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Fae out of danger. A little popular disapproval
will do him good. He will understand then
how you felt when wife and friends looked
coldly on you, and suspicion whispered things to
injure you that no one dared to say openly.
Let Peter suffer a little. I am not sorry for
him."



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JAN A T HIS POST. rSt

Once he liked me, and was kind to me/

Jan ! "

Yes, my friend."

We are now going straight to Margate. I
am promised office, and shall probably be a
busy public man soon. It is time also that you
buckled down to your work. We have had our
holiday and grown strong in it every way
strong. What next ? "

Thou speak first."

Well, you see, Jan, men must wo^k if they
would be rich, or even respectable. What work
have you thought of ?

" Only of the sea. She is my father and my
mother and my inheritance. Working on land,
I am as much out of place as a fi*h out of
water."

" I think you are right. Will you join the
Merchant Service, or do you think belter of
the Royal Navy ? I have a great deal of
influence with the Admiralty Lords, and 1 have
often wished I could be a i blue jacket my
self."

" Above all things, I would like the Royal
Navy."

"Then you shall be a blue jacket ; that is-



182 JAN VEDDER S WIFE.

quite settled and well settled, I am sure. But
every moment will take time, and it will prob
ably be winter before I can get you a post on any
squadron likely to see active service. During
the interval I will leave The Lapwing in your
care, and you must employ the time in study
ing the technical part of your profession. I
know an old captain in Margate who will teach
you all he knows, and that is all that any of
them know."

Jan was very grateful. The prospect was a
pleasant one and the actual experience of it
more than fulfilled all his expectations. " The
Lapwing" was his home and his study. For he
soon discovered how ignorant he was. Instruc
tion in naval warfare was not all he needed.
Very soon the old captain was supplemented
by the schoolmaster. The days were too short
for all Jan wished to learn. He grudged the
hours that were spent in sleep. So busy was
he that he never noticed the lapse of time, or,
if he did, it was only that he might urge him
self to greater efforts.

It did not trouble him that Lord L^ne
seldom wrote, and never came. His salary was
promptly paid, and Jan was one of the kind



JAN A T HIS POST. 183

of men whom good fortune loves. He did
not worry over events. He did not keep
wondering what she was going to do for
him, or wish night and day that she would
make haste with the next step in his behalf.
He took gratefully and happily the good he
had, and enjoyed it to the utmost.

When a change came it was the first week in
November. A lovely afternoon had not
tempted Jan from his books. Suddenly the
cabin door was darkened ; he lifted his head,
and saw Lord Lynne regarding him with a
face full of pleasure. He came rapidly for
ward and turned over the volumes on the table
with great interest. " I am glad to see these
books, Jan," he said, " Arithmetic, Geography,,
History, French very good, indeed ! And your
last letter delighted me. The writing was
excellent. Her Majesty s officers ought to be
educated gentlemen ; and you are now one of
\hern."

Jan looked up, with eager, inquiring face.

" Yes, sir; you are now Lieutenant Jan Ved-
der, of Her Majesty s Schooner Retribution.
You are to sail for the African coast within a
week. Jan, I congratulate you !



184 JAN VEDDER S WIFE.

Jan rose and put out both hands. The action
was full of feeling. No words could have been
so eloquent. It was worth an hour of words,
and Lord Lynne so understood it.

" I called at the mail as I came through the
town, here is a letter for you. While you read
it I will go through the yacht."

When he returned Jan was walking anx
iously about with the letter in his hand. " Has
bad news come with the good, Jan ?

" I know not if it be bad or if it be good.
Peter Fae hath married again."

" Do you know the new wife ? "

" Well I know her. She was ever a good
friend to me, but my wife liked her not."

" Is she young or old, pretty or otherwise ?"

" Few women are so handsome, and she has
not yet thirty years."

" Then it is likely Peter Fae has found a
master ?

"That, too, is likely. Snorro says that he
hath settled on her the house in which he lives,
with much money beside. Perhaps now my
Margaret will be poor. I can not think that
she will live with Suneva. What then will she
do? I wish to see her very much."



IT HIS POST. 185

" That you can not possibly do, Lieutenant
Vedder. You will be under orders in the
morning. To leave your post now, would be
desertion. I do not fear for your wife. She
knows very well how to look after her own
interests. The two women in Peter s house
will be Greek against Greek, and your wife will
certainly win some victories."

