The Tanner’s Daughter – Episode 04

The main characters with a backdrop of a town Illustration: Mandy Dixon

“For now, you must rest.”

“Rest?” Will said tetchily. “How can I rest? I came to Chester to find work, not to be waited on hand and foot.”

“Not lost his wits, then. Nor yet his tongue, I warrant!”

The tarred-oak door of the bedchamber had opened to admit the maid. She carried a small pewter cup that steamed pungently.

Coming to his bedside, she delivered him an admonishing click of her tongue.

“Rant, rant, rant! I could hear you from the stair.

“You need to calm down instead of raving like a drunkard.

“And lie still or I cannot vouch for the efficacy of the stitches.”

“So that’s the reason for the claws in my side.”

“Consider yourself fortunate that the dagger narrowly missed your innards, or we could be chanting a ritual at your graveside.

“A cut on your temple also required attention with my needle.

“Now, drink this. It’s poppy juice. ’Twill ease the pain and give you sleep.”

Will grimaced, discomfort and frustration at his plight making him uncharacteristically out of temper.

“Vile stuff. Stinks like a cess pit on a June day. How do I know it will not finish me off for good?”

“You will have to take my word for it,” the maidservant replied sweetly. “Now, do as I say and drink!”

Will grumbled on, but was silenced by a silvery glare that made him gulp down the posset to the very last drop.

He awoke to utter quiet. He was alone in the bedchamber.

The fickle March sunshine had gone and rainclouds tumbled in the sky beyond the casement.

An afternoon stillness had settled over the house.

Will shifted restlessly in the bed, but stopped as the torment in his side jabbed mercilessly.

Stifling a curse, he put a fingertip to his temple, wincing as he did so.

Frustration tore at him. How long would it be before he could pursue his quest to better himself?

Will had stemmed from humble origins and striven tirelessly to broaden his horizons.

He thought of the relentless journeying, the dubious lodging houses, the effort of pitching his wits against those born under a more fortunate star than himself.

Like the half-brother upon whom life had smiled from the cradle.

Two boys, growing up in very different circumstances, and all due to a trick of fate.

All the same, his tenacity had paid off and, now work-hardened, master of many skills and with modest savings, Will was ready to put down roots.

He wanted the respect of the guilds that held such sway in the town.

He wanted security, a good name, and the freedom to sample the liberties and franchises of the city without first having to serve a lengthy apprenticeship in a trade.

Yes, Tudor laws were tight. But a ready wit and force of personality had served him well in the past and would do so again.

If it wasn’t for this confounded dilemma he’d fallen into he would be out there now, laying the foundations of a settled existence!

Will pursued his study of his injuries. The lump at the back of his head was subsiding, though the gashed temple was another matter.

He considered the two young women who had nursed him and whom he was mortified to admit he had treated badly.

Mistress and servant they might be, but that pleasing ambience of females at ease together suggested mutual regard and friendship also.

The one called Margery was a force to be reckoned with.

Neat and quick in her rustling grey gown and frilled neck ruff, the flounced kirtle she wore revealed an underskirt of more elaborate pin-tucking than was usual in a servant, showing a gratifying femininity.

She was a beauty of the sort that generally captured his attention, yet it was the daughter of the house that arrested him.

Jane. Sweet Jane?

Maybe. There was a flash of steel in that green-gold gaze and determination in the small chin.

Will thought of the slender grace of her, the classic features and clear complexion.

Both women had escaped the ravages of smallpox that left its ugly legacy on many a maid’s cheek.

The sombre mode of dress was telling. A Puritan household, perhaps.

The style did not become Jane Hatton; she needed colour and flair to show off her loveliness.

To be continuted…

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