The Girl From Saddler’s Row – Episode 28


FELICITY begged, cajoled and wept, but the landlord was unyielding. Not long afterwards Emma saw the woebegone figure leave the premises, her bundle over her shoulder, whilst the landlord’s wife looked on, her arms folded over her ample chest.

After the girl had gone, Aggie Cotterill began berating her man, her voice rising stridently to where Emma stood at the open window.

“No servant any more, me left with everything to see to! It’s more’n a body’s capable of! I’ve only got one pair of hands . . .”

Emma seized her chance. She ran from the room, along the maze of passageways and outside. In the courtyard she presented herself between the sparring couple.

“Please, I couldn’t help overhearing. If it’s a servant you want, I’m looking for work. I can clean and cook and do the washing. I can see to the horses, too, if need be,” she added as an afterthought.

“Is that so.” Bertram Cotterill rubbed his bearded chin in doubt.

His wife was more eager.

“Show me your hands, miss.”

Callused from riding and roughened with housework, Emma’s hands had always been her bane, but never had she been more gratified at their contrast to Alice’s dainty white specimens than now.

“Them’s the mark of a working girl.” Aggie looked at her man. “The Chester stage is due. I can’t see to the rooms and the meals as well. What choice do we have?”

The landlord knew when he was beaten.

“You can have a month’s trial. Fetch your things and the wife’ll show you your quarters.” His face showed a semblance of humour. “You’ll find it different from where you are currently. We’ll see how you cope.”

“You won’t be disappointed,” Emma said.

She was desperately sorry for Felicity, without doubt an innocent victim, but there was no getting away from the fact that one person’s downfall often was another’s gain.

Maybe there was something to be said for lucky charms, after all!

*  *  *  *

Alfie rode into the saddler’s stable yard and dismounted, patting Cygnus’s steaming neck. Church bells had been ringing when he left, but now the town was in the grip of Sunday stillness. Since there was no sign of his aunt and grandfather he assumed they had not yet arrived back from St Bridget’s where the family worshipped.

Hamilton came out of the house to greet him.

“Well?”

“Nothing. I’ve enquired everywhere. No-one has seen her.”

“Did you go to the horse-trader’s yard?”

“That was my first port of call. Hamilton, the place is deserted! The Brookfields must have moved on. I had a look around. Someone had slept in the hayloft – the straw was messed about and I found a footprint in the dust.”

“Emma’s?”

“Could have been. Heaven knows what she thought when she found the place empty.”

Hamilton pressed his hand to his forehead.

“Dear God!”

“The point is, where did she go from there?”

They looked round as the tall gate to the stable yard opened to admit Gideon Trigg and Maisie. Both faces showed the ravages of sleepless nights.

Gideon’s gaze went straight to the horse and he frowned.

“Alfie, look at the state of that animal! Have you been racing him?”

“I thought he’d benefit from a gallop. He’s not had much exercise lately.”

The frown intensified.

“Best get him inside and rubbed down. Mind you throw a rug over him afterwards. Don’t want him coming down with a chill.”

“No, sir.”

Gideon stomped off into the house, but Maisie held back. She pulled her best Sunday cape more closely about her against the bleak November day.

“You’ve been looking for Emma?”

Alfie nodded.

“I had to try.”

“Of course you did.” She pressed his hand warmly. “Did you have any success?”

“None whatsoever.”

Hamilton cleared his throat.

“I, too, have looked, Mama. It was my turn to make the deliveries this week so I was able to combine the two. I found nothing. Either she’s covered her tracks well, or . . .”

He shook his head and Maisie gave a quick intake of breath.

“Don’t even think it. I know there’s been more trouble with the bandits. It was in the newspaper. Your granfer read it out to me. I could tell he was concerned.”

“Where else could we try?” Alfie said. “She’s got to be somewhere. I’ve some errands to run tomorrow. I’ll ask around. Maybe I’ll be lucky.”

“Please God you are,” Maisie said softly, and giving them both a small smile she continued into the house, shutting the door gently behind her.

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”.