The Girl from Saddler’s Row – Episode 39


“MAMA, I really do love Alice. These weeks of estrangement have made me realise exactly how much. I must see her again,” Hamilton said.

He was decisive and inwardly Maisie sighed. She had feared it might come to this.

“Well, you know my feelings on the matter. All I can do is repeat what I’ve said before. Alice has her faults.”

“Haven’t we all?”

“Indeed, though it hinges on to what degree. Alice Courtney strikes me as being self-obsessed and conniving. She’s a meddler. She got her hooks into Alfie and now she’s doing the same with you. It wouldn’t surprise me if she knew more about this unfortunate business with Emma than she cares to divulge.”

“Never!”

Maisie rolled her eyes.

“Don’t they say love is blind? Think about it, Hamilton. She and Emma were friends. Young girls exchange confidences. Of course Alice will know more about what went on than any of us.”

“You believe she knows where Emma might be?”

“I cannot say. Possibly not.”

“I do value your opinion, Mama. In fact . . .” Hamilton broke off, frowning and troubled.

“There was something Alfie let slip. It was after he had ended the betrothal. He wouldn’t say more – you know how close he is. He’ll not run anyone down, either, not if he can help it. But something dire must have happened to make him finish with Alice.”

Hamilton drew a breath.

“Mama, my mind is made up. I shall go to Alice and find out what she knows. Though I warn you, whatever is revealed, it will not alter my feelings for her.”

He made to leave but Maisie stayed him with her hand.

“One moment. I want to tell you what has been decided with regard to Emma. A private investigator, one Sylvester Rudge, has opened up an office on Watergate Row. Your granfer has made us an appointment to see him.”

Hamilton blinked in shock.

“Granfer has? That’s a change of heart.”

“Oh, he’s not as unrelenting as he makes out. This business with Emma has affected him sorely. Let us hope that Master Rudge is able to trace Emma.”

“And bring her home?”

“If God so wills,” Maisie replied with a wan smile.

*  *  *  *

Sylvester Rudge was a big, shambling man of middle years, with perpetually untidy brown hair and a disarming smile that hid an exceptionally shrewd mind.

He used this smile now to woo Mistress Catchpole out of the worried fretting that made her pluck unknowingly at a loose thread on her cape, and visibly relax.

In the dingy little office on the Watergate, a small fire of sea coals glowed in the grate. The air was redolent of dust, of paper and ink and a trace of pipe tobacco from a previous occupant.

Rudge studied the face on the miniature his clients had brought with them.

“An attractive young woman. May I hold on to this for now? It could help with my enquiries.”

“By all means,” Mistress Catchpole said. “It is a recent likeness. We had it done last year for Emma’s twentieth birthday.”

“Does she favour her mother?”

“A little. Perhaps more in manner than face.”

“Like her papa, then.”

“Well . . .” The woman squirmed uneasily in the straight-backed chair, darting her father a cautious look.

Gideon Trigg cleared his throat.

“You may as well know the whole of it, Rudge. Emma’s mama came from a well-set-up family. Her papa was a seafarer. The fellow got Verity in the family way and made off.”

“To be fair, he didn’t know of Emma’s mother’s condition,” Mistress Catchpole put in hastily. “Verity assured us of that.”

“Ah. The lady’s full name at the time?”

“Verity Amelia Dawne.”

Rudge looked up in surprise from where he sat at his desk, quill poised.

“Would that be the Dawnes of Mollington? A very prestigious lineage.”

“Indeed. They did not wish their name to be besmirched by the daughter’s fall from grace.”

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”.