About The Hollow Ground – Episode 16

Piers watched her go. As he had supposed when Nan had mentioned the woman, there was more to this than met the eye.

The mystery surrounding the demise, and now the life, of Henry Vessey was thickening. Why such secrecy? Why had that woman taken herself off, instead of speaking about the subject of her grief?

Piers threw a troubled frown at the tall headstone with its poignant epitaph, shaking his head.

“What’s going on?” he said aloud.

His only response was a raucous squawking from a scold of jays in the yews close by. They rose, still squabbling, and flew off, leaving Piers standing there alone.

A cloud moved over the sun, throwing everywhere into shadow, and a trickle of what could have been foreboding shivered down his spine. It was time to go.

As Piers headed back to the farm, the sun came out again and his spirits lifted.

Things could be worse. The dreams that had plagued him nightly were fading and he liked the challenge of putting the farm to rights.

He wondered if Nan would do as she had hinted, and grant him the position of bailiff.

Heaven only knew, he warranted it, with the hours he put in, and the wage would recoup some of the money he’d ploughed into making the ruin of a cottage more habitable.

On the heels of this thought came another. If it should come about, would he feel obliged to confide the reason for leaving his former employ, and all it might entail?

She had a feisty core, had Nan, Piers thought, a smile crossing his face.

His admiration for the mistress of Cross Lanes knew no bounds. She was a prime example of strength in adversity. And she was lovely, with her graceful step, her calm gaze and proud stance.

Piers checked his thoughts sharply. Esteem was one thing; the way his pulse had quickened was another.

Needing distraction, he turned to what seldom failed him and allowed the sights, sounds and scents of the countryside to enter his soul.

Hedgerows frothing with blossom, the piping of a skylark somewhere in the blue, the mingled smells of sun-warmed earth and green, fertile growth.

Soothed, he reached the farm, where his restored equilibrium was instantly dashed. A high-wheeled trap and pair of matching bays stood on the gravelled frontage of the house.

This was not the first time Daniel Harrison had called and Piers had been struck with an instant dislike of the man.

Now, resentment that Harrison was at liberty to venture where he could not boiled up savagely, threatening to overwhelm him.

Riled, he struck out at a clump of willow-herb in the bank, and directing the closed door of the house a scathing glance, he stomped to the farmyard in search of the men.

Brassey and Skelland would want to know the outcome of his mission to Bank House Farm. Keeping to work matters was safer all round.

*  *  *  *

Daniel rose to his feet as the maid showed Nan into the parlour.

“Miss Vessey. I apologise for the intrusion.”

“Not at all, Mr Harrison. Mercy, you may go,” Nan told the maid, who bobbed a curtsey and departed.

Nan smiled.

“Do sit down. Will you take some refreshment?”

“Not for me, thank you. I thought you might care to come for a drive? The day is fine. It’s a shame not to take advantage of it. What better than to enjoy the occasion together?”

“Oh, but . . .” Nan paused.

She was in the process of restoring order to the linen closet. She wasn’t dressed for an outing.

Yet, with Charlotte away visiting relatives for the week, Nan was missing her company and the stimulation of conversation.

Added to which, her caller was right. The sunshine streaming in through the leaded casement was enticing.

“Miss Vessey?”

“Oh, please, do call me by my given name,” she said in a sudden fit of exasperation at the rules of polite society, and immediately wondered if she had been forward.

A smile lit Daniel’s face.

“Delighted. You shall be Nan, and I, Daniel,” he replied with such ease that Nan’s mind was put at rest. “Mayhap I can persuade you to join me in that drive?”

Put like that, how could she resist?

“Thank you, sir. I shall need to make myself presentable. Will you excuse me while I attend to it?”

“There is no hurry,” Daniel said with a gesture of his hand. “Take as long as you must.”

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”.