The Doom of the Griffiths
This etext was prepared by David Price, email email@example.com
from the 1896 "Lizzie Leigh and Other Tales" Macmillan and Co. edition.
THE DOOM OF THE GRIFFITHS.
by Elizabeth Gaskell
I have always been much interested by the traditions which are
scattered up and down North Wales relating to Owen Glendower (Owain
Glendwr is the national spelling of the name), and I fully enter into
the feeling which makes the Welsh peasant still look upon him as the
hero of his country. There was great joy among many of the
inhabitants of the principality, when the subject of the Welsh prize
poem at Oxford, some fifteen or sixteen years ago, was announced to
be "Owain Glendwr." It was the most proudly national subject that
had been given for years.
Perhaps, some may not be aware that this redoubted chieftain is, even
in the present days of enlightenment, as famous among his illiterate
countrymen for his magical powers as for his patriotism. He says
himself--or Shakespeare says it for him, which is much the same thing
'At my nativity
The front of heaven was full of fiery shapes
Of burning cressets . . .
. . . I can call spirits from the vasty deep.'
And few among the lower orders in the principality would think of
asking Hotspur's irreverent question in reply.
Among other traditions preserved relative to this part of the Welsh
hero's character, is the old family prophecy which gives title to
this tale. When Sir David Gam, "as black a traitor as if he had been
born in Builth," sought to murder Owen at Machynlleth, there was one
with him whose name Glendwr little dreamed of having associated with
his enemies. Rhys ap Gryfydd, his "old familiar friend," his
relation, his more than brother, had consented unto his blood. Sir
David Gam might be forgiven, but one whom he had loved, and who had
betrayed him, could never be forgiven. Glendwr was too deeply read
in the human heart to kill him. No, he let him live on, the loathing
and scorn of his compatriots, and the victim of bitter remorse. The
mark of Cain was upon him.
But before he went forth--while he yet stood a prisoner, cowering
beneath his conscience before Owain Glendwr--that chieftain passed a
doom upon him and his race:
"I doom thee to live, because I know thou wilt pray for death. Thou
shalt live on beyond the natural term of the life of man, the scorn
of all good men. The very children shall point to thee with hissing
tongue, and say, 'There goes one who would have shed a brother's
blood!' For I loved thee more than a brother, oh Rhys ap Gryfydd!
Thou shalt live on to see all of thy house, except the weakling in
arms, perish by the sword. Thy race shall be accursed. Each
generation shall see their lands melt away like snow; yea their
wealth shall vanish, though they may labour night and day to heap up
gold. And when nine generations have passed from the face of the
earth, thy blood shall no longer flow in the veins of any human
being. In those days the last male of thy race shall avenge me. The
son shall slay the father."
Such was the traditionary account of Owain Glendwr's speech to his
once-trusted friend. And it was declared that the doom had been
fulfilled in all things; that live in as miserly a manner as they
would, the Griffiths never were wealthy and prosperous--indeed that
their worldly stock diminished without any visible cause.
But the lapse of many years had almost deadened the wonder-inspiring
power of the whole curse. It was only brought forth from the hoards
of Memory when some untoward event happened to the Griffiths family;
and in the eighth generation the faith in the prophecy was nearly
destroyed, by the marriage of the Griffiths of that day, to a Miss
Owen, who, unexpectedly, by the death of a brother, became an
heiress--to no considerable amount, to be sure, but enough to make
the prophecy appear reversed. The heiress and her husband removed
from his small patrimonial estate in Merionethshire, to her heritage
in Caernarvonshire, and for a time the prophecy lay dormant.
If you go from Tremadoc to Criccaeth, you pass by the parochial
church of Ynysynhanarn, situated in a boggy valley running from the
mountains, which shoulder up to the Rivals, down to Cardigan Bay.
This tract of land has every appearance of having been redeemed at no
distant period of time from the sea, and has all the desolate
rankness often attendant upon such marshes. But the valley beyond,
similar in character, had yet more of gloom at the time of which I
write. In the higher part there were large plantations of firs, set
too closely to attain any size, and remaining stunted in height and
scrubby in appearance. Indeed, many of the smaller and more weakly
had died, and the bark had fallen down on the brown soil neglected
and unnoticed. These trees had a ghastly appearance, with their
white trunks, seen by the dim light which struggled through the thick
boughs above. Nearer to the sea, the valley assumed a more open,
though hardly a more cheerful character; it looked dark and overhung
by sea-fog through the greater part of the year, and even a farm-
house, which usually imparts something of cheerfulness to a
landscape, failed to do so here. This valley formed the greater part
of the estate to which Owen Griffiths became entitled by right of his
wife. In the higher part of the valley was situated the family
mansion, or rather dwelling-house, for "mansion" is too grand a word
to apply to the clumsy, but substantially-built Bodowen. It was
square and heavy-looking, with just that much pretension to ornament
necessary to distinguish it from the mere farm-house.
In this dwelling Mrs. Owen Griffiths bore her husband two sons--
Llewellyn, the future Squire, and Robert, who was early destined for
the Church. The only difference in their situation, up to the time
when Robert was entered at Jesus College, was, that the elder was
invariably indulged by all around him, while Robert was thwarted and
indulged by turns; that Llewellyn never learned anything from the
poor Welsh parson, who was nominally his private tutor; while
occasionally Squire Griffiths made a great point of enforcing
Robert's diligence, telling him that, as he had his bread to earn, he
must pay attention to his learning. There is no knowing how far the
very irregular education he had received would have carried Robert
through his college examinations; but, luckily for him in this
respect, before such a trial of his learning came round, he heard of
the death of his elder brother, after a short illness, brought on by
a hard drinking-bout. Of course, Robert was summoned home, and it
seemed quite as much of course, now that there was no necessity for
him to "earn his bread by his learning," that he should not return to
Oxford. So the half-educated, but not unintelligent, young man
continued at home, during the short remainder of his parent's
His was not an uncommon character. In general he was mild, indolent,
and easily managed; but once thoroughly roused, his passions were
vehement and fearful. He seemed, indeed, almost afraid of himself,
and in common hardly dared to give way to justifiable anger--so much
did he dread losing his self-control. Had he been judiciously
educated, he would, probably, have distinguished himself in those
branches of literature which call for taste and imagination, rather
than any exertion of reflection or judgment. As it was, his literary
taste showed itself in making collections of Cambrian antiquities of
every description, till his stock of Welsh MSS. would have excited
the envy of Dr. Pugh himself, had he been alive at the time of which
There is one characteristic of Robert Griffiths which I have omitted
to note, and which was peculiar among his class. He was no hard
drinker; whether it was that his head was easily affected, or that
his partially-refined taste led him to dislike intoxication and its
attendant circumstances, I cannot say; but at five-and-twenty Robert
Griffiths was habitually sober--a thing so rare in Llyn, that he was
almost shunned as a churlish, unsociable being, and paused much of
his time in solitude.
About this time, he had to appear in some case that was tried at the
Caernarvon assizes; and while there, was a guest at the house of his
agent, a shrewd, sensible Welsh attorney, with one daughter, who had
charms enough to captivate Robert Griffiths. Though he remained only
a few days at her father's house, they were sufficient to decide his
affections, and short was the period allowed to elapse before he
brought home a mistress to Bodowen. The new Mrs. Griffiths was a
gentle, yielding person, full of love toward her husband, of whom,
nevertheless, she stood something in awe, partly arising from the
difference in their ages, partly from his devoting much time to
studies of which she could understand nothing.
