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The Scotch Twins by  Lucy Fitch Perkins
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THE CLAN


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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.


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"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.


[Illustration]

"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!"


[Illustration]

The two boys instantly disappeared down the hole in the rock on this errand, leaving Jean and Alan to guard the cave.


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