[From Captain of the Parish, 1897]
MEANWHILE Molroy was in the high fields in the glory of the April sun. Beneath were the woods of Narradale, and beyond the glen, over against him, were the dark low-thatched buildings of Cairnmore farm. He took out a cigar and sat down on the grass and smoked, blinking with half-closed eyes on the bright landscape. The hot shimmer of the sun was over the valley, winding southwards far away to the distant mountains. The roofs of far-off houses glittered in the light. The voice of the river came up from the deeps below, and except for that voice there was silence within the whole circle of the hills. As he sat in idle reverie he saw Miss Milvartin emerge from the farm trees and come down the meadow, her graceful gait and movement easily discernible across the glen. Half in amusement and half in contempt, he thought of his father's talk. Ellen Molvurra and Lizzie Milvartin were to be avoided. The summer days were to pass, and these fair neighbours to be to him as though they were not. Ah well! he would do nothing but what was straight and above-board; and what he did he must face in its consequences. His father's authority was arbitrary, absolute, and narrow. What, then, was to be the force of his father's commandment? Was he free to maintain it in substance, or must he accept its word and letter? He respected; very well, but he did not fear him. Filial duty was one thing, but his pride made him smile, and he dismissed the whole business. It was no use attempting to measure his father's ideas, and he thought of Ellen's glance and smile and look, and all that she bad said, mingled with recollections of Lizzie's fair face, and the serenity of their mutual friendship.
Meanwhile, across the glen, Miss Milvartin had gone down the meadow to the woods and had disappeared When he looked over again, she had reappeared, and with her most obviously Miss Molvurra. They stood in the meadow, and were looking across towards him. Then they waved their hands beckoning him, and he could just hear their voices sounding some distant sort of call.
The tender wound of the glances of Ellen's eyes were in his heart-her glance, as her eyes had first met his in the morning, her look as they parted at his father's gate. He rose, waved his hand, and descended the slope towards the timber. Instantly the girls on their side came down the meadow. They met on opposite banks of the river, with the larches' soft tasselled fronds hanging over them. He strode from rock to rock across'the stream and ascended the bank.
"We could see it was you," said Ellen; "but Lizzie said you wouldn't come if we waved to you. Why we waved, of course, you couldn't tell. We are going to the Cairn Hill. Come with us? "
"Certainly, Ellen. I'm very glad you gave me the chance."
" It will be delightful ! " said Ellen, as they turned to climb through the timber again to the Cairnmore. They zigzagged up through the woods, seizing the trunks of birch and the branches of the hazels, and slipped and slid backwards now and again, at which they merely laughed.
Once through the woods, they entered the meadow, and followed the edge of the dell on its margin; and out of the meadow into the upper fields, and from the fields over the mountain fence into the heather on the mountain-side. By winding worn sheep-paths they meandered up the mountainside, and on the ridge turned southwards to the Cairn, the highest point of the ridge, right over the Cairn Beg farmhouse.
It was mid-afternoon when they climbed the mighty boss of rock on the mountain-top, where was a rude pillar built of flat stones, and in the centre of it the trunk of a larch with the bark still on it. This was the Cairn Hill, one of the loveliest view-points in a lovely country.
Beyond the landscape is an expanse of sea northward and westward, and on its horizon the coasts of Scotland and Ireland. The farms of Cairnmore and Cairn Beg were at their feet, with the timbered valley of Narradale far below. Even the high ridge of Arrosey had lost its height, and they looked over it to the sea. They could see the group of chimneys of Arrosey House, the gable of Creg Awin, and the roof of Arrosey Chapel between; and over against them the Vaish Hills, now low and flat, across which a breeze passing from over the sea filled the air about the summit with delicious coolness.
On the eastern side other valleys and farms expanded, and the mighty mountain ridge of Greeba rose solemn and lonely into a loftier region of air. Southwards the shoulders of Barule were bathed in the hazy sheen and glitter of the sun. Northwards were the mountains of Kirk Michael and the monarch summit of Snaefell. The Cairn was indeed a place of delightful prospects. The girls climbed the pillar, and stood together with an arm round the pole. They looked in every direction, and finally to the south, with hands raised, shading their eyes.
"Come up, John," said Ellen, ingenuous, innocent, a blush tinging her cheek. But in the smile with which she looked down and met his eyes her blush dispersed again.
He climbed the pillar and stood beside them. Ellen asked the names of all the places she could see. He pointed out every distant farm and lead-mine and cluster of houses. They could see Inchport Castle, and a schooner becalmed just beyond it; many vessels on the horizon, far off towards the Irish land; the southern coast of the island, with Castle Rushen, and the stack and the rocky reefs of Langness. Ellen was curious to know where places whose names were familiar to her exactly lay-places not directly visible. Far away to the south-east, on the horizon towards England, was a dim line of smoke-some steamer foreign-bound from Liverpool. This, though the most faintly discernible, they gazed at longest before they descended from-the pillar.