" I would not have her suffer, my friend."

" She will not suffer. It is likely I may be
in Lerwick next summer; I will see to that.
Have you saved any thing of your salary ?"

" I have spent very little of it. I have now
over 300."

" Then I advise you to send ,200 to Dr.
Balloch for her. Tell him if help is needed to
give it. He will understand the wisest way in
which it can be offered. If it is not needed,
he can save it toward that ;6oo."

" I can send 300."

" No, you can not. Uniforms must be
bought, and fees must be paid, and there are
numerous other expenses to meet. Now you
must pack your clothes and books. To-morrow
you must be in Portsmouth ; there The Retri
bution is waiting for you and for orders. The



186 JAN VEDDER S WIFE.

orders may arrive at any hour, and it is possible
you may have to sail at once."

The next afternoon Jan was in Portsmouth.
It was a wonderful thing for him to tread the
deck of his own ship ; a handsome, fast-sailing
schooner, specially built for the African block
ade. She carried a heavy pivot gun and a
carronade, and had a crew of fifty officers and
men. He could scarcely believe that he was
to command her, even when his officers saluted
him. In three days he was to sail, and there
was much to be done in the interval. But the
hurry and bustle was an advantage ; he had no
time to feel the strangeness of his position ;
and men soon get accustomed to honor. On
the third day he filled his place with the easy
nonchalance of long authority.

It was fortunate for Jan that the mission on
which he was sent was one that stirred him to
the very depths of his nature. In the seclu
sion and ignorance of his life in Shetland, he
had heard nothing of the wrongs and horrors
of slavery. It is doubtful if there had ever
come into his mind, as a distant idea, the
thought of a race of men who were as black as
he was white. Therefore when Lord Lynne



JAN A T HIS POS7. 187

explained to him the cruelty and wickedness
of the slave traffic, Jan heard him at first with
amazement, then with indignation. That pas
sionate love of freedom and that hatred of
injustice, which are at the foundation of the
Norse character, were touched at every point.
The tears of pity, the fire of vengeance, were
in his eyes. To chase a slaver, to punish her
villainous owners, to liberate her captives!
Jan took in the whole grand duty at once.

" I see you are pleased with your prospects,
Jan. Many would not be. The duty of the
African blockading squadron is very hard ; it is
not a favorite station. That fact made your
appointment so easy."

" Only one thing could make my prospects
brighter."

" What is that thing?"

"If Snorro could go with me! How he
would rejoice in such work! He is so strong;
when he is angry, he is as strong as six men, I
think. Once I saw him put a sick fisherman
behind his back, and compel the boat crew to
give him his share. Yes, indeed ! They looked
in Snorro s face, and did what he said without
a word. He would fly on these men-catchers



a 88 JAN VEDDER S WIFE.

like a lion. He would stamp them under his
feet. It is a war that would make Snorro s
heart glad. He would slay the foe as he would
pour out water, and for the weak and suffering
he would lay down his life. He would,
indeed ! "

Jan spoke rapidly, and with enthusiasm.
Lord Lynne looked at him with admiration, as
he said : " It is too late now to send for Snorro.
How you do love that man, Jan !

" Well, then, he deserves it. I would be a
cur if I loved him not. I love thee, too.
Thou saved me from myself ; thou hast given
to me like a prince; but as for Snorro 1 He
gave me all he had ! Thou art not grieved ?
Thou wilt not think me ungrateful for thy
goodness ?

" If you had forgotten Snorro, Jan, I would
not have trusted you for myself. You do right
to love him. When the squadron is recalled
he must be sent for. It is not right to part
you two."

" I will tell him what thou says. It will
make him happy. Snorro is one of those men
who can wait patiently."

So Jan wrote to Snorro. He took the largest



JAN A T HIS POST. 189

official paper he could find, and he sealed the
letter with the ship s seal, sparing not the
sealing-wax in its office. For he knew well
what an effect the imposing missive would
have. In the hurry of his own affairs he could
think of such small things, for the sake of the
satisfaction which they would give to his
simple-minded friend.

But mails were long at that time of the
year in reaching Shetland. Jan was far down
the African coast when his letter came to
Lerwick. It was under cover to Dr. Balloch,
and though the day was rough and snowy the
good minister found his way to Peter s store.
He was always welcome there. Peter never
forgot how faithfully he stood by him when
the darkest suspicions kept other men away,
and Snorro associated his visits with news from
Jan. When, therefore, the minister in leaving
said, " Snorro thou art strong, and Hamish is
weak, come to-night and carry him some peats
into the house," Snorro s face lighted up with
expectation.

