Picture of George Borrow

George Borrow

places mentioned

Rhyadr waterfall

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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 to-day?" 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.


Llan Silin Church - Tomb of Huw Morris - Barbara and Richard - Welsh Country Clergyman - The Swearing Lad - Anglo-Saxon Devils.

HAVING discussed my ale I asked the landlord if he would show me the grave of Huw Morris. "With pleasure, sir," said he; "pray follow me." He led me to the churchyard, in which several enormous yew trees were standing, probably of an antiquity which reached as far back as the days of Henry the Eighth, when the yew bow was still the favourite weapon of the men of Britain. The church fronts the south, the portico being in that direction. The body of the sacred edifice is ancient, but the steeple which bears a gilded cock on its top is modern. The innkeeper led me directly up to the southern wall, then pointing to a broad discoloured slab, which lay on the ground just outside the wall, about midway between the portico and the oriel end, he said:

"Underneath this stone lies Huw Morris, sir." Forthwith taking off my hat I went down on my knees and kissed the cold slab covering the cold remains of the mighty Huw, and then, still on my knees, proceeded to examine it attentively. It is covered over with letters three parts defaced. All I could make out of the inscription was the date of the poet's death, 1709. "A great genius, a very great genius, sir," said the inn-keeper, after I had got on my feet and put on my hat.

"He was indeed," said I; "are you acquainted with his poetry?"

"Oh yes," said the innkeeper, and then repeated the four lines composed by the poet shortly before his death, which I had heard the intoxicated stonemason repeat in the public-house of the Pandy, the day I went to visit the poet's residence with John Jones.

"Do you know any more of Huw's poetry?" said I.

"No," said the innkeeper. "Those lines, however, I have known ever since I was a child and repeated them, more particularly of late since age has come upon me and I have felt that I cannot last long."

It is very odd how few of the verses of great poets are in people's mouths. Not more than a dozen of Shakespear's lines are in people's mouths: of those of Pope not more than half that number. Of Addison's poetry two or three lines may be in people's mouths, though I never heard one quoted, the only line which I ever heard quoted as Addison's not being his but Garth's:

"'Tis best repenting in a coach and six.'

Whilst of the verses of Huw Morris I never knew any one but myself, who am not a Welshman, who could repeat a line beyond the four which I have twice had occasion to mention, and which seem to be generally known in North if not in South Wales.

From the flagstone I proceeded to the portico and gazed upon it intensely. It presented nothing very remarkable, but it had the greatest interest for me, for I remembered how many times Huw Morris had walked out of that porch at the head of the congregation, the clergyman yielding his own place to the inspired bard. I would fain have entered the church, but the landlord had not the key, and told me that he imagined there would be some difficulty in procuring it. I was therefore obliged to content myself with peeping through a window into the interior, which had a solemn and venerable aspect.

"Within there," said I to myself, "Huw Morris, the greatest songster of the seventeenth century, knelt every Sunday during the latter thirty years of his life, after walking from Pont y Meibion across the bleak and savage Berwyn. Within there was married Barbara Wynn, the Rose of Maelai, to Richard Middleton, the handsome cavalier of Maelor, and within there she lies buried, even as the songster who lamented her untimely death in immortal verse lies buried out here in the graveyard. What interesting associations has this church for me, both outside and in, but all connected with Huw; for what should I have known of Barbara, the Rose, and gallant Richard but for the poem on their affectionate union and untimely separation, the dialogue between the living and the dead, composed by humble Huw, the farmer's son of Ponty y Meibion?"

After gazing through the window till my eyes watered I turned to the innkeeper, and inquired the way to Llan Rhyadr. Having received from him the desired information I thanked him for his civility, and set out on my return.

Before I could get clear of the town I suddenly encountered my friend R-, the clever lawyer and magistrate's clerk of Llangollen.

"I little expected to see you here," said he.

"Nor I you," I replied.

"I came in my official capacity," said he; "the petty sessions have been held here to-day."

"I know they have," I replied; "and that two poachers have been convicted. I came here on my way to South Wales to see the grave of Huw Morris, who, as you know, is buried in the churchyard."

"Have you seen the clergyman?" said R-.

"No," I replied.

"Then come with me," said he; "I am now going to call upon him. I know he will be rejoiced to make your acquaintance."

