Cordelia Bright and the Headless Orphans: Chapter One – First Day at the Orphanage

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When I was alive, it always used to be my ambition to have one of my stories printed in the “People’s Friend” magazine. For some reason, they always used to reject the things I sent in. I never even got so much as a letter about some cute comment my nephew had made printed. (Probably because he was such a foul mouthed so and so) any road, you can judge for yourself how good I am with my thrilling new adventure serial: “Cordelia Bright and the Headless Orphans”

The spring of 1891 was a particularly mild one, yet Cordelia Bright felt an uneasy chill as she put down her valise and knocked on the large oaken door of the Saint Justus home for Headless Orphans. She had passed by its impressive edifice many a time in her 21 years, but had never actually been inside. Now, not only was she going in, but she was actually going to live and work there. She had been recommended by Father O’Shaughnessy as “just the sort of girl who would make a difference,” and apparently, Matron Blessed was so desperate for staff, and so trusting of the good father, that she had taken her on, unseen, for a month’s trial, starting today.
The door creaked open, and behind it stood a large round lady in nurses uniform. “I suppose you are the new help” she sneered, “You had better come in. The Matron is expecting you and she can’t abide unpunctuality.” Wiping her nose on her sleeve, the round lady led Cordelia through a large hallway, below an imposing framed copy of Rubens’ “Miracle of St Justus” and into a large oak lined office. Inside, the Matron Immediately stood up at her desk and shook Cordelia’s hand.
“Thank you Sister Odium” she said’ “I shall take care of things from here. The large lady left with a snort and Matron beamed. “Welcome to St Justus, Cordelia, I’m Grace Blessed, and for my sins, I am in charge here. Now, I’m sure that you will be wanting to see your room and freshen up and rest a while, then we can introduce you to the orphans.
Matron herself took Cordelia to her room, which was bright, airy and looked out over a charming garden. There was a pressed, starched uniform laid out for her already and an area for her to wash, change and attend to her bodily needs.
“I shall leave you to make yourself at home” said Matron pleasantly. “Shall we meet in the drawing room in say, an hour?”
One hour later, Cordelia found herself with Matron and Sister Odium in the drawing room. Six headless orphans were sitting on the carpet, playing with a large wooden Noah’s Ark. The tops of their necks reminded Cordelia of nothing more than the ends of joints of ham, with the bone protruding just a little at the centre. Within the “meat” was a small aperture like a miniature version of that which is found atop a whale, through which they breathed, and another one which matron informed her was for the ingestion of food.
Cordelia’s heart went out to the poor creatures at once. “But how do they know what they are doing?” she cried. “Surely they cannot see hear, smell or taste anything at all?”
“The Lord works in mysterious ways” replied Matron Blessed, “their sense of touch has developed a thousandfold to make up for the lack of all other senses, they can determine subtle changes in the motion of the air caused by objects and movements in the room, and are also extremely sensitive to changes in temperature caused by people, and different materials.
“But surely they cannot have any brains”
“No child, they cannot, but they have hearts, and that is what is important”
As she said that one of the orphans stood up and walked over to matron, putting her arms around her, and resting her neck on her middle”
“See, child. All heart”

Find out how Cordelia gets to know the orphans and what happens when she has her first attempt at feeding them. In tomorrow’s thrilling episode!

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