Clad in Purple Mist
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
“An island like a little book
Full of a hundred tales.”
“It’s clad in purple mist my land,
In regal robe it is apparelled,
A crown is set upon its head,
And on its breast a golden band,
Land, ho! land.”
T. E. Brown.
Letter from Miss Jellis Farthing, Isle of Man, to her niece Miss Ann Farthing, London, dated 1913: —
“My dear Ann,
You ask me about your grandmother’s country and people. Come and see them:—
We talk with goblins and elfin sprites.’
Or did, in the days of my mother, Faith Quilliam of Derbyhaven. But alas! ‘old Manx is dying,’ slain by that monster, uniform, compulsory education. Come and walk with me, dear Ann, to the places your grandmother knew and loved. The Fort Island, Langness, Santon, and Derbyhaven on one side of Castletown Bay; on the other Scarlet, the Stack, Poolvaish; and further afield Fort Erin, Bradda Head, the Sound and the Chasms; above all you must see Barrule Mountain. Sea, mountains, sky, cliffs, shores, sands, sea-birds, gorse and heather; there is nothing in the world like it. Smaller than any county in England except Rutlandshire, yet with its own laws, language, parliament, and in earlier times, Kings, it is indeed a complete sampler in miniature. Set like a gem in the silver sea, it was loved by the beings of the early world. At the beginning of time the fairies held it, lurking amid sweet rushes by mountain streams. Next came the giants, tall as poplars, and the fairies fled affrighted before them and hid themselves. There was much disorder in the land until Mannanan came. A prince of royal blood was he; related to the Scotch and Irish Kings. Much subtlety had he, and a masterly mind. He was a magician too, a kind of Merlin, with never a Vivien to betray him. He subdued the giants and bound them in spells until the end of the world. He laid them in great subterranean palaces, fast asleep with a book under their heads, a sword beside them, and there they lie to this day. Deep down under Castle Rushen, under the Fort Island, and under Ronaldsway at Derbyhaven are these palaces. As a King, Mannanan waged war mightily, for he could make one armed man on the hillside appear as a hundred; as a landlord he was perfection, for he exacted from his tenants only a bundle of grass as yearly rent. Everybody was safe under his rule, for he hid his island from the reft of the world under his mantle of purple milt. He spun and wove this delicate fabric out of the sea and sky. To this day, remnants of his mantle Bill enshroud the land; and many a time have I seen it, when sailing towards the island. Sea and sky seem to meet, and a soft purple haze covers the land, but the Man at the Wheel is not deceived, onward he steers. Presently a corner of the mantle is raised showing faint outlines of blue mountains, then emerald patches of meadow land, then grey rocks Handing out of the blue sea. The mantle is completely lifted when farms and cottages on the hillsides are distinct. Mannanan was finally driven away by the good St. Patrick, whose weapon was the holy Cross. The saint came to the Fort Island — this is on the authority of my mother — and Mannanan with his pagan friends fled before him. St. Patrick converted everybody in the Island to Christianity:—
‘Over the sea, he drove Mannanan
And with him his evil horde,
For to those who were evil and Pagan
He showed neither favour nor mercy.
And the Island was blessed from end to end,
And there was never a beggar in it,
Nor was there one who denied the Christ God
Or refused the great Saint belief.’
I fancy the good monks of Rushen Abbey, Ballasalla, had a hand in making the ballads of the people. True teachers were they, knowing human nature; and they linked up the old legends with the Christianity they desired to teach; so the people, loving the legends, learnt Christianity. Derbyhaven, your grandmother’s birthplace, is only a little village, with never a shop in it to this day; yet the legends around it would fill a volume. Beyond Langness is a beautiful city sunk under the sea. Sailors sailing above sometimes hear the tinkling of church bells from the depths; and if a young boy be aboard, he may catch a glimpse of domes, towers, and spires of cry Hal and gold. A tiny islet just across Derby haven Bay is the Fort Island. The Fort is a ruin, and so is the little church, hoary with its age of fifteen hundred years; so small is the church that a modern dining-room would put it to shame, built of Hone with never a tool. This church, my dear Ann, is said to be the ancient Soder of the Bishopric of Sodor and Man; and one of the oldest churches in the British Isles. Now do not contradict me, I am aware that busy bodies are abroad, prying into ruins and legends to belittle them. These persons are called historians; and the more gilt they take off the gingerbread, the greater is their fame. Read for yourself ‘Camdens Britannina,’1 and use your common sense. Would time permit, I would tell you of Illiam Dhone — the fair-haired William — of the Manx ballads, who for his virtues was shot on Hango Hill. Prying folk have been busy with his name too, and love to call him a traitor instead of a patriot. Thus does Time deal with the lofty. And, you shall see the Race-Course, where the great Stanley — James, the seventh Earl of Derby — celebrated his birthday long ago by instituting horse races there. These races are run at Epsom now. And you shall see the wondrous rocks and caves at Langness; and S anion Glen with its river and enchanting coves, where long ago dwelt the Phynnodderee. But come soon and see for yourself:—
‘An island like a little book
Full of a hundred tales.’
Come before the gorse fades and the heather pales, for —
‘There are rocks and waves at Scarlet still
And gorse runs riot in Glen Chass — thank God.’2
‘There are blaeberries on old Barrule
And Langness has its heather still — thank God.’2
Aunt Patience is a marvellous old woman. You would love to see her. She is modern too. She enjoyed reading Masefield’s ‘The Widow of the Bye Street.’ She said it was Strong, like the old Manx Ballads.
Ever your own Aunt,
1. Their chief town they count Russin on the South Side — is commonly called Castletown, where within a little island Pope Gregory IV instituted an Episcopal See, the Bishop whereof named Sodorensis (of this very island, it is thought) had jurisdiction in past times over all the islands.
2. T. E. Brown.
What noggins have I drunk of smuggled rum,
Just from the little Isle of ‘Three Legs’ come.”
See “Guy Mannering”: Sir Walter Scott.
“O! dear Mannin Veg
In the midst of the Sea,
In her are many fishermen.
When the barley’s sown
And potatoes set
They go away to mend their boats.”
Flame-white sunshine lay upon the fields, as Michael Quilliam jogged along the Castletown Road on his way to Derbyhaven. The corn of the “Creggins” was bending with the weight of its golden burden, and the gorse in the hedges was ablaze — there is no gorse in the world to rival the Manx gorse in its profuseness and nutty fragrance. On the distant hillsides, white cottages lay scattered like stars in a summer’s dusk; and beyond were the purple mountains. Michael was depressed, for he was usually a hopeful person; but failure chills even sanguine souls. To-day Michael had lost his lawsuit. He was a just man and genial too, with a touch of idealism to relieve the somewhat melancholy Manx temperament. He was also a man ” with learning at him,” for was not his mother “one of the English Strangers, not Manx at all; a body middlin’ high up, who had seen the King of England an’ the sights of London, an’ the lek.” So said his neighbours. Michael Quilliam hated litigation and tried to avoid it; but litigation had always been the failing of the Manx folk. A fancied slight, a hasty word, which a smile or a friendly hand would heal in a more generously impulsive race, are brooded over by the morose and sensitive Manx, and magnified into misdeeds of the blackest dye. And the attorneys who batten on the failings of mankind, prospered; for a malicious industry throve in the Isle of Man, and there were many attorneys. Very sympathetic they were in giving advice, and magnifying the misunderstanding into an intolerable offence, until legal action was taken. Success depended more upon the accommodating evidence of witnesses, and the plausibility of the attorney, than the justice of the cause. One pleader poured forth his prejudiced statements, which the other pleader eloquently returned. A lawsuit, at best, is a sordid business, where much mud is thrown; and neither party gets ample satisfaction. If the Manx had more humour, they would be less litigious; for the ability to laugh at oneself lightens the burdens, as we journey through life.
Michael Quilliam was a fair-minded man with a laugh ready to disarm an antagonist, and he was prone to judge others favourably; but he knew that in this instance wrong had triumphed. He knew that his cause was just; that his opponent had perjured herself; and he knew too that the Deemster had been predisposed in her favour, by her attentions and presents — young lobsters, fresh from the sea, tender young ducks, and bunches of purple grapes — delicate attentions, which if a Deemster be human he must appreciate. Let me make it clear at the outset — lest I incur the wrath of Deemsters and others — that I am writing of the past, more than a hundred years ago in fact, and since then enlightenment has doubtless removed from the Manx people all the failings of their fathers. Michael’s thought ran darkly on the lawyers. “Thieving rascals,” he muttered, as he jogged onwards, then a shaft of sunlight smote him full in the face, and he drew in a deep breath of sea-sprayed air, with the smell of the gorse and heather in it. “The Earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof,” he said as he looked seaward.
Before him lay Castletown Bay, a shimmering sea of peacock-blue dashed with white Streaks, as the masses of snowy surf broke on the sands. A spacious horseshoe bay it was, with the Scarlet Rocks and the Stack beyond Castletown; and on the opposite side the rugged coast running to Langness Point, with its contorted rocks, and never a lighthouse to warn unwary ships of disaster. An ancient little town was Castletown, lying around Castle Rushen built by a Danish prince nearly a thousand years ago; n6r was it a ruin, but a Stately habitation suited to the dignity of the Governor, and used as the prison for the wicked folks of the Island. The earthen fences beside the road were clothed with short sweet herbage, Stone-crop and wild thyme, and crowded with yellow trefoil and blue harebells. It was among the flowers of these fences the fairies loved to lurk; for Stray fairies dwelt in the Isle of Man, even at this time. Michael passed Hango Hill with its ancient ruins where William Christian of Ronaldsway was shot for treason against his lord in the reign of Charles II. William Christian, the fair-haired Illiam Dhone of the Manx ballads. “Ay!” muttered Michael, glancing at the ruins on the hill, ” murdered he was for his virtues, like many another good man.” On he jogged till he reached the Big Cellar, a legacy from the smuggling days; he looked across the Race-Course where the fishermen’s nets lays drying in the sun; and children were picking out the little Starfish, and coarse bits of coral entangled in the meshes. Here, he overtook old Pyee in her ancient plaid shawl, her bag on her back, her Staff in her hand. Pyee was no beggar, for beggars hardly existed in the island, but she gained her livelihood by wandering about “going on the houses.” She had friends everywhere, whom she visited at intervals, carrying gossip and news, and making herself useful in the activities of the household. “Good day to thee, Pyee,” called Michael.
“Shee bannee mee! (Peace bless me) ’tis the Masther himself,” said Pyee, “an’ how’s theeself, Mafther?”
“Middlin’ Pyee, just middlin’.”
“Aw! Masther, it’s shockin’ news I’m hearing about the Shuit.”
“At! ’tis myself that’s lost it, Pyee.”
“An yander one haft got the better of thee: that’s ter’ble hard, Masther.”
“Tis so, Pyee.”
“The curses of God be on her,” cried Pyee, pointing with her staff to a grey house in the distance, “on her land an’ her cattle an’ her childer.”
“Hush, woman, hush! don’t be scattering thy curses in that way on thy neighbours.”
“A murrain be upon her,” went on Pyee, “a joushag (shrew) of a woman, Masther, goin’ about with a whussan (scolding activity) on her; an’ every soul about that freckened, you’d wonder. One chile I had, a rare slip of a girl, an’ she hired with Misthress Kerruish. A skeet (spying) of a woman she is, takin’ notions that folks is cheatin’ an’ thievin’. She said me poor Katty tuk a bit of a shawl, Masther, an’ turned the chile out of her house in a ter’ble Storm. She started to walk to me lil’ farm on Barrule an’ got her death she did, with the couth; me poor Katty,” and Pyee wailed aloud.
“Don’t be takin’ on so, Pyee woman,” said Michael kindly.
“‘Tis a lone widdy woman I am, Masther, without chick or chile, an’ may curses come home to that wicked one, Mistress Martha Kerruish.”
Michael rode on calling out to the woman: “We’ll be seeing thee at the house, Pyee.”
“Ay! Masther,” she replied.
The story of the lawsuit between Michael Quilliam and Mistress Martha Kerruish was in this wise. A dozen years ago or so, when Michael was courting Kitty Christane of Ballasalla, he began to build the big stone house at Derbyhaven for his bride. A fine, well-featured Manx man with a blue eye, a ruddy countenance and a habit of command, was Michael; and Mistress Kerruish, the owner of the adjoining estate, fell in love with him. “Kitty Christane shall never set foot in Michael Quilliam’s house,” she said boastfully, as she drew herself up and painted her lips scarlet. A handsome young widow was Mistress Kerruish; she could paint her face and powder her curls with the best of them; not that she had much opportunity in Derbyhaven of displaying her finery; but Mistress Kerruish had travelled across the water, and knew the theatres and tea-gardens of Liverpool and London.
Michael remained indifferent to her wiles, and in due time he married Kitty Christane of Ballasalla. The young couple began life together in the square limestone house at Derbyhaven long before it was finished; for people builded slowly in those days with the limestone that lay about the shore, and timber from Norway, which had to be fetched in Michael’s ships. Two or three rooms were enough for Michael and Kitty in the early days. “What for art thou building so big a house, lad?” his neighbours would ask, and Michael would reply with a twinkle, “For the big family that’s to live in it, of course.”
Mistress Kerruish ate her heart out with envy, when she saw the handsome couple at Kirk Malew Church on Sundays, as she sat in her square pew alone scheming how she could injure them. She even went to the length of consulting the wise woman at Balladoole as to the method of dealing with one’s enemies; and in accordance with the wise one’s instructions, she collected four packets of dust from the cross-four-roads, and kneaded it with melted bees-wax into a rough image of Kitty. She roasted this image before the fire, she stuck pins into it, and otherwise maltreated it; but Kitty continued to flourish. It is true that she contrived to annoy Kitty and Michael in numberless ways. She spread the land adjoining Kitty’s cherished rose garden with stinking fish for manure. She kept pigs near Kitty’s parlour window, and in hot weather the styes were never cleaned; she had a pig killed on the shore before Kitty’s window, when Kitty had company to tea. Kitty complained bitterly to Michael.
“Take no heed, girl,” he said, “she is a crooked and cross-grained female.”
“She’s got such big feet, Michael,” sobbed Kitty, “and she paints her face like a woman of sin.”
At last Mistress Kerruish bethought herself to build a wall right against the south gable of Michael’s house continuing down to the sea-shore, and at the back to the Croft Gate. She exceeded her own boundary by six feet, and she built the wall eighteen feet high, and three feet thick, of the grey limestone on the shore.
Michael added another storey to his house to overlook the wall; but Mistress Martha increased the height of the wall.
“The wall darkens the front parlour,” wept Kitty.
“It keeps off the blighting sou’-western winds,” comforted Michael.
“I can no longer see the Fort Island as I lie in my bed,” sobbed Kitty.
“Thou canst see the stars and the sea,” affirmed Michael.
For many weary months the dispute concerning the boundary dragged on in the slow, dilatory Manx way, until it was decided in favour of Mistress Martha Kerruish.
The day Michael was at the law-court was a busy day with Kitty Quilliam; but September was always a busy month, as it was perhaps the loveliest month of the year. Kitty was not very conscious of the beauty of her surroundings; she had seen none other. She accepted it; for was not the heather always purple, the fuchsia hedges a-dangling with crimson drops, and the sea blue as the harebell by the roadside, early in September? She was glad the weather was settled for the harvest; but she was anxious about the lawsuit and her mind was running on domestic matters. She had set her two maids, Susan and Judy, early in the day, to empty the feather beds, one by one in the big attic, and to tease out the feathers until each was separate. The seams of the tick had to be soaped with good yellow soap, and the feathers replaced; thus, making a fresh bed for the winter, light and comforting in its softness; for she held that there is no comfort on earth equal to the comfort of a new feather bed, made with the feathers from the breast of a goose. Then Pete had come in from Santon with big baskets of mushrooms; and Judy was called from the attic, with goose-feathers sticking all over her curly hair, to peel and prepare the mushrooms for making ketchup, keeping back the finest to fry with ham and eggs for the master’s supper. “It’s weary he’ll be after the business of the court,” she said, “and pray God he may win the lawsuit.” After the twelve o’clock dinner of potatoes, herrings and buttermilk, with big rice puddings, Kitty sent five of her children to Grandmamma Quilliam who lived in the adjoining cottage, Dorcas, Rosaleen, Matthew, Patience and Bride, for their daily lessons. Her baby girl, Faith, was in charge of Phrancie Parr, who sat sewing in the back parlour, where the sun and the fragrance of the garden poured in through the open window. The garden was a tangle of fuchsia, veronica, roses, pinks, bergamot, catmint, woodruff, tall mulleins, gooseberry bushes and pear-trees. Kitty was convinced that sunlight and the scent of flowers kept the baby safe from bad fairies; for the fear of evil spirits lingered in spite of the tramman (elder) trees in every garden, and the fires which were kept burning all the year round, to scare away evil spirits and witches.
Kitty in the front kitchen was making the ketchup, when Danny Kinvig arrived with the winter slock of herrings, fine silvery fish, their scales glistening in the sun. Kitty ran down the broad gravel path to the gate to look at them.
“A couple of maze, Misthress,” said Danny, “an’ the finest fish on the Islan’.”
“Where are they from, Danny?”
“From Port Iron way, ma’am, but it’s fine herrings they are, an’ cheap, aw bless me! the cheap they are to-day.”
“You must stay awile, Danny, to give the girls a hand with the gutting and the salting.”
“Av’ coorse, av’ coorse,” assented Danny, affably.
He helped Susan to gut and wash the fish, in the sea, which lay beyond the gate; for no herring in the world can retain its delicate individual flavour if it is ever touched by fresh water.
Danny gutted the herrings with a turn of the wrist, so to speak, and flung them to Susan, who threw them into the big baskets after washing them in the sea-water. Kitty Stood at the gate watching them. Hundreds of gulls circled round the fish-washers on the beach, screaming, and diving after the entrails which were cast into the sea. Susan, a rosy maid, with blue eyes and raven hair, a short skirt, Stout legs clad in scarlet Stockings, a blue bedgown and a neat mob-cap, was Struggling up from the shore with a basket of cleaned fish. At every Step she was buffeted by the gulls screaming around her; and behind her the sun shone on the golden waters. As she emerged from the shore, in a long shaft of golden sunlight, Kitty reflected, ” She looks like the picture of a saint coming up from the sea, in Biddy Malone’s Roman Catholic book of saints.”
The same idea occurred to old Mrs. Quilliam as she looked from her parlour window upon the scene. “Only for her red Stockings the girl would look like a saint,” she thought; and certain it is that the primitive labours, which keep people close to the earth and sea, are more poetic than all the buying and selling in the markets.
“Have a care, Susan,” called Kitty, “there’s a good herring gone now,” as a bold gull swooped down, snatched a herring from the basket, and bore it aloft.
The fish were laid on clean Straw on the barn floor, when Pyee appeared.
“Good evenin’, Misthress,” she said.
“Good evenin’, an’ how’s thyself this long time, Pyee?”
“Middlin’, Misthress, it’s a bit of a coul’ I’ve got, but I’m not complainin’ at all.”
“Go thou in, Pyee, an’ get a cup of tea; glad we’ll be of thy help with the herrings, the feather beds, and the candles to be dipped an’ all.”
