"I must wake her, pwr thing," said Sara, and she began to call softly, "Nani, Nani fach!"
The sleep of age is easily put to flight, and Nani opened her eyes.
"Sara ''spridion'!" she said, in astonishment. "Sara Lloyd, I mean, but I was dreaming, Sara dear. What is it?" and she sat up not a little disturbed, for Sara's name alone sufficed to arouse the latent fear of the "hysbis" or occult, always lurking in the Celtic mind.
Sara only smiled as the word "'spridion" escaped the frightened woman's lips.
"Is it time to get up?" she said, beginning to rub her eyes.
"No, no," said Sara, taking a seat by the bedside, and leaning upon her stick. "Lie still, Nani fach, and forgive me for awaking you, but I am going a journey, and a journey that won't wait."
"Oh, dear!" said Nani, "are you going by the old tren, then? As for me, I'm too frightened of it to go and see my own daughter. She's asked me many times, and I would have good living there, but I wouldn't venture in the tren for the whole world!"
"I'm not afraid of it," said Sara, "but I have never seen it. 'Twould be strange to me, and the shipping comes more natural, so I'm going to Caer-Madoc, for I know the steamer sails from there to Cardiff every Tuesday. I hope I will be there in time; but tell me, Nani, about Kitty your daughter."
"She is married again, and such a good husband she has. John Parry nearly killed her, pwr thing, and then he died, and she married this man—his name is Jones."
"But I want to know," said Sara, "did she say anything about Gethin Owens when she was here?"
"She said she was never seeing him, and she didn't know why he was keeping away from her, and the sailors were often seeing him about the docks, but she didn't know where he was lodging now. There's glad I was to see her; but indeed, Sara fach, it cost me a lot of money, 'cos she's got a good appetite, whatever. 'Tis a great waste to come all that long way by the tren. She wants to come again, and if it wasn't for the money—"
Sara, who had no sympathy with the parsimony of many of her class, rose to go.
"Well, I won't stop longer, Nani fach; good-bye and thank you."
When she saw her visitor was really going, Nani was profuse in her offers of hospitality.
"Going! Caton pawb! not without breakfast?"
But Sara was gone, and already making her way to the high road which led along the brow of the hill to Caer-Madoc. It was twenty years since she had last been in the town, and even in this remote place twenty years had brought changes—the busy streets, the shops, the cries of the vendors of herrings and cockles, would have bewildered and puzzled her had she not been possessed by a strong purpose and sustained by that faith which can move mountains. Aided by old memories she found her way to the quay and to the small steamer with the long English name, which plied twice a week between the ports of Caer-Madoc and Cardiff.
"Are you going to Cardiff?" she asked the master, who stood on the quay.
"Why, yes, of course this is the day, and we are starting in a quarter of an hour. Who are you?" he said, looking with amused curiosity at the quaint figure with her crutch stick and black bundle.
"I am Sara Lloyd of Garthowen Moor, and I want to go with you to Cardiff. Will you take me?"
"Of course, little woman, if you can pay."
"Oh, yes," said Sara, undoing the corner of her pocket-handkerchief, "how much is it?" and she held out a half-sovereign.
"Eight shillings—you pay in there," and he pointed to a red painted shed, "but look you here, little woman, that big pocket doesn't suit such a place as Cardiff, 'tis too easily got at; tie your money up tight and put it inside the breast of your gown."
"Yes," said Sara, obeying, "and thank you."
"Look alive, then, and I will take you on board."
Sara found a seat near the prow of the ship.
"We'll have to tie a few weights to you by and by, I'm thinking, or you'll be blown away," said the captain, as he kindly arranged some boxes and baskets so as to shelter her a little from the strong March wind.
"Am I the only passenger?"
"Yes. 'Tis mostly goods we carry, but sometimes we have a stray passenger. And where would you be going now so far from Garthowen Moor in your old age?"
Welsh curiosity is a quantity that has to be taken into account.
"I am going to Cardiff."
"Yes, yes; but when you get there?"
"I don't know for sure."
The captain looked grave.
"You have a daughter, perhaps, or a son at Cardiff?"
"No, neither," said Sara. "'Tis the oldest son of Garthowen I am seeking for—Gethin Owens, have you ever seen him?"
"Gethin Owens!" said the captain, in a tone of surprise. "What? the dark brown chap with the white teeth and the bright eyes like a starling's?"—Sara nodded—"and gold rings in his ears?"
"That's him," said Sara. "Do you know him?"
"Caton pawb! as well as if he was my own son. He's mate of the Gwenllian, trading to Monte Video and other foreign parts. The Gwenllian sailed about four months ago and would be back about now. Is that what you are expecting?"
"Yes," said Sara, "Ebben Owens Garthowen is wearing his heart away longing for his son, and I think if I can see him I have news for him that will bring him to the old home."
"Well, well," said the captain, "little did I think the mate of the Gwenllian was the son of my old friend Ebben Owens Garthowen! Why! long ago I have been stopping with him, when he was a young man and I the same. I remember he was courting a handsome girl there, the finest lass you ever set your eyes upon, straight she was, and tall, with brown hair and dark blue eyes, like the night sky with the stars in it; oh! she was a fine lass, and she carried her pail on her head as straight as a willow wand," and the old captain clasped his own waist above the hips, and strutted about with an imaginary pail on his head. "Well, I heard afterwards that Ebben Owens treated her shocking bad, and married another girl, with money, but they say he never cared for her, and was never happy with her; and serve him right, say I. Dear! dear! how the time slips by!"
"Yes," said Sara, "he is an old man now, and in sore trouble. I live on his land, and I want to bring happiness back to Garthowen."
"Of course, of course!" said the captain, "but indeed; little woman, I'm afraid you'll have hard work, for there's something strange about that lad lately; he's keeping with the English sailors when he's in port and avoiding all his old companions. I have heard my son tell of him too, and how altered he is, and how angry the Welsh sailors are with him, but I believe he is stiddy and upright."
"Well," said Sara, "if I can only have a word with him 'twill be all right."
"Jar-i! you have pluck, little woman, and 'tis well to have a friend like you. Well, I'll do my best for you. I'll find you a night's lodging and somebody to show you the way about next day. Mrs. Jones, Bryn Street, would take you in; it's where I go myself when I do spend a night ashore."
"A hundred thanks. That's where I'd like to go because I know her and her mother."
When the captain left her she fell into a reverie, her sweet, patient face, with its delicate complexion, lighted up by the images of retrospection; the dark blue eyes, which held so much insight and purpose in their depths, were still beautiful under their arched eyebrows, the soft, straight fringe of hair combed down over her forehead like a little child's showed the iron-grey of age, and the mouth, a little sunken, told the same tale, but the spirit of love and peace within preserved to Sara a beauty that was not dependent upon outward form. It was felt by all who came in contact with her, and perhaps was the cause of the curious feeling of awe with which her neighbours regarded her.
As the little puffing steamer ploughed her way through the clear, green water, the ever-changing sky of a March day overhead, the snow-white wreaths of spray, the clear white line of the horizon, the soft grey, receding shore, all unheeded by the captain and his three subordinates, aroused in Sara's mind the intense pleasure that only a heart at peace with itself and with Nature can feel, and as she leant her soft veined hands on her crutched stick, resting her chin upon them, a little picturesque figure on the commonplace, modern steamer, the romance of life which we are apt to associate only with the young, added its charm to the thoughts of the woman of many years. The beauty of the world, the joy of it, the great hopes of it, all filled her soul to overflowing, for she believed her journey would bring light and happiness to Ebben Owens. This had been the desire of her young life, and would now be granted to her in her old age. Yes! Sara's heart was full of joy and gratitude, for she knew neither doubt nor fear.
THE MATE OF THE "GWENLLIAN"
"There!" said Mrs. Jones next morning, as she gave Sara's toilet a finishing touch, consisting of sundry tugs of adjustment to the red mantle and an encouraging pat on the shoulders; "there! go 'long with you now and find your precious Gethin, and give him a good scolding from me. Tell him he is the last man in the world I would expect to desert an old friend as he has done lately. There! the sight of such a tidy, fresh-looking little country woman will do our pale-faced town people good. Oh, anwl! I wish my Tom was alive; he'd have piloted you straight to the Gwenllian. He knew every ship that came into the docks. His heart was with the shipping though he could do nothing but look at them, poor boy!" and drying her eyes with her apron she dismissed Sara, who started with a brave heart.
Up the grimy, uninteresting Bryn Street, which the bright morning sunlight scarcely improved, and soon into a wide, busy thoroughfare where hurrying footsteps and jostling crowds somewhat disconcerted her.
The gay shops, especially the fruit shops, interested her greatly, as well as the vehicles of every description, from the humble costermonger's to the handsome broughams bearing their wealthy owners to their offices for the day; the prettily-dressed children who toddled beside their busy mothers to their early shopping; and, above all, the strains of a brass band which was enlivening the morning hours with its familiar repertoire. Each and all were a revelation of delight to the simple peasant. Straight from the gorse and heather, a woman exceptionally endowed with the instincts of a refined nature, one whose only glimpses of the world had been gathered from the street of a small provincial town, was it to be wondered at that to her the varied sights and sounds around her seemed like the pageantry of a dream?
"'Tis a blue and gold world," she murmured, "and I'm glad I have seen it before I die, but I can't think why the people look so dull and cross."
Although she was unconscious of it, she was herself an object of interest to the hurrying passers-by. Many of them turned round to look at the picturesque peasant woman, with her country gown and quaint headgear.
