Picture of George Borrow

George Borrow

places mentioned

Bala to Dinas Mawddwy

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Cheerful Fire - Immense Man - Doctor Jones - Recognition - A Fast Young Man - Excellent Remarks - Disappointment.

I WAS conducted into the coffee-room of the White Lion by a little freckled maid whom I saw at the bar, and whom I told that I was come to pass the night at the inn. The room presented an agreeable contrast to the gloomy, desolate places through which I had lately come. A good fire blazed in the grate, and there were four lights on the table. Lolling in a chair by one side of the fire was an individual at the sight of whom I almost started. He was an immense man, weighing I should say at least eighteen stone, with brown hair, thinnish whiskers, half-ruddy, half-tallowy complexion, and dressed in a brown sporting coat, drab breeches, and yellow- topped boots - in every respect the exact image of the Wolverhampton gent or hog-merchant who had appeared to me in my dream at Llangollen, whilst asleep before the fire. Yes, the very counterpart of that same gent looked this enormous fellow, save and except that he did not appear to be more than seven or eight and twenty, whereas the hog-merchant looked at least fifty. Laying my satchel down I took a seat and ordered the maid to get some dinner for me, and then asked what had become of the waiter, Tom Jenkins.

"He is not here at present, sir," said the freckled maid; "he is at his own house."

"And why is he not here?" said I.

"Because he is not wanted, sir; he only comes in summer when the house is full of people."

And having said this the little freckled damsel left the room.

"Reither a cool night, sir!" said the enormous man after we had been alone together a few minutes.

I again almost started, for he spoke with the same kind of half- piping, half-wheezing voice, with which methought the Wolverhampton gent had spoken to me in my dream.

"Yes," said I; "it is rather cold out abroad, but I don't care as I am not going any farther to-night."

"That's not my case," said the stout man, "I have got to go ten miles, as far as Cerrig Drudion, from which place I came this afternoon in a wehicle."

"Do you reside at Cerrig Drudion?" said I.

"No," said the stout man, whose dialect I shall not attempt further to imitate, "but I have been staying there some time; for happening to go there a month or two ago I was tempted to take up my quarters at the inn. A very nice inn it is, and the landlady a very agreeable woman, and her daughters very agreeable young ladies."

"Is this the first time you have been at Bala?"

"Yes, the first time. I had heard a good deal about it, and wished to see it. So to-day, having the offer of a vehicle at a cheap rate, I came over with two or three other gents, amongst whom is Doctor Jones."

"Dear me" said I, "is Doctor Jones in Bala?"

"Yes," said the stout man. "Do you know him?"

"Oh yes," said I, "and have a great respect for him; his like for politeness and general learning is scarcely to be found in Britain."

"Only think," said the stout man. "Well, I never heard that of him before."

Wishing to see my sleeping room before I got my dinner, I now rose and was making for the door, when it opened, and in came Doctor Jones. He had a muffler round his neck, and walked rather slowly and disconsolately, leaning upon a cane. He passed without appearing to recognise me, and I, thinking it would be as well to defer claiming acquaintance with him till I had put myself a little to rights, went out without saying anything to him. I was shown by the freckled maid to a nice sleeping apartment, where I stayed some time adjusting myself. On my return to the coffee-room I found the doctor sitting near the fire-place. The stout man had left the room. I had no doubt that he had told Doctor Jones that I had claimed acquaintance with him, and that the doctor, not having recollected me, had denied that he knew anything of me, for I observed that he looked at me very suspiciously.

I took my former seat, and after a minute's silence said to Doctor Jones, "I think, sir, I had the pleasure of seeing you some time ago at Cerrig Drudion?"

"It's possible, sir," said Doctor Jones in a tone of considerable hauteur, and tossing his head so that the end of his chin was above his comforter, "but I have no recollection of it."

I held my head down for a little time, then raising it and likewise my forefinger, I looked Doctor Jones full in the face and said, "Don't you remember talking to me about Owen Pugh and Coll Gwynfa?"

