The Dividing Tide – Episode 18

Morwenna sat up in bed, trying to ignore the aroma of her morning chocolate as it wafted from the tray. She leaned back on her pillows, swallowing hard.

“Take it away,” she ordered the maid, flapping her hand and trying to steady the rising feeling of nausea in her throat.

“Yes, madam.” When she had gone, she took several deep breaths. The problem was simple, she told herself. She’d reached a certain age, that was all. The realisation brought with it a wave of sadness, for it meant she would have no more children.

Ever since giving birth to Lamorna, she had hoped to give her husband a son. That hope had slowly diminished over the years, and now she felt its last ray slip from her. A feeling of irritability took its place.

It didn’t help her mood that they had that girl, Jenna, around the place all the time. Jago taking a liking to her made it worse.

He was always talking to her, trying to make her feel at home. Why, it was almost as if he preferred her to their own daughter.

All day she picked holes in whatever Jenna did.

“Don’t talk while you eat,” she scolded her at luncheon. “Sit up, don’t slouch. Who do you think you are, acting in such a manner? Ah, yes, a common country girl. Of course.”

“That was rather cruel, Mother,” Lamorna said, as Jenna blushed to the roots of her fair hair.

“Hmph,” Morwenna said defiantly, although a shimmer of shame went through her just the same.

“Perhaps if you tried a little harder, Jenna?” she said more softly.

If she were truthful, she had a certain sympathy for the girl. She knew what it was like to be displaced, and it wasn’t easy. Her own world had been turned upside-down when her father had lost everything on the spin of a dice.

Her resolve to be kind was short-lived, however, and ended in the afternoon when she sent Jenna to fetch an embroidery silk from her room.

“This isn’t rose,” she said, frowning down at the pink strands. “This is cyclamen. Don’t you know about threads and different shades? Did your governess teach you nothing?”

“I didn’t have a governess, Aunt. I attended a church school for a little while until I came to live at Bidreath and then I went to work in the fish cellars.”

“Don’t answer back, child,” Morwenna snapped.

“I’m sorry, Aunt, but you asked me.”

Morwenna felt her temples begin to throb. She ought to teach the girl a lesson, but the last thing she wanted was a scene.

“That is all,” she said. “You are dismissed.”

She was still out of sorts when, later, the three women sat down for dinner. Jago was dining with friends, so she sat at the head of the table.

Suddenly, she stared at Lamorna, frowning.

“There’s a smudge on your cheek, daughter. Is it mud?” she demanded.

“Very likely, Mama,” Lamorna answered cheerfully, rubbing her cheek. “The stable yard’s in a devilish state after all that rain last night.”

Morwenna sighed deeply. The sooner Lamorna was married and settled, the better. She might not enjoy good looks but she had great kindness of heart and a good disposition, not to mention good lineage. It was just a question of finding the right husband.

Really, she ought to take her to London for another season, but the idea made her shudder. All that bustle and noise when she was feeling in poor health was not a prospect she relished.

The fish course arrived, and the footman served her baked turbot with herbs. She lifted a morsel to her mouth and chewed.

“How is your meal, Lamorna?”

“It’s wonderful, Mama,” Lamorna replied, eating with energetic enjoyment.

“And yours, Jenna?”

“Very good indeed, Aunt, thank you.”

“Then it must just be mine. It tastes of sawdust.”

The trouble was, she mused, there just weren’t the soirées and balls here in the countryside to show off her daughter.

“But, why not a ball here?” she said suddenly.

The girls stared at her in surprise.

“A Christmas ball!” She beamed. “We’ll invite all the respectable people we know. The Bullers will come, of course. I hear Pasco is coming down from the city for the festive season.”

“Old Pasco?” Lamorna nodded her head, setting her dark ringlets jostling. “Good. We can get some rides in together. Not sure he’ll want to come to a ball, though, not unless London’s changed his character.” She gave one of her horsey laughs.

“Of course he’ll want to come. His mother will insist upon it. He’s the county’s most eligible bachelor, don’t forget.”

“Let’s hope he behaves himself, then.”

“Whatever do you mean? The boy simply has high spirits, that is all.”

Lamorna snorted.

“We grew up together, Mama. I think I know him better than anyone.” She grinned at Jenna. “You wouldn’t believe the scrapes we got into!”

“His lineage is impeccable,” Morwenna reminded her. “That is what matters.”

“If you say so, Mama. But must it be a ball? You know how my feet trip each other up when they’re trying to move to music.”

“Then you must practise until they do not,” Morwenna said firmly. “And you,” she added, looking at Jenna, “will help me with my plans. You’ll be able to earn your keep at last.”

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.