The Dividing Tide – Episode 06

In St Austell, Cornwall, heavy rain was falling. Morwenna was perched on the edge of the chaise longue in the library of Nankerris House. She kept her back as ramrod straight as she could, to alleviate the heartburn that had plagued her of late.

Absently she played with a coal-black ringlet at the side of her cheek as she stared through the long window at the rain-drenched formal gardens.

It was two o’clock in the afternoon but already the day was darkening and she was glad she had ordered a fire to be laid.

She turned her head to look at her husband, Jago, and his lawyer, Obadiah Inch, who stood deep in conversation about her father-in-law’s estate.

It was a dull discussion which had begun over luncheon, and which she feared would continue until Jago’s brother, Arthek, tore himself from the mine to join them.

She shifted, wishing he’d hurry up. Then the wretched will could be read. There might even be time to rest before ordering the carriage to go into town to buy the new pair of evening gloves she needed.

The window rattled as a gust of wind spattered rain against it. The day, so fine at the outset, was turning into one more suited to December.

The fire gave a loud spit as a new log caught hold. She winced at her indigestion and sighed. Where was Arthek? Probably with one of his dubious friends – rumour had it he was involved in the trading of information between English and European shores.

She was musing on the dangers of such an occupation when there came the thud of galloping hooves. They grew closer until there was a shoosh of gravel beneath the window.

Soon afterwards the door of the library burst open. A man dressed in a high-crowned hat and dripping greatcoat strode in.

“You waited for me?” He handed over his hat and cloak to the elderly butler.

“How could we not, brother?” Jago replied. “You are required to be present.”

Walking towards Morwenna, Arthek took her hand courteously.

“Good afternoon, sister-in-law.” He gave an exaggerated bow, raindrops from his hair dripping on to her dress.

“Hello, Arthek.” Pointedly, she brushed at the damp stain and rearranged the long folds of her dress. “What a shame you couldn’t join us for luncheon earlier.”

“Pressing business.” He smiled gaily, bowed to Jago and inclined his head stiffly in the direction of Obadiah.

“Arrange to have Mr Arthek’s garments dried, Pearce,” Morwenna said to the butler, “then send up fresh coffee.”

“Very good, madam.”

Soon they were all seated, the brothers in winged chairs beside the fire and Obadiah squeezing himself into the wooden chair behind the desk.

“Get on with it, man,” Arthek said. “I haven’t got all day.”

Jago frowned at him.

“I’m sure Mr Inch’s time is as valuable as our own,” he said as Obadiah, already flushed from a good lunch and the warm room, flushed deeper.

Secretly, Morwenna shared Arthek’s distaste of the lawyer, disliking his coarse features and diffident air. What did Jago see in the man? He had such common manners. When this business was been sorted out, she’d suggest another, her own man, perhaps.

As mistress of Nankerris Hall, she’d have a voice at last. She could make changes without having to defer to anyone, except her husband, of course.

She experienced a thrill of excitement. She’d been fond of her father-in-law, and had been sad at his passing. But to be mistress here! Why, it was what she’d been striving for ever since her father had gambled away their estate when she was a child.

Obadiah cleared his throat.

“‘This is the last Will and Testament of Philip Pendennis Tristan Nankerris,’” he began purposefully. “‘Being of sound mind . . .’”

Morwenna let the words drift over her. It was mere formality, after all. There was no doubt that everything would go to the brothers.

“‘My clay mine, Wheal Daniel, absolutely to my sons Jago and Arthek . . .’”

There! Now it was official, she thought with satisfaction. But even before the thought had finished, her attention was snapped back again.

“‘On condition –’”

On condition? What was the man saying now?

Obadiah paused to look meaningfully at each of them in turn.

“‘On condition,’” he repeated, “‘that my sister’s only grandchild, Jenna Goss, be brought to Nankerris House upon her agreement to live as a member of the family for the period of one year.

“‘Should this fail to transpire, Wheal Daniel is to be sold and the proceeds distributed equally between my surviving relatives. I bequeath Nankerris House to my son, Jago, with my remaining property passing to my son Arthek . . .’”

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.