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The Pilots of Pomona
by Robert Leighton
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E-text prepared by Martin Robb



THE PILOTS OF POMONA

A Story of the Orkney Islands

by

ROBERT LEIGHTON



CONTENTS

Chapter I. In Which I Am Late For School. Chapter II. Andrew Drever's School Chapter III. A Half Holiday. Chapter IV. Sandy Ericson, Pilot. Chapter V. The Hen Harrier. Chapter VI. "Better Gear Than Rats." Chapter VII. What The Shingle Revealed. Chapter VIII. Dividing The Spoil. Chapter IX. Captain Gordon. Chapter X. The Dominie Explains. Chapter XI. My Sister Jessie. Chapter XII. A Tragedy And A Transportation. Chapter XIII. In Which I Receive A Present. Chapter XIV. Thora. Chapter XV. In Which The Viking's Amulet Is Proved. Chapter XVI. Wherein I Go A-Fishing. Chapter XVII. How The Golden Rule Was Kept. Chapter XVIII. The Wreck Of The "Undine." Chapter XIX. Tom Kinlay's Bargain. Chapter XX. The Opposition Boat. Chapter XXI. The Rescue. Chapter XXII. After The Accident. Chapter XXIII. Gray's Inn. Chapter XXIV. Carver Kinlay's Success. Chapter XXV. A Family Removal. Chapter XXVI. A Subterranean Adventure. Chapter XXVII. A Family Misfortune. Chapter XXVIII. Captain Flett Of The "Falcon." Chapter XXIX. In Which The "Falcon" Sets Sail. Chapter XXX. An Orcadian Voyage. Chapter XXXI. An Arctic Waif. Chapter XXXII. The Last Of The "Pilgrim." Chapter XXXIII. The Light In The Gaulton Cave. Chapter XXXIV. Colin Lothian Makes An Accusation. Chapter XXXV. A Search And A Discovery. Chapter XXXVI. Trapped In The Cave. Chapter XXXVII. In Which I Am Put Under Arrest. Chapter XXXVIII. Accused Of Murder. Chapter XXXIX. An Unprofessional Inquiry. Chapter XL. Ephraim Quendale. Chapter XLI. The Last Of The Kinlays. Chapter XLII. A Choice Among Three. Chapter XLIII. Thora's Answer. Notes.



Chapter I. In Which I Am Late For School.

On a certain bright morning in the month of May, 1843, the little port of Stromness wore an aspect of unwonted commotion. The great whaling fleet that every year sailed from this place for the Greenland fisheries was busily preparing for sea. The sun was shining over the brown hills of Orphir, and casting a golden sheen over the calm bay. Out beyond the Holms the whaling ships lay at anchor, the Blue Peter flying at each forepeak, and between them and the town many boats were passing to and fro.

I remember the day, not so much in connection with the whaling ships themselves as by the fact that their sailing fixes upon my memory the date of other more personal events which I am about to set forth in the following pages. Indeed, I was altogether unaffected by the departure of the ships. As I sat on the edge of one of the tiny stone piers that support the old houses along the shoreline, my bare feet dangling above the clear green water, I thought only of my fishing line and of the row of bright-scaled sillocks that lay on a stone at my side, being quite unmindful that the school bell had long since begun to ring.

A small boat passed within a few yards of the jetty, rowed by Tom Kinlay, one of my schoolfellows.

"Now, then, Ericson," he cried out as he saw me; "d'ye not hear the bell? Hurry up, lad, or you'll be late again. Aha! I'll tell the dominie that you're sitting there fishing when you should be at the school. Come away now, or ye'll get your licks."

Without seeming to hear his warning, I drew in my line with a good young coal fish at the end of it, and quietly counted my catch. There were just three-and-twenty fish, and I could not resist the temptation of making up the even two dozen; so I baited my hook again and cast it into the water, meditating as I did so upon Kinlay's unnecessary interference.

Now Tom Kinlay, I must tell you, was some twelve months older than I, and, as I had reason to remember, much taller and stronger. In our early school days he had exercised a tyranny over me which I even now recall with feelings partly of indignation against him, and partly of shame in myself for having so foolishly bent under the yoke of his oppression. When we went bathing, as we frequently did, out on the further shores of the bay, he would not scruple to lead us younger lads into the deepest waters, and, when we were far beyond our depth and almost exhausted, he would swim behind us and force us under, for the mere cruel pleasure, I believe, of seeing our struggles and hearing our cries below the surface. From some fancied sense of duty we allowed ourselves meekly to serve and obey him. When we went on a cliff-climbing expedition he would choose to remain in safety up above on the banks holding the rope, while it was we who were sent down the dangerous precipice to harry the sea-birds' nests.

I had not yet forgiven Tom for what he had done a few days earlier than this spring morning. It happened this way:

Four of us had a boat out on the bay, and we sailed about from point to point, fancying ourselves sailors voyaging on foreign seas. Our dinghy, we imagined, was a sailing vessel, and the broad bay of Stromness represented the Atlantic Ocean. The Outer Holm we called "America," Graemsay Island was "Africa," and the Ness Point was "Spain," while a small rock that stood far out in the bay was "St. Helena." Tom Kinlay was, by his own appointment, our skipper; Robbie Rosson and Willie Hercus were classed able seamen; and my dog, Selta, and I were called upon to do duty for both passengers and cargo, curiously enough, sailing with the ship on every voyage.

We had touched at each of these places in turn, and when we were homeward bound I was landed at an imaginary port in "Spain." The boat had pushed off, when I called out to the skipper that I would walk home to Stromness if he would take the ship into port.

I had returned home and was seated at dinner, when I thought of the dog and looked about for her. But she had not come back; so I went down to the jetty at the end of the Anchor Close, to see if I could discover the boat or any of the lads. Standing there I heard the dog's bark across the water, and what was my consternation to see my pet stranded like a castaway on "St. Helena"! She was tethered by a rope to the rock, and could not escape without help. The tide was rising, and the rock barely visible above the water. In a few minutes my dog would be drowned. No boat was near at hand, and there was nothing for it but that I should swim out to the rescue, so I had to strip there on the jetty and plunge in. The swim was a long one, and I reached the rock only just in time. The dog had been marooned on that little island, but Tom Kinlay had fastened up the boat and gone home, caring nothing, and neither of the other lads dared so far offend him as to attempt to rescue poor Selta without his permission.

As I sat fishing on the pier, I was thinking of Kinlay's attitude towards me, and wondering if I should ever be able to hold my own against him in our outdoor intercourse as easily as I certainly could hold it in our class at school. But soon I was interrupted by feeling another twitch at my line. I hauled in another sillock; and having now completed my two dozen fish, I gathered them and my lines together, thrust my fishhooks into my trousers' pocket, and went off to school, only staying a few minutes on the way to give the fish to my sister Jessie, and get my slate and books in exchange.



Chapter II. Andrew Drever's School

Our schoolhouse was situated on the braeside above the main street of Stromness. It was a plain stone building with crow-step gables and a slated roof; and the only indication of its purpose was a large board over the door, upon which Andrew Drever had himself imprinted the word "SCHOOL" in bold black letters on a white ground.

The morning's lessons were already well advanced, as I could hear by the hum of voices as I approached. Even Peter, the jackdaw, in his wicker cage at the open doorway, joined in the clatter of tongues. His quick eye noticed me hurrying to the school, and he sidled awkwardly along his perch, put out his long black beak through the bars of his cage, and flapped his wings with unmistakable signs of welcome.

I was very late; so late that I half dreaded going into the school; and to discover if possible what humour the schoolmaster was in, I peeped through the half-open window. In the inner room I could see old Grace Drever seated with her gray cat beside the peat fire, busily twirling her spinning wheel. Nearer to me Mr. Drever himself sat at a high desk, at the side of which hung the inevitable "tawse;" and I did not fail to notice that this instrument of torture had already been used that morning, for it still swung with a gentle motion from side to side, like the pendulum of a lazy clock.

Lest you should suppose that Andrew Drever was a severe taskmaster, however, let me here hasten to assure you that his nature was as sweet as summer. His methods of punishment and reward were the perfection of justice. In stature he was a small man, but his back was broad and strong, and his hands were firm and large. His long, straight hair was as black as the wing of his own jackdaw, and his cheeks, though thin, had a freshness of colour about them that was brought there by the bracing breezes of our native hills.

The class was at the Latin exercises, for Latin formed part of our education, and I could hear Jessie Grey repeating a conjugation. I saw Tom Kinlay looking absently towards the window where I stood, and fearing that he would notice me, I moved a step nearer the door. Then I heard Mr. Drever speak.

"Kinlay," said he, "finish the subjunctive mood, where Jessie Grey left off."

Tom's trembling voice betrayed his ignorance of the-lesson.

"Regor, I am ruled; regeris, thou—"

"No, no," interrupted the master. "What are you thinking of, boy? That's the indicative mood. I asked for the subjunctive. Take your hands out of your pockets, sir, and don't stand there glowering at the whaling ships. They'll not be away till afternoon. Now, the subjunctive mood?"

"I can't say it, sir. I could not get it into my head," whined Tom.

"Can't! do you say? Can't! Was there ever such a word?—Here, you, Halcro Ericson, finish the—Now, where's that lad? Has he not come to the school yet?"

"No, sir," replied two or three voices.

Now that the schoolmaster's attention had been so drawn to my absence, I felt more than ever reluctant to enter.

"Where is he? Does anyone know?" asked Mr. Drever.

"Dinna ken, sir," was the weak response.

Then Tom Kinlay, anxious, I suppose, to retrieve his lost ground, droned out: "He's away down at the shore side, sir. I saw him fishing."

"Ah! s-sneak!" hissed one of the boys near him; "what for need you tell?"