“Ay, Misthress, the Masther is on the way. It’s beyond the Big Cellar he Stopped, to talk with Masther Quine.”
“You shall tell me the newses after supper, Pyee.”
“Yis,” said Pyee, “there’s plenty of newses, ma’am, when a body gets about the country.”
The maids were throwing coarse salt upon the herrings; and Pyee was turning them over with a Stick, when Patience peeped in.
“There’s a fine hape of herrings, anyway,” said Pyee.
“Did you see any witches on Barrule, Pyee?” asked Patience.
“Never a one then,” said Pyee. “Aw! but the very spit she is of ould Misthress Quilliam.”
“Indeed I’m not,” contradicted Patience. “I’m all Manx; it is Bride that is English, like Grandmamma.”
“Listen to that now, ’tis a good thing to be Manx, the black English are robbers, so they are.”
“What have they stolen, Pyee?” asked the child.
“‘Tis the Isle of Man itself they stole.”
“They did so,” interposed Judy, with a handful of salt in her hand, “but ould Madame Quilliam says the English paid for it.”
“Paid, did they?” quoth Pyee, and she recited in a curious sing-song: —
“All the babes unborn will rue the day
That the Isle of Man was sold away,
For there’s ne’er an old wife that loves a dram
But will lament for the Isle of Man.”
“Paid, did they, and made slaves of us all?”
“How slaves?” asked Patience.
“Slaves sure enough chree1 a fine place was the Islan’ in them days, a land flowin’ with milk an’ honey, so it was. A fat goose could be got for a groat, eggs twelve a penny, an’ brandy and sperrits for nawthin’! Them were the good ould smugglin’ days.”
“Smuggling,” said Patience, “is wicked.”
“‘Deed now,” affirmed Pyee, “’twas a way of makin’ a livin’, an’ poor folks must live; a better way it was than fishin’ an’ farmin’, anyway.”
“It was so,” said Judy. “Aw! the times I’ve heard me mother tell of the good ould days, when poor people had water barrels full of gin; an’ the very bed ticks filled with the finest tay from China.”
“Ay!” agreed Pyee, “an’ the money folks was makin’ in them days. The Islan’ was like a garden, the beautiful it was before the black English tuk it.”
“When will you be telling us stories of witches an’ fairies.” Asked the child?
“Wait, chile, till I’ve had me lil’ drop of tay; the evenin’s middlin’ early yet.”
“Will you be makin’ cakes, Pyee?”
“Maybe, if the Misthress is willin’.”
“Make a little one for me, Pyee, all my own,” begged
Patience, as she ran off.
“That chile ‘ill lose nawthin’, for want of askin’,” quoth Pyee, “the perseverin’ she is to be sure.”
1. Term of endearment.
THE QUILLIAMS OF DERBYHAVEN
“I would not for any quantity of gold, part with the wonderful tales, which I have retained from my earliest childhood.” — Martin Luther.
“The Phynnodderee went to the meadow
To lift the dew at grey cock-crow.”
Kitty met Michael at the gate as he handed the mare to Pete.
“Have you won, Michael?” she asked.
Tears of resentment filled Kitty’s eyes and she was sobbing as they turned up the gravel path to the house.
“Hush, Kitty,” said Michael, patting her shoulders. “You shall have the fine silk gown for all.”
“No, Michael, no,” sobbed Kitty, “it isn’t the gown I’m wantin’ now.”
“Indeed! Yes then, and to-morrow we’ll go to Douglas to choose the silk.”
“‘Tis shameful, so ’tis,” wept Kitty, “and the Deemster misguided by that wicked woman, with her presents and her painted face.”
“Nay,” comforted Michael, “that little bit of land is no use at all.”
“It would make a fine border for flowers then and beehives.”
“And facing north it is, nothing would grow there in a border.”
“But the wall, Michael, it hides the view from the best parlour and the sun.”
“You get all the morning sun, Kitty, and the wall is a good wall, a fine big one anyway. It keeps the bitter wind away. Glad enough you’ll be of it, when ’tis covered up with fuchsias, ivy and a tramman tree or two covering the wall down to the gate. It ‘ill be as nice as nice,” coaxed Michael.
It is a characteristic of the Manx folk never to acknowledge defeat; and the wall had now become to Michael one of the chief attractions of his house. “If Mistress Kerruish hadn’t built the wall I’d have had to do it myself anyway,” he concluded cheerfully.
Kitty eyed the wall doubtfully. “Will the fuchsia grow right up to the top?” she asked.
“That it will,” he said, “look at the shelter there’ll be.”
“And when will it be covered?” asked Kitty, looking at the vast expanse of the big wall.
“When you and I are old and the children are grown,” he said soberly.
Just then Patience ran up to him. “What have you got for us, Dadda?” she coaxed.
“A parcel of nobs,” he said, handing to the little girl the old-fashioned toffee-nobs.
“You must share with the others, Patience,” warned her mother, ” six equal portions now, and Dorcas had better do the sharing.”
“Dorcas is with grandmamma,” pouted Patience.
“Then I’ll share them myself,” said Kitty.
“Baby can’t eat nobs,” objected Patience, “she’ll not want a share.”
“Don’t be greedy, Patience. We must save a share for Dinah.”
Patience’s face fell. “Dinah gets lots of things at granny’s that we don’t get,” she said.
But her mother did not heed her comment. “Go now to grandmamma, tell her that Dadda is at home and the children must come to tea.”
There were seven children, but Dinah the eldest lived with Granny Christane at Ballasalla, where she had gone when Dorcas was born, because she had mumps. She became such a favourite with her granny and aunts that she had never returned home.
“I must take Patience to Ballasalla to-morrow,” said Kitty over the tea-table. “Molly is making a frock for the child, and she wants to fit it on.”
“We are going to Douglas to-morrow afternoon, to buy the silk gown, now the lawsuit is ended,” insisted Michael.
“Indeed now, there’s so much to do, Michael, with the herrings to pack, the feather beds to finish, and the candles to be dipped, I’ve no time.”
“Pyee is here, she will give a hand,” suggested Michael.
“There’s no person to look after the children,” said Kitty.
“Now look here, Kitty. You take Patience to Ballasalla in the morning and leave the child there, and I’ll come for you at two o’clock and we’ll drive on to Douglas.”
“I cannot leave the children the length of the day, Michael, it’s mischief they’ll be gettin’ in, especially Matthew, the naughty boy.”
“Send them to mother. She’ll teach them, and Matthew can con his Latin.”
“What is Latin, dadda?” asked little Bride.
“‘Tis a dead language, child.”
“Why is it dead?”
“Because people no longer speak it. Come, Matthew, tell your little sister some of your Latin.”
Matthew looked over his bowl with round, blue eyes, he fumbled despondingly with the marbles in his pocket, and began blunderingly, ” Pater-nosier, Pater-nosier, I don’t know the rest.”
“I can say it, dadda,” said Bride eagerly; and the astonishing child repeated more than half of the Lord’s prayer in grandmamma’s quaint Latin.
“How do you come to know it?” asked the amazed Michael.
“I heard grandmother trying to teach Matthew.”
“Did you ever hear the like?” cried the gratified mother with pride.
“I don’t want to learn Latin at all,” proclaimed Matthew. “I’m going to be a blacksmith, and Johnny- Juan at the forge knows no Latin.”
“Fie for shame, Matthew, be a good boy now and learn all you can,” said his mother.
Michael was smoking his pipe in the big front kitchen; Kitty was hushing baby Faith to sleep, while Phrancie Parr arranged the pieces of patchwork for the soft cushion Dorcas was making. Into the back kitchen with the wide fireplace, the turf fire, the hams hung in the chimney to be smoked, the floor of hardened earth, crept Rosaleen, Matthew, Patience and Bride. They had been sent to bed; but had resisted being undressed, and returned to hear stories. On the round table were bowls of tea, with a “little sup of rum” for Pyee, a smoking dish of herrings, and a heap of griddle cakes. Around the table were seated Susan, Pete and Pyee, while Judy Stood at the fire with a goose’s wing in her hand dusting the griddle with it, preparatory to placing on it the last cake.
“This lil’ drop of tay is good for me coul’,” Pyee was saying, “an’ the herrings is nice too, jus’ another bit of soda bread, Susan girl, an’ I’m finished. Aw! bless me, here’s the childer.”
“We want to hear the story of the Phynnodderee, Pyee,” cried Patience.
“And the Phynnodderee of the glen waddling
To throw thee like a lobster against the wall” —
“Whist, whist, child; the Misthress will hear ye.”
“Tell us about the good Phynnodderee, Pyee,” pleaded little Bride.
Pyee seated herself on a stool in the chimney corner, filled her old black pipe, and the children grouped around her. She began: ” He wasn’t a bad sperrit at all; nor a fairy exactly, for the Phynnodderee had no bad arrim1 at all like the witches. He was a friend to the farmers, an’ many’s the time he would come at the dead of night and gather the harvest, or clean out the Stables. Aw! a hardworking body was the Phynnodderee.”
“Did you ever see him, Pyee?” asked Matthew.
“Never a sight, nor nobody else. Aw! the shy he was. When folks peeped from the window to get a sight of him, he’d be off like the wind, an’ never come near them again. He was simple, too, the soul I for folks said he could never tell which was a sheep and which a rabbit. A toot of a thing (foolish thing) he was. But the crathur had no clothes at all; an’ a farmer was pityin’ him, for he’d built a house for the farmer all in one night, so he had.”
“With Stone and a roof?” Patience asked.
“Maybe ’twas, chile, but I’m thinkin’ it would be a turf an’ mud house with a bit of a thatch of heather an’ ling, but anyway ’twas a merricle to do it all in one night, an’ only the Phynnodderee could do it. So the farmer wanted to be kind to the crathur an’ he made a warm coat of Manx wool, an’ a fine pair of breeches an’ a cap for him.”
“How did the farmer get his measure?” asked Matthew.
“He just guessed it, chile, and he took the clothes down Santon way, where the Phynnodderee had his home.”
“What was his home like?” asked Rosaleen.
“‘Twas deep down in a cove, by a rushin’ Stream, a lovely place it was, overhung with a tramman tree, an’ white pebbles on the shore, an’ white sand, an’ that’s where the crathur was livin’. The man hid near-by to see the joy of the Phynnodderee. Then out of the cove he came; an’ he took each thing an’ looked at it, knowin’ like, an’ said: —
“‘Cap for the head, bad for the head,
Coat for the back, bad for the back,
Breeches for the breech, bad for the breech.’
“An’ he threw them all down, an’ sighed a deep sigh, an’ away with him on the breath of the wind. An’ was never seen again.”
“But nobody had ever seen him at all, you said,” objected little Bride.
“Hark at that now!” said Pyee. “No, villish2 nobody had ever seen him but that one farmer.”
“Me an’ Pete will go to Santon an’ look for that cove,” said Matthew, valiantly.
Pete looked up. “There’s lots of queer things goin’ at Santon,” he said. “A sailor man was drowned there from a ship. Spanish it was, an’ the man was never buried at all; an’ he could not rest anyway. An’ if you go to Santon river at midnight on the 9th of October, the man comes to you. A lil’ man he is, in funny clothes, an’ a shiny sailor hat, rings in his ears; an’ in his hands a bundle wrapped up in blue cloth with white spots on it. An’ the lil’ man points out to the rocks an’ cries as if askin’ folks to find his body an’ bury it.”
A deep sigh of satisfaction followed this recital, only little Bride paled and put her fingers in her ears to shut out the gruesome tale.
“Ay!” said Judy, “an’ queer things enough on this beach, an’ on the Fort Island across. In the lil’ church there is hid a diamond necklace, worth thousan’s of poun’s. A sailor man stole it from a corpse an’ he was wrecked on the Fort Island, an’ he gave it to a priest there an’ then he died, an’ the priest buried it, an’ then he died; an’ nobody can find the necklace, an’ the corpse comes on Easter Sunday lookin’ for it.”
“Was the little church ever a real church, an’ not a ruin?” asked Rosaleen.
“Reel enough, chree, the blessed St. Patrick came an’ then St. Michael, an’ holy it was, until papists got hold of it, an’ then it fell to ruins,” said Pyee, sagely, for she had never heard that we were all papists once.
“Judy,” called Kitty from the parlour, “are the children to bed yet?”
“Away with you now,” cried Judy, and the children crept quietly up the Stairs, Bride singing under her breath: —
“Phyn — nod — der — ee,
Come back to me,
And build a little house
To give to me,
Beside the sea,
Where ’tis quiet as a mouse.”
“Who told you that?” asked Patience as Susan undressed them.
“Nobody,” answered Bride, aged five. “I just thought of it.”
“Don’t tell stories,” remarked Patience, virtuously.
“Susan,” said Rosaleen, “could we find the diamond necklace?”
“I wouldn’t try,” said Susan. “It is cursed, so it is.”
“I’m going to look for it,” announced Patience, “and when I find it, I shall say prayers out of the Prayer Book over it, and then it will not be cursed.”
“Don’t go on Easter Sunday,” warned Susan.
“Me and Rosaleen will go and look and look until we find it,” persisted Patience with hope and avarice in her eyes.
1. At him.
2. Term of endearment.
THE CHRISTANES OF BALLASALLA
“We have heaps of money to get corn and meat, yet Priddhas1 and herrings, they are our chief food.” – Manx Ballad.
Granny Christane lived at Ballasalla with her two daughters, Betty and Molly. She was a widow and farmed her land herself. Ballasalla is described in the old chronicles as “a neat village pleasantly situated.” It had a distinction of its own, for here in 1098 was founded the Abbey of St. Mary’s of Rushen. The abbot and his twelve monks lived an austere life, and set an example of hard work and self-denial to the Island. They wore neither skins, shoes, not linen. They ate no fresh food, at least: for a time. Later we learn they became indolent, proud and luxurious. Their lodgings became splendid, their meats delicate, their grounds spacious. Their orchards yielded the finest: fruit, their river the sweetest fish. The Abbot became baron of the Island, and rivalled in magnificence and haughtiness the King himself. Pleasant enough was Ballasalla with its long straggling street, enlivened by traffic from various parts of the Island, its low white cottages, productive gardens, and little farms, once the fertile Abbey lands. Granny Christane had a finer abode than any of the neighbouring farms. Hers was a fine spacious house, with a well in the middle of the courtyard, or stackyard, barns for threshing and storing, and a big garden with a broad, Straight walk right down the middle. Currant bushes alternated with bunches of pinks and china roses in the aged garden. It was a sunny, sheltered garden with plenty of potherbs and raspberry canes. The garden lay behind an old weaving shed shaded by trees. An earlier hand had planted these trees — apple -trees, pear trees, with a scented lime to give it fragrance, and a walnut tree to add stateliness. It was surrounded by a stone fence and a fuchsia hedge. There were tramman trees, big bushes of veronica, and a riotous purple creeper, called the tee-plant, making its way everywhere. In spite of the Manx untidiness, for there were plenty of thistles and nettles near the weaving shed, it was a garden that was loved, and tended by careful hands, and it repaid the love by its plenteous offerings.
Mollie, Mrs. Christane’s youngest daughter, toiled in the garden and loved every inch of it. This fine abode and garden came to be attached to the farm in this way. Some sixty years before our Story opens, smuggling was the chief trade of the Island, and the men neglected their land and abandoned the fishing to engage in this illicit trade, and many grew rich and built fine houses. Those were rare days for the bold Manx smugglers; but the abundance of unexcised luxuries tended to debase the population, and drunkenness became a curse. When the British Crown purchased the Isle of Man smuggling was put down. Panic followed this change in the constitution. Bands of armed coastguards searched out large quantities of hidden goods. Riots and tumults followed. All trade Stopped, many people were ruined, and rich merchants sold their houses for any price they could get and fled the country. It was then that Granny Christane’s father-in-law bought the house for the price of a poor cottage, and the Christanes abode there ever since. A masterful dame was Granny Christane, with that lust for dominion over her fellows which is characteristic of the half-educated. She was arrogant, too, brooking no rival authority; and she was full of complaints, snapping at grievances as a cat snaps at flies, for the Manx folks revel in small grievances. The day after the lawsuit, Granny Christane sat in a high old rocking-chair, counting her eggs, and laying them carefully in large baskets. Her indigo cotton gown, with a tiny red seaweed pattern straying over it, was covered with an ample apron. She wore a palpable brown front over her white hair, so palpable that one could see a piece of black tape instead of a parting; over this she wore a mob cap. On her nose was a pair of silver spectacles, through which peered her shrewd old eyes. It was ten o’clock in the morning, and glancing through the window she saw Pete from Derbyhaven enter the courtyard. “Come thy ways in, boy,” she called to him, “hast got a message?”
“Ay, Misthress,” said Pete, entering the big kitchen, “Misthress Quilliam with her daughter Patience be comin’ to see thee this mornin’, an’ to have dinner with thee, for the Masther is goin’ to Douglas.”
“And the Mistress too? ” she asked.
“What’re they goin’ to Douglas for?”
Pete looked vacant.
“When will they be Startin’ then?”
“At half-past two, likely,” said the boy.
“An’ what are they doin’ to-day at Derbyhaven?”
“The herrin’s is goin’ saltin’.”
“What person is helping?”
“Pyee from Barrule is there.”
“And what ‘ill the childer be doin’?”
“The ould Misthress Quilliam be tachin’ ’em.”
“Go into the back kitchen, lad, and get a sup of buttermilk before thee goes back,” she commanded.
“Betty,” she called querulously, and her daughter obeyed the summons.
“Did you ever hear the like?” she said. “Here’s Kitty with Patience coming to dinner to-day, and nought in the house but potatoes and herrin’s and buttermilk.”
“Yes,” said Betty. “I’m fixing a frock for Patience.”
“Kitty’s going to Douglas, with Michael; ’tis about the lawsuit likely, but there’s no call for Kitty to go at all.”
“Maybe there’s something she wants to buy, mother.”
“Buy, indeed; it’s well to be her to afford to buy, an’ the lawsuit goin’ a-losin’. Get thee a chicken killed, girl; a good fat one, an’ we’ll do it in the elegant way Mrs. Corrin was tellin’ us. Masked, she called it, in thick sauce made with cream.”
“You have to eat that cold, mother.”
“Give me the cookery book, and go thou, and see the chicken is plucked, and then come to me.”
When Betty returned Granny was full of information. She eyed the chicken critically. “We’ll have it roast,” she said, ” an’ stuffed with parsley an’ bread Stuffin’, an’ a sauce with mushrooms in it — that’s the correctest thing to do; an’ a blackberry pudden’ with cream, there’s a few ripe blackberries on the garden hedge.”
“A lot of fuss you’re makin’ for just Kitty,” complained Betty.
“We can be as correct as Madam Quilliam,” said Granny with an acid look. “Run, girl, and get Mrs. Cain, her that was kitchenmaid at the Governor’s. She’ll fix the dinner, an’ Kitty shall see that if we haven’t the larnin’ of that fine mother-in-law of hers, we can be as grand as the best.”
Betty laughed heartily. “Yes, mother,” she said.
“Let Mollie leave the churnin’ now, and set one of the women at it, and send Mollie to me.”
