Abby Ch. 24


Abby had gone to the station to think and was surprised to find Sam and Harry who had cleared off all the scrub and weeds around the house, and also erected many of the posts. Sam greeted her heartily. "Hello Abby, how are you today?"

"I'm fine thanks, Sam. I didn't think you would be down here so quickly."

"Yes, we thought it best to get the ground cleared before George comes in. He will only dump everything all over, and we would have to wait until goodness knows when to get the scrub scraped off."

Harry lifted his Cap. "Afternoon Miss Abby."

"Hello Harry, you don't waste any time do you?"

"Well I know us country folk are supposed to be slow, But them as says it aren't here when we are getting on with the job."

"So I see."

"We wanted to get the ground cleared off, and a load of gravel down. Be easier to tidy up once the builders have gone." He turned to Sam. "Sam, I am going up to Lills and get a load of gravel now, be about three parts of an hour. Ok?"

"Yes fine, Harry. See you in a bit." With Harry gone, Sam looked at Abby and asked.

"Do you want to be alone for a while?" He could feel that there was something on her mind.

Abby gave that a momentary thought and decided to divulge her problem. After all Sam was the one that James had turned to when in despair. "Sam, do you think that James' father could also be my father?"

Sam was immediately furious that anyone could make such a suggestion. "Who has told you that? The idea is nonsense."

"The idea came from Mrs. Comberford."

"Oh, I see." He thought for a bit. "Well it was known that Mr. Comberford liked the ladies. But I would say that there is no possibility that he was your father. As far as I know he never went down to the station. Any dealings that your grandfather had with him, he went to Lyney House. I doubt that Mr. Comberford ever saw Marion above once or twice in her life. No, Love. Put that idea out of your head."

Abby pondered for a while. "Then why would she say such a thing? Do you think she is trying to put a wedge between James and me?"

"No Girl." Sam shook his head vigorously. "She may honestly believe there is such a possibility. I say she's wrong. Mr. Comberford was stuffy, and a bit of a bore, but he was a gentleman and very conscious of his position. If he played around he did it elsewhere, rather than give people here a chance to gossip about him. And there would have been gossip. Mark my words. My Mavis would have heard, and she couldn't have kept her mouth shut." He stopped and gave the idea a little more consideration. A seed of an idea came to him brightening his countenance. "If you ask me, I reckon that Mrs. Comberford may be playing a game. Yes, I suppose you could say she had grounds for suspicion, but as she was never here that much after Mr. James was born she wouldn't really know how things were. Now give some thought to her trying to stir Mr. James up. She may well think that you are the perfect match for him. So she gives him a bit of a kick. To make him do something about it. You know, threaten to take a child's toy away and the child will want it all the more." He nodded his head sagely. "Yes I reckon that is it. Mr. James is one of the best, but he sometimes is guilty of letting things slide along, and not doing what needs to be done."

Abby thought about that. "Well if she thinks I'm the perfect match for James that makes me feel better. And if there is the slightest suspicion, it is best sorted. We are going to have a DNA test to prove it or not. I don't think it is true, and neither does James." She smiled mischievously and asked. "Sam do you think I am right for James?"

He shook his head with a big smile on his face. He answered her with another question. "Do you?"

Abby hesitated before answering and then with a blush suffusing her face softly admitted. "Yes. I think I have fallen in love with him."

Sam was filled with pleasure at those words. "I have known Mr. James all his life. He has never treated any girl the way he treats you. I noticed the other day when you ran out of the house. It was James who chased after you, and it was James you wanted at that time. He cares for you, Abby, he probably loves you but may not know it yet, but I have no doubt. If you want him, you will have to push him though." Abby was well aware of that. Sam went on. "You are right for each other. I have thought that for some time."

"I am pushing Sam. I got him to ask me away for a weekend when all this is settled. It's a naughty weekend. Aren't you ashamed of me?"

"No Girl, not at all." Sam laughed heartily. "What better way to celebrate eh?" He winked at her, and then a serious look came to his face. "Abby I wish I could tell you who your father was, I can't. But I am sure I can say who he wasn't. And Mr. Comberford was not. Have your test; I have no doubts of the outcome. You and Mr. James are not related... Yet." Abby touched his arm and smiled her appreciation of his support.

