[From Captain of the Parish, 1897]
SYLVESTER MOLVURRA was persuaded to stay over the New Year. Then a while longer. His project of going to London for a month or two, while fresh in the flush of his return after years of life in Western America, was from one cause and another being postponed, till he should have looked about him in connection with Arrosey's obstinate wish that Molvurra should settle down in the Island. To Arrosey, a man's going abroad could have no other object than to enable them ultimately to redeem the fortunes of their family at home, or at least to make a new fortune for themselves and return to enjoy it in respectability. Meantime among Molvurra's absolute duties was that of accompanying Ellen on a day's visit to their quondam stepmother residing "on the North,"-not an unpleasant duty in itself, and the long drive through the northern parishes a pleasure. Lizzie had regaled them with dramatic versions of Charlotte's wedding, and with sketches of Charlotte's new husband, the " widow-man and local preacher." "Arrosey" had retired. He was no longer Captain of the Parish. But he had prudently secured, as it happened with no difficulty, the appointment of his son as his successor. And John Molroy was to sit for the first time on the magistrates' bench in Inchport Courthouse on the day of the Molvurras going to visit Charlotte.
Molroy asked Lizzie to ride with him to Inchport. It was on their way home after a long gallop that they were walking their horses side by side.
"Lizzie," he said cheerfully, "have we changed?"
"No, John !" and she glanced at him conscious that he had something important to say.
"My father dotes on you," he said.
" Yes; we have become great friends. I am quite my own mistress. Has he told you that he has settled the Cairn more on me? I ought to feel very independent."
" I mean to speak to him about something more for you."
" What, John ? " she said, averting her eyes, knowing well now what was coming. -
"About our marriage, Lizzie; that is, if you-" "Ours? No, not ours."
" Lizzie ! you haven't misunderstood anything ? "
"No! I wished once that you had a sister. I don't know why I had such a fancy; but now it has come true, for that is what I am."
" But, Lizzie-"
. "John! I know the whole truth. I have waited till we might speak freely. It's not for my own sake, but for your own and hers."
" Ellen's? "
"Yes. We have no secrets. And can I not be like a sister to you? I haven't misunderstood you, nor been disappointed either, have I ? "
"And you mean that our marriage-" " Isn't to be at all. But yours is." "But why?"
"I haven't misunderstood. You are very honourable, and I know that you-well, that you have always been very fond of me, really and deeply. I should think I did know it, for you have. But there's more than that. Things are different now-that is all. Ellen is at home, I mean. Don't say any more."
They rode on side by side. Nevertheless, though she seemed even nonchalant and gay, there were tears in her eyes. But if she had wept over it, it was not now, but in secret and in the chamber of her heart before his return.
"Isn't that really the right thing?" she resumed.
Molroy had been absolutely astonished. This was a thing he would never, never have asked. The deepest instinct within him was to accept the consequences of his every action as unalterable -tbat is, alterable only by circumstances outside himself. He had come home to make Lizzie his wife, to sacrifice and to abandon for ever any other course, believing that she loved him with a love that was for himself alone.
" Isn't it right ? " she repeated.
"I have come home with only one thought, Lizzie-to be yours the same as when we parted."
"Yes, I know. I have seen it. But before that, and through all, and still to this moment, you have never changed your one duty to her."
Lizzie was riding the bay mare. She dropped the reins on its neck, and taking from her bosom a letter, she handed it to him. It was addressed to himself. It bore the New Orleans post-mark, and had not been opened, the little black wax seal being unbroken. He tore it open and read deep words of love that Ellen had written in anguish when far away, and believing that she never would see him again. When he had folded the letter and put it away
"Now, don't talk of it any more," she said, and she reached out her hand. He took it, and, bending down, pressed it to his lips. He saw that her path was exalted above his own her path, a path where the light increases to the perfect day. Then she struck her horse and they broke into a gallop again.
That evening, when Ellen and her brother returned to Arrosey, Lizzie recounted more recollections of Charlotte, and Arrosey, in his arm-chair, laughed as if he was the sole listener.
Seated thus by the parlour-fire, Arrosey, in under-tones, urged again on Molvurra his new project that Molvurra should settle down on the Island.
"Places are cheap, man, dirt cheap. There's the Cairn Beg.
I'll give you the first chance. There's the Vaish. There's the Black Hill and Baldoyne. Buy, man! buy! I'm resigning.
But I'll wait. And if you'll show them a stake in the country like that, the vacancy is safe!"
There, by the parlour-fire, Molvurra related the story of Ellen's return.
Ellen had lain ill at New Orleans, and with her Mrs. Pratt. Her recovery was despaired of, and, to secure the inheritance of Creg Awin, Enos Milvartin had been married in a New Orleans church to Mrs. Pratt, personating and passing for Miss Molvurra. Then he had gone on with his company of emigrants, leaving Mrs. Pratt to follow, but by another route than St. Louis, should Ellen recover. Ellen, in the wanderings of her fever, had touched Mrs. Pratt's heart, and their intercourse, in the long weeks of convalescence, had undergone a great change. Mrs. Pratt revealed to Ellen her over-devotion to Milvartin, and, on the strength of indisputable evidence, made it for ever impossible that Ellen should contemplate becoming his wife. She had told her also what the world was soon to know as no secret, what had long been known in the secret counsels of Mormonism.
By slow stages Ellen travelled to St. Louis, and Mrs. Pratt had fared on alone to the paradise of the West. - At St. Louis Ellen found her brother absent, and at his house she remained. Molvurra had gone with Molroy down the Mississippi, to visit the place of Ellen's pretended death. A woman of the emigrant company had died on the boat, and had been taken ashore and buried. They had gone on to New Orleans, believing that they had stood by Ellen's grave. Molroy was returning home, and had taken his passage in the Antiope. Meantime, filled with one memory, Molroy had made inquiries, and their suspicions were aroused. Molroy's plan was changed. He wrote home by the Antiope to explain his change of purpose, but that letter perished with the ship. They had resolved to prosecute the search, and to follow the Mormon train across the western plains. They had scarce left St. Louis for the West when Ellen arrived to rest, and, as she thought, to die at her brother's house. It was late in the autumn when Molroy and Molvurra returned from their fruitless excursion in pursuit of Milvartin. They had overtaken the emigrants, but Milvartin had pushed on ahead to Utah. At a camping-place, a thousand miles west of St. Louis, Molroy met and spoke to Mr. Cannon. Then, with heavy hearts, they came back to find Ellen in St. Louis.