From: Scott Ellis <>
Newsgroups: talk.bizarre
Subject: Second Born (Excerpt)
Date: Mon, 1 Dec 1997 23:47:19 -0600
Organization: MBnet - Manitoba's Connection To The Internet
Lines: 568
Message-ID: <>

      --and Jenny found herself running, running with her big brother, down=
      path into the shadowy forest.  The trail was steep and winding, criss=
      crossed with gray, gnarled roots of giant trees and she kept stumblin=
      falling behind.  Finally, Daffydd picked her up and set her on his br=
      shoulders.  She held on to his thick, dark hair as he took long strid=
      into the green gloom.
            They came to a clearing, a sunlit glade surrounding a deep, umb=
      pool, like the millpond by the village, but silent.  Through the stai=
      water, among the swaying rushes, she saw enormous fish, trout, salmon=
      tench.  And every one of them bore a wriggling mass of blind, sucking
      lampreys, swarming especially around their gills.  Daffydd laughed, b=
      Jenny wanted to look away.
            She heard a bronze bell and looked up.  A woman was walking tow=
      them, leading a great black cow.  She was tall, milky-skinned, dresse=
d in
      red.  Rivulets of black hair spilled over her shoulders and she wore =
      necklace of jewelled skulls.  Her pale gray eyes burned like midwinte=
            The black cow snuffled Jenny with its big, soft nose.  Then it
      shook its head and she jumped back just in time to avoid being impale=
      on its sweeping, scimitar horns.  It lowed and she saw its teeth were
      jagged and black.
            Daffydd walked over to the water and started skipping stones
      across the surface.  The woman turned away, sat on a low stool and be=
      to milk the cow, hoarsely crooning an old tune Jenny was sure she'd
      heard before, but couldn't put a name to.  As she milked, Jenny could=
      her shoulders growing broader and broader, her spine curling and
      twisting, her hair turning white.  Jenny ran to Daffyd, but he wouldn=
      look, just kept throwing stones across the still water.  The hot milk
      steamed in the wooden pail.
            The woman called them in a creaky voice.  When they turned to h=
      she was a huge crone in a ragged gray robe.  Her black, beady eyes dr=
      them closer and Jenny saw they flickered blue, like a crow's when its
      second eyelids wink.  She motioned to a big, flat-topped stone.  On i=
      were two chalices, made of clear glass, like one Jenny had seen Lord
      Sutton drink from.
            Daffydd and she picked them up.  There was nothing else they
      could do.  With both hands, they held the chalices in front of them a=
      the hag poured the fresh milk from the pail.  Jenny realized that she
      was very thirsty.  She raised the warm, sweet-smelling foam to her
            But when she looked over at Daffydd, she saw the milk had turne=
      to churning blood in his chalice.  Eyes closed, he tipped the copper-
      reeking froth to his mouth.
            She knocked the cup from his hands.
            They were standing again, arms stretched in front of them, empt=
      chalices held in both hands.  The hag poured.  Daffydd's milk turned =
      blood.  She knocked his cup away.
            They stood.  The hag poured.  Daffydd's was blood.  She--
      Over and over and--
            Jenny gave Daffydd her cup.  As he took it, the milk turned red=
. =20
            The old woman laughed like a raven.
            Then Jenny was running, running again, round and round a huge
      bronze three-legged cauldron that smoked and glowed with heat.  Where
      was the crone?  She couldn't see her, but she had to run, run, run, h=
      thudding.  Her ragged breath pinched and stung her.  Black wings
      followed her, just beyond the edges of her vision.  Metal clashed on
      metal.  Shouts and grunts in strange tongues.  Where was Daffydd?  Sh=
      looked up and he was in the cauldron, spinning and ducking, hacking t=
      air with a great broadsword, a cleddyf llafnlydan like one she'd seen
      hanging in Lord Sutton's hall.  She called for him to come out, but h=
      didn't hear her.  He seemed to be melting down, a candle set in boili=
            Abruptly, his movements slowed and Daffydd looked at her.  He
      smiled as he did when he told her a story or what he'd done in school
      that day.  Then he flipped the sword over, reversing the blade so it
      pointed at his heart.  The din of tortured metal, foreign screams and
      barking grew.
