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Read Aylwin Part 24

Aylwin is a Webnovel produced by Theodore Watts-Dunton.
This webnovel is presently completed.

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Read WebNovel Aylwin Part 24

‘I don’t see the difference,’ said I; ‘but tell me more about Winifred.’

‘You don’t see the difference?’ said Sinfi. ‘Well then, I do. It’s wrong to tell a lie to a Romany, ain’t it? But is it wrong to tell a lie to a Gorgio? Not a bit of it. And why? ‘Cause most Gorgios is fools and wants lies, an’ that gives the poor Romanies a chance. But this here cuss is a very bad kind ‘o cuss. It’s a dead man’s cuss, and what’s wuss, him as is cussed is dead and out of the way, and so it has to be worked out in the blood of his child. But when she’s done that, when she’s worked it out of her blood, things’ll come right agin if the cross is put back agin on your father’s buzzum.’

‘When she has done what?’ I said.

‘Begged her bread in desolate places,’ said the Gypsy girl solemnly.

‘Then if the cross is put back agin on your feyther’s buzzum, I believe things’ll all come right. It’s bad the cusser was your feyther though.’

‘But why?’ I asked.

‘There’s n.o.body can’t hurt you and them you’re fond on as your own breed can. As my poor mammy used to say, “For good or for ill you must dig deep to bury your daddy.” But you know, brother, the wust o’

this job is that it’s a trushul as has been stole.’

‘A trushul?’

‘What you call a cross. There’s nothin’ in the world so strong for cussin’ and blessin’ as a trushul, unless the stars shinin’ in the river or the hand in the clouds is as strong. Why, I tell you there’s nothin’ a trushul can’t do, whether it’s curin’ a man as is bit by a sap, or wipin’ the very rainbow out o’ the sky by jist layin’ two sticks crossways, or even curin’ the cramp in your legs by jist settin’ your shoes crossways; there’s nothin’ for good or bad a trushul _can’t_ do if it likes. Hav’n’t you never heer’d o’ the dukkeripen o’ the trushul shinin’ in the sunset sky when the light o’ the sinkin’ sun shoots up behind a bar o’ clouds an’ makes a kind o fiery cross? But to go and steal a trushul out of a dead man’s tomb–why, it’s no wonder as the Wynnes is cussed, feyther and child.’

I could not have tolerated this prattle about Gypsy superst.i.tions had I not observed that through it all the Gypsy was on the _qui vive_, looking for the traces of her path that Winifred had unconsciously left behind her. Had the Gypsy been following the trail with the silence of an American Indian, she could not have worked more carefully than she was now working while her tongue went rattling on.

I afterwards found this to be a characteristic of her race, as I afterwards found that what is called the long sight of the Gypsies (as displayed in the following of the _patrin_ [Footnote: Trail]) is not long sight at all, but is the result of a peculiar faculty the Gypsies have of observing more closely than Gorgios do everything that meets their eyes in the woods and on the hills and along the roads. When we reached the spot indicated by the Gypsy as being Winifred’s haunt, the ledge where she was in the habit of coming for her imaginary interviews with the ‘Prince of the Mist,’ we did not stay there, but for a time still followed the path, which from this point became rougher and rougher, alongside deep precipices and chasms. Every now and then she would stop on a ledge of rock, and, without staying her prattle for a moment, stoop down and examine the earth with eyes that would not have missed the footprint of a rat.

When I saw her pause, as she sometimes would in the midst of her scrutiny, to gaze inquiringly down some gulf, which then seemed awful to my inexperienced eyes, but which later on in the day, when I came to see the tremendous chasms of that side of Snowdon, seemed insignificant enough, the circulation of my blood would seem to stop, and then rush again through my body more violently than before. And while the ‘patrin-chase’ went on, and the morning grew brighter and brighter, the Gypsy’s lithe, catlike tread never faltered. The rise and fall of her bosom were as regular and as calm as in the public-house. Such agility and such staying power in a woman astonished me. Finding no trace of Winnie, we returned to the little plateau by Knockers’ Llyn.

