Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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the habit of mother-love to learn ; but he did not suf
fer his mother to know this. He brought her back to
the straight lines of life by the homely duties of the
tea-table. And while she dried her eyes and com
posed her face, he looked with a sad curiosity at her.
In spite of her rich dress, he perceived she was of
lowly birth. Indeed, he knew the fisherwomen of that
coast so well that he had no hesitation in placing her
among them. Then he understood how deeply he
had cherished the hope that his unknown parentage
was obscure, because of its nobility.

Since he had loved Scotia, he had clung to this
idea, and ransacked his memory for proofs of it.
Naturally, he believed that Colonel Rodney would
be influenced by the conditions of his birth. For
though nominally and in society his office made him
the peer of any noble, there were deeper considera
tions when it came to a question of marriage and
relationships. Perhaps his mother divined something
of his disappointment ; she looked into his face, and
setting her cup steadily down, said :

" I was only a poor girl, Angus a poor fisher girl."

" You are my own mother."

" And your fayther "

"Tell me of my father."

*' Your fayther was the bravest fisherman that evel


sailed a boat out of Largo Bay. Listen, and I will
tell you how he died ! One stormy afternoon we heard
the noise o' men crying on a wrecked ship. It is a
fearfu' noise, Angus, the noise o' men crying out at
sea ; and your fayther went down to the beach, and I
went wi' him, and you were in my arms, folded tight
in my plaidie. And there was a ship on her beam-
ends, and the men clinging to her spars and masts,
and your fayther said justtwa words ' Wha's ready ?
and his brother Steve and his mate Torry stepped
out, and stood beside him and nae others. I
couldna speak a word 'yes' or ' no,' but I held you
close, and looket in his face, and he pulled the plaidie
awa* in a hurry, and kissed you twa or three times ;
and then mysel' and the next moment he was wi'
the men, pushing the boat to the water edge. They
saved twa boat loads, and they went down wi' the
third. I was on the beach a' night lang ; but it wasna
till the morning tide the bodies came hame. Your
fayther and your Uncle Steve lie thegither in Largo
kirk-yard. They did their duty, and they died in
the doing o' it. What mair can be said ? "

" They were brave, good men. I thank God for
such kin ! "

" And you are na shamed o' coming out o' the fish
ing boats ! you, a placed minister ?"

" Christ called Peter and our ain blessed Saint
Andrew when they were casting their nets into the sea.
God make me worthy to follow after such men ! God
make me worthy of the father you gave me ! my dear

He said the word slowly, as if tasting its new, sweet
flavor ; and, as he did so, stooped forward and took
her hand. " Now you must tell me, who has been our


friend ; who has cared for you, and educated me, and
given me my portion among God's servants."

" One day I was in Edinburgh selling herring, and
a braw lady stopped me, and said, ' Let me look at
your bairn, woman.' And she took your wee face
atween her gloved hands and kissed it ; and when I
wouldna tak' siller from her for I was selling fish
and didna need awmous she said, 'Come so and so,
on the morn, and I will maybe be your friend.'

" So it happened that I pleased her, and she was a
masterfu' woman, and she made me leave a' and stay
wi* her. And she was that fond o' you that I had
many a jealous heartache for it ; but I kent it was for
your good, and I tholed her claim then, and hae done,
ever since."

" Are you still her servant ? "

" Servant ? Na, na ! Fisher lasses dinna serve
mortal woman for just siller. I am her helper, her
housekeeper, her friend, her sister. We hae had nae
secrets from each ither for more than twenty years.
Baith thegither we hae watched o'er you. Baith the-
gither we hae heard you in the school-room and the
kirk. You are ' our son.' "

" And her name, mother ?

" I canna tell you that, just yet."

He did not press the question, but rather tried to
persuade her to remain over Sabbath with him. After
some hesitation the request was granted, and then the
conversation was renewed and drifted to the kirk con
troversy, and Angus told his mother of the letter he
had received ; but got no further information regard
ing its stipulations.

