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Amelia E. Barr
The Measure of a Man

PREFACE

My Friends:

I had a purpose in writing this novel. It was to honor and magnify the sweetness and dignity of the condition of Motherhood, and of those womanly virtues and graces, which make the Home the cornerstone of the Nation. For it is not with modern Americans, as it was with the old Greek and Roman world. They put the family below the State, and the citizen absorbed the man. On the contrary, we know, that just as the Family principle is strong the heart of the Nation is sound. "Give me one domestic grace," said a famous leader of men, "and I will turn it into a hundred public virtues."

A Home, however splendidly appointed, is ill furnished without the sound of children's voices; and the patter of children's feet. It may be strictly orderly, but it is silent and forlorn; and has an air of solitude. Solitude is a great affliction, and Domestic Solitude is one of its hardest forms. No number of balls and dinner parties, no visits from friends, can make up for the absence of sons and daughters round the family table and the family hearth.

Yet there certainly is a restless feminine minority, who declare, both by precept and example, Family Life to be a servitude. Alas! They have not given themselves opportunity to discover that self-sacrifice is the meat and drink of all true affection.

But women have learned within the last two decades to listen to every side of an argument. Their Club life, with its variety of "views," has led them to decide that every phase of a question ought to be attentively considered. So I do not doubt that my story will receive justice, and I hope approval, from all the women—and men—that read it.

Affectionately to all,    
AMELIA E. BARR.

CHAPTER I
THE GREAT SEA WATERS

 
Gray sky, brown waters, as a bird that flies
My heart flits forth to these;
Back to the winter rose of Northern skies,
Back to the Northern seas.
 

The sea is His, and He made it.

I saw a man of God coming over the narrow zigzag path that led across a Shetland peat moss. Swiftly and surely he stepped. Bottomless bogs of black peat-water were on each side of him, but he had neither fear nor hesitation. He walked like one who knew his way was ordered, and when the moss was passed, he pursued his journey over the rocky moor with the same untiring speed. Now and then he sang a few lines, and now and then he lifted his cap, and stood still to listen to the larks. For the larks sing at midnight in the Shetland summer, and to the music of their heaven-soaring songs he set one sweet name, and in the magical radiance over land and sea had that momentary vision of a beloved face which the second-sight of Memory sometimes grants to a pure, unselfish love. Then with a joyful song nestling in his heart, he went rapidly forward. And the night was as the day, for the moon was full and the rosy spears of the Aurora were charging the zenith from every point of the horizon.

Very early he came to a little town. It was asleep and there was no sound of life in it; but a large yacht was lying at the silent pier with steam visible, and he went directly to her. During the full tide she had drifted a few feet from land, but he took the open space like a longer step, walked straight to the wheel, and softly whistled.

Then the Captain came quickly up the companion-way, and there was light and liking on his face, as he said,

"Welcome, sir! I was expecting thee."

"To be sure. I sent you word I should be here before sunrising. Are you ready to sail?"

"Quite ready, sir."

"Then cast off at once," and immediately there was movement all through the boat—the sound of setting sail, the lifting of the anchor, the rush of steam, and the hoarse melancholy voices of the sailors. Then the man laid his hand on the wheel, and with wind and tide in her favor, the yacht was soon racing down the great North Sea.

"It is Yoden's time at the wheel, sir," said the Captain. "If so be he is wanted."

"He is not wanted yet. I am going to take her as far as the Hoy—if it suits you, Captain."

"Take your will, sir. I am always well suited with it."

Now John Hatton was a cotton-spinner, but he knew the ways of a boat, and the winds and tides that would serve her, and the road southward she must take; and at his will she went, as if she was a solan flying for the rocks. When they first started, the sea-birds were dozing on their perches, waiting for the dawn, and their unwonted silence lent a stronger sense of loneliness to the gray, misty waters. But as they approached the pillars of Hoy, the wind rose and the waves swelled refulgent in the crimsoning east.

Then the man at the wheel was seen in all his great beauty—a man of lofty stature perfectly formed and full of power and grace in every movement. His head had an antique massiveness and was crowned with bright brown hair thrown backward. His forehead was wide and contemplative, his eyes large and gray and thickly fringed, lustrous but not piercing. His loving and vehement soul was not always at their windows, but when there, it drew or commanded all who met its gaze. His nose was long and straight, showing great refinement, and his chin unblunted by animal passions. A wonderful face, because the soul and the mind always found their way at once and in full force to it, as well as to the gestures, the speech, and every action of the body. And this was the quality which gave to the whole man that air of distinction with which Nature autographs her noblest work.

