- 33. Daughter Of Conwy – Episode 32
- 34. Daughter Of Conwy – Episode 33
- 35. Daughter Of Conwy – Episode 34
- 36. Daughter Of Conwy – Episode 35
- 37. Daughter Of Conwy – Episode 36
- 38. Daughter Of Conwy – Episode 37
- 39. Daughter Of Conwy – Episode 38
Iona changed into her plainest gown, tucking her precious store of money deep inside her bodice. Throwing a few necessities into a bag, she made her way downstairs once more and out into the stables. Still no sign of Papa or Rhodri.
“Isn’t Molly ready?” she demanded of the startled stable hand who was sweeping out the yard. “I understood Sir Edward had given instructions. I’m supposed to be riding with him within the hour. Moonlit rambles are so refreshing, don’t you think?”
“Yes, of course, miss.” The hapless stable hand clearly thought she had lost her mind, but he helped her to saddle her horse without question.
Waving him away, she led Molly out, pausing only at the clump of rhododendron where her little bag lay hidden.
For a moment her courage failed her. Once embarked on the course she had set herself, there would be no going back. Sir Edward would never forgive her, and neither, she suspected, would Papa, while Rhodri would never allow her to live down such a disgrace to the family name.
Once gone, she would be on her own.
With one last glance back at the house, Iona swung herself into the saddle and set Molly off through the gates and into the dusk.
* * * *
In the last of the light, Merlyn plodded her way wearily up through Conwy town to the gap in the walls on the landward side where the long walk home to the cottage began.
The air had cooled that afternoon with an edge of damp, sending mist curling down from the mountains during their final voyage back from Conwy until the entire valley seemed shrouded in white, muffling the sounds of the river-traffic, and the bustle of the town.
There was damp on her face, and droplets shimmering on the strands of hair escaping from her bonnet.
Her clothes, which had begun to dry with the activity of the day, were wet right through, leaving her chilled to the bone. Her wet boots rubbed at her feet, letting freezing water ooze in from the worn soles and the cracks in the sides.
Along the winding streets between the walls a dressmaker’s shop mocked her with swathes of the latest materials straight from London and a ready-made-up dress and coat in the window, teasing her with its stylish promise of warmth.
“Ah, there you are.”
She turned to find David Ross crossing the narrow lane to join her.
“I was on my way home,” she said. Just his presence, so close when so soon she would never see him again, was more painful than she could bear.
“On your own?”
“Taid is sleeping on the Daughter Of Conwy these days. To make sure.”
“That there is no attempt at sabotage?”
She nodded slowly.
“I see. May I walk a little way with you?”
“If you wish.”
“Merlyn, I am due to take up my next post in a few days. I might not have the chance to speak to you again.”
She tried to sound cheerful.
“So the bridge is finished?”
“Near enough. My skills are no longer needed here. Mr Stephenson wishes me to move on to his next construction.”
“I didn’t want to leave without speaking to you.”
Her heart began beating loudly in her chest.
“Thank you, Mr Ross.
He cleared his throat.
“I’m sorry I could not help you and your family more.”
“You helped us enough, Mr Ross. We will always be grateful.”
“There are other places to live, Merlyn.”
“Why should we be forced from our home and everything we love?”
“That is true.” He came to a halt within the shadow of the town walls.
“When I first learned I was coming here, I believed myself heading to another wilderness, another town, and I would leave again without regret. But I understand how you feel. I could spend my whole life in Conwy.”
“But your work –”
“I was once ambitious for riches and glory. But my ambitions have changed. Besides, there will always be a need for engineers on the railway once it is running. My skills will always be needed.
“I once had an idea of setting up a venture of my own. I rather like the idea of being my own master. Working where, and with whom, I choose.”
“Oh,” was all Merlyn could think to say.
He took a deep breath.
“But it would need a partnership with a woman of determination and intelligence. A woman such as yourself.”
“I see.” She lifted her chin. “You are offering me a post?”
“I’m offering you my heart.”
“Oh,” she breathed again.
“Merlyn,” he murmured, stepping closer, until she could feel the heat of his body spreading through the chill of her clothes. Her heart was racing while her stomach melted away.