Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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" In such a case Christ s instructions are very
plain Overcome evil with good/ Now, thou
knowest thy duty. If thou sin, I have warned
thee the sin is on thy own head."

Jan heard nothing of this conversation. The
voices of the two men were only like spent
waves breaking on the shores of his conscious
ness. But very soon a woman brought him a
basin of hot tea, and he drank it and ate a few
nnouthfuls. It gave him a little strength, he
gathered himself together, opened the door,
and without speaking went out into the night*
The minister followed, watching him carefully,
until he saw Michael Snorro take him in his big
arms, and carry him to a pile of sealskins.


Poor Jan ! He was utterly spent and miser
able. The few minutes he had passed at
Margaret s side, had brought him no comfort.
He heard her constantly muttering his name,
but it was in the awful, far-distant voice of a
soul speaking through a dream. She was
unconscious of his presence; he trembled in
hers. Just for a moment Thora had allowed
him to lift his son, and to press the tiny face
against his own. Then all was darkness, and a
numb, aching sorrow, until he found himself in
Snorro s arms.

Many days Ivi^rgaret Vedder lay between
life and death, but at length there was hope,
and Jan sailed again. He went away very
miserable, though he had fully determined it
should be his last voyage if Margaret wished it
so. He would see her on his return, he would
tell her how sorry he was, he would sell The
Solan and give back the 600 ; he would even
humble himself to Peter, and go back to the
store, if there were no other way to make
peace with Margaret. He felt that no personal
sacrifice would be too great, if by it he could
win back his home, and wife, and son. The
babe had softened his heart. He told himself


oh, so often "Thou art a father;" and no
man could have had a sweeter, stronger sense
of the obligations the new relation imposed.
He was so sure of himself that he could not
help feeling equally sure of Margaret, and also
of Peter. " For the child s sake, they will for
give me, Snorro, and I ll do well, yes, I will do
well for the future."

Snorro had many fears, but he could not
bear to throw cold water on Jan s hopes and
plans for reformation. He did not believe that
his unconditional surrender would be a good
foundation for future happiness. He did not
like Jan s taking the whole blame. He did
not like his giving up The Solan at Marga
ret s word. Neither Peter Fae, nor his daughter,
were likely to exalt any one who humbled

" It is money in the hand that wins," said
Snorro, gloomily, " and my counsel is, that thou
bear thyself bravely, and show her how well
The Solan hath done already, and how likely
she is to clear herself and pay back that weari
ful ,600 before two years have gone away. If
she will have it, let her have it. Jan, how could
she give thee up for 600 ! Did she love thee ? "


"I do believe she did and does yet,

" Only God, then, understands women. But
while thou art away, think well of this and that,
and of the things likely to follow, for still I
see that forethought spares afterthought and

With words like these ringing in his ears,
Jan again sailed The Solan out of Lerwick.
He intended to make a coasting voyage only,
but he expected delay, for with November had
come storm and cold, fierce winds and roaring
seas. Edging along from port to port, taking
advantage of every tide and favorable breeze,
and lying to, when sailing was impossible,
six weeks were gone before he reached Kirk-
wall in the Orkneys. Here he intended to
take in his last cargo before steering for home.
A boat leaving Kirkwall as he entered, carried
the news of The Solan s arrival to Lerwick,
and then Snorro watched anxiously every tide
for Jan s arrival.

But day after day passed and The Solan
came not. No one but Snorro was uneasy. In
the winter, in that tempestuous latitude, boats
were often delayed for weeks. They ran from


shelter to shelter in constant peril of ship
wreck, and with a full cargo a good skipper
was bound to be prudent. But Snorro had a
presentiment of danger and trouble. He
watched night after night for Jan, until even
his strength gave way, and he fell into a deep
sleep. He was awakened by Jan s voice. In
a moment he opened the door and let him

Alas ! Alas, poor Jan ! It was sorrow upon
sorrow for him. The Solan had been driven
upon the Quarr rocks, and she was a total
wreck. Nothing had been saved but Jan s
life, even that barely. He had been so bruised
and injured that he had been compelled to rest
in the solitary hut of a coast-guardsman many
days. He gave the facts to Snorro in an
apathy. The man was shipwrecked as well as
the boat. It was not only that he had lost
every thing, that he had not a penny left in the
world, he had lost hope, lost all faith in himself,
lost even the will to fight his ill fortune any


" Do not drop in for an after-loss.
Ah, do not, when my heart hath scap d this sorrow,
Come in the rereward of a conquered woe."


ct Man is his own star, and the soul that can
Render an honest and a perfect man
Commands all light, all influence, all fate.
Nothing to him falls early, or too late."


