SERIAL The Dividing Tide
Jenna froze at the sight of the locket. Why was Garren returning it to her?
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.
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.”
“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.