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Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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can give you."

Mrs. Rodney's face was somber and a little sad ;
and she spoke as if she did not altogether approve her
own advice.

" Mother, would you be sorry, if I married Blair ? "

" No, I think it best you should marry Blair. The
family will be well served in every material way by
Blair. You will make him a good wife ; Scotia would
quarrel with him. And Scotia may do much better.
Your father can give her a little money, and I have a
plan for securing her a season in London. Scotia is
handsome enough to become a duchess."

Women are unreadable even to themselves. Some
impulse, which Mrs. Rodney did not analyze, made
her find a certain pleasure in giving Bertha this little
pang of jealousy in making her feel that she did not
sanction her advance to Mistress of Rodney House,
without considering, also, the interests of her sister.
It might be only a lawful and proper desire to snub
Bertha's selfishness, and yet there might be, deeper
still, an unacknowledged dislike to the vision of a
future mistress of Rodney. For such a vision implied
not only the death of her husband, but also her own
removal to her dower house, in order to make way for
the new mistress. And in such case, a woman's own
daughter, though better than a stranger, must be in
some measure a supplanter.

Bertha noticed the tone and the matter of her
mother's speech. It annoyed her very much. " I
thought," she said moodily, "you would care for my
worry and anxiety, mother."

" I do care for it. But I care also for your sister's
interests."



A POLKA AND ITS RESULTS. 63

" And if I marry Blair, you are going to give her a
season in London ? You never thought of such a
thing for me, mother."

" I shall have to take upon myself a great humilia
tion, in order to secure for Scotia a proper chaperone.
And only Scotia's great beauty makes such a trial
worth facing. I do not think you would succeed at
Court. Marry Blair Rodney if you can. It is as
great fortune as you can expect, Bertha. You see, I
speak with sincerity to you."

"With great sincerity."

" It is very late too late to fence with words to
night. Indeed, at the last, if advice is worth any
thing, it must come to just such plain words."

" Tell me one thing, mother who is it you are go
ing to ask to chaperone Scotia in London ? And why
is the asking a great humiliation ? "

" I am going to ask my sister, Lady Yarrow ; and it
is a great humiliation, because we have not spoken or
written a word to each other for thirty-five years."
Mrs. Rodney's face was gray and angry, and she rose
hastily, and began to prepare herself for rest.

" I am sorry I asked you, mother."

" Well, Bertha, it is not pleasant to rake the ashes
of memory. And your Aunt Yarrow is a queer woman.
Whether she would accept my late offer of reconcilia
tion, and whether, if she did, Scotia would be any bet
ter for her friendship, I cannot tell. It is a doubt with
me a long doubt a doubt for the chin to rest itself
upon the palm of the hand. Good-night, child."

" Shall I go to Scotia to-night ? "

" Have some patience with your fortune. To-mor
row will surely do."



V.

A MESS OF POTTAGE.

*' Hard state of life ! If Heaven foreknows my will,
Why am I not tied up from doing ill ?
Why am I trusted with myself at large ?
When He's more able to sustain the charge."

" Prudence ! thou vainly in our youth art sought,
And with age purchased are too dearly bought. "

" Promises, once made, are past debate,
And truth's of more necessity than fate."

"DREAKFAST at Rodney House was a very in-
*-^ formal meal, served as each member of the family,
or each guest desired it. On the following morning,
Scotia was the earliest claimant. She came into the
small parlor with the sunrise, dressed for riding, and
looking exceedingly handsome and happy. For in
those days a lady's riding dress was a very becoming
toilet, and not, as it is now, the very ugliest costume
she can put on. Scotia's long habit of dark blue
broadcloth fitted her fine figure to perfection, and was
long enough to be lifted gracefully over her left arm.
There was a little linen collar at the throat, closed
with a strip of pale blue silk, tied in a hunting knot.
Her hair was beautifully coiled, and in her hand she
carried a soft cap of blue cloth, trimmed with one
long plume of the same color.

Rarely had she looked so radiant, so full of life and
64



A MESS OF POTTAGE. 65

joy. Some lavish planet had surely reigned when she
was born, and made her of mould kindred to heaven.
She seemed to be a part of the sunshine, and of the
morning-glory, with its scent and song and sweetness.
The butler gave her with pleasure the service she
desired. He was an old man who had been a cor
poral in the Colonel's regiment in India ; and Scotia,
with a natural tact born of a gentle heart, always gave
him the title he had won.

" Good-morning, Corporal Scott ! Can you let me
have some breakfast, early as it is?"

