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THE VIKING BLOOD
A Story of Seafaring
HODDER AND STOUGHTON
Copyright, Canada, 1920
THE MUSSON BOOK CO., LIMITED
Publishers, . . . Toronto.
V. S. W.
Table of Contents
He was christened Donald Percival McKenzie, but his mother preferred to call him Percival. The father, however insisted on the “Donald” and demanded that it be given priority over whatever appellation the mother might desire to add to the rare old Highland surname of McKenzie.
Captain McKenzie received the news of his son’s arrival into the world just as his ship was leaving the coaling station at Cape Verde Islands, but his wife’s suggestion of “Percival” caused him to hold the ship to an anchor while he dashed off a letter protesting against the tacking of such a namby-pamby name on to a son of his. “‘Donald’ is the name I have set my heart on, Janet, and I won’t have the name of McKenzie defiled by any such English designation as ‘Percival’. I won’t have any Percy McKenzies in my family.” Then, to conciliate his wife, who, he felt, deserved some consideration, he added, “You may call him Percival also if you’ve set your mind on it, but remember, Donald comes first!” So Donald Percival McKenzie it was, and thus it is inscribed in the Register of Births for the City of Glasgow, in the County of Lanark, Scotland, in the year of our Lord, Eighteen Hundred and Seventy-six.
Though registered thus by the laws of church and state and in the mind of the father, yet the mother won her desire for a time and omitted the “Donald” when addressing, or referring to, her son. It was only during Captain McKenzie’s brief home visits between voyages that young Donald Percival discovered that he had another appellation which he was expected to answer to. This discovery became a most pleasing one when the boy advanced to those years of discretion when he might fraternize with his fellows on the aristocratic “Terrace” where he resided. Glasgow youngsters, inheriting antipathies through Scotch or Irish ancestry, scorned anything savoring of “English” and the name of “Percy” could only be applied to an “Englisher” or a boy so anglicized by his “Maw” as to be only worth giving a licking to wherever and whenever met. When one’s mother hails from Inverness and speaks the pure melodious English peculiar to that part of Scotland, it is difficult for a lad to disprove connection with southron antecedents—especially in the face of such circumstantial evidence as a name like Percy, and an accent free from rolling “r’s” and Scottish idioms.
This was what young McKenzie had to fight against. Even though he could scrape through the language test and deliver himself of a guttural “Och, awa!” and pronounce “loch” without calling it “lock,” yet the “Percy” damned him. He had attained the age of seven—a rather delicate boy, much petted and spoilt by his mother—when he rebelled. The juvenile denizens of the Terrace had jeered at him—calling him “Percy, dear!” and added injury to insult by throwing mud and profaning his white starched collar with unclean hands. “They called me a mammy’s boy,” he sobbed, “’n they said I was English, ’n they said English was no good ’cause they ran away from the Scotch at Bannockburn an’ Stirling Bridge. I’m not English, am I, mamma?”
“No, no, dear,” soothed the mother. “How dare those vulgar little scamps abuse my little pet! Don’t cry, my wee lamb! I shan’t let you go out and play with them any more——”
A renewed howl came from Donald Percival. “But I wanna play with them, mamma! I don’t wanna be kept in! It’s all your fault for calling me ‘Percy’! I don’t wanna be called Percy! I wanna be called Donal’ same as daddy calls me. And, mamma, please don’t call me Percy any more. I like Donal’ better!”
There had been several incidents of this nature, and Mrs. McKenzie was now forced to address her offspring publicly by his first name. But the other died hard and practically blasted young Donald’s life in the locality in which he lived. Only when the family removed to a distant neighborhood did the youngster feel free to begin life with a clean sheet.
There is a psychology in nomenclature which reflects the characters of the parents. “Percival” aptly described that of Mrs. McKenzie. As plain Janet McKinnon she grew up in the bucolic atmosphere of a small Invernessshire farm, where she had, at an early age, to help her mother milk cows, clean byres, plant and gather potatoes. In summer, she ran around barefoot; in winter she wore heavy boots and homespun stockings and red flannel petticoats. The farm was a poor one and the McKinnon family was numerous and hungry. Janet at sixteen was sent out to “service” as a maid-of-all-work in the home of a Glasgow baillie.
