[from Hall Caine The Deemster]

CHAPTER VIII

PASSING THE LOVE OF WOMEN

Now the facts of this history must stride on some six years, and in that time the Deemster had lost nearly all the little interest he ever felt in his children. Mona had budded into womanhood, tender, gracious, quiet, a tall, fair-haired maiden of twenty, with a drooping head like a flower, with a voice soft and low, and the full blue eyes with their depths of love and sympathy shaded by long fluttering lashes as the trembling sedge shades the deep mountain pool. It was as ripe and beautiful a womanhood as the heart of a father might dream of, but the Deemster could take little pleasure in it. If Mona had been his son, her quiet ways and tractable nature might have counted for something; but a woman was only a woman in the Deemster's eyes, and the Deemster, like the Bedouin chief, would have numbered his children without counting his daughter. As for Ewan, he had falsified every hope of the Deemster. His Spartan training had gone for nothing. He was physically a weakling; a tall, spare youth of two-and- twenty, fair-haired like his sister, with a face as spiritual and beautiful, and hardly less feminine. He was of a self-torturing spirit, constantly troubled with vague questionings, and though in this regard he was very much his father's son, the Deemster held his temperament in contempt.

The end of all was that Ewan showed a strong desire to enter the Church. The Deemster had intended that his son should study the law and follow him in his place when his time came. But Ewan's womanly temperament co-existed with a manly temper. Into the law he would not go, and the Church he was resolved to follow. The Bishop had then newly opened at Bishop's Court a training college for his clergy, and Ewan sought and obtained admis- sion. The Deemster fumed, but his son was not to be moved even by his wrath. This was when Ewan was nineteen years of age, and after two more years the spirituality of his character overcame the obstacle of his youth, and the Bishop ordained him at twenty-one. Then Ewan was made chaplain to the house- hold at Bishop's Court.

Hardly had this been done when Ewan took another step in life. With the knowledge of the Bishop, but without consulting the Deemster, he married, being now of age, a pretty child of sixteen, the daughter of his father's old foe, the vicar of the parish. When knowledge of this act of unwisdom reached the Deemster his last remaining spark of in- terest in his son expired, and he sent Mona across to Bishop's Court with a curt message, saying that Ewan and his wife were at liberty, if they liked, to take possession of the old Ballamona. Thus he turned his back upon his son, and did his best to wipe him out of his mind.

Ewan took his young wife to the home- stead that had been the place of his people for six generations, the place where he him- self had been born, the place where that other Ewan, his good grandfather, had lived and died.

More than ever for these events the Deemster became a solitary man. He kept no com- pany; he took no pleasures. Alone he sat night after night in his study at Ballamona, and Ballamona was asleep before he slept, and before it awoke he was stirring. His daughter's presence in the house was no society for the Deemster. -She grew beside him like her mother's youth, a yet fairer vision of the old days coming back to him hour by hour, but he saw nothing of all that. Disappointed in his sole hope, his son, whom truly he had never loved for love's sake, but only for his own sorry ambitions, he sat down under his disappointment a doubly-soured and thrice-hardened man. He had grown notice- ably older, but his restless energy suffered no abatement. Bi-weekly he kept his courts, but few sought the law whom the law did not first find, for word went round that the Deemster was a hard judge, and deemed the laws in rigour. If men differed about money, they would say, "Och, why go to the Deem - ster ? It's throwing a bone into the bad dog's mouth," and then they would divide their difference.

The one remaining joy of the Deemster's lonely life was centred in his brother's son, Dan. That lusty youth had not disappointed his expectations. At twenty he was a braw, brown-haired, brown-eyed lad of six feet two inches in stature, straight and upright, and with the thess and sinews of an ox. He was the athlete of the island, and where there was a tough job of wrestling to be had, or a delightful bit of fighting to be done, there was Dan in the heart of it. "Aw, and mid- dling few could come' anigh him," the people used to say. But more than in Dan's great stature and great strength, the little Deemster took a bitter pleasure in his daring irreverence for things held sacred. In this regard Dan had not improved with improving years. Scores of tricks his sad pugnacity devised to help the farmers to cheat the parson of his tithe, and it added not a little to the Deemster's keen relish of freaks like these that it was none other than the son of the Bishop who perpetrated them. As for the Bishop himself, he tried to shut his eyes to such follies. He meant his son to go into the Church, and, in spite of all outbursts of spirits, notwithstand- ing wrestling matches and fights, and even some tipsy broils of which rumour was in the air, he entered Dan as a student at the college he kept at Bishop's Court.

