• TABLE OF CONTENTS
HIDE
 Front Cover
 Half Title
 Frontispiece
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 List of Illustrations
 The witch of Bute
 The dark forest of Barone
 How Earl Roderic spilled the...
 The darkening hall
 A terrible discovery
 Alpin's vow of vengeance
 The arrow of summons
 An eriach-fine
 The ordeal by battle
 Aasta's curse
 The sword of Somerled
 How Kenric was made king
 The "white lady" of the mounta...
 In solemn assize
 The dominion of the western...
 Kendric before King Alexander
 How Allan Redmain kept watch
 The expedition to the island...
 Storming an island stronghold
 Alone with death
 How Kenric made himself strong
 The two spies
 The invasion of Bute
 The siege of Rothesay castle
 The great Norse invasion
 A traitor knave
 The battle of Largs
 Aasta's secret mission
 Elspeth Blackfell
 The black frost on Ascog Mere
 The last dread fight
 Advertising
 Back Cover
 Spine






Group Title: The thirsty sword : a story of the Norse invasion of Scotland, 1262-1263
Title: The thirsty sword
CITATION THUMBNAILS PAGE TURNER PAGE IMAGE ZOOMABLE
Full Citation
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00082108/00001
 Material Information
Title: The thirsty sword a story of the Norse invasion of Scotland, 1262-1263
Physical Description: 352, 32 p., 10 leaves of plates : ill., maps (some col.) ; 20 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Leighton, Robert, 1859-1934
Pearse, Alfred ( Illustrator )
Blackie & Son ( Publisher )
Publisher: Blackie & Son
Place of Publication: London ;
Glasgow ;
Edinburgh ;
Dublin
Publication Date: 1893
 Subjects
Subject: Voyages and travels -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Adventure and adventurers -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Swords -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Witches -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Battles -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Islands -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Death -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Kings and rulers -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Revenge -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
History -- Juvenile fiction -- Scotland   ( lcsh )
Bldn -- 1893
Genre: novel   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: England -- London
Scotland -- Glasgow
Scotland -- Edinburgh
Ireland -- Dublin
 Notes
Statement of Responsibility: by Robert Leighton ; with illustrations by Alfred Pearse, and a map of the Western Isles of Scotland.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00082108
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 002392249
notis - ALZ7146
oclc - 06179032

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Half Title
        Page i
    Frontispiece
        Page ii
    Title Page
        Page iii
        Page iv
    Table of Contents
        Page v
        Page vi
    List of Illustrations
        Page vii
        Page viii
    The witch of Bute
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
    The dark forest of Barone
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
    How Earl Roderic spilled the salt
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
    The darkening hall
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
    A terrible discovery
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
    Alpin's vow of vengeance
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 60a
        Page 61
        Page 62
    The arrow of summons
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
    An eriach-fine
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
    The ordeal by battle
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 86a
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
    Aasta's curse
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
    The sword of Somerled
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 106a
        Page 107
        Page 108
    How Kenric was made king
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
    The "white lady" of the mountain
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
    In solemn assize
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 129
        Page 130
        Page 131
        Page 132
        Page 133
        Page 134
    The dominion of the western isles
        Page 135
        Page 136
        Page 137
        Page 138
        Page 139
        Page 140
        Page 141
        Page 142
        Page 143
        Page 144
        Page 145
    Kendric before King Alexander
        Page 146
        Page 147
        Page 148
        Page 149
        Page 150
        Page 151
        Page 152
        Page 153
        Page 154
        Page 155
    How Allan Redmain kept watch
        Page 156
        Page 157
        Page 158
        Page 159
        Page 160
        Page 161
        Page 162
        Page 163
        Page 164
        Page 165
        Page 166
    The expedition to the island kings
        Page 167
        Page 168
        Page 169
        Page 170
        Page 171
        Page 172
        Page 173
        Page 174
        Page 175
        Page 176
        Page 177
        Page 178
        Page 178a
        Page 179
    Storming an island stronghold
        Page 180
        Page 181
        Page 182
        Page 183
        Page 184
        Page 185
        Page 186
        Page 187
        Page 188
        Page 188a
        Page 189
        Page 190
        Page 191
        Page 192
        Page 193
        Page 194
    Alone with death
        Page 195
        Page 196
        Page 197
        Page 198
        Page 199
        Page 200
        Page 201
        Page 202
        Page 203
        Page 204
    How Kenric made himself strong
        Page 205
        Page 206
        Page 207
        Page 208
        Page 209
        Page 210
        Page 211
        Page 212
        Page 213
    The two spies
        Page 214
        Page 215
        Page 216
        Page 217
        Page 218
        Page 219
        Page 220
        Page 221
        Page 222
        Page 223
        Page 224
        Page 225
        Page 226
        Page 226a
        Page 227
        Page 228
        Page 229
    The invasion of Bute
        Page 230
        Page 231
        Page 232
        Page 233
        Page 234
        Page 235
        Page 236
        Page 237
        Page 238
        Page 239
        Page 240
        Page 241
    The siege of Rothesay castle
        Page 242
        Page 243
        Page 244
        Page 245
        Page 246
        Page 247
        Page 248
        Page 249
        Page 250
        Page 251
        Page 252
        Page 253
        Page 254
        Page 255
    The great Norse invasion
        Page 256
        Page 257
        Page 258
        Page 259
        Page 260
        Page 261
        Page 262
        Page 263
        Page 264
        Page 265
        Page 266
        Page 267
        Page 268
        Page 268a
        Page 269
    A traitor knave
        Page 270
        Page 271
        Page 272
        Page 273
        Page 274
        Page 275
        Page 276
        Page 277
        Page 278
        Page 279
        Page 280
        Page 281
        Page 282
        Page 283
        Page 284
        Page 285
    The battle of Largs
        Page 286
        Page 287
        Page 288
        Page 289
        Page 290
        Page 291
        Page 292
        Page 293
        Page 294
        Page 295
        Page 296
        Page 297
        Page 298
        Page 299
        Page 300
        Page 301
        Page 302
        Page 303
        Page 304
        Page 305
        Page 306
        Page 307
    Aasta's secret mission
        Page 308
        Page 309
        Page 310
        Page 311
        Page 312
        Page 313
        Page 314
        Page 315
        Page 316
        Page 317
        Page 318
    Elspeth Blackfell
        Page 319
        Page 320
        Page 321
        Page 322
        Page 322a
        Page 323
        Page 324
        Page 325
        Page 326
        Page 327
        Page 328
        Page 329
        Page 330
    The black frost on Ascog Mere
        Page 331
        Page 332
        Page 333
        Page 334
        Page 335
        Page 336
        Page 337
        Page 338
        Page 339
        Page 340
        Page 341
        Page 342
    The last dread fight
        Page 343
        Page 344
        Page 345
        Page 346
        Page 347
        Page 348
        Page 349
        Page 350
        Page 351
        Page 352
    Advertising
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    Back Cover
        Back Cover 1
        Back Cover 2
    Spine
        Spine
Full Text






























































The Baldwin Library
m University











THE THIRSTY SWORD.


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746


AASTA GRIPPED HER SVORD AND LEAPT UPON RODERIC.


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THE THIRSTY SWORD:


A STORY OF

THE NORSE INVASION OF SCOTLAND.
(1262-1263).




BY

ROBERT LEIGHTON,
Author of The Pilots of Pomona;" &c.



IVITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY ALFRED PEARSE,
AND A IMAP OF THE IESSTERN ISLES OF SCOTLAND.






*' ...... L II \* I ; I1 L ^ '11 ii -,,I










LONDON:
BLACKIE & SON, LIMITED, 49 OLD BAILEY, E.C
GLASGOW EDINBURGH AND DUBLIN.
1893.












CONTENTS.


CHAP. Pag4
I. THE WITCH OF BUTE,... . .9

II. THE DARK FOREST OF BARONE, . . 18

III. How EARL RODERIC SPILLED THE SALT, .. .24

IV. THE DARKENING HALL, . ..... 35

V. A TERRIBLE DISCOVERY, . .. 43

VI. ALPINE'S VOW OF VENGEANCE . . 56

VII. THE ARROW OF SUMMONS, . .. 63

VIII. AN ERIACH-FINE,.. . . 69

IX. THE ORDEAL BY BATTLE,. .. . . 80

X. AASTA'S CURSE, . . .. go

XI. THE SWORD OF SOMERLED, .. .. 95

XII. How KENRIC WAS MADE KING, . . 109

XIII. THE "WHIITE LADY" OF THE MOUNTAIN, . 115

XIV. IN SOLEMN ASSIZE, . . .127

XV. THE DOMINION OF THE WESTERN ISLES, . 135

XVI. KENRIC BEFORE KING ALEXANDER, . 146

XVII. How ALLAN REMAIN KEPT WATCH,. . 156

XVIII. THE EXPEDITION TO TIIE ISLAND KINGS, . 167

XIX. STORMING AN ISLAND SITRONGHOLD,. . ... 8o

XX. ALONE WITI DEATH, . . . 19

XXI. How KENRIC MADE HIMSELF STRONG, . 205








vi CONTENTS.
CHAP. Page
XXII. THE TWO SPIES, . . ... 214

XXIII. THE INVASION OF BUTE,. . . 230

XXIV. THE SIEGE OF ROTHESAY CASTLE, . 242

XXV. THE GREAT NORSE INVASION, . .. 256

XXVI. A TRAITOR KNAVE, .. .. . .270

XXVII. THE BATTLE OF LARGS, . ... . 286

XXVIII. AASTA'S SECRET MISSION, . . 308

XXIX. ELSPETH BLACKFELL, . . .. .319

XXX. THE BLACK FROST ON ASCOG MERE, .. 331

XXXI. THE LAST DREAD FIGHT, .... .343

















ILLUSTRATIONS.



Page
"AASTA GRIPPED HER SWORD AND LEAPT UPON RODERIC," front. 301


RODERIC TRIES TO STRANGLE KENRIC, . . 60


"WITH A FIERCE CRY THEY RUSHED TOGETHER," .... .87


AASTA REVEALS "THE THIRSTY SWORD," ... .. 106

TEARING DOWN THE NORWEGIAN FLAG . ... .88

"AASTA PLUNGED HER DAGGER INTO HIS HEART," .227


AASTA BRINGS NEWS OF THE INVASION TO THE KING, 268


"YOU LIE, VILE WITCH, YOU LIE!" CRIED RODERIC, ... 323





Map of the Isle of Bute, .... . . 17


Map of the Western Isles (southern section), . facing 178













THE THIRSTY SWORD


CHAPTER 1.

THE WITCH OF BUTE.

H, if only Kenric were here!"
It was on the evening of a bright
day in June, in the year 1262, and a
girl, clasping her hands in distress,
walked restlessly to and fro on the bank of a
stream that tinkled merrily along its gravelly
bed towards the sea. She, in her loose gown
of gray woollen homespun and girdle of crimson
silk, was then the only figure to be seen for
miles around. Far to the south were the blue
mountains of Arran, and westward across the
Sound were the brown hills of Kintyre, with the
rosy light of the setting sun behind them. The
girl, shading her eyes from the strong light,
looked over the moorland towards the castle of
Kilmory.
If Kenric were but here!" she said again.
And as she turned to run to the stream, all






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


suddenly she was startled by the sound of a
heavy thud upon the heather at her feet. She
looked round and saw that a large capercailzie
had fallen there. The bird was dead, and there
was an arrow in its breast.
At the same moment there was a lusty shout
of joy from among the trees and a stalwart youth
came bounding towards her. In his right hand
he bore a long-bow, and at his belt were hung a
dead hare and a brace of wild moor-fowl, whose
dripping blood trickled down his sturdy legs.
"Ailsa!" he cried in surprise, seeing the girl
as he came to secure the bird he had just killed.
"You here so late, and alone?"
Ailsa's fair cheeks grew rosy as the evening
sky, for the youth was he whom she had wished
for, Kenric, the son of the brave Earl Hamish
of Bute, and now that he was so near her she
felt suddenly timid.
He was a lad of sixteen years, not tall, but
very thickset and stout built, broad shouldered,
deep chested, and strong limbed. His long
silky locks were a rich nut-brown, and his
sparkling eyes were dark and gentle as those
of a fallow-deer. The sun and the bracing
sea-air had made ruddy his fair skin, even to
his firm, round throat and his thick arms, that
were left bare by his rough coat of untanned
buckskin.






