Read CHAPTER X - SWEET HOME. of Jan Vedder's Wife , free online book, by Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr, on ReadCentral.com.

                    “On so nice a pivot turns
  True wisdom; here an inch, or there, we swerve
  From the just balance; by too much we sin,
  And half our errors are but truths unpruned.”

If Margaret were neglected, it was in the main her own fault; or, at least, the fault of circumstances which she would not even try to control.  Between her and Suneva there had never been peace, and she did not even wish that there should be.  When they were scarcely six years old, there was rivalry between them as to which was the better and quicker knitter.  During their school days, this rivalry had found many other sources from which to draw strength.  When Margaret consented to go to Edinburgh to finish her education, she had felt that in doing so she would gain a distinct triumph over Suneva Torr.  When she came back with metropolitan dresses, and sundry trophies in the way of Poonah painting and Berlin wool work, she held herself above and aloof from all her old companions, and especially Suneva.

Her conquest of Jan Vedder, the admiration and hope of all the young girls on the Island, was really a victory over Suneva, to whom Jan had paid particular attention before he met Margaret.  Suneva had been the bitterest drop in all her humiliation concerning her marriage troubles.  In her secret heart she believed Suneva had done her best to draw her old lover from his quiet home to the stir and excitement of her father’s drinking-room.  If Peter had searched Shetland through, he could not have found a second wife so thoroughly offensive to his daughter.

And apart from these personal grievances, there were pecuniary ones which touched Margaret’s keenest sensibilities.  Peter Fae’s house had long been to her a source of pride; and, considering all things, it was admirably arranged and handsomely furnished.  In the course of events, she naturally expected that it would become her house-hers and her boy’s.  To not only lose it herself, but to have it given to Suneva without reservation, seemed to Margaret not only a wrong but an insult.  And the L100 a year which had been given with it, was also to her mind a piece of cruel injustice.  She could not help reflecting that some such kindness to her at her own wedding would have satisfied Jan, and perhaps altered their whole life.  It must be admitted that her mortification in being only a dependent in the house which she had ruled, and regarded as her own, was a natural and a bitter one.

At the last, too, the change had come upon her with the suddenness of a blow from behind.  It is true that Peter made no secret of his courtship, and equally true that the gossips of the town brought very regular news of its progress to Margaret.  But she did not believe her father would take a step involving so much to them both, without speaking to her about it.  As soon as he did so, she had resolved to ask him to prepare her own home for her without delay.  She had taken every care of her furniture.  It was in perfect order, and as soon as the house had been again put into cleanly shape, she could remove to it.  The thought of its perfect isolation, and of its independence, began to appear desirable to her.  Day by day she was getting little articles ready which she would need for her own housekeeping.

In the meantime the summer with all its busy interests kept Peter constantly at the store.  When he was at home, his mind was so full of “fish takes” and of “curing,” that Margaret knew that it would be both imprudent and useless to name her private affairs.  Perhaps his extreme preoccupation was partly affected in order to avoid the discussion of unpleasant matters; but if so, Margaret never suspected it.  She had many faults, but she was honest and truthful in all her ways, and she believed her father would be equally so with her.  When the fishing was over, Peter was always a few weeks employed in counting up his expenses and his gains.  October and part of November had been from her girlhood regarded as a critical time; a time when on no account he was to be troubled about household matters.  But when November was nearly over, then Margaret determined to open the subject of the reported marriage to him, if he did not take the initiative.

As it was getting near this time, she walked over one afternoon to her old home, in order to ascertain its condition.  Never, since she so foolishly abandoned it, had she been near the place.  Its mournful, desolate aspect shocked her.  Peter had never been able to rent it.  There was an idea that it belonged to Margaret and was “unlucky.”  The gate had fallen from the rusted hinges.  Passing boys had maliciously broken the windows, and the storms of two winters had drifted through the empty rooms.  Timber is scarce and dear in Shetland, and all the conveniences for her animals and fowls had been gradually plundered and carried off.  Margaret looked with dismay at the place, and, as she went through the silent rooms, could not help a low cry of real heart pain.  In them it was impossible to forget Jan, the gay, kind-hearted husband, who had once made all their echoes ring to his voice and tread.

