GWEN; A STORY OF TWO CHRISTMASES.

Introduction

In my book Forbidden Lives: LGBT stories from Wales I detailed a number of women whose fame rested solely on their extreme masculinity, and I considered where they sit in the spectrum of gender fluidity. One of the women included was Catrin Tomos, or Catherine Thomas, from Llanberis, who also went by the nicknames of Caddy, or Catrin of Cwm-glâs. There are a number of accounts of her, which are featured in Forbidden Lives, but I recently discovered a fictional story by Mrs Owen Thomas, about whom I can find nothing. Despite her assertion in the title that the story is ‘founded on fact’ I can find no historical record to support her claim. Nor is there any other record of her being called Cadi’r Cwmglas. But if anyone knows anything else about Catrin Tomos please do let me know.

Anyway, as it’s nearly Christmas I thought I would share this ‘story of two Christmases’.

 

GWEN; A STORY OF TWO CHRISTMASES.

(Founded on Fact.)

By Mrs. Owen Thomas, Poole.

(Published in 1890)

About the year 1756 there lived in the Pass of Llanberis, in the county of Carnarvon, a Llanberisgiantess Welsh woman called Cadi’r Cwmglas, pronounced Kaldie’r Koomglahs. English: Kate of the Green Vale.

At this time she was in the prime of life, and remarkable, of course, for her stature and strength, towering head and shoulders above her neighbours.

She wore the old Welsh costume of home-made winsey [1], consisting of a loose blouse, short skirt, covered in front by a large winsey apron; woollen stockings and thick hob-nailed shoes. A sugar-loaf hat completed the costume. Her stays were made of leather, and looked as substantial as a saddle.

Her home was not made with hands, but was naturally formed of a huge rock, which stands on the edge of the highway, along which the coaches filled with delighted tourists now run. This highway is closely bound on both sides by the highest and most romantic of Cambria’s high mountains – with those on the one side, leaning over toward their fellows on the other side of the pass, and threatening to fill the gap which so cruelly severs them. The shape of this rock which formed Cadi’s home, reminds one of a cottage bonnet, with its front towards the mountain side, and its crown forming the back wall of the house, running parallel to the highway. The sides of the bonnet formed the side walls, sheltering the inmates from the cold blasts which swept whistling and winning up and down the wild pass. The inside of the bonnet formed a room some 20 feet long by as many wide in the widest part, and about 12 feet high. This room, with the addition of a dairy built outside, had been turned by Cadi’s ancestors into a snug little farmhouse, where she was monarch of all she surveyed. The nearest house, the Pass Hotel, was three miles away. There on the mountain side she reared her kine [2] and her sheep, made her butter and her cheese, slaughtered and salted her meat, sheared her sheep, spinning some of the wool and selling the remainder.

Geologists tell us that this remarkable farmhouse once formed a part of the top of the mountain at the foot of which it now stands. The tourists “guide” points to the cavity in the mountain, and the tourist, comparing that with the shape of the rock, sees at once how nicely the rock would fit into the cavity.

But it needs not a geologist, gentle reader, to tell us of this, for we can distinctly trace this great fall from the mountain top by means of the deep rears still left on the face of old mother earth.

Every Saturday, Cadi would take her sweet, fresh butter to Carnarvon Market, ten miles off, rowing herself in a punt four miles of the way along the Llanberis Lakes, then shouldering her load, or what was far commoner in those days, forcing her apron into a firm turban, she would place her load on her head, and with erect mien and arms akimbo, would walk the remaining six miles there, and back again in time to milk her black mountain kine.

Most remarkable stories are still told by the natives of her wondrous feats of strength. It is said that one day, while she was gathering her sheep into the fold on the distant mountain side, she thought she could espy forms of men lurking around her cottage home. Down she strode with giant strides, arriving there just in time to see two men disappearing with their booty round a distant bend in the highway. She however, soon overtook the thieves – a couple of fierce-looking tramps carrying a huge tub of butter between them by means of a rope tied around it. The rogues, finding that they were pursued, dropped the butter tub and, men-like, fully believed in the old Walsh adage that “a sinew of a man is equal to a mountain of a woman,” turned and faced their pursuer. Cadi, however, with a tremendous blow of her fist, felled one to the ground, and hastily tying his foot to the butter tub, hotly pursued the other coward, who, on seeing his friend’s fate, had taken to his heels, He was soon fast in Cadi’s iron grasp. Lifting him off his feet she carried him to the “Devil’s Bridge” close by, where she held him over the gurgling stream, and giving the rat a few cat-like shakes, she extracted from the thoroughly frightened scoundrel a promise to carry back the butter-tub. When they came up to it the first prisoner was released, and although somewhat bruised by his fall, he made an effort to assist his comrade in carrying home the recovered booty. Cadi, seeing their puffing and panting efforts, scornfully relieved them of their burden, and after a few incisive remarks to the effect that “honesty is the best policy,” she shouldered her tub and marched home in triumph!

