Copyright
Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A sister to Esau online

. (page 21 of 23)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA sister to Esau → online text (page 21 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


a' right, at the right time ; and we had better bide the
set hour."

But while waiting the set hour, sympathy is a great
strengthened Scotia had it in two forms. Lady
Yarrow blamed Bruce, and thus gave her an oppor
tunity to defend him. Ann excused her son, and so
gave her still more pleasant opportunities of agreeing
with her.

The house itself was restorative. Lady Yarrow
called it her " Castle of Indolence." She permitted
no noise and no hurry in it. The servants went
leisurely about in felt slippers. Ceremonious dress
was excused, the prevailing style being loose gowns
of soft silk muslin. Lounging, dreaming, loitering
seemed to be the only proper occupation of those large,
silent rooms. There were no dogs on the place to
bark. There were no giggling, singing servants ;



312 A SISTER TO ESAU.

douce, middle-aged men and women attended to the
business of living, in a slow, methodical, noiseless
manner.

Hour after hour Scotia lay upon a couch by an
open window, watching the gardeners among the
flowers and shrubs. There were two old men, but
they seldom spoke to each other. Only the sounc of
running waters, and the voices of birds and bees, the
murmuring of winds, or the pattering of rain, iroke
the restful peace of the place. In such circumstances
a thoughtful soul has opportunity to hear its own
plaints and desires ; it can examine itself and talk to
itself, and

Hearken what the inner spirit sings
There is no joy but calm.

For surely, amid all the sorrows and stress of life, men
and women in all ages have had these passionate
yearnings after rest. The garden of Eden ; the
blessed Avalon ; the temple of Sangreal ; the height
of Mount Sitanta, what are they but the visions of
that passionate craving of the royal Hebrew ? " Oh
that I had wings like a dove, then would I flee away
and be at rest ! "

Yet there were many echoes from the outside world
in this fair retreat. Bruce's letters to his mother and
Lady Yarrow were full of the last scattering shots of
the late theological battle. There are ministers who
seem to be especially fitted for the demands of great
cities. They keep the gates of the church, and stand
"at arms" continually; there are others whom God
sends into country places, to care only for the few
sheep in some wilderness. Bruce was naturally a man
of war ; and he was now in the front of that gigantic
financial battle with impossibilities, which brought out,



THE TURN OF THE TIDE. 313

in such splendid force, the full moral majesty of the
Free Kirk movement, and sowed Scotland with
churches from Shetland to Galloway.

Had he time, with hands, and heart, and brain ever
busy, to think of Scotia ? Yes ; she was the underlying
thought of every hour. He felt the need of her sym
pathy, and the idea of her disloyalty was like a thorn
in his heart ; it fretted him through all his toil. It
made him perhaps a little fierce and intolerant ; fierce
against all sin, intolerant of all indecision, or even of
moderation in well-doing. His sermons were so fiery,
so impassioned, so positive, that those who did not
care to choose that day whom they would serve God
or the Devil preferred not to have Angus Bruce ask
them the question.

Lady Yarrow found her only objection to Bruce's
ministry in this pronounced impatience of delay or
vacillation. She had gone one Sabbath privately to
hear him preach, and she came home a little ill-
tempered at the sermon. "He hurries people too
much, Ann," she said. " It is this way, or that way,
and no time to consider. The sinners in kirk this
morning must have felt as if they were hanging
over Tophet ; and the saints did not perhaps care
to go to heaven so quickly as he was urging them
on."

" 'Deed, our Angus calls neither saints nor sinners
wi' an uncertain sound. You gave God a good
soldier, my Lady."

" I did, Ann. I am proud enough of Angus Bruce."
She sat still a moment smiling and then continued :
" I would dearly like to have him preach to some
gentlemanly expounders I have heard men who are
afraid to pronounce the ' h ' in heaven and hell, and



3 J 4 A SISTER TO ESAU.

who call damnation ' demnition.' Angus would give
them every letter of the law ; eh, Ann ? "

" Every tittle, my Lady the full measure to their
sins, even the small dust of the balance."

Both women reflected on this hypersensitiveness of
conscience when they looked at Scotia. Perhaps both
women thought in their secret hearts that Scotia had
been a little to blame. Ann knew her son's strong
love for the girl ; she was certain Angus had, what he
thought, irrefragible proofs of her unworthiness, to
have so absolutely given her up. Lady Yarrow
thought that with a man so accurately truthful, a very
innocent familiarity, a very trifling deviation from
rectitude, would become an unpardonable offense.
They had both written to him about Scotia. Lady
Yarrow had not spared adjectives in describing Scotia's
suffering and fading health. But Bruce made no
comment, and took no action in the matter. He suf
fered, though, and three women knew he was suffer
ing ; though he would neither make a complaint nor
seek medicine for his heart-wound.