"Now, now!" said the master quietly. "None of that. Get along with the lesson."

He glanced along the row of faces before him.

"Thora Kinlay," he said, "finish the conjugation where Jessie Grey left off."

I was again at the window.

Mr. Drever looked towards a fair-haired, blue-eyed girl who stood directly opposite to him. At her throat there was a cowslip—a rare flower in Orkney. She wore a rough, homespun frock, as all the other girls did; but, for some reason which I cannot explain, Thora Kinlay was quite unlike her companions. Such was the refined gentleness of her nature that I can compare her only with the tern—the most beautiful, I believe, of all our sea birds.

"Regerer, I might be ruled; regereris, thou mightst be ruled," she began, and as she repeated the conjugation, I listened with attention not unmixed with envy, for she was the best scholar in the whole school.

As Thora concluded, the schoolmaster gave her a word of praise, and told her to go to the top of the class, while her brother, Tom, was ordered to the bottom.

Andrew Drever had given these directions, and was leaning with his elbow on the desk, his chin resting on his hand, when his eye was attracted by my moving shadow at the doorway; and amid a sudden silence I entered and took my place at the bottom of the class.

"Good morning, sir!" I said, looking fearlessly into Mr. Drever's kind face.

"Good morning, Ericson!" said he. "You take your proper place, I notice. But what is the meaning of this lateness? What excuse have you this time?"

"I was down at the shore side catching sillocks," I boldly answered, "and I just stopped to make up the even number."

Robbie Rosson here put his hand to his mouth in the form of a speaking trumpet, and whispered: "How many did you catch, Hal?"

"Just two dozen," I quietly replied, yet not so quietly but Mr. Drever heard me.

"Yes, Ericson," said he sternly, "you stay to make up the number of your fish. But why do you not remember that you have a duty in making up the number of your class at school?"

"I'm very sorry, sir," I said; "but I'll not do it again."

"See that you do not. I will excuse you this time, but only because you were at the fishing." Then he added more kindly, "I have myself lost count of time in the same way. And now let me hear your Latin lesson."

Fortunately I went through the lesson without mistake, and was rewarded by being told to go above Tom Kinlay. As I took my place, however, the next boy to me, Robbie Rosson, gave a great shout of pain, as though a pin had been stuck into him.

"Hello, hello! What's wrong now?" exclaimed the schoolmaster.

"It's nothing, sir," said Robbie, looking extremely uncomfortable.

"Nothing! What for did you cry out like that, then?"

"'Twas one of my fishhooks stuck in his leg, sir," I explained, extracting the offending hook from Rosson's trousers, and putting it back with others into my pocket.

"Give me the hooks!" demanded Mr. Drever, holding out his hand to receive them. "I don't know what can possess you, bringing such things to school."

Then before putting the hooks away in his desk, he examined them with a knowing eye, and I heard him murmur, "Dear me, dear me! You lads beat everything. I cannot think where ye get such good hooks from."

The lesson was now changed. We all took our seats at the desks for arithmetic, and throughout the morning there were few interruptions further than the necessary disturbance caused by the changing of places as one or another of us was distinguished for reward.



Chapter III. A Half Holiday.

You will have gathered from Andrew Drever's remark about the fishhooks that he was something of a fisher. He was a fisher; but he was also a naturalist, and he varied the hard duties of the school by making frequent excursions across the hills in search of objects for his favourite study. In addition to the maps and diagrams that hung on the whitewashed walls of the schoolroom there were many cases containing stuffed birds, such as guillemots, terns, owls, and ouzels; and specimens of the small quadrupeds of the locality, including a weasel and a fine pair of otters. All of these specimens had been prepared and stuffed by himself, and upon a side table by the window he kept a collection of curious stones and old coins that he had found on his wanderings.

Andrew's heart was in both of his occupations. He loved his birds and his curiosities, and I think he loved his pupils. Often, as he sat on his high stool behind his desk, with a severity in his features which his position seemed to demand, I have seen his brown eyes soften as they looked round the circle of faces, and I have known that he had some affection for each one of us. Out of school hours he took great interest in our pursuits, giving to the girls advice in the arrangement of colour in their needlework, and to the boys many a valuable hint for the hooking of trout. He knew no distinctions of rank or social position. A laird's son was treated by him with the same dignity or kindness that was shown to the son of a poor kelp burner; and the coveted seat at the head of the class was as often occupied by a poor fisherman's lad as by the better dressed, but not better educated, son of the Inspector of Fisheries, or the bright little daughter of so great a man as Lloyd's agent.

Towards the close of morning school, Peter, the jackdaw, announced by the fluttering of his wings and his chattering that a stranger was coming to the door, and very soon Mr. Duke, one of the bailies of the town, entered the school. We had learnt to expect something good to come of the bailie's visits, and this occasion was no exception.

He sat down on one of the low forms near Mr. Drever's desk, and took from his waistcoat pocket a large silver snuffbox.

"Well, Andrew," he cheerily exclaimed, taking a copious pinch between his finger and thumb and handing the box to the master, "here's a glorious morning for you, eh? Ay, man, and how are all your bairns? I see ye aye keep up your number. And who have you at the head of the class the day? Is it Thora again?"

"Yes," replied Andrew, giving a resounding sneeze and loudly blowing his nose. "Yes, its just Thora again. She's kept it all the morning. You see, sir, they all take the same places before the day's out: whatever way they begin, the smartest are sure to get to the top."

"Ay, ay, just so," mused the bailie, again opening his snuffbox. "They're like a pack o' cards—shuffle them as ye will before the game begins, the honours must still come together at the finish.

"Well, Thora, lassie," he continued, turning round to Thora Kinlay, "and how are ye all up at Crua Breck?"

"Oh, we're all fine, thank you, sir," said the girl; "only Crumpie fell over the Neban bank yestreen and broke her leg."

"Ah, indeed! but that's most serious; poor Crumpie!—and that's the new cow, is it? or is it the old horse?"

"It's the old cow, sir," said Thora, apparently wondering at the bailie's ignorance.

Then Mr. Duke thrust his hand deep into his pocket and brought it out again full of keys and money. He selected one of the coins and handed it to Thora, saying, "There's to you, Thora; that's for getting to the head of the class."

From his seat he then questioned several of us regarding our lessons and our homes, and finally he stood up and addressed us all, saying: "I have come in this morning, bairns, to ask Mr. Drever to give you all a half holiday. The whaling ships are to sail by this afternoon's tide, and as many of you have brothers and fathers aboard, I don't doubt that Mr. Drever will let you away;" and he added, turning to the master, "What do you say, Andrew?"

"I'm sure, sir," said Mr. Drever, "I have no objections to offer;" and he looked out through the window as though to satisfy himself that the weather was suitable for an afternoon's fishing.

Mr. Duke then went into the inner room to have a gossip with old Grace Drever. The schoolmaster pronounced the benediction, and we flocked noisily outside.

As I was leaving with Robbie Rosson, Mr. Drever called me back.

"Don't leave the hooks here, Ericson," he said; "you'll be needing them for the fishing."

And taking the fishhooks from his desk he again examined them attentively, admiring the fine workmanship displayed in the turn of their points.

"My lad, these are fine hooks for a sea trout," he continued; "you'll have gotten them from Kirkwall, no doubt?"

"No," I said. "Father got them from one of the captains. I'd like if you'd keep some of them, Mr. Drever;" and I offered him three of the best.

"Oh no, no!" he exclaimed, "I could not think of taking them from you. I didn't mean that.

"But maybe, well, maybe I might just have the loan of one of them to try this afternoon. I'm going away to Kirbister to see if I can catch a few sea trout."

"Kirbister for sea trout!" said I, knowing that on the subject of fishing I might venture to disagree with even so practised an angler as Andrew Drever. "If you're seeking sea trout you need go no further than the Bush. There's not a stream in the Mainland equal to the Bush. Take the hooks, sir, and I'll warrant you'll bring home a full basket."

"Well, I'll take your advice and try the Bush, for it's aye the lads that find out the best waters. Thank you for the hooks, Halcro. Away with you; and see you're not so late at the school another morning."

And as I scampered down the brae, I knew that he was watching me from the door.

In the street I found Tom Kinlay and two other boys waiting for me, and arranging an excursion across the hills to Skaill Bay to hunt for seals. It was an expedition in which I very readily agreed to join, and it was arranged that we should meet early in the afternoon on the moor between Voy and Crua Breck.



Chapter IV. Sandy Ericson, Pilot.

My home was close beside the school. There were only a few steps to skip across the narrow main street, and a turn into the Anchor Close brought me to my mother's door. Many of my companions, however, had several miles to travel. Tom and Thora Kinlay lived at Crua Breck farm, distant from Stromness four miles; and little Hilda Paterson, the youngest girl in the school, lived at her father's croft away beyond Stenness, and walked the five miles—barefooted—twice a day.

When I got home the brose for dinner was cooling on the windowsill, and my mother was frying the fish I had caught in the morning. My sister Jessie sat near the window plaiting straw—an industry common in Orkney at that time.

"Hello, Hal! back already?" Jessie exclaimed, putting her work aside as I threw my books and slate in the corner beside her. "Come away and look out for father. He has just brought in a new ship."

We went out upon the little jetty where I had fished in the morning, at the extremity of the passage in which our house stood, and there we waited and watched for my father's boat.

With this stone pier my earliest recollections were connected. When I was but an infant my father had carried me out in his great strong arms, and for the first time showed me the sun rising over the furrowed hills of Orphir. He had directed my childish eyes to the deep green of the sea water as it rippled gently against the wall of our house. It was here that, as a boy, I had, by rolling over the pier like a ball, made a more intimate acquaintance with the element that was to be as familiar to me as my native air. Here, too, I had caught my first fish, and hence despatched to unknown lands my little fleet of wooden boats with their quaint paper sails.

