Friday 29 April 2016

Injection (vol. 1)

Warren Ellis (writer)
Declan Shalvey (artist)
Jordie Bellaire (colourist)
Image Comics

A few years ago, a public/private partnership between the British Government and a multinational company saw five clever people placed in university-owned offices and allowed to do whatever they liked. It was called the Cultural Cross-Contamination Unit, and the idea was that it would hothouse new thinking and new patents. Five actual geniuses, all probably crazy, very eccentric, put in one place and given carte blanche to think about ways to approach and change the future. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
They did A Crazy Thing, which was referred to as The Injection. A mysterious Thing that they did in order to make the 21st Century better and stranger. It got out. It got loose into the fabric of the 21st Century, whatever it was, and now things are getting weird and ugly, faster and faster.  
So a few years have passed. They've all gone their separate ways, into separate "jobs" that allow them to follow and sometimes deal with the repercussions of The Injection. We are in the period where the toxic load of The Injection is at such a level that events that are essentially paranormal in nature are coming faster and faster, headed towards a point where humanity won't easily be able to live on the planet any more. Not a Singularity of glory, but an irretrievable constant blare of horror coming too thick and fast for anything to deal with.

Warren Ellis
I love Warren's work.  I gave up on comics in the early 90s, sold off the majority of my collection and blew the money on... well, let's just say I blew the money.  About 10 years later having cleaned up considerably I picked up a copy of the first 'Transmetropolitan' book in a HMV in Cardiff.  After standing there reading for 10 minutes (it's quite short) I left with it and the next 2 volumes in hand.  It brought me back, somewhat, into the fold and I will sing his praises to anyone who'll sit still long enough to listen.  So, pull up a chair and let me tell you why this book is an absolute must for all fans of Wyrd Britain storytelling.

Those of you familiar with Warren's work, in particular, 'Planetary' (and perhaps 'Global Frequency') will recognise in 'Injection' his love of playing with genre archetypes, making them dance to the subtly different tune that the current zeitgeist is playing.

Declan Shalvey
What we have is a team book which is, of course, a staple of comics and is a trope that Warren very much re-invigorated with his 'widescreen' superheroics on 'Stormwatch' and 'The Authority'.  Here though, as I mentioned earlier, it's his other, non spandex, team book that springs most readily to mind.  In that previous series his characters were dealing with the events and consequences of the 'fictions' of the 20th century.  They were investigating the genre staples that have defined modern tastes such as the superhero - both the pulpy variety and the grim and grrr version of the late 80s / early 90s - monster movies, noir, etc.  Here, his characters are concerned with an older and more deeply fundamental and, so far at least, decidedly British folkloric fictions;  they are accessing the stories behind the stories and are dealing with the impacts these stories are having on their lives and the country as a whole.

Maria Kilbride
'Injection' tells of a 'team' of four very distinct people who make up the 'Cultural Cross-Contamination Unit', a governmental think-tank that takes it upon itself to avoid the predicted death of innovation and the entropic decay of the 21st century by injecting a non-biological consciousness into the physics of the world to "make the 21st century more interesting".  Part spell, part AI the consciousness or 'injection' begins to serve it's purpose accessing and utilising the folklore of the British Isles to add that extra spice that the CCCU were so keen on stimulating especially at the point we join the story as it starts communicating with it's creators.

Robin Morei
The core (no longer a) team make for a pretty intriguing prospect.  A Holmes-esque investigator named Vivek Headland - immaculate, aloof and seemingly an utter control freak watching over his former comrades from his ultra-minimalist New York penthouse furnished with only a phone, a white devil, a very tall chair, a folding table and an inedible sandwich - Simeon Winters - a gadget laden super spy / assassin - Brigid Roth - computer whizz and creator of the aforementioned A.I. - Robin Morei - who is absolutely "not a fucking wizard" but is descended from a long line of cunning folk - and heading it all is "the only authentic genius most people will ever meet", Maria Kilbride who is trying very hard "to make up for a terrible thing she did".  They make for a very interesting quintet with Robin and Maria showing themselves to be, for me at least, fascinating characters as I'm always a sucker for an anarchic magician and a hard as nails rampaging scientist.

