Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A sister to Esau online

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wedding ring, and the locket for your pretty throat
Bertha ! Bertha ! Mother ! What is the matter ? "

For suddenly Bertha had burst into passionate weep
ing, and Mrs. Rodney was regarding the treasures with
a pitiful shake of her head. Then Scotia was aware
that there was something unusual, strange, revolution
ary in the house. In her own excitement, in the hurry


of her happy news and splendid gifts, she had noticed
nothing. But her mother's silence and Bertha's sobs
startled her into an unhappy intelligence.

"What is it, mother? Surely father is not ill ?"

"Archibald has come back," shrieked Bertha.
" And Blair is to be sent away, and my whole life
ruined. Oh ! Oh ! What is the use of the dress
now ?"

" Archibald come back ! Mother, is this true? Oh,
how glad I am for father and you ! Where has he
been ? When did he come ? I want to see him !
Do not cry, Bertha. No one will hurt Blair and you."

It was at this moment Blair entered. He had Colo
nel Rodney's check in his pocket, and after a slight
salutation to Scotia he took Bertha's hand and led her
from the room. A few rapid words from Mrs. Rodney
enabled Scotia to grasp the whole position. She put
the gems back in her bosom, and covered up the white
wedding garment, and then said :

" Dear mother, this is such a great joy that we may
well bear the little annoyances that are its shadow.
Blair has some good qualities ; he will not desert Ber
tha, and there is really no other reason why the mar
riage should be delayed. I hear my father coming !
How quickly he walks !

She went into the hall to meet him, and there she
first saw Archibald. He was standing at the foot of
the staircase, looking upward to his father. His tall,
slender form was his father's form, with the added
grace of youth and strength ; but his face was the face
of Scotia, formed in masculine beauty, sunbrowned and
wind-tanned, crowned and bearded with the same
beautifully colored hair.

He heard her open the door ; he turned his gaze upon


her. A bright smile parted his lips. He looked in
quiringly at his father, and understood in a moment
his father's face. With an eager manner he advanced
to meet his sister, and when he caught her eyes, and
her smile, and her beaming glance of recognition and
welcome, he cried out, " Yes ! You are Scotia !
Scotia ! "

And if the Colonel had missed anything of perfect
sympathy in his joy, he had it now. Scotia had no
reservations. She thought of no future contingencies.
She knew nothing, but that her long lost brother was
before her. She took his hands, she put her arms
round his neck, she called him "Brother," and
"Archie." She stroked his hair, and matched it with
her own ; she kissed him frankly and fondly. And the
young man was transfigured by her joy and love. He
looked at his father and then at Scotia, and felt his
heart glow with that wondrous, protecting, admiring
affection, which, when it exists between brother and
sister, is perhaps the strongest, the sweetest, and the
most unselfish of all family ties.

Poor Bertha was having a very different interview.
As yet Blair had not decided in what way he would
take his revenge. He could leave Bertha to the public
tongue, and to the cruelties of hope delayed, and final
desertion ; or he could marry her in spite of old Rod
ney, take her to his little farm-house, and make her
taste all the humiliations and sorrows of poverty and
neglect. He had such confidence in his power over
the girl that he was sure he had only to make his plan.
Bertha would carry out her share of it.

He led her to a sofa and sat down beside her. She
tried to put off the words he was going to say, and in
a hurried manner spoke of her wedding dress and the


diamonds her aunt had sent her. He listened with a
dark, impatient face.

" What is the use of fine clothes, Bertha? Your
father will not give us any money, and I have nothing
to support a wife on."

"Will Father do nothing ?"

" Two hundred pounds a year ! What is that ? It
would not pay the servants necessary to keep Innergrey
in order."

" We do not require many servants, Blair. I can
do a great deal, and you could attend "

" Bertha, I told your father I could not marry you
with less than a thousand pounds a year, and he was
rude beyond endurance. He has virtually requested
me to leave the house. My little girl, we have no hope
to cling to ! Our marriage must be put off."

" For how long?"

" Are you afraid of poverty ? "

" I never was poor."

" Could you milk cows, and make butter, and bake,
and clean ?"

" I do not know. For you, Blair, I could try to do
many things."

