SE­RIAL The Di­vid­ing Tide

Jenna froze at the sight of the locket. Why was Garren re­turn­ing it to her?

The People's Friend - - 8 - by Lorna Howarth

JENNA’S mind raced as she hur­ried through the dark copse. Had one of the ser­vants heard her climb­ing down the ivy? It would ex­plain the light she’d seen.

They’d re­port it to Mor­wenna; she’d tell Jago and then the con­se­quences didn’t bear think­ing about. What­ever had made her think up such a child­ish scheme as run­ning off in the night? Should she go back?

She didn’t, for one rea­son. She had to see how her grand­mother was, and that was that.

The anx­i­ety she felt did not di­min­ish, though, and the deep­en­ing dark­ness played on her imag­i­na­tion. Each rus­tle be­came a phan­tom, ev­ery deeply shad­owed trunk a high­way­man wait­ing to ac­cost her.

Once, it even felt as if some­one were be­hind her and she stopped in her tracks, lis­ten­ing. But the only sound was the far-off hoot of an owl.

“There’s noth­ing here in the night that isn’t here in the day,” she said aloud to calm her­self. “You’ve too fan­ci­ful a mind. Isn’t Mamm-wynn is al­ways telling you so?”

Be­rat­ing her­self in this way gave her courage as she car­ried on, but the feel­ing she was not alone re­fused to go away, and she cast many un­easy looks over her shoul­der.

It was when she reached an open glade where the path in­ter­sected with an­other, that she grew re­ally afraid. Was some­one call­ing her name, or had she imag­ined it?

No. There it was again. “Jenna! Jenna!”

She be­gan run­ning, stum­bling over tree roots, but the thud of boots grew faster and louder.

“Devil take it, Jenna. Stop!”

At first her ter­ri­fied mind re­fused to re­spond, then recog­ni­tion fil­tered through. “Un­cle Arthek?”

A tall shad­owy fig­ure ap­peared out of the dark­ness and stood be­fore her, pant­ing.

“What in the devil’s name are you do­ing out here, and at this time of night?”

“Please don’t try to stop me,” she begged. “I’m not do­ing any harm. There’s some­thing I must do, that’s all.” She turned away, but a strong grip upon her el­bow stayed her.

“What­ever it is you’re up to, you can’t do it on your own at this time of night.” His voice was firm. “It’s not safe.”

All fear had left her. There was one thought in her brain, and that was that she must get to Mer­rick Cove.

Per­haps, if she ex­plained, he would un­der­stand and let her go on.

“I’m go­ing home.” Only for a few hours. I’ll be back be­fore any­one knows.” She could hear the whee­dle in her voice. “My grand­mother is old, and I must see how she fares. I’m all she has.”

His grip slack­ened, but his voice re­mained stern.

“There are those who think ill of me, and per­haps for good rea­son. But I am not with­out heart. I un­der­stand you are home­sick and want to look af­ter your own.

“Still,” he con­tin­ued, “I can­not al­low you to be about on your own at this hour. There are un­savoury char­ac­ters here­abouts, Jenna, some en­gaged in mat­ters it would serve you well not to know about.”

“Pooh, if you’re talk­ing about the night-trade, you’re for­get­ting I’ve lived all my life on the coast. Smug­gling is sec­ond na­ture to folk where I come from.”

“Brave words, Jenna, but I can­not in all con­science al­low you to be ex­posed to dan­ger whilst you are un­der our care. I must in­sist upon es­cort­ing you back to the house.”

Jenna pulled her cloak around her in a de­fi­ant ges­ture.

“I won’t go.”

His voice grew deeper. “Let me speak more frankly. It is not only your ac­tions that will not stand scru­tiny tonight. When they find you miss­ing, a search will be set up.

“The coun­try­side will be swarm­ing with peo­ple. All pos­si­ble wit­nesses to the men in my em­ploy,” he added cryp­ti­cally. “Do you un­der­stand?”

