THE SCOTCH TWINS
Lucy Fitch Perkins
ILLUSTRATED BY THE AUTHOR
BOSTON NEW YORK CHICAGO
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
The Riverside Press Cambridge
THE DUTCH TWINS PRIMER. Grade I. THE DUTCH TWINS Grade III. THE ESKIMO TWINS. Grade II. THE JAPANESE TWINS. Grade IV. THE IRISH TWINS. Grade V. THE SCOTCH TWINS. Grades V and VI. THE MEXICAN TWINS. Grade VI. THE BELGIAN TWINS. Grade VI. THE FRENCH TWINS. Grade VII.
THE CAVE TWINS. Grade IV. THE SPARTAN TWINS. Grades V-VI.
Each volume is illustrated by the author
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY BOSTON NEW YORK CHICAGO
COPYRIGHT, 1919, BY LUCY PITCH PERKINS
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
I. THE LITTLE GRAY HOUSE ON THE BRAE II. THE RABBIT AND THE GAMEKEEPER III. THE SABBATH IV. THE NEW BOY V. EVENING IN THE WEE BIT HOOSIE VI. TWO DISCOVERIES VII. THE CLAN VIII. THE POACHERS IX. A RAINY DAY X. ON THE TRAIL XI. ANGUS NIEL AND THE CANNY CLAN XII. NEWS XIII. THE NEW LAIRD
SUGGESTIONS TO TEACHERS
THE SCOTCH TWINS
I. THE LITTLE GRAY HOUSE ON THE BRAE
If you had peeped in at the window of a little gray house on a heathery hillside in the Highlands of Scotland one Saturday morning in May some years ago, you might have seen Jean Campbell "redding up" her kitchen. It was a sight best seen from a safe distance, for, though Jean was only twelve years old, she was a fierce little housekeeper every day in the week, and on Saturday, when she was getting ready for the Sabbath, it was a bold person indeed who would venture to put himself in the path of her broom. To be sure, there was no one in the family to take such a risk except her twin brother Jock, her father, Robin Campbell, the Shepherd of Glen Easig, and True Tammas, the dog, for the Twins' mother had "slippit awa'" when they were only ten years old, leaving Jean to take a woman's care of her father and brother and the little gray house on the brae.
On this May morning Jean woke up at five o'clock and peeped out of the closet bed in which she slept to take a look at the day. The sun had already risen over the rocky crest of gray old Ben Vane, the mountain back of the house, and was pouring a stream of golden sunlight through the eastern windows of the kitchen. The kettle was singing over the fire in the open fireplace, a pan of skimmed milk for the calf was warming by the hearth, and her father was just going out, with the pail on his arm, to milk the cow. She looked across the room at the bed in the corner by the fireplace to see if Jock were still asleep. All she could see of him was a shock of sandy hair, two eyes tight shut, and a freckled nose half buried in the bed-clothes.
"Wake up, you lazy laddie," she called out to him, "or when I get my clothes on I'll waken you with a wet cloth! Here's the sun looking in at the windows to shame you, and Father already gone to the milking."
Jock opened one sleepy blue eye.
"Leave us alone, now, Jeanie," he wheedled. "I was just having a sonsie wee bit of a dream. Let me finish, and syne I'll tell you all about it."
"Indeed, and you'll do nothing of the kind" retorted Jean, with spirit. "Up with you, mannie, or I'll be dressed before you, and I ken very well you'd not like to be beaten by a lassie, and her your own sister, too."
Jock cuddled down farther into the blankets without answering, and Jean began putting on her clothes. It seemed but a moment before she slid to the floor, rolled her sleeves high above a pair of sturdy elbows, and went to finish her toilet at the basin. There she washed her face and combed her hair, while Jock, cautiously opening one eye again, observed her from his safe retreat. He watched her part her hair, wet it, plaster it severely back from her brow, and tie it firmly in place with a piece of black ribbon. Jock could read Jean's face like print, and in this stern toilet he foresaw a day of unrelenting house-cleaning.
"Aye," he said to himself bitterly, "she's putting on her Saturday face. There's trouble brewing, I doubt! It'll be Jock this and Jock that both but and ben all day long, and whatever is the use of all this tirley-wirly I can't see, when on Monday the house will look as if it had never seen the sight of a besom! I'll just bide where I am." He closed his eyes and pretended to be asleep.
It is true that Jean's Saturday face had such a housekeepery pucker between the eyes and such a severe arrangement of the front hair that any one who did not peep behind the black ribbon might have thought her a very stern young person indeed, but behind the black ribbon Jean's true character stood revealed! However prim and smooth she might make it look in front, where the cracked glass enabled her to keep an eye on it, behind her back, where she couldn't possibly see it, her hair broke into the jolliest little waves and curls, which bobbed merrily about even on the worst Saturday that ever was; and spoiled the effect whenever she tried to be severe.
When she had given a final wipe with the brush, she took another look at Jock. There was still nothing to be seen of him but the shock of sandy hair and a series of bumps under the blanket. Jock could feel Jean looking at him right through the bed-clothes.
"Jock," said Jean,—and her voice had a Saturday sound to it,—"You can't sleep in this day! Get up!"
There was no answer. Jock might well have known that Jean was in no mood for trifling, but, having decided on his course of action, he stuck to it like a true Scotchman and neither moved nor opened his eyes. Jean was driven to desperate measures. She took a few drops of water in the dipper, marched firmly to the bedside, and stood with it poised directly above Jock's nose.
"Jock," she said solemnly, "I'm telling you! Don't ever say I didn't. If you don't stir yourself before I count five, you'll be sorry. One, two, three!" Still no move from Jock. "Four, five," and, without further parley, she emptied the dipper on his freckled nose.
There was a wrathful snort and a violent convulsion of the blankets, and an instant later Jock was tearing about the kitchen like a cat in a fit, but by this time Jean was out of doors and well beyond reach.
"Come here, you limmer!" he howled. But Jean knew better than to accept his invitation. Instead she skipped laughing down the path from the door to the brook which ran bubbling and gurgling by the house. Even in her hasty exit from the cottage, Jean had had the presence of mind to take the pail with her, and now she stopped to fill it from the clear, sparkling water of the burn. It was such a wonderful bright spring morning that, having filled it, she stopped for a moment to look about her at the dear familiar surroundings of her home.
There was the little gray house itself, with the peat smoke curling from the chimney straight up into the blue sky. Back of it was the garden-patch with its low stone wall, and back of that were the fowl-yard and the straw-covered byre for the cow. Beyond, and to the north lay the moors, covered with heather and dotted with grazing sheep. Jean could hear the tinkle of their bells, the bleating of the lambs, and the comforting maternal answers of the ewes. Above the dark forest which spread itself over the slopes of the foot-hills toward the south and east a lave rock was singing, and she could hear the cry of whaups wheeling and circling over the moors. They were pleasant morning sounds, dear and familiar to Jean's ear, and oh, the sparkle of the dew on the bracken, and the smell of the hawthorn by the garden wall! Jean lifted her pail of water and went singing with it up the hill-slope to the house for sheer joy that she was alive.
"The Campbells are coming, O ho, O ho!" she sang, and the hills, taking up the refrain, echoed "O ho, O ho!"
True Tammas, who had slept all night under the straw-stack by the byre, came bounding down the little path to meet her, wagging his tail and barking his morning greeting. They reached the door together, but Jock, mindful of his injuries, had shut and barred it, and was grinning at them through the window. Jean sat placidly down upon the step with True Tammas beside her and continued her song. Her calmness irritated Jock.
"Aye," he shouted through the crack, "the Campbells may be coming, but they'll not get in this house! You can just sit there blethering all day, and I'll never unbar the door."
Jean stopped singing long enough to answer: "You'll get no breakfast, then, you mind, unless you'll be getting it yourself, for the porridge is not cooked and the kettle's nearly boiled away. I've the water-pail with me, and there's not a drop else in the house."
She left him to consider this and resumed her song. For several minutes she and True Tammas sat there gazing westward across the valley with the little river flowing through it, to the hills swimming in the blue distance beyond.
At last she called over her shoulder, "Jock, Father's coming," and Jock, seeing that his cause was hopelessly lost, unfastened the door. Jean, her father, and True Tammas all came into the kitchen together, and the moment she was in the room again you should have seen how she ordered things about!
"Set the milk right down here, Father," she said, tapping the table with her finger as she flew past to get the strainer and a pan, "and you, Jock, fill the kettle. It's almost dry this minute. And stir up the fire under it. Tam,"—that was what they called the dog for short,—"go under the table or you'll get stepped on!"
You should have seen how they all minded!—even the father, who was six feet tall, with a jaw like a nut-cracker and a face that would have looked very stern indeed if it hadn't been for his twinkling blue eyes. When the milk was strained and put away in the little shed room back of the kitchen chimney, Jean got out the oatmeal-kettle and hung the porridge over the fire, and while that was cooking she set three places at the tiny table and scalded the churn. Meanwhile Jock went out to feed the fowls. By half past six the oatmeal was on the table and the little family gathered about it, reverently bowing their heads while the Shepherd of Glen Easig asked a blessing upon the food.
There was only porridge and milk for breakfast, so it took but a short time to eat it, and then the real work of the day began. The Shepherd put on his Kilmarnock bonnet and called Tam, who had had his breakfast on the hearth, and the two went away to the hills after the sheep. Jock led the cow to a patch of green turf near the bottom of the hill, where she could find fresh pasture, and Jean was left alone in the kitchen of the little gray house. Ah, you should have seen her then! She washed the dishes and put them away in the cupboard, she skimmed the milk and put the cream into the churn, she swept the hearth and shook the blankets out of doors in the fresh morning air. Then she made the beds, and when the kitchen was all in order, she "went ben"—that was the way they spoke of the best room—and dusted that too. There wasn't really a bit of need of dusting the room, for it was never, never used except on very important occasions, such as when the minister called. The little house was five miles from the village, so the minister did not come often, but Jean kept it clean all the time just to be on the safe side.
