Jan Vedder's Wife
by Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr
JAN VEDDER'S WIFE
AMELIA E. BARR
New York: Dodd, Mead & Company Publishers.
Copyright, 1885 by Dodd, Mead & Company
CHAPTER I. JAN'S
CHAPTER II. A
LITTLE CLOUD IN
CHAPTER IV. THE
CHAPTER VII. THE
MAN AT DEATH'S
CHAPTER IX. JAN
AT HIS POST.
CHAPTER X. SWEET
SNORRO AND JAN.
LABOR AND REST.
CHAPTER I. JAN'S WEDDING.
Eastward, afar, the coasts of men were seen
Dim, shadowy, and spectral; like a still
Broad land of spirits lay the vacant sea
Beneath the silent heavenshere and there,
Perchance, a vessel skimmed the watery waste,
Like a white-winged sea-bird, but it moved
Too pale and small beneath the vail of space.
There, too, went forth the sun
Like a white angel, going down to visit
The silent, ice-washed cloisters of the Pole.
More than fifty years ago this thing happened: Jan Vedder was
betrothed to Margaret Fae. It was at the beginning of the Shetland
summer, that short interval of inexpressible beauty, when the amber
sunshine lingers low in the violet skies from week to week; and the
throstle and the lark sing at midnight, and the whole land has an air
of enchantment, mystic, wonderful, and far off.
In the town of Lerwick all was still, though it was but nine
o'clock; for the men were at the ling-fishing, and the narrow flagged
street and small quays were quite deserted. Only at the public fountain
there was a little crowd of women and girls, and they sat around its
broad margin, with their water pitchers and their knitting, laughing
and chatting in the dreamlike light.
Well, and so Margaret Fae marries at last; she, too, marries, like
the rest of the world.
Yes, and why not?
As every one knows, it is easier to begin that coil than to end it;
and no one has ever thought that Margaret would marry Janhe that is
so often at the dance, and so seldom at the kirk.
Yes, and it is said that he is not much of a man. Magnus Yool can
wag him here; and Nicol Sinclair send him there, and if Suneva Torr but
cast her nixie-eyes on him, he leaves all to walk by her side. It is
little mind of his own he hath; besides that, he is hard to deal with,
That is what we all think, Gisla; thou alone hast uttered it. But
we will say no more of Jan, for oft ill comes of women's talk.
The speakers were middle-aged women who had husbands and sons in the
fishing fleet, and they cast an anxious glance toward it, as they
lifted their water pitchers to their heads, and walked slowly home
together, knitting as they went. Lerwick had then only one street of
importance, but it was of considerable length, extending in the form of
an amphitheater along the shore, and having numberless little lanes or
closes, intersected by stairs, running backward to an eminence above
the town. The houses were generally large and comfortable, but they
were built without the least regard to order. Some faced the sea, and
some the land, and the gable ends projected on every side, and at every
conceivable angle. Many of their foundations were drilled out of the
rock upon the shore, and the smooth waters of the bay were six feet
deep at the open doors or windows.
The utmost quiet reigned there. Shetland possessed no carts or
carriages, and only the clattering of a shelty's gallop, or the song of
a drunken sailor disturbed the echoes. The whole place had a singular,
old-world look, and the names over the doors carried one back to
Norseland and the Vikings. For in these houses their children dwelt,
still as amphibious as their forefathers, spending most of their lives
upon the sea, rarely sleeping under a roof, or warming themselves at a
cottage fire; a rugged, pious, silent race, yet subject, as all
Norsemen are, to fits of passionate and uncontrollable emotion.
Prominently among the Thorkels and Halcros, the Yools and Traills,
stood out the name of Peter Fae. Peter had the largest store in
Lerwick, he had the largest fish-curing shed, he was the largest boat
owner. His house of white stone outside the town was two stories high,
and handsomely furnished; and it was said that he would be able to
leave his daughter Margaret £10,000; a very large fortune for a
Shetland girl. Peter was a Norseman of pronounced type, and had the
massive face and loose-limbed strength of his race, its faculty for
money-getting, and its deep religious sentiment. Perhaps it would be
truer to say, its deep Protestant sentiment, for Norsemen have always
been Protestants; they hated the Romish church as soon as they heard of
If the Anglo-Saxon or Anglo-American wishes to see whence came the
distinguishing traits of his race, let him spend a few weeks among the
Shetland Norsemen, for they have pre-eminently those qualities we are
accustomed to pride ourselves upon possessingthe open air freshness
of look, the flesh and blood warmth of grip, the love of the sea, the
resolute earnestness of being and doing, the large, clear sincerity of
men accustomed to look stern realities in the face.
Peter's wife, Thora, was also of pure Norse lineage, and in many an
unrecognized way her ancestors influenced her daily life. She had borne
four sons, but, in the expressive form of Shetland speech, the sea had
got them; and her daughter Margaret was the sole inheritor of their
gathered gold. Thora was a proud, silent woman, whose strongest
affections were with her children in their lonely sea graves. In her
heart, deeper down than her faith could reach, lay a conviction that
the Faes and Thorkels who had sailed those seas for centuries had
called her boys to them. And she was always nursing an accusation
against herself for a rite which she had observed for their welfare,
but which she was now sure had been punished by their death. For often,
when they had been tossing on the black North Sea, she had gone to the
top of the hill, and looking seaward she had raised from the past the
brown-sailed ships, and the big yellow-haired men tugging at their
oars; and in her heart there had been a supplication to their memory,
which Peter, had he known it, would have denounced, with the sternest
wrath, as neither more nor less than a service to Satan.
But what do we know of the heart nearest to our own? What do we know
of our own heart? Some ancestor who sailed with Offa, or who fought
with the Ironsides, or protested with the Covenanters, or legislated
with the Puritans, may, at this very hour, be influencing us, in a way
of which we never speak, and in which no other soul intermeddles.
Thora had one comfort. Her daughter was of a spirit akin to her own.
Peter had sent her to Edinburgh, hoping that she would bring back to
his northern home some of those lowland refinements of which he had a
shadowy and perhaps exaggerated idea. But Margaret Fae's character was
not of that semi-fluid nature which can easily be run into new molds.
She had looked with distrust and dislike upon a life which seemed to
her artificial and extravagant, and had come back to Shetland with
every Norse element in her character strengthened and confirmed.
What then made her betroth herself to Jan Vedder? A weak, wasteful
man, who had little but his good-natured, pleasant ways and his great
beauty to recommend him. And yet the wise and careful Margaret Fae
loved him; loved him spontaneously, as the brook loves to run, and the
bird loves to sing.
But bear in mind, husband, said Thora, on the night of the
betrothal, that this thing is of thy own doing. Thou hired Jan Vedder,
when thou couldst well have hired a better man. Thou brought him to thy
house. Well, then, was there any wonder that ill-luck should follow the
Wife, the lad is a pleasant lad. If he had money to even Margaret's
tocher, and if he were more punctual at the ordinances, there would be
no fault to him.
So I think, too. But when a man has not religion, and has beside
empty pockets, then he is poor for both worlds. It seems, then, that
our Margaret must marry with a poor man. And let me tell thee, it was a
little thing moved thee, for because Jan had a handsome face, and a
bright smile, thou liked him.
Many a sore heart folks get who set liking before judgment. But if
there is good in the lad, then to get married will bring it out.
That is as it may be. Often I have seen it bring out ill. Can any
one tell if a man be good or ill, unless they dwell under the same roof
with him? Abroad, who is so pleasant as Ragon Torr? But at home, every
body there has to look to his wishes.
At this point in the conversation, Margaret entered. She was a tall,
straight girl, with a finely-featured, tranquil face, admirably framed
in heavy coils of hair that were yellow as dawn. Her complexion was
exquisite, and her eyes blue, and cool, and calm. She was still and
passionless in manner, but far from being cold at heart; nevertheless,
her soul, with the purity of crystal, had something also of its sharp
angles; something which might perhaps become hard and cutting. She
carried herself loftily, and walked with an air of decision. Peter
looked at her steadily and said:
Now, thou hast done ill, Margaret. When a young girl marries, she
must face life for herself; and many are the shoulders that ask for
burdens they can not bear.
Yes, indeed! And it is all little to my mind, added the mother. I
had spoken to thee for thy cousin Magnus Hay; and then here comes this
Yes, he comes! and Margaret stood listening, the pink color on her
cheeks spreading to the tips of her ears, and down her white throat.
Yes, he comes! and with the words, Jan stood in the open door. A
bright, handsome fellow he was! There was no one in all the Islands
that was half so beautiful.
Peter, he cried joyfully, here has happened great news! The
'Sure-Giver' is in the harbor with all her cargo safe. She came in with
the tide. All her planks and nails are lucky.
That is great news, surely, Jan. But it is ill luck to talk of good
luck. Supper is ready sit down with us.
But Thora spoke no word, and Jan looked at Margaret with the
question in his eyes.
It means this, and no more, Jan. I have told my father and mother
that thou would make me thy wife.
That is what I desire, most of all things.
Then there is little need of long talk. I betroth myself to thee
here for life or death, Jan Vedder; and my father and my mother they
are the witnesses; and as she spoke, she went to Jan, and put her
hands in his, and Jan drew her proudly to his breast and kissed her.
Thora left the room without a glance at the lovers. Peter stood up,
and said angrily: Enough, and more than enough has been said this
night. No, Jan; I will not put my palm against thine till we have
spoken together. There is more to a marriage than a girl's 'Yes', and a
That was the manner of Jan's betrothal; and as he walked rapidly
back into the town, there came a feeling into his heart of not being
quite pleased with it. In spite of Margaret's affection and
straightforward decision, he felt humiliated.
It is what a man gets who wooes a rich wife, he muttered; but I
will go and tell Michael Snorro about it. And he smiled at the
prospect, and hurried onward to Peter's store.
For Michael Snorro lived there. The opening to the street was
closed; but the one facing the sea was wide open; and just within it,
among the bags of feathers and swans' down, the piles of seal skins,
the barrels of whale oil, and of sea-birds' eggs, and the casks of
smoked geese, Michael was sitting. The sea washed the warehouse walls,
and gurgled under the little pier, that extended from the door, but it
was the only sound there was. Michael, with his head in his hands, sat
gazing into the offing where many ships lay at anchor. At the sound of
Jan's voice his soul sprang into his face for a moment, and he rose,
trembling with pleasure, to meet him.
In all his desolate life, no one had loved Michael Snorro. A
suspicion that he was not all there, and therefore one of God's
bairns, had insured him, during his long orphanage, the food, and
clothes, and shelter, necessary for life; but no one had given him
love. And Michael humbly acknowledged that he could not expect it, for
nature had been cruelly unkind to him. He was, indeed, of almost
gigantic size, but awkward and ill-proportioned. His face, large and
flat, had the whiteness of clay, except at those rare intervals when
his soul shone through it; and no mortal, but Jan Vedder, had ever seen
It would be as hard to tell why Michael loved Jan as to say why
Jonathan's soul clave to David as soon as he saw him. Perhaps it was an
unreasonable affection, but it was one passing the love of woman, and,
after all, can we guess how the two men may have been spiritually
related? There was some tie of which flesh and blood knew not between
Michael, I am going to be married.
Well, Janand what then?
It will be with me as others; I shall have children, and grow rich,
and old, and die.
Who is it, Jan?
I thought that. Well, thou art sunshine, Jan, and she is like a
pool of clear water. If the sun shines not, then the water will freeze,
and grow cold and hard.
Thou dost not like women, Michael.
Nay, but I trust them not. Where the devil can not go, he sends a
woman. Well, then, he will find no such messenger for me. He must come
himself. That is well; the fight will be easier.
When I am married I shall sail my own boat, and thou shalt be
always with me, Michael. We will feel the fresh wind blowing in the
canvas, and the salt spindrift in our faces, and the boat going as if
she were a solan flying for the rock.
Is that thy thought, then? Let me tell thee that thou art counting
thy fish while they are swimming. Until Peter Fae's hands are full of
earth, he will not part with one gold piece. Make up thy mind to that.
Margaret will have her tocher.
That will be seen; but if thou wants money, Jan, there it is in my
chest, and what greater joy can I have than to see it in thy handall
of it? It would be thy grace to me.
Then Jan rose up and laid his arm across Michael's shoulder; and
Michael's lifted face caught the glow of Jan's bending one and the
men's souls spoke to each other, though their lips never parted.
The next day proved Michael right. Peter did not name Margaret's
tocher. He said he would give Margaret a house with all needful
plenishing; and he promised also to pay all the wedding expenses. But
there was no word of any sum of ready money; and Jan was too proud in
his poverty to ask for his right. He did, indeed, suggest that when he
was a house-holder he should have more wages. But Peter would not see
the justice of any such addition. I give thee all thou art worth, and
I will not give thee a Scotch merk more, he answered roughly. When it
comes to a question of wage, Jan, the son and the stranger are the same
to me. And when Jan told his friend what had been promised, Michael
said only: Well, then, thou wilt have the woman also.
The twelfth of August is the fisherman's foy in Shetland, and the
great feast of the Islands. It was agreed, therefore, that the marriage
should take place at that time. For there would be at least two hundred
fishing vessels in Brassy Sound at that time, and with most of the
fishermen Peter either had had business, or might have in the future.
For three days we will keep the feast for all who choose to come,
he said; and so, when the procession formed for the church, nearly six
hundred men and women were waiting to follow Jan and his bride. Then
Jan led her to the front of it, and there was a murmur of wonder and
delight. Her dress was of the richest white satin, and her heavy golden
ornamentsthe heirlooms of centuriesgave a kind of barbaric splendor
to it. The bright sunlight fell all over her, and added to the effect;
and Jan, with a bridegroom's pardonable pride, thought she looked more
Going to the church, the procession preserved the gravity of a
religious rite; but on the return, some one touched lightly the strings
of a violin, and, in a moment, hundreds of voices were chanting:
It is often that I have said it: In the night thou art my dream,
and my waking thought in the morning.
I loved thee always; not for three months, not for a year, but I
loved thee from the first, and my love shall not wither, until death
Oh, my beloved! My wife! Dearer to me than the light of the day!
Closer to me than my hands and feet! Nothing but death shall part thee
and me, forever!
The singing opened their hearts; then came the feast and the dance,
that endless active dance which is the kind of riot in which grave
races give vent to the suppressed excitement of their lives. It did not
please Margaret; she was soon weary of the noise and commotion, and
heartily glad when, on the eve of the third day, she was called upon to
give the parting toast:
Here's to the men who cast the net, and the long line, she cried,
lifting the silver cup above her head. And may He hold His hand about
them all, and open the mouth of the gray fish!
And here's to the bride, answered the oldest fisher present, and
may God give her a blessing in both hands!
Then they separated, and some went to their homes in Lerwick and
Scalloway, and others sailed to Ireland and Scotland, and even Holland;
but Peter knew that however much the feast had cost him, it was money
put out at good interest, and that he would be very likely to find it
again at the next fishing season.
CHAPTER II. A LITTLE CLOUD IN THE
All the flowers of Love and Happiness blow double.
As it happened that year the peerie, or Indian summer, was of
unusual length and beauty. The fine weather lingered until the end of
October. These weeks were full of joy to Margaret and to Jan, and in
them Jan showed himself in many a charming light. He played well upon
the violin, and as long as love was his theme Margaret understood him.
He recited to her stirring stories from the Sagas, and she thought only
how handsome he looked with his flashing eyes, and flushing face. She
never reflected, that the soul which could put life into these old
tales was very likely to be a soul akin to the restless adventurous men
of which they told. Her home and her love were sufficient for her
happiness, and she expected that Jan would measure his desires by the
But in a few weeks Jan began to weary a little of a life all
love-making. Many things, laid aside for a time, renewed their
influence over him. He wished to let the romance and exaggeration of
his married position sink into that better tenderness which is the
repose of passion, and which springs from the depths of a man's best
nature. But Margaret was not capable of renunciation, and Jan got to be
continually afraid of wounding her sensibilities by forgetting some
outward token of affection. He tried to talk to her of his projects, of
his desire to go to sea again, of his weariness of the store. She could
understand none of these things. Why should he want to leave her? Had
he ceased to love her? Her father was happy in the store. It offended
her to hear a word against it. Yet she thought she loved Jan perfectly,
and would have deeply resented Michael Snorro's private verdict against
herthat she was a selfish woman.
One morning, as the first snow was beginning to fall, a big Dutch
skipper in his loose tunic and high cap, and wooden clogs, came
stalking into Peter's store, and said, Well, here at last comes 'The
North Star.' Many of us thought she would come no more.
Jan was packing eggs, but he signed to Michael to take his place,
and in a few minutes he was among the crowd watching her arrival. She
came hurrying in, with all her sails set, as if she were fleeing from
the northern winter behind her. Her stout sides were torn by berg and
floe, her decks covered with seal skins and jawbones of whales, and
amidships there was a young polar bear growling in a huge cask. Her
crew, weather-beaten and covered with snow and frost, had the strange
look of men from lands unknown and far off. Jan had once sailed in her,
and her first mate was his friend. It was like meeting one from the
dead. Proudly and gladly he took him to his home. He wanted him to see
his beautiful wife. He was sure Margaret would be delighted to welcome
a man so brave, and so dear to him.
On the contrary, it was a deep offense to her. Christian Groat, in
his sheepskin suit, oily and storm-stained, unkempt and unshorn, seemed
strangely out of place in her spotless room. That he had fought with
the elements, and with the monsters of the deep, made him no hero in
her eyes. She was not thrilled by his adventures upon drifting floes,
and among ice mountains reeling together in perilous madness. The story
made Jan's blood boil, and brought the glistening tears into his big
blue eyes; but Margaret's pulses beat no whit quicker. Christian Groat
was only a vulgar whaler to her, and that Jan should bring him to her
hearth and table made her angry.
Jan was hurt and humiliated. The visit from which he had hoped so
much, was a pain and a failure. He walked back into the town with his
friend, and was scarcely able to speak. Margaret also was silent and
grieved. She thought Jan had wronged her. She had to make a clean
cushion for the chair in which the man had sat. She persisted for days
in smelling whale oil above the reek of the peat, above even the salt
keenness of the winter air. Her father had never done such a thing; she
could not understand Jan's thoughtlessness about her.
For two days she was silent, and Jan bore it very well, for he, too,
was hurt and angry. On the third he spoke to his wife, and little by
little the coolness wore away. But an active quarrel and some hard
words had perhaps been better, for then there might have followed some
gracious tears, and a loving reconciliation. As it was, the evenings
wore silently and gloomily away. Margaret sat, mechanically knitting,
her beautiful face wearing an expression of injury and resignation that
was intolerably annoying to a man of Jan's temper. But though she said
nothing to her husband during these unhappy hours, the devil talked
very plainly in her place.
Why, he asked Jan, do you stay beside a sulky woman, when there
are all your old companions at Ragon Torr's? There, also, is the song
and the tale, and the glass of good fellowship. And who would be so
heartily welcome as Jan Vedder?
Jan knew all this well. But as he did not care to make his wife
unhappy, he determined to deceive her. It was snowing, and likely to
snow; Margaret would not come down to the store in such weather. So he
said to her, Michael Snorro hath a fever. He can not work. That is a
bad business, for it is only I that can fill his place. The work will
keep me late, wait not for me. To himself he said: To leave her alone
a few nights, that will be a good thing; when I stay next at my own
hearth, she may have something to say to me.
Margaret's nature was absolutely truthful. She never doubted Jan's
words. In that love of self which was a miserable omnipresence with
her, she was angry with Snorro for being sick and thus interfering in
her domestic life, but she fully believed her husband's statement.
Jan spent two evenings at Ragon Torr's, but on the third morning his
conscience smote him a little. He looked at Margaret, and wished she
would ask, Wilt thou come home early to-night? He would gladly have
answered her, I will come at whatever hour thou desirest. But,
unfortunately, Margaret was at that moment counting her eggs, and there
were at least two missing. She was a woman who delighted in small
economies; she felt that she was either being wronged by her servant,
or that her fowls were laying in strange nests. At that moment it was a
subject of great importance to her; and she never noticed the eager,
longing look in Jan's eyes.
When he said at last. Good-by to thee, Margaret; she looked up
from her basket of eggs half reproachfully at him. She felt that Jan
might have taken more interest in her loss. She had not yet divined
that these small savings of hers were a source of anger and
heart-burning to him. He knew well that the price of her endless
knitting, her gathered eggs, wool, and swans' down, all went to her
private account in Lerwick Bank. For she had been saving money since
she was a child six years old, and neither father, mother, nor husband
knew how much she had saved. That was a thing Margaret kept absolutely
to herself and the little brown book which was in her locked drawer.
There had been times when Jan could have opened it had he desired; but
he had been too hurt and too proud to do so. If his wife could not
voluntarily trust him, he would not solicit her confidence. And it had
never struck Margaret that the little book was a hidden rock, on which
every thing might yet be wrecked. It was there, though the tide of
daily life flowed over it, and though it was never spoken of.
All that day Jan was sulky and obstinate, and Peter came near
quarreling with him more than once. But Peter thought he knew what was
the matter, and he smiled grimly to himself as he remembered Margaret's
power of resistance. Perhaps a fellow-feeling made him unusually
patient, for he remembered that Thora had not been brought to a state
of perfect obedience until she had given him many a day of active
discomfort. He watched Jan curiously and not without sympathy, for the
training of wives is a subject of interest even to those who feel
themselves to have been quite successful.
During the first hours of the day Jan was uncertain what to do. A
trifle would have turned him either way, and in the afternoon the
trifle came. A boat arrived from Kirkwall, and two of her crew were
far-off cousins. The men were in almost as bad condition as Christian
Groat. He would not risk soiling Margaret's chair-cushions again, so he
invited them to meet him at Ragon Torr's. As it happened Margaret had
an unhappy day; many little things went wrong with her. She longed for
sympathy, and began to wish that Jan would come home; indeed she was
half inclined to go to the store, and ask him if he could not.
She opened the door and looked out. It was still snowing a little,
as it had been for a month. But snow does not lie in Shetland, and the
winters, though dreary and moist, are not too cold for the daisy to
bloom every where at Christmas, and for the rye grass to have eight or
ten inches of green blade. There was a young moon, too, and the Aurora,
in a phalanx of rosy spears, was charging upward to the zenith. It was
not at all an unpleasant night, and, with her cloak and hood of blue
flannel, a walk to the store would be easy and invigorating.
As she stood undecided and unhappy, she saw a man approaching the
house. She could not fail to recognize the large, shambling figure. It
was Michael Snorro. A blow from his mighty hand could hardly have
stunned her more. She shut the door, and sat down sick at heart. For it
was evident that Snorro was not ill, and that Jan had deceived her.
Snorro, too, seemed to hesitate and waver in his intentions. He walked
past the house several times, and then he went to the kitchen door.
In a few minutes Elga Skade, Margaret's servant, said to her, Here
has come Michael Snorro, and he would speak with thy husband. Margaret
rose, and went to him. He stood before the glowing peats, on the
kitchen hearth, seeming, in the dim light, to tower to the very roof.
Margaret looked up with a feeling akin to terror at the large white
face in the gloom above her, and asked faintly, What is't thou wants,
I would speak with Jan.
He is not come yet to his home. At what hour did he leave the
At once Snorro's suspicions were aroused. He stood silent a minute,
then he said, He may have gone round by thy father's. I will wait.
The man frightened her. She divined that he distrusted and
disapproved of her; and she could ask nothing more. She left him with
Elga, but in half an hour she became too restless to bear the suspense,
and returned to the kitchen. Snorro gave her no opportunity to question
him. He said at once, It is few houses in Shetland a man can enter,
and no one say to him, 'Wilt thou eat or drink?'
I forgot, Snorro. I am troubled about Jan. What wilt thou have?
What thou hast ready, and Elga will get it for me.
A few minutes later he sat down to eat with a calm deliberation
which Margaret could not endure. She put on her cloak and hood, and
calling Elga, said, If he asks for me, say that I spoke of my father's
Then she slipped out of the front door, and went with fleet steps
into the town. The street, which was so narrow that it was possible to
shake hands across it, was dark and empty. The shops were all shut, and
the living rooms looked mostly into the closes, or out to the sea. Only
here and there a lighted square of glass made her shrink into the
shadow of the gables. But she made her way without hindrance to a house
near the main quay. It was well lighted, and there was the sound and
stir of music and singing, of noisy conversation and laughter within
Indeed, it was Ragon Torr's inn. The front windows were uncurtained,
and she saw, as she hurriedly passed them, that the main room was full
of company; but she did not pause until within the close at the side of
the house, when, standing in the shadow of the outbuilt chimney, she
peered cautiously through the few small squares on that side. It was as
she suspected. Jan sat in the very center of the company, his handsome
face all aglow with smiles, his hands busily tuning the violin he held.
Torr and half a dozen sailors bent toward him with admiring looks, and
Ragon's wife Barbara, going to and fro in her household duties, stopped
to say something to him, at which every body laughed, but Jan's face
Margaret did not hear her name, but she felt sure the remark had
been about herself, and her heart burned with anger. She was turning
away, when there was a cry of pleasure, and Suneva Torr entered.
Margaret had always disliked Suneva; she felt now that she hated and
feared her. Her luring eyes were dancing with pleasure, her yellow hair
fell in long, loose waves around her, and she went to Jan's side, put
her hand on his shoulder, and said something to him.
Jan looked back, and up to her, and nodded brightly to her request.
Then out sprang the tingling notes from the strings, and clear, and
shrill, and musical, Suneva's voice picked them up with a charming
Well, then, since we are welcome to Yool,
Up with it, Lightfoot, link it awa', boys;
Send for a fiddler, play up the Foula reel,
And we'll skip it as light as a maw, boys.
Then she glanced at the men, and her father and mother, and far in
the still night rang out the stirring chorus:
The Shaalds of Foula will pay for it a'!
Up with it, Lightfoot, and link it awa'.
Then the merry riot ceased, and Suneva's voice again took up the
Now for a light and a pot of good beer,
Up with it, Lightfoot, and link it awa', boys!
We'll drink a good fishing against the New Year,
And the Shaalds of Foula will pay for it a', boys.
The Shaalds of Foula will pay for it a';
Up with it, Lightfoot, and link it awa'.
Margaret could bear it no longer, and, white and stern, she turned
away from the window. Then she saw Michael Snorro standing beside her.
Even in the darkness she knew that his eyes were scintillating with
anger. He took her by the arm and led her to the end of the close. Then
Much of a woman art thou! If I was Jan Vedder, never again would I
see thy face! No, never!
Jan lied to me! To me, his wife! Did thou think he was at my
father's? He is in Ragon Torr's.
Thou lied to me also; and if Jan is in Ragon Torr's, let me tell
thee, that thou sent him there.
I lied not to thee. I lie to no one.
Yea, but thou told Elga to lie for thee. A jealous wife knows not
what she does. Did thou go to thy father's house?
Speak thou no more to me, Michael Snorro. Then she sped up the
street, holding her breast tightly with both hands, as if to hold back
the sobs that were choking her, until she reached her own room, and
locked fast her door. She sobbed for hours with all the passionate
abandon which is the readiest relief of great sorrows that come in
youth. In age we know better; we bow the head and submit.
