Vernon arrived back from his shift down South Crofty with a spring in his step.Today had been a good day as a particularly productive seam had been newly excavated,leaving his men with hope of secure work for the forthcoming future.As mining,the price of Tin,and the environment under ground,always seamed a constant worry,it was a welcome release to him.He had even thought about joining the men at the Inn on the way up from the mine-just to show solidarity,of course-but had thought better of it.
Vernon went around to the back entrance of the cottage as usual,expecting to find Morwena with his tea ready and waiting.He was hungry and was looking forward to his evening meal.Normally,the smell of home cooking seaped through the back door ,wafting down the garden,and the aromas were just to die for.As he approached the entrance,he didn’t smell anythIng,in fact,all was extremely quiet.He opened the door,surveying the scene as it were.Although the house wasn’t intidy,it was clear that she had left it in a hurry,as if she had just gone off .That atmosphere that he hoped to continue from his day down the mine,was now replaced by a lifeless void.Now,Vernon witnessed the stark reality that Morwena wasn’t there.He looked at the empty chairs and tables of their cottage,their home,their nest as it were.His mind froze and he wasn’t able to process what had happened.For that sound bite time as it were,he wasn’t in his body,but was observing someone else,another Vernon,not him,not the Vernon Penpriase who had had the best shift in years.
As if to jolt himself to reason,he went upstairs ,just in case Morwena had taken to her bed,but really in the vain hope that it had all been a bad dream.At the top of the stairs ,on the small landing,he ventured into their room.Finding it empty,finding it lifeless,limbness and without purpose,he tried to bring himself to some sort of composure.On the side of his bed,his bible was opened where Morwena had read to him the previous night.He recalled the softness of her voice,the texture of her timbre and how it contrasted so very much with the constant noise down the mind.He could still hear her enunciating those words from the sermon on the mount and how she read it in such a way so as to make it live for him.For a mans man,Vernon felt a pit in his stomach,a feeling of change,of a break,and emotional hiatus .He felt destitute,left,emotionally abandoned.
Catchng his breathe,he ran downstairs,frantically trying to find any evidence in the form of a letter or some such clue as to her whereabouts.He looked around their small kitchen ,where their range was-it was cold,and it had been let out-but nothing,nothing to explain ,nothing.He was just about to rush up to Gwen Polmounter to ask her if she had seen Morwena,when he looked at the picture on the front page of the Cornishman newspaper.There,emblazoned across the front,was the scene of a March of seven women voting in support of Miss Pankhurst and the woman’s suffrage movement,and Vernon knew that Morwena would have gone to Penzance to meet them.He couldn’t really process what he was feeling ,as his thought went from anger at her to deep concern for her welfare.
it was only a gut feeling,as he really didn’t know if she was at Penzance at all.His composure restored,he decided to enquirer as to Miss Graham,the librarian,and distributed of leaflets about the woman’s suffrage movement in their village.He knew where she lived,and as it wasn’t yet dark,he made haste towards her house.Her home was across common land and partially enclosed.This house had been in the Graham family for generations,and had been left to her when her parents had died.Vernon ,along with so many of the villagers,had always wondered why she hadn’t married,but he respected Miss Graham as a woman of letters,and didn’t dare openily question her about it.
it was with a certain sense of anxiety that he knocked her door,like the fearful way he knocked Bill Penhaligon’s door that day,and he remembered how Morwena had taken charge of the situation,and how she was never fearful.In that moment,he ached for Morwena to be there,he was now quite desperate.You see,underneath that muscle bound miner exterior,he was quite weak ,in fact,almost childish.He was thinking of himself,just how would he cope without her,without his rock?
For what appeared to be an age,he waited for Miss Graham to answer.When she did,she addressed him politely but without any deference to his manliness,and this uneased Vernon.As his words,just like when he talked to Bill,came out wrong and lacked any conviction,he found himself almost tongue tied.This observation of the gruff miner who,on the outseide,appears to have so much strength,is quickly dissipated when confronted with a new form of communication,that of a conversation,Vernon knew it too,making an attempt to try to look at Miss Graham,,but all the time,being paralysed by a fear of expression.When finally he was able to get his words out,Miss Graham,realising that he was in a state of shock,escorted him in to her kitchen,sat him down ,and proceeded to explain what she knew of Morwena and her whereabouts.
Miss Graham talked of Morwena and her bravery,her plight as a woman of conviction,as a person who needed to show her support for the women on the march.As she spoke,Vernon because griped by her dialogue,her manner of education,and her absolute respect for his wife.All along ,he had felt that people were looking down on him,and the ape praise family because of Morwena and her morose ,overly sad insistence on mourning for months on end.Now,as he listened to Miss Graham,he felt a different calm,a feeling of pride that someone like Miss Graham could hold his wife in such high esteem.He didn’t understand the woman’s suffrage movement,but he knew that Emily Davison had given her life for it,and he knew that Miss Pankhurst was Morwena’s idol,so somehow he got caught up with it.
Miss Graham explained that Morwena had gone to Penzance to support the marchers,and that she had had to be clandestine about her activities in case there were arrests and if Vernon had known he could be implicated by the police.Morwena had,you see,known that Vernon would ,if he had known,come with her to protect her in his mind,but Morwena knew his emotional weaknesses.As the writer begs leave to state that women are often stronger than me folk,this isn’t a complete surprise.
As Vernon was given the complete picture,he asked if other women knew in the village,and then the penny dropped.You see,Cornish working class women were not,on the whole militant,but they were in sympathy with Miss Pankhurst and her movement and Miss Graham,although a local leader,assured Vernon that there were many in the village,miner’s wife’s who were in total support of the movement.
As Vernon sat,drinking the cup of tea,and partaking of cake,he began to realise just how stupid he had been.He began to ,by degrees,understand how Morwena was forging a better life for Cornish women,and a life where equal rights might ,one day,not be a pipe dream,but a reality.