It was battle time in Scotland. The MacRum
clansmen had been fighting all day long. Now they sat around the open
fire, roasting rabbit and eating wild blackberries. The stars twinkled
in the midnight sky. They were tired and weary; yet there was merriment
in the air as the men were filled with zest and eagerness to fight.
Morris, their dog, stayed close to the fire. Heíd been dodging swords
and cannonballs all day and was exhausted.
Murray was the oldest of
the MacRum clansmen. His long reddish brown hair and beard showed signs
of graying. Milroy, Stalker, Scobie, Lawson, Lyle, Hastings and Taggart
were younger but shared the same reddish hair.
"Itís my birthday
tomorrow," Scobie said to the others as he ripped another piece of
rabbit off the bone. "What a way to spend a birthday, aye men? Sitting
round a fire in the highland wilderness, freezing, and not a drop of
whiskey in sight!" The men all laughed.
"Be it your birthday?"
Milroy asked. "Iíd not known that." He sat looking at the sparks popping
from the burning wood. They flew into the air and fell like exploding
fireworks to the ground. "Iíve got an idea," he whispered to Lawson and
Lyle. "Come on, I want to talk to you."
He took Lawson and Lyle
into the woods. Nobody noticed they were gone. Everyone else was half
asleep. "Men, itís Scobieís birthday. Iíve got a great idea. Here, take
this money and go into town. Thereís a brand new cannon that old man
Munro has ready. Get it and being it back here. Take the horses if you
want, quietly, and drag it back. Itís big, but imagine Scobieís eyes
when he sees it. If any a man loves a new cannon, itís Scobie." Lawson
nodded, took the money and left, with Lyle, to get the cannon.
Milroy went back to the
campfire. Milroy looked around. Scobie was sound asleep. Snores that
could knock down a grizzly bear were shooting from his mouth. "Pssst,
Murray," Milroy whispered.
Murray opened one of his
eyes. "Huh?" he muttered.
"I need to talk to you,"
"Huh?" Murray answered.
"Tomorrow is Scobieís
birthday. Lawson and Lyle have gone to town to get a surprise. Stalker
will go with you. Take Scobie away for a while. Make something up. Tell
him you need him to scope out the battlefield with you. Weíll bring the
surprise into camp. You bring him back. Send Hastings to the Morton
croft up the glen to make a cake for him. Sheís a good cook."
Murray smiled, keeping
his eyes shut though. "You can count on me. Now goodnight!" With that,
he fell asleep and snored even louder than Scobie.
Before the sun rose the
next morning, Murray took Scobie with him to go up the hill and see what
the enemy was doing. Hastings ran over to the Morton croft as ordered.
She was more than happy to bake a cake for Scobie.
When they were well out
of sight, Milroy called for Lawson and Lyle. They pushed the huge cannon
into the camp area. The others ran to help. "Whatís this?" Taggart
asked. "A new cannon. Iíve never seen one so shiny and sturdy looking.
This for Scobie, you say? Lucky man."
Stalker walked over to
the cannon, followed by Morris, who was wagging his tail. He sensed
festivity in the air.
The five of them stood
around waiting for Murray to come back with Scobie. Hastings returned
with a cake covered with birthday candles. He hid behind the tree,
watching for Murray and Scobie. After about half an hour he called to
the others, "Hide. Here they come."
Murray put his arm around
Scobie. "Iím sorry that I had to put a blindfold on you, but you see,
Iím trying something out. Can you hear better with the blindfold on or
not?" he asked, after tricking Scobie with some ridiculous reason for
wearing a blindfold.
"Iím fine," Murray, "and
yes, I hear better. And smell too. I smell something sweet, like
pastries," Scobie said, sniffing the air.
Murray sniffed. All he
could smell was pine trees and smoke from the cannon fire last night.
Hastings called again.
Murray led Hastings into
the campfire, blindfolded and stumbling over rocks and tree roots. When
they stood right in front of the fire, he pulled the blindfold off.
"Surprise!" the others
yelled. "Happy birthday!"
Scobie stood gazing at
the cannon and the shiny black cannonballs stacked in front of it. A big
blue ribbon was tied around the back of it. "For me, lads? The cannonís
mine?" A tear trickled down his face. He ran over and lay against it.
Morris barked and ran around the cannon.
"Surprise again!" cried
Hastings, as he walked towards him with the big cake.
"Och, lads, you shouldnít
have done it, but Iím glad you did. This is the best birthday Iíve ever
had!" he cried.
Instead of eggs and more
rabbit for breakfast, they feasted on Scobieís birthday cake. No sooner
had they finished when they heard the roar of cannons in the distance.
"Time to get back to the battle lads," said Murray. "Letís see how good
Scobieís birthday present works," he said.
As the men headed towards
the battlefield, all pushing the huge cannon, Morris stayed at the camp
and licked up all the rest of the birthday cake. It was on his face, his
paws and whiskers. He lay in front of the fire all day, listening to the
roar of Scobieís new cannon.
"Happy Birthday, Scobie,"