There wasn't so very much work to do in the room after all, for there was nothing in it but the fireplace, a little table with the Bible, the Catechism, and a copy of Burns's poems on it, and three chairs. The kitchen was a different matter: There were the beds, and they were hard for a small girl to manage, and the cupboard with its shelves of dishes. There were three stools, and a big chair for the Shepherd, and the great chest where the clothes were kept, and besides all these things there was the wag-at-the-wall clock on the mantel-shelf which had to be wound every Saturday night. If you want to know just where these things stood, you have only to look at the plan, where their places are so plainly marked that, if you were suddenly to wake up in the middle of the night and find yourself in the little gray house, you could go about and put your hand on everything in it in the dark.
Jock stayed with the cow as long as he dared, and went back to the house only when he knew he couldn't postpone his tasks any longer. Jean was sweeping the doorstep as he came slowly up the hill.
"Come along, Grandfather," she called out, her brow sternly puckered in front and her curls bobbing gaily up and down behind. "A body'd think you were seventy-five years old and had the rheumatism to see you move! Come and work the churn a bit. 'Twill limber you up."
Jock knew that arguments were useless. His father had told him, girl's work or not, he was to help Jean, so he slowly dragged into the house and slowly began to move the dasher up and down.
"Havers!" said Jean, when she could stand it no longer. "It's lucky there's a cover to the churn else you'd drop to sleep and fall in and drown yourself in the buttermilk! The butter won't be here at this rate till to-morrow, when it would break the Sabbath by coming!"
She seized the dasher, as she spoke, and began to churn so vigorously that the milk splashed up all around the handle. Soon little yellow specks began to appear; and when they had formed themselves into a ball in the churn, she lifted it out with a paddle and put it in a pan of clear cold water. Then she gave Jock a drink of buttermilk.
"Poor laddie!" she said. "You are all tired out! Take a sup of this to put new strength in you, for you've got to go out and weed the garden. I looked at the potatoes yesterday, and the weeds have got the start of them already."
"If I must weed the garden, give me something to eat too," begged Jock. "This milk'll do no more than slop around in my insides to make me feel my emptiness."
Jean opened the cupboard door and peeped within.
"There's nothing for you, laddie," she said, "but this piece of a scone. I'll have to bake more for the Sabbath, and you can have this to give yourself a more filled-up feeling. And now off with you!"
She took him by the collar and led him to the door; and there on the step was Tam.
"What are you doing here?" cried Jean, astonished to see him. "You should be with Father, watching the sheep! It's shame to a dog to be lolling around the house instead of away on the hills where he belongs."
Tam flattened himself out on his stomach and dragged himself to her feet, rolling his eyes beseechingly upward, and if ever a dog looked ashamed of himself, that dog was Tam. Jean shook her head at him very sternly, and oh, how the jolly little curls bobbed about.
"Tam," she said, "you're as lazy as Jock himself. Whatever shall I do with the two of you?"
Jock had already finished his scone and he thought this a good time to disappear. He slipped round the corner of the house and whistled. All Tam's shame was gone in an instant. He gave a joyous bark and bounded away after Jock, his tail waving gayly in the breeze.
II. THE RABBIT AND THE GAMEKEEPER
Out in the garden a rabbit had for some time been enjoying himself nightly in the potato-patch, biting off the young sprouts which were just sticking their heads through the ground. When the rabbit heard Tam bark she dashed out of sight behind a burdock leaf and sat perfectly still. Now if Tam and Jock had come into the garden by the wicket gate, as they should have done, this story might never have been written at all, because in that case the rabbit would perhaps have got safely back to her burrow in the woods without being seen, and there wouldn't have been any story to tell.
But Tam and Jock didn't come in by the gate. They jumped over the wall. Jock jumped first and landed almost on top of the rabbit, but when Tam, a second later, landed in the same place, she was running for dear life toward the hole in the stone wall where she had got in. Shouting and barking, Jock and Tam tore after her. Round and round the garden they flew, but just as they thought they had her cornered, the rabbit slipped through the hole in the wall and ran like the wind for the woods. Jock and Tam both cleared the wall at a bound and chased after her, making enough noise to be heard a mile away.
It happened that there was some one much less than a mile away to hear it. And it happened, too, that he was the one person in all the world that Jock would most wish not to hear it, for he was gamekeeper to the Laird of Glen Cairn, and the Laird of Glen Cairn owned all the land for miles and miles about in every direction. He owned the little gray house and the moor, the mountain, and the forest, and even the little brook that sang by the door. To be sure, the Laird seemed to care very little for his Highland home. He visited it but once in a great while, and then only for a few days' hunting. The rest of the year his great stone castle was occupied only by Eppie McLean, the housekeeper, and two or three other servants. The Laird did not know his tenants, and they did not know him. The rents were collected for him by Mr. Craigie, his factor, who lived in the village, and Angus Niel was appointed to see that no one hunted game on the estate.
Angus was a man of great zeal in the performance of his duty, to judge by his own account of it. He was always telling of heroic encounters with poachers in the forests, and though he never seemed to succeed in catching them and bringing them before the magistrate, his tales were a warning to evil-doers and few people dared venture into the region which he guarded. He was often seen creeping along the outskirts of the woods, his gun on his shoulder, his round eyes rolling suspiciously in every direction, or even loitering around the cow byres as if he thought game might be secreted there.
At the very moment when Jock and Tam came flying over the fence and down the hill like a cyclone after the rabbit, Angus was kneeling beside the brook to get a drink. His lips were pursed up and he was bending over almost to the surface of the water, when something dashed past him, and an instant later something else struck him like a thunderbolt from behind, and drove him headforemost into the brook! It wasn't Tam that did it. It was Jock! Of course, it was an accident, but Angus thought he had done it on purpose, and he was probably the most surprised as well as the angriest man in Scotland at that moment. He lifted his head out of the brook and glared at Jock as fiercely as he could with little rills of water pouring from his hair and nose, and trickling in streams down his neck.
"I'll make you smart for this, you young blatherskite," he roared at Jock, who stood before him frozen with horror. "I'll teach you where you belong! You were running after that rabbit, and your dog is yelping down a hole after her this minute!" He was such a funny sight as he knelt there, dripping and scolding, that, scared as he was, Jock could not help laughing. More than ever enraged, Angus made a sudden lunge forward and seized Jock by the ear.
"You come along o' me," he said. His invitation was so urgent that Jock felt obliged to accept it, and together the two started up the slope to the little gray house. Tam, meanwhile, had given up the chase and joined them, his tail at half-mast.
When they reached the house Angus bumped the door open without knocking, and stamped into the kitchen. Jean was bending over the fire turning a scone on the girdle, when the noise at the door made her jump and look around. She was so amazed at the sight which met her eye that for an instant she stood stock-still, and Angus, seeing that he had only two children to deal with, gave Jock's ear a vicious tweak and began to bluster at Jean.
But, you see, he didn't know Jean. When she saw that great fat man abusing her brother and tracking mud all over her kitchen floor at the same time, instead of being frightened, as she should have been, Jean shook her cooking-fork at Angus Niel and stamped her foot smartly on the floor.
"You let go of my brother's ear this instant," she shouted, "and take your muddy boots out of my kitchen!"
Angus let go of Jock's ear for sheer surprise, and Jock at once sprang to his sister's side, while Tam, seeing that trouble was brewing, gave a low growl and bared his teeth. Angus gave a look at Tam and decided to explain.
"This young blatherskite here," he began, in a voice that caused the rafters to shake, "has been trespassing. He was after a rabbit. I caught him in the very act. I'll have the law on him! He rammed me into the burn!"
"I didn't mean to," shouted Jock, "I thought you were a stone, and I just meant to step on you and jump across the burn."
"You meant to step on me, did you?" roared Angus. "Me! Do you know who I am?" Jock knew very well, but he didn't have time to say so before Angus, choking with rage, made a furious lunge for his ear and left two more great spots of mud on the kitchen floor. It was not to be borne. Jean pointed to his feet.
"You're trespassing yourself," she screamed. "You've no right in this house, And you take yourself out of it this minute! Just look at the mud you've tracked on my floor!"
Angus did look. He looked not only at the floor but at Tam, for Tam was now slowly approaching him, growling as he came.
Angus thought best to do exactly as Jean said and as quickly as possible. He reached the door in two jumps with Tam leaping after him and nipping his heels at each jump, and in another instant found himself on the doorstep with the door shut behind him.
Angus considered himself a very important man. He wasn't used to being treated in this way, and it's no wonder he was angry. He swelled up like a pouter pigeon; and shook his fist at the door.
"You just mind who I am," he shouted. "If ever I catch you poaching again, I'll have you up before the bailie as sure as eggs is eggs!"
But the door didn't say a word, and it seemed beneath his dignity to scold a door that wouldn't even answer back, so he stamped away growling. The children watched him until he disappeared in the woods, and when at last they turned from the window, the scone on the girdle was burned to a cinder and had to be given to the chickens!
You might have thought that by this time Jean had done enough work even for Saturday, but there was still the broth to make for supper and for the Sabbath, and the kitchen floor to be scrubbed, and, last of all, the family baths! When the little kitchen was as clean as clean could be, Jean got the wash-tub and set it on the hearth. Jock knew the signs and decided he'd go out behind the byre and look for eggs, but Jean had her eye on him.
"Jock Campbell," said she, "you go at once and get the water."
In vain Jock assured her he was cleaner than anything and didn't need a bath. Jean was firm. She made him fill the kettles, and when the water was hot, she shut him up in the kitchen with soap and a towel while she took all the shoes to the front steps to polish for Kirk on the morrow. When at last Jock appeared before her he was so shiny clean that Jean said it dazzled her eyes to look at him, so she sent him for the cow while she took her turn at the tub.
By four o'clock, Tam, who had spent an anxious afternoon by the hole in the garden wall watching for the rabbit, suddenly remembered his duties and started away over the moors to meet the Shepherd and round up any sheep that might have strayed from the flock, and at five Jock, returning from the byre, met his father coming home with Tam at his heels.
