Daughter Of Conwy – Episode 08

As the Daughter Of Conwy made her sedate way out into the centre of the river, easing under Mr Telford’s road bridge as she turned upstream, Merlyn was able to breathe again. The engine was purring nicely and the paddles rotated smoothly. It looked as if the voyage would be completed without a hitch.

“That’s some current.” David Ross joined Merlyn at the railings as the Daughter Of Conwy reached the centre of the river.

Around them conversation faded, falling into silence or to a subdued murmur. The boat itself caught the mood, paddles turning more slowly in their arc of falling water.

“This is the most dangerous part,” she explained. “When the tide turns to flow seawards it joins the current of the river into a tidal race where the river narrows. The currents here will drag you down in moments, long before there can be any rescue from the shore.”

“Surely the paddle steamer can be in no danger?”

“No; these engines are more than a match for the tide. But memories are still strong of the ferries that crossed before Mr Telford built his bridge. There are many families from Conwy who lost someone close to them in this stretch of water.”

“I see.” He was eyeing her now with open curiosity. “And do you have such a memory?”

“No,” she returned shortly.

“Miss Griffiths’s grandfather was in many a rescue in his time.” This came from a small, elderly man with a wizened, weatherbeaten face. “Set out in all weathers, would Owain. He’s lucky to have lived so long.”

“I see.” David smiled at Merlyn. “He’s a brave man, your grandfather.”

“Very,” she replied.

“I can vouch for that,” Iona added from her perch on a nearby bench. “I’m one of those who has much to owe Mr Griffiths – my father is one of those he saved from drowning.”

“More’s the pity,” the wizened man muttered. “No offence to you, Miss Tudor,” he added gruffly. “But better it was Owain had been far out with the mussel-boats, for all the misery born that day.”

In the ensuing silence Merlyn looked up in time to catch the stricken look on Iona’s face, turning red, then pale beneath her silk bonnet.

“That was a long time ago,” she said sharply. “And who can ever tell what their actions might lead to?”

“Very true,” Mr Ross added.

Iona threw a grateful glance in his direction as their fellow passengers resumed their conversations once more.

“You have no objection to
Mr Telford’s road bridge, then, Miss Griffiths?” he remarked. “Just the railway?”

“A horse and cart can’t carry as much as a boat,” she returned. “There was still room for both until your brave new world of steam trains arrived.”

He frowned.

“So you object to progress.”

“Not at all. It’s people from the outside riding roughshod all over us, without any thought of how we are to continue to make a living, that I object to.”

“I see.”

His eyes were dark and serious on her face. Merlyn’s stomach tipped over abruptly, sending a tingling through her, right down to her toes.

“Then I suspect we may never agree, Miss Griffiths.” With a polite tip of his hat he moved away to join Iona.

Merlyn watched them irritably, David Ross bending down to speak to Iona, who smiled and nodded at his words with all the docile attentiveness of a well-brought-up young lady.

“Well, I’m no lady.” Merlyn sniffed. “And I wouldn’t choose to be one, not for all the tea in China.”

Head held high, she passed the pair of them on her way to the main throng of passengers in the centre of the boat. She wanted to remind them of the delights of the famous Roman spa to be visited, and the promise of an excellent lunch at the newly refurbished Snowdon View hotel afterwards.

As she did so, there was a spluttering in the engines. The paddles hesitated, then began to turn, but more slowly this time.

Merlyn held her breath. The engine coughed and spluttered, found its rhythm, then died. The paddles drifted to a halt.

In an instant, Merlyn was flung hard against the back of the nearest bench as the current caught the helpless paddle steamer in its grasp, turning it and pulling it sideways.

Slowly, but rapidly increasing in speed, the Daughter Of Conwy was dragged helplessly towards the shoreward column of Mr Telford’s bridge beneath the castle walls . . .

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”.