The Tanner’s Daughter – Episode 33

A stranger comes to Jane's door Illustration: Mandy Dixon

She missed him. Oh, how she missed him!

It was only a week since the London stage had carried him away and yet it felt like a month, a year. Eternity.

Jane sighed. With Will absent she was not only in sole charge of Hatton’s, but needed to oversee his shop at White Friars, too.

Capable Geoffrey Hodge from the gloving workrooms was acting as manager, but she had promised Will to look in, so it had best be done.

Then there was the round of the tanning pits on Love Street to make, the warehouse on Barker Street and the workrooms and shop on Eastgate Row.

A strange lethargy stole over her and instead of getting to her feet and leaving, she sat there. It was an effort to pull her thoughts to work issues.

If time allowed, she would visit Margery. It had been a while and she wanted to see how her friend fared.

Near the end of the day, Jane knocked on Margery’s door. Her friend answered at once.

“Mistress, I have been expecting you. You have left your escort below?”

“I have. Ah, what a day it has been. Will is away on business and I am doing the duties of the two of us.”

Jane had brought food from the Eastgate kitchen which she unpacked on to the table.

“I wish you would move from here, Margery. Let us find you more suitable lodgings, away from the squalor.”

Margery shook her head.

“My thanks, but I am settled, and people know where to find me should I be needed… mistress?”

Jane had sat down on a stool. She clutched the table to steady herself.

“Ugh, I felt unwell of a sudden! It is the second time today.

“I put it down to the stink of the tanning pits, but in here the air is freshened by your herbs on the rafters.”

Margery fetched a cup of something mint-smelling from her shelf. She studied Jane as she sipped it.

“When was your last flux?”

Jane stared at her.

“What? I hardly know. There has been so much happening, what with an invalid in the house and the demands of the business.”

“How long? Two months, three?”

“Well, it was before the Northgate disaster in August. Margery, are you saying…?”

“You are with child, mistress. I did wonder on your previous visit. A certain look in your eyes.

“Now I am sure of it. Come April’s end or early May you will be a mother.”

A mother!

Jane caught her breath. So that accounted for the other signs she had brushed aside in her need to concentrate on more urgent matters.

The bloated feeling, the lack of appetite, the bouts of queasiness…

“A babe!” She clasped her hands together in joy. “Oh, I cannot wait to tell Will.”

Margery was perusing her shelf for remedies.

“Here is willow bark. Chew on it to ward off the sickness. Take care not to swallow any splinters.”

She smiled at Jane.

“So, two infants on your hands. Methinks you have a busy time ahead of you.”

“Two?” Jane asked.

“Aye. One in the cradle and one grown. Once a man, trice a child!” Margery replied, laughing.

For once Jane did not rise to her friend’s funning and the laughter died on Margery’s lips.

“Margery, I asked Will about his mother. It was intended innocently but he was worryingly guarded.”

“He refused to speak of her?”

“We had agreed not to talk of the past, so he could have been taken by surprise.

“Another thing. Will always looks to the south for our business deals, never the north.”

“That could be where his contacts are.”


Margery frowned.

“There is more?”

“I think someone has gone through the writing-desk in our bedchamber.

“Papers seemed disturbed and a journal that had disappeared in the muddle was to hand.

“I wondered if it was Will, but he said not. He was quite aggrieved. Said he was not given to snooping.”

Jane took a shaky breath.

“This may sound foolish, but at times I feel I am being watched.

“Both in the house and when I am out!”

To be continued…

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