Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A sister to Esau online

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him, and yet both escape the espionage of Bertha's
innocent-looking orbs. And true love never yet
wanted spoken words to translate itself. It has sub
tler and sweeter language. Bertha could not discover
the real position of Scotia and Bruce the Colonel
did not trouble himself about what was not apparent.

Toward the end of September there came another
change, consequent on Archibald's return. It was
found that the climate was telling severely on one
used to the dry, arid heat of Central Asia. Warmer
sunshine was imperative, and, as European travel was
intended to form part of his education, the Colonel de
cided to go with his son to France and Italy until the
spring. As a tutor was to accompany Archibald, Mrs.
Rodney could see no reason in the Colonel expatriating
himself; but the two men had become inseparable.
The son clung to his father; the father would not be
parted from his son.

Arrangements for this journey had to be somewhat
hurriedly made, and it did not seem the right time,
either to Scotia or Bruce, for pressing their love and
future upon the Colonel's attention. Indeed, the
father's plea for one year's silence on the subject, and
Bruce's acceptance of the condition, was a bond hardly
broken by the lapse of the marriage that was then


under contract. In fact, Colonel Rodney was so oc
cupied with the training of his son, he entered into this
subject with such enthusiasm, he considered it of such
vital, preponderating importance, that he was not pre
pared to consider properly any other subject.

Yet neither did he quite forget. The very reticence of
Bruce, the pleasant interest of Scotia in his journey and
all concerning it touched and pleased him. The night
before his departure he went alone to Innergrey. It was
dusk when he left Rodney. Callers had detained him
to the last moment, but he had made a determination,
and he disliked to be disappointed. Scotia wished to
go with him. He declined her offer. He had a
word or two to say to the minister, he said. He
would ride there and back in half an hour.

He left the carriage at the lower gate. He wished
to consider his words as he walked slowly through the
quiet garden. At the house no one was visible. The
work of the day was done, the servants were doubtless
eating their supper in the kitchen. But the main door
was open, and he went into a parlor. The book Bruce
had been reading lay upon a table by the raised
window. His hat was beside it. The gray light,
the handsome, comfortable room were restful and in
viting. Bruce could not be far away his hat an
swered for his presence.

So the Colonel sat down to wait for him. Then
through the stillness there came a sound that never
can be mistaken the sound of some one praying.
The low, pleading accents penetrated the house.
When a man speaks to God, there is something in his
voice nothing on earth can counterfeit. The Colonel
bowed his head in his hands and sat still. He soon
heard a slow footfall upon the stairs, and Bruce came


into the room. In the dim light, with the influence
of his solemn communion around him, he made al
most a supernatural impresssion. His slight, black-
clothed figure was but a darker shadow ; but on his
pale, rapt face there was a light,

A light that never was on sea nor land.

He was surprised to see the Colonel, and it required
an effort to express himself. Indeed, it was some
moments ere he could seem interested and enter into
conversation. But Rodney was a good man ; he under
stood the mood and waited.

" I am going away in the morning, Mr. Bruce. I
shall not return until spring. I thought you would
have come over to Rodney House to-night."

" I knew there must be many things to do at the
last. We said 'good-by' yesterday."

" I have still something to say. I feel very anxious.
It is easy to leave home, but however short a visit
may be, there is a change when we return. If I
never return, what can I expect from your friend
ship ?"

" Everything you wish."

" You love Scotia ? "

" You know I do."

"1 leave Scotia, and Scotia's mother and sister in
your care. See them every day, if possible. Women
need many things that paid service cannot do for
them. The journey that is a pleasure to my son is a
great trial to me. The old should stay at home."

" Why go ? You have procured a good tutor."

" I cannot let Archie leave me. The tutor js a
stranger. It is my duty to watch Archie ; he is but a
child in our ways."


" You go first to southern France ?"

"Yes. The doctors say we shall have a sunny,
warm climate there ; but I shall long for the glints
and glooms of rainy, blowy Fife. I keep saying
already :

The sun rises bright in France, and fair sets he ;

But he has tint the blythe blink he had in my ain countree."

" You go to Rome about the New Year, Mrs.
Rodney told me."