He led me to the clergyman's house, which stood at the south-west end of the village within a garden fenced with an iron paling. We found the clergyman in a nice comfortable parlour or study, the sides of which were decorated with books. He was a sharp clever- looking man, of about the middle age. On my being introduced to him he was very glad to see me, as my friend R- told me he would be. He seemed to know all about me, even that I understood Welsh. We conversed on various subjects: on the power of the Welsh language; its mutable letters; on Huw Morris, and likewise on ale, with an excellent glass of which he regaled me. I was much pleased with him, and thought him a capital specimen of the Welsh country clergyman. His name was Walter Jones.

After staying about half-an-hour I took leave of the good kind man, who wished me all kind of happiness, spiritual and temporal, and said that he should always be happy to see me at Llan Silin. My friend R- walked with me a little way and then bade me farewell. It was now late in the afternoon, the sky was grey and gloomy, and a kind of half wintry wind was blowing. In the forenoon I had travelled along the eastern side of the valley, which I will call that of Llan Rhyadr, directing my course to the north, but I was now on the western side of the valley, journeying towards the south. In about half-an-hour I found myself nearly parallel with the high crag which I had seen from a distance in the morning. It was now to the east of me. Its western front was very precipitous, but on its northern side it was cultivated nearly to the summit. As I stood looking at it from near the top of a gentle acclivity a boy with a team, whom I had passed a little time before, came up. He was whipping his horses, who were straining up the ascent, and was swearing at them most frightfully in English. I addressed him in that language, inquiring the name of the crag, but he answered Dim Saesneg, and then again fell to cursing; his horses in English. I allowed him and his team to get to the top of the ascent, and then overtaking him, I said in Welsh: "What do you mean by saying you have no English? You were talking English just now to your horses."

"Yes," said the lad, "I have English enough for my horses, and that is all."

"You seem to have plenty of Welsh," said I; "why don't you speak Welsh to your horses?"

"It's of no use speaking Welsh to them," said the boy; "Welsh isn't strong enough."

"Isn't Myn Diawl tolerably strong?" said I.

"Not strong enough for horses," said the boy "if I were to say Myn Diawl to my horses, or even Cas Andras, they would laugh at me."

"Do the other carters," said I, "use the same English to their horses which you do to yours?"

"Yes" said the boy, "they'll all use the same English words; if they didn't the horses wouldn't mind them."

"What a triumph," thought I, "for the English language that the Welsh carters are obliged to have recourse to its oaths and execrations to make their horses get on!"

I said nothing more to the boy on the subject of language, but again asked him the name of the crag. "It is called Craig y Gorllewin," said he. I thanked him, and soon left him and his team far behind.

Notwithstanding what the boy said about the milk-and-water character of native Welsh oaths, the Welsh have some very pungent execrations, quite as efficacious, I should say, to make a horse get on as any in the English swearing vocabulary. Some of their oaths are curious, being connected with heathen times and Druidical mythology; for example that Cas Andras, mentioned by the boy, which means hateful enemy or horrible Andras. Andras or Andraste was the fury or Demigorgon of the Ancient Cumry, to whom they built temples and offered sacrifices out of fear. Curious that the same oath should be used by the Christian Cumry of the present day, which was in vogue amongst their pagan ancestors some three thousand years ago. However, the same thing is observable amongst us Christian English: we say the Duse take you! even as our heathen Saxon forefathers did, who worshipped a kind of Devil so called, and named a day of the week after him, which name we still retain in our hebdomadal calendar like those of several other Anglo-Saxon devils. We also say: Go to old Nick! and Nick or Nikkur was a surname of Woden, and also the name of a spirit which haunted fords and was in the habit of drowning passengers.

Night came quickly upon me after I had passed the swearing lad. However, I was fortunate enough to reach Llan Rhyadr, without having experienced any damage or impediment from Diawl, Andras, Duse, or Nick.


Church of Llan Rhyadr - The Clerk - The Tablet - Stone - First View of the Cataract.

