Kate was less afraid and less ashamed. She took the presents from Pete and wore them for Philip. In her secret heart she thought no shame of this. The years gave her a larger flow of life, and made out of the bewitching girl a splendid woman, brought up to the full estate of maidenly beauty.
This change wrought by time on her bodily form caused the past to seem to her a very long way off. Something had occurred that made her a different being. She was like the elder sister of that laughing girl who had known Pete. To think of that little sister as having a kind of control over her was impossible. Kate never did think of it.
Nevertheless, she held her tongue. Her people were taken in by the episode of Ross Christian. According to their view, Kate loved the man and still longed for him, and that was why she never talked of Pete. Philip was disgusted with her unfaithfulness to his friend, and that was the reason of his absence. She never talked of Philip either, but they, on their part, talked of him perpetually, and fed her secret passion with his praises. Thus for three years these two were like two prisoners in neighbouring cells, very close and yet very far apart, able to hear each other's voices, yet never to see each other's faces, yearning to come together and to touch, but unable to do so because of the wall that stood between.
Since the fight, Caesar had removed her from all duties of the inn, and one day in the spring she was in the gable house peeling rushes to make tallow candles when Kelly, the postman, passed by the porch, where Nancy Joe was cleaning the candle-irons.
"Heard the newses, Nancy?" said Kelly. "Mr. Philip Christian is let off two years' time and called to the bar."
Nancy looked grave. "I'm sure the young gentleman is that quiet and studdy," she said. "What are they doing on him?"
"Only making him a full advocate, woman," said Kelly.
"You don't say?" said Nancy.
"He passed his examination before the Govenar's man yesterday."
"Aw, there now!"
"I took the letter to Ballure this evening."
"It's like you would, Mr. Kelly. That's the boy for you. I'm always saying it. 'Deed I am, though, but there's ones here that won't have it at all, at all."
"Miss Kate, you mane? We know the raison. He's lumps in her porridge, woman. Good-day to you, Nancy."
"Yes, it's doing a nice day enough, Mr. Kelly," said Nancy, and the postman passed on.
Kate came gliding out with a brush in her hand. "What was the postman saying?"
"That—Mr.—Philip—Christian—has been passing—for an advocate," said Nancy deliberately.
Kate's eyes glistened, and her lips quivered with delight; but she only said, with an air of indifference, "Was that all his news, then?"
"All? D'ye say all?" said Nancy, digging away at the candle-irons. "Listen to the girl! And him that good to her while her promist man's away!"
Kate shelled her rush, and said, with a sigh and a sly look, "I'm afraid you think a deal too much of him, Nancy."
"Then I'll be making mends," said Nancy, "for some that's thinking a dale too little."
"I'm quite at a loss to know what you see in him," said Kate.
"Now, you don't say!" said Nancy with scorching irony. Then, banging her irons, she added, "I'm not much of a woman for a man myself. They're only poor helpless creatures anyway, and I don't approve of them. But if I was for putting up with one of the sort, he wouldn't have legs and arms like a dolly, and a face like curds and whey, and coat and trousers that loud you can hear them coming up the street."
With this parting shot at Ross Christian, Nancy flung into the house, thinking she had given Kate a dressing that she would never forget. Kate was radiant. Such abuse was honey on her lips, such scoldings were joy-bells in her ears. She took silent delight in provoking these attacks. They served her turn both ways, bringing her delicious joy at the praise of Philip, and at the same time preserving her secret.
Latter that day Caesar came in from the mill with the startling intelligence that Philip was riding up on the highroad.
"Goodness mercy!" cried Nancy, and she fled away to wash her face. Grannie with a turn of the hand settled her cap, and smoothed her grey hair under it. Kate herself had disappeared like a flash of light; but as Philip dismounted at the gate, looking taller, and older, and paler, and more serious, but raising his cap from his fair head and smiling a smile like sunshine, she was coming leisurely out of the porch with a bewitching hat over her wavy black hair and a hand-basket over her arm.
Then there was a little start of surprise and recognition, a short catch of quick breath and nervous salutations.
"I'm going round to the nests," she said. "I suppose you'll step in to see mother."
"Time enough for that," said Philip. "May I help you with the eggs first? Besides, I've something to tell you."
"Is it that you're 'admitted?'" said Kate.
"That's nothing," said Philip. "Only the A B C, you know. Getting ready to begin, so to speak."
They walked round to the stackyard, and he tied up his horse and gave it hay. Then, while they poked about for eggs on hands and knees among the straw, under the stacks and between the bushes, she said she hoped he would have success, and he answered that success was more than a hope to him now—it was a sort of superstition. She did not understand this, but looked up at him from all fours with brightening eyes, and said, "What a glorious thing it is to be a man!"
"Is it?" said Philip. "And yet I remember somebody who said she wasn't sorry to be a girl."
"Did I?" said Kate. "But that was long ago. And I remember somebody else who pretended he was glad I was."
"That was long ago too," said Philip, and both laughed nervously.
"What strange things girls are—and boys!" said Kate with a matronly sigh, burying her face in a nest where a hen was clucking and two downy chicks were peeping from her wing.
They went through to the orchard, where the trees were breaking into eager blossoms.
"I've another letter for you from Pete," said Philip.
"So?" said Kate.
"Here it is," said Philip.
"Won't you read it?" said Kate.
"But it's yours; surely a girl doesn't want anybody else——"
"Ah! but you're different, though; you know everything—and besides—read it aloud, Philip."
With her basket of eggs on one arm, and the other hand on the outstretched arm of an apple-tree, she waited while he read:
"Dearest Kitty,—How's yourself, darling, and how's Philip, and how's Grannie? I'm getting on tremendous. They're calling me Captain now—Capt'n Pete. Sort of overseer at the Diamond Mines outside Kimberley. Regular gentleman's life and no mistake. Nothing to do but sit under a monstrous big umbrella, with a paper in your fist, like a chairman, while twenty Kaffirs do the work. Just a bit of a tussle now and then to keep you from dropping off. When a Kaffir turns up a diamond, you grab it, and mark it on the time-sheet against his name. They've got their own outlandish ones, but we always christen them ourselves—Sixpence, Seven Waistcoats, Shoulder-of-Mutton, Twopenny Trotter—anything you like. When a Kaffir strikes a diamond, he gets a commission, and so does his overseer. I'm afraid I'm going to be getting terrible rich soon. Tell the old man I'll be buying that har-monia yet. They are a knowing lot, though, and if they can get up a dust to smuggle a stone when you're not looking, they will. Then they sell it to the blackleg Boers, and you've got to raise your voice like an advocate to get it back somehow. But the Boers can't do no harm to you with their fists at all—it's playing. They're a dirty lot, wonderful straight like some of the lazy Manx ones, especially Black Tom. When they see us down at the river washing, they say, 'What dirty people the English must be if they have to wash themselves three times a day—we only do it once a week.' When a Kaffir steals a stone we usually court-martial him, but I don't hold with it, as the floggers on the compound can't be trusted; so I always lick my own niggers, being more kinder, and if anybody does anything against me, they lynch him."
Kate made a little patient sigh and turned away her head, while Philip, in a halting voice, went on—
"Darling Kitty, I am longing mortal for a sight of your sweet face. When the night comes, and I'll be lying in the huts—boards on the ground, and good canvas, and everything comfortable—says I to the boys, 'Shut your faces, men, and let a poor chap sleep;' but they never twig the darkness of my meaning. I'll only be wanting a bit of quiet for thinking of.... with the stars atwinkling down.... She's looking at that one.... Shine on my angel...."
"Really, Kate," faltered Philip, "I can't——"
"Give it to me, then," said Kate.
She was tugging with her trembling hand at the arm of the apple-tree, and the white blossom was raining over her from the rowels of the thin boughs overhead, like silver fish falling from the herring-net. Taking the letter, she glanced over the close—
"darlin Kirry how is the mackral this saison and is the millin doing middling and I wonder is the hens all layin and is the grace gone out of the mares leg yet and how is the owl man and is he still playin hang with the texes. Theer is a big chap heer that is strait like him he hath swallowed the owl Book and cant help bring it up agen but dear Kirry no more at present i axpect to be Home sune bogh, to see u all tho I dont no azactly With luv your luving swateart peat."
When she had finished the letter, she turned it over in her fingers, and gave another patient little sigh. "You didn't read it as it was spelled, Philip," she said.
"What odds if the spelling is uncertain when the love is as sure as that?" said Philip.
"Did he write it himself, think you?" said Kate.
"He signed it, anyway, and no doubt indited it too; but perhaps one of the Gills boys held the pen."
She coloured a little, slipped the letter down her dress into her pocket, and looked ashamed.
This shame at Pete's letter tormented Philip, and he stayed away again. His absence stimulated Kate and made Philip himself ashamed. She was vexed with him that he did not see that all this matter of Pete was foolishness. It was absurd to think of a girl marrying a man whom she had known when he was a boy. But Philip was trying to keep the bond sacred, and so she made her terms with it. She used Pete as a link to hold Philip.
