[from 'The Manxman' 1894]
Kate had run out on the stem of one of the fallen trees, and there Philip found her, over the middle of the stream, laughing, dancing, waving his hat in one hand, and making sweeping bows to her reflection in the water below.
"Come back," he cried. "You terrible girl, you'll fall. Sit down there-don't torment me, sit down."
After a curtsey to him she turned her attention to her skirts, wound them about her ankles, sat on the trunk, and dangled her shapely feet half an inch over the surface of the stream.
Then Philip had time to observe that the other end of the tree did not reach the opposite bank, but dipped short into the water. So he barricaded his end by sitting on it, and said triumphantly " My hat, if you please."
Kate looked and gave a little cry of alarm and then a chuckle, and then she said-
"You thought you'd caught me, didn't you? You can't, though," and she dropped on to a boulder from which she might have skipped ashore.
"I can't, can't I?" said Philip; and he twisted a smaller boulder on his side, so that Kate was surrounded by water and cut off from the bank. "My hat now, madam," he said with majestic despotism.
She would not deliver it, so he pretended to leave her where she was. "Good-bye, then; good evening," he cried over the laughter of the stream, and turned away a step bare-headed.
A moment later his confidence was dashed. When he turned his head back Kate had whipped off her shoes and stockings, and was ramming the one inside the other.
" What are you doing? " cried Philip.
" Catch this-and this," she said, flinging the shoes across to him. Then clapping his straw hat on the crown of her sun-bonnet, she tucked up her skirts with both hands and waded' ashore.
What a clever boy you are ! You thought you'd caught me again, didn't you?" she said.
"I've caught your shoes, anyway," said Philip, "and until you give me my hat I'll stick to them."
She was on the shingle, but in her bare feet, and could not make a. step.
" My shoes, please?" she pleaded " My hat first," he answered.
" Take it."
"No; you must give it me."
"Never ! - I'll sit here all night first," said Kate. " I'm willing," said Philip.
They were sitting thus, the one bare-headed, the other with bare feet, and on the same stone, as if seats in the glen were scarce, when there came the sound of a hymn from the field they had left, and then it was agreed by way of mutual penalty that gate should put on Philip's hat on condition that Philip should be required to put on Kate's shoes.
At the next moment Philip, suddenly sobered, was reproaching himself fiercely. What was be doing? He had come to tell Kate that he. should come no more, and this was how he bad begun! Yesterday he was in Douglas reading his father's letters, and here he was to-day, forgetting himself, his aims in life, his duties, his obligations-everything. "Philip," he thought, "you are as weak as water. Give up your plans; you are not fit for them; abandon your hopes-they are too high for you."
" How solemn we are all at once !" said Kate.
The hymn (a most doleful strain, dragged out to death on every note) was still coming from the Melliah field, and she added, slyly, shyly, with a mixture of boldness and nervousness, "Do you think this world is so very bad, then? "
"Well-aw-no," he faltered, and looking up he met her eye, and they both laughed.
"It's all nonsense, isn't it ? " she said, and they began to walk down the glen.
" But where are we going?"
"Oh, we'll come out this way just as well."
The scutch grass, the long rat-tail, and the golden cushag were swishing against his riding-breeches and her print dress. "I must tell her now," he thought. In the narrow places she went first, and he followed with a lagging step, trying to begin. " Better prepare her," he thought. But he could think of no commonplace leading up to what he wished to say.
Presently, through a tangle of wild fuchsia, there was a smell of burning turf in the air and the sound of milking into a pail, and then a voice came up surprisingly as from the ground, saying, "Aisy on the thatch, Miss Cregeen, ma'am."
It was old Joney, the shearer, milking her goat, and Kate had stepped on to the roof of her house without knowing it, for the little place was low and opened from the water's edge and leaned against the bank.
Philip made some conventional inquiries, and she answered that she had been thirty years there, and had one son living with her, And he was an imbecile.
."There was once a flock at me, and I was as young as you are then, miss, and all as happy; but they're laving me one by one, except this one, and he isn't wise, poor boy."
Philip tried to steel his heart. "It is cruel," he thought, "it will hurt her; but what must be, must be." She began to sing and went carolling down the glen, keeping two paces in front of him. He followed like an assassin meditating the moment to strike. "He is going to say something," she thought, and then she sang louder.
"Pate," he called huskily.
But she only clapped her hands, and cried in a voice of delight, "The echo ! Here's the echo ! Let's shout to it."
