[From Captain of the Parish, 1897]
THINGs were going on in this sort of way, when one evening towards the end of the year John Molroy was in Inchport. By chance and by association, Callister's inn on Munn's Shore was his ordinary place of call. Being winter, the house was quiet except for the habitual frequenters of the bar-room, monotonously talking downstairs. Molroy sat in his big parlour upstairs, smoking, ruminating, listening to the wind and the sea thundering on the beach and splashing over the sea-wall. Mrs. Callister had come up for a chat with Molroy by the parlour-fire.
"Have you heard of your friend Miss Molvurra since she sailed, Mr. Molroy?" the landlady asked.
"No; there's hardly time yet."
"You were great friends, Mr. Molroy." " Yes."
"She was a very nice person." "Yes."
" I wonder how she came to take up with the Dippers' nonsense."
" She didn't," said Molroy bluntly. " But--"
"She didn't know he was a Dipper when she became engaged to him," said Molroy.
"Yes, but afterwards? Togo out with him at all like that,
Mr. Molroy ? If it was marrying here itself! "
"It was her own choice to be married out there. He wished to be married here."
"Here or there, Mr. Molroy, it'll be a queer kind of marriage."
" How, Mrs. Callister ? what do you mean? " said Molroy, noticing her manner and tone.
" He persuaded Cannon to believe he was a saint, and it's like he persuaded her. It may do in America; anyway, the other woman didn't object. But still "
" What other woman?" said Molroy sharply, in part irritated, in part astonished.
"Mrs. Pratt, your friend."
"And what had she to do with it?"
"A good deal, for if she wasn't his wife she ought to have been. For this is the house they stayed in, Mr. Molroy. And I don't believe she was Mrs. Pratt any more than I am Mrs. Pratt."
"Do I understand you," he gasped, "to say she was Milvartin's wife ? " and he rose to his feet.
"They were concealing it, but it was easy enough to be seen," said the landlady. "And you never knew anything that way about Milvartin?" she added incredulously.
"No! no ! a thousand times no," he said, staggering to the mantelpiece. "But you knew and never spoke?"
"As I sit in this chair, Mr. Molroy, I thought you knew all about what he was ?" she said frankly.
"You thought I was simply a blackguard, then? " he said fiercely.
"No ! but, Mr. Molroy, when there were girls, and Milvartin's sister a very nice person! "
"But I !" he said, with a gesture of disgust at the thought of the misconception.
"Oh, well, the cat is out of the bag here in Inchport, Mr. Molroy. There's plenty can tell you what the Dippers are! "
Molroy was stricken with anguish. He gasped for breath; he looked at her helplessly.
" You don't think Miss Molvurra knew it ? " she said. " No, never! " he said, starting a step towards her.
"Well, I'm afraid she'll find out, Mr. Molroy ; for in America it's not the same order of things as here, even if Milvartin was right himself."
"I owe you a debt of gratitude, Mrs. Callister," he said abstractedly, his thoughts revolving within himself; and, unconscious of the incongruity, he took out a handful of loose money, put down a coin on the table in payment of his hospitality, and without a word left the room.
It was moonlight. The clouds were flying, and broken gleams flashed on the crest of the waves heaving in the bay and leaping on the beach, the surf thundering, the moon flying half-orbed across white veiled spaces to plunge and bury itself in the troubled rack. The wind rushed into the narrow twisting streets, sweeping the froth of the sea and fragments of seaweed over the cobbled pavement. At Cashen's stables Molroy mounted his horse and rode out of the town. In the wild vastness of light and darkness alternately flying on drear fields and grim mountains he rode homewards. On the summit of the Vaish heights, he turned and looked back to Inchport. He saw the sea with a yellow gleam far off beyond the castle, its foam illumined by the mad moon overhead.
"That she knew it?" he said. "No !" and he wheeled his horse and galloped on to Arrosey. It was nearly midnight, and the house was in darkness. He came to his room, threw himself on his bed, and after hours of restlessness fell into a heavy sleep.
He dreamt he was at Creg Awin ; that it was a wild moonlit night, and that he heard the wind, and saw the moonlight falling through the windows of a room. There was a bed with a black-draped coffin on it, and he drew the face-cloth aside. The sleeper lay in softness and whiteness, a billowed
drift of snow with the moonlight falling on it. She lay with one arm under her head and the other extended on the coverlet. The hair was tossed in masses over her shoulders and covered the pillow, and a tress curled over her cheek. He bent down over the hair, dark in the shadow of the curtain. It was Lizzie. She slept on. She did not move nor breathe; for she was dead. He was filled with sorrow. He sank on his knees beside the bed and wept for Lizzie. A hand was laid on his shoulder, and he heard Ellen's voice say, "John! John! John!" Molroy awoke. His father was standing beside his bed.
"What's up, my boy? " he said, as Molroy opened his eyes. "I was dreaming, father," and Molroy saw that it was daylight.
His voice talking and murmuring in restless and troubled sleep had drawn the big man to his bedside. Afterwards, as they sat at breakfast in the big kitchen, there was still a shade of anxiety on the big man's face as he watched his son. "Arrosey" had thought out the problem of Lizzie Milvartin. She was to be his son's wife; that was his solution, and he was waiting for the occasion to speak.
" Are you feeling yourself pretty well, father? " said Molroy.
" Me, boy ? God bless me, aye! What makes you ask? " said the big man in astonishment.
" I want to go away." "And where to?"
"To America-to Ellen."
The big man stared. "Ellen?" he gasped.
"Yes! Can you spare me? And will you let me go?" said Molroy, with an effort.
"But what's the use of thinking of a thing like that?" the big man answered, in a tone of irritation, forgetting his solicitude.
"It's only yourself I'm thinking of," he said a moment later and in a gentler tone, to convey that he would fain hear further.
Then Molroy related to his father his conversation with the landlady. The big man sat staring, silent, looking his son through and through. His answer was prompt and concise.
"Aw, aye, you'll go, if it's only to find whether there's truth in it or not. The woman wouldn't tell you a lie-not a lie like that. I'll see her myself to-day."
It was Friday morning. Mr. Molroy drove into Inchport only to find the account of Enos fully confirmed. Meanwhile John Molroy made his arrangements for a long absence. On Sunday evening he would go down to Douglas to sail by
Monday's boat for Liverpool. He had one last duty, to break to Lizzie the news of his going, and he packed his luggage filled with the thought of parting from her, it might be never to see her again.
As schoolmistress Lizzie had made a friend of Arrosey over school affairs, he had been brief and business-like in his conversations with her. Deliberately as he thought, and solely upon grounds of closer knowledge as he believed, he had changed towards her. In truth, he had yielded to an irresistible charm. Every time he now saw her the sight of her gladdened his heart. He had decided. He acknowledged to himself his solicitude for his son. He believed that their friendship was nothing but love. He had begun to build castles in the air for Lizzie. This morning they had fallen into ruin at a word from his son.