Abby Ch. 26byKezza67©
When Sam came in that evening, Abby left him and Mr. Brasher to talk, and moved to a position by the bar, which by now the regulars were coming to know as her place. She had not been there long when a tall lugubrious man who she had seen before but apart from nodding had no conversation, approached her.
He didn't seem too pleased with her. "Miss Tregonney, I will thank you not to get involved in business which is nothing to do with you. You come down here, fresh from your City and think you can tell us how to do things. You know nothing about farming, so please keep your nose out of our affairs. That is all I have to say. Goodnight to you." Abby was so taken aback that she didn't know what to say.
Fortunately Jack had overheard the diatribe. "Nat! If you leave now you will never be welcome in this place again. I would like you to apologise to Abby." His raised voice stopped every conversation in the Bar, and brought Sam to see what was going on.
Nathaniel Gaunton, for that was who he was, furiously pointed a quivering finger at Abby. "That young lady is trying to tell me how I should run my farm. I won't have it. I have got on well enough all these years without a slip of a girl; who knows nothing about farming; offering me advice I don't need."
Sam was not going to stand there and allow Abby to be shouted at. "Nat! Don't you dare point your finger like that, it is insolent. Abby is not telling you how to run your farm. She merely passed on a request from the gentleman who I was talking to just now, about possible supplies, on a regular basis, of produce. That was all she did. She has no wish to get involved any more than that. Now if you don't feel the need to have a new customer you are obviously doing better than you let on. You were always one to have a short temper and jumping to the wrong conclusion. Now calm down, and let us have a talk about this." He led Nathaniel away.
Abby had still not said anything, still shocked at the outburst. Well aware that she may have been thought of as interfering, she had not thought that it could lead to this. Jack put a drink in front of her.
"Here, Abby. Drink this; it will calm your nerves." He then turned to prevent Mary, who had heard the ruckus from her kitchen, going round to give Nat a piece of her tongue. "Leave it Mary. Sam's dealing with it."
Mary was fuming. "I'll give that Nat what for. He is not coming in here and speaking to Abby like that."
Jack calmed her down. "It's all right, Love. Sam is talking to Nat, and I am sure in a moment Nat will be apologising to Abby."
As Abby calmed she realised that Mr. Brasher was left alone, and probably wondering what all the fuss was about. She took her drink and went into the Lounge to sit with him. She explained that there had been a misunderstanding.
"I did not hear it all, Abby, but I did hear Sam say that it was about farm produce. I hope it wasn't anything to do with my request."
"No. Mr. Brasher. It was more to do with the way I went about it. That man thought I was interfering."
"If my enquiry is causing any unpleasantness, then I shall withdraw. I don't want to be the source of discord between you and your new neighbours."
"No, Mr. Brasher, you are not at fault. As I said it is a misunderstanding, and Mr. Perry is sorting it out now. Anyway, Mary has told me that there is a large joint sitting in her Cold Room at the moment. She said it was a top and hip, whatever that is. It will be packed with ice for when you go."
He brightened. "Well at least I shall enjoy some more of this superb meat at my Club. There are one or two members upon whom it will be wasted of course, but that cannot be helped. Can you tell me, who do I have to reimburse?" Abby wondered herself about this, but concluded that the items would appear on his Bill."I would imagine that it will be included on your account from the Inn." He nodded.
"That will be fine. If this is acceptable to my Club, to whom should we address further orders?"
"May I get in touch with you about that? That is where the little misunderstanding lay. There are four major producers in the valley. They need to sort out their own system of co-operation. Farmers it would appear are very independent, and resentful of what they consider outside interference." He gently shook his head in understanding.
"I think I know what you mean. Sam appeared to be very much in favour though." All this time, Abby had been keeping an eye on Sam and Nathaniel, heads close in earnest discussion by the door. She was pleased that eventually Nathaniel seemed to nod his head, and a more benign expression came to his demeanour. They came over to where Abby sat with Mr. Brasher.
"Excuse me Mr. Brasher, but could Nat have a word with Abby."
Abby got up and went to the other side of the room with Nathaniel. He coughed a little and looked embarrassed. "Miss Tregonney, would you please forgive me for my outburst. Sam has explained everything to me, and I realise that I jumped to the wrong conclusion. Unfortunately, as Sam pointed out, it is one of my failings. Please do accept my apology."
