Village Life


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, the 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 thought 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.”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 şişli escort 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 şişli escort bayan 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 are 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 a 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, Seth Philips  Blacksmith   he had certainly never seen the like.  Each had four solid legs and a top like a table, but the top was concave, rather than level.  The legs were adjustable for height from about two feet six to three feet by means of a single screw mechanism.  There were what looked for all the world like police handcuffs, but padded with soft leather on two adjacent corners.  mecidiyeköy escort Later, he added straps to the base that were attached to the two legs which did not have cuffs on then, but about four inches off the ground, placed just over two feet apart.  Finally, padding was added to the concave top, evidently to make it comfortable for whoever was to sit on them.***Early in the morning of the day of the summer solstice the Six, Martha among them, went to the chapel, where the Pastor held a special service just for them and their mothers.  Of course, there were only four mothers, the twins sharing and Nancy having died.  Because of this Hope Elliot had rather taken Martha under her wing and had been her advisor, and had made her special dress.After the Pastor left, they moved into a little side room where the six matching long white gowns hung.  A bowl of home-made lemonade was on the side and each girl was encouraged to drink some.  There was a bathroom attached and each girl bathed, taking special care of her cleanliness, and her pubic hair was shaved off by her mother.  When each girl was clean, she came out of the bathroom and was helped into the floor-length white linen dress, high at the neck and very loose fitting, so that it felt as though the wind could cool every part of the body within it every time the girl moved.  Finally, all were ready and were given another glass of the lemonade.While this was going on, the five fathers and the four Elders of the Church took part in another special service, praying for God’s blessing on the ceremony to come, and consecrating the anointing oil to be used.  Elias was still totally in the dark as to what would happen.  All he knew was that his daughter had made him promise that no matter what happened, or what he saw, he would not disgrace her.Walking in single file from the dressing room, the girls moved into a side room of the chapel which Martha had never seen before.  The stands which had so puzzled Martha’s father were there, ready for use.“Not long now,” said Betsy, who seemed every bit as excited and yet relaxed as Martha felt.What the girls did not know was that the lemonade had been spiked with a liberal dose of alcohol which was beginning to take effect, lowering their inhibitions.  The girls were gently fitted with gags, comfortable enough but efficient in preventing them making any noise.Then each girl was led to one of the stands, picked at random by drawing a numbered disc from a bowl.  There her feet were carefully strapped into the foot rests, holding them two feet apart.  Bending forwards and resting on the cushions, each girl decided how high or low would be most comfortable for her as the supports were adjusted by the mothers.  Then each girl’s arms were cuffed in position wide apart above her head.  Finally, a soft velvet hood was slipped over her head concealing her features and hair.Each gown was then lifted from the back and thrown forward over the wearer’s head, revealing the buttocks and, because the feet were apart, the…

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