" Just so. Mr. Bruce, I tremble when I think of the
journey. Yet I feel it a duty not to be put aside.
Oh, if one might only see the end from the begin
ning ! "

" My friend, it is better to say

I do not ask to see
The distant scene ; one step, enough for me ! "

" Thank you, it is enough."

So the men parted without more words, but with
the greatest trust in each other.

It was not long ere Rodney House arranged itself
to its new conditions. The quick approach of winter
aided the quiet and seclusion which fell upon the
lately gay household. The Cupars, the Braithness
family, and several others of the near neighbors to
Rodney went to Edinburgh or London for the season.
Bertha was glad of any excuse to remain in seclusion
for a little. Scotia found, in her daily walks, and in the
society of Angus, all she desired to brighten her pres
ent life. Mrs. Rodney watched the mails for her
husband's letters more anxiously than a maiden for
her lover's. Her heart was full of plans and dreams
for her children's future. She had already forgotten
the failure of those built upon Blair Rodney. And


after Julia Cupar's confession, even Bertha's remem-
brance had in it neither hope nor respect. It was a
point of honor and kindness with all the household to
make Blair Rodney as if he had never been.

Scotia's engagement to Angus Bruce, if understood
by Mrs. Rodney, was not alluded to. It might be a
kindly delicacy toward Bertha which caused her
reticence. An engaged daughter has in her home
privileges and considerations no one cared to make
obvious to Bertha. The subject of marriage was a
generally ignored one. Callers were cleverly led
away from it, and if Lady Yarrow described any
wedding in her letters, Scotia read everything aloud
but that description.

It was not possible, however, to keep Bertha happy
by any such precautions. A lover would have been
much more to the purpose. Bertha missed greatly
that closely personal happiness which springs from a
companionship no other being has a right to invade.
She soon began to consider the minister as a suitable
person to take Blair's place. Indeed, he appeared to
her as an almost natural successor.

He was occupying the home prepared for her. He
must remember this fact many a time as he sat alone
in its comfort and beauty. She had planned that
comfort and beauty, and watched its growth to per
fection. All the details of the house and garden de
clared her neat, dainty, methodical tastes. If Angus
Bruce had any sense of justice, Bertha was sure he
must sooner or later recognize her claim.

And when a girl reasons with herself, for herself,
her wishes are very likely to be the only conclusions
she reaches. Bertha wished to be mistress of Inner-
grey, and she felt that she ought to be there. The


house had been given for her use ; it had been furnished
for her as she desired ; she soon taught herself to
believe that she had a right in it which Bruce could
not be oblivious to. From this position to Bruce
personally was an easy deduction. She began senti
mentally to consider him as her first love. And she
had represented Blair so often to strangers as the
husband of her father's selection, that she had finally
come to believe herself the victim of the family inter
ests. Lcf' entirely free, she was certain that her
choice would have fallen upon Angus Bruce. The
quiet hou^; -nd monotonous life provoked such
dreams end such unreal hopes s a the absence of all
opposing elements led her to feel that she had but to
make some plan, and then carry it out to the end she

It was evident, even to her self-satisfied estimate, that
Bruce paid Scotia much attention. She saw that if
Scotia went to walk she was as sure to meet Bruce as
if the meeting had been arranged. But Scotia had a
very clear idea of Bruce's general movements ; there
were not many walks available in winter weather ; and
moreover, it was very likely if she took walks Angus
would also make her his companion. She could easily
have put this likelihood to the test, but she preferred
to keep the comfort of its indecision.

Neither could she avoid noticing that between Sco
tia and Angus there was that manner of confidence
and unrestraint which is the result of perfect under
standing. But even if there was an engagement, en
gagements were not marriages, as she herself well
knew. And she had no definite reason to suppose
there was an engagement. Scotia had told her nothing
of the kind. It had not been acknowledged in the


family. She had, therefore, every right to suppose
Angus Bruce to be free as herself, every right to induce
him to take the step so evidently his duty, and make
her mistress of her own house. She felt, also, that
she could love Angus as she had never loved Blair.
And then, the joy and triumph there would be in
showing Blair that she had gone to Innergrey after
all ! The idea grew in her little selfish mind every
hour. It took possession of her. She was deter
mined to make it succeed.

