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An Orkney Maid by Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr

It is easy to see which way Sunna is drifting


"What

is it?" he asked an old surgeon, on whom he was waiting. "Is it recklessness?"

"No, sir!" was the answer. "It is straight courage. Courage in the blood. Courage nourished on their mother's milk. Courage educated into them at Eton or Rugby, in many a fight and scuffle. Courage that lived with them night and day at Oxford or Cambridge, and that made them choose danger and death rather than be known for one moment as a cad or a coward. It was dancing last year. It is fighting in a proper quarrel this year. Different duties, that is all."

Every now and then Sunna dropped them letters about which there was much pleasant speculating, for as the summer came forward, she began to accept the disappointments made by the death of Boris, and to consider what possibilities of life were still within her power. She said in May that "she was sick and weary of everything about Sebastopol, and that she wanted to go back to Scotland, far more frantically than she ever wanted to leave it." In June, she said, she had got her grandfather to listen to reason, but had been forced to cry for what she wanted, a humiliation beyond all apologies.

Her next letter was written in Edinburgh, where she declared she intended to stay for some time. Maximus Grant was in Edinburgh with his little brother, who was under the care and treatment of an eminent surgeon living there. "The poor little laddie is dying,"

she said, "but I am able to help him over many bad hours, and Max is not half-bad, that is, he might be worse if left to himself. Heigh-ho! What varieties of men, and varieties of their trials, poor women have to put up with!"

As the year advanced Sunna's letters grew bright and more and more like her, and she described with admirable imitative piquancy the literary atmosphere and conversation which is Edinburgh's native air. In the month of November, little Eric went away suddenly, in a paroxysm of military enthusiasm, dying literally the death of a soldier "with tumult, with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpets," in his soul's hearing.

"We adored him," wrote Sunna, in her most fervent religious mood, which was just as sincere as any other mood. "He was such a loving, clever little soul, and he lay so long within the hollow of Death's sickle. There he heard and saw wonderful things, that I would not dare to speak of. Max has wept very sincerely. It is my lot apparently, to administer drops of comfort to him. In this world, I find that women can neither hide nor run away from men and their troubles, the moment anything goes wrong with them, they fly to some woman and throw their calamity on her."

"It is easy to see which way Sunna is drifting," said Rahal, after this letter had been read. "She will marry Maximus Grant, of course."

"Mother, her grandfather wishes that marriage. It is very suitable. His silent, masterful way will cure Sunna's faults."

"It will do nothing of the kind. What the cradle rocks, the spade buries. If Sunna lives to be one hundred years old--a thing not unlikely--she will be Sunna. Just Sunna."

During all this summer, Ragnor was deeply engrossed in his business, and the Vedders remained in Edinburgh, as did also Mistress Brodie, though she had had all the best rooms in her Kirkwall house redecorated. "It is her hesitation about grandfather. She will, and she won't," wrote Sunna, "and she keeps grandfather hanging by a hair." Then she made a few scornful remarks about "the hesitating _liaisons_ of old women" and concluded that it all depended upon the marriage ceremony.

Grandfather [she wrote] wants to sneak into some out of the way little church, and get the business over as quickly and quietly as possible; and Mistress Brodie has dreams of a peach-bloom satin gown, and a white lace bonnet. She thought "that was enough for a second affair"; and when I gently hoped that it was at least an affair of the heart, she said with a distinct snap, "Don't be impertinent, Miss!" However, all this is but the overture to the great matrimonial drama, and it is rather interesting.


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