Daughter Of Conwy – Episode 05

“Quickly!” Iona cried, jumping down from the carriage as it arrived beneath the castle walls. “The paddle steamer is making ready to leave. We’re only just in time.” Grasping her bag filled with her paints and pencils, she shot off towards the jetty, leaving Elspeth to follow with the more cumbersome easel.

“I don’t know where you are going in such a hurry.”

Iona came to a halt, her way blocked by a thickset, brown-haired young man, his wide mouth tightened in annoyance.

“Let me past, Rhodri. The boat is about to leave.”

“Then it can leave without you.”

Iona sighed in exasperation.

“You can’t stop me, Rhodri. I have permission from Papa to take the Daughter Of Conwy to the Roman spa at Trefriw today. Ask him if you don’t believe me.”

Rhodri scowled.

“I’m taking you home with me,” he said loudly.

Iona side-stepped him smartly. As she passed, Rhodri reached out, catching the strap of her bag. Iona let out a cry of despair as the bag with its precious contents fell towards the cobbles. At the last minute, it was caught by a passer-by just as it was about to hit the ground.

“No harm done,” her rescuer announced, returning the painting bag to Iona’s arms.

“Thank you.” She found herself gazing into a long, serious face framed by a pair of round spectacles.

“My pleasure,” the young man returned, smiling at her with such obvious admiration Iona found herself blushing.

Several visitors on their way to watch the spectacle of a paddle steamer making its way up the Conwy River paused in their tracks to enjoy this entertaining little diversion.

Rhodri pushed forward.

“I was just about to take my sister home,” he muttered.

“Really?” Iona’s rescuer smiled blandly. “I understood the young lady was heading for a refreshing excursion on the river.” He glanced back to the paddle steamer. “There’s still time, it appears. People are boarding.”

“What business is that of yours?” Rhodri snapped.

He’d suspected Iona would find a way to persuade their father to allow her to pursue this unseemly obsession with playing the artist. She’d always been able to twist Papa round her little finger, he told himself irritably. Well, he wasn’t going to allow it. Someone had to guard the family name, and since Papa had abdicated from such responsibility years ago it was clearly up to him.

A faint titter rose up from those around them. Rhodri had an unpleasant suspicion he was making a complete fool of himself. For all his travels around Europe on the Grand Tour, Rhodri had never felt quite at ease amongst his fellow men. There was always a lurking suspicion at the back of his mind that he could never do things quite as he should, and that people were laughing at him.

At that infernal boarding school he’d been packed off to after the death of his mother, he’d been laughed at, no question. Miserable, desperately homesick and bewildered, he had been teased and laughed at for much of his time there. And when Papa had finally sent for him, it was to find a new mama installed in his mother’s place: a young, pretty mama who soon presented Papa with a baby daughter who had charmed and smiled and attracted all the adoration Rhodri had ever yearned for.

Iona still had the power to charm everyone she met, he reflected resentfully.

“It’s no business of mine,” the newcomer was replying gently. “The young lady seems perfectly in control of her senses to me, so perhaps she should be allowed to make up her own mind?”

Down at the quay, a loud hoot erupted with a puff of white smoke, announcing the imminent departure of the paddle steamer.

“I’ll speak to you later, Iona,” Rhodri said gruffly.

“Thank you.” She flashed him a smile that had her brother softening a little, despite himself. “I promise I won’t disgrace you, or the family name.”

“Hmph,” he growled in reply as Iona fled towards the Daughter Of Conwy, the pink ribbons of her bonnet streaming out behind her, closely followed by her maid.

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”.