About The Hollow Ground – Episode 13

“Hello, Nan dearest. Do I take it you have had callers?”

Charlotte tossed her riding crop on to the hall table and strode into the parlour, peeling off her gloves.

Nan, stacking the used coffee dishes on to a tray, looked up.

“Charlotte, it’s you. Yes, the Harrisons. You will have passed them on the way.”

“I did. I had heard the son was back from his travels. He’ll have bored you witless with talk of it.”

“It did rather hog the conversation, yes. Still, it was neighbourly of Master Harrison to call by.”

“Neighbourly? Fiddle! The man is a boor and avaricious to boot. He’s fishing for Cross Lanes and dangling the son as bait. It is to be hoped that Mercy managed to spill the coffee in Edwin’s lap!”

Nan choked back a gurgle of laughter.

“Nan, you must not be taken in by that odious man. Nor the son, for that matter.”

“You make too much of it,” Nan assured her cousin. “This was nothing but a social call. Daniel Harrison was altogether charming.”

“Oh, he’s a charmer, I shall give you that. Fine for a little dalliance – but marriage? I think not.”

“Then that is all to the good, for nothing is further from my mind,” Nan said robustly. “Cousin, I have not offered you any refreshment.”

“A cup of Mercy’s lemon cordial would be perfect. And perhaps a bite to eat?”

Nan went to pull the bell for the request. Soon they were seated with the low table between them.

“Mmm, these marzipan fancies are delicious,” Charlotte said, helping herself to another. “Mercy is an asset in the kitchen.

“And what of the new man?” she went on. “Is he proving his worth?”

“Indeed, yes. The Cross Lanes coffers are no longer empty, thanks to Merriman. You will recall the mechanical binder and flailing machine we had in the yard? Both have been auctioned off, together with other oddments.”

“The sale went well?”

“Extremely.” Nan nodded. “I intend investing in a modest flock of sheep. It is a step towards getting the farm together again.”

“Oh, that should put a smile on Shepherd Skelland’s gloomy visage!”

For once the merry quipping failed to raise the desired response and Charlotte frowned.

“Nan, dear, you are quiet all at once. I fear the Harrisons’ visit has quite worn you out.”

“No, it is not that.” Nan reached for the jug of cordial. “Charlotte, at Papa’s funeral, do you recall a stranger at the graveside? A woman, slender and heavily veiled. I wondered about her at the time.”

Charlotte gave a little shrug.

“I did notice, yes.”

“Well, yesterday when I went to put flowers on the grave, she was there.”

“And did she speak?”

Nan shook her head.

“No. As soon as I entered the lych gate she made herself scarce. Someone had left a posy of violets by the headstone. It seemed, well, an intimate move.”

“Likely it was some poor soul my uncle had encountered at some point,” Charlotte suggested. “You know his penchant for helping those in need.”

Nan could see the sense behind Charlotte’s reasoning. Nonetheless, the sight of that sorrowing black-clad figure at the graveside was disturbing. Who was she and why was she there?

Nan wanted some answers.

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”.