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´╗┐Title: David's Little Lad
Author: Meade, L.T.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "David's Little Lad" ***

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David's Little Lad
By L.T. Meade
Illustrations by H. Petherick
Published by John F. Shaw and Co, 48 Paternoster Row, London EC.
This edition dated 1890.

David's Little Lad, by L.T. Meade.

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________
DAVID'S LITTLE LAD, BY L.T. MEADE.

CHAPTER ONE.

THIS IS THE STORY WITHIN THE STORY.

Yes, I, Gwladys, must write it down; the whole country has heard of it,
the newspapers have been full of it, and from the highest to the lowest
in the land, people have spoken of the noble deed done by a few Welsh
miners.  But much as the country knows, and glad and proud as the
country is, I don't think she knows quite all--not exactly what mother
and I know; she does not know the heart history of those ten days.  This
is the story within the other well-known story, which I want to write
here.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

On a certain sunny afternoon in September, 1876, I was seated up in the
window of the old nursery.  I say _in_ the window, for I had got my body
well up on the deep oak seat, had flattened my nose against the pane,
and was gazing with a pair of dismal eyes down on the sea, and on some
corn-fields and hay-fields, which in panoramic fashion stretched before
my vision.

Yes, I was feeling gloomy, and my first remark, after an interval of
silence, was decidedly in keeping with my face and heart.

"Gwen," I said, "what is it to be buried alive?"  Gwen, who was singing
her charge to sleep to a lively Welsh air, neither heeded nor heard me.

"Gwen!"  I repeated in a louder key.

  "Men are false and oft ungrateful,
  Derry derry dando,"

sang Gwen, rocking the baby, as she sang, in the most dexterous manner.

Gwen had a beautiful voice, and I liked the old air, so I stayed my
impatient question to listen.

  "Maids are coy and oft deceitful,
  Derry derry dando,
  Few there are who love sincerely,
  Down a derry down.
  Say not so, I love thee dearly,
  Derry derry down down,
  Derry down down derry."

  "None but thee torment and teaze me,
  Derry derry dando,"

I shouted in my impetuous manner, and leaving my seat, I went noisily to
her side.

"Gwen, I _will_ be heard.  I have not another soul to speak to, and you
are so cross and disagreeable.  What is it to be buried alive?"

"'Tis just like you, Gwladys," said Gwen, rising indignantly.  "Just
after two hours of it, when I was getting the darling precious lamb off
to sleep, you've gone and awoke him.  Dear, dear! good gracious! there
never was such a maid!"

Gwen retired with the disturbed and wailing baby into the night nursery,
and I was left alone.

  "None but thee torment and teaze me,
  Derry derry dando,"

I sang after her.

Then I returned to my seat on the window-sill, curled myself up tighter
than ever, flattened my nose again against the pane, and began to think
out my dismal thoughts.

Yes, my thoughts were undoubtedly dismal, and very melancholy must my
eyes have looked, and absurdly long and drawn down the corners of my
mouth.  Had anybody been there to see, they must have pronounced me
sentimental in the extreme; but no one was by, and--there was the rub--
that was the reason I looked so melancholy.  Even Gwen, rocking baby to
sleep, could be disturbed at least by my long drawn sighs, but Gwen had
retired into the night nursery, out of reach of my despondency, and
though I could hear her cheerful voice in the distance, she certainly
could no longer hear me.  I was utterly alone.

I pressed my face against the window pane, and gazed at the scene before
me.  It was a fair scene enough.  A broad sweep of sea, the waves
sparkling in the sunshine--some rugged rocks--a little patch of white
sand; all this lay close.  In the distance were some hills,
magnificently clothed.  To the right, I saw oak, ash, beech, in their
autumn dress; to the left, yellow fields of corn, an orchard or two;
some mowers were cutting down the corn, and laughing merrily; some
children were eating apples in the orchards--over all a gentle breeze
stirred, and the sun shone out of an almost cloudless sky.

Yes, the scene was very fair, but I did not appreciate it.  My eyes had
rested on those trees, and those hills, and that sea all my life--I was
tired of the unvarying monotony.  Nothing wearied me so much as when
visitors came to stay with mother, visitors who did not know our
country, and who consequently went into raptures over our Welsh scenery.
I am quite sure now that the raptures were genuine, but at the time
they seemed to me very like duty talk.  I always listened
contemptuously; I always answered carelessly, "Oh, yes, the place is
well enough;" and I always thought bitterly in my heart of hearts.

It is easy for you, fine sir or madam, to speak and to admire, who need
only stay in this place for a week or fortnight, but what if you had to
live here _always_, from year's end to year's end.  If you had to see
the meadows, and orchards, and sea, and the old grey house, and the
trees and sky--in short, all the fair landscape, not only in its summer
glory, but in its winter desolation, would not the country then appear a
little tiresome to you?  Might you not then find an occasional visit to
Cardiff, and an occasional ride across the fields, and a far from
occasional stay at home, slightly wearying, and might it not possibly
occur to you that yours was a dull life?  For this was my fate.  I had
always lived at Tynycymmer.  I had always seen the hills clothed with
trees in the distance; I had always watched the ripening fruit in the
orchards, and the ripening corn in the fields.  In short, I was a Welsh
girl who had never gone out of Wales in her life.  Never had I even seen
Gloucester, never had I set foot on English soil.

Circumstances too many to mention had conspired to thus isolate me.  I
had once paid a visit, when a little child, to North Wales, but all the
rest of my sixteen years had been spent with mother, at Tynycymmer, in
the county of Glamorganshire.  A rich country, a rambling, romantic old
home, a fair scene, where gentle care had tended me, this I
acknowledged, but I also knew that I was tired, weary, sick of it all.

With my absurdly dismal face gazing outward, I repeated the question to
myself, which nurse Gwen had refused to answer; "What is it to be buried
alive?"

The question had arisen in my mind from a paragraph in a local paper,
which I had seen to-day.

This paragraph was headed "_Buried alive_."

It contained an account of some colliers in a not very distant part of
Glamorganshire, who had been killed in a mining accident, truly buried
in their full health and strength by the sudden giving way of a column
of coal.

I had read the paragraph aloud to mother and David at breakfast.

I had seen David's face flush and then grow pale, had heard mother say,
"That place is not far from Ffynon; I am glad the accident did not
happen in our mine, David."

"Thank God! and it might have been," from David.

Then mother added--

"Things will mend in the old place soon, my son."

"I trust so," from David.

Then expressions of pity and sympathy from both pairs of lips, for the
injured and killed.

In this sympathy I had freely joined, for I was not hard-hearted; then I
had forgotten the circumstance.  The widows and children in the dismal
coal country might be weeping and mourning, but I, Gwladys Morgan, in my
fair home, in this fair land, had no room for them in my selfish heart.
In half an hour I had ceased to remember the paragraph in the _Hereford
Times_, all but its heading.  But the heading, as I said, haunted me; it
had another meaning besides going down into the bowels of the earth, and
finding its walls close round one, and feeling oneself shut into a
living tomb.  It had another meaning besides the palpable and material
horror of slow starvation and of coming madness.  Of these things I
could form no conception, but I could conceive of other things, and feel
them through and through my childish and inexperienced heart.  I
imagined another meaning to the words, and this meaning I hunted up and
pondered over, with a deeper and deeper melancholy, adding strength to
my gloom.

Having roused up the skeleton, I clothed it with flesh, I filled its
veins with warm young blood, I made its limbs fair and round, I gave to
its face the healthy hue of youth, I coloured its eyes blue, and its
hair a golden brown, and I called it, when I had given it life and
being, Gwladys Morgan.

I took this fair young person of my creation, and buried her in a living
tomb; true, the fresh air of heaven still blew upon her, the sun shone
over her head, and the flowers blossomed at her feet.  She could walk
through lovely gardens, she could watch the coming and going of the
fresh tide, on the fresh ocean, she could repose at night in the softest
of beds, in a spacious oak-lined room.  She could receive counsel and
love, from the kind and tender lips of mother and brother.  All this she
could have, but still she was in a tomb, and the name of the tomb was
Tynycymmer.  Her body was free, as far as the walls of her prison
allowed it, to roam, but her mind, with its noble aspirations, her soul,
which had conceived great and possible commissions of wide and
ever-widening usefulness, these were shut up in a tomb; in short, this
feeling, breathing creature, with her talents and her longings, was
buried alive.

Having consigned Gwladys to this fate, I went on to imagine the result.
She would struggle in vain for freedom, she would beat with her wings--
poor imprisoned bird--against her cage, she would pant and long for a
less confined air, for emancipation from her living grave, she would
suffer in uncomplaining silence, and then gradually, her mind would
recoil upon itself, her aspiring soul would cease to struggle, and
starved out with earth's hard fate, would soar to nobler worlds!--(here
my tears began to drop).

But I had not done yet; I imagined still further, and in all its
minutest details, the body's decay of this suffering creature.  How thin
and hollow, how pale and worn the once round and rosy cheeks would
become! what a pathetic and far-away look of sad yearning would enter
the blue eyes! how the curling hair would begin to grow!--I did not like
the idea of the hair growing thin, it was not poetical--had not nurse
Gwen a great bald division in her hair, a division clefting her raven
locks asunder, deep and wide as a potato ridge?  No, I substituted thin
locks for grey, and so completed the picture.

Over my completed picture I should assuredly have wept, had not, at this
opportune juncture, the blue eyes, which were certainly anything but dim
as yet, descried, bowling smoothly along the road, and making swift
advances to Tynycymmer, a little pony-carriage, driven by a pair of
hands, very well fitted for their present task, that of keeping two
spirited ponies in order.  Into the long, winding avenue the carriage
dashed, down the avenue it sped, and the next instant it had drawn up at
the front entrance, and a large, strongly-made man was helping a
delicate, stately woman to alight.  The strong man was my brother, the
woman was my mother.

Quick as lightning, I had left my seat in the nursery window, had
wreathed my face with smiles, had filled my heart with laughter, had,
for the time being, banished every trace of the ugly, bad dream in which
I had been indulging, had descended the stairs almost like an arrow from
its bow, had lifted mother bodily up the steps, and placed her amid my
own and David's laughter, in the old oak arm-chair, the family heirloom,
the undoubted gift of some old Arch-Druid ancestor, which stood in the
wide entrance hall.

"Well! mother, what an age you've been away!  Did you catch the first
train this morning?  Aren't you dreadfully tired?  What was it like, was
it glorious?  Were there crowds of people?  Did the Bishop preach?  Is
the music ringing in your ears?  Doesn't your head ache?  And oh! _did_
you get a new fashion for my blue silk gown?"

These questions I poured out, toppling them one over the other, down on
my knees the while, removing mother's boots, and encasing her dear,
pretty feet in a pair of warm, fur-lined slippers.

"I saw one or two nicely-dressed girls," began mother slowly, whereupon
I suspended my operations with her feet, and looked up with a face of
absorbed interest.

"And, Gwladys," said David, laying his hand on my shoulder, "you are to
come to-morrow, the Messiah is to be sung, and I will take you over."

"Oh! oh! oh!"  I exclaimed, beginning to dance about, but then observing
that mother was gazing at me a little sadly, I stopped short, and
exclaimed with a sudden burst of unselfishness--

"The pony-carriage only holds two; I don't want to take mother's place."

"No, my darling, I am tired, I should not care to go again to-morrow,
and I want you to hear the Messiah."

"We must start even earlier than to-day, Gwladys," continued David, as
he led the way to the supper-room.  "We nearly missed the train this
morning, and I have unfortunately failed to get reserved seats, but you
don't mind a crowd?"

"I _love_ a crowd," I answered energetically; looking and feeling, as I
spoke, a totally different creature from the sentimental being who had
gazed with dismal eyes from the nursery window, half an hour before.

"What kind of voice had Madame Edith Wynne, mother, and did you hear
Sims Reeves?"

"Sims Reeves did not sing to-day, but he will to-morrow in the Messiah,"
replied mother.

"And I shall be there to-morrow!"  I exclaimed again, then a sudden
thought darted through my brain, and I fell into a reverie.

In my great excitement and delight at the prospect of going to Hereford,
to the festival of the Three Choirs, I had forgotten something which now
returned to my memory with painful consciousness.  I had nothing to
wear.  My blue silk, my beautiful navy blue, mother's last present, was
still unmade, and my white dress was with the laundress.  My white
dress, though simple and childish, was new and tolerably fashionable,
and in no other could I think of appearing before the great and gay
world of Hereford, on this my first visit.

"Mother," I said, jumping from my seat, and upsetting a cup of hot tea
over Gyp the terrier, "I must go this very moment to speak to Nancy at
the lodge; she has got my frock, and she must iron it to-night."

Without waiting for a reply, I ran out of the room, and bonnetless and
hatless sped up the avenue.  The light autumn breeze tossed my curls
into wild confusion, my gay voice rose, humming a merry Welsh air.  Very
far away now were my gloomy thoughts, very like a child I felt, as I
walked on.  My mind was fully occupied with my promised treat, my dreams
were all rainbow tinted, my world all tinged with sunshine and glory.
The only cloud that shadowed the gay expanse of my firmament was the
possibility of my white dress not being ironed in time for me to wear.

CHAPTER TWO.

DAVID, I AM TIRED OF TYNYCYMMER.

When I reached the lodge, Nancy, a stout, red-faced Welsh woman, came
out to meet me, accompanied by a troupe of wild-looking children, who
stood round and stared with open eyes and mouths, for Miss Morgan of
Tynycymmer was a great person in their eyes.

"Is my white dress ready?  Nancy; I want to wear it to-morrow morning
early."

"Eh! dear, dear, Miss Gwladys," dropping a profound curtsey.  "Eh!
goodness me! yes, I'll h'iron it to-night, miss.  Get out of that, Tum,"
addressing her sturdy-limbed son, who had placed himself between his
mother and me.

"_I_ know what Tum wants," I said.  "Here, Tum, Dai, Maggie, catch!"

I threw some halfpence amongst the children, and turned away.

As I did so, two ladies came out of the lodge; one, a handsome dark-eyed
girl, a casual acquaintance of mine, came eagerly to my side.

"Now, Miss Morgan, I call this provoking; what right have you to go
away, just when I want to know you!"

"What do you mean?"  I asked, bluntly.

"You are going away from Tynycymmer?"

"Indeed we are not," I said.

"Well, but my mother heard it from--oh!  I forgot," blushing deeply and
looking confused.  "I was not to say.  Of course it is not the case, or
you would know--just idle gossip; I am sorry I mentioned it, but so glad
you are not going."

"Good-night," I said, holding out my hand.

I had retraced a few steps home, when my little friend ran after me.

"Please, please, Miss Morgan, you won't speak of this; I should get into
trouble, indeed."

"Oh, dear, no!"  I answered, lightly; "there is nothing to repeat.  Make
your mind easy."

The girl, satisfied, ran away, and I walked on.

But I was not so cool and unconcerned as she supposed her words had
excited me, her words had aroused both discontent and hope.  I forgot my
certain pleasure of to-morrow, in the bare possibility of a greater and
a wider pleasure, and as a moth round a candle, my thoughts fluttered
round the magic words, "You are going away."

Could they be true? could the gossip the girl had heard be correct?  How
certain she looked! how startled and frightened, when she found herself
mistaken.  And, little fool! she had made me promise not to betray her,
just too when I wanted to solve the mystery.  Oh, if only she might be
right! if only we might be going to leave this dull life, this stupid
country existence!  Could it be the case? gossip was often mistaken, but
seldom utterly without foundation.  I asked myself this question
tremblingly and eagerly.  Instantly I had a reply.  Sober reason started
to the forefront of all my faculties, and said--

"It is impossible; the girl has made a mistake; the gossip is false.
How could you leave Tynycymmer?  Is not David master here? does not the
place belong to David, as it did to his father before him? and do not he
and mother love every stone in the old house, every tree in the old
ground? would not the idea, the most distant idea, of going away break
their hearts?"

Yes, it was quite out of the question that mother and David could think
of leaving Tynycymmer.  But my little friend had said nothing about
mother and David, she had only whispered the delicious and soul-stirring
words, "_You_ are going away."

Perhaps I was going to school; perhaps some London cousins had asked me
to pay them a visit.  Oh! yes, this last thought must be right, and how
pleasant, how lovely, how charming that would be!  I should see the
Houses of Parliament, and Westminster, and visit the Parks, and the
Museums, and Madame Tussaud's.

Yes, certainly this was going to happen.  Mother had not told me yet,
which was a little strange, but perhaps she had heard it herself very
suddenly, and had met some friends, and had mentioned it to them.  Yes,
this must be the mystery, this must be the fire from whence the smoke of
Sybil's gossip came.  I felt it tingling from my throat down to my very
toes.  I was _not_ going to be buried alive.  So cruel a fate was not in
store for me.  I should see the world--the world of beauty, of romance,
of love, and all possible things might happen to me.  I skipped along
gaily.

David was smoking his pipe, and pacing up and down under some trees
which grew near the house.  The short September sun had set, but the
moon had got up, and in the little space of ground where my brother
walked, it was shedding a white light, and bringing into relief his
strongly marked features.

David's special characteristic was strength; he possessed strength of
body, and strength of--mind, I was going to say, but I shall substitute
the word soul.  His rugged features, his height, his muscular hands and
arms, all testified to his great physical powers.  And the repose on his
face, the calm gentleness and sweetness that shone in his keen, dark
eyes, and played round his firm lips, showed how strong his soul must
be--for David had known great trouble.

I mention his strength of character here, speaking of it first of all in
introducing him into my story, for the simple reason that when I saw him
standing under the trees, I perceived by the expression of his face,
that he was yielding to a most unusual emotion; he looked anxious, even
unhappy.  This I took in with a kind of side thought, to be recurred to
by and by, but at present I was too much excited about myself.  I walked
with him nearly every evening when he smoked, and now I went to my usual
place, and put my hand through his arm.  I longed to ask him if the
surmise, which was agitating my whole being, was correct, but by doing
this I should betray Sybil, and I must not even mention that I had seen
her.

"What bright cheeks, and what a happy face!" said David, looking at me
affectionately, "are you very glad to come to the Messiah with me?
little woman."

"Yes," I answered absently, for to-morrow's treat had sunk into
insignificance.  Then out it came with a great irrepressible burst,
"David, I am _longing_ to see London."

David, who knew nothing of my discontent, who imagined me to be, what I
always appeared to him, a child without the shadow of a care, or a
sorrow, without even the ghost of a longing outside my own peaceful
existence, answered in the tone of surprise which men can throw into
their voices when they are not quite comfortable.

"London, my dear Gwladys."

"Yes, why not?"

"Well, we don't live so very far away from London, you may see it some
day."

It was quite evident, by David's indifferent tone, that he knew nothing
of any immediate visit in store for me.  I bit my lips hard, and tried
to say nothing.  I am sure I should not have spoken but for his next
words.

"And in the meantime you can wait; you are very happy, are you not?"

"No, I am not.  I'm not a bit happy, David," and I burst into tears.

"What's this?" said David in astonishment.

"I am not happy," I repeated, now that the ice was broken, letting forth
some of my rebellious thoughts, "I'm so dull here, I do so want to live
a grand life."

"Tell me, dear, tell me all about it?" said David tenderly.  To judge
from the tone of his voice he seemed to be taking himself to task in
some strange way.  The love in his voice disarmed my anger, and I spoke
more gently.

"You see, David, 'tis just this, you and mother have got Tynycymmer, you
have the house, and the farm, and all the land, and, of course, you have
plenty to do on the land, riding about and seeing to the estate, and
keeping the tenants' houses in order, and 'tis very nice work, for 'tis
all your own property, and of course you love it; and mother, she has
the house to manage, and the schools to visit, but I, David, I have only
dull, stupid lessons.  I have nothing interesting to do, and oh!
sometimes I am so dull and so miserable, I feel just as if I was buried
alive, and I do so want to be unburied.  I have no companions.  I have
no one to speak to, and I do long to go away from here, and to see the
world."

"You would like to leave Tynycymmer!" said David.

"Yes, indeed, indeed I should.  I should dearly love to go out into the
world as Owen has done; I think Owen has such a grand life."

Here I paused, and finding that David did not reply, I ventured to look
into his face.  The expression of his silent face was peculiar; it
showed, though not a muscle moved, though not a feature stirred, the
presence of some very painful thought.  I could not believe that my
words had given birth to this thought, but I did consider it possible
that they might have called it into fuller being; quickly repentant I
began to apologise, or to try to apologise, the sting out of my words.

"You know, David, that you and mother are not like me, you both have
plenty to interest you here.  Mother has the schools, and, oh! a
thousand other things, and you have the place and the farm."

"And I have my little lad."

"Of course--I forgot baby."

"Yes, Gwladys," said David, rousing himself and shaking off his
depression, "I have my son, and he won't leave me, thank God.  I am
sorry you find your home dull, my dear.  I have always wanted you to
love it, there is no place like it on earth to me."

He took my hand very gently, and removed it from his arm, then walked
with great strides into the house.  His face and manner filled me with
an undefined sense of gloom and remorse.

I followed him like a guilty thing.  I would not even go into the
drawing-room to bid mother good-night, but went at once up to my own
room.  When I got there, I locked the door; this conversation had not
tended to raise my spirits.  As I sat on my bed, I felt very
uncomfortable.

What an old, old room it was, and all of oak, floor, walls, ceiling, all
highly-polished, and dark with the wear of age.  Other Gwladys Morgans
had carved their names on the shutters, and had laid down to rest on the
great four-post bedstead.  Other daughters of the house had stood in the
moonlight and watched the silent shining of the waves.  Had they too, in
their ignorance and folly, longed for the bustle and unrest of the great
wide world, had they, too, felt themselves buried alive at Tynycymmer?
With David's face in my memory, I did not like these thoughts.  I would
banish them.  I opened a door which divided my room from the nursery,
and went noisily in.  What an awkward girl I was!  I could do nothing
like any one else; every door I opened, shut again with a bang, every
board my foot pressed, creaked with a sharp note of vengeance.  Had
nurse Gwen been in the nursery, what a scolding I should have merited,
but nurse Gwen was absent, and in the moonlit room I advanced and bent
over a little child's cot.  In the cot lay a boy of between one and two,
a rosy, handsome boy, with sturdy limbs, and great dark-fringed eyes; he
was sleeping peacefully, and smiling in his sleep; one little fat hand
grasped a curly, woolly toy dog, the other was flung outside the
bedclothes; his little pink toes were also bare.  With undefined pain
still in my heart, and David's face vividly before me, I bent down and
kissed the child.  I kissed him passionately, forgetting his peculiar
sensitiveness to touch.  He started from his light slumbers with a
shrill baby cry, his dark eyes opened wide.  I took him out of his crib,
and paced up and down with him.  For a wonder I managed to soothe him,
skilfully addressing him in my softest tones, rubbing my forehead
against his soft cheek, and patting his back.  The moon had left this
side of the house, and the room was in complete shadow, but I did not
think of lighting a candle, for to the child in my arms the darkness was
too dense for any earthly candle to remove; he was David's little lad,
and he was blind.

CHAPTER THREE.

SOME DAY, YOU WILL SEE THAT HE IS NOBLE.

I have said that David's great characteristic was strength, but by this
I do not at all mean to imply that he was clever.  No one ever yet had
called David clever.  When at school he had won only second or third
class prizes, and at Oxford very few honours had come in his way.

He had a low opinion of his own abilities, and considered himself a
rather stupid, lumbering kind of fellow, not put into the world to make
a commotion, but simply, as far as in him lay, to do his duty.

David was never known to lecture any one; he never, in the whole course
of his life, gave a piece of gratuitous advice; he could and did advise
when his advice was directly demanded, but he was diffident of his own
opinion, and did not consider it worth a great deal.  To the sinners he
was always intensely pitiful, and so gentle and sorrowful over the
erring, that many people must have supposed he knew all about their
weaknesses, and must once have been the blackest of black sheep himself.

No, David possessed none of the characteristics of genius; he was
neither clever nor ambitious.  To be in all men's mouths, and spoken
highly of by the world, would not have suited him at all; he cared, we
some of us thought, almost too little for man's opinion, and I have even
on one occasion heard Owen call him poor-spirited.

But all the same, I am not wrong in saying that David's great, and
grand, and distinguishing characteristic was strength.  He possessed
strength of body, soul, and spirit, to a remarkable degree.  Long ago,
in the past ages, there were men of our house, men who ate roast beef,
and quaffed beer and cider, and knew nothing of the weak effeminacy of
tea and coffee; these were the men who would laugh at a nerve ache, who
possessed iron frames, and were of goodly stature.  Of course we
degenerated since then, our lives became less simple, and more
luxurious, and our men and women in their paler cheeks and slighter
frames, and bodies capable of feeling bodily suffering, bore witness to
the change.

But David was a Morgan of the old race--tall, upright, broad, with
massive features, neither handsome nor graceful, but strong as a lion.
He had never in his life known an ache, or a day's serious illness.
When Owen and I suffered so much with the measles, David did not even
stay in bed; so also with whooping-cough, so also with all other
childish maladies.  He caught them of course, but they passed over him
lightly as a summer breeze, never once ruffling his brow, or taking the
colour from his cheek.  Yes, David was strong in body, and he was also
strong in mind; without possessing talent, he had what was better,
sense; he knew which path was the wisest to tread in, which course of
action would lead, not to the happiest, but to the best result.  His
mind was of that calm and rare order, which decides quickly, and once
for all; he was never troubled with indecision, and he never asked of
others, "What shall I do here?  There is a lion in my path at this
juncture, how shall I overcome him?"  No, he slew his own lions, and in
a silent warfare, which gave no token of the tears and blood expended by
the victorious warrior.

But the strongest part of David, that which made him the man he was, was
his soul; and here, he had asked for and obtained, the aid of a higher
Power.

His was the sort of character that never could have got on without the
conscious presence of a God.  His soul must be anchored upon some rock
which would balance the whole equilibrium of a grand but simple nature.

His faith was primitive, and undisturbed by modern doubts.  He took the
commandments of God in their obvious and literal meaning, he believed
what the apostle said when he told men to "pray without ceasing;" he
hearkened to him again, when he entreated men to "search the
Scriptures;" he was a man of few rather than of many words, but he
always found some to cry to God with; he cared very little for books,
but he read his Bible daily.  Thus his views of life were clear and
unclouded.  He was put into the world to do his duty.  His duty was to
love God better than, and his neighbour as well as, himself.  This
simple rule of action comprises much, and here David acted right nobly,
and proved the strength of his soul.  And he was early tried, for our
father died when he was twelve years old, and then the most obvious part
of the duty which stared him in the face lay in the text, "Bear ye one
another's burdens."  This was one of David's plainest and earliest
duties; a duty which he performed humbly, hardly knowing that he
performed it at all.  Others leant upon him, and he bore their burdens,
so fulfilling the law of Christ.

I think I may truly say of David, that he was the most self-sacrificing
man I ever met.

But for all that, for all his gentleness, his kindness, his affection,
he was not my favourite brother, nor was he my mother's favourite son.

I remember an early incident which revealed this fact in my mother's
heart, and perhaps unduly biassed my own.

I was standing, shortly after my father's death, in the deep recess of
the nursery window--I was standing there watching David and Owen, both
home for their holidays, pacing up and down on the gravel sweep in front
of the house.  David was very strong, and showed his superior strength
in his great size even then, but Owen was very beautiful.  David was
stout and clumsy, Owen slightly made and graceful.  As I watched them,
mother came behind me, put her arms round my tiny waist, kissed my brow,
and whispered as she looked at the two lads--

"My noble boy!"

"Which? mother," I asked.

"My Owen," replied mother.

I opened my eyes very wide, gazed again with new wisdom at the boys,
perceived the superior beauty of the one, worshipped the beauty, and
from this time I loved Owen best.

And Owen was very lovable, Owen was beautiful, brilliant, gay, with
lofty ambitions, and versatile showy talents.  If his affections wanted
depth, they never wanted outward warmth.  His smile was a thing to
remember, his caress was worth waiting six months to obtain.  How well I
remember those summer holidays, when he flashed like the sunshine into
the dull old house, when his whistle and gay laugh sounded from parlour
to cellar.  When Owen was at home, Tynycymmer was the happiest place in
the world to me; then mother put on her best gowns, and wore her most
festive air, then my lessons, always scant and desultory, were thrown to
the four winds, and I was allowed unbridled liberty.  What fishing
expeditions we made all round the coast! how daring were our exploits!

I was much younger than my brothers, but the brothers were always gentle
to the only little sister--both the brothers--but while I oftenest rode
on David's broad shoulder, I received most caresses and most loving
words from Owen, so I loved Owen best.  So too with mother, she thought
very highly of that broad-shouldered, plain-faced, sensible lad, who was
so ready to fly at her slightest bidding, so anxious to execute her
smallest command.  She said over and over again that David was the best
boy that widowed mother ever possessed, and that he was the comfort of
her life.  But her eye never brightened at his approach, as it did when
Owen came and sat by her side; to David she gave her approval, but to
Owen she gave of the fulness of her mother's love.

He was an exacting boy, and from those who gave much, he demanded more.

Though David was the eldest and the heir, Owen had double his allowance
of pocket money when at school; but then Owen was delicate, fastidious,
refined; he needed small indulgences, that would have been wasted on
David's coarser strength.  He was taught accomplishments, for he was an
inborn artist, and his musical ear was fine.  At Oxford he entered an
expensive and learned college, but then his intellect was of the first
order.  For every indulgence he demanded, an excuse was found; and for
every granted indulgence, he was only loved the more.

To the worship of his women folks, Owen returned an easy, nonchalant
regard; but David he loved, to David he gave his strongest and deepest
affection.  And yet David was the only one who opposed him, the only one
who was not carried away by his fascinations, the only one who read him
aright; and some of the heaviest burdens of David's youth, had been
borne because of, and through Owen.  I heard it dimly whispered, first
in the early college days, something about Owen and his wild oats.  It
came to me through the servants, and I did not know what it meant.  I
was an innocent country child, I had never even read a novel.  Owen was
sowing his wild oats.  I remember puzzling over the phrased I should
have forgotten what was to me so meaningless an expression, but for some
events that happened about the same time.  Mother got some letters,
which she would not show to me, which she carried away to her own room
to read, returning to my presence, some time after, with her eyes red
with weeping.  Then there was a visit from a man, a lawyer, nurse Gwen
informed me, who brought with him piles of papers, and was closeted with
mother for the best part of a day; and soon after, most wonderful of
all, David came home suddenly, in the middle of the term, came home
without Owen, and I was informed that Owen had gone abroad for a time,
and that David was not going back to Oxford any more.  David settled
down quietly at home, without taking his degree, and his coming of age,
which took place a couple of months after, was let pass without any
celebration.  This made a deep impression on me, for we four, mother,
David, Owen, and I, had so often spoken of it, and of the grand things
that should then be done.  Never a Morgan had come of age yet, without
oxen being roasted whole, without beer and cider flowing freely, without
dancing and festivity.  But this Morgan stepped into his honours
quietly; the day unnoticed, except by an extra kiss from mother and
sister, his brother far away, his own brow thoughtful, and already
slightly careworn.

The tenants were angry, and voted him stingy--close--an unworthy son of
the ancient race, no true chip of the old block, and fresh signs of what
they considered closeness and nearness, were soon forthcoming.  Several
servants, amongst them the housekeeper, were dismissed, the
establishment was put upon a smaller scale, a humble pony phaeton was
substituted for the old and time-honoured family coach.  I was twelve
years old at that time, a good deal with nurse Gwen, and many words,
unmeant for my ears, were heard by me.  The substance of them all lay in
this remark--

"If the young master gave the tenants any more of his closeness, he
would be the least popular Squire Morgan who ever lived at Tynycymmer!"

Indignant, and with tears in my eyes, I sought David, told him what I
had heard, and demanded an explanation.

"There is nothing to explain, dear," he replied.  "We have lost some
money, and are obliged to retrench for a bit.  But don't repeat the
servants' foolish talk to the mother, Gwladys, 'twill only pain her."

After this, we settled down very quietly, no fresh event occurring for
some time.  David went more and more amongst the people, acquainting
himself with every man, woman, and child on the estate, winning his way
just in the most natural way into their hearts, learning all about their
private history, finding out exactly where the shoe pinched John Thomas,
and where Thomas John's sorest trouble lay, until gradually I heard
nothing more of his stinginess, but much of his love, and when he took
the babies in his arms, and called the tiny children by their names, the
mothers prayed God to bless the young squire with a fervour they had
never used for the old.

