Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

Jan Vedder's wife online

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gradually resumed their normal condition.
Jan was dead, Peter was living, the tide of pop
ular feeling turned again. Undoubtedly, how
ever, it was directed by the minister s positive,
almost angry, refusal to ask Peter before the
kirk session to explain his connection with
Jan s disappearance. He had never gone much


to Peter s store, but for a time he showed his
conviction of Peter s innocence by going every
day to sit with him. It was supposed, of course,
that he had talked the affair thoroughly over
with Peter, and Peter did try at various times
to introduce the subject. But every such
attempt was met by a refusal in some sort on
the minister s part. Once only he listened to
his complaint of the public injustice.

" Thou can not control the wind, Peter/ he
said in reply ; " stoop and let it pass over thee.
I believe and am sure thy hands are clear of
Jan s blood. As to how far thou art otherwise
guilty concerning him, that is between God and
thy conscience. But let me say, if I were
asked to call thee before the kirk session on
the count of unkindness and injustice, I would
not feel it to be my duty to refuse to do so."
Having said this much, he put the matter out
of their conversation ; but still such a visible
human support in his dark hour was a great
comfort to Peter.

It was a long and dreary winter. It is
amazing how long time can be when Sorrow
counts the hours. Sameness, too, adds to
grief ; there was nothing to vary the days.


Margaret went to bed every night full of that
despairing oppression which hopes nothing
from the morrow. Even when the spring came
again her life had the same uniform gray tinge.
Peter had his fisheries to look forward to, and
by the end of May he had apparently quite
recovered himself. Then he began to be a
little more pleasant and talkative to his daugh
ter. He asked himself why he should any
longer let the wraith of Jan Vedder trouble his
life ? At the last he had gone to help him ; if
he were not there to be helped, that was not his
fault. As for Margaret, he knew nothing posi
tively against her. Her grief and amazement
had seemed genuine at the time; very likely it
was ; at any rate, it was better to bury forever
the memory of a man so inimical to the peace
and happiness of the Faes.

The fishing season helped him to carry out
this resolution. His hands were full. His
store was crowded. There were a hundred
things that only Peter could do for the fish
ers. Jan was quite forgotten in the press and
hurry of a busier season than Lerwick had ever
seen. Peter was again the old bustling, conse
quential potentate, the most popular man in


the town, and the most necessary. He cared
little that Tulloch still refused to meet him ; he
only smiled when Suneva Glumm refused to
let him weigh her tea and sugar, and waited
for Michael Snorro.

Perhaps Suneva s disdain did annoy him a
little. No man likes to be scorned by a good
and a pretty woman. It certainly recurred to
Peter s mind more often than seemed neces
sary, and made him for a moment shrug his
shoulders impatiently, and mutter a word or
two to himself.

One lovely moonlight night, when the boats
were ail at sea, and the town nearly deserted,
Peter took his pipe and rambled out for a walk.
He was longing for some womanly sympathy,
and had gone home with several little matters
on his heart to talk over with Margaret. But
unfortunately the child had a feverish cold, and
how could she patiently listen to fishermen s
squabbles, and calculations of the various
"takes," when her boy was fretful and suffer
ing? So Peter put on his bonnet, and with his
pipe in his mouth, rambled over the moor. He
had not gone far before he met Suneva Glumm.
Under ordinary circumstances he would have


let her pass him, but to-night he wanted to
talk, and even Suneva was welcome. He sud
denly determined " to have it out with her,"
and without ceremony he called to her.

" Let me speak to thee, Suneva; I have some
thing to say."

She turned and faced him : " Well then, say

" What have I done to get so much of thy
ill-will ? I, that have been friends with thee
since I used to lift thee over the counter and
give thee a sweet lozenger ? "

"Thou did treat poor Jan Vedder so

"And what is Jan Vedder to thee, that thou
must lift his quarrel ? "

" He was my friend, then."

" And thy lover, perhaps. I have heard that
he loved thee before he ever saw my Margaret
when she was at school in Edinburgh."

" Thou hast heard lies then; but if he had
loved me and if I had been his wife, Jan had
been a good man this day ; good and loving.
Yes, indeed !

" Art thou sure he is dead ?

"Peter Fae, if any one can answer that ques-


tion, thou can ; thou and thy daughter Mar

" I have heard thou hast said this before

" Ay, I have said it often, and I think it."