" Ony gude thing ye like, Miss Rodney. A bit o'
kippered salmon, and a poached egg, and buttered
toast, and the marmalade, and the like o' that ? "

" And a cup of tea also, Corporal."

He brought all with a delightful officiousness, and
watched her enjoyment of the meal with an air of sat
isfaction. And it gave him a great deal of pleasure
to see her mount her pony and ride away alone. The
groom was waiting to attend her, but he was dismissed
with the usual formula :

" Thank you, Jarvie, but I am only going to the
sea-side."

" Ye hae the back-send again, Jarvie," said the
corporal complacently.

" Miss Rodney is vera uppish in her ways, Mr.
Scott ; but I'm no carin'. Ye hae to tak' women
folk at a venture, as it were ; listen to their flights
and fancies, and mak' a deegnified bow. I ken weel
the Colonel wad preefer I was takin' care o' the young
leddy ; but what then ? In the lang run, it's neither
here nor there."

They were standing in front of Rodney House,
watching Scotia ride slowly under the firs shadowing



66 A SISTER TO ESAU.

one of the avenues of the park ; the corporal smooth
ing out the Daily News, which had just come ; the
groom holding his saddled horse by the bridle. The
same thought was in the mind of both men her sex,
and the pity of it.

" Will she marry Mr. Blair, think ye, Corporal ? "

" She has mair sense, Mr. Jarvie."

" What think ye o' oor new minister, Corporal ? "

" He has a vera connect method o' enforcing doc
trine ; and he isna sploring awa' anent the danger o'
the Kirk. That is ane comfort."

" Have ye been hearing o' the work, Corporal, how
it has been growin' and prosperin'; meetin' after
meetin', night after night ? "

" I hae heard, I hae heard, Mr. Jarvie. I hae been
told. I hope it is weel, but there is great need o'
care; great need vera great need o' care."

"I was dreamin' of oor Miss Rodney and the new
minister last night."

" Keep your dreams in your ain heart, my young
man. Mony a ane gets their dreams read, in a way
they little thocht of. And tak' your horse back to the
stable, neither o' you will be wanted this morning."

Jarvie turned away rather sulkily. He felt it a
trial to be dismissed so often. But on this point
Scotia had prevailed with her parents, after much
argument and entreaty. It was understood that Jar-
vie was to attend her, whenever visiting or shopping
took her beyond the limits of Rodney Law ; but that
upon their own land, and down to the fishing village,
and along the sea-shore, she was to have the liberty
and solitude which made the exercise so delightful to
her.

This morning, to be alone with Nature was the



A MESS OF POTTAGE. 67

supreme earthly pleasure her heart desired ; and when
out of sight, she put her pony to its utmost speed and
soon reached the sea-side, and the long stretch of
sand, and the great wall of rocks, full of strange
caverns, that guarded the coast. The pony then
stepped slowly through the spent waves, and Scotia
dropped the reins loosely and began to think. It
pleased her to blend the idea of Angus Bruce with
these great spaces of enpurpled water, with the sap
phire streak on the horizon, and the shadowy fishing
boats stealing away into the luminous haze. She was
a mile above the village. Its bluff-browed, bonneted
men were on the water, or else fast asleep ; its women
were in the village selling fish. There was no human
noise audible ; only the crying and cawing of the sea
gulls, fluttering in long files above the tumbling green
waves.

The peace of the place was perfect. It was a noble
chamber in which to question her heart. The fear of
man the terror of evil tongues, and scornful women
seemed infinitesimal in such companionship. The
everlasting hills, the mighty sea, the eternal spaces
around, helped her to a decision based only upon the
noblest part of her own nature, and the immutable
dignity of Truth. Come weal or woe, she felt that if
she were faithful to love, and honor, and truth, all
would be well in the end.

As she mused, the weather suddenly changed. The
waters became black, the gulls, troubled in their minds,
began to wail piercingly ; the wind, with an iron
voice, called up the sea, and jostled and pushed the
clouds, and brought ram on its broad wings. Scotia
rode rapidly to the village ; she felt as if the waves
were now chasing her beyond their own " thus far."



68 A SISTER TO ESAU.

In the midst of a pelting shower, she entered the first
cottage she came to.

She stepped into the chamber of death. A young
man, the youngest son of his mother, lay at that one
narrow door which opens to eternity. The dismal,
solemn stillness was only broken by his labored
breathing. He was already within the portal ; Death
stood between him and earth. The mother sat in a
low chair tearless, smitten by the suddenness and
horror of her grief, into total indifference to all human
considerations. She saw Scotia enter ; but what was
any mortal being to her ? Was not her child on the
verge of everlasting torment ?

