Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England
Three Boys; or The Chiefs of the Clan Mackhai, by George Manville Fenn.
This time the Manville Fenn formula of peril after peril does not leadus abroad but to an almost ruined castle on the north-west coast ofScotland.
Max is the son of a London lawyer, from whom the Clan Chieftain has beenborrowing large sums of money and not repaying them, so that in the endthe Castle is distrained upon. Meanwhile Max, who has been sent up tothe Castle to stay with the Mackhais, has been put through test aftertest of his bravery by the Chieftain's son and his gillie.
With this information the end of the story is almost predictable, yet weread of peril after peril, and still we feel sure that this one must bethe last.
A very good tale. NH
THREE BOYS; OR THE CHIEFS OF THE CLAN MACKHAI, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.
THE MACKHAI OF DUN ROE.
"Look here, Scoodrach, if you call me she again, I'll kick you!"
"I didna ca' you she. I only said if she'd come ten the hoose aiftershe had the parritch--"
"Well, what did I say?"
"Say? Why, she got in a passion."
The sound of a back-handed slap in the chest, followed by a kick, bothdelivered by Kenneth Mackhai, the recipient being a red-headed,freckled-faced lad of seventeen, who retaliated by making a sharp snatchat the kicking foot, which he caught and held one half moment. Theresult was startling.
Kenneth Mackhai, the sun-browned, well-knit, handsome son of "theChief," came down in a sitting position on the stones, and screwed uphis face with pain.
"Scood, you beggar!" he roared; "I'll serve you out for--"
"Ken, are you coming to breakfast?" cried a loud, severe voice fromfifty yards away.
"Coming, father!" shouted the lad, leaping up, giving himself a shake torearrange his dark green kilt, and holding up his fist threateningly atthe bare-legged, grinning lad before him. "Just you wait till afterbreakfast, Master Scood, and I'll make you squint."
The lad ran up the steep slope to the garden surrounding the ancientcastle of Dunroe, which had been built as a stronghold somewhere aboutthe fourteenth century, and still stood solid on its rocky foundation; asquare, keep-like edifice, with a round tower at each corner,mouldering, with portions of the battlements broken away, but a finemonument still of the way in which builders worked in the olden time.
The portion Kenneth Mackhai approached had for inhabitants only thejackdaws, which encumbered the broken stairs by the loopholes with theirnests; but, after passing beneath a gloomy archway and crossing the openinterior, he left the old keep by another archway, to enter theprecincts of the modern castle of Dunroe, a commodious building, erectedafter the style of the old, and possessing the advantages of a roof andfloors, with large windows looking across the dazzling sea.
Kenneth entered a handsome dining-room, where the breakfast was spread,and where his father, The Mackhai, a tall, handsome man of fifty, waspacing angrily up and down.
"Sorry I kept you, father. Scood said there was a seal on the lowerrocks, and--"
"The scoundrel! How dare he?" muttered The Mackhai. "To take such amean advantage of his position. I will not suffer it. I'll--"
"Eh! what, Ken, my boy?" cried The Mackhai, with his countenancechanging. "I've only just come in. Sit down, my lad. You must behalf-starved, eh?"
"I thought you were cross with me, sir."
"Cross? Angry? Not a bit. Why?"
"Tchah! nonsense! Thinking aloud. What did you say?--a seal?"
"Yes, father. Scood said there was one, but it had gone."
"Then you didn't shoot it? Well, I'm not sorry. They're getting scarcenow, and I like to see the old things about the old place. Hah!" hecontinued, after a pause that had been well employed by both at theamply-supplied, handsomely-furnished table; "and I like the old porridgefor breakfast. Give me some of that salmon, Ken. No; I'll have akipper."
"More coffee, please, father," said Ken, with his mouth full. "Have ascone, father? They're prime."
"Gently with the butter, my boy. There is such a thing as bile."
"Is there, father?" said Kenneth, who was spreading the rich yellowchurning a full quarter of an inch thick.
"Is there, sir! Yes, there is. As I know to my cost. Ah!" he added,with a sigh, and his face wrinkled and made him look ten years older;"but there was a time when I did not know the meaning of the word!"
"Oh, I say, father," cried Kenneth merrily, "don't! You're alwayspretending to be old, and yet you can walk me down stalking, and LongShon says you can make him sore-footed any day."
"Nonsense! nonsense!" said The Mackhai, smiling.
"Oh, but you can, father!" said Kenneth, with his mouth full. "And seehow you ran with that salmon yesterday, all among the stones."
"Ah, yes! I manage to hold my own; but I hope you'll husband yourstrength better than I did, my boy," said The Mackhai, with a sigh.
"I only hope I shall grow into such a fine man!" cried Kenneth, with hisface lighting up, as he gazed proudly at his father. "Why, Donaldsays--"
"Tut, tut, tut! Silence, you miserable young flatterer! Do you want tomake your father conceited? There, that will do."
