She asked like a child, with her face up and her lips apart. He was about to yield, and was reaching forward to touch her forehead, when suddenly the child became the woman, and she leapt upon his breast, and held him fervently, her blood surging, her bosom exulting, her eyes flaming, and her passionate voice crying, "Philip, you are mine. No, I will not release you. I don't care about your plans—you shall give them up. I don't care about your trust—you shall break it. I don't care about Pete coming—let him come. The world can do without you—I cannot. You are mine, Philip, and I am yours, and nobody else's, and never will be. You must come back to me, sooner or later, if you go away. I know it, I feel it, it's in my heart. But I'll never let you go. I can't, I can't. Haven't I a right to you? Yes, I have a right. Don't you remember?... Can you ever forget?... My husband!"
The last word came muffled from his breast, where she had buried her head in the convulsions of her trembling at the moment when her modesty went down in the fierce battle with a higher pain. But the plea which seemed to give her the right to cling the closer made the man to draw apart. It was the old deep tragedy of human love—the ancient inequality in the bond of man and woman. What she had thought her conquest had been her vanquishment. He could not help, it—her last word had killed everything.
"Oh, God," he groaned, "that is the worst of all."
"Philip," she cried, "what do you mean?"
"I mean that neither can I marry you, nor can you marry Pete. You would carry to him your love of me, and bit by bit he would find it out, and it would kill him. It would kill you, too, for you have called me your husband, and you could never, never, never forget it."
"I don't want to marry Pete," she said. "If I'm not to marry you, I don't want to marry any one. But do you mean that I must not marry at all—that I never can now that——"
The word failed her, and his answer came thick and indistinct—"Yes."
"And you, Philip? What about yourself?"
"As there is no other man for you, Kate," he said, "so there is no other woman for me. We must go through the world alone."
"Is this my punishment?"
"It is the punishment of both, Kate, the punishment of both alike."
Kate stopped her breathing. Her clenched hands slackened away from his neck, and she stepped back from him, shuddering with remorse, and despair, and shame. She saw herself now for the first time a fallen woman. Never before had her sin touched her soul. It was at that moment she fell.
They had come up to the cave by this time, and she sat on the stone at the mouth of it in a great outburst of weeping. It tore his heart to hear her. The voice of her weeping was like the distressful cry of the slaughtered lamb. He had to wrestle with himself not to take her in his arms and comfort her. The fit of tears spent itself at length, and after a time she drew a great breath and was quiet. Then she lifted her face, and the last gleam of the autumn sun smote her colourless lips and swollen eyes. When she spoke again, it was like one speaking in her sleep, or under the spell of somebody who had magnetised her.
"It is wrong of me to think so much of myself, as if that were everything. I ought to feel sorry for you too. You must be driven to it, or you could never be so cruel."
With his face to the sea, he mumbled something about Pete, and she caught up the name and said, "Yes, and Pete too. As you think it would be wrong to Pete, I will not hold to you. Oh, it will be wrong to me as well! But I will not give you the pain of turning a deaf ear to my troubles any more."
She was struggling with a pitiless hope that perhaps she might regain him after all. "If I give him up," she thought, "he will love me for it;" and then, with a sad ring in her voice, she said, "You will go on and be a great man now, for you'll not have me to hold you back."
"For pity's sake, say no more of that," he said, but she paid no heed.
"I used to think it a wonderful thing to be loved by a great man. I don't now. It is terrible. If I could only have you to myself! If you could only be nothing to anybody else! You would be everything to me, and what should I care then?"
Between torture and love he had almost broken down at that, but he gripped his breast and turned half aside, for his eyes were streaming. She came up to him and touched with the tips of her fingers the hand that hung by his side, and said in a voice like a child's, "Fancy! this is the end of everything, and when we part now we are to meet no more. Not the same way at all—not as we have met. You will be like anybody else to me, and I will be like anybody else to you. Miss Cregeen, that will be my name and you will be Mr. Christian. When you see me you'll say to yourself, 'Yes, poor thing; long ago, when she was a girl, I made her love me. Nobody ever loved me like that.' And fancy! when you pass me in the street, you will not even look my way. You won't, will you? No—no, it will be better not. Goodbye!"
Her simple tenderness almost stifled him. He had to hold his under lip with his teeth to keep back the cry that was bursting from his tongue. At last he could bear it no longer, and he broke out, "Would to God we had never loved each other! Would to God we had never met!"
But she answered with the same childish sweetness, "Don't say that, Philip. We have had some happy hours together. I would rather be parted from you like this, though it is so hard, so cruel, than never to have met you at all. Isn't it something for me to think of, that the truest, cleverest, noblest man in all the world has loved me?... Good-bye!... Good-bye!"
His heart bled, his heart cried, but he uttered no sound. They were side by side. She let his hand slip from the tips of her fingers, and drew silently away. At three paces apart she paused, but he gave no sign. She climbed the low brow of the hill slowly, very slowly, trying to command her throat, which was fluttering, and looking back through her tears as she went. Philip heard the shingle slip under her feet while she toiled up the cliff, and when she reached the top the soft thud on the turf seemed to beat on his heart. She stood there a moment against the sky, waiting for a sound from the shore, a cry, a word, the lifting of a hand, a sob, a sigh, her own name, "Kate," and she was ready to fly back even then, wounded and humiliated as she was, a poor torn bird that had been struggling in the lime. But no; he was silent and motionless, and she disappeared behind the hill. He saw her go, and all the light of heaven went with her.
It was so far back home, so much farther than it had been to come. The course is short and easy going out to sea when the tide is with you, and the water is smooth, and the sun is shining, but long and hard coming back to harbour, when the waves have risen, and the sky is low, and the wind is on your bow.
So far, so very far. She thought everybody looked at her, and knew her for what she was—a broken, forsaken, fallen woman. And she was so tired too; she wondered if her limbs would carry her.
When Philip was left alone, the sky seemed to be lying on his shoulders. The English mountains were grey and ghostly now, and the storm, which had spent itself on the other coast, seemed to hang over the island. There were breakers where the long dead sea had been, and the petrel outside was scudding close to the white curves, and uttering its dismal note.
So heavy and confused had the storm and wreck of the last hour left him, that he did not at first observe by the backward tail of smoke that the steamer had passed round the Head, and that the cart he had met at the mouth of the port had come back empty to the cave for another load of sea-wrack. The lobster-fisher, too, had beached his boat near by, and was shouting through the hollow air, wherein every noise seemed to echo with a sepulchral quake, "The block was going whistling at the mast-head. We'll have a squall I was thinking, so in I came."
That night Philip dreamt a dream. He was sitting on a dais with a wooden canopy above him, the English coat of arms behind, and a great book in front; his hands shook as he turned the leaves; he felt his leg hang heavily; people bowed low to him, and dropped their voices in his presence; he was the Deemster, and he was old. A young woman stood in the dock, dripping water from her hair, and she had covered her face with her hands. In the witness-box a young man was standing, and his head was down. The man had delivered the woman to dishonour; she had attempted her life in her shame and her despair. And looking on the man, the Deemster thought he spoke in a stern voice, saying, "Witness, I am compelled to punish her, but oh to heaven that I could punish you in her place! What have you to say for yourself?" "I have nothing to say for myself," the young man answered, and he lifted his head and the old Deemster saw his face. Then Philip awoke with a smothered scream, for the young man's face had been his own.
When Caesar got to the quay, he looked about with watchful eyes, as if fearing he might find somebody there before him. The coast was clear, and he gave a grunt of relief. After fixing the horse-cloth, and settling the mare in a nose-bag, he began to walk up and down the fore part of the harbour, still keeping an eager look-out. As time went on he grew comfortable, exchanged salutations with the harbour-master, and even whistled a little to while away the time.
"Quiet day, Mr. Quayle."
"Quiet enough yet, Mr. Cregeen; but what's it saying? 'The greater the calm the nearer the south wind.'"
By the time that Caesar, from the end of the pier, saw the smoke of the steamer coming round Kirk Maughold Head, he was in a spiritual, almost a mournful, mood. He was feeling how melancholy was the task of going to meet the few possessions, the clothes and such like, which were all that remained of a dear friend departed. It was the duty of somebody, though, and Caesar drew a long breath of resignation.
The steamer came up to the quay, and there was much bustle and confusion. Caesar waited, with one hand on the mare's neck, until the worst of it was over. Then he went aboard, and said in a solemn voice to the sailor at the foot of the gangway, "Anything here the property of Mr. Peter Quilliam?"
"That's his luggage," said the sailor, pointing to a leather trunk of moderate size among similar trunks at the mouth of the hatchway.
"H'm!" said Caesar, eyeing it sideways, and thinking how small it was. Then, reflecting that perhaps valuable papers were all it was thought worth while to send home, he added cheerfully, "I'll take it with me."
Somewhat to Caesar's surprise, the sailor raised no difficulties, but just as he was regarding the trunk with that faith which is the substance of things hoped for, a big, ugly hand laid hold of it, and began to rock it about like a pebble.
It was Black Tom, smoking with perspiration.
"Aisy, man, aisy," said Caesar, with lofty dignity. "I've the gig on the quay."
"And I've a stiff cart on the market," said Black Tom.
"I'm wanting no assistance," said Caesar; "you needn't trouble yourself."
"Don't mention it, Caesar," said Black Tom, and he turned the trunk on end and bent his back to lift it.
But Caesar put a heavy hand on top and said, "Gough bless me, man, but I am sorry for thee. Mammon hath entered into thy heart, Tom."
"He have just popped out of thine, then," said Black Tom, swirling the trunk on one of its corners.
But Caesar held on, and said, "I don't know in the world why you should let the devil of covetousness get the better of you."
"I don't mane to—let go the chiss," said Black Tom, and in another minute he had it on his shoulder.