" Listen, then ! I will write regularly to you. As
soon as I can rent a home, will you come to it? "


" Even if your father and mother forbid you ? "

" How, then ? Where could we be married ?"

" You must run away with me. I would have the
ring in my pocket, and the minister waiting, and we
could be man and wife before you were missed."

" But I could have no bridemaids and other
things ! "

" No."


He said the little syllable curtly, with a certain
pleasure in all it denied ; and Bertha wept more and
more. He took her in his arms and kissed her with
many fond words and vows. He felt that he must
rivet the bonds he had put on her as firmly as possible^
and he really was touched in a selfish way by the pallor
and wretchedness of her face, by her clinging to him,
by her entreaties and sorrowful complaining. But he
was not a man to bear too much of such a trying
scene. In less than an hour he had left Rodney
without a farewell to any one but Bertha, and his last
words to her were a reminder of the address to which
his personal belongings were to be sent.

Fortunately, Scotia had a presentiment a feeling
that he was not in the house, and she went to seek her
sister. She found the miserable girl weeping on the
sofa where Blair had left her, and she knelt by her
side, and with words of truest sympathy entreated
Bertha to rely upon her love, and tell her just what
she wished done.

" Send word to every one invited to the wedding
that there will be no wedding."

" Dear Bertha, are you sure ?"

" Quite sure. Father will not give us one thousand
pounds a year. He might have done it, I think."

" Do you need so much, Bertha ?"

" Blair does if he marries. He said something
about making a little home for me. But I hate little
homes, and if I have to endure the shame of this
broken-off marriage, I do not mind if I never see him
again. He is a coward, Scotia ! He goes away to
Perthshire and leaves me and all of us to bear the
disgrace alone."

" There is no disgrace to us."


"People will talk."

" Let them talk. Bertha, dear, wash your face and
come into the parlor. Father and mother are so happy,
and Archibald, too. Is he not charming ? "

" I think he is ugly and disagreeable. I am sure I
shall never love him."

" I am very sure you will. He is our own, own
brother. Blair is unworthy to buckle his shoes. Come,
dear ! There are plenty of good days in store for you,
and some far grander lover. I would not let even the
servants know you were fretting. And in a few days
the Cupar girls, and lots of your dear familiar friends,
will be lifting up their heel or their tongues against
you. You will have to face them, Bertha. Yes, you
must do it, dear. We will all help you. And you have a
brother now. That makes a deal of difference. Arch
ibald is not to be offended, you know. He is a pos
sible husband. Girls with marriageable brothers have
one great privilege other girls like them, so much."

" Julia Cupar always flirted with Blair. She has a
thousand pounds a year ; perhaps Blair may seek her

" I should not wonder. Then you can ask her 'how
your old shoes fit her feet ? ' Only be brave, Bertha,
and we shall get more mirth than sorrow out of this

"My lovely dress ! "

" Yes, it is lovely. And the diamonds ! Was it not
kind of Aunt Yarrow ? We will put the dress and the
diamonds away. I am sure you will need them for a
better lord. Come and show father what a brave girl
he has ! Show him that you think more of his joy
than of your own sorrow. How pretty you are, Ber
tha ! Come, dear, you can make father and mother


so happy, and I think you ought to tell father what
Blair said, and talk over what is best to be done with
him and mother. It will make all things so much

Bertha had had her cry out, and she was ready for
good advice. After all, it was more comfortable to
suffer in company. She found her father's kiss, and
her mother's whispered words of pity and encourage
ment very comforting. It did her good to talk over
the affair, to say what she wished done, to assist in the
composition of the formal note to be sent next day to
all who had been invited to the wedding feast.

Evening brought Angus Bruce. The Colonel
watched Scotia very closely. Her behavior was satis
factory. She was neither too cold, nor too shy, nor
too friendly with the minister. They met as if they
had seen each other every day. And indeed this was
very nearly the case, as it regarded the past two
weeks. For Scotia had been in Edinburgh for that
time, though at the moment the Colonel had forgotten
the circumstance. When she referred to it at the
dinner table, the Colonel was a little astonished. " I
have been so used to placing you in London," he said ;
"and I thought Lady Yarrow was going to Yarrow Bell
when she left London."

" She intended doing so, Father ; but as the time
for the meeting of the General Assembly drew near,
she grew more and more excited about it. What was
to happen on the ipth of May haunted her constantly,
and so we left for Edinburgh on the i5th."