She soon made him the father of a blooming little daughter, called
Augharad after her mother. Then there came several uneventful years
in the household of Bodowen; and when the old women had one and all
declared that the cradle would not rock again, Mrs. Griffiths bore
the son and heir. His birth was soon followed by his mother's death:
she had been ailing and low-spirited during her pregnancy, and she
seemed to lack the buoyancy of body and mind requisite to bring her
round after her time of trial. Her husband, who loved her all the
more from having few other claims on his affections, was deeply
grieved by her early death, and his only comforter was the sweet
little boy whom she had left behind. That part of the squire's
character, which was so tender, and almost feminine, seemed called
forth by the helpless situation of the little infant, who stretched
out his arms to his father with the same earnest cooing that happier
children make use of to their mother alone. Augharad was almost
neglected, while the little Owen was king of the house; still next to
his father, none tended him so lovingly as his sister. She was so
accustomed to give way to him that it was no longer a hardship. By
night and by day Owen was the constant companion of his father, and
increasing years seemed only to confirm the custom. It was an
unnatural life for the child, seeing no bright little faces peering
into his own (for Augharad was, as I said before, five or six years
older, and her face, poor motherless girl! was often anything but
bright), hearing no din of clear ringing voices, but day after day
sharing the otherwise solitary hours of his father, whether in the
dim room, surrounded by wizard-like antiquities, or pattering his
little feet to keep up with his "tada" in his mountain rambles or
shooting excursions. When the pair came to some little foaming
brook, where the stepping-stones were far and wide, the father
carried his little boy across with the tenderest care; when the lad
was weary, they rested, he cradled in his father's arms, or the
Squire would lift him up and carry him to his home again. The boy
was indulged (for his father felt flattered by the desire) in his
wish of sharing his meals and keeping the same hours. All this
indulgence did not render Owen unamiable, but it made him wilful, and
not a happy child. He had a thoughtful look, not common to the face
of a young boy. He knew no games, no merry sports; his information
was of an imaginative and speculative character. His father
delighted to interest him in his own studies, without considering how
far they were healthy for so young a mind.
Of course Squire Griffiths was not unaware of the prophecy which was
to be fulfilled in his generation. He would occasionally refer to it
when among his friends, with sceptical levity; but in truth it lay
nearer to his heart than he chose to acknowledge. His strong
imagination rendered him peculiarly impressible on such subjects;
while his judgment, seldom exercised or fortified by severe thought,
could not prevent his continually recurring to it. He used to gaze
on the half-sad countenance of the child, who sat looking up into his
face with his large dark eyes, so fondly yet so inquiringly, till the
old legend swelled around his heart, and became too painful for him
not to require sympathy. Besides, the overpowering love he bore to
the child seemed to demand fuller vent than tender words; it made him
like, yet dread, to upbraid its object for the fearful contrast
foretold. Still Squire Griffiths told the legend, in a half-jesting
manner, to his little son, when they were roaming over the wild
heaths in the autumn days, "the saddest of the year," or while they
sat in the oak-wainscoted room, surrounded by mysterious relics that
gleamed strangely forth by the flickering fire-light. The legend was
wrought into the boy's mind, and he would crave, yet tremble, to hear
it told over and over again, while the words were intermingled with
caresses and questions as to his love. Occasionally his loving words
and actions were cut short by his father's light yet bitter speech--
"Get thee away, my lad; thou knowest not what is to come of all this
When Augharad was seventeen, and Owen eleven or twelve, the rector of
the parish in which Bodowen was situated, endeavoured to prevail on
Squire Griffiths to send the boy to school. Now, this rector had
many congenial tastes with his parishioner, and was his only
intimate; and, by repeated arguments, he succeeded in convincing the
Squire that the unnatural life Owen was leading was in every way
injurious. Unwillingly was the father wrought to part from his son;
but he did at length send him to the Grammar School at Bangor, then
under the management of an excellent classic. Here Owen showed that
he had more talents than the rector had given him credit for, when he
affirmed that the lad had been completely stupefied by the life he
led at Bodowen. He bade fair to do credit to the school in the
peculiar branch of learning for which it was famous. But he was not
popular among his schoolfellows. He was wayward, though, to a
certain degree, generous and unselfish; he was reserved but gentle,
except when the tremendous bursts of passion (similar in character to
those of his father) forced their way.
On his return from school one Christmas-time, when he had been a year
or so at Bangor, he was stunned by hearing that the undervalued
Augharad was about to be married to a gentleman of South Wales,
residing near Aberystwith. Boys seldom appreciate their sisters; but
Owen thought of the many slights with which he had requited the
patient Augharad, and he gave way to bitter regrets, which, with a
selfish want of control over his words, he kept expressing to his
father, until the Squire was thoroughly hurt and chagrined at the
repeated exclamations of "What shall we do when Augharad is gone?"
"How dull we shall be when Augharad is married!" Owen's holidays
were prolonged a few weeks, in order that he might be present at the
wedding; and when all the festivities were over, and the bride and
bridegroom had left Bodowen, the boy and his father really felt how
much they missed the quiet, loving Augharad. She had performed so
many thoughtful, noiseless little offices, on which their daily
comfort depended; and now she was gone, the household seemed to miss
the spirit that peacefully kept it in order; the servants roamed
about in search of commands and directions, the rooms had no longer
the unobtrusive ordering of taste to make them cheerful, the very
fires burned dim, and were always sinking down into dull heaps of
gray ashes. Altogether Owen did not regret his return to Bangor, and
this also the mortified parent perceived. Squire Griffiths was a
Letters in those days were a rare occurrence. Owen usually received
one during his half-yearly absences from home, and occasionally his
father paid him a visit. This half-year the boy had no visit, nor
even a letter, till very near the time of his leaving school, and
then he was astounded by the intelligence that his father was married
Then came one of his paroxysms of rage; the more disastrous in its
effects upon his character because it could find no vent in action.
Independently of slight to the memory of the first wife which
children are so apt to fancy such an action implies, Owen had
hitherto considered himself (and with justice) the first object of
his father's life. They had been so much to each other; and now a
shapeless, but too real something had come between him and his father
there for ever. He felt as if his permission should have been asked,
as if he should have been consulted. Certainly he ought to have been
told of the intended event. So the Squire felt, and hence his
constrained letter which had so much increased the bitterness of
With all this anger, when Owen saw his stepmother, he thought he had
never seen so beautiful a woman for her age; for she was no longer in
the bloom of youth, being a widow when his father married her. Her
manners, to the Welsh lad, who had seen little of female grace among
the families of the few antiquarians with whom his father visited,
were so fascinating that he watched her with a sort of breathless
admiration. Her measured grace, her faultless movements, her tones
of voice, sweet, till the ear was sated with their sweetness, made
Owen less angry at his father's marriage. Yet he felt, more than
ever, that the cloud was between him and his father; that the hasty
letter he had sent in answer to the announcement of his wedding was
not forgotten, although no allusion was ever made to it. He was no
longer his father's confidant--hardly ever his father's companion,
for the newly-married wife was all in all to the Squire, and his son
felt himself almost a cipher, where he had so long been everything.
The lady herself had ever the softest consideration for her stepson;
almost too obtrusive was the attention paid to his wishes, but still
he fancied that the heart had no part in the winning advances. There
was a watchful glance of the eye that Owen once or twice caught when
she had imagined herself unobserved, and many other nameless little
circumstances, that gave him a strong feeling of want of sincerity in
his stepmother. Mrs. Owen brought with her into the family her
little child by her first husband, a boy nearly three years old. He
was one of those elfish, observant, mocking children, over whose
feelings you seem to have no control: agile and mischievous, his
little practical jokes, at first performed in ignorance of the pain
he gave, but afterward proceeding to a malicious pleasure in
suffering, really seemed to afford some ground to the superstitious
notion of some of the common people that he was a fairy changeling.
Years passed on; and as Owen grew older he became more observant. He
saw, even in his occasional visits at home (for from school he had
passed on to college), that a great change had taken place in the
outward manifestations of his father's character; and, by degrees,
Owen traced this change to the influence of his stepmother; so
slight, so imperceptible to the common observer, yet so resistless in
its effects. Squire Griffiths caught up his wife's humbly advanced
opinions, and, unawares to himself, adopted them as his own, defying
all argument and opposition. It was the same with her wishes; they
met their fulfilment, from the extreme and delicate art with which
she insinuated them into her husband's mind, as his own. She
sacrificed the show of authority for the power. At last, when Owen
perceived some oppressive act in his father's conduct toward his
dependants, or some unaccountable thwarting of his own wishes, he
fancied he saw his stepmother's secret influence thus displayed,
however much she might regret the injustice of his father's actions
in her conversations with him when they were alone. His father was
fast losing his temperate habits, and frequent intoxication soon took
its usual effect upon the temper. Yet even here was the spell of his
wife upon him. Before her he placed a restraint upon his passion,
yet she was perfectly aware of his irritable disposition, and
directed it hither and thither with the same apparent ignorance of
the tendency of her words.
