Just as it struck eight, and the hum of the clock in the hall died away, a little tune in harmony, like a gavotte, was played by softly-tingling tiny bells. I could not tell where the music came from; it seemed to me like the Ariel music in The Tempest, between earth and heaven, or the “chiming shower of rare device” in The Beryl Stone.
Father Payne smiled at the little gesture I involuntarily made. “You’re right!” he said, when it was over. “How can people talk through that? It’s the clock in the gallery that does it—they say it belonged to George III. I hope, if so, that it gave him a few happier moments! It is an ingenious little thing, with silver bells and hammers; I’ll show it you some day. It rings every four hours.”
“I think I had rather not see the machinery,” I said. “I never heard anything so delicious.”
“You’re right again,” said Father Payne;
isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.’
Let it stay at that!”
I little thought how much I should grow to connect that fairy gavotte with Aveley. It always seemed to me like a choir of spirits. I would awake sometimes on summer nights and hear it chiming in the silent house, or at noon it would come faintly through the passages. That, and the songs of the birds in the shrubberies, always flash into my mind when I think of the place; because it was essentially a silent house, more noiseless than any I have ever lived in; and I love the thought of its silence; and of its fragrance—for that was another note of the place. In the hall stood great china jars with pierced covers, which were always full of pot-pourri; there was another in the library, and another in Father Payne’s study, and two more in the passage above which looked out by the little gallery upon the hall. Silence and fragrance always, in the background of all we did; and outlining itself upon the stillness, the little melody, jetting out like a fountain of silver sound.
That evening after dinner we two were left with Barthrop in the smoking-room, and we talked freely about Father Payne. Barthrop said that his past was a little mysterious. “He was at Marlborough, you know, and Oxford; and after that, he lived in town, took pupils, and tried to write—but he was not successful, and had much difficulty in getting along.” “What is his line exactly?” said Vincent. “That’s just it,” said Barthrop, “he hasn’t any line. He has a wide knowledge of things, and is quicker at picking up the drift of a subject than anyone I know; and he has a rare power of criticism. But he isn’t anything in particular. He can’t write a bit, he is not a speaker, he isn’t learned, he can teach able people, but he couldn’t teach stupid men—he hasn’t enough patience. I can’t imagine any line of life for which he