Quiet Woman – Joyce Janes

William Heathcote ran the most popular ale house in the village.  The inn had passed down through generations of the Heathcote family for over 300 years.
All this shy, hard working man wanted was to run a good establishment, maintain a happy, healthy life and pass his thriving business on to his sons, grandsons and those to follow.
The first time William saw young Ada his heart missed a beat, she was wonderful.  She was everything he wasn’t, outgoing, full of life and funny, he loved her instantly.
It was only after their marriage that William realised the magnitude of what he had done.  Ada was all the things that had first impressed him and more, it was the more that was the problem.
She was loud, her voice shrill it drowned out all others, her behaviour was outrageous and it wasn’t long before William saw that she wasn’t so much outgoing, as bossy, demanding and frankly, at times, she was almost aggressive.
Her dominating ways grated on William.  He wanted her to be happy and went out of his way to make her so, but nothing he did was ever good enough for Ada.  She grumbled, nagged and complained about everything.  He came to the conclusion that she would never be satisfied whatever he did.  It just wasn’t in her nature.  As time passed she got worse and William began to dread the sight of her and worse still dread the sound of her.
All he heard from morning to night was her voice drilling through his head.  His head echoed with the sound of it, fetch the coal, take out those bottles, go get some milk, see to the cows, clean the tables, collect the glasses, empty the cart, it was never ending.  On and on she went, every day the same with her droning voice until William reached a point where he wondered if he still had a mind of his own.  The poor man was being driven demented by his nagging, bossy wife and her endless demands.
Even in her sleep Ada managed to snore so loudly it was as if she was chiding poor William throughout the night.  His head ached with the constant clammer of her voice.
One day, Ada sent him to collect water from the nearby well.  As he bent to pick up the heavy bucket a young man came down the street toward him.
‘I am looking for a bed for the night, do you know where I could go?’ the man asked William.
‘Of course, I run the best ale house in Earl Sterndale you must come and stay with us.’
The young man paid William the agreed fee for his stay and the two of them walked back to the pub.
Ada, of course, wasn’t happy with the amount her husband had charged the lad and immediately demanded more money from the hapless youth.
With nowhere else to go the boy paid up and went into the bar to drown his sorrows.  William looked at his wife and fury bubbled up inside him,  He wasn’t master in his own house, this couldn’t go on, he mustn’t allow it and he wouldn’t.  He looked at his wife, but slowly the anger died only to be replaced with a feeling of despair as he realised he did not have the courage to stand up to her.
William turned away intending to follow the lad into the bar.
‘Don’t you forget to feed the horses, fetch the chickens in and move those barrels before you go drinking.’ she called as she waddled away to relax in her sitting room.
William walked to the yard cursing the woman he once loved, the woman he was beginning to hate with a passion he had never experienced before.
Chores complete he joined the young man in the bar.  One drink led to another and the two of them talked as they consumed tankard after tankard of ale.  William began to relate his sad tale to the visitor.  He told the stranger how he had fallen in love with Ada, the girl of his dreams, and Ada, the woman, who had turned those dreams into a nightmare.
The lad listened quietly, watching as poor William became more and more drunk.  He listened as William told him stories of the toil and hardship he had endured since marrying Ada.  The landlord worked himself into a frenzy as anger and disappointment spilled from his lips.
‘Sometimes I wish she were dead, I would be happier without her,’ he confided.
Eventually William slithered down onto the settle and fell into a deep, drunken sleep.
The young lad felt sorry for this kind man and decided to help him escape his life of nagging and aggravation.
It was late when William woke next morning, his back sore from a night on the hard bench.  He was surprised Ada hadn’t been to wake him, it wasn’t like her to be so lenient.  Normally her voice was the first thing he heard on waking and the last thing he heard before he fell asleep.  She wasn’t downstairs so he assumed she had gone to market.
He bid the stranger goodbye and the lad thanked William for his hospitality.
‘Your troubles will soon be over,’ the boy told him.
William chuckled,  ‘Aye and pigs might fly lad.’ he called as he waved to the receding figure.
By dinner time he had begun to relax, maybe she had decided to stay in the town, leave him be for a day.  He laughed at the thought knowing that would never happen.  By mid afternoon he decided she might be ill and he should go and find her but the silence was glorious.  His head ached from last nights ale, the last thing he wanted to do was attract attention to himself and start the endless screeching of her voice.
That night, still enjoying the blissful silence, he decided to sleep in the bar again.  Why not enjoy another night of peace.
Next morning he knew he must look for Ada.  He searched the ale house, then the village, nothing.
He went into the old abandoned barn and it was there he found her.
Initially he thought his wife was sleeping but as he approached he could see Ada was pale as a ghost and she was not breathing.  She was dead of course.
William looked down on his silent wife and saw a faint red line around her throat, all the way around her throat.  Slowly he put out his hand and touched the icy face.  As his finger brushed her cheek the head moved slightly then came right off and rolled across the dusty floor.  As it moved Ada’s eyes flickered open and her cold stare settled on William.  Her lips began to move, it was as if Ada was talking, but not a sound came out.  William jumped back in shock as the body of his dead wife began to rise from the floor.
In the days that followed William realised he missed Ada and was lost without her telling him what to do and, too late, he realised that he had loved his wife.
Ada?  She followed William everywhere, day and night, carrying her head, her lips constantly moving, eyes fixed on her husband, watching him.
Ada finally was the Quiet Woman.


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