Meanwhile Owen's situation became peculiarly mortifying to a youth
whose early remembrances afforded such a contrast to his present
state. As a child, he had been elevated to the consequence of a man
before his years gave any mental check to the selfishness which such
conduct was likely to engender; he could remember when his will was
law to the servants and dependants, and his sympathy necessary to his
father: now he was as a cipher in his father's house; and the
Squire, estranged in the first instance by a feeling of the injury he
had done his son in not sooner acquainting him with his purposed
marriage, seemed rather to avoid than to seek him as a companion, and
too frequently showed the most utter indifference to the feelings and
wishes which a young man of a high and independent spirit might be
supposed to indulge.
Perhaps Owen was not fully aware of the force of all these
circumstances; for an actor in a family drama is seldom unimpassioned
enough to be perfectly observant. But he became moody and soured;
brooding over his unloved existence, and craving with a human heart
This feeling took more full possession of his mind when he had left
college, and returned home to lead an idle and purposeless life. As
the heir, there was no worldly necessity for exertion: his father
was too much of a Welsh squire to dream of the moral necessity, and
he himself had not sufficient strength of mind to decide at once upon
abandoning a place and mode of life which abounded in daily
mortifications; yet to this course his judgment was slowly tending,
when some circumstances occurred to detain him at Bodowen.
It was not to be expected that harmony would long be preserved, even
in appearance, between an unguarded and soured young man, such as
Owen, and his wary stepmother, when he had once left college, and
come, not as a visitor, but as the heir to his father's house. Some
cause of difference occurred, where the woman subdued her hidden
anger sufficiently to become convinced that Owen was not entirely the
dupe she had believed him to be. Henceforward there was no peace
between them. Not in vulgar altercations did this show itself; but
in moody reserve on Owen's part, and in undisguised and contemptuous
pursuance of her own plans by his stepmother. Bodowen was no longer
a place where, if Owen was not loved or attended to, he could at
least find peace, and care for himself: he was thwarted at every
step, and in every wish, by his father's desire, apparently, while
the wife sat by with a smile of triumph on her beautiful lips.
So Owen went forth at the early day dawn, sometimes roaming about on
the shore or the upland, shooting or fishing, as the season might be,
but oftener "stretched in indolent repose" on the short, sweet grass,
indulging in gloomy and morbid reveries. He would fancy that this
mortified state of existence was a dream, a horrible dream, from
which he should awake and find himself again the sole object and
darling of his father. And then he would start up and strive to
shake off the incubus. There was the molten sunset of his childish
memory; the gorgeous crimson piles of glory in the west, fading away
into the cold calm light of the rising moon, while here and there a
cloud floated across the western heaven, like a seraph's wing, in its
flaming beauty; the earth was the same as in his childhood's days,
full of gentle evening sounds, and the harmonies of twilight--the
breeze came sweeping low over the heather and blue-bells by his side,
and the turf was sending up its evening incense of perfume. But
life, and heart, and hope were changed for ever since those bygone
Or he would seat himself in a favourite niche of the rocks on Moel
Gest, hidden by a stunted growth of the whitty, or mountain-ash, from
general observation, with a rich-tinted cushion of stone-crop for his
feet, and a straight precipice of rock rising just above. Here would
he sit for hours, gazing idly at the bay below with its back-ground
of purple hills, and the little fishing-sail on its bosom, showing
white in the sunbeam, and gliding on in such harmony with the quiet
beauty of the glassy sea; or he would pull out an old school-volume,
his companion for years, and in morbid accordance with the dark
legend that still lurked in the recesses of his mind--a shape of
gloom in those innermost haunts awaiting its time to come forth in
distinct outline--would he turn to the old Greek dramas which treat
of a family foredoomed by an avenging Fate. The worn page opened of
itself at the play of the OEdipus Tyrannus, and Owen dwelt with the
craving disease upon the prophecy so nearly resembling that which
concerned himself. With his consciousness of neglect, there was a
sort of self-flattery in the consequence which the legend gave him.
He almost wondered how they durst, with slights and insults, thus
provoke the Avenger.
The days drifted onward. Often he would vehemently pursue some
sylvan sport, till thought and feeling were lost in the violence of
bodily exertion. Occasionally his evenings were spent at a small
public-house, such as stood by the unfrequented wayside, where the
welcome, hearty, though bought, seemed so strongly to contrast with
the gloomy negligence of home--unsympathising home.
One evening (Owen might be four or five-and-twenty), wearied with a
day's shooting on the Clenneny Moors, he passed by the open door of
"The Goat" at Penmorfa. The light and the cheeriness within tempted
him, poor self-exhausted man! as it has done many a one more wretched
in worldly circumstances, to step in, and take his evening meal where
at least his presence was of some consequence. It was a busy day in
that little hostel. A flock of sheep, amounting to some hundreds,
had arrived at Penmorfa, on their road to England, and thronged the
space before the house. Inside was the shrewd, kind-hearted hostess,
bustling to and fro, with merry greetings for every tired drover who
was to pass the night in her house, while the sheep were penned in a
field close by. Ever and anon, she kept attending to the second
crowd of guests, who were celebrating a rural wedding in her house.
It was busy work to Martha Thomas, yet her smile never flagged; and
when Owen Griffiths had finished his evening meal she was there,
ready with a hope that it had done him good, and was to his mind, and
a word of intelligence that the wedding-folk were about to dance in
the kitchen, and the harper was the famous Edward of Corwen.
Owen, partly from good-natured compliance with his hostess's implied
wish, and partly from curiosity, lounged to the passage which led to
the kitchen--not the every-day, working, cooking kitchen, which was
behind, but a good-sized room, where the mistress sat, when her work
was done, and where the country people were commonly entertained at
such merry-makings as the present. The lintels of the door formed a
frame for the animated picture which Owen saw within, as he leaned
against the wall in the dark passage. The red light of the fire,
with every now and then a falling piece of turf sending forth a fresh
blaze, shone full upon four young men who were dancing a measure
something like a Scotch reel, keeping admirable time in their rapid
movements to the capital tune the harper was playing. They had their
hats on when Owen first took his stand, but as they grew more and
more animated they flung them away, and presently their shoes were
kicked off with like disregard to the spot where they might happen to
alight. Shouts of applause followed any remarkable exertion of
agility, in which each seemed to try to excel his companions. At
length, wearied and exhausted, they sat down, and the harper
gradually changed to one of those wild, inspiring national airs for
which he was so famous. The thronged audience sat earnest and
breathless, and you might have heard a pin drop, except when some
maiden passed hurriedly, with flaring candle and busy look, through
to the real kitchen beyond. When he had finished his beautiful theme
on "The March of the men of Harlech," he changed the measure again to
"Tri chant o' bunnan" (Three hundred pounds), and immediately a most
unmusical-looking man began chanting "Pennillion," or a sort of
recitative stanzas, which were soon taken up by another, and this
amusement lasted so long that Owen grew weary, and was thinking of
retreating from his post by the door, when some little bustle was
occasioned, on the opposite side of the room, by the entrance of a
middle-aged man, and a young girl, apparently his daughter. The man
advanced to the bench occupied by the seniors of the party, who
welcomed him with the usual pretty Welsh greeting, "Pa sut mae dy
galon?" ("How is thy heart?") and drinking his health passed on to
him the cup of excellent cwrw. The girl, evidently a village belle,
was as warmly greeted by the young men, while the girls eyed her
rather askance with a half-jealous look, which Owen set down to the
score of her extreme prettiness. Like most Welsh women, she was of
middle size as to height, but beautifully made, with the most perfect
yet delicate roundness in every limb. Her little mob-cap was
carefully adjusted to a face which was excessively pretty, though it
never could be called handsome. It also was round, with the
slightest tendency to the oval shape, richly coloured, though
somewhat olive in complexion, with dimples in cheek and chin, and the
most scarlet lips Owen had ever seen, that were too short to meet
over the small pearly teeth. The nose was the most defective
feature; but the eyes were splendid. They were so long, so lustrous,
yet at times so very soft under their thick fringe of eyelash! The
nut-brown hair was carefully braided beneath the border of delicate
lace: it was evident the little village beauty knew how to make the
most of all her attractions, for the gay colours which were displayed
in her neckerchief were in complete harmony with the complexion.
Owen was much attracted, while yet he was amused, by the evident
coquetry the girl displayed, collecting around her a whole bevy of
young fellows, for each of whom she seemed to have some gay speech,
some attractive look or action. In a few minutes young Griffiths of
Bodowen was at her side, brought thither by a variety of idle
motives, and as her undivided attention was given to the Welsh heir,
her admirers, one by one, dropped off, to seat themselves by some
less fascinating but more attentive fair one. The more Owen
conversed with the girl, the more he was taken; she had more wit and
talent than he had fancied possible; a self-abandon and
thoughtfulness, to boot, that seemed full of charms; and then her
voice was so clear and sweet, and her actions so full of grace, that
Owen was fascinated before he was well aware, and kept looking into
her bright, blushing face, till her uplifted flashing eye fell
beneath his earnest gaze.