The regular evening tasks were finished just as the sun sank out of sight behind the western hills, and the birds were singing their evening songs, and when they went into the kitchen a bright fire was blazing on the hearth, the broth was simmering in the kettle, and Jean had three bowls of it ready for them on the table.
While they ate their supper Jock told their father all about the rabbit and Angus Niel and his ducking in the burn, and when Jock told about Jean's ordering him out of the kitchen, and of his jumping to the door with Tam nipping at his heels, the Shepherd slapped his knee and laughed till he cried. Tam, sitting on the hearth with his tongue lolling out, looked as if he were laughing, too.
"Havers!" cried the Shepherd, "I wish I'd been here to see that sight! Angus is that swollen up with pride of position, he's like to burst himself. He needed a bit of a fall to ease him of it, but I'd never have picked out Jean Campbell to trip him up! You're a spirited tid, my dawtie, and I'm proud of you."
"But, Father," said Jock, "whatever shall we do about the rabbits? The woods are full of them, and there'll not be a sprig of green left in the garden. They can hop right over the wall, even if we do stop up the hole."
"Aye," answered his father solemnly, "and that's a serious question, my lad. They get worse every year, and syne we'll have no tatties for the winter, let alone other vegetables. A deer came into Andrew Crumpet's garden one night last week and left not a green sprout in it by the morning. The creatures must live that idle gentlemen may shoot them for pleasure, even though they eat our food and leave us to go hungry." His brow darkened and a long-smouldering wrath burst forth into words. "There's no justice in it," he declared, thumping the table with his fist till the spoons danced, "Lairds or no Lairds, Anguses or no Anguses."
The Twins had never before heard their father speak like that, and they were a little frightened. They were too young to know the long years of injustice in such matters that stretched far back into the history of Scotland.
For a few minutes after this outburst the Shepherd remained silent, gazing into the fire; then he roused himself from his brown study and said: "I've been keeping something from you, my bairns. Mr. Craigie told me last week that the Auld Laird has taken a whim to turn all this region into a game preserve, and that he will not renew our lease when the time is up. It has till autumn to run, and then, God help us, we'll have to be turned out of this house where I've lived all my life and my forebears before me, and seek some other place to live and some other work to do."
"But what can you do else?" gasped Jock. He felt that his world was tumbling about his ears.
"The Lord knows," answered the Shepherd. "Emigrate to America likely. I've always been with the sheep and nothing else. It may be I can hire out to some other body, but chances are few hereabouts, and if the Auld Laird carries out this notion, there'll be many another beside ourselves who'll need to be walking the world. It seems unlikely he would be for taking away the town too, even if it is but a wee bit of a village, and the law gives him the right, for times have changed since that lease was made, long years ago, and there are few in this day who would venture to enforce it. But the Auld Laird's a hard man, I'm told, and he chooses hard men to carry out his will. Mr. Craigie has little heart, and as for Angus Niel, he'd make things worse rather than better if he had his way." Then, seeing tears gathering in Jean's eyes, he said to comfort her, "There now, dinna greet, my lassie! There's no sense in crossing a bridge till you come to it, and this bridge is still four months and a bittock away. We've the summer before us, and the Lord's arm is not shortened that it cannot save. We'll make the best of it and have one more happy summer, let the worst come at the end of it."
"But, Father," urged Jock, "will he turn every one out, do you think?"
"Who can foretell the whimsies of a selfish man?" answered the Shepherd. "He has only his own will to consider, but my opinion is he'll turn out those whose holdings lie nearest the forests and would be best for game, whatever he may do with the rest."
This was overwhelming news, and the children sat silent beside their silent father, trying to think of something to comfort their sad hearts. At last Jean lifted her head with a spirited toss and said, "Gin we were to go to-morrow, the dishes would still have to be washed," and she began to clear the table.
Her father laughed, and oh, how his laugh brightened the little kitchen and seemed to bid defiance to the fates!
"That's right, little woman," he said. "You've the true spirit of a Campbell in you. We must aye do the duty at hand and trust the Lord for the rest."
Jock was so impressed with the solemn talk of the evening that he wiped the dishes without being asked and went to bed of his own accord when the wag-at-the-wall clock struck eight. The Shepherd sat alone beside the fire until the children were in bed and asleep; then he sent Tam to the straw stack, wound the clock, and took his own turn at the tub. Last of all he covered the coals with ashes for the night and crept into bed beside Jock.
III. THE SABBATH
The Sabbath morning dawned bright and clear, and the Campbells were all up early and had the chores done before seven o'clock. Then came breakfast, and after breakfast Jean ran "ben the room," and brought the Bible to her father. Then she and Jock sat with folded hands while he read a long chapter about the "begats." Jock thought there seemed to be a very large family of them. This was followed by a prayer as long as the chapter. The prayer was so long that True Tammas went sound asleep on the hearth and had a dream that must have been about the rabbit, for his ears twitched and he made little whiny noises and jerked his legs. It was so long that the kettle boiled clear away and made such alarming, crackling sounds that Jean couldn't help peeking through her fingers just once, because it was their only kettle, and if it should go and burst itself during family prayers, whatever should they do! The moment the Shepherd said "Amen," Jean sprang so quickly to lift it from the fire that she stumbled over Tam and woke him up and almost burned her fingers besides. The kettle wasn't really spoiled, and while the water was heating in it for the dishes, Jean took up the little yellow book and said to Jock,
"Come here now, laddie, and see if you can say your catechism. Do you ken what is the chief end of man?"
"Dod, and I do," answered Jock. "You let me spier the questions."
"No," answered Jean firmly. "I'll spier them first myself."
"You're thinking I can't answer," said Jock. "I'll fool you."
He stood up as straight as a whole row of soldiers and fired off the answer all in one breath.
"The-chief-end-of-man-is-to-glorify-God-and-enjoy-Him-forever," he shouted.
Jean nodded approvingly. "You ken that one all right, but that is the first one in the book and everybody knows that one. Now I'm going to skip around."
"Don't skip," urged Jock. "Take them just the way they come. I can remember 'em better."
But Jean gave no quarter. "What is predestination?" she demanded.
This was a poser, but Jock tackled it bravely.
"Whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate to-to-" he got so far and stuck.
"To what?" asked Jean.
"To be reformed," Jock hazarded, wallowing in difficulties.
"Conformed," corrected Jean. "You don't know that one at all! What is Saving Grace?"
Jock fell down entirely on saving grace. "It's a—It's a—" he began. Then he bit his lip and scowled, and looked up at the ham hanging from the rafters, and out of the windows, but as nothing more about saving grace occurred to him he said, "Aw, Jean, I know, but I can't think."
"If you knew, you wouldn't have to think," Jean retorted, and then she made him take the book and sit down on the stool by the window and learn both answers while she finished the dishes.
It was ten miles to the village and back, and there was no way to get there except by walking, but the Campbells would sooner have thought of going without their food than of staying away from the Kirk, and so by eight o'clock they were all dressed in their best clothes and ready to start. They left True Tammas sitting on the doorstep with his ears drooped and his eyes looking very sorrowful. He wanted to go with them, but he knew well that he must stay at home to guard the sheep from stray dogs.
It was springtime, and the world was so lovely that the troubles the little family had faced the evening before seemed far away and impossible in the morning light. It was as if they had awakened from a bad dream. Who could help being happy on such a morning? The birds were flying about with straw and bits of wool in their bills to weave into their nests, and singing as if they would split their little throats. The river splashed and gurgled and sang as it dashed over its rocky bed on its way to the sea. From the village came the distant music of the church bells. The hawthorn was in bloom, and the river-banks and roadsides were gay with dandelions and violets, daisies and buttercups. Far away the mountains lifted their blue summits to the sky, and on a nearer hill they could see the gray towers of the castle of the Laird of Glen Cairn.
The bell was ringing its final summons and all the people were pouring into the little vestibule as the Campbells reached the steps of the Kirk. Angus Niel pushed past them, looking as puffy as a turkey-cock with its feathers spread, and glaring at the Twins so fiercely that Jock whispered to Jean, "If I poked my finger at him I believe he'd gobble," and made her almost laugh aloud. When they passed Mr. Craigie, who held the plate for people to drop their money in, Jean whispered to Jock, "He looks for all the world like a pair of tongs in his blacks, he's that tall and thin," and then Jock certainly would have laughed outright if he hadn't seen Mrs. Crumpet's eye on him.
The sermon was very long and the seats were hard and high, but the service did come to an end at last, although Jock was sure it was never going to, and afterward the children with their father stood about in the churchyard for a little while talking to their neighbors and friends.
The farm of Andrew Crumpet lay in the same direction as the home of the Campbells, so it was natural that they should walk along together and that the two men should talk about the thing that was uppermost in their minds. Mrs. Crumpet had gone on ahead with another neighbor, and Sandy Crumpet, who was twelve too, and had yellow hair, a snub nose, and freckles like Jock's own, walked with the Twins behind the two fathers. As they turned into the road, the children heard Andrew say, with a heavy sigh: "Aye, Robin, we must just make up our minds to it. The Auld Laird's bent on getting us out."
"Has Mr. Craigie given you notice, too?" asked the Shepherd.
"Aye, has he," Andrew answered with bitterness, "and short work he made of it. It means little to him telling a man to leave his home and go out in the world to seek new work at our time of life."
"He passes for a religious man," said the Shepherd.
"So did the Pharisee in the temple," said Andrew, "but 'by their fruits ye shall know them,' and we're not gathering any figs off of Mr. Craigie, nor grapes from that thorn of an Auld Laird that I can see!"
"Nor from Angus Niel, either," agreed Robin Campbell. "The Auld Laird's servants are of a piece with himself."
"Fine I ken that," answered Andrew.
"Well," sighed the Shepherd, "the toad under the harrow cannot be expected to praise the plowman, and we're just like the toad."
"Very true," said Andrew, "but the toad has the best of it. We are being destroyed; not that some one may till the land, but that it may go to waste, and be kept out of use. We suffer that the rich may be richer and the poor poorer, that less food may be produced instead of more. I tell you, Robin, it is not justice."
"It may be so. It may be so," sighed the Shepherd, "but it is the law, and we must just submit."
