Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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and her son once more slept in their old room
under Peter Fae s roof. It affected her to see
that nothing had been changed. A pair of
slippers she had forgotten still stood by the
hearthstone. Her mother s Bible had been
placed upon her dressing-table. The geranium
she had planted, was still in the window ; it
had been watered and cared for, and had grown
to be a large and luxuriant plant. She thought
of the last day she had occupied that room, and
of the many bitter hours she had spent in it,
and she contrasted them with the joy and the
hope of her return.

But when we say to ourselves, " I will be


grateful," it is very seldom the heart consents
to our determination ; and Margaret, exhausted
with emotion, was almost shocked to find that
she could not realize, with any degree of
warmth, the mercy and blessing that had come
to her. She was the more dissatisfied, because
as soon as she was alone she remembered the
message Tulloch had given her. It had
remained all day undelivered, and quite forgot
ten. " How selfish I am," she said wearily,
but ere she could feel sensibly any regret for
her fault she had fallen asleep.

In the morning it was her first thought, and
as soon after breakfast as possible she went to
Dr. Balloch s. He seemed shocked at the
news, and very much affected. " We have
been true friends for fifty years, Margaret," he
said; "I never thought of his being ill, of his
dying dying."

" He does not appear to fear death, sir."

" No, he will meet it as a good man should,
He knows well that death is only the veil which
we who live call life. We sleep, and it is

" Wilt thou see him to-day ? "

" Yes, this morning. Thirty-eight years ago


this month his wife died. It was a great grief
to him. She was but a girl, and her bride-year
was not quite worn out/

" I have never heard of her. *

" Well, then, that is like to be. This is the
first time I have spoken of NannaTulloch since
she went away from us. It is long to remember,
yet she was very lovely, and very much
beloved. But thou knowest Shetlanders speak
not of the dead, nor do they count any thing
from a day of sorrow. However, thy words
have brought many things to my heart. This
day I will spend with my friend."

The reconciliation which had taken place was
a good thing for Margaret. She was inclined
to be despondent; Suneva always faced the
future with a smile. It was better also that
Margaret should talk of Jan, than brood over
the subject in her own heart ; and nothing
interested Suneva like a love-quarrel. If it
were between husband and wife, then it was of
double importance to her. She was always try
ing to put sixes and sevens at one. She per
suaded Margaret to write without delay to Jan,
and to request the Admiralty Office to forward
the letter. If it had been her letter she would


have written " Haste * and " Important all
over it. She never tired of calculating the pos
sibilities of Jan receiving it by a certain date,
and she soon fixed upon another date, when,
allowing for all possible detentions, Jan s next
letter might be expected.

But perhaps, most of all, the reconciliation was
good for Peter. Nothing keeps a man so
young as the companionship of his children and
grandchildren. Peter was fond and proud of
his daughter, but he delighted in little Jan.
The boy, so physically like his father, had many
of Peter s tastes and peculiarities. He loved
money, and Peter respected him for loving it.
There were two men whom Peter particularly
disliked ; little Jan disliked them also with all
his childish soul, and when he said things about
them that Peter did not care to say, the boy s
candor charmed and satisfied him, although he
pretended to reprove it.

Jan, too, had a very high temper, and resented,
quick as a flash, any wound to his childish self-
esteem. Peter was fond of noticing its relation
ship to his own. One day he said to the boy :
" Do that again and I will send thee out of the


" If thou sends me out just once, I will never
come in thy store again ; no, I will not ; never,
as long as I live/ was the instant retort.
Peter repeated it to Suneva with infinite pride
and approval. " No one will put our little Jan
out for nothing," he said.

" Well, then, he is just like thee ! said the
politic Suneva ; and Peter s face showed that
he considered the resemblance as very compli


" For them the rod of chastisement flowered."

A STRANGER suddenly dropped in these
Shetland islands, especially in winter,
would not unnaturally say, "how monotonously
dreary life must be here! In such isolation the
heart must lose its keen sense of sympathy, and
be irresponsive and dumb." That is the great
mistake about the affections. It is not the rise
and fall of empires, the birth and death of
kings, or the marching of armies that move
them most. When they answer from their
depths, it is to the domestic joys and tragedies
of life. Ever since Eve wept over her slain
son, and Rebecca took the love-gifts of Isaac,
this has been the case ; and until that mighty
angel, who stands on the sea and land, cries,
" Time shall be no more," the home loves, and
the home trials, will be the center of human-


ity s deepest and sweetest emotions. So, then,
the little Shetland town had in it all the ele
ments necessary for a life full of interest birth
and death, love and sorrow, the cruel hand and
the generous hand, the house of mourning and
the house of joy.

