Amelia E. Barr.

An Orkney Maid online

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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
them run.

The Ragnors are here in plenty. All the men are at the war, all
the women running fishing boats or keeping general shops, to which
I like to see the Germans going. They are told what kind of people
they are as they walk up to the shops; and they get what they want
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 and
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 if
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 first-class

Write to me again and then we shall have tied our friendship with
a three-fold letter. Thine, with all good will and wishes,


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.

* * * * *

Transcriber Notes

Fixed probable typos.

Hyphenation standardized.

Archaic and variable spelling is preserved.

Author's punctuation style is preserved, except quote marks, which
have been standardized.

Passages in italics indicated by _underscores_.

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