THE rest of the week seemed at least a month long to the lonely
twins. Sandy came to see them, to be sure, but with the passing
of the Chief, the flavor seemed gone from the play, and the Clan
made no further expeditions after Angus Niel.
"He can just kill all the game he wants to," said Jean. "It's
the worse for the Auld Laird, I doubt, but who cares for that, so
long as he leaves Tam alone and keeps away from here? It's
nothing to me."
Their father had been so taken up with his work and with turning
over in his mind plans for the future, when they should be
"walking the world," that he paid little attention to their
punishment of Angus Niel, about which he knew little and cared
less. He was absorbed in planning the best market for his sheep
and in getting as much from his garden as he could, hoping to
sell what he was unable to use himself, when the time came to
leave. His usually cheerful face had grown more and more troubled
as the summer wore on, and it was seldom now that his bagpipes
woke the mountain echoes, and whenever he did while away a rainy
evening with music, the melodies were as wild and mournful as his
own sad thoughts.
Angus Niel's barometer now rose again. Finding himself no longer
pursued by his unseen foes, his waning self-confidence returned, and
it was only a week or two after Alan's departure that wonderful
stories began to go about the village concerning his prowess in
ridding the woods of thieves and marauders single-handed.
"I've even found my boat," he announced one evening to a group of
men lounging about the village store, "and it was no human hands
that put it where I found it either! It was below the falls, if
you'll believe me, safe and sound and tight as ever. Any man that
is easily scared would better not be walking the woods in that
direction, I'm telling you, or likely he'd be whisked away by the
little people and shut up in some cave in the hills. I felt the
drawing myself once, but I knew how to manage. I was just gey
firm with them, and they knew I wasna fearful and let me go. It's
none so easy being a gamekeeper. It takes a bold man, and a canny
one, and well the poacher gang knew that. They're gone and good
riddance. It's taken me all summer to bring it about."
"Oh," murmured Jock to Jean, when this was repeated to them by
Sandy the following Sabbath, "wouldn't Alan like to hear that?"
It was on that very Sabbath, too, that they learned the Dominie
had recovered and that school was to reopen on the following day.
This was good news to the Twins, for like all Scotch children
they longed for an education, and the next morning, bright and
early, they were on the road to the village, carrying some scones
and hard-boiled eggs for their luncheon, in a little tin pail.
The days passed swiftly after that, for, with the house to care
for, lessons to get, and the walk of five miles to school and
back, there was little time for moping or even dreading the day
when they must leave their highland home.
It was late August when they came rushing home one afternoon,
bursting with a great piece of news, which they had learned in
the village. Never had they covered the five miles of the
homeward journey more quickly, but when they reached the little
gray house, their father had not yet returned from the pastures,
though it was after his time. The two children ran back of the
house to the cow byre, and there in the distance they saw him
coming across the barren moor. He was walking slowly, with his
head bent as though he were tired and discouraged, and Tam,
limping along beside him, looked discouraged too. The Twins gave
a wild whoop and raced across the moor to meet them. Jock got
there first, but was too out of breath to speak for an instant.
"Dear, dear! What can the matter be?" said their father, looking
from one excited face to the other.
"Oh, Father," gasped Jean, finding her tongue first, "you never
can guess, so I'll tell you. The Auld Laird's dead."
The Shepherd stood still in his tracks, too stunned for words.
"Aye!" cried Jock, wishing to share in the glory of such an
exciting revelation. "He's as dead as a salt herring."
"Oh, Father!" cried Jean, "aren't you glad? Now we won't have to
leave the wee bit hoosie and the Glen."
"I'm none so sure of that," said the Shepherd slowly, when he had
recovered from the first shock of surprise. "The new Laird may be
worse than the old. Be that as it may, I'm not one to rejoice at
the death of any man. Death is a solemn thing, my dawtie, but the
Lord's will be done, and I'm not pretending to mourn."
"We went to the village," cried Jean, "to get a bit of meat for the
pot, and there was a whole crowd of people around the post-office
door. 'T was the post-master gave us the news, and Mr. Craigie and
Angus Niel have put weeds on their hats and look as mournful as Tam
when he's scolded. We saw them out of the school-house window not two
"They have reason to mourn," said the Shepherd grimly, "not for
the Auld Laird's death only, but for their own lives as well.
Aye, that's a subject for grief." He shook his head dubiously,
and, seeming to feel it was an occasion for a moral lesson, he
added, "'Mark the perfect man and behold the upright, for the end
of that man is peace.'"
"What has that to do with the Auld Laird?" asked Jock, much
"Nothing at all, maybe," answered the Shepherd, "but it's a wise
word to remember against our own time."
"I wish Angus Niel would remember it," exclaimed Jean.
"And Mr. Craigie no less," added Jock.
"Well, well," said the Shepherd, "heard ye anything more in the
"Aye, that we did," said Jean, who loved to prolong the
excitement of news.
"Let me tell that," said Jock. "You told about the Auld Laird.
Well, then, Father, there's all kinds of tales about the new
Laird. It's said he's a wee bit of a laddie, not more than four
years old, and not the son of the Auld Laird at all, but a cousin
or something. It's said he's weak and sickly-like and not long
for this world."
"Sandy's mother was in the village and walked with us to the
bridge," interrupted Jean, "and she heard that the heir is a
young man living in Edinburgh, and not even known to the Auld
Laird, who had no near kin. She had it from the minister's wife,
so it must be true."
"Didn't Mr. Craigie say anything? He ought to know more about it
than any one. He's the Auld Laird's factor to carry out his will
while he was living. It's likely he'd know more than any other
about his will, now he's dead," said the Shepherd.
"Mrs. Crumpet says he goes about with his mouth shut up as tight
as an egg, as though he knew a great deal more than other folk,
being so intimate-like with the Laird," said Jean.
"Aye!" added Jock, "but she said she believed there was a muckle
he did not know at all, and he was keeping his mouth shut to make
folks think he knew but wasna telling."
Jean now took up the tale. "Mrs. Crumpet had all the news in
town," she said, "and she told us that Angus Niel said he hoped
the new Laird was fond of the hunting and would appreciate his
work in preserving the game and driving poachers from the forests
of Glen Cairn. He said he had done the work of ten men, and it
was well that people should know it and be able to tell the new
Laird, when he comes into his own!"
Even the Shepherd couldn't help smiling at that, and as for Jean
and Jock, they shouted with laughter. In spite of themselves, the
children and their father felt such relief from anxiety that they
walked back to the little gray house with lighter hearts than
they had felt for some time. Whoever the new Laird might be, it
would take time to settle the estate and find out the will of its
new owner, and meanwhile they could live on in their old home.
Beyond that, they could even hope that they might not have to go
That night Jean cooked the first of their early potatoes from the
garden for supper and a bit of ham to eat with them, by way of
celebrating their reprieve, and after supper the Shepherd got out
his bagpipes and played "The Blue Bells of Scotland" until the
rafters rang again. Jean stepped busily about the kitchen in tune
to the music, humming the words to herself.
"Oh where, tell me where is your Highland laddie gone?
He's gone with streaming banners where noble deeds are done,
And it's oh! in my heart, I wish him safe at home."
And she thought of Alan as she sang. Afterward, when Jock and
Jean were safely stowed away for the night, the Shepherd went
over and brought from the table in the room his well-worn copy of
Robert Burns's "Poems," and the last view Jean had of him before
she went to sleep, he was reading "The Cotter's Saturday Night"
aloud to himself by the light of a flickering candle.