After the lapse of some months, in which Philip had not been seen at Sulby, she wrote him a letter. It was to say how anxious she had been at the length of time since she had last heard from Pete, and to ask if he had any news to relieve her fears. The poor little lie was written in a trembling hand which shook honestly enough, but from the torment of other feelings.
Philip answered the letter in person. Something had been speaking to him day and night, like the humming of a top, finding him pretexts on which to go; but now he had to make excuses for staying so long away. It was evening. Kate was milking, and he went out to her in the cowhouse.
"We began to think we were to see no more of you," she said, over the rattle of the milk in the pail.
"I've—I've been ill," said Philip.
The rattle died to a thin hiss. "Very ill?" she asked.
"Well, no—not seriously," he answered.
"I never once thought of that," she said. "Something ought to have told me. I've been reproaching you, too."
Philip felt shame of his subterfuge, but yet more ashamed of the truth; so he leaned against the door and watched in silence. The smell of hay floated down from the loft, and the odour of the cow's breath came in gusts as she turned her face about. Kate sat on the milking-stool close by the ewer, and her head, on which she wore a sun-bonnet, she leaned against the cow's side.
"No news of Pete, then? No?" she said.
"No," said Philip.
Kate dug her head deeper in the cow, and muttered, "Dear Pete! So simple, so natural."
"He is," said Philip.
"So good-hearted, too."
"And such a manly fellow—any girl might like him," said Kate.
"Indeed, yes," said Philip.
There was silence again, and two pigs which had been snoring on the manure heap outside began to snort their way home. Kate turned her head so that the crown of the sun-bonnet was toward Phillip, and said—
"Oh, dear! Can there be anything so terrible as marrying somebody you don't care for?"
"Nothing so bad," said Philip.
The mouth of the sun-bonnet came round. "Yes, there's one thing worse, Philip."
"Not having married somebody you do," said Kate, and the milk rattled like hail.
In the straw behind. Kate there was a tailless Manx cat with three tailed kittens, and Philip began to play with them. Being back to back with Kate, he could keep his countenance.
"This old Horney is terrible for switching," said Kate, over her shoulder. "Don't you think you could hold her tail?"
That brought them face to face again. "It's so sweet to have some one to talk to about Pete," said Kate.
"I don't know how I could bear his long absence but for that."
"Are you longing so much, Kate?"
"Oh, no, not longing—not to say longing. Only you can't think what it is to be... have you never been yourself, Philip?"
"What?" "Hold it tight... in love? No?"
"Well," said Philip, speaking at the crown of the sun-bonnet. "Ha! ha! well, not properly perhaps—I don't—I can hardly say, Kate."
"There! You've let it go, after all, and she's covered me with the milk! But I'm finished, anyway."
Kate was suddenly radiant. She kissed Horney, and hugged her calf in the adjoining stall; and as they crossed the haggard, Philip carrying the pail, she scattered great handfuls of oats to a cock and his two hens as they cackled their way to roost.
"You'll be sure to come again soon, Philip, eh? It's so sweet to have some one to remind me of——" but Pete's name choked her now. "Not that I'm likely to forget him—now is that likely? But it's such a weary time to be left alone, and a girl gets longing. Did I now? Give me the milk, then. Did I say I wasn't? Well, you can't expect a girl to be always reasonable."
"Yes, you had better go now—good-bye."
Philip went away in pain, yet in delight, with a delicious thrill, and a sense of stifling hypocrisy. He had felt like a fool. Kate must have thought him one. But better she should think him a fool than a traitor. It was all his fault. Only for him the girl would have been walled round by her love for Pete. He would come no more.
Philip held to his resolution for three months, and grew thin and pale. Then another letter came from Pete—a letter for himself, and he wondered what to do with it. To send it by post, pretending to be ill again, would be hypocrisy he could not support. He took it.
The family were all at home. Nancy had just finished a noisy churning, and Kate was in the dairy, weighing the butter into pounds and stamping it. Philip read the letter in a loud voice to the old people in the kitchen, and the soft thumping and watery swishing ceased in the damp place adjoining. Pete was in high feather. He had made a mortal lot of money lately, and was for coming home quickly. Couldn't say exactly when, for some rascally blackleg Boers, who had been corrupting his Kaffirs and slipped up country with a pile of stones, had first to be followed and caught. The job wouldn't take long though, and they might expect to see him back within a twelvemonth, with enough in his pocket to drive away the devil and the coroner anyway.
"Bould fellow!" said Caesar.
"Aw, deed on Pete!" said Grannie.
"Now, if it wasn't for that Ross——" said Nancy.
Philip went into the dairy, where Kate was now skimming the cream of the last night's milking. He was sorry there was nothing but a message for her this time. Had she answered Pete's former letters? No, she had not.
"I must be writing soon, I suppose," she said, blowing the yellow surface. "But I wish—puff—I could have something to tell him—puff, puff—about you."
"About me, Kate?"
"Something sweet, I mean "—puff, puff, puff.
She shot a sly look upward. "Aren't you sure yet? Can't say still? Not properly? No?"
Philip pretended not to understand. Kate's laugh echoed in the empty cream tins. "How you want people to say things!"
"No, really—" began Philip.
"I've always heard that the girls of Douglas are so beautiful. You must see so many now. Oh, it would be delicious to write a long story to Pete. Where you met—in church, naturally. What she's like—fair, of course. And—and all about it, you know."
"That's a story you will never tell to Pete, Kate," said Philip.
"No, never," said Kate quite as light, and this being just what she wished to hear, she added mournfully. "Don't say that, though. You can't think what pleasure you are denying me, and yourself, too. Take some poor girl to your heart, Philip. You don't know how happy it will make you."
"Are you so happy, then, Kate?"
Kate laughed merrily. "Why, what do you think?"
"Dear old Pete—how happy he should be," said Philip.
Kate began to hate the very name of Pete. She grew angry with Philip also. Why couldn't he guess? Concealment was eating her heart out. The next time she saw Philip, he passed her in the market-place on the market-day, as she stood by the tipped-up gig, selling her butter. There was a chatter of girls all round as he bowed and went on. This vexed her, and she sold out at a penny a pound less, got the horse from the "Saddle," and drove home early.
On the way to Sulby she overtook Philip and drew up. He was walking to Kirk Michael to visit the old Deemster, who was ill. Would he not take a lift? He hesitated, half declined, and then got into the gig. As she settled herself comfortably after this change, he trod on the edge of her dress. At that he drew quickly away as if he had trodden on her foot.
She laughed, but she was vexed; and when he got down at "The Manx Fairy," saying he might call on his way back in the evening, she had no doubt Grannie would be glad to see him.
The girls of the market-place were standing by the mill-pond, work done, and arms crossed under their aprons, twittering like the pairing birds about them in the trees, when Philip returned home by Sulby. He saw Kate coming down the glen road, driving two heifers with a cushag for switch and flashing its gold at them in the horizontal gleams of sunset. She had recovered her good-humour, and was swinging along, singing merry snatches as she came—all life, all girlish blood and beauty.
She pretended not to see him until they were abreast, and the heifers were going into the yard. Then she said, "I've written and told him."
"What?" said Philip.
"That you say you are a confirmed old bachelor."
"That I say so?"
"Yes; and that I say you are so distant with a girl that I don't believe you have a heart at all."
"No; and that he couldn't have left anybody better to look after me all these years, because you haven't eyes or ears or a thought for any living creature except himself."
"You've never written that to Pete?" said Philip.
"Haven't I, though?" said Kate, and she tripped off on tiptoe.
He tripped after her. She ran into the yard. He ran also. She opened the gate of the orchard, slipped through, and made for the door of the dairy, and there he caught her by the waist.
"Never, you rogue! Say no, say no!" he panted.
"No," she whispered, turning up her lips for a kiss.
Grannie saw nothing of Philip that night. He went home tingling with pleasure, and yet overwhelmed with shame. Sometimes he told himself that he was no better than a Judas, and sometimes that Pete might never come back. The second thought rose oftenest. It crossed his mind like a ghostly gleam. He half wished to believe it. When he counted up the odds against Pete's return, his pulse beat quick. Then he hated himself. He was in torment. But under his distracted heart there was a little chick of frightened joy, like a young cuckoo hatched in a wagtail's nest.
After many days, in which no further news had come from Pete, Kate received this brief letter from Philip:
"I am coming to see you this evening. Have something of grave importance to tell you."
It was afternoon, and Kate ran upstairs, hurried on her best frock, and came down to help Nancy to gather apples in the orchard. Black Tom was there, new thatching the back of the house, and Caesar was making sugganes (straw rope) for him with a twister. There was a soft feel of autumn in the air, pigeons were cooing in the ledges of the mill-house gable, and everything was luminous and tranquil. Kate had climbed to the fork of a tree, and was throwing apples into Nancy's apron, when the orchard gate clicked, and she uttered a little cry of joy unawares as Philip entered. To cover this, she pretended to be falling, and he ran to help her.
"Oh, it's nothing," she said. "I thought the bough was breaking. So it's you!" Then, in a clear voice, "Is your apron full, Nancy? Yes? Bring another basket, then; the white one with the handles. Did you come Laxey way by the coach? Bode over, eh? Nancy, do you really think we'll have sugar enough for all these Keswicks?"
