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   Chapter 3 WIDE TOLD OF IS THIS.

Viking Boys By Jessie Margaret Edmondston Saxby Characters: 9132

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"They never would speak to each other, even if they met at the church door, or at a neighbour's funeral. It was very sinful; and they would not let their children become acquainted. My father made me drop acquaintance with my school friend when she married Mr. Garson, for no reason but because she married the son of his enemy. It has been the same since your uncle came to be Laird. If your father had lived it would have been different, for he bore ill-feeling to no one; but he was so much away

with his ship, he never got a chance to put things right; which I know he could have done, for the Laird of Lunda-who died two years ago-was one of the best of men. A land-grabber! My friend's husband. He was as good a man as Shetland ere saw. He tried again and again to be friends with Brüs, but it was no use, and it will be of no use his boy trying. I know."

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

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

"What did he say?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"No, I won't forget."

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

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

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

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

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

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