Picture of George Borrow

George Borrow

places mentioned

Rheidol Valley

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Consequential Landlord - Cheek - Darfel Gatherel - Dafydd Nanmor - Sheep Farms - Wholesome Advice - The Old Postman - The Plant de Bat - The Robber's Cavern.

MY guide went to a side door, and opening it without ceremony went in. I followed and found myself in a spacious and comfortable- looking kitchen: a large fire blazed in a huge grate, on one side of which was a settle; plenty of culinary utensils, both pewter and copper, hung around on the walls, and several goodly rows of hams and sides of bacon were suspended from the roof. There were several people present, some on the settle and others on chairs in the vicinity of the fire. As I advanced, a man arose from a chair and came towards me. He was about thirty-five years of age, well and strongly made, with a fresh complexion, a hawk nose, and a keen grey eye. He wore top-boots and breeches, a half jockey coat, and had a round cap made of the skin of some animal on his head.

"Servant, sir!" said he in rather a sharp tone, and surveying me with something of a supercilious air.

"Your most obedient humble servant!" said I; "I presume you are the landlord of this house."

"Landlord!" said he, "landlord! It is true I receive guests sometimes into my house, but I do so solely with the view of accommodating them; I do not depend upon innkeeping for a livelihood. I hire the principal part of the land in this neighbourhood."

"If that be the case," said I, "I had better continue my way to the Devil's Bridge; I am not at all tired, and I believe it is not very far distant."

"Oh, as you are here," said the farmer-landlord, "I hope you will stay. I should be very sorry if any gentleman should leave my house at night after coming with an intention of staying, more especially in a night like this. Martha!" said he, turning to a female between thirty and forty - who I subsequently learned was the mistress - "prepare the parlour instantly for this gentleman, and don't fail to make up a good fire."

Martha forthwith hurried away, attended by a much younger female.

"Till your room is prepared, sir," said he, "perhaps you will have no objection to sit down before our fire?"

"Not the least," said I; "nothing gives me greater pleasure than to sit before a kitchen fire. First of all, however, I must settle with my guide, and likewise see that he has something to eat and drink."

"Shall I interpret for you?" said the landlord; "the lad has not a word of English; I know him well."

"I have not been under his guidance for the last three hours," said I, "without knowing that he cannot speak English; but I want no interpreter."

"You do not mean to say, sir," said the landlord, with a surprised and dissatisfied air, "that you understand Welsh?"

I made no answer, but turning to the guide thanked him for his kindness, and giving him some money asked him if it was enough.

"More than enough, sir," said the lad; "I did not expect half as much. Farewell!"

He was then about to depart, but I prevented him saying:

"You must not go till you have eaten and drunk. What will you have?"

"Merely a cup of ale, sir," said the lad.

"That won't do," said I; "you shall have bread and cheese and as much ale as you can drink. Pray," said I to the landlord, "let this young man have some bread and cheese and a large quart of ale."

The landlord looked at me for a moment, then turning to the lad he said:

"What do you think of that, Shon? It is some time since you had a quart of ale to your own cheek."

"Cheek," said I - "cheek! Is that a Welsh word? Surely it is an importation from the English, and not a very genteel one."

"Oh come, sir!" said the landlord, "we can dispense with your criticisms. A pretty thing indeed for you, on the strength of knowing half-a-dozen words of Welsh, to set up for a Welsh critic in the house of a person who knows the ancient British language perfectly."

"Dear me!" said I, "how fortunate I am! a person thoroughly versed in the ancient British language is what I have long wished to see. Pray what is the meaning of Darfel Gatherel?"

"Oh sir!" said the landlord, "you must answer that question yourself; I don't pretend to understand gibberish!"

"Darfel Gatherel," said I, "is not gibberish; it was the name of the great wooden image at Ty Dewi, or Saint David's, in Pembrokeshire, to which thousands of pilgrims in the days of popery used to repair for the purpose of adoring it, and which at the time of the Reformation was sent up to London as a curiosity, where it eventually served as firewood to burn the monk Forrest upon, who was sentenced to the stake by Henry the Eighth for denying his supremacy. What I want to know is, the meaning of the name, which I could never get explained, but which you who know the ancient British language perfectly can doubtless interpret."

