Mary Wiseman (Short Story)

On some days of the year, on many days of the year, Mary Wiseman would look of her window towards the distant hump of Pen-Y-Gogarth and she would wonder what had become of her first true love. Sometimes, if the weather was amiable, she would open the back door of her cottage and, accompanied by her Shetland Terrier, Chippy, she would descend the narrow and steep concrete steps at the rear of her garden. These led her down to a small but silent cove, strewn with seaweed and hidden from sight between the row of cottages in which she lived and the busy comings and goings of Dickies boatyard. To the rear an old sailing boat nestled, high and dry, in the midst of a leafy tree. It would not leave that spot until the day it collapsed into dust and it would finally be taken away by the winds and the tides.

Chippy would always bound down the steps without a care in the world and he would go speeding off to the shoreline with his little legs skipping along beneath him in a comical fashion. Mary Wiseman would take longer, her walking stick being a lifeline as she shuffled her way down the steps. Eventually she would join Chippy on the shoreline and he would sit at her feet whilst she stared wistfully out across the mudflats and waters of Bae Conwy where, as she did whilst inside, she would face in the direction of Pen-Y-Gogarth and wonder what had become of her love.

It was on the other side of that distant hump, at the end of Llandudno Pier, where she had waved him goodbye and had last set eyes on the man who had first claimed her heart. He had been a tall, strapping boy of nineteen with black hair that curled at the edges beneath his bowler hat and eyes of purest amber. Those eyes told of a rich heritage and a deep, perhaps mystical connection with the land of Eryri. Mary had been a year younger than he and whilst she too could claim that same heritage and deep connection to the land on her father’s side her eyes were, instead, green. The young folk about Bangor where she now lived, a place where she had never revealed her background, would claim that there was witches blood in her because of those eyes.

He had not cared for her eyes. He had told her when they were first introduced during the summer of nineteen thirty four that he thoroughly disliked them. He had liked her though, in her personality and in the way she made him laugh with her many jokes. He abided her eyes because they were only a small part of Mary Wiseman and he made up for not loving them by instead loving the rest of her with all of his heart.

That hadn’t stopped him from leaving in order to seek his fortune, however. There were, he claimed, no prospects for him about Dyffryn Conwy where they had spent their childhood and teenage years and in his view his best option was to sail for Liverpool and apply for a job working the docks or making a living as some sort of merchant. Mary would have accompanied him in a heartbeat but the societal conventions of the time would never allow such a thing to occur. They were unmarried and so any sort of elopement would have brought shame and scandal down upon their families. Mary, if she were to do anything at all, would have to wait for his return.

Indeed, she waited but he never did return. He boarded the steamer bound for Liverpool from the end of Llandudno pier and that was the last Mary Wiseman had ever heard from the man she loved. He had not written, not even a single letter to say that he was well and had found that employment he set out to seek. His family too did not hear from him. Or at least if they did they never informed Mary Wiseman.

She waited for some years, for her first love, and then when the war came she found herself falling for a handsome soldier but, alas, he met his end during a bar room brawl in Paris. Three men came after him in quick succession but all had been rogues and villains. After the third had found himself before the magistrate in Caernarfon Mary swore to herself that she would remain a spinster for the remainder of her days.

But as the years piled on top of one another and Mary became an old lady she began to yearn for her first love, for the man who had sailed away to Liverpool and never returned. She began to stare at Pen-Y-Gogarth and she began to wonder what had become of him. Had he, perhaps, found no employment and become destitute? Had he, like Mary’s second love, met his fate during the war and was now lying in his grave in France or Italy or North Africa? Or had he found a new love, someone whose eyes he could abide? There was no way to tell and whilst Mary had visited Liverpool on many an occasion she had never found any trace of him.

On one particular day Chippy bounded across the stone of the cove in his comical fashion, as he always did, but then he paused. At the spot where Mary always stood was a young man, tall and wearing very fashionable, modern clothing. Chippy pondered about what to do concerning this irregularity and then decided that his best option was to run towards the stranger and bark as loudly as he possibly could. As he did this Mary Wiseman scowled and hurried down the remainder of those steps as fast as her frail legs would allow.
“Chippy,” she called out. “Stop bothering that poor man and come here at once.” Chippy failed to heed her words and instead continued to bark, reaching the stranger and starting to make little leaps in the air, running about him in circles.

To soothe him the man bent down and reached out towards the errant Chippy. Chippy froze for a second before he ceased to bark and moved forwards to sniff the man’s hand. Then he allowed himself to be stroked about the back of the head and he smiled at this with satisfaction.
“There’s a good boy,” the man cooed. “There’s a good boy!” He spoke in a scouse accent and Mary thought nothing of this until she got closer and saw his face. He had not the same amber eyes as her lover but by the remainder of his appearance she finally knew what had become of him…


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