[From Captain of the Parish, 1897]
CHARLOTTE had spoken and Enos had understood: "As for religious conversation, it's not a thing she cares for; and if I was you, I wouldn't force it on her ! "
Charlotte was his partisan, and she furthered his cause by her own silence. She said nothing in his praise, but she kept her eyes open to events. Enos came to Arrosey Church more than once. One of these Sundays Parson Ollikins had preached on faith. On the way home Enos walked with Ellen and Lizzie.
"While men remain in darkness and do not know of faith as a power in themselves and for themselves, they will listen to that sort of sermon," said Enos. " The Bible is as good as he thinks, but for a different reason. It is the word of men who had faith as a power in themselves. But we can do without the Bible rather than without the power that is meant by the word faith."
"Does faith mean power? I thought it meant looking beyond this world to God, and doing what's right because we see God," said Ellen.
"Faith is believing, isn't it?" said Lizzie. " I believe everything, but I'm afraid I don't care much about them."
"Yes, that's the common way-faith a crediting of testimony ! That's why it's so dead in the Church. Faith isn't accepting things, whether in reason or beyond reason."
" To accept what, then?" said Lizzie. "But I oughtn't to talk. I'll listen to you, Ellen," she said, with a laugh, thinking and wondering meanwhile why Molroy was not at church that morning, and where on earth he was.
"St. Paul says, 'By faith the worlds were framed.' By whom? Certainly by God. Faith then exists in the bosom of God. Faith cannot be crediting of testimony in His case, for it existed before any testimony could be, and exists still where no testimony can be. The worlds are upheld by it; allcreated things exist by it. Then what is it ? " "Do tell us, Enos, and get it over," said Lizzie.
Enos looked at Ellen. She was listening very differently; and he resumed
" It is a principle that exists in the bosom of God, and that may have place in the heart of man. It is the principle of power, and is an impulse, a practical impulse. It's not meditating, but working to bring into existence things that are not as yet. Men of faith are men who do something in the world. Parson Ollikins seems to be very much in the dark indeed," he concluded musingly.
"I see what you mean by faith, but it isn't recognising the authority of God enough," said Ellen.
"It's very conceited," said Lizzie.
"I don't say it's quite untrue for that, Lizzie. But I am on your side. To credit the testimony is not a difficulty to me either. But thinking of God comes by practice, like music; and there where it is so obvious one is always omitting steady practice. I'm really much obliged to you, Mr. Milvartin, for telling us something new about faith," said Ellen.
"Faith is, of course, God's gift, and is not likely to make us forget Him," said Enos.
"Ale is God's gift, and isn't likely to make anybody drunk. Only it does," said Lizzie. " Some people get on just as well by conceit as by power. I think that must be her kind of faith," and she nodded towards Creg Awin.
"You don't understand it if you apply it that way, Lizzie," said Enos, looking across the ravine.
"No, Lizzie; her faith consists in crediting testimony," said Ellen.
They were at Creg Awin gate, and Charlotte caught a glimpse of them as they parted.
"It's like he won't keep that up longer tel' needed," she said to herself. That Enos should go to church for Ellen's sake was accepted without a scruple of surprise, and condoned without a scruple of hesitation, or rather the end being to her mind, the means needed no condonation.
Enos came to Creg Awin again and again, sometimes with Lizzie, sometimes by himself, but made his visits judiciously short. Ellen liked better to meet him; he came oftener, and his visits insensibly grew longer.
John Molroy had approached his father on behalf of old Charley Milvartin. He had effected nothing; yet, contrary to Nell Gawn's second-hand version, the conversation had less than the usual amount of bluntness on the part of Arrosey. A business of more immediate importance was on hand. A seat had become vacant in the House of Keys, and that ancient co-optative body of "men with land" elected John Molroy. That the choice would fall upon him had been for some time an open secret. Nevertheless Arrosey was in a turmoil of satisfaction. He was so conscious of it that he set a watch on his lips. Father and son being in the Keys together was to him such a supreme achievement that the affairs of the neighbourhood for the time being almost sank out of notice. Day after day father and son were from home, the son entering into his father's projects with stubbornly loyal zeal, though with seeming apathy. They set out in their gig in the morning; they returned in the evening. Arrosey's fixed arrangement was to complete with his son a round of visits to the members of the House who bad supported him in the election.
Meanwhile Ellen's days were succeeding each other. She was conscious of an impatience as if of a strain that must soon be over. She felt an unrest, and she saw Enos Milvartin.
