Ring Of Truth – Episode 30

FOR a moment it stunned her that Annie had done what Cassie had never imagined she could. She’d taken Emma’s dress, stolen from one of her customers who’d believed her to be worthy of their trust…

“Cassie!” Annie hissed at her. “Cassie, go!”

“Well, it ain’t often I have a welcoming committee of a morning!”

Pa Starling’s voice boomed as he emerged from the shadows of the dolly shop. Cassie looked up and saw his glance, like that of a fox eyeing its prey, dart straight to the bundle of clothes in her arms.

“Them for the Rag Fair, Annie? Maybe you’d best scrub the muck off them first, because I ain’t making a penny when I could have made two, and all on account of missy here dropping them all over the cobbles.”

Pa Starling looked every inch the fraudster he was, Cassie thought, dressed up to the nines in finery that would not have looked out of place on the aristocracy, and every penny spent on it stolen from some poor soul’s pocket. Ill-gotten gains, the lot of it, from the polished sheen of his top hat to the gold tip of his cane and the brass buttons on his velveteen jacket.

“These ain’t for selling,” Annie lied. “Laundry, all of it, that wants returning, only it’ll need another round of the washtub now, so you’d best get it back to Rose Court, our Cassie!”

Cassie went, knowing that she could leave Daisy with Annie, who would see that the child was freed from the rag yard. At which point they would both return to Rose Court, expecting Cassie to have arrived minutes earlier and the bundle safe from Pa’s grasp.

But she wouldn’t be there.

Cassie hurried towards Smithfield market, and the dealer who would buy everything, no matter how muddied.

Apart from Emma’s dress. She would not sell Emma’s dress. She would return it to her, somehow, and without betraying Annie’s part in it.

What Annie did, what she was forced to do, all of it, she did for Cassie, to protect her from the threat of the Starlings. Annie Ordish was a good woman. Cassie owed Annie her life.

She would take this last risk for her, she would sell the clothes, and with the money they made Jem and Ruby could get themselves far away from London, leave behind the grime and the suffering and the privation and go somewhere with hills and trees, breathe fresh air. Then maybe Ruby would remember where she’d left her voice.

Cassie tugged her cloak more closely around both herself and her precious bundle as she hurried along the narrow street that led to Smithfield market, weaving her way between the carts and barrows, the bellowing oxen and wagons of calves that choked it.

There was many a rogue who’d have no need of knowing what was wrapped in her bundle to take a fancy to it, and she’d not come this far to lose it all now.

She had to cross the market square to reach the dealer whose shop stood just beyond it, at the foot of Snow Hill. It was not yet five in the morning but to the traders and the hawkers, the farmers and the drovers whose business was there amidst the crowded square, it was as if half the morning had passed.

As far as she was able, Cassie kept to the edge of the square and managed to cross it with herself and her bundle intact. Her destination was in sight and she quickened her step, watching without any real interest a band of drovers and their herd who appeared over the brow of Snow Hill as she hurried towards the dealer’s shop.

When some men crept out from the alley beside the shop she knew in an instant who they were and she froze. Her heart hammered in her chest as she watched them sidle amongst the drovers who, sensing trouble, urged their herd on towards the square. But they were no match for the mob who had raided both Lew Brody’s shop and that of the pastry cook, and within a moment it appeared to be over.

The wounded drovers staggered towards the market, or simply lay where they’d fallen, and the stolen cows were turned and herded back up Snow Hill by their captors.

Cassie was gripping her bundle and trying to slip unseen into the dealer’s shop when a weight fell against her, sending her staggering to her knees.

As she fought to right herself a heavy blow seemed to split her skull in two, and then she knew no more as darkness swallowed 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!