A Dawn of Peace

A Dawn of Peace

A Story by Tom Heeren

A British widow facing the reality of seeing the Armistice take place at 11:00 a.m. on November 11, 1918.`



                                   A Dawn of Peace

© 2015 by Thomas J. Heeren


                Mary Hopkins, recently widowed, was knitting a scarf for one of her best

friend’s son who was at the Front when noise outside interrupted the peace of her study.  Her

heart beat heavily as she put the knitting aside on the sofa and went to the window.  Mary slowly

opened the window and leaned forward to observe her neighbors going out of their houses to find

what was going on.

      Not sure what was going on, Mary closed the window and pulled the curtains shut.  She was overwhelmed with sadness and guilt as she walked to the door.  Bad memories caught Mary’s shaking hands on the door.  A peal of sweat began to appear around the face.  Mary, a beautiful woman of 35 years old with blonde hair arranged in a knot, panted heavily, imagining the worst.

     My God, what’s wrong with me?  Am I imagining things out of the world?  Mary thought as she struggled with the knob, trying to open it.  She pled to God for guidance while looking up to the ceiling.  But it never appeared.  Mary returned to the sofa and broke into tears.  After ten to fifteen minutes, she composed herself as she stood up.  Mary came to the door, getting ready for a new day.

    The passing of Mary’s husband, Alfred, at the Marne battle left the Hopkins family with a great loss.  Two teenaged sons, Peter and Henry and one ten-year-old daughter, Kathleen, helped their mother deal with the tragedy themselves.  Despite the loss of their father and husband, the family avoided poverty through investments made by Alfred who worked as a vice president of a bank.  When the Great War began on 4 August 1914, Alfred decided to join the Army to fight for King and Country.  Two years later, he lost his life due to shrapnel hitting him on the head, causing him to fell to the ground.

      Thinking about the tragic events caused Mary to grieve more.  After a while, she descended down the stairs, humming a popular wartime tune, Keeping the Home Fires Burning.  The front hall was welcomed with numerous bouquets scattered across the room.  Mary stood in the center, contemplating the tranquility.  Mr. Johnston, the butler came out of the backstairs door, carrying a note on a salver.  He bowed to his mistress.

   “Good morning, ma’am,” Mr. Johnston said.  “I have a message from your brother.  He’s at the War Ministry and will be home shortly.  Anything else I can do for you?”

   Mary shook her head and took the message on the salver.  She scanned it briefly and returned it to the salver.  Mary knew that Peter, her younger brother was working at the War Ministry as a counselor to the Minister of War.  He lost his wife, Angela of fifteen years to the dreadful Spanish flu in September 1918.  They had two children, one 18-year-old son attending Oxford and a 22-year-old daughter working as a VAD nurse at the front.  The house had three children and two young adults in all and both Mary and Peter had to master the responsibility of raising them.  Mary sighed and looked at her black dress, still six inches from the floor, representing the new style of late 1918.

     “No, thank you, Johnston,” Mary replied.

     “Very well, ma’am.  May I leave now?”  the butler asked.

    “Of course, you may go.  Thank you very much.”

    The butler bowed and took the cue.  Mary marched to the sitting room to reflect on the strange events outside 152 Eaton Place, her and Peter’s home.  She took one of the magazines from a small table and went to a sofa.  Mary leaned back, flapping through the pages of Women’s Weekly for an article to read.  The clock above the fireplace showed 11:00 a.m. 

    “Johnston, the war is over!  Can you get the servants downstairs to the front door?” Peter’s voice echoed in the front hall.  Mary’s head jerked from the magazine, causing her to be surprised.

   Mary put the magazine away and rose to open the door.  She saw a deliriously happy Peter hug Cook, Paula and Katie, the two housemaids.  Mary was both embarrassed and shocked at the spontaneous sight.  She tiptoed behind Peter, causing the housemaids to curtsey fast before their disapproving mistress.  Johnston was rather restrained in controlling his happiness at the happy news.  He stood near the backstairs door.

    “Sorry about your brother hugging us.  Have you heard the news?” Katie asked nervously.

  “The war’s over, ma’am.  Aren’t you happy for all of us?”

   Mary looked at the happy servants in shell shock and felt light-headed.  Peter sensed that his older sister was near fainting and crossed to help her from fainting.  Mary collapsed before Peter, bursting into tears.

    “My God, Is it true that the war is over?” Mary sobbed as she held Peter’s arms.