"Now, I believe in my heart," said Caesar, "I would be forgiven a little violence," and he took the trunk by both hands to bring it down again.
"Let go the chiss, or I'll strek thee into the harbour," bawled Black Tom under his load.
"The Philistines be upon thee, Samson," cried Caesar, and with that there was a struggle.
In the midst of the uproar, while the men were shouting into each other's faces, and the trunk was rocking between them shoulder high, a sunburnt man, with a thick beard and a formidable voice, a stalwart fellow in a pilot jacket and wide-brimmed hat, came hurrying up the cabin-stairs, and a dog came running behind him. A moment later he had parted the two men, and the trunk was lying at his feet.
Black Tom fell back a step, lifted his straw hat, scratched his bald crown, and muttered in a voice of awe. "Holy sailor!"
Caesar's face was livid, and his eyes went up toward his forehead. "Lord have mercy upon me," he mumbled; "have mercy on my soul, O Lord."
"Don't be afraid," said the stranger. "I'm a living man and not a ghost."
"The man himself," said Black Tom.
"Peter Quilliam alive and hearty," said Caesar.
"I am," said Pete. "And now, what's the bobbery between the pair of you? Shuperintending the beaching of my trunk, eh?"
But having recovered from his terror at the idea that Pete was a spirit, Caesar began to take him to task for being a living man. "How's this?" said he. "Answer me, young man, I've praiched your funeral."
"You'll have to do it again, Mr. Cregeen, for I'm not gone yet," said Pete.
"No, but worth ten dead men still," said Black Tom. "And my goodness, boy, the smart and stout you're looking, anyway. Been thatching a bit on the chin, eh? Foreign parts has made a man of you, Peter. The straight you're like the family, too! You'll be coming up to the trough with me—the ould home, you know. I'll be whipping the chiss ashore in a jiffy, only Caesar's that eager to help, it's wonderful. No, you'll not then?"
Pete was shaking his head as he went up the gangway, and seeing this, Caesar said severely—
"Lave the gentleman alone, Mr. Quilliam. He knows his own business best."
"So do you, Mr. Collecting Box," said Black Tom. "But your head's as empty as a mollag, and as full of wind as well. It's a regular ould human mollag you are, anyway, floating other people's nets and taking all that's coming to them."
They were ashore by this time; one of the quay porters was putting the trunk into the gig, and Caesar was removing the horse-cloth and the nose-bag.
"Get up, Mr. Peter, and don't listen to him," said Caesar. "If my industry and integrity have been blessed with increase under Providence——"
"Lave Providence out of it, you grasping ould Ebenezer, Zachariah, Amen," bawled Black Tom.
"You've been flying in the face of Providence all your life, Tom," said Caesar, taking his seat beside Pete.
"You haven't though, you miser," said Black Tom; "you'd sell your soul for sixpence, and you'd raffle your ugly ould body if you could get anybody to take tickets."
"Go home, Thomas," said Caesar, twiddling the reins, "go home and try for the future to be a better man."
But that was too much for Black Tom. "Better man, is it? Come down on the quay and up with your fiss, and I'll show you which of us is the better man."
A moment later Caesar and Pete were rattling over the cobbles of the market-place, with the dog racing behind. Pete was full of questions.
"And how's yourself, Mr. Cregeen?"
"I'm in, sir, I'm in, sir, praise the Lord."
"Like myself, sir, not getting a dale younger, but caring little for spiritual things, though."
"Going west, is she, poor ould angel? There ought to be a good piece of daylight at her yet, for all. And—and Nancy Joe?"
"A happy sinner still," said Caesar. "I suppose, sir, you'd be making good money out yonder now? We were hearing the like, anyway."
"Money!" said Pete. "Well, yes. Enough to keep off the divil and the coroner. But how's—how's——"
"There now! For life, eh?" said Caesar.
"Yes, for life; but that's nothing," said Pete; "how's——"
"Wonderful!" cried Caesar; "five years too! Boy veen, the light was nearly took out of my eyes when I saw you."
"But Kate? How's Kate? How's the girl, herself?" said Pete nervously.
"Smart uncommon," said Caesar.
"God bless her!" cried Pete, with a shout that was heard across the street.
"We'll pick her up at Crellin's, it's like," said Caesar.
"What? Crellin's round the corner—Crellin the draper's I Woa! Let me down! The mare's tired, father;" and Pete was over the wheel at a bound.
He came out of the shop saying Kate had left word that her father was not to wait for her—she would perhaps be home before him. Amid a crowd of the "mob beg" children of the streets, to whom he showered coppers to be scrambled for, Pete got up again to Caesar's side, and they set off for Sulby. The wind had risen suddenly, and was hooting down the narrow streets coming up from the harbour.
"And Philip? How's Philip?" shouted Pete.
"Mr. Christian? Well and hearty, and doing wonders, sir."
"I knew it," cried Pete, with a resounding laugh.
"Going like a flood, and sweeping everything before him," said Caesar.
"The rising day with him, is it?" said Pete. "I always said he'd be the first man in the island, and he's not going to deceave me neither."
"The young man's been over putting a sight on us times and times—he was up at my Melliah only a week come Wednesday," said Caesar.
"Man alive!" cried Pete; "him and me are same as brothers."
"Then it wasn't true what they were writing in the letter, sir—that your black boys left you for dead?"
"They did that, bad luck to them," said Pete; "but I was thinking it no sin to disappoint them, though."
"Well, well! lying began with the world, and with the world it will end," said Caesar.
As they passed Ballywhaine, Pete shouted into Caesar's ear, above the wind that was roaring in the trees, and scattering the ripening leaves in clouds, "And how's Dross?"
"That wastrel? Aw, tearing away, tearing away," said Caesar.
"Floating on the top of the tide, is he?" shouted Pete.
"Maybe so, but the devil is fishing where yonder fellow's swimming," answered Caesar.
"And the ould man—the Ballawhaine—still above the sod?" bawled Pete behind his hand.
"Yes, but failing, failing, failing," shouted Caesar. "The world's getting too heavy for the man. Debts here, and debts there, and debts everywhere."
"Not much water in the harbour then, eh?" cried Pete.
"No, but down on the rocks already, if it's only myself that knows it," shouted Caesar.
When they had turned the Sulby Bridge, and come in sight of "The Manx Fairy," Pete's excitement grew wild, and he leaped up from his seat and shouted above the wind like a man possessed.
"My gough, the very place! You've been thatching, though—yes, you have. The street! Holy sailor, there it is! Brownie at you still? Her heifer, is it? Get up, Molly! A taste of the whip'll do the mare no harm, sir. My sakes, here's ould Flora hobbling out to meet us. Got the rheumatics, has she? Set me down, Caesar. Here we are, man. Lord alive, the smell of the cowhouse. That warm and damp, it's grand! What, don't you know me, Flo? Got your temper still, if you've lost your teeth? My sakes, the haggard! The same spot again! It's turf they're burning inside! And, my gracious, that's herrings roasting in their brine! Where's Grannie, though? Let's put a sight in, Caesar. Well, well, aw well, aw well!"
Thus Pete came home, laughing, shouting, bawling, and bellowing above the tumult of the wind, which had risen by this time to the strength of a gale.
"Mother," cried Caesar, going in at the porch, "gentleman here from foreign parts to put a word on you."
"I never had nobody there belonging to me," began Grannie.
"No, then, nobody?" said Caesar.
"One that was going to be, maybe, if he'd lived, poor boy——"
"Grannie!" shouted Pete, and he burst into the bar-room.
"Goodness me!" cried Grannie; "it's his own voice anyway."
"It's himself," shouted Pete, and the old soul was in his arms in an instant.
"Aw dear! Aw dear!" she panted. "Pete it is for sure. Let me sit down, though."
"Did you think it was his ghost, then, mother!" said Caesar with an indulgent air.
"'Deed no," said Grannie. "The lad wouldn't come back to plague nobody, thinks I."
"Still, and for all the uprisement of Peter, it bates everything," said Caesar. "It's a sort of a resurrection. I thought I'd have a sight up to the packet for his chiss, poor fellow, and, behould ye, who should I meet in the two eyes but the man himself!"
"Aw, dear! It's wonderful I it's terrible! I'm silly with the joy," said Grannie.
"It was lies in the letter the Manx ones were writing," said Caesar.
"Letters and writings are all lies," said Grannie. "As long as I live I'll take no more of them, and if that Kelly, the postman, comes here again, I'll take the bellows to him."
"So you thought I was gone for good, Grannie?" said Pete. "Well, I thought so too. 'Will I die?' I says to myself times and times; but I bethought me at last there wasn't no sense in a good man like me laving his bones out on the bare Veldt yonder; so, you see, I spread my wings and came home again."
"It's the Lord's doings—it's marvellous in our eyes," said Caesar; and Grannie, who had recovered herself and was bustling about, cried—
"Let me have a right look at him, then. Goodness me, the whisker! And as soft as Manx carding from the mill, too. I like him best when he takes off his hat. Well, I'm proud to see you, boy. 'Deed, but I wouldn't have known you, though. 'Who's the gentleman in the gig with father?' thinks I. And I'd have said it was the Dempster himself, if he hadn't been dead and in his coffin."
"That'll do, that'll do," roared Pete. "That's Grannie putting the fun on me."
"It's no use talking, but I can't keep quiet; no I can't," cried Grannie, and with that she whipped up a bowl from the kitchen dresser and fell furiously to peeling the potatoes that were there for supper.
"But where's Kate?" said Pete.
"Aw, yes, where is she? Kate! Kate!" called Grannie, leaning her head toward the stairs, and Nancy Joe, who had been standing silent until now, said——
"Didn't she go to Ramsey with the gig, woman?"
"Aw, the foolish I am! Of course she did," said Grannie; "but why hasn't she come back with father?"
"She left word at Crellin's not to wait," said Caesar.
"She'll be gone to Miss Clucas's to try on," said Nancy.
