A Time To Reap – Episode 17

A Time To Reap

Elizabeth was still angry over Rodney Shaw’s duplicity when she went into the dairy next day.

“Is that the milk for the house?” she asked Tam. “I’ll take it up myself.”

The dairyman handed her a pail.

“I hope her ladyship enjoys it.”

“She will. You’re doing a grand job here, Tam.”

He flushed.

“Thanks, Mrs Duncan.”

“You know, my daughter Flora has been asking my mother-in-law to take her to see your Sadie. Could they call on Sunday?”

“June would love to show the baby off, I’m sure,” Tam replied after a moment. “I’ll tell her to expect them.”

Elizabeth moved the heavy pail from one hand to the other.

“Right, I’ll catch up with you later.”

It was Tam’s job to deliver the milk to the cook at Rosland House, but Elizabeth wanted to find out if she’d gone down in her ladyship’s estimation after what happened yesterday.

The first sight that met her eyes as she drove up to the house was the rear view of Lady Annabel as she leaned into the engine of the Land-Rover. Elizabeth carried on to the kitchen.

After the milk had been delivered she walked back to where Lady Annabel was wiping her fingers on an oily cloth.

“Learned how to strip an engine during the war,” she said. “No point in paying someone else to do it.”

She shut the bonnet.

“Can you spare half an hour, Elizabeth? Come in. I’ll rustle up some coffee.”

Her ladyship’s attitude towards her was no different from any other time, Elizabeth thought thankfully. But goodness knew what Rodney Shaw had been saying about her.

As she waited in the library while Lady Annabel went to wash her hands, Elizabeth looked at the huge gilt-framed portrait of the late Lord Mannering.

They’d never seen much of him here – he’d preferred to stay in the south, leaving Rosland in factor Rodney Shaw’s hands.

After his lordship’s death last year, his elder daughter, Lady Annabel, had assumed the running of the estate here and the family’s lands in England and Ireland.

It occurred to Elizabeth that Lady Annabel’s affection for the estate, and her intention to be here for most of the summer, might not suit Rodney Shaw. After doing things his way for so long, he now had a hands-on employer to answer to!

Lady Annabel looked like her father, Elizabeth mused, with her strong jaw and springy dark hair.

“Poor old Pop.”

Elizabeth turned to see Lady Annabel carrying a tray. She set it down and poured coffee.

It didn’t feel right to be waited on by her employer – surely Lady Annabel would have taken on the usual local girls to staff the house for the summer?

As if she’d been privy to Elizabeth’s thoughts, Lady Annabel smiled.

“I’m cutting back on indoor staff this year.” She glanced over at the portrait. “Death duties. And then my stepmother . . . ” She stopped. “Let’s just say she has extravagant tastes.”

“Will we be seeing Lady Mannering at Rosland?” Elizabeth asked politely.

“Goodness, no. The south of France is more to her taste.” Lady Annabel snorted. “And Cecily’s, too – my young half-sister. You’ve a younger sister, haven’t you? Does she give your parents any trouble?”

Elizabeth told her the latest news about Crys.

Her ladyship nodded.

“She won’t get her head turned in London with a family like yours behind her. Cecily’s been spoilt all her life. She’s twenty and her mother has no control of her whatsoever.

“I thought of getting her up to Rosland for a while, to interest her in what, after all, is part of her inheritance, too. Maybe the gillies’ ball in September would be an inducement.”

She sighed.

“Those death duties mean cutting back on expenditure in all areas. Shaw has suggested possible changes relating to the farm.”

She pushed a piece of paper across the table.

“This is your area, Elizabeth. You’ll have a say in every discussion.”

Elizabeth felt relieved – Lady Annabel trusted her. But as she read the page relief turned to anger. Get rid of the dairy herd she and Matthew had so carefully built up? No!

Whatever else happened, she couldn’t allow that.

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.