An Orkney Maid
by Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr
AN ORKNEY MAID
By AMELIA E. BARR
An Orkney Maid
Profit and Loss
Three Score and Ten
The Measure of a Man
The Winning of Lucia
Playing with Fire
All the Days of My Life
D. APPLETON &COMPANY
[Illustration: Ian was utterly charmed with the picture she
made [PAGE 60]]
AN ORKNEY MAID
AMELIA E. BARR
AUTHOR OF CHRISTINE, JOAN, PROFIT AND LOSS, ETC.
The pleasant habit of existence, the sweet fable of life.
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1918, BY
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
Printed in the United States of America
CHAPTER I. THE
HOUSE OF RAGNOR
CHAPTER II. ADAM
ARIES THE RAM
SUNNA AND HER
CHAPTER V. SUNNA
CHAPTER VI. THE
OLD, OLD TROUBLE
CHAPTER VII. THE
CALL OF WAR
CHAPTER IX. THE
CHAPTER X. THE
ONE REMAINS, THE
MANY CHANGE AND
MY DEAR FRIEND
DR. MARTIN BARR
I INSCRIBE THIS BOOK.
AMELIA E. BARR.
Honor and truth formed your will,
Your heart, fidelity.
You can glad your child, or grieve it,
You can help it, or deceive it,
When all is done,
Beneath God's sun,
You can only love, and leave it.
Yesterday morning this thing happened to me: I was reading the
New York Times and my eyes suddenly fell upon one word, and that
word rang a little bell in my memory, Kirkwall! The next moment I had
closed my eyes in order to see backward more clearly, and slowly, but
surely, the old, old townstanding boldly upon the very beach of the
stormy North Seabecame clear in my mental vision. There was a whole
fleet of fishing boats, and a few smart smuggling craft rocking gently
in its wonderful harboura harbour so deep and safe, and so capacious
that it appeared capable of sheltering the navies of the world.
I was then eighteen years old, I am now over eighty-six; and the
straits of Time have widened and widened with every year, so that many
things appear to have been carried away into forgetfulness by the
stress and flow of full waters. But not so! They are only lying in
out-of-the-way corners of consciousness, and can easily be recalled by
some word that has the potency of a spell over them.
Kirkwall! I said softly, and then I began to read what the
Times had to say about Kirkwall. The great point appeared to be
that as a rendezvous for ships it had been placed fifty miles within
the made in Germany danger zone, and was therefore useless to the
British men-of-war. And I laughed inwardly a little, and began to
consider if Kirkwall had ever been long outside of some danger zone or
All its myths and traditions are of the fighting Picts and Scots,
and when history began to notice the existence of the Orkneys it was to
chronicle the struggle between Harold, King of Norway, and his
rebellious subjects who had fled to the Orkneys to escape his
tyrannical control. And of the danger zones of every kind which
followedof storm and battle and bloody deathdoes not the Saga of
Eglis give us a full account?
This fight for popular freedom was a failure. King Harold conquered
his rebellious subjects, and incidentally took possession of the
islands and the people who had sheltered them. Then their rulers became
Norwegian jarlsor earlsand there is no question about the danger
zones into which the Norwegian vikings carried the Orcadeansquite in
accord with their own desire and liking, no doubt. And the stirring
story of these yearsfull of delightful dangers to the men who
adventured themmay all be read today in the blood-stirring,
blood-curdling Norwegian Sagas.
In the middle of the fifteenth century, James the Third, King of
Scotland, married Margaret of Denmark, and the Orcades were given to
Scotland as a security for her dowry. The dowry was never paid, and
after a lapse of a century and a half Denmark resigned all her Orcadean
rights to Scotland. The later union of England and Scotland finally
settled their destiny.
But until the last century England cared very little about the
Orcades. Indeed Colonel Balfour, writing of these islands in A. D.
1861, says: Orkney is a part of a British County, but probably there
is no part of Europe which so few Englishmen visit. Colonel Balfour,
of Balfour and Trenabie, possessed a noble estate on the little isle of
Shapinsay. He enthused the Orcadeans with the modern spirit of
improvement and progress; he introduced a proper system of agriculture,
built mills of all kinds, got laws passed for reclaiming waste lands,
and was in every respect a wise, generous, faithful father of his
country. To Americans Shapinsay has a peculiar interest. In a little
cottage there, called Quholme, the father and mother of
Washington Irving lived, and their son Washington was born on board an
American ship on its passage from Kirkwall to New York.
However, it is only since A. D. 1830, one year before I was born,
that the old Norse life has been changed in Orkney. Up to that date
agriculture could hardly be said to exist. The sheep and cattle of all
towns, or communities, grazed together; but this plan, though it saved
the labour of herding, was at the cost of abandoning the lambs to the
eagles who circled over the flocks and selected their victims at will.
In the late autumn all stock was brought to the infield, which was
then crowded with horses, cattle and sheep. In A. D. 1830, the
Norwegian system of weights was changed to the standard weights and
measures, and money, instead of barter, began to be used generally.
Then a great Scotch emigration set in, and brought careful methods
of farming with it; and the Orcadean could not but notice results. The
Scotch trader came also, and the slipshod Norse way of barter and
bargaining had no chance with the Scotch steady prices and ready money.
But even through all these domestic and civic changes Orkney was
constantly in zones of danger. In the first half of the nineteenth
century England was at war with France and Spain and Russia, and the
Orcadeans have a fine inherited taste for a sea fight. The Vikings did
not rule them through centuries for nothing: the Orcadean and his
brother, the Shetlander, salt the British Navy, and they rather enjoy
A single generation, with the help of steam communications, changed
Orkney entirely and in the course of the second generation the Orcadean
became eager for improvements of all kinds, and ready to forward them
generously with the careful hoardings of perhaps many generations. And
as it is in this transient period of the last century that my hero and
heroine lived, I have thought it well to say something of antecedents
that Americans may well be excused for knowing nothing about. Also
... the past will always win
A glory from its being far;
And orb into the perfect star,
We saw not, when we walked therein.
However, Orkney was far from being out of danger zones in the
nineteenth century. In its first quarter French and Dutch privateers
made frequent raids on the islands; and the second quarter gave her men
their chance of danger in the Crimea. They were not strangers in the
Russian Chersoneus; their fathers had been in southern seas centuries
before them. During the last fifty years they have made danger zones of
their own free will, quarreling with coast guards, tampering with
smugglers, wandering off with would-be discoverers of the North Pole,
or with any other doubtful and dangerous enterprise.
And these reflections made me quite comfortable about the
made-in-Germany danger zone. I think the Orcadeans will rather enjoy
it; and I am quite sure if any Germans take to trafficking, or buying
or selling, in Kirkwall, they will get the worst of it. In this
direction it is rather pleasant to remember that even Scotchmen,
disputing about money, will find the Orcadeans too far north for
CHAPTER I. THE HOUSE OF RAGNOR
Kind were the voices I used to hear
Round such a fireside,
Speaking the mother tongue old and dear;
Making the heart beat,
With endless tales of wonder and fear,
Or plaintive singing.
Great were the marvellous stories told
Of Ossian heroes,
Giants, and witches and young men bold
Winning Kings' daughters, and guarded gold
Only with valor.
The House of Ragnor was a large and very picturesque edifice. It was
built of red and white sandstone which Time had covered with a heathery
lichen, softening the whole into a shade of greenish grey. Many minds
and many hands had fashioned it, for above its central door was the
date, 1688, which would presuppose that it had been built from revenues
coming as a reward for opposition to the Stuarts. It had been altered
and enlarged by nearly every occupant, was many-roomed, and surrounded
by a large garden, full of such small fruits as could ripen in the
short summers, and of such flowers and shrubs as could live through the
long winters. In sheltered situations, there were even hardy roses, and
a royal plenty of England's spring flowers sweetened many months of the
year. A homely garden, where berries and roses grew together and privet
hedges sheltered peas and lettuce, and tulips and wall-flowers did not
disdain the proximity of household vegetables.
Doubtless the Ragnors had been jarls in old Norwegian times, but in
1853 such memories had been forgotten, and Conall Ragnor was quite
content with his reputation of being the largest trader in Orkney, and
a very wealthy man. Physically he was of towering stature. His hair was
light brown, and rather curly; his eyes large and bright blue, his face
broad and rosy. He had great bodily and mental vigor, he was blunt in
speech, careless about his dress, and simple in all his ways. His
Protestantism was of the most decided character, but he was not a
Presbyterian. Presbyterianism was a new thing on the face of the earth;
he had been authoritatively told, the Apostles were Episcopalians.
My soul has received no orders to go to thy Presbyterian Church,
he said to the young Calvinist minister who asked him to do so. When
the order comes, then that may happen which has never happened before.
Yet in spite of his pronounced nationality, and his Episcopal faith,
he married Rahal Gordon from the braes of Moray; a Highland Scotch
woman and a strict Calvinist. What compact had been made between them
no one knew, but it had been sufficient to prevent all religious
disputes during a period of twenty-six years. If Rahal Ragnor had any
respectable excuse, she did not go to the ritual service in the
Cathedral. If she had no such excuse, she went there with her husband
and family. Then doubtless her prayer was the prayer of Naaman, that
when she bowed herself in the House of Rimmon, the Lord would pardon
her for it.
No one could deny her beauty, though it was of the Highland Scotch
type, and therefore a great contrast to the Orcadean blonde. She was
slender and dark, with plentiful, glossy, black hair, and soft brown
eyes. Her face was oval and richly coloured. Her temperament was frank
and domestic; yet she had a romantic side, and a full appreciation of
what she called a proper man.
They had had many children, but four were dead, and three daughters
were married and living in Edinburgh and Lerwick, and two sons had
emigrated to Canada; while the youngest of all, a boy of fifteen, was a
midshipman on Her Majesty's man-of-war, Vixen, so that only one
boy and one girl were with their parents. These were Boris, the eldest
son, who was sailing his own ship on business ventures to French and
Dutch ports, and Thora, the only unmarried daughter. And in 1853 these
five persons lived happily enough together in the Ragnor House,
One day in the spring of 1853 Conall Ragnor was at the rear door of
his warehouse. The sea was lippering against its foundation, and he
stood with his hand on his left hip, as with a raised head and keen
eyes, he searched the far horizon.
In a few minutes he turned with a look of satisfaction. Well and
good! he thought. Now I will go home. I have the news I was watching
for. Anon he looked at his watch and reflecting a moment assured
himself that Boris and the Sea Gull would be safely at anchor by
So with an air of satisfaction he walked through the warehouse,
looking critically at the men cleaning and packing feathers, or dried
fish, or fresh eggs. There was no sign of slacking in this department,
and he turned into the shop where men were weighing groceries and
measuring cloth. All seemed well, and after a short delay in his own
particular office he went comfortably home.
Meanwhile his daughter Thora was talking of him, and wondering what
news he would bring them, and Mistress Ragnor, in a very smart cap and
a gown of dark violet silk, was knitting by the large window in the
living rooma very comfortable room carpeted with a good Kilmarnock
three-ply and curtained with red moreen. There were a few sea
pictures on the walls, and there was a good fire of drift-wood and peat
upon the snow-white hearth.
Thora had just entered the room with a clean table-cloth in her
hands. Her mother gave her a quick glance of admiration and then said:
I thought thou wert looking for Boris home tonight.
Well, then, Mother, that is so. He said we must give him a little
dance tonight, and I have asked the girls he likes best to come here. I
thought this was known to thee. To call my words back now, will give
No need is there to call any word back. Because of thy dress I
feared there had been some word of delay. If likelihood rule, Maren and
Helga Torrie will wear the best they have.
That is most certain, but I am not minded to outdress the Torrie
girls. Very hard it is for them to get a pretty frock, and it will make
them happy to see themselves smarter than Thora Ragnor.
Thou should think of thyself.
Well, I am generally uppermost in my own mind. Also, in Edinburgh I
was told that the hostess must not outdress her guests.
Edinburgh and Kirkwall are not in the same latitude. Keep mind of
that. Step forward and let me look at thee.
So Thora stood up before her mother, and the light from the window
fell all over her, and she was beautiful from head to feet. Tall and
slender, with a great quantity of soft brown hair very loosely arranged
on the crown of her head; a forehead broad and white; eyebrows,
plentiful and well arched; starlike blue eyes, with a large, earnest
gaze and an oval face tinted like a rose. Oh! why try to describe a
girl so lovely? It is like pulling a rose to pieces. It is easier to
say that she was fleshly perfect and that, being yet in her eighteenth
year, she had all the bloom of opening flowers, and all their softness
Apparently she owed little to her dress, and yet it would have been
difficult to choose anything more befitting her, for though it was only
of wine-coloured cashmere, it was made with a plain picturesqueness
that rendered it most effective. The short sleeves then worn gave to
her white arms the dark background that made them a fascination; the
high waist, cut open in front to a point, was filled in with white
satin, over which it was laced together with a thin silk cord of the
same colour as the dress. A small lace collar completed the toilet, and
for the occasion, it was perfect; anything added to it would have made
This was the girl who, standing before her mother, asked for her
approval. And Rahal Ragnor's eyes were filled with her beauty, and she
could only say:
Dear thing! There is no need to change! Just as thou art pleases
Then with a face full of love Thora stooped and kissed her mother
and anon began to set the table for the expected guests. With sandalled
feet and smiling face, she walked about the room with the composure of
a goddess. There was no hesitation concerning what she had to do; all
had been arranged and settled in her mind previously, though now and
then, the discussion of a point appeared to be pleasant and satisfying.
Thus she thoughtfully said:
Mother, there will be thyself and father and Boris, that is three,
and Sunna Vedder, and Helga and Maren Torrie, that makes six, and Gath
Peterson, and Wolf Baikie and his sisters Sheila and Maren make ten,
and myself, eleventhat is all and it is enough.
Why not make it twelve?
There is luck in odd numbers. I am the eleventh. I like it.
Thou might have made it ten. There is one girl on thy list it would
be better without.
Art thou thinking of Sunna Vedder, Mother?
Yes, I am thinking of Sunna Vedder.
Well and good. But if Sunna is not here, Boris would feel as if
there was no one present. It is Sunna he wants to see. It is Sunna he
wants to please. He says he is so sorry for her.
Because she has to live with old Vedder who is nothing but a
Vedder is a very clever man. The Bishop was saying that.
Yes, in a way he was saying it, but
The Bishop was not liking the books he was studying. He said they
did men and women no good. Thy father was telling me many things. Yes,
so it is! The Vedders are counted queerthey are different from thee
and me, andthe Bishop.
And the Dominie?
That may well be. Thy father has a will for Boris to marry Andrina
Boris will never marry Andrina. It would be great bad luck if he
did. Many speak ill of her. She has a temper to please the devil. I was
hearing she would marry Scot Keppoch. That would do; for then they
would not spoil two houses.
Tell thy father thy thought, and he will give thee thy answer;but
why talk of the Future and the Maybe? The Now is the hour of the wise,
so I will go upstairs and lay out some proper clothing and do thou get
thy father to dress himself, as Conall Ragnor ought to do.
That may not be easy to manage.
Few things are beyond thy say-so. Then she lifted her work-bag and
left the room.
During this conversation Conall Ragnor had been slowly making his
way home, after leaving his warehouse when the work of the day was
done. Generally he liked his walk through the town to his homestead,
which was just outside the town limits. It was often pleasant and
flattering. The women came to their doors to watch him, or to speak to
him, and their admiration and friendliness was welcome. For many years
he had been used to it, but he had not in the least outgrown the thrill
of satisfaction it gave him. And often he wondered if his wife noticed
the good opinion that the ladies of Kirkwall had for her husband.
Of course she does, he commented, but a great wonder it would be
if my Rahal should speak of it. In that hour she would be out of the
commodity of pride, or she would have forgotten herself entirely.
This day he had received many good-natured greetingsJenny Torrie
had told him that the Sea Gull was just coming into harbour, and
so heavy with cargo that the sea was worrying at her gunwale; then Mary
Inksterfrom the other side of the streetadded, Both handsseen
and unseenare full, Captain, I'll warrant that!
Don't thee warrant beyond thy knowledge, Mary, answered Ragnor,
with a laugh. The Sea Gull may have hands; she has no tongue.
All that touches the Sea Gull is a thing by itself, cried
pretty Astar Graff, whose husband was one of the Sea Gull's
So, then, Astar, she takes her own at point and edge. That is her
way, and her right, replied Ragnor.
Thus up the narrow street, from one side or the other, Conall Ragnor
was greeted. Good wishes and good advice, with now and then a careful
innuendo, were freely given and cheerfully taken; and certainly the
recipient of so much friendly notice was well pleased with its freedom
and good will. He came into his own house with the smiling amiability
of a man who has had all the wrinkles of the day's business smoothed
and soothed out of him.
Looking round the room, he was rather glad his wife was not there.
She was generally cool about such attentions, and secretly offended by
their familiarity. For she was not only a reader and a thinker, she was
also a great observer, and she had seen and considered the slow but
sure coming of that spirit of progress, which would break up their
isolation and, with it, the social privileges of her class. However,
she kept all her fears on this subject in her heart. Not even to Thora
would she talk of them lest she might be an inciter of thoughts that
would raise up a class who would degrade her own: Few people can be
trusted with a dangerous thought, and who can tell where spoken words
go to. And this idea, she knit, or stitched, into every garment her
So, then, it was quite in keeping with her character to pass by
Conall's little social enthusiasms with a chilling indifference, and if
any wonder or complaint was made of this attitude, to reply:
When men and women of thine own worth and station bow down to thee,
Conall, then thou will find Rahal Ragnor among them; but I do not
mingle my words with those of the men and women who sort goose
feathers, and pack eggs and gut fish for the salting. Thy wife, Conall,
looks up, and not down.
Well, then, as Rahal knew that the safe return of Boris with the
Sea Gull would possibly be an occasion for these friendly
familiarities, she wisely took herself out of the way of hearing
anything about it. And it is a great achievement when we learn the
limit of our power to please. Conall Ragnor had not quite mastered the
lesson in twenty-six years. Very often, yet, he had a half-alive hope
that these small triumphs of his daily life might at length awaken in
his wife's breast a sympathetic pleasure. Today it was allied with the
return of Boris and his ship, and he thought this event might atone for
whatever was repugnant.
And yet, after all, when he saw no one but Thora present, he had a
sense of relief. He told her all that had been said and done, and added
such incidents of Boris and the ship as he thought would please her.
She laughed and chatted with him, and listened with unabated pleasure
to the very end, indeed, until he said: Now, then, I must stop
talking. I dare say there are many things to look after, for Boris told
me he would be home for dinner at six o'clock. Till that hour I will
take a little nap on the sofa.
But first, my Father, thou wilt go and dress. Everything is ready
for thee, and mother is dressed, and as for Thora, is she not pretty
Thou art the fairest of all women here, if I know anything about
beauty. Wolf Baikie will be asking the first dance with thee.
That dance is thine. Mother has given thee to me for that dance.
To me? That is very agreeable. I am proud to be thy father.
Then go and dress thyself. I am particular about my partners.
Dress! What is wrong with my dress?
Everything! Not an article in it is worthy of thee and the
I tell thee, all is as it should be. I am not minded to change it
in any way.
Yes; to please Thora, thou wilt make some changes. Do, my Father. I
love thee so! I am so proud of thy figure, and thou can show even Wolf
Baikie how he ought to dance.
Well, then, just for theeI will wash and put on fresh linen.
And comb thy beautiful hair. If thou but wet it, then it curls so
that any girl would envy thee. And all the women would say that it was
from thee, Thora got her bright, brown, curly hair.
To comb my hair? That is but a trifle. I will do it to please
And thou wilt wet it, to make it curl?
That I will do alsoto please thee.
Then, as we are to dance together, thou wilt put on thy fine white
socks, and thy Spanish leather shoesthe pair that have the bright
buckles on the instep. Yes, thou wilt do me that great favour.
Thou art going too far; I will not do that.
Not for thy daughter Thora? and she laid her cheek against his
cheek, and whispered with a kiss, Yes, thou wilt wear the buckled
shoes for Thora. They will look so pretty in the dance: and Wolf Baikie
cannot toss his head at thy boots, as he did at Aunt Brodie's Christmas
Did he do that thing?
I saw him, and I would not dance with him because of it.
Thou did right. Thy Aunt Barbara
Is my aunt, and thy eldest sister. All she does is square and
upright; what she says, it were well for the rest of the town to take
heed to. It would please Aunt if thou showed Wolf Baikie thou had
dancing shoes and also knew right well how to step in them.
Well, then, thou shalt have thy way. I will wash, I will comb my
hair, I will put on clean linen and white socks and my buckled shoes.
That is all I will do! I will not change my suitno, I will not!
Well, then, what call for 'Father' now?
I want thee to wear thy kirk suit.
I will not! No, I will not! The flannel suit is good enough for any
Yes, if it were clean and sweet, and had no fish scales on it, and
no fish smell in it. And even hereat the very end of the worldthy
friend, the good Bishop, wears black broadcloth and all gentlemen copy
him. If Thora was thy sweetheart, instead of thy own dear daughter, she
would not dance with thee in anything but thy best suit.
It seems to me, my own dear daughter, that very common people wear
kirk toggery. When I go to the hotels in Edinburgh, or Aberdeen, or
Inverness, I find all the men who wait on other men are in kirk
clothes; and if I go to a theatre, the men who wait on the crowd there
wear kirk clothes, and
Thy Bishop also wears black broadcloth.
That will be because of his piety and humility. I am not as pious
and humble as I might be. No, indeed! Not in everything can I humour
thee, and trouble myself; but this thing is what I will doI have a
new suit of fine blue flannel; last night I brought it home. At
McVittie's it was made, and well it fits me. For thy sake I will wear
it. This is the end of our talk. No more will I do.
Thou dear father! It is enough! With a thousand kisses I thank
Too many kisses! Too many kisses! Thou shalt give me five when we
finish our dance; one for my curled hair, and one for my white, fresh
linen, and one for my socks, and one for my buckled shoes, and the last
for my new blue suit. And in that bargain thou wilt get the best of me,
so one favour in return from thee I must have.
Dear Father, thy will is my will. What is thy wish?
I want thy promise not to dance with Wolf Baikie. Because of his
sneer I am coaxed to dress as I do not want to dress. Well, then, I
will take his place with thee, and every dance he asks from thee is to
be given to me.
Without a moment's hesitation Thora replied: That agreement does
not trouble me. It will be to my great satisfaction. So, then, thou art
no nearer to getting the best of the bargain.
Thou art a clever, handsome little baggage. But my promises I will
keep, and it is well for me to be about them. Time flies talking to
thee, and he looked at his watch and said, It is now five minutes
Then thou must make some haste. Dinner is set for six o'clock.
Dost thou think I will fiddle-faddle about myself like a woman?
But thou must wash
In the North Sea I wash me every morning. Before thou hast opened
thy eyes I have had my bath and my swim in the salt water.
There is rain water in thy room; try it for a change. And he
answered her with a roar of laughter far beyond Thora's power to
imitate. But with it ringing in her heart and ears she saw him go to a
spare room to keep his promises. Then she hastened to her mother.
Whatever is the matter with thy father, Thora?
He has promised to wash and dress. I got all I asked for.
Will he change his suit?
He has a fine new suit. It was hid away in Aunt's room.
What made him do such a childish thing?
To please thee, it was done. It was to be a surprise, I think.
I will go to him.
No, no, Mother! Let father have the pleasure he planned. To thee he
will come, as soon as he is dressed.
Am I right? From top to toe?
From top to toe just as thou should be. The white roses in thy cap
look lovely with the violet silk gown. Very pretty art thou, dear
I can still wear roses, but they are white roses now. I used to
wear pink, Thora.
Pink and crimson and yellow roses thou may wear yet. Because white
roses go best with violet I put that colour in thy cap for tonight.
Think of what my aunt said when thou complained to her of growing old,
'Rahal, the mother of twelve sons and daughters is always young.' Now I
will run away, for my father does everything quickly.
In about ten or fifteen minutes, Rahal Ragnor heard him coming. Then
she stood up and watched the swift throwing open of the door, and the
entrance of her husband. With a cry of pleasure she clapped her hands
and said joyfully:
Oh, Coll! Oh, my dear Coll! and the next moment Coll kissed her.
Thou hast made thyself so handsomejust to please me!
Yes, for thee! Who else is there? Do I please thee now?
Always thou pleases me! But tonight, I have fallen in love with
thee over again!
And yet Thora wanted me to wear my kirk suit, and he walked to the
glass and looked with great satisfaction at himself. I think this suit
is more becoming.
My dear Coll, thou art right. A good blue flannel suit is a man's
natural garment. To everyone, rich and poor, it is becoming. If thou
always dressed as thou art now dressed, I should never have the heart
or spirit to contradict thee. Thou could have thy own way, year in and
Is that the truth, my dear Rahal? Or is it a compliment?
It is the very truth, dear one!
From this hour, then, I will dress to thy wish and pleasure.
She stepped quickly to his side and whispered: In that case, there
will not be in all Scotland a more distinguished and proper man than
And in a large degree Conall Ragnor was worthy of all the fine
things his wife said to him. The new clothes fell gracefully over his
grand figure; he stepped out freely in the light easy shoes he was
wearing; there was not a single thing stiff or tight or uncomfortable
about him. Even his shirt collar fell softly round his throat, and the
bright crimson necktie passed under it was unrestrained by anything but
a handsome pin, which left his throat bare and gave the scarf
permission to hang as loosely as a sailor's.
At length Rahal said, I see that Boris and the ship are safely home
Ship and cargo safe in port, and every man on board well and
hearty. On the stroke of six he will be here. He said so, and Boris
keeps his word. I hear the sound of talking and laughing. Let us go to
They came in a merry company, Boris, with Sunna Vedder on his arm
leading them. They came joyously; singing, laughing, chattering, making
all the noise that youth seems to think is essential to pleasure.
However, I shall not describe this evening. A dinner-dance is pretty
much alike in all civilized and semi-civilized communities. It will
really be more descriptive to indicate a few aspects in which this
function of amusement differed from one of the same kind given last
night in a fashionable home or hotel in New York.
First, the guests came all together from some agreed-upon
rendezvous. They walked, for private carriages were very rare and there
were none for hire. However, this walking party was generally a very
pleasant introduction to a more pleasant and intimate evening. The
women were wrapped up in their red or blue cloaks, and the men carried
their dancing slippers, fans, bouquets, and other small necessities of
Second, the old and the young had an equal share in any
entertainment, and if there was a difference, it was in favour of the
old. On this very night Conall Ragnor danced in every figure called,
except a saraband, which he said was too slow and formal to be worth
calling a dance. Even old Adam Vedder who had come on his own
invitationbut welcome all the samewent through the Orkney Quickstep
with the two prettiest girls present, Thora Ragnor and Maren Torrie.
For honourable age was much respected and every young person wished to
share his happiness with it.
A very marked characteristic was the evident pleasure old and young
had in the gratification of their sense of taste, in the purely animal
pleasure of eating good things. No one had a bad appetite, and if
anyone wished for more of a dish they liked, they asked for it. Indeed
they had an easy consciousness of paying their hostess a compliment,
and of giving themselves a little more pleasure.
Finally, they made the day, day; and the night, night. Such
gatherings broke up about eleven o'clock; then the girls went home
unwearied, to sleep, and morning found them rosy and happy, already
wondering who would give them the next dance.
CHAPTER II. ADAM VEDDER'S TROUBLE
... they do not trust their tongues alone
But speak a language of their own;
Convey a libel in a frown,
And wink a reputation down;
Or by the tossing of a fan,
Describe the lady and the man.SWIFT
It is good to be merry and wise,
It is good to be honest and true,
It is well to be off with the old love
Before you are on with the new.
Boris did not remain long in the home port. It was drawing near to
Lent, and this was a sacred term very highly regarded by the citizens
of this ancient cathedral town. Of course in the Great Disruption the
National Episcopal Church had suffered heavy loss, but Lent was a
circumstance of the Soul, so near and dear to its memory, that even
those disloyal to their Mother Church could not forget or ignore it. In
some cases it was secretly more faithfully observed than ever before;
then its penitential prayers became intensely pathetic in their
loneliness. For these self-bereft souls could not help remembering the
days when they went up with the multitude to keep the Holy Fast in the
House of their God.
Rahal Ragnor had never kept it. It had been only a remnant of popery
to her. Long before the Free Kirk had been born, she and all her family
had been Dissenters of some kind or other. And yet her life and her
home were affected by this Episcopal In Memoriam in a great number of
small, dominating ways, so that in the course of years she had learned
to respect a ceremonial that she did not endorse. For she knew that no
one kept Lent with a truer heart than Conall Ragnor, and that the
Lenten services in the cathedral interfered with his business to an
extent nothing purely temporal would have been permitted to do.
So, after the little dance given to Boris, there was a period of
marked quietness in Kirkwall. It was as if some mighty Hand had been
laid across the strings of Life and softened and subdued all their
reverberations. There was no special human influence exerted for this
purpose, yet no one could deny the presence of some unseen, unusual
Every day seems like Sabbath Day, said Thora.
It is Lent, answered Rahal.
And after Lent comes Easter, dear Mother.
That is the truth.
In the meantime Boris had gone to Edinburgh on the bark Sea Gull
to complete his cargo of Scotch ginghams and sewed muslins, native
jewelry and table delicacies. Perhaps, indeed, the minimum notice
accorded Lent in the metropolitan city had something to do with this
journey, which was not a usual one; but after the departure of the
Sea Gull the Ragnor household had settled down to a period of
domestic quiet. The Master had to make up the hours spent in the
cathedral by a longer stay in the store, and the women at this time
generally avoided visiting; they feltthough they did not speak of
itthe old prohibition of unkind speech, and the theological quarrel
was yet so new and raw that to touch it was to provoke controversy,
instead of conversation.
It was at such vacant times that old Adam Vedder's visits were
doubly welcome. One day in mid-Lent he came to the Ragnor house, when
it was raining with that steady deliberation that gives no hope of
anything better. Throwing off his waterproof outer garments, he left
them to drip dry in the kitchen. An old woman, watching him, observed:
Thou art wetting the clean floor, Master Vedder, and he briskly
answered: That is thy business, Helga, not mine. Is thy mistress in
Would she be out, if she had any good sense left?
How can a man tell what a woman will do? Where is thy mistress?
and he spoke in a tone so imperative, that she answered with shrinking
I ask thy favour. Mistress Ragnor is in the right-hand parlour. I
will look after thy cloak.
It will be well for thee to do that.
Then Adam went to the right-hand parlour and found Rahal sitting by
the fire sewing.
I am glad to see thee, Rahal, he said.
I am glad to see thee alwaysmore at this time than at any other.
Well, that is good, but why at this time more than at any other?
The town is depressed; business goes on, but in a silent fashion.
There is no social pleasuresurely the reason is known to thee!
So it is, and the reason is good. When people are confessing their
sins, and asking pardon for the same, they cannot feel it to be a
cheerful entertainment; and, as thou observed, it affects even their
business, which I myself notice is done without the usual joking or
quarrelling or drinking of good healths. Well, then, that also is
right. Where is Thora?
She is going to a lecture this afternoon to be given by the
Archdeacon Spens to the young girls, and she is preparing for it. And
as these words were uttered, Thora entered the room. She was dressed
for the storm outside, and wore the hood of her cloak drawn well over
her hair; in her hands were a pair of her father's slippers.
For thee I brought them, she said, as she held them out to Vedder.
I heard thy voice, and I was sure thy feet would be wet. See, then, I
have brought thee my father's slippers. He would like thee to wear
themso would I.
I will not wear them, Thora. I will not stand in any man's shoes
but my own. It is an unchancy, unlucky thing to do. Thanks be to thee,
but I will keep my own standing, wet or dry. Look to that rule for
thyself, and remember what I say. Let me see if thou art well shod.
Thora laughed, stood straight up, and drew her dress taut, and put
forward two small feet, trigly protected by high-laced boots. Then,
looking at her mother, she asked: Are the boots sufficient, or shall I
wear over them my French clogs?
Vedder answered her question. The clogs are not necessary, he
said. The rain runs off as fast as it falls. Thy boots are all such
trifling feet can carry. What can women do on this hard world-road with
such impediments as French clogs over English boots?
Mr. Vedder, they will do whatever they want to do; and they will go
wherever they want to go; and they will walk in their own shoes, and
work in their own shoes, and be well satisfied with them.
Thora, I am sorry I was born in the last century. If I had waited
for about fifty years I would have been in proper time to marry thee.
Yes; for I would not have let a woman so fair and good as thou art
go out of my family. We should have been man and wife. That would
certainly have happened.
If two had been willing, it might have been. Now our talk must end;
the Archdeacon likes not a late comer; and with this remark, and a
beaming smile, she went away.
Then there was a silence, full of words longing to be spoken; but
Rahal Ragnor was a prudent woman, and she sighed and sewed and left
Vedder to open the conversation. He looked at her a little impatiently
for a few moments, then he asked:
To what port has thy son Boris sailed?
Boris intends to go to Leith, if wind and water let him do so.
Boris is not asking wind and water about his affairs. There is a
question I know not how to answer. I am wanting thy help.
If that be so, speak thy mind to me.
I want a few words of advice about a woman.
Is that woman thy granddaughter, Sunna?
A right guess thou hast made.
Then I would rather not speak of her.
Thy reason? What is it?
She is too clever for a simple woman like me. I have not two faces.
I cannot make the same words mean two distinct and separate things.
Sunna has all thy self-wisdom, but she has not thy true heart and thy
Listen to me! Things have come to thisBoris has made love to
Sunna in the face of all Kirkwall. He has done this for more than a
year. Then for two weeks before he left for Leith he came not near my
house, and if he met Sunna in any friend's house he was no longer her
lover. What is the meaning of this? My girl is unhappy and angry, and I
myself am far from being satisfied; thou tell, what is wrong between
I would prefer neither to help nor hinder thee in this matter.
There is a broad way between these two ways, that I am minded to take.
It will be better for me to do so, and perhaps better for thee also.
I thought I could count on thee for my friend. Bare is a man's back
without friends behind it! In thee I trusted. While I feared and
doubted, I thought, 'If worse comes I will go at once to Rahal
Ragnor'Thou hast failed me.
Say not thatmy old, dear friend! It is beyond truth. What I know
I told to my husband; and I asked him if it would be kind and well to
tell thee, and he said to me: 'Be not a bearer of ill news to Vedder.
Little can thou trust any evil report; few people are spoken of better
than they deserve.' Then I gave counsel to myself, thus: Conall has
four dear daughters, he knows. Conall loves his old friend
Vedder; if he thought to interfere was right, he would advise Vedder to
interfere or he would interfere for him, and my wish was to spare thee
the sorrow that comes from women's tongues. I was also sure that if the
news was true, it would find thee outif not true, why should Rahal
Ragnor sow seeds of suspicion and ill-will? Is Sunna disobedient to
She is something worseshe deceives me. Her name is mixed up with
some reportI know not what. No one loves me well enough to tell me
what is wrong.
Well, then, thou art more feared than loved. Few know thee well
enough to risk thy anger and all know that Norsemen are bitter cruel to
those who dare to say that one hair of their women is out of its place.
Who, then, would dare to say this or that about thy granddaughter?
Rahal Ragnor could speak safely to me.
