Gordon Stables.

Courage, True Hearts: Sailing in Search of Fortune



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Duncan became fully alive to his danger now, however, especially when the tiny millet-seed snow began to fall.

"Our nearest way is through the wood," said the boy. Duncan was always pioneer in every danger and in every pleasure.

"And there is no time to lose," he added. "Florie, I wish you hadn't come. I suppose Conal and I will have to carry you."

"I won't be carried," replied the stout-hearted little Scots maiden. "I daresay you think I'm a child."

Fishing-tackle was by this time made up, and off they started.

It was terribly dark and gloomy under the great black-foliaged pine-trees, but Duncan knew every foot of the way.

They got through the forest, and out on to the wide moorland, just as the snow began to fall in earnest.

This moor was for the most part covered with heather, with broom and with whins, but dotted over with Scottish pine-trees. These last had been planted, or rather sown, by the rooks, for the black corbies turn many a heathery upland in Scotland into waving woods or forests. They bear the cones away to pick the seeds therefrom on the quiet moors. Some of these seeds are dropped, and in a short time trees spring up.

Duncan now took from his pocket a small compass, and studied it for a moment.

"We sha'n't be able to see the length of a fishing-rod before us soon," he said. "Now, I propose steering due south till we strike the old turf dike22
  Dike (Scottice), a low fence of stone or turf.


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that leads across the mountains. By following this downwards we will be guided straight to the pine-wood rookery behind our house."

They commenced to struggle on now in earnest-I might almost say for dear life's sake-for wilder and wilder blew the blizzard, increasing in force every minute, and thicker fell the snow. But I was wrong in saying it fell, for it was carried horizontally along on the wings of the wind. Not a flake would lie on the hills or bare slopes, but every dingle and dell and gully, and every rock-side facing westward, was filled and blocked.

Duncan held Flora firmly by the hand, for if she got out of sight in this choking drift, even for a few seconds, her fate would, in all probability, be that of sweet Lucy Gray-she might ne'er be seen alive again.

Frank and Conal were arm-in-arm, their heads well down as they struggled on and on.

"Let us keep well together, boys," cried Duncan, as he looked at his little compass once again. "Cheerily does it, as sailors say."

Now and then they stopped for breath when they came to a clump of pines.

Here the noise of the wind overhead was terrific. At its lightest it was precisely like the roar of a great waterfall.

But ever and anon it would come on in furious squalls, that had in them all the force of a hurricane, which swept the tree-tops straight out to one side and bent their giant stems as if they had been but fishing-rods. At every gust such as this the flakes were broken into ice-dust, with a suffocating snow fog that, had they not buried their faces in their plaids, would have choked the party one and all.

Many of these pines were carried away by the board, snapped near to the ground, and hurled earthwards with the force of the blast.

Long before they reached the fence of turf, called in Scotland, as I have said, a dike, Flora was completely exhausted, and had to submit to be carried on Duncan's sturdy back.

Frank was but little better off, but he would not give in.

At last they reached the dike.

"Heaven be praised!" cried Duncan. "And now we shall rest just a short time and then start on and down. Cheer up, lads, we will manage now."

Flora descended from her brother's back, and he sat down on the turf, and took her on his knee.

But where was Vike?

Surely he had not deserted them!

No, for a dog of this breed is faithful unto death.

But now a strange kind of somnolence began to take possession of the boys.

Duncan himself could not resist its power, far less his companions.

"Let us be going, lads," he cried more than once, but he did not move.

He seemed to be unable to lift a limb, and at last he heard the howling of the wind only like sunlit waves breaking on a far-off sandy beach.

He nodded-his chin fell on his breast-he was dreaming.

Ah! but it is from a sleep like this that men, overtaken in a snow-storm, never, never arise. They simply

 
"Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking,
Morn of toil, nor night of waking".
 

In a few minutes, however, Duncan starts. The sound of a dog's voice falls on his ear. Ah! there is no bark in all broad Scotland so sonorous and so sincere as that of honest Vike.

Wowff! Wowff! Wowff!!

There is joy in it, too, for he has found the boys-ah! more than that, he has brought relief, and here are the sturdy kilted keeper and two farm hands, ready to help them safely home. The keeper has a flask, and all must taste-even Florie, who is hardly yet awake.

How pleasant looked the fire in the fine old dining-hall when, after dressing, the boys came below.

And Glenvoie himself was laughing now, and as he shook Frank's hand, he could not help saying:

"Well, my lad, and how do you like a Highland snow-storm?"

