Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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for his, Peter s, injury? From the secrecy
maintained, he suspected some scheme against
his interests. Snorro, on being questioned,


could truthfully say that Jan had not told him
he was to leave Lerwick that morning ; in fact,
Jan had purposely left Snorro ignorant of his
movements. But the good fellow could not
hide the joy he felt, and Peter looked at him

It was seldom Peter went to see his daughter,
but that evening he made her a call. What
ever she knew she would tell him, and he did
not feel as if he could rest until he got the clue
to Jan s connection with Tulloch. But when
he named it to Margaret, he found she was
totally ignorant of Jan s departure. The news
shocked her. Her work dropped from her
hand ; she was faint with fear and amazement.
Jan had never before left her in anger, without
a parting word or kiss. Her father s complaints
and fears about Tulloch she scarcely heeded.
Jan s behavior toward herself was the only
thought in her mind. Peter learned nothing
from her; but his irritation was much increased
by what he considered Margaret s unreasonable
sorrow over a bad husband. He could not
bear a crying woman, and his daughter s sobs
angered him.

" Come thou home to thy mother," he said,


" when thy eyes are dry ; but bring no tears to
my house for Jan Vedder."

Then Margaret remembered that she had
threatened Jan with this very thing. Evidently
he had dared her to do it by this new neglect
and unkindness. She wandered up and down
the house, full of wretched fears and memories ;
love, anger, pride, each striving for the mastery.
Perhaps the bitterest of all her thoughts to
ward her husband arose from the humiliating
thought of " what people would say/ For
Margaret was a slave to a wretched thraldom
full of every possible tragedy she would see
much of her happiness or misery through the
eyes of others.

She felt bitterly that night that her married
life had been a failure ; but failures are gener
ally brought about by want of patience and
want of faith. Margaret had never had much
patience with Jan ; she had lost all faith in
him. " Why should she not go home as her
father told her?" This question she kept
asking herself. Jan had disappointed all her
hopes. As for Jan s hopes, she did not ask
herself any questions about them. She looked
around the handsome home she had given him;


she considered the profitable business which
might have been his on her father s retirement
or death ; and she thought a man must be
wicked who could regard lightly such blessings.
As she passed a glass she gazed upon her own
beauty with a mournful smile and thought
anew, how unworthy of all Jan had been.

At daybreak she began to put carefully away
such trifles of household decoration as she
valued most. Little ornaments bought in
Edinburgh, pieces of fancy work done in her
school days, fine china, or glass, or napery.
She had determined to lock up the house and
go to her father s until Jan returned. Then
he would be obliged to come for her, and in
any dispute she would at least have the benefit
of a strong position. Even with this thought,
full as it was of the most solemn probabilities,
there came into her niggardly calculations the
consideration of its economy. She would not
only save all the expenses of housekeeping,
but all her time could be spent in making fine
knitted goods, and a great many garments
might thus be prepared before the annual fair

This train of ideas suggested her bank book.
That must certainly go with her, and a faint


smile crossed her face as she imagined the sur.
prise of her father and mother at the amount
it vouched for that was, if she concluded to
tell them. She went for it ; of course it was
gone. At first she did not realize the fact;
then, as the possibility of its loss smote her, she
trembled with terror, and hurriedly turned
over and over the contents of the drawer.
" Gone ! She said it with a quick, sharp cry,
like that of a woman mortally wounded. She
could find it nowhere, and after five minutes*
search, she sat down upon her bedside, and
abandoned herself to agonizing grief.

Yes, it was pitiable. She had begun the
book with pennies saved from sweeties and
story-books, from sixpences, made by knitting
through hours when she would have liked to
play. The ribbons and trinkets of her girlhood
and maidenhood were in it, besides many a
little comfort that Jan and herself had been
defrauded of. Her hens had laid for it, her
^eese been plucked for it, her hands had con
stantly toiled for it. It had been the idol upon
the hearthstone to which had been offered up
the happiness of her youth, and before which
love lay slain.


At first its loss was all she could take in, but
very quickly she began to connect the loss with
Jan, and with the 600 he had asked her ta
get for him at their last conversation. With
this conviction her tears ceased, her face grew
hard and white as ice. If Jan had used her
money she was sure that she would never speak
to him, never see him again. At that hour she
almost hated him. He was only the man who
had taken her 600. She forgot that he had
been her lover and her husband. As soon as
she could control herself she fled to her father s
house, and kneeling down by Peter s side
sobbed out the trouble that had filled her cup
to overflowing.