Then there was silence for a few moments and Rahal sat with her
doubled-up left hand against her lips, gazing out of the window. Vedder
did not disturb her. He waited patiently until she said:
If I tell thee what was told me, wilt thou visit the story upon my
husband, or myself, or any of my children?
Vedder took a signet ring from his finger and kissed it. Rahal, he
said, I have kissed this ring of my fathers to seal the promise I
shall make thee. If thou wilt give me thy confidence in this matter of
Sunna Vedder, it shall be for thy good, and for the good of thy
husband, and for the good of all thy children, as far as Adam Vedder
can make it so.
I ask a special promise for my son Boris, for he is concerned in
Boris can take good care of Boris: nevertheless, I promise thee
that I will not say or look or do, with hands or tongue, anything that
will injure, or even annoy, Boris Ragnor. Unto the end of my life, I
promise this. What may come after, I know not. If there should be a
wrong done, we will fight it out elsewhere.
Thy words are sufficient. Listen, then! There is a family, in the
newest and best part of the town, called McLeod. They are yet strange
here. They are Highland Scotch. Many say they are Roman Catholics. They
sing Jacobite songs, and they go not to any church. They have opened a
great trading route; and they have brought many new customs and new
ideas with them. A certain class of our people make much of them;
others are barely civil to them; the best of our citizens do not notice
them at all. But they have plenty of money, and live extravagantly, and
the garrison's officers are constantly seen there. Do you know them?
I have heard of them.
McLeod has a large trading fleet, and he has interfered with the
business of Boris in many ways.
Hast thou ever seen him? Tell me what he is like.
I have seen him many times. He is a complete Highlander; tall,
broad-shouldered and apparently very strong, also very graceful. He has
high cheekbones, and a red beard, but all talk about him, and many
think him altogether handsome.
And thou? What dost thou think?
When I saw him, he was in earnest discussion with one of his men,
and he was not using English but sputtering a torrent of shrill Gaelic,
shrugging his shoulders, throwing his arms about, thrilling with
excitementbut for all that, he was the picture of a man that most
women would find irresistible.
I have heard that he wears the Highland dress.
Not on the street. They have many entertainments; he may wear it in
some of them; but I think he is too wise to wear it in public. The
Norseman is much indebted to the Scotbut it would not do to flaunt
the feathered cap and philabeg too muchon Kirkwall streets.
You ought to know.
Yes, I am Highland Scotch, thank God! I understand this man, though
I have never spoken to him. I know little about the Lowland Scot. He is
a different race, and is quite a different man. You would not like him,
I know him. He is a fine fellow; quiet, cool-blooded, has little to
say, and wastes no strength in emotion. There's wisdom for youbut go
on with thy talk, woman; it hurts me, but I must hear it to the end.
Well, then, Kenneth McLeod has the appearance of a gentleman,
though he is only a trader.
Say smuggler, Rahal, and you might call him by a truer
Many whisper the same word. Of a smuggler, a large proportion of
our people think no wrong. That you know. He is a kind of hero to some
girls. Many grand parties these McLeods givemusic and dancing, and
eating and drinking, and the young officers of the garrison are there,
as well as our own gay young men; and where these temptations are,
young women are sure to go. His aunt is mistress of his house.
Now, then, this thing happened when Boris was last here. One night
he heard two men talking as they went down the street before him. The
rain was pattering on the flagged walk and he did not well understand
their conversation, but it was altogether of the McLeods and their
entertainments. Suddenly he heard the name of Sunna Vedder. Thrice he
heard it, and he followed the men to the public house, called for
whiskey, sat down at a table near them and pretended to be writing. But
he grew more and more angry as he heard the free and easy talk of the
men; and when again they named Sunna, he put himself into their
conversation and so learned they were going to McLeod's as soon as the
hour was struck for the dance. Boris permitted them to go, laughing and
boastful; an hour afterwards he followed.
With whom did he go?
Alone he went. The dance was then in progress, and men and women
were constantly going in and out. He followed a party of four, and went
in with them. There was a crowd on the waxed floor. They were dancing a
new measure called the polka; and conspicuous, both for her beauty and
her dress, he saw Sunna among them. Her partner was Kenneth McLeod, and
he was in full McLeod tartans. No doubt have I that Sunna and her
handsome partner made a romantic and lovely picture.
What must be the end of all this? What the devil am I to think?
Think no worse than needs be.
What did Boris door say?
He walked rapidly to Sunna, and he said, 'Miss Vedder, thou art
wanted at thy homeat once thou art wanted. Get thy cloak, and I will
walk with thee.'
She was angry, and yet terrified; but she left the room. Boris
feared she would try and escape him, so he went to the door to meet
her. Judge for thyself what passed between them as Boris took her home.
At first she was angry, afterwards, she cried and begged Boris not to
tell thee. I am sure Boris was kind to her, though he told her frankly
she was on a dangerous road. All this I had from Boris, and it is the
truth; as for what reports have grown from it, I give them no heed.
Sunna was deceitful and imprudent. I would not think worse of her than
Rahal, I am much thy debtor. This affair I will now take into my
own hands. To thee, my promise stands good for all my life daysand
thou may tell Boris, it may be worth his while to forgive Sunna. There
is some fault with him also; he has made love to Sunna for a long time,
but never yet has he said to me'I wish to make Sunna my wife!' What
is the reason of that?
Well, then, Adam, a young man wishes to make sure of himself. Boris
is much from home
There it is! For that very cause, he should have made a straight
clear road between us. I do not excuse Sunna, but I say that wherever
there is a cross purpose, there has likely never been a straight one.
Thou hast treated me well, and I am thy debtor; but it shall be ill
with all those who have led my child wrongthe more so, because the
time chosen for their sinful deed makes it immeasurably more sinful.
The time? What is thy meaning? The time was the usual hour of all
entertainments. Even two hours after the midnight is quite respectable
if all else is correct.
Art thou so forgetful of the God-Man, who at this time carried the
burden of all our sins?
Oh! You mean it is Lent, Adam?
Yes! It is Lent!
I was never taught to regard it.
Yet none keep Lent more strictly than Conall Ragnor.
A wife does not always adopt her husband's ideas. I had a father,
Adam, uncles and cousins and friends. None of them kept Lent. Dost thou
expect me to be wiser than all my kindred?
Let us cease this talk. It will come to nothing.
Be not hard on Sunna. One side only, has been heard.
As kindly as may be, I will do right.
Then Adam went away, but he left Rahal very unhappy. She had
disobeyed her husband's advice and she could not help asking herself if
she would have been as easily persuaded to tell a similar story about
her own child. Thora is a school girl yet, she thought, but she is
just entering the zone of temptation.
In the midst of this reflection Thora came into the room. Her mother
looked into her lovely face with a swift pang of fear. It was radiant
with a joy not of this world. A light from an interior source illumined
it; a light that wreathed with smiles the pure, childlike lips. Oh, if
she could always remain so young, and so innocent! Oh, if she never had
to learn the sorrowful lessons that love always teaches!
Thus Rahal thought and wished. She forgot, as she did so, that women
come into this world to learn the very lessons love teaches, and that
unless these lessons are learned, the soul can make no progress, but
must remain undeveloped and uninstructed, even until the very end of
this session of its existence.
CHAPTER III. ARIES THE RAM
O Christ whose Cross began to bloom
With peaceful lilies long ago;
Each year above Thy empty tomb
More thick the Easter garlands grow.
O'er all the wounds of this sad strife
Bright wreathes the new immortal life.
Thus came the word: Proclaim the year of the Lord!
And so he sang in peace;
Under the yoke he sang, in the shadow of the sword,
Sang of glory and release.
The heart may sigh with pain for the people pressed and slain,
The soul may faint and fall:
The flesh may melt and diebut the Voice saith, Cry!
And the Voice is more than all.CARL SPENCER.
It was Saturday morning and the next day was Easter Sunday. The
little town of Kirkwall was in a state of happy, busy excitement, for
though the particular house cleaning of the great occasion was
finished, every housewife was full laden with the heavy responsibility
of feeding the guests sure to arrive for the Easter service. Even Rahal
Ragnor had both hands full. She was expecting her sister-in-law, Madame
Barbara Brodie by that day's boat, and nobody ever knew how many guests
Aunt Barbara would bring with her. Then if her own home was not fully
prepared to afford them every comfort, she would be sure to leave them
at the Ragnor house until all was in order. Certainly she had said in
her last letter that she was not going to be imposed upon, by anyone
this springand Thora reminded her mother of this fact.
Dost thou indeed believe thy aunt's assurances? asked Rahal. Hast
thou not seen her break them year after year? She will either ask some
Edinburgh friend to come back to Kirkwall with her, or she will pick up
someone on the way home. Is it not so?
Aunt generally leaves Edinburgh alone. It is the people she picks
up on her way home that are so uncertain. Dear Mother, can I go now to
the cathedral? The flowers are calling me.
Are there many flowers this year?
More than we expected. The Balfour greenhouse has been stripped and
they have such a lovely company of violets and primroses and white
hyacinths with plenty of green moss and ivy. The Baikies have a
hothouse and have such roses and plumes of curled parsley to put behind
them, and lilies-of-the-valley; and I have robbed thy greenhouse,
Mother, and taken all thy fairest auriculas and cyclamens.
They are for God's altar. All I have is His. Take what vases thou
wants, but Helga must carry them for thee.
And, Mother, can I have the beautiful white Wedgewood basket for
the altar? It looked so exquisite last Easter.
It now belongs to the altar. I gave it freely last Easter. I
promised then that it should never hold flowers again for any meaner
festival. Take whatever thou wants for thy purpose, and delay me no
longer. I have this day to put two days' work into one day. Then she
lifted her eyes from the pastry she was making and looking at Thora,
asked: Art thou not too lightly clothed?
I have warm underclothing on. Thou would not like me to dress God's
altar in anything but pure white linen? All that I wear has been made
spotless for this day's work.
That is right, but now thou must make some haste. There is no
certainty about Aunt Barbie. She may be at her home this very minute.
The boat is not due until ten o'clock.
Not unless Barbara Brodie wanted to land at seven. Then, if she
wished, winds and waves would have her here at seven. Her wishes follow
her like a shadow. Go thy way now. Thou art troubling me. I believe I
have put too much sugar in the custard.
But that would be a thing incredible. Then Thora took a hasty
kiss, and went her way. A large scarlet cloak covered her white linen
dress, and its hood was drawn partially over her head. In her hands she
carried the precious Wedgewood basket, and Helga and her daughter had
charge of the flowers and of several glass vases for their reception.
In an hour all Thora required had been brought safely to the vestry of
Saint Magnus, and then she found herself quite alone in this grand,
dim, silent House of God.
In the meantime Aunt Barbara Brodie had done exactly as Rahal Ragnor
anticipated. The boat had made the journey in an abnormally short time.
A full sea, and strong, favourable winds, had carried her through the
stormiest Firth in Scotland, at a racer's speed; and she was at her
dock, and had delivered all her passengers when Conall Ragnor arrived
at his warehouse. Then he had sent word to Rahal, and consequently she
ventured on the prediction that Aunt Barbara might already be at her
However, it had not been told the Mistress of Ragnor, that her
sister-in-law had actually picked up someone on the way; and that for
this reason she had gone directly to her own residence. For on this
occasion, her hospitality had been stimulated by a remarkably handsome
young man, who had proved to be the son of Dr. John Macrae, a somewhat
celebrated preacher of the most extreme Calvinist type. She heartily
disapproved of the minister, but she instantly acknowledged the charm
of his son; but without her brother's permission she thought it best
not to hazard his influence over the inexperienced Thora.
I am fifty-two years old, she thought, and I know the measure of
a man's deceitfulness, so I can take care of myself, but Thora is a
childlike lassie. It would not be fair to put her in danger without
word or warning. The lad has a wonderful winning way with women.
So she took her fascinating guest to her own residence, and when he
had been refreshed by a good breakfast, he frankly said to her:
I came here on special business. I have a large sum of money to
deliver, and I think I will attend to that matter at once.
I will not hinder thee, said Mrs. Brodie, I'm no way troubled to
take care of my own money, but it is just an aggravation to take care
of other folks' siller. And who may thou be going to give a 'large sum
of money' to, in Kirkwall town? I wouldn't wonder if the party isn't my
own brother, Captain Conall Ragnor?
No, Mistress, the young man replied. It belongs to a young
gentleman called McLeod.
Humph! A trading man is whiles very little of a gentleman. What do
you think of McLeod?
I am the manager of his Edinburgh business, so I cannot discuss his
That's right, laddie! Folks seldom see any good thing in their
employer; and it is quite fair for them to be just as blind to any bad
thing in himbut I'll tell you frankly that your employer has not a
first rate reputation here.
All right, Mistress Brodie! His reputation is not in my
chargeonly his money. I do not think the quality of his reputation
can hurt mine.
Your father's reputation will stand bail for yours. Well now, run
away and get business off your mind, and be back here for one o'clock
dinner. I will not wait a minute after the clock chaps one. This
afternoon I am going to my brother's house, and I sent him a message
which asks for permission to bring you with me.
Thanks! but he said the word in an unthankful tone, and then he
looked into Mistress Brodie's face, and she laughed and imitated his
expression, as she assured him she had no girl with matrimonial
intentions in view.
You see, Mistress, he said, I do not intend to remain longer than
a week. Why should I run into danger? I am ready to take heartaches.
Can you tell me how best to find McLeod's warehouse?
Speir at any man you meet, and any man will show you the place. I,
myself, am not carin' to send folk an ill road.
So Ian Macrae went into the town and easily found his friend and
employer. Then their business was easily settled and it appeared to be
every way gratifying to both men.
You have taken a business I hate off my hands, Ian, said McLeod,
and I am grateful to you. Where shall we go today? What would you like
to do with yourself?
Why, Kenneth, I would like first of all to see the inside of your
grand cathedral. I would say, it must be very ancient.
Began in A. D., 1138. Is that old?
Seven hundred years! That will do for age. They were good builders
then. I have a strange love for these old shrines where multitudes have
prayed for centuries. They are full of Presence to me.
Presence. What do you mean?
You are a creepy kind of mortal. I think, Ian, if you were not such
a godless man, you might have been a saint.
Macrae drew his lips tight, and then said in detached wordsMy
Then they were in the interior of the cathedral. The light was dim,
the silence intense, and both men were profoundly affected by
influences unknown and unseen. As they moved slowly forward into the
nave, the altar became visible, and in this sacred place of Communion
Thora was moving slowly about, leaving beauty and sweetness wherever
Her appearance gave both men a shock and both expressed it by a
spasmodic breath. They spoke not; they watched her slim, white figure
pass to-and-fro with soft and reverent steps, arranging violets and
white hyacinths with green moss in the exquisite white Wedgewood. Then
with a face full of innocent joy she placed it upon the altar, and for
a few moments stood with clasped hands, looking at it.
As she did so, the organist began to practice his Easter music, and
she turned her face towards the organ. Then they saw fully a beautiful,
almost childlike face transfigured with celestial emotions.
Let us get out of this, whispered McLeod. What business have we
here? It is a kind of sacrilege. And Ian bowed his head and followed
him. But it was some minutes ere the every-day world became present to
their senses. McLeod was the first to speak:
What an experience! he sighed. I should not dare to try it often.
It would send me into a monastery.
Are you a Roman Catholic?
What else would I be? When I was a lad, I used to dream of being a
monk. It was power I wanted. I thought then, that priests had more
power than any other men; as I grew older I found out that it was money
that owned the earth.
Not so! said Ian sharply, 'the earth is the Lord's, and the
fulness thereof.' I promised to be at Mistress Brodie's for dinner at
one o'clock. What is the time?
McLeod took out his watch:You have twenty minutes, he said. I
was just going to tell you that the girl we saw in the cathedral is her
Ian had taken a step or two in the direction of the Brodie house,
but he turned his head, and with a bright smile said, Thank you, Ken!
and McLeod watched him a moment and then with a sigh softly ejaculated:
What a courteous chap he iswhen he is in the mood to be
courteousand what a when he is not in the mood.
Ian was at the Brodie house five minutes before one, and he found
Mistress Brodie waiting for him. I am glad that you have kept your
tryst, she said. We will just have a modest bite now, and we can make
up all that is wanting here, at my brother Coll's, a little later. I
have a pleasant invite for yourself. My good sister-in-law has read
some of your father's sermons in the Sunday papers and magazines, and
for their sake she will be glad to see you. I just promised for you.
Thank you, I shall be glad to go with you, and it was difficult
for him to disguise how more than glad he was to have this opportunity.
So then, you will put on the best you have with youthe best is
none too good to meet Thora in.
Thora Ragnor, my own niece. She is the bonniest and the best girl
in Scotland, if you will take me as a judge of girls. 'Good beyond the
lave of girls,' and so Bishop Hadley asked her special to dress the
altar for Easter. He knew there would be no laughing and daffing about
the work, if Thora Ragnor had the doing of it.
Is there any reason to refrain from laughing and daffing while at
At God's altar there should be nothing but prayer and praise. You
know what girls talk and laugh about. If they have not some poor lad to
bring to worship, or to scorn, they have no heart to help their hands;
and the work is done silent and snappy. They are wishing they were at
home, and could get their straight, yellow hair on to crimping pins,
because Laurie or Johnny would be coming to see them, it being Saturday
Then the Bishop thought your niece would be more reverent?
He knew she would. He knew also, that she would not be afraid to be
in the cathedral by herself, she would do the work with her own hands,
and that there would be no giggling and gossiping and no young lads
needed to hold vases and scissors and little balls of twine.
Their moderate bite was a pleasant lingering one. They talked of
people in Edinburgh with whom they had some kind of a mutual
acquaintance, and Mistress Brodie did the most of the talking. She was
a charming story-teller, and she knew all the good stories about the
University and its great professors. This day she spent the time
illustrating John Stuart Blackie taking his ease in a dressing gown and
an old straw hat. She made you see the man, and Ian felt refreshed and
cheered by the mental vision. As for Lord Roseberry, he really sat at
their modest bite with them. You know, laddie, she said, Scotsmen
take their politics as if they were the Highland fling; and Roseberry
was Scotland's idol. He was an orator who carried every soul with him,
whether they wanted to go or not; and I was told by J. M. Barrie, that
once when he had fired an audience to the delirium point, an old man in
the hall shouted out:'I dinna hear a word; but it's grand; it's
They barely touched on Scottish religion. Mistress Brodie easily saw
it was a subject her guest did not wish to discuss, and she shut it off
from conversation, with the finality of her remark that some people
never understood Scotch religion, except as outsiders misunderstood it.
Well, Ian, I will be ready for our visit in about two hours; one hour
to rest after eating and a whole hour to dress myself and lecture the
lasses anent behaving themselves when they are left to their own idle
wishes and wasteful work.
Then in two hours I will be ready to accompany you; and in the
meantime I will walk over the moor and smoke a cigar.
No, no, better go down to the beach and watch the puffins flying
over the sea, and the terns fishing about the low lying land. Or you
might get a sight of an Arctic skua going north, or a black guillemot
with a fish in its mouth flying fast to feed its young. The seaside is
the place, laddie! There is something going on there constantly.
So Ian went to the seaside and found plenty of amusement there in
watching a family quarrel among the eider ducks, who were feeding on
the young mussels attached to the rocks which a low tide had uncovered.
It was a pleasant walk to the Ragnor home, and Rahal and Thora were
expecting them. The sitting room was cheery with sunshine and fire
glow, Rahal was in afternoon dress and Thora was sitting near the
window spinning on the little wheel the marvellously fine threads of
wool made from the dwarfish breed of Shetland sheep, and used generally
for the knitting of those delicate shawls which rivalled the finest
linen laces. On the entrance of her aunt and Ian Macrae she rose and
stood by her wheel, until the effusive greetings of the two elder
ladies were complete; and Ian was utterly charmed with the picture she
madeit was completely different from anything he had ever seen or
The wheel was a pretty one, and was inlaid with some bright metal,
and when Thora rose from her chair she was still holding a handful of
fine snowy wool. Her blue-robed and blue-eyed loveliness appeared to
fill the room as she stood erect and smiling, watching her mother and
aunt. But when her aunt stepped forward to introduce Ian to her, she
turned the full light of her lovely countenance upon him. Then both
wondered where they had met before. Was it in dreams only?
Mother and aunt were soon deep in the fascinating gossip of an
Edinburgh winter season, and Thora and Ian went into the greenhouse and
the garden and found plenty to talk about until Conall Ragnor came home
from business and supper was served. And the wonder was, that Conall
bent to the young man's charm as readily as Thora had done. He was
amazed at his shrewd knowledge of business methods and opportunities;
and listened to him with grave attention, though laughing heartily at
some of his plans and propositions.
Mr. Macrae, he said, thou art too far north for me. I do know a
few Shetlanders that could pare the skin off thy teeth, but we
Orcadeans are simple honest folk that just live, and let live. At
which remark Ian laughed, and reminded Conall Ragnor of certain
transactions in railway stock which had nonplussed the Perth directors
at the time. Then Ragnor asked how he happened to know what was
generally considered private information, and Ian answered, Private
information is the most valuable, sir. It is what I look for. Then
Ragnor rose from the table and said, Let us have a smoke and a little
Take thy smoke, Coll, said Mrs. Ragnor, and Mr. Macrae will give
us the music. Barbara says he sings better than Harrison. Come, Mr.
Macrae, we are waiting to hear thee.
Ian made no excuses. He sat down and sang with delightful charm and
spirit A Life on the Ocean Wave and The Bay of Biscay. Then these
were followed by the fresh and then popular songs, We May Be Happy
Yet, Then You'll Remember Me and The Land of Our Birth. No one
spoke or interrupted him, even to praise; but he was well repaid by the
look on every face and the kindness that flowed out to him. He could
see it in the eyes, and hear it in the voices, and feel it in the
manner of all present.
The silence was broken by the sound of quick, firm footsteps. Ragnor
listened a moment and then went with alacrity to open the door. I knew
it was thee! he cried. O sir, I am glad to see thee! Come in, come
in! None can be more welcome! And it was good to hear the strong,
sweet modulations of the voice that answered him.
It is Bishop Hedley! said Rahal.
Then I am going, said Aunt Barbara.
No, no, Aunt! cried Thora, and the next moment she was at her
aunt's side coaxing her to resume her chair. Then the Bishop and Ragnor
entered the room, and the moment the Bishop's face shone upon them, all
talk about leaving the room ceased. For Bishop Hedley carried his Great
Commission in his face and his life was a living sermon. His soul loved
all mankind; and he had with it an heroic mind and a strong-sinewed
body, which refused to recognise the fact that it died daily. For the
Bishop's business was with the souls of men, and he lived and moved and
did his daily work in a spiritual and eternal element.
And if constant commerce with the physical world weakens and ages
the man who lives and works in it, surely the life passed amid
spiritual thoughts and desires is thereby fortified and strengthened to
resist the cares and worries which fret the physical body to decay.
Then vainly the flesh fades, the soul makes all things new. This is a
great truthit is only by the supernatural we are strong.
The Bishop came in bringing with him, not only the moral tonic of
his presence, but also the very breath of the sea; its refreshing
tang, and good salt flavour. His smile and blessing was a spiritual
sunshine that warmed and cheered and brightened the room. He was
affectionate to all, but to Mistress Brodie and Ian Macrae, he was even
more kindly than to the Ragnors. They were not of his flock but he
longed to take care of them.
I heard singing as I came through the garden, he said, and it was
not your voice, Conall.
It was Ian Macrae singing, Conall answered, and he will gladly
sing for thee, sir. This promise Macrae ratified at once, and that
with such power and sweetness that every one was amazed and the Bishop
requested him to sing, during the next day's service, a fine Gloria
he had just given them in the cathedral choir. And Ian said he would
see the organist, and if it could be done, he would be delighted to
obey his request.
See the organist! exclaimed Mistress Brodie. What are you talking
about? The organist is Sandy Odd, the barber's son! How can the like of
him hinder the Bishop's wish? Then the Bishop wrote a few words in his
pocket book, tore out the leaf, and gave it to Macrae, saying: Mr. Odd
will manage all I wish, no doubt. Now, sir, for my great pleasure, play
us 'Home, Sweet Home.' I have not been here for four months, and it is
good to be with friends again. And they all sang it together, and were
perfectly at home with each other after it. So much so, that the Bishop
asked Rahal to give him a cup of tea and a little bread; I have come
from Fair Island today, he said, and have not eaten since noon.
Then all the women went out together to prepare and serve the
requested meal, so that it came with wonderful swiftness, and beaming
smiles, and charming words of laughing pleasure. And when he saw a
little table drawn to the hearth for him and quickly spread with the
food he needed and smelled the refreshing odour of the young Hyson, and
heard the pleasant tinkle of china and glass and silver as Thora placed
them before the large chair he was to occupy, he sat down happily to
eat and drink, while Thora served him, and Conall smoked and watched
them with a now-and-then smile or word or two, while Rahal and Barbara
talked, and Ian played charminglywith soft pedal downquotations
from Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony and Hark, 'Tis the Linnet! from
the oratorio, Joshua.
It was a delightful interlude in which every one was happy in their
own way, and so healed by it of all the day's disappointments and
weariness. But the wise never prolong such perfect moments. Even while
yielding their first satisfactions, they permit them to depart. It is a
great deal to have been happy. Every such memory sweetens after
The Bishop did not linger over his meal, and while servants were
clearing away cups and plates, he said, Come, all of you, outside, for
a few minutes. Come and look at the Moon of Moons! The Easter Moon! She
has begun to fill her horns; and she is throwing over the mystery and
majesty of earth and sea a soft silvery veil as she watches for the
dawn. The Easter dawn! that in a few hours will come streaming up, full
of light and warmth for all.
But there was not much warmth in an Orcadean April evening and the
party soon returned to the cheerful, comfortable hearth blaze. It is
not so beautiful as the moonlight, said Rahal, but it is very good.
True, said the Bishop, and we must not belittle the good we have,
because we look for something better. Let us be thankful for our feet,
though they are not wings.
Then one of those sudden, inexplicable arrests which seem to seal
up speech fell over every one, and for a minute or more no one could
speak. Rahal broke the spell. Some angel has passed through the room.
Please God he left a blessing! Or perhaps the moonlight has thrown a
spell over us. What were you thinking of, Bishop?
I will tell you. I was thinking of the first Good Friday in Old
Jerusalem. I was thinking of the sun hiding his face at noonday. Thora,
have you an almanac?
Thora took one from a nail on which it was hanging and gave it to
I was thinking that the sun, which hid his face at noonday, must at
that time have been in Aries, the Ram. Find me the signs of the
Zodiac. Thora did so. Now look well at Aries the Ram. What month of
our year is signed thus?
The month of March, sir.
I do not know. Tell me, sir.
I believe that in a long forgotten age, some priest or good man
received a promise or prophecy revealing the Great Sacrifice that would
be offered up for man's salvation once and for all time. And I think
they knew that this plenary sacrament would occur in the vernal season,
in the month of March, whose sign or symbol was Aries, the Ram.
But why under that sign, sir?
The ram, to the ancient world, was the sacrificial animal. We have
only to open our Bibles and be amazed at the prominence given to the
ram and his congeners. From the time of Abraham until the time of
Christ the ram is constantly present in sacrificial and religious
ceremonies. Do you remember, Thora, any incident depending upon a ram?
When Isaac was to be sacrificed, a ram caught in a thicket was
accepted by God in Isaac's place, as a burnt offering.
More than once Abraham offered a ram in sacrifice. In Exodus,
Chapter Twenty-ninth, special directions are given for the offering of
a ram as a burnt offering to the Lord. In Leviticus, the Eighth
Chapter, a bullock is sacrificed for a sin offering but a ram for a
burnt offering. In Numbers we are told of the ram of atonement
which a man is to offer, when he has done his neighbour an injury. In
Ezra, the Tenth, the ram is offered for a trespass because of an
unlawful marriage. On the accession of Solomon to the throne one
thousand rams with bullocks and lambs were 'offered up with great
gladness.' In the Old Testament there are few books in which the
sacrificial ram is not mentioned. Even the horn of the ram was
constantly in evidence, for it called together all religious and solemn
A little circumstance, continued the Bishop, that pleases me to
remember occurred in Glasgow five weeks ago. I saw a crowd entering a
large church, and I asked a workingman, who was eating his lunch
outside the building, the name of the church; and he answered,'It's
just the auld Ram's Horn Kirk. They are putting a new minister in the
pulpit today and they seem weel pleased wi' their choice.'
Now I am going to leave this subject with you. I have only
indicated it. Those who wish to do so, can finish the list, for the
half has not been told, and indeed I have left the most significant
ceremony until the last. It is that wonderful service in the Sixteenth
Chapter of Leviticus, where the priest, after making a sin offering of
young bullocks and a burnt offering of a ram, casts lots upon two goats
for a sin offering, and the goat upon which the lot falls is 'presented
alive before the Lord to make an atonement; and to let him go for a
scapegoat into the wilderness.'
Then he took from his pocket a little book and said, Listen to the
end of this service, 'And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head
of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the
Children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins,
putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away, by the
hand of a fit man into the wilderness.
'And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land
not inhabited; and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.'
My friends, this night let all read the Fifty-third of Isaiah, and
they will understand how fitting it was that Christ should be 'offered
up' in Aries the Ram, the sacrificial month representing the shadows
and types of which He was the glorious arch-type.
Then there was silence, too deeply charged with feeling, for words.
The Bishop himself felt that he could speak on no lesser subject, and
his small audience were lost in wonder at the vast panorama of
centuries, day by day, century after century, through all of which God
had remembered that He had promised He would provide the Great and
Final Sacrifice for mankind's justification. Then Aries the Ram would
no longer be a promise. It would be a voucher forever that the Promise
had been redeemed, and a memorial that His Truth and His mercy endureth
At the door the Bishop said to Ragnor, In a few hours, Friend
Conall, it will be Easter Morning. Then we can tell each other '
Christ has risen!' And Conall's eyes were full of tears, he could
not find his voice, he looked upward and bowed his head.
CHAPTER IV. SUNNA AND HER GRANDFATHER
Love is rich in his own right,
He is heir of all the spheres,
In his service day and night,
Swing the tides and roll the years.
What has he to ask of fate?
Crown him; glad or desolate.
Time puts out all other flames,
But the glory of his eyes;
His are all the sacred names,
His are all the mysteries.
Crown him! In his darkest day
He has Heaven to give away!
Arms are fair,
When the intent for bearing them is just.
In the meantime Sunna was spending the evening with her grandfather.
The old gentleman was reading, but she did not ask him to read aloud,
she knew by the look and size of the book that it would not be
interesting; and she was well pleased when one of her maids desired to
speak with her.
Well then, Vera, what is thy wish?
My sister was here and she was bringing me some strange news. About
Mistress Brodie she was talking.
Yes, I heard she had come home. Did she bring Thora Ragnor a new
Of a gown I heard nothing. It was a young man she brought! O so
beautiful is he! And like an angel he sings! The Bishop was very
friendly with him, and the Ragnors, also; but they, indeed! they are
friendly with all kinds of people.
This beautiful young man, is he staying with the Ragnors?
With Mistress Brodie he is staying, and with her he went to dinner
at the Ragnors'. And the Bishop was there and the young man was
singing, and a great deal was made of his singing, also they were
speaking of his father who is a famous preacher in some Edinburgh kirk,
These things may be so, but how came thy sister to know them?
This morning my sister took work with Mistress Ragnor and she was
waiting on them as they eat; and in and out of the room until nine
o'clock. Then, as she went to her own home, she called on me and we
talked of the matter, and it seemed to my thought that more might come
Yes, no doubt. I shall see that more does come of it. I am well
pleased with thee for telling me.
Then she went back to her grandfather and resumed her knitting.
Anon, she began to sing. Her face was flushed and her nixie eyes were
dancing to the mischief she contemplated. In a few minutes the old
gentleman lifted his head, and looked at her. Sunna, he said, thy
song and thy singing are charming, but they fit not the book I am
Then I will stop singing and thou must talk to me. There has come
news, and I want thy opinion on it. The Ragnors had a dinner party
today, and we were not asked.
A great lie is that! Conall Ragnor would not give Queen Victoria a
party in Lent. Who told thee such foolishness?
Then Sunna retailed the information given her and asked, What hast
thou done to Conall Ragnor? Always before he bid thee to dinner when
the Bishop was at his house? Or perhaps the offence is with Rahal
Ragnor? Not long ago thou spent an afternoon with her and black and
dangerous as a thunder storm thou came home.
This day the dinner was an accidental gathering. Rahal knows well
that I have no will to dine with Mistress Brodie. Dost thou want her
here, as thy stepmother?
If Mistress Brodie is not tired of an easy life, she will turn her
feet away from this house. If Sunna cannot please thee, thou art in
danger of worse happening. Yes, many are guessing who it is thou wilt
And which way runs the guessing?
Not all one way. For thee, that is not a respectable thing. Thou
should not be named with so many old women.
I am of thy opinion. An old woman is little to my mind. If I trust
marriage again, I will choose a young girl for my wifesuch an one as
Treddie Fae, or Thora Ragnor.
Thora Ragnor! Dreaming thou art! I am sure Barbara Brodie has
brought this young man here for Thora's approval. Can thou stand
against a young man?
Yes. Adam Vedder and fifty thousand pounds can hand any young man
his hat and gloves. Thy father's father is not for thee to make a jest
about. So here our talk shall come to an end on this subject. Go to thy
bed! Sleep, and the Good Being bless thee!
Sunna was not yet inclined to sleep. She sat down before her mirror,
uncoiled her plentiful hair, and carefully brushed and braided it for
the night, as she considered the news that had come to her.
This beautiful young man, this singing man, is one of Barbara
Brodie's 'finds.' Not much do I think of any of them! That handsome
scholar she brought here turned out an unbearable encumbrance. I
believe she paid him to go back to Edinburgh. That Aberdeen man, who
wanted to invest money in Kirkwall had to borrow two pounds from
grandfather to take him back to where he came from. That witty,
good-looking Irishman left a big bill at the Castle Hotel for some one
to pay; and the woman who wanted to begin a dressmaking business, on
the good will of people like Barbara Brodie, knew nothing about
dressmaking. This beautiful young man, I'll warrant, is a fish out of
the same net. As for the Bishop being taken with his beauty, that is
nothing! The poorer a man is, the better Bishop Hedley will like him.
So it goes! I wish I knew where Boris Ragnor isI wish
Pshaw! I wonder what kind of a dress Mistress Barbara Brodie
brought Thora. Not much taste in either men or clothes has she! Too
large will the pattern be, or too strong the colours, and too heavy, or
too light, will be the material. I know! And it will not fit her. Too
big, or too little it is sure to be! With my own dress I am satisfied.
And if grandfather asks no questions about it, I shall count it a lucky
dress and save it till Boris comes home. I am going to forgive him when
he comes homeperhapsNow I will put the hopes and worries of this
world under my pillow and be off to the Land of DreamsTomorrow is
Sunday, Easter SundayI shall sing the solo in my new dressthat is
good, I like a religious feeling in a new dressI think I am rather a
Alas for the hopes of all who wanted to dress for Easter. It was an
uncompromising, wet day. It was oil skin and rubber for the men; it was
cloaks and pattens and umbrellas for the women. Yet, aside from the
rain, it was a day full of good things. The cathedral was crowded,
there was full cathedral service, and the Bishop preached a
transfiguring sermon. The music was good, the home choir did well, and
Sunna's solo was effectively sung; but after she had heard Ian Macrae's
Gloria, she was sorry she had sung at all.
