Copyright
Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A sister to Esau online

. (page 15 of 23)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA sister to Esau → online text (page 15 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


such great joy ! I ask you as any man ought to ask
for such a pearl of womanhood with all my heart, for
your sanction to our marriage, at some future time."



A FOR TUNA TE JO URNE Y. 217

" I am very weary of the subject of marriage, Mr.
Bruce. The one now in consideration I mean the
marriage of my daughter Bertha and Mr. Blair Rod
ney has brought me only annoyance and disappoint
ment. Let me ask a favor of you. Say no more at
present about your love for my daughter Scotia.
Ask her to be equally considerate for me. I should
like, when she returns, to have her a little while, with
out any sense of change. If it is to come, let me not
feel it yet. If you show her love, if you speak words
of love to her, let me not see it ; or hear them. So
far, I give you what you ask. It is all that at present
is possible to me, without suffering."

" It is enough, sir. I thank you for so much."

" Then good-afternoon, Mr. Bruce. To-morrow,
when you come, I will take up any other question you
like. This conversation is complete at present, and "
offering his hand " it is to make no difference between
you and me unless, it bring us more kindly to
gether."

With these hopeful words Bruce willingly accepted
his dismissal. The power of intervals is great. To
morrow it would be possible to let life go on, as if
words so full of fate had never been spoken.

The ladies saw Bruce walking through the wet,
desolate park, and they returned to the Colonel. They
were feeling sore and offended, both with the minister
and with Lady Yarrow ; and Mrs. Rodney said decid
edly :

" I will tell you how it is, Kinross. Jemima got
that man placed at Rodney Law. He was sent here
as a spy. I have no doubt he has reported regularly
to Jemima everything that went on in our house."

" I am sure you are as far wrong as a woman can



2l8 A SISTER TO ESAU.

possibly be. Angus Bruce a spy ! It is an impossible
idea !"

" What did he go to London for, if not that ? unless
he is in love with Scotia ! "

" Dorinda ! For pity's sake, put away any thought
that implies another marriage. I have enough of that
subject at present with Blair and Bertha," and he left
the room angrily rmittering :

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



XIII.

RECOVERED.

" God unexpected, evil unforeseen,
Appear by turns, as Fortune shifts the scene."

" Then will I own I ought not to complain,
Since that sweet hour, is worth whole years of pain. "

" What then remains, but after past away
To take the good Vicissitude of Joy ?
To thank the gracious gods for what they give,
Possess our souls, and while we live, to live."

Dryden.

\/"ES ; great is the power of intervals. Without ex-
planation, without any attempt to come to an
understanding, or to re-establish a confidential and
sympathetic relation, the mere passage of time accom
plished all. In a couple of weeks the Colonel and the
minister had fallen back naturally into their old ami
cable conditions ; and Mrs. Rodney and Bertha had
wisdom enough to accept graciously the inevitable fact
of Bruce's connection with Lady Yarrow. It was a
never-ending source of speculation with them, but in
the main, Bruce received the additional consideration
which was socially its due.

With a not unpleasant monotony the weeks passed
quietly onward. Bruce was writing constant letters to
Scotia, and receiving constant letters from her ; he did
not, therefore, feel any interest in the Court Journal.

219



220 A SISTER TO ESAU.

But he went frequently to Rodney House, and as the
spring advanced, his walks with the Colonel assumed a
very constant character. In this respect he slipped
without intention into Scotia's place, and a feeling of
confidence grew steadily between the two men.

Through the broad fields, and under the wide gray
skies they walked together ; sometimes in eager dis
cussion, sometimes almost silent ; the rich brown
earth, and the quick life of the young plantations giv
ing an aerial tone to their intercourse not readily ex
pressed. Both men loved nature and the scenes of a
country life in a genuine way. They could stand and
watch with pleasure the short-horned red and white
cattle ruminating in the warm farm-yards ; or the
sheep chewing and coughing among the turnips, while
the shepherds and the collies were counting them.
The fleecy bits of wool fluttering on the bare hedges
caused an intelligent glance between them. Without
words they read each other's thoughts about them
the coming spring, the building birds, and the cozy
nests they would furnish.

As the weather grew warmer there was constant de
light for them in the plowing. " Look at Jack Low-
ther," the Colonel would say proudly. " Jack has an
eye keen as a sportsman, and a hand as sensitive as a
fly- fisher ; he could not make such gore-furrows and
gathered-ridges, and cleaved-down ridges, and head-
ridges, and ribbing, if he had not. It is an art to
plow straight and deep, as Jack does. And listen
how he talks to his horses ! Jack told me that they
sulk at their plowing unless they hear his voice at the
plow-shafts."