TIE WITCH OF BUTE


"You have been weeping, Ailsa," said he,
looking into her tearful eyes.
Sir," said she, speaking, as he did, in the
guttural Gaelic tongue, "come, I beseech you,
to the help of two poor ouzels, whose nest is far
in under the roots of yonder birch-tree. If you
help not quickly, their little fledglings will be
eaten up by a thieving stoat that has but a few
moments ago entered their nest."
"You make needless dole, Ailsa, over a pair
of worthless birds and their chicks," said he
scornfully. Why, I have this day slain a full
half-score of birds! Ay, and right willingly
would I have doubled their number."
The birds you have slain are for men's food,"
said she, "but the birds I speak of sing as
sweetly as the mavis, and I have watched them
tenderly for many sunny days past. Rescue
them for me, good Kenric, for I love them right
well, and I would not for the world that any ill
should befall them."
Then Kenric went with her to the stream's
bank, and as he stood there his keen eyes saw
something move across the short grass at the
water's edge. Promptly he put an arrow to his
bow-string and took deft aim. The shaft sped
quickly to its mark, plunged into the body of a
stoat, and pinned the animal to the soft turf.
There, Ailsa," said he, the murderous thief






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


is justly punished!" and springing down the
bank he put his heel upon the writhing animal
and lightly drew out his arrow from its body,
while Ailsa picked up the bleeding fledgling
that the stoat had been carrying away in its
teeth. She took the maimed little bird to the
birch-tree that Kenric might restore it to its
nest. But at the mouth of the nest lay the dead
body of one of the parent birds, and hovering
near it was the mother ouzel, uttering sharp
cries of distress at the murder of her mate and
little one.
And now," said Kenric, "I must hie me back
to St. Blane's, for our good Abbot Godfrey bade
me be with him ere nightfall. Where is your
brother Allan? Say, was he of those who went
with my father and Alpin to the hunting in
Glen More this forenoon ?"
But Ailsa was again weeping over the fate of
her water-ouzels and did not answer him.
Ailsa was some two years younger than him-
self. They had been companions from the time
of their infancy. Her father, Sir Oscar Red-
main, of Kilmory Castle, was the steward of
Earl Hamish of Bute, and Ailsa was even as a
sister to the two lads of Rothesay Castle. With
Kenric, the younger of the earl's sons, she had
been taught what little there was to be learned
in those rude times, under Godfrey Thurstan,






THE WITCH OF BUTE.


the Abbot of St. Blane's, a wise and holy man
who, next to Earl Hamish himself, was held in
the highest honour of all men in Bute.
Now, just as Kenric, unable to soothe Ailsa,
was turning to leave her, a shadow passed
between him and the evening sunlight, and at
the head of the bank there walked an aged
woman, bearing upon her bent back a bundle of
faggots. Ailsa raised her blue eyes, and at
sight of the old woman shrank back and felt in
her dark hair for the sprig of feathery rowan
leaves that she wore there as a charm against
witchcraft.
Give you good e'en, my lord of Bute," said
the old woman, seeing Kenric and dropping her
bundle on the ground. At these strange words
Kenric's cheeks grew crimson.
I am no lord, Elspeth Blackfell," said he,
going nearer and trying to fathom her meaning
in her wrinkled and grimy face, "and I know
no reason for your calling me by that high
name."
Not yet," said the old crone, "not yet. But
by my sooth, the time will surely come, and
that full speedily, when all shall hail you lord of
Bute."
"I seek no sooth from such as you," said
Kenric frowning; "and you shall win naught
from me by your false flatteries."






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


Just then he felt the hand of Ailsa drawing
him back as though to keep him from the
blighting touch of the old woman's bony fingers.
Go not so near to her!" whispered the girl,
making the sign of the cross. "Let her not
touch you with her evil hands, lest she put her
enchantments upon you."
Old Elspeth smiled grimly, and showed the
one lonely tooth that was in the front of her
shrunken gums.
Heed not the child's silly fears," said she to
Kenric, "and tell me, for what cause has she
been weeping?"
It was a stoat that harried an ouzel's nest
and slew the birds," replied Kenric.
Bairns weep at trifles," said Elspeth; "what
matters the death of a little bird? The stoat
must live by the food that the great God gives
it, and the birds must die when their time comes.
'Tis alike with all God's creatures upon earth.
Even the castle of Rothesay is no more free at
this moment from its secret enemy than is the
smallest wild-fowl's nest."
"The castle of Rothesay?" repeated Kenric.
" Set me none of your riddles, Elspeth, for they
are harder to read even than the abbot's missals.
What is your meaning? My father has not an
enemy in all the isles. Who, then, would do
him an injury?"






THE WITCH OF BUTE.


Speed you home to Rothesay and see with
your own eyes," said Elspeth, taking up her
bundle of faggots again; Earl Hamish of Bute
is in great danger, I say. Go to him now, I
charge you, and give him my warning against
the enemy who is within his gates."
And at that she hobbled away down the
hillside towards the little wooden hut that was
her home. As she went the red sun sank
behind the dark hills of Kintyre. Kenric stood
in doubt.
I marvel that you will dare to hold speech
with that evil hag," said Ailsa. "'Tis our own
good fortune if she have not already cast her
eldritch spells upon us both."
Nay, Ailsa; fear her not. She is but a poor
harmless body," said Kenric. Only the witless
carls and cottar folk are so simple as to believe
that she has aught of evil in her words."
Ah, but I well know that Elspeth is a witch,"
declared Ailsa. "Never do I see her but I
must shrink away and cross myself in dread of
her. Why do all the brave men of Bute fear
her more than they would fear a band of armed
Norsemen? She casts her spells upon our kine
so that they give no milk, and upon the fountains
so that the clear drinking water is turned rank
and brown. Allan told me but yesternight that
she rides over to Inch Marnock in a boat that






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


has neither sails nor oars, and that the ribs of
the boat are of dead men's bones."
Kenric smiled no more at Ailsa's fears; for,
indeed, so great was the superstition of that
time, that deep in his heart he believed no less
strongly than did Ailsa that Elspeth was as-
suredly a witch.
And what meant she by her warnings of an
enemy in your father's castle?" added Ailsa.
"Little reck I that," returned Kenric, "for
never lived man in all the Western Isles who
had so few enemies as my good father."
Right so," said Ailsa. But none the less,
Elspeth is a most wise soothsayer, and you are
unwise if you heed not her warning. And now
I mind me that on this very day, as I was
returning from matins, a great ship of twelve
banks of oars came in from the west through
Kilbrannan Sound, and it let anchor in Scalpsie
Bay. As I looked upon that ship three tall
warriors were brought ashore in a small boat,
and, landing, they walked along the shore towards
Rothesay."
"Three tall warriors, say you?"
"Even so. Lulach the shepherd boy also
saw them, and said that they were surely three
of King Hakon's men of the Northland. And
Lulach was much afraid of them, and he fled
from their sight lest by chance they should learn
(746)













































ISLE oF BUTE





(746)





THE THIRSTY SWORD.


that he was a Dane, and seek to carry him off.
But now, Kenric, I must away, for the night is
coming on and you have far to go. Yonder is
Lulach driving home my father's kine. Go to
him and he will tell you of these strange men."
So Ailsa and Kenric bade each other good-
night, and Kenric sped lightly over the heather
to where the young shepherd was driving home
the long-horned cattle.



CHAPTER II.

THE DARK FOREST OF BARONE.

WHEN Lulach heard a shrill whistle from
afar and saw Kenric, he tarried a while
that the cattle might begin to browse upon the
lush grass that grew on the marshes beside the
sea. Then he went forth to meet him, and
threw himself on his knees before him, for
Lulach was a thrall, and it was his custom thus
to pay homage to the sons of the brave lord of
Bute.
"Rise, Lulach, rise!" said Kenric, speaking
now in the Norse tongue that the lad might
better understand him. "And tell me, what
manner of men were the three strangers you saw
landing in the bay of Scalpsie this forenoon?"






THE DARK FOREST OF BARONE.


They were men out of the North, my master.
I heard them speaking in my own tongue," said
Lulach, throwing back his long red hair that
had fallen over his sun-tanned face.
"And were they men of peace?"
I know not, my master; but much did I fear
them, for never knew I a Norseman yet who
was not cruel to me; and seeing them I hid
myself behind a rock."
"Cowardly hind! You are but fit to drive
a herd of kine. Of what aspect were these
men?"
The one who led them was even as a king,"
said Lulach. He was tall and strong, and his
footing was firm upon the heath. He wore a
helm crested with a golden dragon, and a great
sword at his side. I thought that surely it was
the Earl Hamish of Bute himself, for were it
not that the stranger's hair was of the colour of
the fox's coat, never saw I a man that more
resembled your father."
"And his followers, what of them?"
"One was an aged man with a silver beard.
The other might be his son. Ah, I wot they
are come for no good purpose, my master, for
they landed when the tide was low, and that
bodes ill for Bute."
Heaven forfend!" said Kenric, growing un-
easy at the thought. And now," added he,






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


loosing the dead birds from his girdle, "take
me these grouse to the abbey, and tell the good
abbot that I come not to St. Blane's this night,
but that I go home to the castle to see who these
strangers may be, and to learn their purpose."
But as Lulach was taking the game into his
hands, he drew back and pointed with trembling
finger to the green path that led towards Rothe-
say.
"See!" he exclaimed, "there is ill-luck before
you! Turn back, my master, turn back!"
"Ah! a magpie, and alone!" cried Kenric,
seeing the bird in his path. "That is ill-luck
indeed! Give me some salt from your wallet,
Lulach, for if this sign reads true then it were
unwise in me to go farther without some salt in
my pocket."
"Alas!" said Lulach, "I have none. My
wallet is empty!"
"Then God be my protection!" said Kenric,
and with that he went on his way, feeling a
dread foreboding at his heart.
The light of day had faded from the sky as
he passed by the black waters of Loch Dhu;
but there was a silvery glare above the jagged
peaks of the Arran fells, and he knew that the
moon was rising, and that he would soon have
her friendly light to guide him through the dark
pine forest of Barone.






THE DARK FOREST OF BARONE.


All was calm and still, but through the still-
ness the hollow sound of a waterfall among the
far-off mountains came to him like the moaning
cry of a dying man. At that sound he felt his
heart beating uneasily against his side, for that
same cry, which rises from all mountain streams
towards nightfall, was beforetime held to be of
ill-omen when heard from a distance, and Kenric
was in a likely mood to be impressed by such
a sign.
When he came to the borders of the forest he
was almost afraid to venture among the gloomy
shadows of the trees. Therein, as he believed,
dwelt many strange and mysterious elves, that
were wont to lead travellers astray to their
destruction. But he must pass through that
forest or else go round many miles across the
hills; so he braced his girdle tighter about him
and boldly plunged into the darkness. As he
went forth the plaintive cry of the curlew high
up above the tree-tops startled him more than
once, and the sudden movement of every wild
beast and bird that his own footsteps had
frightened filled him with new fears.
In the broad daylight neither man nor beast
could have had power to daunt him. He was,
when put to his mettle, one of the most
courageous and daring youths in the island,
and, saving only his elder brother Alpin, who






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


was the bravest swordsman of his own age in
all the land, there was none who might attempt
to draw arms against Kenric. And, in truth,
had it not been that he was sorely troubled in
spirit concerning the strange words of Elspeth
Blackfell, and also that so many omens had
foretold disaster, it may be that even on that
same night he would have passed through the
dark avenues of the forest with neither doubt
nor tremor.
But in an age when the meaning of nature's
work was little understood, when even religion
was not yet strong enough to conquer the
superstition which found evil in things which
were only mysteries, it was small wonder that
young Kenric of Bute should wish himself
safely at home in his father's castle, or regret that
he had not gone back to the abbey of St. Blane.
Nevertheless it was not alone the thought of
trolls and elfins that disturbed him. At that
time the wild boar and the wolf were denizens
of the forest wherein he walked-animals which
would indeed be welcomed in the daylight by
a band of hunters with their spears and hounds,
but which might give some trouble to a youth
appearing alone in their midst on a dark night.
At one moment when he was deep within the
heart of the forest he thought he heard hurried
footsteps behind him. He felt for his dirk and






THE DARK FOREST OF BARONE.


turned round. The moon's beams pierced the
trees and fell upon a glistening pool of water
where a wild cat was slaking its thirst. There
was naught else that might cause him alarm.
But in a little while he heard the same sound
again-this time in advance of him. He stood
still. In the shadow of a great bare rock he
saw two staring eyes that shone like gleaming
fires, now green, now red, and he knew that
they were the eyes of a wolf. There was a low
growl as of distant thunder. Then the moon's
light shot through a rack of cloud, and he saw
the form of the wolf standing out clear and
black against the grey rock. He fixed an arrow
to his bow-string; but at the sound of the creak-
ing bow the wolf gave a sharp yelp and dis-
appeared into the darkness beyond.
Kenric, bolder now, unbent his bow and
stepped towards the rock that he might see
whither the wolf had fled. In an open glade
that was behind the rock he saw, instead of the
wolf, a strange tall figure standing in the moon-
light. It was the figure of a woman, wondrously
fair and beautiful. Her long hair, that fell over
her shoulders, was as the colour of blood, and
her white bare arm, that shone like marble in
the pale light, seemed to be pointing the way to
Rothesay Castle. In her other hand she held
a long bright-bladed sword.






TIE THIRSTY SWORD.


Now whether this figure appearing so mysteri-
ously before him was indeed that of a woman
of human flesh, or, as he feared, the vision of some
ghostly dweller in the pine forest, Kenric could
not at that moment have told. Even as he
stepped farther into the glade a dark cloud again
obscured the moon and all was black night
around him, and no sound could he hear but the
beating of his own heart and the whispering of
the wind among the trees.



CHAPTER III.

HOW EARL RODERIC SPILLED THE SALT.

ON that same June evening, in the year 1262,
whilst Kenric was at the stream-side with
Ailsa Redmain, the three strangers who had
landed earlier in the day on the shores of Bute
were feasting in the great banqueting-hall of the
castle of Rothesay. For although to the til id
lad Lulach and to Ailsa they had appeared in
the guise of enemies, yet each of the three was
known to the Earl Hamish. Their leader
was, in truth, none other than his own brother,
the Earl Roderic of the Isle of Gigha. The
other two were Erland the Old of Jura, and
Sweyn the Silent of Colonsay.






