Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

Is anything wrong, Kezia ?' asked Hirell at the open door.

Kezia looked concerned-half frightened.

‘Hirell, dear, you should not do this,' she said. “Your father, what would he say? he does not wish you to work hard; he will certainly be vexed.'

'He is coming, Kezia ; let us go and meet him.'

Elias, returning from a far-away field where the plough was at work, saw them coming, and the bright fresh morning seemed to brighten and freshen still more. A sudden light shower had dashed down, and been caught by the glorious sunshine, that made it look as if there had been a fall of jewels.

Hirell approached him laughing and shaking the wet from her hat.

Why, father, what a lovely morning !' she said, with a sweet gaiety that filled Elias with joy. The old year must be in its second childhood, for it's all tears and smiles, like April.'

Elias said

"Good-morning, Hirell, God be with you.' And repeated the same invariable morning greeting to Kezia.

They went on towards the house together, Hirell's gaiety sobered as usual by her father's presence, but not destroyed.

Mr. Rymer was standing at the door watching the three as they approached. He had passed a restless night, and was for once thankful for the early habits of the house which enabled him to shorten the solitary self-communing which had in this particular instance become almost unendurable.

The long breakfast-table had, perhaps, owing to Hirell's deft hands, a more than usually inviting air; or rather, a less than usually repellent one to Rymer. Hugh in the outer kitchen was mending a box to take with him to London ; and Nanny was chattering to him, trying to make her voice heard above the din of his hammering. The sunshine was streaming into the passage through the open door; and with it a sweet sound like a voice singing, and coming nearer. Drawn by the sound, and the warmth of the sunshine, for he was chill with weariness and want of sleep, Mr. Rymer went to the door, and saw his landlord and the two women coming up the field.

The youngest walked a little in advance of the others on the side nearest her father; and was sending sweet peculiar notes half plaintive, half joyous, up the bright wet field before her. She was not walking trippingly, or as if any childish superabundance of spirits prevented her keeping pace with the others; her step was elastic, eager, but quiet and even, and had more the gliding likeness of a spirit than mere youthful buoyancy.

As she approached near to the house and saw Mr. Rymer standing at the door, she fell back a little, so that her father and Kezia might enter first.

The lodger received from each a characteristic glance and salutation. His host's look was brief and severe as his goodmorning, Kezia's very gentle and full of humble solicitude at his pale, altered face, but Hirell's eyes looked into his with . the modest boldness of perfect indifference; they were so open, so dewy, so unflinching and un-selfconscious, that the man's sad eyes gazed back into them as if they were as insensible of his gaze or its profound sadness as two lovely flowers into whose depths it might comfort him to look. It surprised him to see them fill suddenly with sweet human pity, and droop as Hireil passed him on the threshold.

After breakfast Mr. Rymer found himself sitting in bis landlord's dull little room listening to a voice talking and singing by turns-in much the same mood as he had looked into Hirell Morgan's beautiful eyes. He listened to it without thinking of the owner. It deadened the sharp aching of his lead to rest it against the wall by the window, and listen to the strange language uttered by the sweet, peculiar voice. It blended so perfectly with the scene on which he looked-the tender outlines, and shading of grand heights, and soft depths —the poor simple houses scattered here and there, looking so lowly and plain, as if the builders had feared to blot God's work by theirs, and had therefore done no more than necessity required.

Jirell's voice singing over her work in the outer kitchen seemed the very music of these things, at one moment high and clear, dying off in soft, faint indistinctness, like those ethereal mountain points, then falling into depths of rich, dreamy tenderness, sweet and mysterious as seem the deep valleys in the distance; then suddenly would sound the very key-note of sharp poverty -suffering, but enduring-patient, but pleading

Mr. Rymer was not the only person at Bod Elian wło listened to Hirell's voice just then; Elias, harnessing his little

rough-coated horse in the yard, heard her, and to him neither voice nor language was mysterious, but both inexpressibly touching and comforting; for he drew from them the knowledge that he was not henceforth to toil on his stony path alone, but to have with him a bright, sweet presence, surrounding him with flowers and light.

How bravely she was striving! For he knew that it was a matter of striving for Hirell to turn suddenly to these mean tasks from which she had thought herself for ever rescued. He knew this, even if her voice had not told him, as she toiled and sang.

