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Chamberlayne took his hat and went out. Mr. Rymer wished Mrs. Hughes ‘Good morning !' and followed. He found Chamberlayne standing still a few steps from the door, with his handsome face so bewildered that he hardly knew it as the same he had sat opposite during so many hours yesterday.
The church bell had ceased. Chapel people took the benefit of its warning silence and began to stir. Yes; the great London minister was indeed there, and a most prominent figure he made in the market-place. He was a thick-set, burly, Cromwell-like man, with rough, pimply face; a man who seemed to have been battling through all his long life with the eternal enemy, whether intrenched within or encamped without, and to have grown strong, bristling, antagonistic; his very attitude of repose a defiant poise-victorious on the whole, but scarred-and obliged to hold his very conquests by the tenure of perpetual watch. He—the Reverend Ephraim Jones-now stood in the middle of the marketplace conversing with Dolgarrog ministers, and watching the approach of four persons.
These were Elias Morgan, his young brother Hugh, his only child Hirell, and his housekeeper Keziah Williams. The slim, youthful figure of Hugh, on whose shoulders Elias's heavy hand now and then fell, as if to give additional weight to some admonition, attracted little attention. It was the elder brother-it was Elias himself, towards whom all eyes were turned.
A short man, but broad-chested, supple-limbed, powerful treading, and with a certain rough dignity in his bearing that compensated for an utter want of grace, both in form and feature. His eyes alone, dark and bright, and shaded with long thick lashes, might have been comely but that there looked out of them a spirit so inscrutably stern, so piercing and alert, yet withal so immovably calm. Little passing emotions, such as give most human eyes their wondrous variety of expression and light, must have been crushed dead in Elias's broad chest, before they had lived long enough to tronble the stony calmness of his eyes. His square chin, and his lips, thin and firm-set, had the same unflinching look.
When he first came within view of the market-place, Elias was wholly absorbed in his brother, and the counsel he was giving him, as to how he was to meet the snares and temptas tions of the great world, for which the lad was to leave his mountain home to-morrow. Presently, as he saw Hugh's eyes looking excitedly forward, his own followed them, and be suddenly became aware of the stir his approach was creating. His hand dropped from Hugh's shoulder, he slackened his pace, and a scarcely perceptible colour rose in his swarthy cheek; his mouth somewhat relaxed ; his eyes softened. Chamberlayne watched him in deep anxiety. There was more of happiness in his cousin's face than he had before seen there. Yes; Elias Morgan's cup of hliss--bliss after the thirstings of his own stern heart-was full. What! Did the elect of God honour him for this little humble edifice he was raising on the mountain slope? How much more would be not yet-God willing !-do for them!
And the poor mountain farmer, who had been used to earn his bread from hand to mouth till his fortieth year; Elias, with his narrow notion of things and his boundless faith in God, felt his coming inheritance of seven thousand pounds to be a power in his hands, by which he was to accomplish all sorts of great and divine purposes. He could venture now to snatch a little leisure, in which to perfect the conquest of his own stubborn heart. He was not usually thought a charitable man-for none knew how much he strove to accomplish for those in his own household with the barest means—and therefore could not know the strength of his motives for resistance to ordinary appeals for charity. Now he felt he might be better understood. Hitherto he had had to stint himself in food to spare a penny to a starving tramp. Now! —but he closed his firm lips suddenly with an expression that seemed to say Thou knowest!'.
With the solemn glory of his dream about him, he advanced into the market-place, to take the two hands Mr. Ephraim Jones, the London minister, stretched out, even while his friend was yet distant.
Chamberlayne did not understand what had caused Elias to quicken his pace; and feeling he must make an effort to deliver his ill news, he went hastily towards him.
Cousin ! Cousin Morgan !'. Elias, strange to say, had either known him at the first glance, or was too much preoccupied to express any surprise when enlightened by the words addressed to him. He gave him his right hand cordially, while with his left he made a motion towards the group in the market-place, as if to show him he could not then stop.
Cousin Chamberlayne, is it you?' he said. "Have you come to stay at Bod Elian? You are welcome. Come up tonight, if you like. Only no business, Robert, till to-morrow. The Lord's day this;' and then his half-closed eyes, and moving but mute lips, seemed to say he, of all men, ought to remember that.
• But, Morgan,' began Chamberlayne, hurriedly. His cousin instantly stopped him with a sort of stern good-humour.
Cousin Chamberlayne, we are laté. Bad roads made us so -and the vanities of dress.' And he motioned with his broad hand towards the two women behind him.
To these Chamberlayne, in his despair of any useful effort with Elias, turned, only to have his wits still more confounded. The slender form and fair face of Hirell were familiar to him, but now he found the familiar image painfully, yet bewitchingly, strange to him, by the new and wondrous beauties which breathed from it and surrounded it.
