Daughter Of Conwy – Episode 21

Still, there was nothing Merlyn could do. She pulled herself together as they began to emerge from the trees.

In front of them stood a small cottage, its slate roof carefully mended and the garden bright with flowers, surrounded by a sprawl of barns and outbuildings, looking down on to the rolling green of the valley behind.

“Why, it’s beautiful!”

The air was clean, with only the faintest hint of smoke. A sleek, well-fed cat sunning herself in the middle of the track yawned at their approach, spending a few moments trying to stare them out before rising leisurely to her feet to make way for the cart to pass.

An ancient sheepdog, clearly enjoying retirement from a neighbouring farm, emerged from the shade as they approached, shaking dust from its tawny and white coat before coming to investigate, its tail slowly wagging.

“There, you see.” Owain was grinning from ear to ear. “I knew you’d like it. There’s room for a garden, and space to keep chickens, even a pig! We’ll be able to grow much of what we need. Your nain will be in her element.”

He pulled up in front of the freshly painted blue door and climbed down. He quickly untied the knot holding the furniture and the majority of the family’s belongings secure, and lifted down his wife’s precious rocking chair.

Merlyn filled her arms with sheets and eiderdowns and followed him inside.

For a moment they stood blinking in the cool darkness, lit only by small windows set deep into the thick stone walls on either side of the room.

The whitewash of the walls was darkened by years of soot from the range, but otherwise it was neat and clean, and smelled dry. The few pieces of furniture were old, but carefully mended and sturdy.

A pantry with shelves of slate led off at one side, next to a large Welsh dresser, ready for Nain’s best plates. The range had been freshly cleaned and black-leaded. There was even kindling ready in the grate and coal in the bucket.

Merlyn took her bundle up a steep flight of stairs, where the space had been divided into two by a wooden partition, lit by a small window on each side of the cottage. The beds looked clean, and the floorboards gave barely a creak as she placed the eiderdowns in the larger room.

From the window she could make out a small yard at the back, with a pigsty in need of some repair and filled with last year’s leaves, at the far end, next to the privy.

A sound of voices rose up towards her. It must be the farmer, or Sir Edward’s steward making sure that all was well.

Merlyn shot downstairs.

“I’m only thankful it’s furnished,” Taid was saying from the top of the cart, grunting as he lifted Nain’s linen chest, inherited from her mother and glossy with age and much polishing. “We’d never have got everything moved in time otherwise. It’ll be tight enough as it is.”

“I’ll send some of the men over. They’ll be glad to help, and between them it will take only minutes.”

Merlyn came to a halt. A chestnut mare was drinking from the trough in front of the cottage, next to a hat and jacket perched on a fence post.

“Good morning, Miss Griffiths,” the owner of the jacket called cheerfully, taking the full weight of the chest as Owain manoeuvred it over the side of the cart. “I was glad to hear you had found a place. I came to offer my services.”

“Good morning, Mr Ross,” she replied, finding herself suddenly shy.

She hastily busied herself retrieving a wooden box containing Nain’s best plates.

They worked steadily for several hours, until the laden cart was finally emptied. Between moving bundles of clothing and Nain’s cooking pots, Merlyn coaxed the range into life.

As the last blanket was finally placed upstairs, the kettle boiled and she was able to make a pot of tea to go with the bread and cheese Nain had prepared for them that morning.

“There’s more than enough,” she assured David Ross as he protested that he wasn’t hungry. “And we’d never have got this done before dark without you.”

“Thank you.” He accepted the tea and a large slice of bread and cheese. 
“It’s not what you might be used to,” Merlyn said, dividing up the remains of Nain’s bara brith.

He grinned.

“You’re right. It’s far more delicious. I used to dream of bread and cheese when I was a child. I’ll still take it above the finest steak any day!”

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”.