A Time For Silence: Sarah Peterson has discovered the Welsh cottage where her grandparents Gwen and John Owen once lived. She fantasies about how idyllic their life must have been. In reality, back in 1933, when her grandparents married…
‘The trap is waiting,’ says John. His hand is firm on Gwen’s elbow. No time for dawdling.
‘Wait,’ she pleads.
He relinquishes her reluctantly as she hurries across to receive one last kiss from her father.
‘You be good now, girl.’ Henry Lewis laughs. As if there could be the need to say that to his Gwen! He is pushing her away, reassuring her that all is well, that she is doing right in leaving him. Not for the world would he stand between his beloved daughter and the sanctified joy of marriage. A marriage that will free her from their cramped and sorry life in Penbryn.
She kisses his hand. She must not linger. Her husband is waiting.
The monstrous Mrs. George is guarding the gate. ‘Well, John. Mrs. Owen. You know where we are if you need anything. Mind you take care of him, girl.’
‘Indeed yes,’ the Reverend Harries booms. ‘We must keep our finest baritone in full working order.’
Gwen smiles her compliance.
Outside in the road, the pony and trap are waiting. Someone has threaded poppies and blue ribbons into the harness. It is an unexpectedly frivolous touch and no one owns up to it, a gesture not altogether appropriate for this very quiet affair. There is no cake and tea. It would not be seemly, with her father being so infirm, John having so many responsibilities and money being so tight. It is more fitting that they just drive away, newlyweds, to Cwmderwen.
John helps her into the trap, strong hands lifting her slight frame. Children in their Sunday best run around, being called to order by disapproving parents. The little girl who had found courage to smile at Gwen comes forward boldly, thrusting a handful of daisies up at her.
Gwen extends her hand to accept the miniscule gift. ‘It’s very pretty. Thank you.’
But John’s hand reaches across to hers, pulling it back. The child looks into his face, her new-found courage drained, lip quivering. John’s grip tightens on Gwen’s arm, reminding her that all her care lies now with him. Obediently, she sinks back into her seat, heart pattering, eyes forward. The child runs back to her mother.
Panic. Sudden and overwhelming panic. It surges through Gwen. This is all too soon, everything has swept along too fast, she is not ready for this.
What does she want with marriage? She wants her old world back. She wants her old home, her two small rooms over the shop in Penbryn, surrounded by those who love her. She wants her work and her Sunday School duties, her quiet hours at the piano, and the greetings of everyday acquaintances. She was happy there, content with spinsterhood. Children – she could be aunt to Dilys’s brood, wouldn’t that be enough?
She should not be here. She must tell them it’s all a mistake. In the rush, she’s had no time to think.
But truthfully, there has been no rush. This wedding had been the sacred seal on a modestly temperate relationship, devoid of unseemly passion, arranged with calm decorum.
Her Reverend Phillips had set it all in motion, ferrying his pious music lovers from Seion to a mission concert at Pen-y-bont. The harp had been indifferent but the piano was passable and the singing excellent. Especially the baritone.
‘A splendid performance, Mr.Owen. Our community is honoured. And here is an admirer, Miss Lewis of our Seion Chapel. An accomplished musician of some renown in our own small circle, I might add.’
She had been passed to John, almost like a bag of sugar over the counter, and Gwen had not resisted. Why should she? She never nursed impossible dreams of true love and romance. If there was passion in her, it was in the secret response of her viscera to John’s splendid voice. Enough to justify her compliance, and after that she simply succumbed to the absolute taciturn possessiveness with which he marked her out as his. Weekly visits, never rushed, never untimely or improper; Mr. John Owen coming to pay his respects to Miss Lewis.
Until this burst of panic, she has remained spellbound by his stateliness, the righteous dignity of a farmer of unimpeachable standing. Why doubt now? This is her duty, the world approves; she must be calm.
Still the urge rushes through her veins to jump down and run. But it is too late. John clicks. The horse trots forward, the trap sways and Gwen clutches at her hat, her heartbeat thundering in her ears.
There is a muffled comment from someone in the watching crowd, laughter hastily shushed. ‘Mind your tongue now, Huw Morris. No call for that sort of talk. This is a solemn occasion.’
Solemn and irreversible. She breathes deeply, determined to master her nerves. There is no going back.
Thorne Moore was born in Luton, near London and the sludge of the Thames estuary, and now lives in Pembrokeshire on the Atlantic coast, with a lot of hills (small, but we call them mountains), woods (we call them forests) and villages (other people would call them road junctions with a house or two). No cities anywhere near.
She was advised to study law, so she studied history instead, in order to avoid a future career as a lawyer, as she was obviously going to be a writer. Since it took her forty years to get published, she filled in the time working in a library, running a restaurant, teaching family history and making miniature furniture (Pear Tree Miniatures). Her first book, A Time For Silence, was published in 2012. Motherlove followed in 2015, and her third, The Unravelling, will be published July 2016. She lives in a Victorian farmhouse, which occupies the site of a Medieval mansion. Several cats share the house and several woodpeckers share the garden.