The Girl From Saddler’s Row – Episode 51

AFTER a moment of stunned surprise, everyone rallied. Maisie, inwardly thankful that the beefsteak pie would go round, invited the unforeseen guest to join them for supper. Alfie brought up a chair to the table. While they supped the talk was kept to pleasantries, though the tension in the air was almost palpable.

Meal over, Hamilton refreshed the fire in the front room and the company settled around it. Eyes turned expectantly upon the man who had presented himself as Captain Nathaniel Goodly. The name had struck a chord with them all. It was on Rudge’s list of crew members aboard the doomed Lady Grey.

“Firstly,” Captain Goodly said, arranging his long legs before the blaze, “I must make it clear that I loved Verity deeply. I was no hapless Jack Tar. I had every intention of requesting Verity’s hand in marriage on my return from the voyage to America. I would add that I come from seagoing stock. My father captained his own ship and from boyhood I wanted the same. I attended Pangbourne Nautical College, and then it was off to sea to train up for deck officer. I’d just gained that status when I met Verity.”

“That should have been acceptable enough for the Dawnes,” Gideon muttered dryly.

“Verity believed so. She wore my ring.”

Maisie nodded.

“I have a box containing Verity’s personal effects. Doubtless the ring is there. Her cameo brooch went to Emma on her twelfth birthday. It felt fitting that she should have some memento of her mama. The rest she was to have on her marriage.”

It struck Maisie how like Emma their guest was, translated into masculine lines. Same bright brown eyes, same thick hair, bleached here by foreign suns.

Captain Goodly sported a seafarer’s beard and was dressed, not in Naval uniform as one might have expected, but a travelling suit of grey worsted.

Maisie indicated for him to continue.

“In brief, we met with rough seas off the coast of Newfoundland. The ship was overladen with cargo. She stood not a chance and went down with all hands bar a lad and myself. We somehow made it to the shore. A fisherman found us, both half dead from cold and exhaustion. His wife nursed us back to health. The lad joined a passing wagon train heading inland but I stayed on and helped with the fishing. I felt I owed them that.”

Captain Goodly made a spreading gesture with his hands.

“You can see how it was. No money, nothing. All my possessions had gone down with the ship and this place was remote with little contact with the outer world. I wrote Verity a letter and gave it to a traveller to put on a ship bound for home. It’s doubtful she ever received it.”

“It was assumed everyone aboard the ship was lost,” Gideon said.

Captain Goodly sighed.

“How despairing Verity would have been.”

He had eventually worked his passage home, by which time he learned Verity was wed and the mother of an infant girl.

“I always wondered at the parentage of that child.”

“I think, if you were to see Emma, that would solve any doubts,” Gideon said.

“By heaven, what I’d give to meet her! I named my ship the Verity. Happen the next should be the Emma.’’

“You are ambitious, sir,” Gideon said.

“Aye, well, I never married. Verity was my only love. When I chanced to overhear that conversation between your man and the fellow I recognised as the Widdecombes’ groom, well, I had to follow things up.”

“Praise be you did,” Alfie said. He had remained wide-eyed and silent until now.

Hamilton, likewise, agreed.

Gideon’s eyes met Maisie’s. She gave him a nod. Gideon reached for his pipe and tobacco.

“I reckon your credibility is assured, Captain Goodly. You need to be told the details. Will you take a glass with us?”

“I will, sir.”

Maisie rose to attend to the task. Her mind was racing. There was now more need than ever to find Emma!

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”.