George Jones was nineteen, a private in the Coldstream Guards. Like any other solider in His
Majesty's Army, even at the best of times he did not find sentry-go at the Recruit House, as
Wellington Barracks was known in 1804, one of the more attractive of the military duties he was
called upon to perform. But there was no getting out of it. Every man in the regiment had to take
a turn at it some time or other, though to some, among them George, it seemed to come round
more often than it did to others more fortunate.
The trouble with George was that he missed the Welsh valley which he had deserted at the
same time that he had deserted Georonwy Williams, who would so firmly claim that the brief, and
to him disappointing, incident that had happened 'up the mountain' had yet been long enough, so
she insisted, to make a father out of him. If Geronwy had been less like her mother he would
have 'done right by her' while hoping for the best; but he saw the force of his own mother's
remark when he had confided in her that Gwyneth Williams for mother-in-law would make life
hell for any man, while the combination of Geronwy as wife would undoubtedly be the death of
'If you wanted to go up the mountain,' his mother had gone on, 'why didn't you take a
nice sensible girl like Gladys Evans the Butcher? She would have played fair by you, because she
isn't like Geronwy who knows that her chances of getting a husband while her mother continues
in the land of the living are very slim. If anything had happened with Gladys you could have
married her and had a good wife. Sometimes, George Bach, I wonder why the good Lord has
given me such innocents for children. This valley is no Garden of Eden, I tell you, even if all you
young fellows imagine yourselves to be Adam. There are more serpents here than in a hundred
Edens, and they don't walk on their bellies, but upright on their feet-and they're all female.'
'Geronwy says she'll let the whole valley know I took her up the mountain against her
will-dragged her up by the hair, she said-if I don't marry her. But you're right, ma'am, her
ma'am would be the death of me. What shall I do?'
'If it was any other girl, I'd say defy her, stay and brazen it out,' his mother told him.
'But that won't work with Geronwy Williams in league with her mother. They'll have you in the
church before you can say coal-mine. There's only one thing you can do, George-leave the
valley while the going is good; and that means before first-light tomorrow.'
'Leave the valley, ma'am!' The very idea made him go cold all over. 'But, ma'am,
where shall I go?'
'Go to London, like David Rees and Alun Griffiths, and apply for fat George's pence,'
Mrs. Jones advised briskly. 'They've joined the Coldstream Guards, so you'd have friends there.
It's a pity the Welch aren't in London, but you can't have everything. Once you're in the king's
uniform, she can't touch you. But if you stay here, I'll guarantee she's Mrs. George Jones within
'I suppose you're right, ma'am,' her son agreed. 'Oh God! What's me dad going to
'You leave him to me!' his mother promised. 'Say nothing.'
It all happened so suddenly that almost before he knew where he was he was in London
and asking the way to the Recruit House, and before he could say coal-mine, he was donning the
King's uniform, and pocketing the King's pence.
That had all taken place some eight months ago. He had settled down reasonably well,
and was in the process of being transformed into a fair specimen of a fighting-man. He was
happiest when taking orders-which was mostly all that was required of him-and both he and his
NCOs appreciated that fact that he was unlikely for reasons of intellectual quality to rise above
the rank of private.
To begin with he had found London a bewildering place. There were so many people, and
the press of carriages in all the main thoroughfares made a clatter which would have sent the
people of the valley mad. He was also disappointed when he found there were no mountains one
might go up, until David and Alun showed him that mountains were not necessary. But even so,
there were times when he longed for the peace and quiet of the valley, a longing accentuated by a
letter he received from his mother three of four months after his arrival at the Recruit House,
telling him in effect that his flight had been unnecessary, since time had proved that Geronwy
Williams had suffered no effect, either good or ill, from going up the mountain with him.
He was thinking about the valley now, and musing on the immoral designings of females,
as he stood at ease in his box at half-past one in the morning of 3 January, 1804. All was quiet,
and the quietness was made all the more acute by the thick carpet of snow which blanketed the
streets and dwellings of London.
It was piled in long low ridges along the edge of the parade ground, the result of hours of
shoveling by his fellow privates. He supposed that there was some advantage in being on guard
at times like this, since while his companions had labored, he had been snugly asleep in his bunk;
though it would have been good to have a shovel in one's hands again.
Peering surreptitiously round the edge of his box to make certain that no snooping NCO or
orderly officer was making his rounds, George cradled his rifle in the crotch of his left arm and
banged his gloved hands together. It was a cold night, though not so cold as he had known it in
As he tried to increase the feeling in his numbed fingers, he stared across the square at the
tress in the park. Under the silver light of the lately risen moon they looked like sugar-coated
pyramids. 'Pretty, that are,' he muttered half-aloud. 'Ma'am would like to see them.'
The sound of heels being clicked dully two hundred yards on his left brought him to his
duty. Shouldering his rifle, he stepped smartly out of his hut, jerked himself round so that he
faced his left, and counting to himself, with right arm swinging in the approved fashion, he set off
at measured pace to meet the figure he could plainly see approaching him with the same gait.
It was David Rees, who, as he drew nearer, called softly to George, 'Hellish quiet, ain't it,