This took place very naturally, and mother's face began to grow
contented and happy.  Still, Owen never came home; he was spoken of
lovingly, hopefully, but neither mother nor David mentioned his return,
and I grew tired of asking questions on this subject, and tired of
wishing him back.  I dreamed dreams of him instead, and imagined with
pride the great deeds he must be doing, and the glory he must be
winning.  So far away, so little mentioned, his return so indefinite, he
became clothed with a halo of romance to me.  My love grew in intensity,
and I magnified my beautiful and gifted brother into a hero.  It was
just then David's great joy, and also his great trouble, came to him.

We Morgans of Tynycymmer were very proud.  Why not? we were poor, old,
and Welsh--quite enough to account for any haughtiness we might assume.
We believed ourselves to be, if not the direct descendants, at least a
collateral branch of that Morgan, son of Leir, some time a king of this
land, after whom this county was named.  There was a time when to be a
true Morgan, of Glamorganshire, meant more to its happy possessor than
many a higher sounding title.  Of course that time and its glory had
passed away, years had deprived us of more than the old stout hearts of
our ancient ancestors; our gold had also taken to itself wings, our grey
and ivy-covered home had fallen, much of it, into ruins, and our broad
and goodly acres passed into the unloving hands of strangers.  Still,
firmly as the limpet to the rock, the poorer we grew, the more did we
attach ourselves to the wild old Welsh country.  Each squire of
Tynycymmer bringing home, in his turn, a bride who often possessed
neither money nor beauty; but always something else, without which she
could never have married a Morgan of our house--she had pure, untainted
Welsh blood in her veins.  None of the Morgans were so foolish, so
unfaithful to the old stock, as to marry an English woman; if our gold
was scant, our blood at least was pure.  So we went on, each fresh
master of Tynycymmer a little poorer than his father, when suddenly and
unexpectedly a chance came in our way.  There was born into the world, a
Morgan either more sensible or more lucky than his progenitors; a Morgan
who, going abroad to seek a bride, brought home one who not only could
boast of blue Welsh blood, but had also beauty and a fortune.  This
lucky Morgan was my father, his rich and lovely bride my mother.

Esther Williams was the daughter of a Glamorganshire man.  Her father
possessed, at the other side of the county, a fine extent of coal
country, and a very large fortune was he able to bestow upon his only
child.  The fortune consisted of some coalfields, and with the rental
from these my father was able to restore Tynycymmer to much of its
ancient splendour.  My mother's family was not so old as ours, but being
true Welsh, and having beauty and a fortune, this fact was graciously
overlooked by us, and we condescended to use her money to our own
aggrandisement.  I have said that we were a proud family--but of us all,
there was none who so upheld the family traditions, and who so rejoiced
in the family honour, as the one who was herself only a Morgan by
marriage, my mother.

Of the days when she was only Esther Williams, she never cared to speak;
her money was never "her money," but the "Morgans' money."  Money that
brought fresh glory to the old house, was honoured indeed--she regarded
herself individually, as a humble instrument destined to do much good--
for herself, her appearance, her character, she felt little pride or
satisfaction; but for the sake of the name given to her by her husband,
she would indeed walk with stately mien, and uphold her dignity to the
last; and well she could do it, for though a little woman, she was
singularly dignified and graceful-looking, and was, in short, every inch
worthy of the high position she believed herself to have attained.  She
possessed the dark eyes and raven locks of the true Welsh woman.  How I
came to be fair-haired and blue-eyed remained a mystery, and was
reckoned rather a disgrace.  When a tiny child, Gwen had impressed this
fact upon me, and I remember blushing and looking distressed, when fair
people were mentioned.  Yes, my mother was a beautiful woman; I have a
vivid memory of her, as she looked in my father's lifetime, dressed in
the time-honoured black velvet, the old jewels flashing in her hair, as
bending down her haughty dark face, until it touched my fair one, she
filled my greedy and receptive little brain with the ancient stories of
our house.

I heard of the ghosts and the deeds of vengeance from Gwen, of the
fairies and deeds of glory from mother.

Yes, my mother was very beautiful, and with the exception of two specks
in the fair fruit of her heart, the best woman I know.  How loving she
was, how tender, how strong, how brave!  But the specks marred the full
perfection: one speck was her pride, the other her unjust preference for
Owen.  At the time of which I write, I did not consider this preference
unjust, for I too loved Owen best, but even then I had felt the full
power of her pride.  I mention it here in order to make David's sorrow
and David's joy more fully understood.

Those retrenchments which took place when David came of age, were no
small sorrow to mother.  When the housekeeper went away, and many of the
servants were dismissed, when the old coach was not sold, but put out of
sight in some unused coach-house, when the horses were parted with to
the highest bidder;--mother felt pain, though of her feelings she never
spoke, and to their expression she gave no vent; her pride was hurt by
this lowering of the Morgans' importance, but her very pride was its own
shield in preventing its betrayal, and _she_ knew then, though I did
not, why these things were done.  But a year later, that pride received
another blow.  I remember the beginning of it.  The postman brought to
us a letter.  I say to _us_, for all our letters, with the exception of
those few received when David returned so suddenly from Oxford, were
public property.  This letter contained news.  A distant cousin of
mother's had died in London; had died and left one orphan daughter quite
unprovided for.  This cousin was a Williams, but though calling himself
by the well-known Welsh name, was no true Welshman: his family had long
ago settled in England, had married English wives, and had become, in
mother's opinion, nobodies.  The unprovided daughter had not written
herself, knew nothing indeed about the letter, but a friend of hers in
despair how best to help her, had ventured to inform Mrs Morgan of
Tynycymmer, that her cousin's child was a pauper.

"Have her here on a visit," said David, promptly.

Mother, her heart full of sorrow and pity for the lonely girl, assented
at once.  Amy Williams was invited and came.

And now came mother's trouble and the shock to her pride, for David fell
in love with the penniless English girl.

I am not surprised at it, and looking back on it now, I am glad.  Amy
was the only person I ever met who understood David, and who appreciated
him.  I am glad for his sake, and hers, that they had one short happy
year together.  For however tender and considerate David was with
mother, on this point he was firm; he thought more of Amy's happiness
than mother's pride, and he married Amy though mother opposed it
bitterly.  Of course I did not hear a great deal about it.  I was very
young, only fourteen, at the time, and mother ever kept her feelings
well under control, and not one of the servants even guessed how much
she disapproved of this marriage; but I remember on David's and Amy's
wedding-day, running in to mother to show her my white muslin
bride's-maid's dress, and mother kissing me, and then saying, with
concentrated bitterness, "Had Owen been the eldest son, whatever his
faults, he would never have given me the pain David has done to-day."

Fond and proud as I was of Owen, I did not quite like mother to say that
of David on his wedding-day.  Well, he and Amy were married; they spent
a week in North Wales, another week in London, and then came home.
Mother wanted to transfer the reins of authority into Amy's hands, but
Amy would not take them; she was the meekest little thing I ever knew,
she was quite too meek to please me.  I never got to know her, I never
really cared for her; but she suited our David, and he suited her.  His
presence was to her as the sun to the flower, and truly he was a great
sun for the little fragile thing to bask in.  I am sure she had a great
deal in her which David alone could draw out, for after talking to her
he always looked happy, his whole face in a glow.  Looking back on it
now, I can recall nothing brighter than David's face during that year.
I have said that Amy was meek, I never remember her showing any spirit
but once, but that occasion I shall not quickly forget.  She and I were
sitting together in the arbour overhanging the sea.  She was not very
well, and was lying back in a little wicker chair, and I was seated at
her feet, arranging different coloured sea weeds.  As I worked, I talked
of Owen.  I did not mean it in the least, but as I spoke of my favourite
brother, of his beauty and talent, I unconsciously used David as a foil
to show him off by.  I was speaking more to myself than to Amy.  I was
not thinking of her at all.

Suddenly she started to her feet, her pale face grew crimson, her soft
brown eyes flashed angrily.

"Gwladys," she said, "little as you think of David now, some day you
will see that he is a nobler man than a thousand of your Owens."

"How can you speak so, when you don't know Owen," I retorted, the hot
blood of the Morgans flying into my cheeks at this unexpected show of
spirit.

"I know David," she replied, and she burst into tears.

Poor little Amy! that night a son was born to her and David, and that
night she died.

Perhaps had mother and I understood Amy, and cared for her more, David
might have told us something of the sorrow which followed quickly on his
joy.  Most of the time between Amy's death and her funeral, he spent in
her room.  After the funeral he went away for a week; he told neither
mother nor me where he was going! we never heard how or in what part of
the world he spent that week; on his return he never mentioned the
subject.  But his face, which on the day of Amy's funeral was convulsed
with agony, was after that short absence peaceful, and, I say it without
expecting to be misunderstood, even happy.

It was about this time I really noticed what a religious man my brother
was.  With all his want of talent, he knew the Bible very well, and I
think he was well acquainted with God.  It must have been God who gave
him power to act as he did now, for if ever a man truly loved a woman,
he loved Amy; but he never showed his sorrow to mother and me; he never
appeared before us with a gloomy brow.  After a time even, his face
awoke into that pathetic joy which follows the right reception of a
great sorrow.

I _did_ once see him, when he thought no one was by, dropping great
tears over the baby.

"My boy, my little motherless lad," I heard him say.

I longed to go up and comfort him; I longed to tell him that I cared for
Amy now, but I did not dare.  Mother, too, who had not loved her in
life, could not speak of her in death.  So David could only tell his
sorrow to God, and God comforted and heard him, and the baby grew,
healthy, handsome, strong, worthy in his beauty and his strength of the
proudest Morgan of the race, and David loved him; but, alas! the little
lad was blind.

CHAPTER FOUR.

OWEN IS COMING HOME.

I managed to hush little David into a sound sleep, before Gwen returned
from her supper in the old servants' hall.  When I had done so, I went
back to my room and undressed quickly, hoping much that I too would soon
sink into slumber, for I was in that semi-frightened and semi-excited
condition, when Gwen's stories about the Green Lady--our Welsh Banshee--
and other ghostly legends, would come popping under my eyelids, and
forcing me to look about the room with undefined uneasiness.  I did
sleep soundly, however; and in the morning the brilliant sunshine, the
dancing waves which I could even see from my bed, put all my
uncomfortable fears to rest.  To-day I was to visit Hereford, for the
first time to set my foot on English soil.  Laid out on a chair close
by, lay my clean white muslin dress.  I must get up at once, for we were
to start early, the distance from our part of Glamorganshire to Hereford
being very considerable.  I rose and approached the window with a
dancing step; the day was perfection, a few feathery clouds floated here
and there in the clear blue of the sky, the sea quivered in thousands of
jubilant silver waves, the trees crimsoned into all the fulness of their
autumnal beauty.  My heart responded to the brightness of the morning;
ages back lay the ugly dreams and discontented thoughts of yesterday.  I
was no longer enduring the slow torture of a death-in-life existence.  I
was breathing the free air of a world full of love, glory, happiness.
In short, I was a gay girl of sixteen, going out for a holiday.  I put
on my white dress.  I tied blue ribbon wherever blue ribbon could be
tied.  I had never worn a bonnet in my life, so I perched a broad white
hat over my clustering fair curls, made a few grimaces at myself in the
glass, for reflecting back a pink and white and blue-eyed image, instead
of the proper dark splendour of the true Morgans; consoled myself with
the thought that even blue eyes could take in the beauties of Hereford,
and ears protected by a fair skin, could yet communicate to the soul
some musical joys.  I danced downstairs, kissed mother and David
rapturously, trod on Gyp's tail, but was too much excited, and too
impatient, to pat him or beg his pardon; found, under existing
circumstances, the eating of a commonplace ordinary breakfast, a feat
wholly impossible; seated myself in the pony-carriage full ten minutes
before it started; jumped out again, at the risk of breaking my neck, to
adorn the ponies' heads with a few of the last summer roses; stuck a
splendid crimson bud into my own belt; hurried David off some minutes
too soon for the train; forgot to kiss mother, and blew a few of those
delightful salutes vigorously at her instead; finally, started with a
full clear hurrah, coming from a pair of very healthy lungs, prompted by
a heart filled, brimming over, leaping up with irrepressible joy.  Oh!
that summer morning!  Oh! that young and happy heart!  Could I have
guessed then, what almost all men have to learn, that not under the
cloudless sky, not by the summer sea, but with the pitiless rain
dropping, and the angry waves leaping high, and threatening to engulf
all that life holds dearest, have most of God's creation to find their
Creator?  Could I have guessed that on this summer day the first tiny
cloud was to appear, faint as the speck of a man's hand, which was to
show me, in the awful gloom of sorrow, the face of my God?

From my fancied woes, I was to plunge into the stern reality, and it was
all to begin to-day.  When we got into the train, and were whirling away
in the direction of that border county, which was to represent England
to me, my excitement had so far toned down as to allow me to observe
David, and David's face gave to my sensations a feeling scarcely of
uneasiness, but scarcely, either, of added joy.  Any one who did not
know him intimately, would have said what a happy, genial-looking man my
brother was.  Not a wrinkle showed on his broad forehead, and no shadow
lurked in his kind eyes; but I, who knew him, recognised an expression
which had come into his face once or twice, but was hardly habitual to
it.  I could not have told, on that summer morning, what the expression
meant, or what it testified.  I could not have read it in my childish
joy; but now, in the sober light of memory, I recall David's face as it
looked on that September day, and in the knowledge born of my sorrow, I
can tell something of its story.

My brother had looked like this twice before--once on his unexpected
return from Oxford; once, more strongly, when Amy died.  The look on
David's face to-day, was the look born of a resolution--the resolution
of a strong man to do his duty, at the risk of personal pain.  As I
said, I read nothing of this at the time; but his face touched me.  I
remembered that I had rather pained him last night.  We had the carriage
to ourselves.  I bent forward and kissed him; tossed my hat off, and
laid my head against his breast.  In this attitude, I raised to him the
happiest of faces, and spoke the happiest of words.

"David, the world is just delicious, and I do love you."

David, a man of few words, responded with a smile, and his invariable
expression--

"That's right, little woman."

After a time, he began to speak of the festival.

He had been at the last celebration of the Three Choirs at Hereford.  He
told me a few of his sensations then, and also something of what he felt
yesterday; he had a true Welshman's love of music, and he spoke
enthusiastically.

"Yes, Gwladys, it lifts one up," he said, in conclusion, "I'd like to
listen to those choirs in the old cathedral, or go to the top of the
Brecon--'tis much the same, the sensation, I mean--they both lift one
into finer air.  And what a grand thing that is, little woman," he
added, "I mean when anything lifts us right out of ourselves.  I mean
when we cease to look down at our feet, and cease to look for ever at
our own poor sorrows, and gaze right straight away from them all into
the face of God."

"Yes," I said, in a puzzled voice, for of course I knew nothing of these
sensations; then, still in my childish manner, "I expect to enjoy it
beyond anything; for you know, David, I have never been in any cathedral
except Llandaff, and I have never heard the `Messiah.'"

"Well, my dear, you will enjoy it to-day; but more the second time, I
doubt not."

"Why?  David."

"Because there are depths in it, which life must teach you to
understand."

"But, dear David, I often have had _such_ sad thoughts."

"Poor child!" a touch of his hand on my head, then no more words from
either of us.

Just before we reached Hereford, as I was drawing on my long white
gloves, which I had thrown aside as an unpleasant restraint during the
journey, David said one thing more, "When the service is over, Gwladys,
we will walk round the Close, if you don't mind, for I have got
something I want to tell you."

It darted into my head, at these words, that perhaps I was going to
London after all.  The thought remained for only an instant, it was
quickly crowded out, with the host of new sensations which all
compressed themselves into the next few hours.

No, I shall never forget it, when I have grey hairs I shall remember it.
I may marry some day, and have children, and then again grandchildren,
and I shall ever reserve as one of the sweetest, rarest stories, the
kind of story one tells to a little sick child, or whispers on Sunday
evenings, what I felt when I first listened to Handel's "Messiah."
David had said that I should care more for it the second time.  This was
possible, for my feelings now were hardly those of pleasure, even to-day
depths were stirred within me, which must respond with a tension akin to
pain.  I had been in a light and holiday mood, my gay heart was all in
the sunshine of a butterfly and unawakened existence; and the music,
while it aroused me, brought with it a sense of shadow, of oppression
which mingled with my joy.  Heaven ceased to be a myth, an uncertain
possibility, as I listened to the full burst of the choruses, or held my
breath as one single voice floated through the air in quivering notes of
sweetness.  What had I thought, hitherto, of Jesus Christ?  I had given
to His history an intellectual belief.  I had assented to the fact that
He had borne my sins, and "The Lord had laid on Him the iniquity of us
all;" but with the ponderous notes of the heavy music, came the crushing
knowledge that _my_ iniquities had added to His sorrows, and helped to
make Him acquainted with grief.  I was in no sense a religious girl; but
when "Come unto Him, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and He will
give you rest," reached my ears, I felt vibrating through my heart
strings, the certainty that some day I should need this rest.  "Take His
yoke upon you, and learn of Him."

"His yoke is easy, and His burden is light."  I looked at David, the
book had fallen from his hands, his fine face was full of a kind of
radiance, and the burden which had taken from him Amy, and the yoke
which bade him resign his own will and deny himself, seemed to be borne
with a sense of rejoicing which testified to the truth of how lightly
even heavy sorrow can sit on a man, when with it God gives him rest.

The opening words, "Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God,"
would bring their own message at a not very distant day; but now they
only spoke to me, something as a mother addresses a too happy, too
wildly-exultant child, when she says in her tenderest tones, "Come and
rest here in my arms for a little while, between your play."  Yes, I was
only a child as yet, at play with life; but the music awoke in me the
possible future, the possible working day, the possible time of rain,
the possible storm, the possible need of a shelter from its blast.  To
heighten the effect of the music, came the effect of the cathedral
itself.  It is not a very beautiful English cathedral, but it was the
first I had seen.  Having never revelled in the glories of Westminster,
I could appreciate the old grey walls of Hereford; and what man had done
in the form of column and pillar, of transept and roof, the sun touched
into fulness of life and colouring to-day.  The grey walls had many
coloured reflections from the painted windows, the grand old nave lay in
a flood of light, and golden gleams penetrated into dusky corners, and
brought into strong relief the symmetry and beauty of aisle and
transept, triforium and clerestory.  I mention all this--I try to touch
it up with the colour with which it filled my own mind--because in the
old cathedral of Hereford I left behind me the golden, unconsciously
happy existence of childhood; because I, Gwladys, when I stepped outside
into the Cathedral Close, and put my white-gloved hand inside David's
arm, and looked up expectantly into David's face, was about to taste my
first cup of life's sorrow.  I was never again to be an unconscious
child, fretting over imaginary griefs, and exulting in imaginary
delights.

"Gwladys," said David, looking down at me, and speaking slowly, as
though the words gave him pain, "Owen is coming home."

CHAPTER FIVE.

WHY DID YOU HESITATE?

Let no one suppose that in their delivery these words brought with them
sorrow.  I had been walking with my usual dancing motion, and it is
true, that when David spoke, I stood still, faced round, and gazed at
him earnestly, it is also true that the colour left my cheeks, and my
eyes filled with tears, but my emotions were pleasurable, my tears were
tears of joy.

Owen coming home!

Nobody quite knew how I loved Owen, how _my_ heart had longed for him,
how many castles in the air I had built, with him for their hero.

In all possible and impossible dreams of my own future, Owen had figured
as the grand central thought.  Owen would show me the world, Owen would
let me live with him.  He had promised me this when I was a little
child, and he was a fine noble-looking youth, and I had believed him, I
believed him still.  I had longed and yearned for him, I had never
forgotten him.  My love for my good and sober brother David was very
calm and sisterly, but my love for Owen was the romance of my existence.
And now he was coming home, crowned with laurels, doubtless.  For he
had been away so long, he had left us so suddenly and mysteriously, that
only could his absence be accounted for by supposing that my beautiful
and noble brother had gone on some very great, and important, and
dangerous mission, from which he would return now, crowned with honour
and glory.

"Oh, David!"  I exclaimed, when I could find my voice, "is it true?  How
very, very happy I am."

"Yes, Gwladys," replied David, "it is true; but let us walk up and down
this path, it is quite quiet here, and I have a story to tell you about
Owen."

"How glad I am," I repeated, "I love him more than any one, and I quite
knew how it would be, I always guessed it, I knew he would come back
covered with glory.  Yes, David, go on, tell me quickly, what did my
darling do?"

I was rather impatient, and I wondered why David did not reply more
joyfully, why, indeed, at first he did not speak at all.  I could see no
reason for his silence, the crowds of men and women who had filled the
cathedral had dispersed, had wandered to hotels for refreshment, or gone
to explore, if strangers, the beauties and antiquities the old town
possessed.  There was no one to molest or disturb us, as we walked up
and down in this quiet part of the Close.

"Well, David," I said, "go on, tell me about my darling."

"Yes," said David, "I will tell you, but I have got something else to
say first."

"What?"  I asked, impatiently.

"This; you have made a mistake about Owen, you imagine him to be what he
is not."

"What do I imagine him to be?"  I asked, angrily, for David's tone put
into my heart the falsest idea it ever entertained--namely, that he was
jealous of my greater love for Owen.

"What do I imagine?"  I asked.

"You imagine that Owen is a hero.  Now, Gwladys, you cannot love Owen
too much, nor ever show your love to him too much, but you can do him no
good whatever, if you start with a false idea of him."

I was silent, too amazed at these words to reply at once.

"I tell you this, Gwladys," continued David, "because I really believe
it is in your power to help Owen.  Nay, more, I want you to help him."

Still I said nothing, the idea suggested by David's words might be
flattering, but it was too startling to be taken in its full
significance at first.  What did it mean?  In all my dreams of Owen I
had never contemplated his requiring help from me; but David had said
that my ideas were false, my dreams mistaken.  I woke up into full and
excited listening, at his next words.

"And now I mean to tell you why you have not seen Owen for so long--why
he has been away from us all these years."

"Four years, now," I said.  "Yes, David, I have often wondered why you
gave me no reason for his long, long absence.  I said nothing, but I
felt it a good bit--I did indeed."

"It was a story you could hardly hear when you were a little child.
Even now I only tell it to you because of Owen's unlooked-for and
unexpected return; because, as I say, I want you to help Owen; but even
now I shall only tell you its outline."

"David, you speak of Owen's return as if you were not glad--as if it
were not quite the happiest news in the world."

"It is not that, my dear."

"But why?  Do you not love him?"

"Most truly I love him."

"Well, what is the story?  How mysterious you are!"

"Yes, I am glad," continued David, speaking more to himself than to me.
"I suppose I ought to be _quite_ glad--to have no distrust.  How
faithless Amy would call me!"

When he mentioned Amy, I knew he had forgotten my presence--the name
made me patient.  I waited quietly for his next remark.

As I have said, he was a man of few words.  His ideas moved slowly, and
his language hardly came fluently.

"There are two kinds of love," he began, still in his indirect way.
"There is the love that thinks the object it loves perfection, and will
see no fault in it."

"Yes," I interrupted, enthusiastically; "I know of that love--it is the
only kind worth having."

"I cannot agree with you, dear.  That love may be deep and intense, but
it is not great.  There is a love which sees faults in the object of its
love, but loves on through all.  Such--"

"Such love I should not care for," I interrupted.

"Such love I could not live without, Gwladys.  Such is the Divine love."

"But God's love is not like ours," I said.

"No, dear; and I have only made the remark to justify myself--for,
Gwladys, I have loved Owen through his faults."

I started impatiently; but David had now launched on his tale, and would
not be interrupted.

"Yes," he continued, "I loved and love Owen through his faults.  I know
that mother thought him perfect, and so did you.  I am not surprised at
either of your feelings with regard to him--he was undoubtedly very
brilliant, and on the surface, Gwladys, you might almost have said that
so noble a form must have held a noble soul.  I do not say this will
_never_ be so; but this was not so when you knew him last."

I would have spoken again, but David laid his hand on my arm, to silence
me.

"He had much of good in him; but he was not noble; he had one great
weakness--pleasure was dearer to him than duty.  Even when a little lad
he would leave his tasks unlearned, to play for half an hour longer with
you; this was a small thing, but it grew, Gwladys--it grew.  And he had
great temptations.  It was much harder for him to do the right than for
me; he was so brilliant--so--so, not clever--but so ready-witted.  He
was a great favourite in society, and society brought with it heaps of
temptations.  He struggled against the temptations, but he did not
struggle hard enough; and his natural weakness, his great love for
pleasure, grew on the food he gave it.

"We were in different colleges, and did not see each other every day.
He made some friends whose characters--well, they were not men he ought
to know.  I spoke to him about this; poor fellow! it has lain on my
heart often, that I may have spoken harshly, taking on myself elder
brother airs, and made myself a sort of mentor.  I _could_ not do this
intentionally, but it is possible I may have done it unintentionally.  I
felt hot on the subject, for the fellows I spoke against seemed to me
low, in every sense beneath his notice.  I did not know that even then,
they had a hold on him which he could not, even if he would, shake off.
He got angry, he--quarrelled with me.  After this, I did not see him for
some time.  I blame myself again here, for I might have gone to him, but
I did not.  He had said some words which hurt me, and I stayed away."
David paused.  "Yes," he continued, taking up his narrative without any
comment from me, "I remember, it was the middle of the term.  I was
sitting with some fellows after dinner; we were smoking in my rooms.  I
remember how the sun looked on the water, and how jolly I felt.  We were
talking of my coming of age, and I had asked all these fellows to help
me to celebrate the event at Tynycymmer, when suddenly a man I knew came
to the door, and called me out; he was a great friend of mine, he looked
awfully white and grave; he put his arm inside mine, and we went down
through Christ Church meadows to the edge of the river.  There, as we
stood together looking down into the river, and nodding, as if nothing
were the matter, to some men of our college as they rowed past us;
there, as we stood and listened to the splash of the oars, my friend
told me about Owen.  A long story, Gwladys.  Shall I ever forget the
spot where I stood and listened to it?  As I said, I am not going to
tell you the tale; it was one of disgrace--weakness--and sin.  Evil
companions had done most of it, but Owen had done some.  It was a long
story, dating back from the day of his first arrival; but now the climax
had come--Owen had fallen--had sinned.  I never knew until my friend
spoke, how much I loved Owen.  I blamed myself bitterly.  I was his
elder brother.  I might have so treated him as to win his confidence,
and to save him from this.  He had fallen by means of the very
temptations that must assail such a nature as his, and I, instead of
holding out a helping hand, had stood aloof from him.  In this moment of
agony, when I learned all about his sin, I blamed myself as much as him.
I started off at once to find him, I could not reproach him.  I could
only blame myself.  When I did this, he burst into tears."

Here David paused, and I tried to speak, but could not.

"Owen had sinned," he continued, "and in such a way that the most public
exposure seemed inevitable.  To avoid this, to give him one chance for
the future, I would do anything.  There was one loophole of escape, and
through that loophole, if any strength of mine could drag him, I was
determined Owen should come.  I could not leave Oxford, but I wrote to
my mother.  Her assistance was necessary, but I felt little doubt of her
complying.  I was not wrong.  She helped me, as I knew she would.  Nay,
I think she was more eager than I.  Between us we saved Owen."

Here David paused, and taking out his handkerchief, he wiped some
moisture from his brow.

His words were hardly either impassioned or eloquent; but no one knew,
who did not hear them, with what pain they came slowly up from his
heart.

Then I ventured to put the question which was hanging on the top of my
lips--

"What was his sin?"

"The sin of weakness, Gwladys.  The sad lacking of moral courage to say
no, when no should be said.  The putting pleasure before duty, that was
the beginning of it.  Then evil companions came round; temptation was
yielded to, and, at last, the very men who had ruined and tempted him,
managed to escape, and he was left to bear the brunt of everything.
However, my dear, this is a story you need not know.  I have told you
the little I have, because, now that Owen is coming home, I want you to
have a truer idea of his character, so that you may help him better.  I
need and want you to help him, Gwladys.  I have said all this to you
to-day for no other reason."

I said nothing.  David looked into my face, and I looked into his, then
he went on.

"After that dreadful time at Oxford he went abroad, and I came home.
Now he, too, is coming home."

"To live with us at Tynycymmer?"  I asked.

"No, no, my dear; he is coming home with a definite purpose; I have had
a long letter from Owen, I must tell you some of it.  He always wrote to
me while he was away, but his letters, though tolerably cheerful, and
fairly hopeful, were reserved, and seemed always to have something
behind.  I used to fear for him.  Dear fellow, dear, dear fellow, my
weak heart fears for him still, and yet with it all, I am proud and
thankful.  There _is_ something great in Owen, otherwise this would
never have so weighed on his mind.

"I must tell you that to save Owen, I had to spend money; that really
was no sacrifice to me, a thing not worth mentioning, but it seems to
have weighed much on him.  In his letter, he told me that he has never
ceased working hard at his profession, learning all he can about it.  He
says that he is now nearly qualified to work as a mechanical engineer;
and in that particular department he has made mining engineering his
special study.  In his letter he also said that he had done this with a
definite hope and object.

"There is a large coal mine on my property, a mine that has never been
properly worked.  Owen believes that out of this mine he can win back
the gold I have spent on him; he has begged me to allow him to take the
management of the mine; to live at Ffynon until this object is effected.
I hesitated--I thought--at last I yielded."

"Why did you hesitate?  David."

"Because, Gwladys, the object with which Owen works is worthless to me.
I am glad he is coming to manage the mine, I have no doubt whatever as
to his ability in the matter.  I know in his profession he has much
talent.  Had he not written to me, I should have been obliged to ask a
London engineer to take his place for a time.  Yes, Gwladys, I like his
work, but not his motive.  The mine at Ffynon yields me little money,
that is nothing; it also is dangerous, that is much; many accidents have
taken place there, many lives have been lost.  I want Owen to make the
mine safe, as far as man can make it safe: I don't care for the money.
And this is the object I want you to help me in, Gwladys, not in words,
but in a thousand ways in which a loving and true sister can.  I want
you to show to Owen that we none of us care for the money."

"You lay upon me an impossible task," I said; "you forget that I shall
not be with Owen."

"You said last night you were tired of Tynycymmer?"

"So I am, very often."

"You are going to leave it, at least for a time; you and mother are to
live with Owen at Ffynon."

CHAPTER SIX.

GWEN'S DREAM.

If I felt excited when starting for Hereford on the morning of that day,
how much more feverishly did my heart beat when I returned home in the
evening!

I was in that state of mind when the need of a confidante was sore and
pressing.

In whom should I confide?  I loved my brother David, I dearly loved my
mother, but in neither of them would I now repose confidence.  No, they
knew too much already.  Into fresh ears, but still into ears that
communicated with a very affectionate and faithful heart, would I pour
my tale--or rather that portion of my tale of which I wished to speak.
David had given me, in the old Cathedral Close, two very distinct pieces
of information--two pieces of information, either of which would have
proved quite sufficient to keep my eyes wakeful for many nights, and my
heart restless for many days.  Mother and I were going to leave
Tynycymmer!  Owen was coming home!  Round this last item of intelligence
floated murky and shadowy words.  Owen had sinned!  Owen was not the
spotless hero I had imagined him!  With regard to this piece of news I
wished to take no one into my confidence; by the sheer strength of a
very strong will I pushed it into the background of my thoughts; I
managed to give it a subordinate place where the full sharpness of its
sting would not for the present be felt.  By-and-by I would drag it to
the light; by-and-by I would analyse this thing and pull it to pieces;
by-and-by I would face this enemy and dare it to do its worst;
by-and-by, defeated, baffled, I would writhe under its blows; but, as I
said, for the present it lay in abeyance, and other thoughts pressed
upon me.

How much a change, even a little change, does signify to us girls!  I
once met a man who told me calmly, and with easy nonchalance, that he
was about to visit Australia.  I observed his eye never brightening at
the prospect of the gay sea voyage, and the sights to be witnessed in
the tropical richness of the far-off land; he had seen many changes, he
had visited many lands, to him change was a thing of every day, and he
told me, when I pressed him to speak, that he was weary of it all, and
that there was nothing new under the sun.  But to me!  What did not a
change, even from one end of Glamorgan to another, mean to me?  How very
long it would take before I could be satiated with fresh places, or my
eyes grow weary of new sights.  So much did this one very small change
mean to me, that I almost fancied, as we were whirled back in the train,
that my fellow-passengers must know something of the uprooting about to
take place, and some disquieting waves from the agitation which was
surging round me, must be pulsing in their own hearts.

I, who had lived all my sixteen years at Tynycymmer, was going to make
another place my home!  It was on this item of David's news that I
longed so for a confidante.