The baillie had made some “siller” in the scrap-iron business and hankered after the desirable municipal eminence of Lord Provost of Glasgow. As he and his wife were rather crude personages, he realized that some training in deportment and society mannerisms was necessary, and his establishment became something of a stamping ground for professors of dancing and deportment, English governesses and impecunious connections of artistocratic families. Janet, the maid, absorbed much of the atmosphere with which she was surrounded and unconsciously aped a great deal of what she saw being dinned into the baillie and his kindred.
“Bonny Janet McKinnon”—good-hearted, healthy, quick-witted, and a pretty figure of a lass, though rather proud and vain—followed the baillie in his steps up the social ladder, and while a domestic in the future Lord Provost’s house, met handsome, rollicking Alec McKenzie, chief officer of the Sutton Liner Ansonia in the New York trade.
Janet made Alec McKenzie a good wife. She supplied the ambition and aggressiveness which her husband lacked. No one could say he lowered himself by marrying Janet McKinnon, for she was quick to realize her husband’s assets in the way of family connections and genuine ability, and she carried herself as if she were the accepted niece, by marriage, of the Laird of Dunsany. Other mates’ wives called on her, more out of curiosity than kindness, but she would have none of them and treated them coldly. Her demeanor impressed the visitors, as it had already impressed the landlady, and the latter bruited the story that her lodger was the daughter of a “Hielan’ Chief—somewhat rejuced in circumstances.” Mrs. McKenzie did not deny the story; she rather accepted it and even hinted at it in casual conversation with gossipy callers.
Alec was a first-class chief officer, but that wasn’t good enough for Janet. She longed for the day when she could be referred to as “Mrs. McKenzie—wife of Captain McKenzie of the S.S. So-and-so,” and she worked skilfully to that end. After much manœuvering, she struck up an acquaintanceship with Mrs. Duncan, wife of the marine superintendent of the Sutton Line, and never missed an opportunity to impress upon that simple lady the fact that Alec was a nephew of Sir Alastair McKenzie, and brother to David McKenzie the ship-owner on Bothwell street.
Though McKenzie longed for promotion, yet he was cursed with a sailor’s bashfulness in seeking office, and of his own volition he would make no move which would cause his skipper to eye him askance as a man to be watched. He had known over-ambitious mates who had been “worked out” of the Line by superiors who felt that their positions were imperilled by such aspiring underlings, and he abhorred the thought of being classed as an “owner licker.” But Janet had no such scruples. She was out to speed the day, and before she had been a year married, she had called on her late employer, Baillie Ross, and sought his interest in Alec’s favor. Ross was climbing in municipal politics and had recently been elected a director of the Sutton Line, and he appreciated Janet’s efforts to “rise in the warl’.” At the first opportunity, he casually mentioned to the Managing Director of Suttons’ that they had “a maist promisin’ young officer in Mr. McKinzie, chief mate o’ the Ansonia. He’s a nephew o’ Sir Alastair McKinzie an’ a brither tae David McKinzie—the risin’ ship-broker. He wad mak’ a fine upstaundin’ Captun fur wan o’ yer boats some day, and I wad like tae see him get on!”
The Managing Director was wise in his day and generation and made a note of McKenzie’s name, but he was too much of a Scotch business man to promote officers unless they had ability. Captain Duncan was called in one day and engaged in casual conversation by the manager. “What do you know of McKenzie, chief officer of the Ansonia?” Duncan had been primed by his wife. “A fine smert officer, sir,” answered the marine superintendent. “Keeps a nate shup and always attends to his wark.”
“No, sir! I’ve never heard tell o’ him bein’ a man that used liquor.”
“How does he stand in seniority?”
“There’s twa or three mates ahead o’ him in length o’ service, but nane ahead in smertness. He’s well connectit, sir. Nephew tae Sir Alastair McKenzie and he’s merrid on a Hielan’ Chief’s dochter—a fine bonny leddy, sir!”