[From Captain of the Parish, 1897]

CHAPTER VIII - THE DIPPER'S FAREWELL

WHEN Ellen returned from church, she found Enos sitting in the kitchen smoking a cigar, his face calm, his manner deliberate as usual, and the old people still sitting by the fire just as she had left them. She came to Enos, saluted him frankly, and went upstairs. Her room door was locked, and she noticed the unusual expression on Lizzie's face when she opened it from within. There was sorrow in the atmosphere

for them all, and she asked no questions. But after dinner, when they went out of doors along the field-path together, Ellen spoke

" You were in my room, Lizzie ? "

"Yes, doing my hair. Is anything amiss?" She put her arm round Lizzie's waist.

"Some one else has been in too. My trunks have been opened," she said.

Lizzie flushed ; her heart beat. Was a shadow of suspicion to come between them now ?

" Ellen ! "

" Lizzie, it was not you. I know it was not you."

They looked into each other's eyes, and the shadow was gone.

Meanwhile Enos sat with the old people.

"And you're away again, Enos?" said old Mrs. Milvartin. "Yes, mother. We must move pretty sharp in these days." "And you'll be saying good-bye before tea? "

" Yes, mother ; in fact, I should be off already."

" Well, well ! but still you might stay over tea-time, and on a Sunday evening, too, Enos!"

" No, mother, I've got a good deal to attend to in Douglas this evening."

" Aw, well, well! " and she relapsed into silence.

After a while she resumed

" Lizzie is saying you're not so well off as we were thinking, Enos ? "

"No, mother. Property out there is not like here. One day a man's rich, the next he's poor."

" But you're middling well off still, Enos ? " ' Oh, yes, mother-fairly."

" And aren't you leaving anything at all for us, Enos, boy ? It's not much we'll need. Just a bit of meat as long as we're in."

" You'll never want, mother. Lizzie has a good place." "Come here, Enos, boy, and sit on the stool at my knee, like when you were a little fellow," she said, with the agitation of emotion.

"Now, mother, don't be taking fancies like that," said Enos.

" Aw, well, Enos, it's the last time it'll be. Come, boy," she pleaded; "you might come, for all, Enos."

He abruptly threw the end of his cigar in the fire, brought the low stool, and sat down beside her. Her trembling fingers lifted and smoothed his hair, and she went on slowly and disconnectedly

" You were a middling nice boy, Enos. I was proud of you

once. Aw, aye, Enos ! aye! and the first night you were ever

from home was when you went to the herrings. I was break

ing my heart that time. I was missing you that much. And now you're going away, and I'll not be seeing your face ever

again. I'm middling low to-day, Enos. Your father is middling low too-aw, aye! he's feeling it."

Old Charley was in the chimney-corner, and mumbled to himself unintelligibly, and again she resumed

"The girl your going to have for a wife is uncommon good, Enos. You'll be kind to her, boy, won't you? That one will stand by you through all, and she's one that'll never think anything that's wrong of you."

"Aw, 'deed aye! Ellen'll stand by him, never fear," said old Charley, who hitherto had seemed scarcely conscious of

anything but his own blank disappointments. " And you're not leaving anything at all, boy, to keep us going?" he went on.

" You'll be all right, father, with Lizzie."

"And is Lizzie's earnings all there'll be for the three of us, Enos?" said old Charley.

"That'll be little enough for the girl herself, Enos," said the mother. "A young woman must have clothes above everything, and her keeping herself that respectable and a credit to us all. Not a word can they say against her-aw no."

"There's money enough if she wasn't an obstinate fool," said Enos.

" Do you mean young Arrosey ? Is that what you mean, Enos?" she answered.

"I suppose she could have got hold of him, couldn't she?" said Enos.

" Aw no, boy, no; it wasn't likely," she answered.

" Aw no, boy," said old Charley, striking in. " They've got that in them that's not in some."

" I calculate be's like other people," said Enos, with a touch of peremptoriness.

" If Lizzie was a worse girl tel' she is, would it make a difference? do you mean that? " said old Charley.

" If she had taken counsel from me," said Enos ; "I don't know if that's worse."

" And how, Enos ? What is it you mean ? " said old Mrs. Milvartin.

"By giving him a little more of his own way, he'll hook himself like a fish, and won't try to break away either, I calculate," said Enos sharply.

" Aw no, Enos, that's not right at all," said old Charley. "Aw no! you're not thinking that way of Lizzie, I hope? I hope you're not, Enos," said old Mrs. Milvartin. "The both of us would rather see her in the churchyard tel' getting a

hold of him that way. Aw no, Enos ; but there's nothing

like that about your sister Lizzie. She's one that's right anyway, and thank God for it."

