Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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as with perfect grace she carried him, scarcely
conscious of his weight, especially when he
nestled his face against her own.

She went directly to her father s store. It
was nearly noon when she arrived there, and it
was empty. Only Snorro stood beside the great
peat fire. He saw Margaret enter, and he
placed a chair for her in the warmest corner.
Then he said, " Give me little Jan, and I will
hold him for thee." She put the boy in his
arms and watched him a moment as he shook
the snow from his cap and coat ; then she said :
" Tell my father I want to speak to him."

Peter came somewhat reluctantly. He knew
the conversation had to be gone through, but
he felt as if Margaret had him at a disadvan
tage in the store. Snorro was present, and
strangers might at any moment come in, and
hurry him into an unwise concession. He
was angry at Margaret, also, for her behav-


ior on the previous night, and it was not in any
amiable mood he approached her.

" Father, wilt thou have my house put in
order for me? I want to go back to it."

"Yes, I will ; soon."

" How soon, then?

" I can not be hurried. There is no glass left
in it, and there are many things to repair
besides. It will take time and money, a good
deal of money, more than I can well afford at
present. I have had many expenses lately."

" Dost thou then mean that I must live with
Suneva? No, I will not do that. I will go into
the house without windows. Snorro will patch
up the best ones, and board up the others."

"Snorro! Snorro, indeed ! When was Snorro
thy servant? As for Suneva, she is as good as
thou art. Am I made of money to keep two
houses going? "

" I will not ask thee for a penny."

" Thou wilt make a martyr of thyself, and set
the town talking of me and of Suneva. No,
thou shalt not do such a thing. Go home and
behave thyself, and no one will say wrong to

" I will not live with Suneva. If thou wilt


not make a house habitable for me, then I will
hire a man to do it."

" Thou wilt not dare. When it seems right
to me, I will do it. Wait thou my time."

" I can not wait. So then I will hire John

Hay s empty cottage. It will do, poor as

. >
it is.

" If thou dost, I will never speak to thee nor
to thine again. I will not give thee nor thy
child a shilling, whether I be living or dead."

" What shall I do ? Oh, what shall I do ?" And
Margaret wrung her hands helplessly, and burst
into passionate weeping.

" Do ? Go home, and be thankful for thy
home. What would thou do in a Shetland
hut, alone, at the beginning of winter? And I
will not have thee come crying here. Mind
that ! Take thy child and go home ; go at


" Thou might have told me ! Thou might !
It was a cruel thing to take me unawares ; at
a moment "

" And if I had told thee, what then ? Tears
and complaints, and endless wants. I had no
mind to be tormented as thou tormented thy


That was a needlessly cruel taunt, and Peter
was ashamed of it as soon as uttered. But all
the same he turned away in anger, and two men
coming in at the moment, he went with them
to the other end of the store.

Snorro had held 4< little Jan " during the inter
view. The fresh air and the heat had over
powered the child, and he had fallen asleep.
He lay in Snorro s arms, a beautiful, innocent
miniature of the man he loved so dearly.
Watching the sleeping face, he had seemed
unconscious of what passed between Peter and
his daughter, but in reality he had heard every
word. When Peter turned away he watched
Margaret put on her baby s cap and coat, and
then as she rose with it folded in her arms, he
said, " Let me see him again."

" Kiss him, Snorro, for thou loved rus father."

He stooped and kissed the boy, and then
glanced into Margaret s face. Her tears, her
pallor, her air of hopeless suffering went straight
to his heart. After all she was Jan s wife. He
felt a great pity for her, and perhaps Margaret
divined it, for she said timidly, "Snorro, can
thou mend the windows in the old house thd
house where I lived with Jan?"


" Yes, I can."

" Wilt thou ask my father if thou may do it ?

" I will do it. Have thou patience, Margaret
Vedder. It would be a sin if thou made the
child suffer."

" Dost thou think I would ? Little does thou
know of a mother s heart."

" Snorro !

It was Peter calling, and calling angrily ;
but ere Snorro answered the summons he went
with Margaret to the door, and as he opened it y
said, " If I can help thee, for Jan s sake I am
on thy side."

