Between two rugged hills, which rose abruptly from the clear, green waters of Cardigan Bay, the Gwendraeth, a noisy little river, found its way from the moors above to the sands which formed the entrance from the sea to the village of Mwntseison.
In the narrow valley, or "cwm," through which the fussy little streamlet ran, the whole village lay. It looked like nothing more than a cluster of white shells left by the storm in a chink of the rocks, the cottages being perched in the most irregular confusion wherever sufficient space could be found between the rocky knolls for a house and garden.
The stream running through the centre of the village was an object of interest and attraction to the whole community, being the common rendezvous for all sorts of domestic operations. On its banks the household washing was carried on, fires being lighted here and there, on which the water was boiled in large brass pans. There was much chattering and laughter, varied sometimes by hymn singing in chorus, so that "washing day" at Mwntseison was a holiday rather than a day of toil.
Here Nance Owen rinsed the laver-weeds preparatory to boiling them down into that questionable delicacy known as "laver-bread."
Here the sheep from the moors above were washed once a year with much calling and shouting and barking of dogs. The barefooted boys and girls paddled and sailed their boats in its clear waters in the summer evenings; and here, when the storms of winter made the little harbour unsafe, the fishing-boats were hauled up together; here, too, the nets were washed; and here every day the willow baskets full of vegetables were brought down to be rinsed before they were flung into the boiling crock of water and oatmeal, which hung from every chimney at the hour of noon, vegetables being the chief ingredients in the appetising "cawl" that spread its aroma through the whole village.
A strong wooden bridge with an iron rail spanned the narrow river, but was seldom used except in winter, a few broad stepping-stones making a more natural mode of communication between the two sides of the valley.
There was nothing like a street in Mwntseison, a rocky, stony road alone passing through it down to the shore, in an independent sort of way, as if disclaiming any connection with the cottages following its course, and, where possible, rather clinging to its sides. Most of the houses were straw thatched; a few had slated roofs, and they looked awkward and bare in their uncongenial attire. The fierce storms, however, which rushed up that narrow cwm in the winter months soon softened any look of rawness which clung to such an innovation as a slate roof!
At the end of the village nearest the sea, and not far from the top of the cliff, stood a large, wooden building, which seemed to attract much of the energy and interest of the place, for in and out of its wide-open doors there was always somebody passing. Within its boarded walls was carried on the thriving business of sail-making, which gave employment and comfort to almost every household in the village. Hard by, in a cleft of the great hillside, stood the house of the master, Hugh Morgan, "Mishteer," as he was called, for he was the owner of more than half of Mwntseison.