The Tanner’s Daughter – Episode 17

A celebration for the family Illustration: Mandy Dixon

“A wedding!”

Martha Renfrew leaned her plump elbows to the table and sighed in ecstasy.

“Tes quick, to my way o’ thinking,” Perivale said. “I thinks a lot of Miss Jane. Tes to be hoped she’s doing the right thing.”

Martha sniffed.

“She’s a girl who knows her own mind. It strikes me as Master Will does, too. A fine couple they’ll make. Isn’t that so, Margery?”

“Handsome, yes.”

“Is that all you’ve to say on the matter? I know you, my lass. Something’s bothering you. What is it?”

Margery shrugged.

“I see dark clouds ahead and cannot fathom why.”

“Tes the May thunderstorm. It allus comes as my garden pinks and them little roses you likes for your pomandies is coming out. Causes havoc in the garden, does the May storm.”

Martha stood, went to a tall cupboard and returned with a flagon of cider.

“We’ll drink to the young couple’s happiness. Then I shall put my mind to the wedding feast. Oh, my, and such short notice an’ all. How shall I manage?”

“The way you always do, Martha. Beautifully,” Margery said.

The marriage took place on a perfect day in late June.

If there were rumblings of discontent in the city guilds, notably the tanners’ in which Thomas Glasier played such a prominent role, none of it reached the ears of the Hatton household.

The bells of St Bridget’s rang a joyful carillon for the young couple.

Jane, in a gown of old-gold silk with an embroidered farthingale, captured the hearts of the congregation as she spoke her vows to her debonair, fashionably attired suitor.

Back home, Martha Renfrew did them proud with a feast of boiled capons, a delectable lark pie and fresh salads from the garden, followed by fruit jellies with thickly whipped cream, a cake of marchpane that was a joy to behold and a selection of sugared comfits and tiny sweet pastries.

After the feast, the newlyweds departed to spend their first few days together at Parkgate on the Wirral coast. Then it was back to Chester, Hatton’s Leatherware Company and work!

For Nicholas’s sake, Constance endured the union between her daughter and Will Leche with stoicism. Not for the world would she risk bringing on another attack as serious as the last.

Guilt gnawed at her when she called to mind the long hours her husband’s life had hung in the balance. For that reason she vowed to keep her opinions to herself in future.

If Jane needed her, she would be here. A mother’s love was unconditional and nothing, not even this dubious nuptial, could alter that.

Jane had never known such happiness. She adored her young husband, relished the social standing her new status provided and welcomed the involvement with the firm, which looked to be turning a difficult corner, though it was early days yet.

She was also ready to stand up to the disapproving attitude of the Chester Guild of Tanners, whose members were doing all in their power to make matters difficult for the capable manager of Hatton’s.

Will, however, was finding the attitude of the city powers hard to take.

“Read that,” he said.

It was a sultry afternoon in early August. Will had found Jane in the small parlour overlooking the garden that had been turned over for their personal use.

“My love, what is it?”

Jane took up the missive he produced and ran her eyes over the content.

It was a refusal to accept a negotiation of lease for a property on Bridge Street, which Will deemed ideal for his glove shop enterprise.

“This is the third time I’ve been turned down in as many weeks.

“We have the necessary source of fine pigskin, we have the wherewithal to make the gloves and a man on the staff capable of bringing in custom.

“All we need are the premises, and yet my every attempt to procure some is thwarted. ’Tis Glasier behind this, I warrant!”

“Thomas Glasier? Why?”

“Jealousy. He wanted you for his own and I’m pretty sure he had thoughts on procuring Hatton’s as well.”

Jane put a soothing hand on her husband’s arm.

“Dearest, surely not. This unfortunate matter could be due to the newness of our situation. The Guild will come to accept it in time, I’m sure.

“Think how others have welcomed you into their midst. Socially, we are dubbed the city’s most popular couple.”

They had attended a feast at the Prentice. Later, and with Jane’s blessing, Will had danced with every matron in the company and spread charm like dewdrops in their midst.

“’Tis good to know that, in some quarters, folks bear no grudge,” Will said, mollified.

“Shall I speak to Father? Perhaps he can procure the lease for us. With his name to the indenture –”

“No, Jane! This is my enterprise and my name should be on the documents. I…”

There was a sudden urgent rapping on the door.


The door opened to admit Margery. Her face was flushed, troubled. She was out of breath.

“Sir, mistress. I have just come from the market. There’s plague in the town. Three families in Dog Lane have already succumbed and there is sickness reported in Bridge Street and Saddler’s Row.”

Jane paled.

“Plague? Are you sure?”

To be continued…

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