Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A sister to Esau online

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This letter went to Lady Yarrow's bedroom with
her early cup of tea. She sipped her tea, and ate her
toast as she read it. " The laddie is in a blaze of
spiritual temper. I'll warrant he is praising himself
for it. He thinks, too, that I am a man ! " and Lady
Yarrow laughed softly at the mistake. " If I had
been a man, I would have been ordering him here and
there, and telling him to do thus and so, all the live
long time. A man could not have kept the secret of
his own good deed a month after the lad was able to


say ' I thank your Honor ! ' The word ' I ' would
have weighed so heavy on his under lip, it would have
drawn after it ' I feed you.' 'I clothe you.' ' I pay
your school bills.' ' You ought to praise and glorify
me exclusively and continually.' That was the way
with Lord Yarrow and the two nephews he sent to sea.
Poor motherless bairns ! But Yarrow was no excep
tion. Very few can keep to themselves any good
thing they do. It whirls about in their memory, it looks
out from their eyes, it burns on their tongue, and at last
it steps out, smirking and smiling from between their
lips. In this respect I am a Pharisee. I can honestly
thank God, I am not as other men ! nor even as
other women. I have kept my good deed secret for
twenty-five years. Even when I heard the lad preach
so grandly, I held my own tongue. And Ann wonders
whatever kind of flesh and blood I am made of ! "

With a smile of satisfaction she folded the letter
and put it under her pillow. Then she had her tray
removed, and lay down for her second sleep. About
eleven o'clock Ann entered the room, and Lady Yar
row lifted herself slightly, and said :

" I have had a letter from our son, Ann. A grand
letter. It is just what I expected. He has stood his
first trial bravely. Now, Ann, I am going to give you
a surprise. I am going to send you on a great mes
sage. You must go and tell Angus the whole truth,
and we will see how his reverence takes it."

" My dear lady, is not one trouble enough for one
year ? The puir lad is to lose baith kirk and manse,
and fortune ; for if he goes out wi'the protestors next
May, he leaves kirk and manse behind him, and you
empty his pockets. And ever the big trouble brings
a lot o' little troubles that no one kens about : and


whiles these wee worries are the worst o' all to thole.
The lad has plenty o' worry. I will na add ane to
them. No ! I'll be silent forever rather."

" Ann ! you must go and see him next week."

" I'll no go near him."

" Yes you will, Ann. Help me to dress, and then
we will talk over the plan I have made ; and I'll read
you his letter. It is a fine letter, Ann. You will have
to trust me in this matter, woman. Have I ever been
unkind to the lad ?"

" You have been fayther and mither, baith, to him."

" Yes, I have. Is it likely I will turn against him
now ? Ann, you will have to go to Rodney Law next
week. There is nothing to fear. Oh woman, how
faithless you are ! Do you want me to go ? "

" No, I can travel the road mysil'."


" Ah, God ! My child ! my first, my living child !

I have been dreaming of a thing like thee
E'er since a babe, upon the mountains wild
I nursed my mimic babe upon my knee."


" Bright as his manly sire my son shall be
In form and soul ; but ah ! more blest than he !
Thy fame, thy worth, thy filial love at last
Shall soothe this aching heart for all the past."


HTHE relationship between Lady Yarrow and Ann
* was one about which many people had once specu
lated, and Scotia could not help, in her companionship
with the two women, wondering what singular bond
of interest or affection made their friendship so close
and lasting. For the thought of kinship did not
seem possible. Lady Yarrow was one of her own
family, a woman of high birth and fine breeding ;
moreover, one who had opened her soul to every wind
of life that brought on its wings wider thought or cul
tivation. Everything about her friend Ann pointed
to lowly birth, insufficient education, and those posi
tive opinions and prejudices which are usually found
in primitive natures.

Yet Lady Yarrow exacted from her household the
same respect for her friend as she did for herself. If


she sat at the head of the table, Ann sat at the foot.
Ann had the most positive authority over everything.
She engaged or dismissed servants as she thought
proper ; she examined and paid all bills ; she took
the whole burden of the housekeeping upon her shoul
ders. She was Lady Yarrow's closest companion ;
they spoke to each other with perfect freedom and
familiarity ; and yet Ann rendered her friend the ser
vice of a maid, and very often received, with apparent
indifference, orders and reproofs, which indicated that
beneath the surface of equality there was a radical
social difference which both acknowledged.

