[From Captain of the Parish, 1897]
ON Monday morning Molroy came with his gig to drive Ellen to the boat. As he entered Creg Awin porch she was coming down the stairs, pale and wearied in look.
"You are ill," he said.
"Oh, yes, John," she whispered, and turned into the parlour.
"Mother, good-bye! You will be comfortable, mother?" she said, kissing her affectionately.
"Aw, aye ! Let's hope for the best. 'Deed you're looking only middling this morning, Ellen. No sleep, girl, it's like?
It's what I'm suffering from myself. Well, well! Good-bye, chree, good-bye ! "
Ellen stood at the parlour window, and in silence let her tears flow unchecked.
" I'll write to you, mother," and she turned to the mistress and kissed her again.
When she came into the kitchen, Lizzie brought her a cup of tea, and she sat down and sipped it.
"Thanks, Lizzie, thanks," she said.
Old Mr. and Mrs. Milvartin were aimlessly watching her, having risen very early to say good-bye to her. At length she rose and came to the old man. Days at Cairnmore had been days of gladness to her, and his rough greeting, "Well, Ellen, girl," had always been in tones of kindliest welcome to the farmhouse.
"'Deed the time is up for you to go," he said, rising and taking her hand.
"Yes, Mr. Milvartin. Good-bye." He still held her band.
"You'll stand by him, Ellen? Aw, 'deed you will. I'll never see you again at all, Ellen," he said, shaking his- head; and withdrawing his hand, he returned to the chimney-corner. Tears were trickling down the old man's nose, and he wiped them with the back of his hand, and did not look up again till she was gone.
Then Ellen turned to Mrs. Milvartin.
"Good-bye," she said, and kneeling at her knee looked into her face.
"You'll be a good wife to him, won't you, chree ? " she whispered entreatingly.
"Yes, Mrs. Milvartin, I will," she said, and kissed the aged lips.
"He was a nice boy once. Aw, Ellen, if you had seen him when he was a little fellow !" She lifted her grey eyes to the light. "America changes people," she said sadly. Then she looked at Ellen again. "You're thinking hard of going this morning, Ellen, chree. Aw, aye, at first; but it'll wear off.
You're not leaving any behind you. Not like some," she said, putting her hands on Ellen's shoulders. " Aw, well, good-bye, chree ;" and kissing her again, she slowly turned her head from the light and sat with bowed head.
Ellen almost staggered out of the open door of Creg Awin. "Wait for me at the gate," she whispered to Molroy, and took Lizzie's arm into the home-field path. The autumn sun was rising behind the purple cairn and flashed across the dewy field.
Corn was still in stook on the upland fields beyond the glens, and the air was cool and redolent of harvest. They paced the path once again with arms entwined. Country carts with men, women, and children and piles of chests had passed down the Creg that morning, 'departing Dippers on their way to Douglas to sail with Apostle Milvartin. They looked up at Creg Awin as they passed with the pathetic look that mutely acknowledges sympathy, feeling their new faith confirmed and sanctioned by Ellen Molvurra's choice.
" Good-bye," Ellen whispered, as returning they reached the end of the path.
"Oh, Ellen ! Ellen ! " and Lizzie flung her arms about Ellen's neck and sobbed uncontrollably.
Ellen smoothed the brown hair and kissed again and again the head that lay on her bosom.
" Oh, Ellen ! I could die for you, I could-could-could, but I can't do anything."
She raised her bead, and they looked in each other's eyes with the confidence of a supreme moment, and with a breathed good-bye they parted.
Lizzie sat on the grassy bank overlooking the highroad and saw the gig pass down the Creg. The routine of Lizzie's work knew no cessation, and when the hour came she went to her Monday morning school.