But Cadi had more gentleness than severity in her nature. One day she was seen carrying in her arms a woman with bespattered dress and bruised limbs, into her little cottage. Although a man in strength, she was every inch a woman in loving sympathy and kindness of heart.

It seems that while groping her way down the mountain with a lost sheep on her shoulders, through a thick fog, she stumbled across what she thought must be another Catrinlost sheep. She placed her burden down, and examined the stumbling block. “Could it be a woman, cold and lifeless?” No, not lifeless, for she breathed. Cadi gently lifted the woman in her arms, and after some difficulty got safety out of the fog with her precious burden. She was a young, delicate-looking, married woman, of some 22 summers. Yes, married, her massive wedding-ring shone lustrously on the tapering finger. She was quite unconscious. Cadi entered her cottage, placed the patient on her own white chaff bed, and poking the slumbering peat fire, brewed a cup of medicinal herb tea for the seemingly dying patient. While trying to restore her, Cadi wondered how this lost lambkin, as she called her, had come to her cruel fate. At first she thought that she must have belonged to the party of tourists which she met on the mountain the evening before. No, that could not be, for this party had a guide with it.

When consciousness was restored the patient looked in wonder and amazement at her strange surroundings, and still stranger hostess, and acting as if she had thought herself to have been kidnapped, she jumped out of bed, but to fall prostrate on the green sward in front of the house.

She was tenderly replaced in bed, and wistfully watched, until by-and-bye the eyelids quivered, the patient heaved a deep sigh, and consciousness was once more restored, and with it, gradually, the recollection of the circumstances which must have brought her there. Cadi’s gentle ways soon reassured the timid patient that she was in safe keeping. The rescued woman was, however, extremely reticent as to her past history. All that Cadi could gather from her was that her husband – a Mr Dawson – had wished to see the sunrise from the summit of Snowdon. His wife, who was too delicate to accompany him, had slept the night at the Inn, and had, in the morning, gone to meet him returning, and she must have lost her way in the thick fog which had so quickly enveloped the mountain side that morning.

This was all that Cadi could glean from Gwen, as the lady called herself. She now gave the alarm to the guides, and, although every cranny and crevice were searched, and every river and lake thoroughly dragged, no trace of the missing man was found, save an Alpine stock, which was duly brought to the sorrow-stricken invalid, who recognising it as that of her husband, gave a loud piercing shriek, which the hard rocks mocked, as she fell to the ground. This shock proved fatal, for the circumstances which followed, in its train ended in death!

The trinkets worn by the newly-made mother were put away for the wee baby-girl which Cadi had had presented to her in so unexpected and premature a manner on that sad Christmas Eve. So delicate and tiny was this baby, that the kind foster-mother dropped many a tear on the small face as the operation of dressing baby went on.

By careful nursing, however, little Gwen in time became the delight of Cadi’s heart and the pride of the country around. More than once was she asked to sit as a model Welshwoman for the itinerant artiste who came sketching the neighbourhood.

But a dark cloud was hanging over the life of this young girl. Her vanity flattered in this way became, one fine summer morning, in her sixteenth year, a terrible snare to her. She was walking on the confines of the next farm, some three miles off, where, lying on a hedge, was a bright skirt of home-made winsey put out to dry.

Yielding to temptation, she foolishly carried off the skirt! but was so frightened at the thought of her first real wrong doing, that she gave it a way to the first beggar she met.

The skirt was missed! and through the beggar traced to Gwen! Oh! the unspeakable consternation and grief of Cadi. The shame and contrition of Gwen! What made the girl do such a wicked thing Cadi could not imagine. Why! the girl was clever at her spinning, and her good “mother” would not have been behindhand in providing the wool. Besides, what had come of her religious instruction? Had not Cadi taught her her catechism almost soon as she could talk, and special texts which were to be her weapons against the devil, and after all this to come to breaking one of the Ten Commandments, which she knew by rote, was altogether too dreadful. Was this how the kind foster-mother was to be repaid for her disinterested love and care?