This was a sorrow Peter could heartily sym
pathize with. He shed tears of anger and mor
tification, as he wiped away those of his daugh
ter. It was a great grief to him that he could
not prosecute Jan for theft. But he was quite
aware that the law recognized Jan s entire right
to whatever was his wife s. Neither the fathei
nor daughter remembered how many years Jaiv
had respected his wife s selfishness, and for,
given her want of confidence in him ; the
he had done was an unpardonable wrong.


Thora said very little. She might have
reminded Peter that he had invested all her for
tune in his business, that he always pocketed
her private earnings. But to what purpose ?
She did not much blame Jan for taking at last,
what many husbands would have taken at first,
but she was angry enough at his general unkind*
ness to Margaret. Yet it was not without
many forebodings of evil she saw Peter store
away in an empty barn all the pretty furni
ture of Margaret s house, and put the key of
the deserted house in his pocket.

"And I am so miserable!" wailed the
wretched wife, morning, noon, and night. Her
money and her husband supplied her with
perpetual lamentations, varied only by pitiful
defenses of her own conduct : " My house was
ever clean and comfortable ! No man s table
was better served ! I was never idle ! I wasted
nothing ! I never was angry ! And yet I am
robbed, and betrayed, and deserted ! There
never was so miserable a woman so unjustly
miserable ! " etc.

" Alas ! my child," said Thora, one day, " did
you then expect to drink of the well of hap
piness before death ? This is the great saying


<vhich we all forget : T/ierenot here there
the wicked cease from troubling ; there the
weary are at rest. There God has promised to
wipe away all tears, but not here, Margaret,
not here



* A man I am, crossed with adversity.

" There is some soul of goodness in things evjl
Would men observmgly distill it out."

NO man set more nakedly side by side the
clay and spirit of his double nature than
Jan Vedder. No man wished so much and willed
so little. Long before he returned from his
first voyage, he became sorry for the deception
he had practiced upon his wife, and determined
to acknowledge to her his fault, as far as he saw
it to be a fault. He was so little fond of money,
that it was impossible for him to understand
the full extent of Margaret s distress ; but he
knew, at least, that she would be deeply grieved,
and he was quite willing to promise her, that as
soon as The Solan was clear of debt, he
would begin to repay her the money she prized
so much.

Her first voyage was highly successful, and he


was, as usual, sanguine beyond all reasonable
probabilities ; quite sure, indeed, that Tulloch
and Margaret could both be easily paid off in
two years. Surely two years was a very short
time for a wife to trust her husband with ^600.
Arguing, then, from his own good intentions,
and his own hopes and calculations, he had per
suaded himself before he reached Lerwick
again that the forced loan was really nothing to
make any fuss about, that it would doubtless be
a very excellent thing, and that Margaret would
be sure to see it as he did.

The Solan touched Lerwick in the after
noon. Jan sent a message to Tulloch, and
hastened to his home. Even at a distance the
lonely air of the place struck him unpleasantly.
There was no smoke from the chimneys, th<
windows were all closed. At first he thought;
" Margaret is gone for a day s visit somewhere
it is unlucky then." But as he reached th*
closed gate other changes made themselve,
apparent. His Newfoundland dog, that had
always known his step afar off, and came
bounding to meet him, did not answer his
whistle. Though he called Brenda, his pet
seal, repeatedly, she came not ; she, that had


always met him with an almost human affection.
He perceived before his feet touched the
threshold how it was : Margaret had gone to
her father s, or the animals and poultry would
have been in the yard.

His first impulse was to follow her there 3.nd
bring her home, and he felt in his pocket for
the golden chain and locket he had brought her
as a peace-offering. Then he reflected that
by the time he could reach Peter s house it
would be the tea-hour, and he did not intend
to discuss the differences between Margaret and
himself in Peter s presence. Thora s good
influence he could count upon ; but he knew it
would be useless either to reason with or pro
pitiate Peter. For fully five minutes he stood
at his bolted door wondering what to do. He
felt his position a cruel one ; just home from a
prosperous voyage, and no one to say a kind
word. Yes, he could go to Torr s ; he would
find a welcome there. But the idea of the
noisy room and inquisitive men was disagree
able to him. Snorro he could not see for some
hours. He determined at last that the quiet of
his own lonely home was the best place in
which to consider this new phase of affairs


between him and his wife, and while doing so
he could make a cup of tea, and wash and
refresh himself before the interview.