The ship that my father had just brought into port was a trim barque, with high, tapering masts and a bright-green hull.

"What's her name, Hal?" inquired Jessie as the vessel was brought to.

I had accustomed myself to make out ships' names at great distances, and as the barque swung round with the stream I could read the words "Lydia of Leith" painted on her counter.

"Yonder is father, and there is Uncle Mansie," said Jessie, as the two men climbed over the ship's rail and swarmed down into the boat. Then up went the brown sail, and the little Curlew sped blithely past the whaling ships and across the broad bay, and it was not long ere she was moored alongside our jetty and father stepped ashore.

My father was a tall, muscular man, with a long, fair beard, and blue eyes as clear and deep as the summer sky. He was a worthy representative of the old Norse sea king, from whom he was descended, and his descent was shown in his great love of the sea. He was the chief pilot of the port of Stromness, and no man knew so well as he all the dangerous currents and shoals of the Orcadian seas. There was not a flow or a sound between the North and South Ronaldsays, or from Bore Head in the west to the Start in the east that he did not know as well as the eagle knows her corrie, or which he could not navigate on the darkest night. The perils of the whirlpools, of the sunken rocks, and of the wild winter storms which beat in fury upon our iron coasts, were part of his life; and I have heard it said that he had saved more ships from destruction than any other man in Orkney or Shetland. If you had asked anyone in Stromness, What man in all Pomona could least be spared? the reply would have been given, "Sandy Ericson, the pilot."

I need not say that for these reasons I was proud of my brave father. But it was not from him I learned these things, for he would never say a word in his own praise, and, had I not heard of his hardy bravery from other lips, he might have been to me no more than the gentle, affectionate parent that he ever was.

We left the four men who were the crew of the Curlew to look after the boat, while Uncle Mansie and father came into the house to dinner.

When, being the youngest of the family, I had said grace and we were supping our brose, Uncle Mansie looked over to me and asked: "Well, Hal, are you coming out in the Curlew with us to see the whaling ships away?"

I replied in true Orkney fashion by asking another question:

"How far are you to take them?"

Mansie turned to father, who said: "Och, we'll take them as far as the Braga Rock anyway. If you'll come wi' us, Hal, we'll stow you snugly in the bow o' the Curlew, and you'll get a fine sail. What's an Orkney lad, whatever, if he's not to have a taste o' the dangers o' the sea? There's more for him to do than daunder about the hillside with a trout wand over his shoulder."

"'Deed, I dinna ken about that, father," said my mother, helping me to a plateful of fried sillocks. "If it's danger you're wantin' the laddie to seek, he's seen o'er many dangers already, I'm thinking. It's nearly drowned he was, only a week ago, in the Barra Flow, swimming out after a dog that wasna worth the saving; and I have seen him mysel' dangling over the Breckness cliffs, like a spider, at the end of a rope I would not have trusted to hang Lucky Drever's cat with! Danger, forsooth! the laddie is always in danger."

It was like my mother to object to my taking to the sea, even for the pleasure of a sail. Although she well knew that it was the only life open to an Orkney lad, yet she was ever anxious to delay its beginning, and at these words from her my father did not urge me further, but quietly watched me as I rose from the table and took from a rack over the window a small harpoon, the sharp point of which I tested by pressing it against my thumb.

"Oh, there's a lad!" exclaimed Jessie. "Off to the sealing when he might have a fine sail in the Curlew. I wish I could get such a chance."

"All right, lad!" interrupted my father. "Away with you to the sealing. You'll get many another chance of a sail. Who's going with you?"

"Robbie Rosson and Willie Hercus and—" I added with some hesitation, "Tom Kinlay," for I knew my father did not entirely approve of Tom as a companion.

"Kinlay again?" he muttered, knitting his brows. "I would advise you not to go with that lad so often. But then you dinna ken what his father is, I suppose."

It was seldom that I heard my father speak an ill word against any man. I did not ask him any question, but his brief warning was enough to show me that there was some serious cause of enmity between him and Tom's father, Carver Kinlay.

"Father," I said, "I'll not go with Tom if you object."

"Object!" said he. "What care I for the lad? It's the father that's my enemy. His bairns may be better than he. Away to the sealing with you, and may you get good sport!"

And he followed me to the door.



Chapter V. The Hen Harrier.

I lingered about the little quay while my father and the crew were hoisting sail. For a moment I questioned if I should not be happier in the bow of the Curlew, than tramping half a score of miles over rough uninteresting moorland on the chance of capturing a seal; but in the end I was satisfied in keeping to the plan arranged by my companions. I waited only to see the boat bend over in the fresh breeze as she sailed outward to the ships; then, armed with my harpoon and a knobbed stick, I hastened out of Stromness, followed by my dog.

Selta (so called after one of our native streams) was a long-bodied, long-haired animal, with a touch of the otter hound in her nature. I got her from Colin Lothian, an old "gaberlunzie" man who travelled our countryside. He gave me the dog when she was a young thing, and he had another of the same litter which followed him wherever he went about the island.

Selta was notable for her shaggy brown coat and ungainly head, and for her keen scent. One day during the previous winter I had been over to Russadale for my mother, and in coming home I was caught in a snowstorm. The mist was thick and the way obscured by the driving snow, but Selta lowered her nose and led me over the hills in a beeline to Stromness.

She had never before been out with me at the seal catching; but I took her this day, thinking she might prove useful—as indeed she did.

The direct way to Skaill lay along an almost straight road to the northward, by Hamla Voe and the western shores of the loch of Stenness, past the Druid standing stones.

On this May afternoon, as I walked along the familiar road, there was little to attract my attention. The gray stretch of water lay still and cold, and the ploughed fields beyond it were brown and barren. In a more southern clime every tree and bush would be, at that season, putting forth fresh verdure, and the budding hedgerows would be bursting into green beauty; but to me, at that period of my life, the sweet-smelling hawthorn, the golden-fingered laburnum, and the full, rich blossom of an apple orchard were unknown delights. I had never yet seen a real tree, and our highest bushes in Pomona reached scarcely to my shoulder. The land was all gray and barren.

At the old mill of Cairston I was joined by Robbie Rosson, and, instead of continuing by the road, we cut across country, climbing the stone dykes and jumping over the gurgling streams. A walk of three miles brought us to Crua Breck, a small farmhouse on the hillside of the same name, overlooking the Pentland Firth. The ridge tiles of this house ran precisely north and south, and it was a superstition amongst us that this same ridge had the power of deciding whether the north wind should blow towards the German Ocean or the Atlantic; just as King Eric of Orkney could, in his time, change the direction of the winds by altering the position of his cap.

Crua Breck was at least a mile from any other house—unless, indeed, the ruined and tenantless cottage of Inganess merited the name. Carver Kinlay had lived there as long as I could remember; but the fact that the fisher folks often spoke of him as a "ferry jumper" implied that he was still regarded as a foreigner on Orcadian soil.

I had never been inside the Crua Breck house, nor, I may say, did I much covet a visit there, for the inmates of the farm were not distinguished for their friendliness or hospitality, and, with the one exception of Thora, whom I always regarded with a sense of kindliness, and Tom, who was my class fellow, I had little acquaintance with the family.

Had I been more warmly inclined towards them I would have gone up to the door at once and asked for Tom, instead of sitting on the dyke side with Rosson and waiting till he chose to come out to us.

As we sat there, however, Thora Kinlay came past us, driving before her a hen and her brood of chickens, which she had found straying along the cliffs, and of her we asked for Tom. She at once offered to run to the house and bring him, but ultimately Robbie Rosson went instead, with my terrier at his heels.

"How is it you are not at the fishing, Halcro?" inquired Thora when we were alone. "I saw the schoolmaster away down at the Bush just now as I came past. He seemed to be catching very little, though."

"Ah!" I said, "I doubt it's too clear a day for the trout. We're off to Skaill Vie to see if we can catch a seal."

"That will be fine fun," said Thora, with a touch of envy in her voice. "I wish I was going with you. Will you not take me?"

"Indeed," I returned, not unwilling that she should join us in our sport, "I'd be real glad if you would come. But here's Tom, we'll ask him."

Robbie and Tom approached across a plot of potatoes. Tom was eating a huge piece of oatcake, and slashing, with a long stick he carried, at the heads of the thistles that grew, all too plentifully, among the potatoes.

Tom was a tall, large-boned lad, and his feet, which were encased in rivlins, or rough hide shoes, projected several inches below his trousers; his arms, too, seemed to have grown far beyond the length of his jacket sleeves. His untidy black hair and dark eyes contrasted strangely with the fair and delicate beauty of his sister Thora. A stranger might have taken Thora to be of pure Norse family, and her adventurous spirit would have justified the belief. But Tom took after his father, whose type was that of a race not uncommon in the north of Scotland, and called—for I know not what reason—"The dark men of Connemara."

"Tom," I asked when he was beside us, "what do you say to Thora coming with us to the sealing?"

"What! Certainly not," replied Tom, who was ever jealous of his sister and loved not to favour her in any way. "What would a lassie do at the sealing? Let her go back home and do her lessons, and try if she can win to the head of the class again."

"Indeed," said Thora with suppressed indignation, "it is you who should try to do that, Tom. You're the eldest and biggest lad in the school, and have never yet been at the head of the class, dunce that you are! But away with you to the sealing. I do not care, for I have adventure of my own. I know where there's a hen harrier building her nest on the Black Craigs, and it's not you I will tell where it is, my lad."

This was a successful parting shot from Thora. She well knew that any lad in Orkney would envy her the discovery of a falcon's nest, and that Tom, more than any other, would be jealous of her finding what he might have searched for in vain.

