The Dividing Tide – Episode 19

Thomas made his way up the main street of Riversville, keeping to the sidewalk to avoid the worst of the cold wind. He pulled up his collar against an icy gust and tugged down the broad brim of his hat. Despite the lack of rain the season had changed, and the air had a wintry feel.

He glanced through the window of Ike’s General Store, where a group of soldiers were buying provisions at the counter.

Now he came to think of it, he’d seen several blue-coats coming out of the barber’s, and there were more over the street congregating outside Grandma Pearce’s Saloon.

Militia were a common enough sight hereabouts, especially since they’d started moving the Cherokees out, but he’d never seen them in numbers such as these.

What had brought them here? Was some sort of trouble expected?

He’d make this a quick visit. He’d deposit his gold at the bank, visit the Wellbecks at the Mission House, then return to the warmth of his lodgings at the mine.

Inside the bank, business was brisk and it was soon his turn. He stepped up to the counter, and handed over his pouch of gold.

The clerk tipped the contents on to a tiny set of balancing scales. He peered carefully, then dipped his pen in his inkstand and wrote in the ledger.

“Do you require coinage, sir, or a promissory note?”

“A note will do,” Thomas confirmed. “I’ll be redeeming them soon, though. I’ve decided to travel back to England.”

The clerk looked up with an interested smile.

“That will not be a problem, sir. Come in whenever you’re ready.”

Outside, the wind had sharpened even more. Thomas bent his head against it as he made his way across the street.

Telling the clerk he was going home had made it feel very real, but the truth was there was no longer any reason to stay.

Ahyoka’s injury was healed and the work he was doing for them was almost finished. One last visit to fix the roof of the outhouse, and he’d be on his way.

At the Mission, Angus Wellbeck answered the door. He was a large, good-humoured Scotsman with sandy hair.

“Thomas!” he cried. “Come in, come in.”

He looked over his shoulder.

“Jane!” he roared as Thomas wiped his boots on the doormat then took off his hat. “We have a visitor.”

Two minutes later a slim, dark-haired woman in her thirties peeped round the kitchen door.

“I hoped you’d call, Thomas.”

“Hello, Jane. Why is that?”

“We need to talk to you. Angus, why don’t you both go through to the schoolroom? It’s warm there. I’ll make some coffee and join you in a minute.”

Thomas followed his friend through the hallway to a large room at the back of the house.

Originally built as a parlour, the Wellbecks had converted the area to a small schoolroom, and now the two men threaded their way through empty benches to the black stove in the corner.

Thomas put his hat down on a table and held out his hands to the warmth.

Soon Jane entered carrying a tray on which stood a coffee pot and three cups and saucers. She placed the tray down on the table nearest the stove and sat down, her normally cheerful face serious.

“I suppose you’ve heard the latest, Thomas?”

Thomas raised his eyebrows in query.

“They’re sending the Cherokees overland. The summer drought has made the Tennessee unnavigable, so they can’t go by boat.”

“That’s why there are so many soldiers in town, then?”

“Aye. They’re making sure they go,” Angus said grimly.

“But how can the government possibly send them on a journey overland at this time of year?” Thomas’s tone was incredulous.

“I don’t know, my friend. It’s inhuman, but the poor souls have no choice.”

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.