Part 7 out of 14
"Pray, sir, walk in," said the woman, "and perhaps I can
"Then you have ale?" said I.
"No, sir; not a drop, but perhaps I can set something before you
which you will like as well."
"That I question," said I, "however, I will walk in."
The woman conducted me into a nice little parlour, and, leaving me,
presently returned with a bottle and tumbler on a tray.
"Here, sir," said she, "is something, which though not ale, I hope
you will be able to drink."
"What is it?" said I.
"It is -, sir; and better never was drunk."
I tasted it; it was terribly strong. Those who wish for either
whisky or brandy far above proof, should always go to a temperance
I told the woman to bring me some water, and she brought me a jug
of water cold from the spring. With a little of the contents of
the bottle, and a deal of the contents of the jug, I made myself a
beverage tolerable enough; a poor substitute, however, to a genuine
Englishman for his proper drink, the liquor which, according to the
Edda, is called by men ale, and by the gods beer.
I asked the woman whether she could read; she told me that she
could, both Welsh and English; she likewise informed me that she
had several books in both languages. I begged her to show me some,
whereupon she brought me some half dozen, and placing them on the
table left me to myself. Amongst the books was a volume of poems
in Welsh, written by Robert Williams of Betws Fawr, styled in
poetic language, Gwilym Du O Eifion. The poems were chiefly on
religious subjects. The following lines which I copied from
"Pethau a wnaed mewn Gardd," or things written in a garden,
appeared to me singularly beautiful:-
"Mewn gardd y cafodd dyn ei dwyllo;
Mewn gardd y rhoed oddewid iddo;
Mewn gardd bradychwyd Iesu hawddgar;
Mewn gardd amdowyd ef mewn daear."
"In a garden the first of our race was deceived;
In a garden the promise of grace he received;
In a garden was Jesus betrayed to His doom;
In a garden His body was laid in the tomb."
Having finished my glass of "summut" and my translation, I called
to the woman and asked her what I had to pay.
"Nothing," said she, "if you had had a cup of tea I should have
"You make no charge," said I, "for what I have had?"
"Nothing, sir, nothing."
"But suppose," said I, "I were to give you something by way of
present would you - " and here I stopped. The woman smiled.
"Would you fling it in my face?" said I.
"Oh dear, no, sir," said the woman, smiling more than before.
I gave her something - it was not a sixpence - at which she not
only smiled but curtseyed; then bidding her farewell I went out of
I was about to take the broad road, which led round the hill, when
she inquired of me where I was going, and on my telling her to
Festiniog, she advised me to go by a by-road behind the house which
led over the hill.
"If you do, sir," said she, "you will see some of the finest
prospects in Wales, get into the high road again, and save a mile
and a half of way."
I told the temperance woman I would follow her advice, whereupon
she led me behind the house, pointed to a rugged path, which with a
considerable ascent seemed to lead towards the north, and after
giving certain directions, not very intelligible, returned to her
Spanish Proverb - The Short Cut - Predestinations - Rhys Goch - Old
Crusty - Undercharging - The Cavalier.
THE Spaniards have a proverb: "No hay atajo sin trabajo," there is
no short cut without a deal of labour. This proverb is very true,
as I know by my own experience, for I never took a short cut in my
life, and I have taken many in my wanderings, without falling down,
getting into a slough, or losing my way. On the present occasion I
lost my way, and wandered about for nearly two hours amidst rocks,
thickets, and precipices, without being able to find it. The
temperance woman, however, spoke nothing but the truth when she
said I should see some fine scenery. From a rock I obtained a
wonderful view of the Wyddfa towering in sublime grandeur in the
west, and of the beautiful, but spectral, Knicht shooting up high
in the north; and from the top of a bare hill I obtained a prospect
to the south, noble indeed - waters, forests, hoary mountains, and
in the far distance the sea. But all these fine prospects were a
poor compensation for what I underwent: I was scorched by the sun,
which was insufferably hot, and my feet were bleeding from the
sharp points of the rocks which cut through my boots like razors.
At length coming to a stone wall I flung myself down under it, and
almost thought that I should give up the ghost. After some time,
however, I recovered, and getting up tried to find my way out of
the anialwch. Sheer good fortune caused me to stumble upon a path,
by following which I came to a lone farm-house, where a good-
natured woman gave me certain directions by means of which I at
last got out of the hot stony wilderness, for such it was, upon a
smooth royal road.
"Trust me again taking any short cuts," said I, "after the specimen
I have just had." This, however, I had frequently said before, and
have said since after taking short cuts - and probably shall often
say again before I come to my great journey's end.
I turned to the east which I knew to be my proper direction, and
being now on smooth ground put my legs to their best speed. The
road by a rapid descent conducted me to a beautiful valley with a
small town at its southern end. I soon reached the town, and on
inquiring its name found I was in Tan y Bwlch, which interpreted
signifieth "Below the Pass." Feeling much exhausted I entered the
On my calling for brandy and water I was shown into a handsome
parlour. The brandy and water soon restored the vigour which I had
lost in the wilderness. In the parlour was a serious-looking
gentleman, with a glass of something before him. With him, as I
sipped my brandy and water, I got into discourse. The discourse
soon took a religious turn, and terminated in a dispute. He told
me he believed in divine predestination; I told him I did not, but
that I believed in divine prescience. He asked me whether I hoped
to be saved; I told him I did, and asked him whether he hoped to be
saved. He told me he did not, and as he said so, he tapped with a
silver tea-spoon on the rim of his glass. I said that he seemed to
take very coolly the prospect of damnation; he replied that it was
of no use taking what was inevitable otherwise than coolly. I
asked him on what ground he imagined he should be lost; he replied
on the ground of being predestined to be lost. I asked him how he
knew he was predestined to be lost; whereupon he asked me how I
knew I was to be saved. I told him I did not know I was to be
saved, but trusted I should be so by belief in Christ, who came
into the world to save sinners, and that if he believed in Christ
he might be as easily saved as myself, or any other sinner who
believed in Him. Our dispute continued a considerable time longer.
At last, finding him silent, and having finished my brandy and
water, I got up, rang the bell, paid for what I had had, and left
him looking very miserable, perhaps at finding that he was not
quite so certain of eternal damnation as he had hitherto supposed.
There can be no doubt that the idea of damnation is anything but
disagreeable to some people; it gives them a kind of gloomy
consequence in their own eyes. We must be something particular
they think, or God would hardly think it worth His while to torment
us for ever.
I inquired the way to Festiniog, and finding that I had passed by
it on my way to the town, I went back, and as directed turned to
the east up a wide pass, down which flowed a river. I soon found
myself in another and very noble valley, intersected by the river
which was fed by numerous streams rolling down the sides of the
hills. The road which I followed in the direction of the east lay
on the southern side of the valley and led upward by a steep
ascent. On I went, a mighty hill close on my right. My mind was
full of enthusiastic fancies; I was approaching Festiniog the
birthplace of Rhys Goch, who styled himself Rhys Goch of Eryri or
Red Rhys of Snowdon, a celebrated bard, and a partisan of Owen
Glendower, who lived to an immense age, and who, as I had read, was
in the habit of composing his pieces seated on a stone which formed
part of a Druidical circle, for which reason the stone was called
the chair of Rhys Goch; yes, my mind was full of enthusiastic
fancies all connected with this Rhys Goch, and as I went along
slowly, I repeated stanzas of furious war songs of his exciting his
countrymen to exterminate the English, and likewise snatches of an
abusive ode composed by him against a fox who had run away with his
favourite peacock, a piece so abounding with hard words that it was
termed the Drunkard's chokepear, as no drunkard was ever able to
recite it, and ever and anon I wished I could come in contact with
some native of the region with whom I could talk about Rhys Goch,
and who could tell me whereabouts stood his chair.
Strolling along in this manner I was overtaken by an old fellow
with a stick in his hand, walking very briskly. He had a crusty
and rather conceited look. I spoke to him in Welsh, and he
answered in English, saying that I need not trouble myself by
speaking Welsh, as he had plenty of English, and of the very best.
We were from first to last at cross purposes. I asked him about
Rhys Goch and his chair. He told me that he knew nothing of
either, and began to talk of Her Majesty's ministers and the fine
sights of London. I asked him the name of a stream which,
descending a gorge on our right, ran down the side of a valley, to
join the river at its bottom. He told me that he did not know, and
asked me the name of the Queen's eldest daughter. I told him I did
not know, and remarked that it was very odd that he could not tell
me the name of a stream in his own vale. He replied that it was
not a bit more odd than that I could not tell him the name of the
eldest daughter of the Queen of England: I told him that when I
was in Wales I wanted to talk about Welsh matters, and he told me
that when he was with English he wanted to talk about English
matters. I returned to the subject of Rhys Goch and his chair, and
he returned to the subject of Her Majesty's ministers, and the fine
folks of London. I told him that I cared not a straw about Her
Majesty's ministers and the fine folks of London, and he replied
that he cared not a straw for Rhys Goch, his chair or old women's
stories of any kind.
Regularly incensed against the old fellow, I told him he was a bad
Welshman, and he retorted by saying I was a bad Englishman. I said
he appeared to know next to nothing. He retorted by saying I knew
less than nothing, and almost inarticulate with passion added that
he scorned to walk in such illiterate company, and suiting the
action to the word sprang up a steep and rocky footpath on the
right, probably a short cut to his domicile, and was out of sight
in a twinkling. We were both wrong: I most so. He was crusty and
conceited, but I ought to have humoured him and then I might have
got out of him anything he knew, always supposing that he knew
About an hour's walk from Tan y Bwlch brought me to Festiniog,
which is situated on the top of a lofty hill looking down from the
south-east, on the valley which I have described, and which as I
know not its name I shall style the Valley of the numerous streams.
I went to the inn, a large old-fashioned house standing near the
church; the mistress of it was a queer-looking old woman,
antiquated in her dress and rather blunt in her manner. Of her,
after ordering dinner, I made inquiries respecting the chair of
Rhys Goch, but she said that she had never heard of such a thing,
and after glancing at me askew, for a moment, with a curiously-
formed left eye which she had, went away muttering chair, chair;
leaving me in a large and rather dreary parlour, to which she had
shown me. I felt very fatigued, rather I believe from that unlucky
short cut than from the length of the way, for I had not come more
than eighteen miles. Drawing a chair towards a table I sat down,
and placing my elbows upon the board I leaned my face upon my
upturned hands, and presently fell into a sweet sleep, from which I
awoke exceedingly refreshed just as a maid opened the room door to
lay the cloth.
