Daughter Of Conwy – Episode 06

“It’s Mr Stephenson himself!” Merlyn hissed as the two engineers strode rapidly towards her and Owain.

“What of it, child? What better way to publicise our service?” Owain retorted with a deep chuckle. “I’ve nothing against Mr Stephenson personally. He’s a great engineer; the greatest of the age, some are calling him. I’m sure there are others who would make a far worse job of building a railway bridge across the river.”

“But, Taid . . .

“Besides,” he added, a wicked twinkle in his eye, “I’m not passing up the opportunity of having the great Robert Stephenson in my boat. Just you see, cariad, I’ll have a recommendation of our sailings out of him before we are back on dry land. That’ll be worth his weight in gold for our advertising.”

“You are a perfect terror, Taid,” Merlyn said, laughing, as the engineers reached the jetty.

Mr Stephenson and Mr Ross made their way on to the crowded deck. Stephenson tipped his hat politely in Merlyn’s direction, then shot through the milling passengers, head down and face hidden, as if his greatest anxiety was to avoid recognition. He quickly found himself a vantage point behind a pillar and settled down to gaze intently at the ruined towers of Conwy Castle and the pale curve of Mr Telford’s road bridge.

Young Mr Ross, on the other hand, smiled in Merlyn’s direction with no sign of joining his famous companion.

She ignored him.

“Ready?” she said to her grandfather. “That’s enough, surely. If we wait for more passengers we will miss the tide.”

“Of course.” Taid shot down below to join Martin, his assistant.

The engines began to turn a little faster. A piercing shriek filled the air as steam shot up towards the clouds. Merlyn began releasing the paddle from its moorings as the paddle started to turn, ready to power the boat away from the jetty.

As she reached to release the last rope, she felt a touch on her arm.

“You have another passenger, I believe.” It was Mr Ross, his eyes on the quay. “Or rather two, if I’m not mistaken.”

Merlyn frowned at the figure of Miss Iona Tudor hurrying her way towards them.

“They’re too late.”

“They seem very eager,” he remarked, smiling at the sight of a delightfully pretty young woman in pink silk, her bonnet forgotten and flying out behind her by its ribbons. She was running as fast as she could towards the jetty, followed by a rather older woman weighed down by a basket and a wooden contraption of some kind. “Are you such a stickler for rules, Miss Griffiths?”

“Of course not,” she retorted, holding the rope steady as their passengers raced towards them.

“Thank you, thank you!” Iona gasped as Mr Ross helped her and Elspeth on to the boat. “Thank you for waiting for us, Merlyn. I’m so sorry we are late. I hope we haven’t held you up.”

“Not at all, miss,” Merlyn said, finally releasing the boat from the shore.

Heaven knew what Taid was going to say when he learned she had allowed Iona on to the Daughter Of Conwy. Mr Stephenson and a Tudor on her maiden voyage? Merlyn couldn’t think of a worse omen.

She glanced up towards the castle, where the carriage with the Tudor coat of arms was waiting patiently. Next to it, she could make out the figure of Rhodri Tudor, intently following the departure of the boat.

Merlyn shivered. Never cross a Tudor of Plas Arthur – wasn’t that what Nain was always telling her? Never cross a Tudor. Rhodri’s stance, even from this distance, was hardly approving as he watched his sister laughing with the young engineer on the deck of the Daughter Of Conwy.

Merlyn sighed. There was nothing she could do about it now. Thank heaven the boat was full and they could pay their rent. Hugh Tudor had always been a good landlord, but on Rhodri’s return home he had handed over his responsibility for overseeing the tenants to his son.

Merlyn had no wish to test Rhodri’s patience by falling behind with their rent. Thanks to their passengers, they would now be safe for a few more weeks.

Alan Spink

I am a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. I enjoy working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, I also write fiction and enjoy watching football and movies in my spare time. My one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.