"Oh, sir," said the landlord, "when I said I knew the British language perfectly, I perhaps went too far there are, of course, some obsolete terms in the British tongue, which I don't understand. Dar, Dar - what is it? Darmod Cotterel amongst the rest; but to a general knowledge of the Welsh language I think I may lay some pretensions; were I not well acquainted with it, I should not have carried off the prize at various eisteddfodau, as I have done. I am a poet, sir - a prydydd."

"It is singular enough," said I, "that the only two Welsh poets I have seen have been innkeepers - one is yourself, the other a person I met in Anglesey. I suppose the Muse is fond of cwrw da."

"You would fain be pleasant, sir," said the landlord; "but I beg leave to inform you that I am not fond of pleasantries; and now, as my wife and the servant are returned, I will have the pleasure of conducting you to the parlour."

"Before I go," said I, "I should like to see my guide provided with what I ordered." I stayed till the lad was accommodated with bread and cheese and a foaming tankard of ale, and then bidding him farewell, I followed the landlord into the parlour, where I found a fire kindled, which, however, smoked exceedingly. I asked my host what I could have for supper, and was told that he did not know, but that if I would leave the matter to him he would send the best he could. As he was going away, I said: "So you are a poet? Well, I am very glad to hear it, for I have been fond of Welsh poetry from my boyhood. What kind of verse do you employ in general? Did you ever write an awdl in the four-and-twenty measures? What are the themes of your songs? The deeds of the ancient heroes of South Wales, I suppose, and the hospitality of the great men of the neighbourhood who receive you as an honoured guest at their tables. I'll bet a guinea that however clever a fellow you may be you never sang anything in praise of your landlord's housekeeping equal to what Dafydd Nanmor sang in praise of that of Ryce of Twyn four hundred years ago:

'For Ryce if hundred thousands plough'd
The lands around his fair abode;
Did vines of thousand vineyards bleed,
Still corn and wine great Ryce would need;
If all the earth had bread's sweet savour,
And water all had cyder's flavour,
Three roaring feasts in Ryce's hall
Would swallow earth and ocean all.'


"Really, sir," said the landlord, "I don't know how to reply to you, for the greater part of your discourse is utterly unintelligible to me. Perhaps you are a better Welshman than myself; but however that may be, I shall take the liberty of retiring in order to give orders about your supper."

In about half-an-hour the supper made its appearance in the shape of some bacon and eggs. On tasting them I found them very good, and calling for some ale I made a very tolerable supper. After the things had been removed I drew near to the fire, but as it still smoked, I soon betook myself to the kitchen. My guide had taken his departure, but the others whom I had left were still there. The landlord was talking in Welsh to a man in a rough great-coat, about sheep. Setting himself down near the fire I called for a glass of whiskey and water, and then observing that the landlord and his friend had suddenly become silent, I said: "Pray go on with your discourse; don't let me be any hindrance to you."

"Yes, sir!" said the landlord snappishly, "go on with our discourse for your edification, I suppose?"

"Well," said I, "suppose it is for my edification; surely you don't grudge a stranger a little edification which will cost you nothing?"

"I don't know that, sir," said the landlord; "I don't know that. Really, sir, the kitchen is not the place for a gentleman."

"Yes, it is," said I, "provided the parlour smokes. Come, come, I am going to have a glass of whiskey and water; perhaps you will take one with me."

"Well, sir!" said the landlord, in rather a softened tone, "I have no objection to take a glass with you."

Two glasses of whiskey and water were presently brought, and the landlord and I drank to each other's health.

"Is this a sheep district?" said I, after a pause of a minute or two.

"Yes, sir," said the landlord; "it may to a certain extent be called a sheep district."

"I suppose the Southdown and Norfolk breeds would not do for these here parts," said I, with a regular Norfolk whine.

"No, sir, I don't think they would exactly," said the landlord, staring at me. "Do you know anything about sheep?"

"Plenty, plenty," said I; "quite as much indeed as about Welsh words and poetry." Then in a yet more whining tone than before, I said: "Do you think that a body with money in his pocket could hire a nice comfortable sheep farm hereabouts?"

