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An Orkney Maid by Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr

If Rahal Ragnor had any respectable excuse


"My

soul has received no orders to go to thy Presbyterian Church," he said to the young Calvinist minister who asked him to do so. "When the order comes, then that may happen which has never happened before."

Yet in spite of his pronounced nationality, and his Episcopal faith, he married Rahal Gordon from the braes of Moray; a Highland Scotch woman and a strict Calvinist. What compact had been made between them no one knew, but it had been sufficient to prevent all religious disputes during a period of twenty-six years. If Rahal Ragnor had any respectable excuse, she did not go to the ritual service in the Cathedral. If she had no such excuse, she went there with her husband and family. Then doubtless her prayer was the prayer of Naaman, that when "she bowed herself in the House of Rimmon, the Lord would pardon her for it."

No one could deny her beauty, though it was of the Highland Scotch type, and therefore a great contrast to the Orcadean blonde. She was slender and dark, with plentiful, glossy, black hair, and soft brown eyes. Her face was oval and richly coloured. Her temperament was frank and domestic; yet she had a romantic side, and a full appreciation of what she called "a proper man."

They had had many children, but four were dead, and three daughters were married and living in Edinburgh and Lerwick, and two sons had emigrated to Canada; while the youngest of all, a boy

of fifteen, was a midshipman on Her Majesty's man-of-war, _Vixen_, so that only one boy and one girl were with their parents. These were Boris, the eldest son, who was sailing his own ship on business ventures to French and Dutch ports, and Thora, the only unmarried daughter. And in 1853 these five persons lived happily enough together in the Ragnor House, Kirkwall.

One day in the spring of 1853 Conall Ragnor was at the rear door of his warehouse. The sea was lippering against its foundation, and he stood with his hand on his left hip, as with a raised head and keen eyes, he searched the far horizon.

In a few minutes he turned with a look of satisfaction. "Well and good!" he thought. "Now I will go home. I have the news I was watching for." Anon he looked at his watch and reflecting a moment assured himself that Boris and the _Sea Gull_ would be safely at anchor by five o'clock.

So with an air of satisfaction he walked through the warehouse, looking critically at the men cleaning and packing feathers, or dried fish, or fresh eggs. There was no sign of slacking in this department, and he turned into the shop where men were weighing groceries and measuring cloth. All seemed well, and after a short delay in his own particular office he went comfortably home.

Meanwhile his daughter Thora was talking of him, and wondering what news he would bring them, and Mistress Ragnor, in a very smart cap and a gown of dark violet silk, was knitting by the large window in the living room--a very comfortable room carpeted with a good Kilmarnock "three-ply" and curtained with red moreen. There were a few sea pictures on the walls, and there was a good fire of drift-wood and peat upon the snow-white hearth.

Thora had just entered the room with a clean table-cloth in her hands. Her mother gave her a quick glance of admiration and then said:


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