" Nothing happened but what every sensible man
and woman had foreseen would happen."

" Yes, but it was something to be witness to it. I
would not have missed the experience for a year of
ordinary life."


" But you were not in the Assembly Hall ? "

"Yet we saw a great deal those in the hall did not
see. I must tell you first, we rode some hours through
the streets of Edinburgh the night previous to the
great meeting. What crowds were in them ! What
earnest, solemn crowds ! You would have thought
the city on the verge of some tremendous calamity.
And the ministers going from group to group made a
very picturesque element in the scene. I saw one
minister on Prince's Street standing bareheaded on a
flight of steps, talking to a crowd that he moved, as
ripe barley is moved by a breath of wind. His voice
stirred the people like a trumpet. And Lady Yarrow
said very proudly to several gentlemen who spoke to
her, ' That is my adopted son.' Mrs. Bruce was too
happy to speak at all."

She bowed to Bruce, and smiled with the pleasure
of her recollection, and before the Colonel could make
any remark continued :

" We that is, Mrs. Bruce, Lady Yarrow, and my
self succeeded in getting our carriage near the
entrance to the hall next day, and there we waited.
Some said, ' The ministers will come out.' Others said,
' It is easy to talk ; but when men have wives and
bairns, not so easy to give up kirk and manse.' The
big city was still as if it was the Sabbath ; as the
moments went on, you could feel the strained, anxious
element in the air. I thought at last I must shriek
aloud. Then there was the sound of footsteps, and
Dr. Welsh and Dr. Chalmers came out ; then the long >
solemn, orderly procession of four hundred ministers
in their gowns and bands, and over five hundred
elders. A great shout welcomed them. It was taken
up, and ran from street to street like thunder. Some


one among the elders cried " Hush ! " and a silence
as deep and sudden followed. Men lifted their hats
and stood bareheaded as the noble army of Protestors
passed them ; and I saw that every one was weeping.
We were weeping also, but none of us knew it. The
gladdest smile was on Mrs. Bruce's face, and Lady
Yarrow's face echoed it. At the same moment they
caught sight of Mr. Bruce among the ministers, and
both at the same moment cried ' There is our son !
God bless him ! ' Mr. Bruce, how happy you must
have been that day ! "

This was the first description the Colonel had heard
of the great event, and Mr. Bruce supplemented it
with the facts already told to the elders of his kirk.
The conversation was a very interesting one. It was
then a living, burning question. Even Bertha forgot
her private wrongs and sorrows in it that is, she was
lifted by the enthusiasm it created into a higher
atmosphere than mere selfish cares could enter.
Archibald understood nothing of it, but he played
chess with Scotia, and tasted with the freshness of a
child, and the feeling of a man, the delicious sense of
home and kindred ; the strength and the sweetness of
his father's and his mother's love.



" "Tis strange to think if we could fling aside

The mask and mantle that Love wears from pride,
How much would be we now so little guess.
The careless smile like a gay banner borne,
The laugh of merriment, the lip of scorn ;
And for a cloak what is there that can be
So difficult to pierce as gayety ? "

L. E. L.

" What can we do o'er whom the unbeholden
Hangs in a night wherewith we dare not cope ?
What but look sunward and with faces golden
Speak to each other softly of our hope ? "

TvT OTHING is so pleasant to men as to talk of the
affairs of their neighbors, and plenty of people
in the very best society find all amusements short
lived but that of watching the failures and faults of
their friends and comparing them with their own suc
cesses and virtues. The broken-off marriage between
Bertha and Blair Rodney occupied this class pleasantly
for many days.

It was the more delightful to discuss because it
offered points for distinct opinions. Those inclined
to take Bertha's side, were sure she had refused to
many because Blair had ceased to be socially her
equal. They had been told that Blair Rodney was
only an ordinary Perthshire farmer, and they suddenly



discovered that they had always thought him vulgar.
Those inclined to sympathize with Blair, approved of
his decision in giving up a wife who had lost the
power to advance him to the head of an old county
family. " Bertha had no other desirable quality,"
they said, and many professed to understand how far
Blair might indeed welcome his freedom, though it did
send him back to poverty.