They walked towards the house, and Abby raised the issue of the Goods shed. "I don't want to go in there, but I shall have to anyway. Can I ask another favour of you? When I do go in, will you be with me? James has said he will come, but I would like you to be there as well. It would be a sort of hand-holding thing.'

"Of course, Abby. Just let me know when." He wondered if the rope was still hanging from the beam, and whether he ought to get in there beforehand and make sure it was taken down. He would talk to Harry about that. The sound of a diesel engine disturbed them, as Harry arrived back, a big trailer full of small broken rock and gravel behind his JCB Tractor with the scoop raised high. Sam and Harry were immediately immersed in discussion about where and how they should spread the load. Abby did not want to be in their way, and asked if they would mind if she left.

"No Love, not at all. Harry and I will have this chat about spreading the gravel, and as usual Harry will do it his way."

"And Sam will just get in my way, the way he's always done." replied Harry with a grin, "but don't you worry Miss Abby, it will be sorted properly." Abby laughed and took her leave. She understood that Sam and Harry had known each other for years, and that this ribbing each other was just a way of enjoying each other's company. It brought into focus her lack of good friendship, the sort that stays the course over years. This was another reason to stay here, she had made friends, and she knew that these friendships would keep.

Rather than returning by the road, she walked down the track, deciding to use the Public Footpath coming down from Huish to get back to the Lane. It gave her a chance to think about what had happened, and how she would react if the test proved that she was James sister. She had read stories in the papers about siblings, re-united after being split as babies, having an unnatural attraction to each other. She wondered if that was happening to she and James. She shook her head. She had to believe that her instinct would have warned her, and Sam's undoubted stance that they were not brother and sister.

It was two days later that James phoned her on her mobile to say that the Doctor would be at Lyney House the next day at eleven. Abby promised to be there, half hoping that Gwen Comberford would have left again. That was not to be as it was Gwen who let her in. James was not in evidence.

"Hello Abby, Thanks for coming up like this."

"It's not a problem, Gwen. I would like to know who my father was. If this will narrow down the search I am quite happy." They walked through to the breakfast room.

"I would offer you a cup of tea, but I don't know if that is allowed before taking this swab."

Abby was pleased to see that Gwen was a little unsure of herself, compared with before when she visited, Gwen had been so collected and in control.

"I think not, but afterwards a cup of coffee would go down very well."

Gwen smiled possibly in relief for Abby accepting the situation so calmly. "It must have been a bit of a shock to you, this business, I mean. It didn't occur to me until I realised how close you and James had become.'

"Yes, it was a bit of a blow. But having thought about it, I have to say that I don't believe it to be true. I don't think James believes it either."

"I just don't know." Gwen looked guilty. "I feel terrible, but I had to raise the matter. You see I left CC alone too much, because I didn't like living down here. What he got up to in my absence I don't know, and didn't want to know. You saying you didn't know who your father was, started me thinking, who it could be. Then, and it was a horrible thought, it came into my mind that it could have been CC. I honestly can't say that he is your father, but as long as there is a possibility..." Her voice trailed off.

Abby nodded and finished what Gwen had been saying. "We have to make sure."

Gwen nodded. "For what it's worth, I honestly hope that you and James are not brother and sister. The anger that James showed me when I suggested it, well I had never seen him as angry before. He's very fond of you, Abby."

"I am very fond of him."

Gwen looked up and Abby could see she was happy about the situation. "Well let's keep our fingers crossed. I think I would be very content to have you as a Daughter in Law."

"Hang on; it hasn't got as far as that."

Gwen smiled. "Oh I think it will. I hope it will, and then I can leave this bloody place for good." Abby could not say anything, knowing that her thoughts had extended that far. Gwen went on. "And if it does, you will have to do the asking. I'm afraid my son is a little backward in coming forward at times. Ah, here's James." The growl of the Land Rover, and the grit scattering over the drive told her that her son had indeed arrived.

James strode into the room, throwing a fleece jacket on to a chair. "Hasn't he arrived yet? Hello Abby." Whether from devilment or not, Abby could not say, but she raised her face to him for a kiss. James did not hesitate, and put his lips to her cheek.