When she had quite exhausted herself, she began to long for some
comforter, some one to whom she could tell her trouble. But Margaret
had few acquaintances; none, among the few, of whom she could make a
confidant. From her father and mother, above all others, she would keep
this humiliation. God she had never thought of as a friend. He was her
Creator, her Redeemer, also, if it were his good pleasure to save her
from eternal death. He was the Governor of the Universe; but she knew
him not as a Father pitying his children, as a God tender to a broken
heart. Was it possible that a woman's sharp cry of wounded love could
touch the Eternal? She never dreamed of such a thing. At length, weary
with weeping and with her own restlessness, she sat down before the red
peats upon the hearth, for once, in her sorrowful preoccupation,
forgetting her knitting.
In the meantime, Snorro had entered Torr's, and asked for Jan. He
would take no excuse, and no promises, and his white, stern face, and
silent way of sitting apart, with his head in his hands, was soon felt
to be a very uncomfortable influence. Jan rose moodily, and went away
with him; too cross, until they reached the store, to ask, Why did
thou come and spoil my pleasure, Snorro?
Neil Bork sails for Vool at the midnight tide. Thou told me thou
must send a letter by him to thy cousin Magnus.
That is so. Since Peter will do nothing, I must seek help of
Magnus. Well, then, I will write the letter.
When it was finished, Jan said, Snorro, who told thee I was at
Thou wert not at home. I went there, first.
Then thou hast made trouble for me, be sure of that. My wife
thought that thou wast ill.
It is a bad wife a man must lie to. But, oh, Jan! Jan! To think
that for any woman thou would tell the lie!
Then Jan, being in that garrulous mood which often precedes
intoxication, would have opened his whole heart to Michael about his
domestic troubles; but Michael would not listen to him. Shut thy mouth
tight on that subject, he said angrily. I will hear neither good nor
bad of Margaret Vedder. Now, then, I will walk home with thee, and then
I will see Neil Bork, and give him thy letter.
Margaret heard their steps at the gate. Her face grew white and cold
as ice, and her heart hardened at the sound of Snorro's voice. She had
always despised him; now, for his interference with her, she hated him.
She could not tolerate Jan's attachment to a creature so rude and
simple. It was almost an insult to herself; and yet so truthfully did
she judge his heart, that she was quite certain Michael Snorro would
never tell Jan that she had watched him through Ragon Torr's window.
She blushed a moment at the memory of so mean an action, but instantly
and angrily defended it to her own heart.
Jan came in, with the foolish, good-natured smile of alcoholic
excitement. But when he saw Margaret's white, hard face, he instantly
became sulky and silent. Where hast thou been, Jan? she asked. It is
near the midnight.
I have been about my own business. I had some words to send by Neil
Bork to my cousin Magnus. Neil sails by the midnight tide.
She laughed scornfully. Thy cousin Magnus! Pray, what shall he do
for thee? This is some new cousin, surely!
Well, then, since thy father keeps thy tocher from me, I must
borrow of my own kin.
As for that, my father hath been better to thee than thou
deservest. Why didst thou lie to me concerning Snorro? He has had no
fever. No, indeed!
A man must ask his wife whether he can speak truth to her, or not.
Thou can not bear it. Very well, then, I must lie to thee.
Yet, be sure, I will tell the truth to thee, Jan Vedder. Thou hast
been at Ragon Torr's, singing with a light woman, and drinking with
With my own kin. I advise thee to say nothing against them. As for
Suneva, there is no tongue in Lerwick but thine will speak evil of
hershe is a good girl, and she hath a kind heart. And now, then, who
told thee I was at Torr's?
He asked the question repeatedly, and instead of answering it,
Margaret began to justify herself. Have I not been to thee a good
wife? Has not thy house been kept well, and thy meals ever good and
ready for thee? Has any thing, great or little, gone to waste?
Thou hast been too good. It had been better if thou had been less
perfect; then I could have spoken to thee of my great wish, and thou
would have said, as others say, 'Jan, it would be a joy to see thee at
the main-mast, or casting the ling-lines, or running into harbor before
the storm, with every sail set, as though thou had stolen ship and
lading.' Thou would not want me to chaffer with old women about
geese-feathers and bird-eggs. Speak no more. I am heavy with sleep.
And he could sleep! That was such an aggravation of his offense. She
turned sometimes and looked at his handsome flushed face, but otherwise
she sat hour after hour silent and almost motionless, her hands clasped
upon her knee, her heart anticipative of wrong, and with a perverse
industry considering sorrows that had not as yet even called to her.
Alas! alas! the unhappy can never persuade themselves that sufficient
unto the day is the evil thereof.
CHAPTER III. JAN'S OPPORTUNITY.
Thou broad-billowed sea,
Never sundered from thee,
May I wander the welkin below;
May the plash and the roar
Of the waves on the shore
Beat the march to my feet as I go;
Ever strong, ever free,
When the breath of the sea,
Like the fan of an angel, I know;
Ever rising with power,
To the call of the hour,
Like the swell of the tides as they flow.
The gravitation of character is naturally toward its weakest point.
Margaret's weakest point was an intense, though unconscious,
selfishness. Jan's restless craving for change and excitement made him
dissatisfied with the daily routine of life, lazy, and often
unreasonable. His very blessings became offenses to him. His clean,
well-ordered house, made him fly to the noisy freedom of Ragon Torr's
kitchen. Margaret's never-ceasing industry, her calmness, neatness and
deliberation, exasperated him as a red cloth does a bull.
Suneva Torr had married Paul Glumm, and Jan often watched her as he
sat drinking his ale in Torr's kitchen. At home, it is true, she
tormented Glumm with her contrary, provoking moods; but then, again,
she met him with smiles and endearments that atoned for every thing.
Jan thought it would be a great relief if Margaret were only angry
sometimes. For he wearied of her constant serenity, as people weary of
sunshine without cloud or shadow.
And Margaret suffered. No one could doubt that who watched her face
from day to day. She made no complaint, not even to her mother. Thora,
however, perceived it all. She had foreseen and foretold the trouble,
but she was too noble a woman to point out the fulfillment of her
prophecy. As she went about her daily work, she considered, and not
unkindly, the best means for bringing Jan back to his wife and home,
and his first pride in them.
She believed that the sea only could do it. After all, her heart was
with the men who loved it. She felt that Jan was as much out of place
counting eggs, as a red stag would be if harnessed to a plow. She, at
least, understood the rebellious, unhappy look on his handsome face.
When the ling fishing was near at hand, she said to Peter: There is
one thing that is thy duty, and that is to give Jan the charge of a
boat. He is for the sea, and it is not well that so good a sailor
should go out of the family.
I have no mind to do that. Jan will do well one day, and he will do
as ill as can be the next. I will not trust a boat with him.
It seems to me that where thou could trust Margaret, thou might
well trust nineteen feet of keel, and fifty fathom of long lines.
Peter answered her not, and Thora kept silence also. But at the end,
when he had smoked his pipe, and was lifting the Bible for the evening
exercise, he said: Thou shalt have thy way, wife; Jan shall have a
boat, but thou wilt see evil will come of it.
Thou wert always good, Peter, and in this thing I am thinking of
more than fish. There is sorrow in Margaret's house. A mother can feel
Now, then, meddle thou not in the matter. Every man loves in his
own way. Whatever there is between Jan and Margaret is a thing by
itself. But I will speak about the boat in the morning.
Peter kept his word, and kept it without smallness or grudging. He
still liked Jan. If there were trouble between him and Margaret he
regarded it as the natural initiation to married life. Norse women were
all high-spirited and wished to rule; and he would have despised Jan if
he had suspected him of giving way to Margaret's stubborn self-will.
Though she was his own daughter, he did not wish to see her setting an
example of wifely supremacy.
So he called Jan pleasantly and said, I have saved for thee 'The
Fair Margaret.' Wilt thou sail her this season, Jan? She is the best
boat I have, as thou well knows. Fourteen hundred hooks she is to
carry, and thou can hire six men to go with thee.
It made Peter's eyes feel misty to see the instantaneous change in
Jan's face. He could not speak his thanks, but he looked them; and
Peter felt troubled, and said, almost querulously, There, that will
do, son Jan; go now, and hire the men thou wants.
First of all, I should like Snorro.
Peter hesitated, but he would not tithe his kindness, and he frankly
answered, Well, then, thou shalt have Snorrothough it will go hard
with me, wanting him.
But we will make it go well with thee on the sea, father.
As for that, it will be as God pleases. A man's duty is all my
claim on thee. Margaret will be glad to see thee so happy. He dropped
his eyes as he spoke of Margaret. He would not seem to watch Jan,
although he was conscious of doing so.
A woman has many minds, father. Who knows if a thing will make her
happy or angry?
That is a foolish saying, Jan. A wife must find her pleasure in the
thing that pleases her husband. But now thou wilt have but little time;
the boat is to be tried, and the hooks and lines are to go over, and
the crew to hire. I have left all to thee.
This pleased Jan most of all. Only a bird building its first nest
could have been as happy as he was. When at night he opened the door of
his house, and went in with a gay smile, it was like a resurrection.
The pale rose-color on Margaret's cheek grew vivid and deep when he
took her in his arms, and kissed her in the old happy way. She smiled
involuntarily, and Jan thought, How beautiful she is! He told her all
Peter had said and done. He was full of gratitude and enthusiasm. He
did not notice for a few moments that Margaret was silent, and
chillingly unresponsive. He was amazed to find that the whole affair
So, then, I have married a common fisherman after all, she said
bitterly; why, Suneva Torr's husband has a bigger boat than thine.
It was an unfortunate remark, and touched Jan on a very raw place.
He could not refrain from answering, He hath had better luck than I.
Ragon Torr gave Glumm Suneva's tocher, and he has bought his own boat
Why not? Every one knows that Glumm is a prudent man. He never gets
on his feet for nothing.
Jan was inexpressibly pained and disappointed. For a moment a
feeling of utter despair came over him. The boat lay upon his heart
like a wreck. He drank his tea gloomily, and the delicately-browned
fish, the young mutton, and the hot wheat cakes, all tasted like ashes
in his mouth. Perhaps, then, Margaret's heart smote her, for she began
to talk, and to press upon Jan's acceptance the viands which had
somehow lost all their savor to him. Her conversation was in like case.
She would not speak of the boat, since they could not agree about it;
and no other subject interested Jan. But, like all perfectly selfish
people, she imagined, as a matter of course, that whatever interested
her was the supreme interest. In her calm, even voice, she spoke of the
spring house-cleaning, and the growth of her pansies and tulip bulbs,
and did not know that all the time Jan was thinking of his boat,
heaving on the tide-top, or coming into harbor so heavy with fish that
she would bein Shetland phraselippering with the water.
But, after all, the week of preparation was a very happy week to Jan
and Snorro; and on the sixteenth of May they were the foremost of the
sixty boats that sailed out of Lerwick for the ling ground. There was a
great crowd on the pier to see them offmothers, and wives, and
sweethearts; boys, sick and sad with longing and envy; and old men,
with the glamor of their own past in their faces. Among them was
Suneva, in a bright blue dress, with blue ribbons fluttering in her
yellow hair. She stood at the pier-head and as they passed poured a cup
of ale into the sea, to forespeak good luck for the fleet. Jan would
have dearly liked to see his wife's handsome face watching him, as he
stood by the main-mast and lifted his cap to Peter. Margaret was not
She really felt very much humiliated in Jan's position. She had
always held herself a little apart from the Lerwick women. She had been
to Edinburgh, she had been educated far above them, and she was quite
aware that she would have a very large fortune. Her hope had been to
see Jan take his place among the merchants and bailies of Lerwick. She
had dreams of the fine mansion that they would build, and of the fine
furniture which would come from Edinburgh for it. Margaret was one of
those women to whom a house can become a kingdom, and its careful
ordering an affair of more importance than the administration of a
great nation. When she chose Jan, and raised him from his humble
position, she had no idea that he would drift back again to the fishing
For the first time she carried her complaint home. But Thora in this
matter had not much sympathy with her. The sea is his mother, she
said; he loved her before he loved thee; when she calls him, he will
always go back to her.
No man in Shetland hath a better business to his hand; and how can
he like to live in a boat, he, that hath a home so quiet, and clean,
Thora sighed. Thou wilt not understand then, that what the cradle
rocks the spade buries. The sea spoke to Jan before he lay on his
mother's breast. His father hath a grave in it. Neither gold nor the
love of woman will ever keep them far apart; make up thy mind to that.
All this might be true, but yet it humiliated Margaret. Besides, she
imagined that every wife in Lerwick was saying, Not much hold has
Margaret Vedder on her husband. He is off to sea again, and that with
the first boat that sails. Yet if success could have reconciled her,
Jan's was wonderful. Not unfrequently The Fair Margaret took twenty
score ling at a haul, and every one was talking of her good luck.
During these days Jan and Snorro drew very close to each other. When
the baits were set most of the men went to sleep for three hours; but
Snorro always watched, and very often Jan sat with him. And oh, the
grand solemnity and serenity of these summer nights, when through belts
of calm the boats drifted and the islands in a charmed circle filled
the pale purple horizon before them. Most fair then was the treeless
land, and very far off seemed the sin and sorrow of life. The men lay
upon the deck, with a pile of nets or their folded arms for a pillow,
and surely under such a sky, like Jacob of old, they dreamed of angels.
Snorro and Jan, sitting in the soft, mystical light, talked
together, dropping their voices involuntarily, and speaking slowly,
with thoughtful pauses between the sentences. When they were not
talking, Snorro read, and the book was ever the same, the book of the
Four Gospels. Jan often watched him when he thought Jan asleep. In that
enchanted midnight glow, which was often a blending of four
lightsmoonlight and twilight, the aurora and the dawningthe
gigantic figure and white face, bending over the little book, had a
weird and almost supernatural interest. Then this man, poor, ugly, and
despised, had an incomparable nobility, and he fascinated Jan.
One night he said to him, Art thou never weary of reading that same
Am I then ever weary of thee, my Jan? And these are the words of
One who was the first who loved me. Accordingly, how well I know his
voice. Then, in a fervor of adoring affection, he talked to Jan of his
dear Lord Christ, who had stretched out his arms upon the cross that
he might embrace the world. And as he talked the men, one by one,
raised themselves on their elbows and listened; and the theme
transfigured Snorro, and he stood erect with uplifted face, and looked,
in spite of his fisher's suit, so royal that Jan felt humbled in his
presence. And when he had told, in his own simple, grand way, the story
of him who had often toiled at midnight with the fishers on the
Galilean sea, as they toiled upon the Shetland waters, there was a
great silence, until Jan said, in a voice that seemed almost strange to
them: Well, then, mates, now we will look to the lines.
All summer, and until the middle of October, Jan continued at sea;
and all summer, whether fishing for ling, cod, or herring, The Fair
Margaret had exceptionally good fortune. There were many other fishers
who woke, and watched, and toiled in their fishing, who did not have
half her takes. It is all Jan's luck, said Glumm, for it is well
known that he flings his nets and goes to sleep while they fill.
Well, then, 'it is the net of the sleeping fisherman takes:' that
is the wise saying of old timesand though Snorro did not think of
it, the Shetland proverb was but the Norse form of the Hebrew faith:
He giveth his beloved in their sleep.
Still, in spite of his success, Jan was not happy. A married man's
happiness is in the hands of his wife, and Margaret felt too injured to
be generous. She was not happy, and she thought it only just that Jan
should be made to feel it. He had disappointed all her hopes and
aspirations; she was not magnanimous enough to rejoice in the success
of his labors and aims. Besides, his situation as the hired skipper of
a boat was contemptible in her eyes; her servant was engaged to a man
in the same position. Another aggravating circumstance was that her old
schoolmate, the minister's niece (a girl who had not a penny piece to
her fortune) was going to marry a rich merchant from Kirkwall. How she
would exult over Margaret Vedder who had married a common fisherman.
The exultation was entirely imaginary, but perhaps it hurt as much as
if it had been actually made.
Success, too, had made Jan more independent: or perhaps he had grown
indifferent to Margaret's anger, since he found it impossible to please
her. At any rate, he asked his friends to his house without fear or
apology. They left their footmarks on her floors, and their fingermarks
upon her walls and cushions, and Jan only laughed and said, There was,
as every one knew, plenty of water in Shetland to make them clean
again. Numberless other little things grieved and offended her, so
little that, taken separately, they might have raised a smile, but in
the aggregate they attained the magnitude of real wrongs.
But, happy or miserable, time goes on, and about the middle of
October even the herring fishing is over. Peter was beginning to count
up his expenses and his gains. Jan and Snorro were saying to one
another, In two days we must go back to the store. That is, they were
trying to say it, but the air was so full of shrieks that no human
voice could be heard. For all around the boat the sea was boiling with
herring fry, and over them hung tens of thousands of gulls and terns.
Marmots and guillemots were packed in great black masses on the white
foam, and only a mad human mob of screaming women and children could
have made a noise comparable. Even that would have wanted the piercing
metallic ring of the wild birds' shriek.
Suddenly Snorro leaped to his feet. I see a storm, Jan. Lower and
lash down the mast. We shall have bare time.
Jan saw that the birds had risen and were making for the rocks. In a
few minutes down came the wind from the north-east, and a streak of
white rain flying across the black sea was on top of The Fair
Margaret before the mast was well secured. As for the nets, Snorro was
cutting them loose, and in a few moments the boat was tearing down
before the wind. It was a wild squall; some of the fishing fleet went
to the bottom with all their crews. The Fair Margaret, at much risk
of loss, saved Glumm's crew, and then had all she could manage to raise
her mizzen, and with small canvas edge away to windward for the
entrance of Lerwick bay.
Jan was greatly distressed. Hard to bear is this thing, Snorro, he
said; at the last to have such bad fortune.
It is a better ending than might have been. Think only of that,
But Peter will count his lost nets; there is nothing else he will
Between nets and men's lives, there is only one choice.
Peter said that also, but he was nevertheless very angry. The loss
took possession of his mind, and excluded all memory of his gains. It
was just like Jan and Snorro, he muttered, to be troubling themselves
with other boats. In a sudden storm, a boat's crew should mind only its
own safety. These thoughts were in his heart, though he did not dare
to form them into any clear shape. But just as a drop or two of ink
will diffuse itself through a glass of pure water and defile the whole,
so they poisoned every feeling of kindness which he had to Jan.
What did I tell thee? he said to Thora, bitterly. Jan does
nothing well but he spoils it. Here, at the end of the season, for a
little gust of wind, he loses both nets and tackle.
He did well when he saved life, Peter.
Every man should mind his own affairs. Glumm would have done that
Then Glumm would have been little of a man. And thou, Peter Fae,
would have been the first to tell Glumm so. Thou art saying evil, and
dost not mean it.
Speak no more. It is little a woman understands. Her words are
always like a contrary wind.
Peter was very sulky for some days, and when at last he was ready to
settle with Jan, there was a decided quarrel. Jan believed himself to
be unfairly dealt with, and bitter words were spoken on both sides. In
reality, Peter knew that he had been hard with his son, harder by far
than he had ever intended to be; but in his heart there had sprung up
one of those sudden and unreasonable dislikes which we have all
experienced, and for which no explanation is possible. It was not
altogether the loss of the netshe did not know what it wasbut the
man he liked, and praised, and was proud of one week, he could hardly
endure to see or speak to the next.
That ends all between thee and me, said Peter, pushing a little
pile of gold toward Jan. It was a third less than Jan expected. He gave
it to Margaret, and bade her use it carefully, as he might be able to
make little more until the next fishing season.
But thou wilt work in the store this winter?
That I will not. I will work for no man who cheats me of a third of
It is of my father thou art speaking, Jan Vedder; remember that.
And Peter Fae's daughter is thy wife, though little thou deservest
It is like enough that I am unworthy of thee; but if I had chosen a
wife less excellent than thou it had perhaps been better for me.
And for me also.
That was the beginning of a sad end; for Jan, though right enough at
first, soon put himself in the wrong, as a man who is idle, and has a
grievance, is almost sure to do. He continually talked about it. On the
contrary, Peter held his tongue, and in any quarrel the man who can be
silent in the end has the popular sympathy. Then, in some way or other,
Peter Fae touched nearly every body in Lerwick. He gave them work, or
he bought their produce. They owed him money, or they expected a favor
from him. However much they sympathized with Jan, they could not afford
to quarrel with Peter.
Only Michael Snorro was absolutely and purely true to him; but oh,
what truth there was in Michael! Jan's wrongs were his wrongs; Jan's
anger was but the reflection of his own.
He watched over him, he sympathized with him, he loved him entirely,
with a love wonderful, passing the love of woman.
CHAPTER IV. THE DESOLATED HOME.
For we two, face to face,
God knows are further parted
Than were a whole world's space
* * * * *
Lost utterly from home and me,
Lonely, regretful and remote.
Jan now began to hang all day about Ragon Torr's, and to make
friends with men as purposeless as himself. He drank more and more, and
was the leader in all the dances and merry-makings with which
Shetlanders beguile their long winter. He was very soon deep in Torr's
debt, and this circumstance carried him the next step forward on an
One night Torr introduced him to Hol Skager, a Dutch skipper, whose
real cargo was a contraband one of tea, brandy, tobacco and French
goods. Jan was in the very mood to join him, and Skager was glad enough
of Jan. Very soon he began to be away from home for three and four
weeks at a time. Peter and Margaret knew well the objects of these
absences, but they would have made themselves very unpopular if they
had spoken of them. Smuggling was a thing every one had a hand in; rich
and poor alike had their venture, and a wise ignorance, and deaf and
dumb ignoring of the fact, was a social tenet universally observed. If
Jan came home and brought his wife a piece of rich silk or lace, or a
gold trinket, she took it without any unpleasant curiosity. If Peter
were offered a cask of French brandy at a nominal price, he never asked
any embarrassing questions. Consciences tender enough toward the claims
of God, evaded without a scruple the rendering of Cæsar's dues.
So when Jan disappeared for a few weeks, and then returned with
money in his pocket, and presents for his friends, he was welcomed
without question. And he liked the life; liked it so well that when the
next fishing season came round he refused every offer made him. He
gained more with Hol Skager, and the excitement of eluding the coast
guard or of giving them a good chase, suited Jan exactly. The spirit of
his forefathers ruled him absolutely, and he would have fought for his
cargo or gone down with the ship.
Snorro was very proud of him. The morality of Jan's employment he
never questioned, and Jan's happy face and fine clothing gave him the
greatest pleasure. He was glad that he had escaped Peter's control; and
when Jan, now and then, went to the store after it was shut, and sat an
hour with him, no man in Shetland was as proud and happy as Michael
Snorro. Very often Jan brought him a book, and on one occasion it was
the wondrous old Pilgrim's Progress, full of wood-cuts. That book was
a lifelong joy to Snorro, and he gave to Jan all the thanks and the
credit of it. Jan brought him every thing pleasant he had. He was so
handsome, and so clever, and so good, and yet he loved himthe poor,
ignorant Snorro! So Snorro reasoned, and accordingly he loved his
friend with all his soul.
At Jan's house many changes were taking place. In the main, Margaret
had her house very much to herself. No one soiled its exquisite
cleanliness. The expense of keeping it was small. She was saving money
on every hand. When Jan came home with a rich present in his hand, it
was easy to love so handsome and generous a man, and if Jan permitted
her to love him in her own way, she was very glad to do so. The tie
between man and wife is one hard to break. What tugs it will bear for
years, we have all seen and wondered at; and during this interval if
there were days when they were wretched, there were many others when
they were very happy together. The conditions rested mainly with
Margaret. When she could forget all her small ambitions and
disappointments, and give to her husband the smile and kiss he still
valued above every thing, then Jan was proud and happy and anxious to
please her. But Margaret was moody as the skies above her, and
sometimes Jan's sunniest tempers were in themselves an offense. It is
ill indeed with the man who is bound to misery by the cords of a
woman's peevish and unreasonable temper.
For a year and a half Jan remained with Hol Skager, but during this
time his whole nature deteriorated. Among the Shetland fishermen mutual
forbearance and mutual reliance was the rule. In position the men were
nearly equal, and there was no opportunity for an overbearing spirit to
exercise itself. But it was very different with Skager's men. They were
of various nationalities, and of reckless and unruly tempers. The
strictest discipline was necessary, and Jan easily learned to be
tyrannical and unjust, to use passionate and profane language, to drink
deep, and to forget the Sabbath, a day which had been so sacred to him.
In his own home the change was equally apparent. Margaret began to
tremble before the passions she evoked; and Jan to mock at the niceties
that had hitherto snubbed and irritated him. Once he had been so easy
to please; now all her small conciliations sometimes failed. The day
had gone by for them. The more she humbled herself, the less Jan seemed
to care for her complaisance. To be kind too late, to be kind when the
time for kindness is passed by, that is often the greatest injury of
At the end of eighteen months Jan and Skager quarreled. Skager had
become intimate with Peter Fae, and Peter was doubtless to blame. At
any rate, Jan was sure he was, and he spent his days in morose
complaining, and futile threats of vengeancefutile, because the poor
man's wrath always falls upon himself. When Peter heard them he could
afford to say contemptuouslyIt is well known that Jan Vedder has a
long tongue and short hands; or, Between saying and doing the thing
is a great way.
In a few weeks even Ragon Torr got weary of Jan's ill-temper and
heroics. Besides, he was in his debt, and there seemed no prospect of
speedy work for him. Upon the whole, it was a miserable winter for the
Vedders. Jan made very little. Sometimes he killed a seal, or brought
in a bag of birds, but his earnings were precarious, and Margaret took
care that his table should be in accordance. She had money, of course,
but it was her own money, and a thing with which Jan had no right. She
ate her meager fare of salt fish and barley bread with a face of
perfect resignation; she gave up her servant and made no complaints,
and she did think it a most shameful injustice that, after all, Jan
should be cross with her. It did not strike her, that good meal, even
though she had procured it from her own private hoard, might have been
a better thing than the most saintly patience. There is much said about
the wickedness of doing evil that good may come. Alas! there is such a
thing as doing good that evil may come.
One afternoon in early spring Jan saw a flock of wild swans soaring
majestically on their strong wings toward a lake which was a favorite
resting place with them. He took his gun and followed after. They were
gathered in the very middle of the lake; his dog could not swim so far,
neither could his shot reach them. It seemed as if every promise mocked
him. Sulky and disappointed, he was returning home when he met the
Udaller Tulloch. He was jogging along on his little rough pony, his
feet raking the ground, and his prehistoric hat tied firmly on the back
of his head.
But in spite of his primitive appearance he was a man of wealth and
influence, the banker of the island, liked and trusted of all
menexcept Peter Fae. With Peter he had come often in conflict; he had
superseded him in a civil office, he had spoken slightingly of some of
Peter's speculations, and, above all offenses, in a recent kirk
election he had been chosen Deacon instead of Peter. They were the two
rich men of Lerwick, and they were jealous and distrustful of each
Jan Vedder, said Tulloch, cheerily, I would speak with thee; come
to my house within an hour.
It was not so fine a house as Peter's, but Jan liked its atmosphere.
Small glass barrels of brandy stood on the sideboard; there was a case
of Hollands in the chimney corner; fine tobacco, bloaters, and
sturgeons' roes were in comfortable proximity. A bright fire of peats
glowed on the ample hearth, and the Udaller sat eating and drinking
before it. He made Jan join him, and without delay entered upon his
I want to sell 'The Solan,' Jan. She is worth a thousand pounds for
a coaster; or, if thou wishes, thou could spoil Skager's trips with
her. She is half as broad as she is long, with high bilge, and a sharp
bottom; the very boat for these seaswilt thou buy her?