"A woman come down from the hills," said a lady to her companion, as Sara passed them, for a moment raising her eyes to theirs.
"And what a sweet face, and what wonderful eyes, so dark and blue. There is something touching in that smooth fringe of grey hair."
But Sara passed on unheeding. She was now in a quieter street, and as she passed under the high grey walls of the jail, the prison van crossed her path. The heavy iron doors opened and it passed out of her sight; the doors closed with a soft click and a turn of the key, and Sara went on her way with a sigh.
"There are grey and black shadows in the making of it, too," she said, and hurried on.
Once or twice she stopped to ask her way of a passer-by.
"The docks this way? Yes, go on, and turn to the left."
At the end of the road she came upon a crowd of boys who were playing some street game with loud shouts and laughter, and Sara, who had hitherto braved all dangers, shrank a little.
"Hello, mother! where are you going? There's a penny to pay for passing through this way," and they crowded clamorously around her.
She looked at them calmly, disregarding their begging.
"Iss one of you will show me the docks, then shall he have a penny. You," she said, pointing to one with a round pale face, and honest black eyes.
"Yes 'll I," said the boy, and he turned down a corner, beckoning to her to follow.
"Go on, old witch!" cried the disappointed ones; "where's your broom?"
"Can't you speak Welsh?" she asked, as she came abreast with her guide.
"Yes, that can I," said the boy in his native tongue.
"Oh, very good, then. 'Tis the Gwenllian I am wanting—Captain Price—can you find her?"
"Oh, yes, come on," said the boy. "I was on board of her yesterday morning, but she was about sailing for Toulon with a cargo of coal. Most like she's gone."
Sara's heart sank, and as they came in sight of the forests of masts, the bales of goods, the piles of boards, of pig iron, of bricks and all the other impedimenta of a wharf, for the first time her heart was full of misgivings.
"Stop you there," said the boy, "and I will go and see," and he darted away, leaving Sara somewhat forlorn amongst the rough crowd of sailors and dockmen.
"Hullo, mother!" said a jolly-looking red-faced man who had nearly toppled over the little frail figure; "what you doing so far from home? They are missing you shocking in some chapel away in the hills somewhere, I'm sure."
"Well, indeed, 'tis there I would like to go as soon as my business is ended. 'Tis Gethin Owens I am looking for, mate of the Gwenllian."
"Oh, ho," said the man, "you may go back to chapel at once, little woman; you won't find him, for he sailed yesterday for France."
At this moment the boy returned with the same information, and Sara turned her face sorrowfully away from the shipping.
"I will give you two pennies if you will take me back to Bryn Street."
"Come on," said the boy.
He did not tell her that his home lay in that identical street, and that he was already due there.
Once more the little red mantle passed through the busy crowd. Not for years had Sara felt so sad and disappointed, the heavy air of the town probably added to her dejection.
Mrs. Jones was loud in her sympathy as Sara, faint and weary, seated herself on the settle.
"Oh, Kitty Jones fach!" she said, leaning on her stick and swaying backwards and forwards. "I am more sorry than I can say. To go back without comfort for Garthowen or my little Morva. He's gone to France, and I suppose he won't be back for a year or six months, whatever, and I have no money to stop here all that time."
"Six months!" said Mrs. Jones; "there's ignorant you are in the country. Why, he'll be back in a fortnight, perhaps a week. What's the woman talking about?"
"Yes, indeed?" said Sara, in delighted astonishment. "Yes, I am a very ignorant woman, I know, but a week or a fortnight, or even three weeks, I will stop," and the usual look of happy content once more beamed in her eyes.
Every day little Tom Jenkins, upon whom Sara's two pennies had made a favourable impression, went down to the docks to see if the Gwenllian had arrived. When a week, a fortnight, and nearly three weeks had passed away, and still she was not in port, Mrs. Jones suggested that probably she had extended her voyage to some other port, or was perhaps waiting for repairs.
At last one sunny morning Tom Jenkins came in with a whoop.
"The Gwenllian is in the docks!" he cried, and Sara prepared at once for another expedition in that direction.
"Wait a bit," said Mrs. Jones. "You can write, Sara?"
"Yes, in Welsh," said the old woman.
"Well, then, send a letter, and Tom will take it for you."
Sara took her advice, and, putting on her spectacles, wrote as follows:
"Sara Lloyd, Garthowen Moor, is writing to thee, Gethin Owens, to say she is here at Mrs. Jones's, No. 2 Bryn Street, with good news for thee. All the way from Garthowen to fetch thee, my boy, so come as soon as thou canst."
The writing was large and sprawly, it was addressed to "Gethin Owens, mate of the Gwenllian,—Captain Price," and when Tom had departed, with the letter safe in his jacket pocket, the two women set themselves to wait as patiently as they could; but the hours dragged on heavily until tea-time.
"Gethin was fond of his tea," said Mrs. Jones, "and I wouldn't wonder if he'd be here before long."
The tea table was laid, the cakes were toasted the tea brewing was delayed for some time. It was Mrs. Jones's turn now to be anxious, and even irritable; but Sara had quite regained her composure.
"He'll come," she said. "I know he'll come. I know my work is nearly over."
"There's missing you I'll be," said Mrs. Jones. "I wish my poor old mother was as easy to live with as you, Sara; but 'tis being alone so long has made her cranky. And the money—oh, she loves it dearly. Indeed, if I can get Davy to agree, we will give up this house and go home and live near her; 'tis pity the old woman should grow harder in her old age."
"Yes," said Sara. "'Tis riper and softer we ought to be growing in our old age, more ready to be gathered. I will go and see her sometimes; oftener than I have."
Their conversation was interrupted by a shadow passing the window, and a firm footstep in the passage.
"Hoi, hoi!" said a loud, breezy voice, "Mrs. Jones!—how is she here?" and Gethin Owens clasped her hand with a resounding clap.
"Much you care how I am, Gethin Owens. Never been to see me for so long."
"Well, you look all the better for my absence, I think. But what you want with me? Tom Jenkins said an old woman wanted to see me shocking, and I gave him a clatch on his ear, to teach him not to call a young woman like you an old woman. Why, you look ten years younger than when I saw you last."
"Go 'long, Gethin Owens," said Mrs. Jones. "Didn't you have the letter?"
"No. Tom said the boys in the streets had torn it in a scrimmage they had; but he gave me your message."
"Well, come in and look on the settle then."
In the shadow of the settle, Sara sat listening to the conversation, with a look of amusement in her eyes.
Gethin looked a moment into the dark corner, and, recognising her, took two steps in advance, with extended hands and a smiling greeting on his lips; but suddenly the whole expression of his face changed to one of anxiety and distrust.
"What is it," he said, "has brought you so far, Sara? Is the old man dead?"
"Nonsense, no!" said Sara.
"Well, you wouldn't come so far to tell me Will was married."
"Indeed I would, then," she said, rising. "Come, thou foolish boy, didn't I say it was good news? Oh! but thou hasn't had my letter."
Gethin took both her hands between his own.
"Tis very kind of thee, Sara fach, but a letter would have brought me the news quite as safely. Well! I wish him joy. 'Tisn't Gethin Owens is going to turn against his brother, because he has been a fortunate man, while I have been unfortunate. Yes, I wish him joy, and sweet Morva every blessing under the sun."
"Twt, twt!" said Sara, "thee art all wrong, my boy. 'Tisn't Morva he has married at all! and that's how I thought a letter could not explain everything to thee as I could myself, and bring thee home to the old country again."
Gethin shook his head.
"No, no; I have said good-bye to Garthowen, I will never go there again."
"Well! why?" said Sara, still holding his hands, and looking into his face with those compelling eyes of hers.
"There is no need to tell thee, Sara," said the sailor, a dogged, defiant look coming into his eyes. "I have said good-bye to Garthowen, and will never darken its doors again."
"And yet thou hast been very happy there?"
"Ah! yes," said Gethin, a tender smile chasing away the angry look on his face. "I was very happy there indeed, when I whistled at my plough, with the song of the larks in my ears, and the smell of the furze filling the air. But now—no—no! I must never turn my face there again."
"Wilt not, indeed?" asked Sara. "Wait till I've told thee all, my lad. And now I have a strange story to tell thee, 'tis of thy poor old father, Gethin."
"My father? what's the matter with him? Thou hast said he's alive, what then? Is he ill? Not ill? What then, Sara?" and his face took a frightened expression; "what evil has come upon the old man?"
His voice sank very low as he clutched the old woman's hand and wrung it unconsciously.
"What is it? not shame, Sara—say, woman, 'tis not shame that has come upon him in his old age!"
Sara was embarrassed for the first time.
"Shame," she said, "in the eyes of men, is sometimes honour in the eyes of God! Listen, Gethin—Dost remember the night of thy going from Garthowen?"
He nodded with a serious look in his eyes.
"That night I had a dream; only, I was awake when I saw it. I was at Garthowen in my dream, and I saw a dark figure entering Gwilym Morris's room; he stooped down and opened a drawer, and took something out of it. I could not see the man's face, but it was not thee, Gethin, though thy sudden disappearance made them think at first, that thou wert the thief; only Morva and I knew better. She heard a footstep that night, and when she went out to the passage, she saw thee coming out of that room. But she and I knew that it was not thou who took the money. What dreadful sight met thee in that room, Gethin bach, we did not know, but it was something that made thee reel out like a drunken man."