The two men walked on in silence to the bridge, where the Crumpets turned, while the Campbells kept on beside the river. The children were silent, too, only calling out "Good-bye" to Sandy as they parted, Jock adding, "Come on by to-morrow if you can," and Sandy, waving his hand, calling back, "Aye, will I."
As the Twins and their father neared the "wee bit hoosie," Tam came bounding down the brae to meet them, and in less time than it takes to tell it Jean had run into the house, taken off her Sabbath dress, and put on her old one, with her kitchen apron over it, had mended the fire and heated the broth, and the little family was seated about the table eating their frugal meal with appetites sharpened by their long walk.
The afternoon seemed endless to the children, for they spent it trying hard not to do any of the things they wanted to do. They studied the catechism while their father sat with his bonnet on his head nodding over the Bible, and the wag-at-the-wall clock ticked the hours solemnly away. Jock whispered to Jean that he didn't see why Sunday was so much longer than any other day, and didn't believe her when she said it wasn't really that it only seemed so.
IV. THE NEW BOY
Usually Jean and Jock went to school in summer, for in winter the snow made the roads impassable, but at this time the Dominie was ill and until he should get well they had the long days to themselves. When breakfast was over the next morning and the Shepherd had gone with Tam to the hills, Jean decided to wash the clothes. Sandy Crumpet came early, and the two boys went off to play, leaving Jean standing on a stone in the middle of the burn, soaping the clothes and scrubbing them on the flat surface of a rock. The water was so cold it made her arms ache, and she soon decided to let the fast-running stream do the washing for her. She soaped the garments well, weighted them down with stones, and then went to join the boys. She found them flat on their stomachs by the stream, gazing down into a pool of clear water.
"What do you see?" she called out to them.
"Trout," answered Jock, his eyes shining with excitement.
"Let me take a keek," said Jean, flopping down beside them and craning her neck over the edge.
They were all three peering with breathless interest into the water when a strange voice behind them made them jump. For an instant they thought it might be Angus Niel.
"Hello!" said the voice.
The children whirled around, and there before them stood a boy not much older than themselves, but taller and thinner. He had a pale face with large black eyes and dark hair partly covered with a Glengarry bonnet set rakishly over one ear. He wore a suit of gray tweed with plaid-topped stockings, and carried a fishing-rod over his shoulder.
"Hello!" said the stranger again.
"Hello, yourself!" responded Jock.
Jean and Sandy were so relieved to find it wasn't Angus Niel that for an instant they merely gazed at him without speaking.
"What's there?" asked the new boy.
"Fish," said Jock.
"Fish!" cried the new boy, shifting his rod into position. "Where? Let me have a crack at 'em!"
"Na, na, don't be so hasty," cried Jock, heading him off. "You'll get yourself into trouble! Angus Niel would be after you in no time, and if he caught you, he'd cuff your lug for you, and drag you before the bailie for poaching!"
"Who's Angus Niel?" demanded the boy. "I'm not afraid of him."
"Not yet," answered Jock, "but just go on and you will be! He's gamekeeper to the Laird, and he'd rather do for you than not. Aye, he'd just like the feel of you in his fingers, he would." Jock rubbed his ear. "It's but two days gone since he nearly pulled the lug off me because I was running after a rabbit that was eating up our garden. He's terrible suspicious, is Angus, and he's mad at us besides."
"What for?" asked the boy.
"I stepped on him by accident," explained Jock, "and butted him into the burn."
"No wonder he was mad," laughed the boy. "Come on, now. Surely a body can fish. There's no law against that!"
"Well," said Sandy, "law or no law, Angus is against it, and the Auld Laird is terrible particular. He's going to turn out all the farmers in this region and make it into a great game preserve. Nothing else. You're strange hereabouts, I doubt, or you'd ken all this yourself. Where are you from?"
"I'm from London," replied the boy. "I'm staying with Eppie McLean at the castle."
"Are you, now?" gasped Sandy. "Is Eppie your aunt, maybe? She'll be telling you about Angus herself."
"Eppie's not my aunt," said the boy. "She's a friend of my mother, and my mother got her to take me in because I've been sick, and she thought I'd get strong up here, and I'm not going to have my summer spoiled by Angus Niel or any other old bogie man. Stand back now while I cast."
He swung his rod over his head, and the fly fell with a flop in the middle of the pool. He waited a breathless instant while Jock, Sandy, and Jean watched the fly with him, and then, as nothing happened, he cast again. When several such attempts brought no result, he said, "You're sure they 're there?"
"They're lying at the bottom as soft as a baby in a cradle," said Jean. "I could catch them with a skimmer! Gin they don't bite, maybe I'll try it!"
Jock looked at Jean in amazement.
"You're a braw lassie, Jean Campbell," he said severely, "and you just telling about Angus Niel!"
"T'was yourself and Sandy here telling about Angus Niel," Jean answered. "I said nothing at all about him. I'm not afraid of him, either."
"Good for you!" said the new boy with admiration. "You can have a turn with my rod. Try it once before you get the skimmer!"
Jean sprang to her feet and took the rod, though she had never had one like it in her hand before. She made a mighty sweep with it as she had seen the new boy do, but somehow the fly flew off in an unexpected direction and caught in a tree, while the line wound itself in a hopeless snarl around the tip. Jock and Sandy, who had stood by, green with envy, clapped their hands over their mouths and danced with mirth.
"It looks easy," said poor Jean mournfully, "but maybe I'd best stick to the skimmer when I fish."
"Oh, it always does that the first time," said the new boy comfortingly, as he rescued the fly and straightened out the line.
"When a girl tries to do it," added Jock witheringly.
The new boy held out the rod.
"You try it," he said to Jock, and Jock, full of confidence, did not wait for a second invitation.
"Look here, Jean," he said. "This is the way you do it."
He swung the rod with a mighty flourish over his head, bud alas, the fly surprised him too. It caught in Sandy's trousers and surprised Sandy as well. Not only that, it scratched him.
"Ow!" howled Sandy, leaping about like a monkey on the end of the string. "Leave go of me!"
There was a snarl even worse than Jean's, too, and between that and Sandy's jumping about it was some time before the line was disentangled and the hook freed so that Sandy was able to take his turn. Jean, meanwhile, said nothing at all, for Jock looked so crestfallen that she hadn't the heart. When Sandy tried it things were still worse, for the fly flew about so wildly that Jock and Jean fled before it and hid behind some bushes.
"Whoever could catch fish with such gewgaws as them anyway?" said Sandy scornfully, when a second attempt brought no better result. "The fish aren't used to it."
Jock rolled up his sleeves, crept to the side of the burn, and looked over into the pool.
"Hold to me, Sandy," he said, and Sandy immediately sat down on his legs. Then Jock suddenly plunged his arms into the water and before the fish could whisk their tails he had caught one in his hand and thrown it on the grass.
Springing to his feet and upsetting Sandy, he jumped to a rock in the middle of the brook and caught two more. It was now the new boy's turn to be astonished. Apparently Jock had stirred up a whole school of trout, for Sandy, following Jock's lead, also leaped into the stream, and in a few moments six fine trout were flopping about the grass.
"Let's build a fire and cook them," urged the new boy, whose name they soon learned was Alan McRae. "And if old Angus Niel comes nosing around we'll offer him a bite! He can do nothing with four of us, anyway, unless he shoots us, and he'd hang for that. Come on!"
By this time they were all so thrilled with the sport and were having such fun that nobody thought any more about Angus anyway, so Jean ran for a pan, while Jock and Sandy cleaned the fish with Alan's knife, and Alan gathered dry twigs and bracken for the fire. Jean brought down some scones, which she split and spread with butter while the fish were frying. When they were done to a golden brown she put a hot fish on each piece of scone and handed them out to the boys, and when they had eaten every scrap they buried the fish-bones in case Angus should come that way.
After lunch Jean went to wring out the clothes and hang them on the bushes to dry, while Jock and Sandy examined Alan's wonderful book of flies and his reel, and even the creel in which he was to have put the fish, if he had caught any.
"Losh, man!" exclaimed Sandy, swaggering about with his hands in his pockets, "that's all very well. Aye, it's a good game, and you might go dandering along a stream all day playing with it, but if you really want fish, just go after 'em yourself! That's my way. Guddling for trout like you saw me and Jock do, that's the real sport!"
"I believe you," said Alan. "I'm going to try it myself. Come on. Let's go farther up stream and see if we can find another good fishing-hole. I told Eppie I'd bring her a fish to her tea, and I'd hate to go back with nothing at all," and the three boys disappeared in the woods.
Jean finished her work by the brook and went to the house to make more scones, for the picnic had exhausted the supply and they used no other bread. She bustled about the kitchen, mixing, spreading them on the girdle over the fire, keeping the coals bright, and turning them out nicely browned on the mixing-board. She was just finishing the sixth one, when there was a great thumping at the door, and she ran to see what was the matter. There on the doorstep stood the three boys, Alan dripping wet from head to heel, shivering with cold, and with mud and water running from him in streams. Jean threw up her hands.
"It's most michty," she cried, "if I can't ever bake scones in this kitchen without some man body coming in half drowned to mess up my clean floor! However did you go and drop yourself in the burn, Alan McRae? 'Deed and I wonder that your mother lets you go out alone, you're that careless with yourself. And you not long out of a sick bed, too."
"He was guddling for trout," shouted Jock and Sandy in one breath; "and the hole was deep. There was no one sitting on him, and syne over he went!"
Jean seized Alan by the shoulder and drew him into the kitchen, and set him to drip on the hearth while she gave her orders.
"Jock, do you fill the basin with warm water, and you, Sandy, put more peat on the fire. He must have a rinse with hot water and something hot to drink."
"What'll he do for clothes?" cried Jock.
"Dinna fash yourself about clothes," said Jean, rummaging furiously in the "kist." "I'm laying out Father's old kilts he had when he was a boy. He can put them on till his own things are dry. Here's a towel for you," she added, tossing one to Alan. "Rub yourself down well, and when you've dressed, just give a chap at the door, and I'll come in and get you a sup of tea."
