Hide Articles List

1 article on this Page

STORIES OF WALES.

News
Cite
Share

STORIES OF WALES. BY W. LLEWELYN WILLIAMS, Author of 11 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. 'Thou hadst better come with me,' he said, laying his hand on my shoulder. He did not seem to grip it hard, but the black marks of his fingers are still on my flesh. I nearly screamed with pain. £ Don't hurt me,' I said, and I'll come. But what shall I do with the pony ? Thou wilt not want thy pony,' he said, giving her at the same a smack which sent her plunging in mad terror along the road. Thou shalt have .a speedier charger to ride.' Where is it?' I asked, for I could see nothing. He whistled, and I heard the wind rising from the north till a great gale was blowing. And yet I could not hear the trees on the road- side rustling. Here it is,' he said. I can't see it,' I replied. No,' said he, 'my horse is the wind, and my chariot is the whirlwind. Feet have they not, and yet speedier are they than the doe form have they not, yet are they stronger than the war-horse. This night they are at thy service. Which wilt thou have—a high wind or a low wind? I am commanded to give thee that choice.' My heart stood still, and I knew not exactly what to say. My mind was distraught, and I answered without knowing what I said, 'a high wind.' "The words were no sooner out of my mouth than I was whirled to a great height in the air, till at last the village looked only like a speck in the distance. Sit thou on the whirlwind,' said he, holding me upright by the shoulder. I felt as if I was seated in my arm-chair at Penbont, and but for the dizziness I felt on looking down, I should have been quite comfortable. Then, without another word, I was rushed through space at an incredible rate of speed. Not even the train which we hear of at Bristol could go so fast, and I was breathless. I saw the village recede in the distance, and I thought I should never see it again. Farewell, Penbont,' I said, the home of my childhood. Farewell, dear wife, that sittest waiting for me. Farewell, old friends, who have always been good to me. Nevermore shall I see your dear faces again. Farewell, Ebenezer, where the brethren are praying, without thought of the peril that has beset me.' I knew I was somewhere among the clouds, though I could not say how far I was from the stars and moon. In a shorter time than I can tell you, we came to the Vans of the Black Mountain, and I could see the lake plainly below me. Oh, sir,' I said; I hope you are not thinking of drowning me in the lake?' Drown thee, poor mortal P said he, with a mocking laugh. No, I have need of thee, and it is not a lake ot water that is prepared for thee and me I., "I remembered the verse: 'Face the devil and he will flee from you,' and I cried out in a loud voice Get thee behind me, Satan.' What would'st thou' ? he screamed, tighten- ing his grip on my shoulder, till I shrieked with pain. 'Am I not behind thee? Know that if thou sayest one more word, I shall hurl thee against yon precipice and break thee into a :thousand fragments.' His aspect was so terrible, and his voice so threatening, that I begged his pardon, and promised to say no more. Then we began to descend down, down, down, till I felt all the breath leaving my body, and I had a sensation of falling, falling, lower, lower, into nothingness. 'Stand up, thou craven,' stormed my tormentor at last. I did so, and found I was standing near the lake under a frowning precipice that hung over me. I feared it would fall on me and bury me from sight for ever. My captor half-led, half-dragged me right into the sheer rock, which seemed to open out before us into a great cave. On and on we went, till at last we came to the brink of a great hole. Down this hole we descended, over 365 steps—for I counted them, and they were as many as the days of the year. The air grew hotter the lower we went, and I was on the point of begging to be let out, when my captor said to me, in an awesome voice, Dig, mortal, till I bid thee cease.' And how can I dig without tools ?' I asked. I "'Fool,' replied he; 'can'st thou not see them ? Dig, for the hour draws nigh." I looked and saw a spade in front of me, though I am certain that there was nothing there when I spoke--I picked it up, and began to dig. Never have I worked so hard. The perspiration stood in great beads on my forehead, and presently my arms began to ache. But if I slackened work, even for a moment, my captor would roar at me, grinding his teeth, and foam- ing at the mouth. Nor did he bid me cease before the spade struck against a piece of iron with a clang. 