A WET AND DARK December night. The wind howled down the narrow valley among the scattered rows of houses, driving the rain against the window panes and scouring the deserted streets in hissing gusts. The shops were long since shut, and only a bleary gleam came through the blinds of the Tregenny Arms.
When I had finished my last round I came in, soaked to the skin, tired as a beaten dog, utterly dispirited. It was one of those days when I cursed the fate that had brought me to Tregenny. I was, I told myself bitterly, no selfless altruist, no saint, like poor Olwen Davies, no fond and fervent martyr in the cause of suffering humanity. And after eleven months in this dismal place, lost amidst the black Carmarthen mountains, doing my own dispensing in the ramshackle surgery, walking interminable distances since I could not afford a gig, I was beginning to feel that I had the worst end of the bargain. The place itself, less from drab ugliness than from its queer and unearthly detachment, was utterly foreign to me. There seemed, indeed, in the very air of this remote village a queer sense of unreality and superstition which grew upon one like a ghostly fantasy. Many of the people were friendly now, yet beneath the surface strange currents ran, and depths existed that I could not plumb. They were secretive, fiercely religious. On Sundays hymns came sounding from the chapels, Zion, Bethel, Ebenezer, and Bethesda, so loud and passionate the very mountains appeared to take the chanting up and echo it to heaven.
At such moments, the air vibrating with atonement, redemption,