Obviously this is only the first 5 issues of a brand new series and Warren excels at teasing out his stories and keeping you guessing, hoping, wondering and hankering in equal measures.  As I said earlier I am a fan and I'll happily follow wherever he happens to take a story and this time out it's started in a place that rings every single one of my Wyrd Britain bells.  Like it's author, 'Injection' is steeped in the stories of the British Isles; the stories both ancient and modern that define that very British sense of the fantastical from the creatures of legend to the type of nightmares conjured up by an Etonian schoolmaster, from the detective fantasies of a Scottish physician to the pioneering scientist with his own Experimental Rocket Group and of an entire generation of post-war British authors who destroyed the world again and again and again.  This book bleeds them all but does so in a way that mixes them with Warren's voracious appetite for the new, the unique and the unorthodox and presents them alongside Shalvey and Bellaire's breathtaking artwork as a bold and beautiful re-invigoration that makes for an enthralling read.

Buy it here:  Injection Volume 1 (Injection Tp)

Saturday 23 April 2016

The Midwich Cuckoos

John Wyndham's - The Midwich Cuckoos.
Published in 1957, 'The Midwich Cuckoos' was the fourth of John Wyndham's post war novels after 'The Day of the Triffids', 'The Kraken Wakes' & 'The Chrysalids'. 

The book tells of the mysterious 'Dayout' suffered by the population of the town of Midwich and the subsequent discovery that every woman of child bearing age in the village has become pregnant.

Many people will be familiar with the story through the fantastic 1960 MGM movie 'Village of the Damned' starring George Sanders, Barbara Shelley and Martin Stephens as their fabulously creepy 'son', David.  Some of you may even know it through the risible 1995 John Carpenter remake starring Chrisopher Reeve.

The version below is a BBC Radio adaptation from 1982 starring William Gaunt (who played Richard Barrett in 'The Champions'), Charles Kay and Pauline Yates (perhaps most famously known as Elizabeth - wife of Reggie - Perrin) and with music by Roger Limb of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.  It's a remarkably well-mannered adaption that seems like it should have been made in 1962 rather than 1982 but it does retain much of the post war character of the original material.

Saturday 16 April 2016

The British Space Group - The Phantasmagoria

About 6 years ago I came to the painful realisation that I probably was never going to soundtrack one of those cool gothic Doctor Who episodes of the Philip Hinchcliffe era full of robot mummies, dilapidated country piles, mad scientists laboratories and Victorian sewers.  The bird hadn't so much flown on that one as much as that the egg from which the bird would have to hatch in order to one day fly away had never been laid. So, I made my own.

The process was simple.  I came up with some characters led by a Thomas Carnacki, John Silence, Doctor Who type chap and a list of plot points that I thought gave a suitably vague story arc (so that I didn't have to do any actual story writing) and then composed around that list.

I wanted this to be a fresh new start so I used an entirely new (to me) set of musical tools both to avoid slipping into any old habits or any of the same old compositional tricks I've used over the years and also in order to get a more appropriate sonic pallette and so armed I set about writing a suite of tunes that would evoke the music that had defined my ears.  In line with the soundtrack idea I deliberately kept the music short and, in order to evoke an air of suitable menace and otherness,  fairly atonal but on a couple of tracks I tried my hand at a tune or two which was a big step for someone who'd spent the last 12 years avoiding them like the plague.

That first Phantasms EP came together over the course of a couple of weeks and the response was enthusiastic enough to plant the seed to make another one.

By now though I'd satisfied my Doctor Who hankering and I wanted to take inspiration from another show from my youth, Sapphire & Steel.  A show that had such an impact on a young me that I still flinch when having my photo taken. I got far more involved with my plot points this time round and I needed to remind myself of the oddness of that particular show and the way the mundane bled into the obtuse.  Like the show, I wanted to avoid the obvious, keep resolutions to a minimum and maintain a fairly constant atmosphere of unease. This second EP duly made it's way onto Bandcamp

By now I realised that this Phantasms thing was destined, in the great tradition of science fiction, to be a trilogy and so I duly embarked on the third part and hit a creative brick wall.  To do the final entry in my holy trinity of Wyrd Britain sci-fi I'd have to have done 'Quatermass' next but that seemed to me to be a project in it's own right but I really wanted to round things off and say goodbye to these, partially formed, un-named travellers who have lived in my head for the last 6 years.

