[From Captain of the Parish, 1897]
" A squall coming tippytoe off the land,
And holding its breath till it's close at hand,
And whisp'ring to the winds to keep still
Till all is ready-and then with a will,
With a rush and a roar, they sweep your deck,
And there you lie a shiv'ring wreck."-T. E. B.
THE sorrow and the change at Creg Awin, so far as the neighbourhood concerned itself, were over and almost forgotten in the proverbial nine days. The mourning worn by the widow and daughter reminded people that Charley Molvurra was gone. Nothing was altered in the routine of the house and the farm-nothing except that he was no longer there; and in the neighbourhood it had made absőlutely no difference.
Mr. Molroy of Arrosey had been named as executor in the will, and the settlement of the affairs brought him to Creg Awin. Meanwhile the midsummer weeks passed over. Narradale was a paradise of stillness and warmth; the river dwindled, the smooth rocks and boulders and shingle blazed in the heat, and the cattle were driven daily from the farms to drink at Narradale river. The bond that bound Ellen Molvurra to her stepmother had been loosened, but with her brother Sylvester in America there was a fresh bond of union and letters more than heretofore.
The sun of a burning day had descended low in the west when Ellen rode down the Creg to the post-office. Under the crags, where dusty highroad and brawling river are separated by a narrow strip of meadow pasture, is the thrice famous hostelry of Matt Hunthan, a long, low, two-storied whitewashed house, with stables and sheds in line ranged along the highroad, overtopped by ivied crags, under whose beetling projections little sheep ruminate in cool nooks. Empty beer casks on end line the walls, carts tilted shafts in air, tethered horses trampling their bundles of green hay into litter and monotonously switching the flies, the air redolent of beer and of the smoke of peat, are fixed features of the inn street.
Farther on is the mill, its water-wheel splashing at the gable; from within a roar and clatter of cogwheels and millstones and clamorous hoppers, pigeons on the roofs, milldust on the windows, lilacs and laburnums,by its garden walls along the road. Here road and river journey side by side. The hill slopes descend very steep, and one looks up at gorse and ling breaking bare sweeps of grass between plantations of fir; then Narradale opens into Glen Faba, and one enters a new neighbourhood. At the little window within the post-office garden Ellen stood, while the postmistress sorted the letters on her pigeon-holed shelves, the horse outside, the bridle on the gate. The lumbering coach passed westwards towards Inchport, and Ellen turned to glance at it. On the seat beside the driver was a foreign-looking gentleman, sun-browned and dark, with moustache and closely cut pointed beard, in broad wideawake, the crown sharply dinted fore and aft, and as the coach rolled by he glanced at the saddled horse and at Ellen standing within the garden. A hundred yards farther on the coach drew up on the inn street. The stranger had alighted, and was parting company with half-a-dozen fellow passengers who stood around him attentive and deferential. As Ellen came past to enter Narradale, the stranger advanced into the road and gravely lifted his hat. She reined up.
" Miss Molvurra, I believe? " he said, with the slightly nasal intonation of an American.
She looked at him without at once answering. He was tall, broad-shouldered, of middle age, dressed in a loose coat of thin silky material, a white waistcoat, light trousers, and fine glossy shoes, wore gloves, and carried in his hand a closely folded silver-handled umbrella. He had a gold band on his neckcloth of purple silk, and a gold chain on his waist coat. He was handsome, elegantly dressed, graceful, and selfpossessed.
"Yes," said Ellen, completing her glance of scrutiny.
"My name is Milvartin," said the stranger.
"Oh ! " and she bent down with a smile of welcome, and held out her hand to him with the cordiality of an old acquaintance. "How do you do, Mr. Milvartin ? You are Enos, of course?"
"You have heard of me, then, Miss Molvurra ? "
"You are here and no one to meet you !" she said.
"That's my own fault, or rather I'm coming on them as a pleasant surprise," he said, with a slight laugh.
"You'll excuse me one moment, Miss Molvurra ? " he said, to convey that he would return, "till I speak to the driver," he added.
"I'm not in a hurry. I'll wait for you," she said, and took a few turns in the highroad. She scarcely remembered him. He had wholly changed, she supposed, and she wondered if Sylvester would be changed into the same fashion. She meant to ask a great many questions about America. She reflected that Enos was very quiet and self-possessed in his manner. On the whole, she was surprised, astonished, and that very agreeably. Returned Americans were not rare in the Island, but none of them had been like Enos.
When he came back, she wheeled her horse and walked at a foot-pace, and Milvartin marched alongside.
"I trust a cigar will not-" he began.
