Ring Of Truth – Episode 16

UNLESS… Cassie had one thing she could sell.

“I’ve no right to keep this, Jem.” Her hand hovered over her bodice, and the ring hidden beneath it. “If I sell it…”

“No!” He shook his head firmly. “Promise me you’ll not sell it, Cass. I’ll find the money, even if Doll an’ me have to tramp the length o’ London an’ back again.”

His face relaxed into a smile.

“She’s had a good old rest; she’ll be raring to go.”

“But everything you make goes into Pa’s pocket.”

In the crowded street, with folk pushing past them in every direction, Cassie’s voice was barely a whisper, but Jem heard every word, and though he continued to smile at her, his tone was fierce.

“Aye, an’ today it won’t. Annie can play it by the rules, Cass, but you know I can’t sit back an’ do nothing.”

“I know.” She touched his arm. “Just be careful, Jem. Promise me.”

He nodded, then turned on his heel and was gone, quickly swallowed up by the teeming mass of folk hurrying to work − which was where she should be, Cassie chided herself, and she started walking in the opposite direction to the one Jem had taken.

It took her ten minutes to reach Chiswell Street, but as she turned into it, she stopped in her tracks, wanting nothing more than to turn and run back the way she’d come.

The pastry cook’s shop was always the last business on Chiswell Street to open its shutters, as the pastry cook was as idle as his baking was slapdash. Now it was open, its shutters splintered and broken apart!

Whatever pastry was left over from yesterday was being carried from the shop in the arms of whom were very probably the same mob who’d raided Lew Brody’s ham and beef shop.

As Cassie froze, wishing with all her heart they’d somehow not see her, one of them turned and looked straight at her. Though he was more concerned with fleeing with his loot than accosting her, his voice was menacing as he took a threatening step towards her.

“Say nothing, d’you hear? You ain’t seen me, an’ if I hear different…” He grinned horribly. “Well, let’s just say as I know where to find you!”

Of course he did. She worked at Ma’s cookshop, and Ma Starling and her cookshop were known throughout the East End.

He wouldn’t do her any injury, none of them would. They were far too concerned with making a quick getaway with their loot before the pastry cook, or the constable, or anyone else caught them.

She would know that man’s face again, she was sure of it, but if she told the constable, where would he start to look? London was a vast city. The mob could be hiding out anywhere, and they could strike again at any time and wherever they chose.

Had they chosen Chiswell Street? Cassie’s heart hammered in her chest as she broke into a run, desperate to reach the cookshop and see for herself that it was intact and, more importantly, that Ruby was unharmed.

All was as she’d left it the night before, and Ruby, though she must have heard the commotion across the street as she’d already opened the shutters, appeared completely calm and unaffected by the whole thing.

“Ruby! Did you not see them? The men?”

Cassie collapsed on to a stool, gratefully warming her cold hands on the mug of tea Ruby handed her.

“Reckon it was that lot who put Lew in the infirmary, and this time they’ve turned over the pastry cook’s shop! There’s only us left!”

The truth of this chilled her to the bone. They were clearly targeting Chiswell Street. And with the ham and beef shop raided, and now the pastry shop too, the one eating establishment still up and running was Ma’s cookshop.

It wasn’t for her own safety Cassie feared; it was for Ruby’s.


Ma Starling arrived a few moments later, carrying a basket crammed with what must have been two dozen bruised apples, twice as many squashed plums, and a half- dozen bundles of rhubarb stalks.

Plonking the basket on to Cassie’s work table, Ma went to the scullery to fetch her pinner and was tying it as she bustled back towards them.

“Bin to the market,” she told them.

With no time for civilities, she emptied the basket of spoiled fruit that rolled every which way as she reached for a knife and chopping board.

Ruby grabbed the corners of her own pinner and swooped to catch the plums that were making a leap for freedom.

“Ta, Ruby. See, shove them in that bowl. Cassie, don’t just stand there, lass! These apples want slicing, an’ we’ve some currants in the scullery…”

Bewildered, Cassie stared at her, her hands still in the bowl in which she’d been mixing pastry for her jam puffs.

She’d already put the blackberries on to boil for those, Ruby had started the soup for today, and the potatoes were chopped for Cassie’s beef pies.

Between them they had the day’s menu up and running, and now here was Ma with a ton of fruit to add to it!

What was she doing trawling the market at this hour; in fact, why had she gone at all?

Cassie would be going herself, as she always did on a Saturday evening, to the market at Bethnal Green – when dusk fell and the lamps were lit, and whatever fruit and vegetables were left and not expected to last until Monday would be sold off cheaply. That way she would eke out Ma’s precious pennies to buy as much as possible.

So why had Ma landed them with all this fruit?


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!