Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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filled him with a thousand charming hopes. Yet there
was not one written word, only a few flowers arranged
with evident purpose and method. The paper had
the Rodney crest on it; the postmark was London.
It was from Scotia. He had no doubt of it. Her
fingers had arranged the leaves and flowers. Had she
purposely chosen the paper, or was it an oversight ?
Then he remembered that valentine day had just passed.
Bertha had showed him one, sent to her from Blair ;
an elaborate arrangement of lace, paper, ribbons, and
painted flowers. He had rather disapproved of valen
tines then ; had said something about their pagan ori
gin, etc., etc.

Now he had a valentine also. And from Scotia !
Love can find so many good excuses rhat he felt a
strange tenderness for the foolish little pagan messen
ger. He wondered what the flowers meant. He
knew they had a language, but among all his hooks
there was not one which could define a speech so
sweet, so vague, so occult. No youth in his teens was
ever more excited over his first love-letter, than
Angus Bruce was over those few, faded eloquent
flowers. Oh, if he only knew their language.

The craving for this knowledge became so intense
that he resolved to gratify it. It might prove to be a
message with certainty sufficient to put an end to his
miserable suspense. After the next Sabbath Day he
went to Edinburgh. He had other duties and interests
there, but to buy a book about flowers was the business
that interested him most of all. So to prove to him
self that his will had the mastery, he did not enter a
book store until he had attended to every other claim
upon his time and sympathy. At last, in St. Mary's
Street, he saw a shop he thought likely to deal in


such literature. The windows were yet adorned
with valentines, and there were volumes of poetry dis
played there Burns, Scott, Wordsworth, and Byron.

A grave old man stood behind the counter. Bruce
examined first a copy of Burns's poems, and then with
shame and hesitation he asked for the book he wished.
He fancied the old man looked astonished and disap
proving, and he said, " Choose such a copy for me as
you think likely to please a young lady. I know
nothing of such books."

The bookseller gave him a thin, gay-looking volume,
and he paid half-a-crown and went out of the shop.
He scarcely knew how or where. His conscience was
lashing him with a three-fold whip. He had lied.
He had made a false accusation. He had regarded
his own honor and gratification before the honor of
God and his ministry. What a contemptible creature
he was ! It took him but a few moments to see
this, and he said in a dour, angry voice, "Go back,
Angus Bruce, and do the thing you ought to do."

He went back. His firm, intentional steps rung out
clear on the stone pavement. When he re-entered
the shop, the man was still standing where he had
left him. The books which he had been examining,
were still on the corner so swift had been his con
science, so swift his own answer to its accusation.

" Sir ! " he said, " take back your book. It was for
no young lady. It was for my own satisfaction I
bought it. I lied to you."

The bookseller looked at him with a kindling face.
He laid the piece of money down before Angus, and
as he took the returned book, said " I thank God
that I hae lived long enough to see a young man wi'
sae tender a conscience ! Tak' your siller, sir."


Bruce was at the door. He turned and shook his
head. " Give it to the first beggar lad you see. I will
have neither the book nor the price of it."

This incident affected Angus in a manner which
our easy-principled and self-excusing generation can
hardly estimate. For some days his remorseful sor
row drove him into solitude. He compelled himself
to put the poor faded flowers out of his sight and
touch. He would not permit his thoughts one
moment with the woman for whose dear sake he had
offended. He was terribly harsh and strict with him
self in every point which touched his earthly delight,
or even his earthly comfort. And this severity was
the natural result of his temperament and education ;
for in Angus Bruce the spiritual life was the supreme
life, constantly welling up from the inscrutable depths
in which his being had its root. Yea, in all fine
natures is not this the rule, evermore inward to out
ward ?

The first result of this spiritual tenderness was,
alas ! one of exaggerated jealousy for the honor of
everything connected with his office. One night he
was urged, with all a mother's passionate fear and
love for her dying child, to " hasten ! hasten ! " to its
cradle. He looked at the signature to the note, put
his hand to his brow, and with a sorrowful face shook
his head. But the bearer of it, being also urgent with
him, he permitted himself to be driven at a rapid pace
to a house three miles away. A beautiful young
woman, in a state of distraction, came to the door to
meet him. She did not permit him to remove his
coat, she cried only, " Make haste ! You may be too
late ! All is ready ! Come, sir. Come, for God's
sake ! "


Her impetuosity carried him with her into a richly
decorated parlor, showing all the sad disorder which
accompanies sudden and fatal sickness. In a cradle
lay a dying child. Many servants and two physicians
stood around. The father knelt by the little bed, and
had the babe on his arm. He was a man of wealth,
of great political power ; a man also of dissolute
character, who had despised the holy tie of marriage,
and who scoffed at all church ordinances.