On the ground floor of the Christane household were two parlours, two kitchens and a large dairy, and here was Mollie, with her sleeves rolled up, at the plunging churn. “Leave the butter is it?” said Mollie in the soft Manx accent. “Dear me! how vexing.”
Raven hair had Mollie, growing low in a peak on her white forehead. Sea-blue eyes with a flicker of fun in them, cheeks like a sun-ripened peach. Serious and beautiful was Mollie, and demure as a Puritan maid. She was unadorned as the unclouded sky, and just as perfect; ornament can cover up flaws, but the unadorned have to depend on perfection in order to be beautiful. Her gown was a plain brown print, cut square in front, showing her white neck; and her hair was covered with a mob cap.
“Yes, mother,” said Mollie, discarding her churning apron, splashed with milk.
“Kitty is comin’ to dinner with Patience. Set out the table in the large parlour with the white damask cloth, and the Liverpool dinner set. Put salt in the glass salt mugs, and the best knives and forks.”
“Yes, mother, but Kitty ‘ill not be wantin’ this fuss at all.”
“‘Tis I who want it, just to show Kitty that all the grandeur is not in Derbyhaven. Polish thou the silver spoons and set out tea on the side table. Kitty ‘ill be glad enough of a cup, before her long drive.”
“Get me my best cap and mittens, and then run thou to the school and fetch Dinah. Put the fine white Stockings on her, the slippers with sandals, and the muslin gown, and the frilled pantaloons. Curl the child’s hair and let me see her before Kitty comes.”
At eleven o’clock everything was ready, a fragrance of roasting chicken and boiling ham scented the air, and Granny Christane sat in the parlour reading the Bible, with a clean handkerchief folded on her lap enclosing a sprig of bergamot and a bit of lavender from the garden.
Mollie went to the top of the house to look from the attic window across the fields to Derbyhaven. “They are coming, Betty,” she called, and Betty put the pot of potatoes on the fire. “All will be ready in half an hour,” she said to the ex-kitchenmaid of the Governor.
“Come thou to me, Dinah, and let Granny see thee,” called the old lady; and Dinah, a straight child of eleven, Kitty’s eldest daughter, escaped from Aunt Mollie and ran to her Granny.
“Stand farther away, child, where I can see thee right.” Dinah Stood in the window.
“Aunt Mollie curled me hair, Granny, and hooked me frock.”
Granny eyed her critically through her round silver spectacles, but said not a word.
“Amn’t I nice, Granny?”
“Middlin’, child, just middlin’,” said Granny, who in reality was bursting with pride at the appearance of her favourite grandchild. “Sit thee Still now, like a little lady, an’ don’t be goin’ an’ playin’ in the garden with Patience, to soil thy pretty clothes.”
Mollie ran to the door to greet her sister. “Kitty,” she said, ” you’ll be wearied in this heat.”
“‘Deed I am so, Mollie, with this lawsuit goin’ awry too, ’tis harassed I am.”
Mollie kissed Patience. “Go, villish, and kiss Granny and Dinah. Oh, Kitty! I’m sorry that Michael has lost.”
“Well, Kitty, thou’rt hot, girl,” was her mother’s greeting. “Take thee hat off thee head.”
“Michael’s lost the suit,” began Kitty, weeping. “‘Tis shameful, so it is, an’ Michael’s to pay poun’s an’ poun’s an’ costs an’ all.”
“What call had he to go to law about that bould slut of a woman? It’s makin’ a gorm of himself he is over it,” said her mother dourly.
Kitty was on the defensive in a moment. “She stole our land; and the big sthall of a woman that she is, was just crazed in love with Michael.”
“Ay!” said Granny, “and maybe the man encouraged her. ‘Millish dy ghoaill, agh sharro dy eeck’ (Sweet to take, but bitter to pay2).
Kitty became scarlet. “How dare you say so of my Michael?” she stormed. “It is wicked tales you’ve been listening to.”
“Scorned in love ever makes a woman sour,” went on Mrs. Christane, “an’ a poor drollane (indolent) of a woman she is to be sure. What could Michael see in her at all?”
“He didn’t,” stormed Kitty. “Mother, how can you think wicked lies of Michael?”
“God forbid,” said her mother, “but Michael is only a man for all. I’m hearin’ it’s Lawyer Kissack the woman had.”
“Yes,” wept Kitty, “a walking murrain of a man he is.”
“Ay! a sour man, with a sour mouth at him, a sniggerin’ mouth, with never a plain ‘ yea or nay,’ a bad man to deal with.”
“And she sent presents to the DeemSter, too,” lamented Kitty.
“Ay! the Deemster’s hand is maybe bigger than his power of judgin’,” muttered the old woman.
Meanwhile Patience Stood alone in the parlour, waiting for Dinah, and watching the weathercock on the mantelpiece. For fine weather out came a lady in a large crinoline, and for Stormy weather a gentleman in a wig appeared. Patience hoped Dinah would admire her clean nankeen frock, her white socks, and cottage bonnet with a blue riband. She was conscious that her country-made shoes were dusty, but she hoped Dinah would not notice them.
Presently Dinah peeped round the door. “Good morning, sister,” she said, kissing Patience and eyeing her from head to foot. Patience put her finger in her mouth, and blushed, Dinah was so grand and aloof. Dinah patted her smooth curls, shook out the muslin of her frock, and adjusted the sandals of her slippers; then she glanced at her sister’s dusty shoes and began to laugh. “What a sight you look, Patience, in those old yellow socks and clumsy shoes.”
“They are white socks,” protested Patience.
“Old ones washed yellow, and that thick nankeen, only fit for country children, from the top of Barrule.”
Patience burst into tears, and sobbed aloud. Dinah’s ridicule was very bitter. Somehow mortals are not made to live in amity. They are self-assertive, tactless, and always critical of each other, and this is particularly true of sisters. Kitty Quilliam came running in. “Why Patience, my pet, what is it then?” she asked.
Patience sobbed, and clutched her mother’s gown. “Come with mother,” went on Kitty.
“What ails the child, Dinah?” called Granny.
“Her shoes are dusty,” said Dinah, with crimson cheeks, “and I said so.”
“Don’t tease your little sister,” said Granny Sternly. “Now be a good girl, Patience, and don’t cry like a baby. Sit thou by thy mother there.”
Betty and Mollie in the big kitchen were dishing up the dinner.
“That jousbag3 of a woman has won then,” said Betty; “the slut, casting her eye on Michael indeed.”
“Poor soul,” said Mollie, “she was always in love with him.”
“The bould bad hussy, and Michael a married man. ‘Tis ashamed she should be, instead of trying to harm Michael.”
“There are lots of ways of showing love, but true love never harms,” reflected Mollie.
“Thee seems to know all about love,” jeered Betty.
“Perhaps I do, sister.”
“If it’s Lawyer Kameen that’s thy teacher, ’tis lucky you are,” and Betty laughed.
Laughter is a sure guide to character. We may control our features, soften our voices, govern our words, but we betray ourselves in laughter. Betty’s laughter was hearty, but there was an element of coarseness in it too. Mollie flushed.
“Betty,” she said, “don’t speak of Jude Kameen; I
shall never think of him, never.”
“That’s a pity, the man is rich; an’ if it’s Stephen Fannin thou’rt blushin’ for, ’tis a middlin’ poor man he’ll be, with only the farm, an’ his mother to keep; an’ not an old woman either, an’ two sisters with shares in the farm, an’ farmin’s hard work enough, Mollie.”
Mollie smiled and a kind of light from within illuminated her beautiful, serious face. “To be poor, to do hard work for the man you love, is nothing, Betty, nothing but joy, it is sure, to be able to show you love.”
Betty laughed again. “A toot of a thing you always were, Mollie, with your mealy mouth. Love is well enough, but money is better.”
“Love,” she said, “is a gift from the Lord, and money itself never brings happiness.”
“Thou’rt like the folks that go to the ranters’ chapel with thy talk, Mollie, there’s no sense in what they’re sayin’ at all.”
“There’s many a thing, Betty, for thee yet to learn,” said Mollie quietly, and Betty laughed, a jeering laugh of scorn, and Mollie flushed to the roots of her hair.
2. Manx proverb.
3. Term of reproach.
A BUNDLE OF COTTONS
“Old Manx is waning,
She’s dying in the tholthan.”1
T. E. Brown.
“Why, mother, what a grand dinner you’ve got,” said Kitty.
“Thy mother-in-law is not the only body that knows how meat should be served. An’ what’s takin’ thee to Douglas then?”
“Michael has lawyers to see, an’ I’ve a new gown to buy.”
“This isn’t the time for new gowns an’ the lawsuit goin’ a losin’. What kind of a gown is it then? ”
“Michael wants me to have silk,” faltered Kitty.
“Silk indeed, it’s fine to afford silk. Is it the Governor’s lady or Bishop’s wife thou’rt apeing?”
“Michael likes to see his wife well dressed, mother.”
“Prices is shockin’. This print gown on me was five shillin’s a yard; but Michael’s a bit clicky at times. High notions at him like his grand English mother. Silk indeed!”
“Silk wears well,” protested Kitty.
“Terrible high is silk in these days. Me mother used to say that before the English took the islan’, there was times when silk could be got for nothin’ almost.”
“It’s the duties the English is chargin’. Michael says that brandy is nine shillin’s a gallon now; it’s mostly duties.”
“A shockin’ price,” grumbled her mother, “yet farmin’ isn’t so bad. The strangers is puttin’ up prices. I’m gettin’ fivepence a pound for me butter, an’ sixpence a dozen for eggs, an’ as much as two shillin’s for a couple of good chickens.”
“Farmin’ isn’t bad with them prices,” agreed Kitty.
“Ay, in me gran’mother’s day there was cheap prices,” reflected Mrs. Christane. “Twelve eggs a penny, ’twas then. Chickens an’ ducks thrippence each. Two good rabbits for one penny, an’ the best lobster you’d wish, for three farthings; they was leather pennies in them days, an’ the eagle an’ child was comin’ in.”
“Why are eagles an’ childs on pennies, Granny?” Patience wanted to know.
“‘Twas the Stanley coat of arms, chile, an’ Kings of Man they were in the ould days,” and Granny recited in Manx: —
“Oh! I love well the Stanlagh name,
Though Roundies may abhor him.
Through the island, or over the sea
Or across the Channel with Stanley.
Come weal, and woe, we’ll gather and go
And live and die with Stanley.”
“What were Roundies, mother?” asked Kitty.
“A kind of soldier; folks thought nothin’ of them in the island; but they was all for killin’ Kings an’ the like, an’ they killed the great Stanley, so they did.”
“What’s the eagle doin’ to the child?” Patience wanted to know.
“The eagle carried off the child; an’ Sir Thomas Lathom an’ his wife Isabella found it and brought it up, I’ve heard me granny tell; an’ the daughter of that child married Stanley,” recounted Granny.
“Tithes are wonderful high,” remarked Kitty. “Michael is sayin’ the farmers won’t be payin’ this new tithe of the Bishop’s on turnips, at all.”
“‘Deed, no,” said her mother, “it’s imposition, so it is, graspin’ the Bishop is with his tithes.”
“It’s wonderful the number of strangers there is coming to th’ islan’,” said Kitty.
“An’ the genteel Douglas is gettin’,” agreed Betty. “Callin’ th’ ould White Lion Inn, The York Hotel, to sound grand for the strangers. Ould Mrs. Christian’s daughter, her from Colby, keeps a house for strangers on the quay; an’ she was tellin’ me, she’ll get at times as much as ten shillin’s a week just for two rooms,” remarked Betty.
“Maybe,” said Granny, “but there’s many a body glad to give two rooms for five shillin’s; clane, decent rooms, too, good cookin’ an’ all. Ah! the changes since I was a girl, the changes. Look at the good roads we’ve got now; an’ the farmers attendin’ to the land and not neglectin’ it for the fishin’, and Castletown growin’ astonishin’. Parson Quine was tellin’ me there’s three hundred houses in it now.”
“Yes, mother,” sighed Kitty, “if there was a nice school in Castletown for the girls, what a boon it would be. The islan’ is shockin’ badly off for schools.”
“There’s schools enough,” stoutly maintained Mrs. Christane. “There’s Mrs. Riggs in Athol Street, for genteel folks’ children, and fit for the highest in the land; then there’s Mrs. Smythe’s in Drumgold Street; a mincin’ lady-body is Mrs. Smythe; common Smith her name was they’re tellin’ me, but she spells it Smythe, to be genteeler like.”
“But I can’t be sendin’ the girls so far at all,” reflected Kitty. “When they are older maybe I’ll get a lodgin’ for them in Douglas, an’ the food for them goin’ an’ sending from home.”
“There’s no call for thy girls to go to Douglas at all; if they can read and cast accounts, what more do they want? Thyself can teach them to sew, to bake and brew.”
Kitty sighed. “Grandmamma is teaching Dorcas the French, and Matthew the Latin,” she said. “Little Bride can say Latin astonishin’! She’s as quick as a pet fairy.”
“Latin! What’s that at all?”
“‘Tis a language, mother, a dead one, nobody speaks it now.”
Granny looked the contempt she felt. “What use is it then to a body if nobody speaks it?”
“But, mother, all the bettermost peoples’ children learn Latin; the Governor’s, the Bishop’s, an’ all the Lords an’ Dukes in England speak it.”
Granny twisted her mouth into a wry smile. “Thy children, Kitty, are neither Dukes nor Bishops nor Governor’s children. ‘Tis high notions thou’rt gettin’ indeed. Let thy children learn the good Manx language. It was good enough for their grandfather, an honest man he was, an’ a good farmer too. Madam Quilliam with her Latin indeed!” Granny tossed her old head and a bright sparkle shone in her eyes.
“But, mother, Manx is dying out, and when my children will go to England, they will want to be like other people there.”
“What call is there for thy children to go to England? Isn’t the islan’ good enough for them then? I never went to England, thou never went to England, no, nor yet thy grandmother nor great-grandmother.”
“Michael has been to England then,” affirmed Kitty proudly.
“Ay!” agreed the old woman dourly, “an’ that fine mother-in-law of thine too.”
“But, mother,” pleaded Kitty, “there is no Manx literature at all; an’ folks learn Latin to read the literature.”
“What dost thou mean by literature? Printed books is it? An’ haven’t we a Manx Bible? The Bible, Kitty, is the grandest readin’ in the world.”
“But, mother, a Manxman didn’t write the Bible at all.”
“Don’t make thyself ridiculous, Kitty, before the children too. God Himself wrote the Bible, an’ Moses an’ Paul an’ the other holy men. ‘Tis downright sinful to talk so. Literature, indeed! there’s Manx Psalm-books an’ Hymn-books, an’ a Manx Prayer Book too, what more dost thee want?”
In a sense Granny Christane was right, for Manx is the language of a people who had few thoughts to express, and is as ill-fitted to make a literature, as Kitty was to espouse the cause of literature.
“It’s a fine dinner we’ve had, mother, and if everybody has finished, Patience shall say her nice grace for Granny,” said Kitty, adjusting her bonnet strings. Patience, comforted by the good food, arose, carefully raised her hands and repeated: —
“Here a little child I stand,
Heaving up my either hand;
Cold as paddocks though they be,
Here I lift them up to Thee,
For a benison to fall
On our meat, and on us all.”
Dinah sniggered slyly, and Aunt Betty laughed aloud.
“That’s no grace at all, child,” cried Granny. “‘Tis heathenish stuff. I’ll teach thee a right Manx grace, Oltaghey-lurg, that’s the grace after meat, for a Christian child to say. Kitty, girl, teach the child proper.”
“‘Tis a very good grace, mother, written by a good poet,” said Kitty, flushing.
“‘Tisn’t in the Bible, nor Prayer Book either, and no person can thank the Lord for good meat, without the Holy Books.”
“It maybe in the hymn-book,” said Kitty, hopefully.
“It isn’t then,” said her mother, “and the time’s getting on. Go thou upstairs and fix thyself, then Mollie will give thee a nice cup of tea before the drive to Douglas. There is Michael coming sure enough. Hurry now. It’s not right to keep the man waiting.”
Betty attended her sister upstairs. “That’s a fine Paisley shawl of yours,” said Betty, fingering it, as the two ascended the stairs. “It must have cost a deal more money than mine.”
“It did,” replied Kitty, proud of her sister’s admiration, “but it’ll last me a lifetime. Mother seems fine and well.”
“She’s middlin’ granganagh (peevish) at times, she wearies us.”
“It’s old she’s getting,” said the tolerant Kitty. “What for had you so grand a dinner to-day?”
“Just to show you and Patience how fine we can be.”
“Jealous she is to be sure of Grandmamma Quilliam; well! it’s potatoes an’ herrin’ she an’ the children will be gettin’ for dinner to-day.”
“Well,” laughed Betty. “It’s on silver dishes she’ll be puttin’ the herrin’s.”
“She hasn’t that many silver dishes at all,” said Kitty.
“Hast got thy stock of herrin’s yet?”
“Ay! an’ a fine lot from Port Iron.”
“So’s mine; Danny Kinvig brought mine. Is Mr. Jude Kameen coming here much?”
“Molhe ‘ill not speak to the man.”
“It’s a toot she is to be sure an’ the man rich.”
After Kitty had gone, Granny sat to her spinning wheel and Dinah got out her patchwork; while Mollie took Patience through the village to get a sitting of eggs. Dinah sat reflecting on her patches, if she only had some more pretty ones with pink roses on, and little green bits of seaweed on a blue ground. Aunt Mollie had some, she knew; she wondered where they were. Presently Granny dozed and the wheel was silent; and Dinah crept quietly to Aunt Mollie’s room and in her table drawer found a bundle of prints. Dinah opened them, selected all the pretty pieces and carefully substituted her own uninteresting lilac patches; then stole downstairs and went on with her work. Looking out over the garden, she saw a gig against the fence, and Mr. Jude Kameen getting out and entering the stackyard. He approached the window and beckoned to Dinah. Granny still slumbered; and Dinah went quietly out to him. “Is your Aunt Mollie in?” he asked.
“No,” replied Dinah.
“Where is she then?”
“She said I was never to tell you where she was.”
“I’ll give you this if you will,” and he showed her a
packet of sweets.
“She’s gone to Gawn’s farm, for a sittin’ of eggs.”
The sweets changed hands. “Now I want you to give this to your Aunt Mollie,” and Jude Kameen produced from the depths of his gig a beautiful bouquet of such lovely flowers that Dinah stared in fascinated admiration. White, waxy flowers there were, purple heliotrope, white geraniums, maidenhair ferns, and hothouse roses.
“Oh,” cried Dinah. “The beautiful they are, Mr. Kameen.”
“Will you give them to Aunt Mollie with my love?”
“She won’t have them,” said Dinah regretfully. “I know she won’t. She threw the others you gave me into the fire.”
“Try her again,” he coaxed.
“If she won’t have them?”
“Keep them yourself then,” he said crossly.
So Dinah took the flowers and hid them under her bed. Meanwhile Mollie and Patience passed over the ancient Abbey Bridge spanning the busy little river of clear water hurrying over the brown pebbles.
“See, Aunt Mollie, the big fishes,” said Patience.
“They are trout,” said Aunt Mollie. “We’ve a nice basket full at home, for you to take to Derbyhaven.”