" No, Enos," said old Charley, " and a woman of that sort will never be mistress of the same house. It'll never be."

" Aw, 'deed, Enos, that's not right at all," said old Mrs. Milvartin.

" If he's all you make him out to be, he would keep his word to her, I suppose," said Enos.

"Aw, Enos, I don't like such talk," said the old lady. "Aw, them notions is not Manx at all," said old Charley. " The Island is different from some places, I'm thinking," he added reflectively.

" She's taking the sacrament as regular as the month comes round," said old Mrs. Milvartin.

" Aw, well, who knows? maybe he'll take her too," said old Charley, not much impressed by this.

She don't think so herself, at any rate," said Enos.

" Aw, well, you'll get leave-you'll get leave," said the old man obstinately.

Old Mrs. Milvartin smoothed the brow of her son.

" And you're leaving something, for all, Enos ? just something to feel in my hand, and know you gave me it. I'll

not tell a soul in the world, was it much or little. I would like to have it to say-"

" Ob, well, mother," he said impatiently, " I'll see before I go."

He rose and went to the door, closing the kitchen-door behind him. Ellen and Lizzie were on the path, pacing with entwined arms away towards the woods. With a step like a cat he went upstairs. There was scarce a creak of the stairs, scarce a sound above the heads of the old people as he entered Ellen's room. Through the gable-window of the room he saw them strolling onwards. He had already been in that room after his arrival in the morning, and had discovered in which trunk Ellen had placed her black and gilt japanned cash-box He took out twenty sovereigns, closed the trunk, and with a glance through the window came downstairs as noiselessly as he had gone up. He stood before the kitchen window, lit another cigar, sniffed the air, looked at the sky, and returned to the kitchen, opening the door slowly and stooping with leisurely manner.

" Well, mother, I've been considering ! Here's a little present," he said, and taking out the gold, he counted ten sovereigns and slipped them into her hand. Her eye caught the gleam, and she clutched it and nursed it on her knee. She knew not how many there were-it seemed to her a greater number. Then Enos counted out five. " Here, father! here's something for you."

Pausing at the last moment, he decided to retain the remaining five. The old man took the money.

"Thank you, Enos ! " he said, as he slipped them into his pocket.

Enos was smoking his cigar in silence in the arm-chair when Ellen and Lizzie came in. Lizzie bung the kettle on the fire and began to lay the tea-things. Enos rose, threw away the stump of his cigar, ind came to his mother.

"Well, mother, I have to go," he said gravely.

She hastily passed the gold to her left hand, throwing her blue check apron over it.

"Aw, well, you're going? aw, dear! " she said with a sigh as she stood up and paralytically clutched his hand. Her head shook, her aged lips trembled, as she kissed the face bent down to her.

" Good-bye, mother," he said gravely.

" Aw, well, good-bye, and thank you, Enos."

Ellen had averted her face. She started at the words. "Good-bye, father," said Enos, with the same grave tone. Old Charley limped three paces from the chimney-corner.

His bent and toil-worn hand trembled as he held it out to grasp the hand of his son.

"Good-bye, father," Enos repeated. "Aw, well, good-bye, and thank you."

Again Ellen started at the words. It was the lowly and submissive tone that imposed a feeling of humiliation on her own unconquerable spirit.

The old people sat down again, benumbed and silent, and stared at the fire.

"Good-bye, Lizzie," said Enos.

She stood at the window-table looking through the window. She did not turn nor move. But held out her hand as he came to her side. He kissed her on the cheek, and she closed her eyes for the moment and compressed her lips.

"Good-bye, Enos," she said, without a tear or a tone of emotion.

"Good-bye till to-morrow, Ellen," he said, and putting his hand on her shoulder kissed her, and stood looking in her face. She had raised her lips to meet his kiss, and stood looking calmly into his eyes.

There was a pause as he looked at her. "You'll be at the boat in good time, Ellen?"

"Yes, Enos! Do you know how I am coming? Mr. John Molroy will drive me down in his gig," she said, still looking calmly into his eyes.

Lizzie had not changed her position nor turned her head. Nor did she move when Enos went again to his mother's chair, and stooping down kissed her; and with the words, " Good-bye, mother," and " Good-bye all," he went out, slightly stooping to pass through the doorway.

The kettle was just boiling for tea. It was Sunday evening, autumnal and still. Soon,- the people going home from chapel would pass down the Creg. Mrs. Molvurra had gone to tea at the Tops. Lizzie and Ellen came out and stood at the door a moment, and Ellen waved her hand as Enos, passing through the gate, turned his horse down the Creg. Then they came indoors, and sat down to tea in pathetic silence.


 

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