"It was, it was," he answered, shuddering and covering his eyes with his hands, as though he saw it still.
"'Twas a sight that shadowed the whole world to me, and has altered my life ever since. Dei anwl! 'twas a sight I would give my whole life not to have seen."
"I know it all now, my boy, and I know what thou must have suffered. 'Twas thy father who took Gwilym Morris's money. Sorrow and bitter repentance have been his companions by day, and have sat by his pillow at night, ever since he was tempted to commit that sin. He has become thin, and haggard, and old. He confessed it all at the Sciet. And think how hard it must have been for him to bring himself to tell it all before the men who had thought so highly of him. 'Twas for Will's sake, but 'twas you that he wronged, Gethin, and that is what is breaking his heart."
"Me!" said Gethin. "Me? He is not grieving for me, is he? Poor old man! he did me no wrong; 'twas I by going away, brought the dishonour upon myself. And he confessed it all!"
"Yes," said Sara, "and made it all as black as he could. Canst forgive him, Gethin?"
"Forgive him? Fancy Gethin Owens forgiving anyone! as if he was such a good man himself! especially his own father! I have nothing to forgive; he did me no harm, poor old man. And if all the world is going to turn against him because his love for his son did prove stronger than his honesty, why! it's home to Garthowen I'll go, to cheer him and to love him, and to show the world that I for one will stick to him, weak or strong, upright or sinful!"
"Gethin bach! thou know'st what real love is! Love that no folly or weakness, or even sin, in the dear one can alter. That is what I have come to fetch; a son to support and comfort my old friend in his latter days. Gwilym Morris is good and kind to him, and Ann—thou know'st they are married these four years?"
"Yes, Jim Brown told me, and I was very glad."
"But 'tis his own son he is longing for. ''Tis my boy Gethin I want to see,' he says; 'he was so kind to me.'"
"Did he say that?"
"That did he."
"Diwss anwl! I never knew he cared a button for me."
He was longing to ask for Morva.
"Thee hasn't asked for Morva yet," said Sara.
"Is she well?"
"Oh! well—quite well, and as happy as a bird since Will is married."
"Since Will is married! How can that be if he has deserted her and married another woman? I never thought Will would do that! And who has he married?
"A lady, Gethin! Miss Gwenda Vaughan of Nantmyny—didst ever hear such a thing?—and as sweet a girl as ever lived!"
"Well, well, and so Will has married a lady? Well, that's his choice, mine would never lie that way; a simple country lass for me, or else none at all, and most likely 'twill be that. Well, we may say good-bye to Will. I suppose we sha'n't see much more of him."
"But 'tis Morva I'm thinking of, Sara; how does she bear it? She is hiding her grief from you—she loved him, I know she loved him! and for him to turn from her and give his love to another must have been a cruel grief to her."
"Gethin," said the old woman, "she never loved him. She promised to marry him when she was a child, before she knew what love meant, but since she has grown up her heart has been refusing to keep the promise which bound her to Will. She has tried over and over again to get her freedom; like those poor birds we see caught in the net sometimes, she has fluttered and fluttered, but all in vain; and when the letter came from Will to Garthowen telling his father of the wonderful marriage that was coming so near, 'twas as if someone had broken the net and let the bird go free. And there's Morva now, happy and bright like she was before she found out that her promise to Will was galling her sore. 'Tis only one thing she wants now, Gethin. 'Tis for Garthowen to be happy, and that will never be till thou art home once more. Come, Gethin bach, come home with me; our hearts are all set upon thee."
"Halt!" said Gethin, and he pushed his fingers through his hair until it stood on end. "Phew! Mrs. Jones was never stinting with her fire; 'tis stifling hot here," and he turned away to the doorway, and stood a moment looking out into the street. "Will married—and not to Morva!" What wild hopes were rising again within him? but he crushed them down, and turned on his heel with a laugh. "How you women can live day after day with a roaring fire I can't think—but come, Sara, on with your story."
"Well!" she said, "all the way from Garthowen I have come to fetch thee, Gethin, and thou must come home with me."
"Would Morva like to see me?" he said, in a low, uncertain voice.
"Oh! Gethin, thou art a foolish man, and a blind man! Morva does not know what I have come here for; but if thou ask'st me the question, 'Would Morva be glad to see me?' I answer 'Yes.'"
"D'ye think that—that—"
"Never mind what I think, come home and find out for thyself."
"Sara, woman," said Gethin, bringing his fist down with a thump on the table, "take care what you are doing. I tell you it has taken me three long years to smother the hopes which awoke in my heart when I was last at home. Don't awake them again, lest they should master me; unless you have some gleam of hope to give me."
Sara laughed joyfully.
"Well, now, how much will satisfy thee?"
"D'ye think, Sara, she could ever be brought to love me?"
"Well," she said mischievously, "thee canst try, Gethin. Come home and try, man!"
"What day is it to-day? 'Tis Tuesday; I'll only stop to settle with Captain Price, and I'll come home, Sara. Wilt stop for me?"
"No, no, I have been too long from home. Tomorrow the Fairy Queen is going back, and I will go with her. I can trust thee, my boy, to follow me soon."
"Dei anwl! Yes! the ship's hawser wouldn't keep me back! I'll be down there one of these next days. I'll cheer the old man up—and Sara, woman, I have money to lay out on the farm. 'Tis too long a story to tell thee now, how a man I helped a bit in the hospital at Montevideo died, and left me all his money, 500 pounds! I didn't care a cockleshell for it, but to-day I am beginning to be glad of it. There's glad I'll be to see the old place again! Mrs. Jones," he shouted, "come here and hear the good news. Didn't I tell you years ago I was going home to Garthowen, to the cows and the sheep and the cawl! and so I am then, and it is this good little woman who has brought it about!" and clasping his arms round Sara, he drew her from the settle, and twisted her round in a wild dance of delight, Sara entreating, laughing, and scolding in turns.
"Caton pawb! the boy will kill me!" but he seated her gently on the settle before he went away.
"I'll be on the wharf to meet you to-morrow, Sara, and see you safe on board the Fairy Queen. Good-night, woman, 'tis a merry heart you are sending away to-night!" and as he passed up the street they heard his cheerful whistle until he had turned the corner.
True to his promise, Gethin was early at the docks, and as he sat dangling his legs over a coil of rope, he laughed and slapped his knee, when amongst the crowd of loiterers on the wharf-side he saw Sara's red mantle appear.
"Didn't I say so?" he exclaimed, crossing to meet her, "didn't I say you'd be here an hour and a half too soon? Just like a country woman! why, the ship must wait for the tide, Sara fach. But I'm glad you're come, we shall have time for a chat; there's some things I want you to know before I see you again."
"Afraid I was, 'machgen i," said Sara, "that the steamer would start without me, and I will be quite happy to sit here and wait. Dear, dear! how full the world is of wonders that we never know of down there in the gorse and heather! all these strange people, different faces, different languages. Gethin bach, those who roam away from home see much to open their minds."
"Yes," said Gethin, "and much to make them sick of it all; 'tis glad I'll be to say good-bye to it, and to settle down in the old home again. But the time is passing, Sara fach, and I wanted to tell thee what I have never told any one else, why I left Garthowen so suddenly. I can tell you now, since my father has let every one know of it; but I couldn't talk about it before Kitty Jones last night, for 'tis a bitter thing to know your father has been dishonourable, and has lost the respect of his neighbours. Well—'twas a night I never will forget—that night when Gwilym Morris lost his bag of gold; 'twas a night, Sara, that made a deep mark on me, a blow it was that nearly drove me to destruction and ruin. I may as well tell thee everything, Sara, and make a clean breast of it all. I had grown so fond of Morva, Diwss anwl! she was in my thoughts morning, noon, and night, and I thought she cared for me a little; but there I was mistaken, I suppose, for when I asked her, she told me she was promised to Will. 'Here behind this very bush,' she said, 'only two nights ago, I met him, and I promised him again that I would be true to him.' I have been in foreign lands when an earthquake shook the world under my feet, and at those words of Morva's I felt the same, as if the world was going to pieces; but I had to bear it; 'tis wonderful how much a man can bear!"
"And a woman too, 'machgen i," said Sara, laying her soft hand upon his, "'twas a bitter time for Morva too."
"I didn't know that," said Gethin, "or 'twould have been worse to bear. Well, when I went to bed that night, there was no sleep for me, no more sleep than if I was steering a ship through a stormy sea. Well, that dreadful night, the old house was very quiet, no sound but the clock ticking very loud, and the owls crying to the moon; there was something wrong with Tudor too, he was howling shocking all night, and 'twas a thing I never heard him do before, perhaps because I slept too sound. I tossed and turned till the clock struck twelve, and then I began to feel drowsy; but all of a sudden I was as wide awake as I am now. I thought I could hear a soft footstep in the passage, as if someone was walking without shoes; I listened so hard I could hear my heart beating. I thought 'twas a thief, or perhaps a murderer, and I determined to rush upon him, but somehow I could not move, for I heard a hand rubbing over the wall; 'tis whitewashed and rough you know, Sara, and the hand was a rough hand—I could hear that; then somebody passed my door, and in to Gwilym Morris's room. I was out of bed in a minute, and across the passage in the dark, for there were black clouds that night, and the moon was hidden sometimes. Just as I reached the door of Gwilym's room, whatever, she came out and lighted up the whole place, and there, Sara, I saw a sight that made my heart leap up in my throat. Indeed, indeed, 'twas a sight that I would give my life never to have seen, but I did see it, Sara, plain enough, and now you know what it was, and I can't bring my lips to put it into words. I turned back to my bed with my hands over my eyes, as if I could tear away the horrid sight. And if 'twas like an earthquake when Morva refused me, 'twas worse—oh, much worse—when I saw what I did. My old father had always been so dear to me—so much I loved him, so highly I thought of him, although, I knew he was over fond of a drop sometimes; but caton pawb! I would have staked my life on his honour, and more upon his honesty. I lay awake of course that night—yes, and many a night after, going over my troubles—worse than that, my shame; and through all my tossing and turning, one thought was clear before me, 'twould be better for me to bear the blame than for old Ebben Owens Garthowen to be known as a thief. I thought I would be far away in foreign lands or on distant seas, and so I would not hear the whispering, nor see the pointing of the fingers. What did it matter what people said about me? Morva would not have me, so what was the use of a good name to me?"