THE night was both windy and rainy like the preceding one, but the morning which followed, unlike that of the day before, was dull and gloomy. After breakfast I walked out to take another view of the little town. As I stood looking at the church a middle-aged man of a remarkably intelligent countenance came up and asked me if I should like to see the inside. I told him I should, whereupon he said that he was the clerk and would admit me with pleasure. Taking a key out of his pocket he unlocked the door of the church and we went in. The inside was sombre, not so much owing to the gloominess of the day as the heaviness of the architecture. It presented something in the form of a cross. I soon found the clerk what his countenance represented him to be, a highly intelligent person. His answers to my questions were in general ready and satisfactory.

"This seems rather an ancient edifice," said I; "when was it built?"

"In the sixteenth century," said the clerk; "in the days of Harry Tudor."

"Have any remarkable men been clergymen of this church?"

"Several, sir; amongst its vicars was Doctor William Morgan, the great South Welshman, the author of the old Welsh version of the Bible, who flourished in the time of Queen Elizabeth. Then there was Doctor Robert South, an eminent divine, who, though not a Welshman, spoke and preached Welsh better than many of the native clergy. Then there was the last vicar, Walter D-, a great preacher and writer, who styled himself in print Gwalter Mechain."

"Are Morgan and South buried here?" said I.

"They are not, sir," said the clerk; "they had been transferred to other benefices before they died."

I did not inquire whether Walter D- was buried there, for of him I had never heard before, but demanded whether the church possessed any ancient monuments.

"This is the oldest which remains, sir," said the clerk, and he pointed with his finger to a tablet-stone over a little dark pew on the right side of the oriel window. There was an inscription upon it, but owing to the darkness I could not make out a letter. The clerk, however, read as follows.

1694. 21 Octr.
Hic Sepultus Est
Sidneus Bynner.

"Do you understand Latin?" said I to the clerk.

"I do not, sir; I believe, however, that the stone is to the memory of one Bynner."

"That is not a Welsh name," said I.

"It is not, sir," said the clerk.

"It seems to be radically the same as Bonner," said I, "the name of the horrible Popish Bishop of London in Mary's time. Do any people of the name of Bynner reside in this neighbourhood at present?"

"None, sir," said the clerk; "and if the Bynners are descendants of Bonner, it is, perhaps, well that there are none."

I made the clerk, who appeared almost fit to be a clergyman, a small present, and returned to the inn. After paying my bill I flung my satchel over my shoulder, took my umbrella by the middle in my right hand, and set off for the Rhyadr.

I entered the narrow glen at the western extremity of the town and proceeded briskly along. The scenery was romantically beautiful; on my left was the little brook, the waters of which run through the town; beyond it a lofty hill; on my right was a hill covered with wood from the top to the bottom. I enjoyed the scene, and should have enjoyed it more had there been a little sunshine to gild it.

I passed through a small village, the name of which I think was Cynmen, and presently overtook a man and boy. The man saluted me in English, and I entered into conversation with him in that language. He told me that he came from Llan Gedwin, and was going to a place called Gwern something, in order to fetch home some sheep. After a time he asked me where I was going.

"I am going to see the Pistyll Rhyadr," said I

We had then just come to the top of a rising ground.

"Yonder's the Pistyll!" said he, pointing to the west.

I looked in the direction of his finger, and saw something at a great distance, which looked like a strip of grey linen hanging over a crag.

"That is the waterfall," he continued, "which so many of the Saxons come to see. And now I must bid you good-bye, master; for my way to the Gwern is on the right"

Then followed by the boy he turned aside into a wild road at the corner of a savage, precipitous rock.


Mountain Scenery - The Rhyadr - Wonderful Feat.

AFTER walking about a mile with the cataract always in sight, I emerged from the glen into an oblong valley extending from south to north, having lofty hills on all sides, especially on the west, from which direction the cataract comes. I advanced across the vale till within a furlong of this object, when I was stopped by a deep hollow or nether vale into which the waters of the cataract tumble. On the side of this hollow I sat down, and gazed down before me and on either side. The water comes spouting over a crag of perhaps two hundred feet in altitude between two hills, one south-east and the other nearly north. The southern hill is wooded from the top, nearly down to where the cataract bursts forth; and so, but not so thickly, is the northern hill, which bears a singular resemblance to a hog's back. Groves of pine are on the lower parts of both; in front of a grove low down on the northern hill is a small white house of a picturesque appearance. The water of the cataract, after reaching the bottom of the precipice, rushes in a narrow brook down the vale in the direction of Llan Rhyadr. To the north-east, between the hog-backed hill and another strange- looking mountain, is a wild glen, from which comes a brook to swell the waters discharged by the Rhyadr. The south-west side of the vale is steep, and from a cleft of a hill in that quarter a slender stream rushing impetuously joins the brook of the Rhyadr, like the rill of the northern glen. The principal object of the whole is of course the Rhyadr. What shall I liken it to? I scarcely know, unless to an immense skein of silk agitated and disturbed by tempestuous blasts, or to the long tail of a grey courser at furious speed. Through the profusion of long silvery threads or hairs, or what looked such, I could here and there see the black sides of the crag down which the Rhyadr precipitated itself with something between a boom and a roar.