He unfastened the kitchen shutter and leaped
in. Then the sense of his utter desolation
smote him. Mechanically he walked through
the despoiled, dusty, melancholy rooms. Not
a stool left on which he could sit down. He
laughed aloud that wretched laugh of reckless
sorrow, that is far more pitiful than weeping.
Then he went to Torr s. People had seen him
on the way to his home, and no one had beer*
kind enough to prevent his taking the useless^,
wretched journey. He felt deeply wounded
and indignant. There were not half a dozen
men or women in Lerwick whose position in
regard to Jan would have excused their inter
ference, but of that he did not think. Every
man and woman knew his shame and wrong.
Some one might have warned him. Torr
shook his head sympathetically at Jan s com
plaints, and gave him plenty of liquor, and in
an hour he had forgotten his grief in a drunken

The next morning he went to Peter s house
to see his wife. Peter knew of his arrival, and


he had informed himself of all that had hap*
pened in Torr s room. Jan had, of course,
spoken hastily and passionately, and had drunk
deeply, and none of his faults had been kept
from Margaret. She had expected him to
come at once for her, to be in a passion prob
ably, and to say some hard things, but she also
had certainly thought he would say them to
her, and not to strangers. Hour after hour
she watched, sick with longing and fear and
anger, hour after hour, until Peter came in,
stern and dour, and said :

" Get thee to thy bed, Margaret. Jan
Vedder has said words of thee this night
that are not to be forgiven, and he is now
fathoms deep in Torr s liquor. See thou speak
not with him good nor bad/ and Peter
struck the table so angrily, that both women
were frightened into a silence, which he took
for consent.

So when Jan asked to see his wife, Thora
stood in the door, and in her sad, still way told
him that Peter had left strict orders against his
entering the house.

" But thou, mother, wilt ask Margaret to
come out here and speak to me ? Yes, thou


wilt do that," and he eagerly pressed in Thora s
hand the little present he had brought. "Give
her this, and tell her I wait here for her."

After ten minutes delay, Thora returned and
gave him the trinket back. Margaret wanted
her 600 and not a gold locket, and Jan had
not even sent her a message about it. His
return had brought back the memory of her
loss in all its first vividness. She had had a
dim hope that Jan would bring her money
with him, that he had only taken it to frighten
her ; to lose this hope was to live over again
her first keen sorrow. In this mood it was
easy for her to say that she would not see him,
or speak to him, or accept his gift ; let him
give her back her ;6oo, that was the whole
burden of her answer,

Jan put the unfortunate peace-offering in
his pocket, and walked away without a word.
" He will trouble thee no more, Margaret/
said Thora, quietly. Margaret fancied there
was a tone of reproach or regret in the voice.
It angered her anew, and she answered, " It is
well ; it were better if he had never come at
all." But in her heart she expected Jan to
come, and come again, until she pardoned him.


She had no intention of finally casting him off.
She meant that he should suffer sufficiently to
insure his future good behavior. She had to
suffer with him, and she regarded this as the
hardest and most unjust part of the discipline.
She, who had always done her duty in all

It is true she had permitted her father to
dismantle their home, but she had had a
distinct reason for that, and one which she
intended to have told Jan, had he come back
under circumstances to warrant the confidence.
In fact she had begun to dislike the house very
much. It w r as too small, too far away from her
mother, and from the town ; besides which,
Peter had the very house she longed for vacant,
and she hoped so to manage her father, as to
make the exchange she wished. Perhaps, too,
she was a little bit superstitious. No one had
ever been lucky in the house in which she and
Jan had lived. She sometimes felt angry at
her father for thrusting it upon them. Even
Elga Skade s love affairs had all gone wrong
there, and the girl was sure some malicious
sprite had power within its walls to meddle
and make trouble. Elga had left her, influ-


enced entirely by this superstition, and Mar.
garet had brooded upon it, until it had obtained
some influence over her ; otherwise, she would
not have permitted her father to dismantle the
unhappy home without a protest.

