- 20. Ring Of Truth – Episode 19
- 21. Ring Of Truth – Episode 20
- 22. Ring Of Truth – Episode 21
- 23. Ring Of Truth – Episode 22
- 24. Ring Of Truth – Episode 23
- 25. Ring Of Truth – Episode 24
- 26. Ring Of Truth – Episode 25
YOU think I took the money from your pocket? There is no money to take, because Jem never showed it to the jeweller. This was my mother’s ring. I won’t sell it or pawn it, because to me it’s worth more than anyone would pay.”
Cassie nodded her head towards the sleeping Alfie, safe and warm in Bess Jennings’s blanket.
“You wanted your mother’s blanket back, Daisy. Well, then you can understand why I need to have my mother’s ring.”
“Jem should have taken it to the jewellers like he promised,” Daisy said stonily.
But perhaps she understood, albeit grudgingly. Weary acceptance was in her eyes, as well as a glint of something cold and hard.
“You should be keepin’ that hidden,” she warned Cassie. “Anyone could have it from round your neck.”
Feeling a bit like an admonished child, and she twice Daisy’s age, Cassie tucked the ring back beneath her bodice and turned to leave, bidding them goodnight.
She hurried along Rose Court to where she knew Annie would be growing agitated.
She was, but she was clearly doing her best to hide it, grateful that Cassie was home and safe. Annie lifted the lid on the pan and ladled soup into their bowls as Cassie hung her cloak on its hook and settled herself at the table.
“Daisy’s not turned her nose up at your pudding, then?”
“No. Nor did she fling it at me.” Cassie smiled distractedly as she lifted the lid of the teapot and gave the tea a vigorous stir. “But I’ve been told in no uncertain terms my services are no longer required.”
Annie seated herself and reached for a chunk of bread to dip into her soup.
“Manage without, can she?”
“So she’d have me believe.”
“But you don’t.” Annie eyed Cassie across the table.
Annie frowned as Cassie gave her account of what she’d found.
“Up to no good, probably, and the poor lass talking herself into all kinds of nonsense if it means she puts food in her brothers’ bellies.” Annie shook her head sadly. “There’s a fine line between right and wrong, Cassie, and that line’s how far you’re prepared to go to keep them you love warm, fed, and safe.”
She fell silent then, and so did Cassie, sensing that her aunt had been talking of more than just Daisy Jennings.
After a minute of nothing but the slow, steady ticking of the clock on the dresser, Cassie could bear it no longer.
“You think something’s happened to Jem?”
Annie looked up at her, frowning, her mind elsewhere.
“Jem? What about him?”
“He’s not at the rag yard, and Dolly’s not been fed.”
“Perhaps he’s taken the handcart out,” Annie suggested, but she kept her eyes on her soup.
Cassie stared at her in disbelief.
“At this hour?”
“I don’t know, lass.” Annie looked up at her. “But seeing as it’s not passed you by that this here’s no time of night to be dawdling, I’d thank you to come straight home next time Ma keeps you late and not go spying on them as are up to no good.” She paused, thinking. “You’re sure none of them clocked you?”
“I’d not be here telling the tale if they had,” Cassie admitted. “They were too busy having a right old jolly time to be noticing me, in any case. By the smell of it they were roasting an entire cow up there.”
She arched an eyebrow as a sudden irony dawned on her.
“Shame Ma wasn’t the one to spot them. She’d have been marching up there and demanding they give her the lot for the cookshop. Her new supplier was due this afternoon but he didn’t show,” she added, and Annie smiled knowingly.
“I’d not fret about it, lass. You’ll have something in the pot for Monday. Ma Starling’s nothing if not resourceful. She’ll have found herself another supplier by the end of tomorrow, if she hasn’t already.”
“I’d be happy if she found Jem,” Cassie murmured.
“He’ll turn up,” Annie assured her. “Jem Clements isn’t the sort to cut and run.”
“No, he’d not leave, not without Ruby.”
“She isn’t the only one he’ll not turn his back on,” Annie said pointedly.
Cassie, recalling Jem’s words of only that morning, though it seemed a lifetime since, smiled faintly.
“No, he’ll not leave Daisy in peril just to save his own skin,” she agreed, to which Annie snorted her derision as she lifted the teapot to refill their mugs.
“Aye, her as well.”
Annie was right, Cassie told herself later, as she lay in pitch darkness, bone-weary, but with sleep eluding her. Jem would turn up. Whatever his reasons for taking to the streets of London without Dolly and the cart, he’d be none the worse for it, if a little wearier than usual.
She’d go by Field Lane on her way to the cookshop tomorrow, she decided. Oh, she knew Annie had warned her not to, but what harm could befall her with Jem there?
She went the next morning, and she found the gates still locked. No lantern light splintered the gloom, and Dolly’s gentle whickering had become an impatient whinnying as she stamped her hoof against the door of her stall, demanding her breakfast.
Jem was not there.