Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A sister to Esau online

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And it is the same with every flower, even those sweet
and fair as heaven ; no, it is not. There are the orchids
and the mistletoe. But they are thieves and parasites.


Suppose I go to the roots of my motives ! Suppose
then, I did not want to marry Blair, and that it was
not very much of a trial to give up Rodney, if I had
to take Blair with Rodney. And suppose that I did
want to be free to marry Angus Bruce if he should
ask me to marry him. There is nothing wrong in my
secret motives ; and as for my apparent ones, they
were surely beyond reproach ; and Bertha ought not
to be above acknowledging them. I do wonder if
any woman or man either ever goes to the bottom
of their actions ! May not an habitually true life
have its Apocrypha ? "

Then she remembered Bertha's assertion that the
minister loved her. It did not trouble Scotia in that
light. She did not believe Bertha. She knew that
Bertha did not believe herself. But the assertion
showed her that Bertha had seen or suspected the
love between Augus and herself ; and that she was
bent on making trouble about the matter. And the
possibilities in this direction were manifold. " But I
will not anticipate evil," she said ; " when a great
exigency comes, it brings with it the ability to

She rose with the thought and drew out the large
amber pins that confined her hair, and suffered her
robe to fall from her. The late moonlight flooded
the room ; her white throat and arms showed in it with
a supernatural beauty ; and anon it fell all over her
white-robed figure, kneeling with clasped hands and
bowed head, uttering softly words of holy hope and
everlasting trust ; words that went singing through
her soul, irradiated her face, and led her to the open
window in a happy tremor of exaltation.

The love which gives all, can forgive all ; and


Scotia was no longer angry with Bertha. " Some
angel has been near me," she whispered. " Are we
not encompassed by them ? Loving, helpful soul-
relatives, who are as kind, and kinder, than those of
flesh and blood ! "

She stood with the open casement in her hand.
The clock struck two. There was a nightingale sing
ing afar off, and she could see the ocean lying still
beneath the moon, and gently murmuring

Lovely, lovely, lovely, Lady of the Heavens !

Her heart swelled to its tide, and she went to sleep
bespeaking by her very passivity those happy dreams
that double life, and are the heart's bright shadow on
life's flood.

The morning was according to Bertha's desire, fair
and sunny, and she appeared in a dress of snowy lawn.
Her girdle was white and she carried white lilies in
her hand. Blair objected to the lilies. He thought
them too secular for a church service, and Bertha
sweetly laid them down to wither in the hot August

They were a little late ; Bertha intended the party
to be so, and Bertha and the clocks always came to
an understanding. The minister was in the pulpit
when they entered. Every one else was in their pews.
The Colonel's face flushed with annoyance. Bertha,
leaning on Blair's arm, was as cool and calm as if she
was in her own room. Yet in some mysterious way
she informed every one of her betrothment. Every
one but Angus. He knew when the Rodneys entered,
but he did not permit himself to consider either man
or woman when he stood up in the House of God.

Yet unconsciously the thought of Scotia may have


been in his heart when he chose his sermon the
thought of her usurpation of holy office ; the angry
thought that tortured him through all his loving
thoughts. At first his face was dreamy and mystical,
and he felt his way among the great facts of time and
eternity, only as a cold, logical word-sifter ; but very
soon his eyes caught the light of heaven, and his lips
its fire, and the granite faces of the shepherds and the
fishers became tremulous with emotion ; and men who
never moved a hair's breadth, grew restless, and
longed to rise from their seats.

" I said to my heart but yesterday, I will go no
more into the pulpit. I will not make mention of Him,
nor speak any more in His name ! " and the face of
the preacher was bent and sad, and Scotia knew that
in some way she had influenced this decision ; " but"
and he lifted his head, and looked beyond church and
congregation " but, this morning, I felt even as the
prophet did. His Word was in my heart a burning
fire, shut up in my bones, and I was weary with for
bearing, and I could not stay," and then like a tide of
lava his words made a road for themselves to all

Scotia was humbled to the dust. This was the
commissioned minister of the Lord ; and she had
dared to usurp his place, and deny his words, and dis
honor him in his office ! She went home very quiet,
but not unhappy. In spite of all her faults, she be
lieved that Angus loved her. And for the love of
such a man, what earthly honor, what gold and land,
would she not surrender ! And all the after-day was
set to the bugle call of that sermon, and to the music
of the promises which rang through it.

