[From Captain of the Parish, 1897]


THE Tynwald and Midsummer Fair are coincident, not identical. A grassy and time-honoured enclosure lies along a village common. The Tynwald is in the enclosure, the fair on the common. Hills overhang the place, and valleys radiate to the cardinal points. It is the focus of the Island. Within the sacred precincts the Parliament sits in conclave in its church, marches in procession to and fro, and under the open sky makes tedious proclamation of its Acts, all unpretentiously and country-like. And within the enclosure throng the " sons and daughters of the judges," and with them mingle those whom kinship or ambition leads to crowd into good company. But apart from these, outside the rampart axe the multitude, who come not to the Tynwald, but to the fair. A country road skirts the common, and fronting the Tynwald a straggling village lines the road. There is small variety of entertainment, merely booths for toffy and tents for ale. The wandering showmen, who in England live in their caravans from fair to fair, never cross the sea to Man, The Manx fair is nothing but a concourse of people. They are satisfied with being there, with sauntering aimlessly hour by hour on the common, elbowing strangers and greeting acquaintance, standing in knots to stare and talk in the joy of absolute idleness, and, for humour's sake, affecting the broader and homelier speech of older times. The one factor of supreme consequence is the weather, and most particularly a blazing sun.

Enos Milvartin had got home to the Island in time for the Tynwald at Midsummer. But one day intervened between the evening of his arrival at Cairnmore and the morning of Midsummer Day. On that intervening day the old man's saddle had been taken down from its dusty perch on a roof timber in the straw-loft, and while be rubbed the leather work and straps, Lizzie had polished rivets and buckles and bridle-bit and stirrups. On Midsummer Day he greeted a cloudless sky with intense satisfaction. It was the universal holiday. The old people were going to the fair. A labourer was yoking a farmhorse to the shandry for them. The Cairnmore street never looked sunnier. The return of Enos intensified the sunshine. He was in his shirt-sleeves grooming the grey cob, and stood for a moment critically inspecting his own grooming. Lizzie was with him inspecting the grey cob. "And you haven't asked me to go with you," she said carelessly.

"Aren't you going? " he said, glancing at her.

" I meant to the Tynwald ! By myself ? Certainly not ! "

" Oh ! " he said. He paused, then, in a tone of confidence-

"It's no holiday for me, Lizzie. I shall have a busy day. The fact is, I've got people to meet."

" But why shouldn't I meet people with you, now you're at home ? "

"You wouldn't care to meet them," he said gravely. "They're fellows who have friends out in America, and that sort."

She did not exhibit in face or voice or manner any visible disappointment; and when he had saddled the grey cob, they came into the house.

" Give a rub to these," he said, handing her a pair of spurs he brought down from his room. She brought a cloth and powder and polished them. He sat in his father's chair smoking a cigar and looking at his boots. Enos had a well-arched, long, and shapely foot, and wore fine knee-boots drawn over his light trousers. When she had brightened the spurs and laid them on the table, he rose from his chair.

" Who cleaned these? " he said, looking at his boots. " Mother."

" Get the brushes and polish them properly. They're dull," he said.

He drew a chair to the middle of the kitchen-floor, and stood with one foot on the chair. She came with the brushes, and kneeling down polished the boots, and then buckled on his spurs. Enos meanwhile smoked his cigar, abstractedly forgetting to talk, except in monosyllables answering her questions. Then he took a turn or two on the floor looking at his boots from toe to heel, and stopping before the looking-glass on the wall by the window, smoothed his moustache, and satisfied himself that his toilet was perfect.

"Here," she said playfully, tapping him on the shoulder. He turned, and she gave him her riding-whip.

"Ah ! you're the right sort," he said, looking admiringly at the whip. "You don't mind my not taking you with me? "

"Not a bit," she said nonchalantly. "It's not the Tynwald; it was only to go with you."

He stared at her. He had stared at her many times in the past thirty-six hours, since the evening of his arrival, when she had leaped into his arms with a bound of joy.

"But you won't walk down by yourself and meet me there ? "

" I ? oh. dear, no ! Nothing of that kind," she said, with a momentary frown.

" I've disappointed you! " he said, with a laugh, meant to be playful, but unsympathetically hard.

"Not in the least, Enos," she said bravely, though in truth rather disappointed.

"Well, I'm off," said Enos; and then, with a second thought, "I'll tell you what; I'll be home this evening, and will go for a walk."

