Garrison Fields

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Chapter 30 - First steps

Those following days were hard for all, everyone had lost a person they treasured. For the boys Matt and Luke, a huge vacuum appeared to have opened up in their lives, they were sombre and being away from home in their environment only meant one thing that they would come to terms with their father’s death or allow it to cloud their future.

There were good people such as Mr Gregson who kept a watchful eye over the boys at this time, as for Jane she was finding that as time went by the grief and the pain became an old friend, and Jane still had her sons to focus on keeping a roof over Ted’s head and doing what she could for Matthew and Luke.

She worked hard and gradually gained the trust of the Dunbar’s. From cleaning to bar work, she would turn her hand to any work given to her. It was quite obvious that even when temptation was placed in her way, no matter how little she had, she resisted it. She really had been a godsend for the Dunbar’s and they knew it and so, in the third year of working at the General that Mrs Dunbar made her first request and Jane’s first step out of true poverty.

It was a usual Saturday night, one of the barmen that worked the Saturday night shift had gashed and bruised his hand very badly, changing a barrel in the cellar. The potman who usually performed the task being busy, sometimes on Saturday night he would be hard pressed to get himself back to the bar clearing the empties such was the scrum. But the accident had happened and Jane was as usual in the General Wolf, in the back doing the pot wash of the glasses. She was still standing there when the usual request was made by Mrs Dunbar walking into the room.

‘Jane, George has just had an accident changing a barrel, I’ll need you to help out if you are able?’ Although she had started at 5am that morning and new as a result that she would not finish till gone midnight no argument came forth, of how tired she was. She knew Mrs Dunbar would put something extra in her envelope that week and that would be most welcome.

‘Certainly Mrs Dunbar, I’ll just change my apron to a front of house one,’ and so she went to work until they rang last orders and she was as pleasant to all from the first moment to the last and until the final customer had left wishing them that jovial and good natured General Wolf good bye which encouraged them out, knowing they would be welcomed back the next time.

As she slammed the bolt shut, she began clearing up, she had cleared up several glasses, when she heard Mrs Dunbar.

’Jane, I would like you to help me with the cashing-up. She went over to the bar and deposited her glasses with the rest which were being stacked by the other barman and potman. Mrs Dunbar had taken all the cash-draws as was usual and had placed them in two piles.

‘Jane I’ll take this one, you take that one,’ she then led the way into through into the back and upstairs to her accommodation. They went into the kitchen where a large pan of water was boiling on the hearth. Mrs Dunbar took a and placed this in the pot sink, then taking another cloth which was warning over the rail, wrapped it round the blackened handle of the pot and placed it in the pot sink. The till draws were picked up one-by-one and all the copper pennies tipped into the boiling water brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr as they rattled down.

‘You can’t be too careful you know, not with consumption and the flu around, you never know who’s had their hands on it last.’

A sentiment that was echoed by Jane, after all the coins had been in the water for a minute or so, the pan was emptied into the sink all the coins being caught by the cloth, the excess water gone another cloth was laid on the wooden draining board and the coins thrown onto it, the cloth was agitated over them to dry then and then the cloth and its contents were swept up and the dry coins deposited on the kitchen table. Mrs Dunbar had already laid on the table some paper coin bags and also her ledgers on which she carried out her bookkeeping, she would write in pencil and then later overwrite in ink if all was correct.

‘Jane you count the copper’ which was the majority ‘and I shall do the notes’ which were but a few ‘and the silver.’ Within a few minutes all was arranged into neat piles on the table. Jane stated how many piles there were and the total of each type of coin and how much in total.

‘Good came the reply I have...’ The exact amount in notes and silver was given.

‘Giving us a grand total of … Do you make it the same Jane?’

‘Yes, indeed I do Mrs Dunbar.’

‘Good.’ Instruction was then given on what money to move to one side.

‘We’ll need the float for tomorrow that will be...’ Jane was instructed to take an amount of the copper denominations to make up this up.

‘We also need to pay the dray-man when he comes with tomorrow’s delivery. He’ll be here at six in the morning sharp.’ She went through the accounts to be settled, how often each one was presented and the nature of each down to the individual who presented it. After all was complete, they bagged what money which was left into the small bank bags and divided the float between the tills.

After which Mrs Dunbar took the keys which were fastened to a cord around her waist and went to the pantry on opening it a large safe operated by the key was revealed into which she deposited all of that evening’s takings. Having ensured that everything was secure, she returned to the range in the kitchen and placed the large copper kettle on back on the range.

‘We’ll have a cup of tea and a bit of supper,’ she had already prepared some fresh ham sandwiches with pickle earlier and took these from the pantry. Shortly after, the tea was prepared and the pot placed on the table.

‘Best tuck in Jane, thought you best have something before you went, it’s been a long day and I’m sure you neglect yourself when you get home. You’ve got to look after yourself pet.’ Indeed, she knew her well, Jane thanked her and they both took their tea, after a couple of minutes, when their appetites had been satisfied Mrs Dunbar turned to Jane.

‘Well Jane how did you like cashing up?’ Jane confirmed that she had enjoyed the task.

‘Well Mr Dunbar and I are planning to take a few trips south, now that the weather is starting to turn, you know his lungs have been bad with the wet.’ Indeed, they had Jane confirmed that she had heard him coughing on a morning and it would indeed benefit him greatly.

‘Our first trip is in a month’s time, we’ll be gone for two weeks to Cornwall, that’s where my family hail from. We would like you to manage the General Wolf while we’re away,’ she continued.

‘If you’re amiable to the idea, I would like you to start from tomorrow, getting to know the ropes, I’ll get someone in, to take over the cleaning while you’re managing,’ this indeed was a shock, it was also an opportunity that she could only ever have dreamed of.

‘Yes, Mrs Dunbar, thank you.’

‘Now I’ll speak plainly to you Jane, me and Mr Dunbar have watched you closely since you came to us those few years ago, and we like to give a chance to those that works for it, that’s why it’s you, and none of the others here by, I’ve seen you and your fair but will stand no nonsense and the men respect you.’ Indeed this was fine praise coming from two people she respected.

‘And we know that the General will be in safe hands while we are away.’ Tea was soon finished and they bade each other good night and so it was that as she made her way home that night, the sky seemed to have lifted, she felt finally that there was a future and above all she had a friend.

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