Copyright
Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A sister to Esau online

. (page 9 of 23)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA sister to Esau → online text (page 9 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


to the residence of Lady Jemima Yarrow.



LOVE AND CHANGE. 125

It was received by a mournful-looking young man
in a fine livery, and he loiteringly took it to Lady Yar
row. She was sitting alone in a large parlor, one of
the four which occupied the principal part of the floor.

It was handsomely but heavily furnished, in the
dreary fashion of our grandfathers no odds and ends
of color, or bits of useless beauty ; but solid, dark
woods and damask ; with great silver candelabra, and
Eastern vases, and bronze work. It was just between
the day and the dark, and she had laid down her
crotchet, and was sitting very still before the fire. She
took the letter without a word, and let it fall upon her
lap. Very likely if we knew all the wonderful ties,
physical and spiritual, between thoughts and personal
ities, we should understand how extremely likely and
natural it was, that she should be at that very moment
speculating about her long-forgotten sister. But as
Lady Yarrow had never heard of any theory of men
tal telegraphy, she attributed the coincidence at once
to Providential instruction, and she looked at the form
of address, " My dear Sister, " with a vaguely super
stitious regard.

The name " Rodney " had a singular interest for her,
and she rang impetuously for candles. Before the
dignified and deliberate servant had lighted the whole
number, and drawn the curtains, she had read the let
ter through. There was a red spot on her cheeks ;
her delicate hands, half-covered with black silk mit
tens, and splendidly ringed, held the bit of paper in a
trembling clasp. She turned to the man as he left the
room, and said with sharp authority, " Tell Mistress
Ann to come here as soon as possible."

Pending her arrival, she walked slowly up and down
the floor with the letter in her hands. She was a tall,



126 A SISTER TO ESAU.

thin woman, with a majestic carriage, and she was
very handsomely dressed in black satin and black lace,
and a great many gold ornaments. She watched the
door impatiently, and when she heard a well-known,
deliberate step, she went forward to meet the person
she had summoned.

" Come here, Ann. Come here, and sit down. I
have just had a wonderful letter. I feel as if it had
dropped from the clouds a letter from my sister."

" I ne'er heard tell before that you had a sister."

" I was sitting wondering whether I had one or
not, when Reuben handed me the letter from her.
And what think you, our son is her minister ; I am
very sure of it. Is he not placed at the kirk of Rod
ney Law ? "

"Just sae. Rodney Law, in Fife."

" Then sit down, woman, and let us give an hour to
simple wonder. My sister, it seems, has married the
laird of Rodney. Woman, I was ignorant of her very
name. I heard she had married a cavalry officer, and
gone with him to India ; and I thought it was young
Carstairs. So it seems the lad we quarreled about
neither of us got. Well, I am glad of that ! Maybe,
though, Rodney is a second husband."

" It seems a strange thing to have lost your ain sis
ter sae completely. Death couldna have been mair
oblivious."

" Death would have put Dorinda in one of the two
places, Ann ; and I could, in a fashion, have localized
her. But wandering about in India, or wherever army
orders sent her, was beyond my care or ability. We
have not made a bow to each other, nor spoken, even
an ill word, for thirty-five years ! that is a genera
tion syne."



LOVE AND CHANGE. 127

" 111 words would hae been better than nae words ;
for ill words may bring good words ; but from silence
what can come? "

" Forgetfulness. Let me tell you, though, when I
heard first of Rodney Law, and of our son going
there, I had a queer feeling, as if I knew the place. I
must, in some bygone time, have heard the name of
Rodney. Dear me, Ann ! How much the soul knows
if it could only speak plain. We might act more wise
like, if it could."

" Not we ! There are times we wad tak' our ain
wills and our ain ways, though ane from the dead
rose to forbid us. This letter is as the voice of ane
from the dead, are you going to heed it ? Is it kind-
like and kin-like ? "

" Listen :

DEAR SISTER:

We have been silent long enough to have forgiven and forgotten
our ill-feeling. Let us be friends and sisters, as we ought to be.
My husband inherited Rodney some years since, and my daughter
Bertha is to marry the next heir, in the spring. I have only one
other child. I have told her about you, and she wishes to pay you
a visit. Let her innocence and good- will make a way between us.
Dear Jemima, I await your answer, and am your affectionate sis
ter,

DORINDA RODNEY."