She was packing the little market-cart, and as she passed to and from it and the kitchen, she burst out with a little antique Welsh song, with such a yearning in her voice that Elias felt his misgivings return, till he looked up and saw her bright face smiling as she dragged the heavy basket along and sang

Blithe is the bird who wings the plain,
Nor sows, nor reaps a single grain ;
Whose only labour is to sing

Through summer, autumn, winter, spring. “Now, Nanny,' cried Hirell, as she returned and laid her hands on a heavier basket, you must help me with this pork.' Then in sudden alarm—'What are you doing?'. Nanny replied by holding up a potato and knife.

Goodness sake, leave off !' commanded Hirell. What do we want with them to day, and father out, and Kezia making a bread-pudding ? '

“Just a couple for the lodger—for the look of it, Miss Hirellbach,' pleaded Nanny.

"Well, just a few; but for goodness sake be careful, Nanny. How else are they to last the winter through ?'.

Nanny came and helped her lift the basket, and as they bore it to the cart Hirell went on with her song

At night his little nest he finds,

Nor heeds what fare may next betide ;
The change of season nought he minds,

But for his wants lets Heaven provide.
She held the shafts as her father and Nanny put the horse
in, and in moving quickly, tore a long slit in her dress; and
Elias, as he mounted and drove slowly over the rough ground,

saw her look down at it me a s she walked back to the house, singing the last verse of bez song

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

CHAPTER ITTIL.

TEE TUDERER. One orening Hugh and Kezia went to the chapel meeting at Aber. They were to stay the right with some friends there, that they might the next day pack Kezia's furniture ready for its removal to Rymer's rooms at Bod Elian.

Mirell and her father had spent a quiet evening together, for the rain had come on with increased violence, and put a stop to all work out of doors.

They were sitting at one end of the long kitchen table, Elias reading and Hirell knitting. They had no candle, they could no longer afford such a luxury; but on the table over between them stood a curious little machine, that held, in something like a pair of nippers, a rush that had been soaked in common household grease. When one rash burnt out, which it did in a very few minutes, Elias would take another from a little bundle that lay close at his hand, light it and insert it in the place of the burnt one. He managed this so dexterously that Hirell never had to stop the rapid movement of her needles for the want of light.

As the rain beat on the long, low window, Elias raised his head with a troubled look.

• Are you sure, Hirell,' he asked, 'that Mr. Rymer is not in his room?'

Quite,' she answered, “the door is opened. You can see right in as you pass.'

Surely he must have sought some shelter ?' 'I hope so,' said Hirell.

• Is that the passage door? Yes—listen-I think he has come in,' said Elias.

They listened, heard footsteps, a loud exclamation from Nanny, and then a faint shivering voice cry,

My God! No fire ?' :: Oh, father, go,' said Hirell,' he is very ill.'

Elias rose and went quickly to the outer kitchen. Therush burnt down to the end, and Hirell, neglecting to light another, was left in darkness.

She went a few yards towards the open door, and stood still listening.

She heard Elias cross the kitchen and pause. Then she heard his voice speaking clearly and sharply.

"Go, sir, to your room and take off these wet things. I will come myself and light you a fire.'

'I cannot—I cannot move,' replied the faint shuddering voice. "Let me be still. Leave me to myself.'

'I shall not,' said Elias with increasing sternness. “I have left you to yourself too long. You are killing yourself, and you know it. I will no more permit you to trifle with your own life in this house, than I would with another's.'

Then Hirell heard her father's footsteps coming back quickly, and in a minute he met her where she stood.

Give me a light, Hirell, in the lantern. I must saddle Gwen and go to Tan-y-Llyn for Dr. Robarts. "Is he very ill, then, father?'

I never saw anyone look worse-quick, Hirell—send Nanny out to help me.'

She got them the lantern, and then stood alone in the great dark kitchen, watching the pale gleams of light across the window as her father and Nanny moved about the yard, and in and out of the stable and harness-shed.

In a few minutes she heard Gwen's quick, sure-footed trot on the wet road, and Nanny running beside it to open the gate.

Then Nanny came back and fell to chopping wood in one of the sheds, in order to fulfil her master's instructions to light a large fire in the lodger's room.

Meanwhile Hirell had heard several times something like a moan, and a sound as of teeth knocking together, which filled her with apprehensions.

Could she do nothing ? she asked herself, feeling very helpless and very impatient at her helplessness.

Soon Nanny came in where he was with her bundle of sticks, and the next moment she heard her drop them, and cry sharply

« НазадПродовжити »