"Coming fishing to-day, father?"
There was no answer.
The Mackhai had taken up a letter brought in that morning by one of thegillies, and was frowning over it as he re-read its contents, and thensat thoughtfully gazing out of the window across the glittering sea, atthe blue mountains in the distance, tapping the table with his fingersthe while.
"Wonder what's the matter!" thought Kenneth. "Some one wants somemoney, I suppose."
The boy's face puckered up a little as he ceased eating, and watched hisfather's face, the furrows in the boy's brow giving him a wonderfullikeness to the keen-eyed, high-browed representative of a fine oldScottish clan.
"Wish I had plenty of money," thought Kenneth; and he sighed as he sawhis father's face darken.
Not that there was the faintest sign of poverty around, for the room wastastily furnished in good old style; the carpet was thick, a silvercoffee-pot glistened upon the table, and around the walls were goodlypaintings of ancestral Mackhais, from the bare-armed, scale-armouredchief who fought the Macdougals of Lome, down to Ronald Mackhai, whorepresented Ross-shire when King William sat upon the throne.
"I can't help myself," muttered The Mackhai at last. "Here, Ken, whatwere you going to do to-day?"
"I was going up the river after a salmon."
"Not to-day, my boy. Here, I've news for you. Mr Blande, my Londonsolicitor, writes me word that his son is coming down--a boy about yourage."
"Son--coming down? Did you invite him, father?"
"Eh? No: never mind that," said The Mackhai hastily. "Coming down tostay with us a bit. Regular London boy. Not in very good health. Youmust be civil to him, Ken, and show him about a bit."
"Yes, father," said Kenneth, who felt from his father's manner that thecoming guest was not welcome.
"He is coming by Glasgow, and then by the Grenadier. His father thinksthe sea will do him good. Go and meet him."
"Tell them to get a room ready for him."
bsp; "Be as civil to him as you can, and--Pah!"
That ejaculation, pah! came like an angry outburst, as The Mackhai gavethe table a sharp blow, and rose and strode out of the room.
Kenneth sat watching the door for a few moments.
"Father's savage because he's coming," said Kenneth, whose eyes thenfell upon a glass dish of marmalade, and, cutting a goodly slice ofbread, he spread it with the yellow butter, and then spooned out aportion of the amber-hued preserve.
"Bother the chap! we don't want him here."
Pe-au, pe-au, came a wailing whistle through the open window.
"Ah, I hear you, old whaupie, but I can do it better than that," saidKenneth to himself, as he repeated the whistle, in perfect imitation ofthe curlews which abounded near.
The whistle was answered, and, with a good-tempered smile on his face,Kenneth rose from the table, after cutting another slice of bread, andlaying it upon that in his plate, so as to form a sticky sandwich.
"Scood!" he cried from the window, and barelegged Scoodrach, who wasseated upon a rock right below, with the waves splashing his feet,looked up and showed his white teeth.
Down went the bread and marmalade, which the lad caught in his blueworsted bonnet, and was about to replace the same upon his curly redhead, but the glutinous marmalade came off on one finger. This stickyfinger he sucked as he stared at the bread, and, evidently coming to theconclusion that preserve and pomade were not synonymous terms, he beganrapidly to put the sweet sandwich somewhere else.
"I wish you had kept it in your bonnet, Scood."
The boy looked up and laughed, his mouth busy the while.
"Father saw sax saumon in the black pool," he cried eagerly.
"Then they'll have to stop," said Kenneth gloomily.
"There's a chap coming down from London."
"Suppose so. We've got to go and meet him."
"With ta pony?"
"No, the boat; coming by the Grenadier."
"It's a great bother, Scood."
"But it's a verra fine mornin' for a sail," said the boy, looking up andmunching away.
"But I didn't want to sail; I wanted to fish."
"The fush can wait, tat she can."
"Oh, you!" shouted Kenneth. "Wish I had something to throw at you."
"If she did, I'd throw it back," said Scoodrach, grinning.
"I should like to catch you at it. There, go and get the boat."
"Plenty of time."
"Never mind that; let's be off and have a good sail first, as we have togo."
"Will she--will you tak' the gun?"
"Of course I shall. Take the lines too, Scood; we may get a mackerel."
The lad opened his large mouth, tucked in the last piece of marmalade,and then leaped off the stone on to the rock.
The boy stroked down his grey kilt, and looked up.
"Put on your shoes and stockings."
"Because I tell you. Because there's company coming. Be off!"
"She's got a big hole in her stocking, and ta shoe hurts her heel."
"Be off and put them on," roared Kenneth from the window. "I shall beready in a quarter of an hour."
Scood nodded, and began to climb rapidly over the buttress of rock whichran down into the sea, the height to which the tide rose being marked byan encrustation of myriads of acorn barnacles, among which every now andthen a limpet stood out like a boss, while below, in the clear water, athick growth of weed turned the rock to a golden brown, and changed thetint of the transparent water.