[from 'The Manxman' 1894]
PHILIP, in Douglas, had received the following communication from Government House.-
" His Excellency will be obliged to Mr. Philip Christian if he will not leave the island for the present without acquainting him of his destination."
The message was a simple one : it said little, and involved and foreshadowed nothing, but it threw Philip into a condition of great excitement. To relieve his restlessness by giving way to it, he went out to walk. It was the end of the tourist season, and the Ben-my-Chree was leaving the harbour. Newsboys, burrowing among the crowds on the pier to sell a Manx evening paper, were crying, "Illness of the Deemster-serious reports."
Philip's hair seemed to rise from his head. The two things came together in his mind. With an effort to smudge out the connection he turned back to his lodgings, looking at everything that his eyes fell on in the rattling streets, speaking to everybody he knew, but seeing nothing and hearing nobody. The beast of life had laid its claws on him.
Back in his rooms, he took out of his pocket a packet which Auntie Nan had put in his band when he was leaving Ramsey. It was a bundle of his father's old letters to his sister-cousin, written from London in the days when he was studying law and life was like the opening dawn. "The ink is yellow now," said Auntie Nan ; "it was black then, and the hand that wrote them is cold. But the blood runs red in them yet. Read them, Philip," she said with a meaning look, and then he was sure she knew of Sulby.
Philip read his father's letters until it was far into the night, and he had gone through every line of them. They were as bright as sunshine, as free as air, easy, playful, forcible, full of, picture, but, above all, egotistical, proud with the pride of intellectuality, and vain with the certainty of success. It was this egotism that fascinated Philip. He sniffed it up as a colt sniffs the sharp wind. There was no need to make allowances for it. The castles which his father had been building in the air were only as hovels to the golden palaces which his son's eager spirit was that night picturing. Philip devoured the letters. It was almost as if he had written them himself in some other state of being. The message from Government House lay on a table at his right, and sometimes be put his open hand over it as he sat close under the lamp on a table at his left and read on
"Heard old Broom in the House last night, and to-day I lunched with him at Tabley's. They call him an orator and the king of conversationalists. He speaks like a pump, and talks like a bottle running water. No conviction, no sincerity, no appeal. Civil enough to me though, and when' he heard that father was a Deemster, he told me the title meant Doomster, and then asked me if I knew the meaning of ' House of Keys,' and said it had its origin in the ancient Irish custom of locking the muniment chests with twenty-four keys, whereof each counsellor kept one. When he had left us Tabley asked if he wasn't a wonderful man, and if he didn't know something of everything, and I said, ' Yes, except the things of which I knew a little, and of, them he knew nothing.'
. . My pen runs, runs. But, Nannie, my little Nannie, if this is what London calls a great man, I'll kick the ball like a toy before me yet."
" So you are wondering where I am living--in mansion or attic! Behold me then in Brick Court, Temple, second floor. Goldsmith wrote the ' Vicar' on the third, but I've not got up to that yet. His rooms were those immediately above me. I seem to see him coming down past my door in that wonderful plum-coloured coat. And sitting here at night I think of him-the sudden fear, the solitary death, then these stairs thronged with his pensioners, the mighty Burke pushing through, Reynolds with his ear-trumpet, and big ' blinking Sam,' and last of all the unknown grave, God knows where, by the chapel wall. Poor little Oliver ! They say it was a woman that was ' in' at the end. No more of the like now, no more debts, no more vain ' talk like poor Poll:' the light's out-all still and dark."
. . . "How's my little Nannie ? Does she still keep a menagerie for sick dogs and lost cats? And how's the parson-gull with the broken wing, and does he still strut like Parson Kissack in his surplice ? I was at Westminster Hall yesterday. It was the great trial of Mitchell, M.P., who forged his father's will. Stevens defended-bad, bad, bad, smirking all the while with small facetiŠ. But Denman's summing up-oh ! oh ! such insight, such acutetpess ! It was wonderful: I had a seat in the gallery. The grand old hall was a thrilling scene-the dense throng, the upturned faces, the counsel, the judges, the officers of court, and then the windows, the statues, the echo of history that made every stone and rafter live-Oh, Nan, Nan, listen to me! ' If I live I'll sit on the bench 'there some day-I will, so help me God!"
When Philip had finished his father's letters, be was on the heights, and poor Kate was left far below, out of reach and out of sight. Hitherto his ambitions had been little more than the pale shadow of his father's hopes, but now they were his own realities.
Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2008