[From Captain of the Parish, 1897]
THE Milvartins left Cairnmore to live at Creg Awin. Almost before the carts had left the Cairnmore street with their household goods, the thatched roof seemed to droop as if to fall in. Lizzie took down the curtain of faded damask, and the light came in dismal and drear through the two little windows on the brown area of boards under the dark thatch. The great roll of herring-nets lay on the floor, and she looked at it doubtfully.
"There's that roll of herring-nets, father; what shall we do with it?" she said, when the carts were ready to start.
"Aw, well, it belonged to him once, anyway, Lizzie; we'll take it, girl," said the old man.
So the roll of herring-nets was brought, and at Creg Awin was stowed up among the roof timbers of a cartshed.
Mrs. Molvurra was taking the parlour end, the Milvartins the kitchen end of the house; and after Ellen's departure, Ellen's room with its furniture was to become Lizzie's.
Ellen had already packed her luggage. She had gathered some of the surviving flowers and leaves that grew in Creg Awin garden, and laid them between the pages of her books. She had but few friends to visit, Arrosey parsonage and Mrs. Curlat's being in fact all. But there were many who came to say good-bye to her. No one suspected that any sadness on her face was due to anything but the sorrow of leaving home to go so far away.
The aversion of Enos to John Molroy was nothing to her, and she cared now only to see Molroy and to have him near her. He came every day of that week. She did not care to conceal her love when they were alone together; its exterior manifestation, like their old manner of friendship, but revealed in every tone of her voice, and in tears they could not conceal. They walked in the home-field or sat down on the grass, and Molroy, throwing himself at full length on the slope beside her, buried his face in the herbage, scented with thyme and trefoil, and gave vent to sobs of anguish while she twined her fingers in his hair. But be did not plead with her any longer. She had besought him to speak of it no more.
When Lizzie came from school in the afternoon and found Molroy there, she did not join them. She loved Molroy with all her impetuous nature, but she instinctively felt that it was their farewells, on which she had no wish to intrude. As to the love of Ellen and Molroy, she was deceived by its exterior semblance. She did not know of their tears, nor what kind of words were spoken. But she had grown to love him in a deeper way, and she lived in a spirit of indomitable hope, or rather belief, that he would one day take herself to his heart. She believed that in being left behind she would be Molroy's sole companion. And she loved Ellen with her whole soul. She had thoughts and questionings, and even perplexities. She could not explain many things, but she had no gnawing suspicions and no embittering jealousy. There were main and principal facts that answered everything; for even to Lizzie's own sorrow Ellen was going away.
Many of the Dippers had already sold their possessions and were in temporary lodgings at the port of departure. During the week Ellen's heavier luggage had been sent down to Milvartin's headquarters at the hotel in Douglas; and Enos Milvartin's last word when leaving Creg Awin on Monday afternoon had been a gently urged repetition of his request that she would at least come down on Saturday and spend Sunday with his Mormon friends.
"You are considerate, Enos; you are always so. But I shall be happier here, and I much prefer to come down on Monday morning," was her final answer.
On Friday afternoon, when Ellen went up to Arrosey to say good-bye, she knew already that since the evening when the big man had asked her to break her engagement, he had not been going about as usual. The severe housekeeper, Jane, received her at the door, and showed her upstairs and into the big man's room. She sat down by his pillow. He turned his head to look at her, and then turned away and remained without speaking. Again he turned and regarded her fixedly, scanning every feature again and again, and Ellen, leaning her elbow on the pillow, smoothed the long hair from his temples.
"Ellen, my girl," he said, "open the box on the top of the chest of drawers."
She rose and went to cross the room and opened the box. There was a watch and a ring.
" Will the ring fit you,-Ellen? " he said, speaking with his head turned away.
"Yes," she said, trying it on her finger.
"And the watch," he said; "I want you to take them, Ellen."
She came back to her chair with the watch and ring in her hands.
"They were for your mother once, Ellen, and I loved her just like my boy loves you. But I lost her, Ellen ! " His voice sank, and his words were disconnected. She listened as in a dream, hearing only, " Happy - mistake - God's will."
She laid her hand on his forehead and smoothed it, and he remained silent.
"Them little things was got for her and never given; and I'm giving them to you, Ellen, when it's all over. I wouldn't like you to forget me, girl."
There was a step on the stairs. Jane came into the room with a tray of tea-things and set a table beside the bed; and when she withdrew, John Molroy's foot crossed the landing. He opened the door noiselessly.
"How are you, father?" he said, after he had acknowledged Ellen's presence with a look.
"I'm only middling, boy," said the big man.
Ellen poured out tea for herself and Molroy, but the big man lay still, merely indicating that he would take none, and turning his face away. Molroy drank his cup of tea standing at the window, set his cup down, and again noiselessly passed out of the room and went downstairs.
"Well, well! this'll be the last, then," said the big man, turning to Ellen. " But if we've to meet again, you know where it'll be, Ellen."
She bent down and kissed his forehead.
"Good-bye, Mr. Molroy. I shall never forget you." "Good-bye, Ellen, good-bye," he said, and his eyes followed her as she went out closing the door silently behind her.
Molroy was waiting in the porch. With the same impulse they turned up to Arrosey heights. He drew her arm through his, unable to speak. On the ridge of the highest field they paused. They looked across at the Cairnmore, on Creg Awin, and the deep valleys below, on Arrosey with the white line of highroad passing beside it, and the little whitewashed chapel below the gate, and westwards across the Vaish Hills to the long line of sea.
It was the scene of all their common associations. Inchport Castle was just visible under its dark seaward hill westwards.
"Shall we think of each other years hence when we are old?" she said.
" Oh, yes, Ellen ! What can change us? We cannot think differently nor forget."
" Even if you should marry some one else who will love you?" "There is no 'if,' Ellen. There will be no one else."
His eye swept the horizon of the sea. His imagination swept on.
" And you will always be alone ? " "Yes, I shall be alone, Ellen."
"I have sometimes thought, John," and she trembled as she held his arm, "that Lizzie is so good and true, and always has known you so well."
He glanced at Ellen with a sudden recollection of Milvartin's lie; but there was no trace in her clear look of such a thought there.
" And she is worthy of being received even to your heart, John ! Perhaps-" she resumed, but paused.
There was again a look on Molroy's face of sudden recollection of Milvartin's question when they met at the falls. Could
he have persuaded Ellen to speak? But the doubt vanished as it came.
"Is it possible?" she said.
"Ellen, I do not believe it will ever be. Some light may yet shine in this darkness."
"No, John! Do not let us deceive ourselves with such a hope. I have none. We shall not meet again."
She clung more closely to his arm, still meditating to speak of Lizzie. But as they came down from the upland fields the purpose faded, and the way in which to speak became blurred and dim. They came in the deepening gloom past the chapel. It was the night of the weekly class meeting, and the little windows lighted, and the people inside singing to some old tune that, as they passed on, gave place to the rushing of Arrosey brook.
"I believe in my heart there's been more between them than people think," said the severe grey-headed housekeeper, Jane, that evening to Mrs. Curlat-the-soldier, where she went of an evening instead of going to "class."
"Ellen was always proud, and she's proud still. We can't know all it's like," said Mrs. Curlat.
"She would have suited him well enough, Mrs. Curlat, and suited me too," said the martinet.
"Aw, well, it's not hard to know that it's Lizzie he's been for. He couldn't resist her," said Nell Gawn who was also present. " For allowing she's not as bad as they're making out, still she's that way that she would tempt a saint."