, feeling heavy and lazy after a long day's fishing, gravely dropped into the boat, and looked at Yaspard as much as to say, "Your oars are better able than my wings at present."

"Just look at the Parson! What a cool customer he is!" laughed Yaspard. He had given Loki the nickname of "Parson" because of his white choker and dignified visage.

Just then another pair of dark-hued wings hove near, and Thor, the majestic raven which was Mr. Adiesen's particular pet, alighted on the bow with a croak so hoarse and solemn that Signy cried out, "Oh dear, how very eerie this is! How terribly grave Thor and Loki are! They make me feel creepy."

"I shall take them with me on some of my Viking raids," Yaspard exclaimed. "Just as the Vikinger did, you know. They always carried a raven with them; and as for Loki—he can be an imp, or a Valkyrur. It sounds quite fine, doesn't it?"

Chatting gaily they reached the shore, and as soon as the boat touched, Thor and Loki flew off in stately flight to the house. Signy followed on foot, wishing she had wings; and Yaspard, shoving off again, went across to Noostigard.

He had a hearty tea with the Harrisons. He was a great favourite in the factor's house, and was always allowed to be there as much as he pleased, for Mrs. Harrison was a religious as well as judicious woman, and exercised a very wholesome influence over the somewhat spoilt and wayward boy.

Her sons had told her all about the expedition to Havnholme, and she was delighted when Yaspard informed them that Uncle Brues had not disapproved.

"Ye mun bring puir Gloy here before ye pit him in prison," she laughingly called out, when twilight came and the three boys set off for the geo.

When they were out of hearing the factor remarked with a thoughtful smile, "It's a strange way the young anes hae o' turning trouble intae fun, and makin' guid come oot o' ill."



Our Viking-boys were not long rowing out the voe that evening. The twilight had come sufficiently for their purpose. It had not brought darkness, but it indicated that a late hour had come, when the inhabitants of Boden were probably at rest indoors. They were so busily engaged laying plans that they did not comment upon the perfect silence which reigned in the geo as they approached. The splash of their oars and the tones of their voices were loud enough to have warned Gloy of their approach, and cause him to make some response. But he didn't.

A joyous bark from Pirate was the first thing to draw the attention, and then the lads noticed that the dog was alone.

"Guess Gloy is taking a nap, stupid fellow!" Yaspard remarked, and then he hallooed as they ran the light skiff high and dry upon the sand.

No answer came to the halloo, and a brief glance sufficed to show that their prisoner was not in the geo. The place was small and without any corner for concealment. It was light enough to see all round the geo. Of a certainty Gloy was not slumbering, and Gloy was not there!

The lads were too amazed to utter a word, but Pirate made up for their silence by barking and howling his delight at being in company once more. Dogs are very social, and solitude had not been pleasing to Pirate. The first person to speak was Lowrie, and a certain amount of satisfaction was displayed in his countenance: he rather believed in his own cuteness, and thought he had found the solution of the puzzle.

"It was stupid of us," he said, "to forget that Gloy can take the water like a sealkie. He would swim round the rocks till he reached an easy landing-place. There are plenty quite near."

"Pirate was on guard," said Yaspard, "and would not have allowed him to quit the geo unless I had given a word of command. Besides, Gloy let us understand that he would not try to escape, and knew that I trusted him, therefore took no further precautions."

"Perhaps a boat came by and picked him up," Lowrie answered, scratching his head for some new ideas.

"Has any boat been near Boden voe to-day?"

"We have not seen any. I think faither wad have kent if any boat had been this way, for he has gleg een in respect o' boats."

"There is only one boat he would have gone with, and that is the Laulie," said Yaspard musingly. "Perhaps the Manse boys came after us in real Viking fashion, and in that case——"

"Hi!" Gibbie exclaimed then, catching sight of Yaspard's fishing-rod, stuck upright in the sand at the farther side of the geo. A bit of white paper fluttering on top of the rod had drawn Gibbie's attention, and he was not long in seizing upon this. It had been carefully tied to the line and fastened on the rod, and when the paper was released the three eagerly put their heads together to read what was written inside.

In Gloy's cramped, unformed caligraphy was traced a few words, mysterious, but, on the whole, reassuring.

"I'm all right. I haven't broken faith with you, and no more has Pirate; but you need not be scared about me.—I am still THE PRISONER."

