On drawing his big cheque, Pete had realised that, with reckless spending, and more reckless giving, he had less than a hundred pounds to his credit. "No matter," he thought; "Philip will pay me back when he comes in to his own."
Grannie was with Nancy at Elm Cottage when Pete returned home. The child was having its morning bath, and the two women were on their knees at either side of the tub, cackling and crowing like two old hens over one egg.
"Aw, did you ever, now, Nancy? 'Deed, no; you never did see such a lil angel. Up-a-daisy!"
"Cry I must, Grannie, when I see it looking so beautiful. Warm towels, you say? I'm a girl of this sort—when I get my heart down, I can never get it up again. Fuller's earth, is it? Here, then."
"Boo—loo—loo! the bog millish! Nancy, we must be shortening her soon."
And with that they fell to an earnest council on frocks and petticoats, and other mysteries unread by man. Pete sat and watched and listened. "People will be crying shame on her if they see the Grannie doing everything," he thought.
That night he lounged through the town and examined the shop windows out of the corner of his eye. He was trying to bear himself like a workman enjoying his Saturday night's ramble in clean clothes, but the streets were thronged, and he found himself observed. "Not here," he told himself. "I can buy nothing here. Doesn't do to be asleep at all, and a man isn't always in bed when he's sleeping."
Some hours later, Nancy and the child being upstairs, Pete bethought himself of something that was kept at the bottom of a drawer. Going to the drawer to open it, he found it stiff to his tugging, and it came back with a jerk, which showed it had not lately been disturbed. Pete found what he looked for, and came upon something beside. It was a cardboard box, tied about with a string, which was knotted in a peculiar way. "Kate's knot," thought Pete with a sigh. He slipped it, and opened the lid and took out a baby's hood of scarlet plush. "The very thing," he thought. He held it, mouth open, over his big brown hand, and laughed with delight. "She's been buying it for the child and never using it." His eyes glistened. "The very thing," he thought, and then he took down pen and paper to write something to go with it.
This is what he wrote—
"For lil Katerin from her Luvin mother"
Then he held it at arm's length and looked at it. The subscription crossed the whole face of a half-sheet of paper. But the triumphant success of his former effort had made him bold. He could not resist the temptation to write more. So he turned the paper over and wrote on the back—
"tell pa pa not to wurry about me i aspect to be home sune but dont no ezactly"
His eyes were swimming by the time he got that down, but they brightened again as he remembered something.
"Weve had grate times ear uncle Jo—"
"Must go on milking that ould cow," he thought
"tuk me to sea the prins of Wales yesterda"
He could not help it—he began to take a wild joy in his own inventions.
"flags and banns of musick all day and luminerashuns all night it was grand we were top of an umnibuss goin down lord strete and saw him as plane as plane"
"Bless me," said Pete, dropping his pen, and rubbing his hands in ravishing contemplation of his own fiction; "the next thing we hear she'll be riding in her carriage and' pair."
He was sobbing a little, for all that, in a low, smothered way, but he could not deny himself one word more—
"luv to all enquirin frens and bess respecs to the Dempster if im not forgot at him."
This second forgery of love being finished, he went about the house on tiptoe, found brown paper and twine, put the hood back into the box with his half-sheet peeping from between the frills where the little face would go, and made it up, with his undeft fingers, into an ungainly parcel, which he addressed to himself as before. After that he did his accustomed duty with the lamp and the door, and lay down in the parlour to sleep.
On Monday, at dinner, he broke out peevishly with "Ter'ble botheration, Nancy—I must be going to Port St. Mary about that thundering demonstration."
Then from underneath the sofa in the parlour he rooted up a brown paper parcel, stuffed it under his coat, buttoned it up, and so smuggled it out of the house.
They set sail early in the afternoon, and ran down the coast under a fair breeze that made the canvas play until the sea hissed. The day was wet and cheerless; a thick mist enshrouded the land, and going by Laxey they could just descry the top arc of the great wheel like a dun-coloured ghost of a rainbow in a grey sky. As they came to Douglas the mist was lifting, but the rain was coming down in a soaking drizzle. A band was playing dance tunes on the iron pier, which shot like a serpent's tongue out of the mouth of the bay. The steamer from England was coming round the head, and her sea-sick passengers were dense as a crowd on her forward deck, the men with print handkerchiefs tied over their caps, the women with their skirts over their drooping feathers. A harp and a violin were scraping lively airs amidships. The town was like a cock with his tail down crowing furiously in the wet.
When they came to Port St. Mary the mist had risen and the rain was gone, but the fishing-town looked black and sullen under a lowering cloud. The tide was down, and many boats lay on the beach and in the shallow water within the rocks.
Pete was put ashore; his Nickey went round the Calf to the herring ground beyond the shoulder; a number of fishermen were waiting for him on the quay, with heavy looks and hands deep in their trousers-pockets.
"No need for much praiching at all," said Pete, pointing to the boats lying aground. "There you are, boys, fifty of you at the least, with no room to warp for the rocks. Yet they're for taxing you for dues for a harbour."
"Go ahead, Capt'n," said one of the fishermen; "there's five hundred men here to back you up through thick and thin."
Pete posted his brown paper parcel as stealthily as he had posted his letter, and left Port St. Mary the same night for Douglas. The roads were thick with coaches, choked full with pleasure-seekers from Port Erin. These cheerful souls were still wearing the clothes which had been drenched through in the morning; their boots were damp and cold; they were chill with the night-air, but they did not repine. They sang and laughed and ate oranges, drew up frequently at wayside houses, and handed round bottles of beer with the corks drawn. In their own way they were bright and cheerful company. Sometimes "Hold the Fort," sung in a brake going ahead, mingled with "Molly and I and the Baby," from lusty throats coming behind. Battling through Castletown, they shouted wild chaff at the redcoats lounging by the Castle, and when the darkness fell they dropped asleep—the men usually on the women's shoulders; and then the horses' hoofs were heard splashing along the muddy road, and every rider cracked his whip over a chorus of stertorous snores.
Douglas was ablaze with light as they dipped down to it from the dark country. Long sinuous tails of light where the busy streets were, running in and out, this way and that, and belching into the wide squares and market-places like the race of a Curragh fire. The sleepers awoke and shook themselves. "Going to the Castle to-night?" said one. "What do you think?" said another, and they all laughed at the foolish question.
"I'll sleep here," thought Pete. "I've not searched Douglas yet."
The driver found him a bed at his mother's house. It was a lodging-house in Church Street, overlooking the churchyard. Finding himself so near to Athol Street, Pete thought he would look at the outside of Philip's chambers. He lit on the house easily, though the street was dark. It was one of a line of houses having brass plates, each with its name, and always the word Advocate. Philip's house bore one plate only, a small one, with the name hardly legible in the uneertain light. It ran—The Deemster Christian.
Having spelt out this inscription, Pete crept away. That was the last house in the island at which he wished to call. He was almost afraid of being seen in the same town. Philip might think he was in Douglas to look for Kate.
Pete rambled through the narrow thoroughfares of Post-Office Place, Heywood Lane, and Fancy Street, until he came to the sea front. It was now full tide of busy night, and the holiday town seemed to be given over to enjoyment. The steps of the terraces were thronged; itinerant photographers pitched their cameras on the curb-stones; every open window had its dark heads with the light behind; pianos were clashing in the houses, harps were twanging in the street, tinkling tram-cars, like toast-racks, were sweeping the curve of the bay; there was a steady flow of people on the pavement, and from water's edge to cliff top, three parts round like a horse's shoe, the town flashed and fizzed and sparkled and blazed under its thousand lights with the splendour of a forest fire.
Pete called to mind the blinking and groping of the dear old half-lit town to the north; he remembered the dark village at the foot of the lonely hills, with its trout-stream burrowing under the low bridge, and he thought, "She may have tired of it all, poor thing!"
He looked at every woman's face as she went by him, hungering for one glimpse of a face he feared to see. He did not see it, and he wandered like a lost soul through the little gay town until he drifted with the wave that flowed around the bay into the place that was known as the Castle.
It was a dancing palace in a garden, built in the manner of a conservatory, with the ground level for those who came to dance, and the galleries for such as came to see. Seated by the front rail of the gallery, Pete peered down into the faces below. Three thousand young men and young women were dancing, the men in flannels and coloured scarves, the women in light muslins and straw hats. Sometimes the white lights in the glass roof were coloured with red and blue and yellow. The low buzz of the dancers' feet, the clang and clash of the brass instruments, the boom of the big drum, the quake of the glass house itself, and the low rumble of the hollow floor beneath—it was like a battle-field set to music.
"She may have tired, poor thing; God knows she may," thought Pete.
His eyes were growing hazy and his head dizzy, when he became conscious of a waft of perfume behind him, and a soft voice saying at his ear, "Were you looking for anybody, then?"
He turned with a start, and looked at the speaker. It was a young girl with a pretty face, thick with powder. He could not be angry with the little thing; she was so young, and she was smiling.
"Yes," he said, "I was looking for somebody;" and then he tried to shake her off.
"Is it Maudie, you mane, dear? Are you the young man from Dublin?"
"Lave me, my girl; lave me," said Pete, patting her hand, and twisting about.
The girl looked at him with a sort of pity, and then close at his neck she said, "A fine boy like you shouldn't be going fretting his heart about the best girl that's in."
He looked at the pretty face again, and the little knowing airs began to break down. "You're a Manx girl, aren't you?"
The smile vanished like a flash. "How do you know that? My tongue doesn't tell you, does it?" And the little thing was ashamed.
Pete took the tight-gloved fingers in his big palm. "So you're my lil countrywoman, then?" he said. "How old are you?"
The painted lips began to tremble. "Sixteen for harvest," she answered.
"My God!" exclaimed Pete.
The darkened eyelids blinked; she was beginning to cry. "It wasn't my fault. He was a visitor with my mother at Ballaugh, and he left me to it."
Pete took a sovereign out of his pocket, and shut it in the girl's hand.
"Go home to-night, my dear," he whispered, and then he clambered out of the place.
"Not there!" cried Pete in his heart; "not there—I swear to God she is not there."