No childish, pouting, country beauty, with glowing glances stealing the admiration under which she blushes—for thus had Chamberlayne, with his Kentish experience, and not too brilliant imagination, painted her—and yet no pale statue, coldly perfect, was the daughter of Elias Morgan. Her loveliness was neither of marble nor of roses. Her beauty was a mysterious beauty, which alike puzzled and charmed Chamberlayne, but which he could not succeed in comprehending. Hirell's form was lithe and slender, and full of wild natural elegance. Its little, wavering, flower-like movements were very pretty, and suggested a constant recollection of its native mountain breezes. But it was not her form that so bewildered . Chamberlayne, nor her hazel eyes that glanced up to him full of sweet, fresh dewy light, like sudden gleams of morning ; no, it was the thought of her name which had often puzzled him, and which he felt for the first time he understood. Hirellbeam of light-angel! Yes, he felt that since he had last seen her, that wild, restless soul of hers had become moulded to her name. She was no longer the same being who had run wild races with him in the stony fields of Bod Elian, or sat in the little room at the old Couucil House, laughing at Butty Hughes. They had taken her away, he felt, her father and those grim old Dissenting ministers, and lifted her from her
half-melancholy, half-boisterous childhood, and placed her in a sort of saintdom, where he, at least, could hold no commune with her. He felt as if he could not speak to her. He could only staud before her, and feel pain at her entire forgetfulness of him.
He was thinking of her still while Keziah spoke to him. He was wondering if Hirell ever had those sudden fits of sadness that used to come over her when they were children together, or those wilder fits of passionate restlessness and longing to break through the iron restraint of her poverty-pinched lonely mountain home. Surely nothing of this ever troubled Hirell now! Sweet saintly gravity was on her lips, her eyes were full of joy. Had it all gone from her, this restlessness, he wondered ? Was the beam of light a pure beam, free from all discolorations and dust of earth? Or—and the thought brought him fresh pain—was this bright joyousness caused by the supposed change in their fortunes ? If it were this indeed, how could be meet her to-day or to-morrow? How look in her eyes when his news had sent all the sweet light out of them—perhaps for ever ?
At her father's half jocose allusion to her vanity, which had drawn upon her the sudden looks of Chamberlayne and his friend, the beautiful Calvinist blushed and trembled, and let fall her carefully upheld dress; and in her confusion at seeing the fair, pale silk slip to the wet stones, and herself revealed in all her rich attire, she glanced up and met Mr. Rymer's half-smiling gaze of admiration and of pleasure in what he felt must be Chamberlayne's pleasure at the sight of her. He lifted his hat and bowed when he saw her look at him, and she blushed most painfully, hesitated, then courtesied—so rustic a courtesy that she blushed again to think of it when it was done, and turned to follow her father, quite unconscious that she had neither spoken to nor shaken hands with her kinsman and old playmate, Robert Chamberlayne.
The two young men stood apart, watching the moving masses of figures in the market-place. Elias was holding the minister's hands; and the latter, seeing a strange look of inquiry in Elias's earnest, weather-beaten face, said, in his burly, loud voice, which seemed, however, softer than usual
'Yes, friend Elias ; I am reminded I didn't come here for the rest I so much coveted among my old friends, but to do His work. He knows what He is about when He says, “ Take
this sorrow," and wrings out the cry in answer, “What is it Thou wishest me to do?” Elias, my little boy—my only oneis dead! so this letter has just told me. God help and comfort the poor mother! She is too old to have another child. You can guess, then, how it must have been with us--how it now will be. Enough! Courage, Elias! God is thinking of you and your plans to-day. He means to make me speak out for you. He fills my heart-how, then, can I help but speak ? Your cause won't suffer through my loss. It is I who tell you so, but it is He who tells it me. Come!'
Elias had been holding one hand during these words, with a sense of strong, almost passionate yearning to the stricken but brave man. He now relinquished the hand, and took the proffered arm, and he said in a voice so low and dream-like in tone that it hardly seemed meant for the minister (whose first hearty words of congratulation as to the change of fortune were still ringing in Elias's ear)– The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.'
Is that all, friend Elias ?' sternly asked the minister, stopping at the threshold of the chapel-door to look in the other's face. Thou art over-considerate. Dost thou think I cannot say what thou art secretly saying—"Blessed be the name of the Lord !”).
The hard voice that for its pain might have been the voice of one speaking from the rack, was followed by a burst of children's voices singing in the school-room, before the service began, a hymn prepared for the occasion. So fresh and soaringly did it rise, that it seemed as if the little singers, unknown to themselves, were charged with God's tender answer to the words wrung so sternly from the stricken heart.
The minister and Elias lifted up their faces and listened : stirred like veteran soldiers by the trumpet-call to battle. Hirell looked at them, and from their rugged faces drew to her own a new glory. Forgetful of her fair silks, she folded her hands, and glideđ in between the two burly figures-a beam of light, indeed!
The inner chapel-doors closed. Rymer and Chamberlayne turned, and silently crossed the bridge, on their way to Capel Illtyd. Once more the market-place was gray, sombre, and deserted.