"I got up before the sun rose, and I pushed a few things into my canvas bag, and went quiet down the stairs. I stopped a minute outside Ann and Morva's room. I could hear them breathing soft and regular, and so I hoped they had slept all night. Then I went into the dairy and cut enough bread and cheese to last for the day, and before anyone was up at Garthowen, I was far on my way towards Caer-Madoc.
"I sailed from there to Cardiff, and there on the docks I saw many of my old friends—Tom Powell and Jim Bowen, and many others; but diwss anwl! I was ashamed to look them in the face, so I avoided them all, and went amongst the English and the foreign sailors; and in every port I was avoiding the Welsh sailors, and when I came to Cardiff I never went to Kitty Jones's any more.
"Well, then, I took ship for South America, and I didn't come home for two years. All that time I led a wild and reckless life, Sara fach. Wasn't a fight but I was in it—wasn't a row but Gethin Owens was there, drinking and swearing and rioting. I didn't care a cockle-shell what became of me; and if ever a man was on the brink of destruction, it was Gethin Owens of Garthowen during those two years. I tried everything to drown my sorrows.
"'Twas just then in Monte Video I caught a fever—the yellow fever they call it—and I was in the hospital there for many weeks. They told me afterwards that I had a very bad turn of it. The doctors said they'd never seen a man so ill and yet recover. I took their word for it. But I knew nothing about it myself, for I was as happy as a king those weeks, roaming about Garthowen slopes, dancing in the mill, and whistling at the plough, and Morva at my side always. Dei anwl! When I came to myself, and saw the bare, whitewashed walls of the hospital, the foreign nurses moving about—very kind and tender they were, too, but 'twasn't Morva—Garthowen slopes, Morva, the mill and the moor had all gone, and when I saw where I was, what will you think of me, Sara, when I tell you I cried like a little child, like I did the day when I tore myself away from little Morva long ago, when I ran away from home, and heard her calling after me, 'Gethin! Gethin!'
"The nurse was very kind to me. She saw my tears were falling like the rain. ''Tis weak you are, poor fellow,' says she, for she could speak English. God bless her! I will never forget her. And she did her best to strengthen me with good food and cheering words; and in time I got well, but 'twas many months before I felt like myself again.
"Well, in the next bed to mine was a man, brought in when I was at my worst, or my best, having that jolly time on Garthowen slopes with Morva. When I came to myself, he was there, poor fellow, as yellow as a guinea, with black shadows under his eyes, and the parched lips that showed he was having a hard fight for his life. But singing he was all through the long nights in that strange place, though his voice was so weak and husky you could scarcely hear him; but the words, Sara fach! I almost rose up in my bed when I heard them. What d'ye think they were but, 'Yn y dyfroedd mawr a'r tonau'? My heart leapt out to him at once, and I tried hard to speak to him, but he couldn't hear me; and when I was getting better he was getting worse, till one day the black vomit came on, and then I thought 'twas all over with him. But instead of that, it seemed to do him good, for he got better after that, and very soon I was able to sit a bit by his bedside, and to talk to him about the old country. His name was Jacob Ellis, and he had been captain of the Albatross trading between Swansea and Cardiff and Monte Video. He hadn't a relation in the world that he knew of. He had got on well, and had saved five hundred pounds. They were safe in the bank at Cardiff, and when he found he was not going to get better after all—for he hadn't the same healthy constitution that I had—well, nothing would do for him but he must make his will and leave all he had to me. 'Twas all right and proper, Sara, and the nurse and the doctor witnessed it.
"Caton pawb! he thought I had done a lot for him, poor fellow; when, if he only knew, the Welsh hymns and the talks about Wales had helped me to get well. I had my hand on his, just like you have yours on mine now, when he died. He said a few serious words to me before he went, Sara. I will keep them to myself, but I can tell you they often come back to my memory. Well, he died and I got well, and as soon as I was strong enough I hired on board a ship bound for Cardiff. I went at once to a lawyer to see about my 500 pounds, and I felt a rich man, I can tell you, but there was no pleasure in it, Sara.
"I would willingly have thrown it over the docks, if that would blot out one evening behind the broom bushes at Garthowen, and one night when I saw a sight which spoilt my life. It's twenty minutes to the starting time yet, Sara. Art tired, or will I tell the rest of my story?"
"Go on, 'machgen i," said Sara, "tell it me all today, and there will be no need for us ever to have any more talk about it."
"No; that is what I wish," said Gethin. "Well, with my pay in my pocket, and 500 pounds at my back, I thought I would enjoy myself as much as I could, and smother the hiraeth that was so strong upon me, the longing to go home to see Morva, and you, and the moor, Sara; my father, Ann, and Will, and all of them were dragging sore at my heart, so I threw myself in with a lot of roystering fellows, who were bent upon having as many sprees as they could while their money lasted. I was keeping away from the Welsh sailors entirely, and my friend, Ben Barlow, and I were having what they call in English a jolly time. We went together to a low place near the docks, where there was singing and dancing every night for sailors. I saw many of my old companions there and amongst them was a girl called Bella Lewis, who used to come often to see Kitty Jones in Bryn Street. She wasn't a bad sort altogether, very kind-hearted and merry. She was altered a good deal since I saw her last, she looked older and thinner, but she was laughing and dancing as lively as ever. As soon as she caught sight of me, she came to me, and I think she was real glad to see me, because she thought I had been kind to her once when she was ill and very poor.
"'Gethin Owens, I do believe,' she says, 'where have you been all this long time? Kitty Jones will be glad to see you, whatever.'
"I saw the foreign sailor she had been dancing with looking very black at me, and I began to laugh, and talk, and joke with Bella, just to plague him, and we danced and drank together, and I soon saw that the two years I had been away had not improved her. She was more noisy, and her talk was more coarse, and many an oath was on her lips. I saw it, but I didn't care, because I had become quite reckless, and my laugh and my jokes were louder than anyone's in the room.
"'Well, wherever you have been,' says Bella, 'you're very much improved, Gethin.'
"'Am I that?' says I. 'And how, then?'
"'Oh, well, you are not afraid of a joke, and you've not got that hard look on your mouth when you hear a light word. Oh, anwl! I was afraid of you those days; but I will say you had a kind heart, Gethin Owens.'
"'Well,' I says, 'that's alright still, whatever.'"
"'Well then,' she says, 'if it is, you'll take me to the Vampire Theatre to-night. Come on, Gethin Owens, for the sake of old times,' she says; and I was glad to see her, certainly, 'twas so long since I had met an old friend, and the brandy had got in my head a little, though I hadn't had so much as Bella.
"'Come on, then,' sez I, for I couldn't refuse her when she said 'for the sake of old times'; and I looked round for Ben Barlow to tell him I was going, but I couldn't see him anywhere. Well, off we went together, and when we got out in the street, in spite of the flaring gas-lamps, you could see 'twas a beautiful night. The moon was shining round and clear above us, and I never could see the full moon, Sara, even far away in foreign countries, without thinking of Garthowen slopes and the moor. Well, this night they came before me very plain, but I shut them out from my thoughts, with the music from The Vampire sounding loud in nay ears, and Bella Lewis hanging on my arm.
"All of a sudden, when we reached the door of the theatre, Bella turned round, and something glittered on her neck in the moonlight.
"'What is that?' I said, pointing to it.
"''Tis my necklace that you gave me,' she said; 'twas in my pocket at the dancing. I was so afraid it would drop off.'
"And there it was hanging row under row, and the shells showing all their colours in the bright moonlight. I don't know how can such things be, Sara, but as sure as I'm here I saw Morva standing there, just as I saw her that night when I gave her her necklace, standing under the elder-tree, with the round moon shining full on her face. Sara, woman, I nearly lost my breath, and had to lay my hand on the doorpost to steady myself. Bella had hold of my arm, and I felt as if a snake was hanging there that I wanted to throw off. The music came full and loud into the street, and I hated it all. I cannot tell what came over me, but my knees trembled and my hands—mine, remember, Gethin Owens, the big, strong sailor!—my hands were shaking like a leaf when I took the tickets. I tried to throw it off, and to laugh and talk again with Bella.
"'What's the matter?' she said; but I couldn't answer, for whenever I looked at her that glittering necklace brought Morva's face before me so plain as if she had been there herself; and when we sat down in the theatre I couldn't hear the music and I couldn't see the stage, because soft in my ears was Morva's voice calling me, like she called me that day on the slopes when I tore myself from her little clinging arms: 'Gethin! Gethin! come back!' was plain in my ears.
