The Girl From Saddler’s Row – Episode 55


ALICE reached the place, rapped on the door and went in, trying not to wrinkle her nose at the smell of dust, paper and stale tobacco that assailed her.

Rudge was seated behind his desk, frowning at some papers. He greeted the visitor and rose to get her a chair, which Alice declined prettily.

“No, no, please don’t bother. I see you are far too busy to speak with little me.”

Rudge gave her his smile that never failed to impress.

“It is my pleasure. What can I do for you, Miss Alice?”

“It’s about Emma. I wondered if you had any news.”

“I have, in fact. Naturally, I can reveal nothing until I have spoken to my clients.”

The curiosity that swept through Alice was all-consuming. She had to know what this was all about. She fluttered her eyelashes beguilingly.

“Please?”

“Nay, I have my loyalties to consider and –”

Some commotion out in the street caused Rudge to break off. He strode to the window and peered out.

Alice was quick. On the desk with other papers she had already spotted the letter. By straining her neck, she was able to read enough to capture the gist of it.

“Some fellow nearly met his end under the hooves of the brewery team,” Rudge said from the window. “The traffic gets worse.”

He turned to find Alice retying her bonnet strings for the off.

“I mustn’t impose on your time a moment longer, sir,” she said sweetly, and left the office.

The cathedral clock was striking four as Alice emerged from the building. She set off smartly for home. If this was Emma at the Peckforton house, the first to know should be Josh. She’d best make haste, before Rudge beat her to it.

At home, she called out to her mama that she was taking the carriage and went to harness the horse. Alice’s pet dog, not inclined to be left behind a second time, escaped through the open door and got underfoot, yelping indignantly as Alice backed the horse into the shafts.

“Suzette! You can’t come, you’ll be in the way. Oh, very well. In you get, but be warned. This will be a bumpy ride.”

Presently Alice was driving out into the clogged traffic, fuming at the slow pace of the queue of carts, traps and drays ahead of her.

At the first opportunity she turned the horse down a narrow street that brought them quickly to the edge of town. Then she shook the reins for Flookersbrook, the carriage rattling and swaying, the little dog jiggling uncontrollably on the seat beside her.

On reaching the lodging house Alice disembarked and, leaving her affronted pet in the carriage, sped to the door of the house.

“I want to see Master Brookfield,” she told the woman who answered her summons. “It’s imperative that I speak with him.”

The woman gave her head a shake.

“Nay, miss. Him’s paid up and gone – for good, him said.”

“Oh!” Alice could have wept in frustration. “Which road did he take?”

“Headed for the hills, him did. Likely to pay his da’s grave a last visit. Well, him wunna go without saying goodbye, not Master Brookfield. ’Tis Holy Trinity at Bickerton . . .”

Alice was already mounting the carriage, gathering up the reins. She galloped for the hills, her anxious gaze on the setting sun. Would Josh still be there?

Her relief to see the tethered horses outside the church wall was immense. Standing immobile by a mound close to the main gate was Josh. His head was bowed, his shoulders slumped. Despair showed in every line of his person.

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”.