If I had the money, nothing would be so much to my liking.
Well, then, thy wife brought me £50 yesterday; that makes thy
account a little over £600. I will give thee a clear bill of sale and
trust thee for the balance. 'Tis a great pity to see a good lad like
thee going to waste. It is that.
If I was in thy debt, then thou would own a part of me. I like well
to be my own master.
A skipper at sea doth what he will; and every one knows that Jan
Vedder is not one that serves. Remember, thou wilt be skipper of
Jan's eyes flashed joyfully, but he said, My wife may not like I
should use the money for this purpose.
It is a new thing for a man to ask his wife if he can spend this or
that, thus or so. And to what good? Margaret Vedder would speak to her
father, and thou knows if Peter Fae love theeor not.
These words roused the worst part of Jan's nature. He remembered, in
a moment, all the envy and wonder he would cause by sailing out of
harbor skipper of his own boat. It was the very temptation that was
irresistible to him. He entered into Tulloch's plan with all his heart,
and before he left him he was in a mood to justify any action which
would further his desire.
Only give not thy thoughts speech, Jan, said Tulloch at parting;
and above all things, trust not thy plans to a woman. When will thou
tell me 'yes' or 'no'?
But Jan was not the man to hold counsel with his own soul. He wanted
human advice and sympathy, and he felt sure of Snorro. He went straight
to him, but the store was still open, and Peter Fae was standing in the
door, three of his neighbors with him. He looked at Jan scornfully and
askedWell, how many swans did thou get?
I have been after a purchase, Peter Fae.
Good. How wilt thou pay for it, then?
I will take my own to pay for it.
Peter laughed, and turning away, answered, Why, then, do I speak to
thee? Only God understands fools.
This conversation irritated Jan far more than many an actual wrong
had done. I have indeed been a fool, he said to Snorro, but now I
will look well to what concerns my own interest.
Then he told Michael of Tulloch's offer, and added, At last, then,
I have the sum of my wife's savings, and I will show her she has been
saving for a good end. What dost thou think, Snorro?
I think the money is thine. All thine has been hers, or she had not
saved so much; all hers ought then to be thine. But it is well and
right to tell her of Tulloch's offer to thee. She may like to give thee
as a gift what else thou must take without any pleasure.
Jan laughed; it was an unpleasant laugh, and did not at all brighten
his face, but he resolved to a certain extent on taking Snorro's
advice. It was quite midnight when he reached his home, but Margaret
was sitting by a few red peats knitting. She was weeping, also, and her
tears annoyed him.
Thou art ever crying like a cross child, he said. Now what art
thou crying for?
For thy love, my husband. If thou would care a little for me!
That is also what I say. If thou would care a little for me and for
my well-doing! Listen, now! I have heard where I can buy a good boat
for £600. Wilt thou ask thy father for so much of thy tocher? To have
this boat, Margaret, would make me the happiest man in Shetland. I know
that thou can manage it if thou wilt. Dear wife, do this thing for me.
I ask thee with all my heart. And he bent toward her, took the
knitting away, and held her hands in his own.
Margaret dropped her eyes, and Jan watched her with a painful
interest. Did she love him or her £600 better? Her face paled and
flushed. She looked up quickly, and her lips parted. Jan believed that
she was going to sayI have £600, and I will gladly give it to thee.
He was ready to fold her to his breast, to love her, as he had loved
her that day when he had first called her wife. Alas! after a slight
hesitation, she dropped her pale face and answered slowlyI will not
ask my father. I might as well ask the sea for fresh water.
Jan let her hands fall, and stood up. I see now that all talk with
thee will come to little. What thou wants, is that men should give thee
all, and thou give nothing. When thou sayest, 'thy love, husband,' thou
means 'thy money, husband;' and if there is no money, then there is
ever sighs and tears. Many things thou hast yet to learn of a wife's
duty, and very soon I will give thee a lesson I had done well to teach
thee long since.
I have borne much from thee, Jan, but at the next wrong thou does
me, I will go back to my father. That is what I shall do.
We will see to that.
Yes, we will see! And she rose proudly, and with flashing eyes
gathered up her knitting and her wool and left the room.
The next morning Jan and Tulloch concluded their bargain. The
Solan was put in thorough order, and loaded with a coasting cargo. It
was supposed that Tulloch's nephew would sail her, and Jan judged it
wisest to show no interest in the matter. But an hour after all was
ready, he drew the £600 out of Tulloch's bank, paid it down for the
boat, and sailed her out of Lerwick harbor at the noon-tide. In ten
minutes afterward a score of men had called in Peter Fae's store and
He was both puzzled and annoyed. Why had Tulloch interfered with Jan
unless it was for his, Peter's, injury? From the secrecy maintained, he
suspected some scheme against his interests. Snorro, on being
questioned, could truthfully say that Jan had not told him he was to
leave Lerwick that morning; in fact, Jan had purposely left Snorro
ignorant of his movements. But the good fellow could not hide the joy
he felt, and Peter looked at him wrathfully.
It was seldom Peter went to see his daughter, but that evening he
made her a call. Whatever she knew she would tell him, and he did not
feel as if he could rest until he got the clue to Jan's connection with
Tulloch. But when he named it to Margaret, he found she was totally
ignorant of Jan's departure. The news shocked her. Her work dropped
from her hand; she was faint with fear and amazement. Jan had never
before left her in anger, without a parting word or kiss. Her father's
complaints and fears about Tulloch she scarcely heeded. Jan's behavior
toward herself was the only thought in her mind. Peter learned nothing
from her; but his irritation was much increased by what he considered
Margaret's unreasonable sorrow over a bad husband. He could not bear a
crying woman, and his daughter's sobs angered him.
Come thou home to thy mother, he said, when thy eyes are dry; but
bring no tears to my house for Jan Vedder.
Then Margaret remembered that she had threatened Jan with this very
thing. Evidently he had dared her to do it by this new neglect and
unkindness. She wandered up and down the house, full of wretched fears
and memories; love, anger, pride, each striving for the mastery.
Perhaps the bitterest of all her thoughts toward her husband arose from
the humiliating thought of what people would say. For Margaret was a
slave to a wretched thraldom full of every possible tragedyshe would
see much of her happiness or misery through the eyes of others.
She felt bitterly that night that her married life had been a
failure; but failures are generally brought about by want of patience
and want of faith. Margaret had never had much patience with Jan; she
had lost all faith in him. Why should she not go home as her father
told her? This question she kept asking herself. Jan had disappointed
all her hopes. As for Jan's hopes, she did not ask herself any
questions about them. She looked around the handsome home she had given
him; she considered the profitable business which might have been his
on her father's retirement or death; and she thought a man must be
wicked who could regard lightly such blessings. As she passed a glass
she gazed upon her own beauty with a mournful smile and thought anew,
how unworthy of all Jan had been.
At daybreak she began to put carefully away such trifles of
household decoration as she valued most. Little ornaments bought in
Edinburgh, pieces of fancy work done in her school days, fine china, or
glass, or napery. She had determined to lock up the house and go to her
father's until Jan returned. Then he would be obliged to come for her,
and in any dispute she would at least have the benefit of a strong
position. Even with this thought, full as it was of the most solemn
probabilities, there came into her niggardly calculations the
consideration of its economy. She would not only save all the expenses
of housekeeping, but all her time could be spent in making fine knitted
goods, and a great many garments might thus be prepared before the
This train of ideas suggested her bank book. That must certainly go
with her, and a faint smile crossed her face as she imagined the
surprise of her father and mother at the amount it vouched forthat
was, if she concluded to tell them. She went for it; of course it was
gone. At first she did not realize the fact; then, as the possibility
of its loss smote her, she trembled with terror, and hurriedly turned
over and over the contents of the drawer. Gone! She said it
with a quick, sharp cry, like that of a woman mortally wounded. She
could find it nowhere, and after five minutes' search, she sat down
upon her bedside, and abandoned herself to agonizing grief.
Yes, it was pitiable. She had begun the book with pennies saved from
sweeties and story-books, from sixpences, made by knitting through
hours when she would have liked to play. The ribbons and trinkets of
her girlhood and maidenhood were in it, besides many a little comfort
that Jan and herself had been defrauded of. Her hens had laid for it,
her geese been plucked for it, her hands had constantly toiled for it.
It had been the idol upon the hearthstone to which had been offered up
the happiness of her youth, and before which love lay slain.
At first its loss was all she could take in, but very quickly she
began to connect the loss with Jan, and with the £600 he had asked her
to get for him at their last conversation. With this conviction her
tears ceased, her face grew hard and white as ice. If Jan had used her
money she was sure that she would never speak to him, never see him
again. At that hour she almost hated him. He was only the man who had
taken her £600. She forgot that he had been her lover and her husband.
As soon as she could control herself she fled to her father's house,
and kneeling down by Peter's side sobbed out the trouble that had
filled her cup to overflowing.
This was a sorrow Peter could heartily sympathize with. He shed
tears of anger and mortification, as he wiped away those of his
daughter. It was a great grief to him that he could not prosecute Jan
for theft. But he was quite aware that the law recognized Jan's entire
right to whatever was his wife's. Neither the father nor daughter
remembered how many years Jan had respected his wife's selfishness, and
forgiven her want of confidence in him; the thing he had done was an
Thora said very little. She might have reminded Peter that he had
invested all her fortune in his business, that he always pocketed her
private earnings. But to what purpose? She did not much blame Jan for
taking at last, what many husbands would have taken at first, but she
was angry enough at his general unkindness to Margaret. Yet it was not
without many forebodings of evil she saw Peter store away in an empty
barn all the pretty furniture of Margaret's house, and put the key of
the deserted house in his pocket.
And I am so miserable! wailed the wretched wife, morning, noon,
and night. Her money and her husband supplied her with perpetual
lamentations, varied only by pitiful defenses of her own conduct: My
house was ever clean and comfortable! No man's table was better served!
I was never idle! I wasted nothing! I never was angry! And yet I am
robbed, and betrayed, and deserted! There never was so miserable a
womanso unjustly miserable! etc.
Alas! my child, said Thora, one day, did you then expect to drink
of the well of happiness before death? This is the great saying which
we all forget: Therenot herethere the wicked cease
from troubling; there the weary are at rest. There God
has promised to wipe away all tears, but not here, Margaret, not
CHAPTER V. SHIPWRECK.
A man I am, crossed with adversity.
There is some soul of goodness in things evil;
Would men observingly distill it out.
No man set more nakedly side by side the clay and spirit of his
double nature than Jan Vedder. No man wished so much and willed so
little. Long before he returned from his first voyage, he became sorry
for the deception he had practiced upon his wife, and determined to
acknowledge to her his fault, as far as he saw it to be a fault. He was
so little fond of money, that it was impossible for him to understand
the full extent of Margaret's distress; but he knew, at least, that she
would be deeply grieved, and he was quite willing to promise her, that
as soon as The Solan was clear of debt, he would begin to repay her the
money she prized so much.
Her first voyage was highly successful, and he was, as usual,
sanguine beyond all reasonable probabilities; quite sure, indeed, that
Tulloch and Margaret could both be easily paid off in two years. Surely
two years was a very short time for a wife to trust her husband with
£600. Arguing, then, from his own good intentions, and his own hopes
and calculations, he had persuaded himself before he reached Lerwick
again that the forced loan was really nothing to make any fuss about,
that it would doubtless be a very excellent thing, and that Margaret
would be sure to see it as he did.
The Solan touched Lerwick in the afternoon. Jan sent a message to
Tulloch, and hastened to his home. Even at a distance the lonely air of
the place struck him unpleasantly. There was no smoke from the
chimneys, the windows were all closed. At first he thought Margaret is
gone for a day's visit somewhereit is unlucky then. But as he
reached the closed gate other changes made themselves apparent. His
Newfoundland dog, that had always known his step afar off, and came
bounding to meet him, did not answer his whistle. Though he called
Brenda, his pet seal, repeatedly, she came not; she, that had always
met him with an almost human affection. He perceived before his feet
touched the threshold how it was: Margaret had gone to her father's, or
the animals and poultry would have been in the yard.
His first impulse was to follow her there and bring her home, and he
felt in his pocket for the golden chain and locket he had brought her
as a peace-offering. Then he reflected that by the time he could reach
Peter's house it would be the tea-hour, and he did not intend to
discuss the differences between Margaret and himself in Peter's
presence. Thora's good influence he could count upon; but he knew it
would be useless either to reason with or propitiate Peter. For fully
five minutes he stood at his bolted door wondering what to do. He felt
his position a cruel one; just home from a prosperous voyage, and no
one to say a kind word. Yes, he could go to Torr's; he would find a
welcome there. But the idea of the noisy room and inquisitive men was
disagreeable to him. Snorro he could not see for some hours. He
determined at last that the quiet of his own lonely home was the best
place in which to consider this new phase of affairs between him and
his wife, and while doing so he could make a cup of tea, and wash and
refresh himself before the interview.
He unfastened the kitchen shutter and leaped in. Then the sense of
his utter desolation smote him. Mechanically he walked through the
despoiled, dusty, melancholy rooms. Not a stool left on which he could
sit down. He laughed aloudthat wretched laugh of reckless sorrow,
that is far more pitiful than weeping. Then he went to Torr's. People
had seen him on the way to his home, and no one had been kind enough to
prevent his taking the useless, wretched journey. He felt deeply
wounded and indignant. There were not half a dozen men or women in
Lerwick whose position in regard to Jan would have excused their
interference, but of that he did not think. Every man and woman knew
his shame and wrong. Some one might have warned him. Torr shook his
head sympathetically at Jan's complaints, and gave him plenty of
liquor, and in an hour he had forgotten his grief in a drunken stupor.
The next morning he went to Peter's house to see his wife. Peter
knew of his arrival, and he had informed himself of all that had
happened in Torr's room. Jan had, of course, spoken hastily and
passionately, and had drunk deeply, and none of his faults had been
kept from Margaret. She had expected him to come at once for her, to be
in a passion probably, and to say some hard things, but she also had
certainly thought he would say them to her, and not to strangers. Hour
after hour she watched, sick with longing and fear and anger, hour
after hour, until Peter came in, stern and dour, and said:
Get thee to thy bed, Margaret. Jan Vedder has said words of thee
this night that are not to be forgiven, and he is now fathoms deep in
Torr's liquor. See thou speak not with himgood nor bad, and Peter
struck the table so angrily, that both women were frightened into a
silence, which he took for consent.
So when Jan asked to see his wife, Thora stood in the door, and in
her sad, still way told him that Peter had left strict orders against
his entering the house.
But thou, mother, wilt ask Margaret to come out here and speak to
me? Yes, thou wilt do that, and he eagerly pressed in Thora's hand the
little present he had brought. Give her this, and tell her I wait here
After ten minutes' delay, Thora returned and gave him the trinket
back. Margaret wanted her £600 and not a gold locket, and Jan had not
even sent her a message about it. His return had brought back the
memory of her loss in all its first vividness. She had had a dim hope
that Jan would bring her money with him, that he had only taken it to
frighten her; to lose this hope was to live over again her first keen
sorrow. In this mood it was easy for her to say that she would not see
him, or speak to him, or accept his gift; let him give her back her
£600, that was the whole burden of her answer.
Jan put the unfortunate peace-offering in his pocket, and walked
away without a word. He will trouble thee no more, Margaret, said
Thora, quietly. Margaret fancied there was a tone of reproach or regret
in the voice. It angered her anew, and she answered, It is well; it
were better if he had never come at all. But in her heart she expected
Jan to come, and come again, until she pardoned him. She had no
intention of finally casting him off. She meant that he should suffer
sufficiently to insure his future good behavior. She had to suffer with
him, and she regarded this as the hardest and most unjust part of the
discipline. She, who had always done her duty in all things.
It is true she had permitted her father to dismantle their home, but
she had had a distinct reason for that, and one which she intended to
have told Jan, had he come back under circumstances to warrant the
confidence. In fact she had begun to dislike the house very much. It
was too small, too far away from her mother, and from the town; besides
which, Peter had the very house she longed for vacant, and she hoped so
to manage her father, as to make the exchange she wished. Perhaps, too,
she was a little bit superstitious. No one had ever been lucky in the
house in which she and Jan had lived. She sometimes felt angry at her
father for thrusting it upon them. Even Elga Skade's love affairs had
all gone wrong there, and the girl was sure some malicious sprite had
power within its walls to meddle and make trouble. Elga had left her,
influenced entirely by this superstition, and Margaret had brooded upon
it, until it had obtained some influence over her; otherwise, she would
not have permitted her father to dismantle the unhappy home without a
As it was, with all its faults she was beginning to miss the
independence it gave her. No married woman ever goes back to the best
of homes, and takes the place of her maidenhood. Her new servant,
Trolla Bork, had warned her often of this. When Bork was drowned, she
said, I went back to my parents, but I did not go back to my home. No,
indeed! There is a difference, even where there is no unkindness. Thy
own home is a full cup. Weep, if thou must weep, at thy own fireside.
After Margaret's refusal to see Jan, he went back to his boat, and
employed himself all day about her cargo, and in settling accounts with
Tulloch. It was very late when he went to see Snorro. But Snorro was
waiting for him. Now that things had come to a crisis he was ready to
hear all Jan's complaints; he believed him in all things to have done
Thou hast asked her once, Jan, he said; that was well and right.
Thou shalt not go again. No, indeed! Let her come and tell thee she is
sorry. Then thou can show her a man's heart, and forgive her freely,
without yea or nay in the matter. What right had she to pull thy house
to pieces without thy knowledge? Come, now, and I will show thee the
place I have made for thee when thou art in Lerwick.
There was a big loft over Peter's store, with a narrow ladder-like
stair to it. It was full of the lumber of thirty years and tenanted by
a colony of Norway rats, who were on the most familiar terms with
Snorro. Many of them answered to their names, none were afraid to eat
from his hand; one old shrewd fellow, gray with age, often crept into
Snorro's bosom, and in the warmth, lay hour after hour, watching with
wise, weird eyes the quiet face it trusted as it bent over a book.
There was a corner in this garret with a window looking seaward, and
here Snorro had cleared a small space, and boarded it up like a room. A
bed of down and feathers, with a cover of seal-skins occupied one side;
two rude seats, a big goods-box turned up for a table, and some shelves
full of the books Jan had brought him, completed its furniture.
See here, Jan, I have been fifteen years with Peter Fae, and no
feet but mine have ever entered this loft. Here thou canst be at peace.
My dear Jan, lie thee down, and sleep now.
Jan was glad to do it. He put the gold locket on Snorro's table, and
said, Thou keep it. I bought it for her, and she sent it back to me.
Some day she will be glad of it. Be thou sure of that.
During the summer Jan made short and quick voyages, and so he spent
many an hour in this little retreat talking with Snorro, for he had
much to annoy and trouble him. We do not get over living sorrows as
easily as dead ones. Margaret in her grave would have lost the power to
wound him, and he would gradually have ceased to lament her. But
Margaret weeping in her father's house; Margaret praying in the kirk
for strength to bear his neglect and injustice; Margaret throwing open
the Bluebeard chamber of their home, and discussing its tragedy with
his enemies; this was a sorrow there was no forgetting. On his return
from every voyage he sent her the money he had made, and some little
token of his love with it. She always sent both back without a word.
She understood from them that Jan would come no more in person, and
that she would have to make the next advance, either by voice or
letter. Many times she had declared she would never do this, and the
declaration even in her tenderest hours, bound her to her
self-inflicted loneliness and grief. So on Snorro's rude table the
pretty womanly trinkets accumulated, and Snorro looked at them with
constantly gathering anger.
One morning in October he heard a thing that made his heart leap.
The physician of the town hurried into the store, and cried, Peter
Fae, here hath come a little man to thy house. A handsome lad he is,
indeed. Now then, go and see him.
What of my daughter, Doctor?
She will do well enough.
Snorro lifted never an eyelash, but his face glowed like fire. Jan,
then, had a son! Jan's son! Already he loved the child. Surely he would
be the peacemaker. Now the mother and father must meet. He had almost
forgiven Margaret. How he longed for Jan to come back. Alas! when he
did, Margaret was said to be dying; Peter had not been at his store for
The double news met Jan as soon as he put his foot on the quay.
Thou hast a son, Jan. Thy wife is dying. Jan was nearly distraught.
With all a man's strength of feeling, he had emotions as fervent and
vivid as a woman: he forgot in a moment every angry feeling, and
hastened to his wife. Peter opened the door; when he saw Jan, he could
have struck him. He did what was more cruel, he shut the door in his
face, and drew the bolt passionately across it.
Jan, however, would not leave the vicinity. He stopped the doctor,
and every one that came and went. In a few hours this became
intolerable to Peter. He ordered him to go away, but Jan sat on a large
stone by the gate, with his head in his hands, and answered him never a
word. Then he sent Thora to him. In vain Jan tried to soften her heart.
Margaret is unconscious, yet she mourns constantly for thee. Thou art
my child's murderer, she said sternly. Go thy ways before I curse
He turned away then and went down to the seaside, and threw himself,
in an agony of despair, upon the sand and the yellow tangle. Hour after
hour passed; physical exhaustion and mental grief produced at length a
kind of lethargy, that oblivion, rather than sleep, which comes to
souls which have felt till they can feel no longer.
Just at dark some one touched him, and asked sternly, Art thou
drunk, Jan Vedder, to-day? To-day, when thy wife is dying?
It is with sorrow I am drunk. Then he opened his eyes and saw the
minister standing over him. Slowly he rose to his feet, and stood
stunned and trembling before him.
Jan! Go to thy wife. She is very ill. At the last she may want thee
and only thee.
They will not let me see her. Do thou speak to Peter Fae for me.
Hast thou not seen heror thy son?
I have not been within the door. Oh, do thou speak for me!
Come with me.
Together they went back to Peter's house. The door was locked, and
the minister knocked. Who is there?
It is I, and Jan Vedder. Peter, unbolt the door.
Thou art God's minister and ever welcome; but I will not let Jan
Vedder cross my door-stone.
Thou wilt let us both in. Indeed thou wilt. I am amazed at thee,
Peter. What God has joined together, let no man put asunder. Art thou
going to strive against God? I say to thee, unbolt the door, unbolt it
quick, lest thou be too late. If thou suffer not mercy to pass through
it, I tell thee there are those who will pass through it, the door
Then Peter drew the bolt and set the door wide, but his face was
hard as iron, and black as midnight.
Jan, said the minister, thy wife and child are in the next room.
Go and see them, it will be good for thee. Peter, well may the Lord
Christ say, 'I come as a thief in the night'; and be sure of this, he
will break down the bars and burst open the doors of those who rise not
willingly to let him in.
In Shetland at that day, and indeed at the present day, the minister
has almost a papal authority. Peter took the reproof in silence. Doctor
Balloch was, however, a man who in any circumstances would have had
influence and authority among those brought in contact with him, for
though he spared not the rod in the way of his ministry, he was in all
minor matters full of gentleness and human kindness. Old and young had
long ago made their hearts over to him. Besides, his great learning and
his acquaintance with the tongues of antiquity were regarded as a great
credit to the town.
While Jan was in his wife's presence, Doctor Balloch stood silent,
looking into the fire: Peter gazed out of the window. Neither spoke
until Jan returned. Then the minister turned and looked at the young
man. It was plain that he was on the verge of insensibility again. He
took his arm and led him to a couch. Lie down, Jan; then turning to
Peter he said, Thy son has had no food to-day. He is faint and
suffering. Let thy women make him some tea, and bring him some bread
I have said that he shall not eat bread in my house.
Then thou hast said an evil and uncharitable thing. Unsay it,
Peter. See, the lad is fainting!
I can not mend that. He shall not break bread in my house.
Then I say this to thee. Thou shalt not break bread at thy Lord's
supper in His house. No, thou shalt not, for thou would be doing it
unworthily, and eating damnation to thyself. What saith thy Lord
Christ? If thine enemy hunger, feed him. Now, then, order the bread and
tea for Jan Vedder.
Peter called a woman servant and gave the order. Then, almost in a
passion, he faced the minister, and said, Oh, sir, if thou knew the
evil this man hath done me and mine!
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
theethe 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 consciousness.
But very soon a woman brought him a basin of hot tea, and he drank it
and ate a few mouthfuls. 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
seal-skins. Then he knew that he was in good hands.
Poor Jan! He was utterly spent and miserable. 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
Many days Margaret 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 himselfoh, so
oftenThou 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 forgive
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 Margaret's word. Neither Peter Fae, nor
his daughter, were likely to exalt any one who humbled himself.
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 weariful £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 didand does yet, Snorro.
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 after-sorrow.
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 Kirkwall
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 shipwreck, 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 in.
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 longer.
CHAPTER VI. MARGARET'S HEART.
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.
SHAKESPEARE'S SONNETS, XC.
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.
FLETCHER'S HONEST MAN'S FORTUNE.
Jan, the sole survivor of The Solan, had brought the news of his own
misfortune, but there was no necessity to hasten its publication.
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,
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 angry.
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 order.
Thou wilt say that for me? It is all I ask. I did my best,
I will say it; and in the spring I will see about another boat. I
am not afraid to trust thee.
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 Margaret would see him, wondering how best to gain her
forgiveness, longing to see her face but not daring to approach her
without some preparation 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's 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 flooring, 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
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, TullochDeacon Tulloch, I should say. Wilt thou
buy or sell aught this morning?
Good morning, Fae. I came to thee for news. Where is thy son Jan
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 on board The Solan.
The Solan hath gone to pieces on the Quarr Rocks.
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
Only Jan escapedship 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 forgiveness. 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 Vedder 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 have.
Better to be a bachelor, than have a wife like poor Jan Vedder
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
'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
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 lounging
place. Jan's misfortune was the sole topic of conversation, and Jan's
absence was unfavorably criticised. Why did he not come among his
fellows and tell them how it had happened? 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
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
It did not need brandy. He was ever careless.
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
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 length.
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, Snorro. There 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 Vor 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 £40 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 sailor, a
bad man, and he ought to have gone to the bottom.' Then there was a
minute's uncomfortable silence, and the men gradually scattered.
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 for a table. Jan had slept
heavily all day, but when Snorro brought the candle near, he opened his
eyes and said, I 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?
Sleep was the first thing, and now we will see to thy clothes. They
must be mended, Jan.
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 seaside
half way between the town and Peter's house, and there Jan was to wait
for Snorro's report.
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 suspected, 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 well 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
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 seaship, cargo, and
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 rebellion.
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:
'Backbitershaters of Goddespitefulproudboastersinventors
of evil thingsdisobedient to parents;' dost thou hear,
Margaret? 'disobedient to parentswithout
understandingcovenant breakerswithout natural
Let me see him once, father? Let me see him for half an hour.
Not for one moment. Disobey me if thou dares.
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 them.
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 Vedder. 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 grandfather whom some day doubtless he would completely
conquer. Ah, if she had only been half as unselfish with Jan! Only half
as prudent 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 together. 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 command 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
Very soon after Peter reached the store, Snorro left it. Peter saw
him go, and he suspected 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 whispered, looking back at the
Margaret smiled; she was well pleased at Snorro's genuine
And he is so like Janonly 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 latetoo 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 him I will not, dare not, see him!
It is thou that art unkind. He has been shipwrecked, Margaret
Vedder; bruised and cut, and nearly tossed to death by the waves. He is
broken-hearted about thee. He loves thee, oh, as no woman ever deserved
to be loved. He is thy husband. Thou wilt see him, oh yes, thou wilt
I will not see him, Snorro. My father hath forbid me. If I see Jan,
he will turn me and the child from the house.
