Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A sister to Esau online

. (page 19 of 23)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA sister to Esau → online text (page 19 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


In the afternoon he went to Rodney. He saw no
one but Bertha. She said her mother had been ailing
for some days, and had been finally compelled to send
for the doctor. She was in her room and Scotia was
with her. He sent a message to Mrs. Rodney, and
then sat half an hour with Bertha. He thought Scotia
would come to him, but she did not, and Bertha at
last said, " I suppose Scotia is fretting a little at the
shortness of Captain Forres's visit. He had to go
to Monteith to-day, and will not be back until next

" I saw him go into Sarah Latham's it seemed

" Not at all. John Latham was in Captain Forres's
company, and acted as his attendant while there. I
suppose you have heard Sarah bought her husband
off. Captain Forres wanted a valet to go with him to
Monteith, and I am sure he called at Latham's to hire

" Very likely. Then Captain Forres returns next
Friday ? "


" Yes, for a flying visit. He is such a favorite
with Aunt Yarrow. I believe she has promised him
great things if he marries Scotia."

" If he marries Scotia ? " said Bruce indignantly.

Bertha laughed. "You know, Mr. Bruce, a great
many people may talk of marrying Scotia. It is a
long way between saying and doing the thing. Scotia
is as cross as crossed sticks this afternoon, but if you
wish to see her I will go to mother, and send her to

" Not on any account, Miss Bertha. It is Saturday.
I will not wait longer."

This day indicated the whole of the next week,
which was a completely wretched one. Scotia was at
the Sabbath service, but Bruce did not permit himself
to look at her. On Monday she did not appear when
he called. She had determined not to appear until
he asked to see her. Really, Bruce did not think of
the necessity. His knowledge of women, and of the
small formalities they require, was not great. It did
not enter his mind that Scotia was waiting for him to
take the first step toward an explanation. Perhaps if
it had done so, he might have been equally remiss ;
for he thought Scotia had wantonly hurt his feelings,
and that it was her duty to express sorrow for the
cruel, tantalizing despotism which led her to such acts.
He was waiting to be gracious and to forgive her.
He was anxious and longing to do so ; but if she
would not come where he was, how could he let her
see his desire.

So the mournful week passed. During it Mrs.
Rodney's illness developed into a slow, intermittent
fever, which confined her to her bed, and required the
constant care and society of one of her daughters.


Rodney House was exceedingly quiet ; an air of
depression filled its rooms, although the garden and
park were already beautiful with the verdure and
promise of an early spring. Bruce went to Rodney
House every day. Twice he left the saddle and sat
an hour in the parlor, hoping vainly that Scotia
would come and speak to him.

He did not know that every day Scotia said to
Bertha, " Did Angus Bruce ask to see me ?" He did
not know that Bertha had taken special care to repeat,
with its most aggravating accent, Bruce's reply to her
solitary proposal to call Scotia : " He said, when I
offered to call you, ' Not on any account.' He never
named you. He asked about mother. He said I was
looking very weary. He asked when my father was
coming. He made such and such comments but he
never asked for you. He never once named you."

Such was the tenor of all Bertha's reporting, and
Scotia began to feel every fresh visit an impertinence.
Did he come to Rodney to show her that he was
indifferent ? that he would make the inquiries he
promised her father to make, irrespective of her
presence or absence ? She thought there was bravado
in these daily visits, which roused in her heart a bitter
anger. She believed them to be made solely to wound
her. She was quite aware she had been provoking ;
she was ready to admit the fact if Bruce would give
her an opportunity. But he must ask to see her.
Her self-respect demanded so much from her.

The whole week had been filled with such cross
purposes as far as Angus was concerned. Every
trivial event worked with Bertha to separate them,
and she was quite ready now to carry out to its full
end the plan she had made for that purpose. It was


almost ready-made for her. She could not have con
ceived of anything so apropos as the plain events
ordered for her hand.

It came through the friendship of Scotia and Captain
Forres. Forres was one of those people with whom
familiarity is perfectly natural and innocent. From the
first hour of their acquaintance, Scotia and Jamie For
res had been familiar. Men inclined to slop over have
generally a natural tact in discovering loyal natures.
Forres had made Scotia his confidant long before she
had left London. She knew that he was in love with
Flora Monteith, and that he had great hopes of win
ning her. The girl was not only a beauty, she was an
heiress ; and her Scottish home was with her uncle at
Monteith Castle, twenty miles north of Rodney.