After sitting on the verge of the hollow for a considerable time I got up, and directed my course towards the house in front of the grove. I turned down the path which brought me to the brook which runs from the northern glen into the waters discharged by the Rhyadr, and crossing it by stepping-stones, found myself on the lowest spur of the hog-backed hill. A steep path led towards the house. As I drew near two handsome dogs came rushing to welcome the stranger. Coming to a door on the northern side of the house I tapped, and a handsome girl of about thirteen making her appearance, I inquired in English the nearest way the waterfall; she smiled, and in her native language said that she had no Saxon. On my telling her in Welsh that I was come to see the Pistyll she smiled again, and said that I was welcome, then taking me round the house, she pointed to a path and bade me follow it. I followed the path which led downward to a tiny bridge of planks, a little way below the fall. I advanced to the middle of the bridge, then turning to the west, looked at the wonderful object before me.

There are many remarkable cataracts in Britain and the neighbouring isles, even the little Celtic Isle of Man has its remarkable waterfall; but this Rhyadr, the grand cataract of North Wales, far exceeds them all in altitude and beauty, though it is inferior to several of them in the volume of its flood. I never saw water falling so gracefully, so much like thin beautiful threads, as here. Yet even this cataract has its blemish. What beautiful object has not something which more or less mars its loveliness? There is an ugly black bridge or semi-circle of rock, about two feet in diameter and about twenty feet high, which rises some little way below it, and under which the water, after reaching the bottom, passes, which intercepts the sight, and prevents it from taking in the whole fall at once. This unsightly object has stood where it now stands since the day of creation, and will probably remain there to the day of judgment. It would be a desecration of nature to remove it by art, but no one could regret if nature in one of her floods were to sweep it away.

As I was standing on the planks a woman plainly but neatly dressed came from the house. She addressed me in very imperfect English, saying that she was the mistress of the house and should be happy to show me about. I thanked her for her offer, and told her that she might speak Welsh, whereupon she looked glad, and said in that tongue that she could speak Welsh much better than Saesneg. She took me by a winding path up a steep bank on the southern side of the fall to a small plateau, and told me that was the best place to see the Pistyll from. I did not think so, for we were now so near that we were almost blinded by the spray, though, it is true, the semicircle of rock no longer impeded the sight; this object we now saw nearly laterally rising up like a spectral arch, spray and foam above it, and water rushing below. "That is a bridge rather for ysprydoedd9 to pass over than men," said I.

"It is," said the woman; "but I once saw a man pass over it."

"How did he get up?" said I. "The sides are quite steep and slippery."

"He wriggled to the sides like a llysowen,10 till he got to the top, when he stood upright for a minute, and then slid down on the other side."

"Was he any one from these parts?" said I.

"He was not. He was a dyn dieithr, a Russian; one of those with whom we are now at war."

"Was there as much water tumbling then as now?"

"More, for there had fallen more rain."

"I suppose the torrent is sometimes very dreadful?" said I.

"It is indeed, especially in winter; for it is then like a sea, and roars like thunder or a mad bull."

After I had seen all I wished of the cataract, the woman asked me to come to the house and take some refreshment. I followed her to a neat little room where she made me sit down and handed me a bowl of butter-milk. On the table was a book in which she told me it was customary for individuals who visited the cataract to insert their names. I took up the book which contained a number of names mingled here and there with pieces of poetry. Amongst these compositions was a Welsh englyn on the Rhyadr, which, though incorrect in its prosody, I thought stirring and grand. I copied it, and subjoin it with a translation which I made on the spot.