"Oh, sir!" said the landlord in a furious tone, "you have come to look out for a farm, I see, and to outbid us poor Welshmen: it is on that account you have studied Welsh; but, sir, I would have you know - "

"Come!" said I, "don't be afraid; I wouldn't have all the farms in your country, provided you would tie them in a string and offer them to me. If I talked about a farm, it was because I am in the habit of talking about everything, being versed in all matters, do you see, or affecting to be so, which comes much to the same thing. My real business in this neighbourhood is to see the Devil's Bridge and the scenery about it."

"Very good, sir," said the landlord; "I thought so at first. A great many English go to see the Devil's Bridge and the scenery near it, though I really don't know why, for there is nothing so very particular in either. We have a bridge here too, quite as good as the Devil's Bridge; and as for scenery, I'll back the scenery about this house against anything of the kind in the neighbourhood of the Devil's Bridge. Yet everybody goes to the Devil's Bridge and nobody comes here!"

"You might easily bring everybody here," said I, "if you would but employ your talent. You should celebrate the wonders of your neighbourhood in cowydds, and you would soon have plenty of visitors; but you don't want them, you know, and prefer to be without them."

The landlord looked at me for a moment, then taking sip of his whiskey and water he turned to the man with whom he had previously been talking and recommenced the discourse about sheep. I make no doubt, however, that I was a restraint upon them; they frequently glanced at me, and soon fell to whispering. At last both got up and left the room, the landlord finishing his glass of whiskey and water before he went away.

"So you are going to the Devil's Bridge, sir!" said an elderly man, dressed in a grey coat, with a broad-brimmed hat, who sat on the settle smoking a pipe in company with another elderly man with a leather hat, with whom I had heard him discourse sometimes in Welsh, sometimes in English, the Welsh which he spoke being rather broken.

"Yes," said I, "I am going to have a sight of the bridge and the neighbouring scenery."

"Well, sir, I don't think you will be disappointed, for both are wonderful."

"Are you a Welshman?" said I.

"No, sir, I am not; I am an Englishman from Durham, which is the best county in England."

"So it is," said I - "for some things at any rate. For example, where do you find such beef as in Durham?"

"Ah, where indeed, sir? I have always said that neither the Devonshire nor the Lincolnshire beef is to be named in the same day with that of Durham."

"Well," said I, "what business do you follow in these parts? I suppose you farm?"

"No, sir, I do not; I am what they call a mining captain."

"I suppose that gentleman," said I, motioning to the man in the leather hat, "is not from Durham?"

"No, sir, he is not; he is from this neighbourhood."

"And does he follow mining?"

"No, sir, he does not; he carries about the letters."

"Is your mine near this place?"

"Not very, sir; it is nearer the Devil's Bridge."

"Why is the bridge called the Devil's Bridge?" said

"Because, sir, 'tis said that the Devil built it in the old time, though that I can hardly believe; for the Devil, do ye see, delights in nothing but mischief, and it is not likely that such being the case he would have built a thing which must have been of wonderful service to people by enabling them to pass in safety over a dreadful gulf."

"I have heard," said the old postman with the leather hat, "that the Devil had no hand in de work at all, but that it was built by a Mynach, or monk, on which account de river over which de bridge is built is called Afon y Mynach - dat is de Monk's River."

"Did you ever hear," said I, "of three creatures who lived a long time ago near the Devil's Bridge, called the Plant de Bat?"

"Ah, master!" said the old postman, "I do see that you have been in these parts before; had you not, you would not know of the Plant de Bat."

"No," said I, "I have never been here before; but I heard of them when I was a boy, from a Cumro who taught me Welsh, and had lived for some time in these parts. Well, what do they say here about the Plant de Bat? for he who mentioned them to me could give me no further information about them than that they were horrid creatures who lived in a cave near the Devil's Bridge several hundred years ago."

