The Tanner’s Daughter – Episode 38

Jane receives bad news Illustration: Mandy Dixon

There was nothing for it but to carry on. Jane dealt with matters in the office, the shop floor, the tanning pits and, hardest of all, Will’s gloving shop on White Friars Lane.

If anyone in the household or out of it noticed her tight lips and pallor, nothing was said.

Only at night, in the lonely confines of their curtained tester bed, did she give way to the despair that was a daily companion.

One drizzly day, unable to bear the burden of unhappiness any longer, she headed for the lodging-house on Pepper Street.

Margery, with the insight of her Romany forebears, was expecting her.

“Mistress, come in. Sit by the fire and I shall make us a tisane. Chamomile for you, methinks.”

Margery bustled about, complaining of the weather, giving her friend time to call her thoughts to order.

She brought the drinks to the fireside and listened as Jane related what had happened. The unwelcome visit. Will’s past life.

It was not until Jane’s final revelation that Margery reacted.

“Will already wed?” She shook her head. “You are sure of this?”

“I see no reason to doubt it. Why say it else? And it fits in with everything else.

“Margery, I am at my wits’ end. I carry a child conceived out of wedlock. It is against the ruling of society and of the Church.

“For any woman, that is a blight on her character. For one in my position, it is unacceptable. It is a dire situation and I cannot think how to deal with it!”

Her voice grew shrill and the cup shook in her hands, the drink spilling over.

“Mistress, calm yourself.”

Margery stood and fetched a damp cloth.

“Here, let me mop your gown. Tsk, your best silk! ’Tis to be hoped the chamomile does not stain.”

“I think that is the least of my worries.”

“Maybe, but we do not wish to add to them. Now, this Alys Croft. She travelled from Lancashire to speak with you?”

“Yes, from Pendle. It is clear to me now why Will rarely ventured north on his business dealings. He feared recognition.

“He was always looking south, playing safe.”

“This alehouse – did your caller give the name?”

Jane bit her lip.

“It was a short name. The Bear? No, the Boar! I think it was let slip in error.”

“The Black Boar at Pendle.” Margery sighed.

“You know of it?”

“The alehouse, nay, not personally. But Pendle Hill is a place of darkness and mystery.

“All of my ilk know of it.”

“A place to fear?”

“If you let it be so. One more tisane, then you must go home and rest. I shall give you something that will help.”

Jane was too drained to argue. Once the cup was empty, she stood up and threw her still-wet cape about her shoulders.

“Margery, Will is due back any day. What shall I say to him? How could he do this to me?”

“There are two sides to every tale, mistress. Listen to his account of himself before making decisions.”

Margery knew her former mistress well. Jane was nursing a bitter hurt. The man she had put her faith in could not be trusted.

It was a cruel blow for any woman to take. And Jane was nursing a growing need for vengeance.

To be continued…

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