JAN, the sole survivor of The Solan, had
brought the news of his own misfortune,
but there was no necessity to hasten its publi
cation. Nothing could be gained by telling it
at once, and no one could be helped, so Snorro
advised him to sleep all the following day.
Jan hardly needed the advice. In a few
minutes he sank into a dreamless lethargic
sleep, which lasted nearly twenty-four hours.
When he awoke from it, he said, " I will see
Tulloch, and then I will sleep again, Snorro."


"Let me go for thee."

" Nay, then he will think that I am a coward.
I must tell my own tale ; he can but be

But Tulloch took his loss with composure.
"Thou did the best that could be done, Jan/*
he answered, when Jan had told the story of
the shipwreck ; " wind and wave are not at thy

"Thou wilt say that for me? It is all I ask.
I did my best, Tulloch."

" I will say it ; and in the spring I will see
about another boat. I am not afraid to trust

Jan looked at him gratefully, but the hope
was too far off to give much present comfort to
him. He walked slowly back to the retreat
Snorro had made for him, wondering how he
was to get the winter over, wondering if Mar
garet would see him, wondering how best to
gain her forgiveness, longing to see her face but
not daring to approach her without some prep
aration for the meeting. For though she had
come back to life, it had been very slowly.
Snorro said that she never left the house, that
she was still wan and weak, and that on the


rare occasions when he had been sent to Peter 3
house, she had not spoken to him.

After his interview with Tulloch, he fell into
a sound sleep again. When he awoke the day
was well begun, and Peter was at the store.
Looking through the cracks in the rude floor
ing, he could see him carefully counting his
cash, and comparing his balance. Snorro, for
a wonder, was quite idle, and Peter finally
looked at him, and said fretfully:

" There is this and that to do. What art
thou standing still for?

" A man may stand still sometimes. I feel
not like work to-day/

" Art thou sick, then ? "

" Who can tell ? It may be sickness."

He stood thoughtfully by the big fire and
moved not. Peter went on with his figures in
a fidgety way. Presently Tulloch entered.
The banker s visits were rare ones, and Peter
was already suspicious of them. But he laid
down his pen, and with scrupulous civility said,
" Good morning to thee, Tulloch Deacon Tul
loch, I should say. Wilt thou buy or sell
aught this morning ? "

"Good morning, Fae. 1 came to thee for
news. Where is thy son Jan staying?"


Peter s face darkened. " I know nothing at
all about Jan Vedder. If he is at sea, he is out
of thy world ; if he is in harbor, he will be at
Ragon Torr s, or onboard The Solan."

" The Solan hath gone to pieces on the Quarr

Just for a moment a thrill of sinful triumph
made Peter s brown face turn scarlet, but he
checked it instantly. "I heard not that," he
said gravely.

" Only Jan escaped ship and crew went to
the bottom."

Peter shut his mouth tight, he was afraid to
trust himself to speak.

" But Jan did his very best, no man could
have done more. I saw him last night. He
is ill and broken down by his trouble. Put out
thy hand to him. Thou do that, and it will be
a good thing, Fae."

" Thou mind thy own affairs, Deacon Tulloch."

" Well then it is my affair to tell thee, that
there is a time for anger and a time for for
giveness. If Jan is to be saved, his wife can
now do it. At this hour he is sick and sore-
hearted, and she can win him back, she can save
him now, Fae"


"Shall I lose my child to save Jan Vedder?
What is it to thee? What can thou know
of a father s duty ? Thou, who never had
child. Deacon thou may be, but thou art
no Dominie, and I will order my household
without thy word, thus or so. Yes, indeed I
will ! "

" Just that, Fae. I have spoken for a good
man. And let me tell thee, if Margaret Ved
der is thy daughter, she is also Jan s wife;
and if I were Jan, I would make her do a
wife s duty. If all the women in Shetland
were to run back to their fathers for a little
thing that offended them, there would be an
end of marrying."

Peter laughed scornfully. " Every one
knows what well-behaved wives old bachelors

" Better to be a bachelor, than have a wife
like poor Jan Vedder has."

