Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A sister to Esau online

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they ate their lunch, Scotia told again the solemnly
joyful story of Margaret Stirling's death ; and much
conversation grew out of it. At the close of the sub
ject, the Colonel said :

" I have dealings with Will Stirling frequently, and
he is an honest, worthy fellow. His father I never
knew, but I have often noticed his gravestone. Look
at it next Sabbath, when you go to church. It is on
the right hand of the path."

" I have seen the stone. There is nothing on it,
but his name, and below the name three words ' a
good man.' "

11 What more could be said ? "

Then they were silent, for the Corporal was remov
ing the lunch service, and Scotia saw that her father
had become suddenly lost in sorrowful thought. As
soon as they were alone she brought him his cigars,
and drew her chair near, but he pushed the cigars
away, and said :

" Not yet, Scotia. I want to feel. I want to tell
you something, my dear. It is so long since I gave
my grief voice. I am sick for a little comfort."


" Dear Father, I am here ! Whatever troubles you,
troubles me."

" Will Stirling's father was a happy man. He died
for his son. His death gave his boy everlasting life.
But for my boy ! for my poor boy, I could do nothing
but weep. Oh, Archibald ! My son Archibald ! Oh
my son ! My son ! " And he bowed his head upon
his hands, and wept with a slow agonizing passion
that was terrible.

Scotia let his grief have its course, then she drew
closer to him, and kissed away his heavy tears, and
said :

" Archibald was my eldest brother, Father ? "

" Yes. Do you remember him ? "

" Hardly. Sometimes there is a vision of a tall boy
riding swiftly by your side ; but all is vague and un

" You were only four years old when he was killed-
It is sixteen years ago."

" Killed ?"

" Perished between fire and sword, the brave, brave
lad ! If he had lived, Scotia, I had been spared the
suffering of this morning."

"I know."

" To see Blair in his place ! It is hard ! It is cruel,
hard ! But God's will be done. It is always best."

"Can you tell me about Archibald ?"

" I want to tell you. My heart is aching to speak
of him ; but your mother cannot bear it, and Corporal
Scott has said all possible over and over. No one
else knew the lad. After his death I sent you and
your mother and Bertha to Scotland."

"How old was he, Father ?"

" More than twelve years. His younger brothers


were dead ; he was the only boy I had. I thought he
had survived danger, and become able to bear the
climate, and as he desired most of all to be a soldier^
I kept him by my side. We had been at a hill station
all the hot season, and at its close I was ordered to
come back to garrison. I had two hundred men in
camp with me, and I took one hundred and fifty of
them and your mother and sisters back first, leaving
fifty men to guard the tents and wagons and stores.
Archibald begged to stay with them, and I never
thought of danger."

" But why did you not all go together ? "
" Because the wagons would have entailed slow
travel, and as the weather was still uncomfortably
warm, I took your mother and sister and yourself by
a forced gallop during one night the whole march.
The next night with fifty men I set out for the hill
camp. We reached the defile in the mountains at
dawn, and were met by a strong party of the enemy,
who gave us some hard fighting. But they were
between me and my boy, and you may know how I
fought. Suddenly, without any apparent reason, they
fled. My heart was hot and sick with terror. On
reaching a certain elevation, I knew I ought to see
the tents. They were not there. But a thin smoke
curled and floated above the spot, and I rode as if I
was a spirit. The wagons were gone and the stores.
The men had been massacred, and then burned with
the tents and such things as they could not carry off.
I took out of the fire a piece of Archibald's blue cap,
the gold braid and buttons still clinging to it. It was
the only thing in the burnt debris that could be

" Were all the men slain ?"


" All but the Corporal. Scott had charge of the
wagons, and they compelled him to go with them.
On the third night he escaped, and found his way
back to garrison."

" Did he tell you anything of Archibald ?"

" He saw him struck down by a sword and then
the fire. I pray God the sword killed him !"

" And no more ?"

" No more. 1 went after the thieves. I rode day
and night until I fell ill with fever. I hired fakirs to go
among the murdering gangs in search of any informa
tion. I paid them to travel wherever such men went.
I spent years in a hopeless search, which from the
first I knew was hopeless. It is sixteen years ago,
Scotia, but I never go to sleep without seeing the lad
as I last saw him, waving his cap to me as he rode
back to his death."