" Now, then, listen to me, and see how thou
hast done me wrong."

Then Peter pleaded his own cause, and he
pleaded it with such cleverness and eloquence
that Suneva quite acquitted him.

" I believe now thou art innocent/ she an
swered calmly. " The minister told me so long
ago. I see now that he was right." Then she
offered Peter her hand, and he felt so pleased
and grateful that he walked with her all the
way to the town. For Suneva had a great deal
of influence over the men who visited Torr s,
and most of them did visit Torr s. They
believed all she said. They knew her warm,
straightforward nature, and her great beauty
gave a kind of royal assurance to her words.

Peter was therefore well pleased that he had
secured her good will, and especially that he had
convinced her of his entire innocence regarding
Jan s life. If the subject ever came up over the
fishers glasses, she was a partisan worth hav-


Ing. He went home well satisfied with himself
for the politic stroke he had made, and with the
success which had attended it.

Margaret had seen her father talking and
walking with Suneva, and she was very much
offended at the circumstance. In her anger
she made a most imprudent remark " My
mother not a year dead yet ! Suneva is a bold,
bad woman !

" What art thou thinking of? Let me tell
thee it was of Jan Vedder, and Jan Vedder
only, that we spoke."

Not until that moment had it struck Peter
that Suneva was a widow, and he a widower.
But the thought once entertained was one he
was not disposed to banish. He sat still half
an hour and recalled her bright eyes, and good,
cheerful face, and the pleasant confidential chat
they had had together. He felt comforted even
in the memory of the warm grip of her hand,
and her sensible, honorable opinions. Why
should he not marry again ? He was in the
prime of life, and he was growing richer every
year. The more he thought of Suneva the
warmer his heart grew toward her.

He was not displeased when next day one of


his old comrades told him in a pawkie, meaning
way, that he had "seen him walking with Glumm s
handsome widow." A man nearly sixty is just
as ready to suppose himself fascinating as a man
of twenty. Peter had his courtiers, and they
soon found out that he liked to be twitted about
Suneva ; in a little while a marriage between
the handsome widow and the rich merchant
was regarded as a very probable event.

When once the thought of love and marriage
has taken root in a man s heart it grows
rapidly. The sight of Suneva became daily
more pleasant to Peter. Every time she came
to the store he liked her better. He took care
to let her see this, and he was satisfied to
observe that his attentions did not prevent her

In a few weeks he had quite made up his
mind ; he was only watching for a favorable
opportunity to influence Suneva. In August,
at the Fisherman s Foy, it came. Peter was
walking home one night, a little later than
usual, and he met Suneva upon the moor. His-
face showed his satisfaction. " Long have I
watched for this hour," he said ; " now thou must
walk with me a little, for I have again some-


thing to say to thee. Where hast thou been,

" Well, then, I took charge of Widow Thor-
kel s knitting to sell it for her. She is bed
ridden, thou knows. I got a good price for her,
and have been to carry her the money."

" Thou art a kind woman. Now, then, be
kind to me also. I want to have thee for my

" What will thy daughter say to that ? She
never liked me nor have I much liked her."

" It will be long ere I ask my daughter if I
shall do this or that. It is thee I ask. Wilt
thou be my wife, Suneva ?

It would not be a bad thing."

" It would be a very good thing for me, and
for thee also. I should have thy pleasant face,
and thy good heart, and thy cheerful company
at my fireside. I will be to thee a loving hus
band. I will give thee the house I live in, with
all its plenishing, and I will settle 70 a year on

"That is but a little thing for thee to do."

"Then I will make it a 100 a year. Now
what dost thou say?"

" I will marry thee, Peter, and I will do my


duty to thee, and make thee happy." Then
she put her hand in his, and he walked home
with her.

Next day all Lerwick knew that Peter was
going to marry Glumm s handsome widow.



" Then like an embryo bird
One day, he knew not how, but God that morn
Had pricked his soul he cracked his shelly case, and
Claimed his due portion in a larger life.
Into new life he starts, surveys the world
With bolder scope, and breathes more ample breath."