" Thou art talking of my daughter. Wilt thou
mind thy own affairs?

" I meant well, Fae. I meant well. Both
thee and I have much need of heaven s mercy.
It will be a good thing for us to be merciful.
I am willing to help and trust Jan again. Thou


do so too. Now I will say 4 good morning ,
for I see thou art angry at me."

Peter was angry, intensely angry. Under
the guise of Christian charity, Tulloch had come
into his store and insulted him. Peter would
believe in no other motive. And yet he was
scarcely just to Tulloch, for his intentions had
first and mainly been sincerely kind ones ;
but the tares are ever among the wheat, and it
was true enough that before the interview was
over Tulloch had felt a personal pleasure in his
plain speaking.

Very soon there was a little crowd in Fae s
store. It was a cold, blustering day, and its
warmth and company made it a favorite loung
ing place. Jan s misfortune was the sole topic
of conversation, and Jan s absence was un
favorably criticised. Why did he not come
among his fellows and tell them how it had hap
pened ? Here were good men and a good ship
gone to the bottom, and he had not a word to
say of the matter. They were all curious about
the wreck, and would have liked to pass the
long stormy day in talking it over. As it was,
they had only conjectures. No one but Tulloch
had seen Jan. They wondered where he was.


" At Torr s, doubtless," said Peter, harshly.

" It is likely. Jan ever flew to the brandy
keg for comfort."

" It is like he had been there before he steered
for the Quarr Rocks."

" It did not need brandy. He was ever

" He was foolhardy more than careless."

" I never thought that he knew the currents
and the coast, as a man should know it who
has life and goods to carry safe."

" He had best be with his crew ; every man
of it was a better man than he is."

Snorro let them talk and wonder. He
would not tell them where Jan was. One
group succeeded another, and hour after hour
Snorro stood listening to their conversation,
with shut lips and blazing eyes. Peter looked
at him with increasing irritability.

" Art thou still sick, Snorro ? " he asked at

"Not I."

"Why, then, art thou idle? ;

"I am thinking. But the thought is too
much for me. I can make nothing of it."

Few noticed Snorro s remark, but old Jal


Sinclair said, " Tell thy thought. Snprro,, .

are wise men here to read it for thee ; very

wise men, as thou must have noticed."

Snorro caught something in the old man s
face, or in the inflection of his voice, which
gave him an assurance of sympathy, so he
said : " Well, then, it is this. Jan Vedder is
evidently a very bad man, and a very bad
sailor ; yet when Donald Twatt s boat sunk in
the Vorr Ness, Jan took his bonnet in his hand,
and he put his last sovereign in it, and he went
up and down Lerwick till he had got 4.0 for
Twatt. And he gave him a suit of his own
clothes, and he would hear no word wrong of
him, and he said, moreover, that nothing had
happened Twatt but what might happen the
best man and the best sailor that ever lived
when it would be God s own time. I thought
that was a good thing in Jan, but no one has
spoke of it to-day. *

" People have ever thought thee a fool*
Snorro. When thou art eighty years old, as Jal
Sinclair is, perhaps thou wilt know more. Jan
Vedder should have left Twatt to his trouble ;
he should have said, Twatt is a drunken fellow,
or a careless, foolhardy fellow ; he is a bad


i. c < Civ

sailor; a bad man, and 1 lie ought to have gone
to the bottom/ Then there was a minute s
uncomfortable silence, and the men gradually

Peter was glad of it. He had no particular
pleasure in any conversation having Jan for a
topic, and he was burning and smarting at
Tulloch s interference. It annoyed him also
to see Snorro so boldly taking Jan s part. His
indignant face and brooding laziness was a new
element in the store, and it worried Peter far
beyond its importance. He left unusually
early, and then Snorro closed the doors, and
built up the fire, and made some tea, and
broiled mutton and bloaters, and set his few
dishes on the box which served him fora table.
Jan had slept heavily all day, but when Snorro
brought the candle near, he opened his eyes
and said, " 1 am hungry, Snorro."

" I have come to tell thee there is tea and
meat waiting. All is closed, and we can eat
and talk, and no one will trouble us."

