The Tanner’s Daughter – Episode 40

Jane receives bad news Illustration: Mandy Dixon

Dorcas, well satisfied, closed the lid of the tin box in which she kept her savings.

The amount was growing. She would soon have sufficient funds to head for London, where she would seek a position more worthy of her skills – lady’s maid, housekeeper, even.

Just a little more money. The mistress was easy bait. A hint or two, a pointed look and the coins were handed over.

Patience and observation. That was all it took.

She sat back in the hard wooden chair in the bare attic bedchamber, thinking.

There was the young mistress. If what Dorcas suspected was true, here was a situation that could act in her favour.

As general maid she performed the more intimate duties for any younger lady of the house and there had been no monthly rags to attend to for some time now.

That signified one thing – a child was on the way.

A babe and no true husband? Sure as nines, here was another string to her bow!

Over the cold weeks of winter Jane held her head high and soldiered on.

Fortunately, the business was going through a happy phase of smooth running.

She completed the deal Will had begun with the Irish trader from Drogheda.

It proved a boon in the acquisition of hides and skins that surpassed anything to be had locally.

She toured the works, keeping her dignity and refusing to contemplate any tattle that went on behind her back.

Nothing was said to her face. Wherever she went, she was treated with respect by all members of the Hatton workforce.

In the town, though, Guild members smirked. So Will Leche had fled the marital nest and was living in the rooms above the glover’s shop on White Friars Lane?

They always knew he was trouble!

No details had been heard as yet, though the rumours abounded, provoking a storm of scorn and derision.

From all except one. Guildsman Thomas Glasier watched with concern.

Though he had always carried a tenderness for Jane, he hoped, for her sake, that this rift in her marriage was not serious, and that she and her young husband would sort out their differences and be reconciled.

But as time progressed and the estrangement showed no sign of mending, Glasier felt even more pity for Jane.

A woman of steel, certainly, but a woman nonetheless and doubtless wounded to the very soul.

Jane eased her aching back and looked out of the office window. Snow had fallen in the night and she had awoken to a pristine world.

Now, the Eastgate was a churned mess of mud, animal ordure and dirty snow through which the traffic rolled.

Only the rooftops and the long back gardens of the houses remained blanketed in white.

Inside her, the child moved – an insistent fluttering that grew stronger daily.

So far, with careful dressing, Jane had managed to conceal her growing bulk, but this morning she had needed to let her lacing out further.

Soon her condition would be obvious to all.

How different it should have been. What a joyful homecoming she had planned for Will… but she would not think of him.

Margery alone knew of her condition and the reason behind Will’s abscondment, because Jane was in a state of limbo.

She kept hoping that something would happen to resolve the situation.

Now, with another dismal festive season come and gone and another year marching on at an alarming pace, her mother would have to be told.

Jane took a deep breath and, leaving the morning mail unopened on her desk, she went in search of Constance Hatton.

To be continued…

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