Tag Archives: The Gisburn Witch

The Gisburn Witch – $0.99/£0.99 Sale

In honour of the fact that we are now only 10 days away from the release of A Woman Named Sellers on the 1st June 2016, I am pleased to announce that the ebook version of my debut novel, The Gisburn Witch will be on sale for only $0.99/£0.99 over the next month and can be bought via the links below.

The Gisburn Witch currently holds an average rating of 4.13/5.00 on Goodreads as well as having attracted numerous positive reviews and comments.

Praise for The Gisburn Witch:

It is beautifully written and a must-read for lovers of historical fiction.
  - K.J. Farnham, Author of Don’t Call me Kit Kat

Jennet, the protagonist, is a complex, well-constructed character: her very human mix of need, desires, confusion, yearning, loving and sadness is potent and makes her a character that lingers in my mind.
  - Deborah Lincoln, Author of Agnes Canon’s War

Gisburn CoverThe Gisburn Witch
Released: 1st June 2015

A tragic tale of friendship, passion and betrayal set against the backdrop of the Pendle witch trials of 1612, one of the most famous witch trials in English history.

Scandalised as a young woman after being accused of seducing Tom Lister, a gentleman’s son, Jennet Preston’s life is filled with shame and hardship. An outcast in her own village, she befriends the Device family in Blacko, and she is quickly embroiled in their world of folk magic and superstition, of old family feuds and dangerous reputations.

When fate intervenes to reunite her with Tom, Jennet risks everything for love and happiness, but when tragedy strikes Jennet finds that she is vulnerable to accusations for which she could pay the ultimate price. The Gisburn Witch is a novel about falling in love with the wrong person, making the wrong friends, and being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Available at: Amazon UK / Amazon / iTunes / iTunes UK / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords / Kobo

Getting into the swing of things

Over the past few weeks I’ve been working hard (and quietly – so apologies for my silence) on the sequel to The Gisburn Witch, A Girl Named Sellers. I’m pleased to say it’s going well, and I’m really enjoying the process of putting the novel together, building the characters and the themes which run through it. Before anyone gets too excited, I’m not there yet, but in terms of chapters written I’m almost in double digits and I’ve got a good momentum going.

Things are also looking positive for The Gisburn Witch, with last month’s Goodreads giveaway really boosting the book’s profile, generating a lot of interest (not to mention a few more sales!). It’s been really great to hear from people who have read and enjoyed the book, too, and to hear what they took from it, what they liked or didn’t like about particular characters, how the ending made them feel. It’s still a strange feeling at times, to discuss a story I wrote, one which lived in my head for such a long time but is now ‘out there’, so to speak.

All being well, I won’t keep those looking forward to the second book waiting for too long!!

Cracking the US Market

Whilst sales of The Gisburn Witch in the UK have been respectable, so far getting any sales at all in the US has proved tough. It’s hard to figure out exactly why this is; I’m a writer after all, not a PR guru (I could write a separate, lengthy blog post on this – one of the many challenges of being a self-published author is that you have to be a jack of so many trades). It could be the subject matter; if a US reader wants to read novels based around witch trials, they might instinctively head for the Salem shelf rather than delving into the British alternatives. Or, it could quite simply be a result of how I have marketed the book; mainly through social media and blogging, all of which comes from a British base (as I am a UK based writer).

Whatever the reason(s), I despair no longer, for today I have sold my first copy of The Gisburn Witch in the US!! So, here’s to hopefully the first sale of many more! On which note, if you’re in the US you can get your ebook or paperback copy today on Amazon.com by following this link:


The Gisburn Witch Paperback Giveaway

I’m hosting a giveaway via Goodreads. One lucky entrant will win a paperback copy of my debut novel, The Gisburn Witch. You have to be in it to win it, so click on the link below…

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Gisburn Witch by Sarah L. King

The Gisburn Witch

by Sarah L. King

Giveaway ends August 09, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

The Gisburn Witch – now available in paperback

The Gisburn Witch is now available in paperback! To get your copy, follow one of the links below:

Amazon UK


I’m also pleased to say that I’ve had a couple of very favourable reviews on Amazon UK, and that the novel is currently has a five star rating. I’m really delighted by some of the comments left by readers; to know that someone has enjoyed my book makes the eighteen months of hard work worthwhile. I’ll leave you with a few of the comments from reviewers, which I particularly enjoyed:

“What struck me about this novel is that I only really felt bad for one character and it wasn’t the one I expected from the outset”

” I will certainly be doing further reading on the Pendle Witches, if this was part of the authors intentions than she certainly succeeded”

“Fab read. I was willing things to end differently. Cannot wait for the next book in the series”

The Paperback Proof for The Gisburn Witch has arrived!!

I was like a child at Christmas when I opened up my little parcel from Createspace last Thursday. There it was – my book, looking like a book! As I expected, there were a few format issues with the proof which had to be fixed over the weekend, and a further proof was ordered just for good measure (I’m infamously cautious about these things). But, all being well, the paperback of The Gisburn Witch will be available in the next few weeks, so watch this space!


Today is Release Day for The Gisburn Witch!

After eighteen months of hard work, lots of writing, editing and redrafting, today is the day on which The Gisburn Witch hits the (virtual) shelves. I am immensely proud to release my debut novel today, and would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who’ve helped me during this challenging, sometimes frustrating and always a little bit terrifying, journey. I would also like to take this opportunity to shamelessly plug my novel one more time (indulge me; it is release day, after all). So, for those who haven’t read all my previous blog posts about it (come on, where’ve you been?), this is what you need to know about my novel, The Gisburn Witch:

Gisburn CoverThe Gisburn Witch
Released: 1st June 2015

A tragic tale of friendship, passion and betrayal set against the backdrop of the Pendle witch trials of 1612, one of the most famous witch trials in English history.

Scandalised as a young woman after being accused of seducing Tom Lister, a gentleman’s son, Jennet Preston’s life is filled with shame and hardship. An outcast in her own village, she befriends the Device family in Blacko, and she is quickly embroiled in their world of folk magic and superstition, of old family feuds and dangerous reputations.

When fate intervenes to reunite her with Tom, Jennet risks everything for love and happiness, but when tragedy strikes Jennet finds that she is vulnerable to accusations for which she could pay the ultimate price. The Gisburn Witch is a novel about falling in love with the wrong person, making the wrong friends, and being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Available at: Amazon UK / Amazon / Smashwords / Kobo

The Gisburn Witch – Chapter Three

The release of The Gisburn Witch is only a few days away on June 1st. Over the past couple of weeks I have given you all a sneak peak of the first couple of chapters and today I finally reveal the third.

