The Girl From Saddler’s Row – Episode 13

THE road into Frodsham rumbled and hammered with farm carts and gigs, fast-trotting horses and small soft-pattering donkeys, as folk surged in for a day at the fair.

Josh, after attending to the horse and trap, took Emma’s arm.

“This way,” he said cheerfully. “You’ll find it different from Chester.”

Emma clapped her hands in delight as a troop of jugglers in scarlet and saffron emerged from the throng and went dancing past in a flurry of jingling bells and whirling hoops.

On a rough patch of ground a Punch and Judy show drew a lively crowd; the clamour of rhythmic footwork on wooden boards announced that, somewhere, a clog-dancing competition was in progress. There was the usual sale of farmstock and horses.

Ahead of her, aisles of gaily striped awnings adorned stalls offering a tempting array of items: leather goods, silverware, brass and copperware. Fairings abounded, some tawdry, others more select.

Sharp-eyed matrons shouldered their way to an area dedicated to foodstuffs and other such commodities, on which Emma was quick to turn her back. Household shopping was all she knew of these events. Maisie Catchpole had seen to that.

She knew she was looking her best. It had been worth sitting up night after night, transforming the length of muslin into the befrilled creation that Alice decreed the very latest thing.

“You’ll catch your death!” Maisie said when Emma had appeared at breakfast, ostensibly all set for a day out with her friend.

The sense of guilt the incident evoked was soon forgotten, her attention caught by an organ-grinder with a small monkey wearing a tasselled cap and crimson jacket.

Whenever a medley of tunes ended the little creature removed his cap and held it out to collect the pennies that were tossed.

“Oh, how clever! Do let’s watch.”

Next they attended the Punch and Judy, then the clog-dancing where rivalry was fierce. Food vendors were shouting out their wares and Josh bought pies rich with meat and gravy, which they washed down with strong cider from a man near the aisles.

“Want to see the stalls?”

“What about the horses? I thought you were here to buy.”

Josh shrugged.

“Too many gypsies here today. They bring good sound stock to trade amongst themselves and stock that appears good and sound to sell to the public, if you see what I mean. Besides, I’ve a mind to make this a holiday, Miss Emma.”

“Just call me Emma. Like everyone else.”

“Except Father. You’re ‘pretty Miss Emmie’ to him. Seems you’ve made an impression there.”

On the journey here she had been pleased to learn that the old man had suffered no more attacks and was “pottering about the place getting underfoot.” There had been no mistaking the relief behind Josh’s words.

“See over there?” He pointed ahead. “A fortune-teller’s booth. Why not cross her palm with silver?”

Emma deliberated. At that moment a chill, distinct wind blew, stirring the bunting that lined the street, setting the awning fluttering. It whispered coolly over Emma’s warm skin and she shivered.

“I . . . no. The future is best left to itself.”

“What a solemn moppet you are of a sudden. I reckon a glance at the stalls will bring your smile back.”

At the booths he bargained soundly for a belt of tooled leather for his father and considered a set of harness on a stand piled high with horse gear, but to Emma’s surprise turned it down in favour of visiting her granfer’s shop.

“It’s only right. Gideon Trigg came to us for the horse,” Josh told her. “Your turn next, Emma. What’s it to be? Let’s make it a fairing to take home with you.”

“Oh, but . . .”

“No buts. Got to have a memento of the day, and I know the very thing.”

He took her hand and guided her, laughing in protest, through the press of people to a small stand dealing exclusively in jewellery.

From the glittering wares on display he selected a silver-link bracelet bearing five tiny charms – a church, wedding slipper, cottage, spinning wheel and a cradle.

“Tes known in the trade as a maiden’s wish trinket,” the stallholder informed them.

Warm colour flooded Emma’s cheeks but Josh, intent upon investigating a dish of loose charms, did not seem to notice. Suddenly he pounced.

“Ah, here we are!” He held out a little cantering horse and asked the man to add it to the chain.

Once the charm was attached, he fastened the bracelet on Emma’s wrist.

“Wear it always,” he said. “’Twill bring you luck.”

Apart from a cameo brooch that had been her mother’s Emma had no other jewellery, and the gesture took her breath away.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.