When they reached the Hoy he left the wheel and stood in wonder and awe gazing at the sea around him. For some time it had been cloudy and unquiet, but among these great basaltic pillars and into their black measureless caves it flung itself with the rush and roar of a ten-knot tide gone mad. Yet the thundering bellow of its waves was not able to drown the aërial clamor of the millions of sea-birds that made these lonely pillars and cliffs their home. Eagles screamed from their summits. Great masses of marrots and guillemots rocked on the foam. Kittiwakes of every kind in incalculable numbers and black and brown-backed gulls by the thousands filled the air as thickly as snowflakes in a winter's storm; while from shelves and pinnacles of the cliffs, incredible numbers of gannots were diving with prodigious force and straight as an arrow, after their prey—all plunging, rising, screaming and shrieking, like some maddened human mob, the more terrible because of the ear-piercing metallic ring of their unceasing clamor.

After a long silence John Hatton turned to his Captain and said,

"Is it always like this, Captain?"

"It is often much livelier, sir. I have seen swarms of sea-birds miles long, darkening the air with their wings. Our Great Father has many sea children, sir. Next summer—God willing!—we might sail to the Faroe Islands, and you would be among His whales, and His whale men."

"Then you have been to the Faroes?"

"More than once or twice. I used to take them on my road to Iceland. It is a wayless way there, but I know it. And the people are a happy, comfortable, pious lot; they are that! Most of them whale-hunters and whale-eaters."

"Eaters?"

"To be sure, sir. When it is fresh, a roast of whale isn't half bad. I once tried it myself."

"Once?"

"Well, then, I didn't want it twice. You know, I'm beef-bred. That makes a difference, sir. I like to go to lonely islands, and as a general thing I favor the kind of people that live on them."

"What is the difference between these lonely islanders and Yorkshire men like you and me?"

"There is a good bit of difference, in more ways than one, sir. For instance, they aren't fashionable. The women mostly dress the same, and there are no stylish shapes in the men's 'oils' and guernseys. Then, they call no man 'master.' God is their employer, and from His hand they take their daily bread. And they don't set themselves up against Him, and grumble about their small wages and their long hours. And if the weather is bad, and they are kept off a sea that no boat could live in, they don't grumble like Yorkshire men do, when warehouses are overstocked and trade nowhere, and employers hev to make shorter hours and less pay."

"What then?"

"The men smoke a few more pipes, and the women spin a few more hanks of wool. And in the long evenings there's a good bit of violin-playing and reciting, but there's no murmuring against their Great Master. And there's no drinking, or dance halls. And when the storm is over, the men untie their boats with a shout and the women gladly clean up the stour of the idle time."

"Did you ever see a Yorkshire strike?"

"To be sure I hev; I had my say at the Hatton strike, I hed that! You were at college then, and your father was managing it, so we could not take the yacht out as expected, and I run down to Hatton to hev a talk with Stephen Hatton. There was a big strike meeting that afternoon, and I went and listened to the men stating 'their grievances.' They talked a lot of nonsense, and I told them so. 'Get all you can rightly,' I said, 'but don't expect Stephen Hatton or any other cotton lord to run factories for fun. They won't do it, and you wouldn't do it yersens!'"

"Did they talk sensibly?"

"They talked foolishness and believed it, too. It was fair capping to listen to them. There was some women present, slatterns all, and I told them to go home and red up their houses and comb up their hair, and try to look like decent cotton-spinners' wives. And when this advice was cheered, the women began to get excited, and I thought I would be safer in Hatton Hall. Women are queer creatures."

"Were you ever married, Captain?"

"Not to any woman. My ship is my wife. She's father and mother and brother and sister to me. I have no kin, and when I see how much trouble kin can give you, I don't feel lonely. The ship I sail—whatever her name—is to me 'My Lady,' and I guard and guide and cherish her all the days of her life with me."

"Why do you say 'her life,' Captain?"

 



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На этой странице вы можете прочитать онлайн книгу «The Measure of a Man», автора Amelia Barr. Данная книга относится к жанру «Зарубежная старинная литература».. Книга «The Measure of a Man» была издана в 2019 году. Приятного чтения!