City Of Discoveries — Episode 28

“We cannot all be good at everything,” Hetty said. “I was not skilled in simmering either, once upon a time, but I listened to Cook eventually, and I watched.

“Now, I fancy, if Cook was indisposed, I could turn out a palatable meal.”

“You have done.”

“And you will, too. In the meantime, why don’t I send a boy round to the Wishart Church Manse and ask the minister to call this afternoon?

“His time might be more flexible than Mrs Dewar’s, and she needs to start your new dresses.”

Hetty peered at the entries in Carrie’s diary.

“Tomorrow I suggest you do not go into town at all. I can be here all day, and Cook and I can show you how she stores her dry goods so that the oldest are used first.”

“Dry goods. Do you mean flour and barley?”

“Yes. We can show you how to calculate the quantities needed for a household of varying sizes so that, if Mr Crombie entertains fellow businessmen, you won’t be caught out.”

Hetty had already made the acquaintance of some ladies who had visited relatives in Canada.

She had learned that Carrie would be able to hire staff and would not have to learn how to bake or pluck a chicken straight away.

“Thank you, Hetty. I would love it if you would take the arrangements in hand.”

Carrie stood up and came round the table. She threw her arms around Hetty and kissed her cheek.

“I do need to leave the suffrage office in good heart. There are two ladies who will take it over and keep the good work going.

She began to gather her things.

“Jennet Marshall is proving useful to the group. If only I could pay her a wage so she could stop being a weaver and join the team properly.”

“I am glad you’ve found out her strengths, Carrie, but short of making her an allowance, I don’t see how you can get her out of the mill at present,” Hetty said.

But they all knew how William, Jennet’s man, would react to the suggestion of an allowance.

“I’ve been lucky to keep Marshall placated so far, but I must not push hard.”

Hetty watched Carrie, transformed now the load of the marriage arrangements was lifted, cross to the door.

“The ladies at the office are full of admiration for Jennet. They listen to her opinions and value them.

“She lives among the workers and her experience is therefore at first hand.”

“Yes, I suppose she goes home to cook over an open fire and you come home to servants,” Hetty mused.

“Indeed, but if John’s proposal to travel in the Canadian wilderness works out, then I may also be cooking over an open fire!”

With that, Carrie fled.

Thomas Webster, appeared. He was dressed for outdoors and said he’d only looked back in to wish the ladies a good day.

“Did you come in before, then?”

Laughter lurked in Thomas’s eyes.

“I did, but you were both immersed in discussion and I thought it best to wait.

“If I may be permitted to say again, Hetty, your skills are going to waste here.”

Thomas pulled his gloves on.

“I am in touch with some people in Edinburgh who are setting up an exciting venture, and I know they are going to want a mature lady with housekeeping skills and a light touch with difficult young women.”

“Carrie isn’t difficult, exactly,” she said.

Thomas did laugh then, and she allowed herself a broad grin.

“Perhaps she has concentrated more on the things a son might have done in succeeding her papa.

“I have not yet broached with her the task of buying linen.”

“Linen? Ah, sheets and towels and all the things we men find at our disposal. They must be bought from somewhere, I suppose.”

“Indeed they must, and Carrie might want to place a large order to send to her new home. We don’t know what the supplies in Newfoundland will be.”

“I repeat, Miss Wilson, your skill is wasted here. Good day, ma’am.”

Hetty gazed at the closed door and sat on for a moment or two.

Thomas was teasing her with this mysterious project, and he was winning. She was more curious by the day.

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 aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.