Grandfather! she commented, No private person has a right to sing
as that man sings! After him, non-professionals make a show of
Thou sang wellbetter than usual, I thought.
I was told he was such a handsome young man! And he has black hair
and black eyes! Even his skin is dark. He looks like a Celt. I don't
like Celts. None of our people like them. When they come to the fishing
they are not respected.
Thou art much mistaken. Our men like them.
Boris Ragnor says they are poor traders.
Well then, it is to fish they come.
What they come for is no care of mine. Boris is ten times more of a
man than the best of them. No notice shall I take of this Celt.
Through thy scorn he may live, and even enjoy his life. The English
officers do that.
This chicken is better than might be. Wilt thou have a little more
Enough is plenty. I have had enough. At Conall Ragnor's there is
always good eating and I am going there for my supper. Wilt thou go
with me? Then with Thora thou can talk. This beautiful young man is
likely at Ragnor's. It was too stormy for Mistress Brodie to go to her
own house at the noonday. Dost thou see then, how it will be?
I will go with thee, I want to see Thora's new dress. I need not
notice the young man.
His name? Already I have forgotten it.
Odd was calling him 'Macrae.'
Macrae! That is Highland Scotch. The Macraes are a good family.
There is a famous minister in Edinburgh of that name. The Calvinists
all swear by him.
This man sang in a full cathedral service. Dost thou believe a
Calvinist would do that? He would be sure it was a disguised mass, and
Adam laughed as he said, Well, then, go with me this night to
Ragnor's and between us we will find something out. A mystery is not
pleasant to thee.
There is something wrong in a mystery, that is what I feel.
Thou can ask Thora all about him.
I shall not ask her. She will tell me.
Adam laughed again. That is the best way, he said. It was thy
father's way. Well then, five minutes ago, the wind changed. By four
o'clock it will be fair.
Then I will be ready to go with thee. If I am left alone, I am sad;
and that is not good for my health.
But thou must behave well, even to the Celt.
Unless it is worth my while, I do not quarrel with any one.
Was it worth thy while to quarrel with Boris Ragnor?
Yesor I had not quarrelled with him.
Here comes the sunshine! Gleam upon gloom! Cheery and good it is!
They say an Easter dress should be christened with a few drops of
rain. That is not my opinion. I like the Easter sunshine on it. Now I
shall leave thee and go and rest and dress myself. Very good is thy
talk and thy company to me, but to thee, I am foolishness. As I shut
the door, the big book thou art reading, thou wilt say to it: 'Now,
friend of my soul, some sensible talk we will have together, for that
foolish girl has gone to her foolishness at her looking glass.'
Run away! I am in a hurry for my big book.
Sunna shut the door with a kissand as she took the stairs with
hurrying steps, the sunshine came dancing through the long window, and
her feet trod on it and it fell all over her.
At four o'clock she was ready for her evening's inquest and she
found her grandfather waiting for her. He had put on a light vest and a
white tie, and he had that clean, healthy, good-tempered look that
pleases all women. He smiled and bowed to Sunna and she deserved the
compliment; for she was beautiful and had dressed her beauty most
becomingly. Her gown was of Saxony cloth, the exact colour of her hair,
with a collar, stomacher and high cuffs of pale green velvet. The
collar was tied with cord and small tassels of gold braid; the
stomacher laced with gold braid over small gilt buttons, and the high
cuffs were trimmed to match. Very handsome gilt combs held up her
rippled hair, and a large red-riding-hood cloak covered her from the
crowning bow of her hair to the little French pattens that protected
her black satin slippers. She expected to make a conquest, and her
thoughts were usually the factors of success.
A little disappointment awaited her. She was usually shown into the
right-hand parlour at once, and she relied on the bit of colour
afforded by her scarlet cloak to give life to the modest shades of her
spring colours of pale fawn and tender green. But servants were setting
the dinner table in the right-hand parlour; and Conall and Rahal and
Aunt Barbara had taken themselves to Conall's little business room
where there was a bright fire burning. There, in his big chair, Conall
was next door to sleeping; and Barbara and Rahal were talking in a
sleepy, mysterious way about something that did not appear to interest
At the sound of Adam Vedder's voice, Conall became wide awake; and
Barbara's face lighted up with a fresh interest. If there was nothing
else, there was a chronic quarrel between them, which Barbara was ready
to lift at a moment's notice. But Sunna was not dissatisfied. Conall's
quick look of admiration, and Rahal's and Barbara's glances of
surprise, were excellent in their way. She knew she had given them a
subject of interest sufficient to make even the hour before dinner
Where is Thora? she asked, as she turned every way, apparently to
look for Thora, but really to allow her admirers to convince themselves
that her dress was trimmed as handsomely at the back as the frontthat
if the stomacher was perfect in front, the sash of green velvet at the
back was quite as stylish and elaborate.
Where is Thora? she asked again.
In the drawing room thou wilt find Thora with Ian Macrae, said
Rahal. Go to them. They will be glad of thy company.
Doubtful is their gladness. Two are company, three are a crowd. Yet
so it is! I must run into danger, like the rest of women.
Is that thy Easter gown, Sunna? asked Mistress Brodie.
It is. Dost thou like it?
Who would not like it? The rumour goes abroad that thy grandfather
sent to Inverness for it. Others say it came to thee from Edinburgh.
Wrong are both stories. I am happy to say that Sunna Vedder gave
herself a dress so pretty and so suitable.
With these smiling words she left the room and the elder women
shrugged their shoulders and looked expressively at each other. What
can a sensible man like Boris Ragnor see in such a harum-scarum girl!
was Rahal Ragnor's question, and Barbara Brodie thought it was all Adam
Vedder's fault. He ought to have married some sensible woman who would
have brought up the girl as girls ought to be brought up, she
answered; adding, We may as well remember that the management of
women, at any age, is a business clean beyond Adam Vedder's
Adam is a clever man, Barbie.
Book clever! What is the use of book wisdom when you have a live
girl, full of her own way, to deal with?
Conall chose the husbands for his daughters. They were quite
suitable to the girls and they have been very happy with them.
Thora will choose for herself.
Perhaps, that may be so. Thora has been spoiled. Her marriage need
not yet be thought of. In two or three years, we will consider it. The
little one has not yet any dreams of that kind.
Such dreams come in a momentwhen you are not thinking of them.
In fact, at that very moment Thora was learning the mystery of
falling in love; and there is hardly a more vital thing in life than
this act. For it is something taking place in the subconscious self; it
is a revolution, and a growth. It happened that after dinner, Conall
wished to hear Ian sing again that loveliest of all metrical Collects,
Lord of All Power and Might, and Thora went with Ian to do her part
as accompanist on the piano. As they sang Conall appeared to fall
asleep, and no more music was asked for.
Then Ian lifted a book full of illustrations of the English lake
district, and they sat down on the sofa to examine it. Ian had once
been at Keswick and Ambleside, and he began to tell her about Lake
Windemere and these lovely villages. He was holding Thora's hand and
glancing constantly into her face, and before he recognised what he was
saying, Ambleside and Windemere were quite forgotten, and he was
telling Thora that he loved her with an everlasting love. He vowed that
he had loved her in his past lives, and would love her, and only her,
forever. And he looked so handsome and spoke in words of the sweetest
tenderness, and indeed was amazed at his own passionate eloquence, but
knew in his soul that every word he said was true.
And Thora, the innocent little one, was equally sure of his truth.
She blushed and listened, while he drew her closer to his side calling
her his own, his very own! and begging her to promise that she would
marry him, and no other man, in the whole earth.
And Thora promised him what he wished and for one-half hour they
were in Paradise.
Now, how could this love affair have come to perfection so rapidly?
Because it was the natural and the proper way. True love dates its
birth from the first glance. It is the coming together of two souls,
and in their first contact love flashes forth like flame. And then
their influence over each other is like that gravitation which one star
exerts over another star.
But much that passes for love is not love. It is only a
prepossession, pleasant and profitable, promising many every-day
advantages. True love is a deep and elemental thing, a secret
incredible glory, in a way, it is even a spiritual triumph. And we
should have another name for love like this. For it is the long, long
love, that has followed us through ages, the healing love, the
Comforter! In the soul of a young, innocent girl like Thora, it is a
kind of piety, and ought to be taken with a wondering thankfulness.
An emotion so spiritual and profound was beyond Sunna's
understanding. She divined that there had been some sort of
love-making, but she was unfamiliar with its present indications. Her
opinion, however, was that Ian had offered himself to Thora, and been
rejected; in no other way could she account for the far-offness of both
parties. Thora indeed was inexplicable. She not only refused to show
Sunna her Easter dress, she would not enter into any description of it.
That is a very remarkable thing, she said to her grandfather, as
they walked home together. I think the young man made love to Thora
and even asked her to marry him, and Thora was frightened and said
'No!' and she is likely sorry now that she did not say 'Yes.'
To say 'No!' would not have frightened thee, I suppose?
That is one of the disagreeable things women have to get used to.
How often must a woman say 'No!' in order to get used to it?
That depends on several small things; for instance I am very
sympathetic. I have a tender heart! Yes, and so I suffer.
I am glad to know of thy sympathy. If I asked thee to marry a young
man whom I wished thee to marry, would thou do itjust to please me?
It would dependon my mood that day.
Say, it was thy sympathetic mood?
That would be unfavourable. Of the others I should think, and I
should feel that I was cruel; if I took all hope from them.
Thou wilt not be reasonable. I am not joking. Would thou marry
Boris to please me?
Boris has offended me. He must come to me, and say, 'I am sorry.'
He must take what punishment I choose for his rudeness to me. Then, I
may forgive him.
And marry him?
Only my angel knows, if it is so written. Men do not like to do as
their women say they must do. Is there any man in the Orcades who dares
to say 'No,' to his wife's 'Yes?'
What of Sandy Stark?
Sandy is a Scot! I do not use a Scotch measure for a Norseman. Thou
art not a perfect Norseman, but yet, even in Edinburgh, there is no
Scot that could be thy measure. I should have to say'thou art five
inches taller than the Scot at thy side, and forty pounds heavier, and
nearly twice as strong.' That would not be correct to an ounce, but it
is as near as it is possible to come between Norse and Scot.
Thou art romancing!
As for the Norse women
About Norse women there is no need for thee to teach thy
grandfather. I know what Norse women are like. If I did not know, I
should have married again.
Well then, Barbara Brodie is a good specimen of a capable Norse
woman and I have noticed one thing about them, that I feel ought to be
Chut! What hast thou understood? Talk about it, and let thy wisdom
Well then, it is this thingNorse women always outlive their
husbands. Thou may count by tens and hundreds the widows in this town.
The 'maidens of blushing fifteen' have no opportunities; the widow of
fifty asks a young man into her beautiful home and makes him acquainted
with the burden of her rents and dividends and her share in half a
dozen trading boats, and he takes to the golden lure and marries
himself like the rest of the world. Thou would have been re-married
long ago but for my protection. I have had a very disagreeable day
Then go to thy bed and put an end to it.
My new dress is crushed and some way or other I have got a spot on
the front breadth. Is it that Darwin book thou art looking for?
Would thou like to read a chapter to me?
No, I would not.
Grandfather, I can understand it. I like clever men. Can thou
introduce me to himto Darwin?
He would not care to see thee. Clever men do not want clever wives;
so if thou art thinking of a clever husband keep thy 'blue stockings'
well under thy petticoats.
And grandfather, do thou keep out of the way of the widows of
Orkney or thou wilt find thyself inside of a marriage ring.
Not while thou remains unmarried. Few women would care to look
after thy welfare. I am used to it, long before thou had been
short-coated, I had to walk thee to sleep in my arms.
Yes, laughed Sunna, I remember that. I felt myself safest with
Thou remembers nothing of the kind. At six months old, thou could
neither compare nor remember.
But thou art mistaken. I was born with perfect senses. Ere I was
twenty-four hours old, I had selected thee as the most suitable person
to walk me to sleep. I think that was a proof of my perfect
intelligence. One thing more, and then I will let thee read. I am going
to marry Boris Ragnor, and then the widow Brodie wouldtake charge of
thee. She shut the door to these words and Adam heard her laughing all
the way to her own room. Then he rubbed his hand slowly over and over
his mouth and said to himselfShe shall have her say-so; Boris is the
only man on the Islands who can manage her.
After the departure of the Vedders, Rahal and her sister Brodie went
upstairs, taking Thora with them. She went cheerfully though a little
reluctantly. She liked to hear Ian talk. She had thought of asking him
to sing; but she was satisfied with the one straight, long look which
flashed between them, as Ian bid her good night; for
He looked at her as a lover can;
She looked at him as one who awakes,
The past was a sleep and her life began.
Then she went to her room, and thought of Ian until she fell asleep
and dreamed of him.
For nearly two hours Ian remained with Conall Ragnor. The Railway
Mania was then at its height in England, and the older man was
delighted with Ian's daring stories of its mad excitement. Ian had seen
and talked with Hudson, the draper's clerk, who had just purchased a
fine ducal residence and estate from the results of his reckless
speculations. Ian knew all the Scotch lines, he had even full faith in
the Caledonian when it was first proposed and could hardly win
any attention. Every one said a railway between England and Scotland
would not pay, Mr. Ragnor, said Ian.
I would have said very different, replied Conall. It would be
certain to pay. Why not?
Because there would be no returns, laughed Ian, and then
Conall laughed also, and wished that Boris had been there to learn
whatever Ian might teach him.
Hast thou speculated in railway stock yet, he asked.
No, sir. I have not had the money to do so.
How would thou buy if thou had?
I would buy when no one else was buying, and when everyone else was
buying, I would keep cool, and sell. A very old and clever speculator
gave me that advice as a steady rule, saying it was 'his only guide.'
This was the tenor of the men's conversation until near midnight,
and then Ragnor went with Ian to the door of his room and bid him a
frank and friendly good night. And as he stood a moment handfast with
the youth, his conscience troubled him a little and he said: Ian, Ian,
thou art a wise lad about this world's business, but thou must not be
forgetting that there is another world after this.
I do not forget that, sir.
Bishop Hedley is a greater and wiser man than all the railway
nabobs thou hast spoken of.
I think so, sir! I do indeed! and the mutual smile and nod that
followed required no further good night.
It was a lovely, silent night. The very houses looked as if they
were asleep; and there was not a sound either in the town on the brown
pier or the moonlit sea. It was a night full of the tranquillity of
God. Men and women looked into its peace, and carried its charm into
their dreams. For most fine spirits that dwell by the sea have an
elemental sympathy with strange oracles and dreams and old Night. In
the morning, Conall Ragnor was the first to awaken. He went at once to
fling open his window. Then he cried out in amazement and wonder, and
awakened his wife:
Rahal! Rahal! he shouted. Come here! Come quick! Look at the
town! It is hung with flags. The ships in the harbourflying are their
flags also! And there is a ship just entering the harbour and her
colours are flying! And there are the guns! They are saluting her from
the garrison! It must be a man-of-war! I wonder if the Queen is coming
to see us at last! If thou art ready, call Thora and Barbara. Something
is up! Thou may hear the town now, all tip-on-top with excitement!
Why did not thou call us sooner, Coll?
I slept late and long.
But thou must have heard the town noises?
A confused noise passed through my ears, a noise full of hurry like
a morning dream, that was all. Now, I am going for my swim and I will
bring the news home with me.
But long before it was within expectation of Ragnor's return, the
three women standing at the open door saw Ian coming rapidly to the
house from the town. His walk was swift and full of excitement. His
head was thrown upward, and he kept striking himself on the right side,
just over the place where his ancestors had worn their dirks or
broadswords. As soon as he saw the three women he flung his Glengarry
skyward and shouted a ringing Hurrah!
As he approached them, all were struck with his remarkable beauty,
his manly figure, his swift graceful movements and his handsome face
suffused with the brightness of fiery youth. Through their long black
lashes his eyes were shining and glowing and full of spirit, and indeed
his whole personality was instinct with verve and fire. Anyone watching
his approach would have saidHere comes a youth made to lead a
rattling charge of cavalry.
Whatever is the matter with you, Ian? cried Mistress Brodie. You
are surely gone daft.
No indeed! he answered. I seem at this very hour to have just
found myself and my senses.
What is all the fuss about, Ian? asked Rahal.
England has gone to war at the long last with the cruel, crafty
black Bear of the North.
Well then, it is full time she did so, there are none will say
And, continued Ian, there is a ship now in harbour carrying
enlisting officersyou may see her; she is to call at the Orkney and
Shetland Islands for recruits for the navy, and Great Scot! she will
get them! All she wants! She could take every man out of Kirkwall!
The Mayor and Captain Ragnor will not permit her to do so. She will
have to leave men to manage the fishing, said Rahal.
I thought the women could do that, said Ian.
You do not know what you are talking about. It takes two or three
men to lift a net full of fish out of the water, and they are about
done up if they manage it. Come in and get your breakfast. If your news
be true, there is no saying when Ragnor will get home. He will have
some reasoning with his men to do, he cannot spare many of them.
I have a good idea, said Mistress Brodie. I will give a dance on
Friday night for the enlisting officers, and we will invite all the
presentable young men, and all the prettiest girls, to meet them.
But you will be too late on Friday. The cutter and her crew will
leave Thursday morning early, said Ian.
Then say Wednesday night.
That might do. I could tell the men freshly enlisted to wear a
white ribbon in their coats
No, no, no! cried Rahal. What are you saying, Ian? A white favour
is a Stuart favour. You would set the men fighting in the very dance
room. There is no excuse in the Orkneys for a Stuart memory.
I was not thinking of the Stuarts. Have they not done bothering
In the Scotch heart the Stuart lives forever, said Rahal, with a
But the dance was decided on and some preparations made for it as
soon as breakfast was over. Ian was enthusiastic on the matter and
Thora caught his enthusiasm very readily, and before night, all
Kirkwall was preparing to feast and rejoice because England was going
to make the great Northern Bearthe Bear that walks like a manstay
in the North where he belonged.
CHAPTER V. SUNNA AND THORA
Love, the old, old troubler of the world.
Love has reasons, of which reason knows nothing.
Alas, how easily things go wrong!
A sigh too much, or a kiss too long,
And there follows a mist and a weeping rain
And life is never the same again.
No sooner was Mrs. Brodie's intention known, than all her friends
were eager to help her. There was truly but little time between Monday
morning and Wednesday night; but many hands make light work, and old
and young offered their services in arranging for what it pleased all
to consider as a kind of national thanksgiving.
The unanimity of this kindness gave Rahal a slight attack of a
certain form of jealousy, to which she had been subject for many years,
and she asked her husband, as she had done often before, Why is it,
Coll, that every woman in the town is eager to help and encourage
Barbara if she only speaks of having a dance or dinner; but if I, thy
wife, am the giver of pleasure, I am left to do all without help or any
show of interest. It troubles me, Coll.
And Coll answered as he always did answerIt is thy superiority,
Rahal. Is there any woman we know, who would presume to give thee
advice or counsel? And it is well understood by all of them that thou
cannot thole an obligation. Thou, and thy daughter, and thy servants
are sufficient for all thy social plans; and why should thou be
bothered with a lot of old and young women? Thy sister Brodie loves a
crowd about her, and she says 'thank thee' to all and sundry, as easily
as she takes a drink of water. It chokes thee to say 'thanks' to any
So Rahal was satisfied, and went with the rest to help Mistress
Brodie prepare for her dance. There were women in the kitchen making
pies and custards and jellies, and women in her parlours cleaning and
decorating them, and women in the great hall taking up carpets because
it was a favourite place for reels, and women washing China and
trimming lamps. Thora was doing the shopping, Ian was carrying the
invitations; and every one who had been favoured with one had not only
said Yes, but had also asked if there was anything they could loan,
or do, to help the impromptu festival. Thus, Mrs. Harold Baikie sent
her best service of China, and the Faes sent several extra large lamps,
and the bride of Luke Serge loaned her whole supply of glassware, and
Rahal took over her stock of table silver; and Mistress Brodie received
every loanuseful or notwith the utmost delight and satisfaction.
On Wednesday afternoon, however, she was faced by a condition she
did not know how to manage. Ian came to her in a hurry, saying, My
friend, McLeod, is longing for an invitation from you, and he has asked
me to request one. Surely you will send him the favour! Yes, I know you
You are knowing too much, Ian. What can I do? You know well,
laddie, he is not popular with the best set here.
I would not mind the 'best set' if I were you. What makes them 'the
best'? Just their own opinion of themselves. McLeod is of gentle birth,
he is handsome and good-hearted, you will like him as soon as you speak
to him. There is another 'best set' beside the one Adam Vedder leads; I
would like some one to take down that old man's conceit of
himselfthere is nothing wrong with McLeod! Yes, he is Highland
There! that is enough, Ian! Go your ways and bid the young man. Ask
him in your own name.
No, Mistress, I will not do that. The invitation carries neither
honour nor good will without your name.
Well then, my name be it. My name has been so much used lately, I
think I will change it.
Take my name then. I will be proud indeed if you will.
You are aye daffing, Ian; I am o'er busy for nonsense the now. Give
the Mac a hint that tartans are not necessary.
But I cannot do that. I am going to wear the Macrae tartan.
You can let that intent go by.
No, I can not! A certain 'yes' may depend on my wearing the Macrae
Well, checked cloth is bonnier than black broadcloth to some
people. I don't think Thora Ragnor is among that silly crowd. There is
not a more quarrelsome dress than a tartan kiltand I'm thinking the
Brodies were ill friends with the Macraes in the old days.
The Brodies are not Highlanders.
You are a shamefully ignorant man, Ian Macrae. The Brodies came
from Moray, and are the only true lineal descendants of Malcolm Thane
of Brodie in the reign of Alexander the Third, lawful King of Scotland.
What do you think of the Brodies now?
The Macrae doffs his bonnet to them; but
If you say another word, the McLeod will be out of itsure and
So Ian laughingly left the room, and Mistress Brodie walked to the
window and watched him speeding towards the town. He is a wonderful
lad! she said to herself. And I wish he was my lad! Oh why were all
my bairns lasses? They just married common bodies and left me! Oh for a
lad like Ian Macrae! Then with a great sigh, she added: It is all
right. I would doubtless have spoiled and mismanaged him!
It is not to be supposed that Sunna Vedder kept away from all this
social stir and preparation. She was first and foremost in everything
during Monday and Tuesday, but Wednesday she reserved herself
altogether for the evening. No one saw her until the noon hour; then
she came to the dinner table, for she had an entirely fresh request to
make, one which she was sure would require all her personal influence
She prefaced it with the intelligence that Boris had arrived during
the night, and that Elga had met him in the streetlooking more
handsome than any man ought to look, except upon his wedding day.
And on that day, said Adam, gloomily, a man has generally good
cause to look ugly.
But if he was going to marry me, Grandfather, how then?
He would doubtless look handsome. Men usually do when they are on
the road of destruction.
Grandfather! I have made up my mind to marry Boris, and lead him
the way I want him to go. That will always be the way thou chooseth.
How comes that?
I loved thee first of all. I shall always love thee first. Boris
played me false, I must pay him back. I must make him suffer. Those
Ragnorsall of themput on such airs! They make me sick.
What art thou after? What favour art thou seeking?
Thou knows how the girls will try to outdress each other at this
It is too late for a new dresswhat is it thou wants now?
I want thee to go to the bank and get me my mother's necklace to
wear just this one night.
I will not. I gave thy dead mother a promise.
Break it, for a few hours. My Easter dress is not a dancing dress.
I have no dancing dress but the pretty white silk thou gave me last
Christmasand I have no ornaments at allnone whatever, fit to wear
There are always flowers
Flowers! There is not a flower in Kirkwall. Easter and old Mistress
Brodie have used up every daisybesides, white silk ought to have
Adam shook his head positively.
My mother wishes me to have what I want. Thou ought not to keep it
She told me to give thee her necklace on thy twenty-first
That is so silly! What better is my twenty-first birthday than any
other day? Grandfather, I cannot love thee more, because my love for
thee is already a perfect love; but I will be such a good girl if thou
wilt give me what I want, O so much I want it! I will be so obedient! I
will do everything thou desires! I will even marry Boris Ragnor. And
this urgent request was punctuated with kisses and little fondling
strokes of her hand, and Adam finally asked
How shall I answer thy mother when she accuses me of breaking my
promise to her?
I will answer for thee. O dear! It is growing late! If thou dost
not hurry, the bank will be closed, and then I shall be sick with
disappointment, and it will be thy fault.
Then Adam rose and left the house and Sunna, having seen that he
took the proper turn in the road, called for a cup of tea and having
refreshed herself with it, went upstairs to lay out and prepare
everything for her toilet. And as she went about this business she
continually justified herself:
It is only natural I should have my necklace, she thought. Norse
women have always adored gold and silver and gems, and in the old days
their husbands sailed long journeys and fought battles for what their
women wanted. My great Aunt Christabelle often told me that many of the
old Shetland and Orkney families had gold ornaments and uncut gems,
hundreds of years old, hid away. I would not wonder if Grandfather has
some! I dare say the bank's safe is full of them! I do not care for
them but I do want my mother's wedding necklaceand I am going to have
it. Right and proper it is, I should have it now. Mother would say so
if she were here. Girls are women earlier than they were in her day.
Twenty-one, indeed! I expect to be married long before I am
In less than an hour she began to watch the road for her
grandfather's return. Very soon she saw him coming and he had a small
parcel in his hand. Her heart gave a throb of satisfaction and she
began to unplait her manifold small braids: I shall not require to go
to bed, she murmured. Grandfather has my necklace. He will want to
take it back to the bank tomorrowI shall see about thatI
promisedyes, I know! But there are waysout of a promise.
She was, of course, delightfully grateful to receive the necklace,
and Vedder could not help noticing how beautiful her loosened hair
looked. Its length and thickness and waves of light colour gave to her
stately, blonde beauty a magical grace, and Vedder was one of those men
who admire the charms of his own family as something naturally greater
than the same charms in any other family. The Vedders carry their
beauty with an air, he said, and he was right. The Vedders during the
course of a few centuries of social prominence had acquired that air of
superiority which impresses, and also frequently offends.
Certainly, Sunna Vedder in white silk and a handsome necklace of
rubies and diamonds was an imposing picture; and Adam Vedder, in spite
of his sixty-two years, was an imposing escort. It would be difficult
to say why, for he was a small man in comparison with the towering
Norsemen by whom he was surrounded. Yet he dominated and directed any
company he chose to favour with his presence; and every man in Kirkwall
either feared or honoured him. Sunna had much of his natural
temperament, but she had not the driving power of his cultivated
intellect. She relied on her personal beauty and the many natural arts
with which Nature has made women a match for any antagonist. Had she
not heard her grandfather frequently say a beautiful woman is the best
armed creature that God has made! She is as invincible as a
This night he had paid great attention to his own toilet. He was
fashionably attired, neat as a new pin, and if not amiable, at least
exceedingly polite. He had leaning on his arm what he considered the
most beautiful creature in Scotland, and he assumed the manners of her
guardian with punctilious courtesy.
There was a large company present when the Vedders reached Mrs.
Brodie'smilitary men, a couple of naval officers, gentlemen of
influence, and traders of wealth and enterprise; with a full complement
of women divinely tall and fair. Sunna made the sensation among them
she expected to make. There was a sudden pause in conversation and
every eye filled itself with her beauty. For just a moment, it seemed
as if there was no other person present.
Then Mrs. Brodie and Colonel Belton came to meet them, and Sunna was
left in the latter's charge. Will you now dance, Miss Vedder? he
Let us first walk about a little, Colonel. I want to find my
friend, Thora Ragnor.
I have long desired an introduction to Miss Ragnor. Is she not
Yes, but now only for one man. A stranger came here last week, and
she was captured at once.
How remarkable! I thought that kind of irresponsible love had gone
quite out of favour and fashion.
Not so! This youth came, saw, and conquered.
Is it the youth I see with Ken McLeod?
The same. Look! There they are, together as usual.
She is very sweet and attractive.
Sunna answered this remark by asking Thora to honour Colonel Belton
with her company for a short time, saying: In the interval I will take
care of Ian Macrae. Then Thora stood up in her innocence and
loveliness and she was like some creature of more ethereal nature than
goes with flesh and blood. For the eye took her in as a whole, and at
first noticed neither her face nor her dress in particular. Her dress
was only of white tarlatan, a thin, gauze-like material long out of
fashion. It is doubtful if any woman yet remembers its airy, fairy
sway, and graceful folds. The filmy robe, however, was plentifully
trimmed with white satin ribbon, and the waist was entirely of satin
trimmed with tarlatan. The whole effect was girlish and simple, and
Thora needed no other ornament but the pink and white daisies at her
However, if Sunna expected Thora's manner and conversation to match
the simplicity of her dress, she was disappointed. In Love's school
women learn with marvellous rapidity, and Thora astonished her by
falling readily into a conversation of the most up-to-date social
character. She had caught the trick from Ian, a little playful fencing
round the most alluring of subjects, yet it brought out the simplicity
of her character, while it also revealed its purity and intelligence.
Dancing had commenced when Mrs. Ragnor entered the room on the arm
of her son Boris. Boris instantly looked around for Sunna and she was
dancing with McLeod. All the evening afterwards Boris danced, but never
once with Sunna, and Adam Vedder watched the young man with scorn. He
was the most desirable party in the room for any girl and he quite
neglected the handsome Sunna Vedder. That was not his only annoyance.
McLeod was dancing far too often with Sunna, and even the beautiful
youth Ian Macrae had only asked her hand once; and Adam was sure that
Thora Ragnor had been the suggester of that act of politeness. Girls
far inferior to Sunna in every respect had received more attention than
his granddaughter. He was greatly offended, but he appeared to turn his
back on the whole affair and to be entirely occupied in conversation
with Conall Ragnor and Colonel Belton concerning the war with Russia.
Every way the evening was to Sunna a great disappointment, in many
respects she felt it to be a great humiliation; and the latter feeling
troubled her more for her grandfather than for herself. She knew he was
mortified, for he did not speak to her as they walked through the
chill, damp midnight to their home. Mrs. Brodie had urged Adam and
Sunna to put the night past at her house, but Adam had been proof
against all her suggestions, and even against his own desires. So he
satisfied his temper by walking home and insisting on Sunna doing
It was a silent, unhappy walk. Adam said not a word to Sunna and she
would not open the way for his anger to relieve itself. When they
reached home they found a good fire in the room full of books which
Adam called his own, and there they went. Then Sunna let her long dress
fall down, and put out her sandalled feet to the warmth of the fire.
Adam glanced into her face and saw that it was full of trouble.
Go to thy bed, Sunna, he said. Of this night thou must have had
I have had too much, by far. If only thou loved me!
Who else do I love? There is none but thee.
Then with some one thou ought to be angry.
Is it with Boris Ragnor I should be angry?
Yes! It is with Boris Ragnor. Not once did he ask me to dance.
Watching him and me were all the girls. They saw how he slighted me,
and made little nods and laughs about it.
It was thy own fault. When Boris came into the room, he looked for
thee. With McLeod thou wert dancing. With that Scot thou wert dancing!
The black look on his face, I saw it, thou should have seen it and have
given him a smilePshaw! Women know so muchand do so little. By
storm thou ought to have taken the whole affair for thy own. I am
disappointed in theeyes, I am disappointed.
An emergency thou had to face, and thou shirked it. When Boris
entered the room, straight up to him thou should have gone; with an
outstretched hand and a glad smile thou should have said: 'I am waiting
for thee, Boris!' Then thou had put all straight that was crooked, and
carried the evening in thy own hands.
I will pay Boris for this insult. Yes, I will, and thou must help
To quarrel with Boris? To injure him in any way? No! that I will
not do. It would be to quarrel also with my old friend Conall. Not
thee! Not man or woman living, could make me do that! Sit down and I
will tell thee a better way.
No, I will not sit down till thou say 'yes' to what I ask; for
some womanly instinct told her that while Adam was cowering over the
hearth blaze and she stood in all her beauty and splendour above him,
she controlled the situation. Thou must help me!
To what or whom?
I want to marry Boris.
Dost thou love him?
Better than might be. When mine he is all mine, then I will love
That is little to trust to.
Thou art wrong. It is of reasons one of the best and surest. Not
three months ago, a little dog followed thee home, an ugly,
half-starved little mongrel, not worth a shilling; but it was
determined to have thee for its master, and thou called it thy dog, and
now it is petted and pampered and lies at thy feet, and barks at every
other dog, and thou says it is the best dog on the Island. It is the
same way with husbands. Thou hast seen how Mary Minorie goes on about
her bald, scrimpy husband; yet she burst out crying when he put the
ring on her finger. Now she tells all the girls that marriage is
'Paradise Regained.' When Boris is my husband it will be well with me,
and not bad for him. He will be mine, and we love what is our own.
Why wilt thou marry any man? Thou wilt be rich.
One must do as the rest of the world doesand the world has the
fashion of marrying.
Money rules love.
Yes! Bolon Flett had only scorn for his poor little wife until her
uncle left her two thousand pounds. Since then, no word is long enough
or good enough for her excellencies. Money opens the eyes as well as
the heart. What then, if I make Boris rich?
Boris is too proud to take money from thee and I will not be sold
to any man!
Wilt thou wait until my meaning is given theeflying off in a
temper like a foolish woman!
I am sorryspeak thy meaning.
Sit down. Thou art not begging anything.
Not from thee. I have thy love.
And thine is mine. This is my plan. Above all things Boris loves a
stirring, money-making business. I am going to ask him to take me as
his partner. Tired am I of living on my past. How many boats has
Thou knowest he has but one, but she is large and swift, and does
as much business as McLeod's three little sloops.
Schooners, thenlittle ones!
Well then, there is a new kind of boat which thou hast never seen.
She is driven by steam, not wind, she goes swiftly, all winds are fair
to her, and she cares little for storms.
I saw a ship like that when I was in Edinburgh. She lay in Leith
harbour, and the whole school went to Leith to see her come in.
If Boris will be my partner, I will lay my luck to his, and I will
buy a steam ship, a large coasterdost thou see?
Then with a laugh she cried: I see, I see! Then thou can easily
beat the sloops or schooners, that have nothing but sails. Good is
that, very good!
Just so. We can make two trips for their one. No one can trade
McLeod may buy steam ships.
I have learned all about him. His fortune is in real estate, mostly
in Edinburgh. It takes a lifetime to sell property in Edinburgh. We
shall have got all there is to get before McLeod could compete with
Vedder and Ragnor.
That scheme would please Boris, I know.
A boat could be built on the Clyde in about four months, I think.
Shall I speak to Boris?
Yes, Boris will not fly in the face of good fortune; but mind
thisit is easier to begin that reel than it will be to end it. One
thing I do not likethou wert angry with Boris, now thou wilt take him
for a partner.
At any time I can put my anger under my pursebut my anger was
mostly against thee. Now shall I do as I am minded?
That way is more likely than not! I think this affair will grow
with theebut thou may change thy mind
I do not call my words back. Go now to thy bed and forget
everything. This is the time when sleep will be better than either
words or deeds. Of my intent speak to no one. In thy thoughts
let it be still until its hour arrives.
