“Yes: I’ve got my mother.”
“That makes a difference, does it not?”
“A very great difference. She’ll save me from having to go to a cupboard for my bread and meat.”
“I suppose having a woman about is better for a man. They haven’t got any thing else to do, and therefore they can look to things.”
“Do you help to look to things?”
“I suppose I do something. I often feel ashamed to think how very little it is. As for that, I’m not wanted at all.”
“So that you’re free to go elsewhere?”
“I didn’t mean that, Mr. Medlicot; only I know I’m not of much use.”
“But if you had a house of your own?”
“Gangoil is my home just as much as it is Mary’s; and I sometimes feel that Harry is just as good to me as he is to Mary.”
“Your sister will never leave Gangoil.”
“Not unless Harry gets another station.”
“But you will have to be transplanted some day.”
Kate merely chucked up her head and pouted her lips, as though to show that the proposition was one which did not deserve an answer.
“You’ll marry a squatter, of course, Miss Daly?”
“I don’t suppose I shall ever marry any body, Mr. Medlicot.”
“You wouldn’t marry any one but a squatter? I can quite understand that. The squatters here are what the lords and the country gentlement are at home.”
“I can’t even picture to myself what sort of life people live at home.” Both Medlicot and Kate Daly meant England when they spoke of home.
“There isn’t so much difference as people think. Classes hang together just in the same way; only I think there’s a little more exclusiveness here than there was there.”
In answer to this, Kate asserted with innocent eagerness that she was not at all exclusive, and that if ever she married any one she’d marry the man she liked.
“I wish you’d like me,” said Medlicot.
“That’s nonsense,” said Kate, in a low, timid whisper, hurrying away to rejoin the other ladies. She could speculate on the delights of the beverage as would Mickey O’Dowd in his hut; but when it was first brought to her lips she could only fly away from it. In this respect Mickey O’Dowd was the more sensible of the two. No other word was spoken that night between them, but Kate lay awake till morning thinking of the one word that had been spoken. But the secret was kept sacredly within her own bosom.
Before the Medlicots started that night the old lady made a proposition that the Heathcotes and Miss Daly should eat the Christmas dinner at Medlicot’s Mill. Mrs. Heathcote, thinking perhaps of her sister, thoroughly liking what she herself had seen of the Medlicots, looked anxiously into Harry’s face. If he would consent to this, an intimacy would follow, and probably a real friendship be made.
“It’s out of the question,” he said. The very firmness, however, with which he spoke gave a certain cordiality even to his refusal. “I must be at home, so that the men may know where to find me till I go out for the night.” Then, after a pause, he continued, “As we can’t go to you, why should you not come to us?”