About The Hollow Ground – Episode 32

“As a young wife,” Candice began hesitantly, “I was on my own with a child for weeks on end while your papa travelled the length and breadth of the country on his quest for the new agricultural implements that were appearing at the time. It was a lonely existence.

“Then along came Henry’s brother, James. He was so dashing, so attentive and charming – and I was inexperienced in the ways of the world. I fell in love with him – or so I thought.

“It was one of those wild, rapturous dalliances that flame fiercely and quickly burn out. I found myself with child. There was no possibility of it being Henry’s.

“James did the honourable thing and arranged for me to go away to have the baby.

“I was to have a small dwelling house in a quiet suburb of Chester, plus a maid and an allowance. There was a condition.”

Candice swallowed hard.

“That I handed over the infant to him. His marriage was childless. Amelia longed for a baby and this seemed a solution to all our problems.”

“And Papa? Did you never consider him in this equation? Or me, come to that?” Nan said tightly, unable to contain herself a moment longer.

Candice’s expression grew more ravaged than ever.

“Of course. It was the most harrowing decision I have ever had to make, to leave you in the cradle and never to see Henry again. I truly loved him.

“I was blinded by James’s attention. Flattered that he should find me desirable. I was vain and foolish and I make no excuses for it.”

Nan’s face was set. Slowly, through the seemingly impenetrable barriers of shock and reproach, the implications of what she was being told were becoming clear.

Charlotte made to speak, but Nan’s anger was rising and she faced her mother accusingly.

“How could you hand over a child as if it were an unwanted package and walk out of our lives? What of your marriage vows? Did they mean nothing?”

On and on she went, powerless to stem the flow of words, while Candice grew even more wretched and Charlotte gaped in disbelief at the outburst from one so normally blessed with self-control.

“And what of Charlotte?” Nan flung at last. “How does she feel about the whole debacle? Stunned out of mind, I vow.”

Charlotte leaned across the low table with its abandoned tea tray and took Nan’s hands in hers.

“Nan, listen to me. Candice’s story is not new to me. I am already aware of the details.”

Nan snatched her hands away, utterly dismayed.

“You knew?”

“Let me explain,” Charlotte said. “It happened by chance. Papa was in Manchester on mill business and Mama asked me to seek some information from his desk.

“I came across a letter from Papa’s man of law, outlining regular sums of money to be granted through a Chester Bank and citing Candice Lowe as the recipient. Suffice to say I was curious and made discreet enquiries.”

Charlotte’s revelation was another blow, and coming on top of the first it addled Nan’s wits totally.

She took several deep breaths until the room stopped whirling about her.

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”.