Then she disappeared. You can imagine what the kitchen looked like when she came back again. Alan's wet clothes were spread out on her father's chair by the fire, and Alan, gorgeous in his plaid kiltie, was strutting back and forth giving an imitation of the bagpipes on his nose, with Jock and Sandy marching behind him singing "Do ye ken John Peel with his coat so gay" at the top of their lungs.
"Have you gone clean daft?" Jean shouted. "Sit down by the fire and get out of my way while I mop up after you!"
The boys each seized one of the kitchen stools without stopping the song and marched with it to the hearth, and when they came to "Peel's view halloo would awaken the dead," they gave a howl that nearly brought down the ham from the rafters as they banged them down on the hearth-stones. Jean clapped her hands over her ears and ran for the mop, and in no time at all the puddles had disappeared and the boys were drinking tea by the fire.
Of course, Alan had no shoes to put on because his were soaking wet, and as it was now late in the afternoon it began to be a question how he should get back to the castle. It was still cold for going barefoot, and he was not used to it besides, and his clothes certainly would not be fit to put on for a long time. They held a consultation. Alan thought he could go without shoes.
"You'll do nothing of the kind," said Jean firmly. "What sickness was it you had, anyway?"
"Measles," said Alan, looking ashamed of it.
"Measles!" shouted Sandy. "That's naught but a baby disease. My little sister had that. Sal, but I've had worse things the matter with me! I've had the fever, and once I cut my toe with the axe!"
"Hold your tongue, Sandy," said Jean, "and dinna boast! If Alan's had measles he can't go back to the castle barefoot; so you must just be stepping yourself, and stop by at the castle to tell Eppie McLean that Alan will bide here till his things are dry."
Sandy rose reluctantly and set down his empty mug.
"Well, then, if I must, I must," he said, and started off down the hill whistling.
V. EVENING IN THE WEE BIT HOOSIE
When he was out of sight, Jean brought in the washing and then it was time to get supper. Alan helped set the table and kept the fire bright under the pot, while Jock fed the hens and brought in the eggs; and when the Shepherd and Tam returned from the hills, you can imagine how surprised they were to find three children waiting for them instead of two. At supper the Shepherd had to be told all the adventures of the day and how it happened that Alan was wearing the kilts, and by the time it was over you would have thought they had known each other all their lives. While Jean cleared away the dishes, the Shepherd drew his chair to the fire and beckoned Alan to him.
"Come here, laddie," he said, "and give us a look at your plaidie. It's been lying there in the kist, and I've not seen a sight of it since I was a lad. It's the Campbell plaid, ye ken, and I mind once when I was a lad I was on my way home from the kirk and a hare crossed my path. It's ill luck for a hare to cross your path, and fine I proved it. I clean forgot it was the Sabbath and louped the dyke after him. My kiltie caught on a stone, and there I was hanging upside down. My father loosed me, but my kiltie was torn and I had to go to bed without my supper for breaking the Sabbath."
"Is the hole there yet?" asked Jean.
"Na, na;" said the Shepherd. "You didn't think your grandmother was such a thriftless wifie as that! She mended the hole so that you could never find where it had been."
He examined fold after fold carefully.
"There, now," he exclaimed at last, "if you want to see mending that would make you proud to wear it, look at that."
Jean and Jock stuck their heads over his shoulder, and Alan twisted himself nearly in two trying to see his own back.
"We have a plaid a good deal like this," said Alan, looking closely at the pattern. "My mother's name was McGregor, but she has relations named Campbell."
"Are you really a Scotch body, then?" cried Robin with new interest in Alan. "I thought you were an English boy."
"I live in London," Alan answered, "but my mother's people are all Scotch, and she loves Scotland. That's one reason why she sent me up here to be with Eppie McLean."
"Losh, mannie," cried the Shepherd, "if you have Campbell relatives and your mother's name was McGregor, it's likely you are a descendant from old Rob Roy himself, and if so, we're all kinsmen. Inversnaid, where Rob Roy's cave is, is but a few miles from here, and it was in this very country that he hid himself among rocks and caves, giving to the poor with his left hand what he took from the rich with his right. Well, well, laddie, the old clans are scattered now, but blood is thicker than water still, and you're welcome to the fireside of your kinsman!"
"Is he really a relation?" cried Jean and Jock eagerly.
"Well," said the Scotchman cautiously, "I'm not saying he is precisely, but I'm not saying he is not, either. The Campbells and the McGregors have lived in these parts for better than two hundred years, and it's not likely that Alan could lay claim to both names and be no relation at all. If there were still clans, as there used to be in the old days, we'd all belong to the same one, and that I do not doubt."
"I'm sure I'd like that," said Alan, and Jock was so delighted with his new relative that he stood on his head in the middle of the floor to express his feelings. When the excitement had died down a bit, Alan drew his stool up beside the Shepherd's knee and said: "Won't you please tell us about Rob Roy, Cousin Campbell? If he's an ancestor of mine, I ought to know more about him."
"Oh, do, Father," echoed the Twins, planting their stools beside the other knee. Even Tam was interested. He sat on the hearth in front of the Shepherd, looking up into his face as if he understood every word.
The Shepherd gazed thoughtfully into the fire for a moment; then he said: "I can tell you what my grandsire told me, and he got it from his grandsire, so it must be true. In the beginning Rob Roy was as staunch a man as any, and held his own property like other gentlemen. Craig Royston was the name of his place, and fine and proud he was of it, too. He was a gey shrewd man in the cattle-dealing, and his neighbor, the Duke of Montrose, thinking to benefit his own estate, lent Rob money to set him up in the trade. There was a pawky rascal named McDonald who was partner to Rob, and didn't he run away with the money, leaving Rob in debt to the Duke and nothing to pay him with? The Duke foreclosed on Rob at once, and took away Craig Royston and added it to his own estate. You can well believe that Rob was not the man to take such dealings with patience. If the Duke had not been so hasty, Rob would more than likely have got hold of McDonald and made him pay either out of his purse or out of his skin, but he did neither the one nor the other. Instead he left his home and took his clan with him into the mountains and became the terror of the whole country-side."
"Wasn't he a good man?" asked Jean, gazing at her father with round eyes.
"Well," said the Shepherd, "not just what you'd call pious, maybe, and it cannot be said that he was aye regular at the kirk. It's true he never forgot an enemy, but he never forgot a kindness either and was loyal and true to them that were true to him."
"What did he do when they weren't true to him?" asked Jock.
"He made them wish they had been," replied the Shepherd mildly.
"But what made the Duke of Montrose take away Craig Royston?" asked Jock. "Didn't he have a great big place of his own?"
"Aye," answered Robin, "but what difference does that make? The more land he had, the more land he wanted, the same as other lairds. Be that as it may, Craig Royston was certainly taken away from Rob, and a bitter man it made of him."
"Why, it's just like ourselves and the Auld Laird," cried Jean. "He's going to take away our home from us!"
"It's not just the same, little woman," said the Shepherd, laying his big brown hand on Jean's small one on his knee. "But the loss of it hurts just the same. Rob Roy loved Craig Royston no better than we love this wee bit hoosie."
"But why must you go, then?" asked Alan, his eyes shining with interest and sympathy.
"You see; lad," answered the Shepherd, "it's like the tale of the dog in the manger. The Auld Laird will neither use the land nor let us." He explained about the lease, and when he had finished, Alan said, "But what will you do when you leave this place?"
"I'm spiering the same question myself," answered the Shepherd. "As yet I dinna ken."
"I tell you what," shouted Jock, springing to his feet and knocking over his stool. "Why don't we live in the caves the way Rob Roy did? If the Crumpets and all the people who have to give up their homes should band together in a clan and hide themselves in the glen, the Auld Laird could send all the Mr. Craigies and Angus Niels in the world after us and they'd never get us!"
The Shepherd smiled and shook his head. "The time for that has gone by," he said sadly. "Na, na, we must just submit. But one thing I do know, and that is, we'll not seek a place with the Laird of Kinross. They say he will let his land to none but members of the Established Church, and I'll not give up my religion for any man not if I'm forever walking the world!"
"But come, now," he went on, seeing them downcast, "you all have faces on you as long as a summer Sabbath. Cheer up, and I'll tell you a tale my grandfather told me of the water cow of Loch Leven. You mind the song says, 'The Campbells are coming from bonnie Loch Leven.' Well, it was around that loch that the Campbells pastured their cattle. One day when my grandsire was a young lad he was playing with some other children on the pastures near the shore, when all of a sudden what should they see among their own cows but a fine young dun-colored heifer without any horns. She was lying by herself on the green grass, chewing her cud and looking so gentle and pretty that the children played around her without fear. They wound a wreath of daisies and put it on her neck, and then they got on her back. The cow stretched out longer and longer to make room for them until they were all on her back except my grandsire. Then all of a sudden the dun cow rose up, first on her hind legs, tipping the children all forward, and then on her forelegs tipping them all back ward, yet no one fell off at all, and when she was up on her feet, didn't she start straight away for the deep waters of the loch? The children screamed and tried to get off her back, but no matter how hard they tried, there they stuck. My grandsire ran screaming toward them, and put up his hand to pull them down, and his finger touched the dun cow's back! Now never believe me, if his finger didn't stick so he could not pull it away, and by that he knew the dun heifer for a water cow and that she had bewitched the children. He was being dragged along with them toward the water, when all of a sudden he slipped out his knife and with one blow chopped off his own finger and he was wanting that finger till the day of his death."
"What became of the others?" gasped Alan, his black eyes glowing like coals.
"They went on the dun cow's back into the lake, and the water closed over them and they were never seen again," said the Shepherd, "and that's the end of the tale."
While the Shepherd talked, the twilight had deepened into darkness, the fire had died down, and the corners of the room were filled with mysterious tricky shadows that danced with the flickering flames on the hearth. Jean looked fearfully over her shoulder. There was a creepy feeling in the back of her neck, and Jock's eyes were as round as door-knobs. The Shepherd laughed at them.
