The Tanner’s Daughter – Episode 13

A celebration for the family Illustration: Mandy Dixon

The bedchamber was dim, the shutters closed against the early-morning clamour of the city street below.

In the high, curtained bed, Nicholas Hatton lay still. His face was white and his eyes closed.

Only the slight rise and fall of the embroidered coverlet betrayed any sign of life at all.

Jane and her mother sat in silence while, at the foot of the bed, Margery surveyed her patient with her customary calm.

“Will Father recover?” Jane asked.

“That is God’s will. The master has survived the night. It was a very severe attack. The next twenty-four hours should determine his chances.

“I have given him mistletoe for the palpitations and poppy juice to help him sleep. For now I can say no more, mistress.”

“I still think we should consult the doctor,” Constance put in.

Jane shook her head.

“I don’t think so, Mother. Remember last time Father had an attack and the doctor came?

“It was naught but blood letting and starvation, which left him even weaker. Then he took a fever.”

In the candlelight Margery’s face tightened at Constance Hatton’s implied slight of her skills.

“The fever was due to the bad humours the medic carried on his person. His garments and hands were filthy and he stank.

“If it is your wish to call upon this man again, madam, then so be it.

“But I would let the good herbs do their work and leave the master to rest.”

“I agree,” Jane said.

Constance, her back straight in spite of the exhausting hours they had endured, gave a dismissive shrug and returned her gaze to her husband.

Jane stood up and was conscious of a stiffness in her limbs and the room tilting around her.

Tiredness claimed every fibre of her being.

She craved sleep, yet there were matters to attend to. Her bed would have to wait.

“Mother, I must go to the office. Margery, send word if there is any change in Father’s condition.”

“Of course, mistress.”

Jane smiled her thanks and left the bedchamber.

She descended the stairs and was about to proceed along the passageways to where the living quarters gave way to the business environs of the building, when the rhythmic thudding of dough being kneaded in the kitchen brought her up short.

Her stomach growled. When had she last eaten?

It struck her that Martha would want news of the invalid, and she went along the unlit corridor to the kitchen, where the cook-housekeeper was energetically attending to the day’s bake.

Martha looked up, her hands poised over the dough, her face concerned.

“Miss Jane! How does the master?”

“As well as can be expected, Martha. He seems stronger.”

Twice during the night his pulse had been erratic, prompting fears that the end was near. But Nicholas had fought bravely and for that Jane was thankful.

Martha nodded.

“There, then. I shall pray for him, the dear soul.

“But look at you, Miss Jane. Pale as whey and fit to drop. ’Tis food you need.

“Doubtless you’re wanted elsewhere but that can wait. Never attend to anything on an empty stomach, that’s what I say. Sit down and sup this while I get your breakfast.”

A cup of mulled ale was poured, which Jane sipped gratefully.

In next to no time a dish of coddled eggs, crusty bread, butter and a crock of honey was set before her.

Jane, thinking the food might stick in her throat, surprised herself by devouring the meal right down to the last crumb, and felt all the better for it.

Martha gave a satisfied nod of her head.

“That’s put the colour back in your cheeks. Master Will was in earlier.

“He said to tell you not to concern yourself with the office at the moment, as all was under control.

“He seemed pleased about something to me. Anxious about the master, o’ course.”

“Will was here? Martha, why didn’t you say?”

“I just have, haven’t I? ’Twas food you needed, lass, not paperwork. Food and rest. Not to worry yourself, Master Will said.”

“Thank you, Martha.”

Jane made her escape, heading for the office.

Good tidings or bad, there was always Will. Jane’s heart swelled at the prospect of seeing him and her step quickened.

To be continued…

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