[from 'The Manxman' 1894]

VI

For some time thereafter Philip went no more to Sulby. He had a sufficient excuse. His profession made demand of all his energies. When he was not at work in Douglas he was expected to be at home with his aunt at Ballure. But neither absence nor the lapse of years served to lift him out of the reach of temptation. He had one besetting provocation to remembrance one duty which forbade him to forget Kate-his pledge to Pete, his office as Dooiney Molla. Had he not vowed to keep guard over the girl ? He must do it. The trust was a sacred one.

Philip found a way out of his difficulty. The post was an impersonal and incorruptible go-between, so he wrote frequently. Sometimes he had news to send, for, to avoid the espionage of Caesar, intelligence of Pete came through him; occasionally he had loveletters to enclose; now and then he had presents to pass on.

When such necessity did not arise, he found it agreeable to keep up the current of correspondence. At Christmas he sent Christmas cards, on Midsummer Day a bunch of moss roses, and even on St. Valentine's Day a valentine. All this was in discharge of his duty, and everything he did was done in the name of Pete. He persuaded himself that he sank his own self absolutely. Having denied his eyes the very sight of the girl's face, he stood erect in the belief that , he was a true and loyal friend.

Kate was less afraid and less ashamed. She took the presents from Pete and wore them for Philip. In her secret heart she thought no shame of this. The years gave her a larger flow of life, and made out of the bewitching girl a splendid woman, brought up to the full estate of maidenly beauty. This change wrought by time on her bodily form caused the past to seem to her a very long way off. Something had occurred that made her a different being. She was like the elder sister of that laughing girl who had known Pete. To think of that little sister as having a kind of control over her was impossible. Kate never did think of it.

Nevertheless, she held her tongue. Her people were taken in by the episode of Ross Christian. According to their view, Kate loved the man and still longed for him, and that was why she never talked of Pete. Philip was disgusted with her unfaithfulness to his friend, and that was the reason of his absence. She never talked of Philip either, but they, on their part, talked of him perpetually, and fed her secret passion with his praises. Thus for three years these two were like two prisoners in neighbouring cells, very close and yet very far apart, able to hear each other's voices, yet never to see each other's faces, yearning to come together and to touch, but unable to do so because of the wall that stood between.

Since the fight, Csar had removed her from all duties of the inn, and one day in the spring she was in the gable house peeling rushes to make tallow candles when Kelly, the postman, passed by the porch, where Nancy Joe was cleaning the candle-irons.

"Heard the newses, Nancy ?" said Kelly. "Mr. Philip Christian is let off two years' time and called to the bar."

Nancy looked grave. " I'm sure the young gentleman is that quiet and studdy," she said. "What are they doing on him ?"

"Only making him a full advocate, woman," said Kelly.

"You don't say?" said Nancy.

" He passed his examination before the Govenar's man yesterday." "Aw, there now!"

"I took the letter to Ballure this evening."

"It's like you would, Mr. Kelly. That's the boy for you. I'm always saying it. 'Deed I am, though, but there's ones here that won't have it at all, at all."

" Miss Kate, you mane? We know the raison. He's lumps in her porridge, woman. Good-day to you, Nancy."

"Yes, it's doing a nice day enough, Mr. Kelly," said Nancy, and the postman passed on.

Kate came gliding out with a brush in her hand. "What was the postman saying ?"

"That-Mr. -Philip-Christian-has been passing for an advocate," said Nancy deliberately.

. Kate's eyes glistened, and her lips quivered with delight ; but she only said, with an air of indifference, "Was that all his news, then ?"

" All ? D'y e say all ?" said Nancy, digging away at the candle-irons.

"Listen to the girl ! And him that good to her while her promist man's away !"

Kate shelled her rush, and said, with a sigh and a sly look, "I'm afraid you think a deal too much of him, Nancy."

"Then I'll he making mends," said Nancy, "for some that's thinking a dale too little."

"I'm quite at a loss to know what you see in him," said Kate.

"Now, you don't say ! " said Nancy with scorching irony. Then, banging her irons, she added, "I'm not much of a woman for a man myself. They're only poor helpless creatures anyway, and I don't approve of them. But if I was for putting up with one of the sort, he wouldn't have legs and arms like a dolly, and a face like curds and whey, and coat and trousers that loud you can hear them coming up the street."

With this parting shot at Ross Christian, Nancy kung into the house, thinking she had given Kate a dressing that she would never forget. Kate was radiant. Such abuse was honey on her lips, such scoldings were joy-bells in her ears. She took silent delight in provoking these attacks. They served her turn both ways, bringing her delicious joy at the praise of Philip, and at the same time preserving her secret.


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