"Wouldn't trust now," said Grannie. "She's having two new dresses done, Pete. Aw, girls are ter'ble. Well, can you blame them either?"
"She shall have two-and-twenty if she likes, God bless her," said Pete.
"Goodness me!" said Nancy, "is the man for buying frocks for a Mormon?"
"But you'll be empty, boy. Put the crow down and the griddle on, Nancy," said Grannie. "We'll have cakes. Cakes? Coorse I said cakes. Get me the cloth and I'll lay it myself. The cloth, I'm saying, woman. Did you never hear of a tablecloth? Where is it? Aw, dear knows where it is now! It's in the parlour; no, it's in the chest on the landing; no, it's under the sheets of my own bed. Fetch it, bogh."
"Will I bring you a handful of gorse, mother?" said Caesar.
"Coorse you will, and not stand chattering there. But I'm laving you dry, Pete. Is it ale you'll have, or a drop of hard stuff? You'll wait for Kate? Now I like that. There's some life at these totallers. 'Steady abroad?' How dare you, Nancy Joe? You're a deal too clever. Of course he's been steady abroad—steady as a gun."
"But Kate," said Pete, tramping the sanded floor, "is she changed at all?"
"Aw, she's a woman now, boy," said Grannie.
"Bless my soul!" said Pete.
"She was looking a bit white and narvous one while there, but she's sprung out of it fresh and bright, same as the ling on the mountains. Well, that's the way with young women."
"I know," said Pete. "Just the break of the morning with the darlings."
"But she's the best-looking girl on the island now, Pete," said Nancy Joe.
"I'll go bail on it," cried Pete.
"Big and fine and rosy, and fit for anything."
"Bless my heart!"
"You should have seen her at the Melliah; it was a trate."
"God bless me!"
"Sun-bonnet and pink frock and tight red stockings, and straight as a standard rase."
"Hould your tongue, woman," shouted Pete. "I'll see herself first, and I'm dying to do it."
Caesar came back with the gorse; Nancy fed the fire and Grannie stirred the oatmeal and water. And while the cakes were baking, Pete tramped the kitchen and examined everything and recognised old friends with a roar.
"Bless me! the same place still. There's the clock on the shelf, with the scratch on its face and the big finger broke at the joint, and the lath—and the peck—and the whip—you've had it new corded, though——"
"'Sakes, how the boy remembers!" cried Grannie.
"And the white rumpy" (the cat had leapt on to the dresser out of the reach of Pete's dog, and from that elevation was eyeing him steadfastly), "and the slowrie—and the kettle—and the poker—my gracious, the very poker——"
"Now, did you ever!" cried Grannie with amazement.
"And—yes—no—it is, though—I'll swear it before the Dempster—that's," said Pete, picking up a three-legged stool, "that's the very stool she was sitting on herself in the fire-seat in front of the turf closet. Let me sit there now for the sake of ould times gone by."
He put the stool in the fireplace and sat on it, shouting as he did so between a laugh and a cry, "Aw, Grannie, bogh—Grannie, bogh! to think there's been half the world between us since I was sitting here before!"
And Grannie herself, breaking down, said, "Wouldn't you like the tongs, boy? Give the boy the tongs, woman, just to say he's at home."
Pete plucked the tongs out of Nancy's hands, and began feeding the fire with the gorse. "Aw, Grannie, have I ever been away?" he cried, laughing, and his wet eyes gleaming.
"Nancy Joe, have you no nose at all?" cried Grannie. "The cake's burning to a cinder."
"Let it burn, mother," shouted Pete. "It's the way she was doing herself when she was young and forgetting. Shillings a-piece for all that's wasted. Aw, the smell of it's sweet!"
So saying he piled the gorse on the fire, ramming it under the griddle and choking it behind the crow. And while the oatcake crackled and sparched and went black, he sniffed up the burning odour, and laughed and cried in the midst of the smoke that went swirling up the chimney.
And meanwhile, Grannie herself, with the tears rolling down her cheeks, was flapping her apron before her face and saying, "He'll make me die of laughing, he will, though—yes, he will!" But behind the apron she was blubbering to Nancy, "It's coming home, woman, that's it—it's just coming home again, poor boy!"
By this time word of Pete's return had gone round Sulby? and the bar-room was soon thronged with men and women, who looked through the glass partition into the kitchen at the bronzed and bearded man who sat smoking by the fire, with his dog curled up at his feet. "There'll be a wedding soon," said one. "The girl's in luck," said another. "Success to the fine girl she always was, and lucky they kept her from the poor toot that was beating about on her port bow."—"The young Ballawhaine, eh?"—"Who else?"
Presently the dog went out to them, and, in default of its master, became a centre of excited interest. It was an old creature, with a settled look of age, and a gravity of expression that seemed to say he had got over the follies of youth, and was now reserved and determined to keep the peace. His back was curved in as if a cart-wheel had gone over his spine, he had gigantic ears, a stump of a tail, a coat thin and prickly like the bristles of a pig, but white and spotted with brown.
"Lord save us! a queer dog, though—what's his breed at all?" said one; and then a resounding voice came from the kitchen doorway, saying—
"A sort of a Manxman crossed with a bat. Got no tail to speak of, but there's plenty of ears at him. A handy sort of a dog, only a bit spoiled in his childhood. Not fit for much company anyway, and no more notion of dacent behaviour than my ould shoe. Down, Dempster, down."
It was Pete. He was greeted with loud welcomes, and soon filled the room all round with the steaming odour of spirits and water.
"You've the Manx tongue at you still, Mr. Quilliam," said Jonaique; "and you're calling the dog Dempster; what's that for at all?"
"For sake of the ould island, Mr. Jelly, and for the straight he's like Dempster Mylrea when he's a bit crooked," said Pete.
"The old man's dead, sir," said John the Clerk.
"You don't say?" said Pete.
"Yes, though; the sun went down on him a Wednesday. The drink, sir, the drink! I've been cutting a sod of his grave to-day."
"And who's to be Dempster now?" asked Pete. "Who are they putting in for it?"
"Well," said John the Clerk, "they're talking and talking, and some's saying this one and others that one; but the most is saying your ould friend Philip Christian."
"I knew it—I always said it," shouted Pete; "best man in the island, bar none. Oh, he'll not deceave me."
The wind was roaring in the chimney, and the light was beginning to fail. Pete became restless, and walked to and fro, peering out at intervals by the window that looked on to the road. At this there was some pushing and nudging and indulgent whispering.
"It's the girl! Aw, be aisy with the like! Five years apart, be aisy!"
"The meadow's white with the gulls sitting together like parrots; what's that a sign of, father?" said Pete.
"Just a slant of rain maybe, and a puff of wind," said Caesar.
"But," said Pete, looking up at the sky, "the long cat tail was going off at a slant awhile ago, and now the thick skate yonder is hanging mortal low."
"Take your time, sir," said Caesar. "No need to send round the Cross Vustha (fiery cross) yet. The girl will be home immadiently."
"It'll be dark at her, though," said Pete.
The company tried to draw him into conversation about the ways of life in the countries he had visited, but he answered absently and jerkily, and kept going to the door.
"Suppose there'll be Dempsters enough where you're coming from?" said Jonaique.
"Sort of Dempsters, yes. Called one of them Ould Necessity, because it knows no law. He rigged up the statute books atop of his stool for a high sate, and when he wanted them he couldn't find them high or low. Not the first judge that's sat on the law, though.... It's coming, Caesar, d'ye hear it? That's the rain on the street."
"Aisy, man, aisy, man," said Caesar. "New dresses isn't rigged up in no time. There'll be chapels now, eh? Chapels and conferences, and proper religious instruction?"
"Divil a chapel, sir, only a rickety barn, belonging to some-ones they're calling the Sky Pilots to. Wanted the ould miser that runs it to build them a new tabernacle, but he wouldn't part till a lump of plaster fell on his bald head at a love-feast, and then he planked down a hundred pound, and they all shouted, 'Hit him again, Lord—you might!'... D'ye hear that, then? That's the water coming down from the gill. I can't stand no more of it, Grannie."
Grannie was at the door, struggling to hold it against the wind, while she looked out into the gathering darkness. "'Deed, but I'm getting afraid of it myself," she said, "and dear heart knows where Kirry can be at this time of night." "I'm off to find her," said Pete, and, catching up his hat and whistling to the dog, in a moment he was gone.
The door was hard to close behind him, for it was now blowing a gale from the north-east. Caesar slipped through the dairy to see if the outbuildings were safe, and came back with a satisfied look. The stable and cow-house were barred, the barns were shut up, the mill-wheel was on the brake, the kiln fire was burning gently, and all was snug and tight. Grannie was wringing her hands as he returned, crying "Kate! Oh, Kate!" and he reproved her for want of trust in Providence.
People were now coming in rapidly with terrible stories of damage done by the storm. It was reported that the Chicken Rock Lighthouse was blown down, that the tide had risen to twenty-five feet in Ramsey and torn up the streets, and that a Peel fisherman had been struck by his mainsail into the sea and drowned.
More came into the house at every minute, and among them were all the lonesome and helpless ones within a radius of a mile—Blind Jane, who charmed blood, but could not charm the wind; Shemiah, the prophet, with beard down to his waist and a staff up to his shoulder; and old Juan Vessy, who "lived on the houses" in the way of a tramp. The people who had been there already were afraid to go out, and Grannie, still wringing her hands and crying "Kate, Kate," called everybody into the kitchen to gather about the fire. There they bemoaned their boys on the sea, told stories of former storms, and quarrelled about the years of wrecks and the sources of the winds that caused them.