That morning the road to Douglas was crowded with long lines of country carts, loaded with trunks and chests, with women and children perched on the top, and rough countrymen in Sunday clothes marching alongside. There had been many partings of broken hearts, and many bitter weepings in the homes they had left. The cords of natural love were wrung as in all long and irrevocable partings ; but the Dippers, by the sanction and call of religion, had trampled upon the inveterate associations of home, and everything that was hallowed by youth and memory. The vacuum closed, the scar healed for those who suffered. How soon the vacuum closed for those who merely looked on ! The procession of carts passed. People looked up from their morning occupations and saw them pass. They thatched their stacks, or they turned the plough into the next furrow, and went on with their day's work.
But in Douglas crowds of idlers had collected to see the Dipper exodus. The carts set down their burdens-men, women, children, chests corded with brown barked line from the herring nets, fishermen's wallets, carpet bags, reticule baskets. In the presence of the bright town and the towns people these belongings were homely and poor. In the harbour were the herring-luggers, collected at Douglas for the autumn fishing. The fishermen in the boats recognised acquaintances among the emigrants on the pier, and shouted friendly farewells. The steamer, with her scarlet funnel, was at anchor in the bay. Broad barges were plying out from the pier-head. The Dippers crowded down the steps, pressing impatiently on, the Island their Egypt and distant Utah their promised land; but as they took their seats on the ferry barges a moment of agitation touched the boldest of them, and they looked in each other's eyes with mutual acknowledgment of qualms and regrets. Molroy accompanied Ellen on board the King Orry. Enos was at the head of the gangway receiving his emigrants, to whom he nodded as they stepped on deck. When Ellen appeared his face lighted up, and she advanced and kissed him.
" Is my luggage on board, Enos," she said. " I did not call at the hotel."
" Everything is on board. Mrs. Cannon is below," he said attentively, and with a deference that defied criticism. He glanced at Molroy, who meanwhile had been met by Mr. Crowe.
" Hello, John ! Glad to see you. How goes it?"
Molroy made a movement with his head. The captain raised his eyebrows. What they said was in undertones. Then they came to Ellen, who stood beside Enos.
"Ellen," said Molroy, "Captain Crowe ! he's an old friend."
She smiled as cheerfully and gave him her hand as carelessly as if her journey was merely to Liverpool.
"I hope you'll accept the use of my deck-cabin going across;" said Mr. Crowe.
"Thank you, I have friends; you won't mind one of them joining me ?"
"Mr. Milvartin ? He and I are already. acquainted," said Mr. Crowe.
"No, it's a lady. She's below. Enos, come here," she said.
"Lady? Certainly, Miss Molvurra ! " And as he spoke Enos advanced to them.
" I am to have Mr. Crowe's cabin," she said. Enos tendered his thanks, and they turned to look at the stream of emigrants pouring on deck.
" Miss Molvurra, it's better on the bridge," said the captain casually. "Here, John, take Miss Molvurra up."
As they went up the captain watched them curiously, and resumed conversation with Milvartin.
Standing on the bridge, Molroy and Ellen looked back at the town, the Island slopes, and the familiar mountains beyond, all lying in the morning sunshine. Schooners and fishing-luggers were at anchor around the steamer, their sails motionless in the still air. Seagulls floated by, scarce moving their extended wings, whose pearly whiteness gleamed iridescent with the colours of the sea.
Above the scarlet funnel the black smoke rolled aloft into the still clear air. The sea caught reflections of the sunlight and flashed like a shifting mirror. Ferry barges, loaded to the gunwale, still came out to the ship, and taking back some who, like Milroy, had come on board with their friends to say farewell on the ship.
Molroy and Ellen stood on the bridge almost in silence. The consciousness of all they might say, the consciousness that utterance was unavailing, the consciousness of the ruthlessly passing moments, of the last parting so near, had made them silent.
" I am looking at the hills," she said, breaking the silence. " I shall never see the Island again."
Another barge had reached the ship, another rush of passengers came up the gangway. Among these was a lady in mourning. Enos advanced to meet her, and drew her a few steps towards the captain : there was an introduction and explanations. Crowe glanced towards the bridge, and Enos led the lady to the deck-cabin. It was Mrs. Pratt.
"I have no objection to that," said Ellen, "I shall remain here with Mr. Crowe."
"She's in mourning," said Molroy.
