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Title: The Doom of the Griffiths
Author: Gaskell, Elizabeth Cleghorn
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Doom of the Griffiths" ***

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Transcribed from the 1896 “Lizzie Leigh and Other Tales” Macmillan and
Co. edition.  Scanned and proofed by David Price, email ccx074@pglaf.org



                        THE DOOM OF THE GRIFFITHS.


CHAPTER I.


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 lifetime.

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 I write.

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 love.”

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 selfish parent.

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 again.

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 Owen’s feelings.

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 after sympathy.

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 days!

Or he would seat himself in a favourite niche of the rocks on Moel Gêst,
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 Œdipus 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 Gêst; anyone can point it out to
you.”

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 hesitatingly—

“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 otherwise engaged.

Ty Glas was built against one of the lower rocks of Moel Gêst, 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 very thoughts.

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 aright.

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 at
hand!



CHAPTER II.


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 the decay.

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 addressed
himself:

“That woman! who is she?”

Owen hesitated one moment, and then replied, in a steady, yet quiet
voice:

“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 Nest:—

“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!”

“Fool—poor fool!”

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 instant!”

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 her restoration.

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 house.

Near the base of Moel Gêst—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
insensibility.

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 name.

“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 of Nest.

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 my
birth!”

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
darkly-shadowed chimney-corner.

“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 and
wan.”

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 tears.

“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 the
worst.”

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
eagerness.

“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 from cold.

“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 know.

“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
accursed!”

“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 the path.

“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 men.

The house of Bodowen has sunk into damp, dark ruins; and a Saxon stranger
holds the lands of the Griffiths.





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