« PreviousContinue »
“Howel ab Rice ab Howel did draw a draught* upon Jevan ab Robert ab Meredith, and sent a brother of his to lodge over night at his house of Keselgyfarch, to understand which way Jevan ab Robert ab Meredith meant to goe the next day, who was determined to shoote a match with John ab Meredith's children at Llanvihangel y Pennant, not farre from John ab Meredith's house. This being understood, the spie (Howel ab Rice's brother) slips away in the night to his brother, and lets him know where he should lay for him. Now had Howel ab Rice provided a butcher for the purpose, that should have murthered him ; for he had direction by Howel to keepe himselfe free, and not to undertake any of the company untill he saw them in a medley, and every man fighting. Then was his chardge to come behinde the tallest man in the company, (for otherwise he knew him not, being a stranger) and to knocke him down; for Howel ab Rice sayd,
—Thou shalt soone discerne him from the rest by his stature, and he will make way
before him. There is a foster-brother of his, one Robin ab Inko, a little fellow, that useth to watch him behind; take heed of him; for, be the encountre never soe hotte, his eye is ever on his foster-brother.' Jevan ab Robert, according as he was appointed, went that morning with his ordinary company towards Llanvihangel to meete John ab Meredith. You are to understand, that in those dayes, and in that wilde worlde, every man stood upon his guard, and went not abroad but in sort and soe armed, as if he went to the field to ercountre with his enemies. Howel ab Rice ab Howel Vaughan's sister, being Jevan ab Robert's wife, went a mile, or thereabout, with her husband and the company, talking with them, and soe parted with them; and in her way homewards, she met her brother a horseback, with a great company of people armed, and rideing after her husband as fast as they could. On this, she cried out upon her brother, and desired him, for the love of God, not to harme her husband, that meant him noe harme; and withall steps to his horse, meaning to have caught him by the bridle, which he seeing, turned his horse about. She then caught the horse by the tail, hanging upon him soe long, and crying upon her brother, that, in the end, he drew out his short-sword, and strucke at her arme. Which she perceiving, was faine to lett slippe her hold, and running before him to a narrow passage, whereby he must pass through a brooke, where there was a footbridge, near the ford. She then steps to the foot-bridge, and takes away the canllaw, or handstay, of the bridge, and with the same letts flie at her brother, and, if he had not avoyded the blow, she had strucke him downe from his horse.
-Furor arma ministrat. Howel ab Rice and his company, within a while, overtooke Jevan ab Robert and his followers, who turned head upon him, though greatlie overmatched. The bickering grew very hotte, and many were knocked
* This is a phrase frequently used by our author, and implies, drawing a plan, or settling a scheme.
downe on either side. In the end, when that should be performed which they came for, the murthering butcher haveing not strucke one stroake all day, but watching opportunity, and finding the company more scattered than at first from Jevan ab Robert, thrust himselfe among Jevan ab Robert's people behind, and makeing a blow at him, was prevented by Robin ab Inko, his foster brother, and knocked downe; God bringing upon his head the destruction that he meant for another: which Howel ab Rice perceiving, cryed to his people, 'Let us away and begone, for I had given chardge that Robin ab Inko should have been better looked unto.' And soe that bickering brake, with the hurt of many, and the death of that one man.
“ It fortuned anon after, that the parson of Llanvrothen* took a child of Jevan ab Robert's to foster, which sore grieved Howel Vaughan's wife, her husband haveing then more land in that parish than Jevan ab Robert had ; in revenge whereof she plotted the death of the said parson in this manner. She sent a woman to aske lodgeing of the parson, who used not to deny any. The woman being in bed, after midnight, began to strike and to rave; whereupon the parson, thinking that she had been distracted, awakeing out of his sleepe, and wondering at so suddaine a crie in the night, made towards her and his household also : then she sayd that he would have ravished her, and soe got out of doores, threatening revenge to the parson. This woman had for her brethren, three notable rogues of the damn'd crewe fit for any mischiefe, being followers of Howel ab Rice. In a morning, these brethren watched the parson, as he went to looke to his cattle, in a place in that parish called Gogo yr Llechwin, being now a tenement of mine, and there murthered him; and two of them fled to Chirkeland in Denbighshire, to some of the Trevors, who were friends or a-kinne to Howel ab Rice or his wife. It was the manner in those dayes, that the murtherer onely, and he that gave the death's wound should flye, and he was called in Wales a Llawrudd, which is a red hand, because he had blouded his hand : the accessaries and abettors to the murtherers were never hearken'd after.”
