The Girl From Saddler’s Row – Episode 26

“IT’S . . . complicated,” Maisie said.

Hamilton’s eyes narrowed shrewdly.

“There’s more to this, isn’t there?”

Maisie hesitated, and then gave a nod.

“It was something your granfer alluded to in temper. Not very charitably, I might add.”

“What was it? Don’t you think I have a right to be told?”

Maisie’s lips worked as she fought with indecision.

“I . . . oh, well, on my own head be it!” she blurted out at last. “The fact is that Emma’s parentage is not what’s been put about. My brother Gideon was not her natural father. Emma’s mother, Verity, had a previous understanding and ended up with child. My brother had always loved Verity. When he learned of her predicament he offered to wed her and give the child his name.”

Hamilton stared at his mother.

“So that’s it! And Granfer made his own conclusions – like mother, like daughter – and showed Emma the door. What utter nonsense. What of the actual father?” he asked curiously.

“He was a seaman. They were betrothed. Verity never did disclose his name, only that he sailed to the Americas but his ship, the Lady Grey, never made port. It was declared lost with all hands.”

“Did he know about the infant?”

“No.” Maisie broke off, stricken at breaking the secret she had sworn to keep. But now, none of that seemed to matter. More crucial was the damage the brutally delivered revelation might have caused Emma.

“Emma’s mother was from a good background. When Gideon came along, her family didn’t take kindly to their daughter marrying trade.”

“They cut her off? Just like that, after he’d pledged to take on the child?”

“It’s possible they were not aware of her condition. In their eyes the union was a slight on the family honour. Your granfer set Gideon up with the saddler’s premises on the coast at Parkgate. He felt that if Verity’s family saw that my brother was his own man, independent, it might resolve the problem. It didn’t, of course.”

She sighed.

“Gideon was an accomplished saddler. It saddened your granfer to think that, after apprenticing his son to go into partnership with him, it should then be denied him.”

“A sorry business,” Hamilton said thoughtfully.

“Indeed. After the troubled start, Verity and Gideon made an excellent couple. Verity knuckled down to learning the rules of keeping house and being a mother and Gideon worked hard for his family. He adored Emma, and when Alfie came along his cup was full. It was a good marriage.”

“To end tragically with their death.”

Maisie nodded.

“Does Emma know all this?”

“I told her some of it. There was no time to go into details. Your granfer said ‘blood will out’ or words to that effect. Unfortunately Emma picked up on it and asked me what he meant. So there you have it. Your granfer never did take to Verity. She was a laughing, lively creature. Not his type at all.”

“That’s no reason why Emma should be punished.”

“No. Anyway, when Gideon and Verity lost their lives and the children came here, your granfer and I made a pact never to reveal Emma’s background. It seemed best at the time.”

“Shall I tell Alfie?”

Maisie gave a small shrug.

“You may as well. It hardly matters now.” She leaned forward confidingly. “I’d say your granfer is berating himself over his action. A slip of the tongue made in anger, and the past comes home to roost.”

“Emma must be found.” Hamilton stood up. “Leave it with me, Mama. We’ll see what can be done. And don’t worry, we’ll not breathe a word of what you’ve said.”

She watched her son walk from the room. He seemed taller, more positive – older, even. It was as if the calamity that had befallen had somehow matured him. Maisie accepted that this was no bad thing, but what a disastrous turn of events to have brought it about!

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”.