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into the water, and when Jan, speechless and
insensible, rose to the surface, he caught him
with one arm arid swam with him to the boat.
In another moment he was in the bottom of it,
and when he came to himself, his wound had
been dressed, and he was in the minister s own

" Now, thou wilt do well enough, Jan, only
thou must keep quiet body and mind."

" Tell no one I am here. Thou wilt do that
for me ? Yes, thou wilt. Let them think I am
at the bottom of the Troll Rock for God s

" I will tell no one, Jan. Thou art safe here ;
be at perfect rest about that matter."

Of course the minister thought Jan had com
mitted some crime. It was natural for every
to suspect Jan of doing wrong. But the


fact that he had been sent so obviously to save
him was, in the doctor s mind, an evidence of
the divine interest in the youth which he was
glad to share. He had been appointed his
preserver, and already he loved him. He fully
trusted Hamish, but he thc~^ht it well to say
to him :

" We will speak to no one of our row to the
Troll Rock, Hamish."

" Does Hamish ever talk, master ? "
" No, thou art a wise man ; but here there is
more to guide than I yet understand."
" Look nor word of mine shall hinder it."
For four days the doctor stayed near Jan,
and never left his house. " I will be quiet and
let the news find me," he thought. It came
into the manse kitchen in various forms. Ham
ish received every version of the story with
that grave shake of the head which fits so ad-
mirably every requirement of sympathy. " It
was all a great pity," was his most lengthy
comment ; but then Hamish never exceeded
half a dozen words on any subject.

On the fourth evening, which was Saturday,
Peter Fae sent this message to the minister :
" Wilt thou come down to my store for the


good of a wretched soul ? It was then
getting late, and Peter stood in his shop-door
alone. He pointed to Michael Snorro, who sat
in a corner on some seal-skins in a stupor of

" He hath neithf i eaten nor slept since. It
is pitiful. Thou knowest he never had too
much sense "

" I know very clever men who are fools, be
sides Michael Snorro. Go thy ways home. I
will do what I can for him only, it had been
kinder, had thou sent for me ere this."

He went to Snorro and sat down beside him.
" Thou wilt let me speak to thee, Snorro. I
come in God s name. Is it Jan ? "

" Yes, it is Jan. My Jan, my Jan, my friend !
the only one that ever loved me. Jan ! Jan !
Jan ! He said the last words in an intense
whisper. It seemed as if his heart would break
with each.

" Is Jan s loss all thy grief, Snorro ?

" Nay, there is more. Has thou found it

" I think so. Speak to me."

" I dare not speak it."

" It is as sinful to think it. I am thy true


friend. I come to comfort thee. Speak to me,

Then he lifted his face. It was overspread by
an expression of the greatest awe and sorrow:

"It is also my Lord Christ. He hath de
ceived me. He said to me, whatsoever ye shall
ask in my name, that will I do. I asked him
always, eveiy hour to take care of Jan. If I
was pack ln^ the eggs, or loading the boats, or
eating my dinner, my heart was always pray
ing. When Jan was at sea, I asked, take care
of him/ when he was at Torr s, I prayed then
the more, dear Lord Christ, take care of him/
I was praying for him that night, at the very
hour he perished, I can pray no more now.
What shall I do ? "

" Art thou sure thou prayed for the right

" He said, whatsoever/ Well, then, I took
him at his word. Oh yes, I believed every
word he said. At the last, I thought, he will
surely save Jan. I will pray till his time comes.
He will not deceive a poor soul like me, for he
knows right well that Snorro loves him/

"And so thou thinkest that Christ Jesus who
died for thee hath deceived thee ? "


" Well, then, he hath forgotten."
" Nay, nay, Snorro. He never forgets.
Behold he has graven thy name upon his hands.
Not on the mountains, for they shall depart ;
not on the sun, for it shall grow dark ; not on
the skies, for they shall melt with fervent heat ;
but on his own hand, Snorro. Now come with
me, and I will show thee, whether Lord Christ
heard thee praying or not, and I will tell thee
how he sent me, his servant always, to answer
thy prayer. I tell thee at the end of all this
thou shalt surely say : there hath not failed
one word of all his good promise, which he
promised/ !