Lady Yarrow made no explanations to Scotia on
this subject ; probably the position had become so
natural to herself that she forgot any explanation was
necessary. Yet there had been a time when society
had been rebellious about Mistress Ann, and people
of pronounced social views had refused to accept her.

Then surmises had been many and unpleasant ; they
had died out ; they had begun again ; they had finally
passed away altogether ; and Lady Yarrow's acquaint
ances had accepted Ann for all she required, which
was not very much her place at table and her chair
in some quiet corner, where she sat with a piece of
work in her hands, if the company were informal. In
more ceremonious gatherings, Ann usually disappeared
when dancing and card playing began.

" My friend has some fixed opinions, and she is em
bayed in them like a ship in ice," explained Lady
Yarrow, " but she is conscientious, and we must re
spect her scruples."

All wonders and queries had, however, long been
over when Scotia visited her aunt ; and Mistress Ann
in her black silk dress and white lace cap and neck-


erchief, was as much a part of Yarrow House as was
Lady Yarrow herself. She was a constant source of
interest to Scotia. Sometimes she fancied she must
have known her when she was a child a child too
young to individualize the forms that made part of
her small world. She was much younger than Lady
Yarrow ; a very handsome woman nearing fifty years
of age. Her features were grandly formed, and had
an expression serious and placid. She was tall and
slightly stout a comely, comfortable presence : with
out dignity, without pride, and equally without self-

Although usually very calm, she was much moved
by Lady Yarrow's positive determination to send her
to Rodney Law. But she did not let her feelings
' run into motion ' as nervous people do. She sat
still, her hands were folded on her lap, her eyes were
introspective ; her face was like a piece of dull water
which reflected nothing. Yet she was feeling intensely.
Nor were her feelings such as breed sorrow. They
had in them great hopes, the craving of devoted yet
unsatisfied affection, and a good portion of personal
pride ; only Ann was a coward, and to ' let well alone '
seemed to her a sure and desirable good. She feared
to risk all in order to gain all. Life, with its secret
joy and its hidden spring of happiness, was so pleas
ant, so peaceful ! Why should she call change to
herself and others.

After a long reflection she rose slowly to her feet
and began to undress. Anon, she lifted her Bible, and
with conscious, purposeful deliberation opened it.
The portion her eyes selected did not alter her coun
tenance. She laid down the book with an air of " I
thought so," and said decidedly :


" I'll no go a footstep. I'm no sent there yet. If
my Lady canna wait for the opening of the door, she
will hae to break it open wi' her ain hand. That
settles the matter i' my mind."

And it did settle it. Ann knew nothing about
worry. She never let the sorrow of yesterday pile
itself into mountains high, while she lay tossing on
her hot pillow. She had the wisdom denied to this
nervous generation, who let the obstacle to be en
countered at some future time triumph over them in
advance. The evil of the day was sufficient for the
day, with Ann, and she fell asleep telling herself
" maybe something extronar" will happen.

In the morning something extraordinary did hap
pen. As Lady Yarrow was dressing, Ann let her
silver comb fall, and it stood straight up. " You are
going to hae a strange visitor, Lady Jemima, " she
said, as she picked up the little diviner, and looked
curiously at it.

" Ann, Ann ! in all things you are too superstitious.
What can the comb know of a coming visitor ? "

" Ken you wha is behind the comb ? Do we see a'
the hands that shape the day's doings ? Men will hae
to be wiser than what is written, ere they tell us why
certain signs always go before certain events."

And though Lady Yarrow smiled at Ann's super
stition, she was not insensible to its influence. " It is
such a lovely day," she answered, " I will put on my
best velvet suit," and so she attributed to the weather
a motive whose real source lay deeper down and farther
away. " I have just sent Scotia to dress for the car
riage, and we may make some calls or we may do
some shopping or we may have a swift drive as far
as Roslyn. Anything pleasant is likely, Ann."


She took a last look at her still handsome figure in
its handsome drapery, and then, as she left the room,
said, " I will wait for Scotia in the breakfast parlor.
She ought not to be long. A bonnie lassie is soon
dressed. Tell her where to find me, Ann."