"Well, master," said the old postman, thrusting his forefinger twice or thrice into the bowl of his pipe, "I will tell you what they says here about the Plant de Bat. In de old time - two, three hundred year ago - a man lived somewhere about here called Bat or Bartholomew; this man had three children, two boys and one girl, who, because their father's name was Bat, were generally called 'Plant de Bat,' or Bat's children. Very wicked children they were from their cradle, giving their father and mother much trouble and uneasiness; no good in any one of them, neither in the boys nor the girl. Now the boys, once when they were rambling idly about, lighted by chance upon a cave near the Devil's Bridge. Very strange cave it was, with just one little hole at top to go in by; so the boys said to one another: 'Nice cave this for thief to live in. Suppose we come here when we are a little more big and turn thief ourselves.' Well, they waited till they were a little more big, and then leaving their father's house they came to de cave and turned thief, lying snug there all day and going out at night to rob upon the roads. Well, there was soon much talk in the country about the robberies which were being committed, and people often went out in search of de thieves, but all in vain; and no wonder, for they were in a cave very hard to light upon, having, as I said before, merely one little hole at top to go in by. So, Bat's boys went on swimmingly for a long time, lying snug in cave by day and going out at night to rob, letting no one know where they were but their sister, who was as bad as themselves, and used to come to them and bring them food and stay with them for weeks, and sometimes go out and rob with them. But as de pitcher which goes often to de well comes home broke at last, so it happened with Bat's children. After robbing people upon the roads by night many a long year and never being found out, they at last met one great gentleman upon the roads by night and not only robbed, but killed him, leaving his body all cut and gashed near to Devil's Bridge. That job was the ruin of Plant de Bat, for the great gentleman's friends gathered together and hunted after his murderers with dogs, and at length came to the cave, and going in, found it stocked with riches, and the Plant de Bat sitting upon the riches, not only the boys but the girl also. So they took out the riches and the Plant de Bat, and the riches they did give to churches and spyttys, and the Plant de Bat they did execute, hanging the boys and burning the girl. That, master, is what they says in dese parts about the Plant de Bat."

"Thank you!" said I. "Is the cave yet to be seen?"

"Oh yes! it is yet to be seen, or part of it, for it is not now what it was, having been partly flung open to hinder other thieves from nestling in it. It is on the bank of the river Mynach, just before it joins the Rheidol. Many gentlefolk in de summer go to see the Plant de Bat's cave."

"Are you sure," said I, "that Plant de Bat means Bat's children?"

"I am not sure, master; I merely says what I have heard other people say. I believe some says that it means 'the wicked children,' or 'the Devil's children.' And now, master, we may as well have done with them, for should you question me through the whole night, I could tell you nothing more about the Plant de Bat."

After a little further discourse, chiefly about sheep and the weather, I retired to the parlour, where the fire was now burning brightly; seating myself before it, I remained for a considerable time staring at the embers and thinking over the events of the day. At length I rang the bell and begged to be shown to my chamber, where I soon sank to sleep, lulled by the pattering of rain against the window and the sound of a neighbouring cascade.


Wild Scenery - Awful Chasm - John Greaves - Durham County - Queen Philippa - The Two Aldens - Welsh Wife - The Noblest Business - The Welsh and the Salve - The Lad John.

A RAINY and boisterous night was succeeded by a bright and beautiful morning. I arose and having ordered breakfast went forth to see what kind of country I had got into. I found myself amongst wild, strange-looking hills, not, however, of any particular height. The house, which seemed to front the east, stood on the side of a hill, on a wide platform abutting on a deep and awful chasm, at the bottom of which chafed and foamed the Rheidol. This river enters the valley of Pont Erwyd from the north-west, then makes a variety of snake-like turns, and at last bears away to the south-east just below the inn. The banks are sheer walls, from sixty to a hundred feet high, and the bed of the river has all the appearance of a volcanic rent. A brook, running from the south past the inn, tumbles into the chasm at an angle, and forms the cascade whose sound had lulled me to sleep the preceding night.

After breakfasting I paid my bill, and set out for the Devil's Bridge without seeing anything more of that remarkable personage in whom were united landlord, farmer, poet, and mighty fine gentleman - the master of the house. I soon reached the bottom of the valley, where are a few houses and the bridge from which the place takes its name, Pont Erwyd signifying the bridge of Erwyd. As I was looking over the bridge, near which are two or three small waterfalls, an elderly man in a grey coat, followed by a young lad and dog, came down the road which I had myself just descended.

