The Tanner’s Daughter – Episode 47

Jane is in a quandary Ilustration: Mandy Dixon

Inside, the room was icy but smelled wholesomely of the herbs and spices drying in bundles from the rafter – scents Constance always associated with Margery.

At Margery’s request, she sat on a stool and, huddled in her cloak, watched her hostess kindle a fire and ladle water into a cauldron to boil.

Presently they were sipping a warming beverage from tin beakers.

“Madam, you are troubled,” Margery said.

Constance’s lower lip quivered and she took a moment to gain control.

“Margery, I hardly know where to begin. Perhaps with an apology.

“I should never have dismissed you and now I pay the price.”

“Dorcas Blunt,” Margery said flatly.

“Indeed. I have been a fool. I put my trust in her and she took advantage.

“There have been demands for money – and it does not stop there. This latest involves my Jane.”

“The baby? The marriage that supposedly was no marriage? Someone has had an ear to the door.”

Constance nodded.

“My friend Ann suggested that, too.” She blinked. “You said ‘supposedly was no marriage’.”

“Let me explain, madam.”

Constance listened in astonishment as Margery recounted all she had learned at Pendle.

“Rest assured, the legality of your daughter’s marriage cannot be questioned.

“She and Will Leche are lawfully bound.

“There was no first marriage. It was all lies.”

“All lies!” Constance echoed. “The babe will be born in wedlock, praise be. Yet, ah, me!

“I have set Jane’s feet on a path they should never have touched! I have wronged her badly.”

“Can you tell me where your daughter bides?”

“Nay, I am sworn to secrecy on the matter. I cannot even go myself.”

“So be it,” Margery said quietly. “All we can do is put our trust in higher orders that your daughter’s best interest is served.”

“Amen to that. And now I shall go.”

Throughout the final weeks of winter and into early spring, Margery functioned as usual – brewing her simples, tending the sick, delivering the babes and laying out the dead.

All the while, she hoped for a sign that would arrest the progression of events that could have no good outcome for her mistress.

When none came she looked into the flames for guidance.

It was hopeless; the road to Jane’s door was blocked to her totally.

Disgusted with Will for allowing his pride to get in the way of his better self, she kept her distance.

If he wished to find her he knew where to come.

One morning in mid April, she was assembling her simples box for her routine calls when there was a knock on the door.

Margery froze. Was this what she had hoped for?

She answered the summons.

A youth stood there – an apprentice gardener, by his workaday garb and stout boots.

“Goodwife Denny? My master, Thomas Glasier, bids you come. The young mistress needs you. I’ve ponies waiting.”

Margery thought fast.

“Where do we head?”

“I’m not to say. Just to take you there.”

“Then I shall not come,” Margery told him.

“Well…” The lad’s blunt face was tortured. “’Tis Mollington village. A house called Rosecroft.”

“Let me get my things.”

She added birthing herbs to her simples box, a pouch of dried raspberry leaf, cleansing tincture and a linen cloth for applying it.

Then, seizing her chance, she reached for the writing materials Jane had once brought her.

Margery was no scriber and the message was blotched and misspelt.

“Ready,” she told the lad, throwing on her cloak.

Outside, two ponies were tied to the iron tethering ring by the door.

While the apprentice secured the simples box to a saddle, Margery commandeered an urchin playing in the street.

“Want to earn yourself a penny? Deliver this to the glover’s shop at White Friars.” She glared. “Fail me at your peril.”

The urchin grabbed note and coin and fled.

Margery and the apprentice mounted up and were away, the ponies’ hooves drumming on the road and Margery’s cloak billowing out behind her.

To be continued…

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