In case you’ve missed any chapters, in chapter one they talked about going to the castle, in chapter two they visited it, and in three they went underground and explored the mine and counter-mine and David played a trick.
They met David around the side of the castle, between the two sets of steps. He was grinning at them. “Did you enjoy my note?”
“It landed on Darrell’s head and scared the life out of the girls,” Julian said crossly.
“Ah, sorry,” David said, having the good grace to look abashed.
“It just startled us, that’s all,” Sally said, embarrassed that she and Darrell had been so silly.
“It didn’t hurt you, did it Darrell?” David asked.
“Not really,” Darrell replied, absently rubbing her head through her hat. “It wouldn’t have startled me half as much if you’d kept your pencil, though.”
“I wasn’t sure if the scrap of paper would reach you if it wasn’t weighed down,” he said.
“Where else did you think it could go, fathead?” Julian asked.
“Well, it could have drifted past and you mightn’t have seen it with the poor lighting,” David defended himself. “I didn’t know that Darrell was sitting directly below the hole. I thought about taking a look but I’d look a right idiot lying on the pavement.”
“I’m not sure that you aren’t a total idiot,” Julian said.
“I don’t know what you’re in such a mood about.” David was getting cross now. “It wasn’t you or Sally that I hit, and I don’t see Toly going wild at me.”
“No. Well. None of the rest of us were dragged into an underground tunnel by Ainsworth and held hostage,” Julian reminded him. “I just think it was stupid and unkind to frighten her like you did.”
“Julian, it’s all right, really,” Sally said, tugging on his arm. “David was just trying to have a bit of fun, and we’re all right, really we are.”
“I was. But I’m sorry if I upset you in any way, Sally.”
“Apology accepted. Right Julian?” Sally said.
“Right.” Julian shook hands with David while the others looked on. It wasn’t like Julian and David to fall out. Darrell had fallen out with Julian once or twice, her temper and his occasionally bossy nature sometimes clashed, and Anatoly often went off the deep end as he just wasn’t used to being teased as much as they were. David, though, was almost impossible to fall out with as he was just so good-natured and friendly.
“What should we look at next, Sally?” Anatoly asked, to break the tension.
“Well,” she took a moment to flick through the pages of the guidebook. “This is Cardinal Beaton’s tower,” she said, pointing to the side of the foretower. They trooped after her up the steps, David keeping his distance from Julian.
“Who was Cardinal Beaton?” Darrell asked, to get Sally talking again. “He must have been important if he has a tower named after him.”
“He was assassinated, sparking the siege in the mid 1500s,” Julian informed her. “You’d know that if you had been listening to Sally earlier.”
“I was just enjoying looking around,” Darrell defended herself.
“So you were actually listening to me,” Sally said to Julian with a smile.
“I always listen.” He affected a wounded tone.
“No, you don’t,” she teased him. “Anyway, Beaton was Cardinal from 1539–46 and he strongly opposed the progressive move towards closer political ties with Henry VIII’s Protestant England. He had Protestant preacher George Wishart held in the bottle dungeon, and then had him burned in front of the castle.” She suppressed a shudder at that horrible image. “In response, a group of Protestant nobles occupied the castle and assassinated him. His body was salted and thrown into the bottle dungeon after.”
Julian listened as intently as he could, though he wasn’t a particular history fan. There were some fascinating bits of history but the reformation of Scotland’s churches with all its names and dates didn’t really do it for him. He’d had enough of dates and names being drummed into his head at school. That being said, Sally had been right about visiting the castle. It really was an interesting place, even if the purported missing treasure wasn’t real. He much preferred history that you could see and touch. If there were dungeons and tunnels, all the better. He’d forgotten the joy of exploring old places, something he, his siblings and cousins had done plenty of as children.
He put his arm around Sally, sensing her distress at the violence of the story.
David and Anatoly weren’t even pretending to listen, they were looking up at the tower and discussing the impregnability of the tower.
“It is not unclimbable,” Anatoly was saying.
“I’d like to see you try to scale those walls during a siege,” David snorted.
“You know what I mean.” Anatoly rolled his eyes. “The walls would be easy enough to climb, even when the castle was whole – but obviously in those days they would pull out all the stops to prevent you doing so.”
David looked doubtfully at the castle. “It’s pretty high, and there’s not much to hold on to.”
“With the right ropes it would not have been a problem,” Anatoly said, casting an experienced eye over the stonework. The tower had only three walls now, the front wall which overlooked the road, and the two side walls which ended unevenly.
“I bet it would be possible,” Julian interrupted. “As long as you weren’t being shot at! I knew a girl, once, called Jo. She could climb just about anything, she was an absolute monkey. I saw her, once, climb a tower holding on to nothing but the ivy growing up it. She’d manage this no problem.”
“Ivy is fine when you are young, it is not so good at holding an adult’s weight,” Anatoly said wryly. “But I could climb this easily. Even without ropes.”
“Right to the top? No chance,” Julian scoffed. “It’s sheer in places.” Actually he had little doubt that Anatoly could do it, but he was feeling embarrassed by losing his cool with David and thought that winding up Anatoly would be a good way to detract attention from himself.
David also knew that if anyone could scale the castle, it would be Anatoly. He felt reasonably confident that even he could get most of the way up, but perhaps not to the top. He and Julian were beaten rotten by Anatoly when it came to both strength and stamina, though they both considered themselves to be fit. But as Anatoly put it, neither of them was running or swimming five miles before breakfast almost every day or lifting weights several evenings a week. David personally would rather have the extra sleep or free time, and he was sure Julian would feel the same.
“I bet you couldn’t, you’re just bragging,” he said to Anatoly, who instantly looked mutinous.
“I do not brag.”
“You do so,” David laughed, going along with Julian in the hope of healing the sudden rift between them.
“What do I have to do before you believe me?” Anatoly asked, and instantly realised his mistake.
“Climb the tower,” came the boys’ answer so synchronised it was as if they had practised.
“Don’t be ridiculous!” Darrell cried. “You’re not climbing all the way up there, Toly! You’ll get hurt!”
“You also think I cannot do it?” Anatoly asked her, actually sounding slightly offended now.
“I… well, it’s just awfully high!” she replied. “It would be so easy to slip and fall. I couldn’t bear to see you hurt yourself like that.”
“Dorogoy, of course I would not fall,” he promised her. “I have climbed more dangerous walls than this.”
“We are talking academically, are we not, anyway?” He looked to the boys. “You do not actually expect me to climb it?”
“Chicken, are you?” David said.
“I didn’t have you pegged as a coward, Tol,” Julian added as David made a couple of ‘buck buck’ noises.
“Julian!” Sally hissed. “This is a historic site! It’s six hundred years old in places, you can’t just go climbing all over it!”
“What’s here has withstood sieges and gunfire, and stood six hundred years,” he said to her. “I doubt Anatoly could cause much damage.”
“Are you daring me, then?” Anatoly asked, just to make sure.
“Yes,” Julian and David chorused.
To be continued…