Anyone interested in ordering the book can get it from the following retailers: Amazon UK / Amazon / Smashwords / Kobo



Gisburn Village

10th June 1585


Jennet stretched her bare feet out on the soft green grass, digging her toes in firmly to fully enjoy the luxurious sensation. The sky was completely clear and wonderfully blue, causing the sun to shine with a relentless heat, unabated by the cover of occasional clouds. Jennet shifted uncomfortably, feeling the sweat trickling down her back and wishing that she could remove her bodice, even just for a few moments. As a child she would have stripped down to her shift and paddled in the river to obtain some relief from the summer heat, but alas she was no longer a child. Her sixteenth birthday had arrived in March, and if her mind had not noted its significance, her body had certainly responded. Her mother had commented that she barely needed a roll to accentuate the curvature at her waist which seemed to have appeared overnight. Although Jennet had brushed off her comments, remarking that she hardly had need of a roll anyway, being an impractical item of clothing to wear for all but the highest born ladies, she had to recognise that her mother was right, and like it or not, womanhood was now upon her. So, no more jumping in the river on hot days, she thought. She would have to just endure the heat in her bodice, as all the other women undoubtedly did.

“Jennet! Jennet, there you are lass, I’ve been looking for you,” a gruff but kindly voice interrupted her thoughts. Jennet turned to see her father walking towards her, his cheeks rosy, a broad grin spread across his face.

“Father, you look like you’re enjoying yourself,” Jennet replied. Richard Balderston smiled at his daughter and gave a little dance in time to the music being played by the piper a short walk away, spilling some of the ale in his hand as he did so.

“Of course, ‘tis one of my favourite days of the year. Music, dancing, wonderful food, good company, and sunshine, and not forgetting plenty of good ale,” her father added, raising his cup.

The Whitsuntide feast was one of Jennet’s favourite holidays also. Every year the villagers of Gisburn held a feast day, usually the Monday following Whit Sunday, but the day depended upon the favourability of the weather and the agreement of all employers. Gathering in the village, they enjoyed a grand feast to which every house contributed, and some entertainment, usually in the form of local flute and pipe players. It was an opportunity to enjoy the company of family, friends and neighbours while the good weather allowed for some unrestricted outdoor merry-making and was one of the major celebrations of the year, second only perhaps to the Christmas festivities. Over fifty years ago, there had been many more such events in the local social calendar, mostly feast days in honour of various saints, however with the coming of the new religion, as some still called it, many of these had been eroded away from tradition or even banned.

Jennet was too young to be able to remember the old ways, but even in her lifetime there were attempts to further curb local feasts and revels. Just twelve months ago in the neighbouring county of Lancashire, mere miles from Gisburn, Justices of the Peace had prohibited such events from taking place on a Sunday. At the time the news of this had been greeted by much muttering in Gisburn, with many feeling that although this new rule did not apply to them, it was nonetheless fortunate that their main summer feast traditionally took place on a Monday so it could not possibly be threatened if Yorkshire Justices decided to follow suit. The perceived threat to the existence of local feast days, along with their relative rarity, meant that they were cherished and embraced even more whole-heartedly by the local people. For many, Richard Balderston included, this meant that even more food and ale and laughter should be enjoyed than ever before.

“Come and dance with us,” said Richard, offering his hand to his daughter. “Or have something to eat. Have you had enough to eat? There’s still plenty of food.”

Jennet rubbed her stomach, which was pressing up hard against her bodice due to the sheer amount of food she had already consumed that day; delicious, wonderful tasting food, but far more than she would normally eat.

“I couldn’t eat another thing!” exclaimed Jennet. “My belly is too full to manage to dance, sorry.” She shrugged apologetically.

“Alright, lass,” replied her father, “go and talk to your mother, then. She’s been complaining that she’s hardly seen you today. You know she misses you since you went to work at the hall.”

Jennet nodded in agreement. It was true that, although she still lived only a short walk from her family’s home in the village, she saw much less of her mother than before. It was difficult, her days were long and her duties were often all-consuming, leaving her without the necessary time or energy to visit home. This separation from her family had affected her relationship with her mother the most and at times conversation was tense and strained. Jennet struggled to understand why. Her employment at Westby conformed to what was expected of a young Balderston woman, indeed women like her everywhere, and she was getting along well in her position, having shown herself to be helpful and capable, and a credit to her mother. In her naivety, she failed to appreciate that despite her mother’s pride in her achievements, she felt a profound sense of the loss of her only daughter, knowing that she was taking her first steps along a path which would lead to marriage, her own home and eventually daughters of her own. The time they had spent together, side by side in their home completing their day’s work could not be recaptured and Jennet did not truly appreciate the sadness that this caused for her mother.

Alison Balderston was sitting with a small group of other women from the village when Jennet dutifully marched over. Alison gave Jennet a broad smile, revealing as she did so a handful of delicate creases around her mouth and eyes, lines which betrayed a lifetime of both hard work and joy. Jennet shared many of her mother’s features; pale skin which coloured only slightly during the summer months, and bright green eyes, which in the summer sunlight were set free to sparkle with the merriment and laughter of a day spent enjoying the company of family, friends and neighbours.

“Ah, my lass, have you had quite enough of your father’s nonsense? I fear he’s had too much ale.”

Jennet laughed and sat down beside her mother, nodding and smiling a greeting to the other ladies as she did so.

“He’s enjoying himself Mother, just the same as everyone else,” Jennet replied.

“Ever the defender of her father,” her mother replied, half addressing the other ladies with her remark. This roused some brief laughter and a few utterings about typical daughters, sticking up for their fathers. Jennet smiled in response. She couldn’t deny it; as his only daughter, she usually took her father’s side in family disagreements.

“Are you enjoying yourself today, Jennet?” her mother asked, changing the subject, “It’s such a lovely day, it must be nice for you to be spending it outdoors instead of working in the Westby kitchens.”

Jennet nodded. She had not talked to her mother much about her work at the great hall. She had mostly only talked about her training with Goodwife Robinson, recounting tales of making cheese or brewing ale the Westby way, or the first time she helped prepare a banquet for the family and how she was able to indulge a little on the leftover marzipans, candied fruits and a little bit of boiled meat afterwards. However, she had omitted any mention of the walks she had enjoyed out on the estate, especially during the winter months, and her snatched encounters with Tom Lister. She couldn’t really explain why she hadn’t told her; she didn’t think her mother would be particularly disapproving of either activity, but for reasons she couldn’t begin to understand herself, Jennet found herself feeling that these private moments, enjoying the peace and beauty of the Westby estate or the gentle touch of Tom Lister as he held her hand, should remain private.