Some men and women neighbors sat by the wretched
mother. They were awe-struck, and had no comfort
to offer her. The minister stood by the foot of the
death-bed. He also was sombre and silent. His
eyes were full of anguish, but his lips were stern,
and his attitude hopeless. No one noticed that Scotia
was wet. What was a little rain water in the presence
of the Avenger of Sin ?

Scotia touched the minister a little imperatively.
"What is the matter with Jock Thomson ? "

" He has been stabbed in a drunken fight ; he is
dying."

" Pray for him ! "

" Alas ! He is bound over to the wrath of God,
and by his sin, made subject to eternal death.
He has come to the end of God's mercy and
patience."

" It is not true ! There is no end to the patience
of God ! no end to His mercy ! " She slipped down
by the side of the dying man, she took his cold hands
in hers :



A MESS OF POTTAGE. 69

" Jock ! Jock Thomson ! Do you hear me ? I
am Scotia Rodney."

Some transient gleam of assent passed over Jock's
face, and she continued :

" Jock, I am telling you the eternal truth God
is love ! always love ! Love to the last moment.
David says, even if you make your bed in hell, God is
there to hear you. Jock, you have made your bed in
hell, but do not fear, and above all do not doubt.
God will hear you. Cry to Him ! It is not too late !
It is not, indeed ! "

Jock opened his eyes and tried to speak.

" I will cry for you, only say the words after me in
your soul. God be merciful ! God be merciful to
me, a sinner ! a great sinner ! a great sinner, but not
too great for Thee to pardon ! "

And the dying man caught the spirit of the words,
and he prayed with her.

" You believe, Jock ? It is true as death that
God's love is greater than death ; that God is able
and willing to save to the very uttermost. Think of
that, Jock, to the uttermost all who come to him."

The departing soul was stayed by this majesty of
faith and love. It made a last supreme effort of
surrender.

" Jock, listen to me ! You are nearly dead, but re
member Calvary and the cross on the lonely hill-top,
and Jesus Christ all alone, through the dark, suffering
for your sins. Cling to the cross ! Cling to the
pierced feet on it ! Say once more Even me, O
Christ ! "

He was listening with all his spiritual senses. He
was trying to speak through his last convulsive sobs.
He went out of life with the promise of love and for-



70 A SISTER TO ESAU.

giveness in his ears. Scotia was weeping as she
talked to him. His mother had risen from her chair,
and stood with lifted hands, not daring to pray. The
minister had covered his face. The watchers with
the mother had fallen upon their knees. While Scotia
was saying with the dying lad, " Even me, O Christ ! "
he went to the mercy of The Crucified. She closed
his eyes with a prayer, and then turned with her wet
face to his mother. She led her to a chair, and whis
pered, God knows what words of hope and comfort-
But the woman looked in the minister's face, and
doubted them. Surely he must know best. And
what should a young girl like Scotia Rodney under
stand of the high things of God's election and God's
mercy ? She shook her head, and covered her face
with her apron, and gave herself up to unrestrained
weeping.

The storm was still severe, but Scotia felt as if it
would be a joy to face it. Angus suggested a visit to
the widow Johnson's cottage. " She will dry your
habit," he said, "and make you a cup of tea."

" Can you think of such things in the very article
of death ? " She asked the question almost angrily.
" Help me to mount, if you please. I must go home.
I must be alone. It is the first time I ever met
Death."

He did as she asked him. He scarce lifted his
eyes to her face. But just as she was leaving, with
the rain driving on every side of them, in the gloom
of the storm, he said :

" Miss Rodney, you have troubled me much by
what you said. Was it right, to give a wicked man
such hope ? "

" It was right. Christ died not only for our sins,



A MESS OF POTTAGE. 71

but for the sins of the whole world the whole world,
Mr. Bruce ! That is God's zone of mercy. Dare you
limit it ? "

He was standing by her side when she began the sen
tence, his pale face sternly thoughtful, lifted through
the smur and drive of the rain, his head uncovered,
his black hair wet and clinging, his eyes shining and
misty. Ere she had finished, the horse, impatient in
the storm, had started ; and the solemn, imperative
question was carried back to him on the wind's wet
wings, and flung like a buffet in his face.

