“My dear mother, even the Prayer-Book says a woman may not marry her grandfather.”
“Yes, my dear, also that a man may not marry his grandmother; but what has that to do with Mr. Lee?”
“Simply that he is old enough to be my grandfather nearly.”
“There is a great difference certainly, but not quite sufficient for that, Katherine. Mr. Lee is four-and-thirty, and you nearly eighteen.”
“My dear mother, I always thought him fifty when I rode his pony years ago.”
“Very likely; children’s ideas of ago are not very correct. They generally think their mother in her dotage at forty. Five years ago he was nine-and-twenty.”
“Then such a name, my dear mother. Fancy Michael! It might almost as well be Zedekiah or Nebuchadnezzar at once. I remember your reading a novel with a Nathaniel for a hero; I do not think I could stand Michael for mine; and besides, he is half a widower.”
“My dear Katherine, far be it from me to persuade you to marry Mr. Lee, or any one else, only do try and be serious; think quietly about it, and then give me your answer.”
Whether it were possible for Katherine to think quietly on any subject whatever just then, I don’t know; however, her answer was given, and Mrs. Parker told Mr. Lee her daughter could not make up her mind to say anything but “No.” Shortly after Mr. Lee left Oldcourt and went abroad. The only one of the Parker family who bade him farewell was Katherine’s little brother Harry, and he announced in the evening:
“I shall be up early to-morrow: I am going up to say good-bye to dear Mr. Lee. Will you come, Katie?”
“No, thank you, Harry,” Katherine answered, with a look at her mother, “I am not fond of getting up early.”
“What a shame! not for once even, and he was so kind to you always. I am so sorry he’s going; I hope he won’t be long away. I suppose you think yourself too big for his pony now, Katie, as you never ride it. I wonder if I shall be able to have it when he is away.”
So early the next morning, a bright one in the middle of February, Harry was off along the lanes and across the fields to Oldcourt. There was a short cut through a wood, which skirted the Pool, to the house. The ground was crisp—just a tinge of white frost—every blade of glass sparkling in the bright sun. There is nothing so beautiful as a white frost, except the spring, when every bud is bursting, and every wood is getting full of wild flowers, and every bird is singing. They sing altogether, each its own song, yet none is out of tune, even when the rooks join in. How is it, I wonder?
A tall, dark man, with a calm, grave face was looking out on the park and woods at Oldcourt,—the park and woods that had been his and his fathers’ for generations. He did look old for four-and-thirty. Many men look as young at forty. The Lees all turn grey soon—it seems to run in some families—and there were some white hairs already showing among the black. The face looked almost stern, till two little hands seized hold of one of his, then it looked down with a kindly smile on the early visitor.
“Ah, Harry, my boy, I thought I should not see you again!”
“My dear old Michael, did you think I would let you go without saying a regular good-by? What a brute you must think me!”
“No, I do not, but it is early for you. You shall have some breakfast with me, for I had nearly forgotten it.”
So they sat down, and Michael Lee told Harry he was to fish with his keeper, George Mitford, whenever he liked, and Frisky he was to consider his own whilst he was away; and at that up jumped Harry and threw his arms round his neck and kissed him.
“I can’t think why you are going away,” said the boy. “I know you’re sorry. I saw your face as I came in. Why are you going?”
“Why? Everybody goes abroad sometimes, Harry. I shall be home again before Christmas, I dare say. What shall I bring you?—the falling Tower of Pisa, or Mont Blanc?”
“No, no; but I should like some red-hot lava from Mount Vesuvius, and a Mount St. Bernard dog: only a puppy, Michael. Are there any puppies, I wonder: you only read of the big dogs, but I daresay there are some puppies sometimes; don’t you think there must be?”
Michael Lee thought there certainly could not be always big dogs unless there were puppies occasionally.
“Can you bring some red-hot lava in your portmanteau, Michael? I want it the colour of that picture in your bedroom of Mount Vesuvius with the blue sky; will you take an empty jam-pot from Mrs. Wilkins and fill it full for me? It will burn your clothes if you have it loose, won’t it?”