Men were to her of two classes-in one class a few, in the other all the rest. The select few were simply the men of integrity,-of integrity, a quality absolutely illusive as a specific standard. Her man of integrity was but the reflection of herself. No soul could be more credulous; for on the threshold of her opinion her mistake was made. She saw in Enos with unquestioning confidence a man of integrity of character. If she asked about America and his life and surroundings, it was but to feed her imagination. She pointed no question as to his past life. She had no doubts. Moreover, as to Enos there was much that was in accord with her requirements as a basis of acquaintance. He did not grimace nor lose his countenance and smile when he spoke, like almost all who even for a few moments had sought to make themselves agreeable to her. He had no affectation of manner; his speech plain, with no polite veneer.
He was intelligent; he was deliberate, cold, dispassionate. His solemnity, his sanctimoniousness disappeared ; there remained only earnestness.
Her thoughts of going to America were for the present laid aside. She had spoken to no one. She had been profoundly disappointed. She crushed the bitterness underneath. She laughed, though with a hardness in its music. In the garden of her imagination John Molroy had always walked; but now that garden had no denizen; haunted only by a ghost of its former lord. Into its cheerlessness this living and real brother of Lizzie had of late been entering.
The news of John Molroy's election to sit with the fathers of his country had come to Arrosey by mid-day. Men stopped each other on the highroad to exchange the news. In the afternoon it was known at Creg Awin. Ellen heard it with satisfaction. Lizzie came in the evening. She heard the news with chagrin. She had feared its coming. It made the distance greater between Molroy and herself. Ellen kissed Lizzie on the cheek and said
"I'm very glad, Lizzie."
"It's all his father's doing," said Lizzie carelessly.
On Sunday afternoon following, Enos Milvartin came to Creg Awin, and Ellen strolled with him along the home-field path. They spoke of Molroy. She spoke frankly and rejoiced at his success. Enos observed every tone and word.
"Miss Molvurra," he said, "may I speak to you plainly? "Yes, Mr. Milvartin," she said, raising her brows.
"The first hour I saw you will never pass from my mind." He began speaking distinctly in constrained, disconnected sentences, his eyes on the grass at his feet as they strolled slowly on. " Without embarrassment you spoke to me as if I was not an entire stranger. I looked at you again and again, and there seemed to be around you an invisible light, a glow, a halo. Thought failed me. I could only call it the nobility of self-respect. I looked at your eyes : the same light was there. I looked at your face: the same light. I looked at your dress and saw the same light. I noticed your manner, your movements, your speech, your silence , and I saw that you were wholly enveloped in this radiance. I said to myself this is truth, purity, nobility. I felt that you were a lady, and that I myself was a common man. Yet you spoke to me, a stranger, as if I was a friend. You smiled and gave me your hand as if I had been your brother. I felt not humiliated below myself, but exalted in being so near you. When you left me at the crossing of the river, your image remained before my eyes with the glow of purity and truth around you. Every moment my thoughts were my own I saw you. I will not say I dreamt of you, for on that night I slept a deep and sweet and dream less sleep, just as when I was a boy. But when I woke, I could see you still in the glow of that radiancy. I could see your face, which without a smile is brighter than a smile."
" I do not understand what you mean, Mr. Milvartin," said Ellen, with energetic and passionate astonishment.
He seemed to collect himself. His face was paler. His emotion made his voice tremulous. He continued as if trying to be more clear
"And ever since I have had but one thought, I have been possessed of but one inspiration-to be worthy."
" Mr. Milvartin, what are you talking about?" said Ellen with a passionate impatience, for her soul was tossing in tumult. "Let us go away from this place; let us go back," she said.
" You do not understand me," he said, gathering a power to speak more plainly.
" Mr. Milvartin, let us go back," said Ellen.
" I mean that I love you," he said firmly. " I love you with my whole soul. Did you not understand?" She stood and looked into his eyes.
" I thought you meant me to understand that. You confused me by your way of talking," she said, with perfect selfcontrol, and a strange beauty in her eyes, agitated with wonder, doubt, confidence, and the consciousness of holding the supreme gift of herself and her life in her own hand to withhold or bestow.
He took her hand, and she did not resist.
" Miss Molvurra, I ask you to be my wife," he said, with entreating earnestness.
"You love me, Enos ? " she said, with a dispassionate gravity, but with less colour in her face, and her lips trembling.
"I have loved you from the first moment I saw you. I love you with my whole soul. My life is bound up in you. Will you be my wife, Ellen?"
" Yes, Enos, I will," she said. " And you love me too? "
"Yes, Enos, I believe I do," she said distinctly, as if to hear her own voice. She looked away to that horizon, and in that moment a question-a doubt-was in her eyes. It was the ideal breaking like autumn gossamer, and floating away before the temporarily triumphing conviction that the problem of life could have only a practical and real solution, and that that would in the end be right and good.
"Yes, I believe I do, Enos," she repeated, looking in his face. She accepted his kiss. They continued their walk in silence rather than in conversation. His deferential regard in no way ceased nor altered, but seemed rather to be profoundly intensified.