HOW EARL RODERIC SPILLED THE SALT. 25
What their unexpected mission to the lord
of Bute might be had yet to be learnt. But
when, betimes, they came to the gate of Rothesay
Castle they found Earl Hamish and his steward,
Sir Oscar Redmain, on the point of setting out
on a hunting expedition into the wilds of Glen
More. And of the band of hunters were Kenric's
elder brother Alpin and young Allan Redmain.
So when the strangers entered the castle and
had broken bread and refreshed their deep
throats with wine, they left their swords and
dirks in the armoury and took bows and hunt-
ing-spears. Thus equipped, they set off with
Earl Hamish and his merry men and long-
limbed hounds. And they had great sport that
day, coming back at sunset with a wild boar
that Earl Roderic had slain, and three antlered
stags and other spoil.
In their absence Kenric's mother, the Lady
Adela, had made prepare a feast for them all,
with much venison and roasted beef and stewed
black-cock, with cakes of bread, both white and
brown, and many measures of red wine and
well-spiced liquors. A silver drinking-bowl was
set down for each of the kingly guests, and a
goblet of beaten gold for the king of Bute.
The hall was lighted with many cruse-lamps
that hung suspended from the oaken joists, and,
lest the evening should be chill, there was a fire






26 THE THIRSTY SWORD.
of fragrant pine logs blazing on the open hearth.
Round the walls of the hall, that were panelled
with black oak boards, there were many glitter-
ing shields and corselets, with hunting-horns and
various trophies of the chase.
At the fireside there sat an aged minstrel,
whose duty it was to fill in the intervals of the
feast with the music of his harp, or, if need were,
to recite to the company the saga of King
Somerled and other great ancestors of the kings
of Bute.
Earl Hamish -a tall, courtly Highlander,
with sad eyes and a long brown beard-sat at
the head of the board, that with his own strong
hands he might carve the steaming venison.
At his right hand sat the earl of Jura, Erland
the Old, and at his left Earl Sweyn the Silent.
His beautiful wife, the Lady Adela-attired in
a rich gown inwoven with many devices of silk,
and spun by the Sudureyans-sat facing him at
the far end of the board. At her right hand sat
Earl Roderic of Gigha; and at her left Alpin,
her son.
So the feast began, with much merry dis-
course of how the men had fared that day at the
hunting in Glen More.
Now Erland and Sweyn, kinglings of Jura
and Colonsay, though owing yearly tribute to
their overlord, Alexander the Third of Scot-






HOW EARL RODERIC SPILLED THE SALT. 27
land, were both men of the North, and they
spoke with Earl Hamish in the Norse tongue.
Their discourse, which has no bearing upon the
story, was mainly of cattle and sheep, and of
the old breast-laws of the Western Isles. But
Roderic of Gigha spoke in the Gaelic, which
the Lady Adela, though an Englishwoman born,
could well understand.
"Ah, but," said he, addressing young Alpin,
who had been boasting of the manly sports that
might be enjoyed in his father's dominions,
"you should one day come to Gigha, for there,
I do assure you, we have adventure such as you
never dream of in Bute."
I marvel, my lord, how that can be," said
Allan Redmain scornfully, for the kingdom of
which you boast is but a barren rock in the mid-
sea, and methinks your beasts of the chase are
but vermin rats and shrew-mice."
"The sports of which I speak, young man,"
said Roderic, frowning and wiping his red beard
with his broad hand, are not such bairns' play
as you suppose. Our beasts of the chase are
burly men, and our hunting-ground is the wide
ocean. I and my gallant fellows carry our
adventures far into the north to Iceland and
Scandinavia, or southward even into the land of
the Angles, where there is sport in plenty for
those who would seek it."






THE THTRSTV SWORD.


The Lady Adela looked up in shocked sur-
prise. But," said she, "you do not surely
count the Angles among your enemies, my lord?
The Scots are at peace these many years with
my country England."
I should be grieved to call any man my
enemy who is your friend, my fair Lady Adela,"
said Roderic gallantly. But though the Scots
be indeed at peace with King Henry, yet the
brave Easterlings of Ireland do ofttimes find the
need of slaying a few of your proud countrymen;
and if I help them-well, where there is aught
to be gained what matters it who our victims
be, or what lands we invade? I am for letting
him take who has the power to conquer. Let
them keep their own who can. What say you,
Sir Oscar? Am I not right?"
I am a man of peace, Earl Roderic," said
Sir Oscar Redmain gravely. "I have no
enemies but the enemies of my king and country.
And methinks, my lord, that a loyal subject of
the King of Scots is but a traitorous hound if
he stoop to take arms in favour of either Easter-
ling or Norseman, and against our good friends
of England. You, my lord, may perhaps pay
fealty to King Hakon of Norway, as well as to
his majesty Alexander of Scotland. It is not
all men who can make it so easy to serve two
masters."






HOW EARL RODERIC SPILLED THE SALT. 29
"A traitorous hound, forsooth! You surely
mistake me, Sir Oscar," cried Roderic, reddening
at the reproach. I said not that I paid truage
to any king but our own King of Scots, God bless
him! And though, indeed, King Alexander is
but a stripling, knowing little of kingcraft, yet,
even though he were a babe in arms, he and no
other is still my sovereign lord." And at that
he raised his goblet to his lips and drank a deep
draught of wine. Then, lightly turning to the
lady of Rothesay, and helping her to cut up the
venison on her platter, that she might the more
easily take the small pieces in her dainty white
fingers, he said:
After the rough roving life that I have been
leading these many years, my lady, 'tis truly a
great joy to come back once more to the peace-
ful Isle of Bute. Much do I envy my good
brother Hamish, in that he hath so beauteous a
partner as yourself to sit before him at his board.
Truly he is a most fortunate man!"
Adela's fair cheeks blushed rosy red at this
compliment, but she did not smile.
"Methinks, Lord Roderic," said she, nervously
breaking the white bread-cake at her side, that
with so small a distance between Bute and
Gigha, you might surely have come to visit
your brother long ere this present time. For
although Earl Hamish hath ofttimes spoken of






rHE THIRSTY SWORD.


you, yet never until this day have I seen you;
and 'tis well-nigh a score of years that I have
lived in Bute."
Alas!" said Roderic, looking uneasy, "since
my poor father, Earl Alpin, died, I have had
little spirit to come back to these scenes. It
was in anger that my brother and I parted,
when, as you well know, the lordship over the
two islands was divided. The larger dominion
of Bute fell to the share of Hamish. I, as the
younger son, was perforce content to take the
miserable portion that I now possess. Gigha is
but a small island, my lady."
Our happiness need not depend upon the
extent of our dominions, Lord Roderic," said
Adela; "and I doubt not you are passing happy,
notwithstanding that you have but a younger
son's inheritance."
Not so," said Roderic, planting his heavy
elbows on the board; "for where can a man
find happiness when those who are dearest to
him have been torn away?"
Then you have had sorrows?" questioned
the lady.
"When I went forth to take the kingship of
my island home," said he, my life was indeed
most bright and joyous; and on a time it befell
that I went north to Iceland, and there I met
one who (with submission I say it) was not less






HOW EARL RODERIC SPILLED THE SALT. 31
beautiful than yourself, my lady. She was the
most beauteous damsel that ever came out of
the Northland, and her name was Sigrid the
Fair. I married her and we were happy."
Roderic again filled his drinking bowl and
looked across the table at Alpin's handsome
brown face.
"We had two children," he continued sadly.
"The girl would have been of the years of your
own son there, the boy was two summers
younger than she."
Oh, do not tell me that they are dead!" cried
Adela.
"Alas! but that is so," he sighed. "One sunny
day they went out hand in hand from our castle
to play, as was their wont, among the rocks and
caves that are at the south of our island. Never
since then have they returned, and some said
that the water-kelpie had taken them and carried
them away to his crystal home under the sea.
Others whispered that the kraken or some other
monster of the deep had devoured them. They
said these things, believing that Sigrid had no
heart for her children, and that she was unkind
to them. But many days thereafter I learned
that a strange ship had been seen bearing out-
ward between Gigha and Cara; and it was the
ship of Rapp the Icelander, the cruellest sea-
rover that ever sailed upon the western seas.






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


Then did I believe that neither kelpie nor
kraken had taken my bairns, but Rapp the
Rover.
So I got ship and followed him. For three
long years I followed in his track-to the frozen
shores of Iceland, and into every vic and fiord
in Scandinavia. Southward then I sailed to
the blue seas of England-always behind him
yet never encountering him. But at last there
came a day of terrible tempest. The thunder-
god struck my ship and we were wrecked.
Every man that was on board my ship was
drowned saving only myself, for the white sea-
mew swims not more lightly on the waters than
I. So I was picked up by a passing vessel, and
it was the vessel of Rapp the Icelander. In-
stead of killing him I loved him, in that he had
saved my life. Then he told me, swearing by
St. Olaf, that never in all his time of sea-roving
had he touched at the little island of Gigha, and
that he knew naught soever of the dear children
I had lost."
Greatly do I pity you, Earl Roderic," said
Adela, clasping her hands. And you have not
yet found trace of your little ones?"
No," said Roderic. "And now do I believe
that they are still at play in the crystal halls ot
the water kelpie, whence no man can rescue
them."






IIOW EARL RODERIC SPILLED THE SALT. 33
"And your wife Sigrid, what of her ?" asked
Sir Oscar Redmain.
When I got back to Gigha," murmured
Roderic, they told me that in my absence she
had gone mad, and that in her frenzy she had
cast herself from the cliffs into the sea. Whither-
soever I have gone since that sad time, there
have I found unhappiness."
The Lady Adela looked upon the man with
gentle pity in her dark eyes. She felt how dif-
ferent had been his lot from hers and her dear
husband's. For notwithstanding that she dwelt
in a country not her own, and among people
who spoke a foreign tongue, yet she was very
happy. The Earl Hamish loved her well and
was ever good to her. And their two sons,
Alpin and Kenric, growing up into manhood,
were very dear to her heart.
She was the daughter of a proud English
baron, who had wide dominions near the great
city of York. Twenty years before, Earl Ham-
ish of Bute had been sent with other wise coun-
sellors by King Alexander the Second on a
mission to the court of the English king, Henry
the Third, concerning the great treaty of peace
between England and Scotland, and also to con-
sider the proposal of a marriage between the
daughter of the King of England and the son
of the King of Scots. The treaty established a
(7G4) C






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


peace which had not yet been broken, and the
Princess Margaret of England was now the
Queen of Scotland. But while on that embassy
to York Earl Hamish of Bute won more than
the gratitude of his sovereign, for he won the
heart of the Lady Adela Warwick, and, making
her his wife, he brought her to his castle of
Rothesay, where she had lived happily ever
since.
She was thinking of these matters as she heard
Earl Roderic's story of his great unhappiness,
and her eyes were fixed dreamily before her.
Now Roderic, to whom the presence of this
sweet and beautiful lady was a new experience,
observed her pensiveness and wondered threat.
His roving glance presently fell upon her plate.
"Ah!" said he, "you have no salt, my lady."
And thereupon he took her knife and dug its
point into the salt-horn.
"Nay, nay!" she cried in alarm; and she
grasped his wrist so that he spilled the salt upon
the table.
"What have you done?" he exclaimed. "This
is the most unlucky thing that could have hap-
pened! Alas, alas!"
"Would you, then, have helped my lady to
sorrow?" cried Sir Oscar Redmain, rising wrath-
fully. By the rood, but you are a thoughtless
loon!"






THE DARKENING HALL.


Earl Hamish at the head of the board, hearing
his lady's cry, rose hastily and approached her,
and saw that she was very pale. I will retire,"
said she, "for the hall is over-warm. I am faint
and uneasy."
Earl Hamish led her to the door. There he
kissed her fondly on her white brow and she
went to her chamber.



CHAPTER IV.

THE DARKENING HALL.

HE lord of Bute sat not down again, for
the feast was at an end. Sir Oscar Red-
main, minding that he had to travel all the way
to Kilmory that night, went to his master and
spoke with him aside. While the earl and his
steward were thus engaged, a tall seneschal with
his serving men came into the hall to clear away
the remains of the banquet; and as the old
minstrel left his place at the fireside to continue
his harping in the supping-room of the guards,
the two lads, Alpin of Bute and Allan Redmain,
stepped to the hearth to hold converse with the
three guests.
Alpin and his young friend were both about
nineteen years of age. They were almost full-






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


grown, and manly exercise had made them
strong. They wore their rough hunting clothes
-loose vests of leather, homespun kilts, and
untanned buskins. They carried no weapons,
for it was held in custom that none should sit
armed at table in the presence of strangers.
Tell me, Earl Roderic," said Alpin, running
his fingers through his long hair--"you have,
you say, been in far-off Iceland-tell me, is it
true that in that land there be many mountains
that shoot forth fire and brimstone?"
Ay, that is quite true, my lad," said his much-
travelled uncle, "for I have myself seen such
mountains. Higher than Goatfell they are, with
streams of fire pouring down their glens."
"A most marvellous country!"exclaimed Alpin.
"I wonder much if I shall ever behold that land."
There you will have no such lordly feast as
that we have just risen from," added Roderic,
picking his teeth with his broad thumb-nail.
Alpin and Allan watched him, hoping he would
tell them something of his roving life. Roderic,
finding that he could not easily dislodge the
piece of meat from betwixt his teeth, picked up
a twig of pine-wood from the hearth, and took
from the table the large knife with which his
brother had carved the venison, and as he began
to sharpen the little twig to a point he con-
tinued:






THE DARKENING HALL.