" Oh no, Mr. Milvartin ; by all means smoke. I saw you on the coach, Mr. Milvartin, and wondered if it could possibly be you. I shouldn't have guessed who you were anywhere else. You must be changed, you are so foreignlooking."
"Ah ! yes, changed no doubt," he said quietly, with his slight nasal intonation. "And here I am again. Rather a surprise to them this evening, I guess."
"A very delightful one," said Ellen.
"And how's everybody, Miss Molvurra? I'm afraid there's been changes that won't be pleasant to hear of," and he glanced at her mourning dress.
He listened gravely as she told him of her father's death. "Of course you'll find Lizzie very much changed," she resumed.
" I shall not know her if she's changed like you, Miss Molvurra. You do surprise me, you know."
"And how long are you going to stay, Mr. Milvartin? Is it only a short visit, or a long one?"
"I've decided nothing. A few months at most. Perhaps a few weeks. Just a look at the old people and the old place. My time is precious just now'."
As the sight of the houses, the country carts on the road, or as some accidental association suggested the recollection, he inquired about the people in the district. He noticed every change along the road, every new piece of roadside wall, every group of trees grown up, every grove cut down.
"Well, it's a lovely old glen, but it's a mighty small place," he said reflectively.
As they passed the mill he looked at it. "Just the same; and who's here now? " Farther on at Matt's
"The same old place as ever."
The company in the inn were noisy. He went up to the inn windows; there were no blinds, and he looked in.
"Most of them the same old set-drinking there ever since I left the Island," he said, as he joined her again.
At the ford their roads parted, and they said good-night. He stood and watched her galloping on to the foot of the Creg and disappearing at the turn, then he went down to the plank, lingered, and lighted a fresh cigar, looking about at the familiar scene, every spot marked by some recollection of his boyhood, and then passed under the shadow of the woods to the lonely mountain farm of Cairnmore.
The next evening Molroy was sitting with his father and the soldier in Arrosey kitchen when Juan Paddy's foot announced his approach long ere his bent and slouching figure dragged itself into the passage, and stood at the kitchen-door, hat in hand, silently craving the word to enter.
" Come in, Juan, boy," said the big man. " Here, Jane, give Juan his supper."
When Juan had eaten deliberately and voraciously as usual, and had wiped his mouth with his big handkerchief, he began"They're saying the Cairnmore's heir has got home."
" Humph! " grunted the big man.
" When did he come, Juan?" said Molroy.
"Aw, last night. They're in a fluster-no end of money, they're saying."
" Who did you get it from, Juan ? " said the big man sharply. " Me, master? aw, at Matt's. The Cairnmore was there himself, and standing treat all round very free, and telling the whole story. The mortgage is all right, he was saying. The farm clear. Enos looking round and talking of repairs going a doing, he was saying. Charley will have a top-hat and a white shirt, Sunday and Monday, like yourself, master, he was saying."
" have you seen Enos, Juan ? " said Molroy.
" Aw, aye, fine, uncommon; gold chain and rings, and a white waistcoat and a cigar-aw, that's him; like yourself, master; but he's not saying much, though. Solemn and high, they're saying."
There was a pause and Juan resumed
" Ellen Molvurra was down meeting him at the coach." Molroy turned; the big man sat upright in his chair and looked at Curlat.
" They came up the glen together anyway, so they're saying," said Juan, and wiped his mouth and mopped his fore head.
" Juan, boy, thou have been taking too much at Matt's," said the soldier, in a half-rough tone.
" Me, master? aw, no, I'm seldom touching it; it's a chance time I'm taking it. I'm like yourself, master," said Juan to the soldier, and got to his feet and dragged himself into the passage.
" Aw, well, good-night, Juan, boy," said the big man; and Juan dragged himself away.
Molroy rose and went out followed by the eyes of his father and the soldier.
" What's the meaning of that, Curlat ? " said the big man, after a long silence.
" Chut ! '' said Curlat comprehensively. " There's nothing in it. Would she be at the post or what? "
" But how would she know him, for all, Curlat ? "
" If it was meeting him on purpose, Lizzie would have been with her."
" There wouldn't be more tel' that in it? " said the big man doubtfully.
" Aw, no! overtook him on the road, it's like, and guessed it was him."
"Aye, Curlat, thou're right. Aw, well," he added," I wonder what truth there is about the money. Don't thou think there's too much 'outside' on it, Curlat ? "
"Wait, man! wait, man! There's nothing like waiting," said Curlat.
"Aye, Curlat, thou're right. I'll go a piece of the road home with thee, Curlat."