In due course the time of Dan's examina. tion came, and then all further clinging to a forlorn hope was at an end. The Archdeacon acted as the Bishop's examining chaplain, and more than once the little man had declared in advance his conscientious intention of dealing with the Bishop's son as he would deal with any other. The examination took place in the library of Bishop's Court, and besides the students and the examiner there were some six or seven of the clergy present, and Ewan Mylrea, then newly made deacon, was among them. It was a purely oral examination, and when Dan's turn came the Archdeacon assumed his loftiest look, and first tackled the candidate where he was known to be weakest.

" I suppose, sir, you think you can read your Greek Testament?"

Dan answered that he had never thought anything about it.

"I dare say, for all your modesty, that you have an idea that you know it well enough to teach it," said the Archdeacon.

Dan hadn't an idea on the subject. ,

" Take down the Greek Testament, and imagine that I'm your pupil, and proceed to expound it," said the Archdeacon.

Dan took the book from the bookcase and fumbled it in his fingers.

"Well, sir, open at the parable of the tares."

Dan scratched his big head leisurely, and he did his best to find the place. " So I'm to be tutor-is that it?" he said, with a puzzled look.

" That is so."

" And you are to be the pupil ? " "Precisely-suppose yourself my tutor-and now begin."

   

At this Ewan stepped out with a look of anxiety. "Is not that a rather difficult supposition, Archdeacon ? " he said timidly.

The Archdeacon glanced over his grandson loftily and made no reply.

"Begin, sir, begin," he said, with a sweep of his hand towards Dan, and at that he sat down in the high-backed oak chair at the head of the table.

Then on the instant there came into Dan's quick eyes a most mischievous twinkle. He was standing before the table with the Greek Testament open at the parable of the tares, and he knew too well he could not read the parable.

"When do we change places, Archdeacon?" he asked.

"We have changed places-you are now the tutor-I am your pupil-begin, sir."

" Oh ! we have changed places, have we ? " said Dan; and at that he lifted up the Archdeacon's silver-tipped walking-cane which lay on the table and brought it down again with a bang. "Then just you get up off your chair, sir," he said, with a tone of command.

The Archdeacon's russet face showed several tints of blue at that moment, but he rose to his feet. Thereupon Dan handed him the open book.

"Now, sir," he said, "first read me the parable of the tares."

The clergy began to shuffle about and look into each other's faces. The Archdeacon's expression was not amiable, but he took the book and read the parable.

"Very fair, very fair indeed," said Dan, in a tone of mild condescension-" a few false quantities, but very fair on the whole."

"Gentlemen, gentlemen, this is going too far," said one of the clergy.

"Silence, sir," said Dan, with a look of outraged authority.

Then there was dire confusion. Some of the clergy laughed outright, and some giggled under their breath, and some protested in white wrath, and the end of it all was that the examination came to a sudden termination, and, rightly or wrongly, wisely or foolishly, Dan was adjudged to be unfit for the ministry of the Church.

When the Bishop heard the verdict, his pale face whitened visibly, and be seemed to see the beginning of the end. At that moment he thought of the Deemster with bitterness. This blow to his hopes did not cement the severed lives of the brothers. The forces that had been dividing them year by year, since the days of their father, appeared to be drawing them yet wider apart in the lives and fortunes of their children. Each felt that the other was frustrating his dearest expectations in his son, and that was an offenee that neither could forgive. To the Deemster it seemed that the Bishop was bearing down every ambition of his life, tear- ing him up as a naked trunk, leaving him a childless man. To the Bishop it seemed that the Deemster was wrecking the one life that was more to him than his own soul, and stand- ing between him and the heart that, with all its follies, was dearer than the world beside. From this time of Ewan's marriage and Dan's disgrace the Bishop and the Deemster rarely met, and when they passed on the road they exchanged only the coldest salutation.