All his way home it buffetted his soul, so that he
was not conscious of his physical struggle with the
storm. And he was also angry. What right had a
girl like Scotia Rodney to trouble his firm convictions
with questions that would haunt him like ghosts ?
And what right had she to usurp his office at the bed
of death, and cry " peace " where there was no peace?
He had been interfered with ; he had been set aside,
put below, and out of his place, before his parishion
ers. Some of them might say he had submitted to it,
because Scotia was the daughter of his patron. It
made him burn with indignation. He knew that
neither for the love of woman, nor the favor of man,
would he abate one tittle of the faith due to his
creed, or the respect due to his office, and yet he had
been placed in a position that gave men and women
occasion to say so. The rain and wind that beat upon
and drenched and tore his garments, and wearied his
body, was but a symbol of the spiritual storm which
distracted and mortified his soul.

But Scotia was exalted and lifted above all
mortal considerations. A solemn joy pervaded her.
She had stood by the side of Death and not feared



72 A SISTER TO ESAU.

him ; and she felt at that hour how well the hardest
life may be endurable with death to crown it. Near
home she met Jarvie and another groom coming to
seek her ; and she anticipated some of the worry and
care with which the truest affection often interferes
with our rare moments of spiritual joy. She had to
submit to precautions she felt to be quite unnecessary.
For who takes cold, or receives injury, while the spirit
has the upper hand. Men and women driven by great
enthusiasms go through fire and water, and compass
impossibilities. All our limitations are of the body ;
but in our diviner moments, when the soul takes com
mand, it makes but small account of them.

Yet she was glad of the quiet, and dusk, and
warmth of her room ; glad to be still and recall her
self ; to try and understand clearly the circumstances
through which she seemed to have been carried by a
power beyond her control. And of course the reac
tion came, and her face burned when she remembered
Angus Bruce. What would he think of her ? Would
he ever forgive her interference ? Yet the words sprung
from her soul to her lips, and how could she restrain
them ? No ; she had done right. She was at peace
with her conscience, though she was sure the minister
was angry with her.

And the mother of the dead man ! She had not
believed in her. Scotia grew angry when she recalled
the woman's face. Evidently she had not wished to
believe in her son's salvation, if that security imper
iled one iota of her creed. If she had told the dy
ing man that there was no God, and no heaven, and
no hell, the fishermen and the women present could
hardly have set their strong, stern faces into a more
denying aspect. None of them wanted poor Jock



A MESS OF POTTAGE. 73

Thomson to have mercy. Jock had been all his life a
child of wrath, ordained to that end by the eternal
purpose and justice of the Creator. Should they give
him hope, through a false creed, even the creed of the
Arminians ? No ! They had the spirit of their the
ology, and were very jealous for the honor and the
justice of the God of Scotland.

Happy and then unhappy, hoping and then doubt
ing, Scotia's mind wandered in confusion and per
plexity until she fell into a deep sleep. In that
wondrous condition she found a place full of green
glooms and dusk-white poppies ; and she lay down
there, and forgot all her life until some one called
her name, and she felt constrained to rise and
answer.

It was Bertha. She was standing by the bedside,
and a servant had brought in a tray full of the highly
spiced meats and the fragrant fruits that Scotia loved.
All her animal senses were at once aroused by the
intangible aromas of succulent meat, and the warm,
fragrant smell of raspberries, and the reviving odor of
the fresh drawn tea, and the scent of a large white
lily.

And Bertha, charmingly dressed, and charmingly
cheerful and happy, was there with them, and bent
upon serving her. " Father and Mother say you are
to stay in bed, Scotia ; and so I am come to talk to
you and to watch you enjoy your dinner. Here,
Jessie, put the table close to the bedside ! Such
delicious jugged hare, Scotia ! And here is the breast
of a pheasant, and some raspberries, and just one
perfect apricot the only one ripe. Father sent it to
you, and Mother made the tea herself."

" How good you are to me ! Let me have the hare



74 A SISTER TO ESAU.

first. Oh, how hungry I am ! I like hare, Bertha.
It tastes of the woods, as no other flesh does, not
even venison, and how finely spiced this ' jugg ' is ! "

" And I am going to sit with you. I am going to
wait on you myself, that will do, Jessie, you can go
away, until I ring, for positively, Scotia, the house is
dreadfully dull without you."

"Where is Blair?"

" He went to Edinburgh as soon as he had finished
his breakfast ; and the minister has not been here at
all ; and no one else, for that matter, except Sir
Thomas Carr. We were all so sorry for you last
night you missed the loveliest polka. Blair was
perfectly charming and then, when we came to break
fast this morning, you were off, no one knew where."