" Oh, my dear father !"

" He was so lovely and so loving ! So cheery and
so brave ! Any man in the regiment would have died
to save his life. They did gather round him in the
fight, but the thieves were too many. Oh, my son
Archibald ! Oh, my son ! My son ! "

And Scotia kneeled by his side and kissed away the
late tears of one who should have outlived tears ;
and presently he rose and took from his desk a pic
ture of the slain youth, and made her notice that he
had the same red-brown hair and bright blue eyes as
her own. And the rain of sorrow did him good. As
he talked to Scotia he grew calm and resigned, and
then with a sad significance, said :

" I have told you this piteous story, Scotia, that
you may understand how terrible has been my dis
appointment in the matter of Blair and Bertha. If it


had been Blair and you, I could have borne better to
see Blair in Archibald's place.

" But why, dear father ? "

" You are the elder. You resemble Archibald very
much. You have been my companion and my friend.
Our sympathies are the same. In short, my dear,
you are a Rodney ; and your sister resembles only
your mother's family very fine people, Scotia, but
but, not Rodneys."

" Bertha and Blair are conservative, they will
do very well to Rodney they are fond of each

" Then, Scotia, what I have seen has deceived me.
There has been some little secret spring touched,
which has altered all that seemed certain ; you have
been moved by a few tears a little coaxing a trifle
I know not what, and you have sold your inheritance
for some such mess of pottage. You are a sister to

" Even if this were true, dear father, was it
not better to sell my inheritance than to sell my
self ? "

" Was it as bad as that, Scotia ?"

"Yes, sir. I never could have made my will or my
heart consent ; they would have been life-long cap
tives to my interest. I must have violated my honor
and my truth constantly. And for Blair ? Truly, in
such case I should have sold Scotia Rodney for a
mess of pottage ! "

"For all that, you are one of Esau's sisters."

" They are few and honorable. I am proud of the
distinction. What a noble brother I have ! What a
generous, unselfish, benignant, affectionate soul Esau
was ! When you put him beside ' that smooth man,'


his brother Jacob, he is so far above him that you can
not measure the distance. As for Jacob, I thank God
his family virtues are not ours ! "

"But Esau despised his inheritance."

" No, he only valued his life above his father's land
and sheep. Esau was a busy, brave man, and while
Jacob was sitting in the tent making plots, counting
increase, or sodding pottage, Esau was out in the
woods or fields with his bow and spear. His living
was in his own hand perhaps he liked better to
make it than to inherit it."

" He desired his brother's life. Jacob had to fly
from him."

" But not because of a little land, or a few head of
cattle. Oh, no ! He was indifferent about the inheri
tance, but when Jacob stole his blessing, then this
mighty hunter lifted up his voice and wept. Put
yourself in his times and in his place, father, and
would you not also have said 'When my father is dead,
I will kill my brother Jacob ! not because he stole my
inheritance, but because he stole my blessing.' And
he was no passionate bully, he could control his anger
for his father's sake. Not while Isaac lived would he
repay Jacob."

" Yet Jacob had to fly from his home."

" Men who steal and do wrong, usually have to run
away. Esau stayed with his father and mother, he
married a wife to please them, and was evidently
happy and prosperous. As for Jacob, when I remem
ber how disgracefully he treated that kind honorable
Syrian gentleman, Laban, I have a measureless con
tempt for Jacob. How precisely like him it was to
steal away in the night, and to carry off Laban's chil
dren and grandchildren without giving him an oppor-


tunity to kiss them. The loss of his own son Joseph
was a most righteous retribution."

" Yet God loved Jacob."

" That shows us that God can bear with a man that
no respectable human being could endure to live with.
And if God loved and blessed Isaac for his servant
Abraham's sake Abraham, whom he called ' my
friend' doubtless he favored Jacob for the same rea
son. And with all his cunning Jacob himself testifies
that his days were ' few and evil.' He died a depend
ent in Egypt, living on the bounty of a pagan king.
But Esau dwelt among his own people, in Seir and in

" Well, my dear, you have defended your brother
Esau. Now tell me about Blair. Will he make Ber
tha happy ? Does he love her ? "

" Blair will always love the woman who admires
him more than he could love any woman whom he ad
mired. For this reason he loves Bertha. I think they
will be very happy."