When I got home, my eyes were bright and my cheeks flushed.  Mother
looked anxiously from David to me.

"She knows, mother," said David, going over and kissing the stately and
beautiful face, and looking down tenderly into the dark depths of the
eyes, which were raised inquiringly to his.

Mother glanced at me; but I could not speak of it to her--not then.  She
knew all, and of all I would not speak.  I pleaded hunger as a reason
for my silence.  After supper, I pleaded fatigue, and made a hasty
retreat to my bedroom.  On my way there, I passed through the nursery.
Gwen was in the nursery, knitting a long grey stocking, by little
David's bedside.

"Gwen," I said, "I want you--come into my room."

When we got there, I locked the door, pushed Gwen down into an
arm-chair, seated myself in her lap, put my arms round her neck, laid my
head on her bosom, and burst into tears.  These tears were my
safety-valve, but they frightened Gwen.

"Now, Gwladys, my maid, what is it?  What is wrong?  Ah! dear, dear!
she's tired--the poor little maid."

I wanted Gwen to soothe me.  I meant her to stroke my cheek with her
large, but soft hand.  I meant her to pour, with her dear Welsh accent,
some foolish nothings into my ear.  Gwen's soothing, joined to my own
tears, were, as I said, my safety-valve.  When enough of the steam of
strong excitement was evaporated by these means, I started up, dried my
eyes, and spoke.

"Gwen, we're going away.  Mother and I are not going to live at
Tynycymmer any more.  We're going away to the black ugly coal country--
to Ffynon."

"Yes, Gwladys," said Gwen; "my mistress told me to-day.  She said you
was to move quick, so as to have things ready for Owen.  And, goodness
me!  Gwladys, what I says is, that little David and me should go too.
What if little David was took with the croup, and me to lose my senses;
and what could the Squire do?  What I say is, that David and me should
go--least for a year--till his h'eye teeth are down--and they do say as
there's holy wells out there, what works miracles on the sight, if you
dips afore sunrise."

It was plain that Gwen had her own troubles in the matter.  She spoke
vehemently.

"And who's to brush h'out your yellow hair, my maid? and who's to make
things comfort for my mistress?  Dear, dear Gwladys, 'tis worse nor
folly me not going with you."

"Well, where's the use of making a fuss about nothing?"  I said, finding
that I had to listen to a complaint instead of making one.  "Who says
you are not to come!"

"My mistress, dear.  She says the Squire wishes little David to stay at
Tynycymmer.  Dear heart! what store he do set by the little lad.  Seems
to me he loves the blessed lamb h'all the better for being blind."

"Well, Gwen, that is all right.  Of course David wishes to keep the
baby--and I think," I added virtuously, "that as he _does_ wish it, it
would be very selfish of us to take him away."

"Dear, dear Gwladys," said the penitent Gwen, "don't think as _I_ have
no thought for the Squire.  _I_ don't see why the house is to be broke
up for--but there!  Owen and David aren't the same, Gwladys, and no one
will make me think 'em the same.  But if you and my mistress must go, I
was only supposing what 'ud be best for the baby in case he was took
with sickness.  'Tisn't _I_ as 'ud be the one to neglect the Squire,
Gwladys.  Course I'll stay; though dear, dear, dear!  I'll be lonesome,
but what of that?"

As Gwen spoke, I no longer found her arms comforting.  I rose to my
feet, went to the window, from where I could see the silver moon
reflecting glorious light on the glistening waves.

"Good-night, Gwen," I said, when she had done speaking.  "I'm tired;
don't stay any longer--good-night."

"But, Gwladys," said Gwen, looking at me with astonishment.

"Good-night," I repeated, in a gentle voice; but the voice was
accompanied with a little haughty gesture; and Gwen, still with a look
of surprise, went slowly out of the room.

I shut the door; but though I had told her I was tired, I did not go to
bed.

I knelt down by the open window, placed my elbows on the window-sill,
leant my cheeks on my hands, gazed steadfastly out at the silver-tipped
waves, and now I called up David's last item of news.  I summoned my
enemy to the forefront of the battle, and prepared to fight him to the
death.

Owen had sinned!

I was a proud girl--proud with the concentrated pride of a proud race.
Sin and disgrace were synonymous.  I writhed under those three pregnant
words--_Owen had sinned_.  But for David, Owen would have been publicly
disgraced.  Had he been a cousin, had he been the most distantly
connected member of our house, such a fact in connection with him could
hardly have failed to make my cheeks burn with humiliation.  But the one
who brought me this agony, was not a stranger cousin, but a brother--the
brother I loved, the brother I had dreamed of, the brother I had boasted
of, the brother who had, hitherto, embodied to me every virtue under the
sun.  How well I remembered the graceful, athletic young form, the
flashing, dark eyes, the ring of the clear voice, as he said to me--

"You--a Morgan!  I would _scorn_ to do a dirty action, if I were you."

I was the culprit then.  I had been discovered by Owen, surreptitiously
hiding away for private consumption some stolen cherries.  I was eight
years old at the time, and the sharp words had wrung from me a wail of
shame and woe.  I flung the fruit away.  I would not show my ashamed
face for the rest of the evening.  I was cured for ever of underhand
dealings.  The next day I begged Owen's pardon--it was granted, and from
that time his word was law to me.  I was his slave.  For the next four
years, until I was twelve years old, I was Owen's faithful and devoted
slave.  He was my king, and my king could do no wrong.  His vacations
were my times of blessing, his absence my time of mourning.  He ordered
me about a great deal, but his commands were my pleasure.  He rather
took advantage of my affection, to impose hard tasks on his little
slave; but the slave loved her taskmaster, and work for him was light.
I was a romantic, excitable, enthusiastic child, and Owen played with a
skilful hand on these strong chords in my heart.  He knew what words
would excite my imagination, what stories would fire my enthusiasm;
these stories and these words he gave, not always--sometimes, indeed, at
rare intervals--but just when he saw I needed them, when I was weary and
spent after a long day of waiting on my despotic young king--standing
patient while he fished, or copying with my laboured, but neat hand, his
blotted exercises; then my reward would come--a few, well-selected lines
from Byron, a story from history, or a fairy tale told as only Owen
could tell it.  I would lie at his feet then, or better still, recline
with my head on his breast, while he stretched himself under the trees.
Then after an hour or two of this, would come in a soft, seductive
whisper in my ear--

"Now, Gwlad, you will get up at six to-morrow, and have those exercises
finished for me before breakfast."

Of course I did what he asked, of course I was proud of the stealthy
stealing away from Nurse Gwen, of course I enjoyed the cool of the
study, the romance of copying verses, and making themes appear neat and
fair for Owen; and if before the hour of release came, my back ached a
trifle, and my face was slightly pale, were not the fatigue and the pain
well worth while for Owen's sake?  For Owen, as I said, was my hero.
How grandly he spoke of the noble deeds he would accomplish when he was
a man--they were no idle words, they were felt through and through the
graceful young frame, they came direct from the passionate heart.  A
thousand dreams he had of glory and ambition, and he meant them, meant
them truly, as he lay in the long summer days under the great cool
horse-chestnuts.  Very goodly were the blossoms, and very fair to my
inexperienced eyes the show of fruit, in that heart and nature.

In those days, it never occurred to me that while Owen spoke, David
acted.  David had so few words, David never alluded to the possibility
of a grand future.  Once he even said, almost roughly, that he had no
time to dream.  Oh! how inferior he seemed, how far beneath Owen!

This intercourse, and this instruction of heart and life, I had with
Owen more or less from my eighth to my twelfth year; then suddenly it
ceased.  How little grown people remember of their own childhood! how
very little most grown people understand children!  There was I, twelve
years old, slim, tall, awkward, gaily bright on the surface, intensely
reserved within; there was I, the child of an imaginative race, great in
ghost lore, great in dreams; there was I, come to an age when childhood
and youth meet, when new perceptions awaken, and new thoughts arise,
left to puzzle out a problem in which my own heart and life were
engaged.  How little the grown people guessed what thoughts were surging
through my brain, what wondering ideas were taking possession of me!
When mother and David told me, that for a reason they could not quite
explain, Owen had gone for a time abroad, did it never occur to them
that when I accepted the fact, I should also try to fathom the reason?

I don't suppose it ever did.  Their childhood was a thing of the past,
they were pressed hard by a sorer trouble than any I could know.  Could
they have read my thoughts, could they have guessed my feelings, perhaps
they would have smiled.  And yet, I think not; for the pain of the child
is a real pain: if the shadow that eclipses the sun is a little shadow,
yet it falls upon little steps, and its chill presence keeps out the
light of day, and the joy of hope, as effectually as the larger, darker
shadow dooms the man to despair.

When Owen went away, this shadow fell on me.  The shadow to me lay in
the pain of his absence, in the fact that no long summer days, no joyous
winter evenings, were bringing him back to me.  I never connected
disgrace and Owen; how could I?  Was he not my hero, my darling?

When no reason was given for his lengthened absence, I formed a reason
of my own.  He had gone to win some of the glory he spoke of, to execute
some of the brave deeds, the recital of which had so often caused both
our eyes to sparkle, and both our hearts to glow.

I could hardly guess what Owen was to do, in those distant countries
where he had gone so suddenly and mysteriously, but that some day he
would return covered with fame--a knight who had nobly won his spurs, I
felt quite sure of.  This was the silver lining to the cloud, which
Owen's absence had cast upon my path, and this thought enabled me to
bear the long years of his absence, with outward gaiety and inward
patience.

And now, kneeling by my window, looking out at the fluctuating,
shifting, restless tide, I told my heart that the long probation time
was over, that at last, at last, Owen was coming home; but _was_ the
hero returning? was the laurel-crowned coming back with his long tale of
glorious victories?  Alas!  Owen had sinned.  This fact danced before me
on the treacherous waves, floated in front of my weary eyes.  Owen was
no great man, gone away to perform noble deeds; Owen had gone because of
his sin.

Oh! my gay castle in the air!  Oh! my hero-worship, with my hero lying
shattered at my feet.  He, a Morgan, had brought disgrace on his race;
he, a Morgan, had sinned; he, my brother, had sinned bitterly.  And I
thought him perfect.

The blow was crushing.  I laid my head down on the window-sill, and
sobbed bitterly.  I was sobbing in this manner loudly and
unrestrainedly, when a hand was laid on my shoulder, a firm cool hand
that I knew too well to startle me even then.

"What is it? my maid; what's the trouble?" said the tender voice of
Gwen.

I had been deeply hurt with Gwen for the tone in which she had spoken of
Owen half an hour before, but now I was too much broken down, and too
much humbled, to feel angry with any one, and I turned to my old nurse
with an eager longing to let her share some of the burden which had
fallen upon me.

"Gwen, _do_ you know about Owen?"

"Of course I do, my lamb.  Dear, dear, praised be the Lord for His
goodness!"

Gwen was a Methodist, and I was well accustomed to her expressions, but
I could hardly see their force now, and raised my tear-dimmed eyes
questioningly.

"And why not?  Gwladys," she said, in reply to my look.  "Have we not
cause to praise the Lord? have we not hope that the prayer that has gone
up earnestly has been answered abundantly?  Don't you be foolish enough
to suppose, in your poor weak little heart, that no one cared for Owen
Morgan but you.  Yes, my maid, others gave a thought to the lad in the
far-away country, and many a strong prayer went up to the God of gods
for him.  Why, sweet Mistress Amy has told me how the Squire prayed, and
I know she prayed, bless her dear heart! and I have had my prayers too,
Gwladys, my dear, and now perhaps they're being answered."

It was quite evident, from these words, that while I was in the darkness
of despair with regard to Owen, Gwen was in the brightness of some hope.
It was also evident that she had known for years what I only knew
to-day, but I was too sore at heart to question her on this point now,
though I turned eagerly to the consolation.

"How do you know that your prayers are answered?"  I asked.

"Nay, Gwladys, I don't _say_ as they're answered, but I have a good
strong hope in the matter.  Don't it stand to common-sense, my maid,
that I should have hope now; the lad is coming back to his own people,
the lad is ready to work, honest and hard too, in the coalfields.  Don't
it look, Gwladys, something like the coming home again of the prodigal?"

I was silent.  Gwen's words might be true, and she, even if she did love
Owen as I loved him, might take the comfort of them.  She who had known
of the sorrow and pain for four years, might be glad now if she could;
but I, who until a few hours before had placed Owen far above even the
elder brother in the father's house, how could I think of the repentant
prodigal, in his rags and misery, without pain, how could I help failing
to receive comfort!  I little knew then, I little dreamt, that our rags
and misery, our shame and bitter repentance, may often but lead us
nearer to the Father and the Father's home.  If the storm alone can
bring the child to nestle in the Father's breast, surely the storm must
be sent for good!

"Gwen," I said, at last, "I think 'tis very hard."

"What's hard? my dear."

"I think 'tis hard that this should have been kept from me all these
years, that I should have been dreaming of Owen, and fancying good and
glory, when 'twas all shame and evil.  I think 'twas very bitter to keep
it from me, Gwen."

"Well, my dear, _I'd_ have broke the news to you, and so I think would
the Squire, but my mistress, she was so fearful that you'd fret--and--
and--she knew, we all knew, how your heart was bound up with Mr Owen."

"I think it is bitter to deceive any one," I continued, "to let them
waste love.  Well, 'tis done now, it can't be helped."  There was, I
knew, a bitter tension about my lips, but my eyes were dry, they shed no
more tears.  I felt through and through my frame, that my hero was gone,
my idol shattered into a thousand bits.

"Gwen," I said, "I could not ask David to-day, but I had better know.  I
don't mind pain.  I'm not a child, and I've got to bear pain like every
one else.  What was it Owen did, Gwen,--what was his sin?"

"Nay, my dear, my dear, I can't rightly tell you, I don't rightly know,
Gwladys.  It had something to say to money, a great lot of money, and I
know David saved him, David paid it h'all up and set him free.  I don't
know what he did rightly, Gwladys, my maid, I never heard more than one
little end and another little end, but I believe there was dishonour at
the bottom of it, and 'twas that cut up the Squire, and I'm quite sure
too, Gwladys, that the Squire never told my mistress the half; she
thought 'twas all big debts that they must cramp the estate to pay, but
'twas more."

"What was it?"  I said, "I don't want to be deceived again, I wish to
know all."

"I can't tell you, my dear, I don't know myself, 'tis only thoughts I
have, and words Mistress Amy has dropped, but she did not mean me to
learn anything by 'em.  Only I think she felt bitter, when people called
the Squire stingy, for she knew what an awful lot of money it took to
clear Owen."

"I must know all about it," I said; "I shall ask David to tell me if you
won't."

"My dear, I can't, and I think, if I was you, I'd not do that."

"Why?"  I asked.

"My maid, isn't it better to forget what you does know, than to try to
learn more."

"I don't understand you, Gwen, what do you mean?"

"Why, this, my lamb, don't you think when the Lord has forgiven the lad,
that you may forgive him too, where's the use of knowing more of the sin
than you need to know, and where's the use of 'ardening your 'art
'gainst the one you love best in the world?"

"Oh!  I did love him, I did love him," I sobbed passionately, all my
calm suddenly giving way.

"Don't say `did,' my maid, you love him still."

"But, Gwen," I said, "he has sinned, the old, grand, noble Owen is never
coming back.  No, Gwen, I _don't_ love the man who brought disgrace and
misery on us all--there--I can't help it, I don't."

"Dear, dear," said Gwen, beginning to smooth down her apron, and trying
to stroke my hair, which I shook away from her hand.  "What weak
creatures we are! dear, dear, why 'tis enough to fret the Lord h'all to
nothing, to hearken to us, a-makin' idols one time o' bits o' clay, and
then when we finds they ain't gods for us to worship, but poor sinnin'
mortals like ourselves, a-turnin' round and hating of 'em; dear, dear,
we're that weak, Gwladys, seems to me we can never have an h'easy moment
unless we gets close up to the Lord."

"I wish you wouldn't preach," I said, impatiently.

"No, my dear, I ain't a-going, but, Gwladys, I will say this, as you're
wrong; you were wrong long ago, but you're more wrong now; you did harm
with the old love, but if you ain't lovin' and sisterly to Owen now,
you'll do harm as you'll rue most bitter.  I'm a h'ignorant, poor spoke
woman, my maid, but I know as Owen will turn to you, and if you'll be
lovin' to him, and not spoil him, as h'everybody but David has h'always
bin a-doin', why you may help on the work the good Lord has begun.  But
there, you'll take what I says in good part, my dear, and now I may as
well tell you what brought me in at this hour to see you."

"Yes, you may tell me," I said, but I spoke wearily, there was no
interest in my voice.

"I thought how 'twould be," continued Gwen, "I guessed how the maid
would fret and fret, and when you turned me out of your room so sharp, I
was fit to cry with the fear on me that you thought poor old Gwen had
turned selfish, and 'ad an h'eye to her own comfort and meant to leave
the Squire.

"Why, my dear, it stan's to reason I should fret.  Do I not remember the
old time when the old mistress was alive, and when your mother came home
a bride, so grand, and rich, and beautiful; and now to know that
there'll never be a woman of the house about, and only the Squire and
the little blind darlin' to live at Tynycymmer; but you're right,
Gwladys, 'twould never do to part the Squire and the little lad; and I
was 'shamed o' myself for so much as thinkin' of it; and before I
dropped asleep, with the baby close to me, so that I could see his
little face, I made up my mind that I'd think no more of the
lonesomeness, but stay at Tynycymmer, after you and my mistress went
away.  When I settled me to do that, I felt more comfort; but still,
what with the feel of not seeing my maid every day, and being worried,
and kissed, and made a fool of by her; and what with the thought that
she had a sore heart of her own for Mr Owen's sake, who was coming back
so different from what she fancied; I was no way as easy in my mind as I
am most nights.  And 'twas that, Gwladys, and the moon being at the
full, and me only asleep for a few minutes, that made me set such store
by the dream."

Gwen's last words had been very impressive, and she and I believed fully
in dreams.

"What was it?"  I asked excitedly, laying my hand on her arm.

"Well, my dear; 'twas as vivid as possible; though by the clock, I
couldn't 'ave bin more'n five minutes dreamin' it.  I thought we had
h'all gone away to the black coal country, where there's never a green
leaf or a flower, only h'everything black, and dear, dear! as dismal as
could be; and I thought that David went down into one of those unearthly
places they calls a mine.  Down he would go, into a place not fit for
honest men, and only meant for those poor unfortnets as 'ave to trade by
it."

"I mean to go into a mine when we live at Ffynon," I interrupted.

"Then, my dear, I can only say as you'll tempt Providence.  Why, wot was
mines invented for?  Hasn't we the surface of the earth, green and
pleasant, without going down into its bowels; but there, Gwladys, shall
I finish the dream?"

"Oh, yes!" very earnestly; "please go on."

"Well, my maid; David, he went down into the mine, and we all waited on
the surface to see him drawed h'up; and the chains went clankin', and
one after the other everybody came up out of the pit but David; and
after a while we heard that David had gone a long way into the pit, and
he couldn't find his way back again; and the place where he went was
very dangerous; and all the miners were cryin' for the Squire, and they
went down and they tried every mortal man of 'em to get him out of the
mine; but there was a wind down below in that dreadful place louder than
thunder, and when the men tried to get to where David was shut up, it
seemed as if it 'ud tear 'em in pieces.  So at last they one and all was
daunted, and they said nothing could be done.  Then, Gwladys, we all
cried, and we gave the Squire up for lost, when suddenly, who should
come to the pit's mouth but Owen--Owen, with his breath comin' hard and
fast, and his eyes shinin', and he said, `I'm not frighted; David saved
me, and I'll save David, or I'll die!'  And with that, before anyone
could hinder him, he went down into the dark, loathsome pit!"

"Well?"  I said, for Gwen had paused.

"That's h'all.  I woke then.  The rest was not revealed to me.  When I
woke, the cock crowed sharp and sudden, that made it certain."

"What?"  I asked, in an awe-struck, frightened voice.

"Why, 'twill come true, my maid.  'Twas sent to us for a comfort and a
warnin'.  If David saved Owen, Owen will save David yet."

CHAPTER SEVEN.

VERY NEW AND VERY INTERESTING.

It is certainly possible when one is only sixteen to go to sleep in the
depths of misery, and to awake after a few hours of slumber, with a
heart, if not as light as a feather, yet quite sufficiently so, to
enable one to dance, not walk, to eat with an appetite, and to laugh
with more than surface merriment.  These easily changed feelings may be
reckoned as some of the blessings of this pleasant age.

At sixteen we have our sharp sorrows, but we have our equally keen
pleasures, and it is quite impossible for us to be sad always.

So on the morning after Gwen had related to me her dream, though there
were sore places which I could not quite bear to touch, somewhere about
my heart, yet the leading fact which danced before my young eyes lay
concentrated in the one word--_change_.  We were going away, we were
going to make another place our home; we would soon be in all the grand
excitement of a move.  I was very childish in the matter, for this
experience was so new to me, so completely novel.  I had never seen a
house in the chaos of a removal.  I had never seen furniture ruthlessly
piled up in corners, beds in packing-cases, chairs and tables upside
down, carpetless and straw-littered floors.

It must have been centuries since Tynycymmer had known such a
revolution.  Except in the attics, everything was in apple-pie order.
Even the Tynycymmer attics were not half so disorderly as they should
be.  Regularly twice a year they were well cleaned out, and reduced to
an alarming degree of niceness.  The drawing-rooms, dining-room, study,
library, were always destined to hold just their own furniture, and no
other.  And how proper and staid that old furniture looked! those chairs
would never tumble down with one, those rather thread-bare carpets would
fade and fade, it was true, until all brightness and beauty had left
them, but how provokingly orderly they would keep, and how unnecessary
it was to do anything to them except at the grand annual cleanings!

I have been so put out and so tired by the everlasting sameness of
Tynycymmer, that on some of these exciting occasions, I have forced my
way into the dethroned and disarranged rooms, tied the housemaid's white
apron over my hair, and flourished wildly about with a mop, never
subsiding into rationalism until I had laid one or two articles of value
in fragments at my feet.

But now we were going to have confusion grand and glorious, for the
cottage at Ffynon was to be furnished with some of the superabundance of
Tynycymmer.

Mother and David went through the old rooms many times, and everything
that was small enough, and choice enough, and pretty enough, was marked
to go.  Mother and David both looked sad during these pilgrimages
through the Tynycymmer rooms.  But whenever David said, "Mother I should
like you to have this, for such a corner," or, "Mother, we will put this
in Owen's room," she just bent her stately head in acquiescence, and
said, "It shall be as you wish, my son."

So the rare cases of old china went away, and the choicest landscapes
were removed from the walls; only the family portraits remained in the
portrait gallery, and a painter's proof of Noel Paton's "_Mors Janua
Vitae_," which David and Amy had brought home after their wedding tour,
was left undisturbed in David's study.

Then the waggons came, old-fashioned, slow, and cumbersome, and the
furniture was stowed in, and Gwen and mother and David went to and fro.

At last the cottage was ready, everything to our least belongings,
packed and put away, and mother and I saw the day dawn when we were to
leave Tynycymmer, and take up our abode at Owen's house.  I found on the
morning of that day in late October, I found on that last day, to my
astonishment, that even going away had its sorrows.  A mist of tears
came dimming my eyes as I looked at the sea, as I wandered through the
gardens and grounds, as I peeped into the no longer orderly rooms.
Memories I had tried to put out of sight returned to me.  That arbour
overhanging the sea, where I had talked to Amy of Owen, and Amy, in a
short, vivid, last flash of resentment, had told me I was wrong; that
David was the brave man.  Poor little gentle Amy!  I had never loved her
very much, I had scorned her earnest words; but they were true.  I
acknowledged them with a great stab at my heart, when I visited the
arbour for the last time.

Here was the horse-chestnut-tree where Owen and I had sat and dreamed
dreams, summer after summer.  I hurried away from it.  Here was the
cherry-tree from which I had stolen the cherries, for which Owen had
reproved me.  Here, crawling listlessly after me, was the lame, and
half-blind terrier, which had once belonged to Owen, and had been
sportive enough when Owen and I were together.  Here was the study,
where I had copied Owen's exercises.  Here the stain, still left in the
carpet, where Owen had upset the ink.  Here the spot--here, by the deep,
mullioned window--where, after a long labour for Owen, he had put his
arm round my childish neck, looked full into my eyes, and "called me the
best little sister in the world."

Oh! what ailed the place this morning; it was alive with Owen, peopled
with Owen in every nook.  From each corner Owen started up and
confronted me, as he was.  _As he was_--what was he now?  I dashed my
blinding tears away.  Kissed little David, hugged Gwen, who was
absolutely speechless with her own sorrow, got into the carriage beside
mother, and was off--away!  For mother's sake, who was very white, and
seemed to be suffering intensely, I abstained from shouting.  For
David's sake, who kept his hat well down, and who never spoke, I, too,
remained silent.  In process of time we arrived at Ffynon, and at the
cottage which was to be our future home.  A tree or two surrounded it; a
little scrap of a garden, neat with gravel, and bright with late
geraniums in pots, led up to it.  Inside there was a drawing-room, low
and small; a dining-room to match; behind, kitchens, a pantry, and
cellars; over head, four bed-rooms.  That was absolutely all.  Goodness
me! dear, dear! as Gwen would say, was there ever such a nutshell of a
place!  Why, it was a toy-house, a doll's abode.  I could stand on
tiptoe and touch the ceiling of the apartment set aside for my slumbers.
I could stand by the bedstead at one end of the room, and nearly pull
the bell at the other.  But then the bedstead was so pretty, so tiny, so
bright!  The whole room, encased in its fairy-like pink and white, was
like a little bower; the muslin curtains were partly drawn, the blinds
partly down, the evening sun cast a glow over everything.  I approached
the window, whistling to my canary as I went.  I drew up the blinds, and
pushed back the curtains.  My cheeks were hot, I wanted to see my waves.
Perhaps from long habit, I thought I should see them.  I looked out,
and behold! a black country--hills, low and barren destitute of trees,
clothed with coal dust; straight, red brick chimneys, from which curled
volumes of ugly smoke; roads winding everywhere, of a grimy grey; a
train of coal trams, whizzing up to the noisy dirty station; the roar of
steam-engines filling the air; dark figures rushing here and there, and
the machinery and shaft of what I afterwards learned was David's mine,
quite close.  The entrance to this mine lay within not many hundred
yards of the house.  Oh! there was noise enough and life enough here,
but it was ugly! ugly! ugly!  I quickly shut down the window; I drew the
blinds and curtains into their former position.  I would not
acknowledge, even to myself, how my heart rose up in wild longing for
the green trees, and the fresh, sweet, salt waves of Tynycymmer; I only
said to myself, "The cottage is lovely, fairy-like; but the view is
ugly!"

That night I slept well in my little room, and in the morning was able
to acknowledge that, though the coal country was far from beautiful, and
Ffynon was not quite the home to choose, yet any change was welcome to
me; and had Owen only been coming back the hero I had painted him, had
dear old David's brave face not worn such a patient look, had my mother
not been quite so silent, and quite so sorry for leaving Tynycymmer, and
had Gwen been still to the fore to scold me, and pet me, I should have
been, notwithstanding the ugly view, the happiest girl in the world.

I got up early this first morning, and went out.  I ran down, without
anyone knowing it, to the place where the machinery roared loudest, and
the black coal dust was thickest.  I looked into the mouth of the shaft,
watched with interest the rows of grimy miners getting into the cage,
and descending into the mine; started back at first from their black
faces, which, relieved by the dazzling white of teeth and eyeballs, made
them look hardly human; presently gathered courage, came close, asked
eager questions, made all verbal preparations for a speedy descent into
the coal mine; rather laughed at the idea of fear in the matter, and
returned home in time for breakfast, my light dress covered with dirty
stains, my golden hair full of coal dust, my whole person very dirty
indeed.

"Gwladys," said mother, "you must never venture near the shaft alone
again."

"If you do, Gwladys, I must take you back to Tynycymmer," said David.

I did not want that; if Ffynon was dirty, it was very new and very
interesting.

CHAPTER EIGHT.

I SAID I WOULD DO MUCH FOR THESE CHILDREN.

We were a fortnight at Ffynon.  All my possessions were unpacked and put
neatly away in the wardrobes allotted to them.  My favourite books, my
"Cambrian Magazine," my "Westward Ho!" my "Arabian Nights," my
"Mabinogion," reflected gay colours behind polished glass doors.
Packing-cases had disappeared.  The cottage inside was perfection,
bright with potted plants, cool with muslin drapery, glowing with rich
crimson curtains.  The rare and lovely Tynycymmer china filled niches in
the drawing-room, exquisite landscapes from the pencils of Fielding and
Cooper adorned the walls, the blackest of coal sent out the clearest
flames of ruddy hue from the highly-polished grates.  Every room was
perfect, perfect with neatness, cleanliness, order, and perfect also
with a minute, but highly-finished beauty.  The tiny abode hardly needed
even a fairy's touch to render it more lovely, on the day Owen was
expected home.  On this day mother came down in the black velvet robe
which had lain by for years.  It was worn high to her throat, finished
off at neck and wrists with Honiton.  A tiny Honiton cap rested
becomingly on her shining, abundant, still raven black hair.

I was lying on my bed, my face flashed, my yellow locks in confusion, a
rumpled cotton dress, too soiled for July, too out of season for
October, adorning my person, when mother in her massive folds, her eyes
bright as stars, came in.

"Make yourself nice, my darling.  Owen will be here before long," she
said.

She kissed me and went away.  When she left me I jumped up, and looked
at my watch.  It was not yet four o'clock.  Owen could not arrive before
another hour.  I cared nothing about my dress.  I could not sit in state
in the tiny drawing-room to meet Owen.  I put on a winter jacket, and my
hat, ran downstairs, and went out.

Mother saw me from the window, and called after me, and I called back in
reply--

"I shall not be long, I shall return in time for Owen."

Mother turned away with a sigh.  What a rebellious, thoughtless young
thing I was!  Of course mother wanted me.  She would like to look at me
in my trim, orderly, number one gown, to arrange a ribbon here and a
curl there, to sigh, and smile, and talk, to hazard a thousand sweet
innocent conjectures.  Should we know our darling?  What would he think
of me?  I had been such a little one when he went away!

These remarks, these touches, these looks, would have helped mother
through that last trying hour of suspense, that hour which, if all _has_
been well, if all _will_ be well, is still fraught with pain through its
very intensity.  Yes, they would have helped mother, and driven me wild.
I was selfish.  I went on my way.  Oh! that ugly coal country, with the
wintry fading light of the first November evening over it!  I kicked up
coal dust with my feet, and two heavy tears fell from my eyes.  Yes,
Owen was coming home.  Even now, each moment was bringing him nearer to
us.  Owen was coming home, and I was unhappy.  Between this hour, and
the hour six weeks before, when David had broken to me one sad fact, a
strange but complete revulsion had taken place within me.  I was a
childish creature still, childish in heart and nature; but just,
perhaps, or in part, perhaps, because I _was_ so inexperienced, so
immature, I had turned from my hero, I had hardened myself against the
warmest love of my life.

Yes, I had made a god and worshipped it.  Nothing was too good for it,
no homage too great to lay at its feet, no sacrifice too worthy to offer
at its shrine.  Mother, David, Amy, were all as nothing in comparison of
this my hero.  My dream lasted through my childhood and early youth,
then suddenly it vanished.  My god was a clay god, my idol was dust.

Owen Morgan still lived.  Owen Morgan was coming back to his mother,
brother, sister, but my perfect Owen was dead.  A man who had sinned,
who had brought disgrace on us, was coming home to-day.  More and more
as the time drew nearer I had shrunk from seeing, from speaking to, from
touching, this altered Owen.  I was intensely unmerciful, intensely
severe, with the severity of the very young.  No after repentance, no
future deed of glory could wipe away this early stain.  I had been
deceived--Owen had sinned--and _my_ Owen was dead.  As I walked quickly
along the barren, ugly coal country, I pictured to myself what my
feelings would have been to-day had this not been so.  Would mother have
sat alone then in her velvet and lace to meet the returning hero?  Would
I? ah! what would I _not_ have done to-day?  I could not think of it.  I
dashed away another tear or two and walked on.  I chose unfrequented,
lonely paths, and these abounded in plenty, paths leading up to old,
used-up shafts, and neglected mines; paths with thin ragged grass
covering them, all equally ugly.  At last I came to a huge cinder-heap,
which had lain undisturbed so long, that some weak vegetation had
managed now to grow up around it.  Here I sat down to rest.  The
cinder-heap was close to the closed-up shaft of an unused pit.  In this
fortnight I had already learned something of mining life, and I knew
where to look for the old shafts, and always examined them with
curiosity.  As I sat there, I heard the voices of two children, who,
evidently quite unaware of my close neighbourhood, were talking eagerly
together, at the other side of the cinder-heap.  It was a boy's voice I
heard first--high, shrill, passionate.