Undoubtedly it was a great night for Snorro.
When Dr. Balloch explained to him, as Lord
Lynne had explained to Jan, the noble neces-



190 JAN VEDDER S WIFE,

sity of the African squadron, his heart Leaned
like fire. He could almost have shouted aloud
in his pity and indignation. It seemed to him
a glorious thing that Jan had gone. Somehow
his limited capacity failed to take in more than
the work to be done, and that Jan was to do it.
Minor details made no impression on him. Jan
to his mind was the only hero. The British
Government, Wilberforce, public opinion, all
the persons and events that had led up to
England s advocacy of the rights of humanity,
all were merged in Jan.

When he left Dr. Balloch he felt as if he
were walking upon air. On the moor, where
no one could hear him, he laughed aloud, a
mighty laugh, that said for Jan far more than
he could find words to say. He heeded not
the wind and the softly falling snow ; had not
Jan, his Jan, sailed away in her Majesty s
service, a deliverer and a conqueror? Suddenly
he felt a desire to see something relating to
him. If he went round by Peter s house,
perhaps he might see Margaret and the baby.
In the state of exaltation he was in, all things
seemed easy and natural to him. In fact the
slight resistance of the elements was an uncoil
Gclcus and natural relief.



JAN AT HIS POST. lyi

Peter s house shone brightly afar ofL As he
approached it he saw that the sitting-room was
in a glow of fire and candle-light. Before he
reached the gate he heard the murmur of
voices. He had only to stand still and the
whole scene was before him. Peter sat in his
old place on the hearthstone. Around it were
two of Suneva s cousins, soncy, jolly wives,
with their knitting in their hands and their
husbands by their sides. They were in eager
and animated conversation, noisy laughs and
ejaculations could be distinctly heard, and
Suneva herself was moving busily about, set
ting the table for a hot supper. Her blue silk
dress and gold chain, and her lace cap fluttering
with white ribbons, made her a pleasant woman
to look at. It was a happy household picture,
but Margaret Vedder was not in it.

Snorro waited long in hopes of seeing her;
waited until the smoking goose and hot pota
toes, and boiling water, lemons and brandy,
drew every one to the white, glittering table.
He felt sure then that Margaret would join the
party, but she did not. Was it a slight to her?
That Margaret Vedder personally should be
slighted affected him not, but that Jan s wifo



192 JAN VEDDER S WIFE.

was neglected, that made him angry. He
turned away, and in turning glanced upward.
There was a dim light in a corner room up
stairs. He felt sure that there Margaret was
sitting, watching Jan s boy. He loitered round
until he heard the moving of chairs and the
bustle incident to the leave-taking of guests.
No access of light and no movement in Mar
garet s room had taken place. She had made
no sign, and no one remembered her. But
never had Snorro felt so able to forgive her as
at that hour-



CHAPTER X.

SWEET HOME.

" On so nice a pivot turns

True wisdom ; here an inch, or there, we swerve
From the just balance ; by too much we sin,
And half our errors are but truths unpruned. "

IF Margaret were neglected, it was in the
main her own fault ; or, at least, the fault of
circumstances which she would not even try to
control- Between her and Suneva there had
never been peace, and she did not even wish
that there should be. When they were scarcely
six years old, there was rivalry between them
as to which was the better and quicker knitter.
During their school days, this rivalry had found
many other sources from which to draw
strength. When Margaret consented to go to
Edinburgh to finish her education, she had felt
that in doing so she would gain a distinct
triumph over Suneva Torn When she came
back with metropolitan dresses, and sundry



194 JAN VEDDER S WIFE.

trophies in the way of Poonah painting and
Berlin wool work, she held herself above and
aloof from all her old companions, and espe
cially Suneva.

Her conquest of Jan Vedder, the admiration
and hope of all the young girls on the Island,
was really a victory over Suneva, to whom Jan
had paid particular attention before he met
Margaret. Suneva had been the bitterest drop
in all her humiliation concerning her marriage
troubles. In her secret heart she believed
Suneva had done her best to draw her old lover
from his quiet home to the stir and excitement
of her father s drinking-room. If Peter had
searched Shetland through, he could not have
found a second wife so thoroughly offensive to
his daughter.

