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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Pete Quilliam’s First-Born
By Hall Caine (1853–1931)
From ‘The Manxman’

PETE went up to Sulby like an avalanche, shouting his greetings to everybody on the way. But when he got near to the “Fairy” he wiped his steaming forehead and held his panting breath, and pretended not to have heard the news.  1
  “How’s the poor girl now?” he said in a meek voice, trying to look powerfully miserable, and playing his part splendidly for thirty seconds.  2
  Then the women made eyes at each other and looked wondrous knowing, and nodded sideways at Pete, and clucked and chuckled, saying, “Look at him,—he doesn’t know anything, does he?”—“Coorse not, woman—these men creatures are no use for nothing.”  3
  “Out of a man’s way,” cried Pete with a roar, and he made a rush for the stairs.  4
  Nancy blocked him at the foot of them with both hands on his shoulders. “You’ll be quiet, then,” she whispered. “You were always a rasonable man, Pete, and she’s wonderful wake—promise you’ll be quiet.”  5
  “I’ll be like a mouse,” said Pete, and he wiped off his long sea-boots and crept on tiptoe into the room. There she lay with the morning light on her, and a face as white as the quilt that she was plucking with her long fingers.  6
  “Thank God for a living mother and a living child,” said Pete in a broken gurgle, and then he drew down the bedclothes a very little, and there too was the child on the pillow of her other arm.  7
  Then, do what he would to be quiet, he could not help but make a shout.  8
  “He’s there! Yes, he is! He is, though! Joy! Joy!”  9
  The women were down on him like a flock of geese. “Out of this, sir, if you can’t behave better.”  10
  “Excuse me, ladies,” said Pete humbly, “I’m not in the habit of babies. A bit excited, you see, Mistress Nancy, ma’am. Couldn’t help putting a bull of a roar out, not being used of the like.” Then, turning back to the bed, “Aw, Kitty, the beauty it is, though! And the big! As big as my fist already. And the fat! It’s as fat as a bluebottle. And the straight! Well, not so very straight neither, but the complexion at him now! Give him to me, Kitty! give him to me, the young rascal. Let me have a hould of him anyway.”  11
  “Him, indeed! Listen to the man,” said Nancy.  12
  “It’s a girl, Pete,” said Grannie, lifting the child out of the bed.  13
  “A girl, is it?” said Pete doubtfully. “Well,” he said, with a wag of the head, “thank God for a girl.” Then, with another and more resolute wag, “Yes, thank God for a living mother and a living child, if it is a girl,” and he stretched out his arms to take the baby.  14
  “Aisy, now, Pete—aisy,” said Grannie, holding it out to him.  15
  “Is it aisy broke they are, Grannie?” said Pete. A good spirit looked out of his great boyish face. “Come to your ould daddie, you lil sandpiper. Gough bless me, Kitty, the weight of him, though! This child’s a quarter of a hundred, if he’s an ounce. He is, I’ll go bail he is. Look at him! Guy heng, Grannie, did ye ever see the like, now! It’s abs’lute perfection. Kitty, I couldn’t have had a better one if I’d chiced it. Where’s that Tom Hommy now? The bleating little billygoat, he was bragging outrageous about his new baby—saying he wouldn’t part with it for two of the best cows in his cow-house. This’ll floor him, I’m thinking. What’s that you’re saying, Mistress Nancy, ma’am? No good for nothing, am I? You were right, Grannie. ‘It’ll be all joy soon,’ you were saying, and haven’t we the child to show for it? I put on my stocking inside out on Monday, ma’am. ‘I’m in luck,’ says I, and so I was. Look at that, now! He’s shaking his lil fist at his father. He is, though. This child knows me. Aw, you’re clever, Nancy, but—no nonsense at all, Mistress Nancy, ma’am. Nothing will persuade me but this child knows me.”  16
  “Do you hear the man?” said Nancy. “He and he, and he and he! It’s a girl, I’m telling you; a girl—a girl—a girl.”  17
  “Well, well, a girl, then—a girl we’ll make it,” said Pete, with determined resignation.  18
  “He’s deceaved,” said Grannie. “It was a boy he was wanting, poor fellow!”  19
  But Pete scoffed at the idea. “A boy? Never! No, no—a girl for your life. I’m all for girls myself, eh, Kitty? Always was, and now I’ve got two of them.”  20
  The child began to cry, and Grannie took it back and rocked it, face downwards, across her knees.  21
  “Goodness me, the voice at him!” said Pete. “It’s a skipper he’s born for—a harbor-master, anyway.”  22
  The child slept, and Grannie put it on the pillow turned lengthwise at Kate’s side.  23
  “Quiet as a Jenny Wren, now,” said Pete. “Look at the bogh smiling in his sleep. Just like a baby mermaid on the egg of a dogfish. But where’s the ould man at all? Has he seen it? We must have it in the papers. The Times? Yes, and the ’Tiser too. ‘The beloved wife of Mr. Capt’n Peter Quilliam, of a boy—a girl,’ I mane. Aw, the wonder there’ll be all the island over—everybody getting to know. Newspapers are like women—ter’ble bad for keeping sacrets. What’ll Philip say?”…  24
  There was a low moaning from the bed.  25
  “Air! Give me air! open the door!” Kate gasped.  26
  “The room is getting too hot for her,” said Grannie.  27
  “Come, there’s one too many of us here,” said Nancy. “Out of it,” and she swept Pete from the bedroom with her apron as if he had been a drove of ducks.  28
  Pete glanced backward from the door, and a cloak that was hanging on the inside of it brushed his face.  29
  “God bless her!” he said in a low tone. “God bless and reward her for going through this for me!”  30
  Then he touched the cloak with his lips and disappeared. A moment later his curly black poll came stealing round the doorjamb, half-way down, like the head of a big boy.  31
  “Nancy,” in a whisper, “put the tongs over the cradle; it’s a pity to tempt the fairies. And, Grannie, I wouldn’t lave it alone to go out to the cow-house—the lil people are shocking bad for changing.”  32

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