Very hard and bitter and cold was the walk
homeward. The snow fell thick and fast, and
she was tired and faint when she reached the
house. Never had its warmth and comfort
seemed so good to her. How could she feet
kindly to the woman who had robbed her and
her child of their right in it ? Every one must
have noticed that when they are in trouble, the
weather is usually their enemy. A very long
and severe snow-storm followed Margaret s
useless effort. She had perforce to sit still, and
for " little Jan s " sake be grateful for the warmth
and shelter given her.


"Little Jan Snorro had unconsciously
named the child. Several attempts had been
made to do so, but somehow all had hitherto
failed. At first " Peter " had been thought of ;
but Peter Fae had not taken kindly to a Peter
Vedder, and the name after a few half-hearted
utterances had been dropped. Thora had
longed to call him " Willie, " but at her death
the scarcely recognized name was given up,
But Snorro s tender, positive " little Jan " had
settled the matter in Margaret s mind. Hence
forward the boy w r as to be called by his father s
name, and she cared not whether it were liked
or not.

To Margaret the winter passed drearily away.
She refused to have any part in Suneva s hospi
talities, though the " Fae House " became dur
ing it as famous for its gayety, as it had been in
Thora s time for its quiet and seclusion. Suneva
had no idea of being the mistress of a shut up
house. She was proud of her large rooms and
fine furniture, and anxious to exhibit them.
Besides which, she was in her element as host
ess of the cozy tea-party or the merry dance.

Fortunately for her peaceful success, Peter
discovered that he had the same taste. It had

S WEE 7 1 HOME. 209

lain dormant and undeveloped during his
struggle for wealth, and in the quiet content
of Thora s atmosphere ; but every circumstance
now favored its growth, and he became quite
as proud of his name as a generous and splen
did host, as he was of his character as a keen
and successful trader.

He was still a handsome man, fresh and
active, carrying his fifty-eight years with all the
dignity of conscious independence and assured
position. It was Suneva s great pride that she
had induced him to wear the fine cloth and velvet
and linen suitable to his wealth. She flattered
him into many an extravagance ; she persuaded
him that no one in the Islands could recite as
well, or dance with more activity and grace.
Under her influence Peter renewed his youth
and enjoyed it. Margaret often heard them
planning some entertainment, and laughing
over it, with all the zest of twenty years.

To her, their whole life seemed an outrage.
She could not imagine how her father could
bear to put aside so completely his old habits
and memories. It wounded her to see him
going off with a joke and a kiss to the store in
the morning ; and hurrying back at night, a*


eager as a boy-bridegroom for the company of
his handsome wife and her gay friends. It may
easily be understood that even if Margaret had
countenanced Suneva s festivities by her pres
ence at them, she would have been only a silent
and a reproachful guest.

It is but fair to say that Suneva gave to her
absence the best and kindest excuse. " Poor
Margaret! " she said pitifully, "she weeps con
stantly for her husband. Few wives are as

Suneva had indeed taken Thora s place with
a full determination to be just and kind to
Thora s daughter. She intended, now that for
tune had placed her above her old rival, to
treat her with respect and consideration.
Suneva was capable of great generosities, and
if Margaret had had the prudence and forbear
ance to accept the peace offered, she might have
won whatever she desired through the influence
of her child, for whom Suneva conceived a very
strong attachment.

But this was just the point which Margaret
defended with an almost insane jealousy. She
saw that little Jan clung to Suneva, that he
liked to be with her, that he often cried in the


solitude of her room to go down stairs, where
he knew he would have sweetmeats, and pet
ting, and company, and his own way. If ever
she was cross to the boy, it was on this subject.
She would not even be bribed by Suneva smost
diplomatic services in his behalf. "Let Jan
come where his grandfather is, Margaret," she
pleaded. " It will be for his good ; I tell thee
it will. I have already persuaded him that the
boy has his eyes, and his figure, and when he
was in a passion the other night, and thy father
was like to be cross with him, I said, It is a
nice thing to see Satan correcting sin, for the
child has thy own quick temper, Peter/ and thy
father laughed and pulled little Jan to his side,
and gave him the lump of sugar he wanted."

"The boy is all thou hast left me. Would
thou take him also? " Margaret answered with
angry eyes. " His mother s company is good
enough for him."

