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Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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quite as distinct a thing as an ear for music ; and
Bertha Rodney had no comprehension of that prayer
which is the motion of an hidden,fire. But she knew
that a beautiful woman kneeling is doubly beautiful ;
and that the act of worship o is, in itself, one of the
most poetic acts of humanity.



II.

WORDS HALF SPOKEN.

"Why are we whose strength is but for a day, so full of
schemes ? Let the mind which is now glad hate to carry its care
beyond the present, and temper the bitters of life with easy
smiles. " Horace.

1 ' To-night Love claims his full control

And with desire and with regret
My soul this hour has drawn your soul
A little nearer yet."

Rosetti.

"D ODNEY HOUSE was at this date a beautiful
*-^ residence, half castellated, and half-monastic in
style ; a house with a home-like air ; long, ram
bling, old, and full of all pleasant conditions. It
was surrounded by a wide garden space, laid out in
the Dutch fashion. In summer and autumn this gar
den was a very paradise of sweet scents ; flowers, and
fruits, and herbs mingling their separate perfumes in
one general spicy fragrance.

Around, the land was hilly and woody, broken by
miniature copses, full of the tones of water, and the in
land sounds of trees and birds ; of the cuckoo's sweet
dissyllable, and the nightingale's solemn music ; and
from the meadows and the painful furrows, the lark's
all-invincible song of hope.

The sea was not far away, and its blessed breezes
mingled with the landward winds, and charged them

16



WORDS HALF SPOKEN. 17

potently with the magic savors of iodine and ozone.
From the upper windows of the house, and from the
higher fells around it, many a mile of Ocean's gray
spaces were clearly visible, and often the Colonel rose
early, that he might see in the morning light the fleet
of fishing boats tip the horizon ; their wet sails barred
with sunshine, waving and bending with the wind,
and glorious as an army with banners.
Between him and the sea were

Upon the landward braes,
Scattered farms and cottar folk :
And the fishers who kept to their own old ways,
In the village that huddled beneath the rock ;
Where a sheltering cove made a safe retreat
For the brown lug-sails of their little fleet.

But further description might reveal the precise
locality to inquisitive tourists, who would hunt it, and
make it a lion, and get it at last into guide books.

Now Scotia Rodney was a girl of the fields and the
woods. She was a familiar of the animals who dwelt
in them, and the birds told her their secrets. She
understood the brotherhood of the trees, and the scent
of herbs was delicious to her ; all her clothing smelt
of the ethereal perfume of the shy woodruff. But
Bertha was a girl of the house. Her small feet loved
carpeted rooms, she liked the sunshine through cur
tains, she enjoyed soft couches and touching love-
stories, and the ripple of her own voice to the piano.
The wind disarranged her hair, the rain gave her cold,
the cold made her shiver, and the sun spoiled her
skin. Bertha's world could have been easily arranged
within the precincts of a handsome modern house, and
the daily walk, which the Colonel compelled her to
take for her health's sake, was one of those things she



1 8 A SISTER TO ESAU.

was resolved to put a stop to as soon as she was
married.

Mrs. Rodney had much the same tastes as her
daughter Bertha, though in her case they were the
result of circumstances. Her life in India did not
admit of much out-door exercise, and the sedentary
habit once formed was not to be broken. She thought
the weather in Scotland just as home-compelling, and
then, she had grown old and a little stout ; movement
tired her, and the house did not get on well if she
was out of it.

Naturally, then, Bertha became her companion,
and many things made her a very sympathetic one.
Bertha's neatness, her love of order, her dainty per
sonal predelictions, were all reproductions of the same
qualities in herself. If there was any employment
Scotia hated, it was needlework ; but Bertha could
dawdle a month away embroidering her crest upon
her handkerchief. And as she sat sewing by her
mother's side, they talked together of the subjects so
interesting to such women their callers and their
servants, their little grievances and their new dresses.

Scotia's tastes had been derived from her father, but
he was not able to give her the same sympathy. His
health was frail ; he was a late riser ; it was always
afternoon or evening before he felt able to take his
regular walk, and this was the only effort he made.
But he liked to talk with Scotia of all she saw in her
solitary rambles ; and was often able to supplement
her investigations by his own early experience.

