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An Orkney Maid by Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr

Conall Ragnor never really settled down again

The Ragnors are here in plenty. All the men are at the war, all the women running fishing boats or keeping general shops, to which I like to see the Germans going. They are told what kind of people they are as they walk up to the shops; and they get what they want at an impoverishing price. Serve them right! Men, however, will pay any money for a thing they want.

There has not been such good times in Orkney since I was born, as there is now. We have an enemy to beat in trade and an enemy to beat in fight at our very doors, and our men are neither to hold nor to bind, they are that top-lofty. War is a man's native air. My sons and grandsons are all two inches taller than they were and they defy Nature to contradict them. I never attempt it. Well, then, they are proper men in all things, a little hard to deal with and masterful, but just as I wish them. My grandfather died fifty years ago, he might have lived longer if he had not married. His widow wept in the deepest black and people thought she was sorry.

The Ragnors are mostly here and in Shetland. Conall Ragnor never really settled down again. Rahal and he lived in Edinburgh or London, when not travelling. I heard that Conall wrote books and really got money for them. I cannot believe that. Rahal died first. Conall lived a month after her. They were laid in earth in Stromness Church-yard. My grandfather wanted to

bring the body of Boris home and bury it in Stromness, and I would not let him. He is all mine where he sleeps in the Crimea. I don't want him among a congregation of his brothers and sisters and uncles and aunts.

* * * * *

I suppose thou must have heard of Thora's husband. He really did become famous, and I was told his father forgave him all his youthful follies. It was said Thora managed that in some clever way; but I'm sure I don't know what to say. Thora never seemed at all clever to me. She had many children, but she died long ago, though she did live long enough to see her husband knighted and her eldest boy marry the daughter of a lord. I have no doubt she was happy in her own way, only she never did dress herself as a person in the best society ought to have done. I once told her so. "Well, then," she said, "I dress to please my husband." Imagine such simplicity! As to myself I am getting near to ninety, but I live a good life and God helps me. I have kept my fine hair and complexion and I run around on my little errands quite comfortably. Indeed I am sunwise able for everything I want. I shall be glad to hear from thee again, and if thou wilt send me occasionally some of those delightful American papers, thou wilt make me much thy debtor. Also, I want thee to tell all the brave young Americans thou knows that if they would like a real life on the ocean wave, they ought to join our wonderful patrol round the English coast. They will learn more and see more and feel more in a month, in this little interfering navy, than they'd learn in a lifetime in a first-class man-of-war.

Write to me again and then we shall have tied our friendship with a three-fold letter. Thine, with all good will and wishes,


This is a woman's letter and it must have a postscript. It is only two lines of John Stuart Blackie's, and it should have been at the beginning, but it will touch your heart at the end as well as at the beginning.

"Oh, for a breath of the great North Sea, Girdling the mountains!" S. V. G.

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Transcriber Notes

Fixed probable typos.

Hyphenation standardized.

Archaic and variable spelling is preserved.

Author's punctuation style is preserved, except quote marks, which have been standardized.

Passages in italics indicated by _underscores_.

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