"I shall be very glad. It's perfectly right, Enos. I'm not disappointed," she said, as she came out of doors with him to watch him ride away.

The long Midsummer Day passed. Lizzie had gone to Creg Awin to spend the afternoon with Ellen. The presence of death had been too recent in Creg Awin, and neither Mrs. Molvurra nor Ellen could have thought of being from home for a holiday. Lizzie retailed to her friend fragments of such accounts as Enos had already given of himself and of America. She returned to Cairnmore before the return of the old people from the fair. They were at tea when Enos also arrived. A heap of " fairings," sweets, gingerbreads, and Eccles cakes lay on the window-table, brought from the fair by old Mrs. Milvartin. It was the pile of incense on the children's altar, as on the evenings of Midsummer Fairs in the years gone by.

"Indeed, mother, you're yourself again. I haven't seen ' fairings' for years. It's like old times," said Lizzie affectionately.

"Aw, aye, girl." And the mother's eyes beamed proudly on her son.

"I was telling her she was ten years younger to-day," said old Charley, who had not been able to resist wholly the temptations of the ale tents and the luxury of such momentous boastings as the return of Enos had furnished him with; but, nevertheless, with a sense of responsibility, had kept fairly sober.

" I must eat some of these, mother," said Lizzie, unpacking the "fairings."

"You, Enos ? No ! Ah ! well, we shall have visitors. Ellen will want some when she knows you brought them, mother; and John Molroy."

Lizzie tasted a different variety of the "sweets" between each sentence. Enos was smoking, and would have none.

" Is he anything like his father?" said Enos.

" John? Ha ! ha ! not a bit, thank you, Enos," said Lizzie. The evening sun was suffusing the Cairn Hill with a more golden glow on its purple heather ere Lizzie's housework was done, and she joined Enos, who was waiting in the meadow to stroll with her to the Cairn.

At the mountain-hedge, as he gave her his band, he said jauntily

"I daresay young Arrosey has helped you over this hedge, Lizzie ? "

" Yes, once or twice," she said carelessly, as she bounded down.

" You're well acquainted, I believe," he continued, in a more cautious tone as they passed up into the ling by a sheeppath.

" Oh, yes," she said, and looked at him frankly.

Enos, older than herself by nearly twenty years, had been abroad since she was a child. He had been far away in the golden region of her imagination. She felt the reverence of a younger sister with the impetuous devotion of her passionate heart, but had forgotten that twenty years of difference in their ages was a chasm. She had thought of him as a brother, as still young, as a companion. When he questioned, she answered; but there was a shade of hesitation in spite of her reckless confidence, and this shade of hesitation deepened as they went on.

"He's fond of you, isn't he?" said Enos.

"No, Enos ! He's kind and good-hearted. He treats me like a lady, that's all."

" Like a lady? Aye! that's something."

Anything and everything that had reference to Molroy was sweetness to her ear, but she had not expected talk of this kind. He did not embarrass her. She smiled, but meanwhile had thoughts and doubts.

" He isn't exactly making love to you?" Enos continued. " I don't think he makes love to anybody."

" No! not to anybody?"

"Unless, indeed, Ellen Molvurra, of course," she said, with arched brows.

"Oh, you think that? Somebody told me otherwise."

" Who, Enos ? Some very clever person ! "

" Well, he ought to be fond of you, Lizzie ! You're quite a beauty, you know. But perhaps somebody else is?" said Enos, half carelessly, half with an affectation of brotherly interest. She turned to him

"Somebody else? and what kind of somebody? No! " and sbe closed her lips and half closed her eyes, and smiled and shook her head, and uttered a little laugh of amusement and contempt.

"Ah ! I see; if he's not fond of you, you're fond of him. Quite right, too, Lizzie. He's worth thinking about, I under stand. I'd like to see you and him better friends, if you take it that way."

Lizzie's thoughts and doubts were becoming accentuated. She had an impulse to say, "It's not a matter to talk about," but she remained silent.

On the hill-top they sat down, the evening light on the silent landscape.

"It's a queer little country," said Enos ruminatingly. "A mighty queer little country. Well, I'm glad just to see it again. I'll be sorry, I daresay, when the Milvartins are out of the old place and strangers in it."

" But why should we go out? won't some of us-"

"No, unless yourself, Lizzie. I've got a footing out there I could never have got here. I couldn't settle down here again." But some of the boys?"