Families are often thus sharply divided, especially
if their number be small. And at first in the Rodney
family the mischief of it was not apparent. It began
when Scotia was scarce sixteen, and when the Colonel



WORDS HALF SPOKEN. 19

went out a great deal. Then his demands for the
companionship of his daughters were frequently felt
by Bertha to be a trial and a grievance, and she ap
plied herself diligently to the consideration of some
plan for escaping these frequent walks. She had
headaches ; she had her music to practice ; her
mother needed her help. She took pains to concili
ate Scotia, and to engage her to assume the' duty as
her own, so that by the mere iteration of events,
Scotia gradually became the constant companion of
her father.

Scotia was not loth to accept the position. They
walked, and sailed, and rode together ; and when
stormy weather compelled them to keep the house, the
Colonel busied his eldest daughter in revising his
military diary, and in answering his letters. The par
tial isolation which these literary duties demanded
was not at first disagreeable to Mrs. Rodney and
Bertha. But as the years went on and the Colonel's
health failed, and the girls grew to womanhood, then
this close companionship fretted their mother. The
estate was entirely at the Colonel's disposal. He could
give it all to Scotia if he desired, and though it was
understood that in the matter of Blair Rodney, both
the young man and the girls were to have the utmost
freedom of choice, Mrs. Rodney felt sure that her hus
band's influence would almost unconsciously be in
favor of a marriage between Scotia and the next natu
ral heir to Rodney Law.

She knew also that the Colonel would not break the
estate. She had hinted at this possibility, and had
been met by the most positive assertion that he had
no moral right to do so. " One of the girls must
marry Blair, and keep the estate intact," he said.



20 A SIS TEX TO ESAU,

" But suppose neither of the girls will marry Blair,
or suppose that Blair has no disposition to marry
either of the girls ? Both conditions are supposable,
Kinross."

" Of course they are, Dorinda."

"Well, then?"

" It is supposable, also, that the girls will marry
some one, if they neither of them marry our cousin."

" They are beautiful ; one will be rich. They are
sure to marry."

" Then we will choose the son-in-law of the best
family, and give him our name."

" He may refuse to take it."

" Then the other one."

" He also may refuse. There are men who will
not part with their family name for either love or
gold. Would you ? Divide the estate between your
daughters. Why should you care for men you never
saw ? Has not Providence, by denying you sons, de
creed that your family should die out."

" Dorinda, why should my late cousin James Rod
ney have cared for me ? He had never seen me. He
was friendly with the Blairs, and also with Blair Rod
ney's father. Yet he respected my prior claim, and
rendered me the fullest justice. Shall I be less honora
ble to my posterity ? And Providence has not de
creed the extinction of my family. I have third,
fourth, and fifth cousins. I must wrong none of
them."

The expected visit of Blair Rodney was then a very
important affair. The Colonel was secretly desirous
that Scotia should marry the young man, and so in
herit aftei him. Mrs. Rodney was determined that
Bertha should be the mistress of Rodney Law. Both



WORDS HALF SPOKEN: 21

were reckoning without any adequate knowledge of
their quantities. Nothing could be predicted of the
coming suitor, for nothing particular was known of
him. Under the circumstances, Scotia and Bertha
were equally uncertain. The Colonel assured his
wife that he had left all to that ordinating power
which controls every human life ; yet twenty times a
day he checked himself, for wondering how far his
express command, or even his wish, would influence
Scotia. Mrs. Rodney was certain that her daughters'
husbands were chosen from all eternity, yet she talked
continually to Bertha about Blair Rodney, and urged
her to secure his affections as the only means of secur
ing her future wealth and position.

Nor did she think herself specially unkind in this
partisanship. She believed that Scotia's beauty might
well stand for her fortune. Bertha was far less at
tractive to the general eye, and as one of them must
be rich, and the other arrive at riches and position
through a fortunate marriage, it seemed to Mrs. Rod
ney, Scotia was best equipped by nature to win what
she did not inherit. She reminded Bertha that luxury
was a necessity to her ; and that she was totally unfit
to endure privation of any kind. On the contrary,
Scotia was indifferent to physical discomfort ; she
was careless of money and unappreciative of social
honor. How easy, then, it would be for Scotia to de
scend a little in rank, all her tastes being of so un
fashionable a kind !

