A TALE of the times of old. Far away in the north, where the purple heath spreads as thick on the hills in summer as the snow lies white in winter, where the streams flow down the granite-strewn corries of the mountains, brown gold as the topaz lying hid in their bosoms, a powerful chief ruled his clan.
Over hill and glen his domain spread far and wide, and his name was law itself in peace, and power in warfare. 'Twas said the Spey and the Garry both contributed to his table, and Cairn Gorm and Ben Alder furnished him with sport; which would mean that over much country, and by many men, his sway was known and acknowledged.
Now, upon two things the chief prided himself more than all else--more than his prowess in war, yes, more than the extent of his domains and power--
the beauty of his wife and his own justice. What his clansmen thought of these two things is not to the point; what he thought of them was enough for himself and for us.
It must also be added that he possessed something seldom vouchsafed to men in authority, but an invaluable blessing when procurable, and that was a faithful steward, who had charge of his purse, his farm, and his treasures, with which may be included a charge not the least, you may be sure, in importance at that period--the complete control of his cellar.
Ian na Sporran was faithful to his chief, and was trusted by him in return.
Yet is any one so good or so faithful as to be safe from the dart of jealousy? I trow not. The very fact of Ian na Sporran being so faithful and so trusted was enough to create in the malignant heart of Ian na Piob, the chief bard, the most inveterate and overwhelming hatred. Rent with jealousy of Ian na Sporran, the one question for his evil heart to solve was how to contrive the steward's downfall.
"It is no use," said the chief to Ian na Piob; "it is no use to come howling to me about the falseness of your fellow-servants. Just show me if I have lost any of my corn, any of my gold, any of my wine, any of my jewels, and then I'll see into the matter. I am quite ready to attend to anything reasonable; for you know I am a just man, and my wife is beautiful."
Well, for a whole year Ian na Sporran served the
chief faithfully, and for a whole year Ian na Piob thought how he might bring him low.
Now, it wanted three days to the New Year, when all the first men in the clan came yearly together before their chief to offer homage and congratulations, and Ian na Piob, pondering more desperately than ever how he could circumvent Ian na Sporran, was walking in the glen alone, kicking at every root and stone that came in his way, and giving vent from time to time to his feelings in envious groans. "Kera kaw," croaked the grey hoodie of Rothiemurchus. "What's the meaning of this ado? Have you eaten too many blaeberries? or what is it that pains you so?"
And Ian na Piob looked up, and saw the hoodie; and he considered her evil eye spoke a heart as wicked as his own, so he told his tale.
"Is that all?" quoth the hoodie. "Why don't you say he stole the chief's golden barley?"
"Just because I cannot get at the barley; and, what's more, I have no witness to support me if I lie about it," answered Ian na Piob.
"Silly fool!" croaked the hoodie; "what will you give me if I appear as a witness in your behalf?"
"A measure of beans willingly from my own garden, and some sweetmeats I will steal from the chief's table," eagerly exclaimed Ian na Piob.
"Kera kaw! I strike that bargain," crowed the hoodie. "Bring the beans and sweetmeats to me to-morrow. Call on me when I'm wanted, and I shall be there without fail."
So the beans and sweetmeats were given, and the morn of the New Year arrived.
And indeed it was a crowd that filled the great hall of the castle that same day, as the folk came to deliver compliments to the chief and his lady, to make their statements, and to receive orders. Jauntily among them came Ian na Piob, and, pushing to the front, bowed in low obeisance.
"IS THAT ALL?" QUOTH THE HOODIE.
"How now?" said the chief. "Any complaints? any advice? any wish? I am a just man, and my wife is beautiful; say on without fear."
"Ian na Sporran has been stealing your golden barley, O chief!" cried Ian na Piob, "and he should be put to death."
"Who is your witness?" said the chief. "Remember
[paragraph continues] I am a just man, and my wife is beautiful, and I must have proof."
"Just the hoodie of Rothiemurchus," answered Ian na Piob; "none other than he."
