Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A sister to Esau online

. (page 20 of 23)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA sister to Esau → online text (page 20 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Ask the servants."

" Bertha told me that you had gone to walk in the
park when I called here last Friday evening."

" Bertha could not tell you so. She knew that I
was with mother. Bertha had a violent headache.
Do you believe Bertha before me ? "

" I believe my own eyes."

" Angus ! Angus ! Do not leave me in such un
certainty and misery ! Angus ! Angus ! "

" I can have no part in a woman, however lovely
and dear, who is untruthful and unfaithful. Was not
one fond, loyal heart enough for you ? Only light,
vain women, make their sport out of many lovers."

" I am no light, vain woman. I will defend myself
no more to you. I see plainly that you have de
termined to quarrel with me. I will spare you the
pitiful shame of it."

She left the room with the words ; her face was
flushed with indignation ; her manner haughty, and


even contemptuous. And for some time this attitude
was the necessary one. She locked her room and sat
down to think. Though too angry at Bruce to per
mit herself any explanation, she already suspected
some one's treachery. And after an hour's dispas
sionate examination, she fixed the treachery upon
Bertha. But, if it was Bertha's doing, she saw no
way to explain it. She might tell her father and
mother, and sufficient pressure be put upon Bertha to
make her confess the truth to Angus. But Scotia
knew that, even in such a strait, Bertha would con
trive to give Angus the impression that her confession
was an act of pity, forced from her, to exonerate her
sister in his eyes.

She understood now how skillfully the trouble be
tween herself and Bruce had been fostered ; she saw
many things plainly that had only been a passing
speculation to her. She was trembling with anger
and the sense of wrong and injustice. The expres
sion of her face changed. She laughed scornfully,
only to prevent bitter weeping. She had brought up
stairs with her the offending cloak, and she tossed it
hither and thither, as her thoughts tossed her. For
some hours she was afraid to see Bertha. She
wondered why Bertha had done this thing ? Was it
that she might suffer the same disappointment as her
self ? Did she want so much to live at Inriergrey ?
Was she really in love with Angus ? Or was it the
simple envy and selfishness of her nature ? Scotia
could hardly believe in the existence of such wicked
purposes ; she only felt her own inability to cope
with the cruel circumstances. " Oh, if Father was at
home ! " she moaned. " I cannot trouble Mother
now. And there is no one to help me ! "


She remained so long in her room that finally Bertha
came to see if she was sick. " Mother and I are so
anxious about you," she said. Scotia impulsively
opened the door and drew her sister into the room.
Her grasp was so firm that Bertha said :

" You hurt me, Scotia. What are you locking the
door for ? "

" You have hurt me a thousand times more cruelly.
I have locked the door to make you listen to me. Sit
down or stand up. I care not."

" Scotia, you are ill you have lost your senses.
Mother ! Mother ! Mother ! "

" Be quiet. I am not going to kill you, though you
deserve it. Now tell me who you got to personate me
last Friday night ? "

" Scotia, you have the fever you are crazy. If you
do not open the door, I will jump out of the window."

" I shall not allow you. Who were the persons
representing Captain Forres and myself ? You had
better tell me, Bertha."

Then Bertha saw that she had come to a corner in
life which she could only turn with a lie, and she said
promptly " It was the new gardener and his wife.
You know he has been a soldier. Scotia, upon my
honor ! I did it for your sake. I thought if Angus
were made jealous, he would behave better to you."

" Did I ever meddle with your affairs? What right
had you to trifle with mine ? You have broken my
heart. You have ruined my life. Oh, I know now
how easy it was for Aunt Yarrow not to speak to
mother for so many years ! "

" Let me go to mother. She is very sick. I think
it is a great shame of you to take Aunt Yarrow's part
against your own dear mother ! Poor mother ! "


" When father comes back, I shall tell him all. The
new gardener must go. As for you, Bertha, keep out
of my sight, and do not trouble yourself to speak to

" I am sure, Scotia, it has not been pleasant to be
with you lately; and as for speaking to you, I do not
want to until you get into a better temper. If Angus
Bruce were here, I dare say you would be as sweet
as an angel. I suppose you are trying to imitate
Aunt Yarrow. I think she is a very poor creature,
neglecting her own flesh and blood, and adopting
strange people. I hope I have some human nature in
me. You ought to thank me for my interest in your
suffering, and not threaten to kill me."

