Cordelia Bright and the Headless Orphans: Chapter Six – An Indecent Proposal!

imageThe story so far: Cordelia Bright, has just started work at The St Justus Home. She has discovered that it will close and the headless orphans will all end up in the workhouse, unless some way can be found to meet the outrageous rent demands of the wicked landlord Sir Jasper De Jasper…

The next morning, Cordelia awoke bright and early. She helped the orphans bathe and dress, fed them their porridge, and ensured that they were all happy as they settled down to play. Then, lips pursed, she went to see Matron Blessed, and requested the rest of the morning off, saying that she had received some difficult news which she must attend to immediately.
The Matron seemed distracted, and mumbled something about it being irregular for someone so new in employment, but as long as she didn’t make a habit of making such requests, permission was granted on this occasion.
Once outside, Cordelia made enquiries as to where Sir Jasper De Jasper could be found. It was not difficult, everyone in the neighbourhood seemed to know of him and his offices on Castle Street.
She took a hansom cab there, and by the time that she arrived, she had worked herself into quite an indignant and determined frame of mind. She marched straight past Sir Jasper’s personal secretary, and into his office, where she discovered him leafing through an old copy of “the Pearl”
“Sir Jasper! She started breathlessly “You simply cannot close down the Saint Justus Home. Those headless orphans, need special care. They would perish in no time in the Workhouse.”
After getting over his initial shock and outrage at the intrusion, Sir Jasper raised a hand and smiled pleasantly. “My dear, you are quite out of breath. Sit down, let me pour you a brandy, and then you can tell me all about yourself, and the orphanage, and why you feel so strongly about it.”
Cordelia had not expected this sort of a reception. She was taken by surprise. She did as she was bid. She told him all about herself, about Father O’Shaughnessy recommending her for the orphanage, about the kindness of Matron Blessed, and about the resourcefulness and big heartedness of the adorable little orphans.
Sir Jasper placed his elbows on the desk and put his fingertips together. He eyed Cordelia unblinkingly. It may have been the brandy, but the way he was looking at her gave her a vaguely uneasy feeling.
He broke the silence. “The thing is, I do rather need the land. I am hoping to build a facility for the treatment of sludge. Such an unpleasant side effect of urban living don’t you think? I have an acquaintance who has developed a way of converting it into a mildly nutritious food substitute. It could be used at the workhouse. So your little headless orphans would benefit from the sacrifice of their home after all”
Cordelia was so horrified that her eyes filled with tears
“There, there child,” drawled Jasper, taking hold of her hand, “No need to get yourself all upset. Matron Blessed may yet come up with the money, although I can’t see that happening somehow. Perhaps you and I could come to some other arrangement of mutual benefit.” His hand grasped hers more tightly now. “You are a pretty young thing. Just the sort of pretty young thing that I would like to help. Now let me see. If the Orphanage were part of a family business, say, my family business, it may be worth my while to keep it open. For sentimental reasons. If my wife were in charge… But wait a minute, I have no wife! What was I thinking? And I couldn’t marry that Matron. Ohh no, she isn’t anywhere near as pretty as you my dear. But it’s my orphanage, I can put whoever I want in charge. I have it! Marry me, my pretty little Cordelia, and I shall spare the orphanage and make you joint owner.”
Cordelia gasped. Sir Jasper led her gently out onto the street. “Take your time dear, no hurry. I shall call at the orphanage this evening to hear your decision.

What will Cordelia decide? Can she bring herself to marry such a man as Sir Jasper? Find out in two days time!

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