"Well, this beats everything!" Yaspard exclaimed then grasping Pirate by his shaggy coat, he cried, "Oh, my dog, if you could speak English! I believe you could if you tried. Tell us, Pirate, where has our lawful captive gone?"

Pirate yelped and jumped around, then ran to the boat and looked wistfully at his master as much as to say, "Why do you remain in such a horrid hole? This is no place for you or me."

Interpreting his actions aright, the Viking said, "I suppose you are about right, doggie; you've been here too long already, and there is nothing to keep us here any longer."

Considerably crestfallen and perplexed, they left the geo, and sailed slowly up the voe once more, asking one another what was to be done next.

"I suppose we must believe that Gloy is all right," said Lowrie, "so we needn't concern ourselves about his life at the present time."

"He says he is still the prisoner," said Yaspard musingly; then after a long pause he added, "Look here, boys, we might as well go on with this night's performance as far as we can without our captive. We can possess ourselves of his intended 'cell' (in spite of this horrid 'sell'), and we can make it ready for him as we intended, in the hope that he will render himself into the hands of his conquerors as a true knight should."

"All serene," was Lowrie's reply; and Gibbie added, "Just so."

So in the grey, quiet "dim" the Osprey swept silently through the Hoobes and brought up at the "dyke-end," where she had stopped in the afternoon when Signy was the Viking's sole companion.

Yaspard alone jumped on shore. "Keep her off," he whispered, as if an army of enemies were in ambush close by; "don't fasten her until I give the signal that the coast is clear."

Having so given his orders, he set off up the hill, dodging behind turf walls and creeping along knolls, so that no watchful eyes at Trullyabister could detect his approach.

There is no real night in those regions when summer is in its prime, therefore Yaspard's precautions were necessary if he required to steal unawares upon the scene.

When within a short distance of the old house a backdoor suddenly opened and fule-Tammy came out carrying a peat-keschie. He was going to the stack for fuel, and the particular stack he meant to visit happened to be the very object behind which Yaspard crouched.

"If," thought the boy, "he comes round this end of the stack I'm done for."

But Tammy didn't. He always attacked a peat-stack from the point nearest the house, so he placed his keschie[1] at a convenient height on the broken side of the stack, and lazily proceeded to fill it with peats. Tammy had a habit, common in half-wits, of talking loudly to himself, and as he filled his keschie he declaimed in Yaspard's hearing—

"Na, na! I ken wha wad get the raiding-strake[2] if I was to gie them the run o' the raubit-house; and where wad a' my night-sports be? and what wad come o' the Trows if I let the boys rumble ower a'?"

As he piled the peats he went on talking in a disconnected, and to Yaspard, very incomprehensible, manner about midnight revels and strange beings who doubtless had a certain kind of existence in Tammy's imagination. Only one thing he said attracted the boy's serious attention, and remained in his recollection to throw light on future events.

As Tammy raised the keschie to his shoulder he exclaimed in a kind of exultation, "They think me a puir 'natural,' that can do nae gude to man or beast, but for a' that it's myself that's pit mair light upon wir isle as ever men and money will pit, though the Laird—puir body—speaks aboot it evermair, and evermair will speak. Yea, yea! puir Tammy and his pate-keschie does mair for ill-luckit, wandering sea-folk than does the muckle kirk and the peerie[3] queen pit together. And, though I say it that shouldna, puir Tammy kens when tae wake and when tae sleep better than them that has their heads fu' o' brains and books forby."

So maundering, Tammy returned to the house, and closed the back-door behind him, and then Yaspard stole round to the uninhabited and ruined portion of the house to reconnoitre.

When satisfied that the "coast was clear," he whistled softly in such perfect imitation of a golden plover, that the Harrisons, waiting for that same signal, were not quite sure that it was Yaspard, and no bird. But when the wild musical notes had been repeated three distinct times, they knew that it was their captain's call.

Fastening the boat to the dyke-end, they hastened to raise the foot-boards and open lockers fore and aft. From these hiding-places they took a curious assortment of articles—a blanket and towel, armour in plenty, a knife, fork, plate, and mug; two candles, a box of matches, and a basket of nondescript victuals. Stowing these into two keschies brought for the purpose, they slung the baskets on to their backs, and marched confidently up the hill, assured that Yaspard would give the alarm if danger was to be apprehended.