It was while affairs were in this condition the Colo
nel had the writing on the Stone Pillar renewed. The
crisis of his daughters' lives drew near, and he counted
upon everything likely to intensify their family pride,
and the clannish affection which would be its legiti-



22 A SISTER TO ESAU.

mate outcome. He himself had been greatly moved
by the ancient record, and he supposed Scotia and
Bertha shared his emotion. In a large measure,
Scotia did so ; Bertha lacked the sentiment of rever
ence, and to her the old Stone was an old stone, and
nothing more. Very soon, however, it became some
thing definitely disagreeable, for the Colonel made it
the terminus of his daily walk, and Bertha grew weary
to death of the monotony of the road ; of the reiter
ated enthusiasm ; of being compelled to endorse senti
ments she did not feel.

As the spring advanced, the expected visit of Blair
Rodney began to assume a definite aspect. He was
in correspondence with the Colonel, and he asserted
his delight in the prospect. But when the Colonel
fixed a certain day for his arrival, the young man
found an indisputable excuse, " He preferred not to
be bound by any date. He would much rather give
them a surprise."

This reply did not please Colonel Rodney. He un
derstood from it far more of Blair Rodney than Blair
expressed.

" The fellow must have an amazing self-compla
cency, Dorinda," was his comment on the letter ; for
he felt the pettiness of that nature which supposes, in
its measureless conceit, that the " surprise " of its
arrival must necessarily be delightful.

Scotia evidently held the same opinion. " My
cousin is preparing an overwhelming pleasure ; he is
going to give us a 'surprise ' visit. We have been on
the watchtovver for a week," she said to the minister,
as she was sauntering with him one evening be
tween the manse and Rodney House. The Colonel
was with them, but he was a little behind, having



WORDS HALF SPOKEN. 23

been detained by his steward about some farm
matter.

They stood still as she spoke, and Angus Bruce
looked steadily at Scotia. Her irresistible beauty
made his heart thrill and tremble with delight. She
stood in the rays of the setting sun and her hair was
a glory around her. Rosy emanations appeared to
come from her radiant face. Her green cloth dress,
the pink kerchief round her throat, the white daisies
in her hand, the little gypsy bonnet of rough straw
tied under her white, resolute chin, were all indivisible
parts of an exquisite womanly picture.

"Miss Rodney !"

The two words were two volumes. They were
words with a soul in them. They forced open the
minister's usually firm lips, and they quivered with the
heat and passion that had enabled them to break that
well-guarded barrier.

And common as the words were, Scotia understood
their meaning. She looked into the face of Angus
Bruce, and she was dumb. But he saw the soul leap
into her eyes, and his soul saluted it then and there.
Her red lips parted, she was going to speak, and at
the same moment the Colonel laid his hand upon her
shoulder, and stepped between them. Whether the
movement was accidental or intentional Scotia could
not determine. But it brought with it a chill restraint.
Neither Bruce nor Scotia could speak, and the Colo
nel's words seemed to be very far away from the two
full hearts, that affected to listen to them.

At the door the minister stood still ; he would go
no further, and in spite of an exaggerated civility on
the Colonel's part, he declined his invitation to supper.
Scotia stood motionless and speechless. She tried to



24 A SISTER TO ESAU.

catch the minister's glance once more, but he did not
permit her ; and she felt an inexpressible sinking of
her heart, as he turned away without any sign of their
momentary understanding.

With a grumble of disappointment the Colonel
passed into the house ; but Scotia lingered until she
saw the lonely figure disappear among the somber
shadows of the garden. Then her hands dropped to
her side, and the daisies were scattered at her feet.
She stooped to gather them, for she heard Bertha's step,
and she was glad to find in the act an excuse, not
only for her loitering, but for an attitude which per
mitted her to look upon the ground instead of in her
sister's face.

" Was Angus Bruce walking with you to-night,
Scotia ? "

"Yes. He would not come in. Father pressed
him to do so, but he would not come in."

"It is a strange thing that we never meet him
when I walk with you. One might suppose that
father wished to make a marriage between you and
the minister."

" One might suppose any number of absurd things.
Supposition is not circumstance."

" What are you picking up ? Daisies ? Did Angus
Bruce give them to you ? "

" No."

" I am sure he did."

" I gathered them myself, at the foot of the Stone
Pillar."

" I do not believe you ! " Bertha spoke with a con
temptuous passion, and Scotia stood straight and
looked at her.

" Is it worth your while to be jealous, Bertha ? "



WORDS HALF SPOKEN'. 25

The words were aggravating. Scotia was sorry as
soon as they were uttered, sorry and ashamed. But
Bertha gave her no opportunity of modifying them.
She flung back the one word "jealous"; and with a
white face, left Scotia standing at the open door,
with the re-gathered daisies in her hand.