"Yes, I do," said Doctor Jones in a very low voice, like that of a person who deliberates; "yes, I do. I remember you perfectly, sir," he added almost immediately in a tone of some animation; "you are the gentleman with whom I had a very interesting conversation one evening last summer in the bar of the inn at Cerrig Drudion. I regretted very much that our conversation was rather brief, but I was called away to attend to a case, a professional case, sir, of some delicacy, and I have since particularly regretted that I was unable to return that night, as it would have given me much pleasure to have been present at a dialogue, which I have been told by my friend the landlady, you held with a certain Italian who was staying at the house, which was highly agreeable and instructive to herself and her daughter."

"Well," said I, "I am rejoiced that fate has brought us together again. How have you been in health since I had the pleasure of seeing you?"

"Rather indifferent, sir, rather indifferent. I have of late been afflicted with several ailments, the original cause of which, I believe, was a residence of several years in the Ynysoedd y Gorllewin - the West India Islands - where I had the honour of serving her present gracious Majesty's gracious uncle, George the Fourth - in a medical capacity, sir. I have likewise been afflicted with lowness of spirits, sir. It was this same lowness of spirits which induced me to accept an invitation made by the individual lately in the room to accompany him in a vehicle with some other people to Bala. I shall always consider my coming as a fortunate circumstance, inasmuch as it has given me an opportunity of renewing my acquaintance with you."

"Pray," said I, "may I take the liberty of asking who that individual is?"

"Why," said Doctor Jones, "he is what they call a Wolverhampton gent."

"A Wolverhampton gent," said I to myself; "only think!"

"Were you pleased to make any observation, sir?" said the doctor.

"I was merely saying something to myself," said I. "And in what line of business may he be? I suppose in the hog line."

"Oh no!" said Doctor Jones. "His father, it is true, is a hog- merchant, but as for himself he follows no business; he is what is called a fast young man, and goes about here and there on the spree, as I think they term it, drawing, whenever he wants money, upon his father, who is in affluent circumstances. Some time ago he came to Cerrig Drudion, and was so much pleased with the place, the landlady, and her daughters, that he has made it his headquarters ever since. Being frequently at the house I formed an acquaintance with him, and have occasionally made one in his parties and excursions, though I can't say I derive much pleasure from his conversation, for he is a person of little or no literature."

"The son of a hog-merchant," thought I to myself. "Depend upon it, that immense fellow whom I saw in my dream purchase the big hog at Llangollen fair, and who wanted me to give him a poond for his bargain, was this gent's father. Oh, there is much more in dreams than is generally dreamt of by philosophy!"

Doctor Jones presently began to talk of Welsh literature, and we were busily engaged in discussing the subject when in walked the fast young man, causing the floor to quake beneath his ponderous tread. He looked rather surprised at seeing the doctor and me conversing, but Doctor Jones turning to him, said, "Oh, I remember this gentleman perfectly."

"Oh!" said the fast young man; "very good!" then flinging himself down in a chair with a force that nearly broke it, and fixing his eyes upon me, said, "I think I remember the gentleman too. If I am not much mistaken, sir, you are one of our principal engineers at Wolverhampton. Oh yes! I remember you now perfectly. The last time I saw you was at a public dinner given to you at Wolverhampton, and there you made a speech, and a capital speech it was."

Just as I was about to reply Doctor Jones commenced speaking Welsh, resuming the discourse on Welsh literature. Before, however, he had uttered a dozen words he was interrupted by the Wolverhampton gent, who exclaimed in a blubbering tone: "O Lord, you are surely not going to speak Welsh. If I had thought I was to be bothered with Welsh I wouldn't have asked you to come."

"If I spoke Welsh, sir," said the doctor, "it was out of compliment to this gentleman, who is a proficient in the ancient language of my country. As, however, you dislike Welsh, I shall carry on the conversation with him in English, though peradventure you may not be more edified by it in that language than if it were held in Welsh."

