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-a ftout, merry-faced old Welsh shopkeeper, who deals in bacon and butter, and speaks English-we go forth on our visit to Plas Mawr, and the other remarkable buildings of the town, the church included. Scarcely, however, have we left Mrs. Owen's, than we hear the sound of a bell rung in the streets a bell as of a town-crier; and the next moment fee the man himself proceeding along, ringing his bell loudly at intervals, but without uttering a word.
“What is the meaning of this bell being thus rung?” we inquire from a pleasant-looking young man at a shop-door.
From him we learn that it is the announcement of a funeral,
which will take place in about three hours, and that this mode of invitation to the townspeople to attend funerals is peculiar to Conway.
As this invitation might be considered general, we determine to rank ourselves amongst the invited, and hold ourselves in readiness at three o'clock for the funeral ; being told, moreover, that we shall know when to be at the church by the tolling of the church-bell.
About three o'clock accordingly,-having visited in the meantime the fine old house, Plas Mawr, the ancient mansion of the Wynns, where Queen Elizabeth is said to have stayed, and where the initials of herself and her favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, are frequently coupled in the carving, and seen with great satisfaction that two of its spacious rooms are now used as an infant school,--the church-bеll began to toll, and we having added to our purchases, set off for the church, taking our old friend's Mrs. Griffiths Owen's on the way, to leave in her charge yet other packages. But Mrs. Owen is not in--not a soul is in. We knock on the counter again and again, and are just about to retreat discomfited, when a sharp-looking little lad appears from the back-settlements, who, though he cannot speak English, instantly understands our wants, and deposits our new parcels with the others under the counter. But scarcely is this done when a voice above gabbles downstairs something in Welsh to the boy below, and back the boy gabbles his answer. Venturing on this colloquy to glance up the staircase, whence the upper voice proceeds, we beheld our buxom Mrs. Owen, without her gown, a towel being about her stout bare arms, and her face rosier than ever, from freshly-applied soap and water. She informs us that she too is getting ready for the funeral ; and we, being rather inquisitive regarding the dead at whose obse
quies we are intending to be present, she invites us to join her upstairs, and we follow her into her large old-fashioned bedroom. Here, spread out upon the large bed, lie her decent mourning bonnet, shawl, and gown, and whilft she is assuming the latter, we ask if the deceased be a relative of hers.
No, indeed,” replies she; “but it is right for neighbours to go to each other's funerals."
" And who, then, is going to be buried ?”
Mrs. Owen's bright countenance becomes very solemn, and she replies :
“A bachelor of forty; an orphan, without father or mother, and nobody left behind but a sister, poor thing! So it is quite right to go to the funeral ! And there will be many there," added the in an emphatic tone,
This is a convincing argument; and therefore, leaving Mrs. Owen to complete her toilet, we wend our way to the quiet old church, which stands in the middle of the churchyard, and in the very centre of the town; gates from the various streets opening into the churchyard ; this churchyard being, of course, interesting to us from Wordsworth’s poem of “ We are Seven.”
Reaching the church, we find the large door unlocked, and enter. We are the first of the funeral attendants; but two grey-coated tourists, evidently father and son, are inspecting the church ; whilst a respectable woman, in black, who is arranging and dusting the pews, answers any questions which may be put to her: We too wander round, admire the fine carving on the ancient oak screen as we pass into the chancel, and read the infcription on the flat grey stone placed over the remains of “Nicholas Hookes, gentleman, who was the forty-first child of his parents," which the younger tourist carefully copies into his note-book; and, leaving him to add that “the faid Nicholas himself died the father of twenty-seven children, on
the 20th of March, 1637,” we faunter down the aisles reading the Welsh names and titles of various noble families on the small brass plates affixed to the pew-doors, and admire the ancient carving which had been brought thither from Plas Mawr ; then out at the other door to see if yet there be figns of the approaching funeral. There are none, excepting the newly-made grave close by, which has just been dug by that young man with the sunburnt face, who stands leaning on his spade to contemplate his work. He has scattered fawdust in the grave and piled beside it a heap of newly-cut rushes. An elderly man, clad in Sunday attire, now approaches, and shakes hand with the young gravedigger, who at this token of sympathy bursts into tears. What the departed was to him we know not, but with a feeling of respect for his grief we retire again into the church.
The grey-coated tourists are gone, and the decent woman in black stands with her duster still in her hand, waiting. We remark to each other that were this fine old church near London, it would be carefully restored. At the name of London, the woman looks suddenly round, and exclaims :
“Ah! our clock came from London ; it is a bad one ; more's the pity; the wind blows its fingers off! It was a present, and from a gentleman who did not mean it to be a bad
We deplore the lamentable case of the clock, and then inquire if she ever heard of the poem, “We are Seven?"
“To be sure I have!” she answers. “A gentleman came once and asked me about it; but then I had never heard of it. He said, therefore, he would send it me from London; and fo he did, all beautifully written out. I keep it at home; but I have shown it to a great many people; it is a very pretty rhyme. But for all that I've hunted the churchyard all over,
and looked at every grave, but never can I find those of John and little Jane. I cannot make it out; certainly there must have been some alteration since those days, for there is no cottage now by the churchyard. May-be it was pulled down years ago when a wall was built on one side. I've often wondered how it was.
But you would like to see the verses, wouldn't you? They are so beautifully written out! I can run for them in a minute,” added she eagerly. Without waiting for a reply, however, she suddenly started, and held up her hand listening to the church-bell, which was still solemnly tolling.
“ Hark!” she said in an awestricken tone, whilst a look of dismay overspread her countenance. “Only hark how heavily the bell rings! My mother used to say when it sounded so dull that it was a sure sign of another death. I have thought of it since, and believe it to be true, though Conway is a healthy place. There is a deal of difference,” she continued, “in the founding of the bell. My parents had the church before me; so I know all about these things. I had the place after
Willing to turn her thoughts from anticipated deaths, we now inquire after the dead man, whose funeral bell is such a melancholy prognostic.
“He was Morris Evans, one of the singers here. I knew him well,” the replied. “When he was strong and came to church, his place was near the organ, amongst the fingers. Come, I will show it you. There,” she said, “this was his seat, close by the wall, you see, under the carved stone with the little figures upon it. He was ill a long time, and died of a decline, like his father and mother. There is nobody left now but his fifter and an old uncle."
At this point fome one entered to say that the clerk was gone for the clergyman, and the funeral was moving off. We there