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CHAPTER VIIT.

DOLA' HUDOL.

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The gray house fronts of Dolgarrog were drying in patches as Rymer and Chamberlayne crossed the bridge leading out of town, and entered upon a road the beauty of which endures even the test of the old Welsh motto, which says, 'Nothing is excellent but that which cannot be excelled.'

The whole way from Dolgarrog to Aber, where the little river winding through the valley ends in the sea, the road gently ascends. The breeze blows with increasing freshness

advance. The old walls, built of large stones, are held together by no cement, but only by the roots and stems of innumerable plants; conspicuous among which are the ivy, fern, stone-crop, and the vigorous and healthy penny-wort, whose round fleshy leaves mimic the size of every coin in existence, till they become so small and minute that only fairies can need to put such money into their purses. And these old walls

grow more and more rich as we recede from the town, till every square yard becomes a kind of inexhaustible treasury for the artist, the poet, and the lover of nature to stand before and study

And still as the road ascends the openings in the craggy banks on the right show glimpses of fresher green; the valley on the left broadens; Criba Ban, stretching its vast bulk above it, and above its many tributary mountain-vassals for a distance of many miles, assumes more distinct and majestic forms; the magpies flash their dazzling white and black more frequently before the eye ; while the rougher and the more full of obstacles the stones of its shallow bed become, the louder and more determined is the triumphant song of the little river.

Through this road the two men move in an almost unearthly silence, after the first few and faint flashes of conversation have died out. Chamberlayne's eye scarcely quits the line of the road before him, and even of that he sees little more than the ground upon which he treads.

It is very different with ḥis companion. He, too, is deeply absorbed; but, unlike Chamberlayne, who can follow but one stream of thought and emotion at one time, Rymer cannot help but see and feel, even though it be almost unconsciously, the influences around him. And thus, while the secret thoughts that so strongly possess him keep his spirits fluctuating like jets of flame in unwholesome air, he cannot help but stop now and then, gaze round half-incredulously, then, with a quick, impatient step, rejoin his companion, and then once more let liis eye and fancy go free through those exquisite regions of earth and air.

It is strange how differently these glimpses of the landscape affect him at different moments—deepening his sadness when he is sad, increasing his exaltation of spirit when some flattering surmise happens to elate him—or making more restless and feverish his ordinary mood, which is one of the deepest anxiety.

About a mile from Dolgarrog he stood still before a scene, the charm of which, to an eye like his, was as sudden and potent as a strain of exquisite melody to an unexpectant ear. And truly all the chords of beauty were here gathered to one perfect, silent, harmonious work, by the Divine Musician.

Two mountains stood near together-one a little in advance of the other. The farthest was of tender purple; the other, clasped by the sunshine bursting from the clouds, was of deep, bright green; and they stood so leaning together as to form a sort of mighty gateway to a world of mountains beyond, the edges of which could just be individually seen, and all of which repeated the colours of the two in fainter and more exquisite tints, till the curying lines-purple beyond green, and green beyond purple-ceased against the sky. As Rymer stood before this mountain gateway, and looked in upon this mountain world, it seemed to him that, from its wondrously dewy freshness, and freedom from all trace of life but that of trees, clouds, waters, birds, and sunlight, and of all which helped to make its beauty, it might be appearing from under the rising mist for the first time since its creation. The faint rainy sunshine met the majestic heads and the coloured slopes, and crept from one to another as if bewildered by excess of beauty—now fainting on the bosom of the hill where it lay-then awakening, and with sudden passion clasping all. Still Rymer stood and gazed upon the scene. He only gazed. There was not a thought dared to enter.

He had chosen actual darkness in the first agony of his disappointment, and had chosen to consider hiniself in the dark ever since. Could he dare to see now? If he allowed himself to remove this mental bandage he bad put before his eyes, to perceive the majesty of these heads—the colours of these slopes-the inexhaustible tenderness of the valley depths between-must he not see more, much more, which he did not wish to see; which he dared not, would not, see? But for one moment the 'seeing? had come ; and with it an in: describable sadness. Then back into the darkness and onward again.

And the darkness bad begun to have a subtle charm of its own: he turned towards it with a glad exhilaration, to which the freshening air and increasing wildness added every minute, and seemed to give a false glow of health and natural

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The wind—its wings no longer clogged by the rain that had weighed it down so many days-rose and swept on wit? ultant voice; tearing the white mists from the valleys, and the blue mists from the mountains ; creeping, conspirator-like, into the woods, and setting the friendliest trees by the ears; dividing itself into millions of genii to seize and shake dry each blade of grass in a whole field, and making the solitary little flower on the hillside laugh its blue-bell empty of tears; pausing now to make a loud, jubilant song to the waterfalls music; then, like a careless shepherd who suddenly remembers his neglected sheep, hallooing to the grey straggling clouds, and driving them before him with a tyrant's fury, till his own strength is exhausted, and he lags with weak, puffing breath behind.

