May Goldworthy; A Sequel to ‘Queen O’ the May.’ Part 1
by Anne Beale
NOTE: This entry is in draft form; it is currently undergoing the VSFP editorial process.
Introductory Note: “May Goldworthy; A Sequel to ‘The Queen O’ the May’” was written by popular Victorian author Anne Beale, and published in The Girl’s Own Paper, a periodical which promoted family duty and proper behavior in middle-class young women. This domestic story fits well with the aims of the Girl’s Own Paper, and also portrays interesting class and cultural dynamics. The heroine of the story grew up in Wales (Beale herself lived in Wales for many years), and May’s love of Wales is evident. May is portrayed as the perfect Victorian lady, kind, sweet, and always ready to sacrifice for others.
This entry was published as the first of four parts:
RETURNED FROM HER TRAVELS.
MORE than a year has passed since we parted with Madeline Goldworthy. We left her at Derwen surrounded by all she loved best; we find her in North Wales filling the important post of prima donna at a large concert, given in aid of the sufferers from a great colliery explosion.1A colliery is a coal mine. Since we saw her last she has spent many months abroad with her father, but her heart has ever been, and still is, in her beloved Wales. As she sits on the broad platform, the centre of observation and attraction, she looks sweet and simple as ever, but so thoroughly a lady that the large assembly before her ask if she can possibly be the young girl whom many of them remembered at the competition at the Crystal Palace. But the wonderful tissue of golden threads that interweave so perplexingly about her head convinces them. She is surrounded by the best musicians, both vocal and instrumental, of the principality—amateurs and professionals—yet she is not nervous. Although she has not sung in public since that first essay with the great Welsh choir, she is neither shy nor perplexed, for she is going to use her talent for the benefit of others, and she has resolved to do her best. Song is as easy as speech to her, and flows from her more readily, so she concentrates her mind on what she is about to do, and when her turn comes, she performs her party easily and without embarrassment. She ignores self, and thinks only of the maimed colliers yet alive, and widows and orphans of the dead.
The music is principally Welsh, so she is in her element, and when the instrumentalists begin with an overture composed of native melodies, she can scarcely keep her seat for enthusiasm. She has not heard such, to her, soul-stirring strains for at least twelve long months, and although she has been in Italy and Germany, and listened and learnt with loving will, she returns to the airs of her childhood with honest affection. And then the harps! the dear harps! How charmed she is to hear them again!
Her first song is “The Rising of the Lark,” and she might almost be the bird itself, so sweet and penetrating is her voice. And while it soars aloft or sinks earthwards, she is thinking of the cause for which her “long-drawn cadences” arise, and ignoring self, touches all hearts. She is applauded, encored, and made to sing again and again. With a simple grace that is singularly her own, she acknowledges the compliments lavished upon her, and before the concert concludes has sung, not only in the native Cymric, but in English, German, and Italian.2Cymric is the Welsh language. Let those who remember the “Queen o’ the May” when she performed her innocent, pantomimic dance at Derwen Fawr, think of her, now she has grown up, as the same artistic and unconscious May as then.3Derwen Fawr is a village in Southern Wales. Let them also greet her as one whose affections are as strong for the old friends and the old scenes as when she dwelt among the mountains of her beloved Derwen.
“Where is she? What has become of her?” sounded in the concert-room when the concert ended.
“She left as soon as she had sung her last song,” replied the conductor. “She has made the concert a great success, and is certainly a charming singer.”
Yes; May had disappeared alone through a private door, concealed from observation by a veil and light cloak. She had hastened down the principal street of the town to a small house in its suburb, where she found her father.
“Dear papa, how have you got on? Have you taken your medicine, and did Mrs. Lewis bring you the beef-tea?” she said, entering a pretty room that looked upon a glorious view of mountains.
“Yes, my darling; I have performed all your orders with miraculous exactitude,” replied Mr. Goldworthy, putting his arm round her as she stooped to kiss him.
