The Girl From Saddler’s Row – Episode 49

THE spring day was dwindling to dusk by the time Josh had ridden the length of the turnpike, halting now and again to speak with travellers on the road.

All to no avail.

At length Josh turned his horse for his Flookersbrook lodgings. He was famished.

He trusted Mistress Bradely had something good cooking. With food inside him he’d be more able to get his thoughts in order.

Dark had fallen before he reached the stable yard. Dismounting, Josh glanced up at the sky and thought how faint the stars were against the glow of city lamps.

One, however, gleamed brighter than the rest. He wondered if Emma was seeing that same star.

He sent a worshipful wish that he would find her before long.

*  *  *  *

Emma breathed in the scent of early blossom in the orchard of Hillside House and looked up at the stars. How they glimmered and gleamed in the deep velvet of the sky.

One was particularly noticeable. Unbidden, her thoughts went to Josh. She had tried to banish him from her mind but tonight his face was so clear that he might almost be standing her at her side.

She remembered the intense blue of his eyes, the roguish twinkle, and her heart ached.

Contrarily, perhaps, she still wore the charm bracelet. It had become so much a part of her she could not discard it – or so she told herself.

Yesterday, accompanying her mistress to Matins at Bickerton Church, she had pinned her mother’s lovely cameo brooch at the throat of her blouse.

The mistress had asked her about it.

“It was my mama’s, madam,” she answered.

The pony, a lively beast, chose that moment to test her out. The trap bounced alarmingly and all Emma’s attention went to getting him back under control.

On reaching the church at Bickerton, she fastened the pony to one of the iron tethering rings on the wall and helped her mistress disembark. Before following her up the churchyard path she paused at the grave nearest the gate.

Her old friend, Sam Brookfield, lay there with the young wife he had so cherished.

It had been a shock that first time. Now, Emma had come to terms with it. What continued to upset her was the bareness of the plot compared to others. She had taken to leaving a posy of wayside flowers there. Yesterday it was white violets, fresh with scents of springtime.

Emma turned her thoughts to this morning. Something untoward had happened.

The house was a rabbit warren of ill-lit passages. She had taken one of these, with an armful of laundry, on the way to the linen cupboard, when on the wall a smallish painting that had hitherto escaped her notice stopped her in her tracks.

It was a portrait of a young woman. She had bright brown eyes and a smile that hinted of mischief. Apart from the powdered hair and low-squared bodice suggestive of an earlier age, Emma might have been looking at an image of herself.

Puzzled and shaken, she was not aware of the figure coming along the passage until the “tap, tap, tap” of her mistress’s ebony cane brought her to her senses.

Rosamund Platt came to a stop beside her.

“You found her. I wondered how long it would take.”

“Madam, I don’t understand.” Emma darted another bemused glance at the portrait. “Please tell me who she is.”

“Willingly. Though not right now. ’Tis too involved a matter to discuss here. Besides which, you have your duties to perform. Come to me this evening. I will explain all I can.”

Emma was given a small smile, after which her mistress continued on her way, leaving her standing there with the bundle of laundry still clutched in her arms.

On and off throughout the day she had wondered what was in store. Now, the first throaty warble of a nightingale reminded her that evening was here and the mistress would be expecting her.

Heart in her mouth, Emma left the orchard, pearled now with dew, and went to hear what Rosamund Platt had to say.

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”.