Uncle Griff’s intuitive gift leads to a lonely road on a dark, rainy night.
You seldom found Griffith Lloyd at home in his spooky old Victorian mansion in Langhorne. Usually no one would answer the front door when nephew Arthur Bye arrived. He knew his uncle lived alone. So he’d carefully enter, calling out Griff’s name. Was he OK?
Bye thought the house was extraordinarily gloomy. It was far back from the street, three stories tall with a front veranda and a cupola on the roof. Tall French windows peered out. Inside, a staircase spiraled to the top floor. Seldom used sofas, chairs and tables dominated rooms filled with antiques and cabinets stuffed with heirlooms. Four-poster beds upstairs were never used.
Finding the house vacant, Bye knew there was one other place to check: The stone stable out back. Sure enough, old Griff would be hunched over a worktable crafting some fanciful gizmo. His physical appearance always struck Bye as odd. “He had such bushy eyebrows overhanging his blue eyes, and such great tufts of gray hair sprouting out of his ears and nostrills that I wondered how he could see, hear, or smell. He also had a moustache and beard, but these he kept trimmed, so I didn’t worry about how he could eat.”
Uncle Griff had inherited the looks and the character of his Welsh ancestry. To Bye, he seemed the personification of a mystic elder in the British literary classic “The Mabinogian”. He seemed the real life version of “Vspydaddon Pencaw” whose eyebrows were held up with a forked stick whenever he looked at you.
Griff became a Quaker minister after a mysterious voice called out to him in the forest one day while he was surveying property. Spinning around, he saw no one. But the voice repeated, “Griffith, Griffith, get thee about thy Father’s business.” Serve God. So it was that he became what Bye considered a Quaker mystic minister.
That sense about him came true one night when Bye was driving him home from Quaker Meeting in Fallsington. It was cold, rainy and so dark the carriage lamp barely illuminated the cart path connecting Fallsington to Langhorne 6 miles away. Fortunately, Griff’s horse Jim knew the way. All that was needed was gentle coaxing by Bye holding the reigns.
As the carriage moved along near midnight, Griff grabbed his nephew’s arm. “Stop!” he exclaimed. “Dost thou hear someone call?”
Bye heard nothing but wind in the trees and rain pelting the curtains of the carriage. Griff insisted, “Someone is moaning, right over there to our right. Where are we? Dost though know?”
Bye estimated they were 3 miles from Langhorne in the area of Five Mile Woods. Pointing out the side curtain, his uncle asked, “Is that a road right here?”
“I can’t see anything,” replied his nephew, staring into the dark where even the carriage lamp was useless. Griff grew impatient. “I think we should turn down here. I am sure there is a house. Arthur, turn the horse about.”
Bye brought Jim around and he proceeded down an unseen rutted lane. A quarter-mile ahead the bare form of a light flickered through the raindrops. “Look!” cried Uncle Griff. “There is a house. Someone is in distress.”
Reigning the carriage to a halt outside the house, Bye heard the cries. A woman in great distress. Griff jumped from the carriage and raced inside. Bye followed. Griff disappeared behind a closed door. Moments later, he re-emerged in great anxiety. “Arthur, how far is it to a doctor? Go! Get him!!”
Bye sped through the dark, woke a doctor in Langhorne, waited for him to dress and then both lit out in the carriage, trusting Jim to find the way. Which he did. It took an hour. Bye and the physician hustled inside where they were greeted not by the moans of a woman. It was the cry of a newborn baby. A smiling Uncle Griff had delivered her.
In the years to come, Bye would graduate with a Ph.d from Princeton University and become a successful writer, lecturer and painter. He founded the family’s Byecroft Old Congress farm in Buckingham Valley where he raised his son Ranulph who became a nationally-celebrated artist. The memory of the frightful ride with Uncle Griff never left Bye’s mind. He reminisced late in life, “I am not able to remember why the woman was left alone that night without a husband or any neighboring friend, nor can I explain how Griffith Lloyd heard her cries for help and sensed the road at exactly the spot where he stopped the horse. But, after that night, I have never doubted the visions of early mystics, nor would I doubt those of modern ones, if they still exist.”
This story was drawn from Arthur Edwin Bye’s sketch of his uncle in “Bucks County Tales 1685-1931″ published in 1970 by Correl Press. “The Mabinogion” which reveals the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable was published in 1840 in England. It was re-published as a Penguin Classics paperback in 1976 and is available on Kindle.
Carl LaVO, a retired Courier Times editor, can be reached at [email protected].