Just before Christmas-tide, Tulloch was sit
ting alone at midnight. His malady was too
distressing to allow him to sleep, but a Norse
man scorns to complain of physical suffering,
and prefers, so long as it is possible, to carry
on the regular routine of his life. He was
unable to go much out, and his wasted body
showed that it was under a constant torture,
but he said nothing, only he welcomed Mar
garet and the doctor warmly, and seemed to
be glad of their unspoken sympathy. It had
been stormy all day, but the wind had gone
down, and a pale moon glimmered above the
dim, tumbling sea. All was quiet, not a foot
fall, not a sound except the dull roar of the
waves breaking upon the beach.

Suddenly a woman s sharp cry cut the silence
like a knife. It was followed by sobs and
shrieks and passing footsteps and the clamor
of many voices. Every one must have noticed


how much more terrible noises are at night
than in the daytime ; the silly laughter of
drunkards and fools, the maniac s shout, the
piercing shriek of a woman in distress, seem to
desecrate its peaceful gloom, and mock the
slow, mystic panorama of the heavens. Tul-
loch felt unusually impressed by this night-
tumult, and early in the morning sent his serv
ant out to discover its meaning.

" It was Maggie Barefoot, sir ; her man was
drowned last night ; she has six bairns and not
a bread-winner among them. But what then ?
Magnus Tulloch went too, and he had four
little lads their mother died at Lammas-tide.
They ll be God s bairns now, for they have
neither kith nor kin. It is a sad business, I
say that."

" Go and bring them here."

The order was given without consideration,
and without any conscious intention. He was
amazed himself when he had uttered it. The
man was an old servant, and said hesitatingly,
"Yes, but they are no kin of thine."

" All the apples on the same tree have come
from the same root, Bele ; and it is like enough
that all the Tullochs will have had one forbear.


I would be a poor Tulloch to see one of the
name wanting a bite and sup. Yes, indeed. *

He was very thoughtful after seeing the
children, and whe*: Dr. Balloch came, he said
to him at once : " Now, then, I will do what
thou hast told me to do settle up my affairs
with this world forever. Wilt thou help me?

" If I think thou does the right thing, I will
help thee, but I do not think it is right to give
thy money to Margaret Vedder. She has
enough and to spare. Cursed be he that
giveth unto the rich/ It was Mahomet and
Anti-Christ that said the words, but for all that
they are good words."

" I have no kin but a fifth cousin in Leith ;
he is full of gold and honor. All that I have
would be a bawbee to him. But this is what I
think, my money is Shetland money, made of
Shetland fishers, and it ought to stay in Shet

" I think that too."

" Well, then, we are of one mind so far. Now
my wish is to be bread-giver even when I am
dead, to be bread-giver to the children whose
fathers God has taken. Here are Magnus
Tulloch s four, and Hugh Petrie s little lad, and


James Traill s five children, and many more of
whom I know not. My houses, big and little,
shall be homes for them. My money shall buy
them meal and meat and wadmail to clothe
them. There are poor lonely women who will
be glad to care for them, eight or ten to each,
and Suneva Fae and Margaret Vedder will see
that the women do their duty. What thinkest
thou ? "

" Now, then, I think this, that God has made
thy will for thee. Moreover, thou hast put a
good thought into my heart also. Thou knows
I brought in my hand a little money when I
came to Shetland, and it has grown, I know not
how. I will put mine with thine, and though
we are two childless old men, many children
shall grow up and bless us."

Into this scheme Tulloch threw all his
strength and foresight and prudence. The
matter was urgent, and there were no delays,
and no waste of money. Three comfortable
fishermen s cottages that happened to be
vacant, were fitted with little bunks, and plenty
of fleeces for bedding. Peat was stacked for
firing, and meal and salted fish sent in ; so that
in three days twenty-three fatherless, mother*


less children were in warm, comfortable

Suneva entered into the work with perfect
delight. She selected the mothers for each
cottage, and she took good care that they kept
them clean and warm, that the little ones food
was properly cooked, and their clothes washed
and mended. If there were a sorrow or a com
plaint it was brought to her, arid Suneva was
not one to blame readily a child.

