Clad in Purple Mist (Chapters X – XX)
Chapter I. The Lawsuit
Chapter II. The Quilliams of Derbyhaven
Chapter III. The Christanes of Ballasalla
Chapter IV. A Bundle of Cottons
Chapter V. A New Silk Gown
Chapter VI. Manx Stories
Chapter VII. Sword and Cup Cards
Chapter VIII. Stephen Fannin and Jude Kameen
Chapter IX. The Tithe on Turnips
Chapter X. Mollie in Search of a Lucrative Calling
Chapter XI. Illiam Dhone
Chapter XII. On a Convict Ship
Chapter XIII. A Little Grey Mottled Book
Chapter XIV. A Respectable Seminary for Young Ladies
Chapter XV. Coincidences
Chapter XVI. Bears in Granny’s Stackyard
Chapter XVII. Fanny Fisher’s School
Chapter XVIII. The Sad State of Jude Kameen
Chapter XIX. Mollie’s Victory
Chapter XX. The Crowding of the Cup Cards
MOLLIE IN SEARCH OF A LUCRATIVE CALLING
“Soft and loving is her soul,
Swift and lofty soaring;
Mixing with its dove-like dole
She is steadfast as a star,
And yet the maddest maiden,
She can wage a gallant war,
And give the peace of Eden”
It was Sunday morning. Quite early the Quilliam family were astir. Matthew, in his Sunday attire, had escaped to the back garden and had made a trap to catch sparrows with a riddle and a garden rake. Bride was crying at the door because Matthew showed her how he meant to cut off the sparrows’ heads, to make a sparrow pie. “Don’t be heedin’ him, chree,” said kind Susan. “He’ll catch no sparrows at all. Come thy ways in, child.”
In the big front kitchen Dorcas and Rosaleen were toasting piles of bread and singing in clear young voices, “Welcome, sweet day of rest.” Upstairs Phrancie Parr was dressing Patience in a new linen frock with pretty buttons. “It fits thee right enough, child,” said Phrancie.
“I like new clothes, Phrancie. I should like to have new clothes every day.”
“Run, child, and show thyself to the Masther, and may be you’ll get a penny to put into the pocket of it.”
Michael Stood at his looking-glass tying his cravat
“See, Dadda, my new frock.”
“And a fine little girl you look in it,” he said.
“See the pretty pocket, Dadda?”
“And nothing in it. Here, child, is a silver groat for the pocket.”
Patience blushed with pride and pleasure.
“If I had only one little girl instead of six,” went on Michael, “she should have a new frock every Sunday.”
“And a silver groat as well, Dadda?”
“Ay, and a silver groat as well.”
Patience, overwhelmed by the magnificence of this prospect, walked soberly away, wishing that all her sisters would die of cholera or smallpox, so that she herself might revel in splendour and riches. She was very fond of money, but she liked her sisters too; and a vision of five little graves in Malew churchyard with headstones bearing the names of Dinah, Dorcas, Rosaleen, Bride and Faith, saddened her for an instant. She consoled herself with the thought of Matthew, “and boys don’t want frocks,” she said to herself. “I should deck their graves with flowers every week,” was her further reflection, “like little Mary the faithful” — a heroine in a Sunday book Kitty had read to the children. In a holy mood Patience entered the kitchen and demanded the toasting fork. “You put the butter on, Dorcas, and let me toast,” she ordered.
And Dorcas acquiesced in this arrangement.
“Don’t soil thy new frock,” warned Susan.
Bride sat on a stool staring at the ceiling. “Why is Sunday red?” she asked.
“It isn’t any colour at all; days don’t have colours,” said Patience.
“Days do have colours, and Sunday is red,” persisted Bride, pointing to the ceiling. “Don’t you see it?”
“See what, my pet?” asked Kitty, who entered blooming in her Sunday garments, protected by a big apron.
“Sunday on the ceiling. See, Mamma, it always hangs there on Sundays.”
“There is nothing there but the hams, child; come eat thy bread and milk.”
“Bride tells stories,” declared Patience.
“What is it you see on the ceiling, Bride?” coaxed her mother.
“A big letter ‘A’ hanging to the ceiling. It is red, and it hangs by the biggest ham, there,” pointed Bride. “It is always there on Sunday morning; every day has a colour, you know,” and the child was flushed with her eagerness to convince them.
“What colour is Monday?” questioned Matthew stolidly.
“Yellow, like a primrose, of course.”
“Is it on the ceiling, too?”
“No, it is sometimes on the little dresser.”
“What colour is Friday, then?” asked sceptical Patience.
“Friday is the colour of the mountains, like blue with a veil over it. Friday is very big.”
Kitty was troubled. “Don’t be asking foolish questions, children,” she said, “and Bride, don’t be telling stories.”
“It isn’t stories,” wept Bride; “look, Mamma, a big red ‘A’ hanging by the top.”
“Eat your breakfast, child, and don’t be looking at it.”
“The child sees things that other folks don’t see,” Kitty said to Michael. “It frightens me to hear her at times; and foolish things she sees, like red ‘ A’s ‘ hanging on the ceiling on Sundays.”
“She will grow out of it,” said tolerant Michael.
“It is as if she were half simple at times; yet Grandmamma says she is very clever.”
“Yes,” agreed Michael, “but Patience has more sense; a cute little maid is Patience.”
“They are all good children, Michael.”
“Yes, good enough; but I wish Matthew could learn as quick as little Bride, though I don’t hold with her telling Stories at all.”
“But the child does see things, Michael, an’ she isn’t a changeling at all, either; changelings are mostly skin an’ bone an’ ugly faces at them.”
Kitty had little book-learning, not much imagination, and she had never heard of psychology; but her mother instinct taught her that Bride had unusual powers, therefore she cherished rather than blamed her.
“It would be better for Matthew to have brains rather than Bride. Women don’t want learning at all,” said Michael.
“Yes, Michael. Look at our Mollie, always readin’ an’ learning French, too.”
“Mollie’s got good looks; there’s nothing better for a woman.”
“If she would marry a rich man and forget Stephen,” mourned Kitty.
“I never did think much of Kameen, and I’m glad Mollie won’t look at him,” declared Michael.
“But see the rich he is,” lamented Kitty.
Before ten o’clock the whole of the Quilliam family started off to Malew Church — a three-mile walk. Michael and Kitty led the way, and the children followed with Judy and Susan. Pete drove Grandmamma and Bride in the gig. Only Phrancie Parr and Faith remained at home, and Phrancie prepared the cold sabbath meal. Bride sat high up on a cushion beside her mother; and through the half-opened door at the end of the aisle she could see the gold of the gorse, the stooks of corn in the Big Meadow fields, the white clouds, the gulls wheeling around, and beyond was the blue sea; for in a small island the colour and sound of the sea are ever with you.
Bride loved to look through the open door during the Litany. “That it may please Thee to restore and continue to us the blessings of the sea,” read the parson. “Blessings of the sea,” mused the child; ” that means gulls and the pretty blue colour on a sunny day, and the sun”; for Bride, who saw the sun come out of the sea every morning, from her bedroom window, believed that the sun lived in the sea, and came out every fine day. It was not till long afterwards she learned that “the blessings of the sea” meant the fish, which left the coast at times, and impoverished the people; and she experienced the momentary sadness of another lost illusion. It was Communion Sunday. Michael walked home with the rest of his family while Grandmamma and Kitty stayed for Communion, keeping little Bride to drive home with them. “Be very still,” cautioned Kitty to Bride, “just like a little mouse, and kneel on the hassock all the time.” When her mother and grandmamma went up to the Communion table, Bride peeped over the top of the pew to see what the cup was like. “I shall hold it and drink out of it when I am big like mother,” she said, and she thrilled at the thought of handling the fairy cup. She had never told her mother of the wonderful fascination this cup had for her; she was learning to be reticent already about her inmost thoughts. Most of us lose the curious powers which are sometimes given to the very young, before we are old enough to talk reasonably about them; but some rare ones retain to maturity the infantile soul-life which brims their eyes with the richest hues.
Mollie made an early opportunity to visit Kitty. She wanted to talk to old Mrs. Quilliam. She found her sister peeling mushrooms, and she sat in the big kitchen window overlooking the bay and the Fort Island and helped with the peeling. “I’m keeping all the big ones for Michael,” prattled Kitty. “He likes mushrooms better than most things; even Grandmamma likes mushrooms. They are very genteel food, like oysters, which I never could abide. But the grander the person, the more they like the food the poor is despisin’.”
“Yes,” said Mollie listlessly.
“The children are at their lessons with Grandmamma. It’s wonderful the things they learn. Mother’s too old-fashioned to understand. Dorcas has made a sampler fit for any lady in the land to see, an’ Patience can help Matthew with his sums in a way that ‘ud make you wonder, an’ Rosaleen can make pencil pictures of old castles just like real, far prettier they are than Peel Castle and Castle Rushen, an’ as for little Bride, the child’s a marvel. She can read anythin’, an’ say Latin, and she sees things that are not there. She is a wise child in a kind of way. ”
“When their lessons are over I’d like to step in and see old Mrs. Quilliam, Kitty,” said Mollie, who listened languidly to the mother’s prattle.
“Do, Mollie, you are a favourite with her, and she likes visitors.”
“When shall I go, Kitty?”
“After dinner; be very genteel, and put on your gloves. I’ll let her know you’re coming, and she’ll ask you to tea.”
“Yes,” said Mollie.
“I’m wanting you to take the children blackberrying, Mollie. There’s lots to be got in the lane by the Big Meadow at Malew; no person gathers them, and they are nearly over now.”
“When shall I take them, Kitty?”
w One day at the end of the week; I’ll send you word.”
Old Mrs. Quilliam welcomed Mollie graciously. “You will take tea with me,” she said. “Nay, I will take no denial.”
“Thank you, ma’am.”
“Excuse me, Miss Mollie, if I admire your complexion. It is the colour of a delicate white rose. Many a duchess would give a fortune to have it. May I ask you a delicate question?”
“To be sure.”
“Would you tell me what you use? In spring now, the most trying time for young ladies’ skins? ”
“Use?” said perplexed Mollie, “to wash my face, you mean; just yellow soap an’ the water that drips from the roof into the big barrel.”
“Wonderful, Miss Mollie, and yet people say that soap brings wrinkles. Do be careful with the use of soap.”
Mollie laughed. “Brada Crageen,” she said, “has been to London, and she heard there that the ladies didn’t use soap. She just puts cold cream on her face, and wipes it off with an old flannel petticoat; but indeed, Mrs. Quilliam, it makes no difference. Her skin is middlin’ coarse.”
“My dear, flannel would irritate any skin. Admiral Pennfeather used to slay at the dear Bishop’s with his two lovely daughters, with skins as fine and transparent as a baby’s. He used to make them drink a glass of good ale every morning before breakfast to preserve it.”
“How very odd; buttermilk is a good thing now; and I keep a bowl by me sometimes, but Betty always throws it away.”
“Your skin, my dear, is a credit to the soft Isle of Man climate, and the little dimple in your chin would be worth a fortune to you in London.”
Mollie blushed under this praise. “I have to ask your advice,” she said; “would you advise me? Indeed, I need help.”
“My dear, I will do my best.”
“I am thinkin’ of goin’ to England,” she said, “as a children’s governess; I must earn money.”
Mrs. Quilliam looked at her thoughtfully. “Always sound your final g’s, my child. Careless speech is a distressing habit, and the Manx are often careless.”
“I will try to remember,” said Mollie blushing.
“You have a quiet manner, and a pleasing way with children, Miss Mollie. What could you teach?”
“Not much,” said Mollie humbly. “Not music, or painting, or drawing; but I could teach little children to read and write. I know the chronology of the Kings of England; a little English grammar. I can repeat some of the speeches in Shakespeare’s plays, and do a little arithmetic. I know the Catechism, and Collects, and a little French.”
“French,” said the old lady, “is important. Oblige me, Miss Mollie, by reading this fable to me.” And she handed Mollie the French reading book she used with Dorcas.
Crimson with shyness and effort, Mollie complied.
“A very fair pronunciation, my dear; how did you learn?”
“From an old French lady at Ballasalla.”
“Go on learning. Have you read any literature, poetry, or romance?”
“A little of Byron, from selections. The Mysteries of Udolpho, and Gaston de Blondeville.”
“And did you like these works?”
“Yes,” said Mollie eagerly, “that beautiful journey in the Pyrenees impelled me to buy an atlas, just to trace the journey; and Gaston de Blondeville made me long to see Warwick and that wonderful ruin at Kenilworth. I have learnt some history from these works, and the ways of Kings, Queens, and Courts.”
Mrs. Quilliam smiled. “Where do you get your books?”
“Brada Crageen lent me The Mysteries of Udolpho, and an old woman who makes ointments and charms gave me Gaston de Blondeville; she got it from Crellin the baker, who took it with some other old books and a mirror for a bad debt.”
“Dear me, that is a precarious way of getting books.”
“Not many people care for books in the island except the gentlefolks; and in Douglas I’m told they read all the books that’s printed mostly.”
“I will lend you The Children of the Abbey, and a pretty refined work by Miss Austen. It is about Bath, and it shows the kind of books young ladies in society read.”
“Thank you,” said Mollie gratefully.
“You would make quite a nice teacher in a school, my dear; but with individuals in a family your range of studies is not sufficiently extensive. Read all you can, study French diligently; and do not neglect your final g’s.”
Mollie promised; she felt encouraged and almost happy.
“My dear,” said the old woman as Mollie was leaving her, “try to influence your sister to give her children a good education. She is a good mother, but not so intelligent as you, and Michael is indifferent. It is Matthew I’m thinking of. I should like him to be ordained like my dear father.”
“Yes,” said Mollie. “Matthew is not meant for a scholar, I’m afraid.”
The old lady sighed. “There are more ways than one of becoming a clergyman,” she said, “and I fear Matthew must take the back-door way.”
After infinite pains Mollie procured a recent copy of a Liverpool newspaper and scanned its pages eagerly. There was an account in it of the funeral of Lord Byron, with a thin black line all around it. Mollie was thrilled, and felt somehow more in touch with the great world outside the Isle of Man.
She glanced through the advertisements, and learned how the fast-sailing steam packet Albion from Ireland called for passengers every week at Douglas, and how the Royal Mail sailed every Monday. She also read of the New Champion Coach making the journey from Liverpool to London in twenty-eight hours and landing the passengers at “The Swan With Two Necks,” Lad Lane. “Like flying,” she said to herself, and she wished she could go in the New Champion Coach to London, and find some great kind man like Wellington, and get him to help Stephen. Then she read the following: “Mrs. Boys teaches elegant handwriting without lines, one guinea. Pen-making, one guinea. English grammar, one guinea. Pianoforte, one guinea. An assistant teacher wanted.” Mollie considered. “I could teach handwriting without lines, though, to be sure, it is easy enough to make very fine lines and then rub them out; and I can make pens, and can get plenty of goose-quills.”
She read further: “In respectable Seminary for young
ladies, a teacher qualified to assist in French, English Grammar and Geography. References for respectability and ability expected. Apply Printers. Letter post paid.” Mollie weighed every word. “I am respectable,” she thought. “I can assist in French, I know a little English grammar, and I can learn more if I pay Mrs. Boys one guinea for lessons. I can learn geography out of a book, and I have got an atlas already.” Such was Mollie’s slender equipment for the position of teacher to young ladies; but she had zest for learning and plenty of goodwill, and after all goodwill is almost everything in the battle of life. Then she mused on references. “Madame de Croix and Parson Quine of Malew would do. It would cost a lot to live in Liverpool; but perhaps she might live at the school. She would save every penny. Perhaps her mother might give her a bit of woven Manx cloth to make a new gown.” So ran Mollie’s thoughts. What did Phoebe Fell tell her? To come back in thrice seven days and ask one question. Well, it was more than thrice seven days, but perhaps Phoebe could give her some advice. She would try.
She put on her bonnet, and announced that she was going to Castletown.
“An’ bring a dozen crabs; Sarah says Joe Kewley has plenty,” said her mother.
“Choose the little crabs, Mollie, not the big he-ones at all,” counselled Betty. “Those are the ones to sell to strangers. There’s no right eatin’ in them.”
“An’ call at Bobby Oates for mee new pattens, an’ then go to the Rope Walk for a stout rope. It’s a clothes line I’m wantin’.”
“An’ bring home some peppercorns and ginger for pottin’ the herrings. Go to Cubbons for it.”
Mollie accepted all her commissions meekly. She walked quickly and hastened through with her errands, then she sought Phoebe Fell in Queen Street. The old woman was knitting at her doorway looking seaward. The shimmering water, sapphire blue, tumbled rhythmically against the low-lying rocks. Far beyond Knockrushen Farm was Scarlet House, solid and isolated, and further on the flat limestone rocks and the lime kilns.
“It’s stockin’s I’m making,” said Phoebe, “the couth (cold) from the sea is terrible in winter.”
“It is pretty from here,” said Mollie, looking seawards.
“Deed, so,” agreed Phoebe. “There’s gold on the cushag there,”1 and she pointed to the waste spaces along the shore where the cushag — ragwort — blazed in golden patches. “It’s a beautiful lil’ islan’, so it is, with the corn an’ the cushags, an’ gorse an’ lil’ yellow toad-flaxes runnin’ over the hedges, there’s no place like it.”
“Perhaps not/’ agreed Mollie.
“Good an’ wholesome is yellow flowers,” went on Phoebe. “I always hang them over the dour (door), so that no evil spirits can come in.”
“Mother hangs a bit of gorse over the doorway to keep out bad fairies; but Phoebe, can you answer me the question now?”
“I might then,” said the old woman, looking at Mollie curiously. “It’s with the sword-cards you are now, Miss Mollie, but the cup-cards is comin’, keep a good heart.”
Mollie smiled wanly; and Phoebe produced the Tarot cards and laid them on the table. “Now,” she said, “ask me one question.”
Mollie hesitated. “I want to know if, by leaving the island now, it will do good to me, and one dear to me?”
Phoebe returned to her study of the cards.
“The swords is thick on thee, an’ thick on the man that’s near ye; an’ it’s changing your life, ay’, an’ your country too, but changes bring you nearer to the cup cards. Ay! an’ the sceptres an’ pentacles is there too. Yis, yis, you must go, chile, an’ a long journey’s before ye.”
“What are sceptres and pentacles, Phoebe?”
“Signs, just signs; they mean money, carriages, an’ jewels an’ agriculture, creation, an’ good trade.”
“And happiness, Phoebe?”
“The cup cards brings ye happiness, love, an’ butiful children; an’ they are crowdin’ on ye, but not yet, not yet.”
“Then I must go, Phoebe?”
“Ay! it’s the only way, child, to the cup cards, anyway.”
1. Manx proverb.
“Great Scarlet in wealth, who dwelt down by the bay,
Must toil now with paupers for sixpence a day;
And oft as I’ve heard, has no morsel to chew;
Thy murder, Brown William, fills Mona with woe.
“So it fared with the band, by whom Willie did die;
Their lands are at waste, their names Stink to the sky;
They melted like rime in the ruddy sun’s glow.
Thy murder, Brown William, fills Mona with woe.”
Manx Ballad, trans, by G. Barrow.
“It’s goin’ to be middlin’ fine,” said Granny Christane. “Art thee ready, Dinah? Don’t tear thy clothes, an’ don’t be quarrelling with Patience. She is younger than thee.”
“I don’t quarrel with Patience, Granny.”
“Be a good girl, then, an’ help Aunt Mollie with the little ones.”
The children were going blackberrying in a lane near the Big Meadow, by Malew Church. Aunt Mollie was going with them.
Pete drove up with the five children from Derbyhaven, each carrying a basket, and Granny surveyed her handsome grandchildren with pride.
“I’ve brought a rake, Granny,” said Matthew, “to get the big ones high up.”
“Well done,” approved Granny. In her heart the old woman loved Matthew more than anything in the world.
“I’m going to give my blackberries to you, Granny.”
“A good lad thou’rt, Matthew,” said proud Granny. “Mollie, I’ll be sendin’ old Jenny with the donkey cart to carry store for the picnic.”
“Yes, mother,” acquiesced Mollie.
“Betty, pack thou barley cakes with plenty of butter, an’ hard-boiled eggs, the big currant cake, an’ the stone jar full of milk; an’ Patience, don’t thee be quarrelling with Dinah, mind.”
“I don’t quarrel,” affirmed Patience. “I’ve got a new frock,” she confided importantly to Dinah.
“You needed one,” was Dinah’s unkind comment.
“An’ where will Jenny an’ the ass be findin’ you then?” asked Betty.
“In the lane beyond Malew Church, near the Big Meadow; there’s blackberries there to feed a regiment,” said Mollie.
The lane was indeed a treasure; and the children shouted with glee as they filled their baskets. Matthew climbed on the stone fence and thrashed the topmost branches. Dinah gathered her basket full quickly; then she sat down, and fanned herself vigorously with a bunch of dock leaves. “There’s no person been here picking at all,” she observed.
“Don’t say ‘no person,'” said Patience, critically.
“Why not?” and Dinah fixed her eyes on Patience’s dusty boots and smiled. Patience wilted; she always felt inferior in the matter of dress when Dinah was there.
“Because it’s vulgar,” she said grandly, preening herself on her superior diction.
Dinah crimsoned. “You rude little girl. Granny says person, so does Mamma, an’ it says person in the Prayer Book, an’ in the notices on the church door, so there.”
“It isn’t good grammar.”
“I’m eleven and almost grown up. You are six. What grammar do you know?”
“I’m almost seven and Grandmamma says that it is vulgar to say ‘person.'”
“You must not quarrel, children,” said Mollie, mildly.
“Patience tries to be fine an’ English,” complained Dinah.
“I don’t, then,” wailed Patience, “but I don’t say ‘person.'”
Dinah never forgot this rebuke, and to the day of her death she never used the word in the same way again. They were all hungry when Jenny came with the hamper, and Mollie selected a sunny bank soft with stonecrop and sweet with wild thyme; here they sat, but Matthew persisted in bestriding the donkey, and eating his lunch in that position. They ate till they could eat no more, and Matthew, proclaiming that he was “full,” rolled off the donkey and lay in the sun on the turf clamouring for a Story. “Illiam Dhone, Illiam Dhone,” he shouted. “Yes, Illiam Dhone,” agreed the girls.
Mollie began: “He was William Christian of Ronaldsway, and a beautiful garden he had, and a fine house fit for any gentleman, and good land. He was the head man of the Isle of Man, and the Earl, the great Stanley, loved him well. He was wise and good and gentle and all the people loved him too; but, children, there were wicked men who hated him; and envy and spite an’ malice will destroy any man; and their envy murdered Illiam Dhone, the fair-haired William that the people loved so well.
“He lived in troubled times, for the English people were wickedly fighting against their King, the good King Charles the Martyr; and the great Stanley was in England fighting for the King. The Roundie soldiers came to the island in ships, and landed at the Fort Island. They were very cruel soldiers, the Roundies; they used to sing a psalm, then murder a thousand innocent folks, and sing another psalm. It was a way they’d been taught to murder in England by a wicked man called Cromwell.
Now the Roundies put the Countess of Derby in prison in Castle Rushen, and William Christian had either to let the Manx people all be murdered, or to give up the keys of the island to the soldiers; and he saved the people and gave up the island; and for eight years, these wicked Roundie soldiers ruled in the Isle of Man; Granny’s grandmother remembered them stealing the people’s chickens, an’ takin’ their sheep, an’ frightening the children terrible. And Cromwell went on killing Kings, Earls an’ the like until there was hardly any more to kill. He killed the King Charles the Martyr; and he killed our great Stanley, an’ thousands of others an’ he took their land, houses, an’ cattle; a greedy murdering villain of a man he was. Then he died, an’ there came another King Charles, and everybody was pardoned and everybody was happy. Then the wicked people who hated llliam Dhone and wanted the beautiful Ronaldsway for themselves got up a plot against him. The folks who lived at The Friary, and at Scarlet, and at the Creggins, and others as well, said he was a bad man to give up the Isle of Man to the Roundie soldiers. And they had a trial. They hired false witnesses; and put only wicked men to judge him — it was called a packed jury — and there were no honest men in court. They condemned that innocent, noble man to be shot on Hango Hill.” Mollie was weeping now, weeping for Stephen and the memory of William Christian of Ronaldsway. Bride and Rosaleen wept, too, in sympathy.
“Lawyers an’ judges,” went on Mollie, “can make white look black; and they can condemn the best people to death, as the Jews condemned Jesus Christ.”
“Tell us about the shooting,” interrupted Matthew.
“It was New Year’s day, and they took him to Hango Hill and put blankets on the ground for him to stand on.”
“Why?” Patience wanted to know.
“Blood,” said Mollie, “must never fall upon the bare ground, especially innocent blood. Then he made a speech, a beautiful speech. He said he was innocent, an’ that it was an unjust trial; an’ people crowded round to hear him from all parts, all weeping and wailing. Then he pinned a piece of paper over his heart, and told the soldiers to shoot there.”
“There were six soldiers to shoot him,” prompted Matthew.
“Yes, six soldiers, and they wouldn’t shoot him at all,” went on Mollie. “Some of them fired in the air, some of them fired on the ground, but one man, William McCowle, fired in the right place and shot him dead. ‘ As dy vaase, Illiam Dhone, te brishey nyn gree'” (“Thy death, Illiam Dhone, ’tis that breaks our heart” — Manx ballad), concluded Mollie with streaming eyes, breaking into Manx.
“And the people all crowded to dip handkerchiefs in his blood,” added Dinah.
“Yes,” said Mollie, “they treasured the blood of the martyr for years; it brought them good fortune.”
“I’ve been in Ronaldsway; and in his oak parlour where he wrote letters,” boasted Matthew.
“I’ve gathered lavender in Ronaldsway garden,” said Rosaleen.
“I’ve seen them milk cows in his stable,” declared Patience.
“William Christian,” went on Mollie, “was buried in the Chancel of Malew Church; and always in Church on Sunday, you should think of our greatest Manx man, who lived at Derbyhaven.”
The children promised eagerly to do so. “And when you pass Hango Hill, Stop a moment and say, 6 Thank God for Illiam Dhone.'”
“I always do,” said Dinah. “Granny told me to.”
“And oh, children, it was all so wrong and so unnecessary. The King Charles had sent to say that he was not to be shot; and one man had the letter in his boot all the time; but there are wicked people in the world who like to harm innocent men, not only in the days of Illiam Dhone, but now, now.” Mollie was very earnest.
The children looked awed. “And what was done to the wicked men?” asked Matthew, yearning for retribution.
