[from 'The Manxman' 1894]
PHILIP was vanquished, and he knew it, but he was not daunted, he was not distressed. To have resisted the self-abandonment of Kate's love would have been monstrous. Therefore, he had done no wrong, and there was nothing to be ashamed of. But when he reached Ballure he did not dash into Auntie Nan's room, according to his wont, though a light was burning there, and he could hear the plop and click of thread and needle.; he crept upstairs to his own, and sat down to write a letter. It was the first of his love letters. " I shall count the days, the hours, and the minutes until we meet again, my darling, and I shall be constantly asking what time it is. And seeing we must be so much apart, let us contrive a means of being together, nevertheless.. Listen !-I whisper the secret in your ear. To-morrow night and every night eat your supper at eight o'clock exactly; I will do the same, and so we shall be supping in each other's company, my little wife, though twenty miles divide us. If anybody asks me to supper, I will refuse in order that I may sup with you. ` I am promised to a . friend,' I'll say, and then I'll sit down in my rooms alone, but you will be with me."
Tingling with delight, he wrote this letter to Kate, though less than an hour parted from her, and went out to post it. He was going upstairs again, steadily, on tiptoe, his head half aside and his face over his shoulder, when Auntie Nan's voice came from the blue room-" Philip ! "
He returned with a sheepish look, and a sense, never felt before, of being naked, so to speak. But Auntie Nan did not look at him. She was working a lamb on a sampler, and she reached over the frame to take something out of a drawer and hand it to him. It was a medallion of a young child - a boy, with long fair curls like a girl's, and a face like sunshine.
"Was it father, Auntie ? "
"Yes; a French painter who came ashore -with Thurlot painted it for grandfather."
Philip laid it on the table. He was more than ever sure that Auntie Nan had heard something. Such were her tender ways of warning him. He could not be vexed.
"I'm sleepy to-night, Auntie, and you look tired too. You've been waiting up for me again. Now, you really must not. Besides, r, it limits one's freedom."
That's nothing, Philip. You said you would come home after calling on the poor Deemster, and so
" He's in a bad way, Auntie. Drink-delirium-such a wreck. Well, good night!"
"Did you read the letters, dear?",
"Oh, yes. Father's letters. Yes, I read them. Good night."
"Aren't they beautiful? Haven't they the very breath of ambition and enthusiasm ? But poor father ! How soon the brigbtness melted away ! He never repined, though. Oh, no, never. Indeed, he used to laugh and joke at our dreams and our castles in the air. ' you must do it all yourself, Nannies you shall have all the cakes and ale.' Yes, when he was a dying man he would joke like that. But sometimes he would grow serious, and then he would say, ` Give little Philip some for all. He'll deserve it more than me. Oh, God,' he would say, `let me think to myself when I'm there, you've missed the good things of life, but your son has got them; you are here, but he is on the heights; lie still, thou poor aspiring heart, lie still in in your grave and rest."'
Philip felt like a bird struggling in the meshes of a net.
"My father was a poet, Auntie, trying to be a man of the world. That was the real mischief in his life, if you think of it."
Auntie Nan looked up with her needle at poise above the sampler, and said in w nervous voice, "The real mischief of your father's life, Philip, was love-what they call love. But love is not that. Love - is peace and virtue, and right living, and that is only madness and frenzy, and when people wake up from it they wake up as from a nightmare. Men talk of it as a holy thing-it is unholy. Books are written in praise of it-I would have such books burnt When anybody falls to it, he is like a blind man who has lost his guide, tottering straight to the precipice. Women fall to it too. Yes, good women as well as good men; I have seen them tempted"
Philip was certain of it- now. Some one had been prying upon him at Sulby. He was angry, and his anger spent itself on Auntie
Nan in a torrent of words. "You are wrong, Aunt Anne, quite wrong. Love is the one lovely thing in life. It is beauty, it is ,` poetry. Call it passion if you will-what would the world be like without it? A place where every human heart would be an island standing alone ; a place without children, without joy, without merriment, without laughter. No, .no; Heaven has given us love, and we are wrong when we try to put it away. We cannot put it away, and when we make the attempt we are punished for our pride and arrogance. It ought to be enough for us to let heaven decide - whether we are to be great men or little men, and to decide for ourselves whether we are to be good men and happy men. And the greatest happiness of life is love. Heaven would have to work a miracle to enable us to live without it. But Heaven does not work such a miracle, because the greatest miracle of heaven is love itself." The needle hand of Auntie Nan was trembling above her sampler, and her lips were twitching.
"You are a young man yet, Philip," she faltered, "but I am an old lady now, dear, and I have seen the fruits of the intoxication you call passion. Oh, have I not, have I not? It wrecks- lives, ruins prospects, breaks up homes, sets father against son, and brother against brother
Philip would give her no chance. He was tramping across the room, and he burst out with, "You are wrong again, Auntie: You are always wrong in these matters; because you are always thinking from the particular to the general-you are always thinking. of my father. What you have been calling my father's fall was really his fate. He deserved it. If - he had been fit for the high destiny he aspired to-if he had been fit to be a judge, he would not have fallen. That he did fall is proof enough that he was not fit. God did not intend it, My father's aspirations were not the call of a stern vocation, they were mere poetic ambition. If he had ever by great ill-fortune lived to be made Deemster, he would have found himself out, and the island would have found him out, and you yourself would have found him out, and all the world would have been undeceived. As a poet he might have been a great man, but as a Deemster he must have been a mockery, a hypocrite, an impostor, and a sham."
Auntie Nan rose to her feet with a look of fright on her sweet old face, and something dropped with a clank on to the floor.
"Oh, Philip, Philip, if I thought you could ever repeat the error ---?
But Philip gave her no time to finish. Tossing his disordered hair from his forehead, he swung out of the room.
Being alone, he began to collect himself. Was it, in sober fact, he who had spoken like that ? Of his father too ! To Auntie Nan as well ? He saw how it was; he had been speaking of his father, but he bad been thinking of himself; he had been struggling to justify himself, to reconcile, strengthen, and fortify himself. But in doing so he had been breaking an idol, a life-long idol, his own idol and Auntie Nan's.
He stumbled downstairs in a rush of remorse, and burst again into the room crying in a broken voice, " Auntie! Auntie! "
But the room was empty; the lamp was turned down; the sampler was pushed aside. Something crunched under his foot, and he stooped and picked it up. It was the medallion, and it was cracked across. The accident terrified him. His skin seemed to creep. He.felt as if he had trodden on his father's face. Putting the broken picture into his pocket, he turned about like a guilty man and crept silently to bed in the darkness.
But the morning brought him solace for the pains of the night-it brought him a letter from Kate.
"The Melliah is over at long, long last, and I am allowed to be alone with my thoughts. They sang ` Keerie fu Snaighty' after you left, and `The King can only love his wife, And I can do the -sa-a-ame, And I can do the same.' But there is really nothing to tell you, for nothing happened of the slightest consequence. Good night ! I am going to bed after I have posted this letter at the bridge. Two hours hence you will appear to me in sleep, unless I lie that long awake to think of your I generally do. Good-bye, my dear lord and master! : You will let me know what you think best to be done. Your difficulties alarm me terribly. You see, dear, we two are about to do something so much out of the common. Good night ! I lift my head that you may give me another kiss on the eyes, and here are two for yours."
Then there were- empty brackets [ ], which Kate had put her lips to; expecting Philip to do the same.
Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2008