He looked angrily at Bruce, and pointed to the
Bible and the bowl of clean water. Bruce stood
silent and motionless. The mother put the bowl into
his hand. He replaced it on the table, and turning
to the sinning parents, said sternly :

" The grace of baptism is only for the children of

Then the mother threw herself, in a passion of grief,
at his feet, crying :

" I will sin no more ! I will sin no more ! For
Christ's sake, baptize my child ! "

The weeping woman, the eager promise, went to his
heart. He lifted her from the ground, and, looking at
the father, said :

" Glenstrey, you hear this woman's promise ? Stand
up and join her in it. Give me your word to live
righteously, to obey God's word and honor His ordi
nances, then I will marry you and baptize your child.
Great is his mercy ! I believe he will not reject the
little one offered with repenting hearts."

He spoke as one having authority, but Glenstrey
answered angrily : " Sir I sent for you to baptize a
dying child, not to make a marriage. Lavinia, what
folly to ask pity of a priest ? The boy is dead, gone
to the pity of God if there be a God. Doctor, give


me your arm," and leaning heavily on it he went out
of the room, dazed and distracted with grief, but
heart-hardened by his calamity.

The mother stepped hastily to the cradle, she lifted
the dead child in her arms, and turned to Bruce, hold
ing out the fair piece of clay to him :

" You have worse than slain him ! " she cried in an
anguish. "You have worse than slain him ! Recreant
priest of a cruel God, why did you never come here
and warn me? I have lived in your sight and your
hearing, and you believed me to be bringing babes
into the world for death and hell ! How durst you
eat your food, and lie down and sleep, knowing
my boy my little boy was in such danger ? If you
had seen him in peril of fire, or water, or pest, you
would have tried to save him, but to save him from
eternal death you would not say a word or move a
finger. It is your fault ! It is your fault ! You never
once warned me ! I will so accuse you at the bar
of the Eternal God ! "

Her splendid beauty was inflamed with the passion
of a pythoness. Her words were like coals of fire.
She held out the still, cold babe toward him as a visi
ble accuser. But her reproaches moved Bruce no
more than the eternal rock is moved by the billow-
bluster at its foot. Certainly, his eyes shone with pity
for her agony, but he answered her thus :

" Lavinia Tenant, your father warned you. Your
mother warned you. The pious, humble men and
women, with whom you spent so many years, warned
you. You knew the truth from your childhood. Every
Sabbath day you have been warned, and called by the
kirk bell. The ostracism of your neighbors has con
tinually told you of your sin. I know that God has


warned you every day, and I doubt not in dreams of
the night. It is your own fault, your own fault,
Lavinia Tenant. Yet listen to me. If even now you
turn to the Lord with all your heart, your sins, though
they be as scarlet, shall be white as snow."

" Will that save my little child ? Go away, sir ! Go
from my presence ! "

She had begun to walk up and down the room with
the dead boy clasped to her breast. She was uttering
over him inarticulate cries of agony and remorse. A
physician who was still present gave some instructions
to the terrified servants, and then taking Bruce's arm,
said, " We can neither of us do any more good here
now, minister. Let us go."

This circumstance troubled Bruce to the very bot
tom of his heart and soul. He felt that he had no
right even had he been alone to allow the despair
ing mother to throw her sin on to his shoulders ; but
in addition to this cause, others also had been present,
whose all future might be influenced by that sad scene.
She had refused the Sin-bearer ; then she must carry
the burden herself. For many good reasons he had
felt constrained to let her feel this ; and yet and yet,
there was a strong mingling of pity in all his reflections
on the subject perhaps, also, a vague feeling of re
proach. Perhaps he ought to have personally warned
her. The thought tortured him ; he felt, as he had
never done before, the terrible responsibility which he
had assumed with his office.

