Con’s vigil


Con Trevithick stood on the cliff path with the pack containing all he had left in the world leaning against his left leg. He stared across the water to where Plymouth squatted like a carbuncle against the clean morning sky. It was an hour past dawn, and he had been waiting, standing stock still and silent, since just before the sun rose. To be honest, he was beginning to think himself on a fool’s errand but he couldn’t quite bring himself to turn his back and begin the long trudge home to Lamorna on his own.

He had never felt quite so alone in his life, especially when he cast his mind back to the heady days before the parliamentarians took over the city. He found it painful to remember a time when it didn’t matter who your father was so long as you kept your nose clean and worked hard. And even more painful to recall the feel of a certain small hand in his as they danced around the Maypole in Stonehouse. Of course, that was back in the days when her father smiled on their courtship. Con stood alone in the early sunlight and tears pricked his eyes as he thought about their betrothal – how he had saved to buy her a little silver ring, and how she had shed tears of joy over that small gift.

But those happy days were long gone. In March, when the city fathers declared for parliament, Cornishmen were driven from the city by bands of marauding dockers. Con had been lucky to escape with a whole skin, leaving before the marauders reached his lodgings with his girl’s father’s words ringing in his ears.
“Go and be damned to you. And you can forget my girl. She weds Peter Sailmaker on her next birthday.”

Con had found work on a farm in St Germans while he waited out the spring and summer. He was a hard worker, and skilled, and he was made aware that he could wed the farmer’s comely daughter and stay on the farm in comfort for the rest of his days, but he would not marry without love. He just waited out his allotted time and kept his head down. Yesterday he had packed his belongings and shaken the kindly farmer’s big hand.

He headed north-east as he had a thing to do before he turned his face to his father’s house and the boats bobbing on the tide in Lamorna Cove. And that was why he was standing on the clifftop watching the city over the border with a mixture of hope and fear in his heart.

It was September and he was here to keep a promise.

It was September, and there was a taste of frost in the morning air. It was September and tomorrow his love was to be the bride of another man. It was September, and Con was waiting to see if other folk kept their promises.

As he watched the water’s edge and the tiny pathway that climbed to where he stood, he began to realise how futile were his hopes. It was past time. His dream was dead.

He picked up his pack and tried to ignore the tears clogging his throat.

He had just set his foot on the path when he caught the sound of something running through the bracken. He turned his head in time to see a small black and tan dog break cover and hurtle towards him. He dropped his pack and bent in time to receive a frantically wagging body in his arms. Finding himself unable to speak he clutched the terrier to his chest and stared in the direction from which it had come.

He didn’t have long to wait. First his keen ears caught the sound of footsteps, and then she was there, coming out of the dark shade with her skirts kilted up to her knees and a bundle under one arm. She smiled and he felt tears of joy run down his cheeks.
“Con,” she said joyfully, “you came, I thought you may not”.
He put the little dog down and took the half dozen steps he needed to gather her to his heart.
“I came, and I was beginning to fear you had not.”
“I missed the landing and had to beach the boat on the undershore. It took me a while.”
He smiled down into her eyes and looked at the bundle she had dropped on the grass at his feet.
“Does that mean you have left your father’s house?”
“It does. Although he won’t know until supper time. By then we shall be long gone.”

Con kissed her just once and she responded by touching a hand to his face.
“Shall we go home then love?” his voice reverberated with joy.
She put her hand in his and nodded. Turning her back on Plymouth she raised her face to the Cornish sky.
“Aye. Home it is.”

And they set their feet on the path together, with their little dog dancing around them on the springy turf.


© jane jago 2017

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