And apart from these personal grievances,
there were pecuniary ones which touched Mar
garet s keenest sensibilities. Peter Fae s house
had long been to her a source of pride ; and,
considering all things, it was admirably
arranged and handsomely furnished. In the
course of events, she naturally expected that it
would become her house hers and her boy s.
To not only lose it herself, but to have it given



S WEE T HOME. 1 95

to Suneva without reservation, seemed to Mar
garet not only a wrong but an insult. And the
100 a year which had been given with it, was
also to her mind a piece of cruel injustice.
She could not help reflecting that some such
kindness to her at her own wedding would
have satisfied Jan, and perhaps altered their
whole life. It must be admitted that her
mortification in being only a dependent in the
house which she had ruled, and regarded as
her own, was a natural and a bitter one.

At the last, too, the change had come upon
her with the suddenness of a blow from behind.
It is true that Peter made no secret of his
courtship, and equally true that the gossips of
the town brought very regular news of its
progress to Margaret. But she did not believe
her father would take a step involving so much
to them both, without speaking to her about
it. As soon as he did so, she had resolved to
ask him to prepare her own home for her
without delay. She had taken every care of
her furniture. It was in perfect order, and as
soon as the house had been again put into
cleanly shape, she could remove to it. The
thought of its perfect isolation, and of its



196 JAN VEDDER S WIFE.

independence, began to appear desirable to her.
Day by day she was getting little articles ready
which she would need for her own housekeeping.

In the meantime the summer with all its
busy interests kept Peter constantly at the
store. When he was at home, his mind was so
full of " fish takes" and of "curing," that Mar-
garet knew that it would be both imprudent
and useless to name her private affairs. Per-
haps his extreme pre-occupation was partly
affected in order to avoid the discussion of
unpleasant matters; but if so, Margaret never
suspected it. She had many faults, but she
was honest and truthful in all her ways, and she
believed her father would be equally so with
her. When the fishing was over, Peter was
always a few weeks employed in counting up
his expenses and his gains. October and part
of November had been from her girlhood
regarded as a critical time ; a time when on no
account he was to be troubled about household
matters. But when November was nearly
over, then Margaret determined to open the
subject of the reported marriage to him, if he
did not take the initiative.

As it was getting near this time, she walked



SWEET HOME. 197

over one afternoon to her old home, in order to
ascertain its condition. Never, since she so
foolishly abandoned it, had she been near the
place. Its mournful, desolate aspect shocked
her. Peter had never been able to rent it.
There was an idea that it belonged to Margaret
and was " unlucky." The gate had fallen from
the rusted hinges. Passing boys had mali
ciously broken the windows, and the storms of
two winters had drifted through the empty
rooms. Timber is scarce and dear in Shetland,
and all the conveniences for her animals and
fowls had been gradually plundered and carried
off. Margaret looked with dismay at the
place, and, as she went through the silent
rooms, could not help a low cry of real heart
pain. In them it was impossible to forget Jan,
the gay, kind-hearte.d husband, who had once
made all their echoes ring to his voice and
tread.

Never had the sense of her real widowhood
seemed so strong and so pitiful. But in spite
of its dreariness, the house attracted her.
There, better than in. any other place, she could
rear her son, and devote her life to memories at
once so bitter and so sweet. She determined



198 JAN VEDDER S WIFE.

to speak that very night, unless her fath^ \\cre
unusually cross or thoughtful. Christmas was
a favorite date for weddings, and it was very
probable that Suneva would choose that time
for her own. If so, there would be barely time
to prepare the old home.

She set Peter s tea-table with unusual care,
she made him the cream-cakes that he liked
so well, and saw that every thing was bright and
comfortable, and in accord with his peculiar
fancies. But Peter did not come home to tea,
and after waiting an hour, she put the service
away. It had become a very common disap
pointment.

Peter said something in a general way about
business, but Margaret was well aware, that
when he did not come home until ten o clock,
he had taken tea with the Torrs, and spent the
evening with Suneva.

This night she had a very heavy heart.
Three times within the past week Peter had
been late. Things were evidently coming to a
crisis, and she felt the necessity of prompt
movement in her own interests. She put the
child to sleep, and sat down to wait for her
father s arrival. About eight o clock she heard



SWEET HOME. 199

his voice and step, and before she could rise
and go with a candle to the door, Peter and
Suneva entered together.