'It is the ring of the cauldron,' remarked my companion; put thy hand in it, and pull.' I bent down, felt for the ring, and then pulled with all my might. Slowly a great cauldron, full of seething matter, came into sight. Carry it after me,' exclaimed my captor. I was afraid, lest some of the boiling' contents might be spilt over me. It is too heavy for me,' I said I cannot carry it.' Fool,' he replied, sternly. Do I not know thy strength ? Art thou not the strongest man in the whole countryside ? Know that that cauldron can only be carried by a mortal, and thou art the only one over whom I have power that has the strength to carry it. But woe betide thee if thou fail to carry it without spilling one drop of its contents.' I was quivering with dread, but I carried the cauldron as best I could after my master. Up, up, we climbed the steps, then on and on we trudged through the cold cave, and at last we came out into the open air near the lake. When I tell thee, throw the cauldron into the lake,' said he, but not a moment before thou'rt ordered, on peril of thy life.' ] "I stood silent, gazing at him. He made a ring of white stones by the water side, and stood in the centre of the circle. A great bat came flying through the air, but when it came above the magic circle it fell quivering to the ground. My captor held it, and bled it to death, crying- Thus saith Brett, the mighty spirit. The blood of the bat is on the white stones. Beltha, Susphensa, Eltllera, Superea, Implemit, Pensferus, Saracius, Mors.' Seven times did he shout these horrid words, whose meaning I know not, but their sound will always ring in my ears till my dying day. And as he cried, he smeared the white stones with the blood of the bat. When he had made an end of this, he waved his hand thrice in the air, and chanted a strange, mystical song. "'Come hither, Brindle,' he cried; 'come, White Spot Bring your calves with you.' Come thou, White Lord of the Herd, who wer't born in the House of the King Come, ye must go to your home And ye, yoked patient-eyed oxen, Come all, come now with the rest: it is time, come all of ye home ? "He turned to the East, and then to the West, muttering more words in a tongue that I did not understand. Then he cried- Come thou, White Lady, my mistress, come thou, it is time It is time for thee to join thy lost love thy probation is over; To-night at this hour the last of thy children is dying Come, White Lady, my mistress, it is I, Brett, that calls thee. Come, shed thy immorality, and join thy dead love at last. Come, White Lady, my mistress; it is I, Brett, that calls thee— Thy deliverance comes from a mortal, as thy love, and its penalty also. The cauldron of Ceridwen is seething thy deliverance cometh; Come, White Lady, my mistress it is time.' "I stood in a daze, listening, but not under standing. 'Throw out the cauldron into the lake with all thy might,' he cried. Mechanically I obeyed. I saw the cauldron hurtle in the air, and then it fell with a hiss into the placid waters and sank. No sooner had it disappeared than the waters began to boil and seethe. The air was full of strange noises, as of the coming of a great army. Out of the lake came myriads of all sorts of creatures, — kine and sheep, and goats, bigger and finer than ever I saw in Barnabas fair,-and they were all milk-white, without spot or blemish. And after them came a beautiful maiden, plying an oar in a shallop of gold, wafted swiftly across the waters as by a breath of air. One by one they went into the cave, and last of all the woman. And when the last had gone, the cave closed in, and I could see no trace of the opening in the rock. Come,' said Brett, 'it is time thou should'st go. Wilt thou ride on the high wind or the low wind ?' I had no wish to be lifted high above the clouds again, so I replied, On the low wind, if it please you." He laughed softly to himself, as he said So be it.' He only lifted me three or four feet from the ground, and then began to drag me through the air at lightning speed. He dragged me through the hedges and the tree-tops, and if he saw a furze-bush on the way, he laughed mockingly as he dragged me right through them. My face and hands were bleeding, my clothes were torn, and every bone in my body was sore. I felt I could endure no more. Mad with pain and anger, I determined to rid myself at all costs of the malicious spirit. These words do not quite correspond with the words which Daffy is reported to have used, but I have adopted them from Sir Lewis Morris as giving in substance the meaning of the Welsh.