"Well, in that case, Ian na Sporran," remarked the chief, turning towards him, "you must die."
"Would not your highness call the witness, and prove his truthfulness before condemning me?" asked Ian na Sporran. "If I am guilty, I am willing to die! if I am innocent, your own justice and your wife's beauty forbid that I should suffer."
"I am a just man, and my wife is beautiful," answered the chief. "You are right. Ian na Piob, call your witness."
Thrice whistled Ian na Piob, and in a trice there stood in the window the hoodie of Rothiemurchus.
"Do you take oath, O hoodie," said the chief, "that Ian na Sporran stole my golden barley?"
"I do," said the hoodie.
"How so?" asked the chief.
"Because," croaked the hoodie, without hesitation, "Ian na Sporran gave me some to eat this very morning to keep me from declaring his offence; for he knew I saw him do it. Look you how my crop is distended full, full, full!"
"Oh!" said the chief, looking at Ian na Sporran, "you must certainly die!"
"I pray you cut the witness open, and see if he speaks the truth," said Ian na Sporran.
"Do so," said the chief; "for I am a just man, and my wife is beautiful."
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So they cut the hoodie open, and found nothing in his inside but some sugar and broad beans. Then they flung the carcass out of the window into the loch below, where Spottie Face, the great salmon, had his residence, who ate him up at one gulp, and that was the end of him.
"This is just nonsense!" roared the chief. "The case is dismissed; let us go in to supper." So the chief and his vassals went in to supper, and in the delights of the feast-room forgot all about the evil of the morning.
If there was an angry man in the whole district that man was Ian na Piob; nor did the sense of this failure make him give up his evil intentions, but he pondered again from that day the whole year through how he might bring Ian na Sporran to the gallows.
It was again three days before the New Year that Ian na Piob was walking through the pinewoods of Dalwhinnie, and he crushed the fallen cones of last year savagely beneath his feet into the frosty ground, while from time to time he raised his voice in angry exclamation.
"What's all this to-do about?" said the black witch of Loch Ericht, as she sat at the entrance of the dark cave, blinking with her red een in the blue reek of the peat fire that whirled in puffs out of the cavern, like smoke from some fell dragon's jaws.
At that Ian na Piob looked up; and thinking she appeared as black and as evil as himself, he lost no time in telling her his tale.
"Why don't you say he stole the chief's gold? That's easy enough, I'm sure," said she.
"Because I can't get at the gold, and I have no witness to swear for me, should I need one."
"Silly rabbit!" scornfully cried the witch. "What will you give me if the sun appears as your witness?"
"My best," said Ian na Piob.
"Well, if we want the sun," answered she, "I must brew trolls' broth to attract him. Give me the little toe of your right foot and the little toe of your left foot, and I will do the trick."
Now it must be confessed that Ian na Piob was grieved to lose any of his limbs, and to suffer pain; but what will not ail envious man do or suffer to get the better of an enemy?
So he cut off the little toe from his right foot, and the little toe from his left foot, and gave them to the witch of Loch Ericht to make trolls' broth.
"Now," said Ian na Piob, "I can't walk."
"Pooh! nonsense!" replied the witch; "you shall have my crutch and get on well enough with it." Then he gave a grunt, and snorted twice like a trumpet, and at that a queer thing came out from behind the juniper-bushes, and gave him the hag's crutch.
"Now, come here, again to-morrow, and the broth will be brewed; then take it on New Year morning, and, walking withershins round the standing-stones of Trium, cast it on the ground as the sun rises, and he will come that day as a witness to the
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council." So the witch went into the cave, and Ian na Piob hobbled away lame. Let us hope the vision of revenge was a good plaster to his sore feet.
The next morning he came very, very early, you may be sure, and called on the witch, and the queer thing came out from behind the juniper bushes and gave him the bowl filled with trolls' broth, and he took it away and did just as the old hag directed him.
