BLUSHING, Emma cast about for escape. Across at the drapery stall she could see a queue forming. She gave her companion a tight smile.
“Sir, I must take my leave. Thank you kindly for your assistance.”
She went to join the queue, feeling that piercing blue gaze on her as she crossed the square. By the time her shopping basket was filled she had all but dismissed the incident.
However, lingering in a corner of her mind was an image of intensely blue eyes laughing into hers and a warm, engaging smile.
He hadn’t seemed the rogue her grandfather professed his type to be. She wondered where he lived, if he had far to go once the fair was over, if he had a wife and babes to return home to . . .
Shrugging, Emma headed off along the Northgate and thence to Bridge Street for home. In her basket, as well as the household requirements, lay a twist of Granfer Trigg’s favourite tobacco, a pennyworth of the barley sugar her brother liked and peppermints for Hamilton, since he said it helped his indigestion. He had confided a weakness for liquorice, so she’d added some as a treat. For Aunt Maisie there was a bunch of lace.
It had cost Emma the last of her meagre savings and the sprigged muslin she had lingered over had been discarded. It would have made a perfect gown for the summer.
She did not see the tall, upright figure observing her every move from the entrance to the Foregate.
* * * *
Home was Saddler’s Row, a series of low-roofed, cob-and-timbered buildings situated on an elevated structure of walkways designed for the pedestrian in times gone by. They made progress less hazardous and a good deal cleaner underfoot than venturing on to the city streets below.
Trigg’s Master Saddlers and Harness Makers was a dark little den displaying a wide selection of horse gear. Emma went past the front door to the house and entered the building through the more approachable environs of the shop.
Breathing in the familiar aroma of leather, spiced with the tang of Granfer Trigg’s pipe tobacco, Emma went through to the workshop where her grandfather was at his bench together with her brother, Alfie, and their cousin, Hamilton.
Gideon Trigg looked up from the set of reins to which he was attaching a brass buckle with practised stitches.
“Ah, there you are, lass. You’ve been gone a long while. I was beginning to think you’d got lost.”
“Never,” Emma said, dropping a kiss on her grandfather’s bewhiskered cheek. “The queues today were endless. I vow they get worse every time. This is for you, Granfer.”
She dropped the twist of tobacco down amongst the scraps of leather and small tools on the bench. Then, since they were more or less promised, she went to Hamilton and gave him the sweetmeats.
“And for you,” Emma said, turning to her brother.
“Barley sugar!” Alfie gave her a grin. “Thanks, Em.”
For siblings there was only a passing resemblance between the two. Where Emma’s eyes were a lively bright brown, an unusual combination with her fair skin and golden hair, his were hazel-green and dreaming and his hair was darker.
Emma adored her young brother and thought him the best-looking man on Saddler’s Row, though she was mindful not to let Aunt Maisie know that. For Maisie Catchpole, no-one could compare with her Hamilton for looks, intellect or anything else she could call to mind.
Gideon Trigg cleared his throat.
“Thank you for the baccy, Emma, lass. You’d best get through to the house. Your aunt was asking after you.”
“She’ll be needing the fruit for the plum duff,” Emma said.
Divesting herself of cape and bonnet, she hurried to the rear of the workshop where a long, unlit passageway took her to the family’s living quarters.