“The new Earl of Derby was rebuked by the English King; the Deemsters were fined and imprisoned; but it was too late; nothing could bring him back. And the wicked men who got Ronaldsway from him, had after a time to give it back to his sons; and, children, the Christian family live and thrive in the Isle of Man now; but the Colcads and the Tyldesleys and the Norrises are all gone and ruined and there is not one left in the island. They were the men who swore falsely against him. The Colcads were rich, they had fine houses, they lived at the Nunnery in Douglas; one of them, Robin, died a cripple, one, Richard, went down in a ship. Evil happened to them all.”
“If I met a boy named Colcad, I’d fight him,” said Matthew fiercely.
“But there will never be one,” declared Mollie, “and the great wealthy people at Scarlet died of poverty and hunger; they worked like paupers for sixpence, and had not a bite to put in their mouths.”
“I’m glad,” declared Patience.
“Granny can say it all in Manx,” said Dinah.
“Say it in English,” begged Bride.
And Mollie repeated a free translation of one of the concluding verses: —
“So it fared with the band, by whom Willie did die;
Their lands are a waste, their names stink to the sky;
They melted like rime in a ruddy sun’s glow:
Thy murder, Brown William, fills Mona with woe.”
Such was Mollie’s version of the tragedy of the Manx patriot; historians mutter darkly of “the other side,” and pretend to weigh evidence. They condone the murderers; but the simple Manx folk who adored their fair-haired William, told the story as Mollie told it, and as it had come down from eye-witnesses.
“Why, Bride, what are you doing in the ditch?” she asked.
“I’m findin’ something. It’s a cup, a fairy cup,” and the child displayed a small, round metal cup black with age and dirt.
“I think it is silver,” said Mollie, scratching it.
“It is like the fairy cup the farmer got from the fairies at Malew,” Bride insisted.
“Granny was mightily interested in the cup.” The farmer’s cup was given to Malew Church,” she said, “but lost it was, long ago. The passon was tellin’ me that ’twas lost a hundred years ago; an’ this found in the ditch near the church. ‘Tis the very cup, child. Ay! but thou’rt a lucky little one; an’ lucky thou’lt be to the end of thy days. Mollie, go home with the children. Tell Kitty to take particular care of this cup. See, it polishes amazin’ with a bit of wash-leather! ‘Tis no mortal cup at all. It must be shown to the passon. But it is Bride’s cup, and must be kept for her. ‘Twill bring thee luck, child.”
Mollie drove the children and their blackberries home, and delivered the cup to Kitty; and great was the excitement it caused in the household. It was truly a fairy cup and Michael must show it to Passon Quine. It is true that Grandmamma discovered a mark on it, with the aid of a magnifying glass. She said it was probably a wine-taster of the reign of Queen Anne; but this opinion was received with coldness. When Mollie left Kitty’s house she went on her way to the little islet in Derbyhaven Bay known as the Fort Island because of the circular embattled fort erected by James, the seventh Earl of Derby, as a protection to the harbour. The island was only an island at high tide, and Mollie skipped nimbly across the boulders and reached the ruins of the tiny church. Very ancient was the little church; built of limestone, with the east window of small pieces of schist, set edgeways round the arch. It was rudely erected, apparently without any tool. The length of the chapel was only thirty feet, and the breadth fourteen. Under the east window was a stone altar, and here Mollie knelt praying for Stephen’s safety, and that his innocence should be established. “It hath pleased Thee, Almighty God,” she prayed aloud, “to allow Thy servant Stephen Fannin of the parish of Malew, to be accused wrongfully, even as it pleased Thee to permit Thy servant William Christian of Ronaldsway to suffer death wrongfully; but I beseech Thee to keep Stephen Fannin in safety; to mitigate his sufferings in the convict ship, to find him friends, to allow me to marry him; and if it please Thee, help me to establish his innocence. Amen.”
Only the gulls heard, as they rested on the roofless walls of the little church; and without, the waves broke against the craggy coastline of the islet. Every week Mollie came here and prayed aloud for Stephen. Her own parish church was to her the place for decorous worship on the sabbath day; and this deserted church on a desolate uninhabited island seemed a fitting place to offer up her prayers of urgent appeal.
For a long time she knelt at the rude stone altar. Nettles and docks grew around her; and the wind howled in the little church, which for centuries had been a ruin. It had not been used as a place of worship since the monks had been driven from the Abbey at Ballasalla. It was a relic of an earlier form of worship; but it suited Mollie’s needs. Alone in this desolate place, where a few sheep cropped the scanty herbage, and the wild birds screamed aloft, Mollie felt nearer to her Maker than in any conventional church. It was getting late; the tide was coming in, and she arose from her knees and made her way across the boulders to the mainland. She stopped sometimes to admire the crimson, brown, and yellow stonecrops, and the beautiful chrome-coloured lichens on the rocks; and to gather a few slender-stalked harebells growing on the springy turf. She picked the mushrooms that came in her way, like all thrifty Manx folk, planning to fry them with butter and parsley as a relish for supper; but she did these things mechanically, for all the time she was thinking of Stephen, and looking forward to the time when they would be re-united.
Meanwhile Mrs. Christane of Ballasalla had a visitor, no less a person than Mr. Jude Kameen himself. He came on horseback, and tied his horse to the block in the courtyard. Betty received him with a smile.
“Good evenin’, Mr. Kameen.”
“Good evenin’, Miss ChriStane. Is thy mother within?”
“She is. Step in, Mr. Kameen. Step in, sir.”
Mrs. Christane was at her spinning wheel. On the whole she was glad that Mollie was not at home.
“Sit thee down, Mr. Kameen,” she said.
“It’s fine weather for the time of year, Mrs. Christane.”
“‘Tis so, sir, an’ the Bishop got no tithe on the turnips at all.”
Mr. Kameen laughed. “The farmers were too much for him, ma’am, an illegal tithe it was.”
And so the polite conversation trickled on.
“I’ve come, ma’am,” said Mr. Kameen at last, depositing his tall rabbit-skin hat on the floor beside him, “to talk to you about my mother.”
“Ay! I knew her well. Bessie Quine she was, in the ould days.”
“She often used to speak of you,” said Mr. Kameen, with an attempt at a smile on his foxy face. “You went to school with her.”
“Ay! to a sewing-school in Castletown.”
“My mother had a great regard for you, Mrs. Christane, and just before she died she wished to make you a present.”
“‘Tis the firslt time I’ve known Bessie Quine wanting to make presents to anybody,” thought Mrs. Christane, but she said pleasantly, “‘Twas kind of her, indeed.”
“She had an old lacquer cabinet, ma’am, a seventeenth century cabinet, with big brass hinges, an’ a lot of little drawers inside, an’ seaweed and patterns in red an’ gold runnin’ all over it.”
“I mind it well,” said Mrs. Christane, a little grimly. “‘Twas me grandmother’s, she used to keep honey in it when I was a chile. Me grandfather brought it from foreign parts, an’ then me mother had it.”
“To be sure,” agreed Mr. Kameen. “It was bought at a sale of your mother’s things, and my mother thought you ought to have it.”
“It was a kind thought, sir,” said Mrs. Christane.
“The cabinet passed into the possession of my uncle, Mr. Nathaniel Quine,” went on Mr. Kameen, “and owing to his recent death it has come to me. I hope you will allow me, ma’am, to carry out my mother’s wishes and give it to you.”
Mrs. Christane was taken aback. It was not the custom for the Manx to give such presents to each other. A pair of lobsters, a basket of mushrooms, a dozen eggs, these were common enough; but a lacquer cabinet was another thing, and the Manx are a proud people.
She replied a little stiffly, “If thee will allow me to buy the cabinet, Mr. Kameen, it would please me.”
“May I not have the pleasure of giving it?” he asked.
“If, sir, you allowed me to give the price that was paid for it, I’d take it gladly.”
Mr. Kameen was annoyed; he wanted to ingratiate himself with Mollie’s family. He feared Mollie, and wondered how much she really knew. If her mother could be induced to use pressure, now that Stephen was out of the way, and Mollie became his, he could watch her, and she could do him no harm; but her boldness and certainty of his guilt frightened him.
“There’s no tellin’,” he said, “what was paid for it.”
“Then, sir, I fear I cannot take it.”
“Look here, Mrs. ChriStane, your butter is excellent, I’m told. Now suppose you supply me with butter, say two pounds a week, would that suit you as payment for the cabinet?”
“For how long, sir?”
“For as long as you like; shall we say six months?”
Mrs. Christane made a rapid calculation. Butter at sixpence, that made a shilling a week for twenty-six week. That was twenty-six shillings; and the cabinet was very old, even in her childhood. She happened to remember that twenty-two and sixpence was paid for the old thing. But it had been her grandmother’s and her heart warmed to it.
“It’s middlin’ old,” she said. “Shall we say twenty weeks?”
“Anything you like, ma’am,” agreed Mr. Kameen. “I’d be glad to give it to you, for me mother’s sake.”
And so it was agreed. “I’ll be sendin’ it in a few days, Mrs. Christane; an’ how is Mollie?”
“She’s middlin’,” replied Mrs. Christane, warily.
“I met her in Douglas; it’s pale she’s lookin’.”
“She’s been fretting a bit for Stephen Fannin.”
Mr. Kameen pulled a long face. “A distressin’ matter, ma’am; to break into a man’s house and steal a man’s horse is a criminal offence; but I’m glad they did not hang the rascal.”
“Ay! indeed, but Mollie’ll forget him in time.”
“Do you think so, Mrs. Christane?”
“I do, indeed.”
“Then I hope she will look kindly on me some day.”
“There’s no tellin’ what she may do.”
And Mr. Kameen went away with hope in his heart
ON A CONVICT SHIP
“Lovely as light
Manx gells, the beautifullest things
That lives, I tell ye; women with wings
That ‘ill lift them over the muck and mire
And lift you too.”
T. E. Brown.
“We remember the pangs that wrung us
When we went down into the pit.”
A. Lindsay Gordon.
Mollie’s letter applying for the post in Liverpool ran: —
I am wishful to obtain a post in a school. I belong to a respectable family. I can assist with French, English Grammar and Geography. I learnt French from a French lady. My age is twenty-three. I can refer you to the Vicar, Malew Church, and Madame de Croix, Ballasalla, Isle of Man.
I am, Madam,
Yours to command,
Mary Araballa Christane.”
Mollie scanned this letter anxiously, copied it out, posted it, and waited for a reply. But a couple of weeks passed by and she heard nothing. Daily she scanned the letters in the window of the little shop post-office, displayed for all to see. At last she gave up hope, and drafted an advertisement which she meant to send to a Liverpool paper, asking for work as a teacher. One day she was buying pepper and washing-soda in the little general shop, when she met Madame de Croix buying lemons for a lemon pudding.
“I hope you have good news from Liverpool, my dear,” she said.
“No news at all,” said Mollie sadly.
“That is droll. Mrs. Mardon has written to me about your French. I thought she had the intention of bestowing the situation upon you.”
Mollie’s heart thumped, and the colour flooded her pale face.
“Do not agitate yourself, my child. Ah! youth is impatient! Mrs. Mardon is not perhaps a lady, but a worthy woman, I am sure.”
At that moment the little postmistress entered.
“‘Deed now, Miss Mollie, there’s a letter come for thee; an’ Ben was goin’ to put it in the winder, so he was.”
Mollie’s face crimsoned with joy. The postmistress laughed. “From thy sweetheart, it is sure. Aw! what a thing it is to be young.”
Mollie fetched the letter, and in the top barn among the hay she read it again and again.
“Great George Street,
Having been informed by Madame de Groix that you are respectable and your French accent is promising, I desire to offer you the post as teacher in my Seminary for young ladies. A bedroom will be provided, and you will take your meals with the young ladies. The salary I offer is £14 yearly. You will be charged $s. 6d. monthly for washing your linen. Kindly communicate with me at an early date. I wish you to enter on your duties on November 20th.
I have the honour to be,
Mollie wept for joy and thanked God for her good fortune. She felt nearer to Stephen already. £14 a year. She could save £10 every year. When she had £50 she could go out to Australia and perhaps marry Stephen.
Over supper she broke the news to her mother and Betty. “Black ingratitude,” gasped her mother, “to want to leave thy mother in her old age. True enough are the words of the ould book: ‘Sharper than a serpent’s tooth is a thankless child.'”
“Nay, mother,” said Mollie, “you’re not needing me at all. Betty can make the butter an’ fix your caps; an’ we’ve hardly any cattle; an’ ’tis good faithful servants you’ve got.”
“Ay I faithfuller than me own child.”
“Fourteen pounds is a lot of money,” reflected Betty, “just for teachin’, an’ sittin’ down all the time. There’s no work in that; an’ takin’ your meals with the young ladies too.”
“Takin’ service in Liverpool like common bodies,” moaned her mother. “There’s none of the females of thy family so demeaned themselves. There’s always a good home for thee, with plenty to eat, an’ good clothes to thy back, an’ a bit for thee when I’m gone. Why art thee wantin’ money? ”
“I want to save some, mother.”
M Save is it? Well, if it’s money you’re wantin’, there’s Jude Kameen would give it thee, ay! an’ a carriage too, an’ you do be ever floutin’ the man. Look at the good lacquer cabinet he’s given me, because it was once me grandmother’s.”
“I’ve polished the brass on it, an’ fine it looks,” said Betty.
“I wouldn’t be takin’ the man’s cabinet at all,” affirmed Mollie.
“Let her be, mother,” said Betty, “she’ll soon tire of bein’ across.1 It’s dirty in Liverpool they’re sayin’, an’ no good food to be got. Mollie ‘ill come back to the little islan’ soon enough.”
“There’s bad folk in Liverpool,” moaned Mrs. Christane. “It’s no fit place for a respectable girl. Thieves an’ robbers, an’ harlots an’ the like paradin’ the streets; playhouses an’ gamblin’ somethin’ shockin’. Didn’t Stephen Fannin take to thieving the moment he set foot in Liverpool? ”
He did not, mother; but a bad man told lies on him.”
“An’ likely bad folk ‘ill tell lies about thee, an’ thou’lt be transported too; or hanged maybe. Oh, Mollie! Mollie!”
And Mrs. Christane wept aloud.
Kitty Quilliam, too, was sorely distressed, for Mollie was her favourite sister. “It’s kind she is with the children,” she said to Michael, “an’ polite an’ nice to Grandmamma. A genteel body is Mollie with a rise in her like. It’s a lady she should be; an’ now to go an’ take service in Liverpool.”
“It isn’t service,” explained Michael. “Teaching is genteel work. Mother did teaching, and she is a lady.”
“Mollie’s never been the same since Stephen Fannin was transported. It made her queer in the head like. She goes to the little chapel on the Fort Island to say her prayers now, an’ no roof on it, an’ only gulls an’ the like to hear her prayers. If she would turn to Jude Kameen. He’s a kind man an’ gave Mother that nice cabinet.”
“I’m not trustin’ Kameen the length of me foot, Kitty.”
“Mother says he’s a good man.”
“Much thy mother knows of men, Kitty.”
“Mother’s a wonderful woman, Michael, wise-like an’ clever in some things.”
“She’s a clever tongue, an’ there’s no keeping it still at times.”
At her earliest: opportunity Mollie went to see Ann Fannin. “The farm is Stephen’s,” said Ann, “with shares for me and Isabella. An’ I’ll be workin’ it for him, an’ savin’ all I can, Mollie.”
“How much would another trial cost, Ann?”
“A lot of money, I’m thinkin'; an’ then without more evidence they won’t have another trial.”
“We’ll get more evidence,” said Mollie. “I’m goin’ to Liverpool, Ann, to earn money. We’ll be savin’ all we can till the time comes, an’ it will come, Ann, an’ Stephen will be free yet.”
Ann’s eyes shone. “You are faithful to Stephen,” she said.
“I’ll beg my way to Australia, goin’ barefoot all the time, an’ pick seaweed an’ slicks on the shore all my days to make fires for Stephen/’ declared Mollie.
“Stephen will not be wantin’ that at all; but it is my belief that Kameen Stole the horse, and blamed Stephen because he wanted him out of the way.”
“I’m sure of it, and I told him so.”
“Mollie! what did he say?”
“He slunk off like a whipped dog.”
“He’d give anything to get you, Mollie.”
“He never will, Ann, never. I’d marry Stephen Straight out of prison, an’ I’d marry him in prison if they’d let me.”
“Stephen is lucky to have thee, Mollie.”
“And I am lucky to have Stephen, Ann. I pray for him every day, and every week I go to the little chapel on the Fort Island and pray. It is peaceful there, and God hears better when there’s not a lot of people, with only one in the chapel praying for Stephen. I know God hears. Sometimes I feel warm inside, as though He spoke to me.”
“Yes, Mollie, I feel like that sometimes at Hango Hill; I run to Castletown to buy what we want for the house; and then I go on to Hango Hill. And sometimes I feel God is there, and that He knows about Stephen.”
“He does know, and He will deal with Jude Kameen in His own good time.”
“Yes, but poor Stephen in that dreadful ship with two hundred and fifty-six men, dreadful thieves and murderers, and Stephen such a kind, clean-livin’ man. It’s very hard.”
“It is, Ann, but God will take care of him. I know it. Sometimes at the Fort Island God speaks to me like, and tells me so. So it’s Jude Kameen we’ll be pitying in the time to come. It says in the Bible, 4 The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt ‘.”
“Yes, Mollie, I was thinkin’ of Stephen all last Sunday, and in the evenin’ Pass on Quine preached from the text: ‘Devise not a lie against thy brother; neither do the like to thy friend.’ I’m sure he had Stephen in his mind.”
“He never thought ill of Stephen at all. Twelve years isn’t so long, Ann; and Stephen will be let off long before that; there’s lots of conditional pardons and tickets-of-leave; and Stephen won’t feel so bad when he’s married.”
Ann looked at the beautiful young woman before her, with her saint-like serenity and passion for self-sacrifice. “You are good to Stephen,” was all she said, though there was wonder in her soul at Mollie’s selflessness.
“An’ Stephen will be good to me, Ann, in the years to come. Life is hard for us all, but it is good to have one’s sorrows in youth, when we are Strong and can bear them.”
“Perhaps it is,” said Ann doubtfully, “an’ when are you goin’ to Liverpool; an’ what’ill you be doin’ there?”
“I’m goin’ to a Seminary for young ladies, Ann. Seminary is a fine Liverpool name for a girls’ school; and I have to begin work on November 20th. I’ll find out a lot about Australia and convicts in Liverpool. It’s a better place to get to know things than in Ballasalla.”
“Oh, Mollie, I shall miss you so. There’s Isabella and mother and Stephen all gone, and now you. It’s lonely and queer I feel, by myself at Ballakilleen.”
“You must try to be brave, Ann. The place must be kept together for Stephen’s sake.”
“Yes, I know. Katty Coole is a help, an’ old Ambrose Quiggan too. He believes in Stephen, an’ will keep the farm together for him. I have the mortgage to pay and I must work hard myself.”
“You’ll never forget to pray for Stephen.”
“Never; I’ll find time to get to Hango Hill often. There was a church there once, and the spirit of that good man lltiam Dbone is there. Granny had a handkerchief that had been dipped in his blood, and it always brought good luck; and cured her rheumatics.”
“Where is the handkerchief now?” asked Mollie quickly.
“Among mother’s things somewhere; I’ve never had the heart to look over them yet.”
“Find it, Ann, and wear it, when you go to pray at Hango Hill.”
“I will, Mollie. Granny had a little silk bag she wore round her neck, with the handkerchief in it; and it was wonderful the cures it did, and the luck it brought.”
“Wear it, Ann; wear it an’ think of Stephen.”
“I will, Mollie.”
“If, a chance time, you can get to the Fort Island Chapel, go and pray there too, Ann. Not but what Hango Hill isn’t a good place, where the spirit of llliam Dhone walks on January ist; I shall be far away in a big town with no ruins of holy places by the sea. It’s pitying the folks in big towns I am, where there is no ruined churchyards an’ chapels, to be alone with God an’ the sea, an’ gulls, an’ scent of gorse, an’ old graves to teach us about God. I shall miss the little ruined chapel terrible bad, Ann.”
Mollie had hit on a great truth; for if there were no death, and evidences of death, people would know little about God; and simple folks would have to struggle on, without those tragic moments which bring them close to great mysteries.
Stephen lived in a kind of bewildered trance, after his sentence. It was an impossible, unthinkable thing that had befallen him. Kameen was a scoundrel, a thief, a murderer. He, an innocent man, had been convicted to be hanged on Kameen’s word that he had stolen the horse. He saw it all now. Kameen wanted him out of the way to marry Mollie himself; and his thoughts grew dark, bloodthirsty and terrible. To be alone with Jude Kameen for five minutes; how he longed for it! He would twist his neck as he twisted the neck of a chicken for the pot. The man was too bad to live; and Stephen looked at his powerful hands and groaned in the agony of a wronged and impotent man. Then suddenly he thought of Mollie, and he said aloud, “And the mean man shall be brought down, and the mighty man shall be humbled.” He heard the words and wondered. Then he found he was saying them himself. He had heard them in Malew Church, where he sat with his mother and Ann, looking down the aisle at Mollie’s charming face beside her mother, in the dark pew; and the church door beyond was open. He could see the corn waving and poppies blazing, and the blue sea. And he was never to see them again, never to see anything; but to be hanged until he was dead, for Jude to marry Mollie. The happiness of centuries would never atone for that agonized time in the condemned cell. Then came the softened sentence; transportation for twelve years. They had at least granted his life. He would come back and murder Jude Kameen. Then Mollie came, blessed Mollie! She was true to him. She would be true. She would come out to him and marry him. She bade him be of good cheer. There was a happy future for them, she told him. Well, he would believe it; and doggedly endure all the indignities thrust upon him. “I shall be with you always, Stephen,” Mollie had said, “and I shall always pray for you.” Strangely uplifted was Stephen when he thought of Mollie. In the terrible days which followed, she was with him often; he could almost touch her. He felt the breath of the sea, he smelled the gorse, he heard the gulls and the waves; and he knew Mollie was beside him. “She is praying for me,” Stephen thought, “and God lets me know.” In after years, he could recall every incident on that convict ship. The misery of the wet decks; the stifling heat; the heavy smell of herded human beings; the coarse food; the horrible oaths of the debased men around him; the sense of having no personal identity, being merely a unit in a foul mass of evil humanity.
And yet, Stephen was fortunate in being sent out in a ship in charge of a certain Dr. Colin, a surgeon of the Royal Navy, whose business it was to look after the well-being of the prisoners. Dr. Colin was an enthusiastic reformer, and a Christian gentleman. In a pamphlet on prison reform written by him at this time he says: “We hear much of separate, solitary and silent systems of prison discipline; but unless the Christian system be brought to bear, with Divine power, on the understandings and consciences of criminals, every other system, which professedly contemplates their reformation, must prove a failure.” He wished to keep the wretched convicts occupied and interested, to teach them, and try to arouse their better nature daring the miserable and tedious voyage; he was fond of quoting from Hosea, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” He was an efficient organizer, and he had every detail planned beforehand. Before embarking Stephen recognized the admirable organization when his mattress, with his pillow tacked to the end of it, plainly marked with his number, were assigned to him. With these impedimenta, he marched with the others in an orderly fashion on board, and received his bedding and blanket, and was made acquainted with his sordid berth. Even before the prisoners were on board the messes were formed and some of the petty officers appointed. On the first day, at the earliest possible moment, Stephen found himself with the other prisoners, standing on the quarter deck, with the guard drawn up on the poop, and Dr. Colin addressed them. It was an earnest, even impassioned address, an attempt to get at the humanity in each of these sin-stained men; and it contained a message of hope. Stephen was greatly impressed with Dr. Colin’s personality; and he felt under the stimulus of this first address, that even as a prisoner on a convict ship he had duties to perform towards himself and his fellow prisoners. For the most part his fellows were the scourings of humanity, hoary sinners with leering eyes, forgers, swindlers, murderers, smugglers, pickpockets, burglars, steeped in every variety of crime; and among them were young boys, hardly out of their childhood, pathetic in their childlike ignorance. The great bulk of the prisoners were brutish, blasphemous men, from whom Stephen shrank; but there were some to whom their situation was an over-whelming tragedy, and to these Stephen felt a kind of kinship.
The second day, Dr. Colin tried to grade the prisoners, according to their ability to read and write, into small groups, or schools. Out of the whole number, two hundred and sixty-five, only forty-six could read and write; and they were placed in the highest group. From these, school-masters were chosen, whose business it was to try and teach the small groups of nine or ten men assigned to them to read and write. The schoolmasters had to take charge of school books, and to ensure the regular attendance of their pupils. It was Dr. Colin’s ambition to see that every prisoner learnt to read during the passage; and to present him with a Bible with a few personal words of encouragement at the end of the voyage. Stephen was chosen at once for a schoolmaster, and many a time he was glad of the task. Again, Dr. Colin separated all boys under sixteen from the rest of the men; and Stephen was in charge of a class of boys from twelve and upwards. The appointment of such petty officers as Captains of Decks, Captains of Divisions, Captains of Forecastles, Captains of Boys’ Wards, Cooks, Barbers, Heads of Mess, Deck Washers, etc., occupied some time, but all was settled before the end of the second day; and on the third day the regular routine began. Perhaps a day in the life of a prisoner on board a convict ship, which has come down to us in extracts from a rough diary kept by Stephen at that time, may be illuminating.
At 5 o’clock in the morning the Captains and Deck-washers and Cooks were called for their duties of scrubbing, cleaning and cooking.
At 7.30, when the decks were supposed to be dry, all the bedding was put into a net hammock and brought to the deck to be aired.
At 8 o’clock breakfast was served, usually a coarse mess of porridge and salt, served on a wooden platter with a piece of ship’s biscuit, and a drink of water.
At 8.30 prayers were read. At 9 o’clock inspection. At 10, when all had been cleaned and inspected, schools began. Often indeed a sorry travesty, amid din, cramped quarters, sometimes great heat or wet decks, dreary, unresponsive, blasphemous pupils, with hatred and murder in their souls. At 12 o’clock dinner was served. Broth, sometimes dumplings, or potatoes, or biscuit, occasionally a piece of coarse meat.
At1 o’clock came the treat of the day, when an anti-scorbutic drink was served, consisting of wine, water, lime-juice, and sugar. This was to prevent an outbreak of scurvy. It was greatly appreciated; and an effective punishment was the withholding of this coveted drink.
At 2 o’clock schools again assembled until 3.30. Then a popular le&ure was given by officers on geography, or some simple subject connected with natural philosophy. Then came supper, and bedding was returned to the berths. Afterwards came prayers and the reading of Scripture.
