Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

made for the young man, to the gentle amazement of Butty Hughes, who sat near the door of the little shop, enjoying the freshness of the erening air, the salutations of his neighbours as they passed, and the gossip about Elias Morgan's change of fortune, which was the theme of the day. His wife stood knitting behind his chair, her soft dark eyes ever ready to answer his upturned look of childlike wonder, and her lips always replying with a gentle sympathetic

“There, master! Only to think!'.

His eyes brightened with fresh anticipation at the sight of Robert, at whose approach the others moved aside; and he became almost tearful with disappointment, when the young man strode in, merely nodding as he passed him.

Robert went through the shop across the tiny parlour, up the steep little stairs, and entering the sitting-room he shared with Rymer, found his friend lying on the sofa apparently asleep.

"He has been overdoing it to-day,' he said to himself, as he noticed the air of utter exhaustion which Rymer's figure and pale face wore as he lay.

Robert seated himself at the open window, and lit a cigar.

There was nothing pleasant to look upon now in the King's square. The covered market-place was empty, and the gas turned out. The night came darkening down, soft and calm, but starless.

But for a reluctance to wake Rymer, Robert would have rung for candles. If he had any poetry at all in him, he certainly cared nothing for its shady side ; his spirit throve not in that. He suspected 'blight' in every sunless day. He felt his own weakness in this respect as he sat at the window of the old Council House, looking on the dull gray buildings, the darker mountain lines, and still darker sky. 'I know,' he thought to himself, “I should have a devil of a temper if things went wrong with me.'

And he felt that his mind had lost its balance as it was. Hirell's scarcely disguised pain at the thoughts of a marriage with him, Elias's sharp bitter tones, still caused him not a little disquietude and humiliation.

He had relieved his mind a little by sending an anonymous subscription for the chapel; and there was another matter in which he hoped to serve his cousin, and it was the thoughts of this that made him glance impatiently towards Rymer.

It was not till Mrs. Hughes brought up the candles, that the latter opened his eyes and got up. . So you are back,' he said, coming to the window.

Then Robert brightened, and told him some of the results of his communication to Elias; and it was not long before he brought out what had been in his mind concerning Rymer for some hours.

"You said you had some thoughts of spending a month or two up among the mountains.'

'I was thinking of it, certainly,' answered Rymer, vaguely ; but why do you mention that in connection with your cousin ?

"Well,' said Robert, 'I have promised Kezia Williams, his housekeeper—that stiff nun-like woman you saw with them on Sunday-I have promised her to try and find them a lodger, as they intend to let the two new rooms that they have just built. She came down about it to the Abbey Farm this afternoon. She thinks of furnishing the rooms with some things she left at Aber, when she came to live at Bod Elian. I was thinking if you wanted, as you said-privacy and quietyou'd get enough of both there.

'I thank you. I'm sure I should like the sort of place,' replied Rymer, “but my plans are changed, I fancy; however, I'll let you know to-morrow morning.'

That question of his staying or going was one he was forced quickly to decide, irrespective of Chamberlayne's proposal. For his own part he would have been glad to go-to leave Wales, England, Europe—to give way to the feverish restlessness that possessed him, and made stillness unendurable. But could he leave while so uncertain as to what the consequences of his selfishness might have been to Catherine Rhys ? He could not-he knew he could not. No, he said, he must stay —and yet he dared not stay here in Dolgarrog, too many eyes were on him, too many strangers coming daily through the town. He would seek concealment among those solitary mountains—he would be Elias Morgan's lodger.

"I am sick of this place,' said he to Robert, after they had been smoking their cigars in silence for half an hour-almost forgetting each other's existence. “If I decide on staying, I might want to move to-morrow, and you say the rooms are not furnished.'

'I could soon see if Kezia couldn't accommodate you some how,' said Robert. "I'm almost sure she could, if you would not mind sharing with the rest for a few days.' · Rymer felt anxious now to decide the matter at once. He took some letters from his pocket, and appeared to consult them, then looked up with a quick dry cough, and said to Robert

Upon my word, I don't see any use in leaving it uncertain. I think I'll say that, if you like to arrange it with your people to have me to-morrow, I'll come.'

"Very well,' said Robert. "I'll walk up to Bod Elian before breakfast to-morrow, and settle it all with Kezia.'

CHAPTER XV. MR. RYMER'S FIRST NIGHT AT BOD ELIAN. It was past nine o'clock when the young men arrived at Bod Elian; and Elias Morgan had already given orders that the house door should be closed and supper delayed no longer for the new inmate who had been expected since noon.

Robert took him round to the back, where they saw light coming from an open door.

“Ah, here is Nanny,' he said ; 'you must make friends with her. She's the belle of Capel Illtyd. Listen—she sings well.'