            Slowly, Daffydd began to pull the cleddyf's point into his brea=
      The roaring--his blood--the hammering---
            --she screamed--
                                  *     *     *
      --and woke, still screaming.  It was dark and the stone walls of thei=
farmhouse shook and reverberated with heavy, thudding blows.  Through the
wall by her bed, she heard the panicked cattle bellow and jostle.  Chickens
screamed and cackled.  Outside, a heavy stone fell and someone cursed, in
English.  Mam groped for a candle, saying "Holy Jesus...", while Dad strugg=
into his boots.  The mauling blows continued.  The cock crowed.  Where was
Daffydd? =20
      Mam got the candle lit off the hearth ashes.  Its yellow flicker
confirmed Daffydd's absence.  Dad cursed.  "Trust the boy to be out
poaching.  He's got us thrown out, like as not."
      Mam tried to pass the candle to Dad, who waved it away.  "Dowse it.  =
not be lit up for a target," he said, peering through the window's one
remaining glass pane.  He grimaced.  "Iesu Crist.  They're waving torches
right near the straw."
      "Who is, Dad?" asked Jenny.
      "Can't see from here.  Sutton and his men, I reckon.  I'm going out."
      "Oh, Duw, Glyn, be careful," her mother said.
      Dad grabbed his scythe from over the wainscot.  Setting his shoulder
to it against anyone trying to ram his way in, he unbarred the heavy door.=
Then, lifting against the hinges so it wouldn't scrape along the floor, he
opened it.  Thick morning mist hung like gauze shrouds over everything, but
over Dad's shoulder she saw a stout man on horseback, watching, holding a
torch, faceless in the shadow of his three-cornered hat.  She recognized
the horse as Culloden, Lord Sutton's bay stallion.  Beside him, steadying
hand on the bridle, stood a tall man she could tell was Tom Williams, his
overseer.  The sledge blows continued.  There was a clink, then a grating
sound and she knew someone was prying the stones from their clay mortar,
crowbar squeaking like a rat in the wall.  Chickens squawked and she heard
men's excited voices, in Welsh, mostly.  Synhwyrol, the dun cow and Torth,
the heifer, were battering their stalls, mad with fear. =20
      Dad took a step out and turned.  "Lock the door and stay till I call
you," he said.  Then he closed it behind him.
      Mam crowded the window, peering out.  "Duw, when Daffydd sees this,
there won't half be trouble," she muttered.  "The boy's headstrong as Billy=
Marked for her, he is."
      Jenny could hear Dad shouting and the hammering stopped.  She pulled
the footstool up to the door so she could peer out the peephole.  "Marked
for who, Mam?" she asked, turning to her mother.
      Instead of answering, Mam said "Away from the door, Miss.  There's fo=
I know outside and I mean to have a word with them.  You too.  Let them see
whose home they're breaking up."  She lit the candle again, took Jenny by t=
hand and they strode out into the night.
      Outside, Tom Williams was speaking to Dad in English.  Both he and th=
lord had muskets, Sutton's resting across Culloden's saddle.  "It's no good=
Glyn.  You're going to have to go and you know it.  His Lordship", he nodde=
toward the mounted man, "has been more than fair with you, given you three
extensions already."
      "Stays of execution, more like," said Dad in Welsh.  "And where will =
go?  Tell me that, Tom.  There's been Llewellyns here forever.  Where will =
go, what will we do, if we don't have our land?"