Never man went down to the grave with his
hands so full of beneficent work as Tulloch.
Through it he took the sacrament of pain almost
joyfully, and often in the long, lonely hours of
nightly suffering, he remembered with a smile
of pleasure, the little children sweetly sleeping
in the homes he had provided for them. The
work grew and prospered wonderfully ; never
had there been a busier, happier winter in Ler-
wick. As was customary, there were tea-parties
at Suneva s and elsewhere nearly every night,
and at them the women sewed for the children,
while the men played the violin, or recited from
the Sagas, or sung the plaintive songs of the

Margaret brought the dying man constant
intelligence of his bounty : the children, one


or two at a time, were allowed to come and see
him ; twice, leaning on Dr. Balloch, and his serv
ant Bele, he visited the homes, and saw the
orphans at their noonday meals. He felt the
clasp of grateful hands, and the kiss of baby
lips that could not speak their thanks. His
last was the flower of his life-work and he saw
the budding of it, and was satisfied with its

One morning in the following April, Margaret
received the letter which Suneva had prophesied
would arrive by the twentieth, if the weather
were favorable. Nowhere in the world has the
term, " weather permitting," such significance as
in these stormy seas. It is only necessary to
look at the mail steamers, so strongly built, so
bluff at the bows, and nearly as broad as they
are long, to understand that they expect to
have to take plenty of hard blows and buffet-
ings. It was the first steamer that had arrived
for months, and though it made the harbor in
a blinding snow-storm, little Jan would not be
prevented from going into the town to see if it
brought a letter. For the boy s dream of every
thing grand and noble centered in his father.
He talked of him incessantly ; he longed to see
him with all his heart.


Margaret also was restless and faint with
anxiety ; she could not even knit. Never were
two hours of such interminable length. At last
she saw him coming, his head bent to the storm,
his fleet feet skimming the white ground, his
hands deep in his pockets. Far off, he dis
covered his mother watching for him ; then he
stopped a moment, waved the letter above his
head, and hurried onward. It was a good let
ter, a tender, generous, noble letter, full of love
and longing, and yet alive with the stirring story
of right trampling wrong under foot. The child
listened to it with a glowing face :

"I would I were with my father and Snorro,"
he said, regretfully.

"Would thou then leave me, Jan?

" Ay, I would leave thee, mother. I would
leave thee, and love thee, as my father does. I
could stand by my father s side, I could fire a
gun, or reef a sail, as well as Snorro. I would
not be afraid of any thing ; no, I would not.
It is such a long, long time till a boy grows
up to be a man ! When I am a man, thou
shall see that I will have a ship of my own."

It is only in sorrow bad weather masters us;
in joy we face the storm and defy it. Mar-


garet never thought of the snow as any impedi
ment. She went first to Suneva, and then to
Dr. Balloch with her letter ; and she was so
full of happiness that she did not notice the
minister was very silent and preoccupied.
After a little, he said, " Margaret, I must go
now to Tulloch ; it has come to the last."

" Well, then, I think he will be glad. He has
suffered long and sorely."

" Yet a little while ago he was full of life,
eager for money, impatient of all who opposed
him. Thou knowest how hard it often was to
keep peace between him and thy father. Now
he has forgotten the things that once so
pleased him ; his gold, his houses, his boats,
his business, have dropped from his heart,
as the toys drop from the hand of a sleepy

" Father went to see him a week ago."

" There is perfect peace between them now.
Thy father kissed him when they said good-
by. When they meet again, they will have for
gotten all the bitterness, they will remember
only that they lived in the same town, and wor
shiped in the same church, and were compan
ions in the same life. This morning we are


going to eat together the holy bread; come
thou with me."

As they walked through the town the minis
ter spoke to a group of fishers, and four from
among them silently followed him. Tulloch
was still in his chair, and his three servants
stood beside him. The table was spread, the
bread was broken, and, with prayers and tears,
the little company ate it together. Then they
bade each other farewell, a farewell tranquil and
a little sad said simply, and without much
speaking. Soon afterward Tulloch closed his
eyes and the minister and Margaret watched
silently beside him. Only once again the dying
man spoke. He appeared to be sleeping
heavily, but his lips suddenly moved and he
said : " We shall see Nanna to-morrow !

