THE RABBIT AND THE GAMEKEEPER
OUT in the garden a rabbit had for some time been enjoying
himself nightly in the potato-patch, biting off the young sprouts
which were just sticking their heads through the ground. When the
rabbit heard Tam bark she dashed out of sight behind a burdock
leaf and sat perfectly still. Now if Tam and Jock had come into
the garden by the wicket gate, as they should have done, this
story might never have been written at all, because in that case
the rabbit would perhaps have got safely back to her burrow in
the woods without being seen, and there wouldn't have been any
story to tell.
But Tam and Jock didn't come in by the gate. They jumped over the
wall. Jock jumped first and landed almost on top of the rabbit,
but when Tam, a second later, landed in the same place, she was
running for dear life toward the hole in the stone wall where she
had got in. Shouting and barking, Jock and Tam tore after her.
Round and round the garden they flew, but just as they thought
they had her cornered, the rabbit slipped through the hole in the
wall and ran like the wind for the woods. Jock and Tam both
cleared the wall at a bound and chased after her, making enough
noise to be heard a mile away.
It happened that there was some one much less than a mile away to
hear it. And it happened, too, that he was the one person in all
the world that Jock would most wish not to hear it, for he was
gamekeeper to the Laird of Glen Cairn, and the Laird of Glen
Cairn owned all the land for miles and miles about in every
direction. He owned the little gray house and the moor, the
mountain, and the forest, and even the little brook that sang by
the door. To be sure, the Laird seemed to care very little for
his Highland home. He visited it but once in a great while, and
then only for a few days' hunting. The rest of the year his great
stone castle was occupied only by Eppie McLean, the housekeeper,
and two or three other servants. The Laird did not know his
tenants, and they did not know him. The rents were collected for
him by Mr. Craigie, his factor, who lived in the village, and
Angus Niel was appointed to see that no one hunted game on the
Angus was a man of great zeal in the performance of his duty, to
judge by his own account of it. He was always telling of heroic
encounters with poachers in the forests, and though he never
seemed to succeed in catching them and bringing them before the
magistrate, his tales were a warning to evil-doers and few people
dared venture into the region which he guarded. He was often seen
creeping along the outskirts of the woods, his gun on his
shoulder, his round eyes rolling suspiciously in every direction,
or even loitering around the cow byres as if he thought game
might be secreted there.
At the very moment when Jock and Tam came flying over the fence
and down the hill like a cyclone after the rabbit, Angus was
kneeling beside the brook to get a drink. His lips were pursed up
and he was bending over almost to the surface of the water, when
something dashed past him, and an instant later something else
struck him like a thunderbolt from behind, and drove him
headforemost into the brook! It wasn't Tam that did it. It was
Jock! Of course, it was an accident, but Angus thought he had
done it on purpose, and he was probably the most surprised as
well as the angriest man in Scotland at that moment. He lifted
his head out of the brook and glared at Jock as fiercely as he
could with little rills of water pouring from his hair and nose,
and trickling in streams down his neck.
"I'll make you smart for this, you young blatherskite," he roared
at Jock, who stood before him frozen with horror. "I'll teach you
where you belong! You were running after that rabbit, and your
dog is yelping down a hole after her this minute!" He was such a
funny sight as he knelt there, dripping and scolding, that,
scared as he was, Jock could not help laughing. More than ever
enraged, Angus made a sudden lunge forward and seized Jock by the
"You come along o' me," he said. His invitation was so urgent
that Jock felt obliged to accept it, and together the two started
up the slope to the little gray house. Tam, meanwhile, had given
up the chase and joined them, his tail at half-mast.
When they reached the house Angus bumped the door open without
knocking, and stamped into the kitchen. Jean was bending over the
fire turning a scone on the girdle, when the noise at the door
made her jump and look around. She was so amazed at the sight
which met her eye that for an instant she stood stock-still, and
Angus, seeing that he had only two children to deal with, gave
Jock's ear a vicious tweak and began to bluster at Jean.
