The Tanner’s Daughter – Episode 06

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

The days slipped by and Will’s strong young body began to mend.

He was able to leave his sickbed and sit at the window which looked over the garden and distant hills of North Wales.

Inevitably, time dragged and boredom set in. Will longed for a gallop on Monarch, who doubtless was stamping restlessly in the stall.

Or better still, to tour the city in pursuit of employment.

The more he fretted, the worse he felt.

Visitors to his sickroom helped. He welcomed the encounters with his host, a man he liked and was growing to respect.

The wife was a different matter. Stiff and unsmiling in her unrelenting black, Mistress Constance Hatton wore a forbidding face.

With Rolf, the youth who came each morning to shave him and help him dress, he had developed an easy camaraderie, and Margery, Will discovered to his delight, was not averse to a little mild flirtation when the spirit moved her.

But it was Jane he favoured most. Over time, confidences were shared.

As Will had surmised, all was not well with the leatherware company.

One April day Jane seemed very troubled.

“Jane,” Will said gently. “You are not yourself. Tell me what’s wrong.”

She sighed.

“It’s Father. He suffers with his chest and I worry about him.

“Margery does her best to treat him, yet still his condition worsens.

“There are also concerns over the business.”

“I see. What happened over the clerk of work? Did he never show up?”

“Briggs? No. Father sent Rolf to his lodgings and it emerged that he no longer lives there. He’d just packed his bags and gone, the landlady said.

“Father cannot understand it. It wasn’t like Master Briggs at all.”

“That seems odd. Have you managed to replace him in the office?”

“No,” Jane replied. “We are not in a position to take on new staff at present.

“Mother and I have seen to the wages and the correspondence.

“I’ve tried to make sense of the books, but…”

She bit her lip.

“Go on,” Will prompted.

“I may be wrong, but there appears to be some discrepancies in the figures.

“Mother claims there is something amiss with my reckoning, yet I have gone over them many times and cannot make them tally.”

Will frowned.

“So the books make no sense and the scriber disappears. That looks suspect to me.”

“Indeed. I cannot bring myself to tell Father. There’s always a chance that Mother is right and my figuring is at fault.”

Will hesitated.

“I wonder, would you permit me to take a look at the accounts?

“It would be done in strict confidence. I’ve been trying to think of some way of paying you back for the care I’ve received here.”

“There’s no need, Will. But if you could make some headway with the books I’d be grateful,” Jane said with an audible rush of relief.

Constance Hatton stared at her daughter.

“You have entrusted this person with private matters of the firm? Fie, Jane, what were you thinking?”

“Will made the offer. He’s had experience of accounting.”

“But you know nothing of this man. He could be a trickster. Have you told your father?”

“Of course. Father has no qualms whatsoever.

“He trusts my judgement, else he’d not be training me to take over the business, would he?”

Constance pursed her lips. This was another bone of contention that was frequently aired.

“Rest assured,” Jane said, “Father and I are happy to have someone check over the figures.”

Constance saw she was beaten.

“Well, what’s done is done, though it makes me wonder how much longer this man will remain under our roof. His injuries are on the mend, I’m told?”

“Yes. And he has a name, Mother. It’s Will. Or Master Leche, if you prefer.”

She knew her mother did not mean to be shrewish. It was concern for Father’s health and worry over the firm that made her act so.

A few days later Jane appeared at Will’s room, dressed in her cloak.

“Will, I’m going with Margery to the market. Is there anything you require before I go?”

Will looked up from studying the firm accounts. His expression was serious.

“No. But could you spare me a moment of your time? There’s something I need to show you.”

Jane had the feeling she was not going to like what Will was about to say.

To be continued…

An error has occurred while loading your details. Please click the following link to try again - if the issue persists, please don't hesitate to contact us. Try again by refreshing the page.