The Colonel and Mrs. Rodney wondered at his long
absence from their house, and they wondered still
more when he partly explained it by an allusion to the
spiritual stress and anxiety arising from the death of
the child. The Colonel was reading Antigone, and


had his finger between the leaves of the famous
chorus. He felt little interest in the subject.

" Glenstrey ought to have considered the possibility.
It is not your fault, Mr. Bruce," he said. "You are
not the Sin-bearer of the community. After all, this
Calvinistic creed holds the conscience in a constant
bit and bridle. In reading my favorite Greek
authors, I am continually struck with the gentle and
beautiful conceptions they had of the divinity."

"Yes, sir," replied Bruce, "'the gods that live at
ease ' are very different beings from the ELOAH ! the
'mighty and dreadful one' of the Semitic race."

" And how much more exquisite is the Greek litera
ture I speak of it merely as literature. How beau
tiful, for instance, are these idyls of Theocritus!
Taken simply as pastoral poems, there is nothing
comparable to them in the Hebrew. Listen :

Sweet is the music, O goatherd, of yon whispering pine to the
fountains ; and sweetly, too, is thine breathed from thy pipe !

and again :

Here are oaks, here is the galingale, here are bees sweetly
humming around their hives. Here are two springs of coolest
water, here birds warble in the trees .... and the pine showers
its cones from on high.

Are not these sweet songs ? "

" Very sweet, indeed," answered Bruce. " But let
me tell you, even in a pastoral poem, the Greek liter
ature is far behind the Hebrew. Listen to me now.
Listen to the exquisite song of the women as they
stand round the fountain, waiting their turn to draw :

Spring up, O well ! Sing ye to it !
Well, that the princes digged,
The nobles of the people bored,
With the scepter and with their staves !


You have but to read the few lines, and see the desert
and the guarded well, and the waiting flocks, and the
singing women ; women grand enough to be the
mothers of Abraham's countless seed. Hebrew
maidens, straight as pine trees, with soft, large Syrian
eyes, saluting the living waters that flow forth to their
song. Spring up, O well ! Spring up ! Sing ye to

" I never yet discovered that exquisite song.
Where can I find it?"

" Hidden away in the Book of Numbers. I do not
know the chapter and verse, but you may well search
the whole book for it. Oh, the Bible has its lyrics, as
well as its laws ! they are both perfect. Do you want
a harvest song ? I will match Theocritus with Hosea.

In that day, saith Jehovah, I will answer,

I will answer the heavens,

And they shall answer the earth,

And the earth shall answer the corn,

And the wine, and the oil,

And they shall hear Jezreel.

And I will have mercy upon her,

Which had not obtained mercy ;

And I will say unto them

' Thou art my people ! '

And they shall say,

' Thou art my God ! '

Or do you wish an elegy ? Tell me to what literature
shall we turn for an equal to the sublime peace of this
old Hebrew dirge :

There the wicked cease from troubling,
And the weary are at rest ;
There the prisoners are at rest together ;
They hear not the taskmaster's voice.
Small and great are there the same.
And the servant is free from his master."


But though the Colonel laid down his book, and
listened with delight to Bruce's fine recitation of the
exquisite passages, Bruce was not interested. This
was not the discussion he wanted. He had come to
his friend for a conversation entirely different, and his
friend was not inclined for it. He went back home

If a man is fighting sickness, calumny, bankruptcy,
it is a visible struggle, and we are generally ready to
give some sort of sympathy, but spiritual conflicts are
beyond our ken. We cannot pity what we do not see
nor possibly understand. The Colonel was politely
bored at the first mention of conscientious doubts and
scruples. He considered them a case for God's audi
ence chamber, and why did not Mr. Bruce go there
with them ?

" I think the minister is righteous overmuch, Dor-
inda," the Colonel said, " and why did he mention
Glenstrey's domestic affairs ? They are ignored by
the whole neighborhood. It was bad taste, I think."

Now, this is the way of doubt of any kind ; it makes
a lonely pain and weariness, which nothing but some
brave deed of decision can dissipate. Suddenly there
came into Bruce's heart a determination to go and
see Scotia, and learn from her own lips the measure
of love she had for him. He told himself that he
ought to make known to her his parentage. It might
influence her very much. If she declined to marry
the son of fisher parents, he might as well get rid of a
false hope at once. She was in London, and his
mother was in London. The latter was well ac
quainted with fashionable society and its ways. She
would be able to give him Scotia's address, and
advise him as to the best hour for an interview with


her. He longed also for some heart near to his
own, that he could pour out to, all his hopes and
fears, and be comforted. His new-found mother,
with her strong, tender face, was an irresistible idea
to him. He took it at once into favor ; he wondered
he had not thought of it before.

