Amelia E. Barr.

An Orkney Maid online

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wanted at thy home - at 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
she deserves."

"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 days - and 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 wrong - the 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?"

"I do."

"Let us cease this talk. It will come to nothing."

"Then good-bye."

"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

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.



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 die - but 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 spring" - and Thora reminded her mother of this

"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

"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

"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 home."

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 him - but 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 charge - only
his money. I do not think the quality of his reputation can hurt

"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 words - "My
father is - sure - I - was - born - at - the - other - end - of - the - measure."

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
she lingered.

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

"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 is - when he is in the mood to be
courteous - and 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 you - the 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
that work?"

"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 night."

"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 grand!'"

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

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 made - it was completely different from anything he had
ever seen or dreamed about.

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

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
truth - "it 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,

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