The Dividing Tide – Episode 17

Garren waited until the cart was out of sight, then he turned his footsteps in the direction of Old Annie’s.

A small woman with beady dark eyes opened the door and soon he was being shown up the stairs into a tiny room in the attic.

“You’re lucky, my lad,” Annie said, folding her arms beneath her vast white apron, her black bonnet nodding. “It’s the last room left and yours for as long you like. So long as you behave yourself,” she added, fixing him with a stare that told him she’d take no nonsense.

“I’ll try.” He smiled.

“Well, you’d better. Now, take yourself off for a walk while I make up your bed and put a warmer in to air it.”

Later that night, as Garren listened sleepily to the distant sounds of town life up the hill, he reflected on his situation. It had been a bad day when the magistrates had confiscated the drift nets, and things had become even worse when Jenna had disappeared without even saying goodbye.

But now he’d found his way here. He had somewhere to stay, and tomorrow he’d go to Wheal Daniel to ask for work. After that, he’d search for Jenna.

He leaned out of bed to blow out his candle on the stool beside him. Things were definitely looking up.

*  *  *  *

The next morning he set off early, following the path Annie showed him which wound past the clay tips then across the moorland.

“It’ll lead you directly into the works. Tis the quickest way by far.” She pushed a tin into his hand. “Here’s some crib. A nice pasty I cooked this morning.”

A savoury aroma swept up as he lifted the lid.

“Why, thank you, Annie.”

“Can’t have you going hungry,” she said gruffly. “I’ve two lads meself, in the Army. I know how famished you young men do get.

“I’ll do you something up each day and add it in with your rent, if you like, and you can pay when you get your wages.”

On impulse, he bent down and kissed her cheek.

“Get away wi’ you, lad,” she said sternly, but she smiled nevertheless.

It was misty on the moorland, so he heard the rumbling of the water wheel before he saw it. It loomed suddenly out of the haze, making him stop.

It’s like the wheel of fate, he thought, watching it turn, water dripping from its mossy paddles.

The rumbling still echoed in his ears as he entered beneath the grey stone arch that bore the name of the mine. Wheal Daniel.

Beyond lay a courtyard, and he stood for a moment, wondering what to do next. Workmen moved purposefully to and fro, and the sound of shovels scraping and hammers banging came from open doorways. A young boy, carrying a large black kettle, stopped beside him.

“I ain’t seen you before,” he said. “You new?”

Garren nodded.

“You’ll be looking for the Cap’n, then. Down there, in the corner of the yard, that’s his office.”

“Thanks,” he murmured, but the boy had already disappeared into one of the workrooms off the yard.

Garren made his way past a coal store and a blacksmith’s forge. There was a sign at the end that said Captain’s Office. The door was open, and he rapped against the lintel.

Whipping off his cap, he took a deep breath and stepped into the gloomy interior. Five minutes later he re-emerged, clutching a slip of paper that confirmed he’d been taken on. He was to work in the clay store, the linhay. Nine shillings a week! The very thought put a spring in his step.

Where had the captain said to take his paper? Oh, yes, to the front office so they could register his details. He stopped beside a door, knocked smartly and strode in.

Two gentlemen dressed in dark frock coats and black cravats were standing by a desk in the centre of the room, looking at papers strewn there. The taller of the two glared at him as he made his way forward.

“What the devil are you doing?” he roared.

Garren came to a stop.

“Don’t you know this office is private? Are you employed here?”

“Just taken on, sir,” he replied, taken aback at the man’s forceful manner. “I was told to bring this.” He held out his paper.

“I don’t want that!” He took Garren roughly by the arm. “You’d better get out of here if you want to keep your job. Do you hear me?”

Before he could reply, he was bundled to the door.

Why was the man in such a fury? It had been a genuine mistake, after all, coming into the office.

Perhaps he was afraid Garren had read the papers on the desk. They might have been to do with a customer’s financial affairs.

Well, they needn’t have worried. He couldn’t have understood them, for he couldn’t read. He’d have said so, too, if he’d only been given a chance.

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.