Never had the sense of her real widowhood seemed so strong and so pitiful.  But in spite of its dreariness, the house attracted her.  There, better than in any other place, she could rear her son, and devote her life to memories at once so bitter and so sweet.  She determined to speak that very night, unless her father were unusually cross or thoughtful.  Christmas was a favorite date for weddings, and it was very probable that Suneva would choose that time for her own.  If so, there would be barely time to prepare the old home.

She set Peter’s tea-table with unusual care; she made him the cream-cakes that he liked so well, and saw that every thing was bright and comfortable, and in accord with his peculiar fancies.  But Peter did not come home to tea, and after waiting an hour, she put the service away.  It had become a very common disappointment.

Peter said something in a general way about business, but Margaret was well aware, that when he did not come home until ten o’clock, he had taken tea with the Torrs, and spent the evening with Suneva.

This night she had a very heavy heart.  Three times within the past week Peter had been late.  Things were evidently coming to a crisis, and she felt the necessity of prompt movement in her own interests.  She put the child to sleep, and sat down to wait for her father’s arrival.  About eight o’clock she heard his voice and step, and before she could rise and go with a candle to the door, Peter and Suneva entered together.

There was something in their manner that surprised her; the more so, that Suneva immediately began to take off her bonnet and cloak, and make herself quite at home.  Margaret saw then that she wore a rich silk dress and many gold ornaments, and that her father also wore his Sunday suit.  The truth flashed upon her in a moment.  There was no need for Peter to say-

“Suneva and I have just been married, Margaret.  Suppose thou make us a cup of tea.”

At that hour, and under such circumstances, nothing could have induced her to obey the request.  Never before had she disobeyed her father, and it gave her a shock to do it, but all the same she enjoyed the sensation.  Make tea for Suneva!  For the woman who had supplanted her in her father’s affection, and in all her rights!  She felt that she would rather take her child, and walk out with it upon the dark and desolate moor.

But she was slow of speech, and in her anger and amazement she could find no word to interpret her emotion.  One long, steady look she gave her father-a look which Peter never forgot-then, haughtily as a discrowned queen, but with a face as white as snow, she left the room.  Suneva laughed, but it was not an ill-natured laugh.  “It would have been better had we told her, Peter,” she said.  “If I had been thy daughter, I should not have liked thee to bring home a wife without a word about it.”

“It will be an ill day with Peter Fae when he asks his women what he shall do, or how he shall do it.  Yes, indeed!”

Suneva looked queerly at him.  She did not speak a word, but her dancing, gleaming eyes said very plainly that such an “ill day” might be coming even for Peter Fae.

Then she set herself to making the tea he had asked for.  There were the cakes Margaret had baked, and sweets, and cold meat, and all kinds of spirits at hand; and very soon Margaret heard the pleasant clatter of china, and the hum of subdued but constant conversation, broken at intervals by Suneva’s shrill rippling laugh.  Margaret made up her mind that hour, that however short or long her stay might be in Suneva’s house, she would never again lift a finger in its ordering.

In the morning she remained in her own room until her father had gone to the store.  When she went down stairs, she found the servants, her servants, eagerly waiting upon Suneva, who was examining her new possessions.  As she entered the room, Suneva turned with a piece of the best china in her hand, and said, “Oh, it is thee!  Good morning, Margaret.”  Then in a moment Margaret’s dour, sulky temper dominated her; she looked at Suneva, but answered her not one word.

No two women could have been more unlike each other.  Margaret, dressed in a plain black gown, was white and sorrowful.  Suneva, in a scarlet merino, carefully turned back over a short quilted petticoat that gave pleasant glimpses of her trim latched shoes and white stockings, had a face and manner bright and busy and thoroughly happy.  Margaret’s dumb anger did not seem to affect her.  She went on with her work, ordering, cleaning, rearranging, sending one servant here and another there, and took no more notice of the pale, sullen woman on the hearth, than if she had not existed.