But if the fates were now more than ever fostering an unnatural enmity between the sons of old Ewan, they were cherishing at the same time the loves of their children. Never were cousins more unlike or more fondly attached. Between Dan, the reckless scape- grace, and Mona, with the big soft eyes and the quiet ways, the affection was such as neither understood. They had grown up side by side, they had seen each other daily, they had scampered along the shore with clasped hands, they had screamed at the sea-gulls with one voice, and still they were boy and girl together. But once they were stooking the barley in the glebe, and, the day being hot, Mona tipped back her white sun-bonnet, and it fell on to her shoulders. Seeing this, Dan came stealthily behind and thought very craftily to whisk it away unobserved; but the strings by which it was tied caught in her hair and tugged at its knot, and the beauti- ful wavy shower fell rip-rip-rippling down her back. The wind caught the loosened hair and tossed it about her, and she stood up erect among the corn with the first blush on her cheeks that Dan had ever brought there, and turned full upon him all the glorious light of her deep blue eyes. Then, then, oh then, Dan seemed to see her for the first time a girl no longer, but a woman, a woman, a woman ! And the mountains behind her were in one instant blotted out of Dan's eyes, and everything seemed to spin about him.

When next he knew where he was, and what he was doing, behold there were Mona's rosy lips under his, and she was panting and gasping for breath.

But if the love of Dan and Mona was more than cousinly, though they knew it not as yet, the love of Ewan for Dan was wonderful, and passing the love of women. That pure soul, with its vague spiritual yearnings, seemed to have nothing in common with the jovial roy- sterer, always fighting, always laughing, taking disgrace as a duck takes water, and losing the trace of it as easily. Twenty times he stood between the scapegrace and the Bishop, twenty times he hid from the good father the follies of the son. He thought for that thoughtless head that never had an ache or a care under its abundant curls; he hoped for that light heart that hoped for nothing; he trembled for the soul that felt no fear. Never was such loyalty between man and man since David wept for Jonathan. And Ewan's mar- riage disturbed this affection not at all, for the love he bore to Dan was a brotherly passion for which language has yet no name.

Let us tell one story that shall show this friendship in its double bearings - Ewan's - Ewan's love and temper and Dan's heedless harshness and the great nature beneath it, and then we will pass on with fuller knowledge to weightier matters.

 

Derry, the white-eyed collie that had nestled on the top of his master's bed the night Dan sneaked home in disgrace from the Oiel Verree, was a crafty little fox, with cunning and duplicity bred in his very bones. If you were a tramp of the profession of Billy the Gawk, he would look up at you with his big innocent eyes, and lick your hand, and thrust his nose into your palm, and the next moment he would seize you by the hindmost parts and hold on like a leech. His unamiable qualities grew as he grew in years, and one day Dan went on a long journey, leaving Derry behind, and when he returned he had another dog with him, a great shaggy Scotch collie, with bright eyes, a happy phiz, and a huge bush of a tail. Derry was at the gate when his master came home, and he eyed the new-comer with looks askance. From that day Derry turned his back on his master, he would never answer his call, and he did not know his whistle from the croak of a corn-crake. In fact, Derry took his own courses, and forthwith fell into all manner of dissolute habits. He went out at night alone, incognito, and kept most un- christian hours. The farmers around com- plained that their sheep were found dead in the field, torn and worried by a dog's teeth. Derry was known to be a dog that did not live a reputable life, and suspicion fell on him. Dan took the old fox in hand, and thence- forward Derry looked out on the world through a rope muzzle.