      While they spoke, Jenny looked about her.  There was Gareth Jones and
Si=93n, his brother.  Dylan Ellis, Owen Morgan and others she recognized.  =
leaned on their sledgehammers or crowbars, faces thick and smudged with
drink, hearing the argument as a hound listens to hunters, waiting only for
the word to be off the leash and after the game.  Behind and around them,
other crofters approached through the fog, some so eager they stumbled
over rocks and puddles in their haste.  She saw Merideth the Mill and
Carlyle the grocery, men who had taken her Dad's coin and shook his hand,
staring at her hard-eyed as wolves.  There was a strange gaiety in their
voices, as if a grim fair had sprung up on the marshy scrub land beside the
forest, in the cold, small hours of a dank autumn morning.
      "You know as well as I do, Glyn, that it's not your land and never ha=
been.  What you're living in is nothing but a one-night-house, no matter ho=
long it's been there.  You've got no legal standing."
      "It's the way it's always been done--"
      "Glyn, you're a reading man.  Got that in the parish school, when you
should have been learning good sense with the rest of us.  And I reckon
you've seen a few wills and deeds more than maybe you should've."
      "A man's got a right to study the paper the gentry are always waving
under our noses."  He stared defiantly at Sutton, who gave no indication
that he'd heard.
      "Maybe that's true and maybe it ain't.  What the right of it is, thou=
is you never read a deed that mentions anything like 'all the land an axe-
throw in any direction'.  And even if there was such a deed", he nodded at
the farm's distant stone fences, barely visible in the fog, "Glyn Dwr himse=
couldn't throw an axe that far."  Owen Morgan and Si=93n Jones chuckled.
      Mam had had enough.  Pushing her way through the crowd that had
gathered, she stared up at the overseer.  "Why I'm surprised at you, Long
Tom Williams.  When you had the fever and your own Mam was half-dead with
having your little sister, who was it held compresses on your forehead and
made you tissanes and such?  Glyn's mother, wasn't it?  Duw rest Mamgu's
soul and thanks that she never lived to see this day.  Dai and Si=93n--how
many bowls of stew have you eaten with us, at our table?  Owen, do you stil=
wish me ill for marrying Glyn, that you'd take a maul to our house--our
house--for this English mill boss with his store-bought title?  Would you
turn me and my children out so he can graze a few more sheep?"
      The men shuffled and shifted under her gaze.  The crowd murmured.=20
Someone had led the cattle out of their stalls and the heifer bawled.=20
Williams held muttered conference with Sutton.
      "Speaking of your children", the overseer said, "where is young
Daffydd this fine morning?  Not out snaring his lordship's woodcock, isn't
      Dad swallowed and stood straight.  He hated to lie.  "Daffydd took to
bed last night with the mulligrubs, there's fit to die.  The wife gave him
some medicine to help him sleep.  You can come in and look for yourself, if
you want."
      "No, I think I'll just wake him up in my own way.  Or maybe he can sl=
through the whole thing.  Owen, Dylan, the rest of you--fall to it."
      Dad's sickle was at Williams's throat before he could raise his muske=
"One more stone comes out of my house and your life's blood will be coming
with it."
      The crowd tensed, some shouting encouragement, others telling him to
put the sickle down, before anyone got hurt.  Jenny heard someone say
Llewellyn had caught the crow madness from his wife.
      "Glyn, cariad, no," Mam said.
      "I can't do aught else, Rhiannon."
      Tom Williams stared down at the bright-edged iron under his chin.=20
"Darro, best listen to your wife, Glyn.  This ain't the way to solve anythi=
      "Maybe not, but I find folk listen better when you have their full
      Finally, Lord Sutton bestirred himself, as if from a light doze.  He
pushed up his tricorn, nearly setting it ablaze with his torch in the
process, and blearily scanned the assemblage.  His left eye wandered and
made it hard to know what he was looking at.  "Hem.  Williams, does this
fellow understand the King's English?"
      "He understands it, my lord.  They both do.  Speak it, too, when they=
a mind to."
      "Look here, Llewellyn."  His head lolled toward Dad, as if following =
rolling ball.  "I've been more than a reasonable landlord with you, d'y'see=
But it's no good and I'm surprised an educated fellow like you can't
understand that." =20
      He paused, gazing vacantly at the yard, the garden, the two chickens
neighbour boys had set free and were chasing.  The sun would be up soon.=20
"This place has never supported any of you, any of the Llewellyns, in more
than the barest poverty, has it?" he asked, almost gently.  "Soil's no damn
good, what there is of it, and you can count on the creek to flood you out
every other spring.  What keeps you here?"
