Vernon Penpraise ,the mining foreman,the man of integrity,the proud Methodist,the pillar of his community now faced a dilemma:Why didn’t his wife Morwena respect him?This life that had for so many years,appeared straight forward,was now anyth no but that.In fact,it was causing Vernon to question everything that he knew to be right.From the time that he got off his shift,he would try to talk to Morwena,but it was like a veil had come down in front of her,a veil that stopped Morwena from hearing him from accepting that he had rights and needs that weren’t being met in his marriage.
When ,as a child ,he had argued with the kids that he had grown up with,he normally prevailed because he was stronger then them,and his fists could easily crush any opposition.Now,as a respectable member of the tin mining community,he knew that force wasn’t acceptable within his marriage,but he didn’t know how to talk to his wife.He u derstood that she had lost a child,but surely he had too and he had got on with his life as best as he could,so why was Morwena still in black ,still in mourning,still so very cold towards him?
His prayers to the Lord were many and took the form of sentiments that were bordering on a fire within him that he couldn’t distinguish.He knew the Lord as he knew him expected him to love his wife,but he also knew that ,as a married Christian,that they as a couple should “go forth and multiply”.It was so simple to Vernon ,but ,of course,life rarely is that simple,and a ship needs to tack to get the wind,but Vernon was unwilling to do that.As he saw it, Rowena had had time enough to mourn the loss of their child,and now it was time to reunite as a married couple and “be fruitful”.
Throughout his life ,Vernon had always thought that people were somehow laughing at him behind his back.He felt that his taciturn nature ,his Methodist teetotal hatred of drink was secretly looked at as being a sign that he was a cold fish.His gang members were all patrons of the Jolly Pirate in the village,and their passage from a hard shift would very often mean a detour to their favourite watering hole.Now Vernon would often hear his men underground talking about the singing in the Jolly sailing r the night before.One of their favourite tunes was”going up Camborne hill coming down”,and the Cornish Trelawny.These were tunes that Vernon was familiar with ,but the men always stopped singing when Vernon came back from a seam inspection.This left Vernon bereft,isolated,alone,and quite scared and sad about his future.Vernon wished that he could just explain to the men that his beliefs in the Lord didn’t stop him liking music and laughter,but it somehow always fell on def ears.
Of an evening,Vernon would try to busy himself ,trying to forget,while Morwena would sit in the kitchen,either starring into space,or reading her books.Vernon knew that she had always been a really fluent reader and he knew that she had always been really good at sketching.On the one hand,he knew that when she was sketching that she was happy and fulfilled,but on the other,he was resentful of her for not being a good wife.His mother had accused him of being too permissive of her Childish whims ,as she saw it,and Vernon was in a state of total confusion.He wondered what she was thinking about,but he didn’t have the ability to ask her.He knew that ,if push came to shove,that Morwena had been fond of “that artist chap”,but he had hoped that she would have forgotten about him,and his “lazy,daydream ways”.
Before the infant death,Morwena would spend some evenings helping Vernon with his reading and writing,and although Vernon never thanked her ,he really missed her help,and her voice reading the passages from the bible.When Morwena read,she didn’t stumble over the words,and she could pronounce the difficult parts with seeming ease.Vernon had favourite stories that he would demand to be read,like David and Goliath,Moses in the bulrushes,the strength of Samson.Morwena read them to him ,and he soaked up her voice as she read from the holy word.Now,she just sat in the kitchen in a closed off world .She was,to him,the woman with a veil over her head ,enclosed in her world ,and he didn’t know how to enter it.
He knew that Bill Penhaligan had asked for him to visit him to discuss the mine safety issues that were a constant concern.Normally,he would have discussed how to go about this with Morwena as she was very concerned about the safety of the mine,and after the death of her Pa had always wanted to know of any developments that might make any difference underground for the men.Earlier today ,Bill had pressed him as to why he hadn’t been to see him,and he had requested that maybe Vernon and Morwena come to his house for tea on Sunday with Bill,and his wife,Gwen.
