Wild Wales, by George Borrow

Chapter 35

Brilliant Morning — Travelling with Edification — A Good Clergyman — Gybi.

I AWOKE about six o’clock in the morning, having passed the night much better than I anticipated. The sun was shining bright and gloriously into the apartment. On looking into the other bed I found that my chums, the young farm-labourers, had deserted it. They were probably already in the field busy at labour. After lying a little time longer I arose, dressed myself and went down. I found my friend honest Pritchard smoking his morning pipe at the front door, and after giving him the sele of the day, I inquired of him the cause of the disturbance beneath my window the night before, and learned that the man of the horse had been thrown by the animal off its back, that the horse almost immediately after had slipped down, and both had been led home very much hurt. We then talked about farming and the crops, and at length got into a discourse about Liverpool. I asked him how he liked that mighty seaport; he said very well, but that he did not know much about it — for though he had a house there where his family had resided, he had not lived much at Liverpool himself, his absences from that place having been many and long.

“Have you travelled then much about England?” said I.

“No,” he replied. “When I have travelled it has chiefly been across the sea to foreign places.”

“But what foreign places have you visited?” said I.

“I have visited,” said Pritchard, “Constantinople, Alexandria, and some other cities in the south latitudes.”

“Dear me,” said I, “you have seen some of the most celebrated places in the world — and yet you were silent, and said nothing about your travels whilst that fellow Bos was pluming himself at having been at such places as Northampton and Worcester, the haunts of shoe-makers and pig-jobbers.”

“Ah,” said Pritchard, “but Mr Bos has travelled with edification; it is a fine thing to have travelled when one has done so with edification, but I have not. There is a vast deal of difference between me and him — he is considered the ‘cutest man in these parts, and is much looked up to.”

“You are really,” said I, “the most modest person I have ever known and the least addicted to envy. Let me see whether you have travelled without edification.”

I then questioned him about the places which he had mentioned, and found he knew a great deal about them, amongst other things he described Cleopatra’s needle, and the At Maidan at Constantinople with surprising exactness.

“You put me out,” said I; “you consider yourself inferior to that droving fellow Bos, and to have travelled without edification, whereas you know a thousand times more than he, and indeed much more than many a person who makes his five hundred a year by going about lecturing on foreign places, but as I am no flatterer I will tell you that you have a fault which will always prevent your rising in this world, you have modesty; those who have modesty shall have no advancement, whilst those who can blow their own horn lustily, shall be made governors. But allow me to ask you in what capacity you went abroad?”

“As engineer to various steamships,” said Pritchard.

“A director of the power of steam,” said I, “and an explorer of the wonders of Iscander’s city willing to hold the candle to Mr Bos. I will tell you what, you are too good for this world, let us hope you will have your reward in the next.”

I breakfasted and asked for my bill; the bill amounted to little or nothing — half-a-crown I think for tea-dinner, sundry jugs of ale, bed and breakfast. I defrayed it, and then inquired whether it would be possible for me to see the inside of the church.

“Oh yes,” said Pritchard. “I can let you in, for I am churchwarden and have the key.”

The church was a little edifice of some antiquity, with a little wing and without a spire; it was situated amidst a grove of trees. As we stood with our hats off in the sacred edifice, I asked Pritchard if there were many Methodists in those parts.

“Not so many as there were,” said Pritchard, “they are rapidly decreasing, and indeed dissenters in general. The cause of their decrease is that a good clergyman has lately come here, who visits the sick and preaches Christ, and in fact does his duty. If all our clergymen were like him there would not be many dissenters in Ynis Fon.”

Outside the church, in the wall, I observed a tablet with the following inscription in English.

Here lieth interred the body of Ann, wife of Robert Paston, who deceased the sixth day of October, Anno Domini.

1671.

P.
R. A.

“You seem struck with that writing?” said Pritchard, observing that I stood motionless, staring at the tablet.

“The name of Paston,” said I, “struck me; it is the name of a village in my own native district, from which an old family, now almost extinct, derived its name. How came a Paston into Ynys Fon? Are there any people bearing that name at present in these parts?”

“Not that I am aware,” said Pritchard,

“I wonder who his wife Ann was?” said I, “from the style of that tablet she must have been a considerable person.”

“Perhaps she was the daughter of the Lewis family of Llan Dyfnant,” said Pritchard; “that’s an old family and a rich one. Perhaps he came from a distance and saw and married a daughter of the Lewis of Dyfnant — more than one stranger has done so. Lord Vivian came from a distance and saw and married a daughter of the rich Lewis of Dyfnant.”

I shook honest Pritchard by the hand, thanked him for his kindness and wished him farewell, whereupon he gave mine a hearty squeeze, thanking me for my custom.

“Which is my way,” said I, “to Pen Caer Gybi?”

“You must go about a mile on the Bangor road, and then turning to the right pass through Penmynnydd, but what takes you to Holyhead?”

“I wish to see,” said I, “the place where Cybi the tawny saint preached and worshipped. He was called tawny because from his frequent walks in the blaze of the sun his face had become much sun-burnt. This is a furiously hot day, and perhaps by the time I get to Holyhead, I may be so sun-burnt as to be able to pass for Cybi himself.”

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 14:50