That ended his search. He resolved to go home the same night, and he went back to his lodgings to pay his bill. Turning out of Athol Street, Pete was almost overrun by a splendid equipage, with two men in buff on the box-seat, and one man behind. "The Governor's carriage," said somebody. At the next moment it drew up at Philip's door, its occupant alighted, and then it swung about and moved away. "It was the young Deemster," said a girl to her companion, as she went skipping past.
Pete had seen the tall, dark figure, bent and feeble, as it walked heavily up the steps. "Truth enough," he thought, "there's nothing got in this world without paying the price of it."
It was three in the morning when Pete reached Ramsey, Elm Cottage was dark and silent. He had to knock again and again before awakening Nancy. "Now, if this had been Kate!" he thought, and a new fear took hold of him. His poor darling, his wandering lamb, could she have knocked twice? Where was she to-night? He had been picturing her in happiness and plenty—was she in poverty and distress? All the world was sleeping—was she asleep? His hope was slipping away; his great faith was breaking down. "Lord, do not forsake me! Master, strengthen me! My poor lost love, where is she? What is she? Shall I see her face again?"
Something cold touched his hand. It was the dog. Without a bark he had put his nose into Pete's palm. "What, Dempster, man, Dempster!" The bat's ears were cocked—Pete felt them—the scut of a tail was wagged, and Pete got comfort from the battered old friend that had tramped the world at his heels.
Nancy unchained the door, opened it an inch, held a candle over her head, and peered out. "My goodness, is it the man himself? However did you come home?"
"By John the Flayer's pony," said Pete; and he laughed and made light of his night-long walk.
But next morning, when Nancy came downstairs with the child, Pete was busy with a screwdriver taking the chain off the door. "Ter'ble ould-fashioned, these chains—must be moving with the times, you know."
"Then what are you putting in its place?" said Nancy.
"You'll see, you'll see," said Pete.
At seven that night Pete was smoking over the gate when Kelly the Thief came up with a brown paper parcel. "Parcel for you, Mr. Quilliam," said the postman, with the air of a man who knew something he should not know.
Pete blinked and looked bewildered. "You don't say!" he said.
"Well, if that's your name," began the postman, holding the address for Pete to read.
Pete gave it a searching look. "Cap'n Peatr Quilliam, that's it sartenly, Lm Cottig—yes, it must be right," he said, taking the parcel gingerly. Then with a prolonged "O——o!" shutting his eyes and nodding his head, "I know—a bit of a present from the mother to the lil one. Wonderful thoughtful a woman is about a baby when she's a mother, Mr. Kelly."
The postman giggled, threw his finger seaward over one shoulder, and said, "Why aren't you writing back to her, then?"
"What's that?" said Pete sharply, making the parcel creak.
"Why aren't you writing to tell her how the lil one is, I'm saying?"
Pete looked at the postman as if the idea had dropped from heaven. "I must have a head as thick as a mooring-post, Mr. Kelly. Do you know, I never once thought of it. I'm like Goliath when he got little David's stone at his forehead—such a thing never entered my head before."
"Do it for all, Mr. Quilliam," said the postman, moving off.
"I will, I will," said Pete; and then he turned into the house.
"Scissors, Nancy," he shouted, throwing the parcel on the table.
"My sakes, a parcel!" cried Nancy.
"Aisy to tell where it comes from, too. See that knot, woman?" said Pete, with a knowing wink.
"What in the world is it, Pete?" said Nancy.
"I wonder!" said Pete. "Papers enough round it, anyway. A letter? We'll look at that after," he said loftily, and then out came the scarlet hood. "Gough bless mee what's this thing at all?" and he held it up by the crown.
Nancy made a cry of alarm, took the hood out of his hand, and scolded him roundly. "These men, they're fit to spoil an angel's wings."
Then she whipped up the baby out of the cradle, tried the hood on the little round head, and shouted with delight.
"Now I was thinking of that, d'ye know?" she said. "I was, yes, I was; believe me or not, I was. 'Kirry will be sending something for the lil one the next time she writes,' I was thinking, and behould ye—here it is."
"Something spakes to us, Nancy," said Pete. "'Deed it does, though."
The child gurgled and purred, and for all her fine headgear she was absorbed in her bare toes.
"And there's yourself, Pete—going to Peel and to Douglas, and I don't know where—and you've never once thought of the lil one—and knowing we were for shortening her, too."
Pete cast down his head and looked ashamed.
"Well, no—of coorse—I never have—that's truth enough," he faltered.
Pete went out to buy a sheet of notepaper and an envelope, a pen, and a postage stamp. He had abundance of all theso at home, but that did not serve his turn. Going to as many shops as might be, he dropped hints everywhere of the purpose to which his purchases were to be put. Finally, he went to the barber's in the market-place and said, "Will you write an address for me, Jonaique?"
"Coorse I will," said the barber, sweeping a hand of velvet over one cheek of the postman, who was in the chair, leaving the other cheek in lather while he took up the pen.
"Mistress Peter Quilliam, care of Master Joseph Quilliam, Esquire, Scotland Road, Liverpool" dictated Pete.
"What number, Capt'n?" said Jonaique.
"Number?" said Pete, perplexed. "Bless me, what's this the number is now? Oh," by a sudden inspiration, "five hundred and fifteen."
"Five hundred—d'ye say five" said the postman from the half of his mouth that was clear.
"Five," said Pete emphatically. "Aw, they're well up."
"If you say so, Capt'n," said the barber, and down went "515."
Pete returned home with the stamped and addressed envelope open in his hands, "Clane the table quick," he shouted; "I must be writing to Kirry. Will I give her your love, Nancy?"
With much hem-ing and ha-ing and clearing of his throat, Pete was settling himself before a sheet of note-paper, when the door opened, and Philip stepped into the house. His face was haggard and emaciated; his eyes burned as with a fire that came up from within.
"I've come to warn you," he said; "you are in great danger. You must stop that demonstration."
"Sit down, sir, sit down," said Pete.
Philip did not seem to hear. He walked to and fro with short, nervous, noiseless steps. "The Governor sent for me last night, and I found him in a frenzy. 'Deemster,' he said, 'they tell me there's to be a disturbance at Tynwald—have you heard of anything?' I said, 'Yes, I had heard of a meeting of fishermen at Peel.' 'They talk of their rights,' said he; 'I'll teach them something of one right they seem to forget—the right of the Governor to shoot down the disturbers of Tynwald, without judge or jury.' 'That's a very old prerogative, your Excellency,' I said; 'it comes down from more lawless days than ours. You will never use it.' 'Will I not?' said he. 'Listen, I'll tell you what I've done already. I've ordered the regiment at Castletown to be on Tynwald Hill on Tynwald day. Every man of these—there are three hundred—shall have twenty rounds of ball-cartridge. Then, if the vagabonds try to interrupt the Court, I've only to lift my hand—so—and they'll be mown down like grass.' 'You can't mean it,' I said, and I tried to take his big talk lightly. 'Judge for yourself—see,' and he showed me a paper. It was an order for the ambulance waggons to be stationed on the ground, and a request to the doctors of Douglas to be present."
"Then we've made the ould boy see that we mane it," said Pete.
"'If you know any one of the ringleaders, Deemster,' he said, with a look into my face—somebody had been with him—there are tell-tales everywhere——"
"It's the way of the world still," said Pete.
"'Tell him,' said he, 'that I don't want to take the life of any man—I don't want to send any one to penal servitude.'" It was useless to protest. The man was mad, but he was in earnest. His plan was folly—frantic folly—but it was based on a sort of legal right. "So, for the Lord's sake, Pete, stop this thing. Stop it at once, and finally. It's life or death. If ever you thought my word worth anything, you'll do as I bid you, now. God knows where I should be myself if the Governor were to do what he threatens. Stop it, stop it; I haven't slept for thinking of it."
Pete had been sitting at the table, chewing the tip of the pen, and now he lifted to the paleness and wildness of Philip's face a cool, bold smile.
"It's good of you, Phil.... We've a right to be there, though, haven't we?"
"You've a right, certainly, but——"
"Then, by gough, we'll go," said Pete, dropping the pen, and bringing his fist down on the table.
"The penalty will be yours, Pete—yours. You are the man who will suffer—you first—you alone."
Pete smiled again. "No use—I'm incorr'ible. I'm like Dan-ny-Clae, the sheep-stealer, when he came to die. 'I'm going to eternal judgment—what'll I do?' says Dan. 'Give back all you've stolen,' says the parzon. 'I'll chance it first,' says the ould rascal. It's the other fellow that's for stealing this time; but I'll chance it, Philip. Death it may be, and judgment too, but I'll chance it, boy."
Philip's eyes wandered over the floor. "Then you'll not change your plan for anything I've told you?"
"I will, though," said Pete, "for one thing, anyway. You shan't be getting into trouble—I'll be spokesman for the fishermen myself. Oh, I'll spake enough if they get my dander up. I'll just square my arms acrost my chest and I'll say, 'Your Excellency,' I'll say, 'you can't do it, and you shan't do it—because it isn't right.' But chut! botheration to all such bobbery! Look here—man alive, look here! She's not forgetting the lil one, you see," and, making a proud sweep of the hand, Pete pointed to the scarlet hood. It had been put to sit across the back of a china dog on the mantelpiece, with Pete's half sheet of paper pinned to the strings.
Philip recognised it. The hood was the present he had made as godfather. His eyes blinked, his mouth twitched, the cords of his forehead moved.
"So she—she sent that," he stammered.
"Listen here," said Pete, and he unpinned the paper and read the message aloud, with flourishes of voice and gesture—"For lil Katherine from her loving mother... papa not to worry... love to all inquiring friends... best respects to the Dempster if Im not forgot at him." Then in an off-hand way he tossed the paper into the fire. "Aw, what's a bit of a letter," he said largely, as it took flame and burned.
Philip's bloodshot eyes seemed to be starting from his head.
"Nancy's right—a man would never have thought of the like of that—now, would he?" said Pete, looking proudly from Philip to the hood, and from the hood back to Philip.
Philip did not answer. Something seemed to be throttling him.
"But when a woman goes away she leaves her eyes behind her, as you might say. 'What'll I be getting for them that's at home?' she's thinking, and up comes a nice warm lil thing for the baby. Aw, the women's good, Philip. They're what they make the sovereigns of, God bless them!"
