Ring Of Truth – Episode 29

IT was just after four o’clock as Cassie hurried towards Field Lane. The streets were already swarming with traders on their way to market.

Not a stone’s throw from where she was to go, to sell on Annie’s bundle to a second-hand dealer’s not frequented by Pa.

When she turned at last into Field Lane and hurried the last few steps to the dolly shop, Cassie found that, as she’d expected at this hour, it was in darkness.

No candle flickered in the window to suggest Pa’s presence, and though she’d known he’d not hurry to work − he’d no need to, a man of his considerable power who had others to do it for him − she was at a momentary loss as to what to do next.

It was Dolly, Jem’s gentle old horse, who showed her. She whickered gently, recognising Cassie as a friendly face, and the sound roused a sleeping figure crouched in the straw beside her.

On awakening, her fear of what lay beyond the stall gripped her so that she sprang to her feet and clutched at Dolly’s mane, a whimper escaping her.

Cassie’s heart hammered in like fear as she gripped the bars of the locked gate to the rag yard, her eyes straining to peer into the darkness.

“Daisy?” she called softly. “It’s me, Cassie. Are you all right? He’s not here yet. You’re safe, Daisy. Please, come and tell me what’s happened. Peter’s terrified.”

It was the mention of her brother, Cassie thought, which coaxed Daisy out from the shelter of Dolly’s stall and towards the gate, further helped by Dolly herself, who plodded along beside her.

“I ain’t doin’ it, miss! I ain’t… not Dolly!”

“Doing what, Daisy? What won’t you do? And what happened last night? Did Pa lock you in here?”

Cassie stared wildly about her, as if the answer to what on earth she was to do might suddenly present itself. But all she saw was the gloom of the rag yard, the chains that coiled around the gates and the rusty padlock that bound them…

The answer was not there with her but back in Rose Court, or more specifically, in the pocket of Jem’s jacket!

Why on earth had she not thought to bring Jem’s key? She would have had the gates open by now and Daisy would be on her way back to Rose Court and safety, when, instead, they’d no choice but to await Pa Starling and the polished silver chatelaine of keys he wore around his cumbersome waist like a proud jailor.

He’d locked her in! For reasons known only to himself he’d considered young Daisy Jennings such a terrible threat that she needed to be locked in the rag yard for the entire night.

The pale-faced little girl raised sudden terrified eyes to Cassie’s at the sound of approaching footsteps.

“Cassie Miller! What are you thinking, lass? Scared me and Jem half to death when we woke and you were gone!”

Annie’s eyes were hard as granite, her mouth twisted in barely controlled anger.

Cassie knew, when her aunt’s gaze dropped to the bundle she carried, the bundle Annie and Jem had planned that he would take to the dealers, that her anger was not just that Cassie had ventured down to Field Lane, where Pa might at any moment wrestle the ring from around her neck, but that she had tricked them. Had taken the bundle and crept out from beneath their watchful eye, when she’d promised Jem, if not Annie, that she would remain in Rose Court, where she was safe.

But the more pressing matter was what to do about Daisy, and despite Annie’s obvious displeasure, Cassie was relieved that her aunt was there.

“He’s locked her in,” Cassie hissed, and Annie nodded. “Have you got Jem’s key?”

“No, lass, I didn’t know I’d need it.”

Annie peered through the bars at Daisy.

“Hold tight, little un; soon as Pa gets here we’ll have you out of there and back to them brothers of yours.”

Cassie felt better for having her aunt here, for if Annie believed that Pa would unlock the gate then it would happen!

“As for you, my girl, you can take yourself back to Rose Court with Daisy and we’ll have no more sneaking out when my back’s turned. Or had you forgotten there’s men prowling the streets after something it’ll not take them long to clock ain’t nowhere in Jem’s pocket!”

“I’m going to Smithfield,” Cassie said quietly. “You said yourself, Aunt Annie, I’m not safe here.”

She’d no intention of leaving with Jem and Ruby – how could she? But that could wait.

“We need the money sooner rather than later, and Jem’s in no state to see to it.”

“But there’s nothing wrong with my legs!” Annie stated, and she reached for the bundle in the same second as Cassie stepped back, taking it with her.

Tugged in two directions the bundle fell apart, scattering clothes over the cobbles.

Cassie dived to the ground, determined she’d not let Annie do this. She’d not shrug her shoulders while her aunt, who’d risked if not life and limb then certainly her good name in Spitalfields, not to mention her freedom, went off to the dealers in Smithfield with a bundle crammed full of stolen clothes. At any moment she could be stopped by a constable.

This was Cassie’s risk to take, not Annie’s.

Frantically, she gathered together the altered pieces − shirts, shawls, one or two bonnets, and a dress. A pale lemon dress, cream lace stitched around the bodice and a silken rose seamlessly sewn into one shoulder.

Emma Brody’s dress. Emma Brody’s missing dress!

It was hers, Cassie knew it was. There was no name sewn into it, or if there had been it was long gone, but she just knew it was Emma’s dress.


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!