[from 'The Manxman' 1894]
KATE began to feel that Philip was slipping away from her. He, loved her, she was sure of that, but something was dragging them. apart. Her great enemy was Philip's success. This was rapid and, constant. She wanted to rejoice in it; she struggled to feel glad. and happy, and even proud. But that was impossible. It was, ungenerous, it was mean, but she could not help it-she resented; every fresh mark of Philip's advancement.
The world that was carrying Philip up was carrying him away. She would be left far below. It would be presumptuous to lift her eyes to him. Visions came to her of Philip in other scenes than her scenes, among ladies in drawing-rooms, beautiful, educated„ clever, able to talk of many things beyond her knowledge. Then she looked at herself, and felt vexed with her hands, made coarse, by the work of the farm; at her father, and felt ashamed of the moleskin clothes he wore in the mill; at her home, and flushed. deep at the thought of the bar-room.
It was small and pitiful, she knew that, and she shuddered under-the sense of being a meaner-hearted girl than she had ever thought.. If she could do something of herself, to counteract the difference made by Philip's success, if she could raise herself a little, she. would be content to keep behind, to let him go first, to née him. forge ahead of her, and of everybody, being only in sight and within. reach. But she could do nothing except writhe and rebel against the network of female custom, or tear herself in the thorny thicket. of female morals.
Harvest had begun; half the crop of Glenmooar had been saved, a third was in stook, and then a wet day had come and stopped all work in the fields. On this wet day, in the preaching-room of the mill, amid forms and desks, with the cranch of the stones from below, the wash of the wheel from outside, and the rush of the uncrushed corn from above, Caesar sat rolling sugganes for the stackyard, with Kate working the twister, and going backward before him, and half his neighbours sheltering from the rain and looking on.
"Thought I'd have a sight up and tell you," said Kelly, the postman.
"What's the news, Mr. Kelly?" said Caesar.
The ould Dempster's dying," said Kelly. " You don't say?" said everybody.
"Well, as good as dying at ten minutes wanting eight o'clock this morning," said the postman.
The drink's been too heavy for the man," said John, the clerk. " Wine is a serpent, and strong drink a mocker," said Caesar.
" Who'll be the new Dempster, Mr.' Niplightly ? " said Jonaique. "Hm !" snuffled the constable, easing his helmet, "dat's a serious matter, Mr. Jelly. We'll lake our time-we'll dake our time."
"Chut ! There's only one man for it," said Caesar. "Perhaps yes, perhaps no," said the constable.
" Do you mane the young Ballawhaine, Mr. Cregeen ?" said the postman.
" Do I mane fiddlesticks ?-" said Caesar.
" Well, the man's father is at the Govenar reg'lar, they're telling me," said Kelly, "and Ross is this, and Ross is that "
"Every dog praises his own tail," said Caesar.
"I'm not denying it, the man isn't fit-he has sold himself to the devil, that's a fact-"
" No, he hasn't," said Caesar; "the devil gets the like for nothing." "But he's a Christian for all, and the Christians have been Dempsters time out of time-"
"Is he the only Christian that's in, then, eh ? " said Caesar. "Go on, Kate; twist away."
" Is it Mr. Philip? Aw, I'm saying nothing against Mr. Philip," said the postman.
"You wouldn't get lave in this house, anyway," said Caesar.
" Aw, a right gentleman and no pride at all," said the postman. "As free and free with a poor man, and no making aisy either. I've nothing agen him myself. No; but a bit young for a Dempster, isn't he ? Just a taste young, as the man said, eh?"
" Older than the young Ballawhaine, anyway," said John, th'e clerk. " Aw, make him Dempster, then. I'm raising no objection," said Mr. Kelly.
" Go on, girl. Does that twister want oiling ? Feed it, woman, feed it," said Caesar.
"His father should have been Dempster before him," said John, the clerk. " Would have been too, only he went crooked when he married on yonder woman. She's through though, and what more natural-"
The rope stopped again, and Kate's voice, hard and thick, came from the farther end of it. " His mother being dead, eh ? "
"It was the mother that done for the father, anyway," said the clerk. " Consequently," said Kate, "he is to praise God that his mother is gone eh?"
"That girl wants a doctor," muttered Jonaique.
" The man couldn't drag the woman up after him," began the clerk. " It's always the way-"
" Just that," said Kate, with bitter irony.
"Of coorse, I'm not for saying it was the woman's fault entirely-"
" Don't apologise for her," said Kate. " She's gone and forgotten, and that being so, her son has now a chance of being Deemster."
" So he has," shouted Caesar, " and not second Dempster only, but first Dempster itself in time, and goon with the twister."
Kate laughed loudly, and cried, "Why don't you keep it up when your hand's in ? First Deemster Christian, and then Sir Philip Christian, and then Lord Christian, and then But you're talking nonsense, and you're a packof tattlers. There's no thought of making: Philip Christian a Deemster, and no hope of it and no chance of it, and I trust there never will be."
So saying, she flung the twister on the floor and rushed out of the mill, sobbing hysterically.
" Dr. Clucas is wonderful for females and young girls," said Jonaique.
" It's that Ross again," muttered Caesar.
And he'll have her yet," said Kelly, the postman.
" I'd see her dead first," said. Caesar. " It would be the jaws of hell and the mouth of Satan."
That she who loved Philip to distraction should be the first to abuse and defame him was agony near to madne; a, for Kate knew where she stood. It was not merely that Philip's success was separating them, not merely that the conventions of life, its usages, its manners, and its customs were putting worlds between them. The pathos of the girl's position was no accidental thing. It was a deeper, older matter; it was the same to-day as it had been yesterday and would be to-morrow; it began in the garden of Eden and would go on till the last woman .died-it was the natural inferiority of woman in relation to man.
She had the same passions as Philip, and was moved by the same love. But she was not free. Philip alone was free. She had .to wait on Philip's will, on Philip's word. She saw Philip slipping away from her, but she could not snatch at him before he was gone; she could not speak first; she could not say, '' I love you; stay with me!" She was a woman, only a woman ! How wretched to be a woman! How cruel!
But all the dear delicious thought ! It came stealing up into her heart when the red riot was nearly killing her. What a glorious thing it was to be a woman after all ! What a powerful thing ! What a lovely and beloved thing ! To rule the king, being the slave was sweeter than to be the king himself. That was woman's place. It was where heaven itself had put her from the beginning until now. What weapons had it given her? Beauty ! Charm ! Love !
The joy of it ! To be the weak and overcome the strong! To be, nothing in the battle of life; and yet conqueror of all the world !
Kate vowed that, come what would, Philip should never leave her.
Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2008