The gale increased to fearful violence, and sometimes the wind sounded like sheets flapping against the walls, sometimes like the deep boom of the waves that roll on themselves in mid-ocean and never know a shore. It began to groan in the chimney as if it were a wild beast struggling to escape, and then the smoke came down in whorls and filled the kitchen. They had to put out the fire to keep themselves from suffocation, and to sit back from the fireplace to protect themselves from cold. The door of the porch flew open, and they barricaded it with long-handled brushes; the windows rattled in their frames, and they blocked them up with the tops of the tables. In spite of all efforts to shut out the wind, the house was like a basket, and it quaked like a ship at sea. "I never heard the like on the water itself, and I'm used of the sea, too," said one. The others groaned and mumbled prayers.
Kelly the Thief, who had come in unopposed by Grannie, was on his knees in one corner with his face to the wall, calling on the Lord to remember that he had seen things in letters—stamps and such—but had never touched them. John the Clerk was saying that he had to bury the Deemster; Jonaique, the barber, that he had been sent for to "cut" the Bishop; and Claudius Kewley, the farmer, that he had three fields of barley still uncut and a stack of oats unthatched. "Oh, Lord," cried Claudius, "let me not die till I've got nothing to do!"
Caesar stood like a strong man amidst their moans and groans, their bowings of the head and clappings of the hands, and, when he heard the farmer, his look was severe.
"Cloddy," said he, "how do you dare to doubt the providence of God?"
"Aisy to talk, Mr. Cregeen," the farmer whined, "but you've got your own harvest saved," and then Caesar had no resource but to punish the man in prayer. "The Lord had sent His storm to reprove some that were making too sure of His mercies; but there was grace in the gale, only they wouldn't be patient and trust to God's providence; there was milk in the breast, only the wayward child wouldn't take time to find the teat. Lord, lead them to true stillness——"
In the midst of Caesar's prayer there was a sudden roar outside, and he leapt abruptly to his feet with a look of vexation. "I believe in my heart that's the mill-wheel broken loose," said he, "and if it is, the corn on the kiln will be going like a whirlingig."
"Trust in God's providence, Caesar," cried the farmer.
"So I will," said Caesar, catching up his hat, "but I'll put out my kiln fire first."
When Pete stepped out of the porch, he felt himself smitten as by an invisible wing, and he gasped like a fish with too much air. A quick pain in the side at that moment reminded him of his bullet-wound, but his heels had heart in them, and he set off to run. The night had fallen, but a green rent was torn in the leaden sky, and through this the full moon appeared.
When he got to Ramsey the tide was up to the old cross, slates were flying like kites, and the harbour sounded like a battlefield with its thunderous roar of rigging. He made for the dressmaker's, and heard that Kate had not been there for six hours. At the draper's he learned that at two o'clock in the afternoon she had been seen going up Ballure. The sound rocket was fired as he pushed through the town. A schooner riding to an anchor in the bay was flying her ensign for help. The sea was terrific—a slaty grey, streaked with white foam like quartz veins; but the men who had been idling on the quay when the water was calm were now struggling, chafing, and fighting to go out on it, for the blood of the old Vikings was in them.
Going by the water-trough, Pete called on Black Tom, who was civil and conciliatory until he heard his errand, then growled with disappointment, but nevertheless answered his question. Yes, he had seen the young woman. She went up early in the "everin," and left him good-day. Giving this grateful news, Black Tom could not deny himself a word of bitterness to poison the pleasure. "And when you are finding her," said he, "you'll be doing well to take her in tow, for I'm thinking there's some that's for throwing her a rope."
"Who d'ye mane?" said Pete.
"I lave it with you," said Black Tom; and Pete pulled the door after him.
On the breast of the hill there was the meeting of two roads, one of them leading up to the "Hibernian," the other going down to Port Mooar. To resolve the difficulty of choice, Pete inquired at a cottage standing some paces beyond, and as Kate had not been seen to pass up the higher road, he determined to take the lower one. But he gathered no tidings by the way, for Billy by the mill knew nothing, and the woman by the sundial had gone to bed. At length he dipped into Port Mooar, and came to a little cottage like a child's Noah's ark, with its tiny porch and red light inside, looking out on the white breakers that were racing along the beach. It was the cottage of the lobster-fisher. Pete inquired if he had seen Kate. He answered no; he had seen nobody that day but Mr. Christian. Which of the Christians? Mr. Philip Christian.
The news carried only one message to Pete's mind. It seemed to explain something which had begun to perplex him—why Philip had not met him at the quay, and why Kate had not heard of his coming. Clearly Philip was at present at Ballure. He had not yet received the telegram addressed to Douglas.
Pete turned back. Surely Kate had called somewhere. She would be at home by this time. He tried to run, but the wind was now in his face. It was veering northwards every minute, and rising to the force of a hurricane. He tied his handkerchief over his head and under his chin to hold on his hat. His hair whipped his ears like rods. Sometimes he was swept into the hedge; often he was brought to his knees. Still he toiled along through sheets of spray that glistened with the colours of a rainbow, and ran over the ground like driven rain. His eyes smarted, and the taste on his lips was salt.
The moon was now riding at the full through a wild flecked sky, and Pete could clearly see, as he returned towards the bay, a crowd of human figures on the cliffs above Port Lewaige. Quaking with undefined fears, he pushed on until he had joined them. The schooner, abandoned by her crew, had parted her cable, and was rolling like a blinded porpoise towards the rocks. She fell on them with the groan of a living creature, and, the instant her head was down, the white lions of the sea leapt over her with a howl, the water swirled through her bulwarks and filled her hatches, her rudder was unshipped, her sails were torn from their gaskets, and the floating home wherein men had sailed, and sung, and slept, and laughed, and jested, was a broken wreck in the heavy wallowings of the waves.
Kate had not returned when Pete got back to Sulby, but the excitement of her absence was eclipsed for the time by the turmoil of Caesar's trouble. Standing in the dark on the top of the midden, he was shouting to the dairy door in a voice of thunder, which went off at the end of his beard like the puling of a cat. The mill-wheel was going same as a "whirlingig"—was there nobody to "hould the brake?" The stable roof was stripped, and the mare was tearing herself to pieces in a roaring "pit of hell"—was there never a shoulder for the door? The cow-house thatch was flapping like a sail—was there nothing in the world but a woman (Nancy Joe) to help a man to throw a ladder and a stone over it?
Only when Caesar had been pacified was there silence to speak of Kate. "I picked up news of her coming back by Claughbane," said Pete, "and traced her as near home as the 'Ginger.' She can't be far away. Where is she?"
Those who were cool enough fell to conjecture. Grannie had no resource but groans. Nancy was moaning by her side. The rest were full of their own troubles. Blind Jane was bewailing her affliction.
"You can all see," she cried, "but I'm not knowing the harm that's coming on me."
"Hush, woman, hush," said Pete; "we're all same as yourself half our lives—we're all blind at night."
In the midst of the tumult a knock came to the door, and Pete made a plunge towards the porch.
"Wait," cried Caesar. "Nobody else comes here to-night except the girl herself. Another wind like the last and we'll have the roof off the house too."
Then he called to the new-comer, with his face to the porch door, and the answer came back to him in a wail like the wind itself.
It was Joney from the glen.
"We're like herrings in a barrel—we can't let you in."
She wasn't wanting to come in. But her roof was going stripping, and half her house was felled, and she couldn't get her son (the idiot boy) to leave his bed. He would perish; he would die; he was all the family she had left to her—wouldn't the master come and save him?
"Impossible!" shouted Caesar. "We've our own missing this fearful night, Joney, and the Lord will protect His children."
Was it Kate? She had seen her in the glen——
"Let me get at that door," said Pete.
"But the house will come down," cried Caesar.
"Let it come," said Pete.
Pete shut the door of the bar-room, and then the wind was heard to swirl through the porch.
"When did you see her, Joney, and where?" said the voice of Pete; and the voice of Joney answered him—
"Goings by my own house at the start of the storm this everin."
"I'll come with you—go on," said Pete, and Grannie shouted across the bar—
"Take Caesar's topcoat over your monkey-jacket."
"I've sail enough already for a wind like this, mother," cried the voice of Pete, and then the swirling sound in the porch went off with a long-drawn whirr, and Caesar came back alone to the kitchen.
Pete's wound ached again, but he pressed his hand on the place of it and struggled up the glen, dragging Joney behind him. They came to her house at last. One half of the thatch lay over the other half; the rafters were bare like the ribs of the wreck; the oat-cake peck was rattling on the lath; the meal-barrel in the corner was stripped of its lid, and the meal was whirling into the air like a waterspout; the dresser was stripped, the broken crockery lay on the uncovered floor, and the iron slowrie hanging over the place of the fire was swinging and striking against the wall, and ringing like a knell. And in the midst of this scene of desolation the idiot boy was placidly sleeping on his naked bed, and over it the moon was scudding through a tattered sky.
The night wore on, and the company in the kitchen listened long, and sometimes heard sounds as of voices crying in the wind, but Pete did not return. Then they fell to groaning again, to praying aloud without fear, and to confessing their undiscovered sins without shame.
"I'm searched terrible—I can see through me," cried Kelly, the postman.
Some were chiefly troubled lest death should fall on them while they were in a public-house.
"I keep none," cried Caesar.
"But you wouldn't let us open the door," whined the farmer.
If the door had been wide enough for a Bishop, not a soul would have stirred. For the first time within anyone's recollection, Nancy Joe was on her knees.
"O Lord," she prayed, "Thou knowest well I don't often bother Thee. But save Kate, Lord; oh, save and prasarve my little Kirry! It's twenty years and better since I asked anything of Thee before and if Thou wilt only take away this wind, I'll promise not to say another prayer for twenty years more."
"Say it in Manx, woman," moaned Grannie. "I always say my prayers in Manx as well, and the Lord can listen to the one He knows best."