However, when Margaret brought the child down stairs, she made an effort at conciliation.  “What a beautiful boy!” she exclaimed.  “How like poor Jan!  What dost thou call him?” And she flipped her fingers, and chirruped to the child, and really longed to take him in her arms and kiss him.

But to Margaret the exclamation gave fresh pain and offense.  “What had Suneva to do with Jan?  And what right had she to pity him, and to say ‘poor Jan!’” She did not understand that very often a clumsy good nature says the very thing it ought to avoid.  So she regarded the words as a fresh offense, and drew her child closer to her, as if she were afraid even it would be taken from her.

It was snowing lightly, and the air was moist with a raw wind from the north-east.  Yet Margaret dressed herself and her child to go out.  At the door Suneva spoke again.  “If thou wants to go abroad, go; but leave the child with me.  I will take care of him, and it is damp and cold, as thou seest.”

She might as well have spoken to the wind.  Margaret never delayed a moment for the request; and Suneva stood looking after her with a singular gleam of pity and anger in her eyes.  There was also a kind of admiration for the tall, handsome woman who in her perfect health and strength bore so easily the burden of her child.  She held him firmly on her left arm, and his little hand clasped her neck behind, as with perfect grace she carried him, scarcely conscious of his weight, especially when he nestled his face against her own.

She went directly to her father’s store.  It was nearly noon when she arrived there, and it was empty.  Only Snorro stood beside the great peat fire.  He saw Margaret enter, and he placed a chair for her in the warmest corner.  Then he said, “Give me little Jan, and I will hold him for thee.”  She put the boy in his arms and watched him a moment as he shook the snow from his cap and coat; then she said:  “Tell my father I want to speak to him.”

Peter came somewhat reluctantly.  He knew the conversation had to be gone through, but he felt as if Margaret had him at a disadvantage in the store.  Snorro was present, and strangers might at any moment come in, and hurry him into an unwise concession.  He was angry at Margaret, also, for her behavior on the previous night, and it was not in any amiable mood he approached her.

“Father, wilt thou have my house put in order for me?  I want to go back to it.”

“Yes, I will; soon.”

“How soon, then?”

“I can not be hurried.  There is no glass left in it, and there are many things to repair besides.  It will take time and money, a good deal of money, more than I can well afford at present.  I have had many expenses lately.”

“Dost thou then mean that I must live with Suneva?  No, I will not do that.  I will go into the house without windows.  Snorro will patch up the best ones, and board up the others.”

“Snorro!  Snorro, indeed!  When was Snorro thy servant?  As for Suneva, she is as good as thou art.  Am I made of money to keep two houses going?”

“I will not ask thee for a penny.”

“Thou wilt make a martyr of thyself, and set the town talking of me and of Suneva.  No, thou shalt not do such a thing.  Go home and behave thyself, and no one will say wrong to thee.”

“I will not live with Suneva.  If thou wilt not make a house habitable for me, then I will hire a man to do it.”

“Thou wilt not dare.  When it seems right to me, I will do it.  Wait thou my time.”

“I can not wait.  So then I will hire John Hay’s empty cottage.  It will do, poor as it is.”

“If thou dost, I will never speak to thee nor to thine again.  I will not give thee nor thy child a shilling, whether I be living or dead.”

“What shall I do?  Oh, what shall I do?” And Margaret wrung her hands helplessly, and burst into passionate weeping.

“‘Do’?  Go home, and be thankful for thy home.  What would thou do in a Shetland hut, alone, at the beginning of winter?  And I will not have thee come crying here.  Mind that!  Take thy child and go home; go at once.”

“Thou might have told me!  Thou might!  It was a cruel thing to take me unawares; at a moment-”

“And if I had told thee, what then?  Tears and complaints, and endless wants.  I had no mind to be tormented as thou tormented thy husband.”

That was a needlessly cruel taunt, and Peter was ashamed of it as soon as uttered.  But all the same he turned away in anger, and two men coming in at the moment, he went with them to the other end of the store.

