Illuminations: An Anthology of Welsh Short Prose

By Meic Stephens | Go to book overview
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Question and Answer

Kate Roberts

In the 'twenties I had a small nephew living in Liverpool who was very fond of listening to stories from anyone with the patience to tell him one. As children will, he would ask questions of the story-teller as he went along, eager to know the fate of the characters in the tale, not wanting to know what would happen to them but what they would say. If you paused for a moment, the question would be on the tip of his tongue, 'And what did he or she say?' And so on, right to the end, and of course there never was an end to the story, because you always had to think up a reply to the question, 'What did he say?' I never once heard him ask, 'What happened next?' For him, what was important was what was said, not what happened.

The boy died in 1925 when he was only eight-and-a-half years old, and after his death they came across some little stories he had written. Although he had never been taught Welsh, except for a little in the Sunday School, and though he had heard only what was spoken in his own home, his Welsh was perfectly good. He had used to spend his summer holidays at Rhosgadfan and it was there all his stories were set. One was about a boy skating on the frozen brook near his grandmother's house, our house. In this story there was a dog with the boy, running at his side. At the bottom end of the brook the ice gave way and the boy went under. '"Bow-wow," said the dog, but he got no answer.' That's how the story ended. The answer was important for bringing the story to an end. It was what proved to him that the boy had been drowned. Someone older than a child would have been content to say merely that the boy had gone under.

I remember an old preacher who came to preach occasionally where we used to live. He was doubtless a godly man, but he was also a very feeble preacher. One Sunday afternoon he had been preaching on 'the best of meats and the finest of wines'. It was too warm an afternoon to pay much attention to such delicacies. The sermon turned out to be as inept as ever, and as we made our way past the deacons' pew on our way out, and the old preacher was coming down the steps of the pulpit, we heard one of the deacons say to him, 'You were pretty good, really': one has to be hypocritical sometimes. And the old saint replied, with the sound of great weeping in his voice, 'Only trying to say something, you know.' I can still hear the sound


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Illuminations: An Anthology of Welsh Short Prose


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