They reached his side without any adventure, and then all three clambered over the broken wall into what had been a goodly apartment—now roofless and in ruin. At the farther end of this room there was a low doorway, leading to a dark passage; and as Yaspard walked boldly towards it Gibbie said in a frightened whisper, "No' that way! surely no' that way? Yon passage ends in the haunted room."

"The haunted room, you goose, is just the place that is to be our captive's cell," replied the Viking.

"I thought ye meant this room, or some other bit that's fallen tae ruin," Gibbie muttered, and hesitating to follow the others, who went boldly along the passage, intending to enter the haunted room by a broken doorway of which Yaspard had been aware. His chagrin was great to find that aperture closed by a number of stout boards nailed firmly across it.

"What a bother! Now, I wonder why on earth this has been done?" Yaspard exclaimed aloud, disappointment overcoming caution; but he was recalled to the "position" on hearing some strange sounds on the other side of the boarding, evidently provoked by his own unguarded tones. The sounds were like a child's cry, blended with the sharp short barking noise which is supposed to be the manner in which trows give expression to their mirth; and these vocal utterances were supplemented by a sound of scratching and thumping applied to the boards.

The boys retreated into the outer room, where Gilbert had remained. He was leaning over the ruin, looking up at a window in the angle of the wall, and when the others reached him he said in tones of fear, "Look! there is a light in the haunted room!"

[1] A basket.

[2] "Raiding-strake," the final blow which clears up everything.

[3] "Peerie," little.



I ought to explain that the passage leading to that "haunted" chamber sloped upwards steeply enough to require a step here and there along it. It might even be called a stairway; therefore the little room—which had been the goal of Yaspard's present raid—was situated on a much higher level than the larger and more dilapidated apartment.

It was not possible to walk round and peep into the room, from which a flickering light was streaming through a tiny slit in the thick wall that did duty for a window. But we must not suppose that the courage of a Viking-boy was going to be daunted by trow-laughter or ghost-lights. No; nor by stone walls and high windows! The walls of Trullyabister were rugged, and, on that side at any rate, perforated by holes convenient for supporting the toe of a boot, and for otherwise assisting an athletic youth, thirsting for information, to solve the mysteries of the interior.

"I'll know what it means, or——" Yaspard did not finish his sentence in words; he shut his mouth up tight, and, scrambling over the ruins like a monkey, he was soon climbing up to the window.

The Harrisons watched him with intense interest, and when his hands were on the window-sill their excitement reached a climax.

It was with some difficulty that the bold adventurer raised himself high enough to see into the room, and it was only for one instant that he occupied such a position. Just as his face appeared at the window another face—a horrid face, from which a pair of large melancholy eyes glowed with a wild fierce light—presented itself opposite Yaspard, and stared out at him in a manner to startle the stoutest man alive.

Our hero did not wait for a second glance at that dreadful apparition, but descended from his equivocal position much more rapidly than he had reached it.

"What was it? Tell us quick," whispered Lowrie, and both he and his brother were trembling with fear. They had caught a glimpse of the face that had met Yaspard's, and its unearthly appearance had been greatly exaggerated by the shadows and the distance. Although they were too intelligent to credit any story of trows, they had lively imaginations, and had been bred in a land where the mysteries of creation take fantastic shapes in the minds of a wonder-loving and superstitious peasantry. They had shrunk from penetrating the secrets of that haunted room, and were not altogether surprised, though entirely frightened, that "something" had "appeared" to rebuke and check their leader's audacity.

While Yaspard gasped for breath after his hasty descent the Harrisons again begged, "Tell us quick about it," but Yaspard was in no hurry to tell. He retreated again into the ruin, whither his companions followed, and, sitting down by the loaded keschies, he cast his eyes on the ground and would not speak.

There was something awesome in the silence, in the surroundings, in the whole adventure, therefore it is not to be wondered that Lowrie felt creepy, and Gibbie's teeth chattered in his head.

At last the elder brother took courage to say, "Let's go back to our boat. There's nae gude tae be got o' sitting here like gaping fish left dry and high upon a skerry."

"Put the keschies in the passage, anyway," said Yaspard, agreeing to the proposal; but the Harrisons were not willing to enter that passage again, so they suggested another hiding-place, namely, the chimney, which was stopped up and grown over above, but had capacious ledges inside which suited admirably for the purpose they required. Their things were deposited there, and then the three adventurers stole silently away from Trullyabister, two feeling crestfallen and very uncomfortable, the third plunged in thought, and looking the beau ideal of a pirate chief meditating over some dark and deadly project.