So all winter the hardly-admitted strife went
on. Suneva pitied the child. She waylaid him
and gave him sweetmeats and kisses. She im
agined that he daily grew more pale and quiet.
And Margaret, suspicious and watchful, dis
covered much, and imagined more. She was


determined to go away from Suneva as soon as
the spring opened, but she had come to the
conclusion that she must look after her house
herself, for though Snorro had promised to make
it habitable, evidently he had been unable to
do so, or he would have contrived to let her

One day in the latter part of April, all nature
suddenly seemed to awake. The winter was
nearly over. Margaret heard the larks singing in
the clear sunshine. Little Jan had fallen asleep
and might remain so for a couple of hours.
She put on her cloak and bonnet, and went to
see how far Snorro had been able to keep his
word. Things were much better than she had
hoped for. Nearly all of the windows had
been reglazed, the gate was hung, and the
accumulated drift of two years in the yard
cleared away.

With lighter spirits, and a firm determination
in her heart, she walked swiftly back to her
child. When she entered the door she heard
his merry laugh in Suneva s parlor. He was
standing on her knee, singing after her some
lines of a fisherman s " Casting Song," swaying
backwards and forwards, first on one foot and


then on the other, to the melody. Suneva was
so interested in the boy, that, for a moment,
she did not notice the pale, angry woman
approaching her. When she did, her first
thought was conciliation. " I heard him cry
ing, Margaret ; and as I knew thou wert out,
I went for him. He is a merry little fellow, he
hath kept me laughing."

" Come here, Jan ! In her anger, she
grasped the child s arm roughly, and he cried
out, and clung to Suneva.

Then Margaret s temper mastered her as it
had never done before in her life. She struck
the child over and over again, and, amid its
cries of pain and fright, she said some words to
Suneva full of bitterness and contempt.

" Thee love thy child ! " cried Suneva in a
passion, " not thou, indeed ! Thou loves no
earthly thing but thyself. Every day the poor
baby suffers for thy bad temper even as his
father did."

" Speak thou not of his father thou, who
first tempted him away from his home and his

" When thou says such a thing as that, then
thou lies ; I tempted him not. I was sorry for


him, as was every man and woman in Lerwick.
Poor Jan Vedder !

" I told thee not to speak of my husband/

" Thy husband ! cried Suneva scornfully.
" Where is he ? Thou may well turn pale.
Good for thee is it that the Troll Rock hasn t
a tongue ! Thou cruel woman ! I wonder at
myself that I have borne with thee so long.
Thou ought to be made to tell what thou did
with Jan Vedder!

" What art thou saying? What dost thou
mean ? I will not listen to thee -and she
lifted the weeping child in her arms, and turned
to go.

" But at last thou shalt listen. I have spared
thee long enough. Where is Jan Vedder?
Thou knows and thou only ; and that is what
every one says of thee. Is he at the bottom
of the Troll Rock? And who pushed him
over ? Answer that, Margaret Vedder !

Suneva, in her passion, almost shrieked out
these inquiries. Her anger was so violent, that
it silenced her opponent. But no words could
have interpreted the horror and anguish in
Margaret s face, v/hen she realized the meaning
of Suneva s questions. The sudden storm


ended m tjie liiJl which follows recrimination.
Suneva sat fuming and muttering to herself ;
Margaret, in her room, paced up and down, the
very image of despairing shame and sorrow.
When her father returned she knew Suneva
would tell him all that had transpired. To face
them both was a trial beyond her strength. She
looked at her child softly sobbing on the -bed
beside her, and her heart melted at the injustice
she had done him. But she felt that she must
take him away from Suneva, or he would be
stolen from her ; worse than stolen, he would
be made to regard her as a terror and a tyrant.

She heard the clatter of the tea-cups and the
hum of conversation, and knew that her father
was at home. As soon as he had finished his
tea, she would probably be summoned to his
presence. It had grown dark and a rain-storm
was corning ; nevertheless she dressed herself
and little Jan, and quietly went out of the
house. Peter and Suneva were discussing the
quarrel over their tea ; the servants sat spin
ning by the kitchen fire, doing the same. She
only glanced at them, and then she hastened
toward the town as fast as she could.

Snorro was sitting at the store-fire, a little


pot of tea, a barley cake, and a broiled herring
by his side. He was thinking of Jan, and lo !
a knock at the door just such a knock as Jan
always gave. His heart bounded with hope ;
before he thought of possibilities he had
opened it. Not Jan, but Jan s wife and child,
and both of them weeping. He said not a
word, but he took Margaret s hand and led her
to the fire. Her cloak and hood were dripping
with the rain, and he removed and shook them.
Then he lifted the child in his arms and gave
1 im some tea, and soon soothed his trouble
a nd dried his tears.

