The Tanner’s Daughter – Episode 24

Jane is reunited with Margery Illustration: Mandy Dixon

“He’s put in the hours, I shall give him that,” Constance said, with a grudging sniff.

“Will has worked day and night to get everything done. Why, I’ve scarcely seen him for weeks,” Jane replied calmly.

Constance sniffed again.

“Tsk! So already he neglects you. A fine husband.”

“Mother!” Jane fiddled with a loose thread on her kirtle. “I was merely illustrating the point.

“I wish you would make your peace with Will. What harm has he done to you?”

“Only taken my daughter from me.”

“He hasn’t. I am here, Mother. I shall always be here for you.

“I know you grieve for Father, we both do. But he’s gone and we must accept it. Father would not have wanted this continued upset, would he?”

Constance shrugged.

“There is one thing only that would satisfy me – sell Hatton’s.

“Have done with it. Put an end to the worry and move to some spot where we would not be besieged by creditors clamouring for their spoils.”

“But we are not. Will has stopped all that.”

“For now. It won’t last; it cannot. He treads uncertain ground with his fine talk and swagger.

“Wait until a member of the Glovers’ Guild sets up in competition to his precious shop. See what happens then.”

Jane’s face was resolute.

“I’m not selling Hatton’s, Mother.”

“Then you are a fool. There are still some interested in buying. Thomas Glasier, for one.”

Constance paused, thinking back to a warm evening in August.

She had been taking a stroll along a short stretch of the city walls when Guildsman Glasier had come walking towards her.

He had stopped, politely removing his velvet cap.

“Mistress Hatton. Good evening, ma’am. You are well?”

“Indeed. Good evening, sir.”

They had fallen into conversation and it was not long before Will Leche’s name cropped up.

Glasier’s face darkened.

“Young popinjay! Forgive me, ma’am, if I speak freely. This man clearly wheedled himself into your late husband’s trust.

“The Guild is not happy.”

“I am not surprised.”

“Really? You are not of the same mind, then, as your late husband – may God rest his soul.”

“No, I am not. Nor yet of my daughter.

“I confess, sir, I am weary of the business world. Of the toil and struggle.”

Glasier’s shrewd eyes narrowed.

“You would sell Hatton’s?”

“Most certainly I would, should the price be right.”

“Is that so? Well, well. Then perhaps we could discuss the matter further, should the opportunity arise,” Glasier said.

He bowed low, replaced his cap on his head and, bidding her farewell, went on his way.

Her daughter’s voice broke into her reverie.

“You were lost in thought. May I ask what of?”

Constance gave a vigorous shake of her head that set the jet adornment in her headdress tinkling.

“Nothing of importance, Jane.”

While they had been speaking the maidservant Dorcas had entered the room.

“Ah, Dorcas. I have a thirst. Fetch me wine, and some of those sweet pastries I saw Renfrew making earlier.”

“Yes, madam.”

The maidservant dipped a curtsey and went on her mission, her soft slippers and dark skirts barely making a sound as she swept past.

In the kitchen, impervious to the glances of blatant dislike from Martha Renfrew and Perivale, who were taking their mid-morning refreshment at the table, Dorcas arranged a chalice of wine, goblets and a platter of sweetmeats on a tray and removed herself from the room.

The opinions of other servants were of no interest to her, and as she headed back to the main parlour her mind was busy.

Little by little she had pieced together a general picture of how things stood at her new place of employment.

Helping matters along was the mistress, confiding more than was generally acceptable between employer and employee.

This type of confidence was more the province of a lady’s maid, the post on which Dorcas’s sights were set.

The prime bone of contention, she had discovered, was the business-minded son-by-marriage.

The mistress wanted him gone. Then the leather company would fold and the desired removal to pastures new would take place.

Dorcas entered the room to find Constance Hatton on her own. She mustered a cheerful approach.

“Here we are, madam. Let me pour you some wine. Shall I put it here on the low table?

“And here is the platter of pastries. Almond, your favourite.”

She divested herself of the tray and stood with her hands clasped loosely in front of her.

“Yes?” Constance said.

“A word, madam, at your leave. You bade me keep watch over my young mistress’s activities.

“She visits her previous maid at a lodging-house on Pepper Street.”

Constance took a moment to digest this.

“I see. That was well done, Dorcas. Have you aught else to tell me?”

“No, madam. That is all.”

All for the time being, Dorcas added silently.

Her mind ticked on. It should not be hard to obtain relevant details from a willing informant.

This risked cutting into her much-guarded savings.

Weighing up the possibilities, Dorcas concluded that her skill for sniffing out trouble tipped the scales in her favour, and on the strength of this she decided to work out a plan of campaign.

To be continued…

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