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Next day, Sarah and one of Mr Halliwell’s workers took shoes and boots, a trestle and a box, and found a spot at the market. They set up a stall. She lined up the assortment of footwear on the trestle and sat on the box and waited for customers. Several people had a look, some picked up boots or shoes and put them against their feet or tried them on. Later that morning, she sold her first pair, to an elderly man with bare feet. They weren’t a perfect fit but he was happy with them and she watched as he shuffled off in them. She had made a sale. She was in business. It was nothing to rival Henry’s, but it was hers and she was proud of it.

Sales were slow though and by the third day she brought some sewing with her. But by the end of the first week, she had sold ten pairs and made five shillings for herself.

The weeks and months passed. Occasionally Emily was at the market and came and sat with her. She would see Alice too, and of course Albert. One day Sarah was sewing when a towering dark shadow appeared right in front of her. She looked up far enough to see it was a large person in grey. Her eyes went higher. By the time she got to the waist and the chest, she knew who it was. There was no escaping. This would be the end of her. She forced herself to look at the shoulders and the head. As soon as she saw the face, she closed her eyes tightly, hoping the figure was just a brief hallucination from her past. She opened them again but it was still there.

A Weaver's Web ebook cover 150 dpi

(cover showing Peterloo Massacre)

‘Miss Brody,’ she said in a barely audible voice.

‘Sarah.’ Brody seemed equally surprised.

‘I can explain.’ Sarah tried to push herself back, but she was already against the wall.

Brody leant over the front of the trestle. ‘My pay was docked because of you. I got half pay for two months.’

‘It wasn’t my doing. I had no idea my son …’

‘So it was your son. I made the women tell me what happened, but they didn’t know who the young man was, or so they said.’

‘Are you going to make me go back?’

‘No. The beds are full and there are worse cases in this town than you.’

Sarah felt a little less tense.

‘But I’ll tell you what.’ Brody leant further over the trestle and right over Sarah.

She slumped on her box.

Brody checked nobody was listening. ‘I want half your takings for two months.’

‘But most of the money goes to the bootmaker.’

‘Then half what you get. And tell me where I can find that son of yours, so I can get half his pay too.’

‘No, I won’t.’

‘Yes, you will.’ Brody hung over her like a huge storm cloud getting closer and more menacing.

Sarah fell off her box and onto the pavement where she lay on her side and brought her legs up towards her chest and trembled.

‘Where is he?’

‘I don’t know.’

For a few harrowing moments, she feared for her life. At last Brody stood upright again. Sarah stayed on the ground, but partly sat up. She didn’t want to sell shoes or anything else if someone was going to take half her profits. She was sure Brody would somehow find Albert and harm him if he didn’t agree to pay her half his wage. And Brody might keep coming back to her for more money. This would be her last day at the market, she decided. In future she would stay home and help Martha and Alice, when they wanted her to, and only go out to pick flowers and plants and visit the little church. She would find things to do. Perhaps the children could help her with her reading, or even Henry, if he ever had time. She wished he would come past right now and scare this woman away.

Then she recalled Henry telling her how Brody had taken money from him every time he visited. She stood up and smoothed her dress.

‘Come on, where can I find him?’ Brody said.

Sarah looked her in the eye. ‘If you take any money from me or my son, my husband will tell the asylum governors how much money you took from him.’

At first Brody appeared worried, but she soon sniggered at her. ‘They know anyway. I have to pay them part of anything I get.’ She came closer. ‘Where is he?’

(end of excerpt)

My historical novel, A Weaver’s Web, can be obtained from the following sites:

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