The Dividing Tide – Episode 09

Jenna recognised the name “Nankerris” from the family stories her mother had told her, but her mind was still upon her dear papa and it was with an effort that she drew her attention back to what he was saying. A will? He must have come to the wrong people, surely.

“You’re mistaken, Mr Inch,” she told him. “Your business cannot be with us. We’ve had nothing to do with the Nankerris side of the family for generations.”

Untying her bonnet, she took it off and shook the raindrops into the fireplace.

“If you’ll excuse me, sir, I must prepare supper. Which you are welcome to share,” she added politely, at the same time hoping he would refuse, for the fish were small and wouldn’t stretch far between three.

“Thank you, I ate at an hostelry on my way here. I have no need of supper.”

“Then please, drink some tea before you go. Sit down, Mr Inch.”

Doryty had chosen to perch upon a low stool and Obadiah eased himself into her empty rocking chair beside the fire.

“Lord Jago Nankerris is your relative?” he persisted when he was seated.

“Yes, sir, so I’ve been told. A second cousin or some such.” Jenna fetched a jug of water and filled the blackened kettle hanging beside the hearth. She swung the kettle expertly over the flames to heat.

“Miss Goss,” Obadiah said patiently. “Will you not make yourself comfortable whilst I explain my business here?”

Doryty shuffled towards the fireside and drew another stool forward.

“Come, child,” she said gently, patting it with her gnarled fingers. “Whatever it is, we’ll hear it together. Then the gentleman can be on his way.”

When Jenna had sat down, Obadiah leaned forwards, pressing his fingertips together.

“The late Lord Nankerris, your great-uncle Philip, was deeply attached to his sister Zelah,” he began. “Her elopement and subsequent disinheritance came as a shock to him. It haunted him all his life.”

“It was hard for Zelah, too!” The words were out before Jenna could stop them. “Mama said she carried the pain of losing her family to the grave. All because she fell in love with a man ‘beneath’ her in rank. My grandfather was a worthy man! They didn’t deserve such treatment.”

She felt Doryty’s hand on her shoulder.

“Jenna, hush. Remember your manners, child.”

Jenna looked at her.

“I’m sorry, Mamm-wynn,” she said. Then she turned back to Obadiah.

“I’m sad to hear of Lord Nankerris’s death, sir, and I regret that you’ve had to journey out on such a night as this to inform us of it, but indeed you have wasted your time.”

Much to her surprise, he smiled.

“Have I said something amusing?” she demanded, feeling her cheeks grow hot.

“Not at all, Miss Goss. I was wondering what Lord and Lady Nankerris are going to make of such feisty spirit when you appear at Nankerris House.”

Doryty’s hand tightened on her shoulder.

“You’re not thinking of taking my granddaughter away!” she cried.

“Forgive me, madam, I will explain. His late Lordship’s dying wish was to reunite the family once more. He is sadly no longer with us, nor is your maternal grandmother, Miss Goss. But you are. You are the one to make it right, if you will.”

“Me?” Jenna looked at him in astonishment. “What can I possibly do?”

“It was his late Lordship’s wish that you come to live as a member of the family for the period of one year. As an act of reconciliation.”

“And if she doesn’t want to go?” There was a steely edge in Doryty’s voice.

He frowned.

“Then she need not, madam. The choice is hers. However,” he continued, “before you give me your answer, Miss Goss, there is one important point to consider. You will receive the sum of one hundred pounds, should you agree. The money is to reimburse you for the disruption to your livelihood,” he hurried on. “It is meant to be a mutually beneficial proposal, I assure you.”

A hundred pounds! Such a sum would mean enough food for Mamm-wynn through the entire winter, regardless of whether the pilchards came or not. It would mend the leaking thatch and might even pay for a new chimney stack.

As if on cue, a gust of wind billowed smoke down the chimney and into the room, setting them all coughing. It was that one little thing, that puff of sooty air, which made up Jenna’s mind.


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.