Philip felt as if he must rush out of the house shrieking. One moment he stood up before Pete, as though he meant to say something, and then he turned to go.
"Not sleeping to-night, no? Have to get back to Douglas? Then maybe you'll write me a letter first?"
Philip nodded his head and returned, his mouth tightly closed, sat down at the table, and took up the pen.
"What is it?" he asked.
"Am I to give you the words, Phil? Yes? Well, if you won't be thinking mane——"
Pete charged His pipe out of his waistcoat pocket, and began to dictate:
At that Philip gave an involuntary cry.
"Aw, best to begin proper, you know. 'Dear wife,'" said Pete again.
Philip made a call on his resolution, and put the words down. His hand felt cold; his heart felt frozen to the core. Pete lit up, and walked to and fro as he dictated his letter. Nancy sat knitting by the cradle, with one foot on the rocker.
"'Glad to get your welcome letter, darling, and the bonnet for the baby'——-"
"'Go on," said Philip, in an impassive voice.
"Got that down, Philip? Aw, you're smart wonderful with the pen, though....
'When she's got it on her lil head you'd laugh tremenjous. She's straight like a lil John the Baptist in the church window'—"
Pete paused; Philip lifted his pen and waited.
"Done already? Man veen, there's no houlding you....
'Glad to hear you're so happy and comfortable with Uncle Joe and Auntie Joney. Give the pair of them my fond love and best respects. We're getting on beautiful, and I'm as happy as a sandboy. Sometimes Grannie gets a bit down with longing, and so does Nancy, but I tell them you'll be home for their funeral sarmon, anyway, and then they're comforted wonderful.'"
"Don't be writing his rubbage and lies, your Honour," said Nancy.
"Chut! woman; where's the harm at all? A merry touch to keep a person's spirits up when she's away from home—eh, Philip?" and Pete appealed to him with a nudge at his writing elbow.
Philip gave no sign. With a look of stupor he was staring down at the paper as he wrote. Pete puffed and went on—
"'Caesar's at it still, going through the Bible same as a trawl-boat, fishing up the little texes. The Dempster's putting a sight on us reg'lar, and you're not forgot at him neither. 'Deed no, but thinking of you constant, and trusting you're the better for laving home——-'
... Going too fast, am I? So I'm bating you at last, eh?"
A cold perspiration had broken out on Philip's forehead, and he was looking up with the eyes of a hunted dog.
"Am I to—must I write that?" he said in a helpless way.
"Coorse—go ahead," said Pete, puffing clouds of smoke, and laughing.
Philip wrote it. His hand was now stiff. It sprawled and splashed over the paper.
"'As for myself, I'm a sort of a grass-widow, and if you keep me without a wife much longer they'll be taxing me for a bachelor.'"
Pete put his pipe on the mantelpiece, cleared his throat repeatedly, and began to be afflicted with a cough.
"'Glad to hear you're coming home soon, darling (cough). Dearest Kirry, I'm missing you mortal (cough), worse nor at Kimberley (cough). When I'm going to bed, 'Where is she to-night?' I'm saying. And when I'm getting up, 'Where is she now?' I'm thinking. And in the dark midnight I'm asking myself, 'Is she asleep, I wonder?' (Cough, cough.) Come home quick, bogh; but not before you're well at all.'
... Never do to fetch her too soon, you know," he said in a whisper over Philip's shoulder, with another nudge at his elbow.
Philip answered incoherently, and shrank under Pete's touch as if he had been burnt. The coughing continued; the dictating began again.
'"I'm keeping a warm nest for you here, love. There'll be a welcome from everybody, and nobody saying anything but the good and the kind. So come home soon, my true lil wife, before the foolish ould heart of your husband is losing him'——"
Pete coughed violently, and stretched his neck and mouth awry. "This cough I've got in my neck is fit to tear me in pieces," he said. "A spoonful of cold pinjane, Nancy—it's ter'ble good to soften the neck."
Nancy was nodding over the cradle—she had fallen asleep.
Philip had turned white and giddy and sick. For one moment an awful impulse seized him. He wanted to fall on Pete; to lay hold of him, to choke him. The consciousness of his own inferiority, his own duplicity, made him hate Pete. The very sweetness of the man sickened him. He could not help it—the last spark of his self-pride was fighting for its life. Then in shame, in remorse, in horror of himself and dread of everything, he threw down the pen, caught up his hat, shouted "Good night" in a voice like the growl of a beast in terror, and ran out of the house.
Nancy started up from a doze. "Goodness grazhers!" she cried, and the cradle rocked violently under her foot.
"He's that tender-hearted and sympathising," whispered Pete as he closed the door. (Cough, cough)... "The letter's finished, though—and here's the envelope."
The following evening the Deemster was in his rooms in Athol Street. His hat was on, his cloak was over his arm, he was resting his elbow on the sash of the window and looking vacantly into the churchyard. Jem was behind him, answering at his back. Their voices were low; they scarcely moved.
"All well upstairs?" said Philip.
"Pretty well, your Honour."
"More cheerful and content?"
"Much more, except when your Honour is from home. 'The Deemster's back,' she'll say, and her poor face will be like sunshine on a rainy day."
Philip remained silent for a moment, and then said in a scarcely audible voice—
"Not fretting so much about the child, Jemmy?"
"Just as anxious to hear of it, though. 'Has he been to Ramsey to-day? Did he see her? Is she well?' That's the word constant, sir."
The Deemster was silent again, and Jem was withdrawing with a deep bow. "Jemmy, I'm going to Government House, and may be late. Don't wait up for me."
Jem answered in a half whisper, "Some one waits up for your Honour whether I do or not 'He's at home now,' she'll say, and then creep away to bed."
Philip muttered, thickly and huskily, "The decanter is empty—leave out another bottle." Then he turned to go from the room, keeping his eyes from his servant's face.
He found the Governor as violent as before, and eager to fall on him before he had time to speak.
"They tell me. Deemster, that the leader of this rising is a sort of left-hand relative of yours. Surely you can stop the man."
"I've tried to, your Excellency, and failed," said Philip.
The Governor tossed up his chin. "I'm told the fellow can't even write his own name," he said.
"It's true," said Philip.
"An illiterate and utterly uneducated person."
"All the same, he's the wisest and strongest man on this island," said Philip decisively.
The Governor frowned, and the pockmarks on his forehead seemed to swell. "The wisest and strongest man on this island will have to leave it," he said.
Philip made no answer. He had come to plead, but he saw that it was hopeless. The Governor put his right hand in the breast, of his white waistcoat—he was alone in the dining-room after dinner—and darted at Philip a look of anger and command.
"Deemster," he said, "if, as you say, you cannot stop this low-bred rascal, there's one thing you can do—leave him to himself."
"That is to say," said Philip out of a corner of his mouth, "to you."
"To me be it, and who has more right?" said the Governor hotly.
Philip held himself in hand. He was silent, and his silence was taken for submission. Cracking some nuts and munching them, the Governor began to take another tone.
"I should be sorry, Mr. Christian, if anything came between you and me—very sorry. We've been good friends thus far, and you will allow that you owe me something. Don't you see it yourself—this man is dishonouring me in the eyes of the island? If you have tried your best to keep his neck out of the halter, let the consequences be his own."
"Eh?" said Philip, with his eyes on the floor.
"You have done your duty by the man, I say. Help yourself to a glass of wine."
Still Philip did not speak. The Governor saw his advantage, but little did he guess the pitiless power of it.
"The fellow is your kinsman, Deemster, and I shall not ask you to deal with him. That would be inhuman. If there is no hope of restraining him to-morrow—wise as he is, if he will not listen to saner counsels, I will only beg of you—but this is a matter for the police. You are a high official now. It would be a pity to give you pain. Stay at home—I'll gladly excuse you—you look as if a day's rest would do you good."
Philip drank two glasses of the wine in quick succession. The Governor poured him a third, and went on—
"I don't know what you're feeling for the man may be—it can't be friendship. I'm sure he's a thorn in your flesh. And as long as he's here he will always be."
Philip looked up with inquiry, doubt, and fear.
"Ah! I knew it. Even if this matter goes by, your time will come. You'll quarrel with the fellow yet—you know you will—it's in the nature of things—if he's the man you say."
Philip drank the third glass of wine and rose to go.
"Leave him to me—I'll deal with him. You'll be done with him, and a good riddance, too, I reckon. And now come in to the ladies—they'll know you're here."
Philip excused himself and went off with feverish gestures and an excited face.
"The Governor is right," he thought, as he went home over the dark roads. Pete was a thorn in his flesh, and always would be; his enemy, his relentless enemy, notwithstanding his love for him.
The misery of the past month could not be supported any longer. Perpetual fear of discovery, perpetual guard of the tongue, keeping watch and ward on every act of life—to-day, to-morrow, the next day, on and on until life's end in wretchedness or disgrace—it was insupportable, it was impossible, it could not be attempted.
Then came thoughts that were too fearful to take form-too awful to take words. They were like the flapping of unseen wings going by him in the night, but the meaning of them was this: If Pete persists in his purpose, there will be a riot. If any one is injured, Pete will be transported. If any one is killed, Pete will be indicted for his life.
"Well, I have done my duty by him," his heart whimpered. "I have tried to restrain him. I have tried to restrain the Governor. It isn't my fault. What more can I do?"
Philip walked fast. Here was the way of escape from the evil that beset his path. Fate was stretching out her hands to him. When men had done wrong, they did yet more wrong to elude the consequences of their first fault; but there was no need for that in his case.
The hour was late. A strong breeze was blowing off the sea. It flicked his face with salt as he went swinging down the hill into the town. His blood was a-fire. He had a feeling, never felt before, of courage and even ferocity. Something told him that he was not so good a man as he had been, but it was a tingling pleasure to feel that he was a stronger man than before.
Should he tell Kate? No! Let the thing go on; let it end. After it was over she would see where their account lay. Thinking in this way, he laughed aloud.
The town was quiet when he came to it. So absorbed had he been that, though the air was sharp, he had been carrying his cloak over his arm. Now he put it on, and drew the hood close over his head. A dog, a homeless cur, had begun to follow at his heels. He drove it off, but it continued to hang about him. At last it got in front of his feet, and he stumbled over it in one of his large, quick strides. Then he kicked the dog, and it crossed the dark street yelping. He was a worse man, and he knew it.