"Yes, indeed, Nan; they'll call me a coward.  No, Nan; I'll not be
daunted.  I will go down on Monday!"

To these words the girl replied with sobs.  I heard the boy kissing her;
then there was silence, then the same eager voice said--

"Don't cry, Nan; Monday ain't come yet.  Let's talk of something
pleasant."

"Don't talk at all, Miles.  Let's sing."

"Shall we sing `The Cross?'"

"I don't--no, I do care.  Yes, we'll sing that."  There was a pause,
then two sweet, wild voices took up the following words to a plaintive
Welsh air:--

  "The cross! the cross! the heavy cross!
  The Saviour bore for me!
  Which bowed Him to the earth with grief,
  On sad Mount Calvary.

  "How light, how light, this precious cross
  Presented now to me;
  And if with care I take it up,
  Behold a crown for me!"

Here the voices ceased suddenly, and I again heard a kiss of comfort,
and the sound of a girl's sob.  I could bear no more.  I started to my
feet, ran round the cinder-heap, and confronted the children.

"Please don't be frightened!  I heard you sing.  I want you to sing
again.  I want to know what's the matter.  I'm Gwladys Morgan--you may
have heard of me; my brother is going to manage the mine at Ffynon."

Two pairs of black eyes were raised to my face, then the boy rose slowly
to his feet, came forward a step or two, and after gazing at me with the
most searching, penetrating glance I had ever been favoured with, said
brightly, as if satisfied with the result of his scrutiny--

"I'm Miles, and this is little Nan."

"And father works down in the mine," said little Nan.

"Father's name is Moses Thomas--he's deputy," said the boy again, in a
proud tone.

"Go on," I said, seating myself close to the children; "tell me all
about yourselves.  I'm so glad I've met you.  I am sure we shall be
friends.  I like you both already.  Now you must let me know your whole
story, from beginning to end; only first, do, _do_ sing that lovely hymn
again."

"I'll sing, Miss Morgan," said the boy, instantly; "but you'll forgive
little Nan; little Nan's in trouble, and her voice ain't steady."

Throwing back his head, looking straight before him, and clasping his
hands round his knee, he sang to the same wild measure the next verse of
the Methodist hymn:--

  "The crown! the crown! the glorious crown!
  A crown of life for me.
  This crown of life it shall be mine,
  When Jesus I shall see."

"When Jesus I shall see," he repeated, under his breath, looking at the
girl as he spoke.  As the children looked at each other they seemed to
have forgotten my presence.

"What's the cross you've got to bear?  Nan," I asked.

An old-fashioned, troubled, anxious face was raised to mine; but it was
Miles who answered.

"'Tis just this, Miss Morgan: 'tis nothing to fret about.  I've got to
go down into the mine to work on Monday.  I've never been into the mine
before, and little Nan's rare and timmersome; but I says to her that
she's faithless.  She knows, and I know, that the Lord'll be down in the
mine too.  'Tis none so dark down there but He'll find me h'out, and
take care on me."

"He didn't find out Stephie," sobbed Nan, all her composure giving way.
"He took no care on Stephie."

"What is it?"  I said; "do tell me about it; and who is Stephie?
Miles."

"Stephie is dead, Miss Morgan.  There's only us two now--only us and
father.  Mother died arter Stephie went; she fretted a good bit, and she
died too; and then there was Nan, and me, and father.  We lives near
Ffynon Mine, and father's deputy; and we're none so rich, and father
works rare and 'ard; and he don't get much money, 'cause the times is
bad; and I'm fourteen, and I'm very strong, and I says I should work."

"No--no--no!" here screamed the girl, forgetting, in a perfect paroxysm
of fright and grief, the presence of the stranger.  She clasped her arms
round the boy's neck, and her white lips worked convulsively.

"There it is," said Miles; "she's sure set agen it, and yet it must be."
Then bending down and speaking in a low voice, in her ear.  "Shall I
tell the lady about Stephie?  Nan."

"Yes," said Nan, unloosing her hold, and looking up into his face with a
sigh.  She had the scared look in her wild, bright eyes, I have seen in
the hunted hare, when he flew past me--dogs and horsemen in full
pursuit.  Now she buried her head in her brother's rough jacket, with
the momentary relief which the telling of Stephie's story would give to
the tension of her fears.

"Tell me about Stephie," I said.

"Stephie," continued Miles--"he was our brother.  Mother set great store
by Stephie; he was so strong, and big, and brave.  Nothing 'ud daunt
'im.  Many of the lads about 'ere 'ud try; and they'd say, `Wait till
the day you goes down inter the mine, and you'll show the white
feather'; but he--he larfed at 'em.  He 'ad no fear in 'im, and h'all
the stories 'bout fire-damp, and h'all the other dangers--and worse'rn
all, the ghosts of the colliers as died in the mine, they couldn't daunt
him.  Other lads 'ud run away, wen they come near the h'age; but he--he
on'y counted the days; and `Mother,' 'e'd say--for mother war werry
weakly--`Mother, wen you 'as my wage, you can buy this thing and t'other
thing, and you'll be strong in no time.'  Well, mother she thought a
sight on Stephie, and she never wanted 'im to go down inter the mine;
and she used to ask father to try and 'prentice 'im to another trade,
for he war so big, and bright, and clever; but the times was bad, and
father couldn't, so Stephie had to go.  He _was_ clever, and fond o'
readin', and a man wot lived near, lent 'im books, real minin' books,
and he knew 'bout the dangers well as anybody; but nothing could daunt
Stephie, and he often said that he'd work and work, and rise hisself;
and he'd try then ef he couldn't find h'out something as 'ud help to
lessen the danger for the colliers.  At last the day came wen he was to
go down."

Here Miles paused, drew a long breath, and little Nan buried her head
yet farther into his rough jacket.  He stooped to kiss her, then raising
his head, and fixing his eyes on my face, he continued.  "The day 'ad
come, and Stephie got h'up very early in the mornin', and he put on 'is
collier's dress, and we h'all got up--Nan and h'all; and mother she give
'im 'is breakfast.  Well, he was standin' by the fire, and mother's 'and
on 'is shoulder, and 'er eyes on 'is face, when father, he came.

"Father had h'always promised to go down the first time wid Stephie, and
show 'im the mine, and put 'im wid someone as 'nd learn 'im 'is work;
but now he said, `Stephie, lad, I can't go down till night.  I 'as 'ad a
sudden call elsewhere, so thee 'ad better wait, lad;' but Stephie
answered, `No, father; there's poor little James, Black William's son,
and he's going down too, to-day; and he's rare and daunted, and I ain't
a bit; and Black William said as he might stay along wid me the first
day, so I must go, father, and Black William ull take care on us both;'
then father, he said no more--on'y mother, she cried and begged Stephie
to wait.  And he looked at 'er amost scornful, for h'all he loved her
so; and he said, `Does _thee_ tell me to forsake the little sickly lad?'
Then he kissed mother, and he kissed little Nan, and waved his hand
back at 'em, and set off running to the bank, and I ran wid 'im, and he
said to me, `Miles, lad, don't you h'ever be daunted when your turn
comes to go down, for God takes care of h'everybody, in the earth and on
the earth--'tis all the same to God.'  Then he stepped on to the cage,
and gripped the hand of little James, who was shakin' fit to drop, and
he called h'out to me--`Tell mother as I'll be coming up wid the day
crew, and to 'ave supper ready, for I'll be very 'ungry,' and the other
colliers larfed to 'ear 'im so 'arty.

"Well, Miss Morgan, that day mother war stronger nor ordinary, and she
cleaned and scrubbed the floor, and when evening came, she got a rare
and good bit of supper ready, and just wen we was looking h'out for
Stephie, and mother had put a rough towel, and water in the tub, ready
for him to wash hisself, who should come runnin' in but the wife of
Black Bill, h'all crazy like, and 'ringin' 'er 'hands; and she said
there had been a gas explosion, and h'every livin' soul in the mine was
dead."

Here Miles paused; speaking again in a moment, more slowly.

"_That_ wasn't true.  A few did escape, and was brought up next day.
But Black Bill was dead, and Stephie, and little James.  Black Bill was
found all burnt dreadful; but Stephie and little James--it was the
after-damp had done for them.  They was found in one of the stalls;
Stephie's arms round the little lad."  Another long pause.  "Mother, she
never held up her head--she died three months later, and now there's
on'y Nan, and father, and me.  Nan is such a careful little body, and
keeps the house so trim."

"You are not afraid to go down into the mine?"  I said.

"Well, miss, it is a bit of a cross; partic'lar as it cuts up the little
'un so; but, good gracious! it ain't nothin'; there ain't bin a
h'accident for h'ages--and _I_ ain't daunted."

"When are you going down?"

"On Monday, Miss Morgan."

"Little Nan," I said, turning to the child, "I mean to come to see you
at your own house on Monday.  You may expect me, for I shall be sure to
come; and I'll bring you pictures--lots; and if you like, I can show you
how to colour them."

I thought this offer must charm Nan, and make her forget the terrors of
the mine; but it did not.  She looked gravely, almost fretfully at me,
and it was Miles who said, "Thank you."

"I must go now," I said, jumping to my feet.  "I have stayed too long
already; but I'm very glad I have met you, Miles, and Nan.  I think your
Stephie a real, real hero; and, Miles, I _love_ you for being so brave,
and I should like, beyond anything, to shake hands with you, and to kiss
little Nan."

After clasping a small brown hand, and pressing a warm salute on two
trembling lips, I started home.  The children's story had excited me,
and warmed my heart.  For the present it absorbed my thoughts, even to
the exclusion of Owen.  I said I would do much for these two.  This boy
and girl, so lonely, so interesting, with their tragic story and tragic
life, should find in me a benefactor and friend.  The thought was
delicious and exhilarating.  David, through my intervention, should
rescue Miles from the miner's life, and relieve the timid little sister
from her worst fears.  My spirits rose high as I contemplated this
event, which a word from my lips could bring about.  I entered the house
humming the wild sweet air which the children had set to their Methodist
hymn.  The music of my voice was greeted by the richer music of gay and
happy laughter.  I stood motionless in the hall.  My heart almost ceased
to beat, then bounded on wildly.  The colour fled from my cheeks and
lips, returning in a moment in a full tide of richest crimson.  I could
have given way then.  I could have rushed to Owen's side, thrown my arms
round his neck, and wept out on his breast, a whole flood of healing and
forgiving tears.  Had I done so, my soul would have been knit to his
with a love strong as the old love was weak--noble as the old passionate
affection was erring and idolatrous; but I did not.  I conquered the
emotion, which the sound of his voice, and his laughter, had stirred
within me.  I told myself that _that_ was not my Owen--mine, my hero was
dead.  Untidy, pale, agitated, but unforgiving, I opened the
drawing-room door and went in.  David, mother, and Owen, were standing
in a loving, happy group.  I went up to the group--they had not heard me
come in--and touched Owen on the sleeve, and said, in a quiet voice,
"Welcome home, brother."

For an instant two bright, dark eyes looked expectantly into mine--one
instant the brilliant eyes wore that look--one instant after, they were
blank with disappointment.  Then all was commonplace--a commonplace, but
affectionate brother's kiss was on my cheek, and a gay voice said,
laughingly--

"Why, Gwladys, you're as wild and disreputable-looking a little romp as
ever."

CHAPTER NINE.

EARTH--AIR--FIRE--WATER.

Whether Owen had come back, in my opinion, a hero, or an unpardoned and
disgraced man, appeared after his first swift glance into my face to
affect him very little, if at all; and I had to admit to myself that
whatever else he may have failed in, he had arrived at Ffynon with a
full knowledge of the duty which he had undertaken.

As a boy, he had always loved engineering, and when in those bright and
happy days he and I had discussed his golden future, the _pros_ had
generally ended in favour of his becoming an engineer.

"All things considered, I should like this best, Gwladys," he would say.
And though in these very youthful days he appeared to care more for
poetry and the finest of the fine arts, yet it was here, I believe, that
his true talent lay.  Owen had not been idle during the four years of
his exile, he had studied engineering as a profession when he was at
Oxford, and during these years he had gone through a course of practical
training with regard to the duties of a mining engineer, not only in the
German mines, but in the North of England.  He now brought this
knowledge to bear on the rather slow working and unprofitable mine at
Ffynon.  This mine, which belonged to our mother, had at one time
yielded a great deal of coal and was a source of much wealth, but of
late, year by year, the mine yielded less, and its expenses became
greater.  It was worked on an old-fashioned system; it had not the
recent improvements with regard to ventilation; and many serious
accidents had taken place in consequence.  Neither was the manager
popular, he worked the mine recklessly, and many accidents of the most
fatal character were constantly taking place from the falls of roofs,
this expression meaning the giving way of great portions of the coal for
want of proper supports being put under it.  A short time before Owen's
return, the manager of the mine for some more flagrant act of
carelessness than usual, had been dismissed, and it was on hearing this,
that Owen had written to David, telling him of his studies and his
profession, reminding him also that when a boy he had more than once
gone down into the old mine at Ffynon, that with his present knowledge
he believed the mine to be still rich in coal, and that it only needed
to be properly worked to yield a fine return.  He spoke strongly against
the unprofitable and expensive system which had hitherto been adopted;
and finally he begged of David to give him permission to step into the
manager's shoes, and for at least a year to have absolute control of the
mine: promising at the end of that time to reduce order out of chaos, to
lessen current expenses, and to bring in the first instalments of what
should be large profits.

He had frankly told David his reason for this: he had a debt to pay, a
debt of love and gratitude it was true, but still a debt that fretted
his proud spirit, a debt that must be paid before he could know
happiness again.  But it was just on account of this reason that David
hesitated to accept the services of one whose knowledge of the work he
meant to undertake, was certainly great.  The primary motive in Owen's
heart, seemed to David, in the present state of Ffynon mine, hardly a
worthy one.  Coal was valuable, gold scarce, but lives were precious; it
seemed to David that until all was done to insure the safety of the
lives of those men and boys who worked in the mine, gold ought to weigh
very low in the balance, and as he alone of us all knew something truly
of his brother's character, so he hesitated to accept his offer; but
while David hesitated, mother urged.  Mother was ignorant of the miner's
life; gold to mother was not valueless: she had dreams of the Morgans
being restored to all their former riches and power, she had also,
notwithstanding his one fall, still implicit faith in Owen.  Owen would
not only win the gold but make the mine safe.  It was a grief to her to
leave Tynycymmer, but it was a counterbalancing delight to live on any
terms for a year with her favourite son; she urged the acceptance of his
offer.  Thus urged, David yielded.

We moved to Ffynon.  Owen arrived, eager, hopeful, enthusiastic, as of
old.  Handsome and brilliant as ever he looked as gay as though he had
never known a sorrow.  So I thought for the first week after his
arrival, then I saw that his spirits were fitful, sometimes I fancied a
little forced; a bad report of the mine would depress him for the day,
whereas good news would send his gay laugh echoing all over the small
house.

Thus I found myself in the midst of mining life.  Mother, hitherto
profoundly ignorant of such matters, now took up the popular theme with
interest and zest.

She and I learned what _fire-damp_, _black-damp_, _after-damp_ meant.
We learned the relative destructiveness of explosions by gas and
inundations by water.  Then we became great on the all-important subject
of ventilation.  We knew what the steam jet could do, what furnace
ventilation could effect.  I admired the Davy lamps, learned something
of their construction, and at last, I obtained the strongest wish I at
present possessed, namely, a visit to this underground region of awe and
danger, myself.  It is a hackneyed theme, and I need scarcely describe
it at length.  I remember stepping on to the cage with some of the
enthusiasm which I had admired in Miles' brave hero brother, and long
before I reached the bottom of the shaft, suffering from an intolerable
sense of suffocation, and shivering and shaking with inward fear, such
as must have overtaken poor little James on that fatal day.  Finally,
when I got to the bottom, recovering my courage, rejoicing in the free
current of fresh air which was blown down from the great fan above,
growing accustomed to the dim light of the Davy lamps, and then
discovering little, by little, that the mine with its rail-roads, its
levels, its drift ways, where the loaded trams of coal ran swiftly down,
impelled by their own weight, its eager, grimy workers, its patient
horses, destined many of them to live and die in this underground gloom,
was very like a town, and had an order and method of its own.

The knowledge gained by the visit, the knowledge gained by listening to
Owen's and David's conversation, the knowledge perhaps greater than all,
which I had won by my friendship for Miles and Nan, inspired in me the
strongest respect and admiration for the brave collier.  He works in the
dark, his heroic deeds are little heard of beyond his own circle, and
yet he is as true a hero as the soldier in the field of battle or the
sailor in the storm: his battle-field is the mine, his enemies, earth,
air, fire, and water.  Any moment the earth can bury him in a living
tomb, a vast quantity of that solid coal may give way, and crush him
beneath its weight; any instant, the air, in the poisoned form of black,
or after-damp, may fill his lungs, take all power from his limbs, fell
him in his strength and prime to the earth, and leave him there dead; or
in half an instant, through the explosion of a match, the wrong
adjustment of a safety-lamp, the whole mine may from end to end become a
cavern of lurid fire, destroying every living thing within its reach.
Or one stroke too many of the miner's pick, may let in a volume of black
and stagnant water from an unused and forgotten pit, which rising slowly
at first, then gaining, in volume, in strength, in rapidity, buries the
miners in a watery grave of horrible and loathsome desolation.

Yes, the miners are brave; for small pay they toll unremittingly,
labouring in the dark, exposed to many dangers.  Day by day these men go
down into the mines literally with their lives in their hands.  The
wives, mothers, sisters, know well what the non-arrival of a husband,
father, brother means.  They hope a little, fear much, weep over the
mangled remains when they can even have that poor source of consolation,
and then the widow who has lost her husband, dries her eyes, puts her
shoulder to the wheel, and like a true Spartan woman, when his turn
comes, sends down her boy to follow in his father's steps, and, if God
wills it, to die bravely, as his father died before him.

I visited the schools about Ffynon, and noticed the bright dark-eyed,
Welsh children, each boy among them destined to become a collier as he
grew up.  Many of these boys shrank from it, struggled against it,
feared it as a coming nightmare; some few, as the dreaded time drew
near, ran away to sea, preferring the giving up of father and mother,
and encountering the hardships of the sea, to the greater hardships of
the mine, but most of them yielded to the inevitable fate.

I found, too, on observation that the colliers of Ffynon were a
religious people; the sentiments I had heard in astonishment and almost
awe dropping from the lips of little Miles, I found were the sentiments
rather of the many than the few.  They lived an intense life, and they
needed, and certainly possessed, an intense faith.

The body of them were not Church people; they had a simple and
impassioned service of their own, generally held in the Welsh tongue.
At these services they prayed and sang and listened to fervent
addresses.  At these services, after an accident, slight or great, the
men and women often bowed their heads and wept.  Their services were
alive and warm, breathing the very breath of devotion, suited to their
untrained, but strong natures.  They left them with the sense of a
present God alive in each heart; a God who would go with them into the
mine, who would accompany them through the daily toil and danger, and,
if need be, and His will called them, would carry them safely, even in a
chariot of fire, into the Golden City.

To the religious miner, the descriptions of Heaven as written in the
Apocalypse, were the very life of his life.  He loved to sit by his fire
on Sunday evenings, and slowly read from the well-worn page to his
listening wife, and his lads and lasses, of the city sparkling with gems
and rich with gold.  To the man who toiled in the deepest of darkness, a
land without night or shadow was a theme of rapture.  To the man who
knew danger and pain, who fought every day with grim death, that
painless shore, that eternal calm, that home where father, mother,
brother, sister, rudely parted and torn asunder here, should be
together, and God with them, was as an anchor to his soul.  No place on
earth could be more real and present than Heaven was to the religious
collier.  Take it from him, and he could do no more work in the dark and
dangerous mine; leave it with him, and he was a hero.  The colliers had
one proud motto, one badge of honour, which each father bequeathed as
his most precious possession to his son--this motto was "Bravery;" one
stigma of everlasting disgrace which, once earned, nothing could wipe
out, "Cowardice."  In the collier's creed _no_ stone was too heavy to
roll away to rescue a brother from danger.  Into the midst of the fire
and the flood, into the fatal air of the after-damp, they must go
without shrinking to save a companion who had fallen a victim to these
dangers.  Each man as he toiled to rescue his fellow man, knew well that
he in his turn, would risk life itself for him.  No man reflected credit
on himself for this, no man regarded it as other than his most simple
and obvious duty.

Into the midst of this simple, brave, and in many ways noble people,
came Owen with his science and his skill.  He went down into the mine
day after day, quickly mastered its intricacies, quickly discovered its
defects, quickly lighted upon its still vast stores of unused treasures.
At the end of a month he communicated the result to David.  I was
seated by the open window, and I heard, in detached sentences, something
of what was spoken, as the brothers paced the little plot of ground
outside, arm in arm.  As I watched them, I noticed for the first time
some of the old look of confidence and passion on Owen's face.  The
expressive eyes revealed this fact to me--the full hazel irids, the
pupils instinct with fire, the whole eyes brimming with a long-lost
gladness, proclaimed to me that the daring, the ambition I had loved,
was not dead.

"Give me but a year, David," I heard him say in conclusion.  "Give me
but one year, and I shall see my way to it.  In a year from this time,
if you but give me permission to do as I think best, the mine shall
begin to pay you back what I have lost to you!"

David's voice, in direct contrast to Owen's, was deep and sad.

"I don't want that," he said, laying his hand on his brother's arm, "I
want something else."

"What?" asked Owen.

"I want something else," continued David.  "This is it.  Owen, I want
you to help me to fulfil a duty, a much neglected duty.  I take myself
to task very much for the gross way I have passed it by hitherto.  God
knows it was my ignorance, not my wilful neglect, but I ought to have
known; this is no real excuse.  Owen, I have lived contented at
Tynycymmer, and forgotten, or almost forgotten, this old mine.  I left
things in the hands of the manager; I received the money it brought
without either thought or comment.  And all the time, God help me, the
place was behind its neighbours.  I had not much money to expend on it,
and I was content it should be worked on the old system, never thinking,
never calculating, that the old system involved danger and loss of life.
The mine is not ventilated as the other mines are; in no mine in the
neighbourhood do so many deaths occur.  You yourself have discovered it
to be full of many dangers.  So, Owen, what I ask of you is this, help
me to lift this sin of my neglect off my soul.  I don't want the money,
Owen; it is enough for me, it is more than enough, to see you as you now
are; the money, I repeat, is a thing to me of no value, but the people's
lives are of much.  I can and will raise the sum you require to put the
mine into a state of safety, to perfect the ventilation, to do all that
can be done to lessen the danger for the colliers.  Do your part in this
as quickly as possible, Owen, and let us think nothing of money gains
for the present."

While David was speaking, Owen had again drawn a veil of perfect
immobility over his face.  Impossible, with this veil on, to guess his
thoughts, or fathom his feelings.

"Of course, of course," he said, "the ventilation shall be improved and
all that is necessary done."

CHAPTER TEN.

LITTLE TWENTY.

I had not forgotten my promise to visit Nan on the day her brother first
went down into the mine.

I selected a bundle of illustrated papers--some old copies of _Punch_--
as, judging from the delight I took in them myself, I hoped they would
make little Nan laugh.  I also put a sixpenny box of paints into my
pocket.  These sixpenny paint-boxes were the most delightful things the
Tynycymmer children had ever seen, so, doubtless, they would look
equally nice in the eyes of Nan.

The Thomas's cottage was one of a row that stood just over the pit bank.
I ascended the rather steep hill which led to it, entered the narrow
path which ran in front of the whole row of houses, and where many women
were now hanging out clothes to dry, and knocked at Nan's door.  She did
not hear me; she was moving briskly about within, and singing to her
work.  Her voice sounded happy, and the Welsh words and Welsh air were
gay.  I knocked a second time, then went in.

"I am so glad to hear you singing, Nan," I said.  "I was sure you would
be in trouble, for I thought Miles had gone into the mine to-day!"

Little Nan was arranging some crockery on the white dresser.  She
stopped at the sound of my voice, and turned round with the large china
tea-pot in her hand.  When I had seen her on Saturday, seated weeping on
the old cinder-heap, I had regarded her as a very little child.  Now I
perceived my mistake.  Nan was no child; she was a miniature woman.  I
began to doubt what effect my copies of _Punch_ and my sixpenny paints
would produce on this odd mixture; more particularly when she said, in a
quiet old-fashioned voice--"But he did go into the mine, Miss Morgan;
Miles went down the shaft at five o'clock this mornin'."

"You take it very calmly when the time comes," I continued; "I thought
you would have been in a terrible state."

"Yes, ain't I easy," said Nan, "I never thought as the Lord 'ud help me
like this; why, I ain't frighted at all."

"But there's just as much danger as ever there was," I said.  "Your not
being frightened does not make it at all safer for Miles down in the
pit."

I made this remark, knowing that it was both unkind and disagreeable;
but I was disappointed; I had meant to turn comforter--I was provoked to
find my services unnecessary.

"There ain't no danger to-day," replied Nan, to my last pleasant
assurance.

"How can you say that?"  I asked.

"'Cause the Lord revealed it to me in a dream."

Now I, too, believed in dreams.  I was as superstitious as the most
superstitious Welsh girl could possibly be.  Gwen, my isolated life, my
Welsh descent, had all made me this; it was, therefore, with
considerable delight, that, just when I was beginning to place Nan very
low in my category of friends, I found that I could claim her for a
kindred spirit.

"You are a very odd little girl," I said; "but I'm sure I _shall_ like
you.  See!  I've brought you _Punch_, and the _Illustrated News_, and a
box of paints, and _perhaps_ I shall show you how to colour these
pictures, as the children did at Tynycymmer."

Then I seated myself uninvited, and unrolled my treasures; my
newspapers, my copies of _Punch_, my paint-box with the lid off, were
all revealed to Nan's wondering eyes.

"Get me a saucer and a cup of water," I said, "and I'll show you how to
colour this picture, and then you can pin it up against the wall for
your father to see when he comes home."

"If you please, miss," said Nan, dropping a little curtsey, and then
coming forward and examining the print in question with a critical eye,
"if you please, miss, I'd rayther not."

"What do you mean?"  I said.

"Well, miss, I'm very gratified to you; but, father, he don't like
pictures pasted up on the walls, and, indeed, Miss Morgan," getting very
red, her sloe-black eyes gleaming rather angrily, "I 'as no time for
such child's play as lookin' at pictures, and colourin' of 'em, and
makin' messes in cups and plates.  I 'as enough to do to wash h'up the
cups and saucers as is used for cookin', and keepin' the house tidy, and
makin' the money go as far and as comfort as possible.  I'm very
gratified to you, miss; but I 'as no time for that nonsense.  I ain't
such a baby as I looks."

As little Nan spoke, she grew in my eyes tall and womanly, while I felt
myself getting smaller and smaller, in fact, taking the place I had
hitherto allotted to her.  I rolled up my despised goods hastily, rose
to my feet, and spoke--

"You are not half as nice as you looked.  I am very sorry that I
disturbed so busy and important a person.  As I see you don't want me, I
shall wish you good morning."

I had nearly reached the door, when Nan ran after me, laid her hand on
my arm, and looked into my face with her eyes full of tears.

"I ain't a wishin' you to go," she said, "I wants you to set down and
talk to me woman-like."

"How old are you? you strange creature," I said; but I was restored to
good humour, and sat down willingly enough.

"I'm ten," said Nan, "I'm small for my h'age, I know."

"You are, indeed, small for your age," I said, "and your age is very
small.  Why, Nan, whatever you may pretend about it, you are a baby."

"No, I ain't," said Nan, gravely and solemnly, "it ain't years only as
makes us babies or womans, 'tis--"

"What?"  I said, "do go on."

"Well, miss, I b'lieves as 'tis anxiety.  Miles says as I has a very
h'anxious mind.  He says I takes it from mother, and that ages one up
awful."

"I've no doubt of it," I said.  "I've felt it myself, 'tis
overpowering."

"I don't think you knows it much, miss," said Nan.  "I should say from
the looks o' you, that you was much younger nor me."

"Mind what you're about," I said, "I'm sixteen--a young lady full grown.
But come, now, Nan, with all your anxiety, you were merry enough when I
came in--you did sing out in such a jolly style,--I thought you such a
dear little thing; I did not know you were an old croak."

"Why yes," said Nan, half-smiling, and inclined to resume her song, "I'm
as light as a feather this mornin', that's the Lord's doing."

"What did the Lord do for you, Nan?"

"He sent me a token, miss, as sure as sure could be, and it came just in
the minute before waking."

"What was it?"  I repeated, for little Nan had paused, her face had
grown soft and almost beautiful; the hard unpleasing lines of care and
anxiety had vanished, and in their stead, behold! the eyes were full of
love and faith, the lips tender, trustful, but withal, triumphant.

"I was sore fretted," she began, "as father couldn't go down with Miles;
he had to stay to go ever the mine with the strange gentleman as is to
be manager, and Miles going down h'all alone, reminded me sore of
Stephie.  And I was frettin', frettin', frettin', and the prayers, nor
the hymns, nor nothing, couldn't do me no good, and Miles hisself, at
last, he were fain to be vexed with me, and when I went to bed my heart
was h'all like a lump o' lead, and I felt up to forty, at the very
least, and then it was that the Lord saw the burden was too big for me,
and He sent me the dream."

"What was it?  Nan."

"I thought, miss, as I seed the Lord Hisself, all pitiful and of tender
mercy.  I seed Him as plain as I sees you, and He looked me through and
through, very sorrowful, as I shouldn't trust Him, and Miles, he was
standin' on the cage, just afore it went down, and there was an empty
place near Miles, and I saw that every one had their comrade and friend
with them, 'cept Miles; and then the Lord, He went and stood by Miles,
on the empty space, and He put His arm round Miles, and he looked at me,
and I saw the Lord and Miles going down into the dark, dark pit
together."

"I'm sure that was true," I said, "that was very much what Miles said
himself, don't you remember?  You were much better after your dream,
were you not?  Nan."

"Yes, miss, I was light and easy in my mind, as if I was twenty!"

"What _do_ you mean, now?"  I said.

"Well, Miss Morgan, I can't help it.  I know I'm queer, the folks all
say I'm queer.  I know I haven't h'aged with my years.  Sometimes, miss,
the anxiety brings me up to fifty, and I feels my hair's a-turnin'
white; then again, I'm thirty, and forty; most times I feels like
thirty, but now and then, as to-day, the Lord gives me a special
revelation, and then, why, I'm as light as a feather, and down to
twenty, but I'm never below that, miss."

And yet I meant to offer that creature toys!  Such was my mental
comment, but before I could speak again, the door was opened, and a tall
man--coal-black--with gleaming eyeballs, and snowy teeth, came in.  He
took no notice of me, perhaps he did not see me, but in passing through
to another room, he called out in a full cheery voice--

"I say, little lass, how do you feel?"

"Fine, father, down to twenty."

"Well, Twenty, bustle about, and get me some dinner; I'll be ready for
it in ten minutes."

"I must go away now," I said, rising.

"No, miss, that you mustn't; I wants you to see father.  Father's a
wonderful man, Miss Morgan, he have had a sight o' trouble one way and
t'other, and he's up to fifty in years; but the Lord, He keeps him that
strong and full o' faith, he never passes thirty, in his mind; but
there, what a chatterbox I am, and father a wantin' his dinner!"

The old-fashioned mortal moved away, laid a coarse but clean cloth on a
small table, dished up some bacon and potatoes in a masterly manner, and
placed beside them a tin vessel--which, she informed me, was a miner's
"jack"--full of cold tea.

"Father will never go down into the mine without his jack o' tea," she
explained; and just then the miner, his face and hands restored to their
natural hue, came in.

"Father," said Nan, in quite a stately fashion, "this lady is Miss
Morgan; she's a very kind lady, and she spoke good words to Miles o'
Saturday."

"Mornin', miss," said the miner, pulling his front lock of hair, "I'm
proud to see you, miss, and that I am; and now, lass," turning to his
daughter, "you'll have no call to be anxious now no more, for this young
lady's brother was h'all over the mine this mornin', and he and Squire
Morgan promises that all that is right shall be done, and the place made
as snug and tight as possible.  That young gentleman, miss," again
addressing me, "is very sharp; _he_ knows wot he's about, that he do!"

