May Goldworthy; A Sequel to ‘Queen O’ the May.’ Part 4
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 short 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 fourth of four parts:
THERE was a great stir in and round the Derwen collieries. One after another the men came up from the pit grimy and besooted, went to their homes up the ravine or elsewhere, and emerged from them clean and spruce as soap and water and best clothes could make them. The women and children were also in holiday attire, and it was apparent that some unusual event was to take place.
The collier lads were actually wreathing the old black crane with evergreens, and the young men of the institute were erecting some sort of triumphal arch across the road that led from it to Derwen Fawr, Mr. Richards’s old place. It was autumn, and the fields were ripe for the harvest. The great oaks round about the institute were beginning to change their brilliant green garments for gorgeous red and yellow; the heather and fern-clad mountains were also adorning themselves in purple and crimson; and, to complete the garish picture, scarlet poppies flaunted among the corn by the wayside and in the festal wreathings. These latter were completed as evening approached, and many women and children stood about the grassy road in front of the institute, and on the hillock beneath the wreathed crane at the mouth of the pit. The sun had nearly reached the mountains, and was scattering his golden arrows down upon our world, and kindling into light and warmth the trees, meadows, and brooks of favoured Derwen, as well as the animated, expectant faces of its inhabitants.
“The train is due at six; they will surely be here before seven,” remarked one of the colliers to Dr. George, who was superintending.
“It will be a good time for us, let them come late or early,” said another. “It isn’t like the same place since Richards, Derwen Fawr, and his family went north. Nobody to see to the schools, or the institute, or anything, for the vicar can’t be everywhere.”
“Here they are! here they are!” shouted an advanced picket of young boys, who began to cheer and halloo vigorously as a waggonette was seen coming along the by-road towards the institute.
The cheers were taken up by the colliers, and their wives waved their handkerchiefs and shouted also. The horses seemed inspired by the hurrahs, and drew the carriage so briskly that it was at the institute in no time, and suddenly pulled up underneath the floral arch that spanned the road.
“Let us get down, if you please, Uncle Laban,” said a cheerful voice, and in another minute May and Meredith stood amongst the old friends who had assembled to welcome them.
There was a great shaking of hands and much congratulation, Dr. George being first.
“I am wishing you joy, yes seure, May fach—I ask your pardon, Mrs. Morrison,” said an old woman who hobbled towards May.1Seure means “sure.” “When was you married?”
“Just three weeks ago, Shanno,” replied May, blushing beneath her pretty hat. “And oh, we are so glad to come home. Yes, Derwen is home, Davy,” she added, as a collier thrust out his hand. “What a lovely arch! Look, Meredith. They have put a wreath round the old crane. Do you remember that it was just here where you came to meet me and great-grandfather when first I came to Derwen?”
“I remember, May. And yours was the first sixpence given towards our institute,” returned happy Meredith.
“And it is buried under the foundation-stone,” broke in a bystander. “Three cheers for Morrison, Derwen Fawr, and his wife.”
Again the oaks and hills re-echoed to the hurrahs.
“How kind you all are—how very, very kind!” said May, tears filling her eyes. “How delightful is Wales! How dear the oaks and hills of Derwen!”
“If you will drive on, father, we will follow on foot,” said Meredith to Uncle Laban, who was charioteer, and who had some difficulty in restraining the horses, as well as the fears of ’Lizbeth, his wife, who was located in the waggonette.
They drove on accordingly.
“Where was you married, my dear?” asked old Shanno, with persistent curiosity.
“In London, Shanno,” blushed May, while a score of women pressed round to listen.
“And who was marrying you?” asked one of them.
“Mr. Everton, who married Miss Edith. You remember him. It was he who sent me to great-grandfather when I was a little girl,” said May. “They have been very good to us.”
“Yes seure. All Richards, Derwen Fawr’s family are good Christians. So are all the Morrisons, the Lord be praised,” said a man who was holding Meredith’s hand.
“Thank you, every one, for the beautiful Bible you gave us,” spoke Meredith, at the top of his voice. “We hope to do our best to follow its precepts.”
“Now let us go on, Meredith,” whispered May.
Arm-in-arm went the happy couple, surrounded by the crowd of friends, shouting and hurrahing beneath the rosy hues of approaching sunset. They found another floral arch over the modest gate that protected the drive to Derwen Fawr, and above it, in Welsh, the motto, “Welcome Home.” It seemed very strange to both that this was to be, henceforth, their home. Still Meredith led his beloved bride proudly up the drive, surrounded by their old friends.
“Dear great-grandfather!” exclaimed May, breaking away from him at sight of a little group that stood outside the house awaiting their arrival.
Foremost of this group was old Evan, leaning on his staff, with Peggy on one side and Dai Bach on the other. May’s arms were round Evan in a moment, and the first words she heard on the threshold of her new home were, “God bless you, my children! Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace,” from Evan’s voice, in her beloved Welsh.
“Bless us, there’s pretty you do look, May fach!” was Peggy’s greeting, as they embraced each other.
“It is my turn now, my darling,” came from the porch, and May was in her father’s arms.
“And mine next, for I have made your house mine inn,” sounded from her friend Mr. Minister’s cheery voice.
“I am nowhere,” broke out Meredith, grasping hand after hand, as the happy family party went into the house, amid the cheers of the friends outside.
“We have a tea and meeting at the institute. You must look in by-and-by, Meredith,” said Uncle Laban, and he departed accompanied by Dai Bach.
“Dear papa! dear cousin! I mean——” said May, who was for ever calling her husband, “Cousin Meredith.”
“You mean mio sposo carissimo,” supplied the father, laughing.2Italian for “my darling husband.” “What was my darling about to say?”
