“Ah, beautiful!” Hugh Tudor exclaimed a few weeks later, drawing the fresh salt air deep into his lungs as he watched the paddles of the Daughter Of Conwy make their way through the water. “Well, Rhodri? Aren’t you pleased I persuaded you to come along?”
“Of course.” Rhodri was staring fixedly at the bank of the river, as if to avoid the gaze of all those on board.
“I’m glad to hear the Griffiths family has been found a new home.” Hugh’s eyes fell on Merlyn who was pointing out the damage to the castle towers from the Civil War, made famous by Mr Turner’s paintings. “That showed foresight, ensuring all the tenants were rehoused before their notice ran out. I’m proud of you, Rhodri.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Rhodri felt himself grow scarlet from head to toe. He could hardly confess that he had no idea of where Merlyn and her family might be living. He hadn’t thought to enquire. He’d given Harris instructions to ensure they removed themselves from Conwy and then had put the matter out of his mind.
He glanced uneasily towards Merlyn. She was looking pale and tired. Her clothes were spotlessly clean as ever, but her hair had the look of being hastily brushed. They had found a place, surely? Wasn’t there a sister in Trefriw? If nothing else, they could stay with her.
Surely Harris hadn’t left them to camp on a hillside, or sleep on the decks of the Daughter Of Conwy? He cleared his throat as Merlyn made her way past.
“You must excuse me, Mr Tudor,” Merlyn replied without breaking her step or glancing towards him. “I need to speak urgently to my grandfather.”
“She’s a pretty girl.”
Rhodri started. He found he’d been gazing after the headstrong young woman rather longer than was necessary.
“Of course. And spirited. Just the kind to attract any young man’s attention.” He frowned. “But take my advice, my boy, and keep at a distance. It can only cause her trouble, and you a lifetime of regret.”
Rhodri glanced at his father, whose voice held so wistful a tone. A feeling of sadness and a little unease settled, unexpectedly, next to his heart.
* * * *
Rhodri was thankful to escape the confines of the boat once they arrived at Trefriw. Merlyn was pointedly avoiding him, just as his father was advising him to avoid her!
A hundred explanations of the true state of matters rose in his mind, only to vanish again before he could come closer to finding out if the Griffithses had a roof over their heads.
He could feel the wall of silence from the citizens of Conwy that had formed around the little family, protecting them from harm. Protecting them from him.
He scarcely noticed the beauties of the spa. He drank the bitter water without tasting it. He was being viewed as a wicked landlord! One against whom the Griffiths family needed protecting.
Of course, he didn’t care what the citizens of Conwy thought of him. Who were they to judge? All the same, he didn’t relish the feeling.
He was thankful when they returned to Trefriw and the cheerful surroundings of the Snowdon View.
A party of tourists from London had arrived just before them. There were at least three pretty young ladies amongst the guests.
He prepared to distract himself.
“Good afternoon. You are very welcome.”
Rhodri blinked. A pretty young woman, most definitely not of the party of excitable tourists, was smiling at him and his father. It was a smile of professional courtesy, but warm and attractive all the same. He found himself returning it.
“May I show you to your table?” Alice asked.
Hugh beamed. The fresh air and the change of scene had done him good. He felt energy flowing through him in a way he had not experienced for a long time.