Through this trying ordeal Bertha carried herself
with great wisdom. She did not shirk a single caller,
and her calm manner allowed them no just opportunity
to offer her condolence. She had her usual pleasant
smile, and her dress was a combination of the fine
arts. No one had any right to suppose a girl was suf
fering from either pain or mortification, who always
looked as fresh as morning-glorys look before twelve

With mere acquaintances she exchanged those inno
cent platitudes which are the loose coins of society ;
to the Cupar and Braithness girls with whom she had
been on terms of intimacy she allowed herself little
suggestive confidences :

" She was sorry for poor Blair Rodney, but the res
toration of her dear, darling brother had made the
world very different to them all. Of course it was
impossible for her to marry Blair in his present posi
tion. He was very poor, and she was such a luxurious
little body. Her father thought it would be a mistake
for both of them to marry, and her father was always
right." And on one or two occasions, she alluded
with a long sigh to Sir Thomas Carr, and gave the
girls to understand that her heart was with her old
lover, and that she was not unhappy to be free. How
ever, all suggestions were so cleverly and so modestly


made, that many who came to Rodney to pay off old
scores of contempt found themselves unable to say a
disagreeable word. Really, it is hard to snub a per
fectly dressed woman, who has a sweet non-committal
smile always ready, and the general public felt them-
selvec to be almost defrauded out of a legitimate

Indeed, the noble restraint with which Bertha car
ried herself during these days caused her to receive
Jass consideration than she might otherwise have had.
Those who want sympathy must demand it ; Bertha
made no such claim. She had a pride that stood her
very well in place of stronger qualities. The Colonel,
who always judged from appearances, said to his wife,
he thought Bertha was glad to be rid of Blair, and
he respected her for the feeling. Scotia thought her
sister suffered mostly from the dread of public opinion,
and she found her so well able to manage it that her
sympathy appeared superfluous. Mrs. Rodney judged
her daughter more justly, and it was to her, only,
Bertha abandoned her well-assumed indifference.
She knew all the girl's longing and heartache, her
sense of wrong and insult ; her weary bondage to the
claims of the unfeeling, curious world ; her sharp dis
appointment in loosing husband and home, the posi
tion and hopes, which had been so nearly hers.

As for the Colonel, one side of the question seemed
to him a sufficient answer to all who named the circum
stance, " A son is a very different thing from a son-
in-law where you have house, and land, and an ancient
name to transmit." It was an incontrovertible posi
tion ; and every man with a landed estate felt it to
be so.

And the son, though not exactly after the Fife pat-


tern, was a very fine fellow. He managed a horse and
used a gun as Turkomans can ride and shoot ; and
these were accomplishments easily understood. But
nothing could induce him to learn to dance. Dancing
was the business of women, and he looked with as
tonishment and contempt on all masculine exhibitions
of bobbing about and turning around. There was
very little hope that the heir of Rodney would be
turned into a ball-room partner.

The first event of importance which happened as a
sequence to the two great events of Archibald's res
toration and Blair's deposition, was a letter from Lady
Yarrow. It was a generous, noble letter, ignoring
everything past, rejoicing in the household joy, and
refusing to see in any event consequent, the least
cause for regret. It was, finally, a proposition to rent
Innergrey, with all its furniture, fora term of three
years. The price offered was munificent, and the
Colonel was assured that the house and grounds
would be kept in perfect order.

" In fact," she said, " I purpose to make it the home
of my adopted son ; and I shall send there two women
to look after his comfort, and a man to take charge
of the garden. Whatever other help is required can
be procured on the spot." She then signified her de
sire to assist in the building of a free kirk for Bruce
and his people. She had understood the Colonel fa
vored the views of these dissenters, and that he was
willing to give a piece of land for the building of a
place of worship. If so, she would give three hundred
pounds to help forward the immediate labor.

This letter gave the Colonel great relief. In
meeting so promptly and so extravagantly the claim
of Blair Rodney for eight hundred pounds, he had


been actuated by a reckless pride which had caused
him afterward much anxiety. The check for one
thousand pounds represented nearly all his ready
cash ; for the repairing and furnishing of Innergrey
had cost far more than his original intention ; while
the expenses attending Bertha's outfit and the wed
ding arrangements had magnified his indebtedness to
an alarming extent. Lady Yarrow's offer was a god
send. He accepted it as such, with cordiality and
thanks ; and it was with real delight he thought
of the minister as the tenant of the dower house.
Bruce's books and belongings were speedily carried
there, and other arrangements grew naturally out of
this one.