A Shetlander loves his tea, and it pleased
Snorro to see how eagerly Jan drank cup after
cup. And soon his face began to lose its weary,
indifferent look, and he ate with keen relish the


simple food before him. In an hour Jan was
nearly like himself once more. Then he
remembered Margaret. In the extremity of
his physical weakness and weariness, he had
forgotten every thing in sleep, but now the
delay troubled him. " I ought to have seen
my wife to-day, Snorro ; why did thou let me

" Sleep was the first thing, and now we will
see to thy clothes. They must be mended,

Jan looked down at the suit he wore. It was
torn and shabby and weather-stained, and it
was all he had. But Snorro was as clever as
any woman with the needle and thread. The
poor fellow, indeed, had never had any woman
friend to use a needle for him, and he soon
darned, and patched, and washed clean what
the winds and waves had left of Jan s once
handsome suit of blue.

As he worked they talked of the best means
of securing an interview with Margaret, for Jan
readily guessed that Peter would forbid it, and
it was finally decided that Snorro should take
her a letter, as soon as Peter was at the store
next day. There was a little cave by the sea-


side half way between the town and Peter s
house, and there Jan was to wait for Snorro s

In the meantime Peter had reached his
home. In these days it was a very quiet,
somber place. Thora was in ill health, in much
worse health than any one but herself sus
pected, and Margaret was very unhappy. This
evening Thora had gone early to bed, and
Margaret sat with her baby in her arms. When
her father entered she laid him in the cradle.
Peter did not like to have it in any way forced
upon his notice, and Margaret understood ^vell
enough that the child was only tolerated for
her sake. So, without any of those little fond
obtrusive ways so natural to a young mother,
she put the child out of the way, and sat down
to serve her father s tea.

His face was dark and angry, his heart felt
hard to her at that hour. She had brought so
much sorrow and shame on him. She had been
the occasion of so many words and acts of
which he was ashamed. In fact, his conscience
was troubling him, and he was trying to lay
the whole blame of his cruelty and injustice on
her. For some time he did not speak, and she


was too much occupied with her own thoughts
to ask him any questions. At length he
snapped out, " Jan Vedder came back to Ler-
wick yesterday."

" Yesterday ? "

" I said yesterday. Did thou think he would
run here to see thee the first moment ? Not
he. He was at Tulloch s last night. He will
have been at Torr s all day, no doubt."

Margaret s eyes filled with tears, and Peter
looked angrily at her.

" Art thou crying again ? Now listen, thou
art not like to see him at all. He has thrown
thy 600 to the bottom of the sea ship, cargo,
*nd crew, all gone."

" Jan? Father, is Jan safe?

" He is safe enough. The devil holds his
own from water. Now, if he does come to see
thee, thou shalt not speak with him. That is
my command to thee."

Margaret answered not, but there was a look
upon her face, which he understood to mean

"Bring me the Bible here." Then as he
turned to the place he wanted, he said : " Now,
Margaret, if thou art thinking to disobey thy


father, I want thee to hear in what kind of
company thou wilt do so ; and he slowly
read aloud :

" Backbiters haters of God despiteful
proud boasters inventors of evil things dis~
obedient to parents / dost thou hear, Margaret?
disobedient to parents without understanding
covenant breakers without natural affection
implacable unmerciful.

" Let me see him once, father ? Let me see
him for half an hour."

" Not for one moment. Disobey me if thou

" He is my husband."

" I am thy father. Thy obligation to me
began with thy birth, twenty years before thou
saw Jan Vedder. Between man and wife there
may be a divorce, between father and daughter
there can be no bill of separation. The tie of
thy obedience is for life, unless thou wilt take
the risk of disobeying thy God. Very well,
then, I say to thee, thou shalt not speak to Jan
Vedder again, until he has proved himself
worthy to have the care of a good woman.
That is all I say, but mind it ! If thou disobey
me, I will never speak to thee again. I will


send thee and thy child from my sight, I will
leave every penny I have to my two nephews,
Magnus and Thorkel. That is enough. Where
is thy mother ?

" She is in pain, and has gone to bed."
" It is a sick house, I think. First, thou wert
like to die, and ever since thy mother hath been
ill ; that also is Jan Vedder s doing, since thou
must needs fret thyself into a fever for him.*
Then he took his candle and went to his sick
wife, for he thought it best not to weaken his
commands by any discussion concerning

Margaret did what most mothers would have
done, she lifted her child for consolation. It
was a beautiful child, and she loved it with an
idolatrous affection. It had already taught her
some lessons strange enough to Margaret Ved-
der. For its sake she had become conciliating,
humble, patient ; had repressed her feelings of
mother-pride, and for the future good of her
boy, kept him in a corner as it were. She had
never suffered him to be troublesome, never
intruded him upon the . notice of the grand
father whom some day doubtless he would com
pletely conquer. Ah, if she had only been


half as unselfish with Jan ! Only half as pru
dent for Jan s welfare !

