© 2004 Charmbrights. All rights reserved.
From an idea by MsLinnet
The author has asserted moral rights under sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance between any of the characters depicted herein and any real person, living or dead is wholly a matter of Nature imitating Art.
The eighteen wheeler was travelling at sixty miles an hour round a blind bend when it hit the car Nancy Young was driving. She never stood a chance. Her husband and her daughter, Martha, were devastated by her death, and Elias hardly noticed that the compensation paid by the owners of the lorry was enough that he never needed to work again.
For Elias he worst part of the grief was the local widows, and a few would be divorcées, who clustered round him, offering to console him for his loss. Some of them were extremely persistent and rather blatant in their offers. He thought he never wanted to see an accidentally revealed breast again.
Martha's friends' reaction was different; they shunned her, as though losing a parent might be a transmissible disease. Only a couple of the boys still wanted to date her, but they also assumed that with her mother gone her knickers would come off much more easily than before. She had no time for them at all; she had given up all idea of university and decided she would stay at home and look after her father until he no longer needed her.
Six months after Nancy's death, it was a television programme that first brought Philipstown to their notice. The presenter was sneering about a village where few people had television, where nobody drank, where there was no crime to speak of, and where the children were well behaved. It seemed that the wonderful advantages of modern civilisation, like AIDS and drugs and muggings and graffiti had been denied to this village, and the presenter though they were worse off because of it.
Martha turned to her father and said, "Daddy, I wish we lived in a place like that."
Nothing more was said at the time, but Elias found himself thinking more and more about the real possibility of getting away from their old house, where there were so many memories, all of which still hurt every time he was reminded of his loss. Soon after Christmas they decided to go and look at this village where everything was old fashioned and simple. Maps were consulted and routes planned; it was a full day's drive, so they left at six in the morning.
About five o'clock the same afternoon, stopping outside what seemed to be the only hotel in Philipstown, Elias said to Martha, "You stay here in the car. I'll see if there are any rooms to let."
Inside the hotel, he was welcomed warmly and shown two excellent rooms, adjoining each other, but each with its own bathroom. Evidently there was not much demand for accommodation here in January, but their custom was welcomed. After settling in, they came downstairs to find that there was no bar in the building.
"You won't find a bar here, we don't have a liquor licence," said the receptionist, a bright looking girl with shoulder length fair hair but wearing no make up, "but I can do you coffee, or herb tea, and sandwiches if you wish. Dinner isn't until seven thirty."
"I really would like a beer," said Elias, "Where's the nearest bar?"
"Twelve miles away at Elliottown," came the surprising response, "Philipstown is dry."
"Oh," said Elias in surprise, "I didn't know there were any dry areas in the country nowadays?"
"It isn't illegal to sell alcohol here," the girl explained, "It's just that nobody happens to sell it. Most things round here are like that; either it isn't here or there's only one place to get it."
"What do you mean?" asked Martha.
"Well, there's nowhere to buy furniture, nowhere to buy books, only this hotel, only one clothes shop, only one garage and that's the blacksmith's as well, only one dairy. Oh, and of course there's only one chapel. We all think pretty much alike in this village."
"What do you do for entertainment?" Martha persisted, judging the receptionist to be much her own age.
"We don't have a cinema, nor do most people have TV. We go to church socials most weeks, except Lent and Advent of course, and I sing in the choir there, but that's only to mid-summer. I shall be married then."
"Congratulations. I bet you can't wait?" said Martha.
Evidently this was misinterpreted completely, because the receptionist stared at her and said tartly, "People round here do wait. We don't care to follow what city folk do."
With that the girl disappeared into the office behind reception.
Elias shrugged his shoulders and said, "Oh, dear. Shall we look round the village then?"
They went out on to the street just as someone rode past in a horse drawn vehicle somewhat larger than a trap, pulled by a beautiful pair of greys. In the passenger seats behind the driver were two girls and a boy, all in their late teens and obviously brother and sisters. In fact the two girls looked virtually identical, and the three youngsters were clearly close relatives of the man in early middle age who was driving the horses.
One of the girls waved, and Martha waved back.
Turning to her father, she said, "Well that's one thing the girl was wrong about."
"What do you mean?" asked Elias.
"When she said there was only one of everything. It certainly isn't a one horse town!"
Chuckling, they walked on. There wasn't very far to go.
At the end of the quarter mile long village main street they came upon the chapel. It wasn't very high, but it seemed to cover quite a lot of ground. The notice-board outside informed the casual reader that there were services daily at half past seven in the morning, and extra services on Saturday and Sunday evenings. The organisation whose chapel it was seemed to be called the Church of the Conception Immaculate. As they were looking at the board a tall, thin man who looked quite young until one noticed his balding head came out of the chapel and walked over to them.
"Good evening, and God bless you both," he said in a surprisingly deep voice, "I'm Pastor Benson, but most people call me Benjamin. You must be the couple who have booked in to the hotel. May I welcome you to our little community?"
"News travels fast," remarked Elias and the Pastor nodded, "I'm Elias Young and this is my daughter Martha. We're kind of looking round for somewhere to settle, and someone suggested here might be a good place for honest people."
"Why are you moving from where you were, if you don't mind my asking?"
"My wife died a while back, and we can't seem to get over it as long as we live in the same house. I thought a fresh start might help."
The Pastor nodded his agreement, "That sounds wise to me. If you do decide to settle here, I know you'll be made welcome. What's your profession, sir?"
"I'm a car mechanic, but I can turn my hand to most jobs to do with metal."
"God may have brought you here on purpose," said the Pastor, to Elias's surprise, "The village garage and smithy is getting to be too much for Seth Philips and he has no sons. He's well into his sixties and wants to relax a little before meeting his maker. You should talk to him."
Martha decided she quite liked this Pastor, though she had never been very religious herself.
She asked, "How difficult would it be to find a house?"
The Pastor ignored her completely and continued to talk to Elias, "He lives in the little red painted cottage next to the smithy. You can't miss it."
Then he looked at Martha somewhat sternly, and said, "Children in this community do not interrupt their elders."
Martha retorted, "I'm not a child. I shall be eighteen in three weeks time."
"And are you a virgin?" the Pastor asked.
Both Elias and Martha blushed at such as frank question, but she stammered, "Y-yes I am."
"Children remain children in this community until they marry," the Pastor intoned, "Then they become adults and may join adult conversations. I bid you good day."
He turned and walked back into his chapel, leaving Martha feeling that she had been admonished in no uncertain terms.
They walked back along the village street and at the far end, all of four hundred yards from the chapel was the sign,
Blacksmith & Garage
Leaning on the fence in front of the cottage beside the building was a tall, well-built grey haired man who looked somehow completely at peace with the world.
"Good evening," he said, "You'll be the people staying in the hotel."
"I'm Seth Philips, and this here is my smithy."
"Elias Young, pleased to meet you, and this is my daughter Martha."
"I see you met Pastor Benson."
"Yes," replied Elias, "He said you might be looking for help."
"Well, can you fix the engines of motors?"
"Show me," commanded Seth, leading the way in to the garage.
"What's wrong with it?" asked Elias.
"Sometimes it goes and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it burps like a baby," said Seth, "I never heard the like, but I'm no good with these things. Give me a horse to shoe any time."
"I can turn my hand to that as well," Elias remarked, "Now let's see."
Ten minutes later the car was running sweetly.
"Will she still do that tomorrow?" asked Seth.
.... There is more of this story ...