How characteristic of them their ways of getting down. Ellen needed no assistance, but dropped lightly on a firm flat stone at the foot of the pillar; while Lizzie, with feints and exposing of ankles and trills of nonsense, at last jumped down, with good luck escaping a sprawl.
Then they strayed over the short grass and bare rock southwards, and sat down on the ling with their faces to the sun. They amused themselves by counting the number of farmhouses visible, making up totals quite different. At first it did not seem to amuse Lizzie much. The exercise of the attention was not amusement she had been accustomed to. She found it more interesting when she had tried it several times. They were all loth to leave the mountain. The afternoon was wearing into evening and the bell of Arrosey Church was faintly calling when they descended by the Cairn Beg farmhouse.
The house was empty. The people had gone to America only that spring. The place was deserted and silent. The thatched roof of a cartshed had fallen in. The garden was a wilderness. They climbed over the wall into the garden, and looked at the apple trees breaking into blossom. The prettysally and tiger-lilies, the dahlias and sweet-williams and marigolds, the valerian and southern-wood, and sage and rosemary, were all mingled with grass and weeds and thistles. Their voices seemed to awake strange echoes from the barns, whose doors and windows were all closed. Though it was full sunshine of early evening, the girls felt a tremor of mystery as if some ghostly presence was haunting the place. " I wonder where they are now," said Ellen. "Perhaps they are thinking out in America of the Cairn Beg-of the garden and all these flowers." She knelt down on one knee and buried her face in a little bush of southern-wood.
"I daresay," said Molroy, "they will think of home and of the garden more on Sunday than on any other day."
A gap had been broken in the garden wall at the lower side, and through this they emerged, and passed the well below the garden, the surface of whose water had been so long unbroken by the clipping of a pail. They stood and looked into the water, and saw the green weeds growing in it. Ellen dipped her fingers into the water, and laughed and said
" Dear old well! They have not forgotten this either; but tliey will never see it again."
Then they emerged from the farm trees into the meadow; and, forgetting the deserted air of the farm, the girls slowly faleaded in step down across the sward. Lizzie took Ellen's arm, and half-sang, half-said
"There was an old woman who lived in a cottage;
Across the meadow she ran, she ran ;
A loaf in her lap, and a cat on her back,
And a little dog after her-"
She turned to an imaginary dog, and finished the rhyme by
pursing her lips and making a triple dog-call, with a triple snap of her fingers, in time with their steps.
" This meadow suits that," said Ellen.
"I always thought it was this meadow," said Lizzie, "because Mrs. Quirk, who lived here, used to sing that years and years ago."
The sun was westering. Ellen was going with Lizzie to tea at Cairnmore, but they lingered long past tea-time with Molroy at the edge of the timber, loth to part.
"What are you doing with yourself all the week, John?" said Ellen.
" Oh, nothing-riding, fishing. There's no getting a sight of you coming down the Creg, Ellen. I was on the lookout for you in that garden of yours when I came down on Friday." " Were you, John ? "
" Of course I was."
Lizzie was leaning on Ellen's arm. She had never been so happy as at that moment, and had never looked so fair. She had at last attained something she had hoped for tenaciously and long, while the way of its attainment was still unknown to her. She had become acquainted with John Molroy. But now it was something quite different from what she had dreamt of its being; quite as if she had known him all her life, just like Ellen. With an idle perversity she had hoped that he might be her lover. Love at first sight-not exactly that, but love swift and complete, had been her fixed notion of love. People "fell " in love with each other. The very word meant something sudden and irresistible. This was what she had dreamt of. As for herself, she was in love with Molroy already; she did not know how long, because she did not even know it was love. It bad been there all the same, growing and unfolding steadily and unsuspected, like her beauty. The mere sight of him on rare occasions had been refreshment to her soul, and she had thought herself happy in seeing him at all. She had been in love, in real love, not knowing to call it by that name, because he was a stranger to her. And now be was no longer a stranger, she hardly thought of love at all. She was supremely happy, for all he was so different from everything she had thought of his being like; could she ever know him.
"Couldn't you let us come out for a ride with you some day? " she said.
"Of course," he said. "When are you free?"
"Only a chance holiday for me, getting up earlier and through my work, of course ; but Ellen is always free."
"I will arrange to come any day that Lizzie can come," said Ellen. "To-morrow, Lizzie ? You see, John, how glad I am to go. To-morrow? No, Lizzie ? Tuesday ? Wednesday?
Yes, that is May Day. What say you, Mr. Molroy?"
It was arranged. So they at last parted; and when he had crossed the glen and come out on the high fields of Arrosey, they were only at the top of the Cairnmore meadow, and were waving their hands to him.
" So now you know him," said Ellen.
"Yes, and has he always called you 'Ellen' like that? Well, how different he is from what I thought he would be, now I know him. Really, I like him."
" Of course you do. How could you help it, Lizzie ? And you'll not think he's my sweetheart any more, will you? " said Ellen playfully.
" Oh, I don't understand you a bit, Ellen. I don't know what sweetheart means. Yes, yes I I think still that you are his sweetheart. Yes! But he is not yours."