"I looked round me quite moidered. Lots of Bella's friends were there, and lots of mine; but I could not stop. I stood up, determined to go out, whatever the others might think of me, for all the time Morva's voice was in my ears calling 'Gethin! Gethin!'
"'I am going,' said I to Bella; 'somebody is calling me.' And there, close to me, who should I see but Ben Barlow sitting alone. I pushed the play bill in his hand. 'Look after Bella,' I said; 'I am going,' and I went towards the door. I could hear Bella's friends laughing and shouting, and the last thing I heard as I went out was a shower of bad names and foul words that Bella was flinging after me.
"The tide is nearly full, I see; she'll be starting directly, but I have almost told you everything now.
"I shipped for another long voyage after that, and only now I have come back; but indeed, Sara fach, whether 'twas a dream or vision, or what, I don't know, but never, in storms or wrecks or fine weather, on land or sea, will I forget the strong hand that laid hold of me that night, and turned my face away from the music, the lights, the sin and the folly of the town. I have told thee all, Sarah fach. Wilt still be my friend?"
"For ever, 'machgen i!"
"Then it is to the old country I'm going, Sara, back to the sea wind, the song of the lark, and the call of the seagulls on the bay. I'll be home one of these days; as soon as I can get things settled here. Diwss anwl! I must make haste or the steamer will start with me aboard. All right, captain, take care of her. She's a good friend to me."
"Don't I know it?" said the old captain, shaking hands warmly with both. "Didn't she come up with me about a month ago, and didn't I direct her to safe lodgings? 'Fraid I was, man, that with her innocent face and her wide tick pocket, she would be robbed or murdered or something. But here you are safe again, little woman. Going home to the old countryside?"
"Yes," said Sara, laughing. "I am quite safe, and I have spent a pleasant time with Kitty Jones, but I am not sorry to leave your big smoky town. Ach y fi! 'tis pity to think so many people live and die there without sight of the sea and the cliffs and the moor. Poor things! poor things!"
"Well! 'tis well to be contented with one's lot," said the old man, "but I don't know how I would be now without a sight of the docks and the shipping, and a yarn with my old comrades on the waterside sometimes, but I am going to try it, whatever. Marged is grumbling shockin' because I don't stop at home in our little cottage. It's a purty place, too, just a mile outside Carmarthen, but quiet it is, shockin' quiet! And you, Gethin Owens, little did I think these two years I bin meeting you about the docks and the shipping, that you wass the son of my old friend, Ebben Owens of Garthowen! Why din you tell me, man?"
Gethin coloured with embarrassment, while he pretended to arrange a sheltered seat for Sara, who came bravely to his assistance.
"And how could he know, captain, that you were the friend of his father?" she said in Welsh, for she had gathered the sense of the English talk between the two sailors.
"Well! that's true indeed," said the captain, scratching his head; "we were both in the dark. But there's the bell! You must go, my lad, if you won't come with us."
"Not to-day," replied Gethin, "but one of these next days I'll be following that good little woman."
And when, from the edge of the wharf, he watched the little steamer making her way between the river craft, Sara's red mantle making a bright spot in the grey of the fog and smoke, his heart went with her to the old homestead, his old haunts, and his old friends.
 "In the deep waters and the waves," a well-known and favourite hymn.
 Home sickness.
The first few days following the Sciet were days of anxious waiting for Ebben Owens. He had laid his soul bare before his son, the idol of his life, and he waited for the answer to his letter, with as intense an anxiety as does a prisoner for the sentence of the judge. He rose with the dawn as was always his custom, but now, instead of the active supervision of barn or stable or cowshed, which had filled up the early morning hours, his time was spent in roaming over the moor or the lonely shore, his hands clasped behind his back, his eyes bent on the ground. Morva watched him from the door of her cottage, and often, as the morning mists evaporated in curling wisps before the rising sun, the sad, gaunt figure would emerge from the shadows and pass over the moorland path. Then would Morva waylay him with a cheerful greeting.
"There's a braf day we are going to have, 'n'wncwl Ebben!—"
"Yes, I think," the old man would answer, looking round him as if just awakening to the fact.
"Yes, look at the mist now rolling away from Moel Hiraethog, and look at those rocks on Traeth y daran which looked so grey ten minutes ago; see them, all tipped with gold, and, oh, anwl, look at those blue shadows behind them, and the bay all blue and silver!"
"Yes," answered her companion, looking round with sad eyes, "'tis all beautiful."
"Well, now," said Morva, "I am only an ignorant girl, I know, and I have many foolish thoughts passing through my mind, but this, 'n'wncwl Ebben, isn't it a wise and a true one? 'Tis Sara has told me, whatever."
"What is it?" he asked. "If Sara told thee 'tis sure to be right."
"Yes, of course," said Morva.
The sun was gradually lighting up the moor with golden radiance. The old man stood with his back to the light, the girl facing him, bathed in the bright effulgence of the sunrise, her hair in threads of gold blown by the sea breeze like a halo round her face, her blue eyes earnest with the light of an inner conviction which she desired to convey to her companion.
"Look, now," she said, "how everything is bathed in light and beauty! Where are the grey shadows and the curling mists? All gone! 'Tis the same world, 'n'wncwl Ebben, dear, but the sun has come and chased away the darkness. 'Tis like the grace of God, so mother says, if we will open our hearts and let it in, it shines upon us like the sunlight. His love spreads through our whole being, He blots out our sins if we are sorry for them, He smiles upon us and holds out His loving arms to us, and yet we turn our backs upon Him, and walk about in the shadows with our heads bent down, and our eyes fixed upon the ground. Every morning, mother says, when the sun rises, God is telling us, 'This is how I love you, this is how I will fill your hearts with warmth and light and joy.' Now, isn't that true, 'n'wncwl Ebben?"
"What about the mornings when the mist does not clear away, lass, but turns to driving rain?"
"Oh, well, then," said Morva, not a whit daunted, "the rain and the clouds are wanted sometimes for the good of the earth, and, remember, 'tis only a thin veil they make; the sunshine is behind them all the time, filling up the blue air, and ready to shine through the least break in the clouds. And, after all, 'n'wncwl Ebben," she added, in a coaxing tone, "'tis very seldom the mornings do turn to rain and fog. You and I, who are out on the mountains so early, know that better than the townspeople, who lie in bed till nine o'clock, they say, and often by that time the glory of the morning is shaded over."
"Well, perhaps," he said. "Thou art more apt to count the clear dawns, while I count the grey ones."
"Twt, twt, you must leave off counting the grey ones. There's a verse in mother's Bible that says, 'Forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.'"
"Yes, indeed, 'merch i, I've read it many times, but I never thought much of the meaning of it before. 'Tis a comforting verse, whatever, and I will look for it in my Bible."
"Yes, I suppose 'tis in every Bible," said Morva, with a merry laugh; "but, indeed, I feel as if mother's brown Bible was the best in the world, and was full of messages to brighten our lives. Didn't I say I was a foolish girl?"
"Thee't a good girl, whatever; but 'tis time to milk the cows."
"Yes, indeed. Let me shut the door and I will come back with you." And as she ran over the dewy grass, he looked after her with a smile.
"She's got the sea wind in her heels, I think," he said.
He chatted cheerfully as they walked home together, and gladdened Ann's heart by making a good breakfast.
In the course of the morning Morva entered the best kitchen, bearing a letter which Dyc "pigstye" had just brought from Pont-y-fro.
"Tis from Will, 'n'wncwl Ebben," said the girl; "here are your glasses, or will I call Ann to read it to you?"
"Let me see, is it English or Welsh?" said Ebben Owens, opening it with trembling fingers. "Oh! 'tis Welsh, so read thou to me. My glasses are not suiting me so well as they were."
The truth was, he was too nervous to read the letter himself, a fact which Morva quite comprehended.
"MY DEAR FATHER," began Will, "I daresay you are expecting to hear from me, but I have had a good deal to do since we returned from our wedding tour. The contents of this letter will surprise you, I am sure, but I hope they will please you too. We are very happy in our new home, and my uncle, though living under the same roof with us, is very kind and considerate, and never interferes with our plans. He seems very fond of Gwenda, and it would be strange if he were not, for she is as good as she is beautiful. The church here is filled with a large congregation, and they seem to appreciate my ministrations thoroughly. There is, I am glad to say, very little dissent in the parish. You know I never liked dissent, but Gwenda is broader in her views, and wants to convert me to her way of thinking. Now this letter is really more a message from her than from me. She wants to know if you will have us at the farm for a week or a fortnight, when the spring is a little more advanced. She wants to see the moor when the gorse is in blossom. She would like to know you more intimately, she says, and would enjoy nothing more than a taste of real farm life; she therefore begs, that if you can have us you will not make any alteration in your ways of living. She sends her love to Ann, and hopes she will put up with her for a little while. If you will let us know when it will be convenient to you, we will fix a time to come to Garthowen. I remain, dear father,
"Your affectionate son,
Ebben Owens had been gradually growing more excited, and at the last word said with a gasp:
"He has forgotten my confession, Morva; I am of no consequence to him!"
"Yes—yes," said the girl, "here's another half sheet with 'P.S.' at the top," and she continued to read:
"Dear father, Gwenda was looking over my shoulder, so I could not add what I say now. Please ask Ann to put the best knives and forks on the table, and to bring out mother's silver teapot when we come. I forgot to refer to the contents of your last letter. You make too much of your fault, dear father, you have made a cornstack of a barleymow. I am only sorry you have published it abroad as you have done. You need only have confessed to God, or if you wanted to do more, I am an ordained priest. I can't imagine why you did not ask Gwilym to lend you the money; at all events you returned it as soon as you could. Ask Jacob the Mill to keep one of Fan's pups for me."