After dinner I got up, went out and strolled about the place. It
was small, and presented nothing very remarkable. Tired of
strolling I went and leaned my back against the wall of the
churchyard and enjoyed the cool of the evening, for evening with
its coolness and shadows had now come on.
As I leaned against the wall, an elderly man came up and entered
into discourse with me. He told me he was a barber by profession,
had travelled all over Wales, and had seen London. I asked him
about the chair of Rhys Goch. He told me that he had heard of some
such chair a long time ago, but could give me no information as to
where it stood. I know not how it happened that he came to speak
about my landlady, but speak about her he did. He said that she
was a good kind of woman, but totally unqualified for business, as
she knew not how to charge. On my observing that that was a piece
of ignorance with which few landladies or landlords either were
taxable, he said that however other publicans might overcharge,
undercharging was her foible, and that she had brought herself very
low in the world by it - that to his certain knowledge she might
have been worth thousands instead of the trifle which she was
possessed of, and that she was particularly notorious for
undercharging the English, a thing never before dreamt of in Wales.
I told him that I was very glad that I had come under the roof of
such a landlady; the old barber, however, said that she was setting
a bad example, that such goings on could not last long, that he
knew how things would end, and finally working himself up into a
regular tiff left me abruptly without wishing me good-night.
I returned to the inn, and called for lights; the lights were
placed upon the table in the old-fashioned parlour, and I was left
to myself. I walked up and down the room some time. At length,
seeing some old books lying in a corner, I laid hold of them,
carried them to the table, sat down and began to inspect them; they
were the three volumes of Scott's "Cavalier" - I had seen this work
when a youth, and thought it a tiresome trashy publication.
Looking over it now when I was grown old I thought so still, but I
now detected in it what from want of knowledge I had not detected
in my early years, what the highest genius, had it been manifested
in every page, could not have compensated for, base fulsome
adulation of the worthless great, and most unprincipled libelling
of the truly noble ones of the earth, because they the sons of
peasants and handycraftsmen, stood up for the rights of outraged
humanity, and proclaimed that it is worth makes the man and not
embroidered clothing. The heartless, unprincipled son of the
tyrant was transformed in that worthless book into a slightly-
dissipated, it is true, but upon the whole brave, generous and
amiable being; and Harrison, the English Regulus, honest, brave,
unflinching Harrison, into a pseudo-fanatic, a mixture of the rogue
and fool. Harrison, probably the man of the most noble and
courageous heart that England ever produced, who when all was lost
scorned to flee, like the second Charles from Worcester, but,
braved infamous judges and the gallows, who when reproached on his
mock trial with complicity in the death of the king, gave the noble
answer that "It was a thing not done in a corner," and when in the
cart on the way to Tyburn, on being asked jeeringly by a lord's
bastard in the crowd, "Where is the good old cause now?" thrice
struck his strong fist on the breast which contained his courageous
heart, exclaiming, "Here, here, here!" Yet for that "Cavalier,"
that trumpery publication, the booksellers of England, on its first
appearance, gave an order to the amount of six thousand pounds.
But they were wise in their generation; they knew that the book
would please the base, slavish taste of the age, a taste which the
author of the work had had no slight share in forming.
Tired after a while with turning over the pages of the trashy
"Cavalier" I returned the volumes to their place in the corner,
blew out one candle, and taking the other in my hand marched off to
The Bill - The Two Mountains - Sheet of Water - The Afanc-Crocodile
- The Afanc-Beaver - Tai Hirion - Kind Woman - Arenig Vawr - The
Beam and Mote - Bala.
AFTER breakfasting I demanded my bill. I was curious to see how
little the amount would be, for after what I had heard from the old
barber the preceding evening about the utter ignorance of the
landlady in making a charge, I naturally expected that I should
have next to nothing to pay. When it was brought, however, and the
landlady brought it herself, I could scarcely believe my eyes.
Whether the worthy woman had lately come to a perception of the
folly of undercharging, and had determined to adopt a different
system; whether it was that seeing me the only guest in the house
she had determined to charge for my entertainment what she usually
charged for that of two or three - strange by-the-bye that I should
be the only guest in a house notorious for undercharging - I know
not, but certain it is the amount of the bill was far, far from the
next to nothing which the old barber had led me to suppose I should
have to pay, who perhaps after all had very extravagant ideas with
respect to making out a bill for a Saxon. It was, however, not a
very unconscionable bill, and merely amounted to a trifle more than
I had paid at Beth Gelert for somewhat better entertainment.
Having paid the bill without demur and bidden the landlady
farewell, who displayed the same kind of indifferent bluntness
which she had manifested the day before, I set off in the direction
of the east, intending that my next stage should be Bala. Passing
through a tollgate I found myself in a kind of suburb consisting of
a few cottages. Struck with the neighbouring scenery, I stopped to
observe it. A mighty mountain rises in the north almost abreast of
Festiniog; another towards the east divided into two of unequal
size. Seeing a woman of an interesting countenance seated at the
door of a cottage I pointed to the hill towards the north, and
speaking the Welsh language, inquired its name.
"That hill, sir," said she, "is called Moel Wyn."
Now Moel Wyn signifies the white, bare hill.
"And how do you call those two hills towards the east?"
"We call one, sir, Mynydd Mawr, the other Mynydd Bach."
Now Mynydd Mawr signifies the great mountain and Mynydd Bach the
"Do any people live in those hills?"
"The men who work the quarries, sir, live in those hills. They and
their wives and their children. No other people."
"Have you any English?"
"I have not, sir. No people who live on this side the talcot
(tollgate) for a long way have any English."
I proceeded on my journey. The country for some way eastward of
Festiniog is very wild and barren, consisting of huge hills without
trees or verdure. About three miles' distance, however, there is a
beautiful valley, which you look down upon from the southern side
of the road, after having surmounted a very steep ascent. This
valley is fresh and green and the lower parts of the hills on its
farther side are, here and there, adorned with groves. At the
eastern end is a deep, dark gorge, or ravine, down which tumbles a
brook in a succession of small cascades. The ravine is close by
the road. The brook after disappearing for a time shows itself
again far down in the valley, and is doubtless one of the
tributaries of the Tan y Bwlch river, perhaps the very same brook
the name of which I could not learn the preceding day in the vale.
As I was gazing on the prospect an old man driving a peat cart came
from the direction in which I was going. I asked him the name of
the ravine and he told me it was Ceunant Coomb or hollow-dingle
coomb. I asked the name of the brook, and he told me that it was
called the brook of the hollow-dingle coomb, adding that it ran
under Pont Newydd, though where that was I knew not. Whilst he was
talking with me he stood uncovered. Yes, the old peat driver stood
with his hat in his hand whilst answering the questions of the
poor, dusty foot-traveller. What a fine thing to be an Englishman
In about an hour I came to a wild moor; the moor extended for miles
and miles. It was bounded on the east and south by immense hills
and moels. On I walked at a round pace, the sun scorching me sore,
along a dusty, hilly road, now up, now down. Nothing could be
conceived more cheerless than the scenery around. The ground on
each side of the road was mossy and rushy - no houses - instead of
them were neat stacks, here and there, standing in their blackness.
Nothing living to be seen except a few miserable sheep picking the
wretched herbage, or lying panting on the shady side of the peat
clumps. At length I saw something which appeared to be a sheet of
water at the bottom of a low ground on my right. It looked far off
- "Shall I go and see what it is?" thought I to myself. "No,"
thought I. "It is too far off" - so on I walked till I lost sight
of it, when I repented and thought I would go and see what it was.
So I dashed down the moory slope on my right, and presently saw the
object again - and now I saw that it was water. I sped towards it
through gorse and heather, occasionally leaping a deep drain. At
last I reached it. It was a small lake. Wearied and panting I
flung myself on its bank and gazed upon it.
There lay the lake in the low bottom, surrounded by the heathery
hillocks; there it lay quite still, the hot sun reflected upon its
surface, which shone like a polished blue shield. Near the shore
it was shallow, at least near that shore upon which I lay. But
farther on, my eye, practised in deciding upon the depths of
waters, saw reason to suppose that its depth was very great. As I
gazed upon it my mind indulged in strange musings. I thought of
the afanc, a creature which some have supposed to be the harmless
and industrious beaver, others the frightful and destructive
crocodile. I wondered whether the afanc was the crocodile or the
beaver, and speedily had no doubt that the name was originally
applied to the crocodile.
"Oh, who can doubt," thought I, "that the word was originally
intended for something monstrous and horrible? Is there not
something horrible in the look and sound of the word afanc,
something connected with the opening and shutting of immense jaws,
and the swallowing of writhing prey? Is not the word a fitting
brother of the Arabic timsah, denoting the dread horny lizard of
the waters? Moreover, have we not the voice of tradition that the
afanc was something monstrous? Does it not say that Hu the Mighty,
the inventor of husbandry, who brought the Cumry from the summer-
country, drew the old afanc out of the lake of lakes with his four
gigantic oxen? Would he have had recourse to them to draw out the
little harmless beaver? Oh, surely not. Yet have I no doubt that
when the crocodile had disappeared from the lands, where the Cumric
language was spoken, the name afanc was applied to the beaver,
probably his successor in the pool, the beaver now called in Cumric
Llostlydan, or the broad-tailed, for tradition's voice is strong
that the beaver has at one time been called the afanc." Then I
wondered whether the pool before me had been the haunt of the
afanc, considered both as crocodile and beaver. I saw no reason to
suppose that it had not. "If crocodiles," thought I, "ever existed
in Britain, and who shall say that they have not, seeing that there
remains have been discovered, why should they not have haunted this
pool? If beavers ever existed in Britain, and do not tradition and
Giraldus say that they have, why should they not have existed in
"At a time almost inconceivably remote, when the hills around were
covered with woods, through which the elk and the bison and the
wild cow strolled, when men were rare throughout the lands and
unlike in most things to the present race - at such a period - and
such a period there has been - I can easily conceive that the
afanc-crocodile haunted this pool, and that when the elk or bison
or wild cow came to drink of its waters the grim beast would
occasionally rush forth, and seizing his bellowing victim, would
return with it to the deeps before me to luxuriate at his ease upon
its flesh. And at a time less remote, when the crocodile was no
more, and though the woods still covered the hills, and wild cattle
strolled about, men were more numerous than before, and less unlike
the present race, I can easily conceive this lake to have been the
haunt of the afanc-beaver, that he here built cunningly his house
of trees and clay, and that to this lake the native would come with
his net and his spear to hunt the animal for his precious fur.