While it thus happened that they were silent--she from confusion at
the unexpected warmth of his admiration, he from an unconsciousness
of anything but the beautiful changes in her flexile countenance--the
man whom Owen took for her father came up and addressed some
observation to his daughter, from whence he glided into some
commonplace though respectful remark to Owen, and at length engaging
him in some slight, local conversation, he led the way to the account
of a spot on the peninsula of Penthryn, where teal abounded, and
concluded with begging Owen to allow him to show him the exact place,
saying that whenever the young Squire felt so inclined, if he would
honour him by a call at his house, he would take him across in his
boat. While Owen listened, his attention was not so much absorbed as
to be unaware that the little beauty at his side was refusing one or
two who endeavoured to draw her from her place by invitations to
dance. Flattered by his own construction of her refusals, he again
directed all his attention to her, till she was called away by her
father, who was leaving the scene of festivity. Before he left he
reminded Owen of his promise, and added -
"Perhaps, sir, you do not know me. My name is Ellis Pritchard, and I
live at Ty Glas, on this side of Moel Gest; anyone can point it out
When the father and daughter had left, Owen slowly prepared for his
ride home; but encountering the hostess, he could not resist asking a
few questions relative to Ellis Pritchard and his pretty daughter.
She answered shortly but respectfully, and then said, rather
"Master Griffiths, you know the triad, 'Tri pheth tebyg y naill i'r
llall, ysgnbwr heb yd, mail deg heb ddiawd, a merch deg heb ei
geirda' (Three things are alike: a fine barn without corn, a fine
cup without drink, a fine woman without her reputation)." She
hastily quitted him, and Owen rode slowly to his unhappy home.
Ellis Pritchard, half farmer and half fisherman, was shrewd, and
keen, and worldly; yet he was good-natured, and sufficiently generous
to have become rather a popular man among his equals. He had been
struck with the young Squire's attention to his pretty daughter, and
was not insensible to the advantages to be derived from it. Nest
would not be the first peasant girl, by any means, who had been
transplanted to a Welsh manor-house as its mistress; and,
accordingly, her father had shrewdly given the admiring young man
some pretext for further opportunities of seeing her.
As for Nest herself, she had somewhat of her father's worldliness,
and was fully alive to the superior station of her new admirer, and
quite prepared to slight all her old sweethearts on his account. But
then she had something more of feeling in her reckoning; she had not
been insensible to the earnest yet comparatively refined homage which
Owen paid her; she had noticed his expressive and occasionally
handsome countenance with admiration, and was flattered by his so
immediately singling her out from her companions. As to the hint
which Martha Thomas had thrown out, it is enough to say that Nest was
very giddy, and that she was motherless. She had high spirits and a
great love of admiration, or, to use a softer term, she loved to
please; men, women, and children, all, she delighted to gladden with
her smile and voice. She coquetted, and flirted, and went to the
extreme lengths of Welsh courtship, till the seniors of the village
shook their heads, and cautioned their daughters against her
acquaintance. If not absolutely guilty, she had too frequently been
on the verge of guilt.
Even at the time, Martha Thomas's hint made but little impression on
Owen, for his senses were otherwise occupied; but in a few days the
recollection thereof had wholly died away, and one warm glorious
summer's day, he bent his steps toward Ellis Pritchard's with a
beating heart; for, except some very slight flirtations at Oxford,
Owen had never been touched; his thoughts, his fancy, had been
Ty Glas was built against one of the lower rocks of Moel Gest, which,
indeed, formed a side to the low, lengthy house. The materials of
the cottage were the shingly stones which had fallen from above,
plastered rudely together, with deep recesses for the small oblong
windows. Altogether, the exterior was much ruder than Owen had
expected; but inside there seemed no lack of comforts. The house was
divided into two apartments, one large, roomy, and dark, into which
Owen entered immediately; and before the blushing Nest came from the
inner chamber (for she had seen the young Squire coming, and hastily
gone to make some alteration in her dress), he had had time to look
around him, and note the various little particulars of the room.
Beneath the window (which commanded a magnificent view) was an oaken
dresser, replete with drawers and cupboards, and brightly polished to
a rich dark colour. In the farther part of the room Owen could at
first distinguish little, entering as he did from the glaring
sunlight, but he soon saw that there were two oaken beds, closed up
after the manner of the Welsh: in fact, the domitories of Ellis
Pritchard and the man who served under him, both on sea and on land.
There was the large wheel used for spinning wool, left standing on
the middle of the floor, as if in use only a few minutes before; and
around the ample chimney hung flitches of bacon, dried kids'-flesh,
and fish, that was in process of smoking for winter's store.
Before Nest had shyly dared to enter, her father, who had been
mending his nets down below, and seen Owen winding up to the house,
came in and gave him a hearty yet respectful welcome; and then Nest,
downcast and blushing, full of the consciousness which her father's
advice and conversation had not failed to inspire, ventured to join
them. To Owen's mind this reserve and shyness gave her new charms.
It was too bright, too hot, too anything to think of going to shoot
teal till later in the day, and Owen was delighted to accept a
hesitating invitation to share the noonday meal. Some ewe-milk
cheese, very hard and dry, oat-cake, slips of the dried kids'-flesh
broiled, after having been previously soaked in water for a few
minutes, delicious butter and fresh butter-milk, with a liquor called
"diod griafol" (made from the berries of the Sorbus aucuparia,
infused in water and then fermented), composed the frugal repast; but
there was something so clean and neat, and withal such a true
welcome, that Owen had seldom enjoyed a meal so much. Indeed, at
that time of day the Welsh squires differed from the farmers more in
the plenty and rough abundance of their manner of living than in the
refinement of style of their table.
At the present day, down in Llyn, the Welsh gentry are not a wit
behind their Saxon equals in the expensive elegances of life; but
then (when there was but one pewter-service in all Northumberland)
there was nothing in Ellis Pritchard's mode of living that grated on
the young Squire's sense of refinement.
Little was said by that young pair of wooers during the meal; the
father had all the conversation to himself, apparently heedless of
the ardent looks and inattentive mien of his guest. As Owen became
more serious in his feelings, he grew more timid in their expression,
and at night, when they returned from their shooting-excursion, the
caress he gave Nest was almost as bashfully offered as received.
This was but the first of a series of days devoted to Nest in
reality, though at first he thought some little disguise of his
object was necessary. The past, the future, was all forgotten in
those happy days of love.
And every worldly plan, every womanly wile was put in practice by
Ellis Pritchard and his daughter, to render his visits agreeable and
alluring. Indeed, the very circumstance of his being welcome was
enough to attract the poor young man, to whom the feeling so produced
was new and full of charms. He left a home where the certainty of
being thwarted made him chary in expressing his wishes; where no
tones of love ever fell on his ear, save those addressed to others;
where his presence or absence was a matter of utter indifference; and
when he entered Ty Glas, all, down to the little cur which, with
clamorous barkings, claimed a part of his attention, seemed to
rejoice. His account of his day's employment found a willing
listener in Ellis; and when he passed on to Nest, busy at her wheel
or at her churn, the deepened colour, the conscious eye, and the
gradual yielding of herself up to his lover-like caress, had worlds
of charms. Ellis Pritchard was a tenant on the Bodowen estate, and
therefore had reasons in plenty for wishing to keep the young
Squire's visits secret; and Owen, unwilling to disturb the sunny calm
of these halcyon days by any storm at home, was ready to use all the
artifice which Ellis suggested as to the mode of his calls at Ty
Glas. Nor was he unaware of the probable, nay, the hoped-for
termination of these repeated days of happiness. He was quite
conscious that the father wished for nothing better than the marriage
of his daughter to the heir of Bodowen; and when Nest had hidden her
face in his neck, which was encircled by her clasping arms, and
murmured into his ear her acknowledgment of love, he felt only too
desirous of finding some one to love him for ever. Though not highly
principled, he would not have tried to obtain Nest on other terms
save those of marriage: he did so pine after enduring love, and
fancied he should have bound her heart for evermore to his, when they
had taken the solemn oaths of matrimony.