Michael Lee thought it very probably would, and then he had to explain it would puzzle Michael Scott himself to bring him red-hot lava the colour of Mount Vesuvius in the picture with the blue sky. Of course Harry asked who Michael Scott was? and his namesake had to explain how one word of his had cleft, not Mount Vesuvius, but the Eildon Hills in three, and how when his horse stamped his foot, the bells in Notre Dame rang; and how he had told the Old Gentleman to mind his own business and carry him across the sea;—and just then the dogcart came round to the door, and Michael Lee said:
“Here comes, not Diabolus, Harry, but Black Rover, and I must mount and fly, or I shall miss the train. Tell Mrs. Parker I was sorry not to see her to say good-bye, and I hope she will come and take any flowers she likes; see, here is a note I had written, and was going to send; you take it for me; don’t lose it.”
“Oh no, I won’t lose it, and Michael, may Katie ride Frisky?”
“I do not think your sister cares for him now, Harry.”
There was a change in the tone of voice; a thing children are very quick in noticing.
“Are you vexed with Katie?” said the boy. “She was very fond of Frisky. I can remember, a long, long time ago—I could only have been a little fellow quite, about five or something of that sort, for I had pinafores—when she used to ride Frisky, and she liked it so much; and she used to fish then, and row the boat across the pool. I can’t think why she never does anything jolly now, can you, Michael?”
Michael swallowed his hot tea without answering; then the boy clung to him to say good-bye.
“I’ll take you through the park, and drop you at the gate, Harry;” and the thought of that brought a smile instead of the salt tears that had begun to come.
“I won’t cry, Michael; I shall be nine my next birthday.”
(It wanted 345 days to his next birthday!) But when he was dropped at the gate, and he and old Sarah at the lodge had watched the dogcart disappear, and he saw her shake her head and wipe her eyes, and heard her say: “There goes a good gentleman, if ever there was one in this world, or the next!” he could not stand it; and, after a good cry, he told Sarah that he was to ride Frisky, and go fishing with George Mitford; but all the fish he caught he should keep for Mr. Lee; he would not let Susan cook one, for he would much rather Mr. Lee had them all! which determination so comforted him, that he looked at Sarah’s Polish hens, admired their topknots, and then went on his way home.
Mr. Parker had been Michael Lee’s tutor. At his death his wife was left with one daughter of ten and a baby a few months old. Two boys and a girl had gone before him. I may as well say how they died. The fever was bad in the village. John Brown’s wife died of it and her two children. William Hodge, the drunken blacksmith, got it next, and he died. Then three or four cottages down that narrow lane with the pigsties, and that pond which was always green and the water always black, they got it. Then Mr. Harvey, who came from Manchester, and bought a good deal of land in Leamington, and built a large house, and stables, and greenhouses, and hot-houses, and ice-houses, and all that (those cottages down the narrow lane belonged to him), ‘his’ little daughter took it. He never let her go out of his own grounds, and thought there was, what he called, “no chance” of her getting it; but she did; and there is a little tomb with a white cross on it in the church at Lemmington: and the cottages are comfortable now, and the pigsties at the end of the garden (not up against the one bedroom on the ground-floor), and the pond has been drained, and Mr. Harvey is not what he was when the fever began, and he thanks God for it often, on his knees, though he is lonely, very lonely, never hearing her little feet pattering about now, except in his dreams. Many others had it, and Mrs. Parker was frightened. Four children under eight years old she had of her own, and she wished there were some Sisters of Mercy at Leamington, as there were at some places, who could take the good soup and wine to the poor sick ones, without the terrible fear pulling and gnawing at their hearts all the time that she had. That terrible fear! She had it—she could not help it, though her husband said:
“My dear, I change my coat, I wash my hands and face, and then I trust.”
