[From Captain of the Parish, 1897]
IT was Lizzie's third week at school, and she had not seen Molroy since the first day. Nell Gawn, meeting heron the way from school, told her he was, drinking day and night in Inchport. His horse had come home riderless to Arrosey; but the day after he had been at home much the same as usual, and had gone off again. This was all Lizzie knew. One day in that third week, Enos Milvartin, being on his way across the mountains to the west side of the island, and riding slowly down the mountain-road, in no hurry to reach Creg Awin before teatime, as he turned from the shoulder of Sartal to the lane that crosses Arrosey ridge and enters the highroad by the church, saw Molroy on his horse coming up from the north towards the mountains. Enos did not affect to notice him, but continued across the waste towards the gate of the lane. But Molroy instantly, at sight of the apostle, also turned down across the waste. He had roused himself as if from sleep, and galloped so as to draw up beside Milvartin at the gate.
A country-woman was in the lane, and Milvartin was waiting for her to open the gate. When this was apparent, Molroy unceremoniously rode past the apostle and drew up across the cart-track before the gate.
" No," he said to the woman; " you needn't open the gate. Cross the stile."
The woman glanced at the horsemen, passed over the stile, and hurried away.
As yet no sign of recognition had passed between Milvartin and Molroy. Then Molroy turned to him.
" You weren't going to do that, Mr. Dipper? " he said. " What do you mean ? " said Milvartin.
"The lady, Mr. Dipper!" and he pointed with his whip to indicate the woman. " Asking a lady to open the gate for you?"
" What is the matter with you?" said Enos calmly.
" At present, Mr. Dipper, it's what is the matter with you. You know she is a lady, don't you?"
" I don't understand you."
" I'll explain. Taking your own word for it, you know, Mr. Dipper, every woman west of the Mississippi is a lady, and I want to know what the devil you suppose they are here? You understand that ?"
The apostle sat on his horse with the air of a man who is master of himself.
"Mr. Molroy, you are delaying me. Kindly stand aside." " Oh, no ! you haven't answered my question."
" I'm not obliged to answer questions, even yours," said Enos quietly.
"Your fine airs won't open the gate for you, Mr. Dipper." "You are stopping me on a public road, Mr. Molroy. Stand aside."
" Do you know what you are? " said Molroy, continuing.
"I know what you are: you are drunk," said the apostle, slightly incensed.
"That's nothing to being a liar," said Molroy, wheeling his horse round and backing to the gate.
"How long do you intend this to go on? I ask you again to stand aside," said the apostle.
"Yes, a liar! You passed yourself off on me as being home on a visit.' You weren't home 'on a visit.' Your father's an honest man. He wanted your help, and you let on you were going to help him. Have you done so, Mr. Dipper? No!
You weren't home 'on a visit.' You're home as a Dipper, and you're a sneak, a coward, and a liar. My friendship, indeed?
Aye! I want to tell you what that is."
The apostle was losing his temper. He struck his spurs into his horse, swerved him aside, and attempted to ride past to the gate; but Molroy instantly backed, and barred the way.
"You can't do it," he said.
Instantly the apostle lifted his whip and brought the lash over the quarters of Molroy's horse. The horse bounded, but did not break away, and Molroy, letting loose the lash of his whip, struck the apostle across the face. There was a groan of pain.
" That's right, Mr. Dipper! " he said, and again he brought the lash across his face. " That's right ! " he repeated.
His horse had backed against the gate and burst it open, and Milvartin's horse had bounded back out of reach. Molroy entered the lane and waited, and in a moment, with clubbed whip, Milvartin followed him.
" Mr. Molroy," said the apostle. '
" If you haven't had enough you're welcome to more," was the answer.
"Mr. Molroy," repeated the apostle.
" Here, Mr. Saint, none of your preaching." " It was a coward's blow," said Milvartin.
"I think now you had better ride on, Mr. Saint. Lift your hand, and you'll get the butt end."
And he clubbed his whip and watched the apostle. Milvartin paused, seemed to reflect, and put his horse in motion and galloped along the lane, and Molroy came on behind at a trot.
The click of the horses' hoofs turning the corner into the . highroad reached the ear of Lizzie as she sat in school, and she wondered if by chance it might be Molroy. Each day, on her way from school, she had called at Creg Awin. Ellen had been ill, and for a week had not left her room. Except Enos and old Mr. Molroy, who with some pretext or other had called to inquire for her, she had had no visitor but Lizzie.