She lifted the boy and held him to her
breast. As she watched him, her face grew
lovely. " My child ! she whispered, " for
thee I can thole every thing. For thy sake, I
will be patient. Nothing shall tempt me to
spoil thy life. Thou shalt be rich, little one,
and some day thee and I will be happy to
gether. Thy father robbed thee, but I will not
injure thee ; no, indeed, I will not !

So, after all, Jan s child was to be the barrier
between him and his wife. If Jan had chosen
to go back to the class from which she had
taken him, she would at least save her child
from the suffering and contempt of poverty.
What she would have done for his father, she
would do for him. Yes, that night she fully
determined to stand by her son. It might be
a pleasure for her to see Jan, and even to be
reconciled to him, but she would not sacrifice
her child s inheritance for her own gratification.
She really thought she was consummating a
grand act of self-denial, and wept a few pitiful
tears over her own hard lot.

In the morning Peter was unusually kind to


her. He noticed the baby, and even allowed her
to lay it in his arms while she brought him his
seal-skin cloak and woolen mufflers. It was a
dangerous advance for Peter ; he felt his heart
strangely moved by the sleeping child, and he
could not avoid kissing him as he gave him
back to his mother. Margaret smiled at her
father in her deep joy, and said softly to him,
" Now thou hast kissed me twice." Nothing
that Peter could have done would have so
bound her to him. He had sealed his com
mand with that kiss, and though no word of
promise was given him, he went to his store
comparatively light-hearted ; he was certain his
daughter would not disobey him.

While this scene was transpiring, one far
more pathetic was taking place in Snorro s
room. Jan s clothes had been washed and
mended, and he was dressing himself with an
anxious desire to look well in his wife s eyes
that was almost pitiful. Snorro sat watching
him. Two women could hardly have been
more interested in a toilet, or tried harder to
make the most out of poor and small materials.
Then Jan left his letter to Margaret with
Snorro, and went to the cave agreed upon, to
await the answer*


Very soon after Peter reached the store,
Snorro left it. Peter saw him go, and he sus
pected his errand, but he knew the question had
to be met and settled, and he felt almost sure
of Margaret that morning. At any rate, she
would have to decide, and the sooner the
better. Margaret saw Snorro coming, but she
never associated the visit with Jan. She
thought her father had forgotten something
and sent Snorro for it. So when he knocked,
she said instantly, " Come in, Michael Snorro."

The first thing Snorro saw was the child.
He went straight to the cradle and looked at
it. Then he kneeled down, gently lifted the
small hand outside the coverlet, and kissed it.
When he rose up, his face was so full of love
and delight that Margaret almost forgave him
every thing. " How beautiful he is," he whis
pered, looking back at the sleeping babe.

Margaret smiled ; she was well pleased at
Snorro s genuine admiration.

" And he is so like Jan only Jan is still
more beautiful."

Margaret did not answer him. She was
washing the china cups, and she stood at the
table with a towel over her arm. Snorro


thought her more beautiful than she had been
on her wedding day. During her illness, most
of her hair had been cut off, and now a small
white cap covered her head, the short, pale-
brown curls just falling beneath it on her brow
and on her neck. A long, dark dress, a white
apron, and a white lawn kerchief pinned over
her bosom, completed her attire. But no lady
in silk or lace ever looked half so womanly.
Snorro stood gazing at her, until she said,
" Well, then, what hast thou come for?

With an imploring gesture he offered her
Jan s letter.

She took it in her hand and turned it over,
and over, and over. Then, with a troubled face,
she handed it back to Snorro.

" No, no, no, read it ! Oh, do thou read it !
Jan begs thee to read it ! No, no, I will not
take it back !

" I dare not read it, Snorro. It is too
late too late. Tell Jan he must not come
here. It will make more sorrow for me. If
he loves me at all, he will not come. He is
not kind to force me to say these words. Tell

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrJan Vedder's wife → online text (page 5 of 15)