She tried to trust, too; but somehow the fear clung to her; and on Sunday night Arthur said:
“Mother, my throat is so sore.” He was only three and a half, and she tried to hope he did not know where his throat was, and that he would put his hand to his back, or leg, or anywhere else, only not to his throat, and she said:
“Where, my darling; where is it sore?” And the child put up his hand, and said:
“I mean where my dinner goes down, mother.” And then she knew her boy had got the fever; and the next day Mary said:
“Mother, just look what a lump there is under my ear, by my cheek, and it hurts me so when I swallow; I hope I am not going to be ill, like papa said poor little Mary Brown was.” And she knew Mary had the fever, too.
Next Sunday, after the afternoon service, Arthur was buried. They had an old-fashioned way of ringing the bells at Leamington; they do not everywhere; but it was an old-fashioned place, and old fashions about church things are best. They rang the curfew at Leamington always from Advent to Lent, and they tolled the bell, when there was to be a funeral, all day, until the mourners and the coffin could be seen coming near the church; and then they rang a joyful peal for a minute or so—not like a wedding, or any other peal; and it always sounded like a welcome—like the angels welcoming one more—one more who had passed through the waves of this troublesome world, and had reached the haven where we all would be. So, sitting by little Mary’s bed, wetting her hot lips, the mother heard the joyful peal ring out for Arthur, and she knelt down by Mary, and kissed her hot cheek; and Mary heard the bells, too, and she opened her eyes, and said:
“Arthur will be with the daisies soon, mother, he was so fond of daisies, and those double red ones.”
Mary died that evening—Sunday evening; and when all was over, and the little fair thing lay with the little hands crossed on her breast, the mother turned away to change her dress, and wash her face and hands, and to trust. Trust to Him who had only taken what He had given. She might go and look at her youngest now; she was no longer needed in the sick room—it was empty. The little merry laugh as she went along the passage! Baby should be asleep; but babies in summer, in the long days so light, do not always do what they ought to do about going to sleep, and baby was laughing as she reached the door! So strange it sounded to hear a laugh then, even from a baby. Sitting up in his little crib, was the two-year-old baby, hugging the kitten which had been beside little Mary, and fondled to the last. By the next Sunday, two more were with the daisies beside Arthur, and the eldest, Katherine, the only child, left them.
Harry was born a year after, and Mr. Parker died, and then the widow, with her two children, returned to the neighbourhood of her old home, where her husband had been curate, and afterwards tutor to Mr. Lee. Mr. Lee was one of the first to welcome Mrs. Parker; a sad welcome to the place where her early, happy days had been spent. Michael Lee was then a young man of six-and-twenty. He had had a sincere regard for his tutor, and every little attention in his power he bestowed on Mrs. Parker. There was the quiet old pony for Katherine to ride, his park was open to her and her mother; some of the choicest flowers were always on her table. It was no self-denial, he had plenty of everything; but he had a way of being kind—he always thought of others—and his way of being kind and thoughtful was never disagreeable; with some people it is. He and Katherine were soon great friends. As she grew older, and the old pony more stupid, a younger one took its place; the “Frisky” of which we have heard, and fishing and boating at Oldcourt were among her greatest pleasures. Then came the news of Mr. Lee’s approaching marriage. It was quite true, he told Mrs. Parker of it himself, all joy and happiness; and two months after the bells at Oldcourt were tolling for her who was to have been mistress there so soon—tolling for the bride elect.
