“I never will let thee go, lad. Never! There’s no knowing where they would take thee to, or what they would do with thee. As it says in the Bible, ‘Nought but death shall part thee and me!’”
The country-side was full, in those days, of stories of the brutal treatment offered to the insane; stories that were, in fact, but too well founded, and the truth of one of which only would have been a sufficient reason for the strong prejudice existing against all such places. Each succeeding hour that Susan passed, alone, or with the poor affectionate lad for her sole companion, served to deepen her solemn resolution never to part with him. So, when Michael came, he was annoyed and surprised by the calm way in which she spoke, as if following Dr. Preston’s advice was utterly and entirely out of the question. He had expected nothing less than a consent, reluctant it might be, but still a consent; and he was extremely irritated. He could have repressed his anger, but he chose rather to give way to it; thinking that he could thus best work upon Susan’s affection, so as to gain his point. But, somehow, he over-reached himself; and now he was astonished in his turn at the passion of indignation that she burst into.
“Thou wilt not bide in the same house with him, say’st thou? There’s no need for thy biding, as far as I can tell. There’s solemn reason why I should bide with my own flesh and blood and keep to the word I pledged my mother on her death-bed; but, as for thee, there’s no tie that I know on to keep thee fro’ going to America or Botany Bay this very night, if that were thy inclination. I will have no more of your threats to make me send my bairn away. If thou marry me, thou’lt help me to take charge of Willie. If thou doesn’t choose to marry me on those terms — why, I can snap my fingers at thee, never fear. I’m not so far gone in love as that. But I will not have thee, if thou say’st in such a hectoring way that Willie must go out of the house — and the house his own too — before thoul’t set foot in it. Willie bides here, and I bide with him.”
“Thou hast may-be spoken a word too much,” said Michael, pale with rage. “If I am free, as thou say’st, to go to Canada, or Botany Bay, I reckon I’m free to live where I like, and that will not be with a natural who may turn into a madman some day, for aught I know. Choose between him and me, Susy, for I swear to thee, thou shan’t have both.”
“I have chosen,” said Susan, now perfectly composed and still. “Whatever comes of it, I bide with Willie.”
“Very well,” replied Michael, trying to assume an equal composure of manner. “Then I’ll wish you a very good night.” He went out of the house door, half-expecting to be called back again; but, instead, he heard a hasty step inside, and a bolt drawn.
“Whew!” said he to himself, “I think I must leave my lady alone for a week or two, and give her time to come to her senses. She’ll not find it so easy as she thinks to let me go.”
So he went past the kitchen-window in nonchalant style, and was not seen again at Yew Nook for some weeks. How did he pass the time? For the first day or two, he was unusually cross with all things and people that came athwart him. Then wheat-harvest began, and he was busy, and exultant about his heavy crop. Then a man came from a distance to bid for the lease of his farm, which, by his father’s advice, had been offered for sale, as he himself was so soon likely to remove to the Yew Nook. He had so little idea that Susan really would remain firm to her determination, that he at once began to haggle with the man who came after his farm, showed him the crop just got in, and managed skilfully enough to make a good bargain for himself. Of course, the bargain had to be sealed at the public-house; and the companions he met with there soon became friends enough to tempt him into Langdale, where again he met with Eleanor Hebthwaite.