And so, in the end, I did just that.  I envisioned a story whereby the travellers are summoned to go on a journey to say a final goodbye to their comrade who has chosen to finally stop in this new place.  He stays, they depart and all eventually find their way home.

This one was undoubtedly the most difficult of the three to write and record.  Half of the music came fairly quickly but then I kept getting distracted from it by work commitments and various other projects but once I'd established the narrative the final tunes were written and recorded in a few days.  This third EP was finally released onto Bandcamp a few weeks ago, some 5 and a half years after the first one went live.

So, over half a decade on from the initial whim to do something different and having enjoyed doing it so much that  I've now adopted a new name under which to record this more, I suppose, radiophonic and hauntologically inclined music and I've decided to give the three EPs their time in the sun.  Having previously only been available digitally via our Bandcamp page I've now collected the 3, given them a spiffy new name, some smart new black and white artwork and have made them available on disc for the first time.

BTW - The three separate EPs are still online for those who may already have some of the parts and have no need to buy all three.

The Phantasmagoria is out now and available on both disc and digitally via the Quiet World Bandcamp page.

I hope you enjoy.

Thursday 14 April 2016

Wyrd Britain Mix 9

It's been a few months since we did one of these mixes so I thought it was high time for a new one.

This time we've included a couple of our favourites from last year, some old favourites and some highlights from the first few months of 2016, a year that seems determined to wipe out as many musicians and actors as it possibly can.  As I type this news has broke of the passing of Gareth Thomas who, as Roj Blake (in 'Blake's 7') and as Adam Brake (in 'Children of the Stones') amongst many other roles, is an icon of Wyrd Britain.  This one is for you sir.  We thank you for your work.

The player is, as ever, at the bottom of this post.

I hope you enjoy


Opening this here cavalcade of sinewy, sonic shapeliness is the bone aching loveliness of The Dandelion Set whose gobsmackingly good new album we reviewed in these here pages a short while ago.  This track, 'Tone Garden', is an itty bitty ditty that seemed like too good an opener to not use especially as it begins with such cool opening dialogue.

The horticultural theme is continued with one of my own tunes, 'The Synaesthetic Garden' by The British Space Group which is part of my 'Phantasms' trilogy of radiophonic miniatures newly collected together and released on disc and digitally as 'The Phanstasmagoria'.  You'll excuse the shameless self promotion but needs must and all that.

Jon Brooks' 'Walberswick'was a real highlight of last year and here but one that was fairly difficult to get hold of and so here we present a track to help tide you over until a reissue appears.

Another one of last years gems was the debut EP from Reading's tongue mangling folktronica collective Revbjelde.  This years new album is a slightly more angular affair but one that is filled with delights such as this fun ditty that feels like it's been lifted from the opening credits of a 1970s kids TV show which is something Wyrd Britain heartily approves of.

King Crimson are a band that never managed to grab me,  prog was never my thing, but I stumbled across this the other day and was a little bit blown away.  Prog tropes are noticeable by their absence and in their place is a rather lovely, floaty Krautrock-like guitar and electronica tune.

We gave an early shout out the Matt Saunders' Assembled Minds album in our best of 2015 list but as we had an early copy and it wasn't actually out until a few weeks into this year he's not actually featured in one of these mixes and it's something anyone with an interest in electronic music will thoroughly dig.

Orbital are one of those bands that always seem to have been there.  I still maintain that their version of the Doctor Who theme should have been used for the revised series but you can't have it all so here's a tune about, I presume, underwear.

I do like to include a Trunk Records release in these mixes and so this month it's the turn of the unusually named Cults Percussion Ensemble,  this is an album made by young (female) musicians living in and around the Aberdeen suburb of Cults - and you all thought it was something creepy - and features a young Evelyn Glennie as part of the group and it's an album I really can't recommend highly enough.

Drew Mulholland's Mount Vernon Arts Lab investigate the ghosts of martians past on a track from the Ghost Box reissue of the fabulous 'The Séance at Hobs Lane' before the Mix ends with a beautifully calm piece from Godflesh's Justin Broadrick's dark ambient project Final.

Sunday 10 April 2016

The Doombolt Chase

'The Doombolt Chase'  was an adventure serial for kids with a science fiction bent produced by HTV in early 1978 that tells of three teenagers, Richard, Lucy & Pete, as they rampage around the Bristol Channel and the Brecon Beacons in an attempt to establish the truth about Richard's Naval Commander fathers court martial.