Every Wednesday men had clean shirts, and on Saturdays they were required in divisions to wash their clothes. Dr. Colin had sound views on cleanliness, and all the exterior parts of the sleeping berths were well scrubbed with soap and water; but Stephen, in his diary, sometimes complains of vermin. Dr. Colin tried to increase the ventilation for the prisoners by means of windsails to force more air down the hatchways. He was well aware of the importance of dry decks, and contrived swinging stoves lighted with charcoal to dry them, in spite of which the men sometimes suffered from rheumatism. The wards and hospital, which in truth were in a sorry corner partitioned off, were often sprinkled with chloride of lime and vinegar to purify them. But where there is closely-packed humanity in limited space, there is bound to be sickening heavy smells, and Stephen’s life was often a misery. That Dr. Colin succeeded in improving the condition of the transported prisoners, there is no doubt. It is reported of him that during one of his voyages, one hundred and seventy men out of two hundred and twenty became professed Christians, and many of them in after life were self-respecting members of society in those early Australian days.
During Stephen’s voyage, not only were no lashes inflicted, nor irons used, but not one convict was placed under a sentry. But Dr. Colin was a remarkable man, and every system is at the mercy of the people in authority. His presence was an immense comfort to Stephen, who really benefited from his special addresses to Schoolmasters and Petty Officers. The most vivid experience during the voyage was a terrible thunderstorm. It was sultry weather, the thermometer ranging from 83 to 86 degrees. Stephen was awakened by the crashing of thunder. The heat was suffocating; and the closely packed men in bunks lining the sides of the ship were terrified. Flashes of lightning were continuous and vivid, with scarcely a moment’s intermission; rain fell in torrents. The storm continued for hours. The prisoners went to their deck and huddled about cowed and miserable; while some of them moaned that the end of the world was upon them, and prayed aloud of their sins. Hours dragged on, and the fury of the raging storm remained unspent. Suddenly a thunderbolt struck the fore-royal-mast of the ship, and broke it in pieces; the great ship shuddered as the thunderbolt crashed into it. It seemed to pass all around the deck; so it was afterwards affirmed by scores of eye-witnesses. Everybody waited agonized and breathless for indications that the ship was sinking. Even hardened criminals sank on their knees praying aloud. But strange to say, no fatal damage was done, and very gradually the Storm died away. Stephen, throughout the whole of the time, was calm, with a sweet sense of security. Whether it was a vision, or a dream, he never knew, but the whole time he was conscious of Mollie kneeling beside him. Mollie in the plain gown, and cottage bonnet with her beautiful face, and the wind blowing upon her cloud of hair. She was praying for him, and he felt safe and comforted.
1. Across the water, in England.
A LITTLE GREY MOTTLED BOOK
“Ah! yet, when all is thought and said
The heart still overrules the head.”
“A kind old woman at heart, yet her tongue nagged overmuch.” — Miss Milford.
Mrs. Christane was alone in her bedroom examining her treasures. Her wedding gown, a silk Paisley shawl, and a lace collar which she wore at weddings and christenings. She took them one by one, out of the bottom drawer of her Spanish mahogany chest-of-drawers, unfolded the fine paper in which they were wrapped, and looked at them with adoring eyes. The wedding gown was a delightful colour, just like the bloom on a ripe fig unplucked from the tree, and shining in the sun. It was the very best quality of Chinese silk, smuggled silk doubtless, of long ago. For years, it lay untouched by the scissors in its pristine folds; and then her mother had given it to her foi a wedding gown. “There’s not the like in these days at all,” Mrs. Christane said to herself, as she touched it tenderly and held it against her withered face, ” an’ the handsome I looked in it too,” and her old face curved into smiles as she recalled the compliments of her husband, and her friends and relations. Even the parson had said there was not a “more beautiful bride in the kingdom.” Mollie was like her, but Mollie was even handsomer. She was more religious, too, and looked sometimes like the picture of an angel; and Mollie was going to leave her, going away to Liverpool with all its dirt and bad people. Mollie her youngest born. Yet, she was going into a school for young ladies; and the people in Liverpool were rich, and terrible fine, she had heard. Mollie somehow looked like a lady, more than Betty, or Kitty, even in her grand new silk gown. And Mollie would meet ladies. She considered Mollie’s wardrobe. Her good Manx-spun wool gowns, and cotton gowns, were well enough for the Isle of Man; but in England she would need something finer. She stroked the silk tenderly; she had been saving it for Mollie’s wedding. She had begun to believe that Mollie would never marry Jude Kameen. The pity of it, and he so rich. Stephen was out of the way. Perhaps Mollie would never be married at all. Well, she should have the silk gown; and go to England as fine as any of them. How angry Betty would be. She must give Betty the silk Paisley shawl to placate her. After all Betty was the elder. It was hard to part with her treasures in her lifetime, but Mollie must not go away among ladies looking like a poor Manx farmer’s daughter. Her mind was made up. She made a neat parcel of the silk gown and hid it under her bed. During dinner she told her daughters that she was going to drive to Douglas with Mr. Caine.
“I’ll get ready, mother,” said Betty.
“I’m not wantin’ thee to-day. It’s business I’ve got.”
Betty was not hurt. She looked at life from the robust pagan point of view, enjoying every moment; so she went on eating her potatoes and herrings with a relish, and added thick cream to her apple pudding. Mollie lived the invisible silent life, that is hidden in the soul. She seldom made comments, but now she said in some surprise: “If you would like to have me, mother, I’m ready.”
“I require to be alone,” was her mother’s reply. Mr. Caine called, and Mrs. Christane and her parcel drove away.
Mysteriously she unwrapped her parcel and displayed the gown to Miss Fitzsimmons. “It’s elegant, ma’am, that’s what it is. You never see the like in these days at all. See the beautiful bloom of it, an’ the rich it is. Even the queen on her throne couldn’t get a better silk if she tried.”
“It was my wedding gown,” asserted Mrs. Christane with pride.
“Ay! they knew what silk was in them days. You want it made more fashionable perhaps for a wedding?”
“I do not require it for myself, but my youngest daughter is goin’ to Liverpool, and I wish her to be dressed like the Liverpool ladies.”
“‘Deed, Miss Mollie ‘ill look well in it, so she will. It takes a handsome lady to set off a silk like this, Mrs. Quilliam. The skirts is not worn so wide now, as in them days. I can take a breadth out an’ make a fichu-fold; and spare a bit for a bonnet. Aw! the elegant silk it is.”
Mrs. Christane made a thrifty bargain concerning the price of these additions to Mollie’s wardrobe, and rejoined Mr. Caine and drove home.
“Betty,” she said, over supper, “I’m thinkin’ of givin’ thee my silk Paisley shawl.”
Betty was “struck all of a heap,” as she said afterwards to her friends Maria and Fanny Brideson. “Don’t you want it, mother?”
“I shall not wear it again,” she said, “an’ its handsomer than the one Kitty’s got.”
“It is so,” agreed Betty.
“Mollie, go thou to-morrow to Miss Fitzsimmons and let her fit thee for a gown. I’m having my weddin’ gown made up for thee.”
“It is much too good for me, mother.”
“It’s nonsense thou’rt talkin’, girl. If thou must go to Liverpool, thou shalt go dressed like a lady.”
So the matter was settled, and Mollie in her new finery was indeed a beautiful picture, such as rarely gladdened the eyes of the Liverpool gentlemen, accustomed as they were to elegant ladies.
Old Mrs. Quilliam was pleased to hear of Mollie’s success, and she ceremoniously invited her to tea. She told Kitty she wished to give her advice about teaching. Mollie accepted the invitation with alacrity. She wanted an opinion concerning her fitness for the post in Liverpool. She seized the opportunity of paying her last visit to the little ruined church on the Fort Island. She remained a long time kneeling among the nettles at the east window; and some children who were gathering flitters (limpets) from the rocks, strayed by. They were frightened when they saw Mollie kneeling there, and ran away swiftly, thinking she was a spirit; but the elder girl shrewdly said “Spirits aren’t dressed that way at all,” and they lingered along the road to the island until she passed them. “There, it’s Miss Mollie Christane saying her prayers in the ould chapel, so quare like she looked.”
Mrs. Quilliam welcomed Mollie warmly, and after tea she gave her advice about her calling.
“You must read a great deal,” she said, “and above all you must read about Ancient Greece.”
Mollie sighed. “I have no books.”
“You can join a library in a place like Liverpool. You had better read Rollin’s Ancient Greece.”
Mollie promised to do so.
Mrs. Quilliam produced a little, grey-mottled book in her own neat handwriting. “Under the direction of my dear father,” she said, “I prepared this little book of extracts, which are carefully chosen to form the female mind, and to direct the thoughts to a future life. I found it of great assistance to me in my career as a governess; and I am going to lend it to you.”
Mollie thanked her gratefully and took the book. “I will be very careful of it,” she said.
“Copy it, my dear, in your spare time, and add to your own copy; when you read books of worth, mark the impressive passages, and transcribe them at your leisure.”
“I will, indeed I will; you are most kind to me, ma’am.” Mollie glanced at the book. “There are many things here I have never heard of,” she said despondingly.
“Doubtless, Miss Mollie, but a teacher must know a little about a variety of things. Examine the index of the book; you will see the contents fall under three headings — Theology, Ancient History, and Polite Literature.”
Mollie examined the index. Under Theology she read: —
“On the existence of a supreme Being.”
“Ray on the wisdom of God.”
“You can read the old English Divines, Miss Mollie, and copy choice passages. In conversing with your pupils you must quote passages to them of theological interest.”
Mollie promised to do so.
“Now read to me the extracts under Ancient History.”
Mollie read. ” Geographical description of Ancient Greece, Illustrious Grecians, Alexander the Great. Successors of Alexander. Character of Hannibal, the Carthaginian general. Extracts from Cicero’s letters.”
“You will get the pith of the ancient world in these extracts, Miss Mollie, so my dear father used to say. I learned them diligently; and was able to converse with bishops, statesmen, and other gentlemen of culture. I also could listen to their conversation intelligently.”
Mollie gazed humbly at the small, clear handwriting, and promised to read and learn the extracts.
“As to Polite Literature,” went on Mrs. Quilliam, “you will find extracts from divers sources. From Sir Walter Scott’s Marmion and The Lay of the Last Minstrel. Verses spoken by Mrs. Siddons. Johnson’s Tragedy of Irene. Extracts from the letters of Lady Mary W. Montague. From The Search after Happiness, by Hannah More. Poems from Cowper. Passages from Milton’s Paradise Lost, from Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered, and from Johnson’s Letters to Mrs. Thrale, also a few discreet passages from Lord Byron’s poems.”
Mollie turned over the pages of the book. “I will indeed try to remember all you say,” she said, “and I will learn all the passages in the book.”
“If you do this, my child, your mind will have a foundation upon which you can build up yourself.”
“Yes,” said Mollie.
“Nothing is so elevating to the female mind,” went on the old lady, “after the Holy Scriptures, as a study of polite literature and ancient history.”
“Every day, after reading your portion of the Bible, read a portion of some sound good book.”
“I will,” agreed Mollie.
“There are some arithmetical puzzles at the end, and ingenious problems. On wet days when your pupils are fractious, amuse them with these. It will sharpen their wits.”
“Yes,” agreed Mollie.
“You can return me the book when you have copied it out. I wish to give it to my granddaughter Bride when she grows up. She ought to be a clever woman.”
“I am sure she will,” said Mollie, turning over the leaves of the manuscript.
On the title page was written: “A Bishop’s Epitaph in the Isle of Man.
“In this house which I have borrowed from my brethren the worms lie I, Samuel, by Divine permission late Bishop of this Island, in hopes of the resurrection to eternal life. Reader, slop — view the Lord Bishop’s Palace — and smile.”
Mollie read it. “Who was the Bishop?” she asked.
“Samuel Rutter, my dear. He governed the Manx Church wisely, during the Civil Wars, and then became Bishop. It always comforts me to think that our poor dust has the hope of a joyful resurrection.”
“Yes,” said Mollie.
“I wish you every success, my dear. If you succeed in England, I hope you will return to the Isle of Man and start a school in Castletown. It would be nice for Patience, Bride, and little Faith.”
Mollie blushed at the ambitious idea and promised to think of it.
It was a trying passage for Mollie to Liverpool. The Royal Mail packet was a small boat, and the accommodation primitive. The Stewardess, a widow from Colby, said cheerfully: “‘Deed now, Miss Christane, it’s a dirty passage we’ll have. You lie down before she starts; lie prostrate flat on your back. Take off your shawl and bonnet. Now I’ll fetch you a sup of brandy to settle your inside; and you get off to sleep.”
“I want to see Douglas Head,” said Mollie.
“Don’t be troubling about that. There’s a rough bit of sea round the Head. Lie an’ try to sleep, an’ maybe you’ll not be sick.”
Mollie obeyed and slept for a couple of hours or so. She awoke to discomfort and confusion. The boat dancing on the great waves; crockery smashing; women lying groaning on the floor; sailors trampling overhead; water washing overboard and slopping down the stairs. The stewardess was chatting to a fat Manx lady lying on the sofa beneath her.
“The Lord bless me! Mrs. Costeen, ma’am, but it’s a graspin’ man the Bishop is, with his tithes on turnips,” she was saying.
“Are we nearly there?” Mollie asked.
“We’re not then, Miss Christane, but it’s a middlin’ good passage for all. A fine wind, an’ drivin’ us along it is. We shall be in Liverpool before dark.”
Mollie lay there in deadly discomfort, and the hours dragged on. She thought of Stephen in the convict ship, “packed like herrin’s in a barrel,” Ann had said, all among those wicked men, thieves and murderers. And Stephen as handsome and good a lad as ever trod the heather of his native land. Why did God let such things be? The future seemed dreary enough. Suppose she was of no use to Mrs. Mardon in the school! Those things about Greece, and God, and Happiness in the little grey-mottled book were terribly hard. There were thousands of books in the world, and she ought to know them all. Suppose Mrs. Mardon turned out to be a cruel woman, or a drunkard, or a card-player? Brada Crageen had told her of ladies who did dreadful things in England. Suppose there was no school at all, and the advertisement was merely a trap to entangle an innocent girl. Her mother had told her lurid stories of the kind. Mollie grew sick with apprehension. Ballasalla and her peaceful home seemed a long way off; and still the packet ploughed on in the stormy sea; and she was getting farther and farther away. She dozed fitfully, and awakened in a fright. “Only for Stephen,” she said to herself, “I’d never have left my home.”
“It’s in the river we are now,” the stewardess informed her, “an’ a good passage, thank God. Get up and drink a little sup of tea, and go on deck an’ get a sight of Liverpool.”
She felt better after the tea, and she climbed upstairs and watched the great river with the houses, streets and villages on either side, and the big black Liverpool looming ahead.
“Sure it’s lost I’ll be entirely in that place,” she said to herself. “How’ll I be getting to Great George’s Street with all the crowds of people about, and me not knowing the way.”
She sought advice from her friend the stewardess.
“Sure it’s easy enough, Miss Christane. Teddy Qualtrough of Ballabeg ‘ill put your box ashore, an’ find a hackney coach for ye.”
“It’ll cost a lot of money,” said Mollie.
“Not that much at all. You give Teddy sixpence, an’ a fine bargain he’ll make with the rascal that drives the hackney coach.”
It was about six o’clock when a weary and timid Mollie arrived at the door of Mrs. Mardon’s ” Seminary for Young Ladies.” The house was tall and straight like the fine houses in Athol Street, with narrow windows, and a certain dignity of aspect which was pleasing to look upon. A boy in a page’s suit, much too large for him, opened the door. He glanced at her box, and bawled out; “Martha, here’s Miss Christane, and I shall want help with the box.” Martha, in neat shoes, a pert cap, and a sparkle in her eye, appeared.
“Don’t shout, you rude boy; be genteel, do.” She led Mollie into a hall furnished with cases of stuffed birds, and opened the door of the best parlour. “Miss Christane, ma’am,” she announced, and ushering Mollie in, left her. It was a large room and it looked educational. The carpet had been made in cross-stitch by industrious fingers. There were golden eagles and russet-red oakleaves on it, with a soft grey background. There was an exquisite Sheraton piano, inlaid with satinwood and brass. It was perfectly proportioned, and Mollie knew that it was perfect, and loved it at once. There was a dingy harp, a great globe of the world, a case of books, a drawing board, a pair of compasses, an upright, narrow gilt mirror, with little gilt balls around the top moulding, a marble statue of a Greek lady, and some delightful Queen Anne chairs with cabriole legs, ball and claw feet, the seats covered with a dim yellow cloth. As there was nobody in the room, Mollie sat down and waited. A soft voice at her elbow said coaxingly, ” Have you come, dear? God save the King.” Mollie Started; was it a spirit? she wondered. She laughed when she found it was a grey and red parrot in a cage regarding her with a wise and aged eye. “Pretty Polly,” she said.
“Is that Miss Christane? Come forward, please,” called a voice from an inner room, the opening being concealed by a green repp curtain.
A RESPECTABLE SEMINARY FOR YOUNG LADIES
“Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone,
Kindness in another’s trouble,
Courage in your own.”
A. Lindsay Gordon.
“Many of our sex are capable of great efforts, of making great sacrifices — but few remain habitually gentle.” — Miss Edgeworth.
Mollie entered the inner room, where a large lady in a purple gown reclined upon a long Chippendale sofa, with two arms and eight exquisite legs. The lady was stout; her three chins reposed on her ample bust; and on her head she wore a green turban.
“I am indisposed, Miss Christane, as you see. A carbuncle of a distressing kind is forming on my cheek and causing me acute agony”; and the lady threw a yellow silk shawl around her afflicted head.
“I am sorry you are ill,” said Mollie gently.
“You are a pretty creature,” said the lady, looking favourably at Mollie. “Ah! beauty is fleeting. Be young and rejoice while you may. You have a soft voice with a pleasing accent, a little like Irish, but not Irish. ‘An excellent thing in woman,’ as the immortal bard says. Are you fond of Shakespeare?”
“Yes,” said Mollie, “all that I have read,” she added truthfully.
“Yours is a romantic land, my dear, with rocky gorges, waterfalls, and purple mountains. Mona’s Isle. ‘Ellan Vannin.’ I used to know a Manx lady who sang —
“‘My own dear Ellan Vannin
With her green hills by the sea.’
What is the exact meaning of Ellan Vannin?”
“Vannin means little. Really it means little island.”
“How romantic you Manx people are to love your land so. You are true patriots. I saw your Ellan Vannin once, so charming, with mountains everywhere, and a smell of fish; a very healthy smell, I’m told. But the passage was a horror. Twelve hours, and I had a delicate stomach the whole time. Excuse my allusion to my inside.”
“Go now, Miss Christane, to Number 5. The inner closet is your own sandtum. Four young ladies share the outer room. You will be required to regulate their movements and chatter.”
“Yes,” said Mollie.
“Come back directly you have removed your bonnet and smoothed those dark tresses, and share my simple repast. Tea, poached eggs, dry toast and red currant jelly; positively the only food that can be eaten after a sea journey.”
Martha was outside the door. “Me an’ Timothy has taken your box up, Miss. I’ll show you the way; there’s hot water to wash in, Miss, in the brass jug.”
Mollie followed Martha upstairs.
“I’m bringing in a bit of ham, Miss, for your tea, for you look hungry,” said good-natured Martha.
As Mollie had eaten nothing since before dawn in the morning her looks did not belie her.
The room was small, the bed was small, the washstand was small; but there was a little window looking out on to a patch of green, with a laurel bush and a few melancholy lilacs. In a few moments Mollie appeared again in the parlour.
“You must drink a cup of tea before you speak one word,” commanded Mrs. Mardon, pouring out the beverage. “These cups were my mother’s — Liverpool china; so sweetly sentimental these little black pictures. I adore sentiment,” and the lady sipped her tea.
“Cream is impossible in Liverpool, adulterated you know, with ingredients deleterious to health. I send to a little farm in Cheshire, and I always exact a promise that the maid shall be obliged to wash her hands before milking the cows — so necessary. I get my butter there, too; but it is a ruinous price; positively tenpence, and even a shilling a pound, and I know you get it for sixpence. You get eggs for nothing, I daresay; hens running wild, like blackberries and sparrows, and laying eggs everywhere in that romantic and blessed isle of yours.”
Mollie laughed. “Eggs cost sixpence a dozen, ma’am, and sometimes fourpence.”
“And fresh from the hen, I’m sure. In the Liverpool markets they make a practice of selling stale little Welsh eggs. Kept for weeks under people’s beds in the Welsh cottages to get stale.”
“Why?” asked horrified Mollie.
“To make people pay double price for what they call fresh eggs.”
“How very wicked.”
“Sweetly innocent you are, Miss Christane. I was like that when I was young. Youth is a sweet thing. Martha has brought some ham, I see. Have a thin crisped piece with a poached egg. Ham and eggs with a mushroom or two make a meal fit for a King.”
Mollie proceeded to do credit to the viands provided.
“The young ladies have their evening meal at seven. Milk, wheaten cakes, and honey, with a little cheese for those with robust frames. The parlour boarders may have cold meat and small ale or a little wine if they wish. Miss Julia presides. Afterwards, I shall read prayers, and then we can talk business. I wish to put you through a little examination.”
Mollie’s face paled.
“To-night?” she asked.
“Yes; quite informal, I assure you. I merely wish to know your views on teaching polite literature and history to advanced pupils. Now go to your room, Miss Christane, and lie down for one hour. After a sea journey, the poor head is like a clock going round and round. Compose yourself, my dear, and in one hour we will have a little examination.”
Mollie went to her room sick with apprehension. She knew nothing of examinations. The Vicar’s son had gone to a place called Oxford to pass an examination. He had failed, and come home again in disgrace. How could she hope to pass an examination? Oh! why had she come to Liverpool at all? Then she thought of Stephen on his way to Australia; of course she must be in Liverpool to learn more about convict life in Australia, to earn money to go out to Australia herself, and to look for proofs of his innocence in England. Then she thought of Mrs. Quilliam and her book of extracts. “Why! of course it was all in that book. ‘Polite Literature,’ Mrs. Mardon said, ‘and history.'” That meant Scott, Shakespeare, Mrs. Hannah More, Johnson and Cowper. It might mean The Children of the Abbey, and The Mysteries of Udolpho as well. History meant Greece and Grecians. It was all in the book. Homer, Socrates, Plato, Alexander the Great. Mollie got out the book and scanned the neatly written pages, trying to fix the names in her memory, and the hour sped rapidly. She was deep in the exploits of Hannibal when Martha appeared.
“Mrs. Mardon’s compliments, Miss, and will you please step into the parlour?” Mollie went with a beating heart, but a serene countenance.
“I have read prayers,” Mrs. Mardon told her, “but I think this is my last appearance for some time. The carbuncle gains ground, and the agony is acute.”
Mollie murmured her sympathy and sorrow.
“So kind of you, my dear. Have you had any experience of teaching?”
“No,” said Mollie regretfully.
“So much the better. Are you acquainted with any theories of education?”
“None,” said Mollie again.
“Delightful; and have you a system, or any ideas on organization?”
“No,” replied Mollie, wondering what these things might be.
“Charming, indeed. Your predecessor, Miss Octavia Featherstone-haugh, had experience and theories, and a system, also ideas on organization. She talked a great deal about these things, but she could not teach.”
Mollie murmured. “Indeed.”
“She talked about Thomas Day and other dull and didactic people, with theories of education. Theories, you know, came from France — the infidel Rousseau invented them.”
Mollie did not know, and she remained silent.
“Miss Octavia Featherstone-haugh knew how everything should be taught, but she could teach nothing; so tiresome of her. Her name alone wasted the young ladies’ time,” grumbled Mrs. Mardon. “Such a long name. If every young lady uttered her name only ten times a day, about five school days were lost each year in merely saying her name. A shocking waste of precious time.
“‘How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour.’
What would dear Dr. Watts have said to this waste?”
“I don’t know,” confessed Mollie.
“There are three essentials which make for success in teaching the young,” said the lady dogmatically. “The teacher must have no experience, no theories, and a short name.”
“Christane has two syllables,” lamented Mollie.
“A pretty name, a sweetly running name,” approved Mrs. Mardon, “it trips lightly off the tongue. Not a clumsy mouthful like Feather-stone-haugh.”
Mollie was relieved.
“Miss Christane, what would you consider suitable polite literature for young ladies from thirteen to seventeen?”
Mollie looked thoughtful.
“After Shakespeare, ma’am,” she said, “I should teach Scott’s Marmion and The Lay of the Last Minstrel. Some poems by Cowper; selections from Johnson and Milton; Mrs. Hannah More, and Lady W. Montague’s letters.”
“Very good, Miss Christane. Is not Johnson perhaps too difficult?”
“Johnson’s Tragedy of Irene and his letters to Mrs. Thrale are not difficult.”
“I think you are right; and what would you choose from Mrs. Hannah More?”
“The Search after Happiness is suitable, I think.”
“You are certainly right. Would you allow novels?”
“Miss Austen’s Northanger Abbey, The Mysteries of Udolpho, Gaston de Blondeville, and The Children of the Abbey. These books improve the taste of young people, and teach a good deal of history without labour or fatigue.”
“Perfectly true. What kind of history would you teach? ”
“Ancient history, ma’am. Rollin’s Ancient History, the lives of Homer, Socrates, Plato, also the life of Alexander the Great, and Hannibal the Carthaginian general. Then I would have them read Cicero’s letters.”
“Upon my word, you are ambitious. Your programme is wide. Is all this necessary?”
“You will get the pith of the ancient world if this plan of study be followed,” said Mollie earnestly, ” and the young ladies would be able to converse with bishops and statesmen, and listen to their conversation intelligently.”
“You are a widely cultured young lady, Miss Christane. I had no idea that the ladies of your island were so deeply learned. Ah! Miss Octavia Featherslone-haugh had not your culture and pleasing appearance. She had a large and distressing mole on her left temple which detracted from her value as a teacher.”
Mollie blushed and remained silent under this praise.
“We have twelve boarders, two parlour boarders, and thirty-three day pupils — a large and genteel school. All the young ladies come from genteel families. Some from the merchant-shipping class, with very rich fathers. They are often greatly indulged, richly clad, and every whim gratified. Miss Octavia Featherstone-haugh offended the parents. She wanted these delicate girls to go about with holes in their shoes, or bare-footed; to have no regular meals and to sleep on hard beds too short for them.”
“Why?” asked Mollie.
“To be ready to face the hardships of life.”
“Dear me,” said Mollie sedately, “the Manx fisher children are brought up like that.”
“Are they healthy, and can they bear hardships?”
“Very healthy, and in times of famine, sickness, failure of crops, an’ fish leaving the island, they have to bear hardships.”
“Miss Octavia Featherstone-haugh said this was the right way to educate. She used to read it all out of a book written by a man named Locke. She called him a philosopher, but I thought he was a fool.”
Mollie thought so, too, but she said nothing.
