8) Tokens & Sickness
“I have a gift for you,” Pepper began sheepishly as she stood up from getting a wee drink.
“I never had a gift before,” Mercy replied just as timid.
“I picked it from the earth,” He said fishing a hand into a small pouch on his belt. “And I thought o’ you,” He then held out a small jet black stone that was smooth and shiny. He watched Mercy examine it in her hands with a look that all young lads had when they were smitten, and it made me chuckle to meself.
“A stone. I never had a stone before,” She replied, a gleeful smile on her sweet face.
“It’s such a beautiful thing,” Pepper said but he wasn’t looking at the stone.
“I have to get back,” Mercy gushed reach back down for her bucket. Pepper’s grin dropped and he was now glum as she walked away back towards her Master’s home. She stopped after a few steps and turned back to him. “I do like my stone,” she smiled holding it up in her other hand with one more smile before she skipped off. Pepper grinned once again watching her and I let out another laugh as I approached him.
“My, you Sharrows have ya ways to woo women,” I chuckled seeing a blush on his face. “Oh don’t be embarrassed by having a kind and gentle heart lad,” I said patting him on the shoulder. He then dashed off probably back to the farm with a spring in his step. I kept going to stretch me legs more and was drawn to the heat and burning smell from James Read’s workshop. He was working away on something that wasn’t a knife or a sword or even a farming tool. It was something small, that I saw him finish it and cool it down in some water. “Master Read,” I began plucking up the courage I had in me little body, but I felt nerves fill my soul when I saw him look at me. “What are ya workin’ on there?” I asked him. He then pulled the small metal object out to show me that it was a wee bell that made a soft ringing noise. “Ain’t that a beautiful thing,” I smiled slowly reaching a hand towards it hoping he would let me because he placed the small thing to small hip sack he had.
“Mistress Kett will hopefully agree,” He said muttering as he went back to his work. Me face fell when I heard him say it was for her.
“She will, but if you’re hopin’ it may win her over I fear it won’t,” I said doubtfully. He paused his work for a moment then turned back around to face me suddenly.
“Mistress Jones, I will not stop my pursuit of her and only her,” He stated bluntly and clearly unshakable.
“Even if y’ know the lass will not love you back? And that there are other women for you t’ possibly court?” I replied suggestively. The Blacksmith rubbed one of his hands over his rugged face.
“There is no woman like her in this town,” He said passionately shaking his head. I glanced down once more finally understand that James Read, had no interested in me at all. This did hurt me, but James Read had not been cruel in the way he rejected me. He could have done it worse and made a scene for the whole town to see and gossip about, but he did not. As he turned to resume his work I turned around meself and swiftly strode back to my home to keep sewing, pausing every so often to wipe away my tears that fell down my cheeks. I eventually finished the sewing for both Secretary Farlow and Mistress Castel towards the end of the day and felt a wee bit better for doing me work for the day. I collected up the repaired clothing, folded it as best I could then placed it in a basket and left my home again. I was paid as promised by the sheepish young lad that was the Secretary’s servant, then strolled through the town greeting my neighbours and smiled to meself when I saw Alice and Verity sat on the steps of the inn with Meredith stumbling around nearby with a mug of beer in hand.
“Come with me Verity, sit beside me. Just let the whole town see your faith,” Alice encouraged while Verity pouted messing with the braid in her flaming hair.
“Didn’t Reverent Michaelmas say as much? Did he question you about your churchgoing?” Meredith added pacing.
“I wouldn’t be on my knees before God, would I? I’d be bowing down to the likes o’ Michaelmas Whitaker, and Marshall Redwick,” She spat as I let out a huff placing meself next to her.
“It’ll give ’em one less thing to use against ya lass, and it don’t last all day,” I encouraged by Verity just scoffed in reply.
“They’ll always find something, they’re like a pair of filth covered rats when there is no food for miles,” She spat as a man strode past in a hurry keeping well away from the inn and us.
“Jacob!” Meredith called hopeful to him.
“No,” he said before he could speak another word while he kept walking.
“Ain’t you coming in today?” Meredith asked.
“Get rid of the witch!” He replied, voice filled with disgust.
“Let me fetch you a drink, me old friend,” Meredith gestured desperately.
“Lived my whole life in fear of a madman. I’ll get the ship home before I do that again,” Verity muttered speaking to herself more than us.
“Peter, Robert, won’t you have one of Meredith’s best beers today, eh?” Meredith called to a couple of men that went past not even looking at the innkeeper. “There’s not a man in the town’ll talk to me!” He grumbled tossing the hand he held the mug in down letting the beer splash out before he turned to another man. “Philip Poole. Don’t walk by. Ain’t you been in my tavern every day since I opened the door?” Meredith gushed not letting the man walk away easy. “Eh? Come in,” He tried putting an arm around the man but he got shoved off to the ground.
“I ain’t drinking where she is,” He snapped.
“What?! Ya think I’m a witch?! Huh?!” Verity shouted getting the attention of some of the town’s folk nearby.
“No, Verity don’t,” Alice quietly pleaded but she did not listen.