The failure of her previous matrimonial plans taught
her no good lesson. That they had been unsuccessful
was no fault of hers. Indeed, she reminded herself that
if her marriage to Blair Rodney had taken place as
she desired at the New Year, Innergrey and the
annual income of a thousand pounds would have
been theirs ; and the return of Archibald could not
have affected her settlement so far.

" This time I shall keep my own counsel and carry
out my own ideas," was her private decision. " If I
tell mother, or Scotia, they will immediately begin to
consider how my plans will affect the whole family.
I am determined to marry Angus Bruce, and I will
hesitate at nothing that promises me success. Sup
pose I have to disappoint Scotia a little ! I have
been disappointed ! Scotia is good-natured ; she will
forgive me as soon as I say I am sorry. And if An
gus finds me out, I will tell him I did whatever I may
have to do, because I was so much in love with him.
He would be a brute not to accept that apology."

As yet she had no plan which promised success.
But she was in that -receptive mood for evil which
germinates evil ; and so brought herself into sympa
thetic relation with some power whose foresight and in.


telligence in sin was beyond mortal capacity. This
coadjutor whom she called to herself was not long in
finding out a way. And when such influences are at
work, there is often a circumstantial preparation and
assistance that appears miraculous. So that when a
mortal man or woman is planning wickedness, and a
singular success attends their movements, they may
well pause and pray to be delivered from the dread
guilt of premeditated sin,and the after-wages of its suc

The very day after she had abandoned all reserva
tions and regrets, a series of events began to happen
which fitted themselves exactly to the animus of her
desires. It was a beautiful day in March ; a little
frosty, but the sky was blue, and the robins hopped
about the bare shrubs as merrily as if it was already
spring. The ground had a crisp feeling that made
walking delightful, and Scotia, accompanied by Angus,
left Rodney after lunch for a long afternoon walk.

Scotia looked lovely in her furs and winter wraps,,
and her hands folded in her muff as she walked
by Bruce's side gave _her an independent air which
was charming. The robins, whom she constantly fed,,
fluttered around ; admiring her in little songs of de
light that had an intelligible significance, very near
to articulation ; and Scotia irritated Angus first, by
keeping him waiting while she went back for crumbs,
and scattered them for the pretty brown, red-breasted
pets. He felt as if they had been put before him,
their pleasure considered first, and he was not molli
fied by her arch smile in his face, nor yet by her
apology :

" These, Angus, are the summer birds," she said,
That ever in the haunch of winter sing.


They are never tired, and they are never terrified ;
and no bird of prey will touch them. If I had not
been a woman, I should like to have been a robin

Bruce heard her innocent prattle almost with anger.
He was in one of those moods when all trifling had a
childish, unreasonable meaning. He had just come
from the preparation of his sermons he had been
dealing with the subject of immortal souls, and their
tremendous travail and destiny ; and how could he
patiently hear the woman, who was to be his wife,
almost desiring to be a bird without an immortal

He said so in a kind and yet in an irritating man
ner, for words do not always lose the spirit of their
origin in soft speech ; and Scotia answered him with
the decision which springs from positive predelictions
or pet theories.

" How do you know, Angus, that birds have no
souls ? Who has said so ? Before the flood, birds
were classed as clean and unclean ; and the omens of
the dove and the raven looked for. Elijah was
saved by the ministry of the birds. Ephrem and
Syrian says, 'Where birds are, there angels are.'
Birds are the powers of the air ; nowhere can we get
away from them, and doubtless they possess a great
knowledge of human affairs. There are good birds
and bad birds, just as there are good and bad men.
Birds know many things we do not know. They
would tell us them if we had intelligence enough to

Angus laughed, but it was not a pleasant laugh.

" You have said these things before," he answered.
" But, Scotia, you cannot mean to say that birds are
prophets ; that they have intelligence ? "


" I think they are as likely to be prophets as men
are. The great thinkers of the ancient world believed
in them. We have learned many human languages
and perhaps forgotten some forms of communica
tion, far nearer to the speech of heaven. Are you
wiser than Sophocles, who makes CEdipus say, 'If you
have received any information from the prophetic birds,
divulge it to me ' ; than Aristophanes, who makes
one congratulate himself because ' nobody knows of his
treasure, except, indeed, some bird ? ' Many a thought,
many a presentiment, many a conviction about our
own affairs comes to us, and we know not how. Per
haps when we say ' a little bird told me,' we are not

" I think, Scotia, that as a minister of a holy God, I
may lawfully claim to have more wisdom than two
pagan play-writers. And I do not like this way you
have of arguing and quoting from those old pagans."