"If I were an artist," said Bruce admiringly, "I
should come to such plowmen and such horses for a



RECOVERED. 22 1

picture. It is a study in anatomy to watch the head
and forequarters of that furrow horse. Look how
proudly and gladly he bends his knees, and grasps
the soil with his hoofs ! And see how gracefully his
glossy neck is curved ! I think a fine horse, plowing,
has the most noble action in the animal world."

" You have not seen a war horse scenting the battle
afar off."

Bruce would not relinquish his point, and they dis
cussed it with a pleasant warmth all the way to the
Stone Pillar. As they returned, they met the men
going home after their day's work, and the Colonel
said, " What individualities nature makes ! Compare
these Scotch hinds with the low caste Hindoos, or
even with the English farm hand or the Irish peasant."

"These Scotch hinds and shepherds have strong
faces."

" You may see in them the damp, rainy weather
the gray cold mornings and evenings the strong
equal force of seasons which take root in their hearts.
They are sons of the soil. Lowther, who comes from
the Border, has much of its breezy atmosphere and
its singing 'waters ' in his nature. Look at him now !
He has left his plow at the furrow end. With what
an easy, lolling movement he is riding his barebacked
horse to stable ! How his big-booted feet dangle at
the sides of the animal ! And hear how he is whist
ling, and how the plow-chains clank merrily to the
melody ! "

Sometimes they rode as far as the sea coast, and
then, leaving the carriages, walked an hour or more on
the high crags which battlemented the North Sea ;
and not unfrequently to the low estuary where the
river found its way back to the ocean a very desolate



222 A SISTER TO ESAU.

stretch, but one which in certain moods had a pro
nounced charm, though it was but a bare strand,
matted with thistles and such amphibious weeds as
are bred from the embrace of earth and the salt ooze.
Then came the April smell of rainy fields, and the
glimmering of rain-drenched leaves made bright by
sudden sunshine ; and anon, the hawthorn blossoms,
and the orchard blooms, and

The flycatcher on the lawn,
With the bean flower's boon,
And the blackbird's tune,

and all the joy of May. Scotia was to return home
in May, and Bertha was to be married the first week
in June. Blair was already filling Rodney House
with his imposing personality.

Blair disapproved of Mr. Bruce. He always had
disapproved of him, and he was not conciliated by
the fact of the minister's claim upon Lady Yarrow.
Indeed he resented what he was pleased to call his
* intrusion ' into their family. For it was a favorite
wonder between Bertha and himself how far the Rod
neys would be benefited by Aunt Yarrow's wealth.
Hitherto Scotia and Bertha had been regarded as her
nearest relations ; but " an adopted son," Blair said
to Bertha, " is a very serious interloper. Old women
are fanciful, and Bruce is undeniably attractive ; he
may push himself before the right heirs."

Never had Bruce seen the Colonel so fretful and
unhappy. He had the reward of those who call some
special thing unto themselves, and are determined to
have it disappointment and heartache. The plan he
had made was successful after a fashion. He had
secured Blair Rodney for a son-in-law, but Blair was
not marrying the daughter he had chosen to inherit.



RECOVERED. 223

That was his first disappointment. The second was
even more serious, he had come to dislike Blair with
all the intensity of his intense temperament. He
could hardly believe that the young man had ever
been pleasant to him. He told his wife that Blair had
spoiled Bertha. " She has already identified herself
with Blair's interests, and Blair has taught her to be
lieve his interests are not identical with ours. I have
lost a daughter, Dorinda, and I have not gained a
son." He said such words very often, and very sadly.

At first Mrs. Rodney had denied the position, but
even to her there had come a conviction, that after the
marriage was over she would find herself far from a
welcome guest at Innergrey. For when Blair arrived
early in May, he at once assumed the tone of "master "
as far as the Dower House was concerned. His ob
jections to several things she had ordered were de
cisive. He would have this, and he would not have
that, and on the first Sabbath he positively refused to
go to Rodney kirk.

" I dislike Mr. Bruce," he said. " I do not approve
of his views on many subjects, and I get no spiritual
good from him. Besides, I think Bertha and I, as
master and mistress of Innergrey, ought to worship at
the little kirk near there."