" I forgot, Lady Jemima, to tell you something
there is a letter from Yarrow Bell. Jim Haddon says
he hasna siller enough to care for the sheep through
the winter."

She was half way down the stairs, but she turned
with a laugh. " All complain of the want of siller,
Ann, but none of the want of sense. Send the man
whatever he needs and send Scotia to me."

As she spoke, the footman threw open the main
entrance, and a young man in the uniform of the Royal
Highlanders, walked, with a splendid air of youth and
of owning all the world, through the wide hall into the
parlor. She followed him as quickly as possible. He
came to meet her with a letter in his hand bare
headed, smiling, with just a touch of that patronage
which youth is apt to assume toward age.

" I should know you without introduction"; said
Lady Yarrow, looking eagerly into the bright, pleasant
face. " You cannot be Captain James Forres, but you
must be his son."

" I am the son of Lord James Fraser Forres. He
was Captain Forres when he knew you many years

She looked at him with a strange yearning. This
fine soldier might have been her son, but for her
sister Dorinda. She bade him sit down, in a voice that
trembled with emotion, and then read the letter, that
had come years and years too late.

As her eyes were bent upon it, Scotia entered the


room. Captain Forres had been looking a little
bored, but instantly his heart was in his face. He
glanced impatiently at Lady Yarrow, who suddenly
became aware of the present and its demands. She
took Scotia by the hand, and said :

" Captain Torres, I make you known to my niece,
Miss Rodney. Scotia, help me to welcome Captain
Torres, the son of a very dear old friend. Now you
can improve your introduction, and let me read over
again my letter."

Youth and beauty are quick friends, and what they
find to say and how they say it is simply a wonder to
slow and grave proprieties. Lady Yarrow took her
letter upstairs and dropped a few tears on the kindly,
sorrowful words. Then she locked them away, and
touched her eyes with some reviving lotion, and went
back to the parlor with a smile. Why should any one
now suspect the longing pain in her heart.

Scotia and the young captain were standing together
at the window. Their voices were blending like music
in merry laughter as she entered. Something in the
passing crowd had touched their sense of the ridicu
lous, and the hearty laugh, with its rippling echo,
woke strange memories in the old lady's heart.

For the young man was singularly like his father.
Just so he had looked and laughed, just so he had smiled
at her, years and years, and long years ago. She was
then as young as Scotia, and she had more than
Scotia's beauty. For a moment the young people did
not perceive her entrance, and she regarded them
with a wistful speculation. They made a handsome
picture. Scotia's dark blue cloth pelisse, and bright
flowing hair contrasting finely with the captain's scarlet
jacket, and dark green tartans, and jeweled dirk and


philabeg. Both were tall, and Forres was dark as
his famous namesake, Dhu James Forres.

Lady Yarrow asked the young man to ride with
them. She put aside all thoughts of calling, or shop
ping, and they drove merrily out to Roslyn the
carriage thrown open to the fresh air and sunshine ;
the ladies in the back-seat, beautiful amid their many
colored furs and wraps ; young Forres facing them,
grandly indifferent to wind or cold ; his fine figure
bent toward his entertainers, his face lighted with
pleasure, his tongue never failing him for the right
word, his hands always ready to tuck back Lady Yar
row's falling furs or fold anew some comfortable wrap.

There was now no more talk of Rodney Law, and
Ann wisely did not introduce the subject. Day by
day, Lady Yarrow liked young Forres better. In a
week she was calling him ' Jamie,' as she had once
called his father. She made dinner parties in his
honor, and dancing parties for his pleasure. Ann
could see that he was in love with Scotia, and that
Lady Yarrow favored his love, and was determined
no Dorinda should mar this marriage. She had
once found pleasure in speculating about her niece and
the minister, but she was now as one who had never
heard the name of Angus Bruce.

And Ann sighed as she reflected how often " some
thing happens " to alter plans that seemed sure and
certain. The fact is, no event bears trifling with.
''Almost and very-near have aye been great liars,"
she said. " I'm feared Angus will be forgotten, but
what need to worry ? A man may woo where he will,
but he must wed where his fate is."

It was now near the New Year, and there had been
an intention that Scotia should return to Rodney


House for the festival, spend a week there, and then
accompany Lady Yarrow to London. The project
had often been discussed before the arrival of Captain
Forres ; after his arrival, Lady Yarrow avoided the
subject ; and when it was forced upon her attention
she objected so positively to it that Scotia felt
obliged to abandon the plan.