In the morning, very early, I am going to see Thora. When the
enlisting ship sails northward, there will be a crowd to see her off.
Boris and Thora and Macrae will be among it. I also intend to be there.
Dost thou know at what hour she will leave?
At ten o'clock the tide is full.
Then at ten, she will sail.
Likely enough, is that. Our talk is now ended. Let it be, as if it
had not been.
I have forgotten it.
Vedder laughed, and added: Go then to thy bed, I am tired.
Not tired of Sunna?
Well then, yes, of thee I have had enough at present.
She went away as he spoke, and then he was worried. Now I am
unhappy! he ejaculated. What provokers to the wrong way are women!
Her mother was like hermy beloved Adriana! And his old eyes filled
with sorrowful tears as he recalled the daughter he had lost in the
first days of her motherhood. Very soon Sunna and Adriana became one
and he was fast asleep in his chair.
In the morning Sunna kept her intention. She poured out her
grandfather's coffee, and talked of everything but the thing in her
heart and purpose. After breakfast she said: I shall put the day past
with Thora Ragnor. Thy dinner will be served for thee by Elga.
Talking thou wilt be
Of nothing that ought to be kept quiet. Do not come for me if I am
late; I intend that Boris shall bring me home.
Sunna dressed herself in a pretty lilac lawn frock, trimmed with the
then new and fashionable Scotch open work, and fresh lilac ribbons. Her
hair was arranged as Boris liked it best, and it was shielded by one of
those fine, large Tuscan hats that have never, even yet, gone out of
Why, Sunna! cried Thora, as she hastened to meet her friend, how
glad am I to see thee!
Thou wert in my heart this morning, and I said to it 'Be content,
in an hour I will take thee to thy desire.' And they clasped hands,
and walked thus into the house. Art thou not tired after the dance?
No, replied Thora, I was very happy. Do happy people get tired?
Yesone can only bear so much happiness, then it is
wearinesssometimes crossness. Too much of any good thing is a bad
How wise thou art, Sunna.
I live with wisdom.
With Adam Vedder?
Yes, and thou hast been living with Love, with Mr. Macrae. Very
handsome and good-natured he is. I am sure that thou art in love with
him! Is that not the case?
Very much in love with me he is, Sunna. It is a great happiness. I
do not weary of it, no, indeed! To believe in love, to feel it all
around you! It is wonderful! You know, Sunnasurely you know?
Yes, I, too, have been in love.
With BorisI know. And also Boris is in love with thee.
That is wrong. No longer does Boris love me.
But that is impossible. Love for one hour is love forever. He did
love thee, then he could not forget. Never could he forget.
He did not notice me last night. Thou must have seen?
I did not noticebut I heard some talk about it. The first time
thou art alone with him, he will tell thee his trouble. It is only a
little cloudit will pass.
I suppose the enlisting ship sails northaway first?
Yes, to Lerwick, though they may stop at Fair Island on the way.
Boris says they could get many men thereand Boris knows.
Art thou going to the pier to see them leave? I suppose every one
goes. Shall we go together?
Why, Sunna! They left this morning about four o'clock. Father went
down to the pier with Boris. Boris sailed with them.
Thora! Thora! I thought Boris was to remain here until the naval
party returned from Shetland?
The lieutenant in command thought Boris could help the enlisting,
for in Lerwick Boris has many friends. Thou knows my sisters Anna and
Nenie live in Lerwick. Boris was fain to go and see them.
But they will return here when their business is finished in
They spoke of doing so, but mother is not believing they will
return. They took with them all the men enlisted here and the men are
wanted very much. Boris did not bid us a short 'good-bye.' Mother was
crying, and when he kissed me his tears wet my cheeks.
Sunna did not answer. For a few minutes she felt as if her heart had
suddenly died. At last she blundered out:
I suppose the officer was afraid thatBoris might slip off while
he was away.
Well, then, thou supposes what is wrong. When a fight is the
question, Boris needs no one either to watch him or to egg him on.
Is that youngster, Macrae, going to join? Or has he already taken
the Queen's shilling? I think I heard such a report.
No one could have told that story. Macrae is bound by a contract to
McLeod for this year and indeed, just yet, he does not wish to go.
He does not wish to leave thee.
That is not out of likelihood.
Many are saying that England is in great stress, and my grandfather
thinks that so she is.
My father says 'not so.' If indeed it were so, my father would have
gone with Boris. Mother is cross about it.
About what then is she cross? asked Sunna.
People are saying that England is in stress. Mother says such words
are nothing but men's 'fear talk.' England's sons are many, and if few
they were, she has millions of daughters who would gladly fight for
her! said Thora.
Well, then, for heroics there is no present need! I surely thought
Boris loved his business and would not leave his money-making.
Could thou tell me what incalculable sum of money a man would take
for his honour and patriotism? asked Thora.
What has honour to do with it?
Everything; a man without honour is not a manhe is just 'a body';
he has no soul. Robert Burns told Andrew Horner how such men were
made! replied Thora.
How was that? Tell me! A Burns' anecdote will put grandfather in
his finest temper, and I want him in that condition for I have a great
favour to ask from him.
The tale tells that when Burns was beginning to write, he had a
rival in a man called Andrew Horner. One day they met at the same club
dinner, and they were challenged to each write a verse within five
minutes. The gentlemen guests took out their watches, the poets were
furnished with pencils and paper. When time was up Andrew Horner had
not written the first line but Burns handed to the chairman his verse
Tell me. If you know it, tell me, Thora!
Yes, I know it. If you hear it once you do not forget it.
It runs thus:
'Once on a time
The Deil gat stuff to mak' a swine
And put it in a corner;
But afterward he changed his plan
And made it summat like a man,
And ca'ed it Andrew Horner.'
That is good! It will delight grandfather.
No doubt he already knows it.
No, I should have heard it a thousand times, if he knew it.
Well, then, I believe it has been suppressed. Many think it too
ill-natured for Burns to have written; but my father says it has the
true Burns ring and is Robert Burns' writing without doubt.
It will give grandfather a nice long job of investigation. That is
one of his favourite amusements, and all Sunna has to do is to be sure
he is right and everybody else wrong. Now I will go home.
Stay with me today.
No. Macrae will be here soon.
Uncertain is that.
Every hair on thy head, Thora, every article of thy dress, from the
lace at thy throat to the sandals on thy feet, say to me that this is a
time when my absence will be better than my company.
Well, then, do as thou art minded.
It is best I do so. A happy morning to thee! What more is in my
heart shall lie quiet at this time.
Sunna went away with the air of a happy, careless girl, but she said
many angry words to herself as she hasted on the homeward road. Most
of the tales tell how women are made to suffer by the men they
lovebut no tale shall be made about Sunna Vedder! No! No!
It is Boris Ragnor I shall turn into laughterhe has mocked my very
heartI will never forgive himthat is the foolish way all women
takeall but Sunna Veddershe will neither forgive nor forgetshe
will follow up this affairyes!
By such promises to herself she gradually regained her usual
reasonable poise, and with a smiling face sought her grandfather. She
found him in his own little room sitting at a table covered with
papers. He looked up as she entered and, in spite of his intention,
answered her smile and greeting with an equal plentitude of good will
and good temper.
But I thought then, that thou would stay with thy friend all day,
and for that reason I took out work not to be chattered over.
I will go away now. I came to thee because things have not gone as
I wanted them. Thy counsel at such ill times is the best that can
Then Vedder threw down his pencil and turned to her. Who has given
thee wrong or despite or put thee out of the way thou wanted to take?
It is Boris Ragnor. He has sailed north with the recruiting
companywithout a word to me he has gone. He has thrown my love back
in my face. Should thy grandchild forgive him? I am both Vedder and
Fae. How can I forgive?
Vedder took out his watch and looked at the time. We have an hour
before dinner. Sit down and I will talk to thee. First thou shalt tell
me the very truth anent thy quarrel with Boris. What did thou do, or
say, that has so far grieved him? Now, then, all of it. Then I can
judge if it be Boris or Sunna, that is wrong in this matter.
Listen then. Boris heard some men talking about methat made his
temper risethen he heard from these men that I was dancing at
McLeod's and he went there to see, and as it happened I was dancing
with McLeod when he entered the room, and he walked up to me in the
dance and said thou wanted me, and he made me come home with him and
scolded me all the time we were together. I asked him not to tell thee,
and he promised he would notif I went there no more. I have not
danced with McLeod since, except at Mrs. Brodie's. Thou saw me then.
Thou should not have entered McLeod's housewhat excuse hast thou
for that fault?
Many have talked of the fault, none but thou have asked me why or
how it came that I was so foolish. I will tell thee the very truth. I
went to spend the day with Nana Borkwith thy consent I wentand
towards afternoon there came an invitation from McLeod to Nana to join
an informal dance that night at eight o'clock. And Nana told me so many
pleasant things about these little dances I could not resist her talk
and I thought if I stayed with Nana all night thou would never know. I
have heard that I stole away out of thy house to go to McLeod's. I did
not! I went with Nana Bork whose guest I was.
Why did thou not tell me this before?
I knew no one in Kirkwall would dare to say to thee this or that
about thy grandchild, and I hoped thou would never know. I am sorry for
my disobedience; it has always hurt meif thou forgive it now, so much
happier I will be.
Then Adam drew her to his side and kissed her, and words would have
been of all things the most unnecessary. But he moved a chair close to
him, and she sat down in it and laid her hand upon his knee and he
clasped and covered it with his own.
Very unkindly Boris has treated thee.
He has mocked at my love before all Kirkwall. Well, then, it is
Thora Ragnor's complacency that affronts me most. If she would put her
boasting into words, I could answer her; but who can answer looks?
She is in the heaven of her first love. Thou should understand that
It is beyond my understanding; nor would I try to understand such a
lover as Ian Macrae. I believe that he is a hypocriteThora is so
I am not deceived. I see Boris just as he is, rude and jealous and
hateful, but I think him a far finer man than Ian Macrae ever has been,
or ever will be.
Yes! Thou art right. Now then, let this affair lie still in thy
heart. I think that he will come to see thee when the boats return from
Shetlandif not, then I shall have something to say in the matter. I
shall want my dinner very soon, and some other thing we will talk
about. Let it go until there is a word to say or a movement to make.
I will be ready for thee at twelve o'clock. With a feeling of
content in her heart, Sunna went away. Had she not the Burns story to
tell? Yet she felt quite capable of restraining the incident until she
got to a point where its relation would serve her purpose or her
CHAPTER VI. THE OLD, OLD TROUBLE
From reef and rock and skerry, over headland, ness and roe,
The coastwise lights of England watch the ships of England go.
... a girl with sudden ebullitions,
Flashes of fun, and little bursts of song;
Petulant, pains, and fleeting pale contritions,
Mute little moods of misery and wrong.
Only a girl of Nature's rarest making,
Wistful and sweetand with a heart for breaking.
The following two weeks were a time of anxiety concerning Boris. The
recruiting party with whom he had gone away had said positively they
must return with whatever luck they had in two weeks; and this interval
appeared to Sunna to be of interminable length. She spent a good deal
of the time with Thora affecting to console her for the loss of Ian
Macrae, who had left Kirkwall for Edinburgh a few days after the
departure of Boris.
We are 'a couple of maidens all forlorn,' she sang, and though
Thora disclaimed the situation, she could not prevent her companion
insisting on the fact.
Thora, however, did not feel that she had any reason for being
forlorn. Ian's love for her had been confessed, not only to herself,
but also to her father and mother, and the marriage agreed to with a
few reservations, whose wisdom the lovers fully acknowledged. She was
receiving the most ardent love letters by every mail and she had not
one doubt of her lover in any respect. Indeed, her happiness so
pervaded her whole person and conduct that Sunna felt it sometimes to
be both depressing and irritating.
Thora, however, was the sister of Boris, she could not quarrel with
her. She had great influence over Boris, and Sunna loved Borisloved
him in spite of her anger and of his neglect. Very slowly went the two
weeks the enlisting ships had fixed as the length of their absence, but
the news of their great success made their earlier return most likely,
and after the tenth day every one was watching for them and planning a
great patriotic reception.
Still the two weeks went slowly away and it was a full day past this
fixed time, and the ships were not in port nor even in sight, nor had
any late news come from them. In the one letter which Rahal had
received from her son he said: The enlistment has been very
satisfactory; our return may be even a day earlier than we expected.
So Sunna had begun to watch for the party three days before the set
time, and when it was two days after it she was very unhappy.
Why do they not come, Thora? she asked in a voice trembling with
fear. Do you think they have been wrecked?
Oh, no! Nothing of the kind! They may have sailed westward to
Harris. My father thinks so. But she appeared so little interested
that Sunna turned to Mistress Ragnor and asked her opinion.
Well, then, answered Rahal, they are staying longer than
was expected, but who can tell what men in a ship will do?
They will surely keep their word and promise.
Perhapsif it seem a good thing to them. Can thou not see? They
are masters on board ship. Once out of Lerwick Bay, the whole world is
before them. Know this, they might go East or West, and say to no man
'I ask thy leave.' As changeable as the sea is a sailor's promise.
But Boris is thy sonhe promised thee to be home in two weeks. Men
do not break a promise made on their mother's lips. How soon dost thou
At the harbour mouth he might be, even this very minute. I want to
see my boy. I love him. May the good God send those together who would
fain be loved!
Boris is in command of his own ship. He was under no man's orders.
He ought not to break his promise.
With my will, he would never do that.
Dost thou think he will go to the war with the other men?
That he might do. What woman is there who can read a man's heart?
She might, a little wayno furtherjust as well 'no further.'
Only God is wise enough, and patient enough, to read a human heart.
This is a great mercy. And Rahal lifted her face from her sewing a
moment and then dropped it again.
Almost in a whisper Sunna said Good-bye! and then went her way
home. She walked rapidly; she was in a passion of grief and
mortification, but she sang some lilting song along the highway. As
soon, however, as she passed inside the Vedder garden gates, the
singing was changed into a scornful, angry monologue:
These Ragnor women! Oh, their intolerable good sense! So easy it is
to talk sweetly and properly when you have no great trouble and all
your little troubles are well arranged! Women cannot comfort women. No,
they can not! They don't want to, if they could. Like women, I do not!
Trust them, I do not! I wish that God had made me a man! I will go to
my dear old grandad!He will do somethingso sorry I am that I let
Thora see I loved her brotherwhen I go there again, I shall consider
his name as the bringer-on of yawns and boredom!
An angry woman carries her heart in her mouth; but Sunna had been
trained by a wise old man, and no one knew better than Sunna Vedder
did, when to speak and when to be silent. She went first to her room in
order to repair those disturbances to her appearance which had been
induced by her inward heat and by her hurried walk home so near the
noontide; and half an hour later she came down to dinner fresh and cool
as a rose washed in the dew of the morning. Her frock of muslin was
white as snow, there was a bow of blue ribbon at her throat, her whole
appearance was delightfully satisfying. She opened her grandfather's
parlour and found him sitting at a table covered with papers and little
piles of gold and silver coin.
Suppose I was a thief, Grandfather? she said.
Well then, what would thou take first?
I would take a kiss! and she laid her face against his face, and
gave him one.
Now, thou could take all there is. What dost thou want?
I want thee! Dinner is ready.
I will come. In ten minutes, I will come and in less than ten
minutes he was at the dinner table, and apparently a quite different
man from the one Sunna had invited there. He had changed his coat, his
face was happy and careless, and he had quite forgotten the papers and
the little piles of silver and gold.
Sunna had said some things to Thora she was sorry for saying; she
did not intend to repeat this fault with her grandfather. Even the
subject of Boris could lie still until a convenient hour. She appeared,
indeed, to have thrown off her anger and her disappointment with the
unlucky clothing she had worn in her visit to Thora. She had even
assured herself of this change, for when it fell to her feet she lifted
it reluctantly between her finger and thumb and threw it aside,
remarking as she did so, I will have them all washed over again! Soda
and soap may make them more agreeable and more fortunate.
And perhaps if we take the trouble to notice the fact, clothing does
seem to have some sort of sympathy or antagonism with its wearers.
Also, it appears to take on the mood or feeling predominant, looking at
one time crisp and perfectly proper, at another time limp and careless,
as if the wearer informed the garment or the garment explained the
wearer. It is well known that Fashions are the external expression of
the mental states of a country, and that if its men and women
degenerate in their character, their fashions become absurd. Surely
then, a sympathy which can affect a nation has some influence upon the
individual. Sunna had noticed even in her childhood that her dresses
were lucky and unlucky, but the why or the wherefore of the
circumstance had never troubled her. She had also noticed that her
grandfather liked and disliked certain colours and modes, but she laid
all their differences to difference in age.
This day, however, they were in perfect accord. He looked at her and
nodded his head, and then smilingly asked: How did thou find thy
friend this morning?
So much in love that she had not one regret for Boris.
Well, then, there is no reason for regret. Boris has taken the path
That may be so, but for the time to come I shall put little trust
in him. Going such a dubious way, he might well have stopped for a God
Would thou have said that?
Why should we ask about things impossible? Dost thou know,
Grandfather, at what time the recruiting party passed Kirkwall?
Nobody knows. I heard music out at sea three nights ago, just after
midnight. There are no Shetland boats carrying music. It is more likely
than not to have been the recruiting party saluting us with music as
they went by.
Yes! I think thou art right. Grandfather, I want thee to tell me
what we are fighting about.
Many times thou hast said 'it made no matter to thee.'
Now then, it is different. Since Boris and so many of our men went
away, Mistress Ragnor and Thora talk of the war and of nothing but the
war. They know all about it. They wanted to tell me all about it. I
said thou had told me all that was proper for me to know, and now then,
thou must make my words true. What is England quarrelling about? It
seems to me, that somebody is always looking at her in a way she does
not think respectful enough.
This war is not England's fault. She has done all she could to
avoid it. It is the Great Bear of Russia who wants Turkey put out of
Well, then, I heard the Bishop say the Turks were a disgrace to
Europe, and that the Book of Common Prayer had once contained a
petition for delivery from the Devil, the Turks, and the comet, then
flaming in the sky and believed to be threatening destruction to the
Listen, and I will tell thee the truth. The Greek population of
Turkey, its Syrians and Armenians, are the oldest Christians in the
world. They are also the most numerous and important class of the
Sultan's subjects. Russia also has a large number of Russian Christians
in Turkey over whom she wants a protectorate, but these two influences
would be thorns in the side of Turkey. England has bought favour for
the Christians she protects, by immense loans of money and other
political advantages, but neither the Turk nor the English want
Russia's power inside of Turkey.
Turkey is in a bad way. A few weeks ago the Czar said to England,
'We have on our hands a sick man, a very sick man. I tell you frankly,
it will be a great misfortune if one of these days he should slip away
from us, especially if it were before all necessary arrangements were
made. The Czar wants Turkey out of his way. He wants Constantinople for
his own southern capital, he wants the Black Sea for a Russian lake,
and the Danube for a Russian river. He wants many other unreasonable
things, which England cannot listen to.
Well then, I think the Russian would be better than the Turk in
One thing is sure; in the hour that England joins Russia, Turkey
will slay every Christian in her territories. Dost thou think England
will inaugurate a huge massacre of Christians?
That is not thinkable. Is there nothing more?
Well then, there is India. The safety of our Indian Empire would be
endangered over the whole line between East and West if Russia was in
Constantinople. Turkey lies across Egypt, Syria, Asia Minor and
Armenia, and above all at Constantinople and the Straits. Dost thou
think England would ask Russia's permission every time she wished to go
No indeed! That, itself, is a good reason for fighting.
Yes, but the Englishman always wants a moral backbone for his
That is as it should be. The Armenian Christians supply that.
But, Sunna, try and imagine to thyself a great military despotic
Power seating itself at Constantinople, throwing its right hand over
Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt; and its left holding in an iron grip the
whole north of two continents; keeping the Dardanelles and the
Bosphorus closed whenever it was pleased to do so, and building fleets
in Egypt; and in Armenia, commanding the desirable road to India by the
Oh, that could not be suffered! Impossible! All the women in
Kirkwall would fight against such a condition.
Well, so matters stand, and we had been at sword points a year ago
but for Lord Aberdeen's cowardly, pernicious love of peace. But he is
always whining about 'war destroying wealth and commerce'as if wealth
and commerce were of greater worth than national honour and justice and
Yet, one thing is sure, Grandad; war is wasteful and
And one thing is truer stillit is thisthat national wealth
is created by peace for the very purpose of defending the nation in war. Bear this in mind. Now, it seems to me we have had enough of war. I
see Elga coming with a dish of good Scotch collops, and I give thee my
word that I will not spoil their savour by any unpleasant talk. Then
he poured a little fine Glenlivet into a good deal of water and said:
Here's first to the glory of God! and then to the honour of England!
And Sunna touched his glass with her glass and the little ceremony put
both in a very happy mood.
Then Sunna saw that the moment she had waited for had arrived and
she said: I will tell thee a good story of Robert Burns to flavour thy
collops. Will that be to thy wish?
It is beyond my wish. Thou can not tell me one I do not know.
I heard one today from Thora Ragnor that I never heard thee tell.
Then it cannot be fit for thee and Thora Ragnor to repeat.
Wilt thou hear it?
Is it about some girl he loved?
No, it is about a man he scorned. Thou must have heard of Andrew
Never heard the creature's name before.
Then the story will be fresh to thee. Will thou hear it now?
As well now, as later. For Adam really had no expectation of
hearing anything he had not already heard and judged; and he certainly
expected nothing unusual from the proper and commonplace Thora Ragnor.
But Sunna exerted all her facial skill and eloquence, and told the
clever incident with wonderful spirit and delightful mimicry. Adam was
enchanted; he threw down his knife and fork and made the room ring with
laughter and triumph so genuine that Sunnamuch against her willwas
compelled to laugh with him. They heard the happy thunder in the
kitchen, and wondered whatever was the matter with the Master.
It is Robert Burns, his own self, and no other man. It is the best
thing I have heard from 'the lad that was born in Kyle!' Vedder cried.
Ill-natured! Not a bit of it! Just what the Horner man deserved! Then
he took some more collops and a fresh taste of Glenlivet, and anon
broke into laughter again.
Oh! but I wish I was in Edinburgh tonight! There's men there I
would go to see and have my laugh out with them.
Grandfather, why should we not go to Edinburgh next winter? You
could board me with Mistress Brodie, and come every day to sort our
quarrels and see that I was properly treated. Then you could have your
crow over the ignoramuses who did not know such a patent Burns story;
and I could take lessons in music and singing, and be learning
something or seeing something, every hour of my life.
And what about Boris?
The very name of Boris tires my tongue! I can do without Boris.
Well, then, that is good! Thou art learning 'the grand habit of
Wilt thou take me to Edinburgh? My mother would like thee to do
that. I think I deserve it, Grandfather; yes, and so I ask thee.
If I was going, I should have no mind to go without thee. One thing
I wish to knowin what way hast thou deserved it?
I did not expect thee to ask me a question like that. Have I
fretted and pined, and forgot to eat and sleep, and gone dowdy and
slovenly, because my lover has been fool enough to desert me? Well,
then, that is what any other girl would have done. But because I am of
thy blood and stock, I take what comes to me as part of my day's work,
and make no more grumble on the matter than one does about bad weather.
Is that not the truth?
One thing is surethou art the finest all round girl in the
Then it seems to me thou should take me to Edinburgh. I want that
something, that polish, only great cities can give me.
Blessings on thee! All Edinburgh can give, thou shalt have! But it
is my advice to thee to remain here until Mrs. Brodie goes back, then
go thou with her.
That will be what it should be. Mrs. Brodie, I feel, will be my
She will never step past thee. Fear not!
Nor will any oneman or womanstep between thee and me! Doubt me
Well, then, have thy way. I give thee my word to take thee to
Edinburgh in the autumn. Thou shalt either stay with Mrs. Brodie or at
the Queen's Hotel on Prince's Street, with old Adam Vedder.
Best of all is thy last offer. I will stay with thee. I am used to
men's society. Women bore me.
Women bore me also.
Know this, there are three women who do not bore thee. Shall I
speak their names?
I will not hinder thee.
I love her. She cannot bore me.
I respect her. She does not bore meoften.
Yes, that is so; it is but seldom thou sees her. Well, then,
I once loved her. She can never be indifferent to me.
Thou hast told me the truth and I will not follow up this
For that favour, I am thy debtor. I might not always have been so
truthful. Now, then, be honest with me. What wilt thou do all the
summer, with no lover to wait on thy whims and fancies?
On thee I shall rely. Where thou goes, I will go, and if thou stay
at home, with thee I will stay. Thou can read to me. I have never heard
any of our great Sagas and that is a shame. I complain of that neglect
in my education! I heard Maximus Grant recite from 'The Banded Men and
Haakon the Good,' when I was in Edinburgh, and I said to myself, 'how
much finer is this, than opera songs, sung with a Scotch burr, in the
Italian; or than English songs, sung by Scotch people who pronounce
English after the Scotch fashion!' Then I made up my mind that this
coming winter I would let Edinburgh drawing-rooms hear the songs of
Norse warriors; the songs in which the armour rattles and the swords
That, indeed, will befit thee! Now, then, for the summer, keep
thyself well in hand. Say nothing of thy plans, for if but once the
wind catches them, they will soon be for every one to talk to death.
Adam was finishing his plate of rice pudding and cream when he gave
this advice; and with it, he moved his chair from the table and said:
Come into the garden. I want to smoke. Thou knows a good dinner
deserves a pipe, and a bad one demands it.
Then they went into the garden and talked of the flowers and the
young vegetables, and said not a word of Edinburgh and the Sagas that
the winds could catch and carry round to human folk for clash and
gossip. And when the pipe was out, Adam said: Now I am going into the
town. That Burns story is on my lips, my teeth cannot keep my tongue
behind them much longer.
A good time will be thine. I wish that I could go with thee.
What wilt thou do?
Braid my hair and dress myself. Then I shall take out thy Saga of
'The Banded Men' and study the men who were banded, and find them out,
in all their clever ways. Then I can show them to others. If I get
tired of themand I do get tired of men very quicklyI will put on my
bonnet and tippet, and go and carry Mrs. Brodie thy respectful
Take care, Sunna!
Good wishes! I can surely go so far.
Know thisevery step on that road may lead to dangerand thou
cannot turn back and tread them the other way. There now, be off! I
will talk with thee no longer.
Sunna said something about Burns in reply, but Vedder heard her not.
He was satisfying his vocal impatience by whistling softly and very
musically The Garb of Old Gaul, and Sunna watched and listened a
moment, and then in something of a hurry went to her room. A new
thought had come to herone which pleased her very much; and she
proceeded to dress herself accordingly.
None too good is my Easter gown, she said pleasantly to herself;
and I can take Eric a basket of the oranges grandfather brought home
today. A treat to the dear little lad they will be. Before me is a long
afternoon, and I shall find the proper moment to ask the advice of
Maximus about 'The Banded Men.' So with inward smiles she dressed
herself, and then took the highway in a direction not very often taken
It led her to a handsome mansion overlooking the Venice of the
Orcades, the village and the wonderful Bay of Kirkwall, into which
... by night and day,
The great sea water finds its way
Through long, long windings of the hills.
The house had a silent look, and its enclosure was strangely quiet,
though kept in exquisite order and beauty. As she approached, a lady
about fifty years old came to the top of the long, white steps to meet
her, appearing to be greatly pleased with her visit.
Only at dinner time Max was speaking of thee! And Eric said his
sweetheart had forgotten him, and wondering we all were, what had kept
thee so long away.
Well, then, thou knowest about the war and the enlistingeveryone,
in some way, has been touched by the changes made.
True is that! Quickly thou must come in, for Eric has both
second-sight and hearing, and no doubt he knows already that here thou
art and talking thus as she went, Mrs. Beaton led the way up a
wide, light stairway. Even as Mrs. Beaton was speaking a thin, eager
voice called Sunna's name, a door flew open, and a man, beautiful as a
dream-man, stood in the entrance to welcome them. And here the word
beautiful need not to be erased; it was the very word that sprang
naturally from the heart to the lips of every one when they met Maximus
Grant. No Greek sculptor ever dreamed of a more perfect form and face;
the latter illumined by noticeable grey eyes, contemplative and
mystical, a face, thoughtful and winning, and constantly breaking into
He took Sunna's hand, and they went quickly forward to a boy of
about eleven years old, whom Sunna kissed and petted. The little lad
was in a passion of delight. He called her his sweetheart! his wife!
his Queen! and made her take off her bonnet and cloak and sit down
beside him. He was half lying in a softly cushioned chair; there was a
large globe at his side, and an equally large atlas, with other books
on a small table near by, and Max's chair was close to the whole
arrangement. He was a fair, lovely boy, with the seraphic eyes that
sufferers from spinal diseases so frequently possesseyes with the
look in them of a Conqueror of Pain. But also, on his young face there
was the solemn Trophonean pallor which signs those who daily dare to
look at death in the cave.
Max and I have been to the Greek islands, he said, and Sunna, as
soon as I am grown up, and am quite well, I shall ask thee to marry me,
and then we will go to one of the loveliest of them and live there. Max
thinks that would be just right.
Thou little darling, answered Sunna, when thou art a man, if thou
ask me to marry thee, I shall say 'yes!'
Of course thou wilt. Sunna loves Eric?
I do, indeed, Eric! I think we should be very happy. We should
never quarrel or be cross with each other.
Oh! I would not like that! If we did not quarrel, there would be no
making-up. I remember papa and mamma making-up their little tiffs, and
they seemed to be very happy about itand to love each other ever so
much better for the tiff and the make-up. I think we must have little
quarrels, Sunna; and then, long, long, happy makings-up.
Very well, Eric; only, thou must make the quarrel. With thee I
could not quarrel.
I should begin it in this way: 'Sunna, I do not approve of thy
dancing withsayKen McLeod.' Then thou wilt say: 'I shall dance with
whom I like, Eric'; and I will reply: 'thou art my wife and I will not
allow thee to dance with McLeod'; and then thou wilt be naughty and
saucy and proud, and I shall have to be angry and masterful; and as
thou art going out of the room in a terrible temper, I shall say,
'Sunna!' in a sweet voice, and look at thee, and thou wilt look at me,
with those heavenly eyes, and then I shall open my arms and thou wilt
fly to my embrace, and the making-up will begin.
Well, then, that will be delightful, Eric, but thou must not accuse
me of anything so bad as dancing with Mr. McLeod.
Would that be bad to thee?
Very bad, indeed! I fear I would never try to have a 'make-up' with
any one who thought I would dance with him.
Dost thou dislike him?
That is neither here nor there. He is a Scot. I may marry like the
rest of the world, but while my life days last, Sunna Vedder will not
marry a Scot.
Yesbut there was some talk that way. My aunt heard it. My aunt
I will tell thee, talk that way was all lies. No one will Sunna
Vedder marry, that is not of her race. Then she put her arms round
Eric, and kissed his wan face, calling him her own little Norseman!
Tell me, Sunna, what is happening in the town? said he.
Well, then, not much now. Men are talking of the war, and going to
the war, and empty is the town. About the war, art thou sorry?
No, I am glad
How glorious the valiant, sword in hand,
In front of battle for their native land!
And he raised his small, thin hands, and his face glowed, and he
looked like a young St. Michael.
Then Max lifted the globe and books aside and put his chair close to
his brother's. Eric has the soul of a soldier, he said, and the
sound of drums and trumpets stirs him like the cry of fire.
And so it happens, Mr. Grant, that we have much noise lately from
the trumpets and the fife and drums.
Yes, man is a military animal, he loves parade, answered Max.
But in this war, there is much more than parade.
You are right, Miss Vedder. It was prompted by that gigantic
heart-throb with which, even across oceans, we feel each other's rights
and wrongs. And in this way we learn best that we are men and brothers.
Can a man do more for a wrong than give his life to right it?
Then Eric cried out with hysterical passion: I wish only that I
might have my way with Aberdeen! Oh, the skulking cowards who follow
him! Max! Max! If you would mount our father's big war horse and hold
me in front of you and ride into the thick of the battle, and let me
look on the cold light of the lifted swords! Oh, the shining swords!
They shake! They cry out! The lives of men are in them! Max! Max! I
want to dieon abattlefield!
And Max held the weeping boy in his arms, and bowed his head over
him and whispered words too tender and sacred to be written down.
For a while Eric was exhausted; he lay still watching his brother
and Sunna, and listening to their conversation. They were talking of
the excitement in London, and of the pressure of the clergy putting
down the reluctancies and falterings of the peace men.
Have you heard, Miss Vedder, said Grant, that one of the bishops
decided England's call to war by a wonderful sermon in St. Paul's?
I am sorry to be ignorant. Tell me.
He preached from Jeremiah, Fourth Chapter and Sixth Verse; and his
closing cry was from Nahum, Second Chapter and First Verse, 'Set up the
standard toward Zion. Stay not, for I will bring evil from the north
and a great destruction,' and he closed with Nahum's advice, 'He that
dasheth in pieces is come up before thy face, keep the munition, watch
the way, make thy loins strong, fortify thy power mightily.'
Well, then, how went the advice?
I know not exactly. It is hard to convince commerce and cowardice
that at certain times war is the highest of all duties. Neither of them
understand patriotism; and yet every trembling pacifist in time of war
is a misfortune to his country.
And the country will give themwhat? asked Sunna.
The cold, dead damnation of a disgrace they will never outlive,
There was a sharp cry from Eric at these words, and then a
passionate childish exclamationNot bad enough! Not bad enough! he
screamed. Oh, if I had a sword and a strong hand! I would cut them up
in slices! Then with an hysterical cry the boy fell backward.
In an instant Max had him in his arms and was whispering words of
promise and consolation, and just then, fortunately, Mrs. Beaton
entered with a servant who was carrying a service of tea and muffins.
It was a welcome diversion and both Max and Sunna were glad of it. Max
gently unloosed Eric's hand from Sunna's clasp and then they both
looked at the child. He had fallen into a sleep of exhaustion and Max
said, It is well. When he is worn out with feeling, such sleeps alone
save his life. I am weary, also. Let us have a cup of tea. So they sat
down and talked of everything but the warHe would hear us in his
sleep, said Max, and he has borne all he is able to bear today. Then
Right glad am I to put a stop to such a trouble-raising subject.
War is a thing by itself, and all that touches it makes people bereft
of their senses or some other good thing. Here has come news of Thora
Ragnor's hurried marriage, but no one knows or cares about the strange
things happening at our doorstep. Such haste is not good I fear.
Does Ragnor approve of it? asked Mrs. Beaton.
Thora's marriage is all right. They fell in love with each other
the moment they met. No other marriage is possible for either. It is
this, or none at all, answered Sunna.
I heard the man was the son of a great Edinburgh preacher.
Yes, the Rev. Dr. Macrae, of St. Mark's.
That is what I heard. He is a good man, but a very hard one.
If he is hard, he is not good.
Thou must not say that, little Miss; it may be the Episcopalian
belief, but we Calvinists have a stronger faitha faith fit for men
and soldiers of the Lord.
There! Mrs. Beaton, you are naming soldiers. That is against our
agreement to drop war talk. About Macrae I know nothing. He is not
aware that anyone but Thora Ragnor lives; and I was not in the least
attracted by himhis black hair and black eyes repelled meI dislike
Will they live in Edinburgh?
