The Tanner’s Daughter – Episode 22

Jane is reunited with Margery Illustration: Mandy Dixon

“Will, could our luck be changing?” Jane asked him breathlessly.

Will was silent. Now that the shock and euphoria were wearing off, he was seeing this unexpected state of affairs in a more realistic light.

“It does seem that way,” he replied with care.

There was an alarming note of reticence in his voice and Jane stared at him in disbelief.

“You are surely not thinking of turning down Father’s offer?” she cried, frowning and incredulous.

Around them, pedestrians hurried about their daily round.

Along the towering city walls, where a high walkway gave public access, people were scurrying to get out of the salt-laden drizzle blowing in from the estuary.

Will tucked Jane’s arm in his.

They crossed the road and climbed a flight of steep stone steps to the ancient battlements that encircled the city.

Here, they paused to catch their breath, watching the ships making an arduous way to harbour along the fast-silting sea lane of the estuary.

Behind them, within the protecting arc of the walls, the rooftops, towers and spires of Chester glistened wetly in the rain.

Will’s gaze lingered on the far horizon and, for one agonising moment, Jane feared he might be hankering for the freedom with which he had arrived here, and was regretting their hasty union and his commitment to Hatton’s Leatherware.

But then he turned to her with such warmth in his eyes that she rebuked herself.

“Jane,” he began, as they set off towards the Eastgate and work, “what I am about to say is in no way a criticism of your parent.

“My gratitude towards him is boundless.

“When I heard what he has done, ah, my heart leaped.”

“But you have doubts?”

Jane’s voice was shrill and Will gave her arm a little shake in protest.

“Of course not, though I do feel a certain apprehension. Starting a business is one thing; maintaining it is quite another.

“Have you considered, once the city powers get wind of this, how far they might go to make things difficult for one in my position?”

“No, I haven’t,” Jane said stubbornly. “This move of my father’s is legally binding. The Guilds cannot go against the law. Nobody can.”

“That is true. But the ways of the moneyed and influential are subtle. No-one knows that better than I.”

Jane shook her arm free of his hold, her face anguished.

“You haven’t let these people badger you before. Why do so now? You brought Hatton’s back from the brink of destruction.”

“Aye, with the backing and support of your father, my good friend and mentor,” Will said. “Who provided protection I no longer have.”

“That’s no reason to doubt your own ability. Your prowess has won over a feckless staff and brought order to chaos.”

“You played a fair hand in that yourself, I do recall,” Will cut in wryly. “Sweeting, I am not trying to back out. I simply point out the need to exercise caution.”

Jane looked unconvinced.

“So you will go ahead?”

“Aye, of course I will.”

“Praise be for that,” Jane said, and Will chuckled.

They walked on, both relieved that the clash of opinion, the first in their wedded life, was averted.

While they argued the rain had stopped. A watery sun appeared.

It seemed an omen and Will turned to Jane decisively.

“What do you say to our leaving the office work for now and going to inspect the future gloving premises?”

“Yes, let us do that,” she said readily.

To be continued…

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