Snorro had held “little Jan” during the interview.  The fresh air and the heat had overpowered the child, and he had fallen asleep.  He lay in Snorro’s arms, a beautiful, innocent miniature of the man he loved so dearly.  Watching the sleeping face, he had seemed unconscious of what passed between Peter and his daughter, but in reality he had heard every word.  When Peter turned away he watched Margaret put on her baby’s cap and coat, and then as she rose with it folded in her arms, he said, “Let me see him again.”

“Kiss him, Snorro, for thou loved his father.”

He stooped and kissed the boy, and then glanced into Margaret’s face.  Her tears, her pallor, her air of hopeless suffering went straight to his heart.  After all she was Jan’s wife.  He felt a great pity for her, and perhaps Margaret divined it, for she said timidly, “Snorro, can thou mend the windows in the old house-the house where I lived with Jan?”

“Yes, I can.”

“Wilt thou ask my father if thou may do it?”

“I will do it.  Have thou patience, Margaret Vedder.  It would be a sin if thou made the child suffer.”

“Dost thou think I would?  Little does thou know of a mother’s heart.”

“Snorro!”

It was Peter calling, and calling angrily; but ere Snorro answered the summons he went with Margaret to the door, and as he opened it, said, “If I can help thee, for Jan’s sake I am on thy side.”

Very hard and bitter and cold was the walk homeward.  The snow fell thick and fast, and she was tired and faint when she reached the house.  Never had its warmth and comfort seemed so good to her.  How could she feel kindly to the woman who had robbed her and her child of their right in it?  Every one must have noticed that when they are in trouble, the weather is usually their enemy.  A very long and severe snow-storm followed Margaret’s useless effort.  She had perforce to sit still, and for “little Jan’s” sake be grateful for the warmth and shelter given her.

Little Jan” Snorro had unconsciously named the child.  Several attempts had been made to do so, but somehow all had hitherto failed.  At first “Peter” had been thought of; but Peter Fae had not taken kindly to a Peter Vedder, and the name after a few half-hearted utterances had been dropped.  Thora had longed to call him “Willie,” but at her death the scarcely recognized name was given up.  But Snorro’s tender, positive “little Jan” had settled the matter in Margaret’s mind.  Henceforward the boy was to be called by his father’s name, and she cared not whether it were liked or not.

To Margaret the winter passed drearily away.  She refused to have any part in Suneva’s hospitalities, though the “Fae House” became during it as famous for its gayety, as it had been in Thora’s time for its quiet and seclusion.  Suneva had no idea of being the mistress of a shut up house.  She was proud of her large rooms and fine furniture, and anxious to exhibit them.  Besides which, she was in her element as hostess of the cozy tea-party or the merry dance.

Fortunately for her peaceful success, Peter discovered that he had the same taste.  It had lain dormant and undeveloped during his struggle for wealth, and in the quiet content of Thora’s atmosphere; but every circumstance now favored its growth, and he became quite as proud of his name as a generous and splendid host, as he was of his character as a keen and successful trader.

He was still a handsome man, fresh and active, carrying his fifty-eight years with all the dignity of conscious independence and assured position.  It was Suneva’s great pride that she had induced him to wear the fine cloth and velvet and linen suitable to his wealth.  She flattered him into many an extravagance; she persuaded him that no one in the Islands could recite as well, or dance with more activity and grace.  Under her influence Peter renewed his youth and enjoyed it.  Margaret often heard them planning some entertainment, and laughing over it, with all the zest of twenty years.

To her, their whole life seemed an outrage.  She could not imagine how her father could bear to put aside so completely his old habits and memories.  It wounded her to see him going off with a joke and a kiss to the store in the morning; and hurrying back at night, as eager as a boy-bridegroom for the company of his handsome wife and her gay friends.  It may easily be understood that even if Margaret had countenanced Suneva’s festivities by her presence at them, she would have been only a silent and a reproachful guest.

It is but fair to say that Suneva gave to her absence the best and kindest excuse.  “Poor Margaret!” she said pitifully, “she weeps constantly for her husband.  Few wives are as faithful.”

