Amelia E. Barr.

An Orkney Maid online

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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
of honour."

"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
Bless Thee!"

"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."

"What for?"

"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 to India?"

"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 Euphrates."

"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 mercy."

"Yet, one thing is sure, Grandad; war is wasteful and destructive - - "

"And one thing is truer still - it is this - _that 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 Sunna - much against her
will - was 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 doing

"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 know - in 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 sure - thou 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
stepmother; and - - "

"She will never step past thee. Fear not!"

"Nor will any one - man or woman - step 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."

"Sunna Vedder?"

"I love her. She cannot bore me."

"Rahal Ragnor?"

"I respect her. She does not bore me - often."

"Yes, that is so; it is but seldom thou sees her. Well, then, Barbara

"I once loved her. She can never be indifferent to me."

"Thou hast told me the truth and I will not follow up this catechism."

"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 them - and I do get tired of men very quickly - I 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 this - every step on that road may lead to danger - and 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 her - one 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
by her.

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 enlisting - everyone,
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 kind smiles.

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 possess - eyes 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 it - and 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 with - say - Ken 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."

"Yes - but there was some talk that way. My aunt heard it. My aunt
hears everything."

"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

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
die - on a - battlefield!"

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 them - what?" asked Sunna.

"The cold, dead damnation of a disgrace they will never outlive,"
answered Max.

There was a sharp cry from Eric at these words, and then a passionate
childish exclamation - "Not 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 war - "He would hear us in
his sleep," said Max, "and he has borne all he is able to bear today."
Then Sunna said:

"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

"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."

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