ITH a great sigh of content Jan resigned
himself to rest when the parting was
over; and "The Lapwing/ with wind and tide
in her favor, went almost flying down the black
North Sea. The motion of the vessel and the
scent of the salt breeze were like his mother s
lap and his native air. He had cast off his old
life like an old garment. Michael Snorro and
Dr. Balloch were the only memories of it he
desired to carry into his new one. But at the
first hour he could not even think of them.
He only wanted to sleep.


Very soon sleep came to him, steeped him
from head to feet in forgetfulness, lulled him
fathoms deep below the tide of life and feel-
ing. It was after twelve the next noon when
he opened his eyes. Lord Lynne was sitting
at the cabin table just opposite his berth. It
took Jan two or three moments to remember
where he was, and during them Lord Lynne
looked up and smiled at him. Jan smiled
back a smile frank and trustful as a child s. It
established his position at once. Lord Lynne
had been wondering what that position was to
be, and he had decided to let Jan s unconscious
behavior settle it. Even an animal, or a bird,
that trusts us, wins us. The face that Jan
turned to Lord Lynne was just such a face as
he would have turned to Snorro it trusted
every thing, it claimed every thing, and every
thing was given it.

" You have had your health-sleep, Vedder;
I dare say you are hungry now ?

" Very hungry/ answered Jan. " Is it
breakfast time?"

"You mean is it lunch time? You will have
to put two meals into one. Shall I order you
some fresh fish, and eggs, and a broiled bird ? "


" The thought of them is good."
"And some roast mutton and potatoes?* 1
" Yes, and plenty of tea if thou pleases."
My lord had his lunch while Jan ate his
breakfast, and a very pleasant meal they made
of it. The yacht was tossing and pitching a
good deal, but they were leaving the islands
behind and sailing fast toward smoother waters
and brighter skies. Jan improved with every
hour s flight, and he would gladly have left his
berth had Lord Lynne permitted it.

" At Aberdeen," he said, " you shall go on
shore, and see a physician. Dr. Balloch thinks
that he has treated you properly, but I promised
him to make sure of it."

The decision at Aberdeen was highly favor
able. Jan was assured that he might be on
deck a few hours every day, with great advan
tage to his health. They remained in Aberdeen
two days. On the second day a trunk bearing
his name was brought on board. Lord Lynne
was on shore at the time, but his valet had it
taken to Jan s room and .opened. It contained
a quantity of linen and clothing.

Jan had a love for good clothing. He felt
its influence, and without reasoning about the


matter, felt that it influenced every one else.
When he had put on the linen, and a yachting
suit with its gilt buttons, and had knotted the
handkerchief at his neck, he felt that in all
eyes he was a different being from Vedder the

It would have been a difficult matter to Lord
Lynne to have given clothing to some men,
but Jan had not a vulgar feeling. He made
no protestations, no excuses, no promises of
repayment ; he was not offensively demon^
strative in his gratitude. He took the gift, as
the gift had been given, with pleasure and con
fidence, and he looked handsome and noble in
everything he put on.

Lord Lynne was proud of him. He liked
to see his crew watch Jan. He encouraged his
valet to tell him what they said of him.
Every one had invented some romance about
the yacht s visitor ; no one supposed him to be
of less than noble birth. The cook had a
theory that he was some prince \vho had got
into trouble with his father. The secrecy with
which he had been brought on board at mid
night, his scarcely healed wound, the disguise
of a fisherman s dress, were all regarded as


positive proofs of some singular and romantic
adventure. On board " The Lapwing " Jan was
the central point of every man s interest and

And at this time, even Lord Lynne was a
little in the dark regarding Jan. Dr. Balloch
had only spoken of him as a young man going
to ruin for want of some friends. Incidentally
he had alluded to his matrimonial troubles,
and, one evening when they were walking, he
had pointed out Margaret Vedder. She was
standing on the Troll Rock looking seaward.
The level rays of the setting sun fell upon her.
She stood, as it were, in a glory ; and Lord
Lynne had been much struck with her noble
figure and with the set melancholy of her fine

So he knew that Jan had had trouble about
his wife, and also that he had been wounded in
a fight ; and putting the two things together he
made a perfectly natural inference. He was
aware, also, that Margaret was Peter Fae s
daughter and a probable heiress. If he
thought of Jan s social position, he doubtless
considered that only a Shetland gentleman
would aspire to her hand. But he made no


effort whatever to gain Jan s confidence; if he
chose to give it, he would do so at the proper
time, and without it they were very happy.
For Lord Lynne had been a great traveler,
and Jan never wearied of hearing about the
places he had visited. With a map before him,
he would follow every step up and down
Europe. And across Asian seas, through Cana
dian cities, and the great plains of the West,
the two men in memory and imagination went

