- CHAPTER XXII. NORTH WALES.
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WHAT station is this, Bridget?"
"It's Colwyn station, ma'am. I think a train never did go so slow before! Here it is five O'clock, and we ought to have been at Penmaenmawr by 4.32. It will be fair dark before we get to—to—1 can't say the name, it's so hard."
"To Bryndyffryn. Yes! I am afraid we shall be very late. Now we are going on again. I am sorry we lave lost sight of the sea; but we shall have it again presently. How dark it grows!"
"Yes, ma'am; and it seems a strange, outlandish country hereabouts. It feels like coming into foreign parts. I hope Bron-duffering will be a little bit snugger than this."
"Bryndyffryn is very lonely, Bridget, I am afraid; | | 240 but it overlooks the sea. I fear, however, that will not make amends to you for the loss of the royal park and the forest glades of Windsor; some people do not care about coast scenery."
"I like it very much in summer, ma'am; but to my thinking it is very cold-looking in winter, and the mountains do look so chilly and bleak."
"But, Bridget, I hope you will be able to make yourself comfortable at Bryndyffryn. It was very kind—more than kind—of dear Mr. Brookes to offer to lend you to me for a season, that you may help me to make our new home comfortable, and teach me the many things I ought to have learnt long ago; but if you are not happy in being lent I shall be very sorry that I was tempted to take advantage of his goodness."
"I am happy in being lent, ma'am. I should have fretted ever so if you had not borrowed me, as you say. I couldn't abear the thought of my dear Miss Alice's dearest friend coming all alone to a desolate, out-of-the-way place, where the people can't even speak any language but gibberish. Don't fear, ma'am, I make myself right comfortable everywhere, and we shall have enough to do to-morrow, without as much as thinking whether we are going to be happy or not."
Presently the train slackened its pace beneath the grand old towers of Conway Castle. There it stood, the glorious ruin of old time, robed in all the beauty | | 241 of mantling ivy, while the last gleam of red light flushed and faded on the grey crumbling turrets, like the shadowy waving of a royal banner. It was full tide, and the waves of the Conway were breaking tumultuously on the castle rock and on the buttresses of the tubular bridge, while far away, over the green. hills that embosomed the picturesque and walled town, stretched the dark, shadowy range of mountains that shits in the lonely lynx of the Ogwen and the Idwal.
Lilian's eyes flashed with pleasure. Her new home was not so far distant but that she might come sometimes and roans about the deserted halls and bowers of the beautiful ruined castle, and sail up the broad river that wandered away into the very heart of the kingly mountain.
At the Penmaenmawr station Lilian and her attendant alighted. There was a woeful confusion in and about the luggage-van, and Mrs. Hope's trunks and packages seemed not to be forthcoming. The stationmaster grew impatient, and the porters were inclined to be uncivil; but Bridget, having seen her mistress into the waiting-room, took possession of the guard, and sternly ordered the subordinates to attend to their duty; and so impressed were the underlings of the Chester and Holyhead Railway Company with the authority of the tall, gaunt Englishwoman who had planted herself so resolutely on the platform, that | | 242 they made another and more methodical research, and one by one Lilian's packages were handed out of a very chaos of luggage bound for Kingstown, and clutched by Bridget, who allowed no one to touch them till their number was complete, and she had compared them with the list which she held in her hand. Then she intimated to the guard that it was her pleasure the train should forthwith continue its journey; and as the last carriage disappeared with a terrific yell at the entrance of the next tunnel, she had seen every box safely heaped on the trucks, and in a fair Way to be wheeled out of the precincts of the station.
"A carriage directly, to go to Bron-duffering," said Bridget, as soon as the luggage was fairly off her mind. The man to whom the order was given did not, however, stir; and she reiterated her commands in a louder tone. "Dym saesneq," was the sturdy reply. "WHAT?" screamed Bridget, impatiently. What, indeed! There burst upon her such a storm of noisy gutturals, that she turned away in mute despair, in search, as she said, of some one who could speak life a Christian. The station-master, however, had in the meantime politely inquired of Lilian whether she expected any equipage, and, being answered in the negative, volunteered to supply one; and in a few minutes, a jolting vehicle, drawn by a | | 243 rough, bony horse, made its appearance. The luggage was consigned to a cart; and Lilian and her factotum were at last fairly en route for Bryndyffryn.
It was a mild October evening, and there was sufficient light to discern the outlines of the wild, grand scenery around then. Bridget shivered and shuddered when the car stopped for the opening of agate, and the profound stillness was only broken by the sighing of the wind in the mountain ravines, and by the deep booming of the waves on the shore. But Lilian's heart felt lighter as the glorious musk rolled onward through the lonely, silent nightfall; and as she caught glimpses of rocky heights and dark glens, just revealed beneath the pale, faint light of the setting moon, tears filled her eyes, and she thought how good God had been in making so beautiful the solitudes of the earth.
The road was rough and hilly; they had turned off the well-beaten track leading to Aber, and were slowly winding up a narrow, rocky ascent, that seemed, as bridge said, to lead right up to the top of a mountain. However, when they had attained a certain elevation, they came down again, greatly to the good servant's indignation, and she inveighed stoutly against the Stupidity of the Welsh for making their roads in such wild, out-of-the-way places, and for going up a hill for the sheer purpose of coming down on the other side.| | 244
The darkness increased fast, for the moon had gone down behind the distant line of the Anglesea coast; and when at length their uneasy vehicle stopped before a small white bate, nothing could be discerned save the gravel path, which showed obscurely, as it appeared to lead upwards into a world of blackness. But while Lilian began to grope her way, and Bridget was once more absorbed in luggage cares, a light shone from the front door, and ail elderly lady came down the path, shading a candle with her hands, and peering about for the travellers.
