[from 'The Manxman' 1894]

VIII

This shame at Pete's letter tormented Philip, and he stayed away again. His absence stimulated Kate and made Philip himself ashamed. She was vexed with him that he did not see that all this matter of Pete was, foolishness. It was absurd to think of a girl marrying a man whom she had known when he was a boy: But Philip was trying to keep the bond sacred, and so she made her terms with it. She used Pete as a link to hold Philip.'

After the lapse of some months, in which Philip had not been seen at Sulby, she wrote him a letter. It was to say hem anxious she had been At the length of time since she had last heard from Pete, and to ask if he had any news to relieve her fears. The poor little lie was written in a trembling hand which shook honestly enough, but from the torment of other feelings.

Philip answered the letter in person. Something had been speaking to him day and night; like the humming of a top, finding him pretexts on which to go ; but now he bad to make eŚcuses for staying so long away. It was evening. Kate was milking, and he went out to her in the cowhouse.

" We began to think we were to see no more of you " she said, over the rattle of the milk in the pail;

" I've-I've been ill," said Philip.

The rattle died to a thin hiss. " Very ill ?" she asked. "Well, no-not seriously," he answered.

"I never once thought of that," she said. "Something ought to have told me. I've been reproaching you, too."

Philip felt shame of his subterfuge, but yet more ashamed of the truth; so he leaned against the door and watched in silence. The smell of hay floated down from the loft, and the odour of the cow's breath came in gusts as she turned her face about. Kate sat on the milking-stool close by the ewer, and her head, on which she wore a sun-bonnet, she leaned against the cow's side.

"No news of Pete, then? No? "she said. " No," said Philip.

Kate dug tier head deeper in the cow, and muttered, " Dear Pete ! So simple, so natural."

" He is," said Philip.

" So good-hearted, too."

"Yes."

"And such a manly fellow-any girl might like him," said Kate.

" Indeed, yes," said Philip.

There was silence again, and two pigs which had been snoring on the manure heap outside began to snort their way home. Kate '' turned her bead so that the crown of the sun-bonnet was towards Philip, and said-

" Oh, dear! Can there be anything so terrible as marrying some. body you don't care for?"

" Nothing so bad," said Philip.

The mouth of the sun-bonnet came round. "Yes, there's one thing worse, Philip."

"No ?"

" Not having married somebody you do," said Kate, and the milk rattled like Hail.

In the straw behind Kate there was a tailless Manx cat with three tailed kittens, and Philip began to play with them. Being back to back with Kate, he could keep his countenance.

" This old Horney is terrible for switching," said Kate, over her saoiilder. "Don't you think yOu could hold her tail?"

That brought them face to face again. " It's so sweet to have some one to talk to about Pete," said Kate.

" Yes?"

" I don't know How I could bear his long absence but for that." Are you longing so much, Kate?"

" Oh, no, not longing-not to say longing. Only you can't think what it is to be . . . have you never been yourself, Philip?" "What?"

" Hold it tight . . . in love ? No ? "

"Well," said Philip, speaking at the crown of the sun-bonnet. "Ha ha! well, not properly perhaps-I don't-I can hardly say, Kate." "There ! You've lot it go, after all, and she's covered me with the milk ! But I'm finished, anyway."

Kate was suddenly radiant. She kissed Horney, and hugged her calf in the adjoining stall; and as they crossed the haggard, Philip carrying the pail, she scattered great handfuls of oats to a cock and' his two hens as they cackled their way to roost.

" You'll be sure to come again soon, Philip, eh ? It's so sweet to have some one to remind me of " but Pete's name choked her now. "Not that I'm likely to forget him-now is that likely? But it's such a weary time to be left alone, and a girl gets longing. Did i now? Give me the milk, then. Did I say I wasn't ? Well, you can't expect a girl to be always reasonable."

" Good-bye, Kate."

" Yes, you had better go now-good-bye."

Philip went away in pain, yet in delight, with a delicious thrill, and a sense of stifling hypocrisy. He had felt like a fool. Kate must have thought him one. But better she should think him a fool than a traitor. It was all his fault. Only for him the girl would have been walled round by her love for Pete. He would come no more.


  Back index next  

Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2008