Let him. Go to thy husband and thy own home.
My husband hath no home for me.
For thou pulled it to pieces.
Go away, Snorro, lest worse words come. I will not sacrifice that
little innocent babe for Jan.
It is Jan's sonthou art ruining Jan
Now, wilt thou go, Michael Snorro, and tell Jan that I say what my
father says: when he is worthy of me I will come to him.
I will go, but I will tell thee first, that Jan will be worthy of
thee long before thou art worthy of him. Then, ere Margaret could
prevent him, he walked to the cradle, lifted the child, and kissed it
again and again, saying between each kiss, That is for thy father,
The child was crying when he laid it down, and Margaret again
angrily ordered him to leave the house. Before she had soothed it to
peace, Snorro was nearly out of sight. Then Thora, who had heard the
dispute, rose from her bed and came into the room. She looked ill and
sad, and asked faintly, What is this message sent to Jan Vedder? He
will not believe it. Look for him here very soon, and be sure what thou
doest is right.
My father told me what to do.
Yet ask thy heart and thy conscience also. It is so easy for a
woman to go wrong, Margaret; it is almost impossible for her to put
wrong right. Many a tear shall she wash it out with.
I have done no wrong to Jan. Dost thou think so?
When one gets near the grave, Margaret, there is a little light
from beyond, and many things are seen not seen before. Oh, be sure thou
art right about Jan! No one can judge for thee. Fear not to do what thy
heart says, for at the end right will come right, and wrong will come
There was a solemn stillness after this conversation. Thora sat bent
over beside the fire musing. Margaret, wearied with the feelings which
her interview with Snorro had called forth, rested upon the sofa; she
was suffering, and the silence and melancholy of her mother seemed
almost a wrong to her. It was almost as if she had taken Jan's part.
A knock at the door startled both women. Thora rose and opened it.
It was Jan. Mother, he said, I want to see my wife and child.
Margaret, speak for thyself.
I dare not see Jan. Tell him so.
Thora repeated the message.
Ask Margaret if that is her last word to me?
Mechanically Thora asked the question, and after an agonizing pause
Margaret gasped out, Yes, yesuntil
Ask her to stand a moment at the window with the child. I long to
see them. Then he turned to go to the window, and Thora shut the door.
But it was little use repeating Jan's request, Margaret had fainted,
and lay like one dead, and Thora forgot every thing till life returned
to her daughter. Then as the apparent unkindness was irrevocable and
unexplainable, she said nothing of it. Why should she add to the sorrow
Margaret was suffering?
And as for Jan, the universal opinion was that he ought to suffer.
He had forfeited his wife, and his home, and his good name, and he had
lost his boat. When a man has calamity upon calamity the world
generally concludes that he must be a very wicked man to deserve them.
Perhaps the world is right; but it is also just possible that the
world, even with its six thousand years of gathered wisdom, may be
CHAPTER VII. THE MAN AT DEATH'S DOOR.
Thoughts hardly to be packed
Into a narrow act,
Fancies that broke through language and escaped,
All I could never be,
All men ignored in me,
This I was worth to God, whose wheel the pitcher shaped.
It must be remembered, however, that Margaret was bound by ties
whose strength this generation can hardly conceive. The authority of a
father over a child in England and Scotland is still a very decided
one. Fifty years ago in Shetland it was almost absolute. Margaret
believed the fifth commandment to be as binding upon her as the first.
From her childhood it had been pointed out to her as leading all the
six defining our duty to our fellow-creatures. Therefore if she thought
her father's orders regarding Jan unkind, the possibility of disobeying
them never presented itself.
Jan's troubles were pointed out to her as the obvious results of
Jan's sins. How could he expect a blessing on a boat bought as he had
bought The Solan? And what was the use of helping a man who was always
so unfortunate? If Peter did not regard misfortune as a sin, he drew
away from it as if it were something even worse. Sometimes God blesses
a man through poverty, sometimes through riches, but until the rod
blossoms even good Christians call it a chastening rod. Margaret had a
dread of making her child share Jan's evil destiny: perhaps she was
afraid of it for herself. Self is such an omnipresent god, that it is
easy to worship him in the dark, and to obey him almost unconsciously.
When Margaret recovered from her faint, she was inclined to think she
deserved praise for what she called her self-denial. She knew also that
her father would be satisfied with her conduct, and Peter's
satisfaction took tangible forms. He had given her £100 when she broke
up her home and left Jan; she certainly looked for some money
equivalent for her present obedience. And yet she was quite positive
this latter consideration had in no way at all influenced her decision;
she was sure of that; only, there could be no harm in reflecting that a
duty done would have its reward.
As for Jan, he let people say whatever they chose to say about him.
To Tulloch and to Michael Snorro he described the tempest, and the
desperation with which he had fought for his boat and his life; but
defended himself to no one else. Day after day he passed in the retreat
which Snorro had made him, and lying there he could plainly hear the
men in Peter's store talk about him. Often he met the same men in
Torr's at night, and he laughed bitterly to himself at their double
tongues. There are few natures that would have been improved by such a
discipline; to a man who had lost all faith in himself, it was a moral
Down, down, down, with the rapidity with which fine men go to ruin,
went Jan. Every little thing seemed to help him to the bottom; yes,
even such a trifle as his shabby clothes. But shabby clothes were not a
trifle to Jan. There are men as well as women who put on respectability
with respectable raiment; Jan was of that class. He was meanly dressed
and he felt mean, and he had no money to buy a new suit. All Snorro's
small savings he had used long before for one purpose or another, and
his wages were barely sufficient to buy food, and to pay Jan's bill at
Torr's; for, alas! Jan would go to Torr's. Snorro was in a sore strait
about it, but if Torr's bill were not paid, then Jan would go to
Inkster's, a resort of the lowest and most suspicious characters.
Between the two evils he chose the lesser.
And Jan said in the freedom of Torr's many things which he ought not
to have said: many hard and foolish things, which were repeated and
lost nothing by the process. Some of them referred to his wife's
cruelty, and to Peter Fae's interference in his domestic concerns. That
he should talk of Margaret at all in such a place was a great wrong.
Peter took care that she knew it in its full enormity; and it is
needless to say, she felt keenly the insult of being made the subject
of discussion among the sailor husbands who gathered in Ragon Torr's
kitchen. Put a loving, emotional man like Jan Vedder in such domestic
circumstances, add to them almost hopeless poverty and social disgrace,
and any one could predict with apparent certainty his final ruin.
Of course Jan, in spite of his bravado of indifference, suffered
very much. He had fits of remorse which frightened Snorro. Under their
influence he often wandered off for two or three days, and Snorro
endured during them all the agonies of a woman who has lost her child.
One night, after a long tramp in the wind and snow, he found himself
near Peter Fae's house, and a great longing came over him to see his
wife and child. He knew that Peter was likely to be at home and that
all the doors were shut. There was a bright light in the sitting-room,
and the curtains were undrawn. He climbed the inclosure and stood
beside the window. He could see the whole room plainly. Peter was
asleep in his chair on the hearth. Thora sitting opposite him, was, in
her slow quiet way, crimping with her fingers the lawn ruffles on the
newly ironed clothes. Margaret, with his son in her arms, walked about
the room, softly singing the child to sleep. He knew the words of the
lullabyan old Finnish song that he had heard many a mother sing. He
could follow every word of it in Margaret's soft, clear voice; and, oh,
how nobly fair, how calmly good and far apart from him she seemed!
Sleep on, sleep on, sweet bird of the meadow!
Take thy rest, little Redbreast.
Sleep stands at the door and says,
The son of sleep stands at the door and says,
Is there not a little child here?
Lying asleep in the cradle?
A little child wrapped up in swaddling clothes,
A child reposing under a coverlet of wool?
Jan watched the scene until he could endure the heart-torture no
longer. Had he not been so shabby, so ragged, so weather-stained, he
would have forced his way to his wife's presence. But on such
apparently insignificant trifles hang generally the great events of
life. He could not bear the thought of this fair, calm, spotless woman
seeing him in such a plight. He went back to Snorro, and was very cross
and unreasonable with him, as he had been many times before. But Snorro
was one of those rare, noble souls, who can do great and hopeless
things, and continue to love what they have seen fall.
He not only pitied and excused Jan, he would not suffer any one to
wrong, or insult him. All Torr's regular visitors feared the big man
with the white, stern face, who so often called for Jan Vedder, and who
generally took his friend away with him. Any thing that is genuine
commands respect, and Snorro's love for Jan was so true, so tender, and
unselfish, that the rudest soul recognized his purity. Even in Peter's
store, and among the better class who frequented it, his honest
affection was not without its result.
Jan usually avoided the neighborhood when Peter was there, but one
afternoon, being half intoxicated, he went rolling past, singing
snatches of The Foula Reel. He was ragged and reckless, but through
every disadvantage, still strikingly handsome. Michael Snorro lifted
himself from the barrel which he was packing, and stood watching Jan
with a face full of an inexpressible sorrow. Some one made a remark,
which he did not hear, but he heard the low scornful laugh which
followed it, and he saw Peter Fae, with a smile of contempt, walk to
the door, and glance up the street after Jan.
One thing I know, said Snorro, looking angrily at the group, all
of you have laughed in a very great company, for when a good man takes
the road to hell, there also laughs the devil and all his angels. Yes,
It was as if a thunderbolt had fallen among them. Peter turned to
his books, and one by one the men left the store, and Jan Vedder's name
was not spoken again before Snorro by any one.
During the fishing season Jan went now and then to sea, but he had
no regular engagement. Some said he was too unreliable; others, more
honest, acknowledged they were superstitious about him. Sooner or
later ill luck comes with him, said Neil Scarpa. I would as lief
tread on the tongs, or meet a cat when going fishing as have Jan Vedder
in my boat, said John Halcro. This feeling against him was worse than
shipwreck. It drove Jan to despair. After a night of hard drinking, the
idea of suicide began to present itself, with a frightful persistence.
What was there for him but a life of dislike and contempt, or a swift
For it must be considered that in those days the ends of the earth
had not been brought together. Emigration is an idea that hardly enters
a Shetlander's mind at the present time; then it was a thing unknown.
There were no societies for information, or for assistance. Every man
relied upon his own resources, and Jan had none. He was in reality, a
soul made for great adventures, condemned to fight life in the very
When the warm weather came, he watched for Margaret, and made many
attempts to see her. But she had all the persistence of narrow minds.
She had satisfied herself that her duty to her father and to her son
was before all other duties, and no cruelty is so cruel as that which
attacks its victims from behind the ramparts of Duty and Conscience.
Thora frequently saw Jan, and he pleaded his cause eloquently to
her. She was very sorry for him, and at times also very angry with him.
She could not understand how Margaret's treatment should have taken all
the heart and purpose out of his life. She would not let him say so; it
was like casting the blame of all his idleness and dissipation upon her
daughter. She would make no effort towards a reconciliation; while
Margaret held him in such small estimation, she was sure that there
could be no permanence in one, even if it could be effected.
Yet once or twice she spoke to Margaret in Jan's favor. If Margaret
had desired to disobey her father, and see her husband, Thora's
sympathies would have been with her; but no mother likes to put herself
in a position which will give her child an opportunity of answering her
with a look of reproachful astonishment. Something very like this had
met her suggestion that Jan must love his child, and long to see him.
Margaret was almost angry at such a supposition. Jan love his
child! It was impossible! No man who did so, would behave as Jan had
done, and was still doing. To encourage Jan in any way was to disobey
her father, and throw herself and her child upon Jan's mercies. She
knew what they were. Even if she could see it to be her duty to
sacrifice herself, on no account would she sacrifice the babe who had
only her to think and care for him. She would do nothing in any way to
prejudice its future. This was the tenor of her constant conversation.
It was stated anew every morning, it was reiterated every hour of the
day; and with every day's reiteration, she became more certain of her
own wisdom and justice.
One night, after another useless effort to see his wife, Jan went to
Torr's, and found Hol Skager there. Jan was in a reckless mood, and the
thought of a quarrel was pleasant to him. Skager was inclined to humor
him. They had many old grievances to go over, and neither of them
picked their words. At length Jan struck Skager across the mouth, and
Skager instantly drew his knife.
In a moment Torr and others had separated the men. Skager was
persuaded to leave the house, and Jan, partly by force and partly by
entreaty, detained. Skager was to sail at midnight, and Torr was
determined that Jan should not leave the house until that hour was
passed. Long before it, he appeared to have forgotten the quarrel, to
be indeed too intoxicated to remember any thing. Torr was satisfied,
but his daughter Suneva was not.
About ten o'clock, Snorro, sitting in the back door of the store,
saw Suneva coming swiftly towards him. Ere he could speak she said,
Skager and Jan have quarreled and knives have been drawn. If thou
knowest where Skager is at anchor, run there, for I tell thee, there
was more of murder than liquor in Jan's eyes this night. My father
thought to detain him, but he hath slipped away, and thou may be sure
he has gone to find Skager.
Snorro only said, Thou art a good woman, Suneva. He thought he
knew Skager's harbor; but when he got there, neither boat nor man was
to be seen. Skager's other ground was two miles in an opposite
direction under the Troll Rock, and not far from Peter Fae's house.
Snorro hastened there at his utmost speed. He was in time to see
Skager's boat, half a mile out at sea, sailing southward. Snorro's
mental processes were slow. He stood still to consider, and as he
mused, the solemn stillness of the lonely place was broken by a low cry
of pain. It was Jan's voice. Among a thousand voices Snorro would have
known it. In a few moments he had found Jan, prone upon the cliff edge
bleeding from a wound in his side.
He was still sensible and he smiled at Snorro, saying slowly, Thou
must not be sorry. It is best so.
Most fishermen know something of the treatment of a knife wound;
Snorro staunched the blood-flow, as well as he was able, and then with
gigantic strides went to Peter Fae's. Margaret sat spinning beside her
baby's cradle, Peter had gone to bed, Thora dozed at the fireside.
The impatience of his knock and voice alarmed the women, but when
Margaret heard it was Snorro's voice, she quickly unfastened the door.
Is the store burning? she asked angrily, that thou comest in such
Thy husband has been murdered. Take thou water and brandy, and go
as quick as thou canst run to the Troll's Rock. He lies there. I am
going for the doctor.
Why did thou come here, Michael Snorro? Ever art thou a messenger
of ill. I will not go.
Go thou at once, or I will give thee a name thou wilt shudder to
hear. I will give it to thee at kirk, or market, or wherever I meet
Snorro fled to the town, almost in uttering the words, and Thora,
who had at once risen to get the water and the brandy, put them into
her daughter's hands. There is no time now for talking. I will tell
thy father and send him after thee. Shall we have blood on our souls?
All of us?
Oh, what shall I do? What shall I do?
Art thou a woman? I tell thee, haste.
I dare notoh, my child! I will wake father.
I command thee to gothis moment.
Then, almost in a passion, Margaret went. The office of mercy had
been forced upon her. She had not been permitted to consider her own or
her child's interest. No one had thought of her feelings in the matter.
When she reached Jan's side she was still indignant at the peremptory
way in which she had been treated.
He felt her there, rather than saw herMargaret! he said
feebly, Margaret! At last!
Yes, she answered in bitter anger, at last. Hast thou called me
to see thy shameful end? A name full of disgrace thou leaves to me and
to thy son.
Forgive meI am sorry. Forgive!
I will not forgive thee. No woman injured as I have been, can
His helplessness did not touch her. Her own wrongs and the wrongs of
her child filled her heart. She was determined that at this hour he
should at least understand their full enormity, and she spoke with all
the rapid bitterness of a slow, cold nature, wrought up to an unnatural
passion. In justifying herself she forgot quite that she had been sent
to succor him until help arrived. She was turning away when Jan, in a
voice full of misery, uttered one word:
Something womanly in her responded to the pitiful, helpless cry. She
went back, and kneeling by his side, put the bottle to his mouth. The
touch of his head upon her arm stirred her strangely; ere she let it
slip from her hold, he had fainted.
Oh Jan! Jan! Jan! My husband! My husband! Oh Jan, dear, forgive me!
Jan, I am here! It is thy Margaret! I still love thee! Yes, indeed, I
But it was too late. There was no response. She looked in horror and
terror at the white face at her feet. Then she fled back to the house
for help. Whether her father liked it or not, Jan must now be brought
there. In that last moment she had forgiven him every thing. All the
love of her betrothal had come like a great wave over her heart. Poor
Jan! Poor Jan! she sobbed, as she fled like a deer across the moor.
Peter had been roused and had reluctantly dressed himself. In such
an hour of extremity he would have to give the wounded man shelter if
he were brought there. But he tarried as long as possible, hoping that
Snorro would remove Jan and take him into the town. To be roused from
sleep to confront such a problem of duty was a very unpleasant affair,
and Peter was sulkily tying his shoe-strings when Margaret, breathless
and sobbing, returned for him.
Her impetuosity and her emotion quite mastered him. She compelled
him to go with her to Jan. But when they reached the Troll Rock Jan had
disappeared. There was nothing there but the blue sailor's cap which he
had worn. No human being was in sight. Any party of relief brought by
Snorro could be seen for a mile. Margaret picked up the cap, and gazed
at it in a maze of anguish. Only one thing could have happened. During
her absence consciousness had returned to Jan, and he, poor soul,
remembering her cruel words, and seeing that she had left him there
alone to die, had purposely edged himself over the cliff. The sea was
twenty feet deep below it. She put her hands before her eyes, and
shrieked until the welkin rang with her shrill, piercing cries. Peter
could do nothing with her, she would not listen to him, and finally she
became so frantically hysterical that he was alarmed for her life and
reason, and had little opportunity that night to make any inquiries
about his troublesome son-in-law.
Now, when God will help a man, he hath his own messenger. That
night, Doctor Balloch sat in the open door of his house. This door was
at the end of a little jetty to which his skiff was tied; and the whole
expanse of the beautiful bay was before him. It was covered with boats,
idly drifting about under the exquisite sky. Light ripples of laughter,
and sweet echoes of song upon the waters, drifted toward him. He had
read his evening portion, and he sat watching the flickering lights of
the changing aurora. The portion had been the Nineteenth Psalm, and he
was wishing that the Sweet Singer of Israel, who thought the Judean
heavens declared the glory of God, could have seen the Shetland
Suddenly, and peremptorily, a voice encompassed hima soft,
penetrating voice, that came like the wind, he knew not how or whence,
Take thy boat and go to the Troll Rock. He rose at once and went to
the end of the jetty. The sea, darkly blue, was smooth as glass, the
air clear, the majestic headlands imparting to the scene a solemn
cathedral grandeur. He strove to shake off the strange impression, but
it grew stronger and more imperative, and he said softly, as if
answering some one, I will go.
He returned to the house and called his servant Hamish. Hamish and
he lived alone, and had done so for more than thirty years, and they
thoroughly trusted each other.
Untie the boat, Hamish. We are going for a row. We will go as far
as Troll Rock.
This rock projected over the sea, which flowed into a large cave
under it; a cave which had long been a favorite hiding place for
smuggled cargoes. But when the minister reached it, all was silence.
Hamish looked at his master curiously. What could he mean by resting on
his oars and watching so desolate and dangerous a place? Very soon both
were aware of a human voice; the confused, passionate echoes of
Margaret's above them; and these had not long ceased when Jan Vedder
fell from the rock into the water.
This man is to be saved, Hamish; it is what we have come for.
Hamish quietly slipped into the water, and when Jan, speechless and
insensible, rose to the surface, he caught him with one arm and 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 bed.
Now, thou wilt do well enough, Jan, only thou must keep quiet body
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 Rockfor God's sake.
I will tell no one, Jan. Thou art safe here; be at perfect rest
about that matter.
Of course the minister thought Jan had committed some crime. It was
natural for every one 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 thought 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
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. Hamish received every version of
the story with that grave shake of the head which fits so admirably
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
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 grief.
He hath neither eaten nor slept since. It is pitiful. Thou knowest
he never had too much sense
I know very clever men who are fools, besides Michael Snorro. Go
thy ways home. I will do what I can for himonly, 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 out?
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, Snorro.
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 deceived me. He said to me,
whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do. I asked him always,
every hour to take care of Jan. If I was packing the eggs, or loading
the boats, or eating my dinner, my heart was always praying. 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 thing?
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
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
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
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 smiling 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.
CHAPTER VIII. DEATH AND CHANGE.
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
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 possiblewell 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 for me. 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 meanother 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
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 near.
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 understood 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 him.
It was in Snorro's arms Jan was carried on board at the very 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
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 concerning Jan's welfare. Then the
anchor was lifted, and the yacht on the tide-top went dancing southward
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 again.
Of the Crucified?
That is what I need.
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 imagination 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, innocently 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
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 uttermost.
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 afternoon, 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 attitude, 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 conciliating to all, and Snorro was undoubtedly saying
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 wert thou talking about? That evil Jan Vedder, I
know thou wert!
We were talking of thee, if thou must know.
What wert thou saying? Tell me; if thou wilt not, I will ask John
Thou wert well not to ask. Keep thy tongue 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 night?
Little need for me to do that, since thou can tell me.
Snorro spoke not.
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, 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. I 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 Sunevathou knowest she is a widow now and
gone back to her father's houseSuneva, 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,
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
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 not a hair of his head.
I will maintain that every where, and to all.
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 drowned.
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 was 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
saidIt is time to shut the door. Then he put on his cloak and went
Home! How changed his home had become! It was a place of silence and
unconfessed sorrow. All its old calm restfulness had gone. Very soon
after Jan's disappearance, Thora had 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 irritation 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
movement 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 something?
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 death.
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 bedside, and Thora leaned forward and kissed her.
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
Peter asked Margaret angrily, why she had neglected to send for
friends and for the minister?
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 conscious 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 daughter. 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 responsible for Jan's
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 something 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 hysterical 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 gradually resumed their
normal condition. Jan was dead, Peter was living, the tide of popular
feeling turned again. Undoubtedly, however, 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
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
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 daughter. 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 positively 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 fishers. Jan was quite forgotten in
the press and hurry of a busier season than Lerwick had ever seen.
Peter was again the old bustling, consequential 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
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 necessary, 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 all 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 suffering? 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 suddenly determined to have it
out with her, and without ceremony he called to her.
Let me speak to thee, Suneva; I have something to say.
She turned and faced him: Well then, say it.
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 badly.
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,
Art thou sure he is dead?
Peter Fae, if any one can answer that question, thou can; thou and
thy daughter Margaret.
I have heard thou hast said this before now.
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 answered 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
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 having. 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 remarkMy 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
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 visits.
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, Suneva?
Well, then, I took charge of Widow Thorkel's knitting to sell it
for her. She is bedridden, 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 wife.
What will thy daughter say to that? She never liked menor 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 husband. I will give thee the
house I live in, with all its plenishing, and I will settle £70 a year
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
CHAPTER IX. JAN AT HIS POST.
Then like an embryo bird
One day, he knew not how, but God that morn
Had pricked his soulhe 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.
With 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
feeling. 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 Snorroit 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
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?
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
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 favorable. Jan was assured that
he might be on deck a few hours every day, with great advantage 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 fisherman.
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 demonstrative in his gratitude. He took the gift, as the
gift had been given, with pleasure and confidence, and he looked
handsome and noble in every thing 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 who had got into trouble with his father. The secrecy with which
he had been brought on board at midnight, 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 speculations.
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 face.
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 Canadian 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 anxiety. 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
indifference 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 Mediterranean?
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 pleasantly.
Then that settles matters for a few monthswhen 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
disappointed. 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,
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 too.
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 connected 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 educate and provide
for Jan until he reached manhood.
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 Snorro'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 Snorro's affection and patience he told. He made
nothing better nor worse. His whole life, as he knew and could
understand it, he laid before Lord Lynne.
And so thou sees, he concluded, how little to blame and how much
to blame I have been. I have done wrong and I have suffered. Yes, I
suffer 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 truein any corner of the earth
where women are, they can make men suffer. As to your worthiness, I
know not. There are some women so good, that only the angels of heaven
could live with them. That £600 was a great mistake.
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 she is
beautiful, full of generous impulses, and well known for her charitable
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
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 from 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 side?
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 brothers.
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 has 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 conversations 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 sunset, 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 setting 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. Letters
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 Lerwick think he may have
Yes, just that.
I have often thought that the suspicion would be a natural one. Has
he been arrested?
No, no; but he is in bad esteem. Some 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 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.
Once he liked me, and was kind to me.
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
itevery way strong. What next?
Thou speak first.
Well, you see, Jan, men must work 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 fish out of water.
I think you are right. Will you join the Merchant Service, or do
you think better of the Royal Navy? I have a great deal of influence
with the Admiralty Lords, and I have often wished I could be a 'blue
Above all things, I would like the Royal Navy.
Then you shall be a 'blue jacket;' that is quite settled and well
settled, I am sure. But every moment will take time, and it will
probably 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 studying 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. Instruction 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 himself to
It did not trouble him that Lord Lynne seldom wrote, and never came.
His salary was promptly paid, and Jan was one of the kind 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 forward and turned over the
volumes on the table with great interest. I am glad to see these
books, Jan, he said, Arithmetic, Geography, History, Frenchvery
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 them.
Jan looked up, with eager, inquiring face.
Yes, sir; you are now Lieutenant Jan Vedder, of Her Majesty's
Schooner Retribution. You are to sail for the African coast within a
week. Jan, I congratulate you!
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 anxiously 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
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.
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
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
Retribution' is waiting for you and for orders. The 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 blockade. 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 seclusion
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 explained to him
the cruelty and wickedness of the slave traffic, Jan heard him at first
with amazement, then with indignation. That passionate 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 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! 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 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
Undoubtedly it was a great night for Snorro. When Dr. Balloch
explained to him, as Lord Lynne had explained to Jan, the noble
necessity of the African squadron, his heart burned 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
unconscious and natural relief.
Peter's house shone brightly afar off. 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, setting 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 potatoes, 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 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 Margaret'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 Torr. When she came back
with metropolitan dresses, and sundry trophies in the way of Poonah
painting and Berlin wool work, she held herself above and aloof from
all her old companions, and especially 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
And apart from these personal grievances, there were pecuniary ones
which touched Margaret'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 househers and her
boy's. To not only lose it herself, but to have it given to Suneva
without reservation, seemed to Margaret 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 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 Margaret knew that it would be both
imprudent and useless to name her private affairs. Perhaps his extreme
preoccupation 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 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 maliciously
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-hearted 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 to speak that very night, unless her father were 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 disappointment.
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 his voice and step, and before she could
rise and go with a candle to the door, Peter and Suneva entered
There was something in their manner that surprised her; the more so,
that Suneva immediately began to take off her bonnet and 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, Margaret. 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 supplanted
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
But she was slow of speech, and in her anger and amazement she could
find no word to interpret her emotion. One long, steady look she gave
her fathera look which Peter never forgotthen, 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 Margaret 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 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
possessions. 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.
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 Margaret 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 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, as with
perfect grace she carried him, scarcely conscious of his weight,
especially when he nestled his face against her own.
She went directly to her father's store. It was nearly noon when she
arrived there, and it was empty. Only Snorro stood beside the great
peat fire. He saw Margaret enter, and he placed a chair for her in the
warmest corner. Then he said, Give me little Jan, and I will hold him
for thee. She put the boy in his arms and watched him a moment as he
shook the snow from his cap and coat; then she said: Tell my father I
want to speak to him.