      "It's where my people come from, Englishman.  Llewellyns are buried
thick in the churchyard, not a league south of here.  Ages of us, going bac=
to where you can't read the stones any more."
      "That's as may be, but where are the rest of the Llewellyns?  I've
seen the parish records--there were scores of you lot around here.  Never
more than a pot to piss in, but Llewellyns bred like rabbits.  And now what=
left?  You've lost your mother to cholera and your Dad to the ague, just
this last year.  Your brothers and sisters have moved away to Swansea, to
the Indies, even.  Ever since you married an Anglesey girl, Llewellyn, folk
say your life's gone from bad to worse."
      He was answered by affirmative mutters in the crowd, at least from
those who understood English.  Try as she might, Mam never quite fit in
here, in this clannish village.  Jenny couldn't understand it, why old wome=
made signs behind her back, right after they'd nodded to her in church and
ate her scones of a Sunday dinner.  Dad always told her to pay no mind.  Ma=
said she'd explain when she was older.  Once, Roger Richards called Jenny a
witch's whelp.  Daffydd caught him and beat him so bad they had to carry hi=
home.  No one called her names after that.
      "There's always some who'll spread idle talk, not that it's your
concern.  I'll pay you for your land, Sutton, if that's what you want.  Tak=
e it
out of my rent."
      "You haven't met your rent on time in two years.  And even if you
could, what good would it do you?  This land's no good for anything but
grazing.  Believe me, Llewellyn, I'm doing you a favour."  He nodded and Ow=
sprang out from where he'd sneaked up on Dad, catching his right arm so
Williams could duck away from the sickle.
      Mam sagged in relief, then staggered when a stone hit her from out of
the crowd.
      "Mam!" Jenny screamed.
      "Rhiannon!" Dad shouted.
      "I'm all right," she said, licking her lip where the stone had split =
      "You see?" said Dad, turning back to Sutton.  "You see what you've
started here?  Getting folks stirred up this way?"
      "Don't be a fool, Llewellyn.  I've started nothing.  A man's entitled=
his own mistakes, but you'll make yours off of my land.  Fall to it, lads!"
      "I'll see you in hell first!"  Dad lunged, breaking Jones and William=
grip on the sickle's snathe.  He swung at Sutton, but Culloden whinnied and
reared, dodging the blade and sending the lord's musket shot wide.  Then To=
Williams clubbed Dad with the butt of his musket.  He fell and Dai Micklejo=
kicked him first, followed by the others in rapid succession.  Mam screamed
and tried to pull them off.
      That was really what they wanted.  They turned on her like wolves,
kicking, punching, hurling stones, shrieking "Witch!"  The cattle bellowed =
Synhwyrol, the dun cow, kicked out, catching Lloyd Thomas in the chest.
      Weeping, Jenny ran to reach them.  Suddenly, she was tackled from
behind, forced into the dirt.  She turned and bit the hand that held her.=
"Don't struggle, cariad," said a rough voice she recognized as Mamgu Evans,
Tom's great-aunt.  "Your Mam and Dad can't be helped, for now.  Wait until-=
      She heard the heifer shriek, then the rattling gasp as someone cut
her throat.  Panicked by the blood smell, the dun cow bucked and wheeled.=
There was a heavy crack of a sledgehammer smashing her to the ground,  the
long wheeze after the hacking blade to her throat and her legs thrashing
senselessly in the muck.  The mob jabbered and barked, mad curs among sheep
bloody with lambing.
      Again a musket boomed.  Sutton had grabbed it from Williams.  Cullode=
wheeled and shied.  As he fought to control the bay, he shouted, "That will
do, damn you!  I'll have no killings on my land!  Let them up and let them =
now!"  His walleye rolled crazily as he pulled a pistol out of his greatcoa=
"Now!" he roared.
