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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 215, 13 December 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
HOW RHYS DAVYDD SAW THE FAIRIES. A sturdy man and Sceptical was Rhys Davydd, the woodman, who lived in one of the neat cottages in Peak valley. A.practical man, like his race and followings. Pie was in the prime of life; some five and forty summers and winters had passed over his head; he had a wife as stout and jolly as himself, and children ranging in a happy gamut from the young toddling of three to the youth of twenty. Rhys worked hard and slept hard. His people, as he called them, saw little of him, but in the morning, when lie went away with his bread and cheese in his pocket, and at night, when he came home, had a hearty supper, followed by a pipe and a hearty nap.
“ Fairies ! ” he used to say to enquiring tourists, “Ha ! ha ! dint anfod , didn’t know or believe in em.” But it happened one day that he had just finished levelling a fine old and umbrageous tree, when tired nature vindicated herself, and from sitting down to wipe his forehead he gradually lay down full length on the big tree and fell into a deep sleep. He was awakened by peals of merriment and the tiniest laughter he had ever heard, and. sitting up in amazement, he was astonished to see a crowd of little imps dancing about him —“ males and females,” he was wont to say—and their gambols were cf the most extraordinary kind. One brown-faced miss would now and then break out from the rest, and seizing a slender little fairy with wonderful golden tresses, would there and then execute one of the most impulsive of waltzes, and then as suddenly retire again into the crowd. “ Weltan wir,” said the woodman, resorting to his handkerchief, “it is true then. Boys,” he cried, and his voice in comparison with the silvery laughter was like a thunder clap, “boys, where’s the goold that people say you sometimes give poor people,” and as he spoke, the broad-faced one, evidently the jester of the merry crew, executed a surprising bound, twice turning a somersault, and landed himself on the speaker’s knee. “ You want gold do you ? You people of the earth always do. Will you come and see our store? ” “ Yes, will I,” cried the woodman, and another bound took the elf away into the midst, and the laughter and the dance ended as they gathered themselves in a circle. Rhys Davydd only heard a hum, “ like a bee in a jug,” he said, “ and then’all at once they had scampered away.” He had frightened them; then lie should see no gold. As he thought this there was again a rush, and they re-appeared carrying, like the Israelites from the promised Land, a long branch covered with flowers. Fie looked ;it was hemlock, and as he looked they swarmed around him, each one stripping off a leaf or flower and waving it about his head ; and again drowsiness seized him, and he sank to sleep. It could not have hern a doze of more than five minutes.
The sun was high when he sat down, and was high when he awoke; but where were the fairies ? Where was the big tree? Where was his axe and his coat ? It was odd ? He could have sworn that he had sat down on the very tree he had felled, but where on earth had it gone to. He shook himself to see if he was awake, and after a wondering look around marched away home. Every step that he took added to his surprise. Great patches of woodland had been cleared, and trim hedgerows surrounded nicely cultivated acres. There was his cottage, but it was not the cottage in a wood that it used to be. There was a long line of cottages close by, and a great black heap hung like a huge beetle on the slope between the wood and the river. Still more amazed, he hurried on and reached the cottage. That, at all events, was the same, yet even in the front he saw changes, for a large, trim garden met his view where he had once, in a much more limited space, cultivated a few leeks and cabbages, and in the garden, looking up to see who the comer was, stood the very image of himself, burly and sturdy, as he knew himself to be. The two eyed one another for a moment, and then the gardener resumed his work, while Rhys, wondering who it could be, passed into the cottage. Changes again. A middle aged woman, utterly unlike Shan, was sewing, with a lot of youngsters about her, and the old earthen floor was replaced by paving, and the furniture was different, only the walls seemed the same. “ Isn’t this Rhys Uavydd’s house ?” said Rhys to the woman. “ No, sir,” she said, “ ’tis Rhys Davydd’s son’s, my husband.” Poor Rhys again resorted to his handkerchief and wiped his brow, and as he did so the likeness of himself came in from the garden and looked inquiringly at him, and then at his wife. “He wants to know,” said his wife, “ whether this is not Rhys Davydd’s house.” “ That was my father who lived here fifteen years ago, and went away suddenly and was not heard of.” “ Went away suddenly,” cried Rhys. “ I went away from this house this very morning, lam Rhys Davydd.” There was a look of incredulity upon the gardener’s face as he heard this, and he shook his head as he replied, “No, no, poor old man, you are not Rhys. He must be dead in some of the old caves, or murdered and buried; for I tell you he went away fifteen years ago.” Poor old man, thought Rhys, who felt no age in his limbs, and he looked to the glass, which, as usual in Welch houses stood on the chest of drawers, I 'and sure enough the face that met bis was that of age! He was under the power of witchcraft now, that was certain, “ And you are Rhys’s son,” he asked. “ Yes.” “ And your mother ?” “ Dead about five years back.” “And—and—little Johnny?” and the voice of Rhys faltered, for it was his youngest, his Benjamin. “ Oh, he’s a clerk down at Swansea and doing well,” and still questioning, Rhys heard of the fate of the rest —some in foreign lands, others dead, life’s sorrows and bliss ended.
There was a long pause, a wistful look at the son, and then again Rhys said,“ But I am Rhys; I left here this morning only as it seems to me. You know that I, must be Rhys, for who could ask you after the family as I have done ? ” “ No, no,” was the rejoinder, you have picked up the names. There’s nothing about you like what my father was fifteen years ago.” And blanched and weary, and sick at heart, Rhys was going away, when it suddenly struck him that he might have something about him which would prove who he was. He felt in his pocket, and produced a knife, an old clasp knife. “Did his son remember that?” “Yes,” Davydd did, “that was father’s”’ “ And this watch,” old and rusty, and not worth its weight in brass, but still the old family watch. Many a time had Rhys given this into his son’s hands and promised it should be his one day. So, little by little, the old tones of the voice made themselves heard through the crust of fifteen years. It must be his father. Father had come back, and Davydd felt his heart warm and his eyes soften. It was indeed poor old father. The neighbors knew that a strange old man was living at the woodman’s cottage. He was
seen looking about and wondering at the swift- trains that passed by, and the colliers coming, like so many gnomes out of the pit-house; but who he was, or what he wasi remained unknown; and it was years and years after he had been placed to sleep by the old Shane of his heart that the curious story oozed out, and was gossipped about the valley, told in many ways, with oddest of additions and colorings. “And had Rhys no story to tell of his visit to the fairy world,” was the query made to an ancient gossip. “ Oh, yes, but it seemed to him like a dream.” He was an illiterate kind of man; buL “ he would use strange expressions, as if he had been in contact with superior minds. For instance, he would Isay;' “ I fancy hearing, a small golden, lijltle ~ elf say, ‘Here is our storehouse of roots, here we nourish and preserve, so , that the sap rises up in the big , trees of your world and sends out green banners to make you glad.’ ” And then another. “ Wanted to see gold, did you; look into our color shop, and watch us tint the flowers and gild the butterflies,” and the gold was like soft sunshine that glowed and sparkled. And he put a large lumpinto his pocket, and it burnt him, and he believed to the last that it was this which woke him and sent him back to earth and life again. Ile always seemed to be like a man in a dream, said one who told the tale. “And did he never see his - Benjamin ?” “ His what ?” “ Did none of the other children come to the old home, and greet their father?” i‘ Ah, master,” was the. J reply, “ ’tis only in story books you get • that sort of thing, or perhaps in upper steps of life. We humble people branch off from our homes, and are scattered wide; sometimes we come home to marriages and to buryings, but when the old man and old woman are gone, then we rub along by ourselves until the end.”
So Rhys never clasped his Benjamin to his heart, and the yearnings and the mourning and the grief only ended when he laid himself down and died. O fairyland, this is ore of your shadows, : O sprites and elves, this tarnishes the gold, and dulls the sunshine, and deadens the songs that have always J . been associated with the name. _ But, stop ! let us still believe in their fun,. • and their innocent mischief, and think ’■ after all that the witchery of Rhys, the Welsh Rip Van Winkle, was the work of a soured gnome, a cynical manhating being, and not the doing of the gentle sprites of the mountain and the : flood.
THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 215, 13 December 1880
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