Daughter Of Conwy – Episode 33


“Oh!” Rhodri felt the breath had been swept completely from his body. No-one in his entire life had ever dared to speak to him in such a way.

He should demand to talk to Mrs Appleford’s employers about her daring to speak to her social superior in such a fashion.

Except, painful as her words might be, he was hungry for more. For the truth, he recognised with a sensation of being knocked in the face by a blast of cold air.

“You’re not afraid of me.”

“It’s a bit late for that. They’ll tell you in Conwy I was never afraid of anything. That was my undoing.” She gave a faint smile. “And my salvation.”

He sat down heavily.

“Everyone has always been afraid of me. Papa won’t speak to me of anything that doesn’t concern my education or the estate. Anything that is real. Iona avoids me.

“I’m not blind – I’m quite aware that my equals laugh at me to my face and those below me behind my back. I expect you find me contemptible, too.”

Sara eyed him.

“It seems to me that you are the greatest despiser of yourself, young man. And it is you, and only you, who can do something about that. So don’t ask for my sympathy. I’m afraid at this moment I have very little left, particularly not for any Tudor.” Her gaze softened a little.

“Although I am sorry to cause you pain, for your mother’s sake.”

Rhodri gazed at her hungrily.

“Yes. You said you knew my mother.”

“Indeed. I wish she had lived. She was a gentle soul, and she loved you so dearly.”

“She was eager enough to send me away to school. She couldn’t wait to be rid of me!”

“Is that what you think?” Sara’s eyes were fierce. “Arabella couldn’t bear the thought of losing you, even to a school! She wanted to educate you herself and bring in tutors until you were old enough. But your grandfather insisted.

“That was how it always was with the heirs to Plas Arthur. Arabella tried so hard but Hugh was always afraid of your grandfather. He would never go against him, not even for that.”

Rhodri frowned at her.

“How can you be certain?”

“Because Arabella came to me. Rather than lose you, and let you be sent away to somewhere she knew would not suit you and where you would be unhappy, she ran away. She swore she would never go back. She was so desperate that Owain told her where to find me in Manchester.” Sara gave a sad smile.

“You were such a happy baby, Rhodri. But fragile, like your mother. You needed nurturing to make you strong, and that was what your mother wanted. She was prepared never to go back, but to find work to support you both.”

“Yet she did go back.”

“Yes.” Sara sighed. “It was before I met Mr Appleford. I was working in a factory to make ends meet. I would have worked all hours to support you both, but your grandfather would never give up.

“He found us, in the end. He would have let Arabella go free – after all, he had her money the moment she married Hugh. A husband owns everything his wife might ever possess. For all her rich family, Arabella had nothing.

“She would still have chosen to leave, even with nothing. But not without you. And that was something your grandfather would never allow. Not the only heir Hugh might ever have.

“So your mother went back, to be with you as much as she could. I think it broke her heart. I never saw her again.”

Rhodri sat with his face in his hands for a long while.

“I’ve been a fool,” he muttered at last.

“Quite probably,” she returned drily.

“A self-pitying, blind fool.” He looked up to meet her eyes. “I always hated my grandfather. He was a bully who didn’t care for anything so long as he got his own way. I never thought I would become him!”

“Nonsense, child, you are not him yet. You still have time to make things right.”

“Where do I begin?”

“That, my dear, I cannot tell you.” She frowned. “Although making sure the Griffithses are safe from that man you hired from Liverpool might be a start.”

“Harris?” Rhodri shrugged. “He’ll do as I say.”

“The first thing I suggest you learn is to listen to those your grandfather would have seen as beneath you.

“Boats go from here to Liverpool and people talk amongst themselves. There’s no such thing as idle gossip. If you listen, you’ll find it is the passing of information that keeps them all safe.

“Harris has a bad reputation. There are few in Liverpool would hire a man who has spent time in prison for manslaughter, and who is rumoured to have narrowly escaped the hangman’s noose, only for the lack of evidence to convict him for murder.”

 

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 aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.