Oh, there was no doubt at all that it was a large crowd which came at the New Year, and gathered together in the hall of the castle, to offer congratulations to their chief and his wife, and to taste good things at his board!
And after many had spoken, and much business had been transacted, Ian na Piob, seeing his turn had come, hobbled forward, leaning on the crutch he had received from the old hag.
"How now, Ian na Piob?" said the chief. "If you have anything to say, say on. I am wearying for my supper, so be quick about it."
"Oh," answered Ian na Piob, "that fellow over there--Ian na Sporran--has been at it again! He has stolen your golden coins, and he should die."
"I am a just man, and my wife is beautiful, so I can't take your word for it alone, you know. Any witnesses? No hoodies, or any of that crew, for me this time, mind that!"
"Sir, my witness is none other than the sun himself," answered Ian na Piob.
"Oh," said the chief, turning to Ian na Sporran,
"if that is so, you certainly must have your head chopped off."
"Sir," said Ian na Sporran humbly, "order him, I beg, to produce his witness. If I am guilty, then let me die."
"I am a just man, and my wife is------ What the plague are you hobbling about in that way for?" said the chief to Ian Da Piob, breaking off suddenly in the middle of the well-known sentence.
"Frost-bite!" grunted Ian na Piob. "But follow me, chief and gentlemen all, to the chamber that looks towards the south-west, and then I will prove my accusation true."
"Why to the chamber at the south-west?" asked the chief.
"Because," replied Ian na Piob, "there the stolen money lies, and my witness shall attend."
"Lead on," cried the chief, "and be quick about it, for I am very hungry indeed."
So Ian na Piob led the way to the chamber looking to the south-west, and as they entered the chamber, sure enough the sun streamed in through the window, and shone and glittered on many a golden coin that lay there in rich confusion on the floor.
"Headsman, do your duty!" cried the chief, pointing to Ian na Sporran.
"Sir chief, I beg you, before I die, take up one of these coins and look at it narrowly in the shade, and see if it is really a golden one or not!"
"I am a just man, and my wife is beautiful," said the chief. "Hand me one of those golden coins."
So they handed him a coin, and taking it into a corner out of the sunlight, he saw it was a common coin, and not a golden one at all.
"If I had yon witness in my power," said the chief to Ian na Piob, "I'd thrash him! As for you, your punishment shall come after supper."
Then the chief took the arm of Ian na Sporran, and hurried away to the banqueting-hall, for he was very hungry indeed, and would brook no more delay.
And for that time again Ian na Piob got off his well-merited punishment, for in the delights of the feast the evil of the morning was forgotten, and indeed, the whole thing was so silly, it was scarcely worth noticing or remembering.
How savage Ian na Piob was at this second failure, you who are now acquainted with him can well imagine. He had gained nothing in the war of revenge, and had lost two toes into the bargain. "I'll have it out with that old witch at any rate!" said he. If she won't help me again better than last time, she shall be burnt, or my name isn't what it is!"
So as the next New Year came round, when, he knew, was his only opportunity, he sought the cavern, and called loudly on the witch: but when she answered, and came to the mouth of the cave, she looked so evil that his courage oozed out of his finger-tips (he had not toes enough for it to ooze out at that end), and his angry words dwindled away to a feeble whine of complaint.
"Well," quoth the hag, "what brings you here again?"
"The wretched failure of your scheme," sobbed Ian na Piob, and he then told her all that had occurred.
"And whose fault was that, I should like to know?" growled she. "I can't think of another plan fit for such a goose as you. Stay, though--no! you're so great a fool, it would be no good, so be off, I shan't take any more trouble."
"Tell me your plan, I beseech you!" cried Ian na Piob, all pain and disappointment lost in the expectation of revenge. "I'll give anything to bring Ian na Sporran to a bad end!"
"Well, you must bring me some more sweetmeats from the chief's table, and we will prove that he stole the chief's wine this time."
"But I've no witness," wailed he. "The hoodie is dead, and the sun is no use at all; what am I to do?"
