From the Children’s Friend, April 1936 –
For the Glory of Ardwyn
By Mabel S. Harmer
Margaret dressed herself with special care one bright spring morning and hurried down to the breakfast table. Usually she waited to be called at least once but today a very great event was taking place and late sleeping was entirely out of the question.
“Is my dress all right, mother?” she asked eagerly as she sat down at the table.
“Your dress looks lovely, my dear,” answered her mother. “But I thought it was your voice that you were being judged on today and not your clothes.”
“So it is, mother,” answered Margaret with a laugh, “only I wanted to look just as nice as possible. it always seems to me that looks do count, although they really shouldn’t, I suppose.”
“Who else is trying out for the solo part today?” asked Mrs. Griffiths.
“There are only two others, Megan Rees and Gwenyth Evans. I am not at all afraid but what I can win over Megan but the other girl has a beautiful voice and I have heard that she has practiced day and night for this contest.”
“Who is this Gwenyth Evans?” inquired Mrs. Griffiths. “I don’t believe that I have met her, have I?”
“No, mother, you probably haven’t. She lives in another part of town and goes to a different school than I do. In fact, she is the daughter of a very poor coal miner, I understand.”
“Poor little thing,” replied her mother. “I suppose that a trip to the great national Eisteddfod would mean a great deal to her. If she were not competing against you, I might almost be tempted to wish that she would win.”
“Oh, she’ll get to go anyway,” answered Margaret lightly. “Her voice is so good that she is sure to get a place in the chorus even if she doesn’t win the solo part. And don’t you dare wish for someone else to win over your own daughter!” and with a playful shake and a kiss, Margaret ran upstairs to put on her wraps.
Margaret was not the only one excited over the contest today for the great National Eisteddfod is one of the biggest events of the year in the lives of the Welsh people. Contestants come from all over the country to find out who has the best choir, who can play the various instruments best and who can write the finest poetry. It is an honor, indeed, to be allowed to take apart.
Margaret was gifted with a very natural sweet voice and she had worked for a long time in an effort to win a solo part with the children’s chorus this year. She had attended the Eisteddfod last year as a listener, but she knew that it would be far more thrilling to go as a participant.
The hall where the contest was to be held was filled with bright-eyed, rosy-cheeked children when Margaret arrived. She was greeted enthusiastically by a number of friends for she was a great favorite with her schoolmates. Many of them took time to whisper their hopes for her success in the contest and Margaret smiled happily back at them.
First the group numbers to be sung without solo parts were practiced carefully and then the Spring Song which included the coveted solo part was sung three different times in order to give each of the girls a trial.
Margaret was not at all nervous and when she had finished she was confident that, whether she won or not, at least she had done her very best. When the tryouts were over, it seemed that everyone waited almost breathless for the director’s decision. It also seemed that he was taking an unnecessarily long time to make up his mind, but nothing could be done about it so they waited with what patience they could.
Finally he said, “About thirty of you will be included in the chorus and I shall read those names before you leave today. After much consideration, I have decided to award the solo part to Miss Gwenyth Evans.”
Margaret was stunned for a minute but she quickly conquered the tears that wanted very much to fall from her eyes and went over to Gwenyth with the heartiest congratulations that she could manage to say.
Gwenyth frankly made no effort to conquer her tears but managed to smile her thanks to Margaret for her good wishes.
Margaret was very much disappointed, of course, at the outcome of the contest but she entered into rehearsals with the chorus with all the enthusiasm of which she was capable and determined to do her best there anyway.
Her mother bought her some pretty new clothes to wear to the city and an especially lovely white dress to wear at Eisteddfod when her chorus should sing.
Practices were being held nearly every evening now, for Mr. Llewellyn, the director, was determined to bring honor to the town of Ardwyn if hard work could do it.