"Is the mine dangerous?"  I asked.

"No, no," said the collier, winking impressively at me, while Nan was
helping herself to a potato, "but might be made safer, as I says, might
be made safer; another shaft let down, and wentilation made more fresh.
But there! praise the Lord, 'tis all to be done, and that in no time;
why, that mine will be so safe in a month or two, that little Nan might
go and play there, if she so minded."

As the big man spoke, looking lovingly at his tiny daughter, and the
daughter replied, with anxious, knitted brows, "You know, father, as I
don't play," he looked the younger of the two.

"No more you does, Twenty," he replied, "but even Twenty can put away
her fears and sing us a song when she hears a bit of good news."

"Shall I sing a hymn? father."

"Well, yes, my lass, I does feel like praisin'--there, you begin, and
I'll foller up."

Little Nan laid down her knife and fork, fixed her dark eyes straight
before her, clasped her hands, and began--

  "We shall meet beyond the river,
          By and by,
  And the darkness shall be over,
          By and by.
  With the toilsome journey done,
  And the glorious battle won,
  We shall shine forth as the sun,
          By and by."

She paused, looked at her father, who joined her in the next verse--

  "We shall strike the harps of glory,
          By and by.
  We shall sing redemption's story.
          By and by.
  And the strains for evermore
  Shall resound in sweetness o'er
  Yonder everlasting shore,
          By and by.

  "We shall see and be like Jesus
          By and by.
  Who a crown of life shall give us,
          By and by.
  All the blest ones who have gone
  To the land of life and song,
  We with gladness shall rejoin
          By and by!"

I have given the words, but I cannot describe the fervent looks that
accompanied them, nor catch any echo here, of the sweet voice of the
child, or the deep and earnest tones of the man.  The strong spiritual
life in both their natures came leaping to the surface, the man forgot
the stranger by his hearth, he saw his God; the child, too, forgot her
fears and her anxieties, and as she sang she became really young.

CHAPTER ELEVEN.

THEY TALKED OF MONEY.

Since my arrival at smoky, ugly Ffynon, I had never again to complain of
being buried alive.  The life I led was certainly not the life I should
have chosen.  I was young; I had day dreams.  Had the choice been mine,
I should have liked, as all other young things, to win for myself either
pleasure, love, or fame.  But the choice was not mine; and at Ffynon,
strange as it may seem, I grew more contented than I had been now for
many years at Tynycymmer.

I was pleased with the people, I liked their occupation, their life.  I
soon found interests outside myself--a grand secret--thus I grew happy.
Nan and Miles soon also became my real friends: I learned to appreciate
their characters, to understand them; they were alike in many ways, but
in far more ways were they different.  Nan had more character and more
originality than Miles, but Miles had far more simple bravery than Nan.
They were both religious; but Miles's religion was the least dreamy, and
the most practical.  On the whole, I think the boy had the grander
nature, and yet I think I loved the girl best.

I made many other acquaintances amongst the colliers, but these two
children were my friends.

In about a fortnight after Owen's return, David went back to Tynycymmer,
and we settled down quietly into our new and altered life.  From morning
to night Owen was busy, now making engineering plans, now down in the
mine.  As a boy he had been dilatory and fitful in his movements,
working hard one day, dreaming or idling away the next; but now this
boyish character had disappeared--now all this was changed.  Now he
worked unremittingly, unflinchingly; he had a goal before him, and to
this goal he steadily directed his steps, looking neither to the right
hand nor to the left.  In his present plans, whatever they may have
been, mother helped him.  Mother gave him of her sympathy and her
interest.  Long ago, dearly as they loved each other, I don't think
those two natures had quite met; but this was no longer so now; the same
hope animated both pairs of eyes, the same feeling actuated both
breasts.  They had long conferences, anxious, and yet hopeful
consultations; but it was less in their words than in their faces that I
read that their wishes were the same.

I never saw mother look happier.  Her long-lost son seemed now more her
son than ever.

And I--had I, too, got back my Owen? had my hero returned? was this my
brother, once dead to me, now alive again?

Alas! no.  We were friends, Owen and I; we were outwardly affectionate,
outwardly all that could be wished; but the man of the world made no
advances of heart and confidence to the still childish sister; and the
sister was glad that this should be so.  We kissed each other
affectionately night and morning, we chatted familiarly, we broached a
thousand gay topics, but on the old sacred ground we neither of us
ventured to set our feet.  After a time I concluded that Owen had really
forgotten the old days; and believing this, I yet was glad.

Why so?  Why was my heart thus hard and unforgiving?  Had my love for
Owen really died?  I do not think it had.  Looking back on that winter
now, with the light of the present, making all things clear, I believe
that this was not so.  I know now what was wrong: I know that I, by my
pride, by the lack of all that was really noble in my affection, had set
up a thin wall of ice between my brother's heart and my own.

Once, I think, Owen made an effort, though a slight one, to break it
down.  He had been talking to my mother for an hour or more; their
interview had excited him; and with the excitement still playing in his
eyes he came to my side, and stood close to me as I bent down to water
some plants.

"Poor little girl!" he said, laying his hand on my hair, "you are very
good to come and live in this poky, out-of-the-way corner of the world;
but never mind, Gwladys, soon there will be plenty of money, and you can
do as you like."

"How soon?  Owen," I said, raising my head and looking in his face.

"How soon?  In a year, at farthest."

"Will the mine then be safe 'n a year?"

The bright look left Owen's face.  "What do you know of the mine?
child," he laughed.  "I am speaking about money."

I made no reply to this, though Owen waited for it.  I watered my
flowers in silence, and then walked away.  Yes, there was a gulf between
us.

I might have broken it down then--he gave me the opportunity: he showed
by his manner that the old days still occupied some dim corner of his
memory; the old days were not quite forgotten; but I would not break
down the wall; I would not breathe on the ice with the breath of love.
I walked away, and my opportunity was gone!  As I did so, I thought of
David's words when he begged of me to help Owen to keep in the right
path; when he expressed his fears, and asked me to aid him.  I did not
aid him--I neglected my duty.  Owen was not the only sinner.  In God's
sight, was he the worst?

Meanwhile, in the outside world, the people of Ffynon talked of a good
time coming, of freedom from danger, of improvements about to be
effected, which would enable the mothers to send down their boys into
the mine without fear, and would insure the return of the fathers to the
children, of the husbands to their wives.  Higher wages, too, and more
constant employment would follow the new, safe, and profitable system,
which not only would save lives, but bring a much greater proportion of
coal to the surface.  Thus all parties were bright and happy--all
parties happy from their own point of view; but while the miners talked
of safety, mother and Owen talked of money.

CHAPTER TWELVE.

YOU ARE CHANGED TO ME.

The events in this story followed each other quickly, I must not delay
in writing of them.  Hitherto I have but skirted the drama, I have
scarcely ventured to lift the folds of the dark curtain, but now I
hesitate no longer.

Here!  I push back the veil, let those who will step with me beyond its
kind screen.  I am going into a battle-field, and the place is gloomy.
Heavy with clouds is the sky, red with blood the ground, and cold with
death lie the conquered, ay, and the conquerors too.  But enough! my
story must tell itself, the shadows must come up one by one as they
will.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

We were five months at Ffynon, and the dreary winter had nearly passed,
a few snowdrops and crocuses were in the little garden, and all spring
flowers that money could buy and care cultivate, adorned the pretty
cottage within.  I had been on a long rambling expedition, and had taken
Nan with me, and Nan had entertained me as I liked best to be
entertained, with accounts of mining life and mining danger.  Strange,
how when we are young, we do like stories of danger.  I came back a good
deal excited, for Nan had been giving me particulars, learned from her
mother's lips, of the fearful accident caused in our very mine in 1856
by fire-damp, when one hundred and fourteen lives were swept in a moment
into eternity.  "That was a dark day for Ffynon," said Nan, "not a house
without a widow in it, not a home without a dead husband or father.
Mother lost her father and brother, and our Stephie was born that very
night.  Mother warn't twenty then, but she got old in a minute and never
grew young again.  Eh! dear," added the small thing, with her heavy old
world sigh, "ain't it a weary world, Miss Morgan?"

"Well, I don't know," I said, "you are inclined to take a dark view of
life, but things will brighten, Nan.  Owen is making things so
delightfully safe down in the mine, that soon you'll have no cause to be
anxious, and then you'll grow young, as young as me, and enjoy your
life."

"I'll never be younger nor twenty," said Nan, solemnly, "never; and,
Miss Morgan, I can't help telling _you_ something."

"Well, my dear, what is it?"

"They do say, father and Miles, not to me, for they knows I'm so
anxious, but I hears 'em whispering when they thinks I'm asleep o'
nights.  They do say that for all Mr Morgan is so keen about saving the
miners, and making things safe and compact, that he have the coal
pillars what supports the roof, cut all away to nothing, and the timber
what's put in, in place o' the pillars, ain't thick enough.  It don't
sound much I know, but it means much."

"What does it mean?  Nan," I asked.

"Why, falls o' roofs, Miss Morgan.  Oh!  _I_ knows the sign of 'em, but
there," seeing how white my face had grown, "may be 'tis 'cause I'm an
anxious thing, and they do say there's a heap more coal bin brought up,
and the ventilation twice as good."

I made no reply to this.  I did not say another word.  When we came in
sight of Nan's cottage, I bade her adieu by a single-hand shake, and ran
home.  On the gravel sweep outside the sunny, smiling cottage, might be
seen the substantial form of Gwen, and by Gwen's side, his hat off, the
breeze stirring his wavy brown hair, stood Owen.

Graceful, careless, happy, handsome, looked my brother, as he raised his
face to kiss David's boy, who sat astride on his shoulder.  The baby was
kicking, laughing, crowing, stretching his arms, catching at Owen's
hair, and making a thousand happy sounds, the first indications of a
language he was never to learn perfectly on earth.  Alas! what _did_ the
baby see in the darkness, that made his face the brightest thing I ever
looked at, the brightest thing I ever shall look at in this world.  The
sight of the baby and Gwen caused me to forget Nan's words; I ran
forward eagerly and spoke eagerly.

"Gwen, what a surprise! how delighted I am! have you come to stay?  Oh!
you darling, darling pet!"  These last words were addressed to little
David, whom I took out of Owen's arms, and covered with kisses.  "How
much he has grown!  What a beauty he is!--like a little king.  There! my
precious lamb; go back to Owen, for I _must_ give old Gwen a hug!"

Laughing heartily, Owen received him back, perched him anew on his
shoulder, while I turned to Gwen, whom I nearly strangled with the
vehemence of my embrace.  "There! you dear old thing.  _Have_ you come
to live with us?  Oh! how dreadfully, dreadfully I have missed you.  Oh!
never mind your cap.  I'll quill you another border in no time.  Now,
are you coming to live here?  Do speak, and don't look so solemn."

"Dear, dear, my maid!" said Gwen, shaking herself free, and panting for
breath.  "Good gracious!  Gwladys, my maid, I'm a bit stout, and none so
young; and you did shake me awful."  A pause, pant-pant, puff-puff from
Gwen.  "Why, there!  I'm better now, and fit to cry with the joy of
seeing you, my maid; but,"--with a warding-off gesture of her fat
hands--"good gracious!  Gwladys, don't fall on me again."  A peal of
laughter from Owen, in which the baby joined.

"Speak," I said, solemnly; "if you don't instantly declare your
intentions, and the duration of your stay, I shall _strangle_ you."

"'Twas on account o' the fever," said Gwen.  At these words my hands
dropped to my sides, the baby's laughter ceased to float on the air, and
Owen was silent.  "There's nought, to be frighted at," continued Gwen,
observing these signs; "on'y a case or two at the lodge, and little
Maggie and Dan, the laundress's children were rather bad.  The Squire
said it warn't likely to spread; but it would be best to make all safe,
so he sent little David and me here for a fortnight, or so.  Dear heart,
he was sore down in the mouth at sayin' good-bye to the baby; but I was
pleased enough, Gwladys, my maid.  I wanted to get a sight o' your
yellow hair, and to see my mistress, and Mr Owen."

"And I'm delighted to renew my acquaintance with you, Gwen," responded
Owen, heartily.  "I assure you I have not forgotten you.  There! take
baby now," he added.  "I think I hear my mother calling you."  When Gwen
was gone, Owen, to my surprise came to my side, and drew my hand through
his arm.

"I want to talk to you about the baby," he said.  "What a splendid
fellow he is?  How sad he should be blind.  Somehow I never realised it
before.  I always knew that David's boy was without sight, but, as I
say, I never took in the meaning of it until I looked into those
beautiful dark eyes.  Isn't David awfully cut up about it?  Gwladys."

"I'm not sure," I replied.  "You must remember, Owen, that he is
accustomed to it; and then all about baby's birth was so sad.  Indeed,
David does not like even to talk much about him; and when we are by, he
never takes much notice, when he is brought into the room, only Gwen
tells me how he comes up every night to see him, and how he kisses him--
indeed, I know he quite lives for baby."

"Gwladys, I wish you would tell me about Amy?  Was she worthy of that
noble fellow?"

I looked at Owen in surprise--surprise from a twofold cause, for the
voice that brought out the unexpected and unusual words trembled.

"He is the noblest fellow I know, quite," said Owen, emphatically,
looking me full in the face.  "What kind of woman was his wife?"

"I did not know her very well," I replied.  "I don't believe I cared
greatly for her.  Still, I am sure, Owen--yes, I _know_ that she was
worthy of David."

Owen turned away his face, looked on the ground; in a moment he spoke in
a different tone, on a different subject.

"I was quite glad to see that little bit of enthusiasm in you; you used
to be a very affectionate, warm-hearted child, and I thought it had all
died out."

I felt my face growing crimson.  I tried not to speak, then the words
burst forth--

"It has not died away; I can love still."

"I make no doubt of that, my dear," continued he, carelessly, "but you
have not the same pleasant way of showing it."

He dropped my hand and walked towards the house, but his indifferent
words had renewed the feeling with which I had parted from Nan.  He too
might be indifferent, but at least he should know.  I would tell him
Nan's words.

"Owen, I want to ask you a question."

"Well!" turning round, and leaning his graceful figure against the
porch.

"We are going to be rich again, before long?"

"Perhaps; I cannot say."

"But you are getting up a lot of coal now out of the mine?"

"Certainly; the weekly supply is nearly double what it was six months
ago."

"Then of course we must be rich before long?"

"There is the possibility, but mines are uncertain things."  A pause, a
scarcely suppressed yawn, then Owen turned on his heel.  "I am going in,
Gwladys; I don't care to talk business out of business hours, and I want
to have a chat with mother."

His tone of easy indifference, coming so soon after seeing Nan's
suffering face, and hearing her words of intense anxiety, half maddened
me.  I know I forgot myself.  I ran forward and caught his arm, and made
him look me full in the face.  No fear then, as he gazed at my
crimsoning cheek and angry eye, that he should say I lacked my
childhood's enthusiasm.

"You are not going in yet," I said, "for I have got something to say to
you--something, I repeat, which I _will_ say.  You need not pretend to
me, Owen, that we are not getting rich, for I _know_ we are.  But I ask
you one question, Is it right that we should have this money at the risk
of the colliers' lives? is it right, in order that we should have a
little more gold, that the coal pillars should be cut away, until the
roofs are in danger of falling? and is it right that the timber supports
should be made thinner than is safe?  All this adds to our money, Owen;
is it right that we should grow rich in that way?"

"Good God!  Gwladys;" a pause, then vehemently, "How dare you say such
things to me! who has been telling you such lies?"

"I won't mention the name of the person who has told me the truth, but I
have heard it through the colliers; the colliers themselves are speaking
of it."

Owen covered his face with his hand; he was trembling, but whether with
anger or pain, I could not say.  I stood silent, waiting for him to
speak; he did not, perhaps for two minutes; those minutes watching his
trembling hand, seemed like twenty.

"You and the colliers have both made a mistake," he said then; "they
have exaggerated notions of the necessary thickness of the coal pillars.
I never have them worked beyond what is safe.  As to the timber
supports, they are measured with the nicest mathematical accuracy.  You
and they both forget that I am an engineer, that I work the mine with a
knowledge which they cannot possess.  Good God! to think that I am
capable of risking willingly men's lives to win gold; to think that
_you_, Gwladys, should believe me capable of it; but you are not what
you were.  Once, such words could never have been said to _you_ of _me_.
You are changed to me utterly, and I am _utterly_ disappointed in you."
He pushed his hat over his eyes, and before I could reply was several
paces away, walking rapidly in the direction of the still romantic and
once beautiful Rhoda Vale.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

PRIDE'S PIT.

During the long and dull winter months which preceded this spring, I had
been gradually, yet surely, sinking into a state of indifference about
Owen.  What had commenced with a sense of poignant pain, had by this
time subsided into at most an uncomfortable feeling of dissatisfaction.
I knew there was a chord in my heart which when struck could set my
whole nature out of tune.  But was it not possible, in the airs which
life played, she might leave this harsh note unsounded?  This
possibility took place.  During the winter months mother, Owen, and I
spent together, I grew accustomed to being near and yet far from him.

Our little home was very bright, a cloud which I had but dimly and
unawares partaken in for years, had been removed.  Why should not I too
enjoy this season of serenity and bliss?  Calling pride to my aid, I did
enjoy it.  I even loved Owen, not in the old way, but with a very
considerable affection.  I tried to forget all the past, to give him a
place in my heart beside mother and David.  And in a measure I was
successful, in a measure I put out of sight the ugly cloud, the dark
disappointment which had shattered my air castle, and made my
childhood's hero dust.  So by the hearth on winter evenings, I listened
to brilliant stories from Owen's lips, stories of his foreign
experience, of things he had learned when studying in the German mines;
tales of adventure, funny nothings dropped from his lips at these times,
pleasant things to listen to, and to think of afterwards, when I lay
curled up in my warmly-curtained bed.  But though Owen's mind directed
his words at these times, imagination supplying the needful colour, a
due sense of either absurdity or pathos supplying the necessary point, a
musical voice adding intensity to the narrative; yet I think he waited
until I had gone to bed, to let his heart speak.  Then how near may
mother and he have drawn, how truly, in a figurative sense, did the hand
of one take the hand of the other, did the soul of one respond to the
soul of the other, as they whispered of hopes and fears, of a dark past
to be atoned for and wiped away by a bright future!  For never, never
once during the winter, did Owen's heart speak to my heart; never, until
now, to-day--now, when it leaped up into his eyes, and addressed me with
a passionate cry of pain.  My whole heart responded to those words, to
that bitter cry; trembling I ran up to my room and locked myself in,
trembling I threw myself on my bed, fought and wrestled for a few
moments with my tears, then let them come.  Strange as it may seem, my
tears flowed with as much pleasure as sorrow.  I had made a discovery in
that bitter moment.  Owen still loved me.  Owen had not forgotten the
old days.  This was a pleasure to me, this was a joy, greater than my
pain; for I had made so sure that it had all passed from him, all the
old happy life, the old day dreams.  Now, for the first time, holding my
hands before my burning, tear-dimmed eyes, did it occur to me, that _I
too had sinned_.  Owen had not forgotten me, that was plain; perhaps
during the sad years of his exile, some of his softest and best thoughts
had been given to the child, whose warm love, whose quick appreciation
and sympathy, whose unselfish attentions had won so much from him in his
boyhood and youth.  However or in whatever way he had sinned, he had
never forgotten his home or his own people; as soon as possible he had
returned to them, not to idle, but to work, and so to work that he might
atone for the past.  No, Owen had not returned perfect, but was I
perfect?  How had I treated him--with any true love, with any real
sympathy?  Alas! he had looked for it, and had been--he himself told me
to-day--bitterly disappointed.

And of what had I not accused him?  How I admired him with something of
the old admiration, something of the old hero-worship, as the stinging
words of indignant denial dropped from his lips.  _He_ do so base, so
cruel, so wicked a thing! how could I possibly so misunderstand him!  I
sat up on my bed, I wished earnestly then to put Owen in the right, and
myself in the wrong, but try as I would, I could not quite come to this
wished-for conclusion.  Nan's words had not been the only hints I had
received.  I saw daring the winter months, that the great popularity
with which Owen had been received on his first arrival, had hardly
abated, but still was clouded and tempered with a scarcely perceptible
tone of dissatisfaction.  The last manager had been most inefficient; in
his time the mine was badly worked, it also was dangerous.  Owen had
begun promptly to remedy both these defects.  The question now was,
which did he care most for, the gold he would win from the mine, or the
safety he would secure for the people? and the evil thought, kept coming
and coming, he thinks most of the gold, he values the gold more than the
lives of the men!

This evil thought had been with me for weeks past; not stirring into
active life, lying, indeed, so dormant that it scarcely gave me pain,
but none the less had it been there.  And now, to-day, this living thing
had leaped to the surface of my mind, had trembled in my voice and
glittered in my eye, and I had accused Owen of what I suspected.

With what an agony of pain, and yet joy, I recalled his unfeigned anger,
distress, reproach, that _I_ should think of him so, that any one could
accuse him of so base an act.  As I recalled his look, his face, his
words, the old love which I had thought dead, came surging back.  I had,
I must have been mistaken; the colliers and I both, in our ignorance,
had misunderstood Owen, the safety of their lives _was_ his first
consideration.  But what an unaccommodating thing is memory! how
impossible it is to make her fit herself to existing circumstances, what
ugly tricks she was playing me now!  Event after event, each small in
themselves, came crowding up before me, pointing every one of them with
inexorable finger to one fact.  Of wilful and purposeful neglect it
would be wrong to accuse Owen.  He wished to do all in his power to
secure the safety of the colliers' lives, but money in his heart of
hearts ranked first.  I found at last a solution of the problem which
relieved my pain, without satisfying me.  Owen wished to do right, he
meant to do right; but the easy carelessness which had characterised his
boyhood had not deserted his manhood.  He meant to do well for the
colliers, but careless of danger for himself, he might be for them also;
and yet, how fatal and disastrous, now and then, were the effects of
carelessness!  At this moment one very prominent instance of Owen's want
of thought rose before me.  There was an old used-up mine, known in the
country by the name of Pride's Pit, which adjoined the mine at present
being worked at Ffynon.  Close to this old pit lived the under-viewer
and his family.  A not very desirable residence was theirs for this
reason, that the old shaft leading into the pit had never been filled
up; and making it all the more dangerous, it was, from long disuse and
neglect, nearly covered by a thick growth of weeds and brushwood, so
that an unwary traveller might step into the mine before he was aware.
This old shaft for every reason was dangerous, as its open mouth let in
the rain and helped to fill the pit beneath with water, which water
might by an untoward accident, a boring away of too much of the coal,
help at any moment to inundate the larger mine.  It was at present the
terror of the young wife of the under-viewer, who had three small
children, and who was never weary of warding them off the dangerous
ground.

On the dismissal of the late manager, the young woman who lived in this
cottage had come with her complaint to David, and had begged of him to
use his influence with his brother to have the dangerous shaft filled
up.  David had assured her that this should be one of the first steps in
the general reformation.  When Owen came, I heard David speak to him on
the subject, and Owen promised to have all that was necessary done
without delay.  I am quite sure Owen meant what he said, but in the
absorbing interest of more engrossing work, month after month went by,
and Pride's Pit still remained with its open shaft.  A fortnight ago, I
was walking with Owen, when poor Mrs Jones met us with tears in her
eyes, "Was nothing going to be done to the shaft, her baby had nearly
been killed there a few days since."

Owen was really sorry, declared he had completely forgotten it, won Mrs
Jones's heart by his sweet graciousness and real regret, and promised to
send round men to put the whole thing straight in the morning.  Of
course, he had done so by this time, but how great and unnecessary was
the previous delay; suppose Mrs Jones's baby had been killed, would
Owen ever have forgiven himself?

After thinking these and many other thoughts, I had brushed my hair,
bathed my eyes, and was preparing to go downstairs, when there came a
tap at my door, and Gwen, carrying little David in her arms, came in.
She placed the child on the floor, came to my side, and looked hard into
my face.  If ever there was a purpose written in any woman's countenance
it was in Gwen's at this moment.

"Gwladys, my maid," she said, "will you help your old nurse at a pinch?"

"Yes, that I will, Gwen," I replied, heartily; "what is it you want me
to do?"

"And you'll keep it a secret, and never let it out to mortal?"

"Of course," rather proudly.

"Well, then, 'twasn't the fever brought me over here."

"Oh!  Gwen," in a tone of some alarm, "what are you keeping back from
me? is David ill?"

"Dear, dear, no, my pet; and I don't say as there _isn't_ a fever, and
that _that_ is not the reason the Squire sent us away, Gwladys.  No, I'd
scorn to tell a lie, and there is a fever, though it ain't much; but
that wasn't what brought me and the little lad here, Gwladys."

"How mysterious you are," I said, laughing.  "What was the reason?"

"Why, you see, my maid, I'd soon have persuaded the Squire to let us
stay, for I knew he'd be lonesome without me and the baby, and, Lord
bless you, _he_ (pointing to the child) wouldn't take the fever, God
bless him; sweet and sound would I keep him, and free from all that low
dirt, and those bad smells, which the negligent, never-me-care,
unthrifty poor have, a tempting of Providence.  No, it wasn't fright at
no fever took me away, but a downright answer to prayer, Gwladys."  Gwen
paused, and I nodded to her to proceed.  "Hadn't I been praying all the
winter for some lucky wind to blow me to this place, and wasn't the
fever the wind as God sent; so why shouldn't I come with a thankful
heart?"

"Poor, dear old Gwen! you wanted to see mother and me.  I am sorry you
were so lonely."

"Well, my maid, it wasn't that; I'm none so selfish.  No, Gwladys, it
wasn't for myself I was praying, nor about myself I felt so happy.  No,
'twas about little David.  Gwladys, I mean to take little David to the
eye-well."

"Oh! dear me, Gwen, what is that?"

"Hush, hush, child! don't speak of it lightly; just sit patient for five
minutes, my dear, and you shall know the whole ins and outs of it."

I have said that Gwen, though a very religious woman, was, if possible,
a more superstitious one.  From the fountain-head of her knowledge and
wisdom I had drunk deeply; of late, when away from her, I had been
deprived of these goodly draughts, but I was all the more ready now to
partake of the very delicious one she had ready dished up for my
benefit.

"Go on," I said, in a tone of intense interest.

"I mean to take the child to the eye-well," continued Gwen; "there's one
within a mile or two of this place that's famed, and justly, through the
whole country.  Many's the blind person, or the weak-eyed body, that has
been cured by it; and many and many thoughts have I cast toward it,
Gwladys; not liking to speak, for sure, if you long too earnestly, you
hinders, so's the belief, the cure.  Now there's wells that have a
`perhaps' to 'em, and there's wells that have a `certainty,' and of all
the wells that ever was sure, this is the one.  And I've a strong belief
and faith in my mind, that though I brought the little lad here blind, I
may carry him home seeing."

True, oh!  Gwen, dear Gwen, not in your way, perhaps in a better!

As she spoke, attracted by the sound of her voice, the child toddled to
his feet, came to her side, and raised his dark, sightless eyes to her
face.

"But it must be managed clever," continued Gwen, "and 'tis there I want
you to help me.  I don't want my mistress, nor a soul in the house but
yourself to know, until I can bring in the laddie with the daylight let
into his blessed eyes; and to have any success we must obey the rules
solemn.  For three mornings we must be at the well before sunrise, and
when the first sunbeam dips into the water, down must go the child's
head right under too, with it, and this we must do three days running,
and then stop for three days, and then three days again.  Ah! but I feel
the Lord'll give His blessing, and there's real cure in the well."

Gwen paused, and I sat still, very much excited, dazzled, and full of a
kind of half belief, which falling far short of Gwen's certainty, still
caused my heart to beat faster than usual.

"And now, Gwladys," proceeded Gwen, "I mean to go to-morrow morning; and
can you come with me, and can you show me the way?"

"I can and will come with you, Gwen, but I cannot show you the way.  I
fancy I _have_ heard of this eye-well, but I have never been there."

"Then I must find some one who can," proceeded Gwen, rising.

"Stay, Gwen," I said, earnestly.  "I know a little girl very well here,
she has lived all her life in this place, and is sure to have heard of
the well.  I am sure, too, she would never tell a soul.  Shall I go to
her and find out if she can come with us?"

"Do, my dear maid, and let me know soon, for I am sore and anxious."

CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

THE EYE-WELL.

I found that Nan knew all about the eye-well, and had a very strong
belief in its curative powers; she was only too anxious and willing to
accompany us, and accordingly at five o'clock next morning, Gwen, little
David, and I met her, and set off to our destination with a delightful
sense of secrecy and mystery.

I look back on that day now, when, light-hearted, happy, not having yet
met with any real sorrow, I stood and laughed at the baby's shouts of
glee, when Gwen dipped his head under the cold water.  I remember the
reproving look of dear old Gwen's anxious face, and the expectant
half-fearful, half-wondering gaze of Nan.  I see again the water of the
old well, trembling on the dark lashes of two sightless eyes, a little
voice shouts manfully, a white brow is radiant, dimples play on rosy
cheeks, golden brown curls are wet and drip great drops on the hard,
worn hand of Gwen.  Nan, excited and trembling, falls on her knees and
prays for a blessing.  Gwen prays also.  I take David's little lad into
my own arms, he clasps me firmly, shouts and laughs anew.  I too, in a
voiceless prayer, ask God to bless the noble boy.  We are standing under
a great tree, whose sheltering branches protect the old well, the bright
sun shines in flickering light through the early spring leaves, on the
boughs the birds sing, from the hedge a white rabbit peeps.  Yes, I see
it all, but I see it now with a precipice beyond.  I see now where the
sun went down and the dark night came on.  I see where the storm began
to beat, that took our treasure away.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

It was the evening before the third visit to the eye-well; I heard Gwen
in the room fitted up for a temporary nursery, singing little David to
sleep.

  Hush-a-by, little dear,
  Hush-a-by, lovely child.

It was the old Welsh lullaby song.  Soft, soft, softer went her voice to
the queer old measure, the quaint old words--

  Hush-a-by, lovely child,
  Hush--hush--hush--hush!

Profound stillness, no one could keep awake after that last hush of
Gwen's; I felt my own eyes closing.  The next moment I found myself
starting up to see the singer standing before me.

"David's asleep, my dear, and, Gwladys, you need not come with me in the
morning."

In a very sleepy tone, induced by my early rising and the lullaby song,
"Oh! yes, Gwen, I don't--mind--I'd better."

"No, no, my dear lamb, David and me'll go alone to-morrow; little Nan
ain't coming neither."

"Very well, Gwen," I said, just asleep.

I was in bed when Gwen came again to me.

"My maid, I'm very trouble to you to-night."

"No, Gwen, what is it?"

To my surprise, Gwen burst into tears; this unusual sign of emotion
roused me completely.

"Oh! my maid, I'm fearful and troubled, I don't know why.  I've set my
heart so on the baby getting his sight.  If I could only take him back
seeing to the Squire, I think I could die content."

"Well, Gwen, perhaps you will.  Of course, I don't _quite_ believe in
the eye-well as much as you do, but still, who knows?"

"_No_ one knows, Gwladys, that's what's troubling me; the Almighty has
it all hid from us.  He may think it good for the baby not to see.
There's sights in this world what ain't right for mortal eyes, perhaps
He have shut up his, to make and keep the little heart all the whiter."

"Perhaps so, Gwen; as you say, God knows best."

"Yes, only I _do_ feel troubled to-night; perhaps 'tis wrong of me to
take the baby to the h'eye-well, but I did pray for a blessing.  Eh!
dear, but I'm faithless."

"You are down-hearted anyhow," I said.  "Go to bed now and dream that
the baby is kissing you, and looking at you, and thanking you as he
knows how, for getting him his eyesight.  Good-night, dear Gwen."  But
Gwen did not respond to my good-night, she knelt on by my bedside; at
last she said in a change of voice--

"Gwladys, have you made it up with Owen?"

I was excited by Gwen's previous words, now the sore place in my heart
ached longingly.  I put my arms round my old nurse's neck.

"Gwen, Gwen, Owen and I will never understand each other again."

"I feared she'd say that," repeated Gwen, "I feared it; and yet ain't it
strange, to make an idol of the dreaming boy, and to shut up the heart
against the man who has suffered, repented, who will yet be noble!"

"Oh!  Gwen, if I could but think it!  Will he ever be that?"