"Silly rabbit!" grunted the witch. "We'll get the moon to come, but we must brew her trolls' broth, or it can't be managed at all. Give me the big toe off your right foot, and the big toe off your left foot, and I will do the trick; or else be off, and don't bother!"
Well, Ian na Piob thought that as he had lost his little toes, his big ones might just as well go the game road, so he cut them off and gave them to the witch.
"Wow, wow, wow!" he squealed in pain. "There
now, I can't walk, no, not even with the crutch!" and he sat down on the ground and waved his toeless feet in the air.
"Now, now," said the hag, "don't lie here roaring like a baby." And she gave a grunt and snorted twice like a trumpet, and the queer thing came from behind the juniper bushes, and handed him a long, broad petticoat made of stiff hog bristles, and when he had tied it round his middle with some leather thongs, it supported him on all sides.
"You look vastly pretty," said the hag, with a horrid leer.
"I wish you were made just as pretty yourself said he, as he waddled down the road as best he could. "I shall come to-morrow before sunset for the broth."
And that morrow's evening, before the shadows crept out of the fir-wood, and spread over the hillsides, Ian na Piob was at the cavern mouth again.
And the queer thing came from behind the juniper bushes, and gave into his hands the bowl of trolls' broth that the hag had in the meantime prepared.
"Go to the rock of Osinn," said the hag, "where the withered pine spreads its bare branches to the sky. There, as the moon rises, walk three times withershins round the riven trunk, and cast the broth on the ground before her."
And Ian na Piob painfully went away to the rock of Osinn, carrying the bowl of broth in one hand, and struggling with the crutch in the other, his body supported by the bristle petticoat. And he did as the
hag bade him, and as the moon rose over the crags of Braeriach, he cast the broth on the ground before her, bidding her come the next day at even to be his witness when he should call.
The next day, when the New Year came, and all the retainers and vassals flocked to the castle to give greeting and receive advice, lan na Piob came with them, clad in his petticoat of hog bristles, looking his worst, and thinking his cruelest.
"What mountebank have we here?" quoth the chief, as, at the end of the council, Ian na Piob tottered forward to make his statement.
"Alas! noble sir, 'tis the frost-bite has taken possession of my limbs completely--yea, has gotten a bit higher up than last year; but regardless of the pain I am suffering, I have come here to denounce that villain Ian na Sporran, and demand, in the name of justice, that he be put to death at once."
"How now!" cried the chief, "I am a just man, and my wife is beautiful, and I will not condemn a man without proof or witness. Say on, but beware how you trifle with me this time!"
"He has stolen your wine, and I can prove it," said Ian na Piob.
"Stolen my wine! oh, indeed, that must be put a stop to, and you," said the chief, turning to Ian na Sporran, "must be put an end to."
"Again, O chief," said Ian na Sporran, "will you listen to my enemy without certain proof?"
"Nay," answered the chief, "that is to doubt my own justice and my wife's beauty. Where is your
witness?" continued he sharply, looking at Ian na Piob.
"The moon," said he, "and none other. The deed was done during the night, and she will come at eventide and give proof of it."
"The moon be praised!" ejaculated the chief, "that she don't want to come now, and that I can have my supper first." So without more ado, the chief walked out of the hall to the chamber where the feast was laid out, and in the delight of the feast forgot soon the business of the morning.
But when they had all drunk quite as much as was good for them, and had eaten, in my opinion, more than was necessary, Ian na Piob scrambled up to the chief, and begged him to step up to the chamber in the north-west tower, for there his witness was waiting to prove his accusation.
"Oh, bother!" said the chief. "Cut his head off! I don't care, and I don't want proof."
"Noble master," said Ian na Sporran, "remember you are a just man, and your wife is beautiful."
"Pest take the whole affair!" roared the chief, getting up. "I can't even have my meals in peace! I suppose, then, I must. But whoever trifles with me now is a dead man!"
