Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

pith or hope might be wrung from it. He walked on, and the lovely still life of that road was hateful to his straining eye and ear.

Midway between the church and the toll-gate they heard a strange sort of call ; and, looking back, they saw a man standing at the gate of the church, beckoning them.

That's old Jones, the clerk,' said Chamberlayne, looking annoyed and perplexed.

We must have made some mistake—they are there; they must have come some other way, the English family you mentioned,' said Rymer, hurriedly.

There is another door; but they inust have been waiting in the churchyard ever since we've been, if they are there; for there's no other road from Dola' Hudol,' answered Chamberlayne.

* Let us go back; they must be there !' Rymer said in a sharp, decisive tone, which be often used to conceal some strong emotion.

The gaunt old clerk, in his threadbare coat and spectacles, beckoned determinedly, almost angrily, till they came up to him at the gate. Then he went to the porch, and beckoned till they reached him there.

Then they entered the church, and, in a minute, made the discovery that, with the exception of the clergyman and the clerk, they were the only persons in the building.

Rymer was horribly annoyed, and glanced round more than once in the hope of retreat. But Robert Chamberlayne's old tutor began immediately, leaving them no choice as to staying or going; and it was as strange a thing as either had ever experienced to feel that the service had really begun and would be gone through entirely on their behalf.

There was a humorous side as well as a solemn one to the position, and the men both felt the humour more than the solemnity. The clergyman felt it a little also, and there was an odd twinkle in his eye that showed a certain enjoyment in his task. The Reverend Daniel Lloyd had two gifts seldom found in one man ; great energy of mind and extreme quietness of manner. His energy was not of the feverish, dry, exhaustive kind; but was a bright, dewy, refreshing energy, which seemed to have no end. His small gray eye shone as bright in his dry-skinned, sunburnt, hale-looking face as a nlear spring of water in a rock; his voice was sweet, and had a rich sort of grit in it, and had a dry mellow music peculiar to itself; his hair was gray ; his form tall and slight, but erect and hardy. He did not read the prayers, but prayed them, and the Psalms he read as poems. He did what scarcely anybody else could have done that morning-drew Rymer's thoughts from himself.

But this was not for long. As he sat, his attention divided idly between Daniel Lloyd's small vigorous head and the quaint primitive funereal plates of metal that decorated the walls, there was a slight sound at the door.

A rush of heat that no power of will could hide came to Rymer's face.

What was it? Was it not the branches that he had heard brushing against the windows and door, as he paced up and down the churchyard with Chamberlayne ? No—the clerk was rising; he saw some one then. :

The clerk walked to the door. Then Rymer heard his footsteps and those of another. Yes, of another, that made his very throat swell and throb with a strength that threatened to break the silence. Then he heard a pew-door opened and shut some way behind him; and the clerk returned to his seat, and the next minute a new voice was joining Chamberlayne's in the responses ; a sweet, rich, young, tremulous voice, that held Rymer's mute, and for the moment so filled his soul with joy, that he felt repaid for all he had suffered in that little gray-tombed churchyard, in which a grave had seemed to lie waiting for his last fragile, darling hope.

Robert Chamberlayne, in his impatience to transfer some of his own anxiety concerning the Morgans to Daniel Lloyd's shoulders, was hoping he would not think so small a congregation worth a sermon; for he remembered he had sometimes omitted it on such occasions; but his former tutor had no such intention now, and never had Chamberlayne heard him preach with more vigour and homely eloquence. He spoke of the smallness of his congregation, and as in nowise regretting it. He even said that, were only one present, that one might perhaps receive more good than great numbers; for, as he would have no neighbour to whom to pass on Christ's message, he must perforce take it to himself.

When he finished, the clerk, who had been fast asleep, woke with a start, and got up and opened the door of the pew where Chamberlayne and his friend sat,

They came out and followed him down the aisle, Chamberlayne, engrossed in looking for half-a-crown for the clerk, who was an old acquaintance of his, followed him to the door ; and Rymer came after them--slowly-very silently and slowly.

He had to approach a large square pew, with armorial bearings on the panels, before turning to the door.

He approached the pew very slowly, and as he did so was looking into a face that was regarding him with amazement, fear, and agitation.

The pew belonged to Mr. Owen Rhys, of Dola’ Hudol, and the face which looked over it was that of his wife, Catherine

[ocr errors]

It was a full Saxon face with large blue eyes, fair hair, and a rose-like richness of complexion ; and there was in its beauty an indescribable depth, like the folded mystery of a rich garden-rose, the power of whose hidden graces breathes through the visible beauty, till that which is apparent appears less than that which is felt to be concealed.