At Rodney the summer went happily away. Every
element of sorrow had departed from the fair old
house. The Colonel and his son were constantly to
gether. They were father and son, and also good
friends and comrades. And Bertha had now changed
all her opinions about her brother. He was fond of
Bertha. Her clinging, womanly ways pleased him.
He taught her how to ride a horse, and every fine
morning they could be seen on the road to Cupar
House, to visit Julia. Frequently Julia returned to
Rodney with them, and then, at night, Gilchrist came
for Julia. The Colonel and Mrs. Rodney thought that
never, in all their lives, had they been so really happy.



THE TURN OF THE TIDE. 31$

One morning about the end of August Archibald
and Bertha rode over to Cupar House. As they ap
proached the door, Julia and Sir Thomas Carr came
to meet them. Bertha was looking uncommonly well,
and her face flushed with pleasure when her old lover
looked into it for his welcome. Julia had her habit
on. "We were waiting for you"; she said. "Now
we can go over to Rodney together." Archibald and
Julia soon left Bertha and her lover far behind. They
had so much to say to each other that they found out
a longer road to Rodney in order to have time to
say it.

Indeed, the family were at lunch when they arrived.
Julia glanced at Bertha, and understood her quickly
lifted eyelids and look of assurance. She touched
the empty chair beside her, and said significantly :

" Are you hungry ? or satisfied ? "

" Satisfied ; yet I will have some game pasty, and a
cream."

After lunch they left the three gentlemen to talk of
India, and Indian affairs, and went to Bertha's room
to discuss much more interesting matters.

" He has asked me to marry him, Julia."

" I hope you said a decent ' yes.' I mean a straight
forward I-should-like-to 'yes'."

" I told him I had always loved him, and no one
but him ; and he said, 'what a pure salvation Archi
bald's restoration was to us.' You know what kind
of things are said sworn to. Every man says the
same words."

" Every man but Archie. I should be in favor of
sending youths to Persia and Khiva to learn how to
talk to women. My dear, I assure you Archie's
vocabulary of love is as unique as it is emphatic. He



3*6 A SISTER TO ESAU.

is like a lover out of the Arabian Nights. I never
hoped for such luck."

" Take care you do not get a husband out of the
Arabian Nights. I do not think they are nice. Sir
Thomas is going to speak to Father to-night. We
shall be married next month. He asked me if I
could be ready, and I said ' easily ' ; and he thought
I was ' so sensible'. Of course, I did not think it
necessary to tell him my wedding dress was waiting,
and that I should only have to add a few muslin
things to my outfit."

" What a merciful blindness falls upon men when
they are in love ! "

" I shall have to send for Scotia to my wedding,
though she may not be able to come. Lady Yarrow
says she is very weak. I wonder what is the matter
with her. After all, the younger is to be married
before the elder ; and I shall ask Angus Bruce to
marry me to Sir Thomas. Angus is so handsome and
distinguished-looking ; he will give the proper relig
ious tone to the wedding our new minister is old
and ugly, and he snuffles and shuffles."

" Bertha Rodney, you are sublime ! "

And Julia looked at her friend with a queer kind of
admiration. For Bertha had long ago confided to
her the means she had used to break off the mesalliance
between Scotia and Angus Bruce. Of course she had
only given her own version of the story ; she had
withheld something, and she had added something,
and thus managed to make the circumstance appear
a rather clever, and not very ill-natured proceeding.
And she had so frequently declared that she had to
do something, in the absence of her father and ill
ness of her mother, to preserve the honor of the



THE TURN OF THE TIDE. 317

house, and keep her sister from ruining her whole
future, that she had almost taught herself to believe
her treachery was expedient.

The wooing of Sir Thomas went prosperously.
Rodney House was again in a tumult for Miss Bertha's
wedding. The side halls were encumbered with
trunks and packing cases. Mrs. Rodney, between
smiles and tears, was preparing her daughter for her
new life. The Colonel, feeling that Bertha deserved
some recompense for a disappointment she had taken
so bravely, exerted himself, and partly denuded him
self, to send her away with full hands. The world
went very well with Bertha Rodney that sunny
autumn.