As it was, with all its faults she was begin
ning to miss the independence it gave her. No
married woman ever goes back to the best of
homes, and takes the place of her maidenhood.
Her new servant, Trolla Bork, had warned her
pften of this. "When Bork was drowned," she
#aid, " I went back to my parents, but I did
not go back to my home. No, indeed ! There
is a difference, even where there is no unkind-
ness. Thy own home is a full cup. Weep, if
thou must weep, at thy own fireside."

After Margaret s refusal to see Jan, he went
back to his boat, and employed himself all day
about her cargo, and in settling accounts with
Tulloch. It was very late when he went to see
Snorro. But Snorro was waiting for him. Now
that things had come to a crisis he was ready to
hear all Jan s complaints ; he believed him in
all things to have done right.

" Thou hast asked her once, Jan," he said;
" that was well and right. Thou shalt not go


again. No, indeed ! Let her come and tell thee
she is sorry. Then thou can show her a man s
heart, and forgive her freely, without yea or
nay in the matter. What right had she to pull
thy house to pieces without thy knowledge ?
Come, now, and I will show thee the place I
have made for thee when thou art in Lerwick."

There was a big loft over Peter s store, with
a narrow ladder-like stair to it. It was full of
the lumber of thirty years and tenanted by a
colony of Norway rats, who were on the most
familiar terms with Snorro. Many of them
answered to their names, none were afraid to
eat from his hand ; one old shrewd fellow, gray
with age, often crept into Snorro s bosom, and
in the warmth, lay hour after hour, watching
with wise, weird eyes the quiet face it trusted
as it bent over a book.

There was a corner in this garret with a win
dow looking seaward, and here Snorro had
cleared a small space, and boarded it up like a
room. A bed of down and feathers, with a
cover of sealskins occupied one side ; two rude
seats, a big goods-box turned up for a table,
and some shelves full of the books Jan had
brought him, completed its furniture.


" See here, Jan, I have been fifteen years
with Peter Fae, and no feet but mine have ever
entered this loft. Here thou canst be at peace.
My dear Jan, lie thee down, and sleep now."

Jan was glad to do it. He put the gold
locket on Snorro s table, and said, "Thou keep
it. I bought it for her, and she sent it back
to me."

" Some day she will be glad of it. Be thou
sure of that."

During the summer Jan made short and
quick voyages, and so he spent many an hour
in this little retreat talking with Snorro, for
he had much to annoy and trouble him. We
do not get over living sorrows as easily as dead
ones. Margaret in her grave would have lost
the power to wound him, and he would grad
ually have ceased to lament her. But Margaret
weeping in her father s house ; Margaret pray
ing in the kirk for strength to bear his neglect
and injustice ; Margaret throwing open the Blue
beard chamber of their home, and discussing
its tragedy with his enemies ; this was a sorrow
there was no forgetting. On his return from
every voyage he sent her the money he had
made, and some little token of his love with it.


She always sent both back without a word. She
understood from them that Jan would come no
more in person, and that she would have to make
the next advance, either by voice or letter.
Many times she had declared she would never
do this, and the declaration even in her tender,
est hours, bound her to her self-inflicted loneli
ness and grief. So on Snorro s rude table the
pretty womanly trinkets accumulated, and
Snorro looked at them with constantly gath
ering anger.

One morning in October he heard a thing
that made his heart leap. The physician of the
town hurried into the store, and cried, " Peter
Fae, here hath come a little man to thy house.
A handsome lad he is, indeed. Now then, go
and see him."

" What of my daughter, Doctor?*

" She will do well enough.

Snorro lifted never an eyelash, but his face
glowed like fire. Jan, then, had a son ! Jan s
son ! Already he loved the child. Surely he
would be the peacemaker. Now the mother
and father must meet. He had almost for
given Margaret. How he longed for Jan to
come back. Alas ! when he did, Margaret was


said to be dying ; Peter had not been at his
store for three days.