Rymer looked in and saw a young woman ironing in a large un-English-looking outer kitchen. There were rude farming implements hanging on the damp walls and standing in corners-a low fire burnt dimly in the chimney, and sent puffs of smoke over the girl's head as she stood with her back to it and her face towards a young man who leaned indolently against the empty dresser. A little stream of water from the leaking tap ran along the sloping stones to the door, over which a piece of the roof was broken through and a long garland of ivý trailed down from it.

So, Nanny,' said Robert, you had shut us out.' Nanny stared, and took a sudden dislike to Rymer's pale face and dull unobservant eyes.

· Lodger late, Mr. Robert,' said she. “Elias Morgan very angry,' and she stood with her hands on her hips regarding the new inmate of Bod Elian with critical and somewhat disdainful eyes.

Come, Nanny, don't be cross,' said Robert, this gentleman takes a great interest in your country. I hope you'll do your best to make him comfortable while he's here.'

Nothing to do with it, Mr. Robert,' answered Nanny, leaning against the chimney side, 'make no one comfortable here no more, going away.'

She strode leisurely across to the door of the inner kitchen, which she flung open roughly; and marching in a few yards, turned round with her fists in her sides, and surveyed the two visitors as they entered the room where Elias Morgan and his family were assembled ; and then she walked out again with a slow, contemptuous swing of her limbs, and without glancing to any of the family from whose circle she had been banished.”

Elias Morgan had effectually cleared his house of all signs of the abundance and confusion which yesterday morning prevailed there. Austere order and cold poverty had once more linked hands, and taken command of his household ; and Elias sat at the head of his table, his old account-book and Bible before him, his sad gray eye sternly watchful of the drooping young faces around him, as if he would detect and punish eren à thought that rebelled against the new and bitter rule. Yet the faces seemed all sufficiently meek and resigned, even to the Reverend Ephraim Jones, who sat writing at a little table by the fire, and who could not quite understand that watchful and almost cruel light in his friend's gaze, as it turned slowly from face to face at the narrow table. He did not know that the more gentle and complete their obedience, the more sharp became Elias's struggle with his own heart, and its passionate pity for them.

It was strange indeed to Rymer thus to find himself suddenly a member of such a household as he saw before him. The bare, low-roofed, black-beamed kitchen, with its long table, and the peculiar persons sitting at it, made a picture utterly foreign to all his experience.

As he looked vaguely round his attention was attracted by the eyes of Elias, who regarded him with such a severe scrutiny he could scarcely help resenting its length and fixedness.

He bowed.

Elias prolonged his gaze. Hugh rose with heightened colour, and Robert said, a little impatiently

This is Mr. Rymer, Morgan.' “Yes, cousin,' said Elias, you mentioned his name before, but being entirely a strange one to me, I cannot see how your mention of it now is to serve as an excuse or apology for your and his arrival at so unseemly an hour. However, we have not yet had supper. Sir, you are aware that your private rooms are not fit for you to occupy as yet; and that as you choose to come before they are made so, it will be necessary for you to conform to the arrangements of my family.'

Rymer bowed. Elias stood up and paused. He was not used to introductions, but he seemed to feel it behoved him to make the person who was to become one of his household somewhat acquainted with its members.

'I should be very doubtful, sir,' he said, 'as to our power of making your stay here agreeable to you, if it were not for my housekeeper,' moving his hand towards Kezia, who rose and curtseyed. She will, I am sure, do her best for your comfort, as she does for ours. That is my brother, whose company I am very soon to lose ; this is my daughter.'

Rymer was standing near Elias on his left, and had acknowledged each introduction with the respect that seemed demanded by his host's tone and manner. As Elias said · This is my daughter,' he glanced down at a form sitting at his right on a low seat, and so near to him that Rymer had not noticed it before. It rose up now, and he saw in a patched old gown and with some coarse needlework in her hand, the girl whose delicate beauty had seemed to fill the gray market-place of Dolgarrog with light. He looked into the same face now, but its sweet glad light was gone. The hazel eyes were clouded, the cheeks pale, the lips set in that firm, pathetic closure which seems to betoken the soul's desire to lock itself in alone with its sorrow.

Rymer looked at Hirell with cold, vaguely observant eyes, bowed and turned away to the seat indicated by Elias.

Hirell sat down, penetrated with wonder and pity by the pale suffering face into which she had glanced.

Rymer stood with his hand on the back of his chair, looking on the people among whom he had chosen to make his home much as a mourner in a funeral-coach looks out upon the scenery and incidents of the road; knowing that nothing can alter the sad purport of his journey. They were strange to him, and perhaps it was better for those restless thoughts that

« НазадПродовжити »