The Tanner’s Daughter – Episode 08

Will makes an agreement with Jane's father Illustration: Mandy Dixon

“Small wonder Hatton’s is in such dire straits, when an employee in Master Briggs’s position could take such liberties.” Jane said, looking worried.

“’Tis a disgrace – though it does not surprise me. Master Briggs had a shifty look about him.”

“I have to wonder what other chicanery may have taken place behind Father’s back.”

Conversation halted while they made a dash across the street, dodging riders and a stagecoach coming full pelt, the coachman blasting the horn with such enthusiasm it sent a flock of pigeons flapping skywards.

Presently the two young woman were entering the precincts of St Werbergh’s, where the market was held.

“Where first, Margery?”

“The herbalist,” the maidservant replied.

The stall was set up in the shadow of the towering walls of the cathedral.

To Margery’s relief the herbalist was able to provide the items.

Next stop was the haberdasher’s, where Jane purchased threads for the making of new summer clothes – less costly than the shop in town and good quality.

“Grey again,” Margery said, grimacing. She eyed the bright array of goods on the stall with longing.

“Don’t you ever crave something different?

“Tes said Her Majesty dresses in all the colours of the rainbow. Wouldn’t you like the same?”

“At the moment I have more to concern me than the clothes on my back.

“Besides, the cloth is already bought. Mother requested pewter-grey so pewter-grey it must be!”

Jane acknowledged, however, that there were times when she wished her mother did not take the strictures of the new religion to such extremes.

They continued their tour of the stalls.

Jane bought spices from the trader with the patch over one eye and root vegetables from the costermonger.

Winter that year had been long, with deep snows and frosts so severe that the Dee had frozen over, bonfires lit on the ice, chestnuts roasting over braziers and citizens skating and making merry.

People had made the best of the hard conditions, but stores of home-grown produce had run out long before the thaw.

They visited the fishmonger for eels, the candlemaker for reed-tapers and lantern oil and, with Will’s request in mind, the stationer’s for untrimmed goose quills and inks.

Cheese, butter, a crock of honey at cook-housekeeper Martha Renfrew’s request – heaven help them if forgotten. Their baskets were growing heavier, Jane’s purse considerably lighter.

If the present financial situation continued, some economising might be necessary, Jane thought.

As they were leaving the market, a stall selling oranges, fresh off the boat that morning, gave her pause.

“Margery, I’ve a mind to visit the harbour.”

“What, with these baskets?”

“You have the heavier load. You go along home. I want to see if the shipment from Ireland is in.”

“After what happened last time? The master bade me not to let you out of my sight.”

“Fie! I had only myself to blame that day for risking the alleyway. But as you wish, we shall go together. Let’s hope Father’s consignment is waiting on the quayside.”

Unhappily, when they reached the harbour no such sight met their eyes.

Jane bit her lip hopefully.

“The Roisin may have docked and be waiting for unloading.”

They picked a way over snaking mooring ropes and coils of heavy chain, pausing at every vessel to note the name.

“How is she called, mistress?”

Margery had mastered the rudiments of reading and scribing on entering the Hattons’ service, but some words still defeated her.

“The Roisin. R-o-i-s-i-n, pronounced Rosheen. It means rose in the Irish tongue.”

They had almost travelled the length of the harbour when a loud hail brought them to a stop.

Harbourmaster Jethro Taggart was striding towards them.

“Greetings, ma’am. You’ll have come about the Irish boat.”

Jane nodded.

“Have you news of her?”

“Aye, sorry news. Seems a storm blew up not long after she’d left the Irish coast. She’s gone down, lady, with all hands – God rest their souls.”

“G… gone down?”

Jane heard the tremor in her own voice.

“Exactly so. ’Twas a sizeable shipment she carried, too.”

Jane stared mutely, her mind grappling to take the information in.

She felt a shameful surge of guilt for rating the loss of cargo before that of the lives of captain and crew.

But, ah, her father had taken a gamble here. The investment had been huge, the repercussions disastrous.

The Irish supplier was due the balance of payment regardless of circumstances.

To be continued…

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