The teens are played, with varying degrees of success, by three young actors (Andrew Ashby, Shelley Crowhurst & Richard Willis) who seem to have all faded into obscurity immediately following their 6 episodes of fame.  Each though makes the most of what they have and attack their roles with gusto with particular kudos going to Shelley Crowhurst who as Lucy has to endure some very dodgy gender politics and comes through it all not only as probably the action hero of the piece but with her strident west country accent and matter of fact manners as the comic relief also.

The trio are surrounded by a number of familiar faces on British TV of the time including a small role for Simon MacCorkindale - a year away from his tussles with the Planet People in Quatermass - Frederick Jaeger - a Doctor Who regular, most notably as K9's creator, Professor Marius -  Peter Vaughan - Porridge's Harry Grout - and Wyrd Britain TV legend, John Woodnutt - who appeared in four Doctor Who serials, The Tomorrow People, The Boy From Space & Children of the Stones.

The series was written by another regular in these pages, Don Houghton, who had already written scripts for 'Ace of Wands', Doctor Who ('Inferno' & 'Mind of Evil'), several early 70s Hammer movies and would later go on to co-write Assignment 5 of Sapphire & Steel (the one that looks like a Poirot story).  Here he revisits the military themed science fiction of his Third Doctor stories, particularly 'Mind of Evil',  in a story that sends our intrepid trio scurrying around the South West of England and the Brecon Beacons searching for a missing weapons system that allows the producers to make use of lots of cheap locations and save their money to invest in an impressive final act.

'The Doombolt Chase'  is as the title states pretty much entirely made up of 6 episodes of 3 teens chasing from one location to the next as various adults stand around back at base worrying and others are outwitted by our three plucky heroes.  As I've mentioned the three leads are more that a little wooden, few of the characters are given much in the way of opportunity to develop and there are several, let's call them, narrative glitches such as the blatant difference between the demonstrated use of the weapon and it's stated purpose.  As much as I love the stories of the psychic and the supernatural that were so much in vogue through the decade it is a refreshing change of pace to experience a story with it's ambitions so firmly planted on the ground it does though have a distinct charm and I really warmed to Richard, Pete and, in particular, Lucy and by the end I was thoroughly enjoying myself.

Watch it below or buy it here - The Doombolt Chase - The Complete Series [DVD] [1978]

Wednesday 6 April 2016

The Dandelion Set - A Thousand Strands 1975 - 2015

Buried Treasure

So, as some of you know I spent much of the second half of  last year pretty immobile due to numerous broken bones and the ensuing surgical procedures.  Truth to say it wasn't a whole lot of fun.  I was on quite a lot of morphine and as such watching films or reading books was out as I couldn't follow a plot and so I found myself staring at a lot of daytime TV - side note:  not even morphine makes Jeremy Kyle any less noxious - and listening to copious amounts of music, so much in fact that I quickly ran out of what was to hand and so began searching around for new delights to do interesting things in my ears and my opiate addled brain.

Alan Moore
One of the things I stumbled across was the Buried Treasure label whose John Baker Vendetta Tapes became one of my most played albums of last year.  In fact, if you check out my end of year list you'll find several Buried Treasure releases on there with several others not making the list simply due to numerical considerations.  So it was with real excitement that I opened the promo copy sent by label honcho Alan Gubby of this, the first B.T. release of 2016 by psychedelic troubadours The Dandelion Set here ably assisted by one of the spiritual godfathers of what we do here at Wyrd Britain,  Mr. Alan Moore.

Expectation, as we all know, can be a real bitch and I'd heard some Dandelion ditties on the recent B.T. comp, 'The Delaware Road', and I know now that Alan G. has an ear for the wonderful so this had a lot to live up to; an awful lot to live up to.  We've all been down that road of getting all 'kid at xmas' about a new release only for it to turn out to be more of a 'kid at dentist' experience but now and again under the tree, wrapped in some beautifully psychedelic wrapping is that perfect gift and it surpasses all expectations.

From the opening moments of 'Pristina Strawberry Girl' we know that we're in for a trip of a ride as dreamy psyche-pop insinuates itself into the room before the wordy wizard of Northampton weaves a weirdy, wandering narrative over a skronking frug noir soundscape and so the scene is set.