Gwen did not turn a hair. "I am sure you could do better than that, James." She said drily.

"Oh yes he does." Abby replied for him. "But we thought it would be better to show some restraint until the tests have been done."

Gwen smiled and whispered to Abby. "I am not your enemy, Abby. But I liked the riposte. Any other girl would have been squashed by that." Abby blushed a little, the comment wasn't really called for. In Gwen's mind though it was proof, however much Abby may deny it, that she was seeing James as 'Her Man' and would jump in to defend him. Gwen approved of that.

The Doctor was not there that long. The swabs were taken easily and deposited in two sample tubes, properly labelled for despatch to the Pathology Lab. Doctor Graham assured them he would get the tests done as soon as possible, but even though this was a Private Consultation it would take some time. "There are not many Labs I would trust to do this work, so I reckon it will be four or five weeks before I get the results." He had asked Abby for the name and address of her Doctor.

Abby gave him the names of the doctor she had seen very occasionally in London; he suggested she came in to the Surgery. "I'll get you registered with my Practice. The records will come down eventually, but they usually take an age so in the meantime I will give you a check up." He gave her a card. "If you would phone to make an appointment."

Gwen had made coffee, while James and Abby saw the Doctor. James couldn't stay, so Abby joined Gwen in the Breakfast Room. Abby had to ask Gwen something. "Gwen, if it was proven that your husband was my father, how would you feel about that."

Gwen stirred her coffee slowly as she considered. "I suppose I ought to feel some antagonism towards you, but I don't think I would. It was all so long ago, and I feel somehow to blame for leaving CC alone so much. If I had been here and did my wifely duty, it wouldn't have happened." She thought some more, Abby staying silent. "Actually I think I might be happy about it, I always wanted a daughter, and suddenly I would have one ready- made, without all the morning sickness and dirty nappies to cope with. Bearing in mind that I do actually like you, Abby, I think I would be very happy with the situation. And who knows if not daughter, hopefully a friend, or even a daughter in law."

Abby had to smile at that. "I said before, you may be rushing ahead a little.'

"No, I think I covered all eventualities. Whatever happens, please don't be a stranger. That's all I'm saying."

"That I won't be. You make very good coffee."

They both smiled at that, and Gwen offered another cup saying. "As you like it so much."

Abby, who for a while had wondered if Gwen was trying to prise James and her apart, was relieved. Sam had said as much and she had not quite believed him, now perhaps she should believe him when he said that Gwen may be trying to stir up James. She had said in no uncertain terms that she thought Abby was right for James. Now all she needed to know was if James thought that as well. In the meantime there was the problem of her paternity. The waiting was going to be the worst part, not knowing was the hardest Millstone.

The arrival of Mr. Brasher caused quite a stir. She had written to him advising taking the road through Wheddon Cross and Paverton, something for which she was profoundly grateful when she saw his car. A Rolls Royce! It was not a complete surprise, knowing that whilst he was unworldly, he nonetheless insisted on the best quality even if his colour co-ordination was abysmal; so his choice of car could more or less be predicted. What was incongruous was his small figure getting out of a car so large, and it was large! He would never have got that up the lane. Later she would find out it was a Silver Wraith made in nineteen fifty four, with a body by Mulliners. Mary had immediately said the car should be parked down the back, and Mr. Brasher, without a care, had handed the keys to Jack, who was petrified.

"I can't put that through that narrow gateway, what if I scrape it? It will cost a fortune to repair. No, someone else will have to do it." Mary pointed out reasonably that there was no one else. "Mary, you will have to help. Watch me in."

"I can't do that. I have to go and settle Mr. Brasher in. I am sure he will be wanting some tea. Get on with it Jack." Jack walked around the car assessing the width and length. With those measurements in mind he walked to the gate and eyed it, then looked back at the car. It probably would go through he thought but not without help. The problem was resolved as Harry Webster came past on his tractor.

He stopped immediately, and came over to admire the Rolls. "Good Lord! A Silver Wraith. Mulliner body if I'm not mistaken."

Jack looked astonished. "Harry! You take one look and you know all about it, how come?"