Peter came somewhat reluctantly. He knew the conversation had to be
gone through, but he felt as if Margaret had him at a disadvantage in
the store. Snorro was present, and strangers might at any moment come
in, and hurry him into an unwise concession. He was angry at Margaret,
also, for her behavior on the previous night, and it was not in any
amiable mood he approached her.
Father, wilt thou have my house put in order for me? I want to go
back to it.
Yes, I will; soon.
How soon, then?
I can not be hurried. There is no glass left in it, and there are
many things to repair besides. It will take time and money, a good deal
of money, more than I can well afford at present. I have had many
Dost thou then mean that I must live with Suneva? No, I will not do
that. I will go into the house without windows. Snorro will patch up
the best ones, and board up the others.
Snorro! Snorro, indeed! When was Snorro thy servant? As for Suneva,
she is as good as thou art. Am I made of money to keep two houses
I will not ask thee for a penny.
Thou wilt make a martyr of thyself, and set the town talking of me
and of Suneva. No, thou shalt not do such a thing. Go home and behave
thyself, and no one will say wrong to thee.
I will not live with Suneva. If thou wilt not make a house
habitable for me, then I will hire a man to do it.
Thou wilt not dare. When it seems right to me, I will do it. Wait
thou my time.
I can not wait. So then I will hire John Hay's empty cottage. It
will do, poor as it is.
If thou dost, I will never speak to thee nor to thine again. I will
not give thee nor thy child a shilling, whether I be living or dead.
What shall I do? Oh, what shall I do? And Margaret wrung her hands
helplessly, and burst into passionate weeping.
'Do'? Go home, and be thankful for thy home. What would thou do in
a Shetland hut, alone, at the beginning of winter? And I will not have
thee come crying here. Mind that! Take thy child and go home; go at
Thou might have told me! Thou might! It was a cruel thing to take
me unawares; at a moment
And if I had told thee, what then? Tears and complaints, and
endless wants. I had no mind to be tormented as thou tormented thy
That was a needlessly cruel taunt, and Peter was ashamed of it as
soon as uttered. But all the same he turned away in anger, and two men
coming in at the moment, he went with them to the other end of the
Snorro had held little Jan during the interview. The fresh air and
the heat had overpowered the child, and he had fallen asleep. He lay in
Snorro's arms, a beautiful, innocent miniature of the man he loved so
dearly. Watching the sleeping face, he had seemed unconscious of what
passed between Peter and his daughter, but in reality he had heard
every word. When Peter turned away he watched Margaret put on her
baby's cap and coat, and then as she rose with it folded in her arms,
he said, Let me see him again.
Kiss him, Snorro, for thou loved his father.
He stooped and kissed the boy, and then glanced into Margaret's
face. Her tears, her pallor, her air of hopeless suffering went
straight to his heart. After all she was Jan's wife. He felt a great
pity for her, and perhaps Margaret divined it, for she said timidly,
Snorro, can thou mend the windows in the old housethe house where I
lived with Jan?
Yes, I can.
Wilt thou ask my father if thou may do it?
I will do it. Have thou patience, Margaret Vedder. It would be a
sin if thou made the child suffer.
Dost thou think I would? Little does thou know of a mother's
It was Peter calling, and calling angrily; but ere Snorro answered
the summons he went with Margaret to the door, and as he opened it,
said, If I can help thee, for Jan's sake I am on thy side.
Very hard and bitter and cold was the walk homeward. The snow fell
thick and fast, and she was tired and faint when she reached the house.
Never had its warmth and comfort seemed so good to her. How could she
feel kindly to the woman who had robbed her and her child of their
right in it? Every one must have noticed that when they are in trouble,
the weather is usually their enemy. A very long and severe snow-storm
followed Margaret's useless effort. She had perforce to sit still, and
for little Jan's sake be grateful for the warmth and shelter given
Little Jan Snorro had unconsciously named the child.
Several attempts had been made to do so, but somehow all had hitherto
failed. At first Peter had been thought of; but Peter Fae had not
taken kindly to a Peter Vedder, and the name after a few half-hearted
utterances had been dropped. Thora had longed to call him Willie, but
at her death the scarcely recognized name was given up. But Snorro's
tender, positive little Jan had settled the matter in Margaret's
mind. Henceforward the boy was to be called by his father's name, and
she cared not whether it were liked or not.
To Margaret the winter passed drearily away. She refused to have any
part in Suneva's hospitalities, though the Fae House became during it
as famous for its gayety, as it had been in Thora's time for its quiet
and seclusion. Suneva had no idea of being the mistress of a shut up
house. She was proud of her large rooms and fine furniture, and anxious
to exhibit them. Besides which, she was in her element as hostess of
the cozy tea-party or the merry dance.
Fortunately for her peaceful success, Peter discovered that he had
the same taste. It had lain dormant and undeveloped during his struggle
for wealth, and in the quiet content of Thora's atmosphere; but every
circumstance now favored its growth, and he became quite as proud of
his name as a generous and splendid host, as he was of his character as
a keen and successful trader.
He was still a handsome man, fresh and active, carrying his
fifty-eight years with all the dignity of conscious independence and
assured position. It was Suneva's great pride that she had induced him
to wear the fine cloth and velvet and linen suitable to his wealth. She
flattered him into many an extravagance; she persuaded him that no one
in the Islands could recite as well, or dance with more activity and
grace. Under her influence Peter renewed his youth and enjoyed it.
Margaret often heard them planning some entertainment, and laughing
over it, with all the zest of twenty years.
To her, their whole life seemed an outrage. She could not imagine
how her father could bear to put aside so completely his old habits and
memories. It wounded her to see him going off with a joke and a kiss to
the store in the morning; and hurrying back at night, as eager as a
boy-bridegroom for the company of his handsome wife and her gay
friends. It may easily be understood that even if Margaret had
countenanced Suneva's festivities by her presence at them, she would
have been only a silent and a reproachful guest.
It is but fair to say that Suneva gave to her absence the best and
kindest excuse. Poor Margaret! she said pitifully, she weeps
constantly for her husband. Few wives are as faithful.
Suneva had indeed taken Thora's place with a full determination to
be just and kind to Thora's daughter. She intended, now that fortune
had placed her above her old rival, to treat her with respect and
consideration. Suneva was capable of great generosities, and if
Margaret had had the prudence and forbearance to accept the peace
offered, she might have won whatever she desired through the influence
of her child, for whom Suneva conceived a very strong attachment.
But this was just the point which Margaret defended with an almost
insane jealousy. She saw that little Jan clung to Suneva, that he liked
to be with her, that he often cried in the solitude of her room to go
down stairs, where he knew he would have sweetmeats, and petting, and
company, and his own way. If ever she was cross to the boy, it was on
this subject. She would not even be bribed by Suneva's most diplomatic
services in his behalf. Let Jan come where his grandfather is,
Margaret, she pleaded. It will be for his good; I tell thee it will.
I have already persuaded him that the boy has his eyes, and his figure,
and when he was in a passion the other night, and thy father was like
to be cross with him, I said, 'It is a nice thing to see Satan
correcting sin, for the child has thy own quick temper, Peter,' and thy
father laughed and pulled little Jan to his side, and gave him the lump
of sugar he wanted.
The boy is all thou hast left me. Would thou take him also?
Margaret answered with angry eyes. His mother's company is good enough
So all winter the hardly-admitted strife went on. Suneva pitied the
child. She waylaid him and gave him sweetmeats and kisses. She imagined
that he daily grew more pale and quiet. And Margaret, suspicious and
watchful, discovered much, and imagined more. She was determined to go
away from Suneva as soon as the spring opened, but she had come to the
conclusion that she must look after her house herself, for though
Snorro had promised to make it habitable, evidently he had been unable
to do so, or he would have contrived to let her know.
One day in the latter part of April, all nature suddenly seemed to
awake. The winter was nearly over. Margaret heard the larks singing in
the clear sunshine. Little Jan had fallen asleep and might remain so
for a couple of hours. She put on her cloak and bonnet, and went to see
how far Snorro had been able to keep his word. Things were much better
than she had hoped for. Nearly all of the windows had been reglazed,
the gate was hung, and the accumulated drift of two years in the yard
With lighter spirits, and a firm determination in her heart, she
walked swiftly back to her child. When she entered the door she heard
his merry laugh in Suneva's parlor. He was standing on her knee,
singing after her some lines of a fisherman's Casting Song, swaying
backwards and forwards, first on one foot and then on the other, to the
melody. Suneva was so interested in the boy, that, for a moment, she
did not notice the pale, angry woman approaching her. When she did, her
first thought was conciliation. I heard him crying, Margaret; and as I
knew thou wert out, I went for him. He is a merry little fellow, he
hath kept me laughing.
Come here, Jan! In her anger, she grasped the child's arm roughly,
and he cried out, and clung to Suneva.
Then Margaret's temper mastered her as it had never done before in
her life. She struck the child over and over again, and, amid its cries
of pain and fright, she said some words to Suneva full of bitterness
Thee love thy child! cried Suneva in a passion, not thou, indeed!
Thou loves no earthly thing but thyself. Every day the poor baby
suffers for thy bad tempereven as his father did.
Speak thou not of his fatherthou, who first tempted him away from
his home and his wife.
When thou says such a thing as that, then thou lies; I tempted him
not. I was sorry for him, as was every man and woman in Lerwick. Poor
I told thee not to speak of my husband.
Thy husband! cried Suneva scornfully. Where is he? Thou may well
turn pale. Good for thee is it that the Troll Rock hasn't a tongue!
Thou cruel woman! I wonder at myself that I have borne with thee so
long. Thou ought to be made to tell what thou did with Jan Vedder!
What art thou saying? What dost thou mean? I will not listen to
theeand she lifted the weeping child in her arms, and turned to go.
But at last thou shalt listen. I have spared thee long enough.
Where is Jan Vedder? Thou knows and thou only; and that is what every
one says of thee. Is he at the bottom of the Troll Rock? And who pushed
him over? Answer that, Margaret Vedder!
Suneva, in her passion, almost shrieked out these inquiries. Her
anger was so violent, that it silenced her opponent. But no words could
have interpreted the horror and anguish in Margaret's face, when she
realized the meaning of Suneva's questions. The sudden storm ended in
the lull which follows recrimination. Suneva sat fuming and muttering
to herself; Margaret, in her room, paced up and down, the very image of
despairing shame and sorrow. When her father returned she knew Suneva
would tell him all that had transpired. To face them both was a trial
beyond her strength. She looked at her child softly sobbing on the bed
beside her, and her heart melted at the injustice she had done him. But
she felt that she must take him away from Suneva, or he would be stolen
from her; worse than stolen, he would be made to regard her as a terror
and a tyrant.
She heard the clatter of the tea-cups and the hum of conversation,
and knew that her father was at home. As soon as he had finished his
tea, she would probably be summoned to his presence. It had grown dark
and a rain-storm was coming; nevertheless she dressed herself and
little Jan, and quietly went out of the house. Peter and Suneva were
discussing the quarrel over their tea; the servants sat spinning by the
kitchen fire, doing the same. She only glanced at them, and then she
hastened toward the town as fast as she could.
Snorro was sitting at the store-fire, a little pot of tea, a barley
cake, and a broiled herring by his side. He was thinking of Jan, and
lo! a knock at the doorjust such a knock as Jan always gave. His
heart bounded with hope; before he thought of possibilities he had
opened it. Not Jan, but Jan's wife and child, and both of them weeping.
He said not a word, but he took Margaret's hand and led her to the
fire. Her cloak and hood were dripping with the rain, and he removed
and shook them. Then he lifted the child in his arms and gave him some
tea, and soon soothed his trouble and dried his tears.
Margaret sobbed and wept with a passion that alarmed him. He had
thought at first that he would not interfere, but his tender heart
could not long endure such evident distress without an effort to give
What is the matter with thee, Margaret Vedder? and why art thou and
thy child here?
We have nowhere else to go to-night, Snorro. Then Margaret told
him every thing.
He listened in silence, making no comments, asking no questions,
until she finished in another burst of anguish, as she told him of
Suneva's accusation. Then he said gravely: It is a shame. Drink this
cup of tea, and then we will go to the minister. He only can guide the
boat in this storm.
I can not go there, Snorro. I have been almost rude and indifferent
to him. Three times he has written to me concerning my duty; many times
he has talked to me about it. Now he will say, 'Thou hast reaped the
harvest thou sowed, Margaret Vedder.'
He will say no unkind word to thee. I tell thee thou must go. There
is none else that can help thee. Go for little Jan's sake. Wrap the boy
up warm. Come.
She was weeping and weary, but Snorro took her to the manse,
carrying little Jan under his own coat. Margaret shrank from an
interview with Dr. Balloch, but she had no need. He was not a man to
bruise the broken reed; no sooner did he cast his eyes upon the forlorn
woman than he understood something of the crisis that had brought her
to him for advice and protection.
He took them into his cheerful parlor, and sent their wet clothing
to the kitchen to be dried. Then he said: Snorro, now thou go and help
Hamish to make us a good supper. It is ill facing trouble on an empty
stomach. And light a fire, Snorro, in the room up stairs; thou knowest
which room; for Margaret and her son will have to sleep there. And
after that, thou stop with Hamish, for it will be better so.
There were no reproofs now on the good doctor's lips. He never
reminded Margaret how often he had striven to win her confidence and to
lead her to the only source of comfort for the desolate and
broken-hearted. First of all, he made her eat, and dry and warm
herself; then he drew from her the story of her grief and wrongs.
Thou must have thy own home, Margaret, that is evident, he said;
and as for Suneva, I will see to her in the morning. Thou art innocent
of thy husband's death, I will make her to know that. Alas! how many
are there, who if they can not wound upon proof, will upon likelihood!
Now there is a room ready for thee, and thou must stay here, until this
matter is settled for thee.
It seemed a very haven of rest to Margaret. She went to it
gratefully, and very soon fell into that deep slumber which in youth
follows great emotions. When she awoke the fire had been re-built, and
little Jan's bread and milk stood beside it. It was a dark, dripping
morning; the rain smote the windows in sudden, gusts, and the wind
wailed drearily around the house. But in spite of the depressing
outside influences, her heart was lighter than it had been for many a
day. She felt as those feel who have escaped; and she dressed and fed
her child with a grateful heart.
When she went down stairs she found that, early as it was, the
doctor had gone to her father's house; and she understood that this
visit was made in order to see him where conversation would not be
interrupted by the entrance of buyers and sellers.
Dr. Balloch found Peter sitting at breakfast with Suneva, in his
usual cheerful, self-complacent mood. In fact, he knew nothing of
Margaret's flight from his house. She rarely left her boy to join the
tea-table; she never appeared at the early breakfast. Her absence was
satisfactory to both parties, and had long ceased to call forth either
protest or remark. So neither of them were aware of the step she had
taken, and the minister's early visit did not connect itself with her,
until he said gravely to Peter, Dost thou know where thy daughter is?
She hath not left her room yet, answered Suneva; she sleeps late
for the child's sake.
She hath left thy house, Peter. Last night I gave her and the child
shelter from the storm.
Peter rose in a great passion: Then she can stay away from my
house. Here she comes back no more.
I think that, too. It is better she should not come back. But now
thou must see that her own home is got ready for her, and that
The house thou gave her at her marriage.
I gave her no house. She had the use of it. The title deeds never
left my hands.
Then more shame to thee. Did thou not boast to every one, that thou
had given the house and the plenishing? No title deeds, no lawyer's
paper, can make the house more Margaret Vedder's than thy own words
have done. Thou wilt not dare to break thy promise, thou, who ate the
Bread of Remembrance only last Sabbath Day. Begin this very hour to put
the house in order, and then put the written right to it in her hands.
Any hour thou may be called to give an account; leave the matter beyond
It will take a week to glaze and clean it.
It is glazed and cleaned. Michael Snorro brought the sashes one by
one to the store, and glazed them, when he had done his work at night.
He hath also mended the plaster, and kept a fire in the house to dry
it; and he hath cleaned the yard and re-hung the gate. Begin thou at
once to move back again the furniture. It never ought to have been
removed, and I told thee that at the time. Thou knowest also what
promises thou made me, and I will see that thou keep them every one,
Peter Fae. Yes, indeed, I will!
It is too wet to move furniture.
The rain will be over at the noon. Until then thy men can carry
peats and groceries, and such store of dried meats as will be
Peter, said Suneva indignantly, I counsel thee to do nothing in a
Dr. Balloch answered her, I counsel thee, Mistress Fae, to keep
well the door of thy mouth. It is no light thing to make the charges
thou hast made against an innocent woman.
I asked her how Jan Vedder got his death? Let her tell that.
I might ask thee how Paul Glumm got his death! Listen now, and I
will show thee what a great thing may come from one foul suspicion.
Thou married Paul Glumm, and it is well known he and thee were not
always in the same mind, for thou loved company and he loved quiet.
Then Glumm took thee to the Skoolfiord, where there were none at the
station but thee and he. Thou knowest how thou rebelled at that, and
how often thou could be found in thy father's house. Suddenly Glumm
takes a sickness, and when a doctor sees him there is little hope, and
after three days he dies. Then thou art back at Lerwick again, quick
enough, and in a few weeks thou hast plenty of lovers. Now, then, how
easy to say, 'Glumm's death was a very strange affair!' 'Such a strong
young man!' 'Did his wife know any thing about it?' 'Did she send for a
doctor as soon as might be?' 'Did she give him the medicine the doctor
left?' 'Was she not very glad when she was free again?' Mistress Fae, I
say not these things were so, or were even said, I am only trying to
show thee how easy it is out of nothing at all to make up a very
suspicious case. But come, Peter, there is duty to be done, and I know
that thou wilt do it. And I am in haste about it, for it is not easy
for Hamish to have a woman and child at the manse. Hamish has failed
Send the woman with her child here.
No, for it is easier to avoid quarrels than to mend them. Margaret
shall stay at the manse till her own house is ready.
So they went away together, leaving Suneva crying with anger; partly
because of the minister's lecture; partly because she thought Peter had
not stood up for her as he ought to have done. As for Peter, though
he did not think of disobeying the order given him, yet he resented the
interference; and he was intensely angry at Margaret for having caused
it. When he arrived at the store, he was made more so by Snorro's
attitude. He sat upon a sailor's chest with his hands folded before
him, though the nets were to be examined and a score of things to get
for the fishers.
Can thou find nothing for thy lazy hands to do? he asked
scornfully, or are they weary of the work thou hast been doing at
My mind is not to lift a finger for thee again, Peter Fae; and as
for what I do at night, that is my own affair. I robbed thee not,
neither of time nor gear.
From whence came the glass, and the nails, and the wood, and the
I bought them with my own money. If thou pays me the outlay it will
be only just. The work I gave freely to the wife of Jan Vedder.
Then since thou hast mended the house, thou may carry back the
furniture into it.
I will do that freely also. Thou never ought to have counseled its
removal; for that reason, I blame thee for all that followed it.
Snorro then hailed a passing fisherman, and they lifted his chest in
order to go away.
What art thou taking?
My own clothes, and my own books, and whatever is my own. Nothing
For that I will come no more here.
Yes, thou wilt.
I will come no more.
Peter was much troubled. Angry as he was, grief at Snorro's
defection was deeper than any other feeling. For nearly twenty years he
had relied on him. Besides the inconvenience to the business, the loss
of faith was bitter. But he said no more at that time. When Margaret
was in her home, Snorro would be easier to manage. More as a
conciliatory measure with him, than as kindness to his offending
daughter, he said, First of all, however, take a load of tea, and
sugar and flour, and such things as will be needed; thou knowest them.
Take what thou wishes, and all thou wishes; then, thou canst not say
evil of me.
When did I say evil of thee, only to thy face? Michael Snorro hath
but one tongue. It knows not how to slander or to lie. Pay me my wages,
and I will go, and speak to thee no more.
Do what I said and come back to me in three days; then we will
settle this trouble between us; saying which, Peter went into his
counting house, and Snorro went to work with all his will and strength
to get Margaret's house ready for her.
But though he hired three men to help him, it was the evening of the
second day before she could remove to it. It was a different homecoming
from her previous one in that dwelling. Then all had been in
exquisitely spotless order, and Jan had turned and kissed her at the
open door. This night every thing was in confusion. Snorro had carried
all her belongings into the house, but they were unpacked and
unarranged. Still he had done a great deal. A large fire was burning,
the kettle boiling on the hearth, and on the little round table before
it he had put bread and milk and such things as would be necessary for
a first meal. Then, with an innate delicacy he had gone away, fully
understanding that at the first Margaret would wish to be quite alone.
She stood a minute and looked around. Then she opened the box in
which her china and silver were packed. In half an hour the tea-table
was spread. She even made a kind of festival of the occasion by giving
little Jan the preserved fruit he loved with his bread. It seemed to
her as if food had never tasted so good before. She was again at her
own table; at her own fireside! Her own roof covered her! There was no
one to gloom at her or make her feel uncomfortable. Work, poverty, all
things, now seemed possible and bearable.
When Jan had chattered himself weary she laid him in his cot, and
sat hour after hour in the dim light of the glowing peats, thinking,
planning, praying, whispering Jan's name to her heart, feeling almost
as if she were in his presence. When at length she rose and turned the
key in her own house again, she was as proud and as happy as a queen
who has just come into her kingdom, and who lifts for the first time
the scepter of her authority.
CHAPTER XI. SNORRO IS WANTED.
Now the great heart
Leaps to new action and appointed toil
With steady hope, sure faith, and sober joy.
During the next two years, Margaret's life appeared to be
monotonously without incident. In reality it deepened and broadened in
a manner but slightly indicated by the stillness of its surface. Early
in the morning following her re-occupation of her own house, she had
two visitors, Dr. Balloch and her old servant, Elga.
Elga's husband is with the Greenland fleet, said the minister;
she is poor and lonely, and wants to come back and serve thee.
But I can not afford a servant.
Thou can well afford it, take my word for that; besides, thou art
not used to hard work nor fit for it. Also, I have something better for
thee to do. When thy house is in order, come to the manse and see me,
then we will talk of it.
So Elga quietly resumed her old duties, and ere two weeks were gone
the house was almost in its first condition. White paint and soap and
water, bees'-wax and turpentine, needle and thread, did wonders. On the
evening of the eleventh day, Margaret and Elga went from attic to
cellar with complete satisfaction. Every thing was spotless, every
thing was in its old place. Jan's big cushioned chair again stood on
the hearth, and little Jan took possession of it. Many a night, wearied
with play, he cuddled himself up among its cushions, and had there his
first sleep. It is easy to imagine what Margaret's thoughts were with
such a picture before hertender, regretful, loving thoughts most
surely, for the fine shawl or stocking she was knitting at the time was
generally wet with her tears.
The day after all was in its place and settled, she went to see Dr.
Balloch. It was in the early morning when every thing was sweet, and
cool and fresh. The blue-bells and daisies were at her feet, the sea
dimpling and sparkling in the sunshine, the herring-fleet gathering in
the bay. Already the quays and streets were full of strangers, and many
a merry young fisherman with a pile of nets flung over his shoulders
passed her, singing and whistling in the fullness of his life and hope.
All of them, in some way or other, reminded her of Jan. One carried his
nets in the same graceful, nonchalant way; another wore his cap at the
same angle; a third was leaning against his oars, just as she had seen
Jan lean a hundred times.
The minister sat at his open door, looking seaward. His serene face
was full of the peace and light of holy contemplation. His right hand
was lovingly laid on the open Bible, which occupied the small table by
Come in, Margaret, he said pleasantly. Come in; is all well with
Every thing is well. The house is in order and Snorro hath promised
to plant some berry bushes in my garden; he will plant them to-day with
the flower seeds thou gave me. The snowdrops are in bloom already, and
the pansies show their buds among the leaves.
Dost thou know that Snorro hath left thy father?
He told me that he had taken John Hay's cottage, the little stone
one on the hill above my house, and that in three days he would go to
the fishing with Matthew Vale.
Now, then, what wilt thou do with thy time? Let me tell thee, time
is a very precious gift of God; so precious that he only gives it to us
moment by moment. He would not have thee waste it.
Margaret took from her pocket a piece of knitting. It was a shawl
twelve yards round, yet of such exquisite texture that she drew it
easily through a wedding ring. Beautiful it was as the most beautiful
lace, and the folds of fine wool fell infinitely softer than any fold
of fine flax could do. It was a marvelous piece of handiwork, and Dr.
Balloch praised it highly.
I am going to send it to the Countess of Zetland, she said. I
have no doubt she will send me as many orders as I can fill. Each shawl
is worth £7, and I can also do much coarser work, which I shall sell at
Would thou not rather work for me than for the Countess?
Thou knowest I would, ten thousand times rather. But how can I work
What is there, Margaret, on the long table under the window?
There is a large pile of newspapers and magazines and books.
That is so. None of these have I been able to read, because my
sight has failed me very much lately. Yet I long to know every word
that is in them. Wilt thou be eyes to an old man who wishes thee only
well, Margaret? Come every day, when the weather and thy health
permits, and read to me for two hours, write my letters for me, and do
me a message now and then, and I will cheerfully pay thee £50 a year.
I would gladly do all this without money, and think the duty most
Nay, but I will pay thee, for that will be better for thee and for
Now all good work is good for far more than appears upon its
surface. The duties undertaken by Margaret grew insensibly and steadily
in beneficence and importance. In the first place, the effect upon her
own character was very great. It was really two hours daily study of
the finest kind. It was impossible that the books put into her hand
could be read and discussed with a man like Dr. Balloch without mental
enlargement. Equally great and good was the moral effect of the
companionship. Her pen became the pen of a ready writer, for the old
clergyman kept up a constant correspondence with his college
companions, and with various learned societies.
About three months after this alliance began, the doctor said one
day, Thou shalt not read to me this morning, for I want thee to carry
some wine and jelly to old Neill Brock, and when thou art there, read
to him. Here is a list of the Psalms and the Epistles that will be the
best for him. And Margaret came back from her errand with a solemnly
happy light upon her face. It was a blessed hour, she said, surely
he is very near the kingdom.
This service once begun grew by a very natural course of events.
Margaret delighted in it. The sick loved her calm, gentle ways. She was
patient and silent, and yet sympathetic. She had that womanly taste
which naturally sets itself to make dainty dishes for those who can not
eat coarse food. In a few months the sick all through the parish felt
the soothing touch of her soft, cool hands, and became familiar with
the tones of her low, even voice, as she read aloud the portions which
Dr. Balloch usually selected for every case.
And as there is no service so gratefully remembered as that given in
sickness, Margaret Vedder gradually acquired a very sincere popularity.
It rather amazed Peter to hear such remarks as the following: Luke
Thorkel is better, thanks to Margaret Vedder. John Johnson can go to
the fishing with an easy mind now, Margaret Vedder is caring for his
sick wife. The Widow Hay died last night. She would have died ere
this, but for Margaret Vedder's care.
These outside duties made her home duties sufficient to fill all her
time. She had no hours to spare for foolish repining, or morbid sorrow.
Little Jan must be taught his letters, and his clothes must be made.
Her garden, poultry and knitting kept her hands ever busy, and though
her work was much of it of that silent kind which leads to brooding
thought, she had now much of interest to fill her mind. Yet still, and
always, there was the haunting, underlying memory of Jan's
disappearance or death, keeping her life hushed and silent. To no one
did she speak of it, and it seemed strange to her that Dr. Balloch
visibly discouraged any allusion to it. Sometimes she felt as if she
must speak to Snorro about it, but Snorro kept ever a little aloof from
her. She was not very sure as to his friendship.