Angular prog excursions make way for forays into the realms of opiated French jazz pop.  Playful dances of electronic fireflies throw themselves through animated radiophonic swirls of psychedelic colour as tales of love, loss, hopes, delusions and a trip to the cinema stand square, stark and unflinching basking in the hallucinatory haze and calling you into this twisting, writhing, mesmerising world.  A technicolour playground of lysergic intensity and intent filled with love and magic.


'A Thousand Strands 1975 - 2015'  is released on 22nd April and Bandcamp pre-orders of the physical editions - LP / CD / Cassette - are sold out from the label - that's how good this album is - but will be available from an independent music supplier - shop independent and say no to tax avoiding multinationals - near you upon release.

Meanwhile here is a taster featuring the mighty Alan Moore, below that a video montage featuring live footage from 'The Delaware Road' launch gig and later this week you can hear a track on the next Wyrd Britain show on Mixcloud.

Saturday 2 April 2016

Short Story - 'In The Woods' by Amyas Northcote

The old woman raised herself from stooping among her vegetables, and looked upwards towards the wood topping the hill above her.  Her glance was arrested by a pair of moving figures. Shading her eyes with her hand against the westering sun, the old woman gazed more attentively at them, and distinguished, outlined against the blackness of the fir trees, the figures of a young girl and a large dog. Slowly they mounted the grassy slope, and as they drew near the wood its shadow seemed to her to stretch itself forward to meet them. They passed on, and vanished in its recesses. The old woman bent again to her task.

* * *

The girl was tired, tired and unhappy.

She was tired with that tiredness that at seventeen seems hopeless and unending. It is a tiredness of the mind, an ill far worse than any physical fatigue. She was unhappy with an unhappiness that, being in a sense causeless, is all the more unbearable. She felt herself to be neglected, to be misunderstood. Not, be it remarked, that she was neglected in the sense in which we apply it to those in poverty and distress. On the contrary, she was doubtless, and she herself knew it, an object of envy to many. She lacked for no bodily comfort, she owned to no neglect of the mind. Governesses had implanted that which we call knowledge in her, affectionate parents had lavished their love and care upon her. She had been watched, guided, advised, taught with all possible care. She knew all this; and she knew that if she expressed a reasonable wish for any concrete thing she would promptly possess it. But yet she felt herself neglected. A lonely child, without brother or sister, and lacking the power or the will to find close friends among the other girls of her neighbourhood, she had been compelled to rely on her parents and their friends. In childhood she had been happy, but now, with the passing of the years, she felt, dimly and indistinctly perhaps, that she was isolated and alone.

She moved onwards into the recesses of the wood, the great St. Bernard beside her, treading with familiar steps the well-known track, letting her eyes rest on the stately beauty of the trees and her tired thoughts draw repose from their profound calm. Her way led gradually upwards over the crest of a ridge covered with the dark grandeur of Scotch firs. In a few moments after entering the wood the trees, closing their ranks behind her, blotted out every glimpse of the valley whence she had come. In front and on each side of her they rose, towering, straight and tall, with clean stems, upwards to where their dark-green foliage branched out and almost hid the sky. Here and there rare gaps appeared, and in these open spaces the bracken leapt up to gaze upon the sun, and waved its green fronds in the gentle breeze. Her footsteps fell noiseless on the smooth dry pine-needles as she hurried on, drinking in the first feelings of rest, the rest and peace of the great woods.

Presently the trees began to thin in front of her, the gaps among them became more frequent and larger, and soon, passing out of the fir-wood, she gazed down on to a happy valley between two ridges. Beyond the valley the fir-trees recommenced, black and formidable-looking against the slowly setting sun, except away to her left, where the declining ridge opposite sank gently into more open country, and she could descry beyond the trees a fair prospect of unwooded fields. In front of her, as she emerged from among the pines, was a pool of still water, fed by a little brook, which meandered down a green and wooded valley, a valley of osiers and willow and hazel, carpeted at this season with buttercups and ragged-robin, and fringed by tall fox-gloves, by flowering elder and mountain ash. Among these lesser plants an occasional oak towered up, gnarled and misshapen, resembling, beside the stately firs, some uncouth giant of a bygone age.

