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Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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taking the tone of the service which followed !
It seemed as if the minister had flung off fifty
years, and was again talking to his flock with
the fire and enthusiasm of his youth. His



JAN S RETURN. 3*5

prayer was like a song of triumph ; his sermon*
the old joyful invitation of the heart that had
found its lost treasure, and called upon its
neighbors to come and rejoice with it. The
service ended in a song that was a benediction,
and a benediction that was a song.

Then Dr. Balloch hastened to come down,
and Jan, seeing how he trembled with joy, went
to meet and support him ; and so there, even
on the pulpit stairs, the good minister kissed
and blessed him, and called him, " my dear
son." Peter put out both hands to Jan, and
Margaret embraced Suneva, and in the church
yard the whole congregation waited, and there
was scarcely a dry eye among either men or
women.

" Thou come home to my house to-night,
Jan," said Peter, " thou, and thy wife and child ;
come, and be gladly welcome, for this is a great
day to me."

" Come, all of you," said Suneva, " and Snor-
ro. he must come too."

So they spent the night at Peter s house, and
the next morning Peter walked to his store
between his son-in-law and his grandson, the
proudest and happiest man in Shetland. All,



3 l6 JAN VEDDER S WIFE.

and far more than all of his old love for Jan had
come back to his heart. Jan could have asked
him now for the half of his fortune, and it
would have been given cheerfully.



CHAPTER XV.

LABOR AND REST.

" Turning to the celestial city, to infinite serenities, to love
without limit, to perfect joy."

THE next evening Peter and Suneva and
Dr. Balloch sat around Jan s hearth, and
talked of all that he had seen and done during
his absence. " But where is Michael Snorro?"
asked the doctor. " I thought to have heard
him talk to-night."

" Snorro stays by the yacht. His quarters
are on her, and she is in his charge. No one
finds Snorro far from the post of duty," an
swered Jan proudly. " He is the best sailor in
her Majesty s service, and the best fighter."

" That is likely," said Peter. " Since the
days of Harold Halfager, the Snorros have
been called good fighters."

" And why not ? " asked Suneva, with a
proud toss of her handsome head. " He is



318 JAN VEDDER S WIFE.

pure Norse. Will a Norseman turn from any
fight in a good cause? That he will not
Peter, there is none can tell us better what the
Norseman is than thou can. Speak out now >
for Jan and the minister will be glad to hear
thee.

Every Shetlander can recite. Suneva had
taught Peter to believe that no one could
recite as well as he could ; so he laid down his
pipe, and, with great spirit and enthusiasm,
spoke thus :

" A swarthy strength with face of light,
As dark sword-iron is beaten bright ;
A brave, frank look, with health aglow,
Bonny blue eyes and open brow ;
A man who ll face to his last breath
The sternest facts of life and death ;
His friend he welcomes heart-in-hand,
But foot to foot his foe must stand ;

This is the daring Norseman.

The wild wave motion, weird and strange >
Rocks in him : seaward he must range.
He hides at heart of his rough life
A world of sweetness for his wife ;



LABOR AND REST. 319

From his rude breast a babe can press
Soft milk of human tenderness,
Make his eyes water, his heart dance,
And sunrise in his countenance ;

The mild, great-hearted Norseman*

Valiant and true, as Sagas tell,
The Norseman hateth lies like hell ;
Hardy from cradle to the grave,
Tis his religion to be brave ;
Great, silent, fighting men, whose words
Were few, soon said, and out with swords !
One saw his heart cut from his side
Living and smiled, and smiling, died,

The unconquerable Norseman !

Still in our race the Norse king reigns,
His best blood beats along our veins ;
With his old glory we can glow,
And surely sail where he could row.
Is danger stirring? Up from sleep
Our war-dog wakes the watch to keep,
Stands with our banner over him,
True as of old, and stern and grim ;

The brave, true-hearted Norseman.

When swords are gleaming you shall see
The Norseman s face flash gloriously ;



320 JAN VEDDER S WIFE*

With look that makes the foeman reel :
His mirror from of old was steel.
And still he wields, in battle s hour,
That old Thor s hammer of Norse power ;
Strikes with a desperate arm of might,
And at the last tug turns the fight :

For never yields the Norseman."

" That is true," said Jan ; " and Snorro knows
not the way to yield. Once, on the river
Songibusar, when we were attacking Sherif
Osman, there was danger that a battery would
be taken in reverse. The Ajax had come up to
assist the Hydra/ and her commander sent a
sergeant to tell Snorro that he had better spike
his gun and retreat."