Suneva had indeed taken Thora’s place with a full determination to be just and kind to Thora’s daughter.  She intended, now that fortune had placed her above her old rival, to treat her with respect and consideration.  Suneva was capable of great generosities, and if Margaret had had the prudence and forbearance to accept the peace offered, she might have won whatever she desired through the influence of her child, for whom Suneva conceived a very strong attachment.

But this was just the point which Margaret defended with an almost insane jealousy.  She saw that little Jan clung to Suneva, that he liked to be with her, that he often cried in the solitude of her room to go down stairs, where he knew he would have sweetmeats, and petting, and company, and his own way.  If ever she was cross to the boy, it was on this subject.  She would not even be bribed by Suneva’s most diplomatic services in his behalf.  “Let Jan come where his grandfather is, Margaret,” she pleaded.  “It will be for his good; I tell thee it will.  I have already persuaded him that the boy has his eyes, and his figure, and when he was in a passion the other night, and thy father was like to be cross with him, I said, ’It is a nice thing to see Satan correcting sin, for the child has thy own quick temper, Peter,’ and thy father laughed and pulled little Jan to his side, and gave him the lump of sugar he wanted.”

“The boy is all thou hast left me.  Would thou take him also?” Margaret answered with angry eyes.  “His mother’s company is good enough for him.”

So all winter the hardly-admitted strife went on.  Suneva pitied the child.  She waylaid him and gave him sweetmeats and kisses.  She imagined that he daily grew more pale and quiet.  And Margaret, suspicious and watchful, discovered much, and imagined more.  She was determined to go away from Suneva as soon as the spring opened, but she had come to the conclusion that she must look after her house herself, for though Snorro had promised to make it habitable, evidently he had been unable to do so, or he would have contrived to let her know.

One day in the latter part of April, all nature suddenly seemed to awake.  The winter was nearly over.  Margaret heard the larks singing in the clear sunshine.  Little Jan had fallen asleep and might remain so for a couple of hours.  She put on her cloak and bonnet, and went to see how far Snorro had been able to keep his word.  Things were much better than she had hoped for.  Nearly all of the windows had been reglazed, the gate was hung, and the accumulated drift of two years in the yard cleared away.

With lighter spirits, and a firm determination in her heart, she walked swiftly back to her child.  When she entered the door she heard his merry laugh in Suneva’s parlor.  He was standing on her knee, singing after her some lines of a fisherman’s “Casting Song,” swaying backwards and forwards, first on one foot and then on the other, to the melody.  Suneva was so interested in the boy, that, for a moment, she did not notice the pale, angry woman approaching her.  When she did, her first thought was conciliation.  “I heard him crying, Margaret; and as I knew thou wert out, I went for him.  He is a merry little fellow, he hath kept me laughing.”

“Come here, Jan!” In her anger, she grasped the child’s arm roughly, and he cried out, and clung to Suneva.

Then Margaret’s temper mastered her as it had never done before in her life.  She struck the child over and over again, and, amid its cries of pain and fright, she said some words to Suneva full of bitterness and contempt.

“Thee love thy child!” cried Suneva in a passion, “not thou, indeed!  Thou loves no earthly thing but thyself.  Every day the poor baby suffers for thy bad temper-even as his father did.”

“Speak thou not of his father-thou, who first tempted him away from his home and his wife.”

“When thou says such a thing as that, then thou lies; I tempted him not.  I was sorry for him, as was every man and woman in Lerwick.  Poor Jan Vedder!”

“I told thee not to speak of my husband.”

“Thy husband!” cried Suneva scornfully.  “Where is he?  Thou may well turn pale.  Good for thee is it that the Troll Rock hasn’t a tongue!  Thou cruel woman!  I wonder at myself that I have borne with thee so long.  Thou ought to be made to tell what thou did with Jan Vedder!”

“What art thou saying?  What dost thou mean?  I will not listen to thee”-and she lifted the weeping child in her arms, and turned to go.

“But at last thou shalt listen.  I have spared thee long enough.  Where is Jan Vedder?  Thou knows and thou only; and that is what every one says of thee.  Is he at the bottom of the Troll Rock?  And who pushed him over?  Answer that, Margaret Vedder!”