No roasted beef there nor venison, but good
tough whale-flesh, black as a peat, or else a few
candle-ends-for the Icelanders are fond of fat.
Once when I was ship-broken on their coasts
naught could my shipmates find to eat but reasty
butter. Disliking that alone, we took our ship's
cable, that was made of walrus hide, and
smearing the cable with butter we bolted mor-
sels of it, by which means we managed to exist
for fourteen days. There," he said, finishing his
toothpick, "that will serve. 'Tis strange, is it
not, Master Alpin, what a piece of steel can do?"
And then, first looking at its point, he laid the
long knife carelessly upon the shelf above the
hearth. "Why, in Norway, where I have also
been, your man can take his knife and two slips
of wood nine ells long, and he will so shape the
wood that when the two slips are fitted to his
feet he can outstrip a bird, a hound, or a deer."
Does he, then, fly with them in the air, as a
witch on her broom?" asked Allan Redmain.
"Why, no; he skates along the ice or snow,"
returned Roderic. "With such instruments and
a snowy ground, master Redmain, you might be
back at your castle of Kilmory in two flickers of
a rush-light. Go you to Kilmory to-night?"
"Yes," said Allan, "we go at once, for now
I see my father is ready. Give you good-night,
my lords."






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


"Good-night, boy," said the three guests. And
Allan, with his father and Alpin, then left the hall.
Two of the cruse-lamps had by this time spent
their oil, and their flames had died out. Earl
Hamish was now alone with his guests.
Shall we," said he, retire to the smaller hall,
Roderic? I have ordered Duncan to take some
spiced wine there for us."
I like the odour of the log-fire here," said
Roderic, exchanging glances with Erland the
Old. I pray you let us remain here a while."
Earl Hamish and his brother stood side by
side, looking into the fire, while Sweyn the Silent
and Erland the Old sat them at either corner
of the hearth. The two brothers were much
alike in stature, both being tall and broad; but
Hamish was gentler, and his every movement
showed that he was accustomed to the company
of those who deemed a courtly bearing of more
account than mere bodily prowess, though in
truth he lacked not that either. His hair and
beard, too, were dark, touched here and there
with the frost of age; while his brother's long
hair was red as the back of the fox.
"Well, Hamish," began Roderic, moving un-
easily on his feet, "you have, as I have heard,
won your way into the good graces of our lord
the King?"
I trust," said Hamish, "that I may never be





THE DARKENING HALL.


accused of disloyalty. I am ever at my sove-
reign's service in whatsoever he commands me
to do."
"What, even though the doing of that ser-
vice be to your own great disadvantage?" said
Roderic, looking aside at Earl Sweyn and smil-
ing grimly.
Naught can be to my disadvantage that is
done in dutiful service of my country and King,"
answered the lord of Bute proudly.
Roderic laughed scornfully, and his laugh was
echoed by Sweyn and Erland.
There may be two thoughts as to that," re-
turned Roderic. "As for myself, I'd snap my
fingers in the King's face ere I would go on a
journey such as you have newly undertaken, my
brother. Think not that we have no eyes nor
ears in the outer isles, Earl Hamish; for it is
known in every castle between Cape Wrath and
the Mull of Kintyre that you have but now
returned from a mission to King Hakon of
Norway."
And what though it were yet more widely
known?" said Hamish in surprise. "Am I, then,
the only lord in all the isles who remains true to
his oaths of fealty? And are they all as you
are, Roderic, who have failed these many years
to pay due tribute to the King of Scots?"
"You are the only one among us," croaked






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


Erland the Old, "who pays not homage to our
rightful lord and sovereign the good King
Hakon."
"I owe no sort of fealty to Norway," said
Hamish. "Nor do I know by what right Hakon
claims sovereignty over any one of the isles south
of Iona."
Methinks," said Sweyn the Silent, looking
up under his dark brows, "that Harald Fairhair
settled that matter a good four hundred years
ago."
Right well am I aware that at such time
Harald did indeed conquer the Western Isles-
ay, even to Bute and Arran"--returned Earl
Hamish. But methinks, my lord of Colonsay,
that my own ancestor the great king Somerled
(God rest him!) did at least wrest the isles of
Bute, Arran, and Gigha from the power of Nor-
way. Those three island kingdoms do to this
day owe truage to no overlord saving only the
King of Scots, and to Alexander alone will I
pay homage."
At that Earl Roderic's eyes found their way
to the shelf that was above the hearth, and his
two friends, following his glance, saw the knife
upon the shelf and smiled. From the halls below,
where the guards and servitors were feasting,
came the strains of the minstrel's harp and a
henchman's joyous song of triumphant battle.






THE DARKENING HALL.


'Tis then no marvel," said Roderic, that the
young King of Scots, like his father before him,
has made of you a willing cat's-paw. On what
fool's errand went you to Norway?"
"That," said the lord of Bute, "is quickly
told;" and he looked round for a moment, ob-
serving that all the lamps save one had burned
out their feeble lights. "I went to Norway,
bearing letters to King Hakon from the King
of Scots and his majesty of England, King Henry
the Third."
"His majesty of England!" exclaimed all three.
Henry of England is no more a friend to
the Norseman than is Alexander," said Hamish,
as he pressed down the burning logs with his
foot. And I do assure you, my lords, that both
are well prepared to resist the incursions of King
Hakon's vassals."
And what manner of princely reward got
you for your trouble as letter-bearer?" asked
Roderic in a tone of injured envy.
Ten score head of Highland cattle, I would
guess," muttered Erland the Old.
Nay, twenty score, rather," chimed in Sweyn
the Silent.
Methinks, brother Hamish," said Roderic
hoarsely, as he stepped nearer to him and looked
with an evil scowl into his face-" methinks it
had been your part to have sent me word, that






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


I might also have been of that journey. It had
been but reason that I had the honour as well
as you. Selfish man that you are, you are ever
ready to win worship from me and put me to dis-
honour!"
At this moment the last remaining cruse-light
flickered, burned blue, flickered again, and then
went out. The hall was now in darkness, saving
only for the feeble light of the fire, and the moon-
beams that slanted in through the mullioned
windows and shone here and there upon some
burnished helmet or corselet upon the walls.
As Roderic of Gigha ceased speaking, Erland
the Old coughed thrice and stroked his silvery
beard. Sweyn the Silent echoed the fatal sign,
and Roderic drew back, resting his right hand
upon the mantel.
Had I tarried till I had sent for you, Roderic,"
said Earl Hamish, "I must first have wasted
much precious time in suing with King Alex-
ander for his pardon for my brother who has
betrayed him!"
"You lie! base slanderer! you lie!" cried Ro-
deric in jealous fury, snatching the knife from
off the shelf. And then, springing forward and
raising his right hand above his head, he plunged
the blade deep, deep into his brother's heart.
The good Earl Hamish staggered and fell.
"Treachery!" he groaned. "Adela! Adela!"






A TERRIBLE DISCOVERY.


and with the name of his loved wife upon his lips,
he died there upon the stone of his own hearth.
Roderic and his two companions approached
the dead man, gazed upon him, and then at each
other with satisfaction in their dark looks. But
there was fear, too, in Roderic's face, for he was
craven of heart. He drew back into the shadow,
where neither moonbeam nor firelight could fall
upon him and reveal him.
And all the while the henchman's song of
triumph reached their ears from the halls below.



CHAPTER V.

A TERRIBLE DISCOVERY.

KENRIC tarried not long in search of the
ghostly figure that had appeared before
him so mysteriously in the dark forest of Barone.
Whence that figure had come and whither it
had gone he could not tell. Nor did he exercise
his mind in fruitless questioning concerning her.
Leaving the rock behind him, he set off at a
brisk pace through the shadows of the trees,
more timid than ever, and came out upon the
high ground that is behind Rothesay Bay.
Down by the water's brink, outlined against the
moonlit waves, stood the dark towers of Rothesay






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


Castle. A light shone dimly in his mother's
chamber window; but the great banqueting-hall
wherein his father was wont to entertain his
guests was dark, and Kenric thought this passing
strange. Where were the strangers of whom
he had heard ? If they were not in the banquet-
ing-hall, then they must surely have already left
the island.
Hastening down the hillside, he hied him to
the castle, and as he neared the little postern in
the western walls, a burst of boisterous song
reached his ears from the guard-room. Taking
up a stone from the ground he was about to
knock three loud knocks, when the door was
opened from within, and a tall man with a
thick plaid over his broad shoulders slipped out,
almost overthrowing Kenric as he ran against
him.
Duncan!" exclaimed Kenric, perceiving his
father's seneschal, "whither go you at this late
hour of night?"
Ah, master Kenric, and that is yourself, eh ?
And you are here, and not at the abbey of St.
Blane's? Well, sir, it's a bonnie night, you see,
and I even thought I would take a quiet saunter
along the side of Loch Fad."
Then," said Kenric, "I warn you, go not
near to the forest of Barone, Duncan; for I have
but now come through, and therein I saw a sight






A TERRIBLE DISCOVERY.


that would raise your hair on end. It was, as I
believe, none other than the werewolf that I saw.
First there was an old gray wolf with a white
patch on its breast, and then, even as I looked,
that wolf was spirited into the form of a fair lady,
and I was like to sink into the ground with fear."
"'Tis the first time that I have heard of a son
of the house of Rothesay knowing fear," said
Duncan, smiling and showing his great yellow
teeth in the moonlight. "'Twas but the maid
Aasta of Kilmory that you saw."
Aasta ? Then it is true that the maid has
been bewitched ? It is true that she has that
power of turning herself at will into the form of
a wolf?"
Men say so," answered Duncan. But me-
thinks 'tis no more true than that other thing
they say of her-that though she looks but a
girl of eighteen, she is yet full fivescore winters
old. 'Tis idle talk, Kenric. But where saw you
this sight? Was it not by the Rock of Solitude,
in the heart of the forest?"
"'Twas even there. But in an instant she
disappeared, and I saw her no more."
If she be not there now," said Duncan, heav-
ing a great sigh out of his deep chest, then will
I return into the castle; for now do I mind me
that mine eyes are wanting sleep after the weary
day that I have had among the hills, running






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


high and low as though I were but a dumb
hound made only to scent out game for those
who know less of hunting than I do of building
a ship. That lazy old gray-beard, the lord of
Jura, may bring his own gillies with him the next
time he comes to the hunting in Bute. Never
again shall he get me to fetch and carry for him!"
The lord of Jura?" said Kenric. It is then
true that there are strangers in the castle."
And is it not for that same cause that you
have come home ?" asked Duncan. Methought
you knew that they were here-three gallant
kings out of the west they are, and one of them
is your own uncle, Earl Roderic of Gigha, whom,
when he was but a bairn as high as my girdle,
I taught to bend the bow and wield the broad-
sword. They are but now in the feasting-hall
with my lord your father; for Sir Oscar and
young Allan have gone home to Kilmory, and
my lady and Alpin have gone to their chambers."
Have you then left my father alone with
these three strange men?" asked Kenric as they
entered the postern.
My lord's own brother, Earl Roderic, is with
him," said Duncan, looking at Kenric in surprise.
"You would not surely have me mount guard
over my lord's own guests By the rood, that
were strange hospitality!"
"Where are their dirks and swords?"






A TERRIBLE DISCOVERY.


