Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

Jan Vedder's wife online

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I want to kiss Jan, and to give thee some things
which belong to thee, if thou cares for them."

" What hast thou of mine ? "

"Wilt thou look then? They are in the

He watched her keenly, perhaps a little
hardly, as she untied the knot. He watched
the faint rose-color deepen to scarlet on her
face ; he saw how her hands trembled, as she


laid one by one the jewels on the table, and
thoughtfully fingered the lace yellow with
neglect. But there were no tears in her
dropped eyes, and she c*uld scarcely have been
more deliberate in her examination, if she had
been appraising their value. And yet, her heart
was burning and beating until she found it
impossible to speak.

Snorro s anger gathered fast. His own feel
ings were in such a state of excitement, that
they made him unjust to a type of emotion
unfamiliar to him.

"Well then/ he asked, sharply, "dost thou
want them or not ?

" Jan bought them for me ? "

" Yes, he bought them, and thou sent them
back to him. If thou had sent me one back,
I had never bought thee another. But Jan
Vedder was not like other men."

"We will not talk of Jan, thee and, me.
What did thou bring these to-night for?"

" I told thee I was going to Wick, and it
would not be safe to leave them, nor yet to
take them with me. I was so foolish, also, as
to think that thou would now prize them for
Jan s sake, but I see thou art the same woman


yet. Give them to me, I will take them to the

" Leave them here. I will keep them safely.*

"The rattle was bought for little Jan. It
was in his father s pocket when he was ship

She stood with it in her hand, gazing down
upon the tarnished bells, and answered not a
word. Snorro looked at her angrily, and then
stooped down, and softly kissed the sleeping

"Good- /, Margaret Vedder ! "

She had lifted the locket in the interval, and
was mechanically passing her fingers along the
chain. " It is the very pattern I wished for,"
she whispered to her heart, " I remember draw
ing it for him." She did not hear Snorro s
" good by," and he stood watching her curiously
a moment.

" I said l good-by/ Margaret Vedder."

" Good-by," she answered mechanically. Her
whole soul was moved. She was in a maze of
tender, troubled thoughts, but Snorro perceived
nothing but her apparent interest in the jewels.
He could not forget his last sight of her stand-
ing, so apparently calm, with her eyes fixed


upon the locket and chain that dangled from
her white hand. " She was wondering how
much they cost Jan," he thought bitterly ;
" what a cold, cruel woman she is! "

That she had not asked him about his own
affairs, why he left so hurriedly, how he was
going, for what purpose, how long he was to be
away, was a part of her supreme selfishness,
Snorro thought. He could no longer come
into her life, and so she cared nothing about
him. He wished Dr. Balloch could have seen
her as he did, with poor Jan s love-gifts in her
hands. With his heart all aflame on Jan r
noble deeds, and his imagination almost deify
ing the man, the man he loved so entirely,
Margaret s behavior was not only very much
misunderstood by Snorro, it was severely and
unjustly condemned.

" What did God make women for? 1 he
asked angrily, as he strode back over the moor.
" I hope Jan has forgotten her, for it is little
she thinks of him."

On reaching his home again he dressed him
self in his best clothes, for he could not sleep.
He walked up and down the old town, and
over the quays, and stood a five minutes before


Peter Fae s store, and so beguiled the hours
until he could go on board " The Lapwing."

At five o clock he saw Lord Lynne come
aboard, and the anchor was raised. Snorro
lifted his cap, and said, " Good morning, Lord
Lynne ; and my lord answered cheerily,
" Good morning, Snorro. With this wind we
shall make a quick passage to Wick."


* And yet when all is thought and said,
The heart still overrules the head ;
Still what we hope, we must believe,
And what is given us receive."

SNORRO had indeed very much misjudged
Margaret. During her interview with him
she had been absorbed in one effort, that of pre
serving her self-control while he was present.
As soon as he had gone, she fled to her own
room, and locking the door, she fell upon her
knees. Jan s last love-gifts lay on the bed
before her, and she bent her head over them,
^covering them with tears and kisses.

