The Tanner’s Daughter – Episode 12

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

A few days later, Jane appeared at the office with a folded length of cloth over her arm.

Will eyed it from the desk where he had been leafing through some correspondence.

“What’s this? We are adding stitchery to our schedule?”

Jane giggled.

“I think not. I am no seamstress and I vouch the same can be for you. No, Mother wants me to change this for a more suitable colour. This is too pale.”

“Really? It looks dark enough to me.”

Jane chuckled again.

“Fool! This is for my Sunday wear. Mother insists on sobriety.”

“Fie, Jane. Take the stuff back to the shop by all means, but change it for something more becoming.

“Sky-blue, or green. Yes, sea-green, to match your eyes. A darker shade for the farthingale. That will suit admirably.”

“Mother would have none of it.”

“You are afraid of your mother?”

“No, of course not.”

“Then do as I suggest. The green will complement my emerald doublet when we take an early-morning canter on the meadows.”

“On what, pray? Is Monarch to carry us both?”

“Nay, have a thought for the poor beast. I spoke with a horse trader. He’s found me a pretty mare.”

Jane gasped.

“A mount for me? Oh, Will! When will I see her? What colour is she?”

She paused.

“How much have you paid for her? And what with?”

“Merciful heavens, what a wench you are for questions!

“Firstly, yes, the mare is for you. It is demeaning for you to be traversing the town on foot.

“Secondly, she is coming at the end of the week.

“Thirdly – what was the third query?” Will scratched his head. “I plucked it from the tree at the Cross.”

“There is no tree by Chester Cross.”

“Let us say it is my gift to you, purchased with funds earned by my own hand.

“Now, take that wretched cloth back to the shop. Two shades of sea-green, remember!”

Constance flung the shimmering cloth down on to the table as if she had been scorched.

“What’s this? Sea-green? Jane, answer me!”

“I preferred it, Mother. Mistress Clegg at the haberdashers liked it, too.”

“But the church! What will people think?”

“Probably that it was about time we followed the example of our Queen and took a pride in ourselves.

“Oh, and while I was at the shop I told Mistress Clegg to forget the grey for Margery and order deep-blue instead.”

Constance could only gape.

“Mother,” Jane said kindly. “I am old enough to choose what I wear for myself.”

Constance’s face hardened.

“Right, miss. We shall see what your father has to say about this!”

She stormed into the small parlour.

“I’m not having it, Nicholas. Sea-green, I ask you. What will people say?”

Nicholas put down the goblet of French brandy he was enjoying.

“Come, my dear. Isn’t this taking it too far?”

“Jane has always been so biddable. This is Will Leche’s doing. He’s a bad influence.”

“Wife, you talk nonsense. Don’t all young women like pretty things to wear? I shan’t be sorry to see Jane cast aside those gloomy trappings and dress in something more fetching.”

It was clearly not what Constance wished to hear. All the pent-up emotion of the past months rose within her.

She began such a tirade of abuse towards the saviour of the firm that Nicholas felt his chest tighten.

Pain. There was pain everywhere. A gushing in his ears. The room began spinning around him.

He clutched at his chest, tried to speak, but no sound came and everything dissolved into blackness.

To be continued…

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