"I said, Gwladys," continued Gwen, "that he was coming home to His
Father, he was coming up out of the wilderness of all his sin and folly
to the Father's house, he aren't reached it yet--not quite--when he do,
he will be noble."

I was silent.

"'Tis often a sore bit of road," continued Gwen, "sore and rough
walkin', but when the Father is waiting for us at the top of the way;
waiting and smiling, with arms outstretched, why then we go on even
through death itself to find Him."

"And when we find Him?"  I asked.

"Ah! my maid, _when_ we find Him, 'tis much the same, I think, as when
the shepherd overtook the lost lamb; the lamb lies down in the
shepherd's arms, and the child in the Father's, 'tis much the same."

I lay back again on my pillow; Gwen covered me up, kissed me tenderly,
and went away.  I lay quiet for a few moments, then I sat up in bed,
pressed my hands on my cheeks, and looked out through the window, at the
white sky and shining moon.  I looked eagerly and passionately.  I had
been sleepy; I was not sleepy now.  After a time of steady gazing into
the pitiless cold heavens, I began to cry, then out of my sobs two words
were wrung from me, "_My Father_."  Never was there a girl more
surrounded by religious influences, and yet less at heart religious than
I.  This was the first time in my whole life that I really felt a
conscious want of God.  The wish for God and the longing to understand
Owen, to be reconciled to Owen, came simultaneously, but neither were
very strong as yet.  As yet, these two wants only stirred some surface
tears, and beat on the outer circle of my heart.  I knew nothing of the
longing which would even go through the valley of the shadow of death to
the Father, nothing of the love which would care a thousand times more
for Owen _because_ he had sinned and had repented.  I wanted God only a
little, my cry was but from the surface of my heart, still it was a real
cry, and had more of the true spirit of prayer in it than all the
petitions I had made carelessly, morning and evening since my babyhood.

After a time I lay down, and, tired out, went to sleep.  I did not sleep
easily, I had confused dreams of Owen, of little David, of Gwen.  Then I
had a distinct vision.  I saw the children of the under-viewer, playing
on the place where the shaft leading down into Pride's Pit had been; the
ground was smooth, the danger was past, the children played happily and
shouted gleefully.  Two of them ran to tell their mother, the baby
stayed to throw gravel into the air.  All looked secure, but it was not
so; as I watched, I suddenly perceived that the work was badly done, the
place only half filled up; as I watched, I saw the loose stones and
rubbish give way, and the baby sink into the loathsome pit below;
although I was quite close, I could hold out no hand to save the
under-viewer's baby.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

THAT MAN WAS OWEN.

Tired with my two days' early rising, I did not get up until late.  I
had nearly finished dressing, and was standing by my window, when I
heard a woman's voice calling me in muffled tones below.

My room looked to the back of the house, and the woman had come to the
inside of a thick fuchsia-hedge, which here divided the cottage, and its
tiny surroundings, from the road.

Looking out, I saw the under-viewer's wife, gazing up with clasped hands
and a white face.

"For the love of God, come down to me quietly, Miss Morgan."

The pain and anguish in the woman's face communicated part of her
intelligence to me.  I knew there was great and urgent need for me to go
downstairs without anybody hearing.  The immediate action which this
required, prevented my feeling any pain.  I stood by the woman, looked
hard into her eyes, and said, "Well?"

"Dear heart, you must know it," she said, taking my hand.  "Come with
me."

She almost pushed me before her through the little gate; when we got on
the high road, she began to run.  I knew that she was going in the
direction of Pride's Pit.  My strangely vivid dream returned to me.
Here was a solution of the mystery.  I believed in dreams--this dream
was not accidental.  It had been sent to me as a warning--it was true.
Owen had neglected to have the shaft, leading into Pride's Pit, filled
up, and the under-viewer's child had fallen a victim to this neglect.
The child had fallen down the old shaft.  He was dead, and the mother
was bringing me now to show me face to face what my brother's
carelessness had effected.  The life of a little child was sacrificed.
I was to see for myself what Owen had done.  I felt sure of this.  The
woman ran very fast, and I kept pace by her side.  The distance was over
half a mile, and partly up-hill.  When we came to the ascent, which was
rather steep, we could not go quite so quickly, and I had time to look
in the woman's face.  It was hard and set, the lips very white, the eyes
very staring.  She neither looked at me nor spoke.  It came into my
heart that she was cruel, even though her child _was_ dead, to hurry me
forward without one word of warning: to show me, without any
preparation, what my brother had done.  I would not be treated so.  I
would not face this deed without knowing what I was to see.  The instant
I made this resolution, I stood still.

"Stop!"  I said.  "I _will_ know all.  Is the baby dead?"

The woman stood still also, pressing her hand on her labouring breast.
"Dear heart! she knows," she gasped.  "Yes, yes, my dear--the baby's
dead."

I did not say I was sorry, nor a single word.  I simply, after my
momentary pause, began to run harder than ever.  We had now got in sight
of the pit, and I saw a little crowd of people about it.  Some men in
their miners' dresses, a boy or two, a larger proportion of women.  I
half expected the men, women, and children to curse me as I drew near.
We ran a little faster, and the woman's panting breath might have been
heard at some distance.  Suddenly a boy caught sight of us, and
detaching himself from the group, ran to the woman's side.

"Does she know?" he exclaimed, catching her hand almost frantically.
"She must not see without knowing."

The boy, who spoke in a voice of agony, was Miles Thomas.

"Yes," replied the woman; "she guessed it herself.  She knows that the
baby's dead."

"Thank God!" said the boy.  I looked from one face to the other.  I
could not help pitying myself, as though it were _my_ sorrow.  I thought
the boy's tone the kindest--he should take me to see the murdered child.
Suddenly I changed my mind.  Why should I need or look for compassion.
The mother had come all this way to punish me and mine--the mother's
just revenge should not be foiled.  When we got into the group, I took
her hand.

"You shall show him to me," I said.  "You shall show me your little dead
baby."

There was a pause on all sides--one or two people turned aside.  I saw a
woman put her apron to her face, and heard a man groan.  Every eye was
fixed on me, and, at the same moment, the under-viewer's wife and Miles
went on their knees, and began to sob.

"Oh! my darling; you are wrong--you have made a mistake," began the
woman.

"I _felt_ she did not, could not know," sobbed Miles.

The crowd opened a little more, and I went forward.  Very near the mouth
of the old shaft, lying on a soft bed of grass and undergrowth, was a
woman--a woman with a face as white as death.  I went up close to her,
and gazed at her steadily.  Her face looked like death, but she was not
dead--a moan or two came through white lips.  By the side of the woman,
stretched also flat, lay a child; his hat was thrown by his side, and
one little leg was bare of shoe and stocking.  A white frock was also
considerably soiled, and even torn.  I took in all these minor details
first--then my eyes rested on the face.  I went down on my knees to
examine the face, to note its expression more attentively.  On the brow,
but partly concealed by the hair, was a dark mark, like a bruise,
otherwise the face was quiet, natural, life-like.  A faint colour
lingered in the cheeks; the lips were parted and smiling.

The woman was groaning in agony.  The child was quiet--looking as a
child will look when he has met with a new delight.  I laid my hand on
the little heart--it never stirred.  I felt the tiny pulse--it was
still.  The injured and suffering woman was Gwen.  The dead baby was not
the under-viewer's child, but David's little lad.

I took no further notice of Gwen, but I kept on kneeling by the side of
the dead child.  I have not the least idea whether I was suffering at
this moment; my impression is that I was not.  Mind, body, spirit, were
all quiet under the influence of a great shock.  I knew and realised
perfectly that little David was dead; but I took in, as yet, no
surrounding circumstances.  Finding that I was so still, that I neither
sobbed nor groaned--in fact, that I did nothing but gaze steadily at the
dead child, the under-viewer's wife knelt down by my side, and began to
pour out her tale.  She did this with considerable relief in her tone.
When she began to speak, Miles also knelt very close to me, and laid his
hand with a caressing movement on my dress.  I was pleased with Miles'
affection--glad to receive it--and found that I could follow the tale
told by the under-viewer's wife, without any effort.

I mention all this just to show how very quiet I not only was in body,
but in mind.

"No, the shaft was never filled in," began the woman.  "I waited day
after day, but it was never done; and little Ellen, and Gwenllynn, and
the baby, they seemed just from contrariness to h'always want to go and
look over the brink.  And what made it more danger, was the brambles and
grass, and growth of h'all kinds, which from never being cut away, has
got thicker year by year; so that coming from that side," pointing west
with her finger, "you might never see the old shaft at all, but tumble
right in, and know nothing till you reach the bottom.  Well, I was so
frighted with this, and the contrariness of the children, that finding
Mr Morgan had forgot again to have the shaft filled in, or closed
round, only last night I spoke to my husband, and begged him to cut away
some of the rankest of the growth, as it war, what it is, a sin and a
shame to have the shaft like a trap, unknown to folks; but my husband,
he war dead tired, and he knowed that I'm timmersome, so he only said,
`Let be, woman--let be.'  And this morning he was away early--down to
the mine.  Well," after a long pause, "I had done my bit o' work.  I had
dressed the baby--bless him--and given Ellen and Gwenllynn their
breakfast, and I was standing by the house door, my eye on the old
shaft, and my mind set on the thought that I might put up a fence round
it myself, so as to ward off the children, when sudden and sharp--almost
nigh to me--I heard a woman scream, and looking, I saw a woman running
for her bare life, and screaming and making for my cottage; and she had
a child in her arms; and sudden, when I saw her, I knew who she was, and
why she was running.  I knew she was the nurse of Squire Morgan's little
son, and that she had the child with her.  I knew she had been to the
eye-well, for the cure of the sight of the baby, and that she was coming
by this short cut home.  And she never knew that she'd have to pass
through the field with Mr Daniels' bull.  Well, I saw her running, and
the bull after her, but he was a good way behind; and I thought she'd
reach the cottage.  And I shouted out to encourage her; when all on a
heap, it flashed on me, that she was making straight for the shaft, and
that she'd be right down in the pit, if I couldn't stop her.  Just then,
two men came up, and turned the bull aside, but she didn't know it, and
kept on running harder and harder.  `Stop!'  I shouted.  `Stop! you'll
be down in the mine'; but she neither heeded nor heard me, and she went
right through the thicket and the underwood.  I heard it cracking under
her feet.  I saw her fall, and scream more piercing than h'ever."
Another pause from the narrator--then in a breathless kind of way, "I
war at the other side o' the pit in a twinkling.  She had not gone
down--not quite.  Her head was above the ground, and she was holding on
for bare life to a bit of underwood.  She could only hold with one hand;
the other was round the child.  In one second she'd have been down, for
the weight was too much, when I threw myself on my face and hands, and
grasped the baby's frock.  `Hold the tree with both hands,' I said, `and
I'll keep the baby.'  Poor soul! she looked up at me so anguish-like;
but she did what I bid her, or they'd both have gone down.  I was
drawing up the baby, when a loose stone came tumbling--it was not much,
it but hit him sharp on the temple.  He never cried out, but his head
dropped all on a sudden.  When I got him to the top, he was dead.  I
laid him on the bank, and just then the men who had turned away the
bull, came up, and they lifted the woman out of the shaft--one of her
legs was broke!"

The under-viewer's wife paused to wipe the moisture from her brow.  Just
then little feet came pattering, and the living child of the
under-viewer, about whom I had grieved and dreamt, came up and looked
down at the dead child of my brother.  The face of the living baby gazed
solemnly at the face of the dead baby.  Nobody interrupted him, and he
sat down and put, half in play, as though expecting an answering touch,
his plump hand on the little hand that was still.  At this moment there
was a commotion in the crowd, then profound stillness, then a giving way
on all sides, and a man's hasty footsteps passed rapidly through our
midst.  Up straight to where the dead child was lying, the man came.  He
bent his head a little--he saw no other creature.  This man was Owen.
For about half a minute he was still.  Then from his lips came one sharp
cry--the sharpest cry of anguish I ever heard from mortal lips--then he
rushed away.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

THE LITTLE LAD.

"Mother," I said, "I will go to Tynycymmer, and tell David."

"No, no, my dear child; you are not able."

"Mother, some one must tell him; you have to stay here to take care of
poor Gwen when they bring her home, and perhaps Owen will come back.
Mother, I will tell David, only I may tell him in my own way, may I
not?"

"As you please, my child, my child!"

Mother put her head down on the table and began to sob.

I kissed her.  I was not crying.  From the first I had never shed a
tear.  I kissed mother two or three times, then I went out and asked
Miles, who had followed me home, to get the horse put to Owen's
dog-cart; when the dog-cart was ready, I kissed mother again and got
into it.

"Come with me, Miles," I said to the boy.

The bright colour mounted to his cheeks, he was preparing to jump into
the vacant seat by my side, when suddenly he stopped, his face grew
pale, and words came out hurriedly--

"No, I mustn't, I'd give the world to, but I mustn't."

"Why not, when I ask you? you needn't go into the mine to-day."

"Perhaps not to work, but I must, I must wait for Mr Morgan; I must
take him into the mine."

"Well, I cannot stay," I said impatiently; "tell Williams to take me to
the railway station at P--."  As I drove away I had a passing feeling
that Miles might have obliged me by coming, otherwise, I thought no more
of his words.  After a rapid drive I reached the railway station; I had
never travelled anywhere, I had never gone by rail alone in my life, but
the great pressure on my mind prevented my even remembering this fact.
I procured a ticket, stepped into the railway carriage, and went as far
in the direction of Tynycymmer as the train would take me.  At the
little roadside station where I alighted, I found that I could get a
fly.  I ordered one, then went into the waiting-room, and surveyed my
own image in a small cracked glass.  I took off my hat and arranged my
hair tidily; after doing this, I was glad to perceive that I looked much
as usual, if only my eyes would laugh, and my lips relax a little from
their unyouthful tension?  The fly was ready, I jumped in; a two-mile
drive would bring me to Tynycymmer.  Hitherto in my drive from Ffynon,
and when in the railway carriage, I had simply let the fact lie
quiescent in my heart that I was going to tell David.  Now, for the
first time, I had to face the question, "How shall I tell him?"  The
necessary thought which this required, awoke my mind out of its trance.
I did not want to startle him; I wished to break this news so as to give
him as little pain as possible.  I believed, knowing what I did of his
character, that it could be so communicated to him, that the brightness
should reach him first, the shadow afterwards.  This should be my task;
how could I accomplish it?  Would not my voice, choked and constrained
from long silence, betray me?  Of my face I was tolerably confident.  It
takes a long time for a young face like mine to show signs of grief; but
would not my voice shake?  I would try it on the driver, who I found
knew me well, and was only waiting for me to address him.  Touching his
hat respectfully, the man gave me sundry odds and ends of information.
"Yes, Mr Morgan was very well; but there had been a good deal of
sickness about, and little Maggie at the lodge had died.  Squire Morgan
was so good to them all; he was with little Maggie when she died."

"Did Maggie die of the fever?"  I asked.

"Yes, there was a good deal of it about."

"And was it not infectious?"

"Well, perhaps so, but only amongst children."

I said nothing more, only I resolved more firmly than ever to break the
news gently to David.

I was received with a burst of welcome from trees and shining waves,
early spring flowers, and dear birds' notes.  Gyp got up from the mat
where he lay in the sunshine, and wagged his tail joyfully, and looked
with glad expressive eyes into my face.  The servants poured out a
mixture of Welsh and English.  I began to tremble; I very nearly gave
way.  I asked for David; he was out, somewhere at the other end of the
estate; he would however be back soon, as he was going on business to
Chepstow.  The servants offered to go and fetch him, but I said no, I
would wait until he came in.  I went into the house, how familiar
everything looked! the old oak chairs in the hall, the flowers and
ferns.  I opened the drawing-room door, but did not enter, for its
forlorn and dismantled condition reminded me forcibly that with
familiarity had come change.  A few months ago I had longed for change,
but now to-day I disliked it.  I knew for the first time to-day that
change might mean evil as well as good.  I went into David's study and
sat down to wait for him; the study looked as it had done since I was a
little child.  No, even here there was a difference.  Over the
mantelpiece was an engraving, so placed that the best light might fall
on it.  It was Noel Paton's "_Mors Janua Vitae_."  I suppose most people
have seen the original.  David and Amy had brought this painter's proof
home after their short wedding trip.  It was a great favourite of Amy's;
she had said once or twice, when least shy and most communicative, that
the dying knight reminded her of David.  For the first time to-day, as I
looked at it, I saw something of the likeness.  I stood up to examine it
more closely--the victorious face, humble, trustful, glad,--stirred my
heart, and awoke in me, though apparently without any connection between
the two, the thoughts of last night.  I again began to feel the need of
God.  I pressed my hands to my face; "God give me strength," I said very
earnestly.  This was my second real prayer.

I had hardly breathed it, when David's hand was on my shoulder.

"So you have come to pay me a visit, little woman; that is right.  I was
wishing for you, and thinking of you only this morning.  I have been
lonely.  Mother and Owen quite well?"

"Yes, David."

"And my boy?"

"He is well."

"How I have missed him, little monkey! he was just beginning to prattle;
but I am glad I sent him away, there is a great deal of sickness about."

"David," I said suddenly, "you are not yourself, is anything wrong?"

"No, my dear, I have been in and out of these cottages a great deal, and
have been rather saddened," then with a smile, "I _did_ miss the little
lad, 'tis quite ridiculous."

He moved away to do something at the other end of the room; he looked
worn and fagged, not unhappy.  I never saw him with quite _that_
expression, but wearied.  I could not tell him yet, but I must speak, or
my face would betray me.

"How nice the old place looks?"  I said.

"Ah! yes; does it not?  You would appreciate it after the ugly coal
country; but, after all, Owen is working wonders by the mine--turning
out heaps of money, and making the whole thing snug and safe."

"Yes," I said.

"Can you stay with me to-night?  Gwladys.  I must go to Ffynon
to-morrow, and I will bring you back then--"

"I will stay," I said.

"I would ask you to give me two or three days; but am afraid of this
unwholesome atmosphere for you."

"Oh!  I must get back to-morrow," I said.

I do not know how I got out these short sentences; indeed, I had not the
least idea what I was saying.

"But there is no real fear, dear," added David, noticing my depression.
"You shall come with me for a nice walk on the cliffs, and it will seem
like old times--or stay"--pulling out his watch, while a sudden thought
struck him--"you don't look quite yourself, little girl; you have got
tired out with ugliness.  I was just starting for Chepstow, when you
arrived.  Suppose you come with me.  I have business there which will
occupy me ten minutes, and then we can take the train and run down to
Tintern.  You know how often I promised to show you the Abbey."

"Oh! yes, David," I said, a feverish flush on my face, which he must
have mistaken for pleasure.  "I will go with you.  I should like it; but
can we not get back to Ffynon to-night?"

"A good thought.  Ffynon is as near Tintern as Tynycymmer; we will do
so, Gwladys, and I shall see my little lad all the sooner."

He went out of the room, and I pressed my face, down on my hands.  No
fear now that my heart was not aching--it was throbbing so violently
that I thought my self-control must give way.  Far more than I ever
feared death, did I at that moment, dread the taking away of a certain
light out of David's eyes, when he spoke of his little lad.  I could not
whisper the fatal words yet: it might seem the most unnatural thing in
the world, but I would go with David to Tintern.  I would encourage him
to talk.  I would listen to what he said.  He was depressed now--worn,
weary, not quite himself--recurring each moment to one bright beacon
star--his child.  But David had never been allowed to wander alone in
the wilderness without the sunlight.  I would wait until God's love
shone out again on his face, and filled his heart.  Perhaps this would
happen at Tintern.

I said to myself, it will only make a difference of two or three hours,
and the child is dead.  Yes, I will give him that respite.  I do not
care what people think, or what people say.  I cannot break this news to
him in his home and the child's.  This study where he and Amy sat
together, where his boy climbed on his knee and kissed him, where he has
knelt down and prayed to God, and God has visited him, shall not be the
spot where the blow shall fall.  He shall learn it from my lips, it is
true.  I myself will tell him that his last treasure has been suddenly
and rudely torn away; but not yet, and never at Tynycymmer.

Having made this resolve, I looked at my watch--it was between eleven
and twelve then.  I determined that he should learn the evil tidings by
four o'clock; this would enable us to catch the return train from
Chepstow to Cardiff and from thence to Ffynon.  No trains ran to Ffynon
in the middle of the day.  By allowing David to take me to Tintern, I
would, in reality, only delay his coming to Ffynon by an hour or two.

Whether I acted rightly or wrongly in this matter, I have not the least
idea.  I never thought, at that moment, of any right or wrong.  I simply
obeyed an impulse.  Having quite arranged in my own mind what to do, I
grew instantly much stronger and more composed.  My heart began to beat
tranquilly.  Having given myself four hours' respite, I felt relieved,
and even capable of playing the part that I must play.  I had been, when
first I came, suppressing agitation by the most violent effort; but when
David returned to tell me that the carriage was at the door, I was calm.
He found me with well-assumed cheerfulness, looking over some prints.

"Now, Gwladys, come.  We shall just catch the train."  I started up with
alacrity and took my seat.  As we were driving down the avenue, poor Gyp
began to howl, and David, who could not bear to see a creature in
distress, jumped out and patted him.

"Give Gyp a good dinner," he called back to the servants; "and expect me
home to-morrow."

Nods and smiles from all.  No tears, as there might have been--as there
might have been had they known...

It is not very long, measured by weeks and hours, since David and I took
that drive to Tintern; but I think, as God counts time, one day being
sometimes as a thousand years, it _is_ very long ago.  It has pushed
itself so far back now in the recesses of my memory--so many events have
followed it, that I cannot tell what we spoke, or even exactly what we
did.  By-and-by, when the near and the far assume their true
proportions, I may know all about it; but not just now.  At present that
drive to Tintern is very dim to me.  But not my visit to Tintern itself.
Was I heartless?  It is possible, if I say here that the beauty of
Tintern gave me pleasure on that day.  If I say that this was the case,
then some, who don't understand, may call me heartless.  For when I
entered the old ruin of Tintern my heart did throb with a great burst of
joy.

I had always loved beautiful things--God's world had always a power over
me.  In my naughty fits as a child, I had sat on the edge of a cliff,
gazed down at the waves, and grown quiet.  However rebellious I had been
when I went there, I had usually returned, in half-an-hour, penitent;
ready to humble myself in the _very_ dust for my sins.  Not all the
voices of all the men and women I knew, could affect me as nature could.
For six months now, I had been living in a very ugly country--a country
so barren and so desolate, that this longing in me was nearly starved;
but even at Ffynon I had found, in my eager wanderings, now and then, a
little gurgling stream--now and then, some pretty leaves and tufts of
grass, and these had ministered to me.  Still the country was ugly, and
the place black and barren--what a change to the banks of the Wye, and
the ruins of Tintern.  When I entered the Abbey, I became conscious for
the first time that the day was a spring one--soft, sunshiny, and
bright.  I looked around me for a moment, almost giddy with surprise and
delight; then I turned to David, and laid my hand on his arm.

"May I sit here," pointing to a stone at the right side of the ruin,
"may I sit here and think, and not speak to any one for half-an-hour?"

I was conscious that David's eyes were smiling into mine.

"You may sit there and lose yourself for half-an-hour, little woman, but
not longer, I will come back for you in half-an-hour."

When David left me, I pulled out my watch; it was past three, in
half-an-hour I would tell him.

But for half-an-hour I would give myself up to the joy--no, that is the
wrong word--to the peace that was stealing over me.  I have said that I
was not practically religious.  Had anybody asked me, I should have
answered, "No, no, I have a worldly heart;" but sitting there in the
ruins, the longing for God rose to a strange and passionate intensity.
Last night I had said "My Father," with the faint cry of a hardly
acknowledged belief.  I said it again now, with the satisfied sound of a
child.  The words brought me great satisfaction, and the sense of a very
present help, for my present need.

The bright sunlight flickered on the green grass.  I sat back, clasped
my hands and watched it.  A light breeze stirred the dark ivy that
twined round the ruins, some cows were feeding in the shade under the
western window outside--I could see their reflections--two men, of the
acknowledged tourist stamp, were perambulating on the walls; these men
and the happy dumb creatures were the only living things I saw.  But I
did not want life just then, the lesson I needed and was learning was
the lesson of the dead.  I had looked at a little dead child that
morning, now I looked at the dead work of centuries.  The same thought
came to me in connection with both--God did it; the old monks of Tintern
are with God, little David is with God.  To be with God must be for
good, not for evil to His creatures.  If only then by death we can get
quite away to God, even death must be good.

It is a dreadful thing when we can only see the evil of an act; once the
good, however faintly, appears, then the light comes in.  The light came
back to me now, and I felt it possible that I could tell David about the
death of the child.  Meanwhile I let my soul and imagination rest in the
loveliness before me.  Here was not only the beauty of flower and grass,
of tree, and sky, and river, but here also was the wonderful beauty God
put long ago into the hearts of men.  It grew in chancel, and aisle, and
pillar, and column.  The minds may have conceived, but the hearts must
have given depth and meaning to the conception.  The mind is great, but
the heart is greater.  I saw the hearts of the old monks had been at
work here.  No doubt they fasted, and wrestled in prayer, and had
visions, some of them, as they reared this temple, of another and
greater built without hands.  The many-tinted walls of the New Jerusalem
may have been much in their thoughts as the light of their painted
windows streamed on their heads when they knelt to pray.

Yes, they were dead, their age with its special characteristics was
gone, their Abbey was in ruins, their story was a story of long ago.
The old monks were dead, gone, some of them, to a world where a narrow
vision will extend into perfect knowledge, where the Father whom they
dimly sought will fully reveal Himself.

"David," I said, when David returned and seated himself by my side, "it
is beautiful, but it is dead, I can only think of the dead here."

"Yes, my dear, the story of the old monks does return to one."

David too looked very peaceful.  I could tell him.  I pulled out my
watch, I had a few moments yet.

"Do you remember, David, what you said once about music, and high hills,
or mountains; you said they lifted you up, and made you feel better, do
you feel that here?"

"Yes, dear, I feel near God," he took off his hat as he spoke, "I think
God comes close to us in such a beautiful scene as this, Gwladys."

"Yes," I said.

"But my thoughts are not quite with you about Tintern," he continued,
"it is full of memories of the dead, of a grand past age, full of
earnestness which I sometimes think we lack, still the central thought
to me here is another."

"What is that?"  I asked.

"_Thou remainest_," raising his head and looking up at the sky, "all
others may leave us--all, home, earthly love--all may pass away, only to
leave us more completely alone with God, only to fill us more with God."
I was silent.

"Yes, Gwladys, that is the thought of thoughts for me at Tintern--God
remains.  Never with His will need we unloose our hold of the Divine
hand."

I looked at my watch again, the time had nearly come for me to tell him;
was he not himself making it easy?

"And God's mercies follow us so continually too, Gwladys," continued my
brother; "I have had some sorrow, it is true, but still mercy has always
gone with it.  Think of Owen, for instance.  Oh!  I have wrestled in
prayer for him, and been faithless.  Amy often reproached me for it; she
said God would make it all right for Owen, that God loved and would
always love him.  Dear child, how I remember her words; and now, my
dear, it seems all coming true, Owen is so steady, so careful, so
anxious to succeed, so much liked, he is so honourable too about that
money I lent him.  Not that _I_ care for it, not in the least, but I
like the feeling in the dear fellow, and he is making everything right
down in the mine.  When I remember how _nearly_ he was shipwrecked, and
now see good hope of his yet making for the haven; I'm not quite sure
yet that the love of God actuates him solely, but it will come, for God
is leading him."

I looked at my watch again, it was four o'clock.  I must speak.

"David," I said, "do you love God better than any one?"

The agitation in my voice must have penetrated to David's heart at once;
he turned round and looked at me.

"I _do_ love Him better than any one, Gwladys; but why do you ask?"

"You would never be angry with God whatever He did?"  I said, again.

"Angry? no, no; what a strange question."

"I have a reason for asking it," I said.

"Gwladys, you have been keeping something from me; what is the matter,
what is wrong?"

David was excited now, he took my hand in his with a grasp which
unconsciously was fierce.

"There is something wrong," I whispered.

"Something you have been keeping from me?"

"Yes."

"All day?"

"Yes."

"How dared--" checking himself--remaining silent for a second, then
speaking with enforced composure.

"Tell it to me, my dear."

But I had given way, I was down on the grass, my face hidden, my sobs
rending me.

"Is anything wrong with the mother?  Gwladys."

"No, no, she is well."

"Or Owen?"

"No."

"The mine is all safe, there has been no accident?"

"The mine is safe."

A long pause, I was sobbing, David was breathing hard.

"It isn't, oh! my God, there is nothing wrong with the little lad?"

"It is him."

"Not dead."

"He is dead."

I raised my head now to look at David.  David put out his hand to ward
me back.

"Don't speak to me," he said, "don't tell me anything more about it yet.
I must be alone for a little, wait here for me."

He disappeared out of the doorway, he did not return for two hours;
during those two hours I prayed without ceasing for him.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

SIGHT TO THE BLIND.

All this time I had completely forgotten Owen.  Never once during the
whole of that day had I given Owen a thought.  His agony and his sin
were alike forgotten by me; his very name had passed from my memory.

At the end of two hours David returned to my side, sat down quietly, and
asked me to tell him what I knew.

I did not dare look in his face.  I repeated as briefly, as impassively
as I could, what I had witnessed and heard this morning.  To make my
story intelligible, it was necessary to mention Owen's forgetfulness of
the old shaft; this brought Owen back to my mind, but with only the
passing thought essential to the telling of my tale.

To my whole story David listened without a comment, or the putting of a
single question.  He sat, his head a little forward, his hands clasped
round his knee.  I saw that the veins had started prominently forward in
the strong hands.  When I came to the part of my tale where Owen
appeared and bent over the dead child, he started for the first time,
and looked me full in the face; then he rose to his feet, put his hand
on my shoulder, and said--

"Come, my dear; we will go home.  I must find Owen!"

"Find Owen!"  I repeated, too surprised to keep in my hasty words.  "Do
you want him so quickly? has he not brought this trouble upon you?"

"Hush, Gwladys, in God's name--this is an awful thing for Owen!"

Once or twice as we travelled back to Ffynon, as quickly as horses and
steam could take us, I heard David say again under his breath, "This is
an awful thing for Owen!"

His first question when we got back, and mother raised her white,
agitated face to his, was--

"Where is Owen?  I must see Owen directly!"

"Oh, my boy! he is not here; he has not been here all day.  Oh, my dear,
dear boy; I am so terrified about him!"

"Not here all day, mother!  Have you no idea where he is?"

"No, my son; he left the house when he heard of the accident, and has
not been back since.  David, you won't be hard on him--you will--"

"How can you ask me, mother?  Will you never understand what I feel for
Owen?" he said, impatiently, and in pain; then, turning to leave the
room, "I am going to find Owen at once!--but stay! where and how is
Gwen?"

"Gwen is upstairs; she is very ill; she blames herself most bitterly.
She has been asking for you."

"I will see her for a moment before I go.  Don't come with me, mother
and Gwladys; I will see her alone."

David had been with Gwen for five minutes, I heard Gwen sobbing, and
David talking to her quietly, when at the end of that time I entered the
room.

"David, Miles Thomas is downstairs; he has been hanging about the place
all day; he begs to see you; he knows about everything.  Still, he says
he _must_ see you.  I hope nothing is wrong."

"Who is Miles Thomas?"

"A boy--one of the trappers in the mine."

"Oh! of course.  I will see him directly."

David and the boy were together for half-an-hour; they paced up and down
outside.  I saw David's hand on his shoulder, and observed the boy raise
entreating eyes to his face.  At the end of that time Miles ran away,
and David returned to the house.  He entered the room where I was trying
to prepare some tea for him.  Mother was upstairs with Gwen.  David came
up and put his arm round my waist.

"My dear little woman, I want to lay on you a great responsibility."

"I am ready, brother," I said, looking up, bravely.  "Gwladys, there is
something not quite right with the mine.  I am going down there to-night
with Miles.  I cannot look for Owen to-night.  If all goes well, as I
hope, I may be up in the morning.  I want you, Gwladys, to try and keep
all knowledge of where I have gone from mother, until the morning.  She
heard me say I would look for Owen; let her suppose this as long as you
can."

"And you--you are going into danger!"

"I hope not.  I hope I am going to prevent danger; but there is
doubtless a possibility of my being too late."

"Then, David," rising selfishly, clinging to him cowardly; "dear David--
dear, dear David, do not go."