Nothing was said of Jan s future ; he asked
no questions, gave no hints, exhibited no anx
iety. He took his holiday in holiday spirit,
and Lord Lynne understood and appreciated
the unselfishness and the gentlemanly feeling
which dictated the apparent indifference. At
Margate the yacht went into harbor. Lord
Lynne expected letters there, which he said
would decide his movements for the winter.
He was silent and anxious when he landed ; he
was in a mood of reckless but assumed indiffer
ence when he came on board again.

After dinner he spread the large map on the
saloon table, and said : " Vedder, what do you
say to a few months cruise in the Mediterra^


nean ? I am not wanted at home, and I should
like to show you some of the places we
have talked about. Suppose we touch at the
great Spanish ports, at Genoa, Venice, Naples
and Rome, and then break the winter among
the Isles of Greece and the old Ionian cities?

Jan s face beamed with delight ; there was no
need for him to speak.

"And," continued his lordship, "as I sleep
a great deal in warm climates, I shall want a
good sailor aboard. I saw by the way you
handled the yacht during that breeze in The
Wash, that you are one. Will you be my
lieutenant this winter ? I will pay you 100 a
quarter ; that will keep you in pocket money/*

" That will be a great deal of money to me,,
and I shall be very glad to earn it so pleas

" Then that settles matters for a few months
when we get back it will be time to buckle
to work. Heigh-ho ! Lieutenant, head The
Lapwing for the Bay of Biscay, and we will
set our faces toward sunshine, and cast care
and useless regret behind our backs."

At Gibraltar Lord Lynne evidently expected
letters, but they did not come. Every mail he


was anxious and restless, every mail he was dis
appointed. At length he seemed to relinquish
hope, and * The Lapwing proceeded on her
voyage. One night they were drifting slowly
off the coast of Spain. The full moon shone
over a tranquil sea, and the wind blowing off
shore, filled the sails with the perfume of
orange blossoms. Lord Lynne had sent that
day a boat into Valencia, hoping for letters,
and had been again disappointed. As he
walked the deck with Jan in the moonlight, he
said sadly, " I feel much troubled to-night, Jan."
" Ever since we were in Gibraltar I have seen
that thou hast some trouble, my lord. And
I am sorry for thee ; my own heart is aching

to-night ; for that reason I can feel for thy grief


" I wonder what trouble could come to a man
hid away from life in such a quiet corner of the
world as Shetland ?

" There is no corner too quiet, or too far
away, for a woman to make sorrow in it. *

* By every thing ! You are right, Jan."

There was a few minutes silence, and then
Jan said : " Shall I tell thee what trouble came
to me through a woman in Shetland ? "


" I would like to hear about it."

Then Jan began. He spoke slowly and with
some hesitation at first. His youth was con
nected with affairs about which the Shetlanders
always spoke cautiously. His father had been
one of the boldest and most successful of the
men who carried on that " French trade
which the English law called smuggling. He
had made money easily, had spent it lavishly,
and at the last had gone to the bottom with his
ship, rather than suffer her to be taken. His
mother had not long survived her husband, but
there had been money enough left to edu
cate and provide for Jan until he reached man"

" I was ten years old when mother died," he
continued, " and since then no one has really
loved me but Michael Snorro. I will tell thee
how our love began. One day I was on the
pier watching the loading of a boat. Snorro
was helping with her cargo, and the boys were
teasing him, because of his clumsy size and ugly
face. One of them took Snorro s cap off his
head and flung it into the water. I was angry
at the coward, and flung him after it, nor would
I let him out of the water till he brought Snor-


ro s cap with him. I shall never forget the
look Snorro gave me that hour. Ever since we
have been close friends. I will tell thee now
how he hath repaid me for that deed."

Then Jan spoke of Margaret s return from
school ; of their meeting at one Fisherman s
Foy, and of their wedding at the next. All of
Peter s kindness and subsequent injustice ; all
of Margaret s goodness and cruelty, all of Snor-
ro s affection and patience he told. He made
nothing better nor worse. His whole life, as
he knew and could understand it, he laid be
fore Lord Lynne.

