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- You Never Know Your Luck, Volume 2. - 4/11 -
good number of them came from the damp islands lying between the north Atlantic and the German Ocean. From Erin and England and the land o' cakes they came, had a few days of staring bright-eyed happy incredulity as to the permanency of such conditions, and then settled down to take it as it was, endless days of sunshine and stirring vivacious air--as though they had always known it and had it.
There were exceptions, and these had joy in what they saw and felt according to the measure of their temperament. Shiel Crozier saw and felt much of it, and probably the Young Doctor saw more of it than any one; stray people here and there who take no part in this veracious tale had it in greater or less degree; fat Jesse Bulrush was so sensitive to it that he, as he himself said, "almost leaked sentimentality" and Kitty Tynan possessed it. She was pulsing with life, as a bird drunken with the air's sweetness sings itself into an abandonment of motion.
Before Crozier came she had enjoyed existence as existence, wondering often why it was she wanted to spring up from the ground with the idea that she could fly, if she chose to try. Once when she was quite a little girl she had said to her mother, "I'm going to ile away," and her mother, puzzled, asked her what she meant. Her reply was, "It's in the hymn." Her mother persisted in asking what hymn; and was told with something like scorn that it was the hymn she herself had taught her only child--"I'll away, I'll away to the Promised Land."
Kitty had thought that "I'll away" meant some delicious motion which was to ile, and she had visions of something between floating and flying as being that blessed means of transportation.
As the years grew, she still wanted to "ile away" whenever the spirit of elation seized her, and it had increased greatly since Shiel Crozier came. Out of her star as he was, she still felt near to him, and as though she understood him and he comprehended her. He had almost at once become to her an admired mystery, which, however, at first she did not dare wish to solve. She had been content to be a kind of handmaiden to a generous and adored master. She knew that where he had been she could in one sense never go, and yet she wanted to be near him just the same. This was intensified after the Logan Trial and the shooting of the man who somehow seemed to have made her live in a new way.
As long ago as she could recall she had, in a crude, untutored way, been fond of the things that nature made beautiful; but now she seemed to see them in a new light, but not because any one had deliberately taught her. Indeed, it bored her almost to hear books read as Jesse Bulrush and Nurse Egan, and even her mother, read them to Crozier after his operation, to help him pass away the time. The only time she ever cared to listen-- at school, though quick and clever, she had never cared for the printed page--was when, by chance, poetry or verses were read or recited. Then she would listen eagerly, not attracted by the words, but by the music of the lines, by the rhyme and rhythm, by the underlying feeling; and she got something out of it which had in one sense nothing to do with the verses themselves or with the conception of the poet.
Curiously enough, she most liked to hear Jesse Bulrush read. He was a born sentimentalist, and this became by no means subtly apparent to Kitty during Crozier's illness. Whenever Nurse Egan was on duty Jesse contrived to be about, and to make himself useful and ornamental too; for he was a picturesque figure, with a taste for figured waistcoats and clean linen--he always washed his own white trousers and waistcoats, and he had a taste in ties, which he made for himself out of silk bought by the yard. He was, in fact, a clean, wholesome man, with a flair for material things, as he had shown in the land proposal on which Shiel Crozier's fortunes hung, but with no gift for carrying them out, having neither constructive ability nor continuity of purpose. Yet he was an agreeable, humorous, sentimental soul, who at fifty years of age found himself "an old bach," as he called himself, in love at last with a middle-aged nurse with dark brown hair and set figure, keen, intelligent eyes, and a most cheerful, orderly, and soothing way with her.
Before Shiel Crozier was taken ill their romance began; but it grew in volume and intensity after the trial and the shooting, when they met by the bedside of the wounded man. Jesse had been away so much in different parts of the country before then that their individual merits never had had a real chance to make permanent impression. By accident, however, his business made it necessary for him to be much in Askatoon at the moment, and it was a propitious time for the growth of the finer feelings.
It had given Jesse Bulrush real satisfaction that Kitty Tynan listened to his reading of poetry--Longfellow, Byron, Tennyson, Whyte Melville, and Adam Lindsay Gordon chiefly--with such absorbed interest. His content was the greater because his lovely nurse--he did think she was lovely, as Rubens thought his painted ladies beautiful, though their cordial, ostentatious proportions are not what Raphael regarded as the divine lines--because his lovely nurse listened to his fat, happy voice rising and falling, swelling and receding on the waves of verse; though it meant nothing to her that one who had the gift of pleasant sound was using it on her behalf.
This was not apparent to her Bulrush, though Crozier and Kitty understood. Jesse only saw in the blue-garbed, clear-visaged woman a mistress of his heart, who had all the virtues and graces and who did not talk. That, to him, was the best thing of all. She was a superb listener, and he was a prodigious talker--was it not all appropriate?
