[From Captain of the Parish, 1897]
THEY rode up to Creg Awin street together, and there-unexpected consolation-they found Molroy. Her face flushed, her lips curled with indignation, her eyes defiant, Ellen was beautiful with a new charm. For the first time he ventured to help her from the saddle. She stood with her hands on his arm. " Ah ! John Molroy, where were you to-day ? "
"What! tears, Ellen ?"
She laughed, stamped her foot, and held him as if a prisoner.
" Ah, John! where were you to-day ? For this gay apparel we have been turned away from the sacrament! "
"Never! No! You, Ellen, you ? By whom ? Cosnahan ?
Never! " He hissed the inadequate words and clenched his hands. "He shall pay for it!" He turned to Lizzie. "And you, Lizzie ? insulted, eh ? " He helped her down from her horse, and they stood beside him, the horses going off to the stable door.
In apparel unbecoming to women professing godliness! " said Lizzie, with a sneer.
" Unbecoming? The most becoming that cur has set eyes on this while! The hound! "
"No, John, you are not yourself," and Ellen laid her hand on his arm again. "Don't!"
"But I will, Ellen; I will make him pay for this," he said furiously.
"What are you saying, John Molroy?" she said, as if knowing that she had an authority over him to control his violence.
Old Charley Molvurra had seen them, and approached, anxiously looking from one to the other.
"What is it? what's happened?" he said. There was a new flush on Ellen's face.
"What is it, John ? " the old man repeated. "You are a friend, John ? What's been done? what's been said?" and he seized Molroy's hand.
"They've been insulted," said Molroy, "in Inchport !"
" And me an old man !" he said, pathetic in his consciousness of weakness; " but you're a friend ! "
" Cosnahan has turned them from the sacrament," said Molroy.
Ellen hung on her father's neck, her bosom on his heart. "Never mind, father ! John, you are to do nothing!"
" He turned you away, Ellen?" gasped the old man, staggering. "John, did you say that?"
He reached out his hand helplessly, and Molroy's arm supported him.
"Ellen!" he gasped, and his head drooped on Molroy's shoulder.
She flew to the house, and in brief space was with him again, holding brandy to his lips. The old man drained the glass and revived.
" Parson Cosnahan did that? A mistake this time ! You'll go with me to the-Bishop?" he gasped.
" Yes, I will ! Ellen, the brandy ! "
Thank God ! he'll be a friend at this time. Not to-day, not to-day ! "
" Father," said Ellen; but the old man did not answer. They supported him indoors, and he sank into his own chair. Ellen was at his knees, and his eye wandered, slowly, painfully, over her head and face.
"Ellen, my own girl! Ellen! always have been friends! always friends ! "
His head sank. He was beyond human aid, for his heart had ceased to beat. There was on the old man's face a fixed expression as of thought changing to surprise. It was the mid-afternoon of Sunday when he thus died. They bore him to his bed. The mistress was at Arrosey Chapel. The afternoon was profoundly still and sunny as Lizzie drew down the blinds of Creg Awin house. Dull tears swam in Ellen's eyes, and grief dimmed their light.
"You need not go? Don't go away. I want you to stay for company," she said to Molroy; and she went about her duties, from time to time uttering a sob, while Lizzie in silence was with her, setting in order odds and ends of domestic arrangement, speaking only in undertones of sympathetic brevity.
When the mistress returned there was a painful scene. Her grief was genuine, pathetic, but also demanding attention rather than sympathy, as the sole sufferer. The fact that he had been a good husband to her was the main theme, and that not least in his having left her well provided for. Ellen came down to the kitchen when she heard the mistress there. Her own tears were flowing as she tried to comfort her stepmother, who sat moaning and wringing her hands.
"Aw, you that's young don't feel it; it's me that feels it; aw, bless you ! it's me that feels it. But I'm provided for; yes
I'm provided for. Aw, I'll allow that; aw, aye, he was a good husband to me-a roof to shelter me and a bit of bread to eat as long as I'm in."
