Ring Of Truth – Episode 19

WHY would Pa Starling be “after her” for her mother’s ring? Was his greed such that he’d not allow one find of Peter’s to end up anywhere but on a shelf in his dolly shop?

And what of Jem?

He’d be off on the cart with Dolly, like he’d said. Cassie’d not fret over him; he could look after himself, Jem could.

But she worried anyway, her thoughts on the rag cart and not on her path so that she nearly walked into Daisy Jennings, who was standing just outside the market square at Bethnal Green.

“Watch out, miss!”

“Sorry, Daisy.” Cassie pulled herself up sharp, noticing as she did so that Daisy was not alone. “Oh, you’ve company, I see.”

“Aye, he’s a handsome lad, ain’t he?” Daisy rubbed the velvety nose of the horse whose reins she held. “His owner – right toff, he was – promised me tuppence if I held him for five minutes.”

“Twice your usual price.” Cassie smiled but a shadow flitted across Daisy’s face as she replied.

“Need it, don’t I? Ain’t gonna see a penny o’ what Annie makes on Pa’s things. Maybe that ring our Peter found will be worth somethin’, mind…”

She should tell her, Cassie chided herself. But all Cassie found herself saying was, “Where’s your Alfie? Has Peter got him?”

Daisy nodded, jerking her head towards the market square.

“Peter’s findin’ us a bit o’ supper. Our Alfie’s been cryin’ for want o’ somethin’ in his belly so I ’ad to give him a few pence o’ what he brought home last night. Tibbs’ll have to wait for his rent money till Jem has that ring looked at,” she added bravely.

The words of a tough little warrior, Cassie thought sadly, when behind them cowered a little girl, frightened to death of being packed off to the workhouse.

She left Daisy to it, and joined the throng of folk pushing and elbowing their way around the crowded market square. Bethnal Green market was a hive of activity on a Saturday with traders shouting, porters fetching and carrying, and folk like herself scouring the stalls for the best bargains to be had.

Cassie was at one of the vegetable stalls, picking over turnips for her soup pot, when a rough shove sent her reeling. As she staggered to regain her balance, she heard the stallholder’s shout that brought several porters running.

“Stop, thief!”

He, whoever he was, had knocked into her as he raced past, and a wonder it was he could race anywhere with the sack of spuds he’d apparently stolen slung over his shoulder.

The porters, and the stallholder himself, incensed with anger, took off after the miscreant. It was then that Peter Jennings sidled up beside Cassie and seized his chance – and three apples.

“Peter, you’ve money in your pocket,” Cassie chided him quietly. “You’ve no need to steal.”

“No, I ain’t, miss.” He looked straight at her, as he thrust the stolen apples into his pocket. “I ain’t got a penny. Pa had us give him all of it for rent, miss.”

So Daisy had lied to her! Of course she had. The likes of Daisy Jennings would invent a pocketful of guineas rather than admit to anyone, except Jem perhaps who she seemed to trust, that she’d not a penny to her name.

“Peter, I’ll bring you back some supper from the cookshop,” Cassie promised him, and he nodded.

“Ta, miss. But we’ll be all right when Jem takes that ring to the jewellers.”

She must tell him and Daisy. But how was she to do that? How was she to tell them that they really did have nothing?

If she could just wait until she caught up with Jem, and he’d have something for them, even if it was only a tanner…

“Daisy? Miss, something’s up with our Daisy!”

Peter’s frightened voice broke into her thoughts, and she looked up to see Daisy hurtling towards them, the tears she almost never shed, spilling down her pale cheeks as she all but fell into her little brother’s outstretched arms, the baby Alfie set down on to the cobbles just in time.

“He took it!” she gasped between the choking sobs she tried so hard to quell. “That man who robbed the spuds, he took the horse! He was too strong an’ I, I tried to hold on, but he grabbed him!”

The horse stealers, Cassie thought grimly. either that, or a lone thief with a heavy sack on his back wanting a quick means of escape.

“An’ the toff whose horse it was…” Daisy sobbed. “He said I had to pay him what his horse was worth an’ it served me right for losin’ it!”

Cassie placed a comforting hand on Daisy’s shoulder, but the little girl shrugged it off, and the look she gave Cassie was filled with hate.

“We don’t want no help from you, miss,” she spat. “I bin talkin’ to Pa just now, an’ he told me you’re keepin’ that ring, an’ no matter if Peter an’ Alfie an’ me ain’t got nothing!”

Peter turned to stare at Cassie, too, just as the costermonger beside the fruit and vegetable stall took up the handles of his barrow beneath which Alfie Jennings was reaching to scrape up a fallen cabbage leaf, already ground to mulch by boots and hooves and cartwheels.

Cassie was the only one who noticed and with a cry she swooped down and snatched him up, seconds before the wheels of the handcart trundled over the cabbage leaf.

“Give him to me!” Daisy pulled the snivelling Alfie from Cassie’s arms and grabbed Peter’s sleeve. “Come on, Peter, I’ve somethin’ to do.”

Without a word of gratitude, not that Cassie needed or expected it, Daisy flounced off, the tears drying on her cheeks, and Peter trailing behind her.


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!