But, you see, he didn't know Jean. When she saw that great fat
man abusing her brother and tracking mud all over her kitchen
floor at the same time, instead of being frightened, as she
should have been, Jean shook her cooking-fork at Angus Niel and
stamped her foot smartly on the floor.
"You let go of my brother's ear this instant," she shouted, "and
take your muddy boots out of my kitchen!"
Angus let go of Jock's ear for sheer surprise, and Jock at once
sprang to his sister's side, while Tam, seeing that trouble was
brewing, gave a low growl and bared his teeth. Angus gave a look
at Tam and decided to explain.
"This young blatherskite here," he began, in a voice that caused
the rafters to shake, "has been trespassing. He was after a
rabbit. I caught him in the very act. I'll have the law on him!
He rammed me into the burn!"
"I didn't mean to," shouted Jock, "I thought you were a stone,
and I just meant to step on you and jump across the burn."
"You meant to step on me, did you?" roared Angus. "Me! Do you
know who I am?" Jock knew very well, but he didn't have time to
say so before Angus, choking with rage, made a furious lunge for
his ear and left two more great spots of mud on the kitchen
floor. It was not to be borne. Jean pointed to his feet.
"You're trespassing yourself," she screamed. "You've no right in
this house, And you take yourself out of it this minute! Just
look at the mud you've tracked on my floor!"
Angus did look. He looked not only at the floor but at Tam, for
Tam was now slowly approaching him, growling as he came.
Angus thought best to do exactly as Jean said and as quickly as
possible. He reached the door in two jumps with Tam leaping after
him and nipping his heels at each jump, and in another instant
found himself on the doorstep with the door shut behind him.
Angus considered himself a very important man. He wasn't used to
being treated in this way, and it's no wonder he was angry. He
swelled up like a pouter pigeon; and shook his fist at the door.
"You just mind who I am," he shouted. "If ever I catch you
poaching again, I'll have you up before the bailie as sure as
eggs is eggs!"
But the door didn't say a word, and it seemed beneath his dignity
to scold a door that wouldn't even answer back, so he stamped
away growling. The children watched him until he disappeared in
the woods, and when at last they turned from the window, the
scone on the girdle was burned to a cinder and had to be given to
You might have thought that by this time Jean had done enough
work even for Saturday, but there was still the broth to make for
supper and for the Sabbath, and the kitchen floor to be scrubbed,
and, last of all, the family baths! When the little kitchen was
as clean as clean could be, Jean got the wash-tub and set it on
the hearth. Jock knew the signs and decided he'd go out behind
the byre and look for eggs, but Jean had her eye on him.
"Jock Campbell," said she, "you go at once and get the water."
In vain Jock assured her he was cleaner than anything and didn't
need a bath. Jean was firm. She made him fill the kettles, and
when the water was hot, she shut him up in the kitchen with soap
and a towel while she took all the shoes to the front steps to
polish for Kirk on the morrow. When at last Jock appeared before
her he was so shiny clean that Jean said it dazzled her eyes to
look at him, so she sent him for the cow while she took her turn
at the tub.
By four o'clock, Tam, who had spent an anxious afternoon by the
hole in the garden wall watching for the rabbit, suddenly
remembered his duties and started away over the moors to meet the
Shepherd and round up any sheep that might have strayed from the
flock, and at five Jock, returning from the byre, met his father
coming home with Tam at his heels.
The regular evening tasks were finished just as the sun sank out
of sight behind the western hills, and the birds were singing
their evening songs, and when they went into the kitchen a bright
fire was blazing on the hearth, the broth was simmering in the
kettle, and Jean had three bowls of it ready for them on the
While they ate their supper Jock told their father all about the
rabbit and Angus Niel and his ducking in the burn, and when Jock
told about Jean's ordering him out of the kitchen, and of his
jumping to the door with Tam nipping at his heels, the Shepherd
slapped his knee and laughed till he cried. Tam, sitting on the
hearth with his tongue lolling out, looked as if he were
"Havers!" cried the Shepherd, "I wish I'd been here to see that
sight! Angus is that swollen up with pride of position, he's like
to burst himself. He needed a bit of a fall to ease him of it,
but I'd never have picked out Jean Campbell to trip him up!