"Just fancy that lass finding a harrier's nest!" he murmured as we went along. "I wonder if it's true! I bet she only said that out of spite because we would not let her come with us. But who wants a slip of a girl at such work? She'd only frighten the seals and prevent us from catching any. It's my opinion we have enough of the girls in the school without them joining us in our sports. What do you say, Ericson?"

"I don't know about that," I said. "For my part I shouldn't have objected to Thora coming with us. As for the hen harrier, I don't doubt that what she said was quite true. It's well known that she's one of the best cliff climbers of us all."

"Tut! you always side with the lassies, Ericson. That's because you're aye beside them at the head of the class. What was it that old Duke gave her this morning? Was it a bawbee?"

"I took no notice of what it was, Tom," I replied. "But it was very kind of him to give her anything."

"It was a sixpence he gave her," said Robbie Rosson. "I saw the colour of it."

"A sixpence!" exclaimed Tom. "The sneak that she is! Let's go back and make her give us a share of it."

"Get away, man," said Robbie. "What is it to us though the bailie gave her a dozen sixpences? He'd have given it to any of us if we'd been at the head of the class."

The discussion upon Thora ended here, and we continued our walk in comparative silence.

Willie Hercus was waiting for us when we reached the hill of Yeskenaby. Hercus was a barefooted, red-haired boy, with gray eyes that were almost hidden in the fatness of his cheeks, and totally so when he laughed, as he invariably did on the least provocation. His brow and nose were covered with brown freckles, like a turkey's egg; and he wore a large sea jacket that had belonged to his father, one of the crew of the Curlew.

We walked leisurely along the brink of the Black Craigs—a line of steep cliffs bordering the western portion of the Mainland. At times a hoodie crow would fly across our path, or the red grouse be startled from their nests in the freshly-budding heather; and sea fowl in large numbers sailed gracefully over our heads or deep down the cliffs, making the chasms echo with their ceaseless screaming.

We made no attempt to kill or capture any of the birds. One bird, however, we did take, and that more by accident than intention. It happened this way:

My dog was trotting before us, with her nose to the ground, when suddenly she made a run through the short heather after a lapwing, which was, or pretended to be, unable to fly. I think it was trying to decoy the dog away from its nest. As we watched the chase, Tom cried out:

"Look, look, there's a hawk after them!"

And, indeed, so it was. The lapwing ran with wondrous speed, and before Selta had time to snap at it a hawk had nipped in before the dog's nose in the attempt to rob her of her prey. Unfortunately for the larger bird, however, the dog's snap, intended for the fugitive, came upon the hawk's outstretched neck. The lapwing escaped unhurt, and flew screaming into the air, but Selta held to the hawk till we ran up and helped her. I managed to secure the bird's wings, which flapped about with surprising strength, while Tom held its struggling legs.

"Thraw its neck, thraw its neck!" cried Rosson, now coming up to us.

Selta loosened her hold, and Willie Hercus took the hawk's head in his hand, carefully guarding against its sharp beak, gave its neck a rapid twist, and the bird was dead.

"What kind of a bird is it?" eagerly asked Kinlay, whose knowledge of our native birds was as imperfect as his knowledge of Latin conjugations.

"Can you not see it's a harrier—a hen harrier?" I said, as I stretched out the large and beautiful wings of gray-blue feathers and proceeded to bind the bird's feet with a string.

"The very same that Thora spoke of, I'll be bound!" Tom exclaimed with satisfaction, as he evidently thought of his sister's secret of the nest on the Black Craigs.

"What'll we do with it?" asked Hercus. "Is it good for eating?"

"Nonsense, Willie!" said I. "Surely we've birds in plenty without eating hawks! Let's give it to the dominie."

"Ay, let's give it to the dominie," chimed in Robbie Rosson, always ready to agree with whatever I proposed.

"The dominie! What for would you give it to the dominie?" objected Kinlay. "It's my bird. I first saw it."

"Your bird! your bird, indeed!" exclaimed Hercus, putting his hands in his pockets and assuming an attitude of indignant surprise. "Is it the man who first sees the whale that has the blubber? No, no, Ericson's dog caught the bird. Let Hal do as he likes with his own."

I have no doubt that Tom coveted the dead falcon in order to persuade his sister that he had discovered her harrier's nest. When we agreed to keep the bird for the schoolmaster, he accordingly grew gloomy, and the rest of the journey to Skaill was accomplished without his joining in the merry talk, of which there was no lack, you may be sure.



Chapter VI. "Better Gear Than Rats."

Skaill Vic is a large, sheltered inlet of the sea. I have heard that in ancient times it was a meeting place of the Norse vikings, and it is just such a place as a pirate might choose to make his headquarters, being a convenient station from which he could ravage the adjacent shores of Scotland, or sail over to Norway, or even north to Iceland, and safely return to its secluded shelter, to store his treasure in the dark caverns of the rugged cliffs. I may here remind you that Pomona Island was, long ago, the holy land of the Northman, and that the cairns and cromlechs scattered over our hills and plains are to this day associated with the visits of the old viking buccaneers. Andrew Drever, who was exceedingly well versed in the antique lore of the Orkneys, once told us in school of a Runic inscription he had seen in the Maes Howe at Stenness. It was interpreted to the effect that one of the old vikings "had found much fee in Orkhow," and that this treasure had been buried "to the northwest."

"Happy is he," the legend continued—"Happy is he who may discover this great wealth."

But, of course, no person had ever found trace of it, and Mr. Drever supposed that it must have been swept away by the furious storms that, in wintertime, dash continually against the rocky ribs of the Orcadian coasts.

We got down by a pathway to the sloping beach, which the tide had left bare. At the point where we hoped to find some seals, we observed several men and women gathering seaweed, preparatory to burning it for kelp. This was a disappointment to us, since, if there were any seals about, it was likely they would be scared away by the kelp burners. But we walked along under the high banks as far as the northern extremity of the bay, in expectation of finding some sport on the outer shores.

We sat for a long while talking, as schoolboys will talk, in a sheltered cleft of the headland, which, I believe, had once been a cavern, and was known by the name of the Kierfiold Helyer. Here the force of many an Atlantic storm had so worn away the face of the rocks that the cliff was driven back to the innermost parts of the original cave. Great pieces of granite lay about in disorder, showing where the roof of the cavern had fallen in; and on one of these boulders we sat until we were weary, looking out to the water's edge, in expectation of seeing some seals appear.

Skaill Bay was our favourite spot for the sealing, and at the proper season the seals were generally plentiful and not timid. Indeed, so bold were they sometimes, that on a Sabbath morning, when the bell of Sandwick Church, hard by, had been ringing for divine service, I have seen the animals collect in numbers on the beach to listen to the strange sound, which held them so fixed and charmed, that it required an effort to startle them away. Now, however, the seals seemed to have deserted the place, and I was not sorry when Tom Kinlay proposed that we should give up our search for them and return home.

Just as we were moving away I chanced to look along the shoreline, and at some distance from where we stood I detected a moving object in the water, and presently saw what I took to be three seals basking on a bank of sand. Now was our weariness changed to eager desire, and we at once prepared for some good sport.

Leaving our dead falcon on a slab of rock, we quietly distributed ourselves. Willie Hercus approached the seals under cover of a large boulder. I crept along by the foot of the cliffs with Selta, intending to get down to the water's edge, and so work back again to cut off the retreat of the seals; while Kinlay and Rosson did the same on the other side.

We gradually and silently closed round our game. Our approach was, however, somewhat marred by an alarm given by a seagull flying over the seals. The largest animal turned round towards the sea. Its mates took the signal and, with it, made for the water.

I gave a word to the dog, and Selta ran forward to meet the middle seal, which she kept at bay as she might have kept a sheep, barking in its face and always getting between it and the water. Tom and Robbie ran after one of the others, while the largest seal, which I had marked as my own prize, managed to escape me and plunge into the sea. I then turned to encounter the seal that the dog and Willie Hercus had arrested. Willie, having no stick or harpoon, was throwing large stones at the animal, which seemed to pay little attention to them, but kept its large, beautiful eyes fixed upon the dog. One of the stones, unfortunately, struck Selta, and when she turned, the seal made its way past. I saw the movement and succeeded in striking the seal on the nose with my knobbed stick. The animal collapsed at once; its head dropped on the sand, and it moved no more.

Meanwhile Robbie and Tom, who had my harpoon, were having a hard fight. Their seal had been struck once with the harpoon on the left shoulder. Tom tried to intercept its retreat, and just as it was entering the water he fell down upon it with all his weight, at the same time grasping its wounded flipper in his two hands. The seal, though weak, drew him some way over the slippery stones and into the sea; but Tom proved victor. Rising on his knees in the water, he wrapped both his arms round the seal, and, with the assistance of Rosson, succeeded in carrying it ashore, where it was finally killed.

We had heavy work conveying our two seals up the beach to the place where we had left our dead bird; and there with our knives we proceeded to secure the skins and the blubber, leaving the carcasses behind for the cormorants and carrion crows.

Willie Hercus and I were finished first, and we carefully folded up our perfect sealskin. But Tom, who was less accustomed to the work, fumbled away awkwardly, muttering to himself when his sharp blade cut into the skin instead of neatly parting it from the body.

As we sat on a rock waiting for our companions, Selta went sniffing about on her own account and rooting into the far corners of the old cave. She at length found her way to the dead hen harrier, as it lay on a slab of flagstone. Hercus called her off as she put her nose too closely to the bird. But Selta was following her instincts; for, in turning the bird with her nose, she disturbed a small rat which was coolly making its meal there. I ran to examine the damage done to the hawk (for I was anxious to give the bird uninjured to Mr. Drever), while Willie followed the dog into the crevice where she had chased the rat. I found the harrier was not much damaged; a few feathers were bitten out and a little of the skin was broken, that was all.

