Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

Jan Vedder's wife online

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Snorro recounted with accurate truthfulness his
last interview with Margaret. He told Jan
every thing, for he had noted every thing : her
dress, her attitude, her rising color, her interest
in the locket s chain, her indifference as to his
own hurried journey, its object, or its length.
Jan heard all in silence, but the impression


made on him by Snorro s recital, was not what
Snorro expected. Jan knew Margaret s slow,
proud nature. He would have been astonished,
perhaps even a little suspicious of any exag
geration of feeling, of tears, or of ejaculations.
Her interest in the locket chain said a great deal
to him. Sitting by his side, with her fair face
almost against his own, she had drawn the
pattern of the chain she wished. Evidently
she had remembered it ; he understood that it
was her emotion at the recognition which had
made her so silent, and so oblivious of Snorro s
affairs. The minister s opinion had also great
weight with him. Dr. Balloch knew the whole
story of his wrong, knew just where he had
failed, and where Margaret had failed. If he
believed a reconciliation was now possible and
desirable, then Jan also was sure of it.

Snorro saw the purpose in his face. Perhaps
he had a moment s jealous pang, but it was
instantly put down. He hastened to let Jan
feel that, even in this matter, he must always
be at one with him :

" Trust not to me," he said; "it is little I
know or understand about women, and I may
judge Margaret Vedder far wrong."


" I think thou does, Snorro. She was never
one to make a great show of her grief or her
regrets. But I will tell thee what she did when
thou wert gone away. In her own room, she
wept over that chain the whole night long. *

"That may be. When little Jan had the
croup she was still and calm until the boy was
out of danger, and then she wept until my heart
ached for her. Only once besides have I seen
her weep ; that was when Suneva accused her of
thy murder; then she took her baby in her
arms and came through the storm to me at the
store. Yes, she wept sorely that night."

Jan sat with tightly-drawn lips.

" If it will make thee happy, send me back to
Lerwick, and I will bring thy wife and child
safely here. Thou would be proud indeed to
see them. The boy is all I have told thee. His
mother is ten times handsomer than when thou
married her. She is the fairest and most beau
tiful of women. When she walks down the
street at the minister s side, she is like no other
woman. Even Peter Fae is now proud that
she is his daughter, and he sends her of the
finest that comes to his hand. Shall I then go
for thee ? Why not go thyself ? "


" I will think about it, Snorro. I can not go
myself. I received my promotion yesterday,
and I asked to be transferred for immediate
service. I may get my orders any day. If I
send thee, I may have to sail without thee, and
yet not see my wife and child. No, I will not
part with thee, Snorro ; thou art a certain gain,
and about the rest, I will think well. Now we
will say no more, for I am weary and weak ; my
head aches also, and I fear I have fever again/

The next day Jan was very ill, and it was
soon evident that typhoid fever of a long and
exhausting character had supervened on a con
dition enfeebled by African malaria. For many
weeks he lay below the care of love or life, and
indeed it was August when he was able to get
on deck again. Then he longed for the open
sea, and so urged his desire, that he received an
immediate exchange to the ship Hydra, going
out to Borneo with assistance for Rajah Brooke,
who was waging an exterminating war against
the pirates of the Chinese and Indian seas.

The new ship was a very fine one, and Jan
was proud of his command. Snorro also had
been assigned to duty on her, having special
charge ot a fine Lancaster gun which she car-


ried, and no words could express his pride and
joy in his position. She was to sail on the 1 5th
day of August, one hour after noon, and early
in the morning of that day, Jan went off the
ship alone. He went direct to the Post Office,
and with trembling hands, for he was still very
weak, he dropped into it the following letter :

1 have never ceased to love thee. Ask Dr. Bal-
loch to tell thee all. To-day I leave for the
Chinese sea. If thou wilt forgive and forget
the past, and take me again for thy husband,
have then a letter waiting for me at the Admi
ralty Office, and vvhenx I return I will come to
Shetland for thee. Snorro is with me. He
hath told me all about thy goodness, and about
our little Jan. Do what thy heart tells thee to
do, and nothing else. Then there will be hap
piness. Thy loving husband,


A few hours after this letter had been posted
Jan stood on his quarter deck with his face to
the open sea, and Snorro, in his new uniform,
elate with joy and pride, was issuing his first
orders to the quarter-master, and feeling that
even for him, life had really begun at Jast.



c i I deemed thy garments, O my hope, were gray,
So far I viewed thee. Now the space between
Is passed at length ; and garmented in green

Even as in days of yore thou stand st to-day.

