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 thee."
"And thou wilt wet it, to make it curl?"
"That I will do also - to please thee."
"Then, as we are to dance together, thou wilt put on thy fine white
socks, and thy Spanish leather shoes - the 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
"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 suit - no, 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 here - at the very end of the world - thy
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 do - I 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 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 handsome - just 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
"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 meet
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 the
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 invitation - but
welcome all the same - went 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.
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 felt - though they did not speak of
it - the 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 always - more 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 pleasure - surely 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
them - so 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 this - Boris 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 that - my 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 out - if not true, why should
Rahal Ragnor sow seeds of suspicion and ill-will? Is Sunna disobedient
"She is something worse - she deceives me. Her name is mixed up with
some report - I 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
"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 this
"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
excitement - but 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 Scot - but it would not do to flaunt
the feathered cap and philabeg too much - on 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
"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 you - but 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 name."
"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 give - music 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 do - or say?"
"He walked rapidly to Sunna, and he said, 'Miss Vedder, thou art