She thought this a little hard, for she had given him every
opportunity to understand that her own animosity was dead. She
permitted little Jan to spend nearly all his time with him, when he was
not engaged in fishing, or busy on the quays. And Snorro now spent much
of his time at home. His earnings during the fishing season more than
sufficed for his wants. Every fine day in winter he was apt to call for
little Jan, and Margaret rarely refused him the child's company.
And little Jan dearly loved Snorro. Snorro put him in the water, and
taught him how to swim like a seal. Snorro made him a spear and taught
him how to throw it. He made him a boat and taught him how to sail it.
He got him a pony and taught him how to ride it. Once they found a baby
seal whose mother had been shot, and the child kept it at Snorro's
house. There also he had a dozen pet rabbits, and three Skye terriers,
and a wild swan with a broken wing, and many other treasures, which
would not have been so patiently tolerated in the cleanliness and order
of his own home.
So the time went pleasantly and profitably by for two years. Again
the spring joy was over the land, and the town busy with the hope of
the fishing season. Snorro's plans were all made, and yet he felt
singularly restless and unsettled. As he sat one evening wondering at
this feeling, he said to himself: It is the dreams I have had lately,
or it is because I think of Jan so much. Why does he not write? Oh, how
I long to see him! Well, the day will come, by God's leave.
Just as this thought crossed his mind, Dr. Balloch stepped across
his threshold. Snorro rose up with a face of almost painful anxiety. He
always associated a visit from the doctor with news from Jan. He could
scarcely articulate the inquiry, Hast thou any news?
Great news for thee, Snorro. Jan is coming home from Africa. He is
broken down with the fever. He wants thee. Thou must go to him at once,
for he hath done grand work, and proved himself a hero, worthy even of
thy true great love.
I am readyI have been waiting for him to call me. I will go this
Be patient. Every thing must be done wisely and in order. The first
thing is supper. I came away without mine, so now I will eat with thee.
Get the tea ready; then I will tell thee all I know.
As Snorro moved about, the doctor looked at his home. Every piece of
furniture in it was of Snorro's own manufacture. His bed was a sailor's
bunk against the wall, made soft with sheep-fleeces and covered with
seal-skins. A chair of woven rushes for little Jan, a couple of stools
and a table made from old packing boxes, and a big hearth-rug of
sheep-skins, that was all. But over the fireplace hung the pictured
Christ, and some rude shelves were filled with the books Jan had
brought him. On the walls, also, were harpoons and seal spears, a
fowling-piece, queer ribbons and branches of sea weeds, curiosities
given him by sailors from all countries, stuffed birds and fish
skeletons, and a score of other things, which enabled the doctor to
understand what a house of enchantment it must be to a boy like little
In a few minutes the table was set, and Snorro had poured out the
minister's tea, and put before him a piece of bread and a slice of
broiled mutton. As for himself he could not eat, he only looked at the
doctor with eyes of pathetic anxiety.
Snorro, dost thou understand that to go to Jan now is to leave,
forever perhaps, thy native land?
Wherever Jan is, that land is best of all.
He will be in Portsmouth ere thou arrive there. First, thou must
sail to Wick; there, thou wilt get a boat to Leith, and at Leith take
one for London. What wilt thou do in London?
Well, then, I have a tongue in my head; I will ask my way to
Portsmouth. When I am there it will be easy to find Jan's ship, and
then Jan. What help can thou give me in the matter?
That I will look to. Jan hath sent thee £100.
Snorro's face brightened like sunrise. I am glad that he thought of
me; but I will not touch the money. I have already more than £20. Thou
shalt keep the £100 for little Jan.
Snorro, he hath also sent the £600 he took from his wife, that and
But how? How could he do that already?
He has won it from the men who coin life into gold; it is mostly
Good luck to Jan's hands! That is much to my mind.
I will tell thee one instance, and that will make thee understand
it better. Thou must know that it is not a very easy matter to blockade
over three thousand miles of African coast, especially as the slave
ships are very swift, and buoyant. Indeed the Spanish and Portuguese
make theirs of very small timbers and beams which they screw together.
When chased the screws are loosened, and this process gives the vessel
amazing play. Their sails are low, and bent broad. Jan tells me that
the fore-yard of a brig of one hundred and forty tons, taken by 'The
Retribution' was seventy-six feet long, and her ropes so beautifully
racked aloft, that after a cannonade of sixty shot, in which upward of
fifty took effect, not one sail was lowered. Now thou must perceive
that a chase in the open sea would mostly be in favor of vessels built
so carefully for escape.
Why, then, do not the Government build the same kind of vessels?
That is another matter. I will go into no guesses about it. But
they do not build them, and therefore captures are mostly made by the
boats which are sent up the rivers to lie in wait for the slavers
putting out to sea. Sometimes these boats are away for days, sometimes
even for weeks; and an African river is a dreadful place for British
sailors, Snorro: the night air is loaded with fever, the days are
terrible with a scorching sun.
I can believe that; but what of Jan?
One morning Jan, with a four-oared gig, chased a slave brig. They
had been at the river mouth all night watching for her. Thou knows,
Snorro, what a fine shot our Jan is. When she came in sight he picked
off five of her crew, and compelled her to run on shore to avoid being
boarded. Then her crew abandoned her, in order to save their own lives,
and 'The Retribution' hove her off. She proved to be a vessel of two
hundred tons, and she carried one thousand slaves. She was taken as a
prize into Sierra Leone, and sold, and then Jan got his share of her.
But why did not the slavers fight?
Bad men are not always brave men; and sometimes they fly when no
man pursues them. Portuguese slavers are proverbial cowards, yet
sometimes Jan did have a hard fight with the villains.
I am right glad of that.
About a year ago, he heard of a brigantine of great size and speed
lying in the old Calabar river with a cargo of slaves destined for
Cuba. She carried five eighteen-pounder guns, and a crew of eighty men;
and her captain had vowed vengeance upon 'The Retribution' and upon
Jan, for the slavers he had already taken. Jan went down to the old
Calabar, but he could not enter it, so he kept out of sight, waiting
for the slaver to put to sea.
At length she was seen coming down the river under all sail. Then
'The Retribution' lowered her canvas in order to keep out of sight as
long as possible. When she hoisted it again, the slaver in spite of her
boasts endeavored to escape, and then Jan, setting all the canvas his
schooner could carry, stood after her in chase. The slaver was the
faster of the two, and Jan feared he would lose her; but fortunately a
calm came on and both vessels got out their sweeps. Jan's vessel, being
the smaller, had now the advantage, and his men sent her flying through
All night they kept up the chase, and the next morning Jan got
Oh, cried Snorro, if I had only been there! Why did no one tell
me there was such work for strong men to do?
Now I will tell thee a grand thing that our Jan did. Though the
slaver was cutting his rigging to pieces with her shot, Jan would not
fire till he was close enough to aim only at her decks. Why, Snorro?
Because below her decks there was packed in helpless misery five
hundred black men, besides many women and little children.
That was like Jan. He has a good heart.
But when he was close enough, he loaded his guns with grape, and
ordered two men to be ready to lash the slaver to 'The Retribution,'
the moment they touched. Under cover of the smoke, Jan and ten men
boarded the slaver, but unfortunately, the force of the collision drove
'The Retribution' off, and Jan and his little party found themselves
opposed to the eighty villains who formed the slaver's crew.
For a moment it seemed as if they must be overpowered, but a
gallant little midshipman, only fourteen years old, Snorro, think of
that, gave an instant order to get out the sweeps, and almost
immediately 'The Retribution,' was alongside, and securely lashed to
her enemy. Then calling on the sailors to follow him the brave little
lad boarded her, and a desperate hand to hand fight followed. After
fifteen Spaniards had been killed and near forty wounded, the rest
leaped below and cried for quarter.
Snorro would have given them just ten minutes to say a prayer, no
more. It is a sin to be merciful to the wicked, it is that; and the
kindness done to them is unblessed, and brings forth sin and trouble. I
have seen it.
What thinkest thou? When Jan flung open the hatches under which the
poor slaves were fastened, sixty were dead, one hundred and twenty
dying. During the twenty-eight hours' chase and fight in that terrible
climate they had not been given a drop of water, and the air was putrid
and hot as an oven. Most of them had to be carried out in the arms of
Jan's sailors. There were seven babies in this hell, and thirty-three
children between the ages of two years and seven. Many more died before
Jan could reach Sierra Leone with them. This is the work Jan has been
doing, Snorro; almost I wish I was a young man again, and had been with
The doctor's eyes were full; Snorro's head was in his hands upon the
table. When the doctor ceased, he stood up quivering with anger, and
said, If God would please Michael Snorro, he would send him to chase
and fight such devils. He would give them the measure they gave to
others, little air and less water, and a rope's end to finish them.
That would be good enough for them; it would that.
Well, then, thou wilt go to Jan?
I must go to-morrow. How can I wait longer? Is there a mail boat in
It was Lord Lynne brought me the news and the money. He will carry
thee as far as Wick. The tide serves at five o'clock to-morrow morning,
can thou be ready?
Ay, surely. Great joy hath come to me, but I can be ready to meet
Lean on me in this matter as much as thou likest; what is there I
can do for thee?
Wilt thou care for what I have in my house, especially the
I will do that.
Then I have but to see Margaret Vedder and little Jan. I will be on
'The Lapwing,' ere she lift her anchor. God bless thee for all the good
words thou hast said to me!
When thou sees Jan, say what will make peace between him and
Snorro's brow clouded. I like not to meddle in the matter. What
must be is sure to happen, whether I speak or speak not.
But mind thisit will be thy duty to speak well of Margaret
Vedder. The whole town do that now.
She was ever a good woman some way. There is not now a name too
good for her. It hath become the fashion to praise Jan Vedder's wife,
and also to pity her. If thou heard the talk, thou would think that Jan
was wholly to blame. For all that, I do not think she is worthy of Jan.
Why does she not talk to her son of his father? Who ever saw her weep
at Jan's name? I had liked her better if she had wept more.
It is little men know of women; their smiles and their tears alike
are seldom what they seem. I think Margaret loves her husband and
mourns his loss sincerely; but she is not a woman to go into the
market-place to weep. Do what is right and just to her, I counsel thee
to do that. Now I will say 'Farewell, brave Snorro.' We may not meet
again, for I am growing old.
We shall anchor in the same harbor at last. If thou go first,
whatever sea I am on, speak me on thy way, if thou can do so.
Perhaps so. Who can tell? Farewell, mate.
Snorro watched him across the moor, and then going to a locked box,
he took out of it a bundle in a spotted blue handkerchief. He untied
it, and for a moment looked over the contents. They were a bracelet set
with sapphires, a ring to match it, a gold brooch, an amber comb and
necklace, a gold locket on a chain of singular beauty, a few ribbons
and lace collars, and a baby coral set with silver bells; the latter
had been in Jan's pocket when he was shipwrecked, and it was bruised
and tarnished. The sight of it made Snorro's eyes fill, and he hastily
knotted the whole of the trinkets together and went down to Margaret's
It was near nine o'clock and Margaret was tired and not very glad to
see him coming, for she feared his voice would awake little Jan who was
sleeping in his father's chair. Rather wearily she said, What is the
matter, Snorro? Is any one sick? Speak low, for little Jan is asleep,
and he has been very tiresome to-night.
Nothing much is the matter, to thee. As for me, I am going away in
the morning to the mainland. I may not be back very soon, and I want to
kiss Jan, and to give thee some things which belong to thee, if thou
cares for them.
What hast thou of mine?
Wilt thou look then? They are in the handkerchief.
He watched her keenly, perhaps a little hardly, as she untied the
knot. He watched the faint rose-color deepen to scarlet on her face; he
saw how her hands trembled, as she laid one by one the jewels on the
table, and thoughtfully fingered the lace yellow with neglect. But
there were no tears in her dropped eyes, and she could scarcely have
been more deliberate in her examination, if she had been appraising
their value. And yet, her heart was burning and beating until she found
it impossible to speak.
Snorro's anger gathered fast. His own feelings were in such a state
of excitement, that they made him unjust to a type of emotion
unfamiliar to him.
Well then, he asked, sharply, dost thou want them or not?
Jan bought them for me?
Yes, he bought them, and thou sent them back to him. If thou had
sent me one back, I had never bought thee another. But Jan Vedder was
not like other men.
We will not talk of Jan, thee and me. What did thou bring these
I told thee I was going to Wick, and it would not be safe to leave
them, nor yet to take them with me. I was so foolish, also, as to think
that thou would now prize them for Jan's sake, but I see thou art the
same woman yet. Give them to me, I will take them to the minister.
Leave them here. I will keep them safely.
The rattle was bought for little Jan. It was in his father's pocket
when he was shipwrecked.
She stood with it in her hand, gazing down upon the tarnished bells,
and answered not a word. Snorro looked at her angrily, and then stooped
down, and softly kissed the sleeping child.
Good-by, Margaret Vedder!
She had lifted the locket in the interval, and was mechanically
passing her fingers along the chain. It is the very pattern I wished
for, she whispered to her heart, I remember drawing it for him. She
did not hear Snorro's good-by, and he stood watching her curiously a
I said 'good-by,' Margaret Vedder.
Good-by, she answered mechanically. Her whole soul was moved. She
was in a maze of tender, troubled thoughts, but Snorro perceived
nothing but her apparent interest in the jewels. He could not forget
his last sight of her standing, so apparently calm, with her eyes fixed
upon the locket and chain that dangled from her white hand. She was
wondering how much they cost Jan, he thought bitterly; what a cold,
cruel woman she is!
That she had not asked him about his own affairs, why he left so
hurriedly, how he was going, for what purpose, how long he was to be
away, was a part of her supreme selfishness, Snorro thought. He could
no longer come into her life, and so she cared nothing about him. He
wished Dr. Balloch could have seen her as he did, with poor Jan's
love-gifts in her hands. With his heart all aflame on Jan's noble
deeds, and his imagination almost deifying the man, the man he loved so
entirely, Margaret's behavior was not only very much misunderstood by
Snorro, it was severely and unjustly condemned.
What did God make women for? he asked angrily, as he strode back
over the moor. I hope Jan has forgotten her, for it is little she
thinks of him.
On reaching his home again he dressed himself in his best clothes,
for he could not sleep. He walked up and down the old town, and over
the quays, and stood a five minutes before Peter Fae's store, and so
beguiled the hours until he could go on board The Lapwing.
At five o'clock he saw Lord Lynne come aboard, and the anchor was
raised. Snorro lifted his cap, and said, Good morning, Lord Lynne;
and my lord answered cheerily, Good morning, Snorro. With this wind we
shall make a quick passage to Wick.
CHAPTER XII. SNORRO AND JAN.
And yet when all is thought and said,
The heart still overrules the head;
Still what we hope, we must believe,
And what is given us receive.
Snorro had indeed very much misjudged Margaret. During her interview
with him she had been absorbed in one effort, that of preserving her
self-control while he was present. As soon as he had gone, she fled to
her own room, and locking the door, she fell upon her knees. Jan's last
love-gifts lay on the bed before her, and she bent her head over them,
covering them with tears and kisses.
Oh, Jan! Oh, my darling! she whispered to the deaf and dumb
emblems of his affection. Oh, if thou could come back to me again!
Never more would I grieve thee, or frown on thee! Never should thy
wishes be unattended to, or thy pleasure neglected! No one on earth, no
one should speak evil of thee to me! I would stand by thee as I
promised until death! Oh, miserable, unworthy wife that I have been!
What shall I do? If now thou knew at last how dearly Margaret loves
thee, and how bitterly she repents her blindness and her cruelty!
So she mourned in half-articulate sobbing words, until little Jan
awoke and called her. Then she laid him in her own bed and sat down
beside him; quiet, but full of vague, drifting thoughts that she could
hardly catch, but which she resolutely bent her mind to examine. Why
had Snorro kept these things so long, and then that night suddenly
brought them to her at such a late hour? What was he going away for?
What was that strange light upon his face? She had never seen such a
look upon Snorro's face before. She let these questions importune her
all night, but she never dared put into form the suspicion which lay
dormant below them, that Jan had something to do with it; that Snorro
had heard from Jan.
In the morning she took the trinkets with her to Dr. Balloch's. She
laid them before him one by one, telling when, and how, they had been
offered and refused. All but this, she said, bursting into childlike
weeping, and showing the battered, tarnished baby coral. He brought
this for his child, and I would not let him see the baby. Oh, can there
be any mercy for one so unmerciful as I was?
Daughter, weep; thy tears are gracious tears. Would to God poor Jan
could see thee at this hour. Whatever happiness may now be his lot, thy
contrition would add to it, I know. Go home to-day. No one is in any
greater trouble than thou art. Give to thyself tears and prayers; it
may be that ere long God will comfort thee. And as thou goes, call at
Snorro's house. See that the fire is out, lock the door, and bring me
the key when thou comes to-morrow. I promised Snorro to care for his
Where hath Snorro gone?
What did he say to thee?
That he was going to Wick. But how then did he go? There was no
Lord Lynne took him in his yacht.
That is strange! and Margaret looked steadily at Dr. Balloch. It
seems to me, that Lord Lynne's yacht was at Lerwick, on that night;
When Skager and Jan quarreled?
She bowed her head, and continued to gaze inquisitively at him.
No, thou art mistaken. On that night he was far off on the Norway
coast. It must have been two weeks afterward, when he was in Lerwick.
When will Lord Lynne be here again?
I know not; perhaps in a few weeks, perhaps not until the end of
summer. He may not come again this year. He is more uncertain than the
Margaret sighed, and gathering her treasures together she went away.
As she had been desired, she called at Snorro's house. The key was on
the outside of the door, she turned it, and went in. The fire had been
carefully extinguished, and the books and simple treasures he valued
locked up in his wooden chest. It had evidently been quite filled with
these, for his clothes hung against the wall of an inner apartment.
Before these clothes Margaret stood in a kind of amazement. She was
very slow of thought, but gradually certain facts in relation to them
fixed themselves in her mind with a conviction which no reasoning could
Snorro had gone away in his best clothes; his fishing suit and his
working suit he had left behind. It was clear, then, that he had not
gone to the Wick fisheries; equally clear that he had not gone away
with any purpose of following his occupation in loading and unloading
vessels. Why had he gone then? Margaret was sure that he had no friends
beyond the Shetlands. Who was there in all the world that could tempt
Snorro from the little home he had made and loved; and who, or what
could induce him to leave little Jan?
Only Jan's father!
She came to this conclusion at last with a clearness and rapidity
that almost frightened her. Her cheeks burned, her heart beat wildly,
and then a kind of anger took possession of her. If Snorro knew any
thing, Dr. Balloch did also. Why was she kept in anxiety and
uncertainty? I will be very quiet and watch, she thought, and when
Lord Lynne comes again, I will follow him into the manse, and ask him
where my husband is.
As she took a final look at Snorro's belongings, she thought
pitifully, How little he has! And yet who was so good and helpful to
every one? I might have taken more interest in his housekeeping! How
many little things I could easily have added to his comforts! What a
selfish woman I must be! Little wonder that he despised me! And she
determined that hour to make Jan's friend her friend when he came back,
and to look better after his household pleasures and needs.
She had plenty now to think about, and she was on the alert morning,
noon, and night; but nothing further transpired to feed her hope for
nearly a month. The fishing season was then in full business, and Peter
Fae, as usual, full of its cares. There had been no formal
reconciliation between Margaret and her father and stepmother, and
there was no social intercourse between the houses, but still they were
on apparent terms of friendship with each other. The anger and ill-will
had gradually worn away, and both Peter and Suneva looked with respect
upon a woman so much in the minister's favor and company. Peter sent
her frequent presents from the store, and really looked upon his
handsome little grandson with longing and pride. When he was a few
years older he intended to propose to pay for his education. We'll
send him to Edinburgh, Suneva, he frequently said, and we will grudge
nothing that is for his welfare.
And Suneva, who had carefully fostered this scheme, would reply,
That is what I have always said, Peter. It is a poor family that has
not one gentleman in it, and, please God and thy pocket-book, we will
make a gentleman and a minister of our little Jan; and the thought of
his grandson filling a pulpit satisfied Peter's highest ambition.
So, though there had been no visiting between the two houses, there
were frequent tokens of courtesy and good-will, and Margaret, passing
through the town, and seeing her father at his shop-door, stopped to
speak to him.
Where hast thou been, and where is thy boy? he asked.
He is at home with Elga. I have been to read with Mary Venn; she is
failing fast, and not long for this life.
As they spoke Tulloch approached, and, with a cold bow to Peter,
turned to Margaret and said, I will walk with thee, Mistress Vedder,
as I have some business matter to speak of. Then, after they had
turned to Margaret's home: It was about the interest of the seven
hundred pounds placed to thy credit a few days since. I will count the
interest from the first of the month.
Margaret was completely amazed. Seven hundred pounds! she said, in
a low trembling voice. I know nothing about it. Surely thou art
dreaming. Who brought it to thee?
Dr. Balloch. He said it was conscience money and not to be talked
about. I suppose thy father sent it, for it is well known that he made
his will a few days ago.
Margaret, however, did not believe that it was her father. She was
sure Jan had sent the money. It was her £600, with £100 for interest.
And oh, how it pained her! Somewhere on earth Jan was alive, and he
would neither come to her, nor write to her. He sent her gold instead
of love, as if gold were all she wanted. He could scarcely have
contrived a more cruel revenge, she thought. For once she absolutely
hated money; but it put into her mind a purpose which would not leave
it. If Snorro could find Jan, she could. The money Jan had sent she
would use for that purpose.
She was cautious and suspicious by nature, and she determined to
keep her intention close in her own heart. All summer she watched
anxiously for the return of The Lapwing, but it came not. One day, in
the latter part of August, Dr. Balloch asked her to answer for him a
letter which he had received from Lord Lynne. She noted the address
carefully. It was in Hyde Park, London. Very well, she would go to
London. Perhaps she would be nearer to Jan if she did.
She had now nearly £1,000 of her own. If she spent every farthing of
it in the search and failed, she yet felt that she would be happier for
having made the effort. The scheme took entire possession of her, and
the difficulties in the way of its accomplishment only made her more
stubbornly determined. The first, was that of reaching the mainland
without encountering opposition. She was sure that both her father and
Dr. Balloch would endeavor to dissuade her; she feared they would
influence her against her heart and judgment. After August, the mail
boats would be irregular and infrequent; there was really not a day to
In the morning she went to see Tulloch. He was eating his breakfast
and he was not at all astonished to see her. He thought she had come to
talk to him about the investment of her money.
Good morning, Mistress Vedder! Thou hast been much on my mind, thou
and thy money, and no doubt it is a matter of some consequence what
thou will do with it.
I am come to speak to thee as a friend, in whom I may confide a
secret. Wilt thou hear, and keep it, and give me good advice?
I do not like to have to do with women's secrets, but thou art a
woman by thyself. Tell me all, then, but do not make more of the matter
than it is worth.
When Jan Vedder had no other friend, thou stood by him.
What then? Jan was a good man. I say that yet, and I say it to thy
face, Margaret Vedder. I think, too, that he had many wrongs.
I think that too, and I shall be a miserable woman until I have
found Jan, and can tell him to his face how sorry I am. So then, I am
going away to find him.
What art thou talking of? Poor Jan is dead. I am sure that is so.
I am sure it is not so. Now let me tell thee all. Then she went
over the circumstances which had fed her convictions, with a clearness
and certainty which brought conviction to Tulloch's mind also.
I am sure thou are right, he answered gravely, and I have nothing
at all to say against thy plan. It is a very good plan if it has good
management. Now, then, where will thou go first?
I have Lord Lynne's address in London. I will go first of all to
him. Jan sent me that money, I am sure. It must have been a person of
wealth and power who helped him to make such a sum, or he must have
lent Jan the money. I think this person was Lord Lynne.
I think that too. Now about thy money?
I will take it with me. Money in the pocket is a ready friend.
No, it will be a great care to thee. The best plan for thee is
this: take fifty pounds in thy pocket, and I will give thee a letter of
credit for the balance on a banking firm in London. I will also write
to them, and then, if thou wants advice on any matter, or a friend in
any case, there they will be to help thee.
That is good. I will leave also with thee twenty-five pounds for
Elga. Thou art to pay her five shillings every week. She will care for
my house until I return.
And thy child?
I will take him with me. If Jan is hard to me, he may forgive me
for the child's sake.
Build not thy hopes too high. Jan had a great heart, but men are
men, and not God. Jan may have forgotten thee.
I have deserved to be forgotten.
He may not desire to live with thee any more.
If he will only listen to me while I say, 'I am sorry with all my
heart, Jan;' if he will only forgive my unkindness to him, I shall
count the journey well made, though I go to the ends of the earth to
God go with thee, and make all thy plans to prosper. Here is the
table of the mail boats. One leaves next Saturday morning at six
o'clock. My advice is to take it. I will send on Thursday afternoon for
thy trunk, and Friday night I will find some stranger fisher-boy to
take it to the boat. Come thou to my house when all is quiet, and I
will see thee safely on board. At six in the morning, when she sails,
the quay will be crowded.
I will do all this. Speak not of the matter, I ask thee.
Thou may fully trust me.
Then Margaret went home with a light heart. Her way had been made
very plain to her; it only now remained to bind Elga to her interest.
This was not hard to do. Elga promised to remain for two years in
charge of the house if Margaret did not return before. She felt rich
with an allowance of five shillings a week, and the knowledge that
Banker Tulloch had authority to prevent either Peter or Suneva from
troubling her during that time. So that it was Elga's interest, even if
it had not been her will, to give no information which might lead to
the breaking up of the comfort dependent on Margaret's absence.
Nothing interfered with Margaret's plans. During the three
intervening days, she went as usual to Dr. Balloch's. Twice she tried
to introduce the subject of Snorro's singular journey, and each time
she contrived to let the minister see that she connected it in her own
mind with Jan. She noticed that on one of these occasions, the doctor
gave her a long, searching look, and that the expression of his own
face was that of extreme indecision. She almost thought that he was
going to tell her something, but he suddenly rose and changed the
subject of their conversation, in a very decided manner. His reticence
pained and silenced her, for she almost longed to open her heart to
him. Yet, as he gave her no encouragement, she was too shy, and perhaps
too proud to force upon him an evidently undesired confidence. She
determined, however, to leave letters for him, and for her father,
stating the object of her voyage, but entering into no particulars
about it. These letters she would put in Elga's care, with orders not
to deliver them until Saturday night. By that time Margaret Vedder
hoped to be more than a hundred miles beyond Lerwick.
In the meantime Snorro had reached Portsmouth, his journey thither
having been uneventful. The Retribution had arrived two days before,
and was lying in dock. At the dock office a letter which Lord Lynne had
given him, procured an admission to visit the ship, and her tall
tapering masts were politely pointed out to him. Snorro went with rapid
strides toward her, for it was near sunset and he knew that after the
gun had been fired, there would be difficulty in getting on board. He
soon came to the ship of his desire. Her crew were at their evening
mess, only two or three sailors were to be seen.
Snorro paused a moment, for he was trembling with emotion, and as he
stood he saw three officers come from the cabin. They grouped
themselves on the quarter-deck, and one of them, taller, and more
splendidly dressed than the others, turned, and seemed to look directly
at Snorro. The poor fellow stretched out his arms, but his tongue was
heavy, like that of a man in a dream, and though he knew it was Jan, he
could not call him. He had received at the office, however, a permit to
board The Retribution in order to speak with her commander, and he
found no difficulty in reaching him.