" That is a good letter. Now, then, dinna think awa'
and reason awa' every good and kind thought tha'
comes knocking at your heart. Send for the lassie. She
is your ain flesh and blood, and I'll warrant, she's bon-
nie and pleasant. It will do you a sight o* good, to
hae ane o' your ain family by your side. You never
could abide thae Yarrows."

" And she will tell us all about Angus. We shall



128 A SISTER TO ESAU.

hear the truth from her, if so be she doesna dislike
him."

" Dislike him ! How could that be possible ! There
is naething to dislike about our Angus. She'll be
hearing him preach, onyway, every Sabbath ; for kirk-
going is as sure as sun-rising."

" Yes, it is a social habit as well as a religious duty
in Scotland. Well, then, I shall answer my sister's let
ter, and send for this one child, who is not going to
be married. I have no doubt she will keep our ears
tingling."

" If she says aught wrang of our Angus, she will
find hersel' in a good atmosphere o' contradiction.
Wha are the Rodneys, I wonder ? "

" I know not. Some old Fife family, doubtless.
The present laird will be setting himself up for the
999th cousin to Noah, I'll warrant. All Fifers are as
old as the deluge, or a little older. Let me have a cup
of tea, Ann ; and you may lace it with a spoonful of
French brandy. I am fair upset with finding so many
kin-folk in a bit of paper. To think of postmen, hav
ing a pound a week, and carrying around messages
that God himself may have sent ; and will have to
guide to weel or woe, or life or death. It is fearsome,
Ann ! "

She sat down solemnly with the letter in her hand,
and began to think over her answer. She was eight
years older than her sister Dorinda, and a woman of
much stronger character, and more decided feelings.
Her memories, unfortunately, had no home flavor to
sweeten them. The two girls had been left orphans
when very young, and they had spent their girlhood
in some fashionable school together. Yet the differ
ence in their age had for long made Jemima exercise



LOVE AND CHANGE. 129

a motherly care and authority over her younger sister,
and they were very fond of each other until a lover
came, whom both girls believed to be entirely her
own. Jemima accused Dorinda of cruel duplicity, in
order to gain her lover; and she still believed she had
been guilty. She forced herself to recall that dread
ful day, which they had passed in mutual recrimina
tions ; and the sudden resolve of each never again to
speak to the other.

After it, they had gone their own ways without re
gret and without recall. For no family tie is so
variable as that of sisterhood. Where it is strong and
real, it is as vital as the cord of life, with which it is
indeed strongly bound. Where it is weak and false,
it is a cobweb for any touch of fate to knot, or shrivel,
or break in two.

Lady Yarrow's thoughts did not all turn kindly
backward ; the red spot on her cheeks grew more
vivid at some memories ; her eyes were introspective
and somber ; she often rose and walked nervously
about the room. There were moments when she gave
the letter that look which we give to things which
trouble our peace. But she knew from the first that
she would give way to Dorinda's wish ; the real point
at issue was the manner in which it should be done.
She knew that she ought to meet Dorinda with that
noble oblivion, which disdains any allusion to the
past ; but this was just the very thing she disliked to
do. If she could tell her sister all her faults, one by
one, it might be easy to forgive them, one by one.
But this general amnesty, that neither allowed her to
show how grievously she had been wronged, nor yet
made shiningly clear how much she had forgiven, did
not seem tair to herself-



130 A SISTER TO ESAU.

" Of course, Ann wanted her to write sweetly to
Dorinda. Ann wanted to hear about Angus. Ann
would welcome any foe, living or dead, who brought
her a word about Angus. And Ann had not been
slandered to the only man she ever loved, robbed of
her life's happiness, all her fate twisted and turned,
by a faithless sister. Even if she had, Ann was made
of more clay and less spirit than herself. She found
it easier and more comfortable to forgive than to carry
a covered-up-fire in her heart."

Lady Yarrow could not put such reflections out of
her consideration. She was also curious and inter
ested about her sister and brother-in-law, and her two
nieces. After all, they were the only kindred she had.
As for the Yarrows, they were mere connections by
marriage; they were alien to her family; she did not feel
any care or liking for them ; she never admitted they
had any claim upon her. She said audibly to herself :
"What if I did marry a Yarrow ? I did not marry all
the Yarrows. Dorinda's girls are different. They
are my nieces. Lord Yarrow's nieces are not a blood-
drop to me. And I shall hear about Angus Bruce,
doubtless. I want to have some outside opinion,
Ann, of course, glorifies him and magnifies his pro
fession. He is immaculate, in her eyes. I am not so
blind. If I leave him money, I must know that he is
likely to use it well. I do not believe that the red
coat of a soldier, or the black coat of a priest covers
every excellency. I think I will write to Dorinda
now let me see "

