[From Captain of the Parish, 1897]
MRS. CURLAT had a small tea-party, at which Mrs. Molvurra of Creg Awin and Nell Gawn were among the guests.
"Yes, Miss Gawn ! But me encouraging it? No! Me for riding on horseback? No, bless you! But the vanity that's in her is awful. Her heart has never experienced the great change. No, her heart is not changed at all. She loves this present world, and her heart is set in it," said Mrs. Molvurra.
"And to think," said the schoolmistress, "just to think of her getting all her dresses made in Douglas-and at Miss Bridson's, too, and her only a bit of a girl ! What is Miss Bridson charging now, Mrs. Molvurra ? "
" Charging? Aw, I'm not privileged to know anything about it. It's not me. Aw no! He's indulging her and humouring her. But it's not me that'll have to answer for it. It's costing Ellen more for the making of a dress than for the stuff that's in it, and good dressmakers in plenty charging half, and less tel' half, what she's giving."
"And is she getting other things made like that?" said the schoolmistress.
"Aw, bless you! Other things? It's shocking for a young woman to think of her body the way Ellen is. Take no thought, says the Scripture. The linen she's wearing, it would make you blush to see it; it's that delicate. If it was her wedding-day, and she was the Queen on her throne-"
" And is that what she's wearing regular, Mrs. Molvurra ? " said the schoolmistress.
"Aw, regular! The king's daughter in the Psalms will rise up in judgment against her. And what she's wearing at night! How she can go to sleep with the sin on her conscience, and the lace on her wrists and on her breast! But
I'm not interfering. I'm saying nothing to her. I only want peace and quietness in the house as long as I'm in."
And going with Lizzie Milvartin ! " said Nell Gawn abstractedly.
Aye," said Mrs. Molvurra. " A shameful actress, mocking people under their very noses in the public highroads, and heisen her skirts to show the very garters."
"Aw no, Charlotte, aw no," said Mrs. Curlat. "They're telling a falsehood that ever said such a thing. There's nothing wrong in her-not that way at all. Maybe Lizzie is a bit flighty, but not that way."
" Mrs. Curlat, I'm glad myself that it isn't to chapel they're going," said Mrs. Molvurra.
"Aw, no. It's to church they're going," said Mrs. Curlat. "Aye, and they might as well stay at home for all the good it's doing them. Going to church indeed ! But it's to church such will go-bunches of flowers in their breasts, and scent, and gloves, and airs-in God's house, and on the Sabbath-day! " said Mrs. Molvurra.
" Ellen herself is very proper, in all that I've seen, anyway," said the hostess. " Very proper. And if she's young, I can't say she's flighty more tel' a bit dressy, Charlotte."
The tea-party was interrupted by the arrival of Juan Paddy. He stood and stared, and sat down on the settle by the door, fixing his eyes on the table and on Mrs. Curlat. The bringer of news was not unwelcome to at least two of the guests, but they said nothing. They shook the crumbs from the laps of their faded black silks, and clasped their hands, and watched the old man get his expected tea.
"Juan himself can tell us some of their goings on," said Mrs. Molvurra, as old Mrs. Curlat poured Juan his second cup. "You were at the Cairnmore yesterday itself, Juan?"
"Me? Aw aye, mistress," said Juan. "And what were they at yesterday, Juan? "
" Aw, riding like mad things-going like the wind-gaps and fields. 'Deed, the young one is doing well-tasty out of mercy. But my lady is the rider, for all."
"And what were they doing at all, Juan? " said Nell persuasively.
"Aw, my lady was forcing the little horse to jump a bit of a hedge; aw, 'deed aye, and got him over too. But the young one was in at the heel of the hunt mostly every place," said Juan. " The young one is tasty out of mercy ! "
"And what had she, Juan?" said Nell Gawn.
"She had a lock of hair loose on the one side, hanging over her shoulder; and the man that was talking to me was telling that it was the style of the highest-even in England itself, he was saying."
"And had Ellen Molvurra a lock of hair loose, Juan?" said Mrs. Molvurra.
"Aw, no, no! Nothing but a little tight hat, and the long frock on her. But she can ride with a bit of beauty. But the young one is tasty out of mercy; aw, the man was allowing it. They'll never break their necks them ones, the man was saying," said Juan.
" Aw, no ! I hope not. Not in an unconverted state at all, Juan, unless for a judgment," said Mrs. Molvurra.
"And if they were converted, do thou think they would have more chance, mistress?" said Juan. "I'm thinking myself it would be worse for them. Converted ones could never stick on a horse like yonder," said Juan.
." Converted people wouldn't tempt Providence, Juan," said Mrs. Molvurra.
"Them two will be tempting more tel' Providence, mistress; it'll be some that's middling high, though, it's my belief," said Juan.
"For shame, Juan," said Nell Gawn.
"Aw, well, that's what they're saying, anyway," said Juan doggedly.
" Aw, no ! " said Mrs. Curlat-the-soldier. " There's no going with any young men there. They're very proper, very proper in their conduct-very proper indeed!"
Juan had risen and taken his hat and stick. He was in the passage and stood irresolute.
" Arrosey himself has took a pick against the young one. Aw, she's tasty out of mercy," said Juan.
" And what was he saying, Juan? " said Nell Gawn.
"Aw, he was saying that however deep the devil was in the man she came across, she would get soundings," said Juan.
"Did Arrosey say that, Juan?" said Mrs. Molvurra, incredulously.