I believe they will live in Kirkwall. Mrs. Ragnor owns a pretty
house, which she will give them. She is going to put it in order and
furnish it from the roof to the foundation. Thora is busy about her
naperythe finest of Irish linen and damask. Now then, I must hurry
home. My grandfather will be waiting his tea.
Max rose with her. He looked at his little brother and said: Aunt,
he will sleep now for a few hours, will you watch him till I return?
Will I not? You know he is as safe with me as yourself, Max.
So with an acknowledging smile of content, he took Sunna's hand and
led her slowly down the stairway. There was a box running all across
the sill of the long window, lighting the stairs, and it was full and
running over with the delicious muck plant. Sunna laid her face upon
its leaves for a moment, and the whole place was thrilled with its
heavenly perfume. Then she smiled at Max and his heart trembled with
joy; yet he said a little abruptlyLet us make haste. The night grows
Their way took them through the village, and Sunna knew that she
would, in all likelihood, be the first woman ever seen in Maximus
Grant's company. The circumstance was pleasant to her, and she carried
herself with an air and manner that she readily caught and copied from
him. She knew that there was a face at every window, but she did not
turn her head one way or the other. Max was talking to her about the
Sagas and she had a personal interest in the Sagas, and any ambition
she had to be socially popular was as yet quite undeveloped.
At the point where the Vedder and Ragnor roads crossed each other,
two men were standing, talking. They were Ragnor and Vedder, and Ragnor
was at once aware of the identity of the couple approaching; but Vedder
appeared so unaware, that Ragnor remarked: I see Sunna, Vedder, coming
up the road, and with her is Colonel Max Grant.
But why 'Colonel,' Ragnor?
When General Grant died his son was a colonel in the Life Guards.
He left the army to care for his brother. I heard that the Queen
praised him for doing so.
Then the couple were so close, that it was impossible to affect
ignorance of their presence any longer; and the old men turned and
saluted the young couple. I thank thee, Colonel, said Vedder, as he
changed hats with the Colonel, but now I can relieve thee of the
charge thou hast taken. I am going home and Sunna will go with me; but
if thou could call on an old man about some business, there is a matter
I would like to arrange with thee.
I could go home with you now, Vedder, if that would be suitable.
Nay, it would be too much for me tonight. It is concerning that
waste land on the Stromness road, near the little bridge. I would like
to build a factory there.
That would be to my pleasure and advantage. I will call on you and
talk over the matter, at any time you desire.
Well and good! Say tomorrow at two o'clock.
Three o'clock would be better for me.
So, let it be. Then he took Sunna's hand and she understood that
her walk with Grant was over. She thanked Max for his courtesy, sent a
message to Eric, and then said her good night with a look into his eyes
which dirled in his heart for hours afterwards. Some compliments passed
between the men and then she found herself walking home with her
Thou ought not to have seen me, Grandfather, she said a little
crossly, I was having such a lovely walk.
I did not want to see thee, and have I not arranged for thee
something a great deal better on tomorrow's afternoon?
One never knows
Listen; he is to come at three o'clock, it will be thy fault if he
leaves at four. Thou can make tea for himthou can walk in the
greenhouse and the garden with him, thou can sing for himno, let him
sing for theethou can ask him to help thee with 'The Banded Men'and
if he goes away before eight o'clock I will say to thee'take the
first man that asks thee for thou hast no woman-witchery with which to
pick and choose!' Grant is a fine man. If thou can win him, thou wins
something worth while. He has always held himself apart. His father was
much like him. All of them soldiers and proud as men are made, these
confounded, democratic days.
And what of Boris? asked Sunna.
May Boris rest wherever he is! Thou could not compare Boris with
That is the truth. In many ways they are not comparable. Boris is a
rough, passionate man. Grant is a gentleman. Always I thought there was
something common in me; that must be the reason why I prefer Boris.
To vex me, thou art saying such untruthful words. I know thy
contradictions! Go now and inquire after my tea. I am in want of it.
During tea, nothing further was said of Maximus Grant; but Sunna was
in a very merry mood, and Adam watched her, and listened to her in a
philosophical way;that is, he tried to make out amid all her
persiflage and bantering talk what was her ruling motive and intenta
thing no one could have been sure of, unless they had heard her talking
to herselfthat mysterious confidence in which we all indulge, and in
which we all tell ourselves the truth. Sunna was undressing her hair
and folding away her clothing as she visited this confessional, but her
revelations were certainly honest, even if fragmentary, and full of
doubt and uncertainty.
Grant, indeed! she exclaimed, I am not ready for GrantI believe
I am afraid of the manhe would make me overmake me like himselfin
a month he would do itI like Boris best! I should quarrel with Boris,
of course, and we should say words neither polite nor kind to each
other; but then Boris would do as that blessed child said, 'Look at
me'; and I should look at him, and the making-up would begin. Heigh-ho!
I wish it could begin tonight! She was silent then for a few minutes,
and in a sadder voice addedwith Max I should become an angeland I
should have a life without a rippleI would hate it, just as I hate
the sea when it lies like a mirror under the sunshinethen I always
want to scream out for a great north wind and the sea in a passion,
shattering everything in its way. If I got into that mood with Max, we
should have a most unpleasant time and she laughed and tossed her
pillows about, and then having found a comfortable niche in one of
them, she tucked her handsome head into it and in a few moments the
sleep of youth and perfect health lulled her into a secret garden in
the Land of Dreams.
The next day Sunna appeared to be quite oblivious regarding Grant's
visit and Vedder was too well acquainted with his granddaughter to
speak of it. He only noticed that she was dressed with a peculiar
simplicity and neatness. At three o'clock Grant was promptly at the
Vedder House, and at half-past four the land in question had been
visited and subsequently bought and sold. Then the cup of tea came in,
and the walk in the garden followed, and at six there was an ample
meal, and during the singing that followed it, Vedder fell fast asleep,
as was his custom, and when he awoke Grant was just going and the clock
was striking ten. Vedder looked at Sunna and there was no need for him
It was 'The Banded Men,' said Sunna with a straight look at her
Well, then, I know a woman who is a match for any number of 'banded
And in all likelihood that woman will be a Vedder. Good night,
CHAPTER VII. THE CALL OF WAR
I came not to send peace but a sword.
Matt. x, 34.
For when I note how noble Nature's form
Under the war's red pain, I deem it true
That He who made the earthquake and the storm,
Perchance made battles too.
The summer passed rapidly away for it was full of new interests.
Thora's wedding was to take place about Christmas or New Year, and
there were no ready-made garments in those days; so all of her girl
friends were eager to help her needle. Sunna spent half the day with
her and all their small frets and jealousies were forgotten. Early in
the morning the work was lifted, and all day long it went happily on,
to their light-hearted hopes and dreams. Then in June and September Ian
came to Kirkwall to settle his account with McLeod, and at the same
time, he remained a week as the Ragnors' guest. There was also Sunna's
intended visit to Edinburgh to talk about, and there was never a day in
which the war and its preparations did not make itself prominent.
One of the pleasantest episodes of this period occurred early and
related to Sunna. One morning she received a small box from London, and
she was so amazed at the circumstance, that she kept examining the
address and wondering who could have sent it, instead of opening the
box. However, when this necessity had been observed, it revealed to her
a square leather case, almost like those used for jewelry, and her
heart leaped high with expectation. It was something, however, that
pleased her much more than jewelry; it was a likeness of Boris, a
daguerreotypethe first that had ever reached Kirkwall. A narrow scrap
of paper was within the clasp, on which Boris had written, I am all
thine! Forget me not!
Sunna usually made a pretense of despising anything sentimental but
this example filled her heart with joy and satisfaction. And after it,
she took far greater pleasure in all the circumstances relating to
Thora's marriage; for she had gained a personal interest in them. Even
the details of the ceremony were now discussed and arranged in accord
with Sunna's taste and suggestions.
The altar and nave must be decorated with flags and evergreens and
all the late flowers we can secure, she said.
There will not be many flowers, I fear, answered Mistress Ragnor.
The Grants have a large greenhouse. I shall ask them to save all
they possibly can. Maximus Grant delights in doing a kindness.
Then thou must ask him, Sunna. He is thy friendperhaps thy lover.
So the talk goes.
Let them talk! My lover is far away. God save him!
Where all good and fit men are goneto the trenches. For my lover
is much of a man, strong and brave-hearted. He adores his country, his
home, and his kindred. He counts honour far above money; and liberty,
more than life. My lover will earn the right to marry the girl he
loves, and become the father of free men and women! And Rahal answered
proudly and tenderly:
Thou art surely meaning my son Boris.
Indeed, thou art near to the truth.
Then Rahal put her arm round Sunna and kissed her. Thou hast made
me happy, she said, and Sunna made her still more happy, when she took
out of the little bag fastened to her belt the daguerreotype and showed
her the strong, handsome face of her soldier-sailor boy.
During all this summer Sunna was busy and regular. She was at the
Ragnors' every day until the noon hour. Then she ate dinner with her
grandfather, who was as eager to discuss the news and gossip Sunna had
heard, as any old woman in Kirkwall. He said: Pooh! Pooh! and
Nonsense! but he listened to it, and it often served his purpose
better than words of weight and wisdom.
In the afternoons Mistress Brodie was to visit, and the winter in
Edinburgh to talk over. Coming home in time to take tea with her
grandfather, she devoted the first hour after the meal to practising
her best songs, and these lullabyed the old man to a sleep which often
lasted until The Banded Men were attended to. It might then be ten
o'clock and she was ready to sleep.
All through these long summer days, Thora was the natural source of
interest and the inciting element of all the work and chatter that
turned the Ragnor house upside down and inside out; but Thora was
naturally shy and quiet, and Sunna naturally expressive and presuming;
and it was difficult for their companions to keep Thora and Sunna in
their proper places. Every one found it difficult. Only when Ian was
present, did Sunna take her proper secondary place and Ian, though the
most faithful and attentive of lovers by mail, had only been able to
pay Thora one personal visit. This visit had occurred at the end of
June and he was expected again at the end of September. The year was
now approaching that time and the Ragnor household was in a state of
It was an unusual condition and Sunna said irritably: They go on
about this stranger as if he were the son of Jupiterand poor Boris!
They never mention him, though there has been a big battle and Boris
may have been in it. If Boris were killed, it is easy to see that this
Ian Macrae would step into his place!
Nothing of that kind could happen! In thy own heart keep such
foolish thoughts, replied Vedder.
So the last days of September were restless and not very happy, for
there was a great storm prevailing, and the winds roared and the rain
fell in torrents and the sea looked as if it had gone mad. Before the
storm there was a report of a big battle, but no details of it had
reached them. For the Pentland Firth had been in its worst equinoctial
temper and the proviso added to all Orkney sailing notices, weather
permitting, had been in full force for nearly a week.
But at length the storm was over and everyone was on the lookout for
the delayed shipping. Thora was pale with intense excitement but all
things were in beautiful readiness for the expected guest. And Ian did
not disappoint the happy hopes which called him. He was on the first
ship that arrived and it was Conall Ragnor's hand he clasped as his
feet touched the dry land.
Such a home-coming as awaited himthe cheerful room, the
bountifully spread table, the warm welcome, the beauty and love,
mingling with that sense of peace and rest and warm affection which
completely satisfies the heart. Would such a blissful hour ever come
again to him in this life?
His pockets were full of newspapers, and they were all shouting over
the glorious opening of the war. The battle of Alma had been fought and
won; and the troops were ready and waiting for Inkerman. England's
usual calm placidity had vanished in exultant rejoicing. An English
gentleman told me, said Ian, that you could not escape the chimes of
joyful bells in any part of the ringing island.'
Vedder had just entered the room and he stood still to listen to
these words. Then he said: Men differ. For the first victory let all
the bells of England ring if they want to. We Norsemen like to keep our
bell-ringing until the fight is over and they can chime Peace.
And how do you suppose, Ian Macrae, that the English and French will
like to fight together?
Well enough, sir, no doubt. Why not?
Of Waterloo I was thinking. Have the French forgotten it? Ian, it
is the very first time in all the history we have, that Frenchmen ever
fought with Englishmen in a common cause. Natural enemies they have
been for centuries, fighting each other with a very good will whenever
they got a chance. Have they suddenly become friends? Have they forgot
Waterloo? and he shook his wise old head doubtfully.
Who can tell, sir, but when the English conquer any nation, they
feel kindly to them and usually give them many favours?
Well, then, every one knows that the same is both her pleasure and
her folly; and dearly she pays for it.
Ian, said Mistress Ragnor, are the English ships now in the Black
Sea? And if so, do you think Boris is with them?
About Boris, I do not know. He told me he was carrying 'material of
war.' The gentleman of whom I spoke went down to Spithead to see them
off. Her Majesty, in the royal yacht, Fairy, suddenly appeared.
Then the flagship hauled home every rope by the silent 'all-at-once'
action of one hundred men. Immediately the rigging of the ships was
black with sailors, but there was not a sound heard except an
occasional commandsharp, short and imperativeor the shrill order of
the boatswain's whistle. The next moment, the Queen's yacht shot past
the fleet and literally led it out to sea. Near the Nab, the royal
yacht hove to and the whole fleet sailed past her, carried swiftly out
by a fine westerly breeze. Her Majesty waved her handkerchief as they
passed and it is said she wept. If she had not wept she would have been
less than a woman and a queen.
While Vedder and Ragnor were discussing this incident, and comparing
it with Cleopatra at the head of her fleet and Boadicea at the head of
her British army and Queen Elizabeth at Tewksbury reviewing her army,
Mrs. Ragnor and Thora left the room. Ian quickly followed. There was a
bright fire in the parlour, and the piano was open. Ian naturally
drifted there and then Thora's voice was wanted in the song. When it
was finished, Mrs. Ragnor had been called out and they were alone. And
though Mrs. Ragnor came back at intervals, they were practically alone
during the rest of the evening.
What do lovers talk about when they are alone? Ah! their
conversation is not to be written down. How unwritable it is! How wise
it is! How foolish when written down! How supremely satisfying to the
lovers themselves! Surely it is only the baby-talk of the wisdom not
yet comprehensible to human hearts! We often say of certain events; I
have no words to describe what I feltand who will find out or invent
the heavenly syllables that can adequately describe the divine passion
of two souls, that suddenly find their real matefind the soul that
halves their soul, created for them, created with them, often lost or
missed through diverse reincarnations; but sooner or later found again
and known as soon as found to both. No wooing is necessary in such a
casethey meet, they look, they love, and naturally and immediately
take up their old, but unforgotten love patois. They do not need to
learn its sweet, broken syllables, its hand clasps and sighs, its
glances and kisses; they are more natural to them than was the
grammared language they learned through years of painful study.
Ian and Thora hardly knew how the week went. Every one respected
their position and left them very much to their own inclinations. It
led them to long, solitary walks, and to the little green skiff on the
moonlit bay, and to short visits to Sunna, in order, mainly, that they
might afterwards tell each other how far sweeter and happier they were
They never tired of each other, and every day they recounted the
number of days that had to pass ere Ian could call himself free from
the McLeod contract. They were to marry immediately and Ian would go
into Ragnor's business as bookkeeper. Their future home was growing
more beautiful every day. It was going to be the prettiest little home
on the island. There was a good garden attached to it and a small
greenhouse to save the potted plants in the winter. Ragnor had ordered
its furniture from a famous maker in Aberdeen, and Rahal was attending
with love and skill to all those incidentals of modern housekeeping,
usually included in such words as silver, china, napery, ornaments, and
kitchen-utensils. They were much interested in it and went every fine
day to observe its progress. Yet their interest in the house was far
inferior to their interest in each other, and Sunna may well be excused
for saying to her grandfather:
They are the most conceited couple in the world! In fact, the world
belongs to them and all the men and women in itthe sun and the moon
are made new for them, and they have the only bit of wisdom going. I
hope I may be able to say 'yes' to all they claim until Saturday
These are the ways of love, Sunna.
Then I shall not walk in them.
Thou wilt walk in the way appointed thee.
Pure Calvinism is that, Grandfather.
So be it. I am a Calvinist about birth, death and marriage. They
are the events in life about which God interferes. His will and design
is generally evident.
And quite as evident, Grandfather, is the fact that a great many
people interfere with His will and design.
Yes, Sunna, because our will is free. Yet if our will crosses God's
will, crucifixion of some kind is sure to follow.
Well, then, today is Friday. The week has got itself over nearly;
and tomorrow will be partly free, for Ian goes to Edinburgh at ten
o'clock. Very proper is that! Such an admirable young man ought only to
live in a capitol city.
If these are thy opinions, keep them to thyself. Very popular is
the young man.
Grandfather, dost thou think that I am walking in ankle-tights yet?
I can talk as the crowd talks, and I can talk to a sensible man like
thee. Tomorrow brings release. I am glad, for Thora has forgotten me. I
feel that very much.
Thou art jealous.
Vedder's assertion was near the truth, for undeniably Ian and Thora
had been careless of any one but themselves. Yet their love was so
vital and primitive, so unaffected and sincere, that it touched the
sympathies of all. In this cold, far-northern island, it had all the
glow and warmth of some rose-crowned garden of a tropical paradise. But
such special days are like days set apart; they do not fit into
ordinary life and cannot be continued long under any circumstances. So
the last day came and Thora said:
Mother, dear, it is a day in a thousand for beauty, and we are
going to get Aunt Brodie's carriage to ride over to Stromness and see
the queer, old town, and the Stones of Stenness.
Go not near them. If you go into the cathedral you go expecting
some good to come to you; for angels may be resting in its holy aisles,
ready and glad to bless you. What will you ask of the ghosts among the
Stones of Stenness? Is there any favour you would take from the Baal
and Moloch worshipped with fire and blood among them?
Why, Mother, said Thora, I have known many girls who went with
their lovers to Stenness purposely to join their hands through the hole
in Woden's Stone and thus take oath to love each other forever.
Thou and Ian will take that oath in the holy church of St. Magnus.
That is what we wish, Mother, said Ian. We wish nothing less than
Well, then, go and see the queer, old, old town, and go to the
Mason's Arms, and you will get there a good dinner. After it ride
slowly back. Father will be home before six and must have his meal at
That is the thing we shall do, Mother. Ian thought it would be so
romantic to take a lunch with us and eat it among the Stones of
Stenness. But the Mason's Arms will be better. The Masons are good men,
In all their generations, good men. Thy father is a Mason in high
Yes, that is so! Then the Mason's Arms may be lucky to us?
We make things lucky or unlucky by our willing and doing; but even
so, it is not lucky to defy or deny what the dead have once held to be
good or bad.
Well, then, why, Mother?
Not now, will we talk of whys and wherefores. It is easier to
believe than to think. Take, in this last day of Love's seven days, the
full joy of your lives and ask not why of anyone.
So the lovers went off gaily to see the land-locked bay and the
strange old town of Stromness; and the house was silent and lonely
without them and Rahal wished that her husband would come home and talk
with her, for her soul was under a cloud of presentiments and she said
to herself after a morning of fretful, inefficient work: Oh, how much
easier it is to love God than it is to trust Him. Are not my dear ones
in His care? Yet about them I am constantly worrying; though perfectly
well I know that in any deluge that may come, God will find an ark for
those who love and trust Him. Boris knowsBoris knowsI have told
About three o'clock she went to the window and looked towards the
town. Much to her astonishment she saw her husband coming home at a
speed far beyond his ordinary walk. He appeared also to be disturbed,
even angry, and she watched him anxiously until he reached the house.
Then she was at the open door and his face frightened her.
Conall! My dear one! Art thou ill? she asked.
I am ill with anger and pity and shame!
What is thy meaning? Speak to me plainly.
Oh, Rahal! the shame and the cruelty of it! I am beside myself!
Come to my room, then thou shalt tell thy sorrow and I will halve
it with thee.
No! I want to cry out! I want to shout the shameful wrong from the
house-tops! Indeed, it is flying all over England and Scotlandover
all the civilized world! And yetmy God! the guilty ones are still
Coll, my dear one, what is it thou most needscold water?
No! No! Get me a pot of hot tea.[*] My brain burns. My heart is
like to break! Our poor brave soldiers! They are dying of hunger and of
every form of shameful neglect. The barest necessities of life are
[*] The Norsemen of Shetland and Orkney drank tea in every kind of
need or crisis. No meal without it, no pleasure without it;
it was equally indispensable in every kind of trouble or
By whom? By whom, Coll?
Pacifists in power and office everywhere! Give me a drink! Give me
a drink! I am illget me teaand I will tell thee.
There was boiling water on the kitchen hob, and the tea was ready in
five minutes. Drink, dear Coll, said Rahal, and then share thy
trouble and anger with me. The mail packet brought the bad news, I
Yes, about an hour ago. The town is in a tumult. Men are cursing
and women are doing nothing less. Some whose sons are at the front are
in a distraction. If Aberdeen were within our reach we would give him
five minutes to say his prayers and then send him to the judgment of
God. Englishmen and Norsemen will not lie down and rot under Russian
tyranny. To die fighting against it sends them joyfully to the
battlefield! But oh, Rahal! to be left alone to die on the battlefield,
without help, without care, without even a drink of cold water! It is
damnable cruelty! What I say is this: let England stop her bell-ringing
and shouts of victory until she has comforted and helped her wounded
and dying soldiers!
And Aberdeen? He is a Scotch noblemanthe Scotch are not
cowardswhat has he done, Coll?
Because he hates fighting for our rights, he persuades all whom his
power and patronage can reach to lie down or he says they will be
knocked down. So it may be, but every man that has a particle of the
Divine in him would rather be knocked down than lie downif down it
had to bebut there is no question of down in it! Aberdeen! He is
'England's worst enemy'and he holds the power given him by England to
rule and ruin England! I wish he would die and go to judgment this
night! I do! I do! and my soul says to me, 'Thou art right.'
Coll, no man knoweth the will of the Almighty.
Then they ought to! The question has now been up to England for a
two-years' discussion, and they have only to open His Word and find it
out; then he straightened himself and in a mighty burst of joyful
pride and enthusiasm cried out:
'Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth my hands to war,
and my fingers to fight.
'My goodness, and my fortress, my high tower, and my deliverer, my
shield, and He in whom I trust, who subdueth the people under me.'
Anon he began to pace the floor as he continued: 'Rid us and
deliver us, from the hands of strange childrenwhose mouth speaketh
vanity, and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.' Rahal,
could there be a better description of Russia'her right hand of
falsehood, her mouth speaking vanity?' David put the very words needed
in our mouths when he taught us to say, 'rid us of such an enemy, and
of all who strike hands with him!' Yes, rid us. We want to be rid of
all such dead souls! Rid us.
Then Rahal reminded her husband that only recently his physician had
warned him against all excitement, especially of anger, and so finally
induced him to take a sedative and go to sleep. But sleep was far from
her. She sat down in her own room and closed her eyes against all
worldly sights and sounds. Her soul was trying to reach her son's soul
and impress upon it her own trust in the love and mercy of the God of
battles. She had hoped that some word or thought of Boris would come
back to her in such a personal manner that she would feel that he was
thinking of her and of the many sweet spiritual confidences they had
But nothing came, no sign, no word, no sudden, flashing memory of
some special promise. All was void and still until she heard the voices
of Thora and Ian. Then she went down to them and found that the evil
news had met them on their way home. She asked Ian if he had any
knowledge of the whereabouts of Boris. Ian thought he might be at sea,
as his ship was at Spithead among the carrying ships of the navy. If
he had been in Alma's fight, you might have heard from him, he added.
It would be his first battle and he would want to write to you about
it. That would be only natural.
Well, then, I will look for good news. If bad news is coming, I
will not pay it the compliment of going to meet it. Have you had a
pleasant day? Where first did you go?
To the land-locked Bay of Stromness which was full of ships of all
sizes, of schooners, and of little skiffs painted a light green colour
like the pleasure skiffs of Kirkwall.
And the town?
Was very busy while we were there. It has but one long street, with
steep branches running directly up the big granite hill which shelters
it from the Atlantic. What I noticed particularly was, that the houses
on the main street all had their gables seaward; and are so built that
the people can step from their doors into their boats. I liked that
arrangement. Stromness is really an Orcadean Venice. The town is a
queer old place, with a non-English and non-Scotch look. The houses
have an old-world appearance and the names over the doorways carry you
back to Norseland. Only one street is flagged and little bays run up
into the street through its whole length. But the place appeared to be
very busy and happy. I noticed few Scotch there, the people seemed to
be purely Norse. All were busymen, women and children.
It used to be the last port for the Hudson Bay Company, said
Rahal, and the big whaling fleets, and in days of war and convoys
there were hundreds of big ships in its wonderful harbour. I suppose
that you had no time to visit any of the ancient monuments there?
No; Thora told me her grandmother Ragnor was buried in its cemetery
and that her grave was near the church door and had a white pillar at
the head of it. So we walked there.
I cannot describe to you the savage, lonely grandeur of its
situation. It frightened me.
The men and women who chose it were not afraid of it.
Thora says its memory frightened her for years.
Thora was only eight years old when her father placed the pillar at
the head of his mother's grave. It was then she saw itbut at eight
years many people are often more sensitive than at eighty. Yes, indeed!
They may see, then, what eyes dimmed by earthly vision cannot see, and
feel what hearts hardened by earth's experiences cannot feel. Thora's
spiritual sight was very keen in childhood and is not dimmed yet.
At these words Thora entered the room, wearing the little frock of
white barége she had saved for this last day of Ian's visit. Her face
had been bathed, her hair brushed and loosened but yet dressed with the
easiest simplicity. She was in trouble but she knew when to speak of
trouble, and when to be silent. Her mother was talking of Stromness;
when her father came, he would know all, and say all. So she went
softly about the room, putting on the dinner table those last final
accessories that it was her duty to supply.
Yet the conversation was careless and indifferent. Rahal talked of
Stromness but her heart was far away from Stromness, and Thora would
have liked to tell her mother how beautifully their future home had
been papered, and all three were eager to discuss the news that had
come. But all knew well that it would be better not to open the
discussion till Ragnor was present to inform and direct their ignorance
On the stroke of six, Ragnor entered. He had slept and washed and
was apparently calm, but in some way his face had altered, for his
heart had mastered his brain and its usual expression of intellectual
strength was exchanged for one of intense feeling. His eyes shone and
he had the look of a man who had just come from the presence of God.
We are waiting for you, dear Coll, said Rahal; and he answered
softly: Well, then, I am here. For a moment his eyes rested on the
table which Rahal had set with extra care and with the delicacies Ian
liked best. Was it not the last dinner he would eat with them for three
months? She thought it only kind to give it a little distinction. But
this elaboration of the usual home blessings did not produce the
expected results. Every one was anxious, the atmosphere of the room was
tense and was not relieved until Ragnor had said a grace full of
meaning and had sat down and asked Ian if he had heard the news
brought by that day's packet?
Very brokenly, Father, was the answer. Two men, whom we met on
the Stromness road, told us that it was 'bad with the army,' but they
were excited and in a great hurry and would not stand to answer our
No wonder! No wonder!
Whatever is the matter, Father?
I cannot tell you. The words stumble in my throat, and my heart
burns and bleeds. Here is the London Times! Read aloud from it
what William Howard Russell has witnessedI cannot read the wordsI
would be using my own wordslisten, Rahal! Listen, Thora! and oh, may
God enter into judgment at once with the men responsible for the misery
that Russell tells us of.
At this point, Adam Vedder entered the room. He was in a passion
that was relieving itself by a torrent of low voiced cursescurses
only just audible but intensely thrilling in their half-whispered tones
of passion. In the hall he had taken off his hat but on entering the
room he found it too warm for his top-coat, and he began to remove it,
muttering to himself while so doing. There was an effort to hear what
he was saying but very quickly Ragnor stopped the monologue by calling:
Adam! Thee! Thou art the one wanted. Ian is just going to read what
the London Times says of this dreadful mismanagement.
'Mismanagement!' Is that what thou calls the crime? Go on, Ian!
More light on this subject is wanted here.
So Ian stood up and read from the Times' correspondent's
letter the following sentences:
The skies are black as ink, the wind is howling over the
staggering tents, the water is sometimes a foot deep, our men
neither warm nor waterproof clothing and we are twelve hours at a
time in the trenchesand not a soul seems to care for their
comfort or even their lives; the most wretched beggar who wanders
about the streets of London in the rain leads the life of a
compared with the British soldiers now fighting out here for
... The commonest accessories of a hospital are wanting; there
is not the least attention paid to decency or cleanliness, the
stench is appalling, the fetid air can barely struggle out
chinks in the walls and roofs, and for all I can observe the men
die without the least effort being made to save them. They lie
just as they were let down on the ground by the poor fellows,
their comrades, who brought them on their backs from the camp
the greatest tenderness but who are not allowed to remain with
them. The sick appear to be tended by the sick, and the dying by
the dying. There are no nursesand men are literally dying
hourly, because the medical staff of the British army has
forgotten that old rags of linen are necessary for the dressing
My God! cried Ian, as he let the paper fall from the hands he
clasped passionately together, My God! How can Thou permit this?
Well, then, young man, said Adam, thou must remember that God
permits what He does not will. And Conall, he continued, millions
have been voted and spent for war and hospital materials, where are the
The captain of the packet told me no one could get their hands on
them. Some are in the holds of vessels and other things so piled on the
top of them that they cannot be got at till the hold is regularly
emptied. Some are stored in warehouses which no one has authority to
opensome are actually rotting on the open wharves, because the
precise order to remove them to the hospital cannot be found. The
surgeons have no bandages, the doctors no medicine, and as I said there
are no nurses but a few rough military orderlies. The situation
paralyses those who see it!
Paralyses! Pure nonsense! cried Vedder, whose face was wet with
passionate tears, though he did not know it. Paralyses! No, no! It
must make them work miracles. I am going to Edinburgh tomorrow. I am
going to buy all the luxuries and medicines I can afford for the lads
fighting and suffering. Sunna is going to spend a week in gathering old
linen in Kirkwall and then Mistress Brodie and she will bring it with
them. Rahal, Thora, you must do your best. And thou, Conall?
Adam, thou can open my purse and take all thou thinks is right. My
Boris may be among those dear lads; his mother will have something to
send him. Wilt thou see it is set on a fair way to reach his hand?
I will take it to him. If he be in London with his vessel, I will
find him; if he be at the front, I will find him. If he be in Scutari
hospital, I will find him!
Oh, Adam, Adam! cried Rahal, thou art the good man that God
loves, the man after His own heart. Her face was set and stern and
white as snow, and Thora's was a duplicate of it; but Ragnor, during
his short interval of rest, had arrived at that heighth and depth of
confidence in God's wisdom which made him sure that in the end the
folly and wickedness of men would praise Him; so he was ready to
help, and calm and strong in his sorrow.
At this point, Rahal rose and a servant came in and began to clear
the table and carry away the remains of the meal. Then Rahal rose and
took Thora's hand and Ian went with them to the parlour. She spoke
kindly to Ian who at her first words burst into bitter weeping, into an
almost womanly burst of uncontrollable distress. So she kissed and left
him with the only woman who had the power to soothe, in any degree, the
sense of utter helplessness which oppressed him.
I want to go to the Crimea! he said, I would gladly go there. It
would give me a chance to die happily. It would repay me for all my
miserable life. I want to go, Thora. You want me to go, Thora! Yes, you
do, dear one!
No, I do not want you to go. I want you here. Oh, what a selfish
coward I am. Go, Ian, if you wishif you feel it right to go, then
This subject was sufficient to induce a long and strange
conversation during which Thora was led to understand that some great
and cruel circumstances had ruined and in some measure yet controlled
her lover's life. She was begging him to go and talk to her father and
tell him all that troubled him so cruelly when Rahal entered the room
Dear ones, she said, the house is cold and the lamps nearly out.
Say good night, now. Ian must be up earlyand tomorrow we shall have a
busy day collecting all the old linen we can. She was yet as white as
the long dressing gown she wore but there was a smile on her face that
made it lovely as she recited slowly:
Watching, wondering, yearning, knowing
Whence the stream, and where 'tis going
Seems all mysteryby and by
He will speak, and tell us why.
And the simple words had a charm in them, and though they said Good
night, in a mist of tears, the sunshine of hope turned them into that
wonderful bow which God 'bended with his hands' and placed in the
heavens as a token of His covenant with man, that He would always
remember man's weakness and give him help in time of trouble. Now let
every good man and woman say I'll warrant it! I never yet found a
deluge of any kind but I found also that God had provided an ark for my
refuge and my comfort.
CHAPTER VIII. THORA'S PROBLEM
There is a tear for all who die,
A mourner o'er the humblest grave;
But nations swell the funeral cry,
And triumph weeps above the brave.
For them is Sorrow's purest sigh,
O'er Ocean's heaving bosom sent
In vain their bones unburied lie,
All earth becomes their monument.
Born to the War of 1854 on October 21, 1854,
a Daughter, called Red Cross.
The next night Vedder went away. His purposes were necessarily
rather vague, but it was certain he would go to the front if he thought
he could do any good there. He talked earnestly and long with Ragnor
but when it came to parting, both men were strangely silent. They
clasped hands and looked long and steadily into each other's eyes. No
words could interpret that look. It was a conversation for eternity.
In the meantime, the whole town was eager to do something but what
could they do that would give the immediate relief that was needed?
There were no sewing machines then, women's fingers and needles could
not cope with the difficulty, even regarding the Orkney men who were
suffering. To gather from every one the very necessary old linen seemed
to be the very extent of their usefulness.
In these first days of the trouble, Rahal and Thora were serious and
quiet. A dull, inexplicable melancholy shrouded the girl like a
garment. The pretty home preparing for Ian and herself lost its
interest. She refused to look forward and lived only in the unhappy
present. The few words Ian has said about some wrong or trouble in the
past years of his life overshadowed her. She was naturally very
prescient and her higher self dwelt much in
... that finer atmosphere,
Where footfalls of appointed things,
Reverberent of days to be,
Are heard in forecast echoings,
Like wave beats from a viewless sea.
However, if trouble lasts through the night, joy, or at least hope
and expectation, comes in the morning; and certainly the first shock of
grief settled down into patient hoping and waiting. Vedder and Ian were
both good correspondents and the silence and loneliness were constantly
broken by their interesting letters. And joyful or sorrowful, Time goes
Sunna wrote occasionally but she said she found Edinburgh dull, and
that she would gladly return to Kirkwall if it was not for the Pentland
Firth and its winter tempers and tantrums.
The war [she added] has stopped all balls and even house parties.
There is no dancing and no sports of any kind, and I believe
skating and golf have been forbidden. Love-making is the only
recreation allowed and I am not tempted to sin in this direction.
The churches are always open and their bells clatter all day
I have no lovers. Every man will talk of the war, and then they
get offended if you ask them why they are not gone. I have had
pleasure of saying a few painful truths to these feather-bed
patriots, and they tell each other, no doubt, that I am
and impertinent. One of them said to me, myself: Wait a wee,
Vedder, I wouldna wonder but some crippled war lad will fa' to
your lot, when the puir fellows come marching home again. The
Edinburgh men are just city flunkeys, they would do fine to wait
on our Norse men. I would like well to see a little dandy
I know here, trotting after Boris.