He was lying on a sofa, evidently out of health. But his malady was more of the body than of the mind, though touching both. His face was thin and pale, but his eyes were clear and calm, having lost the restless expression they had when May was restored to him.
“What an endless concert it has been!” he said, when May, having taken off her things, busied herself at the tea-table, laid against her return. “I tried to paint a little, but strength failed me; then I made an effort to read, and wanted your opinion of the book. I am sadly selfish, but every minute seems an hour when you are away.”
“Dear papa, I thought it would never come to an end. It would have been over long ago but for the encores. As Mr. Minister says, they wanted enough for their money,” returned May, laughing.
“They encored my darling, doubtless! Why was I not there? Had you much applause? If so, what will great-grandfather say when he reads the papers?”
“I am afraid he will think me very bold. But I could not refuse, dear papa. You said so. And if I have helped to raise money for the explosion fund, I feel almost sure he will forgive my singing in public. My heart was with that sad explosion at Derwen years ago all the time I was singing; and it seems strange that Cousin Meredith should have had a narrow escape of his life in this North Wales explosion, as he had in the South.”
“He is always where duty calls. If I had been like him, I should be a rich man now, instead of a poor one. But I am rich in you, my child.”
“And I in you, dear papa. And we shall have plenty of money when you are able to paint again and I begin to teach.”
This conversation was interrupted by the entrance of May’s old friends, Mrs. Richards and her two unmarried daughters.
“Why did you run away?” they asked, breathlessly. “Such a success, Mr. Goldworthy! You would have been proud could you have been present.”
“Hush!” said the father, with a glance at May. “Take not the bloom from the peach, the blush from the rose. I am glad she did not disappoint you, Mrs. Richards,” he continued. “It was kind of you to come so far out of your way, first to take her to the concert, and now to visit us again.”
“It was kind of you to let her sing, and of May to be so ready, and—to do so well,” said Mrs. Richards.
The fact was, that Mr. Richards and his family had now taken up their abode at their handsome new house on their North Wales property, which was distant about six miles from the county town at which the concert was held. Having heard from Mrs. Everton that May was in London again, they procured her address, and wrote to ask her to come and sing for the benefit of the miners. Her father was much out of health, but roused himself so far as to beg she would not refuse. She, thinking most of him, demurred; but it ended by his declaring that he believed the bracing air of North Wales would restore him to health, and so she gladly acceded to Mrs. Richards’s request. That lady took the small lodgings for them in which they were located, and to which they had come the previous evening; and she has called that same morning to chaperon May to the concert and introduce her to her fellow performers. All arrangements concerning the songs to be sung had been made previously, by letter, and May’s fame as an accomplished vocalist had preceded her, through the instrumentality of Mrs. Richards.
“Will you have some tea?” asked May, doubtfully; for she never forgot the old distinction between the ranks of the inhabitants of the two Derwens.
“I shall be thankful for it, May,” replied Mrs. Richards, “for we shall not get home in time for dinner. You must come and see us at our new house, Mr. Goldworthy. It is even more among the mountains than this.”
May rang for cups, and an elderly Welshwoman appeared, upon whom she looked already as an old friend. Indeed, she longed to throw her arms about her and embrace her for her grandmother’s sake. It was like paradise, she said, to hear her speak in the native language, and she declared it sweeter than Italian, more expressive than French, and as capable of inflection as German. Her father repeated this to Mrs. Richards with an amused air.
“I am so glad she is so patriotic,” said Mrs. Richards. “But I am afraid you do not like Wales, Mr. Goldworthy, or you would not have quitted it so quickly when you last visited us at Derwen.”
“The fact was, that when Meredith left I could not endure the stillness,” returned Mr. Goldworthy. “You may remember that he was suddenly called away to superintend the works elsewhere, and although my darling devoted herself to me and was like a good fairy in that lonely place, I grew so restless, that when Minister came we agreed to travel for the general good. He argued that it would be for my Madeline’s benefit to visit foreign lands, and I covered my own selfishness under that cloak, for I did not wish her altered or improved out of her own sweet self.”
