'House of Angels' - Extract
From Ch 8 of “House of Angels”
Martha is in love, and on an impulse she sets off towards Llannerch, the home of Owain Laugharne, on a fine summer day, in the hope of meeting him……
I climbed up the track beside the cascading
river, and when I was far enough from the smell of the pandy
to stop and catch my breath I sat on a grassy bank in the cool
dark shade of an oak tree. The woodland rang with birdsong and
resonated with the humming of insect wings. I lay on my back
and looked up at the canopy of leaves over my head, trying to
count the number of greens and textures I could see within the
leafy boughs. I think I nodded off for a minute or two, but
then I was startled to hear a little snatch of music drifting
through the trees. Then it faded away, and then it came again,
carried on the breeze. It was unmistakably the sound of somebody
singing. A man singing. It drew me like a magnet, and so I got
to my feet and walked on up the track until I got to the start
of a series of cascades in the adjacent river. In the winter,
when there is a torrent roaring down off the mountain, this
is a dangerous place indeed, and I know that poachers have been
drowned in the deep rock pools where three-pound trout are reputed
to lurk. There was not much water in the river today, to be
sure, and the cascades and waterfalls were mere trickles, but
the lower pools were full of cool, clear water.
The sound was coming from one of the higher pools, louder and
sweeter. The man was singing, in a fine tenor voice, in Welsh.
I walked on up the track for a little way, and then, to locate
the source of the music, I had to make my way, as gingerly and
quietly as possible, into a thicket of bushes and tall ferns.
At last I was able to peep through the leaves of a little hazel
bush, and then I saw him. Owain Laugharne, as naked as the day
he was born, floating on his back in the biggest and deepest
of the rock pools, with his eyes closed, singing at the top
of his voice. His voice was beautiful, and he was beautiful.
The pool was only about fifteen feet across, but it was very
deep. On the far side of it there was a wall of black shaly
rock, smoothed by cascading water over thousands of years. Where
there were little crevices, ferns and mosses and liver-worts
were thriving, no doubt fed and watered by spray. Tall trees
towered over the pools and the river bed, and some of them had
dropped branches or fallen over into the river; branches and
roots and rotting tree trunks were jumbled together, all dripping
with moisture and supporting clusters of greenery and summer
flowers. The sunlight streamed through the tree canopy in shafts
and slivers of light, dappling the river banks and the pool
which Owain had occupied. I thought that the Garden of Eden
must have been very similar.
I could not take my eyes off him. His body was illuminated by sunlight and surrounded by shadow, and I could see every detail of it.