I put my harpoon and stick through the string that secured the bird's legs and slung it over my shoulder, gathered up our sealskin, and went to hurry up Tom and Robbie, for the tide was rising and we had a long journey before us. Tom had just cut the last of the skin from the seal's head, and when he had folded it up, the three of us began our walk towards the further shore of the bay, expecting Hercus to follow with the dog.

"Hello! what can be keeping Hercus so long?" asked Robbie, when we had walked some distance.

I told him about the rat that the dog was after, and looked back for Willie. Not seeing him, we concluded he had gone round by the top of the cliffs, and we continued our way a few yards further. Then we heard Hercus calling after us in an excited way.

"Come back, lads, come back!" he shouted; and I looked at the sea line, fearing lest it was the rising tide that Hercus was warning us against.

"I'm not going back," objected Tom. "We've got time to get to the other side long before the water's up. Besides, I'm hungry. I'm going home."

"Tut, didn't we wait for you while you skinned your seal? Let's go back," I urged. "Maybe Hercus is hurt."

"Come away back, Tom," added Rosson.

So we all returned to where Willie Hercus still remained, and wondered what he could mean by calling us back.

When we entered the chasm we were much surprised to find Hercus lying flat on the shingle, with his right arm deep in a hole he had dug, and the dog at his side, wagging her tail and uttering short barks of excitement.

"Good sakes!" exclaimed Robbie Rosson. "What's wrong with the lad?"

Much relieved we were to hear Hercus speak. I confess I had felt certain some harm had happened to him.

"Come away," he said, in a tone which was far from being a cry of pain. "Come away, lads, and give us a hand here. There's better gear than rats in this hole, I'm thinking."

And, so saying, he rose to his knees and held out to us a heavy and black piece of metal, which at first I took to be an iron bolt.

"Well, what is it?" I asked, taking the thing in my hand and examining it.

"What is it?" said Hercus. "Can you not see, lad? Why, it's silver!"



Chapter VII. What The Shingle Revealed.

Now the explanation of Willie's curious discovery, as we afterwards fully learned, was this: When I took up the dead falcon, Hercus, intent upon witnessing Selta's skill at ratting, stood beside the dog as she scraped with her forefeet the shingle from the crevice through which the rat had escaped. Disappointed at losing her prize, the terrier dug and dug away at the shingle and moist sand, scattering it behind her, and burying her nose deep down. Then a strange, grim object was unearthed. In the midst of the stones, Hercus, to his horror, saw lying there a ghastly human skull, with the great cavities where the eyes had been, staring at him. Hesitating at the sight of this frightful spectacle, he at last mustered courage to take the thing in his hand. He was in the act of examining it, when, from one of the hollow eye sockets, out jumped the fugitive rat. Had the jaws of the skull moved in speech, Willie could not have been more terrified than he was by seeing the rat spring from its strange hiding place.

Dropping the horrible thing upon the rock at his feet, where the rotten bone broke into fragments, he rushed out upon the beach and called us back. Attracted to the spot again, he watched the dog burrowing in the shingle. Amongst the stones and sand he saw the dull sheen of what he at first supposed was a curious seashell, but which, when he picked up and examined it, he found to be an old coin. Believing that there might be more of these buried in the sand, he went down upon his knees once more to search. He had just discovered the bar of metal when we returned.

"What is it?" he said. "Why, it's silver?"

We each in turn handled the little bar, and expressed our opinion regarding what Hercus supposed it to be. It was heavy enough, certainly, to be silver; but the improbability of such a piece of the precious metal being left there presented itself, and none of us was quite satisfied until Hercus, taking out his knife, cut and scraped the surface of the ingot and revealed the shining white metal underlying the grit and tarnish that had gathered upon it during the years—perhaps the centuries—it had lain there undisturbed.

By our united efforts we enlarged the hole that Willie and the dog had made, digging with the harpoon and removing with our hands the loosened stones. We found a quantity of antique coins of various sizes, which, by reason of their lightness, I suppose, were much scattered about. Then deeper down below these we came upon a number of large rings, or bracelets, in the form of horseshoes, and several ingots of silver, similar to the one Hercus had first found.

We grew excited in our search; and as the quantity of treasure we unearthed increased, so did we increase our exertions, until there was quite a heap of silver gathered upon the slab of flagstone where we placed it.

At a spot near where Hercus had discovered the skull we found a curious garment, formed of a fine network of rings and chains. It was much broken and torn—though the shoulder bands were preserved, as well as the collar—and we could see that the owner, whoever he might have been, must have had a large and strong body, for the coat was of great weight. Beside it there were what we took to be the remains of a helmet, the ornaments upon which were of a yellow and still untarnished metal, with a large crimson stone set in the front.

Hercus pronounced the metal to be brass; but I never discovered truly what it was, as I did not handle the fragments again, for the reason that (as I happened to notice at the time) Tom Kinlay, who kept silence regarding them, quietly put them in his pocket, allowing us afterwards to suppose that we had left them behind us. I had my suspicions, however, that the ornaments were of pure gold.

In addition to the coat of mail and the helmet, there were three other objects that engaged our special regard. These were a broken belt—made of link rings of bronze—the head of a battle axe, and a long sword. The sword, which was in a scabbard embossed with fine ornaments, had a richly-figured handle. It was a heavy weapon, and none of us could draw it from its scabbard, for the rust that encrusted it.

When all that it seemed possible to find had been collected, and our digging brought nothing more to light, we opened our two seals' skins—throwing away the blubber, which seemed of little worth to us now that we had possessed ourselves of all this wealth—and lifting the treasure into them we made them into slings, one of which was carried by Tom Kinlay and Willie Hercus, the other by Robbie Rosson and myself. We bore our burdens joyfully as far as the other side of Skaill Bay, just managing to escape the tide that was creeping up to the base of the cliffs.

The last rays of the sun were setting across the broad Atlantic when we reached the top of the headland, and in the gray twilight spreading over the sea we watched the fleet of whaling ships sailing to the westward.



Chapter VIII. Dividing The Spoil.

Resting after the work of carrying our burden up the cliffs, we stood for a space upon the heights above Row Head to watch the sails of the fleet growing smaller as they approached the distant line of the horizon. The leaden sea danced in the fresh breeze, and the sky gradually lost its golden tints and assumed the clear, cold hue of the northern twilight. To the southward, across the moor, rose the dark mountains of Hoy Island, with the moon gleaming pale above them. From the shore came the fresh smell of the seaweed and the plaintive crying of the gulls.

The evening was growing late, and there were still half a dozen miles of rough moorland between Ramna and Stromness. Over the braes of Borwick we travelled at a steady pace. We were light of heart, for we had had a successful expedition, as was proved not only by our dead falcon and the two seals' skins, but, more than all, by the great wealth that those seals' skins carried.

Many were our conjectures as to the meaning of that great horde of silver we had discovered hidden in the sands of Skaill Bay.

"I wonder how it all came there!" mused Robbie, and then he added, "D'ye ken what I think, lads?"

"What think you, then, Robbie?" I asked.

"Well," said he, "I just think it must have been cast there by some shipwreck in the olden time. D'ye mind, Hal, of the story of the wreck of yon Spanish ship on the Carrig-na-Spana?"

"What! the San Miguel?"

"Ay, maybe that was her name, I dinna ken. Well, if you mind, she struck on the reef there, and the skipper dropped all his treasure chests overboard, in mortal fear that the Orkney wreckers would rob him of them. I suppose he took his bearings, but for many a day the wreckers searched the waters, and never a thing did they find. Well, years and years after that the old skipper's son came to Orkney, and went straight to the spot where the treasure had been sunk and carried it all off to Spain."

"But that explains nothing, Robbie," I argued. "However, we ken well enough that those Spanish ships were aye loaded with gold and precious stones. And then, d'ye not mind of hearing about the Spanish Armada ships that were wrecked on the Orkneys? Now, I wouldn't be surprised though the gear we have gotten was nothing else than the wreckage of an Armada ship. Even the skull that Willie found, maybe belonged to one of the soldier chaps that came to fight the English. But what is your opinion, Willie? You should know, for it was you who found the treasure."

"Well, Ericson," said he wisely, "I just think it was most extraordinary to see the heaps of siller come out of the very sands of the seashore, and in such a desolate place; and beyond that, it was a most providential thing that the dog ran after yon wee rat. What most gets over me, though, is to think of the rat making its nest in the dead man's skull. Man! what a fright I had when the beast jumped out! As for how the siller came there, I canna just say; but, you mind, the dominie told us in the school that, lang syne, some of those viking lads used to cruise hereabout. Now, I'm thinking that it's just possible one of them had maybe left the siller for safety in the Kierfiold Cave where I—where we found it, and clean forgotten to go back for it; just as old Betsy Matthew forgot the guineas she hid under the floor in the heel of a stocking."

"Ay, I dinna doubt it may be so, Willie," observed Rosson. "But then, what about the dead man's head?"

"'Deed I canna say what way that could be there. I'm thinking we must e'en refer it to the dominie. He kens all about these things," said Hercus; and then he turned to Kinlay, who hitherto had expressed no conjecture.

"But what think you of it all, Tom?"

"What do I think!" said Kinlay in a tone of indifference. "I care not what way the silver came there. What does it matter? I'm only thinking what I'll do with my own share of it."

Now I confess that I had not before thought anything at all about what we should do with the silver. I was so much interested in the circumstance of our curious discovery of the hidden treasure that the thought of its market value, or of our means of disposing of it, had never entered my head; and I believe Hercus and Rosson were totally ignorant of the fact that our find was really worth more than the mere interest we naturally attached to the articles as curious antiquities. Had I been asked as to the disposal of them, I believe I would have proposed that the whole treasure should be handed over to the care of our schoolmaster, who would doubtless see that we did not lose by any sale he might effect.

