Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1038
How beautiful and peaceful the valley looks to Huw Morgan when he is ready to leave it. All the memories of a long lifetime come back to him. Huw’s earliest memories are of his father and brothers when they come home from the mines on Saturday night. There is trouble brewing at the mines. The men talk of unions and organizing, and the owners are angry.
Huw loves his family very much. When he learns that his brother Ivor is to marry, he is sorry to lose his brother. However, from the first moment Huw sees Ivor’s Bronwen, he loves her, and that love for his sister-in-law stays with him all of his life. Another brother, Ianto, marries soon afterward. His wife is a woman from the village, where Ianto goes to live.
Trouble comes at last to the mines. The men in the pits go on strike for twenty-two weeks, but the owners are the stronger because they are not watching their families starve. The men finally go back to work for less money than before. After the first strike, Huw’s father will never again join the men trying to form a union, for he cannot bring himself to lead men out of work. Davy and the other boys, however, are more bitter than ever. When their father orders his sons never to attend another meeting, Davy, Owen, and Gwilym leave home and take a room in a lodging house. Their mother cries all night, but their father will not change his mind. It is a miserable time for six-year-old Huw. When his sister, Angharad, finds that the three boys are living in filth, she goes to the rooming house to take care of them. Their father then relents and allows the boys to come home, but he says that they will be lodgers only, not sons.
After his father becomes superintendent at the mine, Huw hears some of the miners say that his father and Ivor, who agrees with him, might be beaten or even killed by some of the more violent miners. Frightened, he tells his mother what he has heard. One winter night, she and Huw go to the mountain where the miners are meeting, and she tells the men there that she will kill anyone who harms her husband. On the way home, his mother slips on the bank of a little river. Huw, standing in the icy water, supports his mother on the bank until help comes. After that, he remembers nothing until he awakens in his bed, and his father tells him that he saved his mother’s life and the life of his new baby sister. Huw has fever in his legs for almost five years and never leaves his bed during that time.
During his sickness, Bronwen nurses him, and his brothers read to him until he is far beyond his years in learning. While he is in bed, he first meets the new minister, Mr. Gruffydd, who is to become his best friend. Huw’s brother Owen falls in love with Marged Evans. When Marged’s father finds Owen kissing Marged, he says terrible things to the boy, so that Owen will have nothing more to do with Marged. Gwilym marries her, for he always loved her.
Ianto’s wife dies, and he comes home to live. By this time, Huw is in good health once more. He goes to the National School over the mountain but has many fights before he is accepted by the other boys.
Angharad and Iestyn Evans, the son of the mine owner, begin to keep company, but Angharad does not seem to be happy. It is some time before Huw learns that Angharad loves Mr. Gruffydd, but that he cannot take a wife because he is poor. Huw begins to think love causes heartache instead of happiness.
One day, he takes a basket of food to Gwilym’s house, and there he finds Marged completely mad. Thinking he is Owen, she tells him she cannot live without him. Huw runs to find Gwilym. Before he returns with his brother, Marged throws herself into the fire and burns to death. Afterward, Gwilym and Owen go away together, but no one knows where.
Iestyn’s father dies. Soon after, Iestyn and Angharad are married in London. Davy is married before they come home; for the wedding, Huw wears his first long trousers. Bronwen tells him that he is now a man. Shortly afterward, Huw is put out of school for beating the teacher, who made a small child wear around her neck a sign announcing that she is Welsh. Huw goes to work in the pits with his brothers. Owen and Gwilym return home, and all the boys live again in the valley. Owen soon receives a telegram from London about an engine he is trying to perfect, and he and Gwilym leave again. From London, they go to the United States. Soon afterward, Davy goes to London on mine union business.
Iestyn goes to Cape Town on business, and Angharad comes home from London alone. Soon gossip starts because Mr. Gruffydd and Angharad often take carriage rides together. Finally, Angharad leaves the valley and goes to Cape Town. Mr. Gruffydd also leaves the valley.
When Ivor is killed in a cave-in at the mine, Huw’s mother sends Huw to live with Bronwen in her loneliness. Discharged from the mines for striking one of the workmen who made a slurring remark about Angharad and Mr. Gruffydd, Huw becomes a carpenter. Ianto had already left the pits, and only his father and Davy are left in the mines. Davy decides to go to New Zealand. Ianto goes to Germany, where he thinks he can do better in his trade. The family is now scattered.
One day, the workers flood the mines, and Huw’s father is crushed by a cave-in. Huw crawls to his father and stays with him until he dies. Huw’s heart is as empty as his mother’s when he tells her the terrible news. Everyone about whom Huw thought during this reverie is now dead. He walks slowly away from his valley and from his memories.