“I like trout better than herrings, Aunt Mollie.”
“‘Tis a more delicate fish, to be sure,” said Mollie.
“See, Aunt Mollie, here is Mr. Jude Kameen coming in his gig.”
“Let us get under this tree and hide,” said Mollie quickly.
“I like Mr. Kameen,” went on Patience. “He gives me nobs.”
“He won’t be having any with him to-day, Patience. Stoop down behind the bush.”
And Mr. Kameen drove past slowly, searching the road with a roving eye.
“Grandmamma likes trout best, too. In England the people are not caring for herrings like the Manx.”
“Yes, in England there’s many a thing different. Look, Patience, chree; they are driving Tim Kewley’s cows into the byre, and there’s old Aggie, the wise woman from Balladoole.”
Patience saw an old woman in a red linsey-woolsey petticoat, and faded green linen bedgown with a wide collar; and a green sun bonnet on her head.
“What is she going to do?” she asked.
“To take the spell off the cows! ‘Tis bewitched they are and give no milk at all.”
“How will she do it?”
“Ah! that I don’t know, she’s a fairy doctor, and can take off the spells put on by fairies and witches.”
“Can we see her do it?” cried the excited Patience.
“Maybe; I’ll just ask Mrs. Kewley.”
But Aggie refused to have an audience.
“The lil’ one will do no harm,” she conceded. “Come, villish.”
It was a trembling and excited Patience who presently found herself inside the byre, with the cows and the wise woman. Then the door was shut. The old woman made signs with her hands over the cows, then she said in Manx, in a slow crooning voice: “I am to command, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, that the spell be taken off the innocent beasts and blown away as the sands of the sea.”
Patience listened breathlessly, as she cowered into a corner far away from the wise woman of Balladoole.
“The poor bastes is well now, Misthress,” said old Aggie, opening the door of the byre. “Milk them, Misthress,
milk them.” And sure enough the cows gave their usual supply of milk, and were cured from that moment. When Patience recounted this story at home, Grandmamma Quilliam said, “Some evil-minded person has milked the cows secretly. Nobody can bewitch their neighbour’s cows.”
But nobody believed her, for witch charms and written charms were powers in the Isle of Man, a century ago.
When Mollie and Patience returned with the eggs, Granny awoke from her slumbers and examined them. “Take them now, Mollie,” she said, “an’ put them under the grey hen, her that’s broody.”
And Mollie went into the hen barn followed by Dinah.
“If Mr. Kameen were to give you the beautifullest flowers, Aunt Mollie, what would you do with them?”
“I wouldn’t take them,” said Mollie shortly.
“But if he were to give them to me, Aunt Mollie?”
“You could do as you please.”
“Well, he has given me the very beautifullest flowers there are, and I’ll show them to you,” and Dinah ran off to fetch them.
Mollie eyed them suspiciously. “I told him you wouldn’t have them,” said Dinah, ” and he gave them to me.”
The flowers were proudly displayed on the tea-table.
“Ay!” said Granny, sourly, “wasting good flowers on that child. Mollie, I’m ashamed of thee.”
“Mr. Kameen,” said Mollie, “can give flowers to Dinah if he chooses.”
Granny was going across the fields to drive her flock of geese home; and Patience was to go with her. “I’ll see thee to the stile, child; and then thou canst run home in five minutes along the shore.”
“But first thee must sing c Highland Mary ‘ to us,” declared Betty.
Patience was shy and hung her head. “I can’t,” she whispered.
“To be sure you can,” said Granny, “thy mother told us thee hast a voice like a bird.”
“I can’t,” said Patience, again her eyes filling.
“Sing it, pet,” urged Mollie, “and I’ll give you a nice doll.”
Patience’s tears fell thick. “Let Dinah recite ‘Mary the Maid of the Mill,'” said Mollie kindly, “till the little one dries her tears.”
Dinah with great promptitude did as she was desired.
“There now,” said Granny, “sing ‘Highland Mary’ like a little lady.”
Patience only hung her head and wept.
“She can’t sing at all,” declared Betty, hoping to goad the child into complying.
But the shy and bewildered Patience sobbed aloud.
“Naughty girl,” scolded Granny. “See how nicely Dinah behaves,” and Dinah tossed her curls and simpered over her patchwork.
“I want to go home,” cried Patience in despair.
“Home is the best place for naughty girls,” said Granny severely. “Put her bonnet on, Mollie, and give her the little basket of trout to carry, and home she shall go.”
Mollie took the weeping child to her room and sponged her tear-stained face. ” Don’t thee cry,” she begged, ” see, Patience, here is a bundle of cottons to make pretty patchwork like Dinah’s. I’ll slip it in the basket and not show it to Granny. There, kiss me, pet, and stop crying.”
Patience had revived wonderfully at the sight of the bundle of cottons. She had been envying Dinah’s patchwork the whole afternoon. She grasped the basket and followed Granny down the lane; and across the five big fields which lay between Ballasalla and Derbyhaven. The old woman, in her print gown, mob cap, little chequered shawl on her shoulders, and big slick, walked first, surveying her land; and Patience, clutching her basket with her treasured cottons, followed. The distance was a good mile. The old woman collected her flock of geese in the last field, where the corn had been cut. “Now, Patience, child, kiss Granny, and get over the stile, and run home quick,” said the old woman.
Patience obeyed cheerfully. She stood for a moment until Granny’s back was turned, as she drove her geese homeward; then she sat on the last step of the Stile facing the sea and opened her bundle of cottons. But the tragedy of it! Every piece was alike. Now the beauty of patchwork lay in the diversity of colours and patterns, and although Aunt Mollie had saved up a variety of patches for Patience, the perfidious Dinah had abstracted all the best patches, and left only the pale lilac ones. Patience burst into a passion of tears and wept as though her heart would break. Very real are the sorrows of children; and of their depth and intensity their elders are too little aware.
1. Ruined cottage.
A NEW SILK GOWN
“Wearing gowns made of silk,
And big caps of flax.
With ruffles on their necks
And short black mantles.”
Grandmamma Quilliam was a small lady, dignified and correct in speech, which correctness she strove to impart to her grandchildren; but Kitty’s speech she wisely left alone. “She talks in the English way, that a body never rightly understands,” complained Granny Christane of old Mrs. Quilliam, “polite as you please, an’ all the time despisin’ a body. It’s a wonder Kitty, poor girl, can put up with the like” The Manx have always secretly hated the English, partly because the English owned their island, but chiefly on account of the English aloofness and conscious superiority. Grandmamma Quilliam was wholly English. Before her marriage she had been Dinah Jennings, granddaughter to one Sir Roger Jennings, and daughter to a poor country parson. Her youth had partly been spent in London, and she had seen with her own eyes, George III kiss his bride, when the couple arrived at Buckingham House. Dinah Jennings at her father’s death came to the Isle of Man as governess to the children of the Bishop; and later, as she had hardly a relation in the world, she married Michael Quilliam of Ramsey, and it was their only child Michael who married Kitty Christane. In her widowhood, she elected to live near her son. Her house was a kind of annex to the big house, and could be entered through a passage leading from the front kitchen. Grandmamma liked to live alone with her own belongings about her; books, silver, a few old miniatures, and some pieces of china from her English home. English people did not easily fall in with easy-going Manx ways in those days; the indifference towards books; the love of fine clothes; the interest in the affairs of one’s neighbours; the homely food served without ceremony; the salt fish; the soda bread; the terrible procrastination that will leave a manure puddle before the door for years without attempting a remedy. “Tra dy liooar“1 (Time enough) says the Manxman tolerantly. In her own heart Grandmamma hated Manx ways. The day Kitty went to Douglas, Grandmamma received her four grandchildren ceremoniously. Dorcas aged ten, Rosaleen aged eight, Matthew aged seven, and little Bride just five. She exacted a curtsey from the girls, and a bow from Matthew. Old Mrs. Quilliam wore a soft blue gown with a cream muslin fichu, edged with precious lace. There were fewer spurious imitations in those days of any kind; and those who wore lace at all, were sure to have it good. Her hair was white, escaping in little soft curls from beneath her cap. She wore a gold chain, and a signet ring which had belonged to her grandfather, Sir Roger Jennings. She treasured with passionate loyalty the old gentleman’s spurs, his miniature, and a pair of silver candlesticks.
Dorcas was the spokeswoman. “Mamma said that dinner could be sent in to us here, if you wished, grandmamma.”
“Certainly, my dear. What is there for dinner?”
“Potatoes and herrings and currant pudding with buttermilk, grandmamma.”
Mrs. Quilliam made a little face of distaste.
“We will make the best of it, my dear. Send Susan to me,” and Susan came and received instructions, then the lessons began.
“Can I learn Latin, like Matthew?” petitioned Bride.
“Latin is for gentlemen, French for ladies. You shall learn French when you are old enough,” said grandmamma.
“I don’t want to be a gentleman and learn Latin,” protested Matthew.
“Knowledge is power, Matthew.”
“I don’t want power,” rebelled Matthew, “I want a big bellows like Johnny- Juan, and a hammer to make sparks fly.”
“Hush, Matthew, you must do as you are told. You shall begin with Latin,” and she read the Lord’s Prayer aloud to him, requiring him to repeat it after her; then he had to copy it out laboriously in his copy book, with many blots and much anguish of spirit.
Dorcas was given a French exercise to write.
Then grandmamma required Rosaleen to repeat one of the cautionary stories from The Cowslip, which ran: —
“Miss Lydia Banks, though very young,
Will never do what’s rude or wrong.
When spoken to she always tries
To give the most polite replies.
Some children when they write, we know
Their ink about them heedless throw;
But she, though young, has learned to think
That clothes look spoil’d with spots of ink.”
“Look at Matthew, grandmamma,” she cried when the repetition was over. “He is making big blots.”
“Little girls should not tell tales, my dear.”
“But it is true,” faltered Rosaleen.
“Little girls should speak when spoken to.”
At this rebuff Rosaleen turned crimson and bent over her book.
“Now, my little Bride,” said grandmamma, “bring me your primer; what are your reading, dear?”
“About the frog,” said Bride, who sat primly on grandmamma’s blue velvet Stool, bending over a book.
Grandmamma took the book. “Divine Emblems, by John Bunyan,” she read; “where did you get the book?”
“Granny Christane gave it to me for learning the Evening Hymn in Manx,” and Bride folded her arms and began to repeat: —
“Gloyr hoods, my Yee, mish as daghtraa.”
“Hush, my dear, I do not understand. Manx is not a language properly.”
“There is a pretty picture of the frog and the bulrushes,” went on little Bride, ” but the poetry is not pretty; hear me say it,” and the child repeated with quaint pronunciation of the longer words: —
“The Frog by nature is both damp and cold,
Her mouth is large, her belly much will hold;
She sits somewhat ascending, loves to be
Croaking in gardens, tho’ unpleasantly.”
Grandmamma was astounded. She did not know the child could read. She had industriously kept her learning ab, eb, ib, ob, ub, ba, be, bi, bo, bu, and making Strokes and pothooks on her slate.
“Has anybody ever read this verse to you?”
The other children listened. “Isn’t it rude to say belly?” Rosaleen asked.
“It is not a pretty word for a little girl, but it was written by a good man.”
“Frogs don’t croak,” commented Matthew, “not when you hit ’em with a stone, they don’t.”
“Go on with your work, Matthew. Come here, Bride. Can you read ‘The Comparison’?”
“Yes,” said the child, “but I don’t know what all the words mean,” and she read: —
“The hypocrite is like unto this frog;
As like as is the puppy to the dog,
He is by nature cold, his mouth is wide
To prate and at true goodness to deride.
And though he seeks in churches for to croak,
He neither loveth Jesus nor his yoke.”
“What’s a yoke, grandmamma?”
“The top part of mamma’s nightgown,” volunteered Rosaleen.
“Allow me to speak for myself, Rosaleen. A yoke, my dear, is a burden. Who taught you to read, Bride?”
“Nobody taught me. It is quite easy,” said Bride.
“Dorcas, how long has Bride been able to read?”
“A long time; she always reads our books.”
“Who taught her, Dorcas?”
“She watched Patience and Rosaleen being taught,” said Dorcas.
“Come here, Bride, and read this,” and grandmamma opened Aesop’s Fables at “The Wolf and the Lamb.” Bride read it through obediently.
“Why did you not tell me you could read, instead of learning the syllables in the Primer, Bride?”
The child did not know. She had obeyed her grandmamma without question. The old lady watched her with a puzzled frown. She did not know that there are super-normal children, who only want to be left alone, and are only irked and hindered by formal instruction. Patience always said that Bride told stories, and even her mother sometimes lamented her child’s untruths, for this is a hard world for the over-intelligent.
At half-past eleven grandmamma took Dorcas with her to prepare the midday meal. She took the boiled herrings and potatoes in their skins from Susan and surveyed the unpromising material. She peeled and mashed the potatoes with a little cream and butter, and placed them in a china dish. The herrings she boned, flaked, and placed on a silver dish garnished with lettuce, and she covered the fish with a hastily mixed mayonnaise of eggs, cream, and vinegar. The currant pudding was put into a glass dish, sprinkled with white sugar and decorated with little pieces of preserved ginger. Even the buttermilk appeared a more lordly beverage when served in a glass jug with glass goblets to drink out of.
Dorcas looked on with admiration. “Always serve food daintily,” admonished the old lady. “Now let us spread the cloth.”
The table was laid, and it shone with silver spoons and forks, glass, and a rose bowl filled with cottage roses and sprigs of lavender. Bride surveyed it with satisfaction.
“Pretty things help you to be good, don’t they, grandmamma?” she said.
“Yes,” replied the old lady, looking curiously at her.
The children, freshly washed, sat to the table, and grandmamma said a Latin grace, which her father had learnt at Oxford. Matthew was deeply impressed. “Does the Governor eat potatoes and herrings this way?” he asked.
“All gentlemen eat this way, Matthew.”
“Then,” said Matthew solemnly, “I shall be a gentleman blacksmith.”
“Just drive along Athol Street, Michael,” pleaded Kitty, “’tis elegant the houses are there, and I want to see Mrs. Skillicorn’s curtains; they are real silk brocade, I’m hearing; drive slow now, I want to have a good look.” Michael obeyed and turned away from the old quay bustling with life. Women selling fish, sailors, carriages and farmers’ carts thronged the streets; and he drove through tortuous alleys, narrow, cobbled and dirty, to the spacious Athol Street with its fine, tall houses, comfortable and handsome. Douglas, the chief town of the Isle of Man, was a curious congeries of houses, many of them miserable hovels. There were no flagged footpaths for passengers; no lamps at night; no police to demand street cleanliness. Kitty admired Athol Street greatly. “It has houses just like those in the grand London squares,” said Kitty, “and ladies going to parties at night in sedan chairs as grand as you please. Now, Michael, let us drive and look at Douglas Bay and Castle Mona, before I go to Miss Fitzsimmons’ to ask her about the fashions.” It was indeed a magnificent bay forming a semicircle of more than three miles. A wide low-lying bay with soft headlands broken into little coves, with huddled houses, clustering down the hill to the beach. It was a glorious, glistening day, with the blue sea rolling in softly and languidly. Douglas was very beautiful, with the green hills behind the bay, the white cottages scattered like grains of corn, and here and there gentlemen’s mansions hiding among the trees. Castle Mona, the residence of the Duke of Athol, was undergoing repairs, and Kitty gazed at it in the distance with pride.
“It’s a little court, Douglas is, when the Duke is here,” she said.
“Where will you go now, Kitty?” asked her husband.
“I’ll be going to Miss Fitzsimmons’ first, and then to Spence’s to buy the silk.”
“I’ll put up at Mrs. Corkill’s, then, and you can meet me for tea before we start home.”
“But I want you to see the silk first, Michael.”
“What pleases you will please me.”
“I’ll get patterns to show you then, and you shall choose.”
Miss Fitzsimmons, milliner and dressmaker, had a little shop in Dukes’ Lane. A funny little shop, very old and rather tumble-down in appearance. The shop was dark and gloomy, and you went down two steps from the street to enter it. The interior was enlivened by an immense straw bonnet which was made in the apprentice days of Miss Ann Fitzsimmons, and exhibited as a sample of her skill. There were also shelves full of bandboxes, and drawers full of ribbons. In the parlour behind the shop sat Miss Fitzsimmons with her two apprentices and worked. She was a small, faded little woman with a glass eye, a pale face, corkscrew curls, and a pretty cleft chin. Kitty poured forth her requirements. “Now tell me the latest fashions in silks,” she said.
Miss Fitzsimmons cogitated. “A good durable gros de Naples silk is what you want, Mrs. Quilliam, either garnet- coloured or cinnamon-brown. Nile-green satin is very fashionable in London, but it isn’t as if you want to go to fashionable assemblies, is it? You want a sober, rich gown for church, christenings, visiting, and the like.”
“Yes,” agreed the enraptured Kitty, “that’s what I do want. Stylish and elegant, but quiet and ladylike.”
Miss Fitzsimmons placed some fashion plates before the excited Kitty. “I recommend,” she said solemnly, “garnet silk, quite a dark garnet you know, or a dark amethyst, made with a deep hem, and full skirt, so that it will fall in rich folds. The bodice quite plain and a high neck, with a notched collar of silk to give fullness, and perhaps a narrow blond frill against the neck. The sleeves very wide a la Donna Maria, drawn in at the wrists.”
“Very elegant and suitable,” agreed the delighted Kitty.
“Examine all the latest silks at Spence’s,” cautioned Miss Fitzsimmons, “but choose the best garnet or amethyst they have got.”
Fluttered and happy, Kitty tripped off to Spence’s and spent an exciting ten minutes in gazing at the newest silks. Mr. Spence himself exhibited them. “Fine quality it is, Mrs. Quilliam,” he said, fingering the cinnamon brown, “’twill last a lifetime, and stand by itself, it’s that stiff.”
“The garnet is a lovely colour, but rather red,” said Kitty, “and when I’m hot, I get that red, that it might ill-become me.”
“Nothing would ill-become you, Mrs. Quilliam,” remarked the gallant Mr. Spence, “but here is a softer shade, more like a lilac in bloom on a spring day. It’s amethyst they’re calling it.”
“It’s lovely,” said Kitty, touching it, “so elegant, so ladylike. Would it take the dirt, Mr. Spence?”
“Look at the lustre it’s got; there’s too much shine for any dirt to stick on that surface. And aw! the fashionable it is! This very quality is worn by the ladies at Windsor Castle.”
“Is that so?” said the delighted Kitty, “and will it fade at all?”
“No fade in it, Mrs. Quilliam, m’am, take my word for it. That silk ‘ill become you ter’ble well.”
“Just give me a little pattern, Mr. Spence, to show my husband, and a scrap of the cinnamon-brown too. Michael is very partial to brown for a married lady.” The obliging Mr. Spence complied. “It’s not much of it I’ve got, Mrs. Quilliam, and if her Grace the Duchess were to see it, she’d snap it up like a shot.”
“When’s she coming to the island?” asked Kitty.
Mr. Spence shook his head. “It’s drains they are making at Castle Mona now. She didn’t like the puddles in the back-yards, nor the manure heaps either.”
“It’s finikin’ these people from the other side are,” remarked Kitty, as she went off with her patterns.