You're a spirited tid, my dawtie, and I'm proud of you."
"But, Father," said Jock, "whatever shall we do about the
rabbits? The woods are full of them, and there'll not be a sprig
of green left in the garden. They can hop right over the wall,
even if we do stop up the hole."
"Aye," answered his father solemnly, "and that's a serious
question, my lad. They get worse every year, and syne we'll have
no tatties for the winter, let alone other vegetables. A deer
came into Andrew Crumpet's garden one night last week and left
not a green sprout in it by the morning. The creatures must live
that idle gentlemen may shoot them for pleasure, even though they
eat our food and leave us to go hungry." His brow darkened and a
long-smouldering wrath burst forth into words. "There's no
justice in it," he declared, thumping the table with his fist
till the spoons danced, "Lairds or no Lairds, Anguses or no
The Twins had never before heard their father speak like that,
and they were a little frightened. They were too young to know
the long years of injustice in such matters that stretched far
back into the history of Scotland.
For a few minutes after this outburst the Shepherd remained
silent, gazing into the fire; then he roused himself from his
brown study and said: "I've been keeping something from you, my
bairns. Mr. Craigie told me last week that the Auld Laird has
taken a whim to turn all this region into a game preserve, and
that he will not renew our lease when the time is up. It has till
autumn to run, and then, God help us, we'll have to be turned out
of this house where I've lived all my life and my forebears
before me, and seek some other place to live and some other work
"But what can you do else?" gasped Jock. He felt that his world
was tumbling about his ears.
"The Lord knows," answered the Shepherd. "Emigrate to America
likely. I've always been with the sheep and nothing else. It may
be I can hire out to some other body, but chances are few
hereabouts, and if the Auld Laird carries out this notion,
there'll be many another beside ourselves who'll need to be
walking the world. It seems unlikely he would be for taking away
the town too, even if it is but a wee bit of a village, and the
law gives him the right, for times have changed since that lease
was made, long years ago, and there are few in this day who would
venture to enforce it. But the Auld Laird's a hard man, I'm told,
and he chooses hard men to carry out his will. Mr. Craigie has
little heart, and as for Angus Niel, he'd make things worse
rather than better if he had his way." Then, seeing tears
gathering in Jean's eyes, he said to comfort her, "There now,
dinna greet, my lassie! There's no sense in crossing a bridge
till you come to it, and this bridge is still four months and a
bittock away. We've the summer before us, and the Lord's arm is
not shortened that it cannot save. We'll make the best of it and
have one more happy summer, let the worst come at the end of it."
"But, Father," urged Jock, "will he turn every one out, do you
"Who can foretell the whimsies of a selfish man?" answered the
Shepherd. "He has only his own will to consider, but my opinion
is he'll turn out those whose holdings lie nearest the forests
and would be best for game, whatever he may do with the rest."
This was overwhelming news, and the children sat silent beside
their silent father, trying to think of something to comfort
their sad hearts. At last Jean lifted her head with a spirited
toss and said, "Gin we were to go to-morrow, the dishes would
still have to be washed," and she began to clear the table.
Her father laughed, and oh, how his laugh brightened the little
kitchen and seemed to bid defiance to the fates!
"That's right, little woman," he said. "You've the true spirit of
a Campbell in you. We must aye do the duty at hand and trust the
Lord for the rest."
Jock was so impressed with the solemn talk of the evening that he
wiped the dishes without being asked and went to bed of his own
accord when the wag-at-the-wall clock struck eight. The Shepherd
sat alone beside the fire until the children were in bed and
asleep; then he sent Tam to the straw stack, wound the clock, and
took his own turn at the tub. Last of all he covered the coals
with ashes for the night and crept into bed beside Jock.
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