Symud i'r prif gynnwys
Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

1 erthygl ar y dudalen hon

---------------STORIES OF…


STORIES OF WALES. BY W. LLEWELYN WILLIAMS, Author of "Gzvilym a Benni Bach" Gwr v Dolau" &c. IX.—THE GHOST OF JACOB PUGH. [Copyright 1905 by W. Llewelyn Williams in the United States of America.] For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak With most miraculous organ. -Shakespeare. Jacob and Jonah Pugh were brothers, who lived at Towy Villa, —a modern little house standing on a pleasant eminence overlooking the fair valley of the Towy. They carried on the trade of cattledealers, in partnership, and it was known that they had prospered exceedingly. Still, they were neither loved nor respected,- the simple folk of the parish felt no "parch" for the prosperous drovers. Nor was this difficult to understand. In all his 55 years of life, Jacob Pugh had never been known to do anybody a good turn. He never entered into the joys or sorrows of his neighbours, never appeared at chapel or eisteddfod, never lent a helping hand to the unfortunate or gave charity to the poor, never subscrihed to a ploughing- match or took a ticket for a concert, never entered a sick-room or attended a funeral. He lived for buying and selling at fairs, and his only dissipation was drink. He was known to all as a hard, grasping man, ruthless in driving a bargain, and not overscrupulous in sticking to it if he found it inconvenient. Woe to a farmer who was known to be in want of money to pay his rent. Jacob would fasten on him at a fair like a leech, and would bully and bluster till often the poor man was glad to let his cattle go at a figure much below their value. His one virtue was his command of ready money. He was always in funds, and once a bargain was struck Jacob paid for his purchases with gold and notes. Jonah was Jacob's junior by a few years, and his personality was somewhat dimmed by the overbearing character of his brother. Some said that he was not a bad fellow when left to himself, but he showed no evidence of geniality or good fellowship in all his dealings. The two men lived a bachelor life at Towy Villa, where their wants were attended to by an elderly spinster, named Jane Williams. She had no easy time of it when the brothers were at home. Dour though they always were, they were perfectly intolerable when they were in drink. When it happened-as it sometimes did-that they met after a debauch, they would quarrel with one another, and they had even been known to exchange blows. The causes of quarrel were trivial and transient. Jacob would accuse Jonah of paying too much for a steer, or of buying too many bullocks for the English market,-or Jonah would charge Jacob with letting a good bargain slip through his fingers by unreasonable stinginess. Sometimes they came to high words in a public-house. It invariably acted as a signal for all decent folk to clear out, and leave them to settle their differences between themselves. The people of Llanelwid were an easy going, placable folk, and they were only too glad to give the brothers a wide berth when they were soured with drink. But Jane had no such resource at Towy Villa. She was staunch and loyal to her paymasters, and she never told tales of the wild doings that sometimes went on between the brothers at home. But such things could not be altogether hidden, and everyone knew in a vague way that terrible- scenes were sometimes enacted in the smug little Villa which was the home of the brothers. The' great fair of the year is the Barnabas Far at Llandilo. By noon, the business of the fair is over, and the afternoon is given up to pleasure. The swains and lasses of the countryside foregather to see the sights and the shows, to buy "fairings" and gewgaws, to air new gowns and bonnets, and to display all the resources of rustic gallantry and coquetry. But Jacob and Jonah Pugh paid no heed to such frivolities. They were busy buying in the morn- ing, in the early afternoon they finished their work and made arrangements for the disposal of their purchases, and in the late afternoon they settled down to their usual debauch. They chanced to meet at the Red Cow." Jonah charged his brother with having bought too few beasts, and Jacob boastfully retorted that he had £ 200 in notes and gold upon him, which he was not fool enough to spend when the market was so high. Angry words nearly led to blows the brothers were only parted by the landlord, who ordered both his undesirable customers out of the house. It was only seven o'clock, but Jonah left at once, saying that he was starting home—a distance of seven miles-with the cattle he had bought, and that he would have it out with Jacob later on. Jacob remained drinking savagely till nine o'clock. Then he also started for Towy Villa, attended by his factotum, Dan Jones, commonly known as the Colonel," who helped to drive home the half-dozen steers which Jacob had bought at the fair. That was the last seen of Jacob. He