He then proceeded to make some very excellent remarks on the history of the Gwedir family, written by Sir John Wynn, to which the Wolverhampton gent listened with open mouth and staring eyes. My dinner now made its appearance, brought in by the little freckled maid - the cloth had been laid during my absence from the room. I had just begun to handle my knife and fork, Doctor Jones still continuing his observations on the history of the Gwedir family, when I heard a carriage drive up to the inn, and almost immediately after, two or three young fellows rollicked into the room: "Come let's be off," said one of them to the Wolverhampton gent; "the carriage is ready." "I'm glad of it," said the fast young man, "for it's rather slow work here. Come, doctor! are you going with us or do you intend to stay here all night?" Thereupon the doctor got up, and coming towards me leaning on his cane, said: "Sir! it gives me infinite pleasure that I have met a second time a gentleman of so much literature. That we shall ever meet a third time I may wish but can scarcely hope, owing to certain ailments under which I suffer, brought on, sir, by a residence of many years in the Occidental Indies. However, at all events, I wish you health and happiness." He then shook me gently by the hand and departed with the Wolverhampton gent and his companions; the gent as he stumped out of the room saying, "Good-night, sir; I hope it will not be long before I see you at another public dinner at Wolverhampton, and hear another speech from you as good as the last." In a minute or two I heard them drive off. Left to myself I began to discuss my dinner. Of the dinner I had nothing to complain, but the ale which accompanied it was very bad. This was the more mortifying, for, remembering the excellent ale I had drunk at Bala some months previously, I had, as I came along the gloomy roads the present evening, been promising myself a delicious treat on my arrival.

"This is very bad ale!" said I to the freckled maid, "very different from what I drank in the summer, when I was waited on by Tom Jenkins."

"It is the same ale, sir," said the maid, "but the last in the cask; and we shan't have any more for six months, when he will come again to brew for the summer; but we have very good porter, sir, and first-rate Allsopp."

"Allsopp's ale," said I, "will do for July and August, but scarcely for the end of October. However, bring me a pint; I prefer it at all times to porter."

My dinner concluded, I trifled away my time till about ten o'clock, and then went to bed.


Breakfast - The Freckled Maid - Llan uwch Llyn - The Landlady - Llewarch Hen - Conversions to the Church.

AWAKING occasionally in the night I heard much storm and rain. The following morning it was gloomy and lowering. As it was Sunday I determined to pass the day at Bala, and accordingly took my Prayer Book out of my satchel, and also my single white shirt, which I put on.

Having dressed myself I went to the coffee-room and sat down to breakfast. What a breakfast! - pot of hare; ditto of trout; pot of prepared shrimps; dish of plain shrimps; tin of sardines; beautiful beef-steak; eggs, muffin; large loaf, and butter, not forgetting capital tea. There's a breakfast for you!

As the little freckled maid was removing the breakfast things I asked her how old she was.

"Eighteen, sir, last Candlemas," said the freckled maid.

"Are your parents alive?"

"My mother is, sir, but my father is dead."

"What was your father?"

"He was an Irishman, sir! and boots to this inn."

"Is your mother Irish?"

"No, sir, she is of this place; my father married her shortly after he came here."

"Of what religion are you?"

"Church, sir, Church."

"Was your father of the Church?"

"Not always, sir; he was once what is called a Catholic. He turned to the Church after he came here."

"A'n't there a great many Methodists in Bala?"

"Plenty, sir, plenty."

"How came your father not to go over to the Methodists instead of the Church?"

"'Cause he didn't like them, sir; he used to say they were a trumpery, cheating set; that they wouldn't swear, but would lie through a three-inch board."

"I suppose your mother is a Church-woman?"

"She is now, sir; but before she knew my father she was a Methodist."

"Of what religion is the master of the house?"

"Church, sir, Church; so is all the family."

"Who is the clergyman of the place?"

"Mr Pugh, sir!"

"Is he a good preacher?"

"Capital, sir! and so is each of his curates; he and they are converting the Methodists left and right."

"I should like to hear him."

"Well, sir! that you can do. My master, who is going to church presently, will be happy to accommodate you in his pew."