Jan was still standing near the wheel talking to his officers as
Snorro approached. Now that the moment so long watched and waited for,
had come, poor Snorro could hardly believe it, and beside, he had seen
in the first glance at his friend, that this was a different Jan
somehow from the old one. It was not alone his fine uniform, his sash
and sword and cocked hat; Jan had acquired an air of command, an
indisputable nobility and ease of manner, and for a moment, Snorro
doubted if he had done well to come into his presence unannounced.
He stood with his cap in his hand waiting, feeling heart-faint with
anxiety. Then an officer said some words to Jan, and he turned and
looked at Snorro.
The cry was clear and glad, and the next moment Jan was clasping
both his old friend's hands. As for Snorro, his look of devotion, of
admiration, of supreme happiness was enough. It was touching beyond all
words, and Jan felt his eyes fill as he took his arm and led him into
I am come to thee, my captain. I would have come, had thou been at
the end of the earth.
And we will part no more, Snorro, we two. Give me thy hand on that
No more, no more, my captain.
To thee, I am always 'Jan.'
My heart shall call thee 'Jan,' but my lips shall always say 'my
captain,' so glad are they to say it! Shall I not sail with thee as
long as we two live?
We are mates for life, Snorro.
Jan sent his boy for bread and meat. Thou art hungry I know, he
said; when did thou eat?
Not since morning. To-day I was not hungry, I thought only of
seeing thee again.
At first neither spoke of the subject nearest to Jan's heart. There
was much to tell of people long known to both men, but gradually the
conversation became slower and more earnest, and then Snorro began to
talk of Peter Fae and his marriage. It hath been a good thing for
Peter, he said; he looks by ten years a younger man.
And Suneva, is she happy?
Well, then, she dresses gayly, and gives many fine parties, and is
what she likes best of all, the great lady of the town. But she hath
not a bad heart, and I think it was not altogether her fault if thy
If my wife was what, Snorro?
If thy wife was unhappy in her house. The swan and the kittywake
can not dwell in the same nest.
What hast thou to tell me of my wife and son?
There is not such a boy as thy boy in all Scotland. He is handsomer
than thou art. He is tall and strong, and lish and active as a fish. He
can dive and swim like a seal, he can climb like a whaler's boy, he can
fling a spear, and ride, and run, and read; and he was beginning to
write his letters on a slate when I came away. Also, he was making a
boat, for he loves the sea, as thou loves it. Oh, I tell thee, there is
not another boy to marrow thy little Jan.
Is he called Jan?
Yes, he is called Jan after thee.
This is great good news, Snorro. What now of my wife?
Snorro's voice changed, and all the light left his face. He spoke
slowly, but with decision. She is a very good woman. There is not a
better woman to be found anywhere than Margaret Vedder. The minister
said I was to tell thee how kind she is to all who are sick and in
trouble, and to him she is as his right hand. Yes, I will tell thee
truly, that he thinks she is worthy of thy love now.
And what dost thou think?
I do not think she is worthy.
Why dost thou not think so?
A woman may be an angel, and love thee not.
Then thou thinks she loves me not? Why? Has she other lovers? Tell
me truly, Snorro.
The man lives not in Lerwick who would dare to speak a word of love
to Margaret Vedder. She walks apart from all merry-making, and from all
friends. As I have told thee she lives in her own house, and enters no
other house but the manse, unless it be to see some one in pain or
sorrow. She is a loving mother to thy son, but she loves not thee. I
will tell thee why I think. Then Snorro recounted with accurate
truthfulness his last interview with Margaret. He told Jan every thing,
for he had noted every thing:her dress, her attitude, her rising
color, her interest in the locket's chain, her indifference as to his
own hurried journey, its object, or its length.
Jan heard all in silence, but the impression made on him by Snorro's
recital, was not what Snorro expected. Jan knew Margaret's slow, proud
nature. He would have been astonished, perhaps even a little suspicious
of any exaggeration of feeling, of tears, or of ejaculations. Her
interest in the locket chain said a great deal to him. Sitting by his
side, with her fair face almost against his own, she had drawn the
pattern of the chain she wished. Evidently she had remembered it; he
understood that it was her emotion at the recognition which had made
her so silent, and so oblivious of Snorro's affairs. The minister's
opinion had also great weight with him. Dr. Balloch knew the whole
story of his wrong, knew just where he had failed, and where Margaret
had failed. If he believed a reconciliation was now possible and
desirable, then Jan also was sure of it.
Snorro saw the purpose in his face. Perhaps he had a moment's
jealous pang, but it was instantly put down. He hastened to let Jan
feel that, even in this matter, he must always be at one with him:
Trust not to me, he said; it is little I know or understand about
women, and I may judge Margaret Vedder far wrong.
I think thou does, Snorro. She was never one to make a great show
of her grief or her regrets. But I will tell thee what she did when
thou wert gone away. In her own room, she wept over that chain the
whole night long.
That may be. When little Jan had the croup she was still and calm
until the boy was out of danger, and then she wept until my heart ached
for her. Only once besides have I seen her weep; that was when Suneva
accused her of thy murder; then she took her baby in her arms and came
through the storm to me at the store. Yes, she wept sorely that night.
Jan sat with tightly-drawn lips.
If it will make thee happy, send me back to Lerwick, and I will
bring thy wife and child safely here. Thou would be proud indeed to see
them. The boy is all I have told thee. His mother is ten times
handsomer than when thou married her. She is the fairest and most
beautiful of women. When she walks down the street at the minister's
side, she is like no other woman. Even Peter Fae is now proud that she
is his daughter, and he sends her of the finest that comes to his hand.
Shall I then go for thee? Why not go thyself?
I will think about it, Snorro. I can not go myself. I received my
promotion yesterday, and I asked to be transferred for immediate
service. I may get my orders any day. If I send thee, I may have to
sail without thee, and yet not see my wife and child. No, I will not
part with thee, Snorro; thou art a certain gain, and about the rest, I
will think well. Now we will say no more, for I am weary and weak; my
head aches also, and I fear I have fever again.
The next day Jan was very ill, and it was soon evident that typhoid
fever of a long and exhausting character had supervened on a condition
enfeebled by African malaria. For many weeks he lay below the care of
love or life, and indeed it was August when he was able to get on deck
again. Then he longed for the open sea, and so urged his desire, that
he received an immediate exchange to the ship Hydra, going out to
Borneo with assistance for Rajah Brooke, who was waging an
exterminating war against the pirates of the Chinese and Indian seas.
The new ship was a very fine one, and Jan was proud of his command.
Snorro also had been assigned to duty on her, having special charge of
a fine Lancaster gun which she carried, and no words could express his
pride and joy in his position. She was to sail on the 15th day of
August, one hour after noon, and early in the morning of that day, Jan
went off the ship alone. He went direct to the Post Office, and with
trembling hands, for he was still very weak, he dropped into it the
MY DEAR WIFEMY FAIR DEAR MARGARET:
I have never ceased to love thee. Ask Dr. Balloch to tell thee
all. To-day I leave for the Chinese sea. If thou wilt forgive and
forget the past, and take me again for thy husband, have then a
letter waiting for me at the Admiralty Office, and when I return
will come to Shetland for thee. Snorro is with me. He hath told
all about thy goodness, and about our little Jan. Do what thy
heart tells thee to do, and nothing else. Then there will be
happiness. Thy loving husband,
A few hours after this letter had been posted Jan stood on his
quarter deck with his face to the open sea, and Snorro, in his new
uniform, elate with joy and pride, was issuing his first orders to the
quarter-master, and feeling that even for him, life had really begun at
CHAPTER XIII. LITTLE JAN'S TRIUMPH.
I deemed thy garments, O my hope, were gray,
So far I viewed thee. Now the space between
Is passed at length; and garmented in green
Even as in days of yore thou stand'st to-day.
Ah God! and but for lingering dull dismay,
On all that road our footsteps erst had been
Even thus commingled, and our shadows seen
Blent on the hedgerows and the water way.
Margaret intended leaving Saturday, but on Thursday night something
happened, the most unlooked-for thing that could have happened to
hershe received Jan's letter. As she was standing beside her packed
trunk, she heard Elga call:
Here has come Sandy Bane with a letter, Mistress Vedder, and he
will give it to none but thee.
It is not always that we have presentiments. That strange
intelligence, that wraith of coming events, does not speak, except a
prescient soul listens. Margaret attached no importance to the call.
Dr. Balloch often sent letters, she supposed Sandy was waiting for a
penny fee. With her usual neatness, she put away some trifles, locked
her drawers, and then washed her hands and face. Sandy was in no hurry
either; Elga had given him a cup of tea, and a toasted barley-cake, and
he was telling her bits of gossip about the boats and fishers.
While they were talking, Margaret entered; she gave Sandy a penny,
and then with that vague curiosity which is stirred by the sight of
almost any letter, she stretched out her hand for the one he had
brought. The moment she saw it, she understood that something wonderful
had come to her. Quick as thought she took in the significance of the
official blue paper and the scarlet seal. In those days, officers in
the Admiralty used imposing stationery, and Jan had felt a certain
pride in giving his few earnest words the sanction of his honor and
office. Certainly it had a great effect upon Margaret, although only
those very familiar with her, could have detected the storm of anxiety
and love concealed beneath her calm face and her few common words.
But oh, when she stood alone with Jan's loving letter in her hand,
then all barriers were swept away. The abandon of her slow, strong
nature, had in it an intensity impossible to quicker and shallower
affection. There was an hour in which she forgot her mortality, when
her soul leaned and hearkened after Jan's soul, till it seemed not only
possible, but positive, that he had heard her passionate cry of love
and sorrow, and answered it. In that moment of intense silence which
succeeds intense feeling, she was sure Jan called her. Margaret!
She heard the spiritual voice, soft, clear, sweeter than the sweetest
music, and many a soul that in extremities has touched the heavenly
horizon will understand that she was not mistaken.
In an hour Tulloch sent for her trunk.
There is no trunk to be sent now; tell Tulloch that Margaret Vedder
will tell him the why and the wherefore to-morrow. Elga was amazed,
and somewhat disappointed, but Margaret's face astonished and subdued
her, and she did not dare to ask, What then is the matter?
Margaret slept little that night. To the first overwhelming
personality of joy and sorrow, there succeeded many other trains of
thought. It was evident that Dr. Balloch, perhaps Snorro also, had
known always of Jan's life and doings. She thought she had been
deceived by both, and not kindly used. She wondered how they could see
her suffer, year after year, the slow torture of uncertainty, and
unsatisfied love and repentance. She quite forgot how jealously she had
guarded her own feelings, how silent about her husband she had been,
how resentful of all allusion to him.
Throughout the night Elga heard her moving about the house. She was
restoring every thing to its place again. The relief she felt in this
duty first revealed to her the real fear of her soul at the strange
world into which she had resolved to go and seek her husband. She had
the joy of a child who had been sent a message on some dark and
terror-haunted way, and had then been excused from the task. Even as a
girl the great outside world had rather terrified than allured her. In
her Edinburgh school she had been homesick for the lonely, beautiful
islands, and nothing she had heard or read since had made her wish to
leave them. She regarded Jan's letter, coming just at that time, as a
special kindness of Providence.
Yes, and I am sure that is true, said Tulloch to her next morning.
Every one has something to boast of now and then. Thou canst say, 'God
has kept me out of the danger, though doubtless He could have taken me
through it very safely.' And it will be much to Jan's mind, when he
hears that it was thy will to go and seek him.
Thou wert ever kind to Jan.
Jan had a good heart. I thought that always.
And thou thought right; how glad thou will be to see him! Yes, I
know thou wilt.
I shall see Jan no more, Margaret, for I am going away soon, and I
shall never come back.
Art thou sick, then?
So I think; very. And I have seen one who knows, and when I told
him the truth, he said to me, 'Set thy house in order, Tulloch, for it
is likely this sickness will be thy last.' So come in and out as often
as thou can, Margaret, and thou tell the minister the road I am
traveling, for I shall look to him and thee to keep me company on it as
far as we may tread it together.
It did not enter Margaret's mind to say little commonplaces of
negation. Her large, clear eyes, solemn and tender, admitted the fact
at once, and she answered the lonely man's petition by laying her hand
upon his, and saying, At this time thou lean on me like a daughter. I
will serve thee until the last hour.
When thou hast heard all concerning Jan from the minister, come and
tell me too; for it will be a great pleasure to me to know how Jan
Vedder turned his trouble into good fortune.
Probably Dr. Balloch had received a letter from Jan also, for he
looked singularly and inquisitively at Margaret as she entered his
room. She went directly to his side, and laid Jan's letter before him.
He read it slowly through, then raised his face and said, Well,
It is not so well. Thou knew all this time that Jan was alive.
Yes, I knew it. It is likely to be so, for II mean, I was sent to
save his life.
Wilt thou tell me how?
Yes, I will tell thee now. Little thou thought in those days of Jan
Vedder, but I will show thee how God loved him! One of his holy
messengers, one of his consecrated servants, one of this world's
nobles, were set to work together for Jan's salvation. Then he told
her all that had happened, and he read her Jan's letters, and as he
spoke of his great heart, and his kind heart, the old man's eyes
kindled, and he began to walk about the room in his enthusiasm.
Such a tale Margaret had never heard before. Tears of pity and tears
of pride washed clean and clear-seeing the eyes that had too often wept
only for herself. Oh, Margaret! Margaret! he said, learn thiswhen
it is God's pleasure to save a man, the devil can not hinder, nor a
cruel wife, nor false friends, nor total shipwreck, nor the murderer's
knifeall things must work together for it.
If God gives Jan back to me, I will love and honor him with all my
heart and soul. I promise thee I will that.
See thou do. It will be thy privilege and thy duty.
Oh, why did thou not tell me all this before? It would have been
good for me.
No, it would have been bad for thee. Thou has not suffered one hour
longer than was necessary. Week by week, month by month, year by year,
thy heart has been growing more humble and tender, more just and
unselfish; but it was not until Snorro brought thee those poor despised
love-gifts of Jan's that thou wast humble and tender, and just, and
unselfish enough to leave all and go and seek thy lost husband. But I
am sure it was this waythe very hour this gracious thought came into
thy heart thy captivity was turned. Now, then, from thy own experience
thou can understand why God hides even a happy future from us. If we
knew surely that fame or prosperity or happiness was coming, how
haughty, how selfish, how impatient we should be.
I would like thee to go and tell my father all.
I will tell thee what thou must dogo home and tell the great news
I can not go into Suneva's house. Thou should not ask that of me.
In the day of thy good fortune, be generous. Suneva Fae has a kind
heart, and I blame thee much that there was trouble. Because God has
forgiven thee, go without a grudging thought, and say'Suneva, I was
wrong, and I am sorry for the wrong; and I have good news, and want my
father and thee to share it.'
No; I can not do that.
There is no 'can' in it. It is my will, Margaret, that thou go. Go
at once, and take thy son with thee. The kind deed delayed is worth
very little. To-day that is thy work, and we will not read or write. As
for me, I will loose my boat, and I will sail about the bay, and round
by the Troll Rock, and I will think of these things only.
For a few minutes Margaret stood watching him drift with the tide,
his boat rocking gently, and the fresh wind blowing his long white
hair, and carrying far out to sea the solemnly joyful notes to which he
was singing his morning psalm.
Bless, O my soul, the Lord thy God
and not forgetful be
Of all his gracious benefits
he hath bestowed on thee.
Such pity as a father hath
unto his children dear,
Like pity shows the Lord to such
as worship him in fear.
Ps. 103. v. 2. 13.[*]
[*] Version allowed by the authority of the General Assembly of
Kirk of Scotland.
Thou art a good man, said Margaret to herself, as she waved her
hand in farewell, and turned slowly homeward. Most women would have
been impatient to tell the great news that had come to them, but
Margaret could always wait. Besides, she had been ordered to go to
Suneva with it, and the task was not a pleasant one to her. She had
never been in her father's house, since she left it with her son in her
arms; and it was not an easy thing for a woman so proud to go and say
to the woman who had supplanted herI have done wrong, and I am sorry
Yet it did not enter her mind to disobey the instructions given her;
she only wanted time to consider how to perform them in the quietest,
and least painful manner. She took the road by the sea shore, and sat
down on a huge barricade of rocks. Generally such lonely communion with
sea and sky strengthened and calmed her; but this morning she could not
bring her mind into accord with it. Accidentally she dislodged a piece
of rock, and it fell among the millions of birds sitting on the
shelving precipices below her. They flickered with piercing cries in
circles above her head, and then dropped like a shower into the ocean,
with a noise like the hurrahing of an army. Impatient and annoyed, she
turned away from the shore, across the undulating heathy plateau. She
longed to reach her own room; perhaps in its seclusion she would find
the composure she needed.
As she approached her house, she saw a crowd of boys and little Jan
walking proudly in front of them. One was playing Miss Flora
McDonald's reel on a violin, and the gay strains were accompanied by
finger snappings, whistling, and occasional shouts. There is no quiet
to be found anywhere, this morning, thought Margaret, but her
curiosity was aroused, and she went toward the children. They saw her
coming, and with an accession of clamor hastened to meet her. Little
Jan carried a faded, battered wreath of unrecognizable materials, and
he walked as proudly as Pompey may have walked in a Roman triumph. When
Margaret saw it, she knew well what had happened, and she opened her
arms, and held the boy to her heart, and kissed him over and over, and
cried out, Oh, my brave little Jan, brave little Jan! How did it
happen then? Thou tell me quick.
Hal Ragner shall tell thee, my mother; and Hal eagerly stepped
It was last night, Mistress Vedder, we were all watching for the
'Arctic Bounty;' but she did not come, and this morning as we were
playing, the word was passed that she had reached Peter Fae's pier.
Then we all ran, but thou knowest that thy Jan runs like a red deer,
and so he got far ahead, and leaped on board, and was climbing the mast
first of all. Then Bor Skade, he tried to climb over him, and Nichol
Sinclair, he tried to hold him back, but the sailors shouted, 'Bravo,
little Jan Vedder!' and the skipper he shouted 'Bravo!' and thy father,
he shouted higher than all the rest. And when Jan had cut loose the
prize, he was like to greet for joy, and he clapped his hands, and
kissed Jan, and he gave him five gold sovereigns,see, then, if he did
not! And little Jan proudly put his hand in his pocket, and held them
out in his small soiled palm.
The feat which little Jan had accomplished is one which means all to
the Shetland boy that his first buffalo means to the Indian youth. When
a whaler is in Arctic seas, the sailors on the first of May make a
garland of such bits of ribbons, love tokens, and keep-sakes, as have
each a private history, and this they tie to the top of the main-mast.
There it swings, blow high or low, in sleet and hail, until the ship
reaches her home-port. Then it is the supreme emulation of every lad,
and especially of every sailor's son, to be first on board and first up
the mast to cut it down, and the boy who does it, is the hero of the
day, and has won his footing on every Shetland boat.
What wonder, then, that Margaret was proud and happy? What wonder
that in her glow of delight the thing she had been seeking was made
clear to her? How could she go better to Suneva than with this crowd of
happy boys? If the minister thought she ought to share one of her
blessings with Suneva, she would double her obedience, and ask her to
share the mother's as well as the wife's joy.
One thing I wish, boys, she said happily, let us go straight to
Peter Fae's house, for Hal Ragner must tell Suneva Fae the good news
also. So, with a shout, the little company turned, and very soon
Suneva, who was busy salting some fish in the cellar of her house,
heard her name called by more than fifty shrill voices, in fifty
She hurried up stairs, saying to herself, It will be good news, or
great news that has come to pass, no doubt; for when ill-luck has the
day, he does not call any one like that; he comes sneaking in. Her
rosy face was full of smiles when she opened the door, but when she saw
Margaret and Jan standing first of all, she was for the moment too
amazed to speak.
Margaret pointed to the wreath: Our Jan took it from the top-mast
of the 'Arctic Bounty;' she said. The boys brought him home to me,
and I have brought him to thee, Suneva. I thought thou would like it.
Our Jan! In those two words Margaret canceled every thing
remembered against her. Suneva's eyes filled, and she stretched out
both her hands to her step-daughter.
Come in, Margaret! Come in, my brave, darling Jan! Come in, boys,
every one of you! There is cake, and wheat bread, and preserved fruit
enough for you all; and I shall find a shilling for every boy here, who
has kept Jan's triumph with him. And when Suneva had feasted the
children she brought a leather pouch, and counting out £2 14s., sent
them away, fiddling and singing, and shouting with delight.
But Margaret stayed; and the two women talked their bitterness over
to its very root. For Suneva said: We will leave nothing unexplained,
and nothing that is doubtful. Tell me the worst thou hast thought, and
the worst thou hast heard, and what I can not excuse, that I will say,
'I am sorry for,' and thou wilt forgive it, I know thou wilt. And
after this admission, it was easy for Margaret also to say, I am
sorry; and when that part of the matter had been settled, she added,
Now then, Suneva, I have great good news to tell thee.
But with the words Peter and the minister entered the house, and
Margaret went to Dr. Balloch and said, I have done all thou bid me;
now then, thou tell my father and Suneva whatever thou told me. That is
what thou art come for, I know it is.
Yes, it is so. I was in the store when thy little Jan and his
companions came there with the gold given them, and when the sovereigns
had been changed and every boy had got his shilling, I said to thy
father, 'Come home with me, for Margaret is at thy house, and great joy
has come to it to-day.'
Then he told again the whole story, and read aloud Jan's letters;
and Peter and Suneva were so amazed and interested, that they begged
the minister to stay all day, and talk of the subject with them. And
the good man cheerfully consented, for it delighted him to see Margaret
and Suneva busy together, making the dinner and the tea, and sharing
pleasantly the household cares that women like to exercise for those
they love or respect. He looked at them, and then he looked at Peter,
and the two men understood each other, without a word.
By and by, little Jan, hungry and weary with excitement, came
seeking his mother, and his presence added the last element of joy to
the reunited family. The child's eager curiosity kept up until late the
interest in the great subject made known that day to Peter and Suneva.
For to Norsemen, slavery is the greatest of all earthly ills, and
Peter's eyes flashed with indignation, and he spoke of Snorro not only
with respect, but with something also like a noble envy of his
If I had twenty years less, I would man a ship of mine own, and go
to the African coast as a privateer, I would that. What a joy I should
give my two hands in freeing the captives, and hanging those slavers in
a slack rope at the yard-arm.
Nay, Peter, thou would not be brutal.
Yes, I would be a brute with brutes; that is so, my minister. Even
St. James thinks as I do'He shall have judgment without mercy that
showeth no mercy.' That is a good way, I think. I am glad Snorro hath
gone to look after them. I would be right glad if he had Thor's hammer
in his big hands.
He hath a Lancaster gun, Peter.
But that is not like seeing the knife redden in the hand. Oh, no!
Peter, we are Christians, and not heathens.
I am sorry if the words grieve thee. Often I have wondered why
David wrote some of the hard words he did write. I wonder no more. He
wrote them against the men who sell human life for gold. If I was Jan
Vedder, I would read those words every morning to my men. The knife
that is sharpened on the word of God, cuts deepthat is so.
Jan hath done his part well, Peter, and I wish that he could see us
this night. It hath been a day of blessing to this house, and I am
right happy to have been counted in it.
Then he went away, but that night Margaret and her son once more
slept in their old room under Peter Fae's roof. It affected her to see
that nothing had been changed. A pair of slippers she had forgotten
still stood by the hearthstone. Her mother's Bible had been placed upon
her dressing table. The geranium she had planted, was still in the
window; it had been watered and cared for, and had grown to be a large
and luxuriant plant. She thought of the last day she had occupied that
room, and of the many bitter hours she had spent in it, and she
contrasted them with the joy and the hope of her return.
But when we say to ourselves, I will be grateful, it is very
seldom the heart consents to our determination; and Margaret, exhausted
with emotion, was almost shocked to find that she could not realize,
with any degree of warmth, the mercy and blessing that had come to her.
She was the more dissatisfied, because as soon as she was alone she
remembered the message Tulloch had given her. It had remained all day
undelivered, and quite forgotten. How selfish I am, she said wearily,
but ere she could feel sensibly any regret for her fault she had fallen
In the morning it was her first thought, and as soon after breakfast
as possible she went to Dr. Balloch's. He seemed shocked at the news,
and very much affected. We have been true friends for fifty years,
Margaret, he said; I never thought of his being ill, of his
He does not appear to fear death, sir.
No, he will meet it as a good man should. He knows well that death
is only the veil which we who live call life. We sleep, and it is
Wilt thou see him to-day?
Yes, this morning. Thirty-eight years ago this month his wife died.
It was a great grief to him. She was but a girl, and her bride-year was
not quite worn out.
I have never heard of her.
Well, then, that is like to be. This is the first time I have
spoken of Nanna Tulloch since she went away from us. It is long to
remember, yet she was very lovely, and very much beloved. But thou
knowest Shetlanders speak not of the dead, nor do they count any thing
from a day of sorrow. However, thy words have brought many things to my
heart. This day I will spend with my friend.
The reconciliation which had taken place was a good thing for
Margaret. She was inclined to be despondent; Suneva always faced the
future with a smile. It was better also that Margaret should talk of
Jan, than brood over the subject in her own heart; and nothing
interested Suneva like a love-quarrel. If it were between husband and
wife, then it was of double importance to her. She was always trying to
put sixes and sevens at one. She persuaded Margaret to write without
delay to Jan, and to request the Admiralty Office to forward the
letter. If it had been her letter she would have written Haste and
Important all over it. She never tired of calculating the
possibilities of Jan receiving it by a certain date, and she soon fixed
upon another date, when, allowing for all possible detentions, Jan's
next letter might be expected.
But perhaps, most of all, the reconciliation was good for Peter.
Nothing keeps a man so young as the companionship of his children and
grandchildren. Peter was fond and proud of his daughter, but he
delighted in little Jan. The boy, so physically like his father, had
many of Peter's tastes and peculiarities. He loved money, and Peter
respected him for loving it. There were two men whom Peter particularly
disliked; little Jan disliked them also with all his childish soul, and
when he said things about them that Peter did not care to say, the
boy's candor charmed and satisfied him, although he pretended to
Jan, too, had a very high temper, and resented, quick as a flash,
any wound to his childish self-esteem. Peter was fond of noticing its
relationship to his own. One day he said to the boy: Do that again and
I will send thee out of the store.
If thou sends me out just once, I will never come in thy store
again; no, I will not; never, as long as I live, was the instant
retort. Peter repeated it to Suneva with infinite pride and approval.
No one will put our little Jan out for nothing, he said.
Well, then, he is just like thee! said the politic Suneva; and
Peter's face showed that he considered the resemblance as very
CHAPTER XIV. JAN'S RETURN.
For them the rod of chastisement flowered.
A stranger suddenly dropped in these Shetland islands, especially in
winter, would not unnaturally say, how monotonously dreary life must
be here! In such isolation the heart must lose its keen sense of
sympathy, and be irresponsive and dumb. That is the great mistake
about the affections. It is not the rise and fall of empires, the birth
and death of kings, or the marching of armies that move them most. When
they answer from their depths, it is to the domestic joys and tragedies
of life. Ever since Eve wept over her slain son, and Rebecca took the
love-gifts of Isaac, this has been the case; and until that mighty
angel, who stands on the sea and land, cries, Time shall be no more,
the home loves, and the home trials, will be the center of humanity's
deepest and sweetest emotions. So, then, the little Shetland town had
in it all the elements necessary for a life full of interestbirth and
death, love and sorrow, the cruel hand and the generous hand, the house
of mourning and the house of joy.