Suneva, in her passion, almost shrieked out these inquiries.  Her anger was so violent, that it silenced her opponent.  But no words could have interpreted the horror and anguish in Margaret’s face, when she realized the meaning of Suneva’s questions.  The sudden storm ended in the lull which follows recrimination.  Suneva sat fuming and muttering to herself; Margaret, in her room, paced up and down, the very image of despairing shame and sorrow.  When her father returned she knew Suneva would tell him all that had transpired.  To face them both was a trial beyond her strength.  She looked at her child softly sobbing on the bed beside her, and her heart melted at the injustice she had done him.  But she felt that she must take him away from Suneva, or he would be stolen from her; worse than stolen, he would be made to regard her as a terror and a tyrant.

She heard the clatter of the tea-cups and the hum of conversation, and knew that her father was at home.  As soon as he had finished his tea, she would probably be summoned to his presence.  It had grown dark and a rain-storm was coming; nevertheless she dressed herself and little Jan, and quietly went out of the house.  Peter and Suneva were discussing the quarrel over their tea; the servants sat spinning by the kitchen fire, doing the same.  She only glanced at them, and then she hastened toward the town as fast as she could.

Snorro was sitting at the store-fire, a little pot of tea, a barley cake, and a broiled herring by his side.  He was thinking of Jan, and lo! a knock at the door-just such a knock as Jan always gave.  His heart bounded with hope; before he thought of possibilities he had opened it.  Not Jan, but Jan’s wife and child, and both of them weeping.  He said not a word, but he took Margaret’s hand and led her to the fire.  Her cloak and hood were dripping with the rain, and he removed and shook them.  Then he lifted the child in his arms and gave him some tea, and soon soothed his trouble and dried his tears.

Margaret sobbed and wept with a passion that alarmed him.  He had thought at first that he would not interfere, but his tender heart could not long endure such evident distress without an effort to give comfort.

“What is the matter with thee, Margaret Vedder? and why art thou and thy child here?”

“We have nowhere else to go to-night, Snorro.”  Then Margaret told him every thing.

He listened in silence, making no comments, asking no questions, until she finished in another burst of anguish, as she told him of Suneva’s accusation.  Then he said gravely:  “It is a shame.  Drink this cup of tea, and then we will go to the minister.  He only can guide the boat in this storm.”

“I can not go there, Snorro.  I have been almost rude and indifferent to him.  Three times he has written to me concerning my duty; many times he has talked to me about it.  Now he will say, ’Thou hast reaped the harvest thou sowed, Margaret Vedder.’”

“He will say no unkind word to thee.  I tell thee thou must go.  There is none else that can help thee.  Go for little Jan’s sake.  Wrap the boy up warm.  Come.”

She was weeping and weary, but Snorro took her to the manse, carrying little Jan under his own coat.  Margaret shrank from an interview with Dr. Balloch, but she had no need.  He was not a man to bruise the broken reed; no sooner did he cast his eyes upon the forlorn woman than he understood something of the crisis that had brought her to him for advice and protection.

He took them into his cheerful parlor, and sent their wet clothing to the kitchen to be dried.  Then he said:  “Snorro, now thou go and help Hamish to make us a good supper.  It is ill facing trouble on an empty stomach.  And light a fire, Snorro, in the room up stairs; thou knowest which room; for Margaret and her son will have to sleep there.  And after that, thou stop with Hamish, for it will be better so.”

There were no reproofs now on the good doctor’s lips.  He never reminded Margaret how often he had striven to win her confidence and to lead her to the only source of comfort for the desolate and broken-hearted.  First of all, he made her eat, and dry and warm herself; then he drew from her the story of her grief and wrongs.

“Thou must have thy own home, Margaret, that is evident,” he said; “and as for Suneva, I will see to her in the morning.  Thou art innocent of thy husband’s death, I will make her to know that.  Alas! how many are there, who if they can not wound upon proof, will upon likelihood!  Now there is a room ready for thee, and thou must stay here, until this matter is settled for thee.”

