[from 'The Manxman' 1894]
SOMEWHERE towards the dawn, in the vague shadow-land between a dream and the awakening, Kate thought she was startled by a handful of rice thrown at her carriage on her marriage morning. The rattle came again, and then she knew it was from gravel dashed at her bedroom window. As she recognised the sound, a voice came as through a cavern, crying, "Kate ! " She was fully awake by this time. "Then it's to be Pete," she thought.. "It's bound to be
Pete, it's like," she told herself. "It's himself outside, anyway- "
It was Pete indeed. Ile was standing in the thin darkness under the window, calling the girl's name out of the back of his throat, and whistling to her in a sort of whisper. Presently he heard a movement inside the room, and he said over his shoulder, " She's coming." There was the click of a latch and the slithering of a sash, and then out through the little dark frame came a head like a picture, with a, face all laughter, crowned by a cataract of streaming black lair, and rounded off at the throat by a shadowy hint of the white friils of a night-dress.
"Kate," said Pete again.
She pretended to h ,ve come to the window merely to look out, and, like a true woman, she made a little start at the sound of his voice, and a little cry of dismay at the idea that he was so close beneath and had taken her unawares. Then, she peered down into the gloom and said, in a tone of wondrous surprise, "It must be Pete, surely."
" And so it is, Kate," said Pete, " and he couldn't take rest without spaking to you once again."
" Ah ! " she said, looking back and covering her eyes, and thinking of Black Tom and the fairies, But suddenly the mischief of her sex came dancing into her blood, and she could not help but plague the lad. " Have you lost your way, Pete ?" she asked, with an air of innocence. "Not my way, but myself, woman," said Pete.
"Lost yourself ! Have the lad's wits gone moon-raking, I wonder ? Are you witched then, Pete?" she inquired, with vast solemnity.
"Aw, witched enough. Kate-"
" Poor fellow ! " sighed Kate. °` Did she strike you unknown and sudden?"
"Unknown it was, Kirry, and sudden, too. Listen, though-"
"Aw dear, aw dear ! Was it old Mrs. Çowley of the Curragh ?
Did she turn into a hare ? Is it bitten you've been, Pete? " "Aw, yes, bitten enough. But, Kate "
"Then it was a dog, it's like. Is it flying from the water you are, Pete ? "
"No, but flying to the water, woman. Kate, I say---" " Is it burning they're doing for it ? "
"Burning and freezing both. Will you hear me, though? I'm going away-hundreds and thousands of miles away."
Then from the window came a tone of great awe, uttered with face turned upward as if to the last remaining star.
" Poor boy! Poor boy! it's bitten he is, for sure."
"Then it's yourself that's bitten me. Kirry "
There was a little crow of gaiety. "-Me ? Am I the witch ? You called me a fairy in the road this evening."
" A fairy you are, girl, and a witch too; but listen, now " "You said I was an angel, though, at the cowhouse gable; and f,n angel doesn't bite„"
Then she barked like a dog, and laughed a shrill laugh like a witch, and barked again.
But Pete could bear no more. "Go on, then; go on with your capers ! Go on ! " he cried, in a voice of reproach. " It's not a heart that's at you at all, girl, but only a stone. You see a man going away from the island "
"From the island?" Kate gasped.
" Middling down in the mouth, too, and plagued out of his life between the ruck of you," continued Pete; " n--it God forgive you all, you can't help it."
" Did you say you were going out of the island, Pete ?"
"Coorse I did; but what's the odds ? Africa, Kimberley, the Lord knows where-"
"Kimberley ! Not Kimberley, Pete !"
"Kimberley or Timbuctoo, what's it matter to the like of you ? A man's coming up in the morning to bid you good-bye before an early sailing, and you're thinking of nothing but your capers and divilments."
"It's you to know what a girl's thinking, isn't it, 12r. Pete? And why are you flying in my face for a word?"
"Flying? I'm not flying. It's driven I am." " Driven, Pete ? "
"Driven away by them that's thinking I'm not fit for you. Well, that's true enough, but they shan't be telling me twice."
" They ? Who are they, Pete ?"
" What's the odds? Flinging my mother at me, too-poor little mother ! And putting the bastard on me, it's like. A respectable man's girl isn't going begging that she need marry a lad without a name."
There was a sudden ejaculation from the window-sash. "Who dared to say that?"
" No mattes."
" Whoever they are, you can tell them, if it's me they mean, that, name or no name, when I want to marry I'll marry the man I like." " If I thought that now, Kitty-"
"As for you, Mr. Pete, that's so ready with your cross words, you can go to your Kimberley. Yes, go, and welcome; and'what's more-what's more"
But the voice of anger, in the half light overhead, broke down suddenly into an inarticulate gurgle.
" Why, what's this?" said Pete in a flurry. "You're not crying though, Kate? Whatever am I saying to you, Kitty, woman? Here, here-bash me on the head for a blockhead and an omathaun."
And Pete was clambering up the wall by the side of the dairy window.
" Get down, then," whispered Kate.
Her wrath was gone in a moment, and Pete, being nearer to her now, could see tears of laughter dancing in her eyes.
" Get down, Pete, or I'll shut the window, I will-yes, I will." and, to show how much she was in earnest in getting out of his reach, she shut up the higher sash and opened the lower one.
" Darling !" cried Pete.
" Hush ! What's that? " Kate whispered, and drew back on her knees.
" Is the door of the pig-sty open again ? " said Pete.
Kate drew a breath of relief. " It's only somebody snoring," she said.