That afternoon, when Lizzie called at Creg Awin, she found Enos in the house. Enos, always the same, deliberate, considerate, when not preoccupied with his affairs, talking of America, had paid his visits to Cairnmore and Creg Awin in Lizzie's absence, and she had scarcely seen him for weeks. He was sitting in the arm-chair by the kitchen-table, unusually sallow, a dark fixedness in his eyes, and he merely looked up in silence when Lizzie came in.
When she had saluted Ellen, she turned to him, and saw the forked weals on his face.
"What's the matter, Enos ? What's happened to your cheek?" she said.
"Nothing; a limb of a tree swept across my face." " What a blow it was? "
"You think it looks bad? It's fresh done this afternoon," he said quietly.
When they were at tea, Lizzie said, addressing Ellen" John Molroy is at home."
"That seems to be news, by the way you speak," said Enos gravely.
Lizzie looked at him in surprise. " What do you mean, Enos ? " "In fact, it is news," he said. "Just at present it is," she said, turning away.
"And is it true that even you have seen nothing of him of late?" he continued.
"Why do you ask ? It does not concern you," she said, without looking in his direction.
" Indirectly, perhaps, it does," he said.
" Lizzie," said Ellen gently, " don't mind what Enos says. He has heard some of those reports. He does not know him as we do."
" Ellen, dear," said Enos, sympathetically and deferentially, if current report is false, I shall only be too glad to know it. Forgive my being annoyed because of the nature of it, and because I cannot doubt the evidence of my own eyes for a part of what is said."
"No, Enos," said Lizzie ; "he opposes your preaching. That is wicked. People of your sort take everything else for granted."
"And you, of course, think he hasn't a fault," said Enos gently, "though his conduct to yourself is already cruel enough."
"No," she said emphatically, and rose from the table. " No ! but kindness itself."
"You are young, Lizzie," said Enos, with an air of solemn anxiety.
"My dear Enos," said Ellen, going to him, "do not distress Lizzie, and do not distress yourself. There is no reason. Even Mr. Molroy has not seen him for a fortnight, but he thinks nothing of it."
"Yes, Ellen, you are right. We will say no more about it.
You are a dear good girl. But Lizzie seems to forget that I am her brother. I am sorry to have spoken so. It is only my anxiety for her as my sister."
Lizzie stood with averted head, a contemptuous curl on her lips, her eyebrows contracted. She came to Ellen and kissed
her and turned to Enos. Once, twice she hesitated, then she spoke.
"No! I do not forget that you are my brother. You are a preacher, too; but all the preachers in the world cannot blacken him for me."
"Very well, Lizzie ! very well ! " said Enos. " That may be so. But are you still the same to him?"
She flushed angrily. The evening light through the window glowed on her brown hair.
"That is no business of yours," she said.
She looked at him, but he did not answer, and she passed out of the house and went on her way to the Cairnmore. "You see, Ellen," said Enos, in the spirit of patience, "all I ever get from her is a request to mind my own business."
"At present I think she is perplexed about him," said Ellen, looking at the fire.
"Yes! And this school has been a nice move, I'm afraid. The old man knows what he's about."
"Mr. Molroy meant nothing but kindness in that, Enos," she said, looking up.
"He has always been against her, Ellen. This looks like a part of his opposition. Get her there, and let her stay there. No better than Nell Gawn. He has never given her a chance."
"It was a quite different feeling that influenced him," she said decisively.
"However, that does not justify her, Ellen. She will not confide in me. She has not spoken to you. At the mention of his name she flames up. Everything he is or does or fails to do is right. I do not find fault with that in itself-but for her to be so absolutely his devoted slave ! At her age right and wrong are by no means the guide and rule of action, and a mistake now is a mistake for ever."
"She is making no mistake in her present course, Enos," said Ellen. "But why do you not see him and ask him ? "
Enos started. He could not always read Ellen's thoughts. Her tone seemed one of half indifference.
"Have you any doubts about the engagement?" he said, cautiously subduing his manner.
Ellen looked up.
"Yes, Enos, perhaps I have; either that or I must doubt his breaking it. I do not believe both. Which shall I believe? "
And are not both possible?" he said seriously
"No, Enos, they are not. But perhaps Lizzie is right. Is it any business of ours ?"
Again he was perplexed. He rose and paced the floor. He had himself told Ellen that Molroy and Lizzie were pledged to each other. She bad believed it implicitly, because everything had seemed to confirm it. He had represented Molroy now as endeavouring to throw Lizzie over. With what result? That Ellen point-blank refused to believe it; and worse, was going back on her former belief. Her confidence in Molroy was the bitterest fact of all. Enos felt he was on dangerous ground. "Ah ! well," he said conclusively, "if I have an opportunity I will ask him ! "