"Under my own keeping in the armoury,
where 'tis right they should be; for men of peace,
as these most surely are, encumber not them-
selves with the instruments of war."
"'Tis well," returned Kenric, much relieved.
" Old Elspeth Blackfell was but playing me with
her groundless forewarnings of danger. Well,
get me some meat and a bowl of milk, Duncan,
while I go up and see this uncle of mine. He
has seen much of the world, and methinks his
discourse must be full of instruction for a home-
keeping youth."
So Duncan went into the guard-room, where
two score of noisy retainers were making merry
over their cups, and Kenric went upstairs to the
great hall.
Up the steep stone steps he climbed, making
little noise with his deerskin buskins. Hearing
footsteps at the head of the stairs, he glanced
along the north corridor, whose lancet windows
looked out upon the quiet sea. Suddenly in the
midst of the moonbeams that streamed in through
the western window, lighting the corridor with
a clear silvery light, he saw three men steal out
of the banqueting-hall. The last of the three
moaned grievously as they passed beyond into
another apartment.
"Oh, Hamish, Hamish my brother!" he
moaned, and his voice was as the wailing of the






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


wind, "what is this evil thing that I have
done!"
Kenric drew back into the shadow of the
stairway, and not seeing his father with the three
guests, he began again to fear some ill.
What!" croaked the old man with the silvery
beard, "and is this your resolution? Is this
your courage? I fear me, Roderic, you are but
a weak craven thus to deplore the fulfilment of
our most righteous mission!"
Then the door of the smaller hall closed be-
hind the three earls, and Kenric was left alone.
He still heard the rumour of their voices as he
walked with quick steps along the moonlit cor-
ridor, and he paused to listen at the door.
And now that we have done so completely
with the fox," said a voice, "what say you,
comrades, to our making equal despatch with
the vixen and her cub ? 'Twere easy doing,
could we but discover in what corner we might
entrap them."
Kenric did not understand the purport of
these words. He did not guess that the "fox"
meant his own father, and the "vixen and her
cub" his mother and Alpin. But he listened
yet again.
Wait, wait, my lord of Jura," said another
voice. "'Twere better we tarried until all the
watch-dogs are sound asleep. Fill me yon






A TERRIBLE DISCOVERY.


drinking-horn, Sweyn, for my hand trembles,
and my mind is strangely cloudy."
Silence followed this speech, and Kenric crept
along the corridor until he came to the entrance
of the great hall. He drew aside the arras hang-
ings and peered into the deserted room. All
was silent as the grave. The crackling embers
of the fire gave but a sorry light, with only a fitful
glimmer that rose now and again from some
half-consumed pine log. But with the feeble
moonbeams, that shone through the thin films
of skin that in those days-except in the churches
-did service for glass, there was still light
enough in that vast room to show what terrible
deed had been enacted upon the hearth-stone.
Kenric had taken but a few strides into the
hall when his eyes rested upon the form of his
murdered father. He started back aghast at
the horrible sight.
Oh, my father, my father!" he cried, flinging
himself down upon the blood-stained floor.
"Father? father? It is I, Kenric-your son.
Tell me, I beseech you, tell me, what foul villain
has done this thing?"
Then he took hold of the earl's cold right
hand and chafed it tenderly, as he still tried to
arouse him. But there was no response. He
knelt down closer and bent his head to his
father's bare throat, and, putting out his tongue,
(746) D






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


he felt with its sensitive touch if there was sign
of breathing, or if the pulses were beating in the
veins. As he rested his hand on the dead earl's
chest he touched the haft of the weapon that
had worked this cruel deed. He knew the knife
and guessed how all had happened. He grasped
the handle in his fingers and tried to withdraw
the long blade; but the blood gushed out from
the terrible wound, and the lad grew faint at the
sight.
Dead! dead!" he moaned, rising to his feet,
and then from the halls below came the shouts
of the retainers as they pledged wagess hael" to
the lord of Bute.
Kenric hastened out of the hall and crept down
the stairs to summon the guard and station them
in the corridor, that none of the three traitorous
guests might escape.
He met Duncan the seneschal at the foot of
the stairs carrying the food that he had ordered,
and by the light of a lamp in the lower passage
Duncan saw the lad's pale and terrified face.
"God assoil me!" cried Duncan, "what has
happened?"
A terrible thing, Duncan. My dear father
has been brutally slain under his own roof-
tree."
"Slain! My lord, the Earl Hamish slain?
Nay, boy, it cannot be!"






A TERRIBLE DISCOVERY.


"Alas, 'tis true! One of those miscreant
traitors who came hither to-day has plunged a
knife into my father's heart. Take back the
food. I will neither eat nor sleep again until I
have discovered the villain who has done this
foul crime. Turn out the guard this instant.
Station them without the door of the room
wherein those three wicked men are now carous-
ing. And now to call my brother Alpin."
Kenric went softly to his brother's room,
which was next to the chamber of the Lady
Adela, and he knocked gently at the door.
Alpin was sound asleep upon his couch, for his
day's hunting had wearied his limbs. Kenric
went within and awoke him.
In the darkness Alpin did not see his brother's
pallid face, and he turned over with many
complaints at being so roughly disturbed.
Nay, Alpin, 'tis for no light cause that I
disturb you," urged Kenric. And hearing his
husky, trembling voice, Alpin roused himself
with sudden terror.
"What brings you back to the castle?" he cried;
"and wherefore do you call me at this late hour?"
It is that our father has been entertaining
enemies unawares," said Kenric. Entering
the hall but a few moments ago I found him
lying dead upon the hearth with a cruel knife in
his heart,"






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


Alpin gave a piercing cry of sudden grief and
sprang up from his bed.
No, no, it cannot be!" he exclaimed, re-
covering himself as he threw on some clothing.
" You have made some strange mistake. These
friends could not have harmed our father. They
were not armed. And what could our uncle
Roderic gain by such treachery?"
Kenric drew his brother out into one of the
dark passages, not observing that their mother's
chamber door had opened and that the Lady
Adela, roused from her slumber by Alpin's cry
of grief, had taken the alarm and was preparing
to follow.
"Alas, he has but too much to gain," said
Kenric. Had he been left to carry out his
base plot to the end, you and I, Alpin, must
surely have fallen as our father has fallen-
victims to Earl Roderic's ambition to make
himself lord over Bute."
If this be so," returned Alpin, raising his
voice in wrath, "then with my own hands will
I take a deadly vengeance. I swear it now,
Kenric-by our holy faith I swear that it
Roderic of Gigha has indeed slain our father,
then Roderic shall die by my hand!"
"Will such vengeance give back the life
that has been taken?" asked Kenric solemnly.
Will vengeance restore to our dear mother the






A TERRIBLE DISCOVERY.


happiness that she now has lost? Methinks it
had been wiser in you, Alpin, to have stayed
by our father's side instead of slinking off to
your bed and leaving him thus exposed to dan-
ger. Come, let us arm ourselves and confront
these evil men, that we may learn which one of
them has dealt this fatal blow."
With what weapon, say you, was my father
slain?" asked Alpin, as, being now in the
armoury, they proceeded to don their coats of
chain-mail.
"With the great knife wherewith he was
wont to carve the venison and meat," said Ken-
ric, taking down a sword.
"Ah!" cried Alpin with swift recollection,
"now do I perceive the reason wherefore Earl
Roderic took that same knife from off the board
and placed it so cunningly above the hearth.
Oh, villain that he is! He designed even then
to do as he has done. Now," he added, snatch-
ing up a great two-handed sword, I am ready.
Let me but meet him-let me but face him for
a moment, and I will slay him like a dog."
"Think well ere you strike the blow you
contemplate," said Kenric as they ascended a
side stairway that led to the upper floors of the
castle. "Remember that you are now the rightful
lord over Bute, and that you will have power to
inflict due punishment upon this man without






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


taking a personal vengeance that would surely
lead to an endless blood-feud."
"Tush! You are but a timid boy, Kenric.
What priestly precepts has the old Abbot
Thurstan been cramming you with? Would
you pardon the man who has slain our own
father ?"
"Pardon him?" exclaimed Kenric. "No,
never will I do that. If you slay him not,
Alpin, then, by the holy rood, I myself will do so.
But it shall be in fair fight that I will overcome
him, and by no mean subterfuge."
The two lads were now at the entrance of the
larger hall, wherein the good Earl Hamish lay
dead. Alpin went within, and there, bending
over his father's body, he was overwhelmed by
his grief. He staggered to a seat and sat down
with his head in his hands, weeping piteously.
Kenric heard loud voices in the corridor, and
grasping his sword he hastened to where the
guards were stationed. Duncan Graham, of the
long arm, was holding parley with the three
earls within the smaller hall. His broad frame
filled up the half-open doorway, so that the
presence of the armed guard was not yet known
to Roderic and his two companions.
More wine it may be you can have," said
Duncan; "but as to bringing you your swords,
that I cannot do without orders from my master."






A TERRIBLE DISCOVERY.


I am now your master!" said the gruff voice
of Roderic of Gigha; "and again I command
you to bring us our swords and dirks."
"You are no master of mine, Earl Roderic,"
said Duncan; and now for your insolence shall
you have neither wine nor weapons;" and with
that he slammed to the door.
"Insolent varlet!" growled Roderic within
the room.
Nay, calm yourself, good Roderic," said the
voice of Erland the Old; "we had better have
tarried till daylight. It may be that they have
already discovered what you have done. Truly
you were an arrant simpleton to leave the
weapon in your brother's breast. 'Twould have
served our further purpose well."
Kenric heard these last words, and though
they were spoken in the Danish, yet full well
did he understand that the further purpose of
Earl Roderic was indeed the slaying of the
Lady Adela and Alpin.
Assured that the three miscreants were
unarmed, he drew Duncan aside and whispered
his commands, which were that four of the
guards should follow him into the room and
make prisoners of the three island kings.
Thereupon Duncan went back to the door and
forced it open, and Kenric, with buckler on arm
*and sword in hand, marched in, and stand-






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


ing firmly upright faced the three men de-
fiantly.
"Which man of you is Earl Rodericof Gigha?"
said he.



CHAPTER VI.

ALPIN'S VOW OF VENGEANCE.

E RLAND THE OLD, with an empty
drinking-horn in his bony hand, sat by the
hearth looking vacantly into the dead embers
of the fire. Sweyn the Silent stood beside him
with his thumbs stuck in his leather girdle;
while Roderic of Gigha sat upon the table facing
the door and swinging his legs to and fro. The
light of a hanging cruse-lamp shone upon his long
red hair and beard. His strong bare arms were
folded, one within the other, across his broad
chest, and the back of his right hand was splashed
with blood that had been partly wiped off upon
his under jerkin.
"Which man of you is Earl Rodericof Gigha?"
repeated Kenric.
The three looked one to the other with evil
smiles. Roderic drank off what remained in his
wine-cup.
I am he," he said coolly as he again folded






ALPIN'S VOW OF VENGEANCE.


his arms. "And who, then, are you who de-
mand to know?"
"Then if you be he," said Kenric, "you are
the vilest man that ever breathed within these
walls. Oh, Roderic MacAlpin, unworthy son
of a noble and good prince, you have brought
the guilt of blood upon your father's name!
You have slain your own brother, our dear lord
and master; you have shed his life's blood within
his own hall. Deceitful traitor that you are, you
came to this peaceful island in the semblance of
a friend. But, by all that I hold sacred, you
shall not leave it again ere you have been duly
judged for your foul crime."
A burst of mocking laughter from Roderic
greeted this speech.
"And now," added Kenric, turning to the
guard, "take me this man as prisoner to the
deepest dungeon. For though he were King
Hakon himself he should not longer remain as
a guest in the castle whose shelter he has
abused."
Let one of those varlets but touch me with
his hand," said Roderic, "and I will break his
back across my knee. And you, who are you,
my young knave, that dares to threaten his
betters? By St. Olaf, but you are passing bold
to speak of prisoning me in the walls wherein I
was born. Away with you to your couch; this






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


is no hour for bairns to be awake." Then
turning to the lord of Colonsay he said:
Slip you out behind the young whelp, Sweyn,
and bring me the knife you wot of. This is
surely the stripling of whom we heard. He
barks passing well; let us see if he can bite. A
few ells of cold steel will speedily settle him, I
warrant me."
Earl Sweyn stepped towards the door, but
one of the men of Rothesay bounded forward
and caught him in his strong arms, struggled
with him for a moment, and then flung him
heavily to the floor.
Roderic, seeing this and waxing wrathful,
sprang lightly from his seat, and ere Kenric
could well understand his intention he had
caught hold of the youth and gripped him by
his sword hand. He wreathed his other strong
arm round the lad's lithe body. Long he
wrestled with him, but at last he drew him down
by main force with his back across his thigh and
his right hand set hard at his throat. With his
left hand he again gripped Kenric's sword hand
and tried to wrest the weapon from his grasp.
But Kenric's wrist was of mighty strength and
he held with a grip of iron to the handle of his
sword. Then Roderic dragged the lad's hand
forward and got it between his teeth, that by
biting it he might force him to loosen his hold






ALPIN'S VOW OF VENGEANCE.


of the weapon. And now Kenric must surely
have been overcome had not Duncan of the
long arm at that moment come behind Earl
Roderic and rushed upon him and caught him
up in his arms. With all the force of his giant
strength the Highlander lifted the man high in
the air and shook him fiercely. Kenric, freeing
himself, drew back to the door, and he saw
Duncan fling Earl Roderic upon the table and
grip him by the throat.
"Spare him!" cried Kenric as the seneschal
drew his dirk.
Then Duncan, thrusting his knife in his garter,
turned Roderic over with his face downward,
and holding him there with his bare knee on
his back, he took off his great plaid and twisting
it ropewise he bound the earl's arms tightly
together, so that he could no longer move them.
The earl of Colonsay had already been
pinioned in like manner. But Erland the Old,
when he saw Kenric stand free and unharmed,
fearing to be ill-treated, rushed out into the
corridor. There he was met by Alpin, who,
with drawn sword, was about to kill him. His
sword was raised in the act of smiting him when,
from the banqueting-hall beyond, there came a
loud and plaintive cry that echoed throughout
the castle like the cry of a wounded eagle.
Alpin lowered his weapon and,leaving old Erland






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


to be arrested by the guards, he sped towards
the hall. Kenric, hearing that scream, followed
after him.
In the hall they found their mother. A crowd
of the men and women of the castle were there
with her, holding torches and lighted cruse-
lamps over the body of the dead lord of Bute.
The Lady Adela was wringing her hands in
frantic grief.
"Who is the villain that hath done this
wicked thing?" she cried as Alpin and Kenric
entered.
Roderic, earl of Gigha," answered Kenric.
"Ah, unhappy hour that ever brought him
within these walls! Where is he now?"
He is made prisoner with his two cam-
panious," said Kenric.
Prisoner-not slain! You have not slain
him? Oh, my sons, where is your spirit? Why
have you let him live thus long? And you,
Alpin, wherefore did you suffer your father to
be left alone with these men?"
"Alas, my mother, was it possible I could
foresee this crime?" said Alpin. "Even my
poor father could not have seen treachery
through the mask of his brother's friendship."
There has been some quarrel," said Dove-
nald the bard. Heard you aught of a dispute
between them, young man?"












































RODERIC TRIES TO STRANGLE KENRIC.


I.