He let himself into the house with his latch-key, and banged the door behind his back. But no sooner had he breathed the soft, woolly, stagnant air within than a change came over him. His ferocious strength ebbed away, and he began to tremble.
The hall passage and staircase were in darkness. This was by his orders—coming in late, he always forgot to put out the gas. But the lamp of his room was burning on the candle rest at the stairhead, and it cast a long sword of light down the staircase well.
Chilled by some unknown fear, he had set one foot on the first tread when he thought he heard the step of some one coming down the stairs. It was a familiar step. He was sure he knew it. It must be a step he heard daily.
He stopped, and the step seemed to stop also. At that moment there was a shuffling of slippered feet on an upper landing, and Jem-y-Lord called down, "Is it you, your Honour?"
With an effort he answered, "Yes."
"Is anything the matter?" called the man-servant.
"There's somebody coming downstairs, isn't there?" said Philip.
"Somebody coming downstairs?" repeated the man-servant, and the light shifted as if he were lifting the lamp.
"Is it you coming down, Jem?"
"Me coming down? I'm here, holding the lamp, your Honour."
"Another of my fancies," thought Philip; and he laid hold of the handrail, and started afresh. The step came on. He knew it now; it was his own step. "An echo," he told himself. "A dream," he thought, "a mirage of the mind;" and he compelled himself to go up. The step came down. It passed him on the stairs, going by the wall as he went by the rail, with an irresistible down-drive, headlong, heavily.
Then came one of those moments of partial unconsciousness in which the sensation of a sound takes shape. It seemed to Philip that the figure of a man had passed him. He remembered it instantly. It was the same that he had seen in the lobby to the Council Chamber, his own figure, but wrapped in a cloak like the one he was then wearing, and with the hood drawn over the head. The body had been half turned aside, the face had been hidden, and the whole form had expressed contempt, repugnance, and loathing.
"Not well to-night, your Honour?" said the far-off voice of Jem-y-Lord. He was holding the dazzling lamp up to the Deemster's face.
"A little faint—that's all. Go to bed."
Then Philip was alone in his room. "Conscience!" he thought. "Pete may go, but this will be with me to the end. Which, O God?—which?"
He poured out half a tumbler from the bottle on the table, and gulped it down at a draught. At the same moment he heard a light foot overhead. It was a woman's foot; it crossed the floor, and then ceased.
Next morning the Deemster was still sleeping while the sun was shining into his room. He was awakened by a thunderous clamour, which came as from a nail driven into the back of his head. Opening his eyes, he realised that somebody was knocking at his door, and shouting in a robustious bass—
"Christian, I say! Ever going to get up at all?"
It was the Clerk of the Rolls. Under one of his heavy poundings the catch of the door gave way, and he stepped into the room.
"Degenerate Manxman!" he roared. "In bed on Tynwald morning. Pooh! this room smells of dead sleep, dead spirits, and dead everything. Let me get at that window—you pitch your clothes all over the floor. Ah! that's fresher! Headache? I should think so. Get up, then, and I'll drive you to St. John's."
"Don't think I'll go to-day, sir," said Philip in a feeble whimper.
"Not go? Holy saints! Judge of his island and not go to Tynwald! What will the Governor say?"
"He said last night he would excuse my absence."
"Excuse your fiddlesticks! The air will do you good. I've got the carriage below. Listen! it's striking ten by the church. I'll give you fifteen minutes, and step into your breakfast-room and look over the Times."
The Clerk rolled out, and then Philip heard his loud voice through the door in conversation with Jem-y-Lord.
"And how's Mrs. Cottier to-day?"
"Middling, sir, thank you, sir.''
"You don't let us see too much of her, Jemmy."
"Not been well since coming to Douglas, sir."
Cups and saucers rattled, the newspaper creaked, the Clerk cleared his throat, and there was silence.
Philip rose with a heavy heart, still in the torment of his great temptation. He remembered the vision of the night before, and, broad morning as it was, he trembled. In the Isle of Man such visions are understood to foretell death, and the man who sees them is said to "see his soul." But Philip had no superstitions. He knew what the vision was: he knew what the vision meant.
Jem-y-Lord came in with hot water, and Philip, without looking round, said in a low tone as the door closed, "How now, my lad?"
"Fretting again, your Honour," said the man, in a half whisper. He busied himself in the room a moment, and then added, "Somehow she gets to know things. Yesterday evening now—I was taking down some of the bottles, and I met her on the stairs. Next time I saw her she was crying."
Philip said in a confused way, fumbling the razor. "Tell her I intend to see her after Tynwald."
"I have, your Honour. 'It's not that, Mr. Cottier,' she answered me."
"My wig and gown to-day, Jemmy," said Philip, and he went out in his robes as Deemster.
The day was bright, and the streets were thronged with vehicles. Brakes, wagonettes, omnibuses, private carriages, and cadger's carts all loaded to their utmost, were climbing out of Douglas by way of the road to Peel. The town seemed to shout; the old island rock itself seemed to laugh.
"Bless me, Christian," said the Clerk of the Rolls, looking at his watch, "do you know it's half-past ten? Service begins at eleven. Drive on, coachman. You've eight miles to do in half an hour."
"Can't go any faster with this traffic on the road, sir," said the coachman over his shoulder.
"I got so absorbed in the newspaper," said the Clerk, "that—— Well, if we're late, we're late, that's all."
Philip folded his arms across his breast and hung his head. He was fighting a great battle.
"No idea that the fisherman affair was going to be so serious," said the Clerk. "It seems the Governor has ordered out every soldier and pensioner. If I know my countrymen, they'll not stand much of that."
Philip drew a long breath: there was a cloud of dust; the women in the brakes were laughing.
"I hear a whisper that the ringleader is a friend of yours, Christian—'an irregular relative of a high official,' as the reporter says."
"He is my cousin, sir," said Philip.
"What? The big, curly-pated fellow you took home in the carriage?... I say, coachman, no need to drive quite so fast."
Philip's head was still down. The Clerk of the Rolls sat watching him with an anxious face.
"Christian, I am not so sure the Governor wasn't right after all. Is this what's been troubling you for a month? You're the deuce for a secret. If there's anything good to tell, you're up like the sun; but if there's bad news going, an owl is a poll-parrot compared with you for talking."
Philip made some feeble effort to laugh, and to say his head was still aching. They were on the breast of the steep hill going up to Greeba. The road ahead was like a funnel of dust; the road behind was like the tail of a comet.
"Pity a fine lad like that should get into trouble," said the Clerk. "I like the rascal. He got round an old man's heart like a rope round a capstan. One of the big, hearty dogs that make you say, 'By Jove, and I'm a Manxman, too.' He's in the right in this affair, whatever the Governor may say. And the Governor knows it, Christian—that's why he's so anxious to excuse you. He can overawe the Keys; and as for the Council, we're paid our wages, God bless us, and are so many stuffed snipes on his stick. But you—you're different. Then the man is your kinsman, and blood is thicker than water, if it's only—— Why, what's this?"
There was some whooping behind; the line of carriages swirled like a long serpent half a yard near the hedge, and through the grey dust a large covered car shot by at the gallop of a fire-engine. The Clerk-sat bolt upright.
"Now, what in the name of——"
"It's an ambulance waggon," said Philip between his set teeth.
A moment later a second waggon went galloping past, then a third, and finally a fourth.
"Well, upon my—— Ah! good day. Doctor! Good day, good day!"
The Clerk had recognised friends on the waggons, and was returning their salutations. When they were gone, he first looked at Philip, and then shouted, "Coachman, right about face. We're going home again—and chance it."
"We can't be turning here, sir," said the coachman. "The vehicles are coming up like bees going a-swarming. We'll have to go as far as Tynwald, anyway."
"Go on," said Philip in a determined voice.
After a while the Clerk said, "Christian, it isn't worth while getting into trouble over this affair. After all, the Governor is the Governor. Besides, he's been a good friend to you."
Philip was passing through a purgatorial fire, and his old master was feeding it with fuel on every side. They were nearing Tynwald, and could see the flags, the tents, and the crowd as of a vast encampment, and hear the deep hum of a multitude, like the murmur of a distant sea.
Tynwald Hill is the ancient Parliament ground of Man. It is an open green in the midst of the island, with hills on three of its sides, and on the fourth a broad plain dipping to the coast. This green is of the shape of a guitar. Down the middle of the guitar there is a walled enclosure of the shape of a banjo. At the end stands a church. The round drum is the mount, which has four circles, the topmost being some six paces across.
The carriage containing the Deemster and the Clerk of the Bolls had drawn up at the west gate of the church, and a policeman had opened the door. There came the sound of singing from the porch.
"A quarter late," said the Clerk of the Rolls, consulting his watch. "Shall we go in, your Honor?"
"Let us take a turn round the fair instead," said Philip.
The carriage door was shut back, and they began to move over the green. The open part of it was covered with booths, barrows, stands, and show-tents. There were cheap jacks with shoddy watches, phrenologists with two chairs, fat women, dwarfs, wandering minstrels, itinerant hawkers of toffee in tin hat-boxes, and other shiny and slimy creatures with the air and grease of the towns. There were a few oxen and horses also, tethered and lanketted, and kicking up the dust under the dry turf.
The crowd was dense already, and increasing at every moment. As the brakes arrived, they drove up with a swing that sent the people surging on either side. Some brought well-behaved visitors, others brought an eruption of ruffians.
Down the neck of the enclosure, and round the circular end of it, stood a regiment of soldiers with rifles and bayonets. The steps to the mount were laid down with rushes. Two armchairs were on the top, under a canopy hung from a flagstaff that stood in the centre. These chairs were still empty, and the mount and its approaches were kept clear.
The sun was overhead, the heat was great, the odour was oppressive. Now and again the sound of the service within the church mingled with the crack of the toy rifle-ranges and the jabber of the cheap jacks. At length there was another sound—a more portentous sound—the sound of bands playing in the distance. It came from both south and west, from the direction of Peel, and from that of Port St. Mary.
"They're coming," said the Clerk, and Philip's face, when he turned his head to listen, quivered and grew yet more pale.