So, in a fume, he bounced off after Ian na Piob, kicking him occasionally from behind to make him move faster, and followed by his lady and the rest of the vassals, who were all agog to see what would happen now.
Well, when they arrived at the north-west tower,
and had entered the room, there, sure enough, were basins and goblets and beakers set about the floor and tables, and filled to overflowing with dark red wine. No doubt about it at all, for the moon was shining in at the window, and it was almost as bright as noonday.
"I have seen enough!" cried the chief. "Ian na Sporran, down on your knees, and, sword-bearer, give me my claymore! You'll take my drink, will you? I'll have your head off; you won't feel thirsty much longer!"
"I beseech you, my lord," said Ian na Sporran, falling on his knee, "taste but a drop of that wine. Grant me this one last request before I die. I will make no resistance to your demands; only grant me this one little boon."
"Well, you don't deserve it, but I will do that," replied the chief, taking up one of the cups, and placing it to his lips, "for I am a just man, and my wife is----- Ah, auch, phew, bach!!" and with a fearful grimace he spat the liquid out all over the floor.
"Give me some water, wine, brose, anything to take the taste out of my mouth! Oh, ach! phew! I'm poisoned as sure as death!" yelled the chief, rushing out of the room, and scattering them all on this side and on that in his wild dart at the door. "Secure Ian na Piob! He shall die to-morrow before cockcrow!" and he was down the stairs and his nose into a beaker of brose before any one could
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say "How d'ye do?" or had recovered from the start he had given them.
But the chief was not poisoned at all, for it was only brown burn water that Ian na Piob had poured into the goblets, and that looked so purple in the moonlight. So Ian na Piob was placed under lock and key in the dungeon below the moat, and as he was to be executed the next morning without fail, a guard was set over him to make sure of his not escaping.
But, somehow, Ian na Piob contrived to get a message sent to the chief's lady that he had something of great moment to confide to her ear alone, saying that, though he must die, it was a real pity so great a secret should be lost, especially when she could listen so easily at the keyhole, while he spoke to her on the other side of the door, and nobody would be any the wiser or any the worse.
So the chief's lady thought it could do no harm to any one, and besides, the chief need not know anything about it; moreover, she was like every other woman, as inquisitive as an ape, and could not deny her curiosity. Thus it was that at midnight she bribed the gaoler, and repaired to the dungeon where Ian na Piob was confined. There, giving. three raps upon the oaken beams, she applied her ear to the keyhole of the great door.
Now what Ian na Piob told that lady is no business of yours or mine; but what he did tell her must have been of deep consequence, and it seems to have been a secret the full explanation of which he could
not give her for three days at least, inasmuch as she went straightway to the chief, her husband, and begged him to defer the execution of Ian na Piob for three days; and the chief, who by this time had recovered his temper, consented after a little demur,
APPLIED HER EAR TO THE KEYHOLE.
for his wife not only was beautiful, but when her mind was set on anything, he knew she would worry the inside out of a pig before she gave it up. Yes, poor man I he knew this only too well, from long experience! Hence his consent.
And it happened, since it was impossible for Ian na Piob to escape with the frost-bite in his limbs,
as he said he had, the gaoler allowed him to go about the castle at liberty, for he did not want to be bothered to sit opposite that dungeon three whole days, and was pleased, too, to be saved the trouble of carrying food to his prisoner from time to time.
Sharp though the pain proved that Ian na Piob, was suffering, and deep his fear of the doom that was hanging over him, revenge still was the undying fire that burned in his heart.
"Oh, if I could only compass somehow that fellow's death," cried he, "I should die happy!" and he bit his finger to the bone as he crouched on the stair and thought and thought and thought.
