City Of Discoveries — Episode 23

It seemed a lot later, but it was probably only an hour, when Jennet remembered that Mr Lochead would be waiting for her at Aberdeen Road.

She turned over in their box bed and slid out from under William’s arm. He was snoring and would probably sleep for a while.

Even if he’d been laid off now, he’d worked 11 days straight until today.

She tore a bit of paper from her work-book and wrote on it.

Gone to Aberdeen Road – writing lesson. J.

She set it on the table and held it down with a knife. It was simple, and William would be able to read it.

Jennet went round the side of the house and down the short outside stair to the back hall at Aberdeen Road.

Laughter rang out from the kitchen, and it was a moment or two before the new maid, Agnes, came to open the door.

“Why, it’s Mistress Marshall,” Agnes said in some surprise. “I don’t think you’ll be seeing Miss Smith today, but come into the kitchen. You look frozen.”

Jennet accepted she might look frozen, because she’d left in such a hurry that she’d only tied on one shawl, and she’d pulled on her lighter-weight boots – not the ones William had set tacks into.

The pavements had been a slippery challenge all the way out of the centre of town, as the number of feet got fewer and fewer.

An astonishing sight met Jennet’s eyes in the kitchen. Cook was sitting in her big chair with the wings and holding a glass of wine. She held it up to Jennet as she came into the room.

“We are toasting Miss Smith’s betrothal to Mr John Crombie of Newfoundland,” she said, and drank a sip.

“Agnes, why don’t you give that third glass of champagne to Mistress Marshall? It would be a shame to let all those bubbles go to waste.”

Agnes lifted a glass brimming with fizzy wine and held it out to Jennet with an encouraging smile.

“Go on, Mistress Marshall; when will we ever taste the like again?”

“I am not used to liquor,” Jennet protested, but she was tempted.

“To Miss Smith and Mr Crombie.”

Jennet thought the champagne was lovely, and she didn’t feel any effects except a lightening of her mood.

Miss Smith was such a lovely lady, she deserved to be happy.

“Will they be married here in Dundee?” Jennet asked.

“Yes – next month, as soon as the papers can be sorted,” Cook said. “Oh, here Mr Crombie is now.”

She stood up and Jennet thought maybe she had to steady herself with a hand on the edge of the big table.

But she was an elderly lady, so perhaps it had little to do with the wine.

“Mr Crombie, sir, this is Mistress Marshall. She comes here to have writing lessons with Mr Lochead, and we thought to give her the third glass of champagne.”

Jennet bobbed a curtsey to the gentleman when he acknowledged her, and soon found he was topping up all three glasses from a strangely shaped bottle he’d brought downstairs.

He said Mr Lochead hadn’t arrived, and they were wondering upstairs whether he’d had a mishap in the icy conditions.

Wishing them all well, he returned to the party in the front parlour.

Jennet knew the afternoon was wearing on, and William might be wakening up soon.

She set down her glass, which was not quite empty, and, thanking the ladies for including her in the celebration, she made her way out of the house by the side stairs.

As she was walking down Aberdeen Road, Jennet was even more aware of the frost in the air. She did feel as if her head had a little cotton wool in it, and she was setting her feet carefully.

Without warning, the heel on one of her summer boots shifted and Jennet slid off her feet, banging her head against the pavement.

She opened her eyes and saw a man looming over her. Fearing it might be Fleming, she slid into unconsciousness.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.