Abby was happy to do this. "Mr. Gaunton. Please do not worry about it. I do realise that as a newcomer I should not interfere, and truly that was not my intention. Would you in turn forgive me if it appeared that way?" The smile came to Nat's face.
"Miss Tregonney, there is nothing to forgive you for. May I buy you a drink?" Abby ignoring the fact that she already had a drink on the table, accepted, and they walked to the bar together, where Mary awaited them with a face that could blister paint. She appeared somewhat mollified when Nathaniel asked Abby what drink she would like, and Abby happily asked for a Vodka and Tonic. Mary's temper eased as they chatted without rancour.
However Jack murmuring in her ear. "See, Sam sorted it out." Did not please her, and she snapped at him. "We're running out of glasses, get some in." Jack grinned, and went off to collect some empties.
It is a curious aspect of Life that those who originally may be thought of as your enemy, turn into the strongest supporter. Thus it was with Nathaniel Gaunton, who became a spirited advocate for Abby. Urging the others, not that they needed urging, to enlist Abby's help in encouraging this new customer. Abby spent quite some time accessing the internet learning as much as she could about fatstock and prices. She was aware that this could come to nothing, but reasoned that if it succeeded, she should be prepared. It came as a relief to her when the weather which had been consistently squally, relented and produced one of those fine autumn days of Sun, light breeze, and comparative warmth. She walked down to the station, filling her lungs with clean fresh air, and enjoying stretching her legs. If she had expected an oasis of tranquillity, as she come to expect, she was surprised. Outside the goods shed a bonfire was billowing grey smoke towards the sky. Whilst in front of her house a lorry and a van had been parked. Men were loading her grandfather's furniture into the van. The first thought was alarm, until she noticed the Logo on the side of the van proclaiming it to belong to George Walker. The man himself was there supervising the work.
He greeted Abby cheerfully. "Managed to get the last job completed a little earlier, so I thought you wouldn't mind if we started."
"No, not at all. What will you do with the furniture?"
"I shall take it to Archie Breed, my furniture man. He will check it thoroughly and repair if needed."
"It won't come back looking brand new, will it?"
"No, Miss Tregonney. Archie's good, but I doubt that even he could perform that miracle. It will be cleaned and polished, but it will still look as if it has seen years of service." A shout from one of his men, called him away.
Abby walked over to the goods shed, where the great doors had been slid open and was confronted by an apparition, dressed neck to toe in protective clothing, and whose face was covered by a mask. Heavy black gloves completed the outfit. The apparition waved its arms, and lifted the face-mask. It was Harry.
"Don't come any closer Miss Abby; we are using chemicals in there." Abby stopped where she was, and Harry joined her.
He seemed to be quite happy."Got those doors open." He told her gleefully. "Both ends."
"Yes, there are identical doors the other end of the shed." Abby digested that information; no doubt Mr. Brasher would cover that in his notes. Harry was continuing.
"We have cleared the carcasses, and they are being burned. If they were diseased, wouldn't want to just bury 'em. Sam is spraying the place to kill anything that may be left. We'll leave the doors open for a couple of days, so that the chemical airs out."
"What about the live pigeons?" Abby was worried that they had been killed.
"No problem. They all took to their wings, when we started. I have been up and cleared the nests. They were the first things on the bonfire. The birds won't be back for some time. They will come back eventually, they always do. A couple of good cats will keep them under control if you think they are becoming a nuisance."
"How long have you been here?" Abby asked in astonishment."To do so much work?"
"Started yesterday. We will have it finished today. Oh and by the way, we found out why that Van was left here. Seems to have a seized axle. But I reckon I can sort that. Just need to work out a way that I can get my tractor in to lift it." Abby laughed.
"Is there nothing you cannot do?' Harry grinned back at her.
"Spend a lifetime in farming and you get to know how to fix most things without getting specialist help in. Besides it's a challenge and I like that." Another figure, similarly clothed to Harry emerged from the shed. He came over to them, lifting his mask as he came.
"Thought you had gone off for a cuppa." Sam grinned to Harry. "Hello, Abby. See! Things are happening."