Jenna nod­ded. She’d heard ru­mours about Arthek Nankerris. The word was that he was in­volved in in­trigue of the high­est order, and that he helped or­gan­ise the safe pas­sage of doc­u­ments be­tween the courts of France and Eng­land.

She hadn’t be­lieved it un­til now, and felt a tin­gle of fear for him. If it was true, the game he played was dan­ger­ous in­deed.

“I would ac­com­pany you,” he 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 Mammwynn 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

Jenna had no choice but to give up her plan to run away

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.”

The next morn­ing, Mor­wenna sat in bed wait­ing for Jenna to ar­rive.

She had sum­moned her to at­tend her in her bed­room in order to dis­cuss her re­cent re­quest to re­turn home. She had spo­ken to Jago about it and he had agreed that the mat­ter needed nip­ping in the bud.

She looked across at her husband where he sat in a chair be­side the win­dow, look­ing out ab­sently at the gar­den, tap­ping his fin­gers on the arms as they waited.

She knew he was ea­ger to leave for his day’s work. The door opened. “You wished to see me, Aunt?” Jenna asked. She sup­pressed a yawn and Mor­wenna stared at her, frown­ing in ir­ri­ta­tion.

“What’s the mat­ter with you?” she snapped. “Haven’t you had enough sleep? Per­haps you have not re­cov­ered from your headache?”

“No, in­deed, it’s much bet­ter, Aunt, thank you. I’m just a lit­tle tired.”

“You shouldn’t be at your age. I thought coun­try girls were more ro­bust.”

Jago got up and came to­wards the bed.

“Good morn­ing,

Jenna,” he said kindly.

“Good morn­ing, Un­cle.”

“Don’t stand shuf­fling your feet like a ser­vant.”

Mor­wenna knew she was be­ing un­kind, but she was still an­gry over Jenna’s be­hav­iour at the ball. Set­ting her cap at Pasco Buller, in­deed. Who did the chit think she was?

“Come closer where I can see you!” She pushed her­self up against the pil­lows as Jenna stepped for­wards obe­di­ently.

“Don’t look so wor­ried.” Jago smiled, sit­ting on the foot of the four-poster bed. “We just wish to speak to you about your re­quest to visit home. Your aunt and I have been dis­cussing it.”

“And we are in per­fect agree­ment.” It was im­por­tant they show a united front. “Your re­quest to go home is quite out of the ques­tion. It may put the Nankerris Es­tate in jeop­ardy, and we sim­ply can­not have that.”

Jenna stood, eyes down­cast.

“Don’t you have any­thing to say?” she asked, ex­as­per­ated. “Tell us why you would wish to go in the first place. Are you not com­fort­able here? Have we not made you wel­come?”

The fire in the grate gave a crackle as the morn­ing’s logs caught.

Jenna gave a small sigh. “I do un­der­stand how im­por­tant it is that I stay here,” she said.

She met Jago’s gaze. “Well, that’s some­thing, any­way.” Mor­wenna said.

“In­deed it is,” he re­sponded, “but per­haps we might make life a lit­tle more ex­cit­ing for Jenna?” He turned to her. “How would you like to come with Lamorna to look around the mine? You have vis­ited me once be­fore, I know, but this time we shall show you more.” Jenna’s pretty face lit up. “The mine, Un­cle? Why, I’d like that very much, thank you.”

He nod­ded, smil­ing. “Are you happy with the idea, Mor­wenna?”

“It’s as good a plan as any,” she agreed re­luc­tantly.

He nod­ded his ap­proval of her re­ply as he got up and stepped for­wards to press a kiss upon her cheek.

“There you are. I told you you were wor­ry­ing about noth­ing. Now, I must be off. Mines don’t run them­selves, you know,” he joked.

She waited un­til the door had closed be­hind him be­fore turn­ing her gaze once more upon Jenna.

“Now that we are alone,” she said icily, “I have to tell you that I’m not at all amused with your re­quest to re­turn home. It was self­ish, and very wrong of you to worry me when I am so in­dis­posed.”