“Dear papa, you forget!” interjected May, colouring.
“I do. We are in the habit of complimenting one another in private, Mrs. Richards, until we quite forget ourselves in public. She thinks me the first of artists; I look on her as the pearl of—everything, in short; and we tell one another so until we quite believe it.”
“Everyone at Derwen was surprised at your leaving so suddenly. When Mr. Morrison came back he would not credit it,” said Mrs. Richards.
“I am afraid I offended them all,” signed Mr. Goldworthy, glancing furtively at May. “We rarely hear from Meredith. Where is he now?”
“In the North of England, I believe. Mr. Richards hopes to settle him in time, but he is so clever and useful, that he has become a kind of general-inspector. His father has taken his place at Derwen, and occupies the house he had.”
“Uncle Laban at Glenpant!” exclaimed May. “Cousin Meredith in England! How strange it seems. Great-grandfather says his sight is bad, and writes but seldom. He has not told us this.”
“It has only just happened, May, since we came north, and the changes have been so rapid during the last twelve months that I scarcely know where I am myself,” laughed Mrs. Richards.
The events were briefly as follows:—May and her father only remained a few weeks at Meredith’s house. They were cheerful and happy so long as he was with them, and passed their days sketching and visiting their friends and their evenings in his pleasant company. But when he was suddenly called away, May soon became aware that her father’s spirits sank, and symptoms of his old depression returned. She wrote to her friend, Mr. Minister, and spoke to her grandfather about it. The former at once proposed a foreign tour; the latter took her in his arms, blessed her, and bade her ask the Lord for direction and strength.
“It seems as if I could never leave you again, dear great-grandfather,” May had said.
“We must be parted soon in the course of nature, May fach,” he had replied.4Fach is Welsh for “little.” “We will thank our Heavenly Father that we have met again, and thou wilt do they duty by thy earthly one.”
And so, with hasty adieux, ill-suppressed tears, and heartfelt regrets, May again bade farewell to the scenes and friends she loved so dearly, to visit lands of which she had scarcely dreamed.
When Meredith returned, his temper, which was naturally hasty, was roused. He said to his grandfather that he knew Goldworthy was a proud man, and he believed that he was tired of intercourse with his wife’s humbler relatives. Meredith was himself proud and sensitive when he imagined that his superiors by birth slighted him, so he spoke as he felt. Evan had his suspicions, also; born when Goldworthy had taken away his sweet Mary, nurtured during all the intervening years, but crushed down when his son-in-law brought May back to stay amongst her kith and kin. Still, not only he, but all May’s friends, believed, and not quite unnaturally, that her father, who was a gentleman by birth and education, found a residence amongst them unpleasant, and had left hastily accordingly. They made no excuses for the nervous and morbid temperament, for they did not rightly understand it; but they felt aggrieved. There had been an unnatural stiffness in the leave-takings of Aunt ’Lizbeth and the cousins, which May would have failed to comprehend but for her grandmother, who could not restrain the pertinent remark—
“This comes of our Mary’s marrying out of her own station. Once people do go to London, ’tis all over with ’em.”
And when May was far away Evan failed to convince either Peggy or the other members of his large family that she was quite the May of her early days. Even Meredith would have it she was altered just because she and her father had left his hospitable abode so suddenly. He even fancied that they had done so to avoid his seeking a nearer and dearer connection with them; and when his grandfather told him that Mr. Goldworthy had echoed his wishes on that head, he laughed bitterly, and assured the old man that his son-in-law was more ambitious for May than he had been for himself; and as to May, her feelings were purely cousinly; indeed, how should they be otherwise, since she was still but a child?
Old Evan signed, and prayed that all might come right, though he should not live to see it.
But there was undoubtedly an estrangement which May felt rather than understood. She wrote “home,” as she phrased it, regularly. She wrote a long letter to Meredith, at her father’s request, explaining, as best she might, their hasty departure; but she felt that his reply was strained. It pained her sadly, but she did not comment upon it to her father, whose temporary depression demanded cheerfulness in those around him. Neither could she allude to it to Meredith himself, for she thought it possible he might have met with some new “Miss Edith” in his wanderings, and so was preoccupied by her. She could but remember how that she, his little cousin, had been but a childish confidante in those days, but that, being now a woman, he might be more reticent.
