[from 'The Manxman' 1894]



IT was so far back home, so much farther than it had been to come. The course is short and easy going out to sea when the tide is with you, and the water is smooth, and the sun is shining, but long and hard coming back to harbour, when the waves have risen, and the sky is low, and the wind is on your bow.

So far, so very far. She thought everybody looked at her, and knew her for what she was-a broken, forsaken, fallen woman. And she was so tired too; she wondered if her limbs would carry her.

When Philip was left alone, the sky seemed to be lying on big shoulders. The English mountains were grey and ghostly now, and the storm, which had spent itself on the other coast, seemed to hang over the island. There were breakers where the long dead sea had been, and the petrel outside was scudding close to the white curves, and uttering its dismal note.

So heavy and confused had the storm and wreck of the last hour left him, that he did not at first observe by the backward tail of smoke that the steamer had passed round the Head, and that the cart he had met at the mouth of the port had come back empty to the cave for another load of sea-wrack. The lobster-fisher, too, had beached big boat near by, and was shouting through the hollow air, wherein every noise seemed to echo with a sepulchral quake, " The block was going whistling at the mast-head. We'll have a squall I was thinking, so in I came."

That night Philip dreamt a dream. He was sitting on a dais with a wooden canopy above him, the English coat of arms behind, and a beat book in front; his hands shook as he turned the leaves; he felt his leg hang heavily; people bowed low to him, and dropped their voices in his presence; he was the Deemster, and he was old. A young woman stood in the dock, dripping water from her hair, and she had covered her face with her hands. In the witness-box a young man was standing, and his head was down. The man had delivered the woman to dishonour; she had attempted her life in her shame and her despair. And looking on the man, the Deemster thought he spoke in a stern voice, saying, " Witness, I am compelled to punish her, but oh to heaven that I could punish you in her place ! What have you to say for yourself !"

" I have nothing to say for myself," the young man answered, and he lifted his head and the old Deemster saw his face. Then Philip awoke with a smothered scream, for the young man's face had been his own.

  Back index next  

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