Viking Boys, page 1
J. M. E. SAXBY
Author of "The Yarl's Yacht" Etc.
[Frontispiece: "Then there came a sudden flare of light, which showedthat Yaspard was trying to illuminate the scene."--_Page_ 216]
LondonNisbet & Co. Ltd.22 Berners Street. W.11892
I. "CALLED AFTER THAT WORK WHICH HE HAD TO DO" II. "AH, MANY A MEMORY OF HOW YE DEALT WITH ME" III. "WIDE TOLD OF IS THIS" IV. "HAPPY WAS HE IN HIS WARRING" V. "THOU ART YOUNG AND OVER-BOLD" VI. "NOW EACH GOES HIS WAY" VII. "THE CARL ON THE CLIFF TOP" VIII. "THEREFORE THEY GO THEIR WAYS" IX. "NO NEED OF BINDING OR SALVING HERE" X. "MAY THE GODS GIVE US TWAIN A GOOD DAY" XI. "FAIR FELLOW DEEM I THE DARK-WINGED RAVEN" XII. "ENOUGH AND TO SPARE OF BALE IS IN THY SPEECH" XIII. "HE IS YOUNG AND OF LITTLE KNOWLEDGE" XIV. "OH, BE THOU WELCOME, HERE" XV. "AND PEACE SHALL BE SURER" XVI. "FOR NAUGHT HE WOTTED, NOR MIGHT SEE CLEARLY" XVII. "NO GOOD IT BETOKENETH" XVIII. "OH, NEED SORE AND MIGHTY" XIX. "SO HE SHUT ME IN SHIELD-WALL" XX. "FROM THE HANDS OF MY KINSFOLK" XXI. "NOUGHT HAD'ST THOU TO PRAISE" XXII. "GIVE YE GOOD COUNSEL" XXIII. "AND BOUND FAST THEIR SWORDS IN WEBS GOODLY WOVEN" XXIV. "MEET AND RIGHT IT IS, FAIR LORD, THAT I SHOULD GO" XXV. "AND THERETO THEY PLIGHTED TROTH BOTH OF THEM" XXVI. "THAT WORK SHALL BE WROUGHT" XXVII. "OF THE VOLSUNGS' KIN IS HE" XXVIII. "SEA-RUNES GOOD AT NEED" XXIX. "GREAT IS THE TROUBLE OF FOOT ILL-TRIPPING" XXX. "SWEET SIGHT FOR ME THOU TWAIN TO SET EYES ON" XXXI. "HILD UNDER HELM" XXXII. "HAIL FROM THE MAIN THEN COMEST THOU HOME"
"CALLED AFTER THAT WORK WHICH HE HAD TO DO."
"How I wish I had lived hundreds of years ago, when the Vikings lived;it must have been prime!"
He was a Shetland boy of fifteen who so spoke, and he was addressinghis young sister of eleven. They were sitting on a low crag by theshore, dangling their feet over the water, which flowed clear andbright within a short distance of their toes. They were looking outupon a grand stretch of ocean studded with islands of fantastic shape,among which numerous boats were threading their way. It was a fairsummer afternoon, and the fishing boats were returning from the farhaaf laden with spoil. It had not required a great stretch ofimagination to carry Yaspard Adiesen's thoughts from the scene beforehim to the olden days, when his native Isles were the haunts ofVikinger, whose ships were for ever winging their way over those watersbearing the spoils of many a stormy fight.
"Yes," the boy went on; "what glorious fun it must have been in thosedays; such fighting and sailing and discovering new places; such heapsof adventures of all sorts. Oh, how grand it must have been!"
"I suppose it was," answered Signy; "but then these people long ago didnot have all the nice things we have--books, you know, and--andeverything!"
"Oh, tuts! They had Scalds to sing their history--much nicer than yourmusty books."
"Perhaps!" said the girl. She loved books with a mighty love, but sheadored her brother, and what he said she accepted, whether it commendeditself to her judgment or not.
"There is no 'perhaps' about it, Signy," he retorted a little sharply."It is fact--so there! It must have been far more jolly in Shetlandthen than it is now. Everything so tame and commonplace: mail-day oncea week, sermon every Sunday, custom-house officers about, chimney-pothats and tea! Bah!" Yaspard caught up a pebble and flung it to skimover the water as a relief to his feelings, which received a littleadditional comfort from Signy's next words.
"Hats are certainly very ugly, especially when they are tied on withstrings, as Uncle Brues wears his; and when a sermon lasts an hour it istiresome. Yes, and the custom-house people and the revenue cutter arehorrid--though the cutter is very pretty, and the officers look rathernice in uniform. But it is very nice to get letters, Yaspard; and teais nice. Why, what on earth would Mam Kirsty and Aunt Osla do withouttea?" and Signy laughed as she looked up in her brother's face.
He was not unreasonable, and admitted the comfort of the cup whichcheers and a weekly mail-bag. He even allowed that the sloop whichlooked after her Majesty's dues was a tidy little craft, and that akirk and Sunday service were advantages of no ordinary kind. "But,"having admitted so much, he said, "why couldn't we have all that, andstill be Vikings? why not live like heroes? why not roam the seas, andfight and discover and bring home spoil, and wear picturesque garments,as well as go to church and drink tea?"
