City Of Discoveries — Episode 32

The workforce in Sooth’s great mill building was silent. Jennet found this unnerving and fought the rising panic that threatened to engulf her.

She’d been horrified by the discovery of silver coins in her friend Meggie’s bag, and suspected they had been planted by Fleming.

His words echoed.

“Could be your bag next time. Think on that.”

He was the devil. Once, when he’d tried to have her disciplined, she’d been rescued by Miss Smith, one of the mill’s owners. But that lady had left Dundee.

Jennet thought. Mrs Logan, one of Miss Smith’s suffragist associates, had said she would take over in watching how the women and child workers were treated.

But Mrs Logan was awaiting the birth of her first grandchild. Something else had been arranged meantime, but what was it? Who was the closest to Miss Smith?

Miss Wilson! Mrs Logan had said she and Hetty Wilson had signed papers giving them power over Miss Smith’s responsibilities in the mill.

Could Jennet find her?

The workforce was standing, threatening in its solidarity, while voices seeped through the overseer’s office door. Nobody believed Meggie Young to be a thief.

Jennet caught sight of Torie, Meggie’s sister, terror etched in her face. She had to help!

She ran through the great doors and out into the night. Across the busy road she saw a hackney cab let down passengers.

“Careful, Hetty,” a male voice said in carrying tones. “Watch that mud.”

Hetty? That was Miss Wilson’s name!

Without pausing, Jennet jumped from the flags and crossed over to the group from the hackney.

It was Miss Wilson, and a man Jennet thought might be Thomas Webster, who’d spoken up for William when the constable tried to arrest him.

“Miss Wilson, I am sorry to intrude, but there is a problem in the mill,” Jennet stammered. “My friend, Meggie Young, is accused of stealing.”

“Look here, girl . . .” the man began.

“Thomas, I know this woman.” Miss Wilson laid a hand on his arm. “She’s a co-worker in the suffragist office. What seems to be the trouble, Jennet?”

Struggling to catch her breath, Jennet retold what had happened.

As she did so, she remembered the way Fleming had picked up their bags at the end of the break and thrown them at the women. He could have inserted the coins then.

Some instinct kept her silent about the behaviour of the management class in the face of Mr Webster’s coldness.

With obvious reluctance on his part, they crossed back to the mill entrance and entered.

All heads turned to them, but Jennet tried to ignore it. She must get help to Meggie.

Near the overseer’s office they met Torie, white faced and trembling. Jennet knew how much everyone needed their jobs, and that Torie had reason to dislike Drew Fleming.

Miss Wilson stopped and turned to Jennet.

“I’ll see Mr Souter myself.” She rapped on the door with the handle of her umbrella before entering.

Mr Webster hesitated, then followed her. Jennet was glad.

Miss Wilson was a pleasant lady, but not as forthright as Miss Smith. It would impress Fleming and Souter to know she had a gentleman behind her.

Jennet stood beside Torie.

“You always manage tae find some o’ the bosses, Mistress Marshall,” Lena, one of Fleming’s favourites, said with a sneer.

“That different frae your behaviour with Fleming?” a man asked and Jennet sent him a grateful smile.

“Mr Fleming kens ma faither,” Lena protested. “It’s different.”

“Aye, it’s different, lass, but if I were you,” the man said forcefully, “I’d choose ma freens with mair care.”

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”.