The young giant dropped back into his chair, and doubtless a second spiritual gust was preparing to shake the company—you could feel it in the air—when Godolphus intervened. That absurd animal, abashed by a series of snubbings, probably saw a chance to rehabilitate himself. For certain during the last few minutes he had been growing excited, sitting up with bright eyes, and opening and shutting his mouth as in a dumb effort at barking. Now, to the amazement of all, including the sheep-dogs, he lifted himself upon his hind legs and began to gyrate slowly.
Everyone stared. In the tension nobody yet laughed, although Tilda, throwing a glance toward the chimney-corner, saw the shepherd’s jaw relax in a grin. Her head yet swam. She felt a spell upon her that must be broken now or never.
“’Dolph!” she called, and wondered at the shrill sound of her own voice. “’Dolph!” She was standing erect, crooking her arm. The dog dropped on his fore-paws, crouched, and sprang through the hoop she made for him; crouched, sprang back again, alighted, and broke into a paean of triumphant yelps.
Tilda was desperate now. With a happy inspiration she waved her hand to the ancient jack against the wall, and ’Dolph sprang for it, though he understood the command only. But he was a heavy dog, and as the rusty machine began to revolve under his weight, his wits jumped to the meaning of it, and he began to run like a turnspit demented.
The Minister had arisen, half-scandalised, on the point of calling for silence; but his eyes fell on Tilda, and he too dropped back into his chair. The child had raised both arms, and was bending her body back—back—until her fingers touched the hem of her skirt behind her. Her throat even sank out of view behind her childish bust. The shepherd’s pipe dropped, and was smashed on the hearthstone. There was a silence, while still Godolphus continued to rotate. Someone broke it, suddenly gasping “Hallelujah!”
“Amen! Tis working—’tis working!”
In despite of the Minister, voice after voice took up the clamour. Farmer Tossell’s louder than any. And in the height of the fervour Tilda bent her head yet lower, twisted her neck sideways, and stared up at the ring of faces from between her ankles!
THE HUNTED STAG.
“Three hundred gentlemen, able to ride,
Three hundred horses as gallant and free,
Beheld him escape on the evening tide
Far out till he sank in the Severn Sea . . .
The stag, the runnable stag.”—JOHN DAVIDSON.