If the, matter had not been put in the hands of a “constable”, and the beggar taken up, poor Gwen would have been pardoned, were it only for Cadi’s sake. But now the law must take its course. The dreadful day of trial duly came. Gwen looked around on the sea of faces like a frightened fawn.

The scene was one of intense suppressed excitement, which came to a climax. When the plaintiff was kind enough to price the garment below twelve pence, a loud cheer rang through the court, for did not this free the poor distressed culprit, from the horrid jaws of death! Such, reader, was the barbarous severity of English law in those dark days. The poor girl was, however, found guilty, and sentenced to transportation to one, of the American colonies for ten years.

Oh, the anguish of partings!

Cadi had watched Gwen’s every movement. She must check her own grief, and help her foster child to bear hers.

Having got permission to accompany her in the open cart which was to convey her to Carnarvon Gaol, she made the best of her time to prevent the child’s heart from being crushed or hardened by the dreadful future awaiting her.

She exhorted her to keep up her courage, and do the right thing in the future, so that the devil could have no more dominion over her. “Much work meant little time,” and when Gwen should come back she would take her away to where she would not be known.

When Gwen learnt from her “mother” that transportation meant sending her far away from home, she was almost heartbroken. “What right had they to send her away from her dear mother, who was all the world to her?” she demanded, in heartbroken accents.

This was too difficult a question for Cadi to solve, but, swallowing her anguish, she gently said, “Thou hast, dear Gwen, although branded as a thief, the friend which sticketh closer than a brother. Trust in Him, and no harm shall yet come nigh thee. I shall pray for thee every day until thy return. May God forgive thee and be gracious unto thee.”

With these words Cadi had to leave her to the tender mercies of the constable.

Left to her own reflections in her dank and dismal cell, Gwen had time to think over her dear mother’s counsel. She fell on her knees and prayed: – “Oh God, Thou knowest I did not mean to take Betty Martin’s skirt, and how sorry I was when I’d done it. I know now that it is right to send me away, but it is very hard. I want to ask Thee, Lord, to be very near my dear mother, for she will want some one to talk to, now that I am gone. Wilt Thou wash away my black sin, dear Lord Jeasus, or will it eat my heart away before the ten years are over, so that I shall die in the foreign land, and not come back to my dear mother, who wants me so badly? Amen.” The tears came hard and fast, but bitter though they were they soothed her and seemed to wash out the dark past. Gwen was better now. She would try and sleep, perchance she might yet be at the old home in her dreams!

In less than eight years after this trial in the county town of Carnarvon, where Cadi had been accustomed for the past thirty years to do her marketing with head erect and conscience free, two young Welshmen were pressed into service for the American War of Independence.

One was his mother’s Benjamin, her only unmarried son. The other was poor widow Glyn’s only son and stay. How could Mrs Morris part with her Benjamin, and what would become of poor Mrs Glyn if deprived of her only support? Whatever the consequences, go they must, and that much against their inclination, for these stalwart young fellows did not believe in the policy of the English Government towards its colonies. What availed that with the press-gang? Had they not heard the news of Washington’s victory at Bunker’s Hill, putting the English in such straits for forces? Even Gorman mercenaries had to be hired! Before starting, however, they both determined to make their escape, even if it, cost them their lives, for they could not fight valiantly for a cause of which they did not approve.

The opportunity for this did not present itself until they reached the Bermudas. There they had to anchor for a fresh supply of water. The boat used for this purpose was left over night dancing up and down to the gentle action of the waves upon the sides of the vessel. Now was their time! The darkness of the night, the boat in readiness, and the calm sea was all they could wish. Not even an Indian or a bloodhound could trace their track.

After tossing for six whole days on the face of the great deep in their little craft, they were almost giving up the ghost, the provisions had run short and a dreadful storm was gathering. But just in the nick of time a French trading vessel espied them. Their little craft had evidently sailed south, for this vessel was bound for Jamaica, where, after much ill-treatment aboard ship, they were sold as white slaves to a sugar planter.