Suneva laughed scornfully, and asked, " Well,
then, what did Snorro answer ? "

" Thou tell him that sent thee, that Michael
Snorro takes his orders only from Captain Jan
Vedder, and Captain Vedder has not said
"retreat." No, indeed! Then he got his
gun round to bear on the enemy, and he poured
such a fire down on them that they fled, fled
quick enough. As for Snorro, he did things
almost impossible."



LABOR AND REST.

" Well, Jan, Osman was a very bad man. It
is not well to pity the downfall of tyrants. He
had made Borneo, it seems, a hell upon earth/ 1

" My minister, he was a devil and no man.
But five hundred free blue jackets were more
than he could bear. We utterly destroyed all
his forts, and took all his cannon, and made the
coast habitable."

" To-day," said Margaret, " I heard thee say
to Snorro, when thou comes next on shore,
bring with thee that idol of Chappo s for the
minister/ Who then is Chappo ? "

" A wretch worth fighting. A Chinese pirate
who came out against us with forty junks, each
junk carrying ten guns and a crew of fifty men.
He had been blockading the island of Potoo,
where many English ladies had taken refuge.
It is not fit to name the deeds of these devils.
We took from them sixty wretched captives,
destroyed one hundred of their crafts and two
hundred of their guns, and thus enabled a large
number of merchant vessels which had been shut
up in different rivers for ransom, to escape.
There was even a worse state of affairs on the
Sarabas. There we were assisted by an Ameri
can ship called * The Manhattan/ and with her aid



322 JAN ViLDDER S WIFE.

destroyed a piratical expeditioia numbering one
hundred and twenty proas carrying more than
twelve hundred men. These wretches before
starting beheaded and mutilated all their women
captives, and left their bodies with that of a
child about six years old upon the beach.
Snorro s wrath that day was terrible. He shut
his ears to every cry for mercy. I do not blame
him ; indeed, no."

Thus they talked, until the minister said,
" Now I must go to my own house, for Hamish
is full of fears for me if I am late." So Jan
walked with him. It was midnight, but the
moon was high in the zenith, and the larks
singing rapturously in mid-air. A tender,
mystical glow was over earth and sea, and both
were as still as if they were a picture. Many
good words were said on that walk, and the
man who was saved and the man who saved
him both lay down upon their beds that night
with full and thankful hearts.

For two months, full of quiet joy, Jan and
Margaret occupied their old home. They were
almost as much alone as in their honeymoon ;
for little Jan spent most of his time with his
friend Snorro, on board "The Lapwing/



LABOR AND REST. 323

Snorro had been much pleased to join his old
mates in the fishing boats, but he could not
bear to put off, even for a day, his uniform.
However, Jan and he and little Jan often
sailed in advance of the fleet, and found the
herring, and brought word back what course to
steer. For this knowledge was a kind of
instinct with Jan ; he could stand and look
east and west, north and south, and then by
some occult premonition, strike the belt of
fish.

Never had Jan dreamed of such happiness as
came at last to him in that humble home of
his early married life. It was a late harvest of
joy, but it was a sure one. Margaret had wept
tears of fond regret in all its rooms ; its hearth
had been an altar of perpetual repentance to
her. But the sorrow had been followed by the
joy of forgiveness, and the bliss of re-union.
Its walls now echoed the fond words of mutual
trust and affection, and the hearty communings
of friendship. There was no stint in its hospi
tality; no worry over trivial matters. Mar
garet had learned that in true marriage the
wife must give as well as take give love and
forbearance, and help and comfort.



324 JAN VEDDER S WIFE.

Jan s and Snorro s visit was a kind of festival
for Lerwick. Though it was the busy season^
Peter and Suneva kept open house. Never
had Peter been so generous both in friendship
and in business ; never had Suneva dressed so
gayly, or set such plenteous feasts. She was
very proud of Margaret s position, and paid her
unconsciously a vast respect ; but she opened
all her warm heart to little Jan, and everything
that was hers she determined to give him.

Dr. Balloch, in his quiet way, enjoyed the
visit equally. He went very often to sea in
the yacht with Jan and Snorro, and, in the
happy intercourse with them, the long days
were short ones to him. He saw the full
fruition of his faith and charity, and was satis
fied.