Mrs. Corkill had a nice tea awaiting them, with ham and eggs and griddle cakes. Kitty was too happy to eat. “Which colour do you like best, Michael?” she said, displaying the patterns.
“I like them both,” Michael replied stolidly.
“But for a best gown, Michael, a real grand one with a wide skirt, and wide sleeves, Maria something they call them, made like the gowns the ladies wear in carriages in London. It will be for church on a fine day, and would come in for weddings, christenings, an’ the like.”
“There’s more colour about this,” said Michael, indicating the amethyst silk, “and you always like a bit of colour.”
So it was decided, and Michael went with her to buy it, and Mr. Spence sent his errand boy with it at once to Miss Fitzsimmons. “It ‘ill make a gown fit for a lady, that it will,” cried Miss Fitzsimmons, as she handled it professionally.
“See the shine on it, Michael, and the stiff it is,” said Kitty.
“And the rich folds it makes by itself,” remarked Miss Fitzsimmons, displaying it.
“It’s too grand altogether you’ll be, Kitty, for the like of me,” opined Michael.
And the two ladies laughed merrily at his wit.
“You’ll want a hat to go with that gown, Mrs. Quilliam,” said the dressmaker.
“I could never afford one,” said the regretful Kitty.
“I’ll make it cheap. Amethyst satin now, with bows of jonquil silk with loose streamers.”
“What’s jonquil then?” asked Kitty.
“It’s a colour, a pretty yellow; a high-sounding name they’ve got for the daffy-down-dillies.”
“Oh! them things,” said Kitty, ” they’re too yellow for me.”
“The jonquil ribbon is pale,” said Miss Fitzsimmons, “almost straw colour, like a pale custard then,” and she produced a roll of ribbon.
“It will cost too much “; and Kitty sighed.
“No use spoiling the ship for a ha’porth of tar,” said Michael.
“It will take all my goose money,” said Kitty.
“This silk, ma’am, will last a lifetime,” remarked Miss Fitzsimmons.
“Indeed then, it will have to. It’s seven children I’ve got, and six of them girls, Miss Fitzsimmons.”
“And when you’ve done with it, see the elegant gowns it will make for the girls, and their hats trimmed with the jonquil ribbon.”
Kitty had an instant vision of Patience and Rosaleen going to Malew Church in amethyst silk gowns, with white hats trimmed with jonquil ribbons, and all the young men admiring them. It was a Patience and Rosaleen grown up, for the silk was to last her a long, long time. “I’ll have the hat as well,” she said aloud. “And how Betty will envy me,” she said to herself.
1. Manx proverb.
“But isn’t it law for a witch to be rowlin’
Down a brew in a barrel and bumpin’ and bowlin’
Over the rocks, and nails that teases
And rags and cuts her all to pieces —
Pintin’ innards? Lek they done
T. E. Brown.
“The myth is a sustained, still-remaining fragment from
the soul-life of the people.” — K. Abraham, “Dreams and Myths.”
Patience Quilliam went home along the sea-shore with a sad heart, clasping her bundle of cottons. Susan took the basket of trout, and Patience sought comfort in the back kitchen. It was bedtime; but Pyee was still at Derbyhaven and Patience knew she would be telling stories. Pyee sat on a stool in the chimney corner smoking her pipe. On their knees in front of the fire were Rosaleen, Matthew, and Bride, watching a string with three apples roasting before the fire.
“There’s an apple for you,” Rosaleen told her. “Dorcas has got it.”
Dorcas was in the back parlour with Phrancie Parr; she was threading beads to make a necklace, and Phrancie was singing softly to baby Faith and making indigo woollen frocks for the little girls. Dorcas gave Patience her apple, and she placed it on the string to roast. She sat down to hear the stories.
“About the witches,” said Rosaleen.
“No, about fairies,” pleaded Bride.
“Witches on Slieauwhallen,” commanded Matthew.
“Witches,” agreed Patience.
“I’ll be tellin’ about fairies when the witches is done, chree,” said Pyee to little Bride, and she began: “A cruel mountain is Slieauwhallen, an’ Steep it is, like the side of a house, an’ ter’ble cruel was the people in them days. Slieauwhallen is Greebah way, there beyond,” and Pyee pointed in the direction vaguely waving her pipe. “At the fut of Greebah is the Curragh-glass (gray bog); a ter’ble bog it is, with the mud an’ peat an’ wather, that a body can’t walk ther at all; but jus’ sinks in, an’ smothered they are, with the mud an’ wather, aw! the lots of witches there were yandher in the olden times; hapes of them; an’ casltin’ evil eyes they was on a body’s house, an’ childer’, an’ cattle an’ all. ‘Twas ter’ble the throuble the witches caused in them days. An’ when the thunders roared on them mountain tops, an’ the wind blowin’, an’ the lightnin’ just rivin’ the skies open, then the witches was enj’ying themselves. Ridin’ on broomsticks they was, up in the air, houlin’ revels an’ the lek; an’ nobody could ever catch them. They’d nip back home thro’ the hole in the thatch to let the smook out, an’ sit there in the corner as nice as you plaze, in caps an’ clane aprons an’ all. There were laws agen witches in them days; but no person could tell which was witches, and which was not. So they was all took to the fut of Greebah an’ made to walk the Curragh-glass. If they sunk down an’ was smothered, then they was not witches at all, an’ was buried proper in the churchyard by the passon; but if they got across the bog, then it proved they was witches, and they had the chice of bein’ burnt at the stake, or bein’ put into barrels with big spikes inside, an’ rolled down from the top of the ter’ble steep mountain Slieauwhallen.”
Pyee ceased, and the children sighed with deep satisfaction, except Bride, who was crying with her fingers stuffed in her ears.
“What’s burnt at the stake?” asked Patience.
“It’s tying the poor souls to a post, an’ hapin’ bundles of dried gorse an’ ling about them, an’ settin’ fire to it; an’ pilin’ sticks on to make a big blaze until the poor cratures was burnt to cinders, so they was.”
“I’d have got over the bog, and run away,” declared Patience.
“You’d have been catched quick enough, chile.”
“A real witch could change into a cat or a mouse an’ run away,” persisted Patience.
“Were the witches always dead when the barrels got to the bottom?” Matthew wanted to know.
“‘Deed so, dead as herrin’s.”
“Are herrin’s deader than cod an’ conger?”
“They are so, the deadest fish that are.”
“Now tell us about fairies,” begged Bride.
“Have you ever seen a fairy, Pyee?” asked Rosaleen.
“Not seen one with mee own eyes, chile, but mee sister that’s dead, Kirrie she was, seen fairies, she did.”
“What are they like, Pyee?”
“Little, little things, then, no bigger than mee middle finger, in brown an’ green coats, an’ gold braid, an’ little, little boots, you’d wonder, the little they are; an’ lady fairies too, in big hooped perricuts made of blue silk an’ silver, an’ they dance wonderful nice.”
“Where did she see them, Pyee?”
“In the Masther’s stable. In sarvice she was, at a big farm over Foxdale way, Ballavondee it was; an’ the bull was in the corn; an’ she went in quick to tell the man, an’ she seen a light, a little light shinin’ soft like, jist by the manger, an’ there sure enuff on the flure, was a lot of the ‘little people,’ sittin’ talkin’, as grave as a passon in church, they was.”
“What were they sitting on, Pyee?”
“On annythin’; one lil fella was on a bit of an oul’ cork; he was king like; an’ the others was standin’ roun’ talkin’; but two was sittin’ by the king on flitter-shells (limpet shells) an’ fine seats they made. So freckened was Kirrie when she seen them that she called out loud ‘O! murdher!’ an’ crossed her fingers quick, an’ the light went out, an’ they was all gone.”
“And where did she see them the next time?”
“It was comin’ from Ballasalla to Castletown she was, at night; an’ a moon shinin’ in the sky lovely, an’ all the hedges an’ fields lookin’ like silver an’ frost, so beautiful it was. She was goin’ home. Married she was then, to Ambrose Callow, an’ livin’ in Mill Street. The road bends, like a big elbow, an’ there’s a lot of weeds an’ rushes, growin’ thick there by the hedge; Kirrie was fancyin’ she heard sweet music soundin’ a long way off; an’ then she seen a little light, an’ on the groun’ among the rushes an’ weeds was lots of little fairies, dancin’ like butterflies, as pretty as pretty, an’ with the moon shinin’, an’ the smell of the honeysuckle in the hedge, an’ the lovely tinkle, tinkle of the fairy music, Kirrie said it was the beautifullest sight she’d ever seen. She wasn’t freckened at all. She jist stood still thinkin’ the lovely it was; an’ then she sneezed an’ she remembered that the fairies would nip her away if nobody said ‘ God bless you ‘ to her, an’ nobody was there, so Kirrie shouted out loud, ‘God bless mee ‘ three times, an’ began to say 6 Our Father/ then she looked, an’ nothin’ was there, they had all gone.”
“I want to go an’ see them,” said Bride.
“Me too,” said Patience.
“Not yet awhile,” coaxed Pyee; “when little childer see fairies, the little people catch them as quick as quick, an’ send changelin’s in their place.”
“I’ll see them when I’m as old as Rosaleen,” Bride declared.
“Now tell us about the fairy cup at Malew Church,” Rosaleen demanded.
“Once,” began Pyee, “in th’ ould days a farmer from Malew parish livin’ Ballasalla way, got lost comin’ from Peel across the Mountains. He walked, an’ he walked, an’ couldn’t find the path at all. Then he heard the softest an’ nicest music, tinklin’, jus’ like little church bells, an’ he followed the music, an’ followed it, till he found himself in a gran’ place, as big as a big barn; an’ gran’ it was you’d wonder. Gran’ chairs covered with silk; an’ a flure all gould. There was a big table, an’ a supper on it. Aw I an’ wonderful nice things to eat there was for sure. Turkeys, roast on a spit, grapes, an’ fine white bread you could blow it away with a breath, the light it was. People was sittin’ there enj’yin’ themselves, an’ the farmer was fancyin’ he’d seen them before. Then the little people offered him a drink out of a roun’ silver cup, with no handles at it. He tuk the cup, an’ the people he was fancyin’ he’d seen before, pulled the tails of his coat. ‘Don’t drink at all,’ they said, ‘ or you’ll never see your home again.’ So the farmer threw the drink on the flure. Then the fine place, an’ music, an’ supper was all gone like the smoke; an’ there he was on the mountain, with the cup in his hand. Next day he tuk the cup to Kirk Malew an’ showed it to the passon; an’ the passon said he’d better give it to the church, an’ he did, an’ that very cup is there now, an’ on the Communion table folks say.”
“Can I go and see it?” asked Bride.
“When you grows up, chree, an’ has Communion, then you’ll drink the wine out of it.”
“Who were the people who told him not to drink?” asked Bride.
“Manx folk, who’d been nipped away by the little people; an’ mind you, childer, if a fairy speaks to you, be as perlite as you please, but never eat a bite nor drink a sup they’re offerin’ ye.”
A satisfied sigh went round the circle.
“Now Pyee, tell us Illiam Dhone,” said Rosaleen.
“Thy murder, Brown William, fills Mona with woe,” sang Matthew, sticking a darning needle into his apple to see if it was done. It was bursting and sizzling, and Matthew held a plate underneath to catch the droppings. “Mine’s done,” he declared, detaching it from the string. “Give me lots of sugar to eat with it, Pyee.”
Pyee attended to his needs.
“Now Illiam Dhone,” he commanded.
“I don’t rightly know it, childer, but it was the murther of a good man, shot on Hango Hill so he was, but I’m forgettin’.”
“Then tell us about the giants,” demanded Matthew.
“Ay! the giants, big monsters they was too, tearin’ up the biggest trees as aisy as aisy, an’ hurlin’ rocks about astonishin’. The fairies was freckened of them so they were, an’ hid in the tramman (elder) trees. Wonderful things is the tramman trees for keepin’ away witches an’ the lek. ‘Twas out of the mountains the giants come, an’ the harm they done to the islan’ was shockin’. Then Mannanan come an’ druv’ them all away. He cast spells on the giants, an’ the crathurs grew drowsy like an’ then they fell fast asleep — the souls — an’ they are asleep now down under Castle Rushen, an’ under Ronaldsway, an’ under our very feet maybe. In ter’ble nice big rooms they are; with their heads lying on a book, an’ a sword at them, an’ hapes of jewels scattered about. An’ they will sleep an’ sleep to the end of the world, so they will.”
“Can I go an’ see them?” asked Matthew.
“‘Deed no then, for no person ever comes back that tries to see them. It’s guarded they are by dreadful spirits an’ the lek.”
“Run, children,” called out Susan, “here’s wheels comin’.”
“My apple,” wailed Patience.
“I bring it to thee upstairs by and bye,” soothed Susan.
“With lots of sugar?” asked Patience.
“Lots, child, lots,” said good Susan.
Mollie Christane with her soft blue eyes, gracious mildness, and sweet voice was perhaps the most beautiful girl in the Isle of Man, and she was good as well as beautiful, with a serious gravity and religious faith which often aroused Betty’s scorn, Many wooers came to Ballasalla hoping for Mollie’s smiles; but she took little heed of them, and kept all her smiles for Stephen Fannin of Ballakilleen by the sea beyond Scarlet. There was a shyness and reticence about the big Stephen which appealed to Mollie and aroused her maternal tenderness, as well as her girlish love. To be with Stephen, to help and talk to him, was her deepest happiness. Stephen had a taste for books. He read the poetry of Sir Walter Scott; and learned by heart great passages from Shakespeare, in the winter evenings; and he recited them to himself as he ploughed his fields by the seashore, followed by hundreds of screaming gulls picking up worms from the newly-turned furrow. He was a friend of Mr. Thaddy Teare, the Schoolmaster of Ballasalla; and under him he worked at Latin and mathematics in the summer evenings; vaguely hoping that some day he, too, might become a schoolmaster. Then he met Mollie, in her young gracious womanhood, and became her slave. Mollie also loved books, not that she knew much about them, for according to the traditions of her environment, books were fit only for idle folk who had leisure to indulge in them, and money to spend on them. But Mollie, too, found a secret solace in learning, and she kept her treasures in her bottom bureau drawer, and burnt many tallow candles in the dead hours of the night, poring over books, unsuspected even by the prying Betty; for Mollie had one unspeakable blessing in her life, a little room of her own. Mollie’s most persistent wooer was Jude Kameen, a widower, a lawyer, and very much favoured by Mollie’s relations; and with the tactlessness of near relations they were ever urging his desirability upon her. Much candid criticism was showered upon Mollie, after she plighted her troth to Stephen one evening at dusk in the Claddagh by the river, with a pale young moon shining upon them.
“You will always be true to me, Mollie,” urged Stephen
hoarse with emotion.
“Until death, Stephen,” said Mollie gravely.
A storm of reproaches fell upon Mollie at home.
“Thou’rt not wise, girl,” said her mother, “and Jude Kameen ready to put the ring on thee finger any day.”
“Jude Kameen has a mean face, like a fox,” said Mollie.
“The face is nothing, when there’s money at him,” scoffed Betty, “and a fine home he’s got; an’ horses, an’ maybe a carriage if his wife took a notion for one. It’s a lady you’d be, Mollie, an’ a second wife too. A man’s always softer with his second.”
And Betty sighed with envy and self-pity; for a cast in her eye and an unfortunate twist at the end of her nose, debarred her from the excitements which were Mollie’s portion.
“He’s a lawyer, girl,” went on her mother, “a nice, gentleman-like thing to be. As good as a passon, an’ more money at him. It’s grasping the lawyers are, not but what passons grasp too; look at the Bishop with his tithe on turnips.”
“What’s against Jude Kameen then?” queried Betty, noting Mollie’s disgust at the discussion.
“He’s not my choice, Betty.”
“I wish I’d your chance, Mollie, an’ the dash I’d cut would astonish some folk; but there, I’m the unlucky one,” said regretful Betty.
“To be choosin’ Stephen Fannin,” went on her mother. “What’s come over thee, Mollie? He’ll never be the farmer his father was, and Ballakilleen not his own at all. It’s his mother’s, with Isabella and Ann to have shares; and a share of a farm is a poor thing.”
“Love an’ courtin’ is well enough, before thou’rt wed, Mollie,” warned Betty, “but the years go by, and there’s no comfort in life like a bit of money for all.”
Mollie only smiled. “I have Stephen,” she said, “and I ask no more from life.”
She blossomed into a beautiful young woman in those happy days of her early courtship, and the light of love shone in her sweet eyes. “It’s amazin’, so it is,” reflected Betty, “that being in love makes folks so good lookin'”; and she examined her own somewhat lop-sided countenance in the little mirror, and wondered if love could ever make it comely.
It was close on midnight, and Mollie sat in her dim little room, bending over a French exercise by the light of a tallow dip in an old flat-bottomed candlestick of pewter. Suddenly she was conscious of the hoof of a horse outside and a low voice calling, “Mollie!”
She went to the window and gazed out. The slip of a new moon hid behind a cloud like a shy girl; the distant waves boomed on the beach; but darkness hid the sea and land. “Is it Stephen?” she whispered.
“Yes, Mollie. Come down, girl.”
“Is aught wrong with thee, Stephen?” she whispered tenderly.
“Nothing, Mollie, but I’ve bad news, dear one.”
“I’m coming, Stephen.”
She hastily blew out the light, crept downstairs, unbolted the door, and stepped outside. There stood Stephen, tying his horse to a hook in the wall. The moon suddenly sailed from behind the cloud, and she saw his face was strained and anxious. Her heart for a moment seemed to cease beating, and a sense of calamity overwhelmed her.
“What is it, Stephen?”
“It’s mother, she took a cold and died sudden, away there, with Isabella, and I’m going to England now, girl.”
“Your poor mother. Oh! Stephen,” and Mollie wept softly in his arms. “Is it from Derbyhaven you’re going, Stephen?”
“I’ll get the mail packet from Scotland calling at Douglas, Mollie.”
“To die away from home among strangers,” wept Mollie. “Can she rest in Malew Churchyard — can you bring her?”
“I’m afraid not, Mollie. That troubles Ann. She’s crying dreadfully at home.”
“I’ll go and see her, Stephen. Oh! Stephen, you will come back soon, won’t you?”
“I will, sweetheart,” he promised. But Mollie was filled with dread.
“Nothing can happen to you, Stephen?”
“Nothing,” he soothed. “After mother is buried, I’ll come right home.”
“There’s no sea where Isabella lives, is there?”
“None, my dear.”
“To be buried among strangers, without the sound of the sea,” moaned Mollie. “Your poor mother!”
“Isabella was with her,” comforted Stephen, “and she saw Isabella’s boy, her first grandchild.”
“Give my dear love to Isabella, Stephen, and oh, do take care of yourself!”
Stephen smiled tenderly. “Nothing can happen to me, dear; I’m big and strong enough.”
“Stephen, I don’t want you to go. I feel that we are parting for a long, long time. Hark! there’s Betty.”
Betty peered out from the window above. “What is it, Mollie?” she asked.
“It’s Stephen,” Mollie whispered. “Come softly. Stephen is going away.”
Betty joined them in the moonlight and listened to the tragic tale. “Well, if ever, Mrs. Duff! ” she said; “and that’s what comes of going to England. Folks is safer in the Isle of Man.”