So days came and went, and the passion of shame and sorrow died down
and people did not talk of the war. But the doors of St. Magnus stood
open all day long and there were always women praying there. They had
begun to carry their anxieties and griefs to God; and that was well for
God did not weary of their complaining. Women have the very heart of
sympathy for a man's griefs. God is the only refuge for a sorrowful
Steadily the preparations for Thora's marriage went on, but the
spirit that animated their first beginnings had cooled down into that
calm necessity, which always has to attend to all finishings off.
Early in December, Thora's future home was quite finished, and this
last word expresses its beauty and completeness. Then Ragnor kissed his
daughter, and put into her hand the key of the house and the deed of
gift which made it her own forever. And in this same hour they decided
that the first day of the New Year should be the wedding day; for
Bishop Hedley would then be in Kirkwall and who else could marry the
little Thora whom he had baptised and confirmed and welcomed into the
fold of the church.
Nothing is more remarkable than the variety of moods in which women
take the solemn initiatory rite ushering them into their real life and
their great and honourable duties. Thora was joyful as a bird in spring
and never weary of examining the lovely home, the perfect wardrobe, and
the great variety of beautiful presents that had been given her.
Very soon it was the twentieth of December, and Ian was expected on
the twenty-third. Christmas preparations had now taken the place of
marriage preparations for every item was ready for the latter event.
There had been a little anxiety about the dress and veil, but they
arrived on the morning of the twentieth and were beautiful and fitting
in every respect. The dress was of the orthodox white satin and the
veil fell from a wreath of orange flowers and myrtle leaves. And oh,
how proud and happy Thora was in their possession. Several times that
wonderful day she had run secretly to her room to examine and admire
On the morning of the twenty-first she reminded herself that in two
days Ian would be with her and that in nine days she would be his wife.
She was genuine and happy about the event. She made no pretences or
reluctances. She loved Ian with all her heart, she was glad she was
going to be always with him. Life would then be full and she would be
the happiest woman in the world. She asked her father at the breakfast
table to send her, at once, any letters that might come for her in his
mail. I am sure there will be one from Ian, she said, and, dear
Father, it hurts me to keep it waiting.
About ten o'clock, Mrs. Beaton called and brought Thora a very
handsome ring from Maximus Grant and a bracelet from herself. She
stayed to lunch with the Ragnors and after the meal was over, they went
upstairs to look at the wedding dress. I want to see it on you,
Thora, said Mrs. Beaton, I shall have a wedding dress to buy for my
niece soon and I would like to know what kind of a fit Mrs. Scott
achieves. So Thora put on the dress, and Mrs. Beaton admitted that it
fit like a glove and that she should insist on her niece Helen going
to Mrs. Scott.
With many scattering, delaying remarks and good wishes, the lady
finally bid Thora good-bye and Mrs. Ragnor went downstairs with her.
Then Thora eagerly lifted two letters that had come in her father's
mail and been sent home to her. One was from Ian. The last he will
write to Thora Ragnor, she said with a smile. I will put it with his
first letter and keep them all my life long. So loving is he, so good,
so handsome! There is no one like my Ian. Twice over she read his
loving letter and then laid it down and lifted the one which had come
Jean Hay, she repeated, who is Jean Hay? Then she remembered the
writeran orphan girl living with a married brother who did not always
treat her as kindly as he should have done. Hearing and believing this
story, Rahal Ragnor hired the girl, taught her how to sew, how to mend
and darn and in many ways use her needle. Then discovering that she had
a genius for dressmaking, she placed her with a first-class modiste in
Edinburgh to be properly instructed and liberally attended to all
financial requisites; for Rahal Ragnor could not do anything unless it
was wholly and perfectly done. Then Thora had dressed Jean from her own
wardrobe and asked her father to send their protegée to Edinburgh on
one of the vessels he controlled. And Jean had been heartily grateful,
had done well, and risen to a place of trust in her employer's
business; and a few times every year she wrote to Mrs. Ragnor or Thora.
All these circumstances were remembered by Thora in a moment. Jean
Hay! she exclaimed. Well, Jean, you must wait a few minutes, until I
have taken off my wedding dress. I am sorry I had to put it onit was
not very kind or thoughtful of Mrs. Beaton to ask meI don't believe
mother liked her doing somother has a superstition or fret about
everything. Well, then, it is no way spoiled and she lifted it and
the white silk petticoat belonging to the dress and carefully put them
in the place Rahal had selected as the safest for their keeping. It was
a large closet in the spare room and she went there with them. As she
returned to her own room she heard her mother welcoming a favourite
visitor and it pleased her. Now I need not hurry, she thought.
Mistress Vorn will stay an hour at least, and I can take my own time.
Taking her own time evidently meant to Thora the reading of Ian's
letter over again. And also a little musing on what Ian had said. There
was, however, no hurry about Jean Hay's letter and it was so pleasant
to drift among the happy thoughts that crowded into her consideration.
So for half an hour Jean's letter lay at her side untouchedJean was
so far outside her dreams and hopes that afternoonbut at length she
lifted it and these were the words she read:
DEAR MISS THORA:
I was hearing since last spring that thou wert going to be married
on the son of the Rev. Dr. Macraeon the young man called John
Calvin Macrae. Very often I was hearing this, and always I was
answering, There will be no word of truth in that story. Miss
Ragnor will not be noticing such a young man as that. No,
Here Thora threw down the letter and sat looking at it upon the
floor as if she would any moment tear it to pieces. But she did not,
she finally lifted it and forced herself to continue reading:
I was hating to tell thee some things I knew, and I was often
writing and then tearing up my letter, for it made me sick to be
thy true friend in such a cruel way. But often I have heard the
wise tell when the knife is needed, the salve pot will be of no
use. Now then, this day, I tell myself with a sad heart, Jean,
thou must take the knife. The full time has come.
Why won't the woman tell what she has got to tell, said Thora in a
voice of impatient anguish, and in a few minutes she whispered, I am
cold. Then she threw a knitted cape over her shoulders and lifted the
letter again, oh, so reluctantly, and read:
The young man will have told your father, that he is McLeod's
agent and a sort of steward of his large properties. This does
not sound like anything wrong, but often I have been told
different. Old McLeod left to his son many houses. Three of them
are not good houses, they are really fashionable gambling houses.
Macrae has the management of them as well as of many others in
various parts of the city. Of these others I have heard no wrong.
I suppose they may be quite respectable.
This story has more to it. Whenever there is a great horse race
there Macrae will be, and I saw myself in the daily newspapers
that his name was among the winners on the horse Sergius. It was
only a small sum he won, but sin is not counted in pounds and
shillings. No, indeed! So there is no wonder his good father is
feeling the shame of it.
Moreover, though he calls himself Ian, that is not his name. His
name is John Calvin and his denial of his baptismal name, given
him at the Sabbath service, in the house of God, at the very
of the same, is thought by some to be a denial of God's grace and
mercy. And he has been reasoned with on this matter by the ruling
elder in his father's kirk, but no reason would he listen to, and
saying many things about Calvin I do not care to write.
Many stories go about young men and young women, and there is this
and that said about Macrae. I have myself met him on Prince's
Street in the afternoon very often, parading there with various
gayly dressed women. I do not blame him much for that. The
Edinburgh girls are very forward, not like the Norse girls, who
are modest and retiring in their ways. I am forced to say that
Macrae is a very gay young man, and of course you know all that
means without more words about it. He dresses in the highest
fashion, goes constantly to theatres with some lady or other, and
I do not wonder that people ask, Where does he get the money?
Does he gamble for it? For he does not go to any kirk on the
Sabbath unless he is paid to go there and sing, which he does
well, people say. In his own rooms he is often heard playing the
piano and singing music that is not sacred or fit for the holy
day. And his father is the most religious man in Edinburgh. It is
just awful! I fear you will never forgive me, Miss Thora, but I
have still more and worse to tell you, because it is, as I may
say, personally heard and not this or that body's
Nor did I seek the same, it came to me through my daily work and
in a way special and unlooked-for, so that after hearing it, my
conscience would no longer be satisfied and I was forced, as it
were, to the writing of this letter to you.
I dare say Macrae may have spoken to you anent his friendship with
Agnes and Willie Henderson, indeed Willie Henderson and John
Macrae have been finger and thumb ever since they played
Now Willie's father is an elder in Dr. Macrae's kirk and if all
you hear anent him be truewhich I cannot vouch forhe is a man
well regarded both in kirk and market placethat is, he was so
regarded until he married again about two years ago. For who,
think you, should he marry but a proud upsetting Englishwoman,
was bound to be master and mistress both o'er the hale household?
Then Miss Henderson showed fight and her brother Willie stood by
her. And Miss Henderson is a spunky girl and thought bonnie by
some people, and has a tongue so well furnished with words to
defend what she thinks her rights, that it leaves nobody
as to what thae rights may be. Weel, there has been nothing but
quarreling in the elder's house ever since the unlucky wedding;
and in the first year of the trial Willie Henderson borrowed
moneyI suppose of John Macraeand took himself off to America,
and some said the elder was glad of it and others said he was
down-hearted and disappointed.
After that, Miss Agnes was never friends with her stepmother. It
seems the woman wanted her to marry a nephew of her ain kith and
kin, and in this matter her father was of the same mind. The old
man doubtless wanted a sough of peace in his own home. That was
how things stood a couple of weeks syne, but yestreen I heard
may make the change wanted. This is how it happened.
Yesterday afternoon Mrs. Baird came to Madame David's to have a
black velvet gown fitted. Madame called on Jean Hay to attend her
in the fitting and to hang the long skirt properlyfor it is a
difficult job to hang a velvet skirt, and Jean Hay is thought to
be very expert anent the set and swing of silk velvet, which has
certain contrariness of its own. Let that pass. I was kneeling on
the floor, setting the train, when Mrs. Baird said: I suppose
have heard, Madame, the last escapade of that wild son of the
great Dr. Macrae? Then I was all ears, the more so when I heard
Madam say: I heard a whisper of something, but I was not heeding
it. Folks never seem to weary of finding fault with the handsome
Well, Madame, said Mrs. Baird, I happen to know about this
story. Seeing with your own eyes is believing, surely!
What did you see? Madame asked.
I saw enough to satisfy me. You know my house is opposite to the
West End Hotel, and last Friday I saw Macrae go there and he was
dressed up to the nines. He went in and I felt sure he had gone
call on some lady staying there. So I watched, and better
for he did not come out for two hours, and I concluded they had
lunched together! For when Macrae came out of the hotel, he spoke
to a cabman, and then waited until a young lady and her maid
appeared. He put the young lady into the cab, had a few minutes'
earnest conversation with her, then the maid joined her mistress
and they two drove away.
Well, now, Mrs. Baird, said Madame, there was nothing in that
but just a courteous luncheon together.
Wait, Madame! I felt there was more, so I took a book and sat
down by my window. And just on the edge of the dark I saw the two
women return, and a little later a waiter put lights in an upper
parlour and he spread a table for dinner there and Macrae and the
young lady ate it together. Afterwards they went away in a cab
together. Then Madame asked if the maid was with them, and Mrs.
Baird said she thought she was but had not paid particular
Madame said something to me about the length of the train and then
Mrs. Baird seemed annoyed at her inattention, and she added:
Macrae was advertised to sing in the City Hall the next night at
a mass meeting of citizens about abrogating slavery in the United
States, and he was not therebroke his engagement! What do you
think of that? The next night, Sabbath, he did the same to Dr.
Fraser's kirk, where he had promised to sing a pro-Christmas
canticle. And this morning I heard that he is going to the
to marry a rich and beautiful girl who lives there. Now what do
you think of your handsome Macrae? I can tell you he is on every
one's tongue. And Madame said, I have no doubt of it and I'll
warrant nobody knows what they are talking about.
After this the fitting on was not pleasant and I finished my part
of it as quickly as possible. Indeed, Miss Thora, I was miserable
about you and so pressed in spirit to tell you these things that
could hardly finish my day's work. For my conscience kept urging
me to do my duty to you, for it is many favours you have done me
in the past. Kindly pardon me now, and believe me,
Your humble but sincere friend,
This letter Thora read to the last word but she was nearly blind
when she reached it. All her senses rang inward. I am dying! she
thought, and she tried to reach the bed but only succeeded in stumbling
against a small table full of books, knocking it down and falling with
Mistress Ragnor and her visitor heard the fall and they were
suddenly silent. Immediately, however, they went to the foot of the
stairway and called, Thora. There was no answer, and the mother's
heart sank like lead, as she hastened to her daughter's room and threw
open the door. Then she saw her stricken child, lying as if dead upon
the floor. Cries and calls and hurrying feet followed, and the
unconscious girl was quickly freed from all physical restraints and
laid at the open window. But all the ordinary household methods of
restoring consciousness were tried without avail and the case began to
assume a dangerous aspect.
At this moment Ragnor arrived. He knelt at his child's side and drew
her closer and closer, whispering her name with the name of the Divine
One; and surely it was in response to his heart-breaking entreaties the
passing soul listened and returned. Father, was the first whisper she
uttered; and with a glowing, grateful heart, the father lifted her in
his arms and laid her on her bed.
Then Rahal gave him the two letters and sent him away. Thora was
still far off, or she would have remembered her letters but it was
near the noon of the next day when she asked her mother where they
Thy father has them.
I am sorry, so sorry!
That was all she said but the subject appeared to distress her for
she closed her eyes, and Rahal kissed away the tears that slowly found
their way down the white, stricken face. However, from this hour she
rallied and towards night fell into a deep sleep which lasted for
fourteen hours; and it was during this anxious period of waiting that
Ragnor talked to his wife about the letters which were, presumably, the
cause of the trouble.
Those letters I gave thee, Coll, did thou read both of them?
Both of them I read. Ian's was the happy letter of an expectant
bridegroom. Only joy and hope was in it. It was the other one that was
a death blow. Yes, indeed, it was a bad, cruel letter!
And the name? Who wrote it?
Jean Hay! What could Jean have to do with Thora's affairs?
Well, then, her conscience made her interfere. She had heard some
evil reports about Ian's life and she thought it her duty, after yours
and Thora's kindness to her, to report these stories.
A miserable return for our kindness! This is what I noticewhen
people want to say cruel things, they always blame their conscience or
their duty for making them do it.
Here is Jean's letter. Thou, thyself, must read it.
Rahal read it with constantly increasing anger and finally threw it
on the table with passionate scorn. Not one word of this stuff do I
believe, Coll! Envy and jealousy sent that news, not gratitude and good
will! No, indeed! But I will tell thee, Coll, one thing I have always
found sure, it is this; that often, much evil comes to the good from
taking people out of their poverty and misfortunes. They are paying a
debt they owe from the past and if we assume that debt we have it to
pay in some wise. That is the wisdom of the old, the wisdom learned by
sad experience. I wish, then, that I had let the girl pay her own debt
and carry her own burden. She is envious of Thora. Yet was Thora very
good to her. Do I believe in her gratitude? Not I! Had she done this
cruel thing out of a kind heart, she would have sent this letter to me
and left the telling or the not telling to my love and best judgment. I
will not believe anything against Ian Macrae! Nothing at all!
Much truth is in thy words, Rahal, and it is not on Jean Hay's
letter I will do anything. I will take only Ian's 'yes,' or 'no' on any
You may do that safely, Coll, I know it.
And I will go back to Edinburgh with him and see his father.
Perhaps we have all taken the youth too far on his handsome person and
his sweet amiability.
Thou wrote to his father when Thora was engaged to him, with thy
Well, then, I did.
What said his father?
Too little! He was cursed short about all I named. I told him Thora
was good and fair and well educated; and that she would have her full
share in my estate. I told him all that I intended to do for them about
their home and the place which I intended for Ian in my business, and
referred him to Bishop Hedley as to my religious, financial, social and
Why did thou name Bishop Hedley to him? They are as far apart as
Leviticus and St. John. And what did he say to thee in reply?
That my kindness was more than his son deserved, etc. In response
to our invitation to be present at the marriage ceremony, he said it
was quite impossible, the journey was too long and doubtful, especially
in the winter; that he was subject to sea-sickness and did not like to
leave his congregation over Sunday. Rahal, I felt the paper on which
his letter was written crinkling and crackling in my hand, it was that
stiff with ecclesiastic pomp and spiritual pride. I would not show thee
the letter, I put it in the fire.
Poor Ian! I think then, that he has had many things to suffer.
Rahal, this is what I will do. I will meet the packet on Saturday
and we will go first to my office and talk the Hay letter over
together. If I bring Ian home with me, then something is possible, but
if I come home alone, then Thora must understand that all is overthat
the young man is not to be thought of.
That would kill her.
So it might be. But better is death than a living misery. If Ian is
what Jean Hay says he is, could we think of our child living with him?
Impossible! Rahal, dear wife, whatever can be done I will do, and that
with wisdom and loving kindness. Thy part is harder, it must be with
our dear Thora.
That is so. And if there has to be parting, it will be almost
impossible to spread the plaster as far as the sore.
There is the Great Physician
Tell her what I have said.
I will do that; but just yet, she is not minding much what any one
However, on Saturday afternoon Thora left her bed and dressed
herself in the gown she had prepared for her bridegroom's arrival. The
nervous shock had been severe and she looked woefully like, and yet
unlike, herself. Her eyes were full of tears, she trembled, she could
hardly support herself. If one should take a fresh green leaf and pass
over it a hot iron, the change it made might represent the change in
Thora. Jean Hay's letter had been the hot iron passed over her. She had
been told of her father's decision, but she clung passionately to her
faith in Ian and her claim on her father's love and mercy.
Father will do right, she said, and if he does, Ian will come
home with him.
The position was a cruel one to Conall Ragnor and he went to meet
the packet with a heavy heart. Then Ian's joyful face and his
impatience to land made it more so, and Ragnor found it impossible to
connect wrong-doing with the open, handsome countenance of the youth.
On the contrary, he found himself without intention declaring:
Well, then, I never found anything the least zig-zaggery about what
he said or did. His words and ways were all straight. That is the
Yet Ian's happy mood was instantly dashed by Ragnor's manner. He did
not take his offered hand and he said in a formal tone: Ian, we will
go to my office before we go to the house. I must ask thee some
Very well, sir. Thora, I hope, is all right?
No. She has been very ill.
Then let me go to her, sir, at once.
Later, I will see about that.
Later is too late, let us go at once. If Thora is sick
Be patient. It is not well to talk of women on the street. No wise
man, who loves his womenkin, does that.
Then Ian was silent; and the walk through the busy streets was like
a walk in a bad dream. The place and circumstances felt unreal and he
was conscious of the sure presence of a force closing about him, even
to his finger tips. Vainly he tried to think. He felt the trouble
coming nearer and nearer, but what was it? What had he done? What had
he failed to do? What was he to be questioned about?
Young as he was his experiences had taught him to expect only injury
and wrong. The Ragnor home and its love and truth had been the miracle
that had for nine months turned his brackish water of life into wine.
Was it going to fail him, as everything else had done? He laughed
inwardly at the cruel thought and whispered to himself: This, too, can
be borne, but oh, Thora, Thora! and the two words shattered his pride
and made him ready to weep when he sat down in Ragnor's office and saw
the kind, pitiful face of the elder man looking at him. It gave him the
power he needed and he asked bluntly what questions he was required to
Ragnor gave him the unhappy letter and he read it with a look of
anger and astonishment. Father, he said, all this woman writes is
true and not true; and of all accusations, these are the worst to
defend. I must go back to my very earliest remembrances in order to
fairly state my case, and if you will permit me to do this, in the
presence of your wife and Thora, I will then accept whatever decision
For at least three minutes Ragnor made no answer. He sat with closed
eyes and his face held in the clasp of his left hand. Ian was bending
forward, eagerly watching him. There was not a movement, not a sound;
it seemed as if both men hardly breathed. But when Ragnor moved, he
stood up. Let us be going, he said, they are anxious. They are
watching. You shall do as you say, Ian.
Rahal saw them first. Thora was lying back in her mother's chair
with closed eyes. She could not bear to look into the empty road
watching for one who might be gone forever. Then in a blessed moment,
Rahal whispered, They are coming!
Both? Both, Mother?
Thank God! And she would have cried out her thanks and bathed them
in joyful tears if she had been alone. But Ian must not see her
weeping. Now, especially, he must be met with smiles. And then, when
she felt herself in Ian's embrace, they were both weeping. But oh, how
great, how blessed, how sacramental are those joys that we baptise with
During the serving of dinner there was no conversation but such as
referred to the war and other public events. Many great ones had
transpired since they parted, and there was plenty to talk about: the
battles of Balaklava and Inkerman had been fought; the
never-to-be-forgotten splendour of Scarlett's Charge with the Heavy
Brigade, and the still more tragically splendid one of the Light
Brigade, had both passed into history.
More splendid and permanent than these had been the trumpet call
of Russell in the Times, asking the women of England who among
them were ready to go to Scutari Hospital and comfort and help the men
dying for England? Now, he cried,
The Son of God goes forth to war!
Who follows in His train?
Florence Nightingale and her band of trained nurses, mainly from the
Roman Catholic Sisters of Mercy, and St. John's Protestant House, was
the instant answer. In six days they were ready and without any
flourish of trumpets, at the dark, quiet midnight, they left England
for Scutari and in that hour the Red Cross Society was born.
How long is it since they sailed? asked Rahal.
A month, answered Ian, but the controversy about it is still
raging in the English papers.
What has anyone to say against it? asked Rahal. The need was
desperate, the answer quick. What, then, do they say?
The prudery of the English middle class was shocked at the idea of
young women nursing in military hospitals. They considered it 'highly
improper.' Others were sure women would be more trouble than help. Many
expect their health to fail, and think they will be sent back to
English hospitals in a month.
I thought, said Ragnor, that the objections were chiefly
You are right, replied Ian. The Calvinists are afraid Miss
Nightingale's intention is to make the men Catholics in their dying
hour. Others feel sure Miss Nightingale is an Universalist, or an
Unitarian, or a Wesleyan Methodist. The fact is, Florence Nightingale
is a devout Episcopalian.
A pleasant little smile parted Ragnor's lips, and he said with an
Episcopalian suavity: The Wesleyans and the Episcopalians, in
doctrine, are much alike. We regard them as brethren; and just while
he spoke, Ragnor looked like some ecclesiastical prelate.
There is little to wonder at in the churches disagreeing about Miss
Nightingale, said Rahal, it is not to be expected that they would
believe in her, when they do not believe in each other. As she spoke
she stepped to the fireside and touched the bell rope, and a servant
entered and began to clear the table and put more wood on the fire, and
to turn out one of the lamps at Rahal's order. Ragnor had gone out to
have a quiet smoke in the fresh air while Rahal was sending off all the
servants to a dance at the Fisherman's Hall. Ian and Thora were not
interested in these things; they sat close together, talking softly of
their own affairs.
Without special request, they drew closer to the hearth and to each
other. Then Ragnor took out a letter and handed it to Ian. He was
sitting at Thora's side and her hand was in his hand. He let it fall
and took the letter offered him.
I cannot explain this letter, he said, unless I preface it with
some facts regarding my unhappy childhood and youth. I am, as you know,
the son of Dr. Macrae, but I have been a disinherited son ever since I
can remember. I suppose that in my earliest years I was loved and
kindly treated, but I have no remembrance of that time. I know only
that before I was five years old, my father had accepted the solemn
conviction that I was without election to God's grace. Personally I was
a beautiful child, but I was received and considered, body and soul, as
unredeemable. Father then regarded me as a Divine decree which it was
his duty to receive with a pious acquiescence. My mother pitied and, in
her way, loved me, and suffered much with me. I have a little sister
also, who would like to love me, but there is in all her efforts just
that touch of Phariseeism which destroys love.
But, Ian, there must have been some reason for your father's
That is most likely. If so, he never explained the fact to me or
even to my mother. She told me once that he did not suspect that I had
missed God's election until I was between five and six years old. I
suppose that about that age I began to strengthen his cruel fear by my
antipathy to the kirk services and my real and unfortunate inability to
learn the Shorter Catechism. This was a natural short-coming. I could
neither spell or pronounce the words I was told to learn and to
memorise them was an impossible thing.
Could not your mother help you?
She tried. She wept over me as she tried, and I made an almost
superhuman effort to comprehend and remember. I could not. I was
flogged, I was denied food and even water. I was put in dark rooms. I
was forbid all play and recreation. I went through this martyrdom year
after year and I finally became stubborn and would try no longer. In
the years that followed, until I was sixteen, my daily sufferings were
great, but I remember them mainly for my mother's sake, who suffered
with me in all I suffered. Nor am I without pity for my father. He
honestly believed that in punishing me he was doing all he could to
save me from everlasting punishment. Yes, sir! Do not shake your head!
I have heard him praying, pleading with God, for some token of my
election to His mercy. You see it was John Calvin.
John Calvin! ejaculated Ragnor, how is that?
It was his awful tenets I had to learn; and when I was young I
could not learn them, and when I grew older I would not learn them. My
father had called me John Calvin and I detested the name. On my
eighteenth birthday I asked him to have it changed. He was very angry
at my request. I begged him passionately to do so. I said it ruined my
life, that I could do nothing under that name. 'Give me your own name,
Father,' I entreated, 'and I will try and be a good man!'
He said something to me, I never knew exactly what, but the last
word was more than I could bear and my reply was an oath. Then he
lifted the whip at his side and struck me.
Rahal and Thora were sobbing. Ragnor looked in the youth's face with
shining eyes and asked, almost in a whisper, What did thou do?
I had been struck often enough before to have made me indifferent,
but at this moment some new strength and feeling sprang up in my heart.
I seized his arms and the whip fell to the floor. I lifted it and said,
'Sir, if you ever again use a whip in place of decent words to me, I
will see you no more until we meet for the judgment of God. Then I will
pity you for the life-long mistake you have made.' My father looked at
me with eyes I shall never forget, no, not in all eternity! He burst
into agonizing prayer and weeping and I went and told mother to go to
him. I left the house there and then. I had not a halfpenny, and I was
hungry and cold and sick with an intolerable sense of wrong.
Father! said Thora, in a voice broken with weeping. Is not this
enough? And Ragnor leaned forward and took Thora's hand but he did not
speak. Neither did he answer Rahal's look of entreaty. On the contrary
Then, Ian? Then, what did thou do?
I felt so ill I went to see Dr. Finlay, our family physician. He
knew the family trouble, because he had often attended mother when she
was ill in consequence of it. I did not need to make a complaint. He
saw my condition and took me to his wife and told her to feed and
comfort me. I remained in her care four days, and then he offered to
take me into his office and set me to reading medical text books, while
I did the office work.
What was this work?
I was taught how to prepare ordinary medicines, to see callers when
the doctor was out, and make notes of, and on, their cases. I helped
the doctor in operations, I took the prescriptions to patients and
explained their use, etc. In three years I became very useful and
helpful and I was quite happy. Then Dr. Finlay was appointed to some
exceptionally fine post in India, private physician to some great
Rajah, and the Finlay family hastily prepared for their journey to
Delhi. I longed to go with them but I had not the money requisite. With
Dr. Finlay I had had a home but only money enough to clothe me
decently. I had not a pound left and mother could not help me, and
Uncle Ian was in the Madeira Isles with his sick wife. So the Finlays
went without me; and I can feel yet the sense of loneliness and poverty
that assailed me, when I shut their door behind me and walked into the
cold street and knew not what to do or where to go.
How old were you then, Ian? asked Ragnor.
I was twenty years old within a few days, and I had one pound,
sixteen shillings in my pocket. Five pounds from an Episcopal church
would be due in two weeks for my solo and part singing in their
services; but they were never very prompt in their payment and that was
nothing to rely on in my present need. I took to answering
advertisements, and did some of the weariest tramping looking for work
that poor humanity can do. When I met Kenneth McLeod, I had broken my
last shilling. I was like a hungry, lost child, and the thought of my
mother came to me and I felt as if my heart would break.
The next moment I saw Kenneth McLeod coming up Prince's Street. It
was nearly four years since we had seen each other, but he knew me at
once and called me in his old kind way. Then he looked keenly at me,
and asked: 'What is the matter, Ian? The old trouble?'
I was so heartless and hungry I could hardly keep back tears as I
answered: 'It is that and everything else! Ken, help me, if you can.'
'Come with me!' he answered, and I went with him into the Queen's Hotel
and he ordered dinner, and while we were eating I told him my
situation. Then he said, 'I can help you, Ian, if you will help me. You
know that all my happiness is on the sea and father kept me on one or
another of his trading boats as much as possible from my boyhood, so
that I am now a clever enough navigator. Two years ago my father died
and I am in a lot of trouble about managing the property he left me.
Now, if you will take the oversight of my Edinburgh property, I can
take my favourite boat and look after the coast trade of the Northern
What could I say? I was dumb with surprise and gratitude. I never
thought there was anything wrong in our contract. I believed the work
had come in answer to my prayer for help and I thanked God and Kenneth
McLeod for it.
Here Mrs. Ragnor rose, saying, Coll, my dear one, Thora and I will
now leave thee. I am sure Ian has done as well as he could do and we
hope thou wilt judge him kindly. Then the women went upstairs and
Ragnor remained silent until Ian said:
I am very anxious, sir.
Then Ragnor stood up and slowly answered, Ian, now is the time to
take council of my pillow. What I have to say I will say later. This is
not a thing to be settled by a yes or no. I must think over what thou
hast told me. I must have some words with my wife and daughter. Sleep
one night at least over thy trouble, there are many things to consider;
especially this question of the young lady who is made the last count
of Jean Hay's letter. What hast thou to say about her? She seems to
have had some strong claim upon thyshall we say friendship?
You might say much more than friendship, sir, and yet wrong neither
man nor woman by it. Why, the young lady was Agnes Henderson, the
sister of Willie Henderson, who is my soul's brother and my second
self. Thora must have heard all about Agnes!
Is she Deacon Scot Henderson's daughter?
Of course she is! Who else would I have left two engagements to
serve? But Agnes is dear to me, perhaps dearer than my own sister.
Since she was nine years old, we have studied and played together.
Willie and Agnes were the only loves and only friends of my desolate
boyhood. You have doubtless heard how unhappy the deacon's second
marriage has been. Both Willie and Agnes refused the stepmother he gave
them, and last year Willie went to New York, where he is doing very
well. But Agnes has been more and more wretched, and a recent proposal
of marriage between herself and the stepmother's nephew has made her
life intolerable. Two weeks ago I had a letter from Willie, telling me
he had just written her, advising an immediate 'give-up' of the whole
situation. He told her to take the first good steamer and come to him.
He also urged her to send for me and take my help and advice about the
voyage. Two weeks ago last Friday she did so and I went at once to the
West End Hotel to see her. She had disguised herself so cleverly that
it was difficult to recognise her. I went with her to her sitting room
and there I found the woman who had waited on her all her life long. I
knew her well for she had often scolded me for leading Agnes into
I ate lunch with Agnes and during it I told her to transfer all her
money not required for travelling expenses to the Bank of New York; and
I promised to go at once and secure a passage for herself and maidfor
seeing that the Atlantic would leave her dock for New York about
the noon hour of the next day, haste was necessary. I did not wish to
go to Liverpool because of my two engagements, but Agnes was so
insistent on my presence I could not refuse her. Well, perhaps I was
wrong to yield to her entreaties.
No, hardly, said Ragnor. Going on board a big steamer at
Liverpool must be a muddling businessnot fit for two simple women
like Agnes Henderson and her maid.
I don't remember thinking of that but I could hear my friend Willie
telling me, 'See her safe on board, Ian. Don't leave her till she is in
the captain's care. Do this for me, Ian!' And I did it for both Agnes'
and Willie's sake but mainly for Willie's, for I love him. He is my
right-hand friend, always. Perhaps I did wrong.
It is a pity there was any mystification about it. Was it necessary
for Agnes Henderson to disguise herself?
Perhaps not, but it prevented trouble and disappointment. Her
father supposed her to be at her uncle's home. On Saturday afternoon he
went to see her and found she had not been there at all. He returned to
Edinburgh and could get no trace of her, nor was she located until I
returned and informed him that she was on the Atlantic.
There was a few moments of silence and then Ian said, Have I done
anything unpardonable? Surely you will not let that jealous, envious
letter stand between Thora and myself?
Then Ragnor answered, Tonight I will say neither this nor that on
the matter. I will sleep over the subject and take counsel of One wiser
than myself. Thou had better do likewise. Many things are to consider.
And Ian went away without a word. There was anger in his heart, and
as he sat gloomily in his dimly lit room and felt the damp chill of the
midnight, he told himself that he had been hardly judged. I have done
nothing wrong, he whispered passionately. Old McLeod collected his
own rents and looked after his own property and no one thought he did
wrong. He was an elder in one of the largest Edinburgh kirks and the
favourite chairman in missionary meetings, but because I did not go to
kirk, what was business in him was sin in me.
As to the gambling houses, I had nothing to do with them but to
collect lawful money, due the McLeod estate; and as far as I can see,
men who gamble for money are quite respectable if they get what they
gamble for. There was that old reprobate Lord Sinclair. He redeemed the
Sinclair estates by gambling and he married the beautiful daughter of
the noble Seaforths. Nobody blamed him. Pshaw! It is all a matter of
moneyor it is my ill luck. And to such irritating reflections he
finally fell asleep.
CHAPTER IX. THE BREAD OF BITTERNESS
Sorrow develops the mind. It seems as if a soul was given us to
Dust to dust, but the pure spirit shall flow
Back to the burning fountain whence it came
A portion of the Eternal which must glow
Through time and change unalterably the same.
Our endless need is met by God's endless help.
At her room door Thora bid her mother good night. Rahal desired to
talk with her, but the girl shook her head and said wearily, I want to
think, Mother. I have no heart to speak yet. And Rahal turned sadly
away. She knew that hour, that her child had come to a door for which
she had no key and she left her alone with the situation she had to
face. Nor did Thora just then realize that within the past hour her
girlhood had vanished, and that she had suddenly become a woman with a
woman's fate upon her and a woman's heart-rending problem to solve.
How it came she did not enquire, yet she did recognise some change
in herself. Hitherto, all her troubles had been borne by her father or
mother. This trouble was her very own. No one could carry it for her
but without any hesitation she accepted it. I must find out the very
root of this matter, she said to herself, and I will not go to bed
until I do. Nor is it half-asleep I will be over the question. I will
sit up and be wide awake.
So she put more peat and coal on her fire and lit a fresh candle;
removed her day clothing and wrapped herself in a large down cloak. And
the night was not cold for there was a southerly wind, and the gulf
stream embraces the Orkneys, giving them an abnormally warm climate for
their far-north latitude. And she had a passing wonder at herself for
these precautions. A year ago, a week ago, she would have thrown
herself upon her bed in passionate weeping or clung to her mother and
talked her sorrow away in her loving sympathy and advice.
But at this supreme hour of her life, she wanted to be alone. She
did not wish to talk about Ian with any one. She was wide awake, quite
sensible of the pain and grief at her heart, yet tearless and calm.
Never before had she felt that dignity of soul, which looks straight
into the face of its sorrow and feels itself equal to the bearing of
it. She had as yet no idea that during that evening she had passed
through that wonderful heart-experience, which suddenly ripens girlhood
into womanhood. Indeed, they will be thoughtless girlswhatever their
agewho can read this sentence and not pause and recall that
marvellous transition in their own lives. To some it comes with a great
joy, to others with a great sorrow but it is always a fateful event,
and girls should be ready to meet and salute it.
