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NEW MONTHLY MAGAZINE.
AN ADVENTURE ON A WEDDING TOUR.
BY DUDLEY COSTELLO.
THERE is a rapid stream, passing, indeed, for a river in Wales, which finds its source in a hollow amid the dreary mountain moors above Tregaron, and in its descent to the sea forms the boundary for many miles between Cardiganshire on one side, and Carmarthenshire and Pembroke on the other.
This stream, or river, is called the Teifi.
It has been celebrated in song, from the days of Cadwallon to our own, for the romantic beauty of its shores-and it also boasts a celebrity of a more substantial nature, the excellent trout and salmon, the finest in the principality, which are caught in its waters. The angler who throws his fly in the favoured haunts above Lampeter,-the privileged fishermen of the weir at Cilgerran, or those who glide in light coracles beneath the shadow of the dark woods which in so many places overhang the stream, know full well the value of the produce of the Teifi, and rate their spoil accordingly. Royalty even has testified to the excellence of the Teifi salmon, for when the "sick epicure," George IV., passed through South Wales, he acknowledged it had given him a new sensation, and that none other was comparable to it.
It might have been for the purpose of eating salmon only-for gastronomers, like lovers, little heed the space which separates them from the object of their desires, or for the simple purpose of enjoying some of the finest scenery in South Wales,-or, possibly, for both these reasons combined, that two travellers, a lady and a gentleman, directed their steps, in the early part of last summer, towards the course of this picturesque and pleasant river. We will not separate the fish from the waters in which they floated, and say that the gentleman solely admired the one and the lady the other, for the former had taste as well as a good appetite, and his fair companion was not so exclusive an admirer of the beauties of nature as to slight the creature-comforts which are usually rendered doubly welcome by the fatigues of travel. At the risk, then, of repetition, we may say, that the fame of the Teifi, in its most extended sense, had lured them, on this, their wedding tour, to cross the bare Carmarthen hills, and leave behind them the lovely vale of Towy, with all its countless beauties and enduring poetical associations.
The picturesque character of Welsh scenery is a fact universally acknowledged, but there is nothing picturesque in the Welsh towns. For the most part they possess a ruined castle, but nothing beyond that to induce the traveller to linger long ;- one or two inns, a bank, a markethouse, a town-hall-the houses of half-a-dozen solicitors and medical men, whose callings are emblazoned on the brass plates which decorate their doors, form the principal edifices that meet his eye-the rest are a mere heap of whitewashed cottages, mean in appearance, and not too pleasant on a closer inspection.
Nov.-VOL. LXXXIV. NO. CCCXxxv.
Sights such as these are soon disposed of, and the newly-wedded couple of whom we have spoken-we may as well give them their names -Captain and Mrs. Howard-were more impatient to pursue their journey than loiter in Carmarthen, in spite of its being, as the Reverend Emilius Nicholson says, 66 one of the most polite towns in Wales." They travelled leisurely with their own light equipage, and it is the pleasantest way of travelling, especially in Wales, where the public conveyances are not of the first order-at least, those that cross the country. To all appearance, the four-in-hand mail-coach, which drew up in front of the Ivy Bush at Carmarthen, as Captain and Mrs. Howard were preparing to start, was a most orthodox and legitimate turn-out; but whoever trusted himself to the care of John Watkins, the driver, a merciful man to his beasts in one sense of the word, inasmuch as he rarely urged them beyond four miles an hour, would discover, at the close of a long summer's day, that in journeying from Carmarthen to Cardigan he had only accomplished a distance of thirty miles-a most humiliating fact to a traveller of any spirit. There were several reasons for this slowness of motion, the principal of which were the heaviness of the road across the hills, the enormous weight the horses had to drag, the roof of the coach as well as the inside being invariably crowded with sputtering red-faced natives, in light blue short-tailed coats, and plated silver buttons; but the chief cause was the extreme unwillingness of the aforesaid John Watkins to take leave of the roadside alehouses which, few and far between, it is true, were scattered on his way. It must, at the same time, be confessed, that the generality of the passengers of the "Pride of the Mountain," (as the coach was called, with a strong accent on the last syllable), were quite as fond of Crw dda as the Cambrian Jehu himself, and quite as willing as he to postpone business to pleasure.
While his own horses were being put-to, Captain Howard was a good deal amused in watching the movements of the incongruous load of the Pride of the Mountain, but without entertaining any desire to form one of the party. Glowing with heat and (as it seemed to him, in his ignorance of the uncouth language of the principality)-boiling over with passion, the choleric mountaineers rent and tore and clambered and gesticulated like beings possessed, until they had fought their way into their seats on the roof, when their rage seemed suddenly to subside, and they all began to talk together with so much vehemence, that had he even been a perfect master of the Welsh tongue, he must have owned himself at fault in his attempt to discover the subject of their conversation. It would scarcely have been more difficult to have tried to interpret the cawing of a whole rookery, or the screaming of a cloud of puffins and cormorants when they rise before the fowler's gun, so he gave up the vain endeavour.
