Amelia E. Barr.

An Orkney Maid online

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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 smile - Pshaw! Women know so much - and do so little.
By storm thou ought to have taken the whole affair for thy own. I am
disappointed in thee - yes, I am disappointed."

"Why, Grandfather?"

"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 does - and 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 thee - flying off in a temper
like a foolish woman!"

"I am sorry - speak 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, then - little 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 coaster - dost 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
against us."

"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
this - it is easier to begin that reel than it will be to end it. One
thing I do not like - thou wert angry with Boris, now thou wilt take
him for a partner."

"At any time I can put my anger under my purse - but 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
thee - but 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 her - my 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 fashion.

"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?"

"Yes - one can only bear so much happiness, then it is weariness - sometimes
crossness. Too much of any good thing is a bad thing."

"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, Sunna - surely you know?"

"Yes, I, too, have been in love."

"With Boris - I 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 notice - but 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
cloud - it 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 there - and 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 that - Boris 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 man - he 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."

"Well then?"

"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
love - but no tale shall be made about Sunna Vedder! _No!_ _No!_ It is
Boris Ragnor I shall turn into laughter - he has mocked my very
heart - I will never forgive him - that is the foolish way all women
take - all but Sunna Vedder - she will neither forgive nor forget - she
will follow up this affair - yes!"

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

"It is Boris Ragnor. He has sailed north with the recruiting
company - without 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 me - that made his
temper rise - then 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 not - if I went there no more. I have
not danced with McLeod since, except at Mrs. Brodie's. Thou saw me

"Thou should not have entered McLeod's house - what 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 Bork - with thy consent I went - and
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 me - if 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 hypocrite - Thora is so
easily deceived - - "

"And thou?"

"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 Shetland - if 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

"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



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 sweet - and 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 Boris - loved
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."

"Perhaps - if 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 son - he promised thee to be home in two weeks. Men
do not break a promise made on their mother's lips. How soon dost thou
expect him?"

"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?"

"His mother!"

"She might, a little way - no further - just 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 something - so sorry I am that I
let Thora see I loved her brother - when 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

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