[From Captain of the Parish, 1897]
ON Tuesday evening Molroy went down to Creg Awin. In the farmyard Joey was standing by the yard-trougb, old Charley Molvurra grooming him, and Ellen beside him. She welcomed Molroy with a smile of greeting. She held up her hands in coarse gloves and laughed. She had a cloth bound over her head, not one glimpse of her hair visible, an overall apron, and in her hand a horse-comb with which she had been combing the horse's mane.
"It's for to-morrow. Of course it's usually my own work." " Give me the comb, Ellen," said Molroy.
"I've done, thank you, John."
" Well, how are you, John ? " said the old man.
"Well, thanks, Mr. Molvurra; home for good, you see," said Molroy.
Mrs. Molvurra came a step out of the house-porch, watched them a moment, and withdrew again.
"Now, father, that's enough. John will tie him up for you. You were coming to the house? Well, I'm not fit to be seen at present. You'll have to wait till I put these things off," and she glided away.
When the pony was stabled, old Mr. Molvurra and Molroy came to the garden-gate. Molroy lit a cigar, and they stood talking till Ellen appeared.
"You've hardly ever seen our garden, John. Let's go down. Come along, father."
"No, Ellen, girl."
"Yes, father, yes;" and she took his arm and drew the old man with them.
" Now, John, tell us about the Continent of Europe," she said, with the intonation of Juan Paddy, as they went down the garden path.
The shadows were falling on the slope when they came up again an hour later.
"I think I'll go in, girl," said the old man.
" Yes, father, all right; we'll go for a stroll. Let's go into the homefield, will you ?-my favourite walk, which you do not know yet," she said to Molroy, and they strolled along the path towards the timber.
It was their first walk together, other than along the highroad over Arrosey Tops. They sauntered on unembarrassed side byside. Ellen was happy. She looked half-pathetically, half laughingly at him when they spoke. There was nothing that she wished for but that which was here already. There was no one in the world that she could have wished to be there with her rather than John Molroy. She felt an absence of reserve. She felt herself a different person. The conversa tion was unconstrained. Beyond her wont she glowed with an ease of manner, a freedom of thought, and a power to express exactly just what she wished to express. And yet there was present a reserve, lofty and holy, of which she was unconscious herself perhaps, visible to Molroy in the inexpressible sweetness and dignity that pervaded the brightness of her laughter, and imparted itself not only to her step, the pose of her beautiful head and graceful form, but also to the quietness and beauty of the spring evening, and the very air of the field in which they wandered to and fro. It was a reserve that would have revealed itself in some other guise had she found him less distant, less reserved, less respectful-revealed itself in a repression of those joyous tones in her voice, and those unembarrassed gravities of her uttered thoughts. It was a holy reserve that would have brooked no familiarity-that made all familiarity cheap and poor in its presence. The stars came out in the evening sky, each as if a conscious witness; but those pure and heavenly witnesses were not themselves purer than every thought that was thought and every word that was spoken.
The evening had become night, and it was already late when they turned for the last time and came back to the house. The house was in silence. At the door Ellen said in a sweet, half-tremulous voice
"Will you come in, John? "
He followed her into the kitchen. The fire was burning on the hearthstone, and she roused it into a blaze.
"It's chilly, after all. I feel it now," she said, warming her fingers at the blaze. He sat down in the chimney-corner.
The fire lit up their faces. The curling smoke stole up the mighty chimney. The clock ticked. There was not a sound else.
"Father and mother are to bed," said Ellen.
So they sat by the fire. Ellen unlaced her shoes, placed her slippers beside her, and warmed her stockinged feet on the warm hearthstone. She smiled and said
"I am old-fashioned. This is a luxury ! " and she slipped her feet into her slippers. "I haven't asked about to-morrow. Now you can tell me."
She looked at him with the firelight on her fair face, and large dark eyes, softened with the beauty of her happiness. Her lips were parted with an expectant smile.
" To-morrow, John! am I to know? " " To the north ? What do you say ? "
"Just what I shall enjoy;" and she looked at him as if fascinated by his face, lost in abstraction and gazing into the glowing and flickering peat's of the fire. She watched him in his brown study; when his eyes moved again she rose silently, glided to the big clock, stood a moment, and came back to her seat.
"Yes, I know it's late," said Molroy. "I'll come with you to the gate." "No, Ellen, nothing of the sort."
"Yes, I will come; do let me; I'll come." She was playful and childlike.
"No, Ellen; go and fall asleep instantly."
" I'll come to the porch, then."
They moved to the porch and stood looking at the midnight sky.
" I wonder what sort of day it's really going to be. Tell me. You are weatherwise ? No! Let us guess then, and compare guesses to-morrow. Why, it's only a step to the gate. You are obdurate ? "
He stood a moment looking at her in the faint light of the midnight stars. There rose within him a wave of passionate admiration. For one brief instant he would fain have folded her in his arms and kissed her, and said
" Ellen, I have loved you all my life. Haven't you loved me too?"
But he suppressed it. He wished that no base emotion should have place within him. He felt as if the very ground on which she stood was sacred and holy. He felt that he had never seen any one wholly beautiful till that hour.
" Good night, Ellen ! " he said quietly.
" Good night, John! " and she gave him her hand. Molroy walked away under the stars, hearing Arrosey brook gushing in the ravine, and feeling that Ellen had wholly changed into interest and charm the whole neighbourhood of Arrosey.