As the bands approached they ceased to play. Presently a vast procession of men from the west came up in silence to the skirt of the hill, and turned off in the direction from which the men from the south were seen to be coming. They were in jerseys and sea-boots, marching four deep, and carrying nothing in their brawny hands. One stalwart fellow walked firmly at the head of them.. It was Pete.
Philip could support the strain no longer. He got out of the carriage. The Clerk of the Rolls got out also, and followed him as he walked with wavering, irregular steps.
Under a great tree at the junction of three roads, the two companies of fishermen met and fell into a general throng. There was a low wall around the tree-trunk, and, standing on this, Pete's head was clear above the rest.
"Boys," he was saying, "there's three hundred armed soldiers on the hill yonder, with twenty rounds of ball-cartridge apiece. You're going to the Coort because you've a right to go. You're going up peaceable, and, when you're getting there, you're going to mix among the soldiers, three to every man, two on either side and one behind. Then your spokesmen are going to spake out your complaint. If they're listened to, you're wanting no better. But if they're not, and if the word is given to fire on them, then, before there's time to do it, you're going to stretch every man of the three hundred on his back and take his weapon. Don't hurt the soldiers—the poor soldiers are only doing what they're tould. But don't let the soldiers hurt you neither. You're going there for justice. You're not going there to fight. But if anybody fights you, let him never forget the day he done it. Break up every taffy stand in the fair, if you can't find anything better. And if blood is shed, lave the man that orders it to me. And now go up, boys, like men and like Manxmen."
There was no cheering, no shouting, no clapping of hands. Only broken exclamations and a sort of confused murmur. "Come," whispered the Clerk of the Rolls, putting his hand through Philip's quivering arm. "Little does the poor devil think that, if blood is shed, he will be the first to fall." "God in heaven!" muttered Philip.
The crowd on Tynwald had now gathered thick down the neck of the enclosure and dense round the mount. To the strains of the National Anthem, played by the band of the regiment, the Governor had come out of the church. He was in cocked hat and with sword, and the sword of state was carried upright before him. With his Keys, Council, and clergy, he walked to the hill-top. There he took one of the two chairs under the canopy; the other, was taken by the Bishop in his lawn. Their followers came behind, and broke up on the hill into an indiscriminate mass. A number of ladies were admitted to the space on the topmost round. They stood behind the chairs, with their parasols still open.
There are men that the densest crowd will part and make way for. The crowd had parted and made way for Philip. As the court was being "fenced," he appeared with his companion at the foot of the mount. There he was recognised by many, but he scarcely answered their salutations. The Governor made a deferential bow, smiled, and beckoned to him to come up to his side. He went up slowly, pausing at every other step, like a man who was in doubt if he ought to go higher. At length he stood at the Governor's right hand, with all eyes upon him, for the favourite of the great is favoured. He was then the highest figure on the mount, the Governor and the Bishop being seated. The people could see him from end to side of the Tynwald, and he could see the people as they stood closely packed on the green below.
The business of the Court began. It was that of promulgating the laws. Philip's senior colleague, the old Deemster of the happy face, read the titles of the laws in English.
Then the Coroner of the premier sheading began to recite the same titles in Manx. Nobody heard them; hardly anybody listened. The ladies on the mount chatted among themselves, the Keys and the clergy intermingled and talked, the officials of the Council looked at the crowd, and the crowd itself, having nothing to hear, no more to see, indifferent to doings they could not understand, resumed their amusements among the frivolities of the fair.
There were three persons in that assembly of fifteen thousand who were following the course of events with feverish interest. The first of these was the Governor, whose restless eyes were rolling from side to side with almost savage light; the second was the captain of the regiment, who was watching the Governor's face for a signal; the third was Philip, who was looking down at the crowd and seeing something that had meaning for himself alone.
The fishermen came up quietly, three thousand strong. Half a hundred of them lounged around the magazine—the ammunition was at their command. The rest pushed, edged, and elbowed their way through the people until they came to the line of the guard. Wherever there was a red coat, behind it there were three jerseys and stocking-caps, Philip saw it all from his elevation on the mount. His face was deadly pale, his eyelids wavered, his lower lip trembled, his hand twitched; when he was spoken to, he hardly answered; he was like a man holding counsel with himself, and half in fear that everybody could read his hidden thoughts. He was in the last throes of his temptation. The decisive moment was near. It was heavy with the fate of his after life. He thought of Pete and the torture of his company; of Kate and the unending misery of her existence; of himself and the deep duplicity to which he was committed. From all this he could be freed for ever—by what? By doing nothing, having already done his duty? Only let him command himself, and then—relief from an existence enthralled by torment—from constant alarm and watchfulness—peace—sleep—love—Kate!
Somebody was speaking to him over his shoulder. It was nothing—only the quip of a witty fellow, descendant of a Spanish freebooter. Ladies caught his eye, smiled and bowed to him. A little man, whose swarthy face showed African blood, reached up and quoted something about the bounds of freedom wide and wider.
The Coroner had finished, the proceedings were at an end—there was a movement—something had happened—the Governor had half risen from his chair. Twelve men in sea-boots and blue jerseys had passed the line of the guard, and were standing midway across the steps of the mount. One of them was beginning to speak. It was Pete.
"Governor," he said; but the captain of the regiment was abreast of him in a moment, and a score of the soldiers were about his companions at the next breath. The fishermen stood their ground like a wall, and the soldiers fell back. There was hardly any scuffle.
"Governor," said Pete again, touching his cap.
The Governor was twisting in his seat. Looking first at Pete, and then at the captain, he was in the act of lifting his hand when suddenly it was held by another hand at his side, and a low voice whispered at his ear, "No, sir; for God's sake, no!"
It was Philip. The Governor looked at him with amazement. "What do you mean?"
"I mean," said Philip, still whispering over him hotly and impetuously, "that there's only one way back to Government House, but if you lift your hand it will be one too many; I mean that if blood is shed you'll never live to leave this mount; I mean that your three hundred soldiers are only as three hundred rabbits in the claws of three thousand crows."
At the next instant he had left the Governor, and was face to face with the fishermen.
"Fishermen," he cried, lifting both hands before him, "let there be no trouble here to-day, no riot, for God's sake, no bloodshed. Listen to me. I am the grandson of a fisherman; I have been a fisherman myself; I love the fishermen. As long as I live I will stand by you. Your rights shall be my rights, your sins my sins, and where you go I will go too."
Then, swinging back to the Governor, he bowed low, and said in a deferential voice—
"Your Excellency, these men mean no harm; they wish to speak to you; they have a petition to make; they will be loyal and peaceable."
But the Governor, having recovered from his first fear, was now in a flame of anger.
"No," he said, with the accent of authority; "this is no time and no place for petitions."
"Forgive me, your Excellency," said Philip, with a deeper bow; "this is the time of all times, the place of all places."
There had been a general surging of the Keys and clergy towards the steps, and now one of them cried out of their group, "Is Tynwald Court to be turned into a bear-garden?" And another said in a cynical voice, "Perhaps your Excellency has taken somebody else's seat."
Philip raised himself to his full height, and answered, with his eyes on the speakers, "We are free-born men on this island, your Excellency. We did not come to Tynwald to learn order from the grandson of a Spanish pirate, or freedom from the son of a black chief."
"Hould hard, boys!" cried Pete, lifting one hand against his followers, as if to keep them quiet. He was boiling with a desire to shout till his throat should crack.
The Governor had exchanged rapid looks and low whispers with the captain. He saw that he was outwitted, that he was helpless, that he was even in personal danger. The captain was biting his leg with vexation that he had not reckoned more seriously with this rising—that he had not drawn up his men in column.
"Your Excellency will hear the fishermen?" said Philip.
"No, no, no," said the Governor. He was at least a brave man, if a vain and foolish one.
There was silence for a moment. Then, standing erect, and making an effort to control himself, Philip said, "May it please your Excellency, you fill a proud position here; you are the ruler of this island under your sovereign lady our Queen. But we, your subjects, your servants, are in a prouder position still. We are Manxmen. This is the Court of our country."
"Hould hard," cried Pete again.
"For a thousand years men with our blood and our names have stood on this hill to hear the voice of the people, and to do justice between man and man. That's what the place was meant for. If it has lost that meaning, root it up—it is a show and a sham."
"Bravo!" cried Pete; he could hold himself in no longer, and his word was taken up with a shout, both on the hill and on the green beneath.
Philip's voice had risen to a shrill cry, but it was low and meek as he added, bowing yet lower while he spoke—
"Your Excellency will hear the fishermen?"
The Governor rolled in his seat. "Go on," he said impatiently.
The men made their petition. Three or four of them spoke briefly and to the point. They had had harbours, their fathers' harbours, which had been freed to them forty years before; don't ask them to pay harbour dues until proper harbours were provided:
The Governor gave his promise. Then he rose, the band struck up "God save the Queen," and the Legislature filed back to the chapel.
Philip went with them. He had fought a great battle, and he had prevailed. Through purging fires the real man had emerged, but he had paid the price of his victory. His eye burned like live coal, his cheek-bones seemed to have upheaved. He walked alone; his ancient colleague had stepped ahead of him. But now and again, as he passed down the long path to the church-door, fishermen and farmers pushed between the rifles of the guards, and said in husky voices, "Let me shake you by the hand, Dempster."
The scene was repeated with added emotion half an hour afterwards, when, the court being adjourned and the Governor gone in ominous silence, Philip came out, white and smiling, and leaning on the arm of his old master, the Clerk of the Rolls. He could scarcely tear himself through the thick-set hedge of people that lined the path to the gate. As he got into the carriage his smile disappeared. Sinking into the seat, he buried himself in the corner and dropped his head on his breast. The people began to cheer.
"Drive on," he cried.
The cheering became loud.
"Drive, drive," he cried.
The people cheered yet louder. They thought that they had seen a grand triumph that day—a man triumphing over the Governor. But there had been a grander triumph which they had not seen—a man triumphing over himself. Only one saw that, and it was God.
Pete seemed to be beside himself. He laughed until he cried; he cried until he laughed. His resonant voice rang out everywhere.
"Hear him? My gough, it was like a bugle spaking. There's nobody can spake but himself. When the others are toot-tooting, it's just 'Polly, put the kettle on' (mimicking a mincing treble). See the lil Puffin on his throne of turf there? Looked as if Ould Nick had been thrashing peas on his face for a week."