Ah God ! and but for lingering dull dismay,
On all that road our footsteps erst had been
Even thus commingled, and our shadows seen

Blent on the hedgerows and the water way."

MARGARET intended leaving Saturday,
but on Thursday night something hap
pened, the most unlooked-for thing that could
have happened to her she received Jan s letter.
As she was standing beside her packed trunk,
she heard Elga call :

" Here has come Sandy Bane with a letter,
Mistress Vedder, and he will give it to none but

It is not always that we have presentiments.


That strange intelligence, that wraith of coming
events, does not speak, except a prescient soul
listens. Margaret attached no importance to
the call. Dr. Balloch often sent letters, she
supposed Sandy was waiting for a penny fee.
With her usual neatness, she put away some
trifles, locked her drawers, and then washed her
hands and face. Sandy w r as in no hurry either ;
Elga had given him a cup of tea, and a toasted
barley-cake, and he was telling her bits of gossip
about the boats and fishers.

While they were talking, Margaret entered ;
she gave Sandy a penny, and then with that
vague curiosity which is stirred by the sight of
almost any letter, she stretched out her hand
for the one he had brought. The moment she
saw it, she understood that something wonder
ful had come to her. Quick as thought she
took in the significance of the official blue
paper and the scarlet seal. In those days, officers
in the Admiralty used imposing stationery, and
Jan had felt a certain pride in giving his few
earnest words the sanction of his honor and
office. Certainly it had a great effect upon
Margaret, although only those very familiar
with her, could have detected the storm of


anxiety and love concealed beneath her calm
face and her few common words.

But oh, when she stood alone with Jan s
loving letter in her hand, then all barriers were
swept away. The abandon of her slow, strong
nature, had in it an intensity impossible to
quicker and shallower affection. There was an
hour in which she forgot her mortality, when
her soul leaned and hearkened after Jan s soul,
till it seemed not only possible, but positive,
that he had heard her passionate cry of love
and sorrow, and answered it. In that moment
of intense silence which succeeds intense feel
ing, she was sure Jan called her. "Margaret !
She heard the spiritual voice, soft, clear, sweeter
than the sweetest music, and many a soul that
in extremities has touched the heavenly hori
zon will understand that she was not mistaken.

In an hour Tulloch sent for her trunk.

" There is no trunk to be sent now ; tell
Tulloch that Margaret Vedder will tell him the
why and the wherefore to-morrow/ Elga was ^
amazed, and somewhat disappointed, but Mar
garet s face astonished and subdued her, and
she did not dare to ask, " What then is the


Margaret slept little that night. To the first
overwhelming personality of joy and sorrow,
there succeeded many other trains of thought.
It was evident that Dr. Balloch, perhaps Snorro
also, had known always of Jan s life and doings.
She thought she had been deceived by both,
and not kindly used. She wondered how they
could see her suffer, year after year, the slow
torture of uncertainty, and unsatisfied love and
repentance. She quite forgot how jealously
she had guarded her own feelings, how silent
about her husband she had been,, how resentful
of all allusion to him.

Throughout the night Elga heard her mov
ing about the house. She was restoring every
thing to its place again. The relief she felt in
this duty first revealed to her the real fear of
her soul at the strange world into which she
had resolved to go and seek her husband. She
had the joy of a child who had been sent a
message on some dark and terror-haunted way,
and had then been excused from the task. Even
as a girl the great outside world had rather terri
fied than allured her. In her Edinburgh school
she had been homesick for the lonely, beautiful
islands, and nothing she had heard or read


since had made her wish to leave them. She
regarded Jan s letter, coming just at that time,
as a special kindness of Providence.

" Yes, and I am sure that is true," said
Tulloch to her next morning. " Every one has
something to boast of now and then. Thou
canst say, God has kept me out of the danger,
though doubtless He could have taken me
through it very safely/ And it will be much
to Jan s mind, when he hears that it was thy
will to go and seek him."

"Thou wert ever kind to Jan."

