The Gilded Lily
another lie, but she had stayed dumb, that way it was bearable.
    And now here was Sadie asking for the truth. She dropped her skirt and rubbed at her eyes, took up the candle and shut the shutters against the dark with a slam. In church they talked of the
forgiveness of sins, God help her, but she could not forgive.

Chapter 8

    The next morning when Sadie awoke, Ella looked pale and pinched. The rain was unrelenting – icy needles that pierced her cloak. Sadie scurried out of the door and
hastened to work, dodging under the overhanging eaves to stay dry. Ella left at the same time for the streets around fashionable Whitehall, saying she would knock at back doors and see if she could
be taken into service. Ella wore her best blue gown, but the hem was sodden even before she reached the end of the alley, and it was with no surprise that when Sadie returned from the
perruquier’s she was already sitting disconsolately at home.
    ‘I must have knocked on a hundred doors,’ Ella said. ‘Some of them were so rude they shut the door in my face. Soon as I said I had no letter, I never got a look in. My feet
are that sore.’
    The rest of the week was no different. Ella’s gown got more and more bedraggled, stained at the hem from walking the streets in the January wet. Her face took on a pinched and glum
expression. One day she did not even bother making ready, just sat in her shift.
    ‘Not going out?’ Sadie asked.
    ‘What’s the point?’
    ‘Come on. You won’t get taken on tarrying here.’
    ‘It’s all right for you. You haven’t walked all the streets of this bloody city till they’re worn flat. You’ve got work in a nice dry shop.’
    Sadie bit her tongue. She wanted to say ‘But it’s all your own doing’, but she didn’t. Ella was not beyond slapping her, even though Sadie was nearly as tall now.
    ‘There’s only one place left to try,’ Ella said. ‘The gunpowder works. They said they’d be taking on girls, I suppose I could go see if they’ve got
anything.’
    ‘Not there, Ella. You said it was dangerous.’
    As if to spite her, Ella stood up and began to pull on her good dress. ‘Well, I’ve tried everything else. How bad can it be?’
    ‘Do you have to?’
    ‘You got a better idea?’
    Sadie watched Ella’s back as she marched off towards the wharf to get the ferry upriver. The rain had eased at last and the dawning day was chill and grey. She wrapped
the bulk of her woollen shawl over her head. At first she had been embarrassed about this rough grey garment, it marked her out as a country girl, but it was warm, unlike the fancy silks worn by
the Londoners, and she was grateful for it. She rubbed her hands together and then folded them under her arms to keep the cold away.
    Without thinking, she negotiated the maze of streets to the wig shop for the route was familiar to her now. When they first arrived in the city she had been horrified by the rotting piles of
ordure in the road, the animal bones and vegetable peelings, but now she had become used to sidestepping it like a nimble goat. Some of the doors she passed were marked with the red cross, but
there had been few reports of spotted fever in the last few months so her fear of it had somewhat abated. Nevertheless she still made a muttered ‘God save us’ as she hurried by.
    Under the garishly painted sign showing a full-bottomed wig on a stand, she veered into the shop, then straight inside and down the stone stairs. She could have found her way blindfold, by the
smell of it alone. Some of the younger girls were already there, sorting piles of horsehair from big sacks into colours and grades. The horsehair was used for cheaper wigs, or to bulk out the good
hair when Madame Lefevre thought they could get away with it. The knotters were hunched over the work on their benches. Sadie took up her place next to Corey as usual and began work on the row of
hair she had left unfinished yesterday.
    The curtain rings rattled and

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