Her kindling features banished his purpose for the time, and he delivered himself to her play. Then she called up the gill, "Ec-ho ! Ec--ho 1 " and listened, but there was no response, and she said, It won't answer to its own name. What shall I call 7"
" Oh, anything," said Philip.
"Phil-ip ! Phil-ip !" she called, and then said pettishly, "No, Philip won't hear me either." She laughed. "He's always so stupid though, and perhaps he's asleep."
More this way," said Philip. "Try now." "You try."
Philip took up the call. " Kate !" he shouted, and back came the answer, Ate !" Pate-y ! "-Ate-y.
"Ah ! how quick ! Patey's a good girl. Hark how she answers you," said Pate.
They walked a few steps, and Kate called again, "Philip !" There was no answer. "Philip is stubborn; he won't have anything to do with me," said Pate.
Then Philip called a second time,-" Katey !" And back came the echo as before. "Well, that's too bad. Patey is-yes, she's actually following you!"
Philip's courage oozed out of him. "Not yet," he thought. Traa-dy-liooar-time enough. "After supper, when everybody is going ! Outside the mill, in the half light of candles within and darkness without! It will sound so ordinary then, 'Good-bye!
Haven't you heard the news? Auntie Nan is reconciled at last to leaving Ballure and joining me in Douglas.' That's it; so simple, so commonplace."
The light was now coming between the trees on the closing west in long swords of sunset red. They could hear the jolting of the laden cart on its way down the glen. The birds were fairly rioting overhead, and all sorts of joyous sounds filled the air. Underfoot there were long ferns and gorse, which caught at her crinkling dress sometimes, and then he liberated her and they laughed. A trailing bough of deadly nightshade was banging from the broken head of an old ash stump; whose wasted feet were overgrown by two scarlet-tipped ' toadstools, and she plucked a long tendril of it and wound it about her head, tipping her sun-bonnet back, and letting the red berries droop over her dark hair to her face. Then she began to sing,
O were I monarch o' the globe,
Wi' thee to reign, wi' thee to reign.
Radiant gleams shot out of her black pupils, and flashes of love like ligghtning passed from her eye to his.
'' Then he tried to moralise. " Ah ! " he said, out of the gravity of his wisdom, "if one could only go on for ever like this, living from minute to minute ! But that's the difference between a man and a woman. A woman lives in the world of her own heart. If she has interest., they centre there. But a man has his interests outside his affections. He is compelled to deny himself, to let the sweetest things go by."
Kate tegan to laugh, and Philip ended by laughing too. "Look!" she cried, "only look,"
On the top of the bank above them a goat was skirmishing. He was a ridculous fellow; sometimes cropping with saucy jerks, then kicking up his heels, as if an invisible imp had pinched him, then wagging hs rump and laughing in his nostrils.
" As I was saying," said Philip, " a man has to put by the pleasures ‚ life. Now here's myself, for example. I am bound, do you know, by a kind of duty-a sort of vow made to the dead, I might say-"
" I'm sure he's going to say something," thought Pate. The voice of his heartwas speaking louder and quicker than his halting tongue. She saw tba; a blow was coming, and looked about for the means to ward it off.
"The fairy's dubb !" she, cried suddenly, and darted from his side to the wateredge.
It was a litle round pool, black as ink, lying quiet and apparently motionless under a noisy place where the waters swirled and churned over black mss, and the stream tan into the dark. Philip had no choice but to'ollow her.
"Cut me a willow! Your penknife ! Quick, sir, quick! Not that old branch-a sapling. There, that's it. Now you shall hear me tell my own fortune."
"An order is it?" said Philip.
"Hush ! be quiet, still, or little Phonodoree wont listen. Hush now hush ! "
With solem airs, but a certain sparkle in her eyes, she went down on her knees by the pool, stretched her round arm over the water, passed the willow bough slowly across its surface, and recited her incantation
Willow bough, willow bough, which of the four,
Sink, circle, or swim, or come floating ashore?
Which is the fortune you keep for my life,
Old maid or young mistress or widow or wife?
With the last word she flung the willow bough on to the pool, and sat back on her heels to watch it as it moved slowly with the motion of the water.
" Bravo !" cried Philip. .
"Be quiet. It's swimming. No, it's coming ashore."
"It's wife, Kate. No, it's widow. No, it's-"
"Do be serious. Oh, dear! it's going-yes, it's going round. Not that either. No, it has-yes, it bas oh !"