“You’re quiet this afternoon,” said her mother, interrupting her thoughts, and examining her closely, “but you seem happy enough. Has your father introduced you to anyone today? He seemed keen earlier that you should meet someone, a young man he’d been talking to.”

“Really, Mother? Do you know who?” she asked warily.

Alison shook her head slightly and made a dismissive motion with her hand.

“Oh your father hasn’t really said much to me and I haven’t been properly introduced to the lad although I think I caught sight of him earlier. He’s from Giggleswick, apparently. Name of Preston, I think. Your father seems to have come to know his father and thought you may like to meet him. He’s little older than you but not by many years.”

Jennet’s face betrayed her alarm. For all her mother’s protestations that her only daughter should be in no hurry to marry, and certainly should not marry too young, her father was nevertheless always on the lookout for potential suitors. In one sense, Jennet felt she should be grateful; at least her parents obviously intended to consult her on the matter of choosing her husband and allow her time to get to know any suitors before making a final decision. Plenty of girls were not so fortunate, and were swiftly married to men they either barely knew or frankly detested. Jennet’s mother and father’s marriage had been a good match which was approved of by both their families, but they had also fallen in love by the time they made their vows in church before God, and Jennet believed that both her parents wanted the same thing for their daughter. Nonetheless, she felt alarmed. The casual search for potential suitors was a reminder that she was now grown, and that she should soon be a wife and eventually a mother and shoulder all the responsibilities of keeping a home and nurturing a family. The thought of such responsibilities made her want to hide in the woods, like she was a child again.

“Oh, don’t worry,” Alison Balderston chuckled, recognising the look of horror on her daughter’s face. “He’s not married you off yet. You know your father; he’s just considering your future. But it is the future, Jennet, it’s not happening any time soon.”

Jennet nodded again. Out of the corner of her eye, she spied the arrival of Tom Lister into the village. It was customary for a member or two of the Lister family to make an informal appearance at this village feast, usually after most of the food had been consumed but before the evening merry-making got under way and most of the village folk became the worse for wear. It was late in the afternoon now and the sun was falling lower in the sky, soon to give way to a beautiful sunset and the lighting of candles and torches in the street as the festivities continued for a little while longer. Jennet settled herself into her seat with a cup of ale whilst her mother and her friends chattered around her, absorbed in her own thoughts. She was glad that Tom had obviously been nominated to attend this year; she had seen very little of him through the spring and early summer, having busied herself with her duties as Mistress Lister had instructed, and Tom having spent much of his time with the Greenacres, preparing for his forthcoming nuptials in July. She wondered if she might manage to spend a few minutes in his company today, away from his mother’s watchful eye, for as she saw him, she remembered how much she had missed him.


Later that evening, Jennet took the short walk from the village to her parent’s cottage, on the edge of their farm. With the setting of the sun, the night had grown cool and Jennet had gone to fetch the shawl that she had flung off in the earlier summer heat. From there, she hadn’t decided what to do. Her parents had welcomed her to stay at their cottage for the night; however, it meant rising early to walk back to Westby Hall to start work with Goodwife Robinson. Their day started at dawn, so Jennet would have to leave when it was still relatively dark to get back in time. Alternatively, she could walk back tonight but that would be in the pitch black and she knew her father would not be pleased at her walking in the dark unaccompanied, but at the same time neither he nor her brothers were in any fit condition to walk with her. Jennet sighed. She had had a lovely day, spending precious time with her family and enjoying the merriment that a feast day brings, but it was getting late and she was beginning to tire. She had just decided that she was too fatigued to march back over to Westby and had half-heartedly begun the search for a blanket, when there was a firm knock at the door. She chuckled, certain that it was one of her brothers or her father at the door, who in their drunken stupor had forgotten how to operate the handle.

“You’re lucky I’m here to let you in!” she called. “I’m coming.”

Jennet raced over to open the door, half-preparing to catch the person undoubtedly meandering drunkenly outside. However, to her surprise it was not one of her family, but Tom Lister standing there. Jennet blinked, almost disbelieving.

“Expecting someone else?” Tom asked mischievously, seeing her surprise.

“Er, well, yes I thought it was my father or perhaps Nicholas or William. Sorry, Tom, I wasn’t expecting anyone else at this hour. I had just called home to get my shawl.”

Tom looked over his shoulder nervously. He had good reason: the cottage was close to the village and there would be others passing by on the track at this time of the evening, heading home as the festivities drew to a close. A young Lister lingering on the Balderston doorstep talking to their unmarried daughter would undoubtedly provoke comment, even gossip.

“Yes, well that’s why I called. Sorry to call on you so late, but I was about to head back to Westby and thought I might accompany you, if you were planning to go back tonight also?” Tom asked.

Jennet nodded in agreement. Of course she had just decided that she would stay, but it seemed sensible to go back tonight if Tom was offering to accompany her. It was fortunate that he had stayed later than members of his family normally did. She could smell the ale on his breath when he was speaking to her. She smiled. He must have been enjoying himself, having come without his father watching over him. Jennet was certain that Tom had arrived with a servant, but he appeared to be alone now.

“Can I… can I come in for a few moments?” Tom asked, looking over his shoulder again, “Just while you gather your things for the walk back. If I stand here much longer I’ll be seen and we will be the talk of the village.”

Jennet smiled and nodded again, moving aside to let Tom through the doorway. It seemed strange, seeing him there in her home, a grown man in his finery standing in her parents’ simple cottage. Of course, he had visited before, but that was when they were children; he would barely remember it. It suddenly seemed strange to Jennet that she knew Tom’s home so intimately yet he barely knew her home at all.

“Did you not have a man with you earlier?” Jennet asked.

“Yes, it was Percival, one of my father’s men. Sent to keep an eye on me, I expect. I lost the fellow a while ago, he’d been singing and dancing but, er, it would seem that making merry got the better of him and I left him slumped next to the smithy’s, sleeping. He’ll be in for it when Father gets hold of him in the morning.”

“Are you just going to leave him there?” Jennet asked, slightly aghast. Tom was correct; Percival would be in awful trouble when the Master found out.

