The story so far: Cordelia Bright’s first day at the St Justus Home ended with a public charity entertainment given by the headless orphans. The concert was disturbed by the entrance of the sinister looking Sir Jasper De Jasper, who claimed that the orphanage owes him rent money…
Although the headless orphans continued their concert, the atmosphere was not the same with Sir Jasper at the back of the hall. Jeremy and Matilda played more music, Matthew performed some thrilling knife juggling and all the orphans gave a rousing rendition of God Save the Queen arranged for piano, flute and hand bells. But despite their efforts the performance ended with polite applause and the audience shuffling out in a subdued mood. Sir Jasper remained near the door to the hall, beaming and smiling, but few looked him in the eye as they filed past.
Cordelia and Sister Odium took the orphans through to the drawing room, to prepare them for bed, helping them on with their night attire and funelling hot (but not too hot – Cordelia checked) chocolate down their little necks.
Even though Cordelia knew that the Sister had taken an instant dislike to her, she could not help but ask her about Sir Jasper.
“Don’t you know anything?” came the reply. “Sir Jasper De Jasper owns St Justus Hall, and the land that it is built on. It is through his kindness that there is an orphanage for the headless here at all.”
“But what was he saying about the rent?”
“Tsh, Child. That’s simple economics. Surely, you do not expect a businessman of the calibre of Sir Jasper to give the Hall for free? Is your head that far up in the clouds? The orphanage has no independent income of its own, so has to rely on charitable donations to pay the rent and day to day running costs. Those charitable donations have been drying up in the current economic climate, we may not be able remain open much longer.”
“And what would happen to the orphans should we close?”
“Why, they would have to go to the workhouse of course, and a good thing too if you ask me. Why should they get better treatment than anyone else just because they have no mothers and fathers and no heads into the bargain? Places like this just mollycoddle the weak. It’s unnatural, that’s what it is.”
Cordelia was just about to ask the sister why she actually worked there if she felt that way, when they were disturbed by the sound of raised voices from the hall. Sir Jasper seemed very angry indeed.
“No Madam, I AM being VERY reasonable. It is you who are not. Even after handing over the proceeds of this evening’s entertainment, you still owe me fifty three guineas in back rent, a considerable debt. Your inability to stay out of arrears is proving a drain upon my other business interests. I demand that the debt to be paid in full by the end of the week. Furthermore, I serve you notice that I am raising the weekly rental to twelve guineas a month, with immediate effect, and if you cannot pay off your debt in the time that I have specified, or keep up with future payments, I shall have you and your headless wretches thrown out onto the streets!”
This was followed by the voice of Matron Blessed. “Twelve guineas! That is more than double what we currently pay”
“Twelve guineas is the price, Madam. You will either pay it, or face the consequences. I bid you goodnight”
Cordelia was horrified to hear the door slam to the sound of Matron Blessed sobbing” She turned to Sister Odium. The Sister didn’t look in the least bit concerned. She actually appeared to be smirking!
Are the days of the St Justus Hall numbered? Are the headless Orphans bound for the workhouse? Don’t miss the next thrilling episode, tomorrow!