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