“If it means I get to walk back to Westby alone with you, Jennet, then yes by all means,” Tom chuckled, then fell silent as though immediately regretting the bold tone of his words. “I’m sorry, Jennet, I shouldn’t have said that,” he said after a few moments’ silence, “I fear I have also had too much ale tonight. In truth the man is unconscious and between us we would never manage to carry him back to Westby. Indeed it would be more of a scene if we attempted it. I’m afraid we will have to leave him to his fate,” Tom explained, with evident regret.

“Ok,” Jennet agreed, “I will get my shawl and we will leave for Westby now, but I must let my mother know that I am not staying tonight and reassure her that I will be safe as I am travelling back with you.”

Jennet turned to find her shawl and as she did so Tom placed a hand on her shoulder, stopping her abruptly and causing her to turn back to face him. Jennet looked up at him. The dim candlelight danced in his eyes as he gazed down at her intently, dropping his hand from her shoulder and reaching instead for her hand, caressing her fingers.

“You will always be safe with me, Jennet,” Tom spoke softly, but said nothing more. He leaned down towards her face and gently touched her lips with his, once briefly, and a second time with a gentle conviction, moving his hand up into the small of her back to draw her closer to him. Jennet closed her eyes, allowing herself to be washed away into the moment, letting their kiss express everything she felt for Tom, that she had never dared admit even to herself. In the midst of her joy at freeing repressed emotions, however, came a feeling of doubt, even fear, causing her to break away from Tom’s kiss.

“Tom, anyone could walk through that door at any moment!” Jennet exclaimed in a whisper. “Can you imagine if we were caught? You’re soon to be married, to a woman of far gentler breeding than me. Think of the scandal this would cause. Think of what your mother would say!” Her tone was scolding.

For once, Tom was unfazed by the reminder of his reality. He looked unrelentingly into Jennet’s eyes as he spoke. “I would only be sorry for any trouble I caused you, Jennet,” he said. “I know I am to marry, God’s death I have spent these past weeks in hers and her family’s company preparing for the event and attending celebration after celebration in anticipation of our imminent nuptials. It is a good match, as it should be, after all we Listers excel at making those. I have accepted that Jane Greenacres will be my wife and the mother of my children. And she may be of gentler breeding than you, as you put it. However none of this changes the fact that you, Jennet Balderston, are my love. If I could choose, if it was my choice, I would choose you. You’ve always been my dearest friend and now you are the most beautiful, kind and delicate woman I could ever hope to know. I know that I can never have you, but it doesn’t change the fact that I will always love you.”

Jennet was taken aback by his admission. She had never heard Tom speak with such conviction. She had never even heard him curse; he was normally so softly spoken. Tonight there seemed to be fire in his words and his eyes, which burned with a desire for her. Jennet returned his gaze lovingly.

“I love you, Tom, but I don’t know what to say. If we were to become lovers…” She hesitated, her words faltering. She had never spoken such words before, and she grappled with them, unsure how to frame them in the same poetic way that Tom had. She supposed these things came down to a difference of education: tutors taught well-bred boys how to speak eloquently, whilst mothers taught girls how to use the same set of kitchen ingredients with ingenuity. Until now, Jennet had never needed beautiful words.

Tom smiled, and touched her gently on the cheek. “Oh Jennet, no, I would never ask you to do that, my love. For one thing you would end up with child, and I care for you too much to do that to you. No, you must remain chaste and marry, one day. Marry a kind man who will treat you well.”

Suddenly his beautiful words had given way to a compassionate practicality. Jennet felt saddened. Having both declared their love they now had to face the fact that nothing would change, that their realities would remain intact. In that moment, Jennet almost wished that it had all gone unspoken, that the kiss had not occurred. But then, to regret that kiss…no, she would cherish that kiss for the rest of her life. Jennet realised then what Tom already knew: what had happened between them was something to be grateful for, but that it could go no further, and they would have to be content with the memory of it. Tom, seeming to read her mind, articulated her next thought.

“Let’s have our walk back to Westby, Jennet, under the stars and hand in hand, as any young lovers might. Let’s have tonight before we must set our feelings aside and go on with our lives.”


The walk back to Westby Hall that night was one of the most wonderful experiences of Jennet’s life. It was one of those moments that she felt certain she would cherish forever. As soon as the two of them were out of sight of the village, Tom took hold of her hand, kissing it occasionally, and did not let it go until they reached the hall. They walked steadily, stopping a handful of times to embrace and enjoy the moment, relishing the comfort that, for tonight at least, they found in each other. As they approached Westby and were about to part, they were blissfully unaware that Tom’s mother was looking out of an upstairs window, anxious to ensure her son’s safe arrival home. They were unaware, too, that she bore witness to them as they held each other tenderly for the last time, that she saw their final kiss that night before heading to bed. They had been so lost in their moment that they had been unaware of the intruder into it, and they were wholly unprepared for the consequences that intrusion would bring.

The Gisburn Witch – Chapter Two

Last week, on this blog I released Chapter One of my debut novel, The Gisburn Witch which will be released on June 1st.

Today, I am pleased to share chapter two with you and will finish with chapter three next week.

Anyone interested in ordering the book can get it from the following retailers: Amazon UK / Amazon / Smashwords / Kobo



Westby Hall, Gisburn

Easter 1585


Jennet mopped her damp brow with the back of her hand as she bustled around the kitchen. The weather outside was unseasonably warm and in the kitchen, next to the fire, it was stifling. She was tired too; her day had started even earlier than normal, so early in fact that dawn hadn’t even been on the horizon when Goodwife Robinson had woken her from her sleep, summoning her to begin her duties. Fatigue and heat were not a good combination and Jennet found herself in an irritable mood, venting her frustration on the bowls and spoons she was using. Goodwife Robinson, secretly pleased to find the girl less withdrawn that normal, did her best to lighten her spirits, but with little success.

“Cheer up, Jennet! It’s only a day or two more and then the house will begin to return to normal, you’ll see,” Goodwife Robinson said gently.

Jennet shrugged. “I think this is harder than Christmas,” she muttered. “I don’t remember it being so hot in here at Christmas.”

Goodwife Robinson chuckled. “Of course it wasn’t, it was the middle of winter! As I said, it’s only a couple more days. Goodness, when I was a girl the festivities lasted much longer! Alas, those were the old ways; we’ve less holy days now.” Jennet was too cross to notice that the old cook’s tone almost sounded like a lament. “So cheer up, and get on with your work. We’ve a lot to do and a great many guests to feed,” she said sternly.