" Aw, aye, mistress; he said he wished the young one was in h-ll," said Juan.
"And where was he saying that, Juan?" said Nell Gawn. " Aw, 'deed, ask the Steel-fist. He knows a deal more tel' that," said Juan; and he dragged himself to the door and was away.
" Aye, Arrosey has the big word. He's queer. But what was he meaning by that now? " said Mrs. Molvurra. '° And him a converted man too! " she added reflectively.
One morning after this tea-party, Lizzie Milvartin came up the Creg on her spotted grey cob, her dress green, a little bunch of southern-wood on her bosom. Joey was saddled, standing with bridle hooked on the garden-gate of Creg Awin. Silent for joy, a smile of greeting flashed from her eyes when Ellen appeared,- the skirts of her dress gathered in her hand. She was soon in the saddle, and they rode up the Creg. It was a holiday-a rare event for Lizzie-and they were going for a long ride.
"Here's Arrosey," said Ellen; "he'll be having a word with us. Let us give him the chance; we'll stop if he speaks."
The big man was in the highroad near the chapel. He had his eyes upon them as they approached at an amble.
" Well! " said the big man.
"Good morning, Mr. Molroy," said Ellen, and they both reined up.
"Good morning! good morning! " said the big man. He looked from Ellen to Lizzie and from Lizzie to Ellen. "And gloves ! " he muttered audibly, as if concluding a seriatim catalogue of fineries and figaries.
" How do you like Lizzie's horse, Mr. Molroy ? " said Ellen. " Doesn't Boxer look well? You're a judge of a horse, Mr. Molroy."
"Boxer!" he said. "Boxer!" he repeated. "Yes, that's Boxer."
The girls looked at each other. Both were in the mood to smile.
"Would you have known him, Mr. Molroy ? " said Ellen gravely.
" Ellen ! " he said solemnly, " what does it all mean ? What does it mean, girl? What's it all for, Ellen ? Is your head turned, Ellen? "
"No, Mr. Molroy. What makes you think so ?" said Ellen. " What makes me think so! This sight that I see before me; this high-flying, this gallivanting, this finery, horses, side-saddles, riding-whips, martingales, and gloves, Ellen gloves."
"But there's nothing in gloves, Mr. Molroy, is there?" said Ellen, patting Joey's neck and showing the little gauntlet on her hand; He did not answer, but watched Lizzie.
"You wouldn't be ashamed of us if people took us for your daughters, Mr. Molroy ? " said Lizzie.
The big man started a step back. Meanwhile his sheep-dog had gone over the roadside hedge into the water-trough meadow, and was regarding the sheep with head and ears erect.
" Come behind here, Flo ; come behind, you brute; come to heel," he yelled, in a voice loud enough to be heard across on the Vaish Hills. "It would be better for you, my girl, to be at home helping your mother in the housework. That's what I'm thinking," he said to Lizzie.
Lizzie tossed her head with an angry blush.
" Oh, you needn't be afraid, Mr. Molroy. Lizzie works bard enough," said Ellen.
"And when did Miss Milvartin begin to take these high notions, Ellen, my girl? Is it you that's putting them into her head, Ellen? " said the big man.
" If you'll tell me what's wrong, Mr. Molroy, I'll answer your question," said Ellen firmly.
There was a sniff as if he was about to sneeze; the dog was at his heels, and he made a blow at the dog with his stick.
" And are you putting her up to it, Ellen, my girl ? " he said, in a softer tone.
" There's nothing to disapprove of, that I can see, Mr. Molroy," said Ellen, tightening her rein.
" Aw, well, my ladies! aw, well ! And what are the people saying about it? What do you think, Ellen, my girl ? " said the big man.
" Let them say what they like, Mr. Molroy ; we're in good company as to that," said Ellen.
" And how, Ellen, my girl?"
"Indeed, Mr. Molroy, you wouldn't care yourself what the people said, if you'd made up your mind to a thing," said Ellen, with a smile returning.
" Aye, Ellen ! But girls-girls like you, Ellen ! " said the big man.
" Yes, Mr. Molroy, and can't we have minds of our own ? " she said.
" Aw, 'deed, Ellen!" He turned to the dog. " Come to heel, you brute! Aw, well! good morning ! good morning !"
They switched their horses, and went up the hill at a sharp canter, and the big man stood and watched them ; then he turned and slowly strode up the hill, watching them till they were out of sight. He walked on to Arrosey Church that morning. On his way back he met the parson.
" You ought to be keeping up the churchyard, man!" he said, without other greeting. "There's a couple of score young trees down yonder that's left out of some I was planting. Don't you think a few more trees would shelter the place? It's middling bare. It's a wonder you're not trying to make it nicer, man! "
"Thank you, Mr. Molroy. I accept them with pleasure," said the parson.
" Aw, you're welcome. I'll send one of the men up with them. He can put them in for you when he's up. It's hard to get a man to do a job in these days."
"Thank you, Mr. Molroy."
"Well, now, along the south wall? What do you think?" "Yes, Mr. Molroy-to the west corner."
" Aw, 'deed you've got a notion yourself, man, of it. Well, please yourself. They'll be there and us dead, very likely." "Yes, Mr. Molroy."
"Aw, well, I'll be going my ways back. Good-day! goodday, man ! "
In vain did Mr. Ollikins hope in such moments of softening to effect any closer relation of friendship with the big man. It was still with Arrosey the same contemptuous summary of the parson, "that scarecrow at the Tops."