"What!" said David, holding me from him, and looking into my face.  "No,
my dear; that is not your real counsel, when I may save the lives of
others."  Then, seeing that I began to sob again, that I was trembling
and broken with grief.  "Come with me, darling; I should like to see the
little lad before I go away."  I led the way upstairs.  The baby was
lying on my bed--his nursery was used by Gwen.  The moonlight--for it
was evening--flooded the white bed, and lit up the pale check.  This
time last night I heard Gwen soothing him into his last earthly slumber;
but now, how sweetly did Jesus his shepherd make the baby sleep; the
dark-fringed eyes were hardly closed, the lips were smiling.

"He sees at last, my little lad," said David, stooping down and kissing
him--he was about to say something more, but checked himself; two tears
splashed heavily down on the happy little face, then he went away to my
writing-table, and taking out a pen, ink, and paper, wrote hastily a few
lines, folded up the paper, and brought it back to me.

"_Whenever_ Owen returns, give him that _at once_!"

Then he was gone.

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

OUR FATHER.

But Owen did not come back that night.

We got a nurse for Gwen, who was suffering sadly from her broken leg,
and mother and I sat up together by the dining-room fire.

Without saying a word to each other, but with the same thought in both
our minds, we piled coals on the grate for a night watch.

Mother ordered meat and wine to be laid on the table, then she told the
servants to go to bed, but she gave me no such direction; on the
contrary, she came close to where I had seated myself on the sofa, and
laid her head on my shoulder.

I began to kiss her, and she cried a little, just a tear or two; but
tears never came easily with mother.  Suddenly starting up, she looked
me eagerly in the face.  "Gwladys, how old are you?"

"Sixteen--nearly seventeen, mother."

"So you are.  You were born on May Day.  I was so pleased, after my two
big boys, to have a daughter--though you _were_ fair-haired, and not
like the true Morgans.  Well, my daughter, you don't want me to treat
you like a child--do you?"

"Dear mother, if you did, you would treat me like what I am not.  I can
never be a child again, after to-day."

"I am glad of that--two women can comfort one another."

"Dear mother," I said, kissing her again.

"Gwladys," catching my hand, nervously, "I have had an awful day.  I
have still the worst conjectures.  I don't believe we are half through
this trouble."

"Dear mother, let us hope so--let us pray to God that it may be so."

"Oh! my dear child, I was never a very religious woman.  I never was,
really.  I have obeyed the forms, but I think now, I believe now that I
know little of the power.  I don't feel as if I _could_ come to God the
moment I am in trouble.  If I were like Gwen it would be different--I
wish you could have heard her quoting texts all day long--but I am not
like her.  I am not," an emphatic shake of her head.  "I am not a
religious woman."

"And, mother," my words coming out slowly, "I am not religious either.
I have no past to go to God with.  Still it seems to me that I want God
awfully to-night."

"Oh! my child," breaking down, and beginning to sob pitifully.  "I
don't; I only want Owen.  Oh I suppose Owen never comes back to me."

"But, mother, that is very unlikely."

"I don't know, Gwladys.  You did not see his face when that terrible
news was broken to him this morning.  He never spoke to me--he just got
ghastly, and rushed away without a single word; and he has never been
back all day--never once; though that boy--young Thomas, has been
asking, asking for him.  He said he had promised to go down into the
mine.  I could not stop the boy, or put him off--so unfeeling, after all
that has happened.  But _why_ is Owen away?  It is dreadful--the sudden
death of the dear little baby.  But I never knew Owen cared so much for
him; he only saw him once or twice."

"Mother, I wonder you cannot guess.  Do you not know that it was through
Owen's--Owen's--well, mother, I _must_ tell you--it was partly through
Owen that little David was killed."

Mother's face grew very white, her eyes flashed, she left my side, and
went over to the fire.  "Gwladys, how dare you--yes, how dare you even
utter such falsehoods.  Did Owen take the child to the eye-well?  Did
Owen put the wicked bull in the field?  How can you say such things of
your brother?"

"They are no falsehoods, mother.  If Owen had kept his promise to poor
Mrs Jones, and had the old shaft filled up, nothing would have happened
to the baby."

"It is useless talking to you, Gwladys.  I would rather you said no
more.  Ever since his return you have been unjust to Owen."

Mother, seating herself in the arm-chair by the fire, turned her back on
me, and I lay down on the sofa.  I was very tired--tired with the
tension of my first day of real grief; but I could not sleep, my heart
ached too badly.  Hitherto, during the long hours that intervened since
the early morning, I had, as I said, hardly thought of Owen; but now
mother herself could scarcely ponder on his name, or his memory, more
anxiously than I did.  As I thought, it seemed to me that I, too, was
guilty of the baby's death.  I had turned my heart from my brother--a
thousand things that I might have done I left undone.  David had asked
me to help him, to aid him.  I had not done so.  Never once since his
return had I strengthened his hands in any right way.  On the contrary,
had I not weakened them?  And much was possible for me.  In many ways--
too many and small to mention--I might have kept Owen's feet in the
narrow path of duty.  In this particular instance might I not have
reminded him of the old shaft, and so have saved little David's life?

Yes, mother was right.  I was unjust to Owen; but I saw now that I had
_always_ been unjust to him.  In the old days when I thought him perfect
as well as now.  I was a child then, and knew no better.  Now I was a
woman.  Oh! how bitterly unjust was I to my brother now.  Loudly,
sternly did my heart reproach me, until, in my misery and
self-condemnation, I felt that David and Owen could never love me again.
Through the mists and clouds of my own self-accusation, Owen's true
character began to dawn on me.  Never wholly good, or wholly bad, had
Owen been.  Affectionate, generous, enthusiastic, was one side of that
heart--selfish and vain the other.  Carefully had mother and I nurtured
that vanity--and the fall had come.  All his life he had been earning
these wages; at last they had been paid to him--paid to him in full and
terrible measure.  _The wages of sin is death_.  Little David was dead.

Owen's face, as I had seen it this morning, returned to me.  His sharp
cry of bitter agony rang again in my ears.  Yes, the fruit of all that
easy, careless life had appeared.  I saw my brother as he was; but,
strange as it may seem, at last, with all this knowledge, with the veil
torn away from my eyes, I longed, prayed for, and loved him as I had
never done before.  I think I did this because also from my heart of
hearts rose the bitter supplication--

"Have mercy on my sin too.  Thou who knowest all men--Thou knowest well
that my sin is as deep and black as his."

The clock struck twelve, and mother, who had been sitting silent, and
who I hoped was asleep, moved restlessly, turned round, and addressed
me.

"Has not David gone to look for Owen?"

"He said he would go, mother."

"My dear boy--if any one can find him he will.  How did he bear the
terrible news?  Gwladys.  I had no time to ask you before."

"I can hardly tell you, mother.  He said scarcely anything--he seemed
greatly troubled on Owen's account."

"Ah! dear fellow--the most unselfish fellow in the world; and how Owen
does love him.  You are sure he has gone to look for him?"

"Dear mother, did you not hear him say so?"

"Yes, yes--well.  God give me patience."

Another restless movement from mother, then a couple of hours' silence.
At two o'clock she got up and made down the fire, then went to the
window and looked out, opened her lips to speak to me--I saw the
movement; restrained herself, and sat down again.  The clock struck
three.  A slight sound of a passing footfall outside, an eager clasping
of mother's hands.  The footfall passed--all was stillness.  Mother rose
again, poured out a glass of sherry, drank it off, filled out another,
and brought it to my side.  I, too, drank the wine without a comment.
Mother returned to her seat, and I went to sleep.

The clock was striking six when I awoke.  The window-shutters were open;
the place was full of bright sunshine and daylight.  I was awakened by
mother standing over me.  She was trembling and half crying.

"Oh!  Gwladys--oh! my darling, they have never come home--the whole
night has gone, and they have never appeared.  Oh!  I am so dreadfully
frightened.  Yes, Gwladys, though I am not a religious woman, yet I must
go to God; I must get God to help me.  Come with me, my daughter."

Together we went down on our knees.  I clasped mother's hands.  We
neither of us spoke.

"Say something, Gwladys," said mother.

"Mother--I cannot.  I have never prayed aloud."

"Well, a form--some words.  I am so broken--so frightened."

"Our Father," I began, impelled to say something quickly by the sound in
mother's voice, "our Father--deliver us from evil."

"Ah! there it is," sobbed mother.  "That's what I want.  Oh!  Lord, hear
me.  Oh!  Christ, hear me.  I'm a poor, weak, broken-down mother.  Hear
a mother's cry.  Save my boy--deliver my boy from evil.  Oh!  I have
been wrong to think only of getting back the old place as it used to
be--it was _my_ fault, if any one's, if my Owen forgot to see to the
general safety.  I urged him so hard; I gave him no rest.  But oh! don't
punish me too hard--deliver my boy--my boy from evil."

Now, I don't know why I said what I did, for all night long my thoughts
and fears had been with Owen; but at this juncture I burst out with an
impulse I could not withstand--with a longing I could not restrain.

"That is not fair--you say nothing about David.  Ask God to deliver
David, too, from evil."

"Gwladys, why--why do you say this?"

"I don't know," rising to my feet, and steadying my voice.  "Mother, it
is daylight.  I will go down to see little Nan--she may tell me
something."

CHAPTER NINETEEN.

A RICH VEIN OF COAL.

I think her prayer, which was literally a cry of agony to her true
Father, brought mother some strength and comfort.  She grew more
composed, and when I ran away to Nan's cottage, she went up to see Gwen.

I had obeyed David's message to the letter.  I had not let her know of
any possible danger to him.  All her thoughts and fears were centred on
Owen--indeed, we both had thought most of Owen during the long hours of
the weary night.  But now David might really seek him; the chances were
that the evil he dreaded was averted, that he would come up from the
mine with the night shift.  He would need a few hours' rest, and then he
might really seek for Owen.  It had occurred to me as I lay awake in the
night, that Owen, who knew nothing of my visit to Tynycymmer, might have
gone there himself to tell David, this was quite a likely thing for him
to do.  In that case, David might go there and bring him back.  I
fancied his return, I fancied gentle, humble, forgiving words; I thought
of mother, sister, brother, starting together on a surer, happier
footing, of possible good arising out of this sorrow.  In short, as I
walked down to Nan's cottage, I saw a rainbow spanning this cloud.  How
short-sighted and ignorant I was!  Did I not know that sin must bring
its punishment, that however a man may repent, however fully and freely
a man may be forgiven, yet in pain, sorrow and bitterness must the wages
his own deeds have brought him, be paid.  I entered Nan's cottage; it
was early, not more than six o'clock, but Nan was up, had even eaten her
breakfast, and was now, when I arrived, washing some coarse delf cups
and saucers in a wooden tub.  I had learned in my intercourse with this
strange child to read her face almost like a book.  The moment I saw it
to-day my heart sank, Nan had on her very oldest and most careworn
expression.

"You are up to fifty, to-day.  Nan," I said with the ghost of a smile.
For answer, Nan looked me hard in the face, and began to cry.

"Oh!  I'm so sorry," she began, coming up to my side, "I've been
thinking so much of you all, Miss Morgan, and I've been crying so bitter
to the Lord to comfort you."

"I am glad of that, Nan," I said, "but don't let us talk of our trouble
now.  I want you tell me all you know about the mine; and, first, has my
brother come up?"

"_All_ I know," repeated Nan, "but Miles said I was not to babble."

"Yes, but my brother has told me there is, or was, danger; you know we
always imagine danger to be worse than it is, so do tell me what is
wrong; and, first, _has_ my brother come up?"

"No, Miss Morgan, not with the night shift.  The Squire and Miles are
still down in the mine."

"And all the men have gone down as usual this morning?"  I asked.

"Oh! yes, and father with them."

"Then there cannot be danger?"

"Well, I don't know--I'm that timmersome, it may seem so to me; or it
may be h'all Miles's fancy, but he's rare and knowing, Miles is."

"Well, dear Nan, please sit down quietly and tell me the whole story
from beginning to end, what you know and what you fear."

Nan had by this time wiped away all traces of her tears; she was given
to sudden bursts of grief, out of which her dark eyes used to flash as
bright as though the briny drops were unknown to them.  Had I met Nan
apart from personal tragedy, I might have considered her tiny form, her
piquant old-fashioned face, and quaint words, an interesting study; but
now I felt a little impatient over her long delays, and deep-drawn
sighs, and anxious to launch her midway into her tale.

"Miles is very knowing," began Nan, seeing I was determined, and would
have my way; "Miles is very knowing, and from the time he was a little,
little lad, he'd study father's plan o' the mine.  I never could make
out the meanin' o' it, but long before Miles ever went down into a mine
he knew all about levels, and drifts, and headings, and places without
number; and he used to say to me, `Why, our mine is like a town, Nan, it
has its main roads, and its crossings, and its railways, and all;' he
tried to make a romance out of the mine for me, seeing I was so
timmersome, and he never spoke of danger, nor fall o' roofs, nor gas,
nor nothing, when I was by; only when they thought I was asleep, I used
to hear him and father talk and talk; and somehow, Miss Morgan, the
hearing of 'em whispering, whispering of danger, made the danger, just
as you say, twice as big to me, and I used to be that frightened I
feared I'd die just from sheer old h'age.  And at last I spoke to the
Lord about it, and it seemed to me the Lord made answer loud and clear,
`Resist the devil and he will flee from you;' and then I saw plain as
daylight, that the devil to me now, was the fear of danger to father and
Miles, and the only thing to do was to turn and face it like a man, or
may be a woman, which sometimes is bravest.  So I went to Miles and told
him how I had prayed, and what the Lord had said, and I begged of Miles
to tell me h'all about everything, all the danger of fire-damp, and
explosions, and inundations.  Oh!  Miss Morgan, he did what I axed him,
he seemed real pleased; and for a fortnight I scarce slept a wink, but
then I got better, and I found the devil, now I was facing him, brave
and manful, did not seem so big.  Then I went to Miles again, and I made
him promise not never to hide when he thought danger was going to be in
the mine, and he was real glad, and said he would faithful tell me
h'every thing.  Well, Miss Morgan, he was very sharp and had his wits
about him, and he heard people talk, and for all Mr Morgan was so
pleasant, and so well liked, father said that he was so rare and anxious
to win the coal, that sometimes, though he had reformed so much in the
mine, he was a bit rash, and then the men grumbled about the coal
pillars being struck away so much, and the supports not being thick
enough."

"But I spoke to Owen about that," I interrupted eagerly, "and he was so
dreadfully hurt and vexed; he would not endanger the men's lives for the
world, Nan; and he said that he was an engineer and must understand a
great deal more about the mine than the miners.  After all, Nan," I
continued rather haughtily, and with feelings new and yet old stirring
in my heart for Owen, "your little brother _cannot_ know, and without
meaning it, he probably exaggerates the danger."

"That may be so, Miss Morgan, but in the case of the coal supports it
was the talk of all the men."

"I know," I continued, "I have heard that miners were never contented
yet with any manager; they were sure, _whatever_ the manager did, to
find fault with him."

"You wrong us there, Miss, you wrong us most bitter; there is not a man
belonging to Ffynon mine who does not love Mr Morgan; there is not a
man who does not feel for his trouble.  Why, the way he looked yesterday
when he saw the little baby, has been the talk of the place; and last
night a lot of our men prayed for him most earnest.  We all knows that
it was want of thought with Mr Morgan, we all loves him."

"Dear Nan, forgive me for speaking so hastily, and do go on."

"Well, Miss Morgan, Miles, he always says that he must learn, if he
lives, to be an engineer, he's so fond of anything belonging to it.
What 'ud you say, Miss, but he drawed h'out a plan of the mine for
himself, and when it was finished he showed it to me and father; it
worn't exactly like father's old plan, but father said in some ways it
might be more right.  Well, Miss, Miles, haven't much to do in the mine,
he's what they calls a trapper--that is, he has to shut and open the
doors to let the trams of coal pass, so he has to stand in the dark, and
plenty of time for thought has he.  Well, Miss, about a month ago, Mr
Morgan was down in the mine, and he said they was letting a fine seam of
coal lie idle, and he said it should be cut, and it stretched away in
another direction.  Well, Miles, he had to act trapper at some doors
close to the new seam, and it came into his head, with his knowledge of
the mine, and his own plan, that they must be working away right in the
direction of Pride's Pit, which you know, Miss, is full of water.  Miles
had this thought in his head for some days, and at last he told me, and
at last he told father, and father said, being vexed a bit, `Don't fancy
you have a wiser head on your shoulders than your elders, my boy; we are
likely enough working in the direction of Pride's Pit, but what of that,
'tis an uncommon rich vein of coal; and, never fear, we'll stop short at
the right side of the wall.'  Well, Miss, Miles tried to stop his fears
but he couldn't, happen what would, he couldn't, and he said to me,
`Why, Nan, the men are all so pleased with the new find of coal, that
they'll just stop short at nothing, and the manager is beside himself
with delight, and they'll work on, Nan, until they gets to the water;
why, sometimes standing there, I almost fancies I _hears_ it,' and at
last, two nights ago, he said to me, `Nan, my mind is made up, I'll
speak to Mr Morgan.'  Then, Miss, you know what happened, and how all
day long Mr Morgan never came back, and Miles, he wandered about just
like a ghost, more fretted about the mine than he was about the dear
little baby, so that I was fain to think him heartless: then at last,
the Squire came, and he _would_ tell him everything, and the Squire
said, `I'll go down with you at once, Miles; I'll see what I can for
myself, and question every man in the mine, and if there appears to be
the slightest truth in what you fear, all the workings shall be stopped
until my brother returns.'"

A long pause from Nan, then in a low sweet voice, "Late last night Miles
came in, and put his arms round my neck and said, `Nan, darling, the
Squire and me, we're going down; we'll put it all right, please God.
Don't you be down-hearted, Nan; _whatever_ happens.  Jesus loves us, and
now that I've got the Squire with me, I feels bold as a lion, for I
_know_ I'm right, there _is_ danger.'"  Another pause, then facing round
and looking me full in the face.  "There, Miss, that's the whole story."

"But, Nan, Nan, suppose the water does burst in?"

"Why, then, Miss, every one in the mine will be drowned, or--or starved
to death."

"And it _may_ come in at any moment?"

"I doesn't know, I means to keep h'up heart, don't let you and me
frighten one another, Miss Morgan."

CHAPTER TWENTY.

THE JORDAN RIVER.

Can I ever forget that day?  It seemed the worst of all the ten.  Yes, I
think it was quite the worst.  Before the last of those ten days came, I
had grown accustomed to suffering; the burden given me to carry began to
fit on my young shoulders.  I lay down with it, and arose with it; under
its weight I grew old in heart and spirit, as old as Nan.  Laughter was
far from my lips, or smiles from my eyes.

But why do I speak of myself?  Why do I say, I, I?  I was one of many
suffering women at Ffynon?

Let me talk of it as _our_ sorrow!

What a leveller trouble is!  There was mother, laying her proud head on
little Nan's neck; there was the under-viewer's wife taking me in her
arms, and bidding me sob a few tears, what tears I could shed, on her
bosom.

Yes, in the next ten days the women of Ffynon had a common sorrow.  I do
not speak here of the men, the men acted nobly, but I think the women
who stood still and endured, had the hardest part to play.

  "Heroic males the country bears,
      But daughters give up more than sons;
  Flags wave, drums beat, and unawares
      You flash your souls out with the guns,
  And take your heaven at once.

  "But we; we empty heart and home.
      Of life's life, love! we bear to think
  You're gone, to feel you may not come.
      To hear the door-latch stir and clink,
  Yet no more you--nor sink."

But I must tell my story.  I left little Nan, I went home to mother.  I
told her, for I had to tell her now, something about David.  She was not
much alarmed, I don't think I was either.  We thought it probable that
David would come up out of the mine at any moment.  I think our worst
fears and our strongest suffering was for Owen.  We sat together, dear
mother and I, very anxious, very expectant, very patient.  Hour after
hour we sat together, waiting for David and Owen.  Overhead, poor Gwen
suffered and moaned; we did not tell her of our anxiety, she was too ill
to hear it.  In the room next to Gwen's, the little baby slept.  When my
fear and anxiety grew quite unbearable, I used to steal upstairs and
look at David's little lad.  Once I took the little icy hand and held it
in my own for a long time, and tried to chafe it into life and warmth.
I could not do it.  No more than I could chase away the fear which was
growing, growing in my own hearty From my window I could see the pit
bank.  It was an ugly sight, and one I seldom gazed at.  I hated the
appearance of the ugly steam-engines, and the dusty coal-covered
figures.  I hated the harsh noise, the unpleasing commotion; but to-day
nothing comforted me so much as to draw the blinds, which were down, and
look towards this same pit bank; the roaring steam, the appearance of
quiet, rapid, regular work soothed my fears, and became a blessed and
soul-sustaining sight.  I felt sure as long as these signs of regular
work were going on on the bank, that all must be right in the mine.
Still, why did not David return?  So much depended on his return, he had
promised so faithfully not to remain below a moment longer than was
necessary.

As the day wore on, my heart sank and sank, and my fears rose and rose,
and at five o'clock on that April afternoon, the blow came.  I was
standing by my room window, looking toward the pit bank.  Suddenly I saw
in that familiar scene a change.  The greater number of the day crew had
come up.  I waited to see David's figure, taller than the rest.  The men
stood in groups talking eagerly, a number crowded round the mouth of the
shaft; out of the houses around, women came rushing, then on the air
there rose a bitter sharp cry, and one woman leaving the group, which
increased each moment round the shaft, ran, clasping her hands and
weeping, towards our house.  I recognised her, even as she ran, as the
bearer of former ill tidings, Mrs Jones.  I went downstairs to meet
her.  I opened the dining-room door.  I called to mother, who was
sitting close to the window watching, watching for Owen, thinking little
of David.  She must know all now, better learn the worst at once.

"Mother," I said, "Mrs Jones has come, and something dreadful has
happened in the mine."

Then I took the weeping, agitated woman's hand, and mother clasped her
other hand, and we both looked hard in her face, and she looked into
ours, and in broken words she told her tale.

How few were her words, but how crushing her intelligence!  Just as the
men were leaving work, the water had burst in like the sea into the
workings; most of the day crew had escaped in time, but fourteen were
still below.

"Which?" we asked breathlessly, "who were the doomed ones?"

"Not my son?" said mother.

"Not my brother?" said I.

"Yes," said the woman, "Squire Morgan is still below--and--and--"
bringing out the words with a great gasp, her face, her lips, growing
white, "My husband--my George."

She was silent then, and we three looked at each other in blank wonder
and surprise; each was saying in her heart of hearts, "My sorrow is the
greatest."

At last I started to my feet.

"I will go down to the bank and learn more," I said.

Bonnetless and shawlless the next moment I was mingling with the black
men, and wild-looking women; _I_ was clasping their hands, looking into
their faces, and entreating them to tell me all they knew.  One or two
turned away from me, one or two muttered that it was the new manager's
fault.  Words that made my heart freeze within me, about the blood of
husbands and sons being on our heads, reached my ears, then a strong
hand was laid on my shoulder, and turning, I recognised through all his
coal dust, and blackened face, little Nan's father, Moses Thomas.

"Come round to my house, dear young lady," he said, in a gentle tone;
then turning to the angry men and women, "Shame on you! cowards! has not
Squire Morgan sacrificed his life for you to-day?"

The people shrank back; one woman said, "God bless him!" and Moses
Thomas took my hand in his.

Little Nan was waiting for us.  In the midst of all my own agony, I
almost dreaded seeing Nan's face, but to my surprise it was quiet.  When
I entered the house she came up and kissed me.  She had never ventured
to kiss me of her own accord before, but on this occasion we were
equals--nay, on this occasion Nan was greater than I.

"Yes, Miss Morgan," said Thomas, seating himself and beginning his tale
at once.  "'Tis very like they is drowned, the Squire, and my lad, and
Jones, and eleven more of 'em; and oh!  Lord! some was ready, and some
isn't; some was turning to the Lord, and some was just goin' on in evil;
and oh! dear Lord! forgive me, and have mercy upon me!"  The man covered
his face with his hands, and Nan went down on her knees.

"Lord, forgive father, and lay not this sin to his charge," she said.

Thomas looked at her from under his shaggy brows, stretched out his hand
and stroked her cheek, then making an effort to master some strong
emotion, continued his tale.

"Yes, my dear young lady, as I say, 'twas mostly my fault; I felt rare
and h'angered this morning, when I went down into the mine, to find that
the little chap, unknownst to me, had brought down the Squire.  I spoke
sharp to the lad, the Lord have mercy on me!  The Squire, he had a long
talk with me and the deputy, and he wanted the overman to be sent for,
but the overman was ill, and I ranks next, and I was rare and vexed, and
I laughed at the thought of danger, and I knew the Squire had no
knowledge of mines, and 'twas all the little chap's conceit.  So the
upshot of it was we went on with the workin' of the new seam, and I had
my h'eye out sharp, and to prevent all chance of danger, I made the men
work, as I thought, in a new direction, away from Pride's Pit.  Well,
the Squire stayed down all day, and two or three times he axed me to
stop working until Mr Morgan come back; but I never, no, God knows, I
never _thought_ of danger.  At last it was evening, and I came to the
surface, but Miles, being trapper, had to stay down to the last; and the
Squire, who seemed mighty taken with the lad, said they would come up
together.  Well, I had not been to the surface more'n ten minutes, when
the news came that the water had burst out of Pride's Pit; most of the
men got to the surface in time, but fourteen are below.  Oh!  God
forgive me, God forgive me.  My boy, my brave boy was right; if I had
hearkened to him, all would have been saved."

At these words Nan went down on her knees again, and looked into her
father's face with flushed cheeks and glistening eyes.

"Father, father, _do_ you call Miles brave and noble now?"

"Ay, ay, little lass, brave as a lion, my noble lad; how patient he was
when I nearly struck him across the face this morning, and how he spoke
up so manful, `Father, I'm not afeerd, but I _know_ there's danger.'"

"I'm so glad," said little Nan.  "I'm so glad he was brave and noble,
and not afeerd; he was follerin' of Jesus.  Why, father, if Miles is
drowned, he's only gone to Jesus."

"True enough, Nan, he's crossed the Jordan river, and is safe on the
holy hill of the better land.  No fear for Miles, little lass."

"But, perhaps--perhaps," I murmured, "they are not all drowned; is there
no place of escape in the mine?"

"Oh!  God grant it, lady; yes, there are rises and levels, they may have
got into them, but how are they to be got out? however are they to be
got at?  Well, if there's a shadow of a chance of this, we miners won't
leave a stone unturned to save 'em, no, _not one_, trust us!  I must see
what can be done!"

CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

THE LORD WAS NOT IN THE WIND.

I have said that all England knows the story.  Still I will tell it,
dwelling most on the part that most touched my own heart and my own
life.

In doing this I may be selfish, but I can tell this part best.

That night Moses Thomas, with several other brave volunteers, went down
the shaft of the Ffynon mine.

The shaft was ninety-two yards deep.

They went down determined to risk life, to save life; but even with this
determination, they had little hope of success.

When they reached the mine, the scene that met their eyes was likely to
kill that slight hope.

All the workings within a few hundred yards of the bottom of the shaft,
were filled with water to the roof.  It seemed utterly impossible that a
soul now left in the mine could be alive.  The water from the old pit
had truly come in like a flood, carrying all before it.  This being the
case, the men were about to ascend to the surface, hopeless and
despairing, when suddenly faint knockings were heard on the other side
of the coal, at a distance, it was thought, of about a dozen yards.

These knockings sent a thrill of joy through the breasts of the brave
men.  Every thought of persona! danger was put out of sight, and all
night they laboured to cut away the wall of coal, fondly hoping that all
the men were safe, imprisoned, but not drowned, and in a few hours they
would rescue them.  Well, as I said before, the story is known: in the
morning five men were reached; four of these five were brought in safety
to the surface; but the fifth, a noble young fellow, who had worked
splendidly all night for his own rescue, and that of his companions, was
killed by a terrific gas explosion, which took place when the coal was
worked through.

I was standing by the pit bank when these four men were brought to the
surface.  I saw women rush forward, and welcome with tears, fervent
thanks, and joy, a father, a brother, a husband.  I looked in the faces
of the four, and turned away with a sick heart, for David was not
amongst them.  Yes, I was selfish.  I could not rejoice in the joy of
the few, but most bitterly could I sorrow in the grief of the many.

Mother, who had come down with me in the morning to the mouth of the
shaft, quite sure of seeing David, was now weeping hysterically; crying
feebly for Owen, who, she said, if present, would surely save David; and
mother and I at that time had both that dim idea of the mine, that it
seemed to us quite possible that if only men brave enough could be
found, they might go even through the water to the rescue.

But what if the nine remaining men were dead! drowned.  I knew the
colliers were working with might and main, through that slow, torturing
passage, the solid coal, to reach them.  But what if, after all their
efforts, they were only met by death!

Down on my knees in my room, beside the coffin that contained what was
mortal of David's little lad, I thought these thoughts of David.  Down
on my knees, I say, but not to pray.  I was in a wild state of
rebellion; it seemed to me that the events of the last few days had put
the whole world into a state of chaos--a state of confusion so great,
that even God Himself could never put it straight again.  As this was
so, why should I pray to Him?  I had never in days of happiness made
myself acquainted with God.  How could I go to Him in my misery?

I was angry with God.  He had been too hard on us.  What had we done
that He should crush us to the earth?

In a few days what had not befallen us?  The sudden and terrible death
of David's only little child!  Gwen's accident!  Owen's disappearance!
Now David himself probably dead.

Yes, truly, a whirlwind of destruction had encompassed us; but the Lord
was not in the wind.

Raising my head with my mind full of these thoughts, my eyes again fell
upon the happy, smiling face of the dead child.  The little face seemed
to say more eloquently than words, "Yes, God has done all this to you;
but He is good--He is very good!"

The face of the baby made me cry; and my tears, without then in any way
turning me consciously towards my Father, eased my heart.  I was wiping
them away, when the handle of the door was turned, and Nan came in.
This was no time for ceremony, and Nan made none.

"The men are not all drowned, Miss Morgan; my father and the other
workers have heard knockings, very faint like, and a long way off; but
still, that is what they want."

"Oh!  Nan, is it possible?  Is it possible that they'll all be saved?
Oh!  I cannot believe it!" and I burst into tears.

"Now isn't that wrong and faithless?" said the little girl, taking my
hand.  "Ain't this a time to exercise faith?  Why, there ain't a man
there--no, not a _man_, as won't work with a will.  Why, when father
come up, he had the blood streaming from his hands.  I tell you, Miss
Morgan, there's no halting when we looks to bring h'out our brothers and
sons!"

"Then, Nan, they may be out to-night?"

"No, Miss; that ain't likely--we mustn't look for impossibles.  They are
in a stall a long way off, called Thomas Powell's stall; and to get to
that, they must work through thirty-eight yards of coal.  That ain't
light labour; but h'everything that men can do will be done.  Why,
engineers and miners from all the collieries round are on the spot."

"Nan," I said, "I think I will ask God for one thing.  I don't mind
telling you, but I have been feeling very bitter against God; but now if
He brings me back David and Owen--both of them safe and well--why, then,
I will love Him and serve Him always."

Nan was silent for a long time--some thought knitting anxiously her dark
brows.

"I don't think I'd make a bargain with the Lord," she said.

"Oh! but, Nan, you cannot quite understand; I have never told you the
story of my life.  I see now that I never cared for either Owen or David
quite in the right way.  I want to change all that.  Yes," I added,
humbly, "I have a great deal to change.  I had a beautiful home before I
came here; and I grew so tired of it, I wanted to leave it.  I know I
vexed David--dear, dear David, by wishing to leave Tynycymmer; and then
we came here; and he asked me to try, in the little ways a sister can,
to help Owen; but I didn't.  Oh!  Nan, I have not been at all good, and
I want to change all that."

"Well, Miss Morgan, from your own words, it seems to me you have a deal
to ask the Lord to forgive you."

"Yes, I know I have," I added, humbly.

"Then why don't you ask to be forgiven now--right away?"

"No, I cannot ask now.  God is punishing me too hard.  I don't love Him
now at all."

"You want the lads home first?"

"Oh! yes, indeed.  Oh! if I might hope for that, I could love Him--I
could serve Him well."