" It came by chance, when I was thinking of some
thing very different," he said, and then he instantly cor
rected himself ; " there is no chance. Everything
thought, word, or deed is but a link in a chain."

He fulfilled with a supersensitive care the last tittle
of duty likely to be demanded of him, and when the
Sabbath services were over, and Monday morning had
broken, he left for London. He told no one of his
intention. He very often visited Edinburgh for a few
days at a time ; he did not propose to be longer away
than he had been before. But it was Tuesday after
noon when he reached the great city. Heavy snows
in the Border district had delayed the train, and he
was weary and cold, and woefully depressed, when he
stepped into a cab and gave his mother's address to
the driver. " I shall see mother soon," he whispered ;
and then he dozed until the vehicle stopped. He put
down the window and looked out. Through the dusk
and drizzle he saw a large house, well lighted. The
number was over the door, the name of the street on
the lamp there could be no mistake. He sent the
cab away, and slowly mounted the steps. There was
a large fire in the hall, and a servant in livery sitting
before it, reading a newspaper.

Bruce's demand for entrance disturbed him. He
came leisurely to answer it. When he saw no carriage
he walked back to a table and laid down his paper.
Then he threw open the door with an inquisitive stare


and silence that made Bruce burn with anger. He
had come from a country where the garb of a minis
ter was a passport to respect.

" I wish to see Mrs. Ann Bruce," he said with a
lofty air, and the man instantly altered his behavior.
He took Bruce into a large room furnished with the
utmost magnificence, but whose use for the day was
probably believed to be over, for the fire was dying
out, and the gas unlit.

" Your name, sir ? "

He took the card offered him, and went upstairs
muttering :

" Rev. Angus Bruce ! Well, I never ' "



" Not by appointment do we meet delight
And joy ; they heed not our expectancy ;
But round some corner in the streets of life,
They on a sudden meet and clasp us with a smile."

" Marriage, and death, and division,
Make barren our lives."

mere " gummidging " of selfish pessimism
never brings help or practical relief in trouble,
and Angus was sure, in spite of his weariness and un
certainty, that he had done right to face his doubts
and fears, and so resolve them. With the calmness
of decision he waited, scarcely noting anything around
him except the general air of wealth and tasteful
magnificence. Perhaps he was conscious also of a
vague fear lest his unexpected presence should prove
embarrassing to his mother.

But if so, he had scarcely time to be unhappy about
it, for in a very few minutes she appeared. He was
standing on the hearth when the door opened, and he
turned around and looked eagerly at the advancing
woman. Her face was full of love and light. She
came toward him with her hands outstretched, and
before he was conscious of his own movement he had
clasped her to his heart.

" How handsome you are, mother ! " was his first


commonplace remark, and he held her at arm's length
and let his gaze take in the strong, noble face and
ample, yet not ungraceful form, fitly clothed in flow
ing silk. " How handsome you are ! I am very
proud of you."

" When did you come to London, my dear lad ? "

" I have just arrived."

" And you are tired, and sleepy, and hungry ? "

"Just so."

She touched a bell, and it was promptly answered.
" Park, take Mr. Bruce's valise into No. 2. See that
the fire is good. Tell Gibson to carry there a pot of
tea and some cold game and whatever is neces
sary for Mr. Bruce's refreshment." Then turning to
Bruce, "I'll hear naething, and I'll say naething at
this hour, Angus. You'll go and get yoursel' warmed,
and fed, and rested, and then you'll put on the vera
best o' your claithes and the finest o' your linen, and
we twa will hae dinner thegither we twa by oursels
for my Lady goes to Lord Cowrie's to dinner, and
then you sail tell me a' that is in your heart, dear lad,
and I will gie you whate'er comfort and help I can gie."

