A Time To Reap – Episode 61

A Time To Reap

Driving past the farm cottages, Elizabeth was startled to see June Morrison by her gate, Sadie in one arm and the other round Isa, who was doubled over.

She pulled over quickly.

“What’s wrong? Is Isa ill?”

“Oh, Mrs Duncan, something awful’s happened!” June said. “Frank left Isa a note to say he was going off with Lady Cecily to –”

Isa straightened up. Her eyes were red.

“She’s led my Frank astray. The south of France!”

Elizabeth tried to take it in. Frank Robertson, the estate forester, had run away with Lady Annabel’s young half-sister!

“What a shock for you, Isa,” she said. “June, would you make Isa a cup of tea with plenty of sugar? I’ll see if I can find out more.”

*  *  *  *

In Elizabeth’s house someone else was weeping.

“Tibbie! What’s happened?” Elizabeth went over to her mother-in-law, alarmed.

“Frank Robertson.”

“I’ve heard the news.” But why would it affect Tibbie?

Tibbie wiped her eyes. She gestured to a piece of paper on the table.

“That was pushed under the door. It wasn’t in an envelope and I saw the word ‘Matthew’.”

Elizabeth picked it up.

Mrs Duncan,

I’m going away. I’m sorry but Mr Shaw paid me to put barbed wire in the bull’s field. He wanted to make trouble for you. I shouldn’t have done it.

I did another wrong to you, two years ago. I was visiting a married lady and Mr Duncan came to warn me. He said her husband was coming home.

My truck wheels threw up gravel and it frightened Matthew’s horse and he fell off. I should have stopped but the husband would have killed me. I’m sorry.

Frank Robertson.

Elizabeth kneeled and put her arms around Tibbie.

“So now we know,” she said.

Tibbie hugged her back.

“Now we know.”

“Where’s Crys?”

“Out the back with Flora. I didn’t want the bairn to see me like this.”

“Are you all right? I’ll have to go and see Lady Annabel.”

Tibbie nodded and sat up straight.

Elizabeth went to the back door.

“I’m going up to the House, Crys. Did Tibbie show you the note? Would you phone Mum and Dad and tell them about it?”

*  *  *  *

In Rosland House a member of staff showed Elizabeth to Lady Annabel’s study. Her ladyship was pacing about the room.

“Frank Robertson,” Elizabeth began.

“So you’ve heard,” Lady Annabel replied.

“Yes, I’m sorry. What a worry for you.”

Lady Annabel lifted her hands in despair.

“Foolish, foolish girl.” She gave a grim smile. “I’ve sent a telegram to my stepmother. We’ll see how far Robertson’s charm gets him with her.”

“There’s something else.”

Elizabeth thrust the crumpled note at her employer and watched her eyes widen with horror.

“I’m so sorry, my dear. What a dreadful thing for you to hear.”

“Yes. And what he says about Mr Shaw? That explains the argument, doesn’t it?”

“It does. Go home, Elizabeth. You should be with your family.” Lady Annabel picked up the phone. “Leave Shaw to me. I’ll keep your note for now, if I may,” she said. “I will need it as evidence.”

* * * *

Outside, on the driveway, Bill Brock was leaning against her car.

“I thought this was yours,” he said, smiling.

He straightened up.

“What’s wrong? Is it Libby?”

Elizabeth shook her head.

“Well, something’s up. Wanna take a walk and tell me about it?”

“I wouldn’t know where to start, even if I wanted to.” Elizabeth reached for the door handle.

“Give me a chance, Elizabeth, please.”

He looked down, scuffing his foot on the ground.

“I never expected, when I came on a fishing trip to Scotland, that I would meet the woman of my dreams. But that’s what has happened.”

Elizabeth let her hand drop, reliving in her mind their kiss in the darkness of the Land-Rover.

“Today is a really bad day for this conversation,” she said, turning towards him. “I don’t think I can speak about – about something I found out.

“Perhaps you can ask Lady Annabel? Say I wanted her to tell you.”

“OK,” he replied slowly. “And then what? Can I meet you somewhere later?”

Elizabeth shook her head.

“My parents will be coming over. And Libby’s getting out of hospital tomorrow. Maybe Wednesday. Although I’ll be working.”

“Shall I come to the farm office about twelve?”

But Rodney Shaw would be there.

Or maybe he wouldn’t, she suddenly thought. He would deny Frank Robertson’s story, of course, but if Lady Annabel chose to believe it Mr Shaw would be out of a job and out of their lives.

A happy prospect.

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.