[From Captain of the Parish, 1897]
As Lizzie was closing school on Friday afternoon Molroy arrived to accompany her home. They walked along the highroad together, its gritty quartz still white in the winter twilight. She saw he was silent and constrained. He tried to tell her, but again and again words failed him. As they came to Creg Awin gate he broke the painful news.
"To America? No, John! never!" " I must."
"Must! why must? You have quarrelled with your father?" she said with alarm.
" No, Lizzie, nothing of that kind."
" Then why must you go? I do not understand." "I will come back."
She groaned with anguish and staggered as she held his arm.
" Oh, John, and me left alone?"
" But, Lizzie, I mean to come back."
"But why are you going at all ? Where are you going to?" she asked again.
She looked at him with a piteous look of appeal, and seeing his face fixed and inexorable, she spoke in a deep and pathetic tone.
"Why hesitate to speak to me? Is there anything I may not know ? Anything that I cannot bear? anything you cannot trust me with?"
" It is too long, too painful." " It is Ellen ! " she said.
There was no response but a trembling of his lips. . "Oh, John, of what use? It can only make trouble fore her and yourself."
"Nothing can change it now, Lizzie. I am going to see her, and to know of her happiness or her misery."
He spoke passionately and with a burst of freedom, and she pressed her hands tremblingly on his arm in silence.
" I am going to Douglas to-morrow, will you go with me?" "To-morrow ? that is only happiness." She glanced up at Creg Awin. It was a look of despair. Her father and mother were there, and there she too, must remain. She left him there, and with each sad recurring thought she sobbed, knowing that it was useless to attempt to dissuade him further; but she knew that she had a place in his affections, that she might weep without fear, and that he felt the bitterness of parting from her.
On Saturday they went to Douglas in Molroy's gig. He bought for her a selection of books and music that had now become of no worth to her. As they passed the market-carts and shandries from the west side of the country, everybody took notice of them once again, with the opinion, already accepted, that "they hadn't been in a hurry," and that "the Milvartins had once been well off," and "she was respectable enough, only for the money."
On Sunday morning they sat together in Arrosey pew.
" It looks very straight like it to-day, anyway. It's a settled job without a doubt," was the comment of the people.
The big man met them at Arrosey gate as they came from church.
"You might as well come up and have tea with us this evening before he goes, girl," he said, in a kindly tone. She assented, and he added, "You'll come early, Lizzie ! "
Miss Milvartin was already no longer an entire stranger in Arrosey House. But her visits had been on chance occasions, when on some pretext of school business the big man had asked her to come in with him ; and on these occasions, if John Molroy was at home, he had escorted her to Creg Awin. The domestics of Arrosey had observed that she had been coming in oftener of late, and that she had been detained longer each time she came.
Early in the afternoon of Sunday she came up to Arrosey. "We'll take a walk out to the fields," said the big man. "The afternoon is fine. You're fond of a walk, Lizzie?" he said.
It was winter, bleak and chill, but with a gleam of pale sunshine. The whole country was desolate of life. Under foot it was damp. The river, swollen with rains, roared through Narradale, and the boom of the falls rose to the hill-top. The deserted farm of Cairnmore, over against them, had no wreath of smoke. Its peat fire had gone out, never again to cheer the faces of the Milvartins. The red sunset light was already low on the horizon of the sea, too dull to redden the black mantles of heather on the Cairn Hill. It was only four days to Christmas. The darkness was already stealing over the landscape as they returned. Lizzie made tea, and the big man looked at her again and again, and every time he looked a film of moisture dimmed his eye.
"I'm thinking I'll have to get you to promise me something, Lizzie, girl," he said kindly and pleasantly.
"What is it, Mr. Molroy ?" she said cheerfully.
" That you'll come and have tea with me sometimes, middling often, if you can be spared, now that I'll be alone, you know."
Yes, Lizzie, you must promise that," said Molroy.
"Yes, John, of course I'll promise !" she said, with cheerful gravity.
"Aye, girl ! And if he comes back, and it's like he will -aw, well! What am I talking about, and him going away?" said the big man, visibly choked and confused with emotion.
The hour had come for Molroy to depart. The gig was at the door. His luggage was put into it. He sent the man on to wait with the gig at the foot of the Creg. At parting the big man controlled himself.
"Bless me, boy, you're young! What's travelling? When you've had enough of it come your ways home again." Father and son shook hands, and Molroy staggered out.
Lizzie had moved out into the porch. He leaned against the porch wall and broke into a sob. The big man had gone back to his chair to fight down his own emotion, but the sound of his son's sobs roused him; and he came out to the porch, his white locks tossed by the chill breeze.
"Come, boy! come, boy ! cheer up! There's always home to come to," he said.
Lizzie was beside Molroy, her hand resting in his, her eyes looking upon him absorbed in his sorrow. He turned his eyes to her with a look of unutterable tenderness, and there was a responsive look as deep and as sad. As if inspired with sanction to speak to him some word of everlasting consequence she spoke
" Stay, John! " she said in a deep tone, " stay ! "
" No," he said. " No! Do not ask it, as you pity me."
" I do pity you, John. Oh, I do pity you ! Stay ! "
She put up her hands to hide her bitter agony and buried her head on his breast.
"Aw, boy! Give her a word of comfort. Promise her, if the day comes that you come home," said the big man.
Molroy placed his hand in his father's hand.
" When I come home, father, it will be for her. Take care of this dear girl"
As she lay on Molroy's heart she felt his arm drawn close around her. The storm of emotion subsided suddenly and visibly. She felt her brow raised gently and her arm drawn through his. Father and son had said their farewell, and she was walking with 1Holroy as in a dream down through the gate and past the little chapel in the darkness of the gathering night.
To be tempted and to withstand the temptation of relinquishing his purpose, to suppress it in silence, was again the fortune and the achievement of Molroy.
Why should he go to Amėrica ? There was no obstacle between Lizzie and himself at Arrosey. Thus they came to Creg Awin gate. She raised her head to hear his last words.
In the gloom their faces were but dimly visible to each other. She did not suspect that he was faltering in his purpose.
"And you'll think of me?" she said, in a low voice, her heart breaking with sorrow.
He remained silent, and she went on
"Yes, I know you'll think of me," there was a tone of tenderness resolute and undoubting.
"If I knew that you would not be unhappy," he said, with an effort.
"Oh, that isn't possible for a long, long time. If I ask you to do something for me, you will do it? "
"Yes, there is nothing that I will not do for your sake," he said passionately.
"You will, for my sake?" and she folded her arms round his neck and drew him closer to her.
" For your sake, Lizzie. Yes, for your sake."
" It is a promise. It is about myself." But--"
"No! do not say 'but.' You will do it, will you? Promise me. I am yours. I couldn't be more yours than I am. I have always been yours. I will not let you go till you promise."
"I will do what you wish. I promise," he said.
"It is nothing! nothing but to come home again to meto me-to me, some day."
" I have promised, Lizzie, for your sake."
"Perhaps it will not be long," she said, with a sigh of relief ; " and you'll think of me, and know where I am every day, won't you ? "
" Will you write to me? " " Yes."
" She laid her head on his shoulder and remained silent. " Good-bye," he said gently.
"Good-bye, good-bye," she said, without moving.
He gently raised her bead and kissed her on the cheek, and was gone.
She was alone in the highroad listening to his footsteps going down the Creg. He was gone ! It was Sunday evening. In the darkness she heard voices, some people coming up the Creg to chapel. He was away to America, and Lizzie was alone.