Ring Of Truth – Episode 14


 

CASSIE’S voice, when she found it, was barely a whisper, but he closed the door again and took his cap off, and though it was Annie’s roof he was under, woe betide her if she tried to send him packing, because Jem Clements was going nowhere.

He crouched beside Cassie’s chair, keeping one hand on the back of it, to steady her, though he didn’t touch Cassie herself. She didn’t look at him, but then she had no need to. He was there, and that was enough.

If she had to hear that her… her mother’s end was not as she’d believed, if what Annie had to tell her was… was difficult to hear, then she had her aunt, and she had Jem, who was her closest friend and ally.

She was afraid, and it made her blood run cold so that she shivered, and Jem took off his jacket and draped it around her shoulders.

Annie moved her chair closer and took Cassie’s cold hands in hers. She was not a demonstrative woman, Annie Ordish, but she loved her niece who she’d brought up as her daughter.

“Last time I saw your mother, she… well, she’s at peace, lass. South o’ the river, St Olave’s church; she an’ your pa, buried together.”

“I’m sorry, Aunt Annie,” she whispered. “It’s just, it was in the water!”

“Aye, her ring was, but she’d not worn it for some time before she died. As it happens, I can’t tell you how your ma’s ring ended up in that river, only that she lost it some months before you were born.”

Cassie blinked at her.

“So someone else threw it in?”

“Whoever found it, well, maybe they did. It’s a mystery to me how it survived in that murky water, mind.”

“I don’t reckon it did,” Jem ventured. “That inscription’s too clear. Water would have worn it away years since.”

“You might be right there, lad.” Annie tilted her palm the better to see the ring in the flickering candlelight. “Washed ashore an’ buried in the mud, more like. Peter found it, you say?”

“Aye, he was mudlarking.”

Was that where Peter had been? Cassie allowed her mind to retreat from her mother and the dark, murky, deep waters of the Thames, to the hour Peter had taken to return to Rose Court after he’d fled from the docks. Not to mention the shilling in pennies he’d had in his pocket, an ambitious loot for a mudlarker by any stretch of the imagination.

“Jem, you told Peter you’d take it to the jewellers.”

“Aye, an’ then I saw I’d no right to,” Jem said quietly. “Only fair you should have it, Cass.”

“Your mother would want it going to no-one else,” Annie agreed. “Best you keep it hidden, mind. Worth a bit, this here ring is. Tell no-one you’ve got it.”

She turned to look at Jem.

“Hope we can trust you to keep your mouth shut, my lad.”

“I’ll not say a word,” Jem assured her. “But Cassie’s right – young Peter, he’ll be thinking he’s found gold. Him an’ Daisy, they’ll be expecting a grand payout.”

“Tell them it’s worth nothing,” Annie decided. “A bit of old tin, an’ you got tuppence for it. I can spare them tuppence. An’ if they know nothing, they’ll say nothing.”

Who was she afraid they would tell? Cassie knew all too well the foolishness of wearing a gold ring – and thin as it was, even beneath the grime it was clearly gold – in the East End. She’d not manage two steps beyond Rose Court, or even Annie’s front door, before someone would rip it from her finger and have it over the counter at Pa’s dolly shop.

Annie rose wearily to her feet and went to fetch what she called her “rag bag” from its hook on the dresser.

“I’ll make you a necklace o’ sorts,” she told Cassie, as she emptied a pile of rags, ribbons and bits of lace on to the table. “One you can thread your ma’s ring on, an’ wear it beneath your clothes so no-one knows it’s there.”

It was a comfort, Cassie thought, to know she’d be wearing her mother’s ring, and so close to her, hidden, its existence known only to herself and Annie and Jem.

But what of the children? Daisy and Peter and Alfie? If the ring was worth as much as Annie claimed, she was cheating them of all it could have brought them – decent food, rent payments, warmer clothes.

What right did she have to deny them that, and when it was Peter who had found the ring in the first place? It was rightfully his to do with as he pleased.

“Jem, they’ve got nothing.”

“We’ll see them right.”

Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, I have found my perfect place on the “Friend” as I’m obsessed with reading and never go anywhere without a book! I read all of our stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!