[from 'The Manxman' 1894]



THE tide was up in Ramsey Harbour, and rolling heavily on the shore before a fresh sea-breeze with a cold taste of the salt in it. A steamer lying by the quay was getting up steam; trucks were running on her gangways, the clanking crane over her hold was working, and there was much shouting of names, and ordering and protesting, and general tumult. On the after-deck stood the emigrants for Kimberley, the Quarks from Glen Rushen, and some of the young Gills from Castletown-stalwart lads, bearing themselves bravely in the midst of a circle of their friends, who talked and laughed to make them forget they were on the point of going.

Pete and Phil came up the quay, and were received by a shout of incredulity from Quayle, the harbour-master. "What, are you going, too, Mr. Philip?" Philip answered him "No," and passed on to the ship.

Pete was still in his stocking cap and Wellington boots, but he tad a monkey-jacket over his blue guernsey. Except for a parcel in a red print handkerchief, this was all his kit and luggage. He felt a little lost amid all the bustle, and looked helpless and unhappy. The busy preparations on land and shipboard had another effect on Philip. He sniffed the breeze off the bay and laughed, and said, "The sea's calling me, Pete; I've half a mind to go with you."

Pete answered with a watery smile. His high spirits were failing him at last. Five years were a long time to be away, if one built all one's hopes on coming back. So many things might happen, so many chances might befall. Pete had no heart for laughter.

Philip had small mind for it, either, after the first rush of the salt in his blood was over. He felt at some moments as if hell itself were inside of him. What troubled him most was that he could not, for the life of him, be sorry that Pete was leaving the island. Once or twice since they-left Sulby he had been startled by the thought that he hated Pete. He knew that his lip curled down

hard at sight of Pete's solemn face. But Pete never suspected this, and the innocent tenderness of the rough fellow was every moment beating it down with blows that cut like ice and burnt like fire.

They were standing by the forecastle head, and talking above the loud throbbing of the funnel.

"Good-bye, Phil; you've been wonderful good to me-better nor anybody in the world. I've not been much of a chum for the like of you, either-you that's college bred and ought to be the first gentry in the island if everybody had his own. But you shan't be ashamed for me, neither-no you shan't, so help me God ! I won't be long away, Phil-maybe five years, maybe less, and when I come back you'll be the first Manxman living. No? But you will, though; you will, I'm telling you. No nonsense at all, man. Lave it to me to know."

Philip's frosty blue eyes began to melt.

"And if I come back rich, I'll be your ould friend again as much as a common man may; and if I come back poor and disappointed and done for, I'll not claim you to disgrace you; and if I never come back at all, I'll be saying to myself in my dark hour somewhere, `He'll spoke up for you at home, boy ; he'll not forget you."'

Philip could hear no more for the puffing of the steam and the clanking of the chains.

"Chut! the talk a man will put out when he's thinking of ould times gone by!"

The first bell rang on the bridge, and the harbour-master shouted, " All ashore, there ! "

"Phil, there's one turn more I'll ask of you, and, if it's the last, it's the biggest."

" What is it? "

"There's Kate, you know. Keep an eye on the girl while I'm away. Take a slieu round now and then, and put a sight on kror, Sbe'll not give a skute at the heirs the ould man's telling of; fut them young drapers and druggists, they'll plague the life out of the girl. Rate them off, Phil. They're not worth a fudge with their fists. But don't use no violence. Just duels the dandy-divils in the harbour-that'll do."

No harm shall come to her while you, are away."

"Swear to it, Phil. Your word's your bond, I know that; but give me your hand and swear to it-it'll be more surer."

Philip gave his hand and his oath, and then tried to turn away, for he knew that his face was reddening.

Wait ! There's another while your hand's in, Phil. Swear that nothing and nobody shall ever come between us two."

"You know nothing ever will"

" But swear to it, Phil. There's bad tongues going, and it'll make me more aisier. Whatever they do, whatever they say, friends and brothers to the last?"

Philip felt a buzzing in his head, and he was so dizzy that he could hardly stand, but he took the second oath also. Then the bell rang again, and there was a great hubbub. Gangways were drawn up, ropes were let go, the captain called to the shore from the bridge, and the blustering harbour-master called to the bridge from the shore.

" Go and stand on the end of the pier, Phil-just aback of the lighthouse-and I'll put myself at the stern. I want a friend's face to be the last thing I see when I'm going away from the old home ! " Philip could bear no more. The hate in his heart was mastered.

It was under his feet. His flushed face was wet.

The throbbing of the funnels ceased, and all that could be heard was the running of the tide in the harbour and the wash of the waves on the shore. Across the sea the sun came up boldly, "like a guest expected," and down its dancing water-path the steamer moved away. Over the land old Barrule rose up like a sea-king with hoar-frost on his forehead, and the smoke began to lift from the chimneys ofthe town at his feet.

Good-bye, little island, good-bye ! I'll not forget you. I'm getting kicked out of you, but you've been a good ould mother to me, and, God help me, I'll come back to you yet. So long, little Mona, s'long ! I'm laving you, but I'm a Manxman still."

Pete had meant to take off his stocking cap as they passed the lighthouse, and to dash the tears from his eyes like a man. But all that Philip could see from the end of the pier was a figure huddled up at the stern on a coil of rope.


  Back index next  

Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2008