" It has been a good Sabbath," said the Colonel, as


the family gathered around him in the evening, " and
Sabbath is the father of the week. For it is the first
day, and a great deal depends upon the beginnings of

" All is well that ends well, sir."

" That is only partly true, Blair. If an event, or a
work does not begin well, and go on well, it is not all
well, whatever the ending may be."

" Was it not ' all well ' when the penitent thief
ended well, sir ?"

" It is true that he ended well, Blair ; but did that
pay back what he had stolen, or make reparation for
all the misery he had caused ? How much better it
had been if he had begun well, also. To suppose dif
ferently is an Arminian fallacy. Now we will thank
God for a happy Sabbath. Whatever the week brings
it has given us the strength to meet it."

And then Blair and Bertha glanced at each other.
They had already the egotism of lovers. They could
imagine no joy or no sorrow in Rodney House, which
would not have its root in their love and their in


"You Scotsmen are a pertinacious brood,

Fitly you wear the thistle in your cap
As in your grim theology .... God knows you'll find
Well-combed and smooth-licked gentlemen enough
To sneer at massive Calvin's close-wedged creed.

The burden of our life is hard to bear,

But we must bear it, if it blame or bless ;
Joy is so like to grief, hope to despair,

That life's best sweet, has taint of bitterness."

"\ 7ERY early on Monday morning the Colonel was
* ready to receive Blair Rodney. The young man
was flattered by this promptitude. " You see how
anxious your father is to have our affairs settled," he
said to Bertha, and neither of them suspected that
restlessness of a brave soul which is " straightened,"
until it has lifted, and drank to the dregs, any bitter
cup appointed it.

And whatever may have been the Colonel's disap
pointment, he was by this time able to control all
evidences of it. He met Blair with his usual courtesy,
and discussed the proposed marriage with a calm and
honorable recognition of all Blair's rights.

" I have only one charge to make," he said ; " it is
that you hold Rodney in trust for the next male heir,
whether it be your own son or not. If one of my



boys had lived, he would have stood to-day as you
stand, future lord of Rodney, but as I have no son, I
pass over my daughters in your favor, and I expect
you to do likewise, if Destiny demands this sacrifice
from you. The house and lands of Rodney must go
in the name of Rodney."

" I promise you, sir."

Then Bertha was called, and the Colonel kissed her
tenderly and gave her to Blair. " I have deter
mined," he said, " to redecorate and refurnish Inner-
grey, the dower house. It is large enough for such
an establishment as you require, and when you leave
it, the place that knows me now will know me no
more, and you will take my place."

" May God long preserve you, sir."

Blair spoke with apparent sincerity, and Bertha hid
her face in her father's breast. The short silence
was broken by Colonel Rodney.

" And as the Innergrey House will then be my
wife's home, I think you should decide together as to
the colors and style of the painting and furniture."

" As to the date of our marriage, sir ? Have you
anything to propose ? "

" Innergrey will not be ready until the spring.
Suppose, Blair, we leave the exact day for a future
settlement ? And in the mean time, Bertha will pre
pare her wedding garments." Then both father and
lover looked tenderly at the young girl, who, with
assured love, had put on a marked increase of beauty.
Her fresh muslin gown, her neatness, and sweetness,
and pretty air* of modesty and dependence, were really
very charming. Blair was quite inclined to believe
that he had been an extremely fortunate young man.

The interview was not prolonged. No one felt it to


be other than a piece of business, well and pleasantly
over. In this respect, fathers are often very hardly
treated. Mothers are taken into confidence, and con
sulted about all the charming details of the marriage.
They assist in the arrangement of the new home.
They buy the trousseau, and pass many happy days in
spending the check which it is the father's sole privi
lege to write. Mrs. Rodney was now quite excited
over Bertha's engagement. To look after the refur
nishing of Innergrey was an employment thoroughly
suiting her. And in Bertha's wardrobe she anticipated
months of pleasurable discussion and shopping. In
terviews with modistes, consultations about the cere
mony, about people to be asked, and people to be
passed over ; these and many other affairs in connec
tion with the great event pressed with a sudden but
delightful hurry upon her.