" Jan had a good heart. I thought that

" And thou thought right ; how glad thou
will be to see him ! Yes, I know thou wilt."

" I shall see Jan no more, Margaret, for I am
going away soon, and I shall never come back."

"Art thou sick, then?"

" So I think ; very. And I have seen one
who knows, and when I told him the truth, he
said to me, Set thy house in order, Tulloch,
for it is likely this sickness will be thy last/
So come in and out as often as thou can, Mar
garet, and thou tell the minister the road I am
traveling, for I shall look to him and thee to


keep me company on it as far as we may tread
it together."

It did not enter Margaret s mind to say little
commonplaces of negation. Her large, clear
eyes, solemn and tender, admitted the fact at
once, and she answered the lonely man s peti
tion by laying her hand upon his, and saying,
"At this time thou lean on me like a daughter.
I will serve thee until the last hour/*

" When thou hast heard all concerning Jan
from the minister, come and tell me too ; for
it will be a great pleasure to me to know how
Jan Vedder turned his trouble into good

Probably Dr. Balloch had received a letter
from Jan also, for he looked singularly and
inquisitively at Margaret as she entered his
room. She went directly to his side, and laid
Jan s letter before him. He read it slowly
through, then raised his face and said, " Well,

" It is not so well. Thou knew all this time
that Jan was alive."

" Yes, I knew it. It is likely to be so, for I *
I mean, I was sent to save his life."

" Wilt thou tell me how ? "


"Yes, I will tell thee now. Little thou
thought in those days of Jan Vedder, but I will
show thee how God loved him ! One of his holy
messengers, one of his consecrated servants,
one of this world s nobles, were set to work to
gether for Jan s salvation." Then he told her
all that had happened, and he read her Jan s
letters, and as he spoke of his great heart, and
his kind heart, the old man s eyes kindled, and
he began to walk about the room in his enthu

Such a tale Margaret had never heard before.
Tears of pity and tears of pride washed clean
and clear-seeing the eyes that had too often
wept only for herself. " Oh, Margaret \ Mar
garet ! he said, " learn this when it is God s
pleasure to save a man, the devil can not hinder,
nor a cruel wife, nor false friends, nor total
shipwreck, nor the murderer s knife all things
must work together for it."

" If God gives Jan back to me, I will love
and honor him with all my heart and soul. I
promise thee I will that."

" See thou do. It will be thy privilege and
thy duty."

" Oh, why did thou not tell me all this before ?
It would have been good for me."


" No, it would have been bad for thee Thou
has not suffered one hour longer than was nec
essary. Week by week, month by month, year
by year, thy heart has been growing more
humble and tender, more just and unselfish ;
but it was not until Snorro brought thee those
poor despised love-gifts of Jan s that thou wast
humble and tender, and just, and unselfish
enough to leave all and go and seek thy lost
husband. But I am sure it was this way the
very hour this gracious thought came into thy
heart thy captivity was turned. Now, then,
from thy own experience thou can understand
why God hides even a happy future from us.
If we knew surely that fame or prosperity or
happiness was coming, how haughty, how selfish,
how impatient we should be. *

" I would like thee to go and tell my father

" I will tell thee what thou must do go home
and tell the great news thyself."

" I cannot go into Suneva s house. Thou
should not ask that of me."

" In the day of thy good fortune, be gener
ous. Suneva Fae has a kind heart, and I blame
thee much that there was trouble. Because


God has forgiven thee, go without a grudging
thought, and say Suneva, I was wrong, and
I am sorry for the wrong ; and I have good
news, and want my father and thee to share it.

" No ; I can not do that."

" There is no can in it. It is my will, Mar-
garet, that thou go. Go at once, and take
thy son with thee. The kind deed delayed is
worth very little. To-day that is thy work,
and we will not read or write. As for me, I
will loose my boat, and I will sail about the
bay, and round by the Troll Rock, and I will
think of these things only."

For a few minutes Margaret stood watching
him drift with the tide, his boat rocking gently,
and the fresh wind blowing his long white hair,
and carrying far out to sea the solemnly joyful
notes to which he was singing his morning

" Bless, O my soul, the Lord thy God

and not forgetful be
Of all his gracious benefits

he hath bestowed on thee.

Such pity as a father hath
unto his children dear,


Like pity shows the Lord to such
as worship him in fear.