"So I notice. Well you are not the only ones who have been doing things. I have managed to get a lot of information about fatstock prices. It would help if I can sit down and chat about it some time."
Harry looked at Sam and nodded his head.
Sam being elected spokesman turned to Abby. "Well we have been chatting about this, and Nat came up with a good idea."
"Yes, he reckons we should form a Farmer's Co-operative. We will all be partners, and then share equally in the income. But." He paused. "Nat wants you involved Abby, to run it."
Abby shook her head."Oh No, Sam. It's really nothing to do with me, I am an outsider. I haven't been here long enough to understand fully. Yes I can do the research, but I don't know enough to run something like that."
"That's just the point, Miss Abby." Harry added his voice to the discussion. "You are a newcomer. You aren't part of the intrigues and petty disputes. If we tried to run it ourselves, there would be arguments and nothing would ever happen. You do it, and we will all behave ourselves. You are an independent unbiased manager. Besides we need your knowledge of business." Sam was nodding all the while Harry was speaking.
"That's what we all think, Abby. It's up to you. If you don't want to do it, well..." He didn't finish. The obvious thought that it wouldn't happen in that case being left unsaid.
"I am going to have to think about this. I won't say No, neither am I saying yes. Let me mull on this for a day or two." A further thought struck her. "If I say I will do it, I will take advice about how to do it. But in the end it is my decision, no arguments."
"That's why we want you to do it, Miss Abby." Said Harry. "Just so there won't be any arguments."
Sam announced that he was going to continue spraying. "Abby, best you don't stay around here. The fumes can be most unpleasant."
Harry agreed. "Yes, and I am going to put some more carcasses on the fire."
Abby laughed. "Don't beat about the bush; just tell me to go away."
So much for a quiet contemplative morning she thought as she walked back to the village, but at the same time she was pleased. Here was the opportunity to do something, to help, to put her skills to work for the community. She had always known that without something to do, she would not be totally happy here. Without much effort on her part it seemed that her days would now be usefully employed.
The scream of the racing diesel behind her as she approached the village could only mean one thing, James!
She laughed as he braked hard to a stop, and looked out of his window at her. "James that poor Land-Rover must look forward to the scrap heap as a well earned rest."
"Nah. Built for this type of treatment. Coffee?"
"Good idea. Shall I see you in the Inn?"
"Yes, Ok. Or would you like to come up to the house?" Abby nodded smiling. She ran round to the passenger door.
"I hope you haven't had anything disgusting on this seat."
"Abby I am a Gentleman Farmer." James was affronted. "We don't use our cars for carrying mucky stuff!" Abby hopped up and James let in the clutch. At the house, they made their way through to the Breakfast room, and James put the kettle on.
"Sorry." He apologised. "It is only instant coffee here."
"I grew up on the stuff, so it suits me fine." Said a voice immediately behind him. He turned, and found that Abby was standing close.
"A cuddle and a kiss, please James."
"I was thinking the same thing." They were!
Whilst they waited for the kettle to boil, Abby told James about her conversation with Sam and Harry that morning. He didn't seem surprised. "I suppose you knew all about this?" She accused him.
He grinned. "Well not all about it, but I knew something was in the wind. I saw Nat yesterday, and he mentioned a little." He made the coffee, and they sat down at the table.
"So what should I do?" Abby asked.
"Why ask me?" James shrugged his shoulders. "I should think that you have made up your mind already."
"Well perhaps I have, but I would like to know if you think it is a good idea?"
"Is that all?"
"Oh you are not being any help at all this morning." Abby complained.
"That is unfair." He complained. "You ask me if I think it a good idea and I said yes. What else do I say?"
"Well you could have offered advice on setting it up, and how it should be run."
"But you didn't ask that question."
"Oh being literal this morning as well as monosyllabic."
He got up, and walked to her side, took her face between his hands and kissed her. Her happy smile showed that she wasn't upset.
"Am I forgiven?"
"You keep kissing me like that, and you are forgiven for the next half-dozen times you annoy me."
"Sisters are not supposed to enjoy kisses from brothers as much."
"I have made my mind up. You are not my brother."
"I believe that to be true, but until we have it writing..." His voice faded.