"The ould man," said Pete. "That's all serene ! A good ould sheepdog, that snaps more than he bites, but he's best when he's sleeping-more safer, anyway.."
"What's the good of going away, Pete? " said Kate. `You'd have to make a fortune to satisfy father."
" Others have done it, Kitty-why shouldn't I ? Manx ones too-silver kings and diamond kings, and the Lord knows what. No fear of me ! When I come back it's a queen you'll be, woman-my queen, anyway, with pigs and cattle and a girl to wash and do for you."
" So that's how you'd bribe a poor girl, is it ? But you'd have to turn religious, or father would never consent."
" When I come home again, Kitty, I'll be that religious you never seen. I'll be just rolling in it. You'll hear me spaking like the Book of Genesis and Abraham, and his sons, and his cousins; I'll be coming up at night making love to you at the cowhouse door like the Acts of the Apostles."
" Well, that will be some sort of courting, anyway. But who says I'll be wanting it? Who says I'm willing for you to go away at all with the notion that I must be bound to marry you when you come back ? "
" I do," said Pete stoutly. " Oh, indeed, sir."
" Listen. I'll be working like a nigger out yonder, and making my pile, and banking it up, and never seeing nothing but the goold and the girls "
" My goodness ! What do you say ? "
" Aw, never fear ! I'm a one-woman man, Kate; but loving one is giving me eyes for all. And you'll be waiting for me constant, and never giving a skute of your little eye to them drapers and druggists from Ramsey "
" Not one of them ? Not Jamesie Corrin, even-he's a nice boy, is Jamesie."
" That dandy-divil with the collar ? Hould your capers, woman! "
" Nor young Ballawhaine-Ross Christian, you know ? "
" Ross Christian be-,-well, no; but, honour bright, you'll be saying, ` Peter's coming; I must be thrue ! "'
" So I've got my orders, sir, eh ? It's all settled then, is it ? Hadn't you better fix the wedding-day and take out the banns, now that your hand is in ? I have got nothing to do with it, seemingly, Nobody asks me."
"Whist, woman!" cried Pete. "Don't you hear it?" A cuckoo was passing over the house and calling.
" It's over the thatch, .Kate. 'Cuckoo! Cuckoo! Cuckoo!, Three times l Bravo! Three times is a good Amen. Omen is it ? Have it as you like, love."
The stars had paled out by this time, and the dawn was coming up like a grey vapour from the sea.
" Ugh ! the air feels late; I must be going in," said Kate.
" Only a bit of a draught from the mountains-it's not morning yet," said Pete. I
A bird called from out of the mist somewhat far away.
"It is, though. That's the throstle up the glen," said Kate. Another bird answered from the eaves of the house.
" And what's that? " said Pete. " Was it yourself, Kitty ? How straight your voice is like the throstle's !"
She hung her head at the sweet praise, but answered tartly, " How people will be talking! "
A dead white light came sweeping over the front of the house, and the trees and the hedges, all quiet until then, began to shudder.. Kate shuddered too, and drew the frills closer about her throat. "I'm going, Pete," she whispered.
" Not yet. It's only a taste of the salt from the sea," said Pete. "The moon's not out many minutes."
"Why, you goose, it's been gone these two hours. This isn't Jupiter, where it's moonlight always."
"Always moonlight in Jubiter, is it?" said Pete. "My goodness ! What coorting there must be there !"
A cock crowed from under the hen-roost, the dog barked indoors, and the mare began to stamp in her stall.
" When do you sail, Pete?" " First tide-seven o'clock." "Time to be off, then. Good-byel" " Hoold hard-a word first."
'` Not a word. I'm going back to bed. See, there's the sun coming up over the mountains."
" Only a touch of red on the tip of ould Cronky's nose. Listen ! Just to keep them dandy-divils from plaguing you, I'll tell Phil to have an eye on you while I'm away."
"Call him Philip, Kate. He's as free as free. No pride at all. Let him take care of you till I come back."
" I'm shutting the window, Pete !"
Wait! Something else. Bend down so the ould man won't hear." " I can't reach-what is it? "
"Your hand, then; I'll tell it to your hand."
She hesitated a moment, and then dropped her hand over the window-sill, and he clutched at it and kissed it, and pushed back the white sleeve and ran up the arm with his lips as far as he could climb.
"Another, my girl; take your time, one more-half a one, then." She drew her arm back until her hand got up to his hand, and then she said, " What's this? The mole on your finger still, Pete? You called me a witch-now see me charm it away. Listen !
' Ping, ping, prasb,
Cur yu cadley-jiargan ass my chass."'
She was uttering the Manx charm in a mock-solemn ululation when a bough snapped in the orchard, and she cried, "What's that? " "It's Philip. He's waiting under the apple-tree," said Pete.
"My goodness me !" said Kate, and down went the window-sash. A moment later it rose again, and there was the beautiful young face in its frame as before, but.with the rosy light of the dawn on it. "Has he been there all the while?" she whispered.
"What matter ? It's only. Phil."
" Good-bye ! Good luck !" and then the window went down for good.
"Time to go," said Philip, still in his tall silk hat and his knickerbockers. He had been standing alone among the dead brown fern, the withering gorse, and the hanging brambles, gripping the apple-tree and swallowing the cry that was bubbling up to his throat, but forcing himself to look upon Pete's happiness, which was his own calamity, though it was tearing his heart out, and he could hardly bear it.
The birds were singing by this time, and Pete, going back, sang and whistled with the best of them.
Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2008