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Authors: Iris Gower

Paradise Park

BOOK: Paradise Park
9.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
About the Book

Rhiannon, proud and spirited, is alone in the world after Bull Beynon, her one-time lover, marries sweet young Katie Cullen. Facing destitution, but determined to become respectable, Rhiannon obtains a job as maid to unhappy Jayne Buchan, who takes a liking to the young girl and teaches her ladylike ways. But Jayne's rascally husband Dafydd, once the lover of Llinos Mainwaring, causes Jayne great unhappiness, and eventually she runs away, leaving Rhiannon once more without a job or a home.

In desperation, knowing that little stands between her and a return to her old life, she finds herself at the Paradise Park Hotel. At one time scarcely more than a bawdy house, it has now changed hands and Rhiannon starts working there, gradually helping to transform it from a place of ill-repute to one of the finest hotels in Swansea. The only thing lacking in her life is love, and she fears that she may have to live out her days alone . . .

The triumphant finale to Iris Gower's
sequence, set amongst the romantic clay potteries of South Wales.



About the Book

Title Page


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-one

Chapter Twenty-two

Chapter Twenty-three

Chapter Twenty-four

Chapter Twenty-five

Chapter Twenty-six

Chapter Twenty-seven

Chapter Twenty-eight

Chapter Twenty-nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-one

Chapter Thirty-two

About the Author

Also by Iris Gower


Paradise Park
Iris Gower

To the memory of my beloved husband Tudor,
whose love and support was always
so generously given.


out and as quick as you like – you're not staying here now my brother's dead!' The voice was harsh, and Rhiannon Beynon shivered as she looked at the thin-faced woman standing in the doorway of her bedroom.

She could hardly believe this was happening. Her employer, Mr Cookson, had assured her there would always be a place for her in his house. His sister, it seemed, had other ideas. Rhiannon tried appealing to her. ‘But, Miss Cookson, you can't throw me out into the street – where will I go?'

‘I don't know and what's more I don't care. My brother might have harboured a whore but I will not have your sort living under my roof.' Her lips narrowed into a thin line and her eyes held such scorn that Rhiannon knew there was no point in continuing to plead with her.

Fear clutched at her heart. She wanted to ask for a little more time but before she could frame the words Miss Cookson spoke again. ‘You call yourself Mrs Beynon but that is just an assumed name,' she shook her head in disgust, ‘a name you shamelessly took from a previous lover. I pray that the Good Lord above will protect me from such evil.'

‘Please, Miss Cookson, give me a chance. I've learned to be respectable now, I promise you. I've lived with Mr Cookson for the best part of a year and he was pleased with my work. If you'll trust me, I'll prove to you that I'm a reformed woman.'

Miss Cookson stared at her in icy silence and Rhiannon knew that her words had been in vain. She looked around the room, with its thick curtains and good bedclothes, and tears welled in her eyes. This room was her home now: how could she bear to leave it? ‘Your brother wouldn't have wanted this,' she said, her voice almost a whisper.

Miss Cookson inched a scrap of lace from her sleeve and dabbed her dry eyes with it. ‘My brother was too generous for his own good but now that he has departed this world your life of ease is over. I own this house now and I want you out.'

‘But he said I'd always be provided for – and I was a good servant, anyone will tell you that.'

Miss Cookson sniffed. ‘You were nothing more than a common harlot who happened to keep house for my brother. That's what you were, my lady. I know all about you, so don't think you can pull the wool over my eyes.' She looked down her long nose at Rhiannon. ‘The new maid I employed this morning has just told me you were a camp-follower before my dear misguided brother took you in.'

Rhiannon fell silent. What could she say? Miss Cookson was speaking the truth.

‘And as for remuneration you won't get a penny piece from me. Now shift yourself before I have you thrown out.'

Rhiannon opened her mouth to ask if she could at least stay the night but closed it again quickly: Miss Cookson's expression told her that any request would be flatly refused. ‘I'll pack my things at once.' Rhiannon stood up, suddenly angry, first with Miss Cookson for being so harsh then with herself for having pleaded with the woman.

She dragged open a drawer and took out her neatly folded clothes. She packed quickly, aware that Miss Cookson was standing over her as though worried she might steal something. Rhiannon glanced up at her. ‘I won't rob you of the family silver. If I'd been a thief I'd be a rich woman by now.'

As she fastened her bag Rhiannon felt a deep sense of loss: she had been fond of Mr Cookson, who had been a kindly, considerate employer, and she would miss him.

‘Come along, girl, I haven't got all night.'

Rhiannon straightened and faced Miss Cookson squarely. ‘How could a kindly man like Mr Cookson have a harridan of a sister like you?'


‘You heard, you miserable old hen!' Rhiannon said. ‘No wonder he never asked you to visit him, not even in the last days of his illness. You haven't a compassionate bone in your body!' She moved closer and Miss Cookson backed away nervously. ‘Who sat with him day and night, seeing him through the long dark hours?' Rhiannon resisted the temptation to slap the woman. ‘I did! You should be grateful to me, not throwing me out into the night like this. What are the neighbours going to make of it, do you think?'

Evidently that had not occurred to Miss Cookson because she looked startled. ‘I don't know, I never thought . . . Well, perhaps you could stay here until daylight. I suppose another night here wouldn't do any harm.'

‘You can keep your bed,' Rhiannon said. ‘I wouldn't stay here now if you begged me to.' She knew she was being a fool: in daylight she could look for another job and arrange some cheap lodgings, but who would bother with her in the middle of the night?