Innergrey was a large granite house on the southern
confines of Rodney. It had been the dower house
for seven generations ; and Bertha was delighted with
the idea of making it a bride house. In an hour
Mrs. Rodney, Blair, and Bertha were on their way
there. They took with them a comfortable lunch ;
for Blair was bent on making all the measurements
and calculations that would be necessary.

" We will go through the place, room by room, and
make a note of what is to be done ; and of what is to
be got, for each room." And then he unfolded the
paper he had brought, and looked at the pencils, and
it was evident that both he and the two ladies felt
they had entered upon a very important and a very
interesting piece of work.

The Colonel, standing at his window, watched them
drive away. He noticed particularly Blair's bluff


comeliness and bounceable manners his hearty com
mendation of the capacious lunch basket his joyous
voice, his noisy excitement. And he acknowledged
the physical beauty of the young bridegroom, saying
to himself at the same moment, that it was, after all,
only the husk of being. Yet, in a more delicate way,
Bertha was but his counterpart. She was radiating
smiles, and all alive with her new hopes and joys ; but
these hopes and joys touched nothing but bodily
senses and material ambitions. Even Mrs. Rodney's
happiness was set .to the same key a delightfully
natural one, easily reached by the most commonplace
of aims and considerations.

" Perhaps they will look up to my window ! " and
as the thought crossed his mind, the loving father
straightened himself, and smiled in anticipation of the
smiles he would be asked for. But in their excited
condition all forgot the old man. Mrs. Rodney was
giving directions about the lunch basket. Blair, bend
ing forward, was whispering to Bertha ; whispering
words which received only a blush, and a smile, and
one little push, for answer.

The Colonel understood his exclusion from the
merry party. It was natural, but it made him sigh.
After all, it is a sharp and melancholy wine which life
distills, and the lonely father drank of it that day.
His thoughts quickly turned to Scotia. "Why had
she been left at home ? " His face flushed with anger
at the supposition of any slight offered Scotia. Then
he remembered how crossly he had spoken to her on
the previous evening, and he rang the bell impetu
ously, and asked for Miss Rodney.

" Very early this morning she went out to walk,


" Which way did she go ? "

" By Rodney Hill, toward the pine wood."

He had a mind to go and meet her, but he soon re
flected that the sun was already high, and that he was
unable to bear the heat. Yet he received unconsciously
a sense of rest, as his imagination found her out. He
saw the pines standing in that deep intensity of green
which absorbs the sunlight. He felt the profound
peace, the equable light, the fresh aromatic air, the
sense of unchangeableness that is the atmosphere of
these trees. He knew the group under which she
would be lying at rest. He could see the brown, clean
earth covered with the dry, needle-like leaves the
blackberry brier straying into the open spaces ; the
darkness that was not darkness, but a beautiful gloom
surrounded by light.

He thought of her as certainly quite alone, for there
was no road through the wood : only a little bridle
path which was sometimes used by Tarn, the herd,
when he was in a hurry to reach the village. This
morning Tarn had gone very early for the minister,
and in order to save time had taken him through the
wood. There was a farm-house beyond it, which
could be reached half an hour earlier by this path ;
and as Margaret Stirling lay there dying, Tam had
taken the minister by the short path.

He returned the same way. It was a peaceful way
out of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and he trod
it very slowly and thoughtfully, and yet with a sense
of solemn triumph, Before Scotia was aware of his
presence in the wood, he saw her under the trees.
She had cast her book away, and with her arms under
her head was gazing upward into the thick branches.
As he drew nearer she heard the rustle of foot-


steps, and stood up. "It is only Tarn-." she

When she saw that it was Angus Bruce, her first
feeling was one of intrusion. She met him a little
coldly. It was not pleasant to find that this hitherto
inviolable sanctuary had been broken into. Bruce
understood the feeling, and he hastened to apologize
for his presence there :

" Tarn came for me in a hurry. You know that
Margaret Stirling has been long sick. She is dead.
This path shortened my walk considerably. I hope I
have not used it to your annoyance."

" No. I was just thinking of going home. We will
walk together, if you like. So Margaret is at rest ?
I am sure her end was peace."

" It was the grandest outgoing. I have been at
the gate of heaven. Do you know anything of her
history ? "

" I do not. Father once said she had had great
sorrows, and great consolations. I did not ask him
the particulars."

