Together We Stand – Episode 40

Next to the town hall, Gwendolyn Humphries’s rally was in full swing.

She stepped on to the platform and gazed at the small group of supporters.

“I never thought to see this day,” she said, “when I would be standing for election to become a councillor and have a say in how our lives can be improved.

“Too long, women have been forced into the background, told to be invisible and to obey our fathers and husbands.”

“Hear, hear!” a woman’s voice replied.

“It’s high time a woman’s voice was heard on the council,” Gwendolyn continued. “Women are just as practical as men. I’ve helped run my late husband’s business for the past twenty years, and I run it perfectly well on my own now.

“I understand how important it is for business to provide an income for every single one of us. But what is the point of earning an income for it to go on statues and vanity projects for the rich?”

Henry Gillingham shifted his position at the edge of the crowd. He could see the numbers were rapidly increasing, swelled by the intrigued, and one or two of the hostile.

A few of the visitors passing by looked shocked at the sight of a woman speaking in public, but more than one had already stopped to listen.

“Exactly!” an elderly woman called. “Good for you! Time they was told, an’ all.”

Henry grinned, his anxiety relaxing a little. He still couldn’t see this passing without some trouble, but with so many witnesses, no-one would attempt anything truly despicable.

“Evan!” Henry spotted his friend walking towards him. “Where are Tanni and Madeleine? I thought you were with them at the tearooms?”

“Aren’t they here?” Evan frowned at him. “The message said they had decided to leave the developing of the photographs until morning so that they could support my mother from the start.”

Henry shook his head.

“What message? They went to the tearooms as planned.”

On the platform, Gwendolyn was getting into her stride.

“We need practical matters. I am talking about hospitals open to all, not just the rich. And drainage.

“There are still families living in appalling conditions, with one outhouse between ten families or more. Is it any wonder disease is rife? What I am suggesting are practical measures . . .”

Her voice was drowned out by the arrival of a large crowd of men and women emerging in a rush from a side street with the look of meaning business.

Evan dodged as an egg flew over his head. He turned to one of the older men next to him.

“Alert Inspector Williams, will you, Gwyn? Or there will be a riot on our hands.”

“With pleasure, Doctor,” Gwyn replied, eyeing the newcomers with contempt.

“Not even local, half of them. Councillor Banks brought them in from Conwy and Penmaenmawr, and there’s one or two I know from Bangor.

“Must have cost the earth, bringing them all the way up here just to stop a respectable woman from speaking. Disgraceful.”

As Gwyn shot off in the direction of the police station, a flurry of flour and eggs hit the women on the platform.

Several of the men in the crowd had already turned to tackle the intruders, and fists were beginning to fly.

A few of the newcomers staggered into the platform, sending its rickety structure swaying.

“Get off there, you fools!” Evan yelled. “Someone is going to be killed!”

As he and Henry pushed their way through the surging crowd towards the front, the platform finally collapsed and Gwendolyn disappeared from view.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.