Ring Of Truth – Episode 28

ANNIE had retired to her bed and Cassie had promised to wake her the moment the clock on the dresser had struck midnight, but the hours had crawled past and she had guarded Jem herself. She was unable to sleep, so there was no sense in waking Annie from hers.

Her fingers were stiff now from hours of gripping the poker, the only weapon she had to hand should she be called upon to wield it. She rubbed her cold hands together in an effort to regain some feeling in them as she crept soundlessly in stockinged feet across the cellar to the hook where her cloak was hung.

Throwing it around her shoulders, she stooped to pull on her boots and retrieve from beneath the table the precious bundle, the clothes Annie had prettied up to make a better sale; each dress, shawl or bonnet only Annie knew to be honest purchases from the Rag Fair or illicit gains from the dolly shop.

Then Cassie drew the bolt across and lifted the latch, turning once to look upon them, the two people she loved most in the world. Neither was awake to stop her.

She slipped out into the darkness and closed the door quietly after her, just as the rattle and cry of a passing night watchman echoed along the narrow alley from Rose Street.

Her breath caught in her throat, her ear pressed up against the door. But she heard no muffled sounds from either Jem or Annie to suggest they were awake, and so she allowed her breath to shudder from her in clouds that froze before her as she hurried up the cellar steps and along Rose Court to the dark, shabby dwelling where the Jennings children slept.

She knocked lightly, mindful of the sleeping Alfie, and she knew Daisy would have long since learned to sleep with one ear open.

But when the bolt scraped across and the door inched open a crack, it was Peter Jennings’s white face that peered out at her. Before she’d a chance to say what she needed him for, he spoke first, and his voice trembled with fear.

“Miss, you ain’t seen our Daisy, have you? Only she ain’t bin home.”

“No, Peter, I haven’t, not since…”

She tailed off, a sudden apprehension chilling her to the bone. Instead of returning to her brothers with the ruined supper, had Daisy marched back to Chiswell Street?

Had she accused Ma Starling?

“Where did she go, Peter?”

“I dunno, miss…”

Peter’s eyes now dropped to stare at the ground between them, his head hung as if in shame.

She understood his predicament, that he knew full well where his sister had stormed off to, and why, but he’d been told to keep his mouth shut, especially to her.

“Peter, if Daisy’s in trouble…”

Loyal to Daisy he might have been, but he was also a child. A small boy, desperately afraid that some harm had come to her, and it was this frantic fear that loosened his tongue.

“We had us a bit o’ supper, only it wasn’t much an’ she was spittin’ feathers an’ off up that alley before me an’ our Alfie had swallowed a mouthful.”

“Where to, Peter?” Cassie prompted, when he faltered. “Where did Daisy go? Back to the cookshop?”

He looked up at her, blinking in surprise, as if she’d suggested Daisy had taken herself off up west to buy a fancy hat.

“No, miss. She went to Field Lane to see Pa Starlin’; said she had somethin’ to tell him…”

If the thought of Daisy confronting Ma Starling had chilled Cassie to the bone, knowing she’d gone instead to Pa’s dolly shop froze her to her very core, especially as Jem, her protector, was not there in the rag yard but asleep in Annie’s cellar.

Why would Daisy go to Pa? Had she imagined he would show a concern, or even a vague interest, in her tale of misfortune?

What had she hoped to gain? A shilling from Pa’s pocket perhaps, tossed into her own lap, and a fatherly pat on the head as he told her to run along and buy herself a better supper?

Daisy had no knowledge of Pa’s deceit, of the man he truly was. She’d gone to him for help, perhaps because he’d shown her a moment’s kindness in paying the expense of Fred Jennings’s burial – or what she had construed as kindness, as had Cassie. But Cassie now knew that Pa Starling did nothing for free!

What had he done with Daisy? Had he taken her as he had once threatened to take Cassie? Was she unwittingly paying Fred’s debts with her own life?


Peter’s pale face stared into Cassie’s, a silent plea for her to help him, and she forced herself to speak calmly and lay a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

“I’ll find her, Peter. I’ll go to Field Lane and I’ll bring her back. But I need you to do something for me.”

Two minutes later she was hurrying along Rose Street, her mind settled on one thing at least. That Peter had taken over from her, and with the sleeping Alfie curled up on his lap, was keeping watch over Jem and Annie, the poker in his hand and the bolt drawn across.



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!