Just before Christmas-tide, Tulloch was sitting alone at midnight.
His malady was too distressing to allow him to sleep, but a Norseman
scorns to complain of physical suffering, and prefers, so long as it is
possible, to carry on the regular routine of his life. He was unable to
go much out, and his wasted body showed that it was under a constant
torture, but he said nothing, only he welcomed Margaret and the doctor
warmly, and seemed to be glad of their unspoken sympathy. It had been
stormy all day, but the wind had gone down, and a pale moon glimmered
above the dim, tumbling sea. All was quiet, not a footfall, not a sound
except the dull roar of the waves breaking upon the beach.
Suddenly a woman's sharp cry cut the silence like a knife. It was
followed by sobs and shrieks and passing footsteps and the clamor of
many voices. Every one must have noticed how much more terrible noises
are at night than in the daytime; the silly laughter of drunkards and
fools, the maniac's shout, the piercing shriek of a woman in distress,
seem to desecrate its peaceful gloom, and mock the slow, mystic
panorama of the heavens. Tulloch felt unusually impressed by this
night-tumult, and early in the morning sent his servant out to discover
It was Maggie Barefoot, sir; her man was drowned last night; she
has six bairns and not a bread-winner among them. But what then? Magnus
Tulloch went too, and he had four little ladstheir mother died at
Lammas-tide. They'll be God's bairns now, for they have neither kith
nor kin. It is a sad business, I say that.
Go and bring them here.
The order was given without consideration, and without any conscious
intention. He was amazed himself when he had uttered it. The man was an
old servant, and said hesitatingly, Yes, but they are no kin of
All the apples on the same tree have come from the same root, Bele;
and it is like enough that all the Tullochs will have had one forbear.
I would be a poor Tulloch to see one of the name wanting a bite and
sup. Yes, indeed.
He was very thoughtful after seeing the children, and when Dr.
Balloch came, he said to him at once: Now, then, I will do what thou
hast told me to dosettle up my affairs with this world forever. Wilt
thou help me?
If I think thou does the right thing, I will help thee, but I do
not think it is right to give thy money to Margaret Vedder. She has
enough and to spare. 'Cursed be he that giveth unto the rich.' It was
Mahomet and Anti-Christ that said the words, but for all that they are
I have no kin but a fifth cousin in Leith; he is full of gold and
honor. All that I have would be a bawbee to him. But this is what I
think, my money is Shetland money, made of Shetland fishers, and it
ought to stay in Shetland.
I think that too.
Well, then, we are of one mind so far. Now my wish is to be
bread-giver even when I am dead, to be bread-giver to the children
whose fathers God has taken. Here are Magnus Tulloch's four, and Hugh
Petrie's little lad, and James Traill's five children, and many more of
whom I know not. My houses, big and little, shall be homes for them. My
money shall buy them meal and meat and wadmall to clothe them. There
are poor lonely women who will be glad to care for them, eight or ten
to each, and Suneva Fae and Margaret Vedder will see that the women do
their duty. What thinkest thou?
Now, then, I think this, that God has made thy will for thee.
Moreover, thou hast put a good thought into my heart also. Thou knows I
brought in my hand a little money when I came to Shetland, and it has
grown, I know not how. I will put mine with thine, and though we are
two childless old men, many children shall grow up and bless us.
Into this scheme Tulloch threw all his strength and foresight and
prudence. The matter was urgent, and there were no delays, and no waste
of money. Three comfortable fishermen's cottages that happened to be
vacant, were fitted with little bunks, and plenty of fleeces for
bedding. Peat was stacked for firing, and meal and salted fish sent in;
so that in three days twenty-three fatherless, motherless children were
in warm, comfortable homes.
Suneva entered into the work with perfect delight. She selected the
mothers for each cottage, and she took good care that they kept them
clean and warm, that the little ones' food was properly cooked, and
their clothes washed and mended. If there were a sorrow or a complaint
it was brought to her, and Suneva was not one to blame readily a child.
Never man went down to the grave with his hands so full of
beneficent work as Tulloch. Through it he took the sacrament of pain
almost joyfully, and often in the long, lonely hours of nightly
suffering, he remembered with a smile of pleasure, the little children
sweetly sleeping in the homes he had provided for them. The work grew
and prospered wonderfully; never had there been a busier, happier
winter in Lerwick. As was customary, there were tea-parties at Suneva's
and elsewhere nearly every night, and at them the women sewed for the
children, while the men played the violin, or recited from the Sagas,
or sung the plaintive songs of the Islands.
Margaret brought the dying man constant intelligence of his bounty:
the children, one or two at a time, were allowed to come and see him;
twice, leaning on Dr. Balloch, and his servant Bele, he visited the
homes, and saw the orphans at their noonday meals. He felt the clasp of
grateful hands, and the kiss of baby lips that could not speak their
thanks. His last was the flower of his life-work and he saw the budding
of it, and was satisfied with its beauty.
One morning in the following April, Margaret received the letter
which Suneva had prophesied would arrive by the twentieth, if the
weather were favorable. Nowhere in the world has the term, weather
permitting, such significance as in these stormy seas. It is only
necessary to look at the mail steamers, so strongly built, so bluff at
the bows, and nearly as broad as they are long, to understand that they
expect to have to take plenty of hard blows and buffetings. It was the
first steamer that had arrived for months, and though it made the
harbor in a blinding snow-storm, little Jan would not be prevented from
going into the town to see if it brought a letter. For the boy's dream
of every thing grand and noble centered in his father. He talked of him
incessantly; he longed to see him with all his heart.
Margaret also was restless and faint with anxiety; she could not
even knit. Never were two hours of such interminable length. At last
she saw him coming, his head bent to the storm, his fleet feet skimming
the white ground, his hands deep in his pockets. Far off, he discovered
his mother watching for him; then he stopped a moment, waved the letter
above his head, and hurried onward. It was a good letter, a tender,
generous, noble letter, full of love and longing, and yet alive with
the stirring story of right trampling wrong under foot. The child
listened to it with a glowing face:
I would I were with my father and Snorro, he said, regretfully.
Would thou then leave me, Jan?
Ay, I would leave thee, mother. I would leave thee, and love thee,
as my father does. I could stand by my father's side, I could fire a
gun, or reef a sail, as well as Snorro. I would not be afraid of any
thing; no, I would not. It is such a long, long time till a boy grows
up to be a man! When I am a man, thou shall see that I will have a ship
of my own.
It is only in sorrow bad weather masters us; in joy we face the
storm and defy it. Margaret never thought of the snow as any
impediment. She went first to Suneva, and then to Dr. Balloch with her
letter; and she was so full of happiness that she did not notice the
minister was very silent and preoccupied. After a little, he said,
Margaret, I must go now to Tulloch; it has come to the last.
Well, then, I think he will be glad. He has suffered long and
Yet a little while ago he was full of life, eager for money,
impatient of all who opposed him. Thou knowest how hard it often was to
keep peace between him and thy father. Now he has forgotten the things
that once so pleased him; his gold, his houses, his boats, his
business, have dropped from his heart, as the toys drop from the hand
of a sleepy child.
Father went to see him a week ago.
There is perfect peace between them now. Thy father kissed him when
they said 'good-by.' When they meet again, they will have forgotten all
the bitterness, they will remember only that they lived in the same
town, and worshiped in the same church, and were companions in the same
life. This morning we are going to eat together the holy bread; come
thou with me.
As they walked through the town the minister spoke to a group of
fishers, and four from among them silently followed him. Tulloch was
still in his chair, and his three servants stood beside him. The table
was spread, the bread was broken, and, with prayers and tears, the
little company ate it together. Then they bade each other farewell, a
farewell tranquil and a little sadsaid simply, and without much
speaking. Soon afterward Tulloch closed his eyes and the minister and
Margaret watched silently beside him. Only once again the dying man
spoke. He appeared to be sleeping heavily, but his lips suddenly moved
and he said: We shall see Nanna to-morrow!
We! whispered Margaret. Whom does he mean?
One whom we can not see; one who knows the constellations, and has
come to take him to his God.
Just at sunset a flash of strange light transfigured for a moment
the pallor of his face; he opened wide his blue eyes, and standing
erect, bowed his head in an untranslatable wonder and joy. It was the
moment of release, and the weary body fell backward, deserted and dead,
into the minister's arms.
During the few months previous to his death, Tulloch had been much
in every one's heart and on every one's tongue. There had not been a
gathering of any kind in which his name had not been the prominent one;
in some way or other, he had come into many lives. His death made a
general mourning, especially among the fishers, to whom he had ever
been a wise and trustworthy friend. He had chosen his grave in a small
islet half a mile distant from Lerwicka lonely spot where the living
never went, save to bury the dead.
The day of burial was a clear one, with a salt, fresh wind from the
south-west. Six fishermen made a bier of their oars, and laid the
coffin upon it. Then the multitude followed, singing as they went,
until the pier was reached. Boat after boat was filled, and the strange
procession kept a little behind the one bearing the coffin and the
minister. The snow lay white and unbroken on the island, and, as it was
only a few acres in extent, the sea murmured unceasingly around all its
The spot was under a great rock carved by storms into cloud-like
castles and bastions. Eagles watched them with icy gray eyes from its
summit, and the slow cormorant, and the sad sea-gulls. Overhead a great
flock of wild swans were taking their majestic flight to the solitary
lakes of Iceland, uttering all the time an inspiring cry, the very
essence of eager expectation and of joyful encouragement. Dr. Balloch
stood, with bared head and uplifted eyes, watching them, while they
laid the mortal part of his old friend in that narrow house, whose
mark is one gray stone. Then looking around on the white earth, and
the black sea, and the roughly-clad, sad-faced fishers, he said, almost
The message came forth from him in whom we live, and move, and have
Who is nearer to us than breathing, and closer than hands or feet.
Come up hither and dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
The days of thy sorrow have been sufficient; henceforward there is
laid up for thee the reward of exceeding joy.
Thou shalt no more fear the evil to come; the bands of suffering
are loosed. Thy Redeemer hath brought thee a release from sorrow.
So he went forth unto his Maker; he attained unto the beginning of
He departed to the habitations of just men made perfect, to the
communion of saints, to the life everlasting.
Then he threw a few spadefuls of earth into the grave, and every man
in turn did the same, till the sepulture was fully over. Silently then
the boats filled, and all went to their homes. They were solemn, but
not sorrowful. The simple, pathetic service left behind it a feeling as
of triumph. It had shown them they were mortal, but assured them also
During the following summer Margaret received many letters from Jan;
and she wrote many to him. Nothing is so conducive to a strong
affection as a long sweet course of love-letters, and both of them
impressed their souls on the white paper which bore to each other their
messages of affection. It was really their wooing time, and never lover
was half so impatient to claim his bride, as Jan was to see again his
fair, sweet Margaret. But it was not likely that he could return for
another year, and Margaret set herself to pass the time as wisely and
happily as possible.
Nor did she feel life to be a dreary or monotonous affair. She was
far too busy for morbid regrets or longings, for ennui, or impatience.
Between Dr. Balloch, little Jan, the Tulloch Homes, and her own
house, the days were far too short. They slipped quickly into weeks,
and the weeks into months, and the months grew to a year, and then
every morning she awoke with the same thoughtEven to-day Jan might
come. Little Jan shared her joyous expectations. He was always
watching the horizon for any strange-looking craft. The last thing at
night, the first in the morning, sometimes during the night, he scanned
the bay, which was now filling fast with fishing boats from all
One Sunday morning very, very early, he came to his mother's
bedside. Wake, my mother! There is a strange ship in the bay. She is
coming straight to harbor. Oh! I feel surely in my heart, that it is my
father's ship! Let me go. Let me go now, I ask thee.
Margaret was at the window ere the child ceased speaking. Thou may
go, she said, for I certainly think it is 'The Lapwing.'
He had fled at the first words, and Margaret awoke Elga, and the
fires were kindled, and the breakfast prepared, and the happy wife
dressed herself in the pale blue color that Jan loved; and she smiled
gladly to see how beautifully it contrasted with the golden-brown of
her hair, and the delicate pink in her cheeks.
As for the child, his clear, sharp eyes soon saw very plainly that
the vessel had come to anchor in the bay. Well, he said, that will
be because the tide does not serve yet. John Semple, an old Scot from
Ayrshire, was on the pier, the only soul in sight. John, thou loose
the boat, and row me out to 'The Lapwing.' It is 'The Lapwing.' I know
it is. Come, thou must be in a hurry.
'Hurry' is the deil's ain word, and I'll hurry for naebody; forbye,
I wadna lift an oar for man nor bairn on the Sawbath day.
Dost thou think it is 'The Lapwing?'
It may be: I'll no say it isn't.
The child had unfastened the boat while he was talking; he leaped
into it, and lifted an oar. Then I must scull, John. Thou might go
I'm no gaun to break the Sawbath, an' a water way is waur than a
land way, for then you'll be atween the deil an' the deep sea. Bide at
hame, Jan, an' ye'll be a wise lad.
Jan shook his head, and went away by himself. The bay was smooth as
glass, and he paddled with marvelous ease and speed. Very soon he came
alongside the yacht: the sailors were holystoning the deck, but there
was not a face looked over the side that little Jan knew.
Well, then, is this 'The Lapwing?' he asked.
That's her name; what's your name, you little monkey?
Jan Vedder. Throw me a rope.
The men laughed as if at some excellent joke, and taunted and teased
the child until he was in a passion. In the middle of the quarrel Jan
himself came on deck.
A lad as wants to come on board, Captain.
Jan looked down at the lad who wanted to come on board, and the
bright, eager face gave him a sudden suspicion. What is thy name? he
Jan Vedder. Wilt thou throw me a rope?
Then the captain turned and gave some orders, and in a few minutes
little Jan stood on the deck of The Lapwing. His first glance, his
first movement was toward the handsomely dressed officer who was
watching him with such a smiling, loving face.
Thou art my father! I know thou art! and with the words he lifted
up his face and arms as if to be kissed and embraced.
Then they went into the cabin and Snorro was called, and perhaps Jan
had a little pang of jealousy when he witnessed the joy of the child,
and saw him folded to Snorro's big heart. Jan and Snorro were already
dressed in their finest uniforms. They had only been waiting for the
daybreak to row into harbor. But now there was no need of delay. My
mother is waiting for thee, said little Jan, anxiously. Come, let us
go to her.
It was still very early. John Semple had disappeared, and not a soul
else was stirring. But this time when Jan approached his old home, the
welcome was evident from afar. The chimneys were smoking, the blinds
raised, the door wide open, and Margaret, beautiful and loving, stood
in it, with beaming face and open arms to welcome him.
Then there was a wonderful breakfast, and they sat over it until the
bells were ringing for church. There will be time to talk afterward,
said Snorro, but now, what better thing can be done than to go to
church? It will be the best place of all, and it is well said, 'for a
happy hour a holy roof.' What dost thou think, Jan?
I think as thou dost, and I see the same answer in my Margaret's
face. Well, then, we will take that road.
So Jan, with his wife upon his arm, went first, and Snorro, holding
little Jan by the hand, followed. The congregation were singing a
psalm, a joyful one, it seemed to Jan, and they quietly walked to the
minister's pew, which was always reserved for strangers.
Ere they reached it there was a profound sensation, and Dr. Balloch
slightly raised himself and looked at the party. Jan was in his full
uniform, and so was Snorro, but there was no mistaking either of the
men. And no mistaking the tone of the service which followed! It seemed
as if the minister had flung off fifty years, and was again talking to
his flock with the fire and enthusiasm of his youth. His prayer was
like a song of triumph; his sermon, the old joyful invitation of the
heart that had found its lost treasure, and called upon its neighbors
to come and rejoice with it. The service ended in a song that was a
benediction, and a benediction that was a song.
Then Dr. Balloch hastened to come down, and Jan, seeing how he
trembled with joy, went to meet and support him; and so there, even on
the pulpit stairs, the good minister kissed and blessed him, and called
him, my dear son. Peter put out both hands to Jan, and Margaret
embraced Suneva, and in the church-yard the whole congregation waited,
and there was scarcely a dry eye among either men or women.
Thou come home to my house to-night, Jan, said Peter, thou, and
thy wife and child; come, and be gladly welcome, for this is a great
day to me.
Come, all of you, said Suneva, and Snorro, he must come too.
So they spent the night at Peter's house, and the next morning Peter
walked to his store between his son-in-law and his grandson, the
proudest and happiest man in Shetland. All, and far more than all of
his old love for Jan had come back to his heart. Jan could have asked
him now for the half of his fortune, and it would have been given
CHAPTER XV. LABOR AND REST.
Turning to the celestial city, to infinite serenities, to love
without limit, to perfect joy.
The next evening Peter and Suneva and Dr. Balloch sat around Jan's
hearth, and talked of all that he had seen and done during his absence.
But where is Michael Snorro? asked the doctor. I thought to have
heard him talk to-night.
Snorro stays by the yacht. His quarters are on her, and she is in
his charge. No one finds Snorro far from the post of duty, answered
Jan proudly. He is the best sailor in her Majesty's service, and the
That is likely, said Peter. Since the days of Harold Halfager,
the Snorros have been called good fighters.
And why not? asked Suneva, with a proud toss of her handsome head.
He is pure Norse. Will a Norseman turn from any fight in a good cause?
That he will not Peter, there is none can tell us better what the
Norseman is than thou can. Speak out now, for Jan and the minister will
be glad to hear thee.
Every Shetlander can recite. Suneva had taught Peter to believe that
no one could recite as well as he could; so he laid down his pipe, and,
with great spirit and enthusiasm, spoke thus:
A swarthy strength with face of light,
As dark sword-iron is beaten bright;
A brave, frank look, with health aglow,
Bonny blue eyes and open brow;
A man who'll face to his last breath
The sternest facts of life and death;
His friend he welcomes heart-in-hand,
But foot to foot his foe must stand;
This is the daring Norseman.
The wild wave motion, weird and strange,
Rocks in him: seaward he must range.
He hides at heart of his rough life
A world of sweetness for his wife;
From his rude breast a babe can press
Soft milk of human tenderness,
Make his eyes water, his heart dance,
And sunrise in his countenance;
The mild, great-hearted Norseman.
Valiant and true, as Sagas tell,
The Norseman hateth lies like hell;
Hardy from cradle to the grave,
'Tis his religion to be brave;
Great, silent, fighting men, whose words
Were few, soon said, and out with swords!
One saw his heart cut from his side
Livingand smiled, and smiling, died,
The unconquerable Norseman!
Still in our race the Norse king reigns,
His best blood beats along our veins;
With his old glory we can glow,
And surely sail where he could row.
Is danger stirring? Up from sleep
Our war-dog wakes the watch to keep,
Stands with our banner over him,
True as of old, and stern and grim;
The brave, true-hearted Norseman.
When swords are gleaming you shall see
The Norseman's face flash gloriously;
With look that makes the foeman reel:
His mirror from of old was steel.
And still he wields, in battle's hour,
That old Thor's hammer of Norse power;
Strikes with a desperate arm of might,
And at the last tug turns the fight:
For never yields the Norseman.
That is true, said Jan; and Snorro knows not the way to yield.
Once, on the river Songibusar, when we were attacking Sherif Osman,
there was danger that a battery would be taken in reverse. 'The Ajax'
had come up to assist the 'Hydra,' and her commander sent a sergeant to
tell Snorro that he had better spike his gun and retreat.
Suneva laughed scornfully, and asked, Well, then, what did Snorro
'Thou tell him that sent thee, that Michael Snorro takes his orders
only from Captain Jan Vedder, and Captain Vedder has not said
retreat. No, indeed!' Then he got his gun round to bear on the enemy,
and he poured such a fire down on them that they fled, fled quick
enough. As for Snorro, he did things almost impossible.
Well, Jan, Osman was a very bad man. It is not well to pity the
downfall of tyrants. He had made Borneo, it seems, a hell upon earth.
My minister, he was a devil and no man. But five hundred free blue
jackets were more than he could bear. We utterly destroyed all his
forts, and took all his cannon, and made the coast habitable.
To-day, said Margaret, I heard thee say to Snorro, 'when thou
comes next on shore, bring with thee that idol of Chappo's for the
minister.' Who then is Chappo?
A wretch worth fighting. A Chinese pirate who came out against us
with forty junks, each junk carrying ten guns and a crew of fifty men.
He had been blockading the island of Potoo, where many English ladies
had taken refuge. It is not fit to name the deeds of these devils. We
took from them sixty wretched captives, destroyed one hundred of their
crafts and two hundred of their guns, and thus enabled a large number
of merchant vessels which had been shut up in different rivers for
ransom, to escape. There was even a worse state of affairs on the
Sarabas. There we were assisted by an American ship called 'The
Manhattan,' and with her aid destroyed a piratical expedition numbering
one hundred and twenty proas carrying more than twelve hundred men.
These wretches before starting beheaded and mutilated all their women
captives, and left their bodies with that of a child about six years
old upon the beach. Snorro's wrath that day was terrible. He shut his
ears to every cry for mercy. I do not blame him; indeed, no.
Thus they talked, until the minister said, Now I must go to my own
house, for Hamish is full of fears for me if I am late. So Jan walked
with him. It was midnight, but the moon was high in the zenith, and the
larks singing rapturously in mid-air. A tender, mystical glow was over
earth and sea, and both were as still as if they were a picture. Many
good words were said on that walk, and the man who was saved and the
man who saved him both lay down upon their beds that night with full
and thankful hearts.
For two months, full of quiet joy, Jan and Margaret occupied their
old home. They were almost as much alone as in their honeymoon; for
little Jan spent most of his time with his friend Snorro, on board The
Lapwing. Snorro had been much pleased to join his old mates in the
fishing boats, but he could not bear to put off, even for a day, his
uniform. However, Jan and he and little Jan often sailed in advance of
the fleet, and found the herring, and brought word back what course to
steer. For this knowledge was a kind of instinct with Jan; he could
stand and look east and west, north and south, and then by some occult
premonition, strike the belt of fish.
Never had Jan dreamed of such happiness as came at last to him in
that humble home of his early married life. It was a late harvest of
joy, but it was a sure one. Margaret had wept tears of fond regret in
all its rooms; its hearth had been an altar of perpetual repentance to
her. But the sorrow had been followed by the joy of forgiveness, and
the bliss of re-union. Its walls now echoed the fond words of mutual
trust and affection, and the hearty communings of friendship. There was
no stint in its hospitality; no worry over trivial matters. Margaret
had learned that in true marriage the wife must give as well as
takegive love and forbearance, and help and comfort.
Jan's and Snorro's visit was a kind of festival for Lerwick. Though
it was the busy season, Peter and Suneva kept open house. Never had
Peter been so generous both in friendship and in business; never had
Suneva dressed so gayly, or set such plenteous feasts. She was very
proud of Margaret's position, and paid her unconsciously a vast
respect; but she opened all her warm heart to little Jan, and every
thing that was hers she determined to give him.
Dr. Balloch, in his quiet way, enjoyed the visit equally. He went
very often to sea in the yacht with Jan and Snorro, and, in the happy
intercourse with them, the long days were short ones to him. He saw the
full fruition of his faith and charity, and was satisfied.
Fortunately, after this event Jan was never very long away at one
time. Until the Russian war he made short cruises in the African seas,
and Snorro had many opportunities of realizing the joy of liberating
the slave, and punishing the oppressor. In the toil and suffering of
the Crimea, Jan and Snorro bore their part bravely. Jan had charge of a
naval brigade formed of contingents from the ships of the allied
fleets. No men did a greater variety of duties or behaved more
gallantly than these blue jackets on shore. They dragged the heavy guns
from their ships, and they fought in the batteries. They carried the
scaling ladders in assaults. They landed the stores. They cheerfully
worked as common laborers on that famous road between Balaclava and
Sebastopol, for they knew that on its completion depended the lives of
the brave men famishing and dying on the heights.
But after many happy, busy years, Jan came home one day and found
only Margaret to welcome him. His son Jan was commanding his own vessel
in Australian waters; his son Peter was in the East Indies. His
daughters' homes were far apart, Margaret, with fast silvering hair,
and the heavy step of advancing years, longed greatly for the solace
and strength of his constant presence; and Jan confessed that he was a
little weary of the toil, and even of the glory of his life.
The fact once admitted, the desire for retirement grew with its
discussion. In a little while Jan and Snorro returned to Shetland for
the evening of their lives. They had been twenty years away, but
Lerwick was very little changed. The old world had not been invaded by
the new one. Here and there the busy spirit of the age had left a
finger-mark; no more. The changes were mostly those which under any
circumstances would have come. Doctor Balloch had finished his work,
and gone to his reward. Peter's store was in another name, but Peter,
though a very old man, was bright and hale, and quite able to take an
almost childlike interest in all Jan's plans and amusements.
At first Jan thought of occupying himself with building a fine new
house; but after he had been a week in Shetland, his ambitious project
seemed almost ridiculous. He noticed also that Margaret's heart clung
to her old home, the plain little house in which she had suffered, and
enjoyed, and learned so much. So he sat down contentedly on the hearth
from which he began a life whose troubled dawning had been succeeded by
a day so brilliant, and an evening so calm.
Snorro, never far away, and never long away, from his dear
captain, his dear Jan, bought the little cottage in which he had
once lived. There he hung again the pictured Christ, and there he
arranged, in his own way, all the treasures he had gathered during his
roving life. Snorro's house was a wonderful place to the boys of
Lerwick. They entered it with an almost awful delight. They sat hour
after hour, listening to the kind, brave, good man, in whom every child
found a friend and comforter. His old mates also dearly loved to spend
their evenings with Snorro, and hear him tell about the dangers he had
passed through, and the deeds he had done.
How fair! how calm and happy was this evening of a busy day! Yet in
its sweet repose many a voice from the outside world reached the tired
wayfarers. There were frequent letters from Jan's children, and they
came from all countries, and brought all kinds of strange news. There
were rare visits from old friends, messages and tokens of remembrance,
and numerous books and papers that kept for them the echoes of the
places they had left.
Neither did they feel the days long, or grow weary with inaction.
Jan and Snorro, like the majority of men, whose life-work is finished,
conceived a late but ardent affection for their mother earth. They each
had gardens and small hot-houses, and they were always making
experiments with vegetables and flowers. It was wonderful how much
pleasure they got out of the patches of ground they tried to beautify.
Then the fishing season always renewed their youth. The boats in which
Jan or Snorro took a place were the lucky boats, and often both men sat
together during the watch, as they had done long years before, and
talked softly in the exquisite Shetland night of all the good that had
come to them.
For the companionship between these two souls grew closer and fonder
as they drew nearer to the heavenly horizon. They were more and more
together, they walked the long watches again, and fought over their
battles, and recalled the hours which had been link after link in that
chain of truest love which had bound their hearts and lives together.
And Margaret, still beautiful, with hair as white as snow, and a
face as fair and pink as a pale rose-leaf, sat smiling, and listening,
and knitting beside them; no fears in any of their hearts to beat away,
no strife to heal, the past unsighed for, the future sure, they made a
picture of old age, well won,
Serene and bright
And lovely as a Shetland night.