"Good evenin', Mr. Christian, sir," said Caesar. And Black Tom, from the ladder on the roof, nodded his wide straw brim.
"Thatching afresh, Mr. Cregeen?"
"Covering it up, sir; covering it up. May the Lord cover our sins up likewise, or how shall we cover ourselves from His avenging wrath?"
"How vexing!" said Kate, from the tree. "Half of them get bruised, and will be good for nothing but preserving. They drop at the first touch—so ripe, you see."
"May we all be ripe for the great gathering, and good for preserving, too," said Caesar. "Look at that big one, now—knotted like a blacksmith's muscles, but it'll go rotten as fast as the least lil one of the lot. It's taiching us a lesson, sir, that we all do fall—big mountains as aisy as lil cocks. This world is changeable."
Philip was not listening, but looking up at Kate, with a face of half-frightened tenderness.
"Do you know," she said, "I was afraid you must be ill again—your apron, Nancy—that was foolish, wasn't it?"
"No; I have been well enough," said Philip.
Kate looked at him. "Is it somebody else?" she said. "I got your letter."
"Can I help?" said Philip. "What is it? I'm sure there's something," said Kate.
"Set your foot here," he said.
"Let me down, I feel giddy."
"Slowly, then. Hold by this one. Give me your hand."
Their fingers touched, and communicated fire.
"Why don't you tell me?" she said, with a passionate tightening of his hand. "It's bad news, isn't it? Are you going away?"
"Somebody who went away will never come back," he answered.
"Poor Pete is gone," said Philip.
Her throat fluttered. "Gone?"
"He is dead," said Philip.
She tottered, but drew herself up quickly. "Stop!" she said. "Let me make sure. Is there no mistake? Is it true?"
"I can bear the truth now—but afterwards—to-night—tomorrow—in the morning it might kill me if——"
"Pete is dead, Kate; he died at Kimberley."
She burst into a wild fit of hysterical weeping, and buried her face his his breast.
He put his arms about her, thinking to soothe her. "There! be brave! Hold yourself firm. It's a terrible blow. I was too sudden. My poor girl. My brave girl!"
She clung to him like a terrified child; the tears came from under her eyelids tightly closed; the flood-gates of four years' reserve went down in a moment, and she kissed him on the lips.
And, throbbing with bliss and a blessed relief from four years hypocrisy and treason, he kissed her back, and they smiled through their tears.
Poor Pete! Poor Pete! Poor Pete!
At the sound of Kate's crying, Caesar had thrown away the twister and come close to listen, and Black Tom had dropped from the thatch. Nancy ran back with the basket, and Grannie came hurrying from the house.
Caesar lifted both hands solemnly. "Now, you that are women, control yourselves," said he, "and listen while I spake. Peter Quilliam's dead in Kimberley."
"Goodness mercy!" cried Grannie.
"Lord alive!" cried Nancy.
And the two women went indoors, threw their aprons over their heads, and rocked themselves in their seats.
"Aw boy veen! boy veen!"
Kate came tottering in, ghostly white, and the women fell to comforting her, thereby making more tumult with their soothing moans than Kate with her crying.
"Chut'! Put a good face on it, woman," said Black Tom. "A whippa of a girl like you will be getting another soon, and singing, 'Hail, Smiling Morn!' with the best."
"Shame on you, man. Are you as drunk as Mackillya?" cried Nancy. "Your own grandson, too!"
"Never another for Kate, anyway," wept Grannie. "Aw boy veen, aw boy veen!"
"Maybe he had another himself, who knows?" said Black Tom. "Out of sight out of mind, and these sailor lads have a rag on lots of bushes."
Kate was helped to her room upstairs, Philip sat down in the kitchen, the news spread like a curragh fire, and the barroom was full in five minutes. In the midst of all stood Caesar, solemn and expansive.
"He turned his herring yonder night when he left goodbye to the four of us," he said. "My father did the same the night he was lost running rum for Whitehaven, and I've never seen a man do it and live."
"It's forgot at you father," wept Grannie. "It was Mr. Philip that turned it. Aw boy veen! boy veen!"
"How could that be, mother?" said Caesar. "Mr. Philip isn't dead."
But Grannie heard no more. She was busy with the consolations of half-a-dozen women who were gathered around her. "I dreamt it the night he sailed. I heard a cry, most terrible, I did. 'Father,' says I, 'what's that?' It was the same as if I had seen the poor boy coming to his end un-timeously. And I didn't get a wink on the night."
"Well, he has gone to the rest that remaineth," said Caesar. "The grass perisheth, and the worm devoureth, and well all be in heaven with him soon."
"God forbid, father; don't talk of such dreadful things," said Grannie, napping her apron. "Do you say his mother, ma'am? Is she in life? No, but under the sod, I don't know the years. Information of the lungs, poor thing."
"I've known him since I was a slip of a boy," said one. "It was whip-top time—no, it was peg-top time——"
"I saw him the morning he sailed," said another. "I was standing so——"
"Mr. Christian saw him last," moaned Grannie, and the people in the bar-room peered through at Philip with awe.
"I felt like a father for the lad myself," said Caesar, "he was always my white-headed boy, and I stuck to him with life. He desarved it, too. Maybe his birth was a bit mischancy, but what's the ould saying, 'Don't tell me what I was, tell me what I am.' And Pete was that civil with the tongue—a civiller young man never was."
Black Tom tsht and spat. "Why, you were shouting out of mercy at the lad, and knocking him about like putty. He wouldn't get lave to live with you, and that's why he went away."
"You're bad to forget, Thomas—I've always noticed it," said Caesar.
"You'll be putting the bell about, and praiching his funeral, eh, Caesar?" said somebody.
"'Deed, yes, man, Sabbath first," said Caesar.
"That's impossible, father," said Grannie. "How's the girl to have her black ready?"
"Sunday week, then, or Sunday fortnight, or the Sunday after the Melliah (harvest-home)," said Caesar; "the crops are waiting for saving, but a dead man is past it. Oh, I'll be faithful, I'll give it them straight, it's a time for spaking like a dying man to dying men; I'll take a tex' that'll be a lesson and a warning, 'Ho, every one that thirsteth——"
Black Tom tsht and spat again. "I wouldn't, Caesar; they'll think you're going to trate them," he muttered.
Philip was asked for particulars, and he brought out a letter. Jonaique Jelly, John the Clerk, and Johnny the Constable had come in by this time. "Read it, Jonaique," said Caesar.
"A clane pipe first," said Black Tom. "Aren't you smook-ing on it, Caesar? And isn't there a croppa of rum anywhere? No! Not so much as a plate of crackers and a drop of tay going? Is it to be a totaller's funeral then?"
"This is no time for feasting to the refreshment of our carnal bodies," said Caesar severely. "It's a time for praise and prayer."
"I'll pud up a word or dwo," said the Constable meekly.
"Masther Niplightly," said Caesar, "don't be too ready to show your gift. It's vanity. I'll engage in prayer myself." And Caesar offered praise for all departed in faith and fear.
"Caesar is nod a man of a liberal spirit, bud he is powerful in prayer, dough," whispered the Constable.
"He isn't a prodigal son, if that's what you mane," said Black Tom. "Never seen him shouting after anybody with a pint, anyway."
"Now for the letter, Jonaique," said Caesar.
It was from one of the Gills' boys who had sailed with Pete, and hitherto served as his letter-writer.
"'Respected Sir,'" read Jonaique, "'with pain and sorrow I write these few lines, to tell you of poor Peter Quilliam——'"
"Aw boy veen, boy veen!" broke in Grannie.
"'Knowing you were his friend in the old island, and the one he talked of mostly, except the girl——'"
"'He made good money out here, at the diamond mines——'"
"Never a yellow sovereign he sent to me, then," said Black Tom, "nor the full of your fist of ha'pence either. What's the use of getting grand-childers?"
Caesar waved his hand. "Go on, Jonaique. It's bad when the deceitfulness of riches is getting the better of a man."
"Where was I? Oh, 'good money ———' 'Yet he was never for taking joy in it——'"
"More money, more cares," muttered Caesar.
"'But talking and talking, and scheming for ever, for coming home.'"
"Ah! home is a full cup," moaned Grannie. "It was a show the way that lad was fond of it. 'Give me a plate of mate, bolstered with cabbage, and what do I care for their buns and sarves, Grannie,' says he. Aw, boy veen, boy bogh!"
"What does the nightingale care for a golden cage when he can get a twig?" said Caesar.
"Is the boy's chest home yet?" asked John the Clerk.
"There's something about it here," said Jonaique, "if people would only let a man get on."
"It's mine," said Black Tom.
"We'll think of that by-and-bye," said Caesar, waving his hand to Jonaique.
"'He had packed his chest for going, when four blacklegs, who had been hanging round the compound, tempting and plaguing the Kaffirs, made off with a bag of stones. Desperate gang, too; so nobody was running to be sent after them. But poor Peter, being always a bit bull-necked, was up to the office in a jiffy, and Might he go? And off in chase in the everin' with the twenty Kaffirs of his own company to help him—not much of a lot neither, and suspected of dealing diamonds with the blacklegs times; but Peter always swore their love for him was getting thicker and stronger every day like sour cream. "The captain's love has been their theme, and shall be till they die," said Peter.'"