" And I am glad he is going to worship there " ;
said the Colonel privately. " I shall be more likely to
worship at Rodney, only he did not give his real
reasons for the preference."

" I think he did, Kinross. I know he dislikes Mr.
Bruce very much."

" He dislikes me us, I should say. And he cannot
endure not to be first, wherever he is. If he sits in
Rodney kirk he sits in our pew, and is one of out



224 A SISTER TO ESAU.

household. At Innergrey, he will be master. He
will be the greatest man in the congregation. He
can spread Blair Rodney over kirk, minister, and
parish."

" Perhaps it is natural to feel so."

" Perhaps it is but there is a grace above nature.
It is supposed to actuate Christians."

Every day now the Colonel and Blair Rodney drifted
further apart. For there was now no necessity for
Blair to efface himself and be conciliating. He had
won Bertha, and the estate. The cards for his wed
ding festival were already scattered over the country
side, the preparations for the great ceremony were
nearly complete. The Colonel had given his word
about the estate ; he was not a man to break a tittle of
it. Even if he were inclined to do so, Blair had a letter
from the Colonel in which he distinctly said : " I make
you, Blair, heir of Rodney Law ; because I have no
living son, and you are the next male in the direct
line." There was also the tremendous power of the
public knowledge of this decision. All who knew the
Rodneys, knew that he was to marry Bertha Rodney.
And Bertha idolized him. There was no fear of her
withdrawal ; and her constancy meant all that was
included in his right as heir.

So the last weeks of May were unhappy weeks.
Though the weather was charming, and the outside
world busy with its delightful spring business, Rodney
House was pervaded by a restless, dissatisfied ele
ment. All its pleasant, methodical ways were dis
turbed by the marriage preparations, and by the
disputings over them. The Colonel excluded himself
from all such consultations. He took the privilege
his admitted frail health gave him, and kept his own



RECOVERED. 225

room until the afternoon brought Mr. Bruce to be his
companion. " All this turmoil makes me miserable,
Mr. Bruce, and I keep out of it," he said sadly, and
he would have been still more miserable if he had
known how really glad Bertha and Blair were he did
keep out of it.

During this same time Bertha and Blair would also
have been very miserable, if they had known how
often the Colonel came near annulling the whole con
nection, as far as he had the power to do so. " A
man alters his will as often as he likes, Mr. Bruce ?"
he asked one day. And one word of assent from the
minister at that time would have made the Colonel
take an irrevocable step as regarded Blair Rodney's
succession. But Bruce looked at him with denial in
his eyes, and remained silent.

" I shall ask my lawyer. I shall send for him to
morrow."

" I would ask your conscience. I would ask it this
night."

" Oh, Mr. Bruce, I am so unhappy ! "

"All changes make a certain melancholy. What
we have to put behind us is part of ourselves. We
must die to this life, Colonel, before we enter another."

u If I could see the future."

" The future is shaped out of the past, and is in
God's hands. Leave it there."

"I try to. I have made a great -mistake. I see
now, how hard it is to order our own way."

This conversation occurred on a Saturday night.
On the following Tuesday Scotia would be home. On
Thursday the marriage would take place. Blair was
jubilant ; there was more of Blair Rodney in the house
every hour. Bertha behaved very prettily. She was



226 A SISTER TO ESAU.

desirous of leaving a sweet memory, and these few
last days would preserve it best. Mrs. Rodney was
weary and fretful. So many things devolved on her.
She wished now that she had accepted Scotia's offer
to return home earlier, and relieve her of part of the
burden. But when the offer came she was just in the
first enthusiasm of orders and directions. It appeared
then to be very easy work ; she did not think it likely
that she would tire of it.

And she feared some unpleasant collision. She
could see that Blair and Bertha, in their effusive hap
piness, were selfish and dictatorial. The Colonel was
hard to manage as things were. Scotia would prob
ably have good grounds for complaint, and if Scotia
and her father began to sympathize with each other,
no one could tell what trouble might ensue. So Mrs.
Rodney advised Scotia not to return until the wed
ding was at hand, and Scotia was not unwilling to
escape its trying antecedents.

" This is the last Sabbath of my maiden life ! " said
Bertha with a sigh. " I remember my betrothal Sab
bath so well. And next Sabbath will be my bride
Sabbath ! Blair, dear one, how strange it all is ! "

She delighted in such platitudes, and Blair felt them
to be the proper reflections. For the time they made
Bertha and himself the central pivot on which even
Sabbath days turned. And self-complacency is such
a comfortable sensation. If a mantis kept under its
influence, he naturally spreads himself, and takes up
more room than he ought.