I went to church with the landlord, a tall gentlemanly man of the name of Jones - Oh that eternal name of Jones! Rain was falling fast, and we were glad to hold up our umbrellas. We did not go to the church at Bala, at which there was no service that morning, but to that of a little village close by, on the side of the lake, the living of which is incorporated with that of Bala. The church stands low down by the lake at the bottom of a little nook. Its name which is Llan uwch Llyn, is descriptive of its position, signifying the Church above the Lake. It is a long, low, ancient edifice, standing north-east by south-west. The village is just above it on a rising ground, behind which are lofty hills pleasantly dotted with groves, trees, and houses. The interior of the edifice has a somewhat dilapidated appearance. The service was in Welsh. The clergyman was about forty years of age, and had a highly-intelligent look. His voice was remarkably clear and distinct. He preached an excellent practical sermon, text, 14th chapter, 22nd verse of Luke, about sending out servants to invite people to the supper. After the sermon there was a gathering for the poor.

As I returned to the inn I had a good deal of conversation with the landlord on religious subjects. He told me that the Church of England, which for a long time had been a down-trodden Church in Wales, had of late begun to raise its head, and chiefly owing to the zeal and activity of its present ministers; that the former ministers of the Church were good men, but had not energy enough to suit the times in which they lived; that the present ministers fought the Methodist preachers with their own weapons, namely, extemporary preaching, and beat them, winning shoals from their congregations. He seemed to think that the time was not far distant when the Anglican Church would be the popular as well as the established Church of Wales.

Finding myself rather dull in the inn, I went out again, notwithstanding that it rained. I ascended the toman or mound which I had visited on a former occasion. Nothing could be more desolate and dreary than the scene around. The woods were stripped of their verdure and the hills were half shrouded in mist. How unlike was this scene to the smiling, glorious prospect which had greeted my eyes a few months before. The rain coming down with redoubled violence, I was soon glad to descend and regain the inn.

Shortly before dinner I was visited by the landlady, a fine tall woman of about fifty, with considerable remains of beauty in her countenance. She came to ask me if I was comfortable. I told her that it was my own fault if I was not. We were soon in very friendly discourse. I asked her her maiden name.

"Owen," said she, laughing, "which, after my present name of Jones, is the most common name in Wales."

"They were both one and the same originally," said I, "Owen and Jones both mean John."

She too was a staunch member of the Church of England, which she said was the only true Church. She spoke in terms of high respect and admiration of her minister, and said that a new church was being built, the old one not being large enough to accommodate the numbers who thronged to hear him.

I had a noble goose for dinner, to which I did ample justice. About four o'clock, the weather having cleared up, I took a stroll. It was a beautiful evening, though rain clouds still hovered about. I wandered to the northern end of Llyn Tegid, which I had passed in the preceding evening. The wind was blowing from the south, and tiny waves were beating against the shore, which consisted of small brown pebbles. The lake has certainly not its name, which signifies Lake of Beauty, for nothing. It is a beautiful sheet of water, and beautifully situated. It is oblong and about six miles in length. On all sides, except to the north, it is bounded by hills. Those at the southern end are very lofty, the tallest of which is Arran, which lifts its head to the clouds like a huge loaf. As I wandered on the strand I thought of a certain British prince and poet, who in the very old time sought a refuge in the vicinity of the lake from the rage of the Saxons. His name was Llewarch Hen, of whom I will now say a few words.

Llewarch Hen, or Llewarch the Aged, was born about the commencement of the sixth and died about the middle of the seventh century, having attained to the prodigious age of one hundred and forty or fifty years, which is perhaps the lot of about forty individuals in the course of a millennium. If he was remarkable for his years he was no less so for the number of his misfortunes. He was one of the princes of the Cumbrian Britons; but Cumbria was invaded by the Saxons, and a scene of horrid war ensued. Llewarch and his sons, of whom he had twenty-four, put themselves at the head of their forces, and in conjunction with the other Cumbrian princes made a brave but fruitless opposition to the invaders. Most of his sons were slain, and he himself with the remainder sought shelter in Powys, in the hall of Cynddylan, its prince. But the Saxon bills and bows found their way to Powys too. Cynddylan was slain, and with him the last of the sons of Llewarch, who, reft of his protector, retired to a hut by the side of the lake of Bala, where he lived the life of a recluse, and composed elegies on his sons and slaughtered friends, and on his old age, all of which abound with so much simplicity and pathos that the heart of him must be hard indeed who can read them unmoved. Whilst a prince he was revered for his wisdom and equity, and he is said in one of the historical triads to have been one of the three consulting warriors of Arthur.