"You know she's going out to America in the same ship with us," said Ellen.
Then Mr. Crowe came up by the paddle-box to his place on the bridge.
" Well," he said, as the five-minutes' bell rang, "we'll have to be starting. It's a pet day, Miss Molvurra. I daresay you'll like as well to be up here most of the time."
The time was up for Molroy to think of going ashore, and Ellen and he went down to the deck. As Molroy gave his hand to Crowe
" Look here! what the deuce is the matter?" said the captain. "Were you fond of her, John?" he said, speaking again.
" It's all over," said Molroy.
"And why ? Haven't you never told her?" "She knows, right enough, Mr. Crowe."
The captain glanced at Ellen again. His careless blue eyes softened, and Molroy pressed his hand and followed her. "Blow that whistle! Stand by there!" sounded from the bridge.
The whistle shrieked, the last bell began to ring. People going ashore hurried and crowded to the gangway. Women were sobbing and standing red-eyed by the bulwarks. Young men were talking and laughing excitedly with the intoxication of hope, as if at that clamorous bell the gates of the future were being unbarred. Molroy left Ellen and hurried off to the big stateroom between decks. The last bell was ringing wildly overhead. Milvartin was there, standing alone, entering figures in a pocket-book, his look preoccupied, the cheek which bore the trace of Molroy's blow averted. He glanced at Molroy, but resumed figuring.
"Mr. Milvartin," said Molroy.
"'Dipper' would have done just as well. What do you want?"
" I have come here, Mr. Milvartin, to part in friendshipto say I will be a friend to your people."
"And that you'll marry my sister, eh ? " said Enos, still looking at his figures.
"Clear away that gangway," was heard from the deck. "Any more ashore there?" was bawled from the cabin stairs.
"No! you'd like to marry some one else! What the devil business have you following her on board this boat, I'd like to know?" said Enos, with a gesture to indicate Ellen.
" If, Mr. Milvartin-" began Molroy slowly, controlling himself.
"Any more ashore there ? " sounded still louder from the cabin-stairs.
"If what? Hurry up," said Enos.
"If you make her happiness-" began Molroy.
" If I cut her throat, what business is it of yours ? " said Enos, with closed teeth.
"Sir, the captain's compliments; are you going ashore, sir?" said a seaman, coming into the cabin and addressing Molroy. He turned and Milvartin met his last glance.
" America is not so far," said Molroy, in a changed tone.
"You'll come out, eh? Then I'll cut yours," said Milvartin.
Molroy returned to where Ellen was standing at the head of the gangway. Her face was flushed and her eyes wet with tears that bad welled up but had not overflowed. Their eyes met in a glance, rather of their souls than of their eyes. It was the last look in which they saw the pang of each other's sorrow.
"You'll make me miss the tide at the bar, John," the captain sang out from the bridge.
Their hands were clasped, then "Good-bye, Ellen," "Goodbye, John," whispered with trembling lips, and with a last look dimmed and blurred with tears.
He staggered down the gangway, and she by the paddlebox up to the bridge and stood by Mr. Crowe's side. All eyes were fixed on her with whisperings and questionings. The boat that waited for Molroy had scarce pushed off.from the ship's side when the engine-bell rang and the paddles turned. The ship went astern, and then dead slow ahead.
Molroy's boat was going towards the headland, and still the ship was going dead slow. Ere the King Orry was out of the bay, he was ashore and on the path up the steep. He turned. The engines were going full speed. All along the ship's side everybody was waving a handkerchief to some friend on shore, and Ellen, plainly visible on the bridge above them, was also waving a white handkerchief. He waved his hand, and the white handkerchief fluttered with redoubled wavings. Thus from time to time they answered each other's signals as he climbed higher and higher. At last he stood on the summit of the headland, and far as the eye could discern she remained standing on the bridge still waving, waving farewell, till she became an indistinguishable point that faded into nothing. He sat down and gazed at the vessel fading on the horizon; then at a faint streamer of smoke, till that too faded, and there was nothing. Ellen was gone !