Katherine was sixteen then, and Mrs. Parker moved to London for a twelvemonth, to give her the advantage of some better masters than Oldcourt afforded. At the end of that time she returned to her favourite cottage, and the pony, fishing, and boating were transferred to Harry, who was delighted with everything after the confinement of London. A grave, quiet man was Michael Lee now: it was strange a child like Harry should be so devoted to him, yet so it was. Harry was his constant companion through his woods, marking the trees, carrying his fishing basket, perfectly satisfied in his own mind he was of great use and assistance to Mr. Lee, whom he very soon learnt to call Michael; and the grave, quiet man grew very fond of the boy, partly on his own account, for all loved Harry, and partly, ere many months were over, for the sake of his sister: and so at last he spoke to Mrs. Parker. Katherine refused him, and he went abroad. Harry begged to write to him, and Michael Lee answered his letters, which contained a great deal of news of various kinds: such as the ewe with the black mark on her leg had three lambs again this year, and one was fed with a teapot. There was a blackbird’s nest in one of the red rhododendrons. Frisky was in great beauty, but it was very difficult to catch him now, as he would not come for corn when there was so much grass; he found the best way was to blow a cow’s-horn trumpet behind a bush, for Frisky came to see what the noise was, thinking the hounds were out, Harry believed, and then he was easily taken. A corncrake had her legs mown off, sitting on her nest, by Thomas Smith, when they were mowing the mill meadow, and Harry had taken some of the eggs to see if Katie’s bantum would hatch them, &c., &c. Then came an account of a bad cold he had caught somehow, he could not tell how; boys never can: but he had not been allowed to go out fishing for some time, nor in the boat with George Mitford. George had had a bad finger, but it was better, and he had a new baby, and Venus had puppies. It (the baby) was christened last Sunday; it was a boy, which was much better than a girl, as it might be a keeper too some day, They were all beauties, especially one with a black nose; and had he been to Mount St. Bernard yet?
Harry’s next letter was finished by Mrs. Parker, and she told Mr. Lee the cold had become a cough, and that Dr. Watson thought it would be more prudent for him to winter at the seaside. They were going to Beaumaris the end of September; and when Michael Lee received this letter he felt sure Harry was worse than his mother thought. During that winter at Beaumaris Harry had several letters from Mr. Lee. He thought his hand-writing was changed, or that he was writing larger for him because he was a child; but he could always read Michael’s writing, he said, and was rather affronted. Then he did not hear for a long time, and at last he received a few lines, telling him he had been ill, and that Harry must not think he had forgotten him if he did not hear, for the doctor forbade his writing; it hurt his eyes.
And then came several months, and Harry never heard, and he wanted to know so much how Michael was. His cough had never left him, and they were still at Beaumaris. He used to sit on the beach for hours, or go in a boat when it was fine; sometimes row up past the Menai Bridge to the little fishing island, and land there to see all the sea wonders that are to be found on it; the sea anemones in countless numbers, of every colour, hanging on the rough walls under the long masses of seaweed; the scarlet starfish; the great purple one, and fish, especially the little whitebait, looking like a sheet of silver, as they glided along at low water in the weir. Sometimes they went in the other direction towards Puffin Island, but only on warm, dry days. Mrs. Parker’s sweet face looked very anxious now, and Katherine was more gentle and loving to her little brother far than formerly.
One day, in the middle of September, Harry came sooner from the beach than usual, through the little garden, into the house, and hiding his face on his mother’s knee, he sobbed out, “I’ve seen Michael, and he’s quite blind.”
By degrees he told his tale.
“I was on the beach, mother; I was at that shell-stall; I wanted a Venus’s ear, when all of a sudden I saw Michael come out of the hotel. I was sure it was he, and Simpson—you remember Mr. Simpson, the butler,—with him; and Simpson helped him down the steps, and I could not believe it was Michael hardly, but I left the shells and went to meet him, and when I got nearer I saw it was Michael; so I ran up to him, and his eyes were open; but when I had got hold of his hand he did not look at me, only said, ‘Oh, Harry, my boy, how are you—are you better?’ And I said, ‘My cough is not very bobbish; but oh, Michael, what is Simpson doing walking with you?’ And then he smiled very quietly, and held my hands, and said, ‘Simpson shall go now, and you will take care of a poor blind man.’ And I said, ‘Oh, Michael, you’re not blind; your eyes are quite open, and you must wear spectacles; but I hope you won’t look like old Matthew at home.’ It was very foolish of me, but I did not like to believe it and he shook his head, and drew my hand through his arm, and said, ‘Now we can take a walk near the sea, and talk about it;’ and so we walked a little, and he said he could not write, and he wanted to hear about me, and the doctor said the sea-side would do him good, and so he came here last night. He is at the hotel, the Bulkeley Arms, and he thought I was sure to come on the beach and would see him, and I saw him as he was coming down the steps, so I was not long about that. But he is blind, quite blind, mother, and I am to lead him about: he says he likes to have me better than Simpson, mother. I wanted him to come here now with me, but he did not like to come until I had told you, he said.”