"Sunk 1 " said Philip,.laughing and clapping his hands. "You're doomed to be an old maid, Kate. Phonodoree says so."
" Cruel Brownie ! I'm vexed that I bothered with lim," said Kate, dropping her lip. Then nodding to her reflection in the water where the willow bough had disappeared, she said, " Poor little Katey ! He might have given you something else. Anything but that dear, eh ?"
"What," laughed Philip," crying? Because Phonodorea-never!" Kate leapt up with averted face. " What nonsense you are talking! " she said.
" There are tears in your eyes, though," said Philip.
"No wonder, either. You're so ridiculous. And if Iin meant for an old maid, you're meant for an old bachelor-and quib right too!" " Oh, it is, is it ? "
"Yes, indeed. You've got no more heart than a nushroom, for you're all head and legs, and you're going to be just as Wd some day." " I am, am I, mistress ? "
" If I were you, Philip, I should hire- myself out f r a scarecrow, and theĽ having nothing under your clothes wouldn't somuch matter." " It wouldn't, wouldn't it ? " said Philip.
She was shying off at a half circle; he was beating round her. "But you're nearly as old as Methuselah already, :nd what you'll be when you're a man "
She made him an arch curtsey and leapt round atree, and cried from the other side, "I know. A squeaking old cnaker, with the usual old song, "Deed yes, friends, this world is a vale of sin and misery.' The men's the misery and the women's th sin
" You rogue, you ! " cried Philip.
He made after her, and she fled, still speaking.
" What do you think a girl wants with a-Oh Oh ! Oo !"
Her tirade ended suddenly. She had plunged into a bed of the ' prickly gorse, and was feeling in twenty places at once what it was to wear low shoes and thin stockings.
"With a Samson, eh ?" cried Philip, striding on in his riding breeches, and lifting the captured creature in his arms. "Why, to carry her, you torment, to carry her through the gorse like this."
"Ah !" she said, turning her face over his shoulder, and tickling his neck with her breath.
Her hair caught in a tree, and fell in a dark shower over his breast. He set her on her feet; they took hands, and went carolling down the glen together:
"The brightest jewel in my crown, Wad be my queen, wad be my queen."
The daylight lingered as if loth to leave them. There was the fluttering of wings overhead, and sometimes the last piping of birds. The wind wandered away, and left their voices sovereign of all the air.
Then there came a distant shout; the cheer of the farm people on reaching home with the Melliah. It awakened Philip as from a at of intoxication.
This is madness," he thought. " What am I doing ?" " He is going to speak now," she told herself.
Her gaiety shaded off into melancholy, and her melancholy burst into wild gaiety again. The night had come down, the moon had risen, the stars had appeared. She crept closer to Philip's side, and began to tell him the story of a witch. They were near to the house the witch had lived in. There it was-that roofless cottage-that tholthan under the deep trees like a dungeon.
"Have you never heard of her, Philip? No? The one they called the Deemster's lady?"
" What Deemster ?" said Philip.
"This one, Deemster Mylrea, who is said to be dying."
" He is dying ; he is killing himself; I saw him to-day," said Philip. " Well, she was the blacksmith's daughter, and he left her, and she went mad and cursed him, and said she was his wife though they hadn't been to church, and he should never marry anybody else. Then her father turned her out, and she came up here all alone, and there was a baby, and they were saying she killed it, and everybody was afraid of her. And all the time her boy was making himself a great, great man until he got to be Deemster. But he never married, never, though times and times people were putting this lady on him and then that; but when they told the witch, she only laughed and said, ' Let him, he'll get lave enough !' At last she was old and going on two sticks, and like to die any day, and then he crept out of his.big house unknown to any one and stole up here to the woman's cottage. And when she saw the old man she said, ' So you've come at last, boy, but you've been keeping me long, bogh, you've been keeping me long.' And then she died. Wasn't that strange ! Her dark eyes looked up at him and her mouth quivered.
" Was it witchcraft, then?" said Philip.
Oh, no; it was only because he was her husband. That was the hold she bad of him. He was tempted away by a big house and a big name, but he had to come back to her. And it's the same with a woman. Once a girl is the wife of somebody, she must cling to him, and if see is ever false she must return. Something compels her. That's if she's really his wife-really, truly. How beautiful, isn't it ! Isn't it beautiful?"
"Do you think that, Kate? Do you think a man, like a woman, would cling the closer?"
" He couldn't help himself, Philip."
