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An Orkney Maid by Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr

Rahal Ragnor had never kept it


First,

the guests came all together from some agreed-upon rendezvous. They walked, for private carriages were very rare and there were none for hire. However, this walking party was generally a very pleasant introduction to a more pleasant and intimate evening. The women were wrapped up in their red or blue cloaks, and the men carried their dancing slippers, fans, bouquets, and other small necessities of the ballroom.

Second, the old and the young had an equal share in any entertainment, and if there was a difference, it was in favour of the old. On this very night Conall Ragnor danced in every figure called, except a saraband, which he said was too slow and formal to be worth calling a dance. Even old Adam Vedder who had come on his own invitation--but welcome all the same--went through the Orkney Quickstep with the two prettiest girls present, Thora Ragnor and Maren Torrie. For honourable age was much respected and every young person wished to share his happiness with it.

A very marked characteristic was the evident pleasure old and young had in the gratification of their sense of taste, in the purely animal pleasure of eating good things. No one had a bad appetite, and if anyone wished for more of a dish they liked, they asked for it. Indeed they had an easy consciousness of paying their hostess a compliment, and of giving themselves a little more pleasure.

Finally, they made the

day, day; and the night, night. Such gatherings broke up about eleven o'clock; then the girls went home unwearied, to sleep, and morning found them rosy and happy, already wondering who would give them the next dance.

CHAPTER II

ADAM VEDDER'S TROUBLE

... they do not trust their tongues alone But speak a language of their own; Convey a libel in a frown, And wink a reputation down; Or by the tossing of a fan, Describe the lady and the man.--SWIFT

It is good to be merry and wise, It is good to be honest and true, It is well to be off with the old love Before you are on with the new.

Boris did not remain long in the home port. It was drawing near to Lent, and this was a sacred term very highly regarded by the citizens of this ancient cathedral town. Of course in the Great Disruption the National Episcopal Church had suffered heavy loss, but Lent was a circumstance of the Soul, so near and dear to its memory, that even those disloyal to their Mother Church could not forget or ignore it. In some cases it was secretly more faithfully observed than ever before; then its penitential prayers became intensely pathetic in their loneliness. For these self-bereft souls could not help remembering the days when they went up with the multitude to keep the Holy Fast in the House of their God.

Rahal Ragnor had never kept it. It had been only a remnant of popery to her. Long before the Free Kirk had been born, she and all her family had been Dissenters of some kind or other. And yet her life and her home were affected by this Episcopal "In Memoriam" in a great number of small, dominating ways, so that in the course of years she had learned to respect a ceremonial that she did not endorse. For she knew that no one kept Lent with a truer heart than Conall Ragnor, and that the Lenten services in the cathedral interfered with his business to an extent nothing purely temporal would have been permitted to do.

So, after the little dance given to Boris, there was a period of marked quietness in Kirkwall. It was as if some mighty Hand had been laid across the strings of Life and softened and subdued all their reverberations. There was no special human influence exerted for this purpose, yet no one could deny the presence of some unseen, unusual element.


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