Chapter 32 - Leaving Mrs Gerrard's rooms
How do you leave a place where you have only been shown kindness. From the moment Jane had started lodging at Mrs Gerrard’s, she had known that. Her first impression of Mrs Gerrard, intense as it was, informing her of all misdemeanour’s which could result in her stay being curtailed was, in fact, a way to ensure from the start that no misunderstanding might take place. The landlady’s law in her own domain was final. Jane had paid particular attention to always ensuring that whatever bills she had, whether they had enough food to put on the table that day, her rent always came first. Her arrangement with Mrs Gerrard had become amiable, although they always had kept the protocol of landlady and lodger. This had been for the most part on Mrs Gerrard, identifying the type of woman that Jane was, an honest and hardworking soul.
As Jane turned the key in the latch that day, she was filled with both joy and sadness. It was to be the start she hoped of a new life, one where she might retrieve her sons. She was saddened to leave Mrs Gerrard, someone who had proved herself to be a friend when she needed one. As she mulled the thoughts over in her head, she entered and saw that the door to Mrs Gerrard’s sitting room was open. Tapping gently on the door, which was half open, a position in which it permanently stood allowed all entering to believe that Mrs Gerrard’s vigil was a constant one. After all, it was known that her house was respectable. The voice came back from the inner sanctum.
‘Come in dear, I’ve just made a fresh pot.’
She went through the door not having to open it further and saw a beaming smile from Mrs Gerrard, who was at that moment reaching for some china cups from her dresser.
‘Only for my best tenants,’ she remarked.
They sat down on the two easy chairs by the fire a small table had already been positioned between the two and Mrs Gerrard poured tea.
‘You do take milk in your tea, but no sugar.’
‘Yes, that’s right.’
‘Well, dear what news is there?’
Jane looked sheepish for a moment unable to rest the gaze of her eyes on Mrs Gerrard, but at length she outlined the story of how the Dunbar’s generosity would result in her hopefully finally being able to retrieve her sons, but also how this would have to mean her leaving Mrs Gerrard’s lodgings due to the kind offer extended by the Dunbar’s.
‘Well of course my dear, that is wonderful news, I’m only too happy for you, well this is a proper celebration. You just hold on while I go and get some Dundee cake from the kitchen.’
Within an instant she was back with two large slices of fruit cake. Such was her enthusiasm for Jane’s new position that she hardly took time between drinking her tea, eating the cake and talking about how she had always expected a hard-working girl like her to do better for herself.
‘Do you know every week, I expected you to knock on my door and say you were unable to pay the rent, I don’t know how you kept body and soul together, but you did, I am so happy for you and the boy.’
Tea was consumed and a Jane gave her week’s notice and parted thanking Mrs Gerrard for the kindness that she had shown her during her stay.
‘You’ve no reason to thank me dear; you’ve been my best tenant.’
When you have nothing, there is no call for removal men. Each day Jane would take some of her meagre possessions as she made her way to her employment. Not owning any bags of her own she would use what was readily at hand to wrap her few possessions, this usually consisted of the sheet off of the bed. She now had the complete run of the General Wolf and indeed of all the Dunbar’s public houses. Round her belt, the keys of responsibility were tied in a similar fashion to that of Mrs Dunbar, the big round metal jailer’s key ring, with all the various keys from doors to cellars hanging off of it. These were her symbols of office, jangling as she walked, the only other sound the rustle of her long dresses.
She went backwards and forwards all that week and finally said her farewell to Mrs Gerrard, returning the latch key she had been given. There were no tears, only happiness at the thought that Jane was one step closer to reuniting her family.