[From Captain of the Parish, 1897]
ENOS had promised to come to Creg Awin on Sunday afternoon to spend an hour or two and to say good-bye. Ubiquitous in his labours in the cause of the "Church," he was working the little yellow cob Joey off its feet. He arrived at Creg Awin earlier than they expected him on Sunday morning. Ellen for the last time had gone to Arrosey Church, but Lizzie, who had stayed at home partly because Enos was expected, was preparing dinner when he arrived. There had been some serious talk that morning between Lizzie and the old people as to what Enos would do for their support. They had a house, a shelter, but, excepting Lizzie's earnings, there was as yet nothing more. If he had done nothing by this time, it was next to certain that he meant to do nothing at all. Lizzie's mind was made up as to Enos-she meant to speak to him. The old people sat by the kitchen-fire, and as Lizzie went about, her deshabille was in accord with her thoughts. Her hair was down, and kept from tumbling over her cheeks and shoulders by a band of ribbon that bound it into a brown sheaf on her shoulders.
Mrs. Molvurra, who by her own account " studied faces middling close," having seen that Lizzie was not very sociable or to be trifled with that morning, prudently kept to her parlour.
When Enos came into the house, Lizzie neither spoke nor looked up, and presently went to the garden for a few fresh flowers to deck the table for Ellen's sake. He observed her go to the garden. When she returned he was sitting at the end of the table smoking. Neither did she speak now, but went about her preparation of dinner, as if he had not been there.
"What's up?" he said, with an affectation of a smile.
Standing at the kitchen-dresser arranging the flowers in water, she made no answer.
"What's up?" he said again, in a sharper tone.
She went to the fire, lifted the lid of a pot, observed how it was boiling, and replacing the lid, came back to the dresser, but still making no answer.
Then Enos, moving across the room, stood before her. "What's up?" he said, in a tone that meant to brook no whims of temper.
Meanwhile the old people sat gazing in the fire, nervously twitching their fingers.
"Well," she said, "what is up?"
" I want to speak to you, my girl," he said sharply.
"I want to speak to you too. Go outside then," she said, looking directly in his face.
He did not go on the instant. He sauntered on the kitchenfloor smoking his cigar.
"This is a nice comfortable house, mother," he said.
"Aw, aye' The house is right enough for the time we're in," she said slowly. "Your father isn't only but middling low to-day, Enos."
"This is a more cheerful house than the old one, mother," he persisted, as if to cheer her up.
"Aw, it's middling, it's middling," she said, without feeling or spirit as of old.
Then he went out, and passed the window to the homefield, and Lizzie followed him.
" I wish he had gone somewhere else," she said, as she saw him on the path. When she overtook him she stood.
"Now, Enos, what do you want?"
" You're in a nice temper this morning; what does that mean? " he said, half turned away.
" Go on," she said.
"Well, Lizzie, I want to know if you and that fellow up the hill there, Molroy; are going to be married ? "
"What business is it of yours?"
"If it's settled that you are, it's no further business of mine; but if not, I've got something to do with it."
"I told you something once, Enos. I didn't know you then. But now ! no! never! " she said contemptuously. "You're in a temper. I'll overlook that, but I mean business, and you'd better just tell me, yes or no. Has anything taken place between you two the same as if you were married?" he said, with stress on the latter part of the question, but in a perfectly dispassionate tone.
She stared; a blush of crimson suffused her face; she trembled with agitation; and turning away, she laid her hand on her blue and white striped skirt, and pressed it as if to draw the hem of it from some defilement.
"No!" she said, in a voice tremulous with indignation, looking sidewise at him. "No ! " she repeated, her eyes flashing with contempt and loathing. " Is that what you had to say ? "
" That's all right, Lizzie," he said carelessly. Her emotions were nothing to him. "It was necessary for me to have a yes or no. It's no, as it happens," he added imperturbably.
"Then you've got it! But," she said slowly and fiercely, if you hadn't been my own brother, you would have had a whip on your back for those words."
"Molroy, eh?" be said, with a smile.
"Yes!" she said, with energy. "Yes; there's not a man in the world that dare insult me except you, you coward! " "Oh, no, Lizzie," said Enos nervously; "don't deceive yourself about that."
"Don't you deceive yourself."
"You're a fool! " he said, still more nervously.
"But not a knave, nor a cheat, nor a coward, like you! You are going away to-morrow, leaving father and mother, and I've got to keep them; and I'll do it; yes, if I work on my knees I'll do it. But you? If we had had anything to lose you would have robbed us of it. You are a fine man indeed, Enos!"
She paused. Tears of passion were in her eyes. She clenched her bands with the energy of indignation, as she looked at him unconscious of her tears, and taking him in from head to foot in her contemptuous glance.
"Now, then, no more of this," he said, advancing with a gesture, his lips compressed as he spoke.
" I've done," she said, and turned away. "Aye! but I haven't," he said fiercely.
She had scarcely moved two paces when she felt herself seized by the hair.
"No! " she screamed. "No! you shall not do that. You shall not touch me, Enos ! "
" Stop, then ! "
" Take your hand off my hair ! " she screamed.
"If you'll kindly listen to what I've got to say," he said fiercely.
"Take your hand off my hair."
"Will you stop?" and he wrenched it ferociously. "Yes, yes; take your hand off."
He released the brown curling locks. She turned, clutched her hair, and drew it over her shoulder, and, twisting it with involuntary energy, held it in her hands, and looked at him.
"Nobody but Molroy to touch it, I suppose!" he said, with a sneer.
She made no answer. A tumult of passion heaved her bosom.
"And you're going to be a good girl to the old people, eh?" he said, smiling a sinister smile. " Will it be with Molroy's help, do you think, eh ? He'll marry you yet, eh ? "
" Molroy's not a coward ! " she said, in a deep tone, her eyes flashing with indignation and contempt.
" Nor a blackguard either, eh ? "
" He's a gentleman," she said unflinchingly.
"Oh, ho!" he said, and paused. "Then I've got something to tell you about your gentleman ! You're not so much to his taste as you think, after all. Do you know that ? "
She started, and he paused to watch the effect of his words. Then resumed
"Do you know that he's trying to get my pledged wife to break her word? That's a nice kind of gentleman! You didn't know it, eh? You didn't understand it, eh? No, because you're a fool; because you're a slave, if it's anything for your gentleman; because you'd betray your own brother for the gentleman, and that's the gentleman that's. going to whip me ! "
He paused again, took out a cigar, and with his penknife slit the end of it, his attention seemingly concentrated on making a neat cut. Then he resumed, speaking with sinister calmness
" He's watching for a chance to play me some d-d trick, but I daresay he won't find it so easy to get an opening."
He lit his cigar, and, when he had blown the first puff of smoke from his lips, went on
"That's all I've got to say. Now, don't forget our little talk."
She looked at him with horror, and, mechanically moving her foot, returned to the house. She went to Ellen's room, and bolting the door, began to comb out her hair in two rippling torrents over her bosom. Then she folded and coiled the tresses closely and firmly, as if to secure them from another violation.