Tom Kinlay was the first to suggest the sharing of the silver pieces. We could offer no reasonable objection to a plan which seemed so fair to all of us, and we agreed that before we parted an equal division should be made.

Walking along a stretch of bleak moorland bordering the sea, taking always the nearest cuts across the jutting points of rocky headland, we at length approached the quaint graveyard of Bigging. The night was clear, and light almost as day; but Robbie and Willie would, I believe, rather have gone many miles out of our direct way than go near that awesome place.

The ruined chapel and the long, flat tombstones surrounding it, seemed to have an eerie influence upon our imagination, and we could but whistle some merry tune to keep up our hearts. Willie Hercus, though naturally daring, was now especially timid, the remembrance of that skull he had handled having taken such hold of his mind that the simple mention of it by one of us was enough to make his voice sink to a trembling whisper, as though he feared the dead man might come to life again and appear in our midst to accuse us of having disturbed his bones.

I think Tom Kinlay was the only one of us who did not look with superstitious awe into the dark shadows that hung about those ruined walls and silent tombstones; but he was so tall and strong that nothing seemed to daunt him, and soon he made a proposal that went far towards assuring me that he was absolutely fearless.

"Now, lads," said he, when we were passing the low wall of the burying ground, "let us get in here and spread out our things on one of those flat stones, and then we can share them out. Come along; nobody can disturb us in that quiet burying ground."

"What!" exclaimed Robbie, betraying his terror at the proposal. "Over there among the graves! Not I. I'm not going into such a place after the sun has gone down. Why, we canna be sure that the ghosts of the dead will not spring out upon us!"

"No, I'm not going in there either," chimed in Hercus. "We can divide the siller here on the moor just as well as in that fearsome place. Come back, Hal, dinna you gang either."

"Well, well, what a pack of frightened bairns ye are!" said Kinlay, preparing to enter by the open gate. "Come along. What on earth can ye be feared at?"

Thus taunted for want of courage, Willie and Robbie overcame their superstitious scruples, and we all four made our way in among the graves.

We spread our treasures upon the top of a flat tombstone that was somewhat higher than its neighbours and formed a convenient table for our purpose. The stone was overgrown with lichens and moss, and skirted by a growth of nettles and thistles. As we stood around it in the twilight, surrounded by a wild solitude, we might have been mistaken for a company of pirates dividing their ill-gotten gains.

Whilst Kinlay and Hercus were opening out the two seals' skins my eyes idly wandered over the surface of the tombstone, and were arrested by the inscription carved thereon. There was an epitaph in some foreign language, old and worn, but under this was a name that seemed to be newly cut. It was the name "Thora Quendale."

Now the name Thora is not a common one in Orkney, and seeing it on that strange old tombstone naturally made me think of the Thora whom I knew—Tom Kinlay's sister.

"Tom, did you ever notice the name on this grave? It's some woman buried here named Thora."

He turned and read the inscription.

"Ay, I've seen it before. It's some woman that was found drowned at the foot of the Black Craigs, years ago. I dinna ken who she was. I think she was in a shipwreck."

"Oh! Then it was no relation of yours?"

"No. That is, I dinna think it. But I have heard that Thora was named after her."

I asked him to tell me about the wreck; but just then Willie Hercus interrupted, saying:

"Come along, Ericson; you had better be the one to divide the treasure for us. We all ken you'll divide it fairly."

The treasure was heaped upon the tombstone, and as I regarded it I foresaw the difficulty of the task before me; for the pieces were obviously of very varied values, and I did not see how I could easily distribute them into four equal shares. But I made the attempt according to the manner that I had seen adopted by the fishermen at Stromness in dividing their fish.

To begin with, there was the sword—apparently the most valuable of all the treasures. Who was to have this? I naturally thought it should go to Hercus, to whom we owed our possession of the wealth, and I remembered that Kinlay already had an equivalent share in the pieces of broken helmet he had appropriated. I handed the sword over to Hercus, therefore. Tom offered no opposition at the time, but he afterwards bartered with Hercus for it, giving him in exchange two of the ingots of silver and the coat of mail which subsequently fell to his share.

The sword and the coat of mail being apportioned to Hercus and Kinlay, I then gave the bronze belt to Rosson, and took for myself some pieces of armour and a fragment of a shield. Then there were twenty-two ingots, or bars of silver, each of about six ounces in weight. Five of these were apportioned to each of us, two being left to be dealt with afterwards.

Next, there were thirteen brooches, such as the Scandinavians—as I learned later on—were accustomed to use for binding their mantles. They were all of similar pattern, and would weigh, perhaps, three ounces each. Of them we had three apiece. There were three massive torques, or rings, something in the form of horseshoes, the opening being left to admit of their being fastened upon the neck, where the ornaments were worn, I believe, by the ancients as symbols of rank or command. These articles were composed of a series of rings interlaced, some of them being embossed with rude but curious designs.

I saw that we could not each of us have one of these, and here I was again in a difficulty; but since the ingots of silver were of about an equal weight, I took one of them myself and gave an ornament to each of my companions. Hercus, however, would not agree to this, and he showed, truly enough, that the ingots were worth no more than their weight in metal; whereas the rings were of much greater value, on account of being curious specimens of ancient art. He therefore asked me to take a few of the coins in order to make a fair division. The remaining coins, of which there was a considerable quantity, were then counted and equally shared amongst us.

We had now left one ingot of silver, one brooch, some odd fragments of silver, and a small black stone which had a metal ring round it; and the sharing of these cost more trouble than all the other articles together. They were all, so far as we could judge, of unequal values. The stone was considered worthless, except for the little band of metal with which it was clasped. The brooch was only about half the weight of the ingot, and it was not counted precious, because already each of us had three like it, while the small pile of silver fragments was not worth half the ingot {i}. I thought I was acting very fairly when I suggested that Hercus should have what remained, because, I said, if it had not been for him we would have had nothing at all.

"'Deed you'll do nothing of the kind," objected Kinlay. "What for should Hercus take all?"

"Well, well," I said, somewhat ruffled, I admit, at Tom's greed, "you needn't be so sulky. Take you and divide the things. You'll not do it any fairer."

But Tom saw a way of sharing the things which suited himself, if it did not quite agree with my own views of fairness. To Willie he gave the brooch, to Robbie he passed the pile of fragments; and now he held the two remaining pieces, the ingot of silver and the little black stone. We awaited with much interest his final decision. With an unpleasant flash of his dark eyes he cast the stone to my end of the rude table, and quietly thrust the bar of silver with his other possessions into his capacious pockets.

I tried hard to check the words that rose to my lips. Throughout the afternoon I had noticed Tom's pointed objections to many things I had done or had proposed to do. He had objected to Thora accompanying us on the sealing expedition. He had disagreed with the disposal of the dead hen harrier; other little incidents, most of which had testified to his deep-rooted selfishness, I had not failed to notice. More than all, I remembered how he had pocketed the jewelled fragments of the helmet, and kept the knowledge of their value from us all. As for the opinions of the other two lads regarding him, it was Willie Hercus who had called him a "sneak" in school that morning, and Robbie Rosson, I knew, had certainly no love for Tom, who had persistently bullied him.

"Well, are you not satisfied?" said Kinlay, seeing my undisguised indignation.

"Yes, with my own share," I replied. "But if you'd taken the smaller piece of siller for yourself, and given Willie Hercus yon piece you've taken, I'd have thought you more honourable."

And then I roundly accused him of having stolen the fragments of the helmet.

"You have stolen the things," I said. "You saw that they were of more worth than the rest, and you were afraid that we would want a share of them."

"You're a liar!" he exclaimed angrily.

"And you're a thief!" I retorted; and I walked round to him, determined, if necessary, to defend my accusation in a more practical way than by empty words.

Now, I am confident that Kinlay was almost eager for such a chance as this to pay back many debts which his own jealousy had from time to time conjured up against me. For, apart from the fact that I happened to be a little more brilliant than he in our class at school, there were not wanting indications that he was in other ways losing ground in our common race, and circumstances seemed to require that we should each make a final effort now for the upper hand.

Seeing my determined attitude, he regarded it as a challenge, and at once took off his jacket and held it out for Robbie Rosson to take charge of. Robbie promptly showed the tenor of his feelings by allowing the jacket to fall upon one of the gravestones, and by coming to my side. Hercus merely busied himself in pacifying my dog, which had become restless on hearing our high words.

Kinlay and I now stood face to face, and I almost trembled to think of the thrashing that was probably in store for me. He gave the first blow, which struck me soundly on the side of the head and knocked my cap off. I buttoned my jacket tight and closed with my adversary, yet with small success. The fight was for a few moments unequal. Tom was much the taller, and his big feet, with their hide sandals, seemed to grip the elastic turf. His fists, too, were large and hard, and his lunging strokes were enough to stagger one of our native ponies.

Against this superiority I had to depend upon such power of limb and endurance as I had acquired by long practice at cliff climbing and in swimming the strong currents of Scapa Flow. For a time a heavy blow on my chest disabled me, and my right arm was sorely bruised by the many blows it had suffered in guarding my face. Still, I was determined not to give in; and, just as one gets a second wind in swimming, so did I now feel a new and strange strength come upon me. I continued the conflict with renewed energy.

Stepping backward upon one of the flat tombstones, I once more stood ready to receive my opponent. He struck without effect at my face, and while he was recovering his balance I saw my opportunity, and hit him a strong blow between the eyes. He staggered and fell, and I saw that the fight was over. Rising to his feet he did not retaliate, but picked up his jacket, wrapped his store of the treasure into his seal's skin, and wiping the dripping blood from his nose, walked away across the heath in the direction of Crua Breck, muttering a vow of vengeance.