“Should you require a basin of water, a magnet, and a little tin duck with a steel needle coming out of its mouth in the schoolroom, Miss Christane?” asked Mrs. Mardon earnestly.
“I should not,” replied Mollie; indeed she had never heard of a magnet. “I should not know what to do with them.”
“Miss Octavia Featherstone-haugh said these were necessary to gratify the young ladies’ natural curiosity, and she took my best Spode washbasin for the tin duck to swim in, and broke it, and the water all over the floor — a shocking mess. That was the way the infidel Rousseau taught children.”
“It seems very strange,” said Mollie.
“You will promise me faithfully, Miss Christane, not to talk to the pupils about holes in their shoes; nor to have tin ducks and my best washing basins in the schoolrooms.”
“I will, indeed,” declared Mollie.
“Nor to read the works of the philosopher Locke nor the infidel Rousseau?”
“Not one word will I read,” said Mollie firmly.
“That is settled, now you must be tired. Good-night, good-night. In the morning I will instruct you in your duties. My poor cheek throbs painfully; I shall have to hand the whole school over to you.”
Mollie was introduced next morning to the two parlour boarders, Miss Isabel Orange and Miss Rosalie Roundtree, and the twelve boarders. She had breakfast with them; and the young ladies admired Mollie extremely.
“Perfect beauty is very rare,” said Miss Orange to Miss Roundtree, “and Miss Christane is perfect.”
“Her hair, her eyes, and her saint-like look, they are charming,” agreed Miss Roundtree.
“It is the delicate moulding of the bones of her face; the poise of her head; the perfect proportion of her figure; these give her distinction,” said Miss Orange, who aspired to be artistic; and indeed, she painted portraits quite creditably. “We shall like her, Rosalie, even if she were an idiot and could teach us nothing, we should enjoy looking at her.”
“Miss Featherstone-haugh had such big feet, and one hip higher than the other; she was a fright,” whispered Miss Roundtree.
“She had the face of a horse,” agreed Miss Orange. “It was her high cheek-bones and her long upper lip. She was very boring.”
“But Mrs. Mardon always said she was intellectual.”
“My dear, she was stupid; only stupid people are boring,” declared Miss Orange
Meanwhile Mrs. Mardon was initiating Mollie. “You will instruct Miss Orange and Miss Roundtree in ancient history and polite literature,” she said. “Two lessons in each subject a week will be enough. They do French literature with Mademoiselle and quantities of needlework and embroidery. Miss Orange is seventeen. She will be married when Captain Boyden comes home, and she is making her trousseau. Miss Roundtree is the daughter of a sugar-planter in Jamaica. He is immensely wealthy; but I think her mother is not white; she is kept invisible. When her education is finished she will go to her father’s relations. He wants her to marry an Englishman.”
“Yes,” said Mollie.
“I am going to give you the charge of the school at once, Miss Christane. My indisposition is sapping all my strength. I shall retire to my chamber until I am fit to be seen.”
Mollie paled at the thought of so much responsibility, but she had plenty of courage; and she felt confident of success if she were left alone.
“Miss Julia teaches the little ones in the small schoolroom; and you will teach the elder girls in the large schoolroom. Miss Julia Knix is her name, but we call her Miss Julia. ”
“What must I teach?”
“Reading, poetry, literature, history, chronology, and geography, also French grammar and exercises.”
Mollie quailed. “I hope I shall be able to do it,” she said.
“It is quite easy, my dear. The young ladies learn the lessons, you hear them repeat the lessons. It is all in the books. On Monday you will hear them say their collects, and on Friday the commandments and the church catechism.”
“Yes,” said Mollie.
“There is a master for arithmetic and penmanship. Miss Julia teaches fine needlework; and my daughter Virgilia, Mrs. Box, teaches music, painting and drawing. Come, my dear, Miss Julia is ringing the bell. I will take you to your duties.”
Mollie followed Mrs. Mardon to the large schoolroom, where some twenty-five young ladies were standing awaiting their schoolmistress.
“Good morning, ladies,” she began. “I wish to introduce you to Miss Christane; she will take my place entirely until my unfortunate indisposition is over,” and the lady covered the carbuncle with the yellow silk shawl. “Miss Christane is a lady of learning, and I hope you will benefit under her tuition. Ladies, you may be seated.”
The young ladies all sat down. Mrs. Mardon turned to Miss Orange. “You will be good enough, Miss Orange, to show Miss Christane where the books and needlework are kept; show her the time-table and routine, and assist her all you can, to-day.”
Miss Orange bowed, and led Mollie to the high chair and desk near the window. “I will sit by you this morning, and show you everything, Miss Christane,” said Miss Orange affably, as Mrs. Mardon sailed out of the room.
In her own room Mrs. Mardon comforted her afflicted cheek with a hot fomentation; swathed her face in a bandage; ate a poached egg on toast and drank a glass of wine. Then, feeling soothed and comfortable, she wrote to her daughter
“My dear Virgilia,
Miss Christane has come. She is very handsome, with pretty manners, and an enchanting look of sadness in her sweet eyes. She is no simple country girl, hut a true blue-Hocking. She says little, but when she talks, she talks like a book. She seems to have conversed with bishops and statesmen. I have handed the school over to her; I am sure she is Heady and competent. I shall take a rest. The doctor thinks the carbuncle is the result of worry. It was all the fault of that conceited, clumsy creature, Miss Featherstone-haugh, with her tin duck, breaking my best Spode wash-basin, and offending the richest parents. I got Miss Christane cheap, my love, only £14, and she pays her own washing. If she succeeds and remains here, I shall let her run the school herself; and only see the parents, and make the bills. Miss Julia is a good creature; she has been a blessing to me during this trying time. If she had intelligence, a memory, and good looks, she would make a good schoolmistress; but the little ones like her, which is a blessing.
Your loving and afflicted mother,
The morning passed smoothly enough with Mollie. Prompted by Miss Orange, she called the various groups of girls up in turn and heard them say their lessons. The books they used were all arranged in questions and answers. Mollie read the questions out of a book, and the girls repeated the answer they had learnt by heart. Then certain groups were drafted off to the master for penmanship and arithmetic; others for French conversation and literature with the French mistress. Mollie found that she had to conduct a class in parsing. This somewhat frightened her. “It is quite easy,” comforted Miss Orange. “I will fetch the book. You only dictate it.”
“The book ” proved to be an exquisitely written set of parsing exercises, which Virgilia, Mrs. Box, had produced at the school where she had been most expensively educated.
Very obligingly Miss Orange took the class herself to show Mollie how it was done.
“(Thou) be wise to-day. ‘Tis (it is) madness to defer. Procrastination is the thief of Time,” she read, and the pupils wrote the passage in their exercise books.
Miss Orange was most particular about the writing and spelling, and when the sentence was properly written, she drew a double line down the left-hand side of each exercise book and proceeded to dictate the parsing thus: —
“Thou (understood). Personal pronoun, second person, singular number, nominative case.” And so on, until the end of the passage.
A map-drawing lesson followed. The young ladies had each drawn a fine bold map of Ireland, and outlined the counties in various colours. The printing of the names of some of the counties took up the whole lesson, and so the morning’s work concluded.
In the afternoon all the young ladies were occupied with fine needlework of various kinds. Some embroidered on muslin; some tatted strong edging for undergarments; some worked samplers; and the older ones worked pictures in coloured silks, the canvas being stretched on frames. Mollie was expected to call up various groups in order for reading lessons. Groups of three read aloud to her from Aesop’s Fables and the Gospels; and the more advanced pupils read Cowper’s Negro’s Complaint, portions of Paradise Lost, and selections from Shakespeare’s Julius Casar. Mollie received them with a beating heart. She corrected the young ladies’ reading when she was aware of their mistakes, with gentle tones and a sweet seriousness which captivated them. She looked so demure and charming in her simple gown and fresh muslin fichu, her dark hair piled on her little head, and her blue eyes shining with the effort she was making to be adequate. She realized that her pressing need was books; she must get a little library together; and read and study in all her spare time, to be able to instruct faithfully. Miss Julia, a small person, almost a dwarf, with a wistful smile, and pale face deeply pitted with smallpox, sat at the other end of the room, instructing the smallest girls in the knitting of garters, the hemming of handkerchiefs, the rudiments of sampler-making. Occasionally, the elder girls sought her assistance in difficulties connected with their silken picture-making. So the afternoon passed away. When school was over and the boarders retired into the back garden with their skipping ropes, Miss Orange with Miss Roundtree took Mollie to show her the library. It was a tiny room in the front of the house. To Mollie’s joy some of the works of Dr. Johnson and Mrs. Hannah More were there, also Sir Walter Scott’s poems, Mrs. Radcliffe’s novels, and the works of Shakespeare and Milton. There were also the works of Mrs. Trimmer brought up to date to the death of George III. The collection included: —
Trimmer’s Ancient History.
Trimmer’s Roman History.
Trimmer’s Scripture History.
Trimmer’s History of England in two volumes.
Geographical Companion with coloured Maps.
Mollie was rejoiced when she saw them; and she determined to master the Trimmer collection as soon as possible.
“Only the parlour boarders and the Governess may use the library,” Miss Roundtree informed Mollie.
“We may take one book at a time, and I am librarian,” said Miss Orange.
“May I take a book now?” asked Mollie.
“Certainly, Miss Christane, you may take a book every day,” replied the obliging Miss Orange; and Mollie chose the first volume of the History of England, a little, brown leather-bound volume, with good print and curious little engravings.
“I shall know a great deal if I stay here a year,” said Mollie to herself.
“Charity and personal force are the only investments worth anything.” — Whitman.
Mollie assumed the responsibility of the school and the house simply and seriously; her infinite ta& made her rule light and pleasant. Earnest and unhurried in everything she undertook, and absolutely unselfish, she made many friends. Isabel Orange was devoted to her. Isabel was the orphan daughter of a Liverpool merchant; she had lost both her parents; and Mrs. Mardon’s school had been her home since she was fifteen. Mrs. Mardon had been a cousin of her father’s, and it was arranged that the girl was to live with her until Isabel’s marriage to a young officer, Captain Boyden. She had her own way in the house and school; she was fond of Mrs. Mardon, whom she called Cousin Euphemia. Isabel was a very suggestible person. She took colour from everyone whom she admired; and it was just good luck when the colour was good. Unconsciously she imitated Mollie to an almost ridiculous extent, even to the demure quaintness of her attire, and the crooning voice with the soft Manx accent. Mollie had a large heart, and she mothered the lonely girl with sympathetic gentleness.
Mrs. Box, who spent two whole days each week in the school teaching music and painting, congratulated her mother on Mollie’s excellence.
“After Miss Featherstone-haugh,” she said, “she is like a serene moon, after a nasty stormy day,” for Mrs. Box was inclined to be poetical.
“She takes everything off my shoulders — positively everything. The school is well-conducted; the young ladies like her; even that odious little Miss Georgina Trollop is quite tamed and obedient. She teaches conscientiously, and she positively prepares all the lessons. She knows all about the subjects in the question-and-answer books; and when it is not clearly explained in the answer, she knows enough to make it clear to the pupils.”
“That,” said Mrs. Box, “is very rare. I never yet met a teacher who troubled herself to find out anything further about the matter than the answer. I remember Miss Featherstone-haugh asked little Miss Trollop out of the General Knowledge book, ‘What King once worked as a carpenter?’ The answer was, ‘Peter the Great.’ The child was amused at the idea; she laughed and said, ‘How funny for a King to work as a carpenter; tell me more about him.’ Miss Featherstone-haugh said snappishly, ‘There is no more, and little girls must learn not to ask questions.'”
“Ah, Miss Featherstone-haugh had no patience; and not much learning. Miss Christane reads all the books in the library, and she has asked for more books. Rollin’s Ancient History and Miss Austen’s works. Isabel reads far more than she used, and even Miss Roundtree is beginning to learn some history.”
“Yes, Isabel dotes on Miss Christane; she influences her wisely.”
“Miss Christane superintends the housekeeping, too; and Martha is not half so pert or extravagant as she used to be.”
“Well, mamma, you can come and spend Christmas with me and leave Miss Christane to look after the house and Isabel.”
“My love, it would not be proper; Miss Christane is too young and attractive to chaperone Isabel, when Captain Boyden arrives.”
“La! mamma, Miss Julia will be here; and Miss Christane is very discreet with gentlemen. At the parents’ soiree last night she was very modest and silent when the gentlemen wished to be introduced to her. Freddie said she was the finest girl in Liverpool; she looked quite distinguished in a lovely China silk gown, and no ornaments at all, just her white neck and beautiful hair.”
“So different from Miss Featherstone-haugh, telling the gentlemen, rich shipping merchants, to let their daughters go about with holes in their shoes. She might have ruined the school.”
“Indeed, she might. You will come at Christmas, mamma?”
“I must talk it over with Miss Christane and Isabel. Dear Dr. Mimms says I positively ought to have a change.”
“Yes, mamma, Freddie told me to tell you to be sure to come. Our house is so healthy, purified by the sea breezes blowing up the river.”
“You are a good child, Virgilia,” said the lady, as Virgilia kissed her unafflicted cheek.
Only one letter had Mollie as yet written to Betty describing her new life. It ran: —
My dear Betty,
“Liverpool is very dirty, and there are lots of muddy puddles when it rains, There are crowds of people always; many very ragged and dirty, but some very grandly dressed. I had to pass an examination which frightened me. It was about polite literature and ancient history. I passed very well, because old Mrs. Quilliam lent me a book, and written in it were bits of ancient history and literature, which the young ladies ought to learn. It was most useful, and I thanked God for it; and please thank Mrs. Quilliam for me. There are two parlour boarders, one is a young lady named Miss Isabel Orange. She is to be married to an officer in the army. I go out shopping with her sometimes. She is buying and making such pretty underclothes and cambric petticoats. These things are called a ‘ trousseau? The shops are very big and full of beautiful things. There was an evening party for parents and the elder young ladies. Some of them played the piano and sang. I served the tea, and Miss Julia, the other governess, served the coffee. I wore my China silk gown at the evening party, which they call a ‘ soiree. 9 Miss Orange said my dress was very handsome. We have table napkins at dinner every day, and often we have wine to drink, with wine and water for the young ladies. On Sundays the puddings are cold and white, shaped like jellies. We eat jam with them. They are made with milk and something called isinglass. I have four hours off duty every Wednesday at five o’clock, and I go to Mrs. Boys to write letters for people. I earn 2s. 6d. each time. I am in charge of all the school, because Mrs. Mardon has a nasty sore on her cheek, which she calls a carbuncle. She thinks I do it very well.”
Betty was mightily interested.
“Fine to be Mollie,” she said, “with evenin’ parties, an’ drinkin’ wine, an’ table napkins, an’ cold jelly puddin’s.”
“Mollie,” said old Mrs. Chrisltane proudly, “always minded her books, an’ was diligent. She passed the examination, an’ Passon Quine’s son failed, so he did.”
“Fancy Mollie earning 2s. 6d. every week for just writing some letters. Money must be middlin’ plentiful in Liverpool.”
“Two shillings and sixpence is one-eighth of said Mrs. Christane, ” an’ there are fifty-two weeks in a year. Eight into fifty-two makes six an’ four over. That is four pounds or eighty shillin’s. Eight into eighty makes ten. £6 10s. a year, Betty, for just writing a few letters every week, an’ I can get a first-rate farm woman for £5 a year. An’ Mollie to be earnin’ all that money for doin’ nothin’ you may say, one evenin’ a week.”
“It’s amazin’,” said Betty.
“Ould Mrs. Quilliam never made that money, I’ll be bound. Our Mollie ‘ill be teachin’ the Bishop’s children yet, so she will. Aw! clever enough Mollie is at book-learnin’, an’ a fine lady she looks in the handsome silk gown, that me mother gave me to be married in.”
Mollie called on Mrs. Boys at an early date to offer her services every Wednesday evening in helping to teach “handwriting without lines,” and pen-making. The lady kept a little stationer’s shop in a small side street off Bold Street — an odd little shop going down two steps from the street into it. Mrs. Boys sold wafers, writing-paper, notebooks, sealing wax, pencils, quill pens, ink, marbles, peg-tops, tobacco, snuff, and other useful and necessary articles. Her daughter, Polly, a child of ten, in a long blue pinafore, with the elbows out of her brown stuff gown, minded the shop, while Mrs. Boys taught the piano, handwriting, and pen-making to all sorts and conditions of people, but chiefly the daughters of little tradesmen who aspired to play a tune or a hymn on the piano; working girls and domestic servants who wanted to write their own love letters; and errand boys who wanted to write and keep accounts. Every evening her classes were full. She was a hard-faced woman, who worked incessantly to keep up a respectable home, and bring up her children. Her husband was dead.
“How much time can you give?” she asked Mollie.
“From five to nine every Wednesday evening, ma’am.”
“You could take over the letter writing on Wednesdays,” she reflected. “My eldest daughter, Hannah, does it; but she wants to go out with her sweetheart once a week, so you may take her place.”
“Yes,” said Mollie.
“It takes five minutes to read an ordinary letter. The charge is 1 ½ d. Customers pay in advance. For writing a letter that takes ten minutes, 3d. is charged, including paper and ink. You ought to earn is. 6d. every hour. You ought to earn 6s. in four hours, for there are always a little crowd of people waiting to come in. You will get 2s. 6d. each night.”
“Thank you,” said Mollie. “I would like to take the work,” and so it was settled.
Every Wednesday evening Mollie sat in a small part of the shop, rendered semi-private by a big wooden screen, and received the clients, while Polly, in her long blue pinafore, sat in the shop and attended to the customers.
The clients were mostly girls whose sweethearts were at sea. “What do you want me to say?” asked Mollie patiently. “Just tell him I want him to come home and marry me.” Mollie wrote as desired. “Finish it off proper,” said the girl. “Don’t you want to send him your love,” asked Mollie. “If you like, but send him a line of kisses.”
There was not much variation in those letters. The more painful ones were from young unmarried mothers imploring aid from the fathers to help to bring up the children.
One day a little old lady in a dingy bonnet, gloves and a long black veil came in with a boy about six years old. “I want you to write a letter about the boy to his father,” said the old woman. Mollie took the mended quill and sheet of paper, and the old woman dictated: —
I wish to inform you that John Henry is quite well. He goes to school and is learning to read. He is nearly seven, and his clothes cost more money now. He wants a big bouncing ball. All is well.
“The address, please,” asked Mollie.
“Jude Kameen, Esq., Advocate, Douglas, Isle of Man,” said the old woman.
Mollie Stiffened as she wrote; then she looked at the boy. “He is not your son,” she said.
“No, miss, I’m his grandmother; my poor girl Fanny was his mother; she is dead now.”
“And this gentleman is the lawyer, who sends you the money?”
“Yes, and he’s the boy’s father.”
“He is a pretty boy,” said Mollie gently.
“Yes, miss, my girl Fanny was a beauty. She was house-maid to old Mr. Nathaniel Quine, and Mr. Kameen was his nephew, and used to come and slay with the old man. Then Fanny, poor girl, ran away, and I never saw her again till she was dying, and she asked me to look after the boy.”
“Where is Mr. Quine now?” asked Mollie.
“Dead, and everything left to Mr. Kameen; if the boy had his rights it would be his.”
“Is he often in Liverpool?”
“Not often, but he has the house, a nice place that he is trying to sell. My sister Ellen is caretaker and housekeeper, but she is deaf, poor body.”
“And where do you live?”
“I live with her, when Mr. Kameen is away, to help to take care of the house; but when he is at home I live in the little lodge at the gate. He pays me twelve shillings for the boy and myself; and I have to write to him every fortnight to say all is well. A hard man is Mr. Jude Kameen.”
“Then you’ll be coming to have more letters written?”
“I always come to Mrs. Boys. Mr. Kameen will not let me go anywhere else. He don’t like the matter talked about.”
“Of course not,” said Mollie.
That night she lay awake for hours thinking. So Ellen, Caroline Dawes’ sister, was the deaf old woman who gave evidence against Stephen. Could she find out anything further from Caroline Dawes, the boy’s grandmother who lived at the lodge? She must try. Surely God had directed her to Liverpool and to Mrs. Boys. Ann said fresh evidence was wanted before she could help to establish Stephen’s innocence. She might get that evidence. She must go warily and patiently.
The weeks which followed were full of work for Mollie. Her horizons widened, and her intelligence developed. Being very dissatisfied with the method of teaching parsing by dictating the exercises from those performed by Miss Virgilia Mardon in her schooldays, Mollie applied herself to a Study of Mr. Lindley Murray’s English Grammar. She found some difficulty in readily applying the rules to his mode of parsing; and as neither Mrs. Mardon nor Mrs. Box could help her, she wrote to Mr. Lindley Murray himself, who in his age and infirmity had retired to the city of York. The old man was pleased with Mollie’s simple and earnest letter. He pointed out that she was using an early edition of his work, and presented her with his English Grammar in two volumes, comprising Grammar, Exercises and Key; he also begged her to accept a copy of his work, The Power of Religion on the Mind, and asked her to read a portion of the Holy Scriptures daily. Mollie was very grateful for his kind help. She also became acquainted with his English Reader and English Spelling Book, both of which she introduced to her pupils with successful results.
Mrs. Mardon went to visit her daughter early in December and Mollie managed the entire establishment. Miss Roundtree was to visit her father’ relations for the holidays, and the twelve boarders returned to their homes. Most of them were sent for by their parents, and went home in the family chariot. Only two had coach journeys to make, and Miss Julia, who knew all about coaches, made the arrangements and saw the pupils off.
“It will be delightful, dear Miss Christane, to spend Christmas with you,” said Isabel, when the last young lady had departed.
“We will read some nice books,” suggested Mollie, “and take long walks together, though, to be sure, there are not very nice walks around here. If we could only have Langness, and the Fort Island and Santon near, how happy it would make us.”
“It will be my very last Christmas in England for ages,” went on Isabel, “and Captain Boyden will be here on December 24th. We shall be married in January, and we sail early in February.”
“Surely you must be very happy, dear Isabel, to think of the arrival of your lover.”
“I don’t know. He is old, quite twenty-eight, I think, and I have not seen him since I was fifteen. My father arranged the marriage long ago; but I shall like a long sea-voyage and the fascination of a new country.”
“Where will you live?” asked Mollie.
“In Australia, near Sydney, I think. There is a big convict settlement there, and Captain Boyden — Harry, I mean — he says I must learn to call him Harry — is to be stationed there.”
Mollie’s heart stood stilt for a second or so. “Why, Miss Christane, how white you look; you are tired. You do too much. Let me make you a cup of tea, or will you have a glass of wine?”
“Tea, please,” said Mollie, and she allowed Isabel to bring her a footstool and a cup of tea.
“There, you look better,” said Isabel, as Mollie’s colour returned. “How I wish you were coming to Australia too.”
“So do I, dear Isabel, so do I indeed, but we may meet there. I am going out to the convict settlement myself, as soon as I have money enough.”
“You!” cried Isabel in astonishment. “You! what can you do in a convict settlement?”
“I am going there to marry a convict,” said Mollie, her eyes full of tears.
“You poor, sad darling,” and Isabel kissed Mollie’s hair softly.” Now I know why you are so quiet and sorrowful. The convict is your lover.”
“Yes,” said Mollie.
“Confide in me, dear Miss Christane; tell me the whole Story, and we will talk about it with Harry when he comes. We may get him pardoned.”
“There is nothing to pardon,” said Mollie proudly. “He is innocent, a very wicked man arranged it all. He wanted Stephen out of the way, for he thought I would then marry him.”
“How exactly like a play in the theatre I once saw. It was called the ‘Convict’s Bride.’ Oh, Miss Christane, tell me all about it, and I will never breathe a word to anyone except Captain Boyden — Harry, I mean. He will advise us, and we can get a pardon and then you will marry him and live near us. It is exactly like a play.”
Mollie smiled wistfully. “It has been a very, very sad time for me. I was so happy and Stephen and I were going to be married, when this dreadful trouble came,” and Mollie recounted the whole story to the girl, who was very loving and sympathetic.
“I am so glad now that I am to marry Harry. It will be beautiful to help you, my dear Miss Christane. Harry is really a nice man, father always said so. He is no relation to me, but he was a connection by marriage of my father’s. I shall have a lot of money when I am of age, and father wanted somebody who would take care of me, and he arranged the marriage before he died. I shall be in Australia before I am eighteen. I feel very young to be a bride, but with you there, it will be a comfort.”
“The ways of the Almighty are past fathoming,” said Mollie.
Kitty sent Mollie a goose for Christmas, and Michael added half a dozen bottles of French wine. He had a cargo of French wine just come into Derbyhaven in one of his own schooners, and he picked a very choice kind as a present for Mollie. Betty sent a couple of dozen fresh eggs and her mother added a pint of cream in a bottle, and a couple of pounds of fresh butter. These were packed in a large hamper, and given in charge of the captain of Michael’s schooner, The Diana, which was sailing for Liverpool. Old Bill-a-Hal, or Captain Kewin, to give him his polite title, promised to deliver the hamper to Miss Mollie Christane herself. Mollie received him with shining eyes, when a few days later he presented himself with the offering.
“It’s good to see you, Bill, so it is,” said Mollie, shaking his hard hand; “an’ how are they all in the island?”
“Middlin’, just middlin’,” said Bill-a-Hal, smiling a Manx smile at the pretty young woman in the demure gown.
“An’ will you have a cup of tea, Bill?”
“I will if it plazes you, Miss Christane, but for meself I’d rather a sup of rum.”
Mollie laughed. “For shame, Bill, for shame, an’ this a school for young ladies; but maybe I’ll manage a little drop of brandy to put in it,” and Mollie bustled about to attend to the wants of the old sailor.
“An’ how’re ye likin’ Liverpool?” he asked.
“Well enough, Bill, but it’s not the lil’ islan’ at all.”
“‘Deed it’s not then. Is it longin’ ye are?”
“Ay, Bill, longin’ enough,” said Mollie.
It was a pleasant Christmas the three young women had at the school in Great George Street. Miss Julia was indulged and permitted to breakfast in bed every morning; and she had a glass of wine and a piece of cake before she went to bed. Miss Julia, the kind-hearted, hard-working, limited little soul, was very happy. The excitement was great on Christmas Eve when Captain Boyden was expected to call. Isabel wept with excitement and undefined fears, and she clung to Mollie. “I want my mamma,” she said.
“Of course you do,” soothed Mollie. “Let me help you to put on your very prettiest gown, and arrange your hair. You ought to look your best for the man you are to marry.”
