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There was no sound in the room but the low hissing of his sibilants.

Llwellyn's face became white, and then ashen grey. His whole body seemed to shrink from his clothes ; he trembled terribly.

Then he broke away from his host and ran to the fireplace with an odd, jerky movement, and sank cowering into an arm-chair, filled with an unutterable dread.

As morning stole into the room the Professor took a bundle of bills and acknowledgements from Schuabe and thrust them into the fire with a great sob of relief.

Then he turned into a bedroom and sank into the deep slumber of absolute exhaustion.

He did not go to the Museum that day.

CHAPTER VII

LAST WORDS AT WALKTOWN

THE

'HE great building of the Walktown national schools

blazed with light. Every window was a patch of vivid orange in the darkness of the walls. The whole place was pervaded by a loud, whirring hum of talk and laughter and an incredible rattle of plates and saucers.

In one of the classrooms downstairs Helena Byars, with a dozen other ladies of the parish, presided over a scene of intense activity. Huge urns of tea ready mixed with the milk and sugar, were being carried up the stone stairs to the big schoolroom by willing hands. Piles of thick sandwiches of ham, breakfast-cups of mustard, hundreds of slices of moist wedge-shaped cake covered the tables, lessening rapidly as they were carried away to the crowded rooms above.

A Lancashire church tea-party was in full swing, for this was the occasion when Basil Gortre was to say an official farewell to the people among whom he had worked in the North.

In the tea-room itself several hundred people were making an enormous meal at long tables, under flaring, naked gas-lights, which sent shimmering vapours of heat up to the pitch-pine beams of the room above.

On the walls of the schoolroom hung long, map-like pictures, heavily glazed. Some of them were representations of foreign animals, or trees and plants, with the names printed below each in thick black type. Others represented scenes from the life of Christ, and though somewhat stiff and wooden, showed clearly the immense strides that educational art has taken during the past

few years.

At one end of the room was a platform running along its length. Some palms and tree-ferns in pots, chairs, a grand piano, and some music stands, promised a concert when tea should be over.

All the ladies of the parish were acting as attendants, or presiding at the urns on each table. There could be no doubt that the people were in a state of high good humour and enjoyment. Every now and again a great roar of laughter would break through the prevailing hum from one table or another. Despite the almost stifling heat and a mixed odour of humanity and ham, which a sensitive person might have shrunk from, the rough, merry Lancashire folk were happy as may be.

Basil Gortre, in his long, black coat, his skin somewhat pale from his long illness, walked from table to table, spending a few minutes at each. His face was wreathed in perpetual smiles, and roars of laughter followed each sally of his wit, a homely cut-and-thrust style of humour adapted to his audience. The fat mothers of families, wives of prosperous colliers and artisans, with their thick gold earrings and magenta frocks, beamed motherhood and kindliness at him. The Sunday-school teachers giggled and blushed with pleasure when he spoke.

The vicar, smiling paternally as was his wont, walked up and down the gangways also, toying with the pincenez at his breast, and very successfully concealing the fact from every one that he was by no means in the seventh heaven of happiness. Tea-parties, so numerous and popular in the North, were always somewhat of a trial to him.

Basil and Mr. Byars met in the middle of the room when the tea was nearly over. Tears were gleaming in the eyes of the younger man.

“It is hard to leave them all,” he said. “How good and kind they are, how hearty! And these are the people I thought disliked me and misunderstood me. I resented what I thought was a vulgar familiarity and a coarse dislike. But how different they are beneath the surface !"

“They have warm, loyal hearts, Basil," said the vicar. “It is a pity that such uncouth manners and exteriors should go with them. Surface graces may not mean much, but there is no doubt they have a tremendous influence over the human mind. During your illness the whole parish thought of little else, I really believe. And to-night you will have very practical evidence of their friendship. You know, of course, that there is going to be a presentation ?"

“Yes. I could n't help knowing that much, though I wish they would n't.”

“It is very good of them. Now I shall call for grace.”

The vicar made his way on to the platform and loudly clapped his hands. The tumult died suddenly away into silence, punctuated here and there by a belated rattle of a teacup and the spasmodic choking of some one endeavouring to bolt a large piece of cake in a hurry.

“We will now sing grace,” Mr. Byars said in a clear and audible voice,-"the Old Hundred, following our usual custom.”

As he spoke a little, bearded man in a frock-coat clambered up beside him. This was Mr. Cuthbert, the organist of the parish church. The little man pulled a tuning-fork from his pocket and struck it on the back of a chair.

Then he held it to his ear for a moment. The people had all risen, and the room was now quite silent.

"La !” sang the little organist, giving the note in a long, melodious call.

He raised his hand, gave a couple of beats in the air, and the famous old hymn burst out royally. The great volumn of sound seemed too fierce and urgent even for that spacious room. It pressed against the ear-drums almost with pain, though sung with the perfect time and tune which are the heritage of the sweet-voiced Northcountry folk :

All people that on earth do dwell,

Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice !
How hearty it was! How strong and confident!

As Basil Gortre listened his heart expanded in love and fellowship towards these brother Christians. The dark phantoms which had rioted in his sick brain during the long weeks of his illness lay dead and harmless now. The monstrous visions of a conventional and formal Christianity, covering a world of secret and gibing atheism, seemed incredibly far removed from the glorious truth, as these strong, homely people sang a fullvoiced ave to the great brooding Trinity of Power and Love unseen, but all around them.

Who was he to be refined and too dainty for his uses ? There seemed nothing incongruous in the picture before

The litter of broken ham, the sloppy cups, the black-coated men with brilliant sky-blue satin ties, the women with thick gnarled hands and clothes the colour of a copper kettle, what were they now but his very own brethren, united in this burst of praise?

And he joined in the doxology with all his heart and voice, his clear tenor soaring joyously above the rest :

his eyes.

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