Wild Wales, by George Borrow

Chapter 67

Cup of Coffee — Gwen — Bluff old Fellow — A Rabble Rout — All from Wrexham.

AFTER a while I arose from my seat and descending the hill returned to the house of my honest friends, whom I found sitting by their fire as I had first seen them.

“Well,” said the man, “did you bring back Owen Glendower?”

“Not only him,” said I, “but his house, family, and all relating to him.”

“By what means?” said the man.

“By means of a song made a long time ago, which describes Sycharth as it was in his time, and his manner of living there.”

Presently Gwen, who had been preparing coffee in expectation of my return, poured out a cupful, which she presented to me, at the same time handing me some white sugar in a basin.

I took the coffee, helped myself to some sugar, and returned her thanks in her own language.

“Ah,” said the man, in Welsh, “I see you are a Cumro. Gwen and I have been wondering whether you were Welsh or English; but I see you are one of ourselves.”

“No,” said I in the same language, “I am an Englishman, born in a part of England the farthest of any from Wales. In fact, I am a Carn Sais.”

“And how came you to speak Welsh?” said the man.

“I took it into my head to learn it when I was a boy,” said I. “Englishmen sometimes do strange things.”

“So I have heard,” said the man, “but I never heard before of an Englishman learning Welsh.”

I proceeded to drink my coffee, and having finished it, and had a little more discourse I got up, and having given Gwen a piece of silver, which she received with a smile and a curtsey, I said I must now be going,

“Won’t you take another cup?” said Gwen, “you are welcome.”

“No, thank you,” said I, “I have had enough.”

“Where are you going?” said the man in English.

“To Llan Rhyadr,” said I, “from which I came this morning.”

“Which way did you come?” said the man.

“By Llan Gedwin,” I replied, “and over the hill. Is there another way?”

“There is,” said the man, “by Llan Silin.”

“Llan Silin!” said I; “is not that the place where Huw Morris is buried?”

“It is,” said the man.

“I will return by Llan Silin,” said I, “and in passing through pay a visit to the tomb of the great poet. Is Llan Silin far off?”

“About half a mile,” said the man. “Go over the bridge, turn to the right, and you will be there presently.”

I shook the honest couple by the hand and bade them farewell. The man put on his hat and went with me a few yards from the door, and then proceeded towards the factory. I passed over the bridge, under which was a streamlet, which a little below the bridge received the brook which once turned Owen Glendower’s corn-mill. I soon reached Llan Silin, a village or townlet, having some high hills at a short distance to the westward, which form part of the Berwyn.

I entered the kitchen of an old-fashioned public-house, and sitting down by a table told the landlord, a red-nosed elderly man, who came bowing up to me, to bring me a pint of ale. The landlord bowed and departed. A bluff-looking old fellow, somewhat under the middle size, sat just opposite to me at the table. He was dressed in a white frieze coat, and had a small hat on his head set rather consequentially on one side. Before him on the table stood a jug of ale, between which and him lay a large crabstick. Three or four other people stood or sat in different parts of the room. Presently the landlord returned with the ale.

“I suppose you come on sessions business, sir?” said he, as he placed it down before me.

“Are the sessions being held here today?” said I.

“They are,” said the landlord, “and there is plenty of business; two bad cases of poaching, Sir Watkin’s keepers are up at court and hope to convict.”

“I am not come on sessions business,” said I; “I am merely strolling a little about to see the country.”

“He is come from South Wales,” said the old fellow in the frieze coat, to the landlord, “in order to see what kind of country the north is. Well at any rate he has seen a better country than his own.”

“How do you know that I come from South Wales?” said I.

“By your English,” said the old fellow; “anybody may know you are South Welsh by your English; it is so cursedly bad. But let’s hear you speak a little Welsh; then I shall be certain as to who you are.”

I did as he bade me, saying a few words in Welsh.

“There’s Welsh,” said the old fellow, “who but a South Welshman would talk Welsh in that manner? It’s nearly as bad as your English.”

I asked him if he had ever been in South Wales.

“Yes,” said he; “and a bad country I found it; just like the people.”

“If you take me for a South Welshman,” said I, “you ought to speak civilly both of the South Welsh and their country.”

“I am merely paying tit for tat,” said the old fellow. “When I was in South Wales your people laughed at my folks and country, so when I meet one of them here I serve him out as I was served out there.”

I made no reply to him, but addressing myself to the landlord inquired whether Huw Morris was not buried in Llan Silin churchyard. He replied in the affirmative.

“I should like to see his tomb,” said I.

“Well, sir,” said the landlord, “I shall be happy to show it to you whenever you please.”

Here again the old fellow put in his word.

“You never had a prydydd like Huw Morris in South Wales,” said he; “nor Twm o’r Nant either.”

“South Wales has produced good poets,” said I.

“No, it hasn’t,” said the old fellow; “it never produced one. If it had, you wouldn’t have needed to come here to see the grave of a poet; you would have found one at home.”

As he said these words he got up, took his stick, and seemed about to depart. Just then in burst a rabble rout of game-keepers and river-watchers who had come from the petty sessions, and were in high glee, the two poachers whom the landlord had mentioned having been convicted and heavily fined. Two or three of them were particularly boisterous, running against some of the guests who were sitting or standing in the kitchen, and pushing the landlord about, crying at the same time that they would stand by Sir Watkin to the last, and would never see him plundered. One of them, a fellow of about thirty, in a hairy cap, black coat, dirty yellow breeches, and dirty white top-boots, who was the most obstreperous of them all, at last came up to the old chap who disliked South Welshmen and tried to knock off his hat, swearing that he would stand by Sir Watkin; he, however, met a Tartar. The enemy of the South Welsh, like all crusty people, had lots of mettle, and with the stick which he held in his hand forthwith aimed a blow at the fellow’s poll, which, had he not jumped back, would probably have broken it.

“I will not be insulted by you, you vagabond,” said the old chap, “nor by Sir Watkin either; go and tell him so.”

The fellow looked sheepish, and turning away proceeded to take liberties with other people less dangerous to meddle with than old crabstick. He, however, soon desisted, and sat down evidently disconcerted.

“Were you ever worse treated in South Wales by the people there than you have been here by your own countrymen?” said I to the old fellow.

“My countrymen?” said he; “this scamp is no countryman of mine; nor is one of the whole kit. They are all from Wrexham, a mixture of broken housekeepers and fellows too stupid to learn a trade; a set of scamps fit for nothing in the world but to swear bodily against honest men. They say they will stand up for Sir Watkin, and so they will, but only in a box in the Court to give false evidence. They won’t fight for him on the banks of the river. Countrymen of mine, indeed! they are no countrymen of mine; they are from Wrexham, where the people speak neither English nor Welsh, not even South Welsh as you do.”

Then giving a kind of flourish with his stick he departed.

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