Hard work and the hot climate soon made their mark upon them, and in a very short time, they were stowed away with many kicks and curses to die under an old shed, with no one near them to moisten their parched lips or to wipe off the dew of death from their fair foreheads

Poor Benjamin Morris succumbed to his cruel fate. But towards evening the cooler breezes somewhat restored his comrade. By and bye he crawled out to gather a bundle of leaves, which he spread, with heavy heart, over the dead body of his friend. He wished he had strength to bury it, but this simple shroud must suffice! He must be off before the dawn came to reveal his recovered strength to the cruel planter. At dawn he thought he had but stepped from the frying pan into the fire, for a band of Indians was stealthily approaching him.

Now these cannibals would surely make a meal of him, he thought, or, perchance, he was too poor a bait for them, for certainly he was nothing but a bag of bones. Such were his dismal thoughts, and indeed he cared not much what became of him. His fears, however, proved, groundless, for those Indians were not of the fierce Caribs. Harri Glyn was treated right royally, and to their great delight he tarried with them several days, teaching them to make Welsh fishing nets, and with his pocket knife, which he gave to them as a parting gift, he made a model fishing rod for them. Oh, that the whole world were uncivilised if civilization meant the meanness and cruelty which he had received at the hands of so-called civilized Europeans.

He was now guided to a plantation where the Indians knew he would be well treated. This was, however, a day and a half’s march off.

Arrived there, almost dropping with fatigue, he was admitted by a kind-hearted coloured housekeeper into the kitchen. After a hearty meal he fell into a heavy sleep on the settle where he sat. While he lay there asleep the mistress of the house came to have a peep at him.

“What a gentle face!” she thought. “What beautiful locks!” Where had he come from? She gave orders not to disturb him until a comfortable shake-down had been prepared for him. She would see him in the morning. He was evidently an Englishman, weary and wayworn. With these thoughts she quietly withdrew.

In the morning he was summoned to Mrs. Maryland’s parlour. She addressed him in her broken English, and when his answer came in a still more broken style, she excitedly exclaimed –

“Cymro yda’ch’i?”

“Ie, yn wir, o Caernarvon.” which means “Are you a Welshman?” “Indeed I am from Carnarvon.”

He did not notice the blush which suffused her cheek when he mentioned Carnarvon town. Her embarrassment was so great that, giving some hasty directions, she abruptly left the room. In the seclusion of her own chamber she sat plunged in deep thought. What memories, sweet and bitter, had the mention of the name of the old town awakened in her breast! And this man, this stranger, who had come so suddenly and unexpectedly across her path, who and what was he? Did he know of her story, and would he recognise, in the rich planter s widow the girl who nine years ago had so discredited her life’s teaching, and brought such shame upon her friends and herself?

She could not bring herself to face her fellow-countryman for the rest of the day, but the following morning, having schooled herself to composure, she again summoned him to her presence, and drew from him his sad story.

“I am glad that I am able to assist you,” she said graciously in her native tongue. “Some time since I parted with my overseer, and have not yet been able to replace him. You have had sufficient experience of plantation work to be able to take up his duties, and you will soon get into our ways. If, therefore, you care, for the post, you can commence at once.”

Harri Glyn, as may be imagined, jumped at the offer, and in a short time proved himself a thoroughly proficient overseer. Things which had long gone wrong from want of a master’s eye were put to right, and while attending to his mistress’s interests he also secured the goodwill of the plantation hands, who, under the firm but gentle rule of the “bucera massa,” as they called him, found themselves better off than they had been since the death of their late master, Mr Maryland.

The new overseer, however, found that he had other and far more pleasant duties to perform than looking after the negro hands. He had to attend upon his mistress during her rides about the country, and sweet and delightful he found this duty to be. This close companionship had, however, an effect upon which he had not calculated, for he woke to the consciousness that he had lost his heart utterly to this beautiful woman across whose path he had been so strangely thrown. He tried in vain to fight against his passion, and endeavoured by an enforced exile from her presence to banish her from his thoughts. Taking as an excuse, that his continued presence would be required for some time on a distant part of the estate, he arranged to reside for a time away from the sight of the woman who had grown to occupy all his thoughts. The effort was a vain one, for he found that in his case absence but made the heart grow fonder, and he felt that the sweet pain of looking at the woman he loved but could never hope to win would be preferable to this yearning for a glimpse of her face. Filled with these sensations, he determined upon returning to flutter like the moth around the light which charmed him while it singed him.