" We ! whispered Margaret. " Whom does
he mean ?

" One whom we can not see ; one who knows
the constellations, and has come to take him to
his God."

Just at sunset a flash of strange light trans
figured for a moment the pallor of his face ; he
opened wide his blue eyes, and standing erect,
bowed his head in an untranslatable wonder


and joy. It was the moment of release, and
the weary body fell backward, deserted and
dead, into the minister s arms.

During the few months previous to his death,
Tulloch had been much in every one s heart and
on every one s tongue. There had not been a
gathering of any kind in which his name had
not been the prominent one ; in some way or
other, he had come into many lives. His death
made a general mourning, especially among the
fishers, to whom he had ever been a wise and
trustworthy friend. He had chosen his grave
in a small islet half a mile distant from Ler-
wick a lonely spot where the living never went,
save to bury the dead.

The day of burial was a clear one, with a
salt, fresh wind from the south-west. Six fisher
men made a bier of their oars, and laid the
coffin upon it. Then the multitude followed,
singing as they went, until the pier was reached.
Boat after boat was filled, and the strange pro
cession kept a little behind the one bearing the
coffin and the minister. The snow lay white
and unbroken on the island, and, as it was only
a few acres in extent, the sea murmured un*
ceasingly around all its shores.


The spot was under a great rock carved by
storms into cloud-like castles and bastions.
Eagles watched them with icy gray eyes frorn
its summit, and the slow cormorant, and the sad
sea-gulls. Overhead a great flock of wild swans
were taking their majestic flight to the solitary
lakes of Iceland, uttering all the time an inspir
ing cry, the very essence of eager expectation
and of joyful encouragement. Dr. Balloch
stood, with bared head and uplifted eyes,
watching them, while they laid the mortal part
of his old friend in "that narrow house, whose
mark is one gray stone." Then looking around
on the white earth, and the black sea, and the
roughly-clad, sad-faced fishers, he said, almost

" The message came forth from him in whoin
we live, and move, and have our being :

" Who is nearer to us than breathing, and
closer than hands or feet.

" Come up hither and dwell in the house of
the Lord forever.

" The days of thy sorrow have been suffi
cient; henceforward there is laid up for thee
the reward of exceeding joy.

" Thou shalt no more fear the evil to come-


the bands of suffering are loosed. Thy Re
deemer hath brought thee a release from sor

"So he went forth unto his Maker; he
attained unto the beginning of peace.

" He departed to the habitations of just men
made perfect, to the communion of saints, to
the life everlasting."

Then he threw a few spadefuls of earth into
the grave, and every man in turn did the same,
till the sepulture was fully over. Silently then
the boats filled, and all went to their homes*
They were solemn, but not sorrowful. The
simple, pathetic service left behind it a feeling
as of triumph. It had shown them they were
mortal, but assured them also of immortality.

During the following summer Margaret
received many letters from Jan ; and she wrote
many to him. Nothing is so conducive to a
strong affection as a long sweet course of love-
letters, and both of them impressed their souls
on the white paper which bore to each other
their messages of affection. It was really their
wooing time, and never lover was half so
impatient to claim his bride, as Jan was to see
again his fair, sweet Margaret. But it was not


likely that he could return for another year, and
Margaret set herself to pass the time as wisely
and happily as possible.

Nor did she feel life to be a dreary or monot
onous affair. She was far too busy for morbid
regrets or longings, for ennui, or impatiences
Between Dr. Balloch, little Jan, the " Tulloch
Homes," and her own house, the days were far
too short. They slipped quickly into weeks,
and the weeks into months, and the months
grew to a year, and then every morning she
awoke with the same thought " Even to-day
Jan might come/ Little Jan shared her joyous
expectations. He was always watching the
horizon for any strange-looking craft. The last
thing at night, the first in the morning, some
times during the night, he scanned the bay,
which was now filling fast with fishing boats
from all quarters.