Then he lifted Michael s cap and gave it to
him, and they locked the store door, and in
silence they walked together to the manse. For
a few r minutes he left Snorro alone in the study.
There was a large picture in it of Christ upon
the cross. Michael had never dreamed of such
a picture. When the minister came back he
found him standing before it, with clasped
hands and streaming eyes.

" Can thou trust him, Michael ?"

"Unto death, sir."

"Come, tread gently. He sleeps."


Wondering and somewhat awestruck Michael
followed the doctor into the room where Jan
lay. One swift look from the bed to the smil
ing face of Jan s saviour was all Michael
needed. He clasped his hands above his head,
and fell upon his knees, and when the doctor
saw the rapture in his face, he understood the
transfiguration, and how this mortal might put
on immortality.



1 Wield thine own arm ! the only way
To know life is by living."

WHEN Jan awoke Snorro was standing
motionless beside him. He feebly
stretched out his hand, and pulled him close,
closer, until his face was on the pillow beside
his own.

" Oh Jan, how could st thou ? My heart
hath been nearly broken for thee."

" It is all well now, Snorro. I am going to a
new life. I have buried the old one below the
Troll Rock."

Until the following night the men remained
together. They had much to talk of, much
that related both to the past and the future.
Jan was particularly anxious that no one should
know that his life had been saved : " And
mind thou tell not my wife, Snorro/* he said.


* Let her think herself a widow ; that will-
please her best of all."

" There might come a time when it would be
right to speak."

" I can not think it."

" She might be going to marry again."

Jan s face darkened. " Yes, that is possible
well then, in that case, thou shalt go to the
minister ; he will tell thee what to do, or he
himself will do it."

" She might weep sorely for thee, so that she
were like to die."

" Mock me not, Snorro. She will not weep
forme. Well then, let me pass out of memory,
until I can return with honor."

" Where wilt thou go to ? "

" Dost thou remember that yacht that was
tied to the minister s jetty four weeks ago?

" Yes, I remember it."

" And that her owner stayed at the manse
for two days ?

"Yes, I saw him. What then ? "

" He will be back again, in a week, in a few
days, perhaps to-morrow. He is an English
lord, and a friend of the minister s. I shall go
away with him. There is to be a new life for


me another road to take ; it must be a better
one than that in which I have stumbled along
for the last few years. Thou art glad ?

" Yes, Jan, I am glad."

" If things should happen so that I can send
for thee, wilt thou come to me ?

" Yes, to the end of the world I will come.
Thee only do I love. My life is broken in two
without thee."

Every day Snorro watched the minister s
jetty, hoping, yet fearing, to see the yacht
which was to carry Jan away. Every night
when the town was asleep, he went to the
manse to sit with his friend. At length one
morning, three weeks after Jan s disappearance,
he saw the minister and the English lord enter
Peter s store together. His heart turned sick
and heavy ; he felt that the hour of parting was

Peter was to send some eggs and smoked
geese on board the yacht, and the minister
said meaningly to Snorro, " Be sure thou puts
them on board this afternoon, for the yacht sails
southward on the midnight tide." Snorro under
stood the message. When the store was closed
he made a bundle of Jan s few clothes ; he had


washed and mended them all. With them he
put the only sovereign he possessed, and his
own dearly-loved copy of the Gospels. He
thought, " for my sake he may open them, and
then what a comfort they will be sure to give

It was in Snorro s arms Jan was carried on
board at the veiy last moment. Lord Lynne
had given him a berth in the cabin, and he
spoke very kindly to Snorro. " I have heard/
he said, " that there is great love between you
two. Keep your heart easy, my good fellow ; I
will see that no harm comes to your friend/"
And the grateful look on Snorro s face so>
touched him that he followed him to the deck
and reiterated the promise.

It was at the last a silent and rapid parting.
Snorro could not speak. He laid Jan in his
berth, and covered him as tenderly as a mother
would cover her sick infant. Then he kissed
him, and walked away. Dr. Balloch, who
watched the scene, felt the deep pathos and
affection that had no visible expression but in
Snorro s troubled eyes and dropped head ; and
Lord Lynne pressed his hand as a last assurance
that he would remember his promise concern-


Jan s welfare. Then the anchor was lifted, and
the yacht on the tide-top went dancing south
ward before the breeze.

At the manse door the minister said, " God
be thy consolation, Snorro! Is there any
thing I, his servant, can do for thee ? "

" Yes, thou can let me see that picture

" Of the Crucified?"