In the first place, it was just a pleasant walk from
Rodney, and it was arranged for Archibald to study
with Bruce there, under very favorable conditions.
And while the Colonel was sitting watching Bruce
arrange his library, they fell into conversation about
the new kirk ; and a piece of land, admirably situated
to accommodate three villages, was given by the Colo
nel for the purpose. In the mean time the large
granary at Innergrey was to be fitted with benches,
and used as a place of worship.

And no emotion retains long its first agitation.
Life, however disarranged, soon accommodates itself
to fresh conditions. In a month Archibald was as
much at home as if he had grown up under Rodney
roof. Bertha's disappointment ignored from the
first was now seldom spoken of. It was a dead issue.
Blair had gone out of their lives without protest, and
with very little regret. No letter came from him.
The Colonel never expected one, but Bertha for some
weeks looked with strained and anxious eyes at every


mail. Sometimes the sense of cruel forgetfulness was
too much to endure long in public. She would sew
for a few minutes, every moment growing paler, and
then with a pitiful smile make some trifling excuse for
leaving the room. But even Bertha was forgetting, and
one hot day in July she had a visitor who quite cured

It was Julia Cupar. She rode over to see Bertha
specially, and after she had removed her habit, and
was comfortably sipping a cold raspberry cream in
Bertha's room, she said so.

" Bertha Rodney, I have come to tell you something
that may do you good. Blair Rodney paid me a visit
last night."

" I am not astonished, Julia. Is he in love with you
now ? "

" He is in love with my money, and he offered to
marry it ; he called it me."

" Did you accept the offer ? "

" No ; and he had the bad taste to remind me that
I had once given him to see he was agreeable to me."

" Oh ! but perhaps you did just a little, Julia."

" Perhaps ; but, as I reminded him, a common farmer
and the heir of Rodney were two different persons.
He said, ' He was astonished at my mercenary dis
position.' I said he ought to understand it, as it re
sembled his own. He had the further bad taste to
remind me, that ' Grandfather Cupar made his money
in trade '; and that the Rodneys ' were a terribly old
family.' I said I heard their origin was depicted on
the zodiac of Dendera. He said, ' They were as noble
as they were ancient, all of them, saints or heroes.'
I agreed with him. I said our blessed Saint Andrew
might have married into the Rodney family without


fear of a mesalliance. Then he saw I was joking, and
he got angry, and blurted out uncomplimentary things
concerning women in general. And upon my word,
Bertha, I am astonished you ever could bring your
self to think of Blair Rodney ! "

" When one has a dear father, Julia, one does a great
deal to please him. But Blair was different from Sir
Thomas ! "

" I should say so. He looked poor, and he said he
was going into the army. I had a good mind to sing
him a verse of one of his own favorite songs. That I
did not is a proof of my natural noble nature. Do
you know which I mean ? " and she began to hum
merrily :

"When a man is like me
A bankrupt in purse,
And in character worse,
With shocking bad clothes,
And his credit at zero,
What on earth can he hope
To become but a hero ?

Bertha, let us talk Blair Rodney well over. That is
why I came here to-day. You have suffered, I know,
though you have behaved like an angel. You ought
to forget the man ever lived, and the best way to pull
him out of your heart by the roots is to talk him

So they talked Blair Rodney over till the sun went
down ; and when Julia Cupar turned in her saddle to
say a last " good-by," Bertha Rodney was all herself
again. She had quite accepted Julia's conception of
life that there was nothing worth crying about in
it ; and that as a general rule, life ought to mean get
ting all one can out of everybody.


July and August slipped away in sunshine and
happy companionship. Archibald and Bruce were
much together, and very often the Colonel and his
two daughters walked over to Innergrey and brought
both men back to supper. The sub rosa condition of
their love troubled neither Bruce nor Scotia. It was,
indeed, the occasion of much purely personal and
private bliss. What so sharp as a lover's eye ? Bruce
could say all he wished to Scotia, and Scotia answer

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA sister to Esau → online text (page 17 of 23)