The Tanner’s Daughter – Episode 16

A celebration for the family Illustration: Mandy Dixon

“It is this. Will, you have proved yourself worthy in all but one respect. You remain a man of mystery. Little is known of your origins.

“You will have your own reasons for this and in the usual circumstances it would not matter.

“But these circumstances are not usual. There is the personal situation between my mistress and yourself, on the cusp of change.

“Can you not confide in her? Tell her something of your previous life. Family and so on.”

Silence fell. Will was sore tempted to tell the woman to mind her own business; then again, Jane’s wellbeing was Margery’s business.

“In truth,” he said, “the same notion has crossed my own mind. I’ve been secretive in some areas.

“Rest assured, Margery, there is nothing in my past to fear. ’Tis more pride that stands between me and making it known to all.”

“Then swallow your pride and confide in my mistress. You will find her sympathetic.”

With that, Margery turned and left the room.

Will did not speak to Jane immediately. Rather wait, let the opportunity present itself, he decided.

It came one gloriously new day. They had given the horses a canter along the river meadows and had reined in, laughing in the exuberance of being young, in good health and in the joy of each other’s company.

“Ah, Jane. You are happy?”

“Yes, never happier!”

“Then let us seize the moment. Jane, I love you and want you beside me.

“Wilt wed me, Jane? Am I at liberty to ask your sire for your hand?”

“Why, yes! Oh, yes!”

“There are those who will think it sudden. We’ve known one another such a short time.”

“No matter. It feels longer. I seem to have known you for ever.”

“My sentiments exactly.”

Dismounting, he looped Monarch’s reins over his arm and went to help Jane from the saddle.

She felt fragile in his arms, like a little bird far from the nest, and it brought tender feelings of care and protection that astonished him as she lifted her face for his kiss.

“Jane. Before anything, before I seek the attention of Nicholas, there are things you must know.”

“About you? Where you are from and what your parentage is?

“Will, I care not. You could have come from the moon for all it matters to me.”

He laughed gently.

“Sweetness, I confess I do not have your steady past nor caring family. My mother…”

“Was the good woman who gave you birth. That is enough for me.

“Will, don’t look so troubled. Please, let us go back and speak to Father. He’ll say yes, I know it. But kiss me first.”

It was a long, sweet kiss that left them both weak and trembling.

Will boosted Jane back into the saddle and climbed up on to his own horse.

Wheeling the animals round, they set off at a canter in the direction of the town and failed to notice a pair of mute swans take wing from the waters and fly off in quite separate directions.

“You have my blessing,” Nicholas said. “I have noticed how it is between Jane and yourself. At first I put it down to infatuation on my daughter’s part.

“A young man with looks and personality flung suddenly into our midst? How could a gently reared girl not be affected?

“It soon became apparent, however, that her feelings went deeper. Yours, too, it appears.”

“Sir, I would lay down my life for Jane.”

“If my memory serves me right, it nearly came to that at your first encounter.”

Nicholas made himself more comfortable in the high-backed chair by his bedchamber fireside.

“Will, I have not long left. No, don’t protest. You know it; I know it.

“Margery, God bless her, can concoct all the nostrums and cures known to her, but nothing can stop the sands of time from running out for some of us.

“It is because of this that I am willing to entrust my dear girl into your immediate care.

“Were things different, I would say wait a while. Learn more about each other. You have known her such a short space of time.”

“Sir, I know my own mind, as does Jane know hers. We are twin souls. Fire and earth, oak and tender lead. Fashioned from the same stuff.

“How could we not want to spend the remainder of our lives together?”

“So be it. I shall speak to my daughter and hear what she has to say. I’ll not influence her, you have my word.

“She’s a strong-minded creature, my Jane. She always was. If she is set on marriage, nothing anyone can say will sway her.

“My blessings, Will, to both of you.”

“Thank you. There is one thing. Your comment on learning more about each other is a valid one.

“I want Jane to know more about me, my boyhood and such. I’ve tried to broach the subject but she’ll have none of it.”

“Then leave it be,” Nicholas advised. “Let the past remain a closed book.

“’Tis the future that matters, Will. Yours and hers – and yes, Hatton’s! Shall we drink to that?”

“Aye, sir.”

“Then ring for Rolf. There’s a flagon of Rhenish in the cellar waiting to be sampled. What better occasion than this?”

To be conrtinued…

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