It seemed a very haven of rest to Margaret.  She went to it gratefully, and very soon fell into that deep slumber which in youth follows great emotions.  When she awoke the fire had been re-built, and little Jan’s bread and milk stood beside it.  It was a dark, dripping morning; the rain smote the windows in sudden, gusts, and the wind wailed drearily around the house.  But in spite of the depressing outside influences, her heart was lighter than it had been for many a day.  She felt as those feel “who have escaped;” and she dressed and fed her child with a grateful heart.

When she went down stairs she found that, early as it was, the doctor had gone to her father’s house; and she understood that this visit was made in order to see him where conversation would not be interrupted by the entrance of buyers and sellers.

Dr. Balloch found Peter sitting at breakfast with Suneva, in his usual cheerful, self-complacent mood.  In fact, he knew nothing of Margaret’s flight from his house.  She rarely left her boy to join the tea-table; she never appeared at the early breakfast.  Her absence was satisfactory to both parties, and had long ceased to call forth either protest or remark.  So neither of them were aware of the step she had taken, and the minister’s early visit did not connect itself with her, until he said gravely to Peter, “Dost thou know where thy daughter is?”

“She hath not left her room yet,” answered Suneva; “she sleeps late for the child’s sake.”

“She hath left thy house, Peter.  Last night I gave her and the child shelter from the storm.”

Peter rose in a great passion:  “Then she can stay away from my house.  Here she comes back no more.”

“I think that, too.  It is better she should not come back.  But now thou must see that her own home is got ready for her, and that quickly.”

“What home?”

“The house thou gave her at her marriage.”

“I gave her no house.  She had the use of it.  The title deeds never left my hands.”

“Then more shame to thee.  Did thou not boast to every one, that thou had given the house and the plenishing?  No title deeds, no lawyer’s paper, can make the house more Margaret Vedder’s than thy own words have done.  Thou wilt not dare to break thy promise, thou, who ate the Bread of Remembrance only last Sabbath Day.  Begin this very hour to put the house in order, and then put the written right to it in her hands.  Any hour thou may be called to give an account; leave the matter beyond disputing.”

“It will take a week to glaze and clean it.”

“It is glazed and cleaned.  Michael Snorro brought the sashes one by one to the store, and glazed them, when he had done his work at night.  He hath also mended the plaster, and kept a fire in the house to dry it; and he hath cleaned the yard and re-hung the gate.  Begin thou at once to move back again the furniture.  It never ought to have been removed, and I told thee that at the time.  Thou knowest also what promises thou made me, and I will see that thou keep them every one, Peter Fae.  Yes, indeed, I will!”

“It is too wet to move furniture.”

“The rain will be over at the noon.  Until then thy men can carry peats and groceries, and such store of dried meats as will be necessary.”

“Peter,” said Suneva indignantly, “I counsel thee to do nothing in a hurry.”

Dr. Balloch answered her, “I counsel thee, Mistress Fae, to keep well the door of thy mouth.  It is no light thing to make the charges thou hast made against an innocent woman.”

“I asked her how Jan Vedder got his death?  Let her tell that.”

“I might ask thee how Paul Glumm got his death!  Listen now, and I will show thee what a great thing may come from one foul suspicion.  Thou married Paul Glumm, and it is well known he and thee were not always in the same mind, for thou loved company and he loved quiet.  Then Glumm took thee to the Skoolfiord, where there were none at the station but thee and he.  Thou knowest how thou rebelled at that, and how often thou could be found in thy father’s house.  Suddenly Glumm takes a sickness, and when a doctor sees him there is little hope, and after three days he dies.  Then thou art back at Lerwick again, quick enough, and in a few weeks thou hast plenty of lovers.  Now, then, how easy to say, ‘Glumm’s death was a very strange affair!’ ’Such a strong young man!’ ‘Did his wife know any thing about it?’ ’Did she send for a doctor as soon as might be?’ ’Did she give him the medicine the doctor left?’ ‘Was she not very glad when she was free again?’ Mistress Fae, I say not these things were so, or were even said, I am only trying to show thee how easy it is out of nothing at all to make up a very suspicious case.  But come, Peter, there is duty to be done, and I know that thou wilt do it.  And I am in haste about it, for it is not easy for Hamish to have a woman and child at the manse.  Hamish has failed much lately.”