ALPIN'S VOW OF VENGEANCE.


Methinks there is little need to seek for a
cause of quarrel," said Kenric. "Roderic of
Gigha is even now meditating how he can make
himself the lord over Bute. No farther shall
he go, for he cannot now escape the penalty
that is his due."
"And what penalty is that?" asked the Lady
Adela.
Kenric turned to Dovenald for reply, know-
ing well that Dovenald was better learned than
any other man in the breast-laws of that land.
"My lady," said Dovenald, "he must be
judged and punished for his crime as the wise
men of Bute shall direct. Justice will be done.
Fear not for that."
"Justice?" cried she. "I know well what
justice means with your wise men. It is not
the worthless fine of a few score of cattle that
would repay me for the loss of my dear husband.
No, no. A life for a life. Earl Roderic has
cruelly slain our good and noble lord, and now
I demand a speedy vengeance." She flung her-
self on her knees before her son Alpin. Oh,
my sweet son," she cried, clasping his two
hands, "I charge you upon my blessing, and
upon the high nobility you inherit, to be re-
venged upon this traitor for his crime;" and
thereupon she took up the blood-stained weapon
and forced it into her son's hand,






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


Alpin started back and grew pale.
Fair mother," said he, "what may this
mean?"
Take this fatal knife," said she, and before
the blood is dry upon its blade drive it into the
murderer's black heart."
Then Alpin, holding the knife, raised his
mother in his arms.
Dear mother," said he, you have given me
a great charge, and here I promise you I shall
be avenged upon Earl Roderic ere long, and
that do I promise to God and to you."
Nay, mother," appealed Kenric, stepping
forward. In mercy I beg you, charge not my
brother with so terrible a mission. Withdraw
it, I beseech you, for you know not what you
do in thus exposing Alpin to both danger and
dishonour. For if he take vengeance by stealth,
then is his treachery as evil as that of the
murderer whom he would punish. If he
challenge this man to mortal combat, then most
surely he will be slain, for Roderic, as I have
seen, is most powerful of arm, and it is his
heart's desire that he should slay my brother,
whose death he has already planned. If you
would indeed have this man die, then I entreat
you let me, and not Alpin, fulfil your behest.
Alpin is now our rightful king, and his life is of
more value than mine."






THE ARROW OF SUMMONS.


Now while Kenric was thus speaking his
mother remained in Alpin's arms, with her head
upon his shoulder. And when Alpin drew
away his arm that she might answer Kenric
face to face, she turned not round, but sank
down at Alpin's feet, and it was seen that she
was in a swoon.
So Alpin carried her away in his strong arms
to her chamber, where the women of the castle
tended her. But for three long days and nights
she lay on her couch in a strange sickness that
none could understand. For those three days
she was unconscious, speaking never a word.



CHAPTER VII.

TIE ARROW OF SUMMONS.

OW the three island kings fared in the dark
dungeons of the castle of Rothesay on
that fatal night need not be told. Earl Roderic
of Gigha had doubtless in his sea-rovings slept
on many a less easy couch. But it may be that
in those dark hours of solitude his mind was
more disturbed than were his hardy limbs. He
had come to Bute full of a guilty design, by the
fulfilment of which he had hoped to at last gain
possession of the rich dominions that he had






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


coveted for twenty years. His own inheritance
of the small island of Gigha was not enough to
satisfy his vaulting ambition, and the growing
power of the King of Norway, who was year
by year extending his territories in the west
of Scotland, offered a further inducement to
Roderic, who believed that by slaying his brother
Hamish, and taking his place, he might bring
the island of Bute under the protection of the
Norwegian crown.
His design was clumsily planned, for though
subtle as a fox, Roderic was yet an ignorant
man, even for those uncultured times, and he
had failed to take into account the two sons of
Earl Hamish, both of whom stood between him
and the coveted earldom, and who now appeared
to him as an obstacle not easy to overcome.
But for the unexpected appearance of Kenric,
however, even this obstacle in his path might
have been cleared, for he had planned that in
the darkness and quiet of the night he would
steal into the sleeping chamber of Alpin and so
deal with him that he would never again waken
to claim his dead father's lands. Roderic had
learned from the Lady Adela that her younger
son, Kenric, was but a boy of sixteen, living
with the learned abbot of St. Blane's, and to the
wicked earl of Gigha it seemed that Kenric
might be disposed of by very simple means.






THE ARROW OF SUMMONS.


But now, even after having slain his brother,
he had failed in his object. Instead of being
king in Bute, he was a prisoner in the deepest
dungeon of Rothesay Castle.
The moor-fowl had scarcely shaken the dew
from off their wings ere the two sons of the
!lead Earl Hamish were climbing the heather
eights behind Rothesay. With them went the
aged Dovenald, bearing in his arms a young
goat, white as the driven snow. When they
were upon the topmost knoll they stood a while.
Dovenald laid down the bleating kid, whose
little feet were tethered one to the other, and he
bade the two youths go about and gather some
dry twigs of heather and gorse that a fire might
be made.
A soft breeze from over the moorland played
with the silvery locks of the old man's bare head.
He turned his face to the east and looked across
the gray waters of the Clyde, where above the
hills of Cunningham, the dawn was breaking
into day. Southward then he gazed and watched
the giant mountains of Arran that were half-
shrouded in rosy mists. Very soon the golden
light of the rising sun kissed here and there the
jagged peaks of Goatfell, and Dovenald bent
his head and murmured a prayer, calling upon
God to shed His light into the hearts of men
and to guide them in the solemn work they were
(76C) E






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


called upon to fulfil that day. Then he turned
to Alpin.
"Now kindle me the fire," he said. "Here are
flint and steel. And, Kenric, give me the arrow."
He took the arrow in his hand and waited
till the fire was well alight. With the arrow's
point he stirred the flaming twigs, and the two
youths looked on.
"And now take your dirk, Alpin," said he,
"and slay me the kid. Give as little pain as
may be, for it is not well that the innocent thing
should suffer."
Kenric held the animal while his brother
drove his sharp dirk into its white and throbbing
throat. The kid turned its soft blue eyes upon
him and gave a plaintive bleat. Its warm
breath rose visible in the morning air and then
died away.
"'Tis done!" said Kenric, and Dovenald
brought the burning arrow and extinguished
it in the kid's blood. With the innocent blood
he smeared the arrow's shaft.
Fly now as speedily as your feet can carry
you to the castle of Kilmory," said the old man
to Alpin, giving him the arrow, "and you will
give this burnt arrow into the hands of Sir
Oscar Redmain. No need have you to tell him
the meaning thereof. It is a summons ordained
by ancient custom, and well known to all the






THE ARROW OF SUMMONS.


wise men of Bute. Sir Oscar will despatch it
to our good father the abbot of St. Blane's. The
abbot will in like manner send it to Ronald
Gray of Scoulag. So, in turn, will it pass round
to each of the twelve wise ruthmen, calling them
one and all to hasten to the Seat of Law on the
great plain beside Ascog mere, that they may
there in solemn assize pronounce judgment
upon the traitor who hath slain our king.
Haste! haste! my son. Why do you tarry?"
Have I not sworn an oath on my mother's
blessing that I will have this man Roderic's life?
Why, then, should this assize be assembled ?"
"Go, do my bidding, rash boy," said Dove-
nald sternly. Seek not to oppose the customs
of your ancestors, and let not your thirst for
vengeance now blind you to the folly of violence.
Go, I command you; and believe me the earl
of Gigha shall not escape just retribution."
Alpin, then, taking the arrow in his right
hand, ran off at a brisk pace down the hill.
Kenric took up the dead kid and walked at
Dovenald's side towards Rothesay.
"Rash, rash that he is," murmured the old
man. "Much do I fear that he will make but
a sorry king. He is over hasty, and his judg-
ment is ofttimes wrong. He will not rule as did
his father. The Lady Adela hath spoiled him
with her caresses."






THE TITIRSTY SWORD.


You are over hard upon my brother," said
Kenric. There lives not a man in the Western
Isles better fitted than Alpin for the great office
of kingship. He is just, and noble, and trusty.
No man in all Bute can say that he ever broke
a promise or told an untruth. Think you that
because he is hasty with his dirk he is therefore
a thoughtless loon, who knows not when a gentle
word can do more service than a blow? When
did he ever draw dirk or sword without just
cause? You do not know him as I do, Dove-
nald, or you would not breathe a word in his
dispraise. And if my gentle mother loves him
above all else next to my father, whom she has
now lost, who shall say that Alpin is not deserv-
ing of her great favour?"
The old retainer walked on in silence. Pre-
sently he turned to Kenric and said:
"What has your brother done with the
weapon wherewith my lord was slain? He
tried in the dead of night to gain entrance to
the traitor Roderic that he might use that fatal
knife even as my lady so weakly charged him
to do. Where is it, I say?"
I know not," said Kenric. But methinks
'tis a pity he did not drive it into the villain's
heart."
My son! my son! let me not hear you utter
such evil thoughts again. It ill becomes a pupil






AN ERIACH-FTNE.


of our holy abbot to speak thus. And yester-
night you were disposed to leave the guilty earl
to whatever punishment the wise men should
appoint."
Reflection has changed me, Dovenald; and
were Roderic before me at this moment I would
willingly lay him dead at my feet. Should
Alpin fail to slay him, then will I fulfil my
revenge. In fair fight or by stealth Roderic
shall surely die."
"Alas, that I should ever hear such words
from one so young!" murmured Dovenald.
And the old man continued his complaints until
they had entered the castle gates.




CHAPTER VIII.

AN ERIACH-FINE.

UNDER the clear sky of high noon the people
of Bute had assembled on the great plain
of Laws, at the margin of Loch Ascog. They
had come from all parts of the island, for the
word had travelled round with the swiftness of
a bird's flight that their good king, Earl Hamish,
had been cruelly slain by his own brother, and
all were eager not only to see the man who had






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


done this treacherous deed, but also to hear
judgment passed upon him for his crime.
At the foot of the great standing-stone Sir
Oscar Redmain, as steward or prefect of Bute,
took his seat as judge. Noble and comely he
looked, holding his great glittering sword, point
upward, waiting for the prisoner and his accuser.
At his right stood Godfrey Thurstan, the good
abbot of St. Blane's, with his cowl drawn over
his reverend head to shield him from the warm
sun. At his left Dovenald, most learned in the
laws of the land, ready to explain and discuss
the ancient legal customs; and round them in
a circle were the others of the twelve ruthmen.
The witnesses or compurgators stood in an
outer ring within a fencing of cords running
from stake to stake. Without the verge of the
sacred circle of justice were gathered a great
crowd of islanders-herdsmen and husbandmen,
tribesmen, fishermen, and thralls-who had left
their labours on hill and in vale, or on the sea,
and come hither crying out loud for speedy
vengeance.
Duncan Graham the seneschal and his guards
of the castle had already gone amongst these
onlookers to see that no man carried weapons,
for it was held in strict custom that none should
bear arms or make disturbance at such a time
on pain of life and limb.





AN ERIACH-FINE.


These hardy islanders, as they stood in silence,
were a rugged set of men, with sunburnt faces
and bushy beards. Many of them were clothed
in garments of sheep-skin, others of a better
condition wore a plaid or mantle of frieze. They
had buskins made of raw hide, and a knitted
bonnet, though many of them wore no covering
for their heads but their own shaggy hair tied
back with a leather strap.
The assize being sworn and admitted the
abbot stepped forward and called upon the God
of the Christians to punish the peace-breaker.
Then the crowd opened and young Alpin came
in, stalwart, handsome, noble, and bowed before
the judge.
He wore a mantle of tartan, clasped at the
shoulder by a silver buckle. His legs were
swathed in fine cloth and cross-gartered below
the bare knees, and his feet were encased in
brogues with silver clasps. His long hair was
well combed, and it hung about his broad
shoulders in dark brown locks., A deep hum of
praise rose in greeting from many throats as he
stood in the light of the noonday sun.
Hail to Earl Alpin, king of Bute!" cried one.
Long life to the king!" cried another; and
the cries were taken up by the whole assembly,
dying away in echoes among the far-off hills.
Then Alpin raised his hand and asked that






TIE THIRSTY SWORD.


the chain of silence should be shaken; and when
one of the guards had shaken the rattling chains
and all were listening with bated breath he took
up and made his plea, demanding prompt justice
on the slayer of his father.
"And whom do you charge with this foul
crime?" asked Sir Oscar Redmain, though indeed
none needed to be told.
I charge Roderic MacAlpin, king of Gigha,"
said Alpin, and at that there was a great yell of
execration.
Down with the traitor! Death to him!"
was the cry as the crowd opened. And Alpin
turning round saw Duncan Graham-taller by
a head than the tallest man there present-
leading in the criminal, followed by his two
companions of Colonsay and Jura.
In a moment Alpin sprang forward at his
enemy. He raised his right hand and all saw
that he held the blood-stained knife.
"Die, slayer of the just!" he cried, bringing
down the weapon upon Roderic's breast.
But Roderic of Gigha laughed a mocking
laugh, and catching Alpin by the wrist he threw
him backward. Duncan Graham broke his fall
and tore the weapon from his grasp.
"Oh, foolish lad!" he murmured, "to attempt
such a thing within the very fences of the court!"
Alpin of Bute," said the judge gravely as he





AN ERIACH-FINE.