Jennet sighed. She knew that Goodwife Robinson was right, a fact which made her words all the more irritating. After the sombre piety of Holy Week, the Listers always held a grand feast on Easter Monday, a day traditionally reserved for festivity. Indeed, as a girl growing up in the village, Jennet couldn’t recall a year when there wasn’t some sort of celebration held in Gisburn. If the weather was favourable, like today, the Easter feast could even rival the summertime festivities. Jennet sighed again, wondering what she was missing in the village today, missing home for the briefest of moments before returning to her kitchen duties. As she worked, her mind continued to wander. Goodwife Robinson had said there would be a lot of guests today, which was undoubtedly true, and Jennet speculated to herself as to which of their family and friends would be in attendance. At least some of the extended Lister family would be there, as well as some of the Mistress’s Houghton relatives and members of other notable families from the area. She wondered if Tom’s bride-to be would be there. She hadn’t yet set eyes on Jane Greenacres and she had to admit she was curious about her; like many of the other maids she wanted to see whether she was pretty and if her clothes were very fine. However, as she prepared the sweetmeats she had to admit to herself that there was another element to her curiosity, a sort of spite and dislike which made her wish the girl to be ugly and her dresses plain. Ever since Tom had told her about his impending marriage these feelings had crept over her, confusing and alarming her. Such emotions were sinful, she was quite sure of that, but they were also irrepressible. Try as she might, Jennet had come to realise that she struggled to bear the thought of a beautiful girl hanging on to Tom’s arm, gazing lovingly into his eyes. She shook her head, trying to suppress her thoughts.

“We’re getting there!” sang Goodwife Robinson. Jennet scowled, the cook’s cheeriness continuing to annoy her. “Now, don’t let me catch you disappearing off to the banquet later, my girl. I know you like to see the young Master, but I daresay Jane Greenacres will be here today and no doubt both families will want them to spend time together. Besides, you know what the Mistress is like, if she catches you…”

Goodwife Robinson’s voice trailed off, but Jennet understood her meaning perfectly. The Mistress of Westby was a stern, forbidding woman who did not take kindly to behaviour which she considered unbecoming of a servant. Jennet had been wary of the Mistress for as long as she could remember. She could recall quite clearly the look of disdain on her face as her precious Tom ran off to play with the local children, and how badly she scolded her boy when he came home with scraped or muddy knees. She was fiercely proud and protective of her son, and Jennet was fairly certain that if it had been her decision, Tom wouldn’t have been allowed to play with the local children at all. Fortunately, his father had the final say on such matters and he was a far gentler, far more amenable sort of man. Jennet’s father had always said how good the Master of Westby was, what a fair landlord he was, how kindly he treated his tenants. Neither of her parents, however, had ever had much to say about his wife. Since coming to work at Westby, Jennet had tried to give the Mistress a wide berth, endeavouring to be always obedient in her presence but never drawing too much attention to herself. She was always careful to ensure that her meetings with Tom took place away from her watchful eye, knowing that the Mistress would disapprove of her son continuing his friendship with a mere maid. Goodwife Robinson was right; she would be best advised to stay in the servants’ quarters, well away from the festivities. She knew that, but she also knew that she would struggle to resist seeing Tom and perhaps sneaking a peek at his betrothed.

“Of course, Goodwife Robinson,” she replied obligingly.


Jennet had intended to heed the Goodwife’s warning and keep away from the feast. Indeed, once all the food had been prepared and served she immediately set about her cleaning duties, scrubbing pots and tidying up with enthusiasm. She worked so hard that evening that Goodwife Robinson heaped praised upon her, filled with glee at the thought that they might finish their duties so quickly that they could retire early to bed. In truth, Jennet hoped to keep herself so busy that she wouldn’t have the time to be tempted away. Her plan might have worked, had it not been for Tom. As she walked along one of the many corridors she felt someone grab hold of her hand, surprising her and almost causing her to drop the bucket she was carrying. Without saying a word, Tom led her along towards the great hall where the banquet was taking place, stopping at the top of a narrow set of stairs, looking through a doorway which gave them a full view of the room.

“I thought you’d want to see. You usually do,” Tom said in a low voice, taking the bucket from her hand and setting it down on the floor.

“Tom! I’ve work to do. Goodwife Robinson will be wondering where I am,” Jennet whispered softly in reply.

“You can take a moment, surely?” Tom asked. “I thought you liked to watch the dancing.”

Jennet looked back into the hall. It was true; she loved to see the courtly dances, to admire the graceful movements of the ladies in their fine dresses. Often she would try to memorise the steps and later, when everyone else had gone to bed, she would twirl around with her eyes closed, pretending that she was the daughter of a gentleman, just returned from the Queen’s court. As she danced, she would imagine herself in the middle of one of the Listers’ feasts. She could feel all eyes upon her, the ladies watching enviously and the young gentlemen admiring her. In the midst of this spectacle was Tom, his gaze affectionate and intense…

“Are you looking for Jane?” asked Tom, his tone slightly mischievous.

“Is she not here?” replied Jennet simply.

“She was,” said Tom with a wry smile. “However, she is a delicate creature and too much food and wine and dancing makes her feel unwell. I was told by her mother that she has retired to her room for the evening.”

“Do you miss her?” Jennet asked, realising as she spoke how foolish the question sounded. She wasn’t even sure she wanted to know the answer. She didn’t want Tom to tell her how lovely she was and how much he was looking forward to spending the evening dancing with her.

“Not really,” Tom shrugged. “We’ve never had a proper conversation, you know. We’re never left alone for long enough! And tonight, she doesn’t stay to dance, but goes to her rooms instead and sends a message to me via her mother. She doesn’t even bother to tell me herself,” he finished.

Jennet looked at Tom quizzically. She couldn’t tell if he was disappointed because he wanted to get to know Jane Greenacres better, or if the courtship simply irritated him because he found it farcical. She stayed silent, unsure what she could say that would soothe him. She tried to ignore the fact that his dissatisfaction pleased her, that secretly she was glad that he hadn’t yet fallen madly in love with his bride-to-be. She didn’t like that she felt this way; Tom was her friend, she should want him to be happy in the company of the young lady who would be his wife soon.

“I suppose I must let you go back to your duties,” said Tom, changing the subject.