"Good children have little to fear from the fairy folk," he said. "Come, now, your eyes are fair sticking out of your heads. I'll give you a skirl on the bagpipes if Jeanie'll bring them from the closet. Jock, stir up the fire, and Alan, give your clothes a turn and see if they are drying."
The children ran to do these errands, and in a moment the fire was flaming gayly up the chimney, chasing the murky shadows out of the corners and making the room bright and cheerful again, while the Shepherd, tucking the bag under his arm, stirred the echoes on old Ben Vane with the wild strains of "Bonnie Doon" and "Over the Water to Charlie." At last he struck up the music of the Highland Fling, and the three children sprang to the middle of the floor and danced the wild Scotch dance together.
Just as the fun was at its height, and Alan, looking very handsome in his kilts, was doing the heel and toe with great energy, there came a loud rap at the door. Instantly everything stopped, just as short as Cinderella's ball did when the clock struck twelve, and the Shepherd, laying aside his bagpipes, opened the door. There stood a man with a bundle on his arm. "Eppie McLean sent these clothes to the lad," he said, handing the bundle to the Shepherd, "and he's to come back along with me." Alan took the bundle, thanked the man, and disappeared with Jock into "the room," where he changed his clothes, returning the kilts, with regret, to Jock. "I've had just a grand day," he said to Jean and the Shepherd as he shook hands and took leave of them in the kitchen afterward. "I'll be back to-morrow for my clothes."
"Come back and play then," said Jock.
When he was gone, Jean folded the kilts away in the closet again. "He's a fine braw laddie," said the Shepherd.
"Aye," said Jock. "He had two suits of clothes, one as good as the other, but he was not proud."
"I wonder what his father's work is," said Jean.
"He never spoke of his father at all, just his mother," said Jock, and at that moment the wag-at-the-wall clock struck nine.
"Havers!" said Jean. "Look at the hour, Jock Campbell! Get you to your bed."
VI. TWO DISCOVERIES
That night Jock dreamed of water cows, and clans dressed in kilts, and when Sandy appeared the next morning, his head was still buzzing with wild schemes of adventure.
"Come awa', Sandy," he said, "let's explore. We'll go up the burn and see if we can't find out where it begins."
"What'll we do for lunch?" asked Sandy, who was practical. "I brought a scone with me—but it'll never be enough for two."
"Ho!" said Jock. "If Rob Roy and all his men could live in caves all the time and take care of themselves, I guess we can do it for one day. We can fish, and maybe we might find some birds' eggs. I'm not afraid."
"What about Alan?" asked Jean.
"If he comes to play, tell him to follow us right up the burn and keep whistling the pewit's call three times over, and if we don't see him, we'll hear him," said Jock. "There's no danger of not finding us if he follows the water," and he and Sandy set forth at once.
Jean had finished her work and was wondering what to do with the long day which stretched before her, when Alan came running up the hill and burst into the kitchen.
"Look here what I've got, Jean," he said, thumping a parcel down on the kitchen table and tearing it open. "Eppie put this up for me."
Jean looked and there was a whole pound of bacon, three big scones, and a dozen eggs. "Save us!" cried Jean, clasping her hands in admiration. "What will you do with it all?"
"I'll show you!" said Alan. "Where's Jock?"
"He and Sandy have gone up the burn, exploring," said Jean. "They said you were to follow, and if you didn't find them, keep whistling the pewit's call three times till they answered you."
"What is the pewit's call?" asked Alan.
"Michty me!" said Jean. "Think of not knowing that!" She pursed up her lips and whistled "Pee-wit, pee-wit, pee-wit."
"You see, we don't have them in London;" Alan apologetically explained, "unless it's in the Zoo; but I say, Jean, aren't you coming, too? You're as good as a boy any day. Come along!"
"All right," said Jean. "I wanted to dreadfully. I'll get a basket for the lunch." She went to the closet and brought out a basket which her father had made out of split willow twigs, packed the lunch in it, and off they started.
They passed the place where the fish-bones were buried, and the spot where Alan had fallen into the water the day before, and then plunged into the deep pine forest which filled the glen and covered the mountain-sides. The pine-needles lay thick on the ground, and above them the pine boughs waved in the breeze, making a soft sighing sound, "like a giant breathing," Jean said. The silence deepened as they went farther and farther into the woods. There was only the purring of the water, the occasional snapping of a twig, or the lonely cry of a bird to break the stillness. It was dark, too, except where the sunshine, breaking through the thick branches overhead, made spots of golden light upon the pine-needles.
"It's almost solemn; isn't it?" said Jean to Alan in a hushed voice. "I was never so far in the woods before."
"I wonder which side of the burn the boys went. If we should take the wrong side, we might not find them," said Alan.
"Let's whistle," said Jean. She puckered her lips and gave the pewit call, but there was no answer.
"Perhaps they didn't hear it because the burn makes such a noise. It keeps growing louder and louder," said Alan.
Whistling and listening for an answer at every few steps, they climbed over rocks and fallen trees, keeping as close as possible to the stream, until suddenly they found themselves gazing up at a beautiful waterfall which came gushing from a pile of giant rocks reaching up among the topmost boughs of the pines.
"Oh, it's bonny! but how shall we get up?" cried Jean.
"We must just find a way," said Alan.
"It's a grand place for robbers and poachers," said Jean, looking fearsomely at the cliffs stretching far above them. "Angus Niel says the forests are full of them."
"I'd as soon meet a poacher as Angus Niel himself," said Alan, laughing, "but I'm not afraid as long as you're with me. It's Angus that's afraid of you, Jock says."
Jean laughed too. "I'm not afraid when I'm in my own kitchen, but it's different in the woods," she said.
Alan had been nosing around among the rocks as they talked, getting nearer and nearer to the fall, and now he suddenly disappeared, and for a few moments Jean was quite alone in the woods. Soon Alan reappeared from behind the fall itself and beckoned her to follow him.
Jean was looking at the wall of rock which loomed above them. "Sal!" she remarked, "we'll be needing wings to get up there, or we'll smash all the eggs for sure."
For answer Alan popped out of sight again behind the fall, and Jean, following closely in his wake, was just in time to catch sight of his legs as he dived into a hole opening into the rocky wall. The cliff from which the water plunged overhung the rocks below in such a way that she could pass behind the veil of water without getting wet at all.
Into this mysterious opening behind the fall Jean followed her leader, and found herself climbing a narrow dry channel through which the stream had once forced its way. It was a hard, rough scramble up a narrow passage worn by the water and through holes almost too small to squeeze through, but at last she saw Alan's heels just disappearing over the edge of a jutting rock and knew they were coming out into daylight again. An instant later Alan's head appeared in the opening, his hand reached down to help her up, and with one last effort she came out upon an open ledge and looked about her.
She could not help an exclamation of delight at what she saw. The rock was so high that they could look out over the treetops clear to the slope where the little gray house stood. The waterfall, plunging from a still higher level, made a barrier on one side of them, and on the other side the cliff rose, a sheer wall of rock. Between the wall of water and the wall of rock there was a cave extending into the solid rock for a distance of about twenty feet. There was absolutely no way of reaching this fastness except through the hidden stair, and one might wander for years through the forest and never see it at all.
"Oh," exclaimed Jean, "it's wonderful! How Jock will love this place! Don't you believe this very cave was used by Rob Roy and his men?" and Alan, swelling with pride to think he had found it all himself, said yes, he was sure of it.
"I tell you what we'll do," cried Alan, a minute later. "We'll just leave the basket here in the cave, and when we've found the boys we'll come back and have our lunch here."
They tucked the basket away out of sight on a rocky shelf in the cave, and found their way down the steep rough stairway to the bed of the stream again and, making a wide detour, came out above the fall. They struggled on for nearly a mile farther still without finding any trace of the boys, and were beginning to be discouraged, when they saw a break in the trees with glimpses of blue sky beyond, and a few moments later came out upon the shores of a tiny mountain lake, shining like a beautiful blue jewel in the dark setting of the pine trees on its banks.
Beyond the lake the purple peaks of higher mountains made a ragged outline against the sky. The sun was now almost directly overhead; the waters of the lake were still, and its lovely shores were mirrored on the placid surface. A great eagle soared in stately circles in the deep blue sky. It was so beautiful and so still that the children stood a moment among the rocks where the tarn emptied itself into the mountain stream to look at it.
"It's just the place for a water cow, or a horse maybe," Jean whispered to Alan.
"Sh!" was Alan's only reply. He seized Jean's hand and dragged hear down behind a rock and pointed toward the south. There, coming out of the woods, was a beautiful stag. It poised its noble head, and sniffed the air, as if it suspected there might be human beings about, and then stepped daintily to the lake-shore and bent to drink. Its lips had scarcely touched the water when the children were startled by the loud report of a gun.
"Poachers," gasped Jean, hiding her face and wishing they had never come. "Oh, where are Jock and Sandy?" Her only thought was to make herself as small as possible and keep out of sight behind the rocks, but Alan peered through the screen of bushes which hid the rock and made violent gestures to Jean to make her look, too. Jean crawled on her hands and knees to Alan's side, and when she looked, what she saw made her so angry that she would have sprung to her feet if Alan had not held her down with a fierce grip. The stag was lying by the lake-shore, and a man with the muzzle of his gun still smoking was running toward it from the woods. The man was Angus Niel!
Jean was so astonished that for an instant she could not believe her own eyes. The two children flattened themselves out on their stomachs and watched him pull a boat from its hiding-place among some bushes on the shore, paddle quietly to the spot where the dead stag lay, and load it swiftly into the boat. Then he raced back to the woods again and reappeared, carrying a string of dead rabbits. These also he crowded into the boat, and then, taking up the oars, rowed across the lake to a landing-place on the other side. The children watched him, scarcely breathing in their excitement, until he had unloaded his game from the boat and disappeared into the woods, dragging the body of the stag after him. In a few moments he came back for the rabbits and, having disposed of them in the same mysterious way, returned to the boat.
Then Jean exploded in a fierce whisper. "The old thief!" she said, shaking her fist after him. "He's the poacher himself! That's why he never brings any one before the bailie, though he's always telling about catching them at it! And he making such a fuss because Jock chased the rabbit that was eating up our garden! Oh, oh, oh!"