In the evening I attended service in the old church at Bala. The interior of the edifice was remarkably plain; no ornament of any kind was distinguishable; the congregation was overflowing, amongst whom I observed the innkeeper and his wife, the little freckled maid and the boots. The entire service was in Welsh. Next to the pew in which I sat was one filled with young singing women, all of whom seemed to have voices of wonderful power. The prayers were read by a strapping young curate at least six feet high. The sermon was preached by the rector, and was a continuation of the one which I had heard him preach in the morning. It was a very comforting discourse, as the preacher clearly proved that every sinner will be pardoned who comes to Jesus. I was particularly struck with one part. The preacher said that Jesus' arms being stretched out upon the cross was emblematic of His surprising love and His willingness to receive anybody. The service concluded with the noble anthem Teyrnasa Jesu Mawr, "May Mighty Jesus reign!"

The service over I returned to the parlour of the inn. There I sat for a long-time, lone and solitary, staring at the fire in the grate. I was the only guest in the house; a great silence prevailed both within and without; sometimes five minutes elapsed without my hearing a sound, and then, perhaps, the silence would be broken by a footstep at a distance in the street. At length, finding myself yawning, I determined to go to bed. The freckled maid as she lighted me to my room inquired how I liked the sermon. "Very much," said I. "Ah," said she, "did I not tell you that Mr Pugh was a capital preacher?" She then asked me how I liked the singing of the gals who sat in the next pew to mine. I told her that I liked it exceedingly. "Ah," said she, "them gals have the best voices in Bala. They were once Methody gals, and sang in the chapels, but were converted, and are now as good Church as myself. Them gals have been the cause of a great many convarsions, for all the young fellows of their acquaintance amongst the Methodists - "

"Follow them to church," said I, "and in time become converted. That's a thing of course. If the Church gets the girls she is quite sure of the fellows."


Proceed on Journey - The Lad and Dog - Old Bala - The Pass - Extensive View - The Two Men - The Tap Nyth - The Meeting of the Waters - The Wild Valley - Dinas Mawddwy.

THE Monday morning was gloomy and misty, but it did not rain, a circumstance which gave me no little pleasure, as I intended to continue my journey without delay. After breakfast I bade farewell to my kind host, and also to the freckled maid, and departed, my satchel o'er my shoulder and my umbrella in my hand.

I had consulted the landlord on the previous day as to where I had best make my next halt, and had been advised by him to stop at Mallwyd. He said that if I felt tired I could put up at Dinas Mawddwy, about two miles on this side of Mallwyd, but that if I were not he would advise me to go on, as I should find very poor accommodation at Dinas. On my inquiring as to the nature of the road, he told me that the first part of it was tolerably good, lying along the eastern side of the lake, but that the greater part of it was very rough, over hills and mountains, belonging to the great chain of Arran, which constituted upon the whole the wildest part of all Wales.

Passing by the northern end of the lake I turned to the south, and proceeded along a road a little way above the side of the lake. The day had now to a certain extent cleared up, and the lake was occasionally gilded by beams of bright sunshine. After walking a little way I overtook a lad dressed in a white greatcoat and attended by a tolerably large black dog. I addressed him in English, but finding that he did not understand me I began to talk to him in Welsh.

"That's a fine dog," said I.

LAD. - Very fine, sir, and a good dog; though young he has been known to kill rats.

MYSELF. - What is his name?

LAD. - His name is Toby, sir.

MYSELF. - And what is your name?

LAD. - John Jones, sir.

MYSELF. - And what is your father's?

LAD. - Waladr Jones, sir.

MYSELF. - Is Waladr the same as Cadwaladr?

LAD. - In truth, sir, it is.

MYSELF. - That is a fine name.

LAD. - It is, sir; I have heard my father say that it was the name of a king.

MYSELF. - What is your father?

LAD. - A farmer, sir.

MYSELF. - Does he farm his own land?

LAD. - He does not, sir; he is tenant to Mr Price of Hiwlas.

MYSELF. - Do you live far from Bala?

LAD. - Not very far, sir.

MYSELF. - Are you going home now?

LAD. - I am not, sir; our home is on the other side of Bala. I am going to see a relation up the road.