" Oh, Jan ! Oh, my darling ! she whispered
to the deaf and dumb emblems of his affection.
" Oh, if thou could come back to me again !
Never more would I grieve thee, or frown on
thee ! Never should thy wishes be unattended
to, or thy pleasure neglected ! No one on earth,


no one should speak evil of thee to me ! I
would stand by thee as I promised until death !
Oh, miserable, unworthy wife that I have been !
What shall I do ? If now thou knew at last
how dearly Margaret loves thee, and how bit
terly she repents her blindness and her
cruelty! "

So she mourned in half-articulate sobbing
words, until little Jan awoke and called her.
Then she laid him in her own bed and sat down
beside him ; quiet, but full of vague, drifting
thoughts that she could hardly catch, but which
she resolutely bent her mind to examine. Why
had Snorro kept these things so long, and then
that night suddenly brought them to her at
such a late hour ? What was he going away
for? What was that strange light upon his
face? She had never seen such a look upon
Snorro s face before. She let these questions
importune her all night, but she never dared put
into form the suspicion which lay dormant
below them, that Jan had something to do with
it ; that Snorro had heard from Jan.

In the morning she took the trinkets with her
to Dr. Balloch s. She laid them before him
one by one, telling when, and how, they had


been offered and refused. " All but this," she
said, bursting into childlike weeping, and show
ing the battered, tarnished baby coral. " He
brought this for his child, and I would not let
him see the baby. Oh, can there be any mercy
for one so unmerciful as I was ?

" Daughter, weep ; thy tears are gracious
tears. Would to God poor Jan could see thee
at this hour. Whatever happiness may now be
his lot, thy contrition would add to it, I know.
Go home to-day. No one is in any greater
trouble than thou art. Give to thyself tears
and prayers ; it may be that ere long God will
comfort thee. And as thou goes, call at
Snorro s house. See that the fire is out, lock
the door, and bring me the key when thou
comes to-morrow. I promised Snorro to care
for his property."

" Where hath Snorro gone ? "

" What did he say to thee? "

" That he was going to Wick. But how then
did he go? There was no steamer due, "

"Lord Lynne took him in his yacht, *

" That is strange ! and Margaret looked
steadily at Dr. Balloch. " It seems to me, that
Lord Lynne s yacht was at Lerwick, on that
night ; thou knowest."


" When Skager and Jan quarreled ?

She bowed her head, and continued to gaze
inquisitively at him.

" No, thou art mistaken. On that night he
was far off on the Norway coast. It must hav
been two weeks afterward, when he was in

"When will Lord Lynne be here ac^ain?"

" I know not ; perhaps in a few weks, per
haps not until the end of summer. H^ may
not come again this year. He is more et.iser*
tain than the weather."

Margaret sighed, and gathering her treasures
together she went away. As she had be;?n
desired, she called at Snorro s house. The kfcy
was on the outside of the door, she turned f.t,
and went in. The fire had been carefully ex
tinguished, and the books and simple treasures
he valued locked up in his wooden chest. It
had evidently been quite filled with these, for
his clothes hung against the wall of an inner
apartment. Before these clothes Margaret
stood in a kind of amazement. She was very
slow of thought, but gradually certain facts in
relation to them fixed themselves in her mind
with a conviction which no reasoning could


Snorro had gone away in his best clothes ; his
fishing suit and his working suit he had left
behind. It was clear, then, that he had not gone
to the Wick fisheries ; equally clear that he had
not gone away with any purpose of following
his occupation in loading and unloading ves
sels. Why had he gone then ? Margaret was
sure that he had no friends beyond the Shet-
lands. Who was there in all the world that
could tempt Snorro from the little home he
had made and loved ; and who, or what could
induce him to leave little Jan ?

Only Jans father !

She came to this conclusion at last with a
clearness and rapidity that almost frightened
her. Her cheeks burned, her heart beat wildly,
and then a kind of anger took possession of
her. If Snorro knew any thing, Dr. Balloch
did also. Why was she kept in anxiety and
uncertainty ? "I will be very quiet and watch,"
she thought, " and when Lord Lynne comes
again, I will follow him into the manse, and ask
him where my husband is."

As she took a final look at Snorro s belong
ings, she thought pitifully, " How little he has!
And yet who was so good and helpful to every


one ? I might have taken more interest in his
housekeeping ! How many little things I could
easily have added to his comforts ! What a
selfish woman I must be ! Little wonder that
he despised rne ! " And she determined that
hour to make Jan s friend her friend when he
came back, and to look better after his house
hold pleasures and needs.

