[From Captain of the Parish, 1897]
IT was but a day or two later that Ellen went to the Cairnmore in the afternoon. Lizzie was in the meadow, a sunbonnet on her head, her brown hair tumbling over her shoulders, her dress a flowered print, gay with contrasts of white and green. Ellen came down the meadow to the space, crowded with innumerable pieces of linen, where Lizzie, humming and singing and swaying from one foot to the other, was sprinkling water from her pail on the bleaching linen, unconscious that any one was near till Ellen placed her hands on the flaps of her sun-bonnet and covered her eyes.
" You, Ellen ! " she said, and the hands were withdrawn. In shady transparency was the fair face and smiling eyes, the lips parted, with happiness in her thoughts, and underneath in light the truant locks of glossy brown curled on her bosom. She dropped her pail, gathered her skirt deftly in her fingers, balanced herself, shrieked "John," and bounced in mad freak across the area of linen, unable to stop till she had bounded over all. Out of breath she came back panting and laughing. " Oh, dear me 1 but, Ellen, you can do it much better."
"Not now, thanks. Come along! I want to gather windflowers and hyacinths down in the woods."
" I shall simply gather sorrel and eat it; you can gather flowers," and they strolled down to the glen.
Among the banks of wild anemones overlooking the river the hours slipped away.
"Lizzie," said Ellen, changing to a straggling line of wild blue hyacinths, " I wish you would think of some things a little more seriously "
Lizzie lifted her head.
" Another scolding? Very well, ma'am. What is it about this time?" She knelt on one knee, crossed her arms de murely on her bosom. " I am listening," she said. "It is only a little matter of behaviour."
"Yes, ma'am, I confess there must be a dozen." You are not particular enough about your skirts."
A great sigh came from Lizzie's bosom, lightly imprisoned in summer garb. She rose, stepped through the hyacinths to where Ellen stood.
" If you please, ma'am, I know exactly how. See ! " She drew her skirt about her, with laughter lurking in her eyes. " I am serious," said Ellen.
Then Lizzie put her arms round Ellen's neck and looked into her eyes.
"And I am not. I am frivolous; I don't know what I am. I haven't done anything very bad, have I ? " she said naively. "No, Lizzie."
"But when was it, Ellen?"
" Well, if we are getting over a fence, and there's a difficulty, you laugh of course. If I look, there you are in all sorts of ridiculous positions. One might as well wear short frocks to one's knees. I shouldn't mind if we did, but we don't, you know."
"Ellen, I never think."
"My dear Lizzie, that's just it." Then she lowered her voice: "I'm sure there is one person who won't like it. If I thought otherwise of him, he should see precious little of me, I can tell you."
" You don't think he's annoyed with me ? " "No. I don't say so."
"But might be?" said Lizzie musingly. "Very well. I'm determined. I'm undergoing 'the great change.' It'll be 'entire sanctification' with me, Ellen; see if it isn't," she said, and then she laughed intemperately.
Molroy was fishing in Narradale that same afternoon Wading down the stream, casting his flies on the runs working towards the bank, where they were perched high above, as he lifted his rod he caught the flutter of scarlet and white ribbons among the birches and hazels. His fishing was over. It was Ellen's straw hat. He drew himself out of the rushing water, and stood on a ledge of rock to reel up his line. They too had seen him; and slipping and sliding on the grassy steeps, clutching at bushes with ripples and trills of laughter, but not forgetful of the lecture, Lizzie descended to the river.
"I was nearly rolling down it," she said, as she stepped on the rock beside him; and while he was placing his flies round his hat and unpiecing his rod, she bent down and looked into his basket, shifting about as he moved.
Meanwhile Ellen had come down with her flowers. She held the anemones, with their faint and bitter perfume, to his face; and then the sweet and passionate hyacinths.
" Thanks! " he said. "Now I am at your service," and he climbed with them up to the Cairnmore. Under the trees Lizzie took off her sun-bonnet. Molroy was amazed at the revealed beauty of her hair. She sauntered on in front with an attitude of refusing to have her present thoughts disturbed by conversation till the road through the fields admitted of three walking together.
On the Cairnmore street was Juan Paddy. Ellen and L izzie went indoors, and Molroy sat with his fishing-rod between his knees on the bench beside the wall.
"Thou didn't come to the turf-mountain to see us cutting, master? " said Juan. "'Deed, they were saying the ladies might have come earlier in the day, and a parcel of strangers-English ones-showing off uncommon fine. Dan Creer was telling that alongside of Lizzie the best of them wasn't worth a d-d cuss."
"Aye, Juan? "
"Aw, aye! 'Just to see her foot on the mountain,' he was saying, 'she'd take the shine out of them ones.' Dan takes a drop when it's going. Arrosey gives big 'lowance that day!" said Juan.
" Were you out, Juan? "
"Me? And where would I be but out? And me not missing it these sixty years. Do thou think anything of Lizzie, Master?"
"Juan, you old " began Molroy, but changed his mood, and in mere indifference, to give the old man a topic, he added-
" Who are the fairies that are 'taking' in the Cairn Beg, Juan ? "
"Aw, the Dippers, master," said Juan. "And what are they, Juan?"
"It's a sort of religion, master. They're middling poor preachers, they're saying. But they're doing well-talking to people in headlands. They're all going to heaven one of these days."
" Aye, Juan ? "
" Aw, aye, in the body-it's all in the body, never dying at all. It's their most principal belief that they're never dying."
"And where's heaven, Juan? How are they going to get there, Juan ? "
"Aw, not the same heaven, at all. This one is in America," said Juan solemnly.
"Aye, Juan ! You'd better join them, Juan."
Me? I was never seen on Sunday at the Cairn Beg at all, master." This was a slant at himself.
Molroy laughed. He took out a shilling and gave it to the mendicant. It was the first time he had done so. The old man took it, spat on it, and solemnly and silently withdrew. Ellen and Lizzie came out of the house and seated them selves by Molroy on the stone bench. They saw Juan retreating at a very steady pace.
"What's the matter with Juan ?" said Lizzie laughingly. "You scolded him ? " said Ellen.
"You used bad words?" said Lizzie.
" But what's the matter with John?" said Ellen, playfully scrutinising Molroy's face.
" He's off home to hide a lucky shilling," said Molroy.
They sat under the projecting eaves of thatch, in which nesting sparrows were chirping, and from which swallows flitted-to skim about the many sheds of the farmyard.
"Who are these Dippers that meet at the Cairn Beg? " said Molroy.
"The ghost of Black, the revivalist, is one of them," said Lizzie, laughing. "Some people very much like him at least. Prayer-meetings, isn't it, Ellen ? "
" Some of his converts, I hear," said Ellen indifferently; " the 'entire sanctification' lot, or something of that sort," and Ellen rose. " Good-bye, Lizzie ! Now, my sheaves ! " and she loaded Molroy with her anemones and hyacinths, and they went down towards the ford together.