Vernon mentioned the invitation to Morwena in the vain hope that she might go with him.He had practised that he should sell the fact that it could mean better working conditions underground .As he broached the subject to Morwena ,and with the most fluent words that he could muster,he was taken aback when Morwena said that she would go,but that she would still wear her mourning gown.Now,as Morwena hadn’t really shown any desire to go out at all since losing her son,this was manna from heaven for Vernon.Although he didn’t say so,but just said:”Sunday it is then”.
As was his Sunday morning custom,Vernon went to church,but without Morwena,who stayed in the cottage with her own thoughts.However,on this day,Vernon was feeling good,as Morwena was going to go with him to Bill and Gwen Penhaligan for tea that day.Vernon took note of the sermon about “having faith the size of a mustard seed”.He felt that the Lord had answered his prayers about Morwena,and that today would be a fresh start for him,a new life ,and he got quite emotional,and the song,the one his men sang in the Jolly Pirate came to mind.
After church ,he spent the afternoon polishing his boots and thinking about what he would say to Bill.As the Penhaligan family had always been looked upon as Cornish gentry,he had almost had an inferiority complex about them,but Morwena had often told him that men and women of all backgrounds should be treated equally.That was foreign to Vernon in oh so many ways,but the words of Morwena,like the words of the bible when she read them always came to his mind.
As 4 o clock arrived,they made their way up the hill,out of the Miners terraces,and into Pengelly where the Penhaligan house was.Vernon was shaking slightly as he took Morwena in his arm,and this giant of a man needed the strength of Samson to walk down the long driveway.He felt that his strength was coming from the Lord,but really ,it was coming from Morwena,who was,by now,leading him ,not to the servants entrance,but to the main ,large panelled oak front door.
As Vernon knocked with a knock of a lawyers clerk rather than a proud tin miner,Morwena stuck the door handle until it almost came off its hinges.Vernon didn’t scold her,but waited for it to be opened.As it did,Bill was his usual articulate eridite self,leaving Vernon to offer up a selection of grunts and jestures of mono syllables.As they sat in their drawing room,Vernon felt that feeling of not:Not knowing what to say,not knowing which k I’ve and fork to use,not knowing wether to talk during tea.He just wasn’t able to communicate. As tea saw an abundance of food that Vernon and Morwena weren’t used too,they both were very conservative in what they consumed.
Following their tea,Gwen Penhaligan invited Morwena into one of their large reception rooms,while Bill and Vernon remained where they were to discuss the thorny problem of the safety of the mine.
Gwen was a lady who enjoyed her life,and was known for her charitable works.Morwena hadn’t really ever noticed her around the village though as they would have always kept to their class.As they entered the room,Morwena was struck by the light from the sun as it came in from the large bay window.Gwen picked up on her reaction by saying that it was her favourite room in the whole house.It was South facing and offered up views out into the sea beyond.As Gwen continued her eulogy,Morwen’s eye was drawn to a painting above the fire side.It was of Newlyn Harbour at high tide,and it showed the fishing fleet waved down after a days catch.As a glance became more and more,she became drawn to it.She soaked up the lines,the oils as it were and she recognised who the artist was.Just then,as if she realised that Morwena wasn’t really listening,Gwen looked at Morwena and said:”It beautiful isn’t it,it’s my pride and joy,and Bill bought it for me when he went to London a couple of months back.”Gwen explained that she had never heard of the artist herself but that he was very up and coming in the art world.Morwena didn’t need for Gwen to read the inscription on the Painting,in fact she didn’t need Gwen to tell her anything about the artist,or the Painting for that matter,fore she knew,she had always known that he,her Pierre would become an artist.
As if to hold back a tear or two,she asked if she could be excused to use the bathroom.Gwen thought that Morwena was still upset about the loss of her son,but Morwena had lost more than a son,much much more.