Page:Out of due time, Ward, 1906.djvu/31

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21
OUT OF DUE TIME.

like movement. After long walks on our way home to the Hall we saw the coach, but if we were outward bound as we sprang up the heather-covered hills, the great grey boulders, curiously rounded and smoothed by the mighty winds and rains that swept over the higher moors, were then intensely and obviously a giant's wife stretching out a plate of cakes to put them in the oven.

Dear old lady, you are still at it, but I don't think I could bear to go and see you now. The phantom coach caught my imagination, but it does not hurt me to think of it. You were more human, and are more mixed up with old thoughts—old recollections.

I think I can recall the first moment when I became really aware of the river; the valley had grown narrower, and the road, taking a sharp turn across a low stone bridge, ran along for a time by the river's side. The water came to meet us tumbling over the stones, brown, hasty, noisy, but wonderfully musical, fed by the endless silver threads that had hurried down the moors as winter melted into spring. Do trees growing beside other rivers bend quite so low, and so persistently keep their branches in the water, like children leaning over a boat's side for the pleasure of the trickle through their fingers? Do other rivers have such clear mossy holes and corners filled with green and gold and brown light, and such deep mysterious pools filled with trout? I have had a river for a friend which spoke to me when men were dumb, which dried tears on the eyes that looked into it, which did not reason with an unsatisfied heart, and made no reproach to want of courage. Its voice has been to me the handmaiden of religion, soothing what was strained in nature, and the gentle companion of sorrow, when the human voice would have been intolerable. My first introduction to this river was simply exhilarating: life flowed out of it, and its waters bubbled with delicious nonsense, as if it were chaffing, in schoolboy fashion, the old grey silence of the hilltops who