It was not until the Osprey had passed the Hoobes, and was being swiftly rowed to Noostigard, that Yaspard broke the eerie silence which he had maintained in a most unusual manner. "It all works in!—works in beautiful!" he remarked. Now, that was not at all the kind of speech the others had expected, and their amazement was so great that they paused in their rowing and gazed at him in speechless astonishment.

He laughed then, his own hearty laugh, which somehow had the effect of dissipating all the fears with which they had been beset, but did not diminish their surprise and curiosity.

"Ye might tell us now!" they begged, in coaxing tones; and Yaspard answered, "I just believe Mr. Neeven is a wizard, and Tammy a sort of trow. Anyway, they are as bad as Vikings, for they have captured a poor lady and shut her up in the haunted room, with her baby too—all just the way people did ages ago! And now, don't you see, we've got to rescue them; we are the noble warriors who defend the weak and rescue them from thraldom!"

"Has he gone stark mad?" Gibbie asked of Lowrie.

"Not he," retorted Yaspard. "He is telling you the exact truth—believe it or not, as you please. I saw the mother, and I saw the baby; and I saw the back—I am glad he wasn't looking my way—of their tyrant and jailer, Mr. Neeven. So there!"

"A mother and baby in the haunted room! But how did they get there, can anybody imagine?"

"They are there, and that is enough for us."

"It's the strangest thing I ever heard tell o'," ejaculated Lowrie; "and yet," he added, "we must allow we did hear something uncommonly like a bairn greetin'."

"Of course we did," retorted Yaspard.

"But what kind of a critter was it came to the window?" Gibbie asked. "That was surely no human critter."

"The prettiest lady in creation would cast an ugly shadow from that hole," was the ready reply, which satisfied the brothers, who believed that their imaginations, and the dread they were in, as well as the uncertain light, had caused them to fancy they saw something peculiar. They were then quite ready to denounce Mr. Neeven for his inhuman conduct, and eager to devise some plan by which the poor prisoners might be rescued.

Yaspard had no difficulty in winning their approval of his next plan; and indeed, so ardently did they desire to set about it, that they were almost sorry when he said, "Easy, easy, boys! One thing at a time! Don't let us forget, in our haste to be after this business, that we have other important matters on hand. We have to find Gloy, and we have to meet the lads of Lunda at Havnholme this afternoon. We haven't much time on our hands, if Gloy has to be found before we go to receive his ransom."

"Strikes me," muttered Gibbie, "that we are in a mess about Gloy."

"It's puzzling, but it will all come right," was the chief's reply, spoken in his usual cheery style, which cleared the cloud from Gibbie's brow, and sent him home believing as implicitly as before that Yaspard would find a way of making things come straight. "He always does," the brothers agreed, as they softly stole up to their room, leaving the Viking to paddle himself across the voe.

At breakfast next morning Mrs. Harrison asked in some surprise what they had done with Gloy, for she had expected her nephew would certainly be brought to her house. She was not a little disturbed on hearing of his disappearance, but the factor said, "There's nae harm come to the lad. Ye need not be frightened. It's plain enough some boat has come by, and the men have insisted on his going wi' them. For, mind ye, yon geo is a dangerous place if a high tide happened tae set in."

He would not listen to his boys' arguments against such an explanation. Neither Gloy's declaring himself still "The Prisoner," nor Pirate's honesty as policeman, could shake Harrison's belief in his own theory of the matter. "You'll see I'm right," he ended with; "but I wad like tae ken what way young master is going tae redd it up wi' the lads o' Lunda. My word! he will hae a bourne keschie o' crabs to sort wi' them, if he canno' tell what's come o' their maute." [1]

While Gibbie had been answering questions and their parents had been talking, Lowrie was fidgeting in his chair, trying to gather courage to tell the yet more startling incident which occurred during the midnight trespass on Trullyabister.

At last he managed to say, "Faither, I never could hae thought that Mr. Neeven was a—was a bairn-stealer and a wumman-stealer."

James Harrison stared at his son, as well he might, and one of the older girls cried out, "What in a' the world have ye got in your crazy head, Lowrie?"

Then Lowrie told all he knew about the mother and baby prisoned in the haunted room, and his father listened to the story with a preternatural solemnity of countenance.

