Daughter Of Conwy – Episode 19

The Snowdon View had come up in the world since he had been here last. This new manager everyone spoke of must indeed be worth her weight in gold.

Perhaps the renowned Mrs Appleford could be persuaded to take the Liverpool Arms in Conwy under her wing.

He would make a point of finding her and speaking to her about it.

“There is one here, by the window,” Alice was continuing.

He could not know what she was saying to herself.

“Wait until Aunt Sara hears this! Not just one Mr Tudor, but two, come to grace the Snowdon View! Miss Iona must have been impressed. If her father and brother could be persuaded to be the same, their recommendation would bring half the wealthy families in the county flocking to patronise our dining-room.”

“You’ll find it’s quite private and has a good view over the garden,” was all she said aloud.

“Excellent,” Hugh said approvingly.

“Good Lord!”

Hugh’s breath stopped at the familiar voice. The voice he had never thought to hear again.

“Is everything all right?” Alice glanced anxiously at her aunt.

But Sara had already regained her composure.

“Pleased to meet you, Mr Tudor,” she murmured, meeting his eyes.

She glanced fleetingly towards Rhodri then back to Hugh.

“I hope you find everything to your satisfaction.”

“Yes, yes, of course.” Hugh felt the blood drain from his face. “I’m certain it will be, Mrs –”

“Appleford,” Sara said firmly. “Sara Appleford. You have met Alice, my niece, I believe.”

“Yes, of course.”

“Alice will look after you,” Sara said. She turned away. “If you’ll excuse me . . .”

Hugh followed Alice in a daze as she led them to their table. Sara was nowhere to be seen.

A few seconds was all it had taken for the world he had built so carefully around himself to fall apart. He was back again, the shy, awkward boy of 20 years ago. The boy full of hopes and ambition, burning with passion.

He rubbed his face. Had the last minutes been a dream? A trick of the imagination? Was the regret of all these years finally overtaking his fevered brain?

Hugh sat down at the table, gazing around the room, trying to regain his sense of himself again. But that gave him no rest. Along each wall he made out paintings, many of local scenes. He recognised one or two from an exhibition of Conwy artists a few months before. Ambitious young men, following in the footsteps of Mr Turner, their skill already outstripping Hugh’s own, half-forgotten talent.

He had heard of Mrs Appleford’s eye for up and coming artists, and her willingness to support them.

“I should have known!”

At his father’s exclamation, Rhodri tore his eyes away from Alice’s neat form. She was making her way between tables, smiling and chatting with an ease he could only envy.

“Papa? What is it?”

“Nothing,” Hugh muttered. “Nothing at all.”

They would eat their lunch and go. He had shown his support for the paddle steamer and patronised the Snowdon View. Nothing more would be expected of him.

Something close to fear had begun gnawing at his heart. Sara was clearly doing well. She was successful, and fulfilling her passion to encourage promising artists.

Surely she had not come back to demand anything of him? Not now. Not after all this time. She could not!

She would not. She had never asked anything of him. She was far too proud.

Hugh swallowed hard. It was cowardly, he knew, but he could have run from the Snowdon View that very minute.

He straightened his shoulders. He would eat his meal with Rhodri, then go home to Plas Arthur, as if none of this had ever happened.

And he would take care never to come here again. He would take a tour of Europe – Venice, Paris. Switzerland was very pleasant at this time of year.

He turned his seat away from the paintings towards the view of the gardens. As he did so, his eyes fell on a small watercolour that had been awarded pride of place in the centre of the wall opposite.

It was a simple scene, with the waterwheel of Trefriw’s woollen mill rising up from the fog of early morning, a line of workers making their way wearily upwards towards the day’s drudgery. There was something about it. Something Hugh couldn’t quite put his finger on. A familiarity.

“Our soup is arriving, Papa,” Rhodri hissed, sounding irritated.

Hugh looked up in surprise. His son was clearly mortified. Hugh followed Rhodri’s gaze down to the table in front of him.

Hugh had scarcely felt the little stub of a pencil in his hand. He had certainly not felt its swirl and flow on the tablecloth in front of him.

But there it was – the outline of a paddle steamer, making its way upstream through the flow of water.

Hastily placing his napkin over the little drawing, he slipped the pencil back into his pocket.

Once, long ago, his pencils and sketchbook had been his first consideration, above the cut of his trousers or the style of his coat. He had thought that passion had been lost for ever, buried beneath the remainder of his tattered dreams.

“It seems I was mistaken,” he remarked aloud.

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”.