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A Widow Woman Post by :Marty_Crawn Category :Short Stories Author :Caradoc Evans Date :October 2011 Read :2864

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A Widow Woman

The Respected Davydd Bern-Davydd spoke in this sort to the people who were assembled at the Meeting for Prayer: "Well-well, know you all the order of the service. Grand prayers pray last. Boys ordinary pray middle, and bad prayers pray first. Boys bach just beginning also come first. Now, then, after I've read a bit from the Book of Speeches and you've sung the hymn I call out, Josi Mali will report."

Bern-Davydd ceased his reading, and while the congregation sang, Josi placed his arms on the sill which is in front of pews and laid his head thereon.

"Josi Mali, man, come to the Big Seat and mouth what you think," said Bern-Davydd.

Josi's mother Mali touched her son, whispering this counsel: "Put to shame the last prayer, indeed now, Josi."

By and by Josi lifted his head and stood on his feet. This is what he said: "Asking was I if I was religious enough to spout in the company of the Respected."

"Out of the necks of young youths we hear pieces that are very sensible," said Bern-Davydd. "Come you, Josi Mali, to the saintly Big Seat."

As Josi moved out of his pew, his thick lips fallen apart and his high cheek bones scarlet, his mother said: "Keep your eyes clapped very close, or hap the prayers will shout that you spoke from a hidden book like an old parson."

So Josi, who in the fields and on his bed had exercised prayer in the manner that one exercises singing, uttered his first petition in Capel Sion. He told the Big Man to pardon the weakness of his words, because the trousers of manhood had not been long upon him; he named those who entered the Tavern and those who ate bread which had been swollen by barm; he congratulated God that Bern-Davydd ruled over Sion.

At what time he was done, Bern-Davydd cried out: "Amen. Solemn, dear me, amen. Piece quite tidy of prayer"; and the men of the Big Seat cried: "Piece quite tidy of prayer."

The quality of Josi's prayers gave much pleasure in Sion, and it was noised abroad even in Morfa, from whence a man journeyed, saying: "Break your hire with your master and be a servant in my farm. Wanting a prayer very bad do we in Capel Salem." Josi immediately asked leave of God to tell Bern-Davydd that which the man from Morfa had said. God gave him leave, wherefore Bern-Davydd, whose spirit waxed hot, answered: "Boy, boy, why for did you not kick the she cat on the backhead?"

Then Josi said to his mother Mali: "A preacher will I be. Go will I at the finish of my servant term to the school for Grammar in Castellybryn."

"Glad am I to hear you talk," said Mali. "Serious pity that my belongings are so few."

"Small is your knowledge of the Speeches," Josi rebuked his mother. "How go they: 'Sell all that you have?' Iss-iss, all, mam fach."

Now Mali lived in Pencoch, which is in the valley about midway between Shop Rhys and the Schoolhouse, and she rented nearly nine acres of the land which is on the hill above Sion. Beyond the furnishings of her two-roomed house, she owned three cows, a heifer, two pigs, and fowls. She fattened her pigs and sold them, and she sold also her heifer; and Josi went to the School of Grammar. Mali labored hard on the land, and she got therefrom all that there was to be got; and whatever that she earned she hid in a hole in the ground. "Handy is little money," she murmured, "to pay for lodgings and clothes preacher, and the old scamps of boys who teach him." She lived on potatoes and buttermilk, and she dressed her land all the time. People came to remark of her: "There's no difference between Mali Pencoch and the mess in her cow-house."

Days, weeks, and months moved slowly; and years sped. Josi passed from the School of Grammar to College Carmarthen, and Mali gave him all the money that she had, and prayed thus: "Big Man bach, terrible would affairs be if I perished before the boy was all right. Let you me keep my strength that Josi becomes as large as Bern-Davydd. Amen."

Even so. Josi had a name among Students' College, and even among ordained rulers of pulpits; and Mali went about her duties joyful and glad; it was as if the Kingdom of the Palace of White Shirts was within her. While at her labor she mumbled praises to the Big Man for His goodness, until an awful thought came to her: "Insulting am I to the Large One bach. Only preachers are holy enough to stand in their pray. Not stop must I now; go on my knees will I in the dark."

She did not kneel on her knees for the stiffness that was in her limbs.

Her joy was increased exceedingly when Josi was called to minister unto Capel Beulah in Carmarthen, and she boasted: "Bigger than Sion is Moriah and of lofts has not the Temple two?"

"Idle is your babbling," one admonished her. "Does a calf feed his mother?"

Josi heard the call. His name grew; men and women spoke his sayings one to another, and Beulah could not contain all the people who would hear his word; and he wrote a letter to his mother: "God has given me to wed Mary Ann, the daughter of Daniel Shop Guildhall. Kill you a pig and salt him and send to me the meat."

All that Josi asked Mali gave, and more; she did not abate in any of her toil for five years, when a disease laid hold on Josi and he died. Mali cleaned her face and her hands in the Big Pistil from which you draw drinking water, and she brought forth her black garments and put them on her; and because of her age she could not weep. The day before that her son was to be buried, she went to the house of her neighbor Sara Eye Glass, and to her she said: "Wench nice, perished is Josi and off away am I. Console his widow fach I must. Tell you me that you will milk my cow."

Sara turned her seeing eye upon Mali. "An old woman very mad you are to go two nines of miles."

"Milk you my cow," said Mali. "And milk you her dry. Butter from me the widow fach shall have. And give ladlings of the hogshead to my pigs and scatter food for my hens."

She tore a baston from a tree, trimmed it and blackened it with blacking, and at noon she set forth to the house of her daughter-in-law; and she carried in a basket butter, two dead fowls, potatoes, carrots, and a white-hearted cabbage, and she came to Josi's house in the darkness which is in the morning, and it was so that she rested on the threshold; and in the bright light Mary Ann opened the door, and was astonished. "Mam-in-law," she said, "there's nasty for you to come like this. Speak what you want. Sitting there is not respectable. You are like an old woman from the country."

"Come am I to sorrow," answered Mali. "Boy all grand was Josi bach. Look at him now will I."

"Talking no sense you are," said Mary Ann. "Why you do not see that the house is full of muster? Will there not be many Respecteds at the funeral?"

"Much preaching shall I say?"

"Indeed, iss. But haste about now and help to prepare food to eat. Slow you are, female."

Presently mourners came to the house, and when each had walked up and gazed upon the features of the dead, and when the singers had sung and the Respecteds had spoken, and while a carpenter turned screws into the coffin, Mary Ann said to Mali: "Clear you the dishes now, and cut bread and spread butter for those who will return after the funeral. After all have been served go you home to Pencoch." She drew a veil over her face and fell to weeping as she followed the six men who carried Josi's coffin to the hearse.

Having finished, Mali took her baston and her empty basket and began her journey. As she passed over Towy Street--the public way which is set with stones--she saw that many people were gathered at the gates of Beulah to witness Mary Ann's loud lamentations at Josi's grave.

Mali stayed a little time; then she went on, for the light was dimming. At the hour she reached Pencoch the mown hay was dry and the people were gathering it together. She cried outside the house of Sara Eye Glass: "Large thanks, Sara fach. Home am I, and like pouring water were the tears. And there's preaching." She milked her cows and fed her pigs and her fowls, and then she stepped up to her bed. The sounds of dawn aroused her. She said to herself: "There's sluggish am I. Dear-dear, rise must I in a haste, for Mary Ann will need butter to feed the baban bach that Josi gave her."


(The end)
Caradoc Evans's short story: Widow Woman

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