One evening about two weeks before they were to leave for the Eisteddfod, Gwenyth Evans was absent and the director asked Margaret to take her place in the Spring Song. After the practice was over he asked her to remain for a few minutes and when the other children had left he said, “Well, Miss Margaret, it appears that you are to sing the solo after all.”
For the moment Margaret felt only surprise. She had almost forgotten that to sing the solo had been her greatest ambition. When she could collect her thoughts she asked in a shaking voice, “But why, Mr. Llewellyn. What is the matter with Gwenyth?”
“It seems that Gwenyth cannot afford to go,” he said regretfully. “As you may know, her father works in the coal mines and the work has been shut down indefinitely. Our organization here could manage to pay her fare but her mother says that it will be impossible for her to get the necessary clothes in order to appear at the concert. I am genuinely sorry because Gwenyth has an unusual voice and I believe that we would have had a very good chance to win with her. However, my dear,” he concluded with a smile, “you do very well yourself and we will try all the harder to win, won’t we?”
“We certainly will,” promised Margaret as she left for her home.
Try as she would that evening, Margaret could not feel the thrill of happiness that she believed she ought to feel over the change in her fortunes. She could not help thinking of poor little Gwenyth Evans who had worked so hard to attain the same honor and then had lost out through no fault of her own.
The words of the director, “Gwenyth has an unusual voice and I believe that we would have had a very good chance to win with her,” kept going through her mind. Margaret felt that there would not be a great deal of happiness in the contest for her, after all, if they lost because she was singing the part instead of another.
She had not said anything to her mother about the change in plans on her return home in the evening because she was still so confused in her own mind about it that somehow she felt she did not want the congratulations of the family just yet.
The next morning Margaret and her mother lingered at the breakfast table after the rest of the family had gone out. Presently she said very seriously, “Mother, would you think it very ungrateful of me if I gave the new white dress to someone else?”
“Why, Margaret!” exclaimed her mother in surprise. “What on earth do you want to give your dress away for? Don’t you like it?”
“I love it, mother, but – ” and then she poured out the whole story of how Gwenyth was unable to sing because she didn’t have a suitable dress and how Mr. Llewellyn had offered her the part instead but was sure that Gwenyth could do better.
“And do you want to give up your beautiful dress and this chance to sing because of a girl whom you scarcely know?” asked her mother seriously.
Margaret nodded her head. She was too close to tears to speak.
Mrs. Griffiths came over and put her arms around Margaret. “That is my own brave, unselfish girl,” she exclaimed. “We will do just as you wish.”
The day of the great Eisteddfod finally drew near. Margaret and her parents traveled by train to the big city and after much difficulty managed to obtain lodgings in the crowded hotels. The first two days were given over to competition between the choruses composed of older people and the instrumental numbers. Margaret sat in the audience and felt quite sure that she was listening to the most beautiful music on earth, which perhaps she was. Certainly no other people are so famed for their singing as the Welsh are.
The next day the children’s choruses appeared. There were a great many of them and Margaret was as nervous as if she had the entire responsibility for the success of their particular chorus upon her own shoulders. Gwenyth on the other hand was calm and starry-eyed. She looked beautiful in the new dress and even when Margaret saw her march in to the place of honor in the center of the chorus, she was not sorry for what she had done.
The Ardwyn chorus was called at last and the children sang as they had never sung before. When the judges’ decision had finally been given and Margaret knew for a certainty that their chorus had been declared the finest children’s chorus in all Wales, she rushed forward and threw her arms about Gwenyth.
Mr. Llewellyn came up just then and taking a hand of each little girl in his own he said, “My children, I don’t know which of you to thank the most for our success this day, but I am happier than I can say at the outcome.”
“Why, it was Gwenyth, of course,” laughed Margaret, “she did the singing.”
“But I couldn’t have done, if it hadn’t have been for you,” said Gwenyth with tears of gratitude in her eyes.
“Suppose we say that we all helped and that it was for the glory of Ardwyn and let it go at that,” suggested Mr. Llewellyn with a smile. And both little girls were only too happy to agree.