" I dislike to have my visitors break their favor in
two," she said a little crossly, " and I do not know
what day precisely I may feel able to begin the jour
ney. It is possible we may start before Christmas
and spend Christmas with friends in Yorkshire, and
the New Year with the Cunliffes at Oxford ; and so,
after a fortnight's visiting, reach London about the
7th of January."

" Then I could meet you in London, Lady Jemima.
There is a deal to be done here, if we go from Lon
don to Yarrow Bell. The furniture must be covered,
and the plate sent to the bankers, and the costly
hangings and such like, put where moth and rust
willna corrupt them."

Between two women so fixed in their opinions,
Scotia, as a guest, had very little power to gainsay
plans, which were said to be made for her pleasure.
She was much disappointed ; she longed to see
Angus ; and had hoped during her short visit to at
least arrange matters so that he might write her a
letter occasionally. Certainly, she respected that
nicety of honor which had kept him silent until the
Colonel's permission to woo her had been obtained ;
and yet, there were hours in which she wished he had
dared a little for love's sake. Indeed she had expected
so much from him, and the sight of the always dis
appointing postman made her heart hot and her eyes


twinkle with suppressed tears. Before the New Year,
disappointment had become anger. It might be true
that he could not love her much, if he loved not honor
more ; but a letter of assurance would have been
more satisfactory than silence ennobled by a senti

So then, Lady Yarrow's decided aversion to her
return home in the middle of her visit did not dis
appoint Scotia as much as it would have done if
Angus, instead of longing and watching for her ar
rival, had written just one word, " Come ! " She was
further reconciled to Lady Yarrow's intentions by a
letter from Bertha, which announced a visit from

" Blair is coming ! " She wrote the words in capi
tals. " The poor, dear fellow cannot endure our separa
tion any longer. He says he shall have a very positive
talk with Father, and insist upon our marriage much
earlier than the last of May. Father will of course
object, but I think Blair will get his own way. Blair
has such a firm will," etc., etc. Five pages about Blair,
and ten pages about Bertha, and half a page for the
rest of the household.

Considering everything, then, Scotia felt it would be
best to fall in cheerfully with Lady Yarrow's designs ;
and she did so with all the pleasurable anticipations of
which her happy nature was capable. This mood was
all that Lady Yarrow required to arouse her to the
point of movement. In less than a week they were on
their way to Yorkshire, and Ann was alone in the
darkened and almost deserted house.

For some days she was busy about the business
arrangements which she had indicated as necessary
packing away fine hangings and napery, sending


silver plate and rare books to the bankers, covering
furniture and pictures, darkening rooms and arranging
the household on the " absent footing," by dismissing
some servants, and read justing the work and wages of

The work occupied her until Christmas, a festival
she conscientiously refused to publicly acknowledge
in any way. But yet, as she sat that Christmas night,
alone in the shrouded parlor, with her tired hands
dropped on her lap, and her eyes dropped upon the
blazing coals, she could not avoid thoughts that wan
dered far back and far off, to dreamy shepherds on
the hills of Palestine ; and happy angels singing above
them. And being an intensely human woman, her
heart stirred with warm, sweet sympathy for the young
mother with her first-born son in her breast ; and she
gave one short cry of pain, and stood quickly up as
if she were hurried or impatient.

" I must go ! I must go and see my ain dear lad !
I'll no wait longer, for any woman born."

For a few minutes she stood thus, her strong face
firmly set ; her hands clasped against her chin ; her
figure, her air, the outward gaze of her eyes, all
indicating a purpose as positive as it was sudden.

She did not waste her feeling by expressing it.
Lady Yarrow would have walked it away. Ann sat
down again, and with prudent courage examined the
thing which she had suddenly resolved to do. The
greatest holdback was the dread of poverty. Ann had
known what it was to have " just enough to keep body
and soul together " ; and she audibly commented " In
sic a strait the soul doesna grow."

She had intended to leave Edinburgh for London
on the following morning. She went to Fife to


Rodney Law. The days were at their shortest, and
it was quite dark when she reached the little village.
" Where is the manse ? " she asked of the first child
she met, and he answered, " The wee gray house in
the garden, ayont."