Mrs. Harrison, the girls, and small children stared and were dumb, as Lowrie enlarged upon the baby wails which had stirred his soul, and the great glowing eyes that had appeared for one brief moment at the small window. It was all the most remarkable tale that had ever been told at Noostigard, and it was not spoilt by any verbal interruption.

When the story was ended Harrison asked, in a curious low voice that seemed shaken by some strange emotion, "And so ye'll be for letting out Mr. Neeven's prisoners instead o' shutting up your ain? Weel, my boys, tak care that ye dinna find yoursel's in a trap, as mony a wild fellow o' a sea-rover has found himsel' in times past. Mind ye, yon Vikings, that ye hae sae muckle sang about, did not aye come aff wi' the best o' it. Sometimes they had tae tak their turn in the prisons too."

"Yaspard will tak care we don't come off second best," said the boys confidently; but their father shook his head.

"I'm thinking," he said, "ye'll find ye've got a rale Viking tae deal wi' if ye tackle Mr. Neeven, or meddle wi' ony o' his affairs. I wadna be in Yaspard Adiesen's shoes if he gets intil Mr. Neeven's birse." [2]

"But, faither, it's a crying shame of him to keep such puir critters prisoned in such a place; and surely Yaspard is right to wish to set them free."

"I'll no say he's wrang. I think it is a shame, but I'm just warning you tae be careful;—I mean that ye tell your chief (as ye ca' him) tae be careful—very careful."

"We'll tell him what you say," they answered.

Harrison would not allow his wife or girls to discuss the matter, and a significant look he gave them served to silence them on the subject for that time.

[1] "Maute," a comrade, chum, or mate.

[2] Bristles.



That afternoon the Osprey, with the three young rovers and Pirate aboard, went out the voe. They were not so jubilant as they had expected to be when sailing to meet the foe, for they were not at all sure how the lads of Lunda would receive their story of Gloy's disappearance.

The place of meeting was Havnholme, and when they neared that island Yaspard's quick eyes detected the Laulie moored by the crags and a group of boys standing near the skeoe watching for the Boden boat.

"They've come in force!" our Viking exclaimed. "Five of them, no less! and one's a man!"

"Why, one is Gloy!" cried Gibbie; and—in more subdued tones—Lowrie added "And the man is Mr. Garson, the young Laird o' Lunda!"

"That's jolly!" Yaspard said; "but how Gloy got there beats me to imagine," and he cast a reproachful glance at Pirate, who was looking up into his master's face with such an expression of fidelity in his honest brown eyes that the boy could not resist their appeal. He took the dog's head between his hands and said, "No, Pirate, I will not think you broke faith with me."

"The mystery will soon be cleared up now," remarked Lowrie, as he lowered the sail and directed his brother to row gently, so that they might bring up alongside of the Laulie.

By the time their boat was moored to the crags, the Lunda boys and their chief were standing there, all grinning from ear to ear. As for Gloy, he was all "one huge laugh," Yaspard said, with some exasperation in his tone.

"I suppose I mustn't shake hands with you, Mr. Garson," the Viking said, addressing himself to Fred as he jumped on shore; but Fred laughed and caught both of Yaspard's hands in his as he replied, "Nonsense, man! You ought to know that honourable enemies do not scruple to shake hands even on the eve of battle. I was exceedingly pleased with your letter, and very glad to make your acquaintance under any circumstances."

"Even Uncle Brues could not hold out against a fellow like you!" Yaspard exclaimed, as he returned that hearty hand-clasp, and looked into the winsome, manly face, so much endowed with the magnetic power that drew all hearts to Fred Garson.

They all laughed at Yaspard's words, but they all knew how potent was Fred's spell, and did not wonder at the boy's enthusiasm.

"I suppose," said Fred then, "that before I answer your letter we should explain about your captive, taken in fair war, and here ready to yield himself back into your hands if you are not satisfied with his explanation and the ransom we bring."

"It's here—just as you stipulated," Bill Mitchell exclaimed, rattling a little tin pail he carried; "pebbles wet with the waves of Westervoe. See!" and he jerked off the lid and showed some stones in a pail full of salt water.

"If I were Gloy," burst forth the blunt and tactless Tom Holtum, "I'd be ashamed of being valued at such a trumpery price. If you had priced him against a bit of lichen torn from the Head of Calloster, which might have cost us our lives to procure, that would have been more like the thing. But beach stones in salt water, bah!"

