5) A Visit From Lady Yeardley
A few days had passed, with some stormy nights. Me home had become more like home. It had the smell of fresh flowers, cooking food and the sound of me humming filled it. There was some tension in the town though. The death of Henry Sharrow had brought sadness to the town; the brute of a man had friends he worked with for Master Massanger. There had also been a dispute between Jocelyn, her husband Recorder Castell, the Marshall and the Secretary. I could see how Jocelyn was outraged and saw her say to the Secretary to not underestimate her husband. She was not one I would want as an enemy, but neither was Secretary Farlow. I kept quiet as I swept some dirt out of me home as both parties disbursed.
“Mistress Castell has a fine taste in enemies,” I heard James Read say from his workshop to Alice I saw smile agreeing with him before she turned to walk to me. Well, she wanted to but James spoke again. “It was a terrible sorrow for us all, to lose Henry Sharrow in such a way,” he added sitting by a wooden beam supporting the roof of his workshop.
“Yes,” She replied nearly getting to me as I propped the broom against the wall inside.
“A man is granted all the land he could wish for, his was the prettiest wife to step off that ship,” James added, and I couldn’t help but feel disappointed at the blacksmith’s compliment to her.
“We weren’t married, sir,” Alice replied.
“A sorrow for you then, to be robbed of the man you were to marry,” He began getting up to walk through the mud-covered street to her.
“I have work and shelter,” She replied stuttering a bit.
“Perhaps you’d be so kind as to allow me to call in you, Mistress Kett?” James Read asked, politely but sincere. Alice stuttered hesitantly before she gave him an answer.
“I’m grateful for the consideration of your kind heart Master Read but, I owe my loyalty to the Sharrows,” She tried to reject him kindly but it still caused him to look away with a bitter scowl.
“A no wrapped in roses is still a no,” He bluntly replied. Alice looked down uncomfortably before she strode away from him towards me.
“Come ’ere lass,” I sighed putting a hand on her shoulder seeing she felt guilty. She stayed inside voicing her feelings about James’s request while I sat sewing one of me skirts I damaged after scrubbing some mud off it.
“I do hope James does not have a scowl on his face every time he sees me in the town now,” Alice sighed while she messed with her fabric hairband.
“I hope he doesn’t harm you or the Sharrows,” I replied to her frowning in concentration. Alice then stood up and went to the window to look out at what James was doing.
“I should go, Pepper will be needing my help on the farm,” Alice said with her arms crossed lightly across her chest.
“Is Master Read lookin’ away?” I asked her with a weak smile. She glanced away sheepishly but nodded.
“I would feel like a lucky lass if he asked to call on me, I’d be flattered,” I said quieter getting up to look out the window with her.
“Maybe he would if he saw what a pretty and wonderful wife you would be Clara,” Alice suggested making me nod. I knew he wouldn’t see any other woman than her though.
“He won’t love me though,” I stated then there was a silence between us as we both knew the truth. That was not Alice’s fault or mine or that of James Read, it was just one of those things. “Go on, I’ll see you later on,” I told her giving her a nudge. She smiled then bid farewell to me and left me home. I watched her leave leaning up against the doorway and found my eyes wandering over to the Tavern. I felt very worked up and emotional, and I knew that a mug of ale could help me relax so I could do more of my work later on. I went back into my home to get my bag and a few coins I would need to buy the drink, but I heard a knock on my door followed by a voice warmed by age that I recognised as Lady Yeardley.
“Clara? Are you here?” I heard hear call making me come swiftly back to her in the other room.
“Yes m’lady,” I smiled a little nervously. She had made a habit of coming here, but it was nice to have her even if I panicked a bit about embarrassing meself. “What brings y’back to me little home?” I asked her as she stood in me home smiling gleefully with her hands holding a bible.
“I have a gift for you,” She then held out the bible to me. “Every Christian home needs a bible,” She added as I slowly took it feeling the texture of the brown leather cover marked with a golden cross.
“Oh, m’lady,” I was surprised at her sudden gift. “Thank you. It is much like the one the lady me mother worked for had. She would let me read from it sometimes,” I said holding in close while smiling gratefully at her.
“Having a bible in the home means that God is in your home, you may find the words comforting and guidance for you Clara,” She told me making me nod.
“Yes, prayer is always a good time to help find clarity too,” She nodded also.
“You should also pray for God to send you a good man to marry Clara, or for one of the unmarried men in Jamestown to ask for your hand,” My smile dropped off my face at her words.
“I saw you watching Master Read, he has work and is a skilled man. He will need a woman to clean his skin of dirt and to care for the wounds that come from his work,” She then took one of me hands in hers. “Your soft and caring touch would be most loved by him, Clara,” She added, my heart clenched and I felt much discomfort.
“That is true Lady Yeardley, but I fear that his heart already has love for another,” I told her making a frown of disappointment cross her face.
“You can still pray dear Clara,” She told me patting my hand and I nodded.
“Yes, and I will, after I do my own day’s work,” I promised her.
“I must not keep you from that, good day to you Clara,” She said then I curtsied to her saying good day to her meself. I couldn’t help but feel even lower now, and I don’t think that any amount of prayer could help. I still felt that a drink at the Tavern could help so I left and walked the distance to the Tavern with my bag over my shoulder. I held onto the strap of it feeling nerves when I saw Secretary Farlow glaring in with a frown of pure revulsion. My feet squelched through the mud on the streets meaning the Secretary heard me approaching and looked back at me with his nose in the air.
“Good day to you, Secretary,” I greeted bowing my head respectfully to the finely dressed man.
“Mistress Jones,” He coldly replied then moved his eyes back over to the Tavern when he heard a sudden outburst of laughter from the men drinking there and Verity who was serving them joyfully. “That Mistress Rutter is most vulgar, it is a mystery why you choose to befriend her,” He said bluntly making me gasp at his insult.
“Mistress Rutter has been nothing but a kind friend to me,” I said back defending my friend. “She gave me a meal after I repaired her apron that only took an hour of my time, she just has a fiery temper that lass, sir,” I added and he scoffed then raised his wooden cane pointing it at me.
“If you wish to use your time wisely, you should be using your skills to sew dresses and tunics, not vile aprons,” He scolded me making me lower my head timidly. He was not one to make an enemy, and he could have me send back to England if I crossed him. I did know that sewing beautiful clothing would mean I would get more than food. I would get money. The Secretary would not request my services now, especially since I had already sewed for Verity and Jocelyn, but the time would come when he would need a skilled seamstress, and I was the only one in Jamestown. I would rather sew for the Indians that him after the cruel things he said about Verity, even if I would probably never meet an Indian or even sew clothing for them.
“Clara!” I heard Verity call to me making me glance over at her with a smile.
“I need a wee ale lass,” I said giving her a couple of coins. She nodded then poured me a small ale then handed it to me. “Cheers,” I said raising me mug to her then took a long sip.