The wee gray house was not a hundred yards away.
She gave the lad a penny and walked toward it. She
was not even yet quite sure of what she would do or
say. She had provided herself with an excuse for
troubling the minister, if her heart failed her or
warned her even in his presence. She thought she
had prudence and self-control sufficient for all the
visit might entail.

The little gate clashed noisily in the still night, and
a dog some way off asked what was the matter ? It
disturbed no one in the manse. A much drearier
home it would have been hard to imagine. The
garden was bare and neglected. There was no light
visible, except a pale glimmer in one of the front
rooms. As she neared the door, she saw that it came
from a candle, standing on a small round table.

Angus sat at the table intently reading a pam
phlet Dr. Chalmer's last manifesto. She thought it
no harm to look long at him to note the cheerless
fire burnt low and gray the poor, plain furniture
and above all, the calm beautiful countenance of the
man reading. She looked until her heart would no
longer bear this silent, stolen survey ; and with a
resolute hand she lifted the knocker, and let it fall

Our lives are in a mist, and it is often in the dark
that Destiny calls upon us. When Ann had knocked
twice, Angus rose with a reluctant movement and
went to the door. He had no presentiment of the


approach of any Fate ; even when he saw the middle-
aged gentle woman standing at his door, his soul was
not in the least degree prescient. Perhaps it was
absent ; for are we not all conscious of days or hours
when we are " not all there " when we simply use
our intellect, but are at a loss for some power that is
subtler than intellect ? Angus looked at his visitor
interrogatively, as he said :

" I am the minister. Do you wish to see me ? "

She answered " Yes," and followed him into the

There for a moment they stood looking at each
other, Ann's heart filling, and filling, until it forced
her to speak :

" Sir ! Sir ! I hae come to tell you something !
I hae kent you a' your life."

" Mistress, sit down, sit down. Take off your cloak
and your bonnet, and I will have the fire built, and
a cup of tea made. Are you tired ? Have you come
far ? Are you hungry ?"

In all these questionings he was conscious of that
peculiar reluctance to face finally some decision long
delayed ; wished, and yet put off ; held in abeyance,
not unwillingly, because certainty may perchance
destroy and not fulfill the illusions of uncertainty.
Ann had a similar reluctance to hurry, though arising
from different causes. She sat quiet while Bruce
called Grizel, and had the fire replenished and his tea
tray brought in. He made his visitor the first cup
and said :

" Drink it, and then tell me all. I have been ex
pecting to hear what I do not know ever since I
received a certain letter."

" The letter anent the Free Kirk ? "


" The same. I know not what to call you." He
smiled pleasantly at her over his own tea cup, and she
answered :

" I'll gie you a name ere lang that is, if you want
it. Maybe though, you dinna care for what is past
and gane ; some folk dinna."

" I have forgotten very little of what is past, and
you will be my friend if you make all clear to me."

" What do you remember best of a' ? "

" A great house in a garden. There were many
bee-skeps in the garden, and I was punished one
sunny afternoon for going near them. I think that is
my first clear memory."

" The house is the Bell. It was I I mysel' wha
gied you your punishment for meddling wi' the bees.
You hae forgot the kisses that made up for the
palmies, I see."

She looked at him with clear shining eyes full of
love, and Angus steadily regarded her as he con
tinued :

" I remember two women one used to nurse me
on her knees, and carry me in her arms, and kiss me
in the dark, and kiss me in the morning, and I think
_I think "

" Nay, you may be sure of it, my ain dear lad ! It
was I that nursed you on my knees, and carried you
in these arms ! And I hae carried you in my heart
o' hearts, so many years, and such lang years ! Oh,
Angus ! Angus ! Oh my dear, dear Angus ! Noo,
canna you tell what to call me ? "

He went to the weeping woman and took her hands,
and stooped his face till it touched her face, and said
upon her lips :

" Mother ! You are my mother ! "


Then the unspoken and unsatisfied love of twenty
years found speech and action. She sobbed out in his
arms many a tender word long unfamiliar to her
tongue ; she gave her heart its fill of mother joy.
She had a few moments of divine unreasonableness, in
which her son was her babe again.

Angus was profoundly touched by her emotion.
Loving is in many respects a habit, and Angus had

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA sister to Esau → online text (page 11 of 23)