Daughter Of Conwy – Episode 16

“Mrs Hughes?” Merlyn knocked once more at the door of a neatly painted house built against the stone of Conwy’s ancient town wall. This time there came a sound of a chair being pushed back, then slow footsteps making their towards her.

Merlyn fought down a rising sense of desperation. There were just two more days until Harris’s eviction notice came into force. All the other tenants in the little row had found new homes with ease, but not her family. If she was to be turned away again, she and her grandparents would be out on the streets.

Slowly, the door opened.

“Merlyn Griffiths, isn’t it?” Anwen Hughes was a slight woman in her late sixties, who stood there not quite meeting her visitor’s eyes, deep embarrassment written all over the worn lines of her face.

Merlyn swallowed hard. It had been the same with every lead they had been given: the rooms had been let, or the house was not for rent, after all. It hadn’t taken the eyes sliding uneasily from hers to know the reason.

“Yes, Mrs Hughes. My taid sent me. He heard from some of the mussel-fishermen on the quay that the tenants in one of your cottages had just given notice.”

Mrs Hughes’s thin hands twisted themselves into the material of her skirt.

“I’m sorry, Miss Griffiths, I’m afraid the cottage is not to let.” She met Merlyn’s eyes briefly, and a flush of deep colour flooded over her face.

Mrs Hughes had lived a few doors down when Merlyn was little. Her husband had worked with Taid on the mussel-boats until, like Owain, he had grown too old for wrestling with the boats in the surging tides of the Irish Sea, and had taken to work on shore until his death a few years ago.

Mrs Hughes was not poor, having had the good fortune of a cottage inherited from a well-to-do uncle. But neither was she rich. With her only surviving son being forced to leave to find work in an English factory, she needed all the income she could get from the cottage just outside the town walls.

“Please, Mrs Hughes.” Merlyn fetched out a small package from a pocket sewn into the inside of her coat and held it out towards her. “We can pay a whole month’s rent in advance, and more.”

It would leave them with nothing, but at least they would have the promise of a roof over their heads.

“I’m sorry.” Mrs Hughes stepped back inside, her hand already raised to close the door. “Your grandfather must have heard wrong. I can’t help you.”

Merlyn sighed. She understood all too well that, however much Mrs Hughes might wish to help her old neighbours – and gain reliable tenants into the bargain – she could ill afford to defy any instructions sent to them from Rhodri Tudor.

“It must have been a misunderstanding,” she said quietly, stepping back. “I’m sorry to have troubled you, Mrs Hughes.”

The door swung shut. Merlyn paused on the doorstep for a moment, watching the daily comings and goings along the street. It all seemed so normal, as if life in Conwy would go on like this for ever.

The scene in front of her swam in tears of frustration. They were to be defeated, just when the summer was opening up ahead, bringing plenty of visitors for the boats, and it seemed the venture of the paddle steamer might prove a success, after all!

With heavy steps, Merlyn made her way back towards the Daughter Of Conwy.

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”.