" That is what I need."

"Come then."

He took a candle from Hamish and led him
into the study. In the dim light, the pallid,
outstretched figure and the divine uplifted face
had a sad and awful reality. Even upon the
cultivated mind and heart, fine pictures have a
profound effect ; on this simple soul, who never
before had seen any thing to aid his imagina
tion of Christ s love, the effect was far more
potent. Snorro stood before it a few minutes
full of a holy love and reverence, then, inno
cently as a child might have done, he lifted up
his face and kissed the pierced feet.

Dr. Balloch was strangely moved and troubled.
He walked to the window with a prayer on his
lips, but almost immediately returned, and
touching Snorro, said


" Take the picture with thee, Snorro. It is-
thine. Thou hast bought it with that kiss."

" But thou art weeping !

" Because I can not love as thou dost. Take
what I have freely given, and go. Ere long the
boats will be in and the town astir. Thou hast
some room to hang it in?"

" I have a room in which no foot but mine
will tread till Jan comes back again."

" And thou wilt say no word of Jan. He
must be cut loose from the past awhile. His
old life must not be a drag upon his new one.
We must give him a fair chance."

"Thou knows well I am Jan s friend to the

Whatever of comfort Snorro found in the
pictured Christ, he sorely needed it. Life had
become a blank to him. There was his work,
certainly, and he did it faithfully, but even
Peter saw a great change in the man. He no
longer cared to listen to the gossip of the store ,
he no longer cared to converse with any one.
When there was nothing for him to do, he sat
down in some quiet corner, buried his head in
his hands, and gave himself up to thought.

Peter also fancied that he shrank from him,


and the idea annoyed him ; for Peter had begun
to be sensible of a most decided change in the
tone of public opinion regarding himself. It
had come slowly, but he could trace and feel it.
One morning when he and Tulloch would have
met on the narrow street, Tulloch, to avoid
the meeting, turned deliberately around and
retraced his steps. Day by day fewer of the
best citizens came to pass their vacant hours in
his store. People spoke to him with more
ceremony, and far less kindness.

He was standing at his store door one after
noon, and he saw a group of four or five men
stop Snorro and say something to him. Snorro
flew into a rage. Peter knew it by his atti
tude, and by the passionate tones of his
voice. He was vexed at him. Just at this
time he was trying his very best to be concil
iating to all, and Snorro was undoubtedly say.
ing words he would, in some measure, be held
accountable for.

When he passed Peter at the store door, his
eyes were still blazing with anger, and his
usually white face was a vivid scarlet. Peter
followed him in, and asked sternly, " Is it not
enough that I must bear thy ill-temper ? Who


wen thou talking about ? That evil Jan Ved*
der, I know thou wert !

We were talking of thee, if thou must

What wert thou saying? Tell me ; if thou
wilt not, I will ask John Scarpa."

"Thou wert well not to ask. Keep thjr
tongae still."

" There is some ill-feeling toward me. It
hath been growing this long while. Is it thy
whispering against me ? "

" Ask Tulloch why he would not meet thee ?
Ask John Scarpa what Suneva Glumm said last

" Little need for me to do that, since thou
can tell me."

Snorro spoke not.

" Snorro ? "

"Yes, master.*

" How many years hast thou been with me?"

" Thou knows I came to thee a little lad."

" Who had neither home nor friends ? "

"That is true yet."

" Have I been a just master to thee?"

"Thou hast."

" Thou, too, hast been a just and faithful


servant. I have trusted thee with every thing.
All has been under thy thumb. I locked not
gold from thee. I counted not after thee. 1
have had full confidence in thee. Well, then, it
seems that my good name is also in thy hands.
Now, if thou doest thy duty, thou wilt tell me
what Tulloch said."

" He said thou had been the ruin of a better
man than thyself."

" Meaning Jan Vedder? "

" That was whom he meant."

"Dost thou think so?"

" Yes, I think so, too."

" What did Suneva Glumm say ?

