[from 'The Manxman' 1894]

XIV

THAT mood lasted until mid-day, and then a scout of the line of love began to creep into his heart in disguise. He reminded himself that be had promised to go on Sunday, and that it would be unseemly to break off the acquaintance too suddenly, lest the simple folks should think he had borne with them throughout four years merely for the sake of Pete. But after Sunday he would take a new turn.

He found Kate dressed as she had never been before. Instead of the loose red bodice and the sun' bonnet, the apron and the kilted petticoat, she wore a close-fitting dark green frock with a lace collar. The change was simple, but it made all the difference. She was not more beautiful, but she was more like a lady.

It was Sunday evening, and the "Fairy" was closed. Csar and Grannie were at the preaching house, Nancy Joe was cooking crowdie for supper, and Kate and Philip talked. The girl was quieter than Philip had ever known her--more modest, more apt to blush, and with the old audacity of word and look quite gone. They talked of success in life; and she said-

" How I should like to fight my way in the world as you are doing! But a woman can do nothing to raise herself. Isn't it .hard? Whatever the place where she was born in, she must remain there all her days. She can see her brothers rise, and her friends perhaps, but she must remain below. Isn't it a pity? It isn't that she wants to be rich or great. No, not that; only she doesn't want to be left behind by the people she likes. She must be, though, and just because she's a woman. I'm sure it's so in the Isle of Man, anyway. Isn't it cruel?"

But aren't you forgetting something?" said Philip. "Yes?"

"If a woman can't rise of herself because the doors of life are locked to her, it is always possible for a man to raise her."

"Some one who loves her, you mean, and so lifts her to his own level, and takes her up with him as he goes up?"

" Why not?" said Philip.

Kate's eyes beamed like sunshine. "That is lovely," she said in a low voice. "Do you know, I never thought of that before!

If it were my case, I should like that best of all. Side by side with him, and be doing all? Oh, that is beautiful !

And she gazed up with a timid joy at the inventive being, who had thought of this as at something supernatural.

Caesar and Grannie came back, both in fearful outbursts of Sunday clothes. Nevertheless Csar's eyes, after the first salutation with Philip, fixed themselves on Kate's unfamiliar costume.

" Such worldly attire!" he muttered, following the girl round the kitchen and blowing up his black gloves. "This caring for the miserable body that will one day be lowered into the gravel! What does the Book say?-put my tall hat on the clans laff, Nancy. 'Let it not be. the outward adorning ,of putting on of apparel, but let it be the hidden man of the heart."'

" But sakes alive, father," said Grannie, loosening a bonnet like a diver's helmet, "if it comes to that, what is Jeremiah saying, Can a maid forget her ornaments !"'

" It's like she can if she hasn't any to remember," said Caesar: " But maybe the prophet Jeremiah didn't know the mothers that's in now."

" Chut, man ! Girls are like birds, and the breed comes out in the feathers," said Grannie.

"Where's she getting it then? Not from meat all," said Csar. " Deed, no, man," laughed Grannie, "considering the smart she is and the rasonable good-looking,"

" Hould your tongue, woman; it'll become you better," said Caesar.

Philip. rose. to go. " You're time enough yet, sir," cried Csar. "I was for telling you of a job."

Some of the fishermen of Ramsey had been over on Saturday, Their season was a failure, and they were loud in their protests against the trawlers who were destroying the spawn. Csar had suggested a conference at his house on the following Saturday of Ramsey men and Peel men, and recommended Philip as an advocate to advise with them as to the best means to put a stop to the enemies of the herring. Philip promised to be there, and then went home to Auntie Nan.

He told himself on the way that gate was completely above her surroundings, and capable of becoming as absolute a lady as ever lived on the island, without a sign of her origin in look or speech, except perhaps the rising inflexion in her voice which made the talk of the true Manxwoman the sweetest thing in the world to listen to.

Auntie Nan was sitting by the lamp, reading her chapter before going to bed.

" Auntie," said Philip, "don't you think the tragedy in the life of father was accidental ? Due, I mean, to the particular characters of grandfather and poor mother? Now; if the one had been less proud, less exclusive, or the other more capable of rising with her husband "

" The tragedy was deeper than that,.dear ; let me tell you a story," said Auntie Nan, laying down her book. "Three days after your father left Ballawhaine, old Maggie, the housemaid, came to my side at supper and whispered that some one was wanting me in the garden. It was Thomas. Oh dear ! it was terrible to see him there, that ought to have been the heir of everything; standing like a stranger in the dark beyond tlne kitchen-door."

" Poor father !" said Philip.

" 'Whist, girl, come out of the light,' he whispered. 'There's a purse with twenty pounds odd in my desk upstairs; get it, Nan, here's the key.' I knew what he wanted the money for, but I couldn't help it; I got, him the purse and put ten pounds more of myown in it. 'Must you do it ?" I said. ' I must, he answered. 'Your father says everybody will despise you for this marriage,' I said. 'Better they should than I should despise myself,' said he. 'But he calls it moral suicide,' I said. 'That's not so bad as moral murder,' he replied. ' He knows the island,' I urged, ' and so do you, Tom, and so do I, and nobody can hold up his head in a little place like this after a marriage like that.' 'All the worse for the place,' said he 'if it stains a man's honour for acting honourably."'

"Father was an upright man," interrupted Philip. "There's no question about it, my father was a gentleman."

"'She must be a sweet, good girl, and worthy of you, or you wouldn't marry her,' said I to father; 'but are you sure that you will be happy and make her happy? ' ' We shall have each other, and it is our own affair,' said father."

" Precisely," said Philip.

" 'But if there is a difference between you now,' I said, ' will it be less when you are the great man we hope to see you some day? ' 'A man is not always thinking of success,' he answered."

" My father was a great man already, Auntie;" burst out Philip. "He was shaken and I was ashamed, but I could not help it, I went on. 'Has the marriage gone too far?' I asked. 'It has never been mentioned between us,' said he. 'Your father is old, and can't live long,' I pleaded. 'He wants me to behave like a scoundrel,' he answered. ' Why that, if the girl has no right to you yet?' I said, and he was silent. Then I crept up and looked in at the window. 'See,' I whispered, ' he's in the library. We'll take him by surprise. Come!' It was not to be. There was a smell of tobacco on the air and the thud of a step on the grass. 'Who's that?' I said. ' Who should it be,' cried father, ' but the same spy again. I'll shake the life out of him yet as a terrier would a rat. No use, girl,' he shouted hoarsely, facing towards the darkness, 'they're driving me to destruction.' 'Hush!' I said, and covered his mouth with my hands, and his breath was hot, like fire. But it was useless. He was married three days afterwards."

Philip resolved to see Kate no more. He must go to Sulby on Saturday to meet the fishermen, but that would be a business visit; he need not prolong it intp a friendly one. All the week through he felt as if his heart would break; but be resolved to conquer his feelings. He pitied himself somewhat, and that helped him to rise above his error.


  Back index next  

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