"He drank up the Word like a thirsty land the rain," said Caesar. "Peter Quilliam and I had mortal joy of each other. 'Good-bye, father,' says he, and he was shaking me by the hand ter'ble. But go on, Jonaique."
"'That was four months ago, and a fortnight since eight of his Kaffirs came back.'"
"Aw dear!" "Well, well!" "Lord-a-massy!" "Hush!"
"'They overtook the blacklegs far up country, and Peter tackled them. But they had Winchester repeaters, and Peter's boys didn't know the muzzle of a gun from the neck of a gin-bottle. So the big man of the gang cocked his piece at Peter, and shouted at him like a high bailiff, "You'd better go back the way you came." "Not immajetly," said Peter, and stretched him. Then there was smoke like a smithy on hooping-day, and "To your heels, boys," shouted Peter. And if the boys couldn't equal Peter with their hands, they could bate him with their toes, and the last they heard of him he was racing behind them with the shots of the blacklegs behind him, and shouting mortal, "Oh, oh! All up! I'm done! Home and tell, boys! Oh, oh."'"
"Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy. When I fall I shall arise. Selah," said Caesar.
Amid the tumult of moans which followed the reading, Philip, sitting with head on his hand by the ingle, grew hot and cold with the thought that after all there was no actual certainty that Pete was dead. Nobody had seen him die, nobody had buried him; the story of the returned Kaffirs might be a lie to cover their desertion of Pete, their betrayal of him, or their secret league with the thieving Boers. At one awful moment Philip asked himself how he had ever believed the letter. Perhaps he had wanted to believe it.
Nancy Joe touched him on the shoulder. "Kate is waiting for a word with you alone, sir," she said, and Philip crossed the kitchen into the little parlour beyond, chill with china and bowls of sea-eggs and stuffed sea-birds.
"He's feeling it bad," said Nancy.
"Never been the same since Pete went to the Cape," said Caesar.
"I don't know for sure what good lads are going to it for," moaned Grannie. "And calling it Good Hope of all names! Died of a bullet in his head, too, aw dear, aw dear! Discussion of the brain it's like. And look at them black-heads too, as naked as my hand, I'll go bail. I hate the nasty dirts! Caesar may talk of one flesh and brethren and all to that, but for my part I'm not used of black brothers, and as for black angels in heaven, it's ridiculous."
"When you're all done talking I'll finish the letter," said Jonaique.
"They can't help it, Mr. Jelly, the women can't help it," said Caesar.
"'Respected Sir, I must now close, but we are strapping up the chest of the deceased, just as he left it, and sending it to catch the steamer, the Johannesburg, leaving Cape Town Wednesday fortnight——'"
"Hm! Johannesburg. I'll meet her at the quay—it's my duty to meet her," said Caesar.
"And I'll board her in the bay," shouted Black Tom.
"Thomas Quilliam," said Caesar, "it's borne in on my spirit that the devil of greed is let loose on you."
"Caesar Cregeen, don't make a nose of wax of me," bawled Tom, "and don't think because you're praiching a bit that religion is going to die with you. Your head's swelling tre-menjous, and-you won't be able to sleep soon without somebody to tickle your feet. You'll be forgiving sins next, and taking money for absolution, and these ones will be making a pope of you and paying you pence. Pope Caesar, the publican, in his chapel hat and white choker! But that chiss is mine, and if there's law in the land I'll have it."
With that Black Tom swept out of the house, and Caesar wiped his eyes.
"No use smoothing a thistle, Mr. Cregeen," said Jonaique soothingly.
"I've a conscience void of offence." said Caesar. "I can only follow the spirit's leading. But when Belial——"
He was interrupted by a most mournful cry of "Look here! Aw, look, then, look!"
Nancy was coming out of the back-kitchen with something between the tips of her fingers. It was a pair of old shoes, covered with dirt and cobwebs.
"These were his wearing boots," she said, and she put them on the counter.
"Dear heart, yes, the very ones," said Grannie. "Poor boy, they'd move a heart of stone to see them. Something to remember him by, anyway. Many a mile his feet walked in them; but they're resting now in Abraham's bosom."
Then Caesar's voice rose loud over the doleful tones around the counter. "'Vital Spark of Heavenly Flame'—raise it, Mr. Niplightly. Pity we haven't Peter and his fiddle here—he played with life."
"I can'd sing to-day, having a cold, bud I'll whisle id," said the Constable.
"Pitch it in altoes, then," said Caesar. "I'm a bit of a base myself, but not near so base as Peter."
Meanwhile a little drama of serious interest was going on upstairs. There sat Kate before the looking-glass, with flushed cheeks and quivering mouth. The low drone of many voices came to her through the floor. Then a dull silence and one voice, and Nancy Joe coming and going between the kitchen and bedroom.
"What are they doing now, Nancy?" said Kate.
"First one's praying, and then another's praying," said Nancy. "Lord-a-massy, thinks I, it'll be my turn next, and what'll I say?"
"Where's Mr. Christian?"
"Gone into the parlour. I whispered him you wanted him alone."
"You never said that, Nancy," said Kate, at Nancy's reflection in the glass.
"Well, it popped out," said Nancy.
Kate went down, with a look of softened sorrow, and Philip, without lifting his eyes, began bemoaning Pete. They would never know his like—so simple, so true, so brave; never, never.
He was fighting against his shame at first seeing the girl after that kiss, which seemed to him now like treason at the mouth of a grave.
But, with the magic of a woman's art, Kate consoled him. He had one great comfort—he had been a loyal friend; such fidelity, such constancy, such affection, forgetting the difference of place, of education—everything.
Philip looked up at last, and there was the lovely face with its beaming eyes. He turned to go, and she said, softly, "How we shall miss you!"
"Why so?" said Philip.
"We can't expect to see you so often now—now that you've not the same reason for coming."
"I'll be here on Sunday," said Philip.
"Then you don't intend to desert us yet—not just yet, Philip?"
"Never!" said Philip.
"Well, good-night! Not that way—not by the porch. Good-night!"
As Philip went down the road in the darkness, he heard the words of the hymn that was being sung inside:
"Thy glory why didst Thou enshrine In such a clod of earth as mine, And wrap Thee in my clay."
At that moment day was breaking over the plains of the Transvaal. The bare Veldt was opening out as the darkness receded, depth on depth, like the surface of an unbroken sea. Not a bush, not a path, only a few log-houses at long distances and wooden beacons like gibbets to define the Boer farms. No sound in the transparent air, no cloud in the unveiling sky; just the night creeping off in silence as if in fear of awakening the sleeping morning.
Across the soulless immensity a covered waggon toiled along with four horses rattling their link chains, and a lad sideways on the shaft dangling his legs, twiddling the rope reins and whistling. Inside the waggon, under a little window with its bit of muslin curtain, a man lay in the agony of a bullet-wound in his side, and an old Boer and a woman stood beside him. He was lying hard on the place of his pain and rambling in delirium.
"See, boys? Don't you see them?"
"See what, my lad?" said the Boer simply, and he looked through the waggon window.
"There's the head-gear of the mines. Look! the iron roofs are glittering. And yonder's the mine tailings. We'll be back in a jiffy. A taste of the whip, boys, and away!"
Untouched by visions, the old Boer could see nothing.
"What does he see, wife, think you?"
"What can he see, stupid, with his face in the pillow like that?"
With the rushing of blood in his ears the sick man called out again:
"Listen! Don't you hear it? That's the noise of the batteries. Whip up, and away! Away!" and he tore at the fringe of the blanket covering him with his unconscious fingers.
"Poor boy! he's eager to get to the coast But will he live to cover another morgen, think you?"
"God knows, Jan—God only knows."
And the Veldt was very wide, and the sea and its ships were far away, and over the weary stretch of grass, and rock, and sand, there was nothing on the horizon between desolate land and dominating sky but a waste looking like a chaos of purple and green, where no bird ever sang and no man ever lived, and God Himself was not.
"She loves me! She loves me! She loves me!" The words sang in Philip's ears like a sweet tune half the way back to Ballure. Then he began to pluck at the brambles by the wayside, to wound his hand by snatching at the gorse, and to despise himself for being glad when he should have been in grief. Still, he was sure of it; there was no making any less of it. She loved him, he was free to love her, there need be no hypocrisy and no self-denial; so he wiped the blood from his fingers, and crept into the blue room of Auntie Nan.
The old lady, in a dainty cap with flying streamers, was sitting by the fireside spinning. She had heard the news of Pete as Philip passed through to Sulby, and was now wondering if it was not her duty to acquaint Uncle Peter. The sweet and natty old gentlewoman, brought up in the odour of gentility, was thinking on the lines of poor Bridget, Black Tom when dying under the bare scraas, that a man's son was his son in spite of law or devil.
She decided against telling the Ballawhaine by remembering an incident in the life of his father. It was about Philip's father, too; so Philip stretched his legs from the sofa towards the hearth, and listened to the old Auntie's voice over the whirr of her wheel, with another voice—a younger voice, an unheard voice—breaking: in at the back of his ears when the wheel stopped, and a sweet undersong inside of him always, saying, "Be sensible; there is no disloyalty; Pete is dead. Poor Pete! Poor old Pete!"