In this love affair Scotia had been his friend and
helper. They had talked of the matter with the most
complete confidence. They talked also, with the
same confidence, of Lady Yarrow's desire to marry
them to each other. Lady Yarrow had been very
kind to Forres ; he did not wish to offend her ; and
he thought if he could win Flora Monteith, she would
accept such a prudent, wealthy marriage as a set-off
against all his previous failures. Many confidences
grew out of these circumstances, perfectly innocent,
and not necessary to specify.

When Forres left Scotia at Latham's cottage,
though he held her hand, he was talking of Flora
Monteith ; and he was really so absorbed in this sub
ject, that, having removed his cloak while he arranged
for Latham's service, he left it lying on the table. He
had galloped five miles ere he discovered his loss ;
then he reflected that Latham would follow in a few
hours, and doubtless bring the cloak with him.


But Sarah Latham, who knew her husband's failing,
was afraid he might be tempted to sell it for liquor,
and she hid the cloak in her chest, and sent word to
Rodney House of its whereabouts. The note hap
pened to fall into Bertha's hands. It was like the
opening of a door; it was like the lifting of a weapon
to her. She stood still with flushing cheeks, holding
the soiled bit of paper, and considering, and seeing
clearly what a power she had at her disposal. She
heard Scotia coming. She dropped the note into the
fire. In the same moment, she resolved to accept the
suggestions some one had made through it.

" Scotia, I feel the need of a walk so much. Are
you able to stay with mother until noon ? "

" Yes. I think a walk will do you good. Bertha,
if you meet Angus Bruce, try and say a reconciling
word. You are so clever. Let him know he ought
to seek an interview. If he were ever so unkind, it
would be better than this silence and apparent indif

Her face was piteous, white, and sad, and Bertha
kissed her, and made the kiss seem a thousand prom
ises. But as she walked to Sarah Latham's, she told
herself that she was really doing Scotia a service in
effectually separating her from Angus. She would
then doubtless marry Captain Forres, and please Lady
Yarrow, and every one else. Oh, the wicked never
yet wanted an excuse for their wickedness !

Sarah had done a great deal of sewing for Bertha
before her marriage was broken off ; she had been ac
customed to see her almost every day. She had re
garded her as an almost sure livelihood. She had got
used to associating Bertha Rodney and ready money
together. Therefore, when Bertha said, " Sarah,


you can do something important for the house of
Rodney, and you will be well paid for it "; Sarah was
quite ready to listen and assent.

" In the first place, Sarah, you must not let John go
to Monteith. I have something for him to do here.
Secondly, you must not tell any one about Captain
Forres's cloak."

" It is in my box, Miss Bertha. I wouldn't let John
know for anything. He'd sell it for a shilling, and
get drunk."

" Have you heard about Miss Rodney and the
minister? "

" I have heard they are engaged to be married."

" It is killing my poor mother ; she is in bed now
about it. When father knows, I dare not think what
will be the result. And it is only contradiction in
Scotia. She ought to marry Captain Forres. Now I
am going to try and save trouble for all of us, and
make Scotia do good to herself. Will you help me to
break up the affair with the minister ? "

" I'm sure I'll do anything I can, Miss Bertha."

" You once told me that you wished to go to
New York with John. How much money do you
want ? "

"Oh, Miss, at least thirty-five pounds."

" I will give you thirty if you do as I wish. You
can manage John, I suppose?"

" For a bottle of whisky, John will do any earthly

" It is nothing wrong, Sarah. It is the simplest
and most innocent action. Captain Forres will be here
Friday. You know the fir plantation which is entered
by a stile from the park ? "

" Very well, Miss."


" The minister, coming from Rodney House, passes
that stile every night."

" Just before dark, Miss, I should say."

" I will send you a parcel containing a suit of Miss
Rodney's, her cloak and bonnet, and one of her
gloves. You have precisely her figure, and you must
wear the suit. You can hide all your hair under the
bonnet, and you had better veil your face. John is to
wear the captain's cloak. When you see the minister
coming, sit a few minutes on the stile. John must
have his arm around you; in short, you must act as
lovers parting would act. As the minister comes
closer, go into the wood, and so gradually out of his
sight. But be sure to leave on the stile in your
hurry Miss Rodney's gray cloak ; and drop the
glove there, also. You understand ? "

" Very well, John will be glad to earn money so
easy ; and, dear me, Miss, to get away to a new place,
and a new life, is fair salvation for us both ! "

" Of course, you know, this is not to be spoken of
to any one. And you had better send back the suit
and bonnet as soon as possible."