Miss Cookson smiled thinly. ‘That settles it for me, then, doesn't it? I'll just inform all who wish to know that when I asked you to stay until morning you refused.' She laughed spitefully. ‘In any case, who would give your sort the time of day? No one respectable, I'll wager.'

‘May God forgive you because I won't.' Rhiannon picked up her bag and pushed past Miss Cookson. ‘Oh, and I shouldn't worry about what the neighbours think of you. Tales of your meanness have travelled before you.'

Miss Cookson looked as if she had swallowed a lemon as she folded her arms across her thin chest. ‘Get out at once, you insolent upstart!'

‘I'm going! I wouldn't stay here another minute. You're a miserable dried-up spinster and I'm not surprised you couldn't get a man.' Rhiannon hurried down the stairs – her bag bumped against her legs, but she was too angry to notice.

Out in the street she looked around her, wondering which direction to take, then began to make her way through town uphill towards the Stryd Fawr. Even at this time of night the high street was thronged with people. She saw several affluent gentlemen in good coats and tall hats step out of a carriage and make for the brightly lit entrance of the Paradise Park Hotel and knew what sort of business they would be conducting in such premises. Prostitutes lurked in doorways, knowing that the time to ply for trade was later when the gentlemen, fortified with a hearty meal and a great deal to drink, would want to round off the evening with a good wench.

Rhiannon paused, and a great sadness washed over her as she saw a young girl, little more than a child, rubbing one bare foot against the other in an attempt to keep warm. That had been the way she had lived once but she would never again sell herself to any man. She squared her shoulders. She must look on tonight as a new beginning. Now, having worked as maidservant to a respected gentleman of the town, she would be more likely to find another position in service. Perhaps with a newcomer who'd never have heard about her past.

‘What you looking at, missus?'

Rhiannon realized that the girl was talking to her. ‘Evening,' she said. ‘Sorry, I didn't mean to stare.'

‘That's all right, then. Now, push off – there's enough of us working the Paradise Park as it is.'

‘I'm not here to do business,' Rhiannon said. ‘I'm just looking for somewhere to stay the night.'

The girl shrugged.

‘Look, why don't you give up this life?' Rhiannon said impulsively. ‘It's no good for you, not in the long run.'

‘Just go away. I don't want no sermons preached to me, thanks.'

‘No, you've got it wrong. I used to do what you're doing and I know what life on the streets is like. Why don't you get out of the trade while you're still young enough to find a decent position somewhere?'

‘Had one once,' the girl said, ‘till the master got 'old of me. Ruined me, he did, and I was thrown out into the street like a stray dog.'

Rhiannon tried again. ‘Something like that happened to me but I had a bit of luck and got out of it.'

‘I won't have no luck.' The girl pushed back her tangled hair. ‘I 'aven't never 'ad any.'

‘Things can change,' Rhiannon said gently, ‘like they did for me.'

‘Well, you had all the luck going, then, didn't you? You 'ad my share as well, by the look of it.' She glanced at Rhiannon's good clothes.

‘I'm Rhiannon Beynon. What's your name?' Rhiannon tried a different tack. ‘And how old are you?'

‘Sal Evans is my name and I'm twelve, though what it's got to do with you I don't know.' She shifted position and rubbed the other foot against her leg.

‘Why don't you come with me?' Rhiannon said. ‘I'll find us somewhere to sleep, and in the morning I'll fit you out with some of my clothes and we'll look for work together.'

Sal was silent for a long time and then she nodded. ‘All right, then. I'm that tired I could sleep for a week.'

Rhiannon led the way along the high street towards the station. Once she had lived there in a rough shack as woman to one of the navvies who had built the railway running into Swansea. It had been a poor enough place but Rhiannon had been happy there; happy because she had been with the man she loved. But that was a long time ago, almost a year. Now her man was married to a respectable girl and lived in a proper house in a nice part of the town.

‘Where the 'ell are we going?' Sal said mournfully. ‘I was tired before I started and now me legs are killing me.'

Rhiannon thought quickly. ‘We'll go to the station,' she said. ‘It's only a little way further up the track. We can sleep there for the night and then tomorrow I'll see what I can do to find us a position in some nice house where we'll have a decent bed and food to put in our bellies.'

‘Sounds too good to be true,' Sal said doubtfully.

Rhiannon took her arm and led her over the rough ground. ‘I'll give you a pair of my boots too. I'll make sure you're all right.'

‘Will you? Why?' Sal asked.

‘Because I was like you once and I know that the older you are the worse it gets.' She stopped for a moment and pointed. ‘Look, there's a light on at the station. Come on, it's not far now.'

Spurred on by the thought of shelter Sal seemed more cheerful. ‘Oh, I could kill for a little lay-down with no man to pester me.'

‘We'll go in the ladies' waiting room and keep warm till the morning,' Rhiannon said.

Inside the small room a pot-bellied stove burned brightly, issuing a comforting warmth. Rhiannon sank down on a bench and sighed with relief. ‘It's not the Mackworth Hotel, Sal, but it will do us until morning.'

Sal lay across the bench and tucked her feet under her skirt. Lying there in the dim light she looked more of a child than ever. Rhiannon felt pity tug at her: she herself had been little more than a child when she lost her virginity to an unscrupulous lodger in the rented house where she had lived with her mother. No wonder Sal had little time for men. Still, there were some good men around and for a time she'd been lucky enough to live with one.

BOOK: Paradise Park
9.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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