As soon as Thora had made herself and her room comfortable, she sat
down and closed her eyes. All her life she had noticed that her mother
shut her eyes when she wanted to think. Now she did the same, and then
softly called Ian Macrae to the judgment of her heart and her inner
senses, but she did it as naturally as women equally ignorant have done
it in all ages, taking or refusing their advice or verdict as directed
by their dominant desire, or their reason or unreason.
With almost supernatural clearness she recalled his beautiful, yet
troubled face, his hesitating manner, his restlessness in his chair,
his nervous trifling with his watch chain or his finger ring. She
recalled the fact that his voice had in it a strange tone and that his
eyes reflected a soul fearful and angry. It was an unfamiliar Ian she
called up, but oh! if it could ever become a familiar one.
The first subject that pressed her for consideration was the
suspicion of gambling. Certainly Ian had promptly denied the charge. He
had even said that he never was in the gambling parlours but once, when
he went into them very early with the porter, to assure himself that
some new carpets asked for were really wanted. Then, he added, I
found out that the demand was made by one of the club members, who had
a friend who was a carpet manufacturer and expected to supply what was
It must be recalled here that Norsemen, though sharp and keen in
business matters, have no gambling fever in their blood. To get money
and give nothing for it! That goes too far beyond their idea of fair
business, and as for pleasure, they have never connected it with the
paper kings and queens. They find in the sea and their ships, in
adventure, in music and song, in dancing and story telling, all of
pleasure they require. A common name for a pack of cards is the
devil's books, and in Orkney they have but few readers.
Thora had partially exonerated Ian from the charge of gambling when
she remembered Jean Hay's assertion that wherever horses were racing,
there Ian was sure to be and that he had been named in the newspapers
as a winner on the horse Sergius. Ian had passed by this circumstance,
and her father had either intentionally or unintentionally done the
same. Once she had heard Vedder say that horse racing produced finer
and faster horses; and she remembered well, that her father asked in
reply, If it was well to produce finer and faster horses, at the cost
of making horsier men? And he had further said that he did not know of
any uglier type of man than a betting book in breeches. She thought a
little on this subject and then decided Ian ought to be talked to about
Her lover's neglect of the Sabbath was the next question, for Thora
was a true and loving daughter of the Church of England. Episcopacy was
the kernel of her faith. She believed all bishops were just like Bishop
Hedley and that the most perfect happiness was found in the Episcopal
Communion. And she said positively to her heartIt is through the
church door we will reach the Home door, and I am sure Ian will go with
me to keep the Sabbath in the cathedral. Every one goes to church in
Kirkwall. He could not resist such a powerful public example, and then
he would begin to like to go of his own inclination. I could trust him
on this point, I feel sure.
When she took up the next doubt her brow clouded and a shadow of
annoyance blended itself with her anxious, questioning expression. His
name! she muttered. His name! Why did he woo me under a false name?
Mother says my marriage to him under the name of Ian Macrae would not
be lawful. Of course he intended to marry me with his proper name. He
would have been sure to tell us all before the marriage daybut I saw
father was angry and troubled at the circumstance. He ought to have
told us long ago. Why didn't he do so? I should have loved him under
any name. I should have loved him better under John than Ian. John is a
strong, straight name. Great and good men in all ages have made John
honourable. It has no diminutive. It can't be made less than John.
Englishmen and lowland Scotch all say the four sensible letters with a
firm, strong voice; only the Celt turns John into Ian. I will not call
him Ian again. Not once will I do it.
Then she covered her eyes with her hand and a sharp, chagrined catch
of her breath broke the hush of the still room. And her voice, though
little stronger than a whisper, was full of painful wonder. What will
people say? What shall we say? Oh, the shame! Oh, the mortification!
Who will now live in my pretty home? Who will eat my wedding cake? What
will become of my wedding dress? Oh, Thora! Thora! Love has led thee a
shameful, cruel road! What wilt thou do? What can thou do?
Then a singular thing happened. A powerful thought from some
forgotten life came with irresistible strength into her mind, and
though she did not speak the words suggested, she prayed themif
prayer be that hidden, never-dying imploration that goes with the soul
from one incarnation to anotherfor the words that sprang to her
memory must have been learned centuries before, Oh, Mary! Mary! Mother
of Jesus Christ! Thou that drank the cup of all a woman's griefs and
wrongs, pray for me!
And she was still and silent as the words passed through her
consciousness. She thought every one of them, they seemed at the moment
so real and satisfying. Then she began to wonder and ask herself,
Where did those words come from? When did I hear them? Where did I say
them before? How do they come to be in my memory? From what strange
depth of Life did they come? Did I ever have a Roman Catholic nurse?
Did she whisper them to my soul, when I was sick and suffering? I must
ask motheroh, how tired and sleepy I feelI will go to bedI have
done no good, come to no decision. I will sleepI will tell mother in
the morningI wish I had let her stop with memother always
knowswhat is the best way And thus the heart-breaking session
ended in that blessed hostel, The Inn of Dreamless Sleep.
There was, however, little sleep in the House of Ragnor that night,
and very early in the morning Ragnor, fully dressed, spoke to his wife.
Art thou waking yet, Rahal? he asked, and Rahal answered, I have
slept little. I have been long awake.
Well then, what dost thou think now of Ian Macrae, so-called?
I think little amiss of himsome youthful folliesnothing to make
a fuss about.
Hast thou considered that the follies of youth may become the
follies of manhood, and of age? What then?
We are not told to worry about what may be.
Ian has evidently been living and spending with people far above
his means and his class.
The Lowland Scotch regard a minister as socially equal to any peer.
Are not the servants of God equal, and more than equal, to the servants
of the queen? No society is above either they or their children. That I
have seen always. And young men of fine appearance and charming
manners, like Ian, are welcome in every home, high or low. Yes,
Yet girls, as a rule, should not marry handsome men with charming
manners, unless there is something better behind to rely on.
If thou had not been a handsome man with a charming manner, Rahal
would not have married thee. What then?
I would have been a ruined man. I cared for nothing but thee.
I believe that a girl of moral strength and good intelligence
should be trusted with the choice of her destiny. It is not always that
parents have a right to thrust a destiny they choose upon their
daughter. If a man is not as good and as rich as they think she ought
to marry they can point this out, and if they convince their child,
very well; and if they do not convince her, also very well. Perhaps the
girl's character requires just the treatment it will evolve from a life
Thou art talking nonsense, Rahal. Thy liking for the young man has
got the better of thy good sense. I cannot trust thee in this matter.
Well then, Coll, the road to better counsel than mine, is well
known to thee.
I think Bishop Hedley arrived about an hour ago. There were moving
lights on the pier, and as soon as the morning breaks I am going to see
Have thy own way. When a man's wife has not the wisdom wanted, it
is well that he go to his Bishop, for Bishops are full of good counsel,
even for the ruling of seven churches, so I have heard.
It is not hearsay between thee and Bishop Hedley. Thou art well
acquainted with him.
Well then, in the end thou wilt take thy own way.
Dost thou want me to say 'yes' today, and rue it tomorrow? I have
no mind for any such foolishness.
Coll, this is a time when deeds will be better than words.
I see that. Well then, the day breaks, and I will gohe lingered
a minute or two fumbling about his knitted gloves but Rahal was
dressing her hair and took no further notice. So he went away in an
affected hurry and both dissatisfied and uncertain. What a woman she
is! he sighed. She has said only good words, but I feel as if I had
broken every commandment at once.
He went away full of trouble and anxiety, and Rahal watched him down
the garden path and along the first stretch of the road. She knew by
his hurried steps and the nervous play of his walking stick that he was
both angry and troubled and she was not very sorry.
If it was his business standing and his good name, instead of
Thora's happiness and good repute that was the question, oh, how
careful and conciliatory he would be! How anxious to keep his affairs
from public discussion! It would be anything rather than that! I have
the same feeling about Thora's good name. The marriage ought to go on
for Thora's sake. I do not want the women of Kirkwall wondering who was
to blame. I do not want them coming to see me with solemn looks and
tearful voices. I could not endure their pitying of 'poor Miss Thora!'
They would not dare go to Coll with their sympathetic curiosity, but
there are such women as Astar Gager, and Lala Snackoll, and Thyra
Peterson, and Jorunna Flett. No one can keep them away from a house in
trouble. Thora must marry. I see no endurable way to prevent it.
Then being dressed she went to Thora's room, and gently opened the
door. Thora was standing at her mirror and she turned to her mother
with a smiling face. Rahal was astonished and she said almost with a
tone of disapproval, I am glad to see thee able to smile. I expected
to find thee weeping, and ill with weeping.
For a long time, for many hours, I was broken-hearted but there
came to me, Mother, a strange consolation. Then she told her mother
about the prayer she heard her soul say for her. Not one word did I
speak, Mother. But someone prayed for me. I heard them. And I was made
strong and satisfied, and fell into a sweet sleep, though I had yet not
solved the problem I had proposed to solve before I slept.
What was that problem?
First, whether I should marry John just as he was, and trust the
consequences to my influence over him; or whether I should refuse him
altogether and forever; or whether I should wait and see what he can do
with my father and the good Bishop, to help and strengthen him. And as
Thora talked, Rahal's face grew light and sweet as she listened, and
she answeredYes, my dear one, that is the wonderful way! Some soul
that loved thee long, long ago, knew that thou wert in great trouble.
Some woman's soul, perhaps, that had lived and died for love. The
kinship of our souls far exceeds that of our bodies, and their help is
swift and sure. Be patient with Ian. That is what I say.
But why that prayer? I never heard it before.
How little thou knowest of what thou hast heard before! Two hundred
years ago, all sorrowful, unhappy women went to Mary with their
They should not have done so. They could have gone to Christ.
They thought Mary had suffered just what they were suffering, and
they thought that Christ had never known any of the griefs that break a
woman's heart. Mary knew them, had felt them, had wept and prayed over
them. When my little lad Eric died, I thought of Mary. My family have
only been one hundred years Protestants. All of them must have loved
thee well enough to come and pray for thee. Thou had a great honour, as
well as a great comfort.
At any rate I did no wrong! I am glad, Mother.
Wrong! Thou wilt see the Bishop today. Ask him. He will tell thee
that the English Church and the English women gave up very reluctantly
their homage to Mary. Are not their grand churches called after Peter
and Paul and other male saints? Dost thou think that Christ loved Peter
and Paul more than his mother? I know better. Please God thou wilt know
better some day.
Churches are often called after Mary, as well as the saints.
Not in Scotland.
There is one in Glasgow. Vedder told me he used to hear Bishop
Hedley preach there.
It is an Episcopal Church. Ask him about thy dream. No, I mean thy
Thou said dream, Mother. It was not a dream. I saw no one. I
only heard a voice. It is what we see in dreams that is important.
Now wilt thou come to thy breakfast?
Is he downstairs yet?
I will go and call him.
Rahal, however, came to the table alone. She said, Ian asked that
he might lie still and sleep an hour or two. He has not slept all night
long, I think, she added. His voice sounded full of trouble.
So the two women ate their breakfast alone for Ragnor did not return
in time to join them. And Rahal's hopefulness left her, and she was
silent and her face had a grey, fearful expression that Thora could not
help noticing. You look ill, Mother! she said, and you were looking
so well when we came downstairs. What is it?
I know not. I feel as if I was going into a black cloud. I wish
that thy father would come home. He is in trouble. I wonder then what
is the matter!
In about an hour they saw Ragnor and the Bishop coming towards the
They are in trouble, Thora, both of them are in trouble.
About Thora they need not to be in trouble. She will do what they
advise her to do.
It is not thee.
I will not name my fear, lest I call it to me.
Then she rose and went to the door and Thora followed her, and by
this time, Ragnor and the Bishop were at the garden gate. Very soon the
Bishop was holding their hands, and Rahal found when he released her
hand that he had left a letter in it. Yet for a moment she hardly
noticed the fact, so shocked was she at the expression of her husband's
face. He looked so much older, his eyes were two wells of sorrow, his
distress had passed beyond words, and when she asked, What is thy
trouble, Coll? he looked at her pitifully and pointed to the letter.
Then she took Thora's hand and they went to her room together.
Sitting on the side of her bed, she broke the seal and looked at the
superscription. It is from Adam Vedder, she said, as she began to
read it. No other word escaped her lips until she came to the end of
the long epistle. Then she laid it down on the bed beside her and
shivered out the words, Boris is dying. Perhaps dead. Oh, Boris! My
son Boris! Read for thyself.
So Thora read the letter. It contained a vivid description of the
taking of a certain small battery, which was pouring death and
destruction on the little British company, who had gone as a forlorn
hope to silence its fire. They were picked volunteers and they were led
by Boris Ragnor. He had made a breach in its defences and carried his
men over the cannon to victory. At the last moment he was shot in the
throat and received a deadly wound in the side, as he tore from the
hands of the Ensign the flag of his regiment, wrote Vedder.
I saw the fight between the men. I was carrying water to the
wounded on the hillside. I, and several others, rushed to the
of Boris. He held the flag so tightly that no hand could remove
it, and we carried it with him to the hospital. For two days he
remained there, then he was carefully removed to my house, not
very far away, and now he has not only one of Miss Nightingale's
nurses always with him but also myself. As for Sunna, she hardly
ever leaves him. He talks constantly of thee and his father and
sister. He sends all his undying love, and if indeed these wounds
mean his death, he is dying gloriously and happily, trusting God
implicitly, and loving even his enemiesa thing Adam Vedder
cannot understand. He found out before he was twenty years old
that loving his enemies was beyond his power and that nothing
could make him forgive them. Our dear Boris! Oh, Rahal! Rahal!
Poor stricken mother! God comfort thee, and tell thyself every
minute My boy has won a glorious death and he is going the way
all flesh, honoured and loved by all who ever knew him.
Thy true friend,
[Illustration: He made a breach in its defences and carried his men
over cannon to victory.]
This letter upset all other considerations, and when Ian came
downstairs at the dinner hour, he found no one interested enough in his
case to take it up with the proper sense of its importance. Ragnor was
steeped in silent grief. Rahal had shut up her sorrow behind dry eyes
and a closed mouth. The Bishop had taken the seat next to Thora. He
felt as if no one had missed or even thought of him. And such
conversation as there was related entirely to the war. Thora smiled at
him across the table, but he was not pleased at Thora being able to
smile; and he only returned the courtesy with a doleful shake of the
After dinner Ian said something about going to see McLeod, and then
the Bishop interferedNo, Ian, he replied, I want you to walk as
far as the cathedral with me. Will you do that?
With pleasure, sir.
Then let us be going, while there is yet a little sunshine.
The cathedral doors stood open, but there was no one present except
a very old woman, who at their approach rose from her knees and
painfully walked away. The Bishop altered his course, so as to greet
herGood afternoon, Sister Odd! Art thou suffering yet?
Only the pain that comes with many years, sir. God makes it easy
for me. Wilt thou bless me?
Thou hast God's blessing. Who can add to it? God be with thee to
the very end!
Enough is that. Thy hand a moment, sir.
For a moment they, stood silently hand clasped, then parted, and the
Bishop walked straight to the vestry and taking a key from his pocket,
opened the door. There was a fire laid ready for the match and he
stooped and lit it, and Ian placed his chair near by.
That is good! he said. Bring your own chair near to me, Ian, I
have something to say to you.
I am glad of that, Bishop. No one seemed to care for my sorrow. I
was made to feel this day the difference between a son and a
There is a difference, a natural one, but you have been treated as
a son always. Ragnor has told me all about those charges. You may speak
freely to me. It is better that you should do so.
I explained the charges to the whole family. Do they not believe
The explanation was only partial and one-sided. I think the charge
of gambling may be put aside, with your promise to abstain from the
appearance of evil for the future. I understand your position about the
Sabbath. You should have gone on singing in some church. Supposing you
got no spiritual help from it, you were at least lifting the souls of
others on the wings of holy song, and you need not have mocked at the
devout feelings of others by music unfit for the day.
It was a bit of boyish folly.
It was something far more than that. I had a letter from Jean Hay
more than two months ago and I investigated every charge she made
I find that, examined separately, they do not indicate any settled
sinfulness; but taken together they indicate a variable temper, a
perfectly untrained nature, and a weak, unresisting will. Now, Ian, a
weak, good man is a dangerous type of a bad man. They readily become
the tools of wicked men of powerful intellect and determined character.
I have met with many such cases. Your change of name
Oh, sir, I could not endure Calvin tacked on to me! If you knew
what I have suffered!
I know it all. Why did you not tell the Ragnors on your first
acquaintance with them?
Mrs. Ragnor liked Ian because it is the Highland form for John, and
Thora loved the name and I did not like, while they knew so little of
me, to tell them I had only assumed it. I watched for a good
opportunity to speak concerning it and none came. Then I thought I
would consult you at this time, before the wedding day.
I could not have married you under the name of Ian. Discard it at
once. Take it as a pet name between Thora and yourself, if you choose.
No doubt you thought Ian was prettier and more romantic and suitable
for your really handsome person.
Oh, Bishop, do not humiliate me! I
I have no doubt I am correct. I have known young men wreck their
lives for some equally foolish idea.
I will cast it off today. I will tell Thora the truth tonight.
Before we are married, I will advertise it in next week's News.
Before you are married, I trust you will have made the name of John
Macrae so famous that you will need no such advertising.
What do you mean, Bishop?
I want you to go to the trenches at Redan or to fight your way into
Sebastopol. You have been left too much to your own direction and your
own way. Obedience is the first round of the ladder of Success. You
must learn it. You can only be a subordinate till you manage this
lesson. Your ideas of life are crude and provincial. You need to see
men making their way upward, in some other places than in shops and
offices. Above all, you must learn to conquer yourself and your
indiscreet will. You are not a man, until you are master in your own
house and fear no mutiny against your Will to act nobly. You have had
no opportunities for such education. Now take one year to begin it.
You mean that I must put off my marriage for a year.
Exactly. Under present circumstances
Oh, sir, that is not thinkable! It would be too mortifying! I could
not go back to Edinburgh. I could not put off my marriage!
You will be obliged to do so. Do you imagine the Ragnors will hold
wedding festivities, while their eldest son is dying, or his broken
body on its way home for burial?
I thought the ceremony would be entirely religious and the
festivities could be abandoned.
Is that what you wish?
Then you will not get it. A year's strict mourning is due the dead,
and the Ragnors will give every hour of it. Boris is their eldest son.
They should remember also their living daughter Thora will suffer
as well as myself.
You are not putting yourself in a good light, John Macrae. Thora
loves her brother with a great affection. Do you think she can comfort
her grief for his loss, by giving you any loving honour that belongs to
him? You do not know Thora Ragnor. She has her mother's just, strong
character below all her gentle ways, and what her father and mother say
she will endorse, without question or reluctance. Now I know that
Ragnor had resolved on a year's separation and discipline, before he
heard of his son's dangerous condition.
Boris was not dead when that Vedder letter was written. He may not
be dead now. He may not be going to die.
It is only his wonderful physical strength that has kept him alive
so long. Vedder said to me, they looked for his death at any hour. He
cannot recover. His wound is a fatal one. It is beyond hope. Vedder
wrote while he was yet alive, so that he might perhaps break the blow
to his family.
What then do you advise me to do?
Ragnor intends to go back with you and myself to Edinburgh. He will
see your father and offer to buy you a commission as ensign in a good
infantry regiment. We will ask your father if he will join in the
My father will not join in anything to help me. How much will an
ensign's commission cost?
I think four or five hundred pounds. Ragnor would pay half, if your
father would pay half.
Then Ian rose to his feet, and his eyes blazed with a fire no one
had ever seen there before. Bishop, he said, I thank you for all you
propose, but if I go to the trenches at Redan or the camp at
Sebastopol, I will go on John Macrae's authority and personality. I
have one hundred pounds, that is sufficient. I can learn all the great
things you expect me to learn there better among the rankers than the
officers. I have known the officers at Edinburgh Castle. They were not
fit candidates for a bishopric.
The good man looked sadly at the angry youth and answered, Go and
talk the matter over with Thora.
I will. Surely she will be less cruel.
What do you wish, considering present circumstances?
I want the marriage carried out, devoid of all but its religious
ceremony. I want to spend one month in the home prepared for us, and
then I will submit to the punishment and schooling proposed.
No, you will not. Do not throw away this opportunity to retrieve
your so far neglected, misguided life. There is a great man in you, if
you will give him space and opportunity to develop, John. This is the
wide open door of Opportunity; go through, and go up to where it will
lead you. At any rate do whatever Thora advises. I can trust you as far
as Thora can. Then he held out his hand, and Ian, too deeply moved to
speak, took it and left the cathedral without a word.
He found Thora alone in the parlour. She had evidently been weeping
but that fact did not much soothe his sense of wrong and injustice. He
felt that he had been put aside in some measure. He was not sure that
even now Thora had been weeping for his loss. He told himself, she was
just as likely to have been mourning for Boris. He felt that he was
unjustly angry but, oh, he was so hopeless! Every one was ready to give
him advice, no one had said to him those little words of loving
sympathy for which his heart was hungry. He had felt it to be his duty
to try and console Thora, and Thora had wept in his arms and he had
kissed her tears away. She was now weary with weeping and suffering
with headache. She knew also that talking against any decision of her
father's was useless. When he had said the word, the man or woman that
could move him did not live. Acceptance of the will of others was a
duty she had learned to observe all her life, it was just the duty that
Ian had thought it right to resist. So amid all his love and
disappointment, there was a cruel sense of being of secondary interest
and importance, just at the very time he had expected to be first in
everyone's love and consideration.
Finally he said, Dear Thora, I can feel no longer. My heart has
become hopeless. I suffer too much. I will go to my room and try and
submit to this last cruel wrong.
Then Thora was offended. There is no one to blame for this last
cruel wrong but thyself, she answered. The death of Boris was a
nearer thing to my father and mother than my marriage. Thy marriage can
take place at some other time, but for my dear brother there is no
future in this life.
Are you even sure of his death?
My mother has seen him.
That is nonsense.
To you, I dare say it is. Mother sees more than any one else can
see. She has spiritual vision. We are not yet able for it, nor worthy
Then why did she not see our wedding catastrophe? She might have
averted it by changing the date.
Ask her; and as Thora said these words and wearily closed her
eyes, Rahal entered the room. She went straight to Ian, put her arms
round him and kissed him tenderly. Then Ian could bear no more. He
sobbed like a boy of seven years old and she wept with him.
Thou poor unloved laddie! she said. If thou had gone wrong, it
would have been little wonder and little blame to thyself. I think thou
did all that could be done, with neither love nor wisdom to help thee.
Rahal does not blame thee. Rahal pities and loves thee. Thou hast been
cowed and frightened and punished for nothing, all the days of thy sad
life. Poor lad! Poor, disappointed laddie! With all my heart and soul I
For a few moments there was not a word spoken and the sound of Ian's
bitter weeping filled the room. Ian had been flogged many a time when
but a youth, and had then disdained to utter a cry, but no child in its
first great sorrow, ever wept so heart-brokenly as Ian now wept in
Rahal's arms. And a man weeping is a fearsome, pitiful sound. It goes
to a woman's heart like a sword, and Thora rose and went to her lover
and drew him to the sofa and sat down at his side and, with promises
wet with tears, tried to comfort him. A strange silence that the
weeping did not disturb was in the house and room, and in the kitchen
the servants paused in their work and looked at each other with faces
full of pity.
The Wise One has put trouble on their heads, said a woman who was
dressing a goose to roast for dinner and her helper answered, And
there is no use striving against it. What must be, is sure to happen.
That is Right.
All that we have done, is no good. Fate rules in this thing. I see
The trouble came on them unawares. And if Death is at the
beginning, no course that can be taken is any good.
What is the Master's will? For in the end, that will orders all
The mistress said the marriage would be put off for a year. The
young man goes to the war.
No wonder then he cries out. It is surely a great disappointment.
Tom Snackoll had the same ill luck. He made no crying about it. He
hoisted sail at midnight and stole his wife Vestein out of her window,
and when her father caught them, they were man and wife. And Snackoll
went out to speak to his father-in-law and he said to him, 'My wife can
not see thee today, for she is weary and I think it best for her to be
still and quiet'; and home the father went and no good of his journey.
Snackoll got praise for his daring.
Well then, said a young man who had just entered, it is well
known that Vestein and her father and mother were all fully willing.
The girl could as easily have gone out of the door as the window.
Snackoll is a boaster. He is as great in his talk as a fox in his
Thus the household of Ragnor talked in the kitchen, and in the
parlour Rahal comforted the lovers, and cheered and encouraged Ian so
greatly that she was finally able to say to them:
The wedding day was not lucky. Let it pass. There is another, only
a year away, that will bring lasting joy. Now we have wept over our
mischance, we will bury it and look to the future. We will go and wash
away sorrow and put on fresh clothes, and look forward to the far
better marriage a year hence.
And her voice and manner were so persuasive, that they willingly
obeyed her advice and, as they passed her, she kissed them both and
told Ian to put his head in cold water and get rid of its aching fever,
for she said, The Bishop will want thee to sing some of thy Collects
and Hymns and thou wilt like to please him. He is thy good friend.
I do not think so.
He is. Thou may take that, on my word.
The evening brought a braver spirit. They talked of Boris and of his
open-hearted, open-air life, and the Bishop read aloud several letters
from young men then at the front. They were full of enthusiasm. They
might have been read to an accompaniment of fife and drums. Ian was
visibly affected and made no further demur about joining them. One of
them spoke of Boris leading his volunteers up the hill like a lion;
and another letter described his tenderness to the wounded and
convalescents, saying he spent his money freely, to procure them
little comforts they could not get for themselves.
They talked plainly and from their hearts, hesitating not to call
his name, and so they brought comfort to their heavy sorrow. For it is
a selfish thing to shut up a sorrow in the heart, far better to look at
it full in the face, speak of it, discuss its why and wherefore and
break up that false sanctity which is very often inspired by purely
selfish sentiments. And when this point was reached, the Bishop took
from his pocket a small copy of the Apocrypha and said, Now I will
tell you what the wisest of men said of such an early death as that of
our dear Boris:
'He pleased God, and he was beloved of him, so that living among
sinners, he was translated.
'Yea speedily was he taken away, lest that wickedness should
alter his understanding, or deceit beguile his soul.
'He, being made perfect in a short time, fulfilled a long time.
'For his soul pleased the Lord, therefore hasted he to take him
away from among the wicked.'
And these words fell like heavenly dew on every heart. There was no
comfort and honour greater than this to offer even a mother's heart. A
happy sigh greeted the blessed verses, and there was no occasion to
speak. There was no word that could be added to it.
Then Ian had a happy thought for before a spell-breaking word could
be said, he stepped softly to the piano and the next moment the room
was ringing with some noble lines from the Men of Harlech set to
notes equally stirring:
Men of Harlech, young or hoary,
Would you win a name in story,
Strike for home, for life, for glory,
Freedom, God and Right!
Onward! 'Tis our country needs us,
He is bravest, he who leads us,
Honour's self now proudly leads us,
Freedom! God and Right!
Loose the folds asunder!
Flag we conquer under!
Death is glory now.
The words were splendidly sung and the room was filled with
patriotic fervour. Then the Bishop gave Ragnor and Thora a comforting
look, as he asked, Who wrote that song, Ian?
Ah, sir, it was never written! It sprang from the heart of some old
Druid priest as he was urging on the Welsh to drive the Romans from
their country. It is two verses from 'The Song of the Men of Harlech.'
In olden times, Ian, the bards went to the battlefield with the
soldiers. We ought to send our singers to the trenches. Ian, go and
sing to the men of England and of France 'The Song of the Men of
Harlech.' Your song will be stronger than your sword.
I will sing it to my sword, sir. It will make it sharper. Then
Rahal said, You are a brave boy, Ian, and Thora lifted her lovely
face and kissed him.
Every heart was uplifted, and the atmosphere of the room was
sensitive with that exalted feeling which finds no relief in speech.
Humanity soon reacts against such tension. There was a slight movement,
every one breathed heavily, like people awakening from sleep, and the
Bishop said in a slow, soft voice:
I was thinking of Boris. After all, the dear lad may return to us.
Surgeons are very clever now, they can almost work miracles.
Boris will not return, said Rahal.
How can you know that, Rahal?
He told me so.
Have you seen him?
On the afternoon of the eleventh of this month.
Well, Bishop, I was making the cap I am wearing and I was selecting
from some white roses on my lap the ones I thought best. Suddenly Boris
stood at my side.
You saw him?
Yes, Bishop. I saw him plainly, though I do not remember lifting my
How did he look?
Like one who had just won a victory. He was much taller and grander
in appearance. Oh, he looked like one who had realized God's promise
that we should be satisfied. A kind of radiance was around him and the
air of a conquering soldier. And he was my boy still! He called me
'Mother,' he sent such a wonderful message to his father. And at the
last word, Ragnor uttered just such a sharp, short gasp as might have
come from the rift of a broken heart.
Did you ask him any question, Rahal?
I could not speak, but my soul longed to know what he was doing and
the longing was immediately answered. 'I am doing the will of the Lord
of Hosts,' he said. 'I was needed here.' Then I felt his kiss on my
cheek, and I lifted my head and looked at the clock. It had struck
three just as I was conscious of the presence of Boris. It was only two
minutes past three, but I seemed to have lived hours in that two
Do you think, Bishop, that God loves a soldier? He may employ them
and yet not love them?
Then the Bishop straightened himself and lifted his head, and his
face glowed and his eyes shone as he answered, I will give you one
example, it could be multiplied indefinitely. Paul of Tarsus, a pale,
beardless young man, dressed as a Roman soldier, is bringing prisoners
to Damascus. Christ meets him on the road and Paul knows instantly that
he has met the Captain of his soul. Hence forward, he is beloved and
honoured and employed for Christ, and at the end of life he is joyful
because he has fought a good fight and knows that his reward is waiting
God has given us the names of many soldiers beloved of
HimAbraham, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, David, etc. What care he took of
them! What a friend in all extremities he was to them! All men who
fight for their Faith, Home and Country, for Freedom, Justice and
Liberty, are God's armed servants. They do His will on the battlefield,
as priests do it at the altar. So then,
In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of life,
Be not like dumb driven cattle,
Be a hero in the strife!
We were speaking of the bards going to the battlefield with the
soldiers, and as I was quoting that verse of Longfellow's a few lines
from the old bard we call Ossian came into my mind.
Tell us, then, said Thora, wilt thou not say the words to us, our
I will do that gladly:
Father of Heroes, high dweller of eddying winds,
Where the dark, red thunder marks the troubled cloud,
Open Thou thy stormy hall!
Let the bards of old be near.
Father of heroes! the people bend before thee.
Thou turnest the battle in the field of the brave,
Thy terrors pour the blasts of death,
Thy tempests are before thy face,
But thy dwelling is calm above the clouds,
The fields of thy rest are pleasant.
When I was a young man, he continued, I used to read Ossian a
good deal. I liked its vast, shadowy images, its visionary
incompleteness, just because we have not yet invented the precise words
to describe the indescribable.
So they talked, until the frugal Orcadian supper of oatmeal and
milk, and bread and cheese, appeared. Then the night closed and sealed
what the day had done, and there was no more speculation about Ian's
future. The idea of a military life as a school for the youth had
sprung up strong and rapidly, and he was now waiting, almost
impatiently, for it to be translated into action.
A few restful, pleasant days followed. Ragnor was preparing to leave
his business for a week, the Bishop was settling some parish
difficulties, and Ian and Thora were permitted to spend their time as
they desired. They paid one farewell visit to their future home and
found an old woman who had nursed Thora in charge of the place.
Thou wilt find everything just so, when you two come home together,
my baby, she said. Not a pin will be out of its place, not a speck of
dust on anything. Eva will always be ready, and please God you may call
her far sooner than you think for.
The Sabbath, the last Sabbath of the old year, was to be their last
day together, and the Bishop desired Ian to make it memorable with
song. Ian was delighted to do so and together they chose for his two
solos, O for the Wings of a Dove, and the heavenly octaves of He
Hath Ascended Up on High and Led Captivity Captive. The old
cathedral's great spaces were crowded, the Bishop was grandly in the
spirit, and he easily led his people to that solemn line where life
verges on death and death touches Immortality. It was Christ the
beginning, and the end; Christ the victim on the cross, and Christ the
God of the Ascension! And he sent every one home with the promise of
Immortality in their souls and the light of it on their faces. His
theme had touched largely on the Christ of the Resurrection, and the
mystery and beauty of this Christ was made familiar to them in a way
they had not before considered.
Ragnor was afraid it had perhaps been brought too close to their own
conception of a soul, who was seen on earth after the death of the
body. You told the events of Christ's forty days on earth after His
crucifixion so simply, Bishop, he said, and yet with much of the air
that our people tell a ghost story.
Well then, dear Conall, I was telling them the most sacred ghost
story of the world, and yet it is the most literal reality in history.
If it were only a dream, it would be the most dynamic event in human
You see, Bishop, there is so much in your way of preaching. It has
that kind of good comradeship which I think was so remarkable in
Christ. His style was not the ten commandments' stylethou shalt and
thou shalt notbut that reasoning, brotherly way of 'What man is there
among you that would not do the kind and right thing?' You used it this
very morning when you cried out, 'If our dear England needed your help
to save her Liberty and Life, what man is there among you that would
not rise up like lions to save her?' And the men could hardly sit
still. It was so real, so brotherly, so unlike preaching.
Conall, nothing is so wonderful and beautiful in Christ's life as
its almost incredible approachableness.
This sermon had been preached on the Sabbath morning and it
spiritualized the whole day. Ian's singing also had proved a wonderful
service, for when the young men of that day became old men, they could
be heard leading their crews in the melodious, longing strains of 'O
for the Wings of a Dove,' as they sat casting their lines into the
In the evening a cold, northwesterly wind sprang up and Thora and
Ian retreated to the parlour, where a good fire had been built; but the
Bishop and Ragnor and Rahal drew closer round the hearth in the living
room and talked, and were silent, as their hearts moved them. Rahal had
little to say. She was thinking of Ian and of the new life he was going
to, and of the long, lonely days that might be the fate of Thora. The
woeful laddie! she whispered, he has had but small chances of any
kind. What can a lad do for himself and no mother able to help him!
The Bishop heard or divined her last words and he said, Be content,
Rahal. Not one, but many lives we hold, and our hail to every new work
we begin is our farewell to the old work. Ian is going to give a Future
to his Past.
I fear, Bishop
Fear is from the earthward side, Rahal. Above the clouds of Fear,
there is the certain knowledge of Heaven. Fear is nothing, Faith is
CHAPTER X. THE ONE REMAINS, THE MANY
CHANGE AND PASS
You Scotsmen are a pertinacious brood;
Fitly you wear the thistle in your cap,
As in your grim theology.
O we're not all so fierce! God knows you'll find,
Well-combed and smooth-licked gentlemen enough,
Who will rejoice with you
To sneer at Calvin's close-wedged creed.
Sow not in Sorrow,
Fling your seed abroad, and know
God sends tomorrow,
The rain to make it grow.