In the morning the news of the minister's visitor
spread quickly over the village, and anon reached


Rodney House ; and the Colonel and Mrs. Rodney
sent a polite invitation for Mrs. Bruce and the minister
to dine with them. Angus insisted on its acceptance,
and indeed there was no reason for him to feel any
thing but pride in the quiet, handsome, richly dressed
woman whom he presented to the Rodneys as his

Blair and Bertha were absorbed in their own affairs.
Blair gave her but slight attention ; Bertha watched
her furtively as she listened to Blair. She knew in
tuitively that she was a woman of the people, born in
poverty ; her speech betrayed her ; and where and
how, then, had she acquired her repose, her fine man
ner, and her sense about dress ? She speculated on
and watched their visitor all evening. And she
wondered if such a stylish young man as Angus Bruce
was not ashamed of her?"

Angus was not in the least ashamed of her. He
took her on his arm to kirk, he gave her into the
charge of his chief elder saying, " This is my mother,
Mr. Boyd. Put her in the minister's pew." And his
love grew apace. It had always been in his heart, all
it needed was the visible object to cling to. It sprang
into life with her kiss, and her smile, and her tender
story of his father's death. When she left him on
Monday morning he was as proud of her as if she had
been a duchess. He was as sorry to lose her, as if
they had lived all their lives together. He felt himself
to be a far richer and happier man, and was as light-
hearted as if he had come into a great fortune. What,
now, was the loss of that unseen and unknown friend ?
He had found a mother in her place.

And while he thus mused, Bertha was writing to her
sister a letter which was greatly occupied with the


minister. " Only think ! Mr. Bruce brought his
mother to Rodney House last Saturday night a very
vulgar old woman, who speaks broad Scots, when she
does speak ; and who, I am sure, he must feel to be
a great drawback. Fancy such a mother-in-law !
Thank heaven ! Blair has no mother."

" What news has come in your sister's lette^
Scotia ? " asked Lady Yarrow. " I see you draw your
brows together, and shrug your shoulders very ex

" Bertha says, our minister brought his mother with
him to Rodney House last Saturday night, and that
she is a vulgar old woman, who speaks broad Scots."

They were at the Cunliffe's, in Oxford, when Scotia
made this remark. It affected Lady Yarrow beyond
all seeming reason. She flew into a passion with
Bertha. " Is the girl so ignorant as not to know that
some of our best people choose to speak their own
dialect ? I speak broad Scots mysel' when I am in a
passion ; and I wad gie her a mouthfu' or twa o' it
wi' right gude will, if she was here the noo. I wad
that, the scornfu' cutty ! "

All day afterward Lady Yarrow was very unreasona
ble. She walked about the room muttering to herself
wonders and queries, in which Ann had the greatest
share ; and that night she said :

" Scotia, I am tired of these smooth-lipped, trig,
smug, well-appointed priests : with their long black
coats falling over their slender hams even to their
ankles ; and their dainty neck-ties and simpering
lisp. Let us get away from these Southern Square-

" They are always politely sneering at our universi
ties, and asking civil questions about Scotland ; as if


we were foreigners ; and yet most of them have been
in Scotland.

" They know as much about Scotland as,

A fly that's bred

In a grocer's sugar-cask, may comprehend
Of honeyed heather and of mountain bees.

We will awa' to London. Jamie may meet us there.
And I want to see Ann. Yes, I want very much to
see Ann. I wonder whatever the woman has been up

" Up to?"

" Yes what she has been doing. I have heard lit
tle from her. Mistress Ann and I will have to say a
great deal to each other."

" I dare say Ann has had a very stupid time."

" I dare be bound that she has had a very delight
ful time a thoroughly satisfactory time, to herself.
And I want to know all about it."



" Even you yourself to your own breast shall tell
Your crime, and your own conscience be your hell."


" My ugly guilt flies in my conscious face,
And I am vanquished, slain by bosom- war."


" Doubt's the worst tyrant of a generous mind,

The coward's ill, who dares not meet his fate,
And ever-doubting to be fortunate,

Falls to the wretchedness his fear:: create."


HPHEY reached London on the i'ollowing day in
the afternoon, but it was foggy r.nd dark, and in
the main thoroughfares gas was dimly burning. The
toiling, moiling multitudes, the indefinite forms of
great wagons and horses, the terrible noises and shrill
human cries made a fearsome and depressing phan-
tasma through which Lady Yarrow hurried the hired
vehicle with promises of extra money.

She was too much under the influence of the dis
couraging situation to talk, and Scotia looked with
wonder and fear into the gloomy, crowded streets.
Ere long, however, they came to more open spaces,
to squares and parks surrounded by large houses,
and before one of the most remarkable the vehicle
stopped. The house was well lighted, and had an air of



welcome and happiness, and a footman in the Yarrow
plum-color-and-silver livery stood within the door,
looking vacantly at their approach. He supposed
the arrivals in a common cab to be new servants, and
did not trouble himself, until Lady Yarrow spoke in
that tone of authority all servants recognize.