rose from his seat, "you have done that which
no other man in this land might do without the
severest punishment. You are here to plead
the cause of justice, and not to insult those whom
you have summoned to this place to do justice
for you. Bear yourself discreetly, or resign
your cause into the hands of those who can
control their wrath."
Alpin scowled as he again took his place
before the judge, and then when silence had
been restored he proceeded to state the whole
case concerning the killing of his father.
By his side stood Kenric, who helped him
when he faltered in his narrative. The two
brothers might almost have been mistaken for
master and serf, so much did their appearance
differ. Kenric's face was unwashed and streaked
with the traces of tears. His brown hair, lighter
than Alpin's, was rough and tangled, and now,
as always, he wore no covering on his head.
His coarse buckskin coat looked mean beside
the richer apparel of his brother, and his buskins
were ill-tied and his kilt was dusty and tattered.
The elder brother was taller and more lithe of
body; but Kenric's bare arms and legs were
thick and strong, and despite his coarse clothing
he bore himself no less nobly upright than did
Alpin.
Roderic, son of Alpin, what have you to say






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


in defence for this grave crime whereof you are
accused?" asked Sir Oscar Redmain when Alpin
had told his tale.
The two lads stepped back and Roderic took
their place. His long golden hair as the sun-
light fell upon it shone scarcely less bright than
the well-wrought dragon that twined its scaled
form upon his burnished helm of brass. He
looked towards his judge with bold defiance in
his blue eyes.
"What the boy says is true," said he. I
slew my brother Hamish. I slew him upon his
own hearth-stone. But it was in fair fight that
I did it; and I call my two friends, the lords of
Jura and Colonsay, to bear me out in the truth
of what I say."
There was a loud howl of rage from the crowd
as he spoke these false words, and no one tried
to stifle those outbursts of popular feeling.
"'Tis a lie you tell!" cried Kenric furiously as
he pushed his brother aside and confronted Earl
Roderic. "You say it was in fair fight you
smote my father his death-blow. Oh, perjured
villain! Where, then, was my father's weapon?
Had he been armed with a knife such as the
one you used, methinks you would not now be
here to utter your false words. Your own arms
were left in the armoury hall, where 'twas right
they should be; and you took up the knife from





AN ERIACH-FINE.


the board, knowing full well what you meant to
do with it. Oh, Roderic MacAlpin, may your
tongue shrivel in your throat ere you utter such
base and wicked lies again! You came to this
island, the land of your fathers, with the evil
purpose of climbing over our dead bodies to the
kingship that you covet-"
Roderic bit his lips with rage and doubled his
great fists as he stepped forward to smite young
Kenric to the ground. Kenric drew back.
I know it," continued Kenric with full and
sonorous voice that might have been heard at
the further side of Ascog mere. I know your
purpose, Roderic of Gigha. Think you that
there are none of us that can understand the
Norse tongue in which you spake to your two
base comrades? I know that tongue. I heard
your craven moans of anguish when you came
out from that darkened hall wherein my father
lay dead. I heard you tell of how you meant
to slay the vixen and her cubs. And who are
they? My mother and Alpin and me! My
mother, whom you flattered with soft speeches
-my mother, in whose presence you were not
worthy to breathe, and whose noble heart you
have now broken by your murderous treachery.
And you would have slain her as you slew our
father. I thank the great God who stayed your
hand from fulfilling such devil's work to the






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


end. May He punish you as you deserve to
be punished for the evil you have done!"
A deep silence followed upon this speech, and
then a thousand lusty voices broke out in a pro-
longed groan of imprecation. But Roderic of
Gigha only turned to Erland the Old and smiled.
Kenric looked to the crowd that stood behind
the judge's seat, and there he saw Ailsa Red-
main standing with her brother Allan; and
Ailsa's eyes glistened with approval of what
Kenric had just spoken, and he took new cour-
age.
Men of Bute," said Sir Oscar Redmain,
turning to the ruthmen, "ye have heard what
has passed. It is now for you to pronounce
judgment upon the accused man. What say
you?"
That Earl Roderic is guilty of the crime,"
said Ronald Gray, their spokesman, "and that
he shall pay the highest penalty that our laws
can impose."
Then," said Alpin, I claim that Roderic of
Gigha shall die the death."
But at that the wise men shook their heads.
In the time of my father, the good king
Alpin," said Roderic with a voice of triumph, "it
was ordained, as all of you must surely know,
that no man should die for the slaying of his
enemy unless he were caught red-handed and






AN ERIACH-FINE.


with the weapon in his hand; but that for taking
the life of a man in hot blood he should be
assoiled or cleansed on payment of the eriach-
fine, which is nine-score of kine, to the kin of
his victim. And I ask Dovenald Dornoch if
this be not so?"
At this Alpin held speech with Dovenald the
lawman, and his face grew sullen in disappoint-
ment.
"Alas!" said Alpin to Sir Oscar, "what Earl
Roderic hath said is indeed true; for it seems that
my grandsire, king Alpin, and also my father,
who is dead, did in their mercy so ordain that
crimes of violence should be dealt with in such
manner that the traitor might have time in which
to repent of his ill-deeds and commend himself
to God. But for the slaying of a king the fine
is not nine-score, but six times nine-score of kine,
or three thousand golden oras. And if that fine
be not paid within a year and a day, then shall
the traitor die the death. And now, oh men of
Bute, since that I cannot see this man die-as,
would that I might!-I call upon him for the
due payment of my eriach-fine. And moreover,
oh judge, you and the wise men of Bute whom
I see here present are guarantees for the full
payment, and you shall see that it be paid within
a year and a day."
Now this was far from being what Roderic






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


wished, for well he knew that no man in all the
Western Isles would spare him if he failed to
pay the price of his liberty. But also he knew
that neither in cattle nor in other movable wealth
was it in his power to pay the value of a thou-
sand head of cattle in so short a time. So he
up and told this to Sir Oscar Redmain.
I cannot pay the fine," he said; for not in all
my lands and ships do I possess such wealth nor
know I any man who would be my broch, or bail."
Then," said Sir Oscar, if that be so, I now
pronounce you an outlaw in the Western Isles
and in Scotland, and our sovereign lord, King
Alexander, shall ratify that sentence upon you
forthwith. You shall be an outlaw for the term
of three years and three days. For those three
days you shall live within the sanctuary of
Dunagoil and under the protection of the good
abbot of St. Blane's. On the third day, or
before, you shall take ship and depart hence
whithersoever the holy abbot shall direct you."
Then turned Sir Oscar to the crowd.
Men of Bute," said he, "I charge you all
that if within three years to come any of you
shall see this man Roderfc MacAlpin within the
isle of Bute, or within his forfeited lands of
Gigha and Cara, or in any other land in the
dominions of the King of Scots, you shall put
him to the sword and slay him."






AN ERIACH-FINE.


There was a loud cry of assent; and Roderic,
wrathful at his position, felt at his side for his
absent sword.
Here again were his plans defeated. The
sentence passed upon him required that during
his three days of grace in the sanctuary of the
church lands no man should molest him or hold
speech with him. How, then, could he hope to
compass the death of the two lads, Alpin and
Kenric, who stood in the way of his ambition?
Turning his eyes with fierce malice upon the
two brothers he stepped boldly to the front.
There is yet another way for me," he cried
aloud. "Think you that I, a king, am to be
hunted about by a set of wolves like these?
No, no. Now, on this spot and before you all, do
I claim wager of battle, for that is my due. Let
any man of you stand forth and meet me in fair
fight, and I will fight him to the death."
Then Duncan Graham, the seneschal, came
forward in his towering height, and said he:
I will fight you, treacherous earl, for you
deserve to die!"
"You!" exclaimed Roderic, awed at the man's
giant height. Not so. An earl may hold such
combat with none but his equals. I will not cross
swords with a low-born churl like you. Show
me a man whose blood is worthier of my steel."
"Coward!" cried Duncan; "you are afraid to






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


cross arms with me. I would slay you at the
first passage."
"There is but one among you who is of my
own rank," said Roderic, "and there he stands;"
and he pointed to Alpin.
"And I am ready," said Alpin. "I will en-
gage with you to the death. And God defend
the right!"


CHAPTER IX.

THE ORDEAL BY BATTLE.

W HILE Duncan Graham and one of the
guards went back to the castle of Rothesay
to bring the swords of Alpin and Roderic, Sir
Oscar Redmain pronounced the assize at an
end; and such as wished not to witness the
deadly combat-the abbot Godfrey and some
few women-went away.
Then Roderic stood apart with Erland the
Old and Sweyn the Silent, bidding them not
wait for their weapons, but to slip away out of
the crowd and get them to their ship, and so
away to their island homes.
"Our project has so far failed," said he; "but
be assured that I shall yet gain the lordship
over Bute. They have made me an outlaw, and
I fear me that Redmain will most surely com-





THE ORDEAL BY BATTLE.


municate this whole matter to the King of Scots.
Well, be it so; we shall see what Alexander can
do. Methinks it will not be long that he will
hold his own against us. When these three
years of my outlawry are over you shall see
such things as will surprise you. Farewell, good
Erland, and you, dear Sweyn! Hold you both
fast by King Hakon. That is our highest game;
and so we serve him well there is no fear but
we will reap a good harvest of power."
"God grant it may be so!" said Erland; "for
if his Majesty of Norway fail in conquering
Scotland, then are we all lost men. Farewell,
then!"
When Sir Oscar Redmain had left the seat
of justice his daughter Ailsa crept within the
circle of the court, and there she found Kenric.
"As I came hither," she said, "I saw Elspeth
Blackfell; and she bade me ask you, Kenric, if
what she spake had aught of sooth in it?"
"Ah," said Kenric, "right truly did she tell
what was to befall. For even as it was with
your nest of ouzels, Ailsa, so has it been with
the castle of Rothesay. This man Roderic, is
he not even as the stoat that harried the nest?"
Even so," said Ailsa. But the stoat also
slew the fledgling as well as the parent bird.
Elspeth, when she heard that the good Earl
Hamish had been so cruelly slain, looked grave,
(740) F





THE THIRSTY SWORD.


and, said she, Hasten, Ailsa, to the sons of
Rothesay and bid them still be wary of this
man. Not until he is dead will all danger from
him be past.' Those were her words, Kenric;
and lest there should be truth in them I have
come to you as speedily as I might. Alpin is
about to engage in mortal combat. Bid him be
wary, bid him arm himself well; for I heard one
of the shepherds say that Roderic is clothed in
a shirt of iron network, and that if it had not
been so the knife wherewith Alpin smote him
would have slain him where he stood."
"Ailsa," said Kenric, "much do I fear me
that there is ample need of this warning. Help
me, I beseech you. Run to the castle and bid
Duncan not fail to bring my brother's coat of
mail."
Then Ailsa disappeared and like a lapwing
ran across the moorland.
Not long had she been gone when Duncan
appeared, bearing two great claymores. But he
had not brought the coat of mail; and Kenric
seeing this drew his brother aside and bade him
tarry until Ailsa should return, that he might
protect his body with the chain shirt, and so be
equal with his foe.
The men of Bute then went in a vast crowd
to the lower march beside Ascog mere, for it
was against the ancient custom that any blood






THE ORDEAL BY BATTLE.


should be shed within the sacred circle reserved
for the administration of the laws. And they
formed a great ring upon the level ground, in
the midst of which stood Earl Roderic alone,
with his great two-handed sword in his hand,
and the sun glancing upon his helm as he held
his head proudly aloft.
And the cry went about:
"Alpin! where is Alpin? Is he then afraid?"
But soon a gap was made in the circle and
Alpin strode boldly forward with a light step.
Kenric, who had sent Ailsa away, telling her
that it was no sight for a girl, stood beside Sir
Oscar and Allan Redmain, and he told how
Ailsa had brought Alpin's armour.
Then am I much relieved," said Sir Oscar.
Nevertheless there is no man I know, unless
it be Sir Piers de Currie, who can handle a
sword as your brother can; and methinks Earl
Roderic will not easily bear up against him.
Look at them both. Alpin is fresh and lithe as
a young stag. Ah, Roderic, methinks your hour
has surely come!"
Alpin dressed the end of his plaid about his
left arm and pulled out his sword. He stood at
five paces from his foe. Then both swerved
about with their heads bent forward. Still keep-
ing apart, eyeing one the other, round and round
they traversed. Then Alpin got his back to the






TIE THIRSTY SWORD.


sunlight, drew himself up, and flung back his
sword. With a fierce cry they rushed together
and their swords clashed with mighty strokes.
Then they both reeled backward two strides to
recover. Tracing and traversing again they
leapt at each other as noble men who had often
been well proved in combat, and neither would
stint until they both lacked wind, and they stood
a while panting and blowing, each grasping his
weapon ready to begin again. When they had
rested they went to battle once more, tracing
and foining and hurtling together, so that none
who beheld them could know which was like to
win the battle. Their clothing was so far hewn
that the chains of their coats of mail could be
seen. Alpin had a cut across his knee, Roderic's
arm was bleeding. Roderic was a wily man of
war, and his wily fighting taught Alpin to be
wise and to guard well his bare head, for it was
ever at his head that Roderic aimed. Often he
smote such strokes as made Alpin stagger and
kneel; but in a moment the youth leapt lightly
to his feet and rushed at his foe, until Roderic's
arms and face were red with blood.
The crowd about them hailed Alpin's dexter-
ous fighting with lusty cries of approval, and
none doubted that he would soon make an end
of his boastful antagonist. But neither had yet
gained the upper hand.