“I am sorry, Aunt.” “Hmm. Well, you can show how sorry you are by go­ing on an er­rand. I need you to fetch the lat­est ‘Pick­wick Pa­pers’ jour­nal from the post of­fice. I have had it sent from London. The walk might wake you up a lit­tle,” she added.

“Of course, Aunt.” “When you get back,” she added, shift­ing her po­si­tion to make her­self more com­fort­able, “you can come and read it to me.”

“You’re leav­ing? I’m sorry to hear that, lad. Just when I’d got used to hav­ing you about the place!”

Garren and An­nie were sit­ting in the kitchen with its im­pos­ing black-leaded range and stone floor.

The morn­ing light had not yet cut across the win­dow sill, and the glow of the fire gave the room a cosy air.

“Had enough of mine work, I sup­pose,” An­nie con­tin­ued. “Ah, well, it doesn’t suit ev­ery man.”

Garren pushed away his break­fast plate and leaned for­wards to place his el­bows on the well-scrubbed ta­ble.

He glanced at the small car­riage clock that stood on the dresser. He had an­other five min­utes be­fore he’d need to be off to work.

“It’s not that, An­nie,” he said, “well, not ex­actly. The work’s right enough and I can’t com­plain at the pay. It’s more than I was earn­ing catch­ing fish, at any rate.” “But?”

He ran his fin­gers through his hair. There was no get­ting any­thing past An­nie, so he might as well tell her the truth.

“It’s not home. And, well, there’s this girl,” he added rue­fully.

“Ah.” He felt An­nie’s gaze set­tle more in­tently on him.

“Back in Septem­ber I was on the point of ask­ing her to wed me, but then her rel­a­tives sent for her to come and live with them in St Austell.

“They’re gen­try, way above the likes o’ me, and now she’s be­come one of them. The truth is, I’ve lost her,” he fin­ished.

Sad­ness swept over him, but within it was a knot of anger. She’d gone with­out even say­ing good­bye!

He pic­tured Jenna as she’d been the last time he’d seen her. She’d hardly seemed the same girl he’d known and loved for so many years.

When she’d first left, Garren had thought the locket she’d left be­hind for him was a to­ken of her con­stancy.

He lifted his fin­gers to feel its hard round shape be­neath his shirt.

Now it only served to in­flame him, for it seemed to rep­re­sent the gap that now yawned be­tween them. They couldn’t be fur­ther apart if she were a princess and he a pau­per.

“It’s not worked out with this girl?” An­nie’s eyes were keen in her wrin­kled face. He shook his head. “Ah, lad, I’m right sorry to hear it. Life can be hard in­deed at times.” She paused.

“What’ll you do when you get back to Bidreath if the fish­ing trou­bles are still go­ing on?”

He thought how much he’d missed the feel of the wind in his hair and the taste of salt spray on his lips.

“I’ll just have to swal­low my pride and go to work for the sein­ers, An­nie. What’s pride, af­ter all, to a hun­gry man?”

She nod­ded thought­fully as she ad­justed her cap and tied the rib­bons be­neath her chin, ready for the day.

“Seems to me as if you’ve gone from boy to man since you’ve been here.”

“Seems I have.” Garren pushed back his chair and stood up. “I’ll tell the cap­tain at the mine today that I’m leav­ing, and I’ll be out of your hair come Sun­day.”

“As long as you come and see old An­nie any time you’re back this way,” she said, stand­ing up too and reach­ing for his crib. “Now, get along with you, lest they dock your pay.”

Garren was deep in thought as he strode across the moor to Wheal Daniel.

He didn’t no­tice the yel­low flow­ers blos­som­ing on the gorse bushes or the melodic notes of the sky­larks as they rose into the blue sky.

He racked his brains as he walked, his boots ring­ing out rhyth­mi­cally on the stony path. He had to get word to Jenna that he was leav­ing, but how?

