'I would rather be an angel than God!'
The voice of the speaker sounded clearly through the hawthorn tree. The young man and
the young girl who sat together on the low tombstone looked at each other. They had
heard the voices of the two children talking, but had not noticed what they said; it was the
sentiment, not the sound, which roused their attention.
The girl put her finger to her lips to impress silence, and the man nodded; they sat as still
as mice whilst the two children went on talking.
The scene would have gladdened a painter's heart. An old churchyard. The church low
and square-towered, with long mullioned windows, the yellow-grey stone roughened by
age and tender-hued with lichens. Round it clustered many tombstones tilted in all
directions. Behind the church a line of gnarled and twisted yews.
The churchyard was full of fine trees. On one side a magnificent cedar; on the other a
great copper beech. Here and there among the tombs and headstones many beautiful
blossoming trees rose from the long green grass. The laburnum glowed in the June
afternoon sunlight; the lilac, the hawthorn and the clustering meadowsweet which fringed
the edge of the lazy stream mingled their heavy sweetness in sleepy fragrance. The
yellow-grey crumbling walls were green in places with wrinkled harts-tongues, and were
topped with sweet-williams and spreading house-leek and stone-crop and wild- flowers
whose delicious sweetness made for the drowsy repose of perfect summer.
But amid all that mass of glowing colour the two young figures seated on the grey old
tomb stood out conspicuously. The man was in conventional hunting-dress: red coat,
white stock, black hat, white breeches, and top-boots. The girl was one of the richest,
most glowing, and yet withal daintiest figures the eye of man could linger on. She was in
riding-habit of hunting scarlet cloth; her black hat was tipped forward by piled-up masses
red-golden hair. Round her neck was a white lawn scarf in the fashion of a man's hunting-
stock, close fitting, and sinking into a gold-buttoned waistcoat of snowy twill. As she sat
with the long skirt across her left arm her tiny black top-boots appeared underneath. Her
gauntleted gloves were of white buckskin; her riding-whip was plaited of white leather,
topped with ivory and banded with gold.
Even in her fourteenth year Miss Stephen Norman gave promise of striking beauty;
beauty of a rarely composite character. In her the various elements of her race seemed to
have cropped out. The firm- set jaw, with chin broader and more square than is usual in a
woman, and the wide fine forehead and aquiline nose marked the high descent from
Saxon through Norman. The glorious mass of red hair, of the true flame colour, showed
the blood of another ancient ancestor of Northern race, and suited well with the
voluptuous curves of the full, crimson lips. The purple-black eyes, the raven eyebrows