"Always been interested in these, Jack, well all Rolls and Bentley's really, always wanted to own one. Fat chance on a farmer's income, but I can dream can't I?" He shook his head. "This is a beauty, I mean look at it. Got style, and it's immaculate. Lovely!"

"Well if you know so much about them, you can put it down the back, come on, I'll see you in." Harry was ecstatic. "Never thought I would get to drive one of these. Hang on, I'll take me boots off, don't want to get mud all over." He then regarded his overalls. "Don't suppose you have something I could sit on, my overalls aren't that clean." Jack went off to fetch some towels from the Bar.

Abby was sitting in the Lounge with Mr. Brasher, who seemed much more at ease than when she met him before. He took a sip of the tea, nodded in appreciation, and looked around. "I didn't get to see this place last time I was here."

Abby almost choked on her tea. "You were here before?"

"Yes. It was in nineteen sixty six. About three months before the line closed. There were a lot of closures about that time, and I made it my purpose to travel all of them before they were gone forever. Not the whole country, you understand, just the Great Western lines. I was on the train of course, so I didn't have an opportunity to stop and look around." He picked up his voluminous bag, which Abby remembered from the bookshop. This time he had no trouble in finding what he sought.

"I have been able to get these few photos. Most are original GWR publicity shots, taken in nineteen thirty four. That was the last time the station underwent any major alterations. And I do have a few taken in nineteen fifty two. Those were unofficial photos, taken by an enthusiast." He cleared some space on the table and laid them down. "These are the official ones. As you can see the photography was first class, and shows the detail very well. Unfortunately from your point of view they wouldn't allow any of the staff to be present on the platform at the time, but as your grandfather didn't take up his appointment until nineteen thirty eight, it makes little difference."

Abby studied the prints carefully."These are very good, I imagine that Ms. Eaton..."

"Excuse me. Miss Tregonney." Mr. Brasher interrupted. "Who is Ms. Eaton?"

"The Heritage Officer."


"These should satisfy her completely. I believe she hasn't been able to find any such evidence as this. It's a pity they are black and white, though. We can't tell what the colours were like."

Mr. Brasher gave a small smile. "Oh that's a little enough problem. The GWR used standard colours throughout the system. I have plenty of evidence of how the buildings were painted, I can even put you in touch with manufacturers who still have the actual colour recipe."

"Mr. Brasher, you are a marvel."

"No Miss Tregonney, it was the Great Western which was the marvel." He sorted out the photos taken in the fifties. "As I said these were unofficial. But as you can see there was little change. Now, Miss Tregonney, do you think that could be your grandfather there?" He pointed to a figure standing just outside the buildings.

Abby nodded. Even with her eyes misty she could recognise him immediately. It was the uniform and Cap that gave it away. "Yes, Mr. Brasher. That's him."

"I am so pleased. Would you like these improved? I can get better copies you know."

"That's very kind of you. I would like that."

"Leave it with me, I'll send them on to you as soon as possible. I have to say though Miss Tregonney, that he does look a little fearsome, if you don't mind me saying so. I notice that he is wearing the old style uniform of the Great Western, not the British Railways one."

Abby smiled. "I understand he was not exactly pleased with photographers coming around. As for his uniform, I am told that he disapproved of nationalisation, and refused to wear anything but the Great Western one."

Mr. Brasher thought about that and with a small smile nodded his head. "I think I rather like your grandfather Miss Tregonney, he sounds like a man I could have warmed to."

"Mr. Brasher, please call me Abby."

"I would be pleased to. I usually answer to just Brasher. I don't think you would be comfortable using my given name, in fact it hasn't been used for over thirty years."

"I'm sorry but I could not call you anything but Mr. Brasher. It would not seem respectful." God she thought, I have gone all Combe Lyney. He did not say anything to this except smile.

Abby was saved any further embarrassment by the approach of Jack, who held out the keys to the car. "It's safely round the back, Mr. Brasher, and I have taken your case up to the room. Lovely car though. You must feel good driving that."

"I drive very little. It's totally impractical for London."

"Harry said it was the Mulliner body."

"Yes it is. He must know his cars then. They had to make me a special seat and pedals position." He indicated his lack of height. "Otherwise I could not see over the steering wheel." Jack nodded, Harry had said something to that effect.

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