"Crychiawg, ewynawg anian - yw y Rhyadr
Yn rhuo mal taran;
Colofn o dwr, gloyw-dwr glan,
Gorwyllt, un lliw ag arian."

Foaming and frothing from mountainous height,
Roaring like thunder the Rhyadr falls;
Though its silvery splendour the eye may delight,
Its fury the heart of the bravest appals.


Wild Moors - The Guide - Scientific Discourse - The Land of Arthur - The Umbrella - Arrival at Bala.

WHEN I had rested myself and finished the buttermilk, I got up, and making the good woman a small compensation for her civility, inquired if I could get to Bala without returning to Llan Rhyadr.

"Oh yes," said she, "if you cross the hills for about five miles you will find yourself upon a road which will take you straight to Bala."

"Is there anyone here," said I, "who will guide me over the hills, provided I pay him for his trouble?"

"Oh yes," said she, "I know one who will be happy to guide you whether you pay him or not."

She went out and presently returned with a man about thirty-five, stout and well-looking, and dressed in a waggoner's frock.

"There," said she, "this is the man to show you over the hills; few know the paths better."

I thanked her, and telling the man I was ready, bade him lead the way. We set out, the two dogs of which I have spoken attending us, and seemingly very glad to go. We ascended the side of the hog- backed hill to the north of the Rhyadr. We were about twenty minutes in getting to the top, close to which stood a stone or piece of rock, very much resembling a church altar, and about the size of one. We were now on an extensive moory elevation, having the brook which forms the Rhyadr a little way on our left. We went nearly due west, following no path, for path there was none, but keeping near the brook. Sometimes we crossed water-courses which emptied their tribute into the brook, and every now and then ascended and descended hillocks covered with gorse and whin. After a little time I entered into conversation with my guide. He had not a word of English.

"Are you married?" said I.

"In truth I am, sir."

"What family have you?"

"I have a daughter."

"Where do you live?"

"At the house of the Rhyadr."

"I suppose you live there as servant?"

"No, sir, I live there as master."

"Is the good woman I saw there your wife?"

"In truth, sir, she is."

"And the young girl I saw your daughter?"

"Yes, sir, she is my daughter."

"And how came the good woman not to tell me you were her husband?"

"I suppose, sir, you did not ask who I was, and she thought you did not care to know."

"But can you be spared from home?"

"Oh yes, sir, I was not wanted at home."

"What business are you?"

"I am a farmer, sir."

"A sheep farmer?"

"Yes, sir."

"Who is your landlord."

"Sir Watkin."

"Well, it was very kind of you to come with me."

"Not at all, sir; I was glad to come with you, for we are very lonesome at Rhyadr, except during a few weeks in the summer, when the gentry come to see the Pistyll. Moreover, I have sheep lying about here which need to be looked at now and then, and by coming hither with you I shall have an opportunity of seeing them."

We frequently passed sheep feeding together in small numbers. In two or three instances my guide singled out individuals, caught them, and placing their heads between his knees examined the insides of their eyelids, in order to learn by their colour whether or not they were infected with the pwd or moor disorder. We had some discourse about that malady. At last he asked me if there was a remedy for it.

"Oh yes," said I; "a decoction of hoarhound."

"What is hoarhound?" said he.

"Llwyd y Cwn," said I. "Pour some of that down the sheep's throat twice a day, by means of a horn, and the sheep will recover, for the bitterness, do you see, will destroy the worm11 in the liver, which learned men say is the cause of the disorder."

We left the brook on our left hand and passed by some ruined walls which my guide informed me had once belonged to houses but were now used as sheepfolds. After walking several miles, according to my computation, we began to ascend a considerable elevation covered with brown heath and ling. As we went on the dogs frequently put up a bird of a black colour, which flew away with a sharp whirr.

"What bird is that?" said I.

"Ceiliog y grug, the cock of the heath," replied my guide. "It is said to be very good eating, but I have never tasted it. The ceiliog y grug is not food for the like of me. It goes to feed the rich Saxons in Caer Ludd."

We reached the top of the elevation.

"Yonder," said my guide, pointing to a white bare place a great way off to the west, "is Bala road."

"Then I will not trouble you to go any further," said I; "I can find my way thither."