Isabel permitted herself to be soothed and insisted that Mollie too should be dressed in her silk gown. When Timothy announced Captain Boyden, the two ladies were seated in the inner drawing room with their needlework. Captain Boyden was ta]l and slim in a cut-away blue coat with a velvet collar, and a double row of buttons. His cravat was exquisitely folded; his pale nether garments were splendidly tight; his dark brown hair had a delightful wave in it; and his brown whiskers were everything that a lady could hope for in a hero of romance. He handed his tall hat with just the right kind of curl in the brim, and his smart cane to Timothy; and turned and bowed elegantly to the ladies, who rose and curtseyed. “Have you come, dear? God save the King,” said Polly in a clear tone, which caused the three to burst into laughter. “So this is Isabel,” he said, taking the shy girl by the hand; and then he took her in his arms and kissed her unblushingly.
“Captain Boyden, you shock Miss Christane,” said Isabel, her face the colour of a red rose.
“I apologize, ma’am,” and the audacious fellow turned to Mollie, who blushed too.
Martha brought in cake and wine, and an agreeable time followed; and Captain Boyden promised to spend Christmas Day with his little sweetheart and her handsome chaperone.
“He is very handsome, Isabel,” said Mollie, when the gentleman had gone, “and not at all old.”
“He has nice manners,” approved Isabel; “he bows like a prince; and he is not at all fat.”
“He is a fine brave gentleman,” said Mollie, “and I am sure you will be very, very happy.”
Isabel threw herself into her friend’s arms and they both wept a little, for ladies were very sensitive in these days, and their emotions were not concealed and repressed as became the fashion later; and after all it is wholesomer to express what one feels and get rid of it, rather than bury it in our minds until it becomes an c irritating splinter darkening our days for ever, unless the psycho-analyst succeeds in digging it out, explaining it to the patient and so dissipating it.
Next morning Captain Boyden arrived in good time with his Christmas gifts. Pretty silken scarves for Miss Julia and Mollie, and a watch and chain for Isabel. Then he very gallantly escorted Mollie and Isabel to church, while Miss Julia remained at home to decorate the table and arrange the dessert. A very merry Christmas dinner they had. Goose, apple sauce, plum pudding, mince pies, and the finest fruit the Liverpool markets could produce, the last being a gift from Captain Boyden.
After dinner the lovers walked in the garden, and Mollie and Miss Julia watched them through the window. “The prettiest thing on God’s earth,” said Miss Julia sentimentally, “is a young girl and her lover.”
“Yes,” agreed Mollie, “but the tragedies of life, too, come to all lovers, their happiness does not last.”
“But,” urged Miss Julia, “they are young and handsome, and when troubles come there are always two of them. To be always alone, and poor, and ill-looking, is perhaps the greatest of all tragedies.”
Perhaps she was right, poor little soul. There were no such things known as inferiority complexes in her day; but to be dwarfish and squat; to be pitted badly with the smallpox; to be a woman and fairly young, was a very hard lot, yet Miss Julia was not bitter. She did not envy Isabel and Mollie their good looks, she was only a little wistful sometimes; and looked forward to another life when she would be well-grown, with shining wings and countenance.
On Christmas night Miss Julia went to the curate’s house to sing carols with his wife and daughters; and Isabel insisted that Mollie should tell the whole story of Stephen to Captain Boyden.
The young officer was greatly interested. “Can you get this Caroline Dawes to tell you anything about the morning the horse was taken?” he asked.
“No,” said Mollie, “but I think she knows something; she always tries to turn away from the subject.”
“Keep friends with her and keep your eye on her,” he counselled, and he comforted Mollie greatly by telling her that he would look up Stephen when he reached New South Wales; and try to engage him to manage a small farm for him. “The convict settlement is well managed,” he told Mollie, “and the governor is a humane man. I daresay with good conduct, Mr. Fannin may get a conditional pardon before long; but try to get definite evidence against this lawyer, Mr. Jude Kameen, and if the prisoner is proved innocent, he will come off with flying colours.”
Mollie was greatly comforted, and went about her work with hope in her heart.
BEARS IN GRANNY’S STACKYARD
“Wildly on St. Matthew’s Eve
While the fleets were at sea
Came a Storm . . .
… in that moment
The waves of death covered them over.”
Meanwhile the problem of education became pressing in Derbyhaven. Old Mrs. Quilliam had a bad bronchial attack and for the winter months was unable to teach her grandchildren. The elder children, Dorcas, Rosaleen and Matthew, were sent to Ballasalla to the school of Mr. Thaddy Teare, where Dinah irregularly attended. Mr. Teare had been a soldier in his youth and Matthew adored him; and even applied himself to his sums to please him. Often Mr. Teare rewarded the boys by recounting the battles in which he had fought against Napoleon, and they looked upon him as a hero. Grandmamma was mollified when she learned that Latin was included in the school’s curriculum. Dorcas and Rosaleen learned Latin and arithmetic with docility; and they sometimes enjoyed the geography lessons, for Mr. Teare could be graphic and informing when he liked; but they hated the long walk across the fields every morning, and the heavy dinner basket they had to carry. Matthew never helped them. He ran on before, and spent his time at Johnny Juan’s forge, and refused to go to school in time. The little girls suffered agonies in inventing excuses for Matthew’s lateness for Mr. Teare’s benefit.
The children always ate their dinner at Granny Christane’s, and the old lady contrived daintier morsels for them than she found in the dinner basket. Her temper was softening of late. She missed Mollie, and was amazed at her success in Liverpool. She liked to have her grandchildren to herself, away from old Mrs. Quilliam’s influence; and especially she delighted in Matthew. “He’s a Kewley every inch of him,” she would say to Betty. “Just look at the cock of his chin, an’ the blue eye of him; the very spit he’ll be of my father.” Granny in her maiden day had been a Kewley, and she exalted her own kindred high above the Quilliams or Christanes. “Michael Quilliam is well enough for a man,” she allowed, ” it’s his fine lady mother that troubles poor Kitty; but Michael ‘ill never be the man my father was. Six feet four in his Stockings was thy grandfather Kewley,” she said to Betty, “an’ Matthew is like him.” Matthew began to listen, and Granny hastened to add, “If he’s as good a man as thy grandfather, Betty, he’ll do. He was never late for school, loitering at forges an’ the like.”
Matthew began to whistle, “We’ll hunt the Wren,” and sidled off to the garden.
“His granny at Ballasalla spoils the boy terrible,” Kitty complained to Michael. “She’d give him the head off her shoulders, if he had any use for it.”
Michael laughed. “The boy’s young yet,” he said tolerantly. “She’s always teaching him the Manx, Michael; an’ she gives him sixpence a week for sayin’ his prayers an’ the evenin’ hymn in Manx.”
“The Lord understands Manx well enough, Kitty.”
“Maybe,” grumbled Kitty, “but it isn’t genteel at all now, only common persons talk Manx. I want Matthew to be a parson, an’ he must be genteel an’ learn Latin for that, but Granny’s incitin’ him to be a farmer.”
Michael laughed. “The little fellow will change his mind a score of times before he becomes either the one or the other,” he said.
One January day it began to snow as early as ten o’clock in the morning; and at one o’clock the snow lay thick on the land, and the mountains were white. Snow is rare in the Isle of Man, even Matthew had only seen it once before; the children were wildly excited, and Matthew was boasting of the snow man he was going to make. Mr. Teare closed the school early; he told the children to get home quickly and remain indoors. “The roads will be shockin’ in another hour or two,” he said, and the snow continued to come down steadily.
“The children cannot get to Derbyhaven this evenin’ at all,” declared Granny. “Betty, see the warmin’ pan is put into Mollie’s bed for the two girls, an’ Matthew shall have the liT bed in Granny’s room; an’ stop Tom Cowle when he’s passin’, an’ send a message to Derbyhaven that it’s here safe the children are.”
After dinner Granny set the three girls to make sheets. “Every sheet you make,” she said, “you shall mark with your own name, and they shall go into Granny’s big chest, an’ she will keep them for you till you get married.”
“An’ if we don’t marry?” asked Rosaleen.
“Hush, child, all right; little girls marry at the propel time.”
Matthew insisted on going out to make a snow man; but the steady fall of snowflakes soon sent him indoors. “I’ve got nothin’ to do,” he complained.
“Come thy ways into the parlour, Matthew; but first take off thy wet boots, an’ thee shall make a nice map of the Isle of Man for Granny. Betty, give him a pencil and paper.”
“Tell us stories, Granny,” commanded Matthew; “tell us about the Manx fishin’ fleet.”
And Granny, pleased with an audience of industrious children, began: —
“It was a long while ago, the time I’m tellin’ about, before thy mother was born it was, though it was a while after I was married to your grandfather Christane; a fine man he was too, an’ handsome with it; an’ knowin’ he was about cattle, an’ terrible cute about crops. I used to go to market in them days on me little pony with panniers. All the farmers’ wives an’ daughters did the like. It’s too proud they’re gettin’ to do it now. Lovely it was too, ridin’ along on a quiet evenin’ with the panniers empty an’ the money in me pocket, an’ the sun goin’ down, an’ throwin’ beautiful lights on the mountains. Beautiful it was with the sun sinkin’ in the sea, an’ the water all red an’ gold. ‘Twas a lovely evenin’, an’ well I remember the sun an’ the sea, as I was ridin’ home; not a breath of wind to stir a leaf on a tree; an’ that night four hundred fishin’ boats sailed out of Laxey. ‘Twas in the year 1787, a lucky year your grandfather said, because it had two sevens in it; but he wasn’t right at all, for it was the saddest year I can remember in me long life. At midnight a storm came along, and the wind blew an’ blew, a tremenjus gale. And the poor fishermen, the souls! made for Douglas harbour. The night was black as ink, an’ there was no lighthouse that year at all. Destroyed it was in a storm the year before, an’ never put up again. There was only a small lantern, a bit of a thing hung from a pole on the ruins of the lighthouse, an’ the first fishin’ boat knocked it down. An’ in the pitch dark the fleet was comin’ in; four hundred boats, on them cruel rocks, an’ the confusion was shockin'; men screeching like animals; an’ the boats dashin’ to pieces. An’ on the shore was the poor women cryin’ and screamin’ for their men. An’ in the morning ’twas a terrible sight, corpses floating in the harbour, an’ dead men lyin’ about on the sand, an’ the women crowded on the shore cryin’ an’ wailin’ for the men they’d loft.”
“Is that all, Granny?” asked the fascinated Matthew.
“Ay! all enough, chile; the like was never seen before, an’ never will be again, with the new lighthouse there is.”
“I’ll be a farmer, Granny, not a fisherman,” observed the cautious Matthew.
“Farmin’s the best thing for thee, Jad, with a bit of fishin’ at times maybe for pastime; and, children, we’ll sing the old songs, before thee goes to bed, in the right Manx way; but it’s tea-time now.”
Tea and frizzled fish with barley bread and plenty of good, fresh butter fell to the portion of Granny and Betty; but for the children bowls of porridge and milk, with a bit of bread and honey afterwards.
After tea one candle was lit, and the party sat round the wood fire. Granny, Betty and the girls all occupied with knitting. Matthew was interested in the blue flames of the fire. “Why is it blue, Granny?”
“Because it is apple wood; the ould apple tree came down at last, an’ hundreds of years ould it was. Now, children, we’ll sing the ould Manx songs,” said Granny briskly.
Very old are the national airs of the Isle of Man, queer, crooning, mournful airs, that probably existed for ages in the ancient world before any words were sung to them.
Old Ned Karran came into the big kitchen with an ancient fiddle out of which he scraped the old Manx tunes, and Granny, Betty and the children sang that curious old ballad, Mylecharaine, with its queer moaning lilt. Granny’s Manx was sure and emphatic; Betty’s halted; and the children hummed the familiar tune, putting in words of Manx when they could, and always singing in Manx the refrain, “Lonely didst thou leave me.” The ballad is a weird dialogue between a father and daughter, and the translation runs: —
O Mylecharaine, where gott’st thou thy store?
Lonely didst thou leave me;
Did I not get it in the Curragh, deep, deep enough?
And lonely didst thou leave me.
O Mylecharaine, where gott’st thou thy stock?
Lonely didst thou leave me;
Did I not get it in the Curragh between two blocks?
And lonely didst thou leave me.
And so the dirge continues and the mystery deepens. What it is all about “nobody can rightly tell,” so the writer was informed by an ancient lady, an authority on Manx lore. In the end there are “seven bitter curses” on Mylecharaine for giving his daughter a dowry apparently, but the meaning is by no means clear.
Then the Evening Hymn was sung, Granny giving it out one line at a time in Manx, and requiring all the children to repeat it after her. And so the evening concluded, and the children were sent to bed.
After a while Betty went up to Mollie’s room to see that Dorcas and Rosaleen were comfortable.
“Are you snug, then?” she asked.
“Snug enough,” said Rosaleen; “listen, Aunt Betty, Granny is teaching Matthew his prayers in Manx.”
“He never remembers it all,” said Dorcas.
“Or the Latin either,” added Rosaleen.
“Whist, children, whist,” was Aunt Betty’s comment, and through Granny’s open door was heard her thin old Manx voice prompting: —
“As ny leeid shin ayns miolagh” (And lead us not into temptation).
And Matthew, kneeling on the bed in his grandfather’s big nightshirt, repeated it after her.
“Thee must try to remember it, Matthew; thee will not always have Granny to teach thee.”
“Yes,” said Matthew cheerfully. “Granny, I shall make a snow man to-morrow.”
“Perhaps; promise me, Matthew, always to say thy prayers in Manx.”
“Yes,” said Matthew. “Does God like Manx prayers better than Latin?”
“Yes,” replied Granny positively. “Manx prayers is right. Latin is heathenish.”
“Dorcas can say French prayers, Granny.”
“French,” said Granny, “is papish.”
Matthew was capering about the room at dawn, tripping over his long nightshirt, and flapping the long sleeves. “It isn’t snowin’, Granny, an’ everything white as white.”
“Get into bed, Matthew; you’ll get cold.”
“I want to get up; Aunt Betty’s gone down, an’ the fire’s lighted in the kitchen.”
“Canst dress thyself?”
“I can, Granny; I always do.”
“Then put on thy shirt an’ breeches, Matthew, an’ go to Aunt Betty to be washed.”
Matthew obeyed willingly and in a quarter of an hour he was in the courtyard collecting snow for his snow man. It was a clear, Still morning, and Matthew danced in the snow, and laughed with joy when he sank up to his knees. His shrieks aroused a great shaggy beast, asleep in a shed without a door, where the grindstone was kept; the beast arose, crept out of the shed, and approached the boy. Matthew happened to look around, and to his horror saw a great bear. With a scream and a sob he flung himself into the back kitchen and pushed the door to, bolting it.
“A bear, a bear,” he screamed.
“Don’t be silly, Matthew,” said Aunt Betty.
“It is a bear, a great big, hairy bear.”
“Don’t tell stories,” insisted Betty.
“‘Deed now, Miss Christane, there’s somethin’ quare in the yard, there’s terrible quare footprints; I’m thinkin’ it’s the ould Devil himself,” said the farm-woman.
Betty went to the window and saw nothing.
“Look, Miss Christane, the footprints.”
“They are odd,” reflected Betty. “Matthew, what makes you think it is a bear?”
“I’ve got a picture, Aunt Betty. I know a bear,” said Matthew, bolting the other bolt.
“The Lord have mercy on us! look, then, look,” cried the farm-woman.
Betty and Matthew looked through the window. There, sure enough, was a great dancing bear, erect on his haunches, doing his tricks with a broom handle, the remnants of a chain dangled behind him.
“Well, if ever, Mrs. Duff! ” was Betty’s ejaculation. Granny and the three girls were called to witness the extraordinary spectacle of a bear dancing in the snow, unattended, in a Manx Stackyard.
“The creature must have a keeper,” said Mrs. Christane, for dancing bears were not uncommon sights in both town and country early in the nineteenth century.
“It’s hungry, the crathur,” said the farm-woman.
“What do bears eat, Granny?” asked the excited children.
“Turnips most likely.”
In a closet under the Stairs turnips were Stored, and the children ran upstairs and threw turnips out of the window. To their wild excitement and joy the bear caught some of them, crunching them with gusto.
“Bears like honey,” cried Dorcas, who was searching her reading book for information on the habits of the animal, and she smeared a piece of barley bread with honey and threw it out. The bear devoured it greedily and seemed to ask for more.
“Shee bannee mee!” exclaimed Granny, “we can’t shut ourselves in here all the time feeding it. Run thou to Mr. Caine, Betty.”
“No, mother, I’ll not go outside with that thing about at all”
“What ‘ill we do then?”
Nobody knew. “It almost caught me,” boasted Matthew, “when I was making my snow man.”
A knocking at the front door relieved the situation. It proved to be a party of men armed with sticks and guns to warn the people to keep indoors, for a couple of bears had escaped from a menagerie and were traced to Ballasalla.
“There’s one of the bastes in my Stackyard,” said Granny grimly. “I’ll be pleased enough for you to take it away.”
The keeper, after much coaxing, beguiled Bruin to him, and adjusted his chains, and the frightened bear was glad enough to go into captivity again, the snow not being to his liking. During the day the other bear was captured, and this is what had happened. Polio’s menagerie had arrived in Douglas, and on the previous day had set out to go from Douglas to Castletown. The snowdrifts had caused the caravans to overturn, and tigers, lions and bears had escaped. The tigers and lions, terrified of the snow, were easily recaptured, but the bears had gone farther afield, and were lost in the darkness.
Matthew’s adventure with a live bear, and Matthew’s snow man, were among the most vivid events of his boyhood.
It was a glorious day, as mild as May and just as beautiful, with the sun shining full on Derbyhaven Bay. Bride Quilliam was alone on the shore gathering tiny pinkish shells to make a necklace. Pete bored holes in them and the children threaded them. The tide was full in. Bride went to the very edge of the water and laughed with joy at the beauty before her. The gulls crying over Ronaldsway, and the lapping of the water on the shore at her feet, were the only sounds she heard. The sea before her was a glittering mass of shifting lights and colours. The horizon was blotted out by an ivory and primrose haze; far away, patches of purple flecked the blue waters; nearer, the emerald depths shaded off into pale jade as the wavelets broke on the shingle at her feet. “It is like heaven,” thought the child, and she knelt down at the water’s edge and said the Lord’s Prayer half aloud. Then she repeated the Morning Hymn, “Awake, my soul.” She felt comforted and bathed in the beauty of sea and sky, and before she rose from her knees she said, “Thank God for the sun and the sea. Amen.” She began to picture heaven to herself. It was like the scene before her; but one could walk on the beautiful waters. One had great white wings, and could fly like the gulls. Bride watched one dipping into the water. “There was no night there,” it would always be beautiful, and the sun always shining, and so Bride dreamed her child’s dream of heaven. Then she turned towards the road, and she wanted to cry with pain at the ugliness and untidiness of the scene.
Old inverted boats and lobster pots were strewn about the shore, which was disfigured by the refuse thrown from the houses, and the entrails of hake and conger left by the fishermen. Pigs, poultry and geese were picking among the refuse; a ship had unloaded a cargo of timber at her father’s house, and it was all piled up in the front garden and lay-about the road. Pigs had been killed recently and pools of blood lay about the shore meandering among the untidy refuse. The beauty of the sea and the horror of the land gripped Bride’s soul, and she wailed aloud in anguish, and ran blindly into a pool of blood. Her foot slipped and she fell, screaming with terror, as her hands and clothes were splashed with blood. A fisherman picked her up; he had been sitting smoking on an inverted boat. He carried the sobbing, screaming child home, and delivered her to Phrancie Parr.
Kitty turned pale at the sight of her. “Is the child hurt, Phrancie?” she asked.
“Never a hurt, she has fallen into a nasty pool of blood, the little soul.”
Bride was comforted, bathed, and put into clean clothes, but she continued to cry at intervals until bedtime, and even in her sleep she sobbed in her ugly dreams.
“The child shall never play on the shore again,” said Kitty in tears. “She shall go to Fanny Fisher’s school every morning and Patience shall go with her.”
FANNY FISHER’S SCHOOL
“No one lives in external truth, but in the warm phantasmagoric chamber of the brain, with the painted window and the storied wall.” — R. L. Stevenson.
Fanny Fisher came from Whitehaven. Her husband was drowned in a fishing boat off Derbyhaven, and his widow settled there, hoping that his body might be washed ashore, and she could bury it decently. She rented from Mrs. Quayle her big front room facing the sea. She paid one shilling a week for her room.
“A powerful lot of money it is, ma’am,” said Mrs. Quayle to Kitty; “it comes to more than two pounds a year, and it is only three pounds a year we are payin’ for the whole house an’ garden.”
“I am glad it is a help to you,” said Kitty.
“‘Tis indeed, ma’am, an’ I’ve given her the little cupboard under the stairs for her coals; an’ you wouldn’t believe the nice she’s made the parlour.”
Mrs. Fisher’s brother brought her belongings across in a fishing boat. A four-post bed, a table, a few chairs, a clothes press, and a sea chest. To make a living Mrs. Fisher opened a little shop. She sold nobs, peppermint sticks, pink and white, snuff, tobacco, and tea. She also sold peg-tops, marbles, and skipping-ropes. She used to buy a pound of tea at a time and sell it by the two pennyworth to poor folk. To supplement the profits of the shop, Mrs. Fisher opened a little school. The equipment of the school was simple. She bought secondhand from the alehouse, two discarded benches; she paid sixpence for them. These cut down served as seats for the scholars. Upon her table she placed her Bible and a rod made of twigs; and the school was complete. It is true that the light was dim, for the window was blocked with merchandise, and the four-post bed encumbered and darkened the room; but these trifles did not daunt Fanny Fisher. It was a handsome four-post bed. Its posts were carved delicately by one Hepplewaite. Nearly one hundred years later it was bought in London as a present for a Cabinet Minister who collected antiques. Mrs. Fisher regarded it as a comfortable resting place, though occasionally she paused a moment to admire the delightful polish her strenuous rubbing had given the mahogany. She was a clean, quick, capable body; and a good example to her neighbours of thrift and industry.
So it came about that Patience and Bride Quilliam attended Mrs. Fisher’s school daily with five other little ones, who occupied the two benches. The scholars read aloud, spelled aloud, and wrote copies on their slates. They learned to make figures, to do little addition sums and to repeat the multiplication tables. They learned the Collects, the Catechism, texts from the Bible, Dr. Watts’ hymns, and the poems of Jane and Ann Taylor. Patience made a sampler, and Bride knitted garters which were presented to Grandmamma and Granny Christane. One never-to-be-forgotten day in the annals of Fanny Fisher’s school, the parson’s lady, Mrs. Quine, with an English lady, called to see the school. The room was clean, the floor freshly sanded. The window was polished, and the jars of sweets and marbles shone brightly. Four little girls sat knitting and making samplers on one bench; and on the other, three little boys were making String bags. They crocheted the stout string with chain stitch into market bags, and their mothers lined them with stout jean. These bags lasted a lifetime. Mrs. Fisher, in clean cap and apron, sat reading the Bible to her flock. It was a chapter from Revelations: “And I saw an angel come down from heaven having the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years should be fulfilled; and after that he must be loosed a little season.”
Bride listened fascinated; her garter dropped on the floor. The angel was Mannanan, of course, and he bound the old dragon in chains instead of spells; and the bottomless pit was under Castle Rushen, and under Ronaldsway, perhaps under her very feet, deep down. Bride drew up her feet a little and shivered. A bottomless pit was a pit that never came to an end, and the poor Dragon was still falling, and falling for a thousand years. Bride stared fascinated.
“What is it, Bride?” asked Mrs. Fisher.
“Why didn’t they put him to sleep with a book under his head, and a sword beside him?” she asked.
At that moment Mrs. Quine and the English lady entered. Mrs. Fisher curtseyed, and the children stood up.
“What was the little girl saying?” asked Mrs. Quine pleasantly.
Bride was required to repeat her question. Scarlet with
shyness, she did so.
“Why go to sleep, dear?” asked the lady.
“The old dragon, like the giants under Castle Rushen, with a book and a sword. I don’t like him to fall and fall in the bottomless pit.”
The lady looked at Mrs. Fisher.
“I am reading Revelations, Mrs. Quine,” she said.
“I don’t understand, my dear,” said the lady to Bride.
At this Bride began to cry. Why were grown-up people so stupid? she wondered.
“Don’t cry,” urged the lady; “what is the matter?”
“Stand up, Bride, and tell us,” commanded Mrs. Fisher.
Bride sobbed louder. “The poor Dragon,” she gasped. “I want him to go to sleep like the giants.”
“The child is feverish,” said Mrs. Quine. “Give her a drink of water and put her to lie down on the bed.”
In spite of Bride’s protests she had to lie down, still sobbing. Then the parson’s wife read the Sermon on the Mount aloud, and Bride stopped her sobs to listen to the beautiful voice. “Blessed are ye that mourn, for ye shall be comforted.”
M The simple words of Jesus Christ are less exciting for little children than Revelations,” said the lady to Mrs. Fisher.
“I read straight through the New Testament, and then I begin the Old,” explained Mrs. Fisher impartially. “No word of the good book should be omitted.”
“Indeed, no,” agreed the English lady.
The lady then inquired into the success of the shop, and finally bought all the sweets and marbles in the window to distribute to the little scholars. There was a particularly big and attractive pink and white sugar stick, which caught the greedy eye of Patience, and she pushed forward to secure it. But Mrs. Fisher saw her, and she said out loud before the visitors: “Little girls must not push, and must not be greedy.”
Patience, crimson with shame, was sent to the bottom of the class, and had to wait until all the others were served before she received anything. The English lady gave the big sugar stick to Bride, and a packet of nobs. She also gave her half a dozen marbles and a fine blood alley.
Bride received them shyly. “May I give the blood alley and marbles to Matthew?” she whispered.
“Of course, my dear, it is nice to give things, and who is Matthew?”
“My brother,” explained Bride; “and may I get off the bed? I am quite well, thank you.”
The lady lifted her off and whispered to her: “Had you been hearing fairy tales?”
“Yes,” said Bride, “about the giants asleep till the end of the world, and I was sorry for the Dragon.”
“Poor Dragon,” said the lady, kissing the little girl.
Bride felt comforted, and on the way home she gave half her sugar slick to Patience.
“I won’t tell them about you lying on the bed and your dragons,” promised a softened Patience.