"Eh! dear," said little Nan, "I think I could love Him, even if Miles
was gone to Him.  Seems to me, for all I'm so timmersome, and I does
cling so to Miles, that even if Miles was dead, I could love the Lord.
I think father and me, for all we'd grieve bitter, we'd never turn agen
the Lord.  Why, the Lord's our guide, Miss Morgan; and however rough the
way, we'd rayther go that road with Him, than any other in the world
without Him.  And father and me, we'd soon see that having Miles up in
the better land, only 'ud make it more home like.  Oh!  Miss Morgan, it
don't seem to me that yours is a bit the right way."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

That night the doctor gave mother a composing draught.  She had not
slept for two nights; and the sleeplessness, added to her anxiety, had
brought on feverish symptoms.  Happen what might, sleep was necessary
for her, and she was now in bed, wrapped in heavy slumber.  After doing
what he could for mother, the doctor looked hard into my eyes, but I
assured him I was well, which was true--for in body I never felt better.
He made me promise, however, to go to bed.  I agreed to do so, though
sleep seemed very far away.  The night was still early, and for an hour
or two longer I would sit by the dining-room fire.  As mother had done
two nights before, I made down a good fire, then sat opposite to it.  I
sat with my head pressed on my hands, my eyes gazing into the ruddy
flames, my thoughts very busy.  My thoughts were troublesome--almost
agonising.  For the first time in my life, my will and God's were
standing opposite to one another, opposing one another in grim conflict.
My young desire dared to stand up and defy its Creator.  The Creator
said to the thing that He had made, "_My_ will be done."

The tiny atom replied, "No; not Thy will, but mine."

Thus we were at variance--God and I.  I knew I must submit--that God
could sweep me aside to perform, independent of me, what seemed good to
Him.  He could do this, but still my will might rise in rebellion, might
dash itself out and die against this rock; but never, no, never submit.
I was quite ready, as little Nan had expressed it, to make a bargain
with God.  I was ready to sell my submission at a fair price.  If He
left to me that for which my soul longed, then my soul, with its
treasures, should be His.  But without them--empty, torn, and bare;
could that soul go to Him?--go to Him in its desolation, and say, "You,
who have taken what I love, who have emptied me in my youth of all light
and joy, take me too, and do with me what you will."  This I could not
do--this deed of submission I could not perform.  No, if God would be
good to me, I would be good to Him--that was my rebellious thought.  No
wonder it brought me no rest.  No wonder I was tossed about by this wind
of desolation; and the Lord--the Lord whom I needed, the Lord who,
though I knew it not, was wounding but to heal; slaying, to make me
truly live--the Lord was not in the wind.  I was sitting so, thinking
these thoughts, wondering why trouble had awakened all these depths in
me--why I, who only six months ago had been, in every sense, a child,
should now feel so old and heavy at heart--when at the window of the
room where I was sitting there came a very low tap.  At another time
such a sound, in the stillness of the night, would have frightened me;
but not so now.  I went directly to the window, and looked out; then,
indeed, my heavy heart gave a bound, for Owen stood without.  I could
not raise the sash of the window without the possibility of awaking
mother; but I went to the front door, and managed softly to open it.

"Is my mother up?  Gwladys."

"No, no, Owen," clasping his hands, and trying to drag him over the
threshold.  "She is worn out--she is in bed, and asleep.  Come in, dear
Owen."

"No one is up but you?"

"Not a soul."

"Then I will come to the fire for a moment.  I am bitterly cold; and
could you get me something to eat?"

He crossed the threshold, entered the dining-room--shading his eyes from
the light--and threw himself, with the air of one utterly spent, into
the arm-chair.  So worn and miserable was he, physically, that my first
thought--my first thought before I could ask him a single question--was
to see to his bodily comforts.  I got him food and wine, then going on
my knees, I unlaced and removed, as well as I could, his wet and
mud-covered boots, went softly upstairs for clean, dry socks, and his
favourite slippers.  He did not oppose me by a single remark, he
submitted to my attentions, ate eagerly and hungrily of the food I gave
him.  When I had done all I could, I sat down on the floor by his side,
and took his hand.  I must now begin to question him, for the silence
between us, with my ignorance of what he did or did not know, was
becoming unbearable.

"Where have you been?  Owen.  We have wanted you here so dreadfully."

"Have you?  I should have been no use to you.  For the last two days I
have been mad--that was all."  He looked like it now.  His eyes
bloodshot, his face deadly pale.

"But, brother," I said, impelled to say the words, "our David has quite
forgiven you."

"Good God!  Gwladys," starting upright, "do you want to put me on the
rack?  How dare you mention his name.  _His_ name, and the name of his
murdered child!  Oh! my God! how that little face haunts me!"

He began to pace up and down the room.  I feared he would wake mother;
but in his passion and agony I could do nothing to restrain him.  After
a time, however, he sat down more quietly.

"Yes; I have been mad, or perhaps, I am sane now, and was mad all the
rest of my life.  In my sanity, or madness--call it what you will--I at
last see myself.  How _dared_ you and mother pamper and spoil me when I
was a boy!  How dared you foster my be setting sin, my weak ambition, my
overweening vanity.  I never loved you for _that_--never.  I cared most
for David.  How could I help it--righteous, humble, noble; judging
calmly and correctly; telling me my faults.  But, there! how I must
blame others, and lay the sin on others.  I did love you, my dear,"--
laying his hand for an instant on my head--"I used to dream of you when,
like the prodigal, I lived in the far country; but, as I say again, what
of that!  I went to Oxford--oh! it is a long story, a story of sin upon
sin.  My vanity, fed by petty adulation.  I spent money.  I got into
debt, frightfully--frightfully.  I did worse.  I got amongst a fast set,
and became the fastest of them all.  At last came the crisis.  I won't
tell you of it.  Why should you know?  But for David, I should have been
publicly disgraced--think of that!  Your `hero' brother--you used to say
that of me--the conceited lad who thought the world hardly vast enough
or grand enough to hold him.  David, as I say, saved me.  He paid all my
debts--he set me free.  My debts were enormous; to pay them the estate
was seriously crippled.  I went abroad.  I thought myself humbled then.
I did not care what I put my hand to.  I had one dream, to fulfil that I
lived.  I meant to pay back to David the money he had spent on me.  I
knew of this mine on his property.  I knew it was badly worked; that the
profits, which might be enormous, were very small.  I thought this mine
might prove my El Dorado; might give to me the golden treasure I needed.
I always meant to be a civil engineer; to this purpose I had turned my
attention during my short periods of real work at Christ Church.  Now I
determined to take up engineering with a will.  I did this because I
knew that it would qualify me to have the direction of David's mine--to
get out of David's mine the gold I needed.  For four years I worked for
this.  I gained practical knowledge; then I came here--you know that
part of the story.  I told David of my hopes; they excited no pleasure
in him.  He begged of me to make the mine safe; to use my skill in
saving life.  I promised him.  I meant to perform my word.  I did not
think I should fail bitterly and utterly a second time.  I did not
suppose, when long ago I dreamed dreams, and saw visions, that I should
rob David, first of his gold, and then of his child; and this last is
murder."

Owen paused here, and wiped some great drops from his brow.  "Gwladys,"
he continued, "I see myself now.  I am sane, not mad.  I see myself at
last.  I am the greatest sinner in the world."

He paused again; these words have been used hypocritically; but there
was no hypocrisy in that voice--in those eyes then; the solemn, slow
denunciation came with the full approval of the heart and reason.  I
could not contradict.  I was silent.  "Yes," he repeated, "I have come
to that--come down to that--to be a murderer--the lowest of all.  I am
the greatest sinner in the world; and for two days I have been looking
at God, and God has been looking at me.  Face to face--with that
murdered child, and all my other crimes between us--we have been viewing
each other.  Is it any wonder I should tell you I have been mad?"

"You may be facing God," I said, slowly then.  "You may be facing God
with all your sins; but you must remember one thing: you, a sinner, are
facing a God who died for such as you."

I don't know why I said these words; they seemed to be sent to me.  I
appeared to be speaking outside myself.

"Thank you," said Owen.  Then he covered his face, and was silent for a
quarter of an hour; and in that interval of quiet, the knowledge came to
me that this penitent, broken man--this agonised, stricken soul, was
nearer, far nearer to God than I was.  At the end of a quarter of an
hour, Owen rose to his feet.

"I heard of the mine accident at a roadside inn, this afternoon; that
brought me home.  I cannot understand how the water burst in.  I had no
idea there was an accumulation of water in Pride's Pit.  I thought it
was properly pumped away--but, there!  I should have _known_.  I am
going down into the mine at once.  I know David is in the mine."

"Owen," I said, suddenly remembering, "David sent you that."  I put the
little note, which David had written, into his hands.

He read it, then threw it, open, on the table.

The hard look was gone from his eyes--they were glistening.

"Farewell, dear, I am going to my duty.  God helping me, I will save
David or die."

Before I could say a word, he was out of the house; before I could call
to him, his footsteps had died away on the night air.

I threw myself on my knees.  I did not pray in words, but I prayed in
floods of healing tears.  Then I read David's letter.

  "_Owen, there are two sides to everything.  What has happened is not
  bad for my little lad.  God has taken him--it must be good for my
  child to be with God.  I try to fix my mind on this thought.  I ask
  you to try to do the same.  I know this is hard_.

  "_Owen, you have been careless, and have sinned, and your sin has been
  punished.  The punishment is all the worse for you, because it crushes
  me.  It shall not quite crush me, Owen; I will rise above it.  My dear
  brother, don't despair.  If I can and do forgive you, with all my
  heart, so assuredly will God_.

  "_But, Owen, you are cowardly to shirk your duty.  There is danger in
  the mine.  As soon as ever you get this come to me there.  Be brave!
  Whatever you feel, do your duty like a man, for my sake, and for God's
  sake_.

  "David."

CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

THE LORD WAS NOT IN THE FIRE.

And now, day after day, heroic men worked nobly.  Without a thought of
personal danger, engineers, viewers, managers, miners, private
gentlemen,--all laboured for the common cause.

Brothers were perishing of slow starvation, that was enough; brothers,
come what might, would go to their rescue.

Perhaps there was seldom seen a grander fight between love and death.

Those who had a thorough knowledge of the mine, soon perceived that
thirty-eight yards of solid coal intervened between the imprisoned men
and their rescuers.  The only other access was completely cut away by so
vast a body of water, that it was not unfitly compared to an underground
ocean.  The obstacles between the rescuers and the imprisoned men seemed
at first insurmountable.  It appeared to be beyond human strength,
either to drain away the water, or to cut through the coal, in time.
What was to be done?  Moses Thomas, who, whenever he came to the bank,
gave me all the information in his power, said that hopeless as the task
appeared, the coal was to be cut away from this black tomb without
delay.  Every strong man in the neighbourhood volunteered for this work,
and truly the work was no light one!  The place sloped downwards, about
four inches to every yard, and each piece of coal struck away, had to be
instantly removed.  But fresh and fresh shifts of men plied their
mandrils unremittingly; there was no halting or turning back; for three
hours, without pause, each man worked, to be instantly followed, when
this allotted time had expired, by a fresh volunteer.

"Sleep, Miss," said one brawny fellow, when coming to the surface, he
stooped to wash his blood-covered hands.  "No, I doesn't want to sleep,
while the Squire, and the lad, and the others is starving.  I tell you,
Miss, I never cried so bitter in all my life, as when I heard them
knockings!"

Thus by one mode of egress, all that mortal man could do, was being
tried.  But scientific men who were present, were too wise to neglect
any plan for rescue.  It was thought possible, that by means of divers,
the imprisoned men might be reached through the water; accordingly two
very experienced divers were telegraphed for from a well-known London
firm, and as quickly as they could, they answered the summons.  I did
not know at the time, though I have learned something since, of the
dangers these men underwent in this attempt to rescue human life.
Having learned, I should like to say a little about them here, for I
think no men stood higher in that band of heroes.  So great was their
danger, that not a gentleman in the neighbourhood would undertake the
responsibility of sending them down into the mine, and some even
counselled them not to undertake so hopeless a task.  But both men
instantly replied, that they would never return to their firm without
making the attempt, and that they would take all responsibility on
themselves.  They had never been in a mine before, and very different
would be the diving through this black and stagnant water, full of
turnings of which they knew nothing, and of obstacles too great to be
overcome, from any work they had hitherto undertaken.  Indeed, so great
was their danger, that those who saw them enter that inky sea, never
expected to see them return again; but nothing daunted, the brave men
closed their helmets, and commenced the impossible task.  Mother and I,
with many other women, and children, stood on the pit bank, and as the
man who held the line, called out at intervals "fifty feet," "eighty
feet," "a hundred feet," what echoes of hope and longing were awakened
in beating hearts!  I had one arm round mother's waist, Nan held my
other hand, and when at last "five hundred feet" was called, and this
was known to be within about two hundred and fifty feet of the stall
where the prisoners were confined, simultaneously we went on our knees.
The hope, the brilliant hope was too dazzling.  Dazzling! it seemed to
have come.  Mother and I had David once more; little Nan, her brother;
the under-viewer's wife, her husband.  But; alas! it was only the
lightning flash in the dark cloud, for at length, after a long period of
silence, came the hopeless words, "They are coming back!"  Yes, the
brave divers had done their best, but were unsuccessful.  To reach the
prisoners by this means was a failure.  As they said themselves, "We are
very sorry, we found it was impossible to get on further, owing to
pieces of wood in the water, the broken road, mud, and the strength of
the swell."

When they appeared again, and had stumbled exhausted to the ground,
their helmets, new when they entered, were battered as though they had
seen twenty years' service--a convincing proof of the dangers they had
undergone.

Yes, this attempt was a failure; but still hope did not die, still brave
men toiled, and day after day the coal was cut away so perseveringly, so
unceasingly, that at last on the seventh day after the inundation,
shouts were made to the entombed men, and--oh! with what thankfulness
was the faint answering response hailed.  That weak cry, low and
death-like, would have given the necessary spur had such been needed.
All this time pumps were used, without ceasing, to reduce the water in
the workings.

Meanwhile, as day after day went by, each day filled with more of
despair, and less of hope, what had become of Owen?  He had said on that
evening, some days back now, that he would rescue David or die, but
still the manager of the mine was not present.  At this critical time he
had deserted his post, and the control and direction of all that was
done, rested with strangers.  Suspicion was grave against my brother, he
had, to say the least of it, worked the mine recklessly.  Though, with
the utmost care, water inundations were sometimes impossible to avert,
yet in this particular instance, it seemed that with ordinary foresight,
by seeing that Pride's Pit was properly drained, or at least by avoiding
the working of this particular coal vein, the present accident might
never have taken place.  Thus, things looked grave for Owen, and he was
not at his post.  Yes, I knew all this, I heard ugly words about an
inquest, by and by; but strange as it may seem, never since his return,
had my heart felt so at rest about Owen.  I had a feeling, almost an
instinct, that Owen had not really deserted his post, that among the
volunteers in the mine he might be found, that amongst the bravest of
the rescuers he might be numbered.  When, with my sisters in this deep
deep trouble, I stood for long hours of every day by the pit bank, I saw
once amongst the smoke-begrimed and blackened men, who rose after their
herculean toil to the surface, a face and form which in their outline
resembled his--any other recognition was impossible; but so sure was I
that this man was Owen, that I began gradually to watch for him alone.
But watch as I would, I only saw him once.  I was told afterwards, on
questioning eagerly, that this miner slept below, that he refused to
come to the surface at all, until the work for death or life was done,
and that he appeared to work with the strength and energy of ten other
men.

"His name!"  I breathlessly demanded.

"Nobody knew his name, he was a volunteer, a stranger it seemed, but
there were many such present; he was a plucky fellow, worth a great
deal," this was all in this awful and grim conflict his fellow-workers
cared for.  I told mother of Owen's visit to me that night.  I think my
narrative comforted her, she asked very few questions; but I think _her_
eye too, though she said nothing, had rested on the face and form of the
strange miner, and that she too had an idea, and a hope, that Owen was
working in the mine.  I believe, I feel sure, nothing kept up mother's
heart and mine, so much as this hope.  Was it possible that we were then
learning the truth of that great saying from the lips of the Master--"He
that loseth his life for My sake, shall find it?"  Ay, for My sake,
though _I_ reveal myself through a brother's love.

About Wednesday night, the eighth of the men's imprisonment, thirty-two
yards out of the thirty-eight of coal had been cut away.  There were now
only six yards of coal between the prisoners and freedom, and on the men
being shouted to, the joyful news was brought to mother and me from the
pit bank, that David's voice was heard above the rest; but, alas! sorrow
came to many, while relief and thankfulness to is: there were only five
men in the stall, four were now given up for lost.  Between these five
men and life and liberty, there seemed to me to be but a step, it could
not take long, surely, to cut through the remaining six yards of coal,
and to release the entombed from a lining grave.  I showed my ignorance,
my hope was wrong, the trial of my faith was not yet over.  Nay, I think
the faith that was to be tried by fire was put to the proof during the
next two days, in every heart at Ffynon.  The experienced colliers said
that the real danger had now but begun.  The water in the mine was only
kept back from the imprisoned men by a very strong pressure of air,
beyond this air-tight atmosphere it could not come; five or six feet
away from the imprisoned men, it stood like an inky wall, but once break
through with the slightest blow of the mandril, the wall of coal at one
side, and the confined air would find vent, and the water, no longer
impeded, would rush forward, sweeping into certain destruction both
captives and rescuers.  Unless the water could be pumped away, or the
air in some way exhausted, there seemed to be no hope.  All the pumps in
the neighbourhood were lent, and were plied without intermission, and
scientific men put their heads together and agreed to raise air-tight
doors, so as to keep back the full rush of the imprisoned atmosphere,
when the coal was broken through.  But, alas! how faint and sick grew
all our hearts, for nothing could now be done rashly, and was it
possible that the men could live many hours longer without food?

On the eighth night, food was attempted to be passed through a tube, but
this proved a failure, the rush of air through the opening was so
terrible, that it was found necessary to plug the hole.  The roar of air
was as loud as that of a blast furnace, and twice the force of the
imprisoned air dashed out the plug, which could only be replaced by
efforts almost superhuman.

On the ninth day, I was passing through Gwen's room; she had been in a
low fever, brought on by pain, and the violent shock her whole system
had undergone.  I used to avoid Gwen, dreading her questions, fearing to
tell her what had happened.  She was taken care of by a clever and
experienced nurse, and I thought it kinder to leave her to her care; but
on this day she heard my step, opened her eyes, and called me to her
side.

"Gwladys."

"Yes, dear Gwen."

"Have they buried the baby yet?"

"Yes, Gwen, he is lying in a little grave in the churchyard close by; he
was buried last Saturday."

"Eh! dear, dear, I'd like to have seen his blessed little face first,
but never mind!  Oh!  Gwladys, ain't the Lord good to the little 'uns?"

"I don't know," I said.

"Dear, my maid, and h'all this fiery trial upon you, and not to know.
Dear, dear, haven't I bin lying here for days and learnin' h'all about
it.  Seems to me I never knew _what_ the Lord Jesus Christ was like
before.  Haven't He that baby in His arms now; haven't He put sight into
his blind eyes, and shown to him the joys of Paradise; and haven't He
bin helping me to bear the pain quite wonderful?  I'll _tell_ you,
Gwladys," raising herself in bed, "I'll tell you what the Lord is--
tender to the babies, pitiful to the sick and weak, abundant in mercy to
the sinners, and the Saviour of them that's appointed to die; and if
that's not a God for a time of trouble, I don't know where you'll find a
God."

Gwen brought out these words in detached sentences, for she was very
weak; but her feverish eyes looked into mine, and her hot hand held my
hand with energy.

"And, my maid," she continued, in an exhausted whisper, "I've dreamed
that dream again."

"Oh!  Gwen--what?"

"All that dream about the mine, my maid; and I know 'tis coming true.
Owen will save David."

I left Gwen, and went into my own room.  On my knees, for a brief
instant, I spoke to God.  "Oh!  God," I said, "if you are the only help
for a dark day, deliver us.  Lord, have mercy upon us.  Christ, have
mercy upon us.  Lord, out of the depths, here, we cry to Thee.  Lord,
deliver those who are appointed to die;" and then, before I rose from my
knees, four low words rose from my heart--"_Thy will be done_;" very
low, in the faintest whisper--with the cold dew of agony breaking all
over me, these words were wrung from my soul; still I said them.  Then I
went back to the bank.  There was a change there, and some commotion--
something had happened.  Alas! what?  My heart beat audibly.  I made my
way through the crowd, and found myself close to a group of colliers,
who had just come up from the mine.  Terrible and ominous words smote on
my ear.  A new danger had arisen.  There were signs of the colliers'
worst enemy--gas.  The Davy lamps could not be lit.  Again the plug was
blown out of the hole, and the roar of air which came through the
opening, prevented the loudest voice being heard.

"There is a power in there which would blow us up the heading like
dust," said one.

The peril was too tremendous.  Even the bravest of the brave had given
way.  Dear life was too precious.  The men who had toiled, as only
heroes could toil, for so many long days and nights, faltered at length.
To go forward now, seemed certain and absolute death to both rescuers
and rescued.

"The boy is gone," said Moses Thomas, looking Nan in the face.  "He has
been nine days now without food."

"God help them all; they'll soon be in eternity," said another miner,
wiping the tears from his weatherbeaten face.

"This last has daunted us," said a third.

"We have done all that men could do," sighed a fourth, who, worn out
from toil, fell half-fainting on the ground.

"To go on now, would be certain death," said a fifth.

Then there was silence--intense silence; not even the sound of a woman's
sob.

The despairing men looked at one another.  All seemed over.  The
starving prisoners in the mine were to starve to death.  They were to
listen in vain for the cheering sound of the mandril--in vain for their
comrades' brave voices--in vain for light, food, liberty.  The rescuers
could venture into no deeper peril for their sakes.

Suddenly the strange miner sprang to the front; fazed his companions
with flashing eyes, and called out, in a deep voice rendered almost
harsh by some pent-up emotion--"I'm going on, though 'tis death.  Shut
the doors upon me," he added, "and I'll cut the passage through!"

Quick as lightning these words chased fear from every heart.

"I'll go, for another--and I--and I," said many.  And back went the
brave men into the dark mine, to cut away, on their hands and knees, at
a passage, in many places not three feet high.

I don't know how it was, but from the moment I heard that brave
collier's voice, I had hope--from that moment the worst of my heart
agony was over.  I felt that God would save the men.  That His will was
to deliver them from this pit of destruction.  I was able to hear of the
fresh dangers that still awaited the brave workers--of that frightful
gas explosion, which on Friday obliged every working collier to fly for
his life, and at last to return to his noble toil in the dark.  Still I
was not afraid.  I felt sure of seeing David again.  And now the tenth
day had dawned, and excitement and hope had reached their highest
pitch--their last tension.  The air-tight doors were fixed in the
workings.  The men, both prisoners and rescuers, were now working in
compressed air.  The pumps had much reduced the water; and at last--at
last, a breach was made.  The pick of a miner had broken through the
wall of coal.  What a moment of excitement--longing--fear!  What a joy,
which seemed almost too grand, and great, for earth, when, to the
thousands who waited above, the news was brought that science and love
were successful--that back again from the arms of a terrible death,
would come to us, our brothers and friends.  I hardly remember what
followed next.  I never left the pit bank.  I stood there, between
mother and Nan, and watched, with straining eyes, that could hardly
see--could hardly realise, as men, borne on litters, were carried past;
men with coal-black faces--rigid, immovable, as though carved in
granite.

Little Miles was brought first.  He looked tiny and shrunken; yet I saw
that he breathed.  Then three men, whom I did not know; but one of whom
was recognised by the under-viewer's wife.

Last of all our David.  His eyes were open, and fixed on the blue sky.

When mother saw David, she fainted.

I bent over her, and tried to raise her.  No one had seen her fall.  The
heroes in this tragedy had kept all eyes another way.  My own head, as I
bent over her, was reeling, my own brain was swimming.  Suddenly two
strong hands were placed under her head, and the strange miner raised
her tenderly in his blackened and coal-covered arms.

"Gwladys, we have saved them.  Thank God!" he said.

CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

AFTER THE FIRE--A STILL, SMALL VOICE.

This is the story.  The rest England knows; she knows how all the
rescued men recovered, she also knows how she has honoured rescued and
rescuers.

The last to get well, the slowest to get back again his health and
strength, was David.  For a time, indeed, for David there were grave
doubts and anxieties, which on the doctors' parts amounted to fears.

The previous shock and sorrow may have made the ten days without food,
in that gloomy prison, tell more severely on him, for originally he was
the strongest man of the five.  However, after a fortnight of intense
watching, the dreaded fever began to abate, and the burden of life which
he had so nearly laid aside, he took up again, with his old cheerfulness
and courage.

"I'm glad he's not going to die," said Nan, "he's wanting down on earth
still.  Oh! ain't he strong," she added; "oh! if you only heard Miles
talk of him!"

One day I did hear a little of what David had done, from the boy
himself.

"Yes, Miss, he was standin' by me, when the water came in, we felt it
running past our feet, he took my hand and said we'd run for the shaft;
we run a few steps when we met Jones and two men, Powell and Williams;
they said the waters were up to the roof, then we got into Powell's
stall."

"Had you any light?"

"Yes, for a while we had candles, then we was in the dark, the water was
a few feet away; when we was thirsty we drank the water, but it was very
bad.  No, we was _not_ very hungry, but we was most bitter cold."

"You did not think you were so long in the stall?"

"No, not more'n a week."

"And you were not frightened?"

Here the dark eyes, preternaturally large and eager-looking, gazed hard
into mine.

"No, I worn't feared to die.  I thought I might die, we h'all thought
it.  I did want to kiss Nan, and father once, but Mr Morgan--"

"Well, what about Mr Morgan?"

"He spoke so, he said that the Better Land were worth going through
anything to reach; he said that may be there were no other road for any
of us to heaven, but right through the mine, and he axed us if we was
willin' to go through that road to reach it.  After a bit we all said we
was."

"Well?"

"Then he'd pray to the Lord so earnest, it seemed as if the Lord was
nigh to us, and Mr Morgan said He was with us in the stall; then we'd
sing."

"What did you sing, Miles?"

"Only one hymn, over and over.  We sings it at h'our meetings."

"I know it," said Nan, "I'll sing it now.

  "In the deep and mighty waters.
  No one there can hold my head;
  But my only Saviour Jesus,
  Who was slaughtered in my stead.

  "Friend, he is in Jordan's river.
  Holds above the wave my head;
  With His smile I'll go rejoicing,
  Through the regions of the dead."

"Ah!" said Miles, "you never'd know wot that hymn's worth unless you was
in the mine.  Then we heard the men knocking, and that kep up our
hearts, and Mr Morgan said we might be rescued; but any way 'twas all
right.  Towards the end two of the men got queer and off their heads,
and Mr Morgan, and Jones, the under-viewer, had a deal of trouble with
'em; then Mr Morgan thought the water might have gone down, and on
Friday he went in and tried for a bit to wade through, but it was too
deep, and he did not know the mine.  Jones would have tried after him,
but then we was let h'out.  No, I doesn't remember that part.  I knows
nothing until I felt Nan kiss me, and I thought 'twas Stephie, and that
I was in heaven."

All the time during David's slow recovery, one person nursed him day and
night--one person, with hardly any intermission, remained by his
bedside; this was Owen.  And no hand so soothed the sick and weary man,
no face brought so peaceful a smile into his eyes, as the hand and face
of Owen.  As David grew better they had long talks together, but I never
heard what they said.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

I have one thing more to write here.

Three weeks after the accident, on an afternoon soft with west wind, and
glowing with May beauty, I went to visit little David's grave.  They had
laid him in a very old churchyard, and the tiny grave faced the Rhoda
Vale, and could be seen with its companion graves, from the bank of the
Ffynon mine below.  I had brought some flowers to plant there.  Having
completed my task, I sat, for a few moments, by the side of the little
mound to rest.  As I sat there, I saw a man walking quickly along the
high road.  He mounted the stile and ascended the steep path which led
to the graveyard.  As I watched him, my heart beat loud and audibly--for
this man was Owen.  He was coming to visit little David's grave.  He had
probably never seen it yet.  Still I would not go away.  I had something
to say to Owen, I could say it best here.  He came up, saw me, started
for a moment, then seated himself by my side.

"Gwladys, this is a fit place for us to meet.  I have something to say
to you."

His words, look, manner, put any speech of my own out of my head.  I
turned to watch him.

"There is such a thing, Gwladys, as being guilty even of this--
blood-guiltiness--and yet being washed white."

Silence on my part.  He laid his hand on the little grave, and
continued--

"David, who never told a lie in his life, says he is glad; that if only
the death of his child could bring me to his God, he is glad--glad even
at that price."  A long pause.  "I have found his God.  Even by so dark
a path as my own sin, I have been led to his God and Saviour."

Owen pressed his head on his hands.  I saw two heavy tears drop between
his fingers.

"You will never know, Gwladys, what the finding of God out of so awful a
storm of sin and suffering is like.  I looked for Him down in the mine.
With every stroke of my mandril, my heart cried, `Punish me as you will.
I do not care what punishment you lay upon me.  My life itself is
valueless.  Only let me find Thee.'  But I could not find Him.  As I
went further and further into the mine, I seemed getting further and
further away from Him; my sins were between Him and me.  I could not get
a glimpse of Him.  I was in despair.  I worked with the strength of
despair.  It was no true courage prompted me to go back, when the other
men faltered.  My life was valueless to me.  Then, as you know, we
brought the men out.  I went to David.  I _was_ glad that he was saved;
but my heart was as heavy as ever.  I used to sit up at night and fancy
myself drifting further and further from God.  My whole past life was
before me, and it seemed hateful.  Not only the wild, reckless days at
Oxford, but the months that had seemed so righteous and proper here.
One evening I said to David--

"`David, can you forgive me?'

"`Ay, lad,' he answered, instantly, `and so can thy God.'

"`No, that He can't,' I said.  `He never can forgive the death of the
baby.'

"`You wrong Him, lad,' continued my brother.  `He took the baby away in
love.  He knew your eyes were shut, and a great shock must open them.
Surely, Owen, if the only way He could bring you to His arms was to take
the baby first, _that_ won't turn Him away now.  We must go through
death to Him sometimes--the death of another, if not our own.'

"`And _you_ are willing to give up your child for that?'

"`Willing and glad, if by so doing you may find Christ.'

"`David, how you have worked and suffered for me.'"

"But not in vain," said David, with a radiant smile.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

"No, Gwladys, it was not in vain; the brother's love was not in vain;
the death of the Son of Man was not in vain.  _I have found God_.  There
is to be a coroner's inquest; things may go hard with me, for I have
been much to blame; but I shall tell the whole story.  If I am allowed,
I shall remain at Ffynon; but wherever I am, I mean to devote my life--
my whole life--all my time and all my energy, to the great cause of the
miners; to the lessening of their many dangers; to the furthering of
their well-being.  This is my life-work; I promise to devote my life to
the miners of Wales, here, by this little grave."

------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Owen, before we leave this spot, I have something to say to you."

"What is that? my dear."

"I want you to forgive me."

"For what?"

"Do you not know--can you not guess?  I shut my heart against you; I
gave you no true sister's welcome when you came home."

"I thought you changed; I was disappointed.  Had you ceased to love me?"

"No, no; never that.  But I had dreamt so of you--I thought you perfect.
I thought you would come back bringing honour and glory; then I was
told--I--"

"I see; your love could not stand the shock."

"No, Owen; my old, poor, and weak love--my idolatry, could not; under
the blow it died."

"Go on, my dear."

"Owen, can you ever forgive me?  I have been cold, unloving, unsisterly.
I wonder, now, looking back on it, that you did not hate me!"

"No; at first I was disappointed.  You hardly know how I loved you long
ago; how you had managed to twine your little childish self round my
heart.  When away I thought of you.  I longed, almost as much for your
sake as for David's, to win back that wretched gold.  You were much
changed.  At first I was much disappointed; at last, I believe,
indifferent."

"It is my just punishment, brother.  Still, I must say something now.
Owen, I love you now.  I love you now as I never did long ago; I
understand you now.  My heart can read yours at last I love you a
thousand times better than of old.  I don't expect you to respond to
it," I concluded, with a sob.

Owen rose to his feet.  "One moment," he said; "do you love me well
enough not to flatter me; well enough never to flatter me again; well
enough to help me?"

"Oh, yes!  Oh! if we might help each other!"

"I do respond to your love.  Come to me, Gwladys."

Standing by the little grave, he held out his arms and folded them round
me, and kissed my cheek; and as I looked up into the dear, beautiful,
noble face--it was all that truly now--I felt that my air castle had
arisen out of its ashes; my day dream was fulfilled, and I had got back
my hero and my darling.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The End.





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