"They never will," he said, almost pathetically. He nodded across the valley to Creg Awin.

"You know Miss Molvurra well? What sort of a girl is she?" he said carelessly.

"There's nobody but Ellen and myself worth talking of about here," said Lizzie concisely. " She's very jolly," she added warmly.

"And very handsome and stylish, I know," he said, and paused.

The white gable and chimneys of Creg Awin peeped forth from its clump of ash trees, behind which the rest of the farm.-.stead was wholly hidden.

"Isn't she a religious sort of girl? " he resumed.

" Religious ? Just a bit! " and Lizzie laughed.

"Oh !" he said, with a cold grunt. He whistled a low tune and surveyed the landscape, turning his head in different directions. He had the stump of a cigar on the point of his penknife. He threw it away, rose, and brushed the dry blades of sunburnt grass from his clothes and lit another cigar.

" What's Molroy in that way? " Lizzie laughed again.

"Oh, John? Let me see! Solemn as a judge in church; but he doesn't go very regular. And I'm afraid he uses bad words when he's angry. He's that sort of person." "And don't go to chapel?"

Her answer was a smile with closed lips-an absolute negative.

"And Miss Molvurra ? "

"Charlotte goes to chapel, and Ellen of course to church." "Charlotte is still that way inclined?"

" A little bit so. Yes, oh yes! " said Lizzie, smiling at the precious thought.

"Well, I'm a preacher myself in America," said Enos, deliberately watching her face, and observing the effect of his words.

"Yes, Enos, I forgot," said Lizzie, with a sudden gravity, that betrayed a trace of disappointment, while she affected the equanimity of happy spirits.

"You don't seem much interested," he said.

"Interested ? But I am, Enos," she said, with gaiety. " On the Methodist plan, isn't it?"

"Oh, no ! We've no Methodists out West. Our ideas are different."

"And are you going to preach when you're at home?"

" Can't say at present," he said, knocking the ashes off his cigar.

Lizzie was chagrined a little at this discovery, but she was quick to console herself. Enos was much older than herself, and she ought not to have thought of him as just a young brother hardly more than her own age. Her expectation of finding him a companion, a kindred spirit, had been thoughtless. Preacher or no preacher, what could it matter, seeing that he was so much older than herself? Meanwhile the Cairn Beg, lying among the fields below, visibly smokeless and deserted, gave a turn to her thoughts.

"There are some people having religious meetings down there," she said carelessly, nodding towards the unoccupied farmstead.

"Indeed! And who are they?"

"Dippers," she said curtly and contemptuously.

He looked at her with a severe look of scrutiny, but also of astonishment. She despised the Dippers, and she was outspoken,, this young sister of his. She was not so young in will as in years.

"I've heard of that sect," he said gravely.' "But I see religion isn't a favourite subject with you, Lizzie."

"of course you're a preacher. Let's leave it alone; talk about something else," she said.

" Well, I guess you've got as much religion as you need," he said.

"Perhaps so. Why?"

"It isn't the fashion here," and he laughed a hard laugh. He drew out his watch. "However, I've stayed too long already; let's go back," he said conclusively, and they came down the hill. She poised herself on the grassy margins of narrow sheep paths, graceful as an acrobat on a wire; she bounded, and tripped, and strode, her spirits seemingly genial as when they climbed the hill. With skin whiter than ivory and hair browner than gold, graceful and agile in figure, and with eyes of noble grey, she was a creature to evoke admiration and pride. But in Enos the beauty of his sister, her qualities of mind and body, evoked calculation.

"Would Miss Molvurra and young Arrosey come over on a Sunday afternoon if you asked them?" he said, farther down the hill.

"Come over? Of course. He's quite at home with us; and Ellen, of course."

" Then ask them."

"I shall do that gladly enough," she said.

"I think, on the whole, you've got on a pretty fair footing with him, Lizzie."

She looked up.

"Aye, Enos, that's all right. But he'll never say anything to me, if that's what you mean," she said bluntly.

" Why not? I won't believe he's not fond of you till I see it; and if you're fond of him, it's everything." "Everything?" she said, with a determined look.

" Yes, if he gets to know it," he said decisively, with a tone of authority, as if impatient of her wilfulness.

Lizzie reflected. She did not understand; she was wholly innocent.

" Wait till you know him," she said.

"Ah ! well, don't you forget to ask them over," said Enos conclusively.



Back index next

Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2006