"Good day, sir," said he, stopping, when he came upon the bridge. "I suppose you are bound my road?"

"Ah," said I, recognising the old mining captain with whom I had talked in the kitchen the night before, "is it you? I am glad to see you. Yes, I am bound your way, provided you are going to the Devil's Bridge."

"Then, sir, we can go together, for I am bound to my mine, which lies only a little way t'other side of the Devil's Bridge."

Crossing the bridge of Erwyd, we directed our course to the south- east.

"What young man is that," said I, "who is following behind us?"

"The young man, sir, is my son John, and the dog with him is his dog Joe."

"And what may your name be, if I may take the liberty of asking?"

"Greaves, sir; John Greaves from the county of Durham."

"Ah! a capital county that," said I.

"You like the county, sir? God bless you! John!" said he in a loud voice, turning to the lad, "why don't you offer to carry the gentleman's knapsack?"

"Don't let him trouble himself," said I. "As I was just now saying, a capital county is Durham county."

"You really had better let the boy carry your bag, sir."

"No," said I, "I would rather carry it myself. I question upon the whole whether there is a better county in England."

"Is it long since your honour was in Durham county?"

"A good long time. A matter of forty years."

"Forty years! - why that's the life of a man. That's longer than I have been out of the county myself. I suppose your honour can't remember much about the county."

"Oh yes, I can! I remember a good deal."

"Please, your honour, tell me what you remember about the county. It would do me good to hear it."

"Well, I remember it was a very fine county in more respects than one. One part of it was full of big hills and mountains, where there were mines of coal and lead, with mighty works with tall chimneys spouting out black smoke, and engines roaring, and big wheels going round, some turned by steam, and others by what they call forces, that is, brooks of water dashing down steep channels. Another part was a more level country, with beautiful woods, happy- looking farm-houses well-filled fields and rich, glorious meadows, in which stood stately, with brown sides and short horns, the Durham ox."

"Oh dear, oh dear!" said my companion. "Ah! I see your honour knows everything about Durham county. Forces? none but one who had been in Durham county would have used that word. I haven't heard it for five-and-thirty years. Forces! there was a force close to my village. I wonder if your honour has ever been in Durham city?"

"Oh yes! I have been there."

"Does your honour remember anything about Durham city?"

"Oh yes! I remember a good deal about it."

"Then, your honour, pray tell us what you remember about it - pray do I perhaps it will do me good."

"Well then, I remember that it was a fine old city standing on a hill with a river running under it, and that it had a fine old church, one of the finest in the of Britain; likewise a fine old castle; and last, not least, a capital old inn, where I got a capital dinner off roast Durham beef, and a capital glass of ale, which I believe was the cause, of my being ever after fond of ale."

"Dear me! Ah, I see your honour knows all about Durham city. And now let me ask one question. How came your honour to Durham, city and county? I don't think your honour is a Durham man either of town or field."

"I am not; but when I was a little boy I passed through Durham county with my mother and brother to a place called Scotland."

"Scotland! a queer country that, your honour!"

"So it is," said I; "a queerer country I never saw in all my life."

"And a queer set of people, your honour."

"So they are," said I; "a queerer set of people than the Scotch you would scarcely see in a summer's day."

"The Durham folks, neither of town or field, have much reason to speak well of the Scotch, your honour."

"I dare say not," said I; "very few people have."

"And yet the Durham folks, your honour, generally contrived to give them as good as they brought."

"That they did," said I; "a pretty licking the Durham folks once gave the Scots under the walls of Durham city, after the scamps had been plundering the country for three weeks - a precious licking they gave them, slaying I don't know how many thousands, and taking their king prisoner."

"So they did, your honour, and under the command of a woman too."

"Very true," said I; "Queen Philippa."

"Just so, your honour! The idea that your honour should know so much about Durham, both field and town!"

"Well," said I, "since I have told you so much about Durham, perhaps you will tell me something about yourself. How did you come here?"

