City Of Discoveries — Episode 30

Jennet’s first day back in Sooth’s was quiet and it was soon break-time. Meggie and Torie gathered round and they ate their pieces quickly before Torie headed off to the privy.

“Why does she hate Fleming so much?” Jennet asked Meggie.

“Fleming!” Meggie spat on to the mess of yarn fibres on the floor. “He cornered her in the yard one time she wis coming in from the privy and she had to shriek like a banshee before any of the ither men came to help.”

“But they did help?” Jennet asked, horrified to hear it confirmed that it wasn’t just her imagination where the man was concerned.

“Aye, well, you might call it help. They barracked him about his stupid choice of a place and he let her go.” Meggie rubbed the back of her neck.

“Souter telt her she would do well to get back to her loom quicker, like, after the break.”

“What?” Jennet was outraged. “Souter would have fired me if Miss Smith hadn’t interfered.”

“Aye, Souter is all about the outturns: nae compassion in him. Listen, Jennet, Fleming hasn’t given up on you.”

“What do you mean?”

“He talks to thae girls from Aberdeen, and they talk a lot. Torie heard them boasting that Drew always gets the ones he fancied, and you’d be no different because he’d get at you through your man.”

Jennet mused as the looms started up again and the clatter filled the air.

Get at her through her man.

Was that why the three of them had robbed that woman in the market? Had they waited for a chance of William being near, knowing he’d interfere?

“That’s ower far-fetched, lass,” William said that night when she shared her fears with him.

“Besides, there’s me, my dad and fower brothers. We’re more than a match for that Fleming character.

“If you get any mair trouble from him, just tell me.”

Jennet thought that where Fleming was concerned, brute force wasn’t the issue. The man was dangerous, and clever with it.

*  *  *  *

March was well underway and, despite the air still holding a breath of frost, Jennet was excited.

There were weddings in plenty, as both she and William had many brothers, sisters and cousins; but this wedding had a printed card invitation.

She’d accepted it shyly from Miss Smith when she was in the suffrage office with Mrs Logan and Mrs Tweedie, but had had no notion of attending.

“I hope you’ll think about coming along,” Mrs Logan had whispered in her ear as she was wrapping her shawl around.

“I know how highly Carrie thinks of you, Mistress Marshall.”

Jennet was a modest person, but she had come to realise that Miss Smith did think highly of her, and had even printed up one or two of the paragraphs Jennet had composed for a leaflet about reading.

Even so, there was an obstacle her new friends wouldn’t even think of.

The only clothes Jennet and William had were those they wore day by day.

She would have to be content with watching the wedding party from the depths of the church, and on the side-lines as it made its way towards the docks where Miss Smith and her new husband would be taking ship for London.

As Jennet came out of Phemie Wightman’s room that night, she met a lady in the passageway. It was always gloomy, but Jennet made out Miss Wilson from Aberdeen Road.

She bobbed a curtsey.

“Good evening, miss.”

“Good evening, Jennet. I’m so glad to meet you here because I was going to leave this parcel with Mistress Wightman, but now I can hand it to you personally.”

“A parcel?” Jennet’s voice faltered.

She did hope Miss Smith hadn’t sent her a dress to wear at the wedding! William would be incensed by such charity.

“I hear from Carrie that you are to continue assisting in the suffrage office after she departs,” Miss Wilson said.

She had a pleasant voice and Jennet always thought it sounded as if she was smiling when she spoke.

“When she was going through her clothes to select stuff she couldn’t fit into her luggage allowance, I suggested that she might offer one or two to you, to wear in the office.”

“To wear in the office?” Jennet repeated.

“Yes, to wear in the office,” Miss Wilson said.

“It should not be the case, but sadly it is, that persons of an inferior understanding set a huge store by what another person is wearing.”

Jennet agreed.

Ten minutes later, she found herself untying the string around the brown paper under William’s forbidding glare.

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”.