The hours passed drearily. Lizzie made tea, and the mistress mechanically ate and drank, discoursing meanwhile on her grief, as if the sole business of the others was to listen to her. Then her ruminations took a new turn.
They could not turn her out. Half of the house, aye, and half of the farm, as long as she was in. No, they couldn't turn her out.
To Ellen she expressed her nearest approach to sympathy. "Aw, Ellen, girl, this is a sad day for you. You've lost your best friend, Ellen. He was a good father to you, Ellen. Aw, he's done well for you, Ellen: -truly now and all, after he's gone. But you're young, Ellen; you don't feel it; you don't know what a friend you've lost; but you'll know it some day-you'll know it some day. There'll have to be an auction, Ellen, and sell the stock!"
"Mother, surely it will be time enough to speak of that afterwards."
" No ! " said the mistress, speaking as if to herself, " there's no sympathy. I didn't expect it, and I don't look for it; but I can do without it maybe, for all. They can't turn me out-and no-they can't-they can't-let them do what they like; it's out of their power-aw, aye."
"Nobody would turn you out, mother."
"Aw, 'deed aye, there is. You know it, Ellen; there's some that would. There's a young man in America anyway, and that's your own brother Sylvester Molvurra, that has never wrote a line to his father since the day I set my foot in this house. Let the truth be told, Ellen, girl, and your poor father lying there, and you knowing it-knowing it better than anybody else; and here's John Molroy that ought to know it too. Since the day I came to this house, never a letter to anybody,
Ellen, but yourself. Aye, girl, when you were so young you could hardly read the writing, and your poor father reading it for you with tears in his eyes. Aw, aye, there's some that would turn me out right enough."
"But, mother, you have nothing to do with any one but me."
" Aw, aye, girl! you're like your father, Ellen ; neither to my face nor behind my back, nothing but the same thing. Aw, no, I'm not afraid of you at all, Ellen; you wouldn't do it. But don't say there's not them that would. Sylvester Molvurra hasn't got the grace of God in his heart, or he wouldn't have done that. John Molroy is hearing what I'm saying."
"Don't give way, Mrs. Molvurra," said Molroy.
"And what am I to do? They'll not have it to say that I wasn't feeling it at all. They won't have that to say-aw, no, no, no."
" I'm sure you feel it acutely, Mrs. Molvurra," said Molroy. '° Feel it! aw, bless you ! He was a good husband to me, John Molroy. Your father is a converted man-aw, aye, a
Methodist these long, long years. But he's hard, hard, hard.
Aw, aye, he's hard. I was never inside Arrosey House, not from the day I came to Creg Awin-never inside Arrosey House, and him a converted man. And, John Molroy, your father has never set foot inside so much as the gate of Creg Awin. No, not these twenty years, you may say-aw, no, never once; and him the very next neighbour."
" Lizzie will stay here to-night, mother," said Ellen.
"Aw, aye, and it's a wonder now that nobody is coming to see me. One would think some of them would have come, for all. But no, it's like enough they're thinking I'm going to be turned out."
"No, mother, no one thinks that; they have not heard yet, mother."
" Heard ! how haven't they heard? And how is that, and me a widow ?" said the mistress, dazed, incredulous, indignant.
" No, mother; no one has told them. Don't be afraid, mother; they'll get to hear," said Ellen.
The mistress followed Ellen's movements, whether in low tones she spoke for a moment to Lizzie, or left the room, or opened a cupboard; the mistress had an attitude of fixed suspicion and terror lest everything was the approaching shadow of a movement already determined on to turn her out.
"I ought to have some one to keep her company," said Ellen to Molroy when he was about to go away. " Go to Nell Gawn and ask her to come. To-morrow I shall see you, perhaps," and she gave him her hand.
He stood with her hand in his, as if to speak some word of comfort and condolence.
"And you will tell your father? " she said. "Yes, Ellen."
"Their difference will be healed now, I suppose."
"What was it? what was the cause of it? what was the meaning of it?" he said perplexedly.
"Something long ago. I do not know. It's over now. That is all I know," she said.