Ebben Owens was too excited by the rest of the letter to notice the callousness of the postscript, and thought only of the kindness which so easily forgave his sin.
"Call Ann," he said, and Morva went joyfully.
"Come, Ann fach!" she cried, at the foot of the stairs, "here's good news for you. Will and his wife are coming to see you."
Ann came down in a flurry, half of pleasure and half of fright.
"Oh, anwl!" she said, as she entered the kitchen, "there's a happy time it will be for us all. Oh! mustn't we bustle about and get everything nice for them. I must rub up the furniture in the best bedroom and get the silver teapot out and the silver spoons!"
"Yes," said her father, rubbing his knees, "'twill be a grand time indeed! When will they come, I wonder? Perhaps we have not quite lost Will after all."
"Twt, twt, no," said Morva; "didn't mother always say that they would come back to you?"
"Yes, indeed—do you think she meant Gethin too?"
"I think she meant him too," said Morva, blushing.
"When will the gorse and the heather be in full bloom, I wonder? Caton pawb! I have never noticed it much," asked the old man.
"Oh! in another month," answered Morva, "'twill be gold and purple all over, with soft blue and brown shadows in the mornings, and in the evenings grey and copper in all the little hollows. Oh, 'tis beautiful! and I can show her where the plovers lay their eggs, and I will take her to listen for the curlew's note coming out of the mist like a spirit whistler, and I can take her down to the rocks by Ogo Wylofen, too, where the seals are making their home. But, indeed, Will knows it all as well as I do, and he will like to show them all to her himself, I think."
From that day light seemed to dawn upon the old man's soul; his step grew firmer, he stooped less in the shoulders, he looked less on the ground and more bravely on his fellow travellers on the road of life. He did not flinch from the consequences of his confession, but seemed to find some inward peace, which more than recompensed him for the discredit which he had brought upon himself. From this time forward a great change was observable in him, a change for which we can find no better name than conversion. It is an old-fashioned word, all but tabooed in modern polite society, but where will be found another which so well expresses the complete transformation in the life and character of a man who awakes from the sleep of selfish worldliness, to the better and higher principles of spiritual life? To every human being this awakening comes sooner or later. To some, gradually and naturally as the dawning of morning, and the bright effulgence of its rays is not recognised until the darkness and clouds have already rolled away, and, lo, it is day. Upon others it bursts with the suddenness of a thunderstorm, and the soul cowers under the threatening peals, and is riven by the lightning flashes of conscience before it reaches the haven of calm and peace. To some, alas, the awakening comes not at all, until through the open door of death the soul escapes from the veil of flesh which has hidden from it the true life.
"Is there a 'Sciet' next Sunday?" asked Ebben Owens, as they all sat at tea together one evening.
"No—not till the Sunday after," said Gwilym, reddening.
Ann's hand shook as she poured out the tea.
"Father bach!" she said tenderly, looking at him with eyes in which the tears welled up.
"Oh! don't you vex about me," said the old man. "I must bear my punishment like everyone else; 'twill not be so hard as I deserve."
"I must not let my feelings influence me in this matter," said Gwilym, "though you know, father, how it breaks my heart."
And he held his shapely hand across the table and grasped the old man's warmly.
"Yes, yes, 'tis all right; you must do your duty, only I would like it to be over soon. Gwae fi! that it could be next Sunday."
"Well, I will give it out at the prayer-meeting tonight if you like, and have a special meeting next Sunday."
"Yes," said Ebben Owens, "the sooner I am turned out the better. I am quite prepared. Perhaps they will take me back again some day, though I was pretty hard upon Gryffy Lewis when he got drunk, and would not agree to his being taken back again for months, when the other deacons were quite ready to forgive him. Well, well! I must live a good many years yet to repent of all my bad ways, and you must have patience with me, my little children."
"Well, next Sunday it shall be then," answered the preacher; "and may God turn the bitter to sweet for you, father bach."
"Oh, it will be all right for me!" said the old man again, and sitting under the big chimney after tea, Tudor and Gwil both leaning on his knees, the old peace and content seemed in some measure to have returned to him.
The following market day was a trying ordeal to him, but one from which he did not flinch.
At breakfast no one suggested the usual journey into Castell On, until Ebben himself called to Magw as she passed through the kitchen.
"Tell them to harness Bowler, and put the two pigs in the car. I'll sell them to-day if I can."
"I will come too," said Ann, "and take little Gwil to have a new cap. He wants one shocking."
She chatted volubly as they drove under the leafy ash branches which bordered the road, her father answering only in monosyllables.
When the pigs had been carried shrieking, in the usual unceremonious ear-and-tail fashion into their pens, and Bowler had been led into the "Lamb" yard, the old man looked rather forlorn and desolate as he gazed after Ann, who was making her way with little Gwil down the busy street.
"'Twill be hard to bear to-day," he thought. "They are all talking about me; but 'tis not so hard as I deserve."
Suddenly a hand was laid on his arm, and a kindly greeting reached his ears. Mr. Price the vicar, standing at his window, had observed the Garthowen car pass into the market, and had startled his housekeeper by turning round suddenly with the question.
"Didn't you say we wanted a pig, Jinny?"
"That I did about six months ago, sare, but you never got one. We wanted one then because we had so much milk to spare, but now Corwen is drying up very much, and Beauty is not so good as she was."
Mr. Price took snuff vigorously.
"I think a little pig would look well in that stye, and he would be company for you, Jinny and we could buy a little bran or mash or something for him," he added, hunting for his stick and hat, and hurrying to the front door, Jinny looking after him with a smile of amused disdain.
"'Ts-ts!" she said; "Mistheer, pwr fellow, is very ignorant, though he is so learned. 'Tis a wonder, indeed, he didn't want to buy hay for the pig!"
But she went out pleased, nevertheless, and spread a bed of yellow straw in readiness for her expected "company."
"I wonder who is wanting to sell a pig now," she soliloquised. "I daresay Mishteer saw an old 'bare bones' passing that nobody else would buy, and is going to take pity on him."
"Poor old Ebben Owens. 'Twill be hard for him to-day," thought the vicar, as he made his way to the pig market, and in another moment he was gladdening the heart of the lonely old man by his kindly greeting.
"Well, well, Mr. Price, sir! Is it you indeed so early in the market?"
"Yes, I have come to buy a pig," said the vicar, holding out his hand.
Embarrassment and shame suffused Ebben Owens's face with a burning glow, and he hesitated to place his own hand in the vicar's.
"Have you heard about me, sir?" he asked,
"I have heard everything," answered the vicar, grasping the timid hand and pressing it warmly.
"And yet you shake hands with me, sir? Well, indeed."
"Yes, with more respect than I have ever done before. Not condoning your sin, remember that, Ebben Owens; but honouring you for having the courage to confess it. That is sufficient proof of your repentance."
There were tears in the old man's eyes as he tried to answer; but Mr. Price, seeing his emotion, hastened to change the subject.
"Now let us see the pigs," he said, holding out his snuff box, from which Ebben Owens helped himself with more cheerfulness than he had felt since the meeting at which he had made his confession.
They bent over the pen in conclave, during which the vicar exhibited such lamentable ignorance of the points of a pig that, had it not been for his previous kindness, he would have fallen considerably in the old farmer's estimation.
"This is the fattest," he said, prodding one with his stick, and trying to look like a connoisseur.
"Oh! he's too fat for you, sir; this is the one that would look well on your table."
"Poor thing," said the vicar, a shadow falling on his face, as he realised that there would come a morning when the air would be rent with shrieks, and he would wish himself in the next parish. "No doubt, you're right, you're right, he looks a nice little pig; there's a nice curl in his tail, and I like his ears; he'll do very nicely. And here's Dyc 'pigstye.' Well, Dyc, how are you? Will you drive the pig home to my yard, and tell Jinny to give him a good meal, and a glass of beer for you, Dyc. And now we have settled that matter," he said, turning to the farmer with a business-like air, "I want you to come home with me, Owens, I won't keep you long, just that you may see a very nice letter I have had from your brother, Dr. Owen; 'tis all about your son and his bride, and the home they are coming to."
"But, Mr. Price, sir, you haven't asked the price of the pig," said the farmer, with a gasp.
"Bless me! no!" said the vicar, "I quite forgot that," and he laughed heartily at his own want of thought. "But I'm sure it won't be much. Two or three pounds, I suppose!"
"Two pounds I thought of getting for this one, and two pound ten for the other."
"Very cheap, too," said the vicar, drawing out the two sovereigns from his waistcoat pocket.
Leaving the pen in charge of a friend, Ebben Owens accompanied Mr. Price in a state of joyful bewilderment. To walk up the street, in friendly converse with the vicar, he felt would do more than anything else to reinstate him in the good opinion of his neighbours, and as they passed through the crowded market in animated and confidential conversation, the hard verdict which many a man had passed on his conduct was changed into one of pitying sympathy.
"Well," they thought, "the vicar has forgiven him, whatever, and he is a good man."
Sitting in the vicarage dining-room, listening to the praises of his beloved son, Ebben Owens became less depressed, and felt braver to meet the consequences of his confession.
