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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
What’s In the Box?

KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! "Where is Mr. McGee?" asked Andy. The six children stood at the door. "Nobody’s answering."

"That’s not like Mr. McGee. He’s always here waiting for us on ‘Story Night’," Gavin said.

Ginger, Mungo’s cat, came walking around from the back of the house. "Oh look! There’s Ginger. Maybe Mr. McGee’s in the back garden," Gregor said. They ran behind the house. He wasn’t in his flower garden and he wasn’t in his vegetable garden.

"Where is he?" asked wee Hamish, worried about his friend.

The bairns went back to the front door and sat down on the steps. Ginger came walking up and sat next to them. Morag petted her soft fur. It was beginning to get dark and the young bairns were starting to worry. Just then, Mungo came down the lane. "Mr. McGee!" shouted Andy and ran to meet him. The others followed.

"Where were you?" asked wee Fiona.

"You won’t believe me if I tell you," he laughed. "Come bairns, lets go in the house. I’ll fetch you some snacks. I’m rather hungry myself." When they were inside, even Ginger, Mungo went into the kitchen and started making some food. The bairns were busy carrying dishes and making tea. "All right then, lads and lassies. I’ll tell you why I am late. Help yourself to some shortbread and ham sandwiches. There’s also some cheese and crackers for you too."

"Tell us the story," Mr. McGee," said Gregor.

"About three hours ago, I got a phone call from the widow, Mrs. Sinclair. She’s getting up there in age and not able to do a lot of things. She said that she needed some help carrying some heavy boxes into the house. I thought I’d only be gone a wee while, so I let Ginger out and walked up to her. When I got there, she had twenty huge boxes sitting in her front garden. I asked her what was in them. She wouldn’t answer. All of them were wooden crates and they were large. I couldn’t imagine what was in them. I asked her where she wanted me to put them. She told me to put them in her back bedroom," Mungo said.

"Did the boxes have writing on the outside?" Gavin asked.

"That’s a good question," Morag said, smiling at Gavin.

"There was some writing. They each had the words ‘HANDLE WITH CARE’ on them," Mungo explained.

"I tried to pick one of the boxes up. Och, they were heavy. It took all of my strength to lift them up. Carrying them into her back bedroom was difficult. Not only were they heavy, but I had to be careful with them. I had moved about half of them through and was picking up the next box when I dropped it. Part of the box broke," Mungo said.

"What was in it? Did you peek inside?" Morag asked.

"Since it was broken, I was able to have a wee peek inside. I nearly screamed when I saw what was in there!" Mungo said.

"What was it, Mr. McGee? A monster? Did Mrs. Sinclair have boxes of monsters?" wee Fiona asked.

"Wee Fiona, there’s no such thing as monsters," Gavin said to his sister. "Is there?" he asked Mungo.

"I thought it was a monster. There were two huge eyes staring at me. I fell backwards. That’s how afraid I was. I stood up and looked in the box again. After all, I didn’t hear any noises. It seemed to be a statue of some odd looking animal. It turns out that Mrs. Sinclair’s son, Robert, went to the Orkney Islands on some sort of expedition and had sent all these statues and objects back to his mum’s house to be stored until he got back. Say, bairns, would you like to go to Mrs. Sinclair’s house with me and see it? I took it out of the box and it is in her living room now," Mungo said.

"I’d love to see it," said Morag.

"We all would," Gregor added.

"Let’s go then. Finish up your snacks and then we’ll pop in on Mrs. Sinclair. She won’t mind," Mungo said.

They headed up the lane to her house. Ginger followed. KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! Mrs. Sinclair answered the door. "We came to see your ugly statue," wee Hamish said.

Mungo, somewhat embarrassed, explained, "He means the statue in your living room. I told them it had ugly eyes. Sorry, Mrs. Sinclair."

"That’s quite all right. Come in bairns," she said, ushering them into the house.

"That is an ugly statue," Gregor said. "Look at its face."

"What is it?" Andy asked.

"My son, Robert, was on an archeological expedition in the Orkney Islands. Do you know where that is?" she asked.

"What’s archelocal?" asked wee Fiona.