Probably if the depths of that pool were searched relics of the
crocodile and the beaver might be found, along with other strange
things connected with the periods in which they respectively lived.
Happy were I if for a brief space I could become a Cingalese that I
might swim out far into that pool, dive down into its deepest part
and endeavour to discover any strange things which beneath its
surface may lie." Much in this guise rolled my thoughts as I lay
stretched on the margin of the lake.
Satiated with musing I at last got up and endeavoured to regain the
road. I found it at last, though not without considerable
difficulty. I passed over moors, black and barren, along a dusty
road till I came to a valley; I was now almost choked with dust and
thirst, and longed for nothing in the world so much as for water;
suddenly I heard its blessed sound, and perceived a rivulet on my
left hand. It was crossed by two bridges, one immensely old and
terribly dilapidated, the other old enough, but in better repair -
went and drank under the oldest bridge of the two. The water
tasted of the peat of the moors, nevertheless I drank greedily of
it, for one must not be over-delicate upon the moors.
Refreshed with my draught I proceeded briskly on my way, and in a
little time saw a range of white buildings, diverging from the road
on the right hand, the gable of the first abutting upon it. A kind
of farm-yard was before them. A respectable-looking woman was
standing in the yard. I went up to her and inquired the name of
"These houses, sir," said she, "are called Tai Hirion Mignaint.
Look over that door and you will see T. H. which letters stand for
Tai Hirion. Mignaint is the name of the place where they stand."
I looked, and upon a stone which formed the lintel of the
middlemost door I read "T. H 1630."
The words Tai Hirion it will be as well to say signify the long
I looked long and steadfastly at the inscription, my mind full of
thoughts of the past.
"Many a year has rolled by since these houses were built," said I,
as I sat down on a stepping-stone.
"Many indeed, sir," said the woman, "and many a strange thing has
"Did you ever hear of one Oliver Cromwell?" said I.
"Oh, yes, sir, and of King Charles too. The men of both have been
in this yard and have baited their horses; aye, and have mounted
their horses from the stone on which you sit."
"I suppose they were hardly here together?" said I.
"No, no, sir," said the woman, "they were bloody enemies, and could
never set their horses together."
"Are these long houses," said I, "inhabited by different families?"
"Only by one, sir, they make now one farm-house."
"Are you the mistress of it," said I.
"I am, sir, and my husband is the master. Can I bring you
"Some water," said I, "for I am thirsty, though I drank under the
The good woman brought me a basin of delicious milk and water.
"What are the names of the two bridges," said I, "a little way from
"They are called, sir, the old and new bridge of Tai Hirion; at
least we call them so."
"And what do you call the ffrwd that runs beneath them?"
"I believe, sir, it is called the river Twerin."
"Do you know a lake far up there amidst the moors?"
"I have seen it, sir; they call it Llyn Twerin."
"Does the river Twerin flow from it?"
"I believe it does, sir, but I do not know."
"Is the lake deep?"
"I have heard that it is very deep, sir, so much so that nobody
knows it's depth."
"Are there fish in it?"
"Digon, sir, digon iawn, and some very large. I once saw a Pen-
hwyad from that lake which weighed fifty pounds."
After a little farther conversation I got up, and thanking the kind
woman departed. I soon left the moors behind me and continued
walking till I came to a few houses on the margin of a meadow or
fen in a valley through which the way trended to the east. They
were almost overshadowed by an enormous mountain which rose beyond
the fen on the south. Seeing a house which bore a sign, and at the
door of which a horse stood tied, I went in, and a woman coming to
meet me in a kind of passage, I asked her if I could have some ale.
"Of the best, sir," she replied, and conducted me down the passage
into a neat room, partly kitchen, partly parlour, the window of
which looked out upon the fen. A rustic-looking man sat smoking at
a table with a jug of ale before him. I sat down near him, and the
good woman brought me a similar jug of ale, which on tasting I
found excellent. My spirits which had been for some time very
flagging presently revived, and I entered into conversation with my
companion at the table. From him I learned that he was a farmer of
the neighbourhood, that the horse tied before the door belonged to
him, that the present times were very bad for the producers of
grain, with very slight likelihood of improvement; that the place
at which we were was called Rhyd y fen, or the ford across the fen;
that it was just half way between Festiniog and Bala, that the
clergyman of the parish was called Mr Pughe, a good kind of man,
but very purblind in a spiritual sense; and finally that there was
no safe religion in the world, save that of the Calvinistic-
Methodists, to which my companion belonged.
Having finished my ale I paid for it, and leaving the Calvinistic
farmer still smoking, I departed from Rhyd y fen. On I went along
the valley, the enormous hill on my right, a moel of about half its
height on my left, and a tall hill bounding the prospect in the
east, the direction in which I was going. After a little time,
meeting two women, I asked them the name of the mountain to the
"Arenig Vawr," they replied, or something like it.
Presently meeting four men I put the same question to the foremost,
a stout, burly, intelligent-looking fellow, of about fifty. He
gave me the same name as the women. I asked if anybody lived upon
"No," said he, "too cold for man."
"Fox?" said I.
"No! too cold for fox."
"Crow?" said I.
"No, too cold for crow; crow would be starved upon it." He then
looked me in the face, expecting probably that I should smile.
I, however, looked at him with all the gravity of a judge,
whereupon he also observed the gravity of a judge, and we continued
looking at each other with all the gravity of judges till we both
simultaneously turned away, he followed by his companions going his
path, and I going mine.
I subsequently remembered that Arenig is mentioned in a Welsh poem,
though in anything but a flattering and advantageous manner. The
writer calls it Arenig ddiffaith or barren Arenig, and says that it
intercepts from him the view of his native land. Arenig is
certainly barren enough, for there is neither tree nor shrub upon
it, but there is something majestic in its huge bulk. Of all the
hills which I saw in Wales none made a greater impression upon me.
Towards evening I arrived at a very small and pretty village in the
middle of which was a tollgate. Seeing an old woman seated at the
door of the gate-house I asked her the name of the village. "I
have no Saesneg!" she screamed out.
"I have plenty of Cumraeg," said I, and repeated my question.
Whereupon she told me that it was called Tref y Talcot - the
village of the tollgate. That it was a very nice village, and that
she was born there. She then pointed to two young women who were
walking towards the gate at a very slow pace and told me they were
English. "I do not know them," said I. The old lady, who was
somewhat deaf, thinking that I said I did not know English, leered
at me complacently, and said that in that case, I was like herself,
for she did not speak a word of English, adding that a body should
not be considered a fool for not speaking English. She then said
that the young women had been taking a walk together, and that they
were much in each other's company for the sake of conversation, and
no wonder, as the poor simpletons could not speak a word of Welsh.
I thought of the beam and mote mentioned in Scripture, and then
cast a glance of compassion on the two poor young women. For a
moment I fancied myself in the times of Owen Glendower, and that I
saw two females, whom his marauders had carried off from Cheshire
or Shropshire to toil and slave in the Welshery, walking together
after the labours of the day were done, and bemoaning their
misfortunes in their own homely English.
Shortly after leaving the village of the tollgate I came to a
beautiful valley. On my right hand was a river the farther bank of
which was fringed with trees; on my left was a gentle ascent, the
lower part of which was covered with rich grass, and the upper with
yellow luxuriant corn; a little farther on was a green grove,
behind which rose up a moel. A more bewitching scene I never
beheld. Ceres and Pan seemed in this place to have met to hold
their bridal. The sun now descending shone nobly upon the whole.
After staying for some time to gaze, I proceeded, and soon met
several carts, from the driver of one of which I learned that I was
yet three miles from Bala. I continued my way and came to a
bridge, a little way beyond which I overtook two men, one of whom,
an old fellow, held a very long whip in his hand, and the other, a
much younger man with a cap on his head, led a horse. When I came
up the old fellow took off his hat to me, and I forthwith entered
into conversation with him. I soon gathered from him that he was a
horsedealer from Bala, and that he had been out on the road with
his servant to break a horse. I astonished the old man with my
knowledge of Welsh and horses, and learned from him - for
conceiving I was one of the right sort, he was very communicative -
two or three curious particulars connected with the Welsh mode of
breaking horses. Discourse shortened the way to both of us, and we
were soon in Bala. In the middle of the town he pointed to a large
old-fashioned house on the right hand, at the bottom of a little
square, and said, "Your honour was just asking me about an inn.
That is the best inn in Wales, and if your honour is as good a
judge of an inn as of a horse, I think you will say so when you
leave it. Prydnawn da 'chwi!"
Tom Jenkins - Ale of Bala - Sober Moments - Local Prejudices - The
States - Unprejudiced Man - Welsh Pensilvanian Settlers - Drapery
Line - Evening Saunter.
SCARCELY had I entered the door of the inn when a man presented
himself to me with a low bow. He was about fifty years of age,
somewhat above the middle size, and had grizzly hair and a dark,
freckled countenance, in which methought I saw a considerable dash
of humour. He wore brown clothes, had no hat on his head, and held
a napkin in his hand. "Are you the master of this hotel?" said I.
"No, your honour," he replied, "I am only the waiter, but I
officiate for my master in all things; my master has great
confidence in me, sir."
"And I have no doubt," said I, "that he could not place his
confidence in any one more worthy."
With a bow yet lower than the preceding one the waiter replied with
a smirk and a grimace, "Thanks, your honour, for your good opinion.
I assure your honour that I am deeply obliged."
His air, manner, and even accent, were so like those of a
Frenchman, that I could not forbear asking him whether he was one.
He shook his head and replied, "No, your honour, no, I am not a
Frenchman, but a native of this poor country, Tom Jenkins by name."
"Well," said I, "you really look and speak like a Frenchman, but no
wonder; the Welsh and French are much of the same blood. Please
now to show me into the parlour."
