The first scene takes place at Cardiff Arms Park, where Glamorgan are playing Somerset on July 25th 1890, the next scene takes place at Penllergare House, in the library in July, 1892, and the last scene takes place near the North Lodge in October 1893. Downstage, William Dillwyn Llewelyn, wearing cricketing whites, the son of Sir John Dillwyn Llewelyn, stands motionless. He is in his mid-twenties; someone who presents an aloof image to his contemporaries, but is filled with self-doubt. He rubs the cricket ball against his leg as Joseph Arthur Gibbs, known by his second name of Arthur, the future author of “A Cotswold Village,” enters stage right. Gibbs is the same age as Dillwyn Llewelyn. He looks embarrassed before speaking hesitatingly.
Arthur: What ails you, Bill? You have hardly said a word all morning. I was watching you from the club house. You seemed impervious to everything.
William: The atmosphere was suffocating in there. I couldn’t breathe. So, I came out here for a breath of fresh air.
Arthur: You have been standing on the same spot for the past twenty minutes or so.
William: Was it that long? Much can be said about standing in silence when you hear so little. (He runs his hand nervously through his hair). I had a peculiar thought just before you spoke. I was wondering, some years from now, if anyone would have realized I stood on this spot. Would they have sensed my bitterness, and that it belonged to me?
Arthur: That would imply that the observer was suffering a trauma like your own.
William: You are insightful, my dear Arthur. Hurt never goes away, does it? My sleep is troubled; the dreams I have make little sense to me.
Arthur touches him gently on the arm; William smiles at him.
Arthur: You’re cold.
William: It will pass. I’m sorry I didn’t answer when I heard you calling me just now.
Arthur: That doesn’t matter. As long as you are yourself again.
William: Of course. (He throws the ball into the air; catching it). The others are so used to me now that they hardly miss my presence. This silence is what calms me. (Arthur points to the stands; William looks; a girl is waving). I had completely forgotten Gwladys was coming today.
Arthur: So, this is Miss Price? She must have thought you were deliberately ignoring her as well.
William: Good God, no.
Arthur: She’s been waving to you for quite a while, trying to get your undivided attention. That’s why I came out.
William: She must have caught the milk train like she said she would. I didn’t believe her when she said she’d come to watch the match. I commend her for her wickedness.
Arthur: She is pretty.
William: Yes, she is. Her father will not be pleased with her when he finds out. Lord Dynevor’s only pleasure in life is finding himself with an imaginary illness and milking it for all it’s worth. Once, a maid left a window open in the library and he complained of being feverish when a slight breeze came in. He thought he was going to catch double pneumonia. He filled me with despair.
Arthur: I do not know when you are being serious or not.
William: There is not much decency with the old families in the valley. (Half laugh). Well, Gwladys understands her papa and she, including the rest of her family, indulge him. He is polite to me because of her. They had an argument earlier this week because she was reading Madame Blavatsky’s book. Quite a wieldy tome, in fact. I understand it has caused quite a stir in certain circles.
Arthur: It is in contempt of Christian beliefs and undermines religious tenets.
William: Have you read it?
Arthur: No. I have heard many people speak of it and they are not impressed.
William: (Laughs) At least Blavatsky won’t make the mistake of Bishop Usher by declaring she knew the year and time the world was created. As I understand it, Blavatsky sees the world in a different light to our eminent theologians. There is no grand design or a future for mankind because humanity constantly evolves. That makes sense. What intrigues me are where her ideas come from? Are we put on this earth for a purpose, Arthur, and that nothing can change our destiny? We return to the earth when we die and are no longer men of clay.
Arthur: Death is the great leveller.
William: What of our impetuous actions, their causes, and the aftermath? Are thoughts just electrical impulses in the brain? Does it mean a train of events cannot be avoided?
Arthur: What are you trying to tell me, Bill?
William: Once a course of action is determined, then nothing can stop a man from doing self-harm?
Arthur: Your thoughts are wayward on times. I don’t like to hear you speak like this.
William: What I am speaking of will not pass beyond ourselves. I have this melancholic desire now and again to brood, Arthur. These mischievous thoughts do me no harm. I may contrive a situation that will take in every eventuality.
Arthur: For what purpose?
William: You are intelligent enough to understand my meaning. My solitary existence over the past few months has made me more reflective. I have little else to do except think during the long evenings and nights when I have nothing but my own company.
Arthur: Are you having second thoughts about, Miss Price?