There was no great difficulty attending a secret marriage at such a
place and at such a time. One gusty autumn day, Ellis ferried them
round Penthryn to Llandutrwyn, and there saw his little Nest become
future Lady of Bodowen.
How often do we see giddy, coquetting, restless girls become sobered
by marriage? A great object in life is decided; one on which their
thoughts have been running in all their vagaries, and they seem to
verify the beautiful fable of Undine. A new soul beams out in the
gentleness and repose of their future lives. An indescribable
softness and tenderness takes place of the wearying vanity of their
former endeavours to attract admiration. Something of this sort took
place in Nest Pritchard. If at first she had been anxious to attract
the young Squire of Bodowen, long before her marriage this feeling
had merged into a truer love than she had ever felt before; and now
that he was her own, her husband, her whole soul was bent toward
making him amends, as far as in her lay, for the misery which, with a
woman's tact, she saw that he had to endure at his home. Her
greetings were abounding in delicately-expressed love; her study of
his tastes unwearying, in the arrangement of her dress, her time, her
No wonder that he looked back on his wedding-day with a thankfulness
which is seldom the result of unequal marriages. No wonder that his
heart beat aloud as formerly when he wound up the little path to Ty
Glas, and saw--keen though the winter's wind might be--that Nest was
standing out at the door to watch for his dimly-seen approach, while
the candle flared in the little window as a beacon to guide him
The angry words and unkind actions of home fell deadened on his
heart; he thought of the love that was surely his, and of the new
promise of love that a short time would bring forth, and he could
almost have smiled at the impotent efforts to disturb his peace.
A few more months, and the young father was greeted by a feeble
little cry, when he hastily entered Ty Glas, one morning early, in
consequence of a summons conveyed mysteriously to Bodowen; and the
pale mother, smiling, and feebly holding up her babe to its father's
kiss, seemed to him even more lovely than the bright gay Nest who had
won his heart at the little inn of Penmorfa.
But the curse was at work! The fulfilment of the prophecy was nigh
It was the autumn after the birth of their boy; it had been a
glorious summer, with bright, hot, sunny weather; and now the year
was fading away as seasonably into mellow days, with mornings of
silver mists and clear frosty nights. The blooming look of the time
of flowers, was past and gone; but instead there were even richer
tints abroad in the sun-coloured leaves, the lichens, the golden
blossomed furze; if it was the time of fading, there was a glory in
Nest, in her loving anxiety to surround her dwelling with every charm
for her husband's sake, had turned gardener, and the little corners
of the rude court before the house were filled with many a delicate
mountain-flower, transplanted more for its beauty than its rarity.
The sweetbrier bush may even yet be seen, old and gray, which she and
Owen planted a green slipling beneath the window of her little
chamber. In those moments Owen forgot all besides the present; all
the cares and griefs he had known in the past, and all that might
await him of woe and death in the future. The boy, too, was as
lovely a child as the fondest parent was ever blessed with; and
crowed with delight, and clapped his little hands, as his mother held
him in her arms at the cottage-door to watch his father's ascent up
the rough path that led to Ty Glas, one bright autumnal morning; and
when the three entered the house together, it was difficult to say
which was the happiest. Owen carried his boy, and tossed and played
with him, while Nest sought out some little article of work, and
seated herself on the dresser beneath the window, where now busily
plying the needle, and then again looking at her husband, she eagerly
told him the little pieces of domestic intelligence, the winning ways
of the child, the result of yesterday's fishing, and such of the
gossip of Penmorfa as came to the ears of the now retired Nest. She
noticed that, when she mentioned any little circumstance which bore
the slightest reference to Bodowen, her husband appeared chafed and
uneasy, and at last avoided anything that might in the least remind
him of home. In truth, he had been suffering much of late from the
irritability of his father, shown in trifles to be sure, but not the
less galling on that account.
While they were thus talking, and caressing each other and the child,
a shadow darkened the room, and before they could catch a glimpse of
the object that had occasioned it, it vanished, and Squire Griffiths
lifted the door-latch and stood before them. He stood and looked--
first on his son, so different, in his buoyant expression of content
and enjoyment, with his noble child in his arms, like a proud and
happy father, as he was, from the depressed, moody young man he too
often appeared at Bodowen; then on Nest--poor, trembling, sickened
Nest!--who dropped her work, but yet durst not stir from her seat, on
the dresser, while she looked to her husband as if for protection
from his father.
The Squire was silent, as he glared from one to the other, his
features white with restrained passion. When he spoke, his words
came most distinct in their forced composure. It was to his son he
"That woman! who is she?"
Owen hesitated one moment, and then replied, in a steady, yet quiet
"Father, that woman is my wife."
He would have added some apology for the long concealment of his
marriage; have appealed to his father's forgiveness; but the foam
flew from Squire Owen's lips as he burst forth with invective against
"You have married her! It is as they told me! Married Nest
Pritchard yr buten! And you stand there as if you had not disgraced
yourself for ever and ever with your accursed wiving! And the fair
harlot sits there, in her mocking modesty, practising the mimming
airs that will become her state as future Lady of Bodowen. But I
will move heaven and earth before that false woman darken the doors
of my father's house as mistress!"
All this was said with such rapidity that Owen had no time for the
words that thronged to his lips. "Father!" (he burst forth at
length) "Father, whosoever told you that Nest Pritchard was a harlot
told you a lie as false as hell! Ay! a lie as false as hell!" he
added, in a voice of thunder, while he advanced a step or two nearer
to the Squire. And then, in a lower tone, he said -
"She is as pure as your own wife; nay, God help me! as the dear,
precious mother who brought me forth, and then left me--with no
refuge in a mother's heart--to struggle on through life alone. I
tell you Nest is as pure as that dear, dead mother!"
At this moment the child--the little Owen--who had kept gazing from
one angry countenance to the other, and with earnest look, trying to
understand what had brought the fierce glare into the face where till
now he had read nothing but love, in some way attracted the Squire's
attention, and increased his wrath.
"Yes," he continued, "poor, weak fool that you are, hugging the child
of another as if it were your own offspring!" Owen involuntarily
caressed the affrighted child, and half smiled at the implication of
his father's words. This the Squire perceived, and raising his voice
to a scream of rage, he went on:
"I bid you, if you call yourself my son, to cast away that miserable,
shameless woman's offspring; cast it away this instant--this
In this ungovernable rage, seeing that Owen was far from complying
with his command, he snatched the poor infant from the loving arms
that held it, and throwing it to his mother, left the house
inarticulate with fury.
Nest--who had been pale and still as marble during this terrible
dialogue, looking on and listening as if fascinated by the words that
smote her heart--opened her arms to receive and cherish her precious
babe; but the boy was not destined to reach the white refuge of her
breast. The furious action of the Squire had been almost without
aim, and the infant fell against the sharp edge of the dresser down
on to the stone floor.
Owen sprang up to take the child, but he lay so still, so motionless,
that the awe of death came over the father, and he stooped down to
gaze more closely. At that moment, the upturned, filmy eyes rolled
convulsively--a spasm passed along the body--and the lips, yet warm
with kissing, quivered into everlasting rest.
A word from her husband told Nest all. She slid down from her seat,
and lay by her little son as corpse-like as he, unheeding all the
agonizing endearments and passionate adjurations of her husband. And
that poor, desolate husband and father! Scarce one little quarter of
an hour, and he had been so blessed in his consciousness of love! the
bright promise of many years on his infant's face, and the new, fresh
soul beaming forth in its awakened intelligence. And there it was;
the little clay image, that would never more gladden up at the sight
of him, nor stretch forth to meet his embrace; whose inarticulate,
yet most eloquent cooings might haunt him in his dreams, but would
never more be heard in waking life again! And by the dead babe,
almost as utterly insensate, the poor mother had fallen in a merciful
faint--the slandered, heart-pierced Nest! Owen struggled against the
sickness that came over him, and busied himself in vain attempts at
It was now near noon-day, and Ellis Pritchard came home, little
dreaming of the sight that awaited him; but though stunned, he was
able to take more effectual measures for his poor daughter's recovery
than Owen had done.