He opened the door of a large apartment, placed a chair by a table
which stood in the middle, and then, with another bow, requested to
know my farther pleasure. After ordering dinner I said that as I
was thirsty I should like to have some ale forthwith.
"Ale you shall have, your honour," said Tom, "and some of the best
ale that can be drunk. This house is famous for ale."
"I suppose you get your ale from Llangollen," said I, "which is
celebrated for its ale over Wales."
"Get our ale from Llangollen?" said Tom, with sneer of contempt,
"no, nor anything else. As for the ale it was brewed in this house
by your honour's humble servant."
"Oh," said I, "if you brewed it, it must of course be good. Pray
bring me some immediately, for I am anxious to drink ale of your
"Your honour shall be obeyed," said Tom, and disappearing returned
in a twinkling with a tray on which stood a jug filled with liquor
and a glass. He forthwith filled the glass, and pointing to its
"There, your honour, did you ever see such ale? Observe its
colour! Does it not look for all the world as pale and delicate as
"I wish it may not taste like cowslip wine," said I; "to tell you
the truth, I am no particular admirer of ale that looks pale and
delicate; for I always think there is no strength in it."
"Taste it, your honour," said Tom, "and tell me if you ever tasted
I tasted it, and then took a copious draught. The ale was indeed
admirable, equal to the best that I had ever before drunk - rich
and mellow, with scarcely any smack of the hop in it, and though so
pale and delicate to the eye nearly as strong as brandy. I
commended it highly to the worthy Jenkins, who exultingly
"That Llangollen ale indeed! no, no! ale like that, your honour,
was never brewed in that trumpery hole Llangollen."
"You seem to have a very low opinion of Llangollen?" said I.
"How can I have anything but a low opinion of it, your honour? A
trumpery hole it is, and ever will remain so."
"Many people of the first quality go to visit it," said I.
"That is because it lies so handy for England, your honour. If it
did not, nobody would go to see it. What is there to see in
"There is not much to see in the town, I admit," said I, "but the
scenery about it is beautiful: what mountains!"
"Mountains, your honour, mountains! well, we have mountains too,
and as beautiful as those of Llangollen. Then we have our lake,
our Llyn Tegid, the lake of beauty. Show me anything like that
"Then," said I, "there is your mound, your Tomen Bala. The
Llangollen people can show nothing like that."
Tom Jenkins looked at me for a moment with some surprise, and then
said: "I see you have been here before, sir."
"No," said I, "never, but I have read about the Tomen Bala in
books, both Welsh and English."
"You have, sir," said Tom. "Well, I am rejoiced to see so book-
learned a gentleman in our house. The Tomen Bala has puzzled many
a head. What do the books which mention it say about it, your
"Very little," said I, "beyond mentioning it; what do the people
here say of it?"
"All kinds of strange things, your honour."
"Do they say who built it?"
"Some say the Tylwyth Teg built it, others that it was cast up over
a dead king by his people. The truth is, nobody here knows who
built it, or anything about it, save that it is a wonder. Ah,
those people of Llangollen can show nothing like it."
"Come," said I, "you must not be so hard upon the people of
Llangollen. They appear to me upon the whole to be an eminently
The Celtic waiter gave a genuine French shrug. "Excuse me, your
honour, for being of a different opinion. They are all drunkards."
"I have occasionally seen drunken people at Llangollen," said I,
"but I have likewise seen a great many sober."
"That is, your honour, you have seen them in their sober moments;
but if you had watched, your honour, if you had kept your eye on
them, you would have seen them reeling too."
"That I can hardly believe," said I.
"Your honour can't! but I can who know them. They are all
drunkards, and nobody can live among them without being a drunkard.
There was my nephew - "
"What of him?" said I.
"Why he went to Llangollen, your honour, and died of a drunken
fever in less than a month."
"Well, but might he not have died of the same, if he had remained
"No, your honour, no! he lived here many a year, and never died of
a drunken fever; he was rather fond of liquor, it is true, but he
never died at Bala of a drunken fever; but when he went to
Llangollen he did. Now, your honour, if there is not something
more drunken about Llangollen than about Bala, why did my nephew
die at Llangollen of a drunken fever?"
"Really," said I, "you are such a close reasoner, that I do not
like to dispute with you. One observation however, I wish to make:
I have lived at Llangollen, without, I hope, becoming a drunkard."
"Oh, your honour is out of the question," said the Celtic waiter
with a strange grimace. "Your honour is an Englishman, an English
gentleman, and of course could live all the days of your life at
Llangollen without being a drunkard, he, he! Who ever heard of an
Englishman, especially an English gentleman, being a drunkard, he,
he, he. And now, your honour, pray excuse me, for I must go and
see that your honour's dinner is being got ready in a suitable
Thereupon he left me with a bow yet lower than any I had previously
seen him make. If his manners put me in mind of those of a
Frenchman, his local prejudices brought powerfully to my
recollection those of a Spaniard. Tom Jenkins swears by Bala and
abuses Llangollen, and calls its people drunkards, just as a
Spaniard exalts his own village and vituperates the next and its
inhabitants, whom, though he will not call them drunkards, unless
indeed he happens to be a Gallegan, he will not hesitate to term
"una caterva de pillos y embusteros."
The dinner when it appeared was excellent, and consisted of many
more articles than I had ordered. After dinner, as I sat
"trifling" with my cold brandy and water, an individual entered, a
short thick dumpy man about thirty, with brown clothes and a broad
hat, and holding in his hand a large leather bag. He gave me a
familiar nod, and passing by the table at which I sat, to one near
the window, he flung the bag upon it, and seating himself in a
chair with his profile towards me, he untied the bag, from which he
poured a large quantity of sovereigns upon the table and fell to
counting them. After counting them three times he placed them
again in the bag which he tied up, then taking a small book,
seemingly an account-book, out of his pocket, he wrote something in
it with a pencil, then putting it in his pocket he took the bag and
unlocking a beaufet which stood at some distance behind him against
the wall, he put the bag into a drawer; then again locking the
beaufet he sat down in the chair, then tilting the chair back upon
its hind legs he kept swaying himself backwards and forwards upon
it, his toes sometimes upon the ground, sometimes mounting until
they tapped against the nether side of the table, surveying me all
the time with a queer kind of a side glance, and occasionally
ejecting saliva upon the carpet in the direction of place where I
"Fine weather, sir," said I, at last, rather tired of being skewed
and spit at in this manner.
"Why yaas," said the figure; "the day is tolerably fine, but I have
seen a finer."
"Well, I don't remember to have seen one," said I; "it is as fine a
day as I have seen during the present season, and finer weather
than I have seen during this season I do not think I ever saw
"The weather is fine enough for Britain," said the figure, "but
there are other countries besides Britain."
"Why," said I, "there's the States, 'tis true."
"Ever been in the States, Mr?" said the figure quickly.
"Have I ever been in the States," said I, "have I ever been in the
"Perhaps you are of the States, Mr; I thought so from the first."
"The States are fine countries," said I.
"I guess they are, Mr."
"It would be no easy matter to whip the States."
"So I should guess, Mr."
"That is, single-handed," said I.
"Single-handed, no nor double-handed either. Let England and
France and the State which they are now trying to whip without
being able to do it, that's Russia, all unite in a union to whip
the Union, and if instead of whipping the States they don't get a
whipping themselves, call me a braying jackass - "
"I see, Mr," said I, "that you are a sensible man, because you
speak very much my own opinion. However, as I am an unprejudiced
person, like yourself, I wish to do justice to other countries -
the States are fine countries - but there are other fine countries
in the world. I say nothing of England; catch me saying anything
good of England; but I call Wales a fine country; gainsay it who
may, I call Wales a fine country."
"So it is, Mr."
"I'll go farther," said I; "I wish to do justice to everything: I
call the Welsh a fine language."
"So it is, Mr. Ah, I see you are an unprejudiced man. You don't
understand Welsh, I guess."
"I don't understand Welsh," said I; "I don't understand Welsh.
That's what I call a good one."
"Medrwch siarad Cumraeg?" said the short figure spitting on the
"Medraf," said I.
"You can, Mr! Well, if that don't whip the Union. But I see: you
were born in the States of Welsh parents."
"No harm in being born in the States of Welsh parents," said I.
"None at all, Mr; I was myself, and the first language I learnt to
speak was Welsh. Did your people come from Bala, Mr?"
"Why no! Did yourn?"
"Why yaas - at least from the neighbourhood. What State do you
come from? Virginny?"
"Perhaps Pensilvany country?"
"Pensilvany is a fine State," said I.
"So it is, Mr. Oh, that is your State, is it? I come from
"You do, do you? Well, Varmont is not a bad state, but not equal
to Pensilvany, and I'll tell you two reasons why; first it has not
been so long settled, and second there is not so much Welsh blood
in it as there is in Pensilvany."
"Is there much Welsh blood in Pensilvany then?"
"Plenty, Mr, plenty. Welsh flocked over to Pensilvany even as far
back as the time of William Pen, who as you know, Mr, was the first
founder of the Pensilvany State. And that puts me in mind that
there is a curious account extant of the adventures of one of the
old Welsh settlers in Pensilvania. It is to be found in a letter
in an old Welsh book. The letter is dated 1705, and is from one
Huw Jones, born of Welsh parents in Pensilvany country, to a cousin
of his of the same name residing in the neighbourhood of this very
town of Bala in Merionethshire, where you and I, Mr, now are. It
is in answer to certain inquiries made by the cousin, and is
written in pure old Welsh language. It gives an account of how the
writer's father left this neighbourhood to go to Pensilvania; how
he embarked on board the ship WILLIAM PEN; how he was thirty weeks
on the voyage from the Thames to the Delaware. Only think, Mr, of
a ship now-a-days being thirty weeks on the passage from the Thames
to the Delaware river; how he learnt the English language on the
voyage; how he and his companions nearly perished with hunger in
the wild wood after they landed; how Pensilvania city was built;
how he became a farmer and married a Welsh woman, the widow of a
Welshman from shire Denbigh, by whom he had the writer and several
other children; how the father used to talk to his children about
his native region and the places round about Bala, and fill their
breasts with longing for the land of their fathers; and finally how
the old man died leaving his children and their mother in
prosperous circumstances. It is a wonderful letter, Mr, all
written in the pure old Welsh language."
"I say, Mr, you are a cute one and know a thing or two. I suppose
Welsh was the first language you learnt, like myself?"