Pete's enthusiasm rose to frenzy, and he began to sweep through the fair, bemoaning his country and pouring mouth-fuls of anathema on his countrymen.
"Mannin veg villish (sweet little Isle of Man), with your English Governors and your English Bishops, and boys of your own worth ten of them. Manninee graihagh (beloved Manxmen), you're driving them away to be Bishops for others and Governors abroad—and yourselves going to the dogs and the divil, and d——— you."
Pete's prophetic mood dropped to a jovial one. He bought the remaining stock-in-trade of an itinerant toffee-seller, and hammered the lid of the tin hat-box to beat up the children. They followed him like hares hopping in the snow; and he distributed his bounty in inverse relation to size, a short stick to a big lad, a long stick to a little one, and two sticks to a girl. The results were an infantile war. Here, a damsel of ten squaring her lists to fight a hulking fellow of twelve for her sister of six; and there, a mother wiping the eyes of her boy of five, and whispering "Hush, bogh; hush! You shall have the bladder when we kill the pig."
Pete began to drink. "How do, Faddy? Taking joy of you, Juan. Are you in life, Thom! Half a glass of rum will do no harm, boys. Not the drink at all—just the good company, you know."
He hailed the women also, but they were less willing to be treated. "I'd have more respect for my quarterly ticket, sir," said Betsy—she was a Primitive, with her husband on the "Planbeg." "There's a hole in your pocket, Capt'n; stop it up with your fist, man," said Liza—she was a gombeen woman, and when she got a penny in her hand it was a prisoner for life. "Chut! woman," said Pete, "what's the good book say ing? 'Riches have wings;' let the birds fly then," and off he went, reeling and tottering, and laughing his formidable laugh.
Pete grew merry. Rooting up the remains of the fishermen's band, he hired them to accompany him through the fair. They were three little musicians, now exceedingly drunk, and their duty was to play "Hail, Isle of Man," as he went swaggering along in front of them.
"Hail, Isle of Man, Swate ocean lan', I love thy sea-girt border."
"Play up, Jackie."
"The barley sown, Potatoes down, We'll get our boats in order."
Thus he forged through the fair, capering, laughing, shouting protests over his shoulder when the tipsy music failed, pretending to be very drunk, trying to show that he was carrying on, that he was going it, that he hadn't a second thought, but watching everything for all that, studying every face, and listening to the talk of everybody.
"Whips of money at him, Liza—whips of it—millions, they're saying."—"He's spending it like flitters then. The Manx chaps isn't fit for fortunes—no, they aren't. I wonder in the world what sort of wife there's at him. I don't 'low my husband the purse. Three ha'pence is enough to be giving any man at once."—"Wife, you're saying? Don't you know, woman?" Then some whispering.
"Bass, boy—more bass, I tell thee."
"We then sought nex' The soothing sex, Our swatearts at Port Erin."
"Who is the man at all?"—"Why, Capt'n Quilliam from Kimberley."—"'Deed, man! Him that married with some of the Caesar Glenmooar's ones?"—"She's left him, though, and gone off with a wastrel."—"You don't say?"—"Well, I saw the young woman myself——"
"At Quiggin's Hall There's enough for all, Good beer, and all things proper."
Pete had drawn up suddenly, and stopped his musicians with a sweep of the arm.
"Were you spaking, Mr. Corteen?"
"Nothing, Capt'n. No need to stare at all. I was only saying I was at the camp-meeting at Sulby, and I saw——"
"Go on, Jackie."
"A pleasant place, With beds of aise, When we are done our supper."
The unhappy man was deceiving himself at least as much as anybody else. After looking for the light of intelligence in every face, waiting for a word, watching for a glance, expecting every moment that some one from south or north, or east or west, would say, "I've seen her;" yet, covering up the burning coal of his anxiety with the ashes of mock merriment, he tried to persuade himself that Kate was not on the island if nobody at Tynwald had seen her; that he had told the truth unwittingly, and that he was as happy as the day was long.
A man in a gig came driving a long-horned cow in front of him. Driver, horse, gig, and cow were like animated shapes of dust, but Pete recognised them.
"Is it yourself, Caesar? So you're for selling ould Horney?"
"Grieved in my heart I am to do it, sir. Many a good glass of milk she has given to me and mine," and Caesar was ready to weep.
"Going falling in fits, isn't she, Caesar?"
"Hush, man! hush, man!" said Caesar, looking about. "A good cow, very; but down twice since I left home this morning."
"I'd give a bad sixpence to see Caesar selling that cow," thought Pete.
Three men were bargaining over a horse. Two were selling, the third (it was Black Tom) was buying.
"Rising five years, sir. Sired by Mahomet. Oh, I've got the papers to prove it," said one of the two.
"What, man? Five?" shouted Black Tom down the horse's open mouth. "She'll never see eight the longest day she lives."
"No use decaiving the man," said the other dealer, speaking in Manx. "She's sixteen—'low she's nine, anyway."
"Fair play, boys; spake English before a poor fellow," said Black Tom, with a snort.
"This brother of mine lows she's seven," said the first of the two.
"You thundering liar," said Black Tom in Manx. "He says she's sixteen."
"Dealing ponies then?" asked Pete.
"Anything, sir; anything. Buying for farmers up Lonan way," said Black Tom.
"Come on," said Pete; "here's Caesar with a long-horned cow."
They found the good man tethering a white, long-horned cow to the wheel of the tipped-up gig.
"How do, Caesar? And how much for the long-horn?" said Black Tom.
"Aw, look at the base (beast), Mr. Quilliam. Examine her for yourself," said Caesar.
"Middling fair ewer, good quarter, five calves—is it five, Caesar?" said Black Tom, holding one of the long horns.
"Three, sir, and calving again for February."
"No milk fever? No? Kicks a bit at milking? Never? Fits? Ever had fits, Caesar?" opening wide one of the cow's eyes.
"Have you known me these years for a dacent man, Mr. Quilliam——" began Caesar in an injured tone.
"Well, what's the figure?"
"Fourteen pound, sir! and she'll take the road before I'll go home with a pound less!"
"Fourteen—what! Ten; I'll give you ten—not a penny more."
"Good day to you, Mr. Quilliam," said Caesar. Then, as if by an afterthought, "You're an ould friend of mine, Thomas; a very ould friend, Tom—I'll split you the diff'rance."
"Break a straw on it," said Black Tom; and the transaction was complete.
"I've had a clane strike here—the base is worth fifteen," chuckled Black Tom in Pete's ear as he drove the cow in to a shed beyond.
"I must be buying another cow in place of poor ould Horney," whispered Caesar as he dived into the cattle stand.
"Strike up, Jackie," shouted Pete.
"West of the mine, The day being fine. The tide against us veering."
Ten minutes later Pete heard a fearful clamour, which drowned the noise that he himself was making. Within the shed the confusion of tongues was terrific.
"What's this at all?" he asked, crushing through with an innocent face.
"The man's cow has fits," cried Black Tom. "I'll have my money back. The ould psalm-singing Tommy Noddy! did he think he was lifting the collection? My money! My twelve goolden pounds!"
If Black Tom had not been as bald as a bladder, he would have torn his hair in his mortification. But Pete pacified him.
"Caesar is looking for another cow—sell him his own back again. Impozz'ble? Who says it's impozz'ble? Cut off her long horns, and he'll never be knowing her from her grandmother."
Then Pete made up to Caesar and said, "Tom's got a mailie (hornless) cow to sell, and it's the very thing you're wanting."
"Is she a good mailie?" asked Caesar.
"Ten quarts either end of the day, Caesar, and fifteen pounds of butter a week," said Pete.
"Where's the base, sir?" said Caesar.
They met Black Tom leading a hornless, white cow from the shed to the green.
"Are you coming together, Peter?" he said cheerfully.
Caesar eyed the cow doubtfully for a moment, and then said briskly, "What's the price of the mailie, Mr. Quilliam?"
"Aw, look at the base first, Mr. Cregeen. Examine her for yourself, sir."
"Yes—yes—well, yes; a middling good base enough. Four calves, Thomas?"
"Two, sir, and calves again for January. Twenty-four quarts of new milk every day of life, and butter fit to burst the churn for you."
"No fever at all? No fits? No?"
"Aw, have you known me these teens of years, Mr. Cregeen——"
"Well, what d'ye say—eleven pounds for the cow, Tom!"
"Thirteen, Caesar; and if you warn an ould friend——"
"Hould your hand, Mr. Quilliam; I'm not a man when I've got a bargain.... Manx notes or the dust, Thomas? Goold? Here you are, then—one—two—three—four..." (giving the cow another searching glance across his shoulder). "It's wonderful, though, the straight she's like ould Horney... five—six—seven... in colour and size, I mane... eight—nine—ten... and if she warn a mailie cow, now... eleven—twelve—" (the money hanging from his thumb). "Will that be enough, Mr. Quilliam? No? Half a one, then? Aw, you're hard, Tom... thirteen."
Having paid the last pound, Caesar stood a moment contemplating his purchase, and then said doubtfully, "Well, if I hadn't... Grannie will be saying it's the same base back——-" (the cow began to reel). "Yes, and it—no, surely—a mailie for all——-" (the cow fell). "It's got the same fits, anyway," cried Caesar; and then he rushed to the cow's head. "It is the same base. The horns are going cutting off at her. My money back! Give me my money back—my thirteen yellow sovereigns—the sweat of my brow!" he cried.
"Aw, no," said Black Tom. "There's no money giving back at all. If the cow was good enough for you to sell, she's good enough for you to buy," and he turned on his heel with a laugh of triumph.
Caesar was choking with vexation.
"Never mind, sir," said Pete. "If Tom has taken a mane advantage of you, it'll be all set right at the Judgment. You've that satisfaction, anyway."
"Have I? No, I haven't," said Caesar from between his teeth. "The man's clever. He'll get himself converted before he comes to die, and then there'll not be a word about cutting the horns off my cow."
"Strike up, Jackie," shouted Pete.
"Hail, Isle of Man, Swate ocean lan', I love thy sea-girt border."
The sky became overcast, rain began to fall, and there was a rush for the carts. In half an hour Tynwald Hill was empty, and the people were splashing off on every side like the big drops of rain that were pelting down.