The Pride of the Mountain was at length ready to start, the last Welshman had climbed to his place, John Watkins had taken his seat, the reins were gathered up in his left-hand, and the whip in his right was circling with an ominous flourish, when another claimant appeared to share the vicissitudes of the journey. He spoke English-after a fashion-and in a loud voice, as he came panting and puffing up the street, called upon the coach to stop.
"Mr. Wat-kins-Mr. Wat-kins! My heart to good-ness!—Mr. Wat-kins! I am com-ing-I am com-ing!"
And, as rapidly as a man could come who, besides being very stout and fat, was laden with a portmanteau, a heavy boat-cloak, and a large umbrella, the individual in question laboured up the ascent, his progress not being very greatly assisted by the manner in which the street was pitched, not paved.
There was a general burst of laughter when he came in sight of the passengers, who greeted him one and all by the name of Thomas Evans -the greater number of themselves bearing the same patronymic,-and even Mr. Watkins himself, who had at first been annoyed at the interruption, increased the breadth of his broad features by a wide grin. To find a place for the new-comer and his baggage was one difficulty,-the next was how to mount him, for climbing, with his figure, was out of the question. However, the expedient of a house-ladder, obligingly furnished by the vociferous host of the Ivy Bush, who stood at the door of his inn taking great interest in the proceedings, enabled the ponderous traveller to reach his destination, though not without his giving utterance to many misgivings as to his safety in trying to do so.
"My heart to good-ness," exclaimed Mr. Evans, "that ladder will never bear me. I weigh twenty stone,—yes, indeed!—ah! take care, my heart, how it shakes! Give me your hand, Dav-vyd Thomas. Ah,— thank the Lord for his mercy-here I am at last."
So saying, he plumped down in the midst of the group who crowned the Pride of the Mountain, and by dint of his specific gravity, got tightly wedged into the middle of this human mass; his portmanteau was hurled after him, and found a lodgment somewhere; his umbrella and boat-cloak followed, the latter opening out in its descent, and covering the passengers like a huge sail, and these feats performed, John Watkins was suffered to proceed on his journey.
About a quarter of an hour afterwards, Captain and Mrs. Howard, who had shared in her husband's amusement, bade farewell to mine host of the Ivy Bush, and proceeded in the same direction. At the first village, which was barely half a mile distant, they came up with the Pride of the Mountain; like a sinking vessel, she had been deserted by all her crew, the whole of the passengers-not excepting stout Thomas Evans,-having taken refuge in the little inn which bore the name of " The Cross Foxes,"the animals thus described being depicted on the dusky sign-board of a very fiery hue, or as a herald would say,-sable, two foxes in saltire, gules. Captain Howard drove quickly past this attractive establishment, not unperceived, however, of the topers within, who shouted a God speed after him as he hurried by, the loud tones of Thomas Evans being distinguishable above the rest as he cried out at the top of his voice, I wish you a very plea-sant jour-ney!" Half an hour later, when he reached the top of the hill above New Church, he turned his head and saw that the Pride of the Mountain was still a fixture opposite the Cross Foxes.
The drive across the Carmarthen mountain offers little to charm the tourist ;-the inequalities of the road are frequent till you reach Cwingwith, where you commence a long and steep ascent, which leads to a wide barren moor extending on either hand as far as the eye can reach. But though the way was toilsome, there was no tedium in the journey to our travellers. Enough for them that the sun shone bright above their heads, that the breeze blew fresh across the mountain laden with the perfume of the gorse and the heath-bell;-they were lovers still, and saw
the world reflected in each other's eyes. It was at no rapid rate that they pursued their way, and the day was well advanced when they came in sight of the pretty village of Newcastle Emlyn in the sheltered valley of the Teifi. Here they paused for a few hours, not only to rest their horses, but to explore the neighbourhood on foot, visiting the ruins of the castle, with its finely-arched gateway, and watching with pleased surprise the tortuous course of the wilful river, which here abruptly shifts its original direction, turns back upon itself, and after running parallel with its former stream, takes a wide sweep round the base of the castle, thus encircling it with a natural moat, and then, as if chafed with the delay occasioned by this circuitous course, rages and foams over its rocky bed and disappears beneath the ivy-covered arches of the old gray bridge.
At the little inn, called "The Salutation," a pleasant name, savouring of scriptural welcome and hospitality, they tested the merits of the fish, in whose praise we have already spoken. From the windows of their apartment, which almost overhung the stream, they saw the salmon captured which twenty minutes afterwards smoked upon the table before them; they also witnessed the arrival and departure of their old friend the Pride of the Mountain, which Captain Howard began to think had fairly foundered on the road; but no,-there it was again with its roof still crowded as before, the only difference being, that the passengers were a trifle dustier, rather redder in the face, and, if possible, a thought thirstier than when he last saw them.