She had plenty now to think about, and she
was on the alert morning, noon, and night ; but
nothing further transpired to feed her hope for
nearly a month. The fishing season was then
in full business, and Peter Fae, as usual, full of
its cares. There had been no formal reconcili
ation between Margaret and her father and
stepmother, and there was no social intercourse
between the houses, but still they were on
apparent terms of friendship with each other.
The anger and ill-will had gradually worn away,
and both Peter and Suneva looked with respect
upon a woman so much in the minister s favor
and company. Peter sent her frequent presents
from the store, and really looked upon his
handsome little grandson with longing and pride.
When he was a few years older he intended to
propose to pay for his education. " VCe ll send


him to Edinburgh, Suneva," he frequently said,
" and we will grudge nothing that is for his
welfare. *

And Suneva, who had carefully fostered this
scheme, would reply, " That is what I have
always said, Peter. It is a poor family that has
not one gentleman in it, and, please God and
thy pocket-book, we will make a gentleman and
a minister of our little Jan ; " and the thought
of his grandson rilling a pulpit satisfied Peter s
highest ambition.

So, though there had been no visiting between
the two houses, there were frequent tokens of
courtesy and good-will, and Margaret, passing
through the town, and seeing her father at his
shop-door, stopped to speak to him.

" Where hast thou been, and where is thy
boy ? " he asked.

" He is at home with Elga. I have been to
read with Mary Venn ; she is failing fast, and
not long for this life."

As they spoke Tulloch approached, and, with
a cold bow to Peter, turned to Margaret and
said, " I will walk with thee, Mistress Vedder,
as I have some business matter to speak of."
Then, after they had turned to Margaret s


home : " It was about the interest of the seven
hundred pounds placed to thy credit a few days
since. I will count the interest from the first
of the month."

Margaret was completely amazed. " Seven
hundred pounds ! " she said, in a low trembling
voice. " I know nothing about it. Surely thou
art dreaming. Who brought it to thee?

" Dr. Balloch. He said it was conscience
money and not to be talked about. I suppose
thy father sent it, for it is well known that he
made his will a few days ago."

Margaret, however, did not believe that it
was her father. She was sure Jan had sent the
money. It was her 600, with ;ioo for interest.
And oh, how it pained her ! Somewhere on
earth Jan was alive, and he would neither come
to her, nor write to her. He sent her gold
instead of love, as if gold were all she wanted.
He could scarcely have contrived a more cruel
revenge, she thought. For once she absolutely
hated money; but it put into her mind a pur
pose which would not leave it. If Snorro could
find Jan, she could. The money Jan had sent
she would use for that purpose.

She was cautious and suspicious by nature,


and she determined to keep her intention close
in her own heart. All summer she watched
anxiously for the return of " The Lapwing/ but
it came not. One day, in the latter part of
August, Dr. Balloch asked her to answer for
him a letter which he had received from Lord
Lynne. She noted the address carefully. It
was in Hyde Park, London. Very well, she
would go to London. Perhaps she would be
nearer to Jan if she did.

She had now nearly ;i,ooo of her own. If
she spent every farthing of it in the search and
failed, she yet felt that she would be happier
for having made the effort. The scheme took
entire possession of her, and the difficulties in
the way of its accomplishment only made her
more stubbornly determined. The first, was
that of reaching the mainland without encount
ering opposition. She was sure that both her
father and Dr. Balloch would endeavor to dis,
suade her ; she feared they would influence her
against her heart and judgment. After August,
the mail boats would be irregular and infre
quent ; there was really not a day to be lost.

In the morning she went to see Tulloch. He
was eating his breakfast and he was not at all


astonished to see her. He thought she had
come to talk to him about the investment of
her money.

" Good morning, Mistress Vedder ! Thou
hast been much on my mind, thou and thy
money, and no doubt it is a matter of some
consequence what thou will do with it."

" I am come to speak to thee as a friend, in
whom I may confide a secret. Wilt thou hear,
and keep it, and give me good advice ?

" I do not like to have to do with women s
secrets, but thou art a woman by thyself. Tell
me all, then, but do not make more of the mat
ter than it is worth/

"When Jan Vedder had no other friend,
thou stood by him."

"What then? Jan was a good man. I say
that yet, and I say it to thy face, Margaret Ved
der. I think, too, that he had many wrongs."

