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An Orkney Maid by Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr

This was the dominant feeling that came to Thora Ragnor

Sow not in Sorrow, Fling your seed abroad, and know God sends tomorrow, The rain to make it grow. --BLACKIE.

There are epochs in every life that cut it sharply asunder, its continuity is broken and things can never be the same again. This was the dominant feeling that came to Thora Ragnor, as she sat with her mother one afternoon in early January. It was a day of Orkney's most uncomfortable and depressing kind, the whole island being swept by drifting clouds of vapour, which not only filled the atmosphere but also the houses, so that everything was to the touch damp and uncomfortable. Nothing could escape its miserable contact, even sitting on the hearthstone its power was felt; and until a good northwester came to dissipate the damp moisture, nobody expected much from any one's temper.

Thora was restless and unhappy. Her life appeared to have been suddenly deprived of all joy and sunshine. She felt as if everything was at an end, or might as well be, and her mother's placid, peaceful face irritated her. How could she sit knitting mufflers for the soldiers in the trenches, and not think of Boris and also of Ian, whom they had all conspired to send to the same danger and perhaps death? She could not understand her mother's serenity. It occurred to her this afternoon, that she might have run away with Ian to Shetland and there her sisters would have seen her married; and

she did not do this, she obeyed her parents, and what did she get for it? Loneliness and misery and her lover sent far away from her. Oh, those moments when Virtue has failed to reward us and we regret having served her! To the young, they are sometimes very bitter.

And her mother's calmness! It not only astonished, it angered her. How could she sit still and not talk of Boris and Ian? It was a necessary relief to Thora, their names were at her lips all day long. But Thora had yet to learn that it is the middle-aged and the old who have the power of hoping through everything, because they have the knowledge that the soul survives all its adventures. This is the great inspiration, it is the good wine which God keeps to the last. The old, the way-worn, the faint and weary, they know this as the young can never know it.

However, we may say to bad weather, as to all other bad things, "this, too, will pass," and in a couple of days the sky was blue, the sun shining, and the atmosphere fresh and clear and full of life-giving energy. Ships of all kinds were hastening into the harbour and the mail boat, broad-bottomed and strongly built, was in sight. Then there was a little real anxiety. There was sure to be letters, what news would they bring? Some people say there is no romance in these days. Very far wrong are they. These sealed bits of white paper hold very often more wonderful romances than any in the Thousand Nights of story telling.

Rahal's and Thora's anxiety was soon relieved. A messenger from the warehouse came quickly to the house, with a letter from Ragnor to Rahal and a letter from Ian to Thora. Ragnor's letter said they had had a rough voyage southward, the storm being in their faces all the way to Leith. There they left the boat and took a train for London, from which place they went as quickly as possible to Spithead, fearing to miss the ship sailing for the Crimea on the eleventh. Ragnor said he had seen Ian safely away to Sebastopol and observed that he was remarkably cheerful and satisfied. He spoke then of his own delight with London and regretted that he had not made arrangements which would permit him to stay a week or two longer there.

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