The Bagpiper’s Ghost

EARLY BIRD BOOKS

FRESH EBOOK DEALS, DELIVERED DAILY

BE THE FIRST TO KNOW—

NEW DEALS HATCH EVERY DAY!

The Bagpiper's Ghost

Jane Yolen

To Debby and Bob, Scottish hosts
,

without whom, of course

and to Joanne Lee Stemple, who is a MacFadden

Tartan:

Plaid cloth.

In Scotland each clan

has its own distinctive pattern.

One

Belief

“I don't believe it!” Peter cried. His body showed his astonishment even more than his face, for his arms and hands were raised, and his feet did a noisy jig under the kitchen table. It was the most animated he'd been in days, even though he was clearly putting it on.

Spoon half lifted, Jennifer looked up from her porridge and stared at her twin. “You don't believe
what?
” Given that they had already had days of magic, it wasn't an idle question.

“Sun,” Peter said, pointing out the window. “And no clouds, not even a hint. Must be my doing. I—Peter the Great.” He waved his right hand as if he were royalty, something he'd just started that morning.

“I can believe sun,” said little Molly, nodding so hard her little dark curls bobbed like Slinky toys. “It's easy. Sun, sun, you've just begun. See?” Molly was in love with rhymes and repetition just now.

Peter turned on her. “Not in Scotland, it isn't easy,” he told her. “Our sixth day on vacation here, and it's the first without a cloud in the sky. So I
don't
believe it. No—I take that back. It's
beyond
belief.”

Jennifer shook her head. Sometimes Peter's sarcasm was over the top. Especially since they'd turned thirteen. It seemed impossible for one twin to hate the other, but lately Jennifer found Peter exasperating. Like the royal hand-wave thing.
Exasperating
. That was one of her mother's words, but useful.

“Nothing's beyond belief in Scotland,” she reminded him, “now that we've found magic.”

“We haven't
found
magic,” Peter said. “There aren't bits of magic lying around that we just stumble over. No, wait a minute. I'm wrong.
You
just find magic, but it seems to avoid
me
. Maybe I have M.O.” He glared at Jennifer, which made her feel uncomfortable.

“What's M.O., Peter?” asked Molly.

Jennifer was glad Molly had asked, because there was no way she herself was getting suckered into Peter's bad mood. Not with the sun shining and all.

He lifted his arm and shoved his pit toward his little sister. “Magic odor. Like B.O., only worse. Smelly as well as repellent. Magic stays away from me.”

Gran's white cat walked through the room and stopped to stare at Peter's uplifted arm.

Peter stared back and gave the cat the royal wave.

Jennifer sighed. “It's not like I'm
looking
for magic,” she said. “Not like someone is leaving it on the ground …”

“My Pict stone was on the ground,” said Molly, remembering their last adventure. She spoke with the flat-footed assurance of a four-year-old. “And
it
was magic.”

“It
called
magic,” Peter said, determined not to be outwitted by his baby sister. “It wasn't magic on its own. And Jennifer got to do all the cool stuff while we were out cold.”

“Peter, why are you so determined to be a pain?” Jennifer asked.

“Pain in the rain. Pain in the rain,” sang Molly.

She's exasperating, too
, thought Jennifer. She watched as the cat gave them
all
a disgusted look and went through the cat door and out into the garden.

“But that's just what I was saying. It's
not
raining!” Peter declared. “So you are all wrong, as usual, and I—Peter the Great—am not.” This time he waved his arm grandly.

There was a roundness to his conversation. A great circle with no end. Jennifer recognized it just in time and bailed out.

“I'm going downtown,” she said. “After breakfast. To Fairburn Castle.”

“Me, too,” Peter said.

“Me, three,” added Molly.

“Mom!” Jennifer and Peter cried out together, their voices eerily similar. Mom, who had been reading a magazine in the other room, came in.

“We want to go for a walk,” Jennifer said.

“Without the kid,” Peter added.

“Jennifer and Peter want some twin time,” Mom said to Molly. She opened her arms wide. “Besides, I need some Molly time, myself. After all, I scarcely saw you at all yesterday. And I missed you dreadfully.”

“You mostly missed the excitement,” said Molly. “And the magic. You went to Edinburgh. Without me. Me, me, me, and Mommy makes three.”

“Two,” Jennifer and Peter said together, but Molly ignored them, preferring her rhyme to reason. Or at least to math.

“That I did,” said Mom. “Better tell me again.”