" I think that too, and I shall be a miserable
woman until I have found Jan, and can tell him
to his face how sorry I am. So then, I am
going away to find him."

" What art thou talking of ? Poor Jan is
dead. I am sure that is so."

" I am sure it is not so. Now let me tell tUee


all." Then she went over the circumstances
which had fed her convictions, with a clearness
and certainty which brought conviction to
Tulloch s mind also.

" 1 am sure thou are right," he answered
gravely, " and I have nothing at all to say
against thy plan. It is a very good plan if it
has good management. Now, then, where will
thou go first ? "

" I have Lord Lynne s address in London.
I will go first of all to him. Jan sent me that
money, I am sure. It must have been a person
of wealth and power who helped him to make
such a sum, or he must have lent Jan the
money. I think this person was Lord

" I think that too. Now about thy money ? "

" I will take it with me. Money in the pocket
is a ready friend."

" No, it will be a great care to thee. The
best plan for thee is this : take fifty pounds in thy
pocket, and I will give thee a letter of credit
for the balance on a banking firm in London.
I will also write to them, and then, if thou wants
advice on any matter, or a friend in any case >
there they will be to help thee."


" That is good. I will leave also with thee
twenty-five pounds for Elga. Thou art to pay
her five shillings every week. She will care for
my house until I return/

"And thy child?"

" I will take him with me. If Jan is hard to
me, he may forgive me for the child s sake/

"Build not thy hopes too high. Jan had a
great heart, but men are men, and not God.
Jan may have forgotten thee/

" I have deserved to be forgotten."

(< He may not desire to live with thee any

" If he will only listen to me while I say, * I
am sorry with all my heart, Jan ; if he will
only forgive my unkindness to him, I shall count
the journey well made, though I go to the ends
of the earth to see him."

"God go with thee, and make all thy plans
to prosper. Here is the table of the mail boats.
One leaves next Saturday morning at six
o clock. My advice is to take it. I will send
on Thursday afternoon for thy trunk, and Friday
night I will find some stranger fisher-boy to
take it to the boat. Come thou to my house
when all is quiet, and I will see thee safely on


board. At six in the morning, when she sails,
the quay will be crowded."

" I will do all this. Speak not of the matter,
I ask thee."

"Thou may fully trust me."

Then Margaret went home with a light heart.
Her way had been made very plain to her ; it
only now remained to bind Elga to her interest.
This was not hard to do. Elga promised to
remain for two years in charge of the house if
Margaret did not return before. She felt rich
with an allowance of five shillings a week, and
the knowledge that Banker Tulloch had author
ity to prevent either Peter or Suneva from
troubling her during that time. So that it was
Riga s interest, even if it had not been her will,
to give no information which might lead to the
breaking up of the comfort dependent on Mar
garet s absence.

Nothing interfered with Margaret s plans.
During the three intervening days, she went as
usual to Dr. Balloch s. Twice she tried to
introduce the subject of Snorro s singular jour
ney, and each time she contrived to let the
minister see that she connected it in her own
mind with Jan. She noticed that on one of


these occasions, the doctor gave her a long,
searching look, and that the expression of
his own face was that of extreme indecision.
She almost thought that he was going to tell
her something, but he suddenly rose and
changed the subject of their conversation, in
a very decided manner. His reticence pained
and silenced her, for she almost longed to
open her heart to him. Yet, as he gave her
no encouragement, she was too shy, and per
haps too proud to force upon him an evidently
undesired confidence. She determined, how
ever, to leave letters for him, and for her father,
stating the object of her voyage, but enter
ing into no particulars about it. These letters
she would put in Riga s care, with orders not
to deliver them until Saturday night. By that
time Margaret Vedder hoped to be more than
a hundred miles beyond Lerwick.

In the meantime Snorro had reached Ports
mouth, his journey thither having been unevent
ful. " The Retribution " had arrived two days
before, and was lying in dock. At the dock
office a letter which Lord Lynne had given
him, procured an admission to visit the ship,
and her tall tapering masts were politely


pointed out to him. Snorro went with rapid
strides toward her, for it was near sunset and
he knew that after the gun had been fired,
there would be difficulty in getting on board.
He soon came to the ship of his desire. Her
crew were at their evening mess, only two or
three sailors were to be seen.