Katherine was sitting by the window. She was looking at the hills on the opposite shore, with all the lights and shadows flitting over them. How beautiful they are! She did not see them; and the sands stretching out so far, looking as if you might walk across into Carnarvonshire; and the green sparkling water so smooth and still. She saw nothing of all this now. She did not say a word whilst Harry was speaking, but she did something else, very quietly, and thought no one saw her—she was mistaken.
Mr. Lee came with Harry in the afternoon; he was quieter and graver than before, and Harry was always with him whenever it was warm enough for him to be out of doors; and Michael Lee would come and sit with him when the weather prevented the boy leaving the house. Simpson brought him to the garden-gate, and then he was able to walk up the little garden by himself. Sometimes Mrs. Parker walked with him, and a few times Katherine had helped him, but her hand always trembled as it rested on his arm, and he would try and grope about by himself rather than ask her; and then Harry called her stupid for not offering.
It was the 25th of October, a very wild day. Harry was not so well, lying on the couch, looking out of the window, watching the thick muddy waves rolling in angrily one after the other. The ferry-boat was not crossing, it was so very rough. Something was coming, the boatmen said, as they smoked their pipes and looked out to sea. It was worse by the evening; how the wind howled; and the tide was in, every now and then dashing over the sea-wall into the road. Harry lay watching the angry waves: he had never seen the Straits so rough before. Michael could not see it, but he heard the roaring of the waters, and he hummed the line—
And the night-rack came rolling up, ragged and brown.
“It will be a terrible night, Harry, I fear,” he said.
“It will indeed, Michael; I was thinking you would scarcely get back to the hotel.”
Ay, a terrible night it was. One to be much remembered in Anglesea. As they spoke, the big iron ship was rolling about in the thick fog, hoping for a pilot, hoping to reach Liverpool that night; and before Michael Lee reached the Bulkeley Arms, the big iron ship was thumping against the iron coast only a few miles away. The iron coast was the harder. The great masts tottered and fell, shivered so, that Katherine’s little fingers broke off pieces from them afterwards; and when all was over, when the big iron ship was broken to pieces—when “the storm had ceased, and the waves thereof were still,” some bottles of champagne and pickles were found unbroken amidst the rocks, which were covered with big iron bolts wrenched out of the big iron ship that night of agony! Scarcely credible if read in a novel—and yet it is true. Verily, “truth is strange sometimes, stranger than fiction!”
So these two sat watching and listening to the storm that evening, and at last Harry said:
“Michael, I have been thinking of such a good plan.”
And Michael said, “Have you, my boy, what about?”
And Harry said, “About you, Michael. I know you don’t like having Simpson with you always; and, you see, I’m not strong enough to read a great deal, or go out when it’s not fine: they think I’m made of sugar or salt, or something, and that I shall melt; and I’ve been thinking if you had a wife, it would be much better. I thought Katie would do so nicely, and then, when you go back to Oldcourt, she or I would always be with you. If mother wanted her, you could fall back on me; and she reads ever so long without getting tired, and writes so fast, too. Do you think it a good plan, Michael?”
“My dear Harry,” the quiet voice said, and then stopped.
“Oh, what a monster! It’s bigger than any yet! There, it’s broke over the pier, I declare; such a wave, Michael, you never saw. Well, but what do you think about Katie?”
“I think, Harry, for once you have forgotten I am blind,” Michael Lee answered.
“No, I have not, Michael; that’s the very thing made me think you ought to have a wife. If you weren’t, there’s no reason for it. You could fish and shoot, and ride, and read and write, and do everything yourself, and she might be in the way and want you for something just when you had got your gun, perhaps; I think you’d find her so useful now, that’s what put it into my head.”
“Harry, I thought of it a long time ago, when I was not blind, and she would not be my wife even then. I am glad of it now, Harry, for her sake.” But the deep low voice had no gladness in it.
Up started the boy from the couch.
“Oh, Michael, you don’t really mean you ever asked Katie to be your wife before?”