THE ORDEAL BY BATTLE.


So for a full half-hour they fought, until Alpin
at length sorely wounded Roderic on the
shoulder. At that Roderic was wroth out of
measure, and he rushed upon Alpin, doubling
his mighty strokes. Their swords clashed and
clanged and flashed in bright circles through
the air. But at last, by fortune, Roderic smote
Alpin's sword out of his hand, and if Alpin had
stooped to pick it up surely he would have been
slain. He stood still a moment and beheld his
weapon with a sorrowful heart. There was
a deep groan of anguish from the crowd, and
Kenric, seeing the peril in which his brother
was placed, would have rushed forward to
Alpin's help had not Duncan Graham held him
back, fearing that he too might find himself in
Earl Roderic's power. Then Allan Redmain
was about to run in to Alpin's aid, but his father
caught his arm and bade him stand back.
How now?" cried Roderic. Now have I
got you at an advantage as you had me yester-
night. But it shall never be said that Roderic
of Gigha would meanly slay any man who was
weaponless. And therefore take up your sword,
Earl Alpin, and let us make an end of this battle."
Roderic then drew back that Alpin might
without hindrance take up his sword. Then
into Roderic's eyes there came a look of fixed
fury, and in that look Alpin read his doom.






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


Again they took their ground, and this time
neither seemed so eager to spring at the other.
But at last young Alpin leapt wildly at his foe,
with his sword upraised in the grip of his two
hands. Down came his weapon with a mighty
swing, and all thought surely that blow would
be Roderic's end. But Roderic sprang lightly
aside, so that the young man's aim was spent
upon the soft ground. Roderic's sword flashed
in a circle above his crested helm. There was
a dull crunching sound, and then a deep groan.
Kenric promptly rushed to his brother's side
and tried to raise him from the ground. But
the sword of Roderic of Gigha had done its
work. Earl Alpin was dead.
Then the men of Bute, seeing what had be-
fallen their young king, raised a wailing cry that
rent the sunny air, and they closed in their
ranks around their fallen chief.
Earl Roderic looked but for a moment at
Alpin, and then swinging his blood-stained sword
from right to left he passed through the crowd
of men. For the islanders, having just left the
court of the mooting, were none of them armed.
So when Roderic made his way into their midst
they fell back beyond the range of his swinging
blade. They saw that he was making his way
towards the shores of the lake, which was but
a few paces from where the battle had been


































































"WITH A FIERCE CRY THEY RUSHED TOGETHER."






THE ORDEAL BY BATTLE.


fought. Many of them picked up great stones
and flung them after him and struck him on the
back.
Down with the base traitor!" they cried.
But he little heeded either their missiles or
their menacing cries. On he sped until his feet
were ankle-deep in the mere. Then he turned
round for a moment and saw young Kenric,
armed with his brother's sword, with Sir Oscar
Redmain, Allan, Duncan Graham, and many
others pursuing him.
He sent up a hollow mocking laugh as he
lightly sheathed his sword. Then he waded
farther into the loch and threw himself into the
deeper waters, so that only his glancing helm
could be seen above the surface. As the
antlered stag, pursued by men and hounds,
swims swiftly over the mountain tarn to the
safety of crag and fell, so swam Earl Roderic
before the fury of the men of Bute. And none
dared follow him, for it is said that that loch is
deeper than the hills are high.
So many ran round to the farther shores that
they might there meet him and assail him with
showers of stones. In the brief time that had
passed between two settings of the sun this man,
this traitorous sea-rover, had taken the lives of
two kings-the well-beloved Hamish, who had
ruled over that little nation for a score of peaceful






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


and prosperous years, and Alpin, his son and
successor, who had fallen ere yet he had known
the power of his kingship. And forgetting that
by the sentence of outlawry which their judge
had passed but two hours before, Roderic had
been allowed three days of grace, during which
it was a crime to molest him, they were driven
to the extremity of wild rage; they thirsted for
his blood. It was not now enough that he
should quit their island with his treachery un-
avenged; they wanted to strike him down that
the world might no longer harbour a villain
whose evil deeds were blacker and more terrible
than any the oldest man in Bute had ever
known.
But ere they had turned either point of the
lake Roderic had already gained the firm ground
on the western shore, and now he shook the
water from him and sat down on a large stone
to rest his limbs and to dress his bleeding
wounds.
Soon he heard the rumour of men's angry
cries coming nearer and nearer, like the yelping
of a pack of wolves. Rising and looking about
him he saw many men running towards him
from north and from south through the dingle
of Lochly; and now most surely he might think
that he was entrapped, for he was upon the strip
of land that divides Loch Ascog from Loch Fad.






THE ORDEAL BY BATTLE.


His deep voice rang out across the moorland
like the bellowing call of the stag that challenges
his rival in the glens. Bracing his long sword
about his back he crossed westward over the
rising ground until he came in view of the quiet
waters of Loch Fad, where a flock of wild swans,
startled at his approach, flew over towards the
forest of Barone.
The two companies of islanders closed in upon
him, believing doubtless that hewould be speedily
overcome. The one band was led by Sir Oscar
Redmain and his son, the other by Duncan
Graham and Kenric.
Roderic ran onward to the water's edge,
and ere the first stone that was thrown could
reach him he had plunged into Loch Fad, and
as he swam outward stones and clods of turf fell
in showers about his head. A stone thrown
by Kenric struck him on the helmet. He sank
deep down, and all believed that the water
would be his death. But, like the diver-bird of
his native seas, he went under but to appear
again many yards away beyond the reach of any
weapon but the arrow, and of arrows there were
none in all that company.
Now Loch Fad, which is the largest of the
lakes of Bute, is full two miles long and but
four furlongs wide, and it was useless for any to
think of meeting the fugitive earl on the farther






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


shore. So at the bidding of Sir Oscar Redmain
the men all gave up the chase and turned back
to where the dead body of Lord Alpin lay prone
upon the turf, and thence they bore him to the
castle of Rothesay.


CHAPTER X.
AASTA'S CURSE.

SODERIC of Gigha, for all that he had been
absent from Bute for a score of years, had
not forgotten the old landmarks that. had been
familiar to him in boyhood. After swimming
across Loch Fad he found himself among the
tall pine-trees of the forest of Barone. Wet
and weary after his escape from his pursuers,
and smarting sorely of his many wounds, he
passed through the forest glades and emerged
at the point where, on the evening before,
Kenric had entered.
As he skirted the lands of Kilmory he saw
a herd of shaggy long-horned cattle browsing
there, with many sheep and goats. He looked
about for their shepherd that he might ask him
concerning the earls of Jura and Colonsay. He
began to regret that he had so lightly dismissed
his friends, who might better have waited to
carry him in their ship to Gigha. Presently he






AASTA'S CURSE.


heard voices from behind a great rock. A
young sheep-dog appeared, but when it saw
him it turned tail and slunk away as if it were
afraid of him. Then from behind the rock
came young Lulach the herd-boy, and with him
a most beautiful girl. Lulach stood for a mo-
ment looking at the strange man.
"Ah, 'tis he! 'Tis he whom we were but
now speaking of!" he cried, and dropping the
brown bread-cake that he had been eating he
ran away down the hill in terror.
But the girl stood still, with her hand resting
on the rock.
Now this girl was the same strange maiden
who had appeared so mysteriously before Kenric
on his night journey through the forest. Tall
she was and very fair-tall and graceful as a
young larch-tree, and fair as the drifted snow
whose surface reflects the red morning sun.
Her eyes were blue as the starry sky, and her
long hair fell upon her white skin like a dark
stream of blood. Men named this wondrous
maiden Aasta the Fair.
Earl Roderic started back at sight of her
great beauty as she stood before him in her
gray and ragged garments, for she was but a
poor thrall who worked upon the lands of Kil-
mory, minding the goats upon the hills or mend-
ing the fishermen's nets down on the shore.






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


Fair damsel," said he, tell me, I pray you,
if you have seen pass by an aged man and his
companion towards the bay of Scalpsie?"
"'Tis but an hour ago that they passed hence,"
said Aasta. "Cursed be the occasion that
brought both them and you into this isle!" Then
she pointed across the blue moor of the sea
where, under the shadow of the high coast of
Arran, a vessel appeared as a mere speck upon
the dark water. "Yonder sails their ship into
the current of Kilbrannan Sound."
"Alas!" said Roderic, "and I am too late."
"Alas, indeed!" said Aasta. Methinks they
had better have tarried to take away with them
the false traitor they have left upon our shores.
What manner of foul work detained you that
you went not hence with your evil comrades?
But the blood that I now see flowing from your
wounds tells its own tale. You have slain Earl
Alpin in the fight. Woe be upon you!"
Even so," said Roderic, "for hard though
he pressed me with his vigorous blows, yet my
good sword was true to the last, and I clove his
young head in twain."
Woe to you, woe to you, Roderic of Gigha!"
cried Aasta, shrinking from his approach. "Curses
be upon you for the evil work that you have
done. May you never again know peace upon
this earth. May those you love-if any such






AASTA'S CURSE.


there be-may they be torn from you and slain
before your eyes. Worse than brute that you
are, meaner than the meanest worm that creeps,
curse you, curse you!"
Then as Aasta drew yet farther back her
hand was caught by another hand which drew
her gently aside, and from behind the rock ap-
peared the gaunt figure of old Elspeth Black-
fell. And Lulach the herd-boy, having over-
come his fears, crept nearer and stood apart.
Roderic paused at seeing the old crone, and
his face grew pale.
Unworthy son of Bute!" said Elspeth, point-
ing her thin finger at the island king, you have
heard this good maiden's curse. Even so do all
the dwellers in Bute curse you at this hour.
But the great God who sees into all hearts, and
in whose hands alone must rest our vengeance-
He will surely repay you for the sorrows that
your wickedness has caused. Go, Roderic
MacAlpin. Go, ere it is too late, and before the
high altar of St. Blane's pray to Him for the
mercy and forgiveness that you sorely need."
Roderic bowed his head and nervously clasped
and unclasped his hands.
"Go while there is yet time and confess your
sins," continued Elspeth. "And if there is
aught of penitence in your black heart then seek
from our good and holy abbot the means where-






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


by you may fulfil your penance during the days
that remain to you on earth."
It seemed that a great change had come over
him as he walked away, for his step was halting
and his head was bowed. He walked along by
the cliffs that are at the verge of the sea; south-
ward past Scalpsie and Lubas and Barr, then
inland to the little chapel of St. Blane's. And
ever at his heels hobbled Elspeth Blackfell.
When Earl Roderic had entered the holy
place to open his heart in confession to the
abbot, Elspeth waited on the headland above
the bay of Dunagoil. In that bay there was
a ship, and the shipmen were unloading her of
a cargo of English salt and other commodities
of the far south. Presently the old woman went
downward to the beach, and there held speech
with the shipmaster, who, as it chanced, being
a man of Wales, could make shift to understand
the Gaelic tongue, and from him she learned
that the ship was to leave at the ebb tide for
England.
Now Elspeth had seen young Ailsa Redmain
as the girl was passing to her father's castle, and
Ailsa had told her how the wicked lord of
Gigha had been made an outlaw. So Elspeth
questioned the shipmaster, asking him if he
would be free to carry this man away from Bute.
"My good dame," said the mariner, that






THE SWORD OF SOMERLED.


will I most gladly do, for your holy bishop or
abbot, or whatever he be, hath already paid me
the sum of four golden pieces in agreeing that
I shall do this thing-though for the matter of
that, this man is a king in his own land, and me-
thinks the honour were ample payment without
the gold; so if the winds permit, and we meet
no rascally pirates by the way, I make no doubt
that ere the next new moon we shall be snug
and safe against the walls of our good city of
Chester."
So ere the curtain of night had fallen over the
Arran hills the outlawed earl of Gigha had left
behind him the little isle of Bute, and it was
thereafter told how he had in secret confessed
his manifold sins to the abbot of St. Blane's, and
how in deep contrition he had solemnly sworn
at the altar to make forthwith the pilgrimage of
penance to the Holy Land, there to spend the
three years of his exile in the service of the
Cross.


CHAPTER XL
TIE SWORD OF SOMERLED.

NOW when Kenric, following sadly behind
the body of his brother, came within sight
of the castle of Rothesay his heart sank heavy






THE THIRSTY SWORD.


with the woe that was upon him. He thought
of how his mother had pressed upon Alpin the
charge of vengeance, and of how that charge had
ended. He would far rather have given up his
own life than face his mother and tell her the
terrible tale of how the man whom Alpin had
sworn to slay had himself slain Alpin. And he
was sorrowful beyond measure.
They bore the body of their dead young king
into the great hall, and laid him on a bier beside
the body of his father, the good Earl Hamish,
and the curtains were drawn and many candles
and torches were lighted and set round the two
biers, while two of the friars of St. Blane's knelt
there in solemn prayer.
Then Kenric went to the door of his mother's
chamber and knocked, and old Janet, a retainer
of many years, came out to him.
"Alas!" said she, my lady your mother is
passing ill, and she hath spoken never a word
these many hours. We have sent forth a
messenger to Elspeth Blackfell, who is skilled
beyond all in Bute for her craft in simples. But
Elspeth was abroad, and the messenger returned
without her."
"Then will I go myself and find her," said
Kenric. So he went down into the courtyard
and called his favourite hound Fingall, that he
might have companionship in his quest. But




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