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An Orkney Maid by Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr

Rahal would not have married thee


she covered her eyes with her hand and a sharp, chagrined catch of her breath broke the hush of the still room. And her voice, though little stronger than a whisper, was full of painful wonder. "What will people say? What shall we say? Oh, the shame! Oh, the mortification! Who will now live in my pretty home? Who will eat my wedding cake? What will become of my wedding dress? Oh, Thora! Thora! Love has led thee a shameful, cruel road! What wilt thou do? What can thou do?"

Then a singular thing happened. A powerful thought from some forgotten life came with irresistible strength into her mind, and though she did not speak the words suggested, she prayed them--if prayer be that hidden, never-dying imploration that goes with the soul from one incarnation to another--for the words that sprang to her memory must have been learned centuries before, "Oh, Mary! Mary! Mother of Jesus Christ! Thou that drank the cup of all a woman's griefs and wrongs, pray for me!"

And she was still and silent as the words passed through her consciousness. She thought every one of them, they seemed at the moment so real and satisfying. Then she began to wonder and ask herself, "Where did those words come from? When did I hear them? Where did I say them before? How do they come to be in my memory? From what strange depth of Life did they come? Did I ever have a Roman Catholic nurse? Did she whisper them to my soul, when I was sick and

suffering? I must ask mother--oh, how tired and sleepy I feel--I will go to bed--I have done no good, come to no decision. I will sleep--I will tell mother in the morning--I wish I had let her stop with me--mother always knows--what is the best way----" And thus the heart-breaking session ended in that blessed hostel, The Inn of Dreamless Sleep.

There was, however, little sleep in the House of Ragnor that night, and very early in the morning Ragnor, fully dressed, spoke to his wife. "Art thou waking yet, Rahal?" he asked, and Rahal answered, "I have slept little. I have been long awake."

"Well then, what dost thou think now of Ian Macrae, so-called?"

"I think little amiss of him--some youthful follies--nothing to make a fuss about."

"Hast thou considered that the follies of youth may become the follies of manhood, and of age? What then?"

"We are not told to worry about what may be."

"Ian has evidently been living and spending with people far above his means and his class."

"The Lowland Scotch regard a minister as socially equal to any peer. Are not the servants of God equal, and more than equal, to the servants of the queen? No society is above either they or their children. That I have seen always. And young men of fine appearance and charming manners, like Ian, are welcome in every home, high or low. Yes, indeed!"

"Yet girls, as a rule, should not marry handsome men with charming manners, unless there is something better behind to rely on."

"If thou had not been a handsome man with a charming manner, Rahal would not have married thee. What then?"

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