"Though he had cast your father off, Philip, for threatening to make your mother his wife, he never believed there was a parson on the island would dare to marry them against his wish."
"No; and when Uncle Peter came in at dinner-time a week after and said, 'It's all over,' he said, 'No, sir, no,' and threw down his spoon in the plate, and the hot broth splashed on my hand, I remember. But Peter said, 'It's past praying for, sir,' and then grandfather cried, 'No, I tell you no.' 'But I tell you yes, sir,' said Peter. 'Maughold Church yesterday morning before service.' Then grandfather lost himself, and called Peter 'Liar,' and cried that your father couldn't do it. 'And, besides, he's my own son after all, and would not,' said grandfather. But I could see that he believed what Uncle Peter had told him, and, when Peter began to cry, he said, 'Forgive me, my boy; I'm your father for all, and I've a right to your forgiveness.' All the same, he wouldn't be satisfied until he had seen the register, and I had to go with him to the church."
"Poor old grandfather!"
"The vicar in those days was a little dotty man named Kissack, and it was the joy of his life to be always crushing and stifling somebody, because somebody was always depriving him of his rights or something."
"I remember him—the Cockatoo. His favourite text was, 'Jesus said, then follow Me,' only the people declared he always wanted to go first."
"Shocking, Philip. It was evening when we drove up to Maughold, and the little parson was by the Cross, ordering somebody with a cane. 'I am told you married my son yesterday; is it true?' said grandfather. 'Quite true,' said the vicar. 'By banns or special license?' grandfather asked. 'License, of course,' the vicar answered."
"Curt enough, any way."
"'Show me the register,' said grandfather, and his face twitched and his voice was thick. 'Can't you believe me?' said the vicar. 'The register,' said grandfather. Then the vicar turned the key in the church door and strutted up the aisle, humming something. I tried to keep grandfather back even then. 'What's the use?' I said, for I knew he was only fighting against belief. But, hat in hand, he followed to the Communion rail, and there the vicar laid the open book before him. Oh, Philip, shall I ever forget it? How it all comes back—the little dim church, the smell of damp and of velvet under the holland covers of the pulpit, and the empty place echoing. And grandfather fixed his glasses and leaned over the register, but he could see nothing—only blurr, blurr, blurr.
"'You look at it, child,' he said, over his shoulder. But I daren't face it; so he rubbed his glasses and leaned over the book again. Oh dear! he was like one who looks down the list of the slain for the name he prays he may not find. But the name was there, too surely: 'Thomas Wilson Christian... to Mona Crellin... signed Wm. Crellin and something Kissack.'"
Philip's breath came hot and fast.
"The little vicar was swinging his cane to and fro on the other side of the rail and smiling, and grandfather raised his eyes to him and said, 'Do you know what you've done, sir? You've robbed me of my first-born son and ruined him.' 'Nonsense, sir,' said the vicar. 'Your son was of age, and his wife had the sanction of her father. Was I to go round by Ballawhaine for permission to do my duty as a clergyman?' 'Duty!' cried grandfather. 'When a young man marries, he marries for heaven or for hell. Your duty as a clergyman!' he cried, till his voice rang in the roof. 'If a son of yours had his hand at his throat, would you call it my duty as Deemster to hand him a knife.' 'Silence, sir,' said the vicar. Remember where you stand, or, Deemster though you are, you shall repent it.' 'Arrest me for brawling, will you?' cried grandfather, and he snatched the cane out of the vicar's hand and struck him across the breast. 'Arrest me now,' he said, and then tottered and stumbled out of the church by my arm and the doors of the empty pews."
Philip went to bed that night with burning brow and throbbing throat. He had made a startling discovery. He was standing where his father had stood before him; he was doing what his father had done; he was in danger of his father's fate! Where was his head that he had never thought of this before?
It was hard—it was terrible. Now that he was free to love the girl, he realised what it meant to love her. Nevertheless he was young, and he rebelled, he fought, he would not deliberate, The girl conquered in his heart that night, and he lay down to sleep.
But next morning he told himself, with a shudder, that it was lucky he had gone no farther. One step more and all the evil of his father's life might have been repeated in his own. There had been nothing said, nothing done. He would go to Sulby no more.
That mood lasted until mid-day, and then a scout of the line of love began to creep into his heart in disguise. He reminded himself that he had promised to go on Sunday, and that it would be unseemly to break off the acquaintance too suddenly, lest the simple folks should think he had borne with them throughout four years merely for the sake of Pete. But after Sunday he would take a new turn.
He found Kate dressed as she had never been before. Instead of the loose red bodice and the sun-bonnet, the apron and the kilted petticoat, she wore a close-fitting dark green frock with a lace collar. The change was simple, but it made all the difference. She was not more beautiful, but she was more like a lady.
It was Sunday evening, and the "Fairy" was closed. Csesar and Grannie were at the preaching-house, Nancy Joe was cooking crowdie for supper, and Kate and Philip talked. The girl was quieter than Philip had ever known her—more modest, more apt to blush, and with the old audacity of word and look quite gone. They talked of success in life, and she said—
"How I should like to fight my way in the world as you are doing! But a woman can do nothing to raise herself. Isn't it hard? Whatever the place where she was born in, she must remain there all her days. She can see her brothers rise, and her friends perhaps, but she must remain below. Isn't it a pity? It isn't that she wants to be rich or great. No, not that; only she doesn't want to be left behind by the people she likes. She must be, though, and just because she's a woman. I'm sure it's so in the Isle of Man, anyway. Isn't it cruel?"
"But aren't you forgetting something?" said Philip.
"If a woman can't rise of herself because the doors of life are locked to her, it is always possible for a man to raise her."
"Some one who loves her, you mean, and so lifts her to his own level, and takes her up with him as he goes up?"
"Why not?" said Philip.
Kate's eyes beamed like sunshine. "That is lovely," she said in a low voice. "Do you know, I never thought of that before! If it were my case, I should like that best of all. Side by side with him, and he doing all? Oh, that is beautiful!"
And she gazed up with a timid joy at the inventive being who had thought of this as at something supernatural.
Caesar and Grannie came back, both in fearful outbursts of Sunday clothes. Nevertheless Caesar's eyes, after the first salutation with Philip, fixed themselves on Kate's unfamliar costume.
"Such worldly attire!" he muttered, following the girl round the kitchen and blowing up his black gloves. "This caring for the miserable body that will one day be lowered into the grave! What does the Book say?—put my tall hat on the clane laff, Nancy. 'Let it not be the outward adorning of putting on of apparel, but let it be the hidden man of the heart.'"
"But sakes alive, father," said Grannie, loosening a bonnet like a diver's helmet, "if it comes to that, what is Jeremiah saying, 'Can a maid forget her ornaments?'"
"It's like she can if she hasn't any to remember," said Caesar. "But maybe the prophet Jeremiah didn't know the mothers that's in now."
"Chut, man! Girls are like birds, and the breed comes out in the feathers," said Grannie.
"Where's she getting it then? Not from me at all," said Caesar.
"Deed, no, man," laughed Grannie, "considering the smart she is and the rasonable good-looking."
"Hould your tongue, woman; it'll become you better," said Caesar.
Philip rose to go. "You're time enough yet, sir," cried Caesar. "I was for telling you of a job."
Some of the fishermen of Ramsey had been over on Saturday. Their season was a failure, and they were loud in their protests against the trawlers who were destroying the spawn. Caesar had suggested a conference at his house on the following Saturday of Ramsey men and Peel men, and recommended Philip as an advocate to advise with them as to the best means to put a stop to the enemies of the herring. Philip promised to be there, and then went home to Auntie Nan.
He told himself on the way that Kate was completely above her surroundings, and capable of becoming as absolute a lady as ever lived on the island, without a sign of her origin in look or speech, except perhaps the rising inflexion in her voice which made the talk of the true Manxwoman the sweetest thing in the world to listen to.
Auntie Nan was sitting by the lamp, reading her chapter before going to bed.
"Auntie," said Philip, "don't you think the tragedy in the life of father was accidental? Due, I mean, to the particular characters of grandfather and poor mother? Now, if the one had been less proud, less exclusive, or the other more capable of rising with her husband——"
"The tragedy was deeper than that, dear; let me tell you a story," said Auntie Nan, laying down her book. "Three days after your father left Ballawhaine, old Maggie, the housemaid, came to my side at supper and whispered that some one was wanting me in the garden. It was Thomas. Oh dear! it was terrible to see him there, that ought to have been the heir of everything, standing like a stranger in the dark beyond the kitchen-door."
"Poor father!" said Philip.
"'Whist, girl, come out of the light,' he whispered. 'There's a purse with twenty pounds odd in my desk upstairs; get it, Nan, here's the key.' I knew what he wanted the money for, but I couldn't help it; I got him the purse and put ten pounds more of my own in it. 'Must you do it?' I said. 'I must,' he answered. 'Your father says everybody will despise you for this marriage,' I said. 'Better they should than I should despise myself,' said he. 'But he calls it moral suicide,' I said. 'That's not so bad as moral murder,' he replied. 'He knows the island,' I urged, 'and so do you, Tom, and so do I, and nobody can hold up his head in a little place like this after a marriage like that.' 'All the worse for the place,' said he, 'if it stains a man's honour for acting honourably.'"