MYSELF. - Bala is a nice place.

LAD. - It is, sir; but not so fine as old Bala.

MYSELF. - I never heard of such a place. Where is it?

LAD. - Under the lake, sir.

MYSELF. - What do you mean?

LAD. - It stood in the old time where the lake now is, and a fine city it was, full of fine houses, towers, and castles, but with neither church nor chapel, for the people neither knew God nor cared for Him, and thought of nothing but singing and dancing and other wicked things. So God was angry with them, and one night, when they were all busy at singing and dancing and the like, God gave the word, and the city sank down into Unknown, and the lake boiled up where it once stood.

MYSELF. - That was a long time ago.

LAD. - In truth, sir, it was.

MYSELF. - Before the days of King Cadwaladr.

LAD. - I daresay it was, sir.

I walked fast, but the lad was a shrewd walker, and though encumbered with his greatcoat contrived to keep tolerably up with me. The road went over hill and dale, but upon the whole more upward than downward. After proceeding about an hour and a half we left the lake, to the southern extremity of which we had nearly come, somewhat behind, and bore away to the south-east, gradually ascending. At length the lad, pointing to a small farm-house on the side of a hill, told me he was bound thither, and presently bidding me farewell, turned aside up a footpath which led towards it.

About a minute afterwards a small delicate furred creature with a white mark round its neck and with a little tail trailing on the ground ran swiftly across the road. It was a weasel or something of that genus; on observing it I was glad that the lad and the dog were gone, as between them they would probably have killed it. I hate to see poor wild animals persecuted and murdered, lose my appetite for dinner at hearing the screams of a hare pursued by greyhounds, and am silly enough to feel disgust and horror at the squeals of a rat in the fangs of a terrier, which one of the sporting tribe once told me were the sweetest sounds in "natur."

I crossed a bridge over a deep gulley which discharged its waters into a river in a valley on the right. Arran rose in great majesty on the farther side of this vale, its head partly shrouded in mist. The day now became considerably overcast. I wandered on over much rough ground till I came to a collection of houses at the bottom of a pass leading up a steep mountain. Seeing the door of one of the houses open I peeped in, and a woman who was sitting knitting in the interior rose and came out to me. I asked the name of the place. The name which she told me sounded something like Ty Capel Saer - the House of the Chapel of the Carpenter. I inquired the name of the river in the valley. Cynllwyd, hoary-headed, she seemed to say; but here, as well as with respect to her first answer, I speak under correction, for her Welsh was what my old friends, the Spaniards, would call muy cerrado, that is, close or indistinct. She asked me if I was going up the bwlch. I told her I was.

"Rather you than I," said she, looking up to the heavens, which had assumed a very dismal, not to say awful, appearance.

Presently I began to ascend the pass or bwlch, a green hill on my right intercepting the view of Arran, another very lofty hill on my left with wood towards the summit. Coming to a little cottage which stood on the left I went to the door and knocked. A smiling young woman opened it, of whom I asked the name of the house.

"Ty Nant - the House of the Dingle," she replied.

"Do you live alone?" said I.

"No; mother lives here."

"Any Saesneg?"

"No," said she with a smile, "S'sneg of no use here."

Her face looked the picture of kindness. I was now indeed in Wales amongst the real Welsh. I went on some way. Suddenly there was a moaning sound, and rain came down in torrents. Seeing a deserted cottage on my left I went in. There was fodder in it, and it appeared to serve partly as a barn, partly as a cow-house. The rain poured upon the roof, and I was glad I had found shelter. Close behind this place a small brook precipitated itself down rocks in four successive falls.

