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An Orkney Maid by Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr

Thou art not a perfect Norseman


"What

of Sandy Stark?"

"Sandy is a Scot! I do not use a Scotch measure for a Norseman. Thou art not a perfect Norseman, but yet, even in Edinburgh, there is no Scot that could be thy measure. I should have to say--'thou art five inches taller than the Scot at thy side, and forty pounds heavier, and nearly twice as strong.' That would not be correct to an ounce, but it is as near as it is possible to come between Norse and Scot."

"Thou art romancing!"

"As for the Norse women----"

"About Norse women there is no need for thee to teach thy grandfather. I know what Norse women are like. If I did not know, I should have married again."

"Well then, Barbara Brodie is a good specimen of a capable Norse woman and I have noticed one thing about them, that I feel ought to be better understood."

"Chut! What hast thou understood? Talk about it, and let thy wisdom be known."

"Well then, it is this thing--Norse women always outlive their husbands. Thou may count by tens and hundreds the widows in this town. The 'maidens of blushing fifteen' have no opportunities; the widow of fifty asks a young man into her beautiful home and makes him acquainted with the burden of her rents and dividends and her share in half a dozen trading boats, and he takes to the golden

lure and marries himself like the rest of the world. Thou would have been re-married long ago but for my protection. I have had a very disagreeable day and----"

"Then go to thy bed and put an end to it."

"My new dress is crushed and some way or other I have got a spot on the front breadth. Is it that Darwin book thou art looking for?"

"Yes."

"Would thou like to read a chapter to me?"

"No, I would not."

"Grandfather, I can understand it. I like clever men. Can thou introduce me to him--to Darwin?"

"He would not care to see thee. Clever men do not want clever wives; so if thou art thinking of a clever husband keep thy 'blue stockings' well under thy petticoats."

"And grandfather, do thou keep out of the way of the widows of Orkney or thou wilt find thyself inside of a marriage ring."

"Not while thou remains unmarried. Few women would care to look after thy welfare. I am used to it, long before thou had been short-coated, I had to walk thee to sleep in my arms."

"Yes," laughed Sunna, "I remember that. I felt myself safest with thee."

"Thou remembers nothing of the kind. At six months old, thou could neither compare nor remember."

"But thou art mistaken. I was born with perfect senses. Ere I was twenty-four hours old, I had selected thee as the most suitable person to walk me to sleep. I think that was a proof of my perfect intelligence. One thing more, and then I will let thee read. I am going to marry Boris Ragnor, and then the widow Brodie would--take charge of thee." She shut the door to these words and Adam heard her laughing all the way to her own room. Then he rubbed his hand slowly over and over his mouth and said to himself--"She shall have her say-so; Boris is the only man on the Islands who can manage her."


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