Jude Kameen was uneasy in his mind after Mollie went to Liverpool. What did the girl know? What could she find out? Stephen was safely out of the way; but he had never imagined Mollie would be true to him. He had plenty of money to offer the girl, and she would not look at him. It is hard for a man to realize that himself and his wealth can be withstood by a woman. Jude Kameen was almost alone in the world; both his children had died of diphtheria, and if he did not marry, he had vague notions of taking the little John Henry from his grandmother in Liverpool, and owning him as his son, but these thoughts were fleeting. Overshadowing everything in his life was a sick dread, which blotted out all his zest and enjoyment, a dread of discovery, of prison, of transportation. He was a haunted man, haunted by fear and dread of the future. Now any psychologist will tell you that fear has an immense effect upon the mind. It leads to hysteria, neurasthenia, and a variety of ills; indeed, but for fear, barring accidents, mortals might easily live to be centenarians. Jude Kameen was in a state of worry and abject terror; and like many another man he took to drink to drown his cares, and he drank brandy in dreadful solitude; for he feared that he might babble about his guilt if he drank in company. Brandy is a fearsome drink if constantly taken to excess; and Jude Kameen was becoming a nervous wreck. He was afraid of the dark, afraid to be alone, afraid of the shadows on the walls, afraid of seeing himself in a looking-glass. He kept a candle always burning in his bedroom, and a bottle of brandy beside him.
His dreams were often wild and dreadful. He was being pursued by monsters; he was being dragged by huge serpents to the depths of the sea; he was for ever falling from perilous heights. Sometimes he was in the dock, and sentenced to be hanged; then with a loud cry, and bathed in perspiration, he would awake. Like all Manx folk, Jude Kameen was superstitious; and he determined to consult Phoebe Fell, for an interpretation of his alarming dreams. He had known the old woman when he was a boy, in the days when he used to visit his Aunt Quirk in Castletown. She was dead long ago, and her only daughter, Eliza, was a dressmaker in Mill Street. He would go and see Eliza; perhaps if his terrors increased, he might ask her to come and live with him. Eliza was about the only relative he possessed, besides little John Henry in Liverpool. Eliza was the daughter of his father’s only sister. He had almost forgotten her. She was poor, and it is easy to forget poor relations.
Eliza Quirk was startled one day when Jude rode up to her door in the narrow little street. “Where’ll I put the horse, Eliza?” he said.
“Why, Jude, how ill you look. I shouldn’t have known you.”
“I’m off my oats,” he said, pretending to laugh.
“Put the horse in Jemmy Cannel’s stable. It is just down the road.”
“Accommodation for man and beast is it? Well, Eliza, I’ll be back in an hour or so, I’ve business to transact.”
“I’ll get thee some tea, then.”
“Good girl,” said Jude, as he led his horse to Jemmy Cannel’s little inn. Then he made his way to Phoebe Fell’s.
The old woman was within, making dill water for young babies.
“Come thy ways in, Mr. Jude Kameen,” she said.
“You haven’t forgotten me, Phoebe?”
“I have not,” said Phoebe; “and what is it your wantin’ with me at all?”
“A call, Phoebe, for old times’ sake,” he laughed.
“And time is not treating thee well at all,” said the old woman, looking at him shrewdly. “It’s hunted you look.”
“I’m not sleeping, Phoebe, an’ I’ve bad dreams.”
“Ay! an’ maybe thou’rt drinkin’ a lil’ sup too.”
Jude laughed. “Come, Phoebe, can you tell me the meanin’ of my dreams?”
“I cannot, then,” and Phoebe shook her head.
“Tell me my fortune, then,” he coaxed, and he held out his hand.
Phoebe looked steadily at him. “I’ll lay the cards for thee,” she said. “Come, shuffle them well now, and think hard of thyself all the time.”
Jude did as he was told.
Phoebe looked long at the cards. “It’s fear that’s doin’ on thee,” she said. “There’s wrong doin’s behind the fear. There’s a middlin’ dark woman between colours she is. She’s no love for thee at all, and she will find out all thy wrong-doin’s.”
Jude blenched, but he pretended to laugh.
“Is that all?” he asked.
“All enough, man,” she said.
“But what comes after when the woman finds me out?”
“Nawthin’, nawthin’ at all.”
“And can’t you tell me more, Phoebe?”
“I cannot,” and Phoebe put away the cards. Jude laid half a crown on the table.
“Here, Mr. Kameen, is a nice thing for thee to drink; leave the brandy alone for a while and drink a spoonful of this in a cup of spring water, now and then.”
“All right, Phoebe,” he said, pocketing the bottle.
“Poor soul! poor soul!” mused Phoebe, when he was gone. “It’s his death I’m thinkin’, an’ his evil deeds comin’ home to him.”
Letter from Ann Fannin to Mollie Christane: —
“My dear Mollie,
I hope you are quite well, as this leaves me at present. I have heard from Stephen. He is managing a farm for one of the officers. The one that married the lady from your school. He’s asking a lot about you in his letter. There’s queer tales of Mr. Jude Kameen. He’s drinking a lot, folks say. He is often ill. You remember Eliza Quirk, her that’s dressmaking in Mill Street. She is his cousin. She has been twice in Douglas laying there, he is so ill at times. Her and me went to school together and we have kept friends. She thinks Mr. Jude Kameen is frightened of something. He won’t be alone, and he won’t be in the dark. I wish you would come back, Mollie, to find things out. I am sure he Hole his own horse, and accused Stephen. Now here is a chance to come home. Mrs. Gelling, her that has the lady’s school in Castletown, is going to England for six months to keep house for her son till he marries. He is marrying Sophie Skillicorn. She wants someone nice to look after her school, while she is away. I told her about you, and she said to write to you. The school is in the big front room at Mrs. Mylchreest’s in Malew Street, there is a little room behind as well. All the best children of Castletown go to Mrs. Gelling’s school. She hopes you will come, so do I. It would be nice if you were here to find out Jude Kameen, perhaps Eliza Quirk might help, but she likes her cousin Jude and is sorry for him.
I remain, dear Mollie,
Your ever affectionate friend,
Mollic pondered over the letter. It was now nearly two years since she had come to Liverpool. She had Stephen’s last letter in her pocket at this moment with a letter from Mrs. Harry Boyden. This is what Isabel wrote: —
“Dear Miss Christane,
I was glad to hear from you, but it seems to take a lifetime for a letter to get across the sea from you. I have seen Mr. Fannin once, and I think he is a fine man. Harry says he has always had good conduct reports. Harry applied for him to help in his farm. We have a grant of land at George’s River, which is about seventeen miles from Sydney. It is such a pretty place. Some day we will build a nice house there; but just at present Harry is fencing the land (we have three hundred and forty acres). We are going to keep cows for our own butter, and some sheep; and Harry will have some brood mares. He got a number of prisoners allotted to him; and he has made Mr. Fannin foreman. He will manage the farm for us when it is finished. Harry thinks that in a year or two he can get him a conditional pardon; but if further evidence could be got, it would be delightful for him to have a full pardon at once, and then you could come out and have a farm near us. I am very happy, but this is a big place, and it would be nice to have you. Harry sends his kind regards.
From your affectionate friend,
Mollie reflected on this letter also. “I will go and see Mrs. Caroline Dawes,” she said to herself, “and see if I can get her to talk at all.”
Every fortnight Mrs. Dawes had brought “John Henry” for Mollie to see, and the usual letter to Mr. Jude Kameen was written. She became friendly with the old woman, and once or twice Mollie had been to see her, but Mrs. Dawes was very reticent when the stolen horse was mentioned. “I can but try again,” was Mollie’s reflection.
On the following Sunday afternoon, Mollie left Miss Julia to perform all duties and set off to walk to Mallowfield Lodge. It was a pretty little place with a nice garden. It was now let furnished, for Mr. Kameen could not bring his mind to sell it outright. In the little lodge at the gate lived Mrs. Caroline Dawes, her deaf sister, and John Henry.
The deaf woman still did the cooking at the house, and Mollie found Mrs. Dawes alone, for John Henry had gone to play with a school friend. Mrs. Dawes welcomed Mollie warmly, and over the teacups the two became confidential.
“I sometimes think,” said Mrs. Dawes, “that he will take the child from me, and educate him proper like a gentleman.”
“It might be good for the boy,” said Mollie, “if his father is a good man, of course.”
“He drinks,” allowed the old woman, “and I think he’s a cunning rascal; and if he tries to take the boy from me, he shall know what I know.”
“Oh,” said Mollie, “it must be something big if it gives you power over him.”
“It is big, so big that sometimes I don’t sleep with thinking of it; if I could write myself, I’d many a time have a mind to write and tell him what I know.”
“Why don’t you go and see him?” asked Mollie.
“He’d murder me, and it’s the boy I’m thinkin’ of. It is such a secret that my sister knows nothin’ of it.”
“It must be hard to keep a big secret like that; and if there is any wickedness in it, that makes it harder for you.”
“It does,” said the old woman; “in church on Sundays I’m thinking and thinking of it, and many’s the time I never sleep at all at night.”
Mollie waited patiently. She knew that to share a secret was a relief to an overburdened mind, and she had a premonition that something of importance was to be imparted to her.
“I don’t want to harm the boy’s father,” wept Mrs. Dawes, “but look at the harm he did to my daughter, my poor Fanny. He’s a wicked man, but I want him to do his duty to John Henry.”
“Of course,” said Mollie.
“It’s this way, Miss Christane. I must tell someone. I don’t want to die with it on my conscience. Will you promise never to tell a living creature if I tell you?”
Mollie reflected. “I’ll never tell anyone but Mr. Jude Kameen himself,” she said at last. “I am leaving Liverpool and going to the Isle of Man to live for awhile, and I might meet Mr. Kameen and tell him.”
“I’d like him to know,” said Mrs. Dawes. “If he knew that I knew his wickedness, he’d leave the boy with me and yet do right by him. Why, Miss Christane, I could get Jude Kameen transported anytime.”
“Transported!” echoed Mollie, growing pale.
“Yes, transported, and I’ll tell you all about it. It was in September, nearly two years ago. I mind the time, because Mr. Nathaniel Quine had not long died, and I was in the little lodge with John Henry. My sister was sleeping in the house, because Mr. Jude Kameen was there. I’d gone to bed at night, and the cat was out of doors. It kep’ on mewing and mewing, and I could not sleep, and I got up and opened the front door a little, and waited in the dark for the cat to come in. I saw a man with a dark lantern come out of the big house, and a shawl in his hand. He broke the kitchen window with the shawl, and it made no noise. Then he took the Stable key and hid it under the Stone trough. And the man was Mr. Jude Kameen.”
Mollie listened breathlessly. “What did you do then?” she asked.
“There was nothing for me to do. In the morning I heard that a Manxman had Stolen the horse; it was a Mr. Stephen Fannin. I dared not speak for I had nothing to live on, and I wanted the child. But I’d have spoken if they’d have hanged the man.”
“They didn’t hang him?” said Mollie.
“No; they transported him to Australia.”
“I’ll see Mr. Jude Kameen,” said Mollie, “and tell him what you know.”
“You’ll not breathe a word to another living soul, Miss Christane?”
“I will not,” said Mollie.
“There is more than that. I’ve got a letter written by Mr. Fannin to Mr. Kameen to say he’d lost the horse at Congleton, and saying he would pay for it.”
Mollie became as pale as death. “A letter,” she gasped. “How did you get it?”
“Mr. Jude Kameen dropped it out of his pocket by the lodge gate, and I picked it up. I took it to Hannah, Mrs. Boys’ daughter, and she read it to me.”
“Don’t you know, Mrs. Dawes, that an innocent man is a convict in Australia, and the letter would have saved him?”
Mrs. Dawes sobbed. “Yes, I know now, but I hadn’t known what was in the letter then, and I was afraid, I was afraid,” and she wiped her eyes and moaned.
“Where is the letter?”
“It’s hid away.”
“Well, will you give it to me?”
“I am afraid I’m a wicked woman, but I did not know, They won’t put me in prison, will they?”
“No,” said Mollie firmly, “but you must give the letter.”
“I won’t; I daren’t,” sobbed Mrs. Dawes.
Mollie could not move her. “But an innocent man is suffering,” she said.
“I know, I know, I’m an unhappy woman. Afraid to live, and afraid to die.”
After further persuasion Mrs. Dawes said she would send the letter to the Isle of Man. “I’ve got to find it,” she said, “and it’s hid far away from here.”
Mollie had to be content with this promise. She directed an envelope to herself in the Isle of Man and gave it to the old woman.
“I’ll send it when I get it; I want to be at peace with my God,” she said.
“I’ll come to fetch it if you don’t send it,” declared Mollie; “think of the poor man accused wrongfully.”
“I do, I do; and I never sleep thinking of him,” sobbed Mrs. Dawes.
THE SAD STATE OF JUDE KAMEEN
“They have made them crooked paths; whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace.” — Isaiah.
Mrs. Mardon was disconsolate when Mollie made known her intention of leaving Liverpool.
“Never again, my dear, will I find another like you; the school is doubled in numbers, and the parents satisfied; and the young ladies so improved in their education,” she said.
“It is kind of you to say so,” replied Mollie gratefully. “Would you be so good as to write to Mrs. Gelling, of Castletown, to say that I am quite able to look after her school?”
“I will write twenty letters for you, Miss Christane, if you wish; and you must promise me to find another lady from your island to help with my school.”
“I will do what I can,” promised Mollie.
The arrangement with Mrs. Gelling concerning the school was satisfactorily concluded by letter; and there was rejoicing at Ballasalla and Derbyhaven when it was known that Mollie was coming home.
“We’ll be havin’ all meals in the dinin’-parlour now,” said Mrs. Christane. “Mollie’s a lady now an’ accustomed to the like.”
“‘Deed then we’ll have breakfast in the front kitchen, an’ not goin’ makin’ two fires early in the day at all,” declared Betty, “but dinner an’ supper is different.”
“I’ll be seein’ Miss Fitzsimmons an’ gettin’ me silk gown fixed up a bit. It’s fine folks Mollie’s been mixing with across the water, an’ we must be genteel.”
“Mollie must take me as I am,” laughed Betty.
Both mother and sister were a little awed when Mollie arrived. She was even more beautiful than they had remembered; quiet, almost stately, yet with an appealing gentleness of manner.
“I’m glad to see thee, girl,” said her mother. “You’ve grown, Mollie, and grown different.”
“I’ve learnt a good deal, mother,” said Mollie, “and God has been very good to me.”
“Fancy Mollie bein’ mistress of Mrs. Gelling’s school,” said Betty, “an’ the children of all the ladies of Castletown at it. There’s the Christophers, the Quiggans, the Cashens, the Caleys, an’ the Quanes all sendin’ the children there. What ‘ill you teach them at all?”
Mollie smiled. “I’ll find plenty to teach,” she said.
Granny looked at Mollie and marvelled. This tall, gracious, beautiful creature her daughter, her own little Mollie, who used to make the butter and look after the hens, going to teach the children of the gentry in Castletown. Well! Liverpool was a wonderful place, and Mollie was a good girl. She hoped that all the nonsense about Stephen Fannin was over. “I’m sending Dinah to thee, to school, just to put a polish on her,” and Dinah, a lanky child of thirteen, looked at Mollie and smiled.
“An’ Kitty’s sendin’ Dorcas and Rosaleen,” said Betty, “just for a year or so before they go to a sewing school to learn fine needlework.”
“I think the fine and delicate neddlework can be taught at Mrs. Gelling’s school,” said Mollie.
“But they’re teachin’ how to make silk pictures in frames now,” went on Betty. “Miss Jessop, Parson Quine’s wife’s sister, is teachin’ it in Douglas, an’ the pictures are more like real than real paintings.”
“I daresay I could teach it too,” said Mollie.
“You?” cried the astonished Betty; “well, you have learnt a lot in Liverpool.”
“Thee shalt teach Dinah to make a silk picture for Granny’s best parlour,” said the gratified Mrs. Christane. ” Mrs. Cashen of Ballapot has one in her best parlour, the ‘ Christian Martyrs ‘ they’re callin’ it, the men that was burnt in London by a wicked queen, an’ the lovely gould frame on it cost as much as two guineas.”
“Dinah shall make you a picture, mother,” promised Mollie, “and Dorcas shall make one for Kitty.”
Across the big fields of golden corn Mollie walked to Derbyhaven; the sea beyond the last big field was blue, impossibly blue, Mollie thought, for there is no blue on earth so entrancing as the blue of the sea across a cornfield on a hot August day; and against the colour of the sea, the corn seemed shot with pale mauve, while above hung the glorious turquoise sky. Mollie rejoiced in the beauty around her. “There’s nothing in Liverpool to equal this,” she said to herself, ” and I shall leave it all when I go to Australia.”
Kitty and the children welcomed Mollie warmly. The children had grown and improved. Dorcas, capable, self-possessed and domestic; Rosaleen, with her elfin charm, wayward and artistic; Patience, thrifty and sensible; and Bride still imaginative and incomprehensible.
“It’s glad I am to see thee, Mollie,” said Kitty, “an’ how nice you look, just like a lady.”
Mollie smiled. “And Dorcas and Rosaleen are to come to me in Castletown,” she said.
“It’s time they left Mr. Teare’s school at Ballasalla. They want a polish, as mother says; the boys get rough at times, and there’s no French taught there. Mother’s changed, Mollie, since you went to Liverpool. She’s that proud you wouldn’t think of the book-learnin’ you’ve got; and she wants the girls to grow up like thee.”
“Not all of them, surely,” said Mollie. “Why, who is this dainty lady?”
It was little Faith, now about three; a delightful toddler, with Mollie’s sea-blue eyes and a mass of dark hair. “Come to Aunt Mollie?” she coaxed, and Faith went instantly.
“She’s like you, Mollie; look at the little teeth of her, and the pretty little dimples. She’s mother’s pet, she is,” said her proud mother.
Jude Kameen had been drinking ever since he heard that Mollie was coming home. He sat in his parlour in his nightshirt and an old overcoat, drinking Steadily. He drank brandy, always brandy, and he drank it alone. The room was dirty, for he would not have it touched, he neither washed, combed, nor shaved; a dirty, hideous, dishevelled object he looked, as he lolled on his sofa, his bare feet thrust into large woollen slippers, drinking — always drinking. Sometimes he slumbered, breathing stertorously, then he would wake in a panic, drink some brandy, and babble incoherent curses. His housekeeper, Mrs. Kezia Lace, was in despair. For some days she had not been able to get him into his bedroom at all, and his parlour and his person were indescribably filthy. He refused all food, sometimes for forty-eight hours; and then he would shout angrily for kidneys, toast, poached eggs, and toasted cheese. At all hours of the day and night Mrs. Lace had to be on the alert to satisfy his fits of hunger. He refused to see a doctor, locking himself in when the housekeeper sent for one, and cursing at him through the keyhole. “He will kill himself, Mrs. Lace,” said Dr. Cornelius Key, “unless you can get him to stop drinking.”
“I can do nothing with him, sir,” moaned Mrs. Lace.
“Has he no relations that could influence him?”
“There’s only Miss Eliza Quirk of Castletown, an’ sometimes he sends for her when he’s bad.”
“Send for her now, Mrs. Lace,” commanded Dr. Cornelius Key, “and tell her that unless she can get him to pull himself together, the man will die.”
Eliza Quirk came at the urgent summons of Mrs. Lace.
“I can’t do nothing with him, Miss Quirk,” she complained. “He’s worse than ever; he’s not been dressed for a fortnight, nor in his bed for a week. He can drink two or three bottles of brandy a day.”
“Does he eat at all?” asked the capable Miss Quirk.
“When the fit is on him; last night at near twelve o’clock it was, he began roarin’ for food like a madman. He ate seven poached eggs, two grilled kidneys, an’ two roun’s of toast covered thick with toasted cheese. Then he drank hot brandy punch, an’ slept like a log on the flure for hours, snorin’ like a pig. I covered him up with blankets. What more could a body do? ”
” Nothin’,” said Miss Quirk. “I’ll be goin’ to him now.”
Miss Quirk opened the parlour door, which Jude used as a study. The drunken man sprawled on the sofa breathing loudly. He was an impossible, indescribable object, with all the humanity out of him. His hands and face filthy, one bare, dirty leg thrust out from the folds of an old overcoat, his dank, lifeless, grey hair disordered, a nasty scratch on the bald portion of his head, and the vein on his left temple swollen and throbbing, his chin and cheeks unshaven, and an unsightly growth of hair sprouting. He half-opened his slaty-green eyes as Eliza entered the reeking, foul-smelling room. “It’s you, Eliza?” he said.
“Yes, it’s me, Jude Kameen.”
“And what do you think of me, Eliza, hey?”
“I think,” said Eliza firmly, “that you are a disgustin’ lookin’ old man.”
“Old, I’m not old; who says I’m old? I’m forty-four, Eliza; too old for pretty Mollie, hey?”
“You are very dirty, Jude. Wash yourself an’ get dressed decent. You are filthy.”
Jude Kameen began to cry. “I’m alone,” he wailed, “alone an’ in distress; an’ shunned by me nearest relation.”
“Don’t make a gorm of thyself, Jude,” said Eliza briskly. “Get up, an’ wash, an’ come an’ have a cup of tea with me.”
“I will not, Eliza,” said Jude with drunken solemnity. “What’ ye come here for? To insult me?”
“I’ve come to help thee, Jude; now be good and let me wash thy hands an’ face.”
Jude glanced fearfully round. “Will you stay with me, Eliza?”
“Yes, if you will behave proper.”
Jude sobbed. “There’s things come to me in the night, shadows, ghosts, corpses, dead men an’ green devils,” and he howled pitifully.
“Hush, hush,” soothed Eliza. “Wait a minute, an’ I’ll get warm water an’ bathe thy poor face,”
Jude allowed her to sponge his face and hands, crying weakly all the time. “Have you nothin’ better to put on than the old overcoat?” she asked.
Mrs. Lace brought his plaid dressing-gown. “Get him to bed, Miss Quirk,” she counselled, “an’ I’ll clean this room out.”
“There’s thy clean bed ready, all cool an’ nice,” soothed Eliza, “an’ the window open, an’ the smell of the sea comin’ in, an’ the sun. Come, Jude, an’ I’ll have tea with thee when you’re in your bed.”
Presently she persuaded the miserable wretch to put the dressing-gown on, and he in his bed. Then she bathed his hot forehead and hands with cold water and lavender scent. Jude lay Still. “That’s nice, girl,” he said.
He fell into an uneasy doze before the tea came; and an hour later he was roaring for oysters, and beefsteak and onions. He was a trying patient, but Eliza Quirk remained with him two days.
Three days later Jude Kameen, clothed, shaved, clean and fairly sober, was in his office in Drumgold Street, trying to overtake the neglected business letters that lay on his desk. Michael Quilliam on horseback dismounted at the door of Jude’s office, gave the bridle of his horse to an urchin to hold for him, and went in. Jude, with bloodshot eyes, shaking hands, and a bottle of brandy on the table, greeted him.
“It’s about the piece of land I’m buying,” began Michael. “It’s a long time now you’ve had it in hand.”
“Yes, Mr. Quilliam, yes, it’s terrible busy I am,” and Jude shuffled with his shaky hands among his papers, to find notes to refresh his memory. Then he helped himself to a glass of brandy and offered Michael the bottle.
“It’s too early for me yet,” said Michael. “It’s not suiting me to drink in the morning at all.”
“Doctor’s orders,” remarked Jude carelessly.
Just then an inquisitive duck stepped in from the street with a loud “Quack, quack,” and in a lumbering flat-footed fashion solemnly perambulated the office, pompously wagging the tail portion of its body. Jude started, watched the duck furtively, beads of perspiration broke on his forehead, and the vein in his left temple stood out throbbing. He hastily drank a glass of brandy, then glanced furtively at the duck again, and as furtively at Michael. Then another duck stepped in with a ” Quack, quack,” and followed the perambulations of the first one. Michael went on talking indifferently about the weather and the crops; and Jude with difficulty restrained himself from screaming aloud. There they were again; sometimes it was green devils, little, little devils with fiery tails; sometimes little snakes purple and pink, thousands of them writhing together on the floor in loathsome masses, and they always came to him at home. Never before had they followed him to the office. White ducks, oh God! could he never escape? and his hands shook as he pretended to search among his papers.
“Why do you have ducks about the place?” asked Michael. “Is it a new kind of pet you’ve got?” and his eyes followed the movement of the ducks.
“Good God,” burst out Jude in huge relief. “You don’t mean to say they are real?”
“Real enough,” laughed Michael. “Shoo, shoo,” and he drove the birds out into the street.
Jude sat down trembling. “I thought I was seein’ things that were not there.”
“They were ducks sure enough,” Michael assured him.
Jude helped himself to a drink of brandy. “And how is Miss Mollie Christane?” he asked.
“Well,” said Michael, “and smart.”
“Is she as handsome as ever?”
“Handsomer, I’m thinkin’. She’s got a grand way with her, has Mollie.”
“She’s the woman I ought to have married,” said Jude, “and it’s a different man I’d have been to-day, had she married me. She’s the prettiest girl in the Isle of Man.”
“She is so,” agreed Michael, and to himself he said, “but God help her, had she married thee.”
Jude finished his bottle after Michael had gone, and then he went home and shut himself in his parlour, drinking brandy all the day and night alone. The thought of Mollie frightened him. Why had she come back? And why had she gone away? What did she know about him? She was plotting against him. She had gone to Liverpool to spy into his concerns! She said he had stolen his own horse. What had she found out? Had Jerry Koteen played him false? Fear dominated him. In abject terror he sat all night, with candles lighted, drinking, and thinking of the evils that might come to him. Michael rode home, thinking too. “Queer it is,” he said to himself, “that a nice girl like Mollie should have driven one man to drink, and another to a convict prison; and Mollie so faithful and true.”
“In tragic life, God wot
No villain need be! Passions spin the plot,
We are betrayed by what is false within.”
“I suppose it’s God that makes when He wills
Them beautiful things — with the lift of His hills,
And the waft of His winds, and His calm and His Storms,
And that’s how He forms
A simple wench to be true and free,
And to move like a piece of poetry.”
T. E. Brown.
Mrs. Gelling’s school in Malew Street had nineteen scholars among the genteelest families in the neighbourhood of Castletown. When Dinah, Dorcas and Rosaleen Quilliam joined, the numbers went up to twenty-two. Mollie had plenty to do. She walked from Ballasalla every morning and arrived at her school before nine o’clock. She had completely mastered now the elements of English, Grecian, and Roman History, thanks to her careful study of Mrs. Trimmer’s handy little books in the leather covers, with the curious woodcuts. She had made a careful study of English grammar, thanks to Mr. Lindley Murray’s kind gifts and advice; and she could teach parsing without the aid of Mrs. Box’s exercise book. Her French had greatly improved; she had read a fair amount of English literature; and she even excelled Miss Julia in the art of delicate needle-work. She became very famous in the Isle of Man in after years for the silk pictures she taught the older girls to make. Two hours every afternoon were spent over them; and some of them are in existence to this day, and have even been sold in London salerooms. Mollie had a small room behind her schoolroom, where she received callers and ate her midday meal. Often Ann Fannin came to see her at four o’clock, when the scholars had gone home; and the two had tea together, and talked of Stephen and planned their Australian life. It was quite decided that Ann was to go out to Australia with Mollie. “It’s lonely I’d be in the Isle of Man, with you gone, and the farm on me hands, an’ a woman alone isn’t fitted for farmin’,” said Ann.
