Daughter Of Conwy – Episode 29

“There.” Taran smoothed the painting he was framing and stood back to eye his handiwork. “That will do.”

“That will more than do; it’s beautiful!” Iona exclaimed.

Taran glanced around at the framed paintings in his little studio beneath the castle walls.

“Good. I’ll take them up to the Snowdon View this evening.” A faint shadow crossed his face. “I’m sure Mam will find time to hang them. At this rate they will all be sold before she leaves.”

“Mrs Appleford is leaving?” Iona asked.

“Yes. As soon as her replacement can be found,” Taran replied. He sighed. “I had hoped to persuade her to take an afternoon off and come to visit me in Conwy.”

“I hope you do.” Iona smiled. “I like her. I feel sure we could become good friends.”

“Indeed?” Taran muttered, wrapping the paintings. His body was turned slightly as if to shut her out.

“But I’ll understand if she’d rather we didn’t,” she faltered.

He turned. He could not bear to hear the hurt in her voice.

“I’m sure she would be pleased to see you again.”

He saw that her face was pale. Taran ached to ask her to confide in him, but he did not dare. Asking might lead to an answer, and an answer might lead to . . .

Hastily, Taran bent over the crate of pictures once more, packing them securely. He had never doubted that Iona was destined to be the wife of a rich man. He had seen her ride out in the fine carriage of Sir Edward Wynne.

But lately, seeing her so often and working on her paintings that had begun to haunt his heart and his mind with their beauty, Taran had dared to hope.

His hope had made him a fool, he’d realised when he had told Mam of the way the Tudors were treating Merlyn and her grandfather, and the desperate straits into which they were being thrown. Mam had been so angry! And there was something else. It was almost as if she blamed herself.

Mam might be prosperous and successful, but she would never be accepted by Iona’s father and brother any more than Taran would. He could not drag Iona away from everything she knew; everyone she loved.

So he could never tell her how he felt . . .

“I’ve been offered more work,” Iona said hesitantly, trying to glimpse his face. “This time it’s illustrations of the castles of England.”

“That’s wonderful! And this will be only the beginning. You soon won’t need to hide behind ‘Mr Ioan Thomas’.”

“I’ve thought of that.”

Iona swallowed. All night she had been wide awake, rehearsing what she would say. She had been so certain. Now she was unsure.

“I’ve already some savings. I wouldn’t need to depend on anybody. I could set up a business. I am of age. I could marry whom I pleased, if I loved them and they loved me.”

There was a moment’s silence. Down below, the familiar figures of Sir Edward Wynne and his daughter emerged amongst the ruins.

“I arranged to meet them here.” Iona sighed. “It was the only excuse I could think of to come here. Papa and Rhodri are bound to notice, sooner or later. Either that, or one of their acquaintance will tell them how fond I am of the castle and how frequently I visit.”

“He’s a good man,” Taran said. It was as if the breath was being strangled in his throat. “I’m sure he would never stand in the way of his wife’s happiness.”

Iona gazed at him. His face was closed, shut away from her. She swallowed.

“I thought . . . I hoped . . .”

Taran did not move.

“It seems I was mistaken,” she whispered at last.

She gazed down at Sir Edward making his way between the fallen arches. She had her answer. She knew what she must do – she had no choice.

“Good day, Mr Appleford,” she murmured.

“Goodbye, Miss Tudor.”

Taran watched her every step as she made her way to join them. He saw Clarice rush to meet her, followed by Sir Edward’s more dignified greeting.

Without a glance behind her, Iona placed her arm through that of her elderly suitor as they made their way back through the ruins.

Taran stood until he could see her no more, Iona’s final painting held tightly in his arms as if he could not bear to let it go.

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”.