“I should love him just as dearly were there a dozen Miss Ediths,” she had said to herself, over and over again, with tears in her eyes.
Nevertheless, she had been absent from Wales more than twelve months, and had felt intuitively that there was some sort of cloud between her beloved country and herself which she could not penetrate. But she had not much time for selfish meditations. Her father, and, for that much, her friend Mr. Minister, were never happy when she was absent from them, and even her letters were written by snatches.
“I supposed Meredith is a rising young man?” asked Mr. Goldworthy of Mrs. Richards; for he was unconscious of this estrangement, and had often thought of those words of old Evan’s, when they were so happy together at the little farm.
“He has risen, Mr. Goldworthy,” replied Mrs. Richards. “He is received everywhere and much considered. His talents and honesty combined have won him the esteem of everybody we know.”
“I am so glad!” exclaimed May, involuntarily.
“And the young ladies are all in love with him because he is so good-looking,” put in Miss Richards.
But May could not reiterate, “I am so glad,” to this information, but only wished she could see him again.
“How did you think great-grandfather was when you left Derwen Fawr, Miss Bertha?” she asked, as if to cover the confusion she felt at the idea of the young ladies admiring Cousin Meredith.
“He seemed just the same as ever, and managed to get to church in the waggonette every Sunday. We always picked him and Peggy up. And Dai Bach is very good to them—almost like you, May. He manages to play the organ, and the vicar and my sister are making a collection to send him to London to have him regularly trained.”
“That is what Mrs. Richards wished to do for me,” said May, with a smile. “Dai Bach is quite taking my place. How can great-grandfather get to church now that you have left Derwen Fawr?”
“Nothing has been changed there yet. My father goes occasionally, and my sister sees to things. The schools and the institute are the difficulty; but your uncle Laban does his best, and when Mr. Morrison is in the neighbourhood he superintends everything; he has such a head for organisation, papa says.”
“What makes my darling look sad?” suddenly interposed Mr. Goldworthy, as May’s expressive face underwent many changes.
“Not sad, dear papa,” replied May, with a radiant smile, rising, and laying her hand on his shoulder. “We were only talking of great-grandfather and the dear old scenes. I am glad, not sad, for Miss Bertha says he is really quite well.”
“We will go there again, some day,” he said, with a sigh.
“Your father promises to come and spend a few days with us, May,” said Mrs. Richards, rising to go, for the carriage was at the door. “You must keep him up to it. He tries to get out of it by saying that you expect Mr. Minister; but you must bring him also; we have plenty of room. We will send for you next Tuesday, if we do not hear to the contrary. Thank you for singing so beautifully. You must bring your music, and your father shall do what he likes, and we will all help to nurse him.”
“Thank you, oh, thank you!” cried May, as Mrs. Richards kissed her affectionately.
She went to the door to see them off. She heard a few words in Welsh from the coachbox, and, looking up, saw an old friend.
“Mr. Gwillem! How do you do? I am so glad to see you again,” she cried, and stretched arm and hand to meet the coachman’s, who had been an important personage in her old world.
“Is that one of my darling’s friends? Then he must also shake hands with me,” said her father, and shook Gwillem’s hand, to the amazement of the bystanders, and, perhaps, slightly to the annoyance of the Misses Richards.
“Now we are alone again we will resume that article on art,” he said, wearily.
“No, dear papa; you must come for a walk with me. I have been all day in the crowded concert-room, and long to wander into the sunset glow. Look at it flushing the mountains and flooding the river!”
“As thou wilt, sweet poetess,” replied her father; and in a few moments their steps were turned westward towards the rapid river that foamed among the mountains.
This story is continued in May Goldworthy; A Sequel to ‘Queen O’ the May.’ Part 2.
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25 March 2021
24 May 2023
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