"Ah!" said Frank, laughing in turn, "a little of it goes a long way. I don't want any more Highland snow-storm, thank you-not for Frank!"

The gale seemed to be increasing rather than abating, and it kept on all that night, and for two nights and two days more.

Then it fell calm.

"I trust in Heaven," said M'Vayne, "that Sandie, our shepherd, has reached the shelter of some hut, but I fear the worst. The sheep may be buried, but they will survive; but without food poor Sandie cannot have withstood the brunt of that awful blizzard.

"Boys," he continued, "I shall start at once on a search, and the keeper will come with me."

"And we too."

"Wowff! wowff!" barked Vike, as much as to say, "You'd be poorly off without my assistance."

It was a lovely forenoon now, with a clear sky, but not as much wind as would suffice to lift one feathery flake.

They meant to find the shepherd, but it was his hard-frozen corpse they expected to dig out of a snow-drift.

CHAPTER VI. – "THE BREATH OF GOD WAS OVER ALL THE LAND."

There were two huts on the moorland, one in the open, another close against a ridge of rocks, and in one or other poor Sandie would surely have found shelter.

So to the first they bent their footsteps. It stood with its back to the east, and on the west it was entirely covered with great banks of snow, some of them shaped like waves on the sea-shore, that are just on the eve of breaking.

It took the keeper and two men nearly an hour to break through the barrier and find the doorway.

They could see nothing when they opened it, for all were partially snow-blind.

But they groped around, and called the shepherd by name; then convinced that he was not there, dead or alive, they came sadly away, and joined the group outside.

There was still the other hut to be examined, and this was a good mile higher up the hill.

Thither, therefore, the party now wended their way, but so completely covered up did they find it, that another long hour of hard work was spent in reaching the doorway.

Like the last which they had explored, it was cold, dark, and deserted.

No one had any hope now of finding Sandie alive, but after a hurried luncheon they spread themselves out across the hill and moor somewhat after the fashion of skirmishers, and the ground was thoroughly searched.

But all in vain.

No frozen corpse was found.

They were about to return now sorrowfully homewards, when high up the hill and at the foot of a semi-lunar patch of rocks-an upheaval that had taken place probably millions of years ago-Vike was noticed, and his movements attracted the attention of all.

He was yap-yapping as if in great grief, tearing up the snow at the foot of a mighty drift and casting it behind him and over him.

A pure white dog was the Newfoundland at present, so laden was his coat with the powdery drift.

"Come on, men, come on," cried Glenvoie, "there yet is hope! The good dog scents something in spite or the snow. It may only be sheep, and yet poor dead frozen Sandie may be amongst them."

It took them but a few minutes to reach the cliff and the huge snowdrift that covered its western side. It was then that Duncan remembered something about these rocks.

"Why, father," he said, "now that I think of it, this is Prince Charlie's cave."

"You are right, lad, and my hopes are certainly in the ascendant."

"Conal and I have often been inside, and there is room enough inside to shelter a flock of sheep, or a regiment of soldiers."

"Now then, lads," cried the laird, "work away with a will. I'll take care you don't lose by it."

He handed them his flask as he spoke, and thus refreshed by the wine of their native land, they did work, and with a will too.

But hard work it was, from the fact that the snow was loose and powdery.

But at long, long last they reached the mouth of the cave.

And now a curious spectacle was witnessed, for to the number of at least a hundred, and headed by a huge curly-horned ram, with a chorus of baa-a-ing, out rushed the imprisoned sheep, kicking and leaping with joy to see once more the light of day.

Behind them came the shepherd's bawsont-faced collie Korran. But after licking Vike's ear he rushed back once more into the cave, and the rescuers quickly lighting a fire with some withered grass, found the body of the shepherd with Korran standing over it. Was he dead?

That had yet to be seen. They carried him out, and placing him on plaids, began to rub his face with snow and chafe his cold, hard hands.

In less than ten minutes Sandie opened his wondering eyes.

He could swallow now, and a restorative was administered.

I need scarcely say that this restorative was Highland whisky.

After about half an hour Sandie was able not only to eat and talk but to walk.

His story was a very brief one. He had, with the assistance of Korran, driven the sheep into the cave, and never dreaming that he would be snowed up, and remained with them for a time. Alas! it was a long time for the poor fellow and his faithful dog!

Two days and two nights without food and only snow to keep body and soul together. And the cold-oh, so intense!

"How did you feel?" asked Frank.

The shepherd hadn't "a much English", as he phrased it, but he answered as best he could.