" I am so lucky about weather ; " said Bertha, as
she smoothed her snowy muslin dress. " See how the
sun is shining, and what a delicate perfume comes in
through the open window."



RECOVERED. 227

" 'Tis from the wall-flowers, and the May lilies ; "
said Mrs. Rodney.

Then they went to church, and because Mrs. Rod
ney was alone they went with her to Rodney Kirk.
And Blair took several occasions to point out this bit
of self-denial to her. " I dislike Mr. Bruce, and I
think he preaches a very unprofitable sermon, but
Bertha and I cannot suffer you to go alone, mother."

" Dear me ! I must not forget that this is my last
Sabbath in childhood's kirk ! " and Bertha sighed and
looked sweetly mournful and very charming indeed.

In the afternoon Mrs. Rodney declared herself un
able to go to church again. She said she was " sleepy
and worn out, and could not give attention to the ser
vice." .So Blair and Bertha went to Innergrey very
early, having determined privately to drive around by
the house, and see if some work ordered to be done
on the garden had been completed.

Soon after they had gone the Colonel came down
stairs. He was dressed for kirk, but looked thought
ful and preoccupied. He said he had had a strange
dream, and asked where Bertha and Blair were.

" They went to the kirk by Innergrey, I believe."

" Are you going to kirk, Dorinda ? "

" I am too sick and tired."

" Then I will have the victoria, and Traill shall
drive me."

" Blair and Bertha have taken the victoria, and
Traill is driving them."

" Well I suppose I must have the landau and Jack
Lowther." He gave the order and was silent until the
carriage was at the door ; then he kissed his wife and
bade her rest till his return. It was a pleasure to catch
Lovvther's smiling face ; the man looked so happy,



228 A SISTER TO ESAU.

and spoke so cheerily, and did his work so willingly,
that he radiated a glad content. The Colonel answered
his smile, and a load seemed to fall from his heart.
But this was not all. In some way Lowther had been
a part of his dream. He could not recall in what
way, but he knew that he had seen the man in its
shadowy presentiment. He was searching his mind
for this half-forgotten dream all the way to kirk.

It was hardly service time when they arrived, but the
Colonel was glad to surround himself with that atmos
phere of retirement from earth, which was there pos
sible. He had rarely felt so little able to control either
his outer or inner man. Drifting thoughts from every
corner of his past life floated through his memory; he
was like a feather wafted here and there, as chance hap
pened to carry him. When Bruce began the service, he
made a great effort to collect himself, but his soul would
not attend ; it seemed to be steeped in quiescence and
indifference ; a state if people would but notice it
often prefiguring some sharp and sudden call upon its
utmost forces or its endurance.

Through the open windows he heard vaguely the
wind in the fir trees outside the kirk, and the bees hum
ming among the flowers that sweetened the graves.
He knew that he rose and sat down with the congre
gation, and that their voices, and the voice of the
preacher, was in his ears like sounds far off and far
away from his care or interest. But his eyes were
mostly closed, and he felt no inclination to use any
other sense.

Toward the end of the final hymn there was a decid
ed movement at the inner door of the kirk, and one
of the elders spoke to two strangers who entered. One
was a man of more than fifty years of age, grizzled and



RECOVERED. 229

tanned with exposure to fierce suns and hot winds.
The other was much younger, and looked like one ac
customed to carry arms, and to have his own way. His
manner was imperious and impatient ; for while his
companion hesitated to disobey the sign and whispered
injunction of the kirk-officer, he totally disregarded it.

With swift, natural steps he went to Colonel Rod
ney's pew. The congregation was rising the preacher
waiting to give the benediction the Colonel stand
ing with closed eyes and both hands resting on
the top of his staff. His white, impassive face be
trayed no knowledge of the interruption. He was
indeed unconscious of it until the man was before
him. He said one word. The Colonel opened his
eyes, and his staff fell to the ground. For he had flung
up his arms, and been caught in the arms of the speaker.

"Father! My Father! It is Archie! I was not
killed at Durphoot camp. Lord Moffat has brought
me back. Father ! dear Father ! "

The sweet love which filled these broken sen
tences the strong arms around him the cheek wet
with tears against his cheek the great blue eyes,
whose candid gaze he knew so well all the joyful
certainty of the miracle, took but one swift, glad min
ute to enact. The minister's solemn voice invoking
the benediction had scarce ceased ere the Colonel was
all alive to the great and wonderful joy that had come
to him.