Now it happened, in those days, that two families, or clans, namely the Kyffins and the Trevors contended for the sovereignty of a district, denominated the Land of Chirke and Oswaldstre. " They had,” says our author, " their alliance, partisans, and friends in all the countreys round thereabouts, to whome, as the manner of the time was, they sent such of their followers as committed murther or manslaughter, which were safely kept as very precious jewells; and they received the like from their friends. These kind of people were stowed in the day-time in chambers in their houses, and in the night they went to the next wine-house that belonged to the gentleman, or to his
* Llanvrothen is a small village near the sea-side in Merionethshire.
tenants' houses not farre off, to make merrie and to wench." To the latter of these families—as we have just seen-fled two of the parson's murderers, but they were not probably aware that our hero-Jevan ab Robert, to wit-was in league with the chieftain of the opposite faction. So, however, it was; and Jevan sent to inform Meredith ab Howel ab Moris, the chief of the Kyffins, that he should come privately into Chirkeland, “onely accompanied but with six,” for the purpose of apprehending the assassins; at the same time desiring his ally to be on the alert, and to watch narrowly the movements of the murderers. He accordingly went, and “ abode there many days, in secret and unseene, sleeping in the daye, and watching all night.”.
It was a long time, however, before he could apprehend the felons; and when at last, with the help of his friends, he did succeed in catching them, a complete “gathering" of the two clans was the consequence, with the war-cry of “the Trevors to their friends, and the Kyffins to their leaders !" But our author must relate the rest.
“To the latter of these cries Meredith ab Howel ab Moris resorted; who told Jevan ab Robert that it was impossible for him to carry the murtherers out of the countrey to any place to have judiciall proceeding against them, by reason that the faction of the Trevors would lay the way and
narrow passages of the countrey; and if they were brought to Chirke Castle gate, to receive the triall of the countrey laws, it was lawfull for the offender's friends, whosoever they were, to bring £5 for every man, for a fine to the lord, and to acquit them, soe it were not in cases of treason.* A damnable custom used in those dayes in the lordships' marches, which was used also in Mowddwy, untill the new Ordinance of Wales, made in the seven-and-twentieth yeare of Henry viij. Hereupon Jevan ab Robert ab Meredith commanded one of his men to strike off their heades; which the fellow doeing faintely, the offender told him, that if he had his necke under his sword, he would make his sword take better edge than he did :so resolute were they in those dayes in contempt of death : whereupon Jevan ab Robert in a rage stepping up to them, strucke off their heads.”
But his vengeance was yet incomplete. Two only of the murderers had been disposed of, and one still remained unpunished. Jevan, however, departed from Chirkeland, and determined to leave to time and chance the apprehension of the remaining villain. On his return home, he was detained till night by the tide at Traethmawr ;t and talking carelessly with his
A custom not wholly unknown in England, and very common on the continent, during the middle ages.
+ Traethmawr signifies the greater tract of sand, to distinguish
men as he rode on, an arrow suddenly whistled by him from a thicket on the hill-side above the road. The party immediately halted, and shot altogether, towards the spot whence the shaft issued; and it so occurred, that one of their arrows killed the person who had interrupted them, and he happened to be the very murderer who had eluded their vigilance in Chirkeland. “Soe God revenged that wicked murder,” says the historian, " by the death of every one of the three brethren.”