Jennet nodded and turned back towards the stairs. As she did so, Tom reached out and grabbed her hand, pulling her back slightly. “I wish we could dance together, you and I,” he said simply. Jennet found herself locked into his gaze, unable to turn away. As she stood there and looked at him for what felt like an eternity, it dawned on her that she would like nothing more than to dance with him, to feel his touch as they twirled around the Listers’ great hall. Her face grew hot as she was confronted momentarily with the strength of her desire, before she suppressed her feelings once again and gently removed her hand from his grasp.

“As you said, I have work to do,” she replied softly, turning away immediately so that Tom wouldn’t see that her cheeks were flushed and her hands were trembling. As she headed back down the stairs she heard another voice behind her and instinctively she froze, but she did not turn around. She knew the voice immediately; it was Tom’s mother.

“Who are you talking to?” Jennet heard the Mistress ask her son, her tone typically stern and suspicious.

“It was just Jennet, mother,” replied Tom, his tone guarded. “It was my fault, I asked her up here,” he added defensively.

“Jennet, come here for a moment,” called the Mistress, ignoring her son’s words.

Jennet closed her eyes and bit her lip. Her heart was pounding so hard that she thought it might burst from her chest. Composing herself with a deep, considered breath, Jennet slowly turned around and walked back up the stairs. “Yes, Madame?” she asked, trying hard to keep her voice steady.

“What are you doing up here?” the Mistress demanded. “Do you not have enough work to do? Do I need to speak to Goodwife Robinson about keeping you busier?”

Jennet looked down at the floor, avoiding the Mistress’s hard stare. “No, Madame,” she replied.

“Well then, back downstairs and on with your duties,” Tom’s mother instructed her.

Jennet turned quickly and walked away. She clasped her hands together in front of her to stop them trembling. Behind her, she could hear the Mistress giving her son a few whispered words. Despite her fear of the Mistress, she couldn’t help wonder what she was saying to Tom. She sounded angry; even though she kept her voice intentionally low, Jennet could still make out her harsh, chastising tone. What angered her more, she wondered; the fact that Tom was not with his betrothed, or the fact that he preferred to fraternise with the maids? Jennet bit her lip as she turned a corner and the noise of the feast became a distant hum. Tom spent time with one maid in particular, she realised. Just one maid and that maid had come to the attention of the Mistress now. She wrung her clammy hands together one more time as she reflected that she would have to be more careful from now on.

“I know your game, and it won’t work,” said a voice behind her. Jennet immediately spun around, alarmed. She had been so absorbed in her own thoughts that she hadn’t heard anyone following behind her. Now she was confronted by the Mistress once more.

“I beg your pardon, Madame,” Jennet replied, with a brief curtsey.

“You will remember that you are a maid here, Jennet,” said Tom’s mother, her tone typically forbidding and authoritative. “Whatever intentions you have towards my son, you will forget them. I know that he is kind to you, but do not mistake his kindness for any deeper affection. His only affection now must be for his bride, do you understand? Keep yourself busy with your duties, and keep your distance from my son,” she instructed.

Jennet looked up and caught the Mistress’s cold stare, wondering what had provoked this outburst. She had only gone upstairs to watch the dancing at Tom’s behest. She would have understood Tom’s mother chastising her for overstepping the mark in that sense, but no other. What did she mean by intentions? She didn’t have intentions towards Tom; she knew that such ideas were futile, that Tom was destined to be a grand and powerful gentleman whilst she would always be a lowly maid. She knew that their friendship was barely permissible, never mind anything else. She knew all this, yet she also knew that when she thought about Tom her stomach fluttered a little and her face grew red. She knew that seeing him was the highlight of her day; indeed, sometimes she sought him out when she thought he might be alone, just so that she could spend time in his company. She didn’t have intentions, but she had to admit to herself that she had feelings, stirrings which she always suppressed because she knew that there was no point loving a man she could not have.

“Yes, Madame,” Jennet replied obediently.

The Gisburn Witch – Chapter One

As part of the pre-release phase for The Gisburn Witch I thought I would share the first three chapters over the next couple of weeks. Today, therefore I am happy to release chapter one to the world. The formatting isn’t perfect due to the limitations of the blog but hopefully it shouldn’t put any of you off!

Anyone interested in ordering the book can get it from the following retailers: Amazon UK / Amazon / Smashwords / Kobo


Westby Hall, Gisburn
January 1585

 Jennet gazed out of the window. Outside, the light was dim and she reflected that it was so dull it barely seemed possible that it was approaching midday. Winter’s days in Gisburn were short and mostly shrouded in dark clouds which seemed to hide the sun for months on end. It was a pity it was so dark, she thought, as it made it difficult to appreciate the picturesque character of the Westby estate: gently yielding curves interspersed with occasional clusters of trees, dwellings for the pigs or sporadic patches of fluffy white sheep. The air outside was damp but mild, preventing the arrival of snow. At the mere thought of snow, Jennet shivered. Beautiful as it was, blanketing the surrounding countryside in a shimmering sea of glistening white, nevertheless it made the business of work, of travel, not to mention keeping warm while sleeping, that bit more difficult. At this thought Jennet smiled, perhaps for the first time that day. At least she was warm now, one of the advantages of working in the kitchen at Westby next to the glowing open fire.

“Are you quite finished with those eggs?” a snappy voice interrupted Jennet’s thoughts. “If you beat them any slower they will get up out of that bowl and walk away from you, girl.”

“Sorry Goody Robinson,” Jennet replied.

Goodwife Robinson gave the young girl a harsh stare, which then melted away to an affectionate smile. She couldn’t help it; Jennet spent much of her day in a dream and more often than not worked at a pace all of her very own, but she was a delicate little thing and the work always got done.

“It’s alright, lass. Though I would like to know what’s going on in that head of yours sometimes, because I doubt very much that you are occupying your mind with thoughts of game pies and stews.” Goody Robinson smiled. She had been joking, but the girl continued to stand seriously in front of her. She sighed. “Come on then, back to work lass. We’re fortunate to have the luxury of time today anyway. No visitors again, only the family to cook for this afternoon; the Master, the Mistress and the children, and the younger ones don’t eat much. Young Master Thomas is out on the estate, he’s already taken some bread and meats out with him and won’t require anything else until supper. We’ve the servants too, of course, but they’ll be content with pottage this time of the year.”