“I must be going, girl,” said Stephen softly. “I’ll just have time to get the mail packet from Scotland.”
“Take care of yourself, Stephen. Oh! take care,” warned Mollie.
Stephen tore himself away and rode off, and Mollie stood still watching him, until he was out of sight.
“It’s a foolish woman Mrs. Fannin was, to go trapesing to England,” she heard Betty say, as she strained to hear the last faint footfalls of Stephen’s horse. But Mollie said nothing, and stood still as a statue in the pale moonlight.
“Don’t you hear me, Mollie, what are you staring at?”
“The moonlight lies like silver on the fields and hedges,” said Mollie in a strained voice, “and smell the honeysuckle, Betty.”
“Nice!” and Betty sniffed the night air. “Come in, Mollie. You look like Lot’s wife standing there, just like a pillar of salt”; and Betty laughed.
Mollie Stole to her room to mourn over Stephen’s calamity; and Betty went to waken her mother and tell her the news.
“Ay!” said her mother dourly. “I knew there was trouble in Store when the woman went to England like that.”
SWORD AND CUP CARDS
“The Tarot of the Bohemians has been transmitted by Gypsies from generation to generation.” — Dr. Papus.
“In their ignorance of causes, mankind has always been prone to believe some special presence of God or a super-natural power to be in any unusual event.” — A Discourse on Witchcraft (1736).
“Thee’ll be wantin’ to put a sight on Ann Fannin,” said Mrs. Christane; “hasten with the churnin’, an’ get to Castletown early. Thee can see Tom Shimmin about the cardin’ of the wool. On thy way to Scarlet look into ould Phoebe Fells’ for the green ointment. It draws the pain out of me joints wonderful.”
“Yes, mother,” said Mollie.
“Don’t be hinderin’ at all, an’ don’t be mindin’ dinner. Thou canst take a cup of milk, an’ barley bread an’ cheese.”
“Yes, mother,” said Mollie.
Mrs. Christane followed Mollie into the dairy talking. “‘Tis a foolish woman Mrs. Fannin was to go trapesing off to England, where there’s no right food at all. Folks will eat bacon there I’m tould, an’ never know the pig it comes from; and geese cooped up in dirty backyards that never saw the seashore, nor a cut barley field. No wonder the English get sick, an’ come to the Isle of Man to get well.” Mollie went on churning. “Go thou into Ben Kinrade’s, and buy one of them Dutch ovens he’s got; wonderful handy things they are, not burnin’ the food at all. Didst thou hear that Jude Kameen is across the water?”
“Betty said so,” replied Mollie.
“Ay! there’s ould Nat Quine dead, too; a rich man he was. Uncle he would be to Jude Kameen. I mind him well when he was a boy; an’ his sister, Bessie Quine, she was Jude Kameen’s mother. A girl with a cast in her eye, she was, an’ a wart on her chin. Bessie an’ me went to school to Miss Christian in Malew Street, to learn fine stitching; a genteel body was Miss Christian with a cork leg.”
But Mollie was not heeding. She went on churning deftly and mechanically with her eyes and her thoughts full of Stephen.
“The Quines was all rich,” went on the old woman. “Bessie an’ Nat Quine’s father made a fine lot in the smugglin’ days. Columbus Quine, he was; an’ many’s the keg of brandy he kept hid about Santon an’ Langness. ‘Skim milk’ they was callin’ brandy in them days, an’ ’tis shockin’ how the men did drink to be sure, but the money they made, for all. Old Columbus Quine had a big sea-chest hid away in a cellar in his garden, folks said, an’ full it was of golden guineas; thousan’s of them; an’ when he wanted money he just tuk a handful. Bessie always was a skeet of a thing, but she got a husband for all, not by the beauty of her, but by her father’s guineas. An’ a decent man, too, was Kameen; a good church-goin’ man, an’ he made money, so he did, in the red herrin’ trade, employin’ women, he was, an’ smokin’ the herrin’s at Derbyhaven, on the way to the Fort Island, an’ goin’ sendin’ the barrels of herrin’s to England. Jude Kameen was their only child. He got learnin’, and they made him an advocate in Douglas, as fine as you please; an’ now he’s gettin’ all ould Nat Quine’s money. A clever man was Nat. He took his father’s golden guineas to Liverpool, an’ traded with them, makin’ more, like the man with ten talents in the Bible. Aw! the luck of some people. An’ you, Mollie, could have all the riches of the Quine family, an’ Mr. Jude Kameen, too, if you only looked at things right.”
“I don’t want his money, nor Mr. Jude Kameen either, mother.”
“Thou’lt make a bogh (poor thing) of thyself yet, Mollie,” said her mother peevishly.
“I shall be Stephen Fannin’s wife, mother, and no bogh at all,” said Mollie calmly.
“Boghnid, child, boghnid (foolish talk), thou’lt find thy mistake one day. Mark my words.”
A pleasant walk had Mollie in the sunshine along the Claddagh by the Silverburn river. She plucked a slick of wild rhubarb to shield her from the sun and so she made her way to Castletown. A simple, grey little town, the ancient home of the Kings of Man, standing soberly in the sunshine, and breathing of past ages.
She passed the old quay, the chapel built by good Bishop Wilson, and the five-sailed windmill. There were Stately houses around the market-place, and little white cottages huddled about the walls of the castle, sheltering at its base. The fine towers and battlements soared aloft against the blue sky, testifying to the skill of the builders. The clock in the tower — a gift of Queen Elizabeth — was striking twelve as Mollie entered the market-place, and she turned into Queen Street with its untidy roadside cottages set down irregularly facing the sea. The cottage roofs were thatched with straw, and straw ropes fastened to large stones dangled at the sides to keep the thatch down. Against the whitewashed walls fish was drying in the sun; and pigs, geese and fowls ran in the road, scrambling for scraps flung from the cottages, the entrails of fish, the remains of crabs and lobsters, the peelings of potatoes, and flitter (limpet) and mussel shells. Many of the hovels had little gardens enclosed with fuchsia hedges hanging with red drops; while purple veronica straggled down to the shore, growing out of refuse heaps. Women in red petticoats and linen bedgowns chatted in the doorways, or spread their clothes to dry on the stones of the beach, and ragged, barefooted children played in the roadway.
Mollie found Phoebe Fell gathering nettles and the rusty flowers of the dock in the waste spaces on the shore. An aged woman was Phoebe, with bent brows, bushy white eyebrows and shrewd black eyes.
“You are busy, Phoebe,” greeted Mollie.
“Well to be sure, ’tis Miss Mollie Christane, as pretty as the ling in bloom. Come in now, an’ have a lil’ drop of tay; the pot is on the hob, so it is.”
“Thank you,” said Mollie, following the old woman into the kitchen, with its clean sanded floor and gay crocks on the dresser.
“Is it nettle tea you’ll be making with the nettles?” asked Mollie.
“‘Deed no, the nettles is too old. ‘Tis the seeds I’m wanting now to crush in me other’s ould brass mortar for powther in the ointments.”
“And the red docks, what are they for?”
“For blood, good red blood, aw! the wonderful they are for the blood, an’ heart, fine, fine.”
“I’ve come for the green ointment, Phoebe.”
“Amazin’ powerful it is; Mrs. Shimmin of the Carding Mill was sending some to the Clerk of the Rolls, an’ it tuk the pains out of his legs wonderful.”
“That’s what mother says.”
“For rheumatics, boils, running sores and plague, there’s nothin’ like the green ointment; but sit down, Miss Mollie, an’ drink a cup of tay. From China it came. Tim Kelly brought it for me himself, so he did.”
Mollie sat under the bundles of herbs hanging from the ceiling. Phoebe looked at her sharply. “Things is goin’ to happen to ye, Miss Mollie, ’tis writ on your face like. I’ll lay out the cards for ye, for the divination is upon me, an’ it’s only at times it comes.” The old woman produced a pack of Tarot cards, worn and much thumb-marked. Mollie examined them curiously.
“What funny cards, Phoebe; they are not playing cards at all, like those I’ve seen at old Mrs. Quilliams’. She plays a game she calls cribbage with them; but mother says all playing cards are Devil’s books!”
“There’s not another pack like these in the Islan’,” said Phoebe proudly. “They was me grandmother’s; a gypsy they said she was, coming from the Egyptians, the same as you read of in the Bible. A knowin’ woman she was, an’ wise in the magic of the ancient kings, Pharaohs they was called.”
Mollie looked at the signs on the cards with interest.
“Shuffle them well, child,” said Phoebe, “then shuffle them again; this way,” and the old woman showed Mollie the meaning of c shuffle,’ for Mollie had never handled a pack of cards before.
“Aren’t cards against the Bible?” asked Mollie seriously.
“‘Deed they are not then,” affirmed Phoebe. “Don’t we be readin’ of Moses and Aaron an’ them prophets an’ priests an’ kings makin’ serpents, an’ tellin’ the manin’ of drames an’ the like, an’ makin’ plagues, too, to let God’s people go through the Red Sea? Cards come from Egyptians of Bible times.”
So Mollie was persuaded to shuffle the cards as directed.
“Think all the time of yourself, an’ of those near to you. Never speak one word, but think hard an’ let yourself flow into them cards,” counselled Phoebe.
Mollie went on shuffling, and thinking of Stephen. Then Phoebe laid out the cards with much ceremony into a great star on the table. And this she studied carefully.
“There’s trouble comin’ to you,” she said at last, “an’ trouble to them near you. A cunnin’ man is schamin’ and plottin’, a man between colours he is, neither dark nor fair, an’ not hair enough to cover his head. He gets his will, too, an’ ter’ble is the sorrow he causes. But there’s joy far off, too. See them cup-cards crowdin’ about you: they mean that there’s a faithful lover, he’s a man middlin’ dark, an’ true to you he’ll be. Ay! an’ you’ll be true to him too. A long journey he’ll go with a sore heart an’ a blight on him. An’ you’ll go through the vale of tears. It’s full of courage you’ll be; and a long, long journey you’ll go into a strange land. There’s a ring there, an’ work, agriculture, creation, an’ money, hapes of money. I see you ridin’ in a carriage.”
Phoebe ceased, and Mollie paled. “Is there any more?” she asked.
“Nothin’,” said Phoebe, “but bitter, black sorrow around you now. See them cruel sword cards; but a long way off there’s light, joy and everything happy about you. The cup cards is the lucky cards.”
Mollie’s heart contracted, and she saw Stephen in trouble, Stephen parted from her.
“Tell me more, Phoebe,” she pleaded.
“There is no more, but just this. You can come to me in thrice seven days an’ ask one question.”
With that Mollie had to be content.
Mollie was very thoughtful as she walked along the shore to Scarlet, on her way to Ballakilleen. The tide was out, and she heard the far crying of seagulls, the distant lapping of water, and out on the horizon the sea lost itself in a cloudy purplish haze. The dusty roadside was made gorgeous by masses of yellow cushag (ragwort), and the wild mallow with its great, purple, cup-like flowers. Her thoughts were all on Stephen. What harm could come to him? Would he meet Mr. Jude Kameen? “A man between colours,” Phoebe said, “and not hair enough to cover his head.” Jude Kameen had brownish hair, lifeless brown with no spring or vitality, and it was tinged with grey on the temples. Then his hair receded a long way back from his forehead. He had a narrow, foxy face, and greenish, slaty eyes which Mollie had never learned to trust. He was Stephen’s enemy, Mollie was sure; but what harm could he do Stephen? So far as she knew the two were friendly enough, and Jude Kameen had been Stephen’s lawyer, when the latter’s father had died. She passed the flat rocks at Scarlet, and the Stack, a contorted mass of rock with the sea swirling languidly around it; then she turned inland to Ballakilleen. The farm hid itself behind a little group of trees. It was a low, white building, with green shutters, and little windows facing the sea. Mollie walked across the two intervening fields to the farm. Ann came to meet her.
“Poor mother,” wept Ann, clutching Mollie’s hand. “It is hard to die in a Strange land like that.”
“She had Isabella with her,” comforted Mollie, “and it was a joy to her to see Isabella’s child.”
“An’ Stephen says he can’t bring her home to Malew,” said Ann; “she would like to be buried there within the sound of the sea.”
“She would,” agreed Mollie.
“We had warnings enough not to let mother go,” went on Ann. “First she cut her hand on a nail in the wall when she was fetching the old trunk out of the top barn, and it bled so long that I had to do all the packing, an’ her best bonnet fell off her head into a pan of milk in the dairy, an’ it had to be taken to pieces an’ washed in lu’ warm water an’ ironed out. Judy Quale had to come from Castletown to put it together again. Then she lost her green silk purse with all her money in it for two days, an’ she found it at last under the ould pig trough, where she had put it herself while she went to feed the geese, and forgot all about it. Then her foot slipped on a potato, an’ she fell into the mill pond. She was wet to the skin, an’ even her Stays had to have the whalebones out an’ to be dried an’ ironed. ‘I’ve a mind not to go, Ann, girl!’ she said to me; ‘there’s been lets an’ hindrances enough sent as warnings’; an’ I said, ‘It’s a pity, mother, with the new bonnet an’ gown, not to get a sight of Isabella’s home.’ ‘So it is,’ said mother, an’ she got ready. Then when Stephen was drivin’ her to Douglas, the horse cast a shoe. ‘I’ll not go, Stephen,’ she said; but Stephen laughed at her, and she went on to her death, poor soul!” and Ann wept afresh.
Mollie comforted Ann in her soft, crooning voice. “Her troubles are over, and she has entered into the Kingdom of God,” she said with beautiful seriousness.
“The night mother died,” went on Ann, drying her tears, “I had the warnings, too; I saw two magpies in the croft, an ’tis a sign of death; ould Katty Coole was Staying in the house to help me, when mother was away, an’ she’d gone down to the shore to pick driftwood an’ gorse for lightin’ fires. Coming back in the dusk she met a funeral, all real like with black horses an’ a lot of mourners. It was still as death, an’ the horses’ feet made no sound. ‘It’s ter’ble queer,’ thinks Katty, c to be having funerals in this place at this time of night,’ and then she knew it was no funeral at all, but just a warning, an’ it passed her with never a sound, an’ it was pale with fright she was when she got in.”
“It was perhaps the shadows cast by the trees along the croft wall,” suggested Mollie.
“Indeed no,” affirmed Ann, “for the sun had gone, an’ there was no moon at all. I gave Katty a cup of tea, an’ a sup of rum in it, an’ we made a fine big fire to heat the irons for the linen sheets; ’tis coarse linen they are, Mollie, spun by Granny, an’ middlin’ big; ’tis a ter’ble lot of ironin’ they want. An’ I went to the door an’ looked out, for I was feelin’ sad an’ frightened like, an’ I saw a corpse candle flitting along on the sea, to the church at Castletown it was goin’ sure enough. I bolted the door and come in wishin’ Stephen was at home, an’ Katty said, ‘Funerals is signs of death in the family.’ ‘Don’t be talkin’ such nonsense, Katty,’ I said; an’ at that moment a coal burst with a loud crack, an’ out came a bit of stone like, an’ fell on mother’s chair. I shook it off, an’ when it was cold I took it up; just a bit of cinder it was, an’ without thinkin’, I popped it into the china box on the chimney piece, and Mollie! the china box was the very one mother had brought me from St. John’s on Tynwald Day”; and Ann produced the bit of cinder and sobbed again.
Mollie examined it. “It is queer enough, Ann,” she said, “and there be lots of queer things happening at times like these.”
“Katty, the soul! never did a stroke of ironing that night,” went on Ann. ” c ‘Tis the misthress,’ she said, for sure, c ’tis the misthress,’ and she screeched like folks at a wake. Then Stephen came in, and I was so frightened that I got Katty to sleep in the same room with me. And Mollie! all night we heard the monney vaaish (death watch) tickin’ an’ tickin’ like an ould watch.”
“Don’t think of these things, Ann,” soothed Mollie, “and do not let them frighten you. Be comforted in thinking that your mother died peacefully in Isabella’s house, and not among strangers.”
“She died quiet,” said Ann, “she just gave a sigh and was gone, Isabella said in her letter. Poor mother! we shall hear all about it when Stephen comes home.”
“When will Stephen be at home?”
“As soon as he can arrange the funeral. Poor mother! to be buried among strangers. Mollie, at the Judgment Day, how will mother get across the sea to join us all in Malew Churchyard?”
“God will arrange it all,” said Mollie simply, with the faith of a child.
That night, at supper, Mollie was questioned by Betty and her mother on the news of the day, and the knowledge that Phoebe Fell had laid out the cards for Mollie excited Betty’s envy.
“How I’d like her to lay out the cards for me,” she said; “and what did she tell thee then?”
“That trouble was coming.”
“Trouble enough,” grumbled her mother, “with these wicked tithes the Bishop is wantin’. ‘Tis shameful, so it is. The man will be wantin’ next to put tithes on the very nettles in the stackyard.”
“Was there nothin’ but trouble in thy fortune?” Betty asked.
“A journey, a marriage ring, and a lot of money.”
“That’s pointing to Mr. Jude Kameen, an’ all the new riches he’ll be getting from his uncle in England,” said the far-seeing Betty. “You’d likely be livin’ in England, Mollie, if you’d marry the man and live in his grand house across.”
“You forget, Betty, that I am to marry Stephen Fannin.”
“There’s no money in farmin’ at all,” said her mother gloomily, “and Stephen will make a poor hand at it, now that his mother is gone. He’s too much for book-learnin’, like thee, Mollie.”
Mollie adroitly changed the subject and went on to tell of Ann and the death warnings.
“Ay! warnings come to the nearest of kin. I mind well the warnings I had when thy father died. A great white owl it was, flapping its wings in me face, an’ thy father was hearing a little bell tinkling. It was calling him away.”
After supper Betty whispered, “Come, Mollie, to the Brideson’s. Fanny, Maria, and me are making a dumb cake, to see the man we shall marry.”
“I know the man I’m to marry, Bettv, and I’m tired and sad.”
“No need to mourn thy mother-in-law, when she isn’t thy mother-in-law at all. Why can’t you be jonnack, Mollie, for once?”
STEPHEN FANNIN AND JUDE KAMEEN
“The goblets all are broken,
The pleasant wine is spilt,
The songs cease.”
“I love one, and he loveth me;
And is this thought a cause of bliss
Or source of misery?”
Stephen Fannin had a bad passage to Liverpool. Fog caused the ship to be delayed for hours in the river, and the angry and chilled passengers were full of complaints. Jude Kameen was crossing in the same boat, and the two fell into conversation. The lawyer was sympathetic when he heard of Stephen’s sad mission. The hours dragged on, and the ship Still tarried in the dirty fog. Stephen was wild with impatience. “I’ll not get to Stone this night,” he lamented.
“You will not,” opined Mr. Kameen. “How are you going there?”
“There’s coaches running, I’m told.”
“Yes, the ‘New Champion’ passes through Stone on the way to London, but you’ll get no seat in that. There’s other coaches, to be sure, but waiting for coaches is a dreary business.”
Stephen agreed. “I expect I must be hirin’ a horse.”
“But you’ll not be tryin’ to get on to-night in the fog.”
“The matter is urgent. I ought to get on,” sighed Stephen.