"Father was an upright man," interrupted Philip. "There's no question about it, my father was a gentleman."
"'She must be a sweet, good girl, and worthy of you, or you wouldn't marry her,' said I to father; 'but are you sure that you will be happy and make her happy?' We shall have each other, and it is our own affair,' said father."
"Precisely," said Philip.
"'But if there is a difference between you now,' I said, 'will it be less when you are the great man we hope to see you some day?' 'A man is not always thinking of success,' he answered.
"My father was a great man already, Auntie," burst out Philip.
"He was shaken and I was ashamed, but I could not help it, I went on. 'Has the marriage gone too far?' I asked. 'It has never been mentioned between us,' said he. 'Your father is old, and can't live long,' I pleaded. 'He wants me to behave like a scoundrel,' he answered. 'Why that, if the girl has no right to you yet?' I said, and he was silent. Then I crept up and looked in at the window. 'See,' I whispered, 'he's in the library. We'll take him by surprise. Come!' It was not to be. There was a smell of tobacco on the air and the thud of a step on the grass. 'Who's that?' I said. 'Who should it be,' cried father, 'but the same spy again. I'll shake the life out of him yet as a terrier would a rat. No use, girl,' he shouted hoarsely, facing towards the darkness, 'they're driving me to destruction.' 'Hush!' I said, and covered his mouth with my hands, and his breath was hot, like fire. But it was useless. He was married three days afterwards."
Philip resolved to see Kate no more. He must go to Sulby on Saturday to meet the fishermen, but that would be a business visit; he need not prolong it into a friendly one. All the week through he felt as if his heart would break; but he resolved to conquer his feelings. He pitied himself somewhat, and that helped him to rise above his error.
On Saturday night he was early at Sulby. The bat-room was thronged with fishermen in guernseys, sea-boots, and sou'-westers. They were all on their feet together, twisting about like great congers on the quay, drinking a little and smoking a great deal, thumping the table, and all talking at once. "How've you done, Billy?"—"Enough to keep away the divil and the coroner, and that's about all."—"Where's Tom Dug?"—"Gone to Austrilla."—"Is Jimmy over to-day?"—"He's away to Cleveland."—"Gough, bless me, every Manx boy seems to be going foreign."—"That's where we'll all be after long and last, if we don't stop these southside trawlers."
Philip went in and was received with goodwill and rough courtesy, but no man abated a jot of his freedom of action or liberty of speech, and the thumping and shouting were as loud as before. "Appeal to the Receiver-General."—"Chut! an ould woman with a face winking at you like a roast potato."—"Will we go to the Bishop, then?"—"A whitewashed Methodist with a soul the size of a dried pea."—"The Governor is the proper person," said Philip above the hubbub, "and he is to visit Peel Castle next Saturday afternoon about the restorations. Let every Manx fisherman who thinks the trawl-boats are enemies of the fish be there that day. Then lay your complaint before the man whose duty it is to inquire into all such grievances; and if you want a spokesman, I'm ready to speak for you."—"Bravo!"—"That's the ticket!"
Then the meeting was at an end; the men went on with stories of the week's fishing, stories of smugglers, stories of the Swaddlers (the Wesleyans), stories of the totalers (teetotallers), and Philip made for the door. When he got there, he began to reflect that, being in the house, he ought to leave good-night with Caesar and Grannie. Hardly decent not to do so. No use hurting people's feelings. Might as well be civil. Cost nothing anyway. Thus an overpowering compulsion in the disguise of courtesy drew him again into Kate's company; but to-morrow he would take a new turn.
"Proud to see you, Mr. Philip," said Caesar.
"The water's playing in the kettle; make Mr. Philip a cup of tay, Nancy," said Grannie. Caesar was sitting back to the partition, pretending to read out of a big Bible on his knees, but listening with both ears and open mouth to the profane stories being told in the bar-room. Kate was not in the kitchen, but an open book, face downwards, lay on the chair by the turf closet.
"What's this?" said Philip. "A French exercise-book! Whoever can it belong to here?"
"Aw, Kirry, of coorse," said Grannie, "and sticking that close to it of an everin that you haven't a chance to put a word on her."
"Vanity, sir, vanity, all vanity," said Caesar; and again he listened hard.
Philip's eyes began to blink. "Teaching herself French, is she? Has she been doing it long, Grannie?"
"Long enough, sir, three years or better, since poor Pete went away maybe; and at the books for ever, grammars and tex' books, and I don't know what."
Caesar, with his ear at the glass, made an impatient gesture for silence, but Grannie continued, "I don't know what for people should be larning themselves foreign languages at all. For my part, there isn't one of them bates the Manx itself for plainness. And aren't we reading, when the Lord wanted to bring confusion on Noah and his disobedient sons and grandsons at going up the Tower of Babel, he made them spake different tongues?"
"Good thing too," snapped Caesar, "if every poor man was bound to carry his wife up with him."
Philip's eyes were streaming, and, unobserved, he put the lesson-book to his lips. He had guessed its secret. The girl was making herself worthy of him. God bless, her!
Kate came downstairs in the dark dress and white collar of Sunday night. She saw Philip putting down the book, lowered her head and blushed, took up the volume, and smuggled it out of sight. Then Caesar's curiosity conquered his propriety and he ventured into the bar-room, Grannie came and went between the counter and the fishermen, Nancy clicked about from dairy to door, and Kate and Philip were left alone.
"You were wrong the other night," she said. "I have been thinking it over, and you were quite, quite wrong."
"If a man marries a woman beneath him, he stoops to her, and to stoop to her is to pity her, and to pity her is to be ashamed of her, and to be ashamed of her would kill her. So you are wrong."
"Yes?" said Philip.
"Yes," said Kate, "but do you know what it ought to be? The woman ought to marry beneath herself, and the man above himself; then as much as the woman descends, the man rises, and so——-don't you see?"
She faltered and stopped, and Philip said, "Aren't you talking nonsense,' Kate?"
Kate pretended to be angry at the rebuff, and pouted her lips, but her eyes were beaming.
"There is neither above nor below where there is real liking," said Philip. "If you like any one, and she is necessary to your life, that is the sign of your natural equality. It is God's sign, and all the rest is only man's book-keeping."
"You mean," said Kate, trying to keep a grave mouth, "you mean that if a woman belongs to some one she can like, and some one belongs to her, that is being equal, and everything else is nothing? Eh?"
"Why not?" said Philip.
It was music to her, but she wagged her head solemnly and said, "I'm sure you're wrong, Philip. I am, though. Yes, indeed I am. But it's no use arguing. Not against you. Only——"
The glorious choir of love-birds in her bosom were singing so loud that she could say no more, and the irresistible one had his way. After a while, she stuffed something into the fire.
"What's that?" said Philip.
"Oh, nothing," she answered brightly.
It was the French exercise-book.
Philip went home rebelling against his father's fate. It was accidental; it was inevitable only in the Isle of Man. But perdition to the place where a man could not marry the woman he loved if she chanced to be born in the manger instead of the stable loft. Perdition to the land where a man could not live unless he was a skunk or a cur. Thank God the world was wide.
That night he said to Auntie Nan, "Auntie, why didn't father go away when he found the tide setting so strongly against him?"
"He always meant to, but he never could," said Auntie Nan. "A woman isn't like a man, ready to pitch her tent here to-day and there to-morrow. We're more like cats, dear, and cling to the places we're used to, if they're only ruins of tumbling stones. Your mother wasn't happy in the Isle of Man, but she wouldn't leave it. Your father wouldn't go without her, and then there was the child. He was here for weal or woe, for life or death. When he married his wife he made the chain that bound him to the island as to a rock."
"It wouldn't be like that with Kate," thought Philip. But did Auntie know anything? Had somebody told her? Was she warning him? On Sunday night, on the way home from church, she talked of his father again.
"He came to see at last that it wasn't altogether his own affair either," she said. "It was the night he died. Your mother had been unwell and father had sent for me. It was a dark night, and late, very late, and they brought me down the hill from Lewaige Cottage with a lantern. Father was sinking, but he would get out of bed. We were alone together then, he and I, except for you, and you were asleep in your cot by the window. He made straight for it, and struggled down on his knees at its side by help of the curtains. 'Listen,' he said, trying to whisper, though he could not, for his poor throat was making noises. You were catching your breath, as if sobbing in your sleep. 'Poor little boy, he's dreaming,' said I; 'let me turn him on his side.' 'It's not that,' said father; 'he went to sleep in trouble.'"
"I remember it, Auntie," said Philip. "Perhaps he had been trying to tell me something."
"'My boy, my son, forgive me, I have sinned against you,' he said, and he tried to reach over the cot rail and put his lips to your forehead, but his poor head shook like palsy and bobbed down into your little face. I remember you rubbed your nose with your little fist, but you did not waken. Then I helped him back to bed, and the table with the medicine glasses jingled by the trembling of his other hand. 'It's dark, all, all dark, Nannie,' he said, 'sure some angel will bring me light,' and I was so simple I thought he meant the lamp, for it was dying down, and I lit a candle."