It was a face which had in it the same kind of loveliness that pervades the earth in very early sunmer, or rather, in full and perfect spring, when the softness, and bloom, and perfume of all things are richest; when the wild hyacinths rise under the trees, between the thickly-spreading surface roots, in gleaming lines of azure; when the yellow cream of May has settled thickly on the fields; when the breath and blush of the first rose offers consolation for the fading lilacs, and the falling of the fragile hawthorn; when the green Guelder rose is but half blanched, and the honeysuckle has just opened the end of one of its clusters of tiny bugles, and blown its first sweet joyful reveillé in perfume to the summer.

The very spirit of this time was in her face :-the softness, the bloom, the fresh abundant health and life-nothing lost or lessened, but all deepened and intensified by being human.

There was nothing of the ethereal part of very early spring, • the childlike innocence, or arch wildness; and there was

nothing of the wearied heaviness, the fierce splendour or voluptuous languor of July; it was all bright May—eager, fervent, passionate, but dewy and healthful as the morning breeze. -- Surprise seemed to take from Mrs. Rhys all power of

realing the agitation which the sudden appearance of

Rymer caused her. The colour in her cheek at first paled; then, under his fixed and passionate gaze, returned, and burned in it with angry vividness. As he passed, he saw her anger and surprise lessening, her lip quiver, her deep blue eyes fill and droop. He went away towards the open door, listening with the air of one who is certain of a coming step. Then he heard the sound of her pew-door, and with almost unnaturally keen perception, knew it was herself had opened it.

The expected and waited-for step came--weak-uncertain. He did not look back, but all the light that was mounting before his dazzled eyes over Criba Ban, and showing him for the first time the grand range, bare of cloud and mist, to the very summits—seemed caused by that step's approach; which, . from the long-hidden heights of his hope, was sending the mists flying, and lightening all with the old warmth and

beauty.

He stood just without the church-door; the step was almost on the threshold, when it paused, and his heart seemed to pause too, as on the threshold of something to which it yearned, but could not move save with that step. Yes, that step was still ; then he heard the sound of a faint rustling, like the dragging of a weary wing, not to the door and to him, but away ; back into the silent aisle! He turned, he listened ; looking with wild eyes into the cold, still place. He saw nothing, but, as he looked, heard a long-laboured sob, and in it a nameand the name was that of the clergyman to whom he had just been listening.

He understood then. She had turned back and appealed to him.

CHAPTER. IX.
THE ANSWERING CHORD.

DURING the next two or three hours Mr. Rymer wandered about irresolutely

Going back towards Dola' Hudol, he met a man whom he had seen crossing the fields from Dola' Hudol. To this person he addressed himself.

Excuse me, my friend, stopping you, but I want to ask you whose house that is just before us!'

• My master's, Mr. Rhys !'
"You are-
· His gamekeeper.'

“And who is he?--some fortunate millowner from Lancashire, or-'

You had better not ask him that question,' said the man dryly.

Why ?! • Of course,' said the gamekeeper, 'you're quite an Englishman, and with the usual Englishman's knack for showing his ignorance of, and contempt for, the people among whom he happens to be.

'I fear so, except as regards the contempt,' said Rymer, taking off his hat, and bowing with a mock humility that only increased the gamekeeper's irritation, 'but I am very willing to learn.'

* Mr. Rhys, then, is the descendant of a Welsh prinoe, whose ancestors ruled a brave, happy, and illustrious people, while England was little better than a flock of silly sheep, and worried by Danes, Norwegians, and Saxons at pleasure.'

The Welshman, also, I think, gave us an occasional early taste of the amenities of genial neighbours—did they not ? asked Rymer; and the gamekeeper became so eloquent in his answer, that by the time he had come to a full pause he had discovered the English tourist was certainly a good listener, and had possibly therefore learnt somewhat. So he said to him,

• Are you fond, sir, of old books and manuscripts ? ' * Very. Is Dola' Hudol rich that way?'

"Stuffed full! and they're of immense value-heirlooms. They've one manuscript there,—the green book of Dola’ Hudol they call it that no Welshman would exchange for the crown of England; no, nor give away its least precious leaves, leaf by leaf, in exchange for gem by gem of the Regalia.

And is the house visible ?' 'Not now. Not since yesterday!' • What's the matter? Some tourist outrage ?

Oh dear no! Mrs. Rhys has come home--that's all.' “That's all,' echoed Rymer. “It is shown then when the family are away?'

Oh yes.'
Well, my friend, let me tell you, I admire, more perhaps

« НазадПродовжити »