She persuaded her father to write to Bruce. He
was not eager to do it, but Bertha's requests in these
last days were laws, and he did as she desired him.
Angus perceived the restraint which bound the kind
words, and he was wounded by it. Also, he would be
likely to meet Scotia, and he was fully determined not
to go into the way of temptation. If she said, " I am
sorry, forgive me, Angus," what could he do but for
give her ? He had forgiven her. But then she might
expect their engagement to be renewed, and that
was, he believed, impossible. If he ever married, it
must be a woman not only precious to Angus Bruce,
but who was also worthy of his office a fit representa
tive of the minister's wife. Both ought to be lights in
the sight of the whole kirk ; and if they were either
of them dim or uncertain, some might go astray in
consequence, and their souls be demanded at his
hand.

This position may appear extravagant and far
fetched to certain teachers of the present day ; but it



318 A SISTER TO ESAU.

was a vital one to Angus. If his wife was not a crown
of glory to his office, she must be a reproach and a
stumbling block. He had explained to his mother
and to Lady Yarrow this necessity very fully. Mrs.
Bruce thought it one not to be disputed. Lady Yar
row said its stupidity was evident to any faculty but
the theological one ; and that if it was correct, then
there ought to be colleges and universities for the
training of ministers' wives.

So Angus Bruce refused to perform the ceremony
of Bertha's marriage, and he declared to himself that
he would never again of his own free will go to Rod
ney House. He made this determination one Satur
day night, and he had broken it before the week was
over. The Colonel's own letter was the first step
toward the broken determination. Its mild suavity
angered him, and in some not easily defined way
it made him very severe with himself ; and as a
sequence, he preached with an exceeding fervor and
severity. His afternoon sermon was full of such
startling plain truths, and such vivid pictures and ap
peals, that men trembled and covered their faces, as
if to hide from the Just and Awful One, whose crea
tures they were. He was exhausted himself with the
service, solemnly exhausted ; feeling very much as
some old Hebrew prophet doubtless felt when he
asked his heart, " Who hath believed our report ? "

He went to the vestry and sat down ; too sad and
weary to remove his gown and bands. Putting his
elbows on the table, he buried his face in his palms.
Vaguely the slow tramp of the departing congregation
fell on his senses ; it grew fainter and fainter, and he
began to think of ungowning and going home. He
was very weary, and he looked so. One of the elders



THE TURK OF THE TIDE. 319

opened the door and was struck by the tired, listless
air of the usually prompt minister.

4< Mr. Bruce," he said, " a poor woman in great dis
tress of mind wishes to see you."

" I am worn out, Elder. I cannot speak another
word. Yes, I can ; through Christ strengthening me.
Bring her here."

In a few moments he was alone with her. She was
a tall, slight woman, but she kept her face veiled.
Something about her seemed familiar to Angus. He
said, " I do not know you. I do not ask to know you.
Speak frankly to me."

" I have committed a great sin. You have made
me feel it. I am afraid to go home. I used to live
in Rodney Law, and when I knew you were preach
ing here, I came in to see you to hear you."

" If you have sinned, there is the Sin-Bearer and the
Sin-Pardoner. You know Him."

" I have sinned against you. Will you forgive me ? "

" How have you done me any wrong ? All sin is
against God. Put me out of the question."

" I cannot. I did you a great wrong. I did a
young lady, who was always kind to me, a shameful
wrong. I mean Miss Rodney."

She did not need to tell him more ; the truth flashed
clear and vivid as the lightning of heaven across his
mind. He stepped close to her, he put his hand upon
her shoulder, and she trembled like a reed.

" You mean that it was you and Captain Forres I
saw at the stile in Rodney Park ? "

" It was I, and my husband, John Latham. I am
Sarah Latham. John wore Captain Forres's cloak.
I wore Miss Rodney's pelisse. I left her cloak and
glove on the stile, purposely, for you to find."



320 A SISTER TO ESAU.

"My God !"

He said the words reverently, almost gratefully,
and remained a moment in silence that was worship.

"Who asked you to do this thing? What made
you do it ? "

"I wanted money to go to America. I do not wish
to tell who asked me to do it."

" Your penitence is of no avail, unless it be without
reservation. Answer. Who asked you to do this
wicked thing ? "

" Miss Bertha Rodney. She promised me thirty
pounds and she paid me the money. But John and I
were unlucky with it. We spent most of it for our
passage to New York, and then John got drunk, and
the ship did not wait for us."

" And you also ? "

There was something she could not deny in his
tone she answered sadly. "I was drunk also."

" Have you written since to Miss Bertha Rodney
for money ? "

" Three times. She only sent me two pounds last
time."

