From Chapter 2

THIS EXTRACT RELATES TO MARTHA'S FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH AMOS JONES, A NONCONFORMIST (AND VERY UNCONVENTIONAL) PREACHER, WHO BECOMES KNOWN AS JONES MINOR PROPHET. HE IS PROBABLY TOO GOOD TO SURVIVE IN A CRUEL MODERN WORLD, BUT HE COMES TO LOVE MARTHA AND THIS LEADS HIM TO COMMIT ONE INDISCRETION. THEREBY HANGS A TALE..............

2nd July 1845

.................I will cheer myself up by writing of a most interesting gentleman whose acquaintance I have made within the past few months. We first met under the strangest of circumstances, in late October of last year. Daisy was feeling miserable, and Bessie was complaining about the quality of the main crop potatoes. I recall that it was a breezy autumnal day, and that after a difficult morning spent in the kitchen in the company of two irritable females, I needed some fresh air. I did not feel too bright myself. I decided upon a walk on the mountain, and having dressed up warmly and having pulled on my most comfortable boots, off I went. As I have done a thousand times before, I followed the water pipe from the house up to Ffynnon Brynach, my sacred spring, and there I anointed myself and sought to wash away some of my own irritability. Feeling better, I strode onwards and upwards, and soon I was among the countless tumbled boulders which make up a steep apron beneath the summit crags. I pondered on whether I should go to my cave and enjoy its dark and comfortable silence for a while, but I thought better of it and decided to climb to the summit instead. So up I climbed, puffing and panting a great deal more than I used to when I was young. But my elation quickly banished my discomfort, and as the view opened up on all sides the air was so clear that I could see the Wicklow Hills of Ireland and the great summits of North Wales. My mood was transformed, and I do believe that when I reached the summit I was singing a little song to myself and gazing into the distance rather than paying attention to what was beneath my feet.

Imagine my surprise when I literally stumbled upon a gentleman who was sitting stock still on the grassy patch adjacent to the highest rock. I think he might have had his eyes closed and his hands resting easily in his lap until I disturbed him so rudely, but I lost my balance and my composure and fell over him before ending up sprawled on the grass in a most undignified fashion.

“Oh my dear lady,” said he, sounding very flustered. “Please forgive me. I had no idea that people were likely to pass this way, and I was in the midst of a deep contemplation..........”

“No no, my fault entirely,” I spluttered, spitting bits of grass out of my mouth. “I really must look where I am going in future.”

The gentleman leapt to his feet and helped me up, muttering more apologies and then seeking to brush the grass and the mud off my dress. Then he realised that placing hands upon a total stranger was a considerable impertinence on his part, and he pulled his hands away as if he had touched a fiery furnace, and became even more flustered. “Oh dear me!” he gasped. “I do apologise. Quite unforgivable. Very unfortunate. Most unfortunate indeed!”

Then our eyes met, and no further words were necessary, for we both realised in an instant that our encounter was pure farce and that the rules of etiquette were for a moment entirely irrelevant. I could not resist giggling, and neither could he, and soon the pair of us were roaring with uncontrollable laughter there on the highest peak of the mountain and no doubt disturbing the resident angels in the process. He had to sit down on a rock in order to regain his composure, and so did I. At last he offered me a red kerchief with which to wipe away my tears, and the rules of good behaviour were re-established.

“Now then, Madam,” he grinned. “Here we are, rolling about with gay abandon on the top of a holy mountain in broad daylight, and we have not been introduced. Pray tell me, with whom do I have the pleasure.......?”

I decided that I liked the sound of his voice, which was light and cultured. “Martha Morgan of Plas Ingli, sir,” I replied. “If you look on the south side of the mountain you will see my blessed home, whitewashed and shining in the sun. It is the highest house on the mountainside, hard up against the edge of the common.”

“Of course! It is a great pleasure to meet you, Mistress Martha. Your reputation has gone before you, and I have to say that you are every bit as handsome as I have been led to believe, even with mud upon your left cheek and a piece of grass sticking to your right ear.”

“Sir, you are very forward and very impertinent. I will let your compliments and your insults pass, since you too might look passably handsome were it not for the mud on your trousers and the holes in your shoes. And your name, if you please?”

“Amos Jones from Radnor. I am a minister of religion, and I am here to preach to the unconverted.”

“What, here on top of Carningli?”

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Copyright Brian John 2005