      Reluctantly, the people stepped back and Jenny's parents got up
slowly.  Dad was scratched and one of his eyes was swelling shut.  Mam was
holding her side, limping.  Her scalp was bleeding.  Mamgu Evans let her up
and Jenny ran weeping into her mother's arms. =20
      "I don't know what's behind all this, Llewellyn," said Sutton.  "All =
Cymric superstition would be beyond my understanding, even if I did speak
Welsh.  You should hear what they say about your Rhiannon, even in English,
even to me, their foreign lord.  There's not a bad crop, not a cow
miscarrying, they don't lay at her doorstep.  Surely you know this?"
      Dad stood silent, head stubbornly bowed.
      But Mam stared up at Sutton.  To Jenny, that challenging gaze seemed
to put them on the same level, the bulky, pale Englishman on his big bay
stallion and the short, dark-haired Welsh woman standing barefoot on the
grass.  She realized she'd never seen anyone look the lord in the eye
before.  "Why?" Mam asked him.  "Why take the sledges to our house, in the
middle of the night, with this crew?"  She nodded scornfully at his men, wh=
avoided her eye.  "You'd have had your way sooner or later.  Why do it so
every vulture and pig", she spat toward the muttering villagers, "comes
looking to foul our home with their shite?"
      He took his time answering.  "I'm not accustomed", he said, consideri=
her as if confronted with some new and possibly dangerous animal, "to
justifying my actions to tenants.  I could have you flogged for insolence."=
That brought a murderous glance from Dad.  But Mam just stood there,
defying him.
      He sighed.  "Very well, I owe you that much.  But first, do me the
kindness of enlightening me, Mrs Llewellyn: You seem a decent enough woman.=
And no matter where your family came from, you were raised here, in this
parish, since you were small.  But I've heard no end of whispering and bad
report of you, from folk who should know better.  No one seems able to
charge you with one substantial misdeed, but you're in league with Satan
and the Old Gods, or worse, according to some.  And every attempt I've made
to ascertain precisely what you're guilty of has come to no more than=20
mumbled Welsh verse and dark hints.  Can you tell me why they hate you so?"
      "It's melltith y brenhines, the Queen's Curse.  They say I bear it."
      "People have whispered that to me.  Some say you shouldn't have been
allowed to live here."
      Jenny heard Mamgu Evans say, "We'd have kept the raven's shadow from
our doors, if Glyn's Dad had had any sense."
      "But no one seems able to tell me what it all means," said Sutton.=20
"What is this Queen's Curse?"
      Mam frowned.  "I don't know myself, rightly.  Some here know a bit of=
or claim to, but the only ones who had the whole story was my family.  My M=
was the last and she died of the pox when I was small, before she could tel=
me most of it.  But I have the sight--"
      "All of this ain't but moonbeams and idle, ignorant talk," said Dad,
scowling at the villagers, at the men and women whose roofs he'd thatched,
whose fields he'd plowed.  Some looked away, but others stared back with
dull, mean certainty.  He snorted, as if expelling some foul odour.  "My
Rhiannon's a good Christian woman, more than many who call themselves such.=
Isn't that so, Thad Burgess?"  The village's rector, standing in his
shirtsleeves in the cold mist, avid with curiosity and ill will, gave no
answer.  Dad sniffed again.  "She's done nothing wrong, Englishman, no matt=
what any skulking Taffy's told you.  Just get to the meat of it.  Why are y=
here, with your bully-boys, in the middle of the night?"
      "As your wife said, Llewellyn, I would have you off eventually, if on=
for the rabbits your boy is doubtless taking out of my forest as we speak.=
But that would take time and a book-learned man like you would take me
through the courts.  I need the land for sheep and, in all frankness, your
wife's presence here is dangerous, both to herself and those around her.=20
The village elders have said as much to me and, I've no doubt, to you.  Do
you not see the position you've put me in, with your stalling tactics and
your resistance?  Better a surprise eviction now, than months of rancour
and bloodshed.  You must have known it was coming, man, sooner or later."