" I will be mumm as the grave and I'll answer for
John, too."

" If you manage it, I will give you thirty sovereigns
as soon you are ready to go. But you must talk a little
about the move to New York. You must sell your
furniture, and contrive to give the impression that
Captain Forres gave John the money. A great many
people, I dare say, saw him at your cottage."

" Indeed, Miss, we will do all you want. John is
under my thumb, and dying to get away from here.
If you will send the things, and give the thirty sove
reigns, I will do all the rest. I have a woman's heart


in me ; and I know a woman's ways as well as any
fine lady."

"You had better send John to Rodney for the
clothing. Tell him to say to the servants, ' he has
come for Miss Bertha's dresses to alter.' "

Then Bertha put a few shillings into the woman's
hand and went home. She was not much troubled.
Even if the masquerading was found out, she could
turn it into a joke, and say she thought the minister
deserved to be teased a little. He had been so un
reasonable with Scotia. She knew just how to get
out of the affair. And she really did think it would
be a fine bit of pleasantry, whether successful or

It was more successful from the very dawn of
Friday than she had dared to hope. In the first
place, Captain Forres arrived very early in the day,
and stayed only a few hours. When Angus paid his
daily visit, Forres was gone. Bertha met the minis
ter with a little air of flurry.

" Come in, Mr. Bruce ; though indeed I cannot ask
you to stay, because mother is alone, and she is worse

" I suppose you have company ? Can I do any
thing for you ? "

" We have no company ; Captain Forres left soon
after luncheon. Rodney is not a cheerful place to
stay now ! He said he should go as far as Latham's,
and then to Cupar House. He will remain over Sab
bath with Gilchrist, who is keeping bachelor's hall at
present. Scotia went for a walk about an hour ago.
I dare say you will meet her in the park. Had you
not better make up your quarrel."

He thought she was in earnest, and looked grate-


fully at the girl, whose Impatience to return to her
sick mother he perceived and respected. He had sel
dom felt kinder to Bertha. He smiled on her in a
way that made her blush and tingle with pleasure ;
and then with some new hope in his heart turned
homeward. He loitered a little as he went. The
gloaming was so exquisite, the spring so entrancing.
The tiny leaves were bursting on the brushwood, the
birds were everywhere in their nuptial plumage, sing
ing like bridegrooms. The winter was really behind ;
the glory of spring just at hand. There was a half-
moon also a tender, mystical-looking moon, predis
posing the happiest heart to a still happier melan

Bertha, having dismissed Angus Bruce, lay down
on the sofa and bound a wet kerchief round her brow.
She expected Scotia to be impatient for a report of
every word, and within half an hour her expectations
were realized. With a tired, miserable face she
opened the parlor door and looked in :

" Is your head worse, Bertha ? "

" It is almost intolerable. Angus Bruce was

" I heard him. What did he say ? "

" The usual things ' Sorry for mother,' etc. ' Had
Captain Forres returned ? ' etc. I told him the cap
tain had been, and gone."

"Did he name me?"

" Not once."

" You are not able, I suppose, to come and sit with
mother a little ? "

" I feel sleepy. If I can sleep an hour, I shall be
better. Then I will stay with her until midnight."

" Very well, dear. Can I do anything for you ? "


" Only stay with mother, and let me sleep. I feel
as if I must forget I live for one hour."

Scotia closed the door and went softly upstairs,
step by step, feeling each step an effort. " I wonder
if I have fever also ? " she queried. " I do not seem
able to live. Oh, Angus ! Angus ! "

Angus was at that moment scanning every walk and
vista in the park. Bertha's words had made him im
patient to see Scotia ; he felt that if he could only
meet her there, alone with nature, all might easily be
put right. Never had she been so sweet to his
memory. His eyes were aching to see her ; his ears
longed for her voice. To catch her smile to clasp
her hand to be close to her to feel the perfume of
her garments ! Oh, how he wearied and hungered
for these delights !