One Sunday morning very, very early, he
came to his mother s bedside. " Wake, my
mother ! There is a strange ship in the bay.
She is coming straight to harbor. Oh ! I feel
surely in my heart, that it is my father s ship !
Let me go. Let me go now, I ask thee."

Margaret was at the window ere the child

JAN S RE TURN. 3 1 1

ceased speaking. "Thou may go," she said,
" for I certainly think it is The Lapwing/

He had fled at the first words, and Margaret
awoke Elga, and the fires were kindled, and the
breakfast prepared, and the happy wife dressed
herself in the pale blue color that Jan loved ;
and she smiled gladly to see how beautifully it
contrasted with the golden-brown of her hair,
and the delicate pink in her cheeks.

As for the child, his clear, sharp eyes soon
saw very plainly that the vessel had come to
anchor in the bay. " Well/ he said, " that will
be because the tide does not serve yet." John
Semple, an old Scot from Ayrshire, was on the
pier, the only soul in sight. " John, thou loose
the boat, and row me out to The Lapwing/ It
is The Lapwing/ I know it is. Come, thou
must be in a hurry/

" Hurry is the deil s ain word, and I ll
hurry for naebody ; forbye, I wadna lift an oar
for man nor bairn on the Sawbath day/
" Dost thou think it is The Lapwing?
" It may be : I ll no say it isn t."
The child had unfastened the boat while he
was talking ; he leaped into it, and lifted an
oar. " Then I must scull, John. Thou might
go with me !


" I m no gaun to break the Sawbath, an* a
water way is waur than a land way, for then
you ll be atween the deil an the deep sea.
Bide at hame, Jan, an ye ll be a wise lad."

Jan shook his head, and went away by him.
self. The bay was smooth as glass, and he
paddled with marvelous ease and speed. Very
soon he came alongside the yacht : the sailors
were holystoning the deck, but there was not a
face looked over the side that little Jan knew.

"Well, then, is this The Lapwing?" he

" That s her name ; what s your name, you
little monkey?"

"Jan Vedder. Throw me a rope."

The men laughed as if at some excellent
joke, and taunted and teased the child until he
was in a passion. In the middle of the quarrel
Jan himself came on deck.

" A lad as wants to come on board, Captain."

Jan looked down at the lad who wanted to
come on board, and the bright, eager face gave
him a sudden suspicion. " What is thy name? "
he asked.

" Jan Vedder. Wilt thou throw me a rope ? "

Then the captain turned and gave some


orders, and in a few minutes little Jan stood on
the deck of " The Lapwing." His first glance, his.
first movement was toward the handsomely
dressed officer who was watching him with such
a smiling, loving face.

" Thou art my father ! I know thou art ! "
and with the words he lifted up his face and
arms as if to be kissed and embraced.

Then they went into the cabin and Snorro
was called, and perhaps Jan had a little pang
of jealousy when he witnessed the joy of the
child, and saw him folded to Snorro s big heart*
Jan and Snorro were already dressed in their
finest uniforms. They had only been waiting
for the daybreak to row into harbor. But now
there was no need of delay. " My mother is
waiting for thee," said little Jan, anxiously*
" Come, let us go to her. *

It was still very early. John Semple had
disappeared, and not a soul else was stirring.
But this time when Jan approached his old
home, the welcome was evident from afar. The
chimneys were smoking, the blinds raised, the
door wide open, and Margaret, beautiful and
loving, stood in it, with beaming face and open
arms to welcome him.


Then there was a wonderful breakfast, and
they sat over it until the bells were ringing for
church. " There will be time to talk afterward/
said Snorro, " but now, what better thing can
be done than to go to church ? It will be the
best place of all, and it is well said, for a happy
hour a holy roof. What dost thou think,
Jan ? "

" I think as thou dost, and I see the same
answer in my Margaret s face. Well, then, we
will take that road."

So Jan, with his wife upon his arm, went first,
and Snorro, holding little Jan by the hand,
followed. The congregation were singing a
psalm, a joyful one, it seemed to Jan, and they
quietly walked to the minister s pew, which was
always reserved for strangers.

Ere they reached it there was a profound
sensation, and Dr. Balloch slightly raised him
self and looked at the party. Jan was in his
full uniform, and so was Snorro, but there was
no mistaking either of the men. And no mis

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrJan Vedder's wife → online text (page 14 of 15)