Those who know what it is to touch, without grasp
ing, may comprehend the sickness of disappointment
which depressed Scotia, and which made her momen
tarily thoughtless and unkind. For Bertha's words
at that hour were specially bitter, because Angus
Bruce had spoken, and then instantly been as one
who had not spoken. She knew, also, that she had
answered him ; and she was humiliated, because he
had not accepted her answer. ,

" I will never give him such an opportunity to
wound me again." She promised her heart this sat
isfaction, but it refused to find any comfort in the
retaliation. And then, not unnaturally, the personal
irritation became more general, and she felt that all
the world was out of touch and sympathy with her.

Colonel Rodney was eating his brose and butter
when she went to the parlor, and an open letter was
by his side. She took her place at the table with a
shrug, and a meaning glance at the untidy epistle.
The writing was large and blotted, and it had been
closed with a sprawling seal of red wax.

" Another of Cousin Blair's impertinent apologies, I
suppose ; " she said.

" Why impertinent, Scotia ? "

" If you do not see it so, dear mother, then of
course I misunderstand the situation."

" Blair Rodney is not Angus Bruce ; " said Bertha
very sweetly. " The minister has nothing to do but



26 A SISTER TO ESAU.

run after the Laird. Blair is a gentleman with an es
tate to manage."

" There is no comparison between the men,
Bertha."

" That is precisely what I was saying, Scotia."

" The minister will have a large enough question to
answer soon ; " said the Colonel. " From Shetland to
Galloway, Scotland is at fever heat anent the affairs of
her kirk. And the Queen and the Parliament are
even-down Gallios ; they care for none of these
things."

A spirit of contradiction took instant possession of
Scotia. She was delighted to include the whole kirk
in the one special minister who had wounded her that
night ; and she answered with a petulent pity :

" Poor Gallic ! If I had an enemy, I would like
to make him a scripture character, and have him
preached about from countless pulpits, generation
after generation ; more particularly, if a fault was
attributed to him impossible in the state of society in
which he lived."

Bertha looked at her sister, and then at her mother,
and Mrs. Rodney said :

" Scotia my dear, you are in a bad temper. You are
cutting your mutton as if you were cutting some one's
head off. Is it the minister you are mentally punish
ing, or is it Blair Rodney ? He is disappointing, but
he will be here very soon now."

" I hope Blair Rodney may never show his face in
this house."

" My dear, the house is your father's house."

" God be thanked for that mercy ! "

" And as for Gallio, he was a despiser of true re
ligion ; and your father is not to be opposed in



WORDS HALF SPOKE iV. 27

using him as a symbol of a wickedly careless govern
ment."

" Pardon, mother ! I think we do Gallic great injus
tice. He was really nothing worse than a good magis
trate, who refused to take any interest in a theological
fight."

" Scotia ! "

" Father, I appeal to you. The Jews took the
Christians to the court of Gallic, and charged them
with not worshiping God according to their law
that is, as they worshiped him. The Proconsul
Gallic was a pagan ; he knew nothing about the
tenets of Christianity, nor yet of Judaism. He felt
very much as you would feel, father, if you were
called upon to decide a quarrel between Antinomians
and Separatists, or Buchanists and Brownists. I dare
say you would not care, either."

She had laid down the offending knife and fork, and
she spoke with a nervous amount of temper she very
rarely exhibited. Mrs. Rodney was astonished and
curious. She understood that the old Roman was a
mere pretense, and that Scotia's flushed cheeks and
eyes, shining with restrained tears, were the evidences
of an annoyance far more personal than Gallio's court
or the Scottish kirk. She glanced at Bertha, and
Bertha sighed, cast down her eyes, and then lifting
them, gazed pointedly out of a certain window. Mrs.
Rodney understood her. Angus Bruce, then, was a
factor in the trouble, but in what respect she could not
guess. However, her suspicions were excited, and she
continued :

" I think you are sick, Scotia. You have fever; that
is to be seen, very plainly. I will give you some medi
cine before you go to bed."



28 A SIS7'EX TO ESAU.

" No ! I am not sick, mother ; though it is a kind
of sickness to have the whim of telling the truth.
You once said so, father."

" Yes, my dear ; but I meant about worldly things.
It is a pity I spoke of Gallio ; but he is the natural
example in cases of religious carelessness."