"I know, I know. But it is very frustrating. How long will they take, I am getting fed up with the wait, I want to seduce and be seduced."
"Let's change the subject. Talking about it will not make it happen faster." Abby knew he was right.
"Now about your Farmers Co-operative." James started.
"Ok, what about it?" Abby took a sip of coffee and listened.
"Increasing production should not be difficult. They have the land for pasture, and if they want more, I am quite happy to let more land. You will need to think about Cold storage though. The Abattoir in Paverton will probably have enough room, but they will charge for the space. You will need to get an idea of what demand you will have, how often, and rent space accordingly. You will need to look at refrigerated transport. Again the Abattoir can do this, but a trip to London will be costly. Especially if it only a carcass or two." He paused. "Shall I go on?"
"I need to write this down; do you have a Pen and Paper?" He nodded and got up to rummage through a drawer. He handed her a pad. He didn't notice that there was a letter stuck to the pad, which came away when Abby took the pad from him. She couldn't help but see the heading. It was a Share Certificate. Without a word she handed it back to him. For the next hour, James talked and Abby made notes. At the end there was a mountain of research to do.
"There's a lot of phoning to be done here. My mobile will be red-hot."
"That will cost you a fortune. Come up here and use my phone." James suggested. "The lead will run into here, and you can at least sit down in peace and quiet and concentrate. And more importantly, I can come and bother you frequently." Abby's face showed that she quite liked that idea.
"I will pay you for the calls, James." He shook his head.
"Don't worry about it. If all this happens, I shall be better off as I shall rent more land."
Abby was thinking. She didn't want to delve into his business, but at the same time he was being very helpful to her so perhaps she could be helpful to him. "James. I know it was an accident, but I did see that Share Certificate. Tell me to shut up if you wish." She waited.
He simply said. "Go on."
"Those shares are as safe as houses. But they are also very dull. The dividends have never been exactly great. In fact you could do better putting your money in a Building Society. Could I say something else? Again tell me to shut up. I feel I am being intrusive here." He smiled at her.
"No you are not, Abby. It was an accident, but if you can steer me in the right direction I would be grateful. The investments, such as they are, were all made by my father. I have never changed anything, as I know little about the Stock Market."
"Well I am not an expert.
"Oh yes." He scoffed. "You worked in the City, made loads of money for your Bank, and say you're not an expert. Come on; at the very least you know a hell of a lot more about it than I do." Abby smiled at him. Sometimes he appeared so naïve.
"What I did in the City was far away from Stocks. I bought things, commodities, on the informed suspicion that their value would double or treble in the space of a few weeks or months. Stocks and shares are more about balancing a portfolio to give you income and capital growth. However I did hear things and I may be able to suggest a place for your funds which will give you a better income." He digested what she had said.
"Ok let's have it then."
"Not so fast. Not before I have checked one or two things. Then I'll get back with some Companies that are worth going for."
"If you will, perhaps you could look at the others?"
"Are you sure you don't mind James. It is better to look at the thing as a whole, rather than isolated investments."
He nodded. "I'll go find them. They are in my desk drawer in the Estate Office."
"Shall I boil the kettle again?"
"Yes please. I could do with another coffee."
Abby went through to the kitchen and filled the kettle. She lifted the pad on the Aga and placed the kettle. As she waited her mind wandered. Doing this simple job now, but could she see herself as Mistress here? Her imagination took off, discussing with Cook the menus for the week; there would have to be a cook, Abby's culinary skills would never be up to it. Ordering provisions and other requirements but what else? Abby didn't know. She couldn't see herself sitting down to tea in the afternoon with 'The Ladies', nor could she see herself indulging in charitable works. She would be a working wife, which was why this Farmers Co-operative scheme was so important to her, unless there were children? She was certain that James would want children. She was in no doubt that she could give him a child, her monthly visitor was evidence of that. Would a child curtail her lifestyle? Would she be a good mother? James would be an excellent father; she had no qualms on that score. Perhaps the love she would have for any child she and James had created would overcome any deficiencies she may have as a mother. She would certainly not go away to leave her child in the care of others. She brought herself back to the present with a start, and a smile on her face. However she looked at the future it looked good to her. If the results of the tests showed negative that is.