The Tanner’s Daughter – Episode 26

Dorcas is watching Jane and Will Illustration: Mandy Dixon

Across the river, a party of guild members looked on with disapproval.

But the evening was such an enjoyable respite from the daily grind that Will was prepared to turn his back on his adversaries.

He was light-hearted as they made their way home along the icy streets.

“Ah, Jane, sweet Jane. Have I ever said how very dear you are to me?”

“Once or twice,” Jane said airily. “Say it often enough and I might even come to believe it.”

Will affected injury.

“My lady wife doubts me! How shall I bear it?”

Acting the fool, he slipped on the cobbles and nearly fell, causing Jane to giggle.

They came to the steps to Eastgate Row and let themselves into the house.

“There you are!” Constance called from the parlour. “I had near given you up.”

Will, entering the room, swept her a bow.

“Nay, madam. The night is young and we have a thirst. May I get you some wine also?”

Constance acquiesced with a nod and fixed her gaze upon her daughter.

“Dear goodness, child, what is that you wear? Such a loud shade of green, and as for the crimson…!”

She shuddered, but for once Jane was not to be intimidated.

“Velvet, Mother, of the best quality and wonderfully soft and warm.”

Her eyes sparkled and she hid a smile, imagining what her mother might make of the scarlet hose she wore under her petticoats.

They were a Christmastide gift from Will and much prized.

Will served them all with wine and the evening ended graciously enough, while beyond the casement frost glistened on rooftop and walkway. Winter was tightening its grip.

In Pepper Street, Margery was having a frantic time of it, dealing with injuries from falls on the treacherous surfaces.

“I vow, if one more mama comes to my door with a wailing child I shall not be responsible for my actions.

“Why do people not take better care of their offspring?” she said in exasperation to Jane.

Jane had called, with a basket of nourishing fare filched from the Eastgate larder shelf when Martha Renfrew’s back was turned.

Another package was tucked under her arm.

Jane looked up from transferring the contents of the basket to the table.

“You do not care for little ones?”

“I like them well enough, if they behave themselves, and providing the babes do not enter the world in the middle of the coldest night of the month. Four I have birthed, in as many days.

“If I do not get some sleep tonight I shall drop!”

Jane looked at her friend. Margery did look tired. Her eyes were shadowed, her face pinched.

“The babes all lived?”

“Every one.”

Margery gave a smile of satisfaction, but Jane was silent. Seven months wed, and still no sign of a child.

Was there something wrong with her?

In her limited experience, an infant normally arrived within the first year of marriage.

When shopping at the market she had observed young mothers proudly bearing a tiny bundle in their shawls and had wondered what it must be like to be responsible for a new life.

To be continued…

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