By-and-by she showed symptoms of returning sense, and was placed in
her own little bed in a darkened room, where, without ever waking to
complete consciousness, she fell asleep. Then it was that her
husband, suffocated by pressure of miserable thought, gently drew his
hand from her tightened clasp, and printing one long soft kiss on her
white waxen forehead, hastily stole out of the room, and out of the
Near the base of Moel Gest--it might be a quarter of a mile from Ty
Glas--was a little neglected solitary copse, wild and tangled with
the trailing branches of the dog-rose and the tendrils of the white
bryony. Toward the middle of this thicket a deep crystal pool--a
clear mirror for the blue heavens above--and round the margin floated
the broad green leaves of the water-lily, and when the regal sun
shone down in his noonday glory the flowers arose from their cool
depths to welcome and greet him. The copse was musical with many
sounds; the warbling of birds rejoicing in its shades, the ceaseless
hum of the insects that hovered over the pool, the chime of the
distant waterfall, the occasional bleating of the sheep from the
mountaintop, were all blended into the delicious harmony of nature.
It had been one of Owen's favourite resorts when he had been a lonely
wanderer--a pilgrim in search of love in the years gone by. And
thither he went, as if by instinct, when he left Ty Glas; quelling
the uprising agony till he should reach that little solitary spot.
It was the time of day when a change in the aspect of the weather so
frequently takes place; and the little pool was no longer the
reflection of a blue and sunny sky: it sent back the dark and slaty
clouds above, and, every now and then, a rough gust shook the painted
autumn leaves from their branches, and all other music was lost in
the sound of the wild winds piping down from the moorlands, which lay
up and beyond the clefts in the mountain-side. Presently the rain
came on and beat down in torrents.
But Owen heeded it not. He sat on the dank ground, his face buried
in his hands, and his whole strength, physical and mental, employed
in quelling the rush of blood, which rose and boiled and gurgled in
his brain as if it would madden him.
The phantom of his dead child rose ever before him, and seemed to cry
aloud for vengeance. And when the poor young man thought upon the
victim whom he required in his wild longing for revenge, he
shuddered, for it was his father!
Again and again he tried not to think; but still the circle of
thought came round, eddying through his brain. At length he mastered
his passions, and they were calm; then he forced himself to arrange
some plan for the future.
He had not, in the passionate hurry of the moment, seen that his
father had left the cottage before he was aware of the fatal accident
that befell the child. Owen thought he had seen all; and once he
planned to go to the Squire and tell him of the anguish of heart he
had wrought, and awe him, as it were, by the dignity of grief. But
then again he durst not--he distrusted his self-control--the old
prophecy rose up in its horror--he dreaded his doom.
At last he determined to leave his father for ever; to take Nest to
some distant country where she might forget her firstborn, and where
he himself might gain a livelihood by his own exertions.
But when he tried to descend to the various little arrangements which
were involved in the execution of this plan, he remembered that all
his money (and in this respect Squire Griffiths was no niggard) was
locked up in his escritoire at Bodowen. In vain he tried to do away
with this matter-of-fact difficulty; go to Bodowen he must: and his
only hope--nay his determination--was to avoid his father.
He rose and took a by-path to Bodowen. The house looked even more
gloomy and desolate than usual in the heavy down-pouring rain, yet
Owen gazed on it with something of regret--for sorrowful as his days
in it had been, he was about to leave it for many many years, if not
for ever. He entered by a side door opening into a passage that led
to his own room, where he kept his books, his guns, his fishing-
tackle, his writing materials, et cetera.
Here he hurriedly began to select the few articles he intended to
take; for, besides the dread of interruption, he was feverishly
anxious to travel far that very night, if only Nest was capable of
performing the journey. As he was thus employed, he tried to
conjecture what his father's feelings would be on finding that his
once-loved son was gone away for ever. Would he then awaken to
regret for the conduct which had driven him from home, and bitterly
think on the loving and caressing boy who haunted his footsteps in
former days? Or, alas! would he only feel that an obstacle to his
daily happiness--to his contentment with his wife, and his strange,
doting affection for the child--was taken away? Would they make
merry over the heir's departure? Then he thought of Nest--the young
childless mother, whose heart had not yet realized her fulness of
desolation. Poor Nest! so loving as she was, so devoted to her
child--how should he console her? He pictured her away in a strange
land, pining for her native mountains, and refusing to be comforted
because her child was not.
Even this thought of the home-sickness that might possibly beset Nest
hardly made him hesitate in his determination; so strongly had the
idea taken possession of him that only by putting miles and leagues
between him and his father could he avert the doom which seemed
blending itself with the very purposes of his life as long as he
stayed in proximity with the slayer of his child.
He had now nearly completed his hasty work of preparation, and was
full of tender thoughts of his wife, when the door opened, and the
elfish Robert peered in, in search of some of his brother's
possessions. On seeing Owen he hesitated, but then came boldly
forward, and laid his hand on Owen's arm, saying,
"Nesta yr buten! How is Nest yr buten?"
He looked maliciously into Owen's face to mark the effect of his
words, but was terrified at the expression he read there. He started
off and ran to the door, while Owen tried to check himself, saying
continually, "He is but a child. He does not understand the meaning
of what he says. He is but a child!" Still Robert, now in fancied
security, kept calling out his insulting words, and Owen's hand was
on his gun, grasping it as if to restrain his rising fury.
But when Robert passed on daringly to mocking words relating to the
poor dead child, Owen could bear it no longer; and before the boy was
well aware, Owen was fiercely holding him in an iron clasp with one
hand, while he struck him hard with the other.
In a minute he checked himself. He paused, relaxed his grasp, and,
to his horror, he saw Robert sink to the ground; in fact, the lad was
half-stunned, half-frightened, and thought it best to assume
Owen--miserable Owen--seeing him lie there prostrate, was bitterly
repentant, and would have dragged him to the carved settle, and done
all he could to restore him to his senses, but at this instant the
Squire came in.
Probably, when the household at Bodowen rose that morning, there was
but one among them ignorant of the heir's relation to Nest Pritchard
and her child; for secret as he tried to make his visits to Ty Glas,
they had been too frequent not to be noticed, and Nest's altered
conduct--no longer frequenting dances and merry-makings--was a
strongly corroborative circumstance. But Mrs. Griffiths' influence
reigned paramount, if unacknowledged, at Bodowen, and till she
sanctioned the disclosure, none would dare to tell the Squire.
Now, however, the time drew near when it suited her to make her
husband aware of the connection his son had formed; so, with many
tears, and much seeming reluctance, she broke the intelligence to
him--taking good care, at the same time, to inform him of the light
character Nest had borne. Nor did she confine this evil reputation
to her conduct before her marriage, but insinuated that even to this
day she was a "woman of the grove and brake"--for centuries the Welsh
term of opprobrium for the loosest female characters.
Squire Griffiths easily tracked Owen to Ty Glas; and without any aim
but the gratification of his furious anger, followed him to upbraid
as we have seen. But he left the cottage even more enraged against
his son than he had entered it, and returned home to hear the evil
suggestions of the stepmother. He had heard a slight scuffle in
which he caught the tones of Robert's voice, as he passed along the
hall, and an instant afterwards he saw the apparently lifeless body
of his little favourite dragged along by the culprit Owen--the marks
of strong passion yet visible on his face. Not loud, but bitter and
deep were the evil words which the father bestowed on the son; and as
Owen stood proudly and sullenly silent, disdaining all exculpation of
himself in the presence of one who had wrought him so much graver--so
fatal an injury--Robert's mother entered the room. At sight of her
natural emotion the wrath of the Squire was redoubled, and his wild
suspicions that this violence of Owen's to Robert was a premeditated
act appeared like the proven truth through the mists of rage. He
summoned domestics as if to guard his own and his wife's life from
the attempts of his son; and the servants stood wondering around--now
gazing at Mrs. Griffiths, alternately scolding and sobbing, while she
tried to restore the lad from his really bruised and half-unconscious
state; now at the fierce and angry Squire; and now at the sad and
silent Owen. And he--he was hardly aware of their looks of wonder
and terror; his father's words fell on a deadened ear; for before his
eyes there rose a pale dead babe, and in that lady's violent sounds
of grief he heard the wailing of a more sad, more hopeless mother.
For by this time the lad Robert had opened his eyes, and though
evidently suffering a good deal from the effects of Owen's blows, was
fully conscious of all that was passing around him.