" What folly you are talking ! Do not think you
deceive me by it. Are you sure that it was the new
gardener and his wife ? "

"I will not say another word about it."

"You must answer me."

'Open the door, Scotia. "J

" Are you sure it was the gardener and his wife ? "

" Open the door."

" Not till ;ou tell me."

" Well then I am sure."

" What a mean little creature you are, Bertha ! You
may go."

Bertha fled and told her mother that Scotia had a
fever, and was raving, she thought ; and with this
assertion Scotia entered, and there was a stormy scene,
in which Bertha denied all she had affirmed about the
gardener ; declaring that she had only blamed him in
order to get out of the locked room.

"I was really terrified, mother!" and she crept
close to Mrs. Rodney, and while she wept copiously,


begged her to remember how sick she was on Friday,
and how impossible and unlikely she would do such
things as she was accused of.

Mrs. Rodney believed her. She blamed Angus.
She was sure either that jealousy of Captain Forres
had made him temporarily unfit to judge of people ;
or else that his severe attack of headache had been
preceded by some mental hallucination, which, com
bining with his jealousy, had made him see the thing
he feared.

So Scotia had little comfort in her sorrow. Mrs.
Rodney wished her husband would come back ! She
began to cry at the trouble around her, and to feel as
if she was deserted, and when Bertha said :

"I think it is wicked to annoy mother about our
selfish little affairs just when she is coming back from
the very grave ; let us be friends, Scotia."

Mrs. Rodney thought what a good child Bertha
was, and how unreasonably Scotia behaved in refusing
to answer her sister's gentle overtures.

" Scotia is my sister Jemima over again," said the
convalescing mother ; "and, oh, dear ! what heartaches
Jemima did give me !"

As for Angus, he suffered as strong men suffer
when they bend their affections and their desires to
their sense of duty. He was jealous, unreasonably
jealous, miserably jealous, and in such case

" Fancies are
Just as valid as affidavits ;
And the vaguest illusions quite
As much evidence, as testimony
Taken upon oath."

But he had one loving, sympathetic consoler. His
mother believed all he said. She pitied him ; she


advised him ; she approved all he proposed ; she en
couraged him to write out his "frief, and she partially
believed him when he asserted his life to be blighted
by Scotia's treachery. "He had been so happy," he
said. " He had been dwelling in the land of sunshine
and love, and hope. Suddenly he had been deserted.
Over all his prospects had come

' A mist and a blinding rain,
And life could never be happy again.' "



* A merry heart goes all the day,
Your sad heart tires in a mile a."


" But verily there are watchers over you
Worthy reporters,
Knowing what ye do."


" He who the sword of heaven will bear,
Should be as holy as severe."

" Hope is the lover's staff."


*T*HE plaintive desire of Mrs. Rodney for the return
* of the Colonel found an earnest echo in Scotia's
heart. And yet neither would hurry him by any com
plaint. Mrs. Rodney had forbidden all mention of
her illness, and Scotia wrote her usual pleasant letters,
though she felt as if her heart was breaking for his
sympathy. All in vain this year came the joy and
beauty of April and May to Scotia. The blackbird
whistled his tattoo about the garden paths very early
for her, but she did not throw open her casement to an
swer him. The soft, still, melancholy dawns could not
woo her into their sweetness ; the trees, misty with
buds and plumes, with tufts and tassels, no longer
heard her light, firm step beneath them. The prim
roses nestling amid the undergrowth the sweet wood



violet the fragile anemones with their wistful looks,
won none of her old love and regard. Most of all
the building birds missed her.

She sat still in the house, or lay with closed eyes
upon her bed ; or paced the floor of her room with
miserable, restless footsteps. If it were necessary she
spoke to Bertha, but in a voice menhanical and un
feeling. She read to her mother, and talked with her
on every subject but that of Bruce. His name she
would not listen to. In her heart she had done him
full justice. It was almost certain he had been de
ceived by some couple personating Captain Forres and
herself. If so she did not blame him for his anger ;
but she did blame him for being so ready to believe
wrong, and so remiss in righting the wrong.

Put in his place, she was quite sure she would have
followed the couple and given them the reproach
they deserved, or else the shame of their discovery.
Put in his place, she was quite sure she would have
taken love on his own denial, and assertion, and
neither rested nor slept until the conspiracy was
brought to light. But being only a woman, she could
not move in her own defense. To wait and to suffer
were her sole privileges.