" Well, then, last night, when the kitchen was
full, they were talking of poor Jan ; and Suneva
-thou knowest she is a widow now and gone
back to her father s house Suneva, she strode
up to the table, and she struck her hand upon
it, and said, Jan was a fisherman, and it is
little of men you fishers are, not to make
inquiry about his death. Here is the matter/
she said. Snorro finds him wounded, and
Snorro goes to Peter Fae s and sends Jan s wife
to her husband. Margaret Vedder says she
saw him alive and gave him water, and went


back for Peter Fae. Then Jan disappears, and
when Snorro gets back with a doctor and four
other men, there is no Jan to be found. I say
that Margaret Vedder or Peter Fae know what
came of Jan, one, or both of them, know. But
because the body has not been found, there
hath been no inquest, and his mates let him go
out of life like a stone dropped into the sea,
and no more about it."

"They told thee that?"

" Ay, they did ; and John Scarpa said thou
had long hated Jan, and he did believe thou
would rather lose Jan s life than save it. Yes,
indeed !

" And thou ? "

" I said some angry words for thee. Ill thou
hast been to Jan, cruel and unjust, but thou did
not murder him. I do not think thou would do
that, even though thou wert sure no man would
know it. If I had believed thou hurt a hair of
Jan s head, I would not be thy servant to-day."

" Thou judgest right of me, Snorro. I
harmed not Jan. I never saw him. I did not
want him brought to my house, and therefore
I made no haste to go and help him ; but I hurt
xiot a hair of his head.


" I will maintain that every where, and to all. v
" What do they think came of Jan ?
" What else, but that he was pushed over the
cliff-edge ? A very little push would put him
in the sea, and the under-currents between here
and the Vor Ness might carry the body far
from this shore. All think that he hath been

Then Peter turned away and sat down, silent
and greatly distressed. A new and terrible
suspicion had entered his mind with Snorro s
words. He \vas quite sure of his own innocence,
but had Margaret pushed Jan over ? From her
own words it was evident she had been angry
and hard with him. Was this the cause of the
frantic despair he had witnessed. It struck him
then that Margaret s mother had ever been cold
and silent, and almost resentful about the matter.
She had refused to talk of it. Her whole
behavior had been suspicious. He sat brooding
over the thought, sick at heart with the sin and
shame it involved, until Snorro said " It is
time to shut the door." Then he put on his
cloak and went home.

Home ! How changed his home had become !
It was a place of silence and unconfessed sor-


row. All its old calm restfulness had gone.
Very soon after Jan s disappearance, Thorahad
taken to her bed, and she had never left it
since. Peter recognized that she was dying,
and this night he missed her sorely. Her quiet
love and silent sympathy had been for many a
year a tower of strength to him. But he could
not carry this trouble to her, still less did he
care to say any thing to Margaret. For the
first time he was sensible of a feeling of irrita
tion in her presence. Her white despairing
face angered him. For all this trouble, in one
way or another, she was responsible.

He felt, too, that full of anxiety as he was,
she was hardly listening to a word he said.
Her ears were strained to catch the first move
ment of her child, who was sleeping in the next
room. To every one he had suddenly become
of small importance. Both at home and
abroad he felt this. To such bitter reflections
he smoked his pipe, while Margaret softly sung
to her babe, and Thora, with closed eyes, lay
slowly breathing her life away : already so far
from this world, that Peter felt as if it would
be cruel selfishness to trouble her more with its
wrongs and its anxieties.


Four days afterward, Thora said to her
daughter : " Margaret, I had a token early this
morning. I saw a glorious ship come sailing
toward me. Her sails were whiter than snow
under the moonshine ; and at her bow stood
my boy, Willie, my eldest boy, and he smiled
and beckoned me. I shall go away with the
next tide. Ere I go, thou tell me some
thing ?"

" Whatever thou ask me."

" What came of poor Jan Vedder?"

Then Margaret understood the shadow that
had fallen between herself and her mother;
the chill which had repressed all conversation ;
the silent terror which had perchance hastened

" Oh, mother ! she cried, " did thou really
have this fear? I never harmed Jan. I left
him on the cliff. God knows I speak the truth.
I know no more."

"Thank God! Now I can go in peace."
Margaret had fallen on her knees by the bed
side, and Thora leaned forward and kissed

" Shall I send for father ? "

"He will come in time."


A few hours afterward she said in a voice
already far away, as if she had called back from
a long distance, " When Jan returns be thou
kinder to him, Margaret."

" Will he come back ? Mother, tell me !