He had reached within a couple of miles of the house, when he heard a woman’s scream – followed by a voice crying in agony:

“Harri! Oh, Harri, save me!”

Rushing in the direction of the voice, he, came upon a sight which for a moment rooted him to the spot. He beheld Mrs Maryland struggling in the grasp of a man whom he had never before seen.

“You may call till you are hoarse my proud beauty,” the man said, “but you shall not escape me this time! I have sworn to make you mine, and by my soul, since you will not come by fair means, you shall by foul!”

With a rush and abound Harri Glyn was upon him, and wresting the lady from the ruffian’s grasp, hurled him to the earth.

With a deep curse the would-be abductor regained his feet, and with uplifted knife rushed upon Harri. Mrs Maryland had swooned, and letting her slip to the earth, the overseer turned to meet his assailant. Catching him by the wrist he prevented the deadly stroke, but strive he would, he found to his horror that he was no match for his opponent, whose mocking laugh showed him to be well aware of the advantage he was gaining. Recalling a wrestling trick of long ago, and with a desperate effort, Harri succeeded in throwing the other, himself, however, falling heavily upon him. A groan from the ruffian, and the sudden slackening of his grasp, told Harri that the other had been injured by his fail. Struggling to his feet, he saw what had happened. The knife, intended for Harri’s heart, had found its sheath in that of the stranger who had fallen upon its upward-point, and met the fate he had intended for another!

With only a glance to satisfy himself that the ruffian was past the power of further injuring him, Harri hastened to where Mrs Maryland had fallen. She had not yet recovered from her swoon, and Harri lifted her head upon his arm, pressed kiss after kiss upon the cold, irresponsive Iips.

“Oh, my love, my love!” he cried; “would to God I had come sooner!” and again he kissed the face of her whom he deemed dead.

With a long drawn sigh she opened her eyes, and seeing who it was that supported her, cast one beautiful arm around his neck, and sobbed, –

“Oh Harri, dear Harri! Thank God, you are come!”

For a brief moment of happiness he clasped her to his bosom and poured his kisses upon her.

“Oh, my love! my love!” he cried, “and I had thought you dead. Thank God, I came in time after all!”

But now that the first shock was over she gently disengaged herself from his arms, and blushed as she remembered what she had done. Harri, however, having surprised her secret, was too ardent a wooer to permit the present chance to slip by, and so, seizing her unresisting hand, he poured forth his tale of love; how he had loved her from the first, how he had fought against, the passion which was mastering him, and how he had found that he could not live away from the sight of her who now filled his every thought.

“Before you commit yourself to the irrevocable,” she said, “it is right that you should know my story, and what the woman is to whom you would give your heart. Do you know a woman called Cadi’r Cwmglas, some ten miles from Carnarvon?”

“Yes,” was the wondering reply.

“Do you remember a case of theft, in which a young girl who had been brought up by Cadi was transported for stealing a skirt off a hedge?”

“Yes, I remember the circumstance and the general sympathy felt not only for Cadi, but for her little, foster daughter.”

“Well, I am that girl. I, to whom you have made love, and whom you would wish to call by the sacred name of wife, am a convicted felon, with yet another year of my original sentence unexpired. Can you then do aught but look upon me with disgusted abhorrence? It costs me more than I care to say to tell you this, but though I know it will drive you from me for ever, I cannot, live a lie even for your dear sake – and I will admit, Harri, that I love you. We must part, and forever.”

“Part!” he cried, “No, never more to part! Think you that the mistake of a foolish girl committed nine years ago shall now stand between me and my life’s happiness? No! a thousand times no!”

His earnest pleadings, backed up by her love, overcame her and she gave herself up to the enjoyment of that companionship for which she had yearned but hardly dared to hope.