“Australia is a wonderful place,” Mollie assured her, “beautiful as the Isle of Man, and very big. They get land very cheap, and lots of convicts to work it; and the farms are lovely, they’re saying, when the land’s cleared.”
“Eliza Quirk thinks Jude Kameen has something bad on his conscience,” went on Ann. ” He drinks shockin’, an’ is frightened of everything.”
“He has need to be frightened, Ann.”
“If we could only get evidence against him,” sighed Ann, “and prove Stephen’s innocence.”
“We shall do that,” declared Mollie firmly.
“It was lucky you met Captain and Mrs. Boyden in Liverpool. It has made a lot of difference to Stephen, them knowin’ about him.”
“I am very, very glad, Ann; and the time will soon come to make Stephen’s position better still.”
“Do you know anything for certain, Mollie?”
“I shall, I hope, in a few weeks, but I cannot tell even you, Ann.”
“Who will tell Jude Kameen?”
“I shall tell him myself.”
“He is a dreadful man, Mollie; even Eliza Quirk is frightened of him at times; and poor Mrs. Lace locks herself in her room.”
“When the time comes I shall dare,” Mollie declared.
“Do you go to the Fort Island now, Mollie, to pray for Stephen?”
“I go to give thanks, Ann. I think God has answered my prayers.”
“How did you say special prayers in Liverpool, Mollie?”
“As best I could; the churches are crowded there, with people in besl: bonnets; and on week-days they are shut up. I used to slip into a little Roman Catholic Church sometimes, to say my prayers alone.”
“Oh! Mollie, the papists are wicked people.”
“Not all of them, Ann; and I always began by telling God that I wasn’t a papist. He heard me, I am sure, even there.”
“It must be terrible to live where there is no sea, in places full of people,” reflected Ann.
“It is; God has more chance to hear people by the sea and to help them. There’s more room, somehow; and people’s thoughts don’t get mixed up with wickedness and cruelty. I often think there would never have been all those burnings of Bishops in Oxford and London if those places had been by the sea.”
“They shot Illiam Dhone by the sea, Mollie.”
“Yes; but they burned thousands and thousands of men and women in big fires, just for saying their prayers a bit different, and not wanting to use the same prayer book.”
“They’d have never done that in the Isle of Man at all. Is there much sea in Australia, Mollie?”
“There’s sea all round it, very beautiful, they’re saying. Sydney Bay is as beautiful as Douglas Bay.”
A week or so later Ann came in full of excitement. “Tom Tyson will be buying the farm,” she said. “He’s got a good bit of money left him from his old grandfather, Tobias Tyson, him that made the money in a public house over Peel way, an’ Isabella is longin’ terrible for the little islan'; and the children would be better by the sea.”
“Yes,” said Mollie, sympathetically.
“If me and Stephen was paid for our shares in the farm an’ the mortgage paid too, there’d be a good bit of money to take us out to Australia.”
Mollie was alert at once. “I’ve saved thirty pounds, Ann, and father left me one hundred pounds to come to me when I’m twenty-five, and I shall be that in a few weeks.”
“We’d have money to get together a little farm out there, Mollie.”
“Stephen must be cleared first; I’m not going to him when he’s only a ticket-of-leave man. He is innocent.”
“I know he is, but how ‘ill it be proved?”
“It must be done, Ann; in two or three weeks now; have patience.”
“What do you know, Mollie?”
“I know all, and I’m going to get it proved.” With that Ann had to be content.
It was Friday afternoon, the second anniversary of Stephen’s trial, and Mollie was putting the school books away after the scholars had departed. Her hands were trembling with eagerness. She was in a slate of inner turmoil, and her eyes shone with unnatural brightness. In her pocket was the promised communication from Mrs. Dawes. The letter Stephen had written to Jude was enclosed with the envelope as well. The letter bore the date when the horse was stolen; and it had been posted at Congleton. It had been placed by clumsy fingers in the envelope which Mollie had addressed to herself and given to Mrs. Dawes. It was accompanied by a childish scrawl from John Henry. “Gran sens it. She is verry bad. John Henry.” It had come to her at midday, and she had been burning with excitement ever since. She would go to Douglas at once and see Jude Kameen, and she prayed for strength to enable her to confront him while she waited for Ann to come, for she had sent for her early in the afternoon.
“Mollie, how pale you look,” cried Ann, surprised when she saw the usually composed Mollie white and trembling. “I’m late, but I’ve news for you.”
“And I for you, Ann. Sit down, and rejoice. I have got proof of Stephen’s innocence.”
“Mollie, is it true?” and Ann burst into a passion of tears, crying, “At last, at last.”
“Be calm, Ann, and listen; I must go to Douglas at once and confront Jude Kameen with his guilt.”
“What have you got, Mollie? How did you manage to get it?”
“I’ve got the letter Stephen wrote to Jude from Congleton; and I can’t tell you where I got it, except that God sent it, in answer to our prayers”; and Mollie wept too, tears of thankfulness.
“I’ll make some tea,” said practical Ann, “it will do us both good”; and she put the kettle on the fire and began to lay the table. “It would be better to take the letter to Lawyer Kissack, I’m thinking,” counselled Ann. “Jude Kameen is a very dangerous man; and very bad he is too, like to die, they’re saying.”
“I must go myself, Ann. I promised to tell no person in the world but Jude Kameen himself; and I’ll keep my word.”
Over tea Ann imparted her news. Jude Kameen was dying. “He’s very bad, Mollie. Eliza Quirk sent to me yesterday, poor soul; she was shivering with that influenza the doctors is callin’ the bad coulds. She’d heard from Mrs. Lace, who says she couldn’t stop alone in that house any longer. Dr. Cornelius Key told her to send for Eliza, and she had to go as she was, with all the cold upon her, and as weak as a cat she was. She asked me to come an’ stay a day or two in Douglas with her; an’ I’ve been fixin’ things up with Katty Coole, an’ I thought of goin’ this night to help Eliza. You’ll hardly see Jude Kameen, Mollie. The man’s too bad to see folks.”
“Ann,” said Mollie solemnly, “let me go and help Eliza Quirk.”
“It’s not a bad notion at all,” allowed Ann. “Eliza likes you; and she has told me more than once that he’s got something on his mind that’s killin’ the man. She’s a notion of the truth, has Eliza; she’s cute enough an’ far-seein’.”
So it was arranged. Mollie hired a car to drive her to Douglas; sent a message to her mother not to expect her home; then went off, while Ann walked back to Ballakilleen, her mind whirling with joy and excitement.
Mrs. Kezia Lace was distracted. The patient was in a serious condition, at present he was unconscious, she said. Eliza Quirk welcomed Mollie warmly. “It’s good of you to come, Mollie,” she said. “I’m that bad with this cold, an’ achin’ in every limb I am; I didn’t like to ask you yesterday, but I’m thinkin’ that Jude will never be better. It’s a haunted man he is; an’ he’ll never die easy till he rights the wrong he’s done. You know what it is, Mollie?”
“I’m thinking I do know, Eliza; the poor man.” The two looked into each other’s eyes. “You’ll be gentle with him, Mollie, if he’s well enough to talk?” “I will,” promised Mollie.
“Last night was a terrible time; he was roarin’ an’ trying to fight devils all the time. He called for you, too. He was drinkin’ hard at the brandy this mornin’, an’ he fell on the floor on a broken brandy bottle. He’d nothin’ on but his nightshirt, an’ it cut into him terrible. Dr. Cornelius Key an’ another doctor was pickin’ broken glass out of his side for more than an hour. With little nippers they did it, an’ it hurt terrible. Then they gave him something to send him to sleep, the poor soul.”
It was nine o’clock when Dr. Cornelius Key came to see the patient. He found Eliza feverish and shivering as if with ague, and he sent her off to bed at once. Mrs. Lace and Mollie were to look after the patient for the night. “I can stay till Sunday night,” Mollie promised, “and then Ann Fannin could come for a while.”
“The patient must never be left,” the doctor ordered; “and nourishment, milk, beef tea, lemonade and brandy must be given to him at intervals.”
Mrs. Lace took the first part of the night duty, and Mollie got Eliza to bed and attended to her; then she lay down to get some sleep until three o’clock, when she was to relieve Mrs. Lace in the sick-room.
“You’ll be tender with Jude if he awakens and knows you,” Eliza warned her.
“I will indeed, Eliza,” promised Mollie.
Jude was asleep when Mollie appeared to relieve Mrs. Lace. He was breathing heavily. “He’s been queer in his head,” Mrs. Lace reported. “It’s frightened he is; he thinks they are hanging him, an’ he screams somethin’ dreadful.”
“Does the wound trouble him?”
“He’s in pain, but the wound’s not to be touched till morning, when the doctor comes.”
Mollie arranged the patient’s medicine and nourishment, and seated herself behind a screen. For some hours she sat reading in silence, while Jude Still slept an uneasy sleep. About seven o’clock he Stirred, and called weakly for Eliza.
Mollie was at the bedside in an instant. “Will you have some milk?” she asked. He took it, and looked at her curiously.
“Bad dreams, Eliza,” he muttered, “they were going to hang me.”
“What for?” asked Mollie.
“You are not Eliza,” he said.
“Eliza is in bed; she is not well enough to be here.”
“You are Mollie Christane; how did you get here? Are you alive?”
“Oh, yes! I came to help to take care of you.”
“Am I dead then?”
“No; you are here in your room.”
“I must get up and go away, they are after me.”
“The hangmen; there are lots of them, all looking for me.”
“They will not come here. I will never let them in.”
This seemed to comfort him for a little while.
“It is Mollie,” he said again, looking at her wildly. “Have you come to torment me?”
“I will never torment you.”
“What do you want?”
“I want you to make your peace with God, and confess your sins.”
“The sin of accusing Stephen Fannin of a crime, when he was as innocent.”
“Ah! am I going to die then?”
“Confess while there is time to repent.”
“That you broke the kitchen window and took the stable key; that you denied Stephen wrote to tell you of the loss of the horse.”
He sat up suddenly, and a saner light came into his eyes. “And what is your evidence?”
“The evidence of Caroline Dawes, the grandmother of your son, John Henry.”
“A pretty story indeed; and how comes Caroline Dawes to know?”
“Caroline Dawes was there; she saw you break the window and hide the key where you told Stephen to look for it.”
“And who will believe this tale?”
“I have the letter Stephen wrote you from Congleton, offering to pay for the loss of the horse.”
“You? And where did you get it?”
“God sent it to me,” said Mollie softly.
Jude Kameen sat up. “Give me brandy,” he said. Mollie gave it to him.
“Now tell me, Mollie, what do you want me to do?”
“I want a full confession properly witnessed.”
“What use would you make of it?”
“Get a free pardon for Stephen, and go to Australia to marry him.”
“If you’d have married me, Mollie, it’s a different man I’d have been; well, it didn’t come off, it didn’t come off.”
Mollie said nothing. “I’ve lived in hell,” he said, “ever since Stephen was transported, and now I’m going to die, Mollie.”
“That lies with God,” she said.
“The wages of sin is death; death, well, I’ve earned it.” He lay some time thinking. “You were worth sinning for, Mollie, but it didn’t come off, it didn’t come off.”
Mollie crimsoned as she thought of Stephen, and she cried softly. “Stephen never harmed you, and he might have been hanged,” she sobbed.
“Ay! hangin’s an easy death they say, soon over. It’s tormented by the devils in hell I’ve been. You ought to pity me, Molly.”
“I do pity you,” she said; “the ways of transgressors are hard.”
“They are so, you’re right. I am going to die, Mollie, I know it. Well, I’ll escape the hangman, anyhow.”
Mollie’s tears were falling; she could not speak.
“Don’t cry, Mollie. Death smooths things out, and you’re going to marry Stephen; well, he’s a lucky man. Kiss me, Mollie, just once, and I’ll do what you want.”
Mollie bent over him and kissed him.
“You’ve won, Mollie, you’ve won. Call Eliza, I’ll make a confession.”
“Eliza is too ill to be disturbed,” she said.
“Call Mrs. Lace then. You shall write my confession for me.”
She hesitated. “You will make all right for John Henry and Mrs. Dawes?” she pleaded.
“What do you know about them?”
“I’ve written the letters for Mrs. Dawes about John Henry for nearly two years, and now Mrs. Dawes is very ill.”
“Good God! Why did you do it, Mollie?”
“To earn some money to help me to go to Australia to Stephen.”
“You would have married a convict?”
“I’d have married Stephen whatever they called him,” she said.
Jude Kameen groaned. “Life is a muddling business, Mollie; and we mortals are blind as newly born puppies. God help us! Make haste and fetch Mrs. Lace.”
She came, a little troubled woman wrapped in a shawl; and Eliza, pale and shivering, followed her.
“Stay where you are, Eliza, and witness the death-bed repentance of a blackguard. Fetch pens and ink. Now, Mollie, write, and Eliza, listen.”
Mollie, trembling, wrote as he dictated: —
“I, Jude Kameen, Advocate of Douglas, swore falsely that Stephen Fannin, of Ballakilleen, Isle of Man, Bole my mare. I lent it to him to ride to Stone. I contrived that it should be stolen from him at Congleton. The letter Stephen Fannin wrote to me at Congleton can be produced as evidence. To recompense Stephen Fannin, I will pay him one thousand pounds (£1000).
(Signed) Jude Kameen.
Witnessed by Eliza Quirk, Castletown.
Kezia Lace, Douglas.
“Keep it, Mollie,” he said, “and Mrs. Lace, send for the parson of St. Matthew’s, Dr. Cornelius Key, and Mr. Kissack the lawyer. I’ll finish my repentance before I die.”
Later on, the do&or, the parson, and the lawyer met at Jude Kameen’s bedside. He directed Mr. Kissack to draw up a more formal confession, which was witnessed by the doctor and the parson. “Send it to the right quarter,” he directed, “and see that Stephen Fannin gets a free pardon.”
“You must rest now,” said Dr. Cornelius Key.
“No, doctor, give me brandy, I must put my house in order. Keep me fit for another half hour, and Kissack can do it now.”
It was Sunday night when Mollie returned home. Her mother was fretful, and Betty curious.
“Goin’ to Douglas, and what for then? An’ away two nights too.”
“I was at Mr. Jude Kameen’s, mother. He is dying, and Eliza Quirk asked me to go.”
“What did he want with thee at all?”
“It is a mistake about Stephen; he got Lawyer Kissack to write to the Government of England about it. And Stephen will get a free pardon. He is giving Stephen £1000 to compensate him; and I am going to Australia to marry him.”
“Mollie, art thee in thy senses, girl?”
“Yes, mother,” said Mollie with a radiant face.
And Betty was so thunderstruck that she could only ejaculate, ” Well, if ever, Mrs. Duff!”
“Leavin’ thy mother a second time, too. It’s cruel of thee, Mollie.”
“A wife’s place is with her husband,” said Mollie soberly.
“Let Stephen come home then and attend to his farm then.”
“Stephen’s farm is to be sold to Tom Tyson, and Isabella; and Ann will come with me to Australia.”
“Thou’st planned it all, I see,” said her mother grimly. “An’ Australia is farther away than Liverpool; thou’lt never see thy mother again, Mollie.”
“An’ to marry a convict,” broke in Betty. “I’d never have thought it of thee, Mollie, so proud an’ high like you were.”
“Stephen is no convict; he is an innocent man.”
“Who stole Jude Kameen’s horse, then?”
“That has all been found out, Betty,” said Mollie, “and Jude Kameen is dying.”
“It’s thy work if the man dies,” scolded Mrs. Christane; “the man has followed thee about like a shadow; worshipped thee he did; an’ when thou went to Liverpool it just broke his heart, so it did.”
“An’ drinkin’ brandy helped a bit maybe,” quoth Betty.
“To go out to live among convicts; an’ marry one of them, my child, my youngest born. Thou’lt break thy mother’s heart, too, Mollie.”
“Stephen is no convift, mother. It is a mistake.”
“Ay! it’s easy talkin’ of mistakes when the man’s dyin'; an’ a thousand pounds he’s giving Stephen Fannin for thy sake. The poor man an’ his heart broke in his body; an’ thou to go furrin to marry a man that’s been a convict.”
“But, mother,” said Mollie gently, “I’ve been pledged to Stephen Fannin for two long years. I must go where my husband is.”
“Ay! an’ thy mother will not be at thy weddin’ at all, nor any of thy kin.”
“Ann Fannin will be there, mother.”
“Stephen’s kin, not thine, girl. Ah, well! ‘Ta lhane klinkyn ayns car-y-phoosee'” (There’s many twifts in the nuptial song).
“A thousand pounds is a terrible lot of money,” said Betty; ” an’ what’ll you an’ Stephen be doin’ with it?” “We’ll be farming.”
“There’s no need to go trapesing to Australia to farm, when there’s plenty of land in the Isle of Man,” and Mrs. Christane began to cry.
“There, mother, we’ll have a nice cup of tea,” coaxed Mollie. “I’ll be home in ten years maybe.”
“When thy mother is lyin’ in Malew churchyard,” lamented Mrs. Christane.
Jude Kameen died the day after Mollie left him, and his will caused much comment throughout the Isle of Man. The bulk of his property went to his son John Henry; and Eliza Quirk and Lawyer Kissack were appointed the boy’s guardians. A competence was left to his cousin, Eliza Quirk, and an annuity to Mrs. Caroline Dawes, while £1000 was to be paid to Stephen Fannin.
“Well, if ever, Mrs. Duff! ” quoth Betty; “to think of that ould rascal, Jude Kameen, havin’ a wife in England an’ a son too; there’s no knowin’ the wickedness that’s in men.”
“If Mollie had behaved proper to the man there was no need for him to be gettin’ wives in England,” said her mother.
“But the boy’s a big boy, nine or ten, folks is sayin'; he must have been born when the first wife was alive.”
“A poor body enough, was his first wife; and a bogh of a thing his mother was, Betsy Quine. The man knew no better.”
“Poor soul, poor soul,” said Mollie softly to Ann Fannin. “It’s jealous of Stephen he was, an’ the brandy killed him, but he wasn’t all bad, Ann.”
“Men are amazin’,” marvelled Ann; “they do curious things.”
“They are like little children,” said Mollie. “Self-willed, an’ doin’ things out of jealousy; things that would harm themselves most of all. Poor Jude Kameen.”
Kitty wept a great deal over Mollie’s departure.
“An’ the nice the girls were doin’ at her school in Castletown, making silk pictures as good as real pictures too, an’ learnin’ to behave like ladies. What’ll I do when Mollie’s gone?”
“Go on sending them to Mrs. Gelling,” suggested Michael, “the school isn’t going away at all, Kitty.”
“Mrs. Gelling isn’t Mollie,” rebelled Kitty.
“We shall miss you, my dear,” said old Mrs. Quilliam to Mollie; “you have taught my grandchildren very nicely, and Mrs. Gelling is a worldly woman, fond of money, and with very little learning.”
“I hope,” said Mollie, “that Dinah and Dorcas may have a year at Mrs. Mar don’s. It is a very respectable Seminary for young ladies, and Mrs. Mardon is most kind.”
“We will try to arrange it, my dear,” said old Mrs. Quilliam.
THE CROWDING OF THE CUP CARDS
“To thee as thou deserves.” — Manx proverb.
It was a long journey to Australia in those days, and it took many months to accomplish. It was three months before Mollie and Ann got a passage and embarked. Michael and Tom Tyson made all arrangements and saw them off. A long, long journey they found it, but full of interest. Mollie kept a diary which is still extant. A simple document with records of daily events. A flight of flying fish was a wonder to her. “God made these little fishes with wings,” she writes, “to escape their enemies. Thanks be to God for His goodness to all created things.” A baby was born during the voyage to a poor woman who had recently lost her husband; and Mollie and Ann made the baby’s entire outfit. Then they made fine shirts for Stephen, dropping many tears over them, as they reflected on the coarse clothes he had been made to wear. “You’d give the moon to Stephen if you could, Mollie,” said Ann, smiling, as Mollie marked his garments with her fine, silken hair.
“I’d cut the moon in little pieces to make a smooth path for him to walk upon,” said Mollie with a radiant face.
“It’s glorified you look when you talk of Stephen,” remarked Ann wistfully. “This love you talk of must be a fine thing.”
“It’s the most beautiful thing in the world, Ann; and please God there’s a man over in Australia for you too.”
“I haven’t that much opinion of men,” quoth Ann with a wry smile. “I’ve had no sweetheart but Charles Kinrade, and see how he treated me! To sail away to Ireland and marry the first trouse of a girl he met.”
“He was a bit of a boy, Ann; there was no real love in your sweethearting,” said Mollie wisely. “You’ll meet the real man yet, and thank God for him too.”
The two occupied themselves by embroidering petticoats for themselves, for as Mollie said, there would be plenty of nice people out there, “good English folk,” and their clothes must be as “good as fingers could make them.”
“I’m not educated like you, Mollie, to meet nice folks,” said Ann sadly. “I don’t talk right, like the English folks at all. I notice it every time I hear you talk to that English parson.”
Mollie laughed. “If that is all, Ann, I’ll soon teach you. We’ll do grammar every day.”
“I’ll never remember it,” sighed Ann. “Just tell me, Mollie, everything I say wrong, and I’ll copy you.”
“Yes, and you’ll do grammar too. I learnt a lot from Dr. Lindley Murray’s book, and you shall learn it too.” So Study was instituted as well as sewing, to relieve the tedium of the voyage.
In due course the General of the Convict Settlement received the news of Stephen’s innocence. He was a humane man, and truly rejoiced that one of his black sheep was white after all. He sent for Captain Boyden.
“Fannin’s tale is true enough,” he said; “he is cleared; we must officially recognize his innocence and recompense him.”
“I always believed in him,” was Captain Boyden’s reply.
“He is directing your farm, isn’t he? Is he any good?”
“He is an excellent farmer. Steady, and he knows his crops.”
“Would he be inclined to settle out here?”
“That is his intention. He belongs to the Isle of Man; and a charming girl — a friend of my wife’s — is coming out to marry him.”
“That clinches the matter; we’ll do the thing handsomely,” pronounced the General.
To say that Stephen was acutely unhappy in his work on the farm at George’s River would be an exaggeration; but he was dull, apathetic, and depressed. In his soul burned bitter resentment against the injustice of his case, and fierce hatred against Jude Kameen. The muscles of his fingers ached impotently to twine themselves around the villain’s throat and crush the life out of him. It seemed incredible that such monstrous misfortune should have befallen him. In the early days he was cheered by Mollie’s faithfulness, and he dreamed of the establishment of his innocence; but time dragged on and nothing happened; only the dreary monotony of a convict’s life with a hopeless outlook before him. Occasional letters from Mollie and Ann lifted his gloom; but he worked mechanically, hopelessly, in dull despair. His conduct was good, his work intelligent, and he suffered no cruel hardships or bitter indignities that destroy the manhood and make a man a hunted beast, for the commanding officer was a rare man, and was personally interested in Stephen, having heard the chaplain’s account of him, and the commendation of Captain Boyden. Later in the history of Australian convict life, when other administrators came to the task, the condition of the prisoners became indeed deplorable, as harsh regulations were instituted. Stephen was fortunate in being under the rule of that particular General, and Mollie ever afterwards thanked God that it was so. The advent of Captain Boyden and his young wife brought real cheer to Stephen. The Captain was impressed by Stephen’s sincerity, and he took a liking to the young Manxman, while Isabel always managed to whisper a word about Mollie. Still, under the most favourable conditions, the lot of a convict is hard; and the hardship was intensified by the consciousness of innocence. He thought of Mollie with passionate longing, and his desire for freedom was unendurable. He felt stained, fouled, degraded. He would never rise out of the mire, and possess his beautiful Mollie. Isabel cried with joy when she heard the good news, and realized that Mollie was on her way out. She insisted on going out to the farm at once to bring Stephen to their home. ” Of course, he will stay with us, Harry, till Mollie comes; and he must learn that he is not a convict: now.”
“We will both go this minute and fetch him; he must be petted and cheered and made much of. Mollie shall never see him as he is.”
“But it is a long ride in the sun, my dear.”
“I’d ride a hundred miles for Mollie’s sweetheart,” was all Isabel said.
Stephen was dazed and a little suspicious at first, but he drew a long breath of relief when the matter was explained to him. “So the villain confessed on his death-bed, and cheated the hangman,” he said.
“It was Mollie that made him do it,” put in Isabel; “dear Mollie, she is on her way out; she will be here in a few days perhaps.”
Stephen crimsoned. “Am I fit to see her?” he said. “A convict — a degraded man?”
“You will be recompensed, Fannin,” soothed Harry. “Our chief is a fine old boy. He’ll make it right, never
“Nothing can right a wrong that destroys a man’s soul,” gloomed Stephen.
Isabel interposed. “You must think of Mollie,” she said. “Only of Mollie, the brave darling. She would have married you had you been in chains, Stephen Fannin.”
“Look at me, a convict, the degradation will ever be upon me.”
“Fiddlesticks,” said Harry. “You are an innocent man; the world will know it.”
“I’ve nothing, nothing in the world but these,” and a sob choked his utterance as Stephen looked down at his convict clothes.
“But you are coming home now with Harry and me. You are going down at once to the creek to cast your convict clothes for ever; to dip in the river and dress in a suit of Harry’s we have brought it with us,” proclaimed Isabel.
“And a cloak of the General’s to cover the rents you will make in my puny garments with your brawny limbs,” laughed Harry. “My tailor will soon fix you up, young giant.”
“Go now, now y with Harry,” insisted Isabel. “We have a hamper, the servants are fixing up lunch for us. We want to see you as an honest Manxman. We will drink your health, and dear Mollie’s, and then you shall show me the clearing and fencing, and advise me about a garden.”
The site of the house was on a bank above a creek. It was not yet built, but the timber was there ready sawn, and the plan mapped out. Some acres of land had been cleared and fenced. Beyond the fences the clanging of axes was heard. Blue smoke circled upward in the still air, for the men were burning the scrub to make the land yield a good pasture for sheep and cattle. The way of the creek was alive with the yellow glory of the wattles. The cleared land, blackened and smudged after the fires, lent to the scented air that acrid smell of burning wood. The Stables and men’s huts were yellow in the sunshine. Isabel instructed the servants to lay out a trestled table and produce the cold meal and wines. When the two men returned she greeted Stephen with a demure curtsey. “It is an honour to meet you, Mr. Fannin,” she said.