"And so thou sees," he concluded, <4 how
little to blame and how much to blame I
have been. I have done wrong and I have
suffered. Yes, I surfer yet, for I love my wife
and she has cast me off. Dost thou think I
can ever be worthy of her?

" I see, Jan, that what you said is true
in any corner of the earth where women are,
they can make men suffer. As to your wor
thiness, I know not. There are some women
so good, that only the angels of heaven could
live with them. That 600 was a great mis


"I think that now."

"Jan, life is strangely different and yet
strangely alike. My experience has not been
so very far apart from yours. I was induced
to marry when only twenty-one a lady who is
my inferior in rank, but who is a very rich
woman. She is a few years older than I, but
;he is beautiful, full of generous impulses, and
well known for her charitable deeds."

"You are surely fortunate/

" I am very unhappy."

"Does she not love thee? :

"Alas! she loves me so much that she makes
both her own and my life miserable."

" That is what I do not understand."

" Her love is a great love, but it is a selfish
love. She is willing that I should be happy in
her way, but in no other. I must give her not
only my affection, but my will, my tastes, my
duties to every other creature. My friends,
horses, dogs, even this yacht, she regards as
enemies ; she is sure that every one of them
takes the thought and attention she ought to
have. And the hardest part is, that her noble
side only is seen by the world. I alone suffer
rom the fault that spoils all. Consequently


the world pities her, and looks upon me very
much as the people of Lerwick looked on you. "

" And can thou do nothing for thy own.

" Nothing. I am in the case of a very worthy
old Roman lord who desired to divorce his wife.
There was a great outcry. All his friends were
amazed. Is she not handsome, virtuous, rich,
amiable? they asked. What hath she done
to thee? The Roman husband pointed to his
sandal. Is it not new, is it not handsome and
well made ? But none of you can tell where it
pinches me. That old Roman and I are broth
ers. Every one praises my good wife, my rich
wife, my handsome wife, but for all that, the
matrimonial shoe pinches me."

This confidence brought the two men near
together. Henceforward there was no lack of
conversation. While every other subject fails
a domestic grievance is always new. It can be
looked at in so many ways. It lias touched us
on every side of our nature. We are never
quite sure where we have been right, and where
wrong. So Lord Lynne and Jan talked of
My Lady * in Lynnton Castle, and of Margaret
Vedder in her Shetland home, but the conver-


sations were not in the main unkind ones. Very
early in them Lynne told Jan how he had once
seen his wife standing on the Troll Rock at sun.
set, " lovely, and grand, and melancholy, as some
forsaken goddess in her desolated shrine."

They were sitting at the time among the
ruins of a temple to Pallas. The sun was set
ting over Lydian waters, and Jan seemed to see
in the amber rays a vision of the tall, fair
woman of his love and dreams. She ruled him
yet. From the lonely islands of that forlorn
sea she called him. Not continents nor oceans
could sever the mystical tie between them. On
the sands close by, some young Greek girls were
dancing to a pipe. They were beautiful, and
the dance was picturesque, but Jan hardly
noticed them. The home-love was busy in his
heart. " Until death us part." Nothing is
more certain, in a life of such uncertainty.

Amid the loveliest scenes of earth they passed
the winter months. It was far on in May when
they touched Gibraltar on their return. Let
ters for both were waiting there. For Jan a
short one from Dr. Balloch, and a long one
from Michael Snorro. He was sitting with
Snorro s in his hand when Lord Lynne, bright


and cheerful, came out of his cabin. " I have
very fair news, Jan ; what has the mail brought
you ? " he asked.

" Seldom it comes for nothing. I have heard
that my mother-in-law is dead. She was ever
my friend, and I am so much the poorer. Peter
Fae too is in trouble ; he is in trouble about
me. Wilt thou believe that the people of Ler.
wick think he may have "

" Murdered you ? "

"Yes, just that."

" I have often thought that the suspicion
would be a natural one. Has he been ar
rested ?

" No, no ; but he is in bad esteem. Sonik
speak not to him. The minister, though, he
stands by him."

" That is enough. If Dr. Balloch thought it
necessary, he would say sufficient to keep Peter

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrJan Vedder's wife → online text (page 8 of 15)