Snorro paused a moment, for he was tremb
ling with emotion, and as he stood he saw
three officers come from the cabin. They
grouped themselves on the quarter-deck, and
one of them, taller, and more splendidly dressed
than the others, turned, and seemed to look
directly at Snorro. The poor fellow stretched
out his arms, but his tongue was heavy, like
that of a man in a dream, and though he
knew it was Jan, he could not call him. He
had received at the office, however, a permit
to board " The Retribution " in order to speak
with her commander, and he found no difficulty
in reaching him.

Jan was still standing near the wheel talk
ing to his officers as Snorro approached. Now
that the moment so long watched and waited
for, had come, poor Snorro could hardly be
lieve it, and beside, he had seen in the first


glance at his friend, that this was a different
Jan somehow from the old one. It was not
alone his fine uniform, his sash and sword and
cocked hat ; Jan had acquired an air of com
mand, an indisputable nobility and ease ot
manner, and for a moment, Snorro doubted if
he had done well to come into his presence un

He stood with his cap in his hand waiting,
feeling heart-faint with anxiety. Then an officer
said some words to Jan, and he turned and
looked at Snorro.

" Snorro ! Snorro !

The cry was clear and glad, and the next
moment Jan was clasping both his old friend s
hands. As for Snorro, his look of devotion,
of admiration, of supreme happiness was enough.
It was touching beyond all words, and Jan felt
his eyes fill as he took his arm and led him
into his cabin.

" I am come to thee, my captain. I would
have come, had thou been at the end of the

" And we will part no more, Snorro, we two.
Give me thy hand on that promise."

" No more, no more, my captain."


" To thee, I am always Jan/

"My heart shall call thee Jan/ but my lips
shall always say my captain/ so glad are they to
say it! Shall I not sail with thee as long as we
two live ?

" We are mates for life, Snorro."

Jan sent his boy for bread and meat. "Thou
art hungry I know," he said ; "when did thou
eat ? "

" Not since morning. To-day I was not
hungry, I thought only of seeing thee again/

At first neither spoke of the subject nearest to
Jan s heart. There was much to tell of
people long known to both men, but gradually
the conversation became slower and more
earnest, and then Snorro began to talk of Peter
Fae and his marriage. " It hath been a good
thing for Peter," he said ; " he looks by ten years
a younger man."

And Suneva, is she happy ?
Well, then, she dresses gayly, and gives
many fine parties, and is what she likes best of
all, the great lady of the town. But she hath
not a bad heart, and I think it was not altogether
her fault if thy wife was "

" If my wife was what, Snorro?"




" If thy wife was unhappy in her house. The
swan and the kittywake can not dwell in the
same nest."

" What hast thou to tell me of my wife and
son ? "

* There is not such a boy as thy boy in all
Scotland. He is handsomer than thou art.
He is tall and strong, and lish and active as
a fish. He can dive and swim like a seal, he
can climb like a whaler s boy, he can fling a
spear, and ride, and run, and read ; and he was
beginning to write his letters on a slate when I
came away. Also, he was making a boat, for
he loves the sea, as thou loves it. Oh, I tell thee,
there is not another boy to marrow thy little

" Is he called Jan ? "

"Yes, he is called Jan after thee."

" This is great good news, Snorro. What
now of my wife ?

Snorro s voice changed, and all the light left
his face. He spoke slowly, but with decision.
" She is a very good woman. There is not
a better woman to be found anywhere than
Margaret Vedder. The minister said I was to
tell thee how kind she is to all who are sick


and in trouble, and to him she is as his right
hand. Yes, I will tell thee truly, that he thinks
she is worthy of thy love now."
"And what dost thou think?"
" I do not think she is worthy."
" Why dost thou not think so ? "
" A woman may be an angel, and love thee

" Then thou thinks she loves me not ? Why ?
Has she other lovers ? Tell me truly, Snorro."
" The man lives not in Lerwick who would
dare to speak a word of love to Margaret
Vedder. She walks apart from all merry
making, and from all friends. As I have told
thee she lives in her own house, and enters
no other house but the manse, unless it be
to see some one in pain or sorrow. She is a
loving mother to thy son, but she loves not
thee. I will tell thee why I think." Then

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrJan Vedder's wife → online text (page 12 of 15)