She was also a proud girl, and she was wounded in
her pride as well as her affection. Consciously or
not, she had really felt that her love conferred a kind
of social distinction upon the minister. It was impossi
ble that she should have been for so many years her
father's companion, and not have become a sharer in
her father's pride of ancestry and family. Sometimes,
indeed, she had felt annoyed at the slight import
ance Angus appeared to attach to this side of their
engagement. He did not allude to it, and delicacy


had kept her silent. Yet she felt all the pride of
Rodney in her heart, and to have her troth thrown
back to her as worthless, gave her frequent spasms of
chagrin and humiliation that wasted her away physic
ally with their fever.

Bertha made several attempts to soften and concili
ate her sister, but Scotia doubted their sincerity. She
is afraid of consequences. She is afraid of father.
Now that she has accomplished all her wicked desires
she wants me to forget. " Undo the wrong you have
done and I will forgive all that you have made me
suffer." To every petition Bertha made, this was the
answer she returned. And Bertha was not inclined
to put herself in such a shameful position. She feared
the look, the words, which Angus would give her.
Anticipatively she burned with the fire of his con
tempt. It was impossible for her to face such humilia

Besides, it was really beyond her power to com
pletely clear up the mystery. John and Sarah La
tham had left Rodney. She had had one letter from
Sarah dated from Leith, in which the woman said they
would sail on the John Anderson, a merchant vessel
bound for New York, on the following day. But it
was part of Bertha's immediate punishment to feel
a constant uncertainty concerning her accomplices.
Since the Lathams had left, Bertha had been told that
Sarah also was inclined to drink too much whisky, and
Bertha recalled several personal experiences with the
woman which confirmed the accusation in her own mind.
Such a couple could not be depended upon. She
feared every mail that came. A strange letter made her
sick with terror, lest it might be a demand for more
money. She was sorry enough now for what she had


done. It had cost her all her little hoard of gold. It
gave her a constant anxiety. It had had an opposite
effect upon Angus from the one she had anticipated ;
instead of making her his confidant and comforter in
the matter, he had ceased coming to Rodney altogether.
She had even heard that he was going to leave Rod

Always, hitherto, in all her small selfish plans and
petty schemes for her own interest, Scotia had been
easily moved to forgive. She had had only to say,
" I am sorry, Scotia, I did not mean to pain you ; "
and the trouble was over. Now Scotia was less
responsive with every passing day more indifferent
to her regrets more silent more utterly passive to
all domestic interests. Her face had lost its fine
color ; her hair lay in dull loosened coils upon her
pillow ; she declared herself unable either to ride or
to walk ; she finally kept her room, and sank into a
state of real invalid ism.

But ere this climax was reached May was nearly
over. Angus Bruce had resigned his charge and gone
to Edinburgh. The Colonel and his son were in
London, spending a gay week there with Lady Yar
row, the Cupars, and other county acquaintances.
And it was about this time the letter Bertha feared
came. Sarah Latham and her husband were still in
Leith. They had missed their ship. They had been
down with fever. In short, they wanted five pounds.
Bertha borrowed the sum of the housekeeper and sent
it, and then she commenced a new worry about the
next claim. All the horror of a quick gathering debt
was upon her, and she foresaw that after she had in
extricably embarrassed herself, she might be com
pelled to face the shame of her position.


At the beginning of June, Colonel Rodney and his
son Archibald returned. The Cupars traveled home
with them, and it was evident that Julia and Archi
bald were on the high road to matrimony. The
match was suitable in every way ; there was nothing
on either side but approvals and good wishes.

" You always wanted to marry the heir to Rodney,"
said Bertha to her friend in their first quiet interview
"you remember about Blair? "

" Blair is not to be named with Archie. Do you
know that Blair is married?"

" No ! Is it possible ? To whom ? "

" The widow of a publican. She is ten years older
than Blair, but she has ten thousand pounds. They
have gone to Australia. Gilchrist told me. It is
strange you did not hear. I have more news for you.
Sir Thomas Carr is coming to London. I saw his
brother the day before we left. He is bringing secret

" Oh, Julia ! If I could only meet him ! Julia,
help me in this matter, and I will do all I can to make
you happy."