"No, you could not," said my guide; "if you were to make straight for that place you would perhaps fall down a steep, or sink into a peat hole up to your middle, or lose your way and never find the road, for you would soon lose sight of that place. Follow me, and I will lead you into a part of the road more to the left, and then you can find your way easily enough to that bare place, and from thence to Bala." Thereupon he moved in a southerly direction down the steep and I followed him. In about twenty minutes we came to the road.

"Now," said my guide, "you are on the road; bear to the right and you cannot miss the way to Bala."

"How far is it to Bala?" said I.

"About twelve miles," he replied.

I gave him a trifle, asking at the same time if it was sufficient. "Too much by one-half," he replied; "many, many thanks." He then shook me by the hand, and accompanied by his dogs departed, not back over the moor, but in a southerly direction down the road.

Wending my course to the north, I came to the white bare spot which I had seen from the moor, and which was in fact the top of a considerable elevation over which the road passed. Here I turned and looked at the hills I had come across. There they stood, darkly blue, a rain cloud, like ink, hanging over their summits. Oh, the wild hills of Wales, the land of old renown and of wonder, the land of Arthur and Merlin!

The road now lay nearly due west. Rain came on, but it was at my back, so I expanded my umbrella, flung it over my shoulder and laughed. Oh, how a man laughs who has a good umbrella when he has the rain at his back, aye and over his head too, and at all times when it rains except when the rain is in his face, when the umbrella is not of much service. Oh, what a good friend to a man is an umbrella in rain time, and likewise at many other times. What need he fear if a wild bull or a ferocious dog attacks him, provided he has a good umbrella? He unfurls the umbrella in the face of the bull or dog, and the brute turns round quite scared, and runs away. Or if a footpad asks him for his money, what need he care provided he has an umbrella? He threatens to dodge the ferrule into the ruffian's eye, and the fellow starts back and says, "Lord, sir! I meant no harm. I never saw you before in all my life. I merely meant a little fun." Moreover, who doubts that you are a respectable character provided you have an umbrella? You go into a public-house and call for a pot of beer, and the publican puts it down before you with one hand without holding out the other for the money, for he sees that you have an umbrella and consequently property. And what respectable man, when you overtake him on the way and speak to him, will refuse to hold conversation with you, provided you have an umbrella? No one. The respectable man sees you have an umbrella, and concludes that you do not intend to rob him, and with justice, for robbers never carry umbrellas. Oh, a tent, a shield, a lance, and a voucher for character is an umbrella. Amongst the very best friends of man must be reckoned an umbrella.12

The way lay over dreary, moory hills; at last it began to descend, and I saw a valley below me with a narrow river running through it, to which wooded hills sloped down; far to the west were blue mountains. The scene was beautiful but melancholy; the rain had passed away, but a gloomy almost November sky was above, and the mists of night were coming down apace.

I crossed a bridge at the bottom of the valley and presently saw a road branching to the right. I paused, but after a little time went straight forward. Gloomy woods were on each side of me and night had come down. Fear came upon me that I was not on the right road, but I saw no house at which I could inquire, nor did I see a single individual for miles of whom I could ask. At last I heard the sound of hatchets in a dingle on my right, and catching a glimpse of a gate at the head of a path, which led down into it, I got over it. After descending some time I hallooed. The noise of the hatchets ceased. I hallooed again, and a voice cried in Welsh, "What do you want?" "To know the way to Bala," I replied. There was no answer, but presently I heard steps, and the figure of a man drew nigh, half undistinguishable in the darkness, and saluted me. I returned his salutation, and told him I wanted to know the way to Bala. He told me, and I found I had been going right. I thanked him and regained the road. I sped onward, and in about half-an- hour saw some houses, then a bridge, then a lake on my left, which I recognised as the lake of Bala. I skirted the end of it, and came to a street cheerfully lighted up, and in a minute more was in the White Lion Inn.

9 Spirits.

10 Eel.

11 For an account of this worm, which has various denominations, see article "Fasciola Hepatica" in any Encyclopaedia.

12 As the umbrella is rather a hackneyed subject two or three things will of course be found in the above eulogium on an umbrella which have been said by other folks on that subject; the writer, however, flatters himself that in his eulogium on an umbrella two or three things will also be found which have never been said by any one else about an umbrella.

George Borrow, Wild Wales: Its People, Language and Scenery (Oxford, Mississippi, 1996)

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