William: Certainly not. She is more at a loose end than I ever was. We will love each other. There is much we have in common. I can do little else but accede to my father’s wishes and marry the girl. Then his beloved Penllergare will survive well into the next century with an heir and numerous spares.
Arthur: Why do you have to be coarse?
William: This is my truth, Arthur. What grieves me is that we will not be able to see so much of each other after my marriage.
Arthur: For goodness sake, it won’t come to that. I can always visit you and the future Mrs Dillwyn Llewelyn to be and we will carry on as always.
William: Of course, we shall, old man. Our engagement party is yet to be announced and I will expect to see you there. I shall do my utmost to be on my best behaviour.
Arthur: You are not making much sense, Bill. You haven’t mentioned the tour to India with Lord Hawke. This fugue will not last. You will see that I am right. (He puts his hand on his shoulder). Well?
William: I have allowed myself to become subjective, Arthur. Nothing mattered to me except what gave me pleasure. (Pauses). I understand so much now about my father and why he chastises himself and me. He has no control over what he says or does because of the drowning of John Michael all those years ago. I can barely remember my brother’s face; it is as if he never existed. He is in the past and forgotten. So much makes sense to me now that I can hardly think clearly. John Michael died, but we are still prisoners, held in abeyance, because of his death. Everything that has occurred since is because of his death. I could never be like my brother. It terrifies me now, as we speak, that there is nothing to show that he ever existed. What gentleness my father had ceased when his eldest son drowned. How could things remain the same, Arthur, when, since that day, his thoughts must have returned to John Michael time and time again and he constantly grieves over what might have been.
Arthur: He still loves you, Bill.
William: I have been a bitter disappointment to him. I could have passed those exams at Oxford if I had put my mind to it. My errant ways have displeased him and he tells me forcefully, in company, on many occasions. What have I got left if he is not proud of me?
Arthur: My father died when I was no more than a boy and I became head of my family.
William: Your family made their fortune in guano!
Arthur: (Laughs) And finance, don’t forget!
William: We have become anachronisms. This is the emptiness of both our existences. There is nothing to say that people will ever know we existed a century from now. What is our life? I never wanted any of this. My hands are soft, effeminate. I have never done a hard day’s work in my life. I would rather be a navvy than a pig who has his snout in every trough.
Arthur: I didn’t realize you felt like this?
William: The mood may yet lift if Glamorgan wins the match. Have you discovered your sanctuary yet?
Arthur: There is an old manor house in the Cotswolds that has taken my fancy. The countryside is much like Penllergare. The inhabitants are industrious and know their business. With my notebook, I will be able to record their gleanings and learn much of the old ways in their stories and folklore.
William: Does this manor house have a name?
Arthur: Ablington. The river Coln runs through the estate and I found some Roman coins in the water. Just by being there I can sense everyone who has trod the same pathways that I have centuries ago. Do you remember the visits we paid to Letherbridge and Morfydd?
William: I used to go to their cottage when I didn’t want to go home after walking through the woods. Not a word would be spoken. The fire would be roaring in the grate and cawl put on the table for me. The two of them never forced me to do anything. I would sit in the rocking chair, next to Morfy, and fall asleep.
Arthur: You parents always knew where you were. It was Letherbridge’s stories about the past and the herbs they used to relieve illnesses that fascinated me. Tansy-tea for aches and pains; marshmallow poultices for wounds as well as bread poultices. The best ones were wood sage and horehound for just about any ailment.
William: I remember, Arthur. They have never left the farmhouse in over forty years. Penllergare is all they know. He told me there is nothing he wants to see after living in the woods and the cries of the birds singing would always awaken him and Morfy in the morning. (Laughs). He fooled you with the story of the bloodstained flagstone, in the passageway, like he did with me. I thought someone had been murdered there, the bloodstain refusing to fade away until the murderer was caught.
Arthur: I did believe him because he was so convincing. Turned out there were rabbits cut on that spot and that was the cause of the blood. I collected many stories from the other tenants. What happens when the stories they tell their families are no longer told? People will move away and there will be new forms of entertainment to beguile them while the stories of centuries ago disappear because people have forgotten to tell them on a winter’s night.
William: You will make certain they are not forgotten, Arthur. You have written them down and they will be published someday.
Arthur: Will people want to read them?
William: Nothing is ever forgotten, Arthur. You have always told me that. I will have to speak with my girl before I go back to the changing rooms.
They stare shyly at each other as the lights come down and come up immediately on.
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