Although he never discovered that the purchase of the pig was but a blind of the vicar's to hide his plans for helping him to regain, in some degree, the respect of his neighbours, Ebben Owens never forgot the strengthening sympathy held out to him on that much dreaded morning, and Price the vicar became to him ever after, the exemplar of all Christian graces.
"There's a man now," he would say, rubbing his knees as he sat under the big chimney at home; "there's a man now, is fit to help you in this world, and to guide you to the next; and there's the truth! But he does not know much about pigs."
The prospect of seeing Will once more in his old home shed a radiance over everything, and in spite of the humiliation and contrition which overshadowed him, a new-born calmness and peace gradually filled his heart.
To Morva too had come a season of content and joy—why, she could not tell, for she was not free from anxiety concerning Sara's prolonged absence. Certainly the longing for Gethin's return increased every day, but in spite of this, life seemed to hold for her a cup brimming over with happiness. Going home through the gloaming one evening, singing the refrain of her milking song, she broke off suddenly and began to run towards the cottage, for lo! against the brown hill across the valley she saw the blue smoke rise from Sara's thatched chimney, and in another moment a patch of scarlet showed bright against the golden furze.
"Mother anwl! Dear mother! you have come!"
And she was folded in the tender loving arms.
"My little daughter! I have missed thee!" said Sara, and together they entered the cottage.
Supper was on the table, and the crock of porridge hung over the blazing furze fire on the hearth.
"They called me into Penlau," said Sara, "as I passed through the yard, and made me bring this oatmeal, 'for thee'lt want something quick for thy supper,' they said; and there's asking questions they were about what I had seen in Cardiff. Let us have our bwdran, child, for oh! I am tired of the white bread, and the meat, and the puddings they have in the towns. Kitty Jones was very kind, making all sorts of dainties for me, but 'tis bwdran and porridge and cawl and bacon is the fittest food for human beings after all, and the nicest."
"Oh, mother, tell me what you have seen?"
"My little girl, 'twill take many days to tell thee all. Ladies in silks and satins—carriages and horses sparkling in the sun—men playing such beautiful music through shining brass horns—little children dressed up like the dolls you see at the fairs—fruit of every kind—grand houses and gay streets—but oh, Morva, nothing like the moor when the gorse and heather are in blossom, nothing like the sea and the rocks and the beautiful sky at night when the stars are shining; you couldn't see it, Morva, because of the lamps and the smoke."
"And the moon, mother, did you see her there?"
"Well, yes, indeed, she was there, but she was not looking so clear and so silvery as she is here. No, no, Morva, I thank God I have lived on the moor, and I pray Him to let me die here."
Morva was longing to ask whether success had crowned her mother's mysterious journey, but refrained from doing so with a nervous shyness which did not generally mark her intercourse with Sara.
"'Twas a long journey; mother; are you glad you took it?"
"Why, yes, child, of course, since I've gained my object. Gethin Owens will be home before long."
A crimson tide of joy rushed up into Morva's face, and an embarrassment which she turned away to hide, but which was not lost upon Sara.
"Well, indeed, then," said the girl, "there's glad 'n'wncwl Ebben will be. Will I go and tell him when I have finished my bwdran?"
"No, no, better not tell him anything till Gethin arrives. Lads are so odd; he may not come for a week, and that would seem long waiting to his father."
It was long waiting for Morva too, but she hid the secret in her heart, and flooded the moor with happy songs.
On the following Sunday evening a special Sciet was held in the gaunt grey chapel in the valley; an event of small importance to the outside world, but to Ebben Owens and every member of his family one of momentous interest. To them every event of life was brightened or shaded by its connection with their religious life, and Penmorien Chapel was almost as sacred in their eyes as the Temple of old was to the Jews.
The members dropping in one by one from moor, or village, or shore, looked with sympathising curiosity as the Garthowen family entered, and took their places in the corner pew, Ebben Owens sitting with them, and for the first time for many years vacating his place amongst the deacons in the square seat under the pulpit.
A formal admission of sin is of frequent occurrence at an "experience meeting," but the real confession of a sinful action is very rare. Therefore the Garthowen family required strong moral courage to enable them to pass through the trying ordeal of the Sciet, and its fiat of excommunication, with dignified firmness.
The doors were closed, the soft sea wind blew up the valley, and the breaking of the waves on the shore below was distinctly audible.
Sara and Morva did not attend the Sciet, but shut themselves up in their cottage, cowering over the fire as if it had been winter. Sara particularly, appeared to suffer acutely as the evening hours passed on.
"There's the sun going, mother, 'tis seven o'clock, the Sciet is over. Will I go and meet them? Oh! mother, I long to comfort 'n'wncwl Ebben."
"No, child, leave him alone to-night; he has better help than thou canst give him. To-night he will feel God's presence as he has never felt it before, and what else will he want, Morva? Come and read our chapter, 'merch i."
And while they read by the light of their tiny candle, and the furze crackled and sparkled up the open chimney, a bronzed and stalwart man was tramping down the stony road towards the chapel. Looking down the narrow valley, he saw the broad grey sea, its ripples tipped with the crimson of the setting sun. To the left towered the high cliffs which closed in the valley, and on the right stretched away the furze-covered slopes leading to Garthowen and the moor, and the rough sailor heart throbbed with the happiness of home-coming and the re-awakening of long deferred hopes. His brown face lighted up with pleasure, as he waved his hand towards the sunlit side of the scene, but he turned his face and his footsteps into the grey shadowed court-yard of the chapel. It was Gethin! He had sailed into Caer-Madoc harbour in the afternoon, the ships being the only things considered free to come and go during the Sabbath hours. He had met an Abersethin man in the town, who had promised to bring his luggage home in his cart next day, and had supplemented the promise by the information that on this particular evening, Ebben Owens would be turned out from the Penmorien Sciet.
"Jar-i! it's time for me to start, then," said Gethin; "will I be there in time, d'ye think?"
"Yes, if you walk sharp; but what will you do? You can't stop them turning him out! There's a pity!"
"No, no," said Gethin, "that's all right, I suppose; but I want to be there to meet the old man at the door. He'll find he's got one son that'll stick to him, whatever. God bless him!" and he started bravely along the old familiar road.
There were lights in the chapel windows as he approached, and outside the closed doors one solitary friend already waited. It was Tudor, who had sat there during the service, his eyes fixed on the blank closed door, doggedly resisting the inviting barks of a collie who had caught sight of him from the opposite hill. But when his long absent friend appeared on the scene his self-restraint was thrown to the winds, and Gethin in vain tried to check the joyous barks which accompanied his frantic gambols of greeting.
"Art come to guard the poor old man, lad?" whispered Gethin, holding up a reproving finger.
"Yes," said Tudor, as plainly as bark could speak.
"Then hush-sh-sh," said Gethin, pointing to the closed door, and Tudor smothered his barks.
The murmur of voices inside the chapel was distinctly audible, blending with the soft murmur of the sea. In a few moments the doors were opened, and the congregation filed out with a more than usually solemn look in their faces; some of the women dried their eyes, and actually refrained from even a whispered remark until they had got fairly outside the "cwrt."
Gethin kept out of sight until he saw his father leave the chapel, followed closely by Ann and Gwilym. The bent head and subdued appearance of the old man went straight to the sailor's warm, impulsive heart. With a single step he was at his father's side, taking his arm and linking it in his own.
"Who is it?" said Ebben Owens, his eyes blinded by tears and the darkening twilight.
"Gethin it is, father bach! come home to ask your forgiveness for all his foolish ways, and to stick to you and to old Garthowen for ever and ever."
"Is it Gethin?" asked the old man, in a tone of awed astonishment; "is it Gethin indeed? Then God has forgiven me. I said to myself: 'When I see my boy Gethin at home again, then will I believe that God has forgiven me.' Now I will be happy though I'm turned out of the Sciet. God will not turn me out of heaven, now that Gethin my son has forgiven me. Hast heard all my bad ways, lad?"
"Yes," said Gethin, "and I will confess, father, it nearly broke my heart. It made me feel there was no good in the world, if my old father was not good. But when I heard how brave you were in telling the whole world how you had fallen, and how you repented, my heart was leaping for joy. 'Now there's a man,' says I to myself, 'a man worth calling my father!' Any man may fall before temptation, but 'tisn't every man is brave enough to confess his sins before the world!"
Arm was already hanging on her brother's arm and pressing it occasionally to her side.
"Oh, Gethin!" she said, "Garthowen has been sad and sorrowful, but to-night it seems as if you had brought back all the sunshine. There's happy we'll be now."
"'Tisn't my doing," said her brother, "'tis Sara Lloyd who has done it all. God bless her! She came all the way to Cardiff to fetch me home. And where is she to-night? I thought she and Morva would surely be at chapel."
"She has kept away for my sake, I think," said his father. "They call her Sara ''spridion,' and they mean no good by it, but I think 'tis a good name for her, whatever, for I believe the good spirits are always around her, helping her and blessing her just as she is always helping and blessing everybody around her."
"To be sure they are," said Gethin; "I always knew it from a little boy. Whether living or dying 'twould be well to be in Sara's shoes!"
When they reached the old farmyard, and passed under the elder tree where the fowls and turkeys were already roosting in rows on the branches, little Gwil bounded out to meet them, Gwilym Morris at the same moment caught them up from behind, and Ebben Owens felt that his cup of earthly happiness was refilled almost to overflowing. Gethin alone missed Morva.