Had Owen been left to his own nature, his heart would have worked
itself to doubly love the boy whom he had injured; but he was
stubborn from injustice, and hardened by suffering. He refused to
vindicate himself; he made no effort to resist the imprisonment the
Squire had decreed, until a surgeon's opinion of the real extent of
Robert's injuries was made known. It was not until the door was
locked and barred, as if upon some wild and furious beast, that the
recollection of poor Nest, without his comforting presence, came into
his mind. Oh! thought he, how she would be wearying, pining for his
tender sympathy; if, indeed, she had recovered the shock of mind
sufficiently to be sensible of consolation! What would she think of
his absence? Could she imagine he believed his father's words, and
had left her, in this her sore trouble and bereavement? The thought
madened him, and he looked around for some mode of escape.
He had been confined in a small unfurnished room on the first floor,
wainscoted, and carved all round, with a massy door, calculated to
resist the attempts of a dozen strong men, even had he afterward been
able to escape from the house unseen, unheard. The window was placed
(as is common in old Welsh houses) over the fire-place; with
branching chimneys on either hand, forming a sort of projection on
the outside. By this outlet his escape was easy, even had he been
less determined and desperate than he was. And when he had
descended, with a little care, a little winding, he might elude all
observation and pursue his original intention of going to Ty Glas.
The storm had abated, and watery sunbeams were gilding the bay, as
Owen descended from the window, and, stealing along in the broad
afternoon shadows, made his way to the little plateau of green turf
in the garden at the top of a steep precipitous rock, down the abrupt
face of which he had often dropped, by means of a well-secured rope,
into the small sailing-boat (his father's present, alas! in days gone
by) which lay moored in the deep sea-water below. He had always kept
his boat there, because it was the nearest available spot to the
house; but before he could reach the place--unless, indeed, he
crossed a broad sun-lighted piece of ground in full view of the
windows on that side of the house, and without the shadow of a single
sheltering tree or shrub--he had to skirt round a rude semicircle of
underwood, which would have been considered as a shrubbery had any
one taken pains with it. Step by step he stealthily moved along--
hearing voices now, again seeing his father and stepmother in no
distant walk, the Squire evidently caressing and consoling his wife,
who seemed to be urging some point with great vehemence, again forced
to crouch down to avoid being seen by the cook, returning from the
rude kitchen-garden with a handful of herbs. This was the way the
doomed heir of Bodowen left his ancestral house for ever, and hoped
to leave behind him his doom. At length he reached the plateau--he
breathed more freely. He stooped to discover the hidden coil of
rope, kept safe and dry in a hole under a great round flat piece of
rock: his head was bent down; he did not see his father approach,
nor did he hear his footstep for the rush of blood to his head in the
stooping effort of lifting the stone; the Squire had grappled with
him before he rose up again, before he fully knew whose hands
detained him, now, when his liberty of person and action seemed
secure. He made a vigorous struggle to free himself; he wrestled
with his father for a moment--he pushed him hard, and drove him on to
the great displaced stone, all unsteady in its balance.
Down went the Squire, down into the deep waters below--down after him
went Owen, half consciously, half unconsciously, partly compelled by
the sudden cessation of any opposing body, partly from a vehement
irrepressible impulse to rescue his father. But he had instinctively
chosen a safer place in the deep seawater pool than that into which
his push had sent his father. The Squire had hit his head with much
violence against the side of the boat, in his fall; it is, indeed,
doubtful whether he was not killed before ever he sank into the sea.
But Owen knew nothing save that the awful doom seemed even now
present. He plunged down, he dived below the water in search of the
body which had none of the elasticity of life to buoy it up; he saw
his father in those depths, he clutched at him, he brought him up and
cast him, a dead weight, into the boat, and exhausted by the effort,
he had begun himself to sink again before he instinctively strove to
rise and climb into the rocking boat. There lay his father, with a
deep dent in the side of his head where the skull had been fractured
by his fall; his face blackened by the arrested course of the blood.
Owen felt his pulse, his heart--all was still. He called him by his
"Father, father!" he cried, "come back! come back! You never knew
how I loved you! how I could love you still--if--Oh God!"
And the thought of his little child rose before him. "Yes, father,"
he cried afresh, "you never knew how he fell--how he died! Oh, if I
had but had patience to tell you! If you would but have borne with
me and listened! And now it is over! Oh father! father!"
Whether she had heard this wild wailing voice, or whether it was only
that she missed her husband and wanted him for some little every-day
question, or, as was perhaps more likely, she had discovered Owen's
escape, and come to inform her husband of it, I do not know, but on
the rock, right above his head, as it seemed, Owen heard his
stepmother calling her husband.
He was silent, and softly pushed the boat right under the rock till
the sides grated against the stones, and the overhanging branches
concealed him and it from all not on a level with the water. Wet as
he was, he lay down by his dead father the better to conceal himself;
and, somehow, the action recalled those early days of childhood--the
first in the Squire's widowhood--when Owen had shared his father's
bed, and used to waken him in the morning to hear one of the old
Welsh legends. How long he lay thus--body chilled, and brain hard-
working through the heavy pressure of a reality as terrible as a
nightmare--he never knew; but at length he roused himself up to think
Drawing out a great sail, he covered up the body of his father with
it where he lay in the bottom of the boat. Then with his numbed
hands he took the oars, and pulled out into the more open sea toward
Criccaeth. He skirted along the coast till he found a shadowed cleft
in the dark rocks; to that point he rowed, and anchored his boat
close in land. Then he mounted, staggering, half longing to fall
into the dark waters and be at rest--half instinctively finding out
the surest foot-rests on that precipitous face of rock, till he was
high up, safe landed on the turfy summit. He ran off, as if pursued,
toward Penmorfa; he ran with maddened energy. Suddenly he paused,
turned, ran again with the same speed, and threw himself prone on the
summit, looking down into his boat with straining eyes to see if
there had been any movement of life--any displacement of a fold of
sail-cloth. It was all quiet deep down below, but as he gazed the
shifting light gave the appearance of a slight movement. Owen ran to
a lower part of the rock, stripped, plunged into the water, and swam
to the boat. When there, all was still--awfully still! For a minute
or two, he dared not lift up the cloth. Then reflecting that the
same terror might beset him again--of leaving his father unaided
while yet a spark of life lingered--he removed the shrouding cover.
The eyes looked into his with a dead stare! He closed the lids and
bound up the jaw. Again he looked. This time he raised himself out
of the water and kissed the brow.
"It was my doom, father! It would have been better if I had died at
Daylight was fading away. Precious daylight! He swam back, dressed,
and set off afresh for Penmorfa. When he opened the door of Ty Glas,
Ellis Pritchard looked at him reproachfully, from his seat in the
"You're come at last," said he. "One of our kind (i.e., station)
would not have left his wife to mourn by herself over her dead child;
nor would one of our kind have let his father kill his own true son.
I've a good mind to take her from you for ever."
"I did not tell him," cried Nest, looking piteously at her husband;
"he made me tell him part, and guessed the rest."
She was nursing her babe on her knee as if it was alive. Owen stood
before Ellis Pritchard.
"Be silent," said he, quietly. "Neither words nor deeds but what are
decreed can come to pass. I was set to do my work, this hundred
years and more. The time waited for me, and the man waited for me.
I have done what was foretold of me for generations!"
Ellis Pritchard knew the old tale of the prophecy, and believed in it
in a dull, dead kind of way, but somehow never thought it would come
to pass in his time. Now, however, he understood it all in a moment,
though he mistook Owen's nature so much as to believe that the deed
was intentionally done, out of revenge for the death of his boy; and
viewing it in this light, Ellis thought it little more than a just
punishment for the cause of all the wild despairing sorrow he had
seen his only child suffer during the hours of this long afternoon.
But he knew the law would not so regard it. Even the lax Welsh law
of those days could not fail to examine into the death of a man of
Squire Griffith's standing. So the acute Ellis thought how he could
conceal the culprit for a time.
"Come," said he; "don't look so scared! It was your doom, not your
fault;" and he laid a hand on Owen's shoulder.
"You're wet," said he, suddenly. "Where have you been? Nest, your
husband is dripping, drookit wet. That's what makes him look so blue
Nest softly laid her baby in its cradle; she was half stupefied with
crying, and had not understood to what Owen alluded, when he spoke of
his doom being fulfilled, if indeed she had heard the words.
Her touch thawed Owen's miserable heart.
"Oh, Nest!" said he, clasping her in his arms; "do you love me still-
-can you love me, my own darling?"
"Why not?" asked she, her eyes filling with tears. "I only love you
more than ever, for you were my poor baby's father!"
"But, Nest--Oh, tell her, Ellis! YOU know."
"No need, no need!" said Ellis. "She's had enough to think on.