“Send the woman with her child here.”

“No, for it is easier to avoid quarrels than to mend them.  Margaret shall stay at the manse till her own house is ready.”

So they went away together, leaving Suneva crying with anger; partly because of the minister’s lecture; partly because she thought Peter had not “stood up for her” as he ought to have done.  As for Peter, though he did not think of disobeying the order given him, yet he resented the interference; and he was intensely angry at Margaret for having caused it.  When he arrived at the store, he was made more so by Snorro’s attitude.  He sat upon a sailor’s chest with his hands folded before him, though the nets were to be examined and a score of things to get for the fishers.

“Can thou find nothing for thy lazy hands to do?” he asked scornfully, “or are they weary of the work thou hast been doing at night?”

“My mind is not to lift a finger for thee again, Peter Fae; and as for what I do at night, that is my own affair.  I robbed thee not, neither of time nor gear.”

“From whence came the glass, and the nails, and the wood, and the hinges?”

“I bought them with my own money.  If thou pays me the outlay it will be only just.  The work I gave freely to the wife of Jan Vedder.”

“Then since thou hast mended the house, thou may carry back the furniture into it.”

“I will do that freely also.  Thou never ought to have counseled its removal; for that reason, I blame thee for all that followed it.”  Snorro then hailed a passing fisherman, and they lifted his chest in order to go away.

“What art thou taking?”

“My own clothes, and my own books, and whatever is my own.  Nothing of thine.”

“But why?”

“For that I will come no more here.”

“Yes, thou wilt.”

“I will come no more.”

Peter was much troubled.  Angry as he was, grief at Snorro’s defection was deeper than any other feeling.  For nearly twenty years he had relied on him.  Besides the inconvenience to the business, the loss of faith was bitter.  But he said no more at that time.  When Margaret was in her home, Snorro would be easier to manage.  More as a conciliatory measure with him, than as kindness to his offending daughter, he said, “First of all, however, take a load of tea, and sugar and flour, and such things as will be needed; thou knowest them.  Take what thou wishes, and all thou wishes; then, thou canst not say evil of me.”

“When did I say evil of thee, only to thy face?  Michael Snorro hath but one tongue.  It knows not how to slander or to lie.  Pay me my wages, and I will go, and speak to thee no more.”

“Do what I said and come back to me in three days; then we will settle this trouble between us;” saying which, Peter went into his counting house, and Snorro went to work with all his will and strength to get Margaret’s house ready for her.

But though he hired three men to help him, it was the evening of the second day before she could remove to it.  It was a different homecoming from her previous one in that dwelling.  Then all had been in exquisitely spotless order, and Jan had turned and kissed her at the open door.  This night every thing was in confusion.  Snorro had carried all her belongings into the house, but they were unpacked and unarranged.  Still he had done a great deal.  A large fire was burning, the kettle boiling on the hearth, and on the little round table before it he had put bread and milk and such things as would be necessary for a first meal.  Then, with an innate delicacy he had gone away, fully understanding that at the first Margaret would wish to be quite alone.

She stood a minute and looked around.  Then she opened the box in which her china and silver were packed.  In half an hour the tea-table was spread.  She even made a kind of festival of the occasion by giving little Jan the preserved fruit he loved with his bread.  It seemed to her as if food had never tasted so good before.  She was again at her own table; at her own fireside!  Her own roof covered her!  There was no one to gloom at her or make her feel uncomfortable.  Work, poverty, all things, now seemed possible and bearable.

When Jan had chattered himself weary she laid him in his cot, and sat hour after hour in the dim light of the glowing peats, thinking, planning, praying, whispering Jan’s name to her heart, feeling almost as if she were in his presence.  When at length she rose and turned the key in her own house again, she was as proud and as happy as a queen who has just come into her kingdom, and who lifts for the first time the scepter of her authority.