She went to her desk and took from it some em
blazoned paper and a quill pen whose feathers had
been tipped with gold. For a few minutes she stood
by the fender trimming the point to perfection ; then



LOVE AND CHANGE. 131

she resolutely sat down, and wrote in a large, rapid
hand :

MY DEAR DORINDA :

Your letter was a good surprise, and when women are as old
as we are [Dorinda was always sensitive about being eight years
younger than me] such surprises are rare enough, God knows ! I
had always thought you married Carstairs, and the name of " Rod
ney" is not known to me [I am not going to pamper the Rodney
pride], but I am very glad to find you are in Fife. The gulf between
us is long enough, and wide enough, and this hour I have buried
all my wrongs in it forever. [I am not going to let her think I
had forgotten I had wrongs]. For, dear Dorinda, we are too near
the grave to nurse anger. It would be an ill companion in the hour
of death [Dorinda always hated to hear of death]. So send your
daughter at once. I will give her a loving welcome. Once more,
Yours affectionately,

JEMIMA YARROW.

This letter arrived at Rodney on the morning of
the third day after Mrs. Rodney had written her sister.
The storm was over, the world had awakened in sun
shine. Its freshness and beauty was something to sing
about. The birds were singing about it on every
tree the birds who are our priests, and who chant
for us our morning benedictions and our evening
psalms. Scotia was out to hear them, and a flock of
robins flew singing all around her.

" That is a fortunate sign," she said. " The birds
know I am going away, and they approve the journey.
I dare say there is a letter from Aunt Yarrow. I hope
there is, for father is right ; I do want a change."

When she went home the letter was there, and Mrs.
Rodney was in the Colonel's room discussing it. " A
very good, kind letter," said the Colonel, who accepted
words at their face value. Mrs. Rodney drew her
lips into a sideway dissent, but did not voice it. She



I3 2 A SISTER TO ESAU.

felt the spirit in which it had been written, for letters
have as much their own atmosphere as persons or as
flowers have. There are those whom it is impossible
to deceive by written words ; the words retain the
animus of their evoking, and the soul of the receiver
is sensitive to it. Mrs. Rodney had something of this
perception, and she understood the underlying feeling
beneath the smooth sentences. " Jemima has not
quite forgiven ; " she thought, " but the semblance of
good-will may bring good-will, and it is for Scotia's
good to believe in it."

She therefore echoed the Colonel's opinion, and
accepted with such flattering haste as was possible
the extended sceptre of Jemima's favor. It was then
Friday, and Lady Yarrow was informed that Scotia
would be in Edinburgh on the following Wednesday.
Scotia had really a pleasant excitement about the visit,
and Mrs. Rodney gave her mind entirely to the prep
aration of her daughter for it. Bertha's affairs were,
for the time being, forgotten ; it was Scotia's dresses,
and laces, and jewelry, which occupied every one's
attention. Even the Colonel was anxious on the sub
ject. He wished his darling to have every advantage
that fine raiment and radiant jewels could give her.

Bertha felt this withdrawal of interest from her con
cerns, but she accepted it with a sweet resignation.
Nobody knew, however, what heart-burnings this
attention to Scotia gave her nobody, but Blair. To
him she poured out her selfish little soul in a way
which would have shocked her friends beyond speech,
had they been aware of it.

" People do things for me," she complained, " as if
they were forced to do them ; and yet, Blair, my dear
one, the whole house is a willing slave for Scotia-



LOVE AND CHANGE. 133

You would think that no one ever went on a visit
before. Such washing, and clear starching, and crimp
ing, you never saw ! Mother has given Scotia a great
deal of her finest lace, especially one bertha I had set
my heart on having ; also her set of Indian rubies ;
and she has beside loaned her several diamond orna
ments. And I suppose the loan will be permanent.
As the first bride in the family, I looked upon these
things as naturally mine. I am sure, too, that Father
has permitted Scotia unrestricted credit at his Edin
burgh banker's. I heard him tell her to let no one in
her own station out-dress her. He said he could trust
her with the name of Rodney, even in the matter of
dress ; and a great deal more of the same talk."
Every night the selfish little bride relieved herself
of the day's tribulations, in some such complaining
epistle to her betrothed.