The double news met Jan as soon as he put
his foot on the quay. " Thou hast a son, Jan."
"Thy wife is dying." Jan was nearly dis
traught. With all a man s strength of feeling,
he had emotions as fervent and vivid as a
woman : he forgot in a moment every angry
feeling, and hastened to his wife. Peter opened
the door ; when he saw Jan, he could have
struck him. He did what was more cruel, he
shut the door in his face, and drew the bolt
passionately across it

Jan, however, would not leave the vicinity.
He stopped the doctor, and every one that;
came and went. In a few hours this became
intolerable to Peter. He ordered him to go
away, but Jan sat on a large stone by the gate,
with his head in his hands, and answered him
never a word. Then he sent Thora to him. In
vain Jan tried to soften her heart. " Margaret
is unconscious, yet she mourns constantly for
thee. Thou art my child s murderer," she
said sternly. " Go thy ways before I curse thee/

He turned away then and went down to the
seaside, and threw himself, in an agony of


despair, upon the sand and the yellow tangle.
Hour after hour passed ; physical exhaustion
and mental grief produced at length a kind of
lethargy, that oblivion, rather than sleep, which
comes to souls which have felt till they can feel
no longer.

Just at dark some one touched him, and
asked sternly, "Art thou drunk, Jan Vedder,
to-day ? To-day, when thy wife is dying ?

" It is with sorrow I am drunk/ Then he
opened his eyes and saw the minister standing
over him. Slowly he rose to his feet, and stood
stunned and trembling before him.

"Jan! Go to thy wife. She is very ill. At
the last she may want thee and only thee."

" They will not let me see her. Do thou
speak to Peter Fae for me."

" Hast thou not seen her or thy son ?

" I have not been within the door. Oh, do
thou speak for me !

"Come with me."

Together they went back to Peter s house.
The door was locked, and the minister knocked.

"Who is there?"

"It is I, and Jan Vedder. Peter, unbolt the


" Thou art God s minister and ever welcome ;
but I will not let Jan Vedder cross my door-

" Thou wilt let us both in. Indeed thou wilt.
I am amazed at thee, Peter. What God has
joined together, let no man put asunder. Art
thou going to strive against God ? I say to thee,
unbolt the door, unbolt it quick, lest thou be
too late. If thou suffer not mercy to pass
through it, I tell thee there are those who will
pass through it, the door being shut."

Then Peter drew the bolt and set the door
wide, but his face was hard as iron, and black
as midnight.

" Jan," said the minister, " thy wife and child
are in the next room. Go and see them, it will
be good for thee. Peter, well may the Lord
Christ say, I come as a thief in the night ;
and be sure of this, he will break down the bars
and burst open the doors of those who rise not
willingly to let him in."

In Shetland at that day, and indeed at the
present day, the minister has almost a papal
authority. Peter took the reproof in silence.
Doctor Balloch was, however, a man who in any
circumstances would have had influence and


authority among those brought in contact with
him, for though he spared not the rod in the
way of his ministry, he was in all minor mat
ters full of gentleness and human kindness.
Old and young had long ago made their hearts
over to him. Besides, his great learning and
his acquaintance with the tongues of antiquity
were regarded as a great credit to the town.

While Jan was in his wife s presence, Doc
tor Balloch stood silent, looking into the fire :
Peter gazed out of the window. Neither spoke
until Jan returned. Then the minister turned
and looked at the young man. It was plain
that he was on the verge of insensibility again.
He took his arm and led him -to a couch. " Lie
down, Jan ;" then turning to Peter he said,
" Thy son has had no food to-day. He is faint
and suffering. Let thy women make him some
tea, and bring him some bread and meat."

" I have said that he shall not eat bread in
my house."

"Then thou hast said an evil and uncharita
ble thing. Unsay it, Peter. See, the lad is
fainting !

" I can not mend that. He shall not break
bread in my house."


" Then I say this to thee. Thou shalt not
break bread at thy Lord s supper in His house.
No, thou shalt not, for thou would be doing it
unworthily, and eating damnation to thyself.
What saith thy Lord Christ? If thine enemy
hunger, feed him. Now, then, order the bread
and tea for Jan Vedder."

Peter called a woman servant and gave the
order. Then, almost in a passion, he faced the
minister, and said, " Oh, sir, if thou knew the
evil this man hath done me and mine !

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrJan Vedder's wife → online text (page 4 of 15)