[From Captain of the Parish, 1897]
LIZZIE was alone in Creg Awin, that is, with Mrs. Molvurra occupying the other half of the house. Then "Arrosey"fumed and worried, and would have Lizzie live alone at Creg Awin no longer. She must come and live at Arrosey House. She must give up the school. As soon as a new schoolmistress could be found, her duty at the school came to an end. She was his confidant, she was his daughter, and as such she went to live at Arrosey.
"'Deed she has got in safe enough, Miss Gawn," said Mrs. Molvurra. " She's only waiting for the heir to come home if it's home he'll ever come. I have my doubts. But anyway, there's no occasion for her to do another hand's turn in this world, whatever it'll be in the next! "
" Aw, Charlotte, woman, I thought she would get in sooner or later. She has played her cards middling well," said Miss Gawn. " Well, I don't complain of her the time we have been together," said Mrs. Molvurra, softening into charity, "and I believe she'll be just the same to me as long as I'm in the neighbourhood. But Arrosey is a house I could never feel at home in. Maybe it'll be different with a young woman in it, having all her own way."
"She's getting everything in her own hands, by the talk, anyway," said Miss Gawn.
In everything Miss Milvartin's wish was law at Arrosey. Everything that money could buy was hers. The big man doted on her. Arrosey House was not good enough; the very ground was not good enough for the print of her foot.
"Aw, Lizzie, girl, your way is best. With no one in the house for more than twenty years, girl, it's not likely things can be first-rate. Have it the way you would like it," was his decision about everything that came into question.
A letter had come from John Molroy just at the time of old Mr. Milvartin's death. It was brief ; merely to say he had landed in New York, and was travelling without delay overland to St. Louis. Lizzie counted and conjectured, and studied the map of America. Meanwhile, insensibly there were changes in Arrosey House. The big parlour lost its hard, inhospitable air, and, with Lizzie there, the big man spent his evenings in the parlour, except when he had Curlat down, and then he sat, as of old, in the kitchen.
"The girls at Arrosey has to know the ins and outs of their work, I'm told," said Dan Creer.
"Aw, she's the lady to the ninety-nine," said the smith. "Black frock first thing in the morning, fire in the parlour, breakfast laid, and one of the girls to wait on them. Isn't it, Mr. Curlat?"
"It's hardly suiting himself, though he's making out that it is," said the soldier.
"How would that suit for Wade, Daniel?" said the smith. " Suit, James ! " said the roadman loftily. " Certainly ! and why not ?-in Sunday clothes," he added, with a qualifying reservation.
" Bless my soul and body! a servant to wait on thee, Wade?" said Creer.
"Aw, Wade would be equal to it," said the smith. "Is she allowing a little prayer at tea, I wonder, Daniel? eh, Mr. Curlat ? "
But with the month of June there came at last the letter which was to complete Lizzie's happiness. It was to Lizzie from New Orleans
"DEAR LIZZIE,-I am sailing for home by the Antiope, a ship that will leave about three weeks hence. I shall arrive from a fortnight to a month after this letter. Sylvester Molvurra's letter has reached you long before this; so you know the worst. I have been to the place where she died. Come to Liverpool to meet me. Stay at Waterson's till the Antiope arrives. They know us, and will make you as comfortable as at home. My father might come out with you. The change will do him good. I am at present with Sylvester Molvurra, who has come down here. We shall meet as we parted.-Your own, J. M."
Old Mr. Molroy went out to Liverpool with Lizzie. Captain Crowe was all kindness. Lizzie, though in mourning, had too deep a happiness in prospect not to be in high spirits. The captain was elated and at his best, having so charming a passenger as his companion. As they approached the English coast she watched every ship inward bound, anxious to read their names in the impatient and preposterous hope that the Antiope might have already arrived off the Mersey, in spite of the captain's assurance that the New Orleans ship could not possibly arrive within a week at the earliest. It was a sunny July day as they steamed up the Mersey to the landing-stage. Miss Milvartin was on the bridge with the captain, and as he drew his ship alongside the stage, his fair passenger was the cynosure of hundreds of eyes, and brought upon Crowe the congratulations and chaff of his nautical friends on shore, to which no seaman is averse. That was but the glow of a brief and transient hour. They stayed at Waterson's. After some time the arrival of the Antiope became a matter of anxiety. She was overdue. Morning and evening Mr. Molroy and Miss Milvartin were to be seen at the shipping office; but there was no news. They became restless, anxious, distracted. They were six weeks in Liverpool, and then the suspense ended in the worst. The schooner McDuff arrived in the river with half-a-dozen sailors, sole survivors of the Antiope from New Orleans, burnt at sea on the passage to Liverpool. The rest, both crew and passengers, had perished in the seas that swamped the boats when leaving the burning ship, with half a gale blowing at the time. Mr. Molroy and Miss Milvartin saw the men, but could learn nothing definite of the passengers on the Antiope. They returned to the Island. Captain Crowe had seen them again and again during their stay in Liverpool, and had shared their anxiety. On the passage home to the Island they sat side by side on deck, stunned with grief, motionless and mute, gazing on the waste of waters where the life they had lived for, the life of their lives, had perished. Captain Crowe tried in his kindly way to cheer up the big man, but his own spirits were dead low, and his comfort evoked no response.
The weeks went by at Arrosey. Lizzie could not sleep. If she slept, she awoke believing that John Molroy had come home; and they heard her voice and his name as she started in her dreams. Her face still wore a smile, but with neither laughter nor mirth in it. Her large eyes grew coldly luminous, and beamed only with the glow of dispassionate kindness.
On Sundays at church she remained during the service mute and with downcast eye. She wore the deepest mourning. Hoping against hope, she had written to Sylvester Molvurra. But she resigned herself to a conviction that she must expect the worst, and accepted the path of patience and duty and hallowed memories. People began to notice her wonderful beauty shining through a transparent pallor of sorrow. After a while, however, the strength of her perfect constitution
asserted itself. The hue of health took the place of the temporary pallor. Nevertheless visitors began to be seen at Arrosey House more than heretofore. The Sunday of the harvest sermon, old Parson Harrison, who bad come to preach on that occasion, came with Miss Milvartin to dine at Arrosey. The local preacher who was at Arrosey Chapel was also a guest, and tried to fix on the parson a discussion on the subject of Zaccheus. The local maintained that " Zaccheus wasn't a good man till the Saviour spoke to him. No! not till that minute." The parson urged some pleas in the publican's favour, but in vain, seeing that "he had not the one thing needful;" for the parson couldn't say that Zaccheus was "till that minute a converted man."
" Aw, I beat the old parson clean; clean beat him on every p'int. Still it was a stiff job, very stiff," said the local afterwards. In the Autumn Mrs. Molvurra of Creg Awin married again, and went to the "north" to live with her new husband, a widower and local preacher.
" Aw, well, he's got a bit of chink with her. Them sort knows where to go, Wade," said the shoemaker.
"Pity thou hadn't been a local, Dan. Thou would have had more chink tel' thou've got by the talk," retorted the overseer of high roads.
Creg Awin House was closed. Mr. Molroy farmed Creg Awin along with Arrosey. He had found a tenant for the Cairnmore, and Miss Milvartin went across the glen with him once and again to see the place and the repairs being done to the farmstead. The bay mare and Diamond grazed in Creg Awin home-field undisturbed. Sometimes Miss Milvartin went down to the old place, waking with her light foot faint echoes in the deserted scene where so much of heaven had dawned upon her in the days of her happiness. And when she walked through the field, tracing its path, now grassgrown and faint, the two horses walked after her as if they would fain speak and ask about the past, and why all things were so changed.