"There's prayer as well as praise in singing," cried Caesar; and they began to sing, all down on their knees, their eyes tightly closed, and their hands clasped before their faces. They sang of heaven and its peaceful plains, its blue lakes and sunny skies, its golden cities and emerald gates, its temples and its tabernacles, where "congregations ne'er break up and Sabbaths never end." It was some comfort to drown with the wild discord of their own voices the fearful noises of the tempest. When they finished the hymn, they began on it again, keeping it up without a break, sweeping the dying note of the last word into the rising pitch of the first one. In the midst of their singing, they thought a fiercer gust than ever was beating on the door, and, to smother the fear of it, they sang yet louder. The gust came a second time, and Caesar cried—
"Again, brothers," and away they went with another wild whoop through the hymn.
It came a third time, and Caesar cried—
"Once more, beloved," and they raced madly through the hymn again.
Then the door burst open as before a tremendous kick, and Pete, fierce and wild-eyed, and green with the drift of the salt foam caked thick on his face, stepped over the threshold with the unconscious body of Kate in his arms and the idiot boy peering over his shoulder.
"Thank the Lord for an answer to prayer," cried Caesar. "Where did you find her?"
"In the tholthan up the glen," said Pete. "Up in the witch's tholthan."
On the second morning afterwards the air was quiet and full of the odour of seaweed; the sky was round as the inside of a shell, and pale pink like the shadow of flame; the water was smooth and silent; the hills had lost the memory of the storm, and land and sea lay like a sleeping child.
In this broad and steady morning Kate came back to consciousness. She had slid out of delirium into sleep as a boat slides out of the open sea into harbour, and when she awoke there was a voice in her ears that seemed to be calling to her from the quay. It was a familiar voice, and yet it was unfamiliar; it was like the voice of a friend heard for the first time after a voyage. It seemed to come from a long way off, and yet to be knocking at the very door of her heart. She kept her eyes closed for a moment and listened; then she opened them and looked again.
The light was clouded and yet dazzling, as if glazed muslin were shaking before her eyes. Grannie was sitting by her bedside, knitting in silence.
"Why are you sitting there, mother?" she asked.
Grannie dropped her needles and caught at her apron. "Dear heart alive, the child's herself again!" she said.
"Has anything happened?" said Kate. "What time is it?"
"Monday morning, bogh, thank the Lord for all His mercies!" cried Grannie.
The familiar voice came again. It came from the direction of the stairs. "Who's that?" said Kate, whispering fearfully.
"Pete himself, Kirry. Aw well! Aw dear!"
"Pete!" cried Kate in terror.
"Aw, no, woman, but a living man come back again. No fear of him, bogh! Not dead at all, but worth twenty dead men yet, and he brought you safe out of the storm."
"Yes, the storm, woman. There warn such a storm on the island I don't know the years. He found you in the tholthan up the glen. Lost your way in the wind, it's like, and no wonder. But let me call father. Father! father! Chut! the man's as deaf as little Tom Hommy. Father!" called Grannie, bustling about at the stair-head in a half-demented way.
There was some commotion below, and the voice on the stairs was saying, "This way? No, sir. That way, if you plaze."
"D'ye hear him, Kirry?" cried Grannie, putting her head back into the room. "That's the man himself. Sitting on the bottom step same as an ould bulldog, and keeping watch that nobody bothers you. The good-naturedst bulldog breathing, though, and he hasn't had a wink on the night. Saved your life, darling. He did; yes, he did, praise God."
At mention of the tholthan, Kate had remembered everything. She dropped back on the pillow, and cried, in a voice of pain, "Why couldn't he leave me to die?"
Grannie chuckled knowingly at that, and wiped her eyes with the corner of her apron. "The bogh is herself, for sure. When they're wishing themselves dead they're always mending father! But I'll go down instead. Lie still, bogh, lie still!"
The voice of Grannie went muffled down the stairs with many "Aw dears, aw dears!" and then crackled from below through the floor and the unceiled joists, saying sharply but with a tremor, too, "Nancy Joe, why aren't you taking a cup of something upstairs, woman?"
"Goodness me, Mistress Cregeen, is it true for all?" said Nancy.
"Why, of course it's true. Do you think a poor child is going fasting for ever?"
"What's that?" shouted the familiar voice again. "Was it herself you were spaking to in the dairy loft, Grannie?"
"Who else, man?" said Grannie, and then there was a general tumult.
"Aw, the joy! Aw, the delight! Gough bless me, Grannie, I was thinking she was for spaking no more."
"Out of the way," cried Nancy, as if pushing past somebody to whip the kettle on to the fire. "These men creatures have no more rising in their hearts than bread without balm."
"You're balm enough yourself, Nancy, for a quiet husband. But lend me a hould of the bellows there—I'll blow up like blazes."
Caesar came into the house on the top of this commotion, grumbling as he stepped over the porch, "The wind has taken half the stacks of my haggard, mother."
"No matter, sir," shouted Pete. "The best of your Melliah is saved upstairs."
"Is she herself?" said Caesar. "Praise His name!"
And over the furious puffing and panting and quacking of the bellows and the cracking and roaring of the fire, the voice of Pete came in gusts through the floor, crying, "I'll go mad with the joy! I will; yes, I will, and nobody shall stop me neither."
The house, which seemed to have been holding its breath since the storm, now broke into a ripple of laughter. It began in the kitchen, it ran up the stairs, it crept through the chinks in the floor, it went over the roof. But Kate lay on her pillow and moaned, and turned her face to the wall.
Presently Nancy Joe appeared in the bedroom, making herself tidy at the doorway with a turn of the hand over her hair. "Mercy on me!" she cried, clapping her hands at the first sight of Kate's face, "who was the born blockhead that said the girl's wedding was as like to be in the churchyard as in the church?"
"That's me," said a deep voice from the middle of the stairs, and then Nancy clashed the door back and poured Pete into Kate in a broadside.
"It was Pete that done it, though," she said. "You can't expect much sense of the like, but still and for all he saved your life, Kitty. Dr. Mylechreest says so. 'If the girl had been lying out another hour,' says he——And, my goodness, the fond of you that man is; it's wonderful! Twisting and turning all day yesterday on the bottom step yonder same as a live conger on the quay, but looking as soft about the eyes as if he'd been a week out of the water. And now! my sakes, now! D'ye hear him, Kirry? He's fit to burst the bellows. No use, though—he's a shocking fine young fellow—he's all that.... But just listen!"
There was a fissing sound from below, and a sense of burning. "What do I always say? You can never trust a man to have sense enough to take it off. That's the kettle on the boil."
Nancy went flopping downstairs, where with furious words she rated Pete, who laughed immoderately. Caesar came next. He had taken off his boots and was walking lightly in his stockings; but Kate felt his approach by his asthmatic breathing. As he stepped in at the door he cried, in the high pitch of the preacher, "Praise the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me praise His holy name!" Then he fell to the praise of Pete as well.
"He brought you out of the jaws of death and the mouth of Satan. It was a sign, Katherine, and we can't do better than follow the Spirit's leading. He saved your life, woman, and that's giving him the right to have and to hould it. Well, I've only one child in this life, but, if it's the Lord's will, I'm willing. He was always my white-headed boy, and he has made his independent fortune in a matter of five years' time."
The church bell began to toll, and Kate started up and listened.
"Only the Dempster's funeral, Kitty," said Caesar. "They were for burying him to-morrow, but men that drink don't keep. They'll be putting him in the family vault at Lezayre with his father, the staunch ould Rechabite. Many a good cow has a bad calf, you see, and that's bad news for a man's children; but many a good calf is from a bad cow, and that's good news for the man himself. It's been the way with Peter anyway, for the Lord has delivered him and prospered him, and I'm hearing on the best authority he has five thousand golden sovereigns sent home to Mr. Dumbell's bank at Douglas."
Grannie came up with a basin of beef-tea, and Caesar was hustled out of the room.
"Come now, bogh; take a spoonful, and I'll lave you to yourself," said Grannie.
"Yes, leave me to myself," said Kate, sipping wearily; and then Grannie went off with the basin in her hand.
"Has she taken it?" said some one below.
"Look at that, if you plaze," said Grannie in a jubilant tone; and Kate knew that the empty basin was being shown around.
Kate lay back on the pillow, listened to the tolling of the bell, and shuddered. She thought it a ghostly thing that the first voice she had heard on coming as from another world had been the voice of Pete, and the first name dinned into her ears had been Pete's name. The procession of the Deemster's funeral passed the house, and she closed her eyes and seemed to see it—the coffin on the open cart, the men on horseback riding beside it, and then the horses tied up to posts and gates about the churchyard, and the crowd of men of all conditions at the grave-side. In her mind's eye, Kate was searching through that crowd for somebody. Was he there? Had he heard what had happened to her?
She fell into a doze, and was awakened by a horse's step on the road, and the voices of two men talking as they came nearer.
"Man alive, the joy I'm taking to see you! The tallygraph? Coorse not. Knew I'd find you at the funeral, though." It was Pete.
"But I meant to come over after it." It was Philip, and Kate's heart stood still.
The voices were smothered for a moment (as the buzzing is when the bees enter the hive), and then began with as sharper ring from the rooms below.
"How's she now, Mrs. Cregeen?" said the voice of Philip.
"Better, sir—much better," answered Grannie.
"No return of the unconsciousness?"
"Aw, no," said Grannie.
"Was she"—Kate thought the voice faltered—"was she delirious?"
"Not rambling at all," replied Grannie.
"Thank God," said Philip, and Kate felt a long breath of relief go through the air.
"I didn't hear of it until this morning," said Philip. "The postman told me at breakfast-time, and I called on Dr. Mylechreest coming out. If I had known——I didn't sleep much last night, anyway; but if I had ever imagined——"
"You're right good to the girl, sir," said Grannie, and then Kate, listening intently, caught a quavering sound of protestation.
"'Deed you are, though, and always have been," said Grannie, "and I'm saying it before Pete here, that ought to know and doesn't."
