The Girl From Saddler’s Row – Episode 35

ALICE gazed unseeingly through the window at the wintry street, her heart sore. No Alfie any more and, worse, no Hamilton. What a shambles she had made of everything. With each passing day it had become plainer than ever how deep her feelings ran for Hamilton.

She was sure he felt the same over her. Why, then, the cold shoulder, the blatant refusal to acknowledge her if they happened to come across each other in the town?

The answer was all too obvious. Emma!

Perhaps, the thought occurred, if she were to make it known where Emma was, the act would help redeem her in Hamilton’s opinion.

Then again, how to go about it without incriminating herself too deeply? She should have said something on that November day and not waited until now, bleak January and weeks after the event.

It was only then that it crossed Alice’s mind to wonder how Emma actually fared. Through the shell of self-pity and boredom she had cast around herself, Alice felt a prick of remorse.

The young woman who had been her friend had been reduced to skivvying in a tavern and she, Alice, had as good as put her there!

She hadn’t meant things to go so far and she frowned, thinking hard. Gideon Trigg was known to be a man of impulse and pride. By now he was sure to be regretting his reaction to the letter she had shown him – and he’d also be finding it a hardship to admit being in the wrong. There would have been searches made for Emma, no doubt prompted by Maisie Catchpole.

Some means of letting them know that Emma was safe and well, Alice felt, was all she needed . . .

She was jerked from her reverie by her mother calling her from the hallway.

“I’m here, Mama. What is it?”

Her mother had come in from shopping. Despite her warm woollen cape and winter bonnet, she looked pinched with the cold.

“Alice, I clean forgot to call at the haberdasher’s in the market for those threads I needed. And didn’t you want some embroidery silks? I really can’t face going out again today. Do be a dear and get them for me.”

About to refuse, Alice thought twice. It was true, she was short of silks for the sampler she was working on.

Also, wasn’t it standard practice for Gideon Trigg to stock up on harness buckles and other accoutrements from the brass-smith’s stall?

She just might bump into Hamilton on his way to collect the goods, in which case she had best put on her new cherry-red cloak with the fur-trimmed hood and muff – so becoming, her looking-glass told her.

Soon afterwards she was stepping smartly into the market place, her little dog under her arm. She’d forgotten it was the beast sale as well as the usual trade stalls and she trod her way carefully between the piles of soiled straw and dung that littered the cobblestones.

All at once she froze, her eyes widening. For there ahead of her, tying a couple of horses to a tethering post, was Josh Brookfield.

Was this the opportunity she sought? Perhaps here was her go-between, the one to brighten her name without giving away too much disquieting detail.

She drew a breath and went to speak with him.

“Master Brookfield? Good day, sir. You may not know me. I’m Alice Courtney – Emma’s friend.”

He looked at her with that penetrating deep-blue gaze, the lines of his face set and wary. My, what a handsome fellow he was. Alice summoned her most winning smile.

“Sir, forgive my boldness, but I was in Emma’s confidence.”

“Was?” He picked up on that one word and Alice, realising that she was dealing with no fool, spoke with care.

“Well, yes. There was a . . . a misunderstanding. Master Trigg found out about you and Emma.” She glossed over the finer points, adding a little fabrication so as not to show herself in too bad a light. “Emma’s no longer there. She was cast out.”

“Banished? But why?”

“Master Trigg wouldn’t tolerate what happened and told her to leave his roof.”

“Just like that? For pity’s sake! There was no wrong-doing between us.”

“Try telling Emma’s grandfather that. Oh, I daresay by now he’s mortified over what he did, though it’s a bit late for that. The fact remains that Emma’s vanished without trace. If they could only know she’s all right it would put all their minds at rest.”

The man frowned.

“Why are you telling me this?” he asked at last.

“Because I know where she is,” Alice replied.

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”.