The First Battle Of The Cruives
The old keep of Huntingtower stood some three hundred yards from the edge of the cliffs,
a gnarled wood of hazels and oaks protecting it from the sea-winds. It was still in fair
preservation, having till twenty years before been an adjunct of the house of Dalquharter,
and used as kitchen, buttery, and servants' quarters. There had been residential wings
attached, dating from the mid-eighteenth century, but these had been pulled down and
used for the foundations of the new mansion. Now it stood a lonely shell, its three
storeys, each a single great room connected by a spiral stone staircase, being dedicated to
lumber and the storage of produce. But it was dry and intact, its massive oak doors defied
any weapon short of artillery, its narrow unglazed windows would scarcely have admitted
a cat--a place portentously strong, gloomy, but yet habitable.
Dougal opened the main door with a massy key. "The lassie fund it," he whispered to
Dickson, "somewhere about the kitchen--and I guessed it was the key o' this castle. I was
thinkin' that if things got ower hot it would be a good plan to flit here. Change our base,
like." The Chieftain's occasional studies in war had trained his tongue to a military
In the ground room lay a fine assortment of oddments, including old bedsteads and
servants' furniture, and what looked like ancient discarded deerskin rugs. Dust lay thick
over everything, and they heard the scurry of rats. A dismal place, indeed, but Dickson
felt only its strangeness. The comfort of being back again among allies had quickened his
spirit to an adventurous mood. The old lords of Huntingtower had once quarrelled and
revelled and plotted here, and now here he was at the same game. Present and past joined
hands over the gulf of years. The saga of Huntingtower was not ended.
The Die-Hards had brought with them their scanty bedding, their lanterns and camp-
kettles. These and the provisions from Mearns Street were stowed away in a corner.
"Now for the Hoose, men," said Dougal. They stole over the downs to the shrubbery, and
Dickson found himself almost in the same place as he had lain in three days before,
watching a dusky lawn, while the wet earth soaked through his trouser knees and the drip
from the azaleas trickled over his spine. Two of the boys fetched the ladder and placed it
against the verandah wall. Heritage first, then Dickson, darted across the lawn and made
the ascent. The six scouts followed, and the ladder was pulled up and hidden among the
verandah litter. For a second the whole eight stood still and listened. There was no sound
except the murmur of the now falling wind and the melancholy hooting of owls. The
garrison had entered the Dark Tower.
A council in whispers was held in the garden-room.
"Nobody must show a light," Heritage observed. "It mustn't be known that we're here.
Only the Princess will have a lamp. Yes"-- this in answer to Dickson--"she knows that
we're coming--you too. We'll hunt for quarters later upstairs. You scouts, you must picket
every possible entrance. The windows are safe, I think, for they are locked from the
inside. So is the main door. But there's the verandah door, of which they have a key, and
the back door beside the kitchen, and I'm not at all sure that there's not a way in by the
boiler-house. You understand. We're holding his place against all comers. We must