There was something in their manner that
surprised her; the more so, that Suneva imme
diately began to take off her bonnet arid cloak,
and make herself quite at home. Margaret
saw then that she wore a rich silk dress and
many gold ornaments, and that her father also
wore his Sunday suit. The truth flashed upon
her in a moment. There was no need for Peter
to say

" Suneva and I have just been married, Mar
garet. Suppose thou make us a cup of tea/

At that hour, and under such circumstances,
nothing could have induced her to obey the
request. Never before had she disobeyed her
father, and it gave her a shock to do it, but all
the same she enjoyed the sensation. Make tea
for Suneva ! For the woman who had sup
planted her in her father s affection, and in all
her rights ! She felt that she would rather take
her child, and walk out with it upon the dark
and desolate moor.

But she was slow of speech, and in her anger
and amazement she could find no word to



200 JAN VEDDER S WIFE.

interpret her emotion. One long, steady look
she gave her father a look which Peter never
forgot then, haughtily as a discrowned queen,
but with a face as white as snow, she left the
room. Suneva laughed, but it was not an ill-
natured laugh. " It would have been better
had we told her, Peter," she said. " If I had
been thy daughter, I should not have liked
thee to bring home a wife without a word
about it."

" It will be an ill day with Peter Fae when
he asks his women what he shall do, or how he
shall do it. Yes, indeed !

Suneva looked queerly at him. She did not
speak a word, but her dancing, gleaming eyes
said very plainly that such an " ill day" might
be coming even for Peter Fae.

Then she set herself to making the tea he
had asked for. There were the cakes Margaret
had baked, and sweets, and cold meat, and all
kinds of spirits at hand ; and very soon Mar
garet heard the pleasant clatter of china, and
the hum of subdued but constant conversation,
broken at intervals by Suneva s shrill rippling
laugh. Margaret made up her mind that hour,
that however short or long her stay might be



S WEE T HOME. 2O I

in Suneva s house, she would never again lift a
finger in its ordering.

In the morning she remained in her own
room until her father had gone to the store.
When she went down stairs, she found the
servants, her servants, eagerly waiting upon
Suneva, who was examining her new posses
sions. As she entered the room, Suneva turned
with a piece of the best china in her hand, and
said, " Oh, it is thee ! Good morning, Margaret."
Then in a moment Margaret s dour, sulky
temper dominated her ; she looked at Suneva,
but answered her not one word.

No two women could have been more unlike
each other. Margaret, dressed in a plain black
gown, was white and sorrowful. Suneva, in a
scarlet merino, carefully turned back over a
short quilted petticoat that gave pleasant
glimpses of her trim latched shoes and white
stockings, had a face and manner bright and
busy and thoroughly happy. Margaret s dumb
anger did not seem to affect her. She went on
with her work, ordering, cleaning, rearranging,
sending one servant here and another there,
and took no more notice of the pale, sullen
woman on the hearth, than if she had not
existed.



202 JAN VEDDER S WIFE.

However, when Margaret brought the child
down stairs, she made an effort at conciliation.
" What a beautiful boy ! she exclaimed.
" How like poor Jan ! What dost thou call
him ? * And she flipped her fingers, and
chirruped to the child, and really longed to take
him in her arms and kiss him.

But to Margaret the exclamation gave fresh
pain and offense. " What had Suneva to do
with Jan ? And what right had she to pity
him, and to say poor Jan ! She did not
understand that very often a clumsy good
nature says the very thing it ought to avoid.
So she regarded the words as a fresh offense,
and drew her child closer to her, as if she were
afraid even it would be taken from her.

It was snowing lightly, and the air was moist
with a raw wind from the north-east. Yet Mar
garet dressed herself and her child to go out.
At the door Suneva spoke again. " If thou
wants to go abroad, go ; but leave the child
with me. I will take care of him, and it is
damp and cold, as thou seest."

She might as well have spoken to the wind.
Margaret never delayed a moment for the
request ; and Suneva stood looking after her



S WEE T HOME. 203

with a singular gleam of pity and anger in her
eyes. There was also a kind of admiration for
the tall, handsome woman who in her perfect
health and strength bore so easily the burden
of her child. She held him firmly on her left
arm, and his little hand clasped her neck behind,


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrJan Vedder's wife → online text (page 9 of 15)