Presently there appeared, above the wall on the left, a bit of rich swelling park land, on which Robert Chamberlayne's eyes rested with a pleased look.

. That's Dola’ Hudol,' said he ; 'most likely the people from there, with a tourist or two and ourselves, will be all the congregation at the English service this morning.'

This place, then,' asked Rymer, 'is owned by an English family, is it?

Mrs. Rhys is English,' answered Chamberlayne, without noticing the light that kindled his companion's eyes as they both drew to the other side of the road, and stood on a low wall the better to see up a slope to the knoll of trees in the distance, where, all but completely hidden, stood the plain Tudor mansion built of the grayest, coldest stone,

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• Yes; and they make enough of it,' answered the farmer, a little contemptuously; they have even named the house from the fields. Dola’ Hudol means the “fascinating meadows," I have heard; but there's some story connected with these Hirell Morgan once told me- -I forget all about it now though.'

One of the paths--the beginnings and endings of which Rymer's eye was busily trying to discover-came winding from the house to a little door in the wall near where they stood. Down just before the door was a stone placed over a noisy little channel of water. It was green underneath, and on the top thickly cushioned with moss. It was like a tiny antique drawbridge to some fairy castle.

* What exquisite moss!' said Rymer, and stooping he took up a little piece from the old stone, and raising it as if enjoying its fresh peculiar scent, he bent over it as it lay in his palm some time, touching it with his lips with a stealthy tender reverence.

A little later, as the two went on, leaving Dola' Hudol behind them, he crushed it in his hand in a sort of scorn of him. self. What foot could have trodden upon it? The little door was not in use—the ivy grew about it in chains and bars— but as he crushed it, it thrilled him, and by some strange power kept his fingers from unclosing and casting it away.

They were now on Capel Illtyd bridge, looking down on the old Roman causeway, as it lay visible beneath the beautiful water; and Chamberlayne pointed to where, low down on the right, lay the old Abbey farm, where he had spent his schooldays. The smoke rising above the trees—a few cows grazing in the fields—a woman in a blue spotted jacket washing potatoes in the river, using an old basket as a sieve—these seemed at first to be the only signs of life visible. But looking up the gray mountain-sides, Rymer saw a few dreary stone cottages, and two or three miners sitting at the doors—English probably, thinking of English homes, by the way in which they sat gazing across the valley and over the crowding mountain heads. From here the two men could see in the direction opposite to the mountain gateway to the end of the valley ; where the turbulent little river met the sea, whose black swollen lips spat at it livid foam that blew hither and thither, scarcely distinguishable from the white seagulls. The meadows all the way were dotted with lakes by the last rough tide. A heron stalked upon a sandy little island by itself. Clouds of strange birds were glutting on the drenched pastares—the whole scene was wild, watery, and desolate.

At the top of the steep bit of road they were ascending stood the toil-gate, to the left of which is the village of Capel Illtyd ; and to the right the church. Turning towards this they entered upon a road like a Swiss mountain pass, and in a few minutes came upon the church, a very small and primitive looking building.

The chief part of the little congregation attending the Welsh service had gone, and were seen dotting the far-away road to Aber, which appeared cut like a shelf in the mountain ; but Rymer and Chamberlayne met a few solemn-looking communicants leaving the churchyard-some grave, old men, and soberly-attired women in their long cloaks and highcrowned hats. They stood aside to let them pass, then looked along the road for signs of the English congregation, but saw none; and Chamberlayne began to have a doubt as to whether there was to be an English service at all.

They paced up and down the gray slate paving-stones for a few minutes, looking at and trying to read the inscriptions on the graves, and glancing expectantly along the quiet roadChamberlayne carelessly, and alınost hoping to see no one, that he might the sooner join his old friend and tutor, and confide to him all his trouble and perplexity concerning his relatives ; Rymer with a studied indifference, beneath which was hidden a torturing suspense that made him feel as if time were standing still by his side, and waiting with him.

The wet September foliage rustled against the dark little church windows; a few yellow leaves fluttered about the gray tombs and green grass, and suspense cut it all much too sharply on his heart for the picture ever to be effaced. Every time they reached the little square porch, as they paced up and down, they heard a dry, patient cough from the clerk within ; and every time they reached the gate they heard nothing but birds and running water-no sound of wheel or of foot-fall on the road.

'I think no one will be coming now,' said Chamberlayne, at last ; 'we had better walk on towards the Abbey farm till Mr. Lloyd overtakes us.'

He led the way out of the churchyard, and Rymer followed him. He still held the bit of moss, crushing it in his hand with a fierce grief, as if, having come from her door, some

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