"Don't I, though?" came in the other voice—the resounding voice—the voice full of laughter and tears together. "But I do that, Grannie, same as if I'd been here and seen it. Lave it to me to know Phil Christian. I've summered and wintered the man, haven't I? He's timber that doesn't start, mother, blow high, blow low."
Kate heard another broken sound as of painful protest, and then with a sickening sense she covered up her head that she might hear no more.
She was weak and over-wrought, and she fell asleep as she lay covered. While she slept a babel of meaningless voices kept clashing in her ears, and her own voice haunted her perpetually. When she awoke it was broad morning again, and the house was full of the smell of boiling stock-fish. By that she knew it was another day, and the hour of early breakfast. She heard the click of cups and saucers on the kitchen table, the step of her father coming in from the mill, and then the heartsome voice of Pete talking of the changes in the island since he went away. New houses, promenades, iron piers, breakwaters, lakes, towers—wonderful I extraordinary! tre-menjous!
"But the boys—w here's the Manx boys at all?" said Pete. "Gone like a flight of birds to Austrillya and Cleveland and the Cape, and I don't know where. Not a Manx house now that hasn't one of the boys foreign. And the houses themselves—where's the ould houses and the crofts? Felled, all felled or boarded up. And the boats—where's the boats? Lying rotting at the top of the harbour."
Grannie's step came into the kitchen, and Pete's loud voice drooped to a whisper. "How's herself this morning, mother?"
"Sleeping quiet and nice when I came downstairs," said Grannie.
"Will I be seeing her myself to-day, think you?" asked Pete.
"I don't know in the world, but I'll ask," answered Grannie.
"You're an angel, Grannie," said Pete, "a reg'lar ould archangel."
Kate shuddered with a new fear. It was clear that in the eyes of her people the old relations with Pete were to stand. Everybody expected her to marry Pete; everybody seemed anxious to push the marriage on.
Grannie came up with her breakfast, pulled aside the blind, and opened the window.
"Nancy will tidy the room a taste," she said coaxingly, "and then I shouldn't wonder if you'll be sending for Pete."
Kate raised a cry of alarm.
"Aw, no harm when a girl's poorly," said Grannie, "and her promist man for all."
Kate tried to protest and explain, but courage failed her. She only said, "Not yet, mother. I'm not fit to see him yet."
"Say no more about it. Not to-day at all—to-morrow maybe," said Grannie, and Kate clutched at the word, and answered eagerly—
"Yes, tomorrow, mother; to-morrow maybe."
Before noon Philip had come again. Kate heard his horse's step on the road, trotting hard from the direction of Peel. He drew up at the porch, but did not alight, and Grannie went out to him.
"I'll not come in to-day, Mrs. Cregeen," he said. "Does she continue to improve?"
"As nice as nice, sir," said Grannie.
Kate crept out of bed, stole to the window, hid behind the curtains, and listened intently.
"What a mercy all goes well," he said; Kate could hear the heaving of his breath. "Is Pete about?"
"No, but gone to Ramsey, sir," said Grannie. "It's like you'll meet him if you are going on to Ballure."
"I must be getting back to business," said Philip, and the horse swirled across the road.
"Did you ride from Douglas on purpose, then?" said Grannie, and Philip answered with an audible effort—
"I was anxious. What an escape she has had! I could scarcely sleep last night for thinking of it."
Kate put her hand to her throat to keep back the cry that was bubbling up, and her mother's voice came thick and deep.
"The Lord's blessing. Master Philip——" she began, but the horse's feet stamped out everything as it leapt to a gallop in going off.
Kate listened where she knelt until the last beat of the hoofs had died away in the distance, and then she crept back to bed and covered up her head in the clothes as before, but with a storm of other feelings. "He loves me," she told herself with a thrill of the heart. "He loves me—he loves me still! And he will never, never, never see me married to anybody else."
She felt an immense relief now, and suddenly found strength to think of facing Pete. It even occurred to her to send for him at once, as a first step towards removing the impression that the old relations were to remain. She would be quiet, she would be cold, she would show by her manner that Pete was impossible, she would break the news gently.
Pete came like the light at Nancy's summons. Kate heard him on the stairs whispering with Nancy and breathing heavily. Nancy was hectoring it over him and pulling him about to make him presentable.
"Here," whispered Nancy, "take the redyng comb and lash your hair out, it's all through-others. And listen—you've got to be quiet. Promise me you'll be quiet. She's wake and low and nervous, so no kissing. D'ye hear me now, no kissing."
"Aw, kissing makes no noise to spake of, woman," whispered Pete; and then he was in the room.
Kate saw him come, a towering dark figure between her and the door. He did not speak at first, but slid down to the chair at the foot of the bed, modestly, meekly, reverently, as if he had entered a sanctuary. His hand rested on his knee, and she noticed that the wrist was hairy and tattooed with the three legs of Man.
"Is it you, Pete?" she asked; and then he said in a low tone, almost in a whisper, as if speaking to himself in a hush of awe—
"It's her own voice again! I've heard it in my drames these five years."
He looked helplessly about him for a moment, fixed his watery eyes on Nancy as if he wanted to burst into sobs but dare not for fear of the noise, then turned on his chair and seemed on the point of taking to flight. But just at that instant his dog, which had followed him into the room, planted its forelegs on the counterpane and looked impudently into Kate's face.
"Down, Dempster, down!" cried Pete; and after that, the ice being broken by the sound of his voice, Pete was his own man once more.
"Is that your dog, Pete?" said Kate.
"Aw, no, Kate, but I'm his man," said Pete. "He does what he likes with me, anyway. Caught me out in Kimber-ley and fetched me home."
"Is he old?"
"Old, d'ye say? He's one of the lost ten tribes of dogs, and behaves as if he'd got to inherit the earth."
She felt Pete's big black eyes shining on her.
"My gracious, Kitty, what a woman you're growing, though!" he said.
"Am I so much changed?" she asked.
"Changed, is it?" he cried. "Gough bless me heart! the nice little thing you were when we used to play fishermen together down at Cornaa Harbour—d'ye remember? The ould kipper-box rolling on a block for a boat at sea—do you mind it? Yourself houlding a bit of a broken broomstick in the rope handle for a mast, and me working the potato-dibber on the ground, first port and then starboard, for rudder and wind and oar and tide. 'Mortal dirty weather this, cap'n?' 'Aw, yes, woman, big sea extraordinary'—d'ye mind it, Kirry!"
Kate tried to laugh a little and to say what a long time ago it was since then. But Pete, being started, laughed uproariously, slapped his knee, and rattled on.
"Up at the mill, too—d'ye remember that now? Yourself with the top of a barrel for a flower basket, holding it 'kimbo at your lil hip and shouting, 'Violets! Swate violets! Fresh violets!'" (He mocked her silvery treble in his lusty baritone and roared with laughter.)
"And then me, woman, d'ye mind me?—me, with the pig-stye gate atop of my head for a fish-board, yelling, 'Mackerel! Fine ladies, fresh ladies, and bellies as big as bishops—Mack-er-el!' Aw, Kirry, Kirry! Aw, the dear ould times gone by! Aw, the changes, the changes!... Did I know you then? Are you asking me did I know you when I found you in the glen? Did I know I was alive, Kitty? Did I know the wind was howling? Did I know my head was going round like a compass, and my heart thumping a hundred and twenty pound to the square inch? Did I kiss you and kiss you while you were lying there useless, and lift you up and hitch your poor limp arms around my neck, and carry you out of the dirty ould tholthan that was going to be the death of you—the first job I was doing on the island, too, coming back to it.... Lord save us, Kitty, what have I done?"
Kate had dropped back on the pillow, and was sobbing as if her heart would break, and seeing this, Nancy fell on Pete with loud reproaches, took the man by the shoulders and his dog by the neck, and pushed both out of the room.
"Out of it," cried Nancy. "Didn't I tell you to be quiet? You great blethering omathaun, you shall come no more."
Abashed, ashamed, humiliated, and quiet enough now, Pete went slowly down the stairs.
Late that night Kate heard Caesar and her mother talking together as they were going to bed. Caesar was saying—
"I got him on the track of a good house, and he went off to Ramsey this morning to put a sight on it."
"Dear heart alive, father!" Grannie answered, "Pete isn't home till a week come Saturday."
"The young man is warm on the wedding," said Caesar, "and he has money, and store is no sore."
"But the girl's not fit for it, 'deed she isn't," said Grannie.
"If she's wake," said Caesar, "shell be no worse for saying 'I will,' and when she's said it she'll have time enough to get better."
Kate trembled with fear. The matter of her marriage with Pete was going on without her. A sort of supernatural power seemed to be pushing it along. Nobody asked if she wished it, nobody questioned that she did so. It was taken for granted that the old relations would stand. As soon as she could go about she would be expected to marry Pete. Pete himself would expect it, because he believed he had her promise; her mother would expect it, because she had always thought of it as a thing understood; her father would expect it, because Pete's prosperity had given him a new view of Pete's piety and pedigree; and Nancy Joe would expect it, too, if only because she was still haunted by her old bugbear, the dark shadow of Ross Christian. There was only one way to break down these expectations, and that was to speak out. But how was a girl to speak? What was she to say?
Kate pretended to be ill. Three days longer she lay, like a hunted wolf in its hole, keeping her bed from sheer dread of the consequences of leaving it. The fourth day was Sunday. It was morning, and the church bells were ringing. Caesar had shouted from his bedroom for some one to tie his bow, then for some one to button his black gloves. He had gone off at length with the footsteps of the people stepping round to chapel. The first hymn had been started, and its doleful notes were trailing through the mill walls. Kate was propped up in bed, and the window of her room was open. Over the droning of the hymn she caught the sound of a horse's hoofs on the road. They stopped at a little distance, and then came on again, with the same two voices as before.