‘This is the place,’ said the Gypsy; ‘it used to be called in old times the haunted llyn, because when you sings the Welsh dukkerin gillie here or plays it on a crwth, the Knockers answers it. I dare say you’ve heard o’ what the Gorgios call the triple echo o’ Llyn Ddu’r Arddu. Well, it’s somethin’ like that, only bein’ done by the knocking sperrits, it’s grander and don’t come ‘cept when they hears the Welsh dukkerin gillie. Now, you must hide yourself somewheres while I go and touch the crwth in her favourite place. I think she’ll come to that. I wish though I hadn’t brought ye,’ she continued, looking at me meditatively; ‘you’re a little winded a-ready, and we ain’t begun the rough climbing at all. Up to this ‘ere pool Winnie and me and Rhona Boswell used to climb when we was children; it needed longer legs nor ourn to get farther up, and you’re winded a-ready. If she should come on you suddent, she’s liker than not to run for a mile or more up that path where we’ve just been and then to jump down one of them chasms you’ve just seed. But if she does pop on ye, don’t you try to grab her, whatever you do; leave me alone for that. You ain’t got strength enough to grab a hare; you ought to be in bed. Besides, she won’t be skeared at me. But,’ she continued, turning round to look at the vast circuit of peaks stretching away as far as the eye could reach, ‘we shall have to ketch her to-day somehow. She’ll never go back to the cottage where you went and skeared her; and if she don’t have a fall, she’ll run about these here hills till she drops. We shall have to ketch her to-day somehow.

I’m in hopes she’ll come to the sound of my crwth, she’s so uncommon fond on it; and if she don’t come in the flesh, p’rhaps her livin’

mullo will come, and that’ll show she’s alive.’

She placed me in a crevice overlooking the small lake, or pool, which on the opposite side was enclosed in a gorge, opening only by a cleft to the east. Then she unburdened herself of a wallet containing the breakfast, saying, ‘When I come back we’ll fall to and breakfiss.’

She then, as though she were following the trail, made a circuit of the pool and disappeared through the gorge. All round the pool there was a narrow ragged ledge leading to this eastern opening. I stood concealed in my crevice and looked at the peaks, or rather at the vast of billowy vapours enveloping them, as they sometimes boiled and sometimes blazed, shaking–when the sun struck one and then another–from brilliant amethyst to vermilion, shot occasionally with purple, or gold, or blue.

A radiance now came pouring through the eastern opening down the gorge or cwm itself, and soon the light vapours floating about the pool were turned to sailing gauzes, all quivering with different dyes, as though a rainbow had become torn from the sky and woven into gossamer hangings and set adrift.

Fatigue was beginning to numb my senses and to conquer my brain. The acuteness of my mental anguish had consumed itself in its own intense fires. The idea of Winifred’s danger became more remote. The mist-pageants of the morning seemed somehow to emanate from Winnie.

‘No one is worthy to haunt such a scene as this,’ I murmured, sinking against the rock, ‘but Winifred–so beautiful of body and pure of soul. Would that I were indeed her “Prince of the Mist,” and that we could die here together with Sinfi’s strains in our ears.’

Then I felt coming over me strange influences which afterwards became familiar to me–influences which I can only call the spells of Snowdon. They were far more intense than those strange, sweet, wild, mesmeric throbs which I used to feel in Graylingham Wood, and which my ancestress, Fenella Stanley, seems also to have known, but they were akin to them. Then came the sound of Sinfi’s crwth and song, and in the distance repet.i.tions of it, as though the spirits of Snowdon were, in very truth, joining in a chorus.

At once a marvellous change came over me. I seemed to be listening to my ancestress, Fenella Stanley, and not to Sinfi Lovell. I was hearing that strain which in my childhood I had so often tried to imagine, and it was conjuring up the morning sylphs of the mountain air and all the ‘flower-sprites’ and ‘sunshine elves’ of Snowdon.


I shook off the spell when the music ceased; then I began to wonder why the Gypsy did not return. I was now faint and almost famished for want of food. I opened the Gypsy’s wallet. There was the substantial and tempting breakfast she had brought from the cottage cupboard–cold beef and bread, and ale. I spread the breakfast on the ground.

Scarcely had I done so when a figure appeared at the opening of the gorge and caught the ruddy flood of light. It was Winifred, bare-headed. I knew it was she, and I waited in breathless suspense, crouching close up into the crevice, dreading lest she should see me and be frightened away. She stood in the eastern cleft of the gorge against the sun for fully half a minute, looking around as a stag might look that was trying to give the hunters the slip.