As on the former occasion, this caravan of topers preceded Captain Howard, but whether it was owing to a better road, or whether John Watkins deemed it expedient to waste a little more whipcord than usual in order to make up for lost time, he did not again overtake the Pride of the Mountain. Had he known that the Assizes were being held just then at Cardigan, and that the majority of the red-faced passengers were witnesses on an important trial which was to take place next day, and who probably would monopolise whatever rooms still remained vacant at the inns in the town, he would either have remained for the night at Newcastle Emlyn or not have loitered so long at the salmon-leap below the old bridge of Cenarth.
As it was, Captain and Mrs. Howard enjoyed their evening drive by the banks of the Teifi, untroubled by any disagreeable anticipation of the want of accommodation in the county town to which they were going; nor, though the moon had risen before they reached Llech-rhydd, and shed a flood of silver light over the woods of Coed-mawr and the ruined towers of Cilgerran, did they materially hasten their pace. It was night, therefore, when they drove up the principal street of Cardigan and stopped at the door of the hotel to which they had been recommended.
But the recommendation was not of much service for, let the good-will of the proprietor have been what it might, it was utterly out of his power to afford them any accommodation, every room being engaged from the ground-floor to the garrets, and some of these had more than two occupants. The lawyers had become "seized" of all the best apartments, and the inferior ones had been eagerly caught up by those whom the business of the Assizes had brought to the town. The landlord explained this state of things with many expressions of regret; he feared, moreover, that the travellers would scarcely meet with better luck elsewhere,—" and, indeed,” he added, "there is only one more house in Cardigan to which I can direct a lady and gentlemans.'
Then turning to his helpmate, who stood at his elbow, and who, doubtless, with an eye to the picturesque, wore a man's hat over her night-cap, he addressed some words in his native language, to which he received a very voluble and shrill reply, which threw no light on the state of the case until the landlord offered a translation.
“Ah,—yes,” said he, "my wife, Mis-tress Griffith Jen-kins, is firmly per-suaded that you will not find any accommo-dation this night; however, you can but try, you know,-here, you Owen Williams," calling to a shock-headed boy, who made his appearance from the stable, "go with the gentlemans and show the way to Mr. Evans's, the Golden Harp, in Water Street-that is the only chance."
Under the pilotage of this youth, who was guiltless of all knowledge of English, a fact which Captain Howard was speedily informed by the reply of "Dim Saesnig" to the first question put to him, the travellers threaded the narrow streets of Cardigan till they arrived in front of the Golden Harp, where, to judge by the noise inside, there were guests in plenty, and apparently disposed to make a night of it.
A loud summons, appealing to the name of Evans, brought out a second landlord, in whom Captain Howard was surprised to recognise the stout passenger who had so narrowly missed the Pride of the Mountain in the morning. He appeared no less jovial now that his foot was on his native-doorstep, and saluted the travellers with a serio-comic expression, in which regret seemed to struggle with the wish to welcome.
"Ah,-my heart to goodness, is it you, sir, and the lady? Well,well,-to think of this, and not a bed in the house to spare, as I am a Christian man !"
"This is very unlucky," returned Captain Howard,-“ are you sure you are quite full. Perhaps, as you have not long arrived yourself, you may have been misinformed. This lady, as you see, is very tired after a long day's journey, and it would be a hard thing to have to go back to -what's the name of the place-Newcastle, at this hour of the night; and yet that seems the only choice for us, unless you can take us in, for the other house is filled to overflowing."
"My heart to goodness!" again exclaimed the host; "Mis-tress Evans would give you up her own room if she had it, rather than that,—but it is full already, and we must sleep in the bar ourselves the best way we can; ah, sir,-you are an officer, I think?"-(Captain Howard bowed affirmatively)," I am very fond of the military, it was only the other day a smart Captain came here, and lodged in this very house,-poor man, he had the best bed-room, but
At this point of his speech he was interrupted by a sharp dig in the ribs from the elbow of a sturdy woman, who had silently come to the door during the discussion. Like her townswoman, Mrs. Jenkins, this lady had also completed her toilet with a man's hat, and those who are partial to this kind of costume, and have a predilection for square faces and squat figures might pronounce her handsome.
The bulk of Mr. Evans did not render him insensible to the nature of the hint administered by his spouse, and whatever he was going to say remained suspended.
"I beg your pardon, gentlefolks," said Mrs. Evans; "but my husband's brains is gone 'ool-gathering to-night, I think, instead of keeping the poor leddy waiting in the street talking about smart