An idea struck him, so sim­ple he won­dered he hadn’t thought of it be­fore. Why not ask the master him­self to pass on a mes­sage to Jenna?

He knew it was dar­ing, but what was the worst that could hap­pen? It would hardly mat­ter now if he sacked Garren, for he was leav­ing any­way.

When he reached the mine he sought out the cap­tain, who proved philo­soph­i­cal about the news that Garren was leav­ing.

“I’m sorry to lose you, Quick. You’re a good worker. But, the truth is, there are six men want­ing your job. Your boots won’t be hard to fill.”

Af­ter that, Garren walked quickly across the yard to knock on Jago’s door. He knew the master was there, for he’d seen his horse hitched out­side the black­smith’s forge, wait­ing to be shod.

A musty scent of old ledgers and clay dust greeted him as he en­tered. Jago looked up at him from where he sat be­hind his desk.

“It’s a very ir­reg­u­lar re­quest, Quick, and one I wouldn’t nor­mally con­sider,” he told him in

re­sponse to his ques­tion. “How­ever,” he con­tin­ued, re­plac­ing his pen into the ink well, “I am well aware of the debt of grat­i­tude we owe you in re­spect of what you did for my brother.”

To Garren’s sur­prise, his em­ployer stood up and held out his hand across his desk. Garren stepped for­wards. Jago’s grip was sur­pris­ingly warm and strong.

“What is it you wish me to say to Miss Goss?”

“Just good­bye, sir, if you will. Oh, and please give her this.” He reached up and un­tied the silver locket from his neck.

He had to swal­low hard against the lump that rose to his throat as he held it out.

“If you’d be so good, sir.”

“The mood in town’s grow­ing ugly,” Thomas told Ahyoka, star­ing ab­sently at the flurry of snowflakes swirling against the frosty win­dow pane.

The Georgia snows, which had be­gun soon af­ter the rains, had con­tin­ued un­ceas­ingly for sev­eral weeks and the day­light re­flected from the tall drifts sent a ghostly glow around the white­washed walls.

They were sit­ting in the school­room at the Mis­sion House, where they had lived since their mar­riage in the mis­sion­ary church, for the cabin in the hills had be­come far too dan­ger­ous a place with the amount of loot­ers around.

The room, with its rows of empty benches, seemed far too large with­out the chil­dren to oc­cupy it, but with the mis­sion­ar­ies gone there were no teach­ers to teach them any more.

“Ellis warned me it might come to this,” he mur­mured. “We have to keep you out of sight till we can leave.”

Thomas re­mem­bered the ad­vice his friend had given him as he’d helped them pack the wagon for the long jour­ney to Oklahoma.

“I’d stay put, if I were you, Tom. If Ahyoka is seen out and about, she’s likely to be taken with no ques­tions asked. The only thing the sol­diers will see is the fact she’s Chero­kee. Noth­ing else will mat­ter.”

The en­forced Chero­kee march was well un­der­way now but strag­glers were still be­ing ap­pre­hended, and as each day passed Thomas’s re­luc­tance to leave his wife alone in­creased.

“The split be­tween those in favour of Re­moval and those against it is grow­ing,” he con­tin­ued. “I don’t want you go­ing amongst them any more. It’s too dan­ger­ous.”

“I can­not stay in the house all the time, Thomas,” she re­mon­strated. “Surely there are enough peo­ple on our side to make my pres­ence safe?”

“Maybe.” He smiled, but he felt far from con­vinced.

Feel­ings ran high on the sub­ject and only yes­ter­day a fight had bro­ken out at the mine be­tween two men ar­gu­ing the case.

He got up and picked up a log from the bas­ket be­side the stove. Then he lifted the lid of the burner, and a shower of red sparks show­ered up­wards as he placed it inside.

“A free Chero­kee’s like a red rag to a bull to some,” he told her. “They’ve got fines now for any­one act­ing against Re­moval, and there’s even talk of im­pris­on­ment. Peo­ple will be afraid to stand by you, Ahyoka.”