“You should be afraid,” Verity whispered warning them she shouted making them jump back in fear and stumble away. Verity laughed, throwing her back slightly.
“I must go t’Recorder Castel’s home,” I sighed to Alice who nodded then bid me farewell as I picked up me basket of clothes then walked the short way to the Recorder’s home seeing the door was open.
“Recorder Castel?” I called seeing Mercy sweeping nearby.
“Oh, M-Mistress Jones,” She sputtered looking pale and was almost unable to stand. She panted resting against the broom she was using to wipe her forehead, but then collapsed to the ground with much heavier breathing.
“Mercy!” I gasped rushing in dropping the basket at the door to go to her side.
“Mercy!” I heard the voice of Recorder Castel as he entered also crouching to Mercy’s side with concern.
“I’m sorry, sir. I-I can’t seem to get myself up,” Mercy stuttered, her voice a whine with pain.
“Mercy let me help you,” Recorder Castel insisted then he picked her gently and turned to me.
“Fetch the doctor, Mistress Jones,”
“Aye sir,” I nodded then rushed out the door towards Dr Priestley’s home.
“DR. PRIESTLEY! SIR!” I shouted hammering on the door with both hands. The door was opened slowly to reveal Dr Priestley who had been working a few remedies and potions things with a frown. “Recorder Castel is in need of y’ services sir, his maid has fallen ill,” I said quickly making his eyes widen, then he rushed back into his home gathering a few things that I assumed he would need for healing Mercy.
“We must hurry,” he rushed locking his door, then the two of us hurried to the Recorder’s home. Mercy lay in her bed in her nightgown looking even worse, but the doctor soon started work to determine what was wrong with the girl. Outside the afternoon had changed to evening and the light outside was fading like a candle burning out. I watched the Doctor try and give a medical brew to Mercy with a spoon but she jerked her head away refusing to take it.
“Mercy,” Recorder Castel said encouragingly with a bit of disappointment at her refusing the medicine.
“I will be well again soon, sir,” She began with a faint voice. “God will spare me I know he will,” Dr Priestley sighed placing the bowl and spoon to one side.
“Please, Mercy you are getting worse. You must try the medicine,” Recorder Castel pleaded.
“Aye lass, take it, the Doctor knows what he’s doin’,” I smiled from behind the two men.
“I would sir, but if I do...then it would seem like I don’t have enough faith that God will deliver me. I need him to know that I trust in him, that he will spare me,” She stated faithfully.
“What is that you have, Mercy?” Recorder Castel asked seeing she was clutching something in one of her hands.
“It is a stone, sir. It was given to me. There’s love in it,” She said stroking it with her thumb. Dr Priestley and Recorder Castel looked at each other before they spoke more on Mercy’s sickness.
“Is it the same sickness has afflicted the Marshall?” Recorder Castel asked the Doctor.
“It would seem so,” He replied grimly then the Recorder let out a heavy sigh while he looked at poor Mercy. Dr Priestley, however, turned his head to look towards the doorway. I followed his gaze and saw Mistress Castel was stood looking terrified for Mercy with wide eyes. She backed off a little, probably unable to see her faithful and hardworking handmaid in such a sorry state. I decided to then take me leave and bid goodnight to the men, saying also that I would pray for Mercy to recover. I saw Mistress Castel stood near the door that I presumed went to her bedchamber, hunched over slightly with her hands clasped together. She was shaking like a leaf in the low light, but it was as if she didn’t want anyone to see.
“Ma’am?” I questioned making her gasp and freeze. “Whatever’s the matter?” I asked her as she turned her head towards me.
“I fear that I am the cause for her sickness,” She whispered making me frown deeply.
“What d’you mean Jocelyn?” I questioned.
“I had some belladonna for some pain, and Mercy may have ingested some by mistake,” She confessed making me gasp but she moved closer to me swiftly and elegantly. “The Marshall may have also ingested after I returned his glove to him,”
“Ma’am, did you...” I could not even finish as I was too shocked.
“I considered it, but then I saw what he did to Verity and thought better of it,” she told me then glanced down. “I feel so much guilt in me and it has only been moments since I looked upon poor Mercy,” She sighed but soon raised her head with that same strong and determined look on her face. “She will heal,” She stated hopefully then smiled at me. “And you shall be paid the same as Secretary Farlow paid you,” she promised.
“She will if she gets that medicine down ‘er,” I told her with a smile. “And y’ don’t need to rush Ma’am, Mercy is much more important than a wee bit o’ sewin’,” I told her and she thanked me again for it, then I said goodbye to her, her husband, the doctor and Mercy.
I stepped out of the house with my basket in hand and walked through the streets of Jamestown that were more peaceful now the day was coming to a close. But my nice walk came to a stop when I saw for men carrying the body of a man that was an unhealthy pale colour. He was not even breathing, Christ he was dead. And he was the same man that Verity scared earlier on named Philip Poole. The people left on the streets all stopped and watched the men carry the dead lad through the town and passing the inn. I followed them until we reached the inn, Alice joining up to walk beside me just as horrified and worried, and we both looked at Verity who was nervously denying she cursed him. But with so many people witnessing her fooling around and making the man run in fear, things were not looking good for her.