      Rhys Lowell, one of Dad's oldest friends, shouted "Listen to him,
      Dad set his jaw silently.
      "Very well," said the lord.  "Now, I'm a fair man, but I need the lan=
d for
sheep and I can't have a source of discord about."  He pulled out his pocke=
watch.  You have half an hour to gather what you can and be off.  The rest
of you", he stared at the crowd of watchers, "clear out!" =20
      Williams whispered something to him.  Sutton frowned incredulously,
then shook his head violently.  "Absolutely not!  You there!"  He pointed h=
pistol at Dai Micklejohn and Owen Morgan, already lifting the heifer's
weight.  "Drop it right there.  No one had leave to slaughter these people'=
livestock and no will profit from it.  Leave the carcasses where they lie.=
And if I catch man, woman or child looting this house, you'll every one of =
regret it!"
      He turned to the mob.  "Now begone, the lot of you!"
      Like some great, shamed beast, the crowd turned and shambled slowly
away into the mists.  Jenny heard them muttering self-justifications and
caught the occasional back-turned glance, regretful or exultant.  She
glared at them, standing between her mother and father, through eyes still
blurred with tears.  A rooster crowed in the village.
      The Lord's men were left standing awkward and restive.  "Dylan,
Gareth, Si=93n", Sutton ordered briskly, "you're to help carry these folk's
goods out front and be of any assistance they ask.  Dai, go fetch a wagon.
We'll give you a ride, Llewellyn, wherever you want to go.  Tom, keep a wat=
out back for anyone sneaking in to plunder."
      "I'll not have these thieves in my house," said Dad.
      "Nor I," said Jenny, glaring at the lord's men.
      "Glyn, Jenny", said Mam, gently, "we have to go.  And we'll have need=
any help that's offered."
      "This Sais and his men will leave us with nothing, Rhiannon.  Nothing
for Daffyd or Jenny."
      "And I'd gladly fight them too, bach.  But don't you see what would
happen?  The commotion would reach the mob out there.  And they'd be back,
quick as black beetles, come to kill the witch and her possessed family.  L=
it go, Glyn.  And Jenny, you too.  You'll both need your strength for other
      She faced Sutton again.  "If we go now, with no fuss, will you promis=
me one thing?  Will you not harm Daffydd, when the lad turns up, even if he=
got a brace of your pheasant?  Will you treat him gentle and send him on to
      "'Pon my word, Mrs. Llewellyn, I'll do everything I can to keep your =
safe and whole till he gets to you."
      Something went out of her father then, as if some taut wire in his
spine had been wrenched to slackness "If that's how it must be," he
muttered, sagging.  Then he glared at his dragooned helpers.  "If I catch
aught a one of you bastards disrespecting my wife or pocketing a scrap of
tinder, I'll gut you right then and there.
      "Now come on, and step lively.  Gareth, you come with me.  Dylan, you
mind what my wife tells you, and Duw help you if I hear you haven't.  Jenny=
He knelt to gaze in her eyes, holding her by the shoulders.  "Jenny, you're
safe now.  I want you to take young Si=93n here and gather Daffyd's things =
your own.  Oh, and anything you see that we've forgotten, pick it up or bri=
it to our attention.  Can you do that, Jenny?"
      She nodded.  "Where will we go, Dad?
      "Do you remember the time we rode into Swansea for the fair, Jenny?=
When you were four?  Well, I reckon we'll stay there with Aunt Moira and
Uncle Michael for a spell.  Now go you--We want to get an early start."
                                  *     *     *
      Lying on top of a pile of Mam's hand-woven blankets, in the back of a
covered cart slowly bumping down the rough road to Swansea, Jenny gazed
sleepily past her Dad and Mam at Si=93n's back, as the youth loosely held t=
reins.  Normally, driver and passengers would be taking advantage of
Bisged, the old sorrel mare's leisurely, sure gait to talk about weather,
prices in the market, last Sunday's sermon, who would win the pulling
contest at the next county fair.  Mam had tried to start conversation by
putting Si=93n at ease, gently chafing the gawky, shame-faced 17-year-old
over a prank he and Daffyd had played at the last village dance, switching
his cousin Angharad Jones's much-touted katt (mincemeat) pies for cow
patties.  But Dad's stony, mute anger had choked off that meagre chat and
they rode in cold silence through a thin, gray drizzle.
