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Viking Boys By Jessie Margaret Edmondston Saxby Characters: 9032

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Weren't they pirates?" Gibbie asked.

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

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

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

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

After that Yaspard entered into some details of his scheme, and explained portions in which he specially required their co-operation. They were soon as enamoured of the project as he, and eager to begin a career which promised such scope for wild adventure. Some time slipped past while the confa

bulation lasted, and the dusk of a Shetland summer evening-the poetic "dim"-had fallen upon Boden before the lads separated.

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

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

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

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

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

"It was a letter."

"A letter! Was that all?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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