The Dividing Tide – Episode 30

Morwenna rested for the rest of the day, but by the following afternoon, though she still had a headache, she was growing restless.

She rang the bell for Lamorna to be sent to her.

“Read to me. My eyes hurt too much to focus on words, and if I do not have something to occupy me I shall go out of my mind.”

“Of course, Mama.” Lamorna sat down but as she did so she glanced longingly through the window at the bright January sunshine. “What is it to be? One of Papa’s books from the library?”

“Those dry old things? Certainly not. Something by Mr Dickens. ‘The Pickwick Papers’. You will find the journals in the bottom drawer of the map chest, beneath the estate maps.”

“Mama!” Lamorna laughed. “You put your stories right under Papa’s nose? What would he say if he knew? You know he thinks reading fiction is a frivolous pastime.”

“That was part of the fun.” She laughed, too.

Lamorna disappeared and five minutes later was making herself as comfortable as she could on the horse-hair chair by the bed. Then she began.

“Slowly!” Morwenna demanded after a few moments. “I can’t understand a word you’re saying. Why do you have to speak so fast?”

Lamorna glanced again at the window, where the afternoon sun was dropping on to the carpet, then, with a sigh, began again.

“Now you’re reading too softly. I can’t make out what you’re saying at all.”

She held up her hand.

“And how am I supposed to lose myself in the story if you’re constantly looking at the window as if you wished you were outside? I suppose you’re worried about missing your ride.”

Lamorna placed the journal down on her lap.

“I am sorry, Mama. It’s just that the day is such a fine one. It’ll be dark in a couple of hours, and I do so love a gallop.”

“Oh, for goodness’ sake, go,” Morwenna ordered. “Send one of the maids in to make up the fire, then ask your cousin to come to me.”

In a flash, Lamorna was at the door. Once there she paused.

“I am glad about the baby, you know, Mama,” she said softly.

Before Morwenna could reply, she was gone.

Dear child, what a sweet thing to say. Morwenna lay back and closed her eyes, overcome with tiredness. Perhaps the young doctor had been right, after all, to make her rest.

She opened her eyes to find Jenna standing beside her, looking worried.

“Sit down, child. I won’t bite,” she told her.

Jenna did as she was told, but the concerned look only increased when Morwenna handed her the journal.

“You’d better start at the beginning,” she said.

She saw Jenna’s cheeks redden. What had she said now? Had she made the girl so very afraid of her?

“Well?” she prompted.

“I don’t know my letters, Aunt.” Jenna’s cheeks flushed even deeper.

“Don’t know your letters!” Morwenna looked at her in surprise. “At your age? Really, I think I was right. You are no more elevated than our servants.”

But as she looked at Jenna’s bowed head and the droop of her shoulders, Morwenna felt a glimmer of sympathy. She knew what it was like to be set apart by circumstance.

When her father’s gambling debts had cost them their home, their status had plummeted and the people she’d thought were their friends had ostracised them.

“Go and fetch a slate.” Her tone, if not gentle, was no longer harsh. “I will teach you.”

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.