Margaret sobbed and wept with a passion
that alarmed him. He had thought at first
that he would not interfere, but his tender
heart could not long endure such evident dis
tress without an effort to give comfort.

" What is the matter with thee, Margaret
Vedder ? and why art thou and thy child
here ? "

" We have nowhere else to go to-night,
Snorro." Then Margaret told him everything.

He listened in silence, making no comments,
asking no questions, until she finished in another
burst of anguish, as she told him of Suneva s


accusation. Then he said gravely : " It is a
shame. Drink this cup of tea, and then we will
go to the minister. He only can guide the
boat in this storm."

" I can not go there, Snorro. I have been
almost rude and indifferent to him. Three
times he has written to me concerning my
duty ; many times he has talked to me about
it. Now he will say, Thou hast reaped the
harvest thou sowed, Margaret Vedder.

" He will say no unkind word to thee. I
tell thee thou must go. There is none else
that can help thee. Go for little Jan s sake.
Wrap the boy up warm. Come."

She was weeping and weary, but Snorro took

her to the manse, carrying little Jan under his
own coat. Margaret shrank from an interview

with Dr. Balloch, but she had no need. He
was not a man to bruise the broken reed ; no
sooner did he cast his eyes upon the forlorn
woman than he understood something of the
crisis that had brought her to him for advice
and protection.

He took them into his cheerful parlor, and
sent their wet clothing to the kitchen to be
dried. Then he said : " Snorro, now thou go


and help Hamish to make us a good sapper.
It is ill facing trouble on an empty stomach.
And light a fire, Snorro, in the room up stairs ;
thou knowest which room ; for Margaret and
her son will have to sleep there. And after
that, thou stop with Hamish, for it will be
better so."

There were no reproofs now on the good
doctor s lips. He never reminded Margaret
how often he had striven to win her confidence
and to lead her to the only source of comfort
for the desolate and broken-hearted. First of
all, he made her eat, and dry and warm herself ;
then he drew from her the story of her grief
and wrongs.

" Thou must have thy own home, Margaret
that is evident," he said ; "and as for Suneva, I
will see to her in the morning. Thou art inno
cent of thy husband s death, I will make her to
know that. Alas! how many are there, who if
they can not wound upon proof, will upon
likelihood ! Now there is a room ready for
thee, and thou must stay here, until this matter
is settled for thee."

It seemed a very haven of rest to Margaret
She went to it gratefully, and very soon fell


into that deep slumber which in youth follows
great emotions. When she awoke the fire had
been re-built, and little Jan s bread and milk
stood beside it. It was a dark, dripping morn,
ing; the rain smote the windows in sudden
gusts, and the wind wailed drearily around the
house. But in spite of the depressing outside
influences, her heart was lighter than it had
been for many a day. She felt as those feel
" who have escaped ; and she dressed and fed
her child with a grateful heart.

When she went down stairs she found that,
early as it was, the doctor had gone to her
father s house ; and she understood that this
visit was made in order to see him where con
versation would not be interrupted by the
entrance of buyers and sellers.

Dr. Balloch found Peter sitting at breakfast
with Suneva, in his usual cheerful, self-com
placent mood. In fact, he knew nothing of
Margaret s flight from his house. She rarely
left her boy to join the tea-table ; she never
appeared at the early breakfast. Her absence
was satisfactory to both parties, and had long
ceased to call forth either protest or remark.
So neither of them were aware of the step she


had taken, and the minister s early visit did not
connect itself with her, until he said gravely to
Peter,"Dost thou know where thy daughter is ? "

" She hath not left her room yet, " answered
Suneva ; " she sleeps late for the child s sake."

" She hath left thy house, Peter. Last night
I gave her and the child shelter from the

Peter rose in a great passion : " Then she can
stay away from my house. Here she comes
back no more."

" I think that, too. It is better she should
not come back. But now thou must see that
her own home is got ready for her, and that

"What home?"

" The house thou gave her at her marriage."

" I gave her no house. She had the use of
it. The title deeds never left my hands."

