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The Well And The Chapel
by [?]

We paid him for his trouble, with a coin that made him so gratefully bewildered that he said to us: “Now, gentlemen, if there’s anything else that you want, give it a name; and if you meet any one as you go away, say ‘Perrett told me’ (Perrett’s my name), and then you’ll see!” What the precise virtue of this invocation was, we did not have an opportunity of testing, but that it was a talisman to unlock hidden doors, I make no doubt.

We went back silently over the fields, with the wonder of the thing still in our minds. To think of the pure wells bubbling and flashing, by day and by night, in the hot summer weather, when the smell of the wood lies warm in the sun; on cold winter nights under moon and stars, for ever casting up the bright elastic jewel, that men call water, and feeding the flowing stream that wanders to the sea. I was very full of gratitude to the pure maiden saint that lent her name to the well and I am sure she never had a more devout pair of worshippers.

So we sped on in silence, thinking–at least I thought–how the water leaped and winked in the sacred wells, and how clear showed the chalk, and the leaves that lay at the bottom: till at last we drew to our other goal. “Here is the gate,” said my companion at last.

On one side of the road stood a big substantial farm; on the other, by a gate, was a little lodge. Here a key was given us by an old hearty man, with plenty of advice of a simple and sententious kind, until I felt as though I were enacting a part in some little Pilgrim’s Progress, and as if Mr Interpreter himself, with a very grave smile, would come out and have me into a room by myself, to see some odd pleasant show that he had provided. But it was perhaps more in the manner of Evangelist, for our guide pointed with his finger across a very wide field, and showed us a wicket to enter in at.

Here was a great flat grassy pasture, the water again very near the surface, as the long-leaved water-plants, that sprawled in all the ditches, showed. But when we reached the wicket we seemed to be as far removed from humanity as dwellers in a lonely isle. A few cattle grazed drowsily, and the crisp tearing of the grass by their big lips came softly across the pasture. Inside the wicket stood a single ancient house, uninhabited, and festooned with ivy into a thing more bush than house; though a small Tudor window peeped from the leaves, like the little suspicious eye of some shaggy beast.

A stone’s throw away lay a large square moat, full of water, all fringed with ancient gnarled trees; the island which it enclosed was overgrown with tiny thickets of dishevelled box-trees, and huge sprawling laurels; we walked softly round it, and there was our goal: a small church of a whitish stone, in the middle of a little close of old sycamores in stiff summer leaf.

It stood so remote, so quietly holy, so ancient, that I could think of nothing but the “old febel chapel” of the Morte d’Arthur. It had, I know not why, the mysterious air of romance all about it. It seemed to sit, musing upon what had been and what should be, smilingly guarding some tender secret for the pure-hearted, full of the peace the world cannot give.

Within it was cool and dark, and had an ancient holy smell; it was furnished sparely with seat and screen, and held monuments of old knights and ladies, sleeping peacefully side by side, heads pillowed on hands, looking out with quiet eyes, as though content to wait.