" They have gone to Innergrey, and it is going to
rain. This is a most unreliable climate."

" It is always changing, what more would you have ?
I wonder if the government could stand a three months'
sunshine ? For the weather is the safety valve of our
grumblers and most men are grumblers."

" There are the first drops. They will get well wet.
I did not expect rain with this wind."

Scotia rose and went with a gay little laugh to the
window. " Yes, it is going to storm. I will go and see
that dry clothing is laid out for mother and Bertha.
Blair will come in stamping and fuming, and giving
reason upon reason why it ought not to have rained


" Is the minister coming to dinner ? "

" I know not. Is he expected ? "

" There is to be a meeting to-night about Disrup
tion. Blair told me he was going to speak his mind ;
and I think he asked Mr. Bruce to dine here first."

"Very likely. And Blair will expect us all to goto
the meeting and hear him speak his mind, though we
know it already."

"I should think so ! For there is nothing uncer
tain anent Blair's opinions. When he mentions relig
ion, he means the Calvinistic religion, and not only
the Calvinistic religion, but the established kirk of
Scotland. But he will have to be reasonable, if he
has any discussion with Angus Bruce."

"Blair reasonable ! Yes, he has the' sweet reason
ableness of Sir Anthony Absolute in ' The Rivals':
' Hark'ee Jack, I am complaisance itself when I'm
not thwarted ; no one more easily led when I have
my own way.' But, indeed, yonder comes the car
riage, and the driving is like the driving of Jehu, the
son of Nimshi. Good-by till dinner time ! "

She put her arms around his neck, and kissed his
lips, and called him " darling Father ! " And he
clasped her cheeks in his hands, and with a smile and
sigh answered softly, " Esau's sister ! "



" Interest makes all seem Reason that leads to it.
They only seem to hate, and seem to love,
But Interest is the point on which they move."


" But Love the Conqueror, Love, Immortal Love,
Through the high heaven doth move ;
Spurning the brute earth with his purple wings,
And from the great sun brings
Some radiant beam to light the House of Life."

Lewis Morris.

'"PHE domestic changes accompanying and follow-
-* ing the engagement of Blair and Bertha were not
happy ones to Scotia. Her position was as painful
and peculiar as it was unforeseen and unprepared for.
When she had answered Bertha's entreaty for consid
eration, she had at least felt sure of Bertha's af
fectionate gratitude ; Blair's attitude she had not
considered of importance. But her unselfish act
brought her nothing but ill-will. Bertha, unconscious
of her sister's refusal of Blair's hand, was angry at
Scotia for her own act of humiliation to her. In many
unkind and unnecessary ways she was constantly made
to feel, what a needless grace the relinquishment of
Blair had been.

She seized every opportunity and she made oppor
tunities for asserting that Blair had fallen in love



with her when they first met ; and had been constant
and unfaltering in his attachment, though urged by
her father to consider the prior claim of the eldest
daughter. And Blair, relying on Scotia's honorable
nature, permitted with pleasure Bertha's pretty version
of their constancy and affection. For when he
remembered the real course of their love-making, and
saw Scotia's face flush to Bertha's fancies, he felt
himself to be revenged for Scotia's indifferences to

These two elements were quite sufficient to keep
Scotia's heart hot within her. But they were not all
that made her life a constant annoyance. The news
of a wedding at Rodney House brought visitors in
flocks ; and Scotia was really placed in a most humili
ating position. To sit quiet, and listen to Bertha
romancing to every fresh comer about Blair's love for
her, was not in itself a pleasant act ; but she could feel,
also, even where it was unspoken, the visitor's pity for
or triumph over herself. Many of the young ladies of
the neighborhood were indeed delighted at her sup
posed slight and disappointment. She had offended
them by her beauty, and snubbed them by her indif
ference to the petty objects which were their own
ideals. Bertha was not obtrusively handsome ; Ber
tha was conservative ; Bertha liked her neighbors,
and promised them all kinds of entertainments when
she came into the kingdom of matrimony.