" Saint Paul often quotes from the same authori

She was now a little offended, and she accused
Saint Paul with the air of one who is glad to bring a
mutual friend into like condemnation.

" You know too much, and too little, Scotia. That
is the fault with all clever women."

" Indeed, I have seen clever men of the same kind."

Then they walked on in silence, until they came to
the old manse. Adam was leaning on the garden
gate. Adam, out of simple contradiction to the village
in general, and to Grizel in particular, had, when the
hour for decision came, decided to remain with the
Established Kirk. Angus stopped and spoke to him:

"How are you, Adam?"

" I might be waur, sir. I might be dying, as they
say the minister at Pittenleekie is."


" Dr. Buchan dying ? "

" 'Tis said sae. I dinna think it. He was aye
preaching aboot heaven, but he'll never gae to heaven,
sae lang as he can get stopping at Pittenleekie."

Angus went forward without answering him, and
the old man laughed softly to himself : " I gied him a
poke in his ain conscience, I'll warrant ! Sae setten
up as these young ministers are ! And the laird's
daughter linking beside him Rodney's eldest lass,
and nae less to suit his reverence ! I did weel, to gie
him a salt word."

Perhaps Angus felt the ill-nature that pursued him.
People with souls do feel much that has no voice.
He was angry in his heart, and said, " Adam examines
every one's title to heaven but his own."

Scotia pondered the words a few minutes, and then
answered, " Heaven ! We all say the word glibly
enough. Who knows anything about it ? Will it be
at all like what we imagine ?

For still the doubt comes back can God provide
For the large heart of man what shall not pall ?

Nor through eternal ages' endless tide
On weary spirits fall ?

You need not look angry, Angus ; it is an archbishop
asks the question."

" Be fair, Scotia, and give the rest

These make him say, If God has so arrayed
A fading world, that quickly passes by ;

Such rich provision of delight has made
For every human eye.

What shall the eyes that wait for Him survey ?

When His own presence gloriously appears,
In worlds that were not founded for a day,

But for eternal years ?


We know that ' we shall be satisfied.' We have the
glorious promises of the Apocalypse the multitude
no man can number singing the new song the
Seraphim who continually do cry ' Holy ! Holy ! Holy !
Lord God of Sabaoth ! ' "

His face was rapt and solemn, and usually it would
have silenced Scotia, but she was possibly under an
influence beyond her knowledge and control. A
spirit of contradiction, a positive pleasure in seeing
how far she could oppose Angus, actuated her, and
she demurred at once to his decision.

" That is not my conception of heaven, Angus. I
think it is a place where those we love will always be
with us and never misconceive us a place of glorious
work to do and of adequate faculties to do it. A
world of solved problems, of realized ideals, of new
ideas ; a place where we shall learn the secrets of
space, the wonders of the stars, and of the regions
beyond the stars ; a book of knowledge with eternal
leaves, and unbounded faculties to read and under
stand it

For it is past belief that Christ hath died,
Only that we unending psalms may sing :

That all the gain Death's awful curtains hide
Is this eternity of anthemm'ng."

" Scotia, you presume very far. We have no author
ity for your imaginations. As my promised wife, I
have a right to expect you to agree with me. I do
expect it. I may as well tell you that I felt very
keenly your remarks about my prayer the other

" Your prayer, Angus ? "

" Yes. If you 'remember, we had been talking,
before the exercise, of those Mohammedan colleges


in which Archibald had been educated, and I natur
ally prayed for the extinction of the creed of the False
"Prophet. Have you forgotten what comment you
made on my prayer?"

" No, for it was not mere comment. It was a fixed
opinion. I do think you could find better sub
jects for prayer than the overthrow of the creeds of
five-sixths of the human race. Are we the best
judges of times and seasons? Is Calvinism so ex
quisite an embodiment of truth that the whole world
should be miraculously converted to it? The essence
of prayer, as I understand it, is thy will be

" Scotia, I know my duty. What do you mean by
this evident desire to anger me ? Are you weary of
our engagement ? "

" If you think so."