Ps. 103. v. 2. 13.*

"Thou art a good man," said Margaret to
herself, as she waved her hand in farewell, and
turned slowly homeward. Most women would
have been impatient to tell the great news that
had come to them, but Margaret could always
wait. Besides, she had been ordered to go to
Suneva with it, and the task was not a pleasant
one to her. She had never been in her father s
house, since she left it with her son in her arms ;
and it was not an easy thing for a woman so
proud to go and say to the woman who had
supplanted her " I have done wrong, and I
am sorry for it."

Yet it did not enter her mind to disobey the
instructions given her ; she only wanted time to
consider how to perform them in the quietest,
and least painful manner. She took the road
by the sea "shore, and sat down on a huge bar
ricade of rocks. Generally such lonely com
munion with sea and sky strengthened and

* Version allowed by the authority of the General Assembly
of the Kirk of Scotland.


calmed her; but this morning she could not
bring her mind into accord with it. Accident,
ally she dislodged a piece of rock, and it fell
among the millions of birds sitting on the
shelving precipices below her. They flickered
with piercing cries in circles above her head,
and then dropped like a shower into the ocean,
with a noise like the hurrahing of an army.
Impatient and annoyed, she turned away from
the shore, across the undulating heathy plateau.
She longed to reach her own room ; perhaps in
its seclusion she would find the composure she

As she approached he r house, she saw a
crowd of boys and little Jan walking proudly in
front of them. One was playing " Miss Flora Mc
Donald s reel " on a violin, and the gay strains
were accompanied by finger snappings, whist
ling, and occasional shouts. " There is no
quiet to be found anywhere, this morning,"
thought Margaret, but her curiosity was aroused,
and she went toward the children. They saw
her coming, and with an accession of clamor
hastened to meet her. Little Jan carried a
faded, battered wreath of unrecognizable mater
ials, and he walked as proudly as Pompey may


have walked in a Roman triumph. When
Margaret saw it, she knew well what had hap
pened, and she opened her arms, and held the
boy to her heart, and kissed him over and over,
and cried out, " Oh, my brave little Jan, brave
little Jan ! How did it happen then ? Thou
tell me quick."

" Hal Ragner shall tell thee, my mother;
and Hal eagerly stepped forward :

"It was last night, Mistress Vedder, we were
all watching for the Arctic Bounty ; but she
did not come, and this morning as we were
playing, the word was passed that she had
reached Peter Fae s pier. Then we all ran, but
thou knowest that thy Jan runs like a red deer,
and so he got far ahead, and leaped on board,
and was climbing the mast first of all. Then
Bor Skade, he tried to climb over him, and
Nichol Sinclair, he tried to hold him back, but
the sailors shouted, Bravo, little Jan Vedder !
and the skipper he shouted Bravo ! and thy
father, he shouted higher than all the rest. And
when Jan had cut loose the prize, he was like
to greet for joy, and he clapped his hands, and
kissed Jan, and he gave him five gold sovereigns,
see, then, if he did not ! And little Jan


proudly put his hand in his pocket, and held
them out in his small soiled palm. -~\

The feat which little Jan had accomplished
is one which means all to the Shetland boy
that his first buffalo means to the Indian
youth. When a whaler is in Arctic seas, the
sailors on the first of May make a garland of
such bits of ribbons, love tokens, and keep,
sakes, as have each a private history, and this
they tie to the top of the main-mast. There it
swings, blow high or low, in sleet and hail,
until the ship reaches her home-port. Then
it is the supreme emulation of every lad, and
especially of every sailor s son, to be first on
board and first up the mast to cut it down, and
the boy who does it, is the hero of the day, and
has won his footing on every Shetland boat.

What wonder, then, that Margaret was proud
and happy? What wonder that in her glow
of delight the thing she had been seeking was
made clear to her? How could she go bettef
to Suneva than with this crowd of happy
boys ? If the minister thought she ought to
share one of her blessings with Suneva, she
would double her obedience, and ask her to
share the mother s as well as the wife s joy.


" One thing I wish, boys," she said happily,
" let us go straight to Peter Fae s house, for
Hal Ragner must tell Suneva Fae the good
news also." So, with a shout, the little com
pany turned, and very soon Suneva, who was
busy salting some fish in the cellar of her
house, heard her name called by more than fifty
shrill voices, in fifty different keys.

