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Their father was waiting under an oak tree at the top of the hill, and pointed with his whip to the telegraph wire as they drew near.

"The swallows will soon be gone," he said. "They're making their plans."

They saw then that the wire at that point was dark with swallows, and the air alive with their rapid, eager twittering.

Delia and Lucy climbed into the dog-cart, and away they spanked up the winding road to Llanaeron. Beauty and the trap were put up at the inn stable, and then they all three walked across to the church. The women had already gone inside, but the men were standing in the churchyard, wearing their Sunday black. Delia and Lucy saw a dozen faces they knew: Mr Gethin and his three sons; Twm the Weeg; Mr Jones, Pantycrasty; Abraham Williams with his glass eye; Denis, whom they had not seen since the haymaking, and Evan the Shoof, so called because his aunt had once kept the Sheaf Inn.

They went into church, which smelt like the apple-room, the potato-house and a cornfield rolled into one, and there was Davey John, who showed them into a seat in the front, with a bunch of Michaelmas daisies fastened to one end, and a window-sill at the other covered with carrots and shiny apples. Opposite them was the pulpit, where Delia spotted the Pengarth grapes and dahlias. In front of it were a small stack of wheat, several jars of honey, a basket of damsons and an enormous pumpkin. Then Abraham Williams's son, Llewelyn, who seemed, curiously, to have inherited his father's glass eye, began pulling out the stops of the harmonium and in came the clergy - Mr Morgan, the vicar of Llanaeron, a long, thin, black man, and the two visitors - Mr Price of Llandre, fumbling under the surplice for his spectacles, and Mr Tudor Thomas of Llegodig, looking as round, rosy and polished as the apples on the window-sill.

They began by singing We plough the fields and scatter - a hymn which Delia and Lucy knew well, so that they both sang it with great enjoyment and at the tops of their voices.

The clergymen then took it in turns to do things, and it seemed to Lucy that Mr Morgan did more than his share - which showed a lack of good manners towards his visitors. Mr Price read the lessons, but there was hardly anything at all left for poor Mr Thomas to do, although he did not seem to mind.

Lucy wondered which of them would preach the sermon, and how they settled it beforehand. Perhaps they recited Grandmother's rhyme in the vestry - One-ery, two-ery, three-ery, same,

Bottle of vinegar, who'll be game?

Ex and squary,

Virgin Mary . . .

Quite suitable, thought Lucy, and obviously they had done it that way, for otherwise it was Mr Thomas's turn, and here was Mr Price climbing up the pulpit steps, and opening the Bible very carefully between the bunches of oats and the nodding dahlias.

Mr Price chose his text from the story of Ruth and Boaz.

Continues on Monday
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 17, 2007
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