“I have you as my husband, re­mem­ber, Thomas.” She looked at him steadily as he sat down again be­side her, her eyes as dark as the plaits that lay across her pon­cho.

“It’s not enough. What could one man do against a mob?”

As soon as he’d spo­ken the words, he wished he hadn’t, for her face paled. The last thing he’d wanted to do was to frighten her.

“I’ve thought of giv­ing up my job at the mine while we wait it out,” he con­tin­ued, “but I’m wor­ried any change might bring more at­ten­tion to us.

“It’s bet­ter to act as nor­mally as pos­si­ble and sim­ply keep you out of sight. As soon as the snows start to melt and the Fed­eral Road is pass­able again, we’ll leave.”

She nod­ded.

“But where will we go?’ she asked. “This is my home. It is the only place I have known.”

“We’ll go to Eng­land un­til things set­tle down.”

It was the first time he had put his idea to her, and he knelt be­side her to take her hands in his.

“Be­fore we were mar­ried, I was planning to re­turn home,” he con­fessed. “I need to see my daugh­ter and make things right with her, to ask for her for­give­ness for my long ne­glect.”

Her glance fell to the floor.

“It won’t be for ever,” he said gen­tly. “I know your heart is here, and mine is too, now.” Gen­tly he cupped her chin in his hand.

“We’ll come back when things are no longer so un­cer­tain. I’ll ask Isaac to write and let us know when that time comes.”

She at­tempted a smile. “The gov­ern­ment might not al­low me to leave the coun­try, Thomas. If they are send­ing all the Na­tive Amer­i­can tribes to live on the plains, why would they let one Chero­kee escape?”

He’d thought of that. In fact, he’d thought of lit­tle else for days.

“I don’t know,” he said hon­estly.

It was a grave con­cern to him and one he didn’t know the an­swer to.

“But you’re my wife now, and that’s how the law has to see it.

“Don’t worry, we’ll find a way, even if we have to dis­guise our­selves to get aboard a ship!” he joked, try­ing to lighten the se­ri­ous­ness of the sit­u­a­tion. Ahyoka gave a lit­tle smile. “When it’s safe again, we’ll re­turn,’ he promised. “We’ll buy some land the lot­tery own­ers don’t want, and work it like you and your grand­fa­ther did. Would you like that?” He held her hand tightly in his. Ahyoka nod­ded.

“I would like that very much,” she whis­pered. Then she smiled at him. “I have de­cided to give you Chero­kee name,” she said. “It is De­go­toga. It means “‘stand­ing to­gether.’”

Thomas felt his heart swell. He felt proud to have been given a name from such an hon­ourable cul­ture.

“Yes,” he said softly. “What­ever the fu­ture holds, we’ll stand to­gether.”

Jenna looked across the din­ner ta­ble at Arthek. Since their ad­ven­ture to­gether on the night she’d climbed out of the win­dow, there had been an un­spo­ken bond be­tween them.

She was glad he’d come to dine with the fam­ily. His con­ver­sa­tion was never dull, and he al­ways took special care to in­clude her in it.

The April weather had taken a step back to­wards win­ter, but the room was pleas­antly warm, with a large fire burn­ing in the or­nate fire­place, and can­dle­light twin­kled on the silver cut­lery.

As the ser­vants brought in the food dishes and ar­ranged them on the side­board, Arthek leaned back in his chair and looked down to the empty place at the end of the ta­ble.

“Is my sis­ter-in-law able to join us?”

Jago shook his head. “Un­for­tu­nately she is not, brother,” he replied. “But the good news is that the doc­tor has said she will be able to get up for a short pe­riod each day now.

“Her con­di­tion has be­come sta­ble and he would like her to gather strength for when the time comes for her con­fine­ment.”

“That is good news in­deed,” Arthek re­sponded. “She’s done ev­ery­thing the doc­tor has told her to do. I’m sure all will be well.” “I trust you are right.” Jago was quiet for a mo­ment be­fore he turned to Lamorna.