"No, it wasn't - I like to speak the truth - never took to either
speaking or reading the Welsh language till I was past sixteen."
"'Stonishing! but see the force of blood at last. In any line of
"No, Mr, can't say I am."
"Have money in your pocket, and travel for pleasure. Come to see
"Come to see old Wales. And what brings you here, Hiraeth?"
"That's longing. No, not exactly. Came over to England to see
what I could do. Got in with house at Liverpool in the drapery
business. Travel for it hereabouts, having connections and
speaking the language. Do branch business here for a banking-house
besides. Manage to get on smartly."
"You look a smart 'un. But don't you find it sometimes hard to
compete with English travellers in the drapery line?"
"I guess not. English travellers! set of nat'rals. Don't know the
language and nothing else. Could whip a dozen any day. Regularly
"You do, Mr? Ah, I see you're a cute 'un. Glad to have met you."
"I say, Mr, you have not told me from what county your forefathers
"From Norfolk and Cornwall counties."
"Didn't know there were such counties in Wales."
"But there are in England."
"Why, you told me you were of Welsh parents."
"No, I didn't. You told yourself so."
"But how did you come to know Welsh?"
"Why, that's my bit of a secret."
"But you are of the United States?"
"Never knew that before."
"Mr, you flummox me."
"Just as you do the English drapery travellers. Ah, you're a cute
'un - but do you think it altogether a cute trick to stow all those
sovereigns in that drawer?"
"Who should take them out, Mr?"
"Who should take them out? Why, any of the swell mob that should
chance to be in the house might unlock the drawer with their flash
keys as soon as your back is turned, and take out all the coin."
"But there are none of the swell mob here."
"How do you know, that?" said I, "the swell mob travel wide about -
how do you know that I am not one of them?"
"The swell mob don't speak Welsh, I guess."
"Don't be too sure of that," said I - "the swell coves spare no
expense for their education - so that they may be able to play
parts according to circumstances. I strongly advise you, Mr, to
put that bag somewhere else lest something should happen to it."
"Well, Mr, I'll take your advice. These are my quarters, and I was
merely going to keep the money here for convenience' sake. The
money belongs to the bank, so it is but right to stow it away in
the bank safe. I certainly should be loth to leave it here with
you in the room, after what you have said." He then got up,
unlocked the drawer, took out the bag, and with a "Goodnight, Mr,"
left the room.
I "trifled" over my brandy and water till I finished it, and then
walked forth to look at the town. I turned up a street, which led
to the east, and soon found myself beside the lake at the north-
west extremity of which Bala stands. It appeared a very noble
sheet of water stretching from north to south for several miles.
As, however, night was fast coming on I did not see it to its full
advantage. After gazing upon it for a few minutes I sauntered back
to the square, or marketplace, and leaning my back against a wall,
listened to the conversation of two or three groups of people who
were standing near, my motive for doing so being a desire to know
what kind of Welsh they spoke. Their language as far as I heard it
differed in scarcely any respect from that of Llangollen. I,
however, heard very little of it, for I had scarcely kept my
station a minute when the good folks became uneasy, cast side-
glances at me, first dropped their conversation to whispers, next
held their tongues altogether, and finally moved off, some going to
their homes, others moving to a distance and then grouping together
- even certain ragged boys who were playing and chattering near me
became uneasy, first stood still, then stared at me, and then took
themselves off and played and chattered at a distance. Now what
was the cause of all this? Why, suspicion of the Saxon. The Welsh
are afraid lest an Englishman should understand their language,
and, by hearing their conversation, become acquainted with their
private affairs, or by listening to it, pick up their language
which they have no mind that he should know - and their very
children sympathise with them. All conquered people are suspicious
of their conquerors, The English have forgot that they ever
conquered the Welsh, but some ages will elapse before the Welsh
forget that the English have conquered them.
The Breakfast - The Tomen Bala - El Punto de la Vana.
I SLEPT soundly that night, as well I might, my bed being good and
my body weary. I arose about nine, dressed and went down to the
parlour which was vacant. I rang the bell, and on Tom Jenkins
making his appearance I ordered breakfast, and then asked for the
Welsh American, and learned that he had breakfasted very early and
had set out in a gig on a journey to some distance. In about
twenty minutes after I had ordered it my breakfast made its
appearance. A noble breakfast it was; such indeed as I might have
read of, but had never before seen. There was tea and coffee, a
goodly white loaf and butter; there were a couple of eggs and two
mutton chops. There was broiled and pickled salmon - there was
fried trout - there were also potted trout and potted shrimps.
Mercy upon me! I had never previously seen such a breakfast set
before me, nor indeed have I subsequently. Yes, I have
subsequently, and at that very house when I visited it some months
After breakfast I called for the bill. I forget the exact amount
of the bill, but remember that it was very moderate. I paid it and
gave the noble Thomas a shilling, which he received with a bow and
truly French smile, that is a grimace. When I departed the
landlord and landlady, highly respectable-looking elderly people,
were standing at the door, one on each side, and dismissed me with
suitable honour, he with a low bow, she with a profound curtsey.
Having seen little of the town on the preceding evening, I
determined before setting out for Llangollen to become better
acquainted with it, and accordingly took another stroll about it.
Bala is a town containing three or four thousand inhabitants,
situated near the northern end of an oblong valley, at least two-
thirds of which are occupied by Llyn Tegid. It has two long
streets, extending from north to south, a few narrow cross ones, an
ancient church, partly overgrown with ivy, with a very pointed
steeple, and a town-hall of some antiquity, in which Welsh
interludes used to be performed. After gratifying my curiosity
with respect to the town, I visited the mound - the wondrous Tomen
The Tomen Bala stands at the northern end of the town. It is
apparently formed of clay, is steep and of difficult ascent. In
height it is about thirty feet, and in diameter at the top about
fifty. On the top grows a gwern or alder-tree, about a foot thick,
its bark terribly scotched with letters and uncouth characters,
carved by the idlers of the town who are fond of resorting to the
top of the mound in fine weather, and lying down on the grass which
covers it. The Tomen is about the same size as Glendower's Mount
on the Dee, which it much resembles in shape. Both belong to that
brotherhood of artificial mounds of unknown antiquity, found
scattered, here and there, throughout Europe and the greater part
of Asia, the most remarkable specimen of which is, perhaps, that
which stands on the right side of the way from Adrianople to
Stamboul, and which is called by the Turks Mourad Tepehsi, or the
tomb of Mourad. Which mounds seem to have been originally intended
as places of sepulture, but in many instances were afterwards used
as strongholds, bonhills or beacon-heights, or as places on which
adoration was paid to the host of heaven.
From the Tomen there is a noble view of the Bala valley, the Lake
of Beauty up to its southern extremity, and the neighbouring and
distant mountains. Of Bala, its lake and Tomen, I shall have
something to say on a future occasion.
Leaving Bala I passed through the village of Llanfair and found
myself by the Dee, whose course I followed for some way. Coming to
the northern extremity of the Bala valley, I entered a pass tending
due north. Here the road slightly diverged from the river. I sped
along, delighted with the beauty of the scenery. On my left was a
high bank covered with trees, on my right a grove, through openings
in which I occasionally caught glimpses of the river, over whose
farther side towered noble hills. An hour's walking brought me
into a comparatively open country, fruitful and charming. At about
one o'clock I reached a large village, the name of which, like
those of most Welsh villages, began with Llan. There I refreshed
myself for an hour or two in an old-fashioned inn, and then resumed
I passed through Corwen; again visited Glendower's monticle upon
the Dee, and reached Llangollen shortly after sunset, where I found
my beloved two well and glad to see me.
That night, after tea, Henrietta played on the guitar the old
muleteer tune of "El Punto de la Vana," or the main point at the
Havanna, whilst I sang the words -
"Never trust the sample when you go your cloth to buy:
The woman's most deceitful that's dressed most daintily.
The lasses of Havanna ride to mass in coaches yellow,
But ere they go they ask if the priest's a handsome fellow.
The lasses of Havanna as mulberries are dark,
And try to make them fairer by taking Jesuit's bark."
The Ladies of Llangollen - Sir Alured - Eisteddfodau - Pleasure and
SHORTLY after my return I paid a visit to my friends at the
Vicarage, who were rejoiced to see me back, and were much
entertained with the account I gave of my travels. I next went to
visit the old church clerk of whom I had so much to say on a former
occasion. After having told him some particulars of my expedition,
to all of which he listened with great attention, especially to
that part which related to the church of Penmynydd and the tomb of
the Tudors, I got him to talk about the ladies of Llangollen, of
whom I knew very little save what I had heard from general report.
I found he remembered their first coming to Llangollen, their
living in lodgings, their purchasing the ground called Pen y maes,
and their erecting upon it the mansion to which the name of Plas
Newydd was given. He said they were very eccentric, but good and
kind, and had always shown most particular favour to himself; that
both were highly connected, especially Lady Eleanor Butler, who was
connected by blood with the great Duke of Ormond who commanded the
armies of Charles in Ireland in the time of the great rebellion,
and also with the Duke of Ormond who succeeded Marlborough in the
command of the armies in the Low Countries in the time of Queen
Anne, and who fled to France shortly after the accession of George
the First to the throne, on account of being implicated in the
treason of Harley and Bolingbroke; and that her ladyship was
particularly fond of talking of both these dukes, and relating
anecdotes concerning them. He said that the ladies were in the
habit of receiving the very first people in Britain, "amongst
whom," said the old church clerk, "was an ancient gentleman of most
engaging appearance and captivating manners, called Sir Alured C-.
He was in the army, and in his youth, owing to the beauty of his
person, was called , 'the handsome captain.' It was said that one
of the royal princesses was desperately in love with him, and that
on that account George the Third insisted on his going to India.
Whether or not there was truth in the report, to India he went,
where he served with distinction for a great many years. On his
return, which was not till he was upwards of eighty, he was
received with great favour by William the Fourth, who amongst other
things made him a field-marshal. As often as October came round
did this interesting and venerable gentleman make his appearance at
Llangollen to pay his respects to the ladies, especially to Lady
Eleanor, whom he had known at Court as far back they say as the
American war. It was rumoured at Llangollen that Lady Eleanor's
death was a grievous blow to Sir Alured, and that he would never be
seen there again. However, when October came round he made his
appearance at the Vicarage, where he had always been in the habit
of taking up his quarters, and called on and dined with Miss
Ponsonby at Plas Newydd, but it was observed that he was not so gay
as he had formerly been. In the evening, on his taking leave of
Miss Ponsonby, she said that he had used her ill. Sir Alured
coloured, and asked her what she meant, adding that he had not to
his knowledge used any person ill in the course of his life. 'But
I say you have used me ill, very ill,' said Miss Ponsonby, raising
her voice, and the words 'very ill' she repeated several times. At
last the old soldier waxing rather warm demanded an explanation.