"I had better begin from the beginning, your honour. I was born in Durham county close beside the Great Force, which no doubt your honour has seen. My father was a farmer, and had a bit of a share in a mining concern. I was brought up from my childhood both to farming and mining work, but most to mining, because, do you see, I took most pleasure in it, being the more noble business of the two. Shortly after I had come to man's estate my father died, leaving me a decent little property, whereupon I forsook farming altogether and gave myself up, body, soul, and capital, to mining, which at last I thoroughly understand in all its branches. Well, your honour, about five-and-thirty years ago - that was when I was about twenty-eight - a cry went through the north country that a great deal of money might be made by opening Wales, that is, by mining in Wales in the proper fashion, which means the north country fashion, for there is no other fashion of mining good for much. There had long been mines in Wales, but they had always been worked in a poor, weak, languid manner, very different from that of the north country. So a company was formed, at the head of which were the Aldens, George and Thomas, for opening Wales, and they purchased certain mines in these districts which they knew to be productive, and which might be made yet more so, and settling down here called themselves the Rheidol United. Well, after they had been here a little time they found themselves in want of a man to superintend their concerns, above all in the smelting department. So they thought of me, who was known to most of the mining gentry in the north country, and they made a proposal to me through George Alden, afterwards Sir George, to come here and superintend. I said no at first, for I didn't like the idea of leaving Durham county to come to such an outlandish place as Wales; howsomeover, I at last allowed myself to be overpersuaded by George Alden, afterwards Sir George, and here I came with my wife and family - for I must tell your honour I had married a respectable young woman of Durham county, by whom I had two little ones - here I came and did my best for the service of the Rheidol United. The company was terribly set to it for a long time, spending a mint of money and getting very poor returns. To my certain knowledge, the two Aldens, George and Tom, spent between them thirty thousand pounds. The company, however, persevered, chiefly at the instigation of the Aldens, who were in the habit of saying, 'Never say die!' and at last got the better of all their difficulties and rolled in riches, and had the credit of being the first company that ever opened Wales, which they richly deserved, for I will uphold it that the Rheidol United, particularly the Aldens, George and Thomas, were the first people who really opened Wales. In their service I have been for five- and-thirty years, and daresay shall continue so till I die. I have been tolerably comfortable, your honour, though I have had my griefs, the bitterest of which was the death of my wife, which happened about eight years after I came to this country. I thought I should have gone wild at first, your honour; having, however, always plenty to do, I at last got the better of my affliction. I continued single till my English family grew up and left me, when, feeling myself rather lonely, I married a decent young Welshwoman, by whom I had one son, the lad John who is following behind with his dog Joe. And now your honour knows the whole story of John Greaves, miner from the county of Durham."

"And a most entertaining and instructive history it is," said I. "You have not told me, however, how you contrived to pick up Welsh: I heard you speaking it last night with the postman."

"Why, through my Welsh wife, your honour! Without her I don't think I should ever have picked up the Welsh manner of discoursing - she is a good kind of woman, my Welsh wife, though - "

"The loss of your Durham wife must have been a great grief to you," said I.

"It was the bitterest grief, your honour, as I said before, that I ever had; my next worst I think was the death of a dear friend."

"Who was that?" said I

"Who was it, your honour? why, the Duke of Newcastle."

"Dear me!" said I, "how came you to know him?"

"Why, your honour, he lived at a place not far from here, called Hafod, and so - "

"Hafod?" said I; "I have often heard of Hafod and its library; but I thought it belonged to an old Welsh family called Johnes."

"Well, so it did, your honour, but the family died away, and the estate was put up for sale, and purchased by the Duke, who built a fine house upon it, which he made his chief place of residence - the old family house, I must tell your honour, in which the library was, had been destroyed by fire. Well, he hadn't been long settled there before he found me out and took wonderfully to me, discoursing with me and consulting me about his farming and improvements. Many is the pleasant chat and discourse I have had with his Grace for hours and hours together, for his Grace had not a bit of pride, at least he never showed any to me, though perhaps the reason of that was that we were both north country people. Lord! I would have laid down my life for his Grace and have done anything but one which he once asked me to do. 'Greaves,' said the Duke to me one day, 'I wish you would give up mining and become my steward.' 'Sorry I can't oblige your Grace,' said I, 'but give up mining I cannot. I will at any time give your Grace all the advice I can about farming and such like, but give up mining I cannot; because why? - I conceive mining to be the noblest business in the 'versal world.' Whereupon his Grace laughed, and said he dare say I was right, and never mentioned the subject again."