A DANCE ON THE CLIFFS
On the following morning Gethin was up with the dawn, and so was every one else at Garthowen, for the day seemed one of re-birth and renewal of the promise of life to all. Leading his son from cowhouse to barn, from barn to stable, Ebben Owens dilated with newly-awakened pleasure upon the romance of Will's marriage, and on his coming visit with his bride to his old home, Gethin listening with untiring patience, as he followed his father from place to place. The new harrow and pigstye were inspected, the two new cows and Malen's foal were interviewed, and then came Gethin's hour of triumph, when with pardonable pride he informed his father of his own savings, and of the legacy which had so unexpectedly increased his store; also of his plans for the future improvement of the farm. Ebben Owens sat down on the wheel-barrow on purpose to rub his knees, and Gethin's eyes sparkled with pleasure, but he looked round in vain for Morva. Some new-born shyness had overwhelmed her to-day; she could not make up her mind to meet Gethin. She had longed for the meeting so much, and now that it was within her reach, she put the joy away from her, with the nervous indecision of a child.
"Have the cows been milked?" asked Gethin, casting his eyes again over the farmyard.
"Oh, yes," said Magw, "while you were in the barn, Morva helped me, and ran home directly; she said her mother wanted her."
All the morning she was absent, and nobody noticed it except Gethin, and Gwilym Morris, who, with his calm, observant eyes, had long discovered the secret of their love for each other. An amused smile hovered round his lips as, later in the forenoon, he entered the best kitchen bringing Gethin with him from the breezy hillside. Morva was tying Gwil's cap on when they entered, and could no longer avoid the meeting; but if Gwilym had expected a rapturous greeting, he was disappointed; for no shy schoolboy and girl ever met in a more undemonstrative manner than did these two, who for so long had hungered for each other's presence.
"Hello, Morva! How art, lass, this long time?" said Gethin, taking her hand in his big brown palm in an awkward, shame-faced manner, and dropping it at once as if it had scorched him.
"Well, indeed, Gethin. How art thou? There's glad we are to see thee. Stand still, Gwil," and she stooped to unfasten the knot which she had just tied.
Apparently there was nothing more to be said, and Gwilym saw with amusement how all day long they avoided each other, or met with feigned indifference.
"Ah, well," he thought, "'tis too much happiness for them to grasp at once. How well I remember when Ann and I, though we sought for each other continually, yet avoided each other like two shy fawns."
In the evening, when the sun had set and given place to a soft round moon, he was not at all astonished to find that Gethin was missing: nor was he surprised, as he stood at the farm door, to see him rounding the Cribserth and disappear on the moonlit moor.
Reaching the broom bushes, Gethin waited in their shadows, recalling every word and every look of Morva's on that well-remembered night, when she had turned away from him so firmly, though so sorrowfully. Waiting, he paced the greensward, sometimes stopping to toss a pebble over the cliffs, and ever watching where on the grey moor a little spark of light shone from Sara's window.
Was he mistaken? Would she come to-night? Surely yes, for the broom bushes grew close to the path to Garthowen, and over that path she was constantly passing and repassing, whether in daylight or starlight or moonlight.
"'Tis very quiet here," he thought. "It makes me think of a night watch at sea."
The sea heaved gently down below, the waves breaking softly and regularly on the beach. He heard the rustling of the grasses as they trembled in the night breeze, the hoot of the owl in the ivied chimneys of Garthowen, the distant barking of a dog, the tinkle of a chain on some fishing boat rocking on the undulating waves; but no other sound broke the silence of the night.
"Jar-i! there's slow she is, if she's coming at all," said Gethin. "Will I go and see how Sara is after her journey? 'Tis what I ought to do, and no mistake, after all her kindness."
And leaving the shadow of the bushes, he stepped out into the full moonlight, only to meet Morva face to face.
"Well, indeed, Gethin!" she exclaimed, "I wasn't expecting to see you here so far from Garthowen."
"No; nor I, lass," said Gethin, taking her hand, and continuing to hold it. "I was so surprised to see thee out alone to-night; it gave me a start. I was not expecting to see thee."
"No, of course," said Morva, "and I wouldn't be here, only I was afraid I had not fastened the new calf up safely and—and—"
And they looked at each other and laughed.
"Well, now, 'tis no use telling stories about it," said Gethin; "I will confess, Morva, I came here to look for thee; but I can't expect thee to say the same—or didst expect to see me, too, lass? Say yes, now, da chi!" 
Morva hung her head, but answered mischievously:
"Well, if I did, I won't tell tales about myself, whatever; but, indeed, I mustn't stop long. Mother will be waiting for me."
"She will guess where thou art, and I cannot let thee go, lass. Dost remember the last time we were here?"
"Yes—yes, I remember."
"Dost remember I told thee what I would say if I were Will? Wilt listen to me now, lass, though I am only Gethin?"
Is it needful to tell that she did stay long—that Sara did guess where she was; and that there, in the moonlight, with the sea breeze whispering its own love messages in their ears, the words were spoken for which each had been thirsting ever since they had met there last?
* * * * * *
In the early sunrise of the next morning Ebben Owens, too, was crossing the moor. He wanted to tell Sara of the happiness which his son's return had brought him, and to thank her for her share in bringing it to pass. He wanted, too, to tell her of the sorrow and repentance which filled his heart, and the deep gratitude he felt for all she had done for him.
She was already in her garden attending to her bees.
"Sara, woman," said the old man, standing straight before her with outstretched hands.
"Dear, dear, Ebben Owens, so early coming to see me! Sit thee down, then, here in the sun," and she placed her hand in his, endeavouring to draw him down beside her; but he resisted her gentle pressure and, still standing, bent his head like a guilty child.
"No, no," he said, with a tremble in his voice. "Tell me first, can'st forgive me my shameful sin? Everybody is forgiving me too easy, much too easy, I know. 'Tis only one will be always remembering, and that is me."
"I am not surprised at that, and I am glad to hear those words from thee," said Sara, "but my forgiveness, Ebben bach, is as full and free as I believe thy repentance is deep."
And gradually the old man ceased to resist her gentle persuasions, and, sitting down beside her, the bees humming round them, and the sun rising higher and higher in the sky, they conversed together in that perfect communion of soul which sometimes gilds the friendship of old age. Together they had experienced the joys of youth, in middle age both had tasted the bitterness of sorrow, and now in old age the calm and peace of evening was beginning to shine upon one as it had long shone upon the other.
"I have never thanked thee," he said at last, "for all thy loving-kindness to me; never in words, Sara, but I have felt it; and I thank God that thou art living here so near me, where I can come sometimes for refreshment of spirit, as my journey draws towards the end, for I am a weak man, as thou knowest, and often stumble in my path. Ever since that first mistake of my life I have suffered the punishment of it, Sara, and thou hast reaped the golden blessing."
"Yes," said Sara, looking dreamily over the garden hedge, "I have had more than compensation, my cup is full and running over. No one can understand how bright life is to me," and over her face there spread a light and rapture which Ebben Owens gazed at with a kind of wondering reverence.
"There's no doubt thou hast something within thee that few others have," he said, with a shake of his head.
Here Morva arrived from the milking, and finding them still sitting in the sunshine in earnest conversation, held her finger up reprovingly, and begged them to come in to breakfast.
"Oh, stop, 'n'wncwl Ebben, and have breakfast with us. Uwd it is, and fresh milk from Garthowen."
"No, no, child," said the old man, rising. "Ann will be waiting for me; I must go at once."
"Well indeed, she was laying the breakfast. She doesn't want me to-day, she says, so I am stopping at home with mother to weed the garden."
And as Ebben Owens trudged homewards, her happy voice followed him, breaking clear on the morning air as she sang in the joy other heart:
"Troodie! Troodie! come down from the mountain; Troodie! Troodie! come up from the dale; Moelen and Corwen, and Blodwen and Trodwen, I'll meet you all with my milking-pail!"
The echo of it brought a pleased smile to the old man's lips, as he neared his home and left the clear singing behind him.
The day had broadened to noontide, and had passed into late afternoon, when Gethin Owens once more crept round the Cribserth. He crept, because he heard the sound of Morva's voice, and he would come upon her unawares—would see the sudden start, the shy surprise, the pink blush rising to the temples; so he stole from the pathway and crept along behind the broom bushes, watching through their interlacing branches while Morva approached from the cottage, singing in sheer lightness of heart, Tudor following with watchful eyes and waving tail, and a sober demeanour, which was soon to be laid aside for one of boisterous gambolling, for on the green sward Morva stopped, and with a bow to Tudor picked up her blue skirt in the thumb and finger of each hand, showing her little feet, which glanced in and out beneath her brick-red petticoat. She was within two yards of Gethin, where he stood still as a statue, scarcely breathing lest he should disturb the happy pair, his eyes and his mouth alone showing the merriment and fun which were brimming over in his heart.
"Now, 'machgen i," said Morva, "what dost think of me?" and she curtseyed again to Tudor, who did the same. "Dost like me? dost think I am grand to-day? See the new bows on my shoes, see the new caddis on my petticoat, and above all, Tudor, see my beautiful necklace! Come, lad, let's have a dance, for Gethin's come home," and she began to imitate as well as she could the dance which Gethin had executed, with such fatal consequences to her heart, at the Garthowen cynos. Up and down, round and across, with uplifted gown, Tudor following with exuberant leaps and barks of delight, and catching at her flying skirts at every opportunity. As she danced she sang with unerring ear and precision, the tune that Reuben Davies had played in the dusty mill, setting to it the words of one refrain, "Gethin's come home, bachgen! Gethin's come home!"