But this did not end the quarrel,—it merely aggravated it ; for a short time after this adventure, Jevan ab Robert had occasion to attend the assizes at Caernarvon, with the greater part of his retainers ; leaving only in the house his wife and her domestics, with some desperate red-hands, who had sought his protection, “as the manner then was ;"—and whom he probably found no unwelcome addition to his band. His old enemy, Howel ab Rice, resolved to hazard the apprehension of these criminals, and “ bring them to Caernarvon to be hanged,-for there was none of them but was outlawed for murther;"_in return for the vengeance inflicted upon the three murderers by Jevan. For this purpose, he summoned his trustiest friends to his aid, and procured the assistance of a celebrated freebooter of the times, named David ab Jenkin, who was also a kinsman of Howel. These worthy confederates succeeded in reaching their enemy's house without being discovered, and immediately commenced the assault; but they were vigorously resisted by the inmates, who, on this occasion, as on many others, “bestirred themselves handsomely.” It happened, moreover, that Jevan's wife-the same lady, be it remembered, who threw the handstay of the bridge at her brother's head-stood at the fire-side, “ lookeing on her mayde boyling of worte to make metheglyn;" and, unlike the timid and tender ladies of these degenerate days, she bestowed the seething liquor so liberally among the assailants, that they were forced back, and ultimately compelled to raise the siege. David ab Jenkin, the freebooter, strenuously advised his kinsman ab Rice to take Jevan ab Robert for his brother-in-law, neighbour, and friend ; “ For,” said he, “I will not be one with you to assault his house when he is at home, seeing I find such hot resistance in his absence.”
This advice, however, was not followed, and “ dayly bickerings, too long to be written, passed betweene soe neare and hatefull neighbours. In the end, the plague, which commonly
it from Traethbach, or the lesser tract, which is the road from Penmorfa in Caernarvonshire to Harlech in Merionethshire. These sands are not communly passable till the tide has eubed nearly three hours.
followeth warre and desolation, after the Earle of Pembroke's expedition, tooke away Jevan ab Robert, at his house of Keselgyfarch, in the flower of his age, being thirty-one yeares of age, whose death ended the strife of these houses."
In this licentious and unworthy manner did the days of the Welshmen of yore glide on; and dark and dreary, indeed, must have been that period, when crimes of the deepest die were thus perpetrated in open and daring defiance of all laws human and divine. The union of Wales with England, however, was the first step towards the abolition of these gloomy and disgraceful practices; and the hitherto unruly mountaineers soon began to experience those benefits, which the judicious and salutary measures consequent on this union were so well calculated to confer.
It was by the wise and efficient policy of uniting Wales to England,--and by admitting the Welsh, at the same time, to a full participation in the laws and privileges of the English, that the English monarch effected the subversion of the turbulent contumacy of the natives of Cambria ; and it was by the same policy that the Welsh secured to themselves that tranquility which they now so pre-eminently enjoy. And, in contrasting their present manners with those of their ungovernable forefathers, during the tempestuous times which we have noticed, may they not justly say with Robert Vaughan, the venerable antiquary of Hengwrt ?—“We must confess that we have reason to bless God for his mercy to us, in our happy establishment under one monarch ; and we may well say, we were conquered to our gain, and undone to our advantage."
Art. X. - Tamburlaine the Great, who from a Scythian Shep
heard by his rare and wonderful conquestes became a most puissant and mightie Monarch : And for his tyrannie and terrour in Warre, was tearmed The Scourge of God. The first part of the two tragical discourses, as they were sundrie times most stately shewed upon stages in the Citie of London. By the right honorable the Lord Admirall his servantes. Now newly published. Lond. 1592. Black letter. The second part of the bloody conquests of mightie Tamburlaine,
with his impassioned fury for the death of his lady and love, faire Zenocrate : his forme of exhortation and discipline to his three Sons, and the maner of his owne death. 1593.