'I'll give it you,' said Miss Ponsonby; 'were you not going away
after having only kissed my hand?' 'Oh,' said the general, 'if
that is my offence, I will soon make you reparation,' and instantly
gave her a hearty smack on the lips, which ceremony he never forgot
to repeat after dining with her on subsequent occasions."
We got on the subject of bards, and I mentioned to him Gruffydd
Hiraethog, the old poet buried in the chancel of Llangollen church.
The old clerk was not aware that he was buried there, and said that
though he had heard of him he knew little or nothing about him.
"Where was he born?" said he.
"In Denbighshire," I replied, "near the mountain Hiraethog, from
which circumstance he called himself in poetry Gruffydd Hiraethog."
"When did he flourish?"
"About the middle of the sixteenth century."
"What did he write?"
"A great many didactic pieces," said I in one of which is a famous
couplet to this effect:
"He who satire loves to sing
On himself will satire bring."
"Did you ever hear of William Lleyn?" said the old gentleman.
"Yes," said I; "he was a pupil of Hiraethog, and wrote an elegy on
his death, in which he alludes to Gruffydd's skill in an old Welsh
metre, called the Cross Consonancy, in the following manner:
'"In Eden's grove from Adam's mouth
Upsprang a muse of noble growth;
So from thy grave, O poet wise,
Cross Consonancy's boughs shall rise.'"
"Really," said the old clerk, "you seem to know something about
Welsh poetry. But what is meant by a muse springing up from Adam's
mouth in Eden?"
"Why, I suppose," said I, "that Adam invented poetry."
I made inquiries of him about the eisteddfodau or sessions of
bards, and expressed a wish to be present at one of them. He said
that they were very interesting; that bards met at particular
periods and recited poems on various subjects which had been given
out beforehand, and that prizes were allotted to those whose
compositions were deemed the best by the judges. He said that he
had himself won the prize for the best englyn on a particular
subject at an eisteddfod at which Sir Watkin Williams Wynn
presided, and at which Heber, afterwards Bishop of Calcutta, was
present, who appeared to understand Welsh well, and who took much
interest in the proceedings of the meeting.
Our discourse turning on the latter Welsh poets I asked him if he
had been acquainted with Jonathan Hughes, who the reader will
remember was the person whose grandson I met and in whose arm-chair
I sat at Ty yn y pistyll, shortly after my coming to Llangollen.
He said that he had been well acquainted with him, and had helped
to carry him to the grave, adding, that he was something of a poet,
but that he had always considered his forte lay in strong good
sense rather than poetry. I mentioned Thomas Edwards, whose
picture I had seen in Valle Crucis Abbey. He said that he knew him
tolerably well, and that the last time he saw him was when he,
Edwards, was about seventy years of age, when he sent him in a cart
to the house of a great gentleman near the aqueduct where he was
going to stay on a visit. That Tom was about five feet eight
inches high, lusty, and very strongly built; that he had something
the matter with his right eye; that he was very satirical and very
clever; that his wife was a very clever woman and satirical; his
two daughters both clever and satirical, and his servant-maid
remarkably satirical and clever, and that it was impossible to live
with Twm O'r Nant without learning to be clever and satirical; that
he always appeared to be occupied with something, and that he had
heard him say there was something in him that would never let him
be idle; that he would walk fifteen miles to a place where he was
to play an interlude, and that as soon as he got there he would
begin playing it at once, however tired he might be. The old
gentleman concluded by saying that he had never read the works of
Twm O'r Nant, but he had heard that his best piece was the
interlude called "Pleasure and Care."
The Treachery of the Long Knives - The North Briton - The Wounded
Butcher - The Prisoner.
ON the tenth of September our little town was flung into some
confusion by one butcher having attempted to cut the throat of
another. The delinquent was a Welshman, who it was said had for
some time past been somewhat out of his mind; the other party was
an Englishman, who escaped without further injury than a deep gash
in the cheek. The Welshman might be mad, but it appeared to me
that there was some method in his madness. He tried to cut the
throat of a butcher: didn't this look like wishing to put a rival
out of the way? and that butcher an Englishman: didn't this look
like wishing to pay back upon the Saxon what the Welsh call
bradwriaeth y cyllyll hirion, the treachery of the long knives? So
reasoned I to myself. But here perhaps the reader will ask what is
meant by "the treachery of the long knives?" whether he does or not
I will tell him.
Hengist wishing to become paramount in Southern Britain thought
that the easiest way to accomplish his wish would be by destroying
the South British chieftains. Not believing that he should be able
to make away with them by open force he determined to see what he
could do by treachery. Accordingly he invited the chieftains to a
banquet to be held near Stonehenge, or the Hanging Stones, on
Salisbury Plains. The unsuspecting chieftains accepted the
invitation, and on the appointed day repaired to the banquet, which
was held in a huge tent. Hengist received them with a smiling
countenance and every appearance of hospitality, and caused them to
sit down to table, placing by the side of every Briton one of his
own people. The banquet commenced, and all seemingly was mirth and
hilarity. Now Hengist had commanded his people that when he should
get up and cry "nemet eoure saxes," that is, take your knives, each
Saxon should draw his long sax, or knife, which he wore at his
side, and should plunge it into the throat of his neighbour. The
banquet went on, and in the midst of it, when the unsuspecting
Britons were revelling on the good cheer which had been provided
for them, and half-drunken with the mead and beer which flowed in
torrents, uprose Hengist, and with a voice of thunder uttered the
fatal words "nemet eoure saxes:" the cry was obeyed, each Saxon
grasped his knife and struck with it at the throat of his
defenceless neighbour. Almost every blow took effect; only three
British chieftains escaping from the banquet of blood. This
infernal carnage the Welsh have appropriately denominated the
treachery of the long knives. It will be as well to observe that
the Saxons derived their name from the saxes, or long knives, which
they wore at their sides, and at the use of which they were
Two or three days after the attempt at murder at Llangollen,
hearing that the Welsh butcher was about to be brought before the
magistrates, I determined to make an effort to be present at the
examination. Accordingly I went to the police station and inquired
of the superintendent whether I could be permitted to attend. He
was a North Briton, as I have stated somewhere before, and I had
scraped acquaintance with him, and had got somewhat into his good
graces by praising Dumfries, his native place, and descanting to
him upon the beauties of the poetry of his celebrated countryman,
my old friend, Allan Cunningham, some of whose works he had
perused, and with whom as he said, he had once the honour of
shaking hands. In reply to my question he told me that it was
doubtful whether any examination would take place, as the wounded
man was in a very weak state, but that if I would return in half-
an-hour he would let me know. I went away, and at the end of the
half-hour returned, when he told me that there would be no public
examination, owing to the extreme debility of the wounded man, but
that one of the magistrates was about to proceed to his house and
take his deposition in the presence of the criminal and also of the
witnesses of the deed, and that if I pleased I might go along with
him, and he had no doubt that the magistrate would have no
objection to my being present. We set out together; as we were
going along I questioned him about the state of the country, and
gathered from him that there was occasionally a good deal of crime
"Are the Welsh a clannish people?" I demanded.
"Very," said he.
"As clannish as the Highlanders?" said I.
"Yes," said he, "and a good deal more."
We came to the house of the wounded butcher, which was some way out
of the town in the north-western suburb. The magistrate was in the
lower apartment with the clerk, one or two officials, and the
surgeon of the town. He was a gentleman of about two or three and
forty, with a military air and large moustaches, for besides being
a justice of the peace and a landed proprietor, he was an officer
in the army. He made me a polite bow when I entered, and I
requested of him permission to be present at the examination. He
hesitated a moment and then asked me my motive for wishing to be
present at it.
"Merely curiosity," said I.
He then observed that as the examination would be a private one, my
being permitted or not was quite optional.
"I am aware of that," said I, "and if you think my remaining is
objectionable I will forthwith retire." He looked at the clerk,
who said there could be no objection to my staying, and turning
round to his superior said something to him which I did not hear,
whereupon the magistrate again bowed and said that he should he
very happy to grant my request.
We went upstairs and found the wounded man in bed with a bandage
round his forehead, and his wife sitting by his bedside. The
magistrate and his officials took their seats, and I was
accommodated with a chair. Presently the prisoner was introduced
under the charge of a policeman. He was a fellow somewhat above
thirty, of the middle size, and wore a dirty white frock coat; his
right arm was partly confined by a manacle. A young girl was
sworn, who deposed that she saw the prisoner run after the other
with something in his hand. The wounded man was then asked whether
he thought he was able to make a deposition; he replied in a very
feeble tone that he thought he was, and after being sworn deposed
that on the preceding Saturday, as he was going to his stall, the
prisoner came up to him and asked whether he had ever done him any
injury? he said no. "I then," said he, "observed the prisoner's
countenance undergo a change, and saw him put his hand to his
waistcoat-pocket and pull out a knife. I straight became
frightened, and ran away as fast as I could; the prisoner followed,
and overtaking me, stabbed me in the face. I ran into the yard of
a public-house and into the shop of an acquaintance, where I fell
down, the blood spouting out of my wound." Such was the deposition
of the wounded butcher. He was then asked whether there had been
any quarrel between him and the prisoner? He said there had been
no quarrel, but that he had refused to drink with the prisoner when
he requested him, which he had done very frequently, and had more
than once told him that he did not wish for his acquaintance. The
prisoner, on being asked, after the usual caution, whether he had
anything to say, said that he merely wished to mark the man but not
to kill him. The surgeon of the place deposed to the nature of the
wound, and on being asked his opinion with respect to the state of
the prisoner's mind, said that he believed that he might be
labouring under a delusion. After the prisoner's bloody weapon and
coat had been produced he was committed.
