chapter two: Mary’s Quest

Mary’s Quest

Mary, George, Lettice and David, along with all the other labourers’ families lived in their neat little cottages in the Row, and it was in this cottage where Mary’s next brothers were born. John then Richard, just two years apart. Next came Thomas and William – they were not born strong and only lived for three short years each.

The late 1830’s were not kind to the Evans. Mary was the only light that brightened up their lives and gave them hope! She had the way about her! She had indeed been here before!

………”You are needed, your way begins, Look inward, the gateway is open”….

Mary first heard these words on the wind waking her from sleep – the night of the raging storm. When Mary stirred, rain was in the air, but not yet here – just that familiar metal smell and the rushing of the wind through the trees in the woods. She slipped quietly from her bed, her bare feet flinching on hard cold slate, and tip toed to the window. She unlatched the window shutter without a second thought of fear and pushed the window wide. Gazing out she searched for her moon! Was it there? Yes! The moon glided into view from beneath the blackened swollen clouds, and she smiled. She shivered there in the cold waiting for the moon to rise and the rain to begin its rattling on the roof. She did not know where the gateway was waiting and why she was needed, but she knew she was ready.

Seven years old and strong in the way, Mary, was ready!

She shuttered the window and slipped back into her bed as the rain began to lash the house in fury! She must wait for daylight – the signs would be there.

Morning whispered in with the last of the storm clouds painting the reddening sky with streaks of grey. Her family still dreamed on, but Mary was awake. She dressed in her warm breeches, shirt and hooded woollen cloak. This was the beginning of her task, her quest, the beginning of new journey, a destination still yet to know. Mary had grown strong and independent, just like her mother before her, and she was trusted to come and go from the house, into the woods and sometimes beyond. She had timed the round trip from Fountain Row, through the woods, along Dew Street and into the High Street – she could do that in an hour or so. She had been to Treffgarne, many visits to her grandmother, and had timed that journey for two hours including time for tea and a story or more.

She looked now at Lisbet Mary, a mother herself now, still slumbering in her basket near the fireplace. The old scarf had grown grey and prickled now but was perfect for the latest new brood of kittens beneath the sleeping cat. Mary knelt down beside the basket and ran her fingers over the fur of the little tribe. The cat opened her eyes and began kneading the scarf in that contented way, purring all the while. Mary then knew what her quest was about, or who?

Memories of another black day came flooding in unbidden, as Mary set about gathering what she would need for her journey. She remembered the words bellowed by Lord Magistrate Hugh Owen Gwynne in the Guildhall on 13 June 1837.

“Elizabeth Mary Evans you are hereby charged and proven of witchcraft visited on the good people of Treffgarne. From here you be taken to the Castle deep – no light for your nights in prison save that of the moon, no warmth for your solace save that of the sun. Your head be shaved, your feet be shackled, and may God have mercy on your soul!”

Mary had been in the hall that Friday, clutching her mother’s skirts and peering at the crowds of Treffgarners, Prendergast and St Mary folk milling and glowering at them. As they heard the verdict the crowds cheered and jeered loudly. Fingers pointing and hands covering mouths whispering; tears from her parents and cries of Mercy, Mercy – her final memory of that day. There was no mercy that day for Eizabeth Mary and no joy for her family. All in shock!

“No quarter given. No evidence presented. Just bitter unjust accusations based on ignorance. All she had tried to do was save them from their own black hearts – shine a light where none had shone before – her last act bringing their wrath. Unfair. Not true.” she heard her mother repeating. “What last act? What was her crime? Why are they taking Grandmama away?” Mary asked her mother, desperately trying to understand. She knew only that she would be lost without her. “I will find her when I am big, Mama!” And she wrapped her arms round her mother’s neck, breathing in her pain and sorrow.

Three years had passed since that day! Lettice still grieved for the loss of her mother, not allowed to visit nor send her anything to ease her punishment. A bitter time only brightened by the birth of her two sons John and Richard, just two years apart. Playmates for George; two more littl’ns for Mary to care for. Three long years – avoiding the people – the ‘good people of Treffgarne’, no, the blackhearts of Treffgarne! Blackness and sorrow she meted out on those she knew; her mother’s neighbours, no her mother’s jailers.

Mary knew only that she should stay away from Treffgarne, she did not know of her mother’s bitter vengeance. She did not understand why the crops turned black, or why the milk from their cows became sour or why her grandmother was not there to show her the way! That was then!

Now on this grey morning Mary thought of her brothers now sleeping in the big room, and her parents in their own room and of her grandmother languishing in her prison den. Mary was strong now, strong in the way and at the age of seven, shining and sure, she was indeed ready.

The cat glanced up just the once – as Mary gathered her rucksack, crossed the dimly lit room and clambered out of the window and gently landed in the soft earth of the garden below.