About The Hollow Ground – Episode 30

A distinct throbbing at Nan’s temple heralded the onset of pain. Soon it would develop into one of the debilitating headaches that troubled her from time to time.

Now, when she had so wanted to be at her best, and when the evening had been progressing so favourably, too.

She mustered a suitable response.

“Daniel, I appreciate your request. At the moment I am too taken up with other issues to –”

“I’ve made it clear,” Daniel cut in, a peevish ring to his voice, “you have no need to concern yourself with farm staffing and hay crops.

“You are a lady, and have the opportunity of living the life of one at Vinewood. Or we shall build a fine new house, designed to our own specifications.”

“May we leave it for the present?” Nan asked. “This is not a suitable time to approach so serious an issue. I shall give you my answer after the grain harvest in September.”

Nan’s tone was decisive and Daniel had no choice but to acquiesce.

He gave her a bow and took his leave.

*  *  *  *

“You imbecile! Call yourself a suitor? What a fool I have for a son!”

Edwin Harrison lamented and raged, storming up and down the library while Daniel stood miserably by the long-cased window, wishing himself anywhere but here.

“Daniel, are you attending to me?”

Daniel stirred himself.

“Of course, Papa. I have admitted my error. What more can I do?”

“What more can . . .?” Edwin looked at his son in sheer disbelief, his lips working wordlessly.

“I’ll tell you what you can do,” he said at last. “You can court the woman. Use your charm – if you possess any! Present her with gifts. Promise her a life every woman dreams of.”

It struck Daniel, belatedly and with a force that shook him, that this was a female quite capable of resisting a king’s ransom, should the spirit move her.

He would have to alter his approach and show a greater interest in that confounded farm. Let her see what a considerate fellow he really was.

Above all, he must observe patience.

*  *  *  *

“Tipping down again!” Brassey said gloomily, coming across Piers and Shepherd Skelland sheltering against the rain.

Piers had his eye on the rising level of the brook.

“Let’s hope it soon stops. Another inch or two and there’ll be floods. This was an unfortunate place to position a stackyard,” he said, anxiety over-riding his usual reticence in speaking his mind.

Shepherd Skelland nodded.

“’Twere the late gaffer’s doing, as you’ll likely know. Tom Dewes tried to tell him. The gaffer wunna listen. Once he’d got an idea in his head there were no stopping him.”

“Was that why Dewes left?” Piers asked.

“That were the start of things. Tom were a good bailiff. He knew what were what, but no man can go against the will of his master.”

Piers privately thought Dewes could have tried harder to put his point over.

He took in the puddled stackyard with its rows of newly stacked haycocks, its barn and outbuildings full of sheep-hurdles, cattle-penning and tools.

It did not compare with the centuries-old tithe barn and other housing in the main yard, erected on higher ground away from the danger.

“I reckon them had more sense all them decades ago, when the farm were first built,” Brassey remarked.

“I was thinking along the same lines,” Piers said.

They were joined by Bob Trimelow, now restored to his position of cowman, and Geoffrey Penk, general hand.

“It’s the risk of combustion that troubles me,” Piers went on to say. “That hay hasn’t had time to fully mature. If we get another hot spell the hay will sweat and could go up in flames.”

“Tes a fact,” Bob put in. “What’s to be done about it?”

“We need to dig an outlet to take excess water from the brook, channel it around the back of the farmhouse so it enters the brook at a lower point.

“I should put the idea to Miss Vessey.”

“Her’s too taken up wi’ hobnobbing wi’ the Harrison pup to be bothered with this,” the shepherd grumbled.

“Can but try,” Piers said grimly.

That evening he sketched a plan on the back of an old bill of sale and went to the house.

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”.