Daughter Of Conwy – Episode 11

“Bethan!” Merlyn waved as the workers emerged from the woollen mill set on the hillside above the little town, its great watermill turning slowly in the rush of water from the hillsides above. A slight girl of sixteen with curling brown hair returned the wave and came rushing down the path to fling herself into her sister’s arms.

“Merlyn!” Bethan hugged her tight. “One of the girls said a paddle steamer had arrived. I couldn’t wait to get away, I was so afraid it was someone else who’d had the idea first.”

“Of course not.” Merlyn smiled, kissing her cheek. “It’s good to see you, Bethan. You wouldn’t believe how quiet the cottage is without you.”

The sisters linked arms as they hurried through the little streets until they reached the smallest bakery on the high street, which was no more than the front room of a terraced house. They stepped inside to the smell of newly baked bread, and the cheerful chatter of customers queuing up for loaves and the delicious-smelling pies steaming on the counter.

“Ah, there you are.” Cousin Mari was a well-built woman in her late forties, neatly dressed with her hair caught back from her face into a tight bun. “I heard the Daughter Of Conwy  made quite a stir when she arrived. This calls for a celebration.”

Abandoning the last of her customers to her daughter, Mari ushered Bethan and Merlyn into the kitchen at the back of the shop. A kettle was boiling on the range, while sandwiches and a large fruitcake stood ready waiting on the scrubbed table.

“There, I bet you had no time for breakfast, Merlyn, and Bethan is always hungry. I’ve sent a boy with a pie and a good slab of cake for your taid, so don’t you be worrying about him.”

“Thank you,” Merlyn said, hugging her tight. She felt tears spring to her eyes. “And for taking in Bethan and finding her work at the mill. I don’t know what we’d have done without you.”

“Nonsense,” Mari muttered gruffly. “It’s the least I could do. I’ve only Fanny left at home now. Besides, I’d never have been able to set up the bakery when my man died if it hadn’t been for your taid building the bread oven in the outhouse at the back. It was the least I could do.” She poured boiling water into the waiting teapot. “I know you’d rather be all together, and Bethan’s a good worker – I’m sure she’ll find something back in Conwy before long.”

“Not with so many livelihoods put at risk with this new railway bridge,” Merlyn muttered gloomily.

“But the paddle steamer is going to be a great success,” Bethan said, chewing hungrily. “And then I can come back and help you and Taid.”

Merlyn thought of the swerve of the boat as the engines failed, and how near they had come to disaster, and gave an inward shiver. The fault appeared fixed for now, and she would make sure Taid took up the offer of the expert eye to look over the engines. But the Daughter Of Conwy was old. There could be other faults waiting to occur, and if word should get around that the paddle steamer was unsafe . . .

She pushed the thought hastily aside.

“Yes, yes, of course.” She smiled. “One day.”

All too soon, it was time to leave. Merlyn walked back to the mill with Bethan and then made her way towards the Snowdon View just in time to usher the first carriage of visitors returning from the spa towards the hotel. As the second carriage approached, her eye was caught by Iona, walking along the green verge beside the river, deep in conversation with Mr Ross as if she had known him all her life.

Merlyn sniffed to herself and followed the visitors inside.

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”.