Pete was talking with great eagerness. "Plenty of house, aw plenty, plenty," he was saying. "Elm Cottage they're calling it—the slate one with the ould fir-tree behind the Coort House and by the lane to Claughbane. Dry as a bone and clane as a gull's wing. You could lie with your back to the wall and ate off the floor. Taps inside and water as white as gin. I've been buying the cabin of the 'Mona's Isle' for a summer-house in the garden. Got a figurehead for the porch too, and I'll have an anchor for the gate before I'm done. Aw, I'm bound to have everything nice for her."
There was a short silence, in which nothing was heard but the step of the horse, and then Philip said in a faltering voice, "But isn't this being rather in a hurry, Pete?"
"Short coorting's the best coorting, and ours has been long enough anyway," said Pete. They had drawn up at the porch, and Pete's laugh came in at the window.
"But think how weak she is," said Philip. "She hasn't even-left her bed yet, has she?"
"Well, yes, of coorse, sartenly," said Pete, in a steadier voice, "if the girl isn't fit——"
"It's so sudden, you see," said Philip. "Has she—has she—consented?"
"Not to say consented——" began Pete; and Philip took him up and said quickly, eagerly, hotly—
"She can't—I'm sure she can't."
There was silence again, broken only by the horse's impatient pawing, and then Philip said more calmly, "Let Dr. Mylechreest see her first, at all events."
"I'm not a man for skinning the meadow to the sod, no——" said Pete, in a doleful tone; but Kate heard no more.
She was trembling with a new thought. It was only a shadowy suggestion as yet, and at first she tried to beat it back. But it came again, it forced itself upon her, it mastered her, she could not resist it.
The way to break the fate that was pursuing her was to make Philip speak out! The way to stop the marriage with Pete was to compel Philip to marry her! He thought she would never consent to marry Pete—what if he were given to understand that she had consented. That was the way to gain the victory over Philip, the way to punish him!
He would not blame her—he would lay the blame at the door of chance, of fate, of her people. He would think they were forcing this marriage upon her—the mother out of love of Pete, the father out of love of Pete's money, and Nancy out of fear of Ross Christian. He would know that she could not struggle because she could not speak. He would believe she was yielding against her will, in spite of her love, in the teeth of their intention. He would think of her as a victim, as a martyr, as a sacrifice.
It was a deceit—a small deceit; it looked so harmless, too—so innocent, almost humorous, half ridiculous; and she was a woman, and she could not put it away. Love, love, love! It would be her excuse and her forgiveness. She had appealed to Philip himself and in vain. Now she would pretend to go on with her old relations. It was so little to do, and the effects were so certain. In jealousy and in terror Philip would step out of himself and claim her.
She had craft—all hungry things have craft. She had inklings of ambition, a certain love of luxury, and desire to be a lady. To get Philip was to get everything. Love would be satisfied, ambition fulfilled, the aims of refinement reached. Why not risk the great stake?
Nancy came to tidy the room, and Kate said, "Where's Pete all this time, I wonder?"
"Sitting in the fire-seat this half-hour," said Nancy. "I don't know in the world what's come over the man. He's rocking and moaning there like a cow licking a dead calf."
"Would he like to come up, think you?"
"Don't ask the man twice if you want him to say no," said Nancy.
Blushing and stammering, and trying to straighten his black curls, Pete came at Nancy's call.
Kate had few qualms. The wound she had received from Philip had left her conscienceless towards Pete. Yet she turned her head a little sideways as she welcomed him.
"Are you better, then, Kirry?" said Pete timidly.
"I'm nearly as well as ever," she answered.
"You are, though?" said Pete. "Then you'll be down soon, it's like, eh?"
"I hope so, Pete—quite soon."
"And fit for anything, now—yes?"
"Oh, yes, fit for anything."
Pete laughed from his heart like a boy. "I'll take a slieu round to Ballure and tell Philip immadiently."
"Philip?" said Kate, with a look of inquiry.
"He was saying this morning you wouldn't be equal to it, Kirry."
"Equal to what, Pete?"
"Getting—going—having—that's to say—well, you know, putting a sight on the parson himself one of these days, that's the fact." And, to cover his confusion, Pete laughed till the scraas of the roof began to snip.
There was a moment's pause, and then Kate said, with a cough and a stammer and her head aside, "Is that so very tiring, Pete?"
Pete leapt from his chair and laughed again like a man demented. "D'ye say so, Kitty? The word then, darling—the word in my ear—as soft as soft——"
He was leaning over the bed, but Kate drew away from him, and Nancy pulled him back, saying, "Get off with you, you goosey gander! What for should you bother a poor girl to know if sugar's sweet, and if she's willing to change a sweetheart for a husband?"
It was done. One act—nay, half an act; a word—nay, no word at all, but only silence. The daring venture was afoot.
Grannie came up with Kate's dinner that day, kissed her on both cheeks, felt them hot, wagged her head wisely, and whispered, "I know—you needn't tell me!"
The last hymn was sung, Caesar came home from chapel, changed back from his best to his work-day clothes, and then there was talking and laughing in the kitchen amid the jingling of plates and the vigorous rattling of knives and forks.
"Phil must be my best man," said Pete. "He'll be back to Douglas now, but I'll get you to write me a line, Caesar, and ask him."
"Do you hold with long engagements, Pete?" said Grannie.
"A week," said Pete, with the air of a judge; "not much less anyway—not of a rule, you know."
"You goose," cried Nancy, "it must be three Sundays for the banns."
"Then John the Clerk shall get them going this evening," said Pete. "Nancy had the pull of me there, Grannie. Not being in the habit of getting married, I clane forgot about the banns."
John the Clerk came in the afternoon, and there was some lusty disputation.
"We must have bridesmaids and wedding-cakes, Pete—it's only proper," said Nancy.
"Aw, yes, and tobacco and rum, and everything respectable," said Pete.
"And the parson—mind it's the parson now," said Grannie; "none of their nasty high-bailiffs. I don't know in the world how a dacent woman can rest in her bed——"
"Aw, the parson, of coorse—and the parson's wife, maybe," said Pete.
"I think I can manage it for you for to-morrow fortnight," said John the Clerk impressively, and there was some clapping of hands, quickly suppressed by Caesar, with mutterings of—
"Popery! clane Popery, sir! Can't a person commit matrimony without a parson bothering a man?"
Then Caesar squared his elbows across the table and wrote the letter to Philip. Pete never stood sponsor for anything so pious.
"Respected and Honoured Sir,—I write first to thee that it hath been borne in on my mind (strong to believe the Lord hath spoken) to marry on Katherine Cregeen, only beloved daughter of Caesar Cregeen, a respectable man and a local preacher, in whose house I tarry, being free to use all his means of grace. Wedding to-morrow fortnight at Kirk Christ, Lezayre, eleven o'clock forenoon, and the Lord make it profitable to my soul.—With love and-reverence, thy servant, and I trust the Lord's, Peter Quilliam."
Having written this, Caesar read it aloud with proper elevation of pitch. Grannie wiped her eyes, and Pete said, "Indited beautiful, sir—only you haven't asked him."
"My pen's getting crosslegs," said Caesar, "but that'll do for an N.B."
"N. B.—Will you come for my best man?"
Then there was more talk and more laughter. "You're a lucky fellow, Pete," said Pete himself. "My sailor, you are, though. She's as sweet as clover with the bumbees humming over it, and as warm as a gorse bush when the summer's gone."
And then, affection being infectious beyond all maladies known to mortals, Nancy Joe was heard to say, "I believe in my heart I must be having a man myself before long, or I'll be losing the notion."
"D'ye hear that, boys?" shouted Pete. "Don't all spake at once."
"Too late—I've lost it," said Nancy, and there was yet more laughter.
To put an end to this frivolity, Caesar raised a hymn, and they sang it together with cheerful voices. Then Caesar prayed appropriately, John the Clerk improvised responses, and Pete went out and sat on the bottom step in the lobby and smoked up the stairs, so that Kate in the bedroom should not feel too lonely.
Meanwhile Kate, overwhelmed with shame, humiliation, self-reproach, horror of herself, and dread of everything, lay with cheeks ablaze and her head buried in the bedclothes. She had no longer any need to pretend to be sick; she was now sick in reality. Fate had threatened her. She had challenged it. They were gambling together. The stake was her love, her life, her doom.
By the next day she had worked herself into a nervous fever. Dr. Mylechreest came to see her, unbidden of the family. He was one of those tall, bashful men who, in their eagerness to be gone, seem always to have urgent business somewhere else. After a single glance at her and a few muttered syllables, he went off hurriedly, as if some one were waiting for him round the corner. But on going downstairs he met Caesar, who asked him how he found her.
"Feverish, very; keep her in bed," he answered. "As for this marriage, it must be put off. She's exciting herself, and I won't answer for the consequences. The thing has fallen too suddenly. To tell you the truth—this way, Mr. Cregeen—I am afraid of a malady of the brain."
"Tut, tut, doctor," said Caesar.
"Very well, if you know better. Good-day! But let the wedding wait. Traa dy liooar—time enough, Mr. Cregeen. A right good Manx maxim for once. Put it off—put it off!"
"It's not my putting off, doctor. What can you do with a man that's wanting to be married? You can't bridle a horse with pincers."
But when the doctor was gone, Caesar said to Grannie, "Cut out the bridesmaids and the wedding-cakes and the fiddles and the foolery, and let the girl be married immadiently."
"Dear heart alive, father, what's all the hurry?" said Grannie.
"And Lord bless my soul, what's all the fuss?" said Caesar. "First one objecting this, then another objecting that, as if everybody was intarmined to stop the thing. It's going on, I'm telling you; d'ye hear me? There's many a slip—but no matter. What's written with the pen can't be cut out with the axe, so lave it alone, the lot of you."