never arrived at Towy Villa, neither he nor his cattle nor the Colonel. The cattle were found stray- ing on the roadside the next day, and the Colonel turned up about half-past ten that night at the "Red Cow" furiously complaining that Jacob had quarrelled with him on the way home and had bidden him return to Llandilo. Jacob had refused to pay him a penny for his services, and the poor Colonel, who was ever a thirsty soul, had to depend on the charity of the by- standers for a pint or two to wash down his chagrin. Jonah Pugh was little disturbed by the dis- appearance of his brother. He remained moodily at Towy Villa, never communicated with the police, or talked matters over with the neighbours. It was soon hinted abroad that a foul crime had been perpetrated, and, however, scant the respect in which Jacob was held, the whole countryside was aghast and scandalised by the callousness of Jonah. He was avoided in the village, and few and cold were the greetings exchanged with him. The local policeman at last took steps in the matter and gave infor- mation to his superiors. The police superinten- dent called at the village and at Towy Villa. A general search was organised, but to no effect. No trace could be found of Jacob Pugh. Since the Colonel parted with him some three miles out of Llandilo he seemed to have clean dis- appeared from off the face of the earth. What made matters worse was that it became known that Jonah had not returned home till I I o'clock on the night of the fair, and that he was drink- ing at a roadside inn till stop-tap" at ten o'clock, barely a mile from the spot where the Colonel parted from Jacob. The angry words at the Red Cow were recalled, and Jonah's threat to have it out with Jacob later on. Still, the police had nothing but suspicion to go upon. They could not even prove that Jacob was dead, much less that he had been murdered. He was a strange and unaccountable man, and perhaps he might yet turn up, refusing to give any account of his movements. Jonah, mean- while, maintained an obstinate silence. He declared that he had never seen his brother since he left him at the Red Cow, and the police were forced to leave the matter at that for the time. Before long, however, Llanelwid became aware of strange developments. Jonah drank more heavily than ever—there was not a night that he went to bed sober. Jane Williams remonstrated with him, but was only answered with curses and blasphemy. Drink, you devil ? he cried out one day. Why shouldn't I drink ? Jacob is dead, let me tell you. Why shouldn't I drink ? I can't sleep-I can't eat-I can't go about my busi- ness-no one will speak to me-what can I do but drink ? That night he went to his bedroom drunker than usual. Jane waited in the kitchen to put out the fire and the lights. Suddenly she heard a wild shriek from Jonah's bedroom, followed by agonised groans. Trembling with fear, she went upstairs, the flickering home-made candle in her hand, She timidly knocked at the door. A terrifying shriek was the only reply. She quavered out Jonah's name. Failing to receive an answer, she mustered up all her courage, and opened the door. The spectacle that met her gaze did not reassure her. Cowering in the corner, with crazy, startled eyes, crouched Jonah Pugh, with a lit candle in his hand. "Take him away he cried; "don't let the devil touch me Take him away He haunts me What does he want with me ? I swear I never touched him! I swear it! Take him away Great beads of perspiration stood on his brow, his voice had become a maniacal shriek. Jane spoke to the abject creature. "Jonah, don't go on like that, or the neigh- bours will hear you, and come to see what is the matter." Her voice and manner pulled Jonah together. He raised himself to a standing posture, and replied Yes, yes. There's nothing the matter- only drink, drink! I thought I saw Jacob standing by the bed, just where you are now." Jane started in sudden terror, and wheeled round swiftly as if to see Jacob. Don't go shrieked Jonah. Don't go He's been after me for nights. He never leaves me alone. Ah ah !"—his voice became a hysterical screech again—" there he is, beckon- ing to me again I won't go Do you hear, you devil, I won't go Why can't you leave me alone ? It was too much for Jane's over-wrought nerves. She turned and fled from the room. No sooner was her back turned than Jonah screamed again, and bounded after her. Down the stairs poor Jane ran, fear lending wings to her stiffened limbs. She arrived panting in the kitchen, only a moment before Jacob. The lamp was still lit, and in dead silence the two stared terror-stricken at each other. Then Jane fell in a swoon. When she recovered, she found herself in the easy chair by the fire, while Jonah sat opposite her gulping down half-a-tumbler of neat gin. She remembered the ghastly ex- perience she had gone through, and her strong frame shuddered at the recollection. I shall be off to-morrow, Jonah Pugh," she said at last; I can remain here no longer. t,