The Dividing Tide – Episode 38

“I would accompany you,” Arthek continued, “but I cannot change my arrangements at this late hour. That leaves one option. You must return to the house.”

Jenna wavered. She had grown fond of Uncle Arthek over the past few months and the last thing she wanted was for him to find himself in danger.

“Have you thought what Jago and Morwenna will say when your absence is discovered?” he pressed.

“It won’t be. Lamorna is covering for me.”

“Do you think that will make any difference?” A smile crept into his voice. “Have you learned so little about my sister-in-law since being here? Nothing escapes her eye, even when she’s confined to bed!”

He leaned against the trunk of a nearby tree.

“Look, I know all this business about the will has created trouble for you, but Father truly wished to reunite our families.”

“He should have done so when he was alive,” she retorted, conveniently forgetting that she benefited from the arrangement, too.

“Perhaps,” he agreed. “Who knows what his reasons were, or what pressures he was under?”

For a moment there was no sound but the soughing of the breeze in the trees as she considered his words.

“It would be a disaster to our family if the will is not adhered to,” he continued. “There are certain of our relatives – you are fortunate not to have met them yet – who would be delighted at the slightest deviation of its terms.” His voice dropped almost to a whisper.

“Our finances are far from robust, for my brother and his wife live beyond their means. To lose the mine would be a disaster. Not only to us, Jenna. Think of all the men in our employ, their families . . .”

Her shoulders slumped. Uncle Arthek had played his trump card. How could she allow herself to be the cause of such a catastrophe?

“How would it be if I went to see your grandmother for you?” he offered. “When my business here is completed I will be journeying on to the coast. It would be small trouble to go on to Merrick Cove.”

She thought it over. She didn’t have much choice.

Arthek seemed to take her silence as agreement.

“That’s settled, then,” he said brightly. “Now, let us go back.”

Jenna sighed. It seemed she was beaten.

“Will you give Mamm-wynn a message for me?” she asked as they turned back towards the house.

“Of course.” His voice came from behind her. “What is it you wish me to say?”

She stopped and turned.

“That I’m well, and that I miss her dearly. And remind her that I’ll be home at Michaelmas.

“And please check that the chimney has been mended and the thatch replenished. That was part of the agreement, you see. And you must make sure she has enough food and warmth for her comfort.”

“You have my word upon all of it. Please continue walking.”

She did as he asked, and soon they reached the edge of the copse.

“Which door did you leave by?” he whispered as they stood looking at the darkened house.

“I didn’t,” she whispered back. “I climbed from the landing window, the one overlooking the conservatory. It was easy with the ivy there.”

He gave a muffled laugh.

“It seems you have my family’s spirit as well as your own.” He paused. “Never mind that now, let us go. Follow me and be as quiet as you can. We must get you safely back before your absence is discovered.”

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.