Goodwife Robinson’s sentence trailed off as she realised she’d already lost Jennet’s attention. The young girl had already returned to staring out of the window, gently caressing the eggs in the bowl, instead of giving them the vigorous beating required to bring them to the correct form. Goodwife Robinson sighed again. Jennet was so quiet, so reserved. The cook had never been able to relate easily to a person of Jennet’s disposition; being somewhat of a brash and vocal character herself, she was forthcoming in letting someone know what she thought and how she was feeling. Jennet, on the other hand, could sometimes spend a full day in the kitchen with her and barely speak a word, other than to acknowledge her tasks or apologise in response to a scolding, and today was one such day. Goody Robinson had initially assumed that Jennet’s reticence was due to the generational difference between the two of them, that Jennet felt uneasy and therefore assumed a demeanour of quiet deference. But then, having discussed the matter with her daughter Anne who also worked in the Lister household, it seemed that Jennet was much the same with those of a similar age to herself, the only exception being the young master, Thomas Lister.

This was hardly surprising, Goodwife Robinson reflected. Despite the social difference which existed between them, there had been a long history of good relations between the Listers and the Balderstons. For almost one hundred years the Balderstons had had the tenure of a portion of the Lister estate and over the decades the Balderston family had come to be well-regarded by their landlords for their hard work and timely payment of rents. For generations, the children of the two families had grown up together, and young Master Thomas and Jennet were no exception. Goodwife Robinson pondered momentarily on how freely all the Lister children were allowed to mix with the village boys and girls, only to grow up and be separated from them by position for the rest of their lives. Position was exactly what separated young Master Thomas and Jennet now, not that either of them seemed to notice it much. The number of times that Goodwife Robinson could recall catching her young kitchen maid and Thomas Lister sharing a private joke or a whispered conversation! Each time the cook had been forced to gently remind Jennet of her position in the house, a position which in itself was something of a long tradition. Countless Balderston women before her had been sent to work at Westby; service in a large household acted as a convenient way to fill a girl’s time between childhood and marriage, not to mention provide a useful wage. It was also a way to further a girl’s skills in readiness for becoming a wife. Whilst their mothers had already taught them much, large country houses could teach them to cook, cure, pickle and bake on a far larger and grander scale, and those were just the skills learned in the kitchen. Although, Goodwife Robinson lamented, in many cases once married these young women would not have the fortune to cook in such a manner again, reduced instead to repetitions of the same pottages and stews or worse, trying to avert starvation in the winter. Goodwife Robinson sighed. She could only do her best to teach this girl everything she knew; the rest would be up to Jennet, and God’s will of course.

“Goody Robinson, I’ve finished the eggs. What would you like me to do next?” said a voice from across the kitchen.

The cook suspended her thoughts to examine the girl’s work.

“We will need to instil more vigour into your egg-beating, lass,” she said kindly, “but it’ll do for now. Tell you what, you can make the servant’s dinner, just a plain pottage and bread, it is January and after all those feasts at Christmas…well, we don’t want to run short of anything before the spring comes. I’ll finish the dinner for the family. I think it’ll be far more than they will eat anyway so there should be ample leftovers for all of us to go along with the pottage.”

“Yes, Goodwife,” replied Jennet, obediently.


Later that afternoon, after dinner had been served and the pots had been scrubbed, Jennet took a walk in the grounds immediately surrounding Westby Hall. The dark clouds which had disappointed Jennet earlier in the day had relented and given way to a hint of winter sunlight, brightening the day and Jennet’s mood with it. The improved weather and the early completion of her duties in the kitchen meant that Jennet had leapt at the opportunity for a walk when Goodwife Robinson had suggested it. In truth, for all the cook’s pretensions that her young assistant may need to take some air, Jennet could sense that she would be happy to be left for an hour. Her daughter Anne had arrived in the kitchen to assist, as she often did in the afternoon, and Jennet sensed they preferred to be left alone together. Jennet knew that Goodwife Robinson, for all her kindly ways, found working with Jennet difficult. In return Jennet tried determinedly to be less reticent; however, it was in her nature and she had always found it difficult to evade her natural disposition.

Jennet had another reason for her eagerness to take a walk that afternoon. She knew that young Master Thomas, or Tom as she better knew him, was out on the estate and that there was every possibility of encountering him along the way. Tom had been her friend for as long as she could remember, indeed her whole life, and for Jennet, who did not feel naturally comfortable with most people, Tom was someone with whom she could feel at ease. Jennet was almost sixteen now, and with the prospect of many years of toil, marriage and probably child-bearing in front of her, Tom Lister was a reminder of childhood, of happy carefree hours spent hiding in the woods or catching small fish in the nearby river. Jennet reflected that those times were not so many years behind her, yet they had seemed to disappear so very quickly. This wasn’t surprising really: Tom was the heir to his father’s estate and as manhood loomed his formal training for the role he would assume one day had begun, leaving him with little time for recreation, certainly not with the village boys and girls anyway. Equally, as Jennet’s years advanced, the skills which would carry her into womanhood had to be honed, and the practice of these skills, mostly at her mother’s side, gradually took over most of her time. However, in a stroke of good fortune, since Jennet’s arrival at Westby Hall about six months earlier, both she and Tom had renewed their childhood friendship. Although their relative social positions of master and maid now prohibited them from meeting at length, snatched meetings in the house and sometimes longer encounters on the estate were possible, and at least on Jennet’s part, fully intended.

That afternoon Jennet took her usual route around Westby. Goodwife Robinson had said that she should not linger in the grounds in the immediate vicinity of the hall, since the Mistress had made it clear on more than one occasion that she did not appreciate looking out of her window to a view of her kitchen maid enjoying an hour’s respite in the fresh air. Instead Jennet took the small track which led immediately from the door at the back of the kitchen and dairy, through the first set of trees and into a clearing. From there she roamed, darting between areas of field and foliage, enjoying the calm, gentle undulations of the surrounding countryside against the backdrop of Pendle Hill and the long westward valley beyond which lay Clitheroe and the outlying villages. January was a month of relative serenity at Westby: there was little activity on the estate except for absolutely necessary duties. Many of the beasts were slaughtered just after Martinmas leaving mostly sheep grazing peacefully on the low pastures, and the pigs, though present, often hid in their shelters to keep out of the cold. In the hall itself there was little entertaining to be done as most of the Listers’ family, friends and associates kept to their own houses in the bleak winter weeks between Christmas and Candlemas, meaning that most days it was just Jennet and Goodwife Robinson in the kitchen cooking for the family and servants. However, Jennet realised, in a matter of weeks it would be spring, the season of lambing and planting and sowing and growing, and hopefully more benevolent weather, bringing with it Easter and visitors and banquets and more hands in the kitchen and regrettably, less time for walks.