A sudden, damp sweetness filled the air ; he knew
it was wood violets ; he stopped and gathered some ;
and when he lifted his eyes he saw Scotia and Cap
tain Forres come out of the fir plantation, and stroll
toward the stile. He looked at them as if he were
dreaming. He remembered that Bertha told him
Forres had gone two hours previously to the village
and to Cupar House ; and that Scotia was walking in
the park. Then there had been an assignation. In
order to meet this man alone, Scotia had condescended
to deception and equivocation.

Anger blew hard at the lamp of his love. His heart
was hot ; he felt that it was no sin to be in a passion.
He was naturally a man of mettle and high spirit, and
every natural feeling was aflame. He kept his gaze
upon the lovers for lovers they undoubtedly were.
They sat down on the broad topmost step, and Forres
put his arm around Scotia. She leaned against his


shoulder, and he kissed her repeatedly ; yes, and fin-
ally Scotia lifted her head and kissed Forres.

In the few moments during which he was approach
ing the stile, he saw that Scotia gave to Forres tokens
of affection she had never permitted herself to give
him. When he was within fifty yards of the lovers,
they suddenly became aware of his presence. Forres
passed over the stile into the wood ; Scotia went with
him. Angus neither delaying, nor yet hurrying, went
direct to the place on which they had been sitting.
Scotia's gray winsey cloak lay upon the stile, and her
right hand glove was on the turf beneath. He sat
down where they had been sitting, his first impulse
being to wait until the night forced them from the
dampness and darkness of the firs. He saw the
couple at intervals, as they passed along the winding
path ; saw them so plainly that he fully recognized
the dress Scotia wore as one he particularly admired
a green cloth pelisse, trimmed with minever. The
borders of white fur were unique ; he knew of no other
garment like it. Forres wore his military cloak ; he
remembered the garment distinctly. There had been
no shadow of doubt when he first saw them together ;
while he sat upon the stile he verified every particular.

Oh, if he had been mistaken in all else, he told him
self, he never could have doubted the tall, graceful
figure of the girl who was so false to him ! And per
haps the keenest pang of all was given by the demon
strative affection Scotia showed this soldier. With
him she had always been so shy and chary of every
favor ; very seldom, indeed, had she permitted him to
touch her lips. He had thought this reserve a chas
tity pure as heaven ; it gave him a mortal pain to see
Scotia set it aside with a more favored lover.


A passionate contempt for the inconstancy and un-
truthfulness of all women rose like a sudden storm in
his soul. Wave after wave of it went over him. He
forgot everything in its turbulence for a little while ;
then he perceived that it had grown dark, and he was
still alone. He felt that he need wait no longer.
Scotia had seen him, and gone home by the other side
of the wood. That she had done so was another
proof of her faithlessness, for it compelled her to take
a walk of three miles ; and she had evidently pre
ferred the walk to the shame of meeting him. He
lifted the cloak, put the glove in his pocket, and
walked rapidly to Innergrey.

The house and the place had become during this
hour hateful to him. He recalled Bertha's face, and
was sure she was pitying, even while she advised him.
The Colonel, Mrs. Rodney, the new heir, all the per
sonalities and events connected with his stay in
Rodney, sunk low in his estimation ; he thought only
of the faults and the disagreeableness of each and all.
Even the patronage of Lady Yarrow oppressed him.
He wished his mother had trusted to God and herself.
Yet in this chaos of wounded and depreciated fortune,
he remembered his mother as the one sure and cer
tain comfort ; and after a long, impotent struggle
with his sick heart, he opened it to her ; told her
everything ; his difference with Scotia's opinions, their
coldness in consequence, Scotia's subsequent refusal
to see or speak to him, Captain Forres's visit, and its
shipwrecking consequences, as far as his love-life was

This confession did him some good, but he could
not sleep, and he spent the night in the vain nursing
of his wrong, and in restless plans for a future which


must put entirely behind him all memories of the past
and present. Toward morning his emotions induced
a severe nervous headache. He had been watching
for the morning impatiently, desiring the hour in
which he could insist upon an interview with his false
love ; but when it came he was bound fast by almost
intolerable physical pain. Light, movement, a foot
fall, a whisper intensified his suffering, and the
morrow was the Sabbath ! What if he was not able
to perform his duties ! He would be compelled to
blame himself for giving place to such fierce emotions,
and for the neglect of the conditions necessary for
health one -of those sins against the body always
inexorably punished.