“Yes, Harry, I do mean even that.”
“And Katie said she would not like to be, Michael?”
“What a shame! Oh, Michael, it makes me almost wish I’d been a girl myself. I’m sure I should have liked it very much.” He threw himself back on the couch and coughed. Michael could not see how his colour went and came. So neither of them spoke, and when he had done coughing he rested a little; then he said, “I might have been strong enough for a girl, perhaps, there’s not much in them ever, though Katie’s much stronger than I am. She’s a great deal older, that’s one thing. I wonder if I shall ever be as old as Katie; she’s nearly out of her teens now. Do you know, Michael, sometimes I think I never shall. You can’t see me now, or you would know how thin I have grown—a regular scarecrow. I’m a great deal taller, but my hands are so thin, my fingers look so long, and they’re so white compared to other boys’ I see on the beach. Some of the boys from the grammar-school I often watch playing cricket by the castle, and such nice brown hands they’ve got, I’m quite ashamed of mine. It’s not manly to have such white hands. Do you think I ever shall be a man, Michael?”
Michael felt for the boy’s hand, and stroked it in his own. He knew it was very thin and soft, though he could not see how white it was. He stroked it a few moments, and then he said:
“Harry, my boy, if you never are, remember there is a better Land than this, where you will be strong, and I shall see again: we must both think of that, Harry, and be patient; it is hard work often, is it not?”
“Very; and sometimes I’m so cross when can’t sleep, Michael. I know what you mean. You think I shall never get any better; you mean my cough will go on getting worse, and I shall get thinner and thinner, and weaker and weaker, and then I shall die. I hope I shall go to Heaven, Michael. I don’t think I have done anything very wicked; you know I’ve not been at school much among other boys, so it’s not been so difficult. I remember, though, I helped to drown some puppies once. I could not help watching Thomas do it, and then I remember I held one under the water, when I saw it put up its poor little head. I can’t think what made me, and afterwards I remember poor old Flo came and smelt my hands and licked them, and I felt so sorry then. Well, Michael, I’ll try and be patient, and not be cross any more, and if I die when I’m a boy, you’ll be sure to know me when you come, Michael; and if I were to live to be a man, you might not, you know, Michael; I should have changed so, and it’s eighteen months now since you saw me, Michael. But I want to ask you about Katie again. Did she mean she did not like you?”
“Not like me well enough, Harry, she meant.”
“’Pon my word, Michael, then I think she’s changed her mind, and I’ll tell you why. When I came back the first day I met you and told her and mother you were blind, she never spoke, certainly, but she cried; I saw her, and often I see her eyes full of tears after you’ve been here.”
“Yes; she is sorry for me, Harry, that is all.”
“I don’t think it is all, Michael. Mother’s very sorry for you, but she doesn’t cry. Here come three more schooners going to anchor round the Point: there’s a regular fleet of them.”
The door opened; how the wind howled! It was Katherine, bringing Harry’s medicine. She put it down on the little table by him, and smoothed his hair and kissed his forehead. “Such a storm, Harry, coming on!” Harry pulled her down close to him, and whispered something. Michael could not hear all; but his own name he heard several times. Then Katherine stood upright, and said:
“Hush, Harry; will you take your medicine?” And Michael heard her voice tremble.
“No, I won’t take it, Katie, till you answer my question; and my cough’s been very bad this evening, so I ought to have it at once. Michael says, you said you’d rather not be his wife, and I want to know if you’d rather not now, or if you’ve changed your mind about it.”
“Harry, no more of this, or I shall go back to Oldcourt,” said the quiet, calm voice, not quiet or calm now.
“He is too young to know all he is saying; forgive him,” he added.
“Oh, Michael, don’t be angry with me; but indeed she’s quite crimson, and the tears in her eyes; and if you would only just ask her yourself, you would see. Dear Michael, you know I shall never live to be a man; and after I’ve got thinner and thinner, and weaker and weaker, you’ll have no one to take any care of you, and I feel so sure Katie would like it now, though she didn’t then.”
