[From Captain of the Parish, 1897]
--"And when I woke,
The stars were gone and the day was broke,
And the bees beginning to think of the honey."-T. E. B.
ALL that autumn morning Molroy sat on the headland, his eyes on the horizon where she had faded into distance and vanished. Mechanically he reviewed the past, recollecting the occasion and circumstances of every serious impulse he had felt to speak to her of love. Ah ! vain task! vain occupation ! In the afternoon came a breeze from the west: trawlers and coasting-schooners weighed anchor, and drifted from the bay seawards. Molroy, counting the hours, knew that by midafternoon Ellen had already landed in Liverpool. His imagination could follow her with certainty no longer, but still he sat inert and irresolute, gazing at the point of the horizon in the south-east, the portal of regrets and of despair. In the evening gloom he came down to the Saddle Inn, where his gig was waiting, and without staying to eat or drink, set out for home. The evening had become night when he reached the Creg. Desolation hung in the air. As his horse breasted the steep he looked up at Creg Awin, the outline of roof, and chimneys, and trees dark against a dim sky, the high barn gable standing apart to the left, but not a detail of the gloomy mass visible, no sound audible but his horse and gig on the gritty road. It was the same Creg Awin no longer. The place was dispossessed of its charm. Already it as good as belonged to Enos Milvartin. Mrs. Molvurra and Mr. and Mrs. Milvartin, two broken-down old people, were in possession. Lizzie was there, but the place was hateful to him.
His horse whinnied and stopped unbidden at Creg Awin gate. There was a grey figure in the darkness, and Lizzie advancing, spoke.
" John ! "
"Yes, Lizzie," he said, and alighted beside her. You are back? "
"Yes, I am rather late," he said mechanically. " Won't you come in a little while ?"
He turned his horse up to Creg Awin street. His day of anguish made the morning seem far away. He sat down in the chimney-corner, with the peat fire glowing on the hearth. A lamp was in the window. Lizzie had been ironing, and a sun-bonnet, half-ironed, was spread on the table. A clothes horse on the floor was covered with ironed things airing. He recollected the daily routine of her work, the aimless idleness of his own days.
She sat down and looked at him.
" I thought you might be going to Liverpool? " she said. "What made you think that, Lizzie ? "
Then she told him of her scene on Sunday morning with Enos.
"He found some of the people at home rather different from what he had 'calculated,'" she said.
"And he told you of myself and her?" "Yes! "
His own scenes with Enos took meaning. He had no doubt that Enos had suspected his love for Ellen, and that the apostle in his hate would not have hesitated about his death. He thought of this bitter element in the apostle's breast now that Ellen had gone away with him. Thought chased thought like the flying shadows of clouds in springtime as they sat ruminating by the fire. Molroy detailed the circumstances of Ellen's embarkation, and again they relapsed into silence.
"Your father was out of doors to-day," Lizzie resumed, after one of their pauses. Molroy looked up, and she continued" He met me in the road as I came from school." "Speaking to him, Lizzie?"
"Quite a long talk about Ellen ; more friendly to me than ever before."
He averted his face. The tone of her voice and the look on her face betrayed no gratification at the big man's altered manner.
Lizzie's own manner was also altered. Not less cordial, not less unembarrassed, not less confiding, she had become more self-centred, more preoccupied, more calm. It was an added beauty of character, an added charm of manner, a new power in her movements, and a new light illumining her soul.
On Wednesday Molroy drove down to the post-office for the mid-week mail, and called at Creg Awin to ask Lizzie to go with him. There was, however, no letter from Ellen. They inferred that she had had no opportunity of writing from Liverpool before the sailing of the ship, and that the ship was most probably already some days at sea.
On Saturday they drove to Douglas together, and in the evening, on the arrival of the Liverpool steamer, they went on board to hear from Captain Crowe some last words of Ellen. As they were leaving the steamer to come ashore, while Miss Milvartin was already on the gangway and Captain Crowe and Molroy were shaking hands
"After all, John, you're not such a fool as I thought you," said the captain.
" How ! " and he glanced towards Miss Milvartin, whose foot was already on the quay. " She's a beauty, my boy! and no mistake. And a nice way she has got of making my sort of chap toe the mark. What odds about a few thousands more or less if you get the like of her ! "
Molroy gave no sign of admission.
"I see," said Captain Crowe. "Maybe you want a spoke in your wheel with the old skipper? Is that so, John ? About the money, eh? I'll be passing Arrosey one of these days, you know."
"Come, by all means; but leave that subject alone. I'm in no hurry, and it wouldn't help, Mr. Crowe."
" I see! Pay out cable-is that it, matey? All serene, then, John! So long!" he sang out audibly as Molroy stepped on the gangway and came ashore.
"'Pon my word, but she's a d-d fine model, that one," he said to himself, as he watched them walking up the quay.