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An Orkney Maid by Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr

Boris knows Boris knows I have told him


"In

all their generations, good men. Thy father is a Mason in high standing."

"Yes, that is so! Then the Mason's Arms may be lucky to us?"

"We make things lucky or unlucky by our willing and doing; but even so, it is not lucky to defy or deny what the dead have once held to be good or bad."

"Well, then, why, Mother?"

"Not now, will we talk of whys and wherefores. It is easier to believe than to think. Take, in this last day of Love's seven days, the full joy of your lives and ask not why of anyone."

So the lovers went off gaily to see the land-locked bay and the strange old town of Stromness; and the house was silent and lonely without them and Rahal wished that her husband would come home and talk with her, for her soul was under a cloud of presentiments and she said to herself after a morning of fretful, inefficient work: "Oh, how much easier it is to love God than it is to trust Him. Are not my dear ones in His care? Yet about them I am constantly worrying; though perfectly well I know that in any deluge that may come, God will find an ark for those who love and trust Him. Boris knows--Boris knows--I have told him."

About three o'clock she went to the window and looked towards the town. Much to her astonishment she saw her husband coming home at a speed far beyond his ordinary

walk. He appeared also to be disturbed, even angry, and she watched him anxiously until he reached the house. Then she was at the open door and his face frightened her.

"Conall! My dear one! Art thou ill?" she asked.

"I am ill with anger and pity and shame!"

"What is thy meaning? Speak to me plainly."

"Oh, Rahal! the shame and the cruelty of it! I am beside myself!"

"Come to my room, then thou shalt tell thy sorrow and I will halve it with thee."

"No! I want to cry out! I want to shout the shameful wrong from the house-tops! Indeed, it is flying all over England and Scotland--over all the civilized world! And yet--my God! the guilty ones are still living!"

"Coll, my dear one, what is it thou most needs--cold water?"

"No! No! Get me a pot of hot tea.[*] My brain burns. My heart is like to break! Our poor brave soldiers! They are dying of hunger and of every form of shameful neglect. The barest necessities of life are denied them."

[*] The Norsemen of Shetland and Orkney drank tea in every kind of need or crisis. No meal without it, no pleasure without it; and it was equally indispensable in every kind of trouble or fatigue.

"By whom? By whom, Coll?"

"Pacifists in power and office everywhere! Give me a drink! Give me a drink! I am ill--get me tea--and I will tell thee."

There was boiling water on the kitchen hob, and the tea was ready in five minutes. "Drink, dear Coll," said Rahal, "and then share thy trouble and anger with me. The mail packet brought the bad news, I suppose?"

"Yes, about an hour ago. The town is in a tumult. Men are cursing and women are doing nothing less. Some whose sons are at the front are in a distraction. If Aberdeen were within our reach we would give him five minutes to say his prayers and then send him to the judgment of God. Englishmen and Norsemen will not lie down and rot under Russian tyranny. To die fighting against it sends them joyfully to the battlefield! But oh, Rahal! to be left alone to die on the battlefield, without help, without care, without even a drink of cold water! It is damnable cruelty! What I say is this: let England stop her bell-ringing and shouts of victory until she has comforted and helped her wounded and dying soldiers!"


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