[from 'The Manxman' 1894]

II

 

PHILIP was going into his. chambers in Douglas that morning when he came upon a messenger from Government House in stately intercourse with his servant. His Excellency begged him to step up to Onchan immediately, and to remain for lunch.

The Governor's carriage was at the door, and Philip got into it. Hq was not excited; he remembered his agitation at the Governor's former message and smiled. On leaving his own rooms he had not forgotten to order supper for eight o'clock precisely.

He found the Governor polite and expansive as usual. He was sitting in a room hung round with ponderous portraits of former Governors, most of them in frills and ruffles, and one vast picture of King George.

"You will have heard," he said, "that our northern Deemster is dead."

" Is he so?" said Philip. " I saw him at one o'clock yesterday."

"He died at two ?" said the Governor.

" Poor man, poor man ! " said Philip.

That was all. Not a tremble of the eyelid, not a quiver of the lip. "You are aware that the office. is a Crown appointment?" said the Governor. ' Applications are made; you know, to the Home Office, but it is probable that my advice may be asked by the Secret tary in his selection. I may, perhaps, be of use to a candidate." Philip gave no sign, and the Governor shifted his leg and con. tinned with a smile, " Certainly that appears to be the impression of your brother advocates, Mr. Christian; they are about me already, like wasps at a glue-pot. I will not question but you' 11 soon be one of them."

Philip made a gesture of protestation,'and the Governor waved his hand and smiled again. " Oh, I shan't blame you; young men are ambitious. It is natural that they should wish to advance them. selves in life. In your case, too, if I may say so, there is the further spur of a desire to recover the position your family once held, and lately lost through the mistake or misfortune of your father."'

Philip bowed gravely, but said nothing.

"That, no doubt," said the Governor, "would be a fact in your favour. The great fact against you would be that you are still so young. Let me see, is it eight-and-twenty?"

"Twenty-six," said Philip.

No more ? Only six-and-twenty? And then, successful as your career has been thus far-perhaps I should say distinguished or even brilliant-you are still unsettled in life."

Philip asked if his Excellency meant that he was still unmarried. "And if I do," the Governor replied, with pretended severity, " and if I do, don't smile too broadly, young man. You ought to know by this time that the personal equation counts for something in this old-fashioned island of yours. Now, the late Deemster was an example which it would be perilous to repeat. If it were repeated, I know who would hear of the blunder every day of his life, and it wouldn't be the Home Secretary either. Deemster Mylrea was called upon to punish the crimes of drink, and he was himself a drunkard; to try the offences of sensuality, and he was hinpelf a sensualist."

Philip could not help it-he gave a little crack of laughter.

"To be sure," said the Governor hastily, "you are in no danger of his excesses; but you will not be a safe candidate to recommend until you have placed yourself to all appearances out of the reach of them. 'Beware of these Christians,' said the great Derby to his son and, pardon me if I revive the warning to a Christian himself."

The colour came strong into Philip's face. Even at that moment he, felt angry at so coarse a version of his father's fault.

"You mean," said he, "that we are apt to marry unwisely."

"I do that," said the Governor.

"There's no telling," said Philip, with a faint crack of his fingers; and the Governor frowned a little-the pock-marks seemed to spread. Of course, all th A is outside my dutyo Mn Christian I nacd %

tell you that; but I feel an interest in you, and I've done you some services already, though naturally a young man will think he has done everything for himself. Ah !" he said, rising from his seat at the sound of a gong, "luncheon is ready. Let us join the ladies." Then, with one hand on Philip's shoulder familiarly, " Only a word more, Mr. Christian. Send in your application immediately, and-take the advice of an old fiddler-marry as soon afterwards as may be. But with your prospects it would be a sin not to walk carefully, If she's English, so much the better; but if she's Manx-take care."

Philip lunched with the Governor's wife, who told him she remembered his grandfather; also with his unmarried daughter, who said she had heard him speak for the fishermen at Peel. An official "At home," the last, of the summer, was to be held in the garden that afternoon, and Philip was invited to remain. He did so, and thereby witnessed the assaults of the wasps at the glue-pot. They buzzed about the Governor, they buzzed about his wife, they buzzed about his dog and about a tame deer, which took grapes from the hands of the guests.

An elderly gentleman, sitting alone in a carriage, drove up to the lawn. It was Peter Christian Ballawhaine, looking feebler, whiter, and more splay-footed than before. Philip stepped up to his uncle and offered his arm to alight by. But the Ballawhaine brushed it aside and pushed through to the Governor, to whom he talked incessantly for some minutes of his son Ross, saying he had sent for him and would like to present him to his Excellency.

If Philip lacked enjoyment of the scene, if his face lacked heart and happiness, it was not the fault of his host. "Will you not take Lady So-and-so to have tea? " the Governor would say; and presently Philip found himself in a circle of official wifedom, whose husbands had been made knights by the Queen, and themselves made Ladies by-God knows whom. The talk was of the late Deemster.

" Such a life ! It's a mercy he lasted so long!"

"A pity, you mean, my dear, not to be hard on him either." "Poor thing ! He ought to have married. Such a man wants a wife to look after him. Don't you think so, Mr. Christian !"

"Why," said a white-haired dame, have you never heard of his great romance?"

"Ah ! tell us of that. Who was the lady? "

"The lady : - - " there was a pause; the white-haired dame coughed, smiled, closed her little ferret eyes, dropped her voice, and said with mock gravity, "The lady was the blacksmith's daughter, dearest," And then there was a merry trill of laughter,

Philip felt sick, bowed to his hosts and left. As he was going his uncle intercepted him, holding out both hands.

" How's this, Philip? You never come to Ballawhaine now. I see ! Oh, I see ! Too busy with the women to remember an old man. They're all talking of you. Putting the comather on, them, eh? I know, I know; don't tell me."


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