"Ah! any dear madam," said a sweet voice, in a pure English accent, "we had given you up, we thought it was too late to expect you any longer."
Lilian was extremely surprised; she had had no doubt the candle was carried by the rough little Welsh girl, whom her father-in-law told her he had engaged to clean the house, and receive the furniture, prior to her own arrival. She began to fancy she had made a mistake, and alighted at the house of one of her new neighbors; so she replied to the kindly voice, "Is this Bryndyffryn? I fear we are wrong."
"All right ma'am," returned the lady, "this is Bryndyffryn, there is no other house within a quarter of a mile. I am Miss Williams, my brother is the clergyman of this village, and he thought and I thought it would be very miserable for you to stay all night in | | 245 a dreary unfurnished house, so I came to ask you to go with me to the vicarage, and remain till to-morrow morning. I hope you will excuse the liberty I have taken; but my brother knows Mr. hope, senior, very well; indeed he consulted him by letter, on the eligibility of Bryndyffryn as a residence for yourself; and it seemed unfriendly, though rather unceremonious not to come here and offer you some kind of hospitality on your arrival; so I do hope you will come down with me to the vicarage and have some tea. There is a room quite ready for you, and my brother is expecting you this minute."
Had Lilian been an unmitigated fine lady, she would have been alike confounded and disgusted by hiss Williams' kind-hearted attentions; but two years of artificial life had by no means changed her original nature, and a franker, truer-hearted maiden than Lilian Gray, had never trodden the moors of Yorkshire; so she responded gratefully to the simple, earnest kindness that welcomed her on the threshold of her new home.
The house certainly looked uninviting; some attempts had been made at rendering one of the parlors habitable; but piles of unpacked furniture, carpetless floors, and uncurtained windows, looked wretched enough by candle-light, and after the fatigue of a long weary journey. So Lilian thankfully accepted her new | | 246 friend's offer, and in a few minutes she and Bridget were again in the open air.
The quarter of a mile did not seem very long, and the exercise rather refreshed Lilian, who was perfectly weary of sitting still; nevertheless, the warm bright parlour at the vicarage, the cheerful face of Dr. Williams, and the table set for a bountiful dinner-tea, wore an aspect at once home-like and inviting.
Lilian passed a delightful evening with her new friends. Dr. Williams was about fifty years of age; his sister, Winifred, perhaps ten years younger. They were charmed with the lady-like simplicity of their beautiful young finest, and. deeply interested in certain little traits of character, which, in the course of an animated conversation, could not fail to be developed.
When she had retired for the night, the sister and brother remained together over the dying fire, and, in that pleasing season of unrestrained and confidential intercourse, it was only natural to revert to Lilian.
"Is she not lovely?" asked Miss Williams, admiringly, as soon as the object of her innocent enthusiasm was fairly out of hearing.
"Most beautiful!" replied the doctor, emphatically. "Winifred! do you know Mrs. Hope reminds me of my poor Maria; she has just the same shadowy eyes, and the same expression about the mouth. My poor Maria! she would have been an elderly woman now— | | 247 older than you are, Winifred. That was the great trial of my early manhood; not only the sorrow, the loss, the void that never, never could be filled oil earth, but there was the temptation to question the goodness of the dispensation which snatched away so fair and pure a creature. I used to say to myself, why was she taken?—what had I done to be so severely disciplined? She would have been the teacher and guide of the young, the stay of the abed, the comfort of the afflicted; in all ways she would have been a helpmeet for the minister of God, and, like the flower of the field, she gladdened us all with the sweet promise of her unfulfilled goodness and beauty, and then was seen no more."
The good clergyman's voice sunk almost to a whisper. Nearly thirty years had passed since the betrothed of his youth had been carried to her maiden grave, but the remembrance of her sweetness and loveliness was still fresh in his memory. Her image was always there in the loving, faithful heart; its beauty never dimmed by contact with the corroding cares of this world, never changing, never growing old, but young, bright, and devoted, as in those days of the past, when they roamed together over the green bills, and along the wild shores of their native country.| | 248
"But you understand it now," said Winifred, caressing her brother's band as she spoke.
He turned round quickly. "No, Winifred, I do not understand it; but I am content to trust. I know now how good and faithful a Master I serve. I do not doubt the wisdom and the love that bade me renounce my sweet terrestrial paradise; but I wait till he shall say to me, 'Come up higher.' Then I shall understand. I shall know, even as I am known, and all that has seemed mysterious will be clear; it is only to be patient a little while longer. Thirty years have passed since lily great sorrow came upon me. I think it will not be thirty years more."
There was a silence. Then Miss Williams said, "Brother, do you know I am afraid this pretty young creature has known a great deal of trouble, there is such a sad look in her face when she is not speaking; and did you hear how she sighed once or twice when you and I were talking together?"
"Yes, I think she has had, or is, perhaps, even now enduring some heavy trial. I think, too, it would have been more considerate of her husband to come clown here with her, instead of leaving her to prepare the house for his reception, to make things comfortable, as she said herself. From what I could gather from Mr. Hope's letters, his son had been extravagant, and was obliged to come here to economize, and to be out | | 249 of the way of evil companions—a sort of banishment, I fancy. I fear it will scarcely answer, transplanting a fashionable, extravagant young man, fresh from the gaieties of the metropolis, to a lonely Welsh village. It will need something more to effect even the first principles of reformation."
"Well, brother, I am glad they have come here instead of elsewhere; perhaps we shall be able to do something for them. I shall try to be very intimate with Mrs. Hope; and you, on your part, must cultivate the husband as soon as he makes his appearance. Now, good night; it is almost morning."
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