About The Hollow Ground – Episode 23

Piers was in the feed barn off the deeply puddled stackyard, sorting through what remained of the defunct farm implements, when Nan left for the Vinewood ball.

She was lovely in an elegant gown the colour of the lilacs that had flourished by the gates of his previous place of work.

Her hair was dressed in a quiet yet becoming style, adorned with a single white rose from the garden. A locket given to her by her papa and a velvet mantle completed the picture.

Piers’s heart clenched at the sight of her, and jealousy of the richly attired escort who handed her into the carriage rose punishingly within him.

If only he could be the one to partner Nan Vessey in the dance!

The carriage departed, and Piers, gaining control of his emotions with considerable effort, went back to the mundane task of contemplating the clutter of machinery at his feet.

All could be sold, bar the twine binder for small-scale farms. That might come in useful some day.

When he glanced up, the yard was empty, and the sound of carriage wheels had faded, leaving nothing but the shrill calls of swallows and the plaintive moaning of one of the Red Poll heifers whose calf was imminent.

He left the barn, and instead of heading for his cottage and a solitary supper, he went to prepare the calving shed for the new arrival. It looked like a long evening lay ahead.

*  *  *  *

Dusk approached and Vinewood’s lights blazed from every window.

On the forecourt, guests were alighting from their carriages.

Nan had a qualm of apprehension. She had not realised it would be so grand.

Daniel escorted her into the house, where a maid took her mantle and another showed her to the upstairs ladies’ room, where Nan checked her appearance in the tall looking glass.

Adjusting her headdress, she fretted about it losing its petals in the warmth of the ballroom.

Then she wondered how it would be to live like this. It was far removed from her life at Cross Lanes.

The door flew open and a bevy of ladies burst into the room in a cloud of gowns, colour and perfume.

They paid Nan scant attention, but talked among themselves as faces were powdered and errant curls attended to.

A pert girl in powder blue glanced Nan’s way curiously, and Nan, giving her a smiling curtsey of acknowledgement, picked up her evening fan and purse and left the room.

At the bottom of the wide stairway she was pounced upon by Charlotte, herself a vision in taffeta and lace.

“Nan, dearest. How divine you look. Where is the devoted Daniel?”

“Shush,” Nan bid her, looking hastily around. “Someone might hear.”

“So? He is, isn’t he? But you haven’t answered my question.”

“I have no idea where he’s gone. Most likely he’s been kept talking. I shall wait here until he comes. What of your own escort?”

“Reginald?” Charlotte laughed. “He’ll be informing his cronies of his prowess at croquet. He’s sweet, but he can be a dreadful bore when it comes to pastimes.”

The vast hallway was filling up with guests. Through the open doors of the ballroom could be seen a stretch of panelling decked with garlands of exotic glasshouse blooms.

Nan began to wonder how she would survive the night.

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”.