The wood was very still, the afternoon hush lay upon it, there were no sounds save a gentle whispering of the wind among the fir-tops and the occasional harsh cry of a jay, startled by the rare sight of a human form, or the metallic note of a moor-hen swimming across the pool with its queer clock-work-like motion. With these sounds mingled the gentle tinkle of water escaping from the pool over a hoary flood-gate, and trickling away towards the cultivated lands below. All else was silent and moveless, and the girl, seating herself on the stump of a long-vanished tree, relapsed into absolute quiet, the dog lying equally still beside her.

The peacefulness of the scene calmed the vexed thoughts that had perplexed her; gradually the last gift of Pandora reasserted itself. She began to feel more confident in herself and in her future. True, the way was weary and long, lack of sympathy, lack of interest prevented her, but she felt that within herself lay the seeds of great deeds; the world would yet hear of her, success would yet be at her feet. Formless were the dreams, uncertain even in which direction they would be realised, but chief among them was her dream of music, her beloved music. The paths to many an ambition are closed to women, this she bitterly realised, but at any rate music lies open to them. The visions became more clearly defined, the tinkling water, the rustling pines resolved themselves into stirring rhythms and interlacing harmonies. In her excitement she moved slightly; the great dog, opening his eyes, glanced up, and licked the hand of his companion. This recalled her to herself; she looked up with a start, first at the evening sky and then at her watch, and with a little exclamation at the lateness of the hour hastened to retrace her footsteps through the trees. Presently she emerged again on the open hill-side, and hurried downwards; the trees, bending to the rising wind, seemed to reach out long arms after her.

The woods enthralled her.

Her days were spent more and more dreaming in their recesses. She was much alone. Her father, a busy man, breakfasted, and was gone till evening, before she came down of a morning, an early tradition of delicate health having made her a late riser. In the evening, on his return, he was usually tired, kind but tired. Her mother, long an invalid, was away from home on an interminable cure, and in her absence even the rare visits of dull, country neighbours ceased. And so she lived, surrounded by comforts, a forgotten girl!

She grew more and more abstracted and dreamy: she neglected her duties, even her personal appearance suffered. The servants,who had long regarded her as eccentric, began to grow anxious, even a little alarmed. She became irregular in all her habits; she would stray away into the woods for hours, careless of time. In her rambles she became familiar with every corner of the woods; she was a familiar figure to the watchful gamekeeper and to the old woodman at his work. With these she was on a friendly footing. Once convinced that the great St. Bernard harboured no evil intentions as regards his pheasants, the keeper was civil enough and, after a word or two of salutation, used to stand and watch the lithe, lonely, brown-clad figure slipping away from him among the brown tree trunks with a queer mixture of sympathy and bewilderment. But with the old woodman the young girl made closer friends. She loved to watch him at his solitary toil, and to note in his lined face the look of one who has lived his life in solitude among the beauties of the woods, and who has become cognizant of their glories and of part of their mysteries. She would speak to the old man but little, she spoke to few and rarely in those days, but her watch of him was sympathetic, and she seemed to be trying to draw from him something of that woodland mystery in which he was steeped.

And alone in the woods she grew ever closer to them; the trees began to be for her more than mere living trees: they began to become personalities. At first only certain of them were endowed with personality, but gradually she became aware that each tree was a living and a sentient being. She loved them all, even the distorted oak-trees were her friends. Lying prone in her favourite corner overhanging the pool, the forest become more and more alive, and the firs waving and rustling in the wind were souls lifting up their voices to God. She imagined them each with a living, separate soul, and mourned for a fallen giant as if it were a friend. Ever more and more rapt she became, more and more silent and unresponsive to her fellow-men. At times her father would gaze earnestly at the silent girl, clad in her simple white frock, seated opposite him, but he could discern nothing to disturb him. Her mother wrote, and the girl answered; letters of affection, but covering up within herself all the deep mysteries and yearnings of her heart.

The woods enthralled her.

In them, as she paced to and fro or rested on the stem of some fallen tree, listening to the rustling of the branches around, she became conscious that they were ringing with melody. She felt that here, and here alone among the trees, she could produce that divine music which her soul held expressionless within her. Vainly she would strive in her music room to reach even the lowest terrace of that musical palace whose grandest halls were freely opened to her among the solitudes of the woods.

