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a stampede as that.' (Laughter.) The first choir looks crestfallen. They sang, on the whole, tolerably correctly. There was a G natural that ought to have been G flat; but this we may attribute to nervousness, as well as the fact that they took the largo movement presto. The altos were painfully weak; the basses were a trifle flat. But, on the whole, as I remarked before, we may consider it a creditable performance, and that it does honour alike to their heads and hearts. Now, with regard to choir number two, I am bound to remark that they made a very bad start-took the note wrong twice over; a very unmusician-like proceeding. If the composer had meant the chorus to begin with that kind of floundering about, he would have so written it. But there can be no doubt that the second choir redeemed their characters after this bad beginning by very satisfactory work. Their time was better than number one; their forte passages were firmer; their performance had more light and shade;' and so on, and so on, through a careful criticism of the performance. 'I therefore feel it incumbent upon me to award the ten-pound prize to the Llanvaerlog choir, and the prize baton, value one guinea, to the conductor of the same.'
Unanimous applause follows the decision. Mr. Slingford Edwards takes a yellow-satin bag from a nail on which it has hung in sight of the audience, looks about him doubtfully for a moment, and then confers in a whisper with the chairman. They are consulting as to the fair hand which is to bestow this guerdon-the chivalrous practice of the Eisteddfod requiring that each prize should be given to the happy winner by a lady selected from among the more distinguished of the assemblage.
'Miss Morcombe,' suggests Mr. Edwards, in a whisper.
'Yes, decidedly,' replies the chairman, if she's here. Couldn't have any one better.'
This ten-pound prize is the grand feature of the entertainment. The ten-shilling and five-shilling guerdons may be given by anybody, but the donor of the chief prize must needs be a person of mark.
Slingford Edwards slips behind one of those benches on the platform, bends over a young lady's shoulder-a young lady who sits in the back row, and who has been hidden from the gaze of the public. He whispers a few words in her ear-there is a stir and a gentle flutter around her-she rises, and the Reverend Slingford leads her blushing to the front of the platform, where the expectant choristers wait, closely huddled together and open-mouthed.
'Ladies and gentlemen,' roars Slingford Edwards above the universal hum, I am proud-we are all proud, and I am sure you will, every man of you-yes, and every woman-for when was woman's heart slow to throb in unison with man's generous emotions ?-participate in that feeling when I tell you that the great prize of the day will be awarded by Miss Morcombe, the lovely
daughter of the most popular landowner-always excepting our respected chairman-in these parts. Miss Morcombe of Lochwithian Priory. Now, Mr. Sparks,' to the conductor, down on your knees, and let the memory of this moment never fade from your mind; let it be a stimulus to future exertion, a guiding-star to lead you to glory. Why don't you kneel, you blockhead ?' sotto voce to the winner of the prize, who looks as if he had only that moment discovered that his arms are appendages of an awkward and embarrassing character, so limp and helpless hang his hands, so painfully angular are his elbows.
Three cheers for Miss Morcombe of Lochwithian,' cries Mr. Edwards; whereon the audience, who have had to do a good deal of cheering already, respond feebly, with flagging energies.
The prizes are given-first the baton, and then the yellow-satin bag; and Miss Morcombe curtsies and retires, led by the gallant Slingford. During the last five minutes she has been the focus of every eye, but no eye has gazed more intently than the eye of Herman Westray.
'What a sweet-looking girl!' says Mr. Westray to his companion.
Yes, she's nice, isn't she? I'll introduce you, if you like. She's very clever-likes literary people-likes to talk about them, at least; for I don't think she knows many. Serious girl-Anglican.'
'Gets up at five o'clock on saint days, I suppose,' says Herman. Rather a trial, I should think, that kind of girl.'
'I withdraw my offer to introduce you,' says Mr. Dewrance, with a disgusted look.
