Together We Stand – Episode 36

In her little cottage, high on the Orme, Mari Jones looked up at the knock on the door.

She glanced anxiously at the baby, tucked up in the cradle next to the fire, who had been feverish the past few days and had only just gone off to sleep.

But the breathing was even and regular and, Mari noted with relief, with less wheeziness in the chest.

She made her way as quietly as possible to open the door.

“Good afternoon, Mrs Jones.”

“Mr McGovern!” Mari stared at the elderly form of her landlord, and her husband’s employer, with fear stirring in her belly. “It’s not bad news is it? The ship –”

“Your husband is quite safe, Mr Jones,” Edith’s grandfather replied, stepping inside into the small but spotless kitchen. “At least for now.”

“For now?” In the corner, the baby began to cry. Mari hastily swept her from the cradle, rocking her in her arms as she turned back to Mr McGovern. “Is the ship in danger?”

“His ship has landed safely in Russia,” Mr McGovern replied with a touch of impatience.

His eyes, Mari noted, with an increasing sense of unease, were watching her coldly and calculatingly, with more than a touch of ruthlessness in their depths.

“But unfortunately Mr Jones has been arrested.”

“Arrested?” Anger shot through her to join the fear. “But what on earth for?”

“I’m afraid it’s not good news, Mrs Jones. Your husband has been arrested on suspicion of being a spy.”

His cold eyes watched her as she let out a gasp of dismay.

“I’m afraid the consequences, should he be convicted, could not be worse.”

“But he’s no spy! All he wants is to earn a good wage and return home. He would never do anything to endanger that.”

“No, indeed, Mrs Jones.” Mr McGovern gave a bleak smile. “Of course, the company has great faith in his innocence, and we will do our best to ensure he is freed.

“But I feel I must impress on you the importance of ensuring his reputation at home.”

“Reputation?” Mari smoothed the stickiness of the baby’s hair, grown damp with sweat as the fever returned. “I’m sorry, Mr McGovern, I don’t –”

“Rumours,” he broke in loudly. “It wouldn’t do to be known that he was party to spreading rumours.

“There are Russian spies all around us, Mrs Jones, in the most unexpected of places. Who knows what they might say about your husband if they were to learn that his wife was asking questions about the Crimea, and the hospital at Scutari.”

“But I only asked my grandfather . . .” Mari came to a halt.

She turned away to dampen a clean cloth next to the tap to cool down her baby.

Fear gripped her, with a terrible sense of her husband’s life and their future in the cottage hanging in the balance.

“I only asked him about Miss Nightingale. I’ve always admired her, and he once told me he had been nursed by her,” she said, keeping her voice even, steadying the telltale shake of her hands. “But I must have been mistaken. He didn’t remember anything.”

“Good. Then I suggest it remains that way if you are to have a chance of seeing your husband again.” He turned to leave. “I would ignore the silly women of the suffrage tearooms, if I were you, Mrs Jones.

“It does no-one any good to be associated with a collection of hysterics who are bent on shaming their husbands and fathers, and the upright citizens of Llandudno.

“I’m sure you wouldn’t wish to be seen to do harm to McGovern’s Shipping, now, would you?”

“No,” Mari whispered. “Not in the least.”

“In that case, I will see what I can do to bring your husband home, Mrs Jones, and that his carelessness does not affect his employment.”

“Thank you, sir,” Mari said, swallowing her pride as deep as it would go, and holding her baby tight as the door was slammed shut.

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.