It was generally said that the prisoner was disordered in his mind;
I held my tongue, but judging from his look and manner I saw no
reason to suppose that he was any more out of his senses than I
myself, or any person present, and I had no doubt that what induced
him to commit the act was rage at being looked down upon by a
quondam acquaintance, who was rising a little in the world,
exacerbated by the reflection that the disdainful quondam
acquaintance was one of the Saxon race, against which every
Welshman entertains a grudge more or less virulent, which, though
of course, very unchristianlike, is really, brother Englishman,
after the affair of the long knives, and two or three other actions
of a somewhat similar character of our noble Anglo-Saxon
progenitors, with which all Welshmen are perfectly well acquainted,
not very much to be wondered at.
The Dylluan - The Oldest Creatures.
MUCH rain fell about the middle of the month; in the intervals of
the showers I occasionally walked by the banks of the river which
speedily became much swollen; it was quite terrible both to the
sight and ear near the "Robber's Leap;" there were breakers above
the higher stones at least five feet high and a roar around almost
sufficient "to scare a hundred men." The pool of Lingo was
strangely altered; it was no longer the quiet pool which it was in
summer, verifying the words of the old Welsh poet that the deepest
pool of the river is always the stillest in the summer and of the
softest sound, but a howling turbid gulf, in which branches of
trees, dead animals and rubbish were whirling about in the wildest
confusion. The nights were generally less rainy than the days, and
sometimes by the pallid glimmer of the moon I would take a stroll
along some favourite path or road. One night as I was wandering
slowly along the path leading through the groves of Pen y Coed I
was startled by an unearthly cry - it was the shout of the dylluan
or owl, as it flitted over the tops of the trees on its nocturnal
Oh, that cry of the dylluan! what a strange wild cry it is; how
unlike any other sound in nature! a cry which no combination of
letters can give the slightest idea of. What resemblance does
Shakespear's to-whit-to-whoo bear to the cry of the owl? none
whatever; those who hear it for the first time never know what it
is, however accustomed to talk of the cry of the owl and to-whit-
to-whoo. A man might be wandering through a wood with Shakespear's
owl-chorus in his mouth, but were he then to hear for the first
time the real shout of the owl he would assuredly stop short and
wonder whence that unearthly cry could proceed.
Yet no doubt that strange cry is a fitting cry for the owl, the
strangest in its habits and look of all birds, the bird of whom by
all nations the strangest tales are told. Oh, what strange tales
are told of the owl, especially in connection with its long-
lifedness; but of all the strange wild tales connected with the age
of the owl, strangest of all is the old Welsh tale. When I heard
the owl's cry in the groves of Pen y Coed that tale rushed into my
mind. I had heard it from the singular groom who had taught me to
gabble Welsh in my boyhood, and had subsequently read it in an old
tattered Welsh story-book, which by chance fell into my hands. The
reader will perhaps be obliged by my relating it.
"The eagle of the alder grove, after being long married and having
had many children by his mate, lost her by death, and became a
widower. After some time he took it into his head to marry the owl
of the Cowlyd Coomb; but fearing he should have issue by her, and
by that means sully his lineage, he went first of all to the oldest
creatures in the world in order to obtain information about her
age. First he went to the stag of Ferny-side Brae, whom he found
sitting by the old stump of an oak, and inquired the age of the
owl. The stag said: 'I have seen this oak an acorn which is now
lying on the ground without either leaves or bark: nothing in the
world wore it up but my rubbing myself against it once a day when I
got up, so I have seen a vast number of years, but I assure you
that I have never seen the owl older or younger than she is to-day.
However, there is one older than myself, and that is the salmon-
trout of Glyn Llifon.' To him went the eagle and asked him the age
of the owl and got for answer: 'I have a year over my head for
every gem on my skin and for every egg in my roe, yet have I always
seen the owl look the same; but there is one older than myself, and
that is the ousel of Cilgwry.' Away went the eagle to Cilgwry, and
found the ousel standing upon a little rock, and asked him the age
of the owl. Quoth the ousel: 'You see that the rock below me is
not larger than a man can carry in one of his hands: I have seen
it so large that it would have taken a hundred oxen to drag it, and
it has never been worn save by my drying my beak upon it once every
night, and by my striking the tip of my wing against it in rising
in the morning, yet never have I known the owl older or younger
than she is to-day. However, there is one older than I, and that
is the toad of Cors Fochnod; and unless he knows her age no one
knows it.' To him went the eagle and asked the age of the owl, and
the toad replied: 'I have never eaten anything save what I have
sucked from the earth, and have never eaten half my fill in all the
days of my life; but do you see those two great hills beside the
cross? I have seen the place where they stand level ground, and
nothing produced those heaps save what I discharged from my body,
who have ever eaten so very little - yet never have I known the owl
anything else but an old hag who cried Too-hoo-hoo, and scared
children with her voice even as she does at present.' So the eagle
of Gwernabwy; the stag of Ferny-side Brae; the salmon trout of Glyn
Llifon; the ousel of Cilgwry; the toad of Cors Fochnod, and the owl
of Coomb Cowlyd are the oldest creatures in the world; the oldest
of them all being the owl."
Chirk - The Middleton Family - Castell y Waen - The Park - The
Court Yard - The Young Housekeeper - The Portraits - Melin y
Castell - Humble Meal - Fine Chests for the Dead - Hales and
THE weather having become fine, myself and family determined to go
and see Chirk Castle, a mansion ancient and beautiful, and
abounding with all kinds of agreeable and romantic associations.
It was founded about the beginning of the fifteenth century by a St
John, Lord of Bletsa, from a descendant of whom it was purchased in
the year 1615 by Sir Thomas Middleton, the scion of an ancient
Welsh family who, following commerce, acquired a vast fortune, and
was Lord Mayor of London. In the time of the great civil war it
hoisted the banner of the king, and under Sir Thomas, the son of
the Lord Mayor, made a brave defence against Lambert, the
Parliamentary General, though eventually compelled to surrender.
It was held successively by four Sir Thomas Middletons, and if it
acquired a war-like celebrity under the second, it obtained a
peculiarly hospitable one under the fourth, whose daughter, the
fruit of a second marriage, became Countess of Warwick and
eventually the wife of the poet and moralist Addison. In his time
the hospitality of Chirk became the theme of many a bard,
particularly of Huw Morris, who, in one of his songs, has gone so
far as to say that were the hill Cefn Uchaf turned into beef and
bread, and the rill Ceiriog into beer or wine, they would be
consumed in half a year by the hospitality of Chirk. Though no
longer in the hands of one of the name of Middleton, Chirk Castle
is still possessed by one of the blood, the mother of the present
proprietor being the eldest of three sisters, lineal descendants of
the Lord Mayor, between whom in default of an heir male the wide
possessions of the Middleton family were divided. This gentleman,
who bears the name of Biddulph, is Lord Lieutenant of the county of
Denbigh, and notwithstanding his war-breathing name, which is
Gothic, and signifies Wolf of Battle, is a person of highly amiable
disposition, and one who takes great interest in the propagation of
the Gospel of peace and love.
To view this place, which, though in English called Chirk Castle,
is styled in Welsh Castell y Waen, or the Castle of the Meadow, we
started on foot about ten o'clock of a fine bright morning,
attended by John Jones. There are two roads from Llangollen to
Chirk, one the low or post road, and the other leading over the
Berwyn. We chose the latter. We passed by the Yew Cottage, which
I have described on a former occasion, and began to ascend the
mountain, making towards its north-eastern corner. The road at
first was easy enough, but higher up became very steep, and
somewhat appalling, being cut out of the side of the hill which
shelves precipitously down towards the valley of the Dee. Near the
top of the mountain were three lofty beech-trees growing on the
very verge of the precipice. Here the road for about twenty yards
is fenced on its dangerous side by a wall, parts of which are built
between the stems of the trees. Just beyond the wall a truly noble
prospect presented itself to our eyes. To the north were bold
hills, their sides and skirts adorned with numerous woods and white
farm-houses; a thousand feet below us was the Dee and its wondrous
Pont y Cysultau. John Jones said that if certain mists did not
intervene we might descry "the sea of Liverpool"; and perhaps the
only thing wanting to make the prospect complete, was that sea of
Liverpool. We were, however, quite satisfied with what we saw, and
turning round the corner of the hill, reached its top, where for a
considerable distance there is level ground, and where, though at a
great altitude, we found ourselves in a fair and fertile region,
and amidst a scene of busy rural life. We saw fields and
inclosures, and here and there corn-stacks, some made, and others
not yet completed, about which people were employed, and waggons
and horses moving. Passing over the top of the hill, we began to
descend the southern side, which was far less steep than the one we
had lately surmounted. After a little way, the road descended
through a wood, which John Jones told us was the beginning of "the
Park of Biddulph."
"There is plenty of game in this wood," said he; "pheasant cocks
and pheasant hens, to say nothing of hares and coneys; and in the
midst of it there is a space sown with a particular kind of corn
for the support of the pheasant hens and pheasant cocks, which in
the shooting-season afford pleasant sport for Biddulph and his
Near the foot of the descent, just where the road made a turn to
the east, we passed by a building which stood amidst trees, with a
pond and barns near it.
"This," said John Jones, "is the house where the bailiff lives who
farms and buys and sells for Biddulph, and fattens the beeves and
swine, and the geese, ducks, and other poultry which Biddulph
consumes at his table."
The scenery was now very lovely, consisting of a mixture of hill
and dale, open space and forest, in fact the best kind of park
scenery. We caught a glimpse of a lake in which John Jones said
there were generally plenty of swans, and presently saw the castle,
which stands on a green grassy slope, from which it derives its
Welsh name of Castell y Waen; gwaen in the Cumrian language
signifying a meadow or uninclosed place. It fronts the west, the
direction from which we were coming; on each side it shows five
towers, of which the middlemost, which protrudes beyond the rest,
and at the bottom of which is the grand gate, is by far the
bulkiest. A noble edifice it looked, and to my eye bore no slight
resemblance to Windsor Castle.