Little by little did she become absorbed into them; she dared not as yet visit them at night, on account of the certain annoyance of her father, but by day she almost lived in them, and her belief in the souls of the trees grew stronger and ever stronger. She would sit for hours motionless, hoping, believing, that at any moment the revelation might come to her, and that she would see the Dryads dancing, and hear the pipes of Pan. But there was nothing. “Another day of disappointment,” she would cry.

The summer passed on, one of those rare summers which only too seldom visit our English land, but which, when they do appear, by their wonderful beauty and delight, serve to make us thankful to be alive if only to enjoy the joys of Nature.

On one of these glorious days the girl had wandered out, as usual, into the woods. It was afternoon, the sky was cloudless, the wind was almost still, but at times a gentle breath from the west made a soft rustling amongst the pine branches far overhead. As the girl moved on she gazed around her on the well-known trees. All was as usual; Nature spread her beauties before her, glorious, mysterious, veiled from the ken of the human soul. The girl stopped. “Is there nothing,” she cried, “nothing behind this? Is Nature all a painted show? Oh, I have so longed for Nature, to find the peace, and pierce the mystery of the woods, and nothing comes in answer to my soul's call!” She moved on again, passionate, eager, yearning, with all the yearning of youth and growth for the new, the wonderful. Presently she reached her seat above the pool, and sitting down buried her face in her hands. Her shoulders heaved, her feet beat the ground in hasty emotion, her soul cried out in longing.

Suddenly she ceased to move, for a moment longer she sat in her old attitude, then, lifting her face, she gazed around her. Something had happened! Something, in those few moments! To her outward eye all was unchanged, the pool still lay silent in the sunlight, the breeze still murmured in the tree-tops, the golden-rod still nodded in the sun at the verge of the pool, and the heather still blazed on the lower slopes of the ridge opposite her. But there had come a change!—an unseen change!—and in a flash the girl understood. The woods were aware of her, the trees knew of her presence and were watching her, the very flowers and shrubs were cognizant of her! A feeling of pride, of joy, of a little fear, possessed her; she stretched out her arms, “Oh, my beloved playmates,” she cried, “you have come at last!”

She listened, and the gentle breeze among the pine-trees seemed to change, and she could hear its voices, nay, the very sentences of those voices, calling to each other in a language still strange to her ears, but which she felt she knew she would soon understand. She knew she was being watched, discussed, appraised, and a faint sense of disappointment stole over her. Where was the love and the beauty of Nature; these woods, were they friendly or hostile, surely such beauty could mean nothing but love? She began to grow fearful, what was going to happen next? She knew something great was coming, something awe-inspiring, something, perchance, terrible! Already she began to feel invisible, inaudible beings closing, in upon her, already she began to know that slowly her strength, her will, were being drawn out of her. And for what end? Terror began to possess itself of her, when suddenly on the farther side of the pool she saw the old woodman, slowly plodding on his homeward way. The sight of the familiar figure, clad in his rough fustian clothes, bending under a new-cut faggot to which was tied the bright red handkerchief containing the old man's dinner-pail, a splash of bright colour outlined against the green verdure by the pool, was as a dash of cold water over a fainting man. She braced herself up, and watched the distant figure—as she did so, as silently, as suddenly as the mysterious door had opened, it closed again. The woods slept again, ignorant of and indifferent to the young girl.

But, that night, long after the household slept, the girl was at her window, gazing out across the valley to where the fir woods crowned the opposite hill. Long she watched them as they towered, irregular and mysterious, overhanging the grey moonlit fields and sleeping village below them. They seemed to her now to be a strong, thick wall defending the quiet valley below, and guarding it from ill, and now to be the advance guard of an enemy overhanging her peaceful village home and waiting but the word to swoop down and overwhelm it.

The woods enthralled her.

She felt herself on the point of penetrating their mystery, a glimpse had been given her, and now she hesitated and doubted, torn between many emotions. The fascination of fear possessed her, she dreaded and yet she loved the woods. For a day or two after her adventure she shunned them, but they lured her to them, and again and again she went, seeking, hoping for, dreading, what she knew must come. But her search was vain, silently and blindly the woods received her, though again and again she felt that after she had passed she was noted, she was discussed, and that her coming was watched for. The fascination and the fear grew; her food, her few duties, were all neglected, she felt, she knew, that her eyes would soon be opened.