O, nonsense! I should like to know her. What would her getting up at five o'clock matter to me? I am but a bird of passage. Yes, she looks clever as well as pretty, and looks good into the bargain. A fine firmly-moulded face, something out of the common in the expression. Put her into a suit of armour, and she would do for Joan of Arc. Please introduce me.'
'I'll take you over to the Priory to luncheon to-morrow. I have carte blanche to take any one nice.'
Introduce me to-day. Is that sportsmanlike party with the foxy whiskers her father?'
Yes, that's Mr. Morcombe-fine fellow-good old Saxon family-pedigree that goes back to Hengist and Horsa-looks down upon people who date from the Conquest.'
'No end of money, I suppose ?'
Humph!' ejaculated Dewrance doubtfully; 'no end of land, if you like, but money dubious-ready cash at a premium. I believe Miss Morcombe inherits something from her mother, but nothing considerable. People who trace their lineage as far as Hengist and Horsa are rarely well supplied with pecunium.'
'Introduce me, please.'
"Wait till the Eisteddfod is over. I'll ask them to luncheon at the Cambria.'
Mr. Westray sighs. He is not intensely interested in the musical contest. A young person of eleven is rattling through one of Brinley Richards's fantasias upon a national air, with more patriotic fervour than discretion. There is to be a Welsh song in character after the pianoforte-playing; and a recitation, Hamlet and the Ghost, after that. So that Mr. Westray, studying his programme intently, hardly sees his way to the conclusion of the entertainment.
'Can't we get out, Dewrance ?' he asks fretfully; but Mr. Dewrance is whispering to the chairman, and has something to say to most of the ladies on the platform, and is, in short, in his glory as arbiter of feminine opinion in Llandrysak.
But, lo, presently comes an unlooked-for diversion. The sunshine which illuminated the tent a quarter of an hour ago has vanished, and a cold grayness prevails in its stead. Now comes the patter of raindrops on the canvas, heavier and heavier, and the assembled multitude begin to have an uncomfortable feeling that canvas is porous, and that there are, moreover, various holes in the tent through which the rain is already descending pretty smartly, to the detriment of new bonnets. Umbrellas go up. Mr. Dewrance has three pretty girls clustering under his serviceable Sangster. Murmurs of discontent arise at the back of the tent from eager souls whose vision is impeded by the front ranks of umbrellas. The Reverend Slingford remonstrates with the umbrella-holders; urges that while the contest is going on they should submit to be rained upon rather than interfere with the enjoyment of the majority. I should like to know who could enjoy themselves in such weather as this?' grumbles a sturdy farmer in the front row; there ought to have been a tarpaulin.'
'We didn't pay our money to be drenched to the skin,' ejaculates another.
Think of your second crop of grass,' urges Slingford Edwards, and what a blessing this gentle shower is for you.'
Meanwhile the rain falls faster; it splashes and patters upon the piano, so that the last young interpreter of Brinley Richards is fain to stop short in the middle of her performance, and the piano is shut, and covered with a green baize. The harp is also shrouded; the smart little satin bags are thrust under cover.
The élite upon the platform huddle together anyhow, and little pools of water lie upon the abandoned benches. The Eisteddfod comes to a dead stop, and the only question among the audience is whether it be wiser to stay where they are, or to brave the fury of the tempest in crossing the narrow ridge of common which lies.
between them and shelter. Miss Morcombe is standing by her father, sheltered by his umbrella, and enveloped in a dark-blue cloak, which drapes the tall full figure from head to foot. In the confusion that prevails Herman has ample leisure to scrutinise the Squire's daughter unobserved.
Yes, she is handsome, certainly; but that which most attracts Herman Westray, to whom a handsome woman is no rare spectacle, is the something loftier and nobler than common beauty which distinguishes that innocent young face. The modelling of the features is somewhat large; there is that fulness of outline which one sees in a Greek statue, not one sharp angle in the face, yet the lines supremely regular. The complexion is not fair, but has that fresh bloom which comes of an open-air life; the eyes are darkest gray, so dark that till they turn and meet his own Herman thinks them black; the hair darkest brown, and superabundant, for the thick plaits coiled closely at the back of the head are innocent of padding. Franker, fairer countenance never smiled upon mankind. No dangerous Circean fascination here-nothing of the siren or the Lorelei in this young English maiden—no 'history' in her glad young life. Herman feels that he is face to face with happy innocent girlhood, and draws a deep breath of gladness, as if he felt himself in a purer atmosphere than the air of his every-day existence.