Stephen abashed, in clothes too small for him, smiled at her. It was a pleasant meal, out there in the clearing of the bush with the golden wattles behind them; and the two kind-hearted young people partly succeeded in making Stephen feel at ease under the new conditions. A solemn toast was drunk to Mollie, and they all pledged themselves to do what they could to make her life happy. It was a softened and hopeful Stephen who took up his abode under the hospitable roof of Harry and Isabel. Their kind sympathy and hopeful outlook soon put him entirely at his ease; and in his eagerness to meet Mollie he almost forgot his former sufferings and shame. Then one day came great doings. Stephen, with his kind host and hostess, were invited to Government House in Paramatta, where he was to be received by the old General and his wife, and the chief officials; and his innocence was to be proclaimed abroad.
Stephen, attired in well-fitting garments, was shy; but he kept his stolid Manx face, and pretended to be cool and collected as he was driven to Government House with Harry and Isabel; Harry, correct, slim, and smart in his uniform, and Isabel in an elegant gown and with a gay parasol. As they drew near their destination, Stephen caught glimpses of fine chaises bowling along, pretty ladies, horses and scarlet uniforms; and with an effort he controlled himself, for as he afterwards told Mollie, his “coward convict soul” had well-nigh taken possession of him. The Governor’s house was girt round with smooth green lawns, where a tame young kangaroo leapt at play. They passed through the gates where the sentry paced; and Stephen saw the low, white walls of Government House with the long French windows and latticed shades, opening upon the lawn. Then he found himself shaking hands with the General and his kind, grey-haired wife, who murmured words of sympathy; and presently a pretty little ceremony was enacted when the King’s pardon and regret were tendered to Stephen, together with a piece of parchment sealed with the seal of the Colony, and bearing the signature of the General. It was the title deed of grant of land of two thousand five hundred acres, situated in an alluvial district within forty miles of Sydney. Stephen responded properly in the well-chosen phrases Harry had suggested; and the company adjourned for luncheon, and Stephen was the honoured guest. When it was all over, and he had been congratulated and made much of, he retired to his own room and wept for pure joy. He was a free man, reinstated, the taint of the convict was gone for ever. His self-respect returned as he recalled the warm hand-clasp of the General. And Mollie was coming out to him. His Mollie with her beautiful eyes and sweet devotion. He pictured her, as she stood in the silver moonlight bidding him farewell at Ballasalla. It was like a fairy tale, and Stephen told himself that it had almost been worth while enduring convict life for the sake of the beautiful future that awaited him.
They planned to have a quiet wedding from Captain Boyden’s house with Ann as bridesmaid. But their plans miscarried. The Story of the handsome Manxman falsely accused, and the faithful and lovely Mollie, touched the hearts of the people, and everybody thronged to the wedding. “The bonniest bride that Sydney ever had,” was Captain Boyden’s comment as he kissed Mollie. Presents showered upon the young couple. Mollie hesitated about taking them. “They’re from people I never saw,” she said. “Why should they be so kind to me?”
“Because you are you, dear Mollie, and Stephen is Stephen, and the world likes love stories and lovers,” said Isabel.
Stephen hesitated about taking Jude Kameen’s money. “I don’t like taking a villain’s money,” he said.
“He is dead,” Mollie reminded him.
“He was not fit to live, Mollie. Nobody could forgive the like of him.”
“God forgave him, Stephen.”
“It’s God’s business to forgive. All right, Mollie, we’ll think no ill of the dead.”
“The farm will want to be stocked,” said Ann, with Manx caution, “and there’s a lot of stock wanted, Stephen.”
“He wasn’t all bad, Stephen. He wanted to make amends,” said Mollie earnestly, and Stephen kissed her and said: —
“We’ll borrow the money, sweetheart, and when we’re rich we’ll pay it back to John Henry.” And they left it at that.
Stephen applied for twenty convicts to work for him, and he got all he asked. He went down to survey his land, and begin clearing, leaving Mollie and Ann to get together the household furnishings. In a few weeks he came back to buy stock. He was fastidious, and his livestock was the very best that could be obtained. He intended to grow wheat and Indian maize. When he had collected his belongings, the party journeyed to their home. Mollie never forgot that journey through the bush in the bullock waggon. To this day her grandchildren tell the story to their little ones when they tire of fairy tales; the furniture, kitchen utensils, and farm tools were lashed under canvas; and she and Ann sat upon a feather bed with their backs against the top of a kitchen table; and Stephen, in a white drill jacket and high boots, rode ahead with a couple of men, their guns resting on the saddles.
“Is it wild beasts they are afraid of, Mollie?” asked the fearful Ann.
“Blacks too, maybe; but there is nothing to fear. God is with us,” said wise Mollie, as the bullock waggon rumbled slowly through the bush under the burning sun. The road passed from the open bush, where the sunlight lay as flame on the parched earth, through the giant gums. “It is like a big church, so still,” said Mollie.
The sky through the break in the trees was blue as the sea, and the sunlight lay on the ground in yellow-red splashes. From the far-off tree-tops rose the sad sounds as of an organ, when the wind stirred them, wafting abroad the incense of the bush.
“Listen!” said Mollie, “surely there is music. Stephen, listen to that pretty piping.”
“The call of the lyre bird to its mate, my dear,” was the prosaic Stephen’s reply. Through the broken twilight, with shafts of sunlight piercing the gloom, they went slowly, and the driver cracked his long whip, and encouraged the bullocks to proceed by half-smothered curses.
“It smells like the sweet spices the wise men brought to the baby Jesus,” remarked Ann. “Look, Mollie, the ticking of the bed isn’t as good as we get in Liverpool, at all,” and Ann examined the new bed ticking.
Mollie was looking at the stray sunrays on the thick undergrowth of musk, myrtle and giant ferns.
“There’s the smell of musk and eucalyptus,” she said, “and a hundred other lovely scents.”
“But there’s no gorse, nor ling, and the smell of the sea is different,” lamented Ann.
Like white fire the sun struck them, as the timber thinned, and they lost the protecting shade of the gum-trees. Mollie laughed with joy at the colours of the parrots, grey and pink, green and blue, and she told Ann of the wonders of Mrs. Mardon’s parrot with its fund of conversation. Myriads of black flies swarmed; insects chirped around, above and below them; clouds of white cockatoos flew by shrieking at them; and gold-winged butterflies sported in the white sunlight; the wattles sprang as yellow light to indicate the gully’s track; and the eucalyptus trees in all their glory of young green leaf and red-tipped boughs trembled in the smoke-blue haze beyond. At night they camped beneath a cloudless indigo sky, and Stephen pointed out the Southern Cross shining in splendour among the stars, “Stars that never saw the little Isle of Man,” lamented Ann.
It was on a hill-top above the creek that Mollie found her new home. Only a fraction of the land had been cleared, and beyond was the bush, green as young pasture land, rolling on and on to the mountain ridge. Stephen stood with Mollie and Ann, looking across the clearing at the smoke rising in the still air, and curling mistily towards the mountains.
“‘Tis fine pasture land it ‘ill make for the sheep,” exulted Ann.
“Thousands and thousands of them,” ruminated Stephen.
“Our life will be busy, but so happy, Stephen,” said radiant Mollie.
And in truth the three made excellent Australian settlers; cautious, adaptable, hopeful and hard working, the Manx folk are apt to thrive in an unfamiliar environment. Ann soon deserted them and married Owen Edmunds, a young widower, and their nearest neighbour. Stephen prospered. His lands grew spacious as the bush rolled back under the axe and fire. The cattle increased; the crops flourished; the orchard gave generously, and Mollie’s garden was a Paradise of colour and fragrance. Mollie’s life flowed on happily and busily. She loved the home of her adoption and she adored her two children — Frederick Stephen and Christian Isabel. The old General himself was sponsor to the boy, and Isabel was godmother to the girl. Stephen and Mollie began to grow rich. Their house was low, timber-built, spacious and very comfortable, with deep verandahs, large rooms, and surrounded by flowers. Mollie often looked out on the prospect of peaceful pasture lands, and wooded hills rolling into the blue distance; and thanked God for her blessings. “If I could only show the children to mother and Betty, and the farm to Michael and Kitty, how happy I’d be, Stephen,” she said.
A last peep at Mollie in her Australian home. She is in the kitchen, a roomy, raftered, wholesome room with clematis blowing in at the open window; a room smelling of timber, soap, and odours of the bush; a room shining with pewter and copper. She talked to her cook, an Essex woman, of hams to be boiled, chickens to be roasted, lambs to be sacrificed, cream jellies, fruit pies and cakes to be made. “The best we have got, Mrs. Popperwell; nothing is too good for my dearest friend,” she concluded.
“Indeed, yes, ma’am,” acquiesced Mrs. Popperwell with a wide smile.
Then Mollie washed her best china with her own hands, an old-fashioned tea set, with forget-me-nots and wide green water-lily leaves, very quaint and charming. “Tell Becky we will use these every day,” she ordered, and Mollie smiled, for Isabel, her husband, and three children were coming on a visit, and would arrive this very day. Then she had to visit her storehouse, where an old Scotchwoman was weighing the rations. Outside, a group of blacks squatted and chattered. “Give them a little flour,” ordered Mollie, smiling at them. Mollie stood watching the weighing like a good housewife, and sniffing in that odour of wholesome storehouses, that nobody can describe, a kind of composite smell of flour, cheese, pickling-brine, oatmeal, tea, apples and coffee-beans and tallow candles.
Three hours later she sat on the deep verandah with Isabel, looking toward the blue mountains, and watching the white cockatoos gorging themselves with the seeds of the wattle.
“Mollie, darling,” smiled Isabel, “how nice to see you in your pretty home.”
“Dear Isabel,” murmured Mollie, “you look as young as the day I first met you, in spite of your three big children.”
“In the old schoolroom, teaching parsing, ‘Procrastination is the thief of time, ‘” laughed Isabel.
“God sent me to Mrs. Mardon in answer to all the prayers I prayed,” said Mollie seriously.
“A quaint darling you were in a brown print gown with pink seaweed all over it; don’t you remember?” and Isabel had tears in her eyes, and so had Mollie, for ladies showed their passing emotions in those far-off days.
The two sat amid the flowers of the verandah talking of their children, and looking across the gleam of the silver creek through the golden wattle blossoms.
“Harry says,” prattled Isabel, “that the boys are to go to school in England, and I shall go myself and take little Lettice with me. She shall go to school in England, too, bless her.”
“But there are schools in Sydney,” faltered Mollie.
“Not for boys; not the right schools to make them into English gentlemen. Harry says they must go to Eton and Oxford.”
“Oh! ” And Mollie paled at the thought of parting with her Freddie. “But if they are college bred, they will not be wanting to come back to Australia.”
“Of course not; they won’t want to farm. They will go into the Army, or Church, or Parliament in their own country, Harry says, and Harry is always right.”
Mollie registered a vow on the spot, that Freddie should go to England too, but it would be hard to part with him.
“Must they go when they are little?” asked troubled Mollie.
“Not till they are thirteen, Harry says,” and Mollie was comforted.
Meanwhile Stephen was showing his farm to Major Boy den, who was mightily interested.
“There’s money enough to be made in this country with land,” the Major observed.
“That is true. With ordinary luck anyone can farm in these times. Money seems to come by itself in this country.”
“I want to discuss the matter with you, Stephen. I’m thinking of selling my commission and buying more land. It is not like the old days, when the old General was here.”
“Indeed it’s not,” said Stephen; “the rebellions among the convicts are amazing. The rules get harder and harder. The system is wrong from the root. But if you want land,
get it soon. Now is the time of the fat kine, and the time will not last for ever.”
And Major Boyden agreed with him. He, too, under Stephen’s advice, bought land; and Mollie taught Isabel how to be a farmer’s wife.
Just ten years after Mollie had driven with Ann in the bullock waggon to Stephen’s clearing, she set sail with her husband, two children, and the young English governess, to visit her native island, for she was rich now, as Phoebe Fell had foretold. Her beautiful house was completed, and she had carriages to ride in, and a fountain to play in her little sunk garden near the gully. The cup cards were indeed thick around her. Love, happiness, children, were hers, and plenty of money to bring up the children without Stint. Stephen had fifty thousand pounds invested, and he told Mollie that in another ten years they would have half a million. Mollie paled at the immensity of the sum. “What can we do with it all, Stephen?” she asked.
“We’ll go home, girl, and retire; and see how Freddie and little Belle grow up.”
“It’s a great responsibility,” said Mollie. “We must learn how to use it wisely.” Mollie wrote home to say that they were taking a year off for a visit; but before the letter arrived she was there herself with her family. They Stayed in Douglas, and leaving the children with the governess, she and Stephen set off to visit their homes in a hired side-car. Mollie got out at Ballasalla and went in softly at the back door. Mrs. ChriStane was not lying in Malew churchyard, as she had dismally foretold; she was sitting in her high chair counting her eggs intently, with the same brown front and parting of black tape visible under her cap. “Shockin’ how little I’m gettin’ for me eggs,” she grumbled; “it’s not worth keeping hens at all.”
“‘Deed then,” said Betty, “the hens keep themselves, the craturs! An’ when they’re not broody, nor castin’ their feathers, it’s little trouble they are, at all.”
“I wish I could have brought you a sitting of eggs from Australia,” said a soft voice at the door, and the gracious, beautiful young matron that was Mollie herself, Stood there smiling tenderly at them. The same Mollie with her soft eyes, dimples, beautiful little head and soft crooning voice. “But the grand clothes at her, and the way with her, as mild as milk, but the high, as if she owned the islan’. It Struck me all of a heap,” Betty confided afterwards to Maria Brideson.
“Mollie, Mollie, my little Mollie! Is it thyself, girl, really thyself?” quavered Mrs. Christane. “I was thinkin’ I’d never see thee again, Mollie.”
“Yes, mother, God is very good to us,” and Mollie kissed the old wrinkled cheek, and held the thin hand.
“An’ is Stephen with thee, an’ the little ones?”
“Yes, mother, Stephen has gone on to Ballakilleen to see Isabelle and Tom Tyson.”
“An’ the grand thou’rt, an’ the rich too,” admired Betty. “An’ it’s a carriage thou’rt ridin’ in, away in Australia, I’m hearin’.”
“The distances are great,” apologized Mollie; “one must ride in a bullock waggon or a carriage.”
“A gig isn’t good enough for thee, then?” said Betty marvelling.
“Things are different in Australia,” said Mollie softly.
“You’ll have tea, Mollie, or a glass of wine, maybe? Betty, get out the bottle of port wine Michael sent me.”
“Mother,” said Mollie, half laughing and half tearful, “if you’ll let me go into the dairy and get myself a cup of buttermilk, an’ a piece of barley bread with Manx butter, I’d like it better than anything in the world.”
“My own little Mollie,” said the proud old woman. “Thee’st not forgotten thy old home.”
“An’ fine children you’ve got, Mollie,” Betty said, “an’ a governess for them, an English body. It’s frightened I’ll be to meet the like.”
Mollie smiled. “Don’t be makin’ a toot of thyself, Betty,” she said, munching the barley bread. “Mother, it’s lovely butter you’ve got.”
“As good as thee hast in Australia?”
“Better, mother, better. It’s the green grass that grows in the island makes it sweet. The moist grass and the mist of the sea helps the cows wonderful.”
The gratified pride of the old woman’s smile was pretty to see. “An’ thee’ll bring thy children to see their old granny?”
“We’ve come thousands of miles to do so, mother. They will come to-morrow. Freddie is getting a big boy now, and little Belle is as sweet as a Manx rose, bless her.”
“Come to dinner, all of thee, a right proper dinner we’ll have, Mollie. The fattest chickens and the sweetest ham in the islan’.”
“You’ll not be bringin’ the English governess, Mollie?” cried Betty, alarmed. “A proud miss of a thing; castin’ her eyes on our Manx ways an’ despisin’ them.”
“No, Betty; but she’s quite a nice girl, and she’s roughed it in Australia.”
“Farmin’s good in Australia. Thee canst put a hundred or so by now and then, I’m thinkin’,” probed Betty.
“Not hundreds, Betty, but thousands,” corrected Mollie softly.
“Thousands of pounds in savin’s?” questioned Betty sharply.
“Ay! and tens of thousands at times, Betty.”
“The Lord bless me!” ejaculated Betty in amaze.
“Thou canst never save that out of farming?” said her mother.
“There’s lots of land out there, mother, and the farms are big.”
“Farms is middlin’ big in the Isle of Man too,” protested the old woman.
“Yes, mother, but there are farms as big as the Isle of Man in Australia.”
“Shee bannee mee!” gasped Mrs. Christane; ” that’s terrible big. It isn’t natural, a big country like that. Is Australia as big as England then? ”
“Ever so much bigger.”
“Well, if ever, Mrs. Duff, who’d have thought it? There’s gold enough in that country then?”
“Maybe, mother, but in the little island here ‘there’s gold on the cushags yet.'”
“Ay! on the cushags, but not in our pockets. Well, girl, ‘Lhiat myr hoillo’ (To thee as thou deservest), and thou has got thy deservings,”and the cross lines on the old woman’s face straightened and she beamed proudly on Mollie.
Dinah came in, tall and straight. She blushed when her Aunt Mollie kissed her.
“Yes,” said Granny complacently, “an’ Dinah is thinkin’ of marrying, so she is.”
“I hope he is a nice man,” said smiling Mollie.
“It is Mr. Kaighan,” asserted Dinah proudly. “He used to come to see Granny, and now he comes to see me.”
“He is a sensible age,” approved Granny; “none of your young flither-me-jigs.”
Kitty, overjoyed, cried when she saw Mollie. “‘Tis yourself indeed, Mollie, beautiful as ever, but high up like, and where are your children?”
“They will come to see you to-morrow, Kitty.”
“It’s old married women we are, Mollie, with these children around us, and Dinah ready to marry and make a grandmother of me before my time.”
They were wonderful, these children of Kitty’s. Dorcas could keep house better than Kitty herself. Rosaleen could paint real portraits just like life. Patience did sums like a lawyer, and kept all her father’s books. Bride wag astonishing, and could write poetry as good as any in the school books, and as for Faith she was a beauty. ” Something like thyself, Mollie,” and Faith came at her mother’s call. Like a piece of Dresden china was the lovely little maid, her hair enveloping her like a cloud down to her knees. “I had never such lovely hair,” said Mollie, delighting in the child’s beauty, “and where is Matthew?”
“He’s helping Granny with the farmin’.”
“And how’s the Latin?”
u It’s hard for the lad. Grandmamma has paid for him
at the new College — King William’s ’tis called — facin’ Hango
Hill. She wants him to go to Oxford College, and there’s
examinations too hard for him, poor boy.”
“And how is old Mrs. Quilliam?”
“Smart for her age, but failing. Ah! here is Michael.”
“Mollie girl,” he said, “I am right glad to see thee,” and he grasped her hands.
But my tale is ended. We will leave Mollie with her kindred.
“For the great things on earth are small things
And the longest life is a span.”
In the Spring of 1914, Jellis Farthing of London, the daughter of Faith Quilliam, was visiting her old Aunt Patience in the Isle of Man.
“It’s a fine day for a drive, Jellis,” said Aunt Patience; “tell old Bobby to be round with the carriage in ten minutes or so. Mind you wrap up warm. Come, Katty, an’ fix my veil and sealskin cloak.”
Jellis waited in the hall till Aunt Patience appeared, an erect old woman, tall, even stately; a wonderful old woman, and she read and wrote still without spectacles; tended her greenhouses herself; and even worked in her immaculate garden. Her smooth, greying hair was parted in the middle, after the fashion of forty years ago. Her grey eyes had the look of youth in them, which those mortals blessed with vitality never lose. There was hardly a wrinkle in her face, and her almost classic features retained their clear outlines. She came downstairs unaided. Jellis marvelled at her. Aunt Patience was just ninety-five, and she hardly looked seventy. “We’ll go to Derbyhaven, an’ on to the Fort Island, then round to Ballasalla, and have a look at the Abbey, then round by Malew to see the graves in the churchyard.”
“Yes,” agreed Jellis.
“Fetch the big plaid shawl, Katty, for Miss Farthing. You’ll need it; the air is apt to be chill off the sea.”
Castletown Bay still shimmered blue and bright, as Michael Quilliam saw it nearly ninety years ago. Hango Hill, with its ruin, Still looked seaward. Castle Rushen, Scarlet, the Stack, and Langness, were unaltered. The cottages at the Spout were gone, and half a dozen boarding houses put up. The fine group of buildings comprising King William’s College with its chapel, playing fields, and masters’ houses, Stood far back from the road facing the sea. The Big Cellar still stood gaunt and sinister; the Race -Course was enclosed and turned into a golfing ground; and a fine lighthouse stood on Langness Point.
Derbyhaven was almost unaltered, but the shipping had left it deserted. Douglas with its piers claimed the traffic. The Fort Island still stood encircled by the sea, but there was a driving road to it, and an hotel was erected there for golfers and summer visitors. They drove to the Fort Island.
“We’ll get out,” said Aunt Patience; “I want to see the church again.”
“Will it be too much for you?”
“No, I’m quite well, but at times a bit weak.”
“It’s the unsettled spring weather, Aunt Patience.”
“Age maybe has something to do with it,” and the old woman’s mouth twisted dryly after the fashion of Granny Christane’s.
“Lots of good money has been lost over that hotel,” said Aunt Patience as they walked to the church.
“Shall we go there to rest?” suggested Jellis.
“No, I want to see the church.”
The bleak roofless little church that had wintered centuries of storms, was still there; now enclosed and protected from casual trippers. They looked inside, the nettles still flourished at the east window; but the doorway was barred. Aunt Patience gazed at it thoughtfully. “Aunt Mollie used to come here to say her prayers when I was a little girl,” she said.
“Let us sit awhile on this boulder. I like the sea an’ the rocks, the gulls, an’ the smell of the gorse and this little chapel. I liked them in my childhood.”
“Will you take cold?” asked Jellis.
“No; you must have heard of Aunt Mollie. She married a farmer from over Scarlet way. Stephen Fannin was his name. He was a convict in Australia and she went out to marry him. Your mother will have told you about her.”
“Yes, she has, many a time.”
“She used to come here in all weathers and pray for him, and sure enough he was proved innocent. They made lots of money in Australia. Aunt Mollie lived to be nearly ninety. She was worth about a million pounds. Her husband left everything to her.”
“Yes,” said Jellis.
“Her son and daughter are both dead now, but there are her grandchildren; do you ever hear of them at all in London?”
“There’s Sir Stephen Fannin, the Member of Parliament, he’s in the Cabinet now.”
“That is Aunt Mollie’s grandson. She was a wonderful woman. There are not the like now.”
Jellis reflected on the modern education for women and wondered, as she recalled Aunt Mollie’s story. “I may never see the Chapel or Fort Island again, Jellis,” said Aunt Patience. “I’m glad I came.”
They drove to Derbyhaven; its shore was tidy and well kept; people no longer killed their pigs and threw their rubbish on it. They stopped at a pretty low green and white house near the stream. “I’ll call and see Mrs. Pingeen,” said Aunt Patience. “I may never see her again.”
Mrs. Pingeen was at home, and they sat in her drawing room, talking of old times. Aunt Patience glanced around the room, and her thoughts were far back in her childhood. She smiled, an old woman’s slow smile. “The first school I ever went to was in this room,” she said, and she proceeded to tell the story of Mrs. Fisher’s school, recalling the incident of the pink and white sugar stick. “It was a long time ago, almost ninety years; things are very different now.”
“And there has been a new front put to the house, with a bay window,” observed Mrs. Pingeen. “Forty years ago we had it done.”
“Yes,” said Aunt Patience, “and to me ninety years seems like yesterday.”
They resumed their drive, and in passing the stile, the same stile where little Patience had sat and wept bitter tears over the bundle of cottons, Aunt Patience told the story to her niece Jellis. “It was,” she concluded, “one of the bitterest tragedies of my life, for you don’t feel things so much when you grow out of childhood.”
Jellis smiled sympathetically. “I’ve had my sorrows like other people,” went on the old woman. “I’m nearly ninety-six, the last left alive, there is no one now, with the memories of far-off days. It makes me feel lonely at times.”
“It must, indeed,” said Jellis.
“See,” she said later, “here’s Granny Christane’s house. It went to young Mat Quilliam. My brother Matthew’s grandson. He sold it, and he and his extravagant young wife squandered the money. Good Manx land of me mother’s family. I don’t like strangers to get it.”
She drove on to the Abbey. The old ruins were almost gone. The place was turned into a jam factory, and fine fruit grew again in the old Abbey lands. Aunt Patience pointed out the house where she saw the curse taken off the cow. “Nobody believes these things now,” she said, “but in those days the old folks had a knowledge of their own, better than all this teaching about drains and tap water. I crave sometimes for a good drink of well water.”
They drove on to Malew churchyard, and Aunt Patience walked among the graves with the old tombstones, pointing out to Jellis the graves of her forefathers for three or four generations. “I never pass by the churchyard,” she said, “since I was a little girl; we always came to look at the graves, and now I feel drawn to them. I shall soon be with them.”
They resumed their seats in the carriage. “Drive home, Bobbie,” said Aunt Patience. “I’m a bit tired,” she said to Jellis. “I want a good hot cup of tea.”
After tea she revived, and she sat talking to her niece till late, reviving many memories. “I shall, maybe, not be here to tell you things when you come again,” she said.
But she was, for Aunt Patience lived to be ninety-nine.
“She has strung together her Manx history, folklore, myths and manners on the thread of the love story of Mollie Christane and Stephen Fannin.” [The Christian Science Monitor]
Catherine Dodd’s 1926 novel, Clad in Purple Mist, won her wide praise on both sides of the Atlantic for its depictions of Manx homelife.
Set in the 1830s in the South of the Island, the plot revolves around the working out of the love between Mollie Christane and Stephen Fannin. This backbone to the novel makes for a “charming Manx story”, as William Cubbon described it; but the true point of and interest in the novel lies in its committed depiction of life in the Isle of Man in the early 19th Century, interlaced as it was with the Island’s folklore, myths and traditions. As The Manchester Guardian noted:
“her greatest success, for the sake of which she deliberately tones down the dramatic moments in her story, is gained in the pictures of life in the Manx farmhouses, with the meals of herrings and porridge and barley bread, and the songs and tales round the fire.”
Once mentioned as the only other work alongside T. E. Brown’s poems and Hall Caine’s novels to portray the true Manx way of life, it is this one of Dodd’s 13 novels that found its place most firmly in Manx hearts.
Sea, mountains, sky, cliffs, shores, sands, sea-birds, gorse and heather; there is nothing in the world like it.
Catherine Dodd (1860-1932) only took up writing seriously after her retirement from teaching in 1921. During the subsequent decade she was perhaps the most successful and important Manx novelist.