She clutched Alan and shook him in her boiling indignation. Alan laughed and shook her back. "I didn't do it, you little spitfire!" he whispered, and Jean moaned, "Oh, I know it, Alan, but I can't catch him and I'm so angry I've just got to do something to somebody."
"Do you know what that old thief does?" said Alan. "He sends that game down to the city—to Glasgow, or Edinburgh, or even London, maybe—and gets a lot of money for it! No wonder he tells big stories to make people afraid to go into the woods."
"I hope he won't meet the boys," moaned Jean. "Jock would be sure to let his tongue loose, and then maybe he'd shoot him too!"
"Listen," said Alan. He gave the pewit's call and waited. It was answered from a point so near that they were startled. They looked in every direction but saw nothing of the boys.
"Maybe it was a real pewit after all," whispered Jean, but just then a tiny pebble struck Alan's cap, and, looking around in the direction from which it came, he saw two freckled faces rise up from behind the rock on the opposite side of the spring.
"There they are," he said, punching Jean and pointing; "they came up the other side of the burn." Then, making a cup of his hands, he called across the stream, "Did you see him?" The boys nodded. "Slip back as fast as you can down that side of the burn," Alan said, "and we'll meet at the fall. Wait at the foot if you get there first. We've got something to show you. Whist, and be quick, for he'll be coming back before long, and this way like as not."
Jock and Sandy nodded and disappeared, and Alan and Jean, springing from their hiding-place, hurried as fast as they could down their side of the stream to the trysting-place.
VII. THE CLAN
When Jean and Alan reached the waterfall, they found Jock and Sandy there before them. "Come over to our side," Alan called. The two boys ran further down stream and crossed the brook on stones which stood out of the water, and in a moment more were back again at the foot of the fall.
"What have you got to show us?" demanded Jock. "I hope it's something to eat." Jock had bitterly regretted his morning decision to find his food in the forest. The scone which Sandy had brought from home had been divided and eaten long ago; and all four of the children were now so hungry that they could think of nothing else, not even of Angus Niel and their adventures by the lake.
Alan looked cautiously around in every direction. "Follow me, and keep quiet tongues in your heads," he said. Then he disappeared under the fall, and Jean instantly followed him. For a moment Jock and Sandy were as mystified as Jean had been when Alan first found the secret stairway, but it was not long before they, too, saw the hole in the rock, plunged in and, following the winding passage-way, came out upon the top of the rock.
"There," said Alan, beaming with pride, as he displayed his wonderful lair, "doesn't this beat Robinson Crusoe all to pieces? If he had found a place like this on his desert island, he wouldn't have had to build a stockade or anything."
"It's one of the very caves where Rob Roy hid! I'm sure of it," Jock declared with conviction, and Sandy was so overcome with admiration that he turned a back somersault and almost upset Jean, who was coming out of the cave with the basket on her arm.
"You see," said Alan, "we could stay here a week if we had food enough, and never come down at all. All we'd have to do for water would be to hold a pan under the edge of the fall. There's no way of getting up here except by the secret stair, and that's not easy to find. There never was such a place for fun."
Sandy had righted himself by this time and was gazing ecstatically at the basket, which Jean had begun to unpack. "Losh!" he cried. "Look, Jock! Bacon and eggs and scones! Oh, my word!" Jock gave one look and whooped for joy.
"Keep still," said Alan. "Angus may be coming back this way, and he has a gun with him. We're safe enough up here, if we keep quiet, but if you go howling around like that, he'll surely hunt for the noise."
For a moment they kept quiet and listened, but there was no sound except the noise of the falling waters. "Huh!" Sandy snorted, "he couldn't hear anything, anyway. The roar of the fall hides all the other noises."
"Oh, let's eat!" begged Jock, caressing his empty stomach and gazing longingly at the food.
"You can't eat now," said Jean; "the food must be cooked first, and what shall we do for a fire?"
"We could make one right here on the rock," said Alan, "if we had something to burn. I've got matches."
"We'll have to get twigs and dry pine-needles and broken branches," said Jock, "and bring them up the secret stair, though it'll be hard work getting them through the narrow places. We ought to have a rope. We could pull a basketful up over the edge of the rock as easy as nothing."
"We'll bring a rope next time," said Alan. "Hurry! I'm starving!"
The three boys disappeared down the secret stair, and while they were gone, Jean found loose stones, with which she made a support for the frying-pan around a space for the fire. The boys were soon back with plenty of small fuel, and in a short time a bright fire was blazing on the rock and there was a wonderful smell of frying bacon in the air. The boys sat cross-legged around the fire, while Jean turned the bacon and broke the eggs into the sputtering fat.
"You look just exactly like Tam watching the rabbit-hole," laughed Jean. "I wonder you don't paw the ground and bark!"
At last the scones were handed out, each one laden with a slice of bacon and a fried egg, and there was blissful silence for some moments.
"Oh, aren't you glad you didn't die of the measles and miss this?" Sandy said to Alan, rolling over on his back and waving his legs in the air as he finished his third egg. Alan's mouth was too full for a reply other than a cordial grunt.
"Why, Sandy Crumpet!" exclaimed Jean, reprovingly, "don't you believe heaven is nicer than Scotland?"
"Maybe it is," Sandy admitted, doubtfully, "but I like this better than sitting around playing on harps and trumpets the way the angels do."
"Sandy Crumpet played the trumpet," howled Jock in derision. "Indeed and indeed, Sandy, I like this better than having to hear you." Then, before Sandy could think of an answer a memory of the catechism crossed his mind, and he added as afterthought, "How do you ken you're one of the elect, anyway, Sandy Crumpet? If you're not, you'd not be playing on any trumpets, or harps either, but like as not frying in the hot place like that bacon there."
Sandy rushed to the defense of his character. "I'm just as elect as you are, Jock Campbell," he said.
This time Jock had no answer ready, and Jean reproved them both. "Shame on you!" she said. "You'll neither one of you get so much as a taste of heaven, I doubt, and you talking like that."
"Where will Angus Niel be going, then, when he dies?" asked Jock. "I don't just mind whether there's a chance for thieves, but the Bible says drunkards and such-like stand no chance at all."
"It's not for us to judge," said Jean primly, "but I have my opinion."
Alan had been busily eating during this conversation, and now he joined in. "I say," he began, "I'm not worrying about what will become of Angus Niel after he's dead. I want to know what's going to be done with him right now. We're the only ones that know about this. Are we just going to keep whist, or shall we tell on him?"
"Let's tell on him!" shouted Sandy.
"Who'll you be telling?" said Jean with some scorn.
"Why, the bailie, maybe, or the Auld Laird himself," said Sandy.
"Havers!" said Jean. "You're a braw lad to go hobnobbing with the bailie. He'll not believe you, anyway; he's a friend of Angus himself, and, as for the Auld Laird, how would you get hold of him at all, and he far away in London?"
Sandy subsided, crushed, and then Jock had a bright idea. "I tell you what we'll do," he cried, springing to his feet. "Let's have a clan, like Rob Roy, and we'll just badger the life out of Angus Niel. We'll never let him know who we are, but keep kim forever stepping and give him no rest. If he thinks somebody's following him up all the time, he'll not sleep easy o' nights!"
This suggestion was greeted with riotous applause. "He'd not sleep easy if he knew Jean was after him, I'll go bail," laughed Alan.
"Hooray!" shouted Sandy, waving his legs frantically. "What shall we call it?"
"Let's call it the Rob Roy Clan," said Alan.
"Hooray!" roared Sandy again.
"If we're a Clan, we'll have to have a chief," said Jean, "and if the Chief bids us do anything, we'll just have to do it. That's the way it was in the real Rob Roy Clan. Father said so."
"Jock thought of it first. Let him be Chief," said Alan.
"No!" cried Jean promptly. "Are you thinking I'll put my head in a bag like that, and he my own brother? 'Deed, I'd never get a lick of work out of him on Saturday if I did! Na, na, lads! Whoever's Chief, it won't be Jock."
"Maybe you'd like to be the Chief yourself," retorted Jock, "but it's enough to be bossed by you at home! Besides, whoever heard of a girl being Chief, anyway?"
"Alan can be Chief," said Jean, and so the matter was settled.
"If I'm Chief," said Alan, "you'll all have to swear an oath of fealty to me."
"What's an oath of fealty?" Jock demanded suspiciously, and Jean added in a shocked voice, "Alan, you'd never be asking us to take the name of the Lord in vain!"
"It's not that kind of an oath," laughed Alan. "You just have to vow to obey the Chief in everything." Then an idea popped into his head. "In a real Clan they are all kinsmen, but here's Sandy, and he's neither Campbell nor McGregor. We'll have to make a blood brother of him before he can join."
"What's a blood brother? How do you make 'em?" asked Sandy.
"I'll show you," said Alan. He drew his knife from his pocket and while the other three watched him in breathless admiration, he made a little cut in his wrist and immediately passed the knife to Jock. "You do the same," he commanded.
Jock obeyed his Chief and passed the knife to Jean, who promptly followed his example.
"Now, Sandy," said Alan.
Sandy hated the sight of blood, and he was a little pale under his freckles as he shut his eyes and jabbed himself gingerly with the point. Then Alan took a drop of blood from each wrist and mingled them with a drop from Sandy's.
"Now, Sandy," he said, as he stirred the compound into a gory paste, "you repeat after me, 'My foot is on my native heath, my name it is McGregor.'" Sandy obeyed with solemnity, and, this important ceremony over, Alan pronounced him a member of the Clan in good and regular standing.
Then, by the Chief's orders, Jean, Jock, and Sandy, each in turn placed their hands under Alan's hand, while they promised to obey him without question in all matters pertaining to the Clan.
"Only," said Jean, "you mustn't tell us to do anything wrong."
"I won't," promised Alan. And so the Rob Roy Clan came into being.