But the days were not many, and they went rapidly
away. Scotia was as busy, and full of happy excite
ment, as a young girl may lawfully be who is going to
make her first flight into the world ; and to whom the
world opens up in charming vistas of new relations,
and new scenes, and new pleasures. She had but one
anxiety. It regarded Angus Bruce. Surely he had
heard of her intended journey ; yet Friday night did
not bring him to Rodney, nor Saturday either. Then
came the Sabbath, and she knew Angus would not
permit himself a thought beyond his duties on that
day. He did not even glance into their pew. He
never lifted his eyes when she came up the aisle.
" Monday ; " she thought, " will certainly bring him."
But Monday passed without a sign from the minister.
" He is angry at me for going into society, I suppose.
He imagines I shall do nothing but dance, and dress,



134 A SISTER TO ESAU.

and eat fine dinners, and go shopping, and talk scan
dal. He might know me better. It is a great offense
not to be trusted, and I will think no more of Angus
Bruce."

But she could have as easily separated herself from
herself as from Angus Bruce. He was in all her
thoughts. When Tuesday passed without a visit from
him, she was miserable.

" The minister ought to come and give me some
good advice ; " she said with a forced laugh. "Am
I to go into the world and the temptations thereof,
without any warnings ? "

When she had quite given up all hope of his visit,
she saw him coming through the garden with her
father. They were strolling slowly amid the bare
shrubbery, and their dark figures had melancholy
aspects in the gray twilight that were very impressive.
She was aware that the steward was waiting for the
Colonel's return, and she feared that when her father
went away with him, Angus Bruce would go back to
the village. Yet she could not bring herself to go to
the door and meet him. Surely love might teach him
something. If love did not give him a new intelli
gence, she could not supplement what he ought to
understand intuitively.

With one sandaled foot upon the fender, she stood
in the glow of the fire-light, waiting in sick anxiety
for what the next few moments would bring her. She
heard a quick step approaching ; her heart beat to
it ; she heard the door open and close, and she knew
who had entered ; but she kept her thoughtful, still
attitude, and did not lift her eyes till Bruce was at her
side.

" I feared you were not coming." The words were



LOVE AND CHANGE. 135

true words. They rang softly, with inflections of
loving reproach.

" How could you doubt me ? Scotia Rodney, lift
your face to mine. Dearest woman on earth, let me
look at you, while I venture at last to say, I love you !
I love you with all my heart and soul ! You have the
full measure of all the love in my nature. I have
loved no other woman ! I never shall love any other !
For time and eternity you are mine, or I am alone
forever. Scotia ! Scotia."

He stood with outstretched arms ; his face was
luminous ; his eyes were dilated with rapture ; he was
simply irresistible to the girl who loved him. For he
had been taken possession of by a spirit, vivid as
flame, and pure as heaven. His hands, his eyes, his
handsome face, his erect figure, and miraculous
powers ; they drew her, as magnets draw.

She had no will but his will. The words he wished
her to say, he put into her heart. She lifted her rosy
face, she gave him the salutation of her eyes, she in
clined her heart and body toward him ; she said
sweetly and clearly, without a shadow of conventional
hesitation, " Angus ! you know that I love you ! "

Yes, he knew she loved him. The words were
transformed into a kiss, as she uttered them. They
clasped hands, and walked together in the red fire
light, as if they were in a new world. There never
had been such glory of sunlight as was in their hearts.
Mortal man and woman had never sung such songs of
joy as they sang together, in broken words, and long
fond looks, and still more perfect silence.

The heavenly trance was broken by the entrance of
Bertha. " Dear me ! " she said, " I had no idea you
had company, Scotia. I was coming to tell you



13 A SISTER TO ESAU.

mother's headache is so bad she will not come down
stairs to-night. I hope I do not intrude ;" and with a
little laugh, and a pretty movement of her body, she
went away with the air of one who had committed an
indiscretion, and been made to feel it.

" What a good thing I had not sealed my letter !
I must tell Blair about this new affair. I am sure
Angus Bruce was making love to Scotia and Scotia
liked it. Fancy Scotia a minister's wife ! Our min
ister's wife ! Blair, his patron ! " She went slowly
back to her room, speculating on this fresh subject.
She added a postscript to her letter, and then she
resolved to go back to the parlor. The Exercise was
excuse enough. It was quite time for it. She had a
right to suppose she was wanted there.

Yet she said sweetly as she entered " Shall I be
in the way ? No ? I am so glad. Mother is quite
sick. I am uneasy about her. She has tired herself
out the last few days."

" You had better say the last few months, Bertha."