And as he sat thinking on the stairs, he happened to glance up, and the moon sailing in the frosty blue sky looked down at him through the open lattice, and he shook his fist at her and called her an evil name; and the stars came out one by one, and winked and blinked, so shocked were they at such conduct. But as he watched them, a thought, novel and crafty, struck him, and he suddenly rose, and with an evil grin on his face he took in his hand a goblet of crystal that stood on the table by his side, and with the help of the crutch and the stiff petticoat, painfully climbed the winding stairs. Then, making his way to a chamber that looked towards the south, he went in, and after locking the door on the inside, he sat down on a stool in front of the open windows. Then he closed the pine-shutters that hung on each side of the casement, and taking a sharp-pointed awl from his pouch, for two hours by the dial without ceasing he laboured to bore holes through them, some large,
some small. He pierced them in straight lines and circles, so as to portray, as best he could, the sets of stars he had noticed often in the winter heavens.
Next, he broke the goblet of crystal with his crutch into small pieces, and strewing them on the table beneath the closed window, and on the floor below, he left the room with a self-satisfied grimace, shutting the door behind him, locking it, and taking the key away with him.
"Now for the key," muttered he.
"Spottie Face! Spottie Face! Spottie Face!" he cried, getting up as best he could on the sill of the passage window, and stretching his neck out as far as possible over the water of the loch below. "Spottie Face, come hither!"
And Spottie Face, the great salmon that had its residence in the pool below, looked up, expecting some food to be thrown him from above.
"Spottie Face! O Spottie Face!" continued Ian na Piob, "if I give you some sweetmeats from the chief's table, will you do me a favour?"
Now Spottie Face was a nasty, cruel thing, and did not like doing favours for anybody; but you remember it was winter, and there was not much food going or any green meat on the banks, and so he put his nose above the water and waved assent with his tail.
"Then take this key, and cast it up on the bank below the window of Ian na Sporran. You know it; it is on the other side of the castle. This is not much to ask, you must allow; and I will throw the
sweetmeats out of this window after the chief has left the banqueting-hall in the evening."
So lan na Piob threw the key out to Spottie Face, and went his way down the staircase.
But Spottie Face, when he had seized the key, found it bitter cold to the jaws, for the frost had kissed the chill metal, and he spat it up again on to the bank just where he received it, and there it lay, a dark object on the frozen snow under Ian na Piob's own window. And Spottie Face sank to the bottom of the pool.
Now the fatal day arrived when Ian na Piob was to suffer for his evil deception of the chief, and the gaoler came, and led him into the hall of the castle, where all were assembled, and the chief and his wife sat in state to see the sentence carried out.
"I am a just man, and my wife is beautiful," spoke the chief. "You deceived me, and you tried to poison me: you shall die now, that's settled!"
"A boon I crave, one boon before I die!" cried Ian na Piob. "Let me but whisper a secret of utmost value into your lady's ear."
"Nothing of the sort!" roared the chief. "Go and have your head cut off! I won't hear of any delay."
But his good lady was not going to miss knowing that secret, whatever it might be; for she had been thinking about it for the last two days, and had fretted herself a good deal, besides, on the subject. So she gave her husband one of her looks, and he knew too well to say no when she looked yes.
Then Ian na Piob whispered in her ear.
"What? what? My jewels, my shining jewels?" screamed that lady, and, clenching her fists, she ran
up to Ian na Sporran and, shaking them in his astonished face, cried: "Give me my jewels back, you thieving villain you I give back my shining jewels that you have stolen!"
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"What's all this fuss about!" asked the chief, jumping up with a bounce from his chair of state.
"Why, Ian na Piob says that Ian na Sporran has stolen my jewels! O husband dear! you must send Ian na Sporran at once to the gallows."
"Hush, softly, my love!" said he. "You are beautiful, but remember, be just as well. In fact, I don't believe a word you're saying; and as to Ian na Piob, witness or no witness, I'll never put trust in him again, that's flat!"
"How many witnesses would make you believe my word?" said Ian na Piob. "Will ten please you?"
"No!" roared the chief. "Nothing under twenty, so be off and be hung!"
"There are twenty waiting to prove this at this moment in the castle," cried Ian na Piob.