“You’ll lose your way in the fog and dark.”
“I daresay; I wish I knew the road.”
“Wait till morning, man, get a good sleep to-night, and Start early in the morning. You’ll get to Stone quicker if you are fresh and rested.”
“I expect so,” said Stephen, “but there’s a horse to be hired.”
“As for that, I can lend you a capital little chestnut mare.”
Stephen brightened. “It’s very good of you, Mr. Kameen,” he said.
“Not at all, not at all, in a time like this,” mumbled Jude.
“And where will I get the mare?”
“It’s at Mallowfield Lodge, the estate of my late uncle, Mr. Nathaniel Quine, and bequeathed to me. You’d better put up at the Lion Hotel; the place is not a mile from there. How early will you want to start?”
“Six o’clock,” said Stephen promptly.
“Good; well, you can fetch the mare yourself. My man won’t be there till eight, and there’s nobody else in the house but a deaf old housekeeper. I’ll be there, of course, but as I’m a heavy sleeper, I shall certainly not be awake.”
“Don’t trouble to get up for me. I’ll give the horse a feed and saddle it right enough.”
So it was agreed.
“I’ll leave the key of the stable under the trough of the pump,” went on Jude. “You can unlock the stable yourself.”
“That will be all right,” said Stephen. “You are very kind, Mr. Kameen; I’ll be there sharp at six and get along in daylight.”
So matters were arranged. Very chill and miserable was Liverpool, wrapped in a dirty mist, and drizzling with rain. Stephen made his way to the Lion Hotel, ordered a meal and bed, wrote to Mollie, and requested to be called at five o’clock next morning.
Jude Kameen lingered at an unsightly inn in the neighbourhood of the docks, and found the man he sought, a certain Jerry Koteen, who made a dishonest living in divers shady ways. There was a consultation between the two over pots of rum, gold coins passed from Mr. Kameen to Mr. Koteen. “You won’t bungle, Jerry.”
“Trust me, guvenor,” said Mr. Koteen, winking hideously.
“He leaves for Stone at six sharp.”
“I’ll meet him on the way, guvenor.”
“Silent as the grave, Jerry.”
“Ay, guvenor, and the horse to be mine, too?”
“Yes, if you make a neat job of it.”
“Trust me, guvenor,” and Mr. Koteen grinned.
Then Jude Kameen sought Mallowfield Lodge, the abode of his late uncle, and he smiled to himself as he indulged in rosy dreams of Mollie Christane. With Stephen out of the way Mollie would be his; and how easy it would be to get him transported or hanged. He sat pondering and drinking brandy and water until the deaf woman came to say that the house was locked up and she was going to bed. Jude intimated to her that he was not feeling well and might want a cup of tea in the early morning, but he bade her not to get up to make it unless he aroused her. She agreed. The signal was a piece of tape tied round her arm and passed under her door. In this way Mr. Nathaniel Quine had been wont to arouse her during his illness.
It was nearly midnight before Mr. Jude Kameen sought his bed. His preparations were made carefully. Wrapping a woollen muffler round his arm, he went outside, and deliberately broke the kitchen window, reached in his arm and took the stable key from the nail beside the window, where it was always kept, and hid it under the trough of the pump. Then he carefully dropped a Manx halfpenny in the yard, and went to bed. His night was restless and uneasy, and long before it was light he had consulted his watch many times. At a quarter to six he saw Stephen enter the yard. Then he summoned his house-keeper, and asked her to get him a cup of hot tea. The old woman slipped on a petticoat and shawl. She went into the kitchen, stirred up the fire, threw wood on it, and took the kettle into the yard to fill at the pump. Seeing the stable door open, she looked in and was amazed at the sight of Stephen saddling the mare.
“Let th’ beast be, thou wicked thief,” she shouted.
Stephen smiled at her. “It is all right,” he said. “Your master has lent her to me.”
“Thief,” she shouted again, “let th’ beast abide.”
“I can’t argue with a deaf body,” said Stephen, and he smiled again, tossed the old woman a shilling, mounted the mare, and rode off.
“Thief. Thief. Thief,” shouted the woman, throwing the kettle after him, and running to the gate to throw stones at him.
This availed little, so she ran into the house to arouse her master. With difficulty Jude was made to understand the calamity which had befallen him. In the distance he saw Stephen riding away. “There he is, master, a tall rascal of a thief, throwing silver at me and stealing t’ mare.”
“Manx,” said Jude aloud. “I’ll warrant that beaver hat was made in Ballasalla,” but nobody heard him, and he wrote on the old woman’s slate, “What like was the man?”
“A murderous-looking thief, master, in a cutaway coat, knee breeches dyed blue, and blue worsted stockings. A tall country hat and a wicked smile. See, master, here’s a thing he’s dropped,” and she picked up the Manx halfpenny.
“A piece of evidence,” said Jude, putting it into his pocket, “a thieving Manx rascal.” He wrote on the old woman’s tablet: “Run and call a constable.”
“Housebreaking and horse-stealing,” was the verdict pronounced by the functionary of the law. There was the broken window, the key in the stable door, the horse gone. The housekeeper’s description was carefully taken — “a big man, with dark hair and wicked eyes, smiling as impedent as the devil.” The Manx halfpenny was produced. “A Manxman,” declared the constable, and when Jude Kameen added his testimony of the tall beaver hat made in Ballasalla the evidence was complete. Having a fairly accurate description of man and horse, and knowing the direction the thief had taken, there was little difficulty in tracking him along the Congleton Road.
The ride in the early morning in a new country was delightful to Stephen. He scanned the fields, the trim hedges, the tidy farmhouses, with deep attention, and the toll gates pleased him. On the outskirts of Congleton, he halted, and inquired his way of a disreputable person sitting in a ditch. “Straight on, guvenor, to Congleton,” said the man. “Where’ll you be wanting to go in Congleton?”
“I’m wanting something to eat before I go further.”
“There’s ‘The Waggoner and Horses,’ with good ale and accommodation tor the beast.”
“Is it very far?” asked Stephen, who was, in truth, weary.
“Three miles by road, guvenor, but by yonder pony track you can do it one mile, and get in by the garden door.”
Stephen thanked the man and took the short cut, through the fields; the man followed at a safe distance. The garden proved to be an old-fashioned tea-garden, with seats placed in the shade under the trees. London pride and Michaelmas daisies grew wildly in beds confined by straggled box edgings. On one side lay a circular group of arbours, and on the other was the stable yard. Stephen led his horse through to the yard. It was deserted save for a fox chained in a dog kennel which barked at him; and some hens scratching in the straw. He led his horse into an empty stable, gave it a drink of water, and entered the inn by the back door. The place was absolutely deserted. Kitchen, smoke-room, bar-parlour, and private parlour were alike destitute of human beings. Glancing through a window facing the highway, Stephen discovered the cause of this desertion. A circus travelling to Congleton was giving a gratuitous performance before the inn; and the road was thronged with spectators. Ostlers, bar-tender, maids, master, mistress and customers were alike enjoying the spectacle. There were gaily painted vans drawn by elephants with clowns for drivers. Two haughty camels regarded the audience sourly, with eyes of malice; and a beautiful lady in short skirts danced through a hoop on the top of the biggest caravan. Stephen, excited by these untoward sights, joined the spectators. Mr. Jerry Koteen slunk through the pleasure garden, entered the inn yard, led the horse from the stable, mounted it, and was far away in the deserted lane before the circus performance was over.
“It was as easy as easy as billy-ho,” said Mr. Jerry Koteen to himself with a hoarse chuckle.
When the excitement was over, Stephen asked for cold meat and ale, and required the ostler to attend to his horse. “What horse?” said the ostler.
“Little chestnut mare. I put it in the stable myself.”
“Ain’t nothink in t’ stable.”
The landlord was annoyed when Stephen suggested that his horse had been stolen.
“You say the horse was there,” he said. “How did it get there? the road was full of t’ circus.”
“I came in through the tea garden.”
“That ain’t no way to come, no road for a horse that way,” he declared roughly. Indeed, he clearly indicated that he considered Stephen an impostor, and threatened to give him in charge unless he cleared out. Stephen made his way to Congleton, gave information to the constable of the loss of his horse, and wrote a letter to Jude Kameen informing him of his loss. “If the little mare isn’t found I’ll pay for it,” he concluded. Then he was fortunate enough to get a seat in a coach on to Stone.
Mr. Jude Kameen read Stephen’s letter with satisfaction. He would have burned it, but there was no fire in the house, except in the kitchen, and here the deaf woman sat recounting to her sister, who lived in the lodge at the gate with her grandchild, her adventure with the thief, so Jude thrust it in his pocket. Later he walked down to the lodge to assure himself that the gate was shut, and stayed to speak to the grandchild of the lodgekeeper, a pretty little boy. “I’ve got a tut finger,” boasted the child, pulling off the piece of rag which bound it. The cut started to bleed afresh. Jude pulled out his large silk handkerchief to staunch the blood, and the letter from Stephen fell on the gravel path. The child’s grandmother hastily placed the watering can over it, and when Jude had gone, she picked it up and hid it in her work-basket. She could not read, but she muttered to herself, ” Who’s knows the use it may be.”
Stephen was met by a weeping Isabella, and a long account of the mother’s death.
“The cold had gripped her, an’ it turned to inflammation of the lungs. She died in a few hours. Poor mother,” said Isabella.
“Poor mother, indeed,” echoed Stephen as he gazed at her still features dignified by death.
Tom Tyson, Isabella’s husband, a miller by trade, was helpful in suggesting the burial arrangements that seemed fitting, and Stephen was carrying them out, when suddenly he was arrested for stealing a horse from Liverpool, belonging to Mr. Jude Kameen.
Stephen asserted that the horse was lent to him.
“Where is it then?” he was asked.
“It was stolen from me at ‘The Waggoner and Horses,'” affirmed Stephen.
The landlord and all his staff were confident that Stephen had no horse at all. “He just slunk in t’ back way through t’ gardens,” affirmed the landlord, “and then started shouting for his horse.”
The testimony of Mr. Kameen and the evidence of the deaf woman were equally damaging. Mr. Kameen denied lending the horse to Stephen, and denied receiving any letter from him offering to make good the loss. So Stephen was put into prison to await his trial at the Assizes. “I’ve got thee now, my lad,” Mr. Kameen muttered to himself, “and pretty Mollie Christane at the same time.” It is true he was much troubled by the loss of a letter, and had the house and grounds carefully searched. But the gardener had been burning garden rubbish, and declared that “a power of old paper littering the place” had been destroyed. So Jude calmed his fears.
Mollie had one letter from Stephen, written on his arrival in Liverpool. He told her about the journey, and of his meeting Jude Kameen on the boat. He said nothing about Jude Kameen’s offer to lend him a horse, thinking it might annoy her. He said he hoped to get on to Stone next day. The letter cheered her unaccountable sadness, for her mind was heavy with a sense of calamity. She carried the letter inside her bodice and it lay warm against her heart.
Suddenly the blow fell upon her with cruel force, and a bitter blinding sorrow overshadowed her life for many a long day. She was working in the garden, when she heard herself called from the lane. She went to the fence and found Katty Coole from Ballakilleen sitting in the old gig. Her heart thumped within her. “What is it, Katty?” she asked.
“Miss Ann Fannin is wantin’ ye. It’s new trouble she’s in, an’ is crying like a chile so she is.”
“What is wrong, Katty?” and Mollie’s face was suddenly drained of its warm, red blood. “Like a stale cream cheese her cheeks is, the poor sowl,” thought Katty to herself.
“Everythin’ is wrong, I’m thinkin’. Mr. Tyson has come from Stone an’ he does be saying that Mr. Fannin is in prison for Stealin’.”
Mollie controlled herself with a great effort. “Wait one minute, Katty,” and Mollie ran into the kitchen, snatched up her bonnet, and dropped her apron on the floor.
“Where art thee goin’, Mollie, leavin’ the weeding like that?”
“I’m goin’ to Ann Fannin, mother.”
“Always the Fannins,” grumbled the old woman. “An’ what’s wrong with them now?”
But Mollie did not hear her; she was in the gig and driving along the Castletown road as fast as the horse could go. She found Ann weak with weeping, sitting alone by the kitchen table. Tom Tyson had gone to the Lawyer Gick to arrange about a mortgage on the farm. “Mollie,” cried the distracted Ann, flinging herself upon her friend, “’tis Stephen; he’s in prison for stealing a horse.”
The room whirled round Mollie; she grasped the table to keep herself from fainting. “A horse!” she gasped, “whose horse? Stephen never stole a horse.”
“‘Tis Jude Kameen’s horse; he says Stephen came to his house and took his horse.”
“God forgive the lying villain. Stephen, Stephen,” she moaned. “They won’t hang him, Ann?”
“Tom Tyson says they’re not hanging so much now.”
“But they couldn’t hang Stephen, he’s mine, an’ he never stole, never, never I ” sobbed Mollie.
“I know, Mollie, I know,” wept poor Ann. “Tom Tyson has done all he could; there’s a good lawyer got for Stephen, an’ it’s mortgaging “the farm we are to get money to pay.”
“Lawyers,” said Mollie scornfully, “the wicked they are. Jude Kameen is a lawyer. Judas should be his name by rights. Christ Himself was betrayed by a Judas, and our own Illiam Dhone was shot on Hango Hill for saving the Manx people. It is a wicked world. God help me,” and Mollie, losing all control, wept wildly.
Ann was frightened. “Don’t cry so, Mollie. Tom Tyson says the lawyers think he won’t be hanged, but transported to Australia.”
“Made a convict of, put in irons, lanketted1 like sheep, and sent to work in gangs,” moaned Mollie. “Dear God, don’t let it be true.”
It was unthinkable, impossible, intolerable, and the two young things could only cling hopelessly to each other and weep.
Katty Coole lingered miserably outside the door, and to do something to relieve the dreadful tension, she made tea, frizzled some salt fish, smothered it in butter and brought it in with soda bread. The tea steadied them somewhat.
“Ann,” said Mollie solemnly, “you know Stephen is innocent.”
“Yes. I know that.”
“And that Jude Kameen is a wicked liar.”
“He is that, Mollie.”
“Then it will come right, it will come right, it must. You will be true to him, Ann?”
“I’ll sell me last petticoat to help him, Mollie.”
“And I’d go barefoot all me days to help him. You’ll never desert him, Ann.”
“Never,” said Ann solemnly.
“We’ll save him, you and me,” said Mollie. “We’ll go to England to help him, pray God to help him. Get money to help him, and if they make him a convict, we’ll go to Australia to help him.”
“We will,” agreed Ann solemnly, “and you’ll marry him, Mollie.”
“I’ll marry him in prison, if they’ll let me.”
“What will we do now, Mollie? we must do something.”
“We’ll pray for him,” said Mollie eagerly. “Pray in some little holy place near the sea, where God is, and no other people there to distract Him. There’s lots of holy places in the Isle of Man with old chapels.”
“There’s the Abbey, and the Friary, they have ruined chapels,” began Ann.
“And the little chapel on the Fort Island; that’s wild and lonely. I’ll go there, and make God hear me.”
“And I’ll go to Hango Hill where they shot Illiam Dhone; there was a chapel there once, and a burying place,” Ann replied.
“We’ll go now,” said Mollie, pining for action; and together they walked to Castletown, crossed the wooden bridge and walked along the shore to Hango Hill, on which stood a crumbling ruin. Ann climbed up and hid herself inside the ruin, knelt, and looking seaward across Castletown Bay, prayed God to make people believe her brother’s innocence. Mollie crossed the Race-Course and made her way to the little ruined chapel on the Fort Island. Here she knelt at the rude stone altar and poured out her heart to God. “Hear me, hear me. God, do hear me, and help Stephen,” was her passionate cry. She heard the scream of the seagull, and the ceaseless lap of the waves; and through the narrow window she saw the jagged grey rocks, the red of the heather, the gold of the gorse, and the sea everywhere, a blue mass of light and glory. Mollie arose from her knees less frightened; the thick darkness that was settling on her soul seemed to lighten. “God has heard me,” she said solemnly. “Yes, Stephen, He has heard.”
Mollie’s faith was the faith of a little child, though in our innermost selves we are all of us children, and remain so throughout our lives
The story of Stephen Fannin was much enjoyed by the gossips, and in the Isle of Man gossip is rife. It was whispered at cottage doors, it was told over counters, in fishing boats, on the way to church, by the loungers on the bridge, in the cow byres and over tea tables. Mollie, paralysed with grief as she was, found the gossip hard to bear. There was an appealing sadness about her in these days. The healthy bloom forsook her cheek, and she grew pale as a white rose. The comments of her family irked her more than the gossip outside.
“A fine lover you’ve got,” remarked Betty, “to be stealin’ that way from Jude Kameen. It’s hanged he’ll be, folks is thinking.”
“God may forgive you, Betty, for your unkind thoughts; I find it hard,” said Mollie, pale as a ghost.
“Ay!” said her mother, “it’s well the poor mother was took, not knowin’ the disgrace at all. The Fannins was always respectable, never mixin’ with stealin’, hangin’ an’ the like.”
“Stephen never stole, mother.”
“Who set thee up as a judge then? Disgracin’ yourself you are, Mollie. It would be well if Jude Kameen turned to thee now.”
“His name should be Judas, mother.”
“Don’t be miscallin’ the man. It’s pitying him you should be for losing his horse.”
“When he repents, and goes out and hangs himself, then I may pity him, mother.”
“Mollie, Mollie,” said her mother pitifully, “thou art a changed girl since thou took a notion of Stephen Fannin.”
Ann was going to England for Stephen’s trial, and Mollie determined to go with her. She had only two pounds of her own, and she asked her mother for more.
“Thou’rt mad, girl, to think of goin’ to an English prison in that way; never one penny wilt thou get from me.”
Mollie appealed to Betty.
“Lend my good money to take thee to prison to see a thief? ‘Deed! then I will not.” Mollie looked at Betty with great sorrow-laden eyes and said not a word. She put down her knitting and walked across the fields to seek Michael. He was in the barking house among the fishermen’s nets.
“I want you to lend me three pounds, Michael. I’m goin’ to Stephen, and mother and Betty won’t help me.”
“I’ll go with thee, girl,” he said kindly.
“No, Michael, I’m not wantin’ that, but I must see Stephen.”
“He’ll get off, girl; they’ll never hang the like of him; and there’s lots of pardons going, even if they do transport him.”
Mollie smiled. “Yes, Michael, God bless you, I am going to Australia to marry him, if they make him a convict.” Mollie and Ann went to England and heard the trial. Stephen’s counsel made a fine effort, but the evidence against him was too strong to enable him to establish the prisoner’s innocence.
Kameen and his housekeeper gave evidence. There was the broken window, the stolen stable key, the disappearance of the horse. Stephen said the horse was lent to him, that he had lost it, and wrote offering to make it good. Kameen said he had no such letter. Even Mollie had to give evidence. The prisoner had written to her, telling her of his journey to Liverpool and meeting Jude Kameen. Had he mentioned the lending of the horse? Mollie had to say “No.” She declared vehemently that he was innocent, but she was not allowed to say more. The jury returned the verdict of Guilty, and Stephen Fannin was sentenced to be hanged. Ann fainted in Court, and Mollie called out: “If you hang him, you murder an innocent man.” The sentence was afterwards commuted to transportation for twelve years. It was taken into account that it was a first offence, also that the prisoner was a respectable young man, and Mollie’s beauty and absolute belief in Stephen had created an impression. Once Mollie was permitted to see him in prison. “I am coming to Australia to marry you, Stephen, and I shall try first to prove your innocence.”