" I can tell you in a few words. The Stirlings have
owned their farm for two hundred years. They
thought a great deal of their little house and few
acres, and they have been always pious, prudent men.
Margaret's eldest boy, Will, however, became a drunk
ard, a gambler, a a "

" A what we call a ' ne'er-do-wee,' I suppose ? "

"Just so. And finally, to save him from prison, the
father had to mortgage the farm beyond all his hopes
of redemption. The mother toiled and hoped on ;
the father died of the disgrace and sorrow, leaving
Margaret with three little girls and her worthless lad.
He was brought to his senses by his father's death.


He gave up drink absolutely. He returned home and
worked hard. He became a drover, and made money.
This morning I met him at his mother's death-bed a
grizzled, middle-aged man, stern and grave, but with
a light upon his face earth never gave. We broke
bread and drank the holy cup in the very peace of
heaven ; and then, just as Margaret was going, Will
cried out : ' Oh, Mither ! Mither ! Ye'll see Fethyer
soon. Tell him the farm is a' our ain again. An' it's
a right wi' me ! ' With that blessed message, Mar
garet went away, smiling."

They had stood still while the minister was telling
the humble tragedy and its triumphant finale ; a natu
ral instinct staying their feet, and making both solemn
and reverent. Scotia's eyes were shining with sym
pathy. Bruce's pale face was full of vision and adora
tion. They walked through the green gloom, apart,
speaking only in monosyllables ; breathing that air of
divine happiness which is only reached when love is
touched by the sorrow of earth and the joy of heaven.
On gaining the open ground conversation became
easier, and Bruce said :

" How grand is our faith ! What men and women !
what fathers and mothers it makes! austerely brought-
up generations, dwelling soberly in their sheltered
homes, reading their Bibles, living by faith, subject to
duty, courageous, calm, reflective. Will Stirling's
father has been dead twenty years, but he is still
moved by the hope of his forgiveness and approval.
Great is the faith of John Calvin ! and it nurtures great
men and great women."

" Yet something is to be allowed for race and
climate, Mr. Bruce."

" True. Scottish hearts are the native soil of Cal-


vinism, and though many revile our misty, rainy land,
I for one

Thank God, who isled us here ; and roughly set
His Scotchmen in blown seas and stormy showers ;

and as enthusiasm is contagions, Scotia lifted her
head higher, and stepped more proudly to Bruce's
patriotic thanksgiving. But the disputatious spirit of
her race was in her, and she said :

" Our faith ought not to rest on any creed, Calvin's,
or Luther's, or Arminius. The evidence afforded by
the testimony of our own hearts is greater."

" Not so ! " he answered positively. " Not so. A
religion sought only in the heart of each man will be
a religion of his own framing, and will vary with each
individual character. Creeds are as necessary to
religion as laws are to government."

" However, Mr. Bruce, Christ's touchstone to the
religious life of each soul is neither doctrine nor faith.
It is conduct. I was an hungered and ye gave me
meat. I was thirsty and in prison, and ye visited me!
This is religion, as I understand. Of what use was
Will Stirling's faith in Calvinism until he stopped
drinking and went to work, and redeemed his evil
days by good deeds ?."

" Until his faith brought forth works, it was like an
instrument closed and silent ; but it was good to have
the instrument there, when God willed him to open
and use it. I wish, Miss Rodney, you would remem
ber that false opinions may be really worse than false
morals. The latter meet their punishment very
quickly, but false opinions may do a great deal of
harm, before they are stayed ; they are, then, widely
the worst."


Scotia was silenced by this assertion, and by the
positive tone in which it was uttered. And nothing
was to be gained by opposing a man so sure in his own
mind as Angus Bruce. They were at the manse gate
also, and it was near the minister's dinner hour. She
reminded him of the fact, and before he could answer,
old Adam lifted himself from the ground, and sup
plemented it.

" I shall walk with you to Rodney," he said, heed
less of both ; and they went onward, a little con

Scotia knew that Adam was leaning on his spade
watching them, and speculating about their affairs ;
and ere she was aware, her annoyance voiced itself in
the assertion, that, " Adam was a meddling old man.
And I don't believe in his deafness or blindness very
much, Mr. Bruce," she added. " I think he assumes
both in order to exasperate his wife. If he were deaf
he could not have heard our approach ; and if his
sight was bad, as he affirms, he could not so readily
have distinguished us."