He lay prostrate all day. Both Scotia and Bertha
wondered at his absence ; Bertha was nervous and
curious ; Scotia hopeless and miserable. In the
afternoon Sarah Latham brought back Scotia's dress
and bonnet. She called them "Bertha's dresses,"
and Bertha took her to her room, and heard what
perfect success had crowned her evil plan. But she
found out that consummated evil has its pains and
penalties. Sarah's tone had changed. She was eager
for the wage she had won, and Bertha felt compelled
to give her it. Bertha was naturally accumulative
and careful, she had acquired these thirty sovereigns
by planning and saving during all the time she was
buying her wedding outfit. She felt now that she
had paid a dear price for a very uncertain benefit.
Bruce had not come in a passion as she expected he
would ; either Sarah was deceiving her, or else Bruce
was going to take the affair in some unusual way.

When she saw him at the Sabbath service, she was
shocked at his appearance. She doubted Sarah no


longer. It was evident Bruce had been suffering.
He looked "as if he had just come back from death,"
she said on her return home. Scotia made no remark.
She, too, was ill ; the doctor had just expressed his
opinion that " she had the same fever as her mother."
The diagnosis of sorrowful love has never been made
for any pharmacopeia ; it passes for fever as well as

On Monday morning, a little before noon, Scotia,
standing at the window, saw Angus approach the
door. There was something so unusual in his man
ner that it arrested her attention. Bertha was reading
to Mrs. Rodney. Ordinarily, Scotia would have taken
the book and sent Bertha to meet Bruce. This morn
ing she said nothing of his being there. Very soon a
servant brought a written message and gave it into
Scotia's hand. It was a formal, but urgent, request
to see her. The tone of the note troubled her, but
she was glad of the opportunity it gave. She made
up her mind as she went to the parlor to be as patient
and loving as her lover could desire. She felt that
life without him was only a living death.

Bruce looked very ill, but the change in him was as
nothing compared with the waste and pallor which
fretting and confinement had produced in Scotia's
appearance. It gave Angus a shock, and her wan,
pitiful smile when she saw him touched his very
heart of hearts. But the cloak was before his eyes ;
he glanced at it, and forgot every kind feeling.
Scotia advanced rapidly, with her hands stretched
out. " My dear Angus ! " she cried softly. " Oh,
my dear Angus ! "

" I have brought you back your cloak, Miss Rodney
and also your glove."


" My cloak and glove ! But what do you mean ? "

" Are these not yours ? "

" Yes, they are mine."

" You know, of course, that you left them at the
stile by the fir plantation on Friday evening. I found
them there."

She shook her head. " I have not been so far down
the park for two weeks."

" Scotia ! I saw you there !"

" Angus ! You could not see me there. But if
you did, what then ? "

" Only heartbreak and wrong for me ! Only the
loss of love and all love promised me."

" What do you mean, Angus ? "

" I mean," he said angrily, " that I saw you and
Captain Forres together there. Surely there is no
need for me to say more."

" You never saw me there with Captain Forres."

" I did. You wore your green pelisse trimmed
with minever. Could I mistake it ? Could I mistake
you ! "

" You are dreaming or ill. Angus ! Dearest
Angus ! "

" Scotia Rodney, I am no longer ' dearest ' to you !
I will be nothing less. Take back your promise with
your cloak and glove. I will not share your heart
with any man."

" Angus ! I tell you, on my honor ! you are mis

" Miss Rodney, I tell you, on my honor ! you are

" I was never near the fir wood on Friday. I was
not out of the house on Friday. Come and see
mother. She will tell you so."


" My own eyes have told me the truth. It was no
passing glance. I watched you for some minutes I
saw Captain Forres with his arm around you. He
wore his military cloak. I saw him kiss you several
times. Yes, as surely as I live, I saw you kiss him.
You were then among the fir trees."

" Captain Forres never, in all his life, touched my
lips. I certainly never touched his."

"I saw you."

"You did not, sir."

" If you had only the grace to acknowledge your
fault, I "

" Sir ! I would be dumb forever, ere I would ac
knowledge a fault I never committed. If you doubt
me, ask Captain Forres. Ask mother. Ask Bertha.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 19 21 22 23

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA sister to Esau → online text (page 19 of 23)