“No, no, try again, that or nothing.”
Again he started, and this time his genius took possession of him. The notes fell very softly at first, but with an ominous sound, then rose and wailed like the rising of the wind. Next the music came in gusts, the rain pattered, and the thunder roared, till at length the tempest seemed to spend its force and pass slowly away into the distance.
“There, sir, what do you say to that—have I fulfilled your expectations?”
“Write it down and it will be one of the finest pieces of violin music in the country.”
“Write it down. The divine ‘afflatus’ is not to be caged, sir, it comes and goes. I could never write that music down.”
Arthur felt in his pocket without answering, and found five shillings.
“If you will accept this?” he said.
“Thank you, sir, very much. I am gladder of five shillings now than I once was of as many pounds;” and he rose to go.
“A man of your talent should not be wandering about like this.”
“I must earn a living somehow, for all Talleyrand’s witticism to the contrary,” was the curious answer.
“Have you no friends?”
“No, sir, this is my only friend; all the rest have deserted me,” and he tapped his violin and was gone.
“Lord, sir,” said a farmer, who was standing by, “he’s gone to get drunk; he is the biggest old drunkard in the countryside, and yet they do say he was gentleman once, and the best fiddler in London; but he can’t be depended on, so no one will hire him now.”
“How sad,” said Angela, as they moved homewards.
“Yes, and what music that was; I never heard any with such imagination before. You have a turn that way, Angela; you should try to put it into words, it would make a poem.”
“I complain like the old man, that you set a difficult subject,” she said; “but I will try, if you will promise not to laugh at the result.”
“If you succeed on paper only half so well as he did on the violin, your verses will be worth listening to, and I certainly shall not laugh.”
On the following day the somewhat curious religious conversation between Arthur and Angela—a conversation which, begun on Arthur’s part out of curiosity, had ended on both sides very much in earnest— the weather broke up and the grand old English climate reasserted its treacherous supremacy. From summer weather the inhabitants of the county of Marlshire suddenly found themselves plunged into a spell of cold that was by contrast almost Arctic. Storms of sleet drove against the window-panes, and there was even a very damaging night-frost, while that dreadful scourge, which nobody in his senses except Kingsley can ever have liked, the east wind, literally pervaded the whole place, and went whistling through the surrounding trees and ruins in a way calculated to make even a Laplander shiver.