“You believe me, Mollie?”
“I know, Stephen.”
“God bless you,” he said. And so the lovers parted.
1. The hind leg tied to fore leg, to prevent cattle from climbing the earthen fences.
THE TITHE ON TURNIPS
“Come then to Mannin Veen,
House taxes there are almost nil,
Nor even thy servants will
“There’s pazons — as greedy’s greedy.
See the tithes, see the fees, see the glebes and all;
What’s the call, for the lek?”
T. E. Brown.
Mollie returned from England, and even her mother and Betty were too much awed by her manner to make comments. Her mind was benumbed by the blow that had befallen her, but she soon began to make plans for Stephen. Could she get fresh evidence to establish his innocence? The lawyer had said that if Stephen’s letter to Jude Kameen was forthcoming, offering to pay for the lost horse, the trial would have had another issue. Knowing Jude Kameen, she felt sure he would destroy that letter. Where was the horse? Mollie was convinced that Jude had contrived to have it stolen. Could she discover the thief, and get him to confess? In any case she was going out to Australia; as a ticket-of-leave man Stephen might marry, and she would marry him. How was she to get to Australia? She must have money, and she must earn it. How? She might learn dressmaking and perhaps she could earn enough in two years to pay her passage. She would ask Miss Fitzsimmons about learning dressmaking.
“Wantin’ to go to Douglas is it? In my young days we was kept at spinning constant. Up with the dawn too, an’ workin’ till dusk. It’s no thin’ but wantin’ away from home with young folks now. What dost thee want in Douglas?”
“I want thread, mother.”
“Thou’lt get that in Castletown.”
“We’re wantin’ a big pot lid. I can get it, mother.”
“An’ how wilt thee get to Douglas?”
“Walkin’, mother, an’ comin’ home in the coach.”
“Wearin’ out shoe leather,” grumbled her mother. “If you’d smile now an’ then, Mollie, an’ speak civil to Jude Kameen, you’d have a carriage to ride in.”
“He is a bad man, a liar, mother.”
“He was robbed by Stephen Fannin anyway.”
“He was not, mother,” and Mollie’s eyes blazed. “The Lord will deal with Jude Kameen yet.”
Mollie enjoyed her eight-mile walk, and quiet meditation over her problems. A pleasant picture she made in her brown print sprigged with pink, her muslin collar and ruffles, and her beautiful sombre face framed in the cottage bonnet. So thought Jude Kameen as he came face to face with her in Athol Street. His narrow face sharpened, a vein in his left temple stood out and throbbed. He looked nervous and ill at ease. “Good morning,” he said pleasantly. “Are you not going to be friends with me now?”
Mollie glanced calmly at him. “Never,” she said. “You are as wicked as the man named Judas who betrayed Jesus.”
He flushed a dull red, the vein in his temple twitched, his hands trembled. “What do you mean?” he asked blustering.
“I mean,” she said, “that by false swearing you have tried to murder an innocent man.”
Jude Kameen seemed to shrink, his face became almost green in its pallor. “You assume a great deal,” he said. “Do you set yourself up to know more than the English judge and jury?”
“Yes, Mr. Kameen, I do know more. What did you do with Stephen Fannin’s letter?”
“Be careful now, it’s libel you’re talking, Miss Mollie, with your foolish notions. There was no letter.”
“Who did you pay to Steal the horse from Stephen?” went on Mollie.
“It’s raving you are, sure enough,” said Jude, but fear gripped at his heart. “Be reasonable now and friendly.”
“Judas in the Bible went out and hanged himself, and the place was called the field of blood,” Mollie said, gazing into his shifty eyes.
“Good-bye, Miss Mollie,” he said nervously; “don’t be libelling me now. I could have you punished.”
Mollie smiled, and watched him cross the road and enter a public house. “The man’s afraid,” she thought to herself. “It is his guilty conscience.”
Fear has a disastrous effect, and Jude trembled as he called for brandy, and tried to pull himself together. She had openly accused him of false swearing. Had she any evidence? Could Jerry Koteen give him away? Had anyone found Stephen’s note? Was it only a shrewd guess? And he sat drinking and meditating in a state of abject terror.
Miss Fitzsimmons welcomed Mollie, and talked about Kitty’s gown. “A garnet silk would suit you, Miss Christane.”
“Prints and muslins are good enough for me.”
“I’m sure you’ve money enough for silk.”
“I want to earn money, not to spend it,” said Mollie. “How long would it take me to learn dressmaking?”
“A couple of years, if you are smart at fashions.”
“Should I begin to earn money at once?”
“You might earn your keep the second year.”
“Should I earn much when I knew the business?”
“Not much at all. It’s not like the old times with the spinning wheel goin’ constant. Farmers’ daughters, ay! an’ fishermen’s too, are all takin’ to dressmakin’, an’ spoiling the trade shockin’ they are. There’s no livin’ to be made now with a dressmaker in every house, you may say. It’s like sellin’ brandy an’ spirits. Every person is selling, an’ there’s no person left to buy.”
Mollie looked disappointed. “‘Deed, now, Miss Christane, I wouldn’t be advisin’ it. You’re too old to begin. There’s no money in dressmakin’ at all.”
Mollie thanked the little dressmaker, and turned her thoughts to teaching little children. She must consult old Mrs. Quilliam and Madame de Croix at Ballasalla.
Mollie sat alone in her room at her books. Her mother and Betty were at Derbyhaven. The new silk gown had come home and they had gone “to get a sight of it.” Mollie unlocked the little drawer of an oak bureau, and took out a French grammar with exercises. She carefully translated the French Exercise 47 into English. This she corrected by means of a key. Then she translated it back into French, and compared her translation with the original exercise. The result pleased her; and she put on her bonnet, took her books and ran across the field to Madame de Croix to read the exercise aloud to her. Madame had come to Ballasalla over thirty years ago, having escaped from Paris with her mother and infant son, for her father and husband had both been beheaded. They rented a small cottage and made a slender livelihood by teaching French, mending old lace, and Starching fine linen caps and cravats. The mother and son had died long ago, and Madame was left alone. “I have no relation left in the world,” she told Mollie, “and nowhere could I live as cheaply as here. My cottage costs me four shillings a month, and I grow my own vegetables and herbs. My hens provide me with eggs, and I get butter and bacon from the farmers’ wives in return for starching their caps.”
Mollie’s French lessons cost her nothing; but many a piece of honeycomb from her bees, or plump chicken from her henyard, found their way to Madame’s larder. Mollie had endured much from her mother and Betty on account of her love of learning.
“Notions thou’rt takin’,” laughed Betty. “Why dost thee want to learn things out of books, Mollie?”
“To know,” replied Mollie quietly.
“It’s ridiculous, so ’tis, things in books is mostly lies. Why waste thy time then?” said Betty.
“Because,” said Mollie serenely.
Her mother was more emphatic. “There’s no call for thee to learn a Papist language at all,” she said; ” all this Papist French religion is against the Bible.”
“I’m not learning the religion, mother, only the language.”
“I never learnt any Papish language then, nor me mother, nor me grandmother, an’ what’s good enough for thy kin, is good enough for thee.”
Mollie quoted the Manx proverb: “Learning is fine clothes for the rich man, and riches for the poor man.”
Mrs. Christane first quarrelled with Mollie’s Manx, which she amended, and then she scoffed at the proverb itself.
“An’ what riches dost thee expert from thy bit of Papist French? Those that teaches gets little enough for it. Look at Madame de Croix, a body without an acre, an’ no cattle at her at all. Ay! an’ Kitty’s fine mother-in-law, where would she be, but that she married a good Manx farmer? Her learnin’ an’ her silver dishes an’ grand friends would never buy salt for her herrin’s or her porridge either.”
Mollie listened patiently; she had the grace of listening, a grace which often wins friends, for one is apt to love those who permit us to dogmatize without interruption.
“Old Mrs. Quilliam does not like herrings, mother.”
“The more shame for her then. It’s cocked up with dainties she is, an’ Kitty’s husband paying for it.”
“Mrs. Quilliam has money of her own.”
“Money of her husband’s,” corrected Mrs. Christane, “and money made by Michael’s father. It’s savin’ it she should be for Kitty an’ her children.”
This altercation led far enough away from Mollie’s studies; and Mollie continued to learn all she could, in spite of her mother’s peevishness towards book-learning.
Mollie accepted the cup of coltsfoot tea Madame de Croix offered her, and proceeded to read her French exercise and a French fable aloud.
“You improve every day,” praised Madame.
Mollie, pleased with the praise, was encouraged to ask, “Could I teach French to little children, Madame?”
“The rudiments, perhaps, my child. Ah! if you could go to Paris for one year to become proficient.”
“I must earn money first,” said Mollie soberly.
Meanwhile Mrs. Christane and Betty were on their way to Derbyhaven. As they stepped over the stile on to the beach the old lady eyed the place with an unfavourable eye. “It’s untidy they are keeping this beach,” she said. “It’s not like the new roads we’ve got; but there’s the good Manx smell of the sea, and the smell of pigs too, which is a wholesome smell.”
There was much to be seen at Derbyhaven. Mrs. Christane inspected her daughter’s herrings now packed neatly in coarse salt; criticized the hard salt conger and hake hanging in a row against the whitewashed walls in the backyard. “Mine’s a better colour,” she affirmed; “thee should use different salt, Kitty.”
“I’ve some fine bollin for thee, mother,” said Kitty, exhibiting the fish with their wonderful colours of purple and red lying in the straw basket. “Danny Kinvig brought them, an’ see the lovely lobsters! I got Judy to boil them for thee. Danny is doin’ well with his lobster pots, he was sayin’.”
Meanwhile Betty sought Phrancie Parr, who was in the back parlour making the warm woollen winter blankets. The cloth was dark brown and red, and the double thickness was quilted. Phrancie was quilting while Betty watched and talked. Betty examined the brown cloth. “Is the cloth from thy own sheep?” she asked.
“Ay!” answered Phrancie, “an’ a pretty colour the red is.”
“What person did the weavin’?”
“Billy Callow the fidder from the lil’ cottage over Santon way. It’s fine he weaves, too.”
“Yes,” admitted Betty. “An’ how many thick blankets are thee quiltin’ for the winter?”
“Six, if there’s cloth enough. Three til’ ones for the children’s beds.”
“Where’s the baby to-day?”
“Asleep she is, upstairs in the room of the Misthress.”
“An’ where’s the other children?”
“With ould Misthress Quilliam, it’s tachin’ them she is.”
“It’s a lot of teachin’ the children want in these days,” opined Betty.
“‘Tis so,” agreed Phrancie.
“An’ have you seen the new silk gown, Phrancie?”
“I have so, Miss Christane, and the beautiful it is, fit for a queen.”
Kitty called to Betty: “Come,” she said, “we’re goin’ upstairs to see the silk gown.”
“She’s upstairs singin’ to baby Faith. The child wakened, an’ she ought to sleep for three hours yet.”
The sisters went upstairs to Kitty’s room, with the two big windows facing the bay and overlooking the Fort Island. Granny was bending over the cradle. “Hush, millish, hush,” she was saying, and she began to croon that sweet, haunting Manx hullaby that for centuries the island mothers have sung to hush their babes to sleep: —
“Ushag veg ruy my moanee doo,
Ushag veg ruy my moanee doo,
Ushag veg ruy my moanee doo,
C’raad chaddil oo riyr syn oie?”
(Little red bird of the black turf ground,
Where did you sleep last night?)
Presently little Faith drowsed off to sleep. “The little soul,” said Kitty. “She likes the old song, mother.”
So did thou, an’ Betty too. I always sang thee to sleep when thee were babies. What a gran’ pincushion you’ve got, Kitty. What is it for?”
“It is for Faith, mother. Grandmamma Quilliam made it for her when she was born.”
Granny Christane peered at the white satin cushion with the text, ” For such is the Kingdom of Heaven,” outlined thereon in tiny baby pins.
“Shee bannee mee! (Peace bless me)” quoth Granny with an acid smile. “I’ve heard lots of things about the Kingdom of Heaven in the church on Sunday; but I never heard before that it is like little pins. Is that what thy mother-in-law teaches thy children then?”
“No, mother, of course not,” said Kitty with a vexed flush. “It means that little babies are like the Kingdom of Heaven. It says so in the Bible.”
“When they’ve been christened, Kitty, but not before.”
“Well, little Faith is christened, bless her heart! Faith Elizabeth, after her Aunt Betty.”
“An’ Betty’s a better soundin’ name than Faith. Names like Faith, Patience, an’ the like, came in when the Roundie soldiers was in the islan’. I’ve heard me Granny say. It was after they killed the Stanlagh Mooar,1 in England it was.”
“What for was he killed, mother?” asked Kitty. “For helping the King of England. Him Charles the Martyr in the Prayer Book,” said the old woman; “an’ then the next King of England shot Illiam Dhone on Hango Hill for savin’ the Manx people.”
“Ay!” said Kitty. “Kings do amazin’ things. A mercy it is we have a Governor instead of a King, there’s not so much killin’ an’ shootin’ with a Governor,” and while she was speaking Kitty was unfolding the wrappings of the silk gown. “There,” she said. Betty was silent with admiration. She felt the silk, looked inside to see how the seams were finished off, held the silk near her own face to try the effect.
“It’s the gown of a lady so ’tis,” she exclaimed at last, “an’ fine an’ handsome you’ll look in it, Kitty.”
“It’s for weddin’s an’ christenin’s, an’ church on fine Sundays,” explained Kitty, flushed with pride.
“An’ when thou’rt visitin’ at the Governor’s,” said her mother dryly. “There’ll be no more weddin’s in the family, Kitty, till Dinah an’ Dorcas is grown up, unless Betty takes a notion of a man. As for Mollie, it’s a bogh she’s makin’ of herself over that Stephen Fannin; it’s shockin’ the things she says of Jude Kameen, miscallin’ the man Judas an’ all. It’s ashamed I am of her, blamin’ the man because Stephen Fannin is a thief.”
Granny sighed. “There’s nothin’ but readin’ Papish books with ould Madame de Croix, goin’ to Douglas, an’ collugin’ with Ann Fannin. It’s a changed girl she is to be sure.”
“Wait till Mollie sees thy gown, Kitty,” remarked Betty. “She’ll be wantin’ one like it, and she could have a dozen if she would marry Jude Kameen.”
“Mollie ‘ill never do that,” grumbled her mother. “She goes her own way an’ never takes heed of what I’m saying to her for her good.”
Mrs. Christane was peevish after her visit to Derbyhaven, and over the supper table she delivered herself.
“Those childer of Kitty’s ‘ill be ruined, so they will, with the genteel notions they’re gettin’ from ould Madame Quilliam; washed they must be before they’ll eat their meat, an’ pickin’ their herrin’ with a fork an’ crust of bread; an’ Matthew, poor boy, trying to say his prayers in Latin, an’ little Bride copyin’ him; an’ refusin’ to eat potatoes in the good Manx way, in their skins as God made them. I’ve no patience with the like. Dinah, sit up, child, like a little lady; an’ go an’ wash thy dirty hands before sittin’ to thy meat; thy sisters at Derbyhaven are queens to thee, so they are.”
Dinah retired discomforted. She returned in a moment. “Here’s Pyee from Ballacrideen, Granny,” she announced. “Sarah wants to know if she’s to stay.”
“Sit down to the table proper, and take thy bread and milk, child. Pyee can wait.”
The supper was soon finished and Mrs. Christane and Betty repaired to the big back kitchen to hear the newses.
“Get some supper, Pyee, woman,” she commanded. “Sarah, hurry, and give her a pot of tea. An’ what’s the news to-day, Pyee?”
“Aw! terrible bad, with the killing and fighting there is! Thousan’s an’ thousan’s of the farmers, ma’am, have gone to the Bishop. Marching they are to Bishopscourt. It’s the tithes, ma’am, tithes on the turmits an’ pertaties”
(turnips and potatoes).
“Ay! Pyee, an ungodly tithe it is, to be sure. Shame on the Bishop, a man of God too.”
“With a big hand at him, Mrs. Christane, goin’ snatching the livin’ from the poor that way. But it’s kilt the Bishop will be, ma’am, with the thousan’s that are marching on him, with vengeance in them.”
“It’s likely they’ll burn Bishopscourt to the ground, Pyee, but the tithes ‘ill be took off. The Bishop cannot Stand against all the Manx farmers in that way at all. Ah! the good an’ kind the Bishop was when I was a child, an’ the churches he built; and even to prison he went himself for the sake of the right.”
“That would be the good Bishop Wilson, Mrs. Christane.”
“Ah, it was, Pyee. I can just remember me mother holding me up to look at him.”
“The ould days is gone, ma’am. Aw! but we’ll never see the lek again.”
“Never, Pyee, times is changing for the worse. It’s from Ballacrideen you’re come?”
“It is, ma’am, an’ fine an’ busy I was; what with the herrin’s goin’ salting, and the candles dippin’. I was busy as Trap’s wife.”
“An’ what are they doin’ there now?”
“It’s jam they’re making, an’ a fine big family there are to eat it.”
“How are they all?”
“Well, ma’am, all but the second son bein’ quare like in his head; and the youngest girl pitted terrible with the smallpox. She almost died, so she did, all on account of not bein’ ‘noculated like her sister.”
M ‘Noculation is a fine thing, I’m hearing.”
“‘Tis so, ma’am.”
“And what’s the news in Castletown?”
“Aw! shockin’, ma’am; there’s Passon Quine’s son gone furrin he is; an’ they do be sayin’ he’s took money that’s not his own, an’ a good man the passon is.”
“Ta boa vie my gha agh drogh theiy ee,”2 said Mrs. Christane.
“Ay, indeed,” said Pyee.
The clatter of horsemen riding by caused Betty and Dinah to run to the door to see what was happening. Presently Dinah ran in full of excitement. “Here’s Mr. Kaighan of Gray Cross Farm ridin’ from Peel, Granny.”
“Ask him to Step in, Dinah.”
“He can’t slop at all,” said the child, “he’s just givin’ his horse a drink an’ talkin’ to Aunt Betty.”
Mrs. Chrisltane went to the door.
“Good evenin’, Mr. Kaighan, an’ what’s the news?”
“Good, Mrs. Christane, good. The Bishop has took off the new tithes for this year.”
“It’s well he’s done it,” said the lady dourly.
“For this year only, he says,” called Mr. Kaighan.
“An’ for every other year, too; the man’s not in his senses to try to make people pay such a tithe.”
“‘Deed, but you’re right, ma’am. The Bishop’s life was in danger, with the farmers all raging at him.”
“The tithe was ridiculous,” quoth Mrs. Christane.
“‘Twas, ma’am, a shockin’ tithe altogether,” said Mr. Kaighan, riding away.
1. The great Stanley, James Earl of Derby, King of Man.
2. Many a good cow hath but a bad calf.” — Manx proverb.
“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.