"Tom, lad!" said Fred gently, "if you were living in a city far from Lunda—as I have been—you would put a higher price on pebbles wet with the sea that girdles the old isle. I picked up a small stone myself, when I left home for the first time, and I carried it always in my pocket. I keep it still for sake of its memories; one values a trifle for reasons known only to himself."

His companions had not reached the age when boys learn to put a little sentiment into their actions, so they only stared in surprised silence; but Yaspard fully appreciated what Fred said, and remarked, "It was a little like that way that I was thinking when I bade them bring those pebbles. I must not go to Westervoe myself, so I thought I'd like to have something from it. I thought I should feel more like one of you boys—not so much by myself, and all that sort of thing—if I could handle something that reminded me of you." Then, tossing back his head rather proudly, as he caught Tom winking to Bill, he added, "You value that flag at your masthead for what it reminds you of—not its mere money value. I might call it a dirty old rag, but you price it highly. I dare say you see what I mean now. I'm not good at explaining myself."

They broke into a cheer, and Tom's voice was the loudest of the lot. "Oh, you're not a bad sort," he tried, "and you must take our chaff in good part. You'll see enough of Westervoe before you're done with us, I'll be bound; and as for adventures—why, man, you're providing us with them! You are the inventor of adventure. Take out a patent, and you'll make a fortune out of us, for we love that sort of thing better than a miser loves his money."

"I'm burning tae hear Gloy's story," said Lowrie, as soon as Tom gave any one a chance to speak. So Gloy was shoved to the front, and bidden to "speak up, and speak quick," which he did right willingly.

"It was Mr. Adiesen in his dingy," he said. "He was ahint the skerry when we were in the geo, and heard a'."

"I might have guessed as much if I had not been an ass," Yaspard exclaimed. "I might have known that Pirate would only obey one of us from Moolapund."

"Was the Laird awfu' angry?" Gibbie asked.

"Yes, he was; but when I tell'd him as weel as I could hoo it a' cam aboot, and hoo lonesome Mr. Yaspard was, and hoo he had heard a' about wis o' Lunda and wir ploys and vaidges, and hoo he wanted tae hae the like too;—weel, the Laird o' Boden mused like upo' what I said; and then he took oot his pocketbook and wrate a peerie letter wi' his pencil. And then he bade me come inta the dingy, and I was tae row ower tae Lunda wi' him. Sae I did as I was bid—after asking his leave tae pit yon message for you upo' the rod. He asked me a heap aboot wis a'—I mean aboot the Manse folk, and Dr. Holtum's bairns, and maist aboot our young Laird and Miss Isobel and the lady. And when we cam' tae Lunda he bade me land and carry the note he had written tae Dr. Holtum, and after that I was tae do as I liked aboot mysel'. Then he rowed awa' again. And so noo my tale is ended;" and, having so delivered himself of the longest speech he ever made in his life, Gloy sprawled on the turf, and lay kicking his heels in the sunshine, feeling himself to be the hero of the hour.

Yaspard drew a long breath. He could scarcely believe it true that his uncle had allowed himself to be so near Lunda, and to be so interested in its young people. "What next, I wonder?" he muttered, and looked at Fred, who answered the inquiry in the Viking's gaze by saying—

"I am not at liberty to tell what Mr. Adiesen wrote to Dr. Holtum; but it wasn't like what he wrote to me, and it wasn't bad at all. So let your mind be at rest on that point. You are as free as ever to carry on your Viking course."

"Father said," Tom interrupted, "that we are now at liberty to bring you as a prisoner to Lunda, if we can catch you as easily as you caught Gloy, so you will have to look out."

"I'll be delighted, quite delighted!" was the answer, which sent the enemy into fits of laughter.

Then Harry asked, trying to look very grave, and extending the tin pail towards Yaspard—

"You accept this ransom, and the captive is free?"

"Place the precious ore in our bark," said the Viking chief, handing the pail to Gibbie.

"And take care," said Harry, "that you don't scrape your bark on an oar as you do it."

"The perpetrator of such atrocious puns ought to be severely punished," retorted Yaspard.

"He is always sorry for them afterwards," said Bill.

"I wish I were not free," muttered Gloy. "I wanted to go to Noostigard," and he exchanged regretful looks with his cousins; but Fred lifted the cloud from their spirits.

"I am going to ask you," he said, addressing Yaspard, "to take me with you to Boden; and perhaps you will allow Gloy to come as my henchman?"

1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse