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STORIES OF WALES.
STORIES OF WALES. BY W. LLEWELYN WILLIAMS, Author of "Gwilym a Benni Bach," Gwr y Dolau," &c." IV.-THE LADY OF THE LAKE. Copyright 1905 by W. Llewelyn Williams in the United States of America. [FOREWORD.—The Legend of Llyn-y-Van is well known in Carmarthenshire. It is said that Rhiwallon, the son of Esgair Llaethdy, a small farm in the parish of Mothvey, would have naught to say to the fair girls of the district. One day, while he was walking beside the Van Lake, he caught a glimpse of a daughter of the King that lived under the Lake. So fair was she that Rhiwallon's heart went out to her, and he could not brook to cast an eye on any mortal maid ever after. He pined to see her again, but though he spent hours daily and nightly by the Lake he saw her no more for three years. At last the Princess took pity on his love, and disclosed herself to him and married him. But she stipulated that if he struck her three times without cause she would leave him. She brought with her flocks and herds of grey and white creatures from the kingdom under the Lake, and lived happily for many years with Rhiwallon at Esgair Llaethdy, and bore him many sons and daughters. At last, however, Rhiwallon struck his wife three times—once at a wedding, the second time at a christening, and the third time at a funeral. The Lady thereupon called upon the cattle to follow her home Mu wlfrech, moelfrech, Mu olfrech, gwynfrech, Pedair cae lonn-frech, Yr hen wynebwen, A'r las Geigen, Gyda'r Tarw Gwyn. 0 Lys y Brenhin A'r llo du bach Sydd ar y bach Dere dithe, yn iach adre. To the four oxen ploughing in a field she cried Pedwar eidion glas Sydd ar y ma's, Dewch chithe Yn iach adre. They all at once obeyed her summons. The Lady and her cattle disappeared under the Lake. But once a year, on the first Sunday in August, she would reappear in order to teach the art of healing to her sons, who became known through- out Wales as The Physicians of Myddfai," and a farmhouse in the parish still goes by the name of Llwyn-Ifan-Feddyg. In recent times descendants of the Physicians have practised medicine at Llandilo.] Living men in their youth, on the first fair Sabbath in August, Have thronged from the fair town below to the banks of the mystical lake, Hoping to see its still surface boil sudden, the white herds emerging, And the golden shallop and oar, and the beautiful Presence of old." -Lewis Morris. It is a well-authenticated fact that up to fifty years ago the Lady of the Van Lake—a lovely tarn set between the topmost peaks of the Black Mountain — appeared to mortal eyes every first Sunday in August. For miles around men and women climbed the bare ridges in order to be at the lake-side at the first blush of dawn, to see the White Lady rising from the troubled waters, skimming from shore to shore in her golden shallop, and scanning the banks for a sight of her lost love, Rhiwallon's, descendants. The story has been tenderly sung by Sir Lewis Morris in his Meddygon Myddfai," and needs not to be re-told in feebler prose to-day. The White Lady was one of the immortals, who for love of Rhiwallon took a mortal for her mate. When sad chance parted them after years of wedded bliss, she vowed to appear once a year to teach her children and her children's children the divine art of healing. And she fulfilled her vow for untold centuries, and her descendants became the most expert physicians in Wales. But some fifty years ago she ceased to appear on the first Sunday in August. Year by year scores of people still go to the lakeside to see the fair lady rise from the enchanted waters, but one and all have come away disappointed, if not disillusioned. Sceptics declare that the whole story was a myth from the first; that there never was a White Lady of the Lake, or a Rhiwallon who mated with an immortal. But the people of Llanelwid know better, for the story of Daffy Penbont is still traditional in the parish. Daffy Edwards, Penbont, was the strongest and sternest man in Llanelwid. He had been a deacon almost from his youth, if indeed-which is hard to believe-he had ever been young. A martinet by nature, he chastised delinquents with scorpions. Terribly scathing was his tongue as he admonished the erring in the "Society." He knew not the meaning of mercy, and he was the terror of the weak members who had a tendency to fall away from grace at rent- audits and Michaelmas sales. He was im- pervious to human weaknesses himself, and was ruthless in his judgment of them in others. Every sinner in the chapel, with the fear of Daffy before his eyes, devoutly echoed the prayer of David that they might fall into the hands of God, not of man. Daffy's landlord was Major Lloyd, a reckless dare-devil who was always greatly amused at the austerity of his Puritanical tenant. Daffy never spoke evil of dignities, and he was always most respectful to his master." He prayed for the conversion of the old rap-scallion, but he in- stinctively felt that the same standard of conduct could not be expected from a "gwr boneddig as from an ordinary man. What might have happened had the Major been a member of Ebenezer, it is useless to conjecture. The Major was "of the world," and Daffy would as soon have criticised his Welsh as his morality. He never relaxed, however, the gravity of his demeanour on his two yearly visits to the Plas to pay his rent, and he never trespassed on the hospitality of the Major except to the extent of a hearty dinner, a pint of ale, and "a drop of something hot" before starting home. On the morning after one of these visits to the Plas, Llanelwid was scandalised to hear that Daffy Penbont had been found lying on the roadside near the village. His face was scratched, his hands were bleeding, his clothes were torn and dirty, and the pony he had been riding was grazing half-a-mile away. Great was the consternation among the devout and the jubilation among the scoffers, when the news was bruited abroad, that Daffy Penbont, the hammer of the wicked, the most eloquent in prayer, and the master of the congregation at Ebenezer, had fallen a hoggish victim to the drink which he loved to denounce. Nat the blacksmith declared that he had suspected Daffy for years, and some even of Daffy's friends were driven to excuse his lapse by suggesting that he had been drugged by the wicked old Major. Truth to tell, Daffy was not a favourite with the jovial, easy-going farmers of Llanelwid. The grey monotony of their lives was enlivened only by an occasional "carouse at a fair or auction. They resented the strictness of Daffy's views on the drink question, and as he judged, so they determined should he be judged. At the next Society meeting at Ebenezer, Daffy's, case was put before the Church by the minister in a calm and judicial speech. He pointed out that Daffy had been found by John y Dolau lying on the roadside, either in a drunken sleep or unconscious after his fall from the pony. John was not prepared to say that Daffy was under the influence of drink at the time, nor was there any direct evidence that the accident was due to drink. Still, it was known that Daffy had been at the rent audit the day before, and it might be that he had lapsed for once from the straight path. In any event, the matter had created so great a scandal in the neighbourhood, and had caused the Philistines so to rejoice, that it was incumbent upon Daffy to clear himself from the imputation of drunken- ness. The minister ended by expressing the hope that so prominent a pillar of the Church would come out unscathed from the ordeal. All eyes were turned on Daffy, who sat with bent head and lowering brow as the minister presented the case. He rose slowly to his feet, and with the ease of a practised speaker unfolded his tale. He had a great command of sonorous, idiomatic Welsh, and he had that strong, virile personality that always sways an audience. Certain it is that no speech ever delivered at Llanelwid had so great an effect. No one who heard it ever forgot it, and it is still repeated, generation after generation, in the parish. It Is a tale which is cherished to-day through that far- drawn valley, Half-believed by the aged folk, but year by year fading away. I shall try and give it as it was told me by one who heard it from Daffy's own lips. I can only hope that it will lose none of its effect through being done into English. "Major Lloyd asked me," said Daffy, after denying that he was drunk, to have a stirrup cup of rum before I started from the Plas, as he always did, and I took it. It was dusk, and the night was cold and wet, and I felt better for the hot rum. The pony walked home slowly. It was so dark that I could not see, so I gave her her head, and let her pick her way as best she could. We had come some distance when, suddenly, near Pencae, the pony stopped short. 'Gee up, pony fach,' said I, but Bess refused to budge a step. The more I urged her the more restive she became. She reared on her hind legs, and nearly threw me over, and she was trembling like a leaf. I could not understand what was the matter, for, as you all know, Bess is the most docile creature in Llanelwid. At last I alighted, with the intention of leading her home. No sooner, however, had I said Dere, pony fach,' and tugged at her bridle, than I saw -or rather felt-that there was somebody or something standing right in front of us in the middle of the road. I was startled and said, It's no use your stopping m.e; I've got no money. I've only just been paying my rent' I don't want thy money,' said the person in ? deep strong voice that made me tremble in every limb. What do you want, then ? I asked. I want thy help,' he replied. But what can I do ? I asked. Come with me, and I'll show thee,' he made answer. I'm sorry,' said I, 'but they will be expect- ing me home at Penbont, and I want to he at the prayer-meeting to night.' No sooner had I mentioned the word prayer-meeting than the person became furious with anger, and though it was dark, I could see his eyes flashing like live coals. (To be continued.)