" Write no more to her. If you do, you shall be
punished. Even sinners must keep to their sinful
bargains with each other. Is this all you have to
tell ? "

" Yes. Will you forgive me ? Will you ask Miss
Rodney to forgive me ? " She began to weep bitterly,
and Bruce prayed with her, and gave her the assur
ance of his pardon. But she went away full of fear
and trouble a fear and trouble Angus did not depre
cate ; for he hoped it would finally bring her peace
and consolation. And there was now hope and joy in
the heart of Angus Bruce.



THE TURN OF THE TIDE. 3"

" A soul troubled for sin is a full meal to our minis
ter " ; said the waiting elder, when Angus gave him a
cheerful "adieu "and walked with brisk steps down
the ancient, gloomy street.

" Now I can go to Scotia ! " he said. " Now I can
go to Scotia ! Now I can go to Scotia ! Afterward, I
shall visit Miss Bertha ! " And if Miss Bertha could
have seen the minister's set, stern face at that mo
ment, she would have broken her laughter in two and
gone away with a quaking heart, and a fearful look-
ing-forward to what it portended.



XVIII.

GOOD-BY AND JOY BE WITH US ALL !

" All things we cannot know. At sea

As when a good ship saileth,
Our steps within the planks are free,
Beyond all cunning faileth,"

" Maiden, thou. hast heard the lesson,

As my tongue hath strength to tell,
Typed for thee in flowery garden ;

Take it now and use it well.
Winged words are lightly spoken,

With the breath the sermon dies ;
But the precept of the moment
Tasks a lifetime, to the wise."

Blackie.

JOY, as well as grief, is a wakeful spirit. Angus
slept none that blessed Sabbath night, and as he
found it impossible to banish thoughts of Scotia, he
set them all to thanksgiving. Even if she refused to
pardon him if she refused to give him again the
troth he had so angrily returned to her yes, even if
her love for him was dead, he could still rejoice in
the purity and perfection of his ideal woman. He
could still love her and believe in her and keep her
exquisite memory to sweeten all his after life.

In the gray light before dawning he left Edinburgh.
He reached Kirkton in the afternoon, refreshed him
self at the little inn there, and hired a gig to take him
to Yarrow Bell. And as he began to climb the moun
tain road, Angus remembered the great hills shoul-
322



JOY BE WITH US ALL! 323

dering one another ; and the silvery, shining waters
leaping from crag to crag, until they reached the valley.
The heather was in bloom, and the little companies
of sheep resting in it looked white as snow in its vio
let haze.

Here and there a shepherd was strolling up or down
the hillsides, and one at a great altitude was singing,
to the exquisite minors of St. Mary's, the twenty-third

psalm :

The Lord's my shepherd, I'll not want ;

He makes me down to lie,
In pastures green he leadeth me

The quiet waters by.*

Far off and far down, the happy pastoral sought out
all the sweet, silent places. The singer stood on a
jutting rock overlooking the road and the valleys far
away, and Bruce, lifting his eyes, could just catch his
tall figure, standing clearly out against the blue Chevi
ots behind him. His voice was the voice of a strong
man rejoicing to sing of goodness and mercy, rejoic
ing to tell heaven and earth

In pastures green he leadeth me
The quiet waters by.

Bruce lifted the lines with him, and so singing went
up to the Bell.

He reached the great iron gates of Yarrow Towers
just as the psalm was finished, and there he sent back
the gig, and went through them, with the four last lines
lingering on his lips and making melody in his heart.

Goodness and mercy all my life

Shall surely follow me ;
And in God's house forever more,

My dwelling place shall be.

* Scotch Psalms ; version allowed by General Assembly of
Church of Scotland.



324 A SISTER TO ESAU.

The great stillness and greenness of the place made
him feel as if he was in a dream. The perfect confi
dence of the animals and birds made him feel as if he
was in Eden. The hare looked at him shyly from
her form ; the squirrel from its branch. The dappled
deer browsing under the oaks had no fear. The
birds with their newly-fledged families twittered to
him about the heat, and the difficulty of the young
birds flying in it. He was impatient to see Scotia, but
he did not hurry ; he felt only that he was gathering
hope and strength with every step he took.

Just where the park became the fruit garden, he
saw a form he knew among the raspberry standards.

" Mother ! Mother ! "

He did not speak loudly, but what word has such an
insinuating power insinuation that is almost author
ity. Ann turned very quickly at the first call. She
came to meet him gladly, all her movements express
ing joy and welcome. Never before had she been so
handsome in her son's eyes. Her white gown, her
black silk apron, the rough straw hat tied down with
a ribbon, the little rush basket full of berries in her
hand, made her look, in her ripe and ample beauty, like
the goddess of some ancient garden.