“You missed the Pictish girl and the tallyman and the …”

As Molly began the whole story, interspersing rhymed words in the telling, Jennifer and Peter slipped out of the kitchen.

In the living room, Jennifer turned on her brother. “I
don't
need twin time, and I
don't
want you with me,” she said. “You're in a foul mood, and you're determined to ruin my day, too.”

“But I'm in a good mood, Jen,” Peter protested. “I am Goodness in person.”

“No, you're not, Peter the
Great
.” Jennifer put her hands on her hips. “You don't even sound like you anymore. So even if we go out the front door together, we are going to split up at the corner of Double Dykes Road.” The tone of her voice gave him no room to argue.

She immediately felt bad about coming down so hard on him. After all, before they'd become teens, they'd done everything together. But now it was boy stuff and girl stuff, Peter stuff and Jennifer stuff. She wasn't entirely used to it and didn't entirely like it. The best thing about twins was being a single unit. Forever. But with Peter acting so awful …

“Nah—I'm sticking with you, kid,” he said. “You seem to get in the thick of things here, and I wouldn't want to miss any of it.
This
time.”

Jennifer wasn't sure he meant that admiringly. Lately it had been getting harder and harder to tell
what
Peter meant.

“Oh—all right,” Jennifer said grudgingly. “But only if you lighten up.”

“I will be lightness entire,” Peter replied. “As light as—this sunny day!”

“There you go again,” she told him.

He grinned at her, his old familiar grin, and suddenly all her anger disappeared.

Maybe
, she thought,
I'm overreacting. Maybe Peter isn't moving away from me. Maybe I'm the one who is the problem
.

Just then a slim dog the color of ash pushed between them.

“Yer nae leavin' me behind. A day like this, the sun oot and all. That garden's nae big enough fer me. I want to spend the forenoon going my dinger.”

Peter looked down at him. “Going your dinger? And what's that when it's in English?”

“I'll give thee
English
, laddie! Yer American language is nae English. And I am nae English, either. A Scot's a Scot fer a' that! ‘Going yer dinger' simply means to go oot and aboot with vigor, ye young daftie.”

Peter looked at Jennifer and shrugged. “Maybe we should all go our dinger!” He laughed. “And stumble over some magic while we're at it.”

“Och, nae learned ought yet?” asked the dog, lying down and crossing his paws. “Dinna ye call for magic. It'll nae be pleased wi' the summons.”

“Which,” Jennifer pointed out, “is just what Gran would say if she were here.” Gran wasn't Mom's real mother or grandmother. She and her husband were actually some older cousins who had helped raise Mom after her own parents had died in a car crash.

“And where
is
Gran?” Peter asked, attaching the dog's leash to the collar.

“The auld carlin is awa,” said the dog. “Gone to Edinburgh, the auld gray toon. Something about a capped tooth.”

“Or a gapped tooth,” Peter said, winking at his sister. “Our gran being a witch, after all.”


White
witch,” Jennifer and the dog said together.

“Whatever.” He shrugged, the smile gone from his face, and lifted the latch to the front door.

Jennifer's uneasiness returned, seeming to cloud what would otherwise have been a lovely day.

Two

Going Their Dinger

The door shut behind them with a satisfying
snick
, then Peter held out his hand as if expecting rain. He looked up, then grinned at Jennifer.

“Nae rain, nae haar,” he said with an atrocious Scottish accent.

“Och, stick to the American,” the dog said, disgusted. “No rain, no fog. Have a nice day.” His broad American accent was just as bad as Peter's Scottish.

Jennifer ignored them both. If the two of them wanted to fight, she'd let them. She doubled the size of her steps and soon left boy and dog far behind.

Turning onto the cobbles of Double Dykes Road, she never looked back, though she could still hear them sniping away at each other. She liked going along on the uneven cobbles rather than the sidewalk. It suited how she felt.

Behind her came snippets of conversation.

“You wouldn't know a good day if it bit you,” Peter was saying.

“Dinna talk to a dog aboot biting,” came the response. “It might provoke mair than ye'd like, laddie.”

“Try me, big nose.”

“Two leg.”

“One brain.”

“Better than none, ye gormless American daftie …”

Just my luck
, Jennifer thought.
Peter in an awful mood and a talking dog with an attitude!
She laughed out loud. “Now I'm rhyming like Molly” She began to walk faster.

Other books

The Eleventh Year by Monique Raphel High
Something to Talk About by Dakota Cassidy
Slavemaster's Woman, The by Angelia Whiting
The Good Listener by B. M. Hardin