" Then more shame to thee. Did thou not
boast to every one, that thou had given the
house and the plenishing? No title deeds,
no lawyer s paper, can make the house more
Margaret Vedder s than thy own words have
done. Thou wilt not dare to break thy promise,
thou, who ate the Bread of Remembrance only


last Sabbath Day. Begin this very nour to put
the house in order, and then put the written
right to it in her hands. Any hour thou may
be called to give an account ; leave the matte*
beyond disputing."

" It will take a week to glaze and clean it. 1 "
" It is glazed and cleaned. Michael Snorro
brought the sashes one by one to the store, and
glazed them, when he had done his work at
night. He hath also mended the plaster, and
kept a fire in the house to dry it ; and he hath
cleaned the yard and re-hung the gate. Begin
thou at once to move back again the furniture.
It never ought to have been removed, and I
told thee that at the time. Thou knowest also
what promises thou made me, and I will see
that thou keep them every one, Peter Fae.
Yes, indeed, I will!"

" It is too wet to move furniture."
" The rain will be over at the noon. Until
then thy men can carry peats and groceries, and
such store of dried meats as will be necessary."
44 Peter/ said Suneva indignantly, " I counsel
thee to do nothing in a hurry."

Dr. Balloch answered her, " I counsel thee,
Mistress Fae, to keep well the door of thy


mouth. It is no light thing to make the
charges thou hast made against an innocent


" I asked her how JanVedder got his death?
Let her tell that/

" I might ask thee how Paul Glumm got his
death ! Listen now, and I will show thee what
a great thing may come from one foul sus
picion. Thou married Paul Glumm, and it is
well known he and thee were not always in
the same mind, for thou loved company and he
loved quiet. Then Glumm took thee to the
Skoolfiord, where there were none at the station
but thee and he. Thou knowest how thou
rebelled at that, and how often thou could be
found in thy father s house. Suddenly Glumm
takes a sickness, and when a doctor sees him
there is little hope, and after three days he dies.
Then thou art back at Lerwick again, quick
enough, and in a few weeks thou hast plenty of
lovers. Now, then, how easy to say, Glumm s
death was a very strange affair ! Such a
strong young man ! Did his wife know any
thing about it ? Did she send for a doctor
as soon as might be ? i Did she give him the
medicine the doctor left ? * Was she not very


glad when she was free again? Mistress Fae,
I say not these things were so, or were even
said, I am only trying to show thee how easy
it is out of nothing at all to make up a very
suspicious case. But come, Peter, there is duty
to be done, and I know that thou wilt do it :
And I am in haste about it, for it is not easy
for Hamish to have a woman and child at the
manse. Hamish has failed much lately."
" Send the woman with her child here."
" No, for it is easier to avoid quarrels than to
mend them. Margaret shall stay at the manse
till her own house is ready."

So they went away together, leaving Suneva
crying with anger ; partly because of the min,
ister s lecture ; partly because she thought
Peter had not " stood up for her" as he ought
to have done. As for Peter, though he did not
think of disobeying the order given him, yet
he resented the interference ; and he was
intensely angry at Margaret for having caused
it. When he arrived at the store, he was made
more so by Snorro s attitude. He sat upon a
sailor s chest with his hands folded before him,
though the nets were to be examined and a
score of things to get for the fishers,


" Can thou find nothing for thy lazy hands
to do ? he asked scornfully, " or are they
weary of the work thou hast been doing at
night ? "

" My mind is not to lift a finger for thee
again, Peter Fae ; and as for what I do at
night, that is my own affair. I robbed thee not,
neither of time nor gear."

" From whence came the glass, and the nails,
and the wood, and the hinges ?

" I bought them with my own money. If
thou pays me the outlay it will be only just.
The work I gave freely to the wife of Jan Ved-

" Then since thou hast mended the house,
thou may carry back the furniture into it."

" I will do that freely also. Thou never ought
to have counseled its removal ; for that reason,
I blame thee for all that followed it." Snorro
then hailed a passing fisherman, and they lifted
his chest in order to go away.

" What art thou taking ? "

" My own clothes, and my own books, and
whatever is my own. Nothing of thine."

"But why?"

" For that I will come no more here."


" Yes, thou wilt."

" I will come no more."

Peter was much troubled. Angry as he was,
grief at Snorro s defection was deeper than any
other feeling. For nearly twenty years he had

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrJan Vedder's wife → online text (page 10 of 15)