The Dividing Tide – Episode 15

Doryty was alone. Usually her fingers would be occupied with her lace-making, for “the devil makes work for idle hands”. Now she sat, listlessly staring into the fire.

There was no aroma of supper, and no sign of Jenna. Where was she? Out collecting wood, perhaps, or at the vicarage drawing water from the well?

As he closed the door behind him, his feeling of unease deepened. He could see that Doryty had been crying. In the whole of his life, he’d never known her to cry.

“She’s gone,” she told him.

Then she flipped up her apron to cover her eyes and began weeping.

Unease turned to panic.

“Gone where? What d’you mean?”

Doryty’s voice was muffled.

“Jenna’s great-uncle has died and left a clause in his will. She’s gone to live at St Austell.”

“St Austell? But that’s nigh on thirty miles away! How long’s she gone for?”

She lowered her apron.

“A whole year, and it was all because of me!” She sniffed. “The lawyer who came told her she’d be given a hundred pounds, and Jenna said it would see me through the winter, what with the pilchards not comin’ an’ all.

“There’s nothing left in the larder, you see, an’ the thatch needs mendin’ an’ then there’s the chimney not right. That’s why she did it.”

She took the locket from her pocket and held it out for him to take.

“She said to give you this.”

As Garren stared down at the silver locket with its twirl of ribbon that lay nestled upon his palm, his heart filled with doom.

“Where exactly has she gone?” he asked, keeping his voice as calm as he could. “St Austell is a big place.”

“Nankerris House. Tis on the outskirts of town, the gentleman said. I had to let her go, for her mind was set upon it. But what if she never comes back? Oh, my boy, we might never see her again.”

* * * *

Garren leaned against the rail of the Lucy-Ann watching the rugged coast of Cornwall slip by. When the schooner had called at Bidreath to pick up a load of pilchards, the captain had agreed to give him passage to Charlestown, the ship’s next port of call.

A few miles further inland from there lay St Austell, rich in mining and with a good chance of work, he reasoned. It was also where Jenna was.

He enjoyed the sounds of the timbers creaking and the flap of the sails above. The sea was in his blood, just as it had been in his father’s and his father’s before that.

Sometimes love slipped into fear, though, for only a fool took the sea lightly.

Always at the back of his mind was the knowledge of how it had claimed his father and brothers.

If only he’d gone with them that night. One more hand on board the lugger might have made the vital difference between life and death. But he’d been an idealistic youth.

“Smuggling’s not right!” he’d blazed at his father.

“You reckon the government taxes are right, then?” Elijah had replied calmly. “They’re turning good, decent folk into criminals. Is that right?” He shook his head. “It’s them in power as is wrong, son, not us.”

He still saw the gentle remonstration in his father’s eyes before he’d left, his brothers Harry and Dickon following in his wake.

That had been the last time he’d seen any of them alive. Their bodies had been washed ashore at Merrick Cove three days later.

“My fault,” he murmured, and felt afresh the burden of his guilt press like a leaden weight upon him.

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.