Wild Wales, by George Borrow

Chapter 50

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.

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 Bala.

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 my journey.

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.”

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