" My son ! My son ! "

The words mingled themselves with the son's " My
father ! My father ! " Recognition was instantaneous
as thought, and sure as life. And just as quickly the
wine of joy flew to the Colonel's heart, and made him
strong from head to foot.



230 A SISTER TO ESAU.

He took his son's arm and with an irresistible move
ment led him to the front of the pulpit. In this move
ment there was something imperative and peremptory.
The people were arrested by it. They looked with
amazement on the two men standing in a place so
authoritative and distinctive ; they were still more
amazed when the Colonel in a glad resonant voice cried
out :

" Friends and neighbors ! Stay a moment and re
joice with me ! This is my son ! He was dead, and
he is alive again ; he was lost, and he is found ! "

Lord Moffat came quickly to the young man's side,
Bruce still wearing his gown to the Colonel's.
There was an indescribable murmur of sympathy
through the kirk the sweet vibration of a thousand
blessings in one.

" This is my son ! This is my son ! " He kept
repeating the words, as leaning on the young man's
arm, he passed through the rejoicing congregation.
He did not know that he was weeping that tears of
unspeakable joy were rolling down his cheeks that he
was walking without his staff that he was suddenly
twenty years younger.

The little party were stayed at every step by some
tenant or shepherd, each took the young laird's hand
and gave him a " God bless you, sir ! " The Colonel
could say nothing in reply but " My Son ! Bal-
burn. My son ! Craill. My son ! Tyndall."
He was beside himself with joy. And Bruce, see
ing it, lifted his hand to command silence, and then
lifted his voice in a verse, which all instantly took up,
and so singing, went out of the House of God, praising
Him:



RECOVERED. 231

Who doth redeem thy life, that thou

To death may'st not go down ;
Who thee with loving kindness doth

And tender mercies crown.*

Jack Lowther stood at the carriage, and one of the
elders remembered the Colonel's hat and staff. He
would not, of himself, have noticed the want of either.
He put his son beside him, and Lord Moffat and the
minister occupied the other seat. And now and then
Jack Lowther turned his large face backward. It was
shining like the sun. Jack would have dearly liked to
whistle " Muirland Willie," if it had not been the Sab
bath. And once he caught his master's eye, and gave
him back his smile, and then the Colonel suddenly re
membered his dream, and knew that some one behind
him had perceived the joy that was at hand had
known all the details of it so accurately, that even his
unusual driver had been foreseen. And in a moment
of spiritual comradeship, he involuntarily stretched out
his hand to this unseen and unknown friend.

He soon found out that Archibald spoke little and
very imperfect English. " He has been in the colleges
of Bokhara and the camps of Khiva," said Lord Mof
fat, " but he has a noble heart, and good abilities, and
he will soon recapture all, and more than he has lost
from the past."

At this hour the Colonel hardly seemed able to care
for the past. Archibald was beside him. He could
look into his face, clasp his hand, and hear him speak.
" Let the past go." It troubled him to hear it named.

As they approached the house, Mrs. Rodney heard
the carriage wheels, and she rose and went to the win-

* Psalm 103. Version allowed by General Assembly of the Kirk
of Scotia"' 1



232 A SISTER TO ESAU.

dow. She knew Bruce, but who were these strangers?
Her first feeling was one of anger. Surely the Colonel
knew how tired she was how much she had to do.
What did he mean by bringing company home, and
on the Sabbath day ? Bruce also ! The minister
never visited on the Sabbath. Why had he come this
day ? A sudden fear about Bertha and Blair made her
sick. Had anything happened them ? Were the
strangers doctors ?

Then the Colonel's'voice startled her. There was a
ring in it unknown for years. He came upstairs like a
young man. There were other steps with his. She
stood in the middle of her room, prescient of some
strange event, trembling with its uncertainty. The
Colonel slightly opened the door and looked in. His
face was so changed, his voice was so changed, but be
fore she could speak and ask any question, he had
taken her to his breast, he was asking her " if she could
bear a great joy ? If she could believe what was the
most unlikely of all events to happen ? Oh, Dorinda !
can you think of Archie alive ? Of Archie coming
home again ? Of Archie here ? Dearest, do not faint
and miss your wonderful happiness. Archie ! Archie !
Come here now ! Come here."

She sunk into a chair speechless, her eyes dilating


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA sister to Esau → online text (page 15 of 23)