Throwing his arm around her waist he led her home, and after despatching a party of negroes to convey the body to an outhouse, and having sent a messenger to inform the authorities that no blame might attach to himself, Harri sought the presence of his mistress and induced her to tell him the particulars of her sad story, which she gave as follows:-

“The planter who hired me from the English Government was a harsh yet just master, and for the first twelvemonth my sentence of hard labour was fully carried out. But I was very strong and healthy, and I bore the strain pretty well. Inspired by my dear ‘mother’s’ last words when leaving Wales, I worked with a will, forgetting the past, which is unusual in a convict I find. In less than twelve months I was promoted, and my master became interested in me and my work. I did my best to raise my fallen companions, telling them of Christ, the friend of publicans and sinners. My master did not object to this. For every convert became a more zealous worker on his plantation. I then lived at the other end of the island. When I had been there some five years, my master died and on his death-bed he transferred me to the care of a dear friend of his, whom I know very well – the owner of this plantation, who brought me home his wedded wife. My past history was quite unknown to his people, so that every respect was paid me as mistress of this mansion. For more than two years I was very happy, when, a year ago, great trouble came upon me again: I lost my dear husband! His horse, frightened by the too sudden approach of my overseer, carried him over a cliff, and he was brought home a corpse! Troubles now came thick and fast. My overseer began to ill-treat my people, and one day when he was away on business they came crowding round this house with their various complaints. To appease them (for I had no one to defend me save a couple of faithful servants, and what were they, against so many?) I promised immediate dismissal of Jackson on his return. Just as I was speaking I received the following message from him: –

“‘Your father is lying ill at Yam’s hut, in the Down Forest. Come at once, alone.’”

“‘What could this mean? Could it be true? Quelling all suspicions I ordered my horse and rode the dozen miles to the West Down Forest. I knew Yam’s hut quite well. My husband and I had taken shelter there from a storm last winter. It was in a lonely spot, though. There was a river to cross by means of a narrow bridge, and then a good walk along a narrow, winding path. Jerry could not come over the bridge, I must tie him to a tree on this side. These were my thoughts as I rode along.

“Arrived at the hut, I nervously knocked at the door. Jackson opened it and pointed me to an English officer lying on a bench.

“He saw me the moment I entered and was visibly startled, for, as he afterwards told me, I so resembled my mother, though far stronger in build, that for a moment he thought it was her apparition. In a low tone he said, “The same sweet eyes, but sadder far! Your father has been unworthy of name to have allowed those beautiful eyes of his Gwen’s to grow so sad. I have much to say, but not much time to say it in, I fear; so listen to your father’s history. He has had to pay dearly for his wrong-doing.

“Your mother was the daughter of a tenant of my father’s estate, whom I had married rather hastily, captivated by her beautiful face and sweet disposition. The marriage was a clandestine one. After spending our first winter abroad, I determined to re-visit my old home in Wales, and present my wife to my mother. On my arrival in England, however, my heart failed me. How disappointed my stately mother would be to find that the heir to Castell Mawr, with its broad acres, had married a Welsh farmer’s daughter with nothing but a pretty face to recommend her. I persuaded Gwen that Christmas was the time for a prodigal’s return, and arranged to spend the summer on a tour through North Wales.

“‘When we got to the neighbourhood of Snowdon, your dear mother was rather tired of it all, and, sad to say, I was getting a little tired of her, for she often failed to accompany me in my rambles, and her late ill-health was robbing her of her great charm.

“‘That fatal evening, as I was making my way up Snowdon with these bitter thoughts crowding upon me, I was overtaken by a party of tourists. A silvery laugh startled me, I looked up, it was a beautiful moonlight night, and there I saw the same form – and yes, heard the same name – Miss Watson. I must fly, fly back, back to Gwen.

“‘Had I not married hastily in a pet because this girl whom I had always loved was going to marry someone else? I was hailed! What surprise, what joy followed! No, she was not married; she had been waiting for my return, she laughingly told me! Gwen was completely forgotten for the moment, I was awakened from my dream, when she expressed surprise that my mother did not know of my arrival in England. Pondering the matter over, I made up my mind that my only safeguard was to visit my mother instantly, alone, for the news of my marriage must not come too suddenly. Arrived at home, I wrote to Gwen, saying I had come home to break the news to my mother, and that I should come and fetch her as soon as possible, and I enclosed a cheque.

