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An Orkney Maid by Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr

Not with Donald Farquar sailing the boat


Thora's

letter was a genuine love letter, for Ian was deeply in love and everything he said was in the superlative mood. Lovers like such letters. They are to them the sacred writings. It did not seem ridiculous to Thora to be called "an angel of beauty and goodness, the rose of womanhood, the lily on his heart, his star of hope, the sunshine of his life," and many other extravagant impossibilities. She would have been disappointed if Ian had been more matter-of-fact and reasonable.

So there was now comparative happiness in the house of Ragnor, for though the master's letters were never much more than plain statements of doings or circumstances, they satisfied Rahal. It is not every man that knows how to write to a woman, even if he loves her; but women have a special divinity in reading love letters, and they know beyond all doubting the worth of words as affected by those who use them.

Ragnor gave himself a whole week in London and before leaving that city for Edinburgh he wrote a few lines home, saying he intended to stay in London over the following Sabbath and hear Canon Liddon preach. On Monday he would reach Edinburgh and on Tuesday have an interview with Dr. Macrae and then take the first boat for home. They could now wait easily, the silence had been broken, the weather was good, they had "The History of Pendennis" and "David Copperfield" to read, their little duties and little cares to attend to, and they

were not at all unhappy.

At length, the master was to be home _that_ day. If the wind was favourable, he might arrive about two o'clock, but Rahal thought the boat would hardly manage it before three with the wind in her teeth, or it might be nearer four. The house was all ready for him, spick and span from roof to cellar and a dinner of the good things he particularly liked in careful preparation. And, after all, he came a little earlier than was expected.

"Dear Conall," said Rahal, "I have been watching for thee, but I thought it would be four o'clock, ere thou made Kirkwall."

"Not with Donald Farquar sailing the boat. The way he manages a boat is beyond reason."

"How is that?"

"He talks to her, as if she was human. He scolds and coaxes her and this morning he promised to paint and gild her figurehead, if she got into Kirkwall before three. Then every sailor on board helped her and the wind changed a point or two and that helped her, and now and then Farquar pushed her on, with a good or bad word, and she saved herself by just eleven minutes."

"And how well thou art looking! Never have I seen thee so handsome before, never! What hast thou been doing to Conall Ragnor?"

"I will tell thee. When I had bid Ian good-bye, I resolved to take a week's holiday in London and as I walked down the Strand, I noticed that every one looked at me, not unkindly but curiously, and when I looked at the men who looked at me, I saw we were different. I went into a barber's first, and had my hair cut like Londoners wear it, short and smart, and not thick and bushy, like mine was."

"Well then, thy hair was far too long but they have cut off all thy curls."

"I like the wanting of them. They looked very womanish. I'm a deal more purpose-like without them. Then I went to a first-class tailor-man and he fit me out with the suit I'm wearing. He said it was 'the correct thing for land or water.' What dost thou think of it?"


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