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An Orkney Maid by Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr

Then Ragnor took out a letter and handed it to Ian


special request, they drew closer to the hearth and to each other. Then Ragnor took out a letter and handed it to Ian. He was sitting at Thora's side and her hand was in his hand. He let it fall and took the letter offered him.

"I cannot explain this letter," he said, "unless I preface it with some facts regarding my unhappy childhood and youth. I am, as you know, the son of Dr. Macrae, but I have been a disinherited son ever since I can remember. I suppose that in my earliest years I was loved and kindly treated, but I have no remembrance of that time. I know only that before I was five years old, my father had accepted the solemn conviction that I was without election to God's grace. Personally I was a beautiful child, but I was received and considered, body and soul, as unredeemable. Father then regarded me as a Divine decree which it was his duty to receive with a pious acquiescence. My mother pitied and, in her way, loved me, and suffered much with me. I have a little sister also, who would like to love me, but there is in all her efforts just that touch of Phariseeism which destroys love."

"But, Ian, there must have been some reason for your father's remarkable conviction?"

"That is most likely. If so, he never explained the fact to me or even to my mother. She told me once that he did not suspect that I had missed God's election until I was between five and six years

old. I suppose that about that age I began to strengthen his cruel fear by my antipathy to the kirk services and my real and unfortunate inability to learn the Shorter Catechism. This was a natural short-coming. I could neither spell or pronounce the words I was told to learn and to memorise them was an impossible thing."

"Could not your mother help you?"

"She tried. She wept over me as she tried, and I made an almost superhuman effort to comprehend and remember. I could not. I was flogged, I was denied food and even water. I was put in dark rooms. I was forbid all play and recreation. I went through this martyrdom year after year and I finally became stubborn and would try no longer. In the years that followed, until I was sixteen, my daily sufferings were great, but I remember them mainly for my mother's sake, who suffered with me in all I suffered. Nor am I without pity for my father. He honestly believed that in punishing me he was doing all he could to save me from everlasting punishment. Yes, sir! Do not shake your head! I have heard him praying, pleading with God, for some token of my election to His mercy. You see it was John Calvin."

"John Calvin!" ejaculated Ragnor, "how is that?"

"It was his awful tenets I had to learn; and when I was young I could not learn them, and when I grew older I would not learn them. My father had called me John Calvin and I detested the name. On my eighteenth birthday I asked him to have it changed. He was very angry at my request. I begged him passionately to do so. I said it ruined my life, that I could do nothing under that name. 'Give me your own name, Father,' I entreated, 'and I will try and be a good man!'

"He said something to me, I never knew exactly what, but the last word was more than I could bear and my reply was an oath. Then he lifted the whip at his side and struck me."

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