The rain having ceased I proceeded, and after a considerable time reached the top of the pass. From thence I had a view of the valley and lake of Bala, the lake looking like an immense sheet of steel. A round hill, however, somewhat intercepted the view of the latter. The scene in my immediate neighbourhood was very desolate; moory hillocks were all about me of a wretched russet colour; on my left, on the very crest of the hill up which I had so long been toiling, stood a black pyramid of turf, a pole on the top of it. The road now wore nearly due west down a steep descent. Arran was slightly to the north of me. I, however, soon lost sight of it, as I went down the farther side of the hill, which lies over against it to the south-east. The sun, now descending, began to shine out. The pass down which I was now going was yet wilder than the one up which I had lately come. Close on my right was the steep hill's side out of which the road or path had been cut, which was here and there overhung by crags of wondrous forms; on my left was a very deep glen, beyond which was a black, precipitous, rocky wall, from a chasm near the top of which tumbled with a rushing sound a slender brook, seemingly the commencement of a mountain stream, which hurried into a valley far below towards the west. When nearly at the bottom of the descent I stood still to look around me. Grand and wild was the scenery. On my left were noble green hills, the tops of which were beautifully gilded by the rays of the setting sun. On my right a black, gloomy, narrow valley or glen showed itself; two enormous craggy hills of immense altitude, one to the west and the other to the east of the entrance; that to the east terminating in a peak. The background to the north was a wall of rocks forming a semicircle, something like a bent bow with the head downward; behind this bow, just in the middle, rose the black loaf of Arran. A torrent tumbled from the lower part of the semicircle, and after running for some distance to the south turned to the west, the way I was going.

Observing a house a little way within the gloomy vale I went towards it, in the hope of finding somebody in it who could give me information respecting this wild locality. As I drew near the door two tall men came forth, one about sixty, and the other about half that age. The elder had a sharp, keen look; the younger a lumpy and a stupid one. They were dressed like farmers. On my saluting them in English the elder returned my salutation in that tongue, but in rather a gruff tone. The younger turned away his head and said nothing.

"What is the name of this house?" said I, pointing to the building.

"The name of it," said the old man, "is Ty Mawr."

"Do you live in it?" said I.

"Yes, I live in it."

"What waterfall is that?" said I, pointing to the torrent tumbling down the crag at the farther end of the gloomy vale.

"The fountain of the Royal Dyfi."

"Why do you call the Dyfy royal?" said I.

"Because it is the king of the rivers in these parts."

"Does the fountain come out of a rock?"

"It does not; it comes out of a lake, a llyn."

"Where is the llyn?"

"Over that crag at the foot of Aran Vawr."

"Is it a large lake?"

"It is not; it is small."



"Strange things in it?"

"I believe there are strange things in it." His English now became broken.


"I do not know what cracadailes be."


"Ah! No, I do not tink there be efync dere. Hu Gadarn in de old time kill de efync dere and in all de lakes in Wales. He draw them out of the water with his ychain banog his humpty oxen, and when he get dem out he burn deir bodies on de fire, he good man for dat."

"What do you call this allt?" said I, looking up to the high pinnacled hill on my right.

"I call that Tap Nyth yr Eryri."

"Is not that the top nest of the eagles?"

"I believe it is. Ha! I see you understand Welsh."

"A little," said I. "Are there eagles there now?"

"No, no eagle now."

"Gone like avanc?"

"Yes, gone like avanc, but not so long. My father see eagle on Tap Nyth, but my father never see avanc in de llyn."

"How far to Dinas?"

"About three mile."

"Any thieves about?"

"No, no thieves here, but what come from England," and he looked at me with a strange, grim smile.

"What is become of the red-haired robbers of Mawddwy?"

"Ah," said the old man, staring at me, "I see you are a Cumro. The red-haired thieves of Mawddwy! I see you are from these parts."

"What's become of them?"

"Oh, dead, hung. Lived long time ago; long before eagle left Tap Nyth."

He spoke true. The red-haired banditti of Mawddwy were exterminated long before the conclusion of the sixteenth century, after having long been the terror not only of these wild regions but of the greater part of North Wales. They were called the red- haired banditti because certain leading individuals amongst them had red foxy hair.

"Is that young man your son?" said I, after a little pause.

"Yes, he my son."

"Has he any English?"

"No, he no English, but he plenty of Welsh - that is if he see reason."

I spoke to the young man in Welsh, asking him if he had ever been up to the Tap Nyth, but he made no answer.

"He no care for your question," said the old man; "ask him price of pig." I asked the young fellow the price of hogs, whereupon his face brightened up, and he not only answered my question, but told me that he had fat hog to sell. "Ha, ha," said the old man; "he plenty of Welsh now, for he see reason. To other question he no Welsh at all, no more than English, for he see no reason. What business he on Tap Nyth with eagle? His business down below in sty with pig. Ah, he look lump, but he no fool; know more about pig than you or I, or any one 'twixt here and Mahuncleth."