Philip went about his work that week as if the spirit of his father were hovering over him, warning him when awake in words of love and pleading, crying to him in his sleep in tones of anger and command, "Stand back; you are at the edge of the precipice."
Nevertheless his soul rose in rebellion against this league as of the past and the dead. It was founded in vanity, in the desire for glory and success. Only let a man renounce the world and all that the world can give, and he can be true to himself, to his heart's impulse, to his honour, and to his love. He would deliberate no longer. He despised himself for deliberating. If was the world against Kate, let the world go to perdition.
On Saturday afternoon he was at Peel. It was a beautiful day; the sun was shining, and the bay was blue and flat and quiet. The tide was down, the harbour was empty of water, but full of smacks with hanging sails and hammocks of nets and lines of mollags (bladders) up to the mast heads. A flight of seagulls were fishing in the mud, and swirling through the brown wings of the boats and crying. A flag floated over the ruins of the castle, the church-bells were ringing, and the harbour-masters were abroad in best blue and gold buttons.
On the tilting-ground of the castle the fishermen had gathered, sixteen hundred strong. There were trawlers among them, Manx, Irish, and English, prowling through the crowd, and scooping up the odds and ends of gossip as their boats on the bottom scraped up the little fish. Occasionally they were observed by the herring-fishers, and then there were high words and free fights. "Taking a creep round from Port le Murrey are you, Dan?"—"Thought I'd put a sight on Peel to-day."—"Bad for your complexion, though; might turn it red, I'm thinking."—"Strek me with blood will you? I'd just like you to strek me, begough. I'd put a Union Jack on your face as big as a griddle."
The Governor came, an elderly man, with a formidable air, an aquiline nose, and cheeks pitted with small-pox. Philip introduced the fishermen and told their grievance. Trawling destroyed immature fish, and so contributed to the failure of the fisheries. They asked for power to stop it in the bays of the island, and within three miles of the coast.
"Then draft me a bill with that object, Mr. Christian," said the Governor, and the meeting ended with cheers for His Excellency, shouts for Philip, and mutterings of contempt from the trawlers. "Didn't think there was a man on the island could spake like it."—"But hasn't your fancy-man been rubbing his back agen the college?"—"I'd take lil tacks home if I was yourself, Dan."—"Drink much more and it'll be two feet deep inside of you."
Philip was hurrying away under the crumbling portcullis, when a deputation of the fishermen approached him. "What are we owing you, Mr. Christian?" asked their spokesman.
"Nothing," answered Philip.
"We thank you, sir, and you'll be hearing from us again. Meanwhile, a word if you plaze, sir?"
"What is it, men?" said Philip.
"When a young man can spake like yonder, it's a gift, sir, and he's houlding it in trust for something. The ould island's wanting a big man ter'ble bad, and it hasn't seen the like since the days of your own grandfather. Good everin, and thank you—good everin!"
With that the rough fellows dismissed him at the ferry steps, and he hastened to the market-place, where he had left his horse. On putting up, he had seen Caesar's gig tipped up in the stable-yard. It was now gone, and, without asking questions, he mounted and made towards Ramsey.
He took the old road by the cliffs, and as he cantered and galloped, he hummed, and whistled, and sang, and slashed the trees to keep himself from thinking. At the crest of the hill he sighted the gig in front, and at Port Lady he came up with it. Kate was driving and Caesar was nodding and dozing.
"You've been having a great day, Mr. Christian," said Caesar. "Wish I could say the same for myself; but the heart of man is decaitful, sir, and desperately wicked. I'm not one to clap people in the castle and keep them from sea for debts of drink, and they're taking a mane advantage. Not a penny did I get to-day, sir, and many a yellow sovereign owing to me. If I was like some—now there's that Tom Raby, Glen Meay. He saw Dan the Spy coming from the total meeting last night. 'Taken the pledge, Dan?' says he. 'Yes, I have,' says Dan. 'I'm plazed to hear it,' says he; 'come in and I'll give you a good glass of rum for it.' And Dan took the rum for taking the pledge, and there he was as drunk as Mackilley in the castle this morning."
Philip listened as he rode, and a half-melancholy, half-mocking expression played on his face. He was thinking of his grandfather, old Iron Christian, brought into relation with his mother's father, Capt. Billy Ballure, of the dainty gentility of Auntie Nan and the unctuous vulgarity of the father of Kate.
Caesar grumbled himself to sleep at last, and then Philip was alone with the girl, and riding on her side of the gig. She was quiet at first, but a joyous smile lit up her face.
"I was in the castle, too," she said, with a look of pride.
The sun went down over the waters behind them, and cast their brown shadows on the road in front; the twilight deepened, the night came down, the moon rose in their faces, and the stars appeared. They could hear the tramp of the horses' hoofs, the roll of the gig wheels, the wash and boom of the sea on their left, and the cry Of the sea-fowl somewhere beneath. The lovelinese and warmth of the autumn night stole over Kate, and she began to keep up a flow of merry chatter.
"I can tell all the sounds of the fields in the darkness. By the moonlight? No; but with my eyes shut, if you like. Now try me."
She closed her eyes and went on: "Do you hear that—that patter like soft rain? That's oats nearly ripe for harvest. Do you hear that, then—that pit-a-pat, like sheep going by on the street? That's wheat, just ready. And there—that whiss, whiss, whiss? That's barley."
She opened her eyes: "Don't you think I'm very clever?"
Philip felt an impulse to lean over the wheel and put his arms about the girl's neck.
"Take care," she cried merrily; "your horse is shying."
He gazed at her face, lit up in the white moonlight. "How bright and happy you seem, Kate!" he said with a shiver; and then he laid one hand on the gig rail.
Her eyelids quivered, her mouth twitched, and she answered gaily, "Why not? Aren't you? You ought to be, you know. How glorious to succeed? It means so much—new things to see, new houses to visit, new pleasures, new friends——"
Her joyous tones broke down in a nervous laugh at that last word, and he replied, in a faltering voice, "That may be true of the big world over yonder, Kate, but it isn't so in a little island like ours. To succeed here is like going up the tower of Castle Rushen with some one locking the doors on the stone steps behind you. At every storey the room becomes less, until at the top you have only space to stand alone. Then, if you should ever come down again, there's but one way for you—over the battlements with a crash."
She looked up at him with startled eyes, and his own were large and full of trouble. They were going through Kirk Michael by the house of the Deemster, who was ill, and both drew rein and went slowly. Some acacias in the garden slashed their broadswords in the night air, and a windmill behind stood out against the moon like a gigantic bat. The black shadow of the horses stepped beside them.
"Are you feeling lonely to-night, Philip?"
"I'm feeling as if the dead and the living, the living and the dead—oh, Kate, Kate, I don't know what I'm feeling."
She put her hand caressingly on the top of his hand. "Never mind, dear," she said softly; "I'll stand by you. You shan't be alone."
It was midday, then, on the tropic seas, and the horizon was closing in with clouds as of blood and vapours of stifling heat. A steamship was rolling in a heavy swell, under winds that were as hot as gusts from an open furnace. Under its decks a man lay in an atmosphere of fever and the sickening odour of bandages and stale air. Above the throb of the engines and the rattle of the rudder chain he heard a step going by his open door, and he called in a feeble voice that was cheerful and almost merry, but yet the voice of a homesick boy—
"How many days from home, engineer?"
"Not more than twenty now."
"Put on steam, mate; put it on. Wish I could be skipping below and stoking up for you like mad."
As the ship rolled, the green reflection of the water and the red light of the sky shot alternately through the porthole and lit up the berth like firelight flashing in a dead house.
"Ask the boys if they'll carry me on deck, sir—just for a breath of fresh air."
The sailors came and carried him. "You can do anything for a chap like that."
The big sun was straight overhead, weighing down on their shoulders, and there was no shelter anywhere, for the shadows were under foot.
"Slip out the sails, lads, and let's fly along. Wish I could tumble up the rigging myself and look out from the yards same as a gull, but I'm only an ould parrot chained down to my stick."
They left him, and he gazed out on the circle of water and the vapour shaking over it like a veil. The palpitating air was making the circle smaller every minute, but the world seem cruelly large for all that. He was looking beyond the visible things; he was listening deeper than the wash of the waves; he was dreaming, dreaming. Apparitions were floating in the heat-clouds over him. Home! Its voices whispered at his ear, its face peered into his eyes. But the hot winds came up and danced round him; the air, the sea, the sky, the whole world, the utter universe seemed afire; his eyes rolled upwards to his brow; he almost choked and fainted.
"Carry him below, poor fellow! He's got a good heart to think he'll ever see home again. He'll never see it."
Half-way down the companion-ladder he opened his eyes with a look of despair. Would God let him die after all?
Kate began to feel that Philip was slipping away from her. He loved her, she was sure of that, but something was dragging them apart Her great enemy was Philip's success. This was rapid and constant. She wanted to rejoice in it; she struggled to feel glad and happy, and even proud. But that was impossible. It was ungenerous, it was mean, but she could not help it—she resented every fresh mark of Philip's advancement.