She hurried up stairs, saying to herself, " It
will be good news, or great news that has come
to pass, no doubt ; for when ill-luck has the day,
he does not call any one like that ; he comes
sneaking in. Her rosy face was full of smiles
when she opened the door, but when she saw
Margaret and Jan standing first of all, she was
for the moment too amazed to speak.

Margaret pointed to the wreath : " Our Jan
took it from the top-mast of the Arctic
Bounty ; she said. * The boys brought him
home to me, and I have brought him to thee,
Suneva. I thought thou would like it."

" Our Jan ! In those two words Margaret
canceled every thing remembered against her.
Suneva s eyes filled, and she stretched out
both her hands to her step-daughter.

" Come in, Margaret ! Come in, my brave,


darling Jan ! Come in, boys, every one of
you ! There is cake, and wheat bread, and
preserved fruit enough for you all; and I shall
find a shilling for every Loy here, who has kept
Jan s triumph with him." And when Suneva
had feasted the children she brought a leather
pouch, and counting out >2 143., sent them
away, fiddling and singing, and shouting with

But Margaret stayed ; and the two women
talked their bitterness over to its very root.
For Suneva said : " We will leave nothing unex
plained, and nothing that is doubtful. Tell me
the worst thou hast thought, and the worst
thou hast heard, and what I can not excuse,
that I will say, I am sorry for/ and thou wilt
forgive it, I know thou wilt." And after this
admission, it was easy for Margaret also to say,
" I am sorry ; and when that part of the
matter had been settled, she added, " Now
then, Suneva, I have great good news to tell
thee." : : ^ :

But with the words Peter and the minister
entered the house, and Margaret went to Dr,
Balloch and said, "I have done all thou bid
me ; now then, thou tell my father and Suneva


whatever thou told me. That is what thou art
come for, I know it is."

" Yes, it is so. I was in the store when thy
little Jan and his companions came there with
the gold given them, and when the sovereigns
had been changed and every boy had got his
shilling, I said to thy father, Come home with
me, for Margaret is at thy house, and great joy
has come to it to-day/

Then he told again the whole story, and read
aloud Jan s letters; and Peter and Suneva were
so amazed and interested, that they begged the
minister to stay all day, and talk of the subject
with them. And the good man cheerfully con
sented, for it delighted him to see Margaret
and Suneva busy together, making the dinner
and the tea, and sharing pleasantly the house
hold cares that women like to exercise for
those they love or respect. He looked at
them, and then he looked at Peter, and the
two men understood each other, without a

By and by, little Jan, hungry and weary with
excitement, came seeking his mother, and his
presence added the last element of joy to the
reunited family. The child s eager curiosity


kept up until late the interest in the great
subject made known that day to Peter and
Suneva. For to Norsemen, slavery is the
greatest of all earthly ills, and Peter s eyes
flashed with indignation, and he spoke of
Snorro not only with respect, but with some
thing also like a noble envy of his privileges.

" If I had twenty years less, I would man a
ship of mine own, and go to the African coast
as a privateer, I would that. What a joy I
should give my two hands in freeing the
captives, and hanging those slavers in a slack
rope at the yard-arm."

" Nay, Peter, thou would not be brutal/
" Yes, I would be a brute with brutes ; that
is so, my minister. Even St. James thinks as
I do He shall have judgment without mercy
that showeth no mercy/ That is a good way,
I think. I am glad Snorro hath gone to look
after them. I would be right glad if he had
Thor s hammer in his big hands/
" He hath a Lancaster gun, Peter/
" But that is not like seeing the knife redden
In the hand. Oh, no ! "

" Peter, we are Christians, and not heathens/
" I am sorry if the words grieve thee. Often


I have wondered why David wrote some of
the hard words he did write. I wonder no
more. He wrote them against the men who
sell human life for gold. If I was Jan Vedder,
I would read those words every morning to my
men. The knife that is sharpened on the word
of God, cuts deep that is so."

" Jan hath done his part well, Peter, and I
wish that he could see us this night. It hath
been a day of blessing to this house, and I am
right happy to have been counted in it.*

Then he went away, but that night Margaret

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrJan Vedder's wife → online text (page 13 of 15)