[From Captain of the Parish, 1897]
MEANWHILE in the evening Arrosey himself came down to Creg Awin. He came up the farm street grunting as if in conversation with himself, and looking round to take in the condition of the farmyard. He rapped on the door with his stick, and, without pausing, stooped and entered with a general "Are you at home?" to the house. This was Mr. Molroy's unvarying method of entering all houses without distinction ; for him to remain standing at the door meant that the people of the house had given him serious umbrage. Ellen was alone. She rose to receive him.
"And where's the mistress, Ellen? " he said, sitting down and looking at her fixedly.
"This is her day at Inchport, Mr. Molroy," Ellen said.
" Aw, indeed; aw, indeed," he said. "And has Enos been seeing you lately, girl."
"Yes; he has been here to-day. Do you know that they are moving in here this week, Mr. Molroy ?"
"Aw, aye, the 'Cairnmore' was up at me for carts to bring the things across. It's the best thing you could do for them, girl. And you're looking middling too, Ellen, girl." "Just as well as I feel, perhaps," she said.
"Things are going only middling with some of us lately, Ellen, girl," said the big man, regarding her fixedly.
She looked up. She saw what he had come to speak of.
What would he say? She watched his face.
"The time is getting short now; when are you going, Ellen, girl?" he resumed.
" We sail on Monday," she said, with trembling lips.
" John has been speaking to you, Ellen ? " he said, suppressing all emotion within his iron frame.
"Yes," she said tremulously.
His manner was quiet and preoccupied with the issues of his mission and the resolution he read in her face.
" Have you any doubts about what he said, Ellen? "
"Oh, no, Mr. Molroy; I have no doubts whatever. It is true," she said, raising her eyes, now stained with tears, and looking at the window and the light.
" But maybe there's something else, Ellen ? Maybe he's-" "No, Mr. Molroy; he has no faults for me."
"Maybe it's me you're doubting?" he said, with the same gentle persistence.
"No; he told me."
" And are you going still, Ellen ? " "Yes; I have promised."
" But is a promise like that binding on you when you know it's a mistake, Ellen?"
She looked at him.
"It's misery for you, Ellen; it's death for you, girl. Couldn't you tell Enos it's a mistake? Couldn't you tell him that you can't give him your heart, and that you can't give him yourself, Ellen?"
" I could tell him, Mr. Molroy ; yes, I could tell him that my heart was not my own to give if I did not know that he loves me. But Enos does love me with all his heart. He has told me that his life is bound up in our marriage. I have no reason to doubt it. I am not happy. Perhaps I shall never be ; but there is no breaking this promise, and I cannot break it, Mr. Molroy."
" But if he knew the truth ? If he knew it was a mistake ? " he said, a dull gloom, a sense of the inevitable negative settling upon his face. "Couldn't you give him the chance to release you? Give him the chance. If he took it, the path would be clear, Ellen. Aw, Ellen, girl! Arrosey is your own, waiting for you. Won't you try? "
She turned her eyes towards him. She was touched. She did not know till now how gentle and kind he could be. Had not everybody all the years of her life feared to offend him ? He had, it was true, always been kind-to her, but like a great giant, whom she alone was never afraid of. She had been right. He was gentle, just as John Molroy was gentle to her. " I daresay he knows part of the truth, Mr. Molroy," she said gravely. " But there is one part he will never know. I do not think it is just a thing between him and myself. Because if we-I mean if I break my word, not because John is rich and Enos poor, but because I should be John's wife, who will ever keep a promise?"
A rising sob made her pause, but she stifled it and went on
"I will keep it, though it will mean something worse than being poor perhaps. But it would be worse still to break it."
He sat like a statue watching her as she spoke, and when she concluded, his eyes with a movement of absorbed thought dropped and remained fixed in abstraction.
"You'll come up and put a sight on us before you go, Ellen! " he said at last. "Friday evening, if there's no others."
"There are no others, Mr. Molroy, who are the same to me as you are."
Still he did not move.
"Isn't Enos so well off then, Ellen ?" he said gently.
" I think not," she said. "He has not told me, at least not exactly."
"Because, Ellen, America isn't too far for a friend's hand to come to give him a help, you know."
She looked up in astonishment. "Arrosey" going to help Enos ?
°' It's his people at home I think of," she said, touched by a new emotion at the thought of his kindness.
"Aw, don't you think about them, Ellen," he said bluntly. "Your own father is gone, girl. But I would like you to think the Island is home still the same. They'll be no worse off."
"I don't want them to be dependent on Lizzie."
"They won't," he said, concealing pity and kindness in brusqueness of tone.
Then looking her in the face with a contraction of his brows
" You're very fond of her, Ellen ! "
"You would be fond of her too, Mr. Molroy, if you knew her as I do."
The big man shifted in his chair.
"Kindness to her is kindness to me," she said, meeting his look with a look of unmistakable request.
He shifted in his chair again and laid his hand on his hat and stick. " I'm not doubting your words, Ellen," he said, rising from his seat.
Ellen rose and he came to her, and for the first time in her life took her hand.
" Aw, well, Ellen, if you would come and have tea with us, you'll come early?"
And he left her alone, his broad form filling the doorway as he passed out.