Bustle, my girl, and get out my Sunday clothes."
"I don't understand," said Nest, putting her hand up to her head.
"What is to tell? and why are you so wet? God help me for a poor
crazed thing, for I cannot guess at the meaning of your words and
your strange looks! I only know my baby is dead!" and she burst into
"Come, Nest! go and fetch him a change, quick!" and as she meekly
obeyed, too languid to strive further to understand, Ellis said
rapidly to Owen, in a low, hurried voice -
"Are you meaning that the Squire is dead? Speak low, lest she hear.
Well, well, no need to talk about how he died. It was sudden, I see;
and we must all of us die; and he'll have to be buried. It's well
the night is near. And I should not wonder now if you'd like to
travel for a bit; it would do Nest a power of good; and then--there's
many a one goes out of his own house and never comes back again; and-
-I trust he's not lying in his own house--and there's a stir for a
bit, and a search, and a wonder--and, by-and-by, the heir just steps
in, as quiet as can be. And that's what you'll do, and bring Nest to
Bodowen after all. Nay, child, better stockings nor those; find the
blue woollens I bought at Llanrwst fair. Only don't lose heart.
It's done now and can't be helped. It was the piece of work set you
to do from the days of the Tudors, they say. And he deserved it.
Look in yon cradle. So tell us where he is, and I'll take heart of
grace and see what can be done for him."
But Owen sat wet and haggard, looking into the peat fire as if for
visions of the past, and never heeding a word Ellis said. Nor did he
move when Nest brought the armful of dry clothes.
"Come, rouse up, man!" said Ellis, growing impatient. But he neither
spoke nor moved.
"What is the matter, father?" asked Nest, bewildered.
Ellis kept on watching Owen for a minute or two, till on his
daughter's repetition of the question, he said -
"Ask him yourself, Nest."
"Oh, husband, what is it?" said she, kneeling down and bringing her
face to a level with his.
"Don't you know?" said he, heavily. "You won't love me when you do
know. And yet it was not my doing: it was my doom."
"What does he mean, father?" asked Nest, looking up; but she caught a
gesture from Ellis urging her to go on questioning her husband.
"I will love you, husband, whatever has happened. Only let me know
A pause, during which Nest and Ellis hung breathless.
"My father is dead, Nest."
Nest caught her breath with a sharp gasp.
"God forgive him!" said she, thinking on her babe.
"God forgive ME!" said Owen.
"You did not--" Nest stopped.
"Yes, I did. Now you know it. It was my doom. How could I help it?
The devil helped me--he placed the stone so that my father fell. I
jumped into the water to save him. I did, indeed, Nest. I was
nearly drowned myself. But he was dead--dead--killed by the fall!"
"Then he is safe at the bottom of the sea?" said Ellis, with hungry
"No, he is not; he lies in my boat," said Owen, shivering a little,
more at the thought of his last glimpse at his father's face than
"Oh, husband, change your wet clothes!" pleaded Nest, to whom the
death of the old man was simply a horror with which she had nothing
to do, while her husband's discomfort was a present trouble.
While she helped him to take off the wet garments which he would
never have had energy enough to remove of himself, Ellis was busy
preparing food, and mixing a great tumbler of spirits and hot water.
He stood over the unfortunate young man and compelled him to eat and
drink, and made Nest, too, taste some mouthfuls--all the while
planning in his own mind how best to conceal what had been done, and
who had done it; not altogether without a certain feeling of vulgar
triumph in the reflection that Nest, as she stood there, carelessly
dressed, dishevelled in her grief, was in reality the mistress of
Bodowen, than which Ellis Pritchard had never seen a grander house,
though he believed such might exist.
By dint of a few dexterous questions he found out all he wanted to
know from Owen, as he ate and drank. In fact, it was almost a relief
to Owen to dilute the horror by talking about it. Before the meal
was done, if meal it could be called, Ellis knew all he cared to
"Now, Nest, on with your cloak and haps. Pack up what needs to go
with you, for both you and your husband must be half way to Liverpool
by to-morrow's morn. I'll take you past Rhyl Sands in my fishing-
boat, with yours in tow; and, once over the dangerous part, I'll
return with my cargo of fish, and learn how much stir there is at
Bodowen. Once safe hidden in Liverpool, no one will know where you
are, and you may stay quiet till your time comes for returning."
"I will never come home again," said Owen, doggedly. "The place is
"Hoot! be guided by me, man. Why, it was but an accident, after all!
And we'll land at the Holy Island, at the Point of Llyn; there is an
old cousin of mine, the parson, there--for the Pritchards have known
better days, Squire--and we'll bury him there. It was but an
accident, man. Hold up your head! You and Nest will come home yet
and fill Bodowen with children, and I'll live to see it."
"Never!" said Owen. "I am the last male of my race, and the son has
murdered his father!"
Nest came in laden and cloaked. Ellis was for hurrying them off.
The fire was extinguished, the door was locked.
"Here, Nest, my darling, let me take your bundle while I guide you
down the steps." But her husband bent his head, and spoke never a
word. Nest gave her father the bundle (already loaded with such
things as he himself had seen fit to take), but clasped another
softly and tightly.
"No one shall help me with this," said she, in a low voice.
Her father did not understand her; her husband did, and placed his
strong helping arm round her waist, and blessed her.
"We will all go together, Nest," said he. "But where?" and he looked
up at the storm-tossed clouds coming up from windward.
"It is a dirty night," said Ellis, turning his head round to speak to
his companions at last. "But never fear, we'll weather it?" And he
made for the place where his vessel was moored. Then he stopped and
thought a moment.
"Stay here!" said he, addressing his companions. "I may meet folk,
and I shall, maybe, have to hear and to speak. You wait here till I
come back for you." So they sat down close together in a corner of
"Let me look at him, Nest!" said Owen.
She took her little dead son out from under her shawl; they looked at
his waxen face long and tenderly; kissed it, and covered it up
reverently and softly.
"Nest," said Owen, at last, "I feel as though my father's spirit had
been near us, and as if it had bent over our poor little one. A
strange chilly air met me as I stooped over him. I could fancy the
spirit of our pure, blameless child guiding my father's safe over the
paths of the sky to the gates of heaven, and escaping those accursed
dogs of hell that were darting up from the north in pursuit of souls
not five minutes since.
"Don't talk so, Owen," said Nest, curling up to him in the darkness
of the copse. "Who knows what may be listening?"
The pair were silent, in a kind of nameless terror, till they heard
Ellis Pritchard's loud whisper. "Where are ye? Come along, soft and
steady. There were folk about even now, and the Squire is missed,
and madam in a fright."
They went swiftly down to the little harbour, and embarked on board
Ellis's boat. The sea heaved and rocked even there; the torn clouds
went hurrying overhead in a wild tumultuous manner.
They put out into the bay; still in silence, except when some word of
command was spoken by Ellis, who took the management of the vessel.
They made for the rocky shore, where Owen's boat had been moored. It
was not there. It had broken loose and disappeared.
Owen sat down and covered his face. This last event, so simple and
natural in itself, struck on his excited and superstitious mind in an
extraordinary manner. He had hoped for a certain reconciliation, so
to say, by laying his father and his child both in one grave. But
now it appeared to him as if there was to be no forgiveness; as if
his father revolted even in death against any such peaceful union.
Ellis took a practical view of the case. If the Squire's body was
found drifting about in a boat known to belong to his son, it would
create terrible suspicion as to the manner of his death. At one time
in the evening, Ellis had thought of persuading Owen to let him bury
the Squire in a sailor's grave; or, in other words, to sew him up in
a spare sail, and weighting it well, sink it for ever. He had not
broached the subject, from a certain fear of Owen's passionate
repugnance to the plan; otherwise, if he had consented, they might
have returned to Penmorfa, and passively awaited the course of
events, secure of Owen's succession to Bodowen, sooner or later; or
if Owen was too much overwhelmed by what had happened, Ellis would
have advised him to go away for a short time, and return when the
buzz and the talk was over.
Now it was different. It was absolutely necessary that they should
leave the country for a time. Through those stormy waters they must
plough their way that very night. Ellis had no fear--would have had
no fear, at any rate, with Owen as he had been a week, a day ago; but
with Owen wild, despairing, helpless, fate-pursued, what could he do?
They sailed into the tossing darkness, and were never more seen of
The house of Bodowen has sunk into damp, dark ruins; and a Saxon
stranger holds the lands of the Griffiths.
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