Philip tried to say it was only a girl's morality, but her confidence shamed him, She slipped her moist fingers into his hand again. They were close by the deserted tholthan, and she was creeping nearer and nearer to his side. ,A. bat swirled above their heads and she made a faint cry. Then a cat shot from under a gooseberry bush, and she gave a, little scream. She was breathing irregularly. He could smell the perfume of her fallen hair. He was in agony of pain and delight; His heart was leaping in his bosom; his eyes were burning.
"She's right," he thought. " Love is bolt. It is everything: It is the crown of life. Shall I give it up for the Dead Sea fruit of worldly success ! Think of the Deemster ! Wifeless, childless, living solitary, dying alone, unregretted; unmourned. What is the wickedness you are plotting ! Your father is dead, you can do him neither good nor harm. This girl is alive. She loves you. Love her. Let the canting hypocrites prate as they will."
She had disengaged her hand, and was creeping away from him in the half darkness, treading softly and going off like a gleam. "Kate!" be called.
He heard her laughter, he heard the drowsy hum of the gill, he could smell the warm odour of the gorse bushes.
" But this is madness," he thought. " This is the fever of an hour. Yield now and I am ruined for life. The girl has come between me and my aims, my vows, my work -everything: She has tempted me, and I am as weak as water."
" Kate !"
She did not answer.
"Come here this moment, Kate. I have something to say to you." " Bite I" she said, coming back and holding an apple to his lips. She had plucked it in the overgrown garden.
"Listen I I'm leaving Ramsey for good--don't intend to practise, in the northern courts any longer-settling in Douglas-best work lies there, you see-worst of it is-we shan't meet again soon-not very soon, you know-not for years, perhaps "
He began by stammering, and went on stuttering, blurting out his words, and trembling at the sound of his own voice.
"Philip, you must not go! " she cried.
" I'm sorry, Kate, very sorry. Shall always remember so tenderly .-not to say fondly-the happy boy and girl days together."
" Philip, Philip, you must not go-you cannot go-you shall not go F)
He could see her bosom heaving under her loose red bodice. She took hold of his arm and dragged at it.
" Won't you spare me? Will you shame me to death ? Must I tell you? If you won't speak, I will. You cannot leave me, Philip, because-because-what do I care ?-because I love you ! " " Don't say that, Kate ! "
"I love you, Philip-I love you-I love you I" "Would to God I had never been born! "
" But I will show you how sweet it is. to be alive. Take me, take me-I am yours ! "
Her upturned face seemed to flash. He staggered like one seized with giddiness. It was a thing of terror to behold her. Still he struggled. " Though apart, we shall remember each other, Kate."
" I don't want to remember. I want to have you with me." " Our hearts will always be .together."
" Come to me then, Philip, come to me I "
" The purest part of our hearts-our souls "
" But I want you l Will you drive a girl to sbarne herself again? I want you, Philip ! I want your eyes, that I may see them every day; and your hair, that I may feel it with my bands; and your lips-can I help it !-yes, and your lips, that I may kiss and kiss them ! "
" Kate ! Kate ! Turn your eyes away. Don't look at me like that!" She was fighting for her life. It was to be now or never. " If you won't come to me, I'll go to you ! " she cried; and then she sprang upon him, and all grew confused, the berries of the nightshade whipped his forehead, and the moon and the stars went out. "Ally love l My darling ! My girl ! " " You won't go now?" she sobbed.
" God forgive me, I cannot."
"Kiss me. I feel your heart beating. You are mine-mine-mine ! Say you won't go now 1"
"God forgive us both! "
"Kiss me again, Philip! Don't despise me that I love you better than myself I "
She was weeping; she was laughing, her heart was throbbing up to her throat. At the next moment she had broken from his embrace and was gone.
" Kate ! Kate ! "
Her voice came from tho tholthan. " Philip !"
When a good woman falls from honour, is it merely that she is a victim of momentary intoxication, of stress of passion, of the fever of instinct? No. It is mainly that she is a slave of the sweetest, tenderest, most spiritual and pathetic of all human fallacies-the fallacy that by giving herself to the man she loves she attaches him to herself for ever. This is the real betrayer of nearly all good women that are betrayed. It lies at the root of tens of thousands of the cases that make up the merciless story of man's sin and woman's weakness. Alas I it is only the woman who clings the closer. The impulse of the man is to draw apart. She must conquer it or sbe is lost. Such is the old cruel difference and inequality of man and woman as nature made them-the old trick, the old tragedy.
Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2008