[from 'The Manxman' 1894]

IX

PHILIP held to his resolution for three months, and grew thin and pale. Then another letter came from Pete--a letter for himself, and he wondered what to do with it. To send it by post, pretending to be ill again, would be hypocrisy he could not support. He took it.

The family were all at home. Nancy had just finished a noisy churning, and Kate was in the dairy, weighing the butter into pounds and stamping it. Philip read the letter in a loud voice to the old people in the kitchen, and the soft thumping and watery swishing ceased in the damp place adjoining. Pete was in high feather. He had made a mortal lot of money lately, and was for coming home quickly. Couldn't say exactly when, for some rascally blackleg Boers, who had been corrupting his Kaffirs and slipped up country with a pile of stones, had first to be followed and caught. That job wouldn't take long though, and they might expect to see him back within a twelvemonth, with enough in his pocket to drive away the devil and the coroner anyway.

" Bould fellow !" said Csar.

"Aw, deed on Pete!" said Grannie.

"Now, if it wasn't for that Ross-" said Nancy.

Philip went into the dairy, where Kate was now skimming the cream of the last night's milking. He was sorry there was nothing but a message for her this time. Had she answered Pete's former letters? No, she had not.

"I must be writing soon, I suppose," she said, blowing the- yellow surface. " But, I wish-puff -I could have something to tell him puff, puff about you."

" About me, Kate ?"

" Something sweet, I mean " puff, puff, puff.

She shot a sly look upward. "Aren't you sure yet? Can't say still ? Not properly ? No I"

Philip pretended not to understand. Kate's laugh echoed in the empty cream tins. ,1 How you want people to say things ! " No, really-" began Philip.

"I've always heard that the girls of Douglas are so beautiful. you must see so many now. Oh, it would be delicious to write a long story to Pete. Where you met-in church, naturally. What she's like-fair, of course. And-and all about it, you knew." "That's a story you will never tell to Pete, Kate," said Philip. No, never," said Kate quite as light, and this being just what she wished to hear, she added mournfully. "Don't say that, though. you can't think what pleasure you are denying me, and yourself, too. Take some poor girl to your heart, Philip. You don't know how happy it will make you."

" Are you so happy, then, Kate?"

Kate laughed merrily. " Why, what do you think !"

" Dear old Pete-how happy he should be," said Philip.

Kate began to hate the very name of Pete. She grew angry with Philip also. Why couldn't he guess ? Concealment was eating her heart out. The next time she saw Philip, he passed her in the market-place on the market-day, as she stood by the tipped-up gig, selling her butter. There was a chatter of girls all round as he bowed and went on. This vexed her, and she sold out at a penny a pound less, got the horse from the " Saddle," and drove home early.

On the way to Sulby she overtook Philip and drew up. He was walking to Kirk Michael to visit the old Deemster, who was ill.

Would he not take a lift 1 He hesitated, half declined, and then got into the gig. As she settled herself comfortably after this change, he trod on the edge of her dress. At that he drew quickly away as if he had trodden on her foot.

She laughed, but she was vexed; and when he got down at "The Manx Fairy," saying he might call on his way back in the evening, she had no doubt Grannie would be glad to see him.

The girls of the market-place were standing by the mill-pond, work done, and arms crossed under their aprons, twittering like the pairing birds about them in the trees, when Philip returned home by Sulby. He saw Kate coming down the glen road, driving two heifers with a cushag for switch and flashing its gold at them in the horizontal gleams of sunset. She had recovered her good-humour, and was swinging along, singing merry snatches as she came-all life, all girlish blood and beauty.

She pretended not to see him until they were abreast, and the heifers were going into the yard. Then she said, "I've written and told him."

'' What ?" said Philip.

"That you say you are a confirmed old bachelor."

"That I say so !"

"Yes ; and that I say you are so distant with a girl that I don't believe you have a heart at all."

" You don't ?"

"No; and that he couldn't have left anybody better to look after me all these years, because you haven't eyes or ears or a thought for any living creature except himself."

"You've never written that to Pete?" said Philip.

"Haven't I, though i? " said Kate, and she tripped off on tiptoe. He tripped after her. She ran into the yard. He ran also. She opened the gate of the orchard, slipped through, and made for the door of the dairy, and there he caught her by the waist.

"Never, you .rogue ! Say no, say no !" he panted. " No," she whispered, turning up her lips for a kiss.


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