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David's Little Lad, Page 2

L. T. Meade

she was in a tomb, and the name of the tomb wasTynycymmer. Her body was free, as far as the walls of her prisonallowed it, to roam, but her mind, with its noble aspirations, her soul,which had conceived great and possible commissions of wide andever-widening usefulness, these were shut up in a tomb; in short, thisfeeling, breathing creature, with her talents and her longings, wasburied alive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  "You are going away from Tynycymmer?"

  "Indeed we are not," I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  Could they be true? could the gossip the girl had heard be correct? Howcertain she looked! how startled and frightened, when she found herselfmistaken. And, little fool! she had made me promise not to betray her,just too when I wanted to solve the mystery. Oh, if only she might beright! if only we might be going to leave this dull life, this stupidcountry existence! Could it be the case? gossip was often mistaken, butseld
om utterly without foundation. I asked myself this questiontremblingly and eagerly. Instantly I had a reply. Sober reason startedto the forefront of all my faculties, and said--

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

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

  Perhaps I