[From Captain of the Parish, 1897]
MOLROY, returning to Arrosey leading his horse by the bridle, found his father and the soldier at the gate. Curlat had come down after his return from the market to have a talk as usual; when Molroy appeared he withdrew.
"Nothing new, boy?" said the big man, as he accompanied his son towards the house after the horse had been taken to the stables.
And what's the news?"
" It's about Ellen Molvurra and Milvartin."
By a common impulse they passed the door, and under the dimness of a clouded moon went up the field-lane leading to the heights.
"She has made a mistake in her engagement."
"A mistake! aye, and how do you happen to know that, boy? " "She has told me."
"What!" he exclaimed abruptly and almost fiercely. "When? where?"
"At Creg Awin just now," said Molroy, "and I want her to break it off," he added, with energy.
"Aye, and what did she say? Speak, I tell you; what did she say?"
" It's too late."
" It's too late? Aye, it's too late. Do you know what you are?" said the big man, facing his son. "You're a fool ! You come and tell me that story now, you idiot! you-you-you ass ! Do you hear what I say? do you understand me when I speak plain English? Mistake! Ellen, indeed ! No; it's yourself, and a d-d mistake it is. Do you know what she'll do? She'll go with that devil to America. She will; I prophesy it; here, standing in this road, I prophesy it."
He had no care to control himself. He clutched his stick and raised his voice:
"Ellen! It's in her, and she'll go."
Then he turned and they went on. In a lower tone, with full control of himself, he resumed-
'' To think that cursed hound, that devil, should make a fool of her, indeed ! John, my boy, you don't know, but I can tell you. She was good enough if your own mother in heaven-"
"Father," said Molroy, "I have asked her to come here and let me speak to you."
"Don't interrupt me, you fool ! I say she is thrown away on a d-d mongrel, and she won't flinch, but she'll follow him, if it's to h_l ! I know it; it's in the breed. If it's not in your breed, it's in her breed; it's one of the marks, my boy." He paused. His white hair blew around his neck. He clutched his stick with a gesture of fury.
" Oh, d-n it, John, there's no breaking about the business. And Milvartin ! Watch him. Will he give you the chance ? No, no; that's not Milvartin."
Across the glen a flickering light was moving in the darkness at Cairnmore. Some one was in the farmyard with a lantern. The big man shook his stick at the opposite hillside.
"You hound! you devil!" he said, striding to and fro. Then he turned to his son. "No, she doesn't love him. Does she love you, eh ? I tell you it's no use. You'll never marry her." "But, father-" interposed Molroy again.
" My boy, she has promised; that's enough for her without the d-d clincher that hound" and he turned and came back. "I'm out rather late this evening," he said abstractedly, and relapsed into silence, and side by side they came down the hill again.
"This is a blow to me," he said bitterly as they approached the house. " I was waiting for it. I knew it would come. It's been killing me for weeks. But I've felt it heavy this evening."
He turned at the house gable, and with a new fierceness taking the place of his momentary exhaustion and pathos"But do you hear?" he said sharply. "Don't you bring that Milvartin girl in here till I'm gone."
" Why do you say that, father? " said Molroy.
"Why ? Aye, boy, I'll answer you. I wouldn't like to see that one with her white face, and her fine hair, and her d-d fine petticoats, strutting about like a she-devil in Ellen's place." "You'll ask her yourself before that happens," said Molroy. " Aye, I hear. Maybe I'll have to," said the big man. "Have to! Never! But whatever Milvartin is, let him have his due. His sister is a different person."
"Aye, go on. I thought so," said the big man sarcastically.
" Father, the truth is best. Let us face it."
" Well, let's face it, then. Let's have it over. Go on." "No; it's not for me to speak. It's for you. Put it in words. What is there against her? You call her a she-devil. Is that what you think she is?"
"It's like Milvartin knows what she is," said the big man obstinately, "when she's booked already to come here." "Never ! "
"Listen, boy! You'll break your word cheap enough, maybe. Do you think Ellen will do it too? You're cheated. There was a bit of honour attached to this house once, boy. Times is changed," he said, with fierce bitterness, and with a pathetic tone of unmistakable conviction that momentarily crushed Molroy's spirit.
Molroy recognised where the truth was against him. He had to confess to himself in his secret consciousness that, in spite of his struggle to hold honour before him in his relations with Lizzie Milvartin, he had all the time compromised her honour and his own. Their intimacy was a thing the world refused to recognise except as having one meaning-in her case, vanity, ambition, and baseness; in his case, baseness alone. Nevertheless, there was on his side a truth solid and substantial. She was unstained.
"Father, I have not broken my word," he said firmly. "Your word! No. You haven't given it, very likely. Nothing but petticoats, eh? "
A country cart passing from market rattled and jolted on its heavy wheels, crunching the road metal along the road below the farmyard. There was a pause.
"You haven't disgraced her, it's like?" said the big man. "Never!" said Molroy, with a concentration of energy. "Whose story have you swallowed this time?" he added fiercely.
"The story is that you have though, and yourself worse than her," said the big man half-abstractedly, not regarding the fierceness of his son's tone. He had believed the story. The repudiation of it shook, but did not destroy the belief he had fixedly entertained. "And where do you think that's likely to come from?" he added.
"Aye, from the Dipper," said Molroy. "I will speak to you, Mr. Dipper, about that business," he said to himself, walking off a few paces.
" Aye? " said the big man gravely, " no truth, it's like? "
" None! It won't be that kind of blot that will be attached to the house. Whose story is it ?"
"It's got about, boy. It's like you're man enough to ask himself."
"You'll be convinced then, perhaps?"
A gleam of hope flashed in on Molroy's mind. Ellen had heard and believed be knew not what. He would expose this falsehood, Milvartin's lie, and set her free.
"And Ellen too ! " he added.
"Aw, no, my boy," said the big man decisively. "She wants no convincing. She believes enough, it's like. But not that. Aw, boy, the mischief is done. But speak to him. Try your hand. You've got to deal with a rascal that has learnt his trade to it, if so be that the facts are on your side and him inventing."
Hard and obstinate, he would give no more direct acknowledgment.
"The mischief is done," he repeated, as he entered the house porch. " But the course is clearer tel' it was, anyway," he said, as a last and conclusive word.