[From Captain of the Parish, 1897]
THE dance was at the Castle Inn, a big house in the marketplace. Mr. Orson Pratt had an appointment elsewhere. Ellen, Lizzie, and Mrs. Pratt were accompanied by Milvartin and Molroy.
"How do you like Miss Milvartin's hair?" said Mrs. Pratt to Molroy.
"It's beautifully made up."
"I have to thank Mrs. Pratt," said Lizzie.
" My dear Miss Milvartin, it was a perfect pleasure. I have a little skill that way, but you have the finest hair I have ever seen. Miss Molvurra's is black. There's no colour, my dear; yours has the advantage. You'll agree with me, I'm sure, Mr. Molroy ?"
Mrs. Pratt did not wait for assent to her propositions, and ignored possible dissent, except when to pause was a part of her purpose.
Lizzie radiated an influence that charmed, intoxicated, stupefied; she was an anaesthetic; and she was herself intoxicated by the music. She would do nothing but dance. In motion or at rest she attracted attention. She was the cynosure of the heterogeneous assembly, shining unembarrassed. She danced with unfettered abandon. She clung to Molroy; she hung upon him; she had no thought for any one else. With an unconscious fixed curl about her mouth, reserve, interdiction of all familiarity of acquaintance, even contempt, she met and spoke to new acquaintances of the hour. She spoke slowly and distinctly, in a low-pitched voice, in the broad accent of the Island.
Enos Milvartin sat with Ellen, and his eyes followed his sister's every movement, look, and word that even seemed to be spoken. Ellen's eyes also followed her. She believed Molroy had given his love to Lizzie. Manifestly Lizzie was happy. Ellen wondered how and with what words he had spoken to her.
" She is very happy," said Enos. He sat between Ellen and Mrs. Pratt.
" Did you say Mr. Molroy is in some difficulty with his father ? " said Mrs. Pratt, with an innocent air.
" He gave me to understand this afternoon," said Enos, speaking so that Ellen also heard, as if it was not a matter to conceal, "that he could not approach his father now in anything relating to my father's estate, which is in difficulties, on account of Lizzie ; that his father was exasperated."
"Oh, poor fellow! I'm sorry for him. If his father is anything like him, I shouldn't like to rouse him."
Ellen and Mrs. Pratt went away early, and Enos with them. The hours flew on. The day was dawning when the dancers began to depart.
" Where are they? where is Ellen ? " said Lizzie to Molroy. She has gone with your brother," said Molroy, in a tone that made Lizzie look at him with open wondering eyes.
" If I dream to-night, I shall dream of dancing here," she said, as they left the room.
They met at lunch next day.
" We thought, as you and Miss Milvartin were enjoying yourselves so much, we might leave you. We came away and left you dancing; you did not see us, I expect," said Mrs. Pratt to Molroy.
" Oh, yes," he said curtly.
" What a nonchalant person you are, Mr. Molroy. But you'll forgive us going away like that? "
The conversation all round failed to go, in spite of Mrs. Pratt's repeated endeavours. In the afternoon they all walked to the castle. People visiting Inchport always do that. After tea Ellen and Lizzie were returning home; when they had driven off in their gig, Molroy and Milvartin started off together.
"You see this?" said Molroy, holding out a paper. Milvartin took it, and glanced at its contents. It was Mrs. Callister's bill made out for Molroy and Miss Milvartin. "Do you think it excessive?" said Enos.
" Excessive ! "
Enos became restless. His eyes seemed to sink deeper into their sockets. He continued to exhale the smoke of his cigar through his quivering nostrils and listened.
" What I mean is this," said Molroy, and he tore the bill to stamp-paper and scattered it on the turf:
"What's the matter," said Enos, completely controlling himself.
"You fail to see it, do you? "
"I fail to understand why you should speak in that tone,
Mr. Molroy. I am perfectly satisfied to have the bill made out any way you like."
" There's one thing I'm obliged for, and that's the privilege of not having been your guest! " said Molroy, and he turned and walked away. In two strides Enos was alongside.
"Mr. Molroy, you misunderstand. Let me explain. It was merely consideration for your feelings about this sort of thing. I thought you would insist on sharing the bill."
" Listen ! " said Molroy. " Do you think I'm going to that landlady to ask her about this? No ! "
" I really did not think much about it. I apologise for the thoughtlessness," said Enos.
Something had gone wrong with Molroy. It was useless to hope for explanation or a proper understanding. So Enos thought. Molroy looked at him again and again. Enos had an air of rectitude and innocence, but unhappily of the sanctified sort just then. His purposes and motives were concealed under a mask of sanctimoniousness. Molroy had reached the stage of an intense aversion to Milvartin's manner, without being yet conscious of hating the man himself.
"I regret that anything should interfere with our friendship," pursued Enos.
"I'm going to pay half the bill. You can come and see me do it," said Molroy.
A boy was leaning on the wall of the Shore Road.
"Go to Cashen's and tell them to get my horse ready," said Molroy to the boy.
" Then you are going away at once ? " said Enos, still in the same quiet persistent manner.
"As soon as I have settled this matter. Yes."
Nevertheless, Enos walked with him to Cashen's. When Molroy was in his gig, Enos gave him his hand, and held Molroy's hand in a kind sort of way, as if he regretted a fault on Molroy's part rather than his own.
"We part friends, I hope," said Enos. "Don't let this come between us."
" What the devil does it matter whether we are friends or not, Milvartin ? "
Enos bit his lip.
"Not if there was any cause."
"The less we see of each other the better, in my opinion," said Molroy.
"I'm sorry for that, Mr. Molroy. Of course, friends or enemies, it's all the same to me. But why do you adopt this tone, Mr. Molroy ? "
Molroy adjusted his rug and took up the reins.
" I adopt no tone. I found myself mistaken, and I've not let the thing go on under false colours."
"Very well, Mr. Molroy, very well," said Enos resignedly. Thus they parted.