Fortunately, after this event Jan was never
very long away at one time. Until the Russian
war he made short cruises in the African seas,
and Snorro had many opportunities of realizing
the joy of liberating the slave, and punishing the
oppressor. In the toil and suffering of the
Crimea, Jan and Snorro bore their part
bravely. Jan had charge of a naval brigade
formed of contingents from the ships of the



LABOR AND REST. 325

allied fleets. No men did a greater variety of
duties or behaved more gallantly than these
blue jackets on shore. They dragged the
heavy guns from their ships, and they fought
in the batteries. They carried the scaling
ladders in assaults. They landed the stores.
They cheerfully worked as common laborers
on that famous road between Balaclava and
Sebastopol, for they knew that on its com
pletion depended the lives of the brave men
famishing and dying on the heights.

But after many happy, busy years, Jan came
home one day and found only Margaret to
welcome him. His son Jan was commanding
his own vessel in Australian waters ; his son
Peter was in the East Indies. His daughters
homes were far apart, Margaret, with fast sil
vering hair, and the heavy step of advancing
years, longed greatly for the solace and strength
of his constant presence ; and Jan confessed
that he was a little weary of the toil, and even
of the glory of his life.

The fact once admitted, the desire for retire
ment grew with its discussion. In a little
while Jan and Snorro returned to Shetland for
the evening of their lives. They had been



326 JAN VEDDER S WIFE.

twenty years away, but Lerwick was very little
changed. The old world had not been invaded
by the new one. Here and there the busy
spirit of the age had left a finger-mark; no
more. The changes were mostly those which
under any circumstances would have come.
Doctor Balloch had finished his work, and gone
to his reward. Peter s store was in another
name, but Peter, though a very old man, was
bright and hale, and quite able to take an
almost childlike interest in all Jan s plans and
amusements.

At first Jan thought of occupying himself
with building a fine new house ; but after he
had been a week in Shetland, his ambitious
project seemed almost ridiculous. He noticed
also that Margaret s heart clung to her old home,
the plain little house in which she had suffered,
and enjoyed, and learned so much. So he sat
down contentedly on the hearth from which he
began a life whose troubled dawning had been
succeeded by a day so brilliant, and an evening
so calm.

Snorro, never far away, and never long away,
from his "dear captain/ his " dear Jan,"
bought the little cottage in which he had once



LABOR AND REST. 327

lived. There he hung again the pictured Christ,
and there he arranged, in his own way, all the
treasures he had gathered during his roving
life. Snorro s house was a wonderful place to
the boys of Lerwick. They entered it with an
almost awful delight. They sat hour after hour,
listening to the kind, brave, good man, in whom
every child found a friend and comforter. His
old mates also dearly loved to spend their even
ings with Snorro, and hear him tell about the
dangers he had passed through, and the daeds
he had done.

How fair ! how calm and happy was this
evening of a busy day ! Yet in its sweet re
pose many a voice from the outside world
reached the tired wayfarers. There were fre
quent letters from Jan s children, and they
came from all countries, and brought all kinds
of strange news. There were rare visits from
old friends, messages and tokens of remem
brance, and numerous books and papers that
kept for them the echoes of the places they had
left.

Neither did they feel the days long, or grow
weary with inaction. Jan and Snorro, like the
majority of men, whose life-work is finished.



328 JAN VEDDER S WIFE.

conceived a late but ardent affection for their-
mother earth. They each had gardens and small
hot-houses, and they were always making experi
ments with vegetables and flowers. It was
wonderful how much pleasure they got out of
4he patches of ground they tried to beautify.
Then the fishing season always renewed their
youth. The boats in which Jan or Snorro
took a place were the lucky boats, and often
both men sat together during the watch, as they
had done long years before, and talked softly in
the exquisite Shetland night of all the good that
had come to them.

For the companionship between these two
souls grew closer and fonder as they drew nearer
to the heavenly horizon. They were more and
more together, they walked the long watches
again, and fought over their battles, and recalled
the hours which had been link after link in
that chain of truest love which had bound their
hearts and lives together.

And Margaret, still beautiful, with hair as
white as snow, and a face as fair and pink as a
pale rose-leaf, sat smiling, and listening, and
knitting beside them ; no fears in any of thefe
hearts to beat away, no strife to heal, the past



LABOR AND REST. 329

unsighed for, the future sure, they made a pic
ture of old age, well won,

" Serene and bright
And lovely as a Shetland night."



THE END.




UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LIBRA]

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Jan Vedder f s wife



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