About The Hollow Ground – Episode 12

Daniel Harrison flung a disdainful glance around the deserted farmyard. Plainly no-one was coming to take charge of the horse and gig.

He turned his sun-browned, handsome face to his father in silent reproach, the chiselled mouth tight set.

His travels abroad had opened up fresh avenues and given him a taste for more.

He had not expected to come home to the prospect of a proposed marriage with the daughter of a local farmer, and all for the sake of adding a few more acres to Vinewood, the already extensive Harrison estate.

Edwin Harrison, a blustering and portly man, now checked the horse, which was starting to fidget.

“Here we are, m’boy. I’d thought to see Miss Vessey in church this morning. Not like her to be absent.”

He broke off as the door opened to reveal the person herself. Nan Vessey came out of the house, trim and solemn in her dark gown of mourning.

Not beautiful in a conventional way, but certainly arresting, the owner of Cross Lanes presented a very different picture from the one Daniel was anticipating, and he was surprised to find his interest immediately captured.

She gave them a smile of welcome.

“Master Harrison. Good morning.”

“Good morning, ma’am.” Edwin removed his hat. “We were on our way back from St Oswald’s and thought to enquire how you fared.

“You’ll remember my lad? Granted, with being away at school and then off on his travels, Daniel ain’t a familiar figure hereabouts.”

His red, jowly face full of forced good humour, Edwin indicated the immaculately clothed young man at his side.

“I’m pleased to make your acquaintance, sir,” Nan said gravely.

“And I yours, ma’am,” Daniel acknowledged with a swift, sophisticated look under lowered lids.

“Most kind of you to call. Won’t you come inside? The horse can be secured here.”

“Much obliged, ma’am,” Edwin said.

The two men disembarked and, looping the reins over the tethering post indicated, they followed her into the house.

She directed them into a low-beamed, well-furnished parlour, where a bright fire crackled in the old stone fireplace.

“Do sit down, sirs. Mercy, we shall take coffee.”

“I must offer my condolences on your loss, ma’am. I have been in Italy these past twelve months and did not hear of your papa’s demise until my return last week.”

She inclined her head graciously.

The maid reappeared with the coffee in a silver pot and a tiered cake stand of sweet pastries, and the unprecedented visit took its natural course.

When father and son had taken their leave, Daniel was coming round to the idea that marriage to Nan Vessey might not be such a daunting prospect after all.

The woman had appeal in abundance, and other, less definable qualities that were lacking in many females of his acquaintance. Socially, she had the makings of an excellent hostess for the house parties expected of a man of his status.

His father’s voice intruded into his thoughts.

“Methinks the visit went well, m’boy.”

“Well enough, Papa. Miss Vessey was not what I had envisaged. She always seemed a mouse of a creature to me.”

Edwin’s shrewd, slightly bulbous gaze narrowed.

“And now?”

“Let us say I was not displeased.”

“Good, good. Whoa there, Jasper!”

Edwin wrestled with the reins as a figure in plum-coloured velvet came hurtling round the bend on a fiery chestnut thoroughbred, the horse’s mane and the golden hair of the rider streaming.

Daniel, his attention seized, gallantly raised his hat to her.

“By all the saints, there is one worthy of a second glance,” Daniel commented.

His father chuckled.

“All in good time, m’boy. Best we focus on serious issues for now.”

Cracking the reins, Edwin sent the horse speeding onwards. His expression denoted every satisfaction with the trip to Cross Lanes Farm.


Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.