      She remembered talking to Si=93n as they gathered Daffyd's things and
her small pile of possessions: two ragdolls, a winter jacket, a Sunday dres=
and petticoats, a comb, a pair of shoes and a bonnet for church.
      "Why are you doing this, Si=93n?  Especially you.  Daffyd and you are
best ffrindiau.  He's your cefndyr, on Dad's side.  Everybody in the villag=
knows to split you two up, or no one else will win a single football match.=
Not a week goes by but the two of you've taken a coney from the Sais lord's
forest, or dipped Olwen Williams's pigtails in the inkwell, or loosed the
rector's pig in his garden.  What has he done to you?  What have any of us
ever done to you?"
      "It's nothing like that," he mumbled.  "At least, nothing I've seen y=
do, myself."
      "Then what is it?"
      "Folk talk."
      "And what do they say?"
      "What do they say, Si=93n Jones?"
      "They say your Mam's brought the witch bird, the bran hedlyd," he
burst out.  "She's to blame for the corn blight that wiped out my brother
Gareth's crop and for the ddannodd that fair drove Aled Burgess mad.  They
say she's got your Dad hexed.  She has to go, or there's worse to come."
      "So my Mam goes around causing toothaches, corn blights and hooded
crows nesting in the church belfry?  And when does she find time for that?=
Don't forget, I'm with her every hour of the day.  Does she do it when I'm =
looking and she's stirring the morning porridge?  When I'm out in the privy=
taking a pisio and she's sweeping the floor?  While she's fixing a pot of
braised beef--and how does she handle the thyme and savory in her garden,
since you know witches can't abide them--for you, Daffyd and Dad?  Or do
you think she sends me out on errands--borrow a cup of flour at your Mam's
and drop off a curse at the Evans's on the way?"
      "Duw, what a tongue you've got on you.  Everyone agrees she doesn't
mean to do anything wicked.  But ever since your Tadcu brought her home
from Anglesey, an orphan girl in a family with too many mouths already,
there's been trouble."
      "What trouble?"
      "Just trouble.  Bad harvests and folk at each others' throats."
      "So my Mam bewitched Grandfather Llewellyn, her a four-year-old girl
and him a grown man, to bringing her here.  Why not Swansea, then?  Why not
London?  Why not the Colonies, can you tell me that?"
      "All I know is what I hear.  And they say you and Daffyd bear the cro=
melltith too."
      He fell silent, dropping Daffyd's shoes into a rush basket Mam had
woven.  She glared at him.  "And all I know, Si=93n Jones, is that if I did=
any curses, I'd curse this village and all--"
      "Don't say it, Jenny!"  He stared at her, ashen-faced.  "Don't even
think it!"
      Her memories were interrupted by the faint drum of racing hoofbeats,
behind them in the rain-shrouded hills, drawing closer.  Now Mam and Dad ha=
heard them and they glanced anxiously back along the rocky road that wound
back to a home they might never see again.  It was lucky that Bisged had
walked these miles often enough to do it in her sleep, because Si=93n wasn'=
watching the road, craning backward to peer into the mists.
      And there was the rider, still high up the mountain road behind them,
far away but gaining fast.  Mam turned to her.  "Can you see who follows,
Jenny?  You've got the best eyes of the family."
      Jenny squinted, watching the horse and rider race through the
shadows of trees and rocks till she was sure.  "It's Daffydd.  He's wearing=
tricorn.  And he's riding Culloden, Sutton's horse."

sae - A nation is a society united by a delusion about its ancestry
      and by a common hatred of its neighbours.  (William Ralph Inge)