Seeing a kind of ranger, we inquired of him what it was necessary
for us to do, and by his direction proceeded to the southern side
of the castle, and rung the bell at a small gate. The southern
side had a far more antique appearance than the western; huge
towers with small windows, and partly covered with ivy, frowned
down upon us. A servant making his appearance, I inquired whether
we could see the house; he said we could, and that the housekeeper
would show it to us in a little time but that at present she was
engaged. We entered a large quadrangular court: on the left-hand
side was a door and staircase leading into the interior of the
building, and farther on was a gateway, which was no doubt the
principal entrance from the park. On the eastern side of the
spacious court was a kennel, chained to which was an enormous dog,
partly of the bloodhound, partly of the mastiff species, who
occasionally uttered a deep magnificent bay. As the sun was hot,
we took refuge from it under the gateway, the gate of which, at the
further end, towards the park, was closed. Here my wife and
daughter sat down on a small brass cannon, seemingly a six-pounder,
which stood on a very dilapidated carriage; from the appearance of
the gun, which was of an ancient form, and very much battered, and
that of the carriage, I had little doubt that both had been in the
castle at the time of the siege. As my two loved ones sat, I
walked up and down, recalling to my mind all I had heard and read
in connection with this castle. I thought of its gallant defence
against the men of Oliver; I thought of its roaring hospitality in
the time of the fourth Sir Thomas; and I thought of the many
beauties who had been born in its chambers, had danced in its
halls, had tripped across its court, and had subsequently given
heirs to illustrious families.
At last we were told that she housekeeper was waiting for us. The
housekeeper, who was a genteel, good-looking young woman, welcomed
us at the door which led into the interior of the house. After we
had written our names, she showed us into a large room or hall on
the right-hand side on the ground floor, where were some helmets
and ancient halberts, and also some pictures of great personages.
The floor was of oak, and so polished and slippery, that walking
upon it was attended with some danger. Wishing that John Jones,
our faithful attendant, who remained timidly at the doorway, should
participate with us in the wonderful sights we were about to see, I
inquired of the housekeeper whether he might come with us. She
replied with a smile that it was not the custom to admit guides
into the apartments, but that he might come, provided he chose to
take off his shoes; adding, that the reason she wished him to take
off his shoes was, an apprehension that if he kept them on he would
injure the floors with their rough nails. She then went to John
Jones, and told him in English that he might attend us, provided he
took off his shoes; poor John, however, only smiled and said "Dim
"You must speak to him in your native language," said I, "provided
you wish him to understand you - he has no English."
"I am speaking to him in my native language," said the young
housekeeper, with another smile - "and if he has no English, I have
"Then you are English?" said I.
"Yes," she replied, "a native of London."
"Dear me," said I. "Well, it's no bad thing to be English after
all; and as for not speaking Welsh, there are many in Wales who
would be glad to have much less Welsh than they have." I then told
John Jones the condition on which he might attend us, whereupon he
took off his shoes with great glee and attended us, holding them in
We presently went upstairs, to what the housekeeper told us was the
principal drawing-room, and a noble room it was, hung round with
the portraits of kings and queens, and the mighty of the earth.
Here, on canvas, was noble Mary, the wife of William of Orange, and
her consort by her side, whose part like a true wife she always
took. Here was wretched Mary of Scotland, the murderess of her own
lord. Here were the two Charleses and both the Dukes of Ormond -
the great Duke who fought stoutly in Ireland against Papist and
Roundhead; and the Pretender's Duke who tried to stab his native
land, and died a foreign colonel. And here, amongst other
daughters of the house, was the very proud daughter of the house,
the Warwick Dowager who married the Spectator, and led him the life
of a dog. She looked haughty and cold, and not particularly
handsome; but I could not help gazing with a certain degree of
interest and respect on the countenance of the vixen, who served
out the gentility worshipper in such prime style. Many were the
rooms which we entered, of which I shall say nothing, save that
they were noble in size and rich in objects of interest. At last
we came to what was called the picture gallery. It was a long
panelled room, extending nearly the whole length of the northern
side. The first thing which struck us on entering was the huge
skin of a lion stretched out upon the floor; the head, however,
which was towards the door, was stuffed, and with its monstrous
teeth looked so formidable and life-like, that we were almost
afraid to touch it. Against every panel was a portrait; amongst
others was that of Sir Thomas Middleton, the stout governor of the
castle, during the time of the siege. Near to it was the portrait
of his rib, Dame Middleton. Farther down on the same side were two
portraits of Nell Gwynn; the one painted when she was a girl; the
other when she had attained a more mature age. They were both by
Lely, the Apelles of the Court of wanton Charles. On the other
side was one of the Duke of Gloucester, the son of Queen Anne, who,
had he lived, would have kept the Georges from the throne. In this
gallery on the southern side was a cabinet of ebony and silver,
presented by Charles the Second to the brave warrior Sir Thomas,
and which, according to tradition, cost seven thousand pounds.
This room, which was perhaps the most magnificent in the castle,
was the last we visited. The candle of God, whilst we wandered
through these magnificent halls, was flaming in the firmament, and
its rays, penetrating through the long narrow windows, showed them
off, and all the gorgeous things which they contained to great
advantage. When we left the castle we all said, not excepting John
Jones, that we had never seen in our lives anything more princely
and delightful than the interior.
After a little time, my wife and daughter complaining of being
rather faint, I asked John Jones whether there was an inn in the
neighbourhood where some refreshment could be procured. He said
there was, and that he would conduct us to it. We directed our
course towards the east, rousing successively, and setting a-
scampering, three large herds of deer - the common ones were yellow
and of no particular size - but at the head of each herd we
observed a big old black fellow with immense antlers; one of these
was particularly large, indeed as huge as a bull. We soon came to
the verge of a steep descent, down which we went, not without some
risk of falling. At last we came to a gate; it was locked;
however, on John Jones shouting, an elderly man with his right hand
bandaged, came and opened it. I asked him what was the matter with
his hand, and he told me that he had lately lost three fingers
whilst working at a saw-mill up at the castle. On my inquiring
about the inn he said he was the master of it, and led the way to a
long neat low house, nearly opposite to a little bridge over a
brook, which ran down the valley towards the north. I ordered some
ale and bread-and-butter, and whilst our repast was being got ready
John Jones and I went to the bridge.
"This bridge, sir," said John, "is called Pont y Velin Castell, the
bridge of the Castle Mill; the inn was formerly the mill of the
castle, and is still called Melin y Castell. As soon as you are
over this bridge you are in shire Amwythig, which the Saxons call
Shropshire. A little way up on yon hill is Clawdd Offa or Offa's
dyke, built of old by the Brenin Offa in order to keep us poor
Welsh within our bounds."
As we stood on the bridge I inquired of Jones the name of the brook
which was running merrily beneath it.
"The Ceiriog, sir," said John, "the same river that we saw at Pont
"The river," said I, "which Huw Morris loved so well, whose praises
he has sung, and which he has introduced along with Cefn Uchaf in a
stanza in which he describes the hospitality of Chirk Castle in his
day, and which runs thus:
"Pe byddai 'r Cefn Ucha,
Yn gig ac yn fara,
A Cheiriog fawr yma'n fir aml bob tro,
Rhy ryfedd fae iddyn'
Barhau hanner blwyddyn,
I wyr bob yn gan-nyn ar ginio."
"A good penill that, sir," said John Jones. "Pity that the halls
of great people no longer flow with rivers of beer, nor have
mountains of bread and beef for all comers."
"No pity at all," said I; "things are better as they are. Those
mountains of bread and beef, and those rivers of ale merely
encouraged vassalage, fawning and idleness; better to pay for one's
dinner proudly and independently at one's inn, than to go and
cringe for it at a great man's table."
We crossed the bridge, walked a little way up the hill which was
beautifully wooded, and then retraced our steps to the little inn,
where I found my wife and daughter waiting for us, and very hungry.
We sat down, John Jones with us, and proceeded to despatch our
bread-and-butter and ale. The bread-and-butter were good enough,
but the ale poorish. Oh, for an Act of Parliament to force people
to brew good ale! After finishing our humble meal, we got up and
having paid our reckoning went back into the park, the gate of
which the landlord again unlocked for us.
We strolled towards the north along the base of the hill. The
imagination of man can scarcely conceive a scene more beautiful
than the one which we were now enjoying. Huge oaks studded the
lower side of the hill, towards the top was a belt of forest, above
which rose the eastern walls of the castle; the whole forest,
castle and the green bosom of the hill glorified by the lustre of
the sun. As we proceeded we again roused the deer, and again saw
three old black fellows, evidently the patriarchs of the herds,
with their white enormous horns; with these ancient gentlefolks I
very much wished to make acquaintance, and tried to get near them,
but no! they would suffer no such thing; off they glided, their
white antlers, like the barked top boughs of old pollards, glancing
in the sunshine, the smaller dapple creatures following them
bounding and frisking. We had again got very near the castle, when
John Jones told me that if we would follow him he would show us
something very remarkable; I asked him what it was.
"Llun Cawr," he replied. "The figure of a giant."
"What giant?" said I.
But on this point he could give me no information. I told my wife
and daughter what he had said, and finding that they wished to see
the figure, I bade John Jones lead us to it. He led us down an
avenue just below the eastern side of the castle; noble oaks and
other trees composed it, some of them probably near a hundred feet
high; John Jones observing me looking at them with admiration,
"They would make fine chests for the dead, sir."
What an observation! how calculated, amidst the most bounding joy
and bliss, to remind man of his doom! A moment before I had felt
quite happy, but now I felt sad and mournful. I looked at my wife
and daughter, who were gazing admiringly on the beauteous scenes
around them, and remembered that in a few short years at most we
should all three be laid in the cold narrow house formed of four
elm or oaken boards, our only garment the flannel shroud, the cold
damp earth above us, instead of the bright glorious sky. Oh, how
sad and mournful I became! I soon comforted myself, however, by
reflecting that such is the will of Heaven, and that Heaven is
After we had descended the avenue some way John Jones began to look
about him, and getting on the bank on the left side disappeared.
We went on, and in a little time saw him again beckoning to us some
way farther down, but still on the bank. When we drew nigh to him
he bade us get on the bank; we did so and followed him some way,
midst furze and lyng. All of a sudden he exclaimed, "There it is!"
We looked and saw a large figure standing on a pedestal. On going
up to it we found it to be a Hercules leaning on his club, indeed a
copy of the Farnese Hercules, as we gathered from an inscription in
Latin partly defaced. We felt rather disappointed, as we expected
that it would have turned out to be the figure of some huge Welsh
champion of old. We, however, said nothing to our guide. John
Jones, in order that we might properly appreciate the size of the