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THE GATHERING OF THE CLANS.
THERE was a great bustle and running about at the Gordon house one morning. Doctor and Mrs. Gordon, Don, and Sandy were leaving for their visit to Skylemore, Uncle Alan's home in the Highlands.
Don was torn between the delight of going, and the sorrow at having to leave "Rob Roy" behind. He had begged to be allowed to take him, but it was decided that "Rob" was too young to travel, and Sandy's mother promised to take care of him. So that the only thing that marred Don's pleasure was the last look of" doggie," whining sadly in Mrs. MacPherson's arms, as the carriage drove away.
But even "Rob Roy" was forgotten for the moment, when they all stood on the platform of the great Waverley Station. There were crowds of people about, all bound for the country. Hunting parties, with their guns and dogs, were everywhere; for the autumn is the season for shooting grouse over the Scotch moors. Everybody was greatly excited, the dogs as much as anybody. Sandy said that they seemed to know that they were going off for a good time, too.
"Take your places, children," said the doctor, as he bundled them into their compartment in the train.
It was a fine autumn day, and there are not too many such days in Scotland; for it is a rainy little country, and hardly a day passes without some rain falling. Not heavy rains, as in our country, but a soft, misty drizzle which nobody seems to mind in the least. There would be no use in staying indoors, for this is the way it is most of the time. Besides, Scotch people dress for bad weather. They are fond of having their clothes made of the thick tweed and cheviot cloths, which, as their names show, are made in Scotland, for the Tweed is a Scotch river, and the Cheviot Hills are on the border between England and Scotland.
Donald and Sandy wore jackets made of the celebrated "Harris tweeds," which have a queer smoky smell which comes from their being made in the crofters' cottages on the island of Harris, off the north coast of Scotland. The "crofters" are those who live in tiny houses built of rough stone, and their principal occupation and industry is the weaving of this coarse cloth, from wool, by hand, as they sit before their peat fires. For this reason the genuine Harris tweed always smells smoky.
"Sandy, what on earth have you got in that bundle that you have been carrying so carefully ever since we left home?" asked Donald.
"Hush!" said Sandy, giving him a violent kick.
"Don't you want to put your package in the luggage-rack?" said Doctor Gordon, looking over the top of his morning paper.
"No, thank you, sir," said Sandy, growing very red, "it's no trouble to carry."
"I do believe there is something moving about in it," cried Donald, getting more curious and moving nearer. Another kick came from Sandy. But just then the train began to cross the great Firth of Forth bridge, and everything else was forgotten as they all put their heads out to see this wonderful bridge, nearly a mile and a half long.
"Can't you see a castle yonder?" said Doctor Gordon, presently. The boys were on the lookout, and Don soon spied it on its high hill rising above the trees.
"That is Stirling Castle, and next to Edinburgh Castle it is probably the most famous in Scotland," said Doctor Gordon. "Many stirring deeds and brave battles have taken place there in the past."
"Castles were always built on high hills, were they not?" asked Donald.
"Yes, so that they could be more easily protected, and also that a watch could be kept over many miles of country, in order to guard against any surprise by an enemy.
"Over yonder lies the Field of Bannockburn, where was fought one of the greatest battles in the history of Scotland, when Robert Bruce defeated the English, and broke their power in Scotland."
Doctor Gordon pointed out many other historic spots as they were whirled along. Soon the scenery became more wild and beautiful; and they passed lovely rolling hills covered with purple heather, forests, and a background of distant mountains. In a few minutes the train was drawing in to Skylemore Station.
"There's the break now," shouted Don, "and Andy Maclose driving; and there's Uncle Alan and the lassies."
Such a welcome as they all got! Then everybody packed themselves into the big break, or carryall, and the trunks and bags were all piled into a cart, all except Sandy's parcel, which he stoutly refused to part with for a moment.
Then they drove off, everybody trying to talk at the same time. The young people were full of the birthday party which was to be the next day.
A drive of a few miles brought them to Skylemore, where Aunt Jessie was waiting for them at the door, and soon they were enjoying a good tea around a blazing fire in the big hall.
The next morning the birthday celebration began at the breakfast-table, where all of Marjorie's presents were spread out around her plate. Marjorie herself was so excited that she could hardly open the parcels, and Mrs. Lindsay had to help her.
There was a nice writing-desk from her father, and a silver inkstand from her mother; a pretty pen-holder from her aunt, and a pearl pin from her uncle. Donald had brought her a dear little silver bracelet, engraved with the words "Dinna forget."
"Why, this is the package that Sandy brought with him," said Donald, after all the others had been opened and examined; "it was for Marjorie all the time."
So it was, and when Marjorie opened it what do you suppose gravely walked out? Sandy's one, little, fluffy "tewky" that he was so proud of! Such a shout of laughter as went up from everybody! Marjorie was delighted, for she had so often admired Sandy's pet, and its accomplishments.
"To think, Sandy, that you brought it all the way, and never told us what you had," said Don, as soon as he could speak for laughing. "I did hear something 'cheep,' though."
After Marjorie had thanked everybody for her presents the merry crowd of young people finished their breakfasts, put the "tewky" in a basket with something to eat, and all went out for a walk.
First they went down through the little 'village of Skylemore, where the village people gave the children a hearty greeting and asked after the "Laird," as they called Mr. Lindsay, which is the way the country-folk always speak of the owner of a large estate.
