ANGUS NIEL AND THE CANNY CLAN
THE days that followed were days of stirring adventure to the Rob
Roy Clan, and days of continuous and surprising misery to Angus
Niel. Never in his history as gamekeeper of Glen Cairn had he
had such experiences. The very trees in the woods seemed to be
bewitched. Wherever he went he was followed by some mysterious
power that seemed to know his every movement. If he killed any
game, the fact was advertised and the place marked by signs in
blue chalk. Not only that, but the very path of his approach to
the spot was marked by pointing arrows and some such legend as
"This way to the glen where Angus Niel killed a deer" would
decorate a neighboring rock. On other rocks appeared pertinent
questions addressed to him. "How much did you get for the stag?"
was one of them, and there were also queries as to where he found
the best market for game. He was kept so busy searching the
forest for these incriminating signs and rubbing them out, that
he could not follow his regular rounds. Even this did not avail,
for if he erased them on one day, it was but a matter of time
before the letters appeared again as fresh and blue as ever. Nor
was this all. He was haunted by a wailing voice which reached him
even in the remote fastnesses of the forest. He was sure to hear
it if he ventured into the neighborhood of the waterfall, and he
usually avoided that region as if it harbored a pestilence.
Once late in the afternoon he shot two hares and hid them under
some rocks, intending to carry them across the lake in the
morning, but when he went for them, they had disappeared
altogether, and above the place where they had been was written
in blue chalk, "Sacred to the memory of two hares, killed and
hidden here by Angus Niel on June 12th."
When he saw this epitaph, Angus's hair really stood on end with
fright, and on the day he found that the boat was gone, leaving
no trace, he became absolutely terror-stricken. He sought for it
behind every rock and in every likely nook about the lake,
consuming days in the quest, and was appalled on his next trip
thither to find all the incidents of his search faithfully
recorded on the rocks, each one signed with the mystic initials
R. R. C.
It took ingenuity, persistence, and some degree of danger on the part
of the clan to accomplish these things, but one could depend upon
finding these qualities in any Campbell or McGregor, and Sandy, having
been made a blood brother, faithfully lived up to the duties it
entailed. He became an expert detective and sleuth-hound, discovering
and reporting Angus's movements each day to the enterprising Clan and
its resourceful Chief.
At Alan's suggestion, the Clan took for its motto "We must be
canny," and canny they certainly were. They even changed their
programme from day to day, and in this way just when Angus felt
he was about to discover his tormentors and know if they were
human and not witches, they found some new method of annoyance
and he was all at sea again.
Once they gave him a respite of nearly a week and Angus, having
erased many signs and finding no new ones, was beginning to think
his troubles were over, when suddenly arrows bearing bits of
paper inviting him to visit the fall would suddenly drop at his
feet. It had taken the Clan nearly all their spare time for the
week to make the bows and arrows, by which this wonder was
accomplished. Meanwhile they had lived like lords, feasting upon
trout and the generous store of provisions with which Alan
continued to supply the cave. They even began to see how it was
possible for Rob Roy and his men to live upon forest fare, for
the pool below the fall was a wonderful fishing-hole, and small
game was plentiful if they had cared to become poachers
On one red-letter day, they roasted the two hares which Angus had
killed, and cooked potatoes in the ashes. Each day was filled
with fresh adventures, and the wild outdoor life agreed with
Alan so well that his thin cheeks began to fill out and glow with
healthy color and it was not long before he looked as sturdy and
strong as Jock himself.
It was curious that what Alan gained in flesh and spirits, Angus
Niel at the same time seemed to lose. He was so worried by these
strange visitations that his round eyes took on a haunted
expression, and Sandy observed that he kept looking over his
shoulder as if he thought some one were following him, even when
he walked the village streets.
He dared not stay away from the forest lest others should
discover the dreadful blue signs before he did, and at the same
time he was afraid to go in. He swung like a pendulum between
these two difficulties and grew daily more nervous and unhappy.
By the end of June he had lost ten pounds of flesh as well as the
money he might have made out of poaching and selling the game. By
the middle of July he was so haggard that people began to remark
on his appearance. There seemed no way out of his troubles but to
lie about them, and soon wild stories were circulated through the
village about the haunted forest and its dangers.
Women were warned not to let the children stray into the woods lest
they be carried away by witches or water cows, and it was also
reported that a gang of poachers of a particularly blood-thirsty
character infested the region, carrying off game and property and
leaving no trace. Angus had been watching this band of desperadoes for
some time, he said, and knew there were at least twenty of them who
would stop at nothing.
With Angus's tale of the mysterious loss of his boat, the
excitement reached a climax, and there was talk of organizing an
armed band of men from the village to protect the woods and rid
the neighborhood of the bandits. The people were surprised that
Angus himself should oppose this plan, but as he was gamekeeper
and in authority, the matter was dropped. To Angus's horror,
however, these rumors and events were all faithfully recorded on
rocks not far from his own home soon after, and he realized that
to the very doors of his own house he was pursued by the same
mysterious and vigilant power. It was then that he lost his
appetite, and if the Clan could have followed him into his home
and seen him look under his bed before he got into it at night,
their joy would have been full.
