In The Mus­tard Fields

This per­cep­tive short story by Ali­son Carter wel­comes you to a brand-new Spe­cial.

The People's Friend Special - - FRONT PAGE -

THE cathe­dral took Gwen’s breath away. She had been to Nor­wich sev­eral times in her twen­tytwo years, but had never stepped in­side the cathe­dral. Her mother and fa­ther were hum­ble peo­ple who con­tented them­selves with their own parish church, its band of mu­si­cians in the gallery and its fee­ble pipe or­gan.

“It’s been good enough for the Eades for two hun­dred years,” her fa­ther told her, “and it’s good enough now.”

Here was a church so vast Gwen feared she would fall over if she fixed her gaze on the ceil­ing. Here were slen­der col­umns so tall that they seemed to climb to heaven.

On the way to the nave the wed­ding guests passed through the clois­ter, and Gwen thought she’d never seen any­thing love­lier.

“She’s com­ing!” Gwen’s sis­ter hissed, stand­ing be­side Gwen in the pew.

Kitty looked past her into the aisle. Cousin Ruth would ap­proach the al­tar shortly with the son of the shoe man­u­fac­turer.

Gwen tried not to look at Kitty’s hat, a friv­o­lous bon­net her young sis­ter had in­sisted upon how­ever of­ten Gwen ad­vised against it. Gwen’s own bon­net was el­e­gant and ap­pro­pri­ate.

She felt this visit to the city was in some way a be­gin­ning. Here, in these au­gust sur­round­ings, among peo­ple from the most suc­cess­ful fam­i­lies of Nor­folk, she might set out upon her life’s path.

Gwen felt she had a very par­tic­u­lar fu­ture ahead of her, one be­yond the cir­cle in which she moved. She loved her fam­ily dearly, but they should know not to hold her back.

The only way re­ally open to a young woman was mar­riage, and here were un­mar­ried men who kept the great wheels of Nor­wich’s econ­omy turn­ing.

Gwen silently thanked God her fa­ther had let his daugh­ters visit Ruth be­fore the wed­ding.

The roads from Caistor St Stephen to the city had been icy and treach­er­ous as the day of travel neared.

“John Hab­ber­ton must go with you,” Mrs Eades de­clared.

“All right,” Kitty agreed. “We don’t need him,” Gwen ob­jected.

“But we adore John!”

“Of course we do – he’s a dar­ling. But he’s dig­ging up fields for his mus­tard, or what­ever he does at this time of year. He hasn’t leisure for three days in Nor­wich. He doesn’t even like the city. No, we can take the coach alone.”

It had been quite a visit – Gwen had seen in­side every shop in the city, learn­ing about what was be­ing worn and with which lo­cal names she should be fa­mil­iar.

And now they were at the wed­ding it­self, with the prospect of a grand break­fast af­ter­wards at the Jarvises’ big house.

Gwen’s cousin Ruth was the daugh­ter of Mr and

Mrs Jarvis of Nor­wich. Mrs

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