" I know he is ; and perhaps it is as well not to ob
ject. If men and women are to be misrepresented
and made examples of in the pulpit, it is better that
Greeks and Romans should be the victims. They are
dead, and perhaps they won't mind also, they cannot
talk back."

The Colonel looked at his Dorinda inquisitively. A
smile was in his eyes, though his lips were drawn
tightly together. " There is mair in the atmosphere
than its ain proper elements ; as Adam Gowrie would
say. Now girls, what is it ? "

" Nothing," said Scotia promptly.

" Nothing," said Bertha, with an air of innocence.

" Nothing that I am familiar with ; " said Mrs. Rod
ney doubtfully.

" Then Scotia, my child, if you feel cross, attack
your neighbors ; that will be fair play, for I'll be bound
you will only be paying back scores. Leave religion
alone and the Holy Bible."

" The Holy Bible says nothing of religion. It talks
of God, not of religion. It tells us to be godly, not
religious. As for us, we think far more of our own
souls than we do of God."

" What is the difference, Scotia ? "

" Just the difference of thinking of yourself, and of
forgetting self the difference between the fear of
hell and the love of God."

" Ring the bell, and let us have the Exercise ; " said



WORDS HALF SPOKEN. 29

the Colonel sternly. He rose hastily from the table,
and went to the reading desk, and began to turn with
an affectionate reverence the leaves of The Book. And
the men and maids came heavily in, and the psalm
was sung. Then the Colonel passed over the regular
portion, and selected the i8th chapter of Acts, and
Scotia's face burned and she quivered with angry feel
ing, when she was compelled in her turn to read the
i5th verse. But she was not convinced. On the con
trary, the Roman Proconsul became at that hour one
of her friends ; even on her knees she was inclined to
defend him.

And her heart was wounded by this public defec
tion of her father. In all family troubles and disputes
he was generally on her side ; why had he forsaken
her this night ? Was he suspicious of the tender feel
ing between Angus Bruce and herself ? If so, he
ought to have understood her suffering and her irri
tability, and given her sympathy. And so the calm,
holy tones of her father praying, did not comfort or
soothe her. She thought he had been unkind. And
oh ! the behavior of Angus was strange and unkind
enough.

But afterward, when he bade her " good-night," when
he drew her wkhin his arm, and held her close to his
heart, when his full eyes sought hers, and he kissed
her twice, she went out of the room with a smile ;
with her head lifted, and her soul full of comfort.



III.

BLAIR RODNEY ARRIVES.

" I marked all kindred powers the heart finds fair :

Truth with awed lips ; and Hope, with eyes upcast;

And Fame, whose loud wings fan the ashen Past
To signal fires :
Love's throne was not with these ; but far above

All passionate wind of welcome and farewell ;
He sat in breathless bowers they dream not of ;

Though Truth foreknow Love's heart, and Hope foretell ;

And Fame be for Love's sake desirable." Rosetti.

T3LAIR RODNEY came the next morning. His
^ letter of the preceding evening had put aside
immediate expectation, he had been forgotten except
by Bertha, and the surprise he had pleased himself
with arranging appeared to be complete. The Colonel
was in his morning sleep ; Mrs. Rodney was with
her housekeeper; Scotia had gone to Kirk-Logie.
Only Bertha was prepared to receive him. For the
vague letter had not deceived her. The smallness of
her own mind enabled her to anticipate and follow
such petty maneuvers.

Just before noon-hour, the young man came ; and
he was not disappointed in the sensation his arrival
caused. The exclamations, the hurrying hospitality, the
welcomes, and the apologies which attend unexpected
arrivals, he had them all. And Bertha added her little
pinch to the incense burned in his honor, though she

30



BLAIR RODNEY ARRIVES. 31

was wondering all the time what pleasure he found in
the temporary excitement, to compensate him for the
writing of unnecessary letters, and a whole night in
the small tavern in Rodney village.

Her own plan before a visit was to have everything
well understood. She liked servants and a carriage
Waiting her arrival ; and she preferred stepping out of
it into a household full of pleasant anticipations of her
visit. Improvised meals, hurriedly prepared rooms,
and plans already formed, without reference to her
presence and pleasure, did not do her justice.

But then her cousin was a man, and men as women
of all ages have found out are sometimes queer. As
he was eating his breakfast, she sat demurely busy
with her needle, watching him. He was talking to his
hostess, and therefore Bertha had plenty of oppor
tunity to make a transient appraisement of his quali


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA sister to Esau → online text (page 2 of 23)