The summer was over. September was upon the world of the woods: the bracken was turning into a thousand shades of yellows and browns, the heather was fading, the leaves of the early trees were browning, the bulrushes hung their dying heads, the flowers were nearly over; the golden-rod alone seemed to defy the changing year. The young rabbits, the fledgling birds, the young life, had all disappeared. At times one saw a lordly cock pheasant, or his more modest wife, strut across the woodland rides. Once in a while, with a loud clapping of wings, wild duck would rise from the pool; among the hazel bushes the squirrels were busy garnering their winter store, and from the distant fields the young girl, as she sat in her well-loved corner of the woods, could hear the far-off lowing of cattle. The afternoon was heavy and oppressive; a dull sensation of coming change hung over the woods, dreaming their last dreams of summer. The firs stood dark and motionless, with a faint aspect of menace in their clustering ranks; no birds were moving among them, no rabbit slipped from one patch of yellowing bracken to another. All was still as the young girl sat musing by her well-loved pool.

Suddenly she started up, listening. Far off, up the green valley, beyond where a cluster of osiers hid the bend, she seemed to hear a sound of piping. Very faint and far off it seemed; very sweet and enthralling; sweet, with a tang of bitter in the sweet, enthralling, with a touch of threatening. As she stood listening eagerly, and with the air of one who hears what he has hoped and longed and dreaded to hear, that same well-remembered sudden, subtle change passed over the woods. Once more she became aware that the trees were alive, were watching her, and this time she felt that they were closer, their presences were more akin to her than before. And it seemed to her as if everywhere, figures, light, slender, brown-clad figures, were passing to and fro, coming from, fading into, the brown trunks of the trees. She could not discern these figures clearly; as she turned to watch they faded out, but sidelong they seemed to flock and whirl in a giddy dance. Ever the sound of the piping drew nearer, bringing with it strange thoughts, overpowering sensations, sensations of growth, of life, thoughts of the earth, vague desires, unholy thoughts, sweet but deadly. As the sounds of the piping drew nearer, the vague, elusive figures danced more nimbly, they seemed to rush towards the girl, to surround her from behind, from each side, never in front, never showing clearly, always shifting, always fading. The girl felt herself changing. Wild impulses to leap into the air, to cry aloud, to sing a new strange song, to join in the wild woodland dance, possessed her. Joy filled her heart, and yet, mingling with the joy, came fear; fear, at first low-lying, hidden, but gradually gaining; a fear, a natural fear, of the secret mysteries unfolding before her. And still the piping drew nearer; IT was coming, IT was coming! IT was coming down the quiet valley, through the oak trees that seemed to spring to attention to greet IT, as soldiers salute the coming of their King. The piping rose louder and more clear. Beautiful it was, and entrancing, but evil and menacing; the girl knew, deep in her consciousness she knew, that when IT appeared, evil and beauty would come conjoined in it. Her terror and her sense of helplessness grew; IT was very near now; the dancing, elusive forms were drawing closer around her, the fir woods behind her were closing against her escape. She was like a bird charmed by a serpent, her feet refused to fly, her conscious will to act. And the Terror drew ever nearer. Despairingly she looked around her, despairingly uttered a cry of helpless agony.

The great St. Bernard lying at her feet, disturbed by her cry, raised himself to his haunches and looked up into her face. The movement of the dog recalled him to her thoughts; she looked down at him, into the wise old eyes that gazed up at her with love and with the calm look of the aged, the experienced, of one from whom all the illusions of Life had faded. In the peaceful, sane, loving look of the dog the girl saw safety, escape. “Oh, Bran, save me, save me,” she cried, and clung to the old dog's neck. Slowly he arose, stretched himself, and, with the girl holding fast to his collar, turned towards the homeward path. As they moved forwards together the whirling forms seemed to fade and to recede, the menacing, clustered firs fell back, the piping changed and, harsh and discordant, resolved itself into the whistle of the rising wind, the very sky seemed to grow lighter, the air less heavy.

And so they passed through the woods together; and emerging from their still clutching shadows stood gazing across the valley darkening in the evening light, towards the gates of home, lit up by the cheerful rays of the setting sun.

* * *

The old woman, resting her aching back, Looked up and saw the girl descending from the
woods with quick light steps. “I wish I were as young and care free as she be,” she muttered,
and stooped again among her vegetables.