Scotia, therefore, had to take with such outward
good grace as she could many pitying remarks and
much affected kindness, made up of spiteful and con
temptible revenges for past experiences of painful

She wondered a little that her father did not per-


ceive her trouble and comfort her in it. If he had
done so, there were hours when she could have wept
in his arms, and told him the whole truth about Blair
and Bertha. But the Colonel was simply incapable of
seeing Scotia's petty wrongs, and he would not have
understood the covert thrusts given with smiles, and
the mean little mental scratches of Bertha's words
and shrugs. Scotia even felt that if she complained,
he might possibly fail to comprehend her position,
and attribute to her motives which she held in
supreme contempt.

She was then in a cruel situation, one which made
her look envious and beneath herself, no matter what
attitude she took. For if she were gay, she was sup
posed to be hiding her chagrin and disappointment
under the mask of levity ; and if she were grave, she
was accused of envying her sister and fretting about
Blair Rodney.

Mrs. Rodney understood her very much in this way,
and at times her sympathies were with her eldest
daughter. But in the main Bertha's affairs occupied
her entirely. And Bertha's affairs were so pleasant ;
and Bertha herself so charmingly deferential to her
advice. Even Blair was delighted by the obedience
and tractability of his betrothed. Twenty times a day
he congratulated himself on the future before him :
a wife so adoring, so submissive, so biddable ; an
estate so ancient, so honorable, so satisfactory in the
way of rentals.

But no circumstances fast for ever ; day by day
changes crept into them. When the autumn grew to
early winter, Blair went back to Perthshire. He had
business to arrange there, which would occupy him,
*~ery likely, until the spring brought his marriage day.


And, perhaps, no one was very sorry to be released a
little while from his overpowering personality. No
one but Bertha affected it ; she indeed deplored the
necessity with flattering regrets.

" Nothing would be done right at Innergrey with
out his advice and supervision and she did rely
on his taste in dress so much, how was her trousseau
to proceed without his judgment ? " She knew, in fact,
that though Blair had presumably a great deal of
taste, it was all bad ; and that if the house had been
decorated and furnished, or her dresses chosen, ac
cording to it, both would have been outrages on the
intelligence and feelings of their friends. But Bertha
was an adept in that charming art which is so neces
sary to please and soothe masculine sensibilities the
art which invents for a lover all the fine qualities
nature has denied him. And also, she understood
the pictorial position of a sweet ignorance, and "the
danger of exciting his disgust by displaying accurate
knowledge of any kind.

But even Bertha was a little weary. She felt how
refreshing it would be to go en deshabille, both physi
cally and morally ; to be careless both of her ribbons
and her temper for a short time. It was a wet day at
the end of October when the relief came, and as soon
as she had waved her handkerchief to Blair at the last
turn, she flung herself into an easy-chair by the fire,
with the air of one who says with mental emphasis,
" Thank goodness, that is over ! "

Scotia also felt the reaction. She wrapped herself
in her duffle cloak, and went into the park. On the
main avenues it was not unpleasantly stormy. There
the ground was well graveled, and the swaying of the
bare branches, and the heavy drip of the rain, and the


mournful sighing of the wind, was just the antagonism
she needed. It was the antagonism of nature ; it was
devoid of meanness and of all ill-temper ; and the
opposition of her will to it, was a healthy opposition.
It sent the blood racing through her body ; it made
her heart resolute, her brain clear ; it gave her hope
and strength, and she went home, after an hour's
buffeting, full of physical energy and moral courage.

Bertha had gone to bed. She was " worn out," she
said ; doubtless there was much truth in the assertion-
To play one role constantly is no easy thing. Actors,
indeed, assert that it is the most exhausting part of
their profession. Bertha had been playing the amiable,
obedient, lovely, loving fiancte, until she was really
" worn out " with the sameness of her role. Every
thing perfect is tiresome. She was going to permit
herself the luxury of absolute selfishness and bad
temper. She was going to be sick, or untidy, or lazy,
if she wanted to.

There was a general relaxation of the same kind
throughout the house and household. It seemed
pleasant to all, that the dinner should lack something
of its company ceremony and elaborate preparation.
The head hostler took his tobacco jar and newspaper
to his room in the stables. The Colonel seldom
entered them, and " Mr. Blair, thank Heaven ! " he
muttered, " is awa' to Perthshire. The horses, puir
things ! are even down sick for a day's neglect. They
hae been groomed beyond everything, and are as
weary o' brush and currycomb as I am."