" I went to Buller's Cave."

" Such a lonely place ! I do not believe Blair likes
you to go about so much by yourself."

" My doings do not concern Blair Rodney."

" He thinks they do or, at least, that they ought
to. I am sure he went away in a ' huff ' at you."

Scotia laughed good-naturedly. With that deli-
ciously-spiced food in her mouth, she could not feel
very angry at Blair's presumption, and she carelessly
answered :

" Poor Blair ! He thinks a certain thing, and then
he is quite sure the whole of his world must think
with him."

There was a short silence. Scotia had finished the
last morsel of hare, and with a sigh of satisfaction was
rearranging her tray the breast of pheasant, and the
cup of tea, then the raspberries, and the apricot. She
glanced from these anticipated delicacies to Bertha.
Her pretty face had become thoughtful, almost sad.



A MESS OF POTTAGE. 75

Scotia began to tell her about poor Jock Thomson's
death.

The story did not interest Bertha. She cut it
short. " It is just like that class of people," she said
contemptuously. " If they dispute about a couple of
herrings, they explain themselves with their fish knives.
And Madge Thomson, Jock's mother, is a dreadful
old woman. She drove her other four sons to the
four quarters of the world. How can you care for
such people ? That is another thing Blair dislikes in
you."

" I do not intend to order my life to Blair's likes or
dislikes. Why should we talk of him ? Sir Thomas
is a nicer subject. Are you going to become Lady
Carr, Bertha ? "

" That depends upon you, Scotia."

Scotia's face sobered a little. " But what have I to
do with it, Bertha?" She was cutting up her pheas
ant slowly, and she paused and looked straight into
her sister's face.

" Everything, Scotia ! everything ! My fate is in
your hands. If you marry Blair I shall marry Sir
Thomas."

" If I marry Blair ? "

" Yes, dear. If you marry Blair, then, of course,
I cannot marry Blair, and must take the next
best."

" Oh ! "

" But if you do not accept Blair, then then, I hope
Blair will marry me. You know he will not inherit if
he does not marry either you or me. Oh, Scotia ! if
you only knew your own mind how happy you might
make your poor little sister." And at that moment,
with her baby face and her tearful eyes, and small



7 6 A SISTER TO ESAU.

stature, she did indeed look a " poor little sister,"
and Scotia's heart smote her.

" What do you want me to do, Bertha ? "

"To give up Blair unless you are going to marry
him. Are you going to marry him, Scotia ? "

Now Scotia was hardly prepared to give an irrevo
cable decision at a moment's notice. It seemed
unfair to herself, to her father, even to the interested
claimant for her hand. She had persistently put off
this decision. ' She did not like being taken to cate
chism in a manner so prompt and final. She remained
silent so long that Bertha again took up the subject.
And by this time she had thrown off any repugnance
to its discussion that would hinder her own claim or
interest. She was prepared to use every art to win
what she desired.

" I do not mind confessing to you, Scotia, that I am
dreadfully in love with Blair. I shall be miserable if
I do not marry him ; but then, you will be happy,
and that will be some consolation."

" I thought you were in love with Sir Thomas Carr.
I am sure he loves you truly."

" But only think, Scotia ! He told me to-day that
he had accepted a secretaryship in India. Mother
says when she went to India she was as plump and as
pretty as I am ; and that in five years she was like a
mummy. I could not bear such a prospect unless
you marry Blair. Then I shall be thankful to get out
of the sight of your happiness. I am such a weak
little thing, and I could not bear to be tempted. I
might learn to envy my own dear sister."

" Then you really love Blair ?"

" I have loved him from the first hour of our meet
ing."



A MESS OF POTTAGE. 77

" And I do not love him and I never can love
him ; but for father's sake I have hesitated."

" Oh, dear sister, think of me first ! It is only a
little land father cares about. It is my love, my life,
or at least what is to make my life happy."

' You know that if I give up Blair, I give up also
my inheritance? "

" Dear Scotia, I know. I ask you to do a great
thing. But you say you do not love Blair. If you
did love him I should be ashamed to ask you. I
should just marry Sir Thomas and go away to India.
Mother has been crying over the prospect all day.
Because, with the least encouragement from you, Blair
will ask you to be his wife ; and father will urge you,
and you never could deny father, I know. I have
been terrified every day lest Blair should speak before


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA sister to Esau → online text (page 5 of 23)