There are epochs in every life that cut it sharply asunder, its
continuity is broken and things can never be the same again. This was
the dominant feeling that came to Thora Ragnor, as she sat with her
mother one afternoon in early January. It was a day of Orkney's most
uncomfortable and depressing kind, the whole island being swept by
drifting clouds of vapour, which not only filled the atmosphere but
also the houses, so that everything was to the touch damp and
uncomfortable. Nothing could escape its miserable contact, even sitting
on the hearthstone its power was felt; and until a good northwester
came to dissipate the damp moisture, nobody expected much from any
Thora was restless and unhappy. Her life appeared to have been
suddenly deprived of all joy and sunshine. She felt as if everything
was at an end, or might as well be, and her mother's placid, peaceful
face irritated her. How could she sit knitting mufflers for the
soldiers in the trenches, and not think of Boris and also of Ian, whom
they had all conspired to send to the same danger and perhaps death?
She could not understand her mother's serenity. It occurred to her this
afternoon, that she might have run away with Ian to Shetland and there
her sisters would have seen her married; and she did not do this, she
obeyed her parents, and what did she get for it? Loneliness and misery
and her lover sent far away from her. Oh, those moments when Virtue has
failed to reward us and we regret having served her! To the young, they
are sometimes very bitter.
And her mother's calmness! It not only astonished, it angered her.
How could she sit still and not talk of Boris and Ian? It was a
necessary relief to Thora, their names were at her lips all day long.
But Thora had yet to learn that it is the middle-aged and the old who
have the power of hoping through everything, because they have the
knowledge that the soul survives all its adventures. This is the great
inspiration, it is the good wine which God keeps to the last. The old,
the way-worn, the faint and weary, they know this as the young can
never know it.
However, we may say to bad weather, as to all other bad things,
this, too, will pass, and in a couple of days the sky was blue, the
sun shining, and the atmosphere fresh and clear and full of life-giving
energy. Ships of all kinds were hastening into the harbour and the mail
boat, broad-bottomed and strongly built, was in sight. Then there was a
little real anxiety. There was sure to be letters, what news would they
bring? Some people say there is no romance in these days. Very far
wrong are they. These sealed bits of white paper hold very often more
wonderful romances than any in the Thousand Nights of story telling.
Rahal's and Thora's anxiety was soon relieved. A messenger from the
warehouse came quickly to the house, with a letter from Ragnor to Rahal
and a letter from Ian to Thora. Ragnor's letter said they had had a
rough voyage southward, the storm being in their faces all the way to
Leith. There they left the boat and took a train for London, from which
place they went as quickly as possible to Spithead, fearing to miss the
ship sailing for the Crimea on the eleventh. Ragnor said he had seen
Ian safely away to Sebastopol and observed that he was remarkably
cheerful and satisfied. He spoke then of his own delight with London
and regretted that he had not made arrangements which would permit him
to stay a week or two longer there.
Thora's letter was a genuine love letter, for Ian was deeply in love
and everything he said was in the superlative mood. Lovers like such
letters. They are to them the sacred writings. It did not seem
ridiculous to Thora to be called an angel of beauty and goodness, the
rose of womanhood, the lily on his heart, his star of hope, the
sunshine of his life, and many other extravagant impossibilities. She
would have been disappointed if Ian had been more matter-of-fact and
So there was now comparative happiness in the house of Ragnor, for
though the master's letters were never much more than plain statements
of doings or circumstances, they satisfied Rahal. It is not every man
that knows how to write to a woman, even if he loves her; but women
have a special divinity in reading love letters, and they know beyond
all doubting the worth of words as affected by those who use them.
Ragnor gave himself a whole week in London and before leaving that
city for Edinburgh he wrote a few lines home, saying he intended to
stay in London over the following Sabbath and hear Canon Liddon preach.
On Monday he would reach Edinburgh and on Tuesday have an interview
with Dr. Macrae and then take the first boat for home. They could now
wait easily, the silence had been broken, the weather was good, they
had The History of Pendennis and David Copperfield to read, their
little duties and little cares to attend to, and they were not at all
At length, the master was to be home that day. If the wind
was favourable, he might arrive about two o'clock, but Rahal thought
the boat would hardly manage it before three with the wind in her
teeth, or it might be nearer four. The house was all ready for him,
spick and span from roof to cellar and a dinner of the good things he
particularly liked in careful preparation. And, after all, he came a
little earlier than was expected.
Dear Conall, said Rahal, I have been watching for thee, but I
thought it would be four o'clock, ere thou made Kirkwall.
Not with Donald Farquar sailing the boat. The way he manages a boat
is beyond reason.
How is that?
He talks to her, as if she was human. He scolds and coaxes her and
this morning he promised to paint and gild her figurehead, if she got
into Kirkwall before three. Then every sailor on board helped her and
the wind changed a point or two and that helped her, and now and then
Farquar pushed her on, with a good or bad word, and she saved herself
by just eleven minutes.
And how well thou art looking! Never have I seen thee so handsome
before, never! What hast thou been doing to Conall Ragnor?
I will tell thee. When I had bid Ian good-bye, I resolved to take a
week's holiday in London and as I walked down the Strand, I noticed
that every one looked at me, not unkindly but curiously, and when I
looked at the men who looked at me, I saw we were different. I went
into a barber's first, and had my hair cut like Londoners wear it,
short and smart, and not thick and bushy, like mine was.
Well then, thy hair was far too long but they have cut off all thy
I like the wanting of them. They looked very womanish. I'm a deal
more purpose-like without them. Then I went to a first-class tailor-man
and he fit me out with the suit I'm wearing. He said it was 'the
correct thing for land or water.' What dost thou think of it?
Nothing could be more becoming to thee.
Nay then, I got a Sabbath Day suit that shames this one. And I
bought a church hat and a soft hat that beats all, and kid gloves, and
a good walking stick with a fancy knob.
Thou art not needing a walking stick for twenty years yet.
Well then, the English gentlemen always carries a walking stick. I
think they wouldn't know the way they were going without one. At last,
I went to the shoemakers, and he made me take off my 'Wellingtons.' He
said no one wore them now, and he shod me, as thou sees, very
comfortably. I like the change.
Then they heard Thora calling them, and Ragnor taking Rahal's hand
hastened to answer the call. She was standing at the foot of the
stairway, and her father kissed her and as he did so whisperedAll is
well, dear one. After dinner, I will tell thee. Then he took her hand,
and the three in one went together to the round table, set so
pleasantly near to the comfortable fireside. Standing there,
hand-clasped, the master said those few words of adoration and
gratitude that turned the white-spread board into a household altar.
Dinner was on the table and its delicious odours filled the room and
quickly set Ragnor talking.
I will tell you now, what I saw in London, he said. Ian is a
story good enough to keep until after dinner. I saw him sail away from
Spithead, and he went full of hope and pluck and sure of success. Then
I took the first train back to London. I got lodgings in a nice little
hotel in Norfolk Street, just off the Strand, and London was calling me
all night long.
Thou could not see much, Father, in one week, said Thora.
I saw the Queen and the Houses of Parliament, and I saw the Tower
of London and Westminster Abbey and the Crystal Palace. And I have
heard an oratorio, with a chorus of five hundred voices and Sims Reeves
as soloist. I have been to Drury Lane, and the Strand Theatres, to a
big picture gallery, and a hippodrome. My dear ones, the end of one
pleasure was just the beginning of another; in one week, I have lived
Any one can understand how a new flavour was added to the food they
were eating by such conversation. Not all the sauces in Christendom
could have made it so piquant and appetizing. Ragnor carved and ate and
talked, and Rahal and Thora listened and laughed and asked endless
questions, and when the mind enters into a meal, it not only prolongs,
it also sweetens and brightens it. I suppose there may be in every life
two or three festivals, that stand out from all otherssmall,
unlooked-for meetings, perhapswhere love, hope, wonder and happy
looking-forward, made the food taste as if it had been cooked in
Paradise. Where, at least for a few hours, a mortal might feel that man
had been made only a little lower than the angels.
Now, if any of my readers have such a memory, let them close the
book, shut their eyes and live it over again. It was probably a
foretaste of a future existence, where we shall have faculties capable
of fuller and higher pleasures; faculties that without doubt will be
satisfied. For in all hearts that have suffered, there must abide the
conviction that the Future holds Compensation, not Punishment.
But without forecast or remembrance, the Ragnors that night enjoyed
their highly mentalised meal, and after it was over and the table set
backward, and the white hearth brushed free of ashes, they drew around
the fire, and Ragnor laid down his pipe, and said:
I left London last Monday, and I was in Edinburgh until Wednesday
morning. On Tuesday I called on Dr. Macrae. I had a letter to give him
Why should Ian have written to him? asked Rahal, in a tone of
Because Ian has a good heart, he wrote to his father. I read the
letter. It was all right.
What then did he say to him?
Well, Rahal, he told his father that he was leaving for the front,
and he wished to leave with his forgiveness and blessing, if he would
give it to him. He said that he was sure that in their life-long
dispute he must often have been in the wrong, and he asked forgiveness
for all such lapses of his duty. He told his father that he had a clear
plan of success before him, but said that in all casesfortunate or
unfortunatehe would always remember the name he bore and do nothing
to bring it shame or dishonour. A very good, brave letter, dear ones. I
give Ian credit for it.
Did thou advise him to write it? asked Rahal.
No, it sprang from his own heart.
Thou should not have sanctioned it.
Ian did right, Rahal. I did right to sanction it.
Father, if Ian has a clear plan of success before him, what is it?
He ought to have told us.
He thought it out while we were at sea, he asked me to explain the
matter to you. It is, indeed, a plan so simple and manifest, that I
wonder we did not propose it at the very first. You must recollect that
Ian was in the employ of Dr. Finlay of Edinburgh for three years and a
half, and that during that period he acquired both a large amount of
medical knowledge and also of medical experience. Now we all know that
Ian has a special gift for this science, especially for its surgical
side, and he is not going to the trenches or the cavalry, he is going
to offer himself to the Surgical and Medical Corps. He will go to the
battlefield, carry off the wounded, give them first help, or see them
to the hospital. In this way he will be doing constant good to others
and yet be forwarding the career which is to make his future happy and
Then Ian has decided to be a surgeon, Father?
Yes, and I can tell thee, Thora, he has not set himself a task
beyond his power. I think very highly of Ian, no one could help doing
so; and see here, Thora! I have a letter in my pocket for thee! He gave
it to me as I bid him good-bye at Spithead.
I am so happy, Father! So happy!
Thou hast good reason to be happy. We shall all be proud of Ian in
Did thou give Ian's letter to his father's hands, or did thou mail
I gave it to him, personally.
What was thy first impression of him?
He gave me first of all an ecclesiastical impression. I just
naturally looked for a gown or surplice. He wanted something without
one. He met me coldly but courteously, and taking Ian's letter from me,
placed it deliberately upon a pile of letters lying on his desk. I
said, 'It is from thy son, Doctor, perhaps thou had better read it at
once. It is a good letter, sir, read it.'
He bowed, and asked if Ian was with me. I said, 'No, sir, he is on
his way to Scutari.' Then he was silent. After a few moments he asked
me if I had been in Edinburgh during the past Sabbath. 'You should have
been here,' he added, 'then you could have heard the great Dr. Chalmers
preach.' I told him that I had spent that never-to-be-forgotten Sabbath
under the blessed dome of St. Paul's in London. I said something about
the transcending beauty of the wonderful music of the cathedral
service, and spoke with delight of the majestic nave, filled with
mediæval rush-bottomed chairs for the worshippers, and I told him how
much more fitting they were in the House of God than pews. And Ragnor
uttered the last word with a new-found emphasis. He asked, quite
scornfully, in what sense I found them more fitting, and I answered
rather warmly'Why, sir, sitting together in chairs, we felt so much
more at home. We were like one great family in our Father's house.'
Are the chairs rented? asked Rahal.
Rented! cried Ragnor scornfully. No, indeed! There are no dear
chairs and no cheap chairs, all are equal and all are free. I never
felt so like worshipping in a church before. The religious spirit had
free way in our midst.
What did Macrae say?
He said, he supposed the rush chairs were an 'Armenian innovation';
and I answered, 'The pews, sir, they are the innovation.'
Did thou have any argument with him? I have often heard Ian say he
plunged into religious argument with every one he met.
Well, Rahal, I don't know how it happened, but I quickly found
myself in a good atmosphere of contradictions. I do not remember either
what I had been saying, but I heard him distinctly assert, that 'it was
the Armenians who had described the Calvinists, and they had not wasted
their opportunities.' Then I found myself telling him that Armenianism
had ruled the religious world ever since the birth of Christianity; but
that Calvinism was a thing of yesterday, a mere Geneva opinion. Rahal,
the man has a dogma for a soul, and yet through this hard veil, I could
see that he was full of a longing for love; but he has not found out
the way to love, his heart is ice-bound. He made me say things I did
not want to say, he stirred my soul round and round until it boiled
over, and then the words would come. Really, Rahal, I did not know the
words were in my mind, till his aggravating questions made me say
What words? Art thou troubled about them?
A little. He was talking of faith and doubt, especially as it
referred to the Bible, and I listened until I could bear it no longer.
He was asking what proof there was for this, and that, and the other,
and as I said, he got me stirred up beyond myself and I told him I
cared nothing about proofs. I said proofs were for sceptics and not for
good men who knew in whom they had believed.
Well then, Coll, that was enough, was it not?
Not for Macrae. He said immediately, 'Suppose there was no divine
authority for the scheme of morals and divinity laid down in this
Book,' and he laid his hand reverently on the Bible, 'where should we
be?' And I told him, we should be just where we were, because God's
commands were written on every conscience and that these commands would
stand firm even if creeds became dust, and Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
and Paul, all failed and passed away. 'Power of God!' I cried, as I
struck the table with my fist, 'it takes God's tireless, patient,
eternal love to put up with puny men, always doubting Him. I believe in
God the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth!' I said, 'and I
want no proofs about Him in whom I believe.' By this time, Rahal, he
had me on fire. I was ready to deny anything he asserted, especially
about hell, for thou knows, Rahal, that there are hells in this world
and no worse needed. So when he asked if I believed in the Calvinistic
idea of hell, I answered, 'I deny it! My soul denies itutterly!' I
reminded him that God spoke to Dives in hell and called him son and
that Dives, even there, clung to the fatherhood of God. And I told him
this world was a hell to those who deserved hell, and a place of much
trial to most men and women, and I thought it was poor comfort to
preach to such, that the next world was worse. There now! I have told
you enough. He asked me to lunch with him, and I did; and I told him as
we ate, what a fine fellow Ian was, and he listened and was silent.
Then you saw Ian's mother and sister? asked Thora.
No, I did not. They had gone for the winter to the Bridge of Allan.
Mrs. Macrae is sick, her husband seemed unhappy about her.
Rahal hoped now that her home would settle itself into its usual
calm, methodical order. She strove to give to every hour its long
accustomed duty, and to infuse an atmosphere of rest and of use and
wont into every day's affairs. It was impossible. The master of the
house had suffered a world change. He had tasted of strange pleasures
and enthusiasms, and was secretly planning a life totally at variance
with his long accustomed routine and responsibilities. He did not speak
of the things in his heart but nevertheless they escaped him.
Very soon he began to have much more regular communication with his
sons in Shetland, and finally he told Rahal that he intended taking his
son Robert into partnership. Such changes grew slowly in Ragnor's mind,
and much more slowly in practice, but Rahal knew that they were
steadily working to some ultimate, and already definite and determined
end in her husband's will.
The absent also exerted a far greater power upon the home than any
one believed. Ian's letters came with persistent regularity, and the
influence of one was hardly spent, when another arrived of quite a
different character. Ian was rapidly realizing his hopes. He had been
gladly taken into a surgical corps, under the charge of a Doctor
Frazer, and his life was a continual drama of stirring events.
Generally he wrote between actions, and then he described the gallant
young men resting on the slopes of the beleaguered hill, with their
weapons at their finger tips, but always cheerful. Sometimes he spoke
of them under terrible fire in their life-or-death push forward,
followed by the surgeons and stretcher-bearers. Sometimes, he had been
to the trenches to dress a wound that would not stop bleeding, but
always he wondered at seeing the resolute grit and calmness of these
young men, who had been the dandies in London drawing-rooms a year ago
and who were now smoking placidly in the trenches at Redan.
What is it? he asked an old surgeon, on whom he was waiting. Is
No, sir! was the answer. It is straight courage. Courage in the
blood. Courage nourished on their mother's milk. Courage educated into
them at Eton or Rugby, in many a fight and scuffle. Courage that lived
with them night and day at Oxford or Cambridge, and that made them
choose danger and death rather than be known for one moment as a cad or
a coward. It was dancing last year. It is fighting in a proper quarrel
this year. Different duties, that is all.
Every now and then Sunna dropped them letters about which there was
much pleasant speculating, for as the summer came forward, she began to
accept the disappointments made by the death of Boris, and to consider
what possibilities of life were still within her power. She said in May
that she was sick and weary of everything about Sebastopol, and that
she wanted to go back to Scotland, far more frantically than she ever
wanted to leave it. In June, she said, she had got her grandfather to
listen to reason, but had been forced to cry for what she wanted, a
humiliation beyond all apologies.
Her next letter was written in Edinburgh, where she declared she
intended to stay for some time. Maximus Grant was in Edinburgh with his
little brother, who was under the care and treatment of an eminent
surgeon living there. The poor little laddie is dying, she said, but
I am able to help him over many bad hours, and Max is not half-bad,
that is, he might be worse if left to himself. Heigh-ho! What varieties
of men, and varieties of their trials, poor women have to put up with!
As the year advanced Sunna's letters grew bright and more and more
like her, and she described with admirable imitative piquancy the
literary atmosphere and conversation which is Edinburgh's native air.
In the month of November, little Eric went away suddenly, in a paroxysm
of military enthusiasm, dying literally the death of a soldier with
tumult, with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpets, in his
We adored him, wrote Sunna, in her most fervent religious mood,
which was just as sincere as any other mood. He was such a loving,
clever little soul, and he lay so long within the hollow of Death's
sickle. There he heard and saw wonderful things, that I would not dare
to speak of. Max has wept very sincerely. It is my lot apparently, to
administer drops of comfort to him. In this world, I find that women
can neither hide nor run away from men and their troubles, the moment
anything goes wrong with them, they fly to some woman and throw their
calamity on her.
It is easy to see which way Sunna is drifting, said Rahal, after
this letter had been read. She will marry Maximus Grant, of course.
Mother, her grandfather wishes that marriage. It is very suitable.
His silent, masterful way will cure Sunna's faults.
It will do nothing of the kind. What the cradle rocks, the spade
buries. If Sunna lives to be one hundred years olda thing not
unlikelyshe will be Sunna. Just Sunna.
During all this summer, Ragnor was deeply engrossed in his business,
and the Vedders remained in Edinburgh, as did also Mistress Brodie,
though she had had all the best rooms in her Kirkwall house
redecorated. It is her hesitation about grandfather. She will, and she
won't, wrote Sunna, and she keeps grandfather hanging by a hair.
Then she made a few scornful remarks about the hesitating liaisons
of old women and concluded that it all depended upon the marriage
Grandfather [she wrote] wants to sneak into some out of the way
little church, and get the business over as quickly and quietly
possible; and Mistress Brodie has dreams of a peach-bloom satin
gown, and a white lace bonnet. She thought that was enough for a
second affair; and when I gently hoped that it was at least an
affair of the heart, she said with a distinct snap, Don't be
impertinent, Miss! However, all this is but the overture to the
great matrimonial drama, and it is rather interesting.
I saw by a late London paper that Thora's lover has gone and got
himself decorated, or crossed, for doing some dare-devil sort of
thing about wounded men. I wonder how Thora will like to walk on
Pall Mall with a man who wears a star or a medal on his breast.
Such things make women feel small. For, of course, we could win
stars and medals if we had the chance. Max considers Ian highly
praise-worthy. Max lately has a way of talking in two or three
syllables. I am trying to remember where I left my last spelling
book; I fear I shall have to get up my orthography.
The whole of this year A. D. 1855 was one of commonplaces stirred by
tragic events. It is this conjunction that makes the most prosaic of
lives always a story. It only taught Thora and Rahal to make the most
of such pleasures as were within their reach. In the evening Ragnor was
always ready to share what they had to offer, but in the daytime he was
getting his business into such perfect condition that he could leave it
safely in charge of his son Robert for a year, or more, if that was his
On the second of March, the Czar Nicholas died, and there was good
hope in that removal. In June, General Raglan died of cholera, and on
the following fifth of September, the Russians, finding they could no
longer defend Sebastopol, blew up its defences and also its two immense
magazines of munitions. This explosion was terrific, the very earth
appeared to reel. The town they deliberately set on fire. Then on
Sunday morning, September the ninth, the English and French took
possession of the great fortress, though it was not until the last day
of February, A. D. 1856, that the treaty of peace was signed.
After the occupation of Sebastopol, however, there was a cessation
of hostilities, and the hospitals rapidly began to empty and the
physicians and surgeons to return home. Dr. Frazer remained at his post
till near Christmas, and was then able to leave the few cases remaining
in the charge of competent nurses. Ian remained at his side and they
returned to England together. It was then within a few days of
Christmas, and Ian hastened northward without delay.
There was no hesitating welcome for him now; he was met by the
truest and warmest affection, he was cheerfully given the honour which
he had faithfully won. And the wedding day was no longer delayed, it
was joyfully hastened forward. Bishop Hedley, the Vedders and Maximus
Grant had already arrived and the little town was all agog and eager
for the delayed ceremony. Sunna had brought with her Thora's new
wedding dress and the day had been finally set for the first of
Thou will begin a fresh life with a fresh year, said Rahal to her
daughter. A year on which, as yet, no tears have fallen; and which has
not known care or crossed purpose. On its first page thou will write
thy marriage joy and thy new hopes, and the light of a perfect love
will be over it.
In the meantime life was full of new delights to Thora. Wonderful
things were happening to her every day. The wedding dress was here.
Adam Vedder had brought her a pretty silver tea service, Aunt
Barbienow Madame Vedderhad remembered her in many of those
womanwise ways, that delight the heart of youth. Even Dominie Macrae
had sent her a gold watch, and the little sister-in-law had chosen for
her gift some very pretty laces. Rich and poor alike brought her their
good-will offerings, and many old Norse awmries were ransacked in the
search for jewels or ornaments of the jade stone, which all held as
luck beyond breaking.
The present which pleased Thora most of all was a new wedding-dress,
the gift of her mother. The rich ivory satin was perfect and peerless
in its exquisite fit and simplicity; jewels, nor yet lace, could have
added nothing to it. Sunna had brought it with her own toilet. In fact,
she was ready to make a special sensation with it on the first of
January, for her wedding garment as Thora's bridesmaid was nothing less
than a robe of gold and white shot silk, worn over a hoop. She had been
wearing a hoop all winter in Edinburgh, but she was quite sure she
would be the first hooped lady to appear in Kirkwall town. Thora
might wear the bride veil, with its wreath of myrtle and rosemary, but
she had a pleasant little laugh, as she mentally saw herself in the
balloon of white and gold shot silk, walking majestically up the nave
of St. Magnus. It was so long since hoops had been worn. None of the
present generation of Kirkwall women could ever have seen a lady in a
hoop, and behind the present generation there was no likelihood of any
hooped ladies in Kirkwall.
Thora had no hoop. Her orders had been positively against it and
unless Madame Vedder had slipped inside the bell she could not
imagine any rival. As she made this reflection, she smiled, and then
translated the smile into the thought, If she has, she will look like
Now Ian's military suit in his department had been of white duff or
linen, plentifully adorned with gilt buttons and bands representing
some distinctive service. It was the secret desire of Ian to wear this
suit, and he rather felt that Thora or his mother-in-law should ask him
to do so. For he knew that its whiteness and gilt, and tiny knots of
ribbon, gave to the wearer that military air, which all men yearn a
little after. He wished to wear it on his wedding day but Thora had not
thought of it, neither had Sunna. However, on the 29th, Rahal, that
kind, wise woman, asked him as a special favour, to wear his medical
uniform. She said, the townsfolk would be so disappointed with black
broadcloth and a pearl-grey waistcoat. They longed to see him as he
went onto the battlefield, to save or succour the wounded.
But, Mother, he answered, I went in the plainest linen suit to
bring in the wounded and dying.
I know, dear one, but they do not know, and it is not worth while
destroying an innocent illusion, we have so few of them as we grow
Very well, Mother, it shall be as you wish.
Of course Ian wished to wear it, said Sunna.
Oh, Sunna, you must not judge all men from Max.
I am far from that folly. Your father has been watching the winds
and the clouds all day. So have I. Conall Ragnor is always picturesque,
even poetical. I feel safe if I follow him. He says it will be fine
tomorrow. I hope so!
This hope was more than justified. It was a day of sunshine and
little wandering south winds, and the procession was a fact. Now Ragnor
knew that this marriage procession, as a national custom, was passing
away, but it had added its friendliness to his own and all his sons'
and daughters' weddings and he wanted Thora's marriage ceremonial to
include it. When thou art an old woman, Thora, he said to her, then
thou wilt be glad to have remembered it.
At length the New Year dawned and the day arrived. All was ready for
it. There was no hurry, no fret, no uncertainty. Thora rode to the
cathedral in the Vedder's closed carriage with her father and mother.
Ian was with Maximus and Sunna in the Galt landeau. Adam Vedder and his
bride rode together in their open Victoria and all were ready as the
clock struck ten. Then a little band of stringed instruments and young
men took their place as leaders of the procession, and when they
started joyfully Room for the Bride! the carriages took the places
assigned them and about two hundred men and women, who had gathered at
the Ragnor House, followed in procession, many joining in the singing.
The cathedral was crowded when they reached it, and Dr. Hedley in
white robes came forward to meet the bride and, with smiles and loving
good will, to unite her forever to the choice of her soul.
It was almost a musical marriage. Melody began and followed and
closed the whole ceremonial. About twenty returned with the bridal
party to the Ragnor House to eat the bridal dinner, but the general
townsfolk were to have their feast and dance in the Town Hall about
seven in the evening. The Bishop stayed only to bless the meal, for the
boat was waiting that was to carry him to a Convocation of the Church
then sitting in Edinburgh. But he wore his sprig of rosemary on his
vest, and he stood at Ragnor's right hand and watched him mix the Bride
Cup, watched him mingle in one large silver bowl of pre-Christian age
the pale, delicious sherry and fine sugar and spices and stir the whole
with a strip of rosemary. Then every guest stood up and was served with
a cup, most of them having in their hand a strip of rosemary to stir it
with. And after the Bishop had blessed the bride and blessed the
bridegroom, he said, I will quote for you a passage from an old sermon
and after it, you will stir your cup again with rosemary and grow it
still more plentifully in your gardens.
The rosemary is for married men and man challengeth it, as
belonging properly to himself. It helpeth the brain, strengtheneth the
memory, and affects kindly the heart. Let this flower of man ensign
your wisdom, love and loyalty, and carry it, not only in your hands,
but in your heads and hearts. Then he lifted his glass and stirred the
wine with his strip of rosemary, and as he did so all followed his
example, while he repeated from an old romance the following lines:
... Before we divide,
Let us dip our rosemaries
In one rich bowl of wine, to this brave girl
And to the gentleman.
With these words he departed, and the utmost and happiest
interchange of all kinds of good fellowship followed. Every man and
woman was at perfect ease and ready to give of the best they had. Even
Adam Vedder delighted all, and especially his happy-looking bride, by
his clever condensation of Sunna's favourite story of The Banded Men.
No finished actor could have made it, in its own way, a finer model of
dramatic narrative, especially in its quaint reversal of the parts
usually played by father and son, into those of the prodigal father and
the money-loving, prudent son. Then a little whisper went round the
table and it sprang from Sunna, and people smiled and remembered that
Adam had won his wife from three younger men than himself and, as if by
a single, solid impulse, they stirred their wine cups once more and
called for a cheer for the old bridegroom, who had been faithful for
forty years to his first love and had then walked off with her, from
Provost, Lawyer and Minister; all of them twenty years younger than
Getting near to three o'clock, they began to sing and Rahal was
pleased to hear that sound of peace, for several guests were just from
the battlefield and quite as ready for a quarrel as a song. Also during
the little confusion of removing fruit and cake and glasses, and the
substitution of the cups and saucers and the strong, hot, sweet tea
that every Norseman loves, Ian and Thora slipped away without notice.
Max Grant's carriage put them in half-an-hour on the threshold of their
own home. They crossed it hand and hand and Ian kissed the hand he held
and Thora raised her face in answer; but words have not yet been
invented that can speak for such perfect happiness.
Love is rich in his own right,
He is heir of all the spheres,
In his service day and night
Swing the tides and roll the years.
What has he to ask of fate?
Crown him, glad or desolate.
Time puts out all other flames
But the glory of his eyes;
His are all the sacred names,
His the solemn mysteries.
Crown him! In his darkest day
He has Heaven to give away!
Ian's business arrangements curtailed the length of any festivity in
relation to the marriage. He had already signed an agreement with Dr.
Frazer to return to him as soon as possible after the twelfth day and
remain as his assistant until he was fully authenticated a surgeon by
the proper schools. In the meantime he would enter the London School of
Medicine and Surgery and give to Dr. Frazer all the time not demanded
by its hours and exercises. For this attention Ian was to receive from
Dr. Frazer one hundred pounds a year. Furthermore, when Ian had
received the proper authority to call himself Dr. John Macrae, he was
to have the offer of a partnership with Dr. Frazer, on what were
considered very favourable terms.
So their little romance was at last happily over. Ian was an
infinitely finer and nobler man. He had dwelt amid great acts and great
suffering for a year and had not visited the House of Mourning in vain.
All that was light and trifling had fallen away from him. He regarded
his life and talents now as a great and solemn charge and was resolved
to make them of use to his fellows. And Thora was lovelier than she had
ever been. She had learned self-restraint and she had hoped through
evil days, till good days came; so then, she knew how to look for good
when all appeared wrong and by faith and will, bring good out of evil.
After Thora and her husband left for London a great change took
place in the Ragnor home. Ragnor had been preparing for it ever since
his visit to London and, within a month, Robert Ragnor and his wife and
family came from Shetland and took possession. It gave Rahal a little
pain to see any woman in her place but that was nothing, she was going
to give her dear Coll the dream of his life. She was going to travel
with him, and see all the civilized countries in the world! She was
going to London first, and last, of all!
CHAPTER XI. SEQUENCES
Not long ago I found in a list of Orkney and Shetland literature
several volumes by a Conall Ragnor, two of them poetry. But that just
tended to certify a suspicion. Sixty years ago I had heard him repeat
some Gallic poems and had known instinctively, though only a girl of
eighteen, that the man was a poet.
It roused in me a curiosity I felt it would be pleasant to gratify,
and so a little while after I began this story, I wrote to a London
newspaper man and asked him to send me some of his Orkney exchanges. I
have a habit of trusting newspaper editors and I found this one as I
expected, willing and obliging. He sent me two Orkney papers and the
first thing I noticed was the prevalence of the old names. Among them I
saw Mrs. Max Grant, and I thought I would write to her and take my
chance of the lady turning out to be the old Sunna Vedder. It was quite
a possibility, as we were apparently about the same age when I saw her.
It was only for an hour or two in the evening we met, at the Ragnor
house, but girls see a deal in an hour or two and if I remembered her,
she had doubtless chronicled an opinion of me.
In about five weeks Mrs. Grant's letter in answer to mine arrived.
She began it by saying she remembered me, because I wore a hat, a
sailor's hat, and she said it was the first hat she ever saw on a
woman's head. She said also, that I told her women were beginning to
wear them for shopping and walking and driving, or out at sea, but
never for church or visiting. All of which I doubtless said, for it was
my first hat. And I do not remember women wearing hats at all until
about this time.
I suppose [she continued] thou wants to know first of all about
the Vedders. They were the people then, and they have not
a bit smaller, nor do they think any less of themselves yet. My
grandfather married again and was not sorry for it. I don't know
whether his wife was sorry or not. I took Maximus Grant for a
husband for, after Boris Ragnor died, I did not care who I took,
provided he had plenty of good qualities and plenty of gold. We
lived together thirty years very respectably. I took my way and I
usually expected him to do the same. We had four sons, and they
have nine sons among them, and all of the nine are now fighting
the vipers they have been coddling for forty or fifty years. Some
are in the regular army, some in the navy, and some in the
fighting little navy, patrolling England and her brood of
coastwise islands. They are a tough, rough, hard lot, but I love
them all better than anything else in this world. There are a
many Vedder houses in Orkney, and they are all full of little
squabbling, fighting, never clean, and never properly dressed
little brats, from four to eleven years old. So I don't worry
about there being Vedders enough to run things the way they want
The Ragnors are here in plenty. All the men are at the war, all
the women running fishing boats or keeping general shops, to
I like to see the Germans going. They are told what kind of
they are as they walk up to the shops; and they get what they
at an impoverishing price. Serve them right! Men, however, will
pay any money for a thing they want.
There has not been such good times in Orkney since I was born, as
there is now. We have an enemy to beat in trade and an enemy to
beat in fight at our very doors, and our men are neither to hold
nor to bind, they are that top-lofty. War is a man's native air.
My sons and grandsons are all two inches taller than they were
they defy Nature to contradict them. I never attempt it. Well,
then, they are proper men in all things, a little hard to deal
with and masterful, but just as I wish them. My grandfather died
fifty years ago, he might have lived longer if he had not
married. His widow wept in the deepest black and people thought
she was sorry.
The Ragnors are mostly here and in Shetland. Conall Ragnor never
really settled down again. Rahal and he lived in Edinburgh or
London, when not travelling. I heard that Conall wrote books and
really got money for them. I cannot believe that. Rahal died
first. Conall lived a month after her. They were laid in earth in
Stromness Church-yard. My grandfather wanted to bring the body of
Boris home and bury it in Stromness, and I would not let him. He
is all mine where he sleeps in the Crimea. I don't want him among
a congregation of his brothers and sisters and uncles and aunts.
* * * * *
I suppose thou must have heard of Thora's husband. He really
did become famous, and I was told his father forgave him all his
youthful follies. It was said Thora managed that in some clever
way; but I'm sure I don't know what to say. Thora never seemed
at all clever to me. She had many children, but she died long
ago, though she did live long enough to see her husband
knighted and her eldest boy marry the daughter of a lord. I have
no doubt she was happy in her own way, only she never did dress
herself as a person in the best society ought to have done. I
once told her so. Well, then, she said, I dress to please my
husband. Imagine such simplicity! As to myself I am getting
near to ninety, but I live a good life and God helps me. I have
kept my fine hair and complexion and I run around on my little
errands quite comfortably. Indeed I am sunwise able for
everything I want. I shall be glad to hear from thee again, and
thou wilt send me occasionally some of those delightful American
papers, thou wilt make me much thy debtor. Also, I want thee
to tell all the brave young Americans thou knows that if they
would like a real life on the ocean wave, they ought to join
our wonderful patrol round the English coast. They will learn
more and see more and feel more in a month, in this little
interfering navy, than they'd learn in a lifetime in a
Write to me again and then we shall have tied our friendship with
a three-fold letter. Thine, with all good will and wishes,
SUNNA VEDDER GRANT.
This is a woman's letter and it must have a postscript. It is only
two lines of John Stuart Blackie's, and it should have been at the
beginning, but it will touch your heart at the end as well as at the
Oh, for a breath of the great North Sea,
Girdling the mountains!
S. V. G.