" Ann must be here, and she is doubtless expecting
us, or she would not have wasted fire and candle
light ; " and with the words, Ann, followed by a young
woman, appeared. The young woman was Scotia's
maid, and she took possession of the young lady, and
at once conducted her to the suite arranged for her
use. Ann said little, but there was a look between
her and Lady Yarrow which said everything.

They went to Lady Yarrow's room hand in hand,
and when they entered the fine chamber with its crim
son silk hangings and upholstery, catching richer
lights and deeper shadows from the glowing fire
and the mellow radiance of wax candles, Lady Yarrow
threw herself into a large chair, and sighed out with
infinite pleasure :

" Oh, Ann ! how good it is to get home again !
And how good it is to see you ! You have engaged
a maid for Scotia I see a good English girl, I
hope ? "

" I was very careful, and she understands her busi
ness well."

" That is right. A good maid is now necessary.
Ann, what have you been doing ever since I saw
you ?"

Ann was making a cup of tea for Lady Yarrow, and
as she placed the tray at her side, she answered, " I
have been as busy as a bee ever since we parted. I
have left everything in perfect order at Yarrow House-


If we dinna go back to Edinburgh for twa years or mair,
naething will tak' hurt. The siller and a' the rare
china and auld books are at the banker's. And after
I cam' to London, there was plenty to do here, and
all isna done yet by a great deal. You canna go into
the market place and hire servants, as you go into a
mercer's and call for the silk you want."

Then Ann went on explaining the necessities which
had been attended to, and others which were still to
be supplied ; and Lady Yarrow listened without any
interest. Her heart was sick with anxiety. She
wanted Ann to tell her voluntarily about her visit to
Rodney Law ; every moment that the information
was delayed she felt to be a wrong. And quite as a
matter of course, without any preliminary, Ann at
last said, " and between Yarrow House, and this
house, I went to Rodney Law, and spent twa days
wi* our son."

"Ann Bruce !"

"Just sae. You bade me go, and I thought it wad
please you best, to hae the message delivered when
you didna hae to be feeling and wondering anent it ;
and to tell the even down truth, the wish cam' o'er
me on Christmas night sae strang, that there wasna
ony choice in the matter. I had to gae or bide at
hame wi' an aching heart. Sae I went. Dinna look
sae dour and ill-pleased. I made nae mention o' your

" You ought to have made mention of it, Ann. Now
the lad will be thinking of you by yourself, and never
a thought for me."

" He is my lad."

" He is mine, as much as yours."

" I gave him life."


" Tut, tut ! What is life worth without learning
and breeding, without position and influence, friends
and respect, even money and good clothing ? I might
give you silk for a dress, Ann, but if you have no
needle and no thread, nor any way to make it, and
must just wrap it round you as best you can, the silk
would be little worth. The woman who helped you
fashion it into a rich and becoming garment, would be
your greatest benefactor, eh ? "

" There is nae mother like the mother that bore us.
I gave the lad life and love. It was all I had to give."

" I gave him love, and everything that has made
life lovely, and honorable, and pleasant. He is as
much mine as yours. What do you think of him ? "

" He is my ain son, but I think he is the finest man
that I, or any other, e'er put eyes on."

" What did he say when he found out you were his
mother ?"

" He took me at once into his heart, as a son should.
I told him the whole truth that I was a poor fisher
girl, and his fayther a fisherman ; and that I was sell
ing herring in Edinburgh streets, when you met me.
I told him about his fayther's and uncle's death, and
he said he thanked God for such kindred ! And when
I minded him, that he had come oot o' the fishing
boats to the pulpit, he minded me that the apostle
Peter and Scotland's ain Saint Andrew were casting
their nets in the sea, when the Lord Christ gied them
their call. And oh ! he was that proud o' me, and
that fond o' me. I must thank God for thae twa
days, aboon a' the days o' my life ! "

" Did he never ask after me ? Did he say nothing
about me ? "

" He said a great deal about you. And he told me


about the letter you sent him through Mr. Noble.
He was sair troubled because he couldna think as you
thought. And he sought your name, but I didna tell
him wanting your authority for it."