“That it is so beautiful that I think it must be fairyland, and Meredith is still the fairy prince,” she replied, looking round at her pretty drawing-room, in which loving hearts and hands had placed all that was attractive and artistic.
“’Tis mighty fine,” cried old Peggy. “And only to think of Mr. Richards putting Meredith in his place, and making him manager of everything—above his own father and grandfather. And you, May fach, to be a grand lady, who came here with nothing but that doll, Terp, and an old wreath.”
“Ah!” sighed Evan, “I don’t forget how I threw them into the fire. But the Lord’s ways are not ours. Praise His holy name.”
“Dear great-grandfather, how good you were to me!” said May, her arm round his neck.
“Come you and take off your things,” said ’Lizbeth. “There’s Leah and little Gwen in the kitchen helping to get supper, and it will be ready directly.”
While May first pays her cousins a visit in the kitchen, then runs from room to room admiring her house, and finally takes off her travelling dress in a charming room overlooking the brook and distant hills, we must give a brief sketch of what happened after Mr. Goldworthy’s serious illness.
That he recovered, his presence at Derwen proclaimed; but his recovery was slow, and he continued very weak after he was pronounced convalescent. His one great desire seemed to be to witness the accomplishment of what he had begun on his sick bed, and to see his child married. Circumstances favoured this desire. His picture sold for even a larger sum than its predecessor, and enabled him to defray all the expenses of his illness and his other liabilities, and to give May a handsome sum for her outfit and start in married life. Mr. Richards had for some time wished Meredith to take possession of Derwen Fawr; but, as a bachelor, he had been averse to so doing. But when he became engaged to May, he spoke to Mr. Richards about it, and it was settled to the general satisfaction that he should at once inhabit the house and prepare it for the reception of his bride. He found the interval between April and the end of September sufficient for this. A portion of Mr. Richards’s furniture remained in the house, and to this was added all that love could imagine and his means allow. But package after package arrived from London, sent by Messrs. Goldworthy and Minister, so that what his hardly-earned savings were insufficient to purchase, their love supplied.
It was arranged, by general entreaty and consent, that Goldworthy should live with his children, having the privilege of joining his friend Minster at Brompton when he liked. In return for this, Minister was to find a country home at Derwen both “in season and out of season,” if so be true hospitality is ever to be found “out of season.” To inaugurate this mutual benefit, the two friends came to Derwen together a few days after the wedding. The said wedding took place from Mr. Minister’s house, and was quiet but pretty. Our May Queen had hawthorn mixed with her bridal wreath by her father’s wish. Her bridesmaid was Mrs. Everton’s wee daughter, a little maiden of five, and she, her mother and father, were the only guests at the modest wedding-breakfast, save Cousin George, who was Meredith’s best man. The bride and bridegroom spent their honeymoon abroad, and positively affirmed, when questioned by Mr. Minister, that no cloud had darkened that happy period. Thus, having filled up the time while May disrobed, we will follow her fortunes a little longer.
Everyone insisted that May should take the place of honour at supper, so she sat, all blushes and smiles, between her father and grandfather, the latter having a special chair provided for him. He was hale still, though he had passed his fourscore years.3A score is twenty, so fourscore means eighty. Meredith had his mother and grandmother on either side of him; and here we may state, once for all, that neither he nor May was ever loth to own as those best and nearest, the less educated, but worthy, relatives by whom they were immediately surrounded.
“Thank God that we have thee and Meredith amongst us for aye,” said old Evan.4“For aye” means forever. “She has been a good child to us all, sir; she will be a good wife,” he added to Goldworthy.
“What she has been to me, and how she nursed me, sir, no tongue shall say,” returned Goldworthy.
“Oh, don’t, if you please!” ejaculated May.
It was a sociable and joyous meal, and after it was over, Meredith whispered to May that he must leave her for a short space to go to the institute.
“May I not go too?” she exclaimed. “Cannot we all go?”
The word passed round, and it was settled that the party should adjourn to the institute. Evan declared that he felt quite young again, and could walk as many miles as the distance was yards. They went accordingly, and were received with cheers. The tea, which had been given by the Morrisons, father and children, was over, and the concert had begun.
“Give up your seat, Dai Bach; we must have May. She will play and sing for us,” circled round.
And May went, quite naturally, to the harmonium and took the place vacated by Dai Bach.5A harmonium is a type of keyboard instrument similar to an organ. Meredith and the rest followed. All were soon absorbed in that absorbing art, music, and bride and bridegroom were soon leading the choirs as of old, while Laban swayed to and fro as leader, old Evan beat time, and Peggy quavered whenever she could.
“Play Mendelssohn’s ‘Wedding March,’ dear May,” whispered Meredith. “You played it when Mr. and Mrs. Everton were married. It was a good beginning. Play it for us.”
“Do,” pleaded Goldworthy, who overheard.
“Is it not vain, dear Meredith—dear papa?” she asked. “It is so exultant.”
But the suggestion somehow got wind, and everyone asked for the Wedding March. Obedient May began it, trembling slightly. But Meredith’s hand was on her shoulder, and her soul rose to the triumphant strain. She played her own epithalamium gloriously, but there was moisture in her eyes as she did so.6An epithalamium is a wedding song or poem. The cheers that succeeded dried them.
The music was followed by speeches from the colliers, all congratulatory, to which Meredith replied from an overflowing heart. The substance of what he said was, that he and his wife would strive to do their duty, God helping them.
Then old Evan rose, and, spreading out his hands, prayed for a blessing on his grandchildren and their assembled friends.
And thus ended the “welcome home.”
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25 March 2021
18 September 2021
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