Pete hired a brake that was going back to the north, and gathered up his friends from Ramsey. When these were seated, there was a rush of helpless and abandoned ones who were going in the same direction—young mothers with children, old men and old women. Pete hauled them up till the seats and the floor were choked, and the brake could hold no more. He got small thanks. "Such crushing and scrooging! I declare my black merino frock, that I've only had on once, will be teetotal spoilt."—"If they don't start soon I'll be taking the neuralgy dreadful."
They got started at length, and, at the tail of a line of stiff carts, they went rattling over the mountain-road. The harebells nodded their washed faces from the hedge, and the talk was brisk and cheerful.
"Our Thorn's sowl a hafer, and got a good price."—"What for didn't you buy the mare of Corlett Beldroma, Juan?"—"Did I want to be killed as dead as a herring?"—"Kicks, does she? Bate her, man; bate her. A horse is like a woman. If you aren't bating her now and then——"
They stopped at every half-way houses—it was always halfway to somewhere. The men got exceedingly drunk and began to sing. At that the women grew very angry.
"Sakes alive! you're no better than a lot of Cottonies."—"Deed, but they're worse than any Cottonies, ma'am. Some excuse for the like of them. In their cotton-mills all the year, and nothing at home but a piece of grass the size of your hand in the backyard, and going hopping on it like a lark in a cage."
The rain came down in torrents, the mountain-path grew steep and desolate, the few houses passed were empty and boarded up, gorse bushes hissed to the rising breeze, geese scuttled and screamed across the untilled land, a solitary black crow flew across the leaden sky, and on the sea outside a tall pillar of smoke went stalking on and on, where the pleasure-steamer carried her freight of tourists round the island. Then songs gave way to sighs, some of the men began to pick quarrels, and some to break into fits of drunken sobbing.
Pete kept them all up. He chaffed and laughed and told funny stories. Choking, stifling, wounded to the heart as he was, still he was carrying on, struggling to convince everybody and himself as well, that nothing was amiss, that he was a jolly fellow, and had not a second thought.
He was glad to get home, nevertheless, where he need play the hypocrite no longer. Going through Sulby, he dropped out of the brake and looked in at the "Fairy." The house was shut. Grannie was sitting up for Caesar, and listening for the sound of wheels. There was something unusual and mysterious about her. Cruddled over the fire, she was smoking, a long clay in little puffs of blue smoke that could barely be seen. The sweet old soul in her troubles had taken to the pipe as a comforter. Pete could see that something had happened since morning, but she looked at him with damp eyes, and he was afraid to ask questions. He began to talk of the great doings of the day at Tynwald, then of Philip, and finally of Kate, apologising a little wildly for the mother not coming home sooner to the child, but protesting that she had sent the little one no end of presents.
"Presents, bless ye," he began rapturously——
"You don't ate enough, Pete, 'deed you don't," said Grannie.
"Ate? Did you say ate?" cried Pete. "If you'd seen me at the fair you'd have said, 'That man's got the inside of a limekiln!' Aw, no, Grannie, I'm not letting my jaws travel far. When I've got anything before me it's—down—same as an ostrich."
Going away in the darkness, he heard Caesar creaking up in the gig with old Horney, now old Mailie, diving along in front of him.
Nancy was waiting for Pete at Elm Cottage. She tried to bustle him upstairs.
"Come, man, come," she said; "get yourself off to bed and I'll bring your clothes down to the fire."
He had never slept in the bedroom since Kate had left. "Chut! I've lost the habit of beds," he answered. "Always used of the gable loft, you know, and the wind above the thatch."
Not to be thought to behave otherwise than usual, he went upstairs that night. But—
"Feather beds are saft, Pentit rooms are bonnie, But ae kiss o' my dear love Better's far than ony."
The rain was still falling, the sea was loud, the mighty breath of night was shaking the walls of the house and rioting through the town. He was wet and tired, longing for a dry skin and a warm bed and rest.
"Yet fain wad I rise and rin If I tho't I would meet my dearie."
The long-strained rapture of faith and confidence was breaking down. He saw it breaking. He could deceive himself no more. She was gone, she was lost, she would lie on his breast no more.
"God help me! O, Lord, help me," he cried in his crushed and breaking heart.
When Kate thought of her husband after she had left him, it was not with any crushing sense of shame. She had injured him, but she had gained nothing by it. On the contrary, she had suffered, she had undergone separation from her child. To soften the hard blow inflicted, she had outraged the tenderest feelings of her heart. As often as she thought of Pete and the deep wrong she had done him, she remembered this sacrifice, she wept over this separation. Thus she reconciled herself to her conduct towards her husband. If she had bought happiness at the cost of Pete's sufferings, her remorse might have been deep; but she had only accepted shame and humiliation and the severance of the dearest of her ties.
When she had said in the rapture of passionate confidence that if she possessed Philip's love there could be no humiliation and no shame, she had not yet dreamt of the creeping degradation of a life in the dark, under a false name, in a false connection: a life under the same roof with Philip, yet not by his side, unacknowledged, unrecognised, hidden and suppressed. Even at the moment of that avowal, somewhere in the secret part of her heart, where lay her love of refinement and her desire to be a lady, she had cherished the hope that Philip would find a way out of the meanness of their relation, that she would come to live openly beside him, she hardly knew how, and she did not care at what cost of scandal, for with Philip as her own she would be proud and happy.
Philip had not found that way out, yet she did not blame him. She had begun to see that the deepest shame of their relation was not hers but his. Since she had lived in Philip's house the man in him had begun to decay. She could not shut her eyes to this rapid demoralisation, and she knew well that it was the consequence of her presence. The deceptions, the subterfuges, the mean shifts forced upon him day by day, by every chance, every accident, were plunging him in ever-deepening degradation. And as she realised this a new fear possessed her, more bitter than any humiliation, more crushing than any shame—the fear that he would cease to love her, the terror that he would come to hate her, as he recognised the depth to which she had dragged him down.
Back from Tynwald, Philip was standing in his room. From time to time he walked to the window, which was half open, for the air was close and heavy. A misty rain was falling from an empty sky, and the daylight was beginning to fail. The tombstones below were wet, the treed were dripping, the churchyard was desolate. In a corner under the wall lay the angular wooden lid which is laid by a gravedigger over an open grave. Presently the iron gates swung apart, and a funeral company entered. It consisted of three persons and an uncovered deal coffin. One of the three was the sexton of the church, another was the curate, the third was a policeman. The sexton and the policeman carried the coffin to the church-door, which the curate opened. He then went into the church, and was followed by the other two. A moment later there were three strokes of the church bell. Some minutes after that the funeral company reappeared. It made for the open grave in the corner by the wall. The cover was removed, the coffin was lowered, the policeman half lifted his helmet, and the sexton put a careless hand to his cap. Then the curate opened a book and closed it again. The burial service was at an end. Half an hour longer the sexton worked alone in the drenching rain, shovelling the earth back into the grave.
"Some waif," thought Philip; "some friendless, homeless, nameless waif."
He went noiselessly up the stairs to the floor above, slinking through the house like a shadow. At a door above his own he knocked with a heavy hand, and a woman's voice answered him from within—
"Is any one there?"
"It is!," he said. "I am coming to see you."
Then he opened the door and slipped into the room. It was a room like his own at all points, only lower in the ceiling, and containing a bed. A woman was standing with her back to the window, as if she had just turned about from looking into the churchyard. It was Kate. She had been expecting Philip, and waiting for him, but she seemed to be overwhelmed with confusion. As he crossed the floor to go to her, he staggered, and then she raised her eyes to his face.
"You are ill," she said. "Sit down. Shall I ring for the brandy?"
"No," he answered. "We have had a hard day at Tyn-wald—some trouble—some excitement—I'm tired, that's all."
He sat on the end of the bed, and gazed out on the veil of rain, slanting across the square church tower and the sky.
"I was at Ramsey two days ago," he said; "that's what I came to tell you."
"Ah!" She linked her hands before her, and gazed out also. Then, in a trembling voice, she asked, "Is mother well?"
"Yes; I did not see her, but—yes, she bears up bravely."
"And—and—" the words stuck in her throat, "and Pete?"
"Well, also—in health, at all events."
"You mean that he is broken-hearted?"
With a deep breath he answered, "To listen to him you would think he was cheerful enough."
"And little Katherine?"
"She is well too. I did not see her awake. It was late, and she was in her cradle. So rosy, and fresh, and beautiful!"
"My sweet darling! She was clean too? They take care of her, don't they?"
"More care they could not take."
"My darling baby! Has she grown?"
"Yes; they talk of taking her out of the long clothes soon. Nancy is like a second mother to her."
Kate's foot was beating the floor. "Oh, why can't her own mother——" she began, and then in a faltering voice, "but that cannot be, I suppose.... Do her eyes change? Are they still blue? But she was asleep, you say. My dear baby! Was it very late? Nine o'clock? Just nine? I was thinking of her at that moment. It is true I am always thinking of her, but I remember, because the clock was striking. 'She will be in her little cot now,' I thought, 'bathed and clean, and so pretty in her nightdress, the one with the frill!' My sweet, sweet angel!"
Her speech was confused and broken. "Do you think if I never see her until... Will I know her if... It's useless to think of that, though. Is her hair like... What is the colour of her hair, Philip?"
"Fair, quite fair; as fair as mine was——"
She swirled round, came face to face with him, and cried, "Philip, Philip, why can't I have my darling to myself? She would be well enough here. I could keep her quiet. Oh, she would not disturb you. And I should be so happy with my little Kate for company. The time is long with me sometimes, Philip, and I could play with her all the day. And then at night, when she would be in the cot, I could make her little stock of clothes—her frocks and her little pinafores, and——"
"Impossible, Kate, impossible!" said Philip.
She turned to the window. "Yes," she said, in a choking voice, "I suppose it would even be stealing to fetch her away now. Only think! A mother stealing her own child! O gracious heaven, have I sinned myself so far from my innocent baby! My child, my child! My little Katherine!"
Her bosom heaved, and she said in a hard tone, "I daresay they think I'm a bad mother because I left her to others to nurse her and to love her, to see her every day and all day, to bathe her sweet body, and to comb her yellow hair, to look into her little blue eyes, and to watch all her pretty, pretty ways—Oh, yes, yes." she said, with increasing emotion, "I daresay they think that of me."