" What kind of a home has he ? "

" He has nae hame worth the name o' "name. The
manse is cauld and bare o* comfort, and there's nae
Beauty in it, nor yet near it. I wonder at thae Rod
neys ' letting their minister bide in such want o' all
pleasant things."

'' Did you see the Rodneys ? "

" ' Deed did 1. They are na much to see, except
the Colonel, and the ,assie that is wi' you. Colonel
Rodney is a gentleman as good and kind as a man
can be, wha is ta'en up w ; ' his ain ailments ; ane o'
those men, wha talks a dea: c his ancestors ; and
whose Bible ana Book o' Hera>drv lie close the-

" What of my sister Dorinda ? "

" Mrs. Rodney is a lady-like body, thinning a deal o'
her youngest daughter, and her is-to-be son-in-law a
muckle man ; but muckleness isna manliness. ':'. set
little store by him, and little by the lassie either,
They scarce spoke to me. They ihought the waria
was made for them."

" It is a wonder they did not ask you where you
lived, and who by, and such like questions

"If they had, I could hae told them i svas from
Edinburgh. But little they cared whar I came from,
or wha I was. They were ceevil enough for the min
ister's sake, but I dinna think they would ware ten
minutes talk on me. I didna interest them. I was
just a plain, common body."

" You are the handsomest, most uncommon woman


I ever saw, Ann. Has my sister Dorinda any of
her beauty left ? "

" I never should hae thought that beauty mair or
less o* it was in her keeping. She is now vera thin,
and yellow as a duck's foot. And she has a fretfu'
look, that keeps you in constant mind o' David's
advice to keep weel the door o' your lips."

" She was once very lovely, Ann. She had large,
soft, brown eyes, and a round, innocent, baby face ;
and nice little ways that every one approved."

" She wad look like her youngest daughter, then.
Your picture will do for the bride-elect, vera prop

" Oh ! Bertha is of that kind, is she ? Let her stay
away from me, then. I should think Dorinda was
tugging at my life-strings again. Ann, we are going
to have a very grand season. We must see that
Scotia puts her right foot first, when she enters society.
I think Captain Forres will be able to come for a short
visit, and Scotia could make no match that would
please me better. Why do you not speak, Ann ?"

" My speech might not please you. Speaking comes
by nature, silence by understanding. I have heard
say "

" ' I have heard say ' is half-a-lie, Ann."

" Vera well, and vera true. But if people dinna
keep goats, and yet sell kids, can you help wondering
whar they get them ? "

" What do you mean, Ann ? "

" If Captain Forres has nae great income, and yet
has a vera great outgo, can you help wondering whar
he gets the siller?"

'' Ann, if you have heard aught against the man,
remember that a little truth makes the whole black


lie pass. Captain Forres has, doubtless, faults, and
people speak of every one's faults but their own."

" The world "

" Even if we stand by the world's verdict, Ann, it
is better for us to know a man for a sinner, than for
God to know him for a hypocrite. But we need not
differ on what is not here, Ann ; " then with a sigh
" and uncertainty walks on both sides of us."

The next two weeks were two very busy weeks to
Scotia. She was with modistes, and she was taking
lessons in court ceremonies, and in the social laws
which governed the society she was to enter. And it
cannot be denied that she felt a great interest in these
things. Her whole existence had been altered. That
open-air intercourse with nature, which had been her
fundamental pleasure, had been totally withdrawn.
She saw nature now only in city parks ; she came no
closer to her than the carriage drive permitted. And
yet when she passed under some spreading tree, and
the bare branches stretched themselves over her head,
she felt a warm glow at her heart, and would have
liked to draw one down, and put it to her lips. After
all, trees have a strange link with humanity ; there are
few who do not love them who are not born foresters.

Every day as the season advanced the whirl of so-
called pleasure grew more fast and furious. Scotia
was presented, and found the ceremony a much less
important affair than she had supposed.

She went to dinners and dances, to operas, and to
Christie's. All the fashionable resorts of the time
were familiar to her. And though her beauty did not
make the reputation Lady Yarrow had confidently
expected, yet she had many admirers ; and one or two
lovers very much in earnest.


