Wild Wales, by George Borrow

Chapter 65

Inn at Llan Rhyadr — A low Englishman — Enquiries — The Cook — A Precious Couple.

THE inn seemed very large, but did not look very cheerful. No other guest than myself seemed to be in it, except in the kitchen, where I heard a fellow talking English and occasionally yelling an English song: the master and the mistress of the house were civil, and lighted me a fire in what was called the Commercial Room, and putting plenty of coals in the grate soon made the apartment warm and comfortable. I ordered dinner or rather supper, which in about half-an-hour was brought in by the woman. The supper whether good or bad I despatched with the appetite of one who had walked twenty miles over hill and dale.

Occasionally I heard a dreadful noise in the kitchen, and the woman told me that the fellow there was making himself exceedingly disagreeable, chiefly she believed because she had refused to let him sleep in the house. She said that he was a low fellow that went about the country with fish, and that he was the more ready to insult her as the master of the house was now gone out. I asked if he was an Englishman, “Yes,” said she, “a low Englishman.”

“Then he must be low indeed,” said I. “A low Englishman is the lowest of the low.” After a little time I heard no more noise, and was told that the fellow was gone away. I had a little whisky and water, and then went to bed, sleeping in a tolerable chamber but rather cold. There was much rain during the night and also wind; windows rattled, and I occasionally heard the noise of falling tiles.

I arose about eight. Notwithstanding the night had been so tempestuous the morning was sunshiny and beautiful. Having ordered breakfast I walked out in order to look at the town. Llan Rhyadr is a small place, having nothing remarkable in it save an ancient church and a strange little antique market-house, standing on pillars. It is situated at the western end of an extensive valley and at the entrance of a glen. A brook or rivulet runs through it, which comes down the glen from the celebrated cataract, which is about four miles distant to the west. Two lofty mountains form the entrance of the glen, and tower above the town, one on the south and the other on the north. Their names, if they have any, I did not learn.

After strolling about the little place for about a quarter of an hour, staring at the things and the people, and being stared at by the latter, I returned to my inn, a structure built in the modern Gothic style, and which stands nearly opposite to the churchyard. Whilst breakfasting I asked the landlady, who was bustling about the room, whether she had ever heard of Owen Glendower.

“In truth, sir, I have. He was a great gentleman who lived a long time ago, and, and — ”

“Gave the English a great deal of trouble,” said I.

“Just so, sir; at least I daresay it is so, as you say it.”

“And do you know where he lived?”

“I do not, sir; I suppose a great way off, somewhere in the south.”

“Do you mean South Wales?”

“In truth, sir, I do.”

“There you are mistaken,” said I; “and also in supposing he lived a great way off. He lived in North Wales, and not far from this place.”

“In truth, sir, you know more about him than I.”

“Did you ever hear of a place called Sycharth?

“Sycharth! Sycharth! I never did, sir.”

“It is the place where Glendower lived, and it is not far off. I want to go there, but do not know the way.”

“Sycharth! Sycharth!” said the landlady musingly: “I wonder if it is the place we call Sychnant.”

“Is there such a place?”

“Yes, sure; about six miles from here, near Langedwin.”

“What kind of place is it?”

“In truth, sir, I do not know, for I was never there. My cook, however, in the kitchen, knows all about it, for she comes from there.”

“Can I see her?”

“Yes, sure; I will go at once and fetch her.”

She then left the room and presently returned with the cook, a short, thick girl with blue staring eyes.

“Here she is, sir,” said the landlady, “but she has no English.”

“All the better,” said I. “So you come from a place called Sychnant?” said I to the cook in Welsh.

“In truth, sir, I do;” said the cook.

“Did you ever hear of a gwr boneddig called Owen Glendower?”

“Often, sir, often; he lived in our place.”

“He lived in a place called Sycharth?” said I.

“Well, sir; and we of the place call it Sycharth as often as Sychnant; nay, oftener.”

“Is his house standing?”

“It is not; but the hill on which it stood is still standing.”

“Is it a high hill?”

“It is not; it is a small, light hill.”

“A light hill!” said I to myself. “Old Iolo Goch, Owen Glendower’s bard, said the chieftain dwelt in a house on a light hill.

“‘There dwells the chief we all extol In timber house on lightsome knoll.’

“Is there a little river near it,” said I to the cook, “a ffrwd?”

“There is; it runs just under the hill.”

“Is there a mill upon the ffrwd?”

“There is not; that is, now — but there was in the old time; a factory of woollen stands now where the mill once stood.”

“‘A mill a rushing brook upon And pigeon tower fram’d of stone.’

“So says Iolo Goch,” said I to myself, “in his description of Sycharth; I am on the right road.”

I asked the cook to whom the property of Sycharth belonged and was told of course to Sir Watkin, who appears to be the Marquis of Denbighshire. After a few more questions I thanked her and told her she might go. I then finished my breakfast, paid my bill, and after telling the landlady that I should return at night, started for Llangedwin and Sycharth.

A broad and excellent road led along the valley in the direction in which I was proceeding.

The valley was beautiful and dotted with various farm-houses, and the land appeared to be in as high a state of cultivation as the soil of my own Norfolk, that county so deservedly celebrated for its agriculture. The eastern side is bounded by lofty hills, and towards the north the vale is crossed by three rugged elevations, the middlemost of which, called, as an old man told me, Bryn Dinas, terminates to the west in an exceedingly high and picturesque crag.

After an hour’s walking I overtook two people, a man and a woman laden with baskets which hung around them on every side. The man was a young fellow of about eight-and-twenty, with a round face, fair flaxen hair, and rings in his ears; the female was a blooming buxom lass of about eighteen. After giving them the sele of the day I asked them if they were English.

“Aye, aye, master,” said the man; “we are English.”

“Where do you come from?” said I.

“From Wrexham,” said the man.

“I thought Wrexham was in Wales,” said

“If it be,” said the man, “the people are not Welsh; a man is not a horse because he happens to be born in a stable.”

“Is that young woman your wife?” said I.

“Yes;” said he, “after a fashion” — and then he leered at the lass, and she leered at him.

“Do you attend any place of worship?” said I.

“A great many, master!”

“What place do you chiefly attend?” said I.

“The Chequers, master!”

“Do they preach the best sermons there?” said I.

“No, master! but they sell the best ale there.”

“Do you worship ale?” said I.

“Yes, master, I worships ale.”

“Anything else?” said I.

“Yes, master! I and my mort worships something besides good ale; don’t we, Sue?” and then he leered at the mort, who leered at him, and both made odd motions backwards and forwards, causing the baskets which hung round them to creak and rustle, and uttering loud shouts of laughter, which roused the echoes of the neighbouring hills.

“Genuine descendants, no doubt,” said I to myself as I walked briskly on, “of certain of the old heathen Saxons who followed Rag into Wales and settled down about the house which he built. Really, if these two are a fair specimen of the Wrexham population, my friend the Scotch policeman was not much out when he said that the people of Wrexham were the worst people in Wales.”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/borrow/george/wild/chapter65.html

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