"Och, and och! then, my laddie, she was glad the koorich (sheep) was safe, and she didna thinkit a much aboot hersel. But she prayed and she prayed, and then she joost fell asleep, and the Lord of Hosts tookit a care of her."

Well, this honest shepherd was certainly imbued with the sincere and beautiful faith of the early Covenanters, but, after all, who shall dare to say that there is no efficacy in real prayer. Not in the prayers that are said, but in the prayers that are prayed.

Well, spring returned at last. Soft blew the winds from off the western sea; all the hills were clad in green; the woods burst into bud and leaf; in their darkest thickets the wild doves' croodle was heard, droning a kind of bass to the mad, merry lilt of the chaffie, the daft song of the mavis, or low sweet fluting of the mellow-voiced blackbird.

But abroad on the moors the orange-scented thorny whins, resplendent, hugged the ground, and here the rose-linnets built and sang, while high above, fluttering against some fleecy cloudlet, laverocks (larks) innumerable could be heard and dimly seen.

Oh it was a beautiful time, and the breath of God seemed over all the land.

Frank Trelawney had adopted, not only all the methods of life of his Scots 42nd cousins, but even their diet.

Almost from the date of his arrival he had taken a shower-bath or sponge-bath before breakfast, and this breakfast was for the most part good oatmeal porridge, with the sweetest of butter and freshest of milk.

Now that spring had really come, he went every morning with Duncan and Conal to a big brown pool in the woodland stream. So deep was it that they could take headers without the slightest danger of knocking a hole in the gravel bottom of the "pot". Having towelled down and dressed rapidly, they ran all the way home.

This new and healthful plan of living soon told for good on the constitution of the London lad. His muscles grew harder and stronger, roses came on his cheeks, and he was as happy and gay as Viking himself, and that is saying a deal.

Many a long ramble did he and little Flora now take together through the woods and wilds, for he did not care to go boating or sea-fishing with the others every day.

Vike always accompanied the two. This certainly was not because he disliked the sea. On the contrary, he loved it. Whenever the boat came within a quarter of a mile of the beach he always sprang overboard and swam the rest of the way.

Arrived on shore he shook gallons of water out of his coat. If you had been standing between the dog and the sun, you would have seen him enveloped in bright little rainbows, which were very pretty; but if anywhere alongside of him, then you would have required to go straight home and change your clothing, for Viking would have drenched you to the skin if not quite through it.

But I suppose that this grand and wise Newfoundland thought the London boy and little Flo had more need of his protection.

Ah! many and many a day and night after this, when far away at sea or wandering in wild lands, did Frank think of these delightful rambles with his little companion. Think of them, ay, and dream of them too.

Often they were protracted till-

 
… "The moonbeams were bright
O'er river and forest, o'er mountain and lea".
 

Some poet of olden times-I forget his name-tells us that "pity is akin to love". Well, Flora began by pitying this "poor little London boy", as she always called him, even to his face, but quite sympathizingly, and she ended, ere yet the summer was in its prime, by liking him very much indeed. To say that she loved him would, of course, be a phrase misapplied, for Flora was only a child.

With June, and all its floral and sylvan joys, came shoals of herring from the far north, and busy indeed were the boatmen catching them.

Glenvoie lay some distance back from a great sweep of a bay, at each end of which was a bold and rocky headland.

Few of the herring boats really belonged to this bay, but they all used often to run in here, and after arranging their nets, they set sail for their mighty draughts of fishes.

Duncan and Conal were always welcome, because they assisted right willingly and merrily at the work.

The boats were very large, and all open in the centre-the well, this space was called-and with a cuddy, or small living and cooking room, both fore and aft.

It used to be rough work, this herring fishing, and not over cleanly, but the boys always put on the oldest clothes they had, with waterproof leggings, oil-skin hats, and sou'westers.

They would be out sometimes for two days and nights.

The beauty of the scenery, looking towards the land at the sunset hour, it would be impossible for pen or pencil to do justice to. The smooth sea, with its patches of crimson, opal, or orange, the white sands of the bay, the dark, frowning headlands, the dark greenery of the shaggy woods and forests, and the rugged hills towering high against the eastern horizon; the whole made a picture that a Turner only could have conveyed to canvas.

The dolphin is-from a poet's point of view-a very interesting animal, with an air of romance about him. Dolphins are said to be of a very joyous temperament. Well, perhaps; but they are, nevertheless, about the worst enemies those hardy, northern, herring-fishery men have to encounter.

They come in shoals after the herrings, and go "slick" through the nets, carrying great pieces away on their ungainly bodies. And the boatmen can do nothing to protect their silvery harvest.