The world that was carrying Philip up was carrying him away. She would be left far below. It would be presumptuous to lift her eyes to him. Visions came to her of Philip in other scenes than her scenes, among ladies in drawing-rooms, beautiful, educated, clever, able to talk of many things beyond her knowledge. Then she looked at herself, and felt vexed with her hands, made coarse by the work of the farm; at her father, and felt ashamed of the moleskin clothes he wore in the mill; at her home, and flushed deep at the thought of the bar-room.
It was small and pitiful, she knew that, and she shuddered under the sense of being a meaner-hearted girl than she had ever thought. If she could do something of herself to counteract the difference made by Philip's success, if she could raise herself a little, she would be content to keep behind, to let him go first, to see him forge ahead of her, and of everybody, being only in sight and within reach. But she could do nothing except writhe and rebel against the network of female custom, or tear herself in the thorny thicket of female morals.
Harvest had begun; half the crop of Glenmooar had been saved, a third was in stook, and then a wet day had come and stopped all work in the fields. On this wet day, in the preaching-room of the mill, amid forms and desks, with the cranch of the stones from below, the wash of the wheel from outside, and the rush of the uncrushed corn from above, Caesar sat rolling sugganes for the stackyard, with Kate working the twister, and going backward before him, and half his neighbours sheltering from the rain and looking on.
"Thought I'd have a sight up and tell you," said Kelly, the postman.
"What's the news, Mr. Kelly?" said Caesar.
"The ould Dempster's dying," said Kelly.
"You don't say?" said everybody.
"Well, as good as dying at ten minutes wanting eight o'clock this morning," said the postman.
"The drink's been too heavy for the man," said John, the clerk.
"Wine is a serpent, and strong drink a mocker," said Caesar.
"Who'll be the new Dempster, Mr. Niplightly," said Jonaique.
"Hm!" snuffled the constable, easing his helmet, "dat's a serious matter, Mr. Jelly. We'll dake our time—well dake our time."
"Chut! There's only one man for it," said Caesar.
"Perhaps yes, perhaps no," said the constable.
"Do you mane the young Ballawhaine, Mr. Cregeen?" said the postman.
"Do I mane fiddlesticks!" said Caesar.
"Well, the man's father is at the Govenar reg'lar, they're telling me," said Kelly, "and Ross is this, and Ross is that—"
"Every dog praises his own tail," said Caesar.
"I'm not denying it, the man isn't fit—he has sold himself to the devil, that's a fact——"
"No, he hasn't," said Caesar, "the devil gets the like for nothing."
"But he's a Christian for all, and the Christians have been Dempsters time out of time——"
"Is he the only Christian that's in, then, eh?" said Caesar. "Go on, Kate; twist away."
"Is it Mr. Philip? Aw, I'm saying nothing against Mr. Philip," said the postman.
"You wouldn't get lave in this house, anyway," said Caesar.
"Aw, a right gentleman and no pride at all," said the postman. "As free and free with a poor man, and no making aisy either. I've nothing agen him myself. No, but a bit young for a Dempster, isn't he? Just a taste young, as the man said, eh?"
"Older than the young Ballawhaine, anyway," said John, the clerk.
"Aw, make him Dempster, then. I'm raising no objection," said Mr. Kelly.
"Go on, girl. Does that twister want oiling? Feed it, woman, feed it," said Caesar.
"His father should have been Dempster before him," said John, the clerk. "Would have been too, only he went crooked when he married on yonder woman. She's through though, and what more natural——"
The rope stopped again, and Kate's voice, hard and thick, came from the farther end of it. "His mother being dead, eh?"
"It was the mother that done for the father, anyway," said the clerk.
"Consequently," said Kate, "he is to praise God that his mother is gone!"
"That girl wants a doctor," muttered Jonaique.
"The man couldn't drag the woman up after him," began the clerk. "It's always the way——"
"Just that," said Kate, with bitter irony.
"Of coorse, I'm not for saying it was the woman's fault entirely——"
"Don't apologise for her," said Kate. "She's gone and forgotten, and that being so, her son has now a chance of being Deemster."
"So he has," shouted Caesar, "and not second Dempster only, but first Dempster itself in time, and go on with the twister."
Kate laughed loudly, and cried, "Why don't you keep it up when your hand's in? First Deemster Christian, and then Sir Philip Christian, and then Lord Christian, and then——But you're talking nonsense, and you're a pack of tattlers. There's no thought of making Philip Christian a Deemster, and no hope of it and no chance of it, and I trust there never will be."
So saying, she flung the twister on the floor and rushed out of the mill, sobbing hysterically.
"Dr. Clucas is wonderful for females and young girls," said Jonaique.
"It's that Ross again," muttered Caesar.
"And he'll have her yet," said Kelly, the postman.
"I'd see her dead first," said Caesar. "It would be the jaws of hell and the mouth of Satan."
That she who loved Philip to distraction should be the first to abuse and defame him was agony near to madness, for Kate knew where she stood. It was not merely that Philip's success was separating them, not merely that the conventions of life, its usages, its manners, and its customs were putting worlds between them. The pathos of the girl's position was no accidental thing. It was a deeper, older matter; it was the same to-day as it had been yesterday and would be to-morrow; it began in the garden of Eden and would go on till the last woman died—-it was the natural inferiority of woman in relation to man.
She had the same passions as Philip, and was moved by the same love. But she was not free. Philip alone was free. She had to wait on Philip's will, on Philip's word. She saw Philip slipping away from her, but she could not snatch at him before he was gone; she could not speak first; she could not say, "I love you; stay with me!" She was a woman, only a woman! How wretched to be a woman! How cruel!
But ah! the dear delicious thought! It came stealing up into her heart when the red riot was nearly killing her. What a glorious thing it was to be a woman after all! What a powerful thing! What a lovely and beloved thing! To rule the king, being the slave, was sweeter than to be the king himself. That was woman's place. It was where heaven itself had put her from the beginning until now. What weapons had it given her! Beauty! Charm! Love! The joy of it! To be the weak and overcome the strong! To be nothing in the battle of life, and yet conqueror of all the world!
Kate vowed that, come what would, Philip should never leave her.
On the day when the last of the harvest is saved in the Isle of Man, the farmer gives a supper to his farm-people, and to the neighbours who have helped him to cut and house it. This supper, attended by simple and beautiful ceremonies, is called the Melliah. The parson may be asked to it, and if there is a friend of position and free manners, he also is invited. Caesar's Melliah fell within a week of the rope-making in the mill, and partly to punish Kate, partly to honour himself, he asked Philip to be present.
"He'll come," thought Kate with secret joy, "I'm sure he'll come;" and in this certainty, when the day of Melliah came, she went up to her room to dress for it. She was to win Philip that day or lose him for ever. It was to be her trial day—she knew that. She was to fight as for her life, and gain or lose everything. It was to be a battle royal between all the conventions of life, all the network of female custom, all the inferiority of a woman's position as God himself had suffered it to be, and one poor girl.
She began to cry, but struggling with her sadness, she dashed the tears from her glistening eyes. What was there to cry about? Philip wanted to love her, and he should, he must.
It was a glorious day, and not yet more than two o'clock. Nancy had washed up the dinner things, the fire-irons were polished, the boots and spare whips were put up on, the lath, the old hats like lines of heads on a city gate were hung round the kitchen walls, the hearthrug was down, the turf was piled up on the fire, the kettle was singing from the slowrie, and the whole house was taking its afternoon nap.
Kate's bedroom looked over the orchard and across the stackyard up the glen. She could see the barley stack growing in the haggard; the laden cart coming down the glen road with the driver three decks up over the mare, now half smothered and looking suddenly little, like a snail under the gigantic load; and beyond the long meadow and the Bishop's bridge, the busy fields dotted with the yellow stooks and their black shadows like a castle's studded doors.
When she had thrown off her blue-black dress to wash her arms and shoulders and neck were bare. She caught sight of herself in the glass, and laughed with delight. The years had brought her a fuller flow of life. She was beautiful, and she knew it. And Philip knew it too, but he should know it to day as he had never known it before. She folded her arms in their roundness over her bosom in its fulness and walked up and down the little room over the sheep-skin rugs, under the turfy scraas, glowing in the joy of blooming health and conscious loveliness. Then she began to dress.
She took from a drawer two pairs of stockings, one black and the other red, and weighed their merits with moral gravity—which? The red had it, and then came the turn of the boots. There was a grand new pair, with countless buttons, two toecaps like two flowers, and an upward curve like the arm of a glove. She tried them on, bent back and forward, but relinquished them with a sigh in favour of plain shoes cut under the ankles and tied with tape.
Her hair was a graver matter. Its tangled curls had never satisfied her. She tried all means to bring them into subjection; but the roll on top was ridiculous, and the roll behind was formal. She attempted long waves over the temples. It was impossible. With a lash-comb she dragged her hair back to its natural lawlessness, and when it fell on her forehead and over her ears and around her white neck in little knowing rings that came and went, and peeped out and slid back, like kittens at hide-and-seek, she laughed and was content.