But there was no answer to the yearning
cry. Never another word from the soul that
had now cast earth behind it. Peter came
home early, and stood gloomily and sorrowfully
beside his companion. Just when the tide
turned, he saw a momentary light flash over
the still face, a thrill of joyful recognition, a
sigh of peace, instantly followed by the pallor,
and chill, and loneliness of death.

At the last the end had come suddenly.
Peter had certainly known that his wife was
dying, but he had not dreamed of her slipping
off her mortal vesture so rapidly. He was
shocked to find how much of his own life would
go with her. Nothing could ever be again just
as it had been. It troubled him also that there
had been no stranger present. The minister
ought to have been sent for, and some two or
three of Thora s old acquaintances. There
was fresh food for suspicion in Thora Fae being
allowed to pass out of life just at this time,


with none but her husband and daughter near,
and without the consolation of religious rites.

Peter asked Margaret angrily, why she had
neglected to send for friends and for the

" Mother was no worse when thou went to
the store this morning. About noon she fell
asleep, and knew nothing afterward. It would
have been cruel to disturb her/

But in her own heart Margaret was con
scious that under any circumstances she would
have shrunk from bringing strangers into the
house. Since Jan s disappearance, she had
been but once to kirk, for that once had been
an ordeal most painful and humiliating. None
of her old friends had spoken to her ; many
had even pointedly ignored her. Women excel
in that negative punishment which they deal
out to any sister whom they conceive to have
deserved it. In a score of ways Margaret
Vedder had been made to feel that she was
under a ban of disgrace and suspicion.

Some of this humiliation had not escaped
Peter s keen observation ; but at the time he
had regarded it as a part of the ill-will which
he also was consciously suffering from, and


which he was shrewd enough to associate with
the mystery surrounding the fate of his son-in-
law. Connecting it with what Snorro had said,
he took it for further proof against his daugh
ter. Thora s silence and evident desire to
be left to herself, were also corroborative.
Did Thora also suspect her? Was Margaret
afraid to bring the minister, lest at the last
Thora might say something ? For the same
reason, had Thora s old intimates been kept
away? Sometimes the dying reveal things
unconsciously ; was Margaret afraid of this ?
When once suspicion is aroused, every thing
feeds it. Twenty-four hours after the first
doubt had entered Peter s heart, he had almost
convinced himself that Margaret was respon
sible for Jan s death.

He remembered then the stories in the
Sagas of the fair, fierce women of Margaret s
race. A few centuries previously they had
ruled things with a high hand, and had seldom
scrupled to murder the husbands who did not
realize their expectations. He knew some
thing of Margaret s feelings by his own ; her
wounded self-esteem, her mortification at Jan s
failures, her anger at her poverty and loss of


money, her contempt for her own position. If
she had been a man, he could almost have
excused her for killing Jan ; that is, if she had
done it in fair fight. But crimes which are
unwomanly in their nature shock the hardest
heart, and it was unwomanly to kill the man
she had loved and chosen, and the father of her
child ; it was, above all, a cowardly, base deed
to thrust a wounded man out of life. He tried
to believe his daughter incapable of such a
deed, but there were many hours in which he
thought the very worst of her.

Margaret had no idea that her father nursed
such suspicions ; she felt only the change and
separation between them. Her mother s doubt
had been a cruel blow to her ; she had never
been able to speak of it to her father. That
he shared it, never occurred to her. She was
wrapped up in her own sorrow and shame, and
at the bottom of her heart inclined to blame
her father for much of the trouble between her
and Jan. If he had dealt fairly with Jan after
the first summer s fishing, Jan would never
have been with Skager. And how eager he
had been to break up her home ! After all,
Jan had been the injured man; he ought to


have had some of her tocher down. A little
ready money would have made him satisfied
and happy ; her life and happiness had been
sacrificed to her father s avarice. She was sure
now that if the years could be called back, she
would be on Jan s side with all her heart.

Two souls living under the same roof and
nursing such thoughts against each other were
not likely to be happy. If they had ever come
to open recrimination, things uncertain might
have been explained ; but, for the most part,
there was only silence in Peter s house. Hour
after hour, he sat at the fireside, and never
spoke to Margaret. She grew almost hysteri
cal under the spell of this irresponsive trouble.
Perhaps she understood then why Jan had fled
to Torr s kitchen to escape her own similar
exhibitions of dissatisfaction.

As the months wore on, things in the store

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrJan Vedder's wife → online text (page 7 of 15)