The Girl From Saddler’s Row – Episode 25

“THANK you, I’ll eat here.”

“I’ll fetch it now,” the girl said. “Us’ll be rushed off our feet once the coach arrives.”

“Do you have many staff here?”

The girl’s look was bleak.

“Bless you, no. Just me an’ Mester and Mistress Cotterill. Oh, an’ their lad, Roland.” She gave her mouth a downwards quirk, from which Emma made her own deductions. “I’m Felicity, miss. Want hot water to wash?”

“Please,” Emma said.

The girl turned to leave and as she did so Emma’s quick eye picked up the probable cause of her recent distress. She wore a pinafore over her workaday gown of grey cotton, but the loosened folds did not quite disguise the just-discernable high bulge of her belly.

“There’s always someone worse off than yourself.”

Aunt Maisie’s oft-repeated words chimed in Emma’s mind, bringing a sad smile.

The tooting of a coaching-horn had her moving to the window. Minutes later the London coach jostled into the courtyard with a great deal of clamour and shouting and barking of dogs.

A stocky, bull-necked lad, probably the hapless Roland, sauntered up to take the sweating team of horses.

The coachman clambered down from his high seat to organise the portable footstep, after which the passengers spilled out from inside the coach and from the top. All at once the quiet air of the inn was sliced by noise and bustle.

Emma, assuming her meal would now be delayed, went over to the bed, flopped down in its feathered softness and gave herself up to thought.

Chester. Was she missed? Or had her name been banished from everyone’s lips?

*  *  *  *

“Leave it, Maisie. The deed is done!”
“But, Father –”

Irritation laced with something that could have been remorse crossed Gideon Trigg’s haggard face. Maisie thought how her father had aged in the past 24 hours.

“No buts,” Gideon said. “Lord save us, you’ll drive me to distraction with that tongue of yours!”

Maisie drew breath. It was not often she stood up to her father, but in this instance she felt justified.

“It’s not me who’s the bother, Father. It’s clear where the trouble really lies. Can’t you see what this has done to us all? The boys in particular!”

“They’ll get over it. That’s life.”

“Alfie won’t, though. Emma’s his sister!”

“Half-sister.” Gideon darted Maisie a fierce look under drawn brows. “Let’s get the details right.”

“For pity’s sake! That’s all in the past. You took those children on and brought them up. Have you no feelings at all for Emma?”

“Aye. Bad ones.”

Maisie’s voice softened. She reached out across the table and gently pressed her father’s clenched fist.

“Why not let bygones be bygones and fetch Emma back here where she belongs? Do it for me. I didn’t have a wink’s sleep last night for the worry of her. She’s got no-one. Anything could have happened to her.”

“Enough!” Gideon brought his fist down on the table top with a resounding crack and stood up, the chair scraping on the tiles of the floor.

He stormed out of the kitchen. There was a short pause as he reached for his topcoat and hat. Seconds later the front door slammed with a noise that reverberated through the house.

Maisie found that her hands were trembling. Tears blurred her vision and the kitchen, with its pot-laden dresser and copper saucepans, swam before her.

“Mama? Are you all right?” Hamilton entered the room and sat down in the chair his grandfather had just vacated.

She gave him a watery smile.

“Yes, of course.”

“You and Granfer were arguing.”

“I don’t need to tell you what about.”

“No. Mama, we must look for Emma. We need to know if she’s safe!”

“That’s what I was trying to get over to your granfer. He wouldn’t listen.” Maisie lifted her hands in a hopeless gesture and let them fall again to the table. “He won’t admit he’s in the wrong. He always was hasty.”

“And now he has to live with his guilt. Not easy.” Hamilton’s voice was loaded with meaning and Maisie’s gaze sharpened.

“That sounds like experience speaking.”

He wouldn’t meet her eyes.

“I feel party to what’s happened. If I hadn’t allowed my eye to roam . . .” He frowned. “Mama, I confess I still am taken with Alice. What I feel for her is different from my feelings for Emma, but that doesn’t mean I wanted rid of her and I certainly don’t condone Granfer’s action. Banishing her from the house! How could he?”

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”.