One day he went searching for Kitty at her favourite retreat, a little knoll behind and to the left of the house, where a half-dozen trees made a pleasant resting-place at a fine look-out point. He found her in her usual place, with a look almost pensive on her face. He did not notice that, for he was excited and elated.
"I want to read you something I've written," he said, and he drew from his pocket a paper.
"If it's another description of the timber-land you have for sale-please, not to me," she answered provokingly, for she guessed well what he held in his hand. She had seen him writing it. She had even seen some of the lines scrawled and re-scrawled on bits of paper, showing careful if not swift and skillful manufacture. One of these crumpled-up bits of paper she had in her pocket now, having recovered it that she might tease him by quoting the lines at a provoking opportunity.
"It's not that. It's some verses I've written," he said, with a wave of his hand.
"All your own?" she asked with an air of assumed innocent interest, and he did not see the frivolous gleam in her eyes, or notice the touch of aloes on her tongue.
"Yes. Yes. I've always written verses more or less--I write a good many advertisements in verse," he added cheerfully. "They are very popular. Not genius, quite, but there it is, the gift; and it has its uses in commerce as in affairs of the heart. But if you'd rather not, if it makes you tired--"
"Courage, soldier, bear your burden," she said gaily. "Mount your horse and get galloping," she added, motioning him to sit.
A moment later he was pouring out his soul through a pleasing voice, from fat lips, flanked by a high-coloured healthy cheek like a russet apple:
"Like jewels of the sky they gleam, Your eyes of light, your eyes of fire; In their dark depths behold the dream Of Life's glad hope and Love's desire.
"Above your quiet brow, endowed With Grecian charm to crown your grace, Your hair in one soft Titian cloud Throws heavenly shadows on your face."
"Well, I've never had verses written to me before," Kitty remarked demurely, when he had finished and sat looking at her questioningly. "But 'dark depths'--that isn't the right thing to say of my eyes! And Titian cloud of hair--is my hair Titian? I thought Titian hair was bronzy-tawny was what Mr. Burlingame called it when he was spouting," --her upper lip curled in contempt.
"It isn't you, and you know it," he replied jerkily. She bridled. "Do you mean to say that you come and read to me without a word of explanation, so that I shouldn't misunderstand, verses written for another? Am I to be told now that my eyes aren't eyes of light and eyes of fire, that I haven't got a Grecian brow? Do you dare to say those verses don't fit me--except for the Titian hair and heavenly shadows? And that I've got no right to think they're meant for me? Is it so, that a man that's lived in my mother's house for years, eating at the same table with the family, and having his clothes mended free, with supper to suit him and no questions asked--is it so, that he reads me poetry, four lines at a stretch, and a rhyme every other line, and then announces it isn't for me!"
Her eyes flashed, her bosom palpitated, her hand made passionate gestures, and she really seemed a young fury let loose. For a moment he was deceived by her acting; he did not see the lurking grin in the depths of her eyes.
Her voice shook with assumed passion. "Because I didn't show what I felt all these years, and only exposed my real feelings when you read those verses to me, do you think any man who was a gentleman wouldn't in the circumstances say, 'These verses are for you, Kitty Tynan'? You betrayed me into showing you what I felt, and then you tell me your verses are for another girl!"
"Girl! Girl! Girl!" he burst out. "Nurse is thirty-seven--she told me so herself, and how could I tell that you--why, it's absurd! I've only thought of you always as a baby in long skirts"--she spasmodically drew her skirts down over her pretty, shapely ankles, while she kept her eyes covered with one hand--"and you've seen me makin' up to her ever since Crozier got the bullet. Ever since he was operated on, I've--"
"Yes, yes, that's right," she interrupted. "That's manly! Put the blame on him--him that couldn't help himself, struck by a horse-thief's bullet in the dark; him that's no more to blame for your carryings on while death was prowling about the door there--"
"Carryings on! Carryings on!" Jesse Bulrush was thoroughly excited and indignant. The little devil, to put him in a hole like this! "Carryings on! I've acted like a man all through--never anything else in your house, and it's a shame that I've got to listen to things that have never been said of me in all my life. My mother was a good, true woman, and she brought me up--"
"Yes, that's it, put it on your mother now, poor woman! who isn't here to stretch out her hand and stop you from playing a double game with two girls so placed they couldn't help themselves--just doing kind acts for a sick man." Suddenly she got to her feet. "I tell you, Jesse Bulrush, that you're a man--you're a man--"
But she could keep it up no longer. She burst out laughing, and the false tears of the actress she dashed from her eyes as she added: "That
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