The wild stories he told had the effect of keeping every one else
out of the forest and made the Clan more than ever free to stalk
their prey without fear of discovery. In this occupation several
exciting weeks passed by, and then there came an unhappy surprise
to the Clan, and it was not Angus Niel who sprang it upon them
One morning in late July, Alan came up the road toward the little
gray house, where he was now so much at home, looking very glum
indeed. Sandy was with him, wearing a face as solemn as a funeral
procession. Jock and Jean saw them coming and hailed them with a
shout, and Tam, who had not quite recovered from his injury, came
dashing down the brae on three legs to greet them. Even Tam's
joyful bark did not lift the shadow from their faces.
Jean cried out from the top of the brae, "Whatever can be the
matter with you? You're looking as miserable as two hens in a
"Trouble enough," answered Sandy, and Jean and Jock at once came
hurrying down the slope to hear the bad news. They met at the
river-side, and Sandy, who was bursting to tell it, cried out,
"What do you think? Alan's got to go home! His mother's sent for
him!" One look at Alan's melancholy face confirmed this dreadful
statement and the gloom instantly became general.
The Clan sat down on the ground in a depressed circle to discuss
the matter and its bearing on their plans.
"Don't you think your mother would let you stay if you should ask
her?" suggested Jock.
"No," said Alan, with sad conviction. "She said I was to come at
once, and I'll have to start this very afternoon. I'm to drive
down to the boat and get to Glasgow by water; I'll spend the
night there and go on to London in the morning."
"Sal, but you'll be seeing a lot of the world," said Jock. "I
wish I were going with you."
"I wish you all were," said Alan.
"We'll likely be having more traveling than we want," said Jean,
"when we have to give up the wee bit hoosie and go out and walk
the world." She looked up at the little gray house as she spoke,
and her eyes filled with tears.
"It's the end of the Clan; that's what it is," said Sandy with
"Oh, come now!" said Alan. "It's not so bad as all that, and I'm
surely coming back next summer. I know my mother'll let me, for
she'll see how much good it's done me to be here. Just look at
that," he added, baring his arm and knotting his biceps.
"Climbing around the cave and chasing after Angus Niel have made
me as tough as a knot. She won't know me when she sees me."
"I wonder if we shall know you the next time we see you, if we
ever do," said Jean.
"Ho!" said Alan, trying to smile gayly, "of course you will! I'll
have a sprig of the evergreen pine and give the pewit call, and
then you'll be sure."
"What good will your coming back next summer do us?" said Jock.
"We shan't be here to see you! Our leases run out in October, and
nobody knows where we'll go after that! We've got to move out, so
the Auld Laird can have more space to raise game for Angus Niel
to kill," he finished bitterly.
There seemed no way of brightening this sad prospect, and the
Clan sat for a few moments in mournful silence. Alan tried hard
to think of something comforting to say.
"I'll tell you what," he exclaimed at length. "We can still be a
Clan, whether we see each other or not. We'll remember we're all
blood brothers just the same."
"And that you are our Chief," added Jean, trying to look
"Can't we go back to the cave just once more?" said Sandy.
"I've got to be at the bridge at one o'clock," said Alan. "I've
said good-bye to Eppie, and she is packing my things, and putting
up a lunch, so I don't have to do anything but step into the
carriage when I get there. What time is it now?"
Jean flew up the slope to the house and called back from the
door, "It's ten o'clock."
"Come on, then, my merry men!" cried Alan, and the four started
off at a brisk trot, looking anything but merry as they went.
"We shan't want to come here any more," said Jock, when they
reached the cave. "So we may as well take everything away."
"Oh," said Alan, "something might happen to keep you in the
Glen Easig. You never can tell. You'd better take back the pots
and pans, but leave the wood, and then if we are here next
summer, it will be all ready for cooking a jolly old mess of
"Whatever shall we do with the boat?" asked Jean. This was a
conundrum, but the Chief, as usual, was equal to the occasion.
"There's only one thing we can do," he said. "It will just dry up
and fall to pieces up here; we'll let it down over the rock by
the ropes and leave it in the pool. Then when Angus finds it,
he'll be perfectly sure he was bewitched and be more afraid of
the falls than ever!"
They worked hurriedly, for the time was short, and in another
hour the boat was floating in the fishing-pool, securely tied to
a pine tree on the bank. They packed pots and pans in the basket
and lowered it over the rock by the rope, and when everything was
done, Alan took the blue chalk and drew a sprig of pine on the
wall of the cave with the initials R. R. C. beside it. The four
children then scrambled down the secret stairway, feeling as if
they had said good-bye forever to a dear friend. When they
reached the little gray house, they left the basket in the
kitchen, and the entire Clan walked with Alan back to the bridge,
where they found the carriage waiting.
Alan made short work of his good-byes. He shook hands all round
and sprang quickly into the carriage, and as it rattled away with
him down the road, he stood up, waving his bonnet with the spray
of evergreen pine in it and whistling the pewit call.
"Dagon't," said Sandy, when the carriage passed out of sight
around a bend in the road. "Dagon't, we'll never find another
like the Chief." If Jean and Jock had felt able to say anything,
they would have echoed the statement. As it was, Sandy drew his
kilmarnock bonnet over his eyes, thrust his hands into his
pockets, and started dejectedly toward his own house, leaving
Jean and Jock, equally miserable, to return alone to the wee bit
hoosie on the brae.
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