"Well, people _do_," answered Signy. "There is always somebody goingexploring and getting into the most terrible scrapes. And don't youoften say that the British people are true sons of the Norsemen, andprove it by the way they are always sending out more and more ships,and bringing home more and more riches. As for the fighting--oh dear!There was Waterloo not so very very long ago; and the papers say, youknow, that we are going to fight the Russians very soon. There'salways plenty of fighting--if that's what makes a Viking."
"Oh, bother! girls don't understand," Yaspard muttered; and then therewas a long silence, which was broken at last by the lad clapping hishands together and shouting, "Hurrah! I've got an idea! a splendididea! The very thing!" He sprang to his feet and tossed back hisgolden-brown curls, and stood like a young Apollo all aglow with lifeand ardour.
"You always look so beautiful, Yaspard, when you have an idea!" saidthe worshipping little sister, gazing her admiration of the handsomelad, who was the hero of all her dreams.
He laughed. He was accustomed to her homage--if the truth be told, hetook it as his right.
"Never mind about my beauty at present, but come along, for I must setmy idea to work at once. I wonder I never thought of it before."
"Ah, do wait a very little longer, brodhor," the girl begged. Whencoaxing or caressing him, she always used the old form of the word,which signified the dearest relationship she knew. They were orphans,and "brother" was Signy's nearest as well as dearest friend alive. Henever could resist the soft tone and word, so answered--
"Why do you want to stay here?"
"I have been watching Loki fish, and it is so funny; I want to see whenhe _will_ be satisfied. He has been at it for hours."
Loki was a pet cormorant, and Yaspard had taught him to seek food forhimself in the voe. The affectionate bird, though allowed suchlicence, never failed to return to Boden when hunger was satisfied; andat all times he would come at once to his master's call.
Yaspard stood for a minute looking at the bird as it swam about, everynow and then taking a sudden leap and "header" after some unwarysillack. There were shoals of small cod-fish in the voe, and Loki hadno difficulty in filling his most capacious maw. His mode of fishingwas certainly comical, but Yaspard was not so interested in the matteras Signy, therefore his eyes were soon roving again to the islets andboats.
Presently his attention became riveted on a smart skiff rounding theheadlands in a manner which proved that she was managed by skilfulhands. As the boat drew nearer, rising lightly on the waves, Yaspardsaid, "Yes, it's the _Laulie_. What splendid sea-boys those lads ofLunda are! They are always off somewhere; always having some grand funon the water. They are making for Havnholme now, and I expect theymean to stay there all night. Oh, bother feuds and family fights! Iwish I were with them."
"They must be nice boys," said Signy. "It does seem very sad that youcan't have them for chums. I can't see why our grandfathers' quarrelsand Uncle Brues's grumpiness should hinder you from being friends withthe only boys of our rank within reach of Boden."
"It is a horrible nuisance. But never mind! I'll make the family feudwork into my idea, sure as can be! There, Signy; there goes Loki withfive dozen sillacks in his maw, so let's go too."
Yaspard caught up Signy in his arms; and as he swung along towards homehe chanted--
"As with his wings aslant Sails the fierce cormorant Seeking some rocky haunt, With his prey laden; So toward the open main, Beating to sea again, Through the wild hurricane Bore I the maiden."
When he finished the verse he put his sister down. "There," heexclaimed; "there is a small hint at a part of my new idea."
"What is your idea, Yaspard?"
But Yaspard laughed and shook his head. "I can't tell you yet. Itisn't shaped at all yet, but by-and-by you shall hear all about it, andhelp with it too, Mootie; only, mind, it's a secret. You must nottell a soul."
"I never tell any of your secrets," Signy answered, with gentlereproach in her tone; and her brother answered promptly, "No, you nevertell on me, that is true--though you sometimes let things out bymistake. But you are a trump all the same, Signy; you are; and as goodas a boy. I sometimes wish you were a boy. But if you were you'dplague me. Small boys always do plague their big brothers--but _you_never plague me. Never!"
She squeezed his hand tight and was perfectly happy while they walkedon, and Yaspard whistled "the Hardy Norseman."
After executing a few bars he said, "I am going across the voe, and youmust not mind if I do not take you with me. I want to have a long talkwith the Harrison boys. But if you come down to the noost when Ireturn, I'll take you for a little sail."
"I'll be there, brodhor," said Signy. She was always "there" whenYaspard required or requested.
They walked along the shore until they reached a quay of very modestpretensions, where a small boat was lying ready for use. Their homewas not many yards from the beach, and was situated on a green slopingpoint of land almost surrounded by the waters of Boden voe.
Yaspard jumped into the boat, hauled up the sail, shoved off, and wassoon speeding across the mile of water, which was the broadest bit ofthat winding picturesque fiord.
Signy stood a minute to watch him. She would have stood longer, butout of the house bounced a big dog, barking and evidently greatlyexcited over something.
"Well, Pirate, what is the matter with you?" the girl asked, as the dogrushed up to her. For answer Pirate caught her skirt gently in hismouth, and indicated as plainly as if he had expressed himself inchoicest English that he desired her presence indoors.
So indoors Signy went without more ado.
 "Haaf," deep-sea fishing.
 "Mootie," little one.
 "Noost," boat-shelter.