One day there was to be a sheep-dog match, and Dan entered his Scotch collie, Laddie. The race was to be in the meadow at the foot of Slieu Dboo, and great crowds of people came to witness it. Hurdles were set up to make all crooks and cranks of difficulty, and then a drift of sheep were turned loose in the field. The prize was to the dog that would, at the word of its master, gather the sheep together and take them out at the gate in the shortest time. Ewan, then newly married, was there, and beside him was his child-wife. Time was called, and Dan's turn came to try the mettle of his Laddie. The dog started well, and in two or: three minutes he had driven the whole flock save two into an alcove of hurdles close to where Ewan and his wife stood together. Then at the word of his master Laddie set off over the field for the stragglers, and Dan shouted to Ewan not to stir a hand or foot, or the sheep would be scattered again. Now just at that instant who should pop over the hedge but Derry in his muzzle, and quick as thought he shot down his head, put up his paws, threw off his muzzle, dashed at the sheep, snapped at their legs, and away they went in twenty directions.

Before Ewan had time to cry out Derry was gone, with his muzzle between his teeth

When Dan, who was a perch or two up the meadow, turned round and saw what had happened, and that his dog's chances were gone, his anger overcame him, and he turned on Ewan with a torrent of reproaches.

"There-you've done it with your lumbering -curse it."

With complete self - possession Ewan ex- plained how Derry had done the mischief. Then Dan's face was darker with wrath than it had ever been before.

"A pretty tale," he said, and his lip curled in a sneer. He turned to the people around. "Anybody see the dog slip his muzzle?" None had seen what Ewan affirmed. The eyes of every one had been on the two stragglers in the distance pursued by Dan and Laddie.

Now when Ewan saw that Dan distrusted him, and appealed to strangers as witness to his word, his face flushed deep, and his deli- cate nostrils quivered.

"A pretty tale," Dan repeated, and he was twisting on his heel when up came Derry again, his muzzle on his snout, whisking his tail, and frisking about Dan's feet with an ex- pression of quite lamb-like simplicity.

At that sight Ewan's livid face turned to a great pallor, and Dan broke into a hard laugh.

" We've heard of a dog slipping his muzzle," he said, "but who ever heard of a dog putting a muzzle on again?"

Then Ewan stepped from the side of his girl-wife, who stood there with heaving breast. His eyes were aflame, but for an instant he conquered his emotion, and said, with a con- strained quietness, but with a deep pathos in his tone, " Dan, do you think I've told you the truth ? "

Dan wheeled about. "I think you've told me a lie," he said, and his voice came thick from his throat.

All heard the word, and all held their breath. Ewan stood a moment as if rooted to the spot, and his pallid face whitened every instant. Then he fell back, and took the girl-wife by the hand and turned away with her, his head down, his very heart surging itself out of his choking breast. And as he passed through the throng, to carry away from that scene the madness that was work- ing in his brain, he overheard the mocking comments of the people. " Aw, well, well, did you hear that now?-called him a liar and not a word to say agen it." "A liar L

Och, a liar? and him a parzon, too 1 " "Mid dling chicken-hearted anyways-A liar L Aw, well, well, well!"

At that Ewan flung away the hand of his wife, and quivering from head to foot he strode towards Dan.

"You've called me a liar," he said in a shrill voice that was like a cry. ` Now, you shall prove your word-you shall fight me-you shall, by God."

He was completely carried away by passion.

   

"The parzon, the parzon I Man alive, the young parzon !" the people muttered, and they closed around.

Dan stood a moment. He looked down from his great height at Ewan's quivering form and distorted face. Then he turned about and glanced into the faces of the people. In another instant his eyes were swimming in tears; he took a step towards Ewan, flung his arms about him, and buried his head in his neck, and the great stal- wart lad wept like a little child. In another moment Ewan's passion was melted away, and he kissed Dan on the cheek.

" Blubbering cowards !" " Aw, blather skites ? " " Och, man alive, a pair of turtle-doves !"

Dan lifted his head, and looked around, raised himself to his full height, clenched his fists, and said-

" Now, my lads, you did your best to make a fight, and you couldn't manage it. I won't fight my cousin, and he shan't fight me ; but if there's a man among you would like to know for himself how much of a coward I am, let him step out-I'm ready."

Not a man budged an inch.


 

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