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An Orkney Maid by Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr

Mistress Ragnor is in the right hand parlour


"Every

day seems like Sabbath Day," said Thora.

"It is Lent," answered Rahal.

"And after Lent comes Easter, dear Mother."

"That is the truth."

In the meantime Boris had gone to Edinburgh on the bark _Sea Gull_ to complete his cargo of Scotch ginghams and sewed muslins, native jewelry and table delicacies. Perhaps, indeed, the minimum notice accorded Lent in the metropolitan city had something to do with this journey, which was not a usual one; but after the departure of the _Sea Gull_ the Ragnor household had settled down to a period of domestic quiet. The Master had to make up the hours spent in the cathedral by a longer stay in the store, and the women at this time generally avoided visiting; they felt--though they did not speak of it--the old prohibition of unkind speech, and the theological quarrel was yet so new and raw that to touch it was to provoke controversy, instead of conversation.

It was at such vacant times that old Adam Vedder's visits were doubly welcome. One day in mid-Lent he came to the Ragnor house, when it was raining with that steady deliberation that gives no hope of anything better. Throwing off his waterproof outer garments, he left them to drip dry in the kitchen. An old woman, watching him, observed:

"Thou art wetting the clean floor, Master Vedder,"

and he briskly answered: "That is thy business, Helga, not mine. Is thy mistress in the house?"

"Would she be out, if she had any good sense left?"

"How can a man tell what a woman will do? Where is thy mistress?" and he spoke in a tone so imperative, that she answered with shrinking humility:

"I ask thy favour. Mistress Ragnor is in the right-hand parlour. I will look after thy cloak."

"It will be well for thee to do that."

Then Adam went to the right-hand parlour and found Rahal sitting by the fire sewing.

"I am glad to see thee, Rahal," he said.

"I am glad to see thee always--more at this time than at any other."

"Well, that is good, but why at this time more than at any other?"

"The town is depressed; business goes on, but in a silent fashion. There is no social pleasure--surely the reason is known to thee!"

"So it is, and the reason is good. When people are confessing their sins, and asking pardon for the same, they cannot feel it to be a cheerful entertainment; and, as thou observed, it affects even their business, which I myself notice is done without the usual joking or quarrelling or drinking of good healths. Well, then, that also is right. Where is Thora?"

"She is going to a lecture this afternoon to be given by the Archdeacon Spens to the young girls, and she is preparing for it." And as these words were uttered, Thora entered the room. She was dressed for the storm outside, and wore the hood of her cloak drawn well over her hair; in her hands were a pair of her father's slippers.


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