About The Hollow Ground – Episode 36

“Summat to tell you,” Shepherd Skelland said, appearing in the doorway of the store shed where Brassey was repairing a broken hurdle.

Brassey put aside his work and gave the shepherd his attention. For Noah to have left his flock and come down to seek him out, the matter was clearly urgent.

Shepherd Skelland leaned on his crook, mustering words.

“Tes like this,” he said. “Yesterday, when I went to Shaw’s place to look at that young tup for the flock, I called in at the Red Lion for a sup of ale and a bite to eat on the way back.

“I got talking to a fellow. Surly character. Said his name were Goff. Frank Goff. He were from a farm down Ludlow way. Turned out it were Merriman’s former workplace.”

“Did you get the name of it?”

“I did. It were Elmtree. Apparently Merriman were head cowman there. Goff said he were wanted for assault and robbery.”

“Well, I’m blowed!” Brassey said, taken aback. “I take it this were the man Joe Wainwright told us about at the Oak. Did you believe him, this Goff?”

“I dunno. It does explain a lot. For Merriman to have come all the way from mid-Shropshire and settle here, away from prying eyes. Us did suspect summat odd about his background. But this? I dunno.”

“Me, neither. Merriman dunna seem that sorta fellow. Did you tell this Goff his whereabouts?”

“Not as such. But he were persistent. He’ll find out sooner or later.”

“Makes you wonder what went on to start this,” Brassey said doubtfully.

“That’s the conclusion I’ve come to. Tes bothered me all night. What do we do?”

“I reckon there’s two sides to every tale. If this Goff’s story is right, ’twill all come out in the wash.”

“And if it inna?”

“’Twill die a death. Goff could be nowt but a stirrer, and I’m not one for bringing trouble down on anyone’s shoulders. We say nowt but keep a watch out for developments.”

Shepherd Skelland raised his crook in farewell and headed back to his dogs and flock on the hillside.

*  *  *  *

Nan gazed in awe at the ruby and pearl necklace in its velvet-lined case. It was ornately fashioned and must have cost a great deal.

“Like it?” Daniel said.

“It’s beautiful, but I fear I cannot accept it,” Nan replied.

She was not one to be won over by grand gestures. Added to which, elaborate jewellery was not to her taste.

“Of course you must have it,” Daniel argued. “I chose it especially. Do try it on. I want to see how it looks.”

“Daniel, please. I have no reason to accept this. I don’t go anywhere to warrant wearing it.”

“That can be rectified. Let me fasten it for you.”

Protest though she might, Daniel would not take no for an answer.

He took the necklace from its case, the rubies flashing red fire in the glow from the lamp, and placed it on her neck.

At his touch a shudder went through Nan. She tried to repress it but Daniel noticed, and his face tightened accordingly.

“There, my dear. It looks perfect on you. I must get you earrings to match. And maybe a bracelet. Yes?”

“Thank you, but no. I must insist. I shall accept the necklace, but I beseech you – no more jewels.”

Her tone brooked no argument and Daniel shrugged.

“Very well. It shall be as you wish,” he said pettishly.

“Now you are vexed with me and that was not my intention. Let’s be friends again. Shall I ring for tea?”

“That would be most welcome,” Daniel agreed. “Come, we shall sit by the fire and you shall tell me what you have been up to these past days.”

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”.