But there is a fairer resting-place beyond. Round this one more corner, now, and down,—carefully, carefully!—down this long stairway, formed of rough slabs of stone laid one below the other. Shut your eyes now for a moment, and let me lead you forward by the hand. And now—now open the eyes wide, wide, and look about you. In front, and under the windows of the old mill, the water comes foaming and rushing down over a rocky fall some sixty feet high, and leaps merrily into a second pool. No sombre, black gulf this, like the one above, but a lovely open circle, half in broad sunshine, half dappled with the fairy shadows of the boughs and ferns that bend lovingly over it. So the little brook is no longer angry, but mingles lovingly with the deep water of the pool, and then runs laughing and singing along the glen on its way down to the sea. On one side of this glen the bank rises abruptly some eighty feet, its sides clothed with sturdy birches which cling as best they may to the rocky steep. On the other stretches the little valley, a narrow strip of land, but with turf as fine as the Queen’s lawn, and trees that would proudly grace Her Majesty’s park,—tall Norway firs, raising their stately forms and pointing their long dark fingers sternly at the intruders on their solitude; graceful birches; and here and there a whispering larch or a nodding pine. The other wall of the valley, or glen, is less precipitous, and its sides are densely wooded, and fringed with barberry bushes and climbing eglantine.
And between these two banks, and over this green velvet carpet, and among these dark fir-trees,—ah! how the sun shines. Nowhere else in the whole land does he shine so sweetly, for he knows that his time there is short, and that the high banks will shut him out from that green, pleasant place long before he must say good-night to the more common-place fields and hill-sides. So here his beams rest right lovingly, making royal show of gold on the smooth grass, and of diamonds on the running water, and of opals and topazes and beryls where the wave comes curling over the little fall.
And now, amid all this pomp and play of sun and of summer, what is this dash of blue that makes a strange, though not a discordant, note in our harmony of gold and green? And what is that round, whitish object which is bobbing up and down with such singular energy? Why, the blue is Hildegarde’s dress, if you must know; and the whitish object is the head of Zerubbabel Chirk, scholar and devotee; and the energy with which said head is bobbing is the energy of determination and of study. Hilda and Bubble have made themselves extremely comfortable under the great ash-tree which stands in the centre of the glen. The teacher has curled herself up against the roots of the tree, and has a piece of work in her hands; but her eyes are wandering dreamily over the lovely scene before her, and she looks as if she were really too comfortable to move even a finger. The scholar lies at her feet, face downwards, his chin propped on his hands, his head bobbing up and down. The silence is only broken by the noise of the waterfall and the persistent chirping of some very cheerful little bird.