The Tanner’s Daughter – Episode 14

A celebration for the family Illustration: Mandy Dixon

It was promising news that Will regaled her with.

“Jane, I’ve found a supplier of skins equal in quality to those lost on the Irish vessel. These people are Lancashire based so there should be no problem with transport.”

“They use river boats?”

“Yes, and their prices are good. With the money coming in from those previously unpaid deliveries we should be able to afford their minimum load. Do I go ahead?”

“Of course. The men are idle from lack of orders. A batch of skins will be good for morale as well as the business.”

“My thoughts exactly. There are letters to sign, and the contract. First, tell me how Nicholas is?”

Jane did so, and some hours later word came from Margery that the master was stronger and able to sit up in the bed.

“Praise be for that.” Will smiled. “What with Margery’s potions and a quart of Mistress Renfrew’s beef tea inside him, how could he dare not to recover further?”

Jane giggled.

“Chance is there’s a pot of each on the brew at this moment! I wonder how Mother feels now?”

“Relieved, I should think. As we all are,” Will said, handing over yet another letter for Jane’s signature.

Talk returned to matters of business and how else to overcome the crushing dip that had almost closed the doors of Hatton’s for good.

In fact, Constance was suffering agonies of guilt.

“Dearest,” she said to Nicholas. “I’m so sorry. I hold myself responsible for what happened to you.

“I shouldn’t have troubled you with my concerns. You were in no fit state for it.”

“Nay, wife. You must not reproach yourself. These things happen no matter what. It is God’s will.”

Nicholas’s voice was weakened, but his smile as he beheld Constance was as warm as ever.

“You have something on your mind. Tell me.”

“Oh, but…”

“Constance, my love. We have to face it. My days are numbered. There are matters that must be discussed – now, while I feel reasonably clear-headed.

“If you have something to say, then let me hear it.”

Constance braced herself, seeking the right words.

“Well, I’ve been thinking. Margery blames the bad humours from the river for your illness.

“What if we move away? Say, to the Bickerton Hills. Fresh country air might be the making of you.”

Nicholas frowned.

“Live away from the city? But what of Hatton’s?”

“Nicholas, you’ve said often how impossible it is for you to continue to work as when you were a much younger man.”

“And?” A wary look crossed Nicholas’s face.

Constance fiddled nervously with the beaded jet embellishment on her farthingale – the one adornment she allowed herself.

She took a deep breath.

“It is my belief that we should sell Hatton’s. Now, while there are orders coming in.”

“Are there?” Delight shone in Nicholas’s eyes. It was as if the rest of her remark had not registered.

Constance bit her lip. Perhaps she should have held back on that piece of information for now.

But Jane had been so gladdened over a generous request for tooled leather belts from a high-class Nantwich store; it had taken a great deal of skilled negotiating.

Constance had been proud of her daughter’s achievement, whilst dismissing Will’s part in the matter.

There was also the order from a local saddler and harness maker, this one for a large quantity of bridle leather.

“That will be Will Leche’s doing,” Nicholas said. “Wife, I bless the day he entered my house, albeit the circumstances were not the best for him.”

“Husband, what of the point I was making? We sell the business and move to a locality more conducive to your health.”

Nicholas looked at her as if she had taken leave of her senses.

“Sell Hatton’s? As if I would contemplate it! We have a competent daughter and a capable manager in Will. Let us see what they make of it.”

To be continued…

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