The combat had been sharp and effectual; but it was the outburst of an antagonism which had long been gathering strength; it was the practical declaration of an enmity that grew and lasted for many a day.



Chapter IX. Captain Gordon.

I was oppressed with a weight of weariness by the time that I came within sight of Stromness. After leaving Hercus and Rosson over at Yeskenaby, I met not a person until I reached the shores of Hamla Voe. Here, however, on turning from the moorland path into the main road, I saw a stranger resting upon the low wall at the roadside. He was evidently admiring the scene presented by the quiet bay of Stromness.

A barque lay at anchor in the harbour, her tall, tapering masts and taut ropes clearly defined against the gray sky. Beyond the bright beacon light of the Ness, the sloping island of Graemsay could barely be distinguished from the deep purple mountains of Hoy, and along the line of the bay stood the gabled houses of the town, their dimly-lighted windows reflected on the water.

As I approached the stranger, I saw that he was a seafarer.

"Fine night, sir," I said in salutation as I passed him.

"Ay, very fine. What way is the wind, my lad?"

"Sou'-sou'-west," I replied, looking up at a few flecks of white cloud in the clear sky.

"Are you going on to Stromness? If so, I will walk along with you. That's a fine bird you're carrying. What do you call it?"

"A hen harrier, sir. My dog caught it over on the moor. Is that your barque lying in the bay, sir, the Lydia?"

"Ay; she's a rakish craft, isn't she? We're sailing again in the morning for South America. Do you think we shall have a fair wind, my lad?"

"Yes, if it does not veer round too much to the westward."

"You appear to have studied the weather," he said.

"Yes," I answered. "In Stromness we all notice the wind, and father has taught me to know all the signs of the weather."

"Then your father is a fisherman, I suppose?" he remarked, as he turned to walk down the brae with me.

"Father's a pilot," I said. "I'm Sandy Ericson's lad."

"Ericson! Ah! I know Ericson. He's a splendid fellow, a regular Norseman, in fact."

And then he proceeded to praise my father as I had so often before heard him praised, and with all of which I did not venture to disagree.

He spoke with me until we reached the entrance to the town, where I noticed Andrew Drever, my schoolmaster, walking in advance of us, carrying his rod under his arm and a string of fish in his hand.

"Good evening, sir!" I said, as we overtook him.

"Hello, Halcro, my lad!" he exclaimed, as cheerily as though he had not seen me for weeks.

"Good evening!" said my sailor companion to the dominie. "I see you have some fine trout there."

"Yes," said Andrew, when he had returned the greeting. "They're not so bad, and I've had some fine sport with them. Are you coming from Kirkwall?"

"No," replied the sailor. "I was just up the hill there for a saunter in the gloaming. The gloaming lasts very long here, I notice. What time is it dark in midsummer?"

"In midsummer?" replied Andrew. "Well, it's seldom darker than this; and on the twenty-first of June you can see the sun even at midnight from the top of the Ward Hill yonder. You'll belong to one of the ships here, no doubt, sir?"

"Yes, that barque out there with the tall masts."

"Ay, she came in today. That will be the Lydia, I'm thinking, and you will be Captain Gordon? Bailie Duke was telling me you were in the port. And when do you sail?"

"Tomorrow," said the captain. "We're bound for Brazil; but I was wanting to see some people tonight. Pilot Ericson asked me to smoke a pipe with him. Then I have to see Grace Drever, to—"

"Grace Drever!" exclaimed the dominie, evidently wondering what the sailor could want to see his mother for.

"Yes," continued Captain Gordon. "My ship's overrun with mice, and I was directed to Grace Drever, who, I am told, deals in all the charms and cantrips a sailor can require."

"Charms and cantrips!" echoed the schoolmaster. "Why, who on earth has been putting such notions into your head? I doubt if you go to Grace Drever on such an errand you'll be disappointed, sir."

"You know the old lady, then?" said the captain.

"Just as well as a man can know his own mother," replied Andrew.

"Oh! then, you'll be the schoolmaster? Really, I beg your pardon; but I was told that Mistress Drever had dealings with such things; and although I am not exactly superstitious—"

"Never mind, sir, never mind. It's just some ignorant lads have been making up the story; and it's all one to me, for I know well it's not true. There was once a woman in Stromness, I will allow, who used to sell favourable winds to the sailors. But though there is still a most lamentable amount of superstition in the Orkney folk—belief in witches and warlocks and such nonsense—it's gradually, just gradually, dying away."

"No doubt the influence of your schools," observed the captain, anxious to conciliate.

"Ay, no doubt," said Andrew. "But what was it you were saying about mice?"

"Why, we're just infested with them, and I must get either cats or poison for them, or I'll not say but we may be manned by mice instead of men before we get beyond Cape Wrath."

"My mother has a cat," quietly remarked Andrew, "one of the few we have in Orkney. And though she does not deal in witchery, you might bring her to part with Baudrons. Now, if you'll come home with me and have a taste of these trout—"

"Oh, thanks, thanks, most happy!" said the captain.

Now this, I thought, was a very graceful invitation for Andrew Drever to give to a stranger who had only a few moments before implied that his mother was a witch. But it was a kindness such as he was ever showing; and I must add that Captain Gordon was one of those easy-mannered sailors who at once give an agreeable impression. I myself liked him from the very first, and I had afterwards many reasons for rejoicing in the friendship thus casually made.

"I have something here for you, sir," I said to the schoolmaster, holding up the dead falcon that I carried.

"Oh! come along with us, too, Halcro. Send your dog home, and come and take some supper with me."

I assented, and continued walking by his side as he talked with the captain.

We had now entered the street of Stromness. It was a narrow passage which one might span with arms outstretched, and paved without a causeway—for it was built when there were no vehicles in Orkney—and crooked as the inside of a whelk shell, suggesting starlight smuggling and romantic meetings. In the windows and obscure corners of the passages dim lamps peeped forth in the darkness, and the flickering firelight in the houses fell upon the stones through the open doorways, whereat sailors stood smoking their pipes and gossiping women talked.

We turned up a little lane that led to the schoolhouse, and my dog trotted home without me, to let my mother know I was near.



Chapter X. The Dominie Explains.

We found Grace Drever preparing the peat fire for frying the fish. The good old woman did not hear us enter, but Andrew was a punctual man, and it was with no show of surprise that his mother at length recognized his presence.

Grace Drever was an active woman, somewhat bent with age, but with no signs of decaying faculties, save in the case of her extreme deafness. Her hair was still black, and her eyesight was quick. Her memory for local events was as good as an almanac to the people of Stromness, and there was something strangely uncanny about her nature that was itself almost an excuse to those who hinted that she had dealings with the underworld. She was one of the older style of inhabitants, who retained the primitive habits and customs of the island, whose spoken language had in it a mixture of the Norse, which distinguished it from the simpler Scotch dialect familiarly used by us of the younger generation, and yet more from the purer English into which we were drilled at school.

Andrew Drever generally spoke good English in the presence of strangers, though he lapsed into the broad native speech in friendly talk with the fisher folk.

"I hae brought Captain Gordon wi' me to hae a taste o' the trout," he said to his mother as we entered the room, where she bent over the fire.

"Gordon! Gordon! I dinna ken ony Gordon. What's the name o' his ship?"

"He belongs to the Lydia, the barque that cam' in this forenoon."

"Aw, yes, I ken his ship, but I dinna ken the captain. Yes, yes, he'll get a taste o' the troot, I warrant him that."

Then turning to Mr. Gordon, she continued: "Ye were never in Stromness afore, captain? No? Ye maun speak loud—it's terrible dull o' hearing I am."

The captain looked at Grace as she applied a strange, shell-like horn to her right ear, and went closer to him.

"The Lydia has a great many mice on board," said the captain.

"Ay, you'll be takin' it out to America for the black folk, no doubt. It's terrible hot in America, they say. But where got you the ice? Not from Leith?"

"He didna say ice," interposed Andrew. "The captain says his ship's full o' mice."

"Ah, mice! What for does he not get a cat?"

"It's your own cat he was wanting to get," said Andrew.

"My cat! my Baudrons! Troth, I dinna think I could part with Baudrons. I'm terrible fond of Baudrons. Was there not a cat in Stromness forbye mine?"

Grace said this as she selected some of the largest trout and took them away to clean.

As I sat on a chair near the door, weary after my long tramp with the heavy burden of silver and the dead hawk, and somewhat bruised by my fight, Mr. Drever and the captain engaged in a long conversation relating to the Orkneys. But during an interval of their talk I ventured to draw the schoolmaster's attention to the dead bird that I had brought for him.

"We caught this bird over on the moor the day, sir," I said, "and I brought it, thinking ye'd like to put it in one o' your glass cases."

"Man, Halcro, but that's a bonny specimen! A harrier, a hen harrier, I declare! 'Deed but it will be a right fine addition to our collection. And what way did ye kill it, d'ye say? Not wi' a gun, surely?"

"No; it was flying after a peewit, and the dog caught it. Willie Hercus thrawed its neck."

"Well, well, that's most amazing. How I wish I'd been with you. I'd rather hae caught a harrier than a hundred sea trout."

"Did ye get some good fishing at the Bush, sir?" I asked, changing the subject.

"Oh, ay, very good, very good; thanks to those hooks o' yours, Halcro. I left a dozen trout wi' Jack Paterson's wife, and a dozen wi' Mary Firth, and these I brought home. That's no sae bad, is it?"

Then, when he had satisfied his admiration of the dead hawk, he took us into the schoolroom, to show the captain his cases of stuffed birds and animals. Already he had determined that he would mount the hawk in the attitude of swooping down upon a lapwing.