" Will you marry him ? If so, I will invite him to
our house. Indeed, he is sure to come and see Gil
christ. In the mean time, I can write nice little things
about you."

" Julia, if you only would ! Of course I shall
marry him if he asks me again. What can I do for
you, Julia? "

" Well dear, you can marry. Girl friends are very
nice, but when they become sisters-in-law they are
objectionable. I should like Scotia and you to be
married before I marry Archie. I am frank, Bertha,
because girls see through each other, and I like to do


things on the plain giff-gaff principle, rather than trust
to the uncertainties and anxieties of plotting and
planning for one's own way. I want Scotia to be
happy with her minister, and you with your Indian
secretary, and then I can make myself happy at
Innergrey without a continual fight against envy,
malice, and all uncharitableness."

There was an uncharitable answer on Bertha's
tongue, but she kept it there. Plain-spoken, truthful
people are irritating. Truth ought to be diluted for
the average taste. Bertha took the sharp mouthful
of words without wincing. She wanted to marry Sir
Thomas Carr, and Julia Cupar was the way to that
end. To get out of the reach of Scotia's misery, and
Bruce's scorn, and the Latham's drunkenness and
greed, would be a good thing ; no matter if she had
to go to India to do it. India was not so bad. Cal
cutta was different from garrison life. There was a
kind of court at Calcutta, and as Lady Carr, she would
be a distinguished courtier. She read a great deal
about India and was enthusiastic upon the subject.
Sir Thomas Carr had only to come to Fife and get
" yea " where he once got " nay."

Scotia had comforted herself somewhat with the
hope of her father's sympathy. But when he returned,
she found herself unable to tell him the whole truth.
He was so happy, she could not bear to make him
miserable. The travel, the warmth and sunshine, the
constant society of two enthusiastic young men, had
renewed his youth. His face had lost the pale, fret
ful look of the valetudinarian. He had abandoned
his staff altogether, and walked erect and with firm
steps. He was well pleased with Julia Cupar. She
was handsome, shrewd, good-tempered, and possessed


of fine health and one thousand pounds a year. He
could desire no better wife for his heir, and Archie
loved, and was beloved by her.

Into this hopeful atmosphere Scotia could not
bring her suffering and despair. Her father was told
she had a fever, and he believed the fever accounted
for the dreadful change in his darling. She let him
think so ; and only asked that she might be permitted
to go to her Aunt Yarrow for a change. " I have
asked aunt to put up with me for a little while," she
said, "and she has sent me the kindest letter. Let
me go, Mother. Let me go, Father."

Mrs. Rodney was sure it was the best thing for
every one to let Scotia go away until she had learned
to bear her burden more bravely. Mentally she con
trasted Scotia's behavior on losing her lover with
Bertha's, and she thought Bertha had borne her dis
appointment in far the nobler manner. For she did
not take into consideration the different circumstances,
and the opposite natures of the two girls, nor yet of
their lovers. She saw only that Scotia's trouble
troubled the otherwise happy house, and she rather
resented the idea of Rodney House being shadowed
by the influence of a man in the social position of
Angus Bruce. The minister had never occupied a
very favored place in her regard. She thought his
attentions to Scotia presumptuous. She thought
Scotia, with all her advantages, ought to make a much
better marriage. Jemima's adopted son was not a
proper match for her beautiful daughter.

Whatever her suspicions were regarding the trick
played upon the minister, she kept them to herself.
Bertha saw, however, that she was not displeased at
the quarrel between Scotia and Bruce. And when


Bertha urged her mother to obtain for Scotia her
desire with regard to visiting Lady Yarrow again,
Mrs. Rodney privately decided that Bertha had ex
cellent reasons for such urging. She thought it best
to gratify both her daughters, without embarrassing
herself with their motives.

It is so seldom that the event we look forward to,
as likely to bring us some pleasure or salvation, ever
meets, much less betters, our expectations. Scotia
was pained and disappointed in many ways, instead of
being comforted by her father's and brother's return.
And perhaps one of the keenest and saddest was the
indifference with which Bruce's removal was regarded.
Archie had almost forgotten him, in his newer and
more constant tutor. The Colonel took his absence
with comfortable philosophy. He had something now
of his wife's feelings about Scotia marrying a minister.
He felt that, for the honor of Rodney, she ought to
do better.

