Daughter Of Conwy – Episode 04

By the time Merlyn reached the little booking office, a small queue was already forming. Within minutes she had sold their first tickets and the first passengers for the Daughter Of Conwy were making their way towards the jetty. Not enough, though. She frowned. Not nearly enough.

There was only one thing for it. Grabbing a handful of Taid’s carefully printed handbills, Merlyn began to make her way through the crowds milling idly along the quay.

“Come and take the chance of a lifetime,” she called loudly in her best English, doing her utmost to ignore the cringing shyness inside her that wanted her to crawl away and not make such a spectacle of herself. “Just a few places left on the only paddle steamer in North Wales!” Or so she hoped, or that at least there was no-one there to argue the point.

“Undoubtedly the best way to see the beauties of the Conwy Valley! Come and visit the historic town of Trefriw! Take the restoring waters of the marvellous Roman spa! Just a few places left!”

People were reaching out from all sides for the handbills, and soon a steady stream were making their way along the jetty to where Taid had emerged from the engine room and was ready for them.

Merlyn reached the end of the quay, where the path rose towards the castle to join Mr Telford’s road bridge, completed just 20 years before. Looking back, she could see the steamer was well over half full all ready, and there were still more figures streaming down the jetty.

That was enough, she decided, becoming aware of the grins following her from the fishing boats and the eyes following her from the men idly smoking in the holiday mood of the day. Anything over half full would mean they could pay for coal and the mooring fees for the steamer for the week. With any luck the Daughter Of Conwy would be full, and they would have enough in their pockets to take care of the rent of their little cottage in Trefriw, as well.

One last call and a wave of the printed papers in her hand, and she turned to retrace her steps. As she did so she became aware of a hand reaching out to take one of her handbills. She discovered a tall young man, smartly dressed in a dark great-coat, with light brown hair protected by a tall brimmed hat, scrutinising her leaflet.

“Well, what do you think, sir? A trip on the river will afford a fine view of the valley, and there’s nothing much else we can do here today.”

“I’m not sure.” His companion was a much older man, slightly built but with a restless energy about him that did not seem to relish the prospect of being cooped up in a small boat.

“There are just a last few places,” Merlyn put in hopefully. A quick glance had told her that these two were more expensively dressed than the majority of the visitors thronging the quay. Lord this or that, perhaps? Even minor royalty! Either way they looked like a fine catch for the first voyage of the Daughter Of Conwy. They were bound to be staying in one of the best hotels the town could offer, and once word spread amongst those establishments . . .

“How long will the journey take, miss?” the older man asked, peering at the writing.

“An hour and a half to reach our destination at Trefriw,” Merlyn said. “With another hour or so to see the sights before the journey back. There is an excellent hotel there, should you need refreshment.”

“Too long,” the decided reply came. “That will take the entire day, Mr Ross. We have not the time for that.”

“The views are magnificent,” Merlyn put in quickly. “And the Roman spa at Trefriw is one of the wonders of Wales.”

“There you are, sir,” Ross said with a faint smile. “A Roman spa. Who could miss that?”

“I must confess,” the older man admitted, eyes gleaming with a sudden intensity from beneath heavy dark brows, “I should be interested to see its construction. Perhaps we might, after all.”

Merlyn frowned. Interested in its construction? That didn’t sound like royalty. An uneasy suspicion crossed her mind.

“The boat is probably full by now, anyhow,” she remarked with a cool smile, attempting to escape through the crowd.

“Then the quicker we go the better.” Mr Ross appeared more determined than ever to make the journey. “I’m sure there will be a few places left. So, what do you say, Stephenson? Roman spa, or no?”

“Roman spa it is,” his companion replied with a smile. “Besides, we will have an excellent view of Mr Telford’s bridge, and of our own site into the bargain.”

Merlyn gritted her teeth. Definitely no royalty in these two! Instead, she had just done her utmost to persuade two of the engineers responsible for the new railway bridge on to the Daughter Of Conwy. And, more to the point, one of them was the chief engineer himself!

Mr Robert Stephenson might be one of the most famous Englishmen alive, but he was the last person she and Taid needed on their boat today. With a twitch of irritation, Merlyn turned and shot off ahead of the two men as fast as she could to warn Owain.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.