Ring Of Truth – Episode 33

HERE, will you look at what the cat dragged in! It’s our Miss Miller! Cooks up a treat, this un, an’ we’d expect nothing less when she’s a hundred pots to take her pick from every Sunday!”

“Skims the cream an’ leaves us the bones, an’ serves it up fresh on Monday, an’ we’ve to pay for it twice. Ain’t that so, madam?”

What good would it do to protest her innocence? She was the cook, and they knew it.

Would it matter that she’d had no knowledge of the extra ingredients dropped into her stew pot when her back was turned? Would they believe her?

And Ma Starling was cunning, she’d say that much for her. She’d needed a new supplier and she’d found one – her own customers!

“Stealing, that’s what this is! And there’s only one way o’ dealing with thieves, an’ that’s to dangle them from the end of a rope!”

“There must be a constable somewhere about… or a watchman’ll do. We ain’t lettin’ you scarper, miss!”

Cassie’s arms were gripped and held with fingers that pinched tight − a fresh pain that, when added to the throbbing in the back of her head and the way her legs ached after she’d forced them to run back from Smithfield, sent her senses reeling.

Cassie Miller was no coward, but she was one and the baying mob of women were thirty, maybe forty?

When she saw the constable approach them she was not immediately relieved, as he’d certainly not intervene on her behalf. The women would tell him of her years of deceit, of theft, and he would take her himself to the watch-house.

He would throw her into the dank, gloomy hole, where she would be forced to await her fate, be it prison, the noose or a ship to the colonies.

He teetered on the fringe of the mob, a short fellow, and his voice was timid as he asked them for an explanation for their raucous behaviour.

“It’s this un, Constable. Wants lockin’ up, she does… thievin’ food from our children’s bellies…”

Ma Starling, of all folk, was to do her more good in the end than the outnumbered constable! On seeing him, she burst out from her cookshop and marched into the midst of the throng, demanding he arrest every last one of them for the mess they’d made of her shop.

Ma had at least turned the constable’s attention to the women and the destruction they’d caused, although it wouldn’t have been for Cassie’s sake.

Ma was shouting the odds, and the women were turning their wrath on to her, and the constable was trying unsuccessfully to get a word of sense out of any of them.

Cassie glimpsed a familiar face, a dear face, and she was no longer afraid.

Jem shouldered his way amongst them, striding towards her with such determination the crowd of women who’d closed ranks against the constable parted like the Red Sea.

Only then did Cassie notice the way he limped, and how he winced each time he put his weight on his right foot.

His arm went around her shoulders and she pressed her face into his chest. He drew her away from the baying mob, from Ma and the constable, none of whom seemed to even notice, so caught up were they in the matter of who had done what to Ma’s precious cookshop.

She and Jem could have simply walked away, Cassie thought, though of course that was unthinkable without Ruby.

With her in mind, they walked the few steps to the cookshop and went no further. Jem’s breath rasped in his chest as he shifted his weight from one damaged leg to the other.

“Sit down, Jem, please,” she begged him. “You should be back in Rose Court…”

“As should you, Cass.” He sank down on to the front step of the cookshop. “Did that lot hurt you?”

“No, I’m all right.” Cassie sat down beside him and rested her aching head on his shoulder. “They want justice, Jem.”

“Aye, Annie told me about Ma’s little sideline.” His voice was tight with anger. “It’s her who needs a lynch mob, not you. And you’re not all right, Cass.” He picked up one of her hands and held it in his. “You promised me.”

“I know.”

“But you went to Smithfield.”

She told him and he turned in towards her, cradling the back of her head gently when she lifted it from his shoulder.


“It’s gone, all of it,” she whispered. “My ring, and all the clothes Aunt Annie prettied up to help you…”

“To help us,” he corrected her.

His voice cracked and he said no more until the constable stood in front of them.

“Jeremy Clements?”

“You know I am.” Jem’s voice dripped defeat, and suddenly Cassie was frightened.

“On your feet, please, lad,” the constable ordered. “And turn out your pockets.”

Jem stood, shrugging off Cassie’s attempts to help him, and delved into his pocket for a gold watch, a pocket watch with a tiny anchor charm dangling from the chain, which he dropped into the constable’s palm.

“This what you’re after?”

The constable looked it over, reading the inscription on the back that Pa Starling had taken no steps to have removed before he sent Jem off with it to the nearest jewellers.

“Lew Brody’s pocket watch,” he announced triumphantly. “Mr Starling said as how I’d find it on your person, and it seems he was right. A poor do, it is, Mr Clements, when you steal from those who give you honest work. You’d better come along with me, lad.”

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!