Once, while our young heroes were on board one of the largest and best of the boats, it came on to blow off the land-not simply a gale of wind, but something near akin to a hurricane. They were driven out to sea about sundown, and Duncan and Conal could never forget the sufferings of that fearful night.

After trying in vain to beat to windward, they put up the helm-narrowly escaping broaching-to-and ran before it.

But all through the darkness, and until the gray and uncertain light of day broke slowly over the storm-tossed ocean, the seas were continually breaking over the sturdy boat, and everyone was drenched to the skin. It might have been said, with truth, that she was swamped, so full of water was the well.

The great waves were now visible enough, each with its yellow sides and its foaming mane. It seemed, indeed, that the ocean was stirred up to its very bottom, and when down in the trough of the seas, with those "combers" threatening far above, with truth might it have been said that the waves were mountains high.

All the nets were lost, but no lives.

About noon the wind veered round to the west, and all sail was set, and the boat steered for land; but so far into the Atlantic had they been driven that it was sunrise next morning before they succeeded in reaching the bay.

And there sad news awaited them.

There would be mourning widows and weeping children, for two bonnie boats had perished with all their brave crews.

Well, there is danger in every calling, but far more, I think, in that of the northern fisherman than in any other.

But how doubly dear to him is life on shore, when he reaches his little white-washed cottage, after a successful run, and meets his smiling wife and happy children, who run to greet their daddy home from sea.

Summer was already on the wane, and July nights were getting longer. Frank must soon seek once more his London home.

But he was healthier, stronger, happier now, by far and away, than when he first arrived at Glenvoie.

Ah! but the parting with everyone, but especially with bonnie young Flora, would be sad and sad indeed.

One morning, about a week before Frank was to leave for the south, Duncan came into his room.

"You and I and Conal are going up the hill to-day," he said, "all by ourselves, and I have something to propose which I feel sure you will be glad to approve of."

"All right!" said Frank.

So after breakfast the three boys slipped away to the hills, without telling anyone what they were after.

A council was to be held.

CHAPTER VII. – THE PARTING COMES AT LAST

If Duncan M'Vayne were a mere imaginary hero, I should not take credit for any virtue that in him lay, but I don't mind telling you, reader, that very few of the heroes of my stories are altogether creations of my fairly fertile brain. Like most sailor-men who have seen a vast deal of the world, I have so much truth to tell that it would be downright foolish to fall back upon fiction for some time yet.

And so I am not ashamed to say that Duncan was one of those rara aves-boys who think. I do not care to study the characters of boys who are not just a little bit out of the common run. Ordinary boys are as common as sand-martins in an old gravel-pit, and they are not worth writing about.

Well brought up as he had been, so far away in the lonesome wilds of the Scottish Highlands, and having few companions save his brother and parents, it is but little wonder that he dearly loved his father and mother. To tell the whole truth, the affection felt by Scottish boys towards their parents is very real and sincere indeed. It is a love that most assuredly passes the knowledge of southerners, and in saying so I am most sincere.

Well, neither he, Duncan, nor Conal either could help knowing that of late years circumstances connected with the estate of Glenvoie had become rather straitened, and although obliged to keep up a good show, as I may term it, his father was far indeed from being wealthy at the present time. The estate was not a large one certainly, but it would have been big enough to live well upon, had the shootings let as well as they did long ago.

Is it any wonder that talking together about their future, as they frequently did before going to sleep, Duncan and Conal used often to ask each other the question, "How best can we be of some use to Daddy?" And it was indeed a difficult one to answer.

Both lads had already all the "schooling" they needed to enable them to make a sturdy fight with or against the world, but the idea of going as clerks or shopmen to a city like Glasgow or even Edinburgh was utterly repulsive to their feelings.

They were sons of a proud Highland chief, although a poor one. Alas! how often poverty and pride are to be seen, arm in arm, in bonnie Scotland. But anyhow, they were M'Vaynes. Besides, the wild country in which they had spent most of their lives until now, had imbued them with romance.

Is that to be wondered at? Did not romance dwell everywhere around them? Did they not breathe it in the very air that blew from off the mountains, and over the heathery moorlands? Did it not live in the dark waving pine forests, and in the very cliffs that overhung the leaden lakes, cliffs whereon the eagle had his eyry? Was it not heard in the roar of the cataract, and seen in the foaming rapids of streams that chafed its every boulder obstructing their passage to yonder ocean wild and wide? Yes, and Duncan was proud of that romance, and proud too, with a pride that is unknown in England of the grand story of his never-conquered country.



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