[from 'The Manxman' 1894]
" SHE loves me ! She loves me ! She loves me ! " The words sang in Philip's ears like a sweet tune half the way back to Ballure. Then he began to pluck at the brambles by the wayside, to wound his hand by snatching at the gorse, and to despise himself for being glad when he should have been in grief. Still, he was sure of it; there was no making any less of it. She loved him, he was free to love her, there need be no hypocrisy and no self-denial; so he wiped the blood from his fingers, and crept into the blue room of Auntie Nan.
The old lady, in a dainty cap with flying streamers, was sitting by the fireside spinning. She had heard the news of Pete as Philip passed through to Sulby, and was now wondering if it was not her duty to acquaint Uncle Peter. The sweet and natty old gentlewoman, brought up in the odour of gentility, was thinking on the lines of poor Bridget Black Tom when dying under the bare scraas, that a man's son was his son in spite of law or devil.
She decided against telling the Ballawhaine by remembering an incident in the life of his father. It was about Philip's father, too; so Philip stretched his legs from the sofa towards the hearth, and listened to the old Auntie's voice over the whirr of her wheel, with another voice-a younger voice, an unheard voice-breaking in at the back of his ears when the wheel stopped, and a sweet undersong inside of him'always, saying, "Be sensible; there is no disloyalty; Pete is dead. Poor Pete ! Poor old Pete! "
"Though he had cast your' father off, Philip, for threatening to make your mother his wife, he never believed there was a parson on the island would dare to marry them against his wish."
"No, really !"
"No; and when Uncle Peter came in at dinner-time a week after and said, 'It's all over,' he said, ' No, sir, no,' and threw down his spoon in the plate, and the hot broth splashed on my hand, I remember. But Peter said, 'It's past praying for, sir, and then grandfather cried, 'No, I tell you no.' 'But I tell you yes, sir,' said Peter. ' Maughold Church yesterday morning before service.' Then grandfather lost himself, and called Peter 'Liar,' and cried that your father couldn't do it. 'And, besides, he's my own son after all, and would not,' said grandfather. But I could see that he believed what Uncle Peter had told him, and, when Peter began to cry, he said, 'Forgive me, my boy; I'm your father for all, and I've a right to your forgiveness.' All the same, he wouldn't be satisfied until he had seen the register, and I had to go with him to the church."
" Poor old grandfather !"
"The vicar in those days was a little dotty man named Kissack, and it was the joy of his life to be always crushing and stifling somebody, because somebody was always depriving him of his rights or something."
" I remember him-the Cockatoo. His favourite text was, ' Jesus said, then follow Me,' only the people declared he always wanted to go first."
"Shocking, Philip. It was evening when we drove up to Maughold, and the little parson was by the Cross, ordering somebody with a cane. I am told you married my son yesterday; is it true?' said grandfather. 'Quite true,' said the vicar. 'By banns or special license?' grandfather asked. 'License, of course,' the vicar answered."
"Curt enough, any way."
"' Show me the register,' said grandfather, and his face twitched 'and his voice was thick. ' Can't you believe me ?" said the vicar. 'The register,' said grandfather. Then the vicar turned the key in the church door and strutted up, the aisle, humming something. I tried to keep grandfather back even then. 'What's the use ?' I said, for I knew he was only fighting, against belief. But, hat in hand, he followed to the Communion rail, and there the vicar laid the open book before him. Oh, Philip, shall I ever forget it? How it all comes back-the little dim church, the smell of damp and ofvelvet under the holland covers of the pulpit, and the empty place echoing. And grandfather fixed his glasses and leaned over the register, but he could see nothing-only blur, blur, blur.
" ' You look at it, child,' he said, over his shoulder. But I daren't face it; so he rubbed his glasses and leaned over the book again. Oh dear ! he was like one who looks down the list of the slain for the name he prays he may not find. But the name was there, too surely: 'Thomas Wilson Christian . . . to Mona Crel!in . . signed Wm. Crellin and something Kissack."'
Philip's breath came hot and fast.
"The little vicar was swinging his cane to and fro on the other side of the rail and smiling, and grandfather raised his eyes to him and said, 'Do you know what you've done, sir? You've robbed me of my first-born son and ruined him.' ' Nonsense, sir,' said the vicar. 'Your son was of age, and his wife had the sanction of her father. Was I to go round by Ballawhaine for permission to do my duty as a clergyman ?' 'Duty ?' cried grandfather. 'When a young man marries, he marries for heaven or for hell. Your duty as a clergyman !' he cried, till his voice rang in the roof. 'If a son of yours had his hand at his throat, would you call it my duty as Deemster to hand him a knife. 'Silence, , sir,' said the vicar. 'Remember where you stand, or, Deemster though you are, you shall repent it.' 'Arrest me for brawling, will you?' cried grandfather, and he snatched the cane out of the vicar's hand and struck him across the breast. 'Arrest me now,' he said, and then tottered and stumbled out of the church by my arm and the doors of the empty pews."
Philip went to bed that night with burning brow and throbbing throat. He had made a startling discovery. He was standing where his father had stood before him; he was doing what his father had done; he was in danger of his father's fate ! Where was his head that he had never thought of this before ?
It was hard-it was terrible. Now that he was free to love the girl, he realised what it meant to love her. Nevertheless he was young, and he rebelled, he fought, he would not deliberate. The girl conquered in his heart that night, and he lay down to sleep. But next morning he told himself, with a shudder, that it was lucky he had gone no farther. One step more and all the evil of his father's life might have been repeated in his own. There had been nothing said, nothing done. He would go to Sulby no more.
Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2008