It turned out that Captain Gordon was interested in birds, and knew a good deal about their habits. I remember he told us of a swallow which had once flown on board his ship when they were over a thousand miles from any land, and of how the bird, exhausted by its long flight, allowed him to hold it in his hand and feed it with small insects taken from the decayed timbers of the ship.

When we were seated at the table over our meal of fried trout, I had to relate my experiences of the afternoon, which I did from beginning to end, omitting only the circumstance of my fight with Kinlay. I did not wish to say anything against a schoolmate, and an account of the fight would have involved unpleasant explanations. The two men listened with attention to my account of the sealing; but they were incredulous when I told them about finding the hidden silver. When the table was cleared, however, and I spread out the contents of the seal's skin, Grace and they gathered round in astonishment and eagerly examined the curiosities by the light of the hanging lamp and the flaming peats.

Captain Gordon weighed the bars of silver in an imaginary balance in his hand, and gave his opinion as to their weight. The neck rings and brooches also engaged his attention; but Andrew Drever found greater interest in the ancient coins, which he carefully examined, endeavouring to decipher the rough inscriptions upon them. Most of the coins were foreign, but there were two which he recognized as English—a Peter's penny of the tenth century, and an older coin, which he told me was nearly a thousand years old, bearing the name Aethelstan Rex. I cannot describe his delight in looking over these little pieces of silver, or his satisfaction when I offered to let him take charge of them until we determined what should be done with the collection.

When the interest in my treasures had somewhat abated, Mr. Drever and the captain exchanged conjectures concerning the probable origin of what we had discovered at Skaill Bay. They could come to no issue by all their arguments, until I chanced to mention once more the incident of the rat and its curious hiding place in the skull.

"A skull! a human skull!" exclaimed the dominie. "Why, that explains it all. I can see it now. I can see it clearly!"

"See what clearly?" inquired the captain.

"This," said Andrew with a tone of conviction, "that what the lads have discovered is nothing less than the grave of Kierfiold Haffling, the great viking of Orkney."

Then turning to the captain he continued: "You see, Captain Gordon, it was the custom of the old sea kings to bury their dead heroes in caves on the seashore, or to place the body in a boat and send it drifting to sea on its long voyage. In either case it was usual to dress the hero in full battle array, with helmet, sword, and shield, to enable him to fight his way to Valhalla. These relics here of Ericson's, and those that the other lads have gotten, are just such things as would be buried in a viking's grave. The human skull in their midst puts the matter beyond a doubt."

"Curious, very curious!" murmured Captain Gordon. "But, sir, how do you identify this supposed grave with that of the particular warrior you have mentioned?"

"Kierfiold Haffling? Oh, well, you see, captain, I may be making a mistake; but, as it happens, I have seen a runic inscription over at Stenness which expressly states that the Jarl Haffling was buried with his earthly treasures to the northwest of the Maes Howe. Now, the Bay of Skaill, where the lads made the discovery, is exactly northwest of Stenness. The one thing that surprises me is that the treasure was not found long since, for the inscription has clearly indicated its position, and has further stated that 'happy is he who discovers this great wealth.' It seems to me, however, that no person ever thought of searching within the tide line."

"But, after all," said the captain, "the wealth does not seem so enormous. Why, I would hesitate to offer a ten-pound note for the whole lot."

"No, it is not indeed enormous, in a worldly sense, I admit. But you must consider the importance of the discovery from what I may call an archaeological point of view. You see the relics have a historical value, Mr. Gordon."

The schoolmaster then turned to me and said:

"I think, Halcro, it's a pity that you lads didn't keep these things all together, and bring them here as ye found them. What for did ye divide them, as though they were so many blackberries? Ye couldn't do anything with them—ye can't sell the things."

"It was Tom Kinlay said he thought we should share them, sir. I didn't think we were doing wrong."

"Tom Kinlay kens nothing about such matters, Halcro. Just you get the three other lads to bring each his share to me. I will look after it and see that ye dinna lose anything. You see, although ye found the treasure, you lads, it doesn't rightly belong to you. No doubt ye'll be rewarded in some way for your find; but I must tell you that the law will not let you keep it to yoursels. A person finding treasure of this sort can have only a third part of its value. Is that not so, Mr. Gordon?"

"Yes," said the captain, "I fancy you're right, Mr. Drever. Of course you refer to the law of treasure trove?"

"Exactly," agreed the master. Then turning to me, he continued:

"You see, Halcro, the Crown will claim a share of it, and the laird gets another part. So ye'd better let the other lads ken about this. Let them understand that they are breaking the law if they keep their discovery a secret."

"Yes, sir, I'll tell Rosson and Hercus before school time in the morning."

"And Kinlay?" said Mr. Drever, looking questioningly in my face.

"Maybe you'd better speak to him yoursel, sir," I returned, almost afraid to say that my companionship with Tom was at an end.

"Hello! what's in the wind in that quarter? A quarrel, eh? I have noticed that scratch on your cheek. Has that anything to do with Kinlay?"

I put my hand to my cheek and found that there was blood there. I had received a scratch that I was before unconscious of.

"Well, sir," I said, "Kinlay and I did have a bit of a fight over at Bigging. There was a dispute over the sharing of the treasure."

And then I thought of the small black stone that Tom had given me as an equivalent of the bar of silver he had appropriated for himself. It was not amongst the articles I had shown to the schoolmaster and the captain. I thought that I had perhaps left it lying on the gravestone; but searching my pockets, I at last found it in one of them, where I had carelessly thrust it when the fight began. I placed it on the table before Captain Gordon, who examined it curiously.

"What d'you make of this, sir?" asked he, turning to the dominie. "The stone, if it is a stone at all, looks worthless; and yet I see this ring round it is the only piece of metal that is neither silver nor bronze, but gold."

"Gold!" I exclaimed, bending over to look at it.

"Yes, gold undoubtedly," said the captain.

Grace Drever, who had said little during the examination of the store of silver coins and ingots beyond asking questions as to the manner of our finding it, and giving utterance to such ejaculations as "Losh me!" and "Saw ever onybody the likes o' that?" now took the black stone in her hand, and having pondered over it for a while, said, holding up her finger to me:

"Laddie, take care of this peerie {ii} thing. It will be of more worth to thee than all the other gear together."

I did not quite understand. The gold ring, I thought, could not surely be worth more than that heap of silver. And yet Grace was so serious in what she said that I could scarcely doubt her word.

I was about to ask her for an explanation when we were interrupted by the lifting of the latch of the door, and a rush of cold air made the lamp light flicker.



Chapter XI. My Sister Jessie.

We all turned to the door to see the cause of this interruption. It was my sister Jessie who entered, and paused on the threshold as she observed the presence of a stranger. She wore no covering on her head, and her brown hair fell in natural curls on her shoulders and about her neck.

Captain Gordon rose politely and stood with his hands clasping the back of his chair. Jessie raised her large dark eyes towards him for a moment and looked confused.

I think this was the first time in my life that I felt conscious that my sister was more beautiful than any other Orkney girl I knew, with the one exception of Thora Kinlay. She was at that time nineteen years of age; she was tall and graceful, and very easy in her movements. It is true she had no accomplishments, such as those of Bailie Duke's daughters; but her education in Mr. Drever's school had been sound, and she could keep house as well as any fisherman's wife in Orkney, and row a boat as well as any lad.

"Was it Halcro ye were seeking, Jessie?" asked old Grace, as though my sister's presence there was a matter of as little concern to her as the presence of the old German clock in the corner of the room.

"Yea," said Jessie. "His dog came home without him, and we were feared he had gone ower the cliffs, or that some other mischance had happened him.

"Where have ye been, Halcro, so late as ye are? You should have been in your bed lang syne."

As I went to the nail for my cap, the dominie introduced Captain Gordon to Jessie. She greeted the sailor without ceremony—for in Orkney we are not demonstrative in this particular. But the officer held out his hand, and she took it with evident confusion. I think she could not have failed to notice the difference between this handsome young man and the gray-haired, toddy-drinking captains who usually came into Stromness and hung about our home in the Anchor Close.

Captain Gordon did not sit down again. Perhaps the mention of the name Ericson reminded him of his appointment with my father. But he had not yet effected his purpose of securing Grace Drever's cat, and he turned to the old woman, asking her again if she would part with Baudrons.

Grace, I do not doubt, had been impressed by the open-hearted bearing of the captain, and I had noticed his kindly way of addressing her, so that she might hear him without effort. But she looked fondly at her cat as he sat before the crimson fire, licking his lips after the fish bones he had eaten. Few mice or rats came in his way, but—luck for Baudrons—there was an abundance of fish, and the wild birds that Andrew brought home supplied him with many a stolen banquet.

There was one ruling passion in Baudrons, and that was his desire to gain possession of the noisy jackdaw which so often disturbed him with its steady shining eyes as they looked down at him from behind the wicker bars of the cage. I believe Baudrons anticipated the death of Peter as the crowning achievement of his life; and had he been consulted in the matter of the Lydia he might have shown some reluctance to enter the community of mice before he had compassed the jackdaw's death.

Grace was finally prevailed upon—much to the satisfaction of the dominie—to give up her cat; and it was arranged that I should take Baudrons out to the ship before school time on the following morning.

I was preparing to leave with Jessie and Captain Gordon, when Mrs. Drever called me to her near the fire.

"Come here, Halcro, laddie. Tak the peerie stone, see, and have a care that ye dinna lose it;" and she handed to me the little black stone.

Mr. Drever was standing beside her, and I looked to him to ask if I should take possession of this much of the viking's treasure.

"Take it, take it, Halcro," he said. "There can be no harm in your keeping it—at least until we find whether the authorities claim it or not. I canna think that there would be any money value in it to speak of. But you'd better be careful not to lose it at any rate."

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