"They think nothing but what is good of you, Kate—nothing but what is good and kind."
She looked out on the rain which fell unceasingly, and said in a low voice, "Is Pete still telling the same story—that I am only away for a little while—that I am coming back?"
"He is writing letters to himself now, and saying they come from you."
"Such simple things—all in his own way—full of love and happiness—I am so happy and comfortable—it is pitiful. He is like a child—he never suspects anything. You are better and enjoying yourself and looking forward to coming home soon. Sending kisses and presents for the baby, too, and greetings for everybody. There are messages for me also. Your true and loving wife—it is terrible."
She covered her face with both hands. "And is he telling everybody?"
"Yes; that's what the letters are meant for. He thinks he is keeping your name sweet and your place clean, so that you may return at any time, and scandal may not touch you."
"Oh, why do you tell me that, Philip? It is dragging me back. And the child is dragging me back also... Does he show the letters to you?"
"Worse than that, Kate—much worse—he makes me answer them. I answered one the other night. Oh, when I think of it! Dear wife, glad to get your welcome letters. God knows how I held the pen—I was giddy enough to drop it. He gave you all the news—about your father, and Grannie, and everybody. All in his own bright way—poor old Pete, the cheeriest, sunniest soul alive. The Dempster is putting a sight on us regular—trusts you are the better for leaving home. It was awful—awful! Dearest Kirry, I'm missing you mortal—worse than Kimberley. So come home soon, my true lil wife, to your foolish ould husband, for his heart is losing him."
He leapt up, and began to tramp the floor. "But why do I tell you this? I should bear my own burdens."
Her hands had come down from her face, which was full of a great compassion. "And did you have to write all that?" she asked.
"Oh, he meant no harm. He had no thought of hurting anybody! He never dreamt that every word was burning and blistering me to the heart of hearts."
His voice deepened, and his face grew hard and ugly. "But it was the same as if some devil out of hell had entered into the man and told him how to torture me—as if the cruellest tyrant on earth had made me take up the pen and write down my own death-warrant. I could have killed him—I could not help it—yes, I felt at that moment as if—— Oh, what am I saying?"
He stopped, sat on the end of the bed again, and held his head between his hands.
She came and sat by his side. "Philip," she said, "I am ruining you. Yes, I am corrupting you. I who would have had you so high and pure—and you so pure-minded—I am bringing you to ruin. Having me here is destroying you, Philip. No one visits you now. You are shutting the door on everybody.... I heard you come in last night, Philip. I hear you every night. Yes, I know everything. Oh, you will end by hating me—I know you will. Why don't you send me away? It will be better to send me away in time, Philip. Besides, it will make no difference. We are in the same house, yet we never meet. Send me away now, before it is too late."
He dropped his hand and felt for her hand; he was trying not to look into her face. "We have both suffered, Kate. We can never hate one another—we have suffered for each other's sake."
She clung tightly to the hand he gave her, and said, "Then you will never forsake me, whatever happens?"
"Never, Kate, never," he answered; and with a smothered cry she threw her arms about his neck.
The rain continued to pour down on the roofs and on the tombs with a monotonous plash. "But what is to be done?" she said.
"God knows," he answered.
"What is to become of us, Philip? Are we never to smile on each other again? We cannot carry a burden like this for ever. To-day, to-morrow, the next day, the next year—is it to go on like this for a lifetime? Is this life? Is there nothing that will end it?"
"Yes, Kate, yes; there is one thing that will end it—one thing only."
"Do you mean—death?"
He did not answer. She rose slowly from his side and returned to the window, rested her forehead against the pane, and looked down on the desolate churchyard and the sexton at his work in the rain. Suddenly she broke the silence. "Philip," she said, "I know now what we ought to do. I wonder we have never thought of it before."
"What is it?" he asked.
She was standing in front of him. Her breath came quickly. "Tell Pete that I am dead."
"No, no, no."
She took both his hands. "Yes, yes," she said.
He kept his face away from her. "Kate, what are you saying?"
"What is more natural, Philip? Only think—if you had been anybody else, it would have come to that already. You must have hated me for dragging you down into this mire of deceit, you must have forsaken me, and I must have gone to wreck and ruin. Oh, I see it all—just as if it had really happened. A solitary room somewhere—alone—sinking—dying—unknown, unnamed—forgotten——"
His eyes were wandering about the room. "It will kill him. If his heart can break, it will break it," he said.
"He has lived after a heavier blow than that, Philip. Do you think he is not suffering? For all his bright ways and hopeful talk and the letters and the presents, do you think he is not suffering?"
He liberated his hands, and began to tramp the room as before, but with head down dud hands linked behind him.
"It will be cruel to deceive him," he said.
"No, Philip, but kind. Death is not cruel. The wound it makes will heal. It won't bleed for ever. Once he thinks I am dead he will weep a little perhaps, and then "—she was stifling a sob—"then it will be all over. 'Poor girl,' he will say, 'she was much to blame. I loved her once, and never did her any wrong. But she is gone, and she was the mother of little Katherine—let us forget her faults'——"
He had not heard her; he was standing before the window looking down. "You are right, Kate, I think you must be right."
"I'm sure I am."
"He will suffer, but he will get over it."
"Yes, indeed. And you, Philip—he will torture you no longer. No more letters, no more presents, no more messages——"
"I'll do it—I'll do it to-morrow," he said.
She opened her arms wide, and cried, "Kiss me, Philip, kiss me. We shall live again. Yes, we shall laugh together still—kiss me, kiss me."
"Not yet—when I come back."
"Very well—when you come back."
She sank into a chair, crying with joy, and he went out as he had entered, noiselessly, stealthily, like a shadow.
When a man who is not a criminal is given over to a deep duplicity of life, he will clutch at any lie, wearing the mask of truth, which seems to shield him from shame and pain. He may be a wise man in every other relation, a shrewd man, a far-seeing and even a cunning man, but in this relation—that of his own honour, his own fame, his own safety—he is certain to be a blunderer, a bungler, and a fool. Such is the revenge of Nature, such is God's own vengeance!
Philip was walking from Ballure House to Elm Cottage. It was late, and the night was dark and silent—a muggy, dank, and stagnant night, without wind or air, moon or stars. The road was quiet, the trees were still, the sea made only a far-off murmur.
And as he walked he struggled to persuade himself that in what he was about to do he would be doing well. "It will not be wrong to deceive him," he thought. "It will only be for his own good. The suspense would kill him. He would waste away. The sap of the man's soul would dry up. Then why should I hesitate? Besides, it is partly true—true in its own sense, and that is the real sense. She is dead—dead to him. She can never return to him; she is lost to him for ever. So it is true after all—it is true."
"It is a lie," said a voice at his ear.
He started. He could have been sure that somebody had spoken. Yet there was nobody by his side. He was alone in the road. "It must have been my own voice," he thought. "I must have been thinking aloud." And then he resumed his walk and his meditation.
"And if it is a lie, is it therefore a crime?" he asked himself. "Sure it is—how very sure!—it was a wise man that said so—a great fault once committed is the first link in a chain. The other links seem to be crimes also, but they are not—they are consequences. Our fault was long ago, and even then it was partly the fault of Fate. If the past could be recalled we could not act differently unless our fates were different. And what has followed has been only the consequence. It was the consequence when Kate was married to Pete; it was the consequence when she left him—and this is the consequence."
"It is a lie," said the same voice by his side.
He stopped. The darkness was gross around him—he could see nothing.
"Who's there?" he demanded.
There was no answer. He stretched his hand out nervously. There was no one at his side. "It must have been the wind in the trees," he thought; but there could be no wind in the stagnant dampness of that air. "It was like my own voice," he thought. Then he remembered how his man in Douglas had told him that he had contracted a habit of talking to himself of late. "It was my own voice," he thought, and he went on again.
"A lie is a bad foundation to build on—that's certain. The thing that should be cannot rest on the thing that is not. It will topple down; it will come to ruin; it will wreck everything. Still——"
"It is a lie," said the voice again. There could be no mistaking it this time. It was a low, deep whisper. It seemed to be spoken in the very cavity of his ear. It was not his own voice, and yet it struck upon his sense with the sound as of his own. It must be his own voice speaking to himself!
When this idea took hold of him, he was seized with a deadly shuddering. His heart knocked against his ribs, and an icy coldness came over him. "Only the same tormenting dream," he thought. "Before it was a vision; now it is a voice. It is generated by solitude and separation. I must resist it I must be strong. It will drive me into an oppression as of madness. Men do not 'see their souls' until they are bordering on madness from religious mania or crime."
"A lie! a lie!" said the voice.
"This is madness itself. To paint faces on the darkness, to hear voices in the air, is madness. The madman can do no more."
"A lie!" said the voice again. He cast a look over his shoulder. It was the same as if some one had touched him and spoken.
He walked faster. The voice seemed to walk with him. "I will hold myself firm," he thought; "I will not be afraid. Reason does not fail a man until he allows himself to believe that it is failing. 'I am going mad,' he thinks; and then he shrieks and is mad indeed. I will not depart from my course. If I do so now, I shall be lost. The horror will master me, and I shall be its slave for ever."
He had turned out of Ballure into the Ramsey Road, and he could see the town lights in the distance. But the voice continued to haunt him persistently, besiegingly, despotically.
"Great God!" he thought, "what is the imaginary devil to the horror of this presence? Your own eye, your own voice, always with you, always following you! No darkness so dense that it can hide the sight, no noise so loud that it can deaden the sound!"
He walked faster. Still the voice seemed to stride by his side, an invisible thing, with deliberate and noiseless step, from which there was no escape.
He drew up suddenly and walked slower. His knees were tottering, he was treading as on waves; yet he went on. "I will not yield. I will master myself. I will do what I intended. I am not mad," he thought.
He was at the gate of Elm Cottage by this time, and, with a strong glow of resolution, he walked boldly to the door and knocked.
Pete had not awakened until late that morning. While still in bed he had heard Grannie and Nancy in the room below. The first sound of their voices told him that something was amiss.
"Aw, God bless me, God bless me!" said Nancy, as though with uplifted hands.
"It was Kelly the postman," said Grannie in a doleful tone—the tone in which she had spoken between the puffs of her pipe.