The Girl From Saddler’s Row – Episode 27


EMMA wasted no time in seeking employment. Despite the carousing downstairs, which went on until the small hours and kept her awake, she was up early the next morning. Breakfasting hurriedly, she went out to see what Tarporley had to offer.

Dressed in a neat gown, her wild curls tamed inside a plain bonnet and a cape about her shoulders, she thought her appearance appropriate for a working girl.

The sun shone briefly between the clouds, a beguiling late-autumn sun.

Where should she try first? A shop? She could be a shop assistant, couldn’t she? A housemaid? That brought a grimace. She’d have to keep her clumsiness in check, but if needs must . . .

She set off, passing the manor house whose imposing, three-gabled grandeur she found daunting. Some children were entering a little school in the churchyard. Could she see herself as a schoolma’am? Perhaps.

She walked on. At a baker’s shop she went in and made her enquiries.

The baker’s wife shook her head.

“My man and I run the business between us. Try the dressmakers’ further along the street. They’re always looking for girls to train up.”

Emma thanked the woman and left. Stitching was not her best skill, but she had to try.

“You have references?” the dressmaker queried, her face tightening as a blush flooded Emma’s cheeks.

“Er, no,” Emma said. She hadn’t given it a thought.

The woman brushed an imaginary speck from her black bombazine skirt.

“I’m sorry. We have sufficient staff here.”

Emma lifted her chin and stalked out, pulling a ferocious face to herself as she did so. So much for a career in dressmaking!

The lack of character references, however, presented a problem. She would just have to see how things went.

She tried the draper’s, the grocer’s, a sweetshop and even a woodyard in the likelihood of there being office work. None would take her on. Either they were not requiring staff or her situation hinted at caution.

*  *  *  *

After an entire morning’s search Emma returned to the Swan in a less optimistic frame of mind. What if she couldn’t get employment? How would she live?

Back in her room, she dropped the latch on the door and subsided into the easy chair. Absently she fingered the charms on her bracelet she had fastened on her wrist that morning, concealed beneath the cuff of her gown. The little silver charms slipped familiarly through her fingers – church, wedding slipper, cottage, spinning-wheel, cradle. The bracelet represented all the hopes and expectations of a young girl’s dreams. What was it the stallholder had called it? A maiden’s wish trinket.

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

Not so far, it hadn’t, Emma thought.

Tempted to wrench it off, she was alerted to harsh voices in the courtyard below. Curious, she went to the window to see what was happening.

The London stage had left and, judging by the piled basket of laundry in her arms, maid-of-all-work Felicity looked to be in the process of dealing with the bed linen.

She had been waylaid by the landlord. Bertram Cotterill’s red-veined face was suffused with rage.

“Strumpet! How long did you reckon you could keep this from us? Eh?”

“I . . . it wasn’t my fault. Ask him!”

Felicity jabbed a finger in the direction of Roland, who stood outside the stables watching the scene with interest.

“’Twunna none of my doing,” he told his father.

At the doorway to the kitchen, Aggie Cotterill sprang to her boy’s defence.

“’Course it wunna! You’re a wicked girl and no mistake.”

“You can get out now! This is a respectable inn,” the landlord continued.

“But I’ve nowhere to go.”

“You should have thought of that before.” Spittle flew from his lips. “You can have a week’s wages, and that’s more’n you deserve.”

“Please, keep me on. I’ll work for nowt but my board, but keep me on!”

 

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 aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.