"It means he was digging for mummies," Gavin said.

"No, no, no. He wasn’t digging for mummies. He was digging in some old ruins that they’d uncovered in the islands. Orkney is north of Scotland. It seems these crates are filled with Viking treasures," Mrs. Sinclair explained.

"Vikings? They wear hats with horns," Morag said.

"This statue was found in an excavation, along with gold jewelry, coins, wooden oars, bowls, spoons and drinking cups. Robert is taking it all to a museum, but wanted to keep it well hidden until he gets back," Mrs. Sinclair said.

"Why?" asked Gregor. "Are there robbers looking for it?"

"Robbers?" Andy said.

"Bairns, there are a few people who would like to get their hands on this ancient treasure, but its safe here. There won’t be any robbers, so don’t worry. Would you like a drink of lemonade?" she said, trying to distract them.

"Yes," they all cried. She went into the kitchen to pour their drinks.

"Mr. McGee, tell us more about Vikings. I didn’t know there were any in Scotland," Gavin said.

"There were many Vikings in Scotland. There was a great Viking battle called the Battle of Largs. It happened in the year 1263, right here in Scotland. The Vikings said that they owned parts of the Western Isles and Kintyre because there was a treaty between Edgar, King of Scots and Magnus Barefoot, King of Norway in 1098," Mungo said.

"Magnet Barefoot? That’s a funny name," giggled Wee Hamish.

"Magnus Barefoot. Vikings had unusual names. Some were called Red Beard, others Long Nose. It helped tell them apart. As time went on," Mungo said, continuing, "the people living in that area, led by King Alexander III, offered to buy Kintyre and the Isles back from the Vikings. Haakon, who was now the king of Norway, said no and took a fleet of ships to fight the Scottish people. They had about 200 ships," Mungo said.

"That’s a lot of ships. How many did the Scottish people have?" Gregor asked.

"I’m not sure, but 200 is a lot. They came to the Isles and then went on to other parts of Scotland. Haakon and his men actually dragged fifty of their ships across the land at Tarbet, while the rest of the ships sailed on to fight King Alexander. They anchored their ships at a place called Largs," Mungo told them.

"That means they had 150 ships," said Morag, proud to have figured out how many.

"Where did the 50 ships go?" asked Gavin.

"They were going to sneak up another way. On the night of September 30, 1263, a huge storm hit western Scotland. It tossed the ships about and sank many of them. The battle began that day, so you can imagine how hard it was to fight in a gale. The battle lasted for 4 long days. When the storm passed on the 5th of October, the Vikings sailed back to the Isles. The men who lived on the Isles, Scottish men, attacked the Vikings and they fled. King Haakon went to Orkney and he died there. In 1266, a treaty called the Treaty of Perth, gave the Isles and Kintyre back to Scotland. So, now you know how the Vikings ended up in the Orkney Islands," Mungo said.

"So all the things in these crates belonged to King Haakon?" asked Gavin.

"Yes. Robert and his men found them and they are going to send them to a museum, like Mrs. Sinclair told you," Mungo said.

"Wow, that’s cool," said Gregor. "Can we see some more?"

Mrs. Sinclair came back with the lemonade and some biscuits. She told the bairns that they couldn’t see anything but the statue with ugly eyes, until it was safe in the museum. They drank their lemonade and then went back to Mungo’s house.

While they were waiting for their parents to come and pick them up, the bairns talked about treasure and Vikings. Gregor and Andy pretended to be Vikings having a sword fight. Wee Hamish and wee Fiona chased Ginger around the back garden. Morag and Gavin argued about Viking ships. "They do too have striped sails," Morag said.

"No, they don’t," Gavin snarled.

Mungo stopped the fighting. "Yes, Gavin, sorry to say, but they did have red and white striped sails on their long boats. Morag was right."

Morag stuck her tongue out at Gavin. "So," he said to her.

The parents came to pick up the bairns. After they’d left, Mungo took Ginger and went back to Mrs. Sinclair’s house to help her with more boxes. Pictures of Viking battles floated through all their heads that night as they slept. They’d not soon forget the Battle of Largs.

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