About The Hollow Ground – Episode 37

Nan ordered the tea and went to sit down, taking a chair and not the sofa to which Daniel gestured.

She had a dozen things awaiting her attention. The books to total, letters to write and a gown to select from her mama’s coffer for Mercy’s attention.

Her mama! Would she ever come to terms with recent developments? It still set her mind spinning whenever she thought of it.

A glance at the casement told her that the sky was brightening. Minstrel was languishing in his stall, restless from lack of exercise, and she herself needed some fresh air.

A gallop on the heights would do the two of them a power of good.

“Nan, would you like that, my dear?”

Daniel’s voice cut through her reverie. She came to her senses with a start to realise she had not heard a word he had been saying.

“Forgive me. I am distracted. You were asking?”

“If you would care to come for a drive,” Daniel replied. “Tomorrow afternoon? We shall call at Vinewood for tea then I shall drive you home.”

“Thank you. I shall look forward to it. I must not be too long away. I have to see Merriman with regard to a proposed culvert to take the overflow from the brook.”

Daniel looked perplexed.

“You have to what? I don’t see why you should concern yourself with that.”

“Let me enlighten you,” Nan said with a firmness that was not lost on Daniel. “The brook takes run-off rainwater from the meadow and the surrounding fields.

“During wet times the brook cannot cope and there is a danger of flooding with its accompanying problems.

“Merriman has made a plan to alleviate the worst of the trouble and we hope to engage labour to do the work,” she continued.

“I will consult my accounts to make sure funds will stretch to providing the wages. Does that clarify matters?”

“I suppose so. It seems a great deal of unwomanly activity to me. Ah, here’s the maid with the tea.

“Do I smell toasted muffins? Our pastry cook at Vinewood makes a very acceptable muffin, but yours excels.”

Mercy, her country face disdainful, slammed down the tray on the table at Nan’s elbow, dipped a curtsey and bid a retreat, shutting the door behind her with more force than was necessary.

*  *  *  *

Piers was in the pigsty, forking the soiled straw into a big wooden wheelbarrow, when the urgent sound of running feet alerted him to a problem.

Seconds later Brassey appeared by the stone wall. His wind-reddened face was redder than ever with exertion and he was breathless and panting.

“Merriman, come quick. The brook! Tes overflowed wi’ a vengeance and the stackyard’s nigh on knee-deep in water!”

Piers flung aside his fork.

“I feared this would happen. Where’s the mistress?”

“Gone out with Harrison in the carriage. Aims to stop off at Vinewood for tea, according to Mercy. Her’ll not be back yet awhile. What’s to be done?”

“We shall have to dig a trench to drain off the excess water before the situation worsens. Never fear, man. I’ll take every responsibility.

“We’ll not be able to do a proper job, but a deep ditch should help relieve some of the problem. Did you peg out the ground to mark the course of the culvert as I said?”

“Aye, us saw to that right away.”

“Good man. See what help you can rustle up. I’ll throw down some more straw here and follow you back.”

Abandoning the rest of the mucking out, Piers hastily gave the sow fresh bedding.

He wheeled the barrow from the sty and, leaving it to be attended to later, sprinted to the stackyard as fast as his mud-clagged boots would allow.

The whole area was awash and the water was rising rapidly.

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”.