City Of Discoveries — Episode 45

While they debated how to raise her, there were voices at the entry. Miss Wilson came through the crowd with a tall man at her heels.

Jennet nodded to Miss Wilson and noticed how like her the man was, though his face was deeply tanned.

“What happened here?” Miss Wilson asked.

Jennet hardly knew how to answer her, but Mistress Cox was not so shy.

“That villain knocked this poor wifie richt aff her feet and left her lying here!”

“Drew Fleming,” Jennet said shortly and saw Miss Wilson’s eyebrows lift.

“I see,” she said. “Mr Marshall, would you take the weight under her shoulders if my nephew,

Mr Wilson, lifts her feet?”

Jennet and Mistress Cox withdrew so the men would have room to move their burden.

Carefully, William stood up from the floor and steadied himself as Phemie’s weight fell on him until Mr Wilson could help.

As the group made their way into Phemie’s house, the neighbours drifted back to their own houses.

Mrs Cox turned to her.

“Mistress Marshall, I’m awa’ up now. My man is on nights and if I leave wee Jimmy too long, there’s no telling what I’ll go back to.”

Jennet pressed Mrs Cox’s shoulder.

“Thank you.”

She turned back to the group who were settling Phemie into her big cushioned chair.

Jennet went over to Phemie’s water flagon and poured some into a beaker which she brought back.

The old lady was able to sip a little and eventually opened her eyes.

Jennet saw with dismay that the left one was colouring. Phemie would have a shiner to equal any Saturday-night drunk.

“Well, Aunt Hetty, this is not the quiet evening you had suggested.” The man cast a sympathetic glance to Miss Wilson.

“No, indeed, Bryce. Mistress Marshall, Mr Marshall, this is my nephew, Bryce Wilson.

“He and his wife will be living in Aberdeen Road when I move to Edinburgh.

“We were here to visit Mistress Wightman so I might make Bryce known to her.”

Jennet nodded and William made a muffled response.

He was embarrassed by the fee Miss Wilson had paid to Dr Roberts the day he was attacked by Fleming.

But Jennet had outlined a plan to him.

If she refused the expenses the suffrage office wished to pay her for her visits into the mills it would mount up to the total soon enough.

William agreed it was the best they could do until he got a full-time job.

“Fleming was here the day, Miss Wilson,” she said.

Miss Wilson sighed.

“I didn’t want to worry you. Mr Souter called me in for a talk at Sooth’s. He’s seen Fleming’s behaviour; he called it erratic.”

She stopped as Phemie stirred and spoke.

“Thank ye all. Jennet, can you lift that shawl from the foot of the bed, please?”

Jennet went to the box bed and brought the shawl to drape around the old lady. She patted her reassuringly.

“Sorry, miss, carry on, if ye would.”

“Fleming is Mr Souter’s main suspect in the theft of the coins used to incriminate Meggie Young, but he can’t prove it. Also, Fleming has missed shifts.

“I think, when Mr Souter hears of this outrage, Fleming and the girls he incites will be dismissed.”

“Rely on me, Aunt Hetty,” Bryce Wilson said. “I’ll speak with my associates. The man will never find work in Dundee.”

Jennet fixed a shocked gaze on Bryce Wilson’s face. His words had raised conflicting thoughts in her.

On one hand, it was good to know Fleming would be forced out of Dundee.

There was a perverse thought, however, born of her recent forays into mill conditions for the women and children.

How was it possible that Mr Wilson, who hadn’t lived here for years, could wield such power?

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”.