There was the same feeling through every room and
stall in Rodney. The gardeners and the dairy hands
echoed it ; even the hinds and shepherds felt that it
would be a relief to let their work fall down to a


lower level. The steady rain storm fitted this house
hold mood exactly. It kept away all visitors. It per
mitted every one to unbend, and so recover tone and

After a short rest Scotia took some work and went
to the parlor. The Colonel had just come down
stairs. Mrs. Rodney and he were talking of Scotia.
She knew it, even as she entered. They both looked
at her -with a smile. Her appearance refreshed them.
The life of the outer world was still about her ; the
wet vitality, the coolness, the newness and strength of
the salt winds, and the streaming showers. It was
like a long breath of life to come in contact with her ;
to catch the glow from her rosy face and the light
from her eyes, and the vivacity and buoyancy from her
air, and smiles, and speech.

In Mrs. Rodney's hand there was a letter ; and it
had, somehow, a fateful look. As Scotia kissed her,
she touched it, and said :

" I have been writing to your Aunt Yarrow. We
shall see what will come of it. Your father thinks
you ought to have a change, Scotia. He says Blair
has taken a great deal out of every one ; but I was
just telling Father that when I spoke to you before
about this visit, you declined my offer."

" It was different then, mother. Blair and Bertha
were just engaged. If I had left home people would
have said that I was disappointed jealous that I
took no interest in my sister's marriage or in the pre
parations for it. You can imagine all the spiteful,
cruel accusations that would have sprung from my

The Colonel looked sharply at Scotia ; for the first
time he realized that she had already suffered. And


there was that intelligent sympathy in his glance, that
swift comprehension of her prudence and forbearance,
which she felt to be an over-recompense for all her

" But now, as I have said, it is different. Blair is
away. Bertha will go into retirement until his return.
If my aunt is willing to receive me, I should like to
visit her. I am a little tired of the same horizon
every day."

" It is impossible to predict what my sister Jemima
will say, or do, in any case," said Mrs. Rodney, an
swering the Colonel's interrogative look. " And I
really know nothing at all of her domestic arrange
ments. I suppose, from the notices I have seen of
her movements, in the fashionable papers, that she
has wealth and position ; whether she has children I
know not."

" How could you let her drift so far away from your
life, mother ? "

" It was her wish to do so. I was in India, she in
England. We had ceased to speak to each other,
even while we lived in the same house. We never
thought of writing. For thirty-five years we have
had separate interests ; but for some time I have felt
the tie of blood tugging at my heart. I have in this
letter acknowledged my fault, and asked to be for
given. I have forgotterujher fault, and told her so.
Shall I send the letter ? Are you willing to abide by
its results? that is, are you willing, if she desires a
visit, to pay it under any circumstances ? "

" I am, mother."

" Then, Kinross, the letter shall go."

" I think it ought to go. It is only by movement
that any uncertainty can be made clear. Get Dr.


Chalmer's last volume of sermons, Scotia, and read
me one."

" Do you like them, Father? "

" There are single sentences in them, that thrill the
nerves and fill the eyes with tears."

" They are certainly very different from the dec
orous moral orations of the Rev. Mr. Blair."

" And yet Angus Bruce tells me that we cannot
judge what the spoken sentences were by the printed
page, which he likened to the locomotive with the fire
raked out and the steam gone. However, Scotia, you
are a good reader. Blair tried them, but he spluttered
the fine periods as if he was intoning Gaelic. Angus
Bruce has a different method."

" A minister ought to read well ;" said Mrs. Rodney,
with some sharpness. " It is a part of his business."

" And a very important part. It is said in Neh. viii,
89, that the people wept when they heard the words
of the Law ; but the preceding verse tells us that those
who read ' read them distinctly.' "

" Well, I do not want to hear Dr. Chalmers read
this afternoon. I must finish my letter, and send
Murdoch with it to the post. We should have an
answer in about three days."

Now letters, as well as people, have their fatalities.
Their messages are delayed ; they, are received in un
fortunate moods ; or they have an open way, and fall
into the hands for which they are destined in a good
hour. Mrs. Rodney's letter was written under pro
pitious influences. It had a speedy transit, and al
though the address had been taken from a notice in
an Edinburgh paper, it proved to be correct. On the
evening of the next day the postman carried it safely

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA sister to Esau → online text (page 8 of 23)