City Of Discoveries — Episode 29

When Jennet Marshall came round after her fall on the icy pavement, she was in her own bed. She turned her head, but nausea threatened and she lay still.

Behind closed eyes, she gradually pieced together the events of the afternoon.

She groaned with embarrassment when she remembered sliding along the pavement and falling.

William was at her side in an instant.

“Jennet! Jennet, are you awake?”

She heard fear and anger intermingled in her man’s voice and opened her eyes.

William relaxed. He lifted a damp cloth from a basin on the floor and set it on her forehead.

“Are you likely tae be sick?”

“Not if I lie still. You know what I’m like when we try the ferry,” she said. “That’s how I feel.”

The attempt at humour was lost on her man.

“Aye, weel, you won’t likely be having champagne before catching a ferry.” William turned away and she felt bereft.

“Or ever again,” she said.

Perhaps it was the hopelessness of her tone, but William came back and, setting a stool, sat by her head. He stretched his legs and sat quiet.

Jennet listened to the dry wood crackling in the grate and the hiss and fizz of sparks when a bit of plank burned through and into the base of the fire.

“There’s nae work at Keiller’s for seasonal staff until the summer fruits start coming in frae Spain and France,” William said as they ate that night.

Jennet hadn’t told him how she’d seen a man looming over her and assumed it was Drew Fleming, the foreman from Sooth’s who made everyone’s life miserable.

Instead, she listened while he told her how Mr Lochead, Sooth’s class teacher, had gathered her up before William himself could get to her, and taken her back into number 59.

Following Mr Lochead into the kitchen, he’d found the evidence of the champagne to mark Miss Smith’s betrothal.

Jennet could see it was another black mark against Miss Smith in William’s eyes, but he’d realise soon enough that the betrothal meant she’d be going to live in Newfoundland.

“No work,” she repeated now as William wiped his plate clean with an end of the loaf. “I’ll maybe need to look to the other mills.”

“Aye, we’ll be back tae baith of us trying our luck. Oh, your friend, Meggie, came by when you were sleeping.”

He stood up and took both their plates over to the basin.

“She said to tell you that the devil Fleming has been sent to work in the jute warehouse down at the Earl Grey dock.”

“Really?” Jennet said. “I’d try at Sooth’s again if he’s no’ there.”

William didn’t reply and, too late, Jennet realised he was thinking the same as her. If she tried at Sooth’s Miss Smith would ensure she was taken on.

Jennet screwed her eyes tight shut for a few seconds. They really needed to keep paying the rent and to eat.

Maybe they’d just have to live with the idea of a little patronage.

Besides, if Miss Smith was going to Newfoundland, all that help would soon melt away.

“If you’re back in the mill, you’ll no’ be able tae keep up your writing class with that Mr Lochead. He seems a guid yin,” William said.

This was so unexpected, Jennet didn’t know how to answer him.

“He telt me how much he enjoys watching you with your slate and pencil because you don’t have to be chivvied like the bairns.”

“Well, the bairns are all half asleep after working their shifts in the mill,” Jennet said.

“Aye. Maybe you can still hae a lesson on Saturday mornings,” William said. “There’s a class then, isn’t there?”

“There is,” Jennet said in a bit of confusion.

When had William begun to think reading and writing were good things?

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”.