A thunder-peal bursts and crackles over the tent. The rain comes down faster than ever, more thunder and lightning, then a lull, and the rain grows less.
'It's holding up,' says Dewrance, who has been to the door to reconnoitre. I really think we'd better get away while we can. You and your papa must come to the Cambria and have some luncheon, Miss Morcombe. I shall be so pleased if you will, and then you can come back for the afternoon performance.'
'Heavens,' exclaims Westray; 'isn't it all over?'
'No, there's another contest in the afternoon, and a concert in the evening.'
Herman makes a wry face, whereat Miss Morcombe laughs joyously.
You don't care for our Eisteddfods,' she says, ignoring the fact that he has not been introduced to her.
I don't admit that. The Eisteddfod is charming in its way, but, like all other good things, one may have too much of it. I pity the people who are coming back to this damp tabernacle this afternoon.'
Thanks for your compassion,' says Miss Morcombe. 'I wouldn't lose "Rejoice greatly" on any account.'
'There's no rain now, Miss Morcombe. You'd better come,' interjects Dewrance, offering his arm, and they go out-the Curate and his fair young charge in front, Westray and the Squire straggling
The piano has been opened again, the umbrellas are down, and another juvenile executant is slaughtering Brinley Richards. 'O, I'm afraid I forgot to introduce you to each other,' says Dewrance, looking back. Mr. Westray, Miss Morcombe. Mr. Westray, Mr. Morcombe.'
The Curate has a somewhat offhand manner with these magnates of the land. He esteems them for their ancient lineage, their broad acres, but in his own mind he occupies a higher intellectual level, from which he looks down upon these rustic Philistines urbanely. He is the salt of the earth, without which their life would be insipidity, and is calmly conscious of his claim on their gratitude. What can be more magnanimous, for instance, than his presence in this remote Welsh watering-place? Has he not dissevered himself from all the amenities and delights of progress in order to secure the enlightenment of these barbarians ?
'Changeable weather,' says the Squire with a friendly air.
• Very. 'Yes; it'll be a great year for cereals. Turnips are bad, clover poor, and we've had hardly any hay to speak of on account of the dry summer. This is a sheep country; we don't grow much corn.' 'So I perceive. Charming country for ferns. Plenty of limestone. Miss Morcombe is great upon ferns, I daresay.'
'Yes, I think she knows all about everything in that way. She's great in horticulture. I call her my head gardener. You must come over to the Priory and see her rose-garden, and her greenhouses.' Miss Morcombe is questioning her companion meanwhile. 'Did you say Westray?' she asks eagerly.
'Yes, his name is Westray.'
'Herman Westray, the novelist, the dramatic author?'
How good-natured he looks,' wonderingly.
'Did you expect a laughing-hyenaish physiognomy ?'
'I don't know what I expected. He writes like a man who admires nothing, believes in nothing, despises the world he lives in, and yet he writes so beautifully that one feels as if there were a mine of deep feeling under all that cynicism.'
'A mere trick of the trade,' sneers Dewrance.
'Cynicism has sold wonderfully well ever since Thackeray set the fashion, and these young men out-Herod Thackeray, without a tithe of his genius. They are as melancholy as Solomon in Ecclesiastes, and they inlay their Rochefoucauldism on a groundwork of Byronic passion. They take all the tricks and manners of departed genius and make an olla podrida of their own, and call that literature,' with ineffable contempt, and are dazzled by the glitter of their tawdry mosaic, and think themselves geniuses.'
'Mr. Westray doesn't look as if he were conceited,' says Miss