" If he assumes these failings to exasperate Grizel,
she turns them to her own advantage. I asked her yes
terday if Adam did not miss his Bible reading very
much, and she answered, ' He disna feel that, sir. I
read the Bible to him every day, an' mony's the bit I
put in for his guid.' Grizel is quite capable of making
a commentary on any part of the book she reads, if she
thinks Adam needs it."

"But if Adam does not hear Grizel's additions ' put
in for his good ' ? "

" Grizel holds your opinion, that Adam's deafness
has some method in it. Very likely the opinion is
correct, for at the kirk meeting last week, when I was


explaining some matter to the deacons, I asked, ' Are
you hearing, Adam ? ' and he promptly answered
' Oh, ay, I'm hearing, sir but to vera little purpose.' "

Scotia laughed heartily, and all nature seemed to
laugh with her. The sun shone brightly overhead,
and on either hand the creamy, wavy barley, and the
scarlet, flashing poppies, salaamed their heads to the
passing lovers. They talked as they went through
the park of a score of charming things of the fair,
brave trees standing kinglike, of the green plumes of
the fern, of the moss, and the growing darnel, and
the little daisies, and the thrush and the wren lilting
together. Just then, life was sweet as perfume, and
pure as the dawn or the dew.

At the garden-gate they stopped suddenly. "I will
go no farther," said Bruce. His face was so hand
some and cheerful that Scotia smiled frankly into it.
Then she found courage to say what she had been
longing to say, during all their interview :

" My cousin Blair is going to marry Bertha."

" Bertha ! "

" Yes. Does the news make you astonished ? "

" It makes me unspeakably happy ! Nay, but I must

speak " and he took both her hands, and gazed

with a passionate admiration at the girl. Never
even in her lustrous white satin robe had she looked
so enchanting to him as she did at that moment. The
sunshine fell all over her and her plain winsey dress
and little black silk scarf and gypsy bonnet. But
Scotia's beauty could bear the sunshine, and she
always looked her best in the woods, or among the
shrubs or flowers. " Nay, but I must speak,"
Bruce cried, and he took her hands, and for one
breathless moment, the air around trembled with love


and hope, and they were conscious of a holy flame
between them the flame of meeting souls. It made
Bruce dumb ; his emotion was so great he could find
no words for its expression ; Scotia first broke the
silence, though her voice was almost a whisper :

" If if there is any reason why speech is prema
ture, then I will not have it. You must not blend the
thought of me with any after-thought of remorse, or
even regret. You would not wish to do so ? "

" No."

" Then it must be good-morning now."

He bowed, and she went onward, feeling his soul
follow hers with strong asseverations of love, and
lowly thanks for her noble restraint. It was a sweeter
revelation than any other could have been ; for when
love has that rare quality of ' seeking not its own/ it
has the quality of heaven, and tastes the bliss that has
no after-pain of regret or sorrow.

As she drew near to the house a kind of fear at
tacked her. She dreaded to meet Blair and Bertha,
and it seemed almost a sacrilege to carry the love in
her heart into an atmosphere full of veiled antagonisms
and curious questionings. It was then a great relief
to meet Corporal Scott in the hall with her Father's
lunch tray ; and to hear that she was likely to have
some hours in which to attune herself to the proper
domestic key.

" I shall take lunch with Father, Corporal," she
said joyfully ; and with a light step she sped before
him to her father's sitting-room. He was still in his
dressing gown, lying upon a couch by the open win
dow. The interview with Blair had been very trying ;
he had felt unable to rally speedily from it.

But Scotia brought in a new atmosphere ; the feel-


ing of the woods came in with her the scent of the
woodruff the glow of the sunshine the very aroma
of happiness, of youth, and freedom.

" Oh, my dear daughter, how glad I am to see you !
Corporal, another plate and glass. I am to have com
pany to-day. And where have you been, Scotia ?
To the Stone Pillar ? "

" No. I went to the pines. One grows strong in
their company. And I met Angus Bruce there."

" But how ? And why ? I thought no one except
it might be Tarn ever trespassed in that plantation.
I do not like it."

" There was a sufficient reason, Father." Then as

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA sister to Esau → online text (page 7 of 23)