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delegation from your master, Magnus Troil, I can exercise over you, if I will. Provoke me to a certain pitch, and you shall learn, to your cost, I can break your rest as easily as you can interrupt my leisure. I know the meaning of scat, and wattle, and hawkhen, and hagalef, and every other exaction by which your lords, in ancient and modern days, have wrung your withers: nor is there one of you that shall not rue the day that you could not be content with robbing me of my money, but must also break in on my leisure with your atrocious northern clamour, that rivals in discord the screaming of á flight of Arctic gulls.”
Nothing better occurred to Sweyn, in answer to this objurgation, than the preferring a humble request that his honour would be pleased to keep the cod-fish without payment, and say no more about the matter; but by this time Mr Mertoun had worked up his passions into an ungovernable rage, and with one hand he threw the money at the fisherman's head, while with the other he pelted him out of the apartment with his own fish.
There was so much of appalling and tyrannic
fury in the stranger's manner on this occasion, that Sweyn neither stopped to collect the money nor take back his commodity, but fled at a precipitate rate to the small hamlet, to tell his comrades, that if they provoked Master Mertoun any further, he would turn an absolute Pate Stuart * on their hand, and head and hang without either judgment or mercy.
Hither also came the discarded housekeeper, to consult with her neighbours and kindred, (for she also was a native of the village,) what she should do to regain the desirable situation from which she had been so suddenly expelled. The old Rauzellaar of the village, who had the voice most potential in the deliberations of the township, after hearing what had happened, pronounced that Sweyn Erickson had gone too far in raising the market upon Mr Mertoun; and that whatever pretext the tacksman might assume for thus giving way to his anger, the
Meaning, probably, Patrick Stuart, Earl of Orkney, executed for tyranny and oppression practised on the inhabitants of these remote islands in the beginning of the seventeenth century.
real grievance must have been the charging the rock cod-fish at a penny instead of a halfpenny a-piece; he therefore exhorted all the community never to raise their exactions in future beyond the proportion of threepence upon the shilling, at which rate their master at the Castle could not reasonably be expected to grumble, since, as he was disposed to do them no harm, it was reasonable to think, that, in a moderate way, he had no objection to do them good. “And three upon twelve," said the experienced Rauzellaar, “is a decent and moderate profit, and will bring with it God's blessing and St. Ronald's.”
- Proceeding upon the tariff thus judiciously recommended to them, the inhabitants of Jarlshof cheated Mertoun in future only to the moderate extent of twenty-five per cent. ; a rate to which all nabobs, army-contractors, speculators in the funds, and others, whom recent and rapid success has enabled to settle in the country upon a great scale, ought to submit, as very reasonable treatment at the hand of their rustic neighbours.
neighbours. Mertoun at least seemed of that opinion, for he gave himself no further trouble on the subject of his household expenses.
The conscript fathers of Jarlshof, having settled their own matters, took next under their consideration the case of Swertha, the banished matron who had been expelled from the Castle, whom, as an experienced and useful ally, they were highly desirous to restore to her office of housekeeper, should that be found possible. But as their wisdom here failed them, Swertha, in despair, had recourse to the good offices of Mordaunt Mertoun, with whom she had acquired some favour by her knowledge in old Norwegian ballads, and dismal tales concerning the Trows or Drows (the dwarfs of the Scalds), with whom superstitious eld had peopled many a lonely cavern and brown dale in Dunrossness, as in every other district of Zetland. “Swertha,” said the youth, “ I can do but little for you, but you may do something for yourself. My father's passion resembles the fury of those ancient champions you sing songs about.”
Ay, ay, fish of my heart,” replied the old woman, with a pathetic whine; “the Berserkars were champions who lived before the blessed
days of Saint Olave, and who used to run like madmen on swords, and spears, and harpoons, and muskets, and snap them all into pieces as a finner would go through a herring-net, and then, when the fury went off, were as weak and unstable as water."
“That's the very thing, Swertha,” said Mordaunt.
father never likes to think of his passion after it is over, and is so much of a Berserkar, that, let him be desperate as he will to-day, he will not care about it to-morrow. Therefore, he has not filled up your place in the household at the Castle, and not a mouthful of warm food has been dressed there since you went away, and not a morsel of bread baked, but we have lived just upon whatever cold thing came to hand. Now, Swertha, I will be your warrant, that if you go boldly up to the Castle, and enter upon the discharge of your duties as usual, you will never hear a single word from
Swertha hesitated at first to obey this bold counsel. She said, “ to her thinking, Mr Mertoun, when he was angry, looked more like a fiend than any Berserkar of them all; that the