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An Orkney Maid by Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr

While Rahal and Barbara talked


Then

all the women went out together to prepare and serve the requested meal, so that it came with wonderful swiftness, and beaming smiles, and charming words of laughing pleasure. And when he saw a little table drawn to the hearth for him and quickly spread with the food he needed and smelled the refreshing odour of the young Hyson, and heard the pleasant tinkle of china and glass and silver as Thora placed them before the large chair he was to occupy, he sat down happily to eat and drink, while Thora served him, and Conall smoked and watched them with a now-and-then smile or word or two, while Rahal and Barbara talked, and Ian played charmingly--with soft pedal down--quotations from Beethoven's "Pastoral Symphony" and "Hark, 'Tis the Linnet!" from the oratorio, "Joshua."

It was a delightful interlude in which every one was happy in their own way, and so healed by it of all the day's disappointments and weariness. But the wise never prolong such perfect moments. Even while yielding their first satisfactions, they permit them to depart. It is a great deal to _have been happy_. Every such memory sweetens after life.

The Bishop did not linger over his meal, and while servants were clearing away cups and plates, he said, "Come, all of you, outside, for a few minutes. Come and look at the Moon of Moons! The Easter Moon! She has begun to fill her horns; and she is throwing over the mystery and majesty of earth and sea

a soft silvery veil as she watches for the dawn. The Easter dawn! that in a few hours will come streaming up, full of light and warmth for all."

But there was not much warmth in an Orcadean April evening and the party soon returned to the cheerful, comfortable hearth blaze. "It is not so beautiful as the moonlight," said Rahal, "but it is very good."

"True," said the Bishop, "and we must not belittle the good we have, because we look for something better. Let us be thankful for our feet, though they are not wings."

Then one of those sudden, inexplicable "arrests" which seem to seal up speech fell over every one, and for a minute or more no one could speak. Rahal broke the spell. "Some angel has passed through the room. Please God he left a blessing! Or perhaps the moonlight has thrown a spell over us. What were you thinking of, Bishop?"

"I will tell you. I was thinking of the first Good Friday in Old Jerusalem. I was thinking of the sun hiding his face at noonday. Thora, have you an almanac?"

Thora took one from a nail on which it was hanging and gave it to him.

"I was thinking that the sun, which hid his face at noonday, must at that time have been in Aries, the Ram. Find me the signs of the Zodiac." Thora did so. "Now look well at Aries the Ram. What month of our year is signed thus?"

"The month of March, sir."

"Why?"

"I do not know. Tell me, sir."


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