The Tanner’s Daughter – Episode 28

Dorcas is watching Jane and Will Illustration: Mandy Dixon

“Tes no good, Perivale, I cannot take to her,” Martha Renfrew told the gardener-groom. “Margery Denny was straight as they come. Dorcas Blunt is –”

“A different kettle o’ fish,” Perivale supplied.

He was of the mind that Martha might have a point.

He edged closer to the range, balancing his noontide platter of manchet bread and hard cheese on his lap.

He had reached the age when the cold ate into his bones and he missed the previous maidservant for the warming salve she concocted that eased the dry ache of it something wonderful.

“Shifty, I would say,” Martha Renfrew responded. “That’s it, shifty. Eyes everywhere and ears flapping.

“What possessed the mistress to take her on defeats me.”

Perivale reached for his cup of mulled ale and slurped deeply.

He watched as Martha wrapped a protective cloth around her hand, took the white-hot poker out of the flames and plunged it, hissing, into a second pitcher.


“Thank ’ee.”

“Saw her sneaking out again last night,” Martha continued. “’Twas after the curfew, well past the time decent folks are in their beds.

“Where does she go, I wonder?”

Perivale looked into Martha’s troubled face.

“Happen her’s no different from any other young female. Happen there’s a sweetheart her goes off to meet.”

“What, that one?” Martha snorted in disbelief. “Pull the other leg, Perivale. It plays ring-a-roses!”

Rolf, sitting quietly partaking of his own noontide meal, could have told them a thing or two about the goings-on here.

But an earlier revelation had earned him a box around his ears, so he kept silent and tucked into his bread and cheese as if there were no tomorrow.

Dorcas stood at the open doorway to the young mistress and master’s bedchamber, a pile of newly laundered linen in her arms.

“Beg pardon, Mistress Leche. I need to put these chemises and night-robes away, if I may?”

Jane looked up from securing her headdress with silver clasps.

A slow thaw had made the roads and byways passable at last and she and Will had resumed their early morning rides along the riverside.

This morning the March wind had made the horses skittish and she had been hard put to hold Falada when a swan had risen, wings clapping loudly, from her twiggy nest in the reeds.

“Spring in the air, Jane,” Will had said, reaching out and pulling the mare into submission. “Mistress Swan knows it and so does Falada.”

“But how slow winter is to pass. See how the snow still lies where it drifted. Makes me wonder if it will ever go.”

“Of course it will. Then we shall get the flowers. Did you come here as a girl to gather cowslips, Jane? Did you make tossy-balls with them?”

“Tossy-ball, tossy-ball, who shall I marry? Will he be handsome, Tom, Dick or Harry?”

She sang the old rhyme in a clear fluting voice.

“I did, when I was supposed to be picking the cowslips for wine.

“But fie, husband! What do you know of girlhood games?”

Will had not supplied an answer and she was thinking about it as she changed from her riding habit into her day dress of jade-green brocade embroidered with silver thread.

How had Will acquired his knowledge? Did he have sisters who had made springtime tossy-balls?

Or was it a sweetheart who had confided the girlhood tradition?

Had she been pretty, a bright-eyed country girl with rosy-brown cheeks and a coy smile?

Jane’s hands fell from the wayward headdress. How little she knew about Will’s earlier life.

What a mystery he actually was to her, and him her wedded husband.

To be continued…

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