" You try to make me think so."

" Evidently it is easy work."

" I do not understand you."

" Nor I you. I will return home."

She walked rapidly ; too rapidly for much conver
sation. Neither, however, made any attempt toward
it. In silence they retraced their steps ; and the sun
shone and the birds sang in vain as far as they were
concerned. As they passed through the park they
saw a hare which had torn its front paws from a trap
in order to escape. It was in great misery. Scotia
stopped, folded the wounds in her handkerchief, and
then lifted the poor suffering creature in her arms.
Bruce, walked slowly forward, and finally waited for
her. He made no comment on the hare, and did not
offer to relieve her of her trembling burden. He was
feeling, with a great sense of wrong, that Scotia had


forgotten his suffering in that of the perishing, dumb

When they cached the door, Bertha came to meet
them. She was dressed in a cherry-colored cashmere.
She had white lace near her throat, and ruffles of
white lace round her pretty wrists. She had cherry
ribbons in her black hair. She was very attractive,
and she took Bruce's hand and held it, while she
offered Scotia a letter.

" You naughty girl ! " she said. " Why did you not
tell us that Captain Forres is coming ? We should
never have known if aunt had not marked her letter
'Haste!' and so mother thought it best to open it.
He will be here in an hour. You have just time to

Scotia glanced at the letter, and the news happened
to fit her mood. She felt glad to annoy Angus. It
would do him no harm to feel a little uncertainty
about her. Jealousy is the accepted punishment all
women naturally apply to recalcitrant lovers. Scotia
affected to be delighted with the news. She said she
would make ready for the captain as soon as she had
attended to the wounded hare ; and she went off
without a word to Angus, while Bertha, who was still
holding his hand, said :

" Come in, Mr. Bruce. Mother will expect you to
dinner, and I shall have to depend upon your kind
ness to-night. Of course, Scotia will have neither
eyes nor ears for any one but ' Jamie Forres.' "

"Why 'of course,' Miss Bertha."

" Oh, you know you know really, I have no au
thority to say anything. Stay, and see for yourself."

But Bruce lifted his hat and turned homeward. He
was too indignant for speech. His heart was in a


blaze of angry suspicion. He was as miserable as
Scotia was, and her tears were dropping heavily upon
the hare's feet as she held the creature for the hostler
to attend to. He thought she was weeping for the
suffering animal ; she knew that she was weeping for
her lover's wounded heart.



* How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds
Makes deeds ill done."

" How many fond fools serve mad jealousy ?"

" He that but fears the thing he would not know,
Hath by instinct knowledge from others' eyes,
That which he feared is chained."

''Jealousy is the green ey'd monster which doth make
The meat it feeds on."


H^HE next morning was cold and raw, the air was
-*- full of coming rain, the east wind searching and
bitter. But as Bruce was going through the village,
he saw Scotia and Captain Forres riding together.
The captain wore his military cloak, Scotia her
warmest habit. Bruce was near the old manse gate,
and he had a momentary temptation to call on Adam
and Grizel, and so escape the painful meeting. He
gave it no attention, and walked steadily forward.
But while he was at least one hundred yards distant,
the riders stopped at the cottage of John Latham, and
Captain Forres dismounted and entered it. Scotia,
followed by the groom, then turned backward to
Rodney House.

Bruce was astonished. He could not imagine why
Captain Forres had called at the Latham cottage.


Sarah Latham was a dressmaker, her husband an
idle ne'er-do-weel, whom she in the main supported.
One thing, however, was clear to Bruce that there
was a friendship between Scotia and Captain Forres
so intimate as to dispense with the ordinary ceremo
nies of mere acquaintanceship. They rode slowly, in
spite of the cold and damp ; Forres was talking earn
estly, and Scotia listening with interest and pleasure.
When Forres dismounted at Latham's cottage, he
held her hand ; and there was in their parting that
familiar air which carries confirmation of some close
personal understanding an air which deeply offended

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA sister to Esau → online text (page 18 of 23)