Her triumphs were all chronicled in the Court
Journal, and they lost nothing through its flattering
medium. Miss Rodney, it declared, was the belle
of her exclusive circle. Her beauty was wonderful.
Her grace beyond description. Her toilets, marvels.
Her adorers, legion. And Lady Yarrow took pains
to see the Journal found it's way to Rodney House.
It was not a messenger of pure peace and good-will.
Bertha hated to see it on the table, and yet she read
every word in it, especially those relating to her
sister's gay life and social victories.

She also took care that Angus Bruce knew the story
to it's last tittle. It gave her a secretly malicious pleas
ure to read it aloud to him. Of course Scotia was
credited with lovers beyond all reason or probability ;
and the rumors of her engagement to Mr. Percy
Vaux, or to the young Earl of Carrickfergus, toward
the end of January, were nearly constant items of
available torture. Many remarks in Scotia's letters
could be separated from their contexts, and made ap
parently incontestable proofs ; and Bertha was not
above such disloyal transmuting.

She was not in love with Angus Bruce no ! she
was sure that she was in love with Blair Rodney ; but
this dog-in-the-manger greed of Bruce's admiration,
was certainly, in Blair's absence, the most controlling
motive of her life. And Angus suffered all and far
more than she expected him to suffer. Indeed, his
suffering would have been intolerable but for the new
comfort of his mother's letters. He had been greatly
disappointed in not seeing Scotia at the New Year.
She had promised to come home for a few days at
New Year, and she had not done so. He told himself
that even then she had begun to forget. The doubt


kept him silent, and every day the doubt deepened.
How could she remember him, among so many claim
ants for favor, and in the midst of a life so far apart
from his ?

One afternoon past the middle of February he was
returning from Rodney House. He had gone there
voluntarily to be tortured by Bertha. He knew that
the Journal had arrived, and probably letters also,
and that he would hear words sharper than swords,
and yet he went to hear them.

" The Journal says that Scotia has a new pretender
to her favor, Captain Forres, the son and heir of Lord
Forres ; but that is fiddler's news, Mr. Bruce. We
all knew that, before Scotia left Edinburgh. He has
simply followed her to London. I should think Sco
tia would decide on some one, and give other poor
girls a chance. The season has been run for Scotia
Rodney. Dear me ! I wish I had such chances ! I
should make a little change in my destiny," and she
sighed like a maiden driven astray by destiny.

" Your fate is chosen, Miss Bertha."

" Chosen for me, you mean ? I really had no
choice. I never was in society. And perhaps if I
had been a girl without ancestors, I might have chosen
more to my liking," and she looked at Angus with a
sweet treachery that had an irresistible compliment in it.

He felt the blood rush to his heart and face, and he
rose to go away ; a consequence which greatly pleased
Bertha. She laughed softly as she thought, " He felt
what I implied. You might win a saint if you only
pretended to be in love with him. I dare vow now,
Angus Bruce thinks I am in love with him, and that I
regret my engagement to Blair. Perhaps I am per
haps I do. Who knows ? "


She put her little feet upon the fender and lifted
her ever-ready bit of embroidery, and set her stitches
to an accompaniment of sly smiles, and almost imper
ceptible nods. She was giving assent to her thoughts,
whatever they were.

Angus walked home in a very miserable mood. He
began to think seriously of resigning his charge, and
then in the midst of such a resolution, suddenly drew
a circle round his thoughts, and adjured them to a
nobler will. " Rather he would stay and combat what
ever disappointment or temptation came to him."
Bertha had an oblique, evasive soul that slipped away
from any firm interrogatory. He would bring her to
fair question and straight answer for the future, and
not permit her to drop ill-omened words into his life,
as she might drop ink into fair water.

As for Scotia, he could not bear to accuse her of
disloyalty to him and to her own heart ; and yet he
did not dare to fully exonerate her in the face of such
contrary evidence. He hoped but he knew that
hopes are like bits of stained glass, which let nothing
be seen in a true light through them. He could not
trust. Ah me ! The worst wounds are those our
own hands inflict. He was chilled by the wet ground
and the dripping, bare branches, and the creeping fog,
and he felt sorrow stealing over his life like the fog.
It benumbed him. He longed rather for one pang of

As he opened the garden gate the postman gave him
a letter. It was a little bulky, as if it contained some
thing besides paper. There was a kind of luxury in
postponing his curiosity, until he had removed his
coat, and stirred up the fire, and made himself com
fortable. He opened it with simple curiosity, and it

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA sister to Esau → online text (page 12 of 23)