She was taking him upstairs as she spoke, and in a
few minutes he found himself alone in a handsome
little parlor, the ante-room to a fine chamber, whose
luxurious bed was almost overpoweringly inviting.
But he was also hungry, and the tinkle of the glass
and china, the refreshing odor of the tea, the cold
game and pastry were equally tempting. He washed
and ate and then slept as he had not done for many
weeks a deep, dreamless slumber, which filled him
with a sense of rest from head to feet. He slept for
hours ; it seemed to him as if it must be morning
when he opened his eyes.


His mother, with a lighted wax candle in her hand
stood at his side. She had been watching him asleep
for some moments, and she had felt how different was
this face from the face of babyhood and boyhood.
For when men sleep the soul comes to their face, as
the water lily to the surface ; and she saw its love
and sorrow, its hope and fear, written upon the pallor
of those white features.

He opened his eyes and caught the love in hers,
and he knew her instantly. He was sure he would
have known her, even if there had been no word of
explanation between them. She stooped and kissed
him, and said : " Rise now, Angus, and dress yoursel'
with your utmost care. We hae to think o' the ser
vants, laddie ; and for my sake, you must hold your
sel' to your topmost bent and place."

" I will do whatever you wish, mother. What time
is it ? Have I slept long ? "

" A matter o' four hours. My lady is gane, and
willna be back till after midnight. Dinner will be
ready in twenty minutes, and I'll come back here for
you. You sail tak' your ain mother on your arm first;
there's nane here that hae mair than my right."

He pondered her words as he dressed, but could
make nothing of them ; and he was proud and happy
indeed to feel her on his arm as they passed slowly
down the grand stairway. The dinner was a very fine
one, and was served with the utmost nicety and care.
They two alone partook of it. When it was over
they went to a small parlor in the rear of the dining-
room. Here Ann brought her knitting, and Angus
sat down by her side.

She asked him no direct question, and yet he felt
her sympathy so kind and kindling that he had no


hesitation in opening all his heart to her. He told
her everything how his love for Scotia began, and
how it had been trammeled and controlled by the
Colonel's confidence in him. " She loves me, mother,
I know ; or, at least, she did love me ; and I have heard
nothing from her directly since she went to Lady
Yarrow, except " then with reddening cheeks he con
fessed all about the valentine, his longing, his sin, and
his remorse for his sin.

" So you see, mother, I have been tossed about like
a rudderless boat, and at last it came into my heart to
'go to mother.' I thought ' no one can do wrong in
seeking a good mother's advice,' and this is why you
find me here to-night."

" My dear one, you have done right. Sae the lassie
loves you ? "

" Indeed, I believe she does. And I do want to see
her. Do you think I may call upon her ? Can you
tell me where Lady Yarrow lives ? What hour of the
day will be best to call ? "

There was a happy smile on Ann's face, as she
answered : " Naething is likely to prevent you seeing
her. I'll tak' vera gude care you do see her. And
I dinna doubt but what a happy hour will come your
way. My dear lad, what gude lassie wouldna love
you ? She is little to be blamed for it. You ken I
saw 'her sister, when I was at Rodney House wi'
you ? "

"Bertha ? Oh, Bertha is nothing like Scotia ! "

" I'm gay glad o' that. I didna fall in love wi'
Bertha Rodney, onyway. And I'm weel pleased you
werna ta'en captive wi' her blinking black e'en. She
had vera sweet words and ways, but I didna trust
them ; and sae I didna like them."


Then Angus found his opportunity to describe the
beauty and charm of the beloved Scotia. His lan
guage was so vivid and he set the girl so clearly be
fore them, that Ann said : " Man ! when did you see
her last ? Surely you were dreaming before dinner o'
that tall, fair girl in the shiny white satin dress ?"

" Oh mother ! if I could only see her again for five
minutes I should be happy. Just five minutes, in
which she should tell me truly if she loves me yet and
will be my wife."

" Weel, weel Angus, bide ye yet, and bide ye yet
Ye never ken what will betide ye yet,
This bonnie sweet lassie may fa' to your lot,
Sae just be canty wi' thinking o' *t."

In such conversation, with its side issues of the Rod
neys and the Free Kirk, time sped very rapidly. The
clock struck one. It was another day. Angus spoke
of it with anxiety. " I have but a short time in Lon
don," he said. " I must try and see her to-day.
Mother, whose house is this ? I have not asked you
before, because I thought every time you spoke you
would tell me. But I ought to know, do you not

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA sister to Esau → online text (page 13 of 23)