Alan took command at once. "We must have a sign," he said. "Just like Clan Alpine in 'The Lady of the Lake.' Go, my henchmen," he cried, striking a noble attitude, and waving his hand toward the forest, "bring hither sprays of the Evergreen Pine, and we'll stick 'em in our bonnets just like Roderick Dhu and his men. Roderick Vich Alpine Dhu, ho! iero!"
The two boys instantly disappeared down the hole in the rock on this errand, leaving Jean and Alan to guard the cave.
VIII. THE POACHERS
While all these things were happening, Angus Niel had returned from his errand across the little lake, and was making his way slowly toward home, following the course of the stream. As he came near the fall he stopped and sniffed. There was certainly a most appetizing smell of bacon in the air!
"It can't be!" he said aloud to himself. He sniffed again, and his face turned purple with rage. "Meat," he snorted, "as I live! The bold rascals! Poaching in broad daylight and cooking their game right under my nose!" It wasn't under his nose at all, of course, for the rock was far above him, and it wasn't game either.
"I'll soon cure them of that trick," he muttered, as he climbed silently over the rocks and gazed searchingly about. It was not long before he caught sight of a thin curl of blue smoke rising from the top of the rock.
"Aha!" he growled under his breath, "I've got you now, my bold gentlemen! I'll teach you to flaunt your thefts in the face of the Laird's own gamekeeper, once I get my hands on you!" At once he began nosing about the rocks in search of the path by which the poachers had climbed the cliff.
Meanwhile Sandy and Jock had found the sprays of the Evergreen Pine and were on their way back to the cave with them, when Jock suddenly seized Sandy by the arm and ducked down behind a boulder. There, not a hundred feet away, stood Angus Niel gazing up at the top of the rock! His back was toward them, and the noise of the waterfall had drowned out the sound of voices, or they surely would not have escaped his notice. As it was, they slipped behind the fall, whisked into the hole, and began climbing the secret stair like two frightened squirrels. An instant later they startled Alan and Jean, who were in the cave, by dashing in after them on all fours.
"What on earth is the matter?" cried Jean.
"Matter, indeed!" gasped Jock, out of breath. "Angus Niel is down there, and he's seen the smoke! He almost saw us, but we just gave him the slip and got by."
"Keep out of sight, all of you," commanded the Chief, "and leave him to me."
The obedient Clan flattened themselves against the back of the cave, while Alan crept to the edge of the rock on his stomach like a lizard, and, lying there, was able to peep through the thick screen of leaves and see what was going on below. The gamekeeper was still scrambling over the rocks and looking, as Alan said afterward, "for all the world like a dog who had lost the trail and was trying to find it again."
As the lookout was well screened, Alan soon allowed the rest of the Clan to join him, and Angus Niel little guessed, as he prowled about over the rocks, that every move was watched from above. Despairing of finding the path, he decided at last to get up a tree and make an observation. He selected a large pine which grew near the cave and began to climb.
So long as he stood on the ground, the children knew it was impossible for Angus to see them, but when he began to climb, they scuttled back into the cave as fast as they could go.
Climbing is hard work for a fat man, and the gamekeeper found himself covered with pitch before he had gone more than halfway up, but he puffed on in spite of difficulties and at last reached a point from which he could look directly across the surface of the rock, but from which the cave was entirely hidden behind a projection in the wall of the cliff.
Angus saw what he supposed to be the whole shelf of the rock, and he saw that there was no one there. He could see the fire and the frying-pan, the egg shells lying about, and even the portion of bacon that Jean had not cooked. They were all in full view, but apparently the poachers had gone away into the woods, leaving their airy camp deserted. There was no one there; of that he felt, certain.
"I'll just give'em a surprise," thought the gamekeeper to himself. "If they found a way up, I can, too. I'll help myself to a snack of that bacon, and if they come back and find me—well, I have my gun with me and I don't like being interrupted at my meals."
He backed down the tree like a fat cat, and made a desperate search for the path, and this time he actually succeeded in finding it. He chuckled to himself as he plunged into the passage and began to climb. He had gone about a third of the way up, when he reached the narrowest point of the channel and tried to force himself through, but the space was so small that no matter how much he tried, he could not get by. His gun was in his way too, but he could not leave it below, as that would be putting it into the hands of the poachers if they should return too soon.
In vain he twisted and squirmed, he could get no farther, and moreover he was afraid the gun might go off by accident in his struggles. When he found that he could not possibly go up, he decided to go down; but he found, to his horror, that he couldn't do that either. There he stuck, and an angrier man than Angus Niel it would have been hard to find. A projecting rock punched him in the stomach, and when he pressed back against the rock behind him, to free himself, he scraped the skin off his back. Casting prudence to the winds, he howled with pain and rage, and the sound, carried up through the narrow passage, echoed in the cave like the roar of a lion.
The children, meanwhile, had kept in hiding, and when they heard these blood-curdling sounds, they at first did not know what caused them, because, of course, they could not see what was happening below, but they knew very soon that they were not made by a wild animal because wild animals do not swear.
"It's Angus, stuck in the secret stairway," Alan said, smothering his laughter. "He's too fat to get through!" He crept to the edge and peeped down the hole. There, far below, he could see the top of Angus's head and the muzzle of his gun.
The Chief was a boy of great presence of mind. He backed hastily away from the hole and ran to the fall, snatching up the pan as he passed. This he filled with water and, rushing back, he instantly sent a small deluge down upon the head of the hapless Angus.
The gamekeeper was dumbfounded by this new attack. Had he not with his own eyes seen that the rocky shelf was empty? How, then, could this thing be? He rolled his eyes upward, but there was no one in sight. He had heard all his life tales of witches and water cows, of spells cast upon people by fairies, of their being borne away by them into mountain caverns and held as prisoners for years and years; and he made up his mind that such a fate had now befallen him.
Firmly convinced that he was the victim of enchantment, he became palsied with terror, arid began to plead with the unseen tormentors who he believed held him in thrall. "Only leave me loose, dear good little people," he howled, "and I'll never, never trouble you more!"
At this point Alan, shaking with mirth, sent down another panful of water, and Angus, redoubling his efforts, wrenched himself free, scraping off quantities of skin as he did so. They could hear him scuttling down the secret stair as fast as his legs would carry him, and when he emerged below, they watched him hurry away through the forest, casting fearful glances over his shoulder as he ran. Alan made a hollow of his two hands and sent after him a wild note, like the wailing of a banshee.
"Angus Niel, Angus Niel," rose the piercing note, "bring back my beautiful stag, my stag that lived by the tarn!"
As the sound reached his ears, Angus redoubled his speed, and they could hear him crashing through the underbrush as if the devil himself were really at his heels.
When the sounds died away in the distance, the Rob Roy Clan rolled on the floor of the cave with laughter.
"There!" said Alan, as he sat up and wiped his eyes. "That'll fix Angus Niel! We've scared him out of a year's growth, and he'll never dare meddle with this place again. Come on, now. It's time to go home, but to-morrow we'll come back and fix this place up in a way that would make Robinson Crusoe green with envy."
They carefully put water on the ashes of their fire, stuck the sprigs of Evergreen Pine in their bonnets, and sped down the secret stairway and home.
IX. A RAINY DAY
The next morning, as she was finishing the beds, Jean heard the pewit call and at once knew that the Clan was abroad. She ran to the door, and the three boys came in together,—Jock from the garden, where he had been pulling weeds in the potato-patch, and Sandy and Alan from the road. They were carrying a large basket, and Sandy was laden down with a coil of rope in addition.
"What have you got there?" demanded Jean.
"Stores for the Cave," said Alan, "and a rope to let down from the rock. Come on; let's go as soon as we can, for it looks like rain and we've got a lot to do to get the cave ready for wet weather."
"Where did you get 'em?" asked Jock, eyeing the basket with interest and wondering what was inside.
"Oh," said Alan, "I just asked Eppie. She lets me have anything I want. My mother told her to stuff me while I'm here, and if I take the food off to the woods with me she doesn't have to cook it at home, so she's suited, and I am, too."
Jean hastily gathered together a few cooking utensils, and a few minutes later the four set forth, carrying the provisions and wearing proudly in their bonnets the sprig of pine, the insignia of the Clan. The sky was downcast and the woods seemed dark and gloomy as they made their way toward the waterfall.
"What'll we do if it rains?" cried Sandy. "It's no such fine thing just sitting still in a cave."
"I've a plan in my head," said the Chief. "Wait and see."
As they reached the fall, Alan sent Sandy and Jock to gather wood, while Jean guarded the basket at the foot of the rock and he himself darted up the secret stairway with the rope. From the top he let down the rope and Jean fastened it through the handles of the basket. Alan then drew it up, emptied the contents, and sent back the basket for the wood which Sandy and Jock had by that time collected.
They all worked as swiftly as possible, for the woods were growing darker and darker every minute and they could now hear the roll of thunder above the noise of the waterfall. They had gathered and sent up six basketfuls, when the rain came splashing down in earnest, and the Clan scrambled up the secret stair and into the cave for shelter. Alan had piled the wood in the cave as fast as he had pulled it up, and there was now a fine pile of dry fuel.
"Sandy, you build the fire," commanded the Chief, seating himself on the wood-pile.
"The rain will put it out," said Sandy.
"Make it in the cave," said Alan.
"Then the smoke will put us out," cried Jean.
"Try it and see," said Alan. "We can't have lunch without a fire, for I've brought mealy puddings."
"Mealy puddings!" cried Sandy, licking his lips, and he went to work with a will. Fortunately the wind blew from the east, so they were not absolutely choked by the smoke, and soon the fire was burning briskly; making a spot of flaming color against the dark background of the cave. Jock ran to the fall and filled the pan with water, and soon the mealy puddings were bobbing merrily about in the boiling water, while the boys, snug and safe in the shelter of the cave, watched the boughs of the pine trees swaying in the wind and waited for Jean to tell them that dinner was ready. She could cook but one thing at a time over the fire, but it was not long before the feast was spread, and they fell to with appetites that caused the food to disappear like dew before the morning sun.
"Losh!" said Sandy, rolling over with his feet to the fire, when he could eat no more, "I thought you said you had a rainy day plan, Chief."