Daughter Of Conwy – Episode 07

In the main dining-room of Trefriw’s largest hotel, the Snowdon View, Sara Appleford made a last adjustment to the display of yellow roses in the centre of the table and stood back to admire her handiwork.

She was a slender woman in her mid-forties, her hair still untouched by grey and a well-defined, mobile face that defied any sign of age.

“Beautiful,” she murmured, a slow smile of satisfaction stealing over her face.

“Perfect, don’t you mean?” her assistant Alice said, pausing at the door with a vase of deep crimson blooms surrounded by delicate fronds of greenery.

“Better than it was,” Sara allowed.

Alice laughed.

“A hundred, hundred times better, Aunt! The place was truly dreadful. No wonder the old owners had been losing customers for years. If you hadn’t been called in to rescue the place heaven knows what would have happened to it.” She eyed her aunt. “Don’t tell me there isn’t a little part of you that would love to stay here, if the new owners asked you to run it on a permanent basis.”

“Perhaps. A little.” Sara smoothed an imaginary crease from the crisp white tablecloth. “But that was not the agreement. I told the Williamses from the start that it was only the fact of Taran being asked to study the history of Conwy Castle this summer that convinced me to take on the Snowdon View at all.”

“Of course,” Alice murmured.

She was itching to ask more, but she knew from experience that there were some subjects Aunt Sara would never discuss, not even with her own family.

Alice had been as bemused as the open-mouthed staff of the Snowdon View at the torrent of Welsh that had flown from Sara at their initial mutterings against the changes she had brought in to rescue the failing hotel. One or two of the younger maids had blushed at hearing this richly clothed English businesswoman with a reputation for being able to turn any establishment on its last legs back into profit.

She used a ripe turn of phrase that might have put the fishermen on the quay at Conwy Harbour to shame!

Alice grinned. Both she and Aunt Sara had been treated with the utmost respect from that day forward. The maids might perhaps have been less astonished had they seen the aunt Sara Alice had known as a child – on her knees scrubbing floors, taking in laundry, anything to keep her son on at school.

All that hard work had paid off: Taran had blossomed from the studious little boy with spectacles mended with string, who had held on tight to Alice’s hand as they walked to school, to the youngest professor of History at Oxford University.

At the same time, Sara had worked herself up from maid to housekeeper, and thence to running her own successful business.

“Well, let’s hope those handbills are right and that paddle steamer is making its way towards us,” Sara remarked. “A visit to the Roman spa is certain to increase appetites while they wait for the return journey.”

“Let’s hope the boat is full,” Alice said feelingly.

The arrival of the paddle steamer would be the first real test of the Snowdon View’s freshly painted dining-room and reworked menus. The first evidence that Sara had done her job well and the hotel could now thrive.

For all her aunt’s appearance of calm, Alice could sense the nervous tension in her fiddling with the smallest details. In each restoration there was always this moment: the confirmation that all their hard work had been worthwhile. Alice knew from experience that Sara could never quite rest until the test had been successfully passed.

“We’ll know soon enough,” Sara replied, moving to the window with its view over the wide sweep of the Conwy River running between banks of tall grasses and meadow flowers.

She pulled absently at the folds of the brocade curtains, neatening and smoothing without really seeing them.

It hadn’t occurred to her until the rush of this morning’s preparations had died down that Hugh Tudor might possibly be one of the passengers on the Daughter Of Conwy. Surely not. From everything she had heard, he had become something of a recluse after the death of his second wife in childbirth. But he might still hold that old sense of obligation as the largest landowner in the Conwy Valley, and feel compelled to show his support for this new venture.

A murmur of voices in the hallway, accompanied by Alice’s warm but businesslike tones, announced the first customers of the day. Sara patted the curtain into place and smoothed down her dress.

There was no point in dwelling on the possibility. It was still half an hour or so before the steamer was due to dock at Trefriw Quay. The passengers would take a carriage or walk to the Roman spa a short distance away before returning to the hotel in time for her carefully selected luncheon. She had an hour at least to compose herself.

There was no saying that Hugh would be one of the visitors, after all. She might yet spend her time here, a short carriage ride from Conwy, without ever having to come face to face with a Tudor – or anyone else who might remember the barefooted ferryman’s daughter from all those years ago.

Squaring her shoulders and relaxing her face into a smile, Sara made her way out to greet her guests.

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 aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.