Ring Of Truth – Episode 20

ONCE she was clear of Spicer Street and the brickfields, the thought struck Cassie that she might go in search of the nearest night watchman and have him alert the soldiers, and in so doing, save them weeks, perhaps months even, of scouring the city for the men who had stolen from and attacked Lew Brody.

For she had no doubt that it was them.

What did it matter if they knew it was she who had given away their hiding place? Once they were apprehended and herded into Newgate prison, she’d have no need to look over her shoulder.

Her mind made up, she walked straight on, where she should have turned a corner into Rose Street, determined she would not go home until she had passed on what she knew.

But the sharp tones of her aunt stopped her in her tracks, and she turned to see the familiar shadow of Annie Ordish hurrying up Rose Street and towards her.

“Cassie Miller! Where the devil are you off to, my girl?” Annie demanded. “And when you’re hours late already, and today of all days, when we’ve all got nerves pulled as taut as strings on a fiddle!”

“I’m sorry, Aunt Annie.” Cassie resisted her aunt’s efforts to draw her into Rose Street, and the safety of Rose Court. “Ma had me baking till late, and then, well…” She lowered her voice, glancing about her in the inky darkness. “I must find a watchman!”

“For pity’s sake, why?” Annie’s face was as white as the driven snow as she clutched at Cassie’s sleeve. “Not Pa… your ring?”

“No. It’s the men who attacked Lew – I know where they are.”

“Then you’re best off leaving them there!” Annie declared ”

“There’s no time, Aunt Annie! They’ll be gone!”

“And you think any of the watchmen hereabouts will give two figs, do you?” Annie linked her arm firmly through Cassie’s, the better to hurry her towards the end of Rose Street, and the narrow alley that led through to Rose Court, and their home. “Good for nothing but sitting and dozing or pouring ale down their throats till the sun comes up, half of them. Perhaps they’re paid to look the other way.”

“Paid by who?”

Annie just shrugged and pulled her towards the alley.

She was afraid, and little wonder after the day they’d all had, Cassie conceded. What with Pa Starling sniffing round the Rag Fair so that Annie had no choice but to hand over the money she made on Fred Jennings’s belongings − not that she’d had any intention of passing it to Daisy − and Jem being hauled over the coals for giving away Bess’s blanket.

Cassie’s failure to return at her usual hour on a day when a violent mob had targeted Chiswell Street had twisted her aunt’s usual composure into knots.

Then there was Jem to fret over, into the bargain. If Annie would admit to sparing a thought for anyone else in this weary, smoky, grimy world of hers it was that lad. Bless the bones of him for making out as how it was he who had that ring and not Cassie. But where had it got him?

“Have you seen Jem?” Cassie asked her, as Annie ushered her on ahead through the narrow alley and into Rose Court. “I went past the rag yard, but…”

“You just keep away from Field Lane,” Annie hissed, though there was not a soul about to hear them. “Jem knows where to find you.”

But where was she to find him? Cassie had lingered a moment the other side of the gates to the rag yard, gates that had been chained and locked. But the rag cart was standing idle, and in her stall beside it Dolly’s ears had flickered forwards, recognising Cassie.

The horse had started whickering for her supper pail, which by this hour of the evening, market day or no, she’d usually be tucking into. Because Jem took very good care of the horse that pulled his cart.

But there had been nothing, not a flicker of candlelight in the window of Jem’s garret to suggest his presence.

“Don’t go fretting over Jem,” Annie said briskly. “He can take care of himself.”

Cassie looked at her, and for a moment Annie was convinced it was her sister, back from the dead, so alike were they, mother and daughter, though Cassie would never know it.

The same eyes, piercing and vibrant, and a window to her soul so that whichever emotion crushed Cassie Miller’s heart could be seen clear as day in her eyes.

At the moment it was fear, and suspicion, and something else, a far deeper emotion that she was probably not even aware of, let alone would admit to!

She had seen it in her sister, Annie had, the desperate fear when Cassandra had found out, when she’d known the lengths her George had gone to, and what she worried he’d do to put a stop to it.

The terror in Cassandra’s eyes when he’d taken himself off, the nights she’d spent crying on Annie’s shoulder…

“I’ll fret over him till I know I’ve no need to,” Cassie stated, a slight, almost imperceptible tremor to her voice that she probably hardly noticed herself.

But Annie heard it. As a shiver ran down her own spine she found herself sending up a prayer:

“Don’t let history repeat itself, don’t let her mother’s fate be hers, too…”

“I’ll just deliver this to Daisy,” Cassie said, and from beneath her cloak she retrieved the plum pudding she’d brought from the cookshop for the children’s supper.

“I’ll not be a moment,” she told Annie.

Annie sighed resignedly.

“All right, but mind you get yourself straight home afterwards, my girl.”


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!