Then the chief found he was caught, and knew that if he would keep up his character for justice, he must consent to hear the case.
"And who may these witnesses be?" growled he.
"None other than the stars of heaven," answered Ian na Piob.
"That's a low trick to escape your doom till the evening!" said the chief.
"Nay, but they are waiting you at this very moment in the south chamber," said Ian na Piob; "and what's more, the jewels are there too," whispered he in the lady's ear.
"Come along, come along!" cried she, seizing the chief by the sleeve, and the whole party, headed by
[paragraph continues] Ian na Piob, made towards the door, for the chief saw he must go, willy nilly, as his wife seemed quite out of her mind.
"Now where's the key?" said he when he got to the door and found it fast locked, "that's the next thing."
"Those who hide can find! He's got it, of course," said Ian na Piob pointing to Ian na Sporran, "search him. If he has it not, depend upon it he has hid it in his chamber; and if it's not there, he's cast it out of his window. Oh, I know his tricks!"
"Why, there it is on the bank!" said one of the chief's followers, looking out of the window. And sure enough, there it was, lying on the bank just under the chamber window belonging to Ian na Piob.
So they ran down and fetched it; but Ian na Piob nearly fainted with rage, for he saw that Spottie Face the salmon had deceived him.
But now the door was opened wide, and there within without doubt the jewels lay on the table and on the floor glittering in the light of the stars that shone brightly through the window into the darkened room.
"My jewels, my jewels!" cried the chief's wife, running forward.
"O Ian na Sporran," said the chief, shaking his head, "you must this time without doubt be put an end to!"
"Yes, yes," cried his wife, "at once! at once! for he deserves it."
"I pray you, noble chief," said Ian na Sporran, "question those witnesses, and ask them the truth."
What nonsense you're talking! Why, they are thousands of miles off," said the chief. "How can they hear me?"
"They are not further than the other side of the window," answered Ian na Sporran. "Permit me to go and beckon to them."
"Don't let him, don't let him!" shrieked Ian na Piob, hobbling forward in his petticoat to prevent him. "He's going to play some nasty trick!"
"You forget yourself, Ian na Piob!" thundered the chief; "and you forget also that I am a just man, and my wife is beautiful. Ian na Sporran, go and beckon to them."
Then Ian na Sporran went to the casement and flung the shutter wide, and the bright daylight filled the chamber, and all put up their hands to their eyes, for they were dazzled at the sudden change.
"Dear lady," said Ian na Sporran, "look now at your jewels! Nought but glass are they, you see; and--where are my enemy's witnesses? I trow they are still sleeping in the dark coffers of the night, the other side of the ocean."
"lan na Sporran, forgive me and all of us!" said the chief coming forward, and giving him his hand. "We will never, never, never distrust you again, as long as we live. Ask me any favour, and it shall be granted."
"Then give me the life of Ian na Piob," cried lan na Sporran; "for as I am the happiest man to-day in the country, I would have none sorrow while I am glad."
"On one condition," answered the chief. "Ian na Piob, stand forth, and with both hands uplifted, swear you will never try to give false-witness and lie to me again."
Then Ian na Piob waddled forward, and flung both his hands up over his head, but leaving go of the crutch, he overbalanced himself and fell flat on his face before the chief, and by no effort could he raise himself up again.
"You have signed your own doom," said the chief. "To the loch with him! hanging is too good!"
Then they flung Ian na Piob, petticoat, crutch and all, out of the window into the loch below, where Spottie Face the great salmon had his residence, and he had not reached the bottom before Spottie Face had him fast, and with one great gulp swallowed him, petticoat and all.
"My dear," said his wife to the chief, "I think you are as clever as you are just," and she gave him It good kiss on his brown cheek.
"And you, my love," said he, vastly pleased, "you are as sensible as you are beautiful."
And with these words he gave her a good kiss on the left cheek, which was real good of him, don't you think, for turn and turn about is but fair play.