“‘I turned coward once again. I could not cloud the home-coming. I waited a day or two, when, to my dismay, I found the Watsons had come to stay on a visit to some friends of ours. They stayed two months, and, of course, my marriage remained a secret. When they were gone I got strength to drag my skeleton out of the cupboard, which sent my mother into hysterics. I left home for the Pass of Llanberis, where, to my shame, I had left my poor little Gwen! When approaching a dismal little graveyard which the mountains long to hide for ever, my heart beat wild and fast. What if that were the funeral of my little Gwen! What a rough coffin! Impossible! No, not impossible: it was all too true. The natives said she was the wife of a tourist, who had either lost his life on the mountain, or had run away from her. She had, they said, left a little baby girl to the care of a Welsh woman. Cardi’r Cwmglas, who lived in a cottage two miles away. With my guilt and woe weighing heavily upon me, I wended my way to the cottage, and finding that the woman was kindly disposed towards the baby, I did not make myself known, but made the best of my way home again. The mother, I am sorry to say, was relieved at the news, for she hated the idea of my receiving as my wife the daughter of one of her own tenants. To cut a long story short, the day for my weeding with Lily Watson was fixed, and great was the rejoicing. A week before the date fixed for my marriage, I received a letter from my betrothed saving in a few simple words that she had learnt I was already married, and that, as she could not face the shame of the exposure she had taken poison. Thus my folly had cost a second life! I left home that very day, leaving my poor mother to explain, and entered the navy. I accidentally saw some years afterwards an account of your trial, and from what was said of your parentage. I knew the convict to be my own forsaken daughter. A short time ago I heard from an old friend that he had married a young wife, a splendid girl, who had been sent out there on a paltry charge of theft from North Wales. Last week our fleet was ordered here, and hoping to make the acquaintance of my unknown daughter, I made my way towards your plantation, when night came on, and I was caught in a trap, where, drawn by my cries, your overseer found me. In that knapsack you will find a sealed packet, containing my last will and testament, and a letter to my lawyers. I make you my heiress. May God forgive me!”

“‘My father had lost so much blood that, he died in less than an hour. I placed the sealed jacket in my pocket, and told Jackson to go to M__ and make arrangements for the funeral. Jackson said he would accompany me to my horse first, for it was getting dark. He took a short cut to the river bank, where he unfastened a punt, which he said he had used for the same purpose several times before. When in the middle of the river he placed down his oars. This awoke me out of my reveries. He took my hand, saving ‘Do not refuse what I asked you the other day, dear Mrs Maryland, for I love you so.’ ‘It is useless to talk that matter over now, Jackson,’ I said, ‘let us got home first.’ His breath came thick and fast. He hissed out, ‘By all the Gods you shall make this river your bed to-night unless you consent to my wife, and to come with me now to the priest I have in waiting for us.’ ‘Who is that on the river’s bank?’ I cried. He suddenly turned round, scanning the  land on all sides. When I saw his back turned to me, a thought quick as Gwenlightning darted through my mind. I summoned all my strength, and with one huge effort I pushed him into the dark waters! On I paddled for dear life, reached my horse and rode for assistance to M__. The constables’ searched in vain for the villain, and I had come to the conclusion that he had been drowned. This was but a month before your arrival, Harri, and it was to-day, while out walking m the woods, that I was again attacked by him whom I thought lay at the bottom of the river. What would have been my fate had you not so fortunately turned up I shudder to think.”

The story was hardly concluded when a servant announced the arrival of a magistrate. The necessary information was given, and orders given for the interment of the body of Jackson, Mr Lejeune, the magistrate, complimenting Harri and congratulating Mrs Maryland on being thus rid of so dangerous a villain.

In another month Gwen and Harri were married. They resided for another year on the plantation, and then, the term of her sentence having expired, returned together to the old country, having sold their West Indian estate, after first of all setting all their slaves free. She found no difficulty in asserting her claim to the Castell Mawr estate, and on Christmas eve in the year 1783, there was a strange but merry gathering at Castell Mawr. Three old women, each remarkable in their way, were, next to the host and hostess, the most prominent figures. These were first and foremost Cadi’r Cwmglas, proud of her adopted daughter who had come purified through the sore trial to which she had been subjected; the widow Glyn, Harri’s mother, prouder than over of her handsome son; and Mrs Lloyd, Baily Llwyd, who was Gwen’s maternal grandmother, and her only remaining relative. The chief tenants of the estate formed the bulk of the party in the banqueting hall, whose roof re-echoed as it had never done before as the merry party enthusiastically drank the health of Harri and Gwen Glyn, the lord and lady of Castell Mawr.

THE END.

[1] a plain or twilled fabric with wool weft and cotton or linen warp that is used especially for warm shirts, skirts, and pyjamas (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

[2] cows

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