"Months, then. Where is Father? I thought it
was time for the Exercise. Were you telling any
secrets? Have I spoiled fun ? "

" Oh, no ! " answered Scotia. Angus sat silent,
intensely happy, and yet annoyed and disturbed at
Bertha's interruption ; for he was just telling Scotia
how he had felt himself bound until that very night
by his promise to leave Blair Rodney the freest pos
sible choice. " But as I walked with the Colonel an
hour ago, he told me that Blair had chosen ; he
thanked me for my forbearance, and when I said I
had somewhat to say to Miss Rodney, he answered,
' You have a right, sir, to say whatever is proper for
Miss Rodney to hear ! ' I am sure he understood that



LOVE AND CHANGE. 137

I loved you, Scotia, and that I intended to tell you
so."

It was at this point Bertha entered the room, and
all further confidence was arrested. For in a few
minutes the Colonel and his household joined them,
and the Exercise and the supper came in their due
course ; and after it, the parting words. Bertha was
determined to hear them. She kept close to Scotia's
side, and she was unusually effusive to the minister.

She thought she heard all that was said. She
heard nothing ; and yet everything was said. It is a
clumsy lover that cannot speak with shut lips. Scotia
was quite satisfied with her lover's "adieu f" It went
to her heart by a more direct road than through the
winding ear-path.

She was now ready for her journey. It began very
early in the morning, and it did not end until the
shadows of evening were falling across the dark,
stately-looking Yarrow House. Scotia regarded it
with interest and without fear. And as she did so,
the wide doors were flung open, and she saw advanc
ing through the brilliantly lighted hall, an old lady
very magnificently dressed.

She put out her hands to clasp Scotia's hands, she
looked at her with kind curiosity, she said pleasantly :
" My dear, you are very welcome ! What is your
name?"

And Scotia, bending her beautiful head, answered
with a smile, " My name is Scotia ! "



IX.

ANGUS BRUCE DECIDES.

But here they found a fervid race

Whose sternly-glowing piety
Scorned paper laws. Their free-bred souls

Went not with priests to school,
To trim the tippet and the stole,

And pray by printed rule.
But they would cast the eager word

From their heart's fiery core ;
Smoking and red, as God had stirred

The Hebrew men of yore.

Blackie.

" "\ 1 7HAT think you of our new niece, Ann ? "

* "I think she is a good lassie, and a beauty;
and as our son was born wi' eyes in his head, he has
doubtless found it out."

" Ah, Ann, what a grand thing youth is ! And yet
the remembrance of it leaves a sigh. She reminds
me of a Jemima Yarrow, long dead and forgotten, and
I look at her and sigh for myself."

" Yes, yes ! It is aye the past, and the future, we
set store by ; the poor, ill-used present is naething to
us ; and yet it brings us handfuls o' blessings."

" Do not preach, Ann. Leave that to our son. One
preacher in a family is enough."

" She kens weel how to dress hersel'. She maist
took my breath from me when she came down the

138



ANGUS BRUCE DECIDES. 139

oak stairway in that floating garment o' white tulle,
wi' the silvery stars shot through it."

"And the pale azure foundation that was my
thought. Scotia is well aware that a woman is the
least part of herself. I thank my stars "

" You hae God to thank, Lady Jemima, and the
stars are na yours to swear by."

" You are preaching again, Ann. It is well seen
where our son gets his pulpit taste. I have asked
Scotia all about her own people, and about the Cu-
pars, and others whose names and connections I hap
pen to know, and we have talked of this, that, and the
other, but never a word came out of her mouth about
Angus Bruce. It is very suspicious. Sometimes she
is very quiet. I believe the girl has a secret trouble."

" Man and woman mair than man is born to trou
ble. There is nae happiness here below."

" Nonsense, Ann ! It is a sour philosophy that
asserts man never is, but always to be, blest. I was
once in love, and very near in paradise ; " and the
old lady smiled and sighed, and straightened her mit
tens, and turned her rings around to memories that
sent a flood of rose color into her cheeks.

This conversation occurred on the evening of the
third day of Scotia's stay with her aunt, and it was
interrupted by her entrance. She came in with her
work-basket in her hand, and Lady Yarrow nodded
approval of her industry. Ann was already seated
at the table, hemstitching some cambric for Lady
Yarrow's morning gowns ; and the atmosphere of the
fine room, filled with fire and candle-light, was ex
ceedingly calm and cheerful, and conducive to sympa
thetic companionship.

Scotia had fallen readily into the ways of a house-


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA sister to Esau → online text (page 9 of 23)