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An Orkney Maid by Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr

Rahal desired to talk with her

Dust to dust, but the pure spirit shall flow Back to the burning fountain whence it came A portion of the Eternal which must glow Through time and change unalterably the same.

Our endless need is met by God's endless help.

At her room door Thora bid her mother good night. Rahal desired to talk with her, but the girl shook her head and said wearily, "I want to think, Mother. I have no heart to speak yet." And Rahal turned sadly away. She knew that hour, that her child had come to a door for which she had no key and she left her alone with the situation she had to face. Nor did Thora just then realize that within the past hour her girlhood had vanished, and that she had suddenly become a woman with a woman's fate upon her and a woman's heart-rending problem to solve.

How it came she did not enquire, yet she did recognise some change in herself. Hitherto, all her troubles had been borne by her father or mother. This trouble was her very own. No one could carry it for her but without any hesitation she accepted it. "I must find out the very root of this matter," she said to herself, "and I will not go to bed until I do. Nor is it half-asleep I will be over the question. I will sit up and be wide awake."

So she put more peat and coal on her fire and lit a fresh candle; removed her day clothing and wrapped herself in a large down cloak.

And the night was not cold for there was a southerly wind, and the gulf stream embraces the Orkneys, giving them an abnormally warm climate for their far-north latitude. And she had a passing wonder at herself for these precautions. A year ago, a week ago, she would have thrown herself upon her bed in passionate weeping or clung to her mother and talked her sorrow away in her loving sympathy and advice.

But at this supreme hour of her life, she wanted to be alone. She did not wish to talk about Ian with any one. She was wide awake, quite sensible of the pain and grief at her heart, yet tearless and calm. Never before had she felt that dignity of soul, which looks straight into the face of its sorrow and feels itself equal to the bearing of it. She had as yet no idea that during that evening she had passed through that wonderful heart-experience, which suddenly ripens girlhood into womanhood. Indeed, they will be thoughtless girls--whatever their age--who can read this sentence and not pause and recall that marvellous transition in their own lives. To some it comes with a great joy, to others with a great sorrow but it is always a fateful event, and girls should be ready to meet and salute it.

As soon as Thora had made herself and her room comfortable, she sat down and closed her eyes. All her life she had noticed that her mother shut her eyes when she wanted to think. Now she did the same, and then softly called Ian Macrae to the judgment of her heart and her inner senses, but she did it as naturally as women equally ignorant have done it in all ages, taking or refusing their advice or verdict as directed by their dominant desire, or their reason or unreason.

With almost supernatural clearness she recalled his beautiful, yet troubled face, his hesitating manner, his restlessness in his chair, his nervous trifling with his watch chain or his finger ring. She recalled the fact that his voice had in it a strange tone and that his eyes reflected a soul fearful and angry. It was an unfamiliar Ian she called up, but oh! if it could ever become a familiar one.

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