“Harry, I told you your sister was very sorry for me, nothing more.”
“Sorry! she was very sorry when the cat died. I don’t mean that. I can see her face, and you can’t. How stupid you are, Michael! Oh, Katie, you know he doesn’t like asking you now he’s blind; and, if I were you, I would just put my arms round his neck, and tell him I should like it so much, without his asking me.”
“No, Harry, you could not, if you were me,” said Katherine, and her voice was more than trembling now, it was sobbing.
She was a prisoner; Harry had tight hold of her hand; and when he talked of growing weaker and weaker, and thinner and thinner, she had knelt beside him, between his couch and Michael Lee; and the blind man knew by her voice she was kneeling down, and he stretched out his hand, and it rested on her small head and bright glossy hair. Katherine was not pretty; but she was tall and slight, with a small head set on her throat like a queen, and quantities of bright glossy hair twisted round and round. He, Michael Lee, put his hand on it, and said: “Katherine,” and that was all: and she did not answer at first, only he felt her turn from Harry’s couch more towards him, and then she said, softly:
“Can’t you see me the least bit, Michael?”
And he said, “No, Katherine; I would give all I have in the world to look in your face now, darling.”
And then Harry said: “I’ll tell you, Michael, what she looks like, and don’t give Oldcourt and Frisky and all away for nothing but that. She’s not so red as she was, but she’s crying. Oh, now she’s hid her face, and I can’t tell you what she’s like.”
She had hidden her face, but it was hidden on Michael Lee’s other hand, and he felt her hot tears on it, and he said:
“Katherine, if you stay one moment longer, I shall believe what Harry told me.”
She did not move. He stroked the bright, glossy hair, and then passed his arm round her and drew her closer to him, and said something in such a whisper that Harry could not hear: and Harry rubbed his hands and said:
“Hurrah! I suppose I’d better take my medicine now, for I believe Katie’s quite forgotten it.”
So she rose and gave it him with one hand, for Michael had the other; and Harry drank it, made a face, and said:
“I shan’t be satisfied till you have put your arms round his neck and told him you are very sorry for ever having said you would not like it; it was such a shame!”
So she knelt down again, and did put her arms round his neck (not Harry’s), and said something, too, which Harry could not hear; and Michael Lee stretched out one arm to Harry, and with the other gathered her up quite close to him, and said:
“I pray God you may never repent, my Katherine. And Harry, my boy, you can see her face, and I cannot, as you said just now; and if ever you see her cry, or look unhappy, I trust to you to tell me and help me to find it out. Darling, if ever woman was loved, you are, my Katherine; for now, with this black sheet before me, which makes even your dear face as dark as night, I would not give you up, even to see the blessed light of Heaven and the green earth again. I would rather be blind with you than see without you, Katherine.”
She did not answer, but she lifted up her face to his and kissed it; and Harry brought his white, thin face and rested it on Michael’s shoulder, and said:
“Michael, I wish I could make my eyes over to you. There’s the fishing at Oldcourt, splendid fishing, and you’ll never be able to fish without them. I would, if I could, Michael, for all my happiest days you’ve given me. And as to Katie, I hope you’ll like her much better than Simpson; and if she isn’t happy, it’s her own fault, that’s certain. Fancy not being happy at Oldcourt! And I dare say you’ll give her a bigger pony; she can’t have a better than Frisky, but she’s too tall for him, and you’ll always let him run in the park, won’t you, Michael, when he gets old? Never sell him for a donkey cart. It would break his heart, I know it would, Michael. He’d pull it; he’d pull anything; but I’m certain it would break his heart.”
And Michael Lee promised Frisky should always be cared for as if he were the best hunter in the land; and the little white face looked up lovingly into the poor blind eyes, and then went on to say:
“I think it was so very rum of Katie ever thinking she would not like it! Don’t you, Michael?”
And they both laughed and kissed him, and then the boy said he must go and tell his mother, for it was all his doing, every bit. And that evening, after tea, they all sat by Harry’s couch, all the time the big iron ship was break, break, breaking, on those cold grey stones, just across the island.
M. E. G.