Jennet’s thoughts were interrupted by a figure approaching, just beyond the trees. Her face brightened as she realised it was Tom. Jennet had dared to hope that she might see him today and had begun to admit to herself just how much of a highlight her chance meetings with him were, how much she had come to depend upon them as a cheering interlude in her otherwise quite hard and monotonous days. She tried to force her legs not to run towards him but in the end she couldn’t help it and once again in the presence of the young Master, Jennet completely forgot herself.

“Tom!” she shouted. “Are you on your way back to the house?”

Tom increased his pace to meet her at the edge of the small woodland area from which he had come.

“I thought it was you,” Tom said, quickening his step as he walked towards her. “I had hoped I might see you today.”

Jennet smiled, catching her breath and feeling embarrassed for running like a child. “You see me every day,” she answered, without thinking.

Tom glanced down at his feet, feeling self-conscious. Jennet always had a way of making him feel like a silly boy again. He cleared his throat and looked up at her through his dark eyelashes.

“Well, yes, that’s true. I meant I was hoping to see you out, alone, so that we can talk properly. It’s not possible to talk at length in the house…” Tom’s voice trailed off as he looked intently at Jennet. They both stood there dumbly for a moment, just looking at one another. In the end it was Jennet who broke the silence.

“I suppose we should be talking while we have the chance. As you say, it’s difficult to talk in the house, we are both so busy and there are always others around. Goodwife Robinson certainly always has a watchful eye on me.”

They both laughed at the thought of the old cook, then Jennet’s face reddened as she reflected that her comment may have seemed insolent. She chastised herself for once again, being too comfortable with Tom. After all, he was Master-in-training of Westby now, not that boy by the river any more.

“I’m…sorry,” she stammered. “It was rude of me to laugh about Goodwife Robinson.”

“I laughed too,” Tom protested.

“Yes, but you’re…well, it’s your house, you will one day be master of it and can speak as you please about anyone employed at Westby. I, on the other hand…”

“You can speak as you wish, in front of me,” Tom interrupted her, speaking firmly.

Jennet smiled as Tom reached out a hand and patted her shoulder reassuringly. Jennet looked up at him. He had grown taller these past months, his shoulders had broadened and his beard was beginning to grow, dark like his hair. The only features of him which had remained unchanged were his eyes; bright blue, honest and intense. As Jennet looked at those eyes, Tom’s hand reached to touch her cheek, though just as his fingers brushed delicately against her pale skin he snatched them back, as though thinking better of his actions. Tom cleared his throat again.

“May I walk you back to the hall?” he asked. “Goody Robinson will begin to wonder where you are.”

“That would be nice,” Jennet replied.

The pair walked silently for a few moments, seemingly trying to decipher the best words to spend on their last few minutes together. Finally, after clearing his throat several times, Tom spoke.

“Do you know I am to marry soon?” he asked.

Jennet nodded. The news came as no surprise to her. Tom had been betrothed to Jane Greenacres of Worston since he was a small boy and she was an infant. Tom was now approaching sixteen, and Jane Greenacres would be turning thirteen or fourteen, meaning that she was now of marriageable age. Jennet had always thought that the great families of the area had their children marry so young. She remembered the first time Tom had mentioned his betrothal, several years ago when they were still children. He had told her that he would probably be married before he was seventeen. Jennet had gone home that day and asked her mother about it, and her mother had remarked that it was normal, as the great families had to ensure that they had heirs to secure the family name, wealth and property for the next generation. When Jennet asked why people like her did not marry so young, her mother had told her that there was no need. In fact, she said, for people like them to marry young would mean to marry before they had established themselves. Men had to start to earn a secure and proper living and women had to learn the skills they needed to support a family. If they married too young, they married unprepared and risked poverty, made worse by the arrival of a baby every year or so. Jennet recalled the conversation clearly. She remembered that it was the first time it had struck her how different her life and Tom’s life would be.

“When will you marry?” Jennet asked, returning her mind to the conversation with Tom.

“It is being discussed at the moment, between our fathers,” Tom replied, “but it is likely to be in June or July.”

Jennet nodded again, unsure how to reply. She doubted that the wedding would take place in June, as this was such a busy month for the local people who were occupied with sheep-shearing and haymaking, activities requiring a lot of time and community effort. Although these agricultural activities did not involve the Listers directly, Jennet believed that they would want the people of Gisburn to hold customary celebrations in the village whilst relatively free from other major duties. July, she felt, was the preferable month, albeit still very busy, being just before the harvest. Jennet did not express any of her thoughts to Tom; although he had told her to speak freely with him, she nonetheless felt it was insolent to convey an opinion to which he was likely to be indifferent anyway.

“I don’t feel ready to marry,” Tom blurted suddenly, “but I must, it is my duty. I am sure I will grow to love her; indeed I am fortunate that I have always known she will be my wife and have had the opportunity to get to know her a little. It would be easier if I could look upon her and feel love for her, but I do not. I find it hard to imagine that she should be my wife soon, that we should have children one day.”

Tom looked down at Jennet, who was listening, silently and intently, to everything he said. Kind, quiet Jennet, who had always remained his devoted friend, even after the childhood adventures had given way to the stark contrasts between their lives. How beautiful she had grown over this past year; she too was nearing her sixteenth birthday and the delicate marks of womanhood were beginning to show on her. Her face, which had always been pretty in childhood, now bore features which, he longed to tell her, ladies at the royal court might be jealous of: a pale complexion, contrasted with big green eyes and, he knew from spying her once without her coif on, tumbling dark brown hair. As he looked at her now, Tom had the sudden urge to grab hold of Jennet, to hold her tight and to never let her go, not for Jane Greenacres, not for anyone. Instead, he took hold of her hand and clasped it tightly but gently for a few moments as they continued their walk back towards Westby.

“I am sorry, Jennet.”

His apology was met by silence and a guarded smile from Jennet. She did not enquire as to what the apology was for. She imagined he was sorry for his outburst, so unbecoming of the future Master of Westby, and for exposing Jennet to it, dampening spirits on an otherwise happy meeting of two friends. She imagined that he might also be sorry for being so melancholy, realising whilst he was speaking that he was not the first young man to have to marry a girl chosen by his parents, and that it may turn out well, she may grow beautiful, and bear many sons, and he may grow to love her. What Jennet did not imagine, however, was that Tom Lister was truly sorry that he had not taken her in his arms and kissed her as they looked at one another on that beautiful winter’s day, that he had let the opportunity slip away in a mist of hesitation, and that he may never have a similar moment with her again.