Kate was in an ecstasy of exultation. The doctor had been sent by Philip. It was Philip who was trying to stop the marriage. He would never be able to bear it; he would claim her soon. It might be to-day, it might be to-morrow, it might be the next day. The odds were with her. Fate was being worsted. Thus she clung to her blind faith that Philip would intervene.
That was Monday, and on Tuesday morning Philip came again. He was very quiet, but the heart has ears, and Kate heard him. Pete's letter had reached him, and she could see his white face. After a few words of commonplace conversation, he drew Pete out of the house. What had he got to say? Was he thinking that Pete must be stopped at all hazards? Was he about to make a clean breast of it? Was he going to tell all? Impossible! He could not; he dared not; it was her secret.
Pete came back to the house alone, looking serious and even sad. Kate heard him exchange a few words with her father as they passed through the lobby to the kitchen. Caesar was saying—
"Stand on your own head, sir, that's my advice to you."
In the intensity of her torment she could not rest. She sent for Pete.
"What about Philip?" she said. "Is he coming? What has he been telling you?"
"Bad news, Kate—very bad," said Pete.
There was a fearful silence for a moment. It was like the awful hush at the instant when the tide turns, and you feel as if something has happened to the world. Then Kate hardened her face and said, "What is it?"
"He's ill, and wants to go away in a week. He can't come to the wedding,'' said Pete.
"Is that all?" said Kate. Her heart leapt for joy. She could not help it—she laughed. She saw through Philip's excuse. It was only his subterfuge—he thought Pete would not marry without him.
"Aw, but you never seen the like, though, Kirry," said Pete; "he was that white and wake and narvous. Work and worry, that's the size of it. There's nothing done in this world without paying the price of it, and that's as true as gospel. 'The sea's calling me, Pete,' says he, and then he laughed, but it was the same as if a ghost itself was grinning."
In the selfishness of her enfeebled spirit, Kate still rejoiced. Philip was suffering. It was another assurance that he would come to her relief.
"When does he go?" she asked.
"On Tuesday," answered Pete.
"Isn't there a way of getting a Bishop's license to marry in a week?" said Kate.
"But will you, though?" said Pete, with a shout of joy.
"Ask Philip first. No use changing if Philip can't come."
"He shall—he must. I won't take No."
"You may kiss me now," said Kate, and Pete plucked her up into his arms and kissed her.
She was heart-dead to him yet, from the wound that Philip had dealt her, but at the touch of his lips a feeling of horror seemed to cramp all her limbs. With a shudder she crept down in the bed and hid her face, hating herself, loathing herself, wishing herself dead.
He stood a moment by her side, crying like a big boy in his great happiness. "I don't know in the world what she sees in me to be so fond of me, but that's the way with the women always, God bless them!"
She did not lift her face, and he stepped quietly to the door. Half-way through he turned about and raised one arm over his head. "God's rest and God's peace be with you, and may the man that gets you keep a clane heart and a clane hand, and be fit for the good woman he's won for his wife."
At the next minute he went tearing down the stairs, and the kitchen rang with his laughter.
Fate scored one. Kate had been telling herself that Philip was tired of her, that he did not love her any longer, that having taken all he could take he desired to be done with her, that he was trying to forget her, and that she was a drag upon him, when suddenly she remembered the tholthan, and bethought herself for the first time of a possible contingency. Why had she not thought of it before? Why had he never thought of it? If it should come to pass! The prospect did not appal her; it did not overwhelm her with confusion or oppress her with shame; it did not threaten to fall like a thunderbolt; the thought of it came down like an angel's whisper.
She was not afraid. It was only an idea, only a possibility, only a dream of consequences, but at one bound it brought her so much nearer to Philip. It gave her a right to him. How dare he make her suffer so? She would not permit him to leave her. He was her husband, and he must cling to her, come what would. Across the void that had divided them a mysterious power drew them together. She was he, and he was she, and they were one, for—who knows?—who could say?—perhaps Nature herself had willed it.
Thus the first effect of the new thought upon Kate was frenzied exultation. She had only one thing to do now. She had only to go to Philip as Bathsheba went to David. True, she could not say what Bathsheba said. She had no certainty, but her case was no less strong. "Have you never thought of what may possibly occur?" This is what she would say now to Philip. And Philip would say to her, "Dearest, I have never thought of that. Where was my head that I never reflected?" Then, in spite of his plans, in spite of his pledge to Pete, in spite of the world, in spite of himself—yea, in spite of his own soul if it stood between them—he would cling to her; she was sure of it—she could swear to it—he could not resist.
"He will believe whatever I tell him," she thought, and she would say, "Come to me, Philip; I am frightened." In the torture of her palpitating heart she would have rejoiced at that moment if she could have been sure that she was in the position of what the world calls a shameful woman. With that for her claim she could see herself going to Philip and telling him, her head on his breast, whispering sweetly the great secret—the wondrous news. And then the joy, the rapture, the long kiss of love! "Mine, mine, mine! he is mine at last!"
That could not be quite so; she was not so happy as Bathsheba; she was not sure, but her right was the same for all that. Oh, it was joyful, it was delicious!
The little cunning arts of her sex, the small deceits in which she had disguised herself fell away from her now. She said to herself, "I will stop the nonsense about the marriage with Pete." It was mean, it was foolish, it was miserable trifling, it was wicked, it was a waste of life—above all, it was doing a great, great wrong to her love of Philip! How could she ever have thought of it?
Next morning she was up and was dressing when Grannie came into the room with a cup of tea. "I feel so much better," she said "that I think I'll go to Douglas by the coach today, mother."
"Do, bogh," said Grannie cheerfully, "and Pete shall go with you."
"Oh, no; I must be quite alone, mother."
"Aw, aw! A lil errand, maybe! Shopping is it? Presents, eh? Take your tay, then." And Grannie rolled the blind, saying, "A beautiful morning you'll have for it, too. I can see the spire as plain as plain." Then, turning about, "Did you hear the bells this morning, Kitty?"
"Why, what bells, mammy?" said Kate, through a mouthful of bread and butter.
"The bells for Christian Killip. Her old sweetheart took her to church at last. He wouldn't get rest at your father till he did—and her baby two years for Christmas. But what d'ye think, now? Robbie left her at the church door, and he's off by the Ramsey packet for England. Aw, dear, he did, though. 'You can make me marry her,' said he, 'but you can't make me live with her,' he said, and he was away down the road like the dust."
"I don't think I'll go to Douglas to-day, mother," said Kate in a broken voice. "I'm not so very well, after all."
"Aw, the bogh!" said Grannie. "Making too sure of herself, was she? It's the way with them all when they're mending."
With cheerful protestations Grannie helped her back to bed, and then went off with an anxious face to tell Caesar that she was more ill than ever.
She was ill indeed; but her worst illness was of the heart. "If I go to him and tell him," she thought, "he will marry me—yes. No fear that he will leave me at the church door or elsewhere. He will stay with me. We will be man and wife to the last. The world will know nothing. But I will know. As long as I live I will remember that he only sacrificed himself to repair a fault That shall never be—never, never!"
Caesar came up in great alarm. He seemed to be living in hourly dread that some obstacle would arise at the last moment to stop the marriage. "Chut, woman!" he said play-. fully. "Have a good heart, Kitty. The sun's not going down on you yet at all."
That night there were loud voices from the bar-room. The talk was of the marriage which had taken place in the morning, and of its strange and painful sequel. John the Clerk was saying, "But you'd be hearing of the by-child, it's like?"
"Never a word," said somebody.
"Not heard of it, though? Fetching the child to the wedding to have the bad name taken off it—no? They were standing the lil bogh—-it's only three—two is it, Grannie, only two?—well, they were standing the lil thing under its mother's perricut while the sarvice was saying."
"You don't say!"
"Aw, truth enough, sir! It's the ould Manx way of legitimating. The parsons are knowing nothing of it, but I've seen it times."
"John's right," said Mr. Jelly; "and I can tell you more—it was just that the man went to church for."
"Wouldn't trust," said John the Clerk. "The woman wasn't getting much of a husband out of it anyway."
"No," said Pete—he had not spoken before—"but the child was getting the name of its father, though."
"That's not mountains of thick porridge, sir," said somebody. "Bobbie's gone. What's the good of a father if he's doing nothing to bring you up?"
"Ask your son if you've got any of the sort," said Pete; "some of you have. Ask me. I know middling well what it is to go through the world without a father's name to my back. If your lad is like myself, he's knowing it early and he's knowing it late. He's knowing it when he's saying his bits of prayers atop of the bed in the gable loft: 'God bless mother—and grandmother,' maybe—there's never no 'father' in his little texes. And he's knowing it when he's growing up to a lump of a lad and going for a trade, and the beast of life is getting the grip of him. Ten to one he comes to be a waistrel then, and, if it's a girl instead, a hundred to nothing she turns out a—well, worse. Only a notion, is it? Just a parzon's lie, eh? Having your father's name is nothing—no? That's what the man says. But ask the child, and shut your mouth for a fool."
There was a hush and a hum after that, and Kate, who had reached from the bed to open the door, clutched it with a feverish grasp.
"But Christian Killip is nothing but a trollop, anyway, sir," said Caesar.
"Every cat is black in the night, father—the girl's in trouble," said Pete. "No, no! If I'd done wrong by a woman, and she was having a child by me, I'd marry her if she'd take me, though I'd come to hate her like sin itself."
Grannie in the kitchen was wiping her eyes at these brave words, but Kate in the bedroom was tossing in a delirium of wrath. "Never, never, never!" she thought.
Oh, yes, Philip would marry her if she imposed herself upon him, if she hinted at a possible contingency. He, too, was a brave man; he also had a lofty soul—he would not shrink. But no, not for the wealth of worlds.
Philip loved her, and his love alone should bring him to her side. No other compulsion should be put upon him, neither the thought of her possible future position, nor of the consequences to another. It was the only justice, the only safety, the only happiness now or in the time to come.