Illuminations: An Anthology of Welsh Short Prose

By Meic Stephens | Go to book overview

My Last Day in Prison

J. G. Williams

Perhaps those who lived in this cell before me used to feed it, because it comes to the window every day at about dinner-time. I have heard of prisoners making friends with mice, spiders, and all kinds of the most unlikely creatures, and not only with birds from the outside. So I began to save crumbs of food and share them with the grey pigeon at the window, and it's here now, fluttering about, alighting on the sill, and peeping in. There's a little redness in its grey feathers as it settles and presses up against the window-pane, as if it wants to warm itself in this cold weather. It probably can't make out what I'm doing here at this time of day, sitting in my cell like this at mid-morning, instead of being at work in the workshop with the others. It has no means of knowing that I have to stay in my cell this morning, while waiting to see the doctor before my release tomorrow. I shall have to try and bid it farewell somehow or other today. I managed to shake hands with Hooper and Summer this morning in the gully, and said goodbye to them, the only two of the seven who will be staying on in this place after I'm let out.

A feeling of guilt comes over me, and I can't help myself, as I take my leave of them all. I feel that I have no right to be leaving and that from now on my place is here. And though it will be marvellous to see my own clothes again, and to step out through the Main Gate as a free man, something is preventing me from rejoicing as it smoulders away inside me. Many's the time I was unable to understand the words when my father read them: 'It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting . . . Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better . . . The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.' I would take up the Book myself and puzzle over those dreadful words. And I once had the feeling that perhaps Jac Penyrallt had hit the nail on the head when he said light-heartedly with his customary wit, in the middle of a spell of unusually bad weather, 'Well, at least there's one comfort, we'll have fine weather next.'

One of the things irritating me now is the feeling that I haven't really achieved anything worthwhile, that I haven't suffered half

-108-

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Illuminations: An Anthology of Welsh Short Prose
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • The Village School 1
  • Fear of the Sea 7
  • A Windy Night 9
  • The Late Lemuel Parry, Esq., J.P., O.B.E. 12
  • On Drowning a Cat 18
  • The House Across the Way 21
  • Weobley and St. Emilion 25
  • The Man in the Street 28
  • Old Dent 31
  • On Collecting Roads 34
  • 'their Land They Shall Lose' 42
  • The Red Flag 46
  • Strolling Players 50
  • One Sunday Afternoon 57
  • Salem 61
  • A Trip to the Circus 63
  • Thoughts on Coronation Day, 1953 68
  • From the Pulpit 72
  • How to Choose and Treat a Wife 77
  • To the Mountain 83
  • The Imperative Upon Me 88
  • Disenchantment 92
  • The Hiring Fair 94
  • The Man at Chapel House 97
  • Question and Answer 102
  • The Little Llandeilo Boots 105
  • My Last Day in Prison 108
  • A Discovery 118
  • A Land of Romance 121
  • Hi-Ho! 129
  • Ancestors 133
  • While Shaving 138
  • Of Time and Distance 141
  • A Methodist Deacon's Advice 146
  • Of Violets and Bells 148
  • Remembering Mrs Newbould 151
  • Good Morning, Lloyd 156
  • In Modesty and Trembling 162
  • Christmasn in the Valley 166
  • On Stammering 169
  • Butlins 172
  • A Millionaire 176
  • A Scene from Military Life 178
  • An Exile 180
  • The Fox Under Glass 183
  • A Doctor's Medicine 186
  • The Little Huts 189
  • Three Heads 191
  • On Memory 198
  • Uncle John's Boots 202
  • The Fur Coat 207
  • An Holy Kiss 214
  • Notes on Authors and Texts 217
  • Acknowledgements 238
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