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STORIES OF WALES. BY W. LLEWELYN WILLIAMS, Author of "Gwilym a Benni Bach" "Gwr y Dolau," &c." I.—SECOND SIGHT. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Hamlet. Twmi Price was the most prosaic figure in our village. He was short, stout, and plethoric. In early youth he had been a blacksmith and an Independent. But he had married the widow of the Three Horse Shoes, and before he was 30, he had retired to the easy comfort of the inn kitchen, and year by year he had filled the office of vicar's churchwarden. Twmi was popular with all men, for he offended none, he drank with all, and there was in him an absence of political and sectarian rancour which made him an ideal host of a village inn. His popularity was none the less with the simple people of the parish because he was credited with the gift of second sight. The chance that Twmi might make the drinker's flesh creep j^by describing the last "toilu" (or phantom funeral) he had seen added spice to Twmi's muddy home- brewed ale. The belief in Twmi's weird gift was universal in the parish of Llanelwid, nor, so far as I know, did the belief do anybody any particular harm. Certain it is that Twmi himself had a steadfast faith in his own powers. He never paraded them. He was a taciturn, though a genial man, and it was only after much pressure and many pints of ale that he could be induced to speak of them at all. Twmi had long come to look upon himself as a member of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. The chief object of his reverence was the vicar, and only a little lower than the angel was the curate for the time being. In the spring of 1900 a new curate came upon the scene in the person of the Rev. John Williams, M.A., late Classical Exhibitioner of Jesus College, Oxford. The Rev. John, it need hardly be said, was a native of Cardigan- shire, and came of a sturdy Nonconformist stock. Unlike some of his brethren, however, he did not despise the rock from which he was hewn, or scorn the simple religion of his fathers. He was no great scholar or preacher but he was what is better,—a fine, manly young fellow, with a heart of gold. He had been a great athlete in his college days, and he found it difficult to find an outlet for his over- flowing energies in a little rural parish like Llanelwid. He threw himself with the utmost keenness into- all the parish activities. He helped to start a village reading-room, he organised concerts and literary meetings, he started a United Choir to compete at local Eisteddfodau,—in a word, he became the life and soul of the parish. The Rev. John had been three months at Llanelwid before he heard that Twmi Price, the vicar's churchwarden, was believed to possess the gift of second sight. With his usual energy and directness he went straight to see Twmi. "Twmi," he said, when at last he sat opposite the flabby little man in the inn kitchen, "what is this I hear about your gift of second sight ? Who told you, sir ? asked Twmi, cautiously. "Who told me?" said the curate, impatiently. Why. I am told everyone in the parish believes it." Well, sir," replied Twmi, with a roguish twinkle in his eye, "you see they haven't been to college like you." "But, Twmi Price," said the curate, "don't you see that you ought not to let the poor people believe in.these old superstitions. Why, _0- Copyright 1905 by W. Llewelyn Williams in the United States of America. they actually believe you can foretell who is the next person to die in the parish." "Well, well," replied Twmi, easily, "but I never tell anybody." No," said the Rev. John, "I don't mean for a moment that you believe in such foolery. But, don't you see, you, as churchwarden, a church officer, ought to refuse to be a party to such a superstition." "But, sir," asked Twmi, "what can I do?" Do ? retorted the curate somewhat angrily. "Do? your duty is plain enough. Tell them that it is all rubbish, that no mortal man can know the secrets of God, and that you make no claim to any such gift." Twmi smoked his pipe reflectively for a moment. Then he said gravely "I'm sorry, sir, I can't do that." "Why not?" Because it would be a lie," replied Twmi, solemnly. "Nonsense!" said the curate. "Don't think you can impose upon me in that way. I am surprised that a man of your intelligence should think it possible to impose on an edu- MR. W. LLEWELYN WILLIAMS. cated man at this time of day by such utter rot." "Well, sir," answered Twmi, "I have done all I could to get rid of my gift. I don't want it. I hate it. I hate to know that a man who is drinking his pint with me one day will be dead within a week. It makes me miserable, and I never know whether I ought to warn the unhappy man or not." Warn the man exclaimed the curate. I am shocked at you, Twmi, Of course you should not warn the man. You would only frighten him, if not to the grave, to a serious illness, with your silly twaddle." Twmi, good-natured though he was, flushed under this open scorn. Well, sir,' he said, "I am no Oxford scholar like you, and maybe you are right to think it is all foolishness. But I know what I know, and I could tell you this moment, worse luck who will be the next to go in this parish. I saw the 'toilu' only last Sunday night." Twmi bach," queried the Reverend John, rather more indulgently; "do you really mean to say you believe, and wish me to believe, such stuff? You may do as you like, sir," said Twmi, now becoming indignant. I don't want to be different from other men, and I have often prayed God to take away from me the gift He gave. But He won't. I shall have it till I am gone. I shall go on seeing the funerals of my neighbours and friends before my eyes without having the courage to warn them. I never told my poor wife —— Twmi leapt to his feet in growing excitement; his voice was raised almost to a shriek. "Last night," he continued, "I saw another, and now, now—Oh God, no no!—take it away take it away He fell back on his seat, trembling, gasping for breath, with beads of perspiration trickling from his forehead down his common-place pudding face. The Reverend John gazed at Twmi curiously and coldly. What's all this, Twmi ? he asked. Man, you seem to have all the tricks of impostors all the world over. I have read too much about them to be imposed upon." Twmi said nothing, but only hung his head sullenly. Now, Twmi," went on the curate, putting a friendly hand on Twmi's shoulder, I'll say nothing about all this if you'll promise to do your best to kill this foolish superstition." Twmi shook his head. "I can't," he said laconically. "Now, now, Twmi," exclaimed Mr. Williams, really you are too provoking Since you won't be reasoned out of your fad, will you sub- mit it to a test? Write down the names of these three people whose toilu' you say you have seen." "No, I won't," interrupted Twmi, angrily. There you are," said the curate in high good humour, you won't put your belief to the proof though you refuse to give it up." I'll name the first one," blurted out Twmi, though it's a thing I have not done for years." Oh, one exclaimed the curate, sarcas- tically, "that would be no good. You might make a lucky shot which would convince you more than ever, but you could not pull it off three times." It would be as easy for me to put three names as one," said Twmi. but "There are no 'buts' in the matter," broke in the curate, impatiently. I look upon this as a serious thing; and since you won't listen to reason, I shall speak to the vicar about it. It is scandalous that a churchwarden should pander to the superstition of ignorant people in this way The curate got up to go. Twmi sat fidgeting restlessly on his seat. He was afraid he would lose his valued office, but could not make up his mind what to do. At last he said, Well, sir, since you insist upon it, I'll put down the three names on slips of paper, and put them in envelopes. I'll number the envelopes 1, 2, and 3, and give them to Mr. Jones, the schoolmaster, to keep, and he can open them after each death, and see if I am right or not." Mr. Jones, the schoolmaster, was no favourite of the curate's. He objected to him. •' Why can't you give the envelopes to the vicar ? said he. I don't want the vicar to be bothered with such a thing" said Twmi. It must be Mr. Jones or no one." Mr. Jones, the school, be it then" said the curate, laughing joyously. He felt that he was on the way to scotch, if not to kill, this evil superstition which he had been shocked to find still lingering in the heart of Car- marthenshire. Twmi went to the parlour where he kept his pen and ink. He laboriously spelt out three names on separate slips of paper, and placed each slip in an envelope, carefully