Then he was not sorry to find Innergrey empty. Ar
chie wished to marry. The Colonel believed he might
make some arrangement with Lady Yarrow about the
house, and then there was nothing to delay the mar
riage. It was the event on which he now built all his
future. His grandsons and granddaughters running
through the halls and rooms of Rodney, was the vision
which brightened all the years before him. Bruce was
necessary to none of his plans. He stood in the way of
some of them. He gave the minister a few words of
honorable mention, and let him pass, as he hoped, out
of his life.

Scotia was angry at this attitude. She thought it
shameful ingratitude. Whatever Bruce had done to
her, he had done nothing but kindness to the rest of


the Rodneys. She spoke with an irritation, ill-timed
and ill-regulated, on the subject ; and found her re
marks simply passed over or laid to the score of her

She was glad to get away from so much hope and
happiness. In Lady Yarrow's quieter house, she
might find the unnoticed seclusion and the silent
sympathy she needed. Lady Yarrow was now at Yar
row Bell, one of the loveliest peaks of the Cheviots.
The very thought of the place soothed Scotia, and all
her dreams of it were more than verified, as she ap
proached the secluded district in which Yarrow Tow
ers stood. A lonely peace pervaded it. Lovely copses
of wych-elm and birch embossed the land. The
great hills stood around about the valleys. The run
ning waters made music everywhere. The hamlets
were few and far apart ; the shepherds' cots hid away
in the crannies of the hills.

Far off she could see a large, lonely white house.
It was pointed out to her as Yarrow Towers. It had
a long snowy frontage, full of windows, and gardens
stretching every way, until they touched heather or
running water. When she entered the shady, solemn,
planted places, she felt a sudden peace fall upon her
restless heart. She bent her face into her hands and
cried a little. When Lady Yarrow took her in her
arms, she cried a great deal ; she could not restrain
herself ; she sobbed herself to sleep to the soft croon
ing words the two women murmured above her.

Their sympathy was irresistible. That night she
told her aunt and Ann everything. The old lady felt
each word of her narrative. Ann instantly laid the
blame on Bertha.

" Bertha must not have all the blame," said Lady


Yarrow. " Our son has behaved very badly to this
poor lassie. You are his mother, Ann, and you ought
to give him some angry words."

" Write yoursel', my lady. Angus isna to be
blamed. Scotia doesna blame him. He couldna hae
done either less or mair. The dear lad is suffering,
too, I ken that. Angus Bruce, as Angus Bruce,
would forgie everything."

" There is nothing to forgive, Ann."

" I'm supposing there is, my lady."

" I cannot permit evil to be supposed of my niece,

" Weel, weel ! the lassie isna perfect, neither am I,
nor yet your am sel'. I was going to say he might
forgie as Angus Bruce, and yet no daur to marry a
lassie he thought unfit to help him in the office o' his

" Tut, tut ! He thinks more of his office than
there is any occasion for. He is neither pope nor
kaiser, nor, just yet, moderator of the general assem
bly. He ought to think shame of himself for doubt
ing a woman like Scotia Rodney."

" He be to believe his ain eyesight, my lady."

" He should have proved his ain eyesight."

" If Scotia had seen Angus making love to another
lassie, would not she have done as he has done ? "

" No ! " said Scotia quickly. " I would have fol
lowed the seeming traitors, and proved them so. Or
if Angus had made such denial to me as I did to him,
I would have trusted in his word ; and watched and
waited, until it was proved to be truth itself. If proof
had never come, I should still have believed him."

" Angus would hae been worthy o' belief in a"


fi Scotia is equally so, Ann."

" I never wronged Angus in a thought," said Scotia

" For a' that, my dear, you shouldna hae gane riding
aboot wi' that young soldier."

"Jamie Forres is honor itself, Ann. I'll hear noth
ing against Jamie Forres. And he in love with Flora
Monieith at that very time, and just troth plighted to
her ! The thing is past belief. He has not one
thought of Scotia in the way of love-making, Ann."

" Aye; but our Angus didna ken that."

" Angus has been making a confidante of you, Ann ;
that is easily seen, Ann. Why did you not show me
his letters ? I would have been putting this matter
straight long since."

" It is beyond your guiding, my lady. I hae put
the matter where it belongs lang syne. It will come

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 22 23

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA sister to Esau → online text (page 20 of 23)