     “Yes, sister.  We’re at peace at last.  Do get up and we’ll have champagne to toast to Peace.  Johnston, would you get a bottle of champagne and two goblets for Mrs. Hopkins and me in the library?”

    “Very well, sir,” Johnston said, bowing to the siblings.  He went backstairs, the other servants following him.  With the household staff gone, Peter and Mary looked at each other.

     The siblings walked to the library next door and entered it.  The library has a small table, few chairs and three high bookcases on the right and left walls.  They contained many books from many centuries and few paper book books.  In the center there was a French window with doors leading to the balcony.

      Mary and Peter walked to the table and embraced each other.  Mary looked up from the hug and looked at Peter.

     “Wow, we’re lucky that we survived the Great War and the Spanish flu,” Mary replied as she held her brother tightly.  “As for your wife, we’ll remember her from time to time, right?”

    Peter sadly nodded and released Mary from the embrace.  He walked to the window and opened the doors and looked at the crowds gathering in the square.  Mary joined her grieving brother on the balcony.  She looked at the happy atmosphere, feeling relieved.

    Mary could not believe her eyes.  The War was over now!  She left Peter and walked to the bookcase with her beloved Alfred’s portrait on the fourth shelf.  He was in his official uniform of the Wiltshire Regiment.  She smiled at the portrait, sobbing.

    “Thank God the horrible war is OVER!  Your children and I will have peace at last.  I wish you’d be here to celebrate to celebrate the special occasion with us, my dear.  But you’re in Heaven with God.  I hope you’re proud of our accomplishments,” Mary said as she swiped away her tears.  “There you go.”

   Mary touched the picture with tender love.  She returned to the balcony and looked at the happy crowds.  Mary touched Peter’s arm.

    “Are you okay?” Mary asked gently.

    “I’m fine, thank you.  God, I can’t believe that we men have to return to the jobs and the women to being housewives again.  What about you, my sister?”

      Mary shrugged at the question.

    “I don’t know yet.  Maybe I’ll join a voluntary organization at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children or something like that.  I must occupy myself to help my children and myself.  It’s hard these days, you know.”

     Peter nodded and turned to observe the happy scene.  Mary mouthed “Excuse me” to him and walked inside.  She sighed as she took her family King James Bible out of the right bookcase and put it on a nearby table.

   Trying to find something to help her understand the mystery of Peace, Mary fumbled through the pages to find a suitable scripture that deals with Peace.   She found Romans and scanned its verses until she came to 15:13. 

   Mary read the verse aloud, “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”  She repeated it over and over to make her understand clear.

   Mary smiled to herself as she put the King James Bible away and raised her eyes to God.

   “Thank God for making me aware of Romans 15:13.  Peace is what we should need as we celebrate the end of the Great War.  Praise to God!”



© 2016 Tom Heeren

Author's Note

Tom Heeren
Be honest with me!!!

My Review

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Honestly, nice story. The background is clear and the characters are well-defined, so it's easy to envision what's going on. Ran it through ProWriting Aid on the internet (because I'm not a skilled writer, myself). It said there were a few uses of prepositions as the last word in a couple of sentences ("over" and "on" and "inside." Not many, though.) It said there were 11 adverbs outside of dialogue, mostly the word "heavily," which it suggested removing. There were no overlong sentences. It suggested changing "she descended down the stairs" at the beginning to "she descended the stairs." It suggested changing: "She was overwhelmed with sadness and guilt" to "Sadness and guilt overwhelmed her" to make it active voice. It suggested changing: "The front hall was welcomed with numerous bouquets" to "Numerous bouquets welcomed the front hall." It suggested changing: "Johnston was rather restrained in controlling his happiness" with "Johnston restrained his happiness," again to avoid passive voice.
These are all rather small things and, personally, I didn't even spot them when reading your fine story. Your story feels warm and wholesome, and well-researched. Kudos to you, and thank-you for posting it.

Posted 2 Years Ago

Not a bad story. I like the idea behind this. The narration did feel a bit rambly and wordy at times, but overall not bad at all.

Posted 2 Years Ago

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2 Reviews
Added on January 12, 2016
Last Updated on January 12, 2016
Tags: historical fiction, religious fiction


Tom Heeren
Tom Heeren

Wichita, KS

I live in Wichita, Kansas. I'm retired after working in the Volunteer Services office after 20 years (1996-2016). I enjoy reading historical fiction, British fiction, plays, American fiction, essays .. more..

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