" My dear Angus ! Oh, but you are welcome ! "

" My dear mother ! I have come with good
news."

" Have you received the ' call ' to Free St. Mungo's
yet?"

" I have accepted it that is another thing. I am
come about Scotia."

" Oh, Angus, I'm feared there is nae gude news
about her."

" She is innocent of all that I have blamed her for



JOY BE WITH US ALL! 3 2 5

she is pure as a 'new opened lily she is true as you
are, mother."

" Weel, weel, I'm glad to hear tell o' such wonders."

" Where ? when can I see her ? "

" You can gae wi' me straight to her side. You can
gae wi' me this vera minute. If you hae come to put
wrong right, the sooner you get about the business, the
better."

They were within the large cool hall. All was very
quiet. Ann pointed to a lofty door, and then passed
out of her son's sight. She had the self-denial of a
great nature. She was capable of resigning all share
in joy she could not heighten. Angus opened the
door. It moved so perfectly, so smoothly on its
hinges that Scotia was not aware of his entrance.

She sat in a deep, low chair by the open window.
She had a book in her hand, but it was a closed book;
her eyes were out-looking ; she had the gaze of one
who is seeing things invisible. Indeed, she was at
that moment looking backward to hours forever gone.
She was thinking of Bruce, and thinking of him with
great tenderness. She had come to that point where
anger was dead, and she had begun to make excuses
for her lover ; and had begun even to find in his su
persensible and supersensitiveness of conscience, a
noble and excellent trait. And after all, he was not to
blame. He believed her guilty on the evidence not of
words, but of his own senses. Perhaps he ought
perhaps he ought

She was at this point in her solitary argument, when
she heard Bruce's step upon the carpet. It was dulled
by the soft, thick pile, but she detected its peculiarity
in a moment. She rose quickly and steadied herself
by leaning upon the back of her chair. Bruce was



326 A SISTER TO ESAU.

approaching her. His face had a story in it. She
looked at him eagerly, inquisitively ; she was white as
her white gown. Her lips parted slightly, and she
uttered a thin, sharp cry.

He stood before her. His attitude was that of
grief and contrition. " Miss Rodney," he said, " I
have wronged you from the first to the last. I was
too hasty. I never ought to have doubted you for a
moment. I am unworthy of your love, because of
my doubt. Forgive me, if you can ! Love me again,
if you can ! "

Scotia stepped forward ; she put her arms around
his neck ; she said, oh, such words, such sweet
words of pardon. There are no sweeter, no more
divine words, spoken on earth, than those love whis
pers when it forgives. She mingled th^m with happy
tears. She sealed them v/ith fondest kisses.

Angus seated her again in her chair and drew his
own close by her side. Holding her hands, he told
her all that Sarah Latham had confessed to him.
Scotia listened now without anger. The trouble was
over. Angus was closer than ever to her, she could
afford to forgive, even those who were not sorry
who still kept the secret of their wrong-doing. She
fieard with a happy indifference the particulars, and
then turned the conversation on Bruce's own pros
pects. She had heard he was to have the call to
Free Saint Mungo's in Edinburgh. Was it true ?
Was it not a very large congregation ? Was it not a
great honor ?

They were talking of these things when Ann and
Lady Yarrow entered. Lady Yarrow gave Bruce her
hand, but she said, with a shake of her head, " So
you have come at last, sir. I think shame of your
loitering."



JOY BE WITH US ALL! 327

" I think shame of it myself, mother."

" Hear what he says, Ann ! The lad has some
grace left."

Then Bruce explained the circumstances again. It
never entered his mind to extenuate or smooth over
Bertha's share in the conspiracy. A sinner, rich or
poor, friend or foe, was a sinner to Bruce. If he
thought excuse in the matter possible, he would have
given it to Sarah Latham, and not to Bertha. Sarah
had the old, old plea for doing evil she was doing it,
for good to come. Bertha had no such excuse. He
did not spare her in the narrative of the wrong done.

" She is the daughter of her mother," said Lady
Yarrow bitterly.

" But, Aunt, my mother would not have permitted
Bertha to do anything so cruel, if she had known of
it that is most certain."

"You are right, my dear. Come, let us be sensible,
and at Yarrow Bell ignore what is going on at Rod
ney. Yet I hear there is talk of a marriage there,
and Scotia is wanted. I am very averse to her


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 21 23

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA sister to Esau → online text (page 21 of 23)