Along some parts of the coast in South Wales the mountains rise abruptly
from the shore, with only a narrow shingle between them and the sea.
High above the coast, however, there are warm, sunny little valleys and
dells among the hills, where sheep can find pasture and a fold; and here
there are many small farmsteads, surrounded by wild rocks and bleak
uplands, where the farmer and his family live with their servants, if
they happen to have any, as they used to do in old times, sitting in the
same kitchen, and taking their meals together as one household.
Miss Priscilla Parry was the last of three leaseholders of one of these
little farms. Her grandfather had enclosed the meadows and the
corn-fields from the open mountain, on condition that he should have a
lease for three lives from the owner of the land. His own and his son's
had been two of the lives, and Priscilla's was the third.
The farm was poor, for the land was hard to cultivate. In every field
there were places where the rocks pierced through the scanty soil, and
stood out, grey and sharp, amid the grass and the ripening corn. The
salt-laden winds and the fogs from the sea swept over them. Miss
Priscilla spent no money in draining or manuring them; for was not the
lease to pass away when she died, and she was nearly sixty years of age
But the sheep and the cows throve wonderfully on the short, sweet
herbage they browsed on the mountains; and her butter and cheese, and
the mutton she sold to the butchers, were known through all the
country. Nobody could produce finer. Every one knew she was saving money
up in her little mountain farmstead, and the money was being carefully
laid by for Rhoda Parry, the niece she had adopted in her infancy and
brought up as her own child.
Miss Priscilla was a spare, hard-featured woman, with a weather-stained
face, and hands as horny as a man's with farm-work. Twice a week she
wore a bonnet and shawl, when she went to market or church. All other
times her head was covered by a cotton hood, which could not be damaged
by rain, snow, or wind; and in bad weather she often went about her farm
with an old sack over her shoulders. Her shoes were as thick and as
heavily nailed as old Nathan's, her head servant, and she strode in and
out of her sheds and stables and pigsties as if she had been a man. It
was said she could get more work done for smaller wages than any farmer
in the country.