He now asked me where I came from, and on my telling him from Bala, his heart appeared to warm towards me, and saying that I must be tired, he asked me to step in and drink buttermilk, but I declined his offer with thanks, and bidding the two adieu, returned to the road.

I hurried along and soon reached a valley which abounded with trees and grass; I crossed a bridge over a brook, not what the old man had called the Dyfi, but the stream whose source I had seen high up the bwlch, and presently came to a place where the two waters joined. Just below the confluence on a fallen tree was seated a man decently dressed; his eyes were fixed on the rushing stream. I stopped and spoke to him.

He had no English, but I found him a very sensible man. I talked to him about the source of the Dyfi. He said it was a disputed point which was the source. He himself was inclined to believe that it was the Pistyll up the bwlch. I asked him of what religion he was. He said he was of the Church of England, which was the Church of his father and his grandfather, and which he believed to be the only true Church. I inquired if it flourished. He said it did, but that it was dreadfully persecuted by all classes of dissenters, who, though they were continually quarrelling with one another, agreed in one thing, namely, to persecute the Church. I asked him if he ever read. He said he read a great deal, especially the works of Huw Morris, and that reading them had given him a love for the sights of nature. He added that his greatest delight was to come to the place where he then was of an evening, and look at the waters and hills. I asked him what trade he was. "The trade of Joseph," said he, smiling. "Saer." "Farewell, brother," said I; "I am not a carpenter, but like you I read the works of Huw Morris and am of the Church of England." I then shook him by the hand and departed.

I passed a village with a stupendous mountain just behind it to the north, which I was told was called Moel Vrith or the party-coloured moel. I was now drawing near to the western end of the valley. Scenery of the wildest and most picturesque description was rife and plentiful to a degree: hills were here, hills were there; some tall and sharp, others huge and humpy; hills were on every side; only a slight opening to the west seemed to present itself. "What a valley!" I exclaimed. But on passing through the opening I found myself in another, wilder and stranger, if possible. Full to the west was a long hill rising up like the roof of a barn, an enormous round hill on its north-east side, and on its south-east the tail of the range which I had long had on my left - there were trees and groves and running waters, but all in deep shadow, for night was now close at hand.

"What is the name of this place?" I shouted to a man on horseback, who came dashing through a brook with a woman in a Welsh dress behind him.

"Aber Cowarch, Saxon!" said the man in a deep guttural voice, and lashing his horse disappeared rapidly in the night.

"Aber Cywarch!" I cried, springing half a yard into the air. "Why, that's the place where Ellis Wynn composed his immortal 'Sleeping Bard,' the book which I translated in the blessed days of my youth. Oh, no wonder that the 'Sleeping Bard' is a wild and wondrous work, seeing that it was composed amidst the wild and wonderful scenes which I here behold."

I proceeded onwards up an ascent; after some time I came to a bridge across a stream, which a man told me was called Avon Gerres. It runs into the Dyfi, coming down with a rushing sound from a wild vale to the north-east between the huge barn-like hill and Moel Vrith. The barn-like hill I was informed was called Pen Dyn. I soon reached Dinas Mawddwy, which stands on the lower part of a high hill connected with the Pen Dyn. Dinas, trough at one time a place of considerable importance, if we may judge from its name, which signifies a fortified city, is at present little more than a collection of filthy huts. But though a dirty squalid place, I found it anything but silent and deserted. Fierce-looking, red- haired men, who seemed as if they might be descendants of the red- haired banditti of old, were staggering about, and sounds of drunken revelry echoed from the huts. I subsequently learned that Dinas was the head-quarters of miners, the neighbourhood abounding with mines both of lead and stone. I was glad to leave it behind me. Mallwyd is to the south of Dinas - the way to it is by a romantic gorge down which flows the Royal Dyfi. As I proceeded along this gorge the moon rising above Moel Vrith illumined my path. In about half-an-hour I found myself before the inn at Mallwyd.

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

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