‘She has seen the Gypsy,’ I thought, ‘and been scared by her.’ Then she came down and glided along the side of the pool. At first she did not see me, though she stood opposite and stopped, while the opalescent vapours from the pool steamed around her, and she shone as through a glittering veil, her eyes flashing like sapphires. The palpitation of my heart choked me; I dared not stir, I dared not speak; the slightest movement or the slightest sound might cause her to start away. There was she whom I had travelled and toiled to find–there was she, so close to me, and yet must I let her pa.s.s and perhaps lose her after all–for ever?

Where was the Gypsy girl? I was in an agony of desire to see her or hear her crwth, and yet her approach might frighten Winifred to her destruction.

But Winifred, who had now seen me, did not bound away with that heart-quelling yell of hers which I had dreaded. No, I perceived to my astonishment that the flash of the eyes was not of alarm, but of greeting to me–pleasure at seeing me! She came close to the water, and then I saw a smile on her face through the misty film–a flash of shining teeth.

‘May I come?’ she said.

‘Yes, Winifred,’ I gasped, scarcely knowing what I said in my surprise and joy.

She came slipping round the pool, and in a few seconds was by my side. Her clothes were saturated with last night’s rain, but though she looked very cold, she did not shiver, a proof that she had not lain down on the hills, but had walked about during the whole night.

There was no wildness of the maniac–there was no idiotic stare. But oh the witchery of the gaze!

If one could imagine the look on the face of a wanderer from the cloud-palaces of the sylphs, or the gaze in the eyes of a statue newly animated by the pa.s.sion of the sculptor who had fashioned it, or the smile on the face of a wondering Eve just created upon the earth–any one of these expressions would, perhaps, give the idea of that on Winifred’s face as she stood there.

‘May I sit down, Prince?’ said she.

‘Yes, Winnie,’ I replied; ‘I’ve been waiting for you.’

‘Been waiting for poor Winnie?’ she said, her eyes sparkling anew with pleasure; and she sat down close by my side, gazing hungrily at the food–her hands resting on her lap.

I laid my hand upon one of hers; it was so damp and cold that it made me shudder.

‘Why, Winifred,’ I said, ‘how cold you are!’ ‘The hills are _so_ cold!’ said she, ‘_so_ cold when the stars go out, and the red streaks begin to come.’

‘May I warm your hands in mine, Winnie?’ I said, longing to clasp the dear fingers, but trembling lest anything I might say or do should bring about a repet.i.tion of last night’s catastrophe.

‘_Will_ you, Prince?’ said she. ‘How very, very kind!’ and in a moment the hand was between mine.

Remembering that it was through looking into my eyes that she recognised me in the cottage, I now avoided looking straight into hers. All this time she kept gazing wistfully at the food spread out on the ground.

‘Are you hungry, Winifred?’ I said.

‘Oh yes; _so_ hungry!’ said she, shaking her head in a sad meditative way. ‘Poor Winifred is so hungry and cold and lonely!’

‘Will you breakfast with the Prince of the Mist, Winifred?’

‘Oh, may I, Prince?’ she asked, her face beaming with delight.

‘To be sure you may, Winnie. You may always breakfast with the Prince of the Mist if you like.’

‘Always? Always?’ she repeated.

‘Yes, Winnie,’ I said, as I handed her some bread and meat, which she devoured ravenously.

‘Yes, dear Winnie,’ I continued, handing her a foaming horn of Sinfi’s ale, to which she did as full justice as she was doing to the bread and meat. ‘Yes, I want you to breakfast with me and dine with me always.’

‘Do you mean _live_ with you, Prince?’ she asked, looking me dreamily in the face–‘live with you behind the white mist? Is this our wedding breakfast, Prince?’

‘Yes, Winnie.’

Then her eyes wandered down over her dress, and she said, ‘Ah! how strange I did not notice my green fairy kirtle before. And I declare I never felt till this moment the wreath of gold leaves round my forehead. Do they shine much in the sun?’

‘They quite dazzle me, Winnie,’ I said, arching my hand above my eyes, as if to protect them from the glare.


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