Ring Of Truth – Episode 13

PETER returned a moment later.

“Where you bin till this hour?” Daisy demanded.

Cassie wondered what Peter would say as she watched his face, so thin and pale like his sister’s, but with twin spots of colour flushing his cheeks, no doubt from when he’d fled the docks… when? An hour since! Where had he been?

“I bin down the docks, our Daisy,” Peter told her.

He reached into his pocket and then opened his palm, grimy with sand and mud, to show her his loot.

And what loot it was! Cassie glanced at the coins – he had the best part of a shilling in coppers. Was mudlarking that lucrative?

No wonder he had thought it best to flee before the rest of them fought him for what was clearly the lion’s share of their bounty!

But Daisy’s pale blue eyes glinted suspiciously as she eyed the coins in her brother’s palm.

“Pinched them, did you?”

“No! There were folk throwing pennies…”

“You were mudlarkin’?”

Peter stood his ground.

“You don’t want it then? Or this?”

He delved into his pocket again and opened his fist to reveal a dirty, grimy ring, which he passed to Jem.

“You think it might be worth somethin’, Jem?”

“Where’d you get that?” Daisy demanded.

Peter faced her defiantly.

“Found it. Tide’s low – must’ve bin washed up.”

He turned back to Jem, whom he trusted to know a decent find when he saw it.

“Is it worth anythin’, Jem?”

“Might be worth a bit,” Jem pondered, rubbing his finger over the dirt and sand that encrusted it. “There’s a jeweller on Field Lane who’d know – I could take it for you…”

He stopped abruptly.

“Leave it with me, eh? Cassie!” He turned to her. “Are you ready? I’ll walk you to Annie’s.”

From one door to another, not a stone’s throw away? What terrible fate did he imagine might befall her if she walked it alone?

Clearly Jem wanted to talk to her. Before they’d reached the home she shared with Annie, he took her elbow and drew her towards the middle of Rose Court, both of them sidestepping the mess that pooled in the gutter. It was the furthest they could get from any houses if they were to talk in private.

But Jem still kept his voice low.

“What was your mother’s name, Cass?”

She blinked at him.

“Same as mine. Cassandra Miller. Why?”

Jem took her hand and placing the ring into her palm, gently closed her fingers around it.

“Because this ring, Cass…” He exhaled slowly. “I think it’s hers.”

  • * *        *        *

It’s hers, all right.”

Annie Ordish, who, by her own admission, and after dwelling in the depths of Rose Court for nigh on twenty years, had seen some sights – from shivering children huddled under the arches to men knocking each other senseless over half a crust of bread – was as white as her scrubbed linen sheets as she stared at the ring Cassie had placed into her hand.

“It’s my mother’s?”

Her aunt was the one person who could confirm it, and she had, but Cassie was struggling to accept the truth of it.

Her mother had been dead and buried for eighteen years, and yet this was her ring?

She had not believed it, even when Jem had shown her the inscription that he, after being taught his letters by Annie, could read once he’d rubbed off enough of the dirt and sand that encrusted it.

Cassandra Miller.

But that was no proof! Granted, Cassandra was not a common name hereabouts, but Miller certainly was. It could belong to anyone.

And if it was her mother’s, then why had it ended up in the Thames?

“Your pa had it engraved for her.” Annie answered the question before Cassie had chance to ask it. “When they were wed. That’s how I know it’s hers, Cassie.”

She shook her head slowly, sighing as she traced a fingertip over the inscribed letters.

“I thought as how I’d seen the last o’ this.”

As Cassie stared at her, confused, she heard Jem’s sharp intake of breath behind her, and as if he somehow understood she’d no words to make sense of it, he asked the most pressing question himself.

“But it was in the river, Annie. How did it end up there?”

Annie’s expression changed from pensive reflection to a sudden shadow of suspicion as she eyed Jem. Her voice, though she kept it low, mindful of the thin walls in Rose Court, was sharp as flint.

“Where did you get this?”

“Peter Jennings found it,” Jem told her. “Down at the docks.

“Look, I’m sorry, Annie, if I spoke out o’ turn. This is nothing to do with me.”

He took his cap from the table and turned to leave.

“I just thought as how Cassie should have it. But I’ll be off now.”

“No, Jem. Stay. Please.”


Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!