City Of Discoveries — Episode 48

Hetty found the young woman at home and saw she had been knitting something at the table when she rapped on the door. It was small, in soft white wool.

Hetty smiled.

“Good morning, Jennet. May I come in for a moment, please?”

“Of course, miss. I’m no’ sae feart of who might be rapping at the door since I heard Drew Fleming and his family left toon on a laden cart,” the girl said with a welcoming smile.

Hetty tried to forget the worrying nugget of gossip Bryce had relayed over breakfast. It might yet prove to be rumour.

She nodded at the knitting.

“I’m a little slow on the uptake, Jennet, but Mrs Logan suggested you might have news before long.”

“I haven’t told William yet,” Jennet said, unconsciously smoothing her hands across her belly.

“Yes. William,” Hetty said.

“Please, sit down.” As she spoke, Jennet was casting an eye towards the fire where the kettle swung from its iron cross bar.

“Please don’t worry about tea. I’ve come from visiting my retired staff and they plied me with tea and drop scones,” Hetty said. “I wanted to leave you a present, Jennet.”

“A present? But you and Mistress Crombie have been so good to me already. The dresses . . .”

“It’s a different kind of present, my dear. Seeing that you are in the family way, I hope it will be more welcome.

“I know how hard it can be to accept help.”

Hetty knew she sounded diffident, and wondered where she’d lost the kind of confidence she’d found to beard Souter in his office.

Souter. She shivered. Surely Bryce was wrong?

“I’m not one to refuse help if I can repay it in due course,” Jennet said.

Hetty nodded.

“The doctor’s bill. I wish you hadn’t repaid that, but I will say no more.

“No, this present is about influence, Jennet. I saw the way you looked at Bryce when he took up the challenge against Fleming.”

“I hope I did not offend Mr Wilson, but going into the mills and speaking with the women has changed my view of things.

“There is constant fear of losing a job, constant uncertainty.”

Hetty heard Jennet’s warmth and enthusiasm. This young woman had taken on Carrie’s cause and made it her own.

“Mr Wilson did not notice, but I did. I have admired the way you’ve risen to the challenge Carrie threw out to you, Jennet.

“Change will come, but it will need people on all sides to be well disposed.”

“You mean it takes good men like Mr Webster to invite the women in?” They both knew Dundee was a strange place, where so many women had work, if not security.

The wider world still kept females at a distance.

“To invite the women in,” Hetty repeated. “That’s a lovely way of putting it.

“I hope my own efforts, making a comfortable home for those of greater learning and competence than myself, will help the women who are breaking down the barriers.”

They sat in silence for a moment or two.

Hetty drew an envelope from her bag and set it on to the table before picking up her gloves. The envelope was addressed.

“Mr Souter?” Jennet asked, reading it.

“It is a letter of introduction for William. Souter is in need of a good weaver, who does not drink, to replace that bully, Fleming.”

Jennet stood up.

“This is unexpected, Miss Wilson.” She studied the letter as if it might grow teeth and bite her.

“I have observed William over some months, and I am sure of his capabilities. It is also true that William has not held you back.

“Indeed, he is a supporter of Mr Lochead, is he not?”

Jennet blushed.

“He is. Fleming’s claims that I might have been his lover made William angry that onybody would think he didna know the difference between a guid ane and a bad ane.”

“Exactly. I think he would be a good supervisor of a female workforce.”

“In the same way that Mr Webster and his friends are working to get women into medicine,” she heard Jennet muse.

She thought she heard something else. Was there a disturbance out on the street?

She shook her head. She must be allowing herself to imagine things.

“Yes, we need good men on our side.

“A secure position for William, in order that you may continue to grow in the suffrage cause, is my leaving present to you, Jennet. Please think about it before discarding it.

“Goodbye, my dear girl. I will hope to see you when I return for occasional visits.”

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”.