“How is Prince this evening, my dear?”

Prince was a young colt who had shied at a hedge and fallen, graz­ing its fore­leg.

“I think he’s go­ing to be all right, thank you, Papa. We’ve put a poul­tice on, but he’ll need to be

sta­bled for a while.”

She chat­tered on, and Jenna was left to her own thoughts. They turned, as they so of­ten did, to Garren, and she won­dered what he was do­ing, and who he was with.

If only I were back in the cot­tage, she thought.

In her mind’s eye she was back with Mamm-wynn. In her day­dream Garren was there, too.

He al­ways came to sup­per on a Wed­nes­day and she was mak­ing stargazy pie, for that was his favourite.

Lit­tle clouds of flour rose from the ta­ble as she dusted the scrubbed sur­face with flour be­fore rolling out the pas­try . . .

Her thoughts were in­ter­rupted by the sound of laugh­ter, and she looked up to find three pairs of eyes gaz­ing at her.

“Dream­ing again, young Jenna?” Jago asked.

“I’m sorry, Un­cle.” Blush­ing, she re­ar­ranged the linen nap­kin on her lap. “I was think­ing of home.”

“I’m sure that if I were away from Nankerris, my thoughts would re­turn home­wards, too,” he said kindly.

Nancy stepped for­wards from her place at the serv­ing ta­ble and la­dled hare soup from a large tureen into their bowls. Si­lence de­scended as they ate.

“Oh, I al­most for­got,” Jago said, look­ing up from his bowl. “A friend of yours has been work­ing for us at the mine.” He ex­changed a look with Arthek be­fore let­ting his gaze set­tle back on her.

Jenna was taken aback. “A friend of mine? You must be mis­taken, Un­cle, I know no-one here­abouts.”

“Well, he cer­tainly seems to know you. A young man by the name of Quick.” Her heart leapt. “Garren?” Her spoon clat­tered against her bowl. “He’s here?”

Her mind be­gan to spin. What was he do­ing at St Austell? And why on earth had he had cause to speak to her un­cle? Jago gave a small cough. “He has asked me to con­vey a mes­sage to you. I am not in the habit of play­ing at mes­sen­ger,” he added, rais­ing his eye­brows at her, “but we rather owe him a debt of grat­i­tude, do we not, brother?”

Arthek in­clined his head in af­fir­ma­tion.

“Was he the worker who lifted the phaeton off you?” Lamorna asked, for every­one knew about his ac­ci­dent.

“The very same,” Jago replied. “In the cir­cum­stances, I considered it churl­ish to refuse.”

Jenna clutched the sides of her chair un­til the edges dug into her palms.

“What was the mes­sage he gave you, Un­cle?”

He waited un­til his bowl was re­moved be­fore he an­swered.

“It was noth­ing of great im­por­tance. He sim­ply asked me to bid you farewell.

“It seems min­ing is not to his taste and he is re­turn­ing home, that is all.

“Ah! Baked pi­geon, Nancy. My favourite.”

“There’s burnt cream for dessert, too, sir.” She beamed.

But the con­ver­sa­tion had be­come a dis­tant hum to Jenna. Her mind was reel­ing. How long had Garren been here? Why hadn’t he con­tacted her?

She frowned. And why was he leav­ing?

She looked up.

“May I see him, Un­cle?” Jago shook his head. “I’m afraid not, my dear. He has al­ready gone. But he asked me to give you this, I al­most for­got.” He put his hand into his pocket and drew out the locket.

The blood in her veins turned to ice when she saw it. He was break­ing their troth, there was no other in­ter­pre­ta­tion.

She felt her heart con­tract. Why had she agreed to come to this wretched place? If she had left well alone, they’d still be to­gether, and she’d be happy.

Now her world had crashed down around her. Ev­ery­thing be­tween them was ru­ined, and it was all her fault.

To be con­tin­ued.

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