The little girls were great favourites in the village, and Marjorie stopped to tell everybody about her presents.
"Let's go up on the moor and around by Allan Water," said Janet. So they climbed up over the hills, hiding from each other in the deep purple heather, and playing that they were lost.
"There's 'Auld Wullie,' the ' herd,'" suddenly called out Donald. "Herd" with the Scotch means a shepherd. And sure enough there was "Auld Wullie" sitting on a rock wrapped in his plaid, -- a small black and white check, -- which is the kind generally worn by the shepherds, and has so come to be known as "shepherd's plaid."
Around him were his sheep, which were carefully watched by three fine collie dogs, who marched around the flock, and kept them in order, as an officer does his soldiers. "Auld Wullie" was a great friend of the children, who never tired of hearing his tales of sheepdogs and shepherds, and their lonely lives on the moors and hillsides. "Auld Wullie" was a descendant of an old Highland shepherd family, who always among themselves spoke the old Gaelic tongue, and it was great fun for the children to get him to address them in the tongue of his forefathers. Gaelic is even yet much spoken in the north of Scotland.
One of "Auld Wullie's" great stories was how Dindie, his old collie, had won the prize at a sheep-dogs' contest. These matches are held in different parts of Scotland, and the dog who can handle his sheep the best wins the prize. It is a great event in the particular neighbourhood where the contest is held, and only the best trained dogs are entered.
"An' it's the lassie's birthday. Ay, but she's a braw lassie now," said the herd, as they tramped over to his cottage not far away.
It was a tiny cottage of rough stones, with a roof also made of flat stones, and a large enclosure at the back for the sheep. There were only two rooms, but "Auld Wullie" asked them into the front one, which the country people call the "ben room," and for a moment went himself into the back one, which they call the "but room." Presently he came back with something in his hand, and as the party left the little house, he turned to Marjorie, and said: "Just a wee giftie for the lassie," and, to her surprise, put into her hands a number of Scotch pebbles.
These pebbles, which are all sorts of bright colours, are found in the clear mountain streams, and are set in all kinds of trinkets, brooches, pins, and the like, -- and sold as souvenirs of bonnie Scotland. The old man had gathered them in his lonely walks over the hills, and you can imagine how pleased Marjorie was.
JUST A WEE GIFTIE FOR THE LASSIE.
As it was getting near dinner-time our young people said good-bye to "Auld Wullie" and the collies, and set out for home as quickly as they could.
The afternoon was spent in getting ready for the party which was to be held in the evening. It was to be a fancy-dress affair, and there was much flying around with excitement, you may believe, before everything was arranged.
Marjorie was dressed to represent a bluebell in a blue dress trimmed with bluebells and a little blue cap on her head shaped like one of these flowers. Janet was heather. Her dress was pale pink, with garlands of real heather bloom, and a wreath of heather on her head. These two flowers are great favourites in Scotland.
Don was gotten up as "Rob Roy," dressed in the Macgregor tartan, which his uncle had loaned him, with a fierce-looking skean-dhu stuck in his stocking, and a great claymore hanging by his side, which got in his way most of the time.
Sandy tried to look kingly, like Robert Bruce, with a gold-paper crown on his head. Altogether they made a very splendid showing.
The children had barely time to exhibit themselves before the company began to come, a number of their little neighbours from roundabout.
They all played games. Aunt Mary started them off with "Merry Metanzie," which is played with a handkerchief while singing a song, much after the style of "Dropping the Handkerchief."
Another favourite game is "Scotch and English." Two sides are formed, each lining up opposite the other, and an attempt is made to capture any opponent who puts his foot over the imaginary border. This, as you may suppose, is a game which usually ends in a great romp.
After this they all went in to a fine supper, with a big cake in front of Marjorie's plate, with ten candles stuck in it, all alight, one for each year of her age. After the young folks had eaten much more than was good for them, there was dancing, and somebody said: "Let's have a 'Sword Dance,' and a real 'Highland Fling.'" So nothing would do but that they should get a "gillie" who would dance the "Sword Dance," across two crossed sword-blades, with much agility and apparently much risk to his person.
Everybody gathered in the big hall, and presently in came old Dugald with his bagpipes, while behind him walked a splendid looking fellow, dressed in his tartan, who went through the difficult steps of his dances in a way that won the applause of every one. Mr. Lindsay took down from the wall two old swords and laid them crossed at right angles on the floor, when the dancer pranced in and out and between their sharp edges without ever touching them, which is a great feat.
How everybody applauded! Then old Dugald struck up his pipes again, and everybody sang the old Scotch song, "The Bluebells of Scotland," in honour of Marjorie. After this everybody took partners and danced the reel, what we call the "Virginia Reel," up and down the big hall. In the midst of it all in walked the little "tewky," Sandy's gift to Marjorie. Where he came from nobody seemed to know; but probably he was lonesome, and being so friendly thought he would like to join the company.
This broke up the dancing pretty effectually, everybody was laughing so. Don tripped over his claymore and fell against Sandy, while Sandy's gilt crown went rolling down the hall. But this only added to the fun, and it was a tired but happy lot of young people that Mrs. Lindsay bundled off to bed, at a very late hour for Scotch children.
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