"Was his Grace very fond of farming and improving?"

"Oh yes, your honour. Like all the great gentry, especially the north country gentry, his Grace was wonderfully fond of farming and improving; and a wonderful deal of good he did, reclaiming thousands of acres of land which was before good for nothing, and building capital farm-houses and offices for his tenants. His grand feat, however, was bringing the Durham bull into this country, which formed a capital cross with the Welsh cows. Pity that he wasn't equally fortunate with the north country sheep."

"Did he try to introduce them into Wales?"

"Yes, but they didn't answer, as I knew they wouldn't. Says I to the Duke: 'It won't do, your Grace, to bring the north country sheep here: because why? the hills are too wet and cold for their constitutions'; but his Grace, who had sometimes a will of his own, persisted and brought the north country sheep to these parts, and it turned out as I said - the sheep caught the disease, and the wool parted and - "

"But," said I, "you should have told him about the salve made of bran, butter and oil; you should have done that."

"Well, so I did, your honour. I told him about the salve, and the Duke listened to me, and the salve was made by these very hands; but when it was made, what do you think? the foolish Welsh wouldn't put it on, saying that it was against their laws and statties and religion to use it, and talked about Devil's salves and the Witch of Endor, and the sin against the Holy Ghost, and such like nonsense. So to prevent a regular rebellion, the Duke gave up the salve, and the poor sheep pined away and died, till at last there was not one left."

"Who holds the estate at present?" said I.

"Why, a great gentleman from Lancashire, your honour, who bought it when the Duke died; but he doesn't take the same pleasure in it which the Duke did, nor spend so much money about it, the consequence being that everything looks very different from what it looked in the Duke's time. The inn at the Devil's Bridge and the grounds look very different from what they looked in the Duke's time, for you must know that the inn and the grounds form part of the Hafod estate, and are hired from the proprietor."

By this time we had arrived at a small village, with a toll-bar and a small church or chapel at some little distance from the road, which here made a turn nearly full south. The road was very good, but the country was wild and rugged; there was a deep vale on the right, at the bottom of which rolled the Rheidol in its cleft, rising beyond which were steep, naked hills.

"This village," said my companion, "is called Ysbytty Cynfyn. Down on the right, past the church, is a strange bridge across the Rheidol, which runs there through a horrid kind of a place. The bridge is called Pont yr Offeiriad, or the Parson's Bridge, because in the old time the clergyman passed over it every Sunday to do duty in the church here."

"Why is this place called Ysbytty Cynfyn?" said I, "which means the hospital of the first boundary; is there a hospital of the second boundary near here?"

"I can't say anything about boundaries, your honour; all I know is, that there is another Spytty farther on beyond Hafod called Ysbytty Ystwyth, or the 'Spytty upon the Ystwyth. But to return to the matter of the Minister's Bridge: I would counsel your honour to go and see that bridge before you leave these parts. A vast number of gentry go to see it in the summer time. It was the bridge which the landlord was mentioning last night, though it scarcely belongs to his district, being quite as near the Devil's Bridge inn as it is to his own, your honour."

We went on discoursing for about half a mile farther, when, stopping by a road which branched off to the hills on the left, my companion said. "I must now wish your honour good day, being obliged to go a little way up here to a mining work on a small bit of business; my son, however, and his dog Joe will show your honour the way to the Devil's Bridge, as they are bound to a place a little way past it. I have now but one word to say, which is, that should ever your honour please to visit me at my mine, your honour shall receive every facility for inspecting the works, and moreover have a bellyful of drink and victuals from Jock Greaves, miner from the county of Durham."

I shook the honest fellow by the hand, and went on in company with the lad John and his dog as far as the Devil's Bridge. John was a highly-intelligent lad